Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me except the concept and Gage, he, unfortunately, belongs to me. All the lyrics are copyright Lacuna Coil (look them up, they're a great band for anyone who likes Evanescence, and they're basically unknown), and all the characters of course are owned by the great and wonderful CLAMP. All right, onto the author's note...
So here it is, chapter one of fourteen, another song fic, hope that everyone likes this one as much as they did "Rubies and Gold". For those of you who haven't read it, there's a prequel to this, called "Rush", I would recommend reading it, though you don't have to to understand what's going on, I wrote "Rush" after I'd written about ten chapters of this. This story is almost completely finished, so there shouldn't be any delays in updating at all, and if there are, I apologize completely for them now. I also apologize in advance for the amount of angst in this one, this is actually an original story that I wrote that I adapted and tweeked for Rayearth; I hope it doesn't upset anyone too too much! Hang in with me, there will be some very good romance in the later chapters, I'm just getting to writing them now, and I'm making sure to make it perfect. Other than that, I know you guys all are responsible readers by now so I don't have to remind you. I hope you like it! Love you all lots!
Chapter One – Swamped
"I need a drink," Umi muttered miserably, tearing open her freezer door to remove the vodka bottle inside. With trembling fingers, she unscrewed the top and put the cold rim to her lips. Quick, her mind urged, before they come back. Obediently, she tossed the liquid fire down her throat, wincing from the burn, yet savoring its effect. Ah, to drown out the feelings.
Slowly, the numbness began to take hold, so she could think logically about things for a few moments before she wasn't able to think about things at all. See, that's my problem, she told herself, I haven't been looking at this whole thing logically. I've only been looking at it from the emotional standpoint. Logically, I can dismiss these dreams entirely; it's just my subconscious sneaking up on me like it likes to do.
By the time the half bottle of vodka she'd consumed really started kicking in, she'd reasoned everything out, so it all fit together into a nicely discarded pile. There was no sense in taking dreams seriously, because she'd learned that dreams never do come true.
When you're taught through feelings
"Nothing," Clef sighed and slumped into his chair, defeated and exhausted.
"But Guru, if she continues on this path of self-destruction, everything she created in Cephiro will change!" Fuu was almost in hysterics, tears brimming in her big green eyes that were no longer troubled by the burden of glasses.
Clef barely held back a glare, "I know! But she hasn't responded to the dreams; she has herself convinced they mean nothing. Perhaps it is time you returned to Earth and fetched her."
Fuu nodded and bowed, "We will leave straight away," she told him, spinning and storming out. The current situation seemed to have everyone in a foul temper, and the deeper she'd touched someone, the deeper the darkness ran. In Fuu it showed itself as anger, in Hikaru, depression, and in himself…nervousness, sullenness, impatience. He sighed and looked back to his scrying crystal to watch her stare blankly at the wall in a state of almost complete comatose, pausing in her strange vigil only to take another gulp of poison.
Molten anger ripped through his veins, why would she do this to them, to herself? Why didn't she care? And more importantly, he thought grimly, all the anger washed out of him, why won't she let me fix it?
Destiny, flying high above
Fuu looked once more at the address on the faded, grimy piece of paper in her hands, "Well," she shook her head, "I guess…"
"This can't be right," Hikaru gazed at the dilapidated building in front of them, amazed. Not only was it on the wrong side of town, but it seemed to be riddled with drug addicts and prostitutes. Not exactly the place you'd expect to find a high-class, beautiful journalism student.
"Let's at least go and check," Fuu nudged Hikaru forward, and she took one hesitant step and then waited, as if she was expecting to get shot. When she guessed she wasn't, she took another bold step, one slowly after the other until she made it to the front door and managed to step inside.
"Whaddya want?" a large, balding man with grease stains on his shirt looked up from his post at the front door, and Hikaru jumped back when a cruel smile slipped onto his face. "I mean…what can I get for you ladies?"
"We're l-looking for Um-Umi Ryu-Ryuuzaki," Hikaru stumbled, and his face fell.
"No one of that name in this place," he gestured rudely to the half crumbled steps that led to the upper level of the apartment complex. A cacophony of screams and cries filled their ears, and Hikaru was happy enough to give up and begin the search again, but Fuu knew more than her friend, and her eyes narrowed, and she persisted.
"Are you sure? She's a friend of ours, and I'm sure she's here."
The man gave her a level look, sizing up the designer jeans and light green cashmere sweater she wore, "I doubt anyone you know would live here," he told her frankly, and her temper which was always slow to rise, showed itself.
