Guardian of Godhood
Thaddeus grew to be an intelligent young man. Clow tutored him personally in his studies, and Thaddeus became a well-educated, well-respected individual among both magical and non-magical circles. As the gods promised, he had no more magical abilities, but his nullifying powers were retained, though they drain him. He grew tall, as tall as his Caucasian friends, slim, with handsome, features, so that all the Roman damsels were infatuated with him. He remained weak, however, and fell ill often, something Clow lamented about, but accepted. The price of life was worth it.
He was very close to Clow and the guardians. Though war loomed, the Reed household was serene and content. They were a family, with its ups and downs—Thaddeus would occasionally be short-tempered during his adolescence, but he loved Clow dearly and Clow loved him. Thaddeus and the guardians were like siblings, with Yue and Kero very protective of Thaddeus. Clow thought, wistfully, that Thaddeus would have made a great Card Master, if only Fate had allowed it.
But Thaddeus did contribute to the cards. At the age of fifteen, he complained to his father that the cards were incomplete. Clow explained he was going to make the Wild Card the Nothing Card, but he needed nullifying power, to which Thaddeus replied, " Well? What are you waiting for? I will help."
And so Thaddeus helped create The Nothing.
At the age of seventeen, Thaddeus requested Clow take him to visit China. When asked why, he said that there was someone waiting for him there. Unsure if this was some plan of the gods, Clow went to Delphi, where the Oracle told him Thaddeus knows his destiny and his fate.
Once they went to China, Clow was struck with vivid memories of all that had transpired during his time there, but Thaddeus seemed unaffected. He walked through the new Qin capital where the Emperor of Qin had just established himself as ruler of all the lands. There, Thaddeus headed toward a property of private land with a determination that mystified Clow. After so long in Europe, there was no way Thaddeus could know where anyone lived—
But Thaddeus knew, somehow. The servants that opened the gates for him seemed to expect him. They allowed both him and Clow to enter, and led the two, without questions, to the main house, where upon her deathbed was Lady Kwak.
" You look very different from the girl you killed." Thaddeus declared. " What kind of spell did you use?"
Lady Kwak was a beautiful woman, but she now looked wrinkled and old, her hair graying at the roots and her pallor sickly. She coughed and smiled. " Why did I know you would say that?"
" You knew I was coming." Thaddeus pointed out. " It was not nice of you to kill that girl just to spy on me."
" No." Lady Kwak replied. " I was not a nice person."
" No." Thaddeus took her hand anyway. " But it was her time, in its own way."
It was not until then that Clow remembered, how Lady Kwak had pretended to be a village girl, who had lived in the village for years, to spy on Clow and Syaoran.
" It was a convincing spell." Kwak told him. " To convince the villagers. I would teach it to you."
" I probably know it already." Thaddeus said mysteriously.
Kwak grinned. " You probably do." She broke into coughs. Silence fell, except for her coughing, until it subsided.
" I am glad you are here." She said to Thaddeus. " I was so sure…"
Thaddeus kissed her hand. " I am glad I could come."
She died two hours later.
Thaddeus and Clow remained until the funeral, between which Thaddeus fell in love with a girl named Hua Meiling. An outspoken, intelligent, free-spirited maiden with some knowledge of magic, she seemed quite the opposite of the soft-spoken, reserved Thaddeus, but the two seemed to complement each other perfectly. She was a very kind-hearted girl, generous nearly to a fault and empathetic of others, to the point where she cared more about Thaddeus than he cared about himself, despite not even knowing him very well. Clow watched as the love blossomed between them and tried to quiet Yue and Kero's jealous envy. Unlike Clow, Thaddeus was destined to marry.
Thaddeus brought his new bride to Rome, away from the politics of the Qin Empire and its Great Northern Wall. The young couple lived with Clow and the guardians, where the guardians eventually learned to tolerate Meiling's presence.
Young Anthony Reed was born when Thaddeus was twenty-one. He had his father's eyes and features. The child's first week in life was celebrated with so many friends that the Reed household was filled to capacity. Everyone was anxious to meet the new member of the Reed family. Thaddeus's best friends joked that they must remember all the embarrassing stories about Thaddeus in order to tell his son in the future. Gemini and Cassandra congratulated Clow on his new grandson, saying such things are what one lives for.
