Chapter 44: Like A Child
Li Council has voted to remove Syaoran as the Chosen One if he doesn¡¯t return
to Hong Kong immediately,¡± Meirin said.
produced a prolonged pause from Kai, who took time to process the significance
of Meirin¡¯s words. Finally he asked, ¡°Is that necessarily a bad thing?¡±
in exasperation, Meirin retorted, ¡°You never know how to take things
seriously, do you? Stupid of me to try to tell you this.¡±
guess it does matter to Syaoran a lot,¡± Kai commented blandly. ¡°After all,
he is completely caught up in the whole family honor business, which I
personally believe is very useless. Anyway, is being removed from the position
of Chosen One a really bad thing?¡±
it is the greatest disgrace imaginable in the Clan. It¡¯s saying that Syaoran
is not competent as the representative of the Li Clan, that he has dishonored
his family, disobeyed the Clan codes, and that he will be stripped of all the
titles that he had received from all the tests that he had passed.¡±
that¡¯s a little extreme,¡± Kai said. ¡°Just because he refuses to return to
Hong Kong? What does his mother and his uncles say?¡±
her head, Meirin replied, ¡°It¡¯s a rather complicated business, many things
piled up on top of each other. But such a thing wouldn¡¯t have happened if the
Great Elder—the Head of the Li Clan—is in good health, but since the
Great Elder is very ill and confined to bed right now, Syaoran¡¯s eldest uncle
has taken charge of the Clan. As you know, he dislikes Syaoran immensely. Since
Syaoran¡¯s eldest uncle is the second most prominent member of the Clan, he¡¯s
taking charge right now. Even Aunt Ieran is helpless against him. She sent a
letter explaining the situation with me, but she wanted me to break the news
you¡¯re not even going to give Syaoran the letter?¡± Kai asked. ¡°Isn¡¯t it
better to just tell such an important thing to him and get over with it? After
all, he has the right to know.¡±
finally settling down to find his true heart¡¯s desires. I won¡¯t want him to
have to waver and be stressed again,¡± Meirin said.
he¡¯s going to find out some day. And better through you then anyone else,¡±
Kai replied, sitting up from the chair. ¡°It¡¯s not up to you to decide
whether or not Syaoran can handle the news. If I were you, I would trust
Syaoran¡¯s decision-making skills.¡±
sighed. She knew Kai was right. Yet, she had no will to convey such
disheartening news to Syaoran.
Mizuki-san is not here, you two supervise in the children¡¯s playroom,¡± Touya
told Syaoran and Erika when they arrived in the intern office after school on
Friday. ¡°There are many more children than usual because many parents who were
injured in the earthquakes didn¡¯t have anyone to take care of their children,
so they placed them in the playroom.
The scary onii-san is not here today!¡± the children cheered upon seeing Erika
and Syaoran enter the colorful room instead of the intimidating, bullying Kai
with his sunglasses.
doll with us,¡± one girl asked Erika.
I detest little kids; so smelly and messy,¡± Erika stated, wrinkling her nose.
¡°Shoo, get away from me. Play quietly in the corner over there.¡±
not the way you handle children,¡± Syaoran said. His attention was diverted to
a wail from one of the younger boys.
He stole my robot! Give it back, give it back!¡± The boy sniffled.
It¡¯s mine!¡± A mischievous looking boy retorted, holding up a shiny robot
over his head. The younger boy jumped up and down, reaching for it, which was a
difficult a feat since his left was in a cast.
all the noise!¡± Erika snapped. ¡°Sheesh. How old are you guys? Sit down and
the children quieted and sat down stiffly.
Syaoran said weakly. ¡°They¡¯re just children.¡±
you take care of them then!¡± Saying this, Erika walked out of the playroom
door with a slam.
where are you going?¡± Eron asked, walking down the hallway with Sakura.
can¡¯t stand the children¡¯s playroom,¡± Erika replied. ¡°Mizuki-kun is not
here, so Syaoran-kun and I had to supervise today. But I just can¡¯t stand all
the noise and commotion.¡±
a crooked smile, Eron said, ¡°You and your short temper.¡±
are you two doing here, anyway?¡± Erika asked curtly.
running favors for Yukito-san,¡± Sakura replied, holding up a bagful of extra
didn¡¯t ask you,¡± Erika retorted to Sakura. ¡°I hate this hospital smell and
the white uniform and the stifling atmosphere. I want to quit!¡±
can you take these for me? I¡¯ll come back in a second, okay?¡± Eron said,
handing his share of bandages to Sakura. ¡°Erika, let¡¯s go.¡±
Sakura stared at Eron taking Erika¡¯s arm and walking out. Though she was used
to Erika¡¯s turbulent mood swings by now, Erika was especially more irritable
today. Oh well. She grinned. Syaoran must be taking care of the children all by
himself! I¡¯ll just have a peep at the playroom. I wonder how Syaoran¡¯s
handling things. Carefully, she opened the door a crack and peeked in. She
could hear Syaoran¡¯s voice.
not fair for a bigger person to jump on a smaller person. Yet, this is a
ruthless world and such things happen. It is wrong to use violence, but if you
are under attack, it is important to be able to defend yourself,¡± Syaoran
said. ¡°Therefore, I will show you some basic moves to defend yourself.¡±
giggled. What was he doing? Teaching the children martial arts and giving
lectures about violence? Yet, all the children seemed rapt and were staring at
Syaoran with round eyed anticipation and had gathered round him. Even those with
conditions so that they couldn¡¯t move had turned their heads in his
directions. Two boys who seemed to be in the middle of a fight pulled apart and
turned their attention to Syaoran.
most important thing in defense is to protect yourself; it¡¯s not about honor,
bravery, or heroism. It¡¯s okay to make a run for it when you have the
chance,¡± Syaoran continued.
this, Sakura giggled. What an un-Syaoran-like policy. With Syaoran¡¯s
stubbornness, he would always face the enemy and fight till he won or dropped.
the noise, Syaoran turned around, to face Sakura, laughing at him by the
are you laughing at?¡± he asked crossly.
Sakura straightened her face. ¡°You look like you¡¯re having fun.¡±
I¡¯m not!¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°Wait till that Kai comes back.¡±
handsome ¡®nii-chan is blushing!¡± one of the girls exclaimed. ¡°I think he
has a crush on the ¡®nee-chan. How cute!¡±
Syaoran stammered, turning more red.
kids these days! So advanced for the age!¡± Sakura exclaimed, equally red.
gruff voice came from the hallway. ¡°Sakura, what are you doing there? Yukito
sent for the bandages ages ago!¡±
sorry!¡± Sakura exclaimed, remembering her duty. She spun around to bump into
glared down at Syaoran. ¡°Put more mind and thought to your task, and don¡¯t
get distracted so easily. This is a hospital. We only need disciplined
there¡¯s no one with more discipline than Syaoran-kun!¡± Sakura protested.
give the bandages to Yukito, Sakura.¡± Obediently, Sakura left the room. Touya
crossed his arms, staring at Syaoran with cool midnight blue eyes.
the piercing gaze, Syaoran commented, ¡°Sakura thinks the world of her older
this comment, Touya replied, ¡°Maybe it is a little to late to say this, but I
wish you would stay away from my little sister.¡±
am sorry but it is a little too late for you to say that,¡± Syaoran said dryly.
no good for her,¡± Touya said. ¡°What she fails to see, I can see clearly. In
the long run, you¡¯re bound to fail her.¡±
what is the next step?¡± asked a boy, who had been practicing punches.
the punching with your left arm,¡± Syaoran told him, his gaze never leaving
Touya¡¯s. ¡°What makes you so sure? I can surprise you.¡±
What now?¡± another boy whined. ¡°Am I doing this right?¡±
much surprises me,¡± Touya replied quietly. ¡°We¡¯ll continue this
conversations next time. Until then¡¦¡±
know, I know, discipline. I¡¯ll pay attention in the hospital and be efficient
and diligent,¡± Syaoran reiterated.
chuckling, Touya readied to leave. Then he paused and turned around. ¡°Hey,
Syaoran asked, with a sigh of exasperation.
did you learn to carry on a civilized conversation?¡± Touya asked.
told you I can surprise you yet,¡± Syaoran replied.
till he was out of the room, Touya finally allowed a bemused smile to play on
doctor said you¡¯re well enough to go home now,¡± Kai said, fingering the
withered flowers in the vase on the hospital room nightstand. With a swipe of
his hand, they were replaced by fresh white lilies.
said I can say on a few more days if I want to,¡± Meirin replied, fingering the
flowers with hidden awe.
know you¡¯re burying yourself into the hospital because you¡¯re trying to
avoid Syaoran. You can¡¯t avoid telling him the truth forever,¡± Kai said
you stop pestering me and mind your own business?¡± Meirin snapped, lying down
on her bed, careful not to upset her broken leg. ¡°If I¡¯m not mistaken, you
have plenty at hand yourself, Kaitou Magician. Furthermore, aren¡¯t you
supposed to be in the children¡¯s playroom right now? Do you have that much
time to spend lazing around here?¡±
then. Fine! Do what you want then! But if you think you¡¯re doing what¡¯s
right, you¡¯re deeply mistaken.¡± Crossly, Kai walked out of the door and
slammed the door shut. Did Meirin truly intend to keep the whole Syaoran
business a secret?
the hallway, he bumped into Sakura and Syaoran.
Kaitou-kun! You were here the entire day?¡± Sakura exclaimed. ¡°No wonder you
weren¡¯t at school. The nurse in the playroom was really angry too, because you
didn¡¯t show up. How¡¯s Meirin now?¡±
continuous chatter made his nerves tingle. Without heeding Sakura, Kai continued
to walk. Before Kai could escape, Syaoran grabbed onto Kai¡¯s shoulder and said
in a low voice, ¡°Answer Sakura when she¡¯s speaking to you. It¡¯s rude if
gaze that Kai gave in return over the bridge of his sunglasses was so icy and
hostile, that Sakura stammered, ¡°Hoe-e, it¡¯s okay¡¦¡±
tried to brush Syaoran¡¯s hand off, but he found that Syaoran¡¯s grip was very
firm indeed. Finally Kai responded, ¡°Go ask her yourself.¡±
I was planning to,¡± Sakura said, sweat-dropping at Kai¡¯s sudden coldness.
¡°If you were here, why didn¡¯t you go to the children¡¯s playroom, anyway?
Erika and Syaoran had to take your place instead.¡±
should I go there? I hate noisy, bawling children,¡± Kai replied curtly.
it was your shift today,¡± Sakura reminded. ¡° And the hospital needs all the
extra hands it can get because there are many more patients than usual because
of the earthquakes.¡±
the hospital¡¯s problem,¡± Kai stated. Finally knocking off Syaoran¡¯s iron
grip, he disappeared down the hallway.
with him today?¡± Syaoran muttered.
let¡¯s go see Meirin-chan,¡± Sakura said, disgusted with Kai¡¯s antagonistic
demeanor, yet sympathetic all the same.
what are you doing this Sunday?¡± Chiharu asked at school the next day, which
was Saturday. ¡°The journalism class has to go to the Tokyo Art Museum to see
the ¡°Thief of the Night¡± piece by the artist Shing-san. Since we¡¯re
planning to write an extensive documentary on Kaitou Magician in our paper.¡±
I¡¯m kind of busy tomorrow,¡± Sakura said, her eyes flickering to Syaoran¡¯s
do you have a date with someone?¡± Chiharu inquired, eyes turning wide. ¡°Did
you finally decide to go out with Li-kun?¡±
no, it¡¯s nothing like that,¡± Sakura defended, shaking her head rapidly.
true that you¡¯re meeting with Li-kun though,¡± Tomoyo said, smiling. ¡°Pity
I can¡¯t videotape.¡±
really?¡± Chiharu exclaimed. ¡°That is so sweet. I knew ever since the Best
Couple Contest that you two will end up together! Of course, I was thrown off
when you became closer to Eron-kun lately. But personally, I¡¯m rooting for
Chiharu-chan, don¡¯t say things like that so loudly. People will
misunderstand,¡± Sakura pleaded, desperately. ¡°Anyway, I¡¯ll go to the
museum on my own next time.¡±
okay,¡± Aki interrupted. ¡°We¡¯re having a school field trip to the museum
pretty soon, anyway. We can see it then.¡±
Sakura said, relieved.
