AN: Well…here it is. All announcements, plus the special sneak peek (yay!) will be at the end of the chapter. I'll let you get right to it then—warning, this is extremely short, compared to the rest of the fic, following by a monstrously long author's note. But I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. I don't own Magic Knight Rayearth. Just my original characters.
Until We Meet Again: Epilogue
It was over.
He had heard the announcement. The Magic Knights were to return to their own world.
Which meant that Umi was leaving. Ascot marched through the palace corridors, looking for a place to hide. He didn't think he could face her, after everything, even if it was to say goodbye.
Especially if it was to say goodbye.
He had to hide. He had to let her go. He had to—
He froze. He had to learn to walk faster…
Turning slowly, he found himself face-to-face with the one person he had been trying so desperately to avoid, both for his own embarrassment and the lack of a response regarding her feelings.
Umi regarded him calmly, not missing the panic that flitted across his face, or the way every muscle in his body tensed at the mere sound of her voice. The tension grew as she walked towards him, the heels of her boots clicking on the corridor's polished stone floor.
Umi really didn't know what she was doing. She had seen him, and hadn't even intended to call out to him, but his name had left her mouth before she had even realized what was happening. And now she was walking towards him, her calm exterior belying her own nervousness.
She was close enough to touch him now. All she had to do was reach out, and…
Up until that moment, she hadn't know. She hadn't even thought about it.
"…Umi?" Ascot murmured uncertainly.
"Shhh…" she whispered. Though she herself had grown up quite a bit, and she was the tallest of the three Magic Knights by a fair amount, he was still a good head taller than her, and she had to stretch up to reach to him. Her fingers clenched around the loose collar of his summoner's robes, and used that as leverage to draw his head down.
He didn't resist.
In hindsight, Umi realized that this should have happened a whole lot sooner.
And as she looked back on it later, it was quite clear just how right it really felt.
The crowd that gathered in the throne room was far from happy. Caldina wept outright as she went around hugging everyone goodbye; she shared an especially long embrace with Kagura, in whom she had found the closest thing to a kindred spirit she had ever encountered, Umi aside. Takeshi shook hands with everyone—except for Caldina, who glomped him within an inch of his life.
Amaya, Michiko, and Sachi were not there. Those farewells had been made earlier, and Amaya had hugged each of them, pausing to whisper to Umi that they would definitely see each other again.
The Magic Knights themselves weren't really paying attention to most of the people. Yes, they'd said their goodbyes to all their friends, but now…now it was time for the really tough goodbyes. No one dared disturb these moments—yet. Creator was beginning to look impatient. They had to return to their own world now, He said. There was too much for them there.
Hikaru was sobbing, clinging to Lantis with all the desperation of a starving man holding onto bread. The cail's head was dipped to whisper something into her ear that no one else could hear. He looked just as distressed, though without the tears.
Nearby, Umi and Ascot were standing toe-to-toe, facing each other. Her hands were enveloped in his, hidden beneath the voluminous sleeves of his summoner's robes. They were talking, quietly. Umi seemed outwardly calm, though her hands trembled ever so slightly in Ascot's, and her eyes bore the distinct shimmer of something she refused to shed.
The most heartbreaking, though, were the ones standing beside the door. Fuu and Ferio…to be parted after fighting so hard to have their all-too-brief time together. Their foreheads were pressed together, his fingers tangled through her hair and touching her face; she was clutching at the front of his tunic, as a few tears finally broke from her self-control to escape. Like the others, they were speaking quietly—and as with the others, no one dared to eavesdrop.
Finally, Creator sighed. "Magic Knights…I am sorry…but it is time."
In the next few seconds, they slowly stepped apart. Fuu visibly shuddered as Ferio released her. And with equal slowness, they moved towards the appointed spot in the middle of the room. Best to do this quickly, before someone had a chance to try and run.
As everyone watched, calling out last goodbyes, the yellow gem-stone on Creator's forehead began to glow. The five young people from Earth were surrounded by the all-too-familiar light that swept upwards around them, lifting their feet from the floor.
And as the bright light enveloped them, swallowing them up for the journey back to their own world, Umi gave her fellow Knights' hands a squeeze, and held on. I wish…I wish that we could all be together, us and our friends from Cephiro. Forever.
A floor suddenly solidified beneath their feet. Eyes opened to see Tokyo Tower once again, exactly as it had been when they had gone to fight Xander. The observation deck was void of people, and the broken window was still broken.
While Takeshi and Kagura broke away, Hikaru looked around in bewildered sadness; Fuu fell to her knees and wept without shame. Umi looked out the window at the darkened sky. The lights of Tokyo sparkled like stars.
The five teenagers walked in silence. The air had taken on an unseasonable briskness, causing all of them to take jackets for warmth. All five had hands shoved into pockets, and none of them really looked at anyone else. They were simply walking together, towards a common destination, each wrapped up in their own individual thoughts on the exact same subject.
