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29 April 2007 @ 04:27 pm
Song of the Wind, ch. 3 (MKR)  
Title: Song of the Wind
Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure
Publish Date: 12/24/2005 through 3/24/2007 (incomplete)
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*



In the crystalline palace of Cephiro’s capital, Clef’s head snapped back, his eyes wide. “What was that?” he murmured. There had been a surge of something, some unknown power, that had hit his senses without warning and sent him reeling from the force of it. He tried to read it, to learn something about it, but it receded too quickly, and he was unable to grasp anything about it.

“Creator,” he called softly, knowing he would be heard.

Sure enough, the floating form of Mokona appeared before him, forehead-jewel glowing a beautiful vibrant yellow. “Magic,” the Creator spoke.

“I knew you would feel it as well,” the diminutive mage said. “Is it…them?”

“It is. Hurry, Guru.”

That was all Clef needed to know. He turned and moved quickly across the room. Fortunately, his search didn’t take him far; Lantis was outside in the corridor, most likely coming to see him regarding the magical flare from a few moments ago. “Guru, what was—“ he started to ask, but was cut off.

“It is them,” Clef replied shortly. “The sooner they are brought here, the better. Take the others and go, quickly—find them.” He knew he did not have to specify who ‘the others’ were.

Lantis nodded, bowed, and was gone.

-o-


Fuu had figured the light for what it was immediately—it really could only be the summons of Cephiro, she knew that from past experience—but she’d realized that something was different when Fyula hadn’t appeared to save them. The feeling of wrongness increased when she realized that she couldn’t see or hear Umi or Hikaru.

In short, she was alone and plummeting towards the ground at far too high of a speed for her personal comfort. And she couldn’t think of anyway to stop herself. Unless…

Would her magic work?

As the ground drew near, she took a deep breath and said a very short prayer to whoever was up there listening…and attempted to call upon the power of Wind. Breath in, focus, reach down to that place inside her that had never quite grown cold, even as she traveled between worlds, and then…

A gust of wind shot from her hands, enveloping her and slowing her down.

Unfortunately, it was too little too late, and she couldn’t quite stop herself from dropping into the forest. And once she collided with the first branch, there was no way she could focus enough to pull her magic. Fuu closed her eyes and held her breath.

She somehow managed to miss most of the big branches, but a million tiny twigs tore at her skin, hair, and clothes like so many clawed fingers. By the time she hit the ground, her entire body was prickling from the scratches and cuts.

She lay on her back in the leaves and dirt for a moment, trying to remember how to breathe and move. It took a few moments, but finally, she forced herself to sit up (and ooooh, did it hurt!) and take a look around at her surroundings and herself. Most of the scrapes were fairly superficial—more painful than damaging, really—but there were a few deeps ones where the cuts had drawn blood. Nothing time (or a little magic) wouldn’t heal. But more importantly…

…where exactly was she?

Cephiro, she knew. But where in Cephiro? In their past expeditions here, they’d fallen from the sky to be saved by Fyula, the giant flying fish. And they had always been together. But Fyula’s absence had left her in a freefall, and somehow she had been separated from her companions. Which probably meant that the Creator hadn’t brought them here—Mokona would have prepared for them.

So…what had brought them?

She didn’t know. But she realized belatedly that it was probably a good idea to get moving. She was alone in the forest, with no real protection—save for whatever magic she could summon up. Climbing to her feet (if a bit unsteadily), she reached down again in search of her magic…and found herself unable to call it forth to heal herself. How strange, given that she’d been able to call it before to break her fall…

Still, she was the rational sort. And she knew that at that moment, without her ovum-gem and Escudo sword, she technically wasn’t in ‘Magic Knight mode.’ Perhaps her fear from earlier had been able to overcome the barrier that prevented her from using her magic regularly in order to save her from certain, splatty death at the hands of gravity?

It was just a theory, but a relatively sound one, she thought, given the evidence of past experiences—she remembered Umi losing her temper once in a kitchen. The poor plumbers…she doubted that they would ever be able to offer a plausible explanation as to why the faucet on the sink essentially exploded from water pressure.

Still, it meant that she was going to be rather uncomfortable for a little while—at least until she could find the others and hopefully locate Guru Clef. But in order to find everyone, she had to get moving, no matter how much she hurt from the scratches and the rough landing.

And so Fuu walked. She really didn’t know which way she was going, but if a person in a forest picked one direction and just started walking in that direction, sooner or later that person would come to the forest’s edge, right? So she picked a direction and headed for it.

It took a lot less time than she thought it would to find the edge, and she found herself on the outskirts of a village—it reminded her of the town they had come to on their journey to the Spring of Eterna, where they had fought Alcyone after leaving the Forest of Silence. It seemed a pleasant enough place, and she walked into the town, down what appeared to be the main street. There weren’t any people out and about, which seemed rather odd.

