Chapter 42: A Little Girl’s Dream
“Amamiya-san, can you please not step on my foot during the dance scene?” an arrogant voice asserted. “How many times does it take you to get it right? I do wonder why in the world did such a clumsy girl like you ever get to be the female protagonist of this production, Christine Daae.”
“I’m sorry,” Nadeshiko, age fifteen, replied meekly to the classmate playing Raoul in the Seijou Junior High production, Phantom of the Opera. They were in the middle of rehearsals in the newly built theater.
Everyone laughed and Nadeshiko’s ears turned red. Quickly, she glanced to the corner of the theater where the Seijou High Orchestra played the music. Her eyes flickered over to the first violin seat. How humiliating to be caught as a laughingstock in front of Li Ryuuren! Why was he in the musical orchestra, anyway—to watch her on stage and ridicule her? Ryuuren’s calm cerulean gaze caught her as his violin quickly picked up the tune for the next scene. Quickly, she looked away.
After rehearsal ended and everyone left, Nadeshiko remained on stage. Standing in the center she declared to an empty auditorium, “I’ll show them. I’ll show them I can become the best Christine Daae, ever!” Imagining a wide audience in front of her, their eyes watching only her, Nadeshiko took a sweeping curtsy, and began her dance number. Her lithe form floated over the stage, her feet never missing a step. She didn’t even notice she was dancing to violin music until she came to a stop, and saw Li Ryuuren playing the final notes of “Angel of Music” on his violin with an easy smile on his face.
Immediately, she toppled over her feet. “I thought everyone left.”
Setting his violin down and clapping, Ryuuren, senior at Seijou High, asked, “Why don’t you dance like that during rehearsals? Then maybe you won’t become a laughingstock.”
“Why did you join the orchestra? Maybe if you weren’t sitting there with that smirk on your face, I wouldn’t make so many mistakes,” Nadeshiko retorted.
“I never smirked at you. I only dutifully played the music,” Ryuuren replied, jumping onto the stage beside Nadeshiko. “Besides, the violin section would be devastated without my talent.”
“Stuck-up,” Nadeshiko muttered. Then she stated, “Ooh, I hate hate hate that guy playing Raoul. He’s such a jerk.”
“He is a conceited, pig-headed, arrogant bastard,” Ryuuren agreed.
“Almost as arrogant as you,” Nadeshiko added. At this Ryuuren made a face.
Prancing up and down the stage, Nadeshiko rambled off, “But can you believe it? He told me that I better be a good kisser because Raoul and Christine have a kissing scene. I know he’s had dozens of girlfriends so he’s experienced, and he knows I’m not. In fact, I’ve kissed anyone in my life, and now I have to kiss a great big jerk. I’ve always dreamed first kisses to be romantic, heart-pounding, transcending time, and…” She broke off. Ryuuren gazed at her with an amused look.
“Go on. I’m listening,” he prompted.
Wringing her hands in wrath, she declared, “I know you don’t care the tiniest bit about my trivial little problems, but you don’t have to laugh at me like that.”
“I’m not laughing,” Ryuuren said, tilting her chin up gently. “Look up at my face, Nadeshiko. You’ll see that I am not laughing at you at all.”
Nadeshiko looked up, her soft lips pouted. Indeed, he wasn’t mocking her in the slightest bit, and had an intensely serious expression on his face. Then, without any warning, Ryuuren bent over and carefully kissed her mouth.
For a second, Nadeshiko stood stunned. Clasping her hand over her mouth, Nadeshiko stammered, “W-why did you do that— y-you knew that—that was m-my first kiss!”
“I know.” Leaving no chance for her to burst in outrage, Ryuuren stepped back and added lightly, “But there, I solved your dilemma! Now you won’t have to lose your first kiss to a conceited bastard on the opening night of the production.”
Turning furiously red, Nadeshiko refuted, “I just did, you, you arrogant jerk! If you do something like that again, I’ll… I’ll…”
Laughing slightly, Ryuuren said, “At least you can’t accuse me of being privy to your problems. You’ve experienced your heart-pounding first kiss. Now, don’t shriek; people would think I’m assaulting you in here or something. Then again, everyone knows what a loud clatter you always make.”
“Ooh… I’ll never forgive you. I hate you Li Ryuuren!!!”
“Really?” Ryuuren asked raising an elegant dark eyebrow. “I’ve always had the notion that you liked me. I’m rather hurt.”
“Ryuuren…” Nadeshiko clenched her teeth and stomped off the stage, only resulting in sliding and landing on her bottom. Ryuuren laughed good-naturedly and held out a hand to help her up. Then again, she couldn’t help thinking that she was relieve that it was Ryuuren, not anyone else. And had her heart fluttered the slightest bit?
Groaning, Sakura turned over in her cozy bed Sunday morning, drawing her blankets over her head. Thankfully it was Sunday, so she could sleep in; she had been completely exhausted after she returned home from the production late last night. I thought of it again… The production is over, but why do I keep thinking about Syaoran’s kiss? It was so unexpected. And that dream I just had about my mother and his father, before their production is very awkward too. I never exactly realized that they were at that kind of point in their relationship.
“Kaijou, wake up!” came her brother’s annoyingly loud voice. Yet, it was so familiar and dear to hear him.
When Sakura came down the stairs, fully dressed, her father greeted, “Good morning, Sakura-san. I hope you slept well after such an exciting night.”
Yes, the production night finally passed safely. Sakura hugged herself; it was a grand success, too! And her father and brother were both back home! The breakfast lay on the table, and a new picture of her mother in a simple poplin dress was in the silver picture frame on the kitchen table. Everything was completely back to normal.
“Don’t get too full of yourself, monster, just because you became a star overnight,” Touya commented blandly, sipping his coffee.
Choosing to ignore her brother’s remark, she asked, “What are you going to do, now that you completed the pre-med extension program at Oxford University?”
“Well, I’ll still attend classes in Seijou University, though there’ll be fewer since this is my last semester, and I’ll go on to medical school next year,” Touya said. “I’ll also be working part-time at a hospital with Yukito and a few other pre-med students.”
“As an intern?” Sakura asked excitedly.
“Not exactly—internship is only open for people who have completed med-school. We’ll just help around with office work and write up patient charts and stuff. Then, maybe we’ll move on to being permanent interns if we do well.”
“That sounds very interesting,” Fujitaka said, looking at his grown son with a vaguely proud smile. Turning to his daughter, he asked, “So what will you be doing today?”
“There’s going to be a party for all of the production members tonight at Tomoyo-chan’s house,” Sakura replied. “And Tomoyo asked if I can sleepover tonight. Is that okay?”
“That will be fine,” Fujitaka replied. “I was worried because I had to go to Seijou University today to discuss the conclusion from the seminar, and I wanted to spend the day with you. I will never leave you alone for so long again, Sakura-san.”
“You didn’t have to worry,” Sakura said, smiling energetically. “See! I am healthy and strong and responsible!”
“Because you have ogre’s blood,” Touya couldn’t help adding, but was unable to hold back a tender smile.
“Oh, I’ve always been meaning to ask you this, Sakura-san. Were you in Tokyo during the summer by any chance?” Fujitaka asked, washing the dishes.
“Uh—no!” Sakura replied rapidly.
“Okay, I must have mistaken someone else for you because I missed my daughter so much. It was ridiculous of me to imagine that you were at a university that I had a seminar in,” Fujitaka laughed off. “I missed you so much that I even imagined I saw you on TV!”
“How ironic! I thought I did too, on cable TV in England,” Touya exclaimed. “Something about a ‘Best Couple of Japan Contest’…”
Sakura furiously began gulping down a glass of orange juice.
Then, a bit puzzled, Fujitaka commented, “I could have sworn that the kitchen walls were yellow.” Now they were a pale green. “What do you say, Touya-san? Maybe I’m getting old.”
“I always thought that they were yellow, also,” Touya replied.
“Really? How interesting; they were always green! Ha ha ha…” Sakura sweat-dropped. Leave it to Syaoran to paper the kitchen walls green when repairing the house, damaged from the Joker last spring. How was Syaoran managing with out her to make sure that he had all his meals and wake him in the morning? Actually, it had been the other way around; he was the one who had looked after her. Anyway, Meilin would look after him now.
A furious voice pelted in his mind. “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—you’re not even human!”
“Syaoran, wake up,” Meilin said. “It’s past noon. In fact, it’s almost evening.”
Stuffing his head under a pillow, Syaoran groaned, “Leave me alone, Meilin. I’m aching all over.” Though he had been awake for hours, he didn’t have the energy to sit up.
“Probably from overdoing on your swordfighting scenes and unnecessarily punching Eron-kun too hard.” After a second thought, Meilin added, “I can’t believe you actually kissed her. I never thought you’d have the guts.”
“It was part of the script,” Syaoran mumbled.
“But you wouldn’t have done it if it were me,” Meilin said.
“Of course not,” Syaoran said, turning over on his bed.
“Thanks for being so blunt,” Meilin muttered. “Wake up now. There’s a party for all production members at Tomoyo’s today. We’ll watch the Star-Crossed video, too. And Sakura will be there.”
Groggily, Syaoran sat up. “You’re not even a part of the production.”
“I contributed greatly to it,” Meilin replied, head in air. “Gosh, you’re a mess. You look like you came back from the dead. Oh yeah, you did, if you consider playacting Romeo’s death scene.”
Syaoran asked crossly, “Now tell me, when are you going back to Hong Kong again?”
Meilin.stuck out her tongue. “Beda! I know you’re so enthusiastic about me being here, but for your information, I’m leaving this Friday.”
“You can stay as long as you would like to, as far as I’m concerned with,” Syaoran mumbled, which was his subtle implication that he liked having Meilin in Japan. “I don’t see why you went back to Hong Kong in the first place—I would never go back on my own will.”
“Well, you’re circumstance is a little different; Chosen Ones are always subject to the rule of the Li Council of Magic,” Meilin mused. “While for me, I can move around freely since I’m basically useless to the Clan except maybe as Syaoran’s guardian—“
“Wait a minute—who’s guarding who?” Syaoran interrupted.
“Simple. I’m looking after you.” Then she added a little more seriously, “Kai didn’t come back home last night. Hope he didn’t run into any trouble.”
“Hope he doesn’t cause trouble,” Syaoran replied.
“What kind of party is this? It’s a mess!” Erika exclaimed, trying to avoid bumping into the students gathered in Tomoyo’s living room for the post-production bash. As large as Tomoyo’s mansion was, there were still too great a number of people that had been involved in the production milling around. Finally, Erika decided to curl up on a sofa across the far end of the room; she didn’t want to come tonight, but Eron had forced her to. She was annoyed because Rosaline didn’t receive more attention yesterday; everybody only talked about Romeo this, Juliet that.
“Great job yesterday, Sakura!” Sakura’s friends greeted as she entered the living room, in a plaid skirt and a pretty ruffle sleeved blouse that her brother had bought her from England.
“Thanks!” Sakura replied brightly. Quickly, she searched the room; Syaoran hadn’t arrived yet. How could she ever face him after yesterday? Rapidly, she pretended to drop something and bent down, to have an excuse for a red face. When she looked up, Eron waved at her from across the room; he was conversing with Yuri, the girl from class 3-1 who had confessed that she liked him few weeks ago. Sakura waved back. It was good to see that Eron was being nice to the girl that he had hurt so badly, even if he didn’t return her feelings. Yuri had a wide smile on her face, and she waved to Sakura also.
Realizing that she was unconsciously looking up to see if Syaoran had arrived every time the door swung open, Sakura grimaced. Maybe, she was getting all excited over nothing, continuously recalling last night. After all, that kiss was not only a part of the script for Syaoran, but maybe something to triumph over Eron. Then she scolded herself for thinking such unfair, judgmental thoughts of Syaoran.
“Come, everyone, gather by the television set!” Tomoyo called out. “The video of Star-Crossed will be shown in five minutes.”
A great number of people crowded around the wide television screen, almost as large as the ones in movie theaters, bringing along drinks and popcorn from the dining room.
Tomoyo clasped her hands in anticipation; she had spent the entire night editing the film.
“Sorry, we’re late!” Meilin said, barging in, followed by Syaoran panting to keep up.
“We’re not late, are we?” Miho asked simultaneously as she barged in, dragging Eriol along—she was the only person who could get away with pushing Eriol around.
“You, what are you doing here?” Syaoran demanded to Eriol. “You’re not part of the production.”
“I’m glad you are so overjoyed to see me, as always. Miho brought me along, same as you brought Meilin-san along,” Eriol replied calmly. It seemed as if Syaoran’s good spirits from the night before had disappeared. Of course, not that he blamed Syaoran after being turned down from Sakura half a dozen times. Eriol smiled amusedly, which aggravated Syaoran more. It seemed that Syaoran’s troubles were not going to be resolved any time soon.
“Wow, that looks so professional, just like a real movie!” people awed, as the opening credits came out on the screen in fancy font, against a starry sky background as the prelude overture played by the Seijou Orchestra drifted on.
Since they all purchased a copy of the video/DVD, the students were less worried about blurting out comments in the middle of the video than they had been the previous night.
“I hate seeing myself on screen,” Sakura mumbled, hiding behind the couch. She peeked at the television screen again. Surprisingly, she wasn’t as ridiculous as she had expected. Even tripping over her own feet didn’t look so idiotic as one would imagine. All the pauses that had seemed so awkward while on stage seemed natural now that she viewed it as an audience. And mostly, she was stunned by Syaoran’s acting. There were plenty of zoom-ins to his face, and even down to his expression, he looked as if he was a part of the script. While acting on stage beside him, she hadn’t noticed how strong and level his voice was, and how passionate and moving it could become. There was a gentle flicker in his amber eyes, then a fierce anger, then a muted sorrow. It became real for her. At the same time, she questioned herself whether Syaoran had been holding back all along during rehearsals or whether that night just was one special exception.
Now, it was past intermission. Everyone gasped in horror again at the death of Mercutio and Tybalt. The blood looked so real, the pain an agony.
“Takashi, I think you actually enjoyed that morbid scene,” Chiharu commented wryly.
Takashi grinned. There was no one else besides Chiharu who could know him so well. “Do you know that actually, Mercutio’s character derives from Shakespeare’s portrayal of wise fools who always says things that make sense if you listen carefully to the underlying meaning, so that while Mercutio offers a comic relief, he also is vital in conveying an oxymoronic truth…”
“Be quiet, Yamazaki-kun!” everyone called out, eager to watch the production, before Chiharu could even interject.
Now, came the re-meeting of Romeo and Juliet, in the Chapel of Verona. Leaning over expectantly, Syaoran waited for the brief light out to appear on the video of the production. It never came, and only the most observant of the observant would have noticed that the five treasures on the round table glimmered more than before, for even the positions were exactly the same as before. Obviously, such careful details were administered to by the crafty Kaitou Magician. That tricky thief must have stopped all electricity so that even the video cameras switched off briefly, Syaoran noted. Quickly, Syaoran glanced around the room, searching for Kai; he wasn’t present. Like Meilin noted, Syaoran didn’t remember seeing him since last night.
Similarly, the time that was spent while Syaoran and Sakura were in the Mirror of Truth challenging the Fate was not evident on the video, since the Dark Ones had stopped time during that period. Surprisingly though, everything flowed together seamlessly, as if there had been no interruptions whatsoever in between. The only difference that Syaoran could distinguish about after coming out of the Mirror of Truth was the compelling determination that shone from Sakura’s face like a radiant star as she drifted in with the rhythm of the production. Plus a dumb, dazed look on Romeo as he gazed at Juliet with wonder.
Then came the scene that everyone anticipated. All the chomping of popcorns and slurping of drinks ceased.
“Uh… I need to go get a drink of water,” Syaoran said, standing up.
Several strong hands grasped him back down onto the couch. “Lame excuse! You’re not going anywhere, Romeo.”
“Sakura-chan, what are you doing behind the couch?” Tomoyo asked, dragging her out.
“Sakura-chan, was that your first kiss?” Chiharu inquired eagerly.
“Is Li-kun a good kisser?” Naoko asked.
“That’s kind of sad, having a first kiss in front of hundreds of people,” Erika said.
“My first kiss wasn’t on stage!” Sakura asserted quickly, before she turned any pinker. Great friends she had.
“Did you hear that Li-kun? You’re not the first person to kiss her pure lips,” Aki chided.
Flashily, Syaoran gave his glare-of-death. Then he asked mildly, “How can you be so sure?”
“What does that mean?” Aki questioned, scratching his head.
Only the attentive ones like Tomoyo, Eriol, and Eron caught the subtle meaning. They all had shocked expressions on their faces, Eron’s by far the nastiest.
“Oh no! We missed the final scene because of you guys,” groaned the other students.
“It’s okay,” Tomoyo reassured. “You can all rewind it over and over again at home.” Oh dear… I must have completely missed out on how intimate Sakura and Syaoran had become over the summer. Maybe I’m losing my old touch, after all, missing the opportunity to capture their first kiss of film. At least I caught their second kiss on video—or was that their second? Maybe third, fourth, who knows? She drifted off into her own fantasy.
Meanwhile, Sakura thought, Great… I do hope nobody notices that I opened my eyes for a split second, when I was supposed to be dead. Especially not Syaoran. He must never know alarmed I was. But I bet he didn’t notice, anyway. There’s no need for me to worry.
Everyone applauded as enthusiastically as the night before, as Miho’s voice trailed off and the ending credits rolled on, with the background music of the Star-Crossed theme song. In the afterwards, there were clippings of funny moments during rehearsals, such as Syaroan kissing the floor as Sakura sat up to sneeze, plus a collaboration of shoots of different people working behind the scenes such as Naoko in the scenery and prop crew and Kai up in the lighting room. There also were scenes of the actors and actresses receiving bouquets, and various captures of the audiences, including a hilarious one of Touya’s expression during the Romeo and Juliet final scene. All those who knew Sakura’s brother guffawed, and Sakura secretly vowed never to show the video to her brother.
Watching the video, Tomoyo felt a surge of satisfaction. Who cared if her arms ached from holding up the videocamera for so long and her head throbbed?
“You look tired, something you rarely do,” Eriol told Tomoyo quietly.
“But, I’m doing work that I love, even if it takes so much time,” Tomoyo said. “I bet Clow Reed loved his work very much too.”
“He loved his work too much, so he had no friends,” Eriol grimly replied.
“You look pretty waery yourself, Eriol-kun, as if you have worries,” Tomoyo observed.
“It’s Miho,” Eriol said slowly. It took effort for him to confide anything, after mediating on his own for so long; it was rare that anyone actually wanted to listen to his troubles or could comprehend them. “I didn’t imagine it would take her this long to find her brother. She’s yet young and insecure; I don’t want her to suffer silently. That’s the least I can do for Kaho-san’s cousin.”
“You’re awfully protective of her,” Tomoyo noted. “But though I feel bad for Miho-chan, I think it’s good to experience such human responsibly and care for another person like family.”
“It may be true,” Eriol replied. “Lately, I have thought less about ‘work’ and more about human relationships. Funny, isn’t it? I used to think causing trouble for others was the greatest amusement of life.”
