08 November 2007 @ 04:09 pm
CCS Fic - Prologue  
The first bit of my massive CCS plot bunny that has pretty much decimated my brain for the past five days. It's a good thing this is my off week as far as lab/tutorial/homework is concerned...

Title: All That Remains - Prologue
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aoife_hime
Fandom: Cardcaptor Sakura
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3168
Summary: Six years after the beginning of Kinomoto Sakura's card capturing adventures, an old evil returns to Japan, seeking a return to power.
Notes: I'm really not sure what came over my brain, but this is the result. Also, because I'm more familiar with the manga than the anime, I'll be using that more as reference points.

All That Remains

Prologue

The grass is stiff as she walks slowly forward, prickling and sticking to the soles of her feet in an unpleasant fashion and making shivers race up her spine as a result. She supposes it is night; what else would explain the absence of light so complete that she can’t even make out her own hands when she holds them up in front of her eyes? A part of her mind tells her it would be safer to stop, to wait in place instead of continuing ahead blindly to goodness knows what end. But she doesn’t stop – can’t stop – and stumbles on her way regardless of her own safety. Her hand reaches up unconsciously to trace the small pendant that hangs from around her neck. Its warmth comforts her even as the darkness closes in further around her, feeling more and more like a heavy, wet blanket than a simple absence of light with each passing moment.

It could be a few seconds or it could be an hour, for it is impossible to tell how exactly time passes in this realm of deep Night, but at some point she becomes aware of a light spot at the edge of her vision. Not more than a pinprick, it’s bright enough to make spots dance across her vision. Blinking, she races towards the light, her feet pounding against the hard-packed earth and nearly slipping on the slick, sticky grass. Her heart pounds fast in her chest, and with each step the pendant around her neck bounces off her sternum with a muffled thunk. But the light is farther away than she had originally thought; she fights the urge to collapse as she finally is able to make out the outline of a grand, weeping sakura tree lit by a full moon. She walks the rest of the way – staggers, really, for her legs have begun to feel uncomfortably weak and useless as if they will suddenly stop working at any moment and leave her stranded just short of her goal. An unpleasant metallic taste builds in her nose and mouth, and the blossoms feel light against the bare skin of her arms as she brushes the cascading tendrils aside. She stops only when she is able to rest a hand on the bark of the thick, old trunk.

A second later she pulls her hand back, a slight startled hiss escaping her lips: the bark is cold – colder than the winter wind that haunts the mountain peaks she still visits occasionally – and slick with the same substance as the grass. She takes a step back, and then another, tearing at the low hanging branches of the sakura tree in her haste. When she is free from the tree’s shadow, she properly looks at the ground.

She wants to scream, but finds her throat so constricted by fear and surprise that no sound is able to emerge.

The grass beneath her feet shines a sickly brown-red in the austere light of the moon, and her feet are likewise covered in the same substance: blood. She doesn’t want to think about it, shakes her head in denial to stop the word from blaring across her mind, but it does no good and her eyes remain riveted on the ground in front of her. Distantly, she can feel her heart speed up again and her lungs ache as she pulls in quick, fast breaths that are far too short to keep her head from spinning. As she raises her hands in front of her, she finds her one palm, the palm that rested only for a moment on the trunk of the sakura tree, also covered in a thick, slick layer of the blood. Furiously, she wipes her palm on the leg of her pants, not caring about the stain she is surely working into the fabric. But try as she might, the blood won’t rub away; her hand still sticks slightly to the fabric with each pass and she can’t stop her skin from crawling.

She’s not sure how long she panics – it feels like an eternity – but she stills when she hears a voice. Soft at first, barely louder than the rustle of the blossoms on the tree in front of her, but then louder, a laughter that grows deeper and higher and wider all at the same time. It fills her mind, seeping into every recess of her being until she feels as if she can’t possibly take anymore and she will burst if the laughter continues even one second longer. Her hands block her ears, but the sound continues to reverberate and she can no longer hear it so much as she can feel it.

