Author's Notes: The Card that Sakura changed was Shadow. One word to describe the writing of this chapter. Hell. It’s surreal, Yue and Yukito interchange within the space of a second. I had planned to include the power transfer scene in this chapter, but it started getting too long. And this chapter ends well where it does.
Shadows of the Moon
How much longer? This waiting, this stasis before the inevitable is almost as frightening as the end itself. Sakura changed another Card, and I am weaker than ever – yet I remain.
Why am I still alive? By all rights I should have been gone long ago, disappeared the way the moon wanes to darkness each month.
It is ‘his’ will that still keeps me here. ‘Yukito’, that part of me refuses to die. But even ‘he’ is tiring.
I am tiring.
The path wavered before him. It seemed to ripple up and down, if it were the surface of a stormy ocean instead of concrete. Yukito stared at it, gripping the streetlamp for support. He should really be in bed resting. There was no doubt about it – he was sick, there was something very wrong with him. It was stupidity to go to school in this condition.
Go home. Go home and sleep.
Yukito thought about it for a second. Then his fingers tightened their hold on the cool metal. No, he told himself, no I refuse to give into this. I’ll be okay. Determinedly, he pulled himself up and took a shaky step forward. He felt a small amount of satisfaction when he let go of the streetlamp and didn’t fall over.
But he still wanted to go to sleep.
Yukito rubbed his eyes, adjusting his sports-bag. It only held some clothes and his shoes inside, but it still weighed him down. Before he was even aware of it, the strap slipped off his shoulder and the bag fell onto the pavement with a flump. The noise sounded dead in his ears. Slowly, Yukito bent to pick it up, hair falling over his eyes hiding his the pain of his headache –
– he looked up with a smile on his face.
The ginger-haired sprite skated up to him, face aglow. Behind her, Touya wheeled his bike. He was not smiling. He hardly ever smiled at Yukito anymore. Yukito missed his friend’s smile. It was rarely given to anyone, and so something special for Yukito alone. But now it was about as common as roses in winter.
I’ll never see him smile again.
Yukito waved to him as Sakura braked to a gentle stop, looking at him with soft eyes. “Hello, To-ya.”
Touya didn’t reply. His gaze searched Yukito up and down, taking in the things Sakura did not see; the way his slim shoulders slumped over, the sparkle that was missing from his eyes. Yukito looked away.
please, don’t make this hurt any more, To-ya
“How are you feeling, Yukito-san?” asked Sakura as Yukito climbed onto the pillion seat of Touya’s bike.
“I’m fine, Sakura-chan.” Touya’s face was unreadable. “You look very well.”
you’re always fine, my child-master
They began the trip to school. Was it Yukito’s imagination, or was his friend cycling slower than usual?
“Look, Onii-chan, I can skate faster than you today!”
“That’s cause the monster has such huge legs.”
I will miss this
His hands involuntarily gripped his friend’s blazer as they turned a corner.
He turned and smiled at the girl. “Yes, Sakura-chan?”
“You look tired.”
He laughed, perhaps a little more high-pitched than was usual, but it was a laugh all the same. “There’s so much study to do. Sometimes I wish I was back in your year.”
Sakura shone. “Yes, we get to do so many fun things! Today we have Art class, and we’re going to do sketching outside. I’m not very good at drawing, but I know that Tomoyo-chan and Eriol-kun will draw really wonderful pictures and . . .”
Sakura-chan, you’re always so happy . . .
“ . . . Syaoran-kun says he wants to tell me something today as well . . .”
I don’t want to make you sad.
I’m sorry, Sakura-chan. I can’t be your Guardian or your friend any longer.
But I know you’ll be all right without me.
The two boys dropped Sakura off at the Tomoeda Junior School gates, then continued onto Seijou. Without Sakura’s sparkling presence, the mood between them cooled, as if a cloud had passed over the sun. They didn’t speak to each other, but it wasn’t the comfortable silence that they had shared in times past.
Yukito gripped his friend’s waist as if he didn’t want to let go.
To-ya, please, speak to me
“Why are you bringing your sports stuff?” asked Touya bluntly.
