Chapter 40: The Fate Determined by the Stars




The production date for Star-Crossed isn¡¯t far away. We spent months, to be exact, more than half a year preparing for it now. All of us who were involved, whether in the cast, the chorus, the costume-making, the lighting, the scenery, the orchestra, or even little errands such as photocopying and fetching equipment are looking forward to the final night where all our hard work will finally pay off. Truthfully, the rehearsals were very hard, time consuming and stressful, and I often times asked myself, why am I doing this? Why am I putting up with the music teacher scold me endlessly, my peers laugh at me when I make a mistake on stage, or spending nights and nights memorizing hundreds of lines when I have to study for the math test the next day, investigate about my past, or conquer a dark force?


Well, it is every girl¡¯s desire to once in a lifetime take the spotlight, becoming Juliet. And this is my one chance to find my Romeo.




It was a strange dream. She hardly ever dreamt about her mother, less frequently as she grew older and all together lost recollection of her mother¡¯s beautiful face.


            Kinomoto Nadeshiko sat on a bed, her face paler than usual, with dark shadows underneath her eyes. A little girl, around three or so sat on her lap. Absentmindedly, Nadeshiko brushed the little girl¡¯s short brown hair, listening to her daughter¡¯s childish chatter with a gentle smile.

            A tall majestic woman walked up to the foot of the bed. No, there was more than one woman. Was it triple vision? There were three women, one holding a spindle, one holding a long silver thread, and one holding a scissor up the thread.

            ¡°Nadeshiko,¡± the woman holding the scissor said in a hollow voice. ¡°You¡¯re life thread has spun to its end. I hope you were prepared for this.¡±

             With widened emerald eyes, Nadeshiko answered in her mind voice, ¡°Yes, I knew I didn¡¯t have long to live, though I didn¡¯t expect that the end would come so quickly. My daughter¡¯s only a baby. She¡¯s just three. She won¡¯t be able to remember my face if I leave her now.¡±

            ¡°Poor thing. But this is what Fate has written for you. You can¡¯t change it, you know that, don¡¯t you?¡± the woman holding the spindle asked.

            ¡°Yes, I do. I plan to accept my death quietly. But, I just need some more time,¡± Nadeshiko replied. ¡°To tie up some things.¡±

            ¡°Very well. You have enough time to settle things down. But we warn you, time is still limited for you.¡± The three women began to fade. ¡°We¡¯ll come back when you are ready.¡±

            Letting out a sigh, Nadeshiko watched the figures disappear, before resuming tying red ribbons into the little girl¡¯s hair.

            ¡°What is it mommy?¡± the little girl asked.

            ¡°Nothing at all, my pretty Sakura,¡± Nadeshiko replied.

            ¡°Why are you crying?¡± the little girl persisted, holding out a chubby little hand to her mother face.

            In a soft voice, Nadeshiko said more to herself than to her daughter, ¡°I¡¯m not afraid of dying. I¡¯ve always known I would die young. So, I tried to live the fullest life possible. I married young, but to a man who loved me and I loved back with all my heart. Fujitaka-sensei understood that I might not be able to be by his side forever, yet he still loved me. I was always lonely as a child, but now I have nice, cozy family, a son, a daughter, and a kind husband, the perfect family that I have always yearned for. So I¡¯m happy and satisfied. I¡¯ve done and experienced all that I would crave from life, so I have no regrets at all and do not fear death. I have no regrets, except¡¦¡± Nadeshiko trailed off.

            ¡°Mommy, what do you regret?¡± the little girl asked, though not able to understand most of what her mother was saying.

            ¡°He left, without saying good-bye, without a farewell, without a word,¡± Nadeshiko said in a choked voice. ¡°If only¡¦ if only I could see him one last time.¡±

            Blinking, the little girl stared up with emerald eyes identical to her mother¡¯s.   


            Feeling her throat clenched up, Sakura opened her eyes. It was still the middle of the night. To her greatest annoyance, she found her eye were wet. And suddenly, she felt like running to her older brother¡¯s room and asking him to tuck her back in bed, as he used to when she had been younger. Especially after her mother¡¯s death. Touya had always had stayed with her until she fell asleep, and checked on her several times during the middle of the night to make sure she was sleeping soundly. Except, Touya was far away, in England. But he would be returning in three days.

            Sitting up on her bed, Sakura hugged her knees to her, shivering. Kero-chan was fast asleep on her pillow. She often had prophetic dreams of what was to come in the future. Yet, she rarely dreamt about the past. Truthfully, she had little recollection of her mother and would not have remembered her face without pictures. Sakura had another impulse to run across the hallway to Syaoran¡¯s room, like she did last time, when there was a thunderstorm. Hearing Syaoran calm words always reassured her. Yet, she didn¡¯t want to wake either Syaoran, nor Meilin sleeping next doors.


            From across the hallway, Syaoran stirred. He stood by his window, staring outside at a starless night. More than anything he wanted to run to Sakura¡¯s room and comfort her. He could sense she was awake and crying, though he did not know why. Was it another nightmare? No¡¦ He felt a lonely, pensive aura from Sakura, like a forlorn child reaching out for someone. But somehow, he felt that it wasn¡¯t his role to take her hand. And all he could do was just wait until she fell back asleep.

            She still hadn¡¯t answered his question from several nights ago¡¦






 ¡°Hey guys, look!¡± Aki said, waving the local newspaper over his head during music class. ¡°The advertisement for ¡®Star-Crossed¡¯ in the newspaper!¡±

            ¡°Where? Let me see!¡± A crowd of people gathered around Aki to see the newspaper.

            ¡°Wait, how did our school production make it to the newspaper?¡± Rika asked.

            ¡°Didn¡¯t you know? Akagi Aki¡¯s father is the owner of a huge horse racing and breeding organization, so he owns a sports and entertainment newspaper company also,¡± Naoko said.

            Sakura gazed at the ad carefully. Her eyes were bleary from sleeping poorly the previous night. In fancy bold script was written, ¡°Star-Crossed: An Adaptation of William Shakespeare¡¯s Romeo and Juliet. Performed by Seijou Junior High School, and Seijou High School Orchestra. ¡°Where did this ad come from?¡±

            Grinning Aki said, ¡°Remember that photographer from New York called Mike Kant? He was taking pictures at the Best Couple Contest and he¡¯s still in Japan.¡±

            How could she not remember Mike Kant? That model contract last winter¡¦

            ¡°Well, Mike has quite a crush on my sister, Arima, so when I, her favorite little brother, asked him to make an ad for the newspapers, he agreed. He secretly took the photos from the back of the auditorium during dress rehearsals,¡± Aki said. ¡°Personally, I think he¡¯s kind of nutty. Throughout the whole time he was here, he was muttering things like ¡®I am finally able to photograph Sakura and Syaoran again. I will make another masterpiece, even better than the Angel in New York piece.¡¯¡±

             ¡°Oh. Ha ha ha¡¦¡± Sakura sweat-dropped. True, Mike Kant was kind of nutty. Yet, she still had a clip of that ad taken in New York tucked into her drawer back at home.

            ¡°You know, I feel kind of nervous having an ad of our production in the newspaper. Do you think lots of people would come watch?¡± Rika asked.

            ¡°Of course!¡± Erika replied sweetly. ¡°Many people would come watch, and we¡¯ll have to be perfect. If any one of us makes a mistake, it would be letting down not only our school but ourselves and every one of us who have worked so hard to make our production perfect. Right Sakura?¡± Erika smiled.

            She¡¯s trying to make me feel uneasy because Juliet has the most lines, Sakura told her self. Doubt came over her as a queasy feeling formed in her stomach. What if she did mess up? She would be letting down everyone. Syaoran, who like her slaved to memorize the greatest amount of lines, intricate tunes, and impossible dance steps when he hated being on stage. Kai, who stayed after school day after day, long after everyone went home, to install and set up all the special effects equipment. Aki, Miho, Chiharu, Rika, Takashi, Eron, and even Erika, all of her friends who have worked hard to contribute to the production, spending hours in the auditorium during breaks, lunchtime, early in the morning, and after school. And Tomoyo, who had set forth the project to the teacher, organized and produced the musical, made the costumes designs, trained the chorus, and looked after each detail, standing as a pillar for the whole production. Rather than their music teacher who dominated and scolded everyone, Tomoyo, with her polite manners produced the best of all the students.

¡°The teacher is getting angry because we aren¡¯t practicing our songs,¡± Rika whispered.

            ¡°Come on. We know all our parts. What more can we do?¡± Aki groaned.

¡°Lots more!¡± the teacher announced. ¡°Relax after the production night coming up this Saturday! Until then, I want you pouring all of your energy into perfection, perfection, and more perfection!¡±

            Everyone groaned in unison. 






¡°Wow, I can¡¯t believe you guys actually managed to pull everything together over the past few months while I wasn¡¯t here. Everything looks so professional, even the lightings,¡± Meilin commented to Sakura during dress rehearsal. Meilin was visiting Seijou Junior High that day and had been warmly greeted by all her old friends. It almost made her wish that she were back in Seijou Junior High again.

¡°Of course everything looks professional,¡± Kai said, butting into their conversation. ¡°Because the great Kai-sama is in it.¡±

¡°You¡¯re in the production?¡± Meilin raised her eyebrows in disbelief. ¡°YOU?¡±

¡°If someone like you could once be cast as the leading female in Star-Crossed, of course I can get in without blinking my eye,¡± Kai retorted.

¡°So what are you? In the clean-up crew?¡± Meilin demanded.

¡°He¡¯s the head of the Lighting and Technicians Crew,¡± Miho said dryly.

¡°You mean he did all this?¡± Meilin said, her mouth dropping as she pointed at the multi-colored light that luminated the stage. Tugging at Sakura¡¯s uniform sleeve, she demanded, ¡°Tell me it¡¯s a joke. ¡°

            Absentmindedly, Sakura fiddled with her ponytail. I can¡¯t concentrate on anything these days. There¡¯s enough stress with the production coming up in a few days. Then, there¡¯s Syaoran. I guess I won¡¯t get to see him as often now that I¡¯ll be moving out of his apartment. Funny to think that I feel really wistful about it. After all, it was fun to be with him. Yet, there was one thing that caught her heart. Syaoran¡¯s voice rang in her head. ¡°Well, if you don¡¯t like Eron, then go out with me.¡± He hadn¡¯t sounded like the Syaoran she had known so far, more like a completely different person.

            ¡°Sakura-chan, are you listening to me?¡± Meilin demanded, waving her hand in front of Sakura¡¯s face.

¡°She¡¯s always like this these days,¡± Miho commented.

Focusing back to her friend, Sakura laughed, ¡°I was listening. And sadly, it¡¯s true. The lighting, plus all the specials effects is thanks to Kai-kun. This is not to inflate his ego, but truthfully, I don¡¯t know what this production would have done without him.¡±

Raising an eyebrow, Meilin declared, ¡°Impossible. No way you did all this.¡±

¡°What?! You don¡¯t have faith in my superb skills?¡± Kai asked, as if hurt.

¡°What are your intentions, anyway?¡± Meilin asked. ¡°You never do anything without a reason.¡±

Smiling surreptitiously, Kai replied, ¡°That¡¯s true.¡±

Giving up on Kai, Meilin expertly changed the subject as the Seijou High School Orchestra began playing the finale of Star-Crossed. ¡°This ending piece is really beautiful.¡±

¡°After all, Syaoran¡¯s father and Sakura¡¯s mother composed the music together,¡± Tomoyo said.

¡°Wait, doesn¡¯t this piece sound rather familiar?¡± Meilin asked after a while listening to the soft harmony of the string instruments, joined by the flutes and the piano.

¡°It does,¡± Tomoyo replied, thoughtfully, while she carefully adjusted some trimmings to Eron¡¯s costume, as he stood patiently. ¡°I¡¯ve always thought that it reminded me of a familiar tune.¡±

¡°Thinking about it, I noticed that in the script, after the last music score, there is a strange symbol, that looks like a broken star,¡± Kai commented. ¡°What¡¯s that supposed to signify?¡±

Staring at the last page of the music score, Sakura said, ¡°I¡¯ve seen this broken star symbol before.¡±

¡°How interesting. Sakura¡¯s mother composed the music to this musical?¡± Eron asked, turning around. Tomoyo was in the process of finalizing Count Paris¡¯ costume.

            ¡°Umm, Eron-kun¡¦Please don¡¯t move. Your costume is almost finalized,¡± Tomoyo said with her mouth-full of pins, making finally touches to Eron¡¯s attire. Though most of the costumes were left to the costume-coordination crew, Tomoyo still took the charge of taking care of the main actors¡¯ costumes. ¡°Sakura-chan, can you pass me another pin?¡±

            ¡°Sure.¡± Sakura, who had been spacing out again, brought the pins over.

            ¡°There!¡± Tomoyo swept back a strand of loose hair with triumph. ¡°Only Juliet¡¯s costume needs to be finalized now.¡±

            ¡°Umm¡¦ Chang-san! May I talk to you for a second?¡± a girl, who Sakura recognized as a nice girl named Yuri, one of the set designers in the production, asked Eron quietly.

            Eron looked up, raising an eyebrow.

            ¡°I-it won¡¯t take long,¡± Yuri stammered.

            ¡°You can go,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°I¡¯m finished.¡±

            ¡°Okay,¡± Eron shrugged, following the girl outside the door.

            Sakura tilted her head quizzically. Ever since the time Eron walked her home, she hadn¡¯t talked to him one on one. He was the only person who was not jittery because of the production. Maybe it was because he suited the part of Count Paris to complete perfection. Or maybe it was because he never lost his composure.  


A little while later, Sakura saw the same girl who had approached Eron, run out of the auditorium, seemingly crying, and Eron sit down on a chair, nonchalantly.

¡°Isn¡¯t that Yuri-chan? Rika asked. ¡°From class 3-1.¡±

¡°I wonder what¡¯s wrong,¡± Sakura murmured.

¡°Isn¡¯t it obvious?¡± Chiharu asked. ¡°Eron-kun must have coldly rejected yet another girl. You guys all know the reputation he¡¯s getting for his blunt coldness when it comes to girls.¡±

Feeling a pang, Sakura walked out of the auditorium and scanned the open area for the girl. She saw Yuri, crouched behind the back door, her head buried in her knees. ¡°Rehearsal¡¯s going to start soon,¡± Sakura said kindly. Then, she fumbled in her pocket for a packet of Kleenex and handed it to Yuri.

Surprised, Yuri looked up with red eyes. She stammered, ¡°T-thank you. You¡¯re Kinomoto Sakura, right? From class 3-2.¡±

Smiling sympathetically, Sakura said, ¡°I¡¯m not sure why you¡¯re crying, and I know it¡¯s none of my business. But if you don¡¯t mind me saying this, no matter how sad and disappointed you are, no matter how your heart is broken, you¡¯ll definitely find your first one, someday.¡± Closing her eyes, she reflected on one autumn day, years ago, when she cried on Syaoran¡¯s shoulders after being rejected by Yukito.¡± That¡¯s what someone told me, when I was sad and disappointed.¡±

Trying to smile back with effort, the girl said, ¡°I really liked Chang Eron. I liked Chang-san ever since he first transferred to this school, even if I knew someone as popular as him wouldn¡¯t like me back. But I didn¡¯t expect him to say, ¡®I don¡¯t return such feelings for you, and I never will,¡¯ so bluntly. That¡¯s all he said. No explanation. No facial expression. I know I¡¯m not the first girl he rejected. Yet, yet, if he had said ¡®Sorry but I can¡¯t return such feelings, let¡¯s be friends,¡¯ I would have so much better. I wanted to get to know him better.¡±

Sympathetically, Sakura patted Yuri¡¯s shoulder.

