Chapter 39: Impulse

 

¡°Sakura looks happy again,¡± Eron commented, walking up to Syaoran after soccer practice. Off to the corner, they saw Sakura laughing with her friends. It was the girls¡¯ cheerleading practice, and once again, Sakura dropped her baton onto her forehead after twirling it elegantly into the air.

 

¡°What do you care?¡± Syaoran said, not trusting the smooth expression on Eron¡¯s face.

 

¡°I care. I care a lot,¡± Eron replied.

 

¡°You¡¯re not playing with her, are you?¡± Syaoran demanded. ¡°¡¯Cause if you are, leave her alone.¡±

 

¡°What authority do you have over her?¡± Eron asked. ¡°She can do as she pleases without minding you. If I want her to be my girlfriend, she can be.¡±

 

¡°Well, I won¡¯t stand watching her go do you,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°I¡¯ll never let her go to a bastard like you, as long as she doesn¡¯t tell me, ¡®I hate every part of you Syaoran, and get the hell out of my life.¡¯¡±

 

Smiling, Eron said, ¡°I don¡¯t think it¡¯ll be as easy as that. We stand on equal grounds, Li Syaoran. The only thing you hold over me is that you knew her five years ago. Yet, that may almost serve as a disadvantage for you. Yes, she may think of you as a friend. And a friend you will remain, nothing more.¡±

 

¡°Why are you saying all this? I¡¯m sorry but I¡¯m not in the mood to listen to all your stupid rivalry emotions,¡± Syaoran said bluntly.

 

¡°I think it would be better for you if you listen to what I have to say,¡± Eron replied, his golden eyes sharp. ¡°I like Kinomoto Sakura. I plan on making her like me back. And unless you watch your back, you¡¯ll have to let it be.¡±

 

¡°If its comes to that, let it be,¡± Syaoran replied calmly.

 

¡°Stubborn,¡± Eron commented. Then, holding out his hand, he asked, ¡°Here, can you shake my hand and say, ¡®Good, I wish you all the luck with Sakura. I, myself don¡¯t have any feelings beyond friendship, and I can calmly watch Sakura become your girl.¡¯ Can you?¡±

 

Silently furious, Syaoran stared at Eron with hard amber eyes. What was this guy¡¯s motive? He didn¡¯t trust Eron one bit.

 

¡°You can¡¯t,¡± Eron concluded. ¡°You can¡¯t shake my hand because you like Sakura yourself. It¡¯s strange, isn¡¯t it? But this is why I see you as my main obstacle. So, I say, why don¡¯t we have a bet? We¡¯ll see which one of us she chooses.¡±

 

Through gritted teeth, Syaoran said, ¡°Sakura is not a toy, to be gambled over. Don¡¯t think you can get away with toying with her as if she were a doll you can take a fancy for, play with, then discard.¡±

 

¡°I never thought of her like that,¡± Eron replied. ¡°My feelings for her is not that of a child throwing a tantrum. And I hope yours is not, either. So, shake my hand and call it a bet, and let us fight straight and fair. After all, it will be Sakura¡¯s choice. If she chooses you, I¡¯ll cleanly step away without a word. If I do, I¡¯ll expect you to do the same. Or, if you don¡¯t want to shake my hand, you will just have to watch me use any method to get her from you, that is, if you do plan on putting up a fight for her—If this does occur, then I won¡¯t hide any means to make her like me.¡±

 

Narrowing his eyes in disgust, Syaoran said, ¡°You¡¯re really a demanding, calculating person, Chang Eron.¡±

 

¡°Well, so, you choose the fair and square deal, don¡¯t you?¡± Eron held out his hand.

 

¡°One thing for sure is that I¡¯ll never be beaten by you,¡± Syaoran replied, firmly gripping Eron¡¯s hand.

 

Slowly grinning, Eron replied, ¡°I warn you¡¦ Most girls find it hard to resist from my charms.¡±

 

¡°Sakura is not most girls,¡± Syaoran replied, picking up his side bag and swinging it over his shoulder, walking off from the field. That bastard Eron¡¦ I¡¯ll never let Sakura fall into his hands. No matter what it costs me.

 

¡°I¡¯m walking her home today. I hope you don¡¯t mind. I noticed that you often walked her home before,¡± Eron called out.

 

******

 

¡°Eron-kun? You were waiting for me? You didn¡¯t have to,¡± Sakura said as she walked out of the school gates. There was no one left in school. ¡°Sorry. I had to take a math retest.¡± She had failed the math test last week because she had spent all her time researching on the Phantom and no time studying trigonometry.

 

¡°It¡¯s all right. I had to finish a lab in the science room,¡± Eron replied. ¡°I didn¡¯t wait long. Besides, this will be the first time walking Sakura-san home.¡±

 

¡°Hoe-e¡¦¡± Sakura twiddled her thumb. It had really surprised her when Eron asked if he could walk her home earlier that day¡¦ In fact, Eron had been acting strangely for the past few days.

 

They walked together silently. ¡°Oh, Eron-kun¡¦ What you told me about friendship helped me a lot. Thank you.¡±

 

¡°No problem. I¡¯m glad you think I helped. I didn¡¯t do much you know,¡± Eron replied. ¡°Here, I¡¯ll carry your bag for you.¡±

 

¡°Hoe~ It¡¯s okay. It¡¯s light,¡± Sakura protested. Heedless, Eron took her bag.

 

¡°Remember when you told me you liked Li Syaoran this summer?¡± Eron asked suddenly.

 

Sakura¡¯s heart lurched.

 

¡°Do you still like him?¡± Eron continued.

 

Without replying, Sakura continued to walk down the street. ¡°Here. I¡¯m near my house now. You can go home now, Eron-kun. It¡¯s late.¡±

 

¡°I¡¯ll take you all the way,¡± Eron insisted.

 

¡°Ah, no, it¡¯s really okay.¡± Sakura smiled nervously. If they went any further, it would be too obvious that she was staying in Syaoran¡¯s house.

 

¡°Okay then.¡± Eron handed her bag back. ¡°See you at school tomorrow.¡±

 

¡°Thank you for walking me home,¡± Sakura said. She winked. ¡°It¡¯s my secret, but I¡¯m still a little bit afraid of ghosts.¡±

 

Laughing, Eron said, ¡°You are? I thought Sakura-san isn¡¯t afraid of anything.¡±

 

¡°Well, now you know one of my weaknesses. What¡¯s one of yours, Eron-kun?¡±

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ Let¡¯s see. ¡° Eron paused to think.

 

¡°C¡¯mon. I know you¡¯re not perfect,¡± Sakura goaded.

 

¡°Okay okay. I admit. I¡¯m a little bit paranoid about spiders.¡±

 

¡°You?¡± Sakura laughed. ¡°I can¡¯t imagine you being scared of spiders.¡±

 

¡°Hey, I¡¯m not perfect,¡± Eron protested. Then he added softly, ¡°I think I have a little weakness for Kinomoto Sakura, as well.¡±

 

Stop being this flustered, Sakura scolded herself. He must be joking. Out loud, she said, ¡°Ha ha¡¦ Am I as scary as spiders?¡± She knew perfectly what Eron meant. ¡°Wow, it¡¯s getting really dark¡¦ The days are definitely getting shorter. Well, I really have to go,¡± Sakura said, running down the street towards the apartment.

 

¡°Sakura-san, tell me, don¡¯t I have a chance?¡± Eron shouted at her back. Sakura kept on running.

 

******

 

Tomoyo, Syaoran, Miho, and Eriol gathered in Syaoran¡¯s apartment for a little reunion/party to celebrate the final conquering of the Phantom and also Eriol¡¯s return that evening.

 

¡°Sorry I¡¯m late!¡± Sakura exclaimed, bursting into the apartment, panting. ¡°I had to take a math retest.¡±

 

¡°How did you enter the door?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°Keys of course¡¦¡± Then Sakura remembered. Miho didn¡¯t know that she was living in Syaoran¡¯s apartment. ¡°Umm¡¦ I mean, it was open. Yeah.¡±

 

¡°If I knew that your retest would take so long, I would have stayed after and waited for you,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°It must have been scary coming home by yourself in the dark.¡±

 

¡°It was fine,¡± Sakura answered too quickly.

