Author: dragon of winter nights PM
Clef's life is in danger, and Umi finds herself being pulled into a world full of intrigues, politics and assassins as she tries to help him stay alive. mainly Clemi. Also contains FF, HLERated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Umi R. & Clef - Chapters: 23 - Words: 219,588 - Reviews: 233 - Favs: 76 - Follows: 68 - Updated: 12-01-12 - Published: 12-10-05 - id: 2697043
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own Magic Knight Rayearth or any of the characters portrayed in it. They belong to CLAMP. All hail CLAMP!
Summary: Clef's life is in danger, and Umi finds herself being pulled into a world full of intrigues, politics and assassins as she tries to help him stay alive. (main:) Clemi. Also contains F/F, H/L/E
Notes: (Feel free to skip) This is the first chapter of a long piece of fiction I started writing for Nanowrimo (national novel writing month) this November… and it isn't finished yet, even in the first draft. I'm editing these chapters as much as I can, but if I missed something that doesn't make sense, or is just plain bad, please tell me! Same with grammar and spelling. Reviews are appreciated, good or bad. I hope you enjoy this!
Chapter One: assassins and temper tantrums.
Umi's hair was streaming behind her in the cold wind as she ran through the garden, breath steaming in erratic gasps as she sprinted alongside the high wall of the castle perimeter. Ahead, metal rang on metal as a fierce battle played out, the mage defending himself against the enormous, winged monster which had dropped from the sky in front of him.
The beast bore weapons, in the form of serrated metal plates along its forearms that curved out into a wicked blade from each elbow. It swiped at Clef's neck again and he leapt back, deflecting it with the shaft of the long staff he carried. Sparks flew, and the clang was rattling in Umi's ears as she tried desperately to reach them, wishing the Palace gardens were smaller. Her sword was in her hand as she ran, but... could she get there in time? The thing stood twice as tall as either her or Clef, and had entered this battle with surprise on its side.
But Clef had the desire to survive.
By the time Umi reached the spot, it was over - but not the way she feared. After blocking again and getting a hand free, a single thunderbolt was all Clef needed to turn the beast to a pile of smoking dust at his feet.
He bent over, coughing violently as the last dust settled, and by the time Umi skidded to a halt next to him he was straightening up again, brushing off his robes. Umi walked around him, warily prodding the ashes with the tip of her sword until she was convinced it posed no more threat.
The blade flowed back into the gem on her gauntlet style glove as she turned to face Clef, who was still trying to get his breath back.
Looking up, Clef had time to note how pale her face was before she began bombarding him with questions, barely pausing to breathe between them. "Clef, are you alright? What was that?" She glanced at the pile again, looking more shaken then the mage himself.
"I-" he began, and was cut off.
"Is it… are you sure it's really dead? Some of them do reform, you know. Of course you know. You live here. Are you sure you're okay? Why did it attack you? And what the heck was it?"
Clef gave up trying to get a word in edgeways and took Umi's elbow to steer her along the path to the castle. The doors weren't that far away, but he couldn't help a nervous glance at the sky. Attacking in the open, in broad daylight… Umi was still babbling, looking around and then up at him every so often, her eyes wide and shocked. Inwardly he sighed, fighting the urge to just stop and hug her, reassure her.
They still hadn't quite reached the doors, but Umi was still speaking quietly next to him, in a slightly calmer fashion than before. Feeling her arm shaking slightly, Clef twinged with guilt.
This is all my fault. I wanted to shield her… all of them, from this side of Cephiro.
Would that shielding include Lantis and LaFargo, by any chance? the thought skittered across his mind, and Clef hissed in frustration, not noticing that Umi had stopped talking and was giving him an odd look now.
I know I should report this to them, but they'll make such a FUSS about it. Again. It's not as if they can do any more to protect the castle, not without looking like cowards, or preparing for war… neither of which would help our relations with other countries. I can look after myself; I'd been doing so for long before they decided to take over my safety. I think they just like fussing; they can't have enough to do. Besides… all that fuss… "I just don't want to."
"Don't want to what, Clef?"
The mage flinched, hand tightening on her elbow. "What?"
"You said, "I just don't want to." Don't want to what? Answer my questions?"
"No! I mean, yes, but no- uh…" He stopped walking as they entered the hall, turning to face her. He was half pleased to see she looked more amused than shocked now, and half just flustered. He really hadn't meant to speak his thoughts, and didn't know quite what to tell Umi.
Well, I'd have had to find some explanation, anyway. Otherwise she would definitely report this.