“But it isn’t, is it? It’s more meaningful resolve troubles,” Tomoyo said, staring hard at Eriol. Though she wasn’t magical like Sakura, she could sense he really had changed since the last time she met him. Then she followed Eriol’s gaze which led to Miho, surrounded by a group of friends, laughing.
“Wow, Miho-chan, how did you ever memorize all your lines in such a short period of time?” Chiharu asked—she had taken a fancy to the younger girl during the Best Couple Contest. “The narrator had heaps of long lines.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Miho replied. “I didn’t have as many lines as Romeo and Juliet.”
“Have you been in any school productions before?” Rika asked. “You got the part of narrator as soon as you came here and you were really good, a natural.”
“No, this is the first production I’ve been in,” Miho said. Her ease may have resulted because she had recited her mother’s words. “I’ve only been in little skits and stuff in my old school.”
“The one in England?” Meilin asked.
“No… The one I went to before I went to England. Eitoukou Elementary,” Miho replied slowly.
“Eitoukou? Why, that’s our major rival school! But Seijou won all the sports matches so far this year. Basketball, soccer, volleyball… We lost in archery, but oh well. Basketball is most important for me,” Aki said. “Because I’m the captain of the team.”
“Miho-chan, you must have lived near Tomoeda then, when you were younger,” Sakura commented. “Isn’t Eitoukou Elementary in the neighborhood next to Tomoeda?”
“I guess,” Miho replied vaguely.
“Maybe you can go visit your old school sometime,” Meilin suggested.
“Mmm… Look at these scrumptious chocolate cupcakes!” Miho exclaimed, grabbing two off the food tray.
“Or not,” Meilin
Everyone readied to leave at ten, still talking none stop about the production.
Spotting Sakura standing away from the mob of people, Eron walked up to her and commented, “You must be relieved that the production is all over now.”
“Well, it was hard work, but it was worth it,” Sakura replied.
“I think, watching you on stage yesterday night made me change my mind slightly about love and Fate,” Eron said quietly.
“Really? That’s good. I’m glad that I can actually affect the way a person thinks,” Sakura said, smiling.
Then Eron frowned slightly, his golden eyes flickering as he came down to his point. “Sakura… You might have heard a strange thing from my sister.”
“What do you mean?” Sakura asked, understanding quite well that he was referring to the bet.
“It was my idea, not his, and I forced him to comply. Li Syaoran had nothing to do with it,” Eron said slowly.
Critically, Sakura gazed at Eron. The pretty ruby stud in his left ear was missing, but otherwise, he was the same as ever. Or was he? “Why are you telling me this?”
“I—“ Eron trailed off. “I just thought you might like to know. I like fairness.”
“Eron! I’m leaving without you!” Erika called out from the front door. Why was her twin hovering around Sakura so frequently these days?
“Well, see you at school tomorrow,” Eron said, catching up with his twin.
Weird, Sakura thought.
It would seem more normal if he put the blame on Syaoran; yet, he’s actually
admitting that the whole bet is his idea so therefore he accepts the blame.
Somehow fairness and Eron don’t compliment each other.
That night, Sakura commented, “You know what, Tomoyo-chan?” She propped herself up on the guest bed. It had been ages since she had slept over at Tomoyo’s house. They used to do so often, but ever since the whole production business started, they had both been extra busy, and then Sakura went to live with Syaoran, then the whole Phantom business…
“I told myself that I wasn’t mad at Syaoran because of the whole betting business with Eron and everything,” Sakura said.
“But?” Tomoyo sat up on her bed, listening carefully.
“And after all, I guess I am a little bit mad at him,” Sakura frankly admitted.
“Because you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of,” Tomoyo said knowingly. “And you might have been hurt because someone you cared so much for had disappointed you. You tried to hide it from him, but deep down in your heart, you couldn’t simply dismiss it.”
“I didn’t talk to him all evening, not even once, even if I felt so close to him yesterday,” Sakura said ruefully. “Maybe he’s mad because I keep on making excuses not to meet him,” Of course, there was the fact that they were both bombarded with various people coming up to them to congratulate them and pelt questions at, so they really hadn’t had a chance to get anywhere near each other that evening.
“I can’t believe it was the Brat on stage yesterday!” Kero-chan exclaimed, popping up from the pillow. “It was a 180 degrees different from the Sleeping Beauty production.”
“Kero-chan, don’t be so loud, the maids will hear you!” Sakura said, placing Kero-chan back on the pillow, and chuckled at the recollection of Syaoran in a pink frilly dress designed by Tomoyo and the yellow macaroni wig in fifth grade.
“I guess that subconscious anger made you turn him down,” Tomoyo commented.
Sighing, Sakura said, “I got this feeling that he’s trying to tell me something important, though I don’t know what. But this spiteful feeling inside me make excuses up every time he tried to approach me. And what Eron-kun told me earlier this evening, actually freeing Syaoran from blame, just made me feel worse. Truthfully, I should feel more mad at Eron-kun, but it’s the other way around.”
Maybe because you had that much more faith in Syaoran, Tomoyo contemplated. “I still do think you should give Syaoran a chance,” Tomoyo advised carefully. Someone who could kiss Sakura as gently as that wouldn’t hurt her. Besides, even Syaoran had an end to his patience. Who knew how long he would wait?
“Umm… Tomoyo-chan?” Sakura asked hesitantly. “Is there any guy special in your life?”
Tomoyo looked up with round blue-violet eyes. She replied half-heartedly, “I don’t know. Though I like helping couples work out, I’ve always been so busy myself; I never really stopped to think about my own non-existent love life.”
“Eriol-kun seems to have changed a lot,” Sakura commented. “I mean, he’s nice and gentle as always, yet the feeling I get from him is different from elementary school days, and it is yet again different from when we met him in New York. I’ve always felt rather awed by him, though he was a classmate, but that feeling of mutual awe changed into something more muted. He was the type of person that would stand out in a room, yet he no longer does. I’ve always found that he is a hard person to understand—yet, he still reminds me of you, Tomoyo-chan.”
“In what ways?” Tomoyo toyed were her long hair tied with a blue satin ribbon.
“Well, both of you have gentle, understanding eyes as if you can perceive things from a different level than most people. And both of you are somewhat remote, in the sense that you can always help others in trouble, but always keep your true thoughts and problems inside. Both of you are talented and good at everything,” Sakura listed off. “And it seems to me that though Eriol had pretty much penetrated through everyone’s actions and minds, he still seems to be rather mystified by you.”
At this, Tomoyo laughed. Since when had Sakura been scrutinizing her like this? “We don’t have that many things in common, Sakura-chan.”
Sakura hugged her pillow closer to her. So much for
matchmaking. She would have to tell Meilin that their plan had been
Late that night, Tomoyo sat up, unable to fall asleep as usual, ever since the Phantom had been sealed. Luckily, the production had provided enough distraction to keep her mind off other worries, yet now, it was over. It was during these dark, uninhibited hours of the night when she came to a fuller reflection over herself. All my life, I have always thought about other people and never about myself. It was easier for me that way. Though Sakura told me that she is thankful to me for always being there for her, it’s the other way around. When we became friends back in third grade, our friendship became a mode for me to seek happiness and forget about the troubles deep in my heart. When she became Card Captor, I devoted my time into making her battle costumes, videotaping her, and backing her crush for Yukito-san, then supporting her and Syaoran-kun once I found out his true feelings. When Syaoran left, I devoted myself to keeping Sakura’s mind off of him, so that she would not be sad. When he came back, I devoted myself to making things work out once more.
I have never left any room for my own problems and for myself to fall in love with any guy—that was my goal—never to lose my heart. It probably had a root back to when I was young and saw the unhappy relationship between my father and mother. There must have been a point where they loved each other and cared for each other. Yet, all the recollection I have of them was of shouting, arguing, and despising each other. Mother always went on business trips when she didn’t want to see Father. Father stayed out overnight for weeks at the police headquarters for important cases. They were much more comfortable after they separated.
“Mother, where is Father?” I once asked when I was too young to know any better.
“He’s dead, or the same as dead,” my mother told me.
“Why doesn’t he love me?” I asked, so naïve. “Why doesn’t he want to see me?” Because I was my mother’s daughter. Because seeing me reminded him of a time when he did love my mother. I think it was since then that I vowed never to repeat the kind of mistake that my mother did, and never to fall in love myself.
Yet as I grew older, I liked watching couples blossom around me, and supported my friends’ relationships. Somehow, I grew to be an advisor and mentor, and people turned to me with their problems, though I never went through such relationships that my friends did. It was a natural role for me because I like to think that I can support people in times of hardship. For me, it was enough to observe Sakura and Syaoran’s ups and downs, and support them when they needed me; I didn’t need to experience it myself.
Earlier this year, my father contacted me after all the years of completely abandoning my mother and me. I hated him at first—the one person in life that I truly hated. If Eriol did not listen to my problems from England and advise me to meet my father, the hate would have driven me crazy because I had always tried to contain it. So this summer, I went to Tokyo to meet my father, after years of trying to forget the fact that I once had another parent. It was such a relief to tell Sakura about everything. And I found the reason that I hated my father so much was because deep inside, I loved him and admired him.
In ways, I have been a very bad friend to Sakura. I always listened to her problems and focused on her life, yet I never gave her any insight to my own. My own worries, fears, and problems, I have suppressed and kept within me all these years. It is no wonder the Phantom took control of me. Up till then, I truly was satisfied and happy in my own way.
When the Phantom possessed my mind, and the Crystal froze my heart, it was the worst experience of my life, a torture that no one can imagine, one I will remember vividly until death. When your heart is unfeeling, and your body is controlled by another will inside you, you feel helpless and desperate. If Sakura didn’t seal the Phantom when she did, I don’t know what would have happened to me; I would have rotted away from inside.
Though I often sympathized with Sakura when she told me of her nightmares, I didn’t truly understand her then. I didn’t have frequent nightmares since my parents’ separation. Yet, after the incident with the Phantom, I find that I am scared of darkness and the night. Eriol told me that such a side effect would be expected after having been under the Phantom’s clutches for so long. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I unconsciously scream out loud, and my mother comes to my room, worried. She asks me what is wrong, but I can’t tell her. I am too used to being a perfect, model daughter—the kind of daughter I want my mother to be proud of. Though she loves me as I am, I know she has great expectations from me, because I am the only thing left to her now.
All these events have kept me thinking these days. I realize that I can no longer go back to the innocent, simple satisfaction and happiness with what I have, like the time before the Phantom possessed me. Now I realize that all the while I pretended to be so busy, losing myself in academics, choir, the production, video-taping, designing new battle outfits, and being a mentor, I was just making an excuse to block out the tiny voice inside me telling me that something was missing in my life. I thought I could be content with just watching Sakura happy, yet I was wrong. I can sense that she is unhappy when she feels that I am trying to keep my worries to myself. She wants me to find that missing part in my life, also. All this while, I thought I was ensuring Sakura’s happiness by keeping to myself, but it was actually my inner conscious afraid that Sakura would think less of me as her friend if I revealed an unsure, troubled side to her.
I like being poised and composed in front of people—but sometimes I get the unsettling feeling that Eriol is the one person who can break through my outer face, and it’s very discomforting at times. Maybe I get this feeling because I can always understand his actions and thoughts better than others can; we have a mutual understanding. I view Eriol differently from the way that my classmates do, who see him as perfect, kind, and somewhat detached from regular events. Since I don’t have any magical powers, I don’t view him as the reincarnation of Clow Reed, like Sakura and Syaoran can’t help doing. Instead, I find him as a person with a mystifying, unfathomable inner self, because he is more complex than any other person I have ever met, and it is impossible to decipher him at times. Simultaneously though, I have a feeling that he is suffering as much as I am to find his true identity in relationship to the society around him.
“Tomoyo-chan, are you still not sleeping?” Sakura asked in a drowsy voice from across the room.
“Sakura-chan, when did you realize that you liked Syaoran-kun?” Tomoyo asked softly.
Joking saucily, Sakura replied, “Maybe long after you did.” Then she carefully reflected, “For some people I hear that realizing that they love someone is like a lightening striking them, but for others, it’s a gradual thing that deepens with time. For me, I think it’s inconsistent because even now, some days I question what I truly feel for him, while others, I reflect that it must have been love, after all. Strange, isn’t it?”
“It makes sense,” Tomoyo replied, sighing, and turning over in her bed. “You’re lucky, Sakura; you really are.”
“What makes you say that?” Sakura questioned, befuddled. Could it be that Tomoyo, who had everything that a girl would desire—beauty, intelligence, talent, wealth, and popularity, had the slightest hint of jealousy in her voice? No, there was a slight loneliness in Tomoyo’s tone, as if she was searching for something that she couldn’t find. I know that feeling, Sakura thought. The she hid a smile. I better tell Meilin that my “talk” with Tomoyo-chan must have been successful, after all. There is yet hope!
Snuggling in her covers, Tomoyo closed her eyes once more. She didn’t think that she would have nightmares about the Phantom this night, with Kero-chan snoring from across the room. So, what conclusion have I come up with all these new reflections over myself?
For the time being, I think I’ll stick with my policy of never falling in love, because it suits me for now. But I am no Clow Reed, so I do not know what my future holds.
The next day at school, the students were still talking about Star-Crossed.
“You know, the production on Saturday…” one student began
“Oh my gosh, I loved Juliet’s ivory lace dress with pearls!” another interjected.
“I watched the video over and over again all weekend!”
Aki called out, waving a copy of the school newspaper over his head, “Seijou Junior High Newspaper frontpage: The Star-Crossed Phenomenon has Struck Tomoeda!” A crowd of students drew around the neat stack of copies on the table set outside of the journalism room.
Groaning, Syaoran flopped over on his desk. One would think that the musical fever would have died down my Monday morning. Instead, it had grown worse. It was bad enough that mobs of people had attacked him the previous day at the party, so that he could not even get anywhere near Sakura and tell her that Kai was missing, let alone ask what she was doing next Sunday.
Fleetingly, he glanced at the empty seat next to him. Kai still hadn’t returned. Like Sakura had suggested, Syaoran wanted to trust Kai; after all, he could relate to Kai’s desire of secrecy and solitude. Yet, Kai didn’t put much effort to gain trust from other people. Then Syaoran stared at the back of Sakura’s head like he was so accustomed to doing. He hadn’t either—yet Sakura had shown unfaltering faith in him. And maybe that’s why I became who I am now—otherwise, I might have still been in my reclusive shell, narrow-minded and obstinate.
“Class come to order!” the teacher called out, over the chatter of the students. “All of you did a great job on Saturday, and I’m really proud of you. I know you all worked really hard on it, and you deserved the tremendous results. But now, the production is over, and we must all focus back on schoolwork. After all, you guys all are junior high third graders, and high school entrance exams are coming up.”
Everyone groaned. After all the excitement, how could they ever return back to dull studying, studying, and studying?
It was hard for everyone to concentrate on tedious math problems and writing compositions, after so much divergence. It was especially hard for Sakura to adjust back to “normal life,” even as the week progressed. The past half-year had been so hectic and busy—but animated and fun. Not for the first, though she didn’t to admit it, it was being with Syaoran that she missed the most. After waking up to see Syaoran, spending the whole day at school together, rehearsing for the production, and spending all her time with him, squabbling, joking, or just talking, she missed such intimacy.
In the middle of solving the trigonometry problems, Sakura glanced back behind her. Syaoran was busily solving the next page—no matter what, she admired his discipline. Sighing, she returned to math and ruefully fingered her lips. Why did she insist that she was busy on Sunday when Syaoran asked? Pure stubbornness.
“Class president, is Mizuki Kai missing again, today?” the math teacher asked, observing the empty seat beside Syaoran.
“Yes,” Aki, the class president replied unable to hide a smirk—he didn’t like that nonchalant attitude of Kai’s, which made girls think that Kai was so cool.
missing a gain,
Sakura mused. I’m sure he’ll turn up again, but I do wish he doesn’t miss so
much school. He was so good about perfect attendance for the past few weeks
because of the musical production. I would hate for him to go astray at this
During break, Aki approached Sakura, holding a sign up sheet. “Sakura-chan!”
Sakura looked up from the math problems she hadn’t finished during class. She missed the days when Syaoran would help her with her math homework in the evening. He had a way of explaining problems clearly without making her feel stupid.
“Sakura, are you interested in joining the journalism club?” Aki asked eagerly. “We have some vacant spots—besides, the production is over now, so you must have more time at hand.”
“Hoe? Me?” What in the world was Aki talking about?
“Yes; you always get good grades in writing compositions, and everything,” Aki continued.
“Umm…” Sakura twiddled her thumb. She was looking forward to relaxing a bit, and she still had cheerleading practices.
“Hey Li-kun, you too,” Kai said. “You should join.”
“Why?” Syaoran asked, looking up from his textbook.
Sakura turned around, startled; she hadn’t realized that another person stayed in the classroom during break to working. Unlike her, he was working ahead of the problems. It was just like Syaoran to ask “why.”
“It’s because a group of students dropped out of journalism because Aki-senpai is too bossy,” Miho said slyly, from the doorway.
“Well, I am the newspaper chief-editor,” Aki protested. “And you better have the article I assigned you ready by tomorrow, Reporter Tanaka.”
“Yes, yes,” Miho grumbled.
“Miho-chan, I never knew you were in the journalism club,” Sakura said, surprised.
“Well, my mother used to be a journalist, you know,” Miho admitted. “When she was healthier.”
“Really? Oh yeah! She was an excellent writer,” Sakura recalled. “After all, she wrote out a whole production script when she was only fifteen.”
“Anyway, will you join?” Aki half pleaded. “We need intelligent people like you.”
“How do you manage everything, Aki-kun?” Sakura asked impressed. “Being class-president, the basketball team captain, not to mention editor of the school paper.”
Shrugging, Aki rambled off, “Well, it doesn’t beat my sister in her secondary school days— national horse-racing champion with dozens of gold trophies, president of the theater club, chief organizer of the Children’s Hospital Fund, not to mention budding actress, nor my older brother, straight-A student, senior class president, MVP captain of the basketball team, four time winner of the National Youth Science Fair, head of class at Tokyo University, and MIT full scholarship honors student.”
Sakura winced—sometimes, she got the sense that it must not be nice to have so much rivalry with his siblings like Aki did. Then again, Akagi Arima was an amazing person, and she would love to have a sister like her.
“Join!” Miho urged Syaoran. “It’ll be fun!”
“I’m not interested in journalism,” Syaoran said bluntly.
“Journalism club? That sounds interesting,” Eron said, entering the classroom, giving a cool, challenging stare at Syaoran. “Sign me up, Aki-kun.”
“Sure! Thanks!” Aki exclaimed, jotting down Chang Eron onto his list. “Hiiragizawa Eriol signed up last week. And now, Kinomoto Sakura and Li Syaoran.”
Though he was about to protest, Syaoran clamped his mouth shut, realizing that Sakura was protesting. Did she hate working with him that much?
