Written originally in 2002 (Wow…) and deleted around 2005, I think… I decided to upload it again.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters. This plot is all mine though.


* ~ Before It's Too Late ~*

by KayJuli

.

PART I

.

It was the end of one more long and interminable (or so it had seemed) school day. Li Syaoran, one of the most popular guys in the school – not for his devastating good looks or his mysterious personality, but because he was capable of making almost any person quake in their shoes with only one look, he was that uncanny –, seventeen-years old, and future leader of the Li Clan, walked alone down the long hall of the third floor of the school. Sunlight streamed though the windows of the classrooms and illuminated the hall. Outside, there was the sound of wind that rustled the leaves of the trees and the singing of birds as they celebrated the ending of one more day. How tired Syaoran was! Not so much because of the classes for he had barely heard his teachers that day. He was tired of his cowardice. He was mad at himself and his stupidity.

'And in the end, I didn't tell her,' he was thinking. 'So many opportunities wasted because I was too chicken to take them!' He thought savagely, and then sighing: 'But I know why I didn't tell her. She would cry. It doesn't matter if she'll always ever see me as a friend, she would be sad. I wouldn't be able to take it. I would be putty in her hands. Tears would roll down her cheeks – as they're always bound to. She cries watching Pocahontas, for heaven's sake! – and I would change my mind. Just like that.'

Syaoran rounded a corner, blinked and then put his hand quickly into his jacket pocket. He sighed, relieved. Yes, it was still there. At least this he had done right. He knew he had.

'My mother's right,' he suddenly thought. 'My whole family is right, for once. I can't continue living in this… limbo, waiting for something that may never happen. I have responsibilities, duties, promises to keep. I can't have my life revolving around this obsession.' He smiled a little. 'Oh, it's a sweet obsession, no doubt – all green eyes and happy smiles and the scent of shampoo on her honey coloured hair. But still… I have stopped everything, just waiting for her, waiting for her to see me. I can't go on like this. It's driving me insane. Yes, my mother's right. It's time for me to go back home and carry on with life.'

He started down the stairs, slowly. He was the last student to leave the school that day. He had had to tell the principal and the teachers that he was leaving, going back to Hong Kong and that he needed his papers for the new school. He had postponed doing it until the last day. In that way no student would know about his departure until he was far away. He didn't want to go to farewell parties, hear others asking him if he couldn't stay a little longer, nor did he want to see sadness in her eyes...

He went down the stairs and walked to his locker. He turned the combination, but it didn't open. Rolling his eyes, Syaoran punched it and the locker opened, creaking on its hinges. He looked inside. Books, papers… He opened the backpack and threw everything in, emptying the locker. The backpack soon weighed more than double its normal weight.

He closed the locker and hoisted the backpack on to his shoulders. He stopped for a moment, looking nostalgically at a locker on the other side of the hall. He smiled a little sarcastically at himself. What a bore he had turned out to be, huh? Staring at a girl's locker in longing… He would have laughed at anyone who acted like that, but couldn't bring himself to stop. He hesitated a little and then, from his jacket pocket, took out a very crumpled white envelope. In it, there was a green sheet of paper. He smiled at a memory.

He remembered the evening she had knocked on his door, carrying a big and heavy package.

.

.

"What is that?" he had asked her.

"A gift!" She exclaimed. He frowned. A gift, like that… for nothing, for no special reason? He unwrapped it.

"A ream?" He had asked, more than surprised.

"Open it!" She jumped closer to him, on to the couch. With some difficulty, he opened the package.

"The sheets are green," he had said. She smiled even wider and her eyes twinkled with pleasure.

"Yeah! The moment I saw it, I thought of you!" He just gazed at her. She had remembered him because she knew green was his favorite color. But now, she couldn't see in his face whether he liked her gift or not. "Well, I went to buy a new notebook and I saw it… I know it's a weird gift, but Tomoyo said it was a good idea, and… If you don't like it, I can return it, no problem." She spoke so fast that Syaoran only understood her last phrase when she tried to take the package from his hand.

"No." Syaoran stopped her. "I liked it. Really!" She sighed, relieved and smiled radiantly, making Syaoran's heart speed up a little in his chest.

.

.