"She has to be here!"
"Come on Fuu-chan," Hikaru urged, shying away from the man who was getting more and more annoyed by the moment. "Umi-chan wouldn't stay in a place like this…"
Fuu just tossed Hikaru off her and advanced on the man, "She's real pretty, long blue hair and big, dark blue eyes. She's a journalism student."
Realization entered the man's eyes, and he nodded, "Ah, that one. Aye, she lives here, but she ain't no journalism student," a rough laugh escaped his throat. "Up in 216, but I'll expect she'll have company this time of night. Damn well better, if I don't get my rent soon I'll be up there pounding on her door myself. Well," he shrugged and let the comment lie, "maybe that'd be worth it."
Fuu's veins filled with ice, so there were things that Clef hadn't told her. What else was there? "Thank you," she answered crisply, giving him a sharp, threatening glance which made him laugh and point to the steps. She didn't wait around for another smart comment, just turned to face the steps and stomped up them, Hikaru following her quietly, wondering silently if the steps would support even their fragile weights.
"Umi!" Fuu shouted from the wrong side of a locked door.
Hikaru heard noise from inside, and a chain slipping out of place. The door opened just a crack, and a large blue eye peered out at them.
"'orry, no female…" she stopped and opened it a little wider. "Fuu? Hikaru?"
Fuu and Hikaru both broke out into smiles, Fuu's relieved, Hikaru's timid.
"Umi-chan," she greeted warmly, and Umi threw the door open and grinned at them.
"Wh-are ya-doin' here?" she slurred, and the smiles immediately fell off their faces.
"We're here to talk," Fuu told her pertly, and Umi opened the door.
"Welcome in," she giggled at her confusion of words and allowed them entrance into the small, ratty apartment.
Fuu's critical eye scanned it in disgust. The paint was chipping off the walls, and there were definite signs of rodent and insect infestation. The room they entered was a small living room, on the far right was a kitchen that Fuu wasn't even sure Hikaru would be able to fit into, and to the left was another room, presumably a bedroom. Fuu wanted to spit in anger. Why would she live in a place like this? What had happened that she'd fallen so low? Then the anger paled, and she was just left in a numb state of shock. Something horrible, was all she could think as she turned her eyes back to her friend. And we've just been taking cues from Clef this whole time. She's probably wondering why we haven't done anything; she probably thinks we're the worst friends in the world!
"Oh Umi-chan," Hikaru gasped. "What are you doing here?" She voiced the words Fuu couldn't find, and Umi looked at her curiously.
"Whaddya mean? This is nice enough for the likes of me," she slipped onto a half destroyed couch that sunk almost to the floor when she landed on it. The only other piece of furniture in the room beside the couch was a small box that Fuu guessed she was using as a table.
"Umi, you're coming back with us," Fuu told her frankly, turning to face her, towering over her, her hands on her hips. She had her stern, 'I won't take no for an answer,' expression on, but Umi just looked at her blankly, took another swig of vodka and shook her head.
"Nope," she answered, popping the 'P' and smiling gleefully. "No way in hell."
"Why not?" Hikaru demanded desperately, pointing to the bare walls. "There's nothing for you here! We want you at home; Cephiro is falling apart without you!"
Umi pulled herself off the couch to look Hikaru in the eyes, "I will not."
"Don't be ridiculous," Fuu stopped Hikaru's next onslaught of begging. "You will, and you're in no state to stop us," she reached forward to grab Umi's arm, but Umi screamed and pulled back, throwing the bottle onto the floor so it shattered, leaving glass and alcohol all over the dirty green carpet that had to be left from the seventies.
"Don't touch me! I'm not leaving!"
"Why would you want to stay?" Fuu refused to leave her friend in any state like this, especially not with Cephiro falling into the same condition of decay.
"Why wouldn't I wanna go back, would be, a better question," Umi flopped back onto the couch, her long hair falling over the side, but it was greasy. When was the last time she'd washed it? That in itself was enough to tell Fuu something was terribly wrong. Umi never let her hair get dirty, not even through the worst battles. When the fighting was over, even if she was too exhausted to stand, she would find her way to a bathtub to scrub the dirt and blood out of her luxurious blue hair. There was something most definitely wrong. If Fuu had doubted it before, she had no questions now.
