*Chapter 41: Star-Crossed*
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life.
-- Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Cast of Characters
Narrator... Miho Tanaka
Romeo Montague... Syaoran Li
Juliet Capulet... Sakura Kinomoto
Count Paris... Eron Chang
Rosaline... Erika Chang
Mercutio... Takashi Yamazaki
Tybalt Capulet... Aki Akagi
Lady Capulet... Chiharu Mihara
Lady Montague... Rika Sasaki
(Other important characters)
Producer... Tomoyo Daidouji
Head of the Lighting and Technians Department... Kai Mizuki
“It’s pretty amazing how they could manage such a large scale musical,” Yukito commented, as they took their seat after intermission. “Say, you’re surprised by your sister, right?”
”Yeah, I guess Sakura did give me a surprise. That little monster not telling me anything about it,” Touya grumbled. “We never did anything this advanced when we were their age. Everyone’s so on top of things.” The house lights dimmed once more as the intermission ended.
“It’s really evident how much work all the students put into this production," Yukito stated.
“Eriol, doesn’t ‘Romeo and Juliet’ have a kissing scene?” Nakuru asked.
“I believe it does,” Eriol replied, smiling as he took a furtive sideways
glance and Touya.
In return, Touya glared at Nakuru.
“Shhh…” the people around them shushed as the orchestra
began playing the theme piece as the second half of the musical started.
“Due to their parents’ undying hatred towards each other’s families,
Romeo and Juliet were forced to meet in secret, and were always in danger of
being discovered,” Miho narrated as Part Two of Star-Crossed unfolded.
“Yet, the precious time spent together were the best moments of Romeo and
Juliet’s lives, as they realized how much they missed out until then; they had
not truly lived until they met each other.”
“I wonder how much longer we have to meet each other in secret,” Sakura pondered, as she weaved in and out of trees in the Old Forest. Each tree was hand painted by the art class students onto wooden boards crafted and sanded by the carpentry class. Clusters of tiny pale yellow flowers were fastened to the crown of her head. Her pale green dress with darker green accents, another one of Tomoyo’s designs, fluttered in the slight breeze created by the wind machine, a special invention of Kai’s. (The machine was guaranteed to make cloaks fan out dramatically, instead of tangling with feet.) She turned to Syaoran aka Romeo. “Funny how far we’ve come; thinking about it, this is where we first met, when we were looking for the lost Ring.”
“Yes, and you tripped over your own feet at that time, Capulet,” Syaoran replied, with a hidden grin. He couldn’t help blurting out that extra side comment.
“Hoe?” Grr….Syaoran has his mind up to ruin this production, adding in extra, unnecessary lines not in the script! Just stopping herself from glaring at Syaoran in time, Sakura asserted with an equally mischievous smile, “And you lost to a mere girl, Montague.”
“Yes, I admit,” Syaoran said. “I lost my heart to a clumsy, wild, stubborn girl.”
He wasn’t supposed to add those adjectives, either! Clumsy, wild, stubborn… Sakura lost the actual meaning of Syaoran’s reply, fuming about this. Strange; seems as if I heard someone say something similar before… Shaking her head, she scolded herself. Concentrate on the play! Yet, yet, it doesn’t feel like we’re acting. All the words I say seem to come so naturally, it’s almost scary.
Dutifully returning to the script, as if reading Sakura’s warning expression Syaoran said, “You know, did you ever think, that it might be best to end things at this point. If we look at things straightly, we secretly know it is true that we don’t have that much possibility of surviving long in this lifestyle.”
“I’m not really afraid, though,” Sakura said dreamily. “I can face anything.”
“But maybe, we are not meant to be. Look at us, always meeting in hidden places, in secret. How long can we keep this up? Maybe if we run off to a far off land, where we can start anew…”
“To a place where no enmity exists, where we won’t have to face each other’s hostile families?” Sakura sighed, “How wonderful that would be.”
“Are you telling me that you’re willing to leave behind your sheltered childhood, your loving mother, father, family, and all that you have known up till now and face an unknown, strange, and maybe dangerous world?” Syaoran asked curiously, almost mockingly, yet at the same time respectful of her determination.
“You know, maybe I’m foolish, but I’m a bit of an optimist. I believe that eventually everything will turn out all right,” Sakura declared. “Yes, as long as I’m with you, it’ll be all right, wherever we are, even if its half way across the world,” Sakura said with resolution. “I wouldn’t mind leaving behind my family, friends, and home, if we can be together.”
“No,” Syaoran replied with effort. “No, that’s not possible. Despite how much I would like to evade all the problems and live my own, carefree life, running away from our problems isn’t going to solve anything. It’ll only increase the enmity between our two families.”
Heaving a sigh, Sakura said, “Though I love my parents, I sometimes wish that I was never born into the Capulet household. There is no fault in still wishing, is there?”
“Of course not.” With an encouraging smile, Syaoran said, I would do anything for you to grant your wishes. If this society makes you unhappy, I would take you off to a far away land, where we will never have to face criticism and disapproval. Or I would give up my name and family and bow down to your father to beg for approval.”
Chuckling slightly at the last sentence, Sakura chided, “Don’t do that!”
“Or, I can just continue to stay by your side, and come to your summons at any moment. I’ll wait till the end of time for your bidding.”
Sakura was surprised at the sincerity of Syaoran’s tone; in ways, it didn’t sound like him at all, but like a completely different person. Yet, when she looked up, it was Syaoran looking straight back at her, saying those words.
With a distant, slightly choked voice, Sakura said, “Well, I better go back home now. My nurse will frantically be searching for me.”
“When do you think will be the next time we meet?” Syaoran asked rather solemnly.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it may not be for a long, long time.” Then Sakura added, “But I hope it will be soon!”
Sakura tilted her head. “Well, aren’t you saying good-bye?”
With a crooked grin, Syaoran replied, “I won’t say good-bye. Good-byes are only for people who will never see each other again. We shall meet again.”
Sakura stated, “Remember when we first met? You promised me that you will take the last Treasure of Verona! So do take it from me someday!” Sakura stated, with a slight laugh. “Who cares about old family feuds and who has most power? Let us throw all five treasures into the ocean, together, so that in the future, no one will have to fight over them.”
After showing a lingering smile on his face to Juliet, Romeo turned
around and walked away, letting the reassuring smile drop, revealing the
tension that such happy days were limited.
Syaoran stared at the velvet curtains closing and the stage darkened as he slipped his hand into his pocket, fingering a smooth satin ribbon. His forehead was soaked with perspiration.
“Hey, Li-kun, get off the stage! We’re doing a scene change here!” one of his classmates in charge of scenery hissed. “Next scenes going to have the most special effects, and it’ll be difficult to manage to pull it off perfectly.”
Without a word, Syaoran walked off the stage.
“Gee, that attitude,” the student grumbled.
“C’mon, give Li-kun a break. Think how much pressure he has right now.
He’s probably zoned up ‘cause of the play,” another classmate said.
“Oh my gosh! Did you see Li-kun’s smile? I never saw him smile like that before!” the girls in the audience swooned giddily in between scene change.
“I know! I felt my heart drop to my stomach!”
“Kinomoto-san is soooo lucky, I swear! I would do anything to be Juliet!”
“I don’t know. I don’t think I would. I won’t be able to pull off the acting so flawlessly; I’d probably giggle in the middle if I saw Li-kun look at me so passionately,” a classmate contemplated.
“I would faint,” another girl asserted. “Ugh, but why do I have a dreadful feeling something horrible is going to happen? I can’t stand anything happening to my Romeo!”
Then, the orchestra boomed out a dramatic, fast-paced tune, which sent
shivers down everyone’s back. People immediately hushed.
Next was the Tybalt and Romeo confrontation, which was very animated and dynamic, probably the hardest scene to coordinate in the whole production; the Capulets and Montagues encountered their biggest fight yet in this scene. Tybalt and Mercutio were engaged in a vigorous swordfight as Romeo entered the stage, shortly after parting with Juliet. To his horror, he found his best friend engaged in a violent duel with his love’s favorite cousin. Desperately, Romeo tried to appease both sides, desiring no enmity between the family of his loved one and his own.
“Please, let us stop this useless fighting,” Syaoran implored to Tybalt, recalling Juliet’s love of peace. “Why can’t we get along peacefully and be friends? Why do we have to breed in fury, hate, and spite?”
“Get out of the way, Romeo!” Mercutio calling, lunging to Tybalt.
“You’re a coward, aren’t you Romeo Montague? Letting your friend who is not even a Montague do the dirty fighting. Oh yes, I saw you at the Capulet grand ball last time, though I let your return unharmed. Such a thing would never happen again. Were you spying on our family then?” Tybalt returned.
“No! You’re wrong Tybalt; I have no enmity against your family. I desire no more hatred between us!” Syaoran stated, dodging Tybalt’s wild attack.
“Fool!” Tybalt replied.
Despite Romeo’s attempts to appease the two, Tybalt spontaneous leaped forward with his sword and stabbed Mercutio, who was off guard.
This was Takashi’s favorite scene as Mercutio. Gripping the sword pierced through his rib, Takashi dropped to his knees and groaned melodramatically, “I, an innocent outsider, has been caught in between the fight of your two feuding families, and am a victim of mere foolishness! A plague on both your families!” Then, he sprawled onto the stage floor, limp and lifeless.
“Mercutio!” Syaoran cried out. Witnessing the murder of his closest friend ignited new anger in Romeo. Syaoran deftly drew out his sword from its sheath. To his relief, it was a prop sword, not the Li Clan one.
Aki was impressed at Takashi’s theatrical dying act. Soon, it would be his turn. “You’re the next one, Romeo Montague. Prepare to die, like your pathetic friend!” he asserted. He was rather taken back by the fierceness portrayed in Syaoran’s eyes. As if Aki had really murdered Syaoran’s best friend.
“Never! Stupid of me to think that I can make peace with a Capulet. I swear, I will avenge for Mercutio! I will never forgive you Tybalt Capulet!” Syaoran uttered with venom, lunging towards Aki with full force, his sword held out.
Startled, Aki, the Prince of Cats, Tybalt, blocked
Romeo’s attack. Something about Syaoran’s presence changed the stage. During
rehearsals, Syaoran always had a bored look on his face during the
sword-fighting duel. Yet this time, he seemed to be in earnest. A change had
come over Syaoran during this final production night.
Through a special television and speakers, which amplified the sounds captured by the microphones on stage, students waiting in the backstage could watch and clearly hear what was happening on stage. Though Benvolio tried to stop him, Romeo was determined to challenge Tybalt to a duel, for avenging Mercutio’s death.
“Oh my gosh! Li-kun is scary!” the girls squealed. “In a dashing way.”
“He seems like a natural on stage,” Chiharu awed. “I never thought he had such potential. I still have this image of him as the Princess in Sleeping Beauty.”
Everyone who had attended Tomoeda Elementary giggled.
Fiddling with her deep rose dress, Sakura looked away from the television screen. Why did she continue to have this uneasy feeling in her stomach? She had to enter next scene. Syaoran looked so poised, even though he was worried about some strange force out there. Could she maintain such poise also? The past scenes were not so bad, because the acting came so naturally to her, that she was not acting, but living as Juliet.
“Oooh! Look! Romeo stabbed Tybalt with his sword! It looks painful!” the onlookers observed as Aki sank to his knees, clutching his stomach, where crimson blood was spilling out. The audience gasped, unsure if Syaoran had really stabbed Aki—or it was just special effect. This gruesome detail was also administered carefully by Mizuki Kai, in charge of all special effects, to make things seem as realistic as possible.
The Prince of Verona entered the stage, and seeing the death of Tybalt of the Capulets, the Prince angrily condemned Romeo; his voice boomed through the stage, “Romeo Montague shall hereafter be banished forever from Verona! Returning or contacting any citizens of Verona will result in immediate execution!”
Everyone gasped in dismay. The dramatic sword fight and fast-paced action left the audience breathless as they awaited the next scene.
Miho narrated, “Recklessly, Romeo had murdered Tybalt
Capulet to avenge for the death of his best friend, Mercutio.
In return, he had to bear the consequences and forever exiled from his
homeland, Verona. This left Juliet in a torn position.”
“What? Cousin Tybalt is dead?” Sakura asked, in shock in the Capulet threshold.
“Murdered by the hands of Romeo Montague!” the Nurse exclaimed in indignation.
“R-romeo?” Sakura began trembling.
“Humph. And the only son of Lord Montague is now banished from Verona.
“Romeo… is exiled from Verona?” Sakura repeated, slowly sinking to her
knees and turned to face the audience, clutching her hands to her heart. “This
can’t be. He could never have… Romeo never would have murdered my cousin. And
if he’s exiled from Verona, then, does that mean I will never see him again?
Does he have to go to a far off place, where I will no longer be able to see
him? It maybe selfish of me, but I can’t live without him in my life.”
Miho continued, “Though the rest of the Capulet family believed that
Juliet was grieving for the loss of her cousin, Tybalt,
in reality, Juliet was terrified by the idea that she might never see Romeo
again, now that he was banished from Verona.”
The next act unfolded in a chapel, and Juliet, with a cloak over her shoulders knelt down, praying. Looking up, Juliet pleaded to the Friar, “Friar Lawrence, please tell me, what should I do? I didn’t realize it until now; I didn’t realize how much I loved him until I had to loose him.”
“Forget about him, Juliet. That is the best thing to. He no longer exists now,” Friar Lawrence consolidated.
“He wouldn’t have left Verona yet. He wouldn’t leave without saying good-bye, would he? He would come for me, won’t he?” Juliet asked pleadingly.
“You would never know,” Friar Lawrence replied heavily.
A loud bang came on the door.
“Excuse me my dear,” Friar Lawrence said, patting Juliet’s back. Cautiously, Friar Lawrence unlatched the chapel door and peeked outside. It was Romeo, a dark hood shadowing his face, trembling and beside himself. He stared blankly at the Friar.
“I have heard your tragic news,” Friar Lawrence uttered sympathetically.
“News travels fast,” Romeo replied in a lifeless voice.
“I am banished forever from Verona,” Syaoran said through clenched teeth. “I may never be able to come back to my homeland again. And worse, I may never be able to see Juliet. I don’t care about myself, but I don’t want her to be in pain. How can I ever face her after killing her cousin? How can I face her, after having sworn to peace and expressed that I had no antagonism against the Capulets?”
“It’s a coincidence. Juliet Capulet is inside the chapel right now. You may go talk to her for the last time, and explain things,” Friar Lawrence said.
For a second, Syaoran’s face lighted up. Then he frowned. “No. I won’t go see her. I cannot. I’d rather leave Verona, without saying good-bye to Juliet, because that way, the last image she has of me won’t be my back turned away from her. I have to leave without meeting her; that will be the best. If I face her now, if she says farewell to me, I’ll know everything has ended. If I leave, I will continue to live on with a last glimpse of hope.” Syaoran broke off as the sound of footsteps echoed towards the chapel, signifying that the Prince’s soldiers were ensuring that he would escorted safely out of Verona, as quickly as possible.
“Well, it is your choice,” Friar Lawrence said, heaving a heavy sigh. “Good luck Romeo Montague, wherever you may venture to.”
Nodding, Syaoran began to exit the chapel door again. “Please don’t tell Juliet I was here.”
“As you wish.”
Turning away, Syaoran gritted his teeth and whispered with fervor to himself, “I’ll return, Juliet, I promise.”
Sniffling, Meilin tried to keep her glassy eyes from spilling over tears. Not in front of Kai. She had remained in the lighting room because she found the view of the entire stage was the best from there; she sat silently at the back of the room, so that she wouldn’t get in Kai’s way. Besides, she figured that if she stayed with him and kept an eye on him, he couldn’t cause any mischief.
“Silly, crying over a little scene in a school production,” Kai commented dryly, as he switched off the lights on the stage during scene change.
Meilin hated it when Kai made her feel stupid. “Shut up and focus back on the play,” she retorted.
She didn’t need to tell him. Kai, with his sleeves rolled up, and shirt soaked with perspiration was earnestly pouring all his effort into the lighting and special effects as he adjusted the switch panel with long, deft fingers. She stared at the stage, which had a soft, dismal atmosphere because of the lighting. Though she knew the whole script by heart, it was strange watch it acted out. In this scene, Sakura was to find out that she had marry Count Paris. Meilin gave a wistful sigh, realizing that she might have been on stage at this moment—but no, she wouldn’t have been able to pull it off with the lucid earnestness and sincerity that Sakura had.
“But I don’t want to marry,” Sakura protested, kneeling in front of Lord and Lady Capulet.
“Juliet, please be sensible,” Lady Capulet said. “Count Paris is a wonderful man. He is wealthy, has a reputable status in Verona, and besides, he loves you very much. Where can you find a better man than him, Juliet?”
“I don’t love him,” Sakura replied, softly.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lord Capulet stated roughly. “You will marry Count Paris, and that is settled. You will learn to love him through time.”
“Please, father, give me more time then to decide,” Sakura pleaded.
