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25 April 2007 @ 08:57 pm
Tears of the Sea, ch. 15 (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*

“I know of your devotion to Cephiro,” the Creator intoned, “and that is why I tell you of this.”

“I’ll do anything,” Amaya said desperately. “I am a Magic Knight. I will protect the Pillar at all costs. Tell me what I have to do!” She belatedly tried to relax her hands, but they refused to uncurl themselves from tightly clenched fists.

“To seal him as he is now would require a massive amount of power,” Creator said, “more than you have. More than even I have. But there is a way. However,” here, he actually hesitated, “it will require a great sacrifice to achieve.”

“What kind of sacrifice?” she asked.

“…the greatest one you can make,” Creator replied softly. “Do what you will.”

After a moment, the pieces clicked painfully into place.

She knew the potential of magic in death, and she knew of the power that lay dormant in blood.

One life to save thousands…

But it could be a quick death, she realized. Quicker than theirs had been.

She straightened herself, squaring her shoulders to bear the weight. “I have a request.”

“Yes?” Creator asked.

“Please…please take them to safety. All of them…” Amaya asked, willing herself not to cry. “They won’t be safe here. Please find a safe place for them. And…” she paused before asking, “a seal can be broken, can it not?”

“It can.”

“Then another will someday follow me.”

“Most assuredly.”

“Then here is my second wish, and I will sign this contract with my own blood.”

As the Creator left her, Amaya desperately hoped that she had done the right thing…

I wish it didn’t have to end like this.

There was still so much to do. My family…my beloved…I never wanted to leave you.

I am so sorry.

I never wanted to die like that.

But I swore an oath. I lived to protect the Pillar, to protect Cephiro. I had to do it.

And now another falls the same way.

I am so sorry.

I never wanted to die like this.

I didn’t want to die…


It was like a scene out of a horror movie. The heroine sacrificing herself to save the others.

But this was not a movie, no matter how desperately Fuu wished it was. This was reality.

And that was one of her dearest friends.

All she saw was red and blue and red and eyes that stared without seeing and stained armor and long hair swirling around Umi as she fell limply to the ground, her sword jutting from her chest. She lay there, not moving, not breathing. And there was red, red, red, crimson red staining blue.

Xander flew at the body, and for a terrible moment, Fuu was afraid that it had been for naught, that whatever Umi had been trying to had failed, and her life had been extinguished in vain. But unbeknownst to her, a far greater power was at work.

Xander’s claws passed right through the lifeless body.

He pulled back, staring at hands that suddenly appeared to be dissolving into smoke. His expression became bewildered, and he tried again. But this time, he couldn’t even reach her. The long, sharp claws were starting to arch backwards, as though being pulled by some unseen vacuum. His entire being seemed to be dissolving into fog and curving towards a point behind him.

Wind began moving then, harsh in force, and it was powerful enough that Hikaru and Fuu clung to each other and braced themselves against it as it tore at their hair and clothes. Their capes flew around them, threatening to drag them along for the ride.

Panic overwhelmed his hideously dark features, and he made one more attempt at Umi’s body, but this time, it seemed that the vacuum had had enough, and he was hurled backwards, dissolving entirely into the strange dark gray mist as he swirled into whatever it was, reminiscent of the way water spins into a tornado draining out of a bathtub. All throughout, there was sound, deafening and terrifying. Xander’s howls of rage and panic and the screams of the wind and twin female shrieks that Fuu eventually realized belonged to her and Hikaru.

And through it all, Amaya stood silent and stoic, only watching. She seemed not to notice the gale around her, but merely watched Xander. And just before he vanished, she whispered one question that echoed across everything else. “What have you become?”

His face disappeared last, revealing what looked like a tiny hole in the color-filled void that was the space between their worlds. As they stared at that small black hole, streaks of red began to slash across it; they were like lightning bolts in shape and velocity, and criss-crossed over it until it was entirely covered in crimson and faded from sight.

Red. Like blood.

Umi’s blood, Fuu recognized belatedly as a few painful pieces locked into place.

And it all went frighteningly silent.

Xander was gone. Hikaru and Fuu still knelt on the ground, huddled together and clinging to each other desperately for safety and for comfort. The other Knight of Selece, Amaya, stood apart from them, halfway between them and Umi’s body.

And Ryuuzaki Umi, twenty-one years old, the Knight of Selece…was dead, by her own hand.

Then Amaya spoke…smiling from ear to ear. “Well, that’s done!” she cheered. “Well done, girls!”

Hikaru staggered to her feet and wheeled on the woman in blue, uncharacteristic fury in her tear-filled eyes. “YOU!” she screamed, diving at Amaya for lack of a better target. She was stunned almost out of her anger, though, when she passed right through the woman, ending up splayed face down on the ground behind her. She didn’t get up right away, but curled there, sobbing.

“It won’t do you any good to be angry with me,” Amaya said loftily. “But I can assure you that everything is going to be all right now. Xander’s gone. It’s okay now.”

“Liar,” Hikaru hiccupped, her voice hoarse and raspy. “I don’t believe you. You’ve done nothing but lie to us…I don’t believe you…I can’t believe you. You’re a liar…”

“That’s your choice, but you have my word,” Amaya breezed on. She wandered over to Umi and regarded the unmoving body for a moment. “Hmm…let’s see…this just won’t do.” She wrapped a corner of her cape around her hand and gripped the hilt of Umi’s sword. A slight blue glow surrounded her hand, and whatever she was doing permitted her to hold the sword long enough to draw it from Umi. The blade was crimson, and Amaya regarded it thoughtfully for a moment before dropping it haphazardly to the side. Then she tapped her chin thoughtfully, once again studying the still form. “Let’s see…it looks like I’m going to need a bit of help with this…”

The light bulb was almost visible, clicking on over Amaya’s head. She turned and skipped over to Fuu, who hadn’t moved since Umi’s suicide. The Knight of Windam was standing ramrod straight, with both hands clenched tightly over her mouth; she was shaking and sobbing, staring at Umi’s body with wide, terrified eyes. She barely seemed to notice Amaya until the deceased Knight was standing right in front of her, smiling at her.

“Hi. Fuu, right?” Amaya said casually, as though discussing the weather. “Listen, I really need you to help me out with this, okay?” Fuu didn’t move, didn’t even seem to register the words. Irritation crossed Amaya’s pretty features. “Hello, I’m talking to you! Can you help me out? This won’t take long. All you have to do is—HEY!”

Amaya jerked back, and started doing a strange hopping dance backwards, her cape hovering out behind her; it seemed as though someone had grabbed the cloth and was pulling on it, dragging Amaya backwards as well. After they’d gone a few feet, a second person faded into sight.

