Dark Reflections

Chapter 5: Storm of Sand

          “I still don’t get it.” Tory shook his head.  “Either it is a card and you should be able to sense it, or it isn’t, and you shouldn’t.”

          “There are many kinds of magic Tory.” Ms. Mackenzie admonished him, “Not all are familiar to us.”

          “But I thought Clow Reed was the most powerful magician to ever live.” Tory groused.  “Shouldn’t Eli know then?”

          “Eli is not Clow.” Yue said sharply, “And even if he were… some things were beyond even Clow’s comprehension.” Yue sounded almost sorrowful as he made this statement.

          “I still don’t see why we can’t just ask him.” Tory insisted.

          “I spoke with him this morning.” Ms. Mackenzie told him.  Tory’s head whipped up in shock, “Your sister and Li as well.” She continued, “They are all at a loss.”

          “Perhaps we are going about this the wrong way,” Yue’s brows lifted as a thought came to him, “Our focus may be-” he stopped, eyes darting to the window.  When he spoke again it was with urgency. “Something is wrong.”

          Tory jumped to his feet (he had been leaning against a desk), “Sakura!” he exclaimed softly.

          Yue gave a terse nod and headed for the door.  Tory started to go as well, but Ms. Mackenzie stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm.

          “There is nothing you can do, Tory.  You would simply be one more person to protect.”

          With a weak nod Tory watched the mystic guardian exit the classroom. <He had better take care of my Sakura>


          The wind was whipping Madison’s hair furiously.  Why hadn’t she worn it braided today?  Sakura wasn’t fairing much better, though because her hair was shorter she didn’t look quite as strange.  Meilin had her hair in twin buns and so was spared.

          “What’s going on?” Madison cried out, clinging tightly to Eli with one arm and trying to shield her face and hold back her hair with the other.  They had stopped running, the storm had only followed them, and at least here they were alone.

          “It’s definitely magic.” Li said, yelling to be heard above the roaring wind.

          Meilin shot him one of the death glares that were her trademark, “No, you think?” she asked sarcastically.

          “It’s behaving like Storm, but it seems to be creating its own sand.” Sakura shouted.

          “Storm and Sand.  Like two cards together.  Except that it can’t be.” Eli said.  It was odd to hear him raise his voice, he so seldom did.

          “Two cards together.” Sakura echoed.

          “Madison,” Eli turned to look at his girlfriend, he could barely make her out through the sand swirling around them. “I need you to let go of my arm.” He said gently.

          Reluctantly Madison released him.  Focusing he called on his staff.

          “Everyone, gather closer.” He commanded. 

          Drawing together the five friends struggled against the storm.  The sand scratched their exposed skin, feeling like tiny shards of glass.  They had to close their eyes tightly as a blast of wind rushed past.

          “If you were going to do something now would be the time!” Li told Eli.

          Eli shook his head.  “I tried. Nothing happened.” He stated calmly.

          “WHAT!?” Li and Meilin shouted as one. Well, Meilin actually sort of shrieked. And it wasn’t helping that he was so emotionless.  Did the boy not have a heart?

          “I thought you were the almighty reincarnation of Clow Reed!” Meilin accused.

          Eli chose not to remind them all once again that he was only a partial reincarnation.  He was not Clow Reed. He shrugged, “There is nothing I can do.”

          Li forced himself to calm.  Perhaps wind could help them here.  He summoned his sword and then took out a slip of paper, being careful not to let the strong gusts snatch it from him.  He focused his magic on holding it in the proper summoning position.

          “Element WIND, come to my aid!” he called.

          Wind rushed from the spot where the sword and the paper connected, racing into the storm. It formed a protective barrier around them, and for a brief time it held the howling, swirling, sand storm at bay.  But all too soon the bubble collapsed.

          “It isn’t strong enough.” Li clenched a fist.

          “Let me try!” Sakura stepped slightly away from the others.  Taking off her necklace she held it between her hands.  As if imbued with a life of its own the necklace hung in the air as she pulled her hands away.  It began to glow a soft pink as she spoke.