“You don’t need more time,” Lord Capulet replied, sternly. “You will marry him as soon as possible.”
“What if I won’t marry him?” Sakura demanded, desperately.
“Juliet, dear, what’s wrong with Count Paris? You can learn to love him easily,” Lady Capulet chided.
“But, I love someone else,” Sakura whispered.
“Ha! What madness!” Lord Capulet declared. “And who may this young man be that you fail to name? The horse groom?”
Biting her lips, Sakura stared down at the floor. “Even worse…”
Miho said, “But Juliet could not tell her parents that she loved the one who
they would disapprove out of any person in Verona. Since she could not tell her
she loved the only son of their greatest enemy, she did not reply.”
“Enough of this!” Lord Capulet exclaimed. “You will marry Count Paris next week, and that’s final. Don’t think of talking back!”
“Father! Please!” Sakura sobbed, burying her
face in her hands.
“I am sorry Juliet,” Count Paris said to Juliet in the next scene. “It seems as if our parents are forcing us to be together.”
“No, no. It’s not your fault, Count Paris,” Sakura reassured.
“It is my fault though,” Count Paris replied, taking Sakura’s hand. “Juliet, I love you. Can you ever return my feelings? I’m willing to wait as long as it takes you.”
Trying to avoid Eron’s enigmatic gold eyes, Sakura shook her head and replied, “I’m sorry. I really am. But…”
“It’s okay,” Count Paris interrupted, smiling. “I want to just
continue believing that you will love me someday.”
“As the wedding day approached nearer, Juliet grew desperate. She
turned to Friar Lawrence, her long time consultant, for advice,” the narrator,
“Friar Lawrence, what should I do? My father wishes for me to marry Count Paris, but I already lost my heart to Romeo,” Juliet stated in despair.
Clucking, Friar Lawrence said, “I don’t see what’s so wrong with marrying Count Paris. Romeo is now gone from Verona. What are the chances of ever seeing him again? If he does return to his homeland, Prince Escales would definitely have him executed. Besides, what do you gain from loving one you are never meant to be? Paris is much more suitable for you, and besides, your family all supports this marriage. I advise, forget about Romeo Montague.”
“No! I can never do that!” Sakura exclaimed. She closed her eyes, then opened them again with new determination. “I don’t care how difficult or how impossible it may be. I don’t care if things aren’t meant for us. But, I want to see Romeo one more time.” Softly, she added, “He left without meeting me. He left without saying good-bye. I have to see him. I have to hear him say good-bye to me before I will ever forget him.”
“Do you truly believe your childish temperament is worth all this trouble, Juliet? Your life isn’t a game; it has set courses that you are obliged to follow.”
“It is my life,” Sakura replied. “And I choose to love Romeo.”
Sighing, Friar Lawrence replied, “If that is what you wish.”
“Please tell me Friar Lawrence, isn’t there a way?” Sakura asked.
“There might be a way…” Friar Lawrence trailed off. “No. No, that is impossible.”
“What? What is it, Friar?”
Slowly, he said, “It is said in legends, that once the Five Treasures of Verona is gathered in one place at one time, it can have supernatural powers and grant one wish. But that’s only a legend, and there is no guarantee that it is true.”
“Anything is possible,” Sakura persisted. “It must work.”
“Besides, you don’t even have the five treasures,” Friar Lawrence continued.
“The Capulets have the Ring and the Necklace,” Sakura counted off. “And the Montagues have the Sword and the Earrings. Only the Mirror remains. If only I could know where to find it.”
Coughing, Friar Lawrence commented, “Actually, I do know where the Mirror is hidden.”
“Where?” Sakura asked eagerly.
“It’s somewhere inside this chapel. It has been a secret for years.”
“The last of the Five Treasures…” Sakura whispered. “Together, they have great powers. Anything is possible in life.”
“I really don’t think it’s a good idea,” Friar Lawrence muttered.
“Romeo promised me that he will find the last of the Great Treasures of Verona. He will come. I believe in him.”
“Well, if you have fully made up your mind, nothing that I say will dissuade you,” Friar Lawrence said. “Meanwhile, I guess it is best if you pretend that you are happy with your marriage to Count Paris in a week. Meanwhile, I will try to send a messenger to Romeo to make him aware of your plans, if I can locate him, and tell him to smuggle the Sword and the Earrings from the Montague household. And on the night before your wedding, you must secretly escape and come to this chapel. Remember to bring the Ring and the Necklace. I don’t know if this plan is workable at all, and what will happen. I am merely providing you a chance to meet with Romeo again. But then, afterwards, it is all up to you, Juliet.”
Clasping Friar Lawrence’s hands, Sakura said, “Thank you Friar, thank
“Consequently, much to the surprise and joy of her parents, Juliet
seemed to be thrilled about her marriage to Count Paris. Yet, she was secretly
planning for the escape the night before the wedding. Meanwhile, Romeo, who was
in a neighboring kingdom, overheard news about the Capulets’
only daughter’s wedding to the wealthy and handsome Count Paris,” Miho
narrated. She was having a hard time not turning around to look at what was
going on stage, yet she resisted, for the sake of her posture. “And finally, it
was the night before the wedding.”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Lady Juliet is not in her room!” the Nurse screeched in the middle of the night.
“What do you mean, Nurse?” Lady Capulet asked, sinking down into an armchair, face pale.
“Lord Capulet,” a servant came up, kneeling. “I am afraid to say, the Ring and the Necklace have disappeared. Presumably, with Lady Juliet.”
“WHAT!!! Find my daughter and the Treasures, immediately!” Lord Capulet roared.
The curtains fell, leaving the audience breathless and tense, awaiting
the final act.
So far, everything had passed flawlessly. Despite everyone’s worry of forgetting lines, everyone had managed fine. No dark forces had shown up, either. Now, now is the most challenging part, Sakura thought, as she waited in between scene change, for the last act to unfold. And I’ll have to face Syaoran again. She hadn’t seen him since the first scene of Part Two. Suddenly, she desperately wanted to see him before they had to meet each other on stage. Yet, he was now waiting for his cue on the other side of the stage.
“This is it,” Tomoyo whispered, and gave her hand an encouraging pat.
Sakura smiled up at her friend in appreciation. There was no way she could have made it this far without Tomoyo’s support. “I wonder how Meilin-chan is doing with Kai-kun up in the lighting room.” She giggled. It was rather mean of Syaoran to send her up there to keep an eye on Kai-kun, so that he couldn’t cause any mischief.
“I’m sure they’re both too wrapped up in the production to do anything else,” Tomoyo said.
Trying to keep an even voice, Sakura said, “Tomoyo-chan, I didn’t think I will be, but I’m really nervous, after all.”
“You’ve done wonderful until right now.” Tomoyo couldn’t resist adding, “Even with all the additional made up dialogue in your scenes with Syaoran-kun.”
Sakura made a face, then turned serious again. “But not only that. I know there is a Dark Force lurking about somewhere, and it’s been nerve wrecking anticipating it at any moment. I really hope it doesn’t show up. But if it shows up, I hope it doesn’t affect the production, because everyone worked so hard on it. I would hate to have it ruined because of me.”
“Don’t worry Sakura-chan,” Tomoyo reassured, adjusting the softly glowing pearls arranged in Sakura’s hair. “Everything will turn out fine.”
Smiling, Sakura said, “Well, I think it’s time to go on stage now. I’ll do my best for you! No matter what, you must feel the most nervous right now, because this is your production. You put together this whole thing, and you’re proving yourself to the audience.”
Returning the smile, Tomoyo replied, “No, it’s the actors and actresses who are proving themselves. I merely have to sit back and watch tonight. I have faith in everyone; they all put so much effort into putting this together; I merely collaborated everything.”
Nodding in apprehension, Sakura stood up, as her turn approached.
“Oh, here’s the ring and the necklace,” Tomoyo said, handing it to Sakura,
who observed it carefully. It was the faux, prop jewels ordered for the play,
not the real ones. Where had they disappeared? She could swear that Kai hadn’t
taken one step out of the lighting room yet.
“Go to the Verona Chapel to find the Mirror?” Syaoran repeated after Friar Lawrence’s messenger. Romeo was confused with the swirl of affairs.
As Romeo entered Verona, he bumped into his cousin, Benvolio.
“Romeo? What are you doing in Verona?” Benvolio demanded. “They’ll kill you if they catch you here!”
“I don’t care!” Syaoran replied defiantly. “Well, what are you doing here, cousin, in the middle of the night?”
“Oh, you haven’t heard yet? Old Capulet’s daughter seems to have disappeared, along with the Capulet’s two Treasures of Verona,” Benvolio related.
“What do you mean?” Syaoran asked, trying to hide his surprise.
“Quite shocking, indeed, running away right on the night, before her wedding to Count Paris. Anyway, Uncle, Lord Montague, became worried, so he sent me to put the Montague’s two Treasures safely in the vaults of the Verona Chapel to prevent any burglary.” Benvolio held out a gleaming sword in a sheath, and a dark velvet pouch with contained the Earrings. As far as Syaoran could tell, the sword wasn’t the Li Clan sword.
“What a coincidence. I’m on my way to the chapel,” Romeo said. “I can take the Treasures there for you, if you wish.”
Suspiciously, Benvolio questioned, “You don’t plan to take them and run off somewhere, do you?”
Laughing, Syaoran scoffed, “What do you take me for? I’m a Montague also, you know.”
Laughing in return, Benvolio handed the
Treasures to Syaoran. “Well, keep safe. And don’t stay in Verona too long. You
don’t know when you will be caught.”
“Don’t worry,” Syaoran replied. “I’ll leave as soon as I finish my business.”
As Romeo was about to enter the chapel, he bumped into someone. To his
dismay, he found that it was his nemesis, Count Paris. It took a second for
Count Paris to recognize him, before he uttered, “Are you not Romeo Montague?
The Romeo who was banished from Verona on account of murdering my fiancée’s
Holding his chin up high, Syaoran replied, “Yes, I am.”
“You traitor! Do you realize how much you hurt my Juliet? She never got over the grief of her cousin’s death!” Eron declared. Count Paris, like others was fooled about the real reason behind Juliet’s grief. “And now, she has disappeared! Most likely your fault, also. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of you filthy Montagues have kidnapped her. I would never forgive you, if you have hurt her.”
“Why would I hurt her when I love her?” Syaoran asked, meeting Eron’s cool gold-hazel eyes.
“A Montague has no right to love Juliet Capulet,” Eron replied in a malicious tone.
“True, a Montague has no right,” Syaoran said. “Yet, don’t I, not as a Montague but as a man, have right to love her?”
“No, you do not, Romeo Montague.” Eron smiled bitterly. “Don’t you understand, you two are not meant to be? You will only succeed in making her unhappy. Accept the fact. It has been written in the stars that you two will never work out. Either way, you will lose.”
“No. You’re wrong.” Syaoran looked up and replied defiantly, “I will win either way. I have learned to love. I have learned what life is; Juliet has taught me to love, and nothing can take that away from me.”
“Bastard! The only one for Juliet is me!” Eron shouted, lunging at Syaroan.
Deftly, Syaoran blocked, a little more violently than necessary. For some reason, though it was only a production, he was feeling furious at Eron. In return, Eron swept out his sword from the sheath and slashed at Syaoran, slicing the edges of his black cloak. The audience gasped at the sound of ripping cloth. Syaoran returned the next blow with his sword. The next few minutes involved a serious of intricate sword moves between the pair. Each sound of clashing metal made the audience cringe.
“Look here, Paris, I really don’t want to fight with you!” Syaroan called out haltingly, ducking a blow.
Smoothly, Eron said, “Don’t you realize how much more I can give her? I have wealth, acknowledgement from her parents, status, and capability to giver her everything she will ever desire. Meanwhile, you, Romeo Montague, are an exile, the son of her parent’s deepest enemies, and can bring her only misery. Tell me, what can you offer her?”
Staring back rueful amber eyes, Syaoran replied quietly, ceasing his attack, “Only my undying devotion, body and soul. Is that too little? But can’t people still be happy, just having love?”
“No, it’s not enough,” Eron asserted, his temper at an end, and slashed down brutally with his sword.
Great, now I have to pretend to be stabbed, Syaoran contemplated. How humiliating. If this were real life, I would never let Eron stab me. Never. I will never lose to Eron.
The audiences gasped as the Count Paris’ sword sunk into Romeo’s side. Footsteps were heard.
For a second, Count Paris stared at Romeo, crouching on the ground, clutching his side, while staring at him with wildly angry eyes. Then, he sheathed the bloodied and stumbled back.
Footsteps came from the background, and Count Paris fled into the chapel.
Friar Lawrence came, panting and bent over Romeo. “Romeo! What has happened?”
Moaning, Syaoran leaned on the hilt of his sword and stood up. In a strained voice, he replied, “I’m fine, Friar Lawrence, it’s merely a scratch.”
Shaking his head, the Friar said, “Really, I’m uneasy about this all. Are you certain that you will be okay?”
Pushing away the concern, Syaoran asked, “Where is the Mirror of Verona?”
“It’s somewhere in the farthest wing of the chapel,” Friar Lawrence replied. There came more footsteps from outside. “Hurry, go inside. I think the Capulet men have come, in search of Juliet!”
“Juliet! Tell me, where is Juliet!” Romeo demanded urgently. “Is she here?”
“Hurry, there’s no time for explanations. I’ll stall the servants as long as possible,” Friar Lawrence stated. “Hide first. They’ll kill you if they find you. Now, hurry!”
Nodding, Romeo ran off the stage.
In another part of the chapel, Juliet awaited Romeo, having finally discovered the Mirror of Verona. Set on a round stone table covered with scarlet cloth was the Mirror, covered by a dark cloth. Beside it, she had laid the Ring and the Necklace.
“Juliet,” came a voice from behind her.
Sakura turned around eagerly, then gasped in dismay, “Count Paris! I didn't realize that you would be here.”
“I’m sorry. You were expecting someone else, weren’t you?” Eron asked, bitterly. “Well, at least I’m reassured that you are safe. You don’t know how worried I was. Your whole family is frantically searching for you, Juliet.”
Hanging her head, Juliet whispered, “Count Paris, I feel as if I have to tell you this: I can not marry you. I love another person. I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Eron replied. “I knew you didn’t love me. I thought maybe you could love me, but that was only fooling myself. Yet, at the same time, you know that you can never live happily with Romeo Montague. You two are star-crossed lovers.”
“Well we’ll defy fate then!” a third voice came. Syaoran entered, boldly, with no trace of his wound. His cream colored linen shirt was not rumpled at all, and his midnight blue cloak with gold trimmings not dusty.
“We meet again,” Eron said bitterly. “Too bad. I was quite sure that I killed you.”
“Move away. I have no business with you,” Syaoran stated, staring only at Sakura, who looked nervous and anxious with her golden brown hair hanging loose around her face. Her emerald eyes were bright in the otherwise dim lighting of the stage.
“Well I do,” Eron replied. “In fact, I have two unfinished businesses with you. Firstly, Juliet is mine. And secondly, your life is mine also.” Wildly, he brought his sword down at Syaoran in full force. With a quick strike, Syaoran lashed out his fist. Eron dropped his sword. With his other fist, Syaoran knocked Eron unconscious. Panting, he stared at Eron sprawled over the ground, his dark violet cloak fanned out. Did I punch to hard? I hope I didn’t really knock him out. Oh well. Eron is tougher than that.
Then, Syaoran turned to Sakura. “Juliet…” he trailed off, feeling his heart thump. Sakura’s slim figure was set off by an ivory dress laced up the narrow waist, widening out to a sweeping skirt with trimmings of elaborate white lace in a rose petal pattern and tiny, glowing pearls. Several strands of her silky hair were braided with thin satin ivory colored ribbons woven in. Tiny pearls that matched with her dress also adorned her hair, setting off the glossy golden brown color tresses. He couldn’t help smiling. Leave it to Tomoyo to be able to get some one dressed up like that in a matter of five minutes. Though he had seen Sakura wear that gown several times during dress rehearsal, it seemed that it had required some more yards of lace and trimmings overnight—only Tomoyo was capable of pulling off such a fantastic design without loosing the elegance and natural grace. Sakura looked more dazzling tonight than during dress rehearsals because the overall effect was not the same as the actual opening night, when every single detail was administered to. Of course, Sakura’s outfit was highly impractical for someone to actually have run away in, but who cared? She was beautiful.
“Did you kill Count Paris?” Sakura asked in disbelief, breaking Syaoran’s train of thoughts.
Again, she said lines that weren’t part of the script. What she really meant was, ‘Did you really knock him out?’ She must have noticed that Syaoran’s punch was a little too hard.
Chuckling, Syaoran replied, “No, I just badly bruised him.” He could feel Eron glaring at him, while pretending to be unconscious.
“Umm… So…” Sakura mentally bonked herself on the head. What kind of Juliet said, “Umm… So…” when meeting Romeo after a long separation? Forgive me Mizuki Miara-san, for completely ruining your script. But she couldn’t help having her attention diverted to a disturbing aura somewhere near her.
