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In Any Other World, Tsubasa Side
By Memory Dragon
Warnings: A very grumpy Kurogane. I'm not sure why, but the part with Moko-chan is one of my favorites. Oh, and Syaoran gets a bit angsty towards the end... The cliff hanger actually isn't too bad this time around. Not nearly as extreme as the next one, at least. XD
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 Chapter 3 Chapter 4  
xxxHolic Side: Prologue Chapter 1  Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Chapter Five: The Price of a Wish

“The treasure is mine!” A boyish voice called out just before a long string of curses by Kurogane could be heard. Syaoran turned the corner of one of the intricately designed Amazon buildings to find Ascot gone and the ninja sitting on the ground, nursing his foot.

Syaoran felt his mouth try and slip into a smile, but he doubted the ninja would have appreciated that. Instead he kneeled down next to the still cursing Kurogane. “Are you alright, Kurogane-san?”

“How much did you see?” he glared as he asked, taking Syaoran by surprise. Kurogane looked quite angry and this time Syaoran was certain that most of the hostility was being directed at him. He was at a loss for words and looked away.

The ninja sighed once he realized his mistake, anger deflating. Syaoran still didn’t look back up. With more annoyance than usual, Kurogane tried again. “Oi, kid. Don’t-”

“Mokona saw everything!” Mokona said, bouncing from out of no where and landing right on Kurogane’s head. “Kurogane picked Ascot up by the shirt and Ascot went KA-POW! into Kurogane’s stomach and WHAM! onto Kurogane’s foot!” Each sound effect was followed by a dramatic reenactment of the gesture by Mokona. “And then, and then, as Ascot got away, he turned back and-”

Kurogane plucked the white ball of fur off his head and glared down as it made a very silly face up at him. “The blue woman is right. Eating you might be a good idea.”

Struggling out of Kurogane’s grasp, the white pork bun bounced away. “Kurogane looks scary! But he can’t stand up to a little kid!”

“Get back here you-” more expletives. Many more expletives. The ninja chased after the small fur ball as the illusive creature bounced further out of his reach.

Syaoran felt a little foolish, assuming that the anger had been directed at him. Kurogane’s pride was what had suffered the worst blow. Though, if the ninja had known how close he had been to laughing, things might have gone differently.

Instead of following Kurogane and Mokona, he took the path towards the jungle’s edge where the river flowed. While he hadn’t seen which way Ascot had taken, this path seemed most likely. Less crowed and more places to hide in the ocean of trees.

His deductions proved true as he found Ascot by a small stream. The child heard his approach and had his fists raised, ready to go out fighting. Syaoran held up his hands to symbolize truce. “I won’t try to take you or the medallion back, I promise.”

Ascot put his hands down, but not his guard. “I’m not giving it back. I found the treasure, so it’s mine!”

Keeping his hands in place, Syaoran carefully sat down in the shade of a near by tree. He didn’t know what to say to the child. Perhaps the direct approach? “That medallion was the power source-”

Wrong move. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t wake it up! It’s your fault, not mine!”

“No one is saying it’s your fault,” he said gently, back tracking. He motioned for Ascot to take a seat next to him in the shade. The boy complied, but wearily. “Why don’t you want to grow up, Ascot-kun?”

Ascot clutched the medallion to his chest and hid his eyes under his bangs. “I... don’t want to leave here. Hikaru-sama, Fuu-sama, and Umi-sama are my only family and...”

“And?”

“A-and I really l-like Umi-sama,” he said quietly in a voice just above a whisper. Syaoran had to strain to hear the admission, but smiled softly when he made sense of it.

A lot of things added up now. “The village of men isn’t too far from here though, right? Fuu-san said the women could visit once a month for trade and-”

“But Umi-sama never goes!” Syaoran decided it would probably be useless to convince the child she probably would go if she knew Ascot wanted to see her. Such sentiments weren’t going to bring the boy around.

They sat in silence for a bit while he considered his options again. Direct approach had failed miserably. Indirect was the obvious next choice. “Do you know about the price of wishes?” he asked, easing into the subject.

“You mean what the witch said about my medallion?”

Syaoran shook his head, even though that was part of it. “No, just about the price of wishes in general. If it’s hard work, time, or... something you give up, every wish has a price, though sometimes you don’t even realize it.” Without thinking, his hand went up to his returned eye, causing him to falter in his explanation.

Ascot didn’t look up. A near by flower that he nudged with his shoe captivated the child’s attention far more than the actual conversation he was trying to avoid. “I just wanted...”

“To stop time?” Syaoran asked softly, bringing in the true core of the wish. “To stay young forever? Such a wish would have a high cost, would it not?”

Ascot’s head was bowed and Syaoran couldn’t tell if the boy was still going through denial or letting it sink in. He tried again, hesitating even though these were feelings he knew well. “Being apart from those you love for so long is really lonely. Sometimes you just have to keep wishing to see them again so that you can move on.”

