Fandom: Magic Knight Rayearth
Publish Date: 5/3/2008
Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth... *roasts Mokona to make s'mores*
When the messenger arrived, Kannon accepted the notice with thanks, assuring him that it would be delivered to the appropriate parties immediately. As the man departed, he glanced down at the scribbled message; his eyes widened, and he turned and made a beeline for the library, where he knew Caliana was holding council with the Magic Knights.
The small group of young women glanced up at his entrance; they all smiled at him. “What’s up?” Hikaru cheered. An odd greeting, he privately thought—and she seemed so amused when he had offered a bewildered reply of ‘the ceiling.’
“We just received a report,” he said quickly, holding the parchment up. “There is a strange storm brewing just beyond the city border. The guards on the edge of the city say it does not seem to be a normal storm—it formed too quickly, and it seems to be too contained.” Those were the words of the guard who had scribbled the message, not his own.
Judging by the expressions on the faces of the Magic Knights, this was not a good sign. Umi rose. “Where outside the city is it? How far is that?” Her hand unconsciously touched the blue gem, set into the glove on her hand. She seemed to take comfort in knowing that it was there, though her expression was still apprehensive.
“To the north,” he said as the other two followed Umi’s lead and stood. “It is possible that it is nothing at all, but something about it did not sit well with the soldiers out there.”
“We had a freak-storm in Cephiro, not long after we got there,” Hikaru said. “And it was a very veiled attack. I think it’s in our best interest to go have a look at it and make sure it’s nothing.”
Fuu nodded her assent. “And it still bothers me—what I saw in the storm that night…” She frowned, her expression growing troubled. “I still swear that it looked for all the world like a girl riding a mashin. But,” she squared her shoulders, “we won’t find anything out by sitting here.”
A quick goodbye later, they left Caliana and Kannon in the library and hurried to the nearest window, drawing their swords as they ran. Three names were called, and three lights flared accordingly in a succession of red, blue, and green. In moments, they were hovering over the Aldarban capital city within the safe confines of their mashin.
Hikaru led the way, and they followed the directions Kannon had given them, flying towards the mysterious storm that was trouble the Guard on the city limits. It did afford them the opportunity to get another look at the city from overhead, and they were still impressed at how large the city really was. It seemed to go on and on, even from their vantage point.
Still, they saw the storm from a fair distance away as they approached the northern wall. It was marked by a swath of dark clouds swirling around in a very concentrated area. Lightning was visible, sparking and flashing inside the clouds. All three privately found themselves agreeing with what the Guard had said in their report—something about it did not seem right. The color of the clouds, the shape of the storm-mass, the way the lightning flashed…something about it just seemed unnatural.
“If it is that girl again,” Fuu said as they drew closer to the massive wall of clouds, “she’ll probably be up above the clouds. But be careful. Remember what happened last time.”
Umi shuddered, remembering all too well the feeling of lightning striking, of the electrical current surging through her entire body as well as her mashin, and the tremendous burning in every fiber of her, all of which she thought, for a fleeting moment, would kill her. She and Selece both survived the encounter, but it was not an experience either was in any hurry to repeat, nor were the other two eager to find out what it felt like to be struck by lightning.
“If we’re going to go up there,” Hikaru chimed in, “maybe we should do it now. Before we get there. There aren’t so many clouds, and a whole lot less lightning.” The others agreed readily.
As they ascended past the clouds, she cast a sympathetic look in Umi’s direction, seeing the Knight of Selece shiver again at the mention of lightning. Considering that she had been the one most opposed to the idea of becoming a Magic Knight, and in doing so had accepted a destiny she freely admitted she did not want, it seemed like Umi had suffered more than any of them in some ways for that destiny.
It was something Hikaru had thought about a great deal lately. Her friends were important to her, and while she was not as smart as Fuu, she was not stupid. She and Fuu had suffered for Cephiro and for their duties as Magic Knights…but their trials tended to appear and be done with. One big moment, one spasm of pain, and then recovery.
Hikaru had fought her way through the Test of the Pillar.
Fuu had been prepared to surrender her beloved.