 

¡°Why is your face so red?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°It was cold outside,¡± Sakura replied, sitting down on the sofa.

 

Syaoran handed her a steaming cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and asked quietly, ¡°Who did you walk home with?¡±

 

¡°Eron-kun,¡± Sakura said. ¡°He stayed after longer because he had to finish a science lab.¡±

 

¡°Oh.¡± Syaoran sat down on the floor. ¡°I just came home half an hour ago because soccer practice ended late. You could have asked me to wait for you.¡±

 

¡°Well, if Sakura¡¯s home, did you guys make dinner yet?¡± Kai asked, coming in through the living room window. ¡°I¡¯m hungry.¡±

 

¡°Huh? Where did you come from?¡± Miho demanded.

 

Sighing, Syaoran said, ¡°He¡¯s my next door neighbor.¡±

 

¡°Really?¡± Miho had a horrified look on her face. ¡°Oh my gosh! I feel so bad for you Syaoran-kun.¡± Then she laughed. ¡°Joking, Mizuki-senpai. I think it¡¯s pretty cool that schoolmates are next door neighbors.¡±

 

¡°It will be cool if someone doesn¡¯t live off all the food from my kitchen,¡± Syaoran grumbled.

 

¡°Hey, it evens out,¡± Kai said. ¡°You like cooking, I like eating~¡±

 

¡°Eagle. Attack,¡± Syaoran ordered. Two simple words. Immediately, the puppy came leaping from underneath the couch and yapped at Kai¡¯s ankle.

 

¡°AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!¡± Kai screamed, jumping onto the table. ¡°Get that beast away from me!¡±

 

Calmly, Tomoyo videotaped this. ¡°Ho ho ho¡¦ Who would have expected the fearless Kai-kun to be scared of dogs?¡±

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ This puppy still looks like, Sakura¡¯s Wolfie-chan to me,¡± Miho said.

 

 

 

¡°You know, it¡¯s pretty amazing that you could release my staff,¡± Sakura commented after they had eaten yet another delicious dinner prepared by Syaoran. This time, it was simply curry rice, because it was the only food that could be prepared in large quantities in a short amount of time. Luckily, Syaoran did the dishes previously, so he knew where all the kitchen utensils were this time.

 

¡°It was you who threw the key at me before you turned yourself into a crystal. It was pretty amazing for you to think up such a thing when your heart was supposed to be frozen,¡± Syaoran said as he peeled apples for desert. Recalling his conversation with Eron earlier that day made him distracted. And he really trusted that guy even less. Something about their bet made him uneasy. He didn¡¯t notice that he was peeling the apple all the way down to the core.

 

¡°But you sealed the Crystal, also,¡± Sakura said. ¡°You know what that means? It means that maybe you might have become the Card Master¡¦ You certainly had the powers to.¡±

 

¡°No, Clow Reed over there (staring at Eriol) made you the Card Mistress. Besides, I must say, you were really great today,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°You were so composed and confident, never losing your head for a moment. You found the perfect way to conquer the Phantom and still not hurt Tomoyo. I think you make a really competent Card Captor.¡±

 

¡°Really?¡± Sakura asked, her ocean-green eyes brilliant. ¡°I¡¯m really happy. You know, this is the first time you¡¯ve said in words that you accept me as a Card Captor?¡±

 

¡°Eh?¡± Syaoran looked away and turning red. Yeah, he was famous for saying, ¡®but I still don¡¯t accept you as Card Captor.¡¯

 

¡°By the way, what are you going to do?¡± Miho asked. ¡°Your sword was broken.¡±

 

Taking out the hilt to his sword, Syaoran stared at it. ¡°It¡¯s all right¡¦ It¡¯s not the Li Clan¡¯s Five Force Sword¡¦ Luckily, it was only a practice one.¡±

 

Blinking with round eyes, Tomoyo asked, ¡°Now, don¡¯t tell me I broke that sword~¡±

 

Everyone looked in another direction. ¡°Oh ho ho¡¦¡± Tomoyo sweat-dropped.

 

¡°What¡¯s the Li Clan Five Force Sword?¡± Miho questioned.

 

¡°It¡¯s the most precious weapon in the Li Clan,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°And it¡¯s been handed down generation after generation to the Chosen One of the clan. It had been my father¡¯s before¡¦ Well, actually, my cousin, Li Leiyun wielded it for a brief amount of time, but he died¡¦ Then, it got passed down to me.¡±

 

¡°Why don¡¯t you have it anymore?¡± Miho asked, munching on a marmalade covered roll. The bitter-sweet orange taste agreed with her.

 

¡°Well¡¦ The Elder¡¯s needed it back to examine it or something,¡± Syaoran mumbled. He suspected the real reason was because the Elders, at least his eldest uncle wanted to appoint a new person to be the Li Clan Chosen One. Not that he minded.

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ but shouldn¡¯t the Li Council of Elders be impressed?¡± Eriol asked. ¡°After all, I reckon you must be near a Level One Magician by now.¡±

 

¡°Why does everyone always talk about ¡®level-something magicians¡¯? What is it supposed to be?¡± Sakura asked.

 

¡°There are many ways you can categorize magic. Sometimes you can categorize by type, such as elemental, sixth-sense, dark, etc. Another way to divide it up is by the level of power,¡± Syaoran said.

 

¡°To simplify things, there are basically five levels of power, Level Five being the lowest and Level One being at the top and very rare,¡± Kero-chan explained. ¡°I should have told you about it long ago, but¡¦¡±

 

¡°So, what do these levels signify?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°Nothing much. Just the amount of power you have. Level Five is the lowest level of magic you can have. Basically, it¡¯s just a little bit of second-sight, or a special feeling for magic, with no significant ability to use it. Tamemura Asuma, that horse-racing guy friend of Syaoran is an example. He has no specific powers, yet he has a special type of connection with animals, especially horses, and he can sense things when they are wrong. Sakura¡¯s father, before we found out that he was the other half of Clow Reed¡¯s reincarnation, and before he received half of Eriol¡¯s powers is another example—not enough magic to say that he has magic, but enough powers to sense things that are wrong,¡± Kero said.

 

¡°The main difference between Level Four and Level Five is that in Level Five, you have very little power born in you, and it will remain that way, while in Level Four, you have a chance of gaining and developing more power. Often, Level Four magicians have the power born in them, but are often hidden, or underdeveloped. Miho, you used to be Level Four,¡± Eriol said. ¡°And you to, Sakura-chan.¡±

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ That must be true,¡± Sakura reflected. ¡°I didn¡¯t discover that I had any special powers until I was ten, when Kero-chan gave met the magic key.¡±

 

¡°By the time we get to Level Three, it is a significant amount of magic¡¦ Level Three Magicians have enough power to materialize it into concrete form,¡± Kero-chan continued. ¡°Your brother, Sakura, Kinomoto Touya, has Level Three powers. It¡¯s not often that people with the Sixth Sense have such high powers, but your brother is one of the exceptions because he was able to converse with unearthly beings.¡±

 

Syaoran added, ¡°During your Clow Card days, you were Level Three, as well, Sakura. But your powers have developed more ever since then.¡±

 

¡°Humph¡¦ You were Level Three, too, when we first met,¡± Kero-chan told Syaoran. Then he quieted. Even he, Kero-chan had to admit that in the beginning, Syaoran had been a little more on top of things. Just a little. But, Syaoran had been training since early childhood. Sakura had her powers thrust on her when she was in fourth grade. ¡°Anyway, Sakura is a Level Two Magician now. Level Two magicians are really rare, because they have great amount of power and control. Though Level One is the most powerful, the main difference between Level One and Two is that Level One Magicians are really rare because they have no limits as to what they can do with their powers. Clow Reed, undoubtedly was a Level One Magician. Maybe even beyond that.¡±

 

¡°Then you must be Level One also,¡± Tomoyo said to Eriol.