Aki said, ¡°Where is Mizuki-kun anyway? I think it¡¯s time we get a new layout
editor. Oh yeah. We have to work extra hours in the hospital today. As you guys
know, there are lots of casualties from the recent earthquakes, and they need
extra hands at the hospital.¡±
you work there too?¡± Miho, who always visited class 3-2, asked in mock
surprised. ¡°I didn¡¯t know.¡±
turned red. ¡°Come on, last time I had a basketball tournament, so I couldn¡¯t
go. I¡¯m going today. Oops! I forgot there is a class representative¡¯s
meeting today—I guess I can¡¯t go after all.¡±
schedule is different from usual,¡± Yukito told Sakura and Eron when they
arrived at his desk in the intern office after school on Saturday. ¡°A few
hospital staff and I will go to the children¡¯s orphanage to give the children
their yearly vaccination. I want you two to accompany us and help supervise the
children while they are waiting.
doctor, two nurses, Yukito, Sakura, and Eron arrived at the orphanage, a ten
minute drive in the hospital van from Kinhoshi Hospital. The head of the
orphanage greeted them and one of the assistants led Sakura and Eron to the
the children are gathered in this room,¡± the assistant told them. ¡°They
probably won¡¯t cause any problem. The vaccination room will be across the
hallway. We¡¯ll call out the children two at a time. If there are any problems,
you can come to me or ask Hanata Yuriko-san.¡±
slight, pale girl with short hair pulled back into a ponytail bowed to Eron and
Sakura, balancing a basketful of laundry in one arm.
Sakura asked hesitantly, in instantaneous recognition. ¡°From class 3-1, right?
I didn¡¯t know you worked here!¡±
Yuri replied, ¡°I do volunteer work here every other day. Let¡¯s see. The
older children manage pretty well by themselves, but the younger ones are rather
restless today, especially because the older ones scared them about the big,
sharp needle. If you can handle them while I hang up the laundry, it would be
Sakura said. ¡°Right Eron-kun?¡±
Eron had a vacant look in his eyes as he stared at the cramped, messy room with
faded wallpaper and spider-webs on the ceiling. At the sound of one of the
children bawling when another pushed him off the rocking horse, Eron cringed.
are you listening?¡± Sakura asked again. She shook Eron¡¯s arm.
her touch, Eron flinched and stepped back. His breath was uneven. Since Sakura
was so used to Eron being composed and cool, the note of panic in his expression
Sakura watched Eron¡¯s golden-hazel eyes flicker and then focus back on her.
Umm, it¡¯s kind of stuffy in here. Hanata-san, let me hang up the laundry.¡±
Without waiting for Yuri¡¯s response, he took the basket full of clothes from
Yuri¡¯s arms. ¡°Where should I hang it up?¡±
turn around the corner, and go out the back door. The clotheslines are in the
backyard,¡± Yuri stammered, her cheeks flushing slightly.
noticed that Yuri¡¯s gaze didn¡¯t leave Eron for a moment. She couldn¡¯t help
wondering if that girl still liked Eron. Seeing the way Yuri became flustered
around Eron, Sakura decided that Yuri¡¯s feelings had remained the same over
the past few weeks.
Eron was out of earshot, Yuri murmured, ¡°He hasn¡¯t changed since back
when? Did you know him from before he came to Seijou Junior High?¡± Sakura
asked in surprise. Yuri had never betrayed any signs of knowing Eron from
Kind of. When we were really young. But I don¡¯t think he remembers me
anymore,¡± Yuri said softly.
wonder what was he like back then,¡± Sakura mused.
hasn¡¯t told you anything about his childhood?¡± Yuri asked, picking up the
scattered toys on the floor.
I just remember he told me that he used to live around this neighborhood when he
was young. And that he doesn¡¯t remember either of his parents. That¡¯s about
it. Funny, huh? Now that I think of it, I¡¯ve known him for over a year, and I
still don¡¯t know anything about him.¡± Sakura stared down at her feet; she
hadn¡¯t even tried.
Su-chan is a mean bully! Su-chan broke the dolly!¡± A girl with pigtails was
holding to her chest a headless doll. A dark haired boy, around seven or so, was
scowling fiercely and held the doll¡¯s head in his fist.
It¡¯s only a stupid doll,¡± the boy said. He threw the doll head at the girl.
beheaded the doll! Su-chan beheaded Annie-doll! Meanie! You selfish, mean¡¦¡±
the girl trailed off, sniffing, as she tried to adjoin the neck to the body.
How many times do I have to tell you not to bully other children?¡± Yuri
scolded in a firm but gentle voice. ¡°You hurt Annie-doll. Now, apologize.¡±
Why should I apologize? It¡¯s only a stupid old doll,¡± Subaru retorted. Then
his eyes flashed to Sakura, who was gaping at him. ¡°What are you staring at,
U-ugly hag? Me?¡± Sakura pointed at herself.
you, hideous witch,¡± Subaru reiterated, sticking out his tongue at Sakura.
Head drooped, Sakura sank down to her knees, muttering,
¡°What did I ever do to you?¡±
is that what you say to the nice, pretty onii-san who came to play with you
guys?¡± Yuri asked reproachfully. ¡°Go over there to the corner and don¡¯t
speak to anyone until you feel sorry for what you did and want to apologize.¡±
Subaru stomped off to the corner of the world and slouched down, glaring at
Why do strangers always put me on the spot?¡± Sakura thought. She stared at
Yuri in admiration. How could she be so kind yet disciplined with the children
at the same time? For the next few hours, Sakura tried her best to entertain the
children¡¯s whims and played housekeeping with the younger children as the
vaccination process went on.
about it, Eron-kun has been gone for an awful long time, considering he just
went to hang the laundry,¡± Sakura commented. ¡°I wonder if he got lost. Not
that this place is very large.¡±
you want to go look for him? I have things under control right now,¡± Yuri
I¡¯ll come right back.¡±
found Eron sitting on the back porch. To her mild amusement, all the bed sheets
and random articles of children¡¯s clothes were hung neatly by clothespins to
the clothesline. For some reason, she had the impression that Eron was not
capable of doing household chores. At the creaking of her footsteps, Eron turned
what are you doing here?¡± Sakura asked, leaning over.
Eron said. ¡°It was too stuffy inside. It made me feel suffocated. I know I¡¯m
a callous person—I hate shabbiness, poverty, illness, whining children,
and most of all, looking at all these things, being near them.¡±
Eron-kun, people don¡¯t choose to have poverty or illness. Some people are just
less fortunate than others. So, if it is within the abilities of the more
fortunate people, they should extend their arms out and help others with all
do you consider yourself a fortunate person?¡± Eron asked, turning towards
I do,¡± Sakura slowly replied. ¡°I¡¯m healthy, have all my body parts, a
loving family, great friends. There are times when I also feel callous and
selfish, greedy and unsatisfied, yet in the end, I still consider myself a lucky
person. Don¡¯t you Eron-kun?¡±
Eron replied shortly.
this, Sakura was taken back. ¡°But you have so many things at your hand; there
are numerous people who are envious of you.¡±
thought you were a smart girl, Kinomoto Sakura. I guess I was mistaken after
don¡¯t think I¡¯m terribly quick or clever, but I don¡¯t consider myself
dumb. I have more self-pride than that,¡± Sakura said, stiffly.
Eron said, ¡°I¡¯m sorry if I offended you. It¡¯s just that your life
philosophy is so simplistic, optimistic, open-hearted. I can¡¯t really
empathize with the notion that all humans are innately ¡°good,¡± that deep
inside their hearts are pure and righteous, that the striver is rewarded in the
end, and that after the rainfall always comes the rainbow. I tend to believe
more in the darker side of human nature, the cold-hearted, animalistic instinct
of survival, the greed, the rottenness in the human heart, the hunger for
her head, Sakura said, ¡°I can¡¯t say that I am as foolishly optimistic as I
used to be when I was younger because the more I see of the world, the more
depressing aspects I see. Yet, at the same time, like yin and yang, juxtaposed
to the darker side, there are the brighter, beautiful sides, the part which
gives me faith in humankind and human emotions.¡±
then, a sharp pound came on her head. ¡°Ouch!¡± It was the bratty boy, Subaru.
He had thrown the doll¡¯s head at Sakura¡¯s head. ¡°What was that for?¡±
witch. Why are you flirting with that guy instead of looking after us?¡± Subaru
asked, making faces at her.
Sakura leaped up to her feet. ¡°Come over here!¡±
Nimbly, the boy dodged Sakura¡¯s arms and ran down the hallway.
Sakura tried to chase him, Eron grabbed her arm. ¡°Don¡¯t bother. He just
wants attention. If you ignore him, he¡¯ll stop bothering you.¡±
Strange how Eron seemed to know so much about children when he hated them.
I¡¯ll go back inside now. Sorry for leaving you on your own,¡± Eron said.
returning to the recreation room, Sakura found that most of the children were
whimpering because of the string from the shots. The pig-tailed girl was still
weeping over her headless Annie-doll. Meanwhile, Subaru had already returned to
the room, and was busily smashing up the Lego castle that the children had made.
What do you think you¡¯re doing?¡± Sakura exclaimed, hurriedly pulling Subaru
apart from the Lego castle.
the castle,¡± Subaru replied in a matter of fact way, sweeping off he last
block of Lego from the ground. ¡°Victory!¡±
don¡¯t you do anything constructive?¡± Sakura sighed, wiping the sweat off her
brows. This kid left no moment for distraction.
witch,¡± Subaru said, folding his arms in front of his chest and glaring at
her. ¡°So go mind your own business.¡±
you little brat! You¡¯re worse than Syaoran when I first met him,¡± Sakura
exclaimed in exasperation, finally losing her temper. Then, she remembered Eron
telling her that this child probably just wanted attention.
assistant came into the room. ¡°Subaru, it¡¯s your turn.¡±
I don¡¯t want to get shots!¡± Subaru stated, squirming to escape the room as
Sakura grabbed his waist.
no you don¡¯t,¡± Sakura said, holding him firmly and carrying him over to the
vaccination room. The two nurses pinned Subaru down to the bed, and the doctor
pulled the boy¡¯s pants down and injected the shot.
Subaru screamed, clearly not because of pain but to create a commotion.
Aren¡¯t you a man? Now hush, or else you¡¯ll scare the younger children,¡±
Ow! It hurts! I¡¯m going to die!¡± Subaru continued.
be silly. No one dies because of vaccination shots,¡± Sakura said, as Subaru
got off the bed sulkily.
going to die anyway,¡± Subaru replied.
only seven. Not for a long, long time, anyway,¡± Sakura said, trying to remain
do you know, ugly hag?¡± Subaru muttered, walking out the room and slamming the
a deep breath, Sakura counted to ten trying to prevent herself from completely
losing her temper.
a soothing hand on Sakura¡¯s shoulder, the assistant told her, ¡°Try to be
sympathetic to Subaru. He has a disease, a form of brain tumor, and his method
of dealing with his illness is to cause as much trouble to other people as
ill?¡± Sakura asked.
he¡¯s so young. It¡¯s curable though, right?¡±
not too serious right now,¡± the assistant said, sighing. ¡°He just needs to
take medications. Eventually, he¡¯ll have to have a surgery, before the tumor
cells grow larger and spreads. But the surgery is too expensive for the
orphanage funds to afford.¡±
what will happen to Subaru?¡±
hoping that we can find him a sponsor,¡± the assistant replied grimly.
¡°Before Subaru¡¯s illness takes a critical turn.¡±
Sakura walked out the door. Someone as energetic and young as Subaru—it
wasn¡¯t fair. Seeing a figure moving in the children¡¯s bedroom, Sakura peeped
in. It was Eron, sitting on the floor and gluing Annie-doll¡¯s head back on,
and the pigtailed girl was crouched beside him, watching in rapture.
crookedly when he saw Sakura peeking in, Eron said, ¡°That pigtail-girl kept on
crying and crying because her doll was headless. So I¡¯m trying to fix it up.
Hey, can I have your ribbon?¡±
Yeah.¡± Untying the red ribbon that held her hair back, she handed it to Eron.