"I do want to answer your questions, that wasn't what I was thinking about. I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention…"
"Well, one of my questions is what don't you want to do. Why don't you start by answering that one?" A slight hint of a smile curved her lips. He ran one hand through his hair absently, searching for an answer.
"I… well; I don't want to report this attack to Lantis and LaFargo."
"If you don't want to do it, I'll…" Umi began to offer, then drew in a sharp breath as his words sank in properly. "This attack? There've been others?" Clef drew back, hand falling from her arm, and tried to walk on, but she caught his arms before he could get far, completely serious now. "Clef, who's attacking you? Why're they attacking you?"
He wouldn't look at her, gazing blankly at the wall over her head. "It doesn't happen that often, but because I have a role in governing the country the occasional idiot tries an assassination attempt. It's really nothing to be worried about…"
"Someone tries to kill you, and it's no big deal?" Umi was staring at him, incredulous. He felt the heat of it burning into his face, making him flush. "Clef… What about Ferio? Do they attack him? Any of the others here?"
"…Occasionally, yes. I mean, not as often, but then, because I do all these talks, I'm a more… accessible target." Her hands clenched on his arms almost painfully, and he hurried on. "Actually, that's a good thing, because I can defend myself easily against them, and the others don't have to try."
He concentrated hard on staring at the wall, realising, ruefully, he was going to have bruises on his wrists tomorrow.
Umi's voice was lower now than normal "Clef, how frequent are these attacks? Why on Earth don't you want to report them?"
Shaking his head, Clef looked at her finally, eyes narrowing. "They make such a fuss! I'm fine; I really am capable of defending myself, you know. LaFargo and Lantis can't do any more, they shouldn't have to do any more, and I'm perfectly okay!"
For a few stretched moments, you could have heard a pin drop in the corridor.
"You don't want to tell them because they fuss?" Umi's eyes were pools of disbelief, gone wide and incredulous; almost painful to look into.
"Well, they do!" Clef fought off a blush. It sounded fairly stupid when she put it like that, but, still…
"I'm going to tell them, Clef. Safety in the Castle grounds is their responsibility!"
Stepping forwards, he called "Umi, please…" and stopped, ashamed of the break in his voice as he pleaded – pleaded! – with her.
"No!" She snapped, casting aside his arms, twisting away and stalking deeper into the Castle, determined to find either of the Swordsmen immediately. Clef trailed a few steps behind her.
"I really am fine! Umi, They can't do anything!"
"They should know!" she snapped back, speeding up. Growling low in his throat, Clef jogged a few paces to draw even with her.
"It's my life, surely I should be allowed responsibility for protecting it!"
"You should accept help from people who want to help protect you – because, believe it or not, we care about you!"
"I… it's…" Clef stuttered at her, unable to find a reply. He slowed, thinking hard, and Umi stopped walking.
She turned to face him, her anger fading away as quickly as it had risen, worried lines deepening on her face. "Clef, how often does this kind of thing happen? You said the attacks don't happen often, but you're talking as if they're… frequent. Please…" she stepped forwards, looking up into his eyes, less than a meter from her own, fists clenched at her sides and trembling a little. Her eyes were pleading with him, and he couldn't turn away.
"Please, tell me?"
Faced with those eyes, Clef slumped as a sense of defeat washed through him. He didn't want to lie, he really didn't want to lie to her – but how could he tell her the truth?
Her blue eyes were waiting, watching the guilt twist his face away from her, glance downwards at the stone floor. Her eyes bore into him and suddenly the question became how could he not tell her the truth, when she asked so plaintively. He crumbled before her.
"Well.. normally…" he began stumbling through it without any idea what he was telling her, how much he should resolve to not tell her. "Before… before, the attacks, they really were infrequent. It could go months, even years, without a hint of one."
"But it's changed?" Her eyes were still searching his, and he sighed briefly, closing them for a moment.
"Yes. Recently, they've been happening far more often."
"And just how often is that?" Umi pushed, determined to get some more definite information from him, and he hesitated. The pause was filled by a deep voice from behind them, and they both flinched violently away from it.
"Almost weekly in the last month." Umi and Clef had both spun to meet the intruder, her hand suddenly clutching her sword again, him halfway to summoning his staff back to his grip, a shield-spell forming on his other palm - then they recognised the figure blocking a side passageway.
"LaFargo." Clef nodded, suppressing yet another frustrated sigh. The glare on LaFargo's face was more then enough to tell him LaFargo knew.
