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11 April 2007 @ 08:48 pm
Tears of the Sea, ch. 2 (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*



With a flourish, the fabric left the girl’s hand, soared majestically through the air—and landed neatly on top of another girl’s head, earning a “Hey!” from the hapless victim.

Ryuuzaki Umi plucked the purple, long-sleeved shirt from her head, looking slightly less than amused at the antics of her roommate and friend. But the glare she shot in Kagura’s direction was lost, as the latter was buried up to her shoulders in her closet, and therefore did not see the death-look. And Umi found herself scampering around, trying to avoid the shower of clothes being thrown around the room.

“Kagura!” Umi finally yelped as another airborne shirt caught her square in the face. “Hey!”

With a little shriek and a soft thump, Watanabe Kagura pulled free from the closet, and immediately tripped and ended up falling right on her rump on the floor. She quickly climbed to her feet, rubbing the now-bruised area that had so cushioned her less-than-graceful landing, but she recovered almost instantly, and was bouncing around the room again in a heartbeat, leaving Umi holding a few shirts and shaking her head in wonder.

Up until recently, Umi hadn’t believed anything could have been as tough as the journey through Cephiro. Then she’d started college, and found out that there were many different levels of difficult. And college had been an entirely different facet of difficulty.

Her roommate was a perfect and obvious example. She and Kagura had been friends for quite some time, attending the same school for many years. There was just one thing: when Kagura got excited or hyper about something…well, even Hikaru would blanch and back away slowly.

And now was a prime example of that.

“Kagura!” Umi finally barked in exasperation, a little more loudly than she had intended, but she got the effect she had wanted.

Her roommate stopped dead in her tracks and whirled around, brown ponytail sweeping in a wide arc about her. Chocolate eyes gazed at her quizically. “What’s up?”

“First of all, calm down. Secondly,” Umi chucked the clothing at her friend, “I believe these are yours. Just pick an outfit!” Her attention shifted back to her own reflection. “It’s not like we’re going to an award’s banquet or something. It’s just a night out.”

“Gomen ne,” Kagura took a few deep breaths to try and calm herself down. “It’s just that we never get to go out anymore. Always homework or tests or meetings or practices or general lack of funding or lack of energy or whatever…” She dumped the loose clothing on her desk chair. “I’m just excited!”

Umi shook her head and refocused on her own reflection. A night on the town was indeed a rare treat for college students, for all the reasons Kagura had listed. Just a few friends—it was her, Kagura, Takeshi, Hikaru, and Fuu. Not that Takeshi complained about being the only rooster in the henhouse, though it wasn’t really worth much—he was the onii-chan. The big brother to his little ‘harem,’ he fulfilled all the duties required of an elder sibling—including beating off any unwanted male attention.

Speaking of whom…

“Knock knock,” the voice came from the other side of the half-open door. “Is everyone decent?”

“No,” Umi replied automatically, knowing that no matter the response, the door would open.

Sure enough, Takeshi poked his head in. “Really?” He was rewarded by a light slap on the back of the head, courtesy of Kagura, who bounded across the room just for it, and one of Umi’s patented eye-rolls.

The blue-haired beauty’s attention returned yet again to her mirror. And for a split second, she could have sworn she saw someone standing over her shoulder. A woman’s face. But she blinked and it was gone, so she brushed it off. Kagura was running around like crazy, so it was probably just that.

Banishing the thought from her mind, she did one last mirror check. For once, she had forsaken her usual blue attire in favor of black—black pants, black tank top, and a long-sleeved sheer shirt over it. She wore her hair down, as there wasn’t much else she could do with it save for the black headband she wore to keep it back from her face. Simple and sophisticated—that was what her style had become.

Kagura bounded up beside her, chocolate-colored curls bouncing from her head like crazed Slinkees. She threw her arms around her friends neck and grinned into the mirror. “I finally decided what to wear! Let’s go!” Ironically enough, it was the same purple shirt that moments ago had taken flight and landed on Umi’s head.

Through the thin dorm walls, Umi could hear giggling in the hall outside. Hikaru and Fuu—who actually lived just down the hall—were ready and waiting. Umi swept up her waiting purse. “Let’s go!”