Carefully, Eron tied the red sash around the doll¡¯s head. Though it didn¡¯t
camouflage the dirt-smudged face or the faded, patched dress of the doll, it
still made the doll look a little brighter.
you go,¡± Eron said, handing the doll back to the girl. ¡°Now go back to the
children and don¡¯t cry anymore.¡±
the doll to her chest, she smiled brightly. ¡°Thank you, onii-san, thank
you!¡± Then she ran out the room with merry laughter.
Eron muttered, ¡°Children are so easy to please.¡±
slightly, Sakura said, ¡°See? I can¡¯t help feeling that children are innocent
and innately good. It¡¯s unfair to think that people are born evil when we see
children.¡± It was one of the rare moments that she saw Eron show a kinder,
gentle face, making her reconsider her set image of Eron.
you forget that I despise children,¡± Eron said tersely, shattering Sakura¡¯s
newly formed impression.
and Erika both dislike children,¡± Sakura recalled. ¡°Maybe it¡¯s because
I¡¯m the youngest child and never had to take care of a baby, but I love
children. I¡¯ve always wanted a younger sibling, maybe because I was always
bullied by ¡®nii-chan, but if I have a younger sibling, I would be really kind
and play with the child all the time. When I¡¯m with children, I feel peaceful
and carefree, like I am a child again.¡±
are still a child at heart,¡± Eron commented, slightly smiling. ¡°I spent all
of my childhood, wishing that I was an adult, wishing that I could have control
over my life. I hated being young, being helpless, being ignorant.¡±
bet you¡¯re still a child at heart too, Eron-kun,¡± Sakura said. The recent
experience of becoming five years old still fresh in her mind, she continued,
¡°Everyone¡¯s a child at heart, I think, even the coldest, most callous
person, and the oldest, wisest person.¡±
I haven¡¯t been a child ever since I was seven,¡± Eron corrected. His lips
curved cynically. ¡°When Erika and I finally left that miserable orphanage.¡±
his words, Sakura¡¯s eyes rounded. Through the window, she stared at the frayed
white sheets hung neatly up in the backyard and blowing in the wind as she
digested Eron¡¯s words. The orphanage? What orphanage? Did they grow up in
an orphanage? Surely, not Eron and Erika? For
the first time, she was at loss of words. ¡°Eron-kun¡¦¡±
Erika and I grew up in the orphanage. I told you before that we didn¡¯t have
either parent. Where do you think they put two motherless, relative-less brats?
In the orphanage of course. The place where we stayed was a hell where children
were always crying—except they couldn¡¯t make any sound in fear that they
may be beaten, where they never had enough to eat or enough clothes for the cold
winter, and where there was no room for privacy, where everything had to be
shared, where little girls couldn¡¯t even a doll of their own.¡±
sorry,¡± Sakura stammered, at loss of words. ¡°I never knew¡¦¡±
course you didn¡¯t,¡± Eron said shortly. ¡°Who would expect that Erika and I
actually lived first hand with such dirty, wretchedness? We live like a count
and countess now. But maybe the Chang Eron back then was a completely different
person. After all, he was only a child.¡± Pausing, he stared at Sakura¡¯s
sorrowful green eyes. ¡°Don¡¯t look at me like that. Don¡¯t look at me with
sympathy. I don¡¯t want it nor deserve it.¡±
standing up, Eron walked out the door. ¡°Hey, I¡¯m going home now. Tell the
others that I felt sick, so I had to leave early.¡±
was nine in the evening when the last child was vaccinated. There had been so
many cases of children sneaking away and hiding, that it took much longer than
had been anticipated. It didn¡¯t help that Subaru upset the nurses by knocking
over the medicine boxes and unraveling bandage all over the floor. It took
forever to straighten things out, and Subaru was rewarded with no dinner.
you for your great help today, Sakura-san. Sorry we kept you so late,¡± Yukito
said. ¡°I hope Chang-san feels better. I¡¯d like to take you home since it¡¯s
so late, but I have to return to the hospital. Will you be okay? Or I can take
you home first.¡±
it¡¯s okay. Yuri-chan and I are going the same direction, so I¡¯m fine,¡±
the children, she waved, ¡°Bye guys! See you again!¡±
Sakura-¡®nee-san! Come back again!¡± The children called back, waving. The
bright, energetic, genial manner of Sakura had made her an immediate favorite
I never see you again, ugly hag,¡± Subaru shouted, sticking out his tongue. His
stomach rumbled and when Sakura laughed, he scowled.
today was exhausting,¡± Sakura said, walking slowly down the night street.
¡°How do you manage this almost every day, Yuri-chan?¡±
you get used to the lively children,¡± Yuri replied. ¡°Anyway, I like playing
Sakura saw Hanata Yuriko in a complete new light and was in awe and respect at
the girl¡¯s composure and level of maturity. It was hard to believe Yuri was
her own age. Was it the environment she grew up in? ¡°Hey, Yuri-chan. You said
you knew Eron-kun from when you were really young, right?¡±
Yuri replied slowly, as if hesitant to talk about it.
any chance, did you know him from the children¡¯s orphanage?¡±
Yuri stared at Sakura. ¡°You knew?¡±
Sakura said, ¡°Sorry—I didn¡¯t mean to be nosy. It¡¯s just that I had
some questions about Eron-kun. You really don¡¯t have to talk about it if you
don¡¯t want to.¡±
I don¡¯t mind talking about it at all. Yeah, I knew Eron and Erika from the
orphanage. One not too far from here,¡± Yuri replied. ¡°I was afraid that if
my friends found out that I was from the orphanage, they would shun me, so I
kept silent about my background. That¡¯s why I showed no recognition of Eron
and Erika when they first transferred to Seijou Junior High. I was sure they
didn¡¯t want to associate themselves back to then, nor me, either.¡±
nothing to be ashamed about, having grown up in the orphanage,¡± Sakura said
quickly. ¡°I¡¯m sure it wouldn¡¯t matter where you¡¯re from to your friends.
I certainly don¡¯t mind.¡±
again, Yuri said, ¡°I never doubted Sakura-chan from the beginning. So, I guess
you want to hear more about Eron and Erika?¡±
If you don¡¯t mind talking about it, what were they like back then?¡±
up at the treetops, Yuri replied, ¡°They were an inseparable twosome; it was
always Eron and Erika, Erika and Eron. Some children thought they were stuck up
since they rarely talked or played with the other children, but I know it¡¯s
because they only had each other in this world. I envied them, because while the
other orphans were all alone, they had each other to love and cherish, they had
a reason for living. Eron back then, similar to now, was mature for his age,
always protective of his sister since Erika was very weak because of her
illness. Though he had opportunities to make friends with the other children, he
always stayed by his twin sister and always defended her when others teased her.
That¡¯s why people thought the beautiful twins were stuck-up and problematic,
hard to approach.¡±
Erika was ill?¡± Sakura interrupted, finding the fact hard to digest. It was
becoming much clearer why Erika hated the stifling atmosphere of the hospital
and why both twins hated cramped places and children so much.
something to do with her heart, I think,¡± Yuri said. ¡°Since her heart was
weak, she couldn¡¯t run or play with the other children, and spent most of the
time indoors or in the hospital. That¡¯s why she could make no friends, with
only Eron to look after her, and he was only a child too. He really thought the
world of his younger twin sister. I remember he used to work till late at night
everyday, cleaning and stacking items at the local convenience store to save up
money to buy his sister a brand new doll with golden hair and blinking
eyes—the kind that used to be popular when we were little. Hard to
her head, Sakura remarked, ¡°It¡¯s completely different from the impression
I¡¯ve had of those two.¡±
guess they¡¯ve changed since then—I found it hard to believe that they
are the same Eron and Erika that I used to know,¡± Yuri said ruefully. ¡°I was
adopted by a kind old lady shortly after my seventh birthday, so I was never
sure what happened to them. At that time, Erika was so ill that she stayed
permanently in the hospital, and Eron spent most of the time there. But looking
at Erika now, I¡¯m glad to see her heart got better, and she seems perfectly
healthy now. They were certainly the prettiest in the entire orphanage,
identical except in the length of their hair, (though Eron grew his now also,)
so maybe they both got adopted by a wealthy person who could afford to give
Erika cardio-surgery in America—I heard rumors that Eron and Erika
traveled all around the world before coming back to Tomoeda.¡±
recalled Eron stating that he and Erika lived only with the servants. So, it
wasn¡¯t likely that they were adopted by someone. Then, how did they leave the
orphanage? When they approached a cross section in the road, Yuri said, ¡°Well,
I go this way.¡±
Thank you for telling me everything,¡± Sakura said, not realizing how quickly
time had passed while she listened to Yuki. ¡°I really appreciate it.¡±
problem,¡± Yuri replied. ¡°It feels refreshing to talk about everything so
frankly after bottling everything into my memory for so long. Well, see you at
school on Monday!¡±
you!¡± Sakura waved. Frowning, she turned around and peered at the shadow cast
bushes. She had the funniest sense that something was following her, but
hadn¡¯t mentioned it to Yuri because she didn¡¯t want to alarm her. Was it a
dark force? Truthfully, she was too exhausted to care, and her mind was in
bewilderment, overwhelmed by the new, unexpected details about the twin¡¯s
her house and kicking off her shoes, Sakura called out, ¡°I¡¯m home,
out of the kitchen, Fujitaka said, ¡°You worked till late today, Sakura-san.
The dinner must be getting cold.¡±
hour later, Touya¡¯s heavy footsteps came on the porch.
up from the kitchen chair, Sakura ran up to the door. ¡°You¡¯re late,
onii-chan! There¡¯s no dinner left for you, ha.¡±
had evening shift at the hospital,¡± Touya said. ¡°And I¡¯m starving, kaijou.
Oh yeah. I found this creature sleeping on our porch.¡± He held up a small boy
with tousled dark hair by the collar. ¡°He was looking for you.¡±
let go you ogre!¡± the child grumbled, trying to kick Touya.
she recognized the squirming boy, Sakura exclaimed, ¡°Subaru-chan, what are you
followed you home, stupid hag,¡± Subaru replied, finally loosening Touya¡¯s
grip on his collar and sitting down firmly on the ground, legs crossed. ¡°And
I¡¯m not going back to the orphanage.¡±
on hips, Sakura scolded, ¡°Su-chan, everyone must be frantically searching for
you right now. Come here, I¡¯ll take you back.¡±
his position seated on the floor, Subaru retorted, ¡°No, I¡¯m not moving one
inch from here, and you can¡¯t make me go back. Besides, nobody will notice
that I¡¯m gone.¡±
don¡¯t be difficult. You have to go back,¡± Sakura persisted.
why don¡¯t you just let him stay overnight? It¡¯s too late to take him back
anyway,¡± Fujitaka reasoned. ¡°You can call the head of the orphanage and tell
her Subaru-san is safe, and he can return tomorrow. ¡±
crossed, Subaru stated, ¡°Spend the day with me and I¡¯ll go back to the
orphanage tomorrow evening, without any fuss.¡±
tomorrow¡¯s Sunday,¡± Sakura protested. Bending down to Subaru, Sakura
pleaded, ¡°Onee-san has an important meeting tomorrow, so I can¡¯t play with
Subaru replied, ¡°It¡¯s okay, take me along then. Why, is it a date with your
boyfriend or something?¡±
my birthday tomorrow. If I return, I¡¯ll probably be grounded and sent to room
without any meals,¡± Subaru said. ¡°I don¡¯t see why you can¡¯t spend the
day with me. Unless it¡¯s a very special date with your boyfriend, that is.¡±
said it¡¯s not!¡± Sakura exclaimed. ¡°Fine, I¡¯ll call the orphanage head
right now and ask her if I can return you tomorrow evening.¡±
Subaru clapped in joy.
at the sight of Subaru smiling so widely, Sakura called the orphanage
immediately. ¡°Yes, Subaru somehow followed me home; he¡¯s safe. I¡¯m very
sorry, I don¡¯t know how he did it¡¦ Yes. It¡¯s too late in the night, so I
thought it might be better to let him sleep at my house. And I was wondering if
he can spend the day with me tomorrow. I¡¯ll take good care of him and promised
he won¡¯t cause any trouble¡¦ Of course it won¡¯t be any trouble for me.