And both had seen their teammate die before their eyes, struck down by her own hand to seal their foe.
But Umi…she had fought her fate, yet accepted it to save her friends. She was the first one forced to prove herself before her mashin. She had watched quietly and without complaint as both her friends found love in Cephiro while being unable to see what was there for her in the young summoner. The darkness had nearly swallowed her through Xander’s ploys and plots, leading her to a decisive moment where she had to take her own life.
And now she had lost one of her dearest friends to whoever it was that was bringing them out now. She was sure of that—Kagura’s kidnappers and the freak-storms were linked.
Hikaru gave her friend another glance, though this time she was smiling. Umi was stronger than she thought. Fuu’s strength was mental; she could think on her feet, and was peerless at forming plans and finding quick, creative solutions to whatever problem fell before her. Hikaru’s was a physical power—she was easily the best fighter of the three of them.
But Umi’s strength…it was internal. Beneath the flamboyant beauty was a core that was as strong as steel and as volatile as lava. When that center erupted and filled her, she could handle anything. It was at times like this, Hikaru privately thought, that it became obvious.
Hikaru admired Umi for that. Someday, she would have to tell her.
She had to withdraw from her thoughts, though, as they rose above the clouds and neared the storm-mass. It was even more formidable up close, and it became even more obvious exactly why the Guard had been alarmed. There was nothing natural about this, nor was there anything friendly. It was foreboding, and very dangerous.
“There!” Fuu hissed, her eyes narrowing.
Just as she’d said, the clouds parted to reveal a large form, standing out a golden yellow against the dark gray-brown clouds. It was a giant serpent, its flanks visibly heaving and shifting as it floated in the sky. And soon they were close enough to see…
“That girl again…” Fuu murmured, sounding both alarmed and puzzled. The same girl, short-haired and clad in a cloak or cape of some kind, was standing on the serpent’s muzzle. “Should we attack?”
As if in response to the question, lightning flared; the streak went right between the three of them, close enough that all found themselves nursing red patches of skin from the heat. The interesting part was that the lightning came up, rather than striking down. And it was too close, without hitting any of them, to be a coincidence.
They were being attacked. And there was really only one thing they could do in response to that.
In a flash, the mashin were armed with swords, and they charged. Selece was the fastest, and so Umi led the attack; her eyes blazed, and a nervous trickle of sweat ran down her forehead, but she was not to be deterred by something as petty as fear. She was one who had known the truest nature of terror.
This was nothing.
For a moment, it looked as though the girl was going to do nothing. She stood there, watching passively as the three came at her. But as they drew near, she raised a hand—
Clouds rushed around Umi, separating her from the others. And strangely enough, as Fuu and Hikaru tried to push through to their friend, the clouds seemed to push them back, solidifying into a wall and physically blocking their way. There was a flare of light that could only be lightning, and they heard Umi’s scream coupled with a bellow that they knew to be Selece.
But this time, Umi did not fall to the ground.
Selece and his Knight both began to drop…but the girl waved her hand again, and the clouds below them opened up and began to swirl into a funnel-shaped cloud, like a tornado. As Hikaru and Fuu looked on in horror, the mashin was stopped, hovering just above the wide mouth of the storm. He hung there for a moment, face down, before something bathed in blue light was seemingly ripped from his chest.
Umi, falling from the protection of her mashin. She dropped directly into that whirlwind…
Spurred on by a fury she had not realized she was capable of, Fuu tore past the clouds and surged straight up to the girl on the serpent. “You!” she spat angrily, brandishing her sword. She felt Hikaru move up behind her, feeling the heat of Rayearth’s mane. “What have you done?”
She didn’t expect an answer, and so was stunned when a soft female voice seemed to come from the vicinity of the mashin. “I have fulfilled my orders, and taken what I was sent here to claim.”
“What do you mean?” Hikaru growled. “What do you want with Umi?”
This time, there was no answer. The clouds surged around them again, and by the time they were able to fight their way free of the sky-borne bindings, everything was gone. Girl, serpent, and whirlwind had vanished, leaving them alone in the sky.
