Chapter 4: The Camping Trip
Part 1: Around the Campfire
Around the campfire,
The hour will strike,
When you discover your heart’s desire.
Will you admit truthfully to the one you like?
Or will you turn back with a wistful smile
And wait for another little while…
“Sakura-chan, Tomoyo-chan, did you hear about the autumn field trip? I’m so excited! Since we are in junior high now, we get to go on the camping trip to the mountains!” Yanagisawa Naoko exclaimed, clasping her hands. “Wouldn’t it be so spooky in the night time?”
Kinomoto Sakura grimaced wiped the sweat drop from her brows. Her older brother Touya still teased her for being scared of ghosts. A bad thing about her brother regaining his powers was that he had the power to communicate with spirits, and he teased her relentlessly about it. One would expect that he would be more mature, since Tsukishiro Yukito and he entered college. But no. Her brother still teased her recklessly. After all, he was Touya.
She didn’t know exactly how much Touya remembered about the Clow Card business. Though Yukito showed no sign of remembering it, she knew that her brother still had some knowledge. Not that he showed it. Was it time that Yue should awaken once more? No, Yukito-san was finally relaxing now that he forgot his true identity. I thought that all my troubles ended with Eriol-kun, but that’s not true. She sighed. It’s not an easy thing being a Sakura Card Mistress. Staring pensively out the window from her seat, she did not feel any joy from the news of the field trip.
Just then the class room door burst open. In came Li Meilin, panting and dragging Syaoran with her. “Made it just in time!”
“Good morning Meilin-chan, Li-kun,” called out her classmates.
“Good morning!” Meilin said. “Syaoran overslept again!”
“Did not! You were the one who took so long getting dressed!” retorted Syaoran.
Tomoyo and Sakura laughed. Then Sakura exclaimed, “Oh yes, Li-kun, this is your sweater. I washed it since it got wet last time. Sorry I forgot to give it back for several weeks…” Actually, Touya had been suspicious of it and stole it. Luckily, Sakura snuck it back when Touya was out. He would have donated it to the charity or burnt it if she hadn’t. “Thank you, Li-kun.”
“Eh?” When Sakura handed back the neatly folded green sweater, he said, “Oh! I totally forgot about it.” Syaoran sweat-dropped when Meilin narrowed her eyes. Luckily, this sweater was one that he bought himself. Somehow, he had bad luck concerning lending clothes to Sakura, since Meilin always showed up at the most inconvenient times. It didn’t help that Meilin’s first meeting with Sakura was when she was at his house and wore the red t-shirt that she had bought him. Out of all the shirts that he had, Wei had to give her that one. What a life.
“Class,” the teacher announced. “As we know, our grade will be granted an autumn field trip.” Immediately, the class bolted up. “Next week, we will take a hiking trip to Mount Kumatori and camp out.” A murmur rippled through the class and everyone started whispering and cheering. They were all excited after the endless weeks of hard studying.
Syaoran muttered, “Oh no, not again.”
Curiously, Meilin asked, “Why, what’s the matter? Aren’t you excited about the field trip?”
“Excited? Yes, very excited. Don’t you even know that every time we go on a field trip, some sort of trouble occurs?” he replied grimly.
A bead of sweat ran down the side of Sakura’s head. Syaoran’s words reminded her of the skating trip, the courage testing trip and every other imaginable trip back in the days.
“Ohohoho. Maybe I should bring costumes and my video camera. Do you know? My mother finally bought me that mini, microchip video camera,” Tomoyo exclaimed enthusiastically.
The teacher tried to continue over the noisy class, “So, the first day we arrive on the bus and find a camping spot at Mount Kumatori and prepare our tents. Then we will have some fun activities prepared. The next day, you will be assigned hiking groups of five to trek the mountain and record specific nature assignments. Finally, on the last day, we will pack and the bus will pick us up…” By this time, nobody was listening to him. He smiled at the excited class.
“Hoe-e! What if there are ghosts in the wood!” Sakura cried.
Naoko’s eyes glinted, “Don’t you know, Sakura-chan? Many years ago, a class went to the same camping trip. Well, they started off all right in the beginning. But in the end, one group ended up missing. They searched everywhere for that missing group, but they were found nowhere. Not even their bones were discovered. It was concluded that they got lost and wondered off until they faded without any trace into the forest, and became…” By this time, the usual crowd of people had gathered to listen and they all tilted forward at the pause. “… And those students who were tired and worn out, faded into GHOSTS!” A gasp rang out. “Some people who stopped by the forests claim to have seen the ghosts. Some say that they were dressed in rags and called out ‘save me’ while others say that the ghosts take other people who stay overnight, to get revenge for not being saved. Well, it is true that people go to that mountain and never come back.”
By this time, Sakura’s teeth were clattering. Meilin clutched at Syaoran’s arms saying, “Syaoran, let’s not go. We can get notes saying that we are not allowed to sleep outdoors, or something.”
Naoko muttered, “Hmm… this story has better effect if it is told at the mountain, in the nighttime.”
Yamazaki Takashi nodded. “Yes, a great story. It’s almost good as my story of how…” Before he could continue, Mihara Chiharu bonked him on the head as he grumbled, “Ouch. I have a story of a bad tempered old witch who could not accept the fact of the existence of a genius.”
Sakura smiled at the usual chattering of her close friends.
Tomoyo then murmured, “Well, I hope we get to choose our own camping partners.”
Syaoran groaned; he could just imagine the amount of privacy he will get in the next few days.
Finally, it was the day before the camping trip. The teacher read, “Well, we have arranged the groups for the tents and also for the hiking groups. It is possible that the same people might be in both of them. We tried to include friends, as well as other students who you would be able to get closer with.”
Another sensei started to read out the list. Some students cheered when they heard their name, others groaned. The classes downstairs wondered what the commotion upstairs was. “Sasaki Rika, Yanagisawa Naoko and Mihara Chiharu will be in Tent 4. Kinomoto Sakura, Daidouji Tomoyo and Li Meilin, Tent 5.” Sakura and Tomoyo squealed. They were so lucky to be camping partners. Meilin sighed in relief because she was stuck with people that she knew.
The teacher continued to call out “Final tent will be Yamazaki Takashi, Li Syaoran…” Syaoran was about to sigh in relief, “and lastly, Chang Eron.” Syaoran’s heart dropped to his foot. God, no! Not with that creepy prince-syndrome.
The sensei continued, “Well, I hope you all get along with each other. Now, we will read out the hiking groups.” He started reading out the list. The last group he called out was, “Daidouji Tomoyo, Li Meilin, Chang Eron, Chang Erika, and Li Syaoran. Wait, we have one left over person, Kinomoto Sakura. It can be a group of six.”
Tomoyo felt so glad that she would be able to tape Sakura at all times. Hmm… Syaoran versus Eron, how about Syaoran and Erika? Eron and Sakura? The twins had settled in with the class almost surprisingly fast and were quite popular now. Eron and Erika certainly had some sort of knack in charm.
Double bad luck. Eron in two groups! Syaoran started to doodle on his paper.
“That’s very good, Li-kun!” Tomoyo exclaimed.
Sakura examined the sketch, and said, “Yeah! I never knew you could draw!”
Syaoran raised an eye. He had sketched out a wolf. “Eh? Thanks.” Eriol had been better at drawing than he was. Of course, Eriol wasn’t Eriol, but Clow Reed. Still… He broke his pencil lead. He had been pressing it too hard. Of course, it was the past, but when he thought about those times… Syaoran glanced sideways at Eron. Great. Now I have a second Eriol. At least Eriol hadn’t meant ill. I know I’ve seen Eron some place else, but where? Syaoran didn’t know about the spell cast on him that veiled him, and it would be ages before he finally figured out Eron and Erika were the very legendary figures that his very father had to fight off.
“No, Kero-chan, you can’t come. I’ll love to take you, but there is no place for you to hide.” Sakura was busily packing the night before the camping trip, into her hiking bag. “Next?” Kero-chan was reading out the camping checklist for her.
“Flashlight, sleeping bag, water bottle…”
Just then, Kinomoto Fujitaka entered the room. Smiling as always, he gently asked his daughter, “Do you need any help packing?” Kero-chan quickly dropped into the bag.
“Un! I’m fine, Otou-san. Thank you though. I’ll miss you while I’m away.”
Carrying the water bottle in, Touya asked, “Will you miss me? Here kaijou. You’ll get thirsty if you scream there as much as you do here.
“I’m not a monster!”
Fujitaka smiled, “Of course you aren’t.”
“Hey, kaijou, aren’t you too old to be taking dolls to camp?” Touya help up Kero, dangling him by one leg.
“Uh… I put it in by mistake…” Snatching Kero-chan away, Sakura hid him behind her. Kero sighed in relief.
“Well, don’t get lost in the mountains. I did when I was in middle school.”
“Nothing. Really, no ghosts. Of course, we thought there were ghosts at that time…”
Just then, the phone rang. Sakura didn’t get to ask how they were found.
The next day finally came, and the Seijou Junior High second year classes boarded the buses in numerical order, on their way to the Kumatori mountains.
“Hmm. Did I bring everything?” Tomoyo pondered as she rummaged through her bulging duffel bag.
Sakura, who sat next to her as usual, laughed. “What would we need? We have to make the ‘best use of the natural surroundings.’ Rika-chan, you look happy.”
