Here I Am
Chapter Nineteen – Being Watched
By Crow Skywalker
Disclaimer – Don't own MKR or its characters. No profit is being made, only borrowing them for my own amusement.
Author's Notes – Err…long time no see. I originally planned to have this chapter written and out long ago, but I got writer's block halfway into it and then put it off until I forgot about it. But hey, I finally finished it! I bought the Rayearth OAV last week…it's pretty wicked! I love Eagle in it…he's so badass and evil! I wish I'd written him like that, lol. He's actually not all that bad in this fic…but that's because I'm trying to keep in him character with the anime, sooo :P R&R and enjoy!
Warnings/Pairings – Rated PG, though I may up the rating later on. Pairings of Umi/Clef, Fuu/Ferio, and Hikaru/Lantis/Eagle.
Summary – Umi wishes to return to Cephiro, and on a cold lonely night she gets sent back. However, things aren't what they seem, for a new evil is lurking not far away, and it has plans for Umi.
It was another sunny day in Cephiro, the sun shining down on them from the sky above and a cool warm breeze filtering in through the trees. Above them birds were chirping and fluttering from branch to branch and the leaves swayed casting shadows on the forest floor. Hikaru closed her eyes, breathing in the clean air and letting everything finally sink in.
She was back in Cephiro – the real Cephiro, the one she'd first arrived in so many years ago. She remembered its lush grass and its clear running rivers, though she also remembered how it had soon turned to a baron wasteland just before and after the death of Princess Emeraude. She preferred the Cephiro she had first laid eyes on over that, of course, and she was glad that everything had returned to normal.
With a sigh and a content smile upon her face, Hikaru turned her head upwards as she studied the sky. They'd been traveling for what seemed like days now, though it had only been a few hours. The fact that she was riding a horse should have made things go quicker, but Hikaru was having difficulties riding it and her discomfort was only prolonging the journey it seemed.
When the horses whinnied beneath her, reaching its neck to grab some leaves off a nearby tree to munch on, Hikaru groaned inwardly. I'm not cut out for this kind of thing…I'd much rather walk!
But Umi needs you, a voice reasoned with her inside her head, and the faster you go the more likely you'll find her quicker!
Her determination coming back to her, Hikaru set her eyes in front of her as she gripped the reins tighter. They'd been walking in a straight line for a while now, Lantis at the front followed by Clef, Fuu and Hikaru taking up the rear.
As if sensing her mood change Fuu looked over her shoulder, careful of her new armor, and smiled. "How are you holding up back there, Hikaru?"
The horse beneath her snorted, tugging his head foreword and almost toppling the red haired girl over. With a shaky voice Hikaru replied, "I'm good!"
"This is actually quite fun once you get used to it," said Fuu, leaning in and patting her horse on the side of the neck.
Hikaru gave her an envious stare. "Not when your horse would rather stomp on you than let you ride it!"
"I thought you were the one who loved animals," Fuu laughed, teasing her friend. "Umi and I used to believe you could understand their language!"
If Hikaru could have crossed her arms, she would have, but as it turned out if she were to let go of the reins she would probably end up flat on her back on the ground. Instead she opted for giving Fuu the most frustrated look that she could muster. It was true that she had always loved animals, especially her dog Hikari back at home, but this horse just didn't want to cooperate!
Deciding to ignore her troubles, Hikaru tilted her head so that she could see past Fuu. "How long until the next village?"
"Still a long way," Clef replied from somewhere up front, his voice raised so that she could hear him.
"Will we be camping out tonight?" Fuu asked.
"Most likely," was Clef's reply.
They continued on in silence for a while, neither feeling the urge to continue a conversation. The girls' hearts were heavy thinking about Umi, and the guys were trying to push on so that they would gain more ground. The faster they went and the more ground they covered the better.
After a while, however, Lantis suddenly stopped, almost causing everyone else to crash into him. Steadying their horses, they watched as he tilted his head skyward, his eyes searching the surrounding area before he looked off to the right, his gaze searching the dense foliage and leaves above.
Pushing forward, Hikaru passed Fuu and Clef and came to a stop near his side. "What is it, Lantis?"
He was silent for a few moments before he answered, "We're not alone."
Hikaru blinked, confused as she followed Lantis' gaze. "I don't see anything."
Lantis furrowed his brows, his gaze never wavering from the spot in the trees. "We're being watched from a distance."
Hikaru and Fuu both clenched their gloved fists, ready for action if whatever it was that was spying on them decided to attack. They would be ready to fight, no matter what it threw at them.
"Is it a monster?" Fuu asked quietly, pulling on her horse's reins to keep the impatient animal steady.
"It could possibly be," Clef answered.
Hikaru shook her head, "But weren't all the monsters destroyed? I mean, the people of Cephiro created them out of their fears, right? They weren't really real to begin with…and once Princess Emeraude…" She trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Talking about the Princess' death was still very painful.