“Why does this always happen to Umi?” Hikaru moaned, trying desperately not to panic.
“Do not fear,” a voice intoned, and they recognized it again as Selece. “She is safe. And she is not far.”
“Can we follow her?” Fuu demanded.
That was all the encouragement either girl needed, and they flew again, following Selece’s lead as he traced Umi to bring them to the aid of his chosen Magic Knight.
Umi recognized the feeling of the lightning strike, as well as the feeling of paralysis that came with it. Her limbs wouldn’t move, and her body refused to cooperate, and she found herself at the mercy of whatever was happening outside her mashin. She felt a strange tug on her arms and legs…
And without warning, she was tumbling through the air in a free-fall. Her cloak and armor, the ones she wore only when nestled within Selece, became ribbons of blue light before changing back to her normal armor and regular clothes. Which meant that she was no longer in Selece.
What was happening?
There wasn’t much time to think it over, though. She was falling into what looked like some sort of tornado or whirlwind. And as her limbs slowly began to regain feeling, she plummeted directly into the mouth of it. In that instant, the gusting wind tore at her hair, clothes, face, like so many knives.
She thought she screamed, but she wasn’t entirely sure.
More alarming was the fact that the ground was below those clouds, and the laws of gravity held true in Aldarba as in Cephiro and on Earth. If she fell through the clouds…if no one caught her…
She was going to die.
Strange, though—the world was starting to spin. For a moment she thought she was just caught up in that vortex of swirling air and water—and she desperately wished she had enough stability or focus to use her magic somehow. But no…things were spinning at an alarming rate…
And the next thing she knew, she was landing hard, sprawled flat on her back.
And she was no longer outdoors.
Umi sat up and looked around, bewildered. She was in a long corridor, entirely made of gray stone. Alarmed at the inexplicable change in scenery, she jumped to her feet, wincing at the memory of the lightning and the wind, though there were no actual marks on her skin from either. She was visibly uninjured, though she could feel it down to her bones.
The hallway went on for possibly miles—that what it seemed, at least. She could see stairs at either end of it, and many big, arched doorways that led to capillary hallways, all sprouting off in different directions. The curved tops of those doorways were engraved with ornate designs—one a flower of some sort, another with clouds, and a third with a tree’s graceful branches. Aside from those and a long crimson floor runner that spanned the entire length of the corridor, the place was void of decoration.
Unable to find any sign of how she got there or clue as to where she was, Umi drew her sword and began to walk in one direction, unsure of what else to do. It was not the first time she had found herself in the enemy’s stronghold—though she did not yet know for certain if this was the enemy’s lair or not—but it was still a jarring and disquieting feeling, to be in a place she did not know, uncertain of whether she would encounter friend or foe.
Still, the fact that there were stairs there was promising. It meant there was a chance she could find a way out of this place. She just had to look for it, and keep on her toes, guard always up. Tightening her grip on the hilt of her sword, she quickened her step.
“The Knight of Selece is in the palace.”
Kagura had been examining the hilt of her sword, for a lack of anything better to look at. But at Sorilbran’s words, she jumped to her feet, her hand grasping the blade even closer. “What?”
He smiled at her, that same little grin that spoke of benevolence and falsehoods. “Malia was successful in her mission. As I promised, Kagura, I have brought your greatest enemy before you. The Knight of Selece is in the palace.”
Her eyes widened. Umi…
He glanced back down at the large book he had been perusing, running one bony finger down the page. “She is searching for a way out, though. Not for you.”
Determined not to be deterred and not to give into that strange feeling rising like bile in the back of her throat, Kagura shook her head. “She just doesn’t know that I’m here. She probably just thinks she’s been captured and wants to escape.” Just like last time… she added mentally, though she did not voice that thought. She had been careful as of late, regarding which thoughts she did and did not verbalize.
Strange things seemed to happen when she spoke her mind around here.
“Of course,” Sorilbran said smoothly. “Very well, Kagura. I shall offer a compromise. You are not truly our prisoner here. We simply brought you here to give you the opportunity to realize your own destiny—a destiny far greater than that of your friend down there.” He smiled. “But as it seems you do not feel equal to it, and so reject it, I offer you the direct path to your freedom.”
A wave of his hand produced a doorway in the wall. Kagura started. “What is—“
“That will take you directly to the Knight of Selece,” he replied, anticipating the question. “If you wish to go find her and leave this place with her, you are free to do so. No one will stop you. But…” He turned to look her squarely in the eye, “if you wish to know what power you truly hold, I strongly recommend that you stay here with us.”
Kagura stood still for a moment, trying to figure out if this was some sort of a trap. But no, it couldn’t be…aside from her first rough landing in this place, they had treated her well. She had not felt in any danger, though she could not necessarily explain why she felt so safe. She felt like she should be panicking, but could not.
Her first two steps towards that open, inviting doorway were more stumbling than actual walking, but she quickly righted herself and quickened pace, and ran through that doorway, down the flight of stairs that lay beyond it.
Watching her retreating back, Sorilbran smirked and turned to touch that same smooth half-globe of black crystal. The image that appeared in the air before him was of Kagura running, her long hair streaming behind her as she went in search of her dearest friend, now greatest enemy.
This would be interesting to watch. So very interesting indeed.
At the sound of her name, Umi froze dead in her tracks, stunned motionless. She knew that voice as well as she knew her own name. She had been hearing it since they were old enough to talk, laughing and discussing and bickering and all the things that went along with a deep, long-lasting friendship.
She turned around, and her sword clattered to the burgundy carpet at her feed. “Kagura!” The smile on her face was probably ridiculously large, but she didn’t care. She simply vaulted herself towards the figure running at her, and they collided in a great big hug, nearly knocking each to the ground from sheer exuberance alone.
The next several seconds were spent poking each other to ensure that yes, indeed, the other one was real. There was a resounding chorus of their voices, jumbled together as they asked each other the same questions—are you all right? Are you hurt? What happened? Did you miss me?—and giving the same answers—I’m fine, don’t worry. God, I was so worried about you! So much has happened, you wouldn’t believe it!
When they both finally calmed down, Umi swallowed hard in a desperate attempt to get herself back under control, though she really did want to cry for joy and relief. “Are you…I mean, you’re coming with me, right? We’ll find a way out of here?”
“We don’t need to find a way out!” Kagura exclaimed. “I know the way!”
“Even better!” Umi said in a rush as they started running; she stooped to gather up her fallen sword as they passed it, and returned it to the jewel on her glove without breaking step. “We’ve been staying in Aldarba. So much has been happening, and we’ve been worried about you, and…and…” She trailed off as she noticed something odd about Kagura’s outfit, something she had missed in the overwhelming excitement and relief at simply seeing Kagura’s face again and seeing that she was okay.
Kagura seemed to notice her scrutiny. “What?”
“Your…your clothes,” Umi said, slowing to a stop. “That armor is…”
“Oh, you noticed!” Kagura laughed, starting to jabber excitedly. “Can you believe it? They told me I was a Magic Knight! I’ve got the sword and magic and armor and everything—just like you and the other girls!” She clapped her hands, letting Umi see the leather glove she wore. It was inlaid with an ovum-gem, identical to the one Umi herself wore save for color.
Umi was sure that her reaction was not what Kagura was expecting. “Kagura…no!” she protested, horrified. “Being a Magic Knight…it’s not a good thing! It’s horrible! There’s so much pain! You have to do things—be willing to sacrifice everything for Cephiro!”
Kagura looked somewhere between lost and hurt. “W-what?”
Umi shook her head frantically, desperately trying to order her thoughts. Kagura? A Magic Knight? How could this be? “I told you what happened during the battle with the Pillar, didn’t I? How awful that was? And you remember how much it changed me, don’t you?”
