Fic Request Grant for ElinaCrox.
Her request was a short, sweet, fluffy, fantasy/AU oneshot. After racking my brain for ideas, I decided to revisit my stories and found one that fits her request. Sadly, that fic went on hiatus when my interest moved to other titles.
I am now re-uploading the story, with an updated plot (and hopefully more fluid writing style, lol!).I'm sorry if it's not a oneshot though; there's way too much plot to condense in 1 chapter. I hope Elina enjoys it as much as I had fun writing it.
Her tears were in vain, she knew.
The ebony-haired young priestess knelt down beside her mother's grave, and looked up at the endless rows of light shining brightly on the seemingly infinite dark night sky.
Her mother's death was dictated by the holy river of lights—Hikari Kawa as her people call it - and therefore, was inevitable. The gods were calling her Okaasan's soul, and she had no right to hold her mother back. But her final filial act would be to carry on with her mother's wishes.
"Rejoice, Okaasan. Unite with the Hikari Kawa."
As if to acknowledge what she said, the gentle breeze blew – the breath of the God that compassed the Hikari Kawa – and played with the loose raven tresses of her braids. She bowed and pressed her hands together in a silent prayer.
Behind her, a large group of women were assembled, faces drawn in sadness, too. A petite young girl in pink flowing dress stepped out, then began to move gracefully with the breeze. A moment later, flower petals began to fall delicately down from the skies.
The mourning priestess even had to momentarily stop and take notice. She held out her palm to catch a fragile rose petal, and smiled gently when she did. She then turned to her guardians and bowed gratefully. "Thank you, everyone."
"Thank you, everyone." Eighteen-year-old Eriol Hiiragizawa stepped down from the coach, carefully balancing his small bag of belongings and his other cloth bag that contained his prized possessions: books, journals, measuring tools and his trusty telescope.
"But Eriol, are you sure you're going to be just fine?" yelled his maidservant, Akizuki Nakuru. Not a few people turned her way when she spoke—it was particularly unheard of for maids to not address their masters politely, nor was it common for women to speak boisterously in public.
He smiled at her reassuringly. "Yes, of course." He lifted his back pack and waved. "Wish me luck with my new adventure!"
"Adventure, huh?" Nakuru crossed her arms in front of her not-so-ample chest. "For someone who just got excommunicated for pursuing his scholarly studies that go against the church' teachings, you sure are taking things lightly."
Eriol's conservative church was outraged upon learning that he was making a treatise on heavenly bodies, particularly the stars. They gathered that he planned to state that the stars' existence were actually covered by the laws of science and must be studied; this directly opposed the church' teachings that deciphering the secrets of the celestial bodies was forbidden to be studied by mere humans. The church feared that these scholars who study these were actually sorcerers who practiced black magic, and that they would only use their knowledge to bring harm and destruction to the world.
But her master was not even intimidated by this. He instead continued his research on the stars that amazed him so much. He once told her that he dreams of being able to reach a star through a steam-powered winged chariot that would fly beyond the clouds.
And she believed in him. Wholeheartedly.
Not everyone did, though. Despite his best attempt to keep his studies secret, someone inevitably heard about his dreams and relayed it to the church. Thus, he was excommunicated and declared a reincarnate of the devil, and was exiled to the far orient.
Eriol Hiiragizawa was extremely pleased by the turn of events.
"A new life in a foreign land where nobody related to the church can meddle with my studies? I must really thank my lucky stars!" She recalled him gushing as he proceeded to pack his things.
Nakuru finally shook her head, feigning exasperation. "Well, at least you look excited. Have fun stargazing with savages, Eriol! Poor me, on the other hand, will be left alone here in London, looking after your estate and your taxes and your lands. And your annoying cat, too."
"Nakuru," said Eriol smilingly. "I will miss you, too."
That did it. The sadness and longing broke out of his servant's chest like a dam, and she burst into tears. "Eriol!" She dove into his arms, weeping. The rest of the people in the dock gaped at them in shock as Eriol smiled apologetically at each and everyone in the audience, as if it would amount to anything.
"Eriol! Eriol! Eriol! What will I do when you're not around? It's going to get soooo boring! Who will read me stories? Who will bake me my favorite sweets? Who will brush my hair until it gets all shiny and soft?" cried Nakuru, squeezing him tighter every passing minute.