 

Smiling, Eriol said, ¡°I¡¯m not sure. You must remember that I did give half of my powers to Sakura¡¯s father, Kinomoto Fujitaka.¡±

 

¡°I bet Sakura can become a Level One Magician once you defeat the Dark Ones,¡± Kero-chan asserted. Then, he pouted. ¡°Hey, Eriol, how come you told Syaoran that he is probably near becoming a Level One Magician~ No way that he has more powers than Sakura.¡±

 

¡°Syaoran was a Level Two Magician¡¦ Yet that incident with the Crystal vests greater power on him because he broke the rules of contract, yet still carried it out successfully,¡± Eriol replied. ¡°I specifically made that staff for Sakura, yet Syaoran managed to wield it successfully. This proves that he can reach beyond the limits.¡±

 

¡°Don¡¯t be disappointed, Sakura-chan. If that Brat is near Level One, then there is no problem in you surpassing him!¡± Kero-chan comforted, patting Sakura¡¯s back.

 

¡°Hoe-e¡¦ I don¡¯t care more or less what level I¡¯m in,¡± Sakura replied.

 

¡°What level am I in, Eriol?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°Three,¡± Eriol replied.

 

¡°What?! Only three?¡± Miho wailed.

 

¡°Well, you have a staff, but there¡¯s nothing much you know how to do with it,¡± Kero-chan said bluntly.

 

Shrugging, Miho sighed, ¡°Well, thinking about it, I don¡¯t really care more the less what level I¡¯m in, either. The only reason I asked Eriol to teach me magic is first to learn control, and secondly help me find my brother.¡±

 

¡°Does your brother have magical powers as well?¡± Sakura asked.

 

¡°I don¡¯t know,¡± Miho replied. ¡°I myself didn¡¯t know that I had any special powers until Kaho-san told me, and Eriol-kun helped to train me. I guess if he does have magic, it would be easier to find him.¡±

 

¡°We¡¯ll help you find him also,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°The Card Captor Detective Agency! Ho ho ho¡¦ Hmm¡¦ Why don¡¯t you tell us about him?¡±  

 

¡°Let¡¯s see¡¦ What do we know about him¡¦ He¡¯s was the captain of the archery club,¡± Sakura recalled. ¡°And he even won the National Competition.¡±

 

¡°Not that he wasn¡¯t already good at everything. Always getting the highest honors in his grade, class president¡¦ he was really smart. All the teachers and adults always praised him,¡± Miho recalled, squinting her eyes.

 

¡°Sounds like an awful goody-good to me,¡± Syaoran said doubtfully. ¡°A perfect role model boy.¡±

 

¡°Don¡¯t tell me you were much different, Syaoran,¡± Sakura teased. ¡°Meirin said that your old school is plastered with pictures of you from all the different awards you won for you school.¡±

 

¡°My old school used to be plastered with pictures of onii-chan too,¡± Miho said. ¡°¡¯The Great Tanaka-san¡¯ was his nickname. All the teachers would come up to me in surprise and ask me, ¡®Are you the Tanaka-san¡¯s little sister?¡¯ Because I¡¯m not really good at anything.¡±

 

¡°No, you¡¯re good at many things!¡± Sakura retorted, ¡°Such as¡¦¡± She sweat-dropped.

 

¡°It¡¯s okay. I accept that all the talent in my family went to onii-chan. I was really proud of him though. There were so many pictures of our family together¡¦ Yet all my family¡¯s photo albums burned down in the fire, years ago. I only have one picture of him left. Isn¡¯t that sad? All I have left of my brother is one small picture of him and me.¡±

 

¡°Do you have it with you?¡± Tomoyo asked.

 

¡°I always carry it around with me,¡± Miho replied quietly, slipping out a worn out picture. She stared at it hard, and then held it out for them to see.

 

Carefully, Sakura stared at the picture of Miho and her brother. Miho looked around 9 in the picture, with a childish delight in her face, and her hair was longer, plaited into two braids. Her brother seemed to around 11 or 12. They were both smiling in the picture, and there was a lighted, innocent happiness in Miho¡¯s sparkling clear gray eyes that was no longer present. Her brother¡¯s eyes seemed to be a shade of smoke gray, also, with a mixture of blue. He had striking eyes. And he had the most beautiful shade of golden-auburn hair, with a silky texture. ¡°Your brother had really nice hair,¡± Sakura commented in awe.

 

¡°Haha¡¦ People used to make fun of him by calling him ¡®shampoo-model boy.¡¯ It¡¯s unfair how he got the good looks¡¦ See, my hairs auburn too, but it¡¯s an ugly reddish auburn, while his is a rich, warm color.¡± Miho fingered her short hair ruefully.

 

¡°No, your hair is a beautiful color also. Just like Mizuki-sensei¡¯s,¡± Sakura said.

 

This produced a lopsided grin from Miho.

 

¡°So, this guys was really was a completely perfect person, regardless of brains, sports, looks¡¦¡± Syaoran commented. ¡°Can it really be that hard to find him?¡±

 

¡°I guess¡¦¡± Miho murmured. ¡°I haven¡¯t seen him in four or five years¡¦ He left home when he was around twelve. And mother was grief-stricken. She was already ill because of father was gone. And then our house burned down. All my beautiful memories with it. I think I would have burned down with that house, if Kaho-san didn¡¯t come and take me to England.¡±

 

¡°Where is your mother now?¡± Sakura asked.

 

Biting her lips, Miho stared down at the picture.

 

¡°Don¡¯t you know?¡±

 

¡°I¡¦ do know¡¦¡± Miho whispered. ¡°Kaho-san told me before taking me to England that my mother was receiving special therapy in the Kinhoshi Hospital, that she would be fine there, and that I can visit her any time I wished to.¡±

 

¡°The Kinhoshi Hospital is really near by from here!¡± Sakura exclaimed. ¡°You can visit your mother any time.¡±

 

¡°I know¡¦ but I can¡¯t. I¡¯m too scared to.¡± Miho stared up with tear filled gray eyes. ¡°I¡¯m so afraid. If mother doesn¡¯t recognize or remember me anymore¡¦ she didn¡¯t in the last few weeks I lived with her¡¦ Then, then I won¡¯t know what to do. Imagine, your own mother not recognizing you!¡±

 

¡°But Miho-chan. At least you have a mother. Deep inside, she loves you, even if her mind is burdened by all the tragedies that occurred in her life,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I¡¯d be glad to have a mother, whether or not she recognizes me. Just having a mother near by, within visiting distance would make me really happy.¡±

 

¡°I¡¯m sorry¡¦ I forgot that your mother was dead,¡± Miho said. ¡°You know, all of us here have very mixed up families. I sometimes envy those with normal families.¡±

 

¡°It¡¯s all the same,¡± Kai spoke for the first time. ¡°We can¡¯t be dependant on our family for the rest of our lives. It¡¯s just the same to learn early to become independent.¡±

 

¡°Mizuki-senpai, where is your family?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°A person who is accustomed to solitude has no use for a family,¡± Kai replied. Yet, his voice sounded so strained, that even Kero-chan had to raise an eyebrow.

 

¡°That¡¯s not true,¡± Miho retorted. ¡°The lonelier a person is, the more they need their family. I know this.¡±

 

¡°Tell me, what do you expect will happen if you do find your brother? Do you expect he¡¯ll be the same person? Do you expect you can go back to your happy, carefree childhood days?¡± Kai asked.

 

¡°No. I don¡¯t. I don¡¯t care if he¡¯s changed because my brother will be my brother no matter what. I just want to know if he¡¯s alive, safe, happy¡¦ and I want to know why he left. That¡¯s all. Is it so wrong to wish to find him again? Am I being selfish and a childish? Maybe I am. But let him tell me to face that he doesn¡¯t need his little sister anymore. Then, I¡¯ll be satisfied and stop searching for him.¡± Miho clenched her fist tight.

 

¡°Don¡¯t we¡¯re backing you up in this search,¡± Sakura reassured. ¡°Even Kai-kun will help, right?¡±

 

¡°Eh? Yeah.¡± Kai stared out at the black sky. Then quietly he said, ¡°I¡¯m sorry Tanaka-san. I didn¡¯t mean to discourage you or anything. My problem is that I¡¯m too blunt. I sincerely wish you luck in finding your brother.¡±

 

Miho smiled. ¡°Thank you Mizuki-senpai.¡±

 

¡°Well, we better be going back,¡± Eriol said. ¡°It¡¯s getting late.¡±

 

¡°I think my bodyguards can drop you and Miho off at your home,¡± Tomoyo said.

