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In Any Other World, Tsubasa Side
By Memory Dragon
Warnings: Introduction of a character many people might hate... But I've always liked Ascot. <3 Oh, and make sure you don't fall off that cliff hanger. It's fairly steep.
Disclaimer: I do not own Tsubasa or xxxHolic, nor do I make any claim to. Nor can I claim the lyrics from the song "Any Other World" by Mika. Just borrowing it, since it goes so well with the fic.

Tsubasa Side: Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2
xxxHolic Side: Prologue Chapter 1  Chapter 2

Chapter Three: The Unaging Boy

“What are you doing here?” Syaoran winced as Kurogane’s gruff voice cut through his slowly waking mind. While he had been sleeping, the pain had been non-existent. Now, however,he ached all over and had a horrendous headache. “Oi!”

Syaoran couldn’t bring himself to answer. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that he was on a bed. He hadn’t a clue of how he had gotten there, but the fact remained. Given that fact, Kurogane more than likely wasn’t talking to him. Syaoran was supposed to still be sleeping (in relative painless bliss). His first instinct was still to assume that Kurogane was mad at him, so he attempted to open his eyes.

He started slowly, as the light only made his headache worse. “H-hikaru-sama asked me to s-see if there were any changes,” a light childish voice said uncertainly. So Kurogane had been talking to someone else. But then was something odd about the voice that wasn’t right... The speaker was obviously a child but... Syaoran groaned softly, unable to finish his own thoughts without the pain getting the better of him.

His groaning attracted Kurogane’s sharp attention. “Oi, kid. You awake now?”

“Yes,” Syaoran replied after a brief pause. He had been trying to decide if nodding or vocalizing the confirmation would be less painful. His own voice was a shock to his ears, hoarse and dry sounding.

Syaoran felt a pair of strong, calloused hands gently grip his shoulders, helping him sit up. The light touch startled him, but his body was too tired to react. Syaoran found it a little easier to keep his eyes open in this new position.

Kurogane kept one hand on his back. It was comforting, having that hand there. Syaoran felt like he was back in his water prison and it took him a few moments to re-orient himself. But Kurogane’s hand on his back was a constant reassurance that he could feel again, and that Kurogane didn’t mind being near him. Even if he wasn’t the one who had traveled along side everyone.

With his free hand, the ninja passed a cup with some sort of liquid inside it to Syaoran. “Drink,” he ordered, but in a softer tone than he had used to speak to the child from earlier. “Those witches said it will make you feel better.”

“They aren’t witches!” Syaoran’s arm ached as he brought the cup up to his lips and started drinking. That was when his eyes focused enough that he got a clear glance at the child in the door way. Oh. That’s what was off.

The child speaking was a boy.

He looked a little less than ten years old, with shaggy auburn hair that nearly covered his emerald eyes. His clothes were a size too big for him and he wore a big, floppy hat on his head. Around his neck was a small chain with a decorative clasp in the center that Syaoran could feel magic radiating from.

Kurogane chose to ignore the boy. Probably a good thing, because Syaoran could see the shortness of the ninja’s temper in his crimson eyes.

Once again, Syaoran couldn’t help but feel some of that anger was aimed at him, despite the remaining hand on his back. “Go tell the others that he woke up,” Kurogane ordered with a voice that booked no arguments. The child ran off, frightened by the ninja’s gruff manor.

“Who was that? I thought...”

The ninja grunted, finally letting Syaoran sit without his steady hand. He fidgeted in the high back chair, clearly uncomfortable in the seat that was next to the bed. “Kids younger than ten are allowed to stay in this country with their mothers.” Syaoran almost wished Fai was there. Kurogane’s explanations always seemed to fall just short of what he wanted to know.

Kurogane’s gaze settled on him and it was Syaoran’s turn to shift uncomfortably. He took another drink from the cup, already feeling a little better from what he had already finished off. The ninja waited for Syaoran to drink more of the medicine before speaking. “You knew the monster was coming when it came out of the ground. Not even I could sense it when it was part of the rock.”