Another woman, this one bearing a long auburn ponytail that swung behind her with her movements. And she was wearing the armor of…Windam? When she turned, her green eyes flashed angrily at the one she was dragging.

“Michiko, what are you doing?” Amaya whined.

“Amaya, I thought we’d discussed the concept of tact before. What the hell is wrong with you?” the newcomer chastised her. “Could you have a little sensitivity? The girl just stabbed herself, in front of her friends, and you think they’re okay with that?”

While Amaya complained about a lack of trust, the auburn-haired girl in Windam’s armor walked over to Fuu, who still hadn’t moved. Her expression softened as she reached out and took Fuu’s hands, pulling them away from her mouth and holding them gently. “Fuu? Hello. My name is Michiko, and it seems you and I have a few things in common, yes?” Her voice was smooth, calm, with a thread of real sadness running through it. Sympathy.

“You’re…you’re…” Fuu managed to stutter.

Michiko nodded. “Windam’s Knight. I apologize for Amaya. She is a marvelous Knight, but she has no manners whatsoever.” There was moaning from the peanut gallery, which Michiko masterfully ignored. “But she was right—we do need your help.”

“For what?” Fuu asked, her voice trembling violently.

“To save Umi,” Michiko said gently.

There was a pause before Fuu spoke again. “What do I have to do?”

“What the Knights of Windam do best,” Michiko began walking backwards, keeping Fuu’s hands firmly clasped in her own to pull the younger Knight along with her as they moved towards Umi’s body.

“What’s that?”

Michiko smiled. “Heal.”

Amaya had stopped complaining, and had instead moved over to Umi, rearranging the body carefully. The younger Knight of Selece was laid out on her back, her arms folded on her stomach, head back and eyes closed; her face was pale and completely serene, like she was merely taking a nap. She looked like a princess in a fairy tale, waiting for the Prince to come and awaken her with a kiss. But the princesses in fairy tales weren’t wearing blood-stained armor or gloves, and they certainly didn’t have a thin trickle of blood running from the corner of their mouth.

A kiss would not awaken her. Nothing could awaken her.

When Michiko moved Fuu in front of her, the girl balked and tried to back away in sheer terror, but the older Knight stopped her and gently pushed her along. “We need you to do this. Please. For Umi.”

Fuu nodded, swallowing hard and fighting off the nausea that threatened to drown her. She held out trembling hands, and whispered, “Iyashi no Kaze!” Her magic came forth in green winds that swept around Umi, and in mere seconds, there was no sign of a wound or blood on Umi. She looked to be sleeping, save for the fact that her chest did not rise and fall with breath.

The minute the magic faded, Fuu lost her battle for self control. She wheeled around, sobbing out loud, and ran right into Michiko. This time, Michiko simply put her arms around Fuu and let her cry. “Shh, it’s all right now. Your part is done, little one. Thank you. It will be all right now.”

As she cradled the hysterical girl, she turned to Amaya, who was standing beside the body. “Where in the world is Sachi? She should be here by now.”

“Who knows?” Amaya sighed. “I’m really not sure it was the best idea to entrust her with this. I mean, you know how she is! For all we know, she might have forgotten all about it!”

“I know,” Michiko commented. “And you two are so frighteningly similar.”

Before Amaya could retort to that, there was a trace of motion as yet another new person faded into view. No one was really surprised to see this one in the crimson armor of Rayearth himself. “Sorry I’m late. Took me a minute to find her,” the newcomer—Sachi, it seemed her name was—apologized. Her short black hair bobbed around her face as she walked briskly towards Michiko.

“You had better have it,” the Green Knight said threateningly, releasing Fuu and turning her full attention towards her fellow Knight. Fuu scampered over to where Hikaru was just getting back up and huddled with her friend on the floor, watching the proceedings apprehensively.

“Of course I got it,” Sachi huffed, holding out clasped hands. “I’m lazy most of the time, but I always come through when it’s important. You know that. So who’s going to do it?”

“I am,” Amaya replied instantly. “I’m the only one who can.” She reached out towards Sachi. “Selece will anchor me. I’ll take it.” Sachi nodded, and opened her hands.

There was a bright blue globe of light floating just above her gloved palms. She moved her hands a tiny bit, and the sphere moved into Amaya’s waiting hands. She then moved towards Umi and knelt down beside the body.

Michiko and Sachi stepped over beside Hikaru and Fuu. “That little light,” Michiko explained, “is Umi’s soul. It left her body after her death, naturally. Sachi was waiting for it, so when it arrived, she was able to take it and bring it here.”

“What’re you going to do with it?” Hikaru hiccupped.

Sachi smiled and patted her counterpart on the shoulder. “Amaya’s going to save her.”

An explosion of blue light cut off any further conversation as all attention went rushing towards the source of it. Amaya was kneeling beside Umi, holding the small blue globe—Umi’s soul—cupped between her hands. The floor beneath her was afire with that cerulean light, casting an eerie shadow across her face. A strong current of air shot upwards, catching her hair and clothing and making them dance on the arms of the wind.

She seemed to murmur something to herself before reaching down and letting Umi’s soul fall from her hands into Umi’s chest, right at the level of her heart. Then she held her now-empty hands out at shoulder-level over Umi’s body, parallel to the ground. She spoke words that no one could hear, and the glow swept over her and Umi.

For a long moment, it remained like that.

Then the light exploded, a blinding flash of azure that caused everyone else to shield their eyes.

When it faded, and everyone could see again, Amaya rose to her feet and staggered away from Umi. “It’s done,” she said wearily. “Selece helped me. They’re rejoined now.” She turned a weak smile to the younger two Knights. “Go on, she should wake up soon.”

Hikaru and Fuu didn’t need to be told twice. They sprinted to Umi’s side, shaking her shoulders and trying desperately to get a reaction. They called to her, barely daring to hope that what Amaya had just told them was true. People didn’t just come back from the dead…

Then again, there wasn’t supposed to be any such thing as ghosts, either…

So they waited, breath caught in throats and eyes upon their friend’s face.

Both Hikaru and Fuu jumped a mile when Umi’s chest suddenly heaved upwards, and several, raspy, sputtering coughs escaped her. Her entire body began to tremble violently as breath after breath of air shoved its way down into her lungs, forcing life back into her. And finally, after what seemed eternities upon eons, Umi’s eyes slowly fluttered open.

Her blue eyes were glassy and confused, and didn’t seem to focus in on anything in particular right away. Her breathing was short and shallow for the first moments, but finally, the rising and falling of her chest slowed and evened out, and the glazed look faded from her eyes as she narrowed in on the worried, tearful faces of Hikaru and Fuu hovering over her in a panic.