Well, I probably wasn't going to convince Umi anyway. No matter how long I tried.
"Master Mage, Magic Knight." LaFargo bowed slightly to each of them in greeting, then straightened to pin Clef with his stare. "There has been another assassination attempt against you." It wasn't a question, and Clef had to fight hard against the impulse to dart away from that look. "You did not intend to report it."
"How…?" He asked, as LaFargo stepped through into the main hallway.
"A bolt of lightning was observed, and a heap of dust found in the middle of one of the garden paths, as well as damage done to the wall by a blade striking it."
LaFargo sighed, looking down at the top of the Mage's head, said something like "excuse me, Umi" only buried under the sigh, then took Clef's elbow firmly and began leading him through the Castle. Umi, amused by the sight, followed them. She wanted answers, and if Clef wasn't going to tell her anything without a fight, maybe she could just ask LaFargo instead.
LaFargo was walking briskly, striding out so much that Clef, whose legs were still much shorter than his, had to jog to keep up. Clef stumbled every so often as he was dragged along, but didn't dare fall - the mood LaFargo was in he'd just carry on dragging him across the floor regardless, possibly even when they hit the stairs. They were going too fast to waste breath talking, and so the sounds filling the corridor were that of boot heels clacking on the paving stones.
Umi shadowed them, and they travelled down corridors and up stairs into the very heart of the Castle. For the first time, Umi really saw the occasional uniformed guards patrolling, or sat in curtained niches off the hallways: they all bowed to LaFargo and Clef. Walking behind them, Umi saw quite a few of the grins they wore as they straightened up, safely after the two men had gone beyond them, and shared in them herself. In fact, her laughter was threatening to erupt into a fit of giggling at the sight of Clef being unceremoniously pulled along.
Normally, everyone just gave way to the Mage. In fact, Clef regularly ordered most of the people he knew to do things, expecting to be obeyed instantly - and was. His rank gave him authority over most of the citizens of Cephiro, sure - authority he did not hesitate to use, something the others seemed to almost expect from him, but even where he didn't technically have authority, he was obeyed. Even Ferio, the Prince, almost never seemed to go against Clef's wishes.
As for the ordinary citizens of Cephiro, when they came to the Castle: well, Umi got the impression that they were completely in awe of him, to the point of being terrified. They bowed and backed away from him, lowering their eyes… It was something she'd never really understood, not until she'd seen Clef in a 'formal' situation and realised how serious and… imposing he could appear. If that was the only side of Clef they ever saw, the 'official' facade he had to use… it made a bit more sense. When she'd first met the Mage, there hadn't been time for him to be anyone but himself.
Thinking about it, I'm the only person I've ever seen stand up to Clef. She mused, following them up several sets of wide stairs. Well, argue with him, anyway. I guess Ferio does change Clef's mind on an issue, occasionally, but no one ever goes against him.
Except Lantis and LaFargo, apparently!
Umi shook the thoughts from her head, realising she'd lost track of the turnings they'd taken, and was now effectively lost. She had to keep her attention on the figures in front, before she lost them as well as herself, and was stuck here alone. Focusing again, she couldn't stop the laugh that welled up inside her. Clef glared half-heartedly over his shoulder, but she just couldn't check the hysterical giggling. It was the sudden image… not only had Clef been being pulled about like a… a naughty five year old, but he'd had the look of one as well! Resigned, guilty, and utterly unrepentant at the same time. Just right for the stubborn child who'd been caught doing something he'd known he shouldn't be.
She just about quelled the laughing as they passed through a door with a nameplate she couldn't read; into a room she instantly realised must be the main headquarters for the Castle Guard. Lantis and LaFargo's domain. She stopped just through the door, to stare around.
She'd never been here before, in all the time she'd been in Cephiro. Umi had never really thought about what the two swordsmen actually did as a job, and had never had a reason to visit them at work, so this… this came as quite the shock.
The room was large, probably twice the size of the bedroom she and the other two knights shared in the castle, at least, though she knew only the two swordsmen worked in here. A round, central station had numerous flat screens of something like crystal, or maybe glass, and weird rows of buttons set into it. Some of the screens were showing information and diagrams - a line of them showed images of significant rooms in the castle, and the people moving in them. All the writing was in a script she couldn't read yet, though she kept meaning to ask about it... There were high stools set round this, for working at - decorated in the typically ornate Cephiran style they seemed out of place against the plain units. The wall to the right had pin boards and desks set along its entire length, scattered with books and papers. The wall to the left was filled with mismatched cupboards and filing cabinets, piled high on each other. The final wall, facing Umi, was composed of a single large screen, currently blank.