-o-


It was amazing how much the three had grown over the seven years since their adventures in Cephiro. They had been fourteen year old schoolgirls then, innocent, naïve. Now all three had bypassed the final stepping stone into adulthood—three twenty-first birthday parties that had resulted in several amusing stories, and one incredibly incriminating video of Fuu singing kareoke. Umi had cheerfully titled that particular film Blackmail.

Right at the moment, as they stepped out of their dorm onto the streets of Tokyo, it was evident just how much the former Magic Knights had matured.

Hikaru in particular had grown, and though she was still the tiniest of the three, she was no longer a child. Umi’s influence was also subtly revealing itself in the sleek black pants, white shirt, and short-sleeved red button-up she wore. But she still retained her long red braid.

Fuu, the soft-spoken brains behind their team, had always been the most adult, and it was still obvious simply in the way she carried herself. A knee-length, forest-green skirt matched with a white shirt suited her just fine, and she’d grown her hair longer, though nowhere near as long as Umi’s.

Or Hikaru’s, for that matter.

And so they set out for downtown, five teenagers out for a good time.

At Kagura’s insistence, they were going to the fabled Tokyo Tower first. She had begged; she hadn’t been there in ages, she said, and it was a great place to take pictures and such. With everyone looking so nice and all, it was a fantastic opportunity.

Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu hadn’t been to the Tower in a long time either, but for a slightly different reason, one they weren’t too inclined to share with their friends. So after slight protest, they’d given in and agreed to go along on the trip. They could see it in the distance. It was illuminated against the sky, brightly lit and beautiful. Yet it made the three very uneasy.

They were almost to the Tower when Umi heard it.

The voice—a soft, low hissing noise.

“Magic Knightsssss…” it growled from somewhere close. Somewhere very close…

Blue eyes darted back and forth frantically, searching for the source of the menacing voice. The shadows cast by the buildings, trees, and alleyways around her played tricks on her eyes; the darkness seemed to bend, creating forms and beings where there were none. Magic Knight…sense…tingling…

The hairs on the back of her neck stood at rigid attention, and she grabbed Takeshi’s arm. “We have to go. Now!” Before he could protest, there was a crashing sound, and the group of teenagers whirled to find the source of the noise.

Even though the darkness obscured the thing, it was quite obvious that this wasn’t anything earthly. It looked more like something spat up out of Hell. The shadowed outline was huge and dark against the night; what little light there was shone off something that seemed remarkable similar to slime. And tentacles, waving in the night. Teeth shone, and claws glistened. It let out a low growl, a growl that grew and erupted into a roar that sounded like some bizarre cross between a lion’s roar and an eagle’s trumpet.

With alarming speed, it swung a tentacle at them.

“RUN!” Umi shrieked, launching herself forward. She tackled Kagura, and they just barely tumbled out of its reach; the others dove out of the way, and all quickly pulled back to their feet and took off running, as fast as they could.

It was then that they discovered just how fast that thing could move. It continued to prove itself as being not of this world, by hoisting its enormous bulk onto two short legs and sprinting after them. It matched their pace easily, and soon began to gain, following them step for step as they fled down the streets of downtown Tokyo.

And it kept making that sound, somewhere between a growl and a hiss, saying only those two words over and over again. “Magic Knightssssss…” It remind Fuu vaguely of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movie, the way it dragged out the s’s. If she threw it a ring, she wondered, would it call it Precious?

Behind them, they also heard screams of terror, and various sounds of destruction: crashes, glass breaking, and squealing tires. But they kept going, hoping to every deity that had ever heard of that the thing killed no one in its pursuit of them. But they had to flee. Unarmed, they stood no chance against it.

“The Tower!” Takeshi hollered. Sure enough, the front doors of Tokyo Tower were straight ahead.

Unsure of what he had in mind, the four girls followed. No one had any other suggestions, and they couldn’t just run forever. Fuu was wheezing, and Umi was getting a sharp cramp in her side.

They burst through the doors, and followed Takeshi across the lobby. It was then that they saw what he was thinking—the elevator doors were wide open, and the elevator car was empty. Given that it was getting late, people were more apt to be leaving the landmark than going to it.