And then it stops, as if it had never started in the first place. She opens her eyes, surprised to find she had closed them so hard that tears line the corners, and stands up shakily, not realizing she had fallen to the ground as well. Her pants stick uncomfortably to her knees where they had been pressed into the bloody grass. When her head is clear, she realizes something is different. Beneath the tree is a woman who wasn’t there before, and she can only guess that it is this person who was the source of the terrible laughter only moments before.

The woman’s beauty is truly something to behold: her figure is tall and lithe, her eyes wide and dark, her skin pale and unblemished. Long hair cascades over her shoulders in perfect sheets and her robes, magnificent in their intricacy and simplicity, are a pure, deep red no dye could ever emulate. Her face is expressionless, but there is an eager tension in her posture, like a horse straining at the reigns. Her gait is sedate, though, as she moves out from the shadows and into the moonlight. There’s no excess movement, and each step seems as if it were better suited to a dance than a walk.

Her pale lips curl back slowly into a smile that is neither comforting nor beautiful as she approaches the girl with the blood-stained feet and hands.

“Do you not find my home pleasing?” Her question is all innocence and sincerity, but a gleam in her dark eyes belies the malice hidden beneath the surface. The girl does not, cannot, answer though; her tongue is locked in place and her eyes find they can’t stray from the woman’s gaze. “No? I suppose it is an acquired taste…” The woman smiles at that, a joke with herself that the girl is too frozen to try to even begin to understand. She leaves the girl standing in the moonlight and walks over to the nearest branch of blossoms, reaching up and stroking the petals lightly with her pale fingertips. One by one they change, their pink hue deepening to a bright red at the tips and nearly violet at the base. The change spreads up the branch and throughout the tree until each blossom has taken on the hue of the woman’s robes.

“Who…? Who… are…?” The sounds pass slowly through the girl’s throat and her mouth has a hard time shaping them into words. The woman turns back to her. This time, no smile graces her features, and her eyes are hard as she turns away from the spectacle of her beloved blossoms.

“You are nothing but a child. What gives you the right to address me in so informal a manner?” Her voice is even but the edge to it is as sharp as a hot knife, and it slices across the girl’s mind before she even realizes the woman has spoken. “You will know soon enough what my name is and when you do, then you will die as befits your kind.”

A breeze starts from nowhere and everywhere at the same time, whipping the girl’s hair around her face. It sticks to the blood left there by her palm, and she hastily brushes it back. But the woman in front of her, terrible and fierce and magnificent, remains unaffected. The now-red petals detach from the branches, and the wind swirls like great currents of blood. The girl looks on with horror and the currents shift, whirling inexorably in her direction. The first petals land gently on her cheeks and melt, trailing down her skin like thick tears. She raises a hand to wipe away the moisture and freezes once more: the tips of her fingers are covered blood. Looking back at the woman, the girl’s eyes are filled with the vision of the woman reveling as blossoms turn to blood, leaving their trails on her pale skin.

Finally, the girl screams.

~#~#~#~

Sakura’s eyes snapped open, though her body remained frozen for a few moments longer as sleep reluctantly released its grip on her. Her heart was racing, beating so hard in her chest she was amazed the noise didn’t wake up Kero-chan, yet her blankets weren’t twisted like they normally were when she woke up from a nightmare. They lay straight on her bed, her legs and feet the only lumps spoiling the otherwise neat surface. Moonlight slipped through a crack in her curtains, slicing across the blankets like a white knife.

Moonlight…

As her breathing slowed back to normal and the paralyzing fear subsided, Sakura thought back to what had scared her so much in the first place: a dream. There had been moonlight, she was sure of it, but beyond that… absently, her hand rose to her neck, fingering the pendant that always hung there. Her key. It pulsed with a warm, comforting energy that settled her nerves and cleared her head. She took a deep breath.

“Think, Sakura,” she mumbled aloud. “What happened in the dream?”

Moonlight.

“Moonlight and…?”

There was more to her dream than moonlight, she was certain. It was as if someone had taken a scissors to her mind left a gaping hole in her memory, though; all she could remember was falling asleep and waking up, nothing in between. She rubbed her eyes in frustration. They felt grainy and heavy, and ached for the sleep of which they had temporarily been deprived. If only she could remember just a little more…

The minutes wore on, and as each one passed Sakura’s eyes grew more and more heavy. The memory of her dream seemed to flit just within her grasp, tantalizing yet impossible to pin down and try as she might she couldn’t recall a single detail save the one thing: moonlight. An uneasy sleep eventually descended over her, accompanied by Kero-chan’s light snores drifting slowly up from his bed in her desk drawer.