“That’s great!” Aki exclaimed. “I’ll tell you guys the meeting dates and times later on. I’m sure that we will have great fun! Now, I just need to get one more person… Hmm… I think I’ll go ask your twin, Eron-kun.” He walked off, humming Tybalt’s solo from Star-Crossed.
At this, Sakura giggled. Sometimes they seemed completely different, yet you couldn’t hide that Aki and Arima were blood-related, for both could be very resolute at times. Then, Sakura realized what she had gotten herself into. Working for the school newspaper would be difficult work. Yet, it still would be fun. Lots of her friends worked for it—Naoko told her numerous times that it was fun. And, it was one more chance to work with Syaoran. Funny, the whole reason they had become involved in the musical was because of a bet. No more bets for me, Sakura told herself. But, I bet I can do better in this genre than Syaoran can!
Syaoran told her, crossly. “If I try, I can do just as well!”
Drat! How does Syaoran always know what I’m thinking?
“Silly, it’s written all of your face,” Syaoran replied.
He’s scary, Sakura thought.
“It’s not that I’m scary,” Syaoran said. “I just know you too well.”
Quickly gathering her books, Sakura hurried out of the classroom before Syaoran could break into her mind anymore.
“This Sunday,” Syaoran called out, after a second thought. “You’re not busy this coming Sunday, are you?”
“I—“ Sakura stammered. “I am busy—“ Why couldn’t she think up a better excuse or at least a different one?
“Meet me at
King Penguin Park, at noon. I’ll be waiting there, whether you come or not.”
Syaoran said without leaving a chance for her to come up with an excuse. Then,
he briskly slung his bag over his shoulder and walked past her.
That evening, Meilin, Tomoyo, Sakura, and Miho gathered at Sakura’s house; Since Meilin was leaving early in the morning on Friday, Sakura had invited all the girls over for a last get together on Wednesday.
“School newspaper? That sounds interesting,” Tomoyo said. “Aki-kun asked me if I wanted to join, but it overlapped with chorus practice. Too bad.”
“It will be a good thing you didn’t join,” Miho said, twirling around in Sakura’s wheeled desk chair. “You don’t know what a slave-driver Aki-senpai is, though he, himself doesn’t do much work.”
Sakura groaned. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
“Then you wouldn’t have joined,” Miho asserted plaintively.
Suddenly, Sakura remembered earlier that day. Syaoran had told her to meet him at King Penguin Park on Sunday. Why? Her eyes flickered to Meilin; Meilin had been unusually silent. In fact, Meilin had seemed rather altered on the whole visit to Japan, besides when she was occupied with the production business. Sakura had been surprised when Meilin came for a visit two weeks ago. Despite their rocky start elementary, she genuinely liked Meilin now, and was sorry that she had to go. It especially worried her when Meilin, usually bright and energetic, had a worn-out, distant look on her face.
At ten, Tomoyo’s bodyguards came to pick her up. “Are you sure you don’t want a ride back, Meilin-chan?” Tomoyo asked. “I’ll be dropping Miho off at Eriol’s house.”
Shaking her head, Meilin replied, “I’ll stay a little longer.”
“Okay then. Just in case I don’t get to see you before you leave, have a safe trip! And stay in contact!” Tomoyo said, giving Meilin a squeeze.
“Bye!” Miho said.
“Good luck finding your brother,” Meilin returned, smiling. Funny how she had not liked Miho at all when they first met in New York; yet, she couldn’t help thinking she liked Miho’s frankness in dealing with her problems. No furtiveness, crookedness, or slyness in her.
After Tomoyo and Miho left, Meilin turned to Sakura. “Do you want to go for a walk?”
Slowly, they strolled down the sidewalk.
“So, Kai-kun hasn’t shown up yet,” Sakura commented.
Merin replied shortly, “I don’t think he returned to his apartment since Saturday evening.”
“I hope Wolfie-chan is doing well.” Sakura kicked a pebble down the sidewalk. She missed the playful puppy dreadfully.
“Don’t worry. You know Syaoran,” Meilin said wistfully. “He’s a big softie.”
At the mention of Syaoran’s name, Sakura paused. Thinking about it, I still didn’t pick up the rest of my stuff from his house—never had a chance. Nor did I carry out my plan of doing something special for him as a thank you for letting me stay at his place.
Then she reminded herself, No matter what, the production is not actuality; it was just a divergence. That kiss was only, as he pointed out, a part of the script, nothing more. Yet, it still makes my face feel hot and my heart beat faster. I bet he doesn’t know how much he surprised me. That makes me feel more foolish.
Meilin halted and blurted out, “Are you mad at Syaoran because of that silly bet he had with Eron? You know it wasn’t his choice!”
“I’m not mad at him,” Sakura said without conviction. When did Meilin hear about the bet? Had everyone known about it except her?
“You are mad. That’s why you continue to ignore him like that,” Meilin said. “Syaoran’s doing his very best to make things up with you because of last winter, and you’re doing your best to shun him. Don’t you give any consideration to his feelings and how hard things must be for him?”
“It’s not like that,” Sakura protested, though she realized it sounded weak.
Not leaving room for Sakura’s refutations, Meilin continued, “You don’t know anything about him! You don’t know anything about how hard it is to be a Li, and how hard it is to have your whole family pressing on your back because you are the Chosen One. You don’t know how hard it is for him to stand with his head up proudly, acting as if everything is all right. You don’t know how hard he tries!”
“Meilin…” Sakura’s voice was strained. She rarely saw Meilin get so worked up like this, especially with such a sorrowful expression on her face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to burst out like that,” Meilin rushed. “It’s just that I get so fed up at times. Don’t mind me. I’m just irritable because I’m going back to Hong Kong on Friday.”
“I—“ Sakura was cut off.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Bye, Sakura-chan.” Meilin turned around and ran down the sidewalk, back home before she said any more regrettable words. Back to Syaoran’s home. Not hers.
“I’m sorry, Meilin-chan,” Sakura whispered. “I’m sorry for not knowing. I can never know Syaoran the way you do.”
Meilin returned to Syaoran’s apartment a little before midnight and was careful not to disturb Syaoran, who had fallen asleep on the living room couch, holding a sleeping Wolfie-chan in his arms. Her small duffel bag was already packed though she wasn’t leaving for another day. Why, oh why was she feeling so frustrated and angry at everything and everyone? She hadn’t intended to burst out at Sakura like that. Sakura has no fault. I’m just jealous, Meilin scolded herself. I’m a selfish, pig-headed brat, as Kai would put it.
There came a rattling sound from the next door apartment. It must be Kai. The last time Meilin had seen him was when he walked off with the bouquet of white roses Saturday evening; he had disappeared for the past few days, not even returning to his apartment to sleep in.
Silently, as she was trained by the Li Clan martial arts masters, she slipped out of Syaoran’s door and entered Kai’s, which was unlocked as usual. There was one desk lamp lit in the otherwise dim room, and Kai’s face was lighted with the glow from his computer screen. He looked up, clearly startled. It was not often that Kai was taken off guard, but he hadn’t rested in days, so his instincts were hazier usual. Instantly, he grinned casually to hide his weariness and asked, “Meilin-chan! Did you bring me a midnight snack?”
“When did you get back?” Meilin asked flatly.
Shrugging, Kai continued to type into his computer.
“What did you do with the Five Force Treasures? I was pretty sure your ran off with them.”
Trying to keep the crankiness from his voice, Kai said “Well, as you can see, I’m back.”
“I thought you said you were never going to steal again,” Meilin persisted.
“I did,” Kai said. “And I also told you never to trust the words of a thief.” Seeing that Meirn was trembling with indignation, he added hurriedly, “But that was my last time. You know that my ultimate goal was to collect the Five Force Treasures. And I did so. That’s all. I haven’t stolen since that night, and I won’t steal anymore.”
“Ha, as if I believe your words again,” Meilin retorted. “You told me yourself that magician’s are tricksters. There’s no reason to trust you.”
“You can believe what you please,” Kai said flippantly. “What do I care?”
Then, the frustration that had been building up in Meilin constantly that evening finally burst out. “I really don’t get you, Kai. You have so much talent and potential, yet why do you choose to be like this? I thought you said that your Kaitou Magician days are over. And like a fool, I believed you. In fact, I was rather proud of you, especially when I saw you during the Seijou Junior High production. It was good to see you pour out sweat and effort for something meaningful. Then, there you go again, stealing the ruby earrings, the Li Clan sword, the diamond necklace, and sapphire ring, all in one day. You stopped going to school, and you’re returning to your old, nasty habits. You’re intelligent, but you don’t study. You’re multi-talented, but you don’t take advantage of such gifts. You have friends, but you do nothing to gain their confidence in you.”
Merely eyeing Meilin with an amused look, Kai urged, “So?”
“You broke all the faith I had in you. Get a grip on your life, Kai. I know you have it in you. Why do you choose to waste your life like this, as a dishonest criminal?” Meilin trailed off, wondering if she had gone too far. Then she continued, “You—“
Shattering his magician’s careless, poker face, Kai broke out, “What do you know?” He swerved his chair around to face her. “What do you know about me? Don’t act like you know me so well to criticize and find fault with me.”
“You’re right—I’m nothing but a dishonest criminal, a scoundrel who wastes away his life. There, are you satisfied?” Rather aggressively, Kai jerked his chair towards the computer again.
For a moment, Meilin paused. The same thing she had asked Sakura, on account of Syaoran. “What do you know?” I, myself, don’t know anything. What right do I have to go around criticizing other people? Sighing, Meilin looked around at Kai’s disorganized apartment. It looked as if Kai hadn’t inhabited it for the past few days, judging from the dust that had gathered. Why do I feel like I should apologize to Kai? It’s not like I spoke untruth. It’s true; everything I said is true. Yet, what right do I have to say all this to Kai? Stubbornness creeping over her, Meilin said haltingly, “I’m leaving early Friday morning.”
“Oh,” Kai said, nonchalantly. He didn’t even bother to look up from his keyboard.
Shifting uncomfortably, Meilin readied to leave.
“Why did you come back, Meilin?” Kai demanded. “Don’t tell me it’s because you wanted to watch the production or because you missed Tomoeda so much. I thought you were determined not to come back, until you have become a stronger person and learned how to control your feelings for Syaoran.”
“I have gained control,” Meilin said stiffly.
haven’t, Meilin. Don’t lie to me. I know better. It’s not so easy to get over
loving someone you loved most of your life. But something compelled you to come
back, and I won’t be so egotistical to say it’s me.”
Meilin bit her lips, and rambled to herself, “I can’t. I can’t say it to him. I can’t say it, after I saw how hard he’s trying.”
“I won’t bother to ask anymore about what you can’t tell your precious Syaoran.” Then Kai commented wryly, “When I look at you, Meilin, I sometimes think we are two of a kind.”
that be?” Meilin retorted, indignant. “There’s no way that I have anything
similar to a lying, honorless, crooked thief. I would
rather die than have anything in common with you, Mizuki Kai!” Stomping out of
the room, Meilin called out, “Good night!”
As Meilin returned, Syaoran in a bleary voice asked, “Why were you out so late?”
“Kai’s back, that idiot,” Meilin said. “I’ve always hated his guts since the moment he kidnapped me.”
“You don’t hate him, Meilin,” Syaoran said wisely. “You’re just worried about him. Give him a chance to clear himself.”
At this, Meilin stared at Syaoran, surprised. What had Sakura done to him for the past months to turn him into this human, caring, and mature young man, actually offering sound advice?
The next morning, Meilin paced down the apartment hallway. “Hmm… I guess I should wake Kai up and make him go school,” Meilin grumbled by herself. But I don’t want Kai to think that I forgive him for yesterday. All the same, I feel remotely guilty. Maybe it’s because of what Syaoran told me. Meilin forgot to stop and ask herself what Kai did that required her forgiveness; he was just being himself, after all, whether he stole precious jewelry or skipped school. Heedlessly, she kicked open Kai’s door, which was unlocked as usual and shouted, “Kai wake up!”
As usual, there was no response. Sighing, Meilin walked over to Kai’s room with its door was wide open. When she checked the bed, there was no one in it. He couldn’t possibly have disregarded her words and run wild again, the previous night, could he? Ooh, I really won’t forgive him this time! Then the door across the hall creaked, making her jump.
“Looking for me?” Kai asked, stepping out of the bathroom.
“What a change. You’re up at this hour—or more likely, you’re home at this hour,” Meilin commented dryly, trying to hide that she had been startled as she turned around to face him. When she saw Kai, her mouth dropped. For a change, Kai was not only up, but dressed neatly and respectably. He was wearing a crisp long sleeved black dress shirt, neatly buttoned and tucked into his matching black slacks, which was ironed and creased with style. The black leather of his silver buckled designer belt matched with his well-polished shoes that seemed to be brand new. His usual black sunglasses were nowhere in sight. Instead, he wore elegant silver-rimmed, translucent bluish-gray tinted glasses. Even his lightly bleached hair was gelled neatly, every strand in place. Replacing his favorite silver fang earrings was a single jewel in his left ear, a twinkling round periwinkle stud, which looked a brilliant blue in some lights and a cloudy gray in others.
“Are you going to stare at me all day?” Kai demanded.
“No… Uh… are you going somewhere?” Meilin stammered, turning red at being caught gaping at him.
“If you’re trying to ask me why am I dressed up, it’s because I feel like it. Well, hurry up. I’ll take you to a five-star Japanese Restaurant as your last lunch in this country,” Kai said.
“But…” Meilin was even more baffled. “How many times do I have to tell you? You should go to school.”
“Screw school for today. I’ve missed half the week already; it won’t hurt to miss one more day. Besides, I’ve been so busy with that school production crap, I need this week off as a break. Better to spend the day with you than by myself. So, hurry up, I’m not a very patient guy. Well, that is unless you want to be left at home all by yourself on your last day here.”
When he saw Meilin hesitate, Kai said, “If you come with me, I’ll promise to be good starting from next week.”
“That theology doesn’t exactly work, but oh fine, I’ll go with you. I have nothing better, and you did promise to be good—Don’t get the wrong idea; I still haven’t forgiven you.” Meilin tried to sound uneager, but in fact, she was glad that she had an opportunity to make things up with Kai before leaving. “Wait… let me go change.”
She hurried back into Syaoran’s house. Any other time, what she was wearing would have been fine. Yet, something about Kai today impelled her to dress up. Rapidly, she rummaged through Sakura’s former closet to find something to wear—she hadn’t taken all her belongings yet, and besides, they were similar sizes. Apologies, Sakura. I didn’t bring that many things from Hong Kong, and no formal clothes at all. Meilin settled on a pretty dove-gray dress made out of a soft silky material and a pale blue cardigan to go over it, tied with a match ribbon at the front. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Something seemed incomplete. Then she undid her hair from its usual two buns. Her jet black hair swished down her back. She still remembered back when Kaitou Magician ‘kidnapped’ her.
“Why’d’you kidnap me, you creep?” Meilin demanded for the tenth time, months ago when he took Meilin to his grungy little apartment after kidnapping her from the rooftop of Syaoran’s apartment.
“What’s with your hair?” Kaitou Magician asked, expertly ignoring her rant.
Meilin’s lower lip crumpled. “Better than yours. Your hair is like porcupine’s quill—all spiky and hard.”
“Ha ha. Thank you. But I prefer it to two childish buns on each side of my head. Are you a Sailor Moon wannabe or something?”
“I’ve always worn my hair this way,” Meilin stated, holding up her chin. “Because when people made fun of it in preschool, Syaoran told my hairstyle suited me perfectly well.”
“Does the great Syaoran-sama’s opinion matter so much to you?” Kaitou Magician asked sarcastically.
“Yes. A whole lot more than yours does,” she said brazenly. Then she added softly, “It was really rare that Syaoran complimented me. But even if he only said it to make me feel better, it was still a compliment and I’ve worn my hair in two buns since I was five years old. So, there!” After stating this, Meilin felt a whole deal better. She would never let this exasperating maverick intimidate her.
“Okay. No need to get offensive,” Kaitou said, holding up his arms.
“No need to get offensive? Who’s the one who kidnapped me and brought me to this little stinking apartment and insulted my hair and…”
Whimsically smiling at the reminiscence, Meilin brushed out her hair, then clipped back half her hair with a butterfly pin, leaving the rest down her back. In ways, Kai had come a long way. It seemed like only yesterday that the mysterious Thief of the Night had appeared in Tomoeda, causing problems for Sakura, Syaoran, and herself. Though she did not know what nefarious deeds he did in the night, the image she had of him had changed during the Star-Crossed rehearsals in which she saw him for the first time as a regular student. Checking herself in the mirror once more, she noted that her reflection wasn’t the little bratty Chinese girl anymore. Secretly she felt pleased about her mature-looking image. Grabbing her handbag, Meilin headed toward the elevator.
“What took you so long?” Kai asked. Then he scanned her up and down and whistled. “You changed your hairstyle.”
“It’s not because you made fun of my pigtails,” Meilin protested.
Observing her from all directions, Kai said, “I’m flattered you dressed up for me.”
“W-what! Don’t get the wrong idea. I didn’t dress up for you! It’s just because I felt like it!” Meilin retorted. It didn’t occur to her to point out that Kai was dressed up also.
“I’m sure Sakura wouldn’t mind that you borrowed her entire outfit,” Kai commented slyly, chuckling to himself.
With her hands on her hips, Meilin stated, “You’re always so critical of me. Guys aren’t supposed to know things like that.”
“Don’t worry.” Kai smiled crookedly. “You look pretty. “
“Huh?” Meilin was left speechless. “So… Are we going by your motorcycle?”
“No, not for this occasion. We’ll go by car.” Kai held out his hand and pointed at a gleaming sporty black car parked in the driveway. He pressed a button on the key, and the doors unlocked with a click.
Meilin’s mouth dropped. “This is your car?”
In reply, Kai held open the car door and bowed with the suave manners that reserved for special occasions. “Voila, mademoiselle.”
“Viola, voila,” echoed Kai’s parrot. Today, the parrot was a soft shade of blue. Meilin had learned that Kai often changed the white parrot’s color, sometimes to match his own hair color, sometimes depending on his mood, sometimes for disguise.
“Are you sure you didn’t steal it?” Meilin asked suspiciously.
Sighing, Kai said, “Despite what you think, thieves aren’t stupid enough to steal things and then drive them around in broad day light. Now enter, senorita.”
Obediently, Meilin sat in the car seat. The interior design was luxurious and spacious. Kai settled in the driver’s seat and started up the engine. Then, he fiddled with the CD player tuner. Immediately, soft classical music floated through the car.
“What’s with the music all of a sudden?” Meilin demanded. “It’s not like you.”
“Why? You don’t like Chopin? Do you prefer Strauss then?” Kai asked.
“Since when did you listen to classical music?”
Feeling a little queasy, Meilin asked, “Do you know how to drive a car?”
“What do you take me for? Li Syaoran?” Laughing, Kai said, “Of course I know how to drive.”