“Fuu? Hi…ka…ru?” she whispered in a raspy voice.

And the Knight of Selece was immediately engulfed in a tight group hug, sandwiched between her two best friends. She made a tiny squeaky noise as she was…well, glomped was the best word for the enthusiastic way they clamped her between them.

Umi’s face was visible over Fuu’s shoulder, and anyone who had looked upon her 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 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 sighed again, then looked up at her friends with those strangely knowing eyes that sent chills down their spines. “Can we go home now? Please? Or back to Cephiro? I want to go to Cephiro. Please?”

It took a moment to arrange themselves before they were back on their feet, with Hikaru and Fuu supporting Umi’s weight by slinging her arms over their shoulders. Her legs were surprisingly steady, but her balance was horribly thrown, and it took an effort to keep her upright.


That was Michiko’s voice, sharp and panicked, and the three younger Knights turned to look at their counterparts. The scene was surprisingly similar: Amaya had crumpled, nearly falling to the ground, Michiko and Sachi were supporting her. The difference, though, was that Amaya was partially transparent.

Sachi, holding onto one of her arms, seemed to be scolding her. “You used too much of yourself, you moron! You know what happens if you push too hard, and now look at you, you idiot…”

“I know,” Amaya said softly, looking a little sheepish. “I’m sorry…but it was enough to help Umi wake up, so it was worth it…she’s okay now.” She smiled at her younger counterpart. “Right, Umi?”

Umi nodded. “I’m fine. Just…tired.”

“You died,” Michiko said bluntly. “That’ll take a lot out of you.” Her tone was serious, but her eyes were sparkling, and Fuu had the suspicion that she was simply trying to lighten the mood a bit.

“Is he gone?” Hikaru asked, looking around.

Amaya nodded, her smile fading; she looked so tired, and far older than she had merely moments ago. “Yes, little one. He’s gone.” She seemed to fade even a little more, as more of the color-void behind her because visible through her torso.

“You can’t be so reckless!” Sachi admonished. “Look at you! You won’t be able to stay visible for much longer! You gave too much. Honestly, Amaya…” But there was that underlying thread of concern that strung through her words. Her gaze turned to Michiko. “Here, help me.”

They both gripped Amaya’s hands and closed their eyes.

“Hey, don’t,” Amaya shook her head. “You don’t have to…” But her protests seemed to fall on deaf ears, and a tiny glow surrounded all three of them. Slowly, Amaya’s form became more solid until she seemed completely normal. She stood on her own then, looking at her opaque hands, then turning a frown on her two companions. “I said no. I would’ve recovered just fine by myself.”

“Ungrateful liar. Can’t have you dragging all over the place,” Michiko huffed.

The beginnings of the argument were stopped when they realized that their younger counterparts were not only back on their feet, but watching them intently and with so small amount of apprehension.

Amaya broke the silence first. “You’re wondering how you can help Umi in the same way, right?”

Fuu and Hikaru nodded, while Umi slumped unceremoniously between them, with no small amount of chagrin written clearly on her face.

“Well, just link up,” Michiko said. “It should be instinctive.”

The two younger girls looked blank before they turned and looked at Umi. They didn’t seem to do anything, but a glow surrounded the three of them, and within a moment, Umi was standing upright, if a tad bit wobbly, between her two friends. All three of them looked exhausted, though.

“Now,” Michiko said firmly. “I think we should go back to Cephiro. I’m sure there are people at the palace waiting for you—or they will be, if the Creator would be good enough to indulge us mortals.” That last was said towards the proverbial sky (as there was no sky, nor a ground, simply colors).

“Why don’t you three meet them there?” Sachi suggested brightly. Now that the imminent danger had passed, the three deceased Knights seemed far more calm. “You should have enough left in you to pull yourselves out of here, yes?” At their panicked expressions, she went on, “You three have more power than you think. Use that power. Work together.”

“It’s you three. You’re Magic Knights. That alone tells us that you’ll definitely be all right. We’ll see you later!” Amaya chirped. And the three disappeared.

“W-wait!” Fuu yelped, but they were already gone.

The three turned to each other. Green, blue, and crimson eyes shifted gazes worriedly. It seemed that perhaps their predecessors were putting too much faith in them, and in their abilities as Magic Knights. They couldn’t just zap themselves out of there, could they?

And just as soon as the panic had set in, the strangest feeling of serenity washed over the three girls of legend. Without speaking or otherwise communicating, their hands found each others’ as they stood in an all-too-familiar circle, facing each other. Small smiles replaced nervous grimaces, and they closed their eyes and let their heads bow, each trusting the other two implicitly to help pull them through as they fell into a rapport and began to draw on their power—what made them Magic Knights.

None of them really knew what they were doing. They simply focused on their wish, to go back to Cephiro and the safety and comfort of familiar faces and familiar surroundings. Their friends would hopefully be there by now, waiting for them.

With their eyes closed, all they saw was the flare of whitest light that enveloped them, and felt a tug they knew all too well, the pull of transporting, transcending worlds and dimensions. The wind snapped by them fiercely, but it had no effect on them.

You’re Magic Knights.

Amaya’s words. Amaya had been right.

You’ll definitely be all right.


On Tokyo Tower, the mood had shifted quite rapidly from disbelief, to anger and grief, to amazement, and finally to blessed relief. The Cephireans, plus Kagura and Takeshi, had witnessed the entire thing in Xander’s viewing globe. At Umi’s sacrifice, Kagura and Caldina had promptly burst into tears, while the rest stared spellbound, unable to look away.

The image had faded at the moment of Xander’s death, only to be recreated by none other than the Creator himself. A beam of light had been produced from his forehead, and the revival had been visible to them. The relief was palatable. The girls were safe.

But the presence of the other three Magic Knights, the predecessors to their three girls, left all of them extremely troubled, especially considering Amaya’s deceit and the way that they had intentionally led their successors into this kind of danger. They knew that their legendary girls were powerful, capable fighters, who could defend themselves by force or by wit—but it went without saying that anyone who not only intentionally lured them into that kind of danger, but enticed one of them to nearly die for the cause…and they had been helpless. Utterly, utterly helpless, through the entire thing.

The Cephireans were angry. Very angry.

Caldina’s hands were gripping her fan so hard that she was trembling. “That…she…oooooh…” Standing at the broken window, Lantis had not yet spoken aloud, those his eyes said volumes. Furthermore, his all-too-steady hand had yet to move from the hilt of his sword. Ferio’s teeth were grinding, and he was shaking. Presea was yelling. Ascot’s hands clenched and unclenched at his sides, his face bright red behind his long bangs.

