And the Snow Fell and Covered the World: Coronation
AN: If you like Mawata a lot, you probably shouldn't read this. I've turned her into a nineteen-year-old reclusive evil male Knight. And I've twisted the whole Pretear universe for my own purposes. Please don't hurt me.
"Mannen, come on! We're going to miss the ceremony!"
"I know, I know! Don't rush me!"
"Shin, you're ready, right?"
The little boy next to Hajime nodded. His silken robes were soft and airy, thankfully; his six-year-old body was swathed in layers of light green that would have smothered him otherwise. His big hat kept falling over because he had not quite grown into it. He and Hajime, in his own, much thinner Knight uniform, were standing outside Mannen's open door, watching the Knight of Ice try desperately to pull a second polished white boot onto his foot while hopping towards the two Knights waiting expectantly for him.
"Goh is going to be pissed!" Hajime declared, and Shin flinched.
"You shouldn't use those words, Hajime-kun," the little Knight admonished. Hajime pursed his lips. "Sasame-oniisan doesn't like it."
"Yeah, well," Hajime replied, dismissing the subject. He grabbed Shin's hand as Mannen finally finished the last lace on his boot and took off running down the hall. Dragging the youngest Knight along behind them, the two navigated the passages of Pretear Palace. They passed each of the Knights' rooms, every door with an appropriate symbol denoting the occupant, and the many paintings, tapestries, and busts and statues decorating their home. It was a beautiful place, not so humble as they would like (with the exception of the Knight of Light), but they appreciated the lengths to which the people of the kingdoms went to make them comfortable.
The palace was in the center of their land, the island of Leafenia divided into eight clans, one for each Knight, one for each power. Kaze, Kin, Oto, Shimo, Flora, Hi, Hikari, and Mizu; each clan had their own land, and sent their own Knight to be a part of the defending force that was the Leafe Knights and their Pretear. It was like an offering, really. A child is chosen out of the ancient lineage of the clan, and delivered at the palace to grow up with the other Knights, and learn of his power, and practice the ancient art of preting with the Pretear. The child is always integrated into the family of the Leafe Knights flawlessly, as Shin had been only two years prior. The closeness the eight Knights had developed was obvious simply in seeing them interact; the younger Knights constantly referred to the older Knights as 'oniisan,' and among the older Knights there was an almost tangible protectiveness and care of their younger counterparts. Their real families were no longer allowed to see them, but their new family could almost fill that gap. It was a necessary evil, needed to protect Leafenia from the evils of the outer dimensions.
Shin was struggling to keep up with his surrogate brothers' furious pace as they turned a corner at breakneck speed. There, waiting for them at one of the many entrances to the assemblage room, was the Songbird, the Knight of Sound, Sasame. He turned anxiously as the three approached.
"It's about time you three arrived," he told them, a good-natured smile spreading across his fair face. Mannen skidded to a halt just short of him, Hajime and Shin slowing gradually. Sasame knelt, straightening Mannen's crooked collar, a gesture the Knight of Ice did not appreciate. He waved Sasame off. Sasame grinned at his stubbornness, running his hand through his short white hair. "You all have your talismans, right?"
Mannen stuck out his wrist, showing his ornate purple bracelet. Hajime waved the red lock of hair held by his own purple hair band, and Shin smiled sweetly and held up his pendant. Sasame fingered his own ear cuff, listening to the amplified sounds of the crowd behind the door to the assemblage room, sounds muffled to the three children before him.
"Where's Goh?" Hajime questioned. Sasame reached over and straightened Shin's crooked cap.
"He's inside with Hayate, Kei, and Mawata," Sasame told him, standing and herding them all towards the door. "You all remember the ceremony, right?"
"Yes, yes, Sasame, we remember!" Mannen adamantly affirmed. "Kei and Goh only made us repeat the ceremony about fifty times!"
"Calm down, Mannen," Sasame coaxed in his musical voice, "I was only asking. I understand that you are frustrated." He heard the crowd quiet as he wrapped his fingers around the handle and pushed it open a crack. "Here we go." Shin went out first, petrified, of course, but Hajime's hand on his shoulder reassured him as he walked out into the massive room.
There was a red carpet under his feet, so his small steps made no sound as he made the trek from the entrance to the altar steps. Tall, thin windows climbed from the ceiling to the floor, and a great platform sat at the opposite end of the room, topped with eight altars and in the center of those, a throne sat, made of the same purple-tinted ore as their talismans, tall and regal. These were their power centers; in times of war, the eight Knights stood at their altars and formed a barrier of Leafe to protect Leafenia. The Pretear's throne was only a centerpiece, and did not really serve a purpose other than indicating who was the Pretear.
This was the purpose of their ceremony. People flooded the room, spilling out the door and onto the grounds, all trying to catch a glimpse of the storied Knights and Pretear. There were three walkways kept clear of the wandering crowd by the lush red carpets. These were the entrance points, one for the younger Knights, Sasame, Hajime, Mannen, and Shin, and one for the older Knights, Mawata, Kei, Goh, and Hayate. The middle walkway was the one the Pretear would use to ascend to her throne. Shin remembered what Goh and Kei had told him, and stopped just short of the altar steps. People were milling all around him eagerly, and he heard a few comments made on how cute he and his young comrades were. He saw Hayate across from him at the front of the second row of Knights. The Divine Wind smiled at his small comrade. Shin, the Knight of Earth, the Gaia, smiled back.