“How? Legal driving age in Japan is 18. I don’t exactly know your age, (I don’t know anything about you, actually), but I’m sure you’re under 18,” Meilin said. “I’m not responsible if the police catches you for not having a license.”
“I do have a license. From when I was in America. See?” From his wallet, Kai took out a plastic card. Critically, Meilin read it. Name: Mizuki, Kai. Age: 18 years. Nationality: Japan. School: California Institute of Technology (Cal-Tech), Computer Engineering.
“It’s fake,” Meilin said flatly.
“I’m a master of forgery, disguise, and even making fake IDs. But don’t worry. I took driver’s ed back when I was staying in California for maybe one or two weeks.”
“What a relief,” Meilin commented sarcastically. “One or two weeks. When were you in California?”
“Last winter, I think, after I left New York. I stopped by Washington D.C., Chicago, then went to Las Vegas,” Kai recollected.
“What were you doing in Las Vegas, the haven of casino anyway?” Then Meilin slapped her forehead. “Wait, stupid of me to ask.”
we’re off then!” Kai pressed down on the acceleration pedal and they zoomed
down the road.
Soon, they passed by a nice neighborhood with large, lavish houses with lush lawns and trees. To Meilin’s relief, Kai was an expert driver, except for the fact that he had a habit of passing the speed limit and never being caught.
“How funny. There’s a large gap in between two houses,” Meilin pointed out as she peered through the car window and observed the row of houses along the street. “The space feels so empty. I wonder if there was another house in between, previously.”
“Maybe,” Kai replied, not taking his eyes of the road.
“There’s a big school over there!” Meilin stated as she squinted her eyes to make out the letters. “Oh! It’s Eitoukou. You know, Seijou’s neighboring rival school. It seems larger than Seijou, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. Seijou Junior High had a soccer game with Eitoukou Junior High several weeks ago and we came over here and spent a few days,” Kai said.
“Since when were you in the soccer team?” Meilin asked.
Chuckling, Kai replied, “Sakura asked me the same thing back then. I went as a temporary manager because I wanted to ditch classes and a nasty history test on the French Revolution. Which I still didn’t make up, now that I think of it.”
After thinking for a while, she asked, “Hey, can we stop by Eitoukou Elementary School for a few minutes? There’s still some time before lunch, anyway.”
“Why? “Kai asked, raising his eyebrow.
“It’s the school that Miho-chan went to before, so maybe I can gather some up information about her brother and everything. Funny, when I first met her, I thought she was bratty and spoilt, but now I genuinely like her. She’s really nice and mature for her age,” Meilin said. “Of course, I’m really bratty and spoilt as well because I’m an only child. That’s what you thought of me when you first met me, right? A spoilt brat.”
“Of course,” Kai replied, holding back a smile. “A noisy little spoilt brat with quite a few things to say. And I still think so.”
“Humph.” Meilin crossed her arms. That was as close as Kai would get to saying that he respected her opinion. Then she added, “I really wish that Miho-chan would go see her mother. She should take the chance.”
right; she should.”
After parking the car, Kai and Meilin walked into the first school building, which was clearly the largest because it was the high school. There were teen girls and boys in elite school uniforms bustling around everywhere.
Stopping one of the students, Meilin said, “Excuse me. I’m trying to find out something about the Eitoukou Elementary alumni.”
The high school student halted and asked suspiciously, “Who are you? Are you Seijou High spies?”
“No, we’re students from Tokyo University and we want to review your school for our journalism class,” Kai lied glibly. They could easily pass off as university students because they were so dressed up. Apparently out of nowhere popped up a Sony digital camera in his hands, finishing off the journalist look.
The student’s attitude immediately changed and he bowed respectively. “Sorry for the mistake. I’m Namuru Shidaiko from class 1-3 of Eitoukou High. I’d be glad to show you around and help you gather any information.”
“Namuru Shidaikio?” Kai turned slightly pallid. “Well, can you show us to the Eitoukou Elementary school?”
“Sure!” Shidaikio said. “I went there myself. Follow me.”
“Eitoukou Elementary definitely is bigger than Tomoeda Elementary School,” Meilin commented as she looked around the gleaming, spacey halls. “No wonder it has a reputation of being a posh, snobby school.”
“So, who are you looking for again?” Namuru Shidaiko asked.
“Umm… Tanaka…” Meilin stammered. She realized that she had never bothered to ask Miho what her brother’s first name was.
Twitching a little, Shidaikio asked, “Tanaka? Hmm…You don’t mean the Legendary Tanaka, do you? Tanaka Mikai. Captain of the Junior Archery Club, class president, straight A’s, offered scholarship from the nation’s best secondary schools? I used to be his classmate. That bastard. I myself didn’t see what was so great about him.”
“Maybe you were jealous,” Kai said dryly.
“So… What happened to him?” Meilin asked.
“I don’t know. He suddenly disappeared from school in the middle of sixth grade. Different rumors went around. Some say his family went to America, others say he received a scholarship to a school abroad, still others say his house burned down so his family moved. Tanaka had a cute little sister. She was in fourth grade at that time. She disappeared also, but we heard that she went to England. I personally think Tanaka Mikai probably ended up in the juvenile delinquent center or fell in with the bad crowd, or dropped out of school all together. He was too perfect. But the teachers insist that he must be receiving all sorts of awards, college scholarships, and gold medals in archery. Personally, I’m glad he left. After he left, I became the star of the archery club,” Shidaikio stated.
“No wonder Eitoukou’s archery status dropped down so much,” Kai muttered.
“Namuru-san, do you know where I can find out more about Tanaka Mikai?” Meilin asked.
“Of course. The archery practice court is a good idea. It still exhibits the dozens of trophies that Tanaka has won.”
Namuru Shidaiko led Kai and Meilin to the archery court a little way off from the main building of the elementary school. The court was bustling with archers. The archers ranged from small elementary students to high school students, scattered throughout different areas of the court. Pointing to a wall, Shidaiko said sarcastically, “This entire wall is covered with pictures of the greatest star of the archery club though it’s been a good four or five years since he left. No one could outshine him to date. Yes, at ten years old, he beat the record of all the talented high schoolers of the nation. At twelve, he was an absolute pro, Olympics material, but he disappeared and hasn’t been heard of since. Yet, his legend still lives on. Nobody has ever ventured near his record yet.”
Silently, Meilin stared at the dozens of pictures covering the wall, some black and white, some in color, all of vary sizes and different focuses. Though Meilin herself didn’t know much about archery, she felt drawn in by the captures of young Tanaka Mikai, holding up a bow with grace and ease. There was even a picture of Mikai with a large trophy and posing for the camera with his smiling mother, father, and little sister, Miho. Little Miho, with her two braids, was holding the large trophy that her brother had won and was smiling widely. Observing Tanaka Mikai, Meilin felt that there was a reason why he was such a hero in the school and why Miho loved her older brother so much. Something about the easy grace one arm holding his bow, and the other arm placed around Miho’s shoulders in a brotherly and protective way, the carefree smile, and bright honest eyes, captured the natural charisma that so few young people had. His hair was neatly parted down the middle, Eriol-style, except Mikai’s bangs were longer in the front. Smiling crookedly, Meilin asked, “Did you guys really call him Shampoo Model Boy?”
“Ha ha. Yes. I bet you anything he chemically treated his hair. How can a guy have shinier hair than the girls of our class?” Shidaiko said. “Of course the girls loved him. He was loved by the older girls also. Grr… I hated him. Always a lady’s gentlemen, pretending to be nicey-nice, goody-good, Mr. Perfect.”
“It seems as though he was quite popular. Especially among females.” Meilin asked hesitantly, “Did he like anyone?”
“I don’t know. I think he was pretty occupied with watching out for his little sister. Of course his locker was flooded with love letters by the time he was in sixth grade. I know because my locker was right next to his. And a whole flock of people always gathered in the archery court to watch him during practice. He was okay I guess. After all, the only other person I know that can not only hit the bull’s-eye consecutively, but pierce through the previous arrow right down the shaft is Robin Hood,” Shidaikio continued. “Thinking about it, there were some rumors back then about him and some junior high girl, but I don’t really know much about it. Funny taste, going for an older girl.”
Meilin looked around. Down the hallway, she saw Kai leaning against a glass case. Inside were rows of gleaming trophies. Most of them had the name “Tanaka Mikai” engraved on it with various dates and competition names. All of them were gold.
“Oh, those are the trophies he won. The greatest record in this school,” Shidaiko said. “He’s won more trophies than the rest of the archery team put together.”
“No wonder Miho’s so proud of her brother,” Meilin commented. “Well, I think I’ve seen enough to get an insight of Miho’s brother. I think it would be nice if she could come down here and see all those pictures and stuff.”
“I don’t think she would want to,” Kai said. “There’s something about people. Turning back makes one weaker. Tanaka Miho’s afraid of visiting her mother even though she’s in a near by hospital. Will she have the courage to visit the elementary school she attended before?”
“I don’t know. But I hope she does.” Turning to Namuru Shidaiko, she said, “Thanks for showing us around. We really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” Shidaiko replied. “It was fun recalling my rival after so long. I wonder where he is and what he’s doing now. Probably he’s amazing the world as always.”
Ready to leave, Meilin scanned the court to find Kai, who was prone to wonder off every five seconds. She smiled softly. Off to the corner, Kai was helping a little elementary girl hold up her huge bow correctly. The selfish Kai was actually doing something nice.
“Hey, do you even know how to do archery?” Meilin asked. “Miho told me you were hopeless during PE class.”
Borrowing a bow from one of the boys on the court, Kai strung an arrow to it with practiced ease, then let it go, showing perfect coordination. Immediately after the first one, Kai shot another arrow, then another. All three arrows embedded directly in the center of the bull’s eye and pierced right through the other side of the board. All the viewers stared in breathless awe.
“Wow, did you see that form?” Namuru whispered, his eyes bulging out.
Kai stated, “Ah, beginner’s luck. I was always a fast learner. Come, I’m hungry
now, Meilin-chan. Let’s go eat lunch.”
“Reservation for two under the name Mizuki,” Kai told the waiter, who bowed and led them inside the restaurant after valet parking service.
It surprised Meilin that Kai had already thought ahead and made reservations. Meilin looked around the traditional Japanese restaurant, which was elaborately decorated even to the patterns on the kimono of the traditional-style women painted on the wall. The rooms and stalls were filled with elegantly clad men and women. A waitress in a silk butterfly print kimono led them to a quiet corner overlooking the fantastical oriental garden and pond.
“What’s with this fancy place all of a sudden?” Meilin asked, setting down her menu on the wooden table in a private room. No wonder Kai was dressed so well—this place was outrageously stylish. “It doesn’t match you.”
“I told you I’ll take you to a nice place. It’s really rare that I treat someone for a meal, so savor it while it lasts,” Kai said. “Besides, this restaurant is really famous for their fresh sushi. But their nabeyaki udon is really nice to if you like noodles. And they have my favorite green tea ice cream for dessert.”
“How do you know all this?” Meilin asked. She had the impression that Kai never had a decent meal until he moved next doors to Syaoran.
“I used to come here a lot,” Kai replied. “Oh, I love the teriyaki chicken as well.”
“Hmm… Perfect date spot.” Meilin mused.
“You can come here with your boyfriend in the future,” Kai suggested.
“I’m not going to have one for a million years, but maybe I should tell Sakura about this place,” Meilin said.
“You should. I already told Syaoran I can make reservations for him, since you can’t get reservations without special backings at this place; that is should he want a date location,” Kai said.
Both Meilin and Kai had a wicked gleam in their eyes.
“I’m so full,” Meilin said as Kai drove down an empty road. She had almost forgotten her irritation at Kai by now. “I think Sakura’s dress is going to rip down the seams. So, are we going home now? It’s getting overcast.”
“Do you mind if we stop by one place?” Kai asked.
“Are you asking me?” Meirn asked in exaggerated surprise. “Strange. You always do what ever you want to do without consenting with other people opinion. I’m flattered that you’re asking.”
“It won’t take long,” Kai replied quietly.
Something about Kai is different today. Any other time, he would come up with a snappy response to my sarcasm. Yet today, he’s much more quiet and subdued, not to mention rather absent-minded. He actually seems serious and pensive. Nah. That’s not possible. Out loud, Meilin teased, “Mizuki Kai has finally learned how to become a gentleman!”
Silently, Kai parked on the roadside. “You can wait in the car,” Kai said. “I’ll come back in five minutes.”
Meilin peered out the car window. It seemed as if they were in the countryside. Eerily, between groves of trees, she glimpsed tombstones of varying sizes and shapes. What was taking Kai so long? It began to drizzle outside. Sighing, Meilin decided to go look for Kai. She took an umbrella from the car, which was equipped with pretty much everything and stepped out of the car. Now that she examined the graveyard again, it seemed less eerie and gloomy. Rather, it was a little forlorn and out of place. The landscape was beautiful, densely covered with grass and trees. In the spring and summer, there would be plenty of flowers and greenery to brighten up the place. No longer feeling afraid, Meilin walked past the tombstones. Some were crumbling with age, others brand new. She came upon a particularly striking tombstone of white marble. Peering closer, Meilin read the letters. “Beautiful daughter, beloved wife, devoted mother, cherished friend.” Carefully, Meilin brushed away the green ivy which had grown over it. A lump in her throat formed as she read the name engraved on it. “Kinomoto Nadeshiko.” Sakura’s mother. There was a faded bouquet of cherry blossoms lying next to it.
Then, she looked up. Through the rain, she could see the back of a solitary person kneeling in front of a small, nameless tombstone. It was Kai, soaked, with a bouquet of white lilies in front of him. He was motionless and unresponsive to the wetness which seeped through his nice clothes and the mud which splattered onto his neat dress pants. His hair was plastered against his forehead and he seemed so much more vulnerable and exposed than before. Hearing her footsteps, Kai turned around. Water droplets had formed on his blue-tinted glasses.
“Kai?” Meilin said hesitantly. He seemed like a completely different person, his shoulders stooped. Maybe it was because his hair was drenched down; he usually had it spiked up, but the rain had soaked through the gel. Maybe it was because he looked so sad and lonely. For the first time, Meilin felt sorry for him, though she did not know why. She stepped forward, beside him to cover him with the umbrella. “I’m sorry. Did I disturb you?”
“No. I about to go—I just wanted to leave the flowers,” Kai replied, sounding remote.
“Is it someone in your family?” Meilin asked softly.
“No…” Kai said slowly. “Just… a friend.”
“Oh.” Meilin stared at the little tombstone with no engravings on it. It seemed so lonesome compared to all the other graves with large marble tombstones and bouquets of flowers, signs that they were frequently visited. She didn’t question him further.
“Come, let’s go now,” Kai said, standing up. Realizing that his glasses were fogging up, he took them off and tried to wipe them on his shirt, which wasn’t any help because his clothes were sopping wet.
“Here, let me do it,” Meilin said, taking the glasses from his hand and wiping them with her dry handkerchief. For a second he gazed straight at her, baffled by her kind little gesture. It was by chance that Meilin looked up at Kai at that moment, and she had a brief glimpse of the saddest eyes that she had ever seen in her life. The color matched the twinkling periwinkle colored stud in his left ear and were a bluish-gray color, clear as a brook, the shade of a rainy sky. They were eyes that held a mixture of pain, loneliness, bitterness, eyes that have seen too much. Queer. Even though she had known him for months, it was the first time she had seen him without his pitch-black glasses.
The silence except for the pattering of light raindrops on the ground was stifling. Meilin felt she had to say something but knew not what. She wanted to simply reassure, ‘Kai… I know I still don’t know much about you. I’m probably not much help … but if you need a friend, you can count on me.’ Yet, why was it so hard to say? Was it because it was the cool and confident postured Thief of the Night that she was facing?
Meilin tried to smile as she blurted out, “I’ve always seen you as a person before I saw you as the brave, poised, and daring Kaitou Magician.” Then she mentally reproved herself for saying such a corny, stupid thing.
To her surprise, Kai stumbled forward and leaned his head against her shoulder, wrapping his arms around her. She dropped the umbrella onto the ground, standing motionless, though her instinct was to step back.
In a muffled voice he said, “Let me just stay like this for a moment.”
Closing her eyes, Meilin awkwardly patted Kai’s back as the rain continued to drizzle on them. His body was so cold and stiff, and weary, as if he will buckle over any second. I always knew that beneath the carefree, firebrand mask, you were a soft, uncomplicated person. Everyone in this world bears some kind of burden, and it will be a matter of time before yours becomes too heavy. Yet, what can I do for you, Kai? Why do lean against me? Nobody’s ever looked to me for help before. I can’t do anything for you. I’m weak and cowardly and have hardly enough strength to stand up to my own troubles. Don’t look at me with those sad eyes; I can’t help you. I want to but it’s beyond my powers, for you and I are on different zones.
“I’m sorry,” Kai murmured after a while, stepping back. He slipped his tinted glasses back on, which were fogged up again. “It’s getting late. Let’s go back. You have a plane to catch tomorrow.”
On the whole drive back, they were silent. Yet, Meilin noticed that Kai’s hands on the steering wheel were shaking the whole time as he continued to drip rainwater onto his spotless car seat. By the time they were home, Kai was back to his usual, carefree self. Yet, his mouth was set in a firm line, and he seemed a little more reckless, a little quicker in tongue, and a little tenser than before.
Since Kai made no reference to that incident, Meilin also kept quiet. It was hard to believe that Kai did possessed another side to him, as Meilin found when he leaned his head on her shoulders, like a defenseless child abandoned by the night. And though she tried to get a glimpse of his clear, sad eyes again, she could not.
Early next morning, Meilin reluctantly finished the scrumptious breakfast that Syaoran had set out for her. Finally it was Friday.
“You didn’t have to wake up so early,” Meilin said.
“It’s all right,” Syaoran said. “I have morning soccer practice anyway. Besides, I feel bad because I couldn’t spend more time with you while you were here.”
“I was fine,” Meilin said. “I really enjoyed visiting. Especially watching you on stage.”
Any talk about the production made Syaoran fidget uncomfortably. “So, where did you go yesterday? I was worried because you came back so late and wet.”
“No place special,” Meilin lied. Times were when she would tell Syaoran everything. Not anymore. Somehow, she didn’t feel like admitting that she spent an unusual day with Kai. “Well, I better go now. I don’t want to miss the plane.”
“I would take you to the airport, but I have to school. Is that okay? I can go with you if you want me to.”
“Don’t worry; I’m taking the bus,” Meilin reassured. It occurred to her that Syaoran had gotten much nicer and caring these days. Once more she asked herself, was this what months of living with Sakura had done to him?
“Bye, Meilin,” Syaoran said ruefully. When Meilin was with him, he had thought that she was annoying. Yet, the house would feel very empty without her. And Sakura was gone also. Now, he only had Wolfie-chan alias Vega alias the Wolf card left. But even Wolfie-chan was a great comfort.
As Meilin came out the elevator to the lobby, she was surprised to see Kai waiting—she had been pretty sure that he had been out all night, after dropping her off at the apartment. Well yesterday morning, she had also been pretty certain that he didn’t even want to talk to her again, after all the harsh things she had told him Wednesday evening. Instead, he took her out for an expensive lunch. He was always spontaneous and impulsive.
