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01 May 2007 @ 04:46 pm
Song of the Wind, ch. 4 (MKR)  
Title: Song of the Wind
Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure
Publish Date: 5/1/2007
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*



It was a frantic group that huddled around the bed where Fuu lay unconscious.

“I can’t believe it,” Umi sighed from her perch on the edge of the bed. “We’re barely back ten minutes, and already something’s happened.” She threaded her fingers through her hair. “What’s next?”

Presea had been heading towards her workshop not long before, only to stumble across the prone form of Windam’s Knight on the floor in the corridor. At first, she had wondered if Fuu had simply fallen or tripped. But when she found the girl to be unconscious and unresponsive, she had raised the alarm.

In short order, Fuu had been whisked away from the hall and tucked into bed to await further examination. Clef had immediately set about trying to find some sort of reason behind her state by magical means. If they could find out what had left her in this strange comatose state, it might make it easier to figure out how to wake her up.

Throughout the entire proceedings, she had not moved. Not so much as an eyelash twitch.

-o-


With a groan, Fuu sat up and put one hand to her forehead. “Ouch…what was that?” she groaned before looking around and finding herself on the floor in a palace corridor. She remembered walking around the corner and getting nailed between the eyes…

What in the world had hit her? Whatever it was, it had really knocked the wind out of her!

Shrugging it off as best she could, she climbed to her feet and haphazardly dusted herself off. It seemed that nobody had found her there. That was probably for the best—it wouldn’t do to have everyone worrying over nothing. After all, she was absolutely fine, so far as she could tell.

A door opened somewhere behind her, followed by pounding footsteps. Fuu turned to see Caldina sprinting out of a nearby room, and she smiled. “Caldina, do you know…” The question trailed off as the Chizetan dancer raced right past her without so much as a nod to acknowledge her presence.

Fuu stared. That was NOT like Caldina at all. Caldina was more the type who would try to hug the life out of her in lieu of a greeting before hearing what she had to say. For the Chizetan dancer to outright ignore her…well, it seemed tantamount to a sign of the Apocalypse.

Bewildered, Fuu started walking to follow Caldina. She was almost to the room her friend had disappeared into when the door burst open and Caldina sprinted back out, this time bearing a couple of jars in her arms. Fuu jumped to the side and narrowly managed to avoid getting run over. Again, not so much as hello or a nod of acknowledgement.

She stood in the middle of the hallway and stared at Caldina’s retreating back. There had to be an explanation. There just had to be…but she didn’t have the faintest idea of what exactly that explanation might be. What in the world was going on here?

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?”

Fuu whirled at the unexpected voice…and her jaw dropped.

-o-


“It’s magic,” Clef affirmed what all of them more or less already knew. But still, to have it made official sent a fresh chill through everyone. A magical attack within the protections of Cephiro’s palace? That spoke of great power, and great power probably meant great danger and great trouble.

“I don’t understand,” Ferio said. “What exactly has happened to her?”

“If I had to hazard a guess…” Lantis replied quietly, “…it seems that she is not in there.”

“Separated?” Clef suggested.

“That is my guess.”

“…like, the lights are on but nobody’s home?” Hikaru asked.

Everyone stared blankly.

Umi took charge. “If she’s not ‘in there,’ as you put it, then where is she?”

Clef turned an eye on the unconscious form on the bed. “That…I don’t know.”

-o-


Fuu’s expression was stunned for a moment before it brightened. “Sachi!”

Sure enough, she found herself staring at Sachi, Hikaru’s ancestor and predecessor as the Knight of Rayearth. She looked exactly as Fuu remembered her—red shirt, dark pants, short black hair, and crimson eyes that were an exact match to Hikaru’s.

“Fuu? I thought that was you!” Sachi gaped, her eyes wide and startled; she didn’t look displeased necessarily, but rather…stunned. “What in the name of the Pillar are you doing here?”

“I have no idea!” Fuu replied in a rush. “We came here after Kagura vanished, and already things are going crazy! I don’t know what we’re doing back in Cephiro, but I imagine it means trouble.”

“…that’s not quite what I meant.”

“Eh?” Fuu was obviously confused.

“I would like to know what you’re doing in Cephiro, and I agree that it probably means there’s danger on the horizon,” the former Knight of Rayearth frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “But…did something happen to you?”

