Dark Reflections

Chapter 4: The Rising Storm

          Sakura opened her eyes; she was on the radio tower. She paused a moment to wonder why there were always sakura petals in her dreams.  There were no sakura trees at the radio tower, and certainly none up at the top.

<Why am I here?> she wondered.

A woman appeared before her.  Was it a woman?  She squinted, trying to get a clearer look - maybe a girl about her age.  The figure had short hair and was about her height.

“Who are you?” she called, but her voice seemed barely an echo and she doubted it reached the other girl. She tried to step closer.

The other girl whirled, she had no face! No wait, she had a face, but everything above her nose was in shadows.  Still, she seemed uncomfortably familiar.

The girl gave a feral grin, almost as though baring her teeth. She growled and then charged at Sakura.  Sakura was unable to move.  She closed her eyes waiting for the blow that would knock her from the tower.  She had heard that if you hit the ground after a fall in a dream you die in real life as well.  She wondered if it were true.

The blow never came.  Strong arms gripped her and pulled her out of the way.  The other girl came to a sudden stop then began to vanish.  As she disappeared she gave a howl of defeat. 

Sakura shuddered and pressed in closer to the figure holding her.  He smelled familiar, like cinnamon and autumn.  She pulled back in sudden recognition



Sakura sat bolt upright in her bed, breathing heavily.  It had seemed so real.  Even though she had known it was the dream… the danger had just been so real.  She dropped her head wearily against her chest.

“Sakura?” Kero flew out of his drawer in concern.

“Yes Kero?” she asked dully.

“Sakura, I heard you yell, what’s wrong?”

Yell? She hadn’t yelled in her dream, had she?  She shook her head.  She couldn’t remember.  Still, she was fairly certain the other girl had yelled, not her.

“Did you have the dream again?” Kero asked, hovering beside her.

She gave a small nod. “The radio tower one.”

“Was Ms. Mackenzie there?” He asked, truly curious.  Sakura had told him the teacher was back.  Perhaps she was the cause of the strange dreams.

“No.  There was… another girl.  And she seemed evil.”

Kero frowned.  This was twice now that Sakura’s familiar dreams had been invaded by evil.  That couldn’t be good.  Those dreams were meant to be a sanctuary, a place of refuge where her questions could be answered.  If something or someone evil was able to enter them Sakura could loose her perspective.

He touched her face, “Did she hurt you.”

Sakura gave an involuntary shudder. She shook her head, “But I think she would have if Li hadn’t saved me.”

“Li?” Kero’s small bear face contorted as he lifted one stitched eye brow. “Wasn’t he in your first dream as well?”

“Yes.” Sakura looked up, “hey! I wonder if he had this dream as well.  I should ask him.” She reached for her phone and then stopped as she saw the clock.  Four thirty in the morning.  She withdrew her hand.

“But I guess it’s too early.” She said sadly.

“Naw,” Kero flew over and lifted the pink cell phone, dropping it in her lap, “Gaki’s probably training.  I’m sure he could use the interruption.”

“But-” she looked at the phone hesitantly.

“Come on,” Kero urged, “He’s your boyfriend right?”

Sakura wasn’t sure; they had never actually talked about that.  Despite what she had said to Tory she was unsure of where they stood.

“Call.” Kero said gently, and then he pressed the memory recall, speed dialing the Showrun’s Japanese residence.

 Hello, Showrun residence.”

“Wei? Is that you?” Sakura twirled a few strands of hair nervously.

“Yes Ms. Avalon.”

Sakura smiled, he knew who she was, “Can I speak to Li, please.”

“Of course.”

Wei knew she wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.  There were a few moments of silence.  Sakura chewed her lip.

“Sakura?” Li sounded worried.

“Hey, Li.”

“You had the dream, didn’t you.”

Sakura nodded, then, remembering he couldn’t see her through the phone, she voiced her answer aloud, “Yes.”