He hesitated, but not because Syaoran had forgotten his voice. Trying to find the right words to describe the event was difficult. “I’m... not sure. I think it tried connecting to me, telepathically the first time it attacked. When it did, the connection was never severed. I heard it scream in my head before it came out of the ground.”

Kurogane raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. Syaoran focused on finishing the last of the drink he had been given. The headache was receding, which he was grateful for. The rest of his body was being obstinate, however, aching on regardless.

Never wavering, Kurogane continued to stare at Syaoran. He could tell the ninja was waiting for something else. Maybe it was some thing his ‘other’ would have said? This time, Syaoran couldn’t quite tell what he had done wrong.

Thankfully, the Amazons and their entourage chose that moment to burst in. Fai and the princess were not far behind them. The ninja finally looked away, more than a little disgruntled about being interrupted.

It was Mokona who spoke up first, jumping from Sakura’s shoulder to give Syaoran a small hug. “‘Syaoran!’ Everyone was worried when you got hurt! Are you alright now?” it asked, with such a large amount of concern for a being so small. Syaoran handed the cup back to the ninja before he returned the hug, petting the white pork bun reassuringly. Though sometimes he wondered who was reassuring whom when Mokona was concerned.

“You’re awake now!” Hikaru said, taking his free hand in hers. “I heard you can predict the Wyvern’s movements! How did you-”

He was most surprised by the movement, as was Kurogane who nearly fell out of the chair trying to avoid a red dart that flew straight at Syaoran.

“Hikaru-san,” Fuu said, her voice full of reproach. She hid her eyes behind her glasses, but Syaoran could see a light smile on her lips that was indulgent of her fellow amazon.

Hikaru jumped, letting go of his hand with a slight blush. “Er, sorry. Guess I got a little excited. You’re feeling better?”

Nodding, Syaoran saw for the first time the pattern on the metal clasps of Hikaru’s armor up close. It was a wolf with a fiery mane like a lion, with a single curved horn on its forehead. He felt a shiver of recognition, for this was the same beast that protected his ‘other’ in the Hanshin Republic. “A little better,” he managed to say after a few seconds of staring. The shook his head softly, trying to get rid of the mental cobwebs while not aggravating his headache.

He took a good look at the room, which was suddenly much smaller with all the people in it. He was in the only bed, while Kurogane looked out the window at the setting sun from his high back chair. There was a small brown table near by, just under the window that Fai stood next to. The mage was talking quietly with the princess. Fuu and Umi were on the other side of the room, with the strange child poking his head out from behind Umi out of curiosity. Several other women he didn’t recognize were in the room, flanking the Amazons like guards. The room itself was painted a calming blue color, that reminded him of the sea. It must be a guest room in Umi’s wing of the main building.

The location was puzzling, as Syaoran couldn’t figure out why Umi would have even wanted a male in her wing. There was another question eating at him however, which he asked even though he could feel the answer in his mind. “The Wyvern isn’t dead, is it?”

Umi’s sarcastic laugh confirmed it. “You guys barely even scratched it! I told you we should never have let men do a woman’s job. They can’t-”

“And neither could you.” Sakura added coolly, much to everyone’s surprise. “It seems neither gender could effectively hurt it.”

Umi spun on her heels and looked ready to tear Sakura apart. He didn’t think, just reacted. Syaoran was on his feet and in front of the princess, even though the pain and dizziness nearly brought him back down again. His expression held no hint of his weakness, but gazed calmly at the blue haired girl.

The amazon took a step back, surprised. It was Fuu that broke the tension, however, placing a hand on Umi’s shoulder. “Umi-san, Princess Sakura is quite correct in her assessment. Do not fault her for it.”

The strained moment over, Syaoran felt his body give a shiver before completely giving out. Fai caught him before he fell, pushing Syaoran back to the bed. He went without resistance. His head was spinning too much and his vision was tunneling. He could hear Hikaru laughing nervously as Fai checked his forehead for fever. Such cold hands...

“Why don’t we leave for now and let ‘Syaoran-kun’ rest?” Fai said, turning to the group.

