Disclaimer: I don't own CCS.
Happiness is something to do, something to love, something to hope for.
~ Chinese Proverb
"It's done then?"
Syaoran stared at his and Lei's signatures on the royal edict. The black ink was still wet and shining. This was the moment he and Eriol had worked day and night for, for the last two years. Now that it was here, instead of a deep calm washing over him, Syaoran felt a twinge of apprehension. But this edict was what he wanted. It was a way out of a life he cared little for.
"It's done," he said to Lei and he bowed to his brother in thanks.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" asked Lei for the millionth and one time. "I'm not you. I'll never be you. Or even Renshu."
"You're a decent man, Lei. You'll be fine."
"China doesn't need a decent man. It needs a strong one."
Syaoran stood and walked around his large desk to face his brother.
"You'll be fine. If you ever need my counsel you shall have it. Besides you have already accepted. You cannot go back on your word."
"No. That would be dishonourable."
Syaoran rolled up the edict and slid it into a cylindrical case. He nodded to Lei and left the imperial study. His heavy emperor's robes dragged behind him as he walked along the high hallways. Ping hobbled behind him with the other servants.
"Where's Sakura?" Syaoran asked him.
"In the courtyard. The Great Imperial Son wanted to go outside."
Syaoran made a beeline for the courtyard he knew Sakura always took Xiao Dan. He found them playing some hand game she had taught him to play last week. Xiao Dan clapped his hands together at the wrong time and Sakura laughed. The boy did not think it was funny and frowned, his long hair blowing behind him in the wind.
Syaoran felt a touch of annoyance. How many times must he tell Sakura to put his son's hair in a braid or tie it up? The boy looked too feminine. If it were not for his thick eyebrows and piercing eyes that were so like Syaoran's, he would be mistaken for a girl.
Cerberus in his true form sat on his own, munching on some preserved fruit. Meilin and Nakuru sat beneath the shade of an umbrella a servant was holding. Meilin held a baby in her arms.
Syaoran smiled as he remembered how irate and scared he was when Sakura told him she was having another child a year ago. He had gone out and punched a tree until his knuckles bled. Believe it or not, Touya was the one to calm him down. When the boy was born Syaoran had been suspicious because he had black hair. Yukito pointed out that both his and Sakura's mother had black hair. Syaoran had felt so silly then.
Then Hua-Ling had slit her wrists a week later. She had never been the same, though he had tried. They all had tried to make her happy. The one good thing that had come of it was that Syaoran had made a greater effort to spend more time with Meilin and eventually he came to care for her happiness deeply. And though she was not his First Wife anymore, she had accepted it because she loved him.
As he approached his beautiful wife, Xiao Dan knelt on the floor. He always did that and never got up until Syaoran pried him from the ground. Sometimes he felt like he sucked all the fun out of his son with his presence. It had been two long years of hard work and Syaoran did not have much time to bond with him as he would have liked.
He picked the boy up, held him on his waist and kissed his cheek. Quietly, Xiao Dan looked down at his mother, pulling slightly to go back to her.
"Don't you like me anymore?" asked Syaoran, feeling a pang in his chest.
The boy's eyes widened and he shook his head.
"I love Otou-san."
Syaoran glanced at Touya who had appeared as if on cue and was currently being jumped by Nakuru. He had insisted on talking to Xiao Dan in no other language but Japanese. Syaoran sighed. He supposed it would save the boy from dreadful tutors in the future.
"And Otou-san loves Xiao Dan."
"Otou-san loves Tian?" asked Xiao Dan, looking over at the baby.
"Yes," said Syaoran.
"More than Xiao Dan?"
Syaoran glanced at Sakura who was holding in a laugh with her hands.
"I love you equally," he said but then he cocked his head and pretended to think. "Hmm maybe I love you just a little bit more."
Sakura hit him on the foot but Xiao Dan smiled brightly and clapped his hands together. Syaoran put the boy down and he ran over to his good friend Han who was running towards them, Tomoyo following behind with Eriol's other children.
Before Sakura could go after Tomoyo, he caught her arm and they walked off on their own. They came to stand on a bridge below which lay a calm, wide river.
"You could have saved Xiao Dan some sibling rivalry by making a girl, you know," Syaoran told her.
Sakura put a hand to her belly.
"Are you serious?"
He stepped back and pointed accusingly at her.
"You need to stop that!"
"No," said Sakura, grabbing his finger and pulling his hand down. "You need to stop."
Syaoran smirked playfully. He really was the guilty one.
"It's not my fault you're irresistible," he said, leaning his side against the bridge. "But really. You're going to give me a heart attack someday if you keep giving me this kind of news. The rate you're going I'm going to have four more children in the next eight years. And all those months of celibacy are incredibly irritating!"
Sakura shoved him slightly, a blush on her cheeks.
"You know you're dancing on the inside."
Wrapping his hands around her waist, Syaoran pulled her closer and kissed her on the lips. His body started to get warmer and it was not because of the layers of clothes he had on because the warmth was on his insides.