"Hush, Nakuru," said the male soothingly. "Spinel will still be with you. And I beg you not to announce to the world how we just can't sort out the master-servant rule properly..."
"I don't like your caaaaat! It thinks it's much smarter than meeeeeh!"
He patted her head. "That is not really true, Nakuru. You know that." Spinel didn't think it was smarter than his maidservant. It knew it was. Though the house cat, like any other typical animal, didn't talk, it made sure that Nakuru knew at every opportunity that its intelligence was superior to hers. It left its paw marks on the right boxes to sign on tax forms for Nakuru to see every time. It always reclined beside his books, which Nakuru swore to him it was reading with huge interest whenever he was not around.
"T-The truth is, Eriol, I don't think the people in the Orient are savages," confessed Nakuru, sniffling. "I'm just envious that you can go there and know how it is to be free. I want to go there, too."
"I know, Nakuru, and in due time you will." With utmost gentleness, he raised her chin and gazed at her misty eyes. "Don't make your tears the last thing I see before I go—have mercy on your poor master, dear Nakuru."
At that, she forced a smile on her face. "I'll take care of Suppi, and those boring documents, too. I hate doing those, but I'll do it in one condition—that you take care of yourself, Eriol."
"You don't know how much I appreciate that, Nakuru." The blue-haired master wiped her tears with his fingers, just as the boat's horn blared. "That's me they're calling." He gave her one last hug briefly, then turned to go.
Nakuru sighed sadly as she watched her master disappear into the crowd. It would take her at least a year to insure her master's vast lands and properties, and until then, she could not follow him to Japan. Eriol reassured her that he was going to be accommodated by a friend in Japan, but she couldn't help but still fear for his safety.
A little black furry object emerged from the curtain of her hair. From a distance, it might seem she was wearing an unusual fashion accent. Yet it was alive in every sense.
"He's gone, Suppi. Are you sad, too?"
Silence. But what did she expect? The cat was not like typical domesticated cats who indulge their masters with heartbreakingly cute meows and purrs. It only… glared. Spinel Sun was one mean, grouchy, snobbish cat, but Eriol Hiiragizawa loved it, so she had no choice but to treat it well.
She glanced at the black feline and was mildly surprised to see that its face lacked its usual cynical lines—it even looked sympathetic. Smiling, she tickled its chin with her finger. "We're both sad. But we still have each other, right?"
The feline's icy glare returned. She laughed it off softly. "Let's go home, Suppi!"
"Good evening, Okaasan," bade Tomoyo as she knelt before her mother's grave. Carefully, she replaced the still-fresh flowers that she brought here yesterday with the ones she picked earlier this afternoon. The flowers were of a different variety; she gathered the flowers from a green patch she spotted while on sorcery training with her guardians in another village.
She, the Priestess Tomoyo, was not born with magical powers, unlike her cousins Sakura and Touya. Hence, she did not expect that she would inherit the mastership of 52 powerful beings, each with its own magical attributes and capabilities.
She was never the intended chosen one. When they were ten years of age, her cousin Priestess Sakura spent time outside their humble village in order to gather all the lost mystical elements created by Clow Reed, their village's most skilled sorcerer centuries ago. The elders say that Clow Reed sourced the force from the Hikari Kawa itself.
After several years of battles that took her out and around the village, Sakura finally succeeded in collecting the 52 Clow creatures. Yet on the night of her consecration as the Clow Maiden, she mysteriously vanished.
With Sakura's disappearance from the village, the 52 Clow creatures were left without a mistress to rein them back.
She took Sakura's place as the Clow Maiden, promising to learn as much about the stars as she could in order to support the Clow creatures, ensuring that the beings would never go masterless and prevent them from wreaking havoc in the world again. It had been many moons since that promise, but until now, she was nowhere near achieving it.
Presently, Cerberus and Yue, the two Clow guardians that Clow Reed created as the stewards of the elements, were assisting her in managing the creatures. But she knew their powers were not infinite. Eventually, they, too would lose their strength that the Clow creatures so feared. In fact, Touya had already sacrificed his power to allow Yue to continue existing. And with her mother's death, the enormity of her burden only grew.