“On the radio tower?”

“Yeah,” she said quietly.  She had almost hoped he hadn’t had the dream.  Then maybe she could have convinced herself that it was only a dream.  But if he’d had it as well…

“Sakura, I’m coming over.  Sakura!” he called when he got no response.

“What,” she shook her head, she had to focus, “Oh, yeah, sure.  See you.” 

“Be careful Sakura.”  And with that Li hung up.  Sakura hung up as well.  Drawing her knees to her chest she rested her chin on them.

“What did he say?” Kero asked trying to hide his impatience.

“He had the dream too; he’s coming over.”

Kero nodded an affirmative.  That was probably a good idea.  Sakura shouldn’t be alone right now. 


Sakura was waiting for Li by the door.  He brother and father got to sleep in today, so she didn’t want to wake them.  He gave a light tap.


She opened the door quietly and motioned for him to enter.  They sat on the couch.

“We have to be quiet. Dad and Tory are sleeping.”

Li nodded.  He took her hand in his and studied her face for a long time.  She looked very tired, and distraught.  He closed his eyes, focusing on her aura.  It seemed strained, as though tired from overuse.  But Sakura hadn’t used any magic in a long time.  At least, no where near enough magic to cause her aura to weaken.  He looked into her averted emerald eyes and smiled lightly.  Reaching his hand up, he gently caressed her cheek.  She looked at him, startled.

“Sakura,” it was a gentle question, “do you, have you, that is,” he took a breath, trying to ignore her expectant eyes as he rearranged the words, composing the question in his mind in a way least likely to frighten her. “Sakura, have you used any magic lately?”

She looked a little surprised, but not worried.  “Umm,” she tilted her head in thought and almost caused him to forget their purpose here; she was so cute!

“I think I gave Kero a bath last week using Bubble.” She worried her lip as she continued to peruse her memories.

He shook his head; he doubted using bubble to give Kero a bath was strenuous enough to affect her aura.

“Anything that took more magic than that? Anything that might cause a strain?”

“I don’t think so.”  She thought a moment longer, twisting the fingers of her left hand with the thumb and pointer finger of her right.  He noticed and took her hands in his, entwining their fingers.  She seemed to relax at his touch, and closed her eyes to focus.  When she opened them they were perfectly clear.  “No.” she said with surety, “I haven’t.”

He smiled, “good.  Now we just have to figure out what is draining your aura.”

“D-draining my aura?” That didn’t sound safe.

“It’s okay.” He assured her, "it happens to all magicians once in a while. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of alignment or balance.  Sometimes it’s a new source of magic.  The question is, is it only you or all of us?”  He turned her to face him directly.  “Focus on my aura.” He instructed her, “Visualize it.  Can you see it?”

“Of course I can.  I can always see it.”  He was a little startled, he knew that he was always aware of her aura, because she was so important to him. And at his level of training it was only natural that the one flow from the other.  But Sakura didn’t have that training.  Certainly she reached for his aura instinctively in times of trouble, but now?  He pushed the thought away to consider later.

“Good.  Now, does it seem smaller than normal, or is there any flickering?”

She shook her head, “No, it’s steady.  Not at all like during the Final Judgment or after the final battle with Eli.”

His eyes widened.  That long?  She had been able to track his aura for that long?

“Alright, that’s enough.” She opened her eyes.

“So then, it’s just me?” She sounded nervous.

He smiled at her, “We’ll check with Eli today, and then we’ll probably need to speak with Ms. Mackenzie.  Maybe that’s why she’s here.” He studied her for a moment, “It’s too bad your brother doesn’t have magic any more.  He’d be a good one to test.”

“Yeah,” she glanced at the stairs and her eyes fell on the clock. “Hoe!” she jumped up, pulling Li with her.

“What is it?” He looked around, seeking the cause of the disturbance.

“I have to get ready for school or we’ll both be late!”  He laughed as he let go of her and she dashed up the stairs.  But he glanced uneasily at the clock. 