"You know how you've been upset that I've been distant and busy these past months?" he murmured against her lips.
"Not months. Years." Sakura pulled away to look up into his face. "Xiao Dan thinks you don't want to be around him. So you stay away."
Syaoran's eyes widened briefly.
"You know that's not true." He sighed. "I'll make it up to him. I swear."
He took Sakura's hands in his own.
"The truth is I've been making plans for a proper successor."
"But Xiao Dan is the Great Imperial Son. You don't want him to be emperor?" Sakura gasped. "Is it because of me? Because I'm Japanese?"
Syaoran shushed her.
"No, it's not you." He touched her cheek. "I don't want him to be emperor. I want him to be free of that responsibility. It's not a nice life Sakura. I want him to be happy. To have a happy childhood like you had. Like I never did."
Sakura was silent for a while and it disturbed him. Did she not approve?
"Who's your successor?" asked Sakura finally.
"But he's older than you!"
Syaoran brushed a loose lock of hair from her face.
"I'm stepping down as emperor. We're leaving the Forbidden City."
Sakura's body froze up.
"Eriol, Yukito, my mother... we're all going. I had an old compound extended in Hong Kong. It's like a miniature palace really. We'll live there. All of us. Together."
Sakura smiled and it made Syaoran feel lighter.
"Oh," she said. "I thought I had to leave Tomoyo-chan and everyone behind. But can you really stop being Huangdi? You're China's leader. Their greatest soldier. They need you."
"They'll find someone else. There will always be men willing to die for a cause." He smiled. "Lei and I signed an agreement. Basically his power and the future emperors' powers over my house will be limited. Sakura, this is a good thing."
"This is what you want?"
"Yes. I want it for all of us."
"Then if it makes you happy, I'm happy as well."
Syaoran pulled her into a tight embrace his heart swelling with love for his woman. Something else was swelling on him though and he pressed against her. But it was not satisfying. There were too many clothes between them.
"Let's go to our room," he said, his grip on her tightening. "I need you."
Sakura pried his hands off her.
Syaoran frowned but then he gave a lazy grin.
"You want to do it in the gardens?"
Sakura smiled apologetically at him even as she bit back a giggle.
Syaoran put his hands in his sleeves. They had not been together in a week. Kissing was not going to suffice.
"Why?" he asked.
She patted her belly and Syaoran groaned. Right. In truth, Sakura would be with him if he asked but he was the one who still thought it was dangerous to be with her when she was in that condition. He felt himself hardening even more but he forced his feelings down. Perhaps next time around he would be brave enough to change his mind on that tradition.
Sakura and Meilin glanced out at the countryside every so often. The journey to Hong Kong was especially thrilling to Meilin who had never been outside the Forbidden City before. Now she was travelling the entire day in a palanquin carried by several men and sleeping in the houses of nobles at night when it was possible.
Syaoran always rode on horseback with Eriol, Nakuru, Touya and Yukito, eyes ever shifting and searching for signs of trouble. It did not matter to them that Syaoran had his own little private but formidable army at the front and back of the procession. They could sit with their women but no, they had to be paranoid. Kero could not be bothered. He sat with Sakura and the boys eating all day long to Syaoran and Touya's annoyance.
"Eriol told me you don't even have to eat," said Syaoran at one point.
"I am a Guardian Beast," said Kero, drawing himself up proudly. "As such, you should treat me with more respect gaki. If I want to eat I'll eat. Unless my Mistress commands me otherwise."
Then both he and Syaoran had turned to Sakura and sent burdening stares her way. Sakura looked at Meilin for help but she pretended to be deaf.
In the end, she told Kero that he could no longer overeat since it was like wasting food. Other than that, the trip was enjoyable and uneventful. Save for Nakuru's jealousy of Yukito. It was amusing watching her compete with him for Touya's attention though he and Touya seemed oblivious to it all. She had struck up a deep friendship with Eriol however, and that at least lowered the number of times she jumped on Touya's back everyday.
"Are we there yet?" asked an irritated Xiao Dan in a whiny voice, as he looked out the palanquin's window.
"No, Xiao Dan," said Sakura. "Soon we'll be there."
"Soon. Soon Soon Soon! Always soon!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, awakening Tian and sending a gust of wind through the palanquin.
"Xian Dan!" said Syaoran, riding up next to the window. He shook his head, a warning expression on his face.
The boy blinked back tears. He did not like travelling. He did not like sitting for hours. It did not help that his magic burst out when he was feeling strong emotions. It always amazed Sakura how intimidating he could be sometimes. He was only two after all.
"I want out, Otou-san," he said pitifully, referring to the palanquin.
Syaoran scooped him up through the window and planted him on the horse's saddle, a hand firmly wrapped around his tiny waist the entire time. Xiao Dan was quite intelligent and he was usually well behaved. Sometimes he used words Syaoran had no idea he knew which always made him proud. So to see him so distressed was upsetting. It was his fault the boy was so stressed. Long, hot days outside were never fun.
