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19 May 2008 @ 07:04 am
Song of the Wind, ch. 9 (MKR)  
Title: Song of the Wind
Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure
Word Count: 5966
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*



It was odd to think that a ghost could be as solid as a human. But Amaya, startling enough, was. She was as corpeal as any material item. But she was not responding, and not “awake.” Since the man, borne of that strange smoke, had appeared and gone through her, she had not answered to anything. Her form felt solid, but it was lingering in a strange state of semi-transparency.

Perhaps the creepiest part of the whole thing were her eyes. Where a normal person in such a state would be unconscious and asleep, Amaya was definitely not conscious, or whatever you would call this state in a spirit, but her eyes were not closed. They were half-lidded, glazed, and stared forward unseeing. There was no light at all in those blue eyes.

She looked dead, for lack of a better (or less ironic) word.

“What exactly does this mean?” Fuu asked quietly. She was standing in the doorway with Michiko beside her, watching the scene. There wasn’t a great deal to watch, really; the only movement was Umi, sitting on the edge of the bed and paging through a book. Somehow, Fuu doubted that Umi was actually reading a word of it.

“She’s in a state of suspended animation, I suppose is the easiest way to put it,” Michiko said. “The spell was aimed at her, very specifically. There’s no question about that.” Her tone hardened. “Your enemy is smart, brightling. Very, very smart. He knew exactly what he was doing and who he was targeting. This was no mistake. He knew perfectly well that we would not let Umi open that box. He knew that Amaya would be the one to do it. That’s why the package was addressed to her in the first place.”

Her eyes were glittering in a way that Fuu had not seen before; the fury, barely contained beneath her usual calm, seemed very out of place for the woman. “And he attacked her as she tried to protect Umi. Like it was some kind of joke to him.”

Fuu was silent a moment before she risked a question. “Michiko…that man. Who was it?”

There was no verbal reply to her question, but Michiko’s expression changed ever so slightly, just enough to betray that she knew something, and whatever that something was, she definitely did not want to share it.

Now secure that she was on the right track, Fuu turned to face her predecessor fully. “Michiko, you say that you know Amaya was the specific target. It has to be because of the man from the smoke. He was someone Amaya knew, wasn’t he?” She thought desperately, trying to remember. “He was wearing old Japanese clothes—that’s from Earth. And he called himself her husband. They don’t use that word in Cephiro—Lantis didn’t know what the word marriage meant. And even if they did, Amaya and Clef were together. That man sounded like someone from Earth, which means he has to be someone from Amaya’s past. Now who was he, Michiko?”

Michiko was silent for a moment longer. Then she turned to look at Fuu with a surprisingly tired expression. “…I do know who the man was. Or rather, I can make a very educated guess, and I suspect that I would be right. But I won’t tell you that…” She glanced down at the floor. “I won’t tell you because it’s not my story to tell, Fuu.”

Fuu said nothing, sensing that Michiko wasn’t done yet.

“Amaya’s story is her own,” Michiko went on. “She told us about her life on Earth once, after we had settled in Cephiro. And she never spoke of it again. But what happened to her…she was very badly hurt. I don’t think she fully trusted us even after we had accomplished our mission. It was a long time. The cheerful Amaya you all know so well was a long time in making.”

Her expression continued to speak volumes, and again Fuu decided to take a risk and ask a potentially dangerous question. “Michiko…I’d guess that you’re no stranger to rough lives either, are you?”

To her surprise, Michiko chuckled. “None of us had happy lives on Earth, brightling. And we all know each other’s stories. But at the end of the day, they are our stories to share and no one else’s. I know it, but I will not tell it.” She glanced at Fuu, rather hopefully. “You understand?”

Fuu smiled and nodded. “Of course I do. I should have thought of it myself.” She looked back to Amaya. “So what should we do? How do we pull her out of this? I imagine that normal medical procedures wouldn’t work, given that she’s…well…dead.”

“I—“ Michiko started to speak, but she was cut off.