It hadn’t seemed that they were down here that long.



          “You’re sure?”

          Li nodded, “Positive.  I would swear she had been in a huge battle and very recently, but I know she hasn’t been.”

          “Hmm.” Eli considered this.  “Well, I’m certain it has something to do with what we all sensed earlier.  And those incidents with Meilin last week.  I’ll look into it.  In the meantime,” he smiled reassuringly, patting Li on the shoulder, “We can talk to Ms. Mackenzie about it.  She may know something from her studies.”

“Know something of what?” The red haired teacher now stood behind the two teens.

“Good morning Ms. Mackenzie.” The boys chorused, bowing slightly in respect.

She smiled, “Good morning boys,” her eyes focused slightly behind them, “And good morning to you as well, Sakura.”

Li and Eli turned to see a smiling Sakura.  Li was relieved, she seemed much improved from this morning.

“Good morning sensei.” She smiled brightly.

“Did you children,” she smiled as she looked them over, “I beg your pardon, young people,” she corrected, “wish to speak with me about something?”

Eli grinned, “And why would you think that?”

“Hmm,” she paused as though in thought, placing a finger on her lower lip and glancing at the clock on the back wall, “Possibly because you are at school forty minutes early, and math is not your first period today.”

The three teens laughed, though Li really only sort of smiled.

“I’m surprised Sakura,” their teacher smiled at the habitually late girl, she hadn’t changed much in that respect since elementary, “and proud.” She said softly, the truth of the statement reflected in her eyes as much as her tone.

Sakura blushed with pleasure.  Truth be told, she and Li were surprised as well. It had seemed so certain they would be late, and then, Sakura had evidently gotten ready in record time.  It must have been their quickest walk to school ever as well.  They went from certain tardiness to having a ridiculous amount of extra time.  That was when they had decided to call Eli and have their little talk now.

“Let’s go into the classroom.” Ms. Mackenzie unlocked the door and they stepped inside. Sakura called on Illusion to stand at the door.  Now if any students came their conversation would not be interrupted.  To anyone else it would appear that the room was empty.

 “We’ve been sensing something… malevolent.” Eli began, skipping his usual enigmatic approach to get to the point.  That in itself told Ms. Mackenzie that this was serious.  Clow’s reincarnation was a free spirit, he loved mystery and mischief.  “It feels familiar to both Sakura and Li, but not to myself.”

“And I’ve been having the dreams again, but they’re different.” Sakura put in.  “I think Kero is really worried about that.” She thought about the stuffed bear’s unusual behavior recently.

Ms. Mackenzie nodded and continued to listen without interrupting.

“I’ve been having the dreams as well. And it seems as though we can interact in them.” He looked at Sakura. “This morning we awoke from one such dream and I went to see Sakura.  Her aura was oddly diminished.”

“I see.” Ms. Mackenzie turned to study Sakura closely, but Sakura didn’t fell nervous.  Instead she felt oddly comforted by the woman’s nearness.  “And you have engaged in no unusual or strenuous magical activities recently?”

“No ma’am.” Sakura assured her, “None. There hasn’t been a need to.”

“Strange.” Ms. Mackenzie mused, pulling back slightly. “I think, perhaps I have heard of something similar. Or rather, read of something similar.”  Taking in the hopeful looks on their faces she hastened to clarify, “But I do not think, in that case, the cause was ever found.  You know of course,” she looked to Li, “That a sorcerer’s magic can be drained in several ways.”

Li nodded, “Yes, there are certain ‘illnesses’ that are only contagious to those with magic, also a magical tie can be established.  But it just feels all wrong.  Those I know how to detect and I can detect no such hold on Sakura.”

Sakura looked a little confused, and Eli squeezed her shoulder lightly offering her a small smile.  She didn’t really need to understand these things. Not at the moment.  Other matters were more pressing.  Though perhaps when this was over he would suggest to Li that he instruct her in such things.  It would make her feel more prepared.