“…a fake Kagura showed up and tried to kill Hikaru,” Fuu recalled slowly. “And then just a few minutes ago, something nailed me right between the eyes. I guess it knocked me out—“

Sachi cut her off abruptly. “Sweetie, this is the Spirit Plane.” At Fuu’s bewildered look, she explained further. “There are three major planes of existence—by that, I mean that these are the three planes where most humans wind up. There are other planes, though—Umi sealed Xander into one such plane. But anyway, three major planes. There’s the Here, which is the world of the living. There’s the Hereafter—that’s where the dead go to reach their just rewards. Many people think of Heaven and Hell? That’s where they are. But the last one is the Realm of Spirits. It exists between the Here and the Hereafter.” As comprehension dawned on her young friend’s face, she clarified a bit further. “We’re standing in realm where ghosts walk.”

“But—but I can’t be a ghost!” Fuu actually sputtered—a rare display for her. “I’m still alive!” Fuu-fledged panic had descended, and the normally-calm Knight was starting to freak out.

Sachi reached out suddenly and took hold of Fuu's shoulders. “…you’re not dead,” she said slowly. “You’re still connected to your body. You’ve just been separated.” Somehow, she didn’t look too much happier for this revelation.

“That’s why no one can see me…” Fuu realized, remembering the way Caldina had sprinted past her without a word or a glance. “I’m a ghost…” Her face fell at the idea.

“Come with me,” Sachi ordered, dropping her hands from Fuu’s shoulders and grabbing her arm to pull her along. “We’re going to find the others. I don’t like this at all.”

Fuu allowed herself to be escorted along, not quite sure what was going on. Whatever it was, it had the former Fire Knight quite alarmed—a far cry from the calm, cheerful person she had met after their final showdown with Xander. But wait… “The others?” she asked, just as another form came into view, this one wearing green and black.

“Michiko!” Sachi called. “We’ve got trouble.”

“What did Amaya do now?” Michiko replied as she came closer. Something about the response gave one the impression that it was an automatic reply. But when she saw Fuu, she reacted much as Sachi had: wide-eyed, open-mouthed shock. “Fuu? What in the world…?”

Sachi shook her head in response. “No idea. She’s not dead—the thread is still there. But that leaves the question of who separated them. And why.”

At last, Michiko seemed to notice that Fuu had absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what was going on. She smiled at her younger counterpart. “To separate a spirit or soul from a body without killing that body requires a great deal of magic and knowledge. It’s the sort of spell that can only be acquired through years of studying, hard work, training, and meditation. To be honest…it’s nearly impossible to do, though there are those few who know how to do it. The fact that you’re here like this? Well…it’s bad. You’re smart and reasonable, so I won’t mince words with you. It’s extremely bad. But the question really is why?” Michiko tapped her chin thoughtfully. “What purpose would anyone have for doing this to you?”

“Why would there even be such a spell in existence?” Fuu asked.

“The thing is that most people who know the spell—and there are precious few of them—tend to use it on themselves, rather than on other people. By going into the Spirit Realm in such a manner, they hope to find wisdom, enlightenment, that sort of thing. They may have the opportunity to cross paths with great masters who have already passed on…you never know who you’ll meet over here,” Michiko explained. “But it’s also a good way to temporarily disable a person for whatever reason. Cast them out of their body, and then move the body. While the displaced, disoriented spirit searches for the body, you can accomplish many things. It’s a prime example of Old Magic.”

Before Fuu could ask what Old Magic was, Sachi stepped in. “Where’s Amaya?”

“I think she was gravitating towards the library,” Michiko replied dryly. “Something about being bored. Which means she could be up to just about anything.” She rolled her eyes.

As they headed off to find her, Michiko went on with her explanations. “I assume that Sachi told you that this is the Ghost’s Path, yes? Good. Right now, you’re wandering between the living and the dead. And as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, no one can see you. It’s like a veil, sort of. A curtain. It separates the planes. On one side, there’s the Hereafter. On the other, there’s the Here. We’re in a very unique position. Those who walk the Here and the Hereafter cannot touch the veil or move it. Only we can, as those who walk this plane. That’s how ghosts appear, actually. You’re invisible as long as you’re behind the curtain. Move it aside, and there you are.”

By now, they were nearing the library; one of the doors was already opened, which negated the need for Fuu to ask about such a thing. As the approached, Sachi spoke up. “I also think it fair to warn you that there are occasionally side effects for those who have wandered into the Spirit’s Realm.”

“…every time you mention this plane, you call it something different,” Fuu observed dryly.

“It is known by many names.”

“But what kind of side effects are there?”