“I’ll wake her up,” Umi said suddenly, interrupting their conversation. She was on her feet and standing beside Amaya’s bed, a determined look on her face. “I’m going to wake Amaya up.”

“Umi, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Sachi’s voice, unusually high-pitched and nervous, came from behind the two Knights of Windam in the doorway. She and Hikaru had joined them there, apparently just in time to hear Umi’s words.

“Well, we can’t just stand here,” Umi protested. “She and I are connected. We always have been, both by blood and by our mashin. Besides, she’s like this because of me!” One hand ran through her bangs in a classic gesture that belied nerves. “I can do this with Selece’s help, I know it. It’s the only way.”

Without waiting for any further protests, she reached down and clasped Amaya’s hand.

She heard a loud masculine voice shouting the word “Wait!” in her head, and recognized it as Selece.

And that was the last thing she knew before the world spun around her.

-o-


The world came back into focus with agonizing slowness.

Umi found herself sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. Or rather, a floor and a wall, in a strange room. She did not recognized the scene. The floor beneath her was smooth, bare wood, void of any rugs or other coverings, and the wall was the same.

When she could see the room around her without having to squint, she realized that the architecture was both alien and familiar at the same time. It took her a moment to realize why that was: she had seen it before, but not in person. She had seen it in pictures and history books.

This was a Japanese home, in a very old architectural style.

She slowly climbed to her feet and looked around, searching for any clue as to where she was. This particular room was large, but very empty. There was nothing to indicate where, or when, she was. But she heard voices nearby, and she followed them.

Tracing the voices led her to a door at the far end of the room. As she put her hand to the door, it occurred to her that this was probably someone’s home, and she was an intruder. She could get in big trouble. And depending on when exactly she was (at this point, she wasn’t taking anything for granted), it would be potentially more difficult, as she was wearing modern clothing, the garb of a college student unexpectedly stirred from bed without the opportunity to change.

Still, she was here to find out what had happened to Amaya and who that man was, and so she had to see this through. Selece was her anchor; she could still feel the mashin’s present, however faint, in the very back of her mind. He was there with her, and that was a very comforting feeling. As long as that little aura was sitting in that little corner of her brain, she was not alone, and she could make it through just about anything.

She also belatedly realized that she was wearing her armor and ovum-gem. That meant that she was armed with both blade and magic. All of this added together to give her confidence, and she gingerly peered through a crack in the door, looking into the room to find the source of the voices.

There were two people in the room—a young girl and a woman.

Umi studied the woman for a moment. She was of approximately middle age, dark hair already flecked with gray. Her hair was styled into an old-fashioned bun, with a fan-shaped ornament pinned to one side. She was not so much beautiful as handsome, and her face bore some signs of aging. She wore a kimono, a deep burgundy in color with a pink obi at her waist.

That seemed off, somehow. A glance across the room gave her a view out an open window. She saw clear spring skies. Umi tried to remember: weren’t spring kimonos usually lighter, brighter colors? Or was that more of a modern tradition? But if it wasn’t a modern invention, then the kimono she was wearing wasn’t the right color for the season.

…which could mean any number of things, really. But it was interesting to note.

Then Umi turned her attention to the girl. She guessed the girl to be perhaps eleven or twelve years old, still very young. It was doubtful that she was more than thirteen years of age. She was very pretty, with dark hair twisted up into a beautiful, complex style, and wide eyes set into a lovely oval face.

Even though she only saw the girl in profile, there was no mistaking her. Umi knew that face.

It was Amaya.

Without consciously intending to do so, Umi leaned into the door…and started as she stepped right through it, stumbling into the room. She tensed, expecting them to raise a fuss…but neither of the two seemed to notice her presence. Feeling greatly daring, Umi took a step into the room, and then another, and another. Soon she stood beside the woman, and still she drew no comment or alarm.

The only logical conclusion that Umi could draw was that they could not see her.

Which meant that she did not have to be stealthy.

