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Hunger

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Nadeshiko Kinomoto miscarried twice. After the second terrible loss of a child for which she and Fujitaka had hoped, Nadeshiko suppressed her fear of hospitals and doctors to seek their help. During their testing, they found a congenital defect in her that most likely would have led to her death if left untreated, and she began treatment for the problem. Shortly after, she became pregnant again, and had a daughter.

 

Yuriko Kinomoto was quiet like Fujitaka and dark-haired like Nadeshiko. As a baby, she didn't crawl at all, which worried her parents; instead, at eight months, she began walking right after she could stand. Perhaps her mother, or her Aunt Sonomi, when they thought Yuriko was too small to understand what they were saying, had mentioned too often the children that Nadeshiko had never had. Maybe she wondered why she had not been named Sakura, as Nadeshiko (those conversations revealed) had always dreamed of naming her future daughter. For whatever reason, Yuriko was a solemn and hard-eyed child. She never seemed able to make any friends beyond her cousin Tomoyo, who was three years her senior.

 

Nadeshiko looked up from tending her flowerbed one day to meet Yukito Tsukishiro. He was about the same age that her first child would have been - seventeen or so - and she felt an immediate affinity to him. He had lost his parents, as she had lost hers, and lived in the neighborhood with his grandparents. Nadeshiko never met his guardians; they were always off traveling, or otherwise unavailable for social calls. The gentle, well-mannered boy became a constant presence, almost like another child.

 

A year later, looking for something to read, Yuriko opened a book in her father's study and released the Clow Cards. It took one month for her to collect them again; when the Li heir arrived in Japan, the Final Judgment had already occurred. When it was over, nine-year-old Yuriko smiled to see Yue the Judge bow to her.

 

In a year when the weather became strange, giving Tomoeda days of unrelenting rain in April, Fujitaka Kinomoto began to notice oddities in his small daughter's manner, and how an adult-like coldness had replaced her shyness. He would hear her moving about her room at night, but would see her sleeping soundly in her bed when he went in to check on her. She would often be late coming home from school, and then claim that she had been in Penguin Park all afternoon. He hoped for her to outgrow her odd nature, but instead, he saw it growing more and more foreign to him. He discussed his fears with Nadeshiko, but she claimed that his concern was unfounded. She was just a little girl, after all, growing into adolescence. More serious than Nadeshiko herself had been, but otherwise just like any little girl.

 

Nadeshiko had not been completely truthful with her husband in saying that Yuriko was an ordinary child, because she knew that out-of-the-ordinary things were occurring around her daughter. Nadeshiko's "sixth sense" pointed the oddities out, oddities like the plush toy that Yuriko carried everywhere but never played with. Nadeshiko refrained from pursuing its truth in the same way that she refrained from confronting her young friend Yukito about his truth, at least until he started collapsing and showing constant fatigue. He was helping her hang out the laundry to dry one day when he nearly plummeted over the railing; somehow, Nadeshiko found the strength to pull him back to safety. She crumpled onto the deck with him among the cast aside laundry, able to see the pastel colors of Fujitaka's shirts through spots where Yukito was vanishing.

 

"Yukito-kun," she said, gently taking his hand to try to return him to consciousness. His eyes opened slowly and with great effort. She carefully helped him sit up.

 

"I should have had something to eat," laughed Yukito with embarrassment.

 

"Yukito-kun," Nadeshiko repeated. "I have known since you first introduced yourself to me, but I wonder if you even know." The young man looked at her without comprehension. Nadeshiko thought about how it must look, with her holding his hand and saying such things to him. He was a dangerous age now: twenty-one, as of last Christmas. She let go of his hand. "I know," she said, "that… you are not… human."

 

Yukito looked at Nadeshiko with shock, trying to filter her words. He felt an awareness wake in him, like an answer on the tip of his tongue, just out of memory's reach.

 

"So you don't have to hide it from me," Nadeshiko continued. "I'm not afraid of what you really are. You don't have to hide yourself anymore."

 

An aura of light bathed over the young man, taking the form of enormous wings that enfolded Yukito in a glowing cocoon. Nadeshiko watched with fascination as the cocoon moved buoyantly upward then parted to reveal a being of exquisite beauty, eyes as violet as the inside of a pearl oyster shell and skin and hair like moonlight on a clear night. He hovered over the ground, nothing touching the boards of the deck except the tips of his long hair.

 

"We finally meet," Nadeshiko said, shaken by the creature's presence. She had braced herself for a monster; she had not expected this winged daydream. "What is your name?"

 

"Yue," he said shortly.

 

Nadeshiko shook her head and laughed. He was like a bashful child, unable to say anything but his name! He crossed his arms across his chest, like someone trying to distance himself from another's opinion. "You're fading away," she said, "and it has something to do with the things happening around Yuriko-chan."

 

"The master cannot sustain my magic," Yue revealed. "Her power is still developing. But my power is running out, and I am beginning to be undone. I need another spring of magic from which to drink, another source of nourishment."

