Dark Reflections

Chapter 8: Obstacles and Elementals

          Aiden was having a tough time taking it all in.

          “Time has stopped?” he shook his head, repeating the words she had said to him.  He repeated this a few times more, clearly stunned.

          “Yes.” She watched him, trying to gauge his reaction.

          “Look, Ms. Mackenzie-”

          “Layla.” She corrected gently.  His son called her by her first name, no reason he shouldn’t.

          “Layla,” he repeated,” You have to admit, it’s a little hard to take in.” She nodded in agreement.  “I mean,” he continued, “even if what you say is true, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t,” he hastened to add, not wishing to offend the woman who had helped his daughter so much, “why are you and I still awake?”

          Ms. Mackenzie drew in a breath, she had known this was coming, “I believe it has something to do with your daughter.” She began.

          He looked at her like she had lost her mind, “You think Sakura did this?” his daughter was the sweetest person on earth.  Except when in came to her brother.

          “No,” the red head assured him, “I don’t think that at all.  But I do believe that whoever is doing this is trying to get her attention.  Only she can stop this.”

          Aiden sighed, “That seems to happen a lot.” He said wearily, resting his head in his hands. “So what can we do?”

          “For now?” It was just enough of a question to cause him to look up and meet her eyes, “For now we wait.” She informed him calmly, “and when the time is right, we will go to help.”

          “When the time is right.” He echoed.  How would they know when that was?


          They were almost through the maze.  Or were they?  They didn’t actually know how large the maze was, although they assumed it couldn’t exceed the space of the floor.  Still, it seemed they must be nearing the end.

          Sakura wasn’t sure if she was able to sense it through magic, or if it was just wishful thinking.

          “Just a little further.” Li gave her a half smile.

          “How do you know?” she asked, quietly.  She didn’t know why they bothered.  Obviously whoever was causing all this already knew they were here.  Why else set up such an elaborate maze?

          “The board.” He replied, looking down at it.

          “Oh.” She looked down as well, but she couldn’t see anything. “Right.” She didn’t sound very confident.

          Li chuckled, “It’s alright, you don’t have to understand.  Just trust me.”

          Sakura nodded.  She would always trust him.


          Eli nearly ran into the mansion headed for the library.  Where had he read something like this?  He had to find out, it was somehow very important.  The others followed behind him at a more sedate pace.  As they walked through the mansion something caught Madison’s eye.  She pointed, drawing the guardians’ attention to the figures in the spacious sitting area.  It was Ruby and Spinner, frozen in the midst of having tea.

          “Well that solves that mystery.” Kero said bluntly. 

          “But why are they frozen?  They have magic.” Madison was confused.  Eli came back to stand with his girlfriend, studying his guardians.

          “Because they are relatively unconnected to Sakura.” He answered as he brushed by her once again, heading for the library, “And I am beginning to think that is the true answer to the puzzle.” Madison and Kero looked at him blankly.

          “It doesn’t matter,” Yue said pointedly, “We’ve got to find Sakura. And to do that Eli must first find something else.” He couldn’t fathom what that might be, but he trusted Clow Reed’s reincarnation.

          Eli stuck his head back into the room and observed the three figures still standing there, “Are you coming?” he asked impatiently.

          Jumping out of their reverie they followed him.


          Meilin yawned and stretched a little.  Then she snuggled back in to the warmth beside her.  It felt so good.  The warmth shifted and this triggered something in her mind.  Memories flooded back to her of the… well, the time before she had fallen asleep since days no longer seemed to be a factor.  Warning bells went off in her head. 

          She was in a library; there shouldn’t be anything warm for her to lean against.

          Slowly she opened her eyes, turning her head toward the source of the warmth.  Her eyes found a broad, firm chest.  Slowly she moved her gaze upward.  Shoulders, a neck.  Dread was filling her now.  A little higher.

          She shrieked and jerked back. <TORY!!!> she flushed.

          Tory opened one eye just a little and stared at her in irritation. “What are you shrieking about?” he asked roughly.

          She covered her mouth in embarrassment.  What had come over her?   She should be mature enough to handle this.

