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19 April 2007 @ 08:53 pm
Tears of the Sea, ch. 9 (MKR)  
Title: Tears of the Sea
Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure
Publish Date: 5/2/2004 through 12/24/2005
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*



The click was immensely satisfying; it signalled that the door was closed, shutting out the world and people that were beyond it. And for Umi, that meant peace, time alone, and privacy to finally indulge the innermost thoughts she had been suppressing for far too long now.

She slumped against the door as the last reserves of her energy gave out. It was like a car with an empty tank, running on nothing but fumes. At some point, there was just nothing left to draw on, and everything would grind to a halt.

Her forehead hit the wooden door, and she nearly cringed as she forced the smile to drain from her face. After spending all of her time since her arrival back in the Cephirean palace convincing everyone that she was completely unharmed, it felt like that silly grin was frozen in place. And it reflected quite the opposite of her mood.

Umi was exhausted. She was tired, and she was upset. An unpleasant combination. Aeric’s words kept replaying themselves over and over in her head, like a record stuck on skip. “Tell me something, Umi, because I’m just dying of curiousity. What do you do, exactly? For the Magic Knight team, I mean.”

She clasped her hands desperately over her ears in an attempt to block out the sound; it was a vain attempt, as the torment was internal, a torture that was purely mental. The voice kept repeating.

“Do you really serve any sort of useful purpose for this team?” He chuckled. “Or is it true—you’re just a pretty face, the damsel in distress?”

No, no, no…

She stumbled across the room and fell onto her bed. Her fingers clawed at hers ears, her nails scratching slightly at her cheeks. She curled up into the fetal position, trying desperately to unthaw the cold, icy fingers that had wrapped themselves around her stomach. Aeric’s words had been gnawing steadily at the back of her mind since they had left his mouth, but she had ignored them as she reassured her friends that she was in perfect health.

Why was this bothering her so much?

Umi knew she wasn’t necessarily as brave as Hikaru—the fiery little redhead was courageous almost to the point of stupidity. And she also knew she couldn’t match Fuu’s intelligence—it was almost impossible to get anything by the quiet genius in terms of logic or thinking. But she could—had held her own against monsters, demons, and irate Chizetan princesses wielding very sharp swords.

She was a brilliant fencer, and could say so without bragging. Give her a sword, and she could defend herself against almost anything that she came up against. She was lightning with a blade.

…yet Aeric had matched her, blow for blow, strike for strike. She hadn’t been able to land anything on him. They had only escaped by a miracle—a jet of water that had been summoned, literally, from stone, shooting out of the wall over Umi’s head to stop his advance. That had been the only saving grace, allowing her the time to grab Tama and call Selece.

If not for her unknown protector, Tama would probably be dead, and she would still be a prisoner. There were fates worse than death, though, and that could very well have been one of them. She shuddered to think what might have happened had she stayed in that horrid place.

And Selece…

She had proven herself before the Water-Dragon himself in order to become the Magic Knight. Selece had proclaimed her strength of heart and accepted her as his Knight. She was a savior of Cephiro. She wasn’t weak—she was a goddamn Magic Knight!

For a moment, she considered going to Fuu or Hikaru or someone and asking them what they thought. But she brushed the notion away almost immediately. Her enemy seemed to know everything about her, and she had no illusions as to what that meant. Admitting doubt was a weakness, and it was not one she thought she could afford at this point. If she confessed that it was bothering her, then wouldn’t that be playing right into what Aeric wanted?

She was their designated target. She had to be strong.

“It’s not true…” she murmured. But the room was silent, and did not answer.

-o-


“I’m worried about Umi.”

Fuu’s voice, soft as it was, carried easily to Clef. He looked up from his book and smiled slightly at the Green Knight. She had just entered his study, and closed the door behind her, leaning against it. “May I ask why?” he questioned, setting the volume down on a nearby table.

“She’s not acting like herself. She hasn’t been normal since her rescue,” Fuu replied. “She said she was beaten and healed, and that was the only thing that happened to her physically. I believe her on that count. But something isn’t right.”

“I’ve noticed that Umi seems more…thoughtful than usual,” the mage admitted. “Since the three of you returned. I assumed it was

“Well, you know what they say about ‘assume,’” Fuu commented.

“Err…no, I don’t. What do they say?” Clef looked genuinely perplexed.