“I am.” Rika smiled. Terada-sensei was now teaching in junior high school, so he was one of the teachers supervising the trip. Too bad he wasn’t their homeroom teacher. Maybe next year…
Meilin wailed from across the aisle, “Wai! I don’t want to go!”
Naoko, who sat next to her, said, “Don’t worry. The ghosts won’t come out unless you are lost. Just make sure you don’t get lost.”
“Hoe-e! No ghosts!” Sakura wailed in unison with Meilin.
Upon reaching Mount Kumatori, the students filed out of the school bus and climbed up a part of the mountain. The head teacher in charge then announced, “Here, we are going to set up our tents first. Go into your groups and try to set up the tents on your own. If you have any trouble, come to me or any of the other teachers in charge.”
Soon, they were all busy at work.
“Meilin, grab that end. Tomoyo, steady it. Here I got this,” Sakura said as she hammered in the pole and pulled it tight. She brushed her bangs out of her face.
Finally, Sakura’s group set up the tent, but after a few seconds, the tent poles wavered, then collapsed again. “Oh no!” They all sighed in exasperation. They had to start all over again. At least the others were having as much trouble.
Syaoran scowled fiercely. Eron was getting on his nerves as he continuously flashed smiles at everyone. He didn’t even want to think about sleeping in the same tent as him. He hammered down on the poles so hard, that the tent tilted over and collapsed over him. People around him tittered and Eron laughed and offered him a hand. Untangling himself from the canvas, Syaoran brushed it off and stomped off to the woods. There, he climbed up the tallest tree and stayed there for privacy. Of course, Meilin searched for him, as usual.
At last, everyone’s tents were set up with all their sleeping bags snugly inside. The sun already sank low. Several groups combined to sit around a fire. They were roasting marshmallows as they chattered. Sakura patiently turned her stick around; round and round and round so that the marshmallow would not burn. Hmm… Mizuki-sensei hated marshmallows. Suddenly, her marshmallow caught fire and Sakura was petrified. “Hoe-e! My marshmallow’s burning!”
“Shake it. Hey watch where you wave it, stupid!” Syaoran dodged as Sakura waved it dangerously near his head. Sakura instantly shook the stick and the fire died off, smoking.
“Look at my marshmallow! It’s all burnt and black and I can’t eat it!”
Eron offered Sakura a perfectly browned marshmallow on his stick and said, “Here. You can have mine. I don’t really care for sweets, anyway.”
“Arigato, Eron-kun.” Sakura blissfully ate the marshmallow, crispy on the outside and gooey inside. Syaoran was fuming so much, that he did not even notice that his own marshmallow had burnt crisp until the whole stick fell apart.
“You burnt yours! Here have mine!” Meilin said and shoved a burnt one into it into his mouth. Syaoran choked and burnt his mouth.
“Water,” he gasped. Quickly, he grabbed a water bottle and gulped it down.
“Hey! That’s mine.” Erika exclaimed.
Syaoran choked again and spit the water back into the bottle.
“Ew!” Everyone exclaimed.
Takashi began to clear his throat, “What we are doing here will be a very valuable experience. In the ancient tribal day, boys coming of age were sent off to the wilderness with nothing, absolutely nothing to survive for a year. If they did survive in the wilderness, they were accepted as respectable and courageous men, and if not, they were failures left to die. It was almost like how family clans sent their boys to accomplish a mission vital for their family, and if they failed, they were disgraced as the black sheep.”
Syaoran groaned inside. He had experience. Of course his mother didn’t show it, but she had been disappointed in his part of getting the Clow Cards. I am not a failure. Or so I think. I am a failure. Was all that training in vain? Whatever would my father think of me?
You have helped Sakura. That’s all, but it may amount more than anything. Fiddling with the zipper of his khaki jacket, he stared into the crackling fire. The boys had khaki jackets made out of weatherproof material, white shirts, and tan pants. The girls had similar khaki vests with white shirts, tan shorts and white knee socks. They all had matching hats and bags. Takashi was about to continue of family honor, but Chiharu said, “Lies! Stop making things up!”
Just then Eron interrupted, “Nope, it’s all true. My family used to have things like that.” Looking at Syaoran he asked, “You’re from a Chinese family, aren’t you. Don’t you have missions like that? If I know correctly, you are from the ancient lineage of the Li clan.”
The ancient lineage of the Li clan, descendant of Clow Reed. Syaoran sighed again, staring into the depths of the blazing red. Sakura shot him a look of sympathy. She would have gladly given him all the Clow Cards, but he would not accept it, and it was not possible.
Takashi exclaimed, “Wow, I think I’m gonna like you, Chang-kun. There was nobody who understood me since Eriol-kun left.”
By that time, it was getting late in the night and it was completely dark. Naoko said, “Now, let’s tell ghost stories.” She held her flashlight underneath her face, creating goulish effects.
“No, let’s play truth and dare,” Tomoyo said. This was more agreed on, since most of the girls shirked from the idea of ghosts, especially in the mountains, during the nighttime. “Does everyone agree.” They nodded. “Li-kun?”
“Whatever,” he mumbled.
“Who goes first?” Rika asked.
“How about doing rock, scissors, paper?” Chiharu suggested.
They did it, and it singled out on Meilin. “Nooo. I don’t wanna go first.”
“Nope! You gotta. Now everyone, who tells a lie or does anything dishonest will be haunted by the ghosts of this mountain. I’ll ask first,” Chiharu smiled devilishly, “Truth or dare?”
“Okay. What do you most want to say to Li-kun? Remember the ghosts.”
“Hey, that’s stupid!” Syaoran exclaimed. He hoped Meilin wouldn’t make a fool of him as always.
Meilin quivered a moment. Long ago, it would have been something like, I love you Syaoran, but now? She murmured, “Syaoran, do not hide yourself from the truth. You try not to be a fool, but you are fool. She has a name, you know.”
“Hey that’s not fair,” broke in Naoko. “You are making no sense.”
Chiharu said, “It is fair. She did say it. Syaoran, do you have any clue what she’s talking about?”
Syaoran said in a soft but deadly tone, “Yes and no. This is a stupid game.”
This tone kept anyone from badgering on the issue.
Meilin said, “Okay, now I said it. I pick Chiharu-chan to go next.”
“I pick dare,” Chiharu said.
Tomoyo said, “Hmm… Go up to the one you like and tell him you love him.”
“I-I don’t like anyone.”
Sakura said, sitting on the damp ground and hugging her knees, “That’s kind of harsh. How about just saying why she loves him, without saying who it is.”
Chiharu turned red and stammered, “Ahh, I love you… because…” She looked down and said, “Though you don’t look me as anyone but an annoyance and pain in the butt, I still like you because you were my friend for a long time and you were always there. I like you even if you have so many odd faults…” she added silently, and I like you even if you named the bear I gave you Suama, and not “Chiharu.”
Sakura sighed, as clueless as ever, “Oooh, that’s so sweet. Who ever it is, will be warmed if they hear it.”
“I take dare, also,” Takashi said. He opened one of his rarely open eyes to look at Chiharu who was really red, then smiled one of his innocent smiles.
Eron smiled, “I dare you to go up to the girl around this circle that you like the best and kiss her.”
Syaoran muttered, “He’ll never do it.”
Takashi laughed and said, “I’ll do it.” He went up to the surprised Chiharu and gave her a peck on the cheek. She turned into a tomato. Takashi then said, “In France, they kiss friends every time they meet each other and they think it’s normal; so I just chose Chiharu-chan because I knew her the longest.”
Chiharu felt a trifle disappointed, but still was blushing.
Eron murmured, “I meant to kiss on the mouth…” No one heard him.
“Hoe-e! Do I have to?”
“Yes!” Everyone shouted, except for Syaoran, who was absentmindedly drawing Chinese letters on the soft ground with a brittle stick, muttering, “Fire, water, wood, earth…”
Rika asked, “So what should Sakura-chan’s dare be?”
Takashi asked, “What is your deepest, darkest secret?”
Dismayed, Sakura stammered. Of course, her biggest secret was the business about being a Sakura Card Mistress and all… but there was no way that she could say that. Also, she couldn’t lie because maybe it was superstition, but if one lied around the campfire, they would be cursed. “Hoe-e…”
“Isn’t that intruding privacy?” Tomoyo asked to defend Sakura.
“No, she must say the truth. Everyone’s supposed to,” Erika said.
Being at loss of what to say, Sakura held her breadth. Then she gazed at what Syaoran was writing in the dirt. To her surprise, she could still read the Chinese characters because of the spell he had cast on her before. When she read it, she gasped. That was it! He was trying to help her out and had written, tell something about Yukito-san. It is a part of the bigger secret.
Taking a breadth, she began, “Well,” she cleared her throat. “There was this older guy that I used to imagine I was in love with. I liked him for several years, though I did not know why. I found out that he was more than who he was, but I still liked him. Finally, I confessed my feeling for him, and he rejected me. He said that my feeling for him was only like the feeling for my dad; he said that there would be someone else who would be my first one. At first, I was crestfallen, but after a while, it didn’t matter anymore, because… because someone was always there for me and helped me feel better.” She broke off strongly. It had been so long since she thought about that incident. At least she hadn’t been lying, since the whole thing was a part of the bigger secret. Yet, I didn’t mean to say the last part. It hurt her since she said it so strongly and uncaring. I guess that it is a big secret still. One I will always remember. In a flash back, she remembered about Syaoran comforting her when she was crying so bitterly about her rejection from Yukito-san… No, Sakura, stop thinking about it.