¡°I¡¯m sorry, making you listen to all this. You must be busy with the dress-rehearsal, yet you¡¯re still taking time out to be nice to a classmate.¡± Yuri sniffled. ¡°You¡¯re going to be late for practice. I¡¯ll go it soon. You can go in first.¡± Yuri tried to wipe her tear-stained face with the tissue.


            ¡°Eron-kun, you lucky guy! Hey, don¡¯t tell me you rejected that cute girl also! Yuri-chan from our next-door class, right? Man, she¡¯s really cute,¡± Aki stated, slinging his arm over Eron. ¡°Aren¡¯t you touched when a girl admits her devoted love to you?¡±

            Eron replied. ¡°Personally, I can¡¯t stand silly types of girls like her. So empty and superficial.¡±

            Yuki, who was standing near by, heard this and looked down at her feet.

            ¡°Isn¡¯t that kind of harsh?¡± Sakura asked, dropping her prop sword down and speaking out.

            ¡°Eh?¡± Eron turned around to face an angry-looking Sakura.¡±

            ¡°I said, you are too harsh, Eron. What do you know about another person¡¯s feelings? How can you be so quick to judge the depth of another person and be so cold to one¡¯s feelings?¡± Sakura reiterated.

            Eron stared at Sakura with a crooked grin. ¡°First of all, I can like a person and be fond of a person. But, I don¡¯t really believe in the concept of ¡®love.¡¯ Love itself is shallow, abstract imaginations of the human mind.¡±

¡°You¡¯re wrong. Love is not shallow or abstract. It¡¯s real and concrete,¡± Sakura replied.

¡°Really? Do you really think so?¡± Eron asked in a mocking tone. ¡°What do I see? School love never lasts. Couples are only temporary. Divorce rates are 1 to 1. Married people are unfaithful to one another.¡±

¡°My parents loved each other,¡± Sakura said softly, as if trying to convince herself that love in this world really existed.

¡°So did mine, and they¡¯re dead. And, excuse me if I¡¯m being too blatant, but where is their love now? Your mother is sadly deceased. Love never lasts.¡± Seeing the shocked expression, Eron said lightly, ¡°That¡¯s why I¡¯m not totally into the whole Romeo and Juliet fantasy. So much for the star-crossed, lovers parted by destiny, the cruel trick of Fate.¡±

¡°I think you¡¯re wrong. Shakespeare once wrote that life is a play and people its players. And each of us is the star on the stage of our life. Each of us is the one in control of how we perform.¡±

With a hooked grin, Eron said, ¡°That¡¯s a cute analogy. But sadly, I myself don¡¯t like to be in spotlight and would gladly retire to watch someone else¡¯s performance and learn from their mistakes. It¡¯s easier to watch someone else¡¯s love fall apart than have it happen to me.¡±

In a careless tone, Sakura said, ¡°I¡¯m rather disappointed. This is not the Eron I know. You¡¯re trying to disillusion yourself because you are scared of being hurt by love. But I don¡¯t blame you.¡±

In the middle of discussing few points with the music teacher on the stage, Syaoran turned his eyes to the far corner of the auditorium where he saw two familiars talking face to face. He grinned. One score for Sakura! She¡¯s standing up to Eron for the first time! Then he scowled. Was that a good thing?

¡°And if I am?¡± Eron asked staring at Sakura with his golden speckled hazel eyes. ¡°Then what?¡±

¡°Maybe there are some things in life that are inevitable. My brother believes that nothing is left to chance. But if Fate controls everything in our lives then there¡¯s no point for humans to make any effort,¡± Sakura replied. ¡°There must be some things left under human control.¡±

¡°Maybe there isn¡¯t. Isn¡¯t it better not to love in the first place when it¡¯s not written in Fate to last? It certainly saves the trouble and the pain.¡±

Coolly, Sakura retorted, ¡°Then, isn¡¯t that like asking, what¡¯s the point of living, when you know you¡¯re going to die in the end?¡±

            Taken back, Eron stared hard at Sakura, who turned around and walked to the stage. It was the first time she had spoken to him in such a tone with a calm fire in her determined emerald eyes. And for the first time, he felt a surge of respect for another person.




            ¡°Erika?¡± Eron asked that evening, fiddling with his mug of lukewarm tea. ¡°What¡¯s the point of living, if you know you¡¯re going to die anyway?¡±

            ¡°What kind of question is that?¡± Erika scolded. ¡°I think this musical has gotten into your head too much. First, you abandon you¡¯re project in making the Phantom the powerful force it can be, next you start pursuing Sakura. Then you make a stupid bet with Syaoran.¡±

            ¡°People say it is better to love and have your heart broken compared to never loving, because you at least gain the experience and memories,¡± Eron continued.

            ¡°Let me feel your forehead. Are you okay, onii-chan?¡± Erika asked teasingly. Then she frowned. ¡°No matter how much you deny it, you are serious about Sakura, aren¡¯t you?¡±

            Laughing, Eron asked, ¡°Do you think there¡¯s a chance that I¡¯m serious? I told you. It¡¯s all a bet with Syaoran. If I win her, that will be very fun, won¡¯t it?¡±

            ¡°Poor Syaoran,¡± Erika said. ¡°It¡¯s hard to accept the cruel jokes of Fate.¡±

            ¡°Do you think, humans are helpless to change Fate?¡± Eron questioned slowly, as he stared at his reflection in the bitter lemon tea.

            ¡°Of course,¡± Erika scoffed. ¡°And if they do try, they¡¯ll pay for eternity.¡±

            ¡°But Erika, haven¡¯t we tried to change Fate, also?¡± Eron closed his eyes. Years ago, he and his twins had exchanged their normal lives for power and revenge. Or was it their Fate to become the Dark Ones? Are we going to pay the price for that or was it inevitable?

            ¡°Shut up Eron. You¡¯re giving me a headache,¡± Erika stated. ¡°I have enough of a headache with Sakura and Syaoran being on such good terms with each other these days.¡± And I have a headache because lately, I don¡¯t seem to know my twin at all.






            ¡°I saw you and Eron talking in the auditorium yesterday. You looked really angry,¡± Tomoyo commented during lunch break, sitting on a bench outside with Sakura, as they often had in the past, when they were less busy. With the hectic schedule, they had little time to spend with each other, and it was one of their rare chances in days.

¡°I think I made him angry,¡± Sakura said, staring at the neat rows of ham and cheese, egg salad, and tuna fish sandwiches that Syaoran had made for her lunch. ¡°I told him things that I don¡¯t even know clearly about myself.¡± Changing the topic, she said wistfully, ¡°I guess I won¡¯t be able to do anything special for Syaoran, after all. I really wanted to show him my appreciation for letting me stay at his house and for everything.¡±

            ¡°Your brother is coming back tomorrow, right?¡± Tomoyo asked.

            ¡°Yeah. I was trying to do something for Syaoran before then,¡± Sakura replied.        ¡°You can do something for him this Sunday, after the musical production. Like buying a meal, or going to the movies.¡±

            ¡°Should I?¡±

            ¡°Definitely. It is only expected to treat the house owner after months of gratitude,¡± Tomoyo said. He he. And it¡¯s a chance for a little date of some sort.

            ¡°Why does Sakura-chan have to do something for that brat?¡± Kero-chan demanded, as he poked his head out of Sakura¡¯s school bag.

           Patting Kero-chan¡¯s head, Sakura said, ¡°Hey, I thought Syaoran and you were getting along well these days.¡±

            ¡°There¡¯s no such chance. But I admit, the brat¡¯s a good cook,¡± Kero-chan said, wiping bread crumbs off his face with his paw.

            Sighing, Sakura stared up at the blue sky. She wondered what it would be like to be a bird and soar through the sky, staring down at the bustling lives of the people below. I should be thinking about the production, yet why can¡¯t I stop thinking about Syaoran? Maybe it¡¯s because thinking of the production makes me think of him.

            ¡°Oh, I¡¯m really sorry Sakura-chan, but can you do me a favor?¡± Tomoyo asked. ¡°I have to attend the musical chorus practice. Do you mind running up to the classroom and pick up the Star-Crossed pamphlet and giving it to Terada-sensei?¡±

            ¡°Sure, no problem,¡± Sakura said, finished her last sandwich.


            There was no one in the hallway, since everyone was either outside enjoying the nice weather, or not enjoying the weather while chaotically making the final preparations for the production. She noticed a figure moving in classroom 3-2. Quickly, she recognized the figure, a person she luckily hadn¡¯t encountered frequently these days. ¡°Erika! What are you doing here? There¡¯s an extra practice for your scene right now.¡±

¡°I left something in the classroom,¡± Erika said quickly, taking something out of a desk and stuffing it into her pocket.

¡°Wait, isn¡¯t that Eron-kun¡¯s desk?¡± Sakura asked.

¡°Yes. Uh¡¦ Onii-chan asked me to pick a book up for him,¡± Erika stated.

¡°Oh. Well, good luck for the rehearsal and the final production in three days.¡±

Erika called out as Sakura tried to leave, ¡° Why would you wish me luck? Don¡¯t you wish me to mess up in the production?¡±

¡°Why should I?¡±

¡°Because. Don¡¯t you wish I would look stupid in front of everyone and make a fool of myself?¡± Erika asked.

¡°No. That would be awful. This production is a group effort, and it¡¯s the hard work of every individual combined, which will make the production successful. If one person makes a mistake, it is a pity, but we all tried hard as a group, and it¡¯s not the end of the world. To tell you the truth, I¡¯m not very confident about Saturday night. Yet, I know we all practiced really hard, and I¡¯m going to try my best. If I make a mistake, I know I¡¯ll be letting down many people, but at the same time, I hope they accept it as my very best,¡± Sakura said.

¡°Do you really think like that?¡± Erika asked. ¡°That¡¯s strange. If I were you, I would want the others to mess up, so that I will look better. I would want the spotlight for myself.¡± She clutched two movie tickets that she had found in Eron¡¯s desk.

Chuckling, Sakura commented, ¡°You and Eron-kun are very alike in some aspects, after all, you¡¯re twins, but you¡¯re really different as well. Eron-kun doesn¡¯t like being in spotlight.¡±

¡°Oh really,¡± Erika said coolly. ¡°What do you know about my twin, anyway?¡±

¡°Not that much,¡± Sakura replied. ¡°You¡¯re his twin and grew up with him all your life, so you know much better. But as an outsider, I see that you and Eron are identical yet so different.¡±

¡°You know, the problem with you Sakura, is that you think you know everything about everyone,¡± Erika said. She bit her lip. How could this girl seem to know her own twin brother better than herself? Why did Eron show this girl sides of him that her never revealed to his own sister? ¡°Gee, I wonder what my precious brother was doing with two movie tickets scheduled for Sunday in his desk. Do you know, Sakura?¡± Holding up the tickets in her forefinger, she ripped it in half, than in half again, then into tiny bits, letting it drop onto the floor.

¡°What did you do that for?¡± Sakura asked. ¡°Those ticket¡¯s were Eron¡¯s¡¦¡±

Ignoring Sakura, Erika continued, ¡°I feel sorry for you. I bet you feel so special with having both Eron and Syaoran so attentive to you lately. So, did you take your pick yet?¡±

¡°What do you mean?¡± Sakura stammered.

¡°Oh, don¡¯t be too shocked. I¡¯m sure neither of them meant to harm you. Then again, I don¡¯t really understand how a guy¡¯s mind works, so I¡¯m not quite sure what was intended by the bet between them over who you will pick to go out with,¡± Erika said, shrugging lightly.

¡°A bet?¡± Sakura repeated vacantly.

¡°Maybe it¡¯s a bet over guy¡¯s pride,¡± Erika continued blandly. ¡°You know how stubborn and materialistic guys are. They don¡¯t like losing to each other.¡±

¡°Eron-kun and Syaoran had a bet¡¦ over me?¡± Sakura asked again in a flat, emotionless voice. The reason why Syaoran asked me if I had any feelings for Eron, and the reason he asked me out was to show that he was better than Eron? Because of a bet with him?            

Shaking her head, Sakura slowly stepped out of the classroom, then ran down the hallway, feeling the stab of unknown betrayal and confusion. Why do I feel betrayed? It¡¯s not that important of a matter. Isn¡¯t it? What do I care? Yet, I care. I don¡¯t know why, by something inside me is jerking my heart. She tried to block out the image of Erika staring at her with a cool smirk and amused golden eyes. The only other time she had felt this confused was last winter, when Syaoran had smiled so mockingly at her and told her he had no feelings for her.

She continued running, forgetting the pamphlet that Tomoyo had asked her to pick up. So, the reason that Syaoran had asked her about her feelings for Eron was because of the bet. And the reason he asked her out was because of the bet, also.

            ¡°Whoa, watch where you¡¯re going,¡± Kai said, as Sakura almost knocked him over as he was carrying expensive equipment over to the auditorium. He frowned as Sakura brushed passed him mumbling, ¡°Sorry.¡±

            ¡°Wait a moment!¡± Kai snapped his finger expertly. To Sakura¡¯s surprise, she found that she could not move her feet. Setting down the equipment on the floor, Kai walked up to Sakura and peered at her face, relieved to find her sea-green eyes dry. ¡°Good, I thought you were crying for a second. A true gentleman can never see a lady cry.¡±

            Forcing herself to smile, Sakura said, ¡°Ha ha, you don¡¯t have to worry about anything like that.¡±

            ¡°That¡¯s good.¡± Then Kai frowned, changing his tone to his rare serious one. ¡°So, is it Syaoran, or is it that bastard Eron?¡±

            ¡°Neither,¡± Sakura replied quickly.

           ¡°That means both,¡± Kai reflected. ¡°Well, I don¡¯t know much about the complex game of love, but I advise you, don¡¯t hold any grudge or hard feelings. It only works against you. Just act and accept things as they come along, and it passes by like a wind blowing away a rain cloud. There¡¯s no use in letting it pile up in your heart and overburdening you.¡±

           Something about Kai¡¯s words, and his calm voice steadied her and quenched the choking feeling in her heart. At times like this, she realized how mature Kai could be.

            ¡°Well, you can go now, and don¡¯t bump into anymore people,¡± Kai said. When Sakura stared at him dumbly, Kai asked, ¡°What?¡±

            Sakura pointed at her feet, which were frozen in place. ¡°So, is this real magic, or is it one of your ¡®magician¡¯ tricks?¡±

            Without replying, Kai snapped his finger again, and freed Sakura¡¯s feet. ¡°It¡¯s just a hobby,¡± he called out at the end of the hallway.