Absentmindedly, Syaoran set the prop sword and earrings on the stone table, beside the other three treasures. Why was Sakura not continuing on with her lines and stammering “Umm so”? He blinked. For a brief second, there was a complete blackout in the auditorium. However, the lights were back on before the audience could even realize that there had been a blackout. The only ones who noticed a difference were Syaoran and Sakura. They realized, that in that brief second, the Five Treasures on the round table had slightly been altered. It didn’t take much effort to recognize the sapphire ring, the diamond necklace, the Li Clan sword, the Mirror of Truth, and lastly, one unfamiliar piece of jewelry, the pigeon’s blood ruby earrings. During the brief lights out, the fake ones had been replaced with the real one.
At last gathered together, the Great Five Treasures radiated blazing light, reflecting a hundred times brighter off the Mirror. A shock of overwhelming aura blasted off the Five Treasures.
Instinctively, Syaoran ducked down, dragging Sakura down with him and covering them with his cloak.
“No matter what, don’t look in that mirror!” Syaoran shouted, forgetting he was on stage. “Remember what happened last time!” (Refer to Chapter 24)
Completely shielded by Syaoran’s cloak, Sakura gathered her thoughts. “There’s a strange aura from the Mirror, isn’t there?” Sakura asked. “Like a Dark Force gone wrong. I’ve felt it every time I came near this mirror. Except, it’s much stronger this time.”
“I feel it too,” Syaoran replied.
“I have a notion, the only way to solve the mystery is to enter the Mirror,” Sakura mused. “Let’s go in.” She struggled to stand up, then collapsed back into Syaoran’s arms because he was still holding onto her.
“You expect me to follow your plan and enter it with you, don’t you?” Syaoran scowled, though Sakura could not see it because his cloak was covering half herhead.
“Of course.” Sakura chuckled to herself; she could sense that Syaoran had a scowl on his face.
Heaving a sigh, Syaoran questioned, “And what will you do if you get trapped on in there and we get separated again?”
“Well, I trust you will come find me,” Sakura replied, her voice muffled into Syaoran’s chest.
“And how?” he demanded, slightly releasing his grip on Sakura, realizing he was choking her.
“Remember? I gave you my good luck charm.” Sakura grinned, standing up, then gazed straight into the Mirror of Truth. For a second, she was greeted by a reflection of her face and Syaoran’s in the background; then she was staring into a dark corridor.
“Syaoran?” Sakura called out. Hesitantly, she looked behind her, as if expecting to see the auditorium and stage on the other side of the Mirror. She heard a faint whirling sound from the end of the corridor. Squinting, she saw a silvery thread extended in the darkness. Tentatively, she followed it. Finally, she came a room which glowed a pale, eerie light.
“Come in, little Cherry Blossom,” came a thin voice from inside.
Taking a deep breath, Sakura stepped in. Inside, there were three women, 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. Just like her dream. At first, they looked magnificent and regally beautiful. The next moment, they looked like wrinkled, bent hags. She couldn’t determine their real form.
Suddenly, she remembered Takashi’s story. ‘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. 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. ‘
“You want to ask who we are,” the woman who was spinning asked, without moving her lips.
“We are the Fates,” the woman holding the thread said. “We determine and control human life.”
“Aren’t you curious what your life holds?” the last woman asked. “We can tell you. We know everything that will happen.”
For a second, Sakura was tempted; there were so many things about her future that she was curious. Clenching her hands in a tight ball, Sakura resisted the staring, blank eyes of the three Fates. “No, I do not want to know,” she replied, defiantly.
“Don’t you wish to know if you will be able to conquer the Dark Ones? Don’t you wish how things will work out with the Little Wolf? We can show you the ultimate powers of Fate. We control everything.”
“No, you don’t,” Sakura replied obstinately, pushing down her secret desire to find out if she indeed would be victorious over the Dark Ones, and if Syaoran indeed was her destined one. “I don’t know about everything else, but you don’t control me!”
Shaking her head, the woman holding the golden scissor said, “That’s what you want to believe Yet, it’s not reality in the end. Free will does not win.”
Sakura stared back, chin up, showing no relent.
“Well, you don’t seem to be able to understand words. I hope you are more of a visual learner,” the first woman said, pointing a finger at Sakura.
It seemed as if the ground below her feet collapsed, and Sakura was falling
into an endless pit. She clenched her eyes shut.
When she opened them once more, she was flooded by orange light. The overwhelming scorched her skin. Slowly, she stood up, brushing dust off herself. Her throat was parched. Where was she? It didn’t seem like she was in the Mirror anymore. Squinting because of the flooding brightness, she gazed into the distance. All around her was desert. In the distance, she saw triangular figures projected up into the reddish sky. Pyramids. She remembered studying about them in Ancient World History. The Egyptians were able to build the greatest structures, even unknown to modern world architects, without the aid of technology and special equipment.
Sakura shook her head ruefully. Her history teacher would be proud that she remembered so much. After all, her father was an archeologist. Yet, the problem was, what was she doing in such a place? Where was the Seijou Junior High Theater? Where was Syaoran? She seriously hadn’t thought that she would be separated from him. In the distance, she saw a cloud of dust and rumbling noises. She headed towards the sound, walking up a slope. The rumbling noise grew nearer, and sounds of men groaning and frequent harsh cracking sounds. When she came to the top of the hill, she stared down in horror. Below, hundreds, no thousands of men were pulling at ropes, moving across great solid obelisk stones, which seemed to be immovable by human power. Yet, these slaves were heaving with all their might, under the suffocating rays of the sun and the cruel whips of the overseers. Instinctively, she walked nearer. Every time a whip was brought down on the bony back of one of the slaves, she grimaced, recalling her encounter with the Whip. At that time, Syaoran had placed his body over hers to protect her. That long white scar crossing down his back was barely visible in bright light, yet something in her heart ached when she saw it.
CRACK. The leather brought done to another slaves’ back made Sakura cringe. Instinctively, she had walked closer to the site, until she could see the beads of sweat dripping off the backs of the men. One old man, who had tumbled out of line, fell in front of her.
“W-water,” he croaked. “Please, water.”
“I-I don’t have water,” Sakura replied in dismay.
Paying no heed to her answer, the man reached out with a trembling arm which looked like leathery skin drawn across a skeleton. “Have mercy! Water!”
“I’m sorry,” Sakura whispered. Then she brightened. “Wait, actually, I think I can make water.” Quickly, she drew her key out and commanded, “Key that hides the power of stars. Show your true self to me. I, Sakura command you…”
“Is that such a good idea?” one of the Fates, who had appeared beside Sakura, asked. “It’s that slave’s fate to have been born as an Egyptian slave, and it is his fate to die now. You can’t try to change that. Firstly, you can’t change history, and secondly, you are not allowed to meddle with fatalism.”
Slowly, Sakura let go of her key, hanging from a chain around her neck, and stared at the weathered man, barely able to lift his arm up. “But I have to help him,” she whispered.
“Don’t you realize that he is already half dead? You’re not supposed to be visible in the past, but this man is in a hallucinating state right now, and being at the brink of death, he can make out your form.
Slowly, the man’s weak arm dropped, and he stopped moaning, his head laid on the sandy ground. No one paid any heed to him, and the
overseers continued to drive the surviving slaves on, heedless of whether one
person had fallen out of line. They left his corpse to gather dust and become
shriveled under the heat of the harsh Egyptian sun.
Glaring at the Fates, who seemed to have formed into one woman, Sakura said in a strained voice, “I could have saved him. You stopped me from. I would have saved him. How can in be a man’s fate to be born as an animal, a slave under cruel people. How can a man’s fate be to toil away under the boiling sun for endless miserable days, just to die?”
“You’re an extremely dense girl, aren’t you?” the three woman,
now speaking in one voice told her.
Now the desert setting swirled around her surrealistically, and Sakura realized that she was in the middle of a dingy Japanese village of some sort, resembling the set of a historical samurai movie. It was definitely not modern day. She realized the uneasy, tense atmosphere and the emptiness of the unpaved streets. A little girl in a ragged kimono too large for her was picking wilted flowers. Quickly, an older boy rushed out into the street, and grabbed the girl’s hand. The girl was likely to be his little sister. At that moment, an arrow from behind came and pierced through the boy’s back. He didn’t utter a sound, though his little sister’s eyes were rounded in horror. It was sent off by a troop of Japanese warriors riding on magnificent horses, holding up arrows and blazing torches. Another sizzling arrow came, and the boy, barely able to stand, blocked his sister. Two arrows now sprouted from his back, gushing with blood. Yet the boy didn’t falter until he took five more arrows. Finally, croaking, “run,” to his sister, he dropped to his knees, and with another arrow, his eyes rolled back and he toppled over, lifeless.
A sob rose in Sakura’s throat and as the soldier drew another arrow to his crossbow, she instinctively tried to move towards the helpless little girl. The Fate gripped her by the arms and held her in place. “Let go of me!” Sakura shouted. “I have to save the little girl! LET GO!”
“No, how many times do we have to tell you? You cannot fight against fate. It’s the fate of the little girl, and it’s inevitable. Don’t think anything you can do will change it.”
“I don’t care! I’m going to save her! Who cares about fate?” Even as she said this, the soldier let go of the arrow, in slow motion, which pierced through the little girl’s head. She toppled over on top of her brother. The soldier’s moved onto setting fire to the entire village, and in a matter of minutes, Sakura was surrounded by a blazing pyre, and houses were reduced to ashes. Occasional shrieks and groans were heard throughout the village, and the soldiers moved through, trampling and destroying everything in their path. It was one thing to read about it in books or see it in movies. It was another to see it actually happen before her own eyes.
“It’s only a village raid in some little town in the Old Empire,” the Fate explained mildly.
For some reason, that boy had reminded Sakura of her brother and the little girl of herself. Though dead, the little girl’s hand was still clutched around her brother’s. She couldn’t see clearly, partly because of the thickening smoke from the fire. It was also partly because her eyes were blurred with tears. Sakura demanded, “Why are you showing all this to me? Why does all this have to happen?”
“You know already why. So, do you finally submit to the divine powers of destiny?” the Fates asked.
“Never!” Sakura exclaimed, breaking free of the Fates’ grasp and began running blindly. Anything to escape from human misery and despair!
The three Fates stared grimly at Sakura and once more the setting distorted. “You’re smarter than that. You know you can’t run away, Cherry Blossom.”
“What has happened?” Nakuru asked Eriol, back in the auditorium. “Sakura-chan disappeared suddenly.”
“Time has been paused magically,” Eriol replied. “Only those with special powers can sense it. The rest of the people will never realize that time has stopped.
“Who stopped the time? You didn’t, did you?” Kero-chan demanded, slipping out of Tomoyo’s bag. Tomoyo was frozen by a time spell.
“No. I presume that the Dark Ones are responsible for this,” Eriol replied.
Nakuru grumbled, “Just when the production was getting most interesting.” She peered at Touya, who like the rest of the audience was frozen in space. “He has special powers; why isn’t he awake?”
“Second sight is not strong enough to battle time halt,” Yue replied. “Speaking of power…” He gazed at Eriol with his icy silver eyes.
Sighing, Eriol commented, “Years and years ago, Clow Reed tried to capture the Fate and seal it into a card.”
“What happened?” Nakuru asked.
“He failed,” Eriol said shortly.
“You mean, you failed to conquer the Fate, when you created the Clow Cards?” Nakusu asked, in shock.
“You may put it that way,” Eriol replied. “After all, Clow Reed and myself both believe that there is no such thing as chance. Therefore, it was impossible for Clow Reed to control Fate and make it into his card, because Fate presided over him and controlled his actions.”
“Stop talking as if you and Clow Reed are two different people,” Kero-chan grumbled, secretly deeply worried. If the greatest sorcerer of his time couldn’t seal the Fate, then how could Sakura… No, he must have faith.
“Do you think that they will be able to overcome this dark force?” Erika asked Eron, who had slipped backstage and was rubbing his temple.
“Who knows? They’ve surprised us a great deal so far,” he replied ambiguously, after recollecting his thoughts. That bastard Syaoran had punched him to hard, and he had a throbbing headache.
“Even so, their parents couldn’t overcome the Fate,” Erika replied demurely. “Nobody can.”
With a slight frown, Eron fingered his left earlobe, missing his usual ruby stud earring.
Erika’s hand flew to her right ear, realizing that her earring was also missing; she hadn't even noticed because of the chaos of the production and keeping track of the dark force. “How…”
“Don’t ask me,” Eron answered shortly. “That bastard Mizuki Kai. We better keep an eye on him.”
“Sakura is crying,” Syaoran murmured, clutching the green satin ribbon in his sword hand and bringing it to his lips. He stared blankly at the twisting, contorted surroundings with a faint recollection of having witnessed battlefields, floods, famines, and fires, yet numb to it all. All he cared was to find Sakura.
There was a pounding on his head, and he had to steady himself, before blinking and finding himself in a pretty garden with the sun shining high overhead; this was a sharp contrast to the destitution he has seen previously. What was the intention of the Fate?
Staring up at the tallest tree, Syaoran realized that a girl around sixteen or so, in a blue and white sailor uniform, was balancing herself on the highest branch. Her long violet hair waved in the breeze, and she was gently clutching a tiny bird to her chest.
“Nadeshiko-chan! Come down this instant! You’re going to fall!” young Sonomi called out from the bottom.
Carefully setting the bird in its nest, Nadeshiko waved her hand and smiled.
“I’m all right Sonomi-chan! I’m coming down!” At that moment, her foot slipped.
Syaoran covered his eyes with his hand as he heard a shrill shriek, then a
thud. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes again, then
grinned lopsidedly. Nadeshiko had neatly landed on a man in his early or mid
twenties, his glasses slightly lopsided, his suit rumpled, and his auburn hair
tousled. Kinomoto Fujitaka Sakura had once told him that her mother first met
her father when she fell out of a tree. He had seen his father view this scene
last time he was trapped inside the Mirror of Truth.
The man with glasses smiled kindly and said, “I thought an angel fell from the sky.”
Nadeshiko stared up with round emerald eyes, then a
soft smile curved on her rosebud lips.
Yet, Syaoran’s attention was diverted. A little way off, behind several
close set trees stood a young man with solemn azure blue eyes with his arms
folded across his chest. He closed his eyes, seeming much wearier and older
than his nineteen or so years.
“Li Ryuuren, you truly are a fool,” said a girl in the same sailor uniform as Nadeshiko and Sonomi, coming up from behind the young man. Her long luxurious mahogany hair was pulled up into a high ponytail. “Make things up with Nadeshiko. It’s not too late you know.”
Reopening tired eyes, which seemed to have lost some of the usual fire, Ryuuren replied, “Does that matter, anyway? It’s all over now. We haven’t spoken since that final confrontation last against the Dark Force. I have completed my mission, and Nadeshiko will safely keep the Clow Book until the next Card Master or Mistress is chosen. She believes that I despise her and thinks I’ve returned to Hong Kong by now.”
“Well why haven’t you gone back yet?” Mizuki Miara demanded, hands on hips.
“Where? Do you mean home?” His old cynical, mocking smile masking over his face, Ryuuren said, “I do wonder. Why haven’t I gone back yet? Why can’t I leave Japan? Why am I lurking around, hoping to get one last glimpse of her? Tell me Miara, why? Why am I such a fool?”
Her eyes cast down, Miara replied softly, “You still love her. You’re lying to yourself if you think you don’t love her.”
Leaning against the tree trunk, aggressively, Ryuuren replied in a cutting voice. “I love her?” Then in a cruelly suave tone, he reiterated, “Yes, that must be the reason, after all. I love her. I want to tell her that I love her. I love her so much, I’m willing to give up the silly Li honor, all I have worked for up till now, and I am even willing to give up my life for her. Though I had convinced myself that I hate and scorn her, I know deep inside that is all a lie. Maybe, I was wishing that somehow things would work out, after all, if I stay around. Yet, my leaving her is the best for her. I’ll disappear from her life, leaving no trace of my existence, for I have given up my soul for her happiness.”
“Do you truly think that you can let her go? Can you leave her like this? Can you give up on your love?”
“Fate has written separate paths for us,” Ryuuren said bitterly. “From the beginning, Nadeshiko and I were on different lines.”
“What do you mean?” Miara frowned, staring at the man who she recognized as a popular new teacher new to the neighborhood, help Nadeshiko up cordially. It was the first time in ages that Miara saw that bright, appealing smile reappear from Nadeshiko’s face.
“That man, Kinomoto Fujitaka, will be Nadeshiko’s future husband. He’s half the reincarnation of the greatest sorcerer of his age, Clow Reed. They’ll be married in a few months from now. And they’re going to have two children, a son and a daugter, and live together a beautiful, blissful life with no pain and sorrow. More than anything I can promise to Nadeshiko,” Ryuuren said in a far-away tone. “There, can I stand against that perfect man? No, truthfully I don’t have the courage to challenge him. I’ll step aside for Nadeshiko’s sake.”