Syaoran blinked several times, trying to get back to the business at hand. He looked again at the envelope. It was nicely written (that is, as nice as lopsided-and-not-exactly-steady could get):

To Sakura Kinomoto

How many times he had written that name! On cards, postcards, labels, all of her books (since she seemed incapable of writing her name on her own books. You couldn't make Sakura stop losing things, but you could at least help her get them back later.)… He hesitated once again before putting the envelope through one of the cracks of the locker in front of him. Of one thing he was very glad: he wouldn't be around to see her reaction to that letter. She would be hurt, but not for long. She would forget him with time. Remember him only as the guy from Hong Kong who had competed with her for a while. What was his name again? Sakura would be okay without him.

Squaring his shoulders, Syaoran thought: 'and I'll make my best to do the same. I'll forget her. I'll remember all of this one day and think how stupid I was, losing so many years in Japan because of a tiny, insignificant Japanese girl with more guts and good intentions than common sense.'

Syaoran left the school building, determined to go home and finish his packing without saying a word to anyone else for the rest of the day, but before passing through the gates, he turned around and faced the building. The years he had wasted here… well, they hadn't been so bad after all. He looked at the school next door, the Fundamental Teaching School Tomoeda. It had been nice. He had had fun – getting himself into the most ridiculous escapades with a stuffed toy, a crazy camera girl and a-

Damn it. Forget about her! Now!

The sun was setting behind him and its orange and yellow hues were mirrored in the school windows. He look down at his long shadow and kicked a stone, feeling frustrated beyond belief. He wished he could break something, punch someone… or maybe just hold her…

Suddenly, he heard someone giggle.

"You intend to go home any time soon or you just love school so much that you can't leave?" came the sweet voice with the question. Syaoran turned around and came face to face with the most angelic of the creatures on the face of the Earth. At least she seemed to be so to him. Of course she would be here. What had he been thinking? As if things weren't hard enough as they were.

She was leaning against the wall beside the gates, her arms crossed, her backpack at her feet, her emerald eyes twinkling delightfully and a beautiful smile on her lips. The sun behind her gave her auburn hair a golden tone. "You seemed to be doing some really deep thinking there."

"What are you still doing here?" he asked, changing the subject in his abrupt manner, but she was so used to him and his strange humours that she didn't care.

"I could ask you the same thing," she laughed. "Has the principal called you for one of his nice, cosy meetings?"

"Now why would he do that?" Syaoran asked, walking in her direction slowly.

"Come on! You're not exactly a model student. I heard that you almost sent Hirio to the hospital yesterday." She raised her hands in a 'don't shoot me' way. "Okay, stop glaring. I can't help hearing about your little fights, but please note I'm not asking you why you got into a fight with him in the first place. I've learned never to ask you that." She sighed and smiled again. Great… "Of course, there could have been other reasons for you being sent to a chat with the principal. You aren't exactly paying attention to classes these days. That's so not you, Li Syaoran! It's like your head is on the moon! The physics teacher had to yell your name three times today before you heard him."

"I have had more important things on my mind lately."

"I see!" she laughed. "Like the kung fu competition next month?"

He ignored the question. "But tell me: Why are you still here?"

She looked down at her shoes for a moment before looking straight into his eyes and answering: "I was waiting for you. I saw you going to the principal's office and decided to stay here and wait for you."

"Why?"

"Silly! So we could walk home together!"

"Couldn't you go with Tomoyo?" Syaoran asked, picking up her backpack from the ground.

"Yes, but I wanted to go with you." She could see 'why' in his eyes and answered patiently: "You're my friend and I care about you and since you apparently have been living in another planet, I thought you could use my company walking back home, before you got lost in the streets. We don't want that happening, right?"

Syaoran smiled, feeling that annoying pang when he heard her say 'friend'. That was all he was to her, wasn't it? But he wanted to be so much more than a 'friend'! His resolve to leave just hardened a little bit more.

"Thank you, Sakura," he said quietly, but she heard him.

"You're welcome," she answered, intertwining her arm with his. He looked down at her, since she was shorter. How could anyone be so carefree and happy like her? "So… Let's go?"