The Master Mage turned his attention to the Creator. “I think we should return to Cephiro.”

Fluffball didn’t need to be told twice. The yellow jewel on his forehead began to glow, and they were whisked away, back to the palace from whence they came. And through it all, no one noticed the strange, strange expression on Clef’s face throughout the whole of the ordeal…


“Where are they? Where are they?” Caldina demanded loudly. The girls weren’t there yet, and it was making the Chizetan dancer unbelievably antsy; she was running all over the throne room, batting people on the head with her fan if they were in her way.

Ferio stepped forward, at risk of life and limb, to try and calm her down, in spite of the fact that his own nerves were busily doing Riverdance. “Caldina, just calm down—“


Caldina’s fan made loud, solid contact with Ferio’s head.

The Cephirean Prince gave up. Rather quickly.

They’d dropped unceremoniously back into the palace, in a vacant hallway. But as they moved closer to the throne room, they found more and more people—the wounded of the battle, and those treating the wounded, both Aldarban and Cephirean. They sidestepped everyone and finally made it into the throne room proper. The wounded there had been the less severely injured, and had already been ushered away to other rooms to finish their recuperation.

As they exploded into the room, those gathered at the middle turned to face them. Lafarga looked exhausted, but relieved, and he cheerfully accepted Caldina’s…ahem, enthusiastic greeting.

And with him was…

“Caliana!” Ferio strolled up to the Aldarban Princess.

She smiled and bowed slightly in return of greeting, before her expression grew thoughtful and no little concerned. “Where are the Magic Knights?”

Silence fell. Even Creator was quiet.

And a burst of light exploded at the domed ceiling of the room; the blinding brightness caused everyone to throw hands and arms in front of faces to protect their eyesight. After a moment, it faded enough that they could look.

Three girls, standing in a circle with hands physically linking them together, clad in the clothing of Earth. Armor and glove-gems marked them as Magic Knights. Three pairs of boot-clad feet noiselessly touched down onto the smooth stone floor. The light hovered around them, seemingly lifting at their hair and clothing; Umi’s hair, in particular, was hovering around her like a halo of blue silk.

And after it faded, they remained motionless for a moment. The spectators stared in hypnotized awe, and under their watchful gazes, all three slumped forward and tumbled to the floor in a heap.

Their fall seemed to shake their miniature audience out of its stupor, and a flurry of activity followed. Ferio would let no one get near Fuu, insisting instead that he would take care of her. Presea was arguing with him and Lantis over the state of the girls—the latter was hovering protectively over the unconscious Fire Knight. Caldina was trying to revive Umi while Ascot pushed her out of the way.

In short, it was an unadulterated mess of frantic worry.


The sound of quiet applause silenced them all, and weapons were drawn once the source of the cheers had been ascertained. “You…what are you doing? You have no business here!” Lantis snarled.

Reclining on the throne across the room, Amaya smiled lazily. “Oh, yes we do!”

Michiko smacked her on the head while Sachi rolled her eyes and took over, ignored Amaya’s whining. “We thought that perhaps you would like an explanation—why this all happened. Who we are, which,” she looked down the red, black, and gold armor she wore, “I’m sure is obvious enough. And furthermore, we would like the chance to meet our successors.” She paused, glancing sympathetically at the three unconscious girls, each being lifted carefully from the floor. “Of course, it might work a bit better once they’re all awake…”

Lantis, Ferio, and Ascot glowered angrily; each of the three was cradling an unresisting Magic Knight in protective arms. They looked murderous towards the three ghosts—for that’s what they had all figured the newcomers to be. Ghosts.

“Might I make a suggestion?” Sachi said calmly, ignoring the acidic glares. “The three children are exhausted. Perhaps we should let them rest a while. They’ve been dragged through the Seven Hells face down—I’d say they’ve earned a nap. I doubt they’ll sleep for long, anyway. Once they’ve rested, then we can gather everyone and give a full explanation to everyone at once.” She glanced at the girls again, faint worry-lines creasing her forehead.

This was met with suspicious frowns and hesitant nods.

“Then we leave them to you,” Amaya nodded, and the three disappeared.

Without waiting for permission, they scattered. Three unconscious girls were whisked away to well-earned beds, and the military leaders and Aldarban ambassadors retired to the privacy of Clef’s study to keep their own counsel.

But the Master Mage himself paused at the door to his study and glanced back over his shoulder, guided by some instinct. And he saw the corner of a pale blue cape disappearing around the corner.

His expression darkened as anger flared in his eyes. Amaya…


The three girls from another world had been put to bed to sleep off their ordeal. But unbeknownst to all, the Magic Knights were restless in their slumber. They dreamed of things that they were not yet able to understand, and things that frightened them…

She heard yelling, and raised the sword. How was the blade clean? She had just been on a battlefield, fighting monsters for the sake of the country she loved and the Pillar protected. It should have been filthy, but it shone; she could clearly see her reflection in it.

She raised the sword as the shouts drew nearer. He was coming for her now. And she was unsure of his intentions towards her. Death, imprisonment, torture, or any number of things…all were definite possibilities. She had to protect them, and herself.

He exploded through the door. One movement of her hand was all it took…

She slid downwards, seeing brown hair floating around her as she fell.

Brown hair that turned to blue.

Blue, that faded into black.


She couldn’t even move her hand to grasp at the arrow buried up to the fletching in her chest. She could feel blood and pain and blood and her whole body shivered.

Her breathing sounded shaky, like a baby’s toy. Didn’t they call that a death-rattle? She coughed, and tasted something warm and metallic and bitter. Red and green, such a contrast…

He was there too, crying, crying, crying…she heard the words I’m Sorry in his voice, but couldn’t answer them. She couldn’t even reach out to him now, her body rebelled and refused to obey her. He begged her not to leave him…

But she had to. She had chosen this, as she slipped into the darkness that should have been painless and free, his cries following her the entire way down. It had been her choice, and she stuck by it.

After all, that arrow had been meant for him…


He was gone.

How could he be gone? It had to be a mistake.

No, no mistake…not a mistake at all. He was there, sprawled out, as though simply sleeping—except a sleeping person would not have that kind of a head-wound, spilling blood, blood, blood. The same color as her own armor.

Over the din of the battlefield, the cries of the wounded and the dying and the silence of the dead and the shouts of the fighters, many would later swear that they had heard something shatter.

Everyone had to get away. They had to get away from her right now. NOW.

As if her thoughts had somehow reached them, her friends scattered, shying away from her as fast as they could, putting as much distance as possible.