“But I wanted to ask-“

“He needs time to heal, Hikaru-san,” Fuu rebuked mildly. The last thing he heard was a soft grunt from Kurogane as Hikaru agreed finally. Once everyone had left the room, except the solitary ninja, Syaoran let his consciousness slip back into oblivion.

* * *

Sunlight peered down through the tree’s shade like little drops of slow but constantly moving light. Syaoran moved with them, carefully stretching his muscles that were pained. He was glad of the shade’s indirect sunlight. It was enough to stave off the worst of the heat so that he could go through his morning exercises. He was already sweating by the time he was through with his warm up.

He kept seeing glimpses of the child with long bangs from behind the trees, but Syaoran didn’t let on he knew. The difference was striking to him, causing him to pause while he held the practice sword borrowed from the amazon’s armory. Instead of watching from the shadows, he was the one being watched. It was a very strange feeling.

The problem was a simple one, really. When one knows that one has an audience, the need to show off flashier techniques arises. But he was still wounded... Another glimpse of emerald eyes peeking out from the trees made him reconsider. Syaoran ignored the screaming pain in his shoulder and started going through one of his most difficult routines. The sword flashed as it caught small rays of the sun’s light and moved through the air with elegance.

He was gratified to hear applause after he finished with the sword’s blade balanced lightly on his finger, panting at the effort. It almost made the pain in his shoulder worth it. But when he turned around to see the applause giver, Syaoran was surprised to see Hikaru, not the child.

“That was great! And your shoulder didn’t hurt you at all when you went through the routine?” She clasped her hand together in a motion of happiness after passing him a towel.

Syaoran blushed softly. It wasn’t the sort of blush that his Sakura brought on, but the sort that came when a good friend gave an honest compliment. He accepted the towel and started to wipe away some of the sweat, wincing as if to answer her question as his shoulder screamed in protest. “It does hurt,” he admitted, taking a seat next to her on a near by tree root. “But we can’t wait much longer to go after the monster again. It’s been attacking the people of the village, hasn’t it?”

Hikaru nodded, eyes clouding over. “Yeah. Two people have been killed, and four were wounded pretty badly in the last attack.” They sat in a quiet silence for a few moments, each to their own thoughts in the comforting shade. Hikaru was half a head shorter than him and looked even younger. He had learned through the talk of the woman that she was the same age as the other amazons, making her a few years older than him.

She was not one to stay quiet for any length of time, however. Something caught her eye and Hikaru snapped to attention, her hand resting on the hilt of her blade. Then she relaxed, and watched the trees with a puzzled expression on her face. “What’s Ascot doing out here?”

“Ascot? You mean that boy over there?”

“Yeah. He’s generally with Umi-chan, because she’s his favorite.” Hikaru must have seen the look of shock on his face, because she quickly added, “Umi-chan isn’t normally like how you’ve seen her. She just doesn’t like being unable to do anything. She was the one that tended your wounds since Fuu-chan’s healing magic doesn’t work anymore. She felt bad that you got hurt because she couldn’t beat the Wyvern herself.”

Letting that fact sit in, Syaoran felt a little embarrassed. No one had told him that Umi was the one to tend him. He hadn’t properly thanked the amazon. Now it made more sense why he had been moved to her wing of the main building. No wonder Kurogane had been a little more tolerant of the blue haired woman these past several days that he had been kept in bed.

It was easier for Syaoran to talk to these women, he found. Easier than talking to his own traveling companions. The ones he had watched silently for so long and then was unable to help as his ‘other’ betrayed them... Something still stopped him from feeling at ease with the others. But with Hikaru, he could finally ask the question he couldn’t ask Kurogane. “Ascot is a child of the village or... ?”

“Ascot was an orphan that was we found on the outskirts of the village when he was four. The three of us raised him since then!” Her face lit up in such a way that Syaoran thought of his own mother. Though, knowing what he did of these three women, it made him wonder how the child survived to live as long as he had... “He likes Umi a lot though. I think that’s why he searched so long for that medallion.”

“Medallion? Is that-”

A loud crash sent both Syaoran and Hikaru to their feet. The scream in his mind told him what was going on immediately. Their eyes met for an instant in agreement before they both took off running towards the center of the commotion. They were forced to dodge small animals which were running the opposite direction, away from the attack. They weren’t like anything Syaoran had ever seen before. Small horses and fox like creatures that mewed, along with any number of small fuzzy animals. All of them looked like fantastical stuffed animals.