“So, did you find who your first one was?” Chiharu asked.
Sakura smiled sadly, “I don’t know. I used to think that I did, but I am totally clueless now.”
“Of course you’ll find someone, Sakura-chan!” Tomoyo exclaimed.
“Well, Li-kun next.”
“Eh? Do I have to do it?”
“Yes!” Everyone exclaimed. “Truth or dare.”
“Ah…” Syaoran thought. Absentmindedly, he rubbed out his writings on the ground with his foot. Sakura better thank me; I saved her from a great deal. Also, I saved my own butt. She is so innocent she would not lie about the Clow Card business. Then, where would I be? Well, now… he had so many secrets, he would never be able to admit anything. “Dare.”
“How about making him confess his love?” Erika asked.
“I don’t have any love in my life, currently,” Syaoran interrupted.
“Umm…” He was going to deny it, but… “Maybe.”
Eron grinned wickedly, “I know. You see that single flower up there on the top of that tall tree? Well, go up and pick it for that person you used to love.”
Everyone gasped. That was too hard, since the straight tree was one of the tallest and thinnest in sight with hardly any branches. “Are you too scared to do it?” Eron sneered.
Snapping Syaoran said, “I’ll do it.” First, he took off his jacket, then took a deep breadth. Climbing trees for him was as natural as going to sleep. He then grabbed the frail trunk and started up. The whole group watched him. Starting to sweat Syaoran looked down. Everything seemed so far away. This was hard work, since he had to sort of wriggle up with nothing to grasp in the darkness. Finally, he was almost at the top. He saw the white blossom, pure and bright against the dark sky speckled with millions of stars. As he reached out, the trees swaggered. The trunk was weak and the branch, which had the single blossom, was just out of reach. Syaoran reached further. The tree swayed. What am I doing? Am I actually picking this for a person that I used to like? Or is it because I don’t want Eron to patronize me?
In the bottom, a spectacle had gathered. The sensei called, “Li Syaoran! Come down at once!” Syaoran was oblivious to this all. He never gave up. Shifting slightly, he put one foot on a weak branch and leaned a bit further out for the flower. Just as he grabbed the flower, the branch snapped, with a crack! Sakura shrieked, and everyone covered their eyes. Meilin gasped.
Yet, Syaoran wasn’t the pride of his family for no reason. He didn’t even lose his head. Swiftly, with his suppleness, he jumped off that tree to the branch of a lower one beside it. From there, he did a flip and landed on the dirt ground on his feet, with perfect coordination. Everyone was awed and clapped their hands. Not for the first time, girls sighed romantically, including Meilin and Erika. Eron just frowned. Syaoran brushed the dirt off his clothes and suddenly felt a power of wildness soar inside him. Then he cringed. He hadn’t meant to jump off like that. After all, what normal seventh grader could jump from tree to tree? God, now people would think I’m weirder than I already am.
Terada-sensei was angry and scolded, “What were you doing, Li Syaoran? Don’t you know it’s dangerous? You could have fell and broken bones, or died!”
Syaoran stared back with grave amber eyes clouded, “I’ve faced greater and more perilous death before. I can deal perfectly well with the beauty of nature, unmarred from the evil forces. I’ve been climbing trees since I learned to walk. I apologize if you were worried, though.”
For some reason, the sensei felt compelled and shuddered. Ever since he had known him, Li Syaoran was not an ordinary kid. He knew too much; seen too much for an average boy. “Well, don’t do anything like that again.”
Soon, the crowd wandered off, and the original group gathered by the fire again. They were silent for a while.
Meilin said reproachfully, “That dare was too dangerous.”
“I’m fine, Meilin. It was nothing,” Syaoran said carelessly.
Erika asked, “Well, what happened to the flower?”
Syaoran unclenched his fist to reveal a crushed, yet beautiful, pale flower.
Tomoyo asked significantly, “So, who are you giving it to?”
“I told you I don’t like anyone, anymore.”
“You said you will give it to the person you used to like, “ Eron murmured.
Looking up, Syaoran stared into Sakura’s eyes, which reflected the flickering flames. His lips curved in a sad, whimsical way, though Sakura found it hard to see exactly in the dark. Then he threw the flower into the fire. They could see the dark outline burn and crumbled into ashes. Suddenly, Sakura shivered. Briefly, Syaoran stood up. “Well, I’m tired. I’m going.” Something had happened during that past few minutes and everyone sat silently for a moment. The wind howled. Snuffling the campfire, they headed back to their own tents. The game wasn’t finished.
That night, Sakura was sleepy and snuggled inside the sleeping bag. An owl hooted and bats fluttered about in an uncanny way. She squirmed in discomfort.
“Are you guys sleeping?” she asked.
“No. I hate this place. I can’t sleep because of the noise,” Meilin grieved.
“Meilin-chan, what were you talking about in truth or dare?” Tomoyo asked.
“None of your business.” Man what did she say? Syaoran is a fool? “Oooh, I wish I’m home or that Syaoran was here. He always makes me feel better.”
Eventually, the other two fell into sleep, but Sakura tossed and turned for a good many hours.
The next morning, Sakura woke up just before dawn. Scrambling to put on her shoes, she walked out of the tent. She heard some distant whacking and panting noises. In the dim light, she walked through the forest as she pulled her hair back from her face. There, as she thought, Syaoran was practicing kicks and punches against a sturdy tree trunk. Quietly, she watched from under a shaded tree.
Syaoran continued to punch the gnarled tree truck with his bare fist. Without turning around, he asked, “What are you doing here?”
Instead of answering, she said, “That must hurt.”
“Not if you get used to it, like I have.”
“Do you always do this? Practice? You must be very diligent.”
“Well, not exactly. I’m just trying to keep in shape.” Wiping his head with a towel he turned around and walked towards her.
“You’re lucky you’re so good at fighting. I never learned.”
“Do you want to learn? I’ll teach you sometime.”
“Really? I would love to learn.”
“Well at your service, anytime.”
“Thanks… How’d you know it was me?” Sakura asked curiously.
Almost chuckling, he said, “Don’t I always know? Anyway, what are you doing up so early? It will be hours before anyone wakes up.”
“I just felt like it.” She smiled. “Maybe it’s the mountain air.”
“Mountain air indeed. I didn’t sleep one wink last night.”
“You did too. You dragged your sleeping bag out and slept outdoors.”
“How’d you know?”
“I heard you. I couldn’t sleep last night, either.”
“Did ghosts haunt you?”
“Hoe! Of course not. I just couldn’t. Oh yes, thank you for helping me in truth and dare last night. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t write out that thing about Yukito-san in Chinese characters.”
“It’s all right. I had to help you or else my own identity would’ve been ruined as well. Or you might’ve been haunted by ghosts forever if you lied. Somehow, you’re business became my business, whether I wanted it or not.”
With that last sentence, they remained silent for a while. Resuming his practice, Syaoran started doing push-ups. Sakura started to stretch, also. There was to be a long walk ahead of that day so she wanted to get ready. Suddenly, she stopped and blinked. She was certain she felt a flash of power. Maybe she was mistaken. Shaking her head, she brushed it aside.
“Hundred!” Syaoran finished his push-ups and sprang up. Mysteriously, he said,
“What trouble will await today?”
“I hope there is nothing. Not here.”
“Who knows?” Syaoran tied his shoelace again. “Hey, you said you wanted to learn how to fight. How about right now? There’s still an hour or so before the others wake up.”
“Sure! What do I do?”
“First, tie your hair back and roll up your sleeves. You better take off your vest as well; it slows down movement. Take a deep breath and get into position.”
So, Sakura began her first lesson in hand to hand combat. Syaoran was an impatient, yet good teacher. Sakura probably learned more about fighting in an hour than most people did in a month.
“No! When you punch, you have to have to make a fist with your thumb out. If you tuck it in, you might break it when you hit someone hard. See, look at my fist when I punch.”
Demonstrating, Syaoran showed a thunder-punch with a tight fist. Shaking the damp hair out of his eyes he said, “Repeat!”
Panting, Sakura repeated the punching straight drill for the hundredth time. Boy, did she have respect for others that could do it for hours. Her arms were aching, and she was already beat. Luckily, she was already athletic and nimble from the before. Even though her arms were throbbing, she continued the drill, for she did not want Syaoran to think that she would give up after the first lesson.
“Again! Punch with your knuckles and hit straighter and with more force.” Maybe I’m driving her too hard. Still, Syaoran was filled with respect for Sakura’s ability to go on. She was pretty good for a beginner. Finally, he said, “Okay, that’s enough for today.”
“Wow, I didn’t know this was so hard.”
“Well, you did say that you wanted to learn.”
“I don’t regret it. Well later on I won’t, but right now… I do!” Sakura shook the glossy bangs framing her face and retied her hair. She looked up uneasily at the sky, with grayish clouds swirling together. The birds had ceased to sing and the forest was unusually silent. With a sudden draft of forceful wind, a tree branch started to creak.
“Watch out!” Syaoran shouted.
Sakura stared up just to see that a great tree branch was crashing down right above her. Paralyzed, she was rooted to the spot.