They dove into the lift, and Hikaru, who was closest, began frantically pushing the button to close the doors and begin the ascent to the top. The silvery doors began to slide closed…

There was a shattering noise as tentacles burst through the doors—but the creature itself proved too large to fit. Instead, it reached for them with those slimy things.

The elevator door closed with a soft hissing sound—a harbringer of doom to the five teens now trapped within. They heard claws scraping across metal, accompanied by a softer sound, which was in all probability the tentacles. But a second later, the elevator began moving, heading towards the top of Tokyo Tower, and whatever might be waiting there.

Kagura leaned against the wall of the elevator, gasping desperately for air. “What…the hell…was that…thing?” she wheezed, sliding down the wall to sit on the elevator floor. “That…was just…freakin’ insane…good God…”

“Is everybody okay?” Fuu wheezed, following Kagura’s lead and dropping to a seat on the floor. Ever the lady, she folded her legs primly under her. In response to her query, she got a chorus of ‘I’m fines’ and ‘I’m goods,’ and the like. By this time, all of them were sitting, trying to force much-needed air into burning lungs, and make muscles relax.

Takeshi looked around at each of them. “What was that? And what the hell is a Magic Knight?”

Instead of the expected shrugs and ‘I don’t knows,’ silence met his questions. Kagura was too focused on breathing to answer, but Umi, Fuu, and Hikaru simply looked at each other questioningly, then averted their eyes.

Ding-ding. Red alert.

“You guys know something, don’t you?” he demanded, unconsciously rubbing his side in an attempt to make the stitch that had developed there go away. “What’s a Magic Knight?”

To his surprise, Umi replied, but it wasn’t a direct answer. “I’m so sorry.” He stared at her, and she lifted her gaze and looked him dead in the eye. “I’m so sorry that you two had to get involved. They’re not even after you…” The thought trailed off, and a very uneasy silence fell.

“Do you think we’ll be safe at the top?” Kagura asked after a moment. “I mean, they can’t get us up there, can they? Right?”

“I don’t know,” Fuu answered softly. “It might very well be that they can’t get us up there, but we can’t stay on top of the Tower forever. And there’s nothing that says they won’t be able to just come up there and get us.”

“Don’t say that!” Hikaru actually moaned.

“It’s the truth.”

“And we’re defenseless. Unarmed. Nothing,” Umi sighed. “We’re sitting ducks.”

The top drew closer, and closer. Finally, there was a ding. The five jumped to their feet and waited. It was eternity, yet it took merely a few seconds for the door to slide open, and they stepped out onto the observation deck of Tokyo Tower.

The door closed behind them…and started moving back down. They were officially trapped.

Wide eyes darted back and forth, staring through the windows into the darkness that lay beyond. Shadows seemed to grow and meld themselves into more than what they were. But finally, one loomed directly ahead of them, the outline of wings spread behind it.

“Ohmigod, we’re gonna die…” Umi moaned softly.

“C-come on,” Fuu tried to encourage. “Think positive.”

“Ohmigod, we’re gonna die quickly,” Umi repeated, adding emphasis on the last word.

Despite the grave nature of their predicament, Fuu turned and bestowed a sardonic glare upon her longtime friend. “That’s not exactly what I meant…” A noise outside cut their conversation off.

More shadows were appearing outside. Large shadows, simply hovering beyond the panes of glass that seperated them from their intended victims: the Magic Knights, as the thing on the street had so informed them.

“This is it,” Hikaru murmured. They’d positioned themselves so that Kagura and Takeshi were behind them. It was only an illusion of protection, though; there was little doubt that whatever was out there would kill anyone or anything in its way.

The elevator had gone back down. Maybe it would bring up another group of people, out for the night to see the sights and spend time with friends. Those people would come up here to find this mess, and in all probability, their bodies. Or whatever would be left of their bodies. These things didn’t seem like the kind to leave much left of their victims.

Five college students, brutally and mysteriously murdered on the platform of the landmark Tokyo Tower. Police stumped. Families in mourning. The looming headlines and chaos were painfully clear.

