Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Publish Date: 12/24/2005 through 3/24/2007 (incomplete)
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*
It was not horribly cold that night—a small blessing for the sizable number of students standing outside watching the building burn. All had been evicted forcibly from their dorm that night when a fire had suddenly broken out in one of the dorm rooms. Nobody seemed to know what had sparked the fire, but rumors abounded, ranging from a curling iron to full-blown arson.
There were sirens from fire engines approaching, and the red light flickered from those that were already there. The firefighters raced around, trying to find a way to put out the flames. But nothing they did seemed to have any effect whatsoever. The fire simply leapt higher and higher.
Most students were huddled together against the slight chill in the air, standing around in small groups, whispering amongst themselves about the fire, what their speculations concerning the fires origins were, and other random topics. Meanwhile, students flooded from other dorms to look at the spectacle.
But three girls from the burning dorm weren’t really paying attention—at least, not in the same way that their fellow residents were. Shidou Hikaru, Hououji Fuu, and Ryuuzaki Umi all huddled together on an old wooden bench within full view of the burning building. Their thoughts were not only on the fire, but on other matters as well.
Kagura was still missing. In the chaos of the fire breaking out and everyone fleeing, they had searched for their absent friend, and found no trace of her. They had asked others now stuck outside, and the story was always the same: the last anyone remembered seeing her was at dinner earlier that night, save for the roommates down the hall who said she had stopped to chat with them at their room about an hour and a half before the blaze ignited. And they swore that she had gone to her room after chatting with them.
And the ravaging of the room had them extremely concerned as well. It was enough of a mystery how someone could have gotten into the room to ransack it when Umi had found it locked—the doors couldn’t be locked like that from the inside, the key was required for that. But add to the fact that the place had been ripped to shreds without anyone hearing it, and the savage nature of the destruction, and they had a full-blown mystery on their hands.
“What could have done it?” Hikaru asked solemnly. They were sitting close together, Umi nestled safely in between her two friends, their arms draped around each others’ shoulders in a slightly-awkward huddle. It offered warmth, comfort, and the closeness to speak without much risk of being overheard.
“I don’t know if anything human could have done that,” Fuu commented darkly. “And what about that message on the wall? ‘Death to the Magic Knights.’ That’s pretty clear as far as intent.”
Umi simply shivered. They hadn’t actually seen that message on the wall—she had simply told them about it. But she had such a vivid mental image of those words splayed across the wall in some dark red liquid that looked so much like blood, dripping and running down the wall…
“Could it be someone from Cephiro?” Hikaru persisted, worry clouding her features.
“It would make sense, given that message,” Fuu nodded. Her brows knitted together in her trademark deep thought. “But why would someone from Cephiro be here? And why all the drama? Don’t they usually just come after us? It doesn’t make sense to give us a warning, they should just attack us and catch us off-guard. The element of surprise and all.”
Hikaru nodded grimly. “I really hope Kagura’s okay…wish we knew where she was…”
Okay, Umi’d had enough. She just couldn’t sit still anymore. “You know what?” Umi stood up suddenly. “I’ve had it. Sitting here brooding over things won’t make them any better. Kagura’s probably off somewhere—you know how she is. She’ll probably pop up later tonight with an apology and an explanation. But if I sit here much longer, I’m going to go stark raving mad.” She waved her hands in front of her in a warding gesture, as if trying to simply brush away the encroaching madness.
“Umi, shouldn’t we—“ Hikaru began, but she was cut off.
“Sorry, guys, but I’m tired,” Umi shook her head; she sounded remorseful. “I’m gonna go throw things at Takeshi’s window until he wakes up, and then I’m going to invite myself to crash on his futon for the rest of the night, since we obviously,” she gestured towards the burning building, “can’t stay in our own rooms tonight.”