As the Priestess Tomoyo, she was not allowed to show her people any degree of fear or trepidation. But Kami-sama, never in her whole life had she ever felt this scared. Or this alone.
She sat down and hugged her knees to her chest, shoulders trembling violently. And then, for the first time since the announcement of her mother's death, she allowed herself the freedom to weep openly.
Eriol smiled when he finally saw a clearing ahead. For the past couple of days, he had been trudging in the forest while conscientiously following the map he bartered with a police official previously. His face soured when he recalled giving up his gold-plated timepiece in exchange for this possibly inaccurate chart of Japan.
His plan sounded so simple back when he was still concocting them at home. He would go to Japan, where his fellow scholar, Mizuki Kaho, lived. Once he finds her (which shouldn't be too hard, he figured, as scholars like them moved in small, tight and intimate circles), he would invite her to collaborate with him in his study of the stars. Of course, if she was also willing to collaborate with him in other extracurricular, non-academic pursuits, who was he to refuse?
When he arrived at her last-known address though, he found out that she ventured to the isolated northern forests a couple of years ago to interact with a centuries-old village that believed its existence to stem from the power of stars. Kaho's landlady did not know anything else about her whereabouts.
Common sense told him to secure directions from the local police, but he had the misfortune of getting that one officer who personified greed and corruption, coupled with terrible cartographic skills.
His only huge achievement so far was to bring himself to the edge of civilization in just two days where distinguished explorers took months.
"Ah well, if life deals one with a lemon, then by all means, whip up a lemon wine!" He placed his heavy bag down and began to set up his equipment. His stomach slightly rumbled in protest, but his giddy excitement in seeing the stars brighter than they can ever be back home overwhelmed any biological needs he had at the moment.
He lit the nearby lamp with his match, and then took out his writing materials. He was just about to begin his study session when he heard soft sobs coming from somewhere. He was going to chalk it up initially to forest sounds, fatigue or even hallucination, but he realized that it could also be a genuine call for help.
With that thought, he took his lamp and scanned the surroundings, checking intently for signs of life anywhere. His ears strained to hear the same sobs. He could hear soft sounds coming from the southern part of the forest, but it was not as loud as earlier anymore. But still, he found himself cautiously walking towards the bush. Using a tripod, he drew the leaves away like a theater's curtain, just in case it was a wild animal that was hidden in the bush.
But to his utter surprise, what he saw was a lone seated figure in the darkness. Was it a ghost? An earthly nymph? He held his lamp up higher to inspect the sight more.
The light shone on the figure, finally revealing the beauty beneath the silhouette of the night. A young woman his age, clad in a white kimono, sat on the ground with her knees tucked beneath her chin. Her long dark hair fell on gentle cascades of waves behind her slender shoulders. She was gaping at him, her heart-shaped mouth wide open in shock. Her big purple eyes reflected the same emotion.
He was rendered speechless for a moment, but he recovered quickly. He knelt down beside her, maintaining a respectful distance between them. "Are you hurt?"
She gazed at him as if she did not understand what he said.
He scratched his cheek. Now this was going to make the situation a little tougher. He patted his arms and shoulders, then turned to her hopefully.
She still did not get his charades. To be fair, he would have not gotten it too if he was in her shoes.
He decided to just check her for injuries himself. He maintained eye contact with her, a certain feat if he were to be asked, as the girl blatantly refused to meet his. But he made sure he was looking at her in the most calming way possible to let her know that he intended to touch her without malice.
His palm rested on her cheek first, testing for body temperature.
Her skin was cool to touch, he realized, and the poor girl was trembling out of fear. He beamed more openly at her, hoping it would show her that he was harmless.
But his smile vanished quickly; the moment his fingers laced her cheek, he felt something pass from her skin to the nerves of his fingers, which rapidly coursed through his body,
And then he heard a soft girl's voice.
Who are you?
Eriol did a double take, withdrawing his fingers away from her face in surprise. Equally stunned, the girl before him pulled away and let out a terrified scream that startled the whole forest.
"May I please at least speak to my counsel?" pleaded Eriol behind bars. "Surely there must be a clause in the law somewhere prohibiting hordes of women from manhandling a defenseless man."