“If you have any of them, you’ll know,” was the careful reply as they entered the library. Sure enough, Amaya was reclining in a large chair, an enormous book open in her hands.

Selece’s first Knight looked up and beamed when she saw who was there. “Fuu!” she cheered, leaping from her chair (and dropping the book without a care for it) to bound over and wrap the girl up in a huge hug. “What’re you doing here?”

“Have you picked up any signs of trouble lately?” Sachi asked firmly.

“Trouble? Like what?”

“Like…well, like Xander-sized trouble.”

Amaya’s expression immediately grew somber. “No, I haven’t. Why?”

“Because,” Michiko replied, “something’s happening. Fuu’s here, but alive.”

That seemed to strike a chord, and Amaya actually frowned. “Let’s get you back to your body as of an hour ago. This is really, really bad.” It was an echo of an earlier discussion, and it drove the point home that whatever was happening was not good.

And for the second time, Fuu found herself being swept away towards some unknown destination.

As they were walking, a thought occurred to Fuu. “Wait…if this is where people go when they die, did Umi come here after she…beat Xander?” It was not something they discussed often, how Umi had ended her own life to seal their foe away.

“No,” Amaya shook her head. “Umi had regrets and fears, but nothing strong enough to keep her bound to walk as a ghost. She saw the Hereafter, and would have gone there if Sachi hadn’t been waiting to catch her and bring her spirit back to her body, so we could revive her in accordance with the pact.”

Fuu remembered Umi’s words upon waking up from that ordeal…

Anyone who had looked upon Umi in that moment would’ve seen the tears running freely down her face, and the strange, faraway look in her eyes, as though she was focusing on some distant point, a star that no one else could see.

“Umi…what happened?” Fuu asked, pulling back from the hug and shaking her friend’s shoulders desperately. “Are you okay? Can you even hear me?”

After a moment, Umi spoke softly, her voice clear and distant. “I saw it…beautiful…” Her head lulled against Hikaru’s shoulder, and she sighed. “So beautiful…” No one dared ask what it was that she had seen that was so breathtaking.


She nodded. “So what kept you here?”

“We made a promise,” Michiko told her as they approached the door to the bedroom Fuu had been assigned to use during her stay in the palace; this was the logical place for them to have taken her unconscious body. But Fuu was stunned as they pulled her straight through the door.

Sure enough, there was a crowd of people clustered around the bed. They were all buzzing and frantic over the person in the bed…

Fuu herself.

Amaya grinned. “I think I’m going to make trouble!” she proclaimed proudly as she moved over to stand behind Umi. The smirk on her face was no less than evil.

“Watch,” Sachi instructed with an indulgent smile. “This probably isn’t the best time to pull this kind of a stunt, but she’s going to push the veil aside and become visible to the human eye.”

Fuu watched closely. And as she watched, something changed. She was hard-pressed to say exactly what, but something shifted, and she realized that Amaya was now visible to the eyes of the living. Someone just needed to turn around and see her…

Umi seemed to sense a presence behind her; she turned and let out a surprised shriek when she saw who was standing behind her. “Amaya!” The room exploded then as everyone gaped at the new arrival. Umi shook her head and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I thought I’d pop over and see what was going on,” Amaya cheered with her usual smile. “Oh, and we brought Fuu back—she’s perfectly fine, I promise.” She glanced over at her companions.

“Just focus,” Michiko whispered. “Imagine a curtain around you. Now imagine pushing it aside and stepping past it into the light.” Fuu nodded and closed her eyes, trying to do as she was told. A veil…there was a veil keeping her hidden…shove it out of the way…

There was a loud gasp, and Fuu realized that she had done it. She opened her eyes and looked around at the wide-eyed stares and listened to the cries of horror. A glance down at herself proved that she was quite transparent, which might have been part of the reason behind the reaction. Ferio actually moved close enough to reach out and try to touch her…only to have his hand pass right through her shoulder. The look of horror on his face at that moment was indescribable, and he stumbled backwards a few steps.

“See?” Amaya said. “She’s fine! She just got a little lost, that’s all. But we brought her home.”

Meanwhile, Fuu had sidestepped everyone else to stand beside the bed and look down at herself. “Why is it that whenever we come to Cephiro, I somehow wind up bedridden?” she mused. “So how do I…go home?” She gestured towards her body—goodness, that was uncanny! “Just…jump?”

Michiko opened her mouth to reply, but Amaya beat her to it and cut her off. “Pretty much!” She got a hard-edged glare in response, and chuckled nervously.