As she started off towards a building across the street, Fuu frowned. Something about this whole thing bothered her, but what? What was it? She stared at the fire leaping from the building, hoping that perhaps the flames would hold an answer. Her eyes trailed up the walls to the point of the room, where the inferno danced at its highest—
—wait. Point of the roof?
Fuu jumped to her feet and studied it a bit more carefully. The tip of the roof was still pointing straight up towards the sky. But…if the building had been aflame long enough for the fire department to get here, then it probably should have been caving in on itself already, shouldn’t it?
In fact, the entire building looked exactly as it always had, save for the red-orange tendrils licking at it. The fire wasn’t devouring the building at all. But what did that mean? Could it be…?
As Fuu stared in the horror of realization, the flames suddenly disappeared. Vanished in the blink of an eye, there one moment and gone the next. The building looked as it always did against the darkness of the night sky. Around it, students and firefighters alike murmured in surprise and confusion.
But Fuu had a hunch, and she whirled to call out, “Umi!”
No sooner had her friend’s name left her lips did the flames appear anew—in a pillar that shot up from the ground by Umi’s feet to reach to the sky, catching Umi right in the middle of it. Instinctively, Umi screamed and threw her arms up in front of her face to protect herself.
Now attention was diverted to this new saga, and students came in, though not quite daring to get too close. This was entirely different—there was actually someone caught in this, and morbid fascination and pity for the trapped girl drew people closer.
In the midst of the flames, Umi squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the first to claim her…only to notice something very odd. She couldn’t feel a thing. Nothing at all—if anything, it was still very cool.
Taking a risk, she cracked her eyes open—and felt searing heat against her flesh as the orange-red haze danced before her eyes. She was going to burn up here, like this! Cringing, her eyes automatically snapped shut once more…and the pain of burning disappeared once again into the slight chill of the night.
Now confused, she experimentally inched her eyelids up, and instantly closed them again as the heat once again licked at her and tried to devour her whole. Once her eyes were shut, the temperature dropped back to evening’s cool.
She felt it only when her eyes were open…when she could see it…
“Fuu!” Umi swallowed hard and gathered her nerve. “Tell me when I’m clear!”
Fuu stared as Umi, eyes squeezed tightly closed, took a step forward, right into the flames themselves…and nothing happened. She passed through them like there was nothing there at all. It took her a few steps before she was completely past them, and Fuu called out to her, “Clear!”
Umi opened her eyes and turned. The fire surged with a sudden shriek that sounded far too human for comfort…and then contracted into itself and vanished without so much as a puff of smoke. There were no burn marks on the ground, and the building where the fire had first attached itself was in seemingly perfect condition. If they hadn’t seen it for themselves, they probably wouldn’t have believed that anything had happened at all.
The assembled students and firefighters stared and murmured. The firefighters headed into the building, most likely searching for the source of the mysterious blaze that had vanished before their eyes. A few were heading towards the spot where the fire had attacked Umi, undoubtedly to investigate that as well.
One asked if she was all right. She nodded, and quietly escaped back to the comfort of her two friends before there could be any further queries. “Well?” she hissed furtively. “What do we do now?”
There was a moment of silence as all three pondered this question. They knew what the significance of the fires being illusions was. And it added an entirely new dimension to what had already transpired that evening.
“I think,” Fuu finally spoke, slowly, “that we should get out of the open. Then we can talk.”
“Mmmph…” Takeshi muttered, pushing open the door to the outside. “Whaddya want?” His words were barely understandable, and he looked quite unruly in his gray sweatpants, oversized T-shirt, and dark hair that stuck up in the most random of spikes. Obviously, he had been sound asleep…until Umi had started chucking rocks at his window in lieu of a wake-up call. He didn’t look terribly thrilled at the rude awakening, either.
“We need a place to crash,” Umi said matter-of-factly, stepping past him into the building. Hikaru and Fuu followed suit, and they led the way up the stairs to his second story dorm room. “Well?” Umi pointed at the locked door. “Make with the opening, please.”