          “Oh Key of the Star with powers burning bright.  Reveal the staff and shine your light! Release!”

          In her hand now rested a pink staff with a gold star at the top.  Drawing a card from her pocket Sakura sent it twirling into the air.  “Windy!” she called, touching the card with her staff. 

          The card transformed briefly into a beautiful woman and then, recognizing the need, became a strong wind.  For long moments the wind of the storm and Windy fought for control.  In the end, Windy was forced to revert to a card state.  The look on the face of the woman on the card’s face showed both pain and sorrow.  It was clear that although the card could not go on, it wished to.

          “It’s alright Windy.” Sakura soothed the card, replacing it in her pocket and withdrawing another.

          “Freeze!” she transformed this card as well.  “Freeze the sand around us!” she commanded.  Perhaps the sand would become to heavy and it would fall. 

          She only succeeded in making them all colder.

          “Th-that’s not work-king.” Meilin frowned as she heard her own, cold induced, stutter.

          Calling back the card Sakura frowned.  What else could she use.  Shield might protect them for a time, but what good would that do them if the storm refused to dissipate. They could not remain here forever.

          A hand touched her shoulder, she turned to see Li, “Try Storm. Maybe a strong whirlwind will blow this away.”

          Sakura nodded, “Storm! Create a cyclone and whisk the sand away!” Storm tried its best, but, in the end, it too failed.

          “I don’t understand.” Sakura thought through her cards.  Were they all useless?

          “Sakura ! Look out!” Li pushed her aside just as a spike of sand drove into the ground where she had been.

          Now that she was away from the others the storm seemed to be concentrating on her.  Dozens of sand spikes shot out at her, and she was barely able to dodge.  The others were helpless, as the sand around them had begun to swirl rapidly, forming an almost solid barrier.

          “SAKURA!” Li cried in desperation as an incredibly long, sharp spike came at her from behind.  She turned around and her eyes widened – there was no way she would be able to get out of the way in time.  She closed her eyes tightly, waiting for the pain.

          And instead felt herself being lifted into the air.  Her eyes flew open and came to rest on a familiar face. 

          “Yue?” she breathed, relief and wonder mixed in her tone.

          He gave a terse nod, but was too focused on avoiding the spikes to speak to her.

          She rested her head on the guardian’s chest briefly, allowing herself to savor the feeling of safety his arms gave her. He always came at just the right time. She forced herself back to the issue at hand.  Yue couldn’t keep this up forever.  And she wasn’t as light as she had been four years ago.

          There had to be a way to stop the sand storm.  She kept coming back to making the sand too heavy to heavy to be lifted by the wind.  The idea was sound, but Freeze had probably been the wrong card to use.  She closed her eyes and thought through her cards, one by one.

          Watery? No, she would have the same problem as Windy, she was just too slow.  But she was on the right track.  Mud didn’t fly through the air.  But how could she get all the sand wet at once?

          Her eyes flew open.

          “Rain!” she said loudly.

          Yue dared to dart a glance down at his mistress.  What was she talking about?

          “Mistress?” he asked, worried, but hiding it well.

          “Take me to the others Yue.” She instructed.

          He sighed, but complied.  There was really nothing he could do anyway.  His crystals could do little against a storm.  He was better suited to fighting against physical enemies - enemies with an actual body.  The cards were for battling forces of nature, or of … whatever this was.  

           Now that they were nearer the others Sakura could see that Li and Eli were trying to penetrate the wall of sand trapping them.  They were alternating attacks; first one boy would blast away at the sand, then the other.  It obviously wasn’t working.  Sakura frowned, she needed their help to stop this. There was no way that she would have time to summon Rain without them distracting the storm.  It was clear that the storm had found her weakness and was determined to exploit it.  As long as she was dodging sand spikes she had no time to summon, which meant she was unable to attack.

          “Li!” She yelled as loud as she could.  On the third try he heard her and looked up.  “We have to attack together!” She cried.  He tilted his head to one side, trying to figure out what she had said.  “Together!” she said again, “You, Eli, and Me,” she indicated each of them.  “Attack together!” she made some more motions.

