Dark Reflections

Chapter 10: The Final Battle and the Sealing

            Li and Sakura stood in the center of the shielded area, back to back, scanning their surroundings for signs of danger.  Their friends and family members watched helplessly from outside the barrier.

A strong aura invaded the area, flooding over the three magicians.  Yue and Kero stiffened.

Sakura shuddered.  It was so dark, so malicious.  She huddled closer to Li, but he didn’t respond.  She wanted to question him, to ask him why he was withdrawing from her, but there wasn’t time.

The sky clouded over and the shadows extended to an unnatural length.  Darkness crept over them and then vanished, leaving only the weak light of a storm covered sky.  Oddly enough, it did not rain.  A cold wind blew.  Fortunately the snow Tory had noticed earlier had since ceased to fall, and by now was gone entirely.

The barrier vanished, but no one moved. It was as if it no longer mattered.  Their eyes were fixed on a single point, the point the aura seemed to be emanating from.

Sakura and Li were now standing side by side, their shoulders touching.  A few yards away from them the air began to swirl.  A cloud of glowing midnight blue appeared, spiraling and swirling as though orbiting some object.

In the middle of the cloud appeared a young woman.

Sakura and Li both gasped.  It was the woman from their dreams.  As in the dream her face was shadowed, hung low.  She was dressed in a battle costume, much like the ones Madison had made for Sakura in their card capturing days.  It was dark, consisting of a black dress with a fluffy skirt; surrounding her waist and mid section, almost like a corset, only on the outside, was a midnight blue sheath, its pointed ends extending outward on the skirt; the sleeves were puffed and the collar high; over the dress she work a dark gray coat with long tails; gloves completed the ensemble. 

For a moment she stood there, unmoving. Then she lifted her head and the entire company gasped.

She looked like Sakura!

But, as with Fight and Power, there were obvious physical differences.  This Sakura was pale with hair so dark it was almost black.  Her eyes were a soulless black, and one could get lost in their depths.  That was not a pleasant prospect.

Slowly she lifted her right arm.  And in it she held a staff.  The staff reminded them of Sakura’s but it was wickedly spiked and matched the color scheme of her outfit.

Before anyone could react she charged at Sakura.

Stunned, Sakura failed to respond and Li was forced to push her out of the way.

“Sakura, focus.” He commanded sternly.

Sakura’s eyes were wide, her breathing shallow.  “She’s me.” She said hollowly.  “And the cards, my cards.  Why does she have my cards?”

The dark Sakura withdrew two cards from somewhere and tossed them into the air.

“Thunder!  Wood!” she cried.  Her voice was surprisingly deep and husky.  A scowl was etched deeply on her face, as though she had never known any other expression.

Lightening arced across the sky, the accompanying thunder boomed behind it.  A tree grew in front of Sakura cutting her off from Li. Sakura still made no move.

“Sakura!” Tory yelled, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” Sakura was shocked out of her reverie.

Spreading her legs, firmly planting her feet she twirled her staff. “Thunder!” she cried.  Her own thunder rushed forth, struggling with the lightening above her.

The dark Sakura cocked her head and laughed. “Fool!” she spat. 

She charged at Sakura. “Fight!”

Sakura frowned, Fight had been injured in the battle before, how could this girl call upon her now?  It was heartless.

Still, Fight obeyed.  Coming forth she entered her mistress enabling her with incredible fighting powers.

“Sword!” The dark Sakura cried.  Her staff transformed into a sword and she swung at Sakura.  Sakura dodged just in time.

Calling upon her own Fight and Sword cards Sakura faced her opponent.  It was a battle unlike any they had ever witnessed before.

“Eli,” Madison clung to her boyfriend. “Will she be alright?”

“She will be.” He assured her <she has to be> he thought with less confidence.  He was almost certain now that he knew what this was.  But first Sakura must pass this test.  When the time was right he would tell her what needed to be done.

Li watched from behind his wooden prison silently.  She didn’t want his help. She didn’t need him.

The words echoed in his mind and heart, even in his soul.  He felt hollow… empty.

She was his life, his center.  He couldn’t live without her.  He knew he couldn’t.  He had thought she felt the same, but now…

He closed his eyes, wanting to shut out the sound of the fighting.  She could handle this on her own, he had to let her.  It was what she wanted.  And more than anything else he wanted her to be happy.

He jumped, startled, as he heard a loud thud.  He looked up to see Sakura flying through the air.  His Sakura.  The dark Sakura laughed. 