Takeshi arched one tired eyebrow at her. “’scuse me,” he mumbled, “but that’s my room.”
“Right,” Fuu said cheerily, “and you have a futon and floor space, and we’re not allowed back into our dorm for the time being because they’re investigating the source of the fire. So please lend us your floor so we might get some sleep before we have to go to class tomorrow.”
“Hmmm…well, if that’s the reason,” Takeshi shuffled past them, key in hand, “then I s’pose I can let you. My roommate’s not here, so there’s plenty of—“ He stopped with the doorknob in mid-turn as reality suddenly clocked back in for work. “Wait…did you say fire?”
“Good morning!” Hikaru reached up to ruffle his hair affectionately as she bounced into his room. “Welcome back to Earth, we’re glad to have you.”
He looked a bit sheepish at the ribbing, but closed the door when they were inside, locked it from the inside, and sat down on the end of the futon. “Okay, I went to bed early, so you’re going to have to fill me in here. What happened?”
It didn’t take terribly long to explain the events of the evening to him. They began with Umi’s discovery of a ransacking upon her return to her own dorm room, the seemingly miraculous appearance of the fire therein, and the apparent magical nature of the fire overall, culminating in the pillar of fire that threatened to swallow Umi whole.
Takeshi listened quietly until they were done. He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “You say you’re certain the fire was an illusion? But how is that possible?”
“Remember Caldina?” Fuu asked. “That was her magic—she could work very believable illusions. The trick with them was that they could only hurt you if you could see them. If you closed your eyes, then they had no effect on you.”
“When I was in the middle of it, as long as my eyes were closed, I couldn’t feel anything,” Umi added. “When I tried to open my eyes, I fried. But as long as I couldn’t see it, I could step right through it and not feel a thing.”
He nodded. “Do you think it’s someone tied to Cephiro?”
“That was our idea,” Hikaru nodded. “But we really don’t know. Just that they apparently don’t like us because we’re Magic Knights, and they can use illusions. And…this might have something to do with the fact that no one knows where Kagura is.”
“Someone kidnapped her?” his expression grew horrified.
“We don’t know. But the last time anyone definitely remembers seeing her was almost two and a half hours ago,” Fuu replied shortly. “She stopped and chatted with some people down the hall, and they said she went back to her room. No one’s seen her since, and we’re worried. The library’s closed. If she came back and found the dorm shut down, she would probably come here. I’m worried.”
“Does this mean we’ll go back to Cephiro again?” Umi asked quietly.
Silence met her rhetorical question. For a long moment, no one spoke.
Finally, Takeshi stood up. “Well,” he sighed, stretching his long arms over his head hard enough that his back cracked, “we’re not accomplishing anything. Everyone’s tired, and everyone’s nervous. Bad combination for trying to think things through with any kind of logic. So here’s what I think we should do—let’s all make ourselves comfortable, and pass out until morning. Then we’ll try to make heads or tails out of this whole stupid situation.” He gave them all a Look that plainly said he would not take no for an answer. “Sound like a reasonable plan?”
Three mute nods met his suggestion, and with little else said they muddled around in search of blankets and comfortable spots to curl up. Takeshi took to his own bed, while Umi opted to snatch a pillow and blanket and sprawl out in the middle of the carpet, and Fuu and Hikaru each took an end of the futon and curled up so as not to disturb the other.
And soon, the four confused, frightened young adults were lost to the realm of sleep.
But not for long…
The sound of a tap on the window shook Hikaru rather abruptly from her uneasy slumber, curled at one end of the futon in Takeshi’s room. She sat up, momentarily disoriented as she looked around in bewilderment. Where was she, exactly?
Then she remembered—after the strange events earlier that had culminated in flames, which had proven to be illusions, they had taken refuge for the night in Takeshi’s room. She had snagged a pillow, curled up on the floor, and zonked out without a second thought.