She'd seen nothing like this in the rest of the castle, let alone the whole of Cephiro! Sure, there'd been the occasional screen set into a wall or a table, though she'd never known what they were for. But this…
Looking around with amazement, Umi suddenly felt very much like a stranger in this land again.
Lantis was sat at one of the desks, on a stool slightly shorter than those at the central unit. As they came in, he looked up, but his face betrayed no hint of emotion - as normal. Seeing this, Umi felt a stir of annoyance fanning her anger into being again. Why did no one else appear remotely worried? Did no one else care that Clef had almost died?
He… man, he really did almost die, didn't he… The image of that blade flashing so close to Clef's throat pulsed through Umi again, and her breath caught.
Lantis had greeted her, and the others, by this point but she hadn't heard. It hit her, again, what she had seen. More, her imagination kept displaying what might have happened, and she began trembling slightly.
Rubbing at her eyes, she tried to focus on what was being said, instead of the growing buzzing in her ears.
"Another assassin?" Lantis asked, his low voice betraying the slightest hint of exasperation. The question was aimed at Clef, but it was LaFargo who answered, forcing Clef onto a stool between them with a heavy hand on his shoulder - effectively blocking him in.
"Yes. A flying monster of some kind, from the accounts I've received. It attacked within the castle perimeter, in the southern garden."
"I see." Lantis' voice was definitely tighter than normal now, but Umi barely registered it. Her vision was beginning to fizzle away at the edges, in grey sparks, and there was the feeling of something tightening around her head. She closed her eyes, trying to concentrate harder, to push it away. Though she didn't know it, she began to sway on her feet, like a fragile blade of grass in the wind.
"But you, Clef, were not going to report it? Again?" Lantis snapped, but Umi didn't hear him, and couldn't see Clef flinch with her eyes closed tight.
"It's not as if you could do..." Clef began protesting weakly, when something warned him to look around. He was in time to see Umi bleach sheet white. "Umi!"
He was at her side in before he knew he was moving, reacting on instinct, cradling her gently against himself with an arm around her back. LaFargo turned, confused, and watched with Lantis as he gently checked her temperature, laying his palm against her forehead then her cheek. His face was creased with worry, almost as white as Umi's.
Umi blearily opened her eyes, leaning completely against him, to find Clef's face not inches from her own. His eyes were wider than normal, and she stared blankly into them, not really seeing anything but the colour.
"This is shock. Umi, Umi? Do you feel sick at all?" His voice, so close to her ear, made it through the buzzing and as soon as she understood what he meant she realised that, yes, she felt nauseous. She nodded her head slightly, not trusting herself to speak, then had to close her eyes as the world span. "Here, you should sit down…" Clef glanced round the room, instantly dismissing all the stools the room contained - and realising that, in fact, all the room contained was stools.
Holding his free hand out, he concentrated briefly and summoned a low chair in a burst of light, helping Umi into it gently. He perched on the edge of it, encouraging her to lean forwards with his hand still on her back, rubbing it in small circles. She kept her eyes closed; still leaning partly into his side, and felt the spinning and buzzing begin to fade away.
Clef looked up at the others. "Do you have anything to drink in here?" He asked, keeping his voice low and soothing for Umi's benefit. They both shook their heads, and watched, bemused, as he turned back to Umi. As he turned away, Clef missed the speculative look that passed between the other two.
Raising his free hand yet again, Clef summoned one of the glasses from the kitchen, filling it with cold water from the tap as he did so. "Umi, can you sit up for a moment?" She straightened warily, and his arm slipped from her back to round her shoulder again, supporting her against himself as he offered her the glass. Umi had to hold it with both hands, but managed to sip the drink slowly, gasping aloud as the pressure around her head eased.
She handed the glass back to Clef, half empty, and he set it down on the floor. Other than that, he didn't move, and Umi rested her head back against his shoulder rather than sitting back in the chair, absently enjoying the closeness and the warmth. She could feel Clef's fingers running through her hair as he held her. He didn't realise he was doing it, too concerned about Umi's condition. He was whispering something: she couldn't hear what it was at first, then realised with surprise that it was an apology.
"Clef…" She sat upright, bracing for a wave of dizziness that never came.
"Are you feeling better, Umi?"