          “Sorry.” She said quietly.

          “Yeah, whatever.” He turned the other way, crossing his arms.  That made her a little mad.  Who was he to ignore her? She hadn’t asked for this any more than he had.  How dare he treat her like that!

          “Don’t you ‘whatever’ me, Tory Avalon.” She stood, stomping a foot.  He looked at her in amazement.  What was up with her? Couldn’t she just let him sleep?

          Evidently not. 

          He stretched, rubbing the back of his neck and blinking sleepily.  He stood and stretched languidly.  “What is your problem Rae?” he asked, not really caring.

          “My problem?” She hissed, in disbelief. “My problem is that you dragged me all over town yester- err, earlier.” She corrected herself, “You decided where we would go, you set the pace, you had the nerve to carry me!  And not once did you ask for my opinion!”

          He chuckled, the old Meilin was definitely back.  Those few hours? minutes? He wasn’t sure – the clocks weren’t running after all- of sleep had done wonders for her spirits.

          “And just what is so funny, Tory Avalon?” she asked acidly.  She kept using his full name.  Did she think she was his mother or something?

          “You are.” He replied casually.  That was evidently not the wisest thing to say, not that he cared.  She could rant at him all she wanted.

          “Excuse me?” she sent him a withering glare.  He sighed, as much as he was enjoying the verbal sparring they had more important things to do.

          “Look, Meilin,” she started when he used her first name.  That was amusing as well considering she had been calling him Tory pretty much all day.  “Meilin,” he repeated firmly, “The truth is, I did do all those things,” she smirked triumphantly and opened her mouth to speak, but he held up a hand and continued, “but that’s because you weren’t in much condition to do anything.  Obviously you’re over that now.” He smirked.  “So can we just move on?”

          Meilin didn’t want to move on.  She wanted to argue.  She was angry with all that had happened recently, she was scared, which only increased her anger because she hated being scared, and she wanted to take it out on him.

          But the look in his eyes was so sincere.  She could almost see Sakura peering out at her, pleading with her.  And they really did seem to need each other.  It was better than being alone.

          She looked down at the ground, “Fine, I’m… I’m sorry.” He smiled at how hard it was for her to say those words.

          “Me too.” He extended a hand and she looked up in surprise, “Truce?” he asked.  Slowly she took his hand.

          “Truce.” She agreed.  For a few moments they sat in amicable silence.  Then a thought struck Meilin.

          “Hey Tory?” she asked.


          She tucked a stray piece of hair behind one ear.  What she wouldn’t give for a brush! “How did you know about the key?”

          Tory chuckled, walking up and taking out her left ponytail, he pulled the loose hair into the tail and, smoothing it, re-secured it atop her head.  It was perfectly even with the other.

          “One of my part time jobs was at the library.” He explained, “I’m lucky they hadn’t moved it.”

          Meilin nodded.  It made sense.  It seemed like Tory had worked everywhere while he was in high school.  And half those jobs his sister didn’t even know about.  They would go somewhere and there would be Tory.  Sometimes it had seemed as though he got the job only because he knew Sakura would be there soon.  Inevitably a Clow card would appear at his place of employment.  She’d always found that fascinating.

          Maybe he had gotten those jobs because of Sakura and the cards.  Not that he would have known that was why he was doing it.  But hadn’t Sakura said Tory used to have magic – until he gave it to Yue.  Had he sensed that he was needed? It was possible.


“Last turn.” Just as Li said, as they turned the corner they stepped out of the maze. 

“Finally.” Sakura sighed in relief.  That maze had seemed to go on forever.  If it hadn’t been for Li and his lasin board she might never have gotten out.  She was so lucky to have him.

“Sakura.” Li called her name.  Startled she snapped out of her thoughts.

“Sorry.” She mumbled.

“S’okay.” He squeezed her hand lightly.  “I think we need to go down another floor."  He indicated the empty area in front of him.

“Okay.” She started to take out her cards again, but he stopped her.

He shook his head, making his wild brown hair fall in his eyes, “Save your energy, we may as well take the elevator.”