I¡¯ll return him in time for dinner¡¦ Okay, thank you very much.¡± Sakura
hung up the receiver.
the midst of eating dinner with Touya on the Kinomoto kitchen table, Subaru
asked, mouthful of food, ¡°Is it okay?¡±
Giving an okay signal, Sakura grinned. She just hoped that Syaoran would be in a
very understanding mood the next day.
Sakura stood in front of King Penguin Park, waiting for Syaoran. It was exactly
five to seven, Sunday morning; she was not only on time but early. She was
dressed in a blue and white plaid jumper over a white cotton blouse and her hair
was neatly pulled into two high pigtails at each side her head and tied with
narrow blue and white ribbons.
why are you all dressed up?¡± Subaru asked, yawning also. ¡°Ugly Hag¡± was
replaced with Touya¡¯s old nickname for Sakura, ¡°monster.¡± Subaru was also
dressed in fresh clothes—clothes Touya wore when he was that age, stored
away neatly in boxes by Nadeshiko. ¡°And why did we have to wake up so
familiar sound of barking came down the road. A pale golden-tan colored puppy
with pointed ears came leaping down the road to the park and joyfully jumped
into Sakura¡¯s wide-open arms.
Sakura exclaimed. ¡°What are you doing here?¡± Then, she looked up
is that ugly creature?¡± Subaru demanded.
are you talking about? Wolfie-chan is the cutest puppy in the world!¡±
down at the panting puppy disdainfully, Subaru said, ¡°Humph, you have strange
Sakura caught a glimpse of Syaoran, in pale beige pants and a crisp white
flannel over a white shirt, strolling down the road. ¡°You¡¯re ten minutes
late, Syaoran!¡± she called out.
reaching Sakura, Syaoran replied, ¡°I was planning on making you wait ten
hours. Luckily, I¡¯m too nice to do such a thing. I came as slowly as I could
why are you out of breath?¡± Subaru pointed out.
Syaoran flushed. He had run all the way there because he was afraid he might
make Sakura wait. When he was in Sakura¡¯s view, he had slowed down and
pretended to take all the time in the world. Unfortunately, this little kid had
seen right through his act.
you¡¯re the Kaijou-¡®nii-san¡¯s important date, Li Syaoran,¡± Subaru
commented. Hand on chin, he scanned Syaoran up and down. ¡°Humph, better looks
than I expected. But crappy personality.¡±
a dark expression painted on his face, Syaoran pointed to the kid and demanded,
¡°Who is this brat?¡±
well, it¡¯s a long story,¡± Sakura began, twiddling her thumb. ¡°He¡¯s from
the orphanage, but it¡¯s his birthday today, and he followed me home, and
somehow he ended up sleeping over at my house and we have to spend the day with
wait, wait a second,¡± Syaoran interrupted. ¡°Slow down, I can¡¯t understand
a word you¡¯re saying. You certainly don¡¯t mean to tell me that we have to
spend the entire day with this kid?¡±
at Sakura, Syaoran demanded, ¡°So, you¡¯re trying to tell me that I sacrificed
how many Sundays in a row to end up babysitting a kid?¡±
Sakura nodded. ¡°Sorry,¡± she squeaked in a small voice. ¡°Please? It¡¯s
only a day. I need to return him for dinner.¡±
No wonder the ugly hag said that your temper is only a little better than
mine,¡± Subaru stated to Syaoran with a smirk on his face. ¡°But I think
it¡¯s even worse. Umph!¡±
Subaru¡¯s mouth with her hands, Sakura said, ¡°W-when did I say that? Ouch!
You bit my hand!¡±
heard you clearly tell me yesterday, ¡®You¡¯re even worse that Syaoran when I
first met him,¡¯¡± Subaru insisted. ¡°Don¡¯t you remember? I know you¡¯re
dumb, but don¡¯t tell me you have a faulty memory also.¡±
slanted stonily, Syaoran crossed his arms in front of him. ¡°Sakura? Surely you
don¡¯t go around talking about me behind my back to children.¡±
changing the subject, Sakura asked, yawning again, ¡°Why did we have to meet so
early, though? It¡¯s Sunday, a rare chance to sleep in.¡±
I thought we can resume our martial arts lessons, with the kid included,¡±
Syaoran replied blandly. ¡°We used to meet out in the middle of winter at 5AM,
looked slightly horrified. She hadn¡¯t thought that Syaoran was this stoic. He
planned on teaching her martial arts today? And she had gotten all dressed up
for no reason! She couldn¡¯t fight with this kind of outfit. Of course, she
shouldn¡¯t have hoped too high, but still. Finally she noted that Syaoran was
wearing clothes unsuitable for martial arts training—she should have seen
right through his trick from the beginning for Syaoran had a teasing twinkle in
the momentary dismayed expression on Sakura¡¯s face, Syaoran chuckled. ¡°I was
just kidding you know. To punish you for standing me up for so long, not to
mention bringing a kid along. So, I request that you eat breakfast with me, as
well a lunch and dinner—out of course. If you had agreed last, last, last
week, it would have been just lunch. Now, I¡¯ve increased the criteria. And
we¡¯ll have dinner together after the kid goes back.¡±
smiled. That wasn¡¯t that bad of a punishment at all. She let go of
Wolfie-chan, who jumped down to the ground and began yapping at Syaoran. He was
being pretty decent about bringing along Subaru, after all.
dog,¡± Syaoran grumbled. ¡°Shouldn¡¯t have brought you along.¡±
for bringing Wolfie-chan,¡± Sakura said, rubbing her nose in the puppy¡¯s soft
wasn¡¯t planning to,¡± Syaoran said defiantly. ¡°But he just tagged along.¡±
so ugly; it looks like a little wolf,¡± Subaru stated crouching down and poking
Wolfie-chan. ¡°Stupid dog.¡±
arf!¡± Wolfie-chan licked Subaru¡¯s face.
that tickles!¡± Subaru laughed. Tentatively, he stroked Wolfie-chan¡¯s back.
over and patting the puppy¡¯s head, Skaura said, ¡°His given name is Vega,
like in the star Vega of the Lyre, which means ¡°Swooping Eagle,¡± but
everyone calls him Wolfie-chan because he looks like a small wolf.¡±
name. You named him, right?¡± Subaru commented, scratching Wolfie-chan¡¯s
chin. Then his face lightened in a broad grin. ¡°Wolfie-chan likes me,
doesn¡¯t he? Can I hold him? How old is he?¡±
Wolfie-chan does like you, Su-chan,¡± Sakura said, smiling. Maybe Subaru was a
nice kid, after all. The puppy wasn¡¯t nice to all strangers—for example,
he took delight in biting Kai¡¯s ankle.
what should we have for breakfast?¡± Syaoran asked.
spotted the ice cream truck and pointed to it. ¡°That!¡±
Ice cream for breakfast?¡±
what! I¡¯ve never done that before. ¡®Nii-chan would never let me something
like that for breakfast. My treat!¡± Sakura exclaimed.
Ice cream! I rarely get to eat ice cream. Can we try it? Please? I want
chocolate flavor!¡± Subaru exclaimed.
fine,¡± Syaoran relented.
her resolution from last Sunday, Sakura demanded, ¡°Syaoran, what¡¯s your
favorite ice cream flavor?¡±
have any in particular. It changes depending on my mood,¡± Syaoran replied
Sakura said, crestfallen, looking down at her feet. ¡°Umm¡¦ Which flavor do
you want then?¡±
the disappointed expression on Sakura¡¯s face, Syaoran quickly retaliated,
¡°Ah, right now, I think I fee like having¡¦ hmm¡¦ I think I feel like having
vanilla ice cream!¡±
Sakura smiled brightly. ¡°Two vanilla cones, one chocolate, one strawberry, all
double scoop,¡± she said to the ice cream vendor. At times, she wondered if
Syaoran could read her mind.
Syaoran and Sakura were licking double-scoop vanilla ice cream on waffle cone.
The strawberry flavor went to Wolfie-chan.
Subaru exclaimed, quickly licking his chocolate flavored ice cream to keep it
from melting. ¡°Let¡¯s go to the aquarium next! I¡¯ve never been to the
aquarium before. I want to see the sharks!¡±
course, the aquarium was not an ideal spot for holding a serious conversation.
Oh well. Shrugging to Sakura, Syaoran asked, ¡°Do we have a choice?¡±
hadn¡¯t been to the aquarium since her semi-date with Yukito, five years ago.
Surrounding her was the aqua blueness of water and swarms of fishes and
eccentric sea creatures.
It¡¯s an electrical eel! Cool! And that¡¯s a shark!¡± Subaru exclaimed,
jumping from place to place.¡±
don¡¯t get in other people¡¯s way,¡± Sakura called out. Turning to Syaoran,
she commented, ¡°He seemed like an angry, problem child when I first saw him at
the orphanage yesterday, but he¡¯s only a child. Now that I look at him again,
he¡¯s kind of cute.¡±
think everything is cute,¡± Syaoran replied dryly.
at the greenish seahorses, Sakura asked, ¡°Syaoran, did you know that Eron and
Erika grew up in the orphanage?¡±
come over here! Look at that shark¡¯s teeth!¡± Subaru said, tugging at
Sakura¡¯s skirt and squirming through the crowd to the shark¡¯s tank. One of
the larger kids pushed him over. ¡°Ouch! I can¡¯t see!¡±
Sakura lifted Subaru up by his waste, struggling because he was heavier than he
looked. ¡°Can you see now?¡± she asked, short of breath.
me up higher!¡± Subaru demanded.
You¡¯re quite heavy.¡± Straining to lift him up over the heads of the crowds,
Sakura asked, ¡°Can you see now?¡±
not at all,¡± Subaru replied, squirming to see the shark.
any words, Syaoran took Subaru from Sakura¡¯s arms and hoisted the boy up by
the waist, high above the heads of the people. Sakura stared at Syaoran in brief
oh wow! I can see now! Just look at the size of that shark! It¡¯s awesome!¡±
Subaru exclaimed, clapping in delight. ¡°¡¯Nii-san, ¡®nee-san, look! Can you
see? Does it eat people?¡±
this one is a tame shark. But there are ferocious sharks in the ocean that
devour little naughty children,¡± Syaoran said, grinning slightly. Actually, he
himself didn¡¯t remember the last time he had been to an aquarium.
never seen the ocean,¡± Subaru said. ¡°I¡¯ve seen it in pictures—it¡¯s
so blue and big, with no end to it. I wish I can swim across to the end of the
ocean and see what¡¯s there.¡±
just more land,¡± Syaoran said, setting Subaru down on his feet. ¡°The
continent of America.¡±
I think mom and dad would be on the other side of the ocean,¡± Subaru said.
¡°They¡¯re waiting for me at the end, waiting for me to grow big enough to
swim across on my own. And they¡¯ll be waiting for me there, even if it takes a
long time, won¡¯t they?¡±
down to be face level with Subaru, Syaoran replied gently, ¡°Of course they
would, of course. That¡¯s why Subaru has to be a good boy and work hard towards
becoming a strong man in the future.¡±
head of the orphanage tells me that I am a problem child, that I will grow up to
be a delinquent. That is, if I don¡¯t die from brain tumor. If I do die, she
told me that I will go to hell, because I am a bad boy, and bad boys go to hell
and burn away in a pit of fire for eternity. And I¡¯ll never be able to see
mother or father,¡± Subaru said in a matter of fact manner.
Bending over, Sakura stroked Subaru¡¯s hair. This time, he didn¡¯t knock her
already one. Let¡¯s go eat lunch,¡± Syaoran said.
want to eat pizza!¡± Subaru exclaimed.
never asked you, kid,¡± Syaoran grumbled. ¡°I don¡¯t want to eat pizza.¡±
one ever asked your opinion, bully,¡± Subaru retorted.
Sakura thought, Syaoran¡¯s finally met his match in a seven year old.
are you laughing at?¡± Syaoran and Subaru demanded simultaneously.
a meal of a big pan of pepperoni pizza—once again Subaru¡¯s
choice—Sakura asked, ¡°So, should we do the cake now?¡±
I want a huge chocolate cake with seven candles!¡± Subaru replied.
waitresses gathered around the table with red and white helium balloons and sang
¡°Happy Birthday¡± to the tune of the accordion and the rhythm of the
clapping. With a triumphant expression on his face, Subaru blew out all seven
candles in one try, as colorful confetti streamed over him and Sakura and an
unenthusiastic Syaoran cheered.