 

¡°How about you Sakura? You¡¯re not going to walk home by yourself, are you?¡± Miho asked.

 

¡°I—¡° Sakura sweat-dropped. I live with Syaoran for the moment, but I can¡¯t exactly tell Miho that.

 

¡°He he¡¦ You¡¯re really gullible. It¡¯s all right. You don¡¯t have to explain,¡± Miho stated. ¡°I already know. You¡¯re living with Syaoran, right?¡±

 

¡°HOE!¡± Sakura leaped back. ¡°Y-you knew?! B-but¡¦¡±

 

¡°You mean, you pretended not to know to torture us,¡± Syaoran said darkly.

 

¡°Ho ho ho¡¦¡± Miho giggled. ¡°But it was really funny¡¦ Ha ha. ¡®No, this isn¡¯t a cheerleading baton, it¡¯s a martial arts staff!¡¯ It was really hilarious!¡±

 

¡°AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!¡± Syaroan and Sakura screamed in fury. ¡°WE WERE STRESSED FOR NO REASON??!!¡±

 

******

 

Next day¡¦

 

¡°Two weeks left! When will we ever finish all the preparation?¡± Chiharu panicked. ¡°Sakura-chan, how did you ever memorize all your lines?¡±

 

¡°Hehe¡¦ I have no idea,¡± Sakura replied. She and Syaoran were one of the few who knew their lines perfectly. Yet, it was one of her fears that she might suddenly forget her lines on the day of the production.

 

¡°Tomoyo-chan! My costume doesn¡¯t fit!¡± Erika wailed.

 

¡°Tomoyo-chan, we can¡¯t get the harmony right,¡± a girl from the chorus said.

 

¡°Tomoyo-chan! What the lighting technician crew has no clue what they¡¯re doing,¡± the teacher said.

 

Sakura admired how well Tomoyo handled such a chaotic situation. Well, it was Tomoyo, after all. Only Tomoyo could look so unstressed and clam.

 

¡°Syaoran, you have to practice this dance scene with me!¡± Erika whined. ¡°We won¡¯t get it right on the opening night if you just skim over it.¡±

 

¡°How can you stand this racket?¡± Kai asked, adjusting his headphones over his ears and turning up his Sony discman to full volume. ¡°This is so boring.¡±

 

¡°But just watch every single work so hard, whether they are part of the costume making, scenery painting, orchestra, chorus, or actors,¡± Sakura said. ¡°It¡¯s amazing how much we can produce when we all work hard. And, I bet it will be more fun if you participate in it yourself. Then, on the production night, you will be able to feel proud of what you¡¯ve achieved.¡±

 

¡°I won¡¯t be very useful,¡± Kai muttered.

 

¡°He he¡¦ You know, I missed the auditions for Star-Crossed. But I still wanted to be part of the production, so I went around as a gofer, trying to find something to do,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I was so useless, not a single group wanted me.¡±

 

¡°How¡¯d¡¯you become the leading female then?¡± Kai asked.

 

¡°Well, Meirin-chan was originally cast as Juliet. But she had to return to Hong Kong¡¦ So, I practiced really hard for the auditions and somehow made it. But even if I didn¡¯t get the role, I would still have continued to work even in a small part. Because it¡¯s really fun to watch all the hard work pay off in the end.¡±

 

¡°Haha¡¦ So that¡¯s how you got to be Juliet. But Meirin was originally cast in that part? What a laugh.¡± Thoughtfully, Kai stared at the various groups of students, each doing their job. He slid his headphones off and sat up when he saw Tomoyo pass by. ¡°Hey, Tomoyo-chan~ I know there is only two weeks left, but is there anything I can do? Any little thing. To be part of the production.¡±

 

For a second, Tomoyo stared at Kai, who was trying to sound inconspicuous. Then smiling, she replied, ¡°There¡¯s many things you can do¡¦ Let¡¯s see are you good at music? Like playing any instruments or singing?¡±

 

¡°No,¡± Kai replied. ¡°I can¡¯t sing and I don¡¯t play any instruments.¡±

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ How about painting scenery. That can¡¯t be too hard,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°Yes, that will we good.¡±

 

Immediately, Kai was put to work with the scenery painters.

 

¡°Here, this is the backdrop for the Capulet¡¯s garden,¡± Naoko said. ¡°You just need to follow what everyone else is doing.¡±

 

¡°Eh? Okay.¡± Tentatively, Kai held dipped the brush into the green paint bucket. Then he painted a streak onto the canvas. He dipped again, in a different shade of green, then painted another streak. Afterwards, he didn¡¯t hesitate. For the first time, he forgot all about his image and began painting earnestly as he kneeled on the ground over the large canvas and fell into the rhythm of it. He painted without thinking and time fled by quickly.

 

¡°Wow, Kai-kun, that¡¯s amazing!¡± Sakura exclaimed, bending over Kai¡¯s shoulder. ¡°You¡¯re a born artist¡¦ Hehe¡¦ I guess it comes from stealing many famous art pieces when you were Kaitou Magician~¡±

 

Startled, Kai dropped his brush back into the paint bucket and stepped back. To his horror, he found that he had actually painted a fantastical garden, with lush rose trees and a beautiful fountain. The shimmering dew droplets painted on seemed like they would drop from the leaves of the verdant trees.

 

¡°It¡¯s really top quality artwork,¡± Sakura continued. ¡°You must have worked really hard on it. You have a paint streak on your face¡¦ Hehe¡¦¡±

 

¡°Cool~¡± Naoko exclaimed. ¡°That¡¯s really good!¡± Students came crowding around to see Kai¡¯s little masterpiece.

 

Nervously, Kai said, ¡°Ha ha¡¦ I didn¡¯t really do much¡¦ You know, this is really retarded. I think it would be better if I do this!¡± He swabbed black paint over the roses, then another streak, and another. Immediately, the picturesque garden turned into a gloomy, dirty-looking garbage dump.

 

¡°SHRIEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!! Mizuki-san! What have you done to the backdrop?!¡± the art teacher screeched as she saw the gloomy, dark mess that Kai had produced. ¡°This scene is supposed to be a beautiful scene, not a dark nightmarish scene! Stop! Put the paintbrush down. Go!¡±

 

 

¡°Hehe¡¦ It¡¯s okay¡¦ I¡¯m sure you¡¯ll be more useful than I ever was,¡± Sakura said.

 

¡°Hmm¡¦ Why don¡¯t you start by reading over the script then?¡± Tomoyo suggested.

 

¡°This thing?¡± Kai asked, holding up the thick script with two fingers, in horror.

 

¡°Miho¡¯s mother, Mizuki Miara wrote it when she was in school,¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°And Sakura¡¯s mother and Syaoran¡¯s father wrote the music~ Isn¡¯t that terrific? We¡¯re performing a musical actually written by students!¡±

 

¡°Is she always this wired up?¡± Kai asked Sakura, pointing at Tomoyo who was clasping her hands in rapture.

 

¡°You don¡¯t know anything,¡± Sakura replied.

 

¡°Sakura-chan! Get on the stage! The teacher¡¯s calling you!¡± Miho called from on stage.

 

¡°Oh, by the way, Syaoran-kun!¡± Tomoyo said as they practiced they acted out the last scene of Star-Crossed.

 

¡°What, didn¡¯t I get my lines right?¡± Syaoran asked. ¡°I said them exactly the way you told me to!¡± He recalled her pointers. ¡®Say your lines with passion and fire! This is the climax of the play!¡¯

 

¡°It¡¯s no that¡¦¡± Tomoyo said. ¡°I¡¯m just trying to say, in the real production night, you do have to make it look like you¡¯re kissing Sakura.¡±

 

¡°Wha-what?!¡± Sakura and Syaoran both turned red.