“Magic Knight.”

Fuu jumped a mile at the voice and whirled around in search of its source. If there was an enemy now…she was alone, she was powerless, defenseless…she wouldn’t stand a chance against an opponent.

But she instead found herself staring into the open front door of a small hut. Sitting just inside the door was an elderly woman, hunched and wrinkled with age. But she had a pair of the most incredible blue eyes—second only to Umi’s (or Amaya’s, really)—and those eyes spoke of knowledge and wisdom beyond anything Fuu could match at this point in her life.

“Magic Knight,” the woman repeated, confirming that it was she who had spoken before.

“Yes, I am,” Fuu replied, bowing slightly out of respect. “Am I intruding?”

“No, child,” the woman intoned. “Come. Sit.”

Fuu obeyed, dropping to a kneeling position in the doorway. She waited before she opened her mouth to ask the question that had been bothering her since she first laid eyes on this woman.

“You wonder why I look so old,” the woman said, putting voice to Fuu’s thoughts, “when I could easily will myself to a younger appearance. I see no shame in aging—for with age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. But wisdom means realizing that you truly know nothing.”

Fuu nodded. “You are wise.”

“And you are searching,” the old woman went on, reaching up with one hand to brush a stray lock of white hair out of her eyes. “Searching for those who are lost to you. Searching for your heart’s desire. Searching for the answer to the puzzle of why you have been brought here.”

“I—yes…” Fuu could only manage that response.

“Drink,” the old woman ordered in a tone that allowed for no arguments, reaching forward with one gnarled hand to set a green bowl on the ground in front of her. A dark brown liquid sloshed about inside it. “It will help.”

“But—“

“Drink.”

Taking a deep breath, Fuu obeyed. The liquid almost tasted like an extremely bitter tea, and the taste nearly made her choke, but she gulped the rest of it down stubbornly. Her magical senses may have been dulled by the absence of the treasures that marked her as a Magic Knight, but she had enough to know that whatever was in the bowl was safe.

When she set the bowl down, a tingle surged through her body. She winced against it, but it subsided as quickly as it had appeared…taking the pain of her landing with it. She looked down at herself to find that all of her injuries were gone—healed as completely as if she had done it herself.

She stared at the woman with wide eyes.

The woman’s eyes sparkled knowingly. “It tastes bad, but as you can see, it is very good for you.”

“Thank you…” Fuu bowed respectfully. It had also just occurred to her that she was in her pajamas, and the realization had made her feel a bit self-conscious. Granted, dark green pajama pants and a white T-shirt was suitably modest for being in public, but still…she shook it off and returned to the topic at hand. “You spoke of answers, madam. Do you know the answers?”

“I know only that answers are not always what we wish them to be,” she said slowly. “Seek, but use caution, Magic Knight. For there are those who would help you, those who would love you…and those who would destroy you. And likewise, there are those you would help, those you would love, and those you would destroy. Which of these have brought you here?”

Fuu was silent. It seemed this woman knew more than she was saying…even the obscure riddles made it clear that there was something hovering just below the surface of the old woman’s words.

Still, it made Fuu wonder what adventure Cephiro would hold for them this time around…

“FUU!”

Her thoughts and her conversation were interrupted by a voice calling her name. Not Umi or Hikaru, but a masculine voice. One that she knew as well as her own name…one that she had missed so terribly over the months…

She rose from her knees and turned. “Ferio…”

Belatedly, she thought to say goodbye to the old woman and thank her for her help—obscure as the help was, anyway. She turned back with the intention of doing so…to find that she was alone in the hut. But…she was standing in the only exit…

So how…?

Shaking it off as another oddity of Cephiro (and trying to ignore the nagging feeling that she had just missed something major), she turned and sprinted to let herself be swept up in the arms of Cephiro’s Prince, the man she had given her heart to so long ago.

-o-


The water was freezing.

Umi landed in the pond with a splash that probably shot up high enough to touch the sky. For a moment, her entire body hurt with the force of impact to the point where she couldn’t move. Coupled with the icy chill of the water…she went numb.

Then instinct kicked in, and she started swimming, frantically clawing her way to the top. Just as her lungs were starting to burn with a need for air, her head broke the water’s surface, and she gasped and sputtered and gulped in huge lungfuls of precious, precious oxygen. She bobbed there in the water for a moment or three, trying to clear her head and figure out where to go next.

Okay, Umi, she told herself. WWFD—what would Fuu do?