Quickly, Syaoran jumped up and knocked her down with him, and they rolled over together to the side. The branch crashed with a thud on the spot Sakura had stood just a moment ago, arousing a cloud of dust. If it had been a second too late, she would have lain there, crushed underneath the force. For a moment, Sakura lay on the dirt floor to catch her breath. Her heart was thumping, but she couldn’t get up because Syaoran was entangled with her. The dust settled over them. Without realizing it, she reddened. He’s holding my arms so tight. I can’t move or breathe. Why doesn’t he let go? He doesn’t even care for me…
Syaoran sighed in relief since they were both safe. To his annoyance, his head was mashed against Sakura’s hair, which smelled like the sweet fragrance of spring flowers. He was still gripping her arms tightly, and he felt as if he had been holding his breath. He had an impulse to just close his eyes and lie on the soft ground. Nature suited him. Wait, why am I still gripping Sakura so tightly? She’s safe now! Why isn’t she moving away? But I can’t let go. I feel as if I let her go, I’ll never see her again. It’s been so long since I’ve been this close to her, held her in my arms. God, I have to get up.
“Syaoran!” A cutting voice rang through the forest, Meilin emerged from the trees, to see the shocking sight of Syaoran entwined with Sakura, on the ground.
“Li Syaoran! What are you doing?” More like “what are you doing with her?”
Abruptly, he sprang up with a half blush and straightened his shirt. Sakura sat up, still dazed at what had happened. Frowning, Meilin circled her.
“Meilin, it’s not what you think. I—the branch,” Syaoran broke off. Meilin glared at him, warily. “You see, the branch, it cracked, and I—uh—she was under it, and I, and I kinda saved her. Yeah, that’s what happened.” Wait, why do I have to explain the story to her. I did nothing wrong or bad. This is so stupid.
“Am I supposed to believe that?” Meilin asked. If it had been a different situation, she would have been inclined to laugh at the blushing and stammering Syaoran. It was funny to watch him get all flustered; he managed to be so cute.
“Do I ever lie?” Syaoran was back to himself again and the ‘angry scowl look’ took over his face. He was almost composed, now.
“Yes, you do. You never tell me anything and do things without me.”
“It’s ’cause you never wake up early enough.”
“Forget it. But what am I supposed to think when you are with her, holding her in the middle of the forest…”
“Meilin, don’t get hysterical.”
“WHY AM I GETTING HYSTERICAL? WHO JUST DISAPPEARED—”
“Meilin-chan, it’s true that Li-kun saved her from being crushed under the branch,” Tomoyo slipped out from behind a tree. “I videotaped the whole scene.” Then she blushed, “See, now that things are back to normal, there are so many things to video-tape! I’m so happy!” Oh, what fun it will be to record Sakura fighting from now on! Especially with Li-kun as a teacher.
Syaoran muttered under his breath, “Oh great. Now this whole scene is videotaped. Why didn’t I let her go immediately? Ahh… as always, I’m a fool.”
Meilin turned her head, “Humph. Whatever. But, you, Sakura-chan, don’t go near my fiancé. I don’t understand what you two are doing here in the first place.”
“We were exercising. Training… whatever you call it. Wait a minute. Why am I saying ‘we.’ She invaded my privacy. I came here by myself.”
“Anyway what I came to say was come have breakfast.” Meilin stomped back to the tents.
Weakly, Sakura smiled up, “That was a close call with the tree branch. My head is still swirling. Well, thank you, again, Li-kun. You always manage to save me at the worst times. Sometimes, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Okay,” the teacher announced after breakfast. “Get into your groups and choose which track you want to follow. Remember to keep in mind that you have to follow the trail. Don’t wonder off into the woods and get lost. Well, have fun!”
Sakura’s group gathered. Tomoyo, Meilin, Erika, Eron, and Syaoran. “What trail do you want to follow?”
“What about Trail C?” Tomoyo asked.
Everyone agreed. As they started up the mountain path, Sakura was jumpy with all the beautiful surroundings. They were supposed to collect nature items and write about them in their notebooks. Sakura kneeled down and picked a swaying violet flower from the ground. Tomoyo taped her. Meilin just stood, wrinkling her nose at the nature. “Disgusting! Look at all those bugs crawling around!”
Erika joined, running a finger through her fluffy, wavy hair that curled on her shoulders. “I know! They’re creepy.”
“Oh! That flower on the tree is so beautiful,” Sakura pointed and was awed by the nature. Immediately, Eron tiptoed and plucked the vivid blossom for her with a smile. Sakura accepted it with a blush. From the background, Syaoran clenched his fist and glowered. Then he stood alert.
The ground rumbled for a moment.
“Is it an earthquake?” Tomoyo asked.
“I don’t know,” Sakura cried out. “Look, the sky!” The sky was starting to get overcast and dark clouds massed together. A deep rumbling of thunder echoed throughout the woods.
“A storm! Is there time to get back to the tents?” Erika asked. Great. A storm.
“No! We have to run for shelter or something before we get all soaked.” Syaoran said. Few raindrops started to plop down on them. “Come on!”
They all started to follow Syaoran. Rain started to pour harder. They blindly ran down any path. “Look, is that a cave up there?” Tomoyo asked.
“Yes! Let’s get there,” Sakura said as she squinted through the rain.
Meilin said dubiously, “It’s awfully steep. Do we have to climb up?”
“There’s no other choice.” Sakura took a lead and started to climb up the slippery rocks. The others followed. Erika cautiously climbed up as well.
“What kind of horrible situation is this?” she nagged. Suddenly, she slipped on the slippery stone.
“Ow!” Erika slumped on the floor. Everyone gathered around her. “My knee!” Syaoran pushed his way through and took out a handkerchief. Quickly, he bent down and dabbed gently at the blood and bound Erika’s knee up tightly.
“Here. I tied it up so that it won’t bleed until we get to the cave. Do you think you’ll be able to walk up to there? I’ll put some medicine on it when we get there.” Syaoran looked up at Erika through the damp chestnut bangs that hung into his eyes. Erika blushed and sat with her heart thumping. A new type of feeling flooded through her as she sat on the wet ground and she looked up with bright eyes starry, as she stammered some words of thanks.
Clearing her throat, Meilin said, “Ahem. Let’s go before we are all completely soaked.” Sakura and Tomoyo helped Erika up and let her lean against them as they walked towards the cave.
“Achooo! I’m all wet!” Erika slumped onto the dry cave floor. Meilin plopped down next to Syaoran and squeezed the water out of each of her soaked pigtails. Syaoran rummaged through his bag and took out some ointment and bandage. Gently, he untied his handkerchief and rubbed some ointment on Erika’s scraped knee; then he bandaged it with white gauze. Erika gazed at his supple hands. That hand wielded the Li clan sword.
Meilin was disgusted by the way Erika was flushing over Syaoran. Not that she said anything. After he finished, Syaoran lay back and gazed out at the pouring rain. Sakura crept to the end of the cave and sat there. Luckily, it was one of those caves with a shallow back. If it were one that had a dark, endless back… she shuddered at the thought. Another thunder rumbled and she clenched her eyes shut and covered her ears.
Tomoyo said worriedly, “I hope it stops raining soon. We’ll have to get back.”
Eron said, “Do you think that is our only problem? We are lost.”
“Lost?” Sakura squeaked.
“Yes. In our hurry to find shelter, I believe we ran out of the trail. I have no clue where we are right now.”
“Lost! What are we going to do?” All the stories about ghosts flooded her.
“There’s no need to panic. When it stops raining, we’ll find a way out.”
“Oh my gosh! We’re lost after all those warnings! Oh no!” Sakura trembled at the consequences. Lines cleaved on Syaoran’s forehead as he pondered.
Erika frowned, Eron, what do you mean by saying we are lost?
Don’t worry, sister dear. We’ll find our way back, Eron replied.
Cursed storm. Out of all times, there has to be a storm just now.
It’s all right. We’ll still send one of our powers out. Then we can always find out way back.
Let’s raise the level one step higher today. They are improving.
Sure. Whatever you wish, sister. So what should we send out today?
What about the…
Around the blazing flame,
The hour has struck,
That they will call each other’s name.
Bestowed from the star is all the luck
To lean on each other with the bond of trust,
And conquer the evil that will leave their hopes in dust.
Part 2: Till the Sunrise
Around the embers,
The hour has past.
Two pairs of eyes, one of emerald, one of amber,
Gaze straight at each other at last.
With all their souls they pray it’s not too late,
To cease the endless curse of hate.
“Look! It stopped raining!” Sakura bolted up and looked out. Sure enough, it was damp and gray, but at least the storm was not brewing.
“Wow, it really did! I wonder how everyone else endured this storm,” Tomoyo said. She was tired of sitting on the damp stone floor, without anything to tape.
“Well, we better get out and start finding our way. It would get dark if we wait too long,” Eron said. “However, I think that it is not wise for all of us too go out. Two of us should go out and try to find the track, then come back and get the others. That saves everyone some trouble. Besides, I don’t think that Erika’s leg is good enough to wonder about on. I think I should be one of the ones to go out, because I’m pretty sure I can find my way back easily, and my navigation skills are pretty good. Who else will come with me?”
Everyone except Syaoran murmured in agreement of the plan.
“I don’t want to go out in the mud. I’ll stay here,” Meilin announced.
“Well, I’m not crazy about going out in the mud, myself. Erika is hurt, so that leaves Li-kun or Sakura-chan to go with you,” Tomoyo said.
Syaoran scowled. He would hate to face Eron.