He wasn’t given much time to observe the natural wild life, because they reached the small clearing where chaos had descended. It was here the women came to wash their clothes by the river. This morning there were only half a dozen women there, but they were all frantically trying to get away from the Wyvern’s attacks.

The dragon swooped down to pick off at the frightened women. Syaoran didn’t think, automatically placing himself between the Wyvern and its latest target. His sword, though it was meant for practice, was still sturdy as he blocked the monster’s sharpened teeth. Regular swords wouldn’t cut anyway, so the solid, but blunt practice sword would work just as well.

His shoulder screamed like the Wyvern in his mind as he re-enforced the blade with his free hand. Syaoran could feel his muscles buckling, but he couldn’t move from his position. The dragon’s head, which was almost as large as Syaoran himself, bore down on him.

“Hurry! Get back to the village!” Hikaru yelled out to the other women, her sword drawn as she attacked the side of the wyvern’s head. She had been aiming for the eyes, but it quickly closed its heavy lid and her attack deflected off uselessly.

Once the women behind him had moved, Syaoran rolled to the side and joined Hikaru. “As long as it stays above ground, we can feel its attacks.”

“Alright!” Hikaru fell on the beast again, this time attacking the creature’s front legs. Fighting with Hikaru was different than having Kurogane by his side. She was much more reckless and passionate, but they fought well together. When he slipped up, Hikaru had his back. When she did something too reckless, Syaoran kept the wyvern from doing any harm to the shorter girl. They fought like that for ten minutes under the sun, as the pain in his shoulder became a dull reminder of his previous injuries.

“We need to pull it away from the village!” Hikaru yelled. He nodded, taking a few seconds to wipe away the sweat that had gotten into his eyes. Nearly cost him his other limb, but Hikaru blocked the tail from hitting him. Their eyes met for a brief second as he conveyed his thanks. Then they both took off running, only pausing long enough to make sure the wyvern was following.

The wyvern was angry and did as they hoped. He was beginning to wonder how they were going to be able to lose the monster when he heard it shriek in his mind. The sudden pain caused Syaoran to trip as he clutched his head. “Syaoran, you okay?”

The Wyvern had disappeared.

“Quickly,” he gasped for breath. “Get up... one of the trees!” Syaoran was already heading for one, even though the scream in his head took his breath away. Hikaru followed, helping him climb after sending him a questioning glance.

They had no sooner gotten off the ground when Syaoran felt his mind explode with a screeching sound. At least, that was what it felt like. He was prepared for it this time, however, and the tail that came out of the ground to attack him struck at air.

A light of understanding came to Hikaru’s eyes. “So that’s what you meant by staying above ground.” She whispered, more to herself than to Syaoran. They didn’t know if the creature could hear sounds in its current state, but it was best not to chance it.

Syaoran was lost from reality as the wyvern attacked his mentality. Time slipped from his consciousness; he only managed to count the seconds between the curdling screams. It was a mind numbing experience which shook him to the core.

“Syaoran!” Hikaru grabbed hold of him to keep him from falling off the branch. “We need to get you out of here!” But the wyvern’s tail struck close to their location. Hikaru quickly stopped her mouth, instead pulling Syaoran closer. Her muscled arms surrounded his shoulders as he leaned into her, unable to keep his own balance any longer. He was unable to do anything now, nothing but feel the pain of the mind link and clench his teeth together. His nails dug into his palm and drew blood, but the pain was nothing compared to that tremendous power in his head.

Finally, the wyvern uttered one last furious scream. It was worse than any of the others with the most power behind it. Syaoran nearly cried out in pain, but remained voiceless. As if its last attempt had failed, the wyvern’s presence in his mind disappeared without a second glance. “It’s gone,” he murmured, relaxing into unconsciousness.

-To xxxHolic side

Quote of the Chapter:

"Leave it to a girl to take the fun out of sex discrimination."
-Calvin and Hobbes