            ¡°It¡¯s a very strange hobby,¡± Sakura called.

            Grinning, Kai stated, ¡°My motto is ¡®everything has a reason.¡¯¡± Then, instead of exiting through the door, he leaped out the window, with the costly equipment.

            Calmly, Sakura walked back to the classroom. She had to pick up Tomoyo¡¯s pamphlet. I won¡¯t be angry or reproachful of Syaoran. Everything has a reason.    

            ¡°Tomoyo-chan! Here¡¯s your pamphlet!¡± Sakura said, later on.

            ¡°Thank you Sakura-chan!¡± Tomoyo said. Then she stared critically at her best friend. ¡°Is anything wrong?¡±

            ¡°Hoe? No, I¡®m fine.¡± Sakura realized her best friend was special. ¡°By the way, do you mind if I sleep over your house tonight? It¡¯s been a long time since we spent some time together, because we were so busy with the musical and stuff¡¦¡±

            ¡°No, I don¡¯t mind at all,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°But isn¡¯t today your last day at Syaoran¡¯s apartment? I would think you would have wanted to spend it together with him.¡±         Shaking her head, Sakura replied, ¡°That would be too awkward. It¡¯s not that big of a deal, returning to my house, after all.¡±

¡°Okay then¡¦ My chauffeur would pick us up after the rehearsal,¡± Tomoyo said, uncertainly. She certainly had a lot to catch up on her friend.






            Syaoran woke up an hour earlier than usual that morning. The previous evening, Sakura had called to say she was sleeping over Tomoyo¡¯s house. He frowned. Then, he ran across the hallway to Sakura¡¯s room and flung the door open. The sheets were neatly folded, and it was spotless as if no one had ever occupied the room. None of Sakura¡¯s clothes, books, or accessories were scattered about. He ran out into the kitchen. Two platefuls of waffles were laid out and covered with a plastic wrap, and freshly squeezed orange juice was in a pitcher. A large bowl of fresh berries was in the center of the table, and a fresh bouquet of daisies was arranged in a hand-painted blue vase. Carefully, he picked up a pale green envelope set on the table and slipped out a note in it.


            Ohayo Syaoran!

            Isn¡¯t it a change to have breakfast laid out for you? It¡¯s my payment for always having made great breakfasts for me to give me energy throughout the day. There¡¯s enough for you and Meirn-chan, and Kai-kun, if he wakes up in time to eat. As you know, onii-chan is returning this evening. I left early today so I can stop by my house and arrange a few things before going to school this morning. I took some of my stuff with me, but I still left one of my suitcases in my room. I¡¯ll pick it up some time later, when I have time. That¡¯s okay, right?

About Wolfie-chan, can you keep him for a few days, just until I get settled back in my house? There¡¯s already Kero-chan, and onii-chan would surely smell out something fishy and figure out that Wolfie-chan isn¡¯t just an ordinary dog if I keep him at my house. I know I can always change him back to a card, but I just remember the first time we found the little puppy that looked like a wolf at Kusakou and when I realized that Wolfie-chan was a dark force created by the Dark Ones. Did I tell you? When you turned the Werewolf into a card of light power, I was sincerely touched. Ever since then, Wolfie-chan feels more like a living creature than a card and he was always with us. I know you don¡¯t like his name because you feel as if Wolfie-chan has been name after you. But the funny thing is, Wolfie-chan doesn¡¯t care what he¡¯s called; whether he is called Wolfie, Eagle, or Vega, he responds to who¡¯s calling him, not what he¡¯s called. So, take good care of him and feed him well until I come pick him up. I know I have nothing to worry about.


Always, Sakura


P.S. I packed lunch for you for the last time. I know you¡¯re thinking right now, ¡®Oh no, not the lunch box with the bunnies all over it again,¡¯ right? Well, it¡¯s the last time I¡¯ll be making lunch for you, and I woke up at 4 AM to make it, so eat it well!


            Syaoran chuckled. He had been eyeing the bunny-covered lunch box. Sakura must have woken up really early and returned back to his apartment from Tomoyo¡¯s house while he was sleeping. Yet, something caught him, because he hadn¡¯t been able to see Sakura off that morning. He couldn¡¯t even say bye. Of course, he would see her at school, but all the same, he had counted on being able to prepare one last breakfast for Sakura, instead of the other way around. Then he sighed. He would no longer he waking up to see Sakura¡¯s smiling face every morning.




            The school day passed by in a haze, and Sakura didn¡¯t have a moment alone with Syaoran. It felt strange, walking back to her own house and not to Syaoran¡¯s apartment, walking side by side with him, sometimes stopping by the grocery, or walking past King Penguin Park. Though Sakura had been expecting piles of dust in her house, which had been empty for months, to her surprise it was spotless. She realized that Syaoran must have cleaned it up last time when he had stopped by for the repairs. The kitchen was as good as new and no remains of the encounter with the Joker were present.

Syaoran¡¦ Already she was beginning to feel a little empty. She had purposely avoided him at school that day. He must be eating dinner with Kai and Meilin by now. She still hadn¡¯t responded to Syaoran¡¯s question, and hadn¡¯t forgotten it for a second. Was he sincere when he asked, ¡®Will you go out with me?¡¯ What were his motives? Now that he was no longer in her presence, everything seemed to be a haze, a dream, as if nothing had passed between them. Maybe she had imagined the whole incident at the Li kitchen. No, he couldn¡¯t have been sincere. It was all because of a bet with Eron. Despite everything, Sakura was afraid of being hurt. At first, she had felt so raged, furious, and so sad when Erika told her about the bet, but after hearing Kai¡¯s calm reassurance, it just died down to a dull ache. Yet, yet she wished so hard with a throb in a heart, that she didn¡¯t know about the bet, and she could be blind to everything except the person standing in front of her.

Forget about it all. I have more important things to worry about. I don¡¯t have time to idle and ponder over the feelings in my heart. Besides, I¡¯m back at my own house now. Onii-chan¡¯s coming back in a few hours, and otou-san will be coming back on Sunday, everything can return to normal. I won¡¯t have to see Syaoran every day, every morning, every evening.


            //DINGDONG// The doorbell rang. Jumping, up, Sakura ran to the door and flung it open. ¡°Onii-chan!¡±

           ¡°Oomph!¡± Touya doubled back as his little sister through her arms over his neck. Dropping down his suitcase, Touya squeezed his little sister into a tight hug. ¡°Kaijou¡¦¡±

            ¡°Onii-chan, I missed you so much! How was England? Did you meet Mizuki-sensei? Did you study a lot? Was the pre-med work hard?¡± Sakura asked, clutching onto her older brother¡¯s coat excitedly. ¡°Did you miss your little sister?¡±

            Ruffling her hair, Touya said, ¡°You¡¯re still the same old monster, aren¡¯t you? Let me have a look at you. Good. You haven¡¯t lost any weight. I was worried that you wouldn¡¯t fix yourself proper meals if you were home alone.¡±

            Sakura looked sideways, sheepishly. To make up for all the meals they had skipped during the summer, Syaoran and she had indulged themselves in the food that they prepared lately. It didn¡¯t help that they both enjoyed cooking, not to mention having a sweet-toothed stuffed doll called Kero-chan and a constantly hungry next-door neighbor. Judged by the plentiful breakfasts, lunches, and dinners she had eaten in the past few weeks, she should have gained weight. Except, she burned all the energy in the strenuous musical rehearsals. ¡°So, were you worried about me?¡± she demanded.

            ¡°Of course¡¦ Not!¡± Touya replied, sticking out his tongue. ¡°I knew the little monster would take care of herself fine. It¡¯s in your blood, you know. Ogre¡¯s vitality.¡±

            ¡°He¡¯s lying,¡± came a pleasant, light voice from behind Touya. ¡°Touya was worried sick about you to the point that I cut all the telephone lines to keep the phone bills moderate.¡±

            ¡°Shut up, Yuki. You¡¯re ruining my image,¡± Touya grumbled.

            ¡°Yukito-san!¡± Sakura said, clapping her hands together.

            ¡°It¡¯s good to see you again, Sakura,¡± Yukito said, smiling. His silvery hair blew in the breeze and his smile was as gentle as ever.

            ¡°Come on in and stay for dinner!¡± Sakura said, leading Yukito inside.

            ¡°And she leaves her own brother standing outside,¡± Touya said. Hiding a grin, he lugged his suitcase into the house.


            ¡°Humph. You¡¯re skills have improved somewhat,¡± Touya commented as he ate the dinner set out on the Kinomoto kitchen table.

            Sakura grinned slyly, knowing that Touya would have a fit if he knew whose recipe he was complimenting. She prayed that Touya wouldn¡¯t check in the refrigerator and be shocked that there was hardly any food in it; she did not have the chance for proper grocery shopping yet.

            ¡°It¡¯s very delicious,¡± Yuktio said, chomping away on his fifth bowl of rice. ¡°But then again, all food is delicious, but this is exceptionally good.¡±

            Upstairs, Kero-chan was tearful, realizing that all the food in the house was being devoured by Yukito aka Yue.

            ¡°Aren¡¯t you eating?¡± Touya asked.

            ¡°Yes.¡± Dreamily, Sakura smiled. She hadn¡¯t know how much she would miss her brother if he weren¡¯t with her until now. For the first time, she had a faint understanding of how Miho must be feeling. She gazed at the picture of her mother set on the kitchen table. Her father would be back in a few days, also. Then, everything would be back to normal.

          ¡°Thinking about it, Nakuru-san came back with us,¡± Yukito said. ¡°Shouldn¡¯t we have taken Nakuru-san home? She¡¯ll be staying with Eriol again, wouldn¡¯t she?¡±

            Coughing, Touya exclaimed, ¡°I can¡¯t believe she followed us right back to Japan.¡±

            ¡°Hehe¡¦ Is that why your eyes are so blood-shot, onii-chan?¡± Sakura asked, giggling.

            ¡°Yes. She was sitting next to me and bothering me throughout the whole airplane flight and I could not get a blink of sleep,¡± Touya grumbled. To his surprise, Sakura laughed childishly and happily. His blue eyes softened. Despite his worries, Sakura was fine. She really was a young adult now.






¡°Oh, my gosh! I can¡¯t believe it! Tomorrow is the final production date!¡± Chiharu groaned after their very last dress rehearsal ended early Friday evening.

¡°All of you, good job today,¡± the teacher announced. ¡°Just perform tomorrow like you did today, and you¡¯ll do fine. Well, go home, rest a lot, sleep well, and eat a good breakfast tomorrow. Okay, you¡¯re all dismissed.¡±

¡°Kinomoto-san?¡± Yuri, the girl who had been rejected by Erika called, as Sakura packed up her bag. ¡°I just wanted to thank you for your advise last time. It really made me feel better.¡±

Smiling, Sakura said, ¡°No problem.¡±

¡°You know what? Chang-san came up to me this morning and told me sorry that he couldn¡¯t return my feelings and for being rude last time. And he said that he will look forward to getting to know me better. That¡¯s all I ever wanted from him, and I felt so much better,¡± Yuri said.

¡°Really? Eron-kun said that?¡± Sakura asked, rather surprised.

¡°It¡¯s all thanks to you, Kinomoto-san,¡± Yuri said. ¡°Oh, by the way, are you going out with Li-kun?¡±

¡°Huh? Syaoran? No! I mean¡¦¡± Sakura stammered.

Chuckling, Yuri said, ¡°You two are really cute as Romeo and Juliet. Don¡¯t you know the underclassmen are having bets over whether or not the final kiss scene will be carried out successfully tomorrow evening? They all know up till now it¡¯s been a failure.¡±

¡°W-wha~¡± Sakura turned red. Then she shook her head.

¡°Sakura-chan!¡± Tomoyo came running towards Sakura, panting. Though for most of the Star-Crossed crew, the work was all over except for the final production the following day, Tomoyo was yet busy making last minute preparations. ¡°Your brother and Yukito-san came back, right?¡±       

¡°Yeah,¡± Sakura replied.

¡°Here¡¯s the Star-Crossed tickets for them,¡± Tomoyo said, before leaving with the music teacher.

¡°Hoe! They are not coming to the production,¡± Sakura said, but Tomoyo was already gone. She mumbled, ¡°I didn¡¯t tell onii-chan that the production is tomorrow. I¡¯ll never be able to perform if he¡¯s there to watch!¡±

¡°Why, because you¡¯re co-starring with me again?¡± Syaoran asked, zipping up his bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

¡°Well¡¦¡± Sakura drifted off and stared at Syaoran. Was he mad because she left his apartment without saying goodbye?

¡°Whew, finished,¡± Kai said, clapping his hands together as he finished plugging in the cords into the boom box. ¡°Hey, Syaoran~ Do you want rainbow colored bubbles or rose petals blowing over the stage during the balcony scene?¡±

¡°Neither!¡± Syaoran proclaimed.

¡°Okay, the rose petals it shall be. Hehe¡¦ After all, roses are my trademark flower. So, what are you cooking for dinner, friend?¡±

¡°No, you¡¯re not going to come over and invade my kitchen again,¡± Syaoran said directly.

Kai grumbled. ¡°Cheap. I liked it better when Sakura lived with you—¡°

¡°Shh!¡± Syaoran clamped his hand over Kai¡¯s mouth, checking to see if any of the remaining students had heard. 

¡°You don¡¯t have to hide that from me,¡± Miho said. ¡°I already know, remember?¡±

¡°Yes, I remember,¡± Syaoran replied stonily. ¡°And a great deal of fun you had tricking us.¡±

¡°Well, let¡¯s go home and rest well till tomorrow! Hmm¡¦ I know I can beat the final level in that new video game tonight,¡± Kai stated.

¡°Good, there¡¯s still some of you remaining,¡± a teacher said, checking the auditorium. ¡°Can you four students do me a favor and tidy up the auditorium and bring over twenty chairs from the main building and set them up at the back of the room? After you¡¯re finished, just turn off all the lights and lock the door. Thank you.¡± Then the teacher walked out.

¡°What?!¡± Sakura, Syaoran, Kai, and Miho exclaimed in dismay.

¡°I always hated that old witch,¡± Kai grumbled. ¡°Well, I¡¯m the head of the lighting crew, not her servant. She can do it herself.¡±

¡°C¡¯mon. It¡¯s our production. It¡¯s not that big of a task. Let¡¯s just do it and get over with it,¡± Sakura said.



While Kai and Miho brought over the chairs, Sakura and Syaoran cleaned up the auditorium, picking up all the bits of trash and cleared space at the top of the auditorium in silence. Having cleaned the house so many time together, they fell into rhythm easily and cleaned the auditorium quickly and efficiently.

Finally, Syaoran said after emptying the dustbin into the trash can, ¡°Well, I think we¡¯re finished.¡±

Wiping the sweat off her brows,¡± Sakura replied, ¡°Hehe¡¦ I feel bad for Kai and Miho. They have the harder share, bringing all those chairs over.¡± She began to arrange the extra chairs across the back row of the auditorium. Silently, Syaoran helped Sakura.

¡°Oh, by the way, can I pick up the stuff I left at your apartment some time next week?¡± Sakura asked.