Feeling extremely awkward as everyone looked on, she leaned down and put her hands on her own shoulders. She was only mildly startled, though, when her hands literally sank right into her. Taking a deep breath, she just let herself fall forward…

What followed was the strangest sensation of twisting and turning and writhing, accompanied by a feeling of floating in water, with the pressure on top of her and the growing freedom of movement around her. She closed her eyes…

And when she opened them again, it was her body’s eyes that opened. She moved her arms experimentally, and had no difficulties doing so. She sat up—no problem there either, save for the weariness that clung to every limb. Overall, she seemed to be just fine…until Hikaru pounced on her with a hug. Then there was a little bit of pain. But she smiled indulgently and returned the gesture.

“What did all of that mean, exactly?” Umi asked over the sighs of relief and exclamations of joy. “What would be the point of removing her life that? Why not just kill her?” The question was really the obvious one to ask, but it was still not a query that any of them really wanted to think about.

“For all we know,” Presea chimed, “it could just be a vain display of power.”

“If there was a reason,” Michiko added with her usual practicality and the reasoning that was the trademark of Windam’s Knights, “I’m sure it will be reveal to us in due time.”

“Do you feel all right, Fuu?” Ferio asked softly. He had moved to sit at her beside, and was holding one of her hands in both of his own.

She took a quick stock of herself. “Something feels a little strange…I’m probably just tired from getting my soul sucked out through my forehead,” she said with a smile. It was true, though—something did feel very odd, but she couldn’t place what it was. She remembered Sachi’s ambiguous warning about side-effects from spending time on the Ghost’s Path, and wondered if that had something to do with it.

“If you have any of them, you’ll know.” That’s what Sachi had said.

She would just have to wait and see.

It didn’t take too long to relate the entirety of her experience in the Spirit Realm—not a lot had happened there, really. When she was finished, there was finally time for a happy reunion for the original Magic Knights (Amaya, Michiko, and Sachi) and their friends and successors.

Only Clef remained quiet and withdrawn at that point. All things considered, this wasn’t really too strange, though—knowing him, he would be trying to find a source for the magic that had all but killed Fuu. And on a purely personal note…everything that had happened between Clef and Amaya all those years ago…he had plenty of reason to be so cold.

Amaya had noticed it as well, Umi noted. She kept stealing secretive glances at the Master Mage, then averting her eyes sadly and returning her attention to whatever topic was at hand. The whole situation was so sad, really...but at the same time, in a strange little way, it almost seemed like things had needed to be the way they were. Amaya had to die to seal Xander. She had to make the wish to save her family to create the lineage for the one who would take her place when Xander broke free—Umi.

But that didn’t make things any happier.

“There’s nothing,” Clef said suddenly. At the questioning looks he received, he elaborated. “There’s no presence in Cephiro that could be responsible for what happened to Fuu. I can’t sense a magical presence powerful enough. So either whoever it was has found a way to hide itself—which is theoretically possible—or it’s no longer in Cephiro.”

Lafarga frowned. “Would there be time?”

“With the use of magic? I think it’s quite possible,” Lantis replied.

“So whatever’s responsible for this…is most likely outside Cephiro’s borders?” Presea mulled; the idea was alarming. “Could one of our allies have turned coat?”

“It is a possibility,” Lantis affirmed. “A distant one, but a possibility nonetheless. But I think it more likely that this person or being is hiding somewhere without anyone’s knowledge.”

Fuu frowned and looked towards the window. “In some ways…that’s almost more frightening.”

-o-


This whole situation just kept getting weirder and weirder, Kagura thought. But at the moment, she wasn’t sure she could complain too much. Things had improved in many ways since that cell door had opened and she had been allowed back out of the darkness.

That man—Aeric, he had called himself. She felt like she should know who he was somehow. And she also felt as though knowing him was not a good thing. He was dangerous…but she couldn’t remember why she thought such things or how she might know them.

Actually, it seemed like a lot of her memories were feeling very jumbled and blurred…

So here she was, trying to sort out her thoughts as she soaked in a bath, of all things. She had been escorted here and told to wash up before being left to her own devices. After ascertaining that there wasn’t a piranha or anything in the bathwater, she decided to take the plunge (as it were). However long she had spent in that prison cell had left her feeling extremely grungy.

Kagura hated being dirty like that. She was fastidious to a fault.

It was remarkable, how the hot water relaxed her and erased all traces of weariness from sore muscles and aches from tense joints. She was actually starting to feel human again, she thought that to be no small feat, given the collective circumstances.