Suddenly, there was a sound of trumpets, and the large, wooden double doors at the back of the room opened into the abruptly silent crowd. In through this door, a young woman advanced down the carpet, wearing a long, plain white gown. The gown was symbolic; this was the Pretear, a pure white canvas which would soon be colored with the myriad powers of the eight Knights. The girl looked fairly young, about fifteen or sixteen, with short pink hair bobbed cutely. Her eyes were a light shade of red, wide and wandering about the wide chamber unhindered. Her mindfulness of the ceremony did not overwhelm her amazement at the large stone chamber, decorated with tall tapestries and stained windows.
She walked up to the throne, keeping her posture straight and her feet the same distance apart. Instead of stopping, like the Knights, she walked right up the steps, turned before the throne, but did not sit. She stood, waiting for the first of the Knights to come up and take her hand. She addressed the crowd. "My name is Himeno Awayuki. I am eternally blessed by the position of Pretear that is now to be bestowed upon me. Now the ceremony will begin, and here in this room we will affirm my compatibility with each of the Knights," she recited expertly. The speech seemed so natural that there was no though that she had memorized it. The last word echoed off the stone, and Shin took a deep breath, gathered his courage for his first Pretear ceremony, and walked up the steps.
"The Gaia," Himeno said as he took his first step, smiling at the young Knight approaching her. Shin came to a halt before her, reaching up his hand to her outstretched one. As their hands met, a spark of green power erupted from their joined hands, and Shin's pendant shone. The power radiated from their contacting palms, running from Shin to Himeno and back to the Gaia. Then their fingers parted, and Shin knelt and bowed before her. Himeno smiled down at the young one, reaching a hand down to straighten his crooked hat. It was unceremonious, but no one who mattered minded. Shin stood again, and began to walk towards his own Altar of Earth, where he would stay until the ceremony is over. Shin's hand was still warm from the contact, and a smile was on his lips. This Pretear was not plain and cold like the old one; Himeno exuded a warmth and a beauty that Saihi Fenril never had.
"The Divine Wind," Himeno announced as the blue-clothed Hayate approached, long hair stirring with the slight wind around him. They took each other's hands, and a blue flash sounded, and a gust of wind fell in a wave over the crowd. They exchanged a small smile, and then Hayate turned, breaking contact abruptly. Himeno looked slightly disconcerted, but she did not let his curtness faze her.
"The Winter Frost," as Mannen climbed the platform to join hands. The room's temperature dropped a few degrees as a white spark of light climbed up their arms. Mannen grinned widely before departing for the Altar of Ice.
"The Wildfire," Himeno announced, and Goh stepped up with an energy that was contagious, grabbing Himeno's hand as if he were to give the girl a firm handshake. He undid Mannen's magic tenfold, and suddenly it was humid in the room.
"The Torrent," and a flash of blue, a slight spray dampening the first rows of the crowd.
"The Prism," a light bright enough to blind the onlookers.
"The Gilded Gray," a golden shine, and a lingering sparkle in the air.
"The Songbird," and a chime as beautiful as the sweetest music.
Sasame reached his altar shortly after, a soft smile on his face as he looked down the row at each beaming Knight. Himeno raised her hand, the hand she had taken each of the Knights' with, and gestured to the crowd. "Here is the coronation!" she shouted. "Each of our Leafe Knights has confirmed it. I will gladly and humbly accept the role of Pretear." She placed the hand over her heart, settling back into the chair, the silken white gown falling over her form like water. As she settled back, the altar erupted in color and sound, in power from each of the altars flying up through the open space in the ceiling into the sky to celebrate the crowning of a new Pretear. It was like a great show of fire-works, as the different colors exploded prismatically. Himeno looked up at the display with a joy in her eyes that warmed the heart of all present.
As expected, the hall was quickly cleared as people realized the ceremony was over and the fire-works and celebration were starting. Outside on the lawn, vendors had set up shop, blankets had been laid out, and musicians and players were waiting for the crowd to empty Pretear Palace and fill its grounds with laughter and dance.
The noise of the crowd was shut out as the great wooden doors of the assemblage hall were shut by a pair of guards. Himeno was grateful to them, for the experience had taken a lot out of her and she was thankful for the silence, but saddened that the ceremony, something she had prepared for so extensively, was now over. She slumped in her chair, letting a great sigh as she rubbed at her aching temples. She knew that if she cast a glance to either side, her Knights would be gone. Their fire-works display had also been a teleportation; they would need to reseal the gate after all of the crowd had receded.
"Awayuki-sama?" one of the guards was saying to her. "If you are tired, quarters have been prepared. The things you brought with you have already been delivered to your room."
Himeno smiled at the guard. He looked as if he were approaching middle age, and he was forced to cater to such young people. "What is your name, ojisan?"
The guard looked taken aback. "My- my name is Awaro Sugo."
"Thank you very much, Sugo-san," Himeno told him. Sugo smiled at her.
"Would you like me to show you to your room, Awayuki-sama?"
Himeno looked around at the room, empty save the second guard standing by the door, and realized that this was the first time she'd been inside the double doors. In order to keep the ceremony free of corruption, Himeno was not allowed to see where her coronation would take place. She nodded to Sugo. "Hai, Sugo-san, if it isn't too much trouble for you."
The guard grinned. "No trouble at all, Awayuki-sama."