¡°Sure, any time is fine.¡± They both sounded so artificial.

¡°And I think I have to return the house keys,¡± Sakura said, fumbling in her pocket.

¡°You can keep it,¡± Syaoran replied too quickly. ¡°I mean, it was a spare key anyway, and if I ever lock myself out of the house, I¡¯ll know someone else has the spare key¡¦¡± He stopped, realizing that he was babbling.

¡°Okay¡¦ So, is Wolfie-chan okay? I¡¯m sorry I couldn¡¯t pick him up yet, either,¡± Sakura said, rushing into conversation.

¡°He misses you,¡± Syaoran said with a lopsided grin. ¡°But don¡¯t worry, I¡¯m taking good care of him.¡±

¡°I didn¡¯t worry. Because I know you like Wolfie-chan as much as I do,¡± Sakura confirmed.

¡°What makes you think that?¡± Syaoran questioned, raising an eyebrow.

Leaning against the back of a chair, Sakura laughed. ¡°I often saw you feeding Wolfie-chan, cleaning after him, or just petting him on your lap, when you thought I wasn¡¯t watching. You¡¯re always full of surprises, Syaoran. You told me you don¡¯t like music, then you play the most beautiful melody on the violin. Next, you tell me you hate going on stage, singing, and acting, and you land as the male protagonist in the school production.¡±

Running a hand through his tousled brown hair, embarrassed, Syaoran said, ¡°Well¡¦¡± Then he grinned. ¡°Hey, are you doing anything on Sunday?¡±

¡°Hoe? No. Why?¡±

¡°Because, remember I promised you to buy you a meal a nice, Italian restaurant and do something fun afterwards? Well, I plan to carry out my promise fully,¡± Syaoran said.

Chuckling, Sakura asked, ¡°You still remember that from the summer? Hmm¡¦ Thinking about it, you did buy me a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo, amidst being chased by the police because of a tiny microchip attached to Kaitou Magician¡¯s locket. Except, you kept me waiting for a long time, and plus, my grandfather and uncle happened to eat at the same restaurant, so it wasn¡¯t exactly a pleasant meal.¡±

¡°So, keep Sunday open, okay?¡±


¡°Okay?¡± Syaoran repeated, emphatically.

¡°Well¡¦¡± Sakura paused, without giving an answer. Erika¡¯s malicious voice repeated in her head. ¡®I¡¯m sure neither of them meant to harm you. Then again, I don¡¯t really understand how a guy¡¯s mind works, so I¡¯m not quite sure what was intended by the bet between them over who you will pick to go out with.¡¯

When Sakura gave no answer, Syaoran frowned. Sakura seemed strange, ever since Wednesday.



¡°Grr¡¦ How can that teacher ask a frail girl like me to carry these heavy chairs,¡± Miho grumbled as she struggle with the foldable chairs balanced in each arm, tottering towards the auditorium.

¡°You¡¯re the one who said that you don¡¯t want to pick up after someone else¡¯s litter so you¡¯d bring the chairs over,¡± Kai pointed out, as he balanced twice the amount of chairs that Miho was carrying with ease. ¡°Besides, it seemed like a good like a good idea to give Sakura and Syaoran some time alone together.¡±

¡°Still.¡± Miho tried to toss her auburn bangs out of her eyes. ¡°I hate having people boss me around, making me clean up things and carry heavy chairs.¡±

¡°It shows you were brought up too spoiled,¡± Kai said. ¡°Not fit for the real world.¡±

Halting, Miho glared at Kai. ¡°Mizuki-senpai, you are a real mean person.¡±

¡°Tanaka-san, you are a real spoiled person,¡± Kai replied calmly.

Huffily, Miho started walking faster.

¡°Hey, watch out! You¡¯re going to fall with all those heavy chairs if you¡¯re not careful,¡± Kai warned.

Sure enough, Miho stumbled over a rock and fell down, the metal chairs on top of her.

¡°I told you to be careful,¡± Kai said, though not unkindly. He bent over and carefully picked up the scattered foldable chairs. ¡°Are you hurt? Can you stand up?¡±

Her lower lips crumpling, Miho stared at her bleeding knees with bits of gravels embedded in her skin. ¡°It hurts.¡±

¡°It doesn¡¯t look that bad,¡± Kai said blandly. ¡°I¡¯m sure you can walk.¡±

Biting her lips, Miho stared up at Kai expectantly. Instead of helping her up, he gathered up all the chairs. ¡°Aren¡¯t you going to help me stand up?¡± she demanded.

Raising his eyebrow, Kai said, ¡°Can¡¯t you stand up by yourself? Hurry up, I want to finish this and go home.¡±

Angrily, Miho picked her self off the ground and brushed the sand off her skirt. ¡°Who says I can¡¯t stand up? I wouldn¡¯t want the help of a cheap, mean, lazy person like you, anyway.¡±

¡°I didn¡¯t think so,¡± Kai replied, chuckling.

Tossing her head, Miho took the chairs that Kai had gathered up and began walking briskly, ignoring the throbbing pain of the skin scraped off her knees, which made her limp slightly. The chairs that she were carrying banged against her legs, making things worse.

Catching up with her, Kai took the chairs from her arms and carried his share and hers without a word. Miho stared at Kai¡¯s back, his quick, nimble steps taking him towards the auditorium as he whistled a light tune from the musical.



¡°Finally, we¡¯re finished!¡± Sakura said, stretching, two hours later.

¡°Ha, a funny picture. Romeo, Juliet, the lighting and technicians man, and the narrator staying at school until 7 PM to clean up and set up chairs,¡± Miho said.

¡°Actually, it wasn¡¯t that bad,¡± Kai commented, cracking his back.

¡°Maybe because it was the first time you actually did cleaning duty since you came to this school,¡± Syaoran said, dryly. Kai was notorious for skipping out on cleaning duties, or any kind of work at all.

¡°Maybe,¡± Kai said. ¡°Well, let¡¯s go! Syaoran, you take Tanaka-san home, and I¡¯ll that Sakura-chan home.¡±

¡°Hehe. I¡¯m fine. I can walk home by myself,¡± Sakura protested.

¡°Fine, Syaoran can take you home, and I¡¯ll take Tanaka-san home,¡± Kai said. ¡°It¡¯s not safe for girls to walk alone at night.¡±

¡°No, I want Syaoran-kun to take me home!¡± Miho said, sticking her tongue at Kai.¡± I bet it¡¯s safer to walk home by myself than with a juvenile delinquent like you.¡±

¡°That¡¯s true,¡± Kai agreed. ¡°Well, Sakura, to your disappointment, you¡¯re stuck with the cheap, mean, lazy juvenile delinquent, not the ardent Romeo.¡±



As Kai and Sakura walked to Sakura¡¯s house, Sakura asked, ¡°Why are you so mean to Miho-chan?¡±

¡°Am I?¡± Kai asked, surprised. ¡°It¡¯s just my natural self, though. I¡¯m not overly fond of spoilt people.¡±

¡°Miho had a sad childhood,¡± Sakura said.

¡°Don¡¯t all of you have sad childhoods?¡± Kai asked.

¡°Not really,¡± Sakura replied. ¡°I hardly remember my mother, so I don¡¯t know what my loss is.¡±

            ¡°Oh¡¦¡± With a pensive air, Kai asked, ¡°Would you rather not have experienced happiness, because that way, you wouldn¡¯t have to know what you lost?¡±

            ¡°No. I think it¡¯s better to experience happiness and love, even if you will eventually lose it, because at least, you can cherish the memories, and know you have experienced it at one time,¡± Sakura replied wisely. ¡°It¡¯s better to live life fully, despite the results.¡±

            ¡°Good,¡± Kai said. ¡°So what are you hesitating for? Go for Syaoran!¡±

            Sweat-dropping, Sakura commented, ¡°You have an ingenious way of always turning to my problems and avoiding telling about yours.¡° Then softly, she said, ¡°I¡¯ve been hurt before¡¦¡± She recalled Yukito¡¯s smiling face, telling her that she will some day find the one who loves her best. She recalled Syaraon telling her he didn¡¯t have any feelings for her. ¡°I¡¯m being a hypocrite, but I¡¯m scared about being hurt again.¡±

            ¡°Believe me, no one does,¡± Kai said, as they reached Sakura¡¯s porch. ¡°Yet being afraid of getting hurt¡¯s not going to stop me from getting what I want. And you should have more faith in Syaoran and more confidence in yourself. That¡¯s all. If he hurts you, and he may, you never know, that¡¯s that. You at least would have taken the chance.¡±

            He rang the doorbell. A grouchy Touya opened the door. ¡°Kaijou! Why are you so late? The dinner¡¯s getting all cold¡¦¡± Staring at Kai, Touya¡¯s mouth dropped. With observant midnight blue eyes, Touya took in the bleached, spiked hair, sunglasses in the night, the glittering earrings, and the laid back attitude.

            ¡°Good evening, Kinomoto-san!¡± Kai bowed politely. ¡°I am only filling in for Li Syaoran, so don¡¯t be surprised.¡± To Sakura he said, ¡°Well, g¡¯night and good luck for tomorrow. Just a little warning, be thoroughly on your guard.¡± He then leaped over the house gates and disappeared into the darkness.

            ¡°Who¡¦ is¡¦ that?¡± Touya gawked.

            ¡°Hoe¡¦ A classmate¡¦¡± Sakura sweat dropped once more. As she slowly walked into the house, she pondered over Kai¡¯s sudden interest in her relationship with Syaoran.  




Saturday, the day of the final production ¡¦


¡°And the monster comes stomping down the stairs,¡± Touya commented, sipping a steaming cup of coffee as Sakura came down the stairs.

Drinking a glass of milk in the kitchen, Sakura stated, ¡°I¡¯m coming home late today.¡±

Setting down the newspaper, Touya demanded, ¡°Hey, how come you didn¡¯t tell me that the Seijou Junior High major production is tonight?¡±

¡°Gah!¡± Sakura sputtered out the milk. ¡°How did you know?¡±

¡°My university friends told me. They¡¯re all going to watch tonight,¡± Touya replied. ¡°Well, so aren¡¯t you giving me the tickets? I told Yukito that I¡¯d get one from him too. I know you¡¯ve been working on that production for months now.¡± He held out his hand.

¡°Umm¡¦¡± Reluctantly, Sakura placed the two tickets on his hand. ¡°You really don¡¯t have to come; I mean, you must be busy and everything since you¡¯ve only been back in Japan for a few days and¡¦¡±

¡°Why, is there a particular reason that you don¡¯t want me to go?¡± Touya asked critically.

¡°No, no!¡± Sakura protested. ¡°Well¡¦¡±

¡°Good. Oh yeah. Otou-san called yesterday, to tell me that the International Archeology Seminar has ended. He¡¯ll be back by tomorrow evening at the latest,¡± Touya said. ¡°Anyway, you¡¯re late for school again. I¡¯m going to your school at seven, then!¡±

Groaning, Sakura trudged along to school by foot, since she had left her roller blades at Syaoran¡¯s apartment.




¡°Ooh! I was so nervous, I couldn¡¯t sleep a blink last night!¡± Chiharu exclaimed as they finished their morning lessons and filed towards the old theater. All over Seijou Junior High School, students were busily decorating and tidying up the school for the big performance that night. Others were stacking up the Star-Crossed program brochure with the list of the names of the cast, and still others hanging up banners and painting signs.

¡°I had nightmares about forgetting all my lines,¡± Rika sighed. ¡°And Terada-sensei was so disappointed in me.¡±

¡°Really? You had a nightmare, also?¡± Chiharu asked. ¡°I dreamt that every time I tried to say my part, Takashi kept on interrupting and telling these weird stories.¡±

Perking at the mention of his name, Takashi said, ¡°Wow, I had a dream that every time I tried to say my part, you throttled my neck, screaming, ¡®lies, all lies!¡¯¡±

¡°What did you dream about, Sakura-chan,¡± Naoko asked, bemused by her friends¡¯ jittery states. Luckily, she had been part of the setting and prop design crew, and all her work was over.

¡°I dreamt that I was running and running through a dark hallway, looking for something, or someone,¡± Sakura replied in a far away voice. ¡°At the end of the hallway, there was a room, in which three women sat in, one holding a spindle in her hand, one holding a rod, and one holding a scissor. The third woman held the golden scissor to the thread, ready to cut it.¡±

¡°Then?¡± Naoko asked, enthralled.

¡°I don¡¯t know. The moment she brought the scissors to the thread, I woke up,¡± Sakura replied.  

¡°That¡¯s it?¡± Naoko asked, disappointed. ¡°What a strange dream to have.¡±

¡°The thread represents the thread of life. In olden Greek and Roman mythology, the Fates were three goddesses who were supposed to determine human life, and cutting the thread symbolizes the ending of one¡¯s life,¡± Takashi said. ¡°One was the spinner of the thread, and carried a spindle of thread, one decided how long it was to be by shaking a rod and divining the person¡¯s fate, and one wrote down the decision on a tablet and cut the thread to end the person¡¯s life. ¡°

¡°Shut up with your crazy nonsense,¡± Chiharu said, nudging Takashi hard as she noted the troubled expression on Sakura¡¯s face.   

            ¡°Did you dream also, Mizuki-kun?¡± Naoko asked Kai, who had just walked into the backstage with Syaoran.

            Yawning, Kai replied, ¡°I didn¡¯t dream last night, at all. Simply because I stayed up all night playing video games.¡±

            ¡°Are you an idiot or what?¡± Meilin demanded as she adjusted the racks with the costumes for the various actors and actresses. She had volunteered to help Tomoyo for the final preparations.

            ¡°But I finally beat the top level,¡± Kai protested.

            ¡°How about you, Li-kun? What did you dream about?¡± Takashi asked. Sakura flinched as she looked up at Syaoran, who had also just entered.

            Rubbing his head, he replied, ¡°It¡¯s really strange. I was walking down this dark corridor, when I came to a room. Inside, there were three a women bending over a spindle of silver thread and one held a golden scissor. There was someone else in the room, but I can¡¯t remember who. Then, one of the women tried to shear through the thread with the scissor, but somehow, I don¡¯t know why, I grabbed her hand, forcing her to drop the scissor. I think I made her really mad because she glared at me with awful eyes that glowed in the dark.¡± Realizing that he was babbling, Syaoran shook his head. ¡°What am I talking about?¡±

            Everyone was staring at him hard.

            ¡°Ha, I guess my dream didn¡¯t make much sense,¡± Syaoran said. What was wrong about him? He never blabbed about his dreams before.

            ¡°Strange,¡± Takashi said. ¡°I heard that there is such things as psychic power between two people through their sleep, but I never thought it was really possible.



            ¡°I think I have a sore throat,¡± Rika said. They were just one hour away from the final production of ¡®Star-Crossed.¡¯

            ¡°I think I¡¯m going to be sick,¡± groaned Chiharu, doubling over and clutching her stomach.