 

¡°It¡¯s okay to skip over the scene during rehearsals, but it would look really funny if Syaoran didn¡¯t even bend over anywhere near Sakura¡¯s lips,¡± Tomoyo pointed out.

 

¡°Okay, music!¡± Tomoyo called out to the orchestra.

 

¡°Why don¡¯t you practice now?¡± Miho suggested.

 

¡°N-no! It¡¯s okay¡¦ We¡¯ll just make it look realistic in the opening night. That¡¯s fine, right?¡± Syaoran said.

 

¡°Music?¡± the teacher called out. ¡°MUSIC!¡±

 

The students in the high school orchestra had been fooling around. Immediately, they straightened up and began playing the music. Somewhat, it didn¡¯t sound right.

 

¡°Hey, you¡¯re playing in D minor. You¡¯re supposed to play in D major,¡± Kai told the student playing the piano. ¡°Here. Read the music scores.¡±

 

¡°Eh?¡± The student eyed Kai critically. He didn¡¯t like being made stupid by a junior high student. To his friend, he whispered, ¡°Gosh, who¡¯s that? He thinks he¡¯s so cool. What¡¯s with those sunglasses and pieced ears. Humph¡¦ Telling off a high schooler. I know piano more than he does.¡±

 

Shrugging, his friend, the drummer, replied, ¡°Don¡¯t you know? That¡¯s Mizuki Kai. Everyone knows him. He transferred to Seijou Junior High few weeks ago. I heard not to mess with him. You know, he beat up some of the seniors last week and got suspended for that.¡±

 

¡°Really? A junior high student?¡± the piano student asked.

 

¡°Well, he looks older than even us,¡± his friend replied, picking up his drumsticks.

 

¡°MUSIC!¡± the teacher screeched for the last time. Instantaneously, the orchestra rang out the background music. Then, the teacher screamed, ¡°LIGHTS! LIGHTS!¡±

 

The students in the lighting and technician room fumbled with the switches. Different lights flashed on and off on the stage, none of the lights focusing on the actors.

 

¡°Can¡¯t you guys get it right?!¡± the teacher shouted into the mike. Her voice echoed throughout the auditorium. ¡°We have less than two weeks left! Two weeks!¡±

 

¡°Sorry sensei¡¦ But we don¡¯t know how to handle all the new equipment installed,¡± the student apologized.

 

Then, Kai bolted up from his seat at the back of the auditorium. ¡°I know! I finally figured out how to be useful. Every other detail is handled by everyone else. But there is one thing I¡¯m really confident in and better than everyone else. I¡¯ll become the lighting and technician man, and the best one ever!¡±

 

¡°Eh?¡± Everyone blinked at the enthusiastic Kai.

 

 

True to his word, Kai was a miracle for them. With his dazzling lighting and other enthralling special effects, he made the overall quality of the production quite professional. It was a change to watch Kai, who had sat back lazily for anything related to school, jump around here and there, working hard until honest sweat formed on his brows. There was tons of work to cram into a short period of time, and many students often popped by the auditorium to see Kai running from the stage back up to the lighting, adjusting cables, tangled cords, light beams, boom boxes, and experimenting this and that see what would be most effective for the fighting scenes, the ballroom scene, and the final scene. One in a while, Kai would swear out loud, slumping on the floor with a scowl, then snap his fingers and leap up again with new inspiration. In short, he amazed everyone.

 

¡°He really found something he can do the best in,¡± Sakura murmured as she peeped into the lighting room to see Kai sleeping sprawled over the Star-Crossed script, which was scribbled with comments like, ¡®light beam fall on Juliet¡¦ fade away¡¦ focus on Romeo. Glow effect.¡¯ Things that made no sense to any one else except Kai. Being the chief lighting and technician man was just right for Kai; after all, it displayed his skills from his Kaitou Magician days.

 

¡°And for the first time, he¡¯s working really hard,¡± Miho added, watching the sleeping Kai.

 

******

 

¡°Humph¡¦ Unfair,¡± Kai said later on in Syaoran¡¯s kitchen. ¡°How can you just leave me sleeping in the lighting room? You should have at least the decency to wake me.¡±

 

¡°Hoe-e. But you were sleeping so peacefully, I didn¡¯t have the heart to wake you,¡± Sakura replied, giving Kai another helping of beef stew.

 

¡°Yummy~¡± Kai helped himself to the steaming stew. Every dinner, he invaded Syaoran¡¯s apartment for dinner.

 

¡°Syaoran, have some more stew also~¡± Sakura said, heaping some more stew into Syaoran¡¯s plate.

 

¡°I¡¯m full,¡± Syaoran protested.

 

¡°I baked a chocolate fudge cake!¡± Sakura continued. ¡°Oh! And I bought cookies and cream ice cream to eat with it!¡±

 

¡°Yippee!¡± Kero-chan exclaimed.

 

¡°Now, Wolfie-chan, you¡¯re a card. You don¡¯t have to eat.¡± Sakura scooped up the puppy and twirled it round and round. ¡°But, you can eat anything you want, if you want to Wolfie-chan! Except chocolate. Chocolate is not good for dogs. But, you¡¯re a special force, so that doesn¡¯t matter, right?¡±

 

Sweat-dropping, Syaoran asked, ¡°Sakura¡¦ Are you okay?¡±

 

¡°Hanyaan! I¡¯m fine!¡± Sakura exclaimed, jumping up and down, ¡°Onii-chan, onii-chan, onii-chan is coming back back back with Yukito-san, Yukito-san, Yukito-san!¡±

 

¡°Oh? Really? When?¡± Syaoran asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

 

¡°Sakura-chan always has a habit of repeating things over and over when she¡¯s excited,¡± Kero-chan muttered.

 

¡°I got a phone call from him a while ago¡¦ He said he¡¯s returning next week.¡± Sakura clapped her hands. ¡°Onii-chan!!! I¡¯ve never been separated from my family so long! And I can go back home now, and onii-chan can make me hotcakes, and invite Yukito-san over!¡±

 

¡°I¡¯m sorry¡¦ Staying with me must have been a real drag,¡± Syaoran said a little stiffly.

 

Sakura broke out of her rapture. ¡°Syaoran¡¦ You know I didn¡¯t mean it that way.¡±

 

¡°It¡¯s okay. I understand that spending months with someone like me is not comparable to living with your family,¡± Syaoran said.

 

For some reason, the way Syaoran said this stirred something in Sakura¡¯s heart. ¡°Don¡¯t¡¯ mistake me. You don¡¯t know how grateful I saw for the past months. I— ¡°

 

To her discomfort, Sakura found Kai was staring at them, chin on hands, listening to every word.

 

¡°Don¡¯t you have anything better to do?¡± Syaoran asked Kai.

 

¡°Sorry I¡¯m interrupting the tense atmosphere,¡± Kai said, not sounding sorry at all. ¡°Continue. Pretend I¡¯m not here.¡±

 

¡°C¡¯mon! Let¡¯s have dessert!¡± Kero-chan exclaimed.

 

¡°Oh yeah, Syaoran, you still didn¡¯t tell me why you came to school so late last time, and what you were thinking for four hours,¡± Sakura said.

 

¡°Eh¡¦ Yeah¡¦ I¡¯ll tell you later on when someone isn¡¯t eavesdropping,¡± Syaoran stammered, glaring at Kai.

 

//BEEP//BEEP//BEEP//

 

¡°What¡¯s this noise?¡± Syaoran asked.

 

¡°Eh?¡± Kai opened his slim notebook computer and said with his mouthful of cake, ¡°UUMPGHPH!¡±

 

¡°Hoe?¡± Sakura said, ¡°Talk after swallowing.¡±

 

¡°I said, I think Meirin¡¯s in Japan,¡± Kai reiterated, quickly typing into his laptop.

 

¡°You must be mistaken. There¡¯s no reason she would be in Japan,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°She should be in Hong Kong right now.¡±

 

¡°I¡¯m never mistaken,¡± Kai replied, shutting his laptop.

 

¡°How do you know Meirin-chan¡¯s in Japan?¡± Sakura asked.

 

¡°Later~ I¡¯m going to meet her~¡± Kai said, swinging one leg over the window sill, then leaping out.


