Chapter 4: Thy Mother's Glass

Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth or the lyrics to the William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 3." Besides…the Bard is public domain. I am merely a poor, starving college student who wants to play with Clamp's lovely world for a while.

-----------------------------------------

"Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime:

So though through windows of thy age shall see

Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

Thou if thou live, remember'd not to be.

Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

"Sonnet 3" – William Shakespeare

-----------------------------------------

In truth, she had no intention of causing anyone any trouble. She had not been hiding at all.

Aria had no idea that anyone was even looking for her…she had known that Mother had put on the long flowing robes that she only wore for special, adult events. Father…well, he looked the same…but he had that serious look that clearly said that he had no time to play with her at the moment.

But Aria was used to this. Having such famous parents (not that she had, at this age, any notion of exactly how famous they were. She only had a simple idea that they were perhaps very important) meant that she was sometimes left alone to amuse herself.

That was when she came here.

From the outside, it didn't look like anything that would be amusing to a child of her age…it was simply her mother's wardrobe.

She knew each and every one of the elaborate ceremonial robes her mother wore. Her Mother always looked like a lovely princess…but that sort of fantasy didn't hold any interest for her. Even the elaborate armored plates and large jewels and gold embroidery didn't manage to attract her attention.

No.

It was the secret in the back that interested her the most.

Those outfits she had never seen her Mother wear.

And it was no wonder, really. Taking them down she noticed that the fabric was flimsy and itchy…hardly useful for battle or magic or anything.

But nonetheless, there was something slightly…well, magical, about them.

The style of the clothing was also decidedly foreign. The underskirt was short (although it was decidedly long on Aria's childish frame) and the accompanying jacket literally swallowed her. Aria had no idea what the shiny round objects were on the plain, weirdly patterned undershirt…nor did she know what the purpose of the red ribbon that came with it was.

She tied it on one of her braids and moved to the front where her mother's mirror hung on the door and admired the strange outfit on her in the hazy light slanting in from the doors.

Twirling around, Aria wondered if that was what it was supposed to look like…but in the midst of her twirls, she heard a rather disconcerting sound…

Her father's voice.

To be accurate, her father's angry voice…calling her name.

Completely forgetting what she was wearing, she rushed out in the direction of his shouting. The very last thing that she wanted to do was make him more angry.

If only she could think of something important and adult that she had been doing…maybe then he would not lecture her (because she knew that he liked to give very long lectures…and he got very annoyed with her when she yawned and then accused her of not caring about whatever topic he was lecturing on…and at that point Mother usually had to save her).

She tried desperately to make up a question about Cephiran history…or the meaning of a big word she could pretend to have read in one of the books Father was always bringing her…he liked it when she did that.

And Mother thought it was boring…hopefully Mother wasn't with him. She would yawn and make a comment and then her father would give her that look and then there was no telling what would happen.

But it certainly was always noisy.

Most of those times Aria would simply look at both her parents, sigh and then return to her book or playing by herself…sometimes she would simply leave altogether and find her aunt Hikaru, who would promptly laugh at them both with her.

(Although Mother had told her more than once that she shouldn't leave without telling one of them and gave her one of her looks when Aria tried to tell her it was rather difficult to do so.)

So, it would make things much easier for her if her mother was mercifully absent…

Aria knew, even at her young age, that her parents were much easier to handle separately…because she was never sure what they would do together. Although sometimes they started fighting each other and they forgot all about anything she had done.

That was not, however, the case today.

"Aria!" She could hear her father shout again…he was getting angrier.

And he very rarely shouted at her to begin with. It must be the adult event. It was the most logical explanation.

She tried running faster…settling on a big word she had seen…but as she rounded the corner she found that her clever plan was unfortunately dashed.

Not only was her mother there…and she never appreciated her "encouraging" her father…but Caldina was there as well…and Caldina did not like the games she played with her father.

In fact, whenever she asked questions like that, Caldina would call her father a "young-looking old geezer" and tell him that "Aria has you all figured out."

It was true…Caldina (who was the only person besides her aunts that she was allowed to refer to without a proper title…because she had yelled at her father for teaching her to address her in that manner) never was as easy to distract as her parents.

And her son, Alero, had told Aria that it was very scary to see her get angry.

Aria did not want to see someone who could get away with yelling at her father (well, besides her mother…but that was nothing unusual) get angry with her.

But…Caldina's presence with her father meant that it would be much more difficult to trick him into not being annoyed with her.

But to Aria's surprise, as she ran towards the group, her mother and Caldina began laughing…and Father, well, he sighed and put his hand on his forehead in that same gesture that he always made when Aria yawned during his lectures about Cephiran history.

Then it dawned on her.

She was still wearing the strange clothing from the back of her mother's closet.