“You’re leaving now?” he asked briefly.
“I’ll drive you to the airport,” Kai said, holding out a hand to take the baggage. As expected, he made no mention of the previous day.
“No thanks,” Meilin replied shortly. It made her angry that Kai could seem so vulnerable one moment, then so detached the next. “If you have so much time at hand, make some use of it. Go to school, Kai. Go to school today and get serious about catching up on your studying. You said you would.”
“Yes, mother,” Kai replied, unable to prevent the sarcasm. Then, he added, “If it pleases you, I wasn’t lying yesterday. I promise you not to steal and not to get into fights anymore. I’ll go to school, too, if you want me to. I’ll truly be a model student now, and I won’t disappoint you again.”
“Well, you always say big words and do little to back them up. I don’t have much reason to believe you, after being disappointed so many times,” Meilin said indifferently. She reassured herself by thinking that Kai really need to be taught a lesson. “Good bye, Kai.”
She briskly walked out, leaving Kai staring at the entrance door. An uneasy gust of wind brushed over him.
That morning, to everyone’s surprise, Kai came to school.
“What are you doing here?” Syaoran asked crossly, when Kai took the seat next to him, empty for days.
“I’m a student here,” Kai said as if stating the obvious.
“Oh really? I was confused for a second,” Syaoran grumbled, though relieved that Kai had finally shown up. “I thought you might have just retired from being a student, like you’ve retired from your criminal activities. In fact, I was pretty sure that you ran off.”
“So was your cousin,” Kai said, with a forced grin.
“So, what have you done with the Treasures?” Syaoran asked quietly.
Shrugging, Kai replied, “They’re safe.”
The teacher appeared to be in a no better temper than Syaoran. “Why, Mizuki Kai! You chose to appear at school, after all! But I don’t see why you didn’t just skipped this whole week, seeing today is Saturday, anyway. For the past few days, I wondered if you had dropped out completely.”
“No, ma’am,” Kai replied. “I had no such intention.”
“So, do you have an excuse for your prolonged absence, Mizuki-san?”
“What a pity,” the teacher continued, mercilessly. She still hadn’t forgiven that impertinent young man from making a fool out of her on his first week. “If it was your first offense, I might look upon your condition more kindly, but you have constantly displayed blatant disregard of school rules. Seeing that you have no excuse, you must be punished for regarding school so trivially. I find it necessary, as your teacher, to enforce more discipline upon you after such a disgraceful academic record so far at Seijjou Junior High. Mizuki-san, you shall remain after school every day for a month to catch up on all the work you have missed for the past weeks, which unsurprisingly piles up to be quite a lot—you have to make up all the tests, quizzes, reports, and homework by the end of this month, understood!”
“Yes ma’am,” Kai replied placidly.
“Good. Now, let our class return to work. You’ve taken up enough of our time.” The teacher furiously resumed writing instruction on the chalkboard.
Sakura cringed, whispering to Tomoyo, “It is rather too harsh of sensei.”
“Kinomoto-san! What did you say?” the teacher asked, turning sharply.
“Nothing, sensei,” Sakura said meekly.
seem to really care, anyway,” Tomoyo whispered back, glancing at Kai who was
idly staring out the window, watching the wind rustle against the treetops,
regardless of the notes he was supposed to be taking on the teacher’s lecture.
During lunch break, the journalism club members gathered in their designated classroom. There was nothing of the meek, flattering Aki from when he was recruiting new members. Instead, he was demanding, assertive, and down-to-business.
Sakura saw a few familiar faces out of the scanty original members, such as Naoko, who loved reading, Takashi, who loved stories, and Miho, who loved writing. Chiharu had joined few weeks ago because Takashi had convinced her to. Three or four others were from varying classes and grades. Aki sat at the head of the table, while all the new members including Sakura, Syaoran, Eron, Erika, and Eriol, who joined because he realized that journalism would quickly be the most animated club in the school, sat to the left of him.
“Sorry I’m late. Didn’t know there was a meeting today,” said the last member, barging into the room.
Glaring at Mizuki Kai, Aki said, “Well, you might have known, if you bother to come to school once in a while, Mizuki-san.”
Ignoring the snide, Kai articulated, “Wow, the journalism club has grown overnight! How exciting! But I wonder how many more will drop out because of someone’s bossiness.”
“Kai-kun, you’re in the journalism club, also?” Sakura exclaimed.
“Well, our class president came over and badgered about joining one of the numerous clubs that your school offered when I first transferred here. So, he put me in the place with most vacancies, (gee, I wonder why), which happened to be journalism,” Kai said. “Surprisingly, Akagi-kun hasn’t kicked me out yet.”
“He’s the layout designer and photographer,” Aki explained reluctantly. “We didn’t have that position filled before.”
“He’s quite a good layout designer, because he’s good with computers and graphic design,” Naoko informed. “That is, when he shows up to the meetings. And he always takes heaps of useful photographs with his digital camera.”
“Mizuki-kun, take a seat,” Aki said. “The meeting was inconveniently interrupted by you.”
Kai plopped down in an empty chair off to the corner of the room, propping his legs up on a spare desk. Leaning back in the chair, he spread a magazine over his face, and fell asleep for the rest of the meeting.
Giggling, Miho said, “Aki-senpai’s touchy these days because in the new poll on the ‘hottest guys in Seijou Junior High,’ Mizuki-senpai came out as the most charismatic—don’t ask me why.”
“Well, everyone thinks he’s really mysterious and enigmatic,” Naoko said. “And he has what people call a “charismatic smile,” though it has the slightest trace of cynicism. It’s a pity we never see the charismatic eyes that go with the smile because he’s always wearing those dark glasses.”
Miho continued, “Eron came out as the best looking, since he’s the prettiest boy in the school, Eriol as the ‘nicest,’ though he’s been here for only a short period of time. Oh, and guess what Syaoran came out as?”
“The overall most heart-drop kakkoi (coolest),” Chiharu finished off, grinning as she saw that Sakura was holding back a smile.
“In the comments, girls wrote stuff like, ‘there’s no other word that describes him,’ ‘he’s too awesome to label in any other way,’ and ‘he’s just cool—simple enough,” Miho said. “Haha… And Aki-senpai got stuck with the ‘biggest flirt’ title. That’s why he’s so grouchy these days.”
“Okay, back to pressing business,” Aki interrupted. “New members—we have a very vigorous schedule in the journalism club. We have a full edition paper every month—plus in between editions when there are special events going on. As you all know, I am the chief editor, and I’m in charge of collaborating the final product.”
“Except he’s always busy rushing off to basketball practices and student council meetings,” someone muttered.
“Ahem. And there are various people in charge of different sections of the paper, such as layout design, cartoons, and so on. But most of you are in charge of coming up with articles about different genres, such as sports, fashion, gossip, and special events,” Aki rambled off. “Last time, and Eitoukou Junior High student insulted our school by saying that none of the students read the school newspaper. We have to change that kind of attitude.”
“So, he came out with a great new idea,” Miho said sarcastically.
Aki examined the new journalism members sitting on one side of the table. “Firstly, you new members, are all reporters, and will write up articles, unless you have any other preference. Any objections?”
“I’m no good at writing,” Erika complained.
“Well, you’re on top of school gossip and popular fashion, so I was hoping that you would contribute in that aspect, and maybe create a hot news column,” Aki said. “And you can get your twin to write it up the articles for you."
“Hey,” Eron protested.
“Eron-kun and Syaoran-kun are both athletic, so you two can contribute to the sports section,” Aki continued. “We didn’t have a sports person in the staff, besides myself of course, previously. Anyway, my idea is that we have to capture what students want to read about for our next edition; they like to read about exciting, unique people, crammed with juicy details. And so, we should brainstorm.”
great idea?” Erika asked, crossing her arms. As usual, she had only joined such
a tiresome club because Eron had insisted that it was necessary to keep an eye
on Sakura and the rest. “Big help that will be.”
“How about an article about Kaitou Magician?” Chiharu asked. “I remember the great sensation he caused in our school back in spring.”
At this, Takashi pricked his ears. He didn’t like the fact that Chiharu took so much interest in another guy, though a notorious celebrity-thief he may be.
“I’ve heard rumors that he was seen around this area in the past few days,” Naoko confirmed, pulling out a copy of the Tomoeda daily newspaper and sliding it across the table for everyone to see. On the front page was a black and white picture of a dark cloaked figure standing on a rooftop.
“And there’s an exhibition of “The Thief of the Night” up at the Tokyo Art Museum,” Chiharu added, a personal fan of Kaitou Magician ever since that incident at Kusakou. “It’s a painting of Kaitou Magician by that great artist, Shing-san, who painted “Reflection.”” Turning to her friends, she asked, “Remember how we saw it at the exhibition of the Mirror of Truth last spring?”
“I remember. That great artist, Master Shing!” Naoko exclaimed. “I heard that he came to visit Japan.”
“Oh, I heard that he came to see our school production,” Chiharu added. “Because he once lived around this area, and he even lent the priceless Romeo and Juliet statue for our production. I wonder why though; luckily, Tomoyo-chan’s mother arranged if for us, but still.”
“Good, good,” Aki said. “Miho, are you getting that down?”
“Wait,” Miho said, jotting down the brainstorms onto the official memo pad. “I can’t write that fast… Okay. Kaitou Magician. Painting. Shing-san.”
“I heard from an interview that Shing-san is staying in Japan for a month or two,” Aki said. “I think if we could manage to sneak an interview with him, it would be great—he really is an international phenomenon. We can definitely do a little research and about him. “Thinking about it, the New York photographer, Mike Kant is pretty popular with girls, also. We can get another article about him. He’s my sister’s friend, so I think we can get fairly easy access to an interview.”
“Thinking about it, we should interview Akagi Arima, also. And Tanemura Asuma,” Sakura said, adjusting to the rhythm of the meeting.
“My sister?” Aki gawked.
“Your sister?” returned the staff members who did not know that Aki was the beautiful actress’ younger brother.
“Good idea,” Miho said, jotting down, Mike Kant, Arima Akagi, and Asuma Tanemura onto the brainstorm paper.
Aki interjected, “Oh, and my final idea is about personal narratives. Remember all the fund we raised from donations from the Star-Crossed Production? They went to the Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the organizers were really thankful. I was thinking, maybe a group of us could do some volunteer work for the children’s wing at Kinhoshi Hospital and write up our experiences there. First of all, it is a charitable thing to do, and secondly, I’m pretty sure people are curious how the money raised from the phenomenal production was used. Thirdly, it our articles on our personal experiences would promote more people to do volunteer work and donate money.”
“Hey, that actually is a good idea,” Naoko said.
“Yeah,” everyone agreed. “Especially since it’s coming from Editor Akagi.”
“Thank you, thank you,” Aki said. “Well, that’s if for today. I think we came up with plenty of good ideas to work on. If possible, I think we should try visiting the hospital after school today; it would be great if all of you can make it. We’ll meet in front of the school gates at five sharp, since I have basketball practice till 4:30. Miho-san, did you finish recording everything? Good. Meeting adjourned.”
“Bossy, bossy, bossy,” Miho muttered, jotting down the final notes. “He thinks I’m his secretary or something.”
Sakura giggled. Despite Miho’s complaints, it seemed as if she was enjoying her work immensely; it was good to see someone that devoted to her hobby.
That afternoon, most of the journalism members, including Aki, Naoko, Eron, Kai, Erika, Sakura, Miho, and Syaoran, gathered together, and now were walking into the steps of Kinhoshi Hospital, the largest and most reputable hospital in the region. “I’m glad that Aki-kun said I could come along, also,” Tomoyo said “Now I can videotape Sakura working at the hospital—err I mean I can work hard to help you guys!”
“I rather like the idea of doing volunteer working at the hospital,” Sakura said. “That really would be really worthwhile—though I’m not really sure about this whole journalism business.”
They were lead to an office by a nurse. A doctor in a white overcoat greeted them quickly glancing over the papers on his clipboard. “Good, you students from Seijou Junior High are here. We really appreciate your enthusiasm. Things have been hectic lately—it seems to be the cold season, also; we can use several extra pairs of hands in the children’s wing. Let’s see… Kinomoto-san, lead them to the children’s wing.”
“Onii-chan!” Sakura exclaimed, startled to see her brother pop up from a desk cluttered with paper. Then she recalled how Touya told her that he would be working part time at a hospital—she hadn’t realized that it would be the largest one in the district.
“Yes, doctor,” Touya replied solemnly, pinching Sakura’s shoulder to tell her to shush.
An intern looked over the students and gave them a quick lecture about hospital policies and rules. Then she smiled and said, “Okay then, today, you can just have a look over the hospital and learn what you can do to help out. Tsukishiro-san, can you show them around and explain to them their jobs?”
“Sure!” Yukito said, smiling as usual. To the students, he said, “Come along.”
“Yukito-san!” Sakura exclaimed, surprised for the second time.
“I didn’t know that you guys would be doing volunteer work here,” Yukito said. “It’s really nice to see familiar faces.” He led them through the halls, showing various sections of the hospital such as general rooms, luxury patient rooms, emergency room, surgery room, bathrooms, waiting room, children’s playing room, nursery, and so on.
Sakura wasn’t familiar with the medicine smell of hospitals, nor the starchy white cleanness. She noticed that Miho’s face looked slightly pale. Eriol seemed to be in deep thought as usual. And Syaoran had a deep scowl on his face, his hands in his pockets, because he never was too excited to see Touya.
Then, in the middle of their tour, a pretty young nurse in a prim white uniform coming out of a patient’s room exclaimed, “Why, isn’t that Voleur-kun?” She tugged another nurse’s arm and said, “That’s our Voleur-kun right? Voleur-kun!”
felt a prickly sensation as if someone was calling him. Voleur…
That was one of his alter egos! Shoot! I completely forgot that this was the
hospital that I came to last summer because of my injury. Stupid
me. But I was in complete disguise when I came here. Since then, my
hairstyle and color, dressing style, and eye color has
changed, though it doesn’t matter because I’m wearing sunglasses right now. How
did those nurses recognize me? That doesn’t matter for now. Hide!
Without any notice, Kai walked faster, quickly disappearing around the corner. The pretty nurses sighed. Maybe they had mistaken him for someone else—there really had been no dashing person since Voleur-kun. Then again, there were those two gorgeous Seijoiu University pre-med students working in the children’s wing since Monday.
When they reached back to the office, Yukito explained, “We have to split you guys up into pairs to be designated to different areas to help in, so I came up with a temporary division to start working in next time.”
“Tanaka Miho and Hiiragizawa Eriol will aid the interns with patient rooms. Li Syaoran and Kinomoto Sakura will help Touya out in the office. Chang Eron and Chang Erika would help me out in the children’s rooms.”
Sakura’s heart lurched. She was paired with Syaoran!
Raising her hand, Erika complained, “Tsukishiro-san, I hate looking after children.”
Touya whispered something into Yukito’s ears, which sounded closely to something like, “Don’t put the brat and my sister together.” Nodding, Yukito said, “Okay then. Erika-san can stay in the office and help out Touya. Sakura-san, you don’t mind switching to the children’s room and helping me, right?”
Gulping, Sakura nodded. It would be nice to work under Yukito’s supervision; though she loved her brother, it would have been very uncomfortable to function under his observant eyes, especially with Syaoran as her partner. Yet, she had secretly hoped that she could be with Syaoran again. Then she realized that her new partner was Eron.
Yukito continued pairing off the few remaining students. When he reached the last person, Kai, he said, “Mizuki-san, do you mind supervising the children’s playroom? It’ll be an enjoyable job, entertaining the kids, telling stories, and playing games with them.”
Everyone giggled to see the aghast expression on Kai’s face.
“He’ll scare all the children away,” Syaoran muttered. “Either that, or corrupt them.”
that’s it for today. Your work officially starts from next time. Thanks for
your interest, and hope you all put lots of effort and enjoy working here!”
Aki and the others had left, and now only Sakura, Tomoyo, Eriol, Syaoran, Miho, and Kai remained. As they walked back down to the hospital lobby, Sakura realized that Miho was lingering behind and fidgeting uncontrollably.
“What wrong, Miho?” Tomoyo asked.
“Kinhoshi hospital… this is the hospital that my mother is staying in,” Miho said haltingly.
“You… still didn’t visit her?” Sakura inquired.
Reluctantly, Miho admitted, “No. I can’t; I’m too scared.”
“She’s your mother, though,” Kai said. “You once said that you wanted to meet your brother again, whether he is changed or not, because he is still your brother. Well, you have your mother in the same building as you right now, and you’re unable to see her because you’re terrified that she is altered from the loving, kind, and affectionate mother you have in your mind from your childhood; you’re afraid of that image shattering. You are scared of change, after all.”
“Though I appreciate your concern, I don’t believe my affairs have anything to do with you, Mizuki-senpai,” Miho said stiffly, holding back the tears in her smoke gray eyes. She would not cry in front of everyone.
Rather rhetorically, Kai asked, “How will you ever grow if you’re too afraid to take a step forward to what is nearest to you—your own mother? Whether you’re scared or not, you’re her daughter.”
“Why should I take advice from you?” Miho demanded, crossing her arms over her chest.
“There is no reason for you to,” Kai replied slowly, contradicting his usual policy of ‘everything has a reason.’ “I just thought if your brother were here, he would have given the same advice.”
At this, Miho clamped her mouth shut and looked pensive. Meanwhile, everyone had discreetly crept away. Then she looked up at Eriol, her chin tilted up. “Eriol? Can you come with me? I—I want to see my mother.”
Putting a reassuring hand on Miho’s shoulder, Eriol smiled warmly. “I’m really glad you chose to do so. I’m really proud of you.”
“My mother is in here?” Miho asked hesitantly, standing in front of the white door that the nurse led to. “How is her condition?”
“Let’s see.” Flipping through the patient charts, the nurse replied, “Tanaka-san has been in a very good condition lately; she is much more alert, active, eats all her meals, sleeps well, and has less of her migraines. In fact, for the past few days, she has been doing extremely well. She should be awake right now; you chose a perfect day to visit.”
“I’ll wait here. You go in,” Eriol said.
Timidly, Miho knocked and walked into the spacious, prettily decorated room. Leave it to her cousin Kaho to ensure that Miho’s mother had the nicest room that the hospital could offer to reside in for the past five years. Yellow floral print curtains were tied back revealing that the window was wide open, allowing the warm sunshine to drift into the room. There was a nice view of the hospital garden, and the gurgling of the water fountain could be heard. The walls were decorated with colorful paintings, and a large family portrait of her father, mother, brother, and herself, all smiling, hung in a wooden frame. Apparently, Kaho had rescued it from the house after the fire—only the edges of the pictures were slightly singed. By the cozy armchair was a small bookshelf holding various books, for her mother loved reading. An aromatic fragrance drifted across the room from a bouquet of fresh violets held in an elegant hand-painted vase on the nightstand.