¡±WAIT! We¡¯re on the seventh floor!¡± Sakura shouted.

 

¡°Au revoir!¡± Kai called, safely on the ground and already on his motorcycle. Though he was helmetlesss himself, he had a spare helmet hanging off the backseat.

 

*****

 

Taking a deep breath, Meirin looked around her surroundings. Outside the Narita airport was bustling with people. It felt good to be back in Japan, even if it would be for a short about of time. She bent over to pick up her small duffel bag. Where did it go? ¡°AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I¡¯ve been mugged!¡±

 

What should I do, what should I do, what should I do? Meirin panicked. All her money had been in her bag! She didn¡¯t have any change with her, so she couldn¡¯t even call Syaoran. Besides, she wanted to surprise everyone. She gazed around her in vain; there was no one to ask help from.

 

¡°Do you need any help, young lady?¡± A smooth voice came from behind her.

 

¡°Well actually, yes. I¡¯ve been mugged, and I have no money on me and¡¦¡° Turning around Meirin gaped. The familiar slim, tall figure with the insolent smirk on his face, his eyes covered by pitch-black shades. ¡°Kaitou Magician!¡±

 

Grinning, Kai swung his arm over Meirin¡¯s shoulder. ¡°Long time no see, Meirin-chan!¡±

 

¡°Get you arms off me!¡± With expert skill, Meirin flipped Kai over. ¡°What are you doing at the airport?¡±

 

¡°Waiting for you~¡± Kai said.

 

¡°How did you know I was here, anyway? It was a secret,¡± Meirin said.

 

¡°Aren¡¯t all of your entrances always secrets?¡± Kai asked. ¡°Actually, I knew because of this.¡± He reached out and grabbed Meirin¡¯s left arm. From her wrist, a thin silver bracelet with strange engravings dangled from it. It wasn¡¯t merely a pretty accessory, but one that had a locating microchip attached to it. Bending down on his knees, Kai took Meirin¡¯s hand. ¡°I¡¯m touched. You still keep my little token.¡±

 

¡°You¡¯re the one who locked this bracelet onto my wrist so that I can¡¯t take it off!¡± Meirin exclaimed, snatching her hand out of Kai¡¯s hand.

 

In a hurt tone, Kai said, ¡°I thought¡¦ I thought you kept it for my sake.¡±

 

¡°Don¡¯t pull that hurt puppy look on your face! I know you¡¯re playing. And you know very well I like Syaoran the best.¡±

 

Leaning against his motorcycle, Kai asked, ¡°So, you still haven¡¯t straightened your feelings out? I thought the whole point of returning to Hong Kong was to tidy up your emotions. Why¡¯d you come back if you didn¡¯t?¡±

 

Sheepishly, Meirin twisted her jet black pigtail with her finger. ¡°Actually, I¡¯m not supposed to be here.¡±

 

¡°Well, you can tell your story to the others back at home.¡± Then Kai pointed to his motorcycle and said, ¡°Ride.¡±

 

¡°It¡¯s yours?¡± Meirin¡¯s reddish-amber eyes sparkled. It was true that the brightly polished black motorcycle was impressive. ¡°Humph. Why should I ride? For all I know, you¡¯ll kidnap me again!¡±

 

¡°Well, if you don¡¯t ride, how are you going to get home?¡± Kai asked. ¡°You have no other choice.¡± Taking out his helmet, he plunked it over Meirin¡¯s head. ¡°Wear this.¡±

 

¡°Hey! You¡¯re messing up my hair! How come you don¡¯t have to wear one?¡± Meirin demanded.

 

¡°¡¯Cause I don¡¯t want to,¡± Kai replied as a matter of fact.

 

¡°What kind of reason is that?¡± Meirin asked.

 

¡°I¡¯m responsible for your safety,¡± Kai said flatly.

 

This quieted Meirin as Kai swung his leg over his motorcycle. ¡°I never said I¡¯m going to ride,¡± she insisted stubbornly, though it was her childhood wish to ride a motorcycle.

 

¡°I know you¡¯re split between wanting to ride a motorcycle for the first time in your life and having to put up with the company of your ex-kidnapper,¡± Kai stated, as if reading her mind. ¡°Well, darling Meirin-chan. You have no choice. Either ride with me, or stay in the airport over night.¡±

 

Reluctantly, Meirin sat behind Kai.

 

¡°Now, hold on tightly!¡± Kai advised, turning on the ignition. ¡°I usually go at least 100 miles per hour!¡±

 

¡°What?! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!¡± Fastening her arms tightly around Kai¡¯s waist, Meirin held on for dear life.

 

¡°Scared?¡± Kai shouted over the roaring of the engine.

 

¡°N-no way!¡± Meirin replied through chattering teeth. She screeched when Kai accelerated. ¡°Where are you taking me?!¡±

 

¡°To Syaoran¡¯s apartment! Why, do you want to go somewhere else?¡±

 

¡°Just keep your eyes on the road!¡± Meirin replied. Why did I ever follow this jerk?

 

*****

 

¡°Do you like Eron?¡± Syaoran asked, after drying the last dish. It seemed unfair that Kai always escaped washing the dishes when he ate the most.

 

¡°Hoe?¡± Jumping, Sakura dropped the plate that she had been putting away. His questions were always so unexpected. The plate shattered on the floor. ¡°S-sorry. I¡¯ll pick it up.¡± Bending on the floor, Sakura gathered up the broken plate. A sharp piece cut her hand. She winced.

 

¡°Silly. You¡¯re so clumsy.¡± Kneeling down, Syaoran took her hand gently, and examined the cut. ¡°It¡¯s not a deep cut. I don¡¯t think you¡¯ll need to bandage it.¡± He dabbed the crimson blood that trickled out with his handkerchief.

 

¡°Oww¡¦¡±

 

¡°Sorry.¡± Syaoran pressed her palm to his lips.

 

¡°Hey, that tickles,¡± Sakura said. To her surprise, the pain from the cut disappeared with the touch of Syaoran¡¯s warm lips.

 

Refusing to let go of her hand, Syaoran asked, ¡°Do you like Eron?¡±

 

This time, Sakura couldn¡¯t brush away his words with a light laughter. She couldn¡¯t ignore the intensity of Syaoran¡¯s tone. Don¡¯t look at me like that, Syaoran. Don¡¯t look at me with those penetrating amber eyes. I¡¯ve never seen such a look on your face before. You look so serious. I feel scared.

 

¡°Don¡¯t hang around near him. I don¡¯t trust him,¡± Syaoran said.

 

Sakura tried to reply, but found she couldn¡¯t. She remembered how Eron had asked her with bright golden hazel eyes, ¡®Don¡¯t I have a chance?¡¯

 

¡°He¡¯s our enemy,¡± Syaoran continued.

 

¡°I know. But though he¡¯s our enemy, he¡¯s a good person. I can tell from the way he talks,¡± Sakura answered. ¡°And you were once my enemy, also, Syaoran.¡±

 

¡°I was your rival, not your enemy. It¡¯s different,¡± Syaoran replied.

 

¡°It¡¯s no different for me,¡± Sakura said, standing up and breaking free from Syaoran¡¯s gaze. To her discomfort, Syaoran still held onto her hand.

 

¡°Leave the broken pieces on the ground. I¡¯ll pick them up.¡±

 

Gathering up courage, Sakura said, ¡°Syaoran? If it mean that much to you, I¡¯ll tell you. I don¡¯t like Eron. At least, not in the way you mean. I just think he¡¯s a good friend to have.¡±

 

Syaoran was greatly relieved by these words. Then, he sighed. And he, himself was another ¡®good friend¡¯ of Sakura¡¯s. No¡¦ He had made up his mind. Up till now, he had always thought over things carefully, followed his clan¡¯s wishes, and found it hard to express himself in words. He found it easier to run away. From now on, he would just follow his impulse. ¡°Well, if you don¡¯t like Eron, then go out with me.¡±

 

¡°Hoe!¡± Sakura stood stunned.

 

¡°Syaoran-kun! Sakura-chan! We¡¯re back~¡± Kai exclaimed entering the house. Panting behind, in a disheveled state, Meirin followed.