It was at moments like these that she was thankful for her friend’s good influence. The Umi of the past would have spazzed and panicked and probably screamed at the situation, even though it wouldn’t have done much (if any) good. The Umi of now…well, she had still had her moment of spazzing and panicking, but now she’d calmed herself down to think things through and try to work the situation out.

Well, first of all, Fuu would have gotten to shore.

Mentally kicking herself, Umi started swimming. It wasn’t a large lake, but she was rather shaky from the fall and everything else. She finally clambered up onto land—wonderful, sturdy, safe, dry land—and sat there for a moment to catch her breath.

What in the world had happened? One minute she was sound asleep, peacefully snoozing away on Takeshi’s, having a nice dream that may or may not have involved Johnny Depp…and the next thing she knew she was opening her eyes to find herself in a freefall towards a beautiful landscape that she hadn’t seen for quite a while. But it was all wrong—where was Fyula? And where were Hikaru and Fuu?

…and Kagura, for that matter?

She was far more concerned for Kagura than for her other friends. Fuu and Hikaru were Magic Knights. They knew enough of Cephiro to know what to expect and how to defend themselves. Kagura was a fighter—the girl could be frighteningly strong when the situation required it—but she had no such experience. She had seen Cephiro, but not at the level the other two had.

A rustle in the bushes nearby drew her back to reality, and she realized how long she had been sitting there contemplating things. Better get moving before something decided to try and attack her. Magic Knight or not, she was still at a severe disadvantage with neither sword nor magic to defend herself.

It didn’t take her long to spot a potential safe-haven, though: there was a village near the lake. She took off towards it as fast as she could—which wasn’t as fast as she would have liked, all factors tallied in.

As she walked into the village, she became acutely aware of her appearance—she was wearing her clothes from earlier, the jeans and shirt she’d fallen asleep in, and she was soaked from head to toe. Needless to say, she looked vastly different from the few villagers who were out and about, and it was evident in the way they looked at her, like she was some peculiar, frightening specimen on a dissecting table. Their looks were wary. Suspicious.

Distrustful.

Until someone recognized her—she heard a voice from the back of the crowd call out her title.

“Magic Knight!”

At the sound of the male voice, the tension shattered into cheers as a crowd surged around her. Umi was nearly swept away by the mass of people lauding her as a hero of Cephiro. She was startled enough that when someone grabbed her arm and pulled her through the throng and into one of the houses, she did not put up a fight.

Her rescuer—a pretty, if plain woman—closed a curtain over the door, momentarily shutting the screaming crowd outside. She turned to Umi and smiled. “Apologies, Magic Knight. We are not usually honored by such a visit.” She bowed. “I am Karin, and I am the village leader.”

Umi bobbed up and down in a quick return bow. “I understand—thank you. I’m Umi.”

“Forgive my rudeness, but…what has befallen ye?”

“Oh—I sort of fell into the lake,” Umi said sheepishly. It was the truth…just leaving out the part about having fallen from the sky into the lake. If the Magic Knights had been summoned, that probably meant that there was trouble in Cephiro, and if someone realized that, it could be disastrous. It wouldn’t do to cause such a panic.

Sure enough, Karin’s next question was, “Are ye visiting Cephiro?”

“Yes,” Umi replied. Again, the truth—just not all of it. “But I was separated from the others. And then…” she glanced down at her wet clothes again and shivered, “…I tripped and went splash.”

“Allow me the honor giving ye something to wear,” Karin crossed the room to move through a doorway into a connecting room. “Nothing fancy, but far better than being cold and wet, aye?” She gestured for Umi to follow. The next room was as plain as the first one had been, but certainly seemed cozy enough—practicality before extravagance.

Umi waited as Karin crossed to a large wardrobe, opened it, and began fishing around inside of it. It wasn’t long before she withdrew, her arms now filled with something blue and white. “The Knight of Water should wear blue,” Karin said knowingly, passing her the garments. “’Tis simple, but ‘tis dry. I’ll leave ye to change.” She absented herself quickly.

Umi shivered again, and that decided her. She stripped off her wet clothes in record time, putting them in the neatest bundle possible on the floor. Then she pulled on the clothes she had been given, reveling in the simple fact that they were dry. It was definitely a Cephirean style—a blue tunic over a loose white shirt cinched with a black belt. The baggy white pants were only a little too big.

Plus, she realized as she combed her fingers through her hair, if she was wearing Cephirean clothing, she wouldn’t stand out half as much as she would in her normal Earth clothing.

All in all, a much more agreeable state of affairs.

She’d figure out the rest when she got to the palace.

When she stepped out of the room, Karin smiled and nodded approvingly. “Aye, that’s much better. But I think ye should know that there’s someone lookin’ for ye—a young man riding a creature with wings. He said he knew ye to be here.” She gestured towards the curtain that covered the front door. “Perhaps ye should go give greeting?”