There was a shattering of glass and the shimmer of light reflecting off demonic eyes. There were glistening claws and teeth dripping saliva, slimy tentacles and angry growls of unhuman, unearthly beasts, set on blood and murder.

Fuu instinctively pressed herself as far backwards as possible, pushing Kagura right back against the wall. She felt claws on her neck…like fire…

*NO!*

The monsters froze as the voice pierced their minds, like white hot steel. It was a familiar voice, one that any of the three Magic Knights would have sworn they had heard before, somewhere, long ago…somewhere…

Beyond the beasts, beyond the shattered windows, a bright light appeared at the distant edge of the horizon. And like the voice, it was oh-so-familiar…

Eyes widened in realization, in the case of the three Knights, and fear, in the case of the two hapless friends standing behind them. But it was only Fuu who managed to give voice to the thought she and her fellow Knights shared. “Cephiro…”

Then the light engulfed them, pulling them away from the Tower and the dangerous creatures so intent on killing them. They were gone from the world in which they lived, and falling into the whiteness that was their gateway to another world…

With a jolt, Umi’s eyes snapped open. And she wasn’t too terribly surprised to find herself floating in a crystal blue sky over an immense landscape that stretched on forever. Blue rivers, golden fields, and emerald forests, as far as the eye could see. Of course, the view only lasted for a moment, before they lost the ability to defy gravity, and the familiar fall from the sky began.

Umi waited, hoping desperately that something would be there to catch them. Granted Fyula—Clef’s giant flying fish—had been there for the other times, but there was no guarantee…

Nearby, she could hear screams, but it wasn’t Hikaru or Fuu. And one of the screeching voices was most definitely not female…

Realization came in a flash. Kagura! Takeshi!

Wrenching herself around in the air, Umi found herself face to face with her two friends. Both of whom were accompanying her in this downward tumble. They, however, seemed far less calm about it than she was.

The ground was getting closer…closer…and closer still…

“OOF!”

All five simultaneously let out loud grunts of pain and/or surprise as they landed on something.

Fuu sat up first and looked down at the scaly being beneath her hands. She would have recognized that anywhere. “Fyula!” The flying fish that had already caught them twice before turned its head a little and nodded at her, chirping brightly.

“OHMIGOD!” Kagura’s shriek made Fuu’s ears ring, and the Knight of Windam winced.

“Where the hell are we?” Takeshi asked; his voice was a little softer, but no less irate. “You guys are way too calm, so it’s pretty obvious you know what’s going on. So start talking!” With each word, his voice grew a little louder and a little more agitated.

Umi stood up, careful not to fall from atop Fyula, and gestured to the vista before them. “Takeshi, Kagura, welcome to Cephiro.” She pointed off into the distance, where a large crystalline building loomed, sparkling in the sunlight. “That’s the palace. I assume that’s where we’re going.”

“Umi,” Fuu murmured; after years of friendship, the blonde had finally dropped the ‘-san’ suffix from the end of their names, as Hikaru had dropped the ‘-chan’, “we know where we are, but why are we here? Who brought us here?”

“Didn’t Mokona leave?” Hikaru added.

The rest of the way to the palace was silent, save for Kagura, who continued to freak out.

They would probably, hopefully find out when they got there.

-o-


Guru Clef’s head snapped back with a gasp of shock.

Lantis shot him a quizzical look. “Nani?”

“There’s…there’s something here,” he muttered, now looking more confused than anything else. “But…this can’t be right…” Nearby, Presea, who had just come into the hall to deliver a message, watched the scene uneasily.

Apparently making a decision, Clef turned to Lantis. “Go get everyone together in the throne room. Wait there.” The tall man in black didn’t ask questions, but rushed to obey. Presea, however, remained behind.

“Clef…what’s going on?” she asked softly.

Before he could answer, though, a beam of light shot from the ceiling, right down the center of the room. It quickly widened into a small pillar of pure white brightness. And in the center of it, at its very core, a figure emerged. A small being with wings.

The Master Mage gasped, “Creator!” at the same time Presea half-shrieked, “Mokona!”

For it was. The small, marshmallow-like being that had been the Magic Knights’ guide was hovering in the middle of the room, snowy wings spread around him, yellow jewel shining in the middle of his forehead. And he spoke. “Greetings.”