Yukito blinked. Was it a rhetorical question? “We’ve got the P.E. assessment after lunch,” he said as if stating the obvious.
He could sense Touya’s impatient expression. “I know we have a sports assessment, Yuki,” he replied in the same tone, “but you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Anger flared in Yukito – just a little, but considering how often he got angry, it was enough. “I’ll be fine, To-ya,” he said through gritted teeth.
Without warning, they stopped just before the school gates. A warm hand placed itself over his, the thumb sliding beneath his palm to rub it softly.
“Please, be careful . . . Yuki.”
I . . .
Whatever Yukito had to say in reply was forgotten as the bell rang, calling the students to class.
To the other students, Yukito does his best to appear cheerful and well – I hate anyone to worry over me. Perhaps it is pride, perhaps it is fear, but in any case, their concern would be useless. The ever-smiling mask is so pleasant though, they that believe it without question.
It doesn’t work on To-ya. He knows, his power won’t let him turn a blind eye. But he doesn’t know everything, the truth about me.
I don’t want him to know.
Morning classes had come and gone slowly, mid-morning classes had dragged on even more. Yukito had been told off more than once for falling asleep in class – he knew that he should have felt chastened, but he couldn’t. Yukito was just too tired.
It didn’t help that Touya was watching him constantly. Yes, he appreciated his friend’s care, yes he wanted his friend’s attention; what he did not want was sympathy and help. It was his problem, and his alone. So, he pretended not to see the way Touya’s eyes tracked him restlessly, he feigned blindness when Touya reached out to him only to pull back, and always, always he made sure that he was smiling, maintaining the façade of normalcy so that he could pretend still more.
I don’t want To-ya to hurt.
Aren’t you already hurting him?
An emotional gap would make sure that Touya would hurt less when he was gone.
It didn’t mean that he – both of them, couldn’t hurt now.
Every time he looks at me, every time I see the helpless desperation in his eyes . . . I know his support and care is there for me, but I won’t accept it. To accept that will make it easier to take so much more from him.
And yet . . . I want it so . . . I need him so . . .
Yukito looked up, startled, but unable to do anything except feel a flash of inexplicable anger as a whirlwind of flaring skirt and flying plaits glomped onto his best friend that lunchtime.
No, not again. Why can’t she leave me in peace?
“I’ve been look-in’ for you ev’ry-where!” Akizuki sing-songed, wrapping her arms around Touya’s neck. Touya growled, temper barely under control.
“Akizuki, can you please get off me??”
Akizuki giggled loudly, and loosened her grip just enough so that Touya wouldn’t asphyxiate. Yukito wanted to pull her away, but he didn’t. He just watched her silently.
I want to hate her. But I can’t.
‘Yukito’ is incapable of hating anyone.
“Ne, ne, Touya-kun, Touya-kun, you’re going to be on my team for baseball, aren’t you, aren’t you?” Akizuki demanded, ignoring Yukito. Again.
Touya took hold of the slender wrists crossed under his chin and forcibly set them back in Akizuki’s lap. “If I agree to be on your team, will you leave me and Yuki alone at least until the end of lunch?” he said through gritted teeth.
What about me? “I’m playing too, To-ya,” Yukito reminded his friend pointedly.
Akizuki looked at him as if surprised to find him sitting next to Touya. “You sure, Tsukishiro-kun?” she asked, the tone of her voice voicing the displeasure her words did not.
“Yes,” Yukito immediately replied before his friend could say anything. Touya closed his open mouth and glanced at Yukito, eyes unreadable. Yukito kept his gaze on his lunch.
Please, don’t worry about me.
Akizuki’s gaze flicked between the two of them. Suddenly, she smiled and chirped, “It’s a deal then!” She leaned over at Touya, eyes wide and beseeching. “But before I go, can you buy me a drink from the canteen?”
Touya gave the girl a look that would have sent any sane person hurrying away.
“Ple~ease?” asked Akizuki, her lips forming a most adorable pout. Yukito stared at her, an emotion he felt but rarely settling in his chest, an emotion usually characterized by the little green monster.
But he was too tired to act on it.
