L-chan's notes:  I'm writing a MeiLi??  Hoe!!

Disclaimer:  I'm just a CCS fan.  Thank you, CLAMP, for creating these characters.  I apologize for what I've done to them.  (Tomori-kun and Matsuda-sensei are mine.)

Take My Advice

Chapter 1—Everyone Needs Hope

"I swear, the only thing more boring than watching a chess match is writing about one," Li Meiling said as she stared at the blank computer screen.  The fifteen-year-old rifled through her notes as she tried to think of a way to make chess interesting to the readers of Saito Junior High's school newspaper.  The sounds of fingers quickly clacking away on keyboards in the paper's office surrounded her.  Did everyone else get an easy assignment?  She wondered.  Why can't I ever get that lucky?

Mihara Chiharu walked over and took a look at her friend's desk.  "Why on earth do you have so many notes about a chess match?" she asked.

"Well, I had to do something to stay awake," Meiling replied.  "Do you know what it's like to spend three hours watching two boys sit at a table and move little plastic game pieces from one square to another?  I found myself wishing that I was outside watching the grass grow instead."

Chiharu giggled.  "I went to a chess match last year, back when Yamazaki-kun was captain of the team.  I did fall asleep, and he very politely asked me not to come back.  He said my snoring was too distracting."

The two girls were still laughing when someone behind them cleared his throat.  Meiling turned around to see Tomori Kioshi, the student editor, frowning at her.  "How's the article coming, Li-san?" he asked dryly.

She showed him her notes.  "It should be very informative," she replied, not mentioning the fact that she hadn't actually started writing the article yet.

"I need it by tomorrow," he said, adjusting his glasses.  He always knows when I'm behind, doesn't he, she thought.  "It has to go in this edition, because we left the chess club out last week, and I still haven't heard the end of it."

She sighed.  It was going to be a long night.  "I'm working on it.  I'll take it home if I have to."

"Good."  Tomori moved on to the next desk to pester another one of his writers.

Chiharu looked at Meiling sympathetically.  "You poor thing.  I've finished my article on the swim meet.  Do you want some help?"

Why can't I report on the boys' swim team?  I'd definitely be able to stay awake for that!   "No, thanks.  I'll do it.  Last week I was able to write my piece about the new salad bar in the cafeteria in one night, so this shouldn't be a problem.  I just wish Tomori-kun would give me something more interesting to write about."

"That seems like a simple problem compared to mine," Chiharu said, pulling a chair up next to Meiling.  "I still haven't figured out what to get Yamazaki-kun for his birthday.  It's coming up next month.  Between Christmas, birthdays, and our anniversary, I just run out of gift ideas."

Meiling thought about this.  "What if you promised to let him tell his stories without interrupting him?  You could say, 'For one week, I won't clobber you, choke you, drag you away, or accuse you of lying while you entertain everyone with your tall tales.'"

Chiharu laughed.  "That's a pretty good idea, actually.  I don't know if I'll be able to pull it off.  He can get carried away sometimes."

"But just think.  If you can do it, then maybe for your birthday he'll say he won't make fun of your baking or sewing skills.  Why, the two of you might actually learn to be civil to each other!" Meiling joked.

Her friend laughed again, her auburn curls bobbing as she nodded her head.  "I love it!  That's what I'll do.  Thanks, Meiling-chan.  You always have the best advice."  Chiharu picked up her backpack and started toward the door.  "Sure you don't want any help on the chess piece?"  She grinned when she realized her pun.

"Very funny.  I'll be all right.  But if you don't see me in homeroom tomorrow, look for me in here.  I may die of boredom."  Meiling waved as her friend left the office.  She then turned back to her computer and began typing.

An hour later, Meiling printed out her article and looked it over.  She couldn't believe how quickly she'd finished.  Once she'd started writing, the words just poured out.  She twirled a long strand of black hair around her index finger as she read the piece.  "Everyone will want to join the chess team now," she said aloud.  "I made it sound just as exciting as soccer or basketball."

"Very good," a male voice said from the other side of the room.  Meiling stiffened.  I thought I was alone.  I should have guessed that he'd still be here.

She walked over to Tomori's desk and handed him the pages.  "It is good," she boasted.  "Can I go home now?"

"No.  Please sit down, Li-san.  I want to talk to you for a minute."  He walked over to the office door and shut it, turning the knob to engage the lock.  He then pulled the shade down over the door's window.

What's going on?  Meiling wondered.  I don't like the looks of this.

Tomori sat down across from her.  "I heard you talking with Mihara-san before," he said, pushing a strand of jet black hair behind his ear. 

She cringed.  "Oh, no, you heard me?  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to complain about the stories you give me.  I really like being on the paper.  Please don't ask me to quit.  I'll write about every chess match in Tomoeda if you'll just let me stay on."  She was babbling.  She always babbled when she was nervous.

Tomori smiled.  A smile?  I've never seen him do that before, she thought.  "No, that's not what I mean."  Then he laughed.  Laughing, too?  Is he feeling all right?  "Well, I suppose it is what I mean.  I was actually referring to the little problem you helped her with."

Meiling tried to remember what she and Chiharu had discussed.  "You mean about her boyfriend's birthday present?"  What does that have to do with anything?  Uh, oh… "I shouldn't have been gossiping when I hadn't finished my article yet.  It won't happen again."  She gave him her most sincere apologetic expression, the one that always worked on Wei whenever he caught her doing something wrong.