“C-Creator…” Clef actually stammered, “you’ve returned?”

“Out of necessity, I have. And I have brought the mashin with me,” the deity replied. “There is danger, Guru. Grave danger, not only to Cephiro, but to all worlds. And in light of the need, it is time for those who loved Cephiro from afar to be reunited with this land.”

“What does that mean?” Clef started to ask, but he received no answer.

The Creator began glowing, a blinding whiteness that engulfed him. It flared, and he dropped to the floor and looked up at them. The jewel on his forehead sparkled bright pink, and he looked as happy and carefree as he always had. He smiled, if one could call it that, at them, and let out a loud, “Puu!” It bounced twice across the floor, made a leap, and ended up in the arms of a very stunned artisan, who was busily doing an impression of a hooked halibut.

Mokona, on the other hand, was happily puu-ing away.

Finally, Presea regained her voice. “What did that mean?”

Once again, Mokona didn’t give Clef a chance to respond, because the little white fluffball jumped from the pharle’s arms and out the door. They watched him leave, and then turned to look quizzically at each other. However, the questioning looks didn’t last for long.

A ear-splitting shriek pierced the air, and a second later, a girl came flying into the room, screaming her head off. Neither Presea nor Clef had ever seen her before. It became obvious a second later why she was so freaked out, though; she was being chased.

By Mokona?

Sure enough, the marshmallow was happily chasing the girl—a dark-haired young woman, actually quite pretty—around the room. She didn’t seem to find it as amusing as Mokona did, though. She tripped, sprawled out on the floor, and immediately flipped over, staring with wide-eyes at the hopping fluffball in front of her.

“Puu!” Mokona chirped, and the girl’s expression changed from alarm to something a little more questioning.

“You’re actually kind of cute,” she said, cocking her head to one side. It was only then that she seemed to take notice of the other people in the room, and the panic returned. “Ohmigod, I’m—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I—I didn’t break in or anything, I swear. I just—my friends said it was okay to just come in, so I did, and—and—“ She finally stopped babbling, and waited for the axe to fall.

“Puu puu puuuuuu!” Mokona trumpeted proudly, bouncing up and down.

“Mokona, are you scaring her?” a female voice asked with a sense of amusement. “Come on, leave Kagura alone. She doesn’t know you’re harmless.”

The two Cephirean residents whirled, and both their jaws dropped simultaneously.

Shidou Hikaru strolled calmly into the room and easily scooped up the bouncing creature. “Kagura, it’s okay. He’s friendly, I promise.” The dark-haired girl still sitting on the floor—apparently, her name was Kagura—nodded, and climbed to her feet. But she didn’t take her eyes off of the two Cephireans.

Hikaru whirled, and without words or pretense, jumped over and threw her arms around a still-shellshocked Presea, effectively squashing Mokona between the two of them. It took the artisan a moment, but she seemed to recover enough to return the hug.

“I promise you, it’s completely safe,” Fuu said softly, stepping into the room; she was speaking over her shoulder.

A second later, Umi made her own entrance, effectively dragging a resisting young man behind her. “Takeshi, for the last time, come on!” He made a faint whimpering sound in response, and she rolled her eyes, apparently giving up. Instead, she turned to her Cephirean friends and smiled brilliantly. “Long time, no see!”

“What are you three doing here?” Clef asked, looking—for once—completely poleaxed.

“What, aren’t you happy to see us?” Umi teased, tossing her hair back with hand.

He shook his head, and gave her a wry look. Obviously, Umi hadn’t changed a bit. “It’s not that, I’m just…well, surprised.”

“You’re not the only ones!” Hikaru bubbled, standing beside Presea, still holding Mokona. “We were just out with some friends,” she gestured with her head towards the two thus-far unknown people with them, “and we were attacked!”

“Attacked?” Presea jumped in, alarmed.

“It was like something Debonair would have sent after us,” Fuu interjected, “only worse.”

“It had us cornered,” Umi added, “and then there was the light, and we dropped out of the sky again, and there was Fyula to catch us…you know, there’s got to be a better way to travel between worlds.”