Umi herself remembered it all too well—the daily interrogations over what was wrong and what had happened and why Umi was so sad. She had tolerated it, knowing that Kagura meant well, but she did not want to talk about it, and she was not about to tell Kagura the truth of what had happened to her in the moment that light had flashed over Tokyo Tower. Takeshi had done it as well, but she didn’t see him every day; she didn’t have to walk to and from school with him, sit in class with him and eat lunch. His questions and knowing looks were easier to avoid, whereas Kagura’s were unavoidable by circumstance.
“But…but I thought…” Kagura now looked genuine confused.
“We had to murder Emeraude to save Cephiro, don’t you remember?” Umi said, pleading with Kagura to understand. “Or the fight with Xander—you were there for that! You saw everything as it happened. You know how terrible it can be! You’ve seen the things that can happen!” She swallowed hard. “Kagura, I died in that fight. I don’t want that for you! I never want any of my friends to suffer like I had to! Please understand that!”
She was extremely worried, though—something about Kagura seemed very off, including the way she was reacting. It was not like her to respond to much of anything with that kind of a lost puppy look. It was like someone else was wearing her friend’s face. A familiar stranger.
She was expecting several different responses—understanding, questions, even argument. But she had not anticipated seeing Kagura’s face darken like that, her pretty features clouding with unmistakable rage. “What? Why can’t I be a Magic Knight?” she said, tone low with anger. “You are. The others are. Why can’t I be one too?”
“Kagura—“ Umi took a step back, stunned.
“What? Am I not good enough?” she spat the words out, her hands clenching into fists at her sides. “Not special enough to be in your little club? Or do you just not trust me enough to keep up? God forbid that you not be the special one for once in your goddamn life.”
“W-what? No!” Umi protested desperately. “I don’t want you to have to suffer—“
“Well, aren’t you noble?” Kagura said furiously.
“Kagura, what’s wrong with you?” Umi asked. This was not right, not at all. Kagura could be excitable, and she was prone to moments where she would possess a one-track mind. But she was not unreasonable, nor was she usually this quick to anger.
“I don’t think the problem here lies with me, Umi,” Kagura intoned, taking a step back. “I thought we were friends, all this time. I told them so, but they told me I was wrong, and still I refused to believe them. But in the end, he was right. I didn’t want to believe him, but he was right.”
He? Umi wondered briefly, but she was cut off as Kagura began to glow, a dark aura that outlined her and seemed to radiate anger and pain and evil. Umi took another step back, unable to tear her eyes away from her best friend.
…now former best friend, it would seem.
“You are my enemy,” Kagura intoned.
The floor seemed to drop out from under Umi. “Kagura, no—“
She closed her eyes and shook her head before fixing Umi with a penetrating stare. “I am of the Dark.” As she spoke, one hand moved to her glove, and in a burst of shadows there was a sword in her hand, in exactly the same manner as Umi herself would draw her own Escudo-made sword. The dark aura around her seemed to grow, spilling onto the hallway floor and creeping up the walls.
As Umi stumbled backwards, still staring in horror, Kagura’s sword and armor changed. They had been colorless upon their meeting. But as the shadows crept in closer, they changed. Her armor seemed to fill in with color, as black as ebony, inlaid with gold. Her sword hilt was very much the same. And the gem on her glove from whence she had pulled her sword…
“Kagura, no!” Umi tried to protest, but she was again cut off as Kagura lunged at her. Her well-trained reflexes saved her, though, and she dropped to the ground and rolled to the side, getting to her feet just in time to avoid another assault.
Kagura was attacking her in a calculated frenzy, if such a thing were possibly. There was no mistaking her fury, both from her expression and the slightest tremor in her sword hand. But every move she made was precise and perfect, with the obvious intention of putting an end to Umi’s protests and arguments once and for all.
Somehow, amidst all the hopping around and dodging, Umi managed to draw her own sword. When Kagura next attacked her, Umi met her opponent’s blade with her own, resulting in a loud clang of metal on metal. Kagura jumped back, and Umi took advantage of the momentary respite to get to her feet and steady herself before glaring at Kagura. “Please—don’t do this.”
But despite her desperate pleas, it seemed that Kagura had nothing more to say to her on the matter, and let her sword do the talking for her.