            ¡°I think I¡¯m going to make a fool of myself,¡± said Aki, who looked nervous for the first time, ever. ¡°I haven¡¯t felt like this since our basketball team was competing in the final game in the National Junior High Basketball Competition.¡±

            ¡°I think you¡¯ll all do fine,¡± Sakura confirmed, trying to sound light-hearted. ¡°Come on. We¡¯ve done this hundreds of times. We just need to carry things out in the final night exactly the same as we¡¯ve been doing in rehearsals. And we¡¯ll do fine tonight.¡± Despite her surely words, she could not stop gulp away the pounding feeling in her heart.

            ¡°We spent months preparing for this,¡± Chiharu said. ¡°We better make tonight worth it.¡±

            ¡°Sakura-chan, you look a little green,¡± Naoko commented.

            ¡°I¡¯m fine,¡± Sakura gasped. Up till then, she had been fine. Yet, now, an hour before the curtains opened her stomach felt queasy. All around her in the girl¡¯s dressing room, various female students were dressing in their costume. Some of the background dancers and chorus girls were wearing long flowing dresses, others were wearing more specialized costumes such as Chiharu, who was Lady Capulet, Rika, who was Lady Montague, and Erika, who was of course Rosaline.

            ¡°Erika, you look gorgeous!¡± many girls squealed in envy.

            ¡°I know,¡± Erika said, swirling around in her gorgeous, scoop-necked crimson gown, which sparkled with golden embroidery patiently sewn on by the Tomoeda Elementary students during sewing time.

            ¡°Sakura-chan, aren¡¯t you getting dressed?¡± Miho asked.

            Nodding, Sakura walked to a little back-stage room in the right wing, which was marked ¡®Kinomoto Sakura, Juliet.¡¯ She had the privilege of having a private dressing room since she was the principle character. Out of all the cast, she had the most costumes and in between scenes, she would have to diligently run back and forth to change clothes. The other person with a private dressing room was Syaoran, who had a room in the backstage left wing.

            ¡°Hurry! We have to get our hairs done and put on make up!¡± the girls said and boxes full of every shade of lipstick, eye shadow, foundation, glitter, and blush, as well as brushes, hair-dryers, curling irons, ribbons, hair sprays, and accessories appeared.

            Some girls were cramming over their lines in the script frantically.

            ¡°There you are Tomoyo-chan!¡± Chiharu exclaimed. ¡°Everyone¡¯s frantic!¡±

            ¡°Sorry. I had to talk to the teacher,¡± Tomoyo said. She was the only person who looked completely composed and calm. Being the assistant director, she was dressed neatly in a skirt and blouse, her hair tidily tied up with a blue ribbon. Then she clasped her hands. ¡°Finally, the long awaited opening night!¡±

            Every stared at her frostily.

            ¡°There¡¯s many people watching tonight,¡± Tomoyo commented. ¡°We set up extra rows of chair in the back, but they¡¯re already full.¡±

            Sakura peeked outside the curtains. In the audience, she saw her brother and Yukito sitting near the front. Of course, Nakuru, alias Ruby Moon, was sitting right next to Touya. She gulped. Once again she regretted giving him the tickets because, well, it was rather uncomfortable to act in front of her brother, knowing that Touya and Syaoran, the male protagonist, didn¡¯t hit off well. She felt a little disappointed that her father was missing the production because of his work, but luckily Tomoyo was making a videotape of the whole production. There were several video-cameras set up at different angles all over the auditorium with professional cameramen hired by Tomoyo¡¯s mother. Still, if there was one person that she would have liked to perform for, it would be her father, because she wanted to make him proud of her, performing in a production which her mother had helped to put together.

Meilin, who had taken a seat after finishing helping out in the backstage, as well as Eriol, and all her classmates who weren¡¯t in the production occupied the front rows as well. The Tomoeda Elementary students had already watched the full dress rehearsal the previous day, but many had turned up with their parents for the actual performance night. She spotted various uniforms of different schools, including Seijou High, as well as their rival school, Eitoukou High. In an inconspicuous corner, Sakura recognized Akagi Arima and Tamemura Asuma sitting together, dressed so ordinarily that nobody think they were anything else than an ordinary college couple, along with Mike Kant the photographer, and a bunch of other Seijou University students. To her surprise, she saw that Shing, the artist from New York, was in the audience, who was supposedly in Japan because he had an exhibition in Tokyo, as well as Head Officer Tanaka, Tomoyo¡¯s father, who was sitting in the opposite side of the auditorium from Sonomi, Tomoyo¡¯s mother. Sonomi was sitting with Sakura¡¯s great-grandfather. The last time Sakura¡¯s great-grandfather had seen a school production was when Nadeshiko starred in the Phantom of the Opera, more than twenty years ago. Then, from the back saw a tall figure hurry down the stairs to find an empty seat. He settled in the seat right next to Sonomi. Sakura¡¯s heart lurched. It was her father! Kinomoto Fujitaka, though he was busy with the archeology seminar, had returned to Tomoeda from his business trip in New York, just in time to see Sakura in the production. Though Sonomi scowled at Fujitaka, she still seemed mildly pleased to see him. Just watching all the people Sakura knew in the audience tied her stomach into knots.

            ¡°It¡¯s amazing how many people turned up to see this production,¡± Syaoran¡¯s voice from behind her commented. ¡°And more amazing how many of them we know.¡±

            ¡°Do you think everything will be all right?¡± Sakura asked. ¡°I¡¯ve never been more nervous before. It¡¯s ten times worse than the Best Couple Contest.¡±

            ¡°Don¡¯t worry,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°We¡¯ve spent hours and hours practicing and practicing over again. We¡¯ve done the best we can. So, if we just do what we¡¯ve done before during rehearsal, we¡¯ll be fine.¡±

            ¡°You think so?¡± Sakura smiled crookedly. ¡°Do you remember how we both ended up in this musical in the first place?¡±


            Looking up at Syaoran, Sakura replied, ¡°It was a bet. To prove to each other that we are not cowards. We had a bet over who would chicken out first. Seems like we¡¯ve come a long way since then. And somehow we have ended up as Romeo and Juliet, the main characters.¡±

            ¡°A bet¡¦¡± Syaoran trailed off. A bolt struck him as he came to a sudden realization. She knows. She knows about the bet between Eron and me over her. He didn¡¯t know how he knew; Sakura didn¡¯t mention or even hint about it in any manner. Yet, he just knew, and he knew Sakura hadn¡¯t mentioned it to him on purpose. She didn¡¯t reproach him or express any anger at all. And this made him feel more uneasy.

             ¡°I have a good luck charm for you,¡± Sakura said, her face with no trace of bitterness or resentment. Fumbling in her pocket, she took out a frayed green ribbon. ¡°It may not look like much, but I lost it ages and ages ago¡¦ I think around last autumn. It was my favorite ribbon, and I was really sad when I lost it. But, somehow, I found it in my bag, few days ago, when I returned home.¡±

            Syaoran turned a little pale. He was the guilty culprit who had taken the ribbon from Sakura last autumn, when she had fallen asleep in his house while researching about the Dark Ones. So, he had inconspicuously snuck it back into Sakura¡¯s possession while she stayed in his apartment. Did she notice it?

            ¡°It¡¯s my lucky ribbon,¡± Sakura said holding out the green ribbon. ¡°When I wore it, good things happened. So, you can have it for a good luck charm. If you need such a thing, that is.¡±

            Taking the ribbon, he stared at it hard. A good luck charm?

            ¡°Sakura-chan!¡± Tomoyo called, running towards them. ¡°Oh dear, you¡¯re not even dressed yet! We¡¯re performing in thirty minutes! Come, I¡¯ll get your dressed. Syaoran-kun you better get dressed also.¡±

            ¡°Hey, you¡¯re free tomorrow, right?¡± Syaoran asked Sakura.

            ¡°Huh?¡± Sakura looked away absent-minded. ¡°Oh. Actually, I¡¯m kind of busy tomorrow. I¡¯m sorry.¡±


            ¡°Well, hurry up and get dressed. I guess the next time I see you will be on stage,¡± Sakura said, walking towards her dressing room.

Clutching the ribbon in his hand, Syaoran called out, ¡°Let us carry on that bet till the end, Sakura. Let¡¯s see who backs out first.¡±

            Tilting her head towards Syaoran, Sakura replied, ¡°As you wish, Syaoran. I know you like winning, but I¡¯ll tell you one thing. I don¡¯t like losing.¡±

            ¡°Good, so do your best on stage tonight,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°I¡¯ll do mine. Especially with a good luck charm¡±

            ¡°So what are we betting over?¡± Sakura asked. ¡°Money, dinner, or a present?¡±

            ¡°A kiss,¡± Syaoran called out over the noise of the crowds of people in the backstage.

            ¡°Hoe?¡± Sakura shook her head. She must have heard wrong.


            After he watched Sakura disappear into the dressing room with Tomoyo, Syaoran walked to the other side of the backstage.

            ¡°Aren¡¯t you dressed yet?¡± Eron asked mildly, adjusting a gold button on costume.

            Syaoran stared at Eron with wary amber eyes.

            ¡°Aww, isn¡¯t it too bad Sakura can¡¯t make time for you tomorrow? Don¡¯t be too disappointed,¡± Eron said. ¡°Oh, didn¡¯t mean to overhear or anything.¡±

            ¡°Stupid of me to think I can make a fair deal with you,¡± Syaoran said coldly.

            ¡°What are you talking about? Eron frowned.

            ¡°You can like a person and be fond of a person, but, you don¡¯t really believe in the concept of love? Love itself is shallow, abstract imaginations of the human mind,¡± Syaoran quoted off Eron. ¡°So, what is Sakura to you? I don¡¯t know about you, Eron, but Sakura¡¯s existence to me is something more than someone to be ¡®fond of.¡¯ My feelings for her are not abstract imaginations of the mind. They¡¯re concrete and real.¡±

            ¡°Someone else has been eavesdropping,¡± Eron muttered. When did Syaoran over hear his conversation with Sakura?

¡°At least I¡¯m not dirty and cheap like you are,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°If there¡¯s one thing I can¡¯t stand, it¡¯s slyness.¡±

¡°I¡¯m telling you, I have no idea what you are talking about.¡±

            ¡°Well, you have shown me no reason to believe in your sincerity, but if you are indeed telling the truth, tell me how Sakura figured out about our bet. The ¡®fair and square deal¡¯ bet that you proposed.¡±

            ¡°Bet?¡± Eron¡¯s golden hazel eyes rounded. ¡°Why would she know about that? I¡¯ll tell you one thing. I¡¯m not a very honorable person, but neither do I break promises. I wouldn¡¯t have told her such a thing.¡± Then he stormed off. It wasn¡¯t me who told Sakura. I would have never told her. Then who did?

Only one person could have, his other half. Erika.



From outside, the Seijou High Orchestra began the instrumental prologue. Finally, the long awaited hour had struck. Realizing that her mother and Li Ryuuren composed the music made Sakura a little giddy. Forget about everything and concentrate only on this now. Miho smiled and held out a thumbs up to everyone in the backstage. She was first up. Her chin length auburn hair was neatly brushed and tied with a wide ribbon. She waited for the orchestra to finish the last bar of the prologue. Then calmly, she walked onto the corner of the front stage. The spotlight fell on her, and the noisy audience silenced.

            Miho¡¯s clear, powerful voice, projected by the microphone, filled the auditorium as she began, ¡°Long ago, in fair Verona, there were two rivaling families, the Capulets and the Montagues, both equally powerful and proud. For decades they fought over the Five Great Treasures of Verona and bred on ill-feelings and malice towards each other. These Five Great Treasures consisted of the Ring, the Necklace, the Earrings, the Sword, and the Mirror, and the two families vied for power and wealth.¡±

            The heavy red velvet curtains opened, revealing the backdrop scenery of the streets of Verona, and the first scene unfolded a brawl between the members of the Capulet and Montague family. The Prince of Verona entered magnificently, quieting the brawl, and appeasing both Lord Capulet and Lord Montague.

            Everyone exited the stage, and Syaoran, waiting behind the curtains received his cue to enter for the next scene. He gulped, then walked staidly onto the stage. He was dressed fittingly for a medieval time setting, with a loose white shirt, breeches, boots, and a long navy blue cloak draped carelessly over his shoulders; a nobleman¡¯s casual wear. As soon as he stepped under the light, all the girls in the audience squealed. Yet, he was blind and deaf to anything outside of the stage.  

Miho, the narrator, explained, ¡°Young Romeo Montague was the bored, listless, and reckless only son of the wealthy Lord Montague. He had everything he could desire, being engaged to Rosaline, the most beautiful girl in Verona. His faithful comrade and best friends were Mercutio, a relative of the Prince of Verona, and Benvolio, his cousin, who he had grown up together with. Yet, Romeo was restless, always searching for something more meaningful in his narrow life.¡±

            Benvolio, Romeo¡¯s cousin, and Mercutio, his best friend entered.

            ¡°Good day, Romeo,¡± Takashi, playing Mercutio, greeted. ¡°What are you doing, wandering about on your own on such a nice day? Lord Montague, your father has been looking for you.¡±

            ¡°You don¡¯t have to look so gloomy at this hour,¡± Benvolio added, stepping beside Syaoran.

            ¡°Let me guess, is it love?¡± Mercutio asked.

            ¡°Love?¡± Syaoran replied, in a bored voice.¡±

            ¡°Maybe you have met a beautiful girl,¡± Mercutio continued.

            ¡°No such chance,¡± Benvolio said. ¡°Romeo already has the most beautiful and wealthiest girl in Verona as his fiancée.¡±

            ¡°Rosaline? But Romeo¡¯s parents arranged the marriage for them when they were children,¡± Mercutio protested.

¡°Well, Romeo has been engaged to Rosaline all these years and there¡¯s no reason for that to change,¡± Benvolio remarked.

Slinging his arms around Syaoran¡¯s neck, Mercutio said with vigor, ¡°Tell me, Romeo, that there¡¯s something more in your life, more meaningful, more passionate!¡±

            Slipping out of his friend¡¯s hold, Syaoran replied flatly, ¡°As Cousin Benvolio said, no such chance.¡±



            Meanwhile, Tomoyo whispered to Sakura, who was waiting patiently backstage, ¡°Your scene is coming up next.¡±

Sakura¡¯s heart thumped. Syaoran had now ended his scene, which ran smoothly, along with Erika¡¯s first entrance, who was confident and unhesitant about her part as Romeo¡¯s fiancée. There was a scene change to the Capulet¡¯s household. Currently, Lord Capulet was conversing with Count Paris, Eron, over Juliet¡¯s marriage matter. Next, it was Sakura¡¯s turn to enter.

