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
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
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
“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
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?
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
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
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.
turn.” Just as Li said, as they turned the corner they stepped out of the
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.
Li called her name. Startled she
snapped out of her thoughts.
He squeezed her hand lightly. “I
think we need to go down another floor."
He indicated the empty area in front of him.
She started to take out her cards again, but he stopped her.
shook his head, making his wild brown hair fall in his eyes, “Save your
energy, we may as well take the elevator.”
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
She gave him a grateful smile.
problem,” he responded, “You’d do the same for me.”
nodded. Yes, she would.
She would die for him. And she knew he felt the same way.
get going.” He urged her toward the elevator.
Stepping inside he reached for the button that would send them down one
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.
reached the top floor and found it oddly changed.
The shadows had gone and the sun was visible again, but it felt wrong
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.
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.
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
he called, running toward her. “We
have to get out of here now!”
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.
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.
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.
stumbled and fell into Tory. Reaching
out he righted her and she blushed, averting her eyes.
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.
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.
try the shrine!” he suggested, unsure why that seemed a safe place.
Perhaps it was all the stories Sakura had told him.
Meilin agreed, it was worth a try.
up speed they headed to that part of town.
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.
Madison was getting impatient, somewhere out there her best friend was in
trouble, and her boyfriend was wasting time in a library.
He hushed her gently, waving a hand. He
almost had it. There!
he let out a victorious laugh. “I think I’ve found it.”
is it?” Madison’s curiosity got the better of her, and she came to peer over
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
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.
had to be where he had read about this before.
It simply had to be.
now what?” Madison asked expectantly.
turned to face them, clutching the book protectively to himself, “Now we go to
Kero questioned, “I though you said they went to the radio tower.”
did,” Eli adjusted his glasses. “But we
must go to the shrine.”
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.
Keroberos,” the silver haired guardian instructed. “We have things to do.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
He asked. For the first time he
felt uncertain. Why was she
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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?