She hadn’t hit the ground yet.  Had that thud been Dark Sakura’s hit connecting?  Li winced, feeling her pain.

She hit the ground and he willed her to get up. But she didn’t.

A wave of pain washed over him, and he knew it was Sakura’s pain.  It was their bond.  It had always been there.  Would it still be there after she left him?

Again pain flooded through him, and he realized that Sakura was in trouble.  Forgetting the vow he had made not to interfere he lifted his sword and sliced the branches surrounding him away.

           “Sakura!” he cried running to her; he lifted her gently, cradling her head in his lap. “Sakura,” he whispered brokenly.  A tear slid down his cheek.

          A gentle hand reached up and wiped at it weakly. “You’re – crying.” Sakura said softly, “Why?”

          The tears flowed more freely now.  Even if he could never have her, he knew he would always love her.  And even if she hated him later he had to help her now. 

          Closing his eyes he infused her with some of his own magic.  He felt her aura grow stronger and steady itself.

          Sakura gasped and her eyes opened fully.

          “Li.” Li looked into her eyes and almost thought he saw real love there. But it couldn’t be. She had said…

          There was no more time as the Dark Sakura charged.  Sakura pulled out of his light hold and stood, determine to hold her ground.

          “Sakura,” he sounded worried, his amber eyes clouded with a pain far beyond physical.  He didn’t want to see her get hurt again.

          She heard the worry in his voice and it made her want to protect him, to make it go away.  She tightened her grip on Sword. “Stay back Li. I have to do this.”

          “She’s just too strong!” Li cried.

          Sakura turned and held his gaze. Emerald clashed with amber and he could see strength in her gaze. “I don’t care how strong she is – I have something she doesn’t.”

          “What’s that?” Li asked, confused. 

          Sakura blushed prettily, “You.”

          Li just gaped at her. 

          “Do you mean that?” He asked, and she could tell by his eyes that everything depended on her answer.  She looked at him curiously.

          “Of course.” She gazed seriously into his eyes, “You’re everything to me.  The reason I get up each morning.  The reason I draw each breath.  Didn’t you know that?”  The look on his face told her that he hadn’t.  He had been strange all afternoon, ever since that aerial battle. “I love you.” She whispered, dropping to her knees beside him and brushing her hand against his cheek.  Battle or no battle, this was important.

          Something inside him seemed to light up as she said that.  He reached up and took her hand gently, smiling at her. 

          “Let’s do this!” He pulled her to her feet. She followed reminding herself to ask him about his sudden turn around later.  Right now they had a battle to finish.    

          They took up fighting stances and Sakura could feel their auras strengthen one another.  And in that moment her awareness flickered and she felt something else as well.  Her eyes went wide.

          “It’s star magic!” she whispered.

          “Star magic?” Li stretched out toward the other Sakura with his aura only to pull back quickly.  It was star magic. But how?

          Eli tensed, now was the time. “Sakura!” he called, getting her attention, “It’s a card.”

          Sakura looked confused, “But you said all the Clow cards were definitely captured.” She protested.

          Eli shook his head, “It isn’t a Clow card,” he began.

          “It’s a Sakura card.” Li gasped with the realization.

          “What?” Sakura stared back and forth between Eli, Li, and her dark self.  

          Madison stared at her boyfriend, so that had been the secret he was keeping.  It actually made sense. “That’s why it felt familiar to Sakura and Li but not to you, Eli.” She said softly.  The others heard her as well.  Yes, Li was familiar with it because of his bond with Sakura.  That thought warmed him inside.  It was destiny then.

          “But how?” Sakura asked.  “I don’t remember creating this card.”

          “That’s because you didn’t create it consciously.” Eli told her as he held out the book, “There is a law of balance in magic.  For every good there must be an equal and opposite. An evil.” He explained.

          Sakura nodded, she remembered something about this from when they had fought Void.  But she had assumed Clow meant to create Void.  And that Void would be the balance for her own magic.  Then she remembered the transformation Void had undergone when she made it a Sakura card.  When it had transformed its very nature had changed.  Its sorrow, the thing that made it the negative balance had been taken away.  Then how long ago had she created this card?  Right then? At the moment Void was sealed and transformed?  How long had the card been waiting to make its move?  And why had it come now?

          Eli continued his explanation, “Just as Void provided the negative balance for the Clow Cards, this card provided the balance for the Sakura cards.”

          She understood that now. Her magic had created this card without her knowledge in an effort to maintain the balance.  But now what should she do about it?  It had been so long.