And then…there was fire. She summoned it from the land, the rocks, the very air itself. All of it fueled a fire driven by insanity that claimed the last moments of a life. The flames curled and roared and devoured everything, including its progenitor.

She huddled in the midst of the inferno, barely feeling its deadly lick on her skin, holding him close to her as she waited. I’ll come to you…


The crowd gathered in Clef’s study was strange, to say the least. Representatives of several different types of magic were present, in addition to the Aldarban entourage in their military uniforms of blue and gold, and the smaller contingent of Earth representatives in their jeans and sweatshirts. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu were the only ones missing.

Furthermore, the crowd gathered in Clef’s study was very…cozy, to say the least. Kagura had gotten fairly squashed back into a corner, and Caldina was sitting on Lafarga’s lap, not to be flirty, but simply for lack of any other seat. Lafarga was not complaining.

The noise made by the crowd gathered in Clef’s study was…ear-splitting. Everyone was demanding explanations louder than the person beside them, and when they didn’t get answers, they simply shouted all the louder, and the resulting din was damn near deafening.

When the door cracked open, though, the room fell silent.

Into this newfound quiet, a pair of curious crimson eyes peered around the door. “Umm…hi?”


Caldina springboarded from her perch on Lafarga’s lap (which he wasn’t complaining about) and hit poor Hikaru with a perfect flying tackle. “You’re okay!” Behind her, the other two moved into the room trailed by Presea, who had been sent to fetch them upon their awakening.

“Caliana! You’re here too!” Fuu’s expression brightened as she noticed the Aldarban Princess, and she immediately moved to the young woman with arms outstretched in welcome.

To the amazement of many, Caliana opened her arms in return. “You’re all right?”

“We’re all okay,” the Wind Knight replied emphatically. She paused, then smirked and looked quizzically at the young man standing at Caliana’s shoulder. “Soooooo…who’s your friend?” she asked sweetly, the very picture of innocence.

Blush, blush, blush!

The man in question recovered first, and stepped forward to relieve her. “My name is Kannon. I am the Princess’ general, head of her guard.”

Caliana had regained herself now as well, and she added, “We’ve known each other since childhood. It’s a very long-standing friendship.” The Look she bestowed then challenged them to make a comment or a wisecrack, but the still-present blush told its own story.

“You three have done very well.”

Presea, who had moved to the front of the room to take a spot leaning against a table, jumped and moved aside. Sachi, former Knight of Rayearth, had appeared behind her, smiling gently.

“Now that we have everyone here,” Amaya said from beside her, “we can get started.”

“And I’ll apologize for these two right now, well in advance,” Michiko added, earning herself a Grade-A Glare from Sachi and a Grade-A Whine from Amaya, who was protesting that Michiko didn’t love her anymore.

But Umi stepped forward, and everyone watched her with a certain degree of reverence; her sacrifice was not a secret, all who had been in there had seen what she had done. She looked exhausted, but whole and calm as she addressed the three. “I don’t think I’m out of line in demanding a full explanation. Why? Why did you do this?” Her tone was firm, with a distinct note of pleading threaded through it.

Murmurs and call of agreement abounded.

Michiko stepped forward and held out her hands for calm. “Please. If everyone will settle down, then we can get this mess cleared up, and happiness will once again reign.” Everyone seemed to accept this, and as the room quieted down once again, all attention focused on the three deceased Knights. They looked at each other, and nodded.

Umi, meanwhile, had found herself squashed between Presea and Ascot. She wasn’t complaining about the seating arrangement, but at the moment, her attention was focused entirely elsewhere. She was unusually somber, for her, with no trace of her usual smiles.

Amaya, the Knight of Selece, stepped forward, and began. “First of all, I realize that we owe everyone here an apology—especially you, Umi,” her eyes lighted on the younger Knight, and her expression seemed truly grieved. “We did mislead you…and hopefully, now you’ll be able to understand the who, the how, and the why.”

As Amaya continued, she seemed to be talking more to herself than anyone else. “Long ago—far more years that I care to admit, really, especially in Cephirean time—the three of us were brought to Cephiro, much the same as you three were. And yes,” her attention came back down to Earth for a moment as she smiled at the girls in question, “we know all about that. We’ve had our eye on you three for quite some time, I can tell you.” She paused, then went on, “We fell onto a bluff. We didn’t know each other, and we didn’t know where we were. And you three know exactly how that feels.”

Sachi took over at this point. “We were greeted by the man who was Master Mage at that time. Guru Alto started us on our path, as Clef started you. We were given our magic, and sent on our way. Our journey was far less bumpy than yours, though, as there was no sorcerer trying to stop us, no minions appearing to block our path—just monsters. That was our major worry—the monsters…and they were everywhere.” She snickered. “I swear, they looked at us and thought, ‘Hmmm, Magic Knights sure look tasty today!’”

“They certainly liked me…” Amaya interjected crossly, folding her arms across her chest. “Honestly, do I look that tasty? I don’t think I do…I’m really quite disgusting.” She winked. “Sarcasm and cynicism are definitely not good seasonings, wouldn’t you say?”

“ANYWAY,” Michiko stepped in to carry on the story. The narration was flowing from one to the next without any trouble whatsoever; despite the appearance of perpetual bickering, it was quite obvious that these three were close and could work together easily with little to no prompting. “We first visited the chief pharle of the time—his name was Kardos. We journeyed to Eterna in search of Escudo. The stupid puddle tested us,” she cracked a smile at Umi’s loud snicker, “and might I say that I nearly died before I remembered that my beloved grandmother had died a year earlier, and had no magical powers before she died, and therefore, could not POSSIBLY be throwing fireballs at my head.”

“Our weapons were forged,” Michiko continued, happily ignoring the chuckles of the younger Knights, “and we went on our way. Our first stop ended up being the Wind Shrine, where I met my mashin.” She paused and looked up, grinning unrepentantly. “Polly want a cracker?”

“I resent that,” Windam’s rumbling baritone replied. “I do not like you anymore.”

She laughed, “And might I add that Sachi got the crap scared out of her…”

The emerald-colored eagle loomed over them, spreading his four wings wide. He beat them once, and the resulting gale nearly sent the three girls flying from the shrine. They held their ground and waited for the being to speak…or to destroy them, whichever happened to come first. The girl in the red sweater screamed out loud, her black hair snapping in the wind. Sachi truly believed that she was going to die, but his attention skimmed past her to the one behind her; it was to her that he spoke.