And they started calmly up the street, both taking their time in each step they took. Sakura had no reason to dash home for her father was working on an archaeological site and would only be back the next day. Touya usually only came in on the weekends, now that he had moved to the other side of the town. He had rented an apartment. Sakura had become sad at not having him around, but she was quite grateful she did not have to hear the word 'monster' every morning.

As for Syaoran, he was trying to engrave all those moments in his mind. This was probably the last time he would spend time with her, he would see her, really. It made him feel empty and lost, as if the world had shifted under his feet and he didn't know anything about anything anymore. He glanced at her. There was a happy glint in her eyes, as she stared at the path ahead of them. This is how he would always remember her, he just knew it: This cheerful, sweet girl with that soft smile on her lips.

"You know…" came her voice again. "You've been acting really weird lately. You don't hear what we say… You seem lost in thoughts…" She looked at him. "Is there anything wrong, Syaoran?"

"No, Sakura," he answered quietly. And she knew he wasn't telling the truth.

"Repeat that looking into my eyes." He didn't look at her. Instead, he adverted his eyes. "See? You're lying. You're hiding something from me. What is it?" He didn't answer. "Syaoran… Can't you trust me?"

"But I do, Sakura. You know that," he answered tiredly.

"Then… Why don't you tell me?"

"I just… I can't talk about it. Not now. I'm sorry."

"Oh…" She smiled. "You know my number, call me when you want to talk. Anytime, ok?"

"Okay, Sakura…"

She dropped the subject and started to tell him about her day and he heard everything but understood not a word. He couldn't focus on anything beside the way her voice rang beautifully in his ears, how her skin was soft and fresh… Sometimes she would come near to whisper to him some gossip she had heard in school that day.

I love this fragrance, he thought, the scent of her shampoo surrounding him.

Even though they were walking slowly, they soon reached Sakura's house.

"Here we are," she announced. "Won't you come in? Drink a soda? If we're lucky, maybe Kero's left us some of the cookies I baked yesterday..."

Syaoran smiled a little.

"I think not. I have some things to take care of at home.

"Ah. No problem…" She said smiling, thought she seemed disappointed. They kept looking at each other without saying anything for a long moment, before Sakura broke the silence. "I'd better go in now. Maybe another day, huh?"

"Yeah…" Syaoran agreed looking at her. But there wouldn't be another day. It would be the last time he would see her. This was the last time. Thinking about that, he suddenly started to feel a kind of desperation that had never been so strong before. Never see her again? Would he be able to live without her around? He had gotten used to her. With her smile every morning in the classroom, her perfume, her laughter, the way she would always try everything to get him to smile… He had gotten used to the way she faked sadness whenever she wanted something, and even though he knew it was faked, he would buy it. He had gotten used to her calling his home, even late at night, to tell him something that had just happened or something that she had just remembered. He had gotten used to being there… with her. "Syaoran?" Sakura laughed, interrupting his thoughts. He looked at her curiously. "What about my backpack?"

"Oh, yeah!" He said quickly. She came closer to get her backpack, but instead of giving it to her, Syaoran pulled her to him and hugged her tight.

"S-Syaoran?" Sakura was grateful that he couldn't see her face right now, she was blushing madly. She hugged him too, sensing that something was wrong with Syaoran. He had never hugged her before, at least not before she hugged him first or without her being sad because of something.

Syaoran had never felt so unsettled in his entire life. The last thing he wanted to do was to put miles and miles of ocean between them, but he had given up hoping to win her love – the kind of love he wanted. It was time for him to grow up, leave juvenile dreams behind and look to the future. It was time to leave Sakura Kinomoto.

"Goodbye, Sakura…" he whispered.

"What?" She asked giggling a little, breathless a little, while her arms were entwined around his neck. He pulled back a little bit, a serene expression in his eyes and looked into hers. She had her head tilted. "What did you say? I didn't get it."

"See you tomorrow," he lied. He gazed at her and came closer. Her heart started to beat strongly against her chest. He held her face and kissed her forehead – a soft, lingering kiss. Then he looked at her again. "Bye, Sakura," he said, before letting go of her and walking up the street, going back to his apartment.

'See ya tomorrow' wasn't what he had whispered in her ear, she was sure. It was something else, but she hadn't understood it right. She would have to ask him tomorrow…

Syaoran closed his fists while he was walking. He had done what he had always feared doing these last few years. He had said goodbye to Sakura and forever. A stubborn tear rolled from his eyes and he savagely wiped it away. He remembered one of the things he used to hear as a child: boys don't cry.