“There is also the matter of the recent strange events in Tomoeda.” Eli pointed out.  “Mostly concerning the weather.”

“Yes,” Ms. Mackenzie agreed, “It has been unusually warm hasn’t itI thought perhaps it was just me.”

“No,” Eli shook his head, “And last week a thick fog rose in the middle of the afternoon.  It was… strange.”

“Then Meilin couldn’t talk or hear, almost like when The Silent is used.”

Ms. Mackenzie nodded, “What worries me most is that all the incidents seem to have manifested in a way similar to the Clow cards - or Sakura cards, as they are now.”

“It just doesn’t make sense.”


          Tory and Julian were walking to the library. <Stupid Professor> Tory kicked at a rock, it bounced a few feet and then vanished.  The elder Avalon and his companion failed to notice this however, as they were concerned with other matters. <Who needs a library when you’ve got the internet?> Their American Colonial History Professor had insisted that they find real books as sources for their paper.  Why had he taken this class again?  It wasn’t required. <Oh yeah,> he snorted, <I thought it might be ‘fun’> boy had he been wrong.  The teacher was a jerk. 

          “Haven’t we been here before?” Julian broke the silence for the first time in many minutes, looking around in confusion.

          Tory looked around and cursed, “Yeah, we have.” He said in annoyance.

          “That’s weird.” Julian was still smiling, but he sounded truly perplexed.

          “Yeah.” Tory cautiously approached the next crack in the sidewalk.  He looked behind him, then in front of him again.  He sighed.  It was the same scene in reverse.  They weren’t walking in circles, the scenery was.

          “Are we that lost in thought?’ Julian asked, scratching his head, “I thought I at least was paying more attention than that.”

          “It’s not us, Julian,” Tory sighed, “look.” He gestured at the scene before him and then calmly stuck out an arm, pulling his best friend back before Julian could walk through and disappear or who knew what else.

          “That’s um… interesting.” Julian was still smiling.  Sometimes Tory wondered about him.  Especially since Yue was always so serious.  Maybe they balanced each other out or something.  Sometimes it bugged him.

          “It’s Loop, isn’t it.” He said wearily.  Julian quirked a brow at him.

          “Loop?” he echoed, clearly lost.

          Tory sighed once more, “Come on, somewhere inside of you is Yue, so you must know what I’m talking about.  Even if you can’t remember from what Sakura told us, he must.”

          “Oh!” Julian brightened, “you mean the card!” he frowned, whether thinking or conversing with Yue Tory didn’t know.  “I don’t think so.  I mean,” he hastened to continue when he saw Tory’s skeptical look, “it acts like Loop. But Sakura has control of Loop, and she wouldn’t do something like this.  Besides, Yue says it doesn’t feel like Sakura’s magic.”

          “Eli.” Tory growled.

          “No.” Julian shook his head, “It isn’t Clow magic either.  It’s,” he paused, “different.”

          “Different how?” Tory demanded.

          “I don’t know,” Julian shrugged, “Just different.”

          Tory made a quick decision, considering all his sister had told him about Loop he turned to Julian, “look, we can’t get out of this, can Yue?”

          Julian nodded.

          “Good,” he pushed Julian toward the invisible barrier, “then get us out of here.  We have somewhere to be.” 


          Tory and Julian walked quietly through the halls. Their footsteps echoed lightly.  Julian was still smiling, but something in his stance said he was uncomfortable.

          “How do you know she’s even here?” He whispered, which was odd.  Julian was always cheerful and always spoke at the exact same volume.  It was as though he had no concept of sneakiness or deception or even secrecy.  He said what he saw, unless he truly thought it would hurt someone else.  And it was unlikely that walking through an empty high school would hurt anyone.