On the bed covered with soft rose pattern sheets and matching blanket, was a woman in her late thirties with long auburn hair braided back. She was sitting up, propped by pillows, and was absorbed in writing into a leather-bound notebook, on top of a lap-desk. For a second, she would bite the pen nib, then resume scribbling onto the crisp, lined paper.
In horror, the nurse exclaimed, “Tanaka-san! The doctor said that you should relax and rest your eyes! You’re always writing, writing, writing! I’ll get in trouble for not stopping you.”
Looking up as if she hadn’t realized that there had been a knock, Miara said laughing, “Well, what the doctor doesn’t know won’t hurt him. There, finished!” Miara recapped her pen. Then, frowning slightly, she looked up again.
“Umm… You have a visitor, Tanaka-san,” the nurse said stepping away to reveal Miho, and quietly, left the room
“M-Miho?” Miara asked, looking over the teenage girl with soulful gray eyes, standing by the doorway. “Is that my little daughter Miho?”
Slowly, Miho nodded, her heart leaping. Her mother recognized her! It was the mother that she remembered, before all the hardships occurred, the one with twinkling eyes and a warm voice. Though Miho could see that her mother had aged slightly over the past five years, and that she was thinner and frailer than Miho recalled her to be, her mother was no longer half-conscious and delirious. In fact, her mother looked much more tranquil and healthier than the last time Miho saw her, after the fire. “I came, Mother. I came.”
“Come here; let me take a better look at you,” her mother beckoned, holding out her arms.
Then, Miho’s eyes blurred, and she ran forward, throwing herself into her mother’s wide open arms. “Mother! Mother, I missed you so much!”
“I missed you too, darling,” Miara murmured into her daughter’s hair, her eyes glassy as well. Then, holding Miho at an arm’s length to take a better look of her, Miara exclaimed, “Just look at you! My little Miho has grown into a fine young lady! You look so mature and grown-up, I can hardly recognize you anymore! Is this really mommy’s little princess?”
Sniffling, Miho stammered, “I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. I, I—“
Patting Miho’s head reassuringly, Miara said, “Don’t worry, Miho. All mothers understand. I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger when we were going through hardships.”
“Mother, I love you, I love you so much,” Miho said, climbing onto her mother’s lap like she used to before her mother grew ill and hugged her mother tightly.
“I love you too, Miho,” Miara replied, smoothing Miho’s ruffled hair. “Now, where did you get this gorgeous haircut?”
Giggling and sniffling at the same time, Miho replied, “England. Oh, there’s so many things I have to tell you! I bet you’ll be surprised, too. Did you know that our school performed the musical that your wrote? I was the narrator and we have a video of it that you can see and…”
Smiling, Eriol shut the door and nodded to Sakura and the others. Silently, they walked back to the hospital lobby to wait, all feeling wishy-washy and giddy. Miho and her mother had a lot of catching up to do.
“Now, I want to reprimand myself for not going too see my mother sooner,” Miho said, on the walk back home, still excited from seeing her mother. “I was afraid for no reason. Mizuki-senpai was right. I was scared of change, after all. But she is my mother and I am her daughter. Even if she didn’t recognize me, I still should have gone to see her. But all the same, I’m glad that I at least did gather courage to visit her. I’m going to visit her several times a week now, until she gets well enough to leave the hospital.”
“You don’t have to be too hard on yourself,” Eriol reassured. “The doctors reported that your mother was mostly unconscious and delirious in her first one or two years at the hospital and only lately has she been returning to normal, interacting with others. And though she was in an especially good condition today, she still is very ill.”
“I was such a fool, though,” Miho said bitterly. “Though my father and brother are gone, I’m still lucky to have my mother, and I just took that fact for granted. If my mother was gone also… If she was…” She gulped down a choking feeling in her throat.
“You still would have had Kaho-san and me,” Eriol said quietly. “No matter what, you will never be forsaken.”
At this, Miho was startled. Despite being with Eriol for so long, he rarely showed any sign of affection; she had long since accepted that it was Eriol’s personality. “Eriol, you don’t know how thankful to you and Kaho-san I am for looking after me, and being a family to me, all these years. I know I would have completely fallen apart if you two weren’t there for me.”
“Don’t think that you have been the only one benefiting,” Eriol said. “You taught me what it is like to have a family.”
Laughing, Miho exclaimed, “What an un-Eriol-like thing to say!”
“Completely,” Suppi-chan agreed, from Eriol’s backpack.
Unable to hold back a grin of agreement, Miho carefully pushed Suppi back into the bag in case someone saw him. She simply adored Suppi-chan, the only creature able to make fun of Eriol.
Then, Miho stopped mid-track and swerved around. A tall boy with silky auburn hair had passed by her. Out of instinct, she called out, “Onii-chan!” But it was too late. He had disappeared into the crowd crossing the street.
“What’s the matter?” Eriol asked.
“I thought I saw onii-chan for a second,” Miho said. Then she shook her head. “Maybe I saw wrong. I think, I was wishing so hard that onii-chan could be here also because I was so excited about having finally seen Mother. So maybe, I’m imagining things.”
“Go to your apartment and make your own dinner,” Syaoran said crossly that evening to Kai, lounging in Syaoran’s kitchen as if it were his home.
“At least you know that I am not up to any mischief when I’m eating,” Kai said, helping himself to another bowl of rice. Syaoran had long finished his meal and was working on his homework.
“True,” Syaoran agreed. Then scowling, he held up the newspaper and demanded, “Can you explain this?”
“Explain what?” Kai asked, looking at the newspaper.
“Why is Kaitou Magician on front page news again?”
“I don’t know,” Kai replied, perplexed. “Maybe the reporters are trying to cook up some story, as usual. If you think I’m going around stealing again, I tell you I’m not, so get off my case. You’re no better than that pestering cousin of yours.”
“Humph, and you still refuse to return my father’s ring,” Syaoran said. “I should have turned you over to the police months ago.”
“Hey, do you think Sakura would show up tomorrow? It’s finally the long-awaited Sunday.” Kai asked, changing the subject as he always did when he didn’t want to talk about himself.
“You’re always so nosy about other people’s business,” Syaoran replied. He didn’t mention that he had been wondering about the same question all week long.
“You’re so artless on the rhetoric of asking a girl out,” Kai criticized. “How can you just tell the time, place, and date, and expect the girl to show up? And for heaven’s sake, why such an unromantic place as King Penguin Park; you’re not elementary kids anymore, you know.”
“I wasn’t asking her out,” Syaoran said. “Well, not exactly. I just need to tell her something important, that’s all.”
“What, that you cancel what you told her last winter?” Kai asked, raising an eyebrow. “That just is so lame.”
Syaoran gritted his teeth, counting to ten first in Japanese then in Chinese. Sakura would not be pleased, to put it mildly, if she found out that he had beaten up his greatly irritating neighbor. “How do you know about that…”
“Your cousin told me,” Kai said.
“She seems to tell you a great many things,” Syaoran said. “But personally, I don’t think I like the idea of someone as disreputable as you being all too friendly with Meilin.”
“Don’t worry,” Kai reassured ruefully. “She hates me passionately.”
“What makes you think that?” Syaoran asked. “I would have thought otherwise.”
“Well she told me that I was a worthless scoundrel, to put it mildly.”
Then Syaoran’s mind clicked. “By any chance, did you receive one of her lectures also?”
Kai nodded. Sympathetically, Syaoran reassured, “Speaking from personal experience, don’t take it too harshly. Meilin doesn’t mean everything she says. Only a part of it.”
Flopping down on his couch, Syaoran stared up at the ceiling. Maybe Sakura wouldn’t come. He knew how stubborn she could be. It also disturbed him that Eron seemed to be getting closer to Sakura these days. Again, he wondered what was wrong with her? How could she be friendly to someone who she clearly knew was her enemy? Because she was Sakura.
Thinking about it, Meilin hadn’t called from Hong Kong yet, saying that she returned safely. Oh well. Maybe she was still settling in. And he was having real bad feelings about the whole volunteer work at the hospital business. The last thing he would want was to work under Touya’s watchful eyes—that is besides working with Sakura under Touya’s eyes.
Finally, it was the Sunday morning long awaited and dreaded by two certain people.
“Kaijou, hurry if you want to come with me and Yukito,” Touya called.
“Coming!” Sakura said, combing
the last strand of hair into place, and adjusting her blue, short sleeved
dress, ignoring a guilty, nagging feeling in the bottom of her heart.
“Let’s go to Sakura’s favorite café for lunch,” Yukito said. “In honor of Sakura’s successful production last week.”
“But it’s only eleven, and we just had breakfast,” Touya protested, though his feet were already moving to the delicious smell of pizza.
They were seated and the food came out in no time. As usual, Yukito had ordered five different plates. In between mouthfuls, Yukito asked, “Sakura-san, how did things work out with your first one?”
Sakura choked on her soda. Fleetingly, she remembered how Yukito hold her that someday things would work out with the person who would love her best. What an uncomfortable question to ask in front of her brother!
“You know, Li Syaoran has grown up quite a bit, Touya,” Yukito commented. “He’s no longer the “brat” that you once hated.”
“I dislike him all the more because of the fact,” Touya replied, giving a warning look at the mention of Syaoran’s name. “And why in the world is he doing volunteer work at Kinhoshi Hospital? We don’t need the likes of him.”
“He seems to be a very well-rounded person, kind of like you Touya. I heard from our old soccer coach that he is now the star of the soccer team—captain in fact. That shows leadership and responsibility. And you saw how much talent he had in the production last week,” Yukito continued.
Sakura smothered a giggle. She could see what Yukito was trying to do; he was trying to temper Touya’s harsh opinion of Syaoran to make her life easier. Syaoran. She glanced at her watch. It was half past eleven. Syaoran’s words from earlier that week replayed in her mind. “Meet me at King Penguin Park, at noon. I’ll be waiting there, whether you come or not.” Despite her efforts to smother those constant words, she couldn’t help thinking about it throughout the entire week. She didn’t have the chance to speak to him since then, and tell him that she couldn’t go. What important, urgent thing could he have to tell her, anyway? But maybe, she should just slip out at noon and check if Syaoran was waiting—he probably wouldn’t be but still, it would clear her conscience.
Holding up three movie tickets, Touya announced, “Well, as I promised kaijou. I got the tickets to Arima’s new movie.”
“Yay!” Sakura clapped her hands together. “Everybody’s dying to see that movie. Aki-kun got to see the premiere because Arima-san is his sister; he’s so lucky.” Then, she glanced at her watch again. It was exactly noon.
“Do you have to go somewhere?” Yukito asked observantly. “You were continuously looking at you watch throughout the whole meal.”
“Hoe? It’s nothing!”
Sakura said. Quickly, she tucked her left hand into her pocket to stop looking
at the time. Syaoran probably had forgotten he had made an appointment with her
in the first place. Otherwise, he would have confirmed it at school yesterday
or even after the visit to the hospital. It would seem so stupid if she turned
up, and found that he had actually forgotten about the whole thing. It was
stupid of her to continue to think of it throughout the entire week. Besides,
she didn’t like the feeling that Syaoran had so much control over her. Just
because he told her to show up didn’t mean that she would obey him like a
compliant puppy. Touya and Yukito had taken time out to celebrate their
homecoming and the finish of the production. Plus, she really wanted to watch
the movie—it was really hard to buy tickets for. Yet, the movie will be two
hours long, a tiny voice protested. But, she was going to see the movie, in spite
“Wow, Arima has really grown as an actress,” Touya said with awe he rarely showed, after the movie ended. “She was great in high school theater club, but she has really matured now.”
“She tries that hard,” Yukito replied. “We, as old friends know that.”
On the way out of the movie theater, Sakura bumped into Tomoyo and Miho.
“Sakura! You did you watch the new Akagi Arima movie?” Miho asked. “We’re going to watch it now!”
“Wait, Sakura-chan… Weren’t you supposed to meet Syaoran-kun today?” Tomoyo asked. “Or was it canceled?”
Shrugging, Sakura replied, “He probably didn’t turn up, anyway.”
Gravely, Tomoyo said, “From what I know of Syaoran, he isn’t the type that breaks his words.”
“Sakura, we’re leaving without you!” Touya called, from the entrance.
“Bye, Tomoyo-chan, Miho-chan,” Sakura said, hurrying out.
He isn’t the type that breaks his words… Sakura glanced at her watch again. It was past three. Even if he had turned up, he would have left ages ago.
feel like having ice cream now,” Yukito said, hungry as always. “Sakura-san, do
you want to go to the new ice cream store that opened across the street?”
Absent-mindedly, Sakura nibbled at her vanilla ice cream. The mild yet rich flavor of vanilla suited her. Thinking about it, she didn’t even know what Syaoran’s favorite flavor ice cream was. It was nearly four now. I’ll ask him next time, Sakura reassured herself. And buy him a triple cone of his favorite flavor as a thank you for all he has done for me while onii-chan was away.
“Now, we have to buy Sakura a present for her success!” Yukito stated, as they walked into a gift store. “You choose what you want, Sakura.”
“Hoe~ You don’t have to,” Sakura said. She could feel time ticking away. Outside, the sun was low. Quickly, she picked out a green ribbon. Though she had many different colored ribbons, she did not have that particular shade of deep emerald green.
Touya paid and handed it to her. “This is it? I would have thought that you would want a more expensive, fancy gift.”
Shaking her head, Sakura replied, “No, it’s fine. Thank you.” She stared at the store clock. It was past five. Carefully, she tucked the ribbon into her pocket. She had given her other favorite green ribbon to Syaoran as a good luck charm. Thinking about it, she had lost it last autumn. Where and when did she lose it? And how did she find it again? Something told her that she had lost it at Syaoran’s apartment, the night they had discovered his father’s diary. Why did I give it to Syaoran? It was my favorite ribbon. Then, she asked her self why it had been her favorite ribbon. Because it was Syaoran’s favorite color.
A rueful voice flickered in her ears. “Maybe I’m not a very good person yet, but I’m trying hard to become a better one.”
Suddenly, a wrenching hollowness lurched in her stomach. The intensity of Syaoran’s golden amber eyes, the color of the autumn leaves appearing on the trees these days, played in her mind. His quiet, sincere words, “I’ll be waiting there, whether you come or not”; it was true, Syaoran never broke his words. He had never broken a promise to her and always came to her side without question, yet what could she say about herself? She had to go check if he did come or not—Syaoran at least deserved that much. It would be better if he completely forgot about the meeting, and didn’t come at all, she told herself. Not after I kept him waiting this long. But something in her heart told her that Syaoran had remembered, and that he was waiting, that he had been waiting all the while in King Penguin Park all along. Her heart lurched.
“Onii-chan, Yukito-san… I’m sorry; I just remembered I had an important appointment. I need to go now. Thank you for the wonderful day—I really am glad to spend the day with you. Onii-chan, I’ll see you at home. Sorry I’m leaving so suddenly,” Sakura explained quickly, before bursting out of the store in full sprint.
left speechless. What had come over Sakura? Shaking his head when Touya tried
to follow, Yukito said, “Let her be.”
I’m sorry Syaoran, I’m sorry for ever doubting you. Her eyes blurred. Sakura ignored the cramps in her stomach as she ran down the street, dodging various people. She headed straight to King Penguin Park, running at full speed, something she had not done for quite a while, excluding her sprint through the maze-like reality that the Fate had set up for her last Saturday. Before long, she was out of breath and her lungs ached, yet all she could think was to get to King Penguin Park no later than she already was. It seemed so far away, as if she would never reach it. Syaoran, please wait a few minutes longer. I’m sorry for keeping you waiting so long. Please be there.
Sakura could now view the park, with its large blue penguin slide—and the benches were empty. She stopped, placing her hands on her knees and panting. He wasn’t there after all. He hadn’t waited. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed, so disappointed. With her sleeves, she wiped the water from her face; whether it was sweat or tears, she did not know. How could she have been such a fool?
Then, she frowned. She had been so preoccupied in her thought of reaching King Penguin Park that she hadn’t felt an irksome force around her. “Key that hides the power of stars, show your true self to me. I, Sakura, command you. Release!”
Barely had she released her staff, she felt a prickle over her body, and was immediately overwhelmed by a throbbing pain, as if her bones were being compressed. Dropping onto her knees, Sakura clutched at her side, feeling as if her whole body was on fire, almost as if she was shrinking. She released the first card that reached her hand.
The Mirror appeared. Before Sakura felt another ripple of pain in her body, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror. A little girl with green eyes and in an oversized dress looked back. Who was she? A final throb reverberated throughout her body, and Sakura fell unconscious onto the ground.
Blinking, Sakura stared up at the dusky evening sky; the intense pain in her body was gone. She found that she was lying back on a bench, her head rested against someone’s lap. A cool hand was placed on her forehead.
Where was she? Immediately, she bolted up on the bench, and looked around. The dim outline of the giant penguin slide could be seen. She was still in King Penguin Park. Wait, the dark force! There had been a dark force, and she had been distracted enough to let it attack her without notice. Then she had felt an incredible pain through her body and had lost consciousness.
Timidly, she gazed at the person who had that calming, large hand which cooled her forehead. To her dismay, she realized that seated, she came to less than his chest-level.
“Are you feeling better, little girl?” came a warm, gentle voice. “You were lying unconscious on the ground, so I picked you up.”
Little girl? Sakura tried to lift her arms. She found that they were dragged down by the ridiculously large sleeve of a cobalt blue dress. She stared down at her legs, sticking straight out from the bench seat because they were so short. They were covered by a long blue robe of some sort. Wait, but this dress looked familiar—it was the short-skirted dress that she had put on this morning. Yet, why had it grown so large? With clumsy, small hands, she touched her cheeks. Chubby with baby fat. Then she fingered her hair; short, coming to the nape of her neck. It couldn’t surely mean…
Then she recalled looking at the Mirror, minutes before she passed out; the young girl she had seen was herself. The dark force must have reversed her age! Judging by her size in comparison to the young man sitting beside her, she was at least ten years younger.
“Were you lost and you looking for you mother?” the person asked.
Slowly, little Sakura craned her neck and looked up at the kind-voiced person’s face for the first time. His eyes were a deep amber-brown, full of understanding. It was Syaoran! He had been waiting after all! She was about to speak out, then closed her mouth. How could she face him in this form, and after keeping him waiting for half the day? Out of instinct, she glanced at the huge watch on her wrist, half sliding off her tiny wrist. It was almost seven. Around her small shoulders was a jacket, presumably Syaoran’s. Until now, she hadn’t realized how considerate Syaoran could be, even to presumably a complete stranger.
“Or were you waiting for someone?” Syaoran asked, after a second thought.
Hesitantly, Sakura nodded.
“I was too,” Syaoran softly said. He didn’t bother to ask her any more questions. Not even why a little girl was lying in the middle of the street in clothes too large for her. “I was waiting for someone, too. For a girl. I told her to meet at noon, here. Though I was not sure if she would come at all, I decided to wait. I think inside, I was hoping and hoping that she would come. And here I am now, and it’s evening. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it?”