Caldina immediately hugged her…one of those hugs that made Aria feel as if she was still being hugged in some manner by a nefarious Shadow Caldina for a week afterwards.

"See Clef…she was just hidin' and playin' dress-up."

Mother was still laughing…and Aria thought her father was now getting annoyed with her. Maybe his annoyance had just spread.

He looked critically from her to Caldina.

"So I'm supposed to explain to the entire council" he gave great weight to those words and tried to affect a withering look at the both of them, "that we are late because my daughter decided to play with my consort's wardrobe?"

"Clef…they'll understand…" choked out Umi amidst her laughter, "It's not exactly like the fact you have a daughter is a secret to them…they'll have to give you a few excuses."

Umi patted Aria on the head, fingering the red bow on one of her braids. Caldina gave her another constrictive hug.

And her father sighed.

Aria did not understand the problem. Now they were talking about adult things.

Then a question occurred to her…she extricated herself from Caldina's iron grip and walked over to her father, sliding the shirt off and holding it out to him.

"What kind of battle is this good for?" Aria asked, putting her most serious expression on her face.

He looked rather surprised before smiling at her.

But, instead of answering her question as he usually did, he turned back to her mother who had once more begun to laugh inexplicably.

"Are you going to call me a pervert now?"

Her mother was laughing too hard to even begin to answer him. Indeed, Aria thought that at any moment she might begin rolling on the floor.

Pervert?

Was this some sort of adult joke?

It was a decidedly foreign word to her. She made a mental note to ask her father what it meant next time she needed to take his attention away from something else. At least it would be easy to think of if she needed a plan quickly.

Suddenly, however, her father seemed to remember that they were already running late.

Leaning down to her he told her, "Your mother can tell you all about those clothes later on…right now your game has made us very late."

Saying this, he wagged his finger at her in a mock serious fashion, but ended smiling at her again before assuming his serious adult function expression once again.

Mother kissed her very warmly on the cheek and ruffled her hair (Aria hated when she did that) and told her to behave for Caldina.

She promised that she would, as usual, and they left.

Her mother was still laughing quietly some distance away, her father grumbling half-heartedly beside her. This, as always, made Aria smile…secretively and quietly…

In fact, she merely stayed in the entrance hall, watching them as they receded down the long hall, looking so strong and powerful in spite of the mixture of complaint and mirth that echoed on the castle's walls.

One day she hoped she would be half of what they were…perhaps minus the protracted arguments…

But that was merely a part of who they were. It was like her own private secret…a thing only she could love.

And she did love both of them dearly.

----------------------------------------------------

It never ceased to amaze Caldina how serious that girl could be…there, looking absolutely ridiculous in the school uniform that her mother had worn on her very first visit to Cephiro, watching her parents walk away.

Compared to her on children – who always managed to not only make mischief, but mischief of the loudest and most disruptive kind – Aria had the behavior of the Pillar…

…or simply the demeanor of her father, the Master Mage.

Indeed, the more she slipped deep into the mysterious world of her own thoughts the more Caldina thought she resembled her father in one of his more serious moods.

But it was simply creepy to see a child who was actually the age she looked (un-like that young-looking old geezer) behave like that.

In fact, the little girl was so concentrated on whatever thoughts were going through her head that Aria didn't even notice as Caldina crept over to her and actually spoke.

"Aria-chan," she said loudly, adopting the name Umi and her other aunts called her (for Caldina considered herself Aria's aunt as well), "If you don't change out of that cute lil' outfit of your mom's, then Mira is gonna go crazy watching Alero and Chevelle alone."

She looked vaguely startled at the sound of her voice and quickly nodded, a mischievous smile forming on her lips….she must have been remembering the last time that Caldina had left her children alone with Mira for too long…

…well, the entire castle remembered when the large polka-dotted monster (an illusion that Chevelle had somehow managed to conjure up with a little imaginative input by Alero) had tried to chase down one of the head councilmen…until it was finally stopped by Clef himself.

Caldina winked at her, and was greeted by a rare sly smile that confirmed the fact that Aria did indeed remember the incident well.

Even though she did not break down laughing as she did the first time Caldina had told her about it, Aria still thought it was funny. Caldina knew that laughing about it in front of Clef was rather risky lest Aria be forced to sit through another lecture concerning proper conduct and magical responsibility, not to mention respect…

…The very thought made Caldina want to yawn…

Without needing another incentive, Aria had rushed away, yelling her apologies down the hall as she went.

She came back rather fast, breathing hard. The red hair ribbon was still attached to her braid.

Laughing again, Caldina pulled it off and carefully admired the embroidery on the new tunic she was wearing.

"Did'ja get that lovely outfit from your mom?" Caldina asked.

Aria made a face.

"No…this one is from Father…Mother bought me a different one, but I can only wear that one when she is around."

Caldina looked confused.