Two years later, Thaddeus was twenty-three. He fell gravely ill. He held Anthony in his arms all through his last hours. He was sorry that he had to go. He asked Clow to take good care of Meiling and his young son, as he himself cannot.
Meiling promised she would always honor him.
Thaddeus then turned to the guardians and told them he loved them dearly. He asked Clow to make them forget his past name, 'Syaoran', and always remember him just as Clow's son. When asked why, he only smiled.
Then he told Clow that Clow was his father in all but blood. He promised Clow that one day he will repay Clow for his kindness. Clow told him he already has, to which Thaddeus replied, there was still one thing that needs to be done, but it will come in time.
Still, despite the insinuation that they will meet again, he broke down weeping in his room after Thaddeus finally left.
When Clow died, Yue and Kero locked themselves away into the Clow Book to wait for their new master. Neither remembered that once upon a time, all of them had thought Syaoran would be that next master. They did not remember any mentioning of a little girl who came to Clow in a vision—the guardians had been young and immature, and as Thaddeus grew older, they too, grew older, and lost many of their young memories in favor of new ones. The Nothing Card neither knew about; Clow secured it in the east, because that was where Thaddeus had come from, and that was where, he hoped, it would remain, if only to honor the Dao Guardian.
War erupted in Europe, and Anthony Reed withdrew to the southern borders of what would one day be China. As with Clow, the interpretation spells in the East translated "Reed" to "Li". He eventually married and sired children, and thus fathered what would one day be the powerful Li Clan. Though none were the wiser, the Li Clan was, in fact, not of Clow's line, but of his adopted son, Thaddeus Reed. The magic they inherited was also not Clow's magic, but Syaoran's magic, reinstated in Anthony even as they were taken away from Thaddeus. The nullifying power, however, died with Thaddeus—that was one of the exchanges amongst the realm of the dead. The Li Clan possess no nullifiers, and never will.
And as for the famous Li Syaoran, husband of the Card Mistress who was the heiress of the Clow Cards?
Nothing is a coincidence, not in the realm of magic. That he was named after that unknown ancestor of the Li Clan was not by chance. However, the only clues as to the reason are only known to the deities in Heaven, who have watched the world grow and age and change through the years. They punished great evil with prolonged curses, that take their time beginning and ending. For acts of true compassion and love, their blessing also comes in its due time, mayhap, thousands of years later, when a young girl is exposed to the dangers of the magical world, and is in need of a guardian who can better understand her—
Hades, instead of directing Clow to either Tartarus or the Elysian Fields, decided to escort Clow himself to someplace else entirely. The god of death refused to answer where. But it soon became obvious, when, passing through a gate, they arrived in front of a huge palace, where, high up on the steps, the Jade Emperor was waiting.
Clow was floored.
" Hello!" Said the Jade Emperor, more good-naturedly than he was ever depicted in myth. " Hades! I am glad you could drop by!"
" What have you been doing with yourself?" Hades greeted. " I am sorry about Lord Yuan."
Yuan-Shi-Tian-Zong was the patriarch of all Daoist deities before the Jade Emperor would take his place. Apparently, the exchange of power had just occurred!
" He is doing well." Replied the Jade Emperor. " He was tired of all the paperwork."
" I imagine so. You Chinese work too hard."
" Ah well," the Jade Emperor gestured, " Would you like some tea?"
" Oh, of course I cannot resist your tea," Hades laughed, " But this time I must refuse."
" Come, it will be no trouble."
" No. I must head back." Hades smiled, though he remained where he was instead of leaving.
" Ah well." The newly-crowned Jade Emperor then turned to Clow. " You have gotten so old." He grinned with good humor.
Clow felt broken.
" What?" The Emperor exclaimed, " Not glad to see me?"
" Of course I am glad to see you!" Clow cried. The Emperor extended his arms and Clow went up to him and the two men hugged.
" You brat." Clow scolded, at first not entirely accepting of his son's new status, even as he said, " You could have told me you were going to be Emperor of China."
" Chinese deities." The Jade Emperor corrected. " And how was I to know? All I knew was I was coming here, that was all."
" Oh you knew more than that." Clow glared at him.
" That is true." His Highness conceded. " But it would not do to reveal too much to mortals." He leaned over. " Come, Hades!"