He was right, and she knew it.  Their enemy probably wouldn’t be down there anyway.  And she could feel herself getting tired.  He sensed it as well and sent a flood of energy toward her.  She could feel warmth rush over her, running through her, reenergizing her.

“Thanks.” She gave him a grateful smile.

“No problem,” he responded, “You’d do the same for me.”

She nodded.  Yes, she would.  She would die for him. And she knew he felt the same way.

“Let’s get going.” He urged her toward the elevator.  Stepping inside he reached for the button that would send them down one more floor. 

“Wait.” Sakura put a gentle hand on his arm, stopping him. Her eyes closed as though she were searching for something.  “Go back to the top floor.” She told him.  He pressed the button, trusting her instincts.

They reached the top floor and found it oddly changed.  The shadows had gone and the sun was visible again, but it felt wrong somehow.

Li was pondering this when a wave of premonition swept over him “Sakura down.” He commanded.  The two magicians threw themselves to the ground as a beam swung toward them.

“That’s impossible.” Sakura said in disbelief. “These beams are solid.”  The beam swung through the air and back toward them.  They jumped up and ran.  “And beams definitely don’t do that!” she yelped.

Li was busy studying the beams above them.  None were missing.  Where had the beam come from?  He didn’t have time to think as the beam crashed down toward them once more.

“Sakura!” he called, running toward her.  “We have to get out of here now!”

Sakura was inclined to agree.  Summoning Fly once more she motioned for Li to sit behind her on the staff.  They took off into the sky, unsure where they would go. 


Tory and Meilin were running again, their previous hiding place proving unsafe.  Meilin shuddered as she remembered the noise the glass had made as it had shattered.  The town was going to have a lot of mysterious damage (mysterious to the general population that was) when all this was over.  Maybe Sakura could use Create to fix it.

They had had very little time to squeeze out the back window after that.  Tory had given her a boost and then, once he was sure she was clear, had pulled himself up and dropped to the ground with ease.  He was very strong.  Now they were simply running, with no real direction in mind.

Meilin stumbled and fell into Tory.  Reaching out he righted her and she blushed, averting her eyes.

“Um, thanks.” She murmured.  And he could tell it wasn’t pride that made it so hard to say.  The blush creeping up her cheeks ruled out that possibility.

He too felt a strange warmth flood through him. <What’s wrong with me?> he scolded himself <I don’t have time for this> he pushed the disturbing feelings to the back of his mind.  He would deal with them later. For now he had more important matters to consider.

“Let's try the shrine!” he suggested, unsure why that seemed a safe place.  Perhaps it was all the stories Sakura had told him.

“Alright.” Meilin agreed, it was worth a try.

Picking up speed they headed to that part of town.


Eli had been flipping through books for what seemed like ages.  He just couldn’t remember which one held the information he needed.  Had it been a historical record? A magic spell?  No, he shook his head.  It wasn’t either of those.

“Eli,” Madison was getting impatient, somewhere out there her best friend was in trouble, and her boyfriend was wasting time in a library.

“Shh.” He hushed her gently, waving a hand.  He almost had it.  There!

“Ahha!” he let out a victorious laugh. “I think I’ve found it.”

“What is it?” Madison’s curiosity got the better of her, and she came to peer over his shoulder.

“The answer to our problems.” He told her confidently <I hope> he added in his mind. The book was what might best be termed the science of magic.  It contained a list of rules about balance and proper use of magic and theories concerning reactions and interactions.  It was a very long list, filled with dreary explanations and dire warnings. 

It was also something every magician should be familiar with, and he was ashamed to admit that he had not looked at it in far too long.  Even further ashamed to admit that he had never told Sakura any of these rules and theories.  He sometimes forgot that she was running purely on instinct.  She had neither the training that Li had, nor the memories he could rely on. And neither guardian knew a thing about it. 

This had to be where he had read about this before.  It simply had to be. 

“So, now what?” Madison asked expectantly.

He turned to face them, clutching the book protectively to himself, “Now we go to the shrine.”