Without warning, Touya stood up, spilling girl and lunch, and stormed off in the direction of the canteen, muttering something under his breath that Yukito was glad he couldn’t hear. Touya did look back over his shoulder at Yukito, but that was all.
don’t leave me
“Arigato, Touya-ku~un!” Akizuki called cheerfully, all smiles. Then, when Touya was out of ear-shot, with a flick of hair the smile altered into something else as she looked at him. Yukito tensed.
“Why you insist on making a nuisance of yourself, I don’t know,” Akizuki sighed. “I almost feel sorry for you, you know that?” She shrugged. “Then again, there’s nothing that can be done, so why waste sympathy?”
“You’ll lose him, you can’t do anything about that,” continued Akizuki conversationally, looking off in the direction where Touya had gone. “Soon, I will win. I advise you to cherish what you have left. Which isn’t much.” She turned to him, her smile condescending. “Is it, Tsukishiro-kun.”
Anger, burning yet helpless anger. Who is this person? What does she know about me? What kind of danger does she pose?
I don’t know.
But I know that what Akizuki says is true.
And there’s nothing I can do about it.
The day was perfect for baseball. Light clouds drifted along the perfect blue sky like fairy-floss in a careless breeze. The sun shone brightly as if to make up for the fact that it would be setting early that late autumn day. Too perfect.
Yukito, dressed in his sports uniform, stood off-side and tried not to close his eyes, while everyone else around him chattered in expectation of a good game.
not much longer . . .
“Tsukishiro!” He lifted his head tiredly to look at the person waving him over. “Come on, we’re about to start! You’re on Akizuki-san’s team with Kinomoto!”
Yukito smiled a little. “Alright.”
He walked over to where his team was sitting on the benches, waiting in line to bat. He sat down next to Touya, who looked at him worriedly. Still, he kept smiling.
Smile. Smile and pretend. Play the part the way you do so well.
Youko was first up to the plate. She got one strike, but managed to hit the following ball and run to third base. Next came Asaba, who, although getting out before second, allowed Youko to run home. Another boy went up, then another. Yukito watched them go with dull eyes.
Akizuki stepped up to the plate. She smiled and waved to the fielding team before lifting the bat to her shoulder. The bowler, not quite sure what to expect of the transfer student, threw a fast ball.
There was a resounding thwack as the ball was slammed to the outfield.
“Nakuru-cha~an!” cheered the girls on the batting team as Akizuki and the two boys ran home. There were some resigned sighs from the other team. Yukito wished all the noise would go away.
If I sleep, then it will be quiet . . .
No. Not yet.
The next girl only managed to get to first base, but that was fine. Touya was batting after her. There were some irritated murmurs from the fielders, something about the unfairness of having Akizuki and Kinomoto on the same team.
“Kinomoto-ku~un!” the girls cheered.
Slowly, Yukito looked up. His head was throbbing again.
Touya, eyes determined, gripped the bat tightly, his feet set firmly apart on the plate. Directly in front of him, the bowler gulped. Then he hurled the ball.
Yukito let out a little cry as his headache came back full force.
Touya looked up, startled.
The ball whistled as it cut through the air. At the very last possible moment, Touya swung the bat. His aim was off; the ball skidded across the grass to the shortstop. The girl on first base ran as fast as she could past second – the shortstop picked up the ball and flung it towards his team-mate on third, getting her out. Touya, who had reached second base, halted.
“Batting team has four runs with two out. Second base loaded,” the teacher/umpire said unnecessarily. “Who’s next to bat?”
Everyone looked at Yukito. Slowly, the silver-haired boy stood up. His legs were a little shaky, but Touya was probably the only one who noticed that.
I will be the last.
“Alright, Tsukishiro, get up here. Don’t forget you’re being assessed on this, so do your best.”
He could feel Touya and Akizuki’s eyes watching him as he picked up the bat.
The batting team cheered for him as they had everyone else as the bowler threw the ball.
moon-on-water . . .
The ball was passed back to the bowler. The sun was hurting Yukito’s eyes.
Again, the students cheered, as if to vitalize him with their enthusiasm. The bowler pulled his arm back and threw the ball low.
Yukito barely registered the missile as it passed at waist level.
Was Akizuki chuckling? He was too tired to concentrate, so he couldn’t be sure.
