A/N: It's been a long time since I last updated this one, but I hope you guys are still following this fic. I'll try to be a little more regular with the updates for this one so keep your fingers crossed. A quick recap for what happened so far in case you guys have forgotten.
Wolf makes the discovery that Phoenix is a vampire a little while before they're set to depart. Once they arrive to pick up Phoenix's companion, the one that Phoenix claimed would help them get into Clow, it turns out that Dragon is in fact the same man that Wolf had betrayed eleven years ago and that Wolf is actually Syao's clone and not his brother.
And that's it for the recap, so enjoy. Don't forget to review. ;)
You know, being what I am, I don't have dreams too often. Something to do with how I came into being and all, I suppose, but when I do… they all revolve around the same thing. The time that I've dubbed as 'before'. Considering how often I had been dreaming of the before lately, I really should have taken it as an omen. Then I wouldn't have been caught off-guard by this unexpected encounter with a ghost from my past. I wouldn't have been left to massage my bruised jaw, wondering if the demon's punch had somehow fractured my jaw.
And maybe if I had taken those dreams as omens, I would have been better to deal with all this guilt bubbling up inside me. Trust me when I say this: that moment when I had first looked up into those glowering red eyes, I had just about been ready to piss in my pants. Though once Cherry and Phoenix had explained the gist of our situation to him and asked for his help, Dragon had given us a stiff nod and declared he would like to discuss it all in greater depth in the safety of his home. Unnerved and a little numb, I had followed after everyone else as my teacher lead us through a maze of narrow dirt streets. I couldn't help but wonder about what his life had been like after my betrayal.
I still couldn't believe that he was still alive, though now that I think about it, it somewhat made sense in a twisted sort of way for him to have survived. The man I had known all those years ago had never seemed like the type to go down without a fight after all. And having someone like Phoenix, who - I'll never admit this outloud, though— is actually a pretty decent pilot, to help him break out of captivity would just be the sort of thing.
A short while later, I tried not to fidget under Dragon's glowering gaze as he poured Phoenix and Cherry each a cup of sake before taking a swig from the bottle himself.
What would his life have been like if he hadn't made the call to save me? I wonder, spotting the tattoo of a dragon twisting up the skin of his right arm. Wouldn't be stuck as a nobody on Xerox, that's for sure.
Xerox was a backwater planet at the edges of civilized space. Its entire population consists of nothing more than discarded clones and renegades on the run from the law, so usually it's ignored by the authorities so long as the clones stick to themselves and the traitors try not to show their faces amongst the civilized society. I should have realized that if there was one place that he could have found a life on after I had stabbed him in the back, this would be it.
But honestly, I had no idea that he was still alive. I mean, the last time I had seen him, he was being dragged to the gallows. And now, he's got a family with his wife and a kid and even a semi-respectable job as the owner of a dojo.
See, a few decades back when cloning was all that, corporations used it as a means for free labor all over the systems. And then, the questions of the morality and ethics of using human beings, however they may have come into being, was raised by those guys who need one cause or another to stand up for against the corporate world. Still, the questions they asked grew in popularity until the companies that used this method of employment were forced to let go of their cloned slaves. However, considering how they had never quite intended on letting the clones go free in the world in the first place, there had been no plan on where to put them.
In the end, all the companies piled in some money and hastily terraformed the planet of Xerox and dumped all the clones off on its surface. To ensure no one who was not supposed to get off would actually make it off planet, all the clones were branded by tattoos on some part of their body, depending on which company they had originally belonged to. It was not unheard for renegades to do the same to hide in plain sight by taking on one of these tattoos and living the rest of their lives in exile on Xerox. After all, everyone knows a clone has no soul, myself included. Clones aren't supposed to have any magic either, which does raise the question as to why I'm able to use it. Seeing how I wasn't exactly grown in a mass-production cloning facility but an illegal research lab, I suppose that can be excused.
I'm sure you're all wondering why I'm even sitting in the same room with Dragon as he offers sake to my current travelling companions and not me- seriously, you'd think a guy could let go of a grudge after punching the living daylights out of me. I mean, so I fucked up his life! But if it's revenge he wants, he should probably get in line or join the club, he's not the only one I've screwed over. He doesn't have to take it out on me by glowering and still scaring the crap out of me. Or not giving me any booze… Seriously, that's just wrong on so many levels. Not to mention rude. Though I really shouldn't be the one to talk about rude, I suppose.
I tried not to cower as Dragon's gaze shot in my direction yet again, Syao uncharacteristically silent from his spot on the floor beside me as we sat in one of side rooms of Dragon's dojo. Phoenix had been doing most of the talking so far and though Dragon had been shooting venomous glares at me, he had avoided looking down at Syao at all. Syao did whine quietly at this lack of attention, though the man we both had once called teacher remained unmoved. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this lack of attention towards my brother. Maybe Dragon felt so guilty over what had become of his student he could not bear to look him in the eye anymore? If so, I would most certainly be using it to our advantage. Whatever the cost, I had to make sure I could get Syao his body back. Even if it meant…
"What about him?" I was drawn out of my thoughts by Dragon's gruff voice, irritation coloring it completely as I looked up in surprise to see him jerking his head towards me. "If you want to help the princess free her brother, how does he work into this whole equation?"
"He doesn't," Phoenix responded simply, as though he was merely mentioning it was sunny outside, "I'm merely providing him with my services at the request of my fiancé. He has nothing to do with the Royal siblings."
"What's his interest in going to that world, then?"