 

"That's why Yukito-kun has been eating so much," Nadeshiko realized aloud. Yue nodded in confirmation. "He's always hungry because you are starving." She stood up, pacing and thinking. "What can we do?" she asked. "How much time do we have?"

 

Yue stared at Nadeshiko silently for so long that she stopped pacing. She looked back at him uncertainly, a self-conscious frown appearing between her brows. His silent assessment began to frighten her, and she took a small step toward the interior of the house.

 

"My time is nearly out," said Yue at last, but his tone did not put Nadeshiko at ease. "You… have what I need," he said.

 

"Magic?" asked Nadeshiko. "You mean because I can sense things?"

 

"Yes," said Yue, winging closer. Involuntarily, Nadeshiko stepped back again, re-entering the hallway; Yue followed. For a moment, she could not see while her eyes adjusted to the interior darkness. Her vision cleared to show Yue excessively close. "You have magic," he said intensely. His arm snaked out to catch her by the wrist before she could move further away. "You have what I need," he hissed.

 

Nadeshiko twisted her wrist from his hold and ran from him, hurrying down the hallway toward the stairs. Yue caught her. She began to scream, but stopped herself; Yuriko and Tomoyo were outside in the yard, and she did not want either of them to run in and see this. "Yukito-kun," she began to plead.

 

"I am not he," contradicted Yue. "You don't have to fight me," he said. "You can give your magic to me freely."

 

"No," said Nadeshiko.

 

A look of extreme desperation crossed the pale face. "Why?" he asked with sorrow.

 

"You're asking me to give up my sight, my hearing! How else can I know what's happening with Yuriko-chan?" Nadeshiko scanned for escape, but Yue had her exits blocked. She could hear a car, outside, pulling into the driveway - Fujitaka, coming home to have lunch with his family.

 

"I can protect her for you," offered Yue, bargaining.

 

"How do I know that?" Nadeshiko cried. There was one route of escape open to her: further up the hallway, into her bedroom. She slipped past Yue fleetly and ran in, attempting to get the door closed behind her. Yue crashed through, and held her firmly by her shoulders.

 

"I'm no longer asking," he said ominously.

 

She kicked away from him, but he caught her again. He held her by both wrists, his face close to hers. It was doubly horrifying to Nadeshiko that he had a scent like the night air after a day of rain, pleasantly cold and sweet. She moaned a soft plea for her release, but he only gripped her wrists more tightly. "There has to be another way," she whimpered. "Let me go. Please let me go."

 

Yue almost let Nadeshiko free when she began her whispered pleas. Her bright green eyes were so afraid. He had wondered many times if she had truly cared for Yukito. She was going to let him die now, fade away with Yue - how much could she really care? His grip on her wrists tightened. He felt his existence slipping away, and a rising hunger to live overwhelmed him. Pulling Nadeshiko firmly into his embrace, he summoned the magic circle. Her magic flowed into him; he had intended to stop when he had taken enough to survive, but what she had was hardly enough. The taste of it began to fill him, making him feel tangible and strong again. He took all of her magic, and she collapsed in his arms.

 

Her body went limp completely, suddenly heavier. He grasped at her waist as she slipped, caught her and caught her up in his unwaveringly solid arms; carefully, he lay her across her bed. She did not look like a woman sleeping. She was more still than he had ever seen her.

 

Yuriko Kinomoto, who had been standing in the doorway of her parents' bedroom for the last several minutes, saw everything happen. She broke her own paralysis with a scream. Keroberos heard her shriek, and was by her side in moments. He saw Nadeshiko's body, and Yue, his power partially restored, standing over her. Yuriko had already transformed her key and had the Cards in hand.

 

"What have you done, Yue?" Keroberos growled unevenly. Fujitaka, who had also heard his daughter scream, could be heard running on the stairs. In moments, he would be in the room. "Yuriko!" Keroberos shouted. "The Sleep! Before your father sees!"

 

The little girl cast the Clow Card into the air and cried out the spell that she had used to transform the others. "Abandon your form and reincarnate under me!" she called out in a voice filled with authority. "I, your Master, command you!" The Card hovered uncertainly in the empty air for a brief moment before the magic took hold; then the color leeched out of it, turning the dark red card to a pearly white. She struck the Card with her star wand. Sleep shot around the room, catching Fujitaka just as he entered the doorway. He fell to the ground in a loose heap; outside, Tomoyo collapsed on the grass of the lawn.

 

Yuriko tossed out a second Card and began the spell again in an eerie sing-song chanting. The card sparkled in transformation, white, except for its writing, and almost iridescent. "Get away from my mother," the girl said to Yue, her eyes wide and staring while she held the newly reincarnated Shot.

 

"I was about to disappear," Yue explained in an almost inaudible voice. "I needed magic."

 

"Then you should have disappeared," said Yuriko mercilessly. "I never needed you." She pointed the Card at Yue. "Aim!"

 

"No!" Keroberos shouted. Yue was slow to defend himself; Shot collided with him and sent him crashing to the ground. Keroberos moved to intercede and protect his sibling, but Yuriko's voice called out after him.

 

"Stay by me, Keroberos!" The Shot grazed Yue by his eyes, leaving a bleeding gash across Yue's forehead in a ruby trail.