          His eyes widened in comprehension and he tapped Eli on the shoulder.  Sakura could see him explaining everything to Eli.  Eli threw her a look and then nodded.  Positioning the two girls behind them, the boys took up their fighting stances.

          “Yue,” Sakura still couldn’t summon, so Yue would have to do her part. “I’m going to count to three.  When I give the signal send an attack toward the sand.  You must hit the exact same spot as Li and Eli though, alright.”

          Yue nodded, “Hold on.” He warned as he removed one arm from around her, now holding her tightly to him with only his left arm.

          Sakura counted out loud, holding up fingers for the boys to see. “One… Two… THREE!”

          The wall of sand stopped swirling and then seemed to shatter as blue crystals, purplish magic, and a pillar of fire attacked it.  Very quickly the four trapped friends escaped before the wall could reform.  Yue darted down, placing Sakura in their midst.

          “I have an idea!” Sakura told them.  “But I need your help.” Already the wall was trying to form around them, but Yue was holding it at bay.  Sakura didn’t care, once she could summon Rain the wall would be of no importance. “I need you to form a barrier around me, long enough for me to summon Rain.” She told them.

          The boys nodded.  There would be only three of them – a difficult task.  Sakura wished Kero were here. Someone should really protect Madison and Meilin.  The two girls must have sensed her concern for they immediately straightened defiantly.

          “And don’t you worry about us, Sakura.” Meilin ordered, “We’ll be just fine.”

          “It shouldn’t take you long, right?” Madison said brightly.

          Sakura gave a terse nod.  She moved closer to Yue with Li and Eli following.  The three men took up positions, effectively encasing Sakura.  She could see Li and Eli’s auras glow and leap up as they created a magic barrier.  Then Yue’s magic flared up joining the other two.

          Sakura pulled out Rain and breathed a silent prayer.  This had to work.

          “Rain! RELEASE!” She called, slamming her staff against the card.  Immediately a woman in a jester’s costume appeared.  Just as quickly she transformed into a small rain cloud, hovering near Sakura.

          “Rain, I need you to create a rainstorm covering this entire sandstorm at once.  Make it rain over the entire storm at the same time.  And rain hard!” she instructed the card.  The card quickly complied.  The sandstorm fought against the rain, but it was just too powerful.  The sand became mud, far too heavy to be lifted by the wind.

          Yet the wind continued to swirl angrily, refusing to give up.  It whipped at Madison and Meilin, outside the magic barrier.

          “Windy! Storm!” Sakura summoned both cards and they wrapped themselves around her friends, fighting the raging wind trying to attack them.

          Then suddenly, the wind stopped.  With a final swirl of fresh sand the storm disappeared.

          As it swirled out of existence Sakura thought she saw a figure in the sand.  It was a girl, with her back turned to them.  But Sakura couldn’t see her features, and before she could try to make them out the figure was gone.

          Sakura recalled her three cards, and they reverted to card form.

          With a sigh of relief the three men surrounding her dropped the protective barrier. 

          “I’m going to return to my false form now.” Yue informed them.

          “Yue! Wait!” Sakura cried, but it was too late.  With a rush of feathers and a bright glow Yue became Julian once again.

          Julian blinked, looking around uncertainly, “What am I… oh.” He finished with understanding as he observed the teens around him.  “Remind me to ask Yue about this later.” He said, shaking his head.

          Sakura looked around, she could see what he meant.  The once spotless cityscape was now covered in mud.  There was a ring of thick mud around where she and the others had been standing.  It must have sloughed off the barrier, sliding down the curved sides and forming puddles. She looked at Madison and Meilin, both girls were literally caked with mud.

          She and the boys didn’t look much better.  Their uniforms were tattered and torn, with a soft brown film over top.  They all had tiny cuts and scratches from the biting sand.

          Meilin looked them over critically.  “This is not going to be easy to explain.” 

          They all knew what she meant.  Their families knew about the cards of course (well, except for Samantha Taylor), but their friends didn’t.  And the town’s general population certainly didn’t.