And when he spoke (and confirmed that, indeed, he was a ‘he’), the voice was a majestic baritone that simultaneously frightened, awed, and relaxed them. “I am Windam…and you are to be my Knight. Prove to me the strength of your heart…”

Michiko, kneeling on the floor, began to glow as her mashin connected with her for the first time…

“Michiko had to prove herself later, when we were attacked, and she was injured to protect Sachi,” Amaya went on, “and Windam accepted her as his Knight. From there, we were off to the Water Shrine, where we picked up Puff the Magic Dragon…”

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, little girl,” Selece’s voice boomed over the room, “for you are good crunchy and served with ketchup.”

“Quiet, you,” Amaya replied to the jibe and went on with the story without missing a beat. “And Selece probably took a few years off the end of Michiko’s natural life, I’m quite certain…

Michiko sat on the floor, staring blankly at the enormous cerulean dragon that had uncoiled itself and was now studying the three of them. As its eyes passed over her, she whimpered and whispered, “Please don’t eat me…”

There was no answer from the mashin, whose stare had stopped at last on Amaya. She stood her ground and held his gaze, albeit shakily. But her knees went out from under her when she heard the voice that would shortly become one of her greatest comforts. “Chosen girl from another world, I am Selece…”

The entire sanctum lit up in a strange blue glow, casting eerie shadows across turquoise walls…

The Knight of Windam merely hmph-ed.

“I met Rayearth last. We damn near fell into that stupid volcano…” Sachi recounted, tapping her chin thoughtfully with one gloved finger; the three of them were still in their mashin-wear, and the capes and armor assured that there was no confusion as to who was who. “And of all of them, I thought Rayearth was the least frightening.”

“You cut me to the quick,” Rayearth, the only mashin who had been silent up until now, finally said his peace in response to the jibe. “I find myself to be very intimidating.”

Hikaru snorted.

Sachi stood calmly. Having seen the other two acquire their legendary partners, she was not afraid or alarmed, but instead felt certain that she knew what was coming. Before her stood a wolf-being, seemingly borne and made of flame itself. This was her magic—her trial by fire, as it were.

Behind her, Amaya and Michiko waited with some semblance of patience. Unfortunately, Amaya was not actually a very patient person, and it was starting to show by the fidgeting. They, too, were used to this whole thing by now.

“I am Rayearth,” the being said as flames danced around her without touching or burning her. And she became the last to accept the choice of her mashin and the burden of her destiny.

“The Pillar was Sapphira. She was waiting for us, alone in the Palace. She greeted us, and explained to us what we were to do. We were horrified, of course,” Sachi barreled on, “but in the end…well, it was our destiny, just as it was yours. We did it, it was done, the end. And then…the Creator appeared to us.”

“Creator?” Hikaru glanced at Mokona, who had gone into Creator-mode, and was hovering beside Amaya, observing silently.

“After we fulfilled our duty to the Pillar, we were given the choice,” Michiko said, her expression fading as she remembered. “The difference between you three and us is that we had nothing to go back to when we were brought here initially, while you three had lives and homes—because of that, you went straight back when your purpose here was fulfilled. We, however, were given the option.”

“None of us had particularly happy lives on Earth,” Amaya added softly; her eyes misted over the tiniest bit. “I…I won’t go into it in detail, it isn’t important to this story. But the fact was that all three of felt more at home here than we ever had on Earth, and we chose to stay as protectors to the new Pillar.”

“Emeraude had actually been born shortly before we arrived,” Michiko picked the story up again. “I truly believe that Sapphira saw that the baby girl was worthy of becoming the Pillar and would take the burden, and so she decided that the time was right to pass the crown to another. So she summoned us to relieve her, and left Emeraude and Cephiro in our capable hands for the future.”

“We made our homes here,” Sachi’s turn came around again. “There was no place in the kingdom that did not welcome us, and we knew many of every class.” She smiled wryly. “I guess you could say we sort of led charmed existences. We had a place to belong, we had friends, and…” She paused and blushed slightly, “we eventually had families of our own here.”

“Families?” Ferio asked.

“Even Magic Knights need…companionship,” Amaya said loftily, smirking at the blush that took half the people in the room. “We’d been here for quite some time. After all, will is everything here. And as the fairy tales go, we…we found our princes. Families. Children. Friends. We were taken care of. It didn’t seem that anything could go wrong for us.” She snorted. “How wrong we were…”

“It was not uncommon,” Michiko explained, “for families of nobility to send their sons to Court upon their reaching the appropriate age. See the country, find their mate—you know how it goes. But there were also provisions for poorer families with children of talent or potential to send their children to the Palace for training.”

“What kind of training?” Fuu interjected; she was enthralled in the story.

“Architecture. Refined agriculture. Art. Music. Writing. Swordsmanship,” Michiko rattled off, tallying the various items off on her fingers. “I know there are more. But there were also those rare few who were sent to learn magic. It was rare, indeed. Those found to have the gift, whatever their ability, studied under the Guru himself.”

She paused then, and Amaya took another turn. “One of those who came here was a young man named Xander.” She paused as everyone registered this. “He was from a small village near the Southern border, and he came to learn magic. Everyone knew right away that he was particularly gifted, and there was some definite talk concerning his future.”

“Guru Alto was getting on in years—not that you could necessarily tell on sight, after all, but the fact was that he was tired,” Sachi proceeded. “It was coming time for him to choose a successor. Everyone knew it would be one of his two star pupils—Xander and Clef.” She smiled across the room at the diminutive mage, who managed the weakest of grins in return.

“But there were already problems,” Michiko went on. “Shortly after his arrival at the Palace, Xander had the pleasure of meeting our Amaya. As you may have noticed,” she shot a glance at her companion, who was currently peering curiously over Lantis’ shoulder; the cail was watching her warily, “she’s very much a ‘people person.’ The two struck up a fast friendship. And…well…”

Fuu sighed. “I smell unrequited love.”

Sachi nodded. “You have an accurate nose.” She sighed. “Xander fell for Amaya. He fell hard. Part of that might have been simply circumstances. He was still very young, and like many in Cephiro, he had grown up on the stories of the Magic Knights. Then to actually meet one, and have her be the person that Amaya is? He was amazed. Overwhelmed.” She smiled sadly. “There were many jokes flying around Court about the way he trailed after her…an infatuated puppy. It would have been sweet, if the status quo hadn’t suddenly changed.”

It didn’t escape several, though, that Amaya had gone very quiet, and didn’t seem able to look anyone straight in the eye. Her gaze was far away, reliving moments in a uniquely interesting and adventurous life that had long ago been extinguished.