“Are you... away from the people you love?” Ascot asked, just as hesitantly.

Syaoran answered with a smile. He tried to make the smile one that was heart felt, but it ended up being a very painful sort of smile. The figures of a blue-eyed boy with glasses and a young princess flashed across his vision, along with his parents. “Yes. Me, Fai-san, Kurogane-san and the Princess are all away from those we are the closest to. Even Mokona... We’re all very far from home. But if we don’t continue forward, the hope of seeing our most precious people would be gone.”

“But why? Why not just stay with them in the first place?

“Because it’s inevitable,” he said gently, closing his eyes as he leaned back against the tree. “Several people have already been killed by the Wyvern, right? And, if it were allowed to continue, Umi-san will have to fight the Wyvern too. Without a way to harm the best, she could be hurt or killed. Do you want that?”

Ascot stood up, his fists balled up at his sides. “I don’t want that! Above all, I don’t want Umi-sama to die!” Syaoran opened his eyes to find that Ascot’s green ones were peeked out from behind his bangs, adorned with tear drops. “But... I don’t know what to do...”

“Then move forward,” Syaoran said, sitting back up. This time his smile was warmer, though still sad. “See what the next year holds, not just staying forever trapped in time.”

“Ah,” Ascot sniffled a few times, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. “Are... are the others mad at me for running off?”

The thought of Kurogane cursing the kid into the next century came to mind, but Syaoran decided it was safe to omit that. “They aren’t mad, just worried. They know you wouldn’t have woken up the Wyvern on purpose.” He stood up and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Let’s go back together, alright?”

Ascot nodded, fingering the medallion. After one more deep breath, the boy took his first step moving towards the future.

* * *

Umi and Fuu rushed over once they saw the child walking up with Syaoran at his side. “Ascot! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Umi said as she kneeled and brushed away some of the hair in his eyes. Syaoran saw how red the kid had turned, even if Umi didn’t notice. “You don’t have to give up the treasure. We can find another way if-”

Ascot shook his head slowly, making her trail off. “The Dimensional Witch is the only way we’ll get through this without anyone else getting hurt, right? I don’t want... I don’t want someone to get hurt because of me.”

Umi looked back at Fuu who nodded her ascent. “Let’s call the Dimensional Witch back then,” the blue haired woman said with her hands on Ascot’s shoulders as she pushed him towards the council chambers. Syaoran thought she looked very proud of the child. “Fuu-chan, Syaoran-kun, would you gather the others please?”

“Yes, Umi-sama,” Syaoran said with a small bow as Fuu voiced her own agreement.

It took the two of them a little while to find everyone but once they were all gathered, Mokona called Yuuko. Once again, Syaoran looked for the boy with wire-rimmed glasses, but the other teenager was no where in sight.

The witch of dimensions smiled as she saw the assembly. She wore the same outfit as last time, even though it had already been nearly two days. Syaoran could only assume that time moved quicker in this dimension. “Good evening, everyone. Do you have the payment?”

Ascot stepped forward, looking very nervous. “I have it,” he said, fingering the medallion one last time. “This is... this is the thing you want, right?”

Yuuko nodded, the light shading her eyes so they couldn’t be seen. “Are you sure you want to give that up? The Wyvern wouldn’t be able to harm the wearer. You could be immortal forever, with only the cost of a few lives.”

Everyone was shocked at the words, except Mokona who was saddened by them. Before anyone could move, however, Ascot shook his head fiercely. “Not if it meant living without Umi-sama and the others! I won’t do it!”

Yuuko’s eyes were unshaded as she smiled gently. Had it been a test? Or... a need for denial of a wish to be granted? “You have changed since the last time I was called. Very well, give the medallion to Mokona and start fulfilling your other wish.”

“Other wish?” Umi asked? Fuu and Hikaru laughed quietly as Ascot turned red.

“I-it’s nothing!” he stammered as he yanked the chain over his head and held it out for Mokona to take.

Mokona’s mouth got very large as it sucked in the medallion in one quick “Paku!” The amazons were surprised at Mokona’s strange talents, but the others had gotten used to it by now. “Puu!” it cried, as it’s mouth opened again and it spit out an arrow.

Fuu caught the arrow, carefully examining it. “Normal weapons do not work on the Wyvern. So this arrow is...”

“That arrow is special.” Yuuko took a sip from her sake cup before continuing. “It’s made from the hardened blood of a hag’s spirit and fashioned by a boy with a pure soul that exorcises such beings. If you were to pierce through the dragon, say through an eye, the arrow’s magical nature would poison the monster. Its death will be swift.”

Fai whistled, a painful reminder of the mage’s past and current lies. “That would take pretty good aim. I don’t know if I could hit it in one shot.”

“I can shoot the arrow,” Fuu said softly. Fai smiled politely and nodded to her experience. “There is no better archer in the land than me.”