A young man on a creature with wings? Umi thought for a moment before her face lit up. She turned to Karin and grasped both her hands. “Thank you so much for your help.”

“’Twas nothing,” the woman laughed. “My honor, Magic Knight. Now off with ye!”

Not needing to be told again, Umi turned and sprinted outside. Sure enough, there was a large monster with wings prowling down the center street, bearing a tall figure in summoner’s robes on its back. Umi’s heart skipped about twenty beats as she realized hat she’d been right. “ASCOT!”

The man whipped around to look at her; even as far away as she was, she could see the color in his face flare up from its usual pale color to a vibrant red. But he was still wearing his bangs down far enough to hide his eyes, so she couldn’t see the upper half of his face.

Without waiting for him to respond, she sprinted towards him, stopping at the monster’s feet. She waited as the beast sniffed at her, seemingly trying to ascertain her to be friend or foe. Above her, she heard Ascot saying something, and the monster lowered its head to allow the summoner to step off.

Umi didn’t bother waiting—she dove forward and threw her arms around his waist in a tight hug. “Ascot, it is you!” She felt him tense and heard him sputter something unintelligible before his arms came up to nervously return the hug. She held on for a few seconds before leaning back to look up at him. “I missed you! And…” she frowned and raised an eyebrow, “…have you gotten taller?”

He chuckled—it was official.

Umi was still Umi.

-o-


Well, this was certainly familiar.

Hikaru had closed her eyes against the light…and when she’d opened them, she had found herself sprawled out on a bluff overlooking the landscape that she knew so well as Cephiro. A look around told her that this was the same ledge they had landed on during their very first visit here.

A second look around told her that she was alone.

And a third look around…well, it was really more of an attempt, because as she tried to turn her head, she realized belatedly that she hurt. It wasn’t completely debilitating, but it was enough that standing up was proving a challenge. Still, she staggered to her feet and leaned against a convenient tree for support. From here, she could see so much of the world…it was so beautiful. This was how Cephiro was truly supposed to look—green and beautiful and alive.

But it still didn’t explain where her friends were.

Hikaru suddenly felt more than a little apprehensive. They’d never been separated upon their arrival in Cephiro—the three of them had always been together. For that to change this time around, on top of what had happened just prior to the Summoning...

She might not have been the brightest crayon in the tool shed (that title belonged to Fuu) but even Hikaru could see that this added up to something not being right.

Still, it probably wasn’t a good idea to stay in one place for too long. She was here for a reason, and that reason usually wound up involving monster attacks. A sitting target was much easier to catch and eat than a moving one. So she straightened, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in her hip, and started walking, searching for anything that might tell her where she was or what was going on.

One of Cephiro’s most beautiful features was easily its landscape—sparkling lakes, wide expanses of blue sky, and acres and acres of lush green forests. Unfortunately, Hikaru was none too taken with the forests at the moment, considering that they didn’t seem to like her attempts to tromp through them. The plants seemed to actively reach up and grasp at her feet and ankles as though to try and stop her.

She managed to shake it off and pull her feet free…until one plant actually did grab her. Literally—a vine wrapped around her ankle and pulled, flipping her upside down. She was disoriented for a moment, then blinked and shook her head to clear it…and found herself staring a large yellow flower. With a mouth. And lots and lots of really big, really sharp-looking teeth.

And she somehow had the impression that whatever look it was giving her right then (even though it didn’t have a face, she felt like it was somehow staring at her and sizing her up) was a hungry one.

Needless to say, Shidou Hikaru was not interested in becoming plant food.

Instinct already had her kicking and twisting to try and free herself, but that wasn’t even phasing the thing. And far sooner than she’d expected, the flower (which seemed to have another vine for a neck of sorts) lunged down with its maw gaping open and ready to feast upon its prey.

Hikaru screamed. And then…

Fire.

She thought it came from her hand, but she wasn’t sure. But wherever it appeared from, there was enough of it to drive the Venus person-trap or whatever it was off. The vine unwound from her ankle, dropping her unceremoniously on her head, and the vine with the head on it withdrew back into the shadows of the foliage.

For a moment Hikaru was too stunned, both from her near-meal experience and the bump to her skull, to move much. But she again shook it off and took off running with only one real thought in her mind: get out of the forest. She ended up backtracking to the bluff—it was out in the open, so she could at least see what was coming.

Maybe moving around too much wasn’t the best idea…

Okay, it was time to try and think like Fuu for a while. She was in Cephiro—that was quite clear. So she could probably assume that Creator and Clef knew about it. Actually, Creator would most likely be the one who had brought them there in the first place, right? So while she couldn’t figure out why Fyula hadn’t been there, it stood to reason that someone would come and find her soon, right?