Secure in this new knowledge, she moved right up to the girl and got a good look at her. It was Amaya, there was absolutely no doubt. The hair was exactly the same shade, and she imagined that when it was worn down and free, the waves would fall around her shoulders in the same manner. Her face was the same in both shape and skin tone, though it still held a certain quality of youth and innocence that would be lost to her in a few short years.

She also wore a kimono; hers was blue, though the bright color and cheery yellow obi seemed far more appropriate to the season than the one worn by the woman.

But the most compelling evidence were her eyes. There was no mistaking them. They were the same bright blue color as Umi’s own. But they were very wide and shone with clear innocence. This was an Amaya who had not yet seen the terrors of battle, or known the pain of taking a Pillar’s life. She was young and fresh and unblemished.

…and she was looking straight through Umi with those same eyes. It was a bit disconcerting.

In some ways, it was hard to align this girl with the sharp, sarcastic Magic Knight she had come to know as her ancestor and predecessor. The Magic Knight was easily one of the strongest people Umi had ever met, a stark contrast to this fragile-looking child.

Still, they were having a conversation now. It was probably best for her to pay attention.

“It is exciting,” the woman said with a smile that felt strangely false.

“But Aunt,” Amaya said, “I do not understand.”

“Oh, it is simple, child,” the woman said airily. “You are to be married!”

Watching as closely as she was, there was no missing the flicker of something that ran across Amaya’s face at that. It was somewhere between alarm, disgust, and fear. She was obviously not pleased by this decision. “Married?” she asked, her tones soft and polite while her hands clutched at the sleeves of her kimono. “But Aunt, to who? I have not met—“

“You will meet him soon, Amaya,” the woman said, unknowingly eradicating whatever lingering doubts might have existed regarding the girl’s identity. She waved a hand. “Now go and prepare yourself to meet your husband.” Amaya hesitated, and a flicker of anger flashed across her aunt’s eyes. “Now.”

The girl turned and hurried from the room, walking right past Umi and out into the room she had initially woken up in. Alarmed, Umi cast a glance back at the woman before following Amaya; she found the girl standing just outside the door, leaning against the wall. She was staring straight ahead, her face a complete mask.

She stood there for several minutes, unaware that she was not alone. And as she straightened and took a single step to follow her aunt’s instructions, voices came again from the room. One Umi recognized as the aunt. The other was male, and immediately sent a shiver through Umi. She and Amaya both stayed perfectly still and listened to the conversation.

It didn’t take long for Umi to realize what they were discussing. The man was apparently Amaya’s husband. They both heard the two in the room talk furtively of price, of payment and closing some sort of deal, and in short order the pieces fell into place.

Amaya was being sold.

A glance at the girl proved that she had come to the same conclusion. She was staring at the closed door in unmistakable horror. She clutched at her kimono for a moment, glancing around (still not seeing Umi) and finally turned to hurry away.

“Amaya, it’s going to be…” Umi reached out, unable to contain herself any longer…and found that her hand passed right through the girl’s shoulder. Umi herself nearly fell flat on her face, both from surprise and from being thrown off-balance at her hand meeting empty air instead of solid flesh.

She righted herself quickly and looked at the girl’s retreating back. Amaya didn’t seem to have even noticed that anything was wrong or that anything of this nature had just happened around her. Her face was still blank save for eyes that spoke volumes of fear and despair.

So this meant…

Umi was like a ghost here. If these were Amaya’s memories, then Umi had not existed at this time. It was potentially hundreds of years earlier. She had not been present at this discussion when it happened. Ergo, now she was an invisible intruder. She had realized this earlier, when she had wandered into the conversation and found herself unnoticed by the two talking.

Discussing Amaya’s marriage and her new husband…

Umi stood there, at a complete loss. Her mind wandered back to things she had heard before. Back when she had first met Amaya during the confrontation with Xander and Amaya had explained the entire situation, she had commented that none of the three original Magic Knights had been blessed with happy lives on Earth, and so after the Pillar’s death, they had asked to stay in Cephiro and had their wishes granted.

And back in the room, where Amaya’s ghost was lingering in that strange state of suspended animation, she had sat there and overheard a conversation between Fuu and Michiko, in which Michiko had restated that fact. Amaya’s story was not a pleasant one, and it was nothing she spoke of or cared to share. If this was what she had lived through…

It was no wonder that she had begged the Creator to let her stay in Cephiro.

Rage began to burn deep inside Umi, and she glared at the door. How dare these people do such a thing? She stormed towards the door, and again passed right through it. She wanted to yell at these people, to scream and make noise and any number of other things. The idea of threats involving her sword or magic even flickered through her mind, though she knew she would not do that unless directly threatened. And none of it would do any good, but she had to do something!

All that died when she took a good look at the man.

She immediately recognized the fat, ugly features as the man who had been formed in the smoke, courtesy of that gift addressed to the Knight of Selece. He was even wearing the same hideous leer he had sported when he had instructed Amaya to come to her husband.

It was him.

The spell in that box had thrown at Amaya a vision from one of the worst moments of her life.

Umi heard the door open behind her, and then the world spun again…

-o-


It took some effort, but Umi managed to open her eyes a mere crack.

Immediately, a number of faces swam into her limited view above her amidst a chorus of voices calling her name and hands pulling at her and touching her, all trying to coax and lead her back to the full world of consciousness. She swam against the current, trying to reach those voices.

Finally, she was able to reach out and clasp at one of those hands, and it squeezed her hand back in turn. And she opened her eyes fully, and found herself staring up at two Knights of Rayearth, two Knights of Windam, one Aldarban Princess, and one Guard Captain, all watching her with no little worry and no shortage of alarm. There was a murmur of voices, saying her name and breathing sighs of relief.

With a little further effort, Umi sat up and looked at her friends through glazed eyes. “What happened?”

Fuu was in front of her, putting her hands on Umi’s shoulders. “You touched Amaya’s hand and passed out, right onto the bed. Rayearth told us not to move you. We’ve just been waiting for you to wake up and tell us what happened.”

Umi nodded and looked up at Michiko. “I…I saw it.”

The deceased Knight of Windam flinched. “I thought you would. Selece was not pleased that you—“

“I know. But…I saw what happened to Amaya,” she looked down at the floor. “…you were right. It is a horrible story.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe that she lived through that…I can’t even imagine what it must have…” Umi gave herself a hard shake and looked up. “I saw the day where she spoke with her aunt. And I saw that man. He was horrible.”

“What happened to her, exactly?” Hikaru asked.

“She’s trapped in a memory,” Umi replied. “One of the worst days of her life. I think she’s reliving it, over and over again. I don’t think she knows she’s in a memory.” She shivered. “It felt real to me, and it wasn’t even about me…”

“So what do you think we need to do?” Fuu asked.

“I don’t think she can break out of this herself,” Umi said. “It’s too real. She’s probably been tricked into believing that it is reality, and so it would never occur to her that she could get out of it. So I think I need to figure out a way to contact her. If I can reach her in the dream…maybe I can pull her out of it.”

“So you’re going back into the dream, then?” Sachi spoke up now.

Umi nodded firmly. “Yes. I am.” She glanced down at Amaya, and had to suppress a shudder at the site of those lifeless, half-open eyes. The look was creepy, there was no other way to describe it. “It’s my fault that she’s like this. And I think I’m the only one who can wake her up. So…let me go back in again. I’ll find a way to reach her. I’ll bring her back.” She looked back up at her friends and smiled. “Trust me, guys. It’s a promise.”

The others reluctantly agreed. Hikaru spoke up again with one final warning. “Umi, please be careful.”

“I will,” she couldn’t help but smile and throw Hikaru a wink. “I promise.”

Taking a deep breath to steel herself, she again pressed her hand to Amaya’s, and reeled as the world spun around her, twirling downwards once again into the darkness that would take her back to that place and that horrible day buried deep in Amaya’s mind.