When morning came, she had forgotten everything.

~#~#~#~

She’s running again, though whether she’s running to something or away from something, she’s not certain. It could be either, and the sense of sick anticipation building somewhere behind her stomach isn’t enough to distinguish between the two possibilities. Her breath comes out in short gasps now, and her blood pounds in her ears as she presses on through the all-encompassing darkness. There’s a sort of pull she can almost physically feel, tugging her onwards through the everlasting night, and while she’s not entirely sure she wants to give in to it, there are no other options but to follow.

And then she sees it: the sakura tree, tall and twisted and magnificent. Its blossoms are already a deep pink, and her eyes lock on the figure of a woman running her fingers through the lowest branches. She is struck by the woman’s beauty, for it’s a beauty so flawless she thinks it would be a crime for anything to blemish it in any way. But something tells her not to be deceived: there is more to this woman than meets the eye, and so she stays far away, stopping in her tracks a fair distance from even the edge of the sakura tree’s shadow in the moonlight. Her hand flies to her neck, grasping the pendant of her key, ready to unleash it at a moment’s notice.

The problem is, she’s not entirely sure why she’s so on edge. It’s almost as if she has met this strange woman before, but surely she would remember an encounter with such an extraordinary woman, wouldn’t she?

The woman turns now, her smile so fierce and feral it makes her face seem more animal than human. “I see you have retained some memory of our last encounter. How unusual.” The woman plucks a blossom, now a deep crimson, and threads it through her hair above her ear. In the moonlight, her pale skin seems almost translucent, like a perfect sheet of rice paper. She takes a step forward then, closer to the girl whose vision is overwhelmed by the flood of scarlet sakura blossoms lit against the darkness of the Night. The girl doesn’t dare look down for fear of what she might see, nor does she dare to gaze upon the woman approaching her for fear of what she might not see.

The voice in the back of her mind that told her not to go any farther forward screams at her now that if she were to look at the woman, she wouldn’t see human eyes staring back. So she doesn’t look. But she does run. And when she runs she is pursued, not by footsteps but by laughter, laughter that fills her mind with thoughts of freezing darkness and sets her nerves on edge. She slips, the grass now slick beneath her feet, but she scrambles to her feet quickly before it can catch her.

The laughter stops abruptly, but the girl continues to run. How silly humans are… The words fill the girl’s head as if they are being spoken all around her and even inside of her. And then the woman is in front of her, inescapably close.

“Just a taste, dear. Just a taste…”

The girl screams.

~#~#~#~

Sakura stumbled down the stairs the next morning, still struggling to tie up her hair as she wandered over to her seat at the breakfast table. A selection of food greeted her, organized aesthetically on her plate, but she didn’t really take notice of it. All she could tell from her half-awake senses was that it smelled more than edible and for that she was incredibly grateful. “Thank you, ‘tou-san,” she mumbled, her muscles still lazy from sleep. Sakura bit back a yawn and blinked hard, trying to push her exhaustion aside, at least for the time being.

Kinomoto Fujitaka poked his head out of the kitchen where he was busy preparing his own food for the morning to check in on his daughter. He almost dropped his spatula in shock: she sat slouched at the table, her eyes barely open as she robotically stuffed food into her mouth. “Are you alright, Sakura-san? You’re not feeling sick are you?”

“No,” she managed through a mouthful of rice. Sakura swallowed before continuing. “I’m just a little tired. I don’t think I slept well last night.” That was the strange thing, though: she couldn’t actually remember whether she had slept well or not. She thought she remembered waking up to a sense of overwhelming fear, but the memory was so jumbled that she couldn’t be entirely sure she hadn’t just dreamt that as well. It was all very confusing and made Sakura’s head spin just thinking about it.

“Do you have club activities today?” Fujitaka asked, sitting down across from Sakura with his own plate full of food.