"Yes, thank you. Clef, you know, it wasn't…" but Clef got up, and was facing Lantis and LaFargo again, unable to meet her eyes. He wasn't listening to what Umi was saying, at least, not to the words she said. "…It wasn't your fault I felt ill." She finished in a whisper.
Both the Swordsmen heard Umi, but ignored it in the face of Clef's glare. The mage stood, facing them, arms crossed tightly across his chest, and LaFargo sighed slightly. Clef still wasn't going to cooperate with them, even now...
"Clef," he began, voice quieter than before. "I know how you feel about any more security measures, but surely you can see we have to do something?" Clef remained silent, if anything his glare intensified instead of fading, and LaFargo barely stopped from rolling his eyes at the stubbornness.
"This is getting utterly ridiculous." Lantis cut in. "How many attempts have been made on your life in the last month?"
Clef mumbled something, not quite meeting their eyes anymore, still glaring but now at the wall behind them.
"If nothing else, there has been a lot of damage to castle property." Lantis went on. "Who's to say when that will become damage to Castle inhabitants, as well? You have to see the danger to innocents caught in the wrong place."
"And the danger to a few not so innocents," said LaFargo, glancing pointedly at Umi. "There as more than a few people in this Castle who would leap into anything to help you, without looking. Most of them cannot defend themselves as readily as the Water Knight. Are you willing to risk them as well as yourself?" This had been going on long enough that neither Swordsman felt any reluctance to guilt-trip Clef into accepting protection. Unfortunately, if the look on his face was any gauge, they were making him angry at the same time – probably more at himself than at them, but at them for being right and making him feel guilty… and mad. "With a few extra measures in place we can stop the majority of the attempts" hopefully "and maybe catch a few of the assailants, try to find out who's behind this."
"...Measures such as...?" Clef muttered, slumping down to the corner of Umi's chair again, hands in fists on his lap. Lantis and LaFargo exchanged a brief, almost-startled glance – that was probably as close as Clef ever came to giving way. They'd worn him down? Finally?
Umi looked on as Clef watched the floor intently, his body so tense it was almost painful to look at. The two swordsmen took advantage of the opportunity, and began describing a complex system of shielding they wanted to implement. Most of it went straight over Umi's head, as they discussed the 'technical junk', to quote Hikaru, the side to Cephiran magic none of them had ever quite bothered with. She raised her hand a little, once, to reach out and lay it on Clef's shoulder – then realised what she was doing and drew it back, just watching him.
Lantis was speaking about things like corner stones to hold the magic, and the different variants of spells that would have to be cast, and recast every so often, to 'recharge' a huge series of interlocking shields. It was probably the closest Umi had ever heard Lantis get to rambling – he was talking like Ferio, or Ascot, for once. Eventually, however, Clef looked up and he paused.
"And just who do you expect is going to put these shields up and maintain them?"
"The Guards" said LaFargo. Clef blinked, and he hurried on. "With a group of them, the spells can be weaker individually, so their inexperience with shields won't be a problem – even those who know some defensive magic won't know about this kind of shielding, yet, but that's okay – Lantis and Ascot would be able to teach them to use it. Lantis taught me, it's simple enough. So you wouldn't have to do anything more than you already have to. Unless you wanted to, of course..." LaFargo trailed off, looking slightly uncomfortable with babbling like that, but every one was overtired at the moment.
"Let me see the plans." Clef pushed himself onto his feet. Lantis handed him a huge scroll of paper, a huge blueprint of the castle with lines all over it in pencil, with odd symbols and notes in the corners where they crossed, and little three-dimensional sketches dotted about. It looked like a manic spiders web to Umi, but Clef took it over to the central desk to unroll it and spread it out. It didn't want to lie flat – he found a book and a mug to weigh down two of the corners, held one, and Umi followed him across the room and held the last corner down.
The room was silent for a few minutes. Lantis and LaFargo were waiting nervously for Clef's reaction – they needed his approval for any scheme involving magic to defend the castle. Especially long term magic. Technically, he was meant to be involved in the planning stages as well – this probably counted, but only because they knew Ferio would let them get away with it. The Council of Advisors – Ferio's miniature 'House of Lords' Fuu had called them, would not be so lenient. Without Clef's signature on all the right papers, their plans would be dismissed in a heart beat.
"I have one question." Clef said, finally. "How, exactly, am I supposed to do any work?"
"Excuse me?" both swordsmen stared at Clef as he turned to face them, the hand resting on the plans now a fist.
"How am I meant to do any work? You do remember what my title is... don't you?" LaFargo flinched slightly, while Lantis just blinked at the mage. Sarcasm... not a good sign.