Looking up with large emerald eyes, Sakura tried to speak, then looked down. She didn’t have the courage to tell him that she was Sakura, and that she had come after all, that she was sorry to keep him waiting. That was too lame and not worthy an excuse for keeping him waiting all day. Ashamed, Sakura shook her head. No, she was the pathetic one.
In a wistful tone, he continued, gazing up at the star studded sky, “I was hoping she would show up because I wanted to clear a misunderstanding with her. It’s really funny—I don’t think she hates me, yet between us, I think we have more arguments and misunderstandings than times of understanding and truthfulness. If she came, I would have known that she had forgiven me for making a stupid mistake that hurt her. Though she pretends that she isn’t mad at me, I know she is. Today, I was going to apologize to her for being such an idiot at times. I wanted to apologize for all the things I’ve done and said to injure her. And I wanted her to know my true intentions.” Syaoran paused, looking down at the pebbled ground. “Yet, I guess it didn’t work out as usual.”
It was already so dark, that Sakura could only see Syaoran’s bright amber eyes. No, he wasn’t angry or irritated. He wasn’t even frustrated; instead, he was calm and rueful. She bit her lips; there was no way that she could tell him that she was Sakura now. Not after he told her all these things. Why did he never show such candor to her? Why couldn’t he speak so truthfully, straight to her face? Why did he have to tell all this to a strange little girl he picked off the road? And why, why was she stupid enough to not turn up sooner?
Then, Syaoran stretched and stood up. His legs were cramped after sitting on the bench for the entire day, except for the brief moment he had examined the other side of the park because he felt a strange force. “I guess its about time to go back—I’ve waited long enough, don’t you think so?”
Hugging Syaoran’s jacket closer to her child’s body, Sakura nodded once more. Of course Syaoran waited more than enough, far longer than was expected of him. Of course he should return home. Yet what was she to do now? Certainly she couldn’t go home in this state.
“Come along,” Syaoran said, holding out a hand.
“Hoe?” Sakura looked up at the tall Syaoran. Seeing him from this small perspective was completely different from seeing his in her normal size. He seemed so sympathetic, protective and considerate.
“You’re not going to wait here the entire night, are you?” Syaoran said, easily picking up Sakura from the bench as if she was a doll, and carefully set her on the ground. Her oversized dressed covered her dirty bare feet. “I’m going home now, to my apartment. Do you have anywhere to go?”
Sakura shook her head.
“Okay then. You can come with me.” Syaoran took hold of her chubby little hand, dwarfed in the protective grip of his large one. “It’s not safe for a little kid to be out here alone at nighttime.”
Slowly, they walked down the street. It took three steps to match one of Syaoran’s, but Syaoran was careful to match his pace with little Sakura’s, slowed even more by the long dress trailing behind her.
“Why did you wait for that person for so long?” Sakura finally asked, unable to hold off any longer. It was a mistake to talk—her voice high and babyish, and unable to pronounce all her consonants clearly.
“Because I knew that she would eventually come,” Syaroan replied, as if talking to an equal. After a second thought, he gazed down at her queerly and added, “And she did.”
At this, Sakura halted, slipping her hand from his hold. Her blood ran chill. He certainly didn’t mean…
Gazing straight ahead, Syaoran said, “I’m really glad that you came, Sakura. I was afraid that you might not, but I still waited. I trusted you wouldn’t forget to come, and I was right.”
Slowly, Sakura stared up at Syaoran, which was a hard feat because her height wasn’t anywhere near his waist. He had recognized her, despite her small form. Quietly, she asked, “How long did you know that I was Sakura?”
“Since the beginning, when I picked you off the ground,” Syaoran replied, still not looking at her. “The dark force got to you before I did.”
At this, Sakura was stunned. She had assumed that Syaoran had told her all the things he did because he assumed that she was a stranger. She couldn’t imagine him actually telling her such private thoughts to her face.
“I kind of wish that you came so late because you were held up by a dark force, but I know that isn’t true. You weren’t planning to come in the first place, right?”
Guiltily, Sakura stared at the ground.
Then brightly, Syaoran assured, “But that doesn’t matter; what’s important is that you came, Sakura. It was worth the wait.”
“What would you have done if I didn’t come, after all?” little Sakura asked, curious.
“I would have waited all night, until you did,” Syaoran replied grimly.
At this, Sakura’s stomach fluttered. Hanging her head down, Sakura stared at the ground. No matter what, she wouldn’t cry. Not when Syaoran could simply forgive her like this. Why couldn’t he be mad at her; that would have felt more comfortable than him being so forgiving and understanding. It made her feel nasty, mean, and callous. “Why did you pretend that you didn’t know I was Sakura?” she asked, holding back the tightness in her throat.
“I was waiting for you to tell me yourself,“ Syaoran answered. “I was waiting for you to tell me why you were late and why you were trying to avoid me. But you don’t have to give any explanations if you don’t want to. Hurry now—let’s return to my place and we can think of a way to return you to your normal age. That’s most important now.”
In dismay, Sakura stared at her reflection in the full-length mirror in Syaoran’s room. A short five-year-old girl stared back. She couldn’t even reach the doorknob. She had changed out of her ridiculously oversized dress into one of Syaoran’s old t-shirts from when he was in elementary school; that still was too large, and came down to her ankle, like some sort of long gown. Disgusted, Sakura mashed her baby-fat cheeks together, making a pig face, which half-inclined her to laugh at herself. But why, oh why did Syaoran have to catch her in this state? How mortifying! Though she was hit by a sudden impulse to drop down and start bawling, she contained herself.
“Are you finished changing?” Syaoran asked, reentering his room. Upon seeing little Sakura, who barely came above his knees, he smothered a smile.
“Don’t laugh at me; you don’t know how humiliating this is,” Sakura refuted in her childish voice, turning around on her stubby legs as evidence.
“Look at your feet—they’re so dirty. You’re leaving a trail of dirt all over the floor,” Syaoran reprimanded. Scooping Sakura up like he would a toddler, he took her out to the living room and set her on the living room table. Then, he brought a basin of water and a towel.
“What are you doing?” Sakura protested as Syaoran began scrubbing her tiny feet, barely the size of his palms.
“Stop kicking; you’re splashing water over the rug,” Syaoran said, carefully wiping Sakura’s feet dry.
Folding her arms over her chest, Sakura stuck her tongue out at Syaoran; she felt like acting childishly.
Staring at her critically, Syaoran broke out into a goofy grin. With gentle fingers, he pinched her rosy plump cheeks.
“Oww!!!” Sakura protested.
“You know, you were quite a cute little girl,” Syaoran commented.
“I’m not a doll to play with,” Sakura said, indignant.
“Hehe… Revenge after being played with so much by four older sisters,” Syaoran replied. “I’ve always wanted a younger sibling.”
Hopping off the table and nearly topping over, Sakura said, “You probably had plenty of young cousins to play with and baby-sit.”
“Nah—most of the time, I was too busy to pay attention to anyone younger than I was. And all the grown ups kept their children away from me, saying that I needed to focus on my training—basically, I had no interaction with children and babies,” Syaoran replied. “Which is why I’m kind of doubtful about working at the children’s hospital, though luckily I’m stuck with office work.”
“I kind of understand. I’ve always wanted a younger sibling—after being bullied so much by onii-chan,” Sakura said. Then she sighed. “And I do not like this form—it’s very inconvenient and uncomfortable. I hope I catch the Age by tomorrow.”
“Oh, it won’t be too bad to stay in that form,” Syaoran commented. “You can grow up all over again and put right all mistakes you made when you were that age, ten years ago.”
Scowling, Sakura said, “No thank you. I’m content with my own life, as it is. There’s nothing I would change.”
“Nothing?” Syaoran asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow.
“Nothing,” Sakura replied resolutely. “You told me yourself that the past is the past.”
There came a rattling sound from the kitchen. Sakura looked up questioningly.
“It’s probably Kai, invading my refrigerator again,” Syaoran said without blinking an eye.
“Hey, why don’t you have dinner ready? So, I was right, wasn’t I? Sakura didn’t show up after all. I told you after such strategy, she would never come…” Kai trailed off as he stopped in the living room, still munching on something. “Why, who is this cute little girl?”
With a wicked grin, Kai went up to little Sakura and petted her head. “What’s your name, ma petite fille? Wow, Syaoran’s turning into a philanthropist, adopting little orphans! Or a kidnapper, picking up little girls off the park? I knew you were lonely, Syaoran-kun but you must really have felt alone in this house. Or maybe you’re developing a Lolita complex.”
“Shut up,” Syaoran said, punching Kai’s shoulder. “That’s Sakura. Some dark force reversed her age so that she is approximately five right now.”
“You’re Sakura-chan?” Kai asked, staring at the little girl with large green eyes for proof. He squeezed her pug nose. “Ha ha… How adorable.”
“Hey, don’t hurt her,” Syaoran scolded.
Sakura giggled as she rubbed her nose. What a thing for Syaoran to say.
“What are you going to do?” Kai asked, gravely to Sakura.
“I don’t know. Maybe, if I look into the Mirror of Truth, it will reflect my true age,” Sakura contemplated.
Shaking his head, Kai said, “The Mirror of Truth shows the truth—age is regardless of truth. If you are 100 years old but have the heart of a child, you will see yourself as a child.”
“Oh,” Sakura said, crestfallen.
“It’s okay,” Kai reassured. “If you have to stay that age, we’ll adopt you and you can grow up all over again.”
Syaoran added, “It won’t be that bad, since you’ve already done it once.”
Glaring at Syaoran and Kai, she replied, “I am not in the mood to joke around.”
“Haha… Serves you right though, Sakura-chan,” Kai said. “After you stood up Syaoran for hours and hours… Don’t you know he left the house absurdly early at nine in the morning to meet you?”
“Don’t say silly things,” Syaoran said curtly.
“So, what time did you show up, Sakura-chan? Three? Four? Five?” Kai continued.
“Six,” Sakura said meekly, suppressing her guilt.
“Six! You kept him waiting nearly ten hours?” Kai whistled.
Then, the phone rang. Picking up the phone, Syaoran said, “Hello—Tomoyo?”
“Syaraon-kun!” Tomoyo said. “Good you’re there. By any chance, is Sakura-chan with you?”
“Huh? Yeah. Kind of,” Syaoran said, his eyes flitting across the room to the little girl sitting on his living room couch, making faces at him.
“I thought so,” Tomoyo said. “Her brother called me, frantic because Sakura-chan didn’t go back home after suddenly running off the store, leaving him and Yukito-san at five.”
So, she indeed had purposely forgotten to go to King Penguin Park, and had spent the day happily with Yukito and her brother, disregarding the fact that he was foolhardily waiting for her. “She was with Yukito-san until five?” Syaoran asked quietly.
“Huh?” Tomoyo realized that she made a careless slip. “Well, yes. Touya-san and Yukito-san wanted to celebrate the success. She probably couldn’t help it. Anyway, what is Sakura-chan doing over at your house then? She did show up at King Penguin Park, right?”
“It’s a long story. To put it simply, she met a dark force that somehow manipulates age, and right now she is approximately five years old,” Syaoran explained.
“Oh. No wonder she can’t return home. Well, I told Touya-san that Sakura was over at my house, so tell her not to worry,” Tomoyo said. Then she chuckled. Another video-taping opportunity; she better make some new outfits for chibi-Sakura to wear!
“Okay. Bye.” Syaoran hung up.
“Don’t worry. Tomoyo told your brother that you’re at her house,” Syaoran reassured Sakura when he returned to the living room.
“Thank goodness,” Sakura sighed in relief. She had completely forgotten about her brother.
“Well, we better find a way to capture the Age, or else your brother will really blow up,” Syaoran said.
“That sounds interesting,” Kai said. “I’ll offer you all my expertise and talent to help you tomorrow.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Sakura scolded. “You promised Meilin-chan that you won’t skip anymore school.”
“Is that so?” Whipping out his laptop, Kai began to furiously type into the keyboard. The laptop made a series of beeping noises. Then triumphantly, Kai hit the enter button. “There!”
“What did you just do, Kaitou-kun?” Sakura asked, almost afraid of the answer.
With a self-smug smile, Kai replied, “Well, I don’t think there will be school tomorrow.”
“Hoe?” Then, Sakura stretched and yawned.
“Good little children need to sleep early,” Kai said.
Yawning himself, Syaoran said, “Umm… I guess you can sleep in your old room.” Picking up Sakura, he carried her to the guestroom and set her on the bed, which she could practically swim in.
“Arf! Arf!” Wolfie-chan barked, jumping onto the bed and licking Sakura’s face. He had been hiding from Kai’s presence.
“Hey, that tickles!” Sakura giggled. Wolfie-chan, who was merely a puppy, seemed so large now that she was so small. Wolfie-chan still recognized his owner, despite the fact that she was in a different form. “Oh all right, Wolfie-chan, you can stay here.”
“Kiss chibi-Sakura good night!” Kai called from the living room. Ignoring Kai’s remark, Syaoran carefully tucked little Sakura into the bed.
“Hey, don’t get the idea that I’m really a five year old,” Sakura protested as Syaoran turned off the lamp.
“I never did for a moment. Good night,” Syaoran said, managing a slight smiling. “Call me if you need anything.”
“You do think I’m a baby,” Sakura accused, as Syaoran, trying to keep a straight face, shut the door.
Early the next morning, Tomoyo came over to Syaoran’s apartment with a huge bag, a videocamera, and plenty of energy.
“Oh my gosh, Sakura-chan! Just look at you!” Tomoyo exclaimed, critically eyeing little Sakura with her short hair mussed and wearing an over-sized t-shirt.
“I know,” Sakura sighed. She couldn’t wait till she returned to her regular age.
“Kawaii!” Tomoyo squealed, clasping her hands together. “Look, I brought over some outfits for you to wear. I adjusted some last night from my large Sakura-doll, and it looks like they’ll fit because you’re so small.
Obediently, Sakura changed into one of Tomoyo’s frilly dresses adorned by a large bow, and with matching lace socks and patent leather shoes. Well, she had no choice.
Syaoran walked into the room with milk and porridge. Once more, he stifled a smile at the sight of little Sakura dressed like a baby princess, thanks to Tomoyo.
Wrinkling her nose at the breakfast, Sakura said, “I can eat normal food you know.”
“No, no. Babies can’t digest well, so they need to eat healthy, nutritious food,” Syaoran told her with a wicked gleam in his eyes.
“He’s getting revenge on you for standing him up for nine hours,” Kai pointed out. It was impossible to decipher when he had appeared. “Hi Tomoyo-chan! You’re here early, aren’t you?” Then, Kai examined Sakura, dressed as if it were her birthday party and burst out laughing.
“Shut up!” Sakura expertly flung a cushion straight at Kai’s head.
“Wow, you have quite a lot of strong in those puny little arms,” Kai said with mock awe.
“Well, you guys should to go to school now,” Sakura hinted. “You’ll be late.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear?” Tomoyo asked. “School’s canceled for today because something’s wrong with the school electric system, and it will take a day to fix it. Strange, isn’t it? But I’m personally glad there’s a prolonged weekend. I really needed it.”
Staring critically at Kai, Syaoran said, “You did it didn’t you? You hacked into our school’s electric system last night from your computer.”
Shrugging, Kai replied, “I told you there will be no school today. So, we can have fun!”
Sakura and Syaoran glanced at each other sideways and sighed. Leave it to Kai to decide when he wanted to go to school and when he didn’t by breaking into the school computer system to cancel school all together. Yet, sometimes, it was useful to have a friend like that, one who was a crafty computer genius. It made life more convenient.
Seeing Sakura and Syaoran’s furtive glances, Kai defended, “Well, I was sick and tired of hearing our homeroom teacher berate me, and it would be selfish if I skipped school on my own.”
“Meilin will not be very pleased,” Sakura said dryly.
“What does she care what I do, anyway?” Kai asked lightly. He began playing with Sakura’s soft, short hair and absentmindedly braided sections of it.
“Stop playing with me.” Sakura squirmed as Kai twisted her hair into place.
“It will be fun to dress Chibi-Sakura-chan up from now on!” Tomoyo exclaimed.
“Hey, I’m not going to stay in this form forever,” Sakura protested.
“Ho ho ho! Sakura-chan looks so cute dressed like that. Here, Kai-kun, tie her hair with this red ribbon,” Tomoyo said, handing over a skein of brand new ribbon.
Skillfully, Kai finished off his masterpiece by tying it with the scarlet ribbon, adjusted strands of stray hair, then stepped back critically, holding up a hand mirror for little Sakura to look in. Seeing the baby-face, Sakura scowled. Yet, Kai had braided her short hair into two sections, gathered together by a large bow in rather a cute style.
“Kawaii! Kawaii!” his pet parrot screeched. Today, it was a distracting orange-yellow-crimson color.
“Well, what will you be doing today, Tomoyo-chan?” Sakura asked, over the noise of the parrot.
Instinctively tying a beaded necklace around the bird’s neck, Tomoyo replied, “Miho-chan asked me if I could go watch a local archery competition with her and Eriol today, since there is no school.”
“Archery competition? To find her brother?” Sakura asked.
Nodding, Tomoyo said, “I guess kind of like how a criminal always reappears to the scene of crime, she has the notion that her brother will reappear either in his hometown, school, or something closely associated to their childhood. Do you guys want to come along? Archery competitions are always very fun to watch.”
“I’d like to go along. I think the last time I saw an archery competition was back when I was in fifth grade, when Yukito-san played against Mizuki-sensei. Yukito-san won, I remember; he’s awfully good at archery—maybe because Yue wields a bow also,” Sakura recollected.
“How about you, Syaoran?” Tomoyo asked.
“I should stay with Sakura just in case a dark force appears,” he replied.
At this, Tomoyo stared up at Syaoran quizzically. So, he wasn’t mad at Sakura for standing him up the entire day, even though he knew that she was with Yukito-san and her brother. Tomoyo was impressed. Had she any doubts about Syaoran before, they were all gone.
“Oh my gosh, is that you, Sakura?” Miho exclaimed as they met on the archery competition location. Bending over onto her knees, Miho stared at the five year old girl’s face, looking very unhappy indeed, and burst out laughing. “What happened?”
Even Eriol’s lips twitched.
“I hate this form!” little Sakura despaired. “Everybody laughs at me, even Eriol-kun.”
Then, they heard a familiar voice. “Sakura didn’t return home yesterday, Yuki. Tomoyo said Sakura was at her house, but something seems fishy,” Touya stated.
“You know how responsible Sakura is; she was fine even when she was left alone for months,” Yukito reassured. He was dressed in the traditional Japanese archery outfit of black and white and was carrying a long bow. “Stop worrying every second.”
“Oh no! I should have guessed that Yukito-san would be competing also and that onii-chan would be here!” Sakura groaned, looking for some place to hide before her brother spotted her. Little or not, Touya would recognize her from brotherly instinct.
“Disguise then!” Kai said, whipping out child-size bunny sunglasses and putting them over Sakura’s eyes.