At first, Miara was about to retort that Ryuuren had every right to try to reconcile with Nadeshiko and fulfill his love. Yet, something in Ryuuren’s face, as he gazed at Nadeshiko and the cordial, gentle teacher, made her change her mind; she had a dreadful notion that every word that Ryuuren uttered was true. Finally, she inquired, “How do you know all this?”
“It’s what Fate has revealed to me. That is how I know that I have no place in her life. So I can continue on with mine, a new life back in Hong Kong.” Slowly, the hard lines in Ryuuren’s face softened into a more mature, wistful look. “But I’m glad that I have seen him. The man who can make Nadeshiko the happiest. He seems to be a kind, gentle person, who will treat Nadeshiko with respect and consideration, with everything I never showed her. Now I can return to Hong Kong with reassurance in my heart, that Nadeshiko has moved on to her destined life, and I can do so to mine.”
“Strange, why do I feel all of a sudden that you have grown so much older and wiser?” Miara commented, half teasingly, half earnestly, looking up at Ryuuren’s lean profile with new awe.
Almost chuckling, Ryuuren replied, “I am wiser and older.”
At this Miara pouted. “Stupid of her to mention it; at least you haven’t changed in that aspect.”
Then, in a brisk, business like manner, Ryuuren said, “There. I’ve finally finished all my business in Japan.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mizuki Miara, it has been a short time I have been acquainted with you, but I’m really glad that I have met you, all of you. I’m sure you’ll succeed in becoming a famous writer—that’s what you want to be, right? I’ll surely read your books then.” He refrained from adding, ‘If I am still alive.’ Instead he hinted with a crooked smile, “And do give Tanaka-san a chance. He’s one of the good sort.”
At this, Miara made an outrageous choking sound.
“Good bye, Miara. Don’t tell Nadeshiko you met me. Let me quietly fade away from your lives, into the old lane of memory, then into oblivion.”
With this, Ryuuren turned his back to her and walked away, his steps growing brisker, until he disappeared into nowhere.
“Why do I have a feeling I’ll never see Li Ryuuren again?” Miara murmured, quickly wiping a trickle of tear from her
cheek. True to her instinct, she never saw the young man she had loved at first
sight again. Yet, she never forgot the earnest blueness of his eyes, as if a
tumultuous storm in the ocean had been calmed, when he gazed upon Nadeshiko’s
smiling face, before he left the country. The last image Miara
had of him was his straight, graceful profile, walking away from her and
disappearing into the mist of times gone by. She had a strange notion that Li
Ryuuren was one of those rare breed of noble, strong, persistent people, who
could stand up again even after falling down thousand of times.
“You’re of a bit of a less emotional type than the Cherry Blossom, aren’t you?” the Fate asked Syaoran, as the Tomoeda neighborhood twenty-two years ago faded away. “I never saw a person who could learn about his father’s broken dreams without flitting an eye.”
His lip set in a grim line, Syaoran refused to answer. He hadn’t let his calm expression slip a moment, yet he wanted to scream, ‘FATHER,” though he his voice wouldn’t come out.
“Or maybe you’re trying to look brave on the outside and keep all your true emotions bottled inside,” the Fate continued to mock. “Either way, you seem to accept the words of Fate without a fight, obedient just like your father. Good for you. You must be a little smarter than the girl.”
The girl. They mean Sakura. What happened in the past doesn’t matter to me. All I have to do is reach Sakura. “What did you do to her?” he demanded.
"Nothing, impatient boy. She's the one driving
herself crazy." Gracefully, the Fate stepped
aside, revealing that Sakura had been watching the happenings from another
corner of the garden.
Sakura, whose eyes were glassy; she had witnessed the scene of her mother falling off the tree into her father’s arms. Until now, she had not viewed Li Ryuuren as anything less than mechanical, perfect, and always composed.
“I don’t understand!” Sakura exclaimed, bolting with anger. “I don’t see why Syaoran’s father or my mother had to suffer so much because they were made helpless!”
The Fate replied, “Well, it’s about time that you understood the gravity of the power of Fate.”
With a desperate, rebellious look washed over her face, Sakura broke
off into a run through a poverty-stricken western European town of the middle
ages, avoiding to answer the Fate. Soon, she found it
hard to run because the streets were flocked with dark creatures—she hadn’t
even noticed that she was no longer in the garden. It took her a second to
realize in horror that it was the scurrying of black rats at her feet, which
prevented her from running.
“Wait! Sakura?” Syaoran called out, struggling to
remain levelheaded as he glimpsed the lithe form of a girl weaving in and out
of the people in the streets and disappearing around a curve. He had to keenly
watch his steps lest he stepped on one of those disgusting black vermin
crawling all over the town. It was quite unsettling to see rats covering every
spot, in the docks, the wells, the houses, the garbage piled up outside scanty
houses, and even clinging on to people. Plus there was the horrible stench of
human uncleanness, rotten food scraps, human waste, and burning flesh. Had he
been more observant he would have realized that it was the smell of sickness
and death which repelled him the most. A trickle of perspiration rolled his forehead
as he tried to immune himself to the sound of wails and shrieks in the
Simultaneously as Syaoran realized all this, Sakura came to a halt, panting heavily, and stared at the dull sickliness around her.
“Monsieur, monsieur!” A beggar girl around Sakura’s age, maybe a little older, whose cheeks were hollow with hunger, clung onto the cloak of a gentleman with a grand moustache who was about to enter his coach. “Please, my mother and little sisters and brothers are dying! Help, doctor. Come see them. Here! Here’s money!” The adolescent urchin thrust out a soiled handkerchief with a few coins wrapped in it.
“Hurry, Monsieur Dupont,” a richly dressed women in the coach, Madame Dupont, urged. “We have to escape to the countryside before they close the gates of the city and forbid us to escape the horrors of the Black Death. We don’t want to be contaminated by this horrible disease, like the wretched poor.”
“Doctor! Have mercy! Just a few minutes! I beg you, please!” The girl was cut off.
Roughly pushing the girl away, the man entered the coach, shutting close the door. The girl pounded frantically at the coach door, before the coach moved off at top speed, tossing the girl into a puddle in the unpaved streets. With trembling bony fingers, the girl picked up her scattered coins, gathering them back into the mud soaked piece of cloth. As she was about to stand up, she was hit by a fit of coughing. It was painful to even hear the hollow cough which came from the lungs. Looking closer, Sakura realized that the girl was coughing up lumps of blood and her face was a feverish, blotchy red. Sakura was about to offer a clean handkerchief, before she remembered that she didn’t even exist in the world and couldn’t be seen.
Observing around her, Sakura realized that all around her were disease stricken people; mostly they were the poor, because the rich quickly moved away from the unsanitary, crowded towns into the country side as soon as the Black Death epidemic swept in. Her brother wasn’t a pre-med student for no reason. She realized that old Europe was an unhygienic place since people didn’t wash and threw garbage and waste straight into the streets where people walked. Plus, towns were overcrowded with people and became breeding places for rats, who spread disease around at a rapid rate. Off in a corner of the street was an infant being bitten to dead by the horrid black rats crawling all over the streets. The desolate conditions sent shivers down her spine.
Then she heard the beggar girl convulse into another fit of coughing. She had to do something. Out of all these devastated people, she was the only one who had the power to. Instinctively, she reached for the Heal card. She raised her staff her head, ready to strike it down on the Heal. There was no reason for human lives to be taken after so much suffering, when it could be prevented.
“Don’t do it.” A strong hand gripped her wrist, releasing her hold on the staff.
Sakura swerved around to see the calm, emotionless ambers eyes of Syaoran. When had he found her? Then, she tried to wrench her hand out Syaoran’s iron grip. “No! I’m going to save these people! They’re dying, don’t you see? Let go of me!” The groans of the people became a sickening reality and urgency for her.
Syaoran was startled to see the tears streaming down Sakura’s face; but Sakura didn’t seem aware that she was crying. Frantically, Sakura tried to struggle to release Syaoran’s hold on her. “I have to save these people! I have the power to do so; I have the Heal card. What’s the point of having special powers and not being able to use it when I really have to? Have power just for the sake of power? I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch people suffering when I know I can prevent them from pain.”
For the first time since she received her magic staff, Sakura realized the extent of the burden of great power on her back. Sometimes, it was useful to have power for her own benefits. Yet at other times, she realized that such special powers were not endowed upon to use so selfishly and that since she had the ability to accomplish things beyond regular people’s skills, she had to take up such responsibility. She could no longer sit back and watch things happen; she had to take action. Suddenly Syaoran’s direct words broke her stream of thoughts.
“Stop it, Sakura! Get a grip!” Syaoran had to hold Sakura with both arms to keep her from breaking free of him. He had never seen her this outraged or hysterical before. It must be painful to have such a compassionate heart as hers. To not only feel your own miseries, but to feel everyone else’s, grieve, cry, and despair over other people’s anguish. What can I do, what can I say, to comfort Sakura? Nothing, but blunt words, nothing but cold facts, nothing that can make her smile. I feel pain and sorrow to, but I keep it all within me. He bit his lips. I’m sorry Sakura. I’m sorry. Don’t reproach me and scorn me, for this is the only way I can be.
In a level voice, Syaoran told her, “It’s useless. You know you can’t change these people’s fates! It’s written down in their history. You’ve read history books about the Plague. It’s not your role to meddle with it! You can’t use the Heal card to save their lives. First of all, you don’t even exist in this world, not to mention even if you did, you probably still don’t have enough power to save all these people’s lives. Plus, you can’t change history.” Abruptly, Syaoran released Sakura, who was shaking uncontrollably. She unwillingly submitted to him and didn’t try to use the Heal card again.
Yet, Sakura stared up at Syaoran with furiously blazing emerald eyes. “Why did you stop me? Maybe I can’t save all of them. Maybe it’s not my role to meddle with their fate. But don’t you believe in effort? You’re no different from them.” This was implying the Fate and the Dark Ones. ”Don’t you feel pity and outrage at the unfairness of life? Weren’t you the one who believed that all people deserve to have some control of their lives? Or are you just a hypocrite who says big words yet is a coward inside?”
“I have a clear sense of my own limits and what can be done and what has to be followed. There are some things we can do and can try to prevent, and some things that can’t be helped with our powers,” Syaoran replied coolly, which infuriated Sakura even more, because she didn’t recognize that the coolness came from his efforts not to break down also. “Besides, it may be selfish, but I have enough trouble keeping straight of my life without having to take account of all the millions of people in the world.”
“Oh, I should have known that you always put yourself first priority,” Sakura said with an equally icy coolness, despite the quivering in her voice.
“Isn’t that human nature?” Syaoran asked staidly. “Selfishness. Being content and thankful for your own happiness.”
”Well, you’re not even human!” Sakura lashed out.
Right before Syaoran looked away, his golden brown eyes with dark eyebrows furrowed down reflected brief hurt at her words. It was instantaneous, but Sakura didn’t miss his change of expression and immediately regretted her unintentional harsh words, which she did not truly mean. Out of anyone, she knew best how truly unselfish Syaoran was. Out of anyone, she knew that he was not a coward. Out of anyone, she knew how caring he was.
For a second, she expected him to strike her or lash out back at her; Sakura believed that she deserved it because she had no right to judge another person when she, herself, was not perfect. Inside, she knew perfectly well that Syaoran’s words were true and that she was obstinately trying to cling onto illusions; she probably could not save the entire village from disease and poverty, she could not change history, and she was overly wrought-up and not thinking clearly. Sakura cringed as she felt Syaoran’s hand on her shoulder. She wiped her face with her sleeve. Though her eyes stung, they were no longer wet. Then, she braced herself and looked up hesitantly at Syaoran with her blurred vision clearing.
To her surprise, instead of looking at her with contempt and resentment for her cutting words, he replied in a tired, yet gentle tone, “Maybe I’m not a very good person yet... but I’m trying hard to become a better one.”
This made a lump in her throat. “I’m sorry,” Sakura said quietly. “I didn’t mean it. I mean, what I said about you not even being human.”
“No, you’re right. I was hardly human when I first came to Japan, five years ago,” Syaoran said sadly. “I didn’t know how to smile, I didn’t know how to make friends, I didn’t know how to have fun. All I cared about was capturing the Clow Cards and upholding family honor. Yet, you taught me that there was more to life than that. You taught me how much I was missing out.” After a deliberate pause, he added softly, “And you taught me how to become human—you’re even teaching me at this moment.”
His words jerked a string in Sakura’s heart and a new consciousness flooded
over her, as if she was looking at Syaoran for the first time. It might have
been a realization that Syaoran had taught her more than she had taught him.
Until then, she had always believed love to be a fuzzy warm feeling in your
heart, which she described as “hanyaan,” or maybe a
deep aching in the heart as described in movies and novels. Yet, it was
something more than that. It was more like a mysterious venture to find a
missing part of your soul. Every day was a journey. To love was to learn.
As Sakura looked up again, she realized that she no longer could hear the painful moans of dying people and the skittering of rats at her feet. They were once more in the black room. She had collapsed onto her knees, and Syaoran was bracing her up. Carefully, Sakura pushed away Syaoran so that she could stand up on her own.
Sighing, Syaoran turned to the Fate.
“So, do you finally understand the powers of the Fate?” the three women, who now seemed to become one, asked.
Without any hesitation, Sakura replied, “My answer is the same as before, no! Though there are many things that I have no control over, I at least have control over myself.”
Taken back the Fate replied, “Kinomoto Sakura, you are the most foolish and obstinate girl Fate has seen in centuries.”
Smiling impishly, Sakura replied, “I know. But even if I’m wrong, I would rather believe what is morally right, rather than live hopelessly with rules that I don’t believe in.” She shut her eyes. She remembered Syaoran’s words back during the Best Couple Contest Questionnaire.
“ ‘I don’t want to believe in fate, because as long as
I’m alive, I want to believe that I have complete control over my life. I don’t
want to be some puppet controlled by destiny; I want to believe that in my
life, I make my choices and the things that happen are a consequence of my actions, not because they were meant to be that
way. For, my life is my life.’ ”
“How interesting,” a feline voice drawled. “What can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve a determined soul? Chance? Destiny? Fate?”
Rather crossly, Sakura looked up to face a tawny Sphinx like creature. The Riddle. Rather innocently, Sakura Said, “Gee, I didn’t realize you were still alive. What are you doing here?”
Mischievously, Syaoran added, “Oh, I forgot. You always pop up to perplex everyone and become a nuisance, and run away before things get too dangerous.”
Sakura then asserted, “But I say, you must be losing your touch; the answer to your riddle is simple: Nothing! Nothing can control the firm resolve a determined soul.”
Rather stunned, the Riddle disappeared, wordless. It was no fun challenging someone so confident.
Sakura groaned. She still hadn’t thought of a riddle to conquer the Riddle
with; but right now, she had more important things at hand.
The Fate seemed somewhat taken back by Sakura’s certainty and assertiveness. Then, in an amused tone, the Fate asked, “What makes you believe in such nonsense? Look at your parents for a perfect example of those who have failed in defying Fate. They thought they loved each other, yet Fate has separated them as enemies full of hatred and contempt for each other. What was the point of all they have worked for and all their love for each other? There was no point. It was all useless. In the end, they were controlled by Fate. They died as pathetic puppets of Fate, never mending their hard feelings against each other.”
The Fate was mistaken; she knew better. Fleetingly, Sakura recalled the last entry in Li Ryuuren’s burned diary, which had read with Syaoran soon after he returned from Hong Kong, the previous year. (Chapter 2)
[Here I lie on my deathbed. I can hardly manage to hold a pen. Though I die early… satisfied… Nadeshiko and I… can sleep eternally… in once more mended friendship… we both have children… our youngest would be more powerful… than we ever were… it they find the true key… someday… they’ll be the ones… to face the… golden eyed enemies… one last time… I went to Japan… with my youngest son… vowed I’d never return… but I didn’t want to miss my… last chance… to erase that awful memory… Met Nadeshiko… as beautiful as ever… has a strong son… and beautiful young daughter… already friendly with my son… we can die in peace…now… we have our… children… to carry on…]
Looking up with the fierce look reflecting the courage of one who will remain undaunted no matter what the enemy says, Sakura replied, “You’re wrong about our parents. I can prove you to be wrong.” There was no holding her back this time.
“Key that hides the power of the stars. Show your true self to me. I, Sakura, command you under contract. RELEASE!” She released her staff. “Return!”
Approximately twenty-three years ago, in a school music room…
A girl, chewing on the end of her pencil, sat crouching over sheets of paper at one end of the table in a music room. Her abundant reddish curls were held back with a blue ribbon. Off to her right was a young man whom Sakura and Syaoran didn’t recognize, intently sketching something; he looked around university age, since he wasn’t in a school uniform. By the piano was a girl in the same uniform as the first, strumming a light tune, then taking notes on a music score. Brushing back a wisp of her smoky violet hair, she critically looked up at Ryuuren, who was propped on the windowsill and thoughtlessly playing an air on the violin.