 

¡°Huh? What¡¯s with this tense atmosphere?¡± Meirin asked, eyes flickering from Sakura to Syaoran, then to their hands.

 

¡°Sigh¡¦ I gave them some privacy so that they can sort things out¡¦ Seems like they haven¡¯t yet,¡± Kai said, clucking his tongue.

 

¡°Meirin-chan! Welcome back!¡± Sakura exclaimed, her usual cheerfulness restored to her. ¡°I never expected you to be in Japan.¡±

 

¡°Haha¡¦ It was supposed to be a surprise,¡± Meirin said. ¡°Except for some idiotic stalker keeps track of all my movement.¡±

 

¡°Hey, I¡¯m not a stalker!¡± Kai retorted.

 

¡°Eriol would sympathize with you about ruined surprise entrances,¡± Syaoran said. Then he tapped his foot impatiently. ¡°I¡¯m waiting for the excuse.¡±

 

¡°Syaoran~ Is that the way to greet your cousin?¡± Meirin asked, blinking innocently.

 

¡°So, what did you do this time?¡± Syaoran asked.

 

Sighing, Meirin replied, ¡°Oh fine. I¡¯ll tell you. I know you¡¯re being mean because you¡¯re concerned about me. Okay, actually, my school, the one I go to in Hong Kong is taking a two-week field trip to Shanghai. But then, I didn¡¯t want to go, so I bought a ticket to Japan. And when the rest of the students left for Shanghai, I snuck out and took the plane to Japan. So, it¡¯s a secret. My family thinks I¡¯m in Shanghai now. Meanwhile, I sent the teacher a fake note from my ¡®mother¡¯ saying that I was sick so I couldn¡¯t participate in the trip.¡±

 

¡°Li Meirin!¡± Syaoran exclaimed, hands on hips.

 

Looking up with round eyes, Meirin begged, ¡°Please, don¡¯t send me back. It¡¯s only for two weeks! I¡¯ll really get into trouble if you send me back now. Besides, I want to stay and watch Star-Crossed! Besides, Wei know I¡¯m here. He¡¯s the one who bought me the plane ticket. Oh! And I brought a sword from you. I heard that your other one broke. It¡¯s in my duffel bag¡¦¡± Then she hung her head. ¡°Oh yeah¡¦ I was mugged.¡±

 

¡°Is it this duffel bag?¡± Kai asked, holding up a pink bag.

 

¡°Huh? Yeah¡¦ Wait a minute¡¦ YOU STOLE IT?!¡± Meirin grabbed back her bag.

 

¡°Don¡¯t put it so harshly. I just borrowed it. Didn¡¯t I say I¡¯m over with my Kaitou Magician days? Besides, would you have let me give you a ride home if you had the money to call a cab?¡±

 

¡°No!¡± Meirin said.

 

¡°See?¡± Kai crossed his arms to make a point.

 

¡°Anyway, here¡¯s the sword. Wei said to send it to you,¡± Meirin said, uncovering a gleaming sword. ¡°The Elder¡¯s are still examining the Five Force Sword. But this is the second best sword of the clan. It used to be Uncle Ryuuren¡¯s sword. Before he received the Li Clan Sword.¡±

 

¡°My father¡¯s?¡± Syaoran hesitantly gripped the sword and swung it. He liked the heft of it.

 

¡°So¡¦ You¡¯ll let me stay, right?¡± Meirin asked. ¡°It¡¯s only for two weeks.¡±

 

¡°I¡¯ll think of it,¡± Syaoran replied stiffly.

 

¡°Yay! Meirin-chan!¡± Sakura and Meirin jumped up and down together.

 

¡°Let¡¯s party all night!¡± Kai suggested.

 

¡°No, we have school tomorrow,¡± Syaoran said.

 

¡°SPOILSPORT!¡± They all exclaimed.

 

 

 

¡°I¡¯m so glad that you¡¯re back Meirin-chan. Even if it¡¯s only for a short time,¡± Sakura said. It was way past sleeping time, yet she and Meirin had so much news to catch up to.

 

¡°So, how¡¯s things been going with Syaoran?¡± Meirin asked. ¡°With just the two of you together?¡±

 

¡°¡¦¡± Sighing, Sakura stared at the starry night sky. She tried not to think of earlier that evening. Syaoran¡¯s voice echoed in her head. ¡®Then go out with me!¡¯

 

I must have heard wrong. No¡¦ but¡¦ His eyes. I¡¯ve never seen him look like that before. Silly. Why is my heart pounding so fast? Why was I so stunned? I didn¡¯t even answer. I¡¯ll never be able to face him now. Sakura buried her face into her pillow.

 

¡°Oohh~ It¡¯s a very serious case,¡± Meirin concluded from the silence. ¡°Oh, I heard that Eriol-kun and Miho-chan came back also.¡±

 

Sakura nodded her head.

 

¡°Your brother¡¯s coming back soon, also, right?¡± Meirin asked. ¡°That means you¡¯ll be leaving this house.¡±

 

¡°Meirin-chan,¡± Sakura began. ¡°I¡¯ve been thinking about this, but I want to do something for Syaoran to show how grateful I was. You know. For letting me stay at his house and putting up with me. It must have been a nuisance, after having so much privacy.¡±

 

¡°You mean, you want to give him a little gift or something? Hmm¡¦ Not a bad idea,¡± Meirin said. ¡°We¡¯ll think about it. It has to be before your brother comes back. Knowing Syaoran, he¡¯ll probably be thinking that you¡¯re glad to go back home.¡±

 

¡°I am! Well in a way¡¦ Staying with Syaoran was really fun. He he¡¦ Don¡¯t ever tell him this, but I used to rearrange the kitchen utensils in my way, on purpose. Just to see him get frustrated. Oh, and I let Wolfie-chan chew on his rug. And I used up all of his toothpaste. One time, I mixed hair dye into his shampoo because I was mad at him for not letting Wolfie-chan into the house. That¡¯s why his hair was yellow for a week. And Kero-chan and I ate up all the pudding that he bought, without telling him.¡± Sakura trailed off.

 

¡°Sakura-chan?¡± Meirin paused. ¡°Are you sleeping?¡± Wistfully smiling, Meirin covered Sakura with a blanket, then returned to her own room.

 

******

 

¡°WE¡¯RE LAATTTTTEEEEEEEEE!!!¡± Sakura screeched, the next morning. She grinned. This would be one of the last times saying this in this house. Full of energy, she ran to Syaoran¡¯s room and jumped onto his bed. ¡°Syaoran! Wake up!¡±

 

¡°Shh¡¦ I couldn¡¯t sleep last night because you girls were gadding away all night,¡± Syaornan muttered, before settling back in his bed.

 

¡°You can¡¯t wake him like that,¡± Meirin said, rolling up her sleeves. Grabbing Syaoran¡¯s ear, she shouted into it, ¡°SYAORAN! WAKE UP! YOUR MOTHER¡¯S GETTING MAD!¡±

 

¡°Wah!¡± Automatically, Syaoran leaped out of the bed and headed towards the closet to change.

 

¡°Hehe¡¦ Syaoran was always a little intimidated by his mother,¡± Sakura commented. ¡°Oh, Meirin-chan, can you go over next doors and wake Kai-kun? The door will be open. He never locks the door.¡±

 

¡°Eh? Kaitou Magician is living right next doors?¡± Meirin exclaimed.

 

¡°You mean, you didn¡¯t know? I thought he told you,¡± Sakura said. ¡°Well, can you go wake him?¡±

 

¡°You go wake that jerk yourself. Why should I?¡± Meirin stated.

 

¡°I did try before. It¡¯s no use. Only an expert like you will able to,¡± Sakura said, smiling.

 

¡°Fine¡¦ Because I¡¯m in a good mood today.¡± Stomping off to next doors, Meirin shouted, ¡°WAKE UP!¡±

 

There was no response. Hesitantly, Meirin walked down the hallway, noting that the house was a mess compared to Syaoran¡¯s and entered the open bedroom door. He¡¯s fast a sleep, Meirin noted. Quietly, she walked up to his bedside. She giggled. He was sleeping with his sunglasses on. Then, she shouted, ¡°WAKE UP KAI!¡±

 

Frowning, she found that Kai had earphones on. By the looks of it, he had fallen asleep listening to music. The discman was still running. Sighing, Meirin removed the earphones and turned off the discman, setting it on the table next to the bed.