Another tap on the glass reminded her why she had woken up. She clambered over and looked out the window in search of the source of the annoyance. Sure enough, she spotted a figure standing in the grass below Takeshi’s window, arm raised to lob what was probably another rock at the window. But when the figure actually threw it, its head fell back, and she got a good look at the face by the light of a nearby streetlamp. Hikaru froze.
Instantly, for reasons she couldn’t quite grasp, Hikaru’s gut twisted into a solid knot. Kagura was down there, obviously trying to get someone’s attention in the same way that they had earlier gotten Takeshi’s. She could see quite plainly that it was her friend. So why did she feel so nervous?
Fuu’s influence began to show itself then as logical thinking took over. It was late—or rather, early, as the clock currently read it to be going on three in the morning. She was exhausted, and she was extremely shaken from what had happened earlier. Between the dorm room, the fire, and everything else, it was no wonder she was jumpy.
She pulled away from the window, snagging her sweatshirt from the floor as she made her way to the door. In short order, she had shoved her feet into her flip-flops, borrowed Takeshi’s ID card from the desk so she could get back into the building, and slipped out the door.
As the door closed with a soft click, Fuu stirred and opened her eyes.
It had gotten colder, Hikaru realized the moment she stepped outside. She shivered, having only her sweatshirt for protection against that chill and only flip-flops on her feet, and decided it would be best to grab Kagura and get back inside as soon as was humanly possible. She darted around the building to the side Takeshi’s window faced, and found herself presented with a profile of the rock-thrower.
“Kagura?” Hikaru called, feeling extremely uneasy; the dark-haired girl turned, though, and part of that anxiety evaporated when she saw up-close that it was, indeed, their missing friend. “Oh my God, where have you been? We were so worried.” She glanced around. “Something weird’s going on.”
The dark-haired girl’s face reflected the utmost concern, and Hikaru felt a bit better. Maybe her anxiety was unfounded, brought on by the fire and the illusion attack. Kagura took a step towards her. “I was out running some errands. I thought I’d be back sooner. What happened? Why’s everyone outside? What happened to the dorm?” She shoved her hands into her coat pockets against the chill.
“There was a fire…sort of,” Hikaru explained quickly. “I mean, the building looked like it was on fire and we could feel the heat, but the building didn’t actually burn up. And then the fire attacked Umi, but it was an illusion! The whole fire was an illusion!”
“Hikaru, that doesn’t make any sense,” Kagura shook her head.
“I’m telling you, it’s true!” Hikaru insisted, then frowned. “It’s almost like Caldina’s illusions. When Umi closed her eyes, the fire couldn’t touch her. But when she opened her eyes, she got burned. It’s like Cephiro. But those things shouldn’t work here!”
“From Cephiro?” Kagura repeated incredulously. “Why would that be here?”
“I don’t know. But something happened before the fire and the illusions and everything, too—Umi got back to your room, and it was destroyed!” Hikaru rushed on in frantic explanation. “Someone ransacked your dorm room—I don’t know if any of your stuff was ruined or anything, but the place was completely torn apart!”
There was a long pause during which Kagura seemed to process this disjointed information. Then a decidedly feral smile broke on her face, and she withdrew one hand from her pocket, holding something. “Well, then, it seems that Nairi did her job.”
What occurred next happened so quickly that Hikaru would later be unable to remember the really significant details. She saw the shark-like grin shining on Kagura’s face, and knew instantly that whoever this girl was, she was not Kagura. She saw the smile, and she saw a shadowy blur as the girl moved, and the flash of silver…
Years of martial arts and kendo training had left Shidou Hikaru with amazingly fast reflexes. Still, she felt the rush of air as the sword swung past her midsection, silvery blade almost glowing in the dim light. She had managed to jump back, arching her shoulders forward to avoid what was most certainly a killing blow. Landing lightly on her feet, she jumped back again to put a bit more distance between herself and her apparent executioner, landing in a defensive crouch.