"Look over there," said Syaoran. "You see those red things? They're roof tiles. That's your new home. We'll be there in a little while. I know you're hot and tired. But can you be patient for just a little while longer?"
Xiao Dan nodded.
"Good boy," said Syaoran, a soft smile on his lips.
The compound really was like a palace. Sakura would not call it miniature though. On the contrary it was huge. Dozens of servants were waiting outside to meet them. There were guards everywhere. Her eyes lit up at the pink blossoms floating through the air. She had just passed through the gates, holding Tomoyo's hand when she saw them. There were many trees, freshly planted and their flowers sweet smelling.
"Kawaii! said Tomoyo. "Sakura-chan, I must paint you next to a Sakura tree. It's so poetic!"
Sakura smiled embarrassedly. Tomoyo was always thinking about painting. Syaoran and Touya walked up behind them. Xiao Dan was sitting against Syaoran's side, his head turning all around in wonder.
"We have a surprise for you," said Syaoran to Sakura. "Come."
"A surprise?" asked Sakura as she attempted to take Tian from Touya. But he shook his head and gestured for her to followed Syaoran.
At the edge of the beginning of a beautiful garden, Touya paused, seemingly breathless.
"What's wrong onii-chan?" asked Sakura.
He glanced at Syaoran and a message passed between them. Syaoran nodded.
"Come," he told her. "He'll meet up with us soon."
He took her hand and pulled her along. She and Xiao Dan glanced back at Touya and Tian but neither said anything.
"Where are you taking us?" asked Sakura.
Syaoran was looking around like he was lost. Sakura would not be surprised if he was because she was. Very much so. He did not answer her but a smile crossed his face as he saw something up ahead.
"Come," he said again and tugged on her long sleeve.
They arrived at a soaring cherry blossom tree. She looked at him in confusion while Xiao Dan said, "WOW..."
"It's... beautiful, Xiao Lang."
"The surprise isn't a tree," he told her.
Just then a figure walked out from behind it. Sakura's breath caught. It was something she had never thought to dream of or to even hope for.
The man was thinner and greying but he had those glasses and that smile. It was him. It was her father.
"Otou-san..." murmured Xiao Dan, watching the man intently.
Tears burst from Sakura's eyes as she ran into her father's arms. He wrapped his arms tight around her and when she breathed in his scent, so familiar, her legs gave out. It really was him!
"Sakura-san," he said, against her hair. "I'm so sorry."
"You're here! I've missed you," she said, emotions flooding her, tears blurring her vision. "I've missed you so much."
Syaoran felt a twinge of jealously, seeing Sakura with her father. Xiao Dan must have felt the same way because he pouted and asked in a tone Syaoran never heard from him before, "Who's he?"
"Your grandfather. Okaa-san's father."
The boy nodded and stared even more. Behind them, Touya approached. Fujitaka looked at him as he clutched Sakura tightly. He nodded to his father and Fujitaka returned the motion. Their relationship was strained but Syaoran knew Sakura would mend it. She was good at things like that.
Syaoran set his son down and took Tian from Touya, walking off with the boys to give the Kinomoto's some time together.
"Yes, Xiao Dan."
"I like it here."
"I like it here too."
The boy tripped on a pebble and Syaoran bent down to pick him up.
"Are you happy?" he asked his son.
"Yes," Xiao Dan answered.
His face was so innocent and honest. Syaoran caressed his soft, chubby cheek.
"That makes me happy."
They gazed at Sakura who was in the middle of her father and brother, hugging them tightly to her like she never wanted to let go again. But then she ran over to them and dropping to her knees, swept all three of them into a big hug, her tummy giddy.
"Everything is perfect," she said. "This is really our home now!"
Everyone as far as Syaoran could tell was happy. Whatever he needed to do to keep things like this, he would do it in a heartbeat. For Sakura, for his children and for himself.
Sakura kissed him on the lips - an act that made Xiao Dan crinkle his little nose - and pressed their foreheads together.
"Yes," said Syaoran, kissing her again. "This is our home."
Sakura nodded vigorously and ran back to her father's arms and there was never again laughter so sweet and a smile so big as in that moment.
A/N Hey Tomodachi! We have come to the end. Thank you for reading, enjoying, complaining (lol), critiquing but most of all waiting for this terrible updater to post her chapters. I've gotten PMs and reviews saying that the story should not end but it has to. All stories must. :P
I have also had people ask for stories set in these eras and though I have an idea for one, I wanted to write something modern day - like a bad boy Syaoran kind of fic. When I first discovered this site it was what I read the most of lol. C'mon, we all love those stories! But I may post a period piece again because reviewers like them. Hmm. I haven't decided yet. Well...
^_^ Until next time, Ja ne!
P.S I thought you all would hate that Syaoran is not emperor. But I don't think it's that awful. (crosses finger) hehe oh and 1st TimeReviewer, I'm glad I got your first one! May it not be the last :)