“Are you listening?” Nadeshiko demanded. “Do you think this tune works for the final scene in Star-Crossed?”
“Yes, it’s fine,” Ryuuren replied in a lazy voice, without his bow over the strings faltering for a second as the sweet melody of Edvard Grieg's Morning filled the music room.
Nadeshiko sighed; it was hard to get mad at someone who played such a lovely tune. “It sounds so empty though, like some part of it is missing.”
Throwing her arms up in exasperation, Miara cried, “You guys can’t compose the music for the finale of this musical, when I haven’t even figure how to end it! This is impossible!”
“Whose idea was it to write the script and lyrics, compose the music, and put together a whole musical production all by ourselves, Mizuki Miara?” the young man next to her demanded, looking up from his sketches of stage plans.
“Mine, Tanaka-senpai,” Miara grumbled. “Well, I’m going to be a great writer when I grow up, so I was trying to get an early start. And Nadeshiko and Ryuuren are composing great tunes to go with the lyrics I write out, when they are not arguing, and you are helping out with the stage designs, editing, giving creative ideas once in a while and stuff, so, I was pretty sure this will become a masterpiece.” On a dark note, she added, “If I figure out an ending, which will do credit to all the effort so far.”
“Well, why don’t you just stick to Shakespeare’s original ending for Romeo and Juliet?”
“Actually, I like it a lot… It’s so tragic and beautiful,” Miara stated with starry eyes. “Upon learning she has to marry Count Paris, Juliet, in despair drinks a potion which will make her appear dead for 24 hours, and so she is buried in the Capulet tomb. Meanwhile, Romeo, who is in exile, receives the misleading news that Juliet is dead, when in fact, she is only in deep slumber. In despair, he returns to Verona, and upon seeing that she is dead for himself, he kisses her one last time and drinks poison. Just as Romeo fall beside her side, lifeless, the sleeping potion wears off, and Juliet awakens to find her lover dead. In return, she plunges a knife into her heart, and there ends the greatest, most tragic couple of all times.”
Wrinkling her nose, Nadeshiko declared, “I don’t like it. It’s so stupid. Neither of them had to die. And even one of them had to die, the other one should have continued to live, instead of committing suicide. Suicide is the act of a coward. Since we changed so many things from the original Shakespearean version already, I don’t see why we can’t go ahead and write up a happy ending.”
Clucking, Miara declared, “You’re so unromantic, Nade-chan. You must remember that this is a tragedy and that’s what makes it so great. Look at the title, Star-Crossed. Do you know what it means? It means, ill-fated; Romeo and Juliet are crossed by the stars so that they are not meant to be; their tragedy was already predetermined by the heavenly bodies.”
Spinning around on the piano bench, Nadeshiko demanded, “So that’s basically saying that it was their fate which separated them. I don’t like it. Change the ending so that they defy fate and can live happily ever after.”
“Things don’t work out that way. The whole point of Romeo and Juliet is to depict a hopeless love in which two young people are determined by the stars above them to never work out, as they are thrown into the chaos of family feuds,” Miara protested.
“I always figured that the title ‘Star-Crossed’ meant destined by the stars to be together. Kind of like Vega and Altair, the Princess Weaver and the Shepherd,” Nadeshiko commented wistfully.
“You still have a lot to learn,” Miara sighed, shaking her head. Looking up to Ryuuren, who was still playing the violin on the windowsill, she asked, “You agree that there should be a tragic ending, right?”
Playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, Ryuuren replied half-heartedly, “You’re the writer; you decide. I’m only composing the music.”
Miara commented, “You know, you should just put aside being the Li Clan Chosen One and everything and become a professional violinist.”
With a crooked grin, Ryuuren asked, “Do you think I can support myself by becoming a musician?”
“Certainly. You definitely have the talent,” Miara stated.
“My family would cry, if I decided to abandon the Clan,” Ryuuren said with the slightest hint of sarcasm. “My uncle, who was my training master, made me learn music because he had the strange notion that I needed to learn discipline and concentration, not to mention learn how to calm my temper. I guess I was a reckless boy. Well, I hated it at first because it seemed to be a waste of time when I could have been learning more martial arts skills, but gradually, playing violin has taught me to forget about my immediate worries and cool my head.”
“If I haven’t seen you violently slaughter a dark force with your aggressive sword skills, I could have sworn you were a peaceful person at heart,” Nadeshiko noted.
“So would I,” Ryuuren replied. Turning to Miara, he said, “About the ending, forget about the passion, hatred, bitterness, and drama—the whole tragedy business. Make a peaceful ending, one that leaves your heart tranquil and calm.”
“You’re even more boring than Nade-chan,” Miara asserted crossly. Then she brightened up. “It’s okay.
I think I have something coming…”
“Oops… Too far back,” Sakura murmured. It was still difficult for her to control the Return in terms of time and location; all cards dealing with time were difficult to control. All the same, she was glad that she chanced upon the writing of the script of “Star-Crossed.” Somehow, it all made more sense and became more meaningful for her. Furthermore, her mother’s words reassured that what she was doing was right.
“What are you trying to do?” Syaoran asked, gazing uneasily at the Fate.
“Wait and see.” Realizing that the Fate might lose attention any moment, Sakura struck down her staff again.
Approximately twelve years ago, Hong Kong…
It took a second for Syaoran to recognize his so familiar home and the beautiful oriental style garden, blossoming with lush flowers and plants. It took even longer to recognize his mother and father.
“Ieran, I have a feeling I don’t have much time left,” sighed Ryuuren, still dashingly handsome at almost thirty. Somehow, he had lost his boyish, hot-tempered charm, and a more steady manliness cloaked his broad shoulders.
“Go, Ryuuren. Go back to Japan and put things right again,” said Ieran, who Sakura at first did not realize. It wasn’t so much the looks, for she still had long jet black hair pulled back from her a beautiful profile, but the overall impression that was different; at this point, Li Ieran was not so strict and formidable like a stately queen, but more gentle and womanly. Syaoran strained his eyes to take a better look at his mother who he had always imagined to be dignified, majestic, and commanding, somewhat different from normal mothers. She must have hardened considerably after her husband’s death.
“But how can I just intrude in her life again, after endings things with such bitterness and hatred?” Ryuuren asked softly, showing indecisiveness and disparity which he had never betrayed before.
“Bitterness, maybe, but never hatred,” Ieran replied. “Ryuuren, remember years ago right before you left for Japan? You were only seventeen then. Remember how I that told you I loved you, no matter what, and that I’ll wait for you?”
Smiling crookedly, Ryuuren replied softly, “Of course I do, of course.”
“And you did return; I was so glad. Even if you had given your first love to another person, you gave your adult love to me,” Ieran continued.
Now, where did I hear that before? Sakura pondered. Ironically, it seemed as if Ieran had been head over heels over Ryuuren. Almost like Meilin over Syaoran, though that is a crazy thought. She doesn’t seem like that kind of person. The impression I got from meeting her in my visit to Hong Kong five years ago was that she is always composed and aloof, never insensible or frivolous. I guess people change over years, especially after death.
“Though you once loved that girl in Japan very much, I know you don’t love her anymore. She has her own family now and you have your own. But I know you’ve kept it in your heart for years with a certain wistfulness that you parted so bitterly, not as friends. You’ve always wanted to clear the misunderstanding and ruefulness. And now is your chance. Go, Ryuuren, and clear things. It still is not too late. Go to Japan.”
With a grateful smile, Ryuuren looked up at Ieran with ocean blue eyes brimming with tenderness and appreciation.
“Father! I can’t walk so fast!” called out a little three-year-old boy with tussled brown hair. Panting, he trotted up to his father, who stood in front of the gates of a quaint, cozy ivory colored house in the Tomoeda neighborhood. The gate was open, so Li Ryuuren entered, followed by his little son, and he headed toward the back porch, where he heard a ringing child’s laughter and the sweet, low melody of the violin. For a second, he was blinded by the sunshine. Then slowly, his vision cleared as his eyes focused on a slim figure in a white cotton dress, sitting on a wicker chair set up on the back porch. Her long wavy violet hair was pulled back in a loose braid, revealing a pale, yet still beautiful face with verdant eyes that matched the greenness of the treetops lighted by sunrays. At first, she did not realize someone was watching her and continued to play the violin. Then startled, she set the elegantly carved instrument on her lap and looked up.
For the longest time, they stared at each other, emerald eyes facing sapphire eyes, as if they were meeting for the first time. Li Ryuuren stood wordlessly on the Kinomoto resident garden, almost as if he was paralyzed.
Finally, Nadeshiko whispered, “Li… Ryuuren? Is it really you?”
Nodding, Ryuuren stepped up closer to see Nadeshiko’s face more clearly. He realized that she was no longer a clumsy, defiant, naive girl, but a woman who brimmed with gentleness and womanliness. With regret, Ryuuren realized that Nadeshiko had dark shadows underneath her radiant eyes and her face was thinner and paler than it had been ten years ago.
Smiling, Nadeshiko said, “You haven’t changed a bit. I almost thought that you are seventeen and I am fourteen again.”
Ryuuren smiled in return with a flood of relief. No awkwardness, no anger, no reproach. Nadeshiko was still the bright, warm-hearted person she had been, just like a sunflower. “I never found a person who had that same enchanting smile as you.”
This time laughing, Nadeshiko said, “Don’t make fun of me. You used to tell me that my smile reflected my naivety, ignorance, and carefreeness.” Her clear laughter broke off into a fit of coughing. It was painful to hear her hollow, dry cough. Ryuuren frowned when he saw that the clean white lace handkerchief that Nadeshiko coughed into was speckled with blood. Yet, he couldn’t bring himself to mention it.
“I’m forgetting my manners. Please take a seat.” Nadeshiko pointed to another chair on the porch. Wistfully, she added, “I’m sorry. I should stand but…”
“It’s okay, don’t worry,” Ryuuren reassured hastily, without taking a seat. “Since when have we cared so much about manners?” Changing the topic, as he had always been an expert at doing, he asked, “Do you still play the violin?”
“Not often,” Nadeshiko replied. “I play the organ more frequently. I’m supposed to just rest and lie around in bed these days. So, my son— Kinomoto Touya—plays the violin for me, and I like to listen.”
From the corner, Touya, age ten, who had been standing stiffly, bowed slightly.
“He’s really good though he’s only ten, though I admit, no one can ever produce the sound that you did,” Nadeshiko continued. “Do you still play?”
“When I have time,” Ryuuren said wistfully. “My youngest child is too young to play, but he listens quite eagerly.”
“Your son?” Nadeshiko asked, peeping at the little boy who stood timidly behind his father’s leg.
Gently untangling the child’s arms, Li Ryuuren lifted him up so that Nadeshiko could take a better look at him. For a second, little Syaoran kicked his short legs in the air. Then, he gulped when Nadeshiko smile at him.
Rather proudly, Ryuuren stated, “His name’s Li Syaoran, and he’s three now.”
Little Syaoran observed the beautiful woman with a gentle smile with great
big amber eyes. After a while, deciding that he liked the woman, he declared,
“I’m going to become a gweat wawwia
like father, and I think you’re the most beautiful person I have ever seen in
my life, besides Mommy!”
Syaoran gawked, amazed as his younger self’s outspoken boldness. Sakura
giggled, “How adorable!”
“Thank you, Syaoran!” Laughing, Nadeshiko clapped her hands together as she observed the chubby cheeks, large amber eyes under a dark scowl so formidable because it came from such a small child and glossy brown hair which was the envy of the female clan members. “Why, you’re a miniature replica of your father! Except your eyes. I rather like the color. It reminds me of a warm autumn day. Ryuuren’s always reminded me of an icy winter that sometimes thawed into a bright blue summer ocean.”
Ryuuren cleared his throat loudly uncomfortably.
“Wait, I’ll introduce you to my daughter. She’s three also. Touya, where’s your little sister?” Nadeshiko asked.
Without word, Touya beckoned underneath the chair. Dragging the little girl out from underneath the chair, Nadeshiko scolded slightly, “Now, say hello to mommy’s friend, Sakura!” Little Sakura, her short golden brown hair clipped into lopsided pigtails at each side of her head came out bashfully, staring with round eyes at the strangers.
This time, Ryuuren laughed. “She doesn’t look anything like you! Though something about her smile still does…” Wistfully, he added, “You’ve always told me that if you had a daughter, you would name her Sakura… After your favorite flower.”
“Did I tell you that?” Nadeshiko sighed. “It has been a long time.”
“It has,” Ryuuren said in a strained voice.
They were completely silent, as if they were truly aware of the gap of more than ten years between them. For a flit second, they recalled how they had parted; as something much less than friends. Yet, years had passed, and here they were, both married and with children, talking lightly. So much time had wasted away, a slight guiltiness and ruefulness gnawing in their hearts for parting without a word, feeling so much reproach and bitterness towards each other.
Fumbling inside a case that little Syaoran had been carrying, Ryuuren extracted sheets of paper. Handing it to Nadeshiko, he said, briskly, “Here.”
“What is it?” Nadeshiko peered at the slightly yellowed paper and realized that they were sheets of music. On the top was a broken star symbol. Star-crossed. She smiled longingly. Next to it in scrawling bold letters, To Nadeshiko, From Ryuuren.
“I was meaning to give it to you years ago, but I never got the chance to,” Ryuuren said quickly, trying to hide embarrassment. “It’s the piece that… You remember…”
It was the piece that Nadeshiko had played a countermelody to, proving that Ryuuren’s staunch belief that being alone was the best was wrong (Chapter 7).
“I thought I should put it down on paper, you know. To have a record for the future. I didn’t change anything. Just merely set right the measures and the minor details. And I thought you would like a copy of it,” Ryuuren explained. He didn’t mention that he had planned to give it long ago, but never had the opportunity to. “I…” he trailed off.
“Thank you,” Nadeshiko murmured. “It’s coincidence. Miara told me that she had re-edited the playwright that we started writing ages ago, and commented that she would like to use this tune for the finale.” Silently, she fingered the music score, reminiscing all the memories related to it.
“About after we fought the Dark Ones and retrieved the Clow,” Ryuuren began again.
In a worn out voice, Nadeshiko said, “That’s the past. We need no longer think of it. What matters is that we are both here now, happy with our families and now, talking together like old friends.”
“No… This is the reason I came back to Japan. To tell you, that even then, when we parted, I did not feel any hatred towards you. It grieved me that we had to part as enemies.”
Nadeshiko paused and then whispered, “You left Japan without even saying good-bye. I waited but you did not come. I wanted to apologize, but was too prideful.”
Ryuuren winced, and stared blankly at the back porch. He could not tell her how he watched her from afar, staying on until he saw her first meet with her destined love. ”I’m sorry.”
Slightly chuckling, Nadeshiko commented, “I guess you must have changed, after all. Since when did you say sorry?” Then in a more grave tone, Nadeshiko said, “I’m so glad that you came, Ryuuren, so glad… I thought that I would never see you again. Yet, here I am, all old, married, and with children, talking with you as if nothing ever happened…”
“You’re not old,” Ryuuren scoffed. “You’re only in your mid-twenties.”
“I must be old… You’re not calling me little girl anymore,” Nadeshiko sighed ruefully. She coughed again, a ripping pain in her lungs.
”That cough…” Ryuuren began.
“It’s nothing,” Nadeshiko quickly reassured, before breaking out in another fit of coughing.
“How long have you had it?” Ryuuren asked quietly.
“On and off for quite a long time now,” Nadeshiko replied lightly. “But it hasn’t been going away at all this past year.”
“Is it from…” Ryuuren trailed off.
Shaking her head, Nadeshiko said, “Don’t worry about it.”
“You were never good at lying,” Ryuuren said.
Slightly smiling, Nadeshiko said, “Well, you know already, so I guess there’s no point in hiding it from you. Truthfully, I’m so glad… I could see you one last time before dying.”
Though he well knew it himself, Ryuuren still felt shocked and dismayed at Nadeshiko’s words, ‘before dying.’ “You’re not going to die,” Ryuuren said, though without conviction. “You’re going to live to an old age, to see your daughter marry and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And I’ll come visit every once in awhile, till I can finally admit that you really are old.” Ryuuren broke off.
Shaking her head, Nadeshiko said, “It’s no use. You know it as well as I do. I’ve only been barely hanging on these last few months. But now I’m fully prepared for death. I don’t know what the Fate told you, but it showed to me that I did not have long to live. Maybe it expected me to despair and vainly find a way to gain a longer life. Instead, I’m thankful for it; though I had to do things earlier than other people and cram more pleasures of life into a shorter period of time, I lived a full life. I think I was happier and more content than most people, and I have no regrets in my life. I have a beautiful family and two children. The one regret I had—not parting with you in peace—is finally answered for, and now, I can truly leave the world without any regrets. Maybe, I was waiting a little while longer, because deep inside, I knew you’d come back.”