The girl may have worn Kagura’s face, but there was no longer any doubt as to whether or not this was Kagura. The expression that twisted the pretty features would have never found a home on the true Kagura’s face, especially not directed at Hikaru. Furthermore, the real Kagura would never have raised so much as a hand to the girl she had taken almost as a younger sister, let alone taking a weapon against her.
“Hmph. Not bad,” the girl smirked; she wielded a long silver blade, holding it expertly in front of her. “I expected nothing less, Shidou Hikaru, Magic Knight of Rayearth, Spirit of Fire.”
Hikaru should not have been as surprised as she was by this proclamation, but she couldn’t quite keep her jaw from dropping a bit. She recovered herself quickly, though, and her own expression darkened. “You’re from Cephiro.” It was a statement, not a question. “You were the one who trashed Umi’s dorm room.” Her fists tightened at her sides. “Who’s…Nairi? And what have you done with Kagura?”
“She is unharmed,” the girl said casually, ignoring the first question while tracing a tiny pattern in the air by her head with the tip of her sword; she seemed bored by the proceedings. “I give you my word on that—and she will not be harmed by myself or my colleagues.”
“Colleagues?” Hikaru repeated blankly.
“I assure you, your dear Kagura is under their expert care,” the girl went on. “She is safe. You, on the other hand…well,” she tightened her hold on her sword and readied it, “you, we still have to deal with.”
“What do you want with her?” Hikaru persisted, inching backwards. She was alone against an armed opponent who knew far more about her than she was comfortable with. There was no way she could face this on her own. “Why do you want Kagura?”
“You have already met your destiny, Magic Knight,” the girl who wore Kagura’s face replied calmly. “Hers is merely beginning.” Without another word—even so much as a warning—she attacked, and the sword fell once more.
Hikaru dodged, but felt a searing jolt of pain as something sliced into her shoulder. Craning her neck around, she saw the hilt of a dagger whizzing past her, directly in front of her face, in a flourish of crimson. It had missed her, just barely, instead nicking her shoulder enough to have already drawn a fair amount of blood. And it hurt!
Her enemy landed lightly on her own feet, having actually leapt over Hikaru. She still held her blade, but now her free hand was extended. Hikaru realized that gesture—her opponent had thrown the dagger at a moving target—while moving herself—with frightening accuracy. And she had done damage.
The redhead managed to hit the ground safely, somersaulting back to her feet. But now one hand clutched at her injured shoulder, and her movements were considerably slower. Her opponent, however, almost seemed spurned on by the sight of blood, and actually sped up, attacking Hikaru more fiercely and more viciously than before.
As Hikaru twisted to see the sword coming down at her head, her opponent suddenly jerked off to the side, sending the blow swinging wide and allowing Hikaru enough time to dive off to one side and move out of the way. Once she was momentarily safe, she looked to see who and/or what had saved her.
A rather sizable book lay on the grass by the false Kagura’s feet, and she had one hand to her head, expression contorted into a combination of pain and rage. And facing her squarely was Fuu, whose own features were equally furious. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together and get four; Fuu had thrown the book, nailing the fake Kagura squarely in the head, enough to distract her from her target.
But their enemy recovered quickly and turned her attentions to the new challenge before her. “So we meet at last, Hououji Fuu, Magic Knight of Windam, Spirit of Wind.” The sword was raised and shone white in the light of the nearby streetlamp. “A pleasure.”
“Who are you?” Fuu growled. Behind her, two more figures skidded onto the scene.
“Your executioner,” the girl replied haughtily. “My name is not important. But first…”
And she turned and once again leapt at Hikaru, brandishing her sword with frightening expertise. She was so close, there was no time to dodge, she had nowhere to go…
Hikaru heard her enemy’s attacking yell melding into a scream of fury and protest, mingling with Umi’s shriek and Fuu’s cry and a shout that sounded like Takeshi, and that was the last thing she remembered as she was engulfed in a white-hot light that was all too familiar…