            Miho continued, from the left corner of the stage, apart from the main scene, ¡°Juliet Capulet was the only child of the great Lord Capulet. She was innocent, kind-hearted, yet wild and irresponsible, growing up with little control or discipline. Her closest friends were her cousins, who were all male, and regarded her as another boy. Deep in her heart, she realized that she should have been born as a son, and this made her grow up in a manner in which a son would have, learning how to fence, fist fight, and defend herself. But despite her will, she was fast becoming a young woman, who could no longer run around carelessly without worries as she had been.¡±

            From the stage, Lady Capulet, Chiharu, said flicking her lace-edged fan, ¡°Nurse, where¡¯s Juliet? Call her for me.¡±

            The Nurse clucked, ¡°That Juliet is always running off somewhere. It¡¯s not fit for her to always play with all her male cousins or the servants. No wonder she is so unladylike.¡± Loudly, she called, ¡°JULIET!¡±

            It¡¯s now, Sakura told herself. Focus only on my part. I am Juliet Montague, young, naïve, and reckless. I haven¡¯t experienced anything in this world yet, and am awaiting something, someone out there, in this wide world. Gathering up her long skirt, she ran up onto the stage. ¡°Coming!¡± Then, she attempted a curtsy in front of Lady Capulet. ¡°Did you call for me, Mother?¡±

            Lady Capulet said, ¡°My daughter, a lady must not run in the house.¡±

            ¡°I apologize, Mother,¡± Sakura replied, looking down at her feet. She tried to tidy her wavy hair and straighten her dandelion color dress.

            Shaking her head, the Nurse began fussing with Sakura. ¡°Your dress is all dirty, and your hair is all tangled. Who will ever marry such a disgrace as you, little Juliet?¡±

            ¡°But Nurse, Cousin Tybalt challenged me to a fencing duel, and I couldn¡¯t resist! I almost beat him this time!¡± Sakura stated with triumph.

            ¡°Humph. It¡¯s a pity you¡¯re not a boy; you certainly would have suited very well as one. But, you are yet the only child of the great Lord Capulet, and you are a girl,¡± the Nurse chattered on. ¡°I don¡¯t know who you will marry off to, but I certainly feel sorry for that man.¡±

¡°Nurse, please!¡± Lady Capulet said severely.

            ¡°Sorry, Madam,¡± the Nurse apologized.

            ¡°Now tell me, Juliet, what do you think about marriage?¡± Lady Capulet inquired.

            ¡°Marriage?¡± Sakura squeaked. ¡°I haven¡¯t thought about such a thing yet. I¡¯m too young.¡±

            ¡°I was married at your age,¡± Lady Capulet replied. ¡°The notorious Count Paris, cousin to Prince Escalus, seeks for your love.¡±

            ¡°Count Paris?¡±

            ¡°Yes. The Capulets are on good terms with him, and you also have known him since childhood. I sincerely hope you would consider Paris, Juliet. He¡¯s a very good young man. In fact, you won¡¯t be able to find a better young man than him in Verona. You will consider, won¡¯t you?¡±

            ¡°Y-yes mother,¡± Juliet replied.

            At that moment, Tybalt, played by Aki, ran onto the stage, then bowed before Lady Capulet. ¡°Good day my aunt. I seek for Lord Capulet.¡±

            Lord Capulet entered and sat down in a chair. ¡°What is it, Tybalt?¡±

            ¡°My uncle, I have found out where the fourth treasure of Great Treasures of Verona is hidden. The Ring, as I heard from faithful servants, is hidden in the Ancient Forests of Verona. And if I am correct, the Montagues have also received this news.¡±

            ¡°What?¡± Lord Capulet bolted to his feet. ¡°Then we must act immediately.¡±


            The narrator, Miho stated, ¡°It was the tradition of the eldest son of each family to seek out for the Five Great Treasures. Currently, the Montagues had the advantage of owning two of the five treasures: the Earring, and the Sword. The Capulets owned only the Necklace, which was a blow to their pride. It was the first time in this generation in which the whereabouts of the remaining treasures was discovered, and so for the first time, the Capulets faced the dilemma of having their eldest and only child as a daughter instead of a son.¡±


            ¡°Let me go, father,¡± Sakura said, kneeling at her father¡¯s feet. ¡°It is the tradition of the eldest child of the Capulet house to seek for the Treasure of Verona.¡±

            ¡°It¡¯s the tradition for the eldest son,¡± Lord Capulet corrected. Ignoring Juliet¡¯s plea, he turned to his nephew, Tybalt. ¡°Lord Montague has a son named Romeo, does he not? That boy would be sent out to find the Ring.¡±

            ¡°I believe so,¡± Tybalt replied.

            ¡°If it¡¯s a son of a Montague that I will be facing, there is no problem,¡± Sakura interrupted. ¡°I will bring honor to the Capulet name and bring back the Ring. Please give me a chance, Father.¡±

            ¡°Well,¡± Lord Capulet hesitated.

            ¡°It is true that my cousin Juliet is a skilled fighter, having grown up sword-fighting in the streets with the rest of us,¡± Tybalt said. ¡°And she is your eldest child, girl despite it all. But she¡¯s as good as any son would ever be.¡±

            ¡°Fine then. Juliet, remember you are representing the Capulets,¡± Lord Capulet consented.

            ¡°Thank you, Father,¡± Juliet exclaimed, leaping to her feet. She held out a thumbs up to Tybalt.

            Lady Capulet fanned herself furiously. ¡°If she gets hurt, if she ruins her face¡¦¡±
            ¡°Don¡¯t worry, Aunt, she¡¯ll be fine,¡± Tybalt reassured.



            In between the next scene, Yukito asked blinking, ¡°Sakura was Juliet?¡±

            Shrugging Touya said, ¡°Beats me. She never told me anything. Of course, I was away, but¡¦¡±

            ¡°I never knew that Juliet was a tomboy,¡± Nakuru whispered.

            ¡°Wait a minute! Isn¡¯t the Brat Romeo?¡± Touya interjected.

            ¡°Ooh! And isn¡¯t ¡®Star-Crossed¡¯ the love story of Romeo and Juliet?¡± Nakuru squealed.

            Scowling, Touya realized why Sakura tried to keep the production a secret. Still, there was nothing he could do about it. ¡°Well, it was a good thing you made it back in time, Father,¡± Touya said. ¡°It seems as if our little monster is the female protagonist. Silly thing, keeping that a secret for all these months.¡±

            Smiling, Fujitaka replied, ¡°It really is a good thing both of us came back in time to see the production. Think how disappointed Sakura would have been if we weren¡¯t here to watch her.¡±

            ¡°She wouldn¡¯t have been disappointed if I missed it,¡± Touya muttered. Yet, he wouldn¡¯t deny that he was enjoying the production immensely so far.



            Collapsing on a chair in her dressing room, Sakura sighed with relief. Her first scene had passed by smooth enough. On stage, she could hear Romeo and Lord Montague¡¯s dialogue.

            ¡°Remember, Romeo, bring honor to the Montague house. We are far superior to the Capulets, and we will not lose to them. Carry your mission out faithfully as a Monatague should,¡± Lord Capulet said.

            ¡°I should obey and bring honor to our name, Father,¡± Syaoran replied coolly, bowing, and exiting the stage with a flick of his cloak.

            With the enthusiastic applaud of the audience as the Act One ended, the curtains closed, as there was a scene change into the Ancient Forests of Verona. Sakura took her position in the darkened stage, taking a deep breath. She adjusted her cloak. Now was the hard part. It would be the first encounter with Romeo. Slowly, the heavy curtains opened again and a dark, bluish light shone on the stage.

            Step by step, Sakura approached a stand in the center of the stage, where the Ring was set on. She could hear another footstep coming from the other side of the stage. As she reached for the Ring, another hand reached for it also. She stared up, greeted by a pair of golden amber eyes, which shone like two fireballs in the darkness. Suddenly, her stomach knotted, and her throat felt dry. Every line she knew fled from her mind, and when she opened her mouth, only a croak came out. The audience waited in prolonged suspense. She began to panic and her hands trembled. Mentally, she scolded herself, Speak! Say your lines, Sakura! What are you hesitating for? You¡¯ve practiced this a billion times! Yet, she still couldn¡¯t speak.

            Breaking the silence, Syaoran asked, ¡°Who¡¯s there?¡± It wasn¡¯t his line yet he saved her from the intimidation.

            Finally able to bring words to her lips Sakura replied in a level voice, ¡°I am a Capulet and this Ring shall belong to us.¡± To her relief all her lines rushed back to her.

            ¡°Funny thing for you to say, Capulet. I am a Montague, and the Ring shall belong to us. I shall never bring dishonor to my family name,¡± Syaoran replied equally as confident. ¡°And I am not afraid to fight for it.¡±

            Without hesitation, Sakura slammed her fist into Syaoran¡¯s stomach. Syaoran doubled over, groaning. Oops¡¦ Did I punch too hard? Sakura thought. Oh well. Then, she grabbed the ring off stand in the middle of the ¡°forest,¡± slipping on her finger. For a second, she admired the gleaming blue stone set in the ring. Tomoyo did a good job in working down to the tiniest details in the play, including the faux jewelry. Wait, she was sure that this ring was familiar. After, star sapphires were very rare.

            ¡°Give that ring to me!¡± Syaoran exclaimed, having recovered. He drew is sword from his sheath. Instinctively, Sakura drew hers out. As Syaoran slammed down his sword, she expertly blocked, then stepped back, bring down her swords. Hours, days, months, devoted to that scene paid off. The clash of the metal rang out clearly.

            The audience awed at the sword-fighting duel.

            ¡°Wow, it¡¯s better than the movies,¡± one person commented.

            ¡°How do they do that?¡± another replied. ¡°It¡¯s completely professional!¡±

            //CLASH// Sakura let down another fierce blow at Syaoran¡¯s sword. To her horror, her sword sliced into two. This isn¡¯t supposed to happen! I know it¡¯s only a fake prop sword that can¡¯t cut a thing, but so is his! Or is it? When she looked at the horrified look on Syaoran¡¯s face, she figured that his wasn¡¯t just a prop sword but a real one. How could it be? But she had to think fast. Juliet was supposed to defeat Romeo. However she could not fight and ¡°win¡± if she didn¡¯t have a sword.

            Quickly, she ducked behind a prop boulder, and in a matter of seconds, released the Sword card.

            Triumphantly, she discarded the hilt of the prop sword and held out the narrow fencing-style blade of the Sword, resuming the sword fight. When they came to a close deadlock, Syaoran whispered in her ear, ¡°Good thinking, using the Sword Card.¡±

            She whispered back, ¡°Thanks for saving me a while ago, when I forgot my lines.¡± Then, as portrayed in the script, Sakura deftly knocked Syaoran¡¯s sword out of his hands and exclaimed, panting, ¡°Admit it. I¡¯ve defeated you, Montague.¡± Her shirt was sweat-soaked and her muscles ached. Did they carry the sword fight out to far?

            ¡°I accept defeat,¡± Syaoran replied grudgingly, lifting his arms up. To Sakura¡¯s satisfaction, he seemed equally as breathless. ¡°You may take my life if you wish. A Montague defeated by a Capulet is not worth living.¡±

            ¡°Don¡¯t worry. I prefer keeping things clean,¡± Sakura said, slipping her sword back into the sheath. ¡°Well, the Capulets tie with the Montagues now. Each family has two of the Five Treasures of Verona.¡±

            ¡°But there¡¯s still one left. The Mirror. And I will find it without doubt,¡± Syaoran stated boldly.

            ¡°I can say the same,¡± Sakura replied. ¡°I will never lose to a filthy Montague.¡±

            ¡°You!¡± Syaoran leaped at her, but she ducked out of the way. She ducked so quickly, that she tripped over a prop boulder set behind her, sending her on her back. Syaoran tripped over her and landed on top of her. This isn¡¯t supposed to happen either, Sakura groaned. I guess we did carry on that sword fight too far. Neither of us got into it this much during rehearsals. Maybe it was because we were fighting with real swords. Then, Sakura realized that Syaoran was supposed to speak next, but he was in a shock state from falling over. ¡°Your line!¡± she hissed.

            Carrying on as if the fall had been natural, Syaoran stood up and stared at her. ¡°Why, you¡¯re only a girl!¡±

            ¡°So what?¡± Sakura demanded, trying to stand up naturally, and untangle her cloak from her feet, looking graceful at the same time. It didn¡¯t matter anyway, because she was wearing the same style of clothing that Syaoran was, which made it impossible to look elegant.

            ¡°You¡¯re dressed as a boy, and certainly not acting like a girl, so I never suspected.

            Chin in the air, Sakura stated boldly, ¡°Do you have a problem with that?¡±

            Laughing cruelly, Syaoran asked, ¡°Don¡¯t tell me Lord Capulet¡¯s only child happens to be a girl! What nerve they have to send someone like you on such an important mission! You should stay at home during embroidery and prepare to marry to some rich count of some sort.¡±

            Tossing her braided hair back, Sakura replied, ¡°Well that ¡®girl¡¯ defeated you, so you¡¯re no better than a ¡®girl.¡¯ I¡¯ll tell you one thing, Montague. I¡¯ll never lose to you!¡±

            ¡°Well, till the next time,¡± Syaoran said, turning around with a swish of his midnight black cloak. ¡°And beware, next time, I won¡¯t lose. I¡¯ll show you properly what your place is, Capulet.¡±


           ¡°So, this was fatal first meeting of Romeo and Juliet, though they did not yet realize the significance of it yet,¡± Miho said. ¡°And they were to fated meet again, under different conditions.¡± The curtain fell again, and a thunderous applause was greeted.


            ¡°Hurry, Sakura-chan! You have to get into your ballroom dress!¡± Tomoyo exclaimed backstage, dragging Sakura into the dressing room. ¡°You¡¯re a mess! It really looks like you were in an actual sword fight!¡±

            ¡°I was,¡± Sakura replied, trying to catch her breath. Luckily, she had one scene to rest through and dress, while Syaoran had to go up on stage almost immediately afterwards. ¡°Don¡¯t even talk about it. I¡¯m sorry, I think I made so many stupid mistakes.¡±

            ¡°No, I was watching off the side, and everything sounded really natural, even if it wasn¡¯t quite faithful to the script,¡± Tomoyo reassured. ¡°Here, get into this dress, and I better do something about your hair.¡±

            ¡°Hoe! There¡¯s a rip down the side!¡± Sakura exclaimed, holding up her ball dress. Nothing seemed to be turning out right!

            Carefully, Tomoyo observed it. Then smiling, she replied, ¡°Don¡¯t worry, you can wear this instead! It¡¯s lucky that I always prepare extra clothes for you, Sakura-chan.¡± She held up a beautiful ice blue ballroom gown. Though the script specified that Rosaline should have a more elegant dress than Juliet, Tomoyo found the temptation to make Sakura¡¯s costume the most magnificent hard to resist.

            After Sakura dressed, Tomoyo rapidly fell into curling Sakura¡¯s hair and fussing with make-up, bringing out all the right highlights on her face so that she would look good on stage. Meanwhile, Sakura stared at the sapphire ring on her slender fourth finger. No, it was not an extra intricate prop item. It was the real thing.


            Back on stage, Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio walked along outside of the Capulet¡¯s household. Takashi chuckled. He really liked his role as Mercutio. It was easy, fun, as well as thought provoking. Indeed, he rather felt sorry for Syaoran, who had to go on stage, rush back to the dressing room to change costumes in a matter of seconds, then run on stage again.

            ¡°Don¡¯t worry, Romeo. I¡¯m sure Lord Montague would get over the fact that you lost the Ring to the Capulets,¡± Mercutio reassured.