As the intimidating form of Tokyo Tower loomed over them, they paused, hesitating for a mere second, before they went in and got on the elevator. They were the only ones in the car, and the ride was silent and thoughtful, remembering…
The elevator door closed with a soft hissing sound—a harbinger 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.
As they reached the top, the doors opened with a ding, and the observation deck lay before them. They walked from the elevator; it closed and headed back down. There weren't many people visiting the landmark at that moment, and so they could enjoy relative privacy.
By some unspoken accord, they inched towards one window in particular. One month ago, the papers had heralded the awful news that vandals had attacked Tokyo Tower, shattering one of the windows on the observation deck. Never mind that the glass had been strewn about the floor of the deck, indicating that the window had broken from the outside, a near impossibility for any normal vandal.
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 inhuman, unearthly beasts, set on blood and murder.
Here. This was the spot.
Their spot, they privately thought of it.
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…"
Five people, four young women and one young man, looked out over the panorama of Tokyo, cast in the glow of a setting sun. For a brief, terrible time, this had been draped in the shadows, under the threat of a never-ending night.
Suddenly, there was a burst from the horizon. But instead of being an explosion of fire, or the light that usually carried them to Cephiro, it was a bomb of darkness that swept down over the landscape, swallowing everything beneath that blackness.
Fuu was the first to speak. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Beside her, Kagura nodded. "Yeah…"
Hikaru leaned her elbows on the guard rail and let her weight rest on them. "Hard to believe it's already been a month since all that happened, isn't it? Every time we go there, something changes…"
Takeshi sighed. "Scared the crap out of me, personally. But yeah…it does feel like things have changed." He looked at the girls. "Something's different, even if I can't tell you what it is."
"Simple," Umi spoke, and everyone looked at her. "Every time we go to Cephiro, we've grown up a bit more by the time we come back. Strength from adversity and all that jazz." She tossed her hair back in the classic Umi manner and turned her gaze back towards the sunset.
"…I gotta admit, I feel weird now when I complain about Organic Chemistry," Kagura grinned.
Her companions laughed before lapsing into that same comfortable silence.
"Do you think we'll go back again?" Fuu asked after a minute. Her fingers fiddled unconsciously with a ring on her left hand—a simple gold band, engraved with strange characters that no one else from Earth would recognize as Cephirean runes. It had still been on her hand when they had landed back on Tokyo Tower. She did not ask how or why. The fact that it was there was simply enough—her one real connection to the man she truly loved.
"Maybe. Someday," Umi whispered, remembering her secret wish and Amaya's words, that they would see each other again. "You never know when Cephiro might need the Magic Knights again. And call me crazy, but I have a feeling that we haven't seen the last of Cephiro and the mashin."
Agreement met her proclamation. Then slowly, by some unspoken accord, they all moved closer together, into a tight circle. Their hands all found each other's, linking them into an unbroken ring. Five pairs of eyes glanced around at each other before falling closed.
Five young people, who had seen and saved another world as well as their own, let their minds drift back to that magic place, where the power of one's will could determine destiny.
And they wished.
AN. …it's actually over. Over a year and a half, over one hundred thousand words, and this labor of love is over. I almost felt bad because someone was so certain there would be a twist…nope, not this time around. Below is a monstrously long author's note—you have been warned. I have many people to thank, and a couple of uber-important announcements, so please bear with me. I have many thank-you's to make, but there's one in particular that must be mentioned first and foremost.
When I first started this story, I set out with the intent of taking as many clichés as possible, mashing them together in one story, and seeing if I could still twist them up a bit. And the person who was my sounding board throughout was my dear, dear friend VixieAngel. She's actually the one who got me hooked on MKR in the first place. And thus, it began.
A basic plot was formed during our many hours of Music Theory homework and rhythm clapping (hissss…), and finally, after several months of discussing ideas and bouncing random thoughts around, I had a comprehensive outline. And VixieAngel was the one who thought of the title, if I remember correctly. Without her, Tears of the Sea in its present form would not exist. If you liked the story, she's really the one you need to thank. So—thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times over, Vixie. You're a goddess amongst mortals, and one of the best friends a girl could ask for—hey, if we dragged each other kicking and screaming through Music Theory, we can survive anything, so long as we laugh a lot, dance with the Oompa Loompa eighth-notes, and put the earmuffs on the cookie!
Secondly, but no less importantly, I want to thank all of you—the readers, reviewers, emailers, all the people who kept me going on this labor of love. I wasn't quite sure how TotS would be received when I first tossed it up on this site, just a dinky little prologue that didn't tell much of anything. I have enjoyed every single comment, guess, speculation, suggestion, and compliment I have received. It means a lot to me that y'all like my story. It was fun seeing if I could keep you guessing. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me until the end.
And now, the announcement: a few chapters back, I asked about a sequel. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to this idea. I have a good number of ideas that didn't make it into this story, and I already have a basic plot figured out. And lo, I was motivated during my first week of break, and actually already wrote out the prologue. It is posted for your reading enjoyment, and for my utter delight in teasing my readers. The title is Song of the Wind. I hope you'll all go check it out!
:Humming to herself, Candy-chan toodles off into the sunset: