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11 April 2007 @ 09:11 pm
Tears of the Sea, ch. 4 (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*



Something was wrong. Flat out, no other way to say it.

Umi had sensed it the moment she had walked into the room. Caldina and Presea had been talking, a whispered conversation that hushed when she entered. That had been the first tipoff. Then Caldina had launched at her and hugged her with convincing cheerfulness—but Umi knew her Chizetan friend well enough to know when the dancer was lying. Presea feigned smile hadn’t helped either.

There was the distinct sense that they were skirting around some issue, but she couldn’t quite figure out what. And the tension in the room was so thick and heavy that Umi was certain she could have taken out her sword, sliced through it, and served it on bread with some jelly and a side of potatoes.

The Water Knight listened as Caldina and Presea buzzed with conversation about random topics, jumping from subject to subject, like frogs leaping between lily pads on a pond. She made the appropriate responses when questioned, but otherwise, didn’t say much.

Finally, Presea stopped. “Umi, you’re being unusually quiet.”

She hesitated, then decided to bite the bullet and go for it. “And you’re being unusually secretive. You’re not telling me something, guys. Am I right?”

Silence.

Translation: Bingo.

“Would you mind telling me what is going on?” Umi asked, with far more patience then she actually felt. She folded her arms across her chest and sighed. “Come on, what’s the big secret, and why doesn’t anyone want to tell me?”

Presea suddenly seemed very interested in her gloves; Caldina was staring at her shoes as though they held the answer to life itself, which Umi sincerely doubted.

“Guys!” the blue-haired beauty sighed. She wasn’t angry—yet—but it was quite exasperating, especially when it was fairly obvious that whatever was going on somehow concerned her. “Please?”

Finally, Presea took a deep breath, and said, “You really don’t remember any of it, do you?”

Umi was taken aback. “Remember any of what?”

It took a surprisingly short amount of time to recount the events of the previous evening: Umi’s apparent possession by an unknown perpetrator, using her magic to hold back Lafarga’s attack, and the strange voice, uttering such strange words, springing from her own throat. She had collapsed, and awakened, seemingly remembering none of it, but definitely back to her normal, feisty self.

As the story rolled to a close, ending with her retreat to her room, Umi was left frozen in an open-mouthed gape. Shock and horror flitted across her face, alternating in rapid succession. Her hands had dropped to her sides, and hung there limply, as though forgotten.

For a long moment, she couldn’t quite get herself to speak. Slowly, the words returned to her, and she whispered, “I was…” She shook her head in disbelief. “I didn’t hurt anyone, though, did I?”

“No. Lafarga’s okay,” Caldina said, surprisingly cheerful. “I think ya just hurt his pride.”

“But…oh my God…” Umi stumbled back and headed for the door. “I—I need to talk to someone. I don’t know who…maybe I’ll ask Clef, maybe he’ll have some idea, what the hell happened to me. Bye, guys, I’ll talk to you later!” And she stumbled out the door, closing it behind her.

In the hallway, she decided to go with her first instinct, and headed for Clef’s study. That was the scene of the previous night’s outburst, and the thought made her a bit uneasy, but she resolved to get some answers, and set that as her destination.

She was halfway there when it hit.

One moment, she was fine.

The next, she felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and then stabbed her between the eyes. She doubled over, one hand on the wall to keep her from falling. She gasped for air as unfamiliar images danced before her eyes, playing out like a movie.

Two figures stood; she could make out that one was a man and the other was a woman, but their features were obscured into shadow by the sun setting behind them. They were talking, and she had the distinct impression that they were arguing. But she heard no words—there was only a strange buzzing sound that echoed in her ears and made her head hurt.

As she continued to watch, they continued to argue. Hands gestured violently, and the buzzing grew louder. Finally, the man turned and stormed away. The woman remained still for a moment, then took two steps in the direction he had just gone; one hand reached out, as though she was trying to catch him, even though he was now too far away. The woman’s hand dropped, and her entire body seemed to hunch over. Umi had the strange sense that this unknown woman was crying.