Even though she couldn’t seem to focus her thoughts on any specific idea. She was trying to remember exactly what had happened to her, how she had come to this place, but the thoughts were flowing away from her like water running through her fingers.

Water.

Water made her think of Umi.

For one moment, her longtime friend’s face was crystal clear in her head, like a photograph.

And then it was gone, torn away from her very mind.

What was going on?

Now alarmed, she rose from the water. There were towels sitting on a table beside the bath. Quickly, she wrapped herself in a towel and used another to twist her long brown hair up. She felt better, but she was still very apprehensive about this whole situation.

There was a click to her left, and she whirled around in a panic, both hands clutching protectively at the top of the towel she had wrapped around her torso. There was no one else in the room, but a pile of what seemed to be cloth now sat just inside the door. A closer examination proved the heap to be clothes. They seemed about the right size for her—nothing fancy or extravagant.

And black—all in black.

It was unnerving, though, that someone had brought these without her noticing. Was she being watched? The idea made her shudder….but she needed to get dressed. She certainly couldn’t just walk around in a towel! She would just have to be creative.

It took a bit of careful maneuvering of towel and clothes, but finally she dropped the towel and straightened her clothing into a presentable state before taking full stock of her new ensemble. It was remarkably similar to a few things that lived in her own wardrobe at home. Black pants were a fashion staple, in her humblest of opinions, and the black crewneck sweater was nice and simple.

But…why black?

Another click made her jump again—this time, it announced the arrival of a tray of…well, she was fairly sure it was food, though it was like nothing she had ever seen. It certainly smelled wonderful, though…and her stomach chose that moment to speak up and remind her that she was very hungry…

Still she hesitated. She didn’t know where she was or whose hands had prepared this. Her earlier stay in that godforsaken prison cell with her hands chained to the cold wall above her head had left her distrustful of this whole place.

There was a spasm of pain, straight across her forehead, like the worst imaginable migraine. She cried out against it and recoiled. But it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.

Kagura straightened back up and looked at the tray.

Of course there wasn’t anything wrong with the food. She was going to be just fine. There was no real danger here. It was all in her head. If anything, she should be grateful to them for bringing here.

She sat before the tray, lifted the spoon sitting on it, and ate her fill.

Just as she was finishing, the door opened. This time, there was a person there, and not just a click to announce an invisible arrival. She looked up, and saw Aeric standing there. “Yes?”

“Please come with me,” he bowed.

She rose and followed him down a long corridor to a large room with a hardwood floor. Mirrors made up one entire wall, while the other walls were lined with racks and shelves bearing various weapons. It seemed to be a practice salon or dojo of some kind.

Aeric strolled to the far end of the room, his black armor making surprisingly little noise as he walked. He stopped in front of a rack; there was a metallic clank before he turned around, hefting a large broadsword. “Ah, but milady is unarmed,” he said smoothly, lowering his blade. “And a warrior should never be without armor.”

Five people appeared seemingly from nowhere, and she nearly jumped in surprise. She noticed that they had dark gray skin and wore long hoods of an even deeper charcoal color…but they had no faces. Or rather, they had no facial features.

Her body moved without her permission; she lifted her arms straight out at her sides and remained motionless as the faceless beings moved around her. They were holding something…

Kagura’s mind was screaming while her outward façade was calm. Why wasn’t she fighting? She had to get away from these people—Aeric was somehow tied to what had happened in Cephiro, wasn’t he? That had to be why she knew him. So maybe she was in Cephiro! If she could make a break for it somehow and get to the Palace—she would be safe there with Clef and Presea and—

PAIN.

…she was fine. There was nothing to be afraid of.

And so she stood still as the five faceless ones flocked around her. Two reached around her to fasten armor in place—two shoulder-pieces and a breastplate. Another two fastened wrist-guards onto her forearms, and the final one slipped something onto her left hand. She moved her hand experimentally; it felt like some sort of fingerless glove.

As they moved away, another approached her, bearing something long and thin wrapped in a shiny black cloth. When she took it, however, she noted that it was not resting in the person’s hands, but rather seemed to be floating just above his…her…its open palms. She unwrapped the cloth—which proved to be black silk—and let it fall to the floor at her feet with a mere whisper of sound. She was left holding a sword of her own: a long sword, rather similar to one of her fencing rapiers.

Giving Aeric a wary look, Kagura turned to examine her reflection in the mirror. Everything she had been adorned with was so…bland. Her clothing was plain black. But the armor, the sword-hilt…they were colorless. And…was that a stone on her new glove?