“Shrine?” Kero questioned, “I though you said they went to the radio tower.”

“They did,” Eli adjusted his glasses. “But we must go to the shrine.”    

Kero growled and Yue gave him a warning look.  The boy might not be Clow Reed, but he was close enough for Yue to respect him.

“Come, Keroberos,” the silver haired guardian instructed. “We have things to do.”

And with those words the group headed for the shrine.  Unfortunately they would have to travel on foot.  But that didn’t bother Eli.  It would give him time to study the book.


          Tory and Meilin were sitting on the floor of the shrine.  This was becoming an all too familiar scene.  But at least they seemed free from attack in here.  Their attackers had seemed to lose their power at the gate to the shrine.

          The two young people were huddled together for warmth – it was snowing outside now.  At least, it was snowing in this part of town. At the library it had been nearly a hundred degrees.  Magic once again.  Meilin was sleeping, and Tory was trying to.  But he kept running through the events of the last few days in his mind.  His stomach rumbled.  When was the last time either of them had eaten a full meal?

          “Tory,” the small voice startled him.  It was Meilin.

          “I thought you were sleeping.” He said quietly.

          She shook her head, “I was, but I woke up.” She explained.  He nodded. Looking outside she saw that it was still snowing.  That would explain her shivering.

          “Cold?” Tory asked her.  She thought about denying it, but decided that would be pointless.  She nodded. “Here.” He positioned himself closer to her, placing an arm around her shoulder. All the while he watched her carefully, ready to pull away at the first sign of anger.  He was surprised when she snuggled into him instead.

          “I’m scared.” She said flatly.

          His eyes widened, that was probably the first time she had ever made such an admission.  He decided to reward her trust in kind.

          “I’m a little frightened myself.” He admitted, careful to keep his fear out of his voice.  He wanted to relate to her, not make her more frightened.

          “Are you?” she pulled back a little to look in his eyes.

          He nodded, “Yes. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let it get to me.” He assured her, “I’ll protect you.” He promised.

          Her eyes widened, she hadn’t asked for that.  But the truth was… she wanted it. She was so tired of being strong. She wanted to rely on someone else, if only for a little while.

          “Promise?” she asked hesitantly.

          “Promise.” He gave her shoulders a squeeze.  And he knew he really meant it.  He would hate to see anything happen to the fiery Chinese girl.  And it wasn’t just because she was Sakura’s friend.


“It is time.”

Aiden’s head shot up.  What did she mean it was time?  He and the red haired math teacher, who was so much more to his children, had been sitting in silence for what seemed like an eternity.  Over and over again the faces of his children ran through his mind.  Where were they?  Were they all right?  Why did he have to have such special children?

“Time?” he echoed.  He seemed to be doing that a lot recently.  Ms. Mackenzie marveled at this good nature, his easy acceptance of all she had said.  Most parents would be chomping at the bit, anxious to take matters into their own hands.  Not Aiden.  It wasn’t that he didn’t care about his children, he simply understood that each person had their own destiny and it was wrong to interfere with that, even out of love.

“Yes, we must go now.” Her voice held a mysterious cold quality he had never heard there before.  She had always seemed so full of warmth.

“Where?” He asked.  For the first time he felt uncertain.  Why was she different now?

“To the shrine. We are needed.” She stood and, without even looking at him, walked toward the door.  “Come.” She beckoned him.  And having no real choice, no other options, he followed her.


          Sakura and Li were flying through the skies of Tomoeda.  In his mind Li was reviewing all the incidents of the past few weeks.  First there had been Fog and Silent.  Then Sand and Storm.  Then Maze and Illusion in the tower.  And he was certain that last attack, with the beam, had been Move coupled with Create, or maybe Twin – he couldn’t be sure.  It bothered him that all the attacks were so similar to the powers of the cards.  Of course, it was possible that some other magician had cards similar to the Clow, and now Sakura, cards.

          But if that were so, why had they never heard anything? Sensed anything?  It just didn’t make any sense.

          A shock ran through him, a magic premonition.  Something was about to happen.