There was a flash of light, and the noise in Umi’s ears exploded. Another image danced in front of her for but a brief moment. Swords clashed, and voices shouted. There were the cries of the dying, and the smell of the dead. This was not a mere battle—this was a war. But everything was in black and white, save for one person. A woman.

Umi didn’t even have time to get a good look at her. The only thing she saw was a shock of red hair. And then the light overtook her.


With a shock, Umi’s eyes snapped open. She was still leaning over, keeping one hand pressed on the wall. But she felt perfectly normal. The pain in her head was gone, and she could breathe normally.

But someone had noticed her plight. “Umi?”

She straightened and whirled a little too fast, and her head swam, but she righted herself. Quickly, she put on her most convincing smile. “Oh, Ascot! Hello!”

“Are you okay?” he asked. He was blushing a little for some reason.

“Oh, fine, fine,” she waved a hand and laughed. “Just got a little dizzy, that’s all. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep. I think I’ll go take a nap now. I—I’ll talk to you later!” Without giving him a chance to respond, she darted past him and ran. She didn’t see that he watched her retreating back until she turned a corner and was out of sight. And she didn’t see the strange look on his face.

Umi finally slowed to a walk, then a stop. In her rush to avoid any further awkward questions, she had completely forgotten about her resolve to go ask Clef his opinion on what had happened to her. Unfortunately, another strange happening had distracted her.

She shook her head. She needed to clear her thoughts and calm down. Maybe that nap was a good idea after all. Giving in to that idea, she headed back towards her room and privacy. She would sleep for an hour or so, and then seek Clef out.

She pondered on whether or not she would mention the strange vision she’d had, then decided to keep it to herself for the moment. What if he thought she was crazy? That question gave way to a far more worrisome one: what if she was crazy?

Umi shook the idea away and continued on her way to her room. She was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice a watcher, observing her from around the corner.

-o-


“Ferio!”

The Prince stumbled forward as something—or rather, someone—jumped onto his back and threw arms around his waist. He righted himself quickly, and looked over his shoulder. Sure enough, he saw blonde hair, sparkling green eyes, and a big smile.

She released him and bounced up next to him. He chuckled to himself that she was almost acting like Hikaru. Perhaps the little Fire Knight’s eternal enthusiasm had rubbed off on her friends. It was actually kind of amusing to see Fuu so excited. But then another thought occurred to him, and he sobered a bit, though he refused to let her see it right away.

“Ferio?” her voice cut into his thoughts. “Is something wrong?”

For a moment, the words were right there to tell her the truth…but he couldn’t get them past his lips. They died on his tongue, and were replaced by a simple, “No, everything’s fine!” Feeling daring, he added, “Because you’re here now.”

Success. She flushed a bright crimson, and waved a hand, like she could brush the compliment away. Then she grinned. “I was going to go for a walk in the gardens. Care to join me?”

Glad for the chance to spend time with her, he agreed wholeheartedly, and they made a beeline for the palace gardens, which were in the fullest bloom. Not even bothering with subtlety anymore, Ferio grabbed her hand and ran ahead, pulling her behind him. “Come on, hurry up!”

She laughed and quickened her own pace.

They wandered, hand in hand, chatting about this and that. But Fuu couldn’t shake the impression that there was something he wanted to tell her. He’d wanted to say something earlier, but hadn’t—she was certain of that. But what could it be?

Just as she was going to ask him point-blank, something caught her eye: a flash of something in a nearby bush. It rustled the leaves as it moved. She jumped. “What was that?” Her hand unconsciously slid towards the jewel in her glove, prepared to draw her sword in a heartbeat.

He glanced around. “What was what?”

She didn’t respond right away, but listened and waited. She heard nothing else, and saw nothing else. Confused and a little embarrassed, she relaxed. “I thought I saw something.” I was sure I saw something… she thought, and for the remainder of their walk, she mulled over it. She was so intent on the matter that she forgot to ask Ferio what it was he wanted to tell her.

-o-


The room with the fountain, the birds, and all the flowers was definitely Hikaru’s favorite place in the palace. Conveniently enough, it was Lantis’ as well, so the two had no trouble spending hours in there, simply enjoying the beauty of the place, as well as each other’s company.