“And whatever it was, it kept hissing at us,” Hikaru chirped; she then hunched over and held her hands out, curled up in an imitation of claws, and hissed, “Magic Knightssssssssss…”

Clef nodded, then murmured thoughtfully, “Is this what Mokona meant? Those who love Cephiro from afar?”

“Huh?” Three voices asked, and he shook his head.

“Um, excuse me?” All eyes moved to Kagura, who was hadn’t moved from the spot where she had fallen and then gotten up. “If it’s not too much trouble,” her voice was deceptively sweet, and Umi unconsciously took a step back; she knew that look, and it wasn’t good, “COULD WE POSSIBLY GET AN EXPLANATION AS TO WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?” She screamed that last in a voice that would have made dogs keel over and die.

“I have to agree,” Takeshi was being surprisingly calm, save for the fact that he kept Umi in front of him at all times, like a sort of human shield. “Where are we? Who are these people? And why are you three not panicking at all?”

The three Magic Knights looked at each other, and grinned sheepishly. It was Umi who stepped up to the plate, though. “Gomen ne, guys. Let me do introductions.” She gestured to each person as she spoke their name. “This is Guru Clef, and Presea. This is Kagura, and Takeshi.”

Hikaru broke in, “And everybody’s our friends!”

Umi smiled indulgently, and then went on, “Welcome to Cephiro!”

Fuu, who hadn’t spoken much during this exchange, stepped forward, halting any further explanations for the moment. “They were with us when we were attacked, and they were probably going to be killed along with us. So I’m guessing that they were simply pulled here with us,” she paused and looked suspiciously at Mokona, who somehow managed to look relatively innocent, “for their own protection, or some such thing.”

“We can figure it out later,” Clef asserted, signalling that the conversation was pretty much at an end. “I think we should go find the others. Lantis went to rally the troops, so to speak, and they’re probably waiting for word.” At the mention of the swordsman’s name, Hikaru stiffened, but Clef went on, leading them from the hall. “We sensed your arrival, but we weren’t quite sure what to make of it. There have been some disturbances lately.”

“What kind of disturbances?” Umi asked as they moved down the hall.

“Monsters attacking, forests being ripped apart, that sort of thing,” he replied, leading the way.

“Hmmm…” Fuu murmured, then asked, “do you know if it could be a part of something bigger, or just random attacks?”

“We’re not sure,” Presea interjected, “but if you three are here…well…” The thought was left unfinished, but the intent was definitely implied and understood.

If the legendary Magic Knights had once again been summoned to Cephiro, there was little to no question that something was afoot. And if Mokona had brought the mashin back…this wasn’t good.

“Um, guys?” Takeshi asked. “Do you think maybe we could get a little better explanation?”

“Please?” Kagura pleaded. She looked lost.

“Tell you what,” Hikaru said. “We’ll introduce to our friends here, and then we’ll explain later. We’ll tell you whatever you want to know…within reason. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Suddenly, Fuu stopped dead in her tracks. “We’re going to meet everyone else, right?” When she got nods in reply, she continued, “Is…is Ferio going to be there?” This last was a whisper.

“He should be,” Presea answered. Behind her, Umi had a very knowing smile on her face.

Fuu bit her lip, mulled over this for a second—then turned and headed back down the hall they’d just come out of. But Umi wasn’t having any of it. “No way! You finally get to see him again!” She dragged Fuu by the arm back to the group.

“It’s…it’s just been so long,” she half-whimpered. “I don’t know…”

“It’ll be fine, and—Hikaru!” the blue-haired beauty had to dive to catch her other friend. “Don’t tell me you’re getting cold feet, too!” The redhead averted her eyes, and Umi sighed. “Come on, you guys! I know Ferio and Lantis are both going to be delighted to see you again!” She pushed Hikaru back to the group, then turned to Kagura and whispered, “Don’t let them escape.”

“These people we’re talking about,” the brunette whispered back, “are they…”

“Yup!”

“Ahh…” Kagura nodded knowingly.

Clef stopped by the door that, if memory served, led to the throne room. “I think they’d be in here.” He actually smiled. “Shall we?”

Fuu and Hikaru both went a shade paler, but Umi nodded. “Onwards!”