All in all, Umi was having difficulty holding a defense. She was too stunned by this sudden turn of events to muster any sort of offensive at all. It was all she could really do to hold her own, keeping Kagura’s attacks from landing too hard in any truly damaging places. Still, her blood was shed from cuts here and there, though there was nothing immediately threatening or serious. But it hurt, and not just the physical aspect of things. And Kagura was rapidly gaining ground. It wouldn’t be long before…
There was a loud sound, of metal meeting metal, followed by a whooshing sound and the metallic clattering of Kagura’s sword hitting the ground several meters away. She stood there for a moment, staring at her now-empty hand in bewilderment. “W-what…?”
Behind her, Hikaru held her own sword aloft, having just used it to disarm Kagura. “I don’t know what’s going on,” she said sternly, lowering her arm to her side, “but I don’t like it.” She took a step towards Kagura. “What are you doing? …and what are you wearing? That’s—“
“The armor of a Magic Knight,” Kagura said coldly, turning to look at Hikaru. Her violet eyes were hard, and strangely amused. “But you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you, Hikaru dear? Or would you?” She smirked. “Never were the brightest crayon in the tool shed, were you?”
If the words touched a nerve, Hikaru gave no outward indication of them finding their mark. Instead, she simply glared. “I saw enough, and I heard enough. What happened to you?” Only on the last word did a note of desperation enter her voice.
“I learned a few things about myself during my stay here with these fascinating people,” Kagura said lightly. “And one of those things is that I have power. Great power. It just needs the chance to be brought out. Something none of you,” she glanced around, “would have helped me to do. So I’ve also learned a few things about my so-called friends.”
Pulling herself to her feet, Umi noticed Fuu standing a few paces behind Hikaru. The Knight of Windam’s face was expressionless at this little speech. “Kagura,” Fuu spoke up. “I think you’re wrong.”
“Good for you,” she said smoothly. “Then I’m afraid you are my enemies as well.” She turned to glare at both of them, her look as hard and cold as ice. “And I will destroy you, just as I will destroy her.” That last was accompanied by a gesture towards Umi.
Hikaru’s attempt at a protest fell on deaf ears as the darkness swelled, and the three Magic Knights were thrown backwards into the walls of the narrow corridor. With them momentarily removed as obstacles, she casually walked over to retrieve her sword. When she turned back to them, bearing a black sword cast in Escudo, she intoned one more time, “I am of the Dark.”
“We must retreat.”
The voice in Hikaru’s head startled her. “Rayearth?”
“You cannot win this fight as it stands now,” he cautioned. “Retreat, or be destroyed.”
“But Kagura is—“
“She has been subverted. She will kill all of you, and she has the power to do it.”
Hikaru hesitated, then agreed. “We have to leave!” she called to her friends. “We can’t win this!”
Judging by the look on Fuu’s face, she had just had a similar exchange with her own mashin. She caught Hikaru’s eye and nodded curtly. She understood. Now there was just…
“No…” Umi looked torn. Selece had undoubtedly given her the same message as Rayearth and Windam. She knew that her mashin spoke the truth, and she knew that they had to leave. But she had been so desperate to find Kagura again, and now to lose her to this darkness…
“Umi!” Fuu said desperately as Kagura again began to call the darkness.
Making her decision, Umi tightened her hold on her sword and gave Kagura one last look. “…S-Selece…” In a flare of blue light, she was taken to the safety of her mashin.
The others followed suit.
“…is this how you found me?” Umi asked, though her tone indicated no real interest in the answer.
“Selece brought us to you,” Fuu affirmed softly.
As the mashin flew away, Umi looked back down, and for the first time she saw the massive structure that was apparently their enemy’s hideout. It was a tall needle, cast in dark gray stone. It was floating in the sky, and as they moved away from it, it was soon lost to their sight behind a wall of black clouds.
Umi kept her eyes back towards it, though, long after she could no longer see it. In her mind, she kept replaying the scene over and over again, a movie stuck on constant repeat.
She closed her eyes. “…why?”
PS. Ah, summerwrite. You make me write :D So there should hopefully be more updates on this story over the next few weeks. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!