"Silence! You will only talk when spoken to!" A grim-faced woman with straight ebony hair glared at him. She crossed her legs nimbly as she sat on the table across his prison. "We shouldn't have given ourselves the power to understand his speech."
A woman with silvery flowing hair gave her a small smile. "Well, Dark, he was making quite an awful racket earlier. At least his noise now makes for a more coherent, tolerable piece."
The woman called Dark rolled her eyes. "Anyhow, must he not be executed for upsetting our mistress?"
Eriol sighed. "I would really appreciate it if you do not talk about executing someone who happens to be in the same room as you are. It's downright cruel." Did he escape his church' persecution just to be executed by a cult of beautiful, fiercely angry, women?
Dark shook her head. "Can't Silence do anything about him, Light?"
"While our mistress is still alive, we cannot act without her command," explained Light patiently. "Unfortunately, our mistress has not learned to approach Silence properly yet."
"Oh, right." Dark looked away in frustration. "Our mistress, who until now, has only learned to unlock the Flower and the Sweet. Yet we swore to protect her with our very lives."
Light did not comment, but her painful silence spoke volumes to Eriol, who was listening intently to the exchange.
"We mustn't speak ill of our mistress," said someone softly. Eriol turned to see a pretty green-haired girl, draped in a long flowing kimono. A mirror rested in her small hands. "Everyone knows she's doing her best."
"Your interaction with our previous mistress' brother softened you so, Mirror," said Dark disdainfully.
"Because there is no reason for me to do otherwise," Mirror replied quietly. "We have a new mistress, and nothing can change that. I might as well do my best to understand her best efforts to take Lady Sakura's place."
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of footsteps leading into the cell. A few moments later, a tall, slender woman with plentiful auburn hair entered the room. Eriol's eyes widened upon recognizing her as the woman he had been searching for the past few days.
"Kaho!" Had he not been bound by ropes or the iron bars of the cell, he would have leapt to her arms joyfully. He had never felt such overwhelming relief to see a familiar face amidst this situation, unbelievable as it was.
"I had to come here and see for myself who the blue-haired audacious foreigner was. I knew it had to be you." Mizuki Kaho smiled at him in amusement, then turned the guards. "Please set this boy free. I know him, and I assure you he is as harmless as a little fish that got washed up in the middle of the forest."
Eriol sweatdropped. "Kaho… I understand you're bad at directions, but I didn't know that it distorted your geographical sensibilities, too."
"Now's not a good time to get snarky with me, young man. Did you know that they were very nearly going to release Cerberus in your cell?" said Kaho.
"Cerberus, like the mythical beast from Greek tales?"
"He's a huge hungry lion-tiger hybrid in this part of the world."
"Lady Daidouji, did the stranger hurt you?" asked her maidservant as she brushed her long hair in preparation for bed.
Tomoyo shook her head wordlessly.
"I've heard from the Clow that they cannot execute him because he is a friend of Lady Mizuki, but you need only to say the word—"
"Goodnight," she bade quietly.
The servant immediately understood her courteous dismissal. "Goodnight, my lady." She swiftly disappeared from the room.
Tomoyo stood up and walked towards the balcony. As she was taught by Yue and Cerberus, she watched the Hikari Kawa's movement to try and decipher the fortune inscribed on its path and movements.
But she couldn't concentrate.
Tried as she might, she couldn't keep the face of the stranger off her mind. Those deep cerulean eyes, with dark blue hair and a gentle voice reminiscent of her Uncle Fujitaka's…
And when they touched… when she was finally able to comprehend what his foreign tongue was saying… words failed to express how immensely affected she was by the genuine concern in his voice.
She collapsed on the floor, her thoughts a swirling eddy of confusion. Her mother's last words were for her to avoid men at all costs, and instead concentrate on improving her mastery of the Clow. She explained that getting distracted by anything else would become an additional burden to her.
It seemed her mother was right yet again. Her mind, her thoughts… they were all completely possessed by the gentle stranger.
At that, she made a decision: the foreigner must leave the village at sunrise.
"Is that so?" Eriol clasped his hands under his chin. "You mean, these people actually have powers?" They were now in the garden of Kaho's shack, and to his incredulous amusement, they were drinking evening tea amidst a secluded forest in the middle of nowhere.