“Actually, I would prefer having Syaoran-kun stay with me. You see, he’s really good at healing and bandaging wounds, and if my leg gets worse, it would be better to have him with me than Sakura,” Erika said, giving a significant look at Eron.
“Okay, it’s settled then. You don’t mind finding the track with me, do you, Sakura?” Eron was secretly pleased with the arrangement, himself.
“Oh huh? Yeah, that’s fine.” Sakura had been to busy fuming and as she clenched her fist, she was boiling. Syaoran-kun, indeed. Erika barely knew him. And it took me almost a year to call him by his name. Now, it’s back to Li-kun, while she, she… “Hey, wait, Eron-kun! I’m coming!” Grabbing her bag, she followed Eron out of the cave, almost slipping on the mud. Erika smiled smugly. Syaoran was busily crumpling up his assignment paper, thinking he planned it. That creep, Eron planned out to go with Sakura, alone.
As they trotted down the rocky mountain, searching for a path, Sakura gazed sideways at Eron. He certainly is handsome, with the straight nose and melting smile. I like the way his dark hair flows into a ponytail. Not many guys can get away with that hairstyle, yet he looks good in it. Plus, he’s tall, athletic, smart, and well mannered. Eron turned to her. His hazel eyes were very startling, though. Those golden specks make him look so mysterious, as if he has some big secret. I guess I hardly know anything about him. She cleared her throat and gathered enough courage to start a conversation.
“So, where did you live before you came to Tomoeda district?” Sakura asked.
“Oh, here and there. My sister and I traveled around all over the world, before we came back here.”
“Came back? Did you live here before?”
“Huh, ummm. Only a short while when we were young.” Actually, I lived here in another life time. This is my first time back in this form—but, there is no use in telling you that.
“Well, if you traveled a lot, you must miss all your friends. It will be interesting to go to many places and learn all sorts of things, but I would hate to part with all the people. Parting with people always hurts me.”
Friends? What friends? More like betrayers. People have hurt us before, though. Erika and I only exist, in search of vengeance. Instead Eron smiled and said, “Well, I guess that might be for you, though it never troubled me, now that I think about it. It’s only Erika and me; we have each other.
“But what about your parents?”
“Parents? We don’t have any, not since we were born. Only the servants.”
Sakura looked down. “I’m sorry, flooding you with all these questions and blabbing on about private things. I’m so inconsiderate.”
At this, Eron grinned.” Don’t worry. I don’t mind at all. It’s only predictable that you would be curious. Plus, I enjoy talking to you.”
Looking up again, Sakura smiled back brightly. “I just hope that you stay here for a long time, and not leave. We can all become friends.”
Eron halted and gazed at the smiling girl. She was no different from any other girl, except that she was supposed to have some of the greatest powers of magic in the modern world. Also, she was related to them, and the person to take revenge upon. Yet, the enigma of her enchanting emerald eyes and lithe form made him grasp his chest, where there should be a beating heart in a usual person. Don’t worry, I won’t leave this place for a long time. Not before you and your protector are gone…
Sakura stopped as well. “Is anything wrong, Eron-kun?”
“Eh? No, I’m fine. Yeah we can all become friends.” The word tasted bitter in his tongue. “Uhh—I think that we should go… this way.” He pointed to the wrong way, on purpose.
“Really? I thought it was that way. Oh well, maybe I’m wrong.” Sakura followed.
Slyly, Eron grimaced. The action starts… NOW! He snapped his fingers.
Syaoran bolted up, letting all the paper and materials clatter onto the cave floor.
“What’s the matter, Syaoran-kun?” Erika asked.
Tomoyo met his glance with questioning eyes. He nodded gravely. Sakura was in danger.
“Eron-kun, are you sure we’re going the right way? It’s so dense and thick here, I can’t see through the bushes. And it’s so slippery because of the rocks.” Sakura brushed aside another branch that whipped at her face,
“I’m so sorry. It’s just a little further. Do you want me help you? Here, I’ll try to clear the bushes out of your way. Really, I should have let you stay in the cave. This is no place for a girl to wander through.”
For a moment, Sakura lost her footing on the bumpy ground, entangled with tree roots and shrubs. It was almost as if the rock beneath her feet were alive. Quickly, Eron grabbed her hand and steadied her. Sakura blushed. He’s so gentle and polite. Even after she steadied herself, he didn’t let go of her hand. Her heart pounded harder. What’s the matter with me?
Awkwardly, Sakura said, “It’s okay now. I have my balance.”
Eron looked confused for a moment, then dropped her hands, startled. “Oh!”
They resumed walking through the tangle of woods. The rocks underneath Sakura moved. Together with the loose stones, Sakura fell and tumbled down the steep side of the slope, skidding faster and faster. A dishevel cloud of dust arose with the dislodged rocks. In some distance, she could hear Eron call, “Sakura!” but soon, his figure disappeared. The rocks cut into her skin and her body was getting scraped from sliding down the rough mountain on her side, falling and falling. Occasional branches whipped at her. Clenching her eyes, Sakura waited to hit the treacherous bottom. This is the end.
Syaoran felt like screaming from frustration. He knew that some force was out there, and Sakura was facing it all by herself. Yet, he couldn’t just go out to help her, because he couldn’t arise suspicion from Erika. Besides, he didn’t even know where she was. Meilin was frowning, too. Eron and Sakura had been gone for an awful long time. Yet, she didn’t know what danger Sakura was in. Meanwhile, Erika smiled smugly. Let’s just hope that Sakura would be destroyed.
Some time later, Sakura opened her eyes and blinked a several times. Where was she? Then she remembered. She had slid off the side of a steep slope. Well, at least she seemed reasonably alive. I hurt too much to be dead. At once, she tried to get up, but fell down on her back again. Ouch, I ache all over. Her whole body felt bruised and cut up into pieces. Well, in a way I am shredded. Her clothing was ripped up and torn, while she had lost one side of her shoe. The red tie around her neck had become undone, and her shirt was stained with blood. Forcefully, she heaved herself up again. For a moment, she wavered, then she stood. Dizzily, she stumbled over to a tree and leaned against the trunk. She felt her head. Oww, I think I have a concussion. If she had been more alert, she would have felt the rocks heading her direction. At the last moment she turned around, to see stones hurtling at her.
Stifling a scream, she tried to run, with her bare foot blistering from sharp rocks. The whole ground of the mountain was unstable and continued to wobble and contort so that she couldn’t walk straight. Is the ground actually moving, or is it because I hurt my head? A stone pounded at her shoulder. Wincing in pain, she continued to run, ignoring the large purple bruise swelling up. As she came up to the edge of the mountain, she halted. This won’t do. I have to fight back. She grabbed the necklace from under her shirt and drew out the key.
“Key that hides forces of the star! Show your true shape to me! I, Sakura, command you under the contract! Release!” Deftly, she blocked the rocks with her staff. Now, what am I going to fight it with? This won’t last for long. I know! I’ll freeze it! But before she could use the card, she flayed and rocks hurtled at her, full speed. She dropped her staff and inched back, taking one step too far. The rocks crumbled underneath her, and she fell off the cliff.
“NOOO!” Syaoran gasped. Sakura, I’ve got to get to her. To the three girls, he said, “You guys, I’ll be right back, okay? Just stay here.” Then he ran out of the cave.
Erika called out, “Wait, where are you going; don’t go!” She frowned. It wasn’t going the way that she had planned. How does he know when she’s in danger?
A few seconds later Tomoyo slipped out as well, “I’ll be right back, too.” She then ran out with her video camera. Of course she couldn’t miss the action.
Syaoran panted as he blindly ran through the forest. Where is she? He just ran directly to where he could feel her aura, ignoring all the branches and bushes in the way. “I have to get to her!”
Desperately, Sakura grabbed with one hand at a root sticking out from the side of the cliff. There, she dangled helplessly. Gravel and rock poured down at her and pounded down. Her hand cramped and ached as stone bits cut into it. I can’t… hold on much longer. My arm, I can’t hold on to this root any longer, it’s slipping… There’s no one, no one here to help me. No! I’ve got to hold on. If only I had my staff, but I dropped it somewhere on the top. Now, there’s only a few seconds left. I have to hold on. Slowly, Sakura lost her grip and let go of the root. Now, I’m going to fall… anyone! Otou-san, onii-chan, SYAORAN!!!
She let go. It’s too late… it can’t be the end, can it?
Around the ashes,
The legacy of the twins stand
Ready with a hundred more biting lashes.
Yet if love walks hand in hand,
And never lets go during the perilous fight,
It may overcome the impossible with its might.
At that moment, a hand grasped hers. Rocks and sand tumbled down to the far off bottom, while Sakura dangled in the air, with a supple hand supporting her whole body weight. Her heart wrenched, and she opened her clenched eyes.
After she caught breath, she stammered, “Is that you, Li-kun? It can’t be. Am I already dead?”
Syaoran managed a weak grin and said, “Silly, it’s me. Until now, I never believed that there was something called ‘just in time.’ I thought it was only in books. Now, I believe in anything and thank my lucky stars. Here now, hold on. I’ll get you up now. Give me your other hand.”
Sakura thought her breath would stop all together, but she tried to remain calm and lifted up her hand. Her head was swirling and she refused to look down at the distant bottom. Just then the rocks renewed their attack and hurtled themselves at Syaoran’s back. His hold on her hand loosened, then tightened again. "Come on, give me your other hand.” Syaoran’s voice was strained, yet composed, as he reached down his other hand.