.

# * # * # * #

.

Sakura entered her house, slightly confused.

What is going on with Syaoran…? She asked herself, taking off her shoes and walking up the stairs. She entered her room and threw her backpack to one corner. Then she took the phone and dialed a known number.

"Hello," the person at the other side answered.

"Hi, Tomoyo."

"Sakura! Calling me so soon?" Tomoyo exclaimed, happily.

"Yeah…" Sakura took off her socks and threw them in the air before falling back on the bed. "Tell Kero that he can come back home."

"Ok. Sooooo?" Tomoyo asked excited.

"So what?"

"What do you mean 'so what'? How was it? What did he say?"

"Nothing. I didn't say anything."

"Why? You said you would!"

"Well, I invited him to come in. I was going to offer something, then take him to the living room and have a little chat with him. Then, I don't know how, I would insert the phrase: Syaoran, I love you. But it didn't turn out that way…"

"What happened?"

"He said he had to go home…"

"Oh, shoot…"

"But something weird happened. He hugged me, just like that, out of the blue. You know Syaoran. He doesn't do hugs. He's too macho for petty things like little shows of affection." She paused, remembering every single detail of those few minutes. "And what's more, he whispered something in my ear!"

"What?"

"I don't know. I didn't get it. I just have this… feeling that it might have been important. I don't know…"

"What's up with him anyway?"

"I have no idea… I had to wait for him forever outside school. He was the last to come out. I kept pacing from one side to the other. People were starting to stare at me strangely… When I saw him coming, I leaned against the wall and tried to look cool, but my heart was almost bursting in my chest."

"All that for nothing…"

"Yeah…"

"But you'll try again, Sakura! Tomorrow, right?"

"I don't know. Maybe. If I get the courage…"

"Oh, you will Kinomoto Sakura!" Tomoyo practically commanded her.

"Sir! Yes, sir!" Sakura even saluted, though Tomoyo couldn't see her.

"Oh, well… I'll send Kero back. Oh, Sakura, don't forget that I won't go to school tomorrow because of the choir contest. Tomorrow I have to go to Tokyo with the choir."

"Ok. What time is your train leaving again?"

"Three-thirty p.m."

"I don't think I'll be able to get there after class…"

"It's ok. I'll call you when I get there. Now I have to prepare my luggage, Sakura-chan. We'll talk later."

"Ok. Bye, Tomoyo."

"Bye, Sakura."

.

# * # * # * #

.

It was lunchtime and Sakura sat alone on the bench and watched as time flew by. She had decided to spend that time alone, to put her thoughts in place.

'This is weird… Syaoran didn't come… And today we had math test. He never misses a school day. Even more when we have a test. Maybe he got sick?' She was thinking, focusing on the sound of the wind flying through the trees around her. 'Something's up with him. And he's so stubborn that he doesn't tell me what is it! Sometimes he gets on my nerves with this attitude of always trying to handle everything his way and never asking for any help! But I gotta see him. I have to talk to him. I have to tell him I love him! I don't know why, but I feel as if my time is running out, going by, as if each minute is precious. I hate to feel this way, so helpless, without knowing what to do.'

A leaf drifted down from the tree above Sakura and landed on her lap. Sakura picked it up and gazed at it, while her thoughts were still very far.

'Why can't I tell him?' She thought, quite tiredly. 'Before, it was my fear of being rejected, and now that I'm ready to tell him, I can't do it. He doesn't give me a chance! Sunday he said he was waiting for an important phone call and he couldn't come with me to the park. Tomoyo had even made me a dress, and I must admit that I liked it. The day before yesterday, he said he wasn't feeling well and couldn't come to the movies with me. Ok. I can accept that, after all, he had trained with the soccer team until late. But yesterday he says he has more important things to do! How can that be? Hold on, Sakura. Calm down… You're nervous. You know Syaoran. He had important things to do. He never lies to you. You know you can trust him. Even so, I keep feeling that something's very wrong! But what?'

Sakura checked her watch. The lunch break was going to end. She stood up, very much against her will.