            ¡°I¡¯ve disappointed Father and the Montague¡¯s name,¡± Syaoran replied sullenly. ¡°To a girl!¡±

            ¡°Don¡¯t sweat over it,¡± Benvolio said sympathetically. ¡°There¡¯s still one Treasure remaining.¡±

            ¡°I have an idea!¡± Mercutio exclaimed. ¡°There¡¯s a ball tonight. Let¡¯s all go, forget everything and party!¡±

            ¡°I¡¯m not in the mood,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°You know I despise big celebrations.¡±

            ¡°Come on, friend. It¡¯s the biggest event of the month! Everyone will be going to it! I bet Rosaline, your fiancée is, also!¡± Mercutio goaded. ¡°The food, music, entertainment, not to mention beautiful girls, would be great!¡±

            ¡°So, where is this huge ball, anyway?¡± Benvolio asked.

            ¡°Right here!¡± Mercutio replied, pointing up at the Capulet property.

            ¡°Wait a second, isn¡¯t this the Capulet house?¡± Benvolio inquired. ¡°Are you crazy, Mercutio? We would be dead if we¡¯re caught.¡±

            ¡°You two would be, not me,¡± Mercutio replied. ¡°I¡¯m not a Montague.¡±

            ¡°You¡¯re a friend of a Montague,¡± Romeo pointed out. ¡°That¡¯s just as bad.¡±

            ¡°Well, Rosaline, your fiancée was invited to that ball,¡± Mercutio retorted.

            ¡°She¡¯s the Prince¡¯s relative,¡± Romeo said.

            ¡°So am I,¡± Mercutio stated. ¡°So, we¡¯re going to the ball, okay? Please? It will be a refreshing break. Don¡¯t worry, we can go in disguise. I have masks.¡±

            ¡°It¡¯s okay. They won¡¯t know my face anyway, except for Rosaline,¡± Romeo said.

            ¡°Humph, that¡¯s true. Nobody knows what you look like because you appear in so few social events, including ones hosted by your own family,¡± Mercutio said. ¡°Well what are we waiting for? Let¡¯s go!¡±

            ¡°I don¡¯t think it¡¯s a very good idea,¡± Benvolio muttered.

            ¡°Oh come on,¡± Mercutio stated, dragging his two friends along.


            The scene changed into the Capulet¡¯s brilliant grand ballroom. Everyone gaped at the dazzling gold chandelier, and the elegantly painted backdrop. Each person on stage wore elaborate medieval style costumes that blended well with the setting.

            ¡°Welcome guests!¡± Lord Capulet said, holding up a wine glass. ¡°Let us feast and enjoy a grand night!¡± All the guests cheered.

            Sneakily entering the scene, Mercutio, grabbing a wine glass, stated, ¡°See, I told you it would be fun if we came here. Look at all those beautiful Capulet girls!¡±

            ¡°Ha, good riddance,¡± Syaoran scoffed. ¡°I¡¯ve met one of them, the only daughter of Lord Capulet. Though it was too dark to see her face, she was a spitfire with a bad temper. I¡¯m sure her looks match her personality.¡±

            ¡°Look, there¡¯s Rosaline!¡± Benvolio pointed out. ¡°Without doubt, she is the most beautiful out of all the girls present, and there¡¯s quite a lot of beauties tonight.¡±

            The spotlight fell on Erika, as Rosaline, and the deep crimson dress set off her figure. Her dark violet hair was gathered up into a bunch of curls at the top of her head and she indeed looked striking and stood out from the rest of the people. Walking to the three of them, she exclaimed, ¡°Romeo, what are you doing here?¡±

            ¡°Shh!¡± Romeo said. ¡°Don¡¯t say my name out loud.¡±

            ¡°You have some nerve, showing your face in your enemy¡¯s great ball,¡± Rosaline scolded, laughingly. She flicked out a matching scarlet fan and fanned spread it out elegantly. ¡°Well, since you¡¯re here, you¡¯ll dance with me, won¡¯t you?¡±

            ¡°As you please, my lady,¡± Syaoran replied to Erika, with a flourishing bow, as he held out his hand.

            Wow, this is different from any rehearsal, Erika thought. I always had to half drag him to get him to dance with me. But, right now, something¡¯s different. She felt light-headed as she danced a waltz, led by Syaoran¡¯s strong arms. Then, the orchestra quieted only to the strings playing a slower, dreamier tune.

            On the other side of the ballroom, Sakura slowly entered the stage. Everyone¡¯s head turned towards her direction. As she stepped into the light, her chiffon dress rustled. The pale blue of the dress stood out from the rest of the colors on the stage, and the sequin trimmings glittered, like stars twinkling; the lace decorated the hems of her dress like silvery, frosty ice. The round neckline of the dress revealed a, crystal stone, which glowed brightly like the deep blue stone of her ring. Even people sitting in the audience could see those gems since they were so dazzling. Feeling everyone¡¯s eyes on her, Sakura gulped, keeping her chin level.

           Feeling a trifle annoyed, Erika stared at Sakura. Rosaline was supposed to stand out the most, not Juliet. Yet, her crimson dress, as beautiful as it was, was overshadowed by the bright ice blue dress that Sakura wore. Nobody could hide Tomoyo¡¯s dressmaking skills. But there was more to it than that. The dress brought out the soft feature¡¯s in Sakura¡¯s face, making her eyes seem like two verdant gems, her skin smooth and pale, and her expression serene and calm. She felt Syaoran stare at Sakura as if time had stopped and nothing else existed in the world. Of course, that was a part of the production, but still¡¦

            Syaoran continued to stare at Sakura, who conversed with Lord and Lady Capulet, then to Eron, playing Count Paris, and looking just the part of a wealthy count. If anyone matched the medieval style setting of Verona, it was Eron, down to his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail.

Gritting her teeth, Erika scolded herself, I don¡¯t have to feel so annoyed. It¡¯s part of the script. Romeo is supposed to stare at Juliet, as if nothing in the world matters at all. Yet, yet why does Syaoran have to stare at Sakura with those kind of eyes. Erika shook her head and focused back onto the play. She didn¡¯t even realize that she had switched partners and now she was dancing with Tybalt, Aki. He looked completely at ease, also.

From the other side of the stage, Juliet, who was now standing alone, looked around carefully, before grabbing a pastry from the long banquet table set with food, then ducking underneath the table and crawling under it to the other side of the stage. The audience stifled giggles. They had expected Juliet to be characterized as sweet, naïve, and ladylike. A wild tomboy Juliet had been little expected.

Through the crowds of people, dancing in bright-colored ball rooms dresses, Syaoran made his way across the stage, to the other end of the banquet table, where Sakura emerged, a moment later, with the pastry in her mouth.

Kindly, Syaoran offered her a hand. With a horrified look on her face, Sakura dropped the pastry from her mouth, and stood up, brushing her skirt into place.

¡°I—I dropped something on the ground, so I was looking for it,¡± Sakura stammered.

¡°When I was younger I used to just show my face at social occasions, then slip away in the middle of the festivity,¡± Syaoran said with a hooked smile.

¡°Really? I used to do that too!¡± Sakura exclaimed. ¡°One time, it was pouring outside, yet I had so much fun, away from the crowds of people. Of course, I got into trouble when I returned home, in my soaking wet ball gown. But, it was worth it.¡±

¡°So, were you trying to escape the ball right now?¡± Syaoran asked. ¡°I¡¯m sorry I blocked your escape route.¡±

¡°No, it¡¯s fine,¡± Sakura said, quickly.

Staring out at the assortment of people dancing, Syaoran stated, ¡°People enjoy grand balls and social gatherings. They savor the elegance, feeling special, and having everyone look upon them.¡±

Sakura, who had been staring at her feet stared up at Syaoran. A mistake, she told herself. Of course, it was a part of the script to look intently at Romeo, but the last time she looked in his eyes, she had forgotten her lines completely. The rest of the stage dimmed, and the spotlight fell on the two of them. ¡°I don¡¯t,¡± she said.

With curiosity, Syaoran turned to face her. ¡°Why?¡±

¡°I don¡¯t like the trapped, stifling feeling,¡± Sakura continued. ¡°When I¡¯m in grand occasions like this, I feel like a prettily dressed marionette, that has to smile, be courteous, and lady-like even to people that I despise.¡±

¡°Like a puppet that has to live up to everyone expectations, with no voice of my own, no freedom, no liberty,¡± Syaoran trailed off.   

Eagerly, Sakura asked, ¡°You know that feeling also?¡±

¡°Of course I do,¡± Syaoran replied, softly. ¡°Of course I do. Nobody knows it better than me.¡±

¡°I¡¯ve never seen you before. Is it because you dislike social occasions?¡±

¡°Yes. I attend very few of them.¡±

¡°Funny. Verona must be a very small place to be able to meet someone who related with my thoughts like you do,¡± Sakura commented.

¡°I was thinking, funny, Verona must be a very wide place, to imagine that I¡¯ve never met you in all the years of my life,¡± Syaoran said.

They laughed together.

Holding out a hand elegantly, Syaoran asked, ¡°Instead of trying to escape, do you want to dance instead?¡±

The orchestra began another waltz. Sakura found herself in Syaoran¡¯s arms, their feet moving with the rhythm of the beautiful music. Everything seemed to freeze around them, and it seemed as if the world was turning just for the two of them.

¡°You dance like you have wings on your feet,¡± Syaoran said.

¡°Hmm?¡± Sakura stared up at Syaoran. Was that a part of the script? She couldn¡¯t think at that moment, however. She hoped that Syaoran didn¡¯t notice how her hands were sweating. Or were his hands wet as well? It didn¡¯t matter. Because the person dancing in front of her was not Syaoran, but Romeo Montague, her archrival, and she was Juliet Capulet, falling in love for the first time.


The spotlight switched to another corner of the stage, where Lord Capulet stood, conversing with his guests. Aki pushed his way through the guests and tapped Lord Capulet.

Turning around, Lord Capulet asked, ¡°What is it, Tybalt?¡±

Bowing, Tybalt replied, ¡°I have been informed that Montagues are attending this ball at this moment. And that young man over there, dancing with my cousin Juliet happens to be the only son of Lord Montague.¡±

All the Capulets looked up in anger, reaching for the swords, including Tybalt.

¡°No, don¡¯t cause any havoc in this ball,¡± Lord Capulet consoled. ¡°The Montagues haven¡¯t caused any problem yet, and I see no reason for the festive mood to be ruined because of our house feud.¡±

¡°But—¡° Tybalt was cut off.

¡°Just keep alert and watch him,¡± Lord Capulet said.


Focusing back on the dancing Romeo and Juliet, Syaoran asked, ¡°What¡¯s your name?¡±

¡°My name?¡± Sakura repeated. ¡°What¡¯s yours?¡±

¡°My name is Ro—¡°

¡°Juliet!!! Oh Juliet!¡± the Nurse called. ¡°Your mother wants to have a word with you.¡±

¡°Oh,¡± Sakura groaned, dropping Syaoran¡¯s hand. ¡°I¡¯m sorry. I better go.¡±

¡°JULIET!!!¡± the Nurse called again.

            Gathering up her skirt, Sakura briskly headed to Juliet¡¯s impatient nurse.

            ¡°Wait! My name is Romeo!¡± Syaoran shouted. ¡°Romeo Montague!¡±

            Turning around Sakura stared with an expression of horror, which baffled Romeo. With a pained look in her brilliant emerald eyes, she turned around. Then, she drifted into the crowd, out of his sight.

            Mercutio walked up to Romeo. ¡°Do you know who you just danced with?¡±

            ¡°Tell me, Mercutio, who is she?¡± Syaoran asked dreamily, still gazing at the place she had disappeared into.

            ¡°Her name is Juliet,¡± Mercutio replied.

            ¡°Juliet¡¦ yes, I heard someone calling her by that name,¡± Romeo said.

            ¡°Juliet Capulet. The only child of Lord Capulet,¡± Mercutio finished off.

            Turning pale, Syaoran turned around to face his friend.

Takashi had a serious expression on his face, as he acted Mercutio¡¯s part. ¡°You were dancing with the daughter of your family¡¯s greatest enemy. Indeed, you made Rosaline mad enough, that she left in the middle of the ball. Benvolio had to escort her back to the palace.¡±

Yet, Romeo was deaf to Mercutio¡¯s ranting about how Rosaline was in a bad temper. Absentmindedly, Syaoran commented, ¡°Yes. Verona must be a very small place after all. This isn¡¯t my first time meeting her. She was the very one who stole the Five Force Treasure. She was Juliet Capulet. She was my obstacle, my enemy.¡±


            ¡°However, it was too late. Romeo, despite the odds, that strange girl he had met at the Capulet ball had captivated his heart to the point that was too far to turn back,¡± Miho said.


            The next scene switched to the ever so famous balcony scene. All the lights on the stage had been dimmed to a dreamy night tone, and the background glittered with what seemed like real stars, special little light bulbs attached by Kai. Sakura walked onto the balcony and leaned against the railing, staring wistfully up at the sky in her soliloquy. Her snow white gown rustled, and her golden brown hair framed her face. Mist floated over the stage. She seemed like a glowing angel perched on the balcony as she mused over why her only love sprung from her only hate, and why Romeo had to be a Montague.

            Then, aware that someone was listening to her, Sakura asked abruptly, ¡°Who¡¯s there?¡±

            Syaoran stepped out of the shadows, his chestnut brown hair tousled and his eyes blazing with sincerity. A gust of crimson rose petals blew over the stage, filling the auditorium with the sweet aroma of a summer night garden (also thanks to Kai.)



            Staring intently at the stage, Touya pondered, Are they acting? It seems too sincere to be acting. It¡¯s one thing to say words with emotion, and another to look like you have the emotion. I know that. Did anything happen while I was away? He mentally smacked himself on the head. Of course something happened. He¡¯d been away for months. Anything could have happened. He reverted his attention back onto the stage.



             ¡°You are my enemy, Romeo Montague,¡± Sakura said bitterly.

            Syaoran replied, ¡°I admit, I am a Montague, the sworn enemy of Capulets. Truthfully, I would never have approached you if I knew you were a Capulet. The very Capulet that I fought only a few nights ago in the Ancient Forests of Verona.¡±

¡°Yet, you did,¡± Sakura said, softly. ¡°You did approach me. And I thought I finally found someone to understand me.¡±

¡°I thought so, too. Tell me, Juliet, am I truly your enemy?¡± Syaoran asked with an urgency in his voice.

¡°You¡¯re a Montague,¡± Sakura stated firmly.

¡°Does that really make a difference?¡± Syaoran questioned, craning his neck to stare up at Sakura from beneath the balcony.

¡°A Montague and a Capulet can never be friends,¡± Sakura replied.

¡°Can¡¯t you for a moment see me not as a Montague, but just as a person in love with a girl?¡°

Sakura¡¯s said in a pained voice, ¡°We two victims are caught in the middle of a bloody family feud that dated back to generations before.¡±

¡°So, do you want to accept that whatever we personally desire, feel, or hope for is all in vain? Are we only helpless puppets of Fate?¡± Syaoran demanded.