" No." Hades smiled, this time stepping back. " I must get going. Goodbye for now, Syaoran."
The Jade Emperor took Clow's hands warmly. " How is Anthony?"
" Doing well." Clow replied, still feeling broken. " But you know that already."
" True." The Jade Emperor replied.
" How?" Clow asked softly. " How are you…"
" This?" His son looked down at his regal robes. " I was the one that created the pills. By accident. I was Master Yuan's disciple, the creator of the Universe himself. And though he was impressed that I was able to do it, he was not so impressed that I actually did it. Still, since I did not actually mean to do it, I was charged with protecting the pills for a time until I learn to undo what I did."
" But you never destroyed the pills."
" I did not have to." His Highness replied. " Things went wrong. Mortals went wrong. As Syaoran I desperately tried to protect the location of the pills. I succeeded despite odds, odds that should not have occurred. The indecency of men will suffer the wrath of the gods, but it mattered not, for I succeeded. The pills can now never be found. They were destroyed, unknowingly, by war."
Clow had so many questions, but he kept silent. He was not sure how to ask them.
" I proved myself faithful." The Jade Emperor continued. " According to Master Yuan, a true leader must think for others before himself. I have apparently shown that I do." Then he scowled. " I am kind of nervous though. Everyone here treats me like a child."
Clow stared at the young, twenty-three-year-old face. " You need to grow a beard."
The Jade Emperor stared back. " That is actually not a bad idea. I shall!" He then gestured inside the palace. " Well, Pater? Shall we go in? There is much to talk about."
Clow smiled, a watery smile. He was still too bewildered. His son was the Jade Emperor himself—he could never, in his wildest dreams…
" Why did you not visit me?" He asked sadly. " At all?"
" Immortals among mortal men?" The Jade Emperor's eyes were warm though, so warm. No matter the crown on his head, this was truly his son. " We both needed to move on. I was granted life again, because the gods hoped you had the means of helping me heal. The realms of the dead would not be capable of truly healing me, not in the state they were in. And you did—you healed me. You gave me a gift even gods treasure dearly."
" But then you left." Clow looked away.
" It was my time." Said His Highness. " Pater, do not grieve now. You are here, and I am here. We have several thousand years."
" Several thousand years?"
" Well, it is not my fault that is so short. You will be reincarnated." The Emperor laughed. " And I cannot stop that. That is the normal cycle of things. In fact, I believe you will be split in two—one half to take care of your heir, and the other half to train her. That cannot be pleasant, but it seems it must be done. Ah well, if you are hurt at all, or not, afterwards you come back, so perhaps I should not say only several thousand years."
" And of course, because you have grown old and senile," The Jade Emperor smiled, friendly-eyes glittering; he was teasing Clow, " I shall have to go down myself, for a few years, to help you out and meet your heir personally. But we shan't meet often during that time."
" You will go down yourself?" Clow asked in surprise.
" Not all of me." The Jade Emperor grinned. " Part of me, yes. If I went down completely Heaven would fall into chaos! Good heavens!" He laughed. " But we have been standing out here for a while, Pater, and I am certain any questions you have can be discussed inside."
" Wait—" Clow took the Emperor's hand. The hand felt familiar, but there were rings on the fingers that were not there before—rings marking his new status. Clow momentarily wondered if he was too out of place, but the Emperor waited patiently, so understanding. " So…I will stay here with you?" Stay with Syaoran, instead of in the Realm of Hades?
" Do you want to?" His son returned.
His son…his son wanted him.
" Old man," The Jade Emperor grinned, " I can send you back. Though you would leave me heartbroken."
He was going to stay with Syaoran. He was going to stay with Syaoran, for eternity, or at least until he was reincarnated, and perhaps even afterwards he would still remain with his son.
He must have looked like he was about to burst into tears, for the Jade Emperor said quickly, " Come, Pater, let us go inside. I have humored your need for information out here too long, it seems; you are overwhelmed. We will have tea, yes? And I will tell you everything you wish in time. Only do come inside. There is a draft here, even in Heaven, and the warmth of the palace will do you good. You have but just died, and just arrived."
Clow nodded, speechless, and let His Highness lead him up the steps. There was a great deal to talk about.
But then, he realized, they had time. All the time in the world.