Kaho sipped primly before replying. "That is what they believe in, Eriol. They also believe that they derive their powers from the Hikari Kawa."
"River of lights," she gestured towards the stars. "These people are very interesting, mainly because of mysticism and secrecy and their strong inclination to do battles."
He nodded mentally. The women made it clear how excited they were to dispose of him in countless creative ways earlier in the prison.
"They are also very protective of their priestess." Kaho placed her cup down. "According to tales, the priestess acts as the mother of the 52 elements. She has to be strong enough to contain each of the Clow, or else these beings will cause chaos in the world."
"A priestess, you say? And Clow?"
She nodded. "Do you remember the girl in white kimono that you saw in the bushes earlier?"
He recalled the purple-eyed girl. "Certainly."
"Her name is Daidouji Tomoyo, and she is the priestess of this people," explained the red-haired woman. "She is the Clow maiden of 52 magical beings, each with her own special powers. They are collectively called as the 'Clow'. Mirror, Dark and Light are but some of them."
"Magical beings? Do you mean they are not human?" asked Eriol, unable to ascertain what he felt about what he just learned.
"They seem to bear very human characteristics, but I cannot really say for sure," replied the woman thoughtfully. "I am yet to see their true power, but apparently, they are not permitted to use their true abilities until such time that Priestess Tomoyo learns to control them."
"And she cannot?"
Kaho shook her head sadly. "She is as normal as any girl can be. Quieter and more somber than typical girls maybe, but definitely normal. Unfortunately, this trait is a bit of a problem for the village."
"Do tell me why." Eriol was finding himself getting more and more drawn to the lore behind the Clow Maiden.
"Because only people with magical powers can control the Clow." Kaho stirred her drink with her teaspoon. "Right now, she has Cerberus and Yue watching over the Clow, but once they lose their powers, the Clow will not hesitate to challenge her. That's what I've been told."
"Can't anyone else take the mantle of martyrdom for her?" he asked curiously.
"She's the only one left in her family. With Priestess Sakura gone, there was no other master or maiden suitable for the Clow. That was when Priestess Tomoyo stepped forward to assume the duty," narrated Kaho.
"A consecrated Clow maiden or master must have magic AND must be chaste," explained the red-haired scholar.
"Do you mean to say that no one in the village but Priestess Tomoyo is chaste?" he exclaimed.
Kaho laughed. "No, it means no one else in the village has magic. Priestess Tomoyo merely took it upon herself to learn sorcery even if she wasn't meant to learn the art."
"How old is the priestess?" he wanted to know.
"About your age. But if I were you, I wouldn't try anything funny. I may not be able to save you again next time," warned Kaho.
He smiled at her meaningfully. "My taste in women and wine are the same."
Kaho smiled back. Saccharinely. "I feel the same way. I like mine naturally aged."
"I'll change your mind one day, you'll see," he laughed good-naturedly. "By the way, care to indulge me as to why the Clow seems to give you the preferential treatment?"
"Well, I believe it helps that I'm a woman with little to no interest in carrying a torch for the Priestess Tomoyo." Eriol was about to protest this claim when Kaho continued. "I assume it's also because I served as Lady Daidouji's teacher for the past few months. She's very smart, but she's amazingly timid. I adore her!"
"She must be very different from the other students you tutored privately, hmm?" said the male, recalling how Kaho used to complain to him how spoiled rotten her students were, and how she longed to save up enough to travel the world someday.
"Verily." The female teacher beamed. "She would have been a precious jewel of a lady back home."
"I want to help her, Kaho," he replied earnestly. "She has a good heart, I can tell. But when I saw her in the forest, I could feel she's terribly lonely."
"I understand." The woman sighed. "But if I were you I'd leave the priestess alone. Rules are very strict here, and they worship her as if she's divine."
Kaho stood up gracefully from her seat, signaling the end of the conversation. "Good night, Eriol."
He cupped his face and gave him his best look of innocence. "Surely you will permit me to accompany you home."
"I am home."
"So you are," he said smoothly, chuckling at that. "I guess I'm officially out of reasons to stay here for the night."
"I agree." She waved her hand smilingly, which he returned courteously with a slight bow.
TO BE CONTINUED