I don't own Magic Knight Rayearth. It is the creation of the wonderful CLAMP.
This is probably the cheesiest thing I've ever written, but it is the result of an experiment. My question was: if you take two mediocre story ideas, and combine them into a single story, does it make one good story? My conclusion: . . . Um, I don't know still. Maybe it does make it better. I'll let you judge, okay?
And I want to add two more little disclaimers. First is that this story follows the manga, not the anime. Second is that I tried to keep Fuu in character, but it sounded really funny to have her calling everyone "Miss" or "Mister." So, in compromise, I decided to just have her use the Japanese suffix "san." I hope you don't mind.
I don't know of anything else in this story that warrants explanation, but if there is, please feel free to ask. Happy reading.
Scene 1: A Landing Platform on Autozam
Ascot trailed after Lafarga, disembarking from the ship they had borrowed, onto a smoky balcony on the dying world of Autozam. The ride had made him nervous, and almost queasy, so he was anxious to be back on solid ground.
Autozam, however, seemed to have very little solid ground. All Ascot could see through the walls of smog were skyscrapers that reached up over a hundred feet higher into the sky and descended deeper than he could discern toward the distant, invisible ground. The balcony they stood on was unadorned metal only – very plain and utilitarian. Several people were waiting for them, and each wore voluminous robes that obscured both their visage and gender. One person stepped forward and beckoned for the two Cephirans to follow. Lafarga instantly started forward. Ascot contentedly followed close behind as their guide led them across the landing platform toward a narrow bridge that arced over a vast expanse to connect with a taller, more ornate skyscraper.
Ascot was glad that all the bridges and balconies had sturdy guardrails on both sides, but he nevertheless found the view quite exhilarating, and so was disappointed when their guide shortly led them inside the adjacent building.
Once the automatic door swished closed, the person pushed back some of the cloth, revealing a petite figure and bright face framed by dark hair. "Do you require any refreshment after your journey?" she asked smoothly, as if saying so was just a part of a routine.
Lafarga spoke up quickly, "No, we're fine. We would like to expedite our mission so that we may return home as soon as possible."
Ascot nodded anxiously in agreement. Though he knew it was unlikely, he could not help but hope that they could get back to Cephiro before the Magic Knights had to go back to their world again. Umi, Hikaru, and Fuu – the young girls chosen as Magic Knights by the last pillar – had not been to Cephiro for over a month, but had indicated they would likely stop by again on this exact day. Ascot had pled with Clef to let him stay behind, or at least delay this mission another day, but Clef had insisted that this trip to Autozam was too important to be put off. Prince Ferio had been more sympathetic to Ascot's feelings, but he had sided with Guru Clef as well. And so in the end, though Ascot had desperately wanted to be in Cephiro to see Umi, he had finally acquiesced to Clef and the prince's wishes.
As Clef had explained, Autozam was now quite desperate for help – so much so that they had even sent a ship to Cephiro to save the Cephirans the trouble of building their own ship to travel between the worlds. The air on Autozam was approaching toxic levels – already at lower levels on the planet, prolonged exposure to the air could be fatal. Eagle Vision had come to Cephiro with the idea of obtaining the Pillar System to adapt for use on Autozam (hoping that this might cure their world), but his efforts had failed, and he himself was still stranded on Cephiro, suffering from another mysterious disease that was afflicting the Autozamians. Ever since Eagle's mission failed, Autozam had been openly begging Cephiro to send someone to look at the problem, to see if Cephiran magic could do anything at all to save the dying world.
Ascot had wanted to ask why Clef had not decided to travel to Autozam himself – but he guessed it was most likely because of security concerns, and so he decided not to press the subject. Clef was the most well-known and well-respected Guru in all of Cephiro, and since the loss of the last Pillar, people tended to look to him as one of the few remaining reliable supports left in the world. If anything were to happen to him . . . Cephiro would not only lose a great man, but also the people might become so frightened that monsters created from the populations fears would again rise and terrorize their world.