-o-


Back into the dream…


Umi glanced around. It was the same as before. She was in the same empty room in the same home, hearing the same voices through the door. Standing up, she crept back over to the door and peered inside. It was the same two women wearing the same kimonos having the same discussion in the same whispered tones.

In short, Umi felt like she was watching a video on replay.

“It is exciting,” the aunt said, still wearing that false smile.

Amaya was startled. “But Aunt, I do not understand.”

That airy tone. “Oh, it is simple, child. You are to be married!”

That same flash of emotion across Amaya’s face. “Married? But Aunt, to who? I have not met—”

“You will meet him soon, Amaya,” the aunt replied, her tone just as brusque as before. “Now go and prepare yourself to meet your husband.” Again, Amaya hesitated, and again her aunt’s temper seemed to flare at the perceived disobedience. “Now.”

And once again, Amaya fled the room before this command.

Umi followed, and as before she found Amaya standing in the next room, leaning against the wall. Her face was expressionless, and her eyes spoke what her voice could not. Though by now Umi was wondering if Amaya’s voice had ever been heard.

Seeing it again left Umi with so many questions. If Amaya’s aunt was the one deciding her horrible fate in this manner, then it seemed that her aunt was the one raising her. What had happened to Amaya’s parents, then? How had her aunt become her caregiver? And why would she do something so horrible to her niece like this?

The only one who could answer these questions for Umi now was…

She had to reach her, somehow.

If she was seeing the same dream again, she pondered, then perhaps it meant that Amaya was trapped within this one memory. It was like a CD being played with one track on repeat, the same thing playing over and over again until someone pushed the stop button, or chose a new song.

Umi was determined to hit the stop button on this nightmare.

Selece…I might need your help for this, she thought. Help me reach her if you can. She felt that presence stir in the back of her mind, and smiled. It was a comforting constant. Thus far, Umi’s presence had not been noticed in the dream. But the fact remained that they were inside Amaya’s head and Amaya’s memories, and Amaya herself was still connected to Selece.

“Amaya…” she said the girl’s name, hoping desperately that she would somehow be heard.

No response.

“Amaya, please!” she said, voice rising in pitch.

Still nothing. The girl was straightening up now as the voices inside the room began to grow louder, discussing the terms of their agreement. They talked of the price that horrible man would pay for a living, feeling girl…as though they were two merchants conversing over the price of fish.

“Amaya, you have to hear me!” Umi begged. Selece, I have to get through to her…

Amaya started to turn away.

“AMAYA!”

When she still got no response, Umi’s shoulders slumped in frustration and despair. It was no good, no good at all. She let out a sound that was half sigh and half sob. There had to be a way, but she didn’t know what that way was—

Selece’s presence surged in her mind—

“W-who are you?”

Umi’s head snapped back to stare at the girl…and found that the girl was staring right back at her. Amaya’s eyes were enormous and fearful, and she was taking slow steps backwards. One hand clutched protectively at the neckline of her kimono.

“I…you can see me?” Umi gaped.

“Who are you?” Amaya repeated the question, her voice shaking. “Where did you come from?”

After a second, Umi relaxed and smiled. She was in. Now was her chance. “My name is Umi. It’s all right, I’m not going to hurt you.” She didn’t move towards Amaya, though. Not yet. No sense frightening the poor girl anymore than she already was.

“Leave, or I will call my aunt,” she said in a warning tone.

Umi shook her head and spoke gently. “No one else can see or hear me. Only you.” She didn’t know if that was the truth or not. “Because I’m a friend, and I’m here to help you, Amaya.”

“How do you know my name?” Amaya demanded.

“Because I know you. As I said, I’m a friend, and I want to help you,” she stooped a little to be closer to Amaya’s eye-level. “This is a dream, Amaya. You’re inside one of your own memories. I want to help you wake up from this nightmare.”

“A d-dream?”

“Do you want to stay here with them?” she gestured towards the door, beyond which were the aunt and prospective groom. “You know what they’re discussing. You’re a very smart girl, and you’re scared of them. You have every right to be afraid. Or you could come with me and leave this place.”