          “My sister told me.” Tory was also talking in a low voice, but that was because he didn’t want some kid who might know his sister to see him and tell her.  He also didn’t want any girls clinging to him.  “Come on, faster.” He gave Julian’s arm a light tug.

          “If you say so.” Julian didn’t like being here after school.  Was that allowed?  But it really was important.

          Tory stuck his head around the corner and was relieved to find the hall empty.

          “Almost there.” He assured his friend.

          “I feel like a criminal.” Julian muttered.

          Tory shot him a wry look, “Well you sure don’t look like one.  Don’t you ever loose that grin?”

          “Guess not.” Julian stumbled briefly and then righted himself.  “I though you said we were almost there.”

          “We are.” Julian bumped into Tory as the other man came to an abrupt halt.  Before them was a classroom door.  He knocked lightly.

          “Come in.” called a familiar voice.

          Julian’s eyes widened. “She really is here.”

          Tory looked at him in disbelief, “Of course.  Did you think I lied to you?  What did you think I was going to do here  - steal erasers?”

          “No, I, oh never mind.” Julian followed him into the classroom.

          Ms. Mackenzie didn’t look up from her desk (she was grading papers), but they could see her smile. “Hello Tory, Julian.”

          “Hello.” Tory had long since gotten used to Ms. Mackenzie’s mysterious ways.  He had been in contact with her frequently over the years. “Layla, can we-”

          “You wish to speak with me about the recent disturbances.” She was still looking down at the desk, but her hands had stilled.  The pen now lay on the desk top.

          Tory frowned.  Had she said disturbances, plural, as in more than one?  That worried him.

          She looked up with her smile still in place, “Or perhaps you didn’t know about the others.  Then you came here about just one disturbance.  What was it?”

          Tory sucked in a breath, he would ask her about the other disturbances later, right now he wanted to get to the bottom of this afternoon’s incident.

          “Julian and I were walking this afternoon and the section of town seemed to repeat endlessly.” He explained.

          She chuckled lightly, “Are you sure you weren’t walking in circles?  Perhaps you got lost.”   

          “No.” he insisted, “it wasn’t us, it was the street.  The house in front of us was exactly the same as the house at the beginning of the street.”

          “Was it a track house?” she asked curiously.

          “With the same cheesy lawn ornaments?!” he asked incredulously.

          Ms. Mackenzie smiled once more, “No, I suppose not.”  She studied him solemnly, “you think it was a card.” She stated calmly.

          “It acted like Loop.” He said, holding her gaze.

          “You understand,” she looked at him kindly, “That it is simply not possible.  In order for Loop to take any action, Sakura must order it.  She did not.”

          “That’s what I told him.” Julian spoke for the first time.

          “Yes, I haven’t forgotten you.” Ms. Mackenzie smiled her mysterious smile once again.  Julian tilted his head, puzzled.  He hadn’t said that she had forgotten him.  Why would she say that?

          “It definitely wasn’t a card.” He chose to ignore her statement.

          “It wasn’t a card?” She asked, “or it wasn’t a Sakura card?”

          He furrowed his brow, “It wasn’t a Sakura card or a Clow card.  And it wasn’t like the Showruns' magic either.” He said carefully.

          “But you cannot say for certain that it wasn’t a card.” She held his gaze as she spoke.  There was some hidden meaning there, some spark of idea, but he couldn’t fathom what it was.

          “Are there other types of cards?” Tory broke in loudly.

          She turned to look at him, still completely serene. “There may be.” There was the air of mystery in her voice.  Neither man liked it at all.  She stood, coming around the desk. “Julian,” she placed a hand on his shoulder, “I’d like to speak to Yue please.” Her voice was kind.

          Julian nodded uncertainly.  Then, in a gentle rush of wings, wind, and light, the gray haired man was gone and an elegant winged man with long white tresses stood in his place.

          “I’ll never get over that.” Tory muttered.

          Ms. Mackenzie smiled at this, but kept her attention on Yue.  With only a brief nod of acknowledgment to Tory, Yue focused his attention on the red haired teacher.