'Goody…' she thought, brushing her uniform. 'Now I have chemistry. Why does everything have to involve math in some way? Ui, and now that I'm thinking about it, my book is in my locker. I'll have to go get it.'

Sakura calmly walked back to the school building and went to her locker. She turned the combination, but it didn't open. All the lockers here were relics, apparently, old as they were. She pulled at it with all her strength and it flew open, hitting the locker beside hers.

"Now, where is that blasted book?" She asked herself, going through the tons of things in her locker. She found it, the last one in the pile of books. She pulled at it to get it out of the pile. People kept asking how she could actually find anything in there. Sakura always answered that it might look a little messy, but everything was organized.

When she pulled the book out, something fell to the floor, landing on her foot.

"Huh?" She picked up the letter, reading he name written on it. "Interesting. The handwriting is just like…"

"Sakura!" Chiharu called from the other side of the corridor. "The bell rang, didn't you hear it? You'll be late for class!

"Owwww!" Sakura stuffed the letter in her chemistry book and started running. "I'm always late!"

.

# * # * # * #

.

2:51 p.m. - On the other side of town, Train Station Tomoeda

"Oh, no!" A girl complained.

"We get here earlier just to hear that the train is running half an hour late?" exclaimed another girl at her side. The girls from the choir were sitting on benches, walking around the station, or standing in one corner, each with luggage beside her. After all, they would spend a night in Tokyo. And girls never carry just a few necessary things…

Tomoyo was sitting on a bench at the train station, talking to one of her colleges about the songs that they would sing in the contest. That was when she looked in the direction of the ticket office and saw an aged man, but very tall, buying tickets. Soon she recognized him and the youngster standing beside him.

"Excuse me," she said to her colleague. "A friend of mine is right over there. I've got to talk to him." Tomoyo stood up and passing by her noisy colleges, she reached the ticket office. The young man hadn't seen her. Lost in his own thoughts, he wasn't listening to anything around him. Tomoyo sneaked up behind him and poked him in the ribs. Only then did he notice her presence. "I don't believe it!" Tomoyo laughed. "This is the first time that I come behind Li Syaoran without him noticing me first! Wow! Your mind must be on the moon!"

"Tomoyo? What are you doing here?" Syaoran asked, extremely surprised to see her there.

"I'm going to the choir contest in Tokyo. What about you, Li Syaoran? Shouldn't you be at school? Did you forget we had math test today?"

"I know we did. I-It's just t-that I-i…"

"Oh, no. You're stuttering. That means something's is very wrong… What are you doing here?" Tomoyo asked, sternly now.

"I-I…"

"Everything's ready, young Syaoran." The man buying the tickets turned to him. "Here's your ticket. The train is half an hour late and it'll only leave at four, but our flight's at seven thirty so we'll have plenty of time to get there. Well, hello, miss Daidouji. It's a pleasure to see you again."

"The pleasure is all mine…" Tomoyo answered quietly, only now noticing how much luggage Syaoran had at his feet. Three big suitcases plus hand luggage.

"I'll leave you two to talk," Wei said, sensing the tension that had suddenly cropped up and deciding to leave the teenagers to talk. "Meanwhile, I'll buy some juice. Do you want anything?"

"No, thank you, Wei," Syaoran answered, without taking his eyes off Tomoyo. The girl only shook her head. Wei excused himself, leaving them alone.

"What are you doing, Li?" Tomoyo asked him.

"The wisest thing. I'm leaving."

"But… Why? Like this, all of a sudden! You simply decided to leave, packed your stuff…"

"No. I made the decision two months ago," he answered quietly. "My mom called, we had a long conversation, and I saw that it was time to go back to Hong Kong. It's the best thing to do."

"Why, Li?" Tomoyo asked, a tone of sadness in her voice. Sadness because her friend was leaving, but most of all, because she feared Sakura's reaction when she found out about his departure.

"My presence here is useless. The cards were captured and I stayed. Sakura went through the final judgment and I stayed. I've been staying here in Tomoeda for years without a reason. I'm not needed here anymore."

"But, Li! What about Sakura? Are you really leaving without telling her?" Tomoyo looked around her. She had raised her voice too much and people were glancing curiously at them. Syaoran was silent for a while.

"I'm leaving because of her."