He pushed the door open, and he and Presea went on in. There was a chorus of voices that heralded their arrival. One heavily accented—that was Caldina. One very deep and calm—undoubtedly Lantis. Everyone was there, and all demanded to know what was going on.

“Who wants to go in first?” Umi teased.

Mokona chose that moment to leap from Hikaru’s arms—right onto Kagura’s back.

Kagura shrieked and dove forward, into the room, while Mokona bounced to the floor, then hopped after her, puu-ing away. He seemed amused at her antics. Kagura, however, seemed far less than amused. “I don’t like that thing!” she hollered, jabbing a finger at the small, white being. She ignored the chorus of gasps that echoed behind her.

“Mokona!” Hikaru admonished, waltzing in. “What did I tell you about scaring Kagura?” She once again scooped up the rabbit-deity, and offered her friend a hand up. “I’m really sorry about that. He usually doesn’t behave this badly.” Truthfully, she was happy about the distraction. It gave her a minute to gather herself before seeing…him again. She’d never been so nervous in her life.

As Hikaru was scolding Mokona, she failed to notice a tall man in black armor, standing at the back of the crowd. His eyes widened, and his posture stiffened considerably.

There was a slight scuffle at the door, and Fuu, laughing, stepped in, pushing the door open the rest of the way to make way for the rest of the crew. Umi was behind Takeshi, physically pushing him in ahead of her. “Do you understand spoken Japanese? Come on, you big wimp! They’re nice people, so go!” With a big shove, he half-stumbled into the room, and Umi and Fuu wandered to Hikaru’s side with a little more controlled entrances.

Jaws around the room dropped. One particular young man, eyes hidden behind long brown bangs, suddenly went half-catatonic. A pair of amber-gold eyes grew to the size of dinner plates, and their owner took an unconscious step back.

There was a loud squeal, and Takeshi dogded out of the way, leaving Umi wide open to the attack. Namely, Caldina, who prompty tackled her to the floor in lieu of a crushing hug. “Look at you! All grown up and adult!” She proceeded in that vein for what felt like a long time to Umi.

“C-Caldina…” the Blue Knight gasped. “I’m happy to see you too, but…ack!”

“Oh, sorry ‘bout that, hon!” the Chizetan dancer jumped to her feet, giggling like mad.

Umi rolled over and wrapped both arms around her stomach. “Meh, it’s okay. Not like I, you know, needed my spleen or anything…ugh…” She pushed herself into a sitting position, and watched with a sympathetic smile as Hikaru and Fuu received the same treatment from the exuberant Caldina. All the while, Takeshi and Kagura were simply standing off to the side, watching quietly in a mixture of awe and confusion. They’d been promised explanations, so for the moment, they were content to watch the unfolding festivities.

“So the Magic Knights have returned to Cephiro,” Lafarga observed. Beside him, Lantis had apparently lapsed into a wide-eyed coma, and Ferio had actually disappeared.

After a large number of greetings, Umi set about the introductions. “Everybody, these are two of my best friends on the planet,” she threw one casual arm around each of their shoulders, “Kagura, and Takeshi. Be nice, they’re kind of freaked right now.” With that, she set about listing off the names of all the Cephirean inhabitants in the room.

When she got to Lantis, Hikaru managed to catch his eye, and threw out a tentative smile. And her relief was beyond visible when he smiled back, that little smile she had only gotten out of him once. So it seemed all was well on that front.

When Umi finished listing everybody off, she stopped and frowned. “Wait. Time out. Somebody’s missing.” She looked around, seemingly doing a quick headcount. And finally, she folded her arms in exasperation. “Okay, where’d Prince Charming run off to?”

Fuu tensed.

“Mou, he disappeared!” Caldina pouted, then smirked. “Probably saw how pretty Fuu got, and got all nervous, silly boy.” The dancer threw her arms around the Green Knight, whose face had gone a shade of red that would have made Rayearth himself…well, green with envy.

“Maybe you should go track him down,” Umi suggested, a mischievous sparkle manifesting itself in those blue eyes. “Have a little reunion. You know…all alone…nobody else around…” Even though Kagura hadn’t met the man in question, she was obviously enjoying this to the fullest, and Takeshi even seemed to be trying not to laugh.