“I—I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner,” Ryuuren said, his sapphire blue eyes sorrowful. “All these years, whenever I looked at a certain star in the night sky, I remembered you telling me that if you ever die, you wish we would like part as friends, no matter what has happened in between.” (Syaoran B-day Special)
Several times, Nadeshiko’s expression changed while hearing Ryuuren’s words; she had never imagined that Ryuuren would remember that incident—she had never imagined that he still looked up at Vega of Lyra in the Hong Kong city sky.
“All these years, I was afraid of returning and finding that you have forgotten that wish, and that I was only wishing it by myself. Yet I came back, and found out that I have just been a coward,” he continued.
“It’s better than not coming at all,” Nadeshiko pointed out.
Holding back a smile, Ryuuren replied, “That’s true.” Then turning more solemn, he said, “Well, I think I better go back now. I didn’t mean to stay this long. Just wanted to sort out the misunderstandings.”
Sighing Nadeshiko commented, “You were always so business like.” Looking up, she saw little Touya glaring at Ryuuren’s adorable son, who had taken his little Sakura’s new roller blades, making her cry. “Kinomoto Touya, leave the child alone; he’s only a toddler,” Nadeshiko chided.
Giving another nasty glare at little Syaoran, the ten year old Touya took
his little sister’s hand and dragged her away. In return, little Syaoran moved
instantaneously into a fierce martial arts position.
Holding back a giggle, Sakura said, “No wonder my brother hates you so much.”
Syaoran shrugged in return. He wished he could remember the encountering
himself, yet no matter how hard he tried to recall his childhood, he only could
recollect faint glimpses of his father and never the whole picture.
“What are you doing, Li Syaoran?” Ryuuren scolded, trying to hold back laughter as he picked up the toddler by the nape of his shirt, who struggled furiously in Ryuuren’s hands.
“Looks like he has his father’s temper,” Nadeshiko commented slyly.
Examining his little son rather proudly, Ryuuren smiled. “He’s a fast learner, obstinate, and persistent; he’s rather spoiled as well from all the female clan members. There’s one thing I admire about this little kid though. If he grows up right, he’ll become a much better man than I ever would be. He will grow up to be truthful and straight, unlike me, and be brave, strong, and able follow his heart’s desire.”
“You really have grown into a great father, haven’t you?” Nadeshiko asked. When Ryuuren looked up questioningly, Nadeshiko replied, “I can tell from your smile. You lost that cool, arrogant, mockingness, and now it’s replaced with something—how should I put it—fatherly. So, are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? You’ll be able to meet my husband, Kinomoto Fujitaka… He does the cooking. I was never much good at cooking, you know.”
Shaking his head, Ryuuren replied, “I’d love to, but I better get going.” He had an awkward feeling that he would break down if he stayed on any longer.
“Wait, before leaving, can you do me a favor? I would like to hear you play the violin one last time. There was no one who can play like you did.”
“Besides yourself,” Ryuuren commented. Then, smiling a genuinely wide smile, Ryuuren picked up the violin and brought it to his chin with the easy grace that he had always possessed.
Nodding towards Syaoran, Sakura brought down her staff to end the Return card’s vision. Once more, they were back in the dark room.
Though a trifle agitated, the Fate asked amused, “So what is your point, Cherry Blossom?”
For a second, Sakura stood stunned by the fact that the Fate was unmoved by the scene. Then, regaining her composure, she reasoned, “Don’t you see? You think that Fate had ultimate control and humans are mere puppets. You thought that you could control two people, Li Ryuuren and Amamiya Nadeshiko’s lives with a mere twist of your finger. It is true that they parted on unfavorable terms due to your meddling. It is true that they married different people and carried on separate lives. Yet, you are wrong in thinking that you ended their friendship forever; you thought that with your so-called absolute power, you could make them life-long enemies. But that was a deep mistake.”
“Why is that so, Cherry Blossom?” the Fate asked. “Li Ryuuren and Amamiya Nadeshiko parted, and that is that.”
“But Li Ryuuren came back to Japan to meet my mother, years later after departing,” Sakura continued. “As pointed out, it is better late than ever. And though they are both dead now, they parted as friends, with no hatred or bitterness. Furthermore, they were not tainted or tormented by the prophesies you told each of them. Instead, their lives were on the whole, full, satisfactory lives. Most of all, they died hopeful, rather than in despair. That is what I call a successful life, one demonstrating free will and self-control.”
For the first time, the Fate was wordless.
“So, answer me, Fate!” Sakura demanded. “Do you truly have ultimate power? Do you truly think that a determined soul with submit under you? Can you change the way that I think?”
There was a silence, as Sakura stared up boldly, without blinking her determined emerald eyes. It was the Fate who looked away first.
Slowly, the Fate dissembled to the three women again, who kneeled in front of Sakura, beaten. Finally, the woman holding the spindle said in a wan voice, “We are mighty, but you, Card Mistress, have a will stronger than us. Even those as omnipotent as us make mistakes, and we admit it when we do. You may seal us for the time being.”
Fully comprehending the Fate’s admittance of complete defeat, Sakura held up her staff once more. “Spirit of the dark forces. I, Sakura, command you. Return to a new shape of contract! Sakura Card!”
Through a hazy cloud of light, a card floated down to Sakura’s hand. The Fate. On it’s face were three women, entangled in a snare of golden thread.
Bemused, Syaoran thought to himself, I still have a lot to learn from that girl. While I tackle situations with aggression and force, Sakura uses logic, tactic, and reason. That is, once she collects her thoughts. And often, that seems most successful.
Rather wistfully and reluctantly, he admitted, she doesn’t need me anymore…
By then, the room that the Fates had resided in had dissolved along with the dark force. Once more they could see the entrance of the Mirror of Truth, which they had entered through. Outside, they could barely glimpse the stage, and the audience, completely motionless. Realizing that the Dark One’s time spell might break any moment, they hurried out of the void and back through the Mirror, onto the stage.
Resuming position, Sakura took a deep breath. Suddenly the rush of the audience hushing, and the people backstage bustling made her aware that she was right back in the middle of a school production. Her first instinct would have been to panic, but she knew better now. She looked up at Syaoran, who was staring at her with a queer look— If I didn’t know him better, I would almost say it’s one of awe, she thought, smothering a giggle. Her new card was still warm in her pocket.
After the long separation, Romeo and Juliet finally faced each other again.
Though it was impossible to retrace exactly where they had left in the script,
Syaoran tried his best bet. Skipping over to his line, he said to Sakura “I
heard you were engaged to marry Count Paris.”
“It was a cover up,” Sakura replied quickly, relieved at Syaoran’s quickness to recover. “I had to agree, so that my parents would stop worrying and watching over me.”
“So, why did you run away from home?” Syaoran asked.
Smiling slightly, Sakura replied, “Isn’t that obvious? Isn’t it the same reason that you returned to Verona from exile?”
Softly, Syaoran asked again, “But why did you wait for me, when I left you without a word?”
“Because you never said farewell to me, so I knew that you will come to me again. I’ve always had faith in you, Romeo. Words are not needed to express oneself. Tears are not necessary in sadness. Laughter is not required for happiness. My point is, faith does not require reason. For nothing is sought for in love, but the fulfillment of a yearning in the heart.” At that moment, Sakura’s eyes flickered.
The audience gasped in anticipation. They wanted to shout, “look behind you,” though they knew it was only a play and nothing could be done.
“Romeo Montague! Do not approach my Juliet, you filthy scoundrel!” Eron, the persistent Count Paris who had regained consciousness cried out, leaped forward, sword out in his hand.
“Romeo!” Sakura called out, sprinting forward, throwing her body in front of Syaoran. The special effect sword sank into her bosom without actually puncturing her. Yet, for the audience, the sword pierced into her heart, and Sakura gave a painful moan as she sank to the ground.
“Juliet!” Carefully, Syaoran spread his cloak out on the floor and laid Sakura’s limp body on it, supporting her head up on his lap. “Juliet, Juliet, Juliet,” he whispered, voice trembling. “Silly, why did you do this? You should have just let me be stabbed. It’s less painful than having you injured, even in any way."
“I’m… okay,” Sakura replied in a faint voice. “It doesn’t hurt; it doesn’t hurt as much as what would have happened if I stood and watched. I’ll be okay in a moment.”
Syaoran glared up at Count Paris with blazing amber eyes. “Paris. You will pay for this!”
“No, Romeo,” Sakura pleaded, grabbing a handful of Syaoran’s shirt with weak hands. “Let him be; he didn’t mean any harm. Have pity on him. He was just as unfortunate victim as any of us. Please, just hold me now and don’t let go of me. I’ll be fine then.”
“But…” Syaoran trailed off as he saw the anguish that Paris was in.
“What have I done?” Paris stare aghast at his bloodied sword, realizing that he has just stabbed his love. “No… No… NO!” Crumbling to his knees, he took the soiled sword and stabbed himself before anyone could stop him. He fell lifeless onto the stage. Despite having been part villain, many audience members felt pity for Count Paris.
“Poor Paris…” Sakura murmured, her ocean green eyes glassy.
“What are you talking about?” Syaoran asked in cracked voice. “Do you have the strength to feel sorry for another person who made you in this condition?”
“Romeo…” Sakura whispered. “Tell my parents I’m sorry for disappointing
Almost amused, Syaoran asked, “Me? Silly, all Capulets hate all Montagues.”
“But I love you,” Sakura replied, softly. “I love you so much, yet why does love have to hurt so?” A trickle of tear fell down her cheek. “Am I being punished for trying to defy the stars?”
“If so, why can’t I be punished instead?” Syaoran said, gently stroking Sakura’s cheek, and wiping away the trickle of tear with his thumb. “But I believe, if indeed we were crossed by stars, I wouldn’t have been able to see you again.” His voice broke. “I survived the duel with Tybalt, I survived exile from Verona, and I survived Count Paris’ challenge, just to see you again. If we were not meant to be, then tell me, why did I survive all these tribulations? Why didn’t I just die then, to end all this pain, instead of being fed more glimpses of hope?”
“Because I wished and wished to the stars to be able to see you one last time, which gave me strength to carry on my life,” Sakura said, smiling faintly.
“We’re going to always be with each other from now on, heedless of what others say. We’re going to live only for ourselves,” Syaoran reassured.
“Did you hear the legend that once the Five Treasures of Verona are gathered, they will grant any wish?” Juliet asked, gazing at the sparkling treasures set on the round table on the center of the stage.
“Let us wish to be together forever and forever, far from our families and Verona, then, in a place where there is no hatred, jealousy, nor bitterness,” Syaoran murmured, clasping Sakura’s hand in his.
With a tiny smile, Sakura said, “Don’t you know? I would rather bring about my destiny with my own hands and through my own actions, then passively sit back and wish for a miracle to occur. I would rather that those treasures had never existed, so that our family feud never began.”
“That’s my Juliet,” Syaoran said. To his alarm, Sakura’s eyes closed. “Juliet!”
“I’m not going to die,” Sakura replied, her eyes yet closed. “So don’t panic.” She clutched her heart. “Romeo,” she called, fainter than ever. She opened her glistening emerald eyes. “I’m so glad you came back… You don’t know how much it meant for me. Now I know, the stars were on my side, after all, because here you are, by my side, holding and watching me with gentle eyes. Rather than meaninglessly living a long, lonely, and dreary life, I would rather die right now, knowing that I am with you.”
In a stretched, far off voice, Syaoran uttered, “Juliet, let’s leave Verona—let’s go to a far off place, where no hatred, scorn or family feud exists, just like we talked about. Wherever you ago, I will follow you; you lead the way.”
Reaching with shaking hands for the dagger tucked in Syaoran’s belt, Sakura grasped it and weakly flung it across the floor. “I’m going to a place where no mortals go to,” she said. “It’s the one place that you can’t follow me to. Taking your own precious life is foolish. For you have to continue to live in this world, even when I’m gone. Live, Romeo, live and tell all of Verona our story, so that such a tragedy would never happen again. Let no couple ever have to be separated by generations of futile family feuds. Let no soul be undermined by the looming shadow of Fate.” In gasps, Sakura added, “And let all lovers have faith and care for each other like we did. Let them realize that love is not controllable by parents, society, or by divinities, but that love has its own soul, wild and free, searching for happiness. The term ‘star-crossed’ should henceforth not have to mean ‘ill-fated by the stars,’ for in true love, there is no such thing as Fate.” Sakura sank back, her breath short. “Our story will become a legend, spread wide across the world, so that we may become timeless heroes.”
The audience remained motionless, staring intensely at the softly lit stage were Juliet lay in the arms of her Romeo. They gulped down the clenched feeling in their throats.
“I promise you your wish will come true,” Syaoran whispered, holding back a choking feeling in his throat. “Juliet?” His voice broke. “I love you. I love you so much, I think my heart will stop. I promise you that our story shall be told, and so it will be, so that nobody would have to suffer as much as we did. But do you think we suffered that much? I don’t know, I think the times I spent with you were the happiest moments of my life—I was so happy, that all the hardships in between when we were apart, seemed trivial. All the while I was in exile, far from family, friends, and home, I kept on thinking, I have to see Juliet again, so with that hope, I lived on. Juliet? Juliet…” Sakura’s eyes shut, and she grew limp in his arms. He continued with his voice quivering the slightest bit, “You’re smiling… We found short, but true happiness in our lifetime—some people never do.” Gently, he brushed back a light brown curl from her forehead, his eyes shining.
One by one, the audience members who had been holding back tears throughout the entire second half of production began to sniffle and dab handkerchiefs to their eyes.
Though she was supposed to be dead, Sakura couldn’t help the corners of her closed eyes from misting; never had she thought that Syaoran would be capable of putting so much emotion into his acting and make her heart wring like this. During rehearsals, she had always thought that the last act was the most comic of all, though it was supposed to be the most touching. Then, she felt a rustle of clothes as Syaoran bent down, over her head.
Her heart from pounding loudly. How could she have forgotten? For the first time, she snapped back to plain old Sakura Kinomoto, not Juliet Capulet. The heat from the bright stage lights, and Syaoran’s arms was suffocating. Why isn’t Syaoran hurrying up? I’m pretty sure he’s about as embarrassed about this as I am, if not more. She clenched her fluttering eyes tighter, expecting a quick peck on her forehead, as Tomoyo had informed Syaoran to do. A lock of Syaoran’s soft hair brushed against her forehead, and his warm breath tickled her cheek. Though she had an urge to sit up, she scolded herself, I can’t open my eyes now! But it was taking so long. Sakura felt a gentle touch on her brows. He had finished with it, and she had hardly noticed. What a relief! It wasn’t as awkward and embarrassing as she expected it to be! How she could relax.
At that moment, she felt a softness press on her lips. She had been caught off guard—her first instinct was to open her eyes and look right up at Syaoran, barely a hair breath away from her, before she recalled once more that she was supposed to be dead and shut them quickly. To her greatest discomfort, she felt her face heat up into a deep blush; she hoped neither Syaoran nor the audience could see how red she was. The kiss seemed to have stopped time. Suddenly, she recalled the fleetingly brief kiss on the train that summer—she had come to the conclusion that she had dreamed it up. At that time, it seemed Syaoran hadn’t been Syaoran; that incident had been so momentous and so instantaneous. Neither of them had acted like anything changed. Yet, it also gave her some sense of relief that her first kiss wasn’t on stage, in front of hundreds of people. But it had been with the same person. Having so many thoughts run through her head, then made her realize that it might signify that the kiss had been extraordinarily long; she could hardly breathe. It seemed as if Syaoran realized this as well. Slowly, his lips parted hers.
Softly, he said, “I love you Juliet.” Sakura’s heart lurched. If his words were for real… But it was only a school play.
Yet Syaoran said it so seriously and devotedly, any girl who heard it would
believe him. Then, carefully, he lay her on the
ground, with her hands clasped on her chest. The lights on them dimmed as it
focused on the other side of the stage, where Friar Lawrence and the Capulets had entered.
The audience hadn’t realized how tense they were until that moment. Now that the attention was diverted from Romeo and Juliet, slowly, they began to sit back into their seats again; those who hadn’t had the thought to bring out tissues and handkerchiefs fumbled around to do so.
Tomoyo, who had crept into the audience seats to watch the final act from an advantageous position, put down her video camera to sigh with rapture. If there had been one thing that lacked in Sakura and Syaoran’s acting during rehearsals, despite her high opinion of them, it was passion and earnestness. True, they had been able to ramble off their lines perfectly, have all the right gestures (except the kiss,) and put emphasis when required; yet they had always lacked that one final straw, which would bring tears to people’s eyes, wistful smiles, and deep apprehension in the heart. Somehow, this night, something in them changed, so that they could pull off the most difficult part about acting—ceasing to be actors, and actually becoming the characters.
“Impressive,” Eriol admitted to her.
“Just impressive?” Tomoyo asked suggestively. “Is it because my eyes are all blurry right now, or do I see your eyes watery as well.”