          “I felt it!” she dodged to one side just as a spire of earth jutted into the sky, then quickly dodged the other direction when a tower of fire spun into existence beside them.

          “What’s going on?”

          Sakura let Fly take over, hoping the card's instincts would guide them through the forest of earthen spikes and towers of flame that continued to appear all around them.

          A gust of wind pushed them toward one of the flaming towers and Li extended his aura, pushing them away from it.  Now Sakura could see cyclones and pillars of water ahead of them. 

          <The four elements?> Her mind cried out.

          How could Windy, Earthy, Firey, and Watery be attacking her?  They were still in her pocket. And yet, she could think of no other explanation.

          “Sakura focus!” Li’s shout drew her attention back to the circumstances at hand.

          Fly was having a tough time with their changing surroundings.  Sakura could feel the card’s pain. <What can I do?>

          “We need to get closer to the ground!” Li spoke into her ear so that she could hear him above the noise created by the forces attacking them.

          Sakura nodded and directed Fly downward.  What she saw almost made her heart stop. This was a very crowded area of town.  Crowds of frozen people filled the streets.

          Li sensed her uncertainty and placed a firm hand on her arm.  “Keep going.” He told her.

          For long minutes they darted between the frozen figures.  It was an eerie experience, like walking through a wax museum, only these people were real.

          “Li!” she turned her head sideways so that he could hear her better, “we can’t stay down here much longer, people could get hurt!”

          “Sakura, we can’t stay in this section of town much longer.” She looked at him in question, “Those pillars extend up from the ground Sakura.  The people here are going to get hurt even if we stay off the streets.”  Sakura’s eyes widened at this realization.

          “Where should we go?” she asked, her mind desperately searching for a solution.

          “Head toward the shrine.” He said firmly, “there should be less people on that end of town.”

          Sakura nodded, and they shot back into the sky at a reckless speed.  Fly knew they needed to get away from the people.  It could feel its mistress urging it onward, faster and faster.

          Spires, cyclones, and columns continued to appear all around them, creating an obstacle course unlike any other.  There was no way they could make it!  Sakura watched the elemental forces around them, studying them, searching for the answer.  Something seemed strange, like there was some pattern.

          “Li, there’s something weird about their pattern of attack.” She called to the man behind her.

          She felt him stiffen, as though something had suddenly occurred to him.

          Li’s mind was racing.  She was right! Firey and Earthy were attacking together, as were Windy and Watery (well, at least fire and earth, and wind and water.  They weren’t really the cards.  They couldn’t be.) Earth, fire, wind, and then water - the pattern never changed.  Not once did it waver.  It was almost as though the elements were avoiding one another.

          He reviewed his lessons in his mind.  There was a reason for this.  He knew what it was if he could only remember.  <Water extinguishes fire, and thereby destroys itself, becoming steam.  And twisters have been known to destroy mountains, but in the process the wind also dissipates.> That was simple scientific fact.  But there was something more.

          His eyes widened as he remembered. 

          Clow’s cards had been based upon the powers of the sun and the moon.  Each card was powered by one of these celestial bodies. Even now, when their primary power came from Sakura’s star, they still relied on the sun and the moon.

          He remembered his battle with Yue and how the Time card hadn’t worked because it used moon magic and Yue was the guardian of the moon.  Only sun magic could fight moon magic.

          Each of the elements was powered by either the sun or the moon.  Could that be the key?

          “Sakura!” Sakura straightened in attention as his shout rose above the roaring wind. “Sakura we have to get them to change their order of attack!”

          “Hoe?” Why was that important?

          “Don’t you see Sakura.  They’ll cancel each other out.  Water needs to be with Fire and Earth needs to be with Wind.  They’ll cancel each other out, both physically and magically.”

          Sakura still wasn’t sure she quite understood, but she nodded.  Swooping in front of a pillar of water she raced toward a fiery spiral.  The two collided and disappeared.  Her eyes widened.  It worked!

          But there were far too many spires for her to do that with them all.

          “You have to confuse them!” Li shouted.  “If you can find the controlling spires and confuse them all the spires will crash and dissipate.”

