"I'm sorry," the woman had told them, "I'm travelling too. I won't blow your cover, but I don't know any more about this place than you." She had short black hair and wore a hot pink shirt over black jeans; there were pink silk flowers in her hair.
"It's alright," Syaoran assured her. "Ah ... travelling?"
"Yeah." She smiled at them. "From ... other places, yes?"
Syaoran nodded frantically. "We're looking for something. A feather."
The woman's smile grew even more inscruitable, and Fai bounced on his heels like an eager puppy. "I may", she pronounced, "be able to help you with that."
The plan finally developed (Hokuto and Fai were responsible for it, in about equal parts) involved the use of rather more explosives that Sakura felt comfortable around. "I - I've never set off fireworks before," she told Hokuto when her part was revealed. "I've seen fireworks, but I don't know how they work ..."
"It's easy," Hokuto said. "All you need is a match; I've already pointed them in the right spot. Remember, it has to be at twelve-fifteen exactly. And don't let Mokona knock anything over."
"Mokona is very well-behaved," the creature in question objected, and bounced up and down.
Sakura smiled. "I know you are, Mokona. You can remind me when it's time, alright?"
Syaoran was rather less comfortable with his and Kurogane's portion of the plan, which involved dressing in stolen police uniforms and knocking out several innocent bystanders. "It's necessary," Hokuto pointed out. "You'd be recognized if any real policemen were around. And you two are the only ones who know how to use a sword." She was working as she talked, knotting together a pile of scarves she had gotten who-knows-where into something resembling the bright, enticing festival costumes so popular here. Syaoran resisted, with some difficulty, the temptation to ask if those sequins weren't going to chafe.
"Besides, you have the simple part," Fai opined, squinting at his own pile of scarves. "Hokuto-san, do you have the scissors? Thank you. I really don't have the chest for this, and I'll probably have to run away from heavily armed men. You can drop behind the pack and come back here at leisure."
"I can go," Sakura said. "Really, you don't have to do this for me. You'd probably be better at setting off fireworks anyway - "
"I don't mind!" Fai grinned at her. "Besides," he added in a stage-whisper, "I think poor Syaoran-kun wouldn't like to have his princess on display. And this is not the first time I've cross-dressed."
Syaoran choked on his tea. Hokuto grinned. "Good!" she said. "Then you dn't need training on how to walk like a woman? I'm trying to make this thing disguise your hips, but there's nothing like acting to fill it out properly."
"Oh, absolutely not." Fai held up the scraps of fabric proudly. Somehow, astonishingly, they had been turned into what looked like a graceful, flowing dress, albeit one with rather more holes in the torso than usual. "How's this, Hokuto-chan?"
"Very nice. But I think I want to add some sequins. Have to look my best." Hokuto flashed a smile at them, and Mokona cheered.
When they regrouped, Fai looking slightly bruised and Hokuto scowling at the scorch marks on her costume, Sakura ventured hesitantly that perhaps that hadn't ben so good an idea.
"It was an excellent idea," Hokuto protested. "It would have worked, too, if they hadn't mvoed the damn feather. Don't worry, we'll think of something. I'm going to get everyone some dinner. You look like you need it." She stalked off, brushing at her shoulder.
Syaoran sat next to Sakura, carefully not looking at Fai as he began to change back into his more normal outfit (normal for this world was still rather brighter than Syaoran was accustomed to, but it was a relief compared to the silk ... thing). "I wonder what she's looking for," he wonderd aloud. "And why she's helping us."
"She said," Fai said. "She doesn't have anything better to do. Same as me. Maybe she's just nice."
"She is like you," Mokona declared. "She's running from something."
Fai was silent for a long moment. "Well, she's deminately going about it the right way," he said, his voice only a little strained. "I wonder if she made a bargain with the Witch, or if she's travelling under her own power? She looked powerful."
Sakura held Mokona against her cheek. "Hokuto doesn't mean us any harm. She likes us." Mokona nodded (it was rather strange to see; the whole body seemed to be involved) and let out a tired cheep.
There was a rustling noise, and Fai folded himself to the floor between them, once again, Syaoran was pleased to note, fully dressed. "Don't worry, Syaoran-kun. We'll come up with something else to get the feather back. It'll be fun." He grinned broadly.
Syaoran had to stop himself from shuddering at that, because he knew it was completely, absolutely, indubitably true.