"What? Did she do something?" An old lady passing by them shook her head and said something like, teenagers these days…

"No. I… I can't stand it anymore, Tomoyo. You know how I feel about her."

"You love Sakura," Tomoyo said calmly. Syaoran nodded slowly, nervously. For the first time he confirmed that affirmation. He had always denied it, and had always denied all of Tomoyo's insinuations. It was the first time that she had said it directly, and the first time that he was confirming.

"Then you understand. I can't continue like this, leaving my life on hold while I wait for Sakura to…" He ran a hand through his hair. "Tomoyo, I have responsibilities at home. It's time for me to go back to China."

"Li Syaoran, are you really going to take the easy way out just because you're afraid? You've never told Sakura how you felt about her! You're jumping to conclusions and taking life-altering decisions based on them. You are going to spend the rest of your life wondering what could have happened if you had told her, if you had stayed. You can't go. You can't, Syaoran."

"The decision has been made, Tomoyo. And I know it's for the best."

"Syaoran, please…" Tomoyo begged. "For Sakura…"

"I'm doing this for her too, Tomoyo. If I stay, I'll certainly tell her one day how I feel, and things will just get… awkward. I don't want that."

"But, Li…"

"I'm sorry, Tomoyo." Syaoran adverted his eyes, seeing Wei coming back. "Excuse me."

Syaoran simply left her there, baffled. He was simply going to depart and leave her friend? He had no idea how much Sakura would suffer.

"I tried to convince him, miss," Wei said as he approached her. They watched as Syaoran walked away. "But he refused to listen to me. He's very upset. Try to understand him."

"My friend will be a lot more upset…" Tomoyo said. "No, I can't let this happen. Excuse me, Wei-san, but I have to make a phone call."

"Tell her to come as quickly as possible," Wei said and Tomoyo nodded, searching for a place where there weren't lots of people and where she hoped Syaoran wouldn't see her.

.

# * # * # * #

.

"… Now I want you to answer me this question: In the genealogy here depicted, what is the probability of couples five and six having a descendent with blue eyes?" The classroom fell silent. Not even low conversations could be heard, so the teacher just couldn't point to someone who was talking. The teacher examined the class and his eyes fell on a girl looking out the window. "Miss Sakura Kinomoto." Sakura rapidly turned her eyes to the teacher. "Would you answer me this question?"

"Huh… But I…"

"Come on, miss Kinomoto, if you weren't paying attention to the lesson, then you certainly know everything I'm teaching here. Then tell me: What is the probability?"

Sakura smiled sheepishly, feeling the eyes of the entire classroom on her, waiting for her answer. As if it wasn't bad enough to have biology with that annoying sensei, she would have to calculate? That was when a low song was heard in the classroom.

"What's that?" The teacher asked, eyeing the students. Sakura put her hand in her backpack.

"I'm sorry, sensei. It's my phone," she said.

"Since when are you authorized to bring cell phones to the classroom? This isn't right. I should…"

"I'm sorry." Sakura looked at who was calling. It was Tomoyo's cell phone. "It must be an emergency. Excuse me." Sakura stood up.

"You can take your backpack with you. Insolent! You'll stay outside." Sakura said nothing. She picked her things up and left the classroom.

"I hope you know you just got me into big trouble. Lucky that the teacher didn't send me to detention," Sakura said, receiving the call.

"Sakura, you must come here now!" Came Tomoyo's voice in answer.

"Here, where? What happened to you?" Sakura asked, frightened, hearing the concern in her friend's voice. "What's wrong?"

"Sakura, it's Syaoran."

"Oh, my God! He's at the hospital? Is he ill?"

"No! He's leaving!"

Silence. Long silence.

"What?"

"I'm here at the train station. His bags are packed, and Wei's here. They're going to Tokyo to catch a plane to Hong Kong."

"But… Why? Does he have something to take care of in Hong Kong?"

"Sakura, don't you get it? He's leaving. Forever."

The phone suddenly felt hot in Sakura's hand and she let it fall to the ground, her eyes wide in shock. Luckily, the phone didn't break, and it was possible to hear Tomoyo's voice coming from it.

"Sakura… Sakura… Are you there?"

"No…" Sakura whispered, leaning against the wall. Swiftly she flung her backpack from her shoulder, searching for her chemistry book. "Where is that letter…?"