Subaru gets to have the first piece,¡± Sakura said, handing a huge slice of
rich, creamily frosted chocolate cake to Subaru.
down at the cake, Subara said, ¡°Onee-san?¡±
Mmm¡¦ This cake is good. Try it Syaoran,¡± Sakura said, in between mouthfuls
of the cake.
Subaru continued, ¡°Actually, it isn¡¯t my birthday today.¡±
wanted to spend the day away from the orphanage, so I lied to you, onee-san,
saying it was my birthday today so that you wouldn¡¯t return me,¡± Subaru
said. ¡°I¡¯m sorry.¡±
Sakura replied, ¡°I know.¡±
Syaoran and Subaru stared at Sakura.
sheepishly, Sakura explained, ¡°Actually, I saw your medical chart yesterday
when you were getting your shots, Su-chan. Your birthday was last month.¡±
Subaru trailed off. ¡°You mean you just played along?¡±
you have fun today?¡± Sakura asked, brushing the hair out of Subaru¡¯s eyes.
Tons of fun! I got to eat ice cream for breakfast, see the sharks and the sea
horses and the ugly eels, and have a birthday party too!¡± Subaru replied.
that¡¯s what¡¯s important,¡± Sakura said.
You¡¯re smarter than you look, Kaijou onee-san,¡± Subaru admitted reluctantly.
is,¡± Syaoran muttered. He stared at Sakura¡¯s smiling face, half annoyed that
she had let the kid tag along when it was unnecessary, half warmed by her
consideration towards the boy.
want one more birthday present then,¡± Subaru stated.
what is it?¡± Sakura asked.
want you to kiss the grouchy ¡®nii-san,¡± Subaru said with an angelic smile.
Both Sakura and Syaoran bonked Subaru on the head, identically red.
I thought it was an enjoyable thing grown-ups do. If I weren¡¯t here to
interrupt, would you have done it? No need to be embarrassed!¡± With a wicked
grin, Subaru stared up at the blushing Syaoran and Sakura. ¡°I saw the
¡®Star-Crossed¡¯ video that Yuri-¡®nee-san brought over to show us. It took
me some time to figure out that kaijou-¡®nee-san was the beautiful Juliet in
the production. Anyway, do it again, the kiss!¡±
both bonked him on the head one more time.
I think onee-san deserves better than that ill-tempered onii-san, anyway.
Onee-san can go out with me instead,¡± Subaru stated. ¡°These days, eight year
difference is nothing at all.¡±
Sakura gawked at the overconfident little boy.
ha ha ha!!!¡± Syaoran burst out laughing, clutching his sides. ¡°Good luck!¡±
they returned Subaru to the orphanage, Sakura and Syaoran slowly strolled back
to their neighborhood. Though Subaru had been reluctant to return, Sakura and
Syaoran promised to visit again. Sakura just hoped Subaru didn¡¯t get into too
much trouble for running away the previous day.
are you continuously chuckling to yourself?¡± Sakura, unable to rid herself of
blushing, demanded to Syaoran.
an interesting kid,¡± Syaoran said, in between chuckles. ¡°I haven¡¯t been
this amused in days. To think that little boy proposed to you. I wonder what he
saw in you. ¡±
up!¡± Ignoring Syaoran, Sakura began to walk faster. Wolfie-chan trailed after
her. All day long he had patiently waited outside buildings, a little hurt
because Subaru took away all the attention from him but still glad to see
Sakura. ¡°I¡¯m going home now.¡±
you¡¯re not,¡± Syaoran stated firmly. ¡°You promised me dinner also. Finally
I get some time alone with you.¡±
Halting, Sakura turned around. Wolfie-chan banged into her legs.
over to Wolfie-chan, Syaoran gently said, ¡°Wolfie-chan, I¡¯m really sorry but
now you have to go home and wait, okay?¡±
first, Wolfie-chan whimpered, then he nodded in consent. With a final wag of his
tail, the puppy scampered down the road.
¡±Wait, Wolfie-chan!¡± Sakura called out in vain.
Syaoran said, ¡°Wolfie-chan listens to me better than to you now.¡± Before
Sakura could come up with an indignant response, he continued, ¡± Well let¡¯s
are we going?¡± Sakura asked, yawning. ¡°I¡¯m exhausted already, and we have
going to Tokyo to have dinner at a five star Italian restaurant,¡± Syaoran
has come over Syaoran lately?
Sakura wondered, as Syaoran grabbed her hand and ran to the train station.
dim light of the flickering candle illuminating the restaurant, reflected off
Syaoran¡¯s amused amber eyes. They were seated in a table for two by the window
side, able to gaze out at the Tokyo night street. Though the full course meal
was delicious, Sakura had to choke it down. The atmosphere was completely
different from simply eating dinner at Syaoran¡¯s apartment when she stayed
are you so silent?¡± Sakura stammered. ¡°Say something.¡±
not supposed to eat the Italian tiramisu with a spoon,¡± Syaoran said out of
the blue, taking a bite of the desert with his fork.
tastes good either way,¡± Sakura retorted. That wasn¡¯t the kind of
conversation she wanted. By this time, she was starting to feel that the young
man staring out at her through tousled dark brown bangs, sitting in front of her
at this very moment, was a person she had met just recently. Why else would her
heart be thudding so spontaneously? It was not a very comfortable feeling.
did that last time too,¡± Syaoran insisted. ¡°You ate your seafood penne with
yeah. This is the restaurant we came to this summer!¡± Sakura recalled,
ignoring Syaoran¡¯s criticisms. ¡°You kept me waiting for an hour, too.¡± And
he had given her a beautiful pale white-blue rose which she had pressed into a
heavy book to dry.
I don¡¯t recall doing such a thing. All I remember is that our meal was ruined
because we were spying on your uncle and grandfather. Kai really owes us big
time—just remembering all the trouble we went through this summer makes me
was fun though.¡±
didn¡¯t you say you have something really important to tell me?¡± Sakura
asked, wiping the crumb off her lips with the napkin.
ago,¡± Syaoran replied, implying that he was cross, but with a mild smile on
Sakura said, feeling her perspiration on her neck. ¡°I¡¯m ready to listen now.
What is it?¡±
you brought along that kid today, you owe me another Sunday,¡± Syaoran replied,
leaning back on the chair. ¡°I¡¯ll tell you next Sunday.¡±
Sakura said, half wondering what kind of game Syaoran was playing at, dragging
things out, half glad that she could spend even more time with him. ¡°Anyway, I
don¡¯t know about you, but I think it was nice to spend the day with
Subaru-chan. You saw how excited he was.¡±
never said anything. He¡¯s a decent kid,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°Though he has
funny taste in girls.¡±
know, I was pretty surprised that the Wave has been silent for a few days,¡±
Sakura said to change the subject, feeling compelled to start a conversation.
¡°I can¡¯t help thinking if it¡¯s okay to just leave it like this. I feel
like it¡¯s building up to something bigger. Especially because of the incident
at the Best Couple Contest this summer, I¡¯m a little nervous. Oh yeah, just
wait till we have some time on our hands. I¡¯m going to get revenge on you and
Kai-kun for making fun of me while I was five because of the Age Card. Don¡¯t
look at me like that, as if you find it amusing.
I¡¯m serious; I¡¯m really going to make you sorry.¡± Stopping for
breath, Sakura gaped at Syaoran. It wasn¡¯t like him to just listen to her
chattering and not argue back.
her head at Syaoran¡¯s indifference, Sakura continued, ¡°I was really shocked
to hear about Eron and Erika. I knew their parents had passed away, but I guess
I thought they lived with their relative or something. After all, the Chang
twins and the orphanage don¡¯t seem to match. And Erika used to be really frail
because she had a weak heart. I heard from Yuri-chan that Eron was really
protective of his sister. It¡¯s so rare that we see such sides of them,
however. But I can¡¯t help wondering if it¡¯s possible to bring out such
sides. Eron is such a complex person, but I still can¡¯t help being drawn to
his enigma, as if he is kind of a puzzle I have to figure out to find out the
can we talk about something else just for today,¡± Syaoran interrupted.
little hurt, Sakura said, ¡°I just thought you would be interested.¡± Wasn¡¯t
Syaoran always the one who could never distinguish business and regular life?
I¡¯m more interested in why you found it so difficult to make time to meet a
friend,¡± Syaoran said, glancing away from Sakura for the first time during
that meal. ¡°Just a single Sunday was all I asked for.¡±
sorry. It really was nothing personal, really,¡± Sakura said softly.
I¡¯m not trying to make you apologize a million times,¡± Syaoran reassured.
¡°I¡¯m sorry too.¡±
I don¡¯t know¡¦¡± Syaoran stammered. ¡°Because I¡¯m making you feel
uncomfortable right now?¡±
slightly, Sakura thought, It¡¯s not your attitude, presence, or your words
that¡¯s making me nervous right now; it¡¯s simply the atmosphere of the
restaurant, that¡¯s all. That¡¯s what I want to believe. Since when have I
felt this way in front of you, though? This flustered and baffled. There was a
time when I felt at complete ease with you, when I didn¡¯t see you differently
from any other person, wasn¡¯t there? I
don¡¯t know why or how, but you know me so well when I hardly know you at all.
Yet, somehow, these days, I think I am getting to know you a little better.
Syaoran? Actually, there was something I wanted to say to you also,¡± Sakura
said. From her bag, she drew out a rectangular package, wrapped in green and
white striped paper. ¡°I¡¯m sorry. This is nothing much, but I just wanted to
express my gratitude for all that you¡¯ve done for me the past few months while
I stayed at your house. I¡¯m kind of broke, so I couldn¡¯t get you anything
more fancy. But I¡¯ll buy you dinner next time.¡±
Syaoran opened the box. In it were two mugs, one a pale green and one a rose
pink. Each had a teddy bear on the face of the mug. He hid a grin. How
sheepishly, Sakura said, ¡°I guess that¡¯s something more of what I would buy
myself. But then the teddy bears were so cute. The real reason I bought mugs is
remember how your favorite green mug disappeared?¡±
Syaoran raised an eyebrow.
I broke it last time when I was washing the dishes. And I threw away the broken
pieces before you saw it, because I was afraid that you¡¯d get mad at me.
Sorry!¡± Sakura bent down her head in repentance.
always wondered where that mug disappeared to,¡± Syaoran said, fingering the
teddy bear on the green mug. Then he touched the pink mug. ¡°There are two
mugs. You only broke one.¡±
well, they came in a set,¡± Sakura explained hastily.
Syaoran said, ¡°But I only need one mug. I guess the other one is for my
Meirin or Kai can use it,¡± Sakura said quickly.
setting the mugs back in the box and putting it in his bag, Syaoran said,
¡°Nope, I¡¯m going to reserve it for an especially guest only.¡±
Sakura said, already knowing who but wanting to hear it from Syaoran¡¯s own
see,¡± Syaoran replied, heading towards the counter to pay the bills. ¡°Well,
should we start heading back? I guess it¡¯s too late too watch a movie, since
we have school tomorrow.¡±
onii-chan must be worried. It¡¯s already nine,¡± Sakura said.
Maybe we should see a movie after all,¡± Syaoran commented.
Syaoran off, Sakura urged, ¡°Hurry, so we won¡¯t miss the train.¡±
train was very crowded and Sakura and Syaoran barely squeezed in.
Someone shoved Sakura into the corner, and another person knocked her aside.
keep in sight with me,¡± Syaoran called over the heads of the people, trying to
make his way to Sakura¡¯s side. ¡°I didn¡¯t know that there would be this
many people. We should have just taken a cab.¡±
Barely escaping being smothered by two huge men, Sakura grabbed onto the handle
as the train started before she lost her balance. She bumped into Syaoran¡¯s
there was a screech and the train halted. All the standing people collided into
each other. Syaoran shielded Sakura from the shoving people.
the matter?¡± People demanded. ¡°We¡¯re not at the station yet?¡±
next moment, there was vibration throughout the train cars and a large thud
sound. This was followed by consecutive shaking in the cars.
operators voice was drowned out by the commotion created by the passengers.