“Kaitou-kun, when will you ever get over the silly notion that sunglasses provide effective disguise?” Sakura asked, adjusting the sunglasses sliding down her button nose.
“Hello, Yukito-san, Touya-san,” Tomoyo said.
“Hello!” Yukito greeted. “You guys are here to watch archery, also?”
“Is Sakura with you guys?” Touya asked, critically eyeing Tomoyo’s friends. There was the ever annoying Miho, the creepy Eriol, the crooked Kai, and the bratty Brat. “Aren’t you guys supposed to be in school?”
“School’s canceled for the day because of electrical system failures,” Kai informed.
“Never heard of such a thing happening,” Touya said. Raising an eyebrow, he examined the little child hiding behind Tomoyo’s dress. “Who’s that?”
“Oh, she’s my neighbor’s daughter,” Tomoyo quickly said.
“Touya, the tournament’s going to start,” Yukito called out.
“Okay. Well, see you around,” Touya said, leaving, giving one last suspicious glance at the little girl with a large red bow and ridiculous bunny-shaped sunglasses that did not match with her frilly princess dress.
“How are you going to catch the new dark force, Sakura-san?” Eriol asked as the tournament began. At least he addressed her like she was fifteen years old.
“I’m not quite sure,” Sakura replied. “I don’t think I can even use magic powers in this form. Actually, I did release the Mirror card right after being attacked by the Age, which knocked me unconscious. I wasn’t even aware I had magic when I was five, anyway."
“But the powers were born with you,” Eriol said. “Though your body is smaller and weaker, it still contains the same capacity of power.”
“I hope that is so, or else I will never be able to seal the dark force, and then I would be stuck in this form forever,” Sakura stated.
“Which won’t be so bad,” Kai reassured. “I’m sure Syaoran will still be devoted to you, whatever your age may be. Of course, he will have to wait quite a few years before he can ask you out without being accused of child-molesting, but...”
“Shut up, Kai,” Syaoran grumbled.
Meanwhile, Miho had been intently watching the competition, heedless of all the squabbling going on. Abruptly, she stood up and craned forward to have a look at the archer that was adjusting the arrow to the bow. She was in an inconvenient position and could only decipher the back of the person since his bow shadowed his face. Deftly, he let the arrow go and hit the bull’s-eye with apparently no effort.
The onlookers let out a low murmur. It was the first bull’s eye so far.
With her heart pounding, Miho leaned forward to have a glimpse of the archer’s face. Slowly, she caught a glimpse of his side profile.
“Miho-chan…” Tomoyo trailed off, squinting to take a better look at the young man on the court.
“I want to wait and see,” Miho said in a quivering voice, hardly able to stay still.
Slowly, the other competitors were eliminated until only Yukito and the teenage boy with glossy auburn hair was left.
Carefully, Yukito scrutinized his opponent, who was a good-looking boy around Sakura’s age, maybe a year or two older. He was lean, with an inborn grace about his movements, similar to his opponent five years ago, Mizuki Kaho, Sakura’s fifth grade teacher and also Touya’s former teacher and girlfriend. The striking thing about the tall adolescent boy was his silky auburn hair, the color of autumn leaves warmed by the sunlight. There was something about the calm, relaxed look on the boy’s face which was pleasant, yet rather unsettling to see on a fellow competitor. Yukito figured, He must be new here; I haven’t seen his face around before.
Yukito shot first; as soon as he let the arrow go, he realized that he had released the arrow a few seconds early. He had lost his concentration, something he rarely did. As he expected, the arrow struck slightly above the bull’s-eye. It was still a fair shot though.
If the newcomer made it into bull’s-eye, he would be the winner, beating Yukito’s five year consecutive Tomoeda archery championship. If he missed, there would be another round. Though Yukito was usually a noncompetitive person, he held his breath to see whether his title would be challenged. As Yukito anticipated, without faltering in his form, the boy with auburn hair shot off the arrow, which neatly embedded into the bull’s eye once more. The watchers cheered; there was a new champion!
For a second, Yukito was stunned by the boy’s ease and form. “Good job,” Yukito finally said, offering a hand to his successor.
Shaking it cheerfully, the boy smiled and replied, “Thank you. You were great, also. It’s been quite a while since I faced an opponent like you.”
“I can say the same,” Yukito said.
Suddenly, the boy’s expression reflected surprise.
Tentatively, Yukito turned around to face Miho, her cloudy gray eyes widened. Her eyes were only on the boy with matching gray eyes, staring back at her in surprise. There was no doubt; he must be her brother!
“Onii-chan?” Miho’s voice was barely above a whisper.
Setting his trophy down, the boy took a few steps forward.
Hesitantly, Miho reiterated, “You are my onii-chan, aren’t you? You are Tanaka Mikai.” Then, she felt a pang of dubiousness. What if she was mistaken, after all? Yet, how could she be mistaken? It must be Mikai. If only he would show a sign of recognition.
Squinting, the boy spoke. “Miho?” Then he smiled widely, just like the way he used to in the olden days. “Why, you grew so much I thought you were someone else!”
“Onii-chan! You do remember me!” Miho exclaimed, not knowing whether to rush forward and hug Mikai, or burst out in tears.
“Silly Miho. How can a brother not remember his precious little sister? I’ve been searching for you for the past five years! Where have you ever been?” Mikai asked, his eyes crinkling in a laughter of relief. “I finally found you!”
Her brother had been looking for her? At this, Miho crumpled to her knees and began sobbing. Finally, finally she had gathered her family together. At last, she could scrape up the remains of where she had left off back when she was nine or so. Her brother… her brother… She didn’t care about anything that had happened in between. What mattered was that she had found him at last.
In a brotherly fashion, Mikai knelt down and stroked Miho’s back as if she were a little girl again. “Don’t cry, Miho. Don’t cry. Onii-chan is sorry for leaving you. I’ll never leave Miho again.”
“N-never?” Miho asked, in between sobs. “’Nii-chan, you’re really back for me?”
“Of course,” Mikai said. “I’ll make up for every wrong I ever did to my family. So don’t cry Miho. I’m here now. I’ll look after you.”
“You’re still the same onii-chan, after all,” Miho murmured happily. “I knew it after I saw you on the archery court. And I know it now, seeing you smile. You’re my onii-chan, no one else. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Things seem to be working out pretty well for Miho-chan,” Tomoyo commented, later that evening at Syaoran’s apartment. “Not only did she meet her mother but she finally found her brother after all these years.”
Sakura sighed ruefully because she still hadn’t caught the Age. At times like this, she wanted her older brother to pet her like he used to when she was younger. It seemed, the older one got, more of the simple pleasures of life like affection, adoration, and intimacy were taken away. One thing good about being five years old again was that she was petted by everyone, even Syaoran. Why couldn’t Syaoran always be this caring and kind? Why did they always have to have misunderstandings, arguments and more misunderstandings? Yet simultaneously, she did not like being young and incapable of doing anything; she must to return to her normal age.
“Mikai-san really did seem like everything that Miho-chan described him to be,” Tomoyo continued. “He seems really friendly, nice, devoted to his family, not to mention extremely talented.”
“He seems like a dork,” Kai commented crankily. Then he stared out the window. Why did he continuously have an uneasy feeling about Meilin? Forget about her; she must be in Hong Kong now, and she does not want anything to do with me. It’s not like I don’t have any other worries.
“What kind of brother would disappear for five years and then return, as if nothing had ever happened?” Syaoran questioned.
“Miho-chan explained to me that Mikai-san, shortly after leaving home returned for his family, only to find that their house had burned down and his family gone. So, he spent the next few years searching for his mother and little sister, but in vain. I guess their paths just didn’t cross. But finally, it occurred to him to return near his neighborhood and by chance competed in the archery tournament in Tomoeda.”
“So, he hadn’t forgotten about his family,” Sakura mused. “It wasn’t only Miho looking for her brother. He was looking for Miho, also.”
“It took a
long time, but at least they found each other. It will take a while to settle
in though,” Tomoyo said. “Sorting out all the gaps of time between the family.”
At that moment, the phone rang. Syaoran jumped; he had been spacing out, ruminating how could they catch the Age, and how much longer could Sakura stay in this form—the Sakura’s at Tomoyo’s house’ excuse would work only a day or two more at most on Touya. The phone rang again. The only people who ever called him were Tomoyo, Sakura, Meilin, occasionally Erika, and sometimes his family. Maybe it was Meilin, to say that she reached Hong Kong safely. He certainly hoped it was not Touya demanding where Sakura was. “Hello?” he said into the receiver.
“Syaoran-sama! Thank goodness you’re home.” It was Wei, Syaoran’s long time butler and guardian who was currently in Hong Kong.
“What is it?” Syaoran could sense the urgency in Wei’s usually calm voice.
Briefly, he related, “Meilin-sama has not returned home. She was supposed to arrive on Friday, but she didn’t.”
“Meilin hasn’t returned?” Syaoran asked a chilling dread creeping over him.
Wei replied, “I thought maybe she was spending the weekend there as well, so I waited, not wanting to alarm you, nor cause any trouble for her, but she still hasn’t returned. Her mother and Ieran-sama are frantic right now. She’s not still there by any chance, is she?”
“She left the apartment, early Friday morning—Kai was the last person to see her, I think. Kai—“ Syaoran looked up. He paced up and down the living nervously.
“If you’re looking for Kai-kun, he leaped out the window as soon as he heard you say that Meilin is missing,” Sakura informed him.
“He did?” Syaoran seemed vaguely surprised. “Wei—We’re going to look for Meilin, and I’ll call again if I have news. I’m sure she’s fine—and just try to prevent her from getting into any trouble back at home, if she does turn up. Bye.” He put the phone down, frowning.
“Are you going to search for Meilin-chan also?” Tomoyo asked.
“Sit down, Syaoran and relax. I think Kai has things under control,” Sakura said.
“You’re right. But if anything has happened to Meilin, I’ll never forgive myself,” Syaoran sighed.
“Considering how much you squabble with Kai, you have great faith in your next door neighbor,” Tomoyo commented when Syaoran merely sat down on the couch again.
“Not really,” Syaoran said blandly. “But he’s the one who has a microchip attached to Meilin, so it can’t be too hard for him to locate her.”
“Oh! Smart!” Tomoyo said.
“It is convenient to have an ex-thief as a friend,” Sakura reiterated.
“I knew it, I knew something bad had happened to Meilin,” Kai muttered, zooming down the road in his motorcycle. His intuition told him that Meilin was in trouble since Friday, yet he had ignored it, maybe because he was the slightest bit jaded by Meilin always telling him off. Violently swerved off the road, he halted, his motorcycle making a screeching sound. He recalled the last thing Meilin told her: “You always say big words and do little to back them up. I don’t have much reason to believe you, after being disappointed so many times.”
What was the point of going to “save” her anyway? She would probably scold him in return for not going to school. Maybe she wasn’t in danger, anyway, and it was a false alarm. Since when did the lone Kaitou Magician go around meddling in other people’s business, aiding them?
Then, another voice interrupted his thoughts. “I’ve always seen you as a person before I saw you as the brave, poised, and daring Kaitou Magician.”
hell,” Kai stated aloud. “Li Meilin, you better thank me someday!” He slipped
out his slim pocket computer, and inputted several codes. Immediately, a map of
Tomoeda came out. Then he examined the map to locate a certain microchip.
Driving down a dark, narrow alley of Tokyo, Kai carefully scanned the shadowed ground. His computer had indicated this way. It had been quite a while since he came to such dirty slums. Then, his eyes caught a glimmering silver on the floor. Hopping of his motorcycle, Kai bent over and carefully picked it up. He held it up to the headlight projected from his motorcycle. It was a pretty, slender bracelet. The bracelet with the microchip attachment that he had locked onto Meilin’s wrist, and it was designed so that it was impossible to take off without the expertise of a technician.
For the first time, he felt a wave of panic as he stared into down black lane. Where was Meilin?
“Kaitou-kun’s taking an awful long time,” Sakura fretted after Kai had been gone for two hours. Everyone knew that Kaitou Magician was notorious for his speed.
“If he doesn’t come back in another hour, I’ll go look,” Syaoran said.
“I will too,” Sakura quickly added.
“No offense, but I don’t think you would be much help in that form,” Syaoran pointed out.
At this, Sakura cringed. Oh yeah. I’m still five years old. I have to catch the dark force and return to my original age. Then, then I will apologize to Syaoran. I will apologize for making him wait for all those hours; I will apologize for doubting him; and I will apologize for being so hard on him back inside the Mirror of Truth. Yet what his reaction would be, I do not know.
A new determination brimmed in her. Just wait until I return to my proper age…
Flopped on the bed, Erika lazily flipped through a fashion magazine. She didn’t bother to look up when Eron walked into the room and sat on her sofa.
“What are you doing?” Eron asked when Erika didn’t speak.
“Nothing,” Erika replied, turning another page with a crinkle.
“Just because school’s canceled for today doesn’t mean that you should laze around in you room the entire day,” Eron continued.
“My choice,” Erika replied briefly, pretending to be absorbed by the advertisement in the magazine.
“Why have you been avoiding me lately?” Eron questioned bluntly.
“I haven’t,” Erika said. “It’s only you too wrapped up in your own life.”
“Come on, Erika. We’re in this together. We have to work with each other.”
“Well, it certainly seems like you have no motivation to attack Sakura anymore,” Erika retorted. “She seems to have sealed the Fate, one of the hardest forces to conquer, with quite ease. Not only that, but we have lost the ruby earrings. Since it seems to me that we’re not biding time anymore, our powers must be coming to a decline, after all.”
“It’s not that we aren’t powerful,” Eron defended. “It’s just that our opponents are very strong also.”
“Weak excuse,” Erika brushed off, lying down on her back, her reddish-violet curls fanned out onto the pillow.
“It is,” Eron sighed, doing his best to stimulate a conversation. “Hey, what do you think of working at the hospital? It seems rather like an obscure thing for us to do volunteer work. But all the same it is wise to keep an eye on how Syaoran and Sakura are doing.”
“It’s always Sakura this, Sakura that,” Erika lashed out irritably, rolling over the bed to face the other side.
“Go away Eron; just leave me alone!” Erika cut off.
“Fine, then!” Eron snapped, losing his patience. He left the room, slamming the door.
Sitting up again, Erika reached for the magazine, trembling to keep herself from shredding it into pieces. It was the first time that Eron had raised his voice on her. All these years, he had always confirmed everything with her, respected her wishes, and apologized first whenever they disagreed. Yet, this was the first time he had slammed a door on her face. She crumpled the magazine in her hands, her shoulders shaking.
Erika,” the Riddle drawled, materializing onto Erika’s bed and folding its
golden paws in front. Tossing its haughty feline head, the Riddle recited
“When a pampered little girl is
Accustomed to being in the center of attention,
There is no excuse for her beholders’ devotion
To sway, stray, or go amiss.
“Can’t you see?” demands the girl,
“The world revolves around me!”
And if not worshiped, no words exactly
Will describe the voracious temper that may unfurl.
As time passes by,
Leaving yesterday to yesterday, while others move on ahead,
No matter what the girl will say, says, has said,
She will be left in wonderland, left to cry, cry good-bye.
The sagacious Riddler
Asking, “Little girl, why can’t you grow and mature?
But wait! There may be a remedy, a wondrous cure,
To snap you into reality and put right your wrong.”
So the oblivious little girl wonders,
“What may it be?
Tell me now, immediately!”
And the Riddler leaves her to ponder, traveling to more girls yonder.”
Pausing, the Riddle smiled with a pussycat’s satisfaction at its little anecdote.
Glaring at the sphinx shaped creature spread across her bed as if it were a queen, Erika, said, “Curse the day that Eron called you up, you blabbering, useless fool.”
“Who’s a fool?” the Riddle asked rhetorically. “The one who accuses is by rule the true fool.”
head underneath the pillow, Erika clenched her eyes shut and tried to block out
the Riddle’s taunting conundrum as it continued,
“Don’t fret, my naïve, temperamental
I’ll tell you the solution to your distress.
It’s quite simple, if you think carefully
Don’t regard your brother’s actions so woefully,
For though blood is thicker than wine
And love thicker than blood, there’s a line
Where he is bound to return to you
Since bold must be the one who
Ventures to break free
From the wearisome bonds of ancestry.
Yet then again, there is always the faint possibility
That within you is the commendable ability
To offer him moral support
By quenching your little girl’s dreams to sort
Out your hard feelings and childlike obstinacy
And stand by his choice, what ever it may be.”
Wish-chan: Well, finally the
Star-Crossed Production is over, and here is the beginning, (actually the
continuation) of a new sets of problems revolving
around the characters of NT. I had a hard time thinking up a title for this
chapter, but after the Riddle's little poem in the end, things tied together
better. I'll guarantee things will get more climatic. I guess this chapter, I kinda focused on each
of the various female indiviuals of NT, even Erika. Haha... the Age card was one that I've been meaning to do
for a long time now. See, the funny thing is I started with a list of cards I
would like to create when I first began plotting New Trials,(three, four years
ago?) and then made up others to fill in gaps along the way. Somehow, the ones
I wanted to do the most, I still didn't do (meaning there are yet many more cards
to come). The sillier cards (such as the Ball from Chapter 3,) are usually the
ones I made up spontaneously. Other cards, like the Fate, I've been meaning to
do a long time. Just a little insight~ Oh, and the Wave card is still out
there... It's waiting for the right moment to show up. Just a question, I heard
that there was a Wave card in the actual series. Can anyone tell me which
episode it came out in? I thought I saw all the episodes of CCS, but I don't
seem to remember seeing it...
Oh, for reference, Tokyo University is the largest, most prominent university in Japan. Kinda like Harvard in the States, except that as you can see, there are less college choices in Japan than America, and there is no university rivaling with Tou-dai (short for Tokyo University in Japanese.)
I've mentioned before that personally, I'm rooting for Tomoyo and Eriol, and I've recieved plenty of e-mails supporting them. I've also recieved an interesting one not supporting them, as well. Hmm... I think I'll leave things at that. I'm still open to hearing various opinions about any of the couples in New Trials. I like listening to reasonings and theories.
Oh, just on a side note. I've been meaning to mention for quite a while now; I began reading some of my chapters over again this summer, and was appalled by the amount of typos , contradictions, spelling and grammer mistakes out there. So, don't think I'm an absolute dunce-head or anything, for I am a perfectionist. Yet the fact is, I edit over numerous times (that's why it takes so long to publish new chapters) however, after you type hundreds of pages, words swim in front of your eyes, and sometimes, I don't even see obvious mistakes because I already have things written in you mind, so that's what I see. And then, I come back months later to read it and am shocked at the careless errors. I think, someday, when I have spare time, I'll go back and re-edit all the chapters. Hehe.. So hope people don't find it blatantly hindering to the overall quality of New Trials. And I'm sure all of you prefer that I just write new chapters instead of going back and fixing new ones for the time being.
Comments welcome at my new addy, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com my old addy (which sometimes gets full). Please visit by site at www.geocities.com/wishluv. Thank you for all the feedback on Chapter 41, and to all those who signed by guestbook!