Right.

And so she waited, albeit a little nervously, for a rescue. After a very short while, though, she got bored. So she grabbed a stick of about the right length and started running through kendo moves, just to keep herself calm and focused. Discipline…focus…strength…hoof beats…

Wait, hoof beats?

Yes. It sounded like a horse was approaching, despite the fact that there were no roads in sight for there to be a horse running on. So where in the world was that sound coming from?

She looked around, and when she spotted the black figure in the sky above her, an enormous smile broke on her face. “Lantis!” she waved, and ran towards him and his spirit-beast.

-o-


Clef waited anxiously for the retrieval mission to return. It seemed that they had been gone far too long—all magical and geographical things considered, he didn’t feel it should have taken too much time. Finally, he summoned his own magic and sought to track them. The Creator looked on quietly.

He saw that they had gathered the three girls from Earth, and were well on their way back to the palace. That relieved him somewhat, but he was still restless about the whole situation. The sooner they were all safe within the palace walls, the better. And the sooner they returned, the sooner they could set about trying to piece together what was happening. The return of the Magic Knights…while it was wonderful to see Cephiro’s protectors again, it had to be noted that whenever they appeared, it was usually a harbinger of trouble on the horizon.

The rest of the palace inhabitants had congregated; they had apparently gotten wind that something was happening, but they had not been told what that thing was yet. Caldina in particular was abuzz with ideas and gossip, ranging from the plausible to the increasingly absurd.

He checked again. They were nearly back. Excellent.

“Guru, what is going on?” Lafarga finally demanded.

Clef paused for a moment before he simply said, “They’re here.”

“They?” Caldina asked.

As if on cue, there was a screeching sound nearby that they all recognized as the cry of one of Ascot’s friends. A moment later, they heard an all-too-familiar female voice on the other side of the door, chattering away before saying, “In here?”

The doors opened, and Umi popped her pretty blue head in and looked around. “Am I interrupting—CALDINA!” She sprinted across the room to meet the Chizetan dancer halfway for the enormous hug that she knew full well was coming. While the happy reunion was going on, Ascot tiptoed back in quietly and waited. His face was flushed a crimson that would have made Rayearth himself jealous.

Another door opened in the midst of this, and Ferio and Fuu walked in, arm in arm. And a short while later, Hikaru returned with Lantis; she was bubbling about something while he listened and smiled, that shy little smile that he reserved solely for her.

“What happened to you two?” Umi asked her fellow Magic Knights after the hugging and squealing had subsided. “We’ve never been separated like that before—what was up with that?”

“I fell into a forest. And I do mean fell,” Fuu winced at the memory. “So I just wandered around a bit, nursing my bruises, until I found a village. An old woman there helped me, but…” Her eyes clouded as she remembered how the woman had vanished just as Ferio had appeared to rescue her. “…she disappeared. I didn’t get her name or anything.” She shrugged, as though to brush it off. “Hikaru?”

“Remember where we landed that first time we came here? That’s where I hit the ground,” she also flinched. “We’ll call that an OUCH moment. And then I walked into a scene from Little Shop of Horrors—a plant tried to eat me. So I ran. And then I figured that someone would find me sooner or later, so I waited until Lantis found me and brought me back!” She looked up at him with a big smile, and a very faint pink colored his face in response. “What about you, Umi? And where did you get the clothes?”

Umi’s smile was strained. “I took a swim. Literally—dropped right into a lake. There was a little town nearby, so I went there. The village leader was a woman, and she hooked me up with some dry clothes. That’s why I’m wearing these.” She gestured towards blue and white clothes that definitely were not from their area of Earth. “While I was changing, Ascot showed up and was looking for me. And just like both of you, I wound up back here.” She frowned. “But that doesn’t explain why we weren’t together…or why Fyula didn’t catch us…or why we’re here in the first place.”

“I might be able to help with the first part,” Hikaru said hesitantly. “I saw Kagura.

“WHAT?” Umi whipped around in shock, inadvertently smacking Ascot in the face with her hair.

Fuu nodded. “I saw her too. Except…I don’t think it was really her.”

Hikaru shook her head. “I don’t think so either.” She turned to the native residents of Cephiro’s palace and began her explanation. “Our dorm—the building where we live and sleep and stuff—caught on fire, except it wasn’t really on fire. It turned out that it was an illusion. But they wouldn’t let us back into the building, so we went over to Takeshi’s room because he lives in a different building. He let us crash there because it was late. We went to sleep, and it was great for a while.”