Hikaru's eyes knotted in pain, and she held her hands out to her old friend, wanting nothing more than to pull her into her arms and hug all the pain away. Clearly, Umi was in some kind of serious pain, but Hikaru also knew that there was nothing she could do to bring her out of it. She'd seen anguish like this in people she knew, and she'd seen people die of it. It scared her to no end, "Umi-chan, please," she pleaded gently. "Whatever it is, I promise you we'll take care of it."
Umi shook her head, pulling herself up to a sitting position, "No, you can't, not this," she laughed to herself. "Just get out."
"What?" Hikaru whispered, tears brimming in her eyes, threatening to spill over.
"Get out!" Umi shrieked, slamming her finger toward the door. "I never asked for anyone to save me!"
"Umi, this isn't about you!" Fuu shouted at her, and Umi backed down. "Clef asked us to come and get you; Cephiro is falling apart because you're destroying yourself. We can't think only of ourselves anymore; we're not children. You're attached to that world, and without you, it's suffering. Don't you care?"
Umi smirked and shook her head, "Bastard," she whispered to herself, and Fuu's eyes narrowed, while Hikaru's widened. "Didn't think it could be…" she mumbled to herself, then, in a moment of coherent speech, "Sorry, I get angry when I'm drunk Come back in the morning, and we'll talk."
Hikaru was about to agree, but Fuu shook her head.
"I have an appointment now," Umi sounded weary and exasperated. Talking like this made her think too much, and she was in no state to be thinking. Her head was spinning angrily; all she wanted to do was go to bed.
Fuu didn't want to begin to think what that meant, "We're not leaving."
"Oh good, then you can watch," Umi answered wryly, and Fuu shuddered. "You know, actually, just don't come back. If there's anything; you want to know about why I won't return maybe you should ask your precious Master Mage; he was the one who 'xpelled me in the first place!"
"What?" both Fuu and Hikaru's minds reeled at that.
"Yeah," Umi whispered bitterly. "Yeah, how bout that?"
"Umi-chan, that's not possible. He wouldn't have done that…" Hikaru started, but Umi glared bitterly.
"Funny, he did," she answered. "Goodbye Hikaru, Fuu, I hope you have a lovely life in Cephiro," and her tone told them she was through with them. Hikaru tried gently to get her to speak again, but she just sat on the couch and stared at the wall, not even nursing a small cut that the broken bottle had caused in her hand and was just beginning to bleed.
"Come on Hikaru-san," Fuu urged gently, taking Hikaru's shoulders and showing her the door. As they left, a scraggly looking man with thick rimmed glasses was walking up the steps, smiling slightly to himself. They watched only for a moment to see him waltz into Umi's apartment and hear her laugh before they walked down the steps, closed their eyes and Willed themselves back to Cephiro with broken hearts.
All I know is that you can realize it
Could that be true, about Cephiro falling apart without me? Umi thought to herself as she lie awake, the man she'd just worn out snoring next to her. Don't think about it. She agreed, and rose to get a bottle, but remembered she'd broken her last and consented to get a glass of coffee instead.
She walked to her small kitchen and pulled a can of instant coffee down, cracking it open and dumping a scoop into a small cup, and then, on second thought, added another. I'll probably need it, she told herself grimly, and shoved the half prepared dish in her faulty microwave, setting it for two minutes. Our microwave at home could have done it in a quarter the time, in Cephiro, it would've been instant.
Cephiro… she sighed to herself and shook it out of her. They didn't want her there; she wasn't a Magic Knight anymore. She'd given up on them when he'd given up on her.
Destiny who cares?
"Clef," Fuu's voice was brimming with pent up anger and disgust as he turned to look into the raging eyes of not only the Wind Knight, but the Fire Knight as well. Both seemed ready to spring if they needed to.
"We have some questions," Hikaru bit off every word as if they tasted vile in her mouth. Clef looked at them curiously and summoned them chairs.
As it turns around
"Umi told us you were the one who made her leave Cephiro," Fuu started bluntly, and Clef's mouth almost flew open.
"What?" he mumbled; and Hikaru seemed to lighten a little at his instinctive reply. Fuu was a little less lenient, but her eyes softened just a tad.
"She said if we had questions as to why she wouldn't want to come back, we should ask you," Hikaru explained softly. "She said you expelled her."
Clef's heart swelled with anger, "Never!" he hissed. "I knew when she left that Cephiro would hurt because of it; I would never make her leave, but that was her choice! I…" he stopped himself, knowing that yelling wouldn't prove his point, or his innocence.
"So you don't know what she's talking about?" Fuu asked sharply, and he shook his head and held out his hands.