Michiko took over, drawing curious eyes away from her friend. “Realize that by the time Xander arrived at the Palace, the three of us had been here for a while, and we had settled down. At the time of their first meeting, Amaya was married—or the Cephirean equivalent of marriage, I suppose. She already had a son, and if I recall, you were just about ready to spawn Kid Number Two.” She glanced over at Amaya, who nodded mutely. “So you can imagine that it was quite a surprise when he…well, confessed.”

There was a pause.

Amaya’s voice, quiet and strained, dropped into that silence, startling several. “He caught me in the hallway. I’d heard the rumors, of course, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. I thought it to be simply infatuation, and played it down. That was a grave mistake on my part…he confronted me…”

“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” Xander scowled, grabbing her arm and yanking hard.

She couldn’t quite bite back the yelp that his grip elicited. He was hurting her. This was so unlike him—nothing like the young man she had come to treasure as a friend. But he didn’t see it that way.

And he was angrier than she had ever seen him.

“You know I already have someone,” she said, fighting to keep calm. “I’m a mother. They’re my family. You have to accept that. I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are. I’m sorry.”

He pulled hard on her arm again. “I won’t accept that.”

She wrenched herself from his grasp and stumbled backwards. “I’m sorry.”

He turned and stormed off, his stomping footsteps echoing loudly in the expansive corridor.

She leaned back against the wall, one hand rubbing absently at the spot on her arm where he had grabbed her. It would bruise, no doubt about it. She stared after him in shock, vision blurred by tears.

“In the time since it all happened, we found out exactly what we missed,” Sachi said. “There was a being of darkness. It has no name, it has no form. Nothing. It just was. And it found Xander. He was angry, and he wanted to get back at Amaya. Given time on his own, I’m sure he would have gotten over it. But…well, whatever it was got to him first. And it changed him.”

“He became the monster you saw tonight,” Michiko added. “And with that power, he created his army and attacked Cephiro. Whatever this thing was—we simply called it the Shadow, for lack of any real name—it had warped his grudge, and he wanted to take Cephiro as well. That monster is the form of the Shadow when it has a body to use. He became that form on the battlefield. Scared the hell out of a good many of our soldiers.”

“What have you become?” Umi quoted in a whisper.

“His forces were thrashing our army,” Michiko continued. “It was a dire situation. At one point, we were fairly certain that all was lost. It was that bad. People were dying all over the place…”

“So how did you stop him? How did you beat him in the end” Presea asked, marking one of the few times someone other than a Magic Knight had dared to ask a question. “Cephiro won the battle, we can safely say. But what exactly happened?”

There was a pause. Then…

“I was the first to die,” Michiko said bluntly.

Several gasped.

“It was a bit melodramatic, really,” she went on, surprisingly calm for one who was talking about her own demise. “We mentioned that we had married? I’d had a fight with my guy the previous day. A big one. A reeeeeeeeally big one.” Her eyes closed. “I never apologized…”

Fuu gasped as she had a flash of insight. An arrow plunged into her chest, embedding itself up to the fletching. She fell, feeling something sharp beneath her back as red clouded her vision and someone she held dear sobbed over her…

“An arrow…” Fuu breathed; all heads swiveled to look at her. A wall in Fuu’s memory had just come crashing down, and her head snapped back as she stared at her predecessor. “The book in Clef’s library. The portrait. That was you! But…” A frown crossed her face. “Why did I forget that?”

Michiko actually smiled. “I thought so. I do apologize, but you were about to stumble onto something that you weren’t ready to know. And yes, an arrow. He was there when I died. He followed me soon after. I guess all I did was postpone the inevitable…”

Fuu got it. “The arrow wasn’t meant for you.”

“You are a credit to our line,” Michiko surprised everyone by chuckling. “Right again.”

The implication was left to sink in.

“I’d…rather not talk about mine,” Sachi looked away. “If someone else wants to do the honors?”

“I will,” Michiko volunteered.

“You just like hearing the sound of your own voice,” Amaya jibed.

“You’ll get your turn,” Michiko retorted before returning to the story. “Sachi’s lover was a soldier in the army, so of course he was right there in the thick of the battle. He was killed, and Sachi saw it. She…well, she snapped.”

The woman in question refused to meet anyone’s gaze, choosing instead to simply stare off into space, a blank, distant look in her eyes. Her short, dark hair fell around her face, further obscuring her features and her expression.

“Of us all, Sachi had been the first to really get a grip on her magic. She could do amazing things. She even used to do little shows for the children in the villages we visited, juggling fireballs, making fire appear, that kind of thing. But that day,” Michiko pressed forward, “she lost all control, and did something that even we didn’t know she could do. I understand that the Firestorm she called has become a legend in and of itself.”

“Firestorm?” Hikaru cocked her head to one side.

“Flames. She pulled flames from the very air itself. She somehow managed to communicate to the Cephirean forces that there was going to be a disaster, and as they scattered, she called the Firestorm,” Michiko explained. “She incinerated herself, her lover’s body, and a good many of the enemy. And actually, I went back to that spot right after this whole mess with Xander started, when we were just hanging around. There’s a round plot of land there that still has nothing growing on it. That’s where it happened. That’s where Sachi died.”

“You burned yourself alive…?” Hikaru asked softly, incredulously. Sachi turned further away, and nodded once, slightly. She had wrapped her arms around her stomach, as though chilled; at Hikaru’s query, they tightened around her even further.

“That leaves you…Amaya,” Umi said quietly, deciding it prudent to draw attention away from the elder of the two Fire Knights. Furthermore, her own curiosity was not to be put off any further. She had seen Amaya’s death in the moments before her own, and now she could ask about it.

A pregnant pause. Then she spoke. “I saw both of them die. Not an experience I would ever want to repeat, I assure you. After Sachi died, I fled the field, and went to the Creator. I knew that there had to be a way to seal him, and if anyone would know what that was, Creator would. So I asked.”

“And Creator told you…” Fuu began slowly, certain that she already knew.

“There is,” Amaya intoned, “great power to be found in death if one knows how to use it. This is especially the case if the deceased possessed usable magic on their own. That power can be used to great extents. And there is no more powerful magic than that cast by one who would sacrifice their own life for it.” She paused, and sighed again; it was evident that they had reached a topic she did not want to speak of. “The most dangerous adversary is one who would die for their cause.”

“So you died…” Hikaru trailed off, comprehension dawning.

“To seal him,” she nodded. “To stop him from further harming Cephiro or those dear to me. I ended my life as Umi did—my own hand, my own sword. And that trapped him away.” Her eyes fell closed, and something glimmered on her eyelashes. Could a ghost cry? “Truthfully, if I had really wanted to, I could have used that power to kill him. But…I couldn’t do it…” She stopped, and no one blamed her.