“But…before all that…” Umi interjected, “I came back to our room to find Kagura gone. She’s missing. Furthermore, the room itself was completely trashed. Everything was ripped apart, and I do mean everything. And there was a message on the wall that said ‘Death to the Magic Knights.’ And that’s when the fire started, right in the middle of the room. And then…it was just like Hikaru said. But what happened next? I slept through most of it—I woke up and got down there just as the light hit, and then I was taking an unexpected dip in a lake.”

“I heard something hit the window—it woke me up. So I walked over and looked, and there was Kagura,” Hikaru picked the story back up where Umi had left it off. “I figured she was in trouble or had gotten locked out or had come back from wherever she was and found the dorm shut down and had come over to Takeshi’s to claim a spot on the floor.” She sighed and looked down at the floor. “Looking back, I guess instinct told me something was wrong, but I thought it was just the shock of the fire and everything else. But I went outside to get her.”

“I heard the door open and saw Hikaru leave,” Fuu added with a shrug. “Something didn’t seem right to me either. So I followed her to see what was up, and…well…” She looked back at Hikaru.

“She attacked me,” Hikaru said bluntly. “I tried to tell her what was going on, and she said that someone—Nala or something like that, the name started with an N—had done her job. And then she pulled a sword from nowhere and came at me with a sword. She was an amazing fighter, too…” One of Hikaru’s hands slid to her upper arm, feeling the hole in her sleeve and the wound underneath to mark where a throwing dagger had found its mark on a moving target.

Fuu took over the story-telling then. “Like I said, I was worried about Hikaru, so I grabbed a book—figured I could use it to hit something with if need be—and got down there just in time to see the fake Kagura take a swing at Hikaru. So…I threw the book at her—the Kagura look-alike, I mean. Not at Hikaru. And I nailed her right in the head.” Fuu paused to beam proudly.

Ferio grinned. “I’m proud of you.”

“And after that…well, we wound up here,” Fuu finished, blushing slightly at Ferio’s praise.

“Whoever that person was, she took Kagura—she told us so, point-blank, while she was taunting us about the fact that she was going to kill us,” Hikaru pointed out. “But she didn’t tell us why.”

“She did say something interesting, though,” Fuu tapped her chin thoughtfully as she tried to recall the exact exchange. “As I got down there, I heard Hikaru ask what they wanted with Kagura. And the fake said something about how our destiny had already been fulfilled, while Kagura’s was just beginning.”

“Geez, I missed all the excitement,” Umi sighed. “I hope Takeshi’s okay…”

There was a moment of silence as everyone pondered the development.

“Creator?” Hikaru asked, turning to the small being. “Why did you bring us here this time? And why were we separated? Why didn’t Fyula catch us?” There was no accusation or resentment in her voice—only genuine curiosity over an unusual state of affairs.

The white creature remained silent.

“Was it to protect us from…whoever that was?” she prodded.

Finally, the Creator spoke. “I did not bring you here. Another power brought you to this world.”

Everyone gaped openly.

Fuu recovered first. “But I thought the only other person with that power was the Pillar!”

“It is,” Creator replied. “Hence, the mystery.”

It took a minute for all the possible repercussions of that though to really sink in: whoever had brought them here had power akin to the Creator. If that person or being was an enemy…the results could be disastrous. The Magic Knights were powerful, and grew moreso with each new battle, but to fight someone on the level of the Creator…

That would be a suicidal battle.

“I will not leave you unguarded,” Clef stepped forward and raised his staff. “ACCEPT!”

This was familiar by now. Pillars of green wind, blue water, and red flames surrounded them each in accord, warping and solidifying into armor across their chests and shoulders, as well as wrapping around their hands to form the ovum-gems.

Presea held up her arms, and the pharle’s white translucent ribbons appeared at her hands, winding and twisting with her specialized magic before parting to reveal three swords—the Escudo-made swords of the Magic Knights, and the keys to awakening the mashin. They reached up to take their swords, which were then transformed into beams of light and sucked into the gems on their gloves.

Fuu immediately turned and summoned her magic to heal any remaining injuries from their less-than-graceful landings. Once this had all been accomplished, Caldina bounded forward and somehow managed to grab all three of the girls and pull them towards the door. “C’mon, girls! Let’s go get some rooms ready for ya!”

-o-


The palace was as amazing as ever, Fuu reflected. And as she gazed out an upper window across the landscape, she had to note that Cephiro itself had never looked lovelier. Going to that village and actually seeing the people enjoying that made it even better—these were the people they had fought to protect. It was hard-earned peace, which made it seem all the sweeter.

And to be back…to see Ferio again was wonderful. He’d been called to Clef’s study with a few others for some meeting—she assumed that they were discussing the impromptu return of the Magic Knights and trying to figure out what it meant. But it was all right. She would undoubtedly get to spend some time with him later.