”Oh my gosh, videotape the expression on Touya-kun’s face right now,” Nakuru said, leaning over to gaze at Touya. Until the kiss, Touya had been thoroughly wrapped up in the play, forgetting everything else—even the outrage that the protagonist lovers were his sister and the Brat. The fact was, they didn’t seem like people he knew, but complete strangers. Yet after that specific incident, he couldn’t bring himself to name it, Touya sat stiffly in his seat, completely expressionless, with no reaction whatsoever.
Tomoyo tried to stifle a giggle; thinking about it, Syaoran had actually carried out kissing Sakura. I would never have expected him to do it, in my wildest dreams. I was really surprised and impressed; I told him to just kiss her forehead. I’m so glad I zoomed in and videotaped every moment of it with my video camera, even though the camera crewmen are filming as well.
“I was expecting Touya-kun to shout or erupt,” Nakuru commented. “Instead, he just turned into stone.”
Holding back a smile, Yukito said, “I gave him a good lecture on audience etiquette before we came—he promised not to do anything embarrassing.”
They would have continued to poke fun at Touya, but were hushed by the
people around them.
Meanwhile, Sakura remained motionlessly on the floor, and Syaoran knelt beside her, awaiting the final scene. Their side of the stage had darkened into a complete pitch black. She could hear Syaoran breathing; he was slightly trembling—he still had the hardest part to go through.
After a while, she couldn’t resist opening her verdant eyes, trying to hide that she was still furiously blushing, and whispered, “What was that for?”
“What was what for?” Syaoran asked, equally as softly, careful that the microphones didn’t pick up their voices.
Sakura stared at him plaintively, feeling her face heat up more.
With a slow, hooked grin appearing on his face, Syaoran replied slightly teasingly, “I was taking advantage of the situation. Besides, it was part of the script.”
A small noise of rage erupted from Sakura’s throat, before Syaoran quickly
blocked her mouth with his mouth. “Shh…” Her breath
tickled his palm. Then he couldn’t resist adding, “If you’re face turns any
redder, people are going to think Juliet is not dead, after all.” This made her
squirm louder, and he pressed his hand over her mouth firmer.
By then, Lord and Lady Capulet, having heard their daughter had been found, gathered to the Chapel, only to face their enemies, Lord and Lady Montague, who had also heard that their son had returned from exile. Meanwhile, Friar Lawrence was in the middle, desperately trying to appease the two families. As they all approached the room where Romeo and Juliet resided in, they discovered Count Paris sprawled on the floor, a sword embedded in his stomach.
“Good Heavens, Friar,” Lady Capulet exclaimed, her face turning pale. “What has happened to Count Paris?”
“I do not know, my lady,” Friar Lawrence replied gravely.
Slowly, their eyes flickered to a tousled Romeo, sitting beside a statue like figure, lying on a cloak covering the ground, her golden brown hair spread like a cloud around her head like a halo, and her slim ivory hands clasped on her bosom.
It took a second for Lady Capulet to recognize her daughter, as she rushed up to the motionless figure. “Juliet! My Juliet! What has ever happened to you?”
With blazing anger, Lord Capulet stared at Romeo, accusingly. “You did this, filthy son of Montague. First you murdered my nephew, and now you have murdered by only daughter. You and your whole family will pay for this with Montague blood! It wasn’t enough to exile you from Verona. I shall make sure to bring this matter straight to the Prince of Verona, and see that you are executed by sunrise!”
“Don’t you dare lay a finger on my son!” Lady Montague exclaimed. “He never uses violence unless he is aggravated first. There is no denying that it was Tybalt Capulet who murdered Mercutio, relative of the Prince, first, and then attacked Romeo—My Romeo was only defending himself. Even Prince Escales acknowledged this when he banned Romeo from Verona.”
“Then, how can you explain my daughter and her fiancé’s death?” Lord Capulet demanded to the Montagues.
“I don’t know, anymore than you do, Capulet,” Lord Montague replied, aggravated. “Romeo, answer me now! Did you or did you not kill these two?”
“Leave the boy alone,” Lady Montague said. “Of course he has no fault.”
“I will not tolerate this!” Lord Capulet hollered. “This is the final straw between us, Montague! Romeo, own up to your faults!”
Romeo, who until then had been listening wordlessly bolted up, shaking with fury. “Stop it now, all of you!”
Immediately, all the adults stopped talking mid-track and stared hard at Romeo. Syaoran tilted his chin up, standing straight with his shoulder back, and gazed levelly at Lord Capulet as he said firmly, “The only fault I ever had, was to fall in love with your daughter.”
There were gasps from the parents. Then, Lord Capulet snorted out a noise of infuriation and declared, “Nonsense! A Montague and a Capulet would never love each other!”
“But two souls did, regardless of name, regardless of heritage, and regardless of family feuds,” Syaoran asserted, flicking back his cloak. It occurred to everyone that a sense of nobleness and dignity surrounded him.
Both sets of parents stood speechless.
In a strong voice that projected throughout the stage, Syaoran asserted, “We, two innocent wanderers of this world, were caught in the midst of two family’s unreasonable feud, one that dates back to premises that neither side recalls. The only obstacle that prevented our loving each other was our inflexible, obstinate families, both alike in pig-headed pride, both unyielding to one another.”
“Bah! Pure madness!” Romeo’s father asserted. “You must have injured your head, Romeo! What are you to speak of matters of love to the ones who brought you up?”
“I am no longer a child, Father,” Syaoran said. “Reflect back on your own mistakes! Act like the reasonable, prominent, and respectable man that you could be, and end this silly quarrel between our two families!”
“That is not possible, my boy,” Lord Montague replied, stiffly.
“Your son is insane,” Lord Capulet sneered.
Swerving around with blazing golden amber eyes, Syaoran stated, his voice brimming with emotion, “Juliet died to save me. She threw herself in front of me when Paris attacked. Paris committed suicide—I would have killed him otherwise, though Juliet didn't want me to. Yet, Juliet’s last wish was for our story to be told to the world, so that no other lovers will have to suffer as much as we did.”
Lord Capulet stepped back, startled, and gazed at his beloved daughter, lying motionless on the ground.
A little softer, Syaoran continued, “Have respect for your daughter’s last wishes, Lord Capulet.” Instantaneously, Syaoran doubled over, groaning as he clutched his stomach.
“What is the matter, Romeo?” Lady Montague questioned in alarm.
“It must be the wound from Count Paris’ sword, early this evening,” Friar Lawrence observed with concern.
Faintly smiling, Syaoran looked up and said, “I’m okay Mother. I guess I will join Juliet after all.” Looking up to the rest of the adults, he continued, his voice determined as ever, “End this feud, and prevent anymore like feuds in the future. Prevent more lives and prevent pain. See, the Five Treasures of Verona?”
Everyone turned to see the Mirror, the Sword, the Necklace, the Ring, and the Earrings, laid on a crimson velvet cloth covering the round table in one corner of the stage. They had all been too absorbed with the dialogue to notice them earlier.
“They are all gathered now, so no more rivalry has to occur for the finding of those treasures,” Syaoran said. “The Five Treasures can go to the safe-keeping of Verona, to protect the city and all the people in it, for the happiness of all subjects, not for the contest of power.”
Unable to stand any longer, he knelt down on his knees, trembling. His eyes glistened as he reached for Sakura’s hand. He whispered, “Tell our story, tell it far and wide, of two lovers, who despite all odds, never lost hope, who even when Fate turned it’s face from them, continued to love each other… I will join Juliet in a place to a far off place, where no hatred, scorn nor family feud exists, where my beloved one awaits…” his voice trailed off. Romeo Montague collapsed on the floor.
“Romeo!” Lady Montague shrieked, tears flooding from her eyes.
Holding back his wife, Lord Montague said in a broken voice, “Let him be. He has now joined his love, and has found true happiness. I am genuinely proud of my son; he had courage, determination, and inner strength.” Turning to Lord Capulet, he continued with glistening eyes, “It seems to me, that us two old, prideful men have been fools, after all. Our children surpassed us in wisdom and sensibility. We have carried our feud too far. I am deeply sorry at the death of your daughter.”
“Your son was a fine, noble young man,” Lord Capulet said, in the same worn voice. “I would have been glad to have such a valiant son. For the sake of our children, let us make truce now, though it may be too late.” He held out a hand.
Gripping Capulet’s hand in a firm handshake, Lord Montague replied, “It is never too late, my friend. Let our two families, Montague and Capulet, join hands, and spread the story of two star-crossed lovers, far and wide, to prove that love can defy all, and also teach two stubborn old men how to rethink their past mistakes and start anew.”
From front stage, Miho said, “And so the two families reconciled, and Romeo and Juliet were buried side by side. The two families made a statue of Romeo and Juliet, side and side, in pure gold. Beneath the golden statues was engraved the legend of the two lovers.”
The audience stared with awe at the two brilliant gold statues erected on
the stage, in the image of Romeo and Juliet. They were sculpted by the artist
Shing, and were specially lent to Seijou Junior High for the opening night of
their production. This was on account that he molded the overall image after
Ryuuren and Nadeshiko. In the background floated a familiar, painfully
beautiful violin tune. Slowly, it was joined by a countermelody. The music came
from speakers at the back of the theater.
“Kai…” Meilin uttered in surprise, leaning forward. “This tune…”
After adjusting the boom box, volume, Kai tossed her a cassette tape case. “It took me forever to find out what the broken-star symbol at the end of the script meant.”
Carefully, Meilin observed the cassette tape case. On it was a broken star symbol and written across the top was “Star-Crossed.” Beneath it were the initials, A.N. and L.R.
“It took me a long time to find it, in fact, I found it only yesterday
evening,” Kai said. “The actual recording of their
From backstage, Sakura looked up in surprise. It was her mother and Syaoran’s father’s piece, woven into the final scene of Star-Crossed. Why? Yet, if fit… The piece fit perfectly. After several measures, the whole orchestra joined in, playing a countermelody to Ryuuren and Nadeshiko’s violin concerto. No wonder the orchestra finale for Star-Crossed seemed so familiar; it was the third part of the tune that Li Ryuuren started, joined by Amamiya Nadeshiko. Together, they had composed the last bit, spreading the tune of a lonely soul, to that of two blithe lovers having found each other, and finally, the song of two lovers spread to the whole world to listen to and learn from.
“Henceforth,” Miho continued, her clear voice mingling with the notes of the music. The stage lights completely darkened, with a single bright beam of light on her. “The star-crossed lovers’ story was spread far and wide, surviving generation after generation. And to all young people out in the world, Romeo and Juliet wished to implant hope and perseverance in them, encouraging determined souls to overcome all obstacles.
“Some failed, and some survived in their paths. We must know that wishing is a commendable starting point, but can get us no where—there is a certain point where you must make the decisions and bring your destiny onto yourself, instead of sitting around and wait for it to happen.
Closing her eyes, as a sense of peace rested upon her, Miho concluded, “And so, some may say that this is the end of the story of Juliet and her Romeo. Yet others say it a never ending cycle—“ She paused for a dramatic interval. “And this is just the beginning.” Ending on a strong note, Miho smiled and stared out at the masses of people sitting in front of her. Onii-chan, I did it. I made it through my very first performance. I you hear in the audience somewhere? Or are you far far away? Are you proud of how far your little sister has come? Well, I made it! Curtsying, she stepped back, to avoid being in the way of the curtains.
The last note of the heart-wringing music floated through the auditorium; slowly, the scarlet curtains closed with a swish. The audience sat motionless in their seats, many of them dabbing the corners of their eyes with handkerchiefs, others sighing wistfully, and still others staring dreamily, but all completely silent. Nobody had the sense of realization that it was over now.
Tomoyo and the cast members waited from the side stage in anticipation. Sakura squeezed her best friend’s hand. Smiling, Tomoyo said, “You did a great job, Sakura-chan.” It was over now; Sakura had passed through the production safely—well relatively safely. Yet, now awaited the most anticipated moment of the night. All the production members had worked so hard for the past half-year. Though the audience had reacted positively throughout the acts, now was the final judgement. Did they like it? Were they disappointed, or amazed? Was it beyond their expectations?
For the first time all evening, not a single sound could be heard; no one sneezed, sniffed, whispered, or even shuffled. Then, the entire auditorium broke out into a thundering applause, the loudest that Tomoeda had ever heard. They clapped and clapped, until their hands stung, and cheered gustily. They applauded with the roar of the gladiators and the enthusiasm of bullfight spectators.
Hugging each other tightly, Tomoyo and Sakura jumped up and down. It was a success! The Seijou Junior High Production, Star-Crossed was a grand success!
“Great job, Sakura-chan,” Chiharu said with a bright smile, as all the cast members took positions lined up for the bowing ceremony. They were all giddy and exhilarated by their combined success. “Hurry, we have to get into our positions for bowing.
Nodding, Sakura hurried to the line in the right wing; she realized that Syaoran must be waiting in the left wing right now, where all the male cast members waited. She hadn’t had a chance to congratulate him yet.
One by one, the main cast members filed in, alternating female and male from each side of the stage, starting with minor characters like servants and ball guests. Then, important supporting characters like Benvolio, Tybalt, the Nurse, Mercutio, Friar Lawrence, and numerous others filed in. After bowing, they lined up towards each side of the front stage.
“Lord and Lady Capulet!” Miho announced.
Chiharu rushed onto the stage, joined hands with the classmate playing Lord Capulet, and bowed. They were greeted by a hearty applause. Then, they separated and went to opposite sides of the stage. The same process was repeated for Lord and Lady Montague. Rika stared out into the audience with shining eyes at Terada-sensei, watching from the first row.
Next was, “Chang Eron and Erika as Count Paris and Rosaline!”
Erika and Eron swept out and took a grand bow. By the sounds of it, they received a louder applause than the rest of the cast members so far, Sakura noted, as she lingered by the side-stage; she and Syaoran were the only ones left now.
Miho cleared her throat. “And finally, Li Syaoran and Kinomoto Sakura as ROMEO AND JULIET!”
Her heart skipping a beat, Sakura walked onto the stage with quivering legs. The rest of the cast members had stepped to the sides to make a pathway for her. At the center, she met with Syaoran, who smiled warmly and held out his hand. Holding hands, Sakura and Syaoran walked up to the front of the stage, now used to the blinding stage lights, and stared out at the masses of people watching them, flashes going off everywhere from people with cameras. Both of them were sweating and breathless from the strenuous two and a half-hour production. Here they were, after months and months of practicing, practicing, and practicing. Here they were, having conquered the Fate, and overcome the most nerve-wrecking night of their lives. And here they were, having conveyed the intricate story of Romeo and Juliet.
Together, hand in hand, Sakura and Syaoran took a sweeping, deep bow. The audience broke out into the heaviest applause that evening, so that the teachers were slightly worried that the theater might collapse. Then the two leading protagonists looked out at the audience with a giddy feeling of pride in their stomachs, and joined in the middle of the line of cast members on the stage. It seemed as if the clapping would never stop and that the moment would last forever.
Finally, the frenzied applause calmed. Then, they began shouting, “ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE!”
The orchestra broke out into the finale song again. Nudging Sakura, Erika, who was standing beside her, said, “You heard them. They’re calling for an encore.”
“ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE!” The demands grew louder.
In a clear, liquid voice, Sakura sang her solo again; it came to her so naturally, that the song seemed to take wings as it drifted across the stage. After her verse, she was joined by Syaoran, who sang with a passion and surging feeling that he had never revealed until that very night. His song reminded people of the gentle waves crashing down on the sandy shore. Once again, the music teacher wondered why she never realized the boy’s talent earlier. Soon, they were joined by the entire cast members and chorus, the harmony of high sopranos and deep basses soaring with the music of the orchestra. On their final note, the audience broke off into another wild round of applause.
Then, they called, “PRODUCER! PRODUCER!”
“That’s you,” Miho whispered to Tomoyo, who stood stunned; it was the first time she ever had stage fright, despite the numerous times she had performed on stage for chorus.
Gingerly, Tomoyo walked up to the center stage and curtsied daintily as she always managed to do. Once more the audience cheered ravenously. Then, in her sweet voice, she said with shining violet eyes, “I don’t know what to say… One thing for sure is that I just oversaw everything; it was the actual cast members and staff members who made this all possible. But first of all, I would like to thank the three teachers who looked over us and were always there for guidance.” Terada-sensei, the music teacher, and the orchestra teacher stood up and bowed.
“There was the magnificent Seijou High Orchestra, who produced the fantastic background music…” The high school students, dressed in neat black and white stood up from their seats for the first time that evening, and bowed with the clattering of various instruments. Tomoyo continued. “And the Seijou Junior High Chorus who trained very hard to produce high-quality sound, the scenery and props crew members who painted all these beautiful scenes and constructed the set, the costume design team who helped sew, design, and tailor all the fantastic costumes, and the lighting and technicians team, who made the amazing lighting effects and all the special sword fighting effects possible.” Each respective group stood up for acknowledgement from various parts of the auditorium.