          Miraculously the dark Sakura had remained rooted to the spot as she listened to all this.

          “Sakura,” Eli’s voice softened, “You know what you must do.  You must name it and seal it, just like the Clow Cards.”

          Sakura nodded.  That task at least was familiar, but this would be so hard.  This was different.  Now she felt as though she were fighting a piece of herself.  And quite honestly she was.

          She looked around at the faces of those dearest to her.  How thankful she was that they were all here. She faced the card once more feeling strength and confidence surge through her.

          She could feel each of her friends and family members sending her their support, strengthening her aura. 

          And Li. 

          Most especially she could feel Li.  His aura merged seamlessly with her own.  They were a perfect match in every way.

          “You can do this Sakura.” He urged her.

          “We can do this.” She answered, locking her emerald eyes with his amber ones.

          “Yes, we can.” He repeated.

          Reaching inside herself, she focused on the card.  She had created it with her magic, with the power of her inner star.  Somewhere deep inside of her lay its name, and the secret to its capture.  She thought about the event of the past several weeks, focusing on each one.  Each event seemed to mirror the power of her own cards, but it was malicious.  Like an evil clone, silly as that sounded.  No, more like a shadowy mirror.  A dark reflection.  Equal and opposite to her cards.  Fight and Power were perfect examples of that.  And the dark magic seemed always to work in pairs - that was important too. She focused on her feelings, her mind wandering to Li, to the way they complimented each other.  Like the symbol on his old green fighting tunic.  Yin and Yang.  That’s what the card reminded her of.  And Yin and Yang stood for…

          Her eyes flew open “Harmony!” she cried.  The dark Sakura stopped and stared at her, her eyes widening in fear.

          Sakura approached her slowly, “You’re name is Harmony.” She said softly. <Now what?> she wondered.

          “Sakura,” Li whispered, “you have to catch it just like the Clow cards, confine it and then call it back into a card.”

          “Oh, right!” Sakura was so relieved she almost didn’t notice that he seemed to have read her mind once again.  How did he always know? She thought through her cards, reaching in her pocket and fingering them.  “But which card?” she asked out loud.

          “Think Sakura,” Li urged her, “If it truly is Harmony, then only something else in harmony could defeat it.”

          “Pisces?” she asked. Somehow it just didn’t feel right.

          Li shook his head, stepping closer to her.  “No, remember, Harmony always used the power of the cards in pairs, but never opposite pairs.”

          “So - I should use… opposite pairs!” she said brightly as realization hit her.  She withdrew two very special cards.  These cards always seemed to be the answer.

          “Light and Dark! Surround Harmony and confine her!” Two women shot from the cards, quickly transforming into cords of light and dark, surrounding Harmony and swirling around her.  The Sakura duplicate looked very frightened. 

          “Sakura card return to your power confined!” Sakura pointed the staff at the girl and with a wail she disappeared into a wisp of dark smoke, the smoke formed a card with a sorrowful girl on the front.  The girl was half in shadow and half in light, holding a yin yang sign as if it were a crystal ball. The word Harmony was scrawled across the bottom.

          Light and Dark swirled around Sakura, clearly pleased that she had solved the puzzle and that she had discovered the right confining words on her first attempt.  They then swirled briefly around Li before returning to their card forms   

          “Harmony.” Eli spoke stepping out from behind the temple gateway.  “It possesses the power to create a dark mirror for each Sakura card.  It was truly the balance.”

          “But why? Why do all those things?” Madison asked, still standing in the archway.

          “To get the attention of its mistress.”

          “But didn’t it know it would get caught?” she asked.

          Eli nodded.

          “Then why-”

          “It wanted to be caught.” Li interrupted as she trailed off, “Deep down, Harmony wanted to be caught, just like the Clow cards all those years ago.”       

          “That’s true, isn’t it?” Sakura mused.

          “And that is why all the people closest to Sakura were left awake. And why it waited so long to reveal itself.” Eli expounded, “The card knew she would need us to defeat it.”

           Sakura studied the new card in her hand. Softly the card began to glow.  The card disappeared and a woman materialized in front of them. It was Harmony in her truest form.

          As the Clow cards had been purple in the cards, but unique in their true forms, so the Sakura cards were pink on the card and unique in their bodies.  Harmony was a sad, yet beautiful picture.  She wore long robes of deep blue and gray.  Her hair was black and her skin a pale blue.  Her ears pointed up and her eyes were a fathomless black.  Her lips were the deepest red and looked as though they knew nothing but the downward turn of a frown. Sakura's eyes widened.  This was the woman she had seen in the sand.  