A slab of rock furrowed out from the side of the cliff and grabbed Sakura’s leg, trying to pull her down. Syaoran’s body was pressed down at the edge of the cliff, and he started to slide down as well, but he didn’t let her go. I’ll never, never let you go. I still remember that time when I let go in the same situation, and thought I lost you. Luckily, Cerberus saved you that time, but now, it’s only me. This time, I’ll never let you go and never let you out of my sight.
“Just let me go. You’re going to fall as well if you hold on to me. It’s okay, I’ll survive, somehow.” Sakura could see the strain that Syaoran was under. Most people wouldn’t have been to endure it so far.
“No! Sakura, I’ll never let you go. Just hold on tight and I’ll get you safe. Trust me.”
Sakura looked up at Syaoran’s determined face as he clenched his teeth tight. Swallowing a lump in a throat, she whispered, “Thank you, Syaoran.” She would fight to live, as well. With new vigor, she kicked at the stone snake, which grabbed at her ankle. Her other shoe and knee sock both slipped off it. Taking the opportunity, she tread on the rock and managed to throw up her other arm, which Syaoran caught deftly. Syaoran wrapped his legs around a tree trunk at the edge of the cliff, so that he wouldn’t be dragged down by Sakura’s weight. By then, his back was numb to the rocks pounding at it, and he only focused on helping Sakura up.
“Here, I managed to get my foot a hold in the side of the cliff. If you hold my arms, I’ll be able to come up.” When Sakura was almost up, another rock snake grabbed at her ankle, yet Syaoran grabbed her tighter and boosted Sakura up to the top. She sighed in relief and collapsed beside Syaoran, trying to catch her breath. I can’t believe I’m on solid ground again. As I dangled from the cliff, I wasn’t even terrified. I was completely blank. What might have happened if he didn’t come? I don’t even want to think about. He seemed so composed up there, but now, I can see that he is sweat soaked and trembling. Then she got up again tiredly. “We have to seal this thing.”
Syaoran stood up as well and moaned because his back was one big mass of bruises. He picked up Sakura’s staff and handed it to her. Another attack of the sharp rocks came at them. With a fist, Syaoran started to punch them off and they burst.
“Ouch, doesn’t that hurt? Here, I’ll use the Freeze.” She drew out another card. Quickly, she swerved around at the renewal of attack. “Freeze!” Immediately, everything froze… including Syaoran. Then she sealed it. “Spirit of the dark forces. I, Sakura, command you. Return to a new shape of contract! Sakura Card!”
All the surroundings returned to normal, and another card landed in her hand. Syaoran cracked from the ice. “Hey! You could’ve spared me, you know,” he shouted.
Sweat dropping, she said, “Hoe-e, my mistake. Here. You can have this card. The Rocky.” Sakura handed over the card, decorated with a rock snake with, surrounded by hurtling rocks.
“No, it’s okay. You have it.”
“No you have it. I have a card called the Stone, anyway, not to mention the Earthy. Anyway, what is the difference between them?”
“Well, the Stone turns things into stone, the Earthy dishevels the ground, while the Rocky hurtles rock and moves around rock.”
“Oh. Sigh, I guess your level of education was better. Still, you have it.”
“No, you keep it! I don’t want it!”
Uh oh! Another argument. But, it was worth going through half the woods to tape it. Tomoyo sweat-dropped from a tree. Now that Sakura was safe, she was relieved. Well, they’ve come a long way since Syaoran tried to take away the Clow Cards from her. Now they’re fighting by offering it to each other. Man, do those two even realize that they called each other by their names again? Both stubborn beyond measure, the shoved the card back and forth. But with Sakura’s great persistence, Syaoran ended up with the card.
Eron, why didn’t you make the Rocky more powerful? We could have ended Sakura.
Dear sister, it is too early. We can play with them first, and then make them suffer twice as much. Our power is still weak, but it is getting stronger. Soon enough, it will be stronger than ever. Eron then looked sad for a moment. It’s a pity, isn’t it?
What? That we couldn’t conquer them?
No. Do you notice anything different about those two?
So? What is your point? You’re acting very strange, Eron.
Never mind. It’s just nonsense. Well, we did make them suffer a lot. Hmm, you should see how they look right now. Awful. Eron broke out laughing, yet his eyes were sad.
“Well, I think we better just find shelter and wait till the morning, before we try to find our way back. It’s getting dark and we are more lost than ever.” Syaoran brushed the dirt off his clothes and groaned because of his back.
“I guess we can rest under a tree or something,” Sakura said. Just then her stomach rumbled. She groaned, “Thinking about it, I haven’t had anything to eat since this morning. Hoe-e! And what if there are ghosts in the wood! Nooo!”
“And what if we never find our way out of here? We could be completely lost and fade away into skeletons. Like those people in the ghost story. We will never be found and…” Syaoran put on an aghast, overreacting face.
“Sheesh, I’m just joking. What I worry about is all the bruises and cuts we have.” Then, Syaoran looked slightly amused. “Man, you look awful.”
Sakura scowled. “Thanks a lot. It’s not like you look that hot either.”
Having been through all the events that day, Sakura was in pieces. Both her feet were bare, and her vest was gone. Most of her shirt was ripped into shreds by branches and rock, splattered with some dry blood, while her hair hung tangled and loose down her back. Her shorts wasn’t much better, not to mention all the cuts, bruises, bramble scratches and dirt. Yet, she added with great enthusiasm, counting off her fingers, “Actually, considering that I have been caught in a storm, gone through a thick forest, slipped down more than half the mountain, almost fell off a cliff, not to mention being attacked by rocks, with a concussion on my head and being lost, I’m in a great condition to be at least alive!”
“Humph. Always optimistic aren’t you. At least I have all my articles of clothing on me. How are you going to walk barefooted? And umm… I think you better cover yourself up more.” Syaoran raised an eyebrow at Sakura’s torn shirt. “Here, have my jacket.”
Gratefully, she accepted the loose jacket, which was only slightly ragged and put it on. “Uh—thanks.”
“It’s okay. Come on, let’s find a place to stay at. It’s dark now.”
Soon, they settled under a great oak tree. Sakura gathered the sticks, and Syaoran made the crackling campfire.
“Look! Here’s a little stream,” Sakura exclaimed and she immediately rolled up the jacket sleeves and started washing her face. Both of them washed most of the grimy dirt off their faces, hands, and minor cuts, which was extremely refreshing.
RUMBLE. Sakura wailed, “PLEASE! I’ll die of hunger. Any food out there?”
“Well, it won’t do for you to die now, after all that hardship I had to save you. Hmm, are you that desperate?” Syaoran asked, bemused.
Syaoran took off his shoes, then his socks. He then rolled up his pants and his sleeves.
“What are you doing?”
“There’s a stream nearby.”
“A stream means fish.”
“Yup! Yummy, slithering, smelly fish. You did say you were desperate.”
“So fish it is! I’ll catch them with my hands.”
Carelessly, Syaoran stepped into the icy brook and immediately caught silvery, slimy fish by clapping his hands over them. Wrinkling her nose, Sakura shook her head and reluctantly decided to help.
Pretty soon, she was holding in her hands a steaming fish, cooked over the campfire with a stick and wrapped in some herbs and plants that she had found. With a bunch of wild berries (not the poisonous ones) it was a fairly good meal. Sakura and Syaoran wolfed down the flaky white meat, as if they have never eaten anything more delicious.
“You know, Syaoran-kun?”
“The fish isn’t that bad.”
“See, I told ya you would eat anything when you’re starving.”
“But… It’s just the eyes. I just can’t stand seeing the bulging fish eyes.”
For a while, they were silent and stared into the fire. The only noise was that of hooting owls and occasional rustling from wild animals. Hugging Syaoran’s jacket tighter around her, Sakura tried to stifle a moan. Really, I’m not used to sliding down the mountain plus, almost falling off a cliff. All the bruises and cuts I have burn like fire. Plus, my head feels so wobbly. It’s so hard to just sit up. My shoulder is throbbing because I got hit by rocks. She looked up at Syaoran, whose eyes were cast down. I wonder how he’s faring right now. He got hit by many rocks, trying to keep me from falling, so he shouldn’t be feeling much better. Yet, he’s not complaining. I should be brave to and not complain either.
“You’re so stupid,” Syaoran said, suddenly.
“If you’re hurt a lot, you should tell me, not just keep quiet. Well, I’m stupid, too. I should have looked after all your injuries first. I’m in a bad enough condition myself, think how wounded you must be.”
For a moment, Sakura stared at him, confused. How does he know that I’m injured? Then she felt the side of her head. Wet… which meant blood.
He glared half at himself, and half at her. “How could I have not noticed before? You must have lost a lot of blood, since it hasn’t been bandaged earlier.”
For a moment, he fumbled around for some sort of bandage. Finding none, he sighed and took off his shirt. Sakura gasped. “Really it’s okay! You don’t have to use your shirt for bandage. My head’s fine.”
Narrowing his eyes, he asked, “Do you see any other suitable bandage?”
“Then, I guess it will have to be my shirt. We certainly can’t use your shirt, or my jacket, can we?”
“And I’m sure you don’t want to use my socks, and anyway it’s too small.”
With this, Syaoran proceeded to tear up his cotton shirt into strips of bandage.