For the first time, a glimmer of trust shone in those blue eyes. “L-leave here?” she whispered. “I will not have to m-marry him?” She took a step towards Umi, probably not even realizing that she was doing so.

Umi shook her head, deciding not to go into the truth of the matter—that Amaya had been forced to marry, and that this was simply a shadow of what had been. It was far too complicated, and too much to explain. “You won’t have to marry him,” she smiled and held out a hand. “If you come with me.”

“What will happen if I do go with you?” Amaya asked. One shaky hand was already reaching towards Umi’s outstretched one. It seemed that the prospect of this marriage frightened her more than anything she could imagine happening if she went with this stranger.

“You’ll wake up,” Umi said. “Just take my hand, and I’ll get you out of here.” Something struck her then, and she smiled, remembering. “I’ll take you out of this darkness, Amaya, and back to the light…”

Amaya’s hand came to rest in Umi’s own, warm and solid.

“…just like you did for me.”

-o-


When Umi opened her eyes this time, the faces of her friends were still hovering over her, but they seemed a bit less worried this time. She sat up and shook off the last strains of fatigue before stretching her arms over her head. “How long was I out?”

“About ten minutes,” Fuu said. “You were unconscious a lot longer the first time. What happened?”

“I think I got through—”

Umi’s reply was cut off by a scream, and she was nearly thrown from the bed as Amaya surged off the bed, winding up sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed. She was wide-eyed and semi-transparent, but conscious and obviously fully awake. She glanced around frantically, her eyes finally resting on her teammates. “M-Michiko…Sachi…” she whispered, voice high and thin.

The two other ghosts were on their knees beside her in an eyeblink, frantic with worry. But after a moment, Amaya managed to get back onto the bed with the help of her friends, where she curled up and looked around; her eyes still held a blank quality to them.

Eventually, her gaze lighted on Umi. “You…” she said softly. “You were in my head.”

“I wanted to wake you up,” Umi said. She suddenly felt very self-conscious about what she had done.

Amaya looked down. “Then…you saw. You saw it.”

“Yes. I did.”

After a moment, Amaya sighed. “I suppose it can’t be helped. Everyone please sit. I have a story to tell you.” She kept her eyes down, not looking at anyone. Michiko sat on the bed next to her, putting an encouraging hand on Amaya’s shoulder.

“…when I was eight years old, my parents died,” Amaya began after a pregnant pause. “We were not nobility, but we were wealthy. They went out that night, to a tea house. I overheard conversations about it later, when they thought I was out of earshot. My parents weren’t the only visitors that night, and one of the other guests had some rather powerful enemies. The building was set on fire, and my parents were caught in the inferno.”

She hesitated, then went on. “I was placed in the care of my aunt, my only living relative. My father left his fortune behind. But my aunt wasn’t exactly the most scrupulous character you could find. She enjoyed money and high living. And so she ran up a good many debts. I don’t think she ever realized that I was aware of any of this. But I knew.”

“So who was that man?” Hikaru asked.

“When I was thirteen, my aunt sent for me and informed me that I was to be married,” Amaya continued. “It was a shock, to say the least. She sent me away to prepare myself for my husband. I stood in the hallway and listened. Long story short…she sold me. For enough money to cover her debts, and then some.” Her fingers toyed absently with the blanket on the bed. “The man you saw from that spell…that was him. Or his image. And he was as horrible as he appeared. We were married before the sun set that day, and…well…”

“Oh my god…” Fuu murmured.

“Two years,” she said. “I spent two years in hell at his hands. Please don’t ask me to go into details. I’ve spent so many years trying to forget what happened to me there. He was very rich, and I had everything I could possibly need…but chains of gold are still chains. I was a prisoner.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Two years there…”

“And you escaped when you came to Cephiro…?” Fuu prodded gently.

“It was only a few days before my fifteenth birthday,” Amaya said. “There was a bright flash of light that lit up the entire sky…and then I was somewhere else. I was in a different world, and there were two others there with me. And a man appeared and told me—told us, rather—that we were needed to save their world.” She sighed. “It was the first time anyone had ever said that I was needed.”