"Very well, thank you Guru," Hikaru stood and bowed, ushering Fuu out this time. Fuu glanced back at him one last time, before she disappeared around the door.
He sighed heavily and stood, moving toward the window to gaze at the land he loved. So, he thought inwardly, my rejection must have made her run. I…he faltered. He had thought when the Water Knight professed something a little deeper than friendship toward him, and he told her that it could never be, that she would be hurt. But this…and damn it, it wasn't because I didn't feel the same! Even then, his heart ached for her. She had probably touched him deeper than any of the people in Cephiro, but it just couldn't be! He was a Master Mage; his heart was chained to the land and its people. She wasn't even from Cephiro! So I did all this…he looked to the sea that was churning in anger; and the gray storm clouds that were threatening to burst over the country at any minute. Hard to believe, with a heart so strong she could…he refused to look at the image in the crystal. He'd watched it too many times, and it never got easier. Each time felt as if a piece of his soul was being ripped away and trampled on. No, there was no easy road for her, and thus, there was no easy road for him. Why did I push her away? The question resounded within him. As much as he tried to remind himself of his duties, his people, his past, the question would rip through his mind like a stampede of wild horses. Why did I push away the best thing in my life?
And I know that it descends down on me
"Hey beautiful, I've got a new assignment for you," the man leaned against her doorframe casually, smiling a charming smile that lit up his narrow face. "You gonna let me in or what?"
Umi sighed and nodded, moving from the doorway, so he could enter. So many times she'd tried to tell him no. She'd struggled to get out of it; anything was better than this. But she didn't have anywhere to go, and she knew that he'd kill her if she ran. There was no way but to stay on his good side and try to make what she could of her shattered life.
It's just another day
"Well, there's this new client, you see," he approached her, running his rough hands over her neck and down her shoulders, stroking her hair, and she wanted to back away and cower, but all she did was sit there and curse her inability to do anything. The Umi that was the Knight of Water, a protector of Cephiro, would never have succumbed to this. Well, that girl is dead, there is only Ryuu now. "And I wanna make sure he gets the best treatment, you see? He's a real big shot somewhere in the city, got the cash to show it. But he doesn't want just anyone; he says he wants a fighter. So I says to him, I got this girl, Ryuu, and she's a real fighter. He liked the sound of it sweetheart, so you gotta make sure you don't prove me wrong."
"I won't, Kanaye," she promised softly, and he grinned and bit her neck.
"Good, I knew you wouldn't, he'll be here shortly," and without another word, he removed his hands from her neck and strolled out the door, whistling softly to himself.
It's just another day
Umi pushed her hair into a high ponytail, teasing it gently and used makeup to cover bruises and other marks of her trade. She hid the bags under her eyes with a heavy layer of eye makeup that made her look a little older as well and shook her head in the mirror, preparing herself for the newest "client". What happened to you? The image in the mirror with the hollow eyes asked of her, but she just shook her head at in and turned to get the knock at the door.
She died, a long time ago.
The shame is gone
Hard to believe
That I've let it go
The man in her door was powerfully built with hidden, angry eyes. Umi was afraid of him, but she didn't let it show. She was afraid of what he was about to do to her body, but she didn't let him know it. He wanted a fighter, not a flower, and she was about to become just that. Little did he know, but that could sometimes be a dangerous request.
"How do you want to do this?" she demanded, and he grabbed her neck and tossed her against the wall, slamming the door behind him. She tried a weak grin that only encouraged him as he flung her to the ground and raked his nails across her body, ripping clothes and skin alike. She smacked him hard across the face, and he pushed her down, she was drowning.
No, she whispered, feeling herself fall into memory. No, not now, I need to defend myself now, so she pushed back the images of her falling into the lake where her escudo was born and made herself concentrate on fighting the man off her. Suddenly, it wasn't about his pleasure or money, it was about surviving the next battle.
Destiny can't replace my life
Scary shadows of my past
He wrenched himself away from her and grinned cruelly, panting heavily, "Damn," he whispered, watching her with a newfound respect for the creature he'd considered fragile. "Here," he scattered a few bills around her feet and laughed when she scrambled to collect them, pulling them close to her like a broken animal. "I'll be back."
She nodded gravely and stayed crumpled on the floor until he left. When she was sure he was gone, she curled her arms around her knees and began to rock, sobbing, clutching the money in her sweating palms. Why couldn't he love me? She demanded of herself, why can't anyone just love me?
Destiny who cares?