Her parents had recently started making veiled comments as to her age—she was twenty-two, nearly ready to move out into the world and fully begin her life as an adult. Wasn’t it time that she found a nice young man and got married and settled down to start a family of her own? In fact, there had even been a few very suspicious get-togethers with family friends with sons of the appropriate age…

She was still trying to figure out how to deal with that—she hadn’t let them know that there was someone in her life. She had found the man she loved, and she knew without a doubt that he loved her in return. But how could she reasonably explain to them that he was from another world? Or that he was, in fact, the Crown Prince of that other word?

Part of her thought that she might actually be able to convince them. She wasn’t prone to making up wild stories or fairy tales or anything like that. She did have an imagination, but not to that extent. Based on that alone, her parents might be able to believe her.

The rest of her was pretty sure that they would think her stark-raving mad, call her stories of Cephiro and magic the rants of a lunatic, and lock her away as being completely out of her mind.

She had given thought to the matter, and really…well, if they hadn’t returned to Cephiro again, she might very well have considered seeking a suitable mate at home. Wasn’t that really the logic that had driven Ferio to accept the proposal of a marriage-of-state to seal an alliance with their neighboring country of Aldarba? It was amazing that things had worked out as well as they had.

And remembering that whole awful situation made Fuu think of the Aldarban Princess who had been Ferio’s intended. She made a mental note to ask Clef if they’d heard from Caliana recently. She would love to know that the Princess was doing well.

Smiling to herself, she pushed back from the window and continued walking down the arched corridor. In some ways, it was remarkable, how just being back in this place, within these walls, with these people could make her so happy. And she was sure that Umi and Hikaru felt the same way.

Thinking of them did make her think of Kagura, and her smile faded slightly. But she pushed that thought away. Just for right now, she wanted to just be happy.

Was it selfish? Yes.

Still, her mind again wandered back to Ferio. Their ride back to the palace atop the flying craft had been short—far too short for her tastes, really—but she had noticed something that was a bit different from previous visits. There was something new in the way he was looking at her and watching her that told her there was something specific on his mind...

And moreso, she found herself looking at the ring on the ring finger of her left hand, emblazoned with Cephirean runes that signified a promise tantamount to an engagement and intention, and recalling her parents’ wish that she settle down…

ACK! she thought, feeling her face flush crimson. No! Bad Fuu! I was raised better than that!

Still, some little part of her tingled with excitement at the thought of…it.

She was in a very good mood now.

Humming to herself, she actually rose up on her tiptoes and spun herself around with her arms out in a little dance move (after casually checking to make sure that no one was around to see her) before returning to a normal walk and walking around a corner to head back towards their rooms…

Something hit her in the forehead, right between the eyes.

It smarted enough to make her close her eyes in surprise and stumble backwards a step, but only for a moment before she had the strangest sensation of something like a thread being run between her eyes and pulling something out through her forehead.

There was a flash of pain, and Fuu knew nothing more of what had happened to her—she hadn’t even seen who or what had befallen her. And she certainly didn’t hear the cry of alarm some time later when Presea found her unconscious and unresponsive in a heap on the hallway floor.

-o-


“I can’t believe it!”

The girl turned from the viewing pool to look at her newly-returned comrade with a raised eyebrow. “Malia, please calm down. You’re being overdramatic over—“

“They vanished!” the one called Malia replied, stomping around the room. “Gone! Disappeared! There was just that light, and then POOF! Bye bye birdie.” She growled and stopped to lean against the wall, arms folded across her chest in a full-blown pout. “I was just about to finish the one off.”

“That’s enough.” The first girl sighed and turned away from the viewing pool to face her friend full-on. “Don’t worry—you will have another chance at them. And I have it on good authority that there are far better ways to deal with them than simple illusions.”

“Did…He tell you that?”

“Yes. He did. And He is looking forward to the games as much as we are,” she paused and smirked with no little bloodlust. Then her expression shifted to more annoyance. “Where is Nairi, anyway?” At the blank look, she sighed and threaded one hand through white air in a gesture of annoyance. “I think we need to put her on a leash.”

“Oh, surely that won’t be necessary, Cristal.”

Malia turned a golden glare on the newest arrival, who was standing in the doorway and smirking with all the smugness in the world. “How nice of you to put in an appearance.”

Cristal turned back to the viewing pool. “Where have you been?”

“I was talking with Him,” she replied, walking into the room. “Things are proceeding exactly as planned—He is quite pleased. The next phase will begin soon.”

“Exactly as planned?” Malia sputtered. “In case you missed it, it didn’t go as planned—they got away. I was this close to finishing off the Knight of Fire,” she held up two fingers with a miniscule amount of space between them, “when that damn light snatched them away.”

“The Summons of Cephiro,” Cristal intoned.