Soon, Sakura’s head, shoulder and ankle were bandaged. There were still several more strips left over of his shirt. Sakura winced at all the cuts that were now revealed on Syaoran’s back. It’s all cause of me. If I didn’t fall off, he wouldn’t have been hurt trying to rescue me. She blurted out, “You have to bandage your back. It’s all bruised and cut up.”
“It doesn’t matter. Go to sleep now.”
“No. You’re hurt because of me. I can’t stand it. Here, I’ll bandage it for you.” Sakura gathered the bandage and smoothed it out.
“I’m fine! It’s none of your business.” Syaoran tried to turn around, then winced because his shoulder ached.
Without further ado, Sakura moved beside him and wet a pieced of the cloth to gently wipe his cuts and the blood stains. Funny, if this was a year ago, the sight of blood will have made me nauseous. Now, it is of the least importance. Well, who would have ever dreamed that I would be in such a situation, anyway, bandaging Syaoran’s back? She proceeded to bandage his back tightly and ended with tucking the loose end in. He flinched when her hand touched a slash on his back. Carefully, she smoothed out the bandage on his back.
Why’s she doing this for me? Why would she care whether I’m hurt or dead? Syaoran blurted out, “Why?” Sakura stared back blankly. He continued, “Why are you doing this for me. I’m fine by myself. You don’t have to nurse over me like I’m some sort of invalid!”
Looking down, she said, “In the first place, you got hurt while saving me, and I want to do at least this in return. Besides, you’re my friend, or at least I count you so. It hurts me when you’re hurt.” At this, her voice cracked. I can’t start crying now. I’m not a baby. She continued, “You’re always helping me. I want to help you, too.” Sakura bit her tongue. She would make no references to the past, though. The past is the past. Maybe because of exhaustion from that harsh day, or maybe because of the injuries on Syaoran back, a tear plopped down, soaking through Syaoran bandages. What am I doing? I’m so stupid. She quickly wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
Syaoran turned around and looked concerned, trying to reach out a hand and say something. Instead, Sakura interrupted, “No, I’m not going to cry and be weak. There are so many dangers out there, and somehow, I have wound up in the middle of them. I ask, why me? Why not someone else? But, I have decided to accept my role and try my best. Sometimes it’s so hard that I wanted to give up, but no, I’m going to face whatever obstacles come along. Look how far I’ve come, with the support of my friends. Even though there is a new enemy, even if there are days worse than this, I won’t cry.” She swallowed a sob.
Suddenly, Syaoran clasped her into a tight hug, squeezing his arms around her. She gasped. Then, he whispered into her ears, “Why do you always try to exceed yourself? Crying doesn’t make you weak. Though I don’t want to admit this, sometimes, I admire your persistence and ability to go on. So, cry hard as you want, when you are exhausted and tired from all the hardships you face. It will make you feel better.” Sakura’s tears continued to well out. “But,” Syaoran paused. . God, I can’t believe I almost lost you. Still, you are safe, here with me. “Don’t ever cry because you feel lonely, because you are not alone, Sakura.”
Leaning her head against his warm shoulder, Sakura wept until no tears were left. I am not alone. Syaoran… After a long silence, she said, “Thank you. I don’t even know why I’m crying. Now, look what I’ve done. I’ve got all your bandages wet.”
“It’s all right. Thanks for the bandage. Now, stop worrying and try to sleep,” he said gruffly.
With a small smile, Sakura glanced sideways at Syaoran, who was crouching and trying to rub his bare arms. He’s so nice. Her bandaged head seemed funny, but the blood had gradually soaked up and stopped. She felt better now that Syaoran’s wounds were better.
“Aren’t you cold?”
“Do you want your jacket back?”
With a sigh, Sakura leaned against the wide tree trunk and closed her eyes. What I’ve been through today is probably one of the most dangerous experiences. I really thought that I was going to die. I shouldn’t be relieved right now, since we’re still lost, but nothing seems to matter anymore. Not even that we are hurt, lost, with no food, hardly any suitable clothing, and we don’t know when we’ll be found. I wonder how Syaoran came to me just in time. Was it chance? Onii-chan said that there was no such thing as chance. Thinking about it, I actually called Syaoran, Syaoran, today, instead of Li-kun. Did he notice, or mind? And… he called me Sakura. For some strange reason, she suddenly felt like crying again. He was so caring and gentle. And he said that he admired me? His arms are always so supporting, ready to lean on when I am worn out. Maybe that is why I like him so much. Gradually, she nodded off.
Syaoran gazed at her sleeping form, not minding that his shirt was sacrificed as bandage. In a way, I am not the Syaoran that I used to be. The little kid who used to like Sakura, making an idiot of himself is gone. Those times seem so far away now. I have changed since I went to Hong Kong, and she has too. It seems as if I am getting to know her all over again. Why do I bother so much with her? I can’t seem to help it. I try to stay distant from her, god knows why, but it’s so hard. No wonder she wept, after all the hardships today. Why is all this happening to us, anyway?
“Wake up! It’s morning!” Sakura was extremely enthusiastic and buoyant as she shook Syaoran. She was trying to cover up her break down yesterday. Despite the aching and pain from her wounds, and the stiff neck from sleeping outdoors, she was feeling blithe.
Crankily, Syaoran blinked and stretched. “I didn’t sleep all night, and now that I finally did, you wake me up again. The sun’s not even up yet!”
“So? It’s still morning! Don’t you hear the birds chirping and the clear, dawning sky?” Taking a deep breadth of the tangy mountain air with the fresh scent of pine and earth, she sighed blissfully. Shading her eyes with her hands, she looked into the distance, “Look! The sun’s going to rise soon. It’s going to be beautiful!”
Syaoran also stood up and gazed into the distance as the sky turned from dusk to rosy pink then stared at Sakura’s joyful face. “Hey, do you want to see something? Follow me.”
He led her to the high mountain edge. As they emerged from the woods, Sakura gave a gasp at the gorgeous view. Spread wide across were the mountain peaks tinted crimson with the fiery sunrise. It was like seeing the whole world transformed, as the blazing light crept through the dark. As the dazzling sun rose out from the luscious green mountains, vivid colors emerged throughout the whole valley. Sakura grabbed Syaoran’s arm, jumping up and down. “It’s wondrous, Syaoran-kun!” She didn’t even notice that she was speaking his name.
“So you like it? Although we had some trouble here, I thought this cliff would have a great view in fine weather. Guess I was right.”
“I love it! Seeing such a beautiful things makes me want to fly.” Sakura stretched out her arms and was standing dangerously near the edge.
“Well, don’t you go jumping off cliffs. I’m not going to risk my neck to save you again.”
Sakura turned around with a smile as radiant as the sunshine, and at that moment, the golden sun was shining directly behind her and highlighted the wisps of hair that danced crazily around her face. Instead of watching the view, Syaoran watched her blithe figure. As she stood at the edge of the cliff, the whole world radiated behind her. It’s a new morning. For the first time, his scowl eased and the corners of his eyes were peaceful. He almost looked like another person. Sakura caught the almost wistful expression, which she never saw before.
“You called me Sakura yesterday,” she suddenly said.
“Yeah? What’s so special about that? Your name is Sakura, and my name is Syaoran, a perfectly fine name. My father named me small wolf, since wolves are always lonely, thought they don’t show it on the outside.”
“But—“ Sakura thought about all that while when they didn’t call each other’s name, after he came back from Hong Kong.
“You asked me before. Wasn’t it an agreement?” The corner of his mouth curved up. But why was it so hard for me to say your name again? It only springs out of my lips when I am about to lose you.
Looking down at the golden valley, Sakura remembered. In a similar situation, he had shouted her name, for the first time. He grabbed her hand, yet her glove slipped and she would have fallen, down to the void, but luckily, Cerberus saved her. Until then, he didn’t even call her anything. Yet, afterwards, she asked if she could call him Syaoran. They started calling each other by their proper names, which proved how much closer that they have gotten. Is this the same Syaoran that I used to know? Or is it someone different. Syaoran… your name has once more crossed my lips. She remembered; ‘Sakura, I’ll never let you go.’ His intense amber eyes and sincerity as he grabbed her hands tighter when she dangled off the cliff played before her eyes. He’s trying to make it sound as if it didn’t matter. Does it?
“What’s the matter?” Syaoran had noticed every change in her expression.
“Well, I forgot to say this to you last night, since we were both so tired, but… thank you. Thank you for all those times that you are there for me.”
For the first time in a year, Syaoran smiled one of his rare, true happy smiles. “It’s all right. You know what I like about sunrises, Sakura? It’s a new beginning of the day, Anything can await in the day, and it is a whole new day to forget the darkness of the night; it is something you can look forward to. Do I make any sense?”
“Yes, I think I understand. Even if the day before went wrong, the sunrise can bring another chance to mend all the hardships. You can face a whole new day to start over again. There is never a dead end if there is a sunrise. You can seize the day and…” Sakura gazed at Syaoran’s intent profile as he gazed at the sky taking the moment to see his face clearly. He still looked like the boy that she had first met with the same deep amber eyes and chestnut locks, which hung, into his eyes. Yet, in his teens, he looked older, more experienced and taller. Now, he was several inches taller than her with broader shoulders. She had grown, but so had he. His whole face seemed more mature and his chin a bit more lean; the careless grin changed his whole feature. Even the long scratch on the side of his face didn’t mar the straight profile. Still, they both had a long way to grow yet and change. And I can get to know you all over again, Syaoran and see who the real person hiding inside is. The end is a hated word, for I am helpless to do anything. Yet, if there’s a sunrise every day, I can always try harder and harder each new day. I know that we will face many more trouble, worse than anything that happened on this trip, but I won’t give up.