It was.

A colorless ovum-gem.

She turned to Aeric. “This is—“

But she was cut off when he charged.

-o-


Fuu’s strange feeling had given way to something far more profound: a strange vision.

Namely, she was seeing something bizarre. Every time she looked at one of her friends, she saw something around them. It was sort of like a faint halo of colored light that outlined their entire bodies. Hikaru’s was red, Umi’s was blue, Clef’s was white, Presea’s was orange, Caldina’s was pink…it was unbelievable, and no little frightening.

After a moment or two of sitting and watching everyone talk, seemingly ignorant of whatever it was that surrounded them, she spoke up. “Sachi? You mentioned side effects…?” She let the thought trail off, knowing that the question would be understood.

Sachi smiled knowingly. “What do you see?”

“There’s a glow—like a halo. Everyone has one,” she tried to explain, but found herself falling short of words to adequately describe the strange sight before her.

Still, she was relieved when Sachi nodded. “I thought you might. That glow you’re seeing is the energy of a person’s life-force, which is similar to spirit. If you see that glow around a person, it means they’re living. You’ll notice that Michiko and Amaya and I don’t have it, yes?”

Fuu took a look…and realized that she was right. Umi and Amaya were standing side by side, but while Umi was surrounded by that faint blue glow, Amaya looked completely ordinary. “You’re right…you three don’t have it.”

“That’s because we’re dead, sweetie.”

“Is there any possible use for such a sight?” Fuu asked.

“You might very well find a use, little one,” Michiko said with a smile, using the same nickname she had addressed Fuu by upon their first meeting. “You never know.”

-o-


Kagura had been Umi’s match on the fencing team when they were in school. She was definitely no slouch with a blade. And at Aeric’s sudden attack, all of her years of practice and experience came rushing back to her as instinct kicked in. Without even having to think about it, she raised her new sword to counter his attack. She leapt back and returned with a charge of her own.

What followed was not a long duel. It was, however, extremely active. Both participants were going at it full force. For Kagura, it was an opportunity to finally release some of her tension and fear over her situation. And what better way to blow off steam than to beat the crap out of a willing victim?

Finally, she dropped down to the floor and swung her leg around. She missed her aim slightly, though; she only caught him in the back of one knee, falling short of her goal of hitting both and knocking him off his feet. As a result, he stumbled backwards—he wasn’t out, but he was in a prone position.

And she pounced. She put her hands on the floor and pushed herself up to drive her foot right into his stomach. As he doubled over, she jumped up, raised an arm, and brought it down as hard as she could across his back and shoulders. It was enough to send him crashing face-down to the floor. It was a good few seconds before he rolled over and sat up to look at her.

Kagura stepped back and looked down at him with narrowed eyes; she somehow seemed barely out of breath for such a fight. “I win.”

He seemed surprisingly pleased. “So you have.” He rose and nonchalantly brushed himself off.

Something else was happening, though.

Her sword was glowing. As she watched, the hilt changed. It shifted and remolded itself before her very eyes, becoming more ornate and more decorative. When the glow faded, the hilt was definitely a lot fancier than what it had been before her duel with Aeric. She examined it carefully, and found that one detail really jumped out at her: there were two decorated discs on the hilt now. The first was right beneath the blade, and seemed to be carved with a design like a sun. The other was on the end of the handle, and bore the design of a crescent moon.

And it was still colorless.

She didn’t have enough time to examine it further, though—in a flash of light, her sword was sucked into the gem on her hand. Kagura stared at it for a moment before turning her gaze back to Aeric. “These are the marks of a Magic Knight,” she said, bewildered.

Aeric did not comment on that, but gestured towards another door opposite the one they had entered through. “You are in good form, milady. Please come this way.” He led her though that door and down another corridor to yet another large room.

This one was a large cave-like room with some kind of stone pillar or well in the middle of it. And beside that was a young woman, wearing armor almost exactly like her own, save for the color. Where Kagura’s was void of hue, this woman’s was gray. Furthermore, this woman’s hair was a snowy-white, and spilled down her back in a long ponytail.

The woman turned, and Kagura realized belatedly that, in spite of the stranger’s hair-color, they had to be nearly the same age—this woman couldn’t possibly be any older than her! While Kagura stared dumbfounded, the girl smiled and crossed the room. “Kagura, is it? I am Cristal. Welcome.”

Kagura stayed perfectly still as Cristal walked to her and embraced her. “Welcome, sister.”