It took a moment for Sakura to run through the days of the week in her mind before she remembered which one today was. Thursday. She had cheerleading club on Thursday. “Yes,” she replied, silently a little disappointed she wouldn’t be able to hurry straight home after school and take a nap.

“Be home before dark.” Sakura looked up from her food at this, her eyes suddenly wide open. There was something unsettling in her father’s tone. “With all these disappearances lately, I don’t want you out too late,” Fujitaka added, with a vaguely worried expression.

“Disappearances?” The word sat uneasily in Sakura’s stomach somewhere between the eggs and rice. Her father handed her the morning paper, and in a box at the bottom of the front page she saw the pictures of five people. The headline stated that these were just the latest in a surprising increase in missing persons cases near the Tomoeda area. Sakura chewed her lip absently as she skimmed the rest of the article. Twelve people in total, no discernable correlation between any of them, all went missing at night…

“I know you can take care of yourself, but I would feel a lot better knowing you weren’t a possible target.”

Sakura smiled reassuringly, forgetting momentarily about sleep and dreams, clubs and school. “Don’t worry, ‘tou-san. I won’t be out too late.”

~#~#~#~

She doesn’t bother moving this time. This time, the woman will have to come to her. Until then, she is content to wait in the darkness until she is able to leave once more.

It takes nearly forever for the woman to make an appearance, and by the time she appears, the moon traveling with her like a sort of entourage, the girl’s feet are going numb and her legs ache from standing so long. When she can see her, the girl can tell the woman is angry. Her movements are the same as ever, flawless and efficient and inhumanly graceful, but there’s a speed to them that suggests impatience boiling just beneath the surface.

“You remembered again.” It’s not so much a statement as it is an accusation, though for the life of her the girl doesn’t understand what she is being accused of doing. Remembering is as natural as breathing. Besides, it’s difficult to forget a place such as this, where the sun never shines and ground is covered in blood.

“Yes.” The girl is not certain if she’s being defiant or honest. She doesn’t think she has the guts for either, but she doesn’t know what else her answer could be construed as so she goes with ‘honest’ because she knows she doesn’t want to know what would happen to her if her answer was ‘defiant’ instead.

“That is unacceptable,” the woman growls, her words barely distinguishable over the deep rumblings.

“Why?”

This time when the woman’s lips curl back into a smile, they reveal a set of perfect white teeth, two drastically sharper than the rest. The girl wants to run, her brain is veritably screaming at her muscles to carry her far, far away from whatever creature it is that’s standing in front of her now, but she can’t. Her legs are frozen in place, her feet rooted to the ground in fear as the woman takes a step closer, then another and still another until the girl can feel the woman’s hair against her cheek.

“Because you are merely human.”
 
 
Current Music: "Passacaglia in C Minor" - J.S. Bach
Current Mood: blah
 
6 | +
 
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[identity profile] somethings-awry.livejournal.com on November 8th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
creeeeeeeepy. where's syaoran? And how old is she supposed to be? (haven't been in the fandom a while ^_^;;)
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on November 8th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
^_^ Yes, creepy. Syaoran's not here yet, but he's around starting in the next chapter.

Timeline is that, since it's six years since the start of the series, they're in their first year of high school.

(No worries, I haven't either til recently!)
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[identity profile] cal-reflector.livejournal.com on November 8th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC)
Your writing gets better every time. I'm curious as to what inspired the evident fascination you have with the imagery of this woman and the dream sequence. I particularly liked the bit where you described the moon as following the woman like an entourage; how can you go against a woman who has the moon as an entourage? That added a great deal of tension.
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on November 8th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!

Honestly, I have no idea where this fascination came from. The whole package just kinda hit me last weekend, starting with this dream sequence and exploding from there. Which is all well and good, but now I have to write it otherwise I might drive myself crazy, and all indicators say this will not be a short project.
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[identity profile] artyartie.livejournal.com on November 9th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
Oh! I loved the imagery in this prologue, and I really can't wait to see where you go with it. It's so beautiful, but so very, very menacing...
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[identity profile] aoife-hime.livejournal.com on November 9th, 2007 09:52 am (UTC)
^_^

Writing imagery is just so much fun!

Thank you, and I do hope you keep reading & enjoying.
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