          “What is it you wish to know from me?” his voice was deep, quiet, and firm.  Infinitely serious and knowledgeable, it had an odd cool warmth, like the moon’s glow on a still night.  Which was perfectly understandable considering he was the guardian whose magic was of the moon.

          “Yue.” Layla Mackenzie greeted warmly. “I have missed you.”

          The moon guardian’s eyes softened for a moment before he focused again.  “What do you wish to know?”


          Sakura and her friends had met near a large tree after school.  They were all in separate classes for their last period today.  Fortunately their school only had one lunch period so they had been able to see each other then.  They had decided to meet after school and now they were headed toward the museum.  Madison really liked museums, she always had, and she had a video project due in a week.  She thought the museum was the perfect place to get some shots.

          Sakura was more than happy to support her, happy that Madison now restricted her filming to school projects and not every event in Sakura’s life.  And the museum held a special place in Sakura’s heart as well.  That had been the first time Li had hugged her. 

          She blushed at the memory.  She had been so surprised, and so dense!

          Li admired Sakura’s blush, wondering what she was thinking about.  Her eyes lifted to his face and then quickly averted as they met his own.  He chuckled.

          “Hey, Sakura?” He spoke casually.

          “Yes.” She dared to look at him again, and this time held his gaze.

          “Did you finish that history project?”

          She frowned a little, surprised at the direction of the conversation.  She had thought maybe… “Yeah,” she nodded, smiling brightly, "I finished yesterday.  So I’m free all afternoon!” her cheeks tinted pink as she realized how that might sound, and she dropped her gaze to her feet. <BAKA!> she scolded.

          She was startled when a cool hand brushed against her too warm cheek. Her gaze jumped back up to find Li very close to her.

          “That’s nice to know.” He said softly, his breath moving the hair around her face.  She resisted the urge to swoon like a fool and squelched her disappointment as his hand dropped back to his side.

          Li’s own heart was pounding.  What had come over him?  They really needed to have a conversation about their relationship soon.  But something else always came up.  Still, the questions gnawing on his heart would not cease.  They must be laid to rest before they drove him to distraction. 

          Were the feelings they had confessed so long ago still real – for both of them?  He still loved her, but did she love him?  Were they a ‘couple’? Everyone seemed to take it for granted that they were, even the two of them.  But did Sakura really want that, or was it that she felt it was expected of her? There were so many things he was unsure about.  So many things, small liberties boyfriends could take, that he wanted to be able to do.  Like brush her hair out of her eyes, take her hand, greet her with a real hug – not the one arm kind- stare at her…  But he couldn’t feel comfortable doing that until he knew if she really wanted him to.  He had to ask her.  He had to make it official. 

          Maybe today. After the museum.  She had said she was free.

          “Hey Sakura-” he stopped, staring at a spot behind her.

          “Li?” she looked at him, clearly puzzled by his sudden change in attitude.  “What is it?”  She turned to look.

          A short ways in the distance there was a strange smoke. 

          “Sakura, Li?” In front of them their three friends had noticed their absence and stopped walking. Madison turned to look at them, pulling Eli with her. She too noticed the smoke “Hm, that’s weird, is it a fire? I don’t see any flames.”

          “It looks almost like sand.” Meilin said thoughtfully, “but there isn’t any sand near here, is there?”

          Madison shook her head, nothing but cement, asphalt, and bushes for yards in any direction.  This was near Tomoeda proper after all.

          Li squinted in concentration, staring at the rising cloud, “Something just doesn’t-”

          All three magicians shuddered as a dark sense of foreboding ran through them.

          “Run!” Sakura commanded, turning to obey her own command. Madison and Meilin looked confused, but one look at their friends’ faces convinced them to obey.  The five friends took off at a dead run, but it was too late.  All too soon they were surrounded by a thick cloud of whipping sand.

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