¡°Passengers, there will be brief delay in all train schedules. Please evacuate
the cars in an orderly fashion, and please do not push each other.¡±
something wrong?¡± Sakura asked, looking up at Syaoran. ¡°Is it possibly
another dark force?¡±
think it was another earthquake,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°Quick, let¡¯s leave the
train before we are tread over by these people.¡±
passengers were frantically trying to exit, selfishly thinking of getting only
themselves out of the train cars.
squeezing out the door, Sakura looked back, expecting to see Syaoran. Yet he was
nowhere in view. Then, she caught sight of him, helping an old woman get off the
train. Again, that fluttering feeling in her heart ran a tingle down her spine.
Sakura, we have to get out of the station,¡± Syaoran said, after making sure
that the old lady was safely out of the range of the hoards of people rushing
out of the train.
the Wave again,¡± Sakura said, running to catch up with Syaoran. They walked
out into the streets, flocked with people who had left the trains in a hurry.
ground beneath them shook again, and Sakura stumbled.
do you get such poor balance?¡± Syaoran asked, sighing in exasperation.
my mother, probably,¡± Sakura replied, sheepishly.
you supposed to be gymnastics star of Seijou Junior?¡± Syaoran muttered. Yet,
Sakura wasn¡¯t listening; she had already run to the direction of the dark
running for minutes, Sakura halted, panting. ¡°I lost track of the dark force.
I thought I felt the aura coming from this direction, but I guess I was wrong.
It¡¯s strange—I can¡¯t locate the Wave; it feels like it¡¯s coming from
all different directions.¡±
since it is the ¡°Wave¡± it¡¯s powers reverberates and spreads out in all
different directions,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°That¡¯s why you have to
concentrate extra hard and find the center of it, not where it radiates out its
hate it when you try to sound all smart,¡± Sakura said, crouching on the ground
since her legs ached.
not trying to sound smart— I¡¯m just telling you the straight facts,¡±
know what¡¯s strange?¡± Sakura asked, standing up again, accepting that once
more she had lost track of the Wave. ¡°I used to be really determined to
conquer the Dark Ones. I was convinced that the righteous would always win, that
everything will work out in my favor. And then, I began to think. Who is the
righteous one? What am I really doing? Why am fighting the Dark Ones? I think
it¡¯s foolish to be fighting the Dark Ones when I don¡¯t even know the reason
they¡¯re attacking us for one thing, and harming innocent people, for
another,¡± Syaoran said dryly.
why? Do you truly believe that Eron and Erika are any different from us?¡±
Sakura asked. ¡°Kero-chan told me that the original Dark Ones have some desire
or revenge, a long wrought hate sprung in the era of the Five Great Sorcerers.
Then, Kaitou Magician entered the picture. He stole the Five Force Treasures
from us and the Dark One, also. Yet, I don¡¯t consider him a villain-figure. He
also has his reasons—he has to collect the Five Force Treasures. When
Eriol-kun attacked me, five years ago, it was because he wanted to make me a
strong new mistress for the Clow Cards. And when you fight, it is because you
wanted to uphold your family honor and the title of the Li Clan Chosen One. Yet,
I, alone, have no intrinsic motive at all. I don¡¯t want to fight the Dark
Ones—not in that I want to defeat them and destroy them. Neither do I want
immense power or recognition, either. I don¡¯t even want to fight under my
mother¡¯s name, nor the Great Magician Amamiya, my far-off ancestor¡¯s name,
because I believe my mother was a peaceful person at heart, and I do not know
anything about Amamiya-sama. So, what am I fighting so desperately for?¡±
such a silly think to ponder about,¡± Syaoran scoffed, in a tone which piffled
Sakura. ¡°Haven¡¯t you realized yet? You¡¯re not fighting for any stupid old
intrinsic motive. You¡¯re fighting because you have no choice, because it is
the responsibility you have from the blood that runs through your veins.¡±
with the idea, Sakura commented, ¡°I don¡¯t really like that concept,
didn¡¯t think you would,¡± Syaoran said, grinning crookedly, before becoming
solemn again. ¡°So, continue to think that you¡¯re fighting for righteousness.
After all, you alone have the purest of motives, for the soul sake of defending
yourself and the people you love. Isn¡¯t that the best motive of all? You¡¯re
not fighting in anyway to benefit yourself; you¡¯re completely unselfish. Long
ago, the five greatest magicians of the world formed a circle, the Circle of the
Five Forces, joining hands to combine and use their gift to benefit human kind,
to prevent competition and rivalry between the most powerful in the world. Now,
in modern day world, the circle has collapsed, yet what will be able to keep
order and balance in this perilous world of power and greed? Sakura, you alone
will be able to keep the equilibrium, because you are the center of the current
magical world, the nucleus of a star, and you will extend your arms out to all
the points of the star, to all of the lost wanderers lusting for more power,
reminiscing the glory of the past, and rotting away from the curse of their
Noticing that a lost expression had washed over Sakura¡¯s
face, Syaoran said lightly, ¡°Look, it¡¯s not because of your magical powers
or ancestry which makes you the way you are right now. You¡¯re not an
especially special ¡°Chosen One¡± either. You¡¯re simply you. It¡¯s probably
your existence rather than your magical powers which sets you apart from others.
So, I think you should start taking more pride and credit for the role you play
in the magician¡¯s world now.
her head, Sakura said, ¡°I don¡¯t see what point you¡¯re driving at, not at
not that difficult of a concept,¡± Syaoran replied. ¡°I¡¯m no Clow Reed who
believes that everything is predetermined. Because I think you induced the
situation you¡¯re in upon yourself. Do you need a more thorough explanation?
I¡¯ll tell you. You already had begun the process by becoming best friends with
Tomoyo, as well as having the support of your brother and father. But really, it
all started six years ago, when your first befriended your brother¡¯s best
friend, Yukito-san, the first of your solid allies, later to become Yue, one of
your guardians. Then, Kero, your second guardian-to-be accepted you as Card
Captor. Then, I came here from Hong Kong. Believe it or not, I am the first
point of the star that you extended your arms to and definitely gained. And I
thank you for accepting me. Unlike me, you also were drawn to Mizuki-sensei and
won yourself another powerful ally. Obviously, Cerberus and Yue both accepted
you with Yue¡¯s Judgment, so you became their Card Mistress. Next, Eriol came
to Tomoeda to test your skills. And once more, you won him over with your charm,
which also won over Yue and Cerberus¡¯ counterparts, Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun.
As of now, these seven people correspond to seven points of a twelve-pointed
with your star analogy?¡± Sakura asked, dumbfounded yet fascinated.
you noticed the magic circle which appears when your release your staff? It¡¯s
your own symbol, like Clow Reed has his own sun circle. Yours has a five-pointed
star in the center, where you stand; this star represents you. It overlaps
another five pointed star, each of the five points representing the original
Great Five: Amamiya, Li, Reed, Mizuki, and the last one probably Chang.
Encircling these is a large twelve-pointed star. Each point is a spot for each
person of special power that you have drawn into your own special circle. As I
said before, seven spots are already definite and filled. Last year, the Dark
Ones have appeared. So two more points are reserved for the legendary twins, for
the day you will win them over to your side, if such a day comes.¡±
thoughts coming from Li Syaoran,¡± Sakura murmured. Will such a day come?
tenth point, if I¡¯m not mistaken, is that rascal, problem-causing thief you
insisted on befriending. But again, you reached your hands out to him, and he is
starting to sway towards your circle,¡± Syaoran continued.
haven¡¯t you noticed a special aura around him? It¡¯s subtle, yet still
strong,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°And finally, there are two spots left, for two new
people to appear and fill in the near or far future. Once all these spots are
filled, once everyone has joined, equilibrium, disrupted since the Golden Age of
the Great Five, will finally be reached in the magical world.¡±
novel ideas were intricate for Sakura to absorb completely, for it didn¡¯t seem
possible that the equilibrium that Syaoran talked of could be restored by her.
Oh well, for the moment, all she could do was try her best to survive day by day
and maybe find out Eron and Erika¡¯s real motives.
earthquakes ceased again,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I hope there weren¡¯t to many
casualties or damages caused by it.¡±
really need to track it down as soon as we can,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°But before
thinking of that, I think we should return home.¡±
How are we going to get home?¡± Sakura panicked. ¡°Should we call a cab? Are
there any buses?¡±
There aren¡¯t any people around here. This is when it becomes convenient to
have magical powers. Call the Unicorn or something,¡± Syaoran said, glancing
around the streets surreptitiously.
I can really do something like that? You won¡¯t get mad at me for being
irresponsible or frivolous or anything?¡± Sakura fumbled for the key hanging
from a chain around her neck.
Clearly, Syaoran hadn¡¯t been paying attention to her rambling.
do you really think my motives for fighting against the Dark Ones are?¡±
Syaoran asked solemnly, staring into the starless night sky.
that¡¯s obvious. To uphold family honor as the Li Clan Chosen One,¡± Sakura
really think so?¡±
why do you think I first came to Japan, five years ago?¡±
even more obvious. To capture the Clow Cards for the Li Clan,¡± Sakura replied,
getting more baffled at Syaroan¡¯s pointless questions which were heading
why did I stay in Japan after the Clow Cards were captured?¡±
strange things started happening in Tomoeda, and you might have wanted to meet
Clow Reed,¡± Sakura answered. ¡°What point are you trying to make?¡±
his head, Syaoran said, ¡°Never mind. Let¡¯s return home.¡±
Syaoran¡¯s acting so strange today. Maybe he¡¯s still mad that I brought
along Subaru today. Without further thought, Sakura released the Unicorn. But
all the same, I hate it when he doesn¡¯t finish his thoughts. He¡¯s always so
vague and ambiguous.
don¡¯t fall asleep,¡± Tomoyo whispered into Sakura¡¯s ears during math
lessons the next day. ¡°Were you out with Syaoran-kun that late in the night
Sakura blinked, trying not to let her eyes shut again. Her brother had been
furious once more that she had returned home around midnight last night, even
though she had explained the trains had shut down. It was uncanny how her
brother always knew it when she met Syaoran.
she could whisper back a proper response, she felt Syaoran, seated behind her,
flinch and drop his pen onto the ground. Then, she too felt a sharp bolt ripple
through her body, the feeling she received when an extremely powerful force was
near by. Bolting up, she shouted, ¡°Earthquake!¡±
The math teacher stopped in the midst of an explanation, ready to scold Sakura
for interrupting the class. Before the teacher could do so, an extremely
powerful quake shook the building. The vase on the teacher¡¯s desk smashed onto
the floor and books fell off desks. It was the worst quake that Tomoeda had
received of yet, and was followed by another one and another one. Most students
had crouched underneath their desks.
cool green eyes flitted to Eron, who was sitting calmly at his desk. He looked
up at her and smiled, only to be greeted by Sakura¡¯s hard stare.
school was dismissed, the journalism club members headed straight to the
hospital. The hospital was crowded to the point that it was chaotic and the
doctors and nurses were tenser and busier than usual. Seemingly, a few buildings
had collapsed and caught fire. Though there were no deaths, there were quite a
few serious injuries, and many broken joints, heart attacks, and car accidents.
rushed up to Sakura. ¡°Hey, Sakura. You and Chang-kun. And you,
Mizuki-kun-where were you last time? You come too. Anyway, we have to rush over
to the orphanage. The head of the orphanage fell down the stairs during the
earthquakes earlier on today and broke her hip bone—she¡¯s in the
hospital right now, so they need extra help there.¡±
Sakura had been surprised at the fuss and noise children could make on her
previous visit to the orphanage, that would have been called music compared to
the state of the orphanage that day. The assistant had given up in despair,
lying down on the couch faintly. The other assistant had assisted the head of
the orphanage to the hospital and was gone. Diligent as always, Yuri alone was
trying her best to tend to the problems of twenty or so children of ages ranging
from three to fourteen. As calm as she usually was, she looked near tears.
children didn¡¯t have lunch yet, but I don¡¯t have the spare hand to make food
right now,¡± Yuri explained, in desperation, stroking a child¡¯s head. ¡°Hush
now, here¡¯s a banana.¡±
I¡¯m starving!¡± Subaru exclaimed, jumping down from a chest—he had been
in the middle of playing bandits. ¡°I think I can eat Annie-doll at this
Holding the doll close to her chest, the girl stuck her tongue out at Subaru.