“What happened after you died?” Fuu asked.

“The people of Cephiro mourned the loss of their heroes. It was even said that the elements themselves mourned. When Sachi died, every fire in the kingdom went out and would not light again. At Michiko’s death, legend says that the wind could be heard screaming as it traveled through the trees. And when Amaya perished, it was said that the sea itself wept great tears in mourning. It was a dark time for Cephiro. But time went on, wounds healed, and as generations passed, the legend of the Magic Knights became what it was supposed to be—merely a legend,” the Creator picked up the tale to answer Fuu’s query. “Then you three came to Cephiro, and the legend was reborn.”

“But if you sealed him, then how is it he came back?” Fuu demanded. “How long was he sealed?”

“In Cephirean years, it’s been well over five hundred years,” Michiko replied. “In Earth years, I’d estimate maybe one hundred years.” She smiled at the goggled expression on Fuu’s face at that. “We’ve been keeping up with the times, in case you couldn’t tell. Not really much to do when you’re hanging around, dead, waiting for somebody to pop up and re-fix a problem. And like we said earlier, we’ve been keeping an eye on the three of you for a long time. We knew you would be the ones. And as to how he got out, simple—seals can be broken, especially when they’re as old as that one was. He’s been stuck in there for all this time, gathering his power, and finally he just broke the seal.”

“Xander probably broke out before you three even came back,” Sachi added, almost as an afterthoughts. “He was just biding his time and rebuilding before he actually went on the offensive. But the story has just become a part of Cephirean legend, as the Magic Knights are, and so nobody thought to watch out for it, I suppose.”

Umi rose to her feet abruptly. “Why? Why couldn’t you tell us this?”

Amaya moved away from the other two and walked over, standing directly in front her successor. Twin pairs of cerulean eyes locked in a silent war for supremacy, neither one willing to give into the other, one seeking an answer that the other was reluctant to share.

Finally, Amaya relented before the honest question. “Umi…at this point, I think you understand that in order to seal Xander, you had to die. Your blood re-sealed his fate. You fulfilled that part of the pact.” She sighed. “When I died, I made two wishes to the Creator. The first was for myself and my friends. All three of us were mothers. Between us, we had seven children, and they were all alone. Cephiro was not safe for them, simply because of their blood. There was no way that we could get rid of all of Xander’s army, and not all of his soldiers were creations of magic. The humans who joined with him would have gladly harmed the children.”

“I honored her wish,” Creator interjected. “I sent the children where I knew they would be safe. In accordance with Amaya’s wish, the memories of the older children were altered. Their images of Cephiro, their parents, the Magic Knights—all of these became remnants of dreams. They were stories that they had been told of a magical place. Nothing more than a child’s imagination.”

“My second wish was for you,” Amaya went on. At Umi’s startled look, she elaborated. “I knew that the seal would be broken some day. So I made a wish for the one to whom the burden would fall—you, Umi. I didn’t want another person to die like I did. And my wish was granted…with conditions.”

“Well, I must have done something right,” Umi laughed humorlessly.

“The only truly willing sacrifice is one who would sacrifice herself,” Amaya explained, “without knowing that she would be saved. You died by your own hand, perfectly willing to give up your life to protect others. And in doing so…you saved your own life.”

“…I don’t understand,” Umi said after a moment.

“Basically,” Fuu said slowly, “you stabbed yourself and died. It was completely willing because you did it yourself—no reservations at all, or none that were enough to stop you. Because you were a totally willing sacrifice, they could save your life. I don’t know how they go about the saving of life thing, but that’s the gist of it. Right?”

“Exactly,” Amaya nodded.

“So does that mean that Xander could have killed her?” Fuu asked, eyebrows drawing together.

“In theory, yes,” the elder Knight of Selece replied, “but would you really have wanted to find out?” When Fuu shook her head, she smiled, “I thought not. But that, Umi, is why I couldn’t tell you much of anything. I’m sorry…but it had to be that way.”

“So you really did save the day!” Hikaru beamed as some of the tension left the room, and people began breathing normally again. “And you kicked Xander’s ass. Two birds with one stone!”

Umi had the decency to look sheepish.

As the assembly began to relax a bit and conversation began floating around with a bit more ease, Amaya leaned over and whispered, “So now that the serious stuff is out of the way…tell me about this summoner friend of yours? He’s adorable!”

Umi blushed, a red color that would have made Rayearth himself…well, green with envy.

Ferio was startled when Caliana grabbed his arm and pulled him off to the side. But he recovered enough to look at her Guard and smile, “So…who is he again?”

She gave him a Look, but had the decency to blush a little. But she shook it off quickly and went about business as usual. “I thought I should tell you what became of the ring you gave me.” He looked surprised, and she knew that he had forgotten all about it. “If you want it back, you will have to go speak with Fuu. I left it in her possession to return to you, but I suspected that it had been forgotten in the chaos.”

The Prince blinked as comprehension dawned. Then he nodded and made his way across the room. She was speaking with one Caliana’s advisors, and he cautiously interrupted. “Mind if I steal her for a moment?” The man nodded, and she seemed confused as he pulled her away.

“Can I help you?” Fuu asked carefully, belatedly remembering her promise to herself that she was going to get this worked out with him after the Xander thing was resolved. Well, Xander had been displaced, and now…here he was.


“I think you have something of mine…” he said, just as cautiously.

One, two, three, click! Fuu’s eyes widened in realization, and she reached into her pocket. “Sorry…I completely forgot I had this. Caliana told me to give it back to you—here.” She withdrew the small gold band and pressed it into Ferio’s palm.

He caught her hand as she moved to pull it back. “Fuu…there’s something I need to tell you…” As he spoke, he returned the ring by slipping it onto her finger. “It’s yours…if you’ll have it…”

She was silent for a moment, and he was sure he’d made yet another mess of things…

Until she reached up, grabbed his shoulders, and kissed him, right on the lips.

She kissed him good.

And suddenly, every eye in the room was on them. Strangely enough, Fuu really couldn’t have cared less. She was far more interested in, well, other things at that moment. But when they came up for air, she had the courtesy to look a little chagrined at the round of applause she and Ferio received.

Ferio, meanwhile, was reduced to blushing and stuttering, more of surprise at her actions than actual embarrassment. It was quite cute, really.

Then did the teasing begin in earnest. Caldina, in particular, was thrilled to have a target.

As Michiko walked by, she whispered to Fuu, “You’re a definite credit to the line of Windam Knights. Brave, tough, strong, smarter than the average bear, and I’ll be damned if you don’t have excellent taste in men, my dear.”

Fuu blushed.