 

¡°KAI! WAKE UP! YOUR MOTHER¡¯S GETTING MAD!¡± Meirin shouted.

 

Immediately, Kai bolted out of bed. His bleached hair was tousled, and he looked cuter than usual in his half-awake mode. Blinking, and readjusting his sunglass on his nose, Kai said, ¡°Hey, it¡¯s only you. Stop bothering me. I¡¯m going back to sleep.¡±

 

Meirin giggled at the grumpy Kai. ¡°So, my trick works on any guy.¡± Then she blushed as she noticed that Kai was shirtless. ¡°Don¡¯t you have any pajamas?¡±

 

¡°Pajamas. Me?¡± Kai gawked. ¡°Why, you have a problem with my sleeping habits? Who cares what I wear when I sleep?¡± Grudgingly, he rolled out of bed, stretching. His black shorts were rumpled.

 

¡°I have a problem. I¡¯m not going to come wake you anymore if you continue to sleep half naked. Sheesh. You should have some decency at least,¡± Meirin said.

 

Fumbling around for his uniform shirt, Kai said, ¡°Well go out now. Unless you want to watch me change.¡±

 

¡°WHO¡¯D WANT TO WATCH YOU CHANGE?!¡± Meirin shouted, throwing Kai¡¯s discman at him.

 

¡°Hey! You broke my discman!¡± Kai exclaimed. ¡°And if you want me to sleep in something, find me black pajamas. Ha!¡±

 

¡°Fine, I will!¡± Meirin shouted from next doors.

 

 

 

¡°Finish the hotcakes,¡± Syaoran ordered, as Sakura tried to get up.

 

¡°We¡¯re going to be late,¡± Sakura protested.

 

¡°Doesn¡¯t it taste good?¡± Syaoran asked. ¡°I know I made it in five minutes, but it¡¯s my special recipe.¡±

 

¡°It¡¯s delicious!¡± Sakura said, not able to stop helping herself to more pieces.

 

¡°You see, your brother is going to be worried if he thinks you lost weight,¡± Syaoran explained. ¡°So, I¡¯m planning on cooking you the most delicious meals I can produce in the next few days, so be prepared for it! Here. I packed your lunch.¡± He held out an enormous lunch box and held it out for Sakura. ¡°See, I packed your favorite fried shrimps, dumplings, fried rice, sausages, egg roll, and for desert, fresh cherries, vanilla pudding, a slice of pound cake, and a bagful of cookies for snack. Is it too much? You can share with your friends.¡±

 

¡°Hoe!¡± Sakura smiled. If Syaoran continued to be like this, her inside will melt like the butter on top of the sizzling hotcakes.

 

¡°Oh, and I have soccer practice today. You have cheerleading practice, right? I¡¯ll wait for you in front of the school gates. We can go home together,¡± Syaoran continued. ¡°Don¡¯t stray off, okay? Good. Now, here¡¯s your bag. You have five minutes to get to school.¡±

 

¡°HOEE!¡± Sakura bolted out of her seat.

 

¡°It¡¯s okay. Kai¡¯s gonna take you on his motorcycle,¡± Syaoran reassured.

 

¡°Wait, what about you?¡± Sakura asked.

 

¡°I have to stop by your house today and call the carpenter, and house repairer. We kept on putting off fixing the damage I caused at your house last time¡¦ You know. The Joker and everything, when you fell down the stairs. Haha¡¦ So that your brother doesn¡¯t suspect anything.¡± Syaoran smiled encouragingly.

 

¡°I should do that. It¡¯s my responsibility,¡± Sakura said.

 

¡°No, it¡¯s the least I can do,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°I¡¯ll arrive in school in time for second period. So, don¡¯t sweat over it.¡±

 

¡°Now, come here, Sakura-chan!¡± Kai said, dragging away. ¡°I knew you always wanted to ride my motorcycle. I¡¯ll show you my three-minutes to school record!¡±

 

¡°HOEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!¡±

 

Watching Sakura leave, Syaoran¡¯s smile faded. Sakura still didn¡¯t answer his question from the previous night. Yet, it was okay. He didn¡¯t expect an answer in the first place. ¡°Meirin?¡±

 

¡°Is it okay? Going to school late?¡± Meirin asked. ¡°Can I follow you to where ever you¡¯re going?¡±

 

¡°Yeah.¡± Syaoran zipped up his jacket. ¡°Meirin, how are things at home?¡±

 

Meirin was silent for a second. ¡°Aunt Ieran and your sisters are fine.¡±

 

¡°And?¡±

 

¡°The Great Elder is poor in health,¡± Meirin continued.

 

¡°Oh. Are the other Elders angry?¡±

 

¡°Well,¡± Meirin couldn¡¯t deny it. ¡°Uncle isn¡¯t awfully pleased. You know. About you being here and everything. They know how the other sword broke. They saw the Best Couple Contest on TV, also. And they were talking about calling you back.¡±

 

¡°You know I won¡¯t go back, right?¡± Syaoran asked.

 

¡°Of course. Your mother knows that too. She¡¯s defending you back home. So, you work things out with Sakura, okay?¡± Meirin smiled. ¡°You¡¯re better for Sakura than Eron!¡±

 

¡°It¡¯s good to hear that from someone,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°You¡¯re really a great cousin.¡±

 

¡°I know that already,¡± Meirin stated.

 

¡°I don¡¯t think Kai¡¯s that bad of a guy. Strange, with lots of mysteries, but he has good intentions I think,¡± Syaoran commented slyly.

 

¡°W-what are you implying?¡± Meirin stammered. Then, she grinned. ¡°Syaroan, you¡¯re growing up! Are you actually playing matchmaking? Come to hear a day when Syaoran is actually picking out guys for me! See, I think Japan has been good for you. You¡¯re becoming less reserved and stiff.¡±

 

¡°You¡¯re really a good person, Meirin. There will be guys waiting in lines for you. And you¡¯ll pick the very best person. Someone much better than me,¡± Syaoran said.

 

There¡¯s no one better than you¡¦ I¡¯ll never let you suspect, but my feelings for you will never change. But, I¡¯ll keep them deep down inside me, where no one else will know, except for me. In a teasing tone, Meirin asked, ¡°So, how far did you get with Sakura?¡±

 

¡°¡¦¡± Clearing his throat, Syaoran said, ¡°I asked her out.¡±

 

¡°REALLY? What did she say?¡± Meirin squealed.

 

¡°She didn¡¯t answer.¡±

 

¡°WHY?!¡±

 

¡°Because someone came and interrupted,¡± Syaoran replied flatly.

 

¡°Oh! OH! Oh¡¦ By any chance, did I come at a really bad time?¡± Meirin asked. ¡°Ho ho ho.¡±

 

Syaoran nodded.


¡±Well then, ask her again!¡± Meirin stated.

 

¡°Easy for you do say. I don¡¯t think I¡¯ll have the guts to do it again.¡± Syaoran quickly added when he saw the fire in Meirin¡¯s eyes, ¡°But I will, if it makes a difference.¡±

 

¡°Good. You better get things right this time. But good job!¡± Meirin patted Syaoran¡¯s back heartily. Good job¡¦ But my heart is breaking right now.

 

Wish-chan: Hehe.. I didn¡¯t really finish this chapter. I was supposed to get up to the musical production day. Hehe¡¦ but, I really wanted to get this chapter up before I went on vacation. Maybe I¡¯ll come back to edit it. But the Star-Crossed chapter is definitely next. Hehe.. Syaoran finally goes by impulse¡¦ Ooh~ tension between Eron and Syaoran. Oh yeah, Meirin¡¯s back for two weeks. Haha¡¦ Lots¡¯ of ppl are coming back, huh? E-mails welcome at hopeluvpeace@hotmail.com. I¡¯ll try to get the Christmas chapter up, even if Christmas has passed!