. . . moon-in-water
Feathers . . . and long, long white hair.
who am I?
Somewhere nearby, a pair of kind eyes was watching him, and a boy was trying to confess his love.
The bowler hurled a high, fast ball.
Sleep . . .
Yukito shut his eyes and felt himself falling forward. Weightless, as if he could fly. The heavy baseball bat fell to the ground, the grass deadening the sound of the impact.
. . . sleep
The ball flew through the air without resistance. Yukito fell through the air without resistance.
Grass beneath his cheek. He knew that he should be feeling pain, since he had hit the ground. But he didn’t.
I don’t want to die
That voice, that voice in his mind that hadn’t been there before but had always been there, someone else talking, or maybe it was just himself.
People crowding around, talking worriedly. Then he was being lifted effortlessly, cradled close as if he were a little bird.
A little bird, about to drown.
Cold. Ice-cold, so cold it sears your skin and stabs straight to your bones, leaving you helpless. I’m surprised the water is still liquid as I sink into it. I gasp as it soaks into my clothes, my hair, dragging me down.
I don’t want to die. I have so much to lose. But I can’t do anything.
The moon shines above me, a silver sliver against a sky so black it’s almost blue. I reach up towards it in desperation. It gives me nothing, no strength to save myself.
I have nothing left.
The water creeps up to my waist; involuntarily, I stretch my wings high to keep them dry. If they get wet, I will drown.
Why am I fighting? I should let myself sink –
Hands grab my outstretched arms, pulling me up. I can’t feel my body, I’m so cold, the hands on my wrists seem to burn. I choke back a gasp of pain; my other-self also hurts.
Arms around me, holding me close. Unwillingly, I look into his – my face. I see my fear reflected there, but also desperate determination. My other-self kneels on the water, holding me back so that I hang in stasis, half-standing in the water.
He is frightened. I am frightened.
“Why?” My voice trembles, I hate this weakness. “Why do you keep stopping me?”
The arms around me tighten. They stroke the feathers of my wings. “I don’t want to die.”
Slowly, I lift my arms to hold him. “I don’t either. But there’s nothing that can be done. I will not hurt To-ya.”
I don’t want you to disappear.
The memory of our hands touching that morning. He was so warm.
“Because he cares for me.”
“What about you?”
When will you accept the fact that you love him?
I look away. “I am not ready to answer that question.”
“When will you be?”
“ . . . I don’t know.”
“Do you want to answer it?”
So fragile in my arms. Am I this fragile? My heart is.
“ . . . . . . yes.”
My other-self, my heart, kisses me gently. “Then live.”
I don’t want you to disappear.
I close my eyes. “So be it.” I tighten my hold on his waist, and slowly, I force my wings to move, lifting me and me out of the cold, cold water. “For you.”
“No.” With strong hands he grabs my face, forcing me to look directly into his eyes. “ ‘For me.’ ”
Learn to fly, Yue.
The wings of an angel, soaring high.
I want you to live.
There was something covering him, a blanket, clean and warm. Yet he still felt cold, so cold, a snowflake drifting on the wind, and just as light. As if he could fly.
Humans can’t fly.
Wearily, Yukito opened his eyes. The soft glow of shade-light filled them, and there was someone silhouetted against that glow. That person, who, although Yukito didn’t have his glasses to confirm the identity he already knew, made him smile.
“ . . . To-ya.”
Touya stood beside the bed he was lying in, his eyes the blue of an unsettled sea. Yukito turned his head a little towards him, realising he was in the school sick room. That, compounded with the complete and utter exhaustion he felt . . .
“I fell asleep again, didn’t I.” Not a question.
“In the middle of sports class,” explained Touya quietly.
Yukito sighed a little, sinking into pillow. “It’s really strange,” he said, perhaps a little embarrassed. No use pretending anymore. “I’m just constantly tired . . .”
Touya’s lips tightened. “Yuki, I know you –”
The shout, perfectly pitched to halt any attempt at conversation, had come from the window. Yukito tried to lift his head to see who it was. Touya twitched. “Not again . . .” he muttered.
