Fandom: Cardcaptor Sakura
Genre: Shipfic, introspective
Warnings: Implied spoilers for the end of the manga
Summary: On introspection, connection, and Syaoran's thoughts on the train ride back to Tomoeda.
Disclaimer: Pssht, we all know that Clamp would've thrown me in the rejects pile.
A/N: Obviously based on the last chapter of the manga.
Outside, buildings fly past in a jagged metal blur. Syaoran sits as still as he can, trying to not even breathe. (This moment– and it is all one moment, one clean line from his waking up at midnight to catch his flight up until now– is breathless.) He thinks of the old sages who could stop themselves from breathing at all, who could– or so they say– even stop the beating of their hearts. So he concentrates and lets himself be filled to the brim with stillness. He does not need to move; the comforting hum of the train reassures him that he is already in the midst of motion.
Oh yes, the trains. Here is the one he boarded; there are the others that had gone off their separate directions from the station; and then elsewhere again are the manifold unfamiliar trains that go back and forth across this island, always ferrying somebody somewhere. In Syaoran’s mind, they turn to needles, swarming across the ground. Each needle pulls an imaginary thread
behind it, and the threads weave into a network, a tapestry that stretches from Kyushu to Hokkaido. No, he realizes, thinking of the London underground and the El, and of that pattern of rails that crisscrosses two continents (and he wonders, could someone get on a train in Beijing and keep going until they get to Portugal?), traveling everywhere lightning-quick: it stretches
much further than that.
Or perhaps it’s even more than that. He thinks of ox carts on dirt roads in poverty-stricken villages, of super highways where giant trucks roar past with the sound of thunder. And how many ships must cross the world’s oceans, knitting continents and islands together, closer and closer...? Those threads wrap through the air after airplanes, and like a whole new collection of stars, a swirl of satellites encircles the Earth. And they– the people who must carry threads as well– call out from separate continents: her here on this island that faces out into the limitless blue Pacific; his own family in Hong Kong; and on an island opposite this one, two continents away, Eriol and Mizuki walk the London streets. (And that makes it all seem so close, but then he thinks of the centuries of isolated Japan, resistant even to invasion by the greatest empire in the world, and now he’s not so sure, which is why he concentrates all the more and tries to be stiller.)
But that all is a side story, because what matters is this one train, the distance to the station in Tomoeda, the position of Sakura’s house in relation to her school. In the seat next to Syaoran is a middle-aged man, probably a salaryman on his way to work, and Syaoran glances over at his watch, mentally combining its quiet ticks with the train’s contented purr. The owner does not notice– no, he is embroiled in the book he is reading– but his watch is engaged in a countdown. Syaoran focuses in on that one moment, that place where his route after he leaves the train will meet her morning routine. The predetermined courses will touch at one infinitesimally small point, and that makes him think of the center of the character for ten. Earlier that day, he bought a map of the area at the airport, and while he sat down for a rest and an extremely early breakfast, he traced the roads near Sakura’s house with his finger– oh, but the map was not quite detailed enough, and he wasn’t able to see all of the small roads that he remembered being there. That’s how small that spot is, he knows.
That one ultimately important meeting– a culmination, a chance to regain or to lose forever– is like one of the scenes from countless movies or of the turning point in an episode of the latest Korean drama. (The two young lovers, hero and heroine– will they succeed? Like him, the audience holds its collective breath.)
He has completed years worth of plans, done everything he needed to do before he could go back to Tomoeda. (And even in his anticipation, he knows that he did need to finish everything that needed to be completed in Hong Kong. Syaoran is not the sort of person that will run off with a girl, even if she is the girl that makes the stars themselves spin; somehow, without
knowing quite why, he thinks that to do that would make the end result somehow bitter. Like anyone who has ever worked for a goal, he hopes for a sweeter harvest) Now, all he thinks of is the immediate future, but if he were to think back to his awakening in the middle of the night, he would remember how clear his mind was even at that time. He would remember how, as he was about to walk into the plane, he took his last breath of Hong Kong air. (And how is it that he loves that place, and yet cannot even bring himself to feel sad about leaving?)
But he does not think of that, and perhaps that is just as well, because now the train begins to slow. No matter how he feels on the inside, Syaoran maintains a calm exterior and gets into the queue of impatient passengers. Nobody even notices him; instead they crowd around him on every side, everyone nudging their way even a little closer to the doors. He follows suit and stares blankly ahead like everybody else. In front of him and to his right, a man chats with someone who must be his girlfriend on the phone, promising to take her out somewhere nice for dinner tonight. In Syaoran’s mental mathematics, they are one, while he himself is still two. Being apart always hurts– not that it matters now, he tells himself.
They all file out of the train when the doors finally open, trying to get out before the throng outside can crowd in. The station itself is nothing special. It’s busy, dingy, scented with the smell of cigarette smoke and for some reason pickled ginger, full of the dull roar of conversation. Syaoran prides himself on how well he speaks Japanese for a foreigner, but he can’t pick out even one word; it’s just noise. So he shakes himself mentally and heads outside, and for the first time since he got here feels like he has truly arrived.
The whole neighborhood is familiar, if only in a ghostly way, and he wishes he had more time to walk slowly and study each building until he could remember the last time he saw it. But there is no time, and in the end it isn’t all that great a loss; there is something– or rather, someone– more important waiting for him. He decides to take a shortcut he can barely remember through a little side street with a huge maple placed inconveniently at the entrance.
That’s when he sees her.
Sakura is absorbed in her walk to school; she doesn’t notice him. And maybe it’s that he calls out to her, or maybe it’s only luck (Syaoran certainly does not know; in fact, he isn’t sure if he knows anything at all), but she turns and she calls out his name. Somehow– it must be all the planning, all the rehearsal that went into this moment– he finds the right words and he explains. Sakura smiles, and finally Syaoran feels himself breathe out.
And she takes his hand, and it’s then that he realizes that there is a whole future out there after this that he hadn’t planned for, a blank new map just waiting to be drawn.