“Never mind,” she shook her head quickly and changed the subject. “But I am worried.” Fuu decided not to add that she was almost grateful for her friend’s condition because worrying about Umi meant she didn’t have to think about Ferio. He now alternated between watching her and occasionally following, and avoiding her like a plague. Hikaru was the only of the three Knights who didn’t seem to be having any problems at the moment, but she was unhappy simply because her friends were unhappy.

“I will confide in you,” Clef sighed, brows knitting together in serious thought. “I am worried as well, but my concern lies more with Umi’s friend, the girl she brought back with her.”

“Tama?” Fuu frowned; concern etched itself into her features.

“Yes. Something about her makes me a little…uneasy. Perhaps I’m just used to being overly suspicious, but I am not sure if I trust her,” he finished. “But it’s probably unfounded.”

“I have a thought…” Fuu murmured, then reached with her mind. “Windam? Can you shed some light on this? What’s wrong with Umi? And what about Tama? Umi trusts her—should we?”

She waited, expecting the usual prompt answer.

But for some reason, though she could feel Windam brooding silently in the very back of her mind, the mashin remained strangely quiet…

-o-


The knock was sudden enough to make Umi start in surprise—and fall off her bed. Momentarily pushing her worries aside, she clambored across the room and opened the door, still rubbing the sore spot on her hip where she had landed.

Tama jumped back, her hand poised as though she had been preparing to tap on the door again. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Did I wake you up or—“ The waterfall of words was drained to a drip as Umi held up a hand for silence.

“It’s okay. I wasn’t asleep. You just startled me,” Umi managed a weak smile. “Come on it.” She stepped aside and let her newest friend move into her room; she closed the door. “So what brings you to my humble abode this late?” The question of time was not unfounded, given that the sun had disappeared quite a long while ago.

Tama twisted her hands nervously in front of her. “I—I wanted to thank you. For saving me. For taking me away from that place.” She was still wearing the plain grey dress and white apron. But a good amount of the tension that had been gathered in her shoulders had already dissipated, and she looked a little more relaxed. “I would be dead now if it wasn’t for you. Thank you so much.” She paused and bowed low.

Umi smiled. “It’s all right. You’ll be safer and happier here. Just make yourself at home.”

The girl nodded, hesitated, but seemed to decide that it was worth asking. “Umi…what does all of this mean? Everything that is happening…I don’t understand this. What could they want with you? And what might this mean for your friends?” She looked worried, almost frantic.

The Magic Knight’s smile faded, and she sighed, letting the tiniest amount of her exhaustion show through. “I don’t know, Tama. I really don’t know. I’d love to be able to give you answer, but…I can’t.” Her expression hardened into the rock-hard determination she was so known for. “But whatever’s going on, I won’t let anything happen to anyone else.” Her eyes took on a dangerous glint. “I don’t know what Xander’s trying to do, but there’s no way I’m going to let those bastards get their hands on Hikaru, Fuu, or any of my other friends, including you.”

A gentle smile crossed Tama’s face. “I believe that, Umi. I truly do.” The smile vanished after a heartbeat, as she noticed Umi’s face. “Umi? What’s wrong? Are you all right? You look so sad…”

But the moment was lost as Umi shook her head and brushed her hair back with one hand. “Nothing. Don’t worry. I’m just worn out. It’s been a long day.” She stood up, having lowered herself into a chair at the very start of this conversation. “In fact, I think I’d like to get some rest. Would you like me to walk you back to your room?”

That strange, gentle smile returned to Tama’s face, and she shook her head slightly. “No, that’s all right. I can make it myself. Forgive me if I’m being impudent, but I think you should get some rest.” She moved back to the door, and was gone a second later.

Umi stood, motionless, for a moment, then crossed to the bed and tumbled into it without taking the time to change into the nightgown her Cehpirean friends had given her. She curled up on top of the bedclothes, not bothering to pull her head onto the pillow; she curled up, her hair spread out behind her like blue silk over the comforter.

She felt tired, but she didn’t want to sleep. There were too many things for her to think over, disregarding that her body was fighting valiantly to pull her down. But finally, Umi gave into exhaustion, and as she floated away into the numbness of slumber, she vaguely wondered if she would dream again tonight. And would there be any answers in those dreams?