"It's kinda like…" She pointed at Caldina's current ensemble, "I think it's from Chizeta."

Caldina was slowly catching on.

"Father says I should wear things like this and not things like…" at a loss for an example, she pointed to Caldina again, "well, that."

That Old Geezer.

"But," she said, putting a little fist to her mouth thoughtfully, "Mother says that she used to wear clothes like that…and I didn't understand what Father said to her."

"And what did he say to her?"

"That was exactly the problem."

Caldina couldn't help but laugh as Aria looked on, completely mystified by her reaction.

"Caldina." she said sulkily, "You're gonna explain, right?"

She was still choking with laughter as she responded, "That is something you'll have to ask your father….when you are older…much, much older…and gently, so ya don't kill the old man."

Aria's face took on a serious caste once again as she nodded quite solemnly.

Caldina laughed all the more as she took her small hand and walked towards the gardens…where she wasn't sure what fresh catastrophe awaited her.

"And Caldina…" she said probingly, as they walked, "What's a 'pervert'?"

The laughter was almost deadly…when she had once more contained herself, she simply said, "That is something you should definitely ask your father."

Seeing nothing wrong with such advice, Aria nodded her head and thanked her with all the naivety of a child.

----------------------------------------------------

When they had returned back to the gardens, they found that the catastrophe wasn't nearly as major as it could have been.

Mira was chased into a corner by a strange looking ice demon, and instead of the Head Councilman, Chevelle and Alero had only found a simple scullery maid to chase around in circles with a great winged monstrosity.

However, neither of them looked terribly strained. Alero was lying back on a branch of a tree in the corner, swinging his legs nonchalantly and twirling one finger around lazily to produce a wind spell to levitate a leaf.

Chevelle, however, looked a tad bit less lazy, as she was spinning the complex movements of the illusion spell with her arms but with a dull, rather bored look in her eyes.

"Chevelle! Alero!" said Caldina in a deathly quiet voice that somehow made itself perfectly clear, "Just you wait tonight when your father sees you!"

The words, or perhaps merely their tone, acted as the magic words to make the illusionary monsters vanish, freeing the hapless scullery maid, who then ran screaming from the gardens as fast as her legs would carry her, and Mira who merely looked fatigued and deeply annoyed.

Perhaps Aria would have gotten a very clear display of Caldina's feared temper if a small voice hadn't inadvertently diffused the tension between mother and mischief-makers. From off behind a rather dense crop of bushes a small feminine voice asked, "Mira…is it alright for us to come out now?"

Throwing a rather sour look at Alero and Chevelle who were attempting (almost successfully) to look completely innocent of any wrong doing, Mira called, "It's safe now if you like, Mariko!"

Caldina saw Aria's face light up at a girl with a short curly bob, a little more than a year older than her, emerged from the bushes clasping the hand of a small boy with one hand and carrying a thick tome in the other. Losing all trace of her former serious demeanor she ran towards the newcomers with a look of delight.

"Aunt Fuu sent you and Starion here as well, Mariko?"

The small boy didn't pay much attention to Aria's arrival and looked very much like he would rather be sleeping still. Indeed, despite his small size he was able to muster a rather large yawn.

"Did you bring your gem? I know Master Ascot doesn't like you to…" It was meant to be a whisper, but Caldina had extensive training uncovering the secrets of her own children. And neither Mariko nor Aria had had the extensive practice that they had.

Aria grinned conspiratorially at her and touched her necklace in a way she must have thought was very sneaky. Mariko giggled, putting a small hand over her mouth to cover the noise.

Caldina smiled and pretended not to notice that the two girls were breaking the rules…Mira evidently knew that expression quite well too, because she quietly exited leaving Caldina alone with all of the children. Mira couldn't be blamed, however, she had already had a trying day.

However, Caldina was simply glad that Aria was doing something that Clef would disapprove of…and for that matter Fuu would be none too thrilled about Mariko's actions as well…but Clef…

She and Umi made it their joint duty to keep Aria from becoming too serious as it had taken a good deal for Clef to become even a little unserious. And really only Umi and Aria could make the geezer act that way.

However, it was slightly unnerving to see both Mariko and Aria collaborating with her own troublemakers.

Caldina rolled her eyes. She hoped no one ever became a serious enemy of those four. No one would know what to do if the full devious potential of that group was unleashed.

Although it was against her better judgment, Caldina took her eyes off of them for brief moment to pick up Starion and put him somewhere when he could nap undisturbed by the potential antics of the other children.

Because the Pillar knew…something was bound to happen.

Not even five minutes had elapsed when, while she was gently covering the sleepy boy, she nearly jumped out of her skin due to the combination of a large popping noise and a good deal of water rushing about.

Shaking her head, Caldina returned to the place at which she had last seen them and found them drenched to the bone with mystified and mock innocent expressions upon their faces.