Sachi spoke up. “That wasn’t easy, was it? Not for any of us.” She chuckled, though there was no real merriment in the sound. “You three are very lucky. Happy homes. Families who care about you. Friends who will watch your back. We had none of that. And it made it very difficult.”

“It wasn’t easy for us, either…” Hikaru murmured. Her expression suggested that she felt guilty even saying it in the face of Amaya’s story and the horrors she must have lived through.

“It was difficult for you,” Sachi said gently. “But when the three of you came here and met each other for the first time, did you have any real troubles growing to trust each other?” The three shook their heads, and Sachi nodded. “That’s what I expected. You realized very quickly that you were allies and would watch out for each other. We didn’t have that. None of us really knew how to trust anyone.”

“And if my own family would sell me out like that,” Amaya broke in, “why should I expect strangers to show me any kindness? I didn’t think the world could possibly work that way. Fortunately, I have since learned that it is possible.”

Now she tilted her head back a bit to look up towards the window. “When we killed the Pillar…by that time, we had learned to work together, though we were all fairly distrustful of anyone else. And the Creator appeared. We begged him not to send us back. First of all, none of us wanted to go back to our hellish lives on Earth. Two, we actually were starting to feel like we could really do some good in Cephiro. Be important. Be needed. And finally…by that time, we couldn’t stand the thought of being separated. And Creator granted our wish.”

“But…you eventually fell for Clef, didn’t you?” Fuu asked.

Amaya smiled now, the first time she had done so in the course of this conversation. “Yes. I did. But I had been in Cephiro for quite some time by then. And it took a fair amount of time before I trusted him enough to agree to anything.” She closed her eyes. “It wound up being one of the best decisions I ever made, and I regret nothing of that.”

Michiko rubbed Amaya’s back. “Perhaps sometime I will tell you my story as well. But not tonight, little ones.” She glanced directly at Fuu. “There has been too much sadness in this room for one day. Amaya is all right. Let’s talk of something more pleasant for now, shall we?”

-o-


It was night, and the forest was like something out of a horror movie, large and looming and dark. The shadows cast their illusions on the ground and on the tree trunks, creating the illusions of ghosts and spirits moving amidst the trees. It brought to mind the supernatural celebrations of Halloween, and the parties attended by the will-o-the-whisps as they played on their one night of freedom amidst the living.

Kagura glanced about. Not too long ago, this sort of a setting would have frightened her. She would have cowered from the shadows, and perhaps even fled before the unseen horrors that she perceived to be lurking just beyond the realm of her sight.

But now, she was unafraid. The darkness did not scare her, and the shadows held no terror for her now. She was in control of these shadows. They bowed to her will now, not the other way around.

Before her stood a large, gaping hole in the ground, a cavern that seemed to stretch down into the very darkest reaches of hell itself. This was it. Her destiny had brought her to this godforsaken place to seek her partner. By what she was about to do, she would claim her truest destiny.

The time had come.

Her eyes were glowing black, and she reached out a hand. “Come to me,” she intoned.

There was a moment of complete stillness.

Then a noise stirred from deep within the pit. It sounded like something growling, accompanied by a sound like claws scraping over dirt and rock. And then the shadows at the bottom of the neverending hole shifted and uncurled…

And as Kagura watched, an enormous black shape floated from the hole, hovering in front of her. Before her eyes, it began to unfold and take actual form. She held her hand out to the creature, and it moved towards her until her fingers touched its nose.

Kagura smiled. “It’s nice to finally meet you…Tynan.”

-o-


Unbeknownst to them, something far away was stirring. It uncoiled for the first time in eons and stretched, clawing at the expanse of open sky above it. At long last, it had been released.

Untamed.

Free.

And very, very angry.




PS. I’ve known Amaya’s backstory for quite a long time. I also have ones for Sachi and Michiko, and theirs will come out, one way or another, before this trilogy is wrapped up. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!