They had been spending a good deal of time together, making up for lost time. But sometimes, they would simply sit in silence, neither saying a word, but just enjoying the sound of birds calling and the simple joy of being together again.

The others knew of their fondness for this place, and so they were not disturbed unless it was important. And they liked it that way.

So when Hikaru looked over and thought she saw someone standing beside one of the flowered bushes, she was surprised. Especially when she blinked and there was nothing there. Even more so when it occurred to her that in the nanosecond she’d seen that person, she hadn’t recognized him or her.

“Did you see that?” she asked, tugging on Lantis’ arm to get his attention.

“See what?”

“…that’s a no?”

-o-


The crashes rocked the palace down to its foundations, but Kagura and Takeshi managed to stumble to the hall where everyone usually gathered. It was one of the few places in the palace that they were able to find with relative ease.

When they arrived, the others were already assembled, sans Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu.

“There’s an attack in progress,” Clef answered the question before they could even ask it. “The Magic Knights said they would handle it. You may watch, if you like.” Sure enough, the fight was visible in a strange globe that was floating in the center of the room. Everyone was standing in a vague circle around it, watching raptly as the Magic Knights floored their opponents, by magic and by the sword.

On the field, Umi destroyed another creature with a slash of her sword. She then watched as several of them bounded away. “Oh no, you don’t…” she muttered, and gave chase. She heard Hikaru and Fuu also making their way in the same direction. They all but rammed into each other in pursuit of their enemy, and the chase began anew.

They stumbled into a clearing—and stopped.

There were about twenty of the monsters they had been fighting. All identical—about seven feet tall, with long, shaggy brown fur—and all staring at them as a dog would stare as a particularly juicy steak. Suddenly, they were all a little nervous. And they became even more nervous as they realized that they had been lead a pretty good distance away from the palace. Was it a trap?

As if someone had heard their unspoken question and decided to answer it, the creatures in front of them began to change. They all seemed to melt into large brown blobs. And the blobs all melted together—and grew. In a few short seconds, the three Magic Knights were staring up at one large monster, one that was taller than the trees, and easily big enough to stomp them with little effort.

“Oh…my…God…” Fuu murmured, eyes wide, as she unconsciously took a few steps back. Her hands tightened around the hilt of her long-bladed sword. Every muscle and nerve was on fullest alert, prepared to dodge anything. But there was nowhere to go…

The creature raised its foot, and stomped the ground.

But the Magic Knights escaped, in a way that hadn’t even crossed anyone’s minds.

Those in the palace, watching the fight from afar, saw the three girls change into three beams of light—one red, one green, and one blue. They then promptly vanished.

Fuu had closed her eyes in anticipation of pain and imminent death, but opened them when a deep voice invaded her thoughts. “It has been a long time.”

She looked down, and realized that instead of her skirt and top, she was wearing the green caped ensemble, reserved for mashin travel. And sure enough, her surroundings were… “Windam!” she cried.

Nearby, there were similar exclamations of surprise and happiness as Rayearth and Selece were also reunited with their respective Knights. Now armed with their mashin, the battle began anew, and in very short order, the creature fell. It wasn’t even a challenge.

The mashin deposited them back at the palace with a promise that they would join together again soon, and left. They were back in their street clothes, as usual.

Footsteps thudded towards them, and they turned to see Kagura and Takeshi charging towards them. Kagura grabbed Umi’s shoulders and gave her a good shake. “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

Fuu stepped in. “Remember when I told you about the mashin? The beings we had to awaken to become true Magic Knights?” Kagura nodded. “That was them.”

“…oh…” Kagura loosened her grip on Umi and stepped back, shaking her head. “I swear…I think you guys are taking years off my life, you know that?”

“That was insane!” Takeshi muttered, and Umi laughed at him as the rest joined them.

-o-


In all the fuss, no one noticed a silhouette at the window of one of the palace towers.

“Impressive.” The watcher reclined comfortably against the window frame. “Very impressive.”