          Sakura nodded, scanning their surroundings for the central spires.  There!  She saw them.  Four large towers rising into the sky.  They were stationary, only swirling in place.  But occasionally a flicker of energy would go out from them and another spire would form somewhere.

          Racing toward them she circled them.  They writhed in frustration as each control spire sent out flickers, creating new spires closer and closer to Sakura.  But also closer and closer to one another.

          The inevitable happened.  Sakura flew toward the Earth spire just as the angry Wind spire sent out a flicker.  A tower of wind appeared to Sakura’s right, charging at her.  She flew forward and the wind bore into the Earth spire, breaking it apart.  Angry and confused the Earth tower sent out a flicker.  A new spire formed within the tower of wind.  With a final shriek the Wind tower faded away.  As Sakura watched all the earthen and windy spikes disappeared from he sight.  Crumbling as their creators vanished.

          In the confusion, without the barriers of earth and wind, the Fire and Water towers collided.  With a hiss and a burst of steam the towers were no more.  The smaller fire and water spires also disappeared.

          In her relief Sakura failed to notice the brief flash at the base of each tower as it ceased to exist.

          Li hugged Sakura from behind, and she leaned in to him gratefully. What would she had done without him? She frowned.

          What would she have done without him?

          She would never have realized that the cards would cancel each other out.  Even now she didn’t understand how they had, even though she had seen it with her own eyes. It had always been like that, she realized. It seemed she always had to call on Eli or Li for help.

          But what if one day they weren’t there to help her?

          “Li?” she asked tentatively, hating to break the moment.

          “Hmm.” His head was buried in her hair.  She smelled like sakura blossoms and sunshine.

          “How did you know?  That they would do that I mean?” she asked quietly.

          “Oh,” he pulled his head up, “It was part of my studies.  You see, moon and sun magic cancel each other out.  You cannot fight moon magic with moon magic, they strengthen each other.  Like in the final judgment when I tried to stop Yue using Time.  It didn’t work because they shared the same magic source.”

          She nodded. “Alright, but then why did it have to be Water with Fire and Earth with Wind?  Why not Fire with Wind and Earth with Water?  The magical reaction should be the same.”

          “In an ordinary card, yes.  But remember, the elementals are special. More powerful. They also had to cancel one another elementally.  Water might have destroyed earth, but it would still remain.  And wind would just feed fire.”

          “Oh.” She said weakly.  Why hadn’t she known that?  She didn’t know anything.  She had to rely on instinct alone.

          “Sakura,” Li pulled away from her, and she fought a surge of disappointment.  But his arms stayed wrapped around her waist tightly.  “What’s wrong?”

          “I didn’t know any of that.” She said, so softly he could barely hear her. “I should have known that.” She drew in a halting breath.

          “But you don’t have to.”  Li soothed her, “Because you’ll always have me here to tell you.”  

          She shook her head, “I shouldn’t need you.  I should know it for myself.”

          She felt him stiffen behind her. “Is that how you really feel?” his voice was too quite.  There was something there she couldn’t understand.  She was missing something.

          “Yes.” She answered.

          He withdrew his arms from her, sitting stiffly behind her.  “We should go to the shrine now.” He said flatly. 

          She nodded and directed Fly back toward the shrine.  Something was wrong. She could feel it.  Was it something she had said?  Shouldn’t she learn about magic so that she could be prepared?  How could she truly be Mistress of the cards if she didn’t even understand how they worked? She was so confused.

          Behind her Li’s eyes were filled with sorrow. <She doesn’t want my help.> he squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened.  <Is she using me?  Is she only with me because she feels she needs me?  But she seems so genuine.> He remembered their earlier conversation, before time had stopped moving. He had promised not to doubt her again, but how could he not?  She had just said that she didn’t want to need him.  That she wanted to know it for herself.  Once she no longer needed him would she decide she didn’t want him either?

          Did she truly want him now?  Or was he just someone she needed? A source of information?  He needed her.  He loved her!  Would she just push him aside when she was through with him?  Could he live without her?

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