Tomori took off his glasses and rubbed his blue eyes with the back of his hand.  "No, no, no.  Just let me finish, okay?"  She folded her hands in her lap and waited for him to continue.  He put his glasses back on and leaned back in his chair.  "I believe Mihara-san said something about you always giving good advice.  And you said something about always getting stuck with boring assignments, is that right?"

She blushed.  Darn it, he's got good ears.  "Yes, that's what I said.  But I shouldn't have said that.  It was very unprofessional of me."

"I know I make things hard around here, and sometimes I forget that we are just a bunch of students writing a silly little school paper.  We shouldn't always be worried about being professional.  We should be having fun, too.  And that's where my idea comes in."  He noticed the confused look on her face.  Her ruby eyes seemed unfocused, and he remembered how long she'd been here already.  He needed to get to the point.  "What would you think about writing an advice column for the paper?"

She blinked.  "What?"

"You are a capable writer, and I think we're wasting your talents on mundane stories."  She perked up at the compliment.  "I know you're bored here, and I'd hate to lose you.  The column would be your only assignment.  No more chess matches, no more cafeteria interviews.  I could give you space to answer five or six letters a week."

An advice column?  My very own column?  "I don't know," she said slowly.  The idea was still attempting to sink into her exhausted brain.  "Where would the letters come from?"

"We'll put signs up in the hallways, asking people to write to you with their problems."

Meiling shook her head.  "That's not going to work.  If I said something that someone didn't like, or got a letter about an extremely personal situation, it would make me very uncomfortable.  I'd hate to lose a friend over something like that."

Tomori put his hands together and rested his chin on top of them.  "Hmm, that's a good point."  He thought for a minute.  "Well, we'll just have to make it anonymous.  No one will know that you're the one writing the column."

Actually, it was a pretty good idea.  And no more chess matches, she thought.  She hadn't been this excited about working on the paper since she first started.  She could see her name in big bold letters next to a picture of her lovely face.  Oops, that's not right.  Anonymous means no byline and no picture.  "So, if they're not writing to me, who are they writing to?"

"Who do you want to be?"

She tried to come up with a clever name.  Lily?  No, that's stupid.  Ruby?  They'd know it was me.  "What about… Hope?" she said.  "Everyone needs hope."

"Hope," he repeated.  "'Everyone needs hope.'  I like that.  Very good, Li-san."

She blushed again.  He'd actually complimented her a couple of times now.  Things were looking up.  "Okay, so they'll write to Hope.  Now what?"

"Now, we need to let people know about the column."  He walked over to the supply cabinet and pulled out several large sheets of posterboard in all different colors.  "Grab a marker.  If we can get these up tonight, we might have letters in time for next week's edition."

Meiling sighed.  So much for going home anytime soon.  She'd better call and let Wei know she was going to be even later than she'd told him.  "Can I use your phone for a minute?"

She dialed the number and listened to the phone in her apartment ring.  "Hello?  This is the Li residence," a female voice answered.

Meiling stared at the phone stupidly.  Am I so tired that I dialed the wrong number?  "Who is this?"

"Meiling-chan?  This is Sakura."

Sakura?  Why is Kinomoto-san answering my phone?  "Where are Wei and Syaoran?" she asked cautiously.  The tone in her voice suggested that Sakura must have killed them and buried their bodies under the slide in Penguin Park.

"They're in the kitchen making dinner.  Did you need something?"

No, I just called to see what everyone was doing, she thought sarcastically.  "Could you tell Wei I'll be home late?  I'm working on something for the paper."

"Okay.  We'll see you later!" Sakura chirped.

We?  Meiling thought as she hung up the phone.  These days it seemed like Sakura lived at their apartment.  Ever since she and Syaoran had started going out, the two were joined at the hip.  Not that Meiling was jealous.  Okay, so maybe I have a little crush on my cousin.  Well, who wouldn't?  But it wasn't that kind of jealousy.  Seeing them together just reminded Meiling that she was alone.

She sighed as she pushed those thoughts out of her mind and got to work on the posters.  She uncapped a blue marker and began copying down the sentences Tomori had drafted on a sheet of paper.  "Tomori-kun," she said, "how exactly is this going to work?  How will I get the letters?"

He looked up from his poster.  "Well, I hadn't thought about that.  No one can know who you are.  Not even anyone on the staff.  Just you and me.  I'll have to get the letters to you somehow without anyone knowing."  He tapped the marker against the edge of the desk while he thought.  "Could you give me your locker combination?  I could slip the letters into your locker at the end of the day, and then you can email your finished column to me.  You'll have to send it to my personal email address, not my school account."

That sounded like a good plan.  "Wait a minute.  Don't you have to clear this with our faculty advisor?  Maybe there's some sort of rule we don't know about." 

Tomori shook his head.  "Matsuda-sensei only cares that we stay within our budget and don't print anything pornographic," he said with a roll of his eyes.  "Other than that, he's not really interested in what we do here.  Besides, if the column is a hit, then that can only mean good things for us."

She gave him a modest smile.  "You know, we're assuming that there's even going to be any letters to write a column about."

"Oh, there will be.  At least, there will if we get these posters done.  Keep working, Li-san."

Thirty minutes later, the desk was covered with colorful signs.  Tomori shuffled through them, nodding as he looked them over.  "Good.  Very good.  Now, grab a roll of tape, and let's get them up."  He grinned at her.  "Then you can go home."

Got a Problem? Need Advice?

Write to Hope at the Saito Student Weekly

Because Everyone Needs Hope!


I'm sorry there's not much going on in this first chapter.  I'm just setting up the story.  You'll see Syaoran, Sakura, Tomoyo, and anyone else I decide to throw in as the story moves along.  Thanks for reading!