“I’m glad you understand what I mean. Some people don’t. Here, you’re going to trip on those rocks. Step back a little.” He held out a hand and Sakura leaned on it for a brief moment. From behind some trees, a certain boy and girl with golden eyes watched with a frown at the sweet angel and almost gentle, yet bold boy who balanced her. The blazing sun silhouetted their outline. Even further back, there was another girl, who busily videotaped in a major zoom with sparkling eyes.
“You guys!” Just then, the magic of the moment was ruined, when Meilin came running to them. “Wow, I finally found you guys. Where were you two? Everyone is frantic searching!”
From behind them, Eron and Erika appeared, as well as Terada-sensei and some other friends. Eron smiled and told the others, “See, I told you I would be able to find them.” He looked mighty proud of himself when the teacher praised him. Sakura sighed. No matter how perfect Eron seemed, she could never forget that he knew he was perfect, himself.
Meilin continued, “When Syaoran went out and Tomoyo-chan followed, only Erika and me were left. And then Eron came back, all worried, saying that you disappeared. We were all in despair, but finally, the teachers found us. Everyone else was safe, except for you two. We all split into search parties.” Then she paused for a breath. “Man, what happened to you two? You look… ummm terrible.”
Syaoran and Sakura both exclaimed, “Huh?” Then they turned red, thinking about what they would look like to the others. Syaoran: shirtless (showing the bruises and cuts all over his body and the bandage), ripped up khaki pants, with only one shoe on, scratched, dirt covered, bloody. Sakura: ripped up shirt, overlarge jacket which belonged to Syaoran, torn shorts, bare feet, blood soaked bandage on head, shoulder, ankle, scrapes, mud, and a leaf stuck to her loose hair, in result of sleeping on the ground. They both broke out in nervous laughter.
“Eh he he he…” There was a dead silence and everyone looked mortified.
Then, Terada-sensei frowned, “This is serious. Never did such a thing happen before in the autumn trip. You two must have had an awful time. We need to get you warmly dressed, nursed, and tucked in bed as soon as we get back.”
By this time, word had gone around that the missing students were fine, and a crowd of teachers and students had gathered. Someone lent Syaoran a spare shirt.
Sakura suddenly asked, “Wait! Where’s Tomoyo-chan?”
Frowning, Meilin replied, “Oh no! I didn’t see her since she ran out after Syaoran.”
There was a murmur of horror. Then an amused voice said, “It’s all right, I’m here.” With a rustle, Tomoyo came from behind a tree, with her video camera.
“TOMOYO-chan! What are you doing there?” Sakura exclaimed.
“Oh ho ho! Videotaping, what else? I couldn’t miss the great opportunity to tape our brave heroine and her valiant knight,” her friend replied, starry-eyed.
“Tomoyo… since when did you start taping us?”
“Oh, I don’t know, when Li-kun caught you from falling off the cliff? Anyway, everything was so romantic! And the ‘sunrise’ scene will become one of the most beautiful moments in the new movie about you that I’m making.”
“Don’t worry, though. Sigh. I fell asleep, somewhere in the middle. I hope I didn’t miss any significant parts. Yet, I do wish my video camera captured every moment, even while I was asleep. Do you know Sakura-chan, that you were leaning against Li-kun’s shoulder when you were sleeping—”
Sakura immediately blocked Tomoyo’s mouth with her hand, turning red. She hissed, “Do you want everyone to hear about what happened? Sheesh, you could have at least told us you were there.”
Smiling Tomoyo said, “Then, I would have ruined the setting.”
Sighing, Sakura concluded that Tomoyo was impossible. She felt cold, just thinking about all the things that Tomoyo could have heard and seen last night. At least people had stopped staring at her.
Soon, all Seijou Junior High students were back on the bus, on their way back home. It was almost as if nothing had happened, yet so much had happened in that trip. Maybe for the better. The voice echoed in her ears. ‘You are not alone, Sakura...’ Fiddling with her hair, Sakura blushed. What did he mean?
In the end,
The time will come,
When death seems just around the bend.
Things may seem hopeless for some,
Yet if you just wait until the sunrise,
You will be back to where the beginning never dies
Around the campfire.
Me (Part 1, Winter 1999): Okay, so this is yet another strange chapter. There is Part 2, which is still to come. I think my chapters are far too long, but I really can’t help writing. Hmmm. Erika and Eron are starting to blend into Sakura’s friends. Lots of competition ahead. Sigh… Meilin is as bratty as ever. Didn’t mean to make her like that. What’s with truth or dare? I don’t know… well, the title happens to be “around the campfire,” so they have to do something around the campfire. How’d’you like Chiharu-chan and Yamazaki-kun’s little sweetness? I guess not much happened yet. The next chapter is where the action starts taking place. Well, I don’t know what happens in the end of the CCS manga yet… that’s sad. But I sorta figured that Syaoran does admit he likes Sakura. (Don’t know for sure!) But anyway, that complicates things… That’s why I’m trying to make it as if they are starting over again. There I go again, blabbing on… So, what’s up with the poetry… is it retarded? It was just a sudden motivation. It’s supposed to have some meaning in it if you read carefully, That poem is continued in part two…Well, comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, any suggestions of what Syaoran’s father’s name might be? I have to write about the past, but I don’t even know his name. Well, keep your eyes open for Part 2: Around the Ashes, To the Light… Syaoran and Sakura finally… you’ll see.
Wish-chan (Part 2, Winter 1999): Sigh, I had this chapter completed weeks ago, but I kept on adding to it. So, Sakura and Syaoran finally call each other by their names, and Syaoran tries to act like it’s no big deal. You know why? Because he’s embarrassed. He he. I tried to make this chapter somewhat more… romantic, though not exactly. I warn thought, this chapter was meant to be S+S in its extremes. I’m not sure if any other chapter would be like this one. Who knows… Guess what? Have you ever taken an English course where the teacher tells you about the Beginning, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and the Resolution. Good news! Finally, the “beginning” has ended. Yup, all that was the beginning. (Gosh, how long is this series gonna be?) That’s why there is so much of this weirdness. I changed the title of this part to “Till the Sunrise.” I think you would have figured out why by the end. The dialogues are pretty significant!!! Next chapter would start focusing more on the plot and details and the past (I think) Oh yeah, congratulate me! I have actually thought out (almost) all of the difficult story of the past. Change my words. I’ve got the basic story. Man, it’s getting more and more complex. Now, I have to write it, but what sucks is that I still have a lot more to write about, before I get anywhere near telling about the past. Wait, does anyone know how old Syaoran’s oldest sister’s age is? Or what Syaoran’s mother’s age is? AND WHAT IS SYAORAN’S FATHER’S NAME? Please, comments at email@example.com.
Wish-chan (August 2012): “Chapter 4: The Camping Version 2.0” here. I joined Part 1 and Part 2, because I saw no reason not to have the two parts into one chapter, as they were meant to be, especially knowing that the later chapters that come along are much, much longer. Unlike the previous chapters, I didn’t have as a hard time editing this chapter, because I think it’s still pretty fresh in my mind as it may be my favorite chapter in Arc One. I remember I really enjoyed writing the camping trip. If I remember correctly, this was written perhaps around Christmastime 1999. It was funny also looking back and seeing when exactly I became “Wish-chan.” I did so in the middle of Chapter 4, changing from “Me/Author” to “Wish-chan.” I remember putting a lot of thought into a nom de plume, being stumped, and then choosing one with a gut feeling. Though it’s been my penname for a good decade, it does not yet feel like “me” because it’s not the type of name I would usually use. I would probably choose something flowery, Latinate or princessey. But in retrospective, I’m glad I chose a simple, short, meaningful name. Back then, I didn’t even know that CLAMP had a series called “Wish.” And it seems that many of CLAMP’s series deal with this theme of “wish” to an almost obsessive level. This moniker derives from a little sentence I wrote when I was twelve, “I wish a wish that is nothing but a wish, but the wishful wish inside of me.”
It’s been a while since I reread the “Campfire Poem.” I’ve written an awful lot of poems for New Trials for some reason and haven’t written any since. It’s a simplistic poem, but somehow, reading it brings me back to how I felt when I was writing this chapter. Giddy, like I was gazing into the campfire, excited about the rest of the story that was to come, a bit hesitant. I never planned on writing the poem, but I think when I was conceptualizing this chapter, the verses kept floating around in my head, and it flowed out to structure this chapter. I think it’s painful reading back to my “author’s notes” back then I sounded like a… teenager. Lol.
I finally completed a S+S fanart idea that I’ve been doodling since I wrote the chapter for the 13th Anniversary of New Trials. For me, this anniversary is significant because it marks that I’ve been working on this story for half my life now. It’s strange to think about it, but at the same time, I am just so grateful for everyone’s support. I wouldn’t be here without all of you who have read this little story.
Please join the thriving New Trials Yahoo Group, the center of discussion related to Card Captor Sakura, fanfictions, New Trials, etc., at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newtrialsring/ if you haven’t already. Latest New Trials fanart and other artwork by me can be found at http://wishluv.deviantart.com/ and visit my blot at for the latest updates at http://wishluv.blogspot.com/. Finally the latest chapters can be found at the new home of New Trials at http://www.wishluv.com.