          “I guess we aren’t going to the museum today!” Madison forced a cheerfulness she really didn’t feel. She was covered in mud! She plucked weakly at her soiled uniform skirt.  At least they hadn’t changed first; she would have hated to ruin her own clothes like this.  At least uniforms were easily replaced.  Her hair, however, was another matter. 

          It would take forever to wash the mud off, especially if it dried before she got home.  Which it probably would, it was still abnormally hot. She sighed <oh well, mom pays big money for mud wraps, guess I should be grateful. I got one for free!>

          Eli wrapped an arm around his girlfriend, carefully.  “Sorry Madison.  I know you were looking forward to it.”

          She brushed him off with a genuine smile, “It’s not a big deal, we can go tomorrow.” Eli smiled at his girlfriend’s good nature.  She was amazing.

          “I don’t know about you, but I’m going home to shower and change.” Meilin said with disgust.  “I feel like a pig pen.”

          Sakura smiled.  Leave it to Meilin…

          “Good idea.” Eli agreed.  “I’ll walk you home Madison.”  He guided his girlfriend away.  The truth was, he didn’t want to leave her alone after that attack.

          “I’ll walk you Meilin.” Julian offered, casting a glance at Sakura and Li.  They would probably want to be alone, and he couldn’t let Meilin walk home by herself.  From the looks of things they had had quite a scuffle.

          For once Meilin didn’t argue she just nodded. “Thanks Julian.” The young man walked quietly beside her, escorting her home.

          Li had been silent since the storm had left.  He was studying the piled mud thoughtfully. Sakura, realizing they were now alone, approached him.

          “Li,” she placed a hand lightly on his back.  He stiffened and then relaxed as he realized who it was.

          “Sakura,” he breathed.

          “Did you see her?” she asked hesitantly.

          He shook his head, “Her?”

          Sakura nodded, searching his eyes for a reaction, “There was a girl in the storm.  At the end I saw her.”

          His eyes darted in astonishment, or thought, she didn’t know which. “Was it the girl from the dream?” he asked seriously.

          “I don’t think so… I don’t know.” She said, “I think she was wearing robes.  Like the cards.” Her voice was low.  It was an uncomfortable thought.

          “But Eli said there are no cards left.”

          “No Clow cards.” She reminded him.  “What if there are other cards?  Cards we don’t know about?”

          Li sighed, “I don’t know Sakura.” Then his eyes lit with determination, “But whatever it is, we’ll stop it.  I know it.” He smiled into her eyes and she smiled back.

          Li looked around, “We’d better get going.  Before someone comes and sees this.” He urged her gently.

          She nodded, taking a final look at the chaos surrounding them.  It had been so strange.


          “Goodbye Sakura.  I’ll see you tomorrow.” Li left Sakura at her front door.  It had been a quiet walk home; both consumed with thoughts of the battle and of their unknown enemy.

          Sakura stepped inside with a weak nod.

          “Good night.” He didn’t bother to remind her that it wasn’t even evening yet.  He waited until she shut the door and then turned to go.  As he walked down the driveway he nearly ran into Tory.  He winced.

          “Um, sorry about that.” He said, not raising his head.

          Tory looked him over, “Been in a rockslide gaki?” his tone held none of the anger Li was accustomed to.  His head shot up in shock.

          “Uh, no.” he looked back down at his shoes.  Sakura would have to explain this to her family.  It wasn’t his place.

          “Whatever.” Tory frowned, was this part of the reason Yue had never come back to the school?  Ms. Mackenzie had eventually told him to go home, informing him that Julian was already returning to his own home.          

        Tory wondered why Julian hadn’t come back to see him.  They still had to go to the library tonight.  And how did Ms. Mackenzie know this stuff?  He had never sensed much magic from her.  Had her magic grown since his own had gone?  He would have to call Julian once he got inside.

          “Well, goodbye gaki.” He said good naturedly, causing Li to wonder once again.

          Li gave a nod and hurried off down the street.  Suddenly his head came up.

          He hadn’t spoken to Sakura about them yet! He groaned and continued down the street.

          Would they ever straighten this out?

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