I know who it is
Akizuki stood at the open sick-room window, frantically waving an arm. “Is Tsukishiro-kun alri~ight?” she called.
Why is she asking about me? “I’m okay, Akizuki-san!” replied Yukito as lightly as possible. Perhaps she would be satisfied with that and leave.
Akizuki leaned into the room her attention already on the other person there. “Touya-kun!!”
A flash of amethyst in Yukito’s eyes.
“The teacher says you have to come back quick for the sports assessment!” the girl chattered. “Our team is still up to bat, and without you and Tsukishiro-kun, we’ve only got seven people!”
Rolling his eyes, Touya walked over towards the window and pointed towards Yukito on the bed. “I’m staying here.”
Akizuki refused to be dissuaded. “But if you don’t come, you’ll get a zero for the test!! Everybody’s waiting for you!!”
Even without his glasses, Yukito could still see how Touya was torn between staying and leaving. His friend took responsibility very seriously, and was not the kind of person who would let people down. Yukito knew that. Still, he could not help but wish for Touya to stay . . .
Am I being selfish?
I don’t care.
It couldn’t be helped. With a sigh, Touya returned to the bed. “I’ll come back as soon as it’s finished,” he said to Yukito as reassuringly as possible.
No . . .
“You just stay here and rest, ok?”
. . . no, please stay . . .
“ . . . . yeah,” said Yukito.
. . . don’t go . . .
A wave and flick of hair at the window. “I’ll go on ahead!” Akizuki announced.
Touya turned to go.
Don’t leave me!
Act. Don’t think.
Touya froze and stared at him.
“ . . . what is it?” whispered Yukito.
No answer. Only then did Yukito realise that he was holding the hem of Touya’s shirt in a grip so tight his fingers hurt.
He didn’t even know he had done it.
I don’t want you to leave me
Slowly, Yukito forced himself to let go. He stared at his hand as if it were another being entirely, capable of acting on its own, and his heart nearly stopped.
He could Touya through his skin.
“ . . . what?”
Even as he stared, his hand faded more until all was left but the outline of his fingers, as if an eraser was being applied to the color of his flesh. Yukito blinked, a nameless fear suddenly uncoiling in his heart. Nothing changed. He was fading. Like a ghost.
Not of this world.
He was fading . . .
“Touya-ku~un!” Akizuki again, at the window. “Hurry up!”
. . . as if he . . .
Touya turned to the window, but didn’t move from his position at Yukito’s side. “Tell the teacher I’m not coming!” he called. His voice sounded so far away.
Was that a frustrated stamp of a foot? “But the teacher’ll get mad! Everyone will get in trouble!”
. . . never existed.
“I’m not going!”
“Not going?! But, Touya-kun –”
In three quick strides, Touya crossed the room to the window, leaning out with one hand on the curtains.
“I am going to stay with Yuki,” he said, very patiently, his voice reaching Yukito as if from another room. “And you are in the way.”
Distantly, Yukito wished he could see the expression on Akizuki’s face.
A pause, then a sharp shash as the curtains were drawn over the window. The room fell dim, a little pocket of evening night on an autumn afternoon. Nothing but the sound of breathing. Yukito let his hand fall limply to the bedcovers, mind frozen in shock. What did this all mean?
You know already.
I don’t want to know!
Footsteps, slow and deliberate, coming towards him. Yukito barely registered them, barely registered the arm that slid beneath his shoulders, lifting him into a sitting position.
You have to know.
He opened his eyes, and saw Touya sitting on the bed in front of him. His friend must have read the panic in his face, for he leaned forward and laid a warm, comforting hand on his cheek.
Yukito forgot to breathe.
“It’s alright,” said Touya gently. “I know.
“I know that you’re not human.”
Shouldn’t there be the sound of a belief shattering?
Yukito, trembling, began to shy away from his friend’s hand, but Touya refused to let him go. “Don’t be frightened,” he said with a soft smile, his touch never leaving Yukito’s face. “You don’t have to hide from me.”
I don’t have to hide.
Yukito closed his eyes, relaxing completely for the first time since . . . since . . .
I don’t have to hide.
Peace, in a struggle to find peace.
Wings, stretching towards the sky.
I can live.
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