She opened the book and took the envelope, taking the green sheet from it.

. Dear Sakura,

.

I don't know exactly what to say to you. Except… thank you. Thank you, Sakura, for these last few years. Thank you for your friendship, for letting me share a little of your life with you. You would have killed every single elder of the Li clan had they been privileged to watch the happy-go-lucky way in which you approached capturing the Clow cards. Helping you on your quest will certainly be one of my most cherished memories, when I look back in years to come.

I'm rambling. Sakura, I'm sorry. I know you'll be hurt at what I'm about to do. When you read this, I hope to be far enough from Tomoeda. Please, forgive me for not telling you what my plans were. The truth is that I didn't have the courage to do so. I knew you would be sad and I can't bear to see you sad, Sakura. I'm going back to China, back where I belong. I've been lingering in Tomoeda for years for no reason really, for years now. My family's called me back and I didn't have any excuses to give them. There's nothing here for me anymore.

Sakura, I'm not good with words. I get chocked up, my mind just goes blank, I- Even writing, it's so hard to find the words. I don't want you to think you're not important to me. I can't begin to explain- Oh, hell, I might as well say it. I love you. There. I have, for a long time now. You're so much that I'm not and I find myself constantly fascinated by you. I'm sorry for telling you this way, and I'm sorry if it bothers you… but I had to tell you, even in this cowardly way. You're something else, Sakura.

Well, there's not much more to be written, is there? I just want to say that I admire you, that even before I loved you, when I resented you so much, I knew you were special. Who else would run the risks you did to capture those cards, without any sort of training, with little idea of what exactly she was doing? Just you. You're a tough cookie, Sakura, and I'm glad I got to meet you and love you. I hope you have a wonderful life and that you can someday think of me with a smile on your face.

Goodbye, my Sakura. Be happy and don't ever, ever change.

Li Syaoran.

.

Sakura picked up the phone, trembling, tears sliding down her cheeks.

"Tomoyo? When does his train leaves?"

"At four, Sakura," Tomoyo said quietly, knowing perfectly well that Sakura was crying.

"And did you talk to him?"

"Yes."

"He wrote me a letter, saying goodbye…" Sakura's sad voice was heartbreaking. "And he wrote that… he… he…" She could barely speak.

"He loves you, Sakura," Tomoyo completed for her.

"Now I know w-why he hugged me yesterday, what he s-said in my e-ear. He was really saying goodbye to me. He left me…"

"Sakura, didn't you hear me? He's still in Tomoeda! You must hurry and cross town before four! Come quick, Sakura, because this is your last chance!"

Sakura checked her watch. It was two fifty nine. She looked resolutely at the letter, drying her tears.

"You're right. I can't be weeping now. I have to run. I have to get to Syaoran and keep him from leaving. I gotta tell him! And I have only one hour!"

"Run, Sakura!"

"I will!"

Sakura put the phone back in her backpack. She saw Chiharu coming out of the classroom.

"Sakura, you're still here. We convinced the sensei to let you go in before the principal sees you. Yamazaki told him one of his lies and the teacher bought it."

"Chiharu, please." Sakura put her backpack on the girl's hands. "Could you take my backpack to your house and then I'll stop by later and get it? I have to run now."

"I can't… I'm already carrying tons of stuff home today…"

"Ah, forget it…" Sakura took her backpack bag and started going away. Just then Chiharu noticed something Sakura had said.

"Run? Why?"

"Syaoran's leaving and I must get him," she said, running down the hall. "I have to tell him I love him!"

Chiharu smiled.

"I didn't understand very well… he's leaving…? But you're right! You must tell him!" Chiharu yelled behind her, as she sped down the stairs.

"I will!" Sakura said resolutely to herself, dashing through the school gates.

.

# * # * # * #

.

Sakura stopped for a moment, panting.

"Hold on a second, what am I doing? I have the cards. I can get to the station faster." Sakura opened her backpack. Her case fell from it and her pens rolled out on to the ground. "This is the kind of things that would only happen to me." Sakura was going to pick them up, but then decided not to. She didn't have the time. Her transparent pink watch showed that it was three in the afternoon. An hour to get to the station that was literally on the other side of town. She rummaged through her stuff, took her books from her backpack, let things fall to the ground, but nothing. Where were the cards? "Oh, my God…"

Sakura took her phone and dialed a number. The phone rang. And rang. And rang.