It started out the same, exactly the same as before. Floating high over Cephiro, surrounded by the unconscious, unmoving forms of her friends, both from Earth and Cephiro. And the shadow swallowed both the people and the landscape. Only Umi was spared, alone in the darkness, protected by the hazy figure ahead, who was still without name or face.

For a moment, all was still. Then the shadow moved—it opened scarlet eyes and glared down at Umi. The eyes had no iris or pupil, they were all that horrible red color, and there was no facial expression to add emphasis, but there was no missing the feeling of pure, unadulterated hatred that radiated from those demonic eyes.

Her hand automatically tightened around the hilt of the Escudo-made sword, already drawn and ready. She tensed, feeling the familiar comfort of her armor moving with her. She was still at a loss as to what this thing was, but there was no doubt in her mind that this being, this monster despised her.

Why? She didn’t know.

Amidst the shadows, between the two glowing ruby-eyes, the outline of something appeared. She stared at it, squinting, trying to identify the silhouette. It was something she had seen before…

But there was no time. The shadow-woman, her protector, turned to face her again. She reached out towards her with one hand. Umi instincticely extended her hand in turn. They were closer than she had thought, because they were so close to touching…

“Open…to…”

A light appeared between the shadow-creature’s eyes, one that gathered quickly and then shot at her, a beam that hit her squarely in the chest and sent her flying backwards, falling downwards into the shadows. All that remained was that female voice, delivering a message that she only got two words of.

“Open…to…”


Umi jolted awake, sat up—and instantly regretted it as muscles protested her movement after being curled up in unnatural positions for a time. But as she absently massaged her sore muscles, she thought of her dream, the recurring nightmare. It was getting clearer, and each time, something new appeared. The silhouette within the shadow…that bothered her.

“It’s getting closer…” she murmured, kneading her shoulder with one hand to work out the tension that had gathered there. “Whatever it is, it’s coming. But what is it?” She sighed and put her face in her hands. “Open what to what? Who are you…what do you want from me?”

As before, the room remained silent and offered no answers.

-o-


With the advent of sunlight, the night was chased away, and the inhabitants of the Cephirean palace met for a morning meal. There was a certain amount of tension, as Fuu and Ferio were averting their gazes, and Umi just looked out of it. But generally speaking, everyone was in a good humor. The only one missing was Clef, who had shooed Hikaru from his study earlier, claiming that he would join them shortly.

Tama was bustling around, bearing food and drink. Despite their protests that she didn’t have to wait on them, she insisted on it.

They were nearly done with their meal when the sorceror made good on his promise and burst into the room; his expression was dancing the knife-edge between exuberance and anger, a very strange combination. He marched straight to the head of the table, where his chair had been left vacant; he did not sit, but addressed everyone in a rush. “I think we’ve found him.”

A chorus of confused voices greeted his proclamation.

“Selece gave us all of the information he could concerning the whereabouts of our enemy,” Clef went on. “Based on what he told us, I think we have found Xander’s hiding place. Or at the very least, we know where you were imprisoned, Umi.”

The Blue Knight started while everyone burst into excited chatters.

“Now what do we do with this information?” he proceeded. “That is the question.”

“If I may,” Lafarga rose, his military training coming to the front. “It might be in our best interests to attack, or at least try to infiltrate their hide-out and see if we can find out anything about them—perhaps their plans or intentions?”

This was met by general agreement and nods. Only Umi showed any reservations.

I don’t know if I want to see those two again, she thought frantically. And what Aeric said…it’s not true. I know it’s not! But I can’t just go in there without being able to back it up. I have to be able to fight him as an equal…

“Umi, are you in?” Fuu asked from the chair on her right. Every eye swivelled to look at the Blue Knight curiously, and Umi had to fight to keep from shrinking down into herself.

“I—I—“ she found out quickly that her mind had gone void of words, and sighed. “Whatever you guys think we should do works for me. I’ll go along with it, no problem.” Her hands clenched in her lap under the table so no one would see them shaking.

“It’s settled then,” Hikaru announced with her usual confidence. “We’ll go, and see what we can find out about this creep. Maybe we can even stop this now, before anybody else gets hurt.”

Umi could only hope that her fiery friend was right.

-o-


“They’re coming?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Excellent,” Xander steepled his fingers together in front of his face.

Aeric smirked. “Shall I prepare for the arrival of our guests?”

“Indeed. Please do.”