Fuu looked like she was ready to die. If the floor had turned into a black hole and swallowed her up at that moment, she probably would have thanked it profusely. But no such luck.

It appeared that her two friends were also getting along well. Takeshi was asking Lafarga something. Kagura and Caldina had hit it off from the first second they talked. It was almost frightening, really, but they were already squealing about something. Umi had a feeling she would find out soon enough what it was that they were so damn excited about.

Hikaru, meanwhile, was fidgeting, hopping from one foot to the other. She was wearing the desperate, yearning expression of a child who has just woken up on Christmas morning, and told she wasn’t allowed to open any presents yet. And Umi had a vague idea…

“Hikaru,” she whispered. When the redhead turned around, Umi made shooing motions with her hands, and hissed, “Go!” This last was accompanied by a conspiratorial wink.

For a moment, Hikaru looked blank. Then it seemed to dawn, and she blushed. She seemed to waiver for a minute, then shot a covert glance at Lantis.

Who was covertly watching her right back.

Hikaru was still for all of two seconds, then seemed to just give in to herself. She dove forward, throwing her arms around Lantis’ waist, showing absolutely no care for anyone who might be watching. He caught her easily, and didn’t let go.

“I hope this’ll be included in the explanations,” Kagura hissed into Umi’s ear. “That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. So be a dear and do tell?”

“Okay, okay,” she laughed.

“Magic Knights,” Clef said suddenly, and the three automatically jumped into the familiar line. Hikaru was a little slower, though, as she seemed reluctant to move anywhere away from Lantis. “I don’t know why you’re here, but I think it best that you have some sort of defense.” He raised the familiar staff, and shouted a single word: “ACCEPT!”

Fire, water, and wind swirled around Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu respectively. A moment later, it faded to reveal them in the familiar wristguards and one-shouldered chestplate, marked by their respective colors. And, of course, no Magic Knight would be complete without the glove on the left hand containing the gem. From that gem they would summon their magic and their weapons.

Speaking of weapons…

Presea stepped forward and raised both hands in the air. The white ribbons of a pharle swirled above her, finally revealing three all-too-familiar swords. Each blade floated down in front of its respective Magic Knight, and was instantly sucked into the gem.

Fuu’s ungloved hand had gone up to cover her eyes at the flash that was the sword being ‘put away,’ as it were. She lowered it, and sighed, looking at the gem. “I think I’m going to have to get used to that all over again.”

And Takeshi and Kagura, overcome with curiousity as to what the hell THAT was, descended. Fuu took it upon herself to make half-explanations while reinstating the promise for explanations later. Hikaru, meanwhile, moved back closer to Lantis. Primera was nowhere in sight, so there were no protests.

Struck by a sudden thought, Umi glanced around, searching for one familiar face. Ascot had been there when she’d done the introductions, but now, as she wanted to talk to him, he’d vanished. Umi put her hands on her hips and scowled. What was with all the guys disappearing today?

Behind her, she didn’t notice that a third one had slipped out of the room.

-o-


“Ferio.”

The Prince of Cephiro half-turned away from the window he’d been staring out.

Guru Clef was standing there, having made his own escape from the reunion, and was studying him with a strange sort of exasperated amusement. “May I tell you my opinion?”

“If you like.”

“That was a damn fool thing to do,” Clef shook his head. “Fuu’s looking for you. She wants to see you, and you just run off. Heartless.”

“Nervous,” Ferio corrected, running a steady hand through green hair. “It’s just been so long.”

“Well, she wants to see you,” Clef assured him. There was a pause as Ferio turned back to his window. Then the mage went on, “It would be best to tell them right away.”

“I’ll tell her myself,” Ferio replied instantly, in a flat voice that didn’t inspire much for arguments. “Then if she decides to kill someone, it’ll hopefully be me.”

“I don’t think she’d ever try to kill you,” Clef said with a sigh.

Ferio actually chuckled. “Umi, on the other hand…” He sighed as well. “I’ll tell her soon.” He spun around, white cape swirling around him. “So…where did she go?”