"The Knights didn't return with Umi, should you summon her?" Ascot asked carefully, not wanting to spark the Guru's anger that was even quicker to boil as of late.
Clef looked at the Palu with hollowed eyes, "If only I could."
As it turns around
"You're the most powerful Mage in Cephiro," Ascot stated flatly. "You have to be able to summon her."
And I know that it descends
"That was a gift given to the Pillar, not I," Clef told him gently, trying a weak smile. "Everything will work out in good time."
"But will it be too late for the rest of us?" Ascot seemed to be speaking to himself, so Clef didn't chase the issue. The same question resounded in his mind.
With a smile
"Well done," Kanaye slapped a wad of bills into Umi's outstretched palm, and she thanked him softly. "For being so quiet I find it hard to believe you're a fighter," he told her frankly. "I keep saying I'm going to test the merchandise and…" he let the threat hang, and Umi tried not to gulp. She knew how Kanaye was with the others, and she didn't want to be on the receiving end of that treatment. He laughed when he saw the fear enter her eyes and patted her on the head like a favorite dog. "No, no lovey, I have enough women to please me. I like to keep you special."
It's just another day
Umi kissed the hand that had just been petting her so lovingly, and he grinned and returned the kiss, pushing her into the couch. Only when his hand rose to her neck did he stop himself, pulling back and sighing heavily, "Well, I'm off to go find someone who I can have."
Umi nodded eagerly, yes, yes, she begged, anyone but me, please, anyone but me… Funny, years ago she would have been concerned for others, now she just took in strides, like everything else. She had too much wrong in her own life to be worried about someone else's.
The shame is gone
Clef watched the man leave her room and spun his gathering magic around the room recklessly, wanting to see something destroyed. It was only when a crystal mirror on a nearby wall shattered into a thousand pieces that he was able to stop himself. Who was this man to so neatly threaten and abuse her? Who were these people that Umi kept letting into her life? He didn't understand it! What was going on here? What was the stuff that they threw at her when they were finished with her? And why would she let them in when there was such terror in her eyes? He wanted to kill them all, but there was something especially dangerous about the one she called Kanaye. There was a black aura that fell all around him; it was almost three feet thick. He was a rare and untapped evil power, and Clef was almost positive it was that power that was exerting itself on Umi and causing Cephiro to crumble. What he wanted to know was, did that creature live on earth, and why was it after Umi?
It's hard to believe
If I'd never let her go, if I'd only told her how I really felt instead of rebuking her like a child. I nearly laughed at her! But it wasn't her; it was to escape from my own pain. It wasn't…But he couldn't justify what he'd done to her, and they were both suffering because of it now. All the light in their lives had vanished, and he could only begin to imagine how much worse it was bound to get.
That I've let it go away
The warm water lapped at her legs playfully, and she grinned and dove into the sea, giggling helplessly when the waves crashed gently onto her exposed back, "Come on, Fuu, Hikaru!" she shouted to them, and they laughed and joined her, splashing freely in the safety of Cephiro's water.
All her friends were around her, Ascot, Primera, Presea, Caldina, Lafarga, Ferio, Eagle, Zazu, Geo, the two Princess' Tatra and Tarta, and Sanyun and Ascot. Life was absolutely perfect.
It's just a melody
"Where's Clef?" she asked curiously, half aware she was dreaming, but still feeling the question needed an answer.
"Don't you remember Umi?" Presea's cold voice struck her like an arrow. "He died a few years ago."
"Died?" Umi's face paled, and she slipped into the now cold water. There was no Will in her anywhere. If Clef was dead there was no hope for love, and there was no hope for life. She slipped into the darkness, thinking she would at least be at peace.
It bleeds in me
She jumped awake and shook off the nightmare, cursing them angrily, hands itching for a drink to scare them away, but there was nothing in her house at the moment. She sighed heavily and decided that a walk might do her good. Yeah, right, Umi, good idea, in this neighbor at two o'clock in the morning? Her gloom took her over, and she curled back into the scant covers on her bed, smelling the musty smell of sheets that hadn't been washed in many months, sweat mingling with blood mingling with something much fouler. The thought made her want to throw up, but she knew that would just add to the bile collected on the sheets and forced it in. It's time to grow up Umi and accept what you have, not focus on what you don't, her mind scolded her, and she nodded. All she had to do was tell herself that one more time and she'd have it, just one more time she'd teach herself that lesson, she promised her mind. One more time, and I'll give him up and accept it. Just one more time.
Hard to believe
That I've let it go…