However, there was a deep undertone of satisfaction behind the angelic looks that assured Caldina that it would be a very long day yet.

----------------------------------------------------

One by one all of the other children came and left.

Lafarga, who shook his head as Caldina related the story of the children's newest act of mischief to him and then gave the two culprits a steely look that would have silenced the Creator himself, forcibly escorted off Chevelle and Alero.

Prince Ferio had come to carry the slumbering Starion off with Mariko in tow, smiling broadly at Aria for the day's accomplishments (they had managed one lightning spell each…barely more than a spark, but they were rather proud of their acts of magical subterfuge nonetheless). Had Aria been paying attention to Ferio, however, she would have noticed the rather roguish grin to grace his features as he saw her slip the necklace that held her staff slyly into the inner picket of her skirt.

He also informed Caldina and Aria that the Master Mage and his consort had been held up by official business and had both promised to hurry as soon back as soon as possible.

So Aria found herself alone with Caldina once again.

And the little girl, for all she sometimes acted like her rather serious father, did have the irritability her mother was famous for deeply ingrained in her.

Caldina had to take evasive measures before she adopted Umi's mouth.

Kneeling down in front of her she said, "I think I'm gonna tell you a story."

Aria's face immediately brightened.

Caldina winked, seeing that her plan was having its desired effect. Indeed, she briefly thought about how nice it was to be with a child where illusions or small and mysterious explosions going off at random intervals were not a concern…however much she did love her lil' rascals.

Together they ticked off the different stories that she had already heard…the story of her parent's first meeting (conveniently leaving out the accusations of perversion), Hikaru's becoming the Pillar, a few dozen Chizetan fairy tales…

Finally, Aria, with all the innocence a child is capable of asked, "Tell me about me. How am I here?"

Caldina balked temporarily, thinking of something imaginative and vague to tell her.

The Old Geezer should definitely be the one to explain that. Or Umi.

Anyone but her.

But she was saved by dint of Aria's own curiosity….well saved was a relative term.

"Why don't I have a brother or sister like everyone else?"

How did one explain to a child so young how birth worked on Cephiro? How did she explain how much of a danger to Umi Aria's own birth had been?

She sighed and did what she did best.

Caldina danced.

In fact, she danced straight around the heart of the question.

Abandoning her attempt to find a story, she sat Aria on her lap and said, "Even if ya are the only one, Lil' Miss, you're the most precious thing those two rowdy parents of yours have."

Caldina let her go and saw that she had taken on her serious demeanor again.

But she decided she would let it be for just this one time.

After a while she asked, "Can you tell me about the icky djinns again…? That story is funny."

However, before the spell could be woven by the magic words "once upon a time," a delicate cough could be heard.

Aria's face immediately lit up in a smile and she climbed off of Caldina's lap and ran in the direction of the familiar sound before suddenly getting lost in a flurry of heavy robes as she rushed at her father.

Clef returned the hug, albeit a little self-consciously, as he saw Caldina witnessing the moment.

That Young-looking old man will probably never get used to not looking so invincible in public.

It was hard for even the Master Mage to maintain his aura of power when a little girl had for all intents and purposes attached herself to his robes and continued on babbling about the day's events (carefully leaving out any references to magic, however).

Suddenly, she stood back and, with her hands on her hips, asked where her mother was.

Playfully chiding his daughter's less than respectful tone he explained that her mother had stayed to speak with her aunts.

Placated, Aria grabbed his hand a bid a hasty farewell to Caldina, pulling the Guru of Cephiro along in a most undignified fashion.

Caldina barely managed to stifle her laughter.

But the smile on his face at seeing his daughter let anyone who knew him personally, even casually, know that this source of embarrassment and discomfort was also one of his most precious sources of joy.

Although Caldina had dodged one question, she had given Aria an answer to one she did not know how to ask.

She watched the pair walk off, hand in hand, and faintly heard Aria ask, in a tone suffused with curiosity, "Father, what exactly is a 'pervert'?"

Simply imagining Clef sputtering at that bit of inquisitiveness sent Caldina into such violent laughing spasms that she swore, at that very moment, that she might not survive.

End

A/N: This will most likely be the last Aria-centric chapter…since this moves backwards, soon she won't appear at all, so this is my one last bit of character development. Also, I wanted to give everyone a little bit of a glimpse as to what is going on in the lives of the other characters…even if they are only implied hints. So I hope you enjoyed it. I promise the next chapter will be pretty much solely centered on Umi and Clef and their relationship dynamic. And I've had the next chapter planned out for a very long time, so I am excited about writing it.

Again, I do personally respond to all comments I receive, so if you have questions and concerns or just want to say "hi!" or tell me what particular aspects you liked or didn't (or you might even have seen an idea that you want to see developed further and if you let me know you might get your wish), please let me know. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!