¡°You had five cookies when the rest of us only had two; how can you be still
go to the pizza store and bring over four pans of pizza and five bottles of
coke,¡± Sakura said. ¡°Your treat.¡±
do you I have to go?¡± Kai grumbled.
you ditched school again,¡± Sakura said simply. ¡°Hurry now.¡±
fine.¡± Kai hurried out.
leaving the room, Kai glanced at Eron¡¯s left ear demurely. ¡°New earring?
It¡¯s a pretty sapphire jewel. Not as pretty as blood red rubies though.
Probably not as useful, either.¡±
crush that self-confident face of yours, Kaitou Magician,¡± Eron murmured so
quietly, that only Kai could catch his words. In return, Kai merely grinned,
much to Eron¡¯s annoyance.
ground shook once more as Kai left, startling the younger children.
I told you!¡± Subaru said to the younger children. ¡°The Earth-Monster is mad,
so it¡¯s trembling with anger. Soon, it¡¯s going to open its mouth wide and
swallow all of us up.¡±
not true!¡± an older boy scoffed.
yes it is. You know why the head disappeared? She was a bad woman, so the
Earth-Monster swallowed her up,¡± Subaru stated confidently.
The children asked in fear.
she broke her hip, so she¡¯s being treated at the hospital right now,¡± Sakura
defended, glaring at Subaru. ¡°Su-chan, stop making up lies. You an one of my
classmates will get along really well.¡±
the ground shook once more, more violently than before, and it shook again three
more times, each time even more startling. Even Sakura felt nauseous.
don¡¯t you think we better evacuate this building?¡± Yuri asked, frowning.
¡°The earthquakes getting worse—I¡¯m afraid this house will just
collapse on top of us.¡±
the children were crying, and the other half were near tears, many of them
holding onto each other¡¯s hands. It was the first time they had experienced
such disorder and confusion. The almighty, resilient head of the orphanage was
injured, the assistant was faint, and even Yuri was panicking. Uneasiness and
tension brimmed in the room.
Sakura¡¯s dismay, she heard the building¡¯s frames creak—or was it her
imagination? A tile from the roof slid off and crashed onto the ground outside.
The children shrieked.
happening, Kaijou-¡®nee-san?¡± Subaru demanded, fingers plugged in ear.
¡°Stop it, right now!¡±
Eron-kun?¡± Yuri asked, her voice even, yet strained. ¡°I think it¡¯s best if
we get out right now. I¡¯m not sure how sturdy this building is. All I know is
that these earthquakes are coming nearer and nearer towards this area, and I
don¡¯t want the roof to fall over our head.¡±
a second—I¡¯ll go find Eron-kun. Gather everyone into this room,¡±
Sakura told Yuri. ¡°Tell them not to panic.¡±
she had expected, Sakura found Eron sitting on the back porch steps. Unruffled
as usual, he was calmly staring into nothingness. Stomping up in front of him,
Sakura demanded, ¡°Chang Eron, stop this right now! Please.¡±
with a gem, which looked like a wide open eye, hanging from a black cord around
his neck, Eron asked coolly, ¡°Stop what?¡±
these earthquakes,¡± Sakura replied, furious that Eron seemed so calm.
you¡¯re so smart to figure out that I¡¯m causing them, if I indeed I am
causing them, why don¡¯t you simply attack me?¡± Eron asked, looking up. This
was the first time Sakura had confronted him in this manner. The ground beneath
Sakura¡¯s feet trembled as the tension in the land built up. ¡°Why did you
come up to me and plead to cease what I am doing? Do you truly think that is a
wise thing to do? You¡¯re walking into the spider web with your own two
time, the ground shook so abruptly that Sakura was knocked to her feet. As she
tried to stand up, the ground shook again, and Sakura collapsed on the ground
once more. Her head swirled round and round as she tried to stare into Eron¡¯s
amused golden eyes. Never before had they looked so menacing. Often, she thought
they were mysterious and indecipherable, but now they looked scornful and even
more I look at you, Kinomoto Sakura, the more I realize what a fool my opponent
is,¡± Eron continued. ¡°It¡¯s a pity. You¡¯re so stupid, you¡¯re boring.¡±
was strange to hear such cruel, harsh works drip out of Eron¡¯s mouth, for he
usually carefully chose his words and managed to keep a refined air around him.
her kneeled state, Sakura forced herself to stare into Eron¡¯s golden flecked
hazel eyes. ¡°I don¡¯t care if I¡¯m stupid. I don¡¯t care if you attack me
or harm me or hate me. All I ask, Eron-kun, is to stop involving and injuring
innocent people. I don¡¯t care if you want to make me suffer that much because
you hate me. Hate me all you want to, send all the dark forces in the world to
attack me, make me bleed—I won¡¯t reproach you for it. Maybe someday
I¡¯ll know the reason why. But Eron, you have a kind heart, I know. You¡¯re
the kind of boy who loved his sister so much that he will do anything to protect
her. You¡¯re the kind of boy who fixes a broken doll for a crying girl.
You¡¯re the type of boy¡¦¡±
up!¡± Eron said, his usually elegantly arched eyebrows furrowed down, his
beautiful face contorted in anger for a change; such a fierce expression, Sakura
had never seen on his, or any other person¡¯s face before. He continued in a
soft, dangerous voice, ¡°Don¡¯t jump into any conclusions just because I told
you a little bit about my childhood.¡±
ground beneath Sakura split open so that one side rose higher than the other,
tossing Sakura over onto her face. Her body was covered in dirt. Stubbornly,
Sakura pulled herself up again, despite the fact that the ground beneath her was
shaking unstably. The screams of the children inside the building could be
heard. Kneeling in front of Eron again, head bowed down, Sakura repeated,
¡°Can¡¯t you see? If the earthquakes continue, the orphanage is going to
collapse. Don¡¯t harm the children. That¡¯s the one favor I will ever ask of
you. Please don¡¯t hurt innocent people, Eron-kun. Please.
It¡¯s not too much to ask, is it? She stared up with glassy emerald
eyes. ¡±Is it?¡± She held out a pinky to Eron, a gesture of promising, smiling
aside such nonsense!¡± Eron exclaimed, knocking her hand away.
said, ¡°I like Eron-kun; I like Eron-kun a lot. I think family business is
family business and friends are friends. Though blood may be thicker than
friendship, trust runs even deeper than blood. I think I want to try trusting
you, Eron-kun. I think you have and are capable of more good in you than you are
aware of. Despite what you think, I believe humans are worthy of redemption. So,
please promise me that you won¡¯t harm innocent people in pursuit of the Dark
knuckles were turning whiter and whiter as he clutched his necklace. Then, he
noticed the ground beneath Sakura start to shift again. She was ignoring it,
obstinately holding out her little pinky finger towards him. The crack she was
kneeling on was starting widen.
move out of the way!¡± Eron exclaimed abruptly, surprised as the words left his
Sakura stumbled back, as the ground beneath her cracked open at a rapid rate.
thinking, Eron leaped up from his seated position, shoving Sakura¡¯s body out
of danger¡¯s way. The spot Sakura was sitting on seconds ago was completely
jagged and dangerously angled. Had she remained there, her bones would have been
crushed. Dazed, Sakura picked herself off the ground, brushing the dust off her
sitting up himself, Eron stared at his dirt covered hands. What had he just
done? He had thrown his body over Sakura to prevent her from being injured from
the dark force that he himself had sent out. Who was the more foolish one now?
you, Eron-kun,¡± Sakura stammered. Clearly, she was even more startled than
Eron at is actions.
her words, Eron sat up on his knees, looking haunted. In a hoarse voice, he
said, ¡°Sakura, I¡¯m just curious about one thing.¡±
is it?¡± Sakura asked, uneasily.
you bother to be kind to me or Erika?¡± Eron asked.
¡°Do I need a reason?¡± Sakura asked back. She recalled that summer at the beachside, when Syaoran had confronted her with the same question. Back then, she had replied, ¡®Because they are still only humans before they are my enemies. I want to know the reason why they are doing this. I want to get to know them not as someone to be cautious of and to distance myself from, but as someone who I can discover different sides of. The good and bad sides.¡¯
too recalled the conversation he had overheard during the whole Best Couple
Contest business. It had left him dumbfounded, perplexed, and bewildered. The
girl he had thought so dumb had known everything, and even more, had kept it a
secret because she wanted to show him sympathy? Or maybe even give him a chance
to prove himself? Prove what? That he too, was only human? Slowly, Eron replied,
¡°Does one need a reason?¡± He answered himself. ¡°I guess not. Because you
are Kinomoto Sakura.¡±
you¡¯re only Eron-kun,¡± Sakura stated, whimsically. ¡°For what is in a name?
That which we call a rose shall smell just as sweet were it called something
else.¡± At this allusion to Romeo and Juliet, Eron managed to smile slightly.
¡°Eron-kun is like a beautiful crystal rose, returning people who want to
admire it and touch it with prickly thorns. In ways, even Erika-chan¡¯s policy
is better. At least she outright states it when she dislikes a person, when
she¡¯s dissatisfied with something, or when she is annoyed. She doesn¡¯t keep
it all in herself, letting the hatred rot away from inside, in the flesh which
is concealed by the crystal encasing it. Eron-kun¡¯s problem is that you try to
hide away any flaws with perfection and distance, like a cold glacier. That is
why, when people approach you, you end up hurting them, because you feel
compelled to repel them with the icy barrier.¡±
I am a crystal rose with prickly thorns?¡± Eron repeated with a mocking curve
of his lips. ¡°Do I repel you, Sakura? When people try to touch me, do I leave
them only to bleed? Is that the impression you get of me?¡±
the cruel rejection of Yuri, Sakura bit her lip. She hadn¡¯t meant to let such
words, her inner thoughts, flow out of her mouth so easily. Yet, when Eron
stared at her without any words, as if prodding her to continue, she couldn¡¯t
help but blurt out such nonsense. ¡°I¡¯m
sorry, Eron-kun. I didn¡¯t mean to say such stuff.¡±
a moment, Eron remained silent. It was disturbing how such a seemingly
simplistic girl could so easily crack through his exterior mask and state so
outright everything there was to his character. Was he that transparent, when he
was supposed to be unapproachable? How could someone who barely knew him know
him so well? Yet, he didn¡¯t want to acknowledge that fact, that this girl knew
him even better than his own twin sister.
such a silly girl, Sakura,¡± Eron murmured, shaking his head in disdain.
Sakura replied, ¡°Maybe I am.¡±
tremors grew less frequent as the earthquakes ceased. Finally, Eron said, ¡°I
can¡¯t guarantee anything, and I swear that I will win over you, Sakura. But,
but I¡¯ll try my best to not harm and innocent people.¡±
first Sakura stared at Eron unexpectedly, disbelieving her ears. ¡°Really?
Eron-kun, really?¡± Sakura smiled wildly, grabbing onto Eron¡¯s hand. ¡°Thank
you, Eron-kun, thank you.¡±
my heart just thud right now? Up till now, I never realized that my heart was
capable of beating. I thought, when I became a crystal rose, my heart too froze
and ceased to beat like a human heart.
¡°I said, there are no guarantees,¡± Eron replied, clearly uncomfortable.
¡°You seem to look upon your enemy too lightly. I¡¯ll prove to you that the
Dark Ones are not to be taken so easily and that you shall regret the day that
you set eyes on us.¡±
Sakura said, extremely happily.
nothing to be excited about,¡± Eron said, sweat-dropping. Yet, Sakura¡¯s smile
was so bright. She is stupid. How can she be happy just because I said that I
will try not to harm innocent people? I wonder how someone who¡¯s been through
all she has can still smile so happily like that, like a child. Like a child.
Are all humans really children at heart?