¡°Life isn¡¯t always fair,¡± Sakura replied softly. ¡°And Fate isn¡¯t often merciful.¡±

¡°Well, I won¡¯t accept it,¡± Syaoran retorted. ¡°I¡¯ll change Fate. Just reply, do you think me as your enemy?¡±

At that moment, they heard footsteps heading that way.   

Gasping, Sakura warned, ¡°Hurry and leave, Romeo. You¡¯re on Capulet grounds, and if you¡¯re caught, my father can very well take your life.¡±

            ¡°I won¡¯t leave until you reply my questioned,¡± Syaoran replied obstinately.

            With glistening eyes, she said, ¡°Romeo, don¡¯t you know I don¡¯t see you as anything other than the good person you are inside? Names don¡¯t make a difference as to who you are. True, to the Capulets, you are an enemy. But for me, you are my savior. I was lost and you found me.¡±

            Smiling, Syaoran said, ¡°You know, I lied a little while ago. Even if I knew you were the only daughter of Capulet, I still would have approached you. Because, you are one of those rare stars which shine in the night sky, ever so constantly, to guide one meager soul to happiness.¡±

            ¡°I lied also.¡± Sakura stared up at the sky, leaning her chin on her hand, over the baloney railing. ¡°Life is fair, after all.¡± She smiled widely. ¡°Fate let me meet you.¡±

            The footsteps became louder.

            ¡°Hurry, you better run away through the back gate,¡± Sakura urged.

            Nodding, Syaoran began running towards the wall.

            ¡°Wait, Romeo! When will I meet you again?¡± Sakura called.

            ¡°Soon enough,¡± Syaoran replied, grinning. ¡°Though any wait will seem like eternity for me.¡±

            ¡°Stay safe, Romeo!¡± Sakura said, before Syaoran disappeared over the walls.


            ¡°Feel my heart pounding,¡± Chiharu sighed, as she leaned her head through the backstage curtains to watch the scene come to a close. This was nothing like the rehearsals. Rehearsals hadn¡¯t made her hold her breath like this, with a strong anticipation in her stomach. Though she knew the whole script inside out, it was as if she was seeing it for the first time.

            Sniffling, Rika dabbed her eyes.

            ¡°Rika-chan! This is not even the sad part yet!¡± Chiharu scolded.

            ¡°I know, but it¡¯s just so beautiful,¡± Rika said. ¡°Two lovers forbidden to love each other because of Fate¡¦¡±

            ¡°Humph. How come Li-kun¡¯s getting more applause than me?¡± Aki grumbled as the curtains closed, ending Part 1 of Star-Crossed.


            ¡°Part One of Star-Crossed has ended. There will now be a fifteen minute intermission,¡± Miho announced. ¡°Drinks and snacks are being sold outside the theater, at stands organized by Seijou Junior High Students. Bathrooms are located in the main building, and also at the upper left hand wing. A donation box for the Children¡¯s Hospital is set up at the back of the auditorium, and Seijou Junior High would be gratified for any donators to help the hospital. Please be back in your seats in fifteen minutes, when the doors will close.¡±

            Everyone let out a feisty applause, before rising, and talking to each other with excitement, expressing their eagerness to watch the second half of the production.


            Meanwhile, backstage, all the students were hustling to set up the backdrop and props for the next scene, change into new costumes, and check up with different coordinators of the production, such as the lighting crew and setting crew because Part Two would have even more special effects.



            ¡°You did great in Part 1,¡± Tomoyo said, as she carefully wiped off the beads of perspiration that had formed on Sakura¡¯s forehead.

            Sakura was yet in a daze after the hectic first half. She was grateful for the quiet private dressing room. Shaking her head, Sakura said, ¡°I almost forgot my lines, so Syaoran covered up for me in Act 2.¡±

            ¡°Nobody noticed,¡± Tomoyo reassured.

            Now that she had a moment to catch her breath and drink a cool bottle of mineral water, Sakura¡¯s head felt clearer. She had been so intent on focusing on her role as Juliet, she had forgotten all other pressing matters. She frowned. ¡°Now that I think of it, do you know how Syaoran¡¯s prop sword was replaced with a real one?¡±

            ¡°It was?¡± Tomoyo asked, surprised. ¡°No wonder your practice sword broke.¡±

            ¡°Not only that, but the prop Ring of Verona, was replaced with the star-sapphire ring,¡± Sakura stated. ¡°It¡¯s Syaoran¡¯s, and I don¡¯t know how it ended up replacing the fake one that we have been using up till now during rehearsals. In fact, I don¡¯t see how it left Syaoran in the first place. He always wears it in a silver chain around his neck.¡± She stared at her ring finger, then frowned. The blue sapphire ring was gone. Her hand flew to her neck. So was the diamond necklace. She didn¡¯t¡¯ recall taking it off. Something was smelling very fishy. Bolting up from her chair, Sakura ran out of the dressing room, towards the other side of the stage. Puzzled, Tomoyo followed.

            Without bothering to knock, Sakura burst into Syaoran¡¯s dressing room. She blinked. Syaoran was in the process of taking off his shirt.

            ¡°Gah! Don¡¯t you know how to knock?¡± Syaoran grumbled, pulling his shirt back on hastily.

            But it wasn¡¯t before she saw a long white scar down his back. She hadn¡¯t noticed it before. Even when they went to the beach back in Kusakou for the Best Couple Contest, he had always been in water, or turning his back away from her. And when they were living together, he always seemed touchy about being caught without his shirt on. Now she knew why. That scar was the remains of protecting her from the dark force, the Whip, months ago. When the Whip lashed down on her, he had covered her with his body, resulting in being whipped senseless. She big her lip; she never knew. Why hadn¡¯t he told her? She could have gotten rid of that scar with the Heal card.

¡°So, what was so urgent that you had to come bursting into my dressing room?¡± Syaoran questioned.

 ¡°You know that sword you were using in the Act 2, when you were fighting against me,¡± Sakura began.

            ¡°Yeah?¡± Syaoran was still rather annoyed by being walked in while dressing.

            ¡°Did you recognize it?¡±

            ¡°I guess it felt familiar,¡± Syaoran replied.

            ¡°Was it your father¡¯s old practice sword, the one Meilin brought to replace your other one?¡± Sakura asked.

           ¡°No¡¦ It felt even more familiar than that in my hand¡¦ Like the Li Clan Sword¡¦ The Five Force Sword. Yes! That¡¯s it! It was the Five Force Sword!¡± Then Syaoran paused. It didn¡¯t make sense. His hand went to his neck, fingering a silver chain. It was a familiar gesture that Sakura often observed when Syaoran was thinking. Except, the sapphire ring was supposed to hanging from there, but it wasn¡¯t. It was gone like her diamond necklace.

            ¡°You know for the past months, I was dreading this opening night,¡± Sakura commented.

            ¡°Why?¡± Kero-chan asked, popping out of Tomoyo¡¯s bag. Tomoyo was holding up her private camcorder to record the conversation.

            ¡°Because, I felt like something would just happen. It¡¯s too big of an occasion to pass by so easily. I felt relieved that the Phantom was capture before this final night. So far, this production is running surprisingly smoothly, but I can¡¯t get rid of this uneasy feeling,¡± Sakura said. ¡°Since nothing big happened so far, I can¡¯t help being wary of the second half.¡±

            Nodding, Syaoran said, ¡°I know what you mean. Especially since there is a strange power in this auditorium right now. Different from anything I¡¯ve felt before. It kind of feels like one of the Five Force Treasures¡¦¡±

            ¡°But it the feelings is amplified many times more,¡± Sakura finished off. ¡°This strange aura overpowers all other auras. Syaoran¡¯s, mine, the Dark Ones¡¯, even Clow Reed¡¯s. Eriol and my father are both in the auditorium right now, so a considerable amount of force is gathered here right now.¡±

            Uneasily, Kero-chan said, ¡°I¡¯ve been enjoying the play until now, but since you point out all these things, it¡¯s making me feel nervous.¡±

            ¡°Hmm¡¦ Kai-kun¡¯s motto is that everything always has a reason,¡± Sakura pointed out. Then she frowned¡¦ Mizuki Kai! Kaitou Magician was the only person who could steal things off people without being noticed, including a sword which was supposed to be in another country, guarded by the most powerful family in Asia.



            ¡°I¡¯m touched that you brought me a drink, Meilin-chan!¡± Kai stated. He drank down the ice tea that Meilin had brought to the lighting room in one gulp.

            He must have been really thirsty. Meilin grinned. It wasn¡¯t often that she got to see Kai with his sleeves rolled up and hair astray because it was soaked with sweat. It mustn¡¯t be easy to manage the whole lighting room all by himself for such a large scale production as this. And I¡¯m pretty impressed. Then scowling, she stated, ¡°The reason I brought you the drink is because Sakura-chan says she wants to have a word with you. So go to the right wing, backstage.¡±

            ¡°Oh. You didn¡¯t come all the way up to the lighting room, just for the sake of checking up on me after all,¡± Kai sighed, pretending to be disappointed. ¡°Anyway, there¡¯s only ten minutes left. I don¡¯t have time to go down.¡±

            ¡°You come down this moment!¡± Syaoran¡¯s voice was projected through the intercom in the lighting room. Syaoran used a walkie-talkie lent by Tomoyo.

            ¡°No,¡± Kai replied flatly into the wireless mike he adjusted in front of his mouth.

            ¡°Fine, then just answer our questions,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°First of all, how did you steal the Li Clan Five Force Sword from Hong Kong?¡±

            ¡°Who said I stole it?¡± Kai demanded. ¡°I told you I¡¯m over with my stealing days!¡±

           ¡°Fine, how did you borrow it?¡± Syaoran corrected. ¡°I know you didn¡¯t leave Japan during the past two weeks.¡±

            ¡°Okay, okay. I admit. I sent my parrot. The sword is replaced with a replica right now, and I¡¯m going to slip back the real one after the production is over, so they won¡¯t notice it¡¯s gone,¡± Kai said.

            ¡°Why did you steal it?¡± Sakura asked through the walkie-talkie.

            ¡°Ahem. I borrowed it for my own purposed, and I will return it,¡± Kai replied.

            ¡°I suppose you have a reason why you stole the Ring and Necklace from us, also,¡± Syaoran questioned bluntly.

            ¡°Yes, I do,¡± Kai replied in a bored tone.

            ¡°Mizuki Kai, I just one to ask you one more time, what was your true motive for coming to Tomoeda?¡± Sakura asked.

¡°I¡¯m sorry if you guys don¡¯t realize it, but I was once your enemy. You can¡¯t expect me to confide to you everything. Just concentrate on your roles in the production. You guys are doing great, so keep it up. And I¡¯ll do my part.¡± Then, Kai cut off the intercom connections.

            Glaring at Kai, Meilin asked, ¡°What are you up to now?¡±

            Grinning lopsided, Kai replied, ¡°You don¡¯t think I joined this production just for the sake of it do you?¡±   



            Taking a swig of his water bottle, Syaoran fumed, ¡°That Kai is so exasperating. I knew he¡¯s up to something.¡±

           ¡°I¡¯m sure he knows what he¡¯s doing,¡± Sakura said. ¡°Besides, I trust him. I¡¯m sure he won¡¯t do anything stupid.¡±

            ¡°I think we better watch out for the last act,¡± Syaoran stated. ¡°That¡¯s when all the Five Treasures of Verona is supposed appear. And we better watch out for the Mirror the most. If I know Kai, he will have replaced the regular mirror with the Mirror of Truth. And you remember what happened last time we looked into that Mirror.¡±

            Nodding, Sakura said, ¡°I¡¯ll be careful.¡±

            ¡°Whatever happens, let¡¯s not panic,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°¡¯Cause we have to pass through this production safely.¡±

            ¡°Humph. Anticipating the worst,¡± Kero-chan said. ¡°There is a possibility that you two might be overreacting.¡±  

            Yet all of them knew that such chances were slim.




           ¡°What are you glowering for?¡± Erika asked, taking a seat beside her twin. ¡°Aren¡¯t things coming along nicely?¡±

            ¡°Why did you tell her that?¡± Eron asked, his golden flecked hazel eyes incomprehensible.

            ¡°Tell who what?¡± Erika asked, blinking her round eyes.

            ¡°That innocent look doesn¡¯t work on me,¡± Eron said cuttingly.

            ¡°It just slipped,¡± Erika stated. ¡°I didn¡¯t intend on telling Sakura, but I let the bet between you and Syaoran slip while I was talking to her. Why, do you have a problem with that?¡±

            ¡°I wanted to win her fairly,¡± Eron said, softly.

            Scowling, Erika retorted, ¡°You know very well that you have no chance with her if you use a gentleman¡¯s method. You know you stand no chance against Syaoran.¡±

            ¡°Don¡¯t I?¡± Eron asked, coolly.

           ¡°I don¡¯t see why you anguish over Sakura. You have plenty of girls to pick from with your popularity. And yet, you have your eyes only on one girl.¡±

            ¡°In that aspect, you and I are different, Erika,¡± Eron replied. ¡°You¡¯ve always jumped from one guy to another, as you please, never serious about any of them.¡±

            ¡°Better than tying myself to one person,¡± Erika stated. She tossed back her glossy wavy hair. She should be feeling beautiful and in the spotlight because she was Rosaline. All the girls had wanted to be Rosaline, including Sakura. Yet, the reason she wasn¡¯t feeling smug tonight was because Sakura was Juliet, and Sakura was in the spotlight. ¡°Why did you have two movie tickets in your desk, a few days ago?¡±

            ¡°Why did you rip them up?¡± Eron asked in response.

            Biting her lips, Erika stood up. ¡°There¡¯s no point in talking to you when you¡¯re like this. I hope you fixed up the Dark Force properly.¡±

            ¡°What do you take me for?¡± Eron questioned as if offended, as he fingered the gleaming pigeon¡¯s blood ruby stud in his left ear.

            Instinctively, Erika reached up the identical stud, which was pierced into a second hole in her ear, above her regular set of earrings. The ruby earrings. The last of Great Ones¡¯ Five Force Treasure.



Wish-chan: Apologies for taking the longest time ever to post up a chapter. Part of the reason I took so long is because I had to completely rewrite this chapter. Part of the reason is as usual, I am really really busy with school, because I am an overachiever. Hehe¡¦ Finally the long anticipated Star-Crossed~ This is a very hectic chapter and many things might be confusing. The next chapter would sum up the musical. Hehe¡¦ And answer many of the questions. This is kinda like the two part Camp Trip chapter, I guess. Oh, I pondered over how to write the production, so basically, I included some dialogue and summary. Mind you, I¡¯m not writing out the whole musical, so you guys can imagine there are more scenes and dialogues in between, as well as songs inserted in proper places (after all, it is a musical, but I¡¯m not yet ready to write out song lyrics ^^). Hehe¡¦ More shall be explained after I get out the next chapter, which I hope will take much less time.

Visit my website at and e-mails ever so cherished at Thank you to all those who e-mailed me, encouraging me to write on. They kept me going, and here I am, four months later. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAKURA!!! (4/1) Sorry I couldn¡¯t have a special chapter out for her b-day¡¦ Hehe~ Maybe for Syaoran¡¯s¡¦