“Oh! I would like to give a special mention to the head of the lighting and technicians team, Mizuki Kai! He did a miracle for this production, though he has been in our school for only a short period of time, and such professional touches and amazing stunts would not have been possible without him. Mizuki Kai, would you come down to the front stage please?” Tomoyo called out to the back lighting room. People began cheering even before he appeared.
“Go out, silly,” Meilin said, nudging Kai, who was slightly stunned. “Silly, you’re all blushing and bashful! Hurry, they’re calling for you! Here, shoo.” She pushed Kai out of the lighting room, where he had been cooped up for the entire evening—well most of it.
Everyone’s attention focused on the opposite end of the auditorium, where Kai waved his hand, then quickly glided to the front stage, where he bowed flourishingly, baffled by the audience’s enthusiastic response.
As Tomoyo continued on to her acknowledgements, Meilin hid a smile, as she looked upon Kai’s beaming face, standing with the rest of the crew on stage.
“Also, we must not forget our favorite narrator, Tanaka Miho,” Tomoyo said.
Hesitantly, Miho stepped onto the center stage. She had only narrated the story… Yet, the audience liked her! They applauded her as loudly, if not more loudly than the other cast members, of course besides Romeo and Juliet.
“There are four people I would like to especially mention here tonight—more
than twenty years ago, four students wrote the script, composed the music,
sketched out the designs for the set and character, and basically put together
the whole production that the Seijou Junior High tonight has performed. Thank you Mizuki-san, Amamiya-san, Li-san, and Tanaka-san for
creating Star-Crossed. Furthermore, I would like to thank the
great artist Shing-san for lending the golden statues, Mike Kant for the
advertisement photography, Akagi Aki’s father for the newspaper publicity, the
camera crewmen…” Tomoyo continued on with a long list. “And finally, I would
like to thank all of you, everyone in the auditorium tonight, for making this
all possible, and the best night of my life! THANK YOU!”
Once more, the audience went into a frenzy; they had finally cheered themselves hoarse. Various mothers, father, and relatives rushed up to the stage to hand their sons and daughters bouquets and praises.
“Great job, Kaijou,” Touya said, wrapping Sakura in a tight hug.
“Really? You really thought I did well?” Sakura jumped up and down eagerly.
“Your mother and I are really proud of you,” Fujitaka added, handing Sakura a bouquet of nadeshikos, in honor of Sakura’s mother.
“Otou-san, you’re back!” Sakura squealed, embracing her father. “I’m so glad. I wanted you to be here so bad.” Careful not to crush the flowers, she buried her nose into her father’s chest. There was no one in the world like her father.
“Of course I couldn’t miss out on such an important occasion,” Fujitaka replied, smiling cordially.
“I’m glad Sakura looks so happy,” Syaoran commented to Meilin, who had come down to the front of the auditorium where all the people were mingling.
Holding the cherry pink peonies, Syaoran’s favorite flowers behind her back, Meilin closed her eyes. She remembered a certain conversation with Kai, the previous day.
“Don’t forget the bouquet for Syaoran,” Kai reminded.
“What are you doing on my windowsill in the middle of the night? I told you a million times not to do that!” Meilin shrieked, drawing her blanket closer around her. Then on a second thought, she asked, “What bouquet?”
“Silly, for the production night! When it ends, all the cast members would be showered flowers from their parents and siblings. Sakura has her brother, Tomoyo has her mother, even Miho has at least Eriol,” Kai spelled out. “Only Syaoran doesn’t have anyone. And I guess, you’re the best thing he has, if you think about it. All his relatives are back in Hong Kong besides his beloved cousin.”
Slapping her forehead, Meilin exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, why didn’t I think about that before? I better pre-order the bouquet, fast. Thank you so much Kai, for reminding me.” Then she sighed in exasperation. Kai was already gone.
At times like that, Meilin became aware how considerate Kai could be. She saw exactly what he meant; Syaoran gazed wistfully at the various students wrapped in hugs from parents. Broadly smiling, Meilin exclaimed, “Great job Syaoran!” She handed him the flowers.
With appreciative eyes, Syaoran took the peonies, and said, “I wasn’t… expecting anything. Thank you Meilin.”
Hehe… Worth the cost of getting Chinese peonies in this season to see such a look from Syaoran, Meilin noted.
Then, she scanned the production crew members milling around, chattering with their friends and family, each clasping a bouquet in their arms. It did not require much effort to spot Kai, standing around, looking out of place.
Clearing her throat loudly to catch his attention, Meilin thrust a bouquet of white roses in front of Kai’s face.
Startled, he stammered, “For me?”
“Yes for you,” Meilin replied impatiently, avoiding looking at him. “Don’t get the wrong idea. I just decided to buy that along when I bought Syaoran’s—besides, it’s kind of a thank you for reminding me about bouquets in the first place. After all, I guess I’m the best thing you got right now.” She explained quickly, “You worried about Syaoran having no relatives to give him flowers, besides me, yet you never stopped to think about yourself, what you would do here when everyone else would receive compliments from their family.” She smiled. “Good job tonight. I was impressed.”
Taking the roses, Kai, buried his face into it, wordless. “Li Meilin... Thank you.” He looked up smiling whimsically. “You know, though I’ve given out hundreds of roses to people, this is the first time receiving them?”
Mischievously, Meilin commented, “Well, if you do things to deserve bouquets, you get them.” Then scowling, she said, “Of course, you did break the promise with me about not stealing anymore.”
At the mention of this, Kai sighed and murmured, “I’m sorry.” Slowly, he trudged back to the lighting room, still clasping his white roses tightly.
Instantly, Meilin regretted adding in her last comment. She didn’t have to bring it up on such a night. Plus, he had never apologized to her before. It felt uncomfortable; she would rather have him laugh it off as always. Then again, Kai did break the promise. Shrugging, Meilin decided not to think of such things and spoil her good mood.
Around her, people were still chattering away about the musical.
“My, this musical has had more costumes than any other production in the world,” a mother commented. “Juliet alone had more dresses than any female protagonist on Broadway.”
“I know, mommy. Did you see Juliet’s ballroom dress? I want one like that too,” her second grade daughter stated.
“That girl, Kinomoto is just so cute,” the little girl’s older brother commented. “I thought she was just good at cheerleading, but she’s a versatile actress—I never thought a simple school production could actually move my heart.”
“I saw you cry!” the little girl stated.
“Shush,” her brother replied, hotly annoyed.
“Strange, I thought I would hate Count Paris for killing Juliet, but he’s such a captivating villain,” a Seijou High girl sighed from another corner of the auditorium. “He really is a tragic character.”
“Oh my gosh, I thought my heart will drop during Juliet’s dying scene,” her friend replied. “I was completely blubbering. See? I used a whole pack of Kleenex. Romeo was just so handsome and romantic!”
“I know!” a third girl squealed. “I wonder why he wasn’t scouted by the movie directors, seriously. I’m in the theater club, and I would have known if such talent existed in Seijou Junior High. Do you think Li-kun would think me crazy if I asked him out?”
“Silly, you’re three years older than him!” the first girl replied. “Then again, age doesn’t matter in true love!”
Still in another part of the auditorium, fathers and their sons were discussing, “I still don’t see how the swordfights and special effects were managed. No matter how hard they rehearsed, I don’t see how that boy playing Romeo could master that kind of coordination in his swordsmanship,”
“And the blood!” a son cried out with thrill.
Shaking his head, another father commented, “I would really like to talk to that ingenious Head of the Lighting and Technicians, Mizuki Kai, and recruit him for my technology firm.”
“Do, Father,” his college daughter said. “He’s really hot.”
“Speaking of hot, that girl playing Rosaline was hot,” her little brother added.
“But she doesn’t have the grace and sincerity of Juliet,” his friend replied. “No one beats her. And Romeo.”
Everyone agreed to this.
Then, someone shouted, “Whose going to purchase the Star-Crossed video? Sign up to preorder one! All profits will be donated to the Children’s Hospital fund!”
Within a matter of seconds, people flocked the sign ups sheets for the
“Meilin-chan, have you seen Syaoran?” Sakura asked, finally having escaped the throttling mob of eager crowds and some new fans asking for her autograph. ^_^. So far, Arima, Asuma, Mike, Shing-san, Eriol, Tomoyo’s mother, and all her friends had congratulated her; she had acquired several more bouquets along the way.
“Hmm?” Meilin realized that she had been spacing out while listening to all the people around her. “I think he’s backstage. Oh yeah, as the original Juliet, I’m really glad that I handed the role to you.”
Smiling, Sakura said, “Thanks.” That was Meilin’s way of telling her “good job.” “If it weren’t for, I wouldn’t even have been in the musical.”
“Nah… The role is just perfect for you. Just look at you tonight.”
“But it wasn’t me… It was Syaoran who made it possible,” Sakura said, ruefully.
“Naoko, do you know where they put the Five Force—I mean the Five Treasures of Verona?” Syaoran asked, weaving in and out of chairs, tables, bits and pieces of costumes scattered about, make up, shoes, and numerous odds and ends left by the careless, hectic students.
Shrugging, Naoko said, “It should still be on the round table.”
“Thanks.” Syaoran rushed to the other side of the stage, where the props were stored. He quickly spotted the round table with the crimson cloth covering it. It was empty. Did someone remove the Treasures? He could have sworn that Mizuki Kai did not have time to slip backstage since the end of the last act. Desperately, he began to crawl on the ground, looking. The Ring or the Necklace could easily have dropped on the ground when the table was being moved.
“Ouch!” Syaoran banged his head against someone else’s. Frowning, he stood up. Eron.
“Have you lost something?” Eron asked coolly.
“No,” Syaoran replied quickly. Then he noted how Eron fingered his left earlobe nervously. Presuming that Kai really did steal the ruby earrings during the fleetingly brief black out, how did Kai ever steal the earring off both Eron and Erika? Kaitou Magician truly was a frightening person.
“Pretty amazing tonight,” Eron stated.
Was that a compliment or another one of his double-meaning comments, Syaoran wondered. It didn’t matter.
“Just because you kissed her once, on stage, doesn’t mean that you won our little bet,” Eron said blandly.
Syaoran brushed that snide off as not worth responding to. Besides, he had kissed her more than once. He grinned, which made Eron more uneasy than when he scowled.
“And for your knowledge, I was speaking the truth when I said I didn’t tell Sakura about the bet,” Eron added. “I never tell lies.”
“I don’t care either way,” Syaoran replied smoothly.
“Neither do I, but I think Sakura does,” Eron replied, leaving the prop
Seeing Eron come out from backstage, Sakura asked, “Eron-kun, did you see Syaoran by any chance?”
“No,” Eron replied shortly. Then he changed his mind. “He’s in the prop room.”
“Oh, thanks.” Sakura smiled. “You were great, Eron-kun, as Count Paris.”
“But you’re the one who surprised us all, tonight,” Eron replied, smiling back, before slowly walking away.
Is it just me, or has Eron also become more human these days, Sakura mused.
Finally! Tentatively stepping into the prop room, Sakura asked bemused, “Syaoran, what are you doing, crawling on the floor?”
“When did that thief come in and take the Five Treasures?” Syaoran demanded.
Shrugging, Sakura replied, “Well, there must be a reason why he was once the Top 20 Most Wanted Criminal—we found out tonight. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll return everything, tomorrow, like he always does. He probably took them because he didn’t want them to get lost in the backstage; besides, the actual Five Force Treasures were a nice touch to the production I think.”
Of course Sakura wouldn’t think badly of her friend. Standing up and brushing the dust off his pants and hands, Syaoran said, “Well, he better not run off with them.”
Chuckling, Sakura said, “How could I ever have thought that you were a complete different person back on the stage? You’re just the same old Syaoran, after all.”
“Is that a good thing?” Syaoran asked, raising an eyebrow.
Pretending to think for a moment, Sakura replied, “Well, Romeo is more romantic, courageous, sincere, gentle, loving, kind, and poetic—but on the whole plain old Syaoran is just fine.”
Syaoran laughed. “Thank you; I’m really flattered.”
“Well… the long waited production Star-Crossed is finally over,” Sakura said, lightly. Though it had been immense hard work, and had constituted probably the most effort and time she had ever devoted to a school activity, she would miss the rehearsals, standing on stage beside Syaoran.
“So, who would you say won the bet?” Syaoran asked, jokingly.
“Hmm…” Sakura pretended to think. “Well, it is true you did save me in Act Two, when I forgot my lines.”
“But you made it up with your quick thinking of using the Sword Card when your prop sword broke,” Syaoran reassured.
“And then, I tripped over my own feet,” Sakura added.
“But it looked really natural and in character, so no one noticed.”
“Both us added in lots of frivolous lines,” Sakura continued, comically.
“Everyone thought it was a part of the script,” Syaoran said, sweat-dropping. “I hope.”
Laughing, Sakura said sheepishly, “Well, overall, we made quite a few mistakes, but luckily, it all flowed in as a part of the production. But truthfully, and you know this yourself, you were a notch more on top of things and you did save me more than once. So I admit fairly that you won the bet.”
With a smug little smile, Syaoran stated, “Well, it might not have been quite fair. You see, I had a good luck charm. This girl that I know gave it to me. Aren’t you jealous?”
“Very,” Sakura replied agreeably. “If she had kept it, maybe she would have won the bet.”
“Even so, you have completely earned my respect by your ability to conquer the Fate,” Syaoran said softly. “I take back every single discouraging thing I ever said to you about you as Card Captor. You were strong and forcible; I wasn’t able to do anything to help you.”
“Silly, don’t you know that it was because of you that I could seal the Fate? When I was hysterical and out of control, you brought me back to my senses and allowed me think straight again. Without your presence, I wouldn’t have had the courage to try to defy the Fate. Thank you Syaoran. Thank you for being beside me once more,” Sakura said.
“What else do you think I’m here for?” Syaoran asked, crossing his arms. Then, he grinned slightly. “Hey, do you remember what we wagered over?”
“Hoe?” Sakura racked her brains in dismay… A kiss… He surely wasn’t serious?
“I guess I already collected it back on stage,” Syaoran reassured quickly, seeing the alarm on Sakura’s face. “You know, I once heard a quote, ‘In love, there are two winners.’”
“That makes sense,” Sakura mused. “Like in Romeo and Juliet.”
“Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t taking our whole bet business seriously. I don’t like competing against you,” Syaoran said.
Wryly, Sakura commented, “I would have thought otherwise.”
Wincing at the mere memory of his one-sided rivalry against her years ago, he asked, still persistent, “Hey, are you still busy tomorrow?”
“Well, otou-san and onii-chan are both back now, so I’ll probably spend the day with my family. And there’s going to be a post-production party tomorrow at Tomoyo’s house for all the people involved in Star-Crossed. You’ll be there, right?” Sakura replied.
“Maybe,” Syaoran replied, heaving a sigh. Maybe someday, I will be able to tell you my true feelings, and maybe then, you will listen and believe me.
And meanwhile, I will continue to stand by your side and never leave you. Because years ago, I swore that I will protect you from harm, and that I will keep that bright smile on your face, like the one who are wearing this evening. Even if the stars cross our path, I will reach for you and look after you, or die in attempt.
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve a determined soul.”
-- Will, Ella Wheeler Wilcox
My 2002 birthday present to Li Syaoran!!! Fanart: The Star-Crossed Final Act... Romeo and Juliet's kiss
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SYAORAN!!!
Wish-chan: Well, finally, Star-Crossed is out, in honor of our favorite Li Syaoran's birthday!!! (7/13)... Hehe... I think this beats the record as the longest time it ever took me to write a chapter... Sorry it took so long; I hope I will be able to write chapters quicker from now on-- it was a real hard chapter to write, with lots of things going on, as well... About the chapter, I guess it's kinda really really long and confusing at times~ Hehe... I finally wrote the scene where Nadeshiko and Ryuuren finally meet again as adults. Plus, Sakura conquers the Fate... I guess I write a lot about Fate because I am fascinate by philosophy and psychology. As I mentioned last chapter though, I have written only the highlights of the play and you can imagine how long the actual thing is, plus all the soloes and singing and music and dancing, etc. etc. etc. Also, the Riddle's riddle, is derived from a quote by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (written above) and is a new favorite quote of mine ... It fits the context nicely, I thought.
I guess for the past months, you were wondering, will he do it? Will he not? Hehe... Yes, he does kiss her. ^_^... As you can see, I drew up a fanart as birthday present, because I felt guilty because all previous years, I had special fanfics up and this year, I didn't.
Furthermore, thank you everyone for being so patient, and especially thank
you all those who have e-mailed me, signed my guestbook, and constantly urged
and pushed me to go on. You really don't know how much I appreciate it. By any
chance, if you have e-mailed me and didn't receive a response, please don't
feel offended... I read it, but just didn't have the time to respond-- If you
e-mail me again and ask me to respond, I will. And, comments ever more
cherished at email@example.com... I still check my old one,
firstname.lastname@example.org though. Please visit my site at
www.geocities.com/wishluv and sign my guestbook!