I know for sure Eron-kun is a good person in the core,¡± Sakura said.
not,¡± Eron replied grimly. ¡°I¡¯m rotten to the core. You said yourself that
I am rotting away beneath the flesh.¡±
her head down, Sakura said, ¡°I¡¯m sorry. I really didn¡¯t mean to put things
accept that you did not speak any untruth. But one thing you were mistaken
about. I do not hate you, Sakura, not at all.¡±
Sakura stared hard at Eron, who now had a somewhat contemplative expression on
this face. Lately, she had seen so many different nuances of Eron¡¯s facial
expressions, more than she ever thought he was capable of possessing and
am accursed and twisted in every single way,¡± Eron continued, his expression
growing grimmer as his fingers moved to that strange reddish-black crystal
around his neck.
it think you induce unhappiness upon yourself,¡± Sakura sighed, deeply
disturbed by the shadow cast over Eron¡¯s face, which had been smiling just
I do,¡± Eron replied. ¡°Say, Sakura, isn¡¯t this a strange conversation for
us two to be having?¡±
at all,¡± Sakura said. ¡°I¡¯ve known Eron-kun for over a year, yet I feel
like this is the first time you¡¯ve even opened up to me.¡±
knows why I¡¯m telling you all these things,¡± Eron said, shaking his head.
¡°It¡¯s madness. You know it too, don¡¯t you?¡±
learned long ago it¡¯s best to separate business and friendship,¡± Sakura
replied. ¡°For as long as it is possible. And what is to come will come
eventually. But until then¡¦ Until then, we can just try to get along as
peacefully and happily as possible.¡±
and happily? Us?¡± Eron scoffed. ¡°You know, all I ever wanted was for my
sister to have a healthy heart and for us to live happily together. That simple,
really. Funny, coming from me, isn¡¯t it? Is that too much for a person like me
to ask?¡± Eron broke off, his breath becoming shorter.
ground trembled the slightest bit, but Eron clenched the gem with a tight fist.
¡°Is it too much for one to ask?¡± he repeated.
uneasy aura, a dire blackness, was radiating out of the crystal, Sakura noticed.
Eron stumbled forward, panting. ¡°Eron-kun, are you okay?¡± she asked.
think I am. But maybe I¡¯m not. At times, I don¡¯t think I can hold out much
longer,¡± Eron whispered. An electric pain bolted through his blood vessels and
what¡¯s the matter?¡± Sakura asked, reaching over to support Eron.
touch me!¡± Eron exclaimed, jumping back and startling Sakura. His golden eyes
were wide and dilated. ¡°Don¡¯t come near me!¡±
the matter with you?¡± Sakura asked, frowning with bewilderment. She stepped
forward. ¡°Let me feel your forehead. I think you have a fever.¡±
come a single step closer to me right now or else I might really hurt you,¡±
Eron said. ¡°For it is my fate to conquer you and end this misery.¡±
me then, Eron-kun¡± Sakura said, eyes blurring with tears to see Eron in such
agony. ¡°If that¡¯ll stop that black aura enveloping you, then attack me.¡±
you can see it? The aura?¡± Eron asked, holding out his hands, palms up. A
smoky black cloud-like aura wove through his fingers and up his wrist to his
arms. Then he flinched and crumpled to the ground again.
Hesitantly, Sakura placed a hand on his shoulder. He was shivering
uncontrollably and his skin was burning hot, even through the cloth of his
shirt. In fact, she doubted a regular person could be alive with such a body
temperature. ¡°What¡¯s wrong with your body?¡±
stared at Sakura with haunted, overcast eyes. Never before had she seen such a
lifeless look coming from a live person¡¯s eyes.
me, Eron-kun, what can I do for you?¡± Sakura asked, brows creased with worry.
Sakura into his arms, Eron said, ¡°Sakura, you¡¯re really a good person. You
really are. I can¡¯t hate you, even if I want you.¡±
so close to Eron, Sakura was even more unsettled to find that Eron¡¯s heart
beat was faster than a person who had run a marathon, and now his body was
chilly, to the point that it was icy. She couldn¡¯t help wondering how normal
it was for body temperature to be burning hot one second and icy cold the next.
¡°It¡¯s okay. I¡¯m okay now. Just need to catch my breath,¡± Eron said
faintly, slightly recovering control. The next few words Eron said were
whispered so quietly, that Sakura could never decipher if she had imagined it or
if it had truly come from Eron¡¯s lips. Yet, it sounded like, ¡°Save me,
his hospital duty had ended, Syaoran walked over to Meirin¡¯s room. He felt
rather guilty because he had rather neglected her lately. At the same time, she
never looked too happy to see him when he did visit her. When he entered the
room, he found that the bed was empty, and a nurse was tidying the room.
you know where Li Meirin is?¡± Syaoran asked the nurse.
having a checkup,¡± the nurse replied. ¡°The doctor will bring her back in a
few minutes. You can wait here.¡±
Walking into the room, Syaoran sat down on the chair by the bedside. Eron,
Sakura, and Kai still hadn¡¯t returned from the orphanage.
know, it¡¯s really funny that Li-san seems to want to stay in this hospital
longer or something,¡± the nurse chattered on. ¡°She could have been released
a couple days ago, though she would have to have return for regular check ups,
but she insisted on staying on in the hospital.¡±
would Meirin do something like that? He had thought that she would be eager to
be released. ¡°Oh, really?¡± Syaoran said, trying not to sound too interested.
He wanted to be left alone and didn¡¯t want to encourage the nurse to continue
her chatter. As he desired, the nurse left the room.
from the mess of the room, Meirin had no intention of leaving it anytime soon.
Of course neither she, nor Kai who visited so often would pick after her stuff.
Sighing, Syaoran began to gather the scatter magazines on the ground. Then, he
picked up a book, an ancient looking Chinese book—something that Meirin
rarely read. As he examined it, a crisp envelope slipped from its yellowed pages
and floated to the ground. Hesitantly, he picked it up and turned it around. To
his surprise, it was addressed to him, from his mother. Was it a letter to him?
Then why hadn¡¯t Meirin given it to him? Because she was hiding its contents?
trembling fingers, Syaoran tore open the envelope. Out of it slipped a single
three-way folded paper. Unfolding it, he read his mother¡¯s neat, even
You probably have heard
the news from Meirin already. I thought it was best you hear it from your
cousin, so I haven¡¯t contacted you before. As you know, the different factions
of the Li Clan have been quite tense lately, especially since the Great Elder
has collapsed. Currently, I am tending to him at the Inner House and though his
health is greatly wasted from overwork; he is no longer in dire peril.
My dear Syaoran, please
do not take the decision of the Li Clan Inner Council to remove you as the
Chosen One too harshly. It is not your fault. I understand completely that what
you are doing in Japan is equally important, if not more important than anything
the Clan can order you to do here in Hong Kong. Yet, you must also remember that
it is partially your fault for neglecting all duties to the Clan as the Chosen
One. You left Hong Kong against he wishes of the Elders and your own mother.
It¡¯s been over a year since then, and you haven¡¯t returned even for a visit.
The Inner Council members and your eldest uncle are growing impatient with you.
It is natural that they took the opportunity when the Great Elder fell ill and
couldn¡¯t protect you to condemn you. However, their decision to remove you as
the Chosen One is merely a threat. Please return to Hong Kong immediately, and
such a talk won¡¯t arise again. Think wisely, Syaoran. I have faith in your
decision-making skills. I am not asking you to return forever, nor am I telling
you to abandon all you have established in Japan. I am merely telling you it is
wisest to submit to the wishes of your uncle and the Inner Council and come back
home for the time being. Your father probably would have given you the same
advise. After all, you are the soul, destined Chosen One of our generation.
Love, Li Ieran
would be lying to say that he wasn¡¯t startled and shaken by the letter. Though
his uncle had warned him from the beginning that Syaroan of the consequences of
not returning to Hong Kong, Syaoran hadn¡¯t expected his uncle to carry out the
threat of removing him as the Chosen One, so suddenly.
he would have liked more time to process his thoughts, Meirin at that moment
returned from the therapy room, pushed in a wheelchair by a nurse. ¡°Syaoran!
You were waiting for me?¡± Despite her bright smile, she didn¡¯t look at all
glad to see him, and now, Syaoran knew why. The nurse helped Meirin onto the bed
again, before leaving, shutting the door shut.
Syaoran crumpled the letter in his hand into a ball and slipped it into his
pocket, keeping a nonchalant expression. ¡°I heard that your leg is much better
Yeah,¡± Meirin said. The doctor told her she could be released any day she
chose. ¡°So, how did the date yesterday go?¡±
date? Sakura brought along a little kid from the orphanage,¡± Syaoran said,
scowling. ¡°We spent the day babysitting.¡±
I wish I could have seen that!¡± Meirin laughed out loud. ¡°Oh yeah. Have you
seen Kai lately?¡±
Oh. He skipped school today, again. But he turned up for volunteer work—he
went to the orphanage with Sakura and Eron,¡± Syaoran said. ¡°Thinking about
it, he never comes home to the apartment anymore. Isn¡¯t he always here with
Meirin said slowly. ¡°For the past several days, he always shows up in the late
afternoon in the children¡¯s playroom and stays till early in the evening. Then
he disappears in the nighttime, until the next afternoon. God knows where.
I¡¯ve given up on him.¡±
if I¡¯d known, I would have stopped by more often,¡± Syaoran said weakly. Had
Meirin thought that he was not capable of handling such dismaying news, was that
why she had been keeping it from him? Did she not believe in his ability to
handle his own life?
no, I¡¯m fine on my own. It¡¯s nice and quiet here,¡± Meirin lied glibly.
¡°Well, you must be tired, working the entire day. Why don¡¯t you go home and
rest? I think I¡¯d like to sleep now.¡±
then. I¡¯ll come again tomorrow,¡± Syaoran said, slowly getting up. ¡°Rest
Syaoran,¡± Meirin said, closing her eyes.
leaving the room, Syaoran took out the crumpled letter from his pocket, staring
at it hard, tense with deep contempt and frustration. The words, Syaoran,
please do not take the decision of the Li Clan Inner Council to remove you as
the Chosen One too harshly; it is not your fault, stared out at him boldly.
He took a last glance at the bitter letter. Then, he tore up the letter into
shreds, throwing it into the trashcan without second thought on his way out of
clock struck midnight. Standing on the highest building top, Kaitou Magician
stared down at the distant, abandoned streets. His black cloak fanned out in the
wind. After being cooped up for so long, pressured under various people, the
sense of liberation thrilled him. A cold, murderous expression swept over his
face as he leaped off the rooftop to the next building. He could never escape
his past. Once a criminal, always a criminal.
Once again, the chapter is out much later than I promised. Hehe¡¦ I¡¯m sure
many of the readers are tired of waiting by now. But I still love to write, and
I love my characters. ^.^. And there is yet another arc to come. Hmm¡¦ this
chapter was hard to write. Transition chapters are always hard to
write—meaning, the action is soon to come. Hehe. More focus on Eron this
chapter. I like villains. Refer back to the Special Chapter on the legendary
twins. Oh yeah, I don¡¯t know if you understood Syaoran¡¯s star analogy. If
you¡¯re confused, look at the design on the back of the Sakura Cards (not the
Clow Cards.) There are two overlapping five-point stars in the center (so that
it looks like the star has ten points.) Anyway, the star on top is where Sakura
stands, the entire thing. Then, the five points below represent each of the five
Great Sorcerers. Then, there is a twelve point star surrounding this. At each
end of this star, there is the sun and the moon emblem. Cerberus and Yue stand
on their respective spots. Then, there are ten more spots left. First is of
course Syaoran. Then Kaho, Eriol, Spinel Sun, Ruby Moon. These are the CLAMP
characters from the Clow Card and Sakura Card arcs. There are five spots
remaining. Supposedly, two spots are reserved for Eron and Erika, one for Kai,
and two for characters yet to come. I¡¯ve been playing with this idea for a
long time now—hehe¡¦ I guess I was studying the Sakura Cards in too much
depth. These are all abstract and my own imaginations.
this is the last chapter I¡¯ll be writing in my old room. After 14 years I¡¯m
finally moving~ I know I said
I¡¯ll be less busy after winter vacation, but I think I got even busier, with
preparation for moving. But I too get very frustrated because I want to move on
with the story.
the Li Clan structure confusing? Please refer to version one of the Li
always welcome at email@example.com
and my guestbook—and please visit my site at www.geocities.com/wishluv.
I¡¯ll try to update some parts of it over the next few months.