Phoenix merely shrugged as though that explained everything.
Before Dragon could demand an explanation of me, however, the rice paper door slid apart and a young brat poked her head inside to rattle off something rapidly in Xerox's native tongue- one that I hadn't bothered to learn. Dragon replied in a clipped tone and the brat nodded before retreating.
"Your daughter?"Phoenix quirked a brow once the kid had left.
"Souma," Dragon nodded as he climbed to his feet, "Tomoyo has set dinner for everyone, so we should go and eat now."
I know he said 'everyone', but I was sure he would like nothing more than to not see my face at the table and I was only too happy to oblige as I took my time in getting up, conveniently falling behind and getting lost once we exited.
The tears fell unbidden even as I tried to muffle my sobs, biting down on the sleeve of my shirt when I failed, trying to remain undetected for as long as possible. The caretaker had said I was an abomination. A creation born of a twisted mind. She wasn't the only one. The servants all talked too, when my new mother and father could not hear. Brother promised he would talk to mother and father about this, but what if she was right? What if…what if I was a monster? Brother could have died because he was taken away by Master to create me…
"Kid! Are you here?"
I pressed my back harder into the bush. Maybe Kurogane-sama wouldn't notice me and I could remain here until I faded away. With the cold and the snow, it wouldn't be a very long wait, but then golden light blinded me as strong hands pulled me out from my hiding space. I was set on my feet, supported by the same warm fingers when I swayed dangerously.
"Shit, you're freezing," Kurogane-sama said, draping his warm jacket around my tiny, shivering frame before picking me up, "are you mad? Hiding out here in this freezing weather. Do you want to die?"
"W-Would be g-good thing…" I got through my chattering teeth, burying my face unintentionally into the warmth of his shoulder, "'m a mo-monster…"
I felt Kurogane-sama freeze in his steps at that as he pulled me away to look at me, "Who said that to you?"
I whined at the loss of warmth, not wanting to say anything more but he held fast, forcing me to meet his gaze, "Kid, who said that to you?"
Just a creation born of a twisted mind. An abomination. A thing meant to destroy. A monster. That was my purpose in existing.
Or so said the whispers that followed me everywhere I went. All the time, except for when I was around the crimson-eyed demon. A demon who was my savior. To him, I was just a child. Surprising how a monster turns into a harmless little kid to the blood-thirstiest of them all.
Yet I wasn't one to turn it away. Even back then, unknowingly as it might have been, I took everything that was given to me and then when I couldn't get it, I stole and stole and stole till they had nothing left. That's what I did to them. The king and the queen and the prince. The ones who took me in and made me a part of their family. But I was just a pawn. So I stole and stole and stole till the king was dead and the queen was dead and the prince was no more and then, when there was no one left, I blamed the crimson-eyed savior. And thus, I paved the road to victory for my master. The one who created me. The one who brought me into existence. The only one who…truly cared about me.
It wasn't until I had taken all that I could steal and snatch from the world that I realized how wrong I was. I was just a tool. A creation. An abomination that had finished serving its purpose; to be discarded.
"You're a selfish bastard," I heard Kurogane growl as he came to sit next to me. It was late at night and everyone else had already fallen asleep. I had slipped up to the roof instead of going in for dinner with everyone else because I didn't have the guts to face Tomoyo after what I had put her through. And even when everyone else had come back and Syaoran had whined at me to come down and eat something, I had remained where I was, unmoving until he'd given up and wandered off.
I can still remember the shock and the fear that had coursed through my whole body when I'd first heard the guards discussing Tomoyo's miscarriage. It had happened right around the time Kurogane was going to be beheaded. They had been expecting their first child when I had betrayed their trust and destroyed their lives. I was the reason why their Souma had no older sibling. And I was also the reason why none of them would be able to leave this planet without facing serious repercussions.
"I'm a clone," I replied, turning to stare at him evenly, "what else would you expect from an abomination?"
Despite all that I had stolen from him, a part of me still expected him to deny my statement like he always had when I was little. Instead he merely narrowed his eyes and said nothing. His silence hurt a lot more than the punch that I had received earlier in the day, though I covered up my pain with an arrogant smirk.
"If you willingly sought me out, there's something you want to know," I said, leaning back on the tiled roof. "You already have the story from Phoenix and Cherry about why we want to go to Clow. Just so we're clear, though, it wasn't my idea to come here."
"I already know why those two want to go to Clow. What I don't get is why you want to go there."
"About fifteen years ago, a team of scientists at an undisclosed location began working on a top secret research project," I said as I stared up at the unfamiliar constellation. "Fei Wang Reed caught wind of the project and made the scientist work for him on what later came to be known as Project Tsubasa."
"Get to the point."
"Syaoran is dying." I didn't turn to look at what his reaction might be to hearing that. "His soul won't stay bonded with the body he possesses right now. A pair of scientists from the project have hidden the key to saving his life in the ruins at Clow. So there, now you know why I'm interested in going there."
"Why do you care about what happens to the kid?"
"I don't," I shrugged, before closing my eyes. "I'm not capable of feeling anything because I don't have a soul, but I like to imagine that if I could feel anything, I'd want to get revenge. You see, when I was a kid, I used to have a master who led me to believe that I was something special. That I had a destiny to fulfill so I would do whatever he asked of me, without question. Of course, as soon as he got what he wanted, my dear old master discarded me like the broken, useless tool that I had become. You could say that saving Syao's life is just step one of the revenge plan I'd enact if I had a soul."