"Where's Kero when we need him!" She yelled frustrated. Some people on the street passing by her, shook their heads. These teenagers…

The desperate Sakura had no idea that the small guardian of the Clow Cards was calmly sitting… Ok, not very calmly. He was jumping on the joystick, playing Driver.

"Why can't I ever pass this level?" screamed the guardian, not hearing his yellow cell phone (that Tomoyo had designed specially for him) ringing in his drawer… that is, his bedroom.

"Come on. Get the phone, Kero," Sakura begged, holding her phone. She sighed, exasperated. "He's certainly either eating what is left of the pudding in the fridge, or he's playing video games!" Sakura looked around her. Now what? Where to go? Sakura saw a bus going by. "That's it! I'm such an idiot! There's a bus that goes directly to the bus station!" Sakura patted her forehead and crossed the street, to wait at the bus stop. She still couldn't believe that Syaoran had had the audacity, the courage, the petulance and the amazingly stupid idea of trying to leave without talking to her. Oh, but he would pay for that! It was the kind of things that could get Sakura really angry. Few things could do that exploit, but the last thing someone could want to see is a mad Sakura. Ask the Snow Card…

Syaoran would pay for all his sins, yes, that's it, once Sakura had declared had love and preventing him from leaving. And thinking about that, her anger disappeared. He loved her! He had written those words in the letter! Then, all this time, Sakura had tormented herself for nothing! If only she had been a little more brave… Well, that didn't matter now. She had to get to the train station and tell him what she had been hiding for years. It was as simple as that.

She imagined Syaoran's reaction when he saw her. He would smile and open his arms for her. She would run into his arms and open up her heart. He would say he would never leave, he would always be by her side. And then he would kneel down and pop the question…

Ok, Sakura's mind was going a little too far. She was too young for that, for crying out loud! But dreaming didn't hurt, right? She was so far in her little world, that she didn't notice the people standing at the bus stop eyeing her weirdly, seeing her big smile and her dreamy eyes. Neither did she notice that a bus had stopped and that everybody had climbed on, except one old lady. She only woke up when she heard thunder.

"Huh?" Sakura turned around and saw the bus leaving. "What? I didn't see that bus!" She turned to the old lady: "Ma'am, where was that bus going?"

"To the train station, young lady."

"Whaaat?" And almost half of Tomoeda heard her yell. Birds flew away from her. The old lady almost fell backwards, holding her walking stick.

"I am a little deaf, dear, but not that much!" The old lady said, putting her hearing aid back in its place.

"I'm sorry, but do you know at what time that bus is coming again?" Sakura asked rapidly, almost desperately, grasping the woman's blouse. The woman tried to free herself but Sakura refused to let go without an answer.

"At three forty five, if I remember well!" the woman answered, angrily.

"Three forty five? I don't have that much time!" And she really didn't. Just to cross the town by bus would take at least twenty minutes, with all the stops and traffic. Sakura didn't think twice. She ran behind the bus that was leaving. "Wait! Wait!" she yelled, jumping in the air, trying to make the driver see her in the rear-view mirror. She was running behind it, cars passing by her. The drivers were honking at her, yelling out the window for that 'insane kid to get out of the way'. "Darn it!" she yelled.

"Get out of the way, girl, before you get yourself killed!" shouted a woman driver. Sakura heard nothing and no one. She turned around, looking back to see the distance she had already run. She saw the bus stop really far behind her. In her rage, she didn't see that there was another bus stop a few yards ahead of her and that the bus she had been chasing after had stopped there. The people in it called her, but she had her back to them and didn't hear them. The bus left without her. The old woman, watching from the other bus stop (apparently, she had a very good vision) almost fell backwards when she saw that Sakura had given up just a few yards before the next bus stop and that she hadn't even seen it!

"I know!" Sakura exclaimed. "I'll take a short cut through the park. I'll have to run all the way to the train station, but I'll get there!"

Sakura crossed the street without even looking. Cars braked noisily few yards away from her, but she ignored them. She dashed through the park gates and continued running.


To Be Continued...