“It’s not enough,” a new voice added.

“Of course.”

“Time is almost up. We must hurry.”

“I told you to leave it to me.”

“I’m trusting you. We’re all trusting you. You know what happens if you mess this up.”

“Of course I know. I’ll do it.”

“Are you sure you don’t want some help? I mean—“

“I said I would do it, and I will do it!”

“I’m just trying to help you.”

“I know. But I don’t need help.”

“All right. You know the rules.”

“Hurry. Remember what’s at stake.”

“I understand.”

-o-


Maybe taking a nap that afternoon hadn’t been the brightest idea she’d ever had, because now Umi was wide awake, and staring at the ceiling, wishing desperately that she could just fall asleep. But alas, sleep just did not come.

Instead, she let her mind wander. And it naturally went to the subject she most wanted to avoid thinking about—namely, the strange dreams and visions that had been plaguing her since her return to Cephiro. She hadn’t told anyone about them yet, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to.

She felt stupid for not just going and telling everyone about them. She’d learned the value of foreshadowing dreams from Hikaru, when Debonair and Nova had used such a tactic to terrorize the Knight of Fire during their bid for power in Cephiro. She needed to tell them the truth…it’s just that it all sounded so crazy even to her ears…

Maybe it was just stress. Getting pulled back into this magical world wasn’t exactly easy on one’s nerves, and having to deal with the possibility of a new threat, plus Kagura and Takeshi’s constant questions, plus fighting whenever attacks happened to pop up, plus these strange dreams and visions…it was enough to make anyone crack. Probably just stress. Finals were coming up, and everyone was starting to feel the heat.

She gave herself a little shake to snap out of it, and resolved to tell them as soon as possible. If it was nothing, then it was nothing. But right now, sleep! Sleep was the priority.

She closed her eyes and lay still, letting her mind run rampant until finally, finally, she tumbled into unconsciousness. But she was horrified when she dreamed again…

It was the same. Floating over Cephiro, while her friends hovered around her. But she realized that things were already a little different. While she was still in her street clothes, this time she had her armor on—the one-shouldered bit that Clef had given them—and her sword was in her hand.

The shadow swallowed the landscape, as before, and her friends. She cried out and reached for them, but couldn’t save them. But this time, in the shadow, she saw eyes. They appeared in the shadow, bright red, and watching her with sadistic amusement at her pain over her friends’ disappearance. The tidal wave of darkness swept towards her again, and the figure appeared to save her once again. But her savior was clearer this time. She was positive that it was a female. Tall, with long hair. She could actually see that her hair was dark, but what color, she couldn’t make out. It was the strangest sensation.

And as before, her protector turned. But she couldn’t see the face. She reached out towards the one who was saving her…


And woke up.

Umi was drenched in a cold sweat, and she couldn’t move. She wanted to sit up, but her body wouldn’t obey her. She couldn’t move. It was so frightening…so very frightening…

“Shh…” a soft voice said beside her. A hand rested on her forehead gently. Her fear disappeared at the contact, and a moment later, that featherlike touch had lulled her back to sleep.

She did not dream again.

-o-


“I’m glad all of you are here,” Guru Clef said as the Magic Knights, plus Kagura and Takeshi, joined their Cephirean friends in the throne room. “I have an announcement to make.”

Everyone listened intently.

“Tomorrow, the ambassadors of Aldarba will be arriving to settle some diplomatic matters,” Clef said loudly enough for everyone to hear. “For the benefit of our guests, Aldarba is another of our neighboring countries. They had no need of the Pillar system, which is why you didn’t meet them during your last stay here.” That was directed towards the five Earthlings. “We simply ask for everyone to be on their best behavior.”

There was a small outburst at that.

“What are we, kids?”

“We know how to behave.”

“I think he’s talking about you, Caldina.”

“Whaddya mean, he’s talkin’ about me?”

Clef just smiled, and Umi had the distinct impression that he had just made a joke.

But a diplomatic visit, she wondered. What kind of matters could they be discussing? She, along with her fellow Magic Knights, failed to notice that the room had suddenly become very, very tense.