 

The winged lion twisted toward his master. Yue tossed up a shield, but it was weak, and Shot battered against it violently. "You can't do this," pleaded Keroberos. "Don't do this, Yuriko." He turned back, quickly launching himself at The Shot just as it broke through Yue's shield. He caught the pixie between his teeth and struggled to pin it down while it fought him.

 

Yuriko's screech bordered on the edge of a tantrum. "WOOD! "

 

Rough vines encircled Keroberos' legs and neck, choking him and forcing him to free The Shot. It immediately resumed its attack on Yue. Keroberos struggled against his own adversary, but more whip-like branches continued to bind him despite his attacks of flame and claw. From the corner of his eyes he saw Yue fighting to stay in flight, diving away from repetitive attacks that smashed furniture and put holes in the walls. Yue was losing, reeling from multiple wounds. As the blows fell, he also fell, unable to sustain a defense. Seeing The Shot line up for a killing blow, Keroberos howled against his bonds.

 

Then suddenly, he was free. The magic dissipated, and three Cards drifted to the body of their unconscious master. The little girl lay on the floor in a faint, her power having given out under the strain of changing and sustaining three Cards at once.

 

Yue's wings shuffled lethargically. He pushed himself up with a breathy moan, able to bring himself only as far as his hands and knees. Keroberos walked toward him, and butted his head against his sibling's shoulder. "How badly are you hurt?" the lion asked with worry.

 

"I live," Yue answered.

 

Keroberos surveyed the room. His sight took in the damage, Nadeshiko's supine form, and Yuriko and Fujitaka where they had collapsed. Keroberos padded listlessly over to Fujitaka and pulled the man the rest of the way into the room. "You need to leave here," he said firmly to Yue. "Before they start to wake up. Yuriko may be out for hours, but Sleep is wearing off now."

 

Yue nodded, once, before the pain of moving his head stopped him. He stumbled from the room with Keroberos beside him and began moving down the hall. The winged lion closed the door as they left.

 

Blood flowed freely from the wound under Yue's bangs, matting into the once-silver haphazard fringe. It trailed down the sides of his face like sweat -- or tears. He cradled his broken ribs with one arm, the sleeve torn to reveal already discolored bruises, while using the other arm to brace himself against the wall for support. "How can you serve her, Keroberos?" he asked, his voice quiet with pain.

 

"I'm as much a Guardian of the Cards as I am of her," Keroberos answered. "I couldn't leave her with that much power and no guidance."

 

"She is not the one that Clow foresaw," Yue said.

 

Keroberos shook his head. They were at the stairs now. The condition of Yue's wings made flight a secondary option, so he allowed his wounded sibling to lean on him as they navigated the steps, occasionally pulling back on Yue's clothing to keep the winged man from falling the rest of the way. "No. But she's still… she's still just a kid. I can keep her in check. I think I can keep her from becoming what she would be without me."

 

"Power-hungry," Yue said in reply.

 

"She's just a kid," Keroberos repeated. "Yue…" he said after a moment's silent reflection, "after she wakes up… she may tell me to kill you."

 

Yue looked at his sibling with despair in his silvery eyes. "Would you?" he asked, stepping away from the winged lion as they reached the lower floor.

 

Keroberos replied slowly. "The mother is as good as dead, brother. Our master may do it herself."

 

They stood in the foyer, at a dead end. Yue smiled without a glimmer of mirth. "Though she is just a little girl," he said to Keroberos. Tired from the short journey, he leaned against a wall. "Where can I go?"

 

"Petition to the Li Clan," answered Keroberos. "Though I don't know what protection they will offer you."

 

Yue closed his eyes. "It wasn't enough, even so," he confessed softly. "Unless I find another source of magic, I have only delayed the inevitable. Hungry as I am, they will only see me as a danger." He wiped at the blood on his face. It painted his sleeve, a dirty smear against the once-pristine coat.

 

"Then do what you can," Keroberos advised. The lion wanted to lean against his brother as he had been able to do in the end with Clow, but Yue's ability to stand was precarious. "You had better go," he said quickly, to stop the keening whine that was starting in his belly. "I'm going into the other room now, so that Tsukishiro won't see me," he said, decisively turning away.

 

Yue did not watch his brother go. He cradled his wings around himself, beginning the change. Yukito would not know why he ached within as if from deep wounds; he would think, perhaps, that he was already missing his serendipitous family. He would remember that he had at least been able to say goodbye to them - Nadeshiko especially -- before heading to meet his grandparents at the airport.

 

He was going to go with them this time, on one of their trips. The destination was someplace he had never been, but had heard talked about often. Obaachan had assured him that they would be serving dinner on the plane. Yukito was glad. He was already hungry.

 

. . .

 

Author’s Note:

Challenge: Missing

Title: Hunger

Genre: Horror, at least it is for me

PG

Special Requirements: Rewrite any part of the canon, minus one main character.

If you know me, you know that I don't follow the rules. So instead of one character, I removed... two. Touya, and Sakura. And then, I traded them for two others.