          “Yes,” she said sadly, “I wished to be caught.” The others looked at her, mesmerized by her sorrowful eyes and melodic, melancholy voice.  “And now Sakura, you must swear never to release me from my prison again.”

          Sakura stared at her in shock.  She wanted to remain a card… forever?

          “Please, mistress.” The card pleaded with her. “It is the only way.”

          “But why?” Sakura whispered.  Li moved closer, placing his hand on the small of her back.  She leaned into him gratefully, drawing strength from his presence.

          “You must understand.” The card held her mistress’ gaze, “were I allowed to roam free I could only cause destruction.” Sakura gasped; this sweet, sorrowful girl?

          “I am not evil, Sakura,” the card explained, “but there is within me only the power to do malicious deeds.  I am the balance for your cards, and as long as you remain pure that balance must be tainted, evil. It is the nature of the balance, the yin and yang, it cannot be fought. You must confine me, seal the card forever, or I will lose control once more.”

          “I don’t understand,” Madison whispered, “If she seals the card forever how can it serve its purpose?”

          “The magic need only exist to provide balance,” Eli provided quietly, “It need not be used.” Madison nodded, somewhat in shock.

          “Mistress!” the card pleaded in desperation, she could feel the darkness taking hold once more.

          Sakura watched in growing horror, “Alright!” she cried, hating what she had to do, “How do I seal the card?” she asked weakly.

          Eli was now very close to her, having approached during Harmony’s plea.  He fingered the book.

          “There is an incantation.” He told her.  She could hear the sorrow in his voice and when she turned she saw it in his eyes as well.  It was truly a hard thing to seal a card forever.  There would be no second chance.

          “But it must be spoken flawlessly and it must be spoken in completeness.”  There was something strange about the way he said completeness, as though it had a deeper meaning then just that the whole incantation must be spoken.

          “I, Clow Reed,” he corrected himself, “was never able to complete the spell, for he was never complete.” A heart wrenching sorrow flowed from his voice as he said this and Sakura felt her heart ache for Clow Reed.  Whatever that completeness was, he had clearly dearly longed for it. “That is why,” he struggled to continue, “that is why you had to defeat Void, Sakura.  Because Clow was unable to seal it.”

          Sakura remembered the pain Void had caused her.  First taking her cards, and then nearly taking Li’s love from her. She couldn’t let that happen to someone else.  She must stop this now.

          “Am I complete?” she asked, holding his gaze uncertainly.

          He gave a sad smile, “Oh, yes.  You are finally complete.” He told her. “It took you a while to realize it, but you are complete.” Somehow Sakura knew he had agonized over her completeness.  That each of her struggles on that road had cut him deeply.  He cared for her very deeply. Madison was lucky to have found such a deeply feeling man.

          “What do I need to do?” she asked.

          “You and Li must complete the incantation together.” He told her.

          “Li?” she started, but then something struck her. Completeness, he had said.  She remembered the way her aura and Li’s had fit so perfectly, the way they fought in sync, how it seemed as though he could read her mind.  He was what made her complete.  And something told her she had come very close to losing that. “I understand.” She said softly.

          The look in her eyes as she turned toward him made Li’s stomach tighten, and not with fear.  This was something else. 

          She held out her hand to Eli, her eyes never leaving Li’s.  Eli set the book in her outstretched hand, already open to the proper page.

          Li placed his hand on hers under the book and turned to look at it.  Together, without any kind of preparation, they spoke the words written there.  It was strange, it was in an ancient dialect that neither could read, and they had never practiced it, gave each other no clues, but somehow they read it flawlessly, in perfect synch.

          When they had finished Harmony was once again a card and across her name were chains that had no lock, but could not be broken.  Her face had a sad smile.

          Sakura smiled sadly as well.  It had been a hard thing to do.  She looked at Eli.  Now she knew why he had been so sad about Clow Reed’s lack of completeness.  She remembered the woman that time in Hong Kong – the ancient sorceress.  Was that the closest he had ever come to love? To never have true love was sad indeed.

          She looked at Eli and Madison, now standing with their arms around one another.

          “Eli,” she said quietly. He looked up at her in surprise, “I’m glad that you are complete now.” She smiled at him and he smiled back.  He looked at Madison.  Yes, he too was finally complete. 

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