“Yes,” Nairi’s smirk grew wider. “And that, my dear ladies, is exactly as He planned.”

For a moment, it was silent.

Then Cristal spoke. “Why were we not told?”

“It was on a need-to-know basis. And He did not feel we needed to know at the time.”

Now it was Malia who put the question out. “What else are we not being told?”

Nairi smiled. “Time, my friend. Give it time—the cards are stacked in our favor.” She crossed the room to stand at Cristal’s side; Malia followed to join them both at the viewing pool’s edge. “Now…we just have to deal with those three lost lambs, and then the real fun begins…” she reached down and dragged a gloved finger across the water’s surface, “…when the Promised awakens.”

The water began to glow; the light reflected off the large brown jewel on the back of Nairi’s glove. And a picture appeared in the water—two young women, one chained and bound, the other simply floating…but both in the darkness.

-o-


It was…dark. So very dark…and cold.

Kagura didn’t know where she was or how she had gotten there. All she knew was that she felt strange. Everything was so fuzzy and disjointed. She was struggling to piece together fragments of memories to figure out what had happened to her.

She remembered stopping and talking to the girls who lived down the hall on her way back to her own room—but she couldn’t remember their names, even though she knew they were good friends, and she couldn’t remember what they had talked about.

She remembered opening the door and walking in and turning on the light—but she didn’t remember anything beyond that, not even setting her bag down or taking off her jacket.

And she remembered first waking up in this place, finding herself in this cold, dark room with her wrists bound over her head by chains that kept her fast to the wall—but she knew nothing of how she had come here or who had brought her here or what, if anything, she knew of her purpose here.

How long had she been chained to this wall? It felt like eternities, but she had no real concept of time in this place. There were no windows to let her see the sun rise and set. It might have been a week; it might have been a day or two. She did not know, and she was too disoriented to think about it properly. She vaguely recalled someone holding something to her mouth—she had tasted water, felt the cool liquid on her dry tongue, and gulped it down greedily without a thought for the consequences.

And so she had continued to drift in a strange stage, somewhere between consciousness and slumber. There were visions, dreams, and images of people she knew and people she had known, all mingling together and doing the most peculiar things. How very strange…

She heard a door open nearby, and a spray of light fell across half-open eyes that had grown far too accustomed to the darkness. Kagura heard a slight cry tear from her throat as she squeezed her eyes shut to try and block it out.

Heavy footsteps crossed the room; there was the soft rustle of cloth, and then fingers closed around her chin to lift it. She could feel the scrutiny of someone’s eyes on her face, and she wondered what they saw. She did not open her eyes to see who it was.

A male voice spoke, the first sign of life she’d seen since being thrown in here. But something about the slimy-smooth tone sent shivers down her spine, leaving her to wonder if she really was better off alone in the darkness.

“It’s time to wake up, Lady Kagura.”

She hesitated…and then let her eyes slip open ever so slightly. “Who…are you?”

The man—he was very blonde, she noticed, and wearing coal-black armor—smirked and bobbed his head in a bow. His eyes were glittering in a way that made her long for the lonely darkness again. And he spoke again to introduce himself.

“I am Aeric.”



OMAKE
Responding to the hate-mail I got for not updating this for so long


Umi was having a conniption, pacing back and forth around her room. Hikaru sat on the bed with Mokona in her lap, watching the pacing; her head swiveled back and forth to follow the movements for a while before she got dizzy and decided not to watch anymore. Instead, she spoke up. “Umi, what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Umi stopped and wheeled on her friend. “WHAT’S WRONG?? Kagura’s missing, we have no idea why we’re back in Cephiro—but it might involve facing an enemy that has the power of the Creator, my back still hurts from that damn landing, and now Fuu’s in a coma because of God only knows what!” She let out a huff and threaded one hand through her hair in exasperation. “God, this is almost as bad as waiting for Candyland to stop sucking at life and remember to update this fic!”

Hikaru jumped to her feet (sending Mokona tumbling to the floor with a loud puu of protest) and thrust one finger into the air in an almost victory-like pose. “Let’s complain about it!”



Yes, I know I suck at life and fail at existing and such. Omake inspired by a YouTube series called Yugioh: The Abridged Series. And remember that I’m kidding—I do feel bad about not updating in so long, but some of the emails I got regarding it were kinda…yeesh…I’m very glad you all care so much, but a few were a little bit scary o.o

NEXT TIME: Who summoned them to Cephiro? Who is responsible for these new attacks? Who are these mysterious girls? Where’s Kagura? Why won’t Fuu wake up? Will I ever stop asking questions that I already know the answer to? Plus, some old faces make new appearances…in a chapter that I swear won’t take me a year to get out next time, I promise :(