“Oh? Pretty confident.” The ninja raised an eyebrow. It was neither in contempt or surprise, but a purely questioning gesture.

The blond amazon turned to face Kurogane with a gentle but serious smile. “Without belief in oneself, I wouldn’t stand a chance of hitting the target. If so, you could call this confidence.”

“Fuu-chan is right! Just you wait, we’ll get rid of this Wyvern once and for all!” Hikaru had a vision of passionate flames behind her as Umi held her head in her hands off to the side. The blue haired girl sighed and shook her head, unable to keep up with Hikaru’s energy.

“Then let us discuss the second wish, of returning the balance to the land.” Everyone grew silent at this, turning their attention back to the Witch of Dimensions. “If the balance isn’t corrected, another monster will just take this one’s place.”

“What do we have to do to correct the balance then?” Umi asked, her hand going to the intricate dragon on the hilt of her sword subconsciously. “We can’t stay away from the men entirely or we would die out as a people. What else is needed?”

Yuuko’s head swayed gently side to side. “Staying away from men won’t bring the balance back. Once the balance was tipped, the only way to resolve it is to mix with them. Men must be allowed to come to your village and be treated as equals.”

“What?!”

“Impossible!”

“This is the only way?” the voice of reason asked over Hikaru’s and Umi’s voices. Syaoran was surprised. Fuu looked almost... happy at this arrangement? Yuuko confirmed the price and the blond woman retreated behind her glasses with a crafty smile. “We will have to accept these terms then.”

Umi raised an eyebrow in Fuu’s direction, which made the gentle blond turn red. Syaoran wondered if there was something to this unspoken conversation that he missed. Kurogane also seemed vaguely intrigued by the silence, though he tried to hide his curiosity. “I suppose it can’t be helped,” Umi said with a resigned sigh. After the initial shock wore off, even Umi couldn’t disagree with it.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Hikaru was quick to come around after the initial shock wore off. Even quicker still, was her ability to find the cloud’s silver lining. “Isn’t that great, Ascot! You can stay with us now, no matter how old you get!” Hikaru hugged the young boy happily from behind as he also took turns blushing.

“Oi, Witch. Why didn’t you tell us that before the brat-” Kurogane stiffened as Fai’s smile grew a fraction larger. This time, Syaoran had just barely caught the mage’s retreating foot slide back into place from a delivered kick. Kurogane glared murderously at Fai, but stayed silent.

“O-ho-ho,” Yuuko laughed, her hand flying up to her mouth in attempted modesty. According to most of Yuuko’s outfits however, modesty was never something she worried about. “Then I wouldn’t have gotten to hear about how a certain ninja got beaten up by a small child.”

“Why you-”

“Thank you, Yuuko-san!” Syaoran said with a quickly as the mage delivered another kick to Kurogane’s shins. The witch smiled back mischievously before the image flickered out.

“Are you guys really Princess Sakura’s servants?” Umi asked suspiciously. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at the now very irate Kurogane. Silence filled the room.

Finally, Sakura, who hadn’t said a word since they had gathered, spoke. “That is correct. These are my traveling companions, not servants.” Traveling companions, not friends. It hurt having so much distance between them now. “You would not have accepted us otherwise, correct?”

“That is quite correct,” Fuu said softly, as the everyone stood facing each other, neither side willing to back down. Ascot was in the center of it all, unable to chose which side he should be on.

“Yuuko-san said the price of the balance had to be working with men as equals,” Fai pointed out, ending the stalemate with a pointed remark and hurtful smile. “Which means you should start with us.”

It was Hikaru who finally stood up and nodded. “You’re right. We need to keep up our own end of the bargain. For now, I think we all need some rest and time to think things through.”

Everyone agreed to that plan of action and started filling out of the room.

* * *

Sleep didn’t find Syaoran so easily that night. Too many things were bothering him. The way how he could talk so easily to the Amazons and the way how Kurogane and Fai still avoided each other plagued his thoughts. Especially the way how this Sakura closed herself up, even though it was completely uncharacteristic of her.

Rolling out of bed, Syaoran walked over to the window, pressing his fingers against the glass. He traced the outline of the moon with his fingers. The moon that gave power to so many friends he used to know... Memories he hadn’t thought of in a while surfaced as he realized sleep would be evading him for a while.

“Why didn’t it work?” he asked the moon softly, feel like that one question could unlock his soul. Syaoran’s hand rubbed his returned eye in frustration. Though he knew the answer, he still wanted to hear it. His heart still cried out for it. “Why?”


~TBC~
-To xxxHolic Side

Two Quotes of the Chapter this time.  The first I think it fits with the dragon quite well... The second one is a little more serious, lol. Only a little bit more though.

"Just once, I wish we would encounter an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets."
-Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Doctor Who

"Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."
-Susan Ertz, Anger in the Sky