"I'm the Master Mage. That means I spend a lot of time casting spells. Summoning spells. Tracking spells."
The door to the room slammed open and Ascot fell through it, following a brightly glowing blue orb, which promptly vanished; both swordsmen went for their weapons, and Umi jumped in front of Clef, before they realised who it was. Clef, however, went on.
"Tracking spells such as that one, and a wide and mixed variety of others, none of which will be able to get through these shields unless I break them, which makes this whole thing damn USELESS!"
No one in the room met Clef's eyes, mainly because they were busy staring at his hand: he'd flung it out angrily as his voice got louder, and stared at it for a few seconds before realising everyone else was probably worried about the small bolts of lightning flying around it. He shook the hand hard, and they flew off, making Ascot flinch badly before they fizzled out in midair.
"Clef, maybe you should calm down..." Umi said, wide eyed. She was half convinced that his eyes were glowing, and as he seemed to ignore her, she stepped away from him a little.
Clef was loosing his temper, properly, and knew it. He was fighting hard against the urge to hit someone- in his current state, he'd probably do some real damage. "I couldn't so much as form a map with this in place." His tone had even more bite than his words. "You're trying to turn this building into a fortress – but as soon as you manage it you might as well blow the whole damn thing up! It'll be no use to Cephiro when it's an inaccessible lump of rock!"
"Clef!" Umi snapped out, grabbing his arm hard, and he froze.
The room went absolutely still, all eyes on Clef, as he stared in turn at Umi, startled. Her hand was painfully tight on his wrist, but she didn't flinch from the new darts of lightning wrapping around his arm, even when they crossed her hand.
They faded away after a few long moments, and people began to breathe again. Clef seemed to shrink on himself, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry, Lantis, LaFargo." He murmured. "You know how I feel about... all this..." Umi pulled on his wrist gently, and led him back over to the chair he'd summoned for her. One hand on his shoulder pushed him down onto it, and Umi was the one perched on the edge of the chair this time. Clef pulled his knees up, wrapped his arms around them, and rested his forehead against them. Umi let go of his arm finally, but rested her hand on his shoulder instead.
"Maybe we should continue this discussion some other time." LaFargo managed, eyes still slightly wide. Lantis nodded slightly, both watching Clef as if he was a ticking bomb of some sort, and they weren't sure what would set him off.
"Yes – still," Lantis paused, meeting Umi's gaze. "We must have this talk. Soon."
"Perhaps this evening, after everyone's eaten, then." Umi suggested. Clef raised his head to look at her.
I still have a lot of questions, Clef. If you won't answer them, maybe they will – and I might be able to help. Different perspective, and all that."
"Fine" Clef moaned, dropping his head back onto his knees. "We'll talk then. So can't you just all leave me alone for now?"
Lantis and LaFargo left the room quickly, muttering something about going to the kitchens for a snack. Umi watched them go, and spotted Ascot, still stood by the door.
"Would someone explain to me what's going on?" He asked, plaintively. Clef didn't move, but Umi nodded. "Sure... I'd almost forgotten you were there, Ascot." He coloured, and Umi hurried to add "with everything going on, that is... ah... well, someone's been trying to kill Clef. Repeatedly. Possibly someones."
"I know." Nodded Ascot, glancing down at the mage. Clef was busily ignoring them. "I've... found the remains of the monsters occasionally. He-" his hand was flung out in Clef's direction, and the other two both saw him flinch slightly. "kept saying it wasn't important."
Umi huffed, hand tightening on Clef's shoulder. "Well now it's happening so often that Lantis and LaFargo want to do something more to protect against the attacks, they had this idea for a system of shields for one thing, but..." she trailed off, and Ascot nodded.
Silence filled the room again, but it was a gentler silence than last time. Ascot hovered in the door for a long moment, just watching Umi; she'd turned to Clef again, just sat there, hand on his shoulder, and it hurt slightly to watch. He still looked though, for a while, before turning to leave. At the click of the door latch Clef spoke out.
"Why did you come here, Ascot? You were following a locator spell – who for?"
"Oh, yes." Ascot paused, half out of the room. "I was looking for Umi. Hikaru and Fuu sent me – they're going to eterna, for a picnic, and sent me to invite you. Should I tell them you don't want to go today?" he asked, knowing the answer.
"Thank you." Was all she said, and he closed the door quietly behind him. If anyone could help Clef settle, it was Umi.
And, oh! How he hated that.
end chapter one