"You're right," the Mage nodded, "But something is troubling Cephiro, and right now anything is possible." He looked to her, giving her a sad smile, "You're back now, aren't you? If something is powerful enough to call back the legendary Magic Knights, then it's possible that monsters are roaming the lands again."
Hikaru felt a shiver go through her. Clef was right – anything was possible right now.
"It's not a monster, whatever it is," Lantis spoke. "It feels almost…human."
"Maybe it's just a villager who's lost out in the woods?" Hikaru offered, growing troubled.
"No," Lantis shook his head slightly. "This human has…sinister intentions."
Hikaru nodded, raising her hand as she started to call forth her sword. If the person in the woods was their enemy, then she would go seek them out and demand they tell her where Umi was being held captive! The magical swirl of red and silver was just starting to be drawn into the orb on her hand when Lantis suddenly put a hand over hers, stopping her. She looked at him questioningly.
"We have to keep moving."
Hikaru bit her lip, looking at the taller, darker clad man. "But.."
"They haven't attacked by now, so they don't plan on attacking just yet," he told her. "We must continue on and find your friend."
Hikaru stared at him for a moment before she nodded, dropping her hand back to the reins. Beside her, Lantis took one last glance to the side before he urged his horse forward, the others following after him. Hikaru let them pass, looking off in the direction the enemy was watching them from.
Nova watched from a high branch of a tree as the group moved on, her long pink hair blowing in the breeze. She had seen and heard almost everything they had said, grinning wildly as the black armored man caught on to her presence, the way the familiar red haired girl looked so troubled as she hastily raised her hand to receive her sword. The look on the girl's face was almost…delicious!
Smirking like a cat that had just gotten a handful of canaries and a large bowl of cream, Nova watched as the girl stayed behind to take her place at the end of the line of travelers. She leaned forward slightly, gripping the branch of the tree so tightly that her nails dug into the thick bark, and her heart beat quickened.
Who are you..? Why do I feel like I know you? These thoughts puzzled her, but she watched on in amusement. You look so much like me…I feel like you are me…but…
Realizing her thoughts, Nova wiped the smirk off her face and ran a hand over her hair in frustration. Such thoughts weren't going to do her any good – she had done her task, and now it was time to report back to her lord and master. Raising a hand, the air in front of her rippled and turned dark, and without a second thought she jumped off the branch and disappeared into the void. When she opened her eyes next, she was in Innova's palace.
"It took you long enough," a cold voice came from the darkness, and Nova didn't have to look up to know who it was. Innova was standing before her, looking down at her in disdain. "Well?"
"They're heading North towards the nearest village. They hope to gain some insight of their friend's whereabouts," she answered. "They think someone in the village might know where she is."
Innova almost laughed, looking quite amused. "Like some stupid villagers would know anything about my plans!" He shook his head, his silvery white hair glistening in the dim light of the throne room. "Nova, go get me Alcione. I think it's time we let them have a hint of just what they're up against."
"Yes, my Lord," the pink haired woman bowed, retreating from the room.
Within moments Alcione came in, bowing before her master. "You called for me?"
"Yes, you shall leave for your mission now."
"Oh?" Alcione looked up abruptly, one brow raised.
"It's time for you to greet the Magic Knights in the forest."
A smirk appeared on her face, her face hopeful. "So we are finally going to let ourselves be known?"
Innova narrowed his eyes at her. "Of course not!" He snapped, "I'm just giving them a taste of my power!"
She remembered what Innova had said about not hurting the Magic Knights, that she was only supposed to confuse them and put them on edge. She had been hoping to battle the Magic Knights, probably outdo her master and teacher in magic, Clef…and perhaps kill the Zagato look-alike who had fooled her the last time she'd seen and talked to him.
Alcione frowned, her eyebrows drawing together. When she didn't say anything for a moment, he raised a brow quizzically at her.
"I'll do as you tell me, my Lord." She bit out, obviously unhappy about not being able to destroy the Magic Knights.
"Good," he replied coldly. "Now go. I have something I must attend to." She nodded and left without saying another word. Innova watched her go, eyes narrowed at her back as he spoke into the darkness, "She grows more defiant every day."
Behind him, the crystal mirror that he used to see things flashed and glowed, illuminating the room in a white light briefly before it dimmed to show a place that was familiar to Innova; he'd been there many times in the past week or more. The lab was almost dark, a small blue light above a table flickering and giving off the only light in the room. Zagato slept beneath it, still unmoving. When Innova turned towards his crystal, he smiled.
"I refuse to let her take them on just yet. We both know they'll destroy her, and I'll be short one more general. But soon, that won't matter," he took a step foreword, smiling fondly at the crystallized view of Zagato. "We'll take our revenge, once you awaken. They killed my Mistress, and took your beloved away from you…" He trailed off, the picture within the crystal suddenly flickering and changing. Soon it showed the Magic Knights and their guardians setting up camp for the evening. "They'll get what's coming to them soon enough."
His laughter echoed off the empty walls, echoing down the halls.
Down in the dungeons Umi sat up, startled, as a cold shiver ran down her spine.
To Be Continued…