But then, also, with the chaos of the trial for the Pillarship was still fresh in everyone's minds, Cephiro could not too lightly discount the fact that all three of their nearest neighbors had just tried to invade them. All three worlds, especially Autozam, had offered profuse apologies . . . but Ascot knew that if anyone tried anything of the sort again, it made more sense to have Clef, the greatest magic user in all of Cephiro, at home so he could help defend the world from any further trouble.
Their Autozamian guide directed them to an elevator, the leaned close to give Lafarga further directions. She smiled hopefully up at the tall blond man, but he only grunted in acknowledgment. It was a typical response for Lafarga, who very rarely showed much emotion – but Ascot also suspected some of the brusqueness of his response was due to his efforts to be true to a certain 'special someone' back in Cephiro. Ascot could not help sighing as he thought of it. How he wished that even once Umi would look at him the way that Caldina looked at Lafarga.
Only a moment after they boarded the elevator, it suddenly dropped through the floor and momentarily distracted Ascot from his ruminations. The walls of the round elevator were all tinted glass, granting a panoramic view of the architecture of all the surrounding buildings and walkways. Many buildings were almost as ornately decorated as the old Cephiran palace had been. Ascot realized that once Autozam had been a beautiful place. But now, the intricately carved faces of the buildings were stained black from the smog and smoke that dominated the atmosphere. The lower the elevator dropped, the darker the air became. Just before the elevator sunk into a lobby level, whose walls blocked the outdoors from view, the air took on a hideous green cast. Ascot was quite relieved once that disturbing sight disappeared.
Lafarga purposefully led the way down the center corridor, which was decorated sparsely with photographs of people of Autozam who had likely once been of some political import. The air pollution had evidently gotten to some of them – one of them suddenly reminded Ascot of Ferio until he realized that the man's skin and clothing were also all green. The effect was rather strange looking.
Silly that I'd mistake him for the prince, just because of the green hair, Ascot chided himself. Of course, green hair is not that common – even on Cephiro. I wonder if it's his will that keeps it that strange color?
To be honest, the prince always looked a little odd (in Ascot's mind), regardless of his hair color. Since the survivors of Cephiro had started leaning on him to be their official leader, he had started wearing the royal robes that suited his position . . . but the clothes did not suit him at all. Ascot frequently wondered (but never, ever out loud) why the prince would choose to wear those white, fine robes – and yet would still keep his hair in the same, scruffy ponytail he had always worn. Not only that, be he also kept some very noticeable scars on his face. Ascot had heard that some audacious people had outright asked the prince to get rid of them. Yet . . . even though the prince acquiesced to the people in taking over the rule of Cephiro, and even though he humored them by wearing the white robes that looked so out of place on him, and even though he mostly gave up his ranging in the woods so that he could act his part in the government . . . Ferio refused the people on the issue of his scars. On Cephiro, where will becomes reality, all Ferio had to do was wish the scars away, and they'd be gone.
But, he didn't. Ascot still wondered why. After all the thought he'd given to it, he could only come to the conclusion that those marks on his face meant something to Ferio, something that perhaps no one else could understand. If he ever became more daring, Ascot hoped one day to ask Prince Ferio just what their significance was.
Ascot stopped short, just avoiding hitting a heavily robed door guard. "One moment please," the guard said gruffly, straightening up and then standing at attention.
Lafarga seemed content to wait, so Ascot resigned himself to it as well. He peered all around the waiting chamber, studying the many portraits on the walls. To his surprise, he thought he recognized one of the subjects – the portrait closest to the door they were waiting before bore a strong resemblance to Eagle. On closer examination, though, Ascot decided that the man in the picture could not be Eagle since this man looked several years older. However, the shape of the nose and the shade of his hair seemed identical. Perhaps it was Eagle's father?
Then someone rapped from the inside, and the door guard swiftly grasped the door by its oversized handle and yanked it open. "Proceed," he said brusquely.
Lafarga led the way, and as usual Ascot trailed after. The hall was long, ornately tiled, and draped with dark tapestries and hanging cloths.
"I'm sorry, but President Vision is presently occupied in a meeting . . ." a gray-haired man with a stiff face recited as he ambled closer to his visitors. Almost a dozen other people, all in various uniforms, though none as ornate as that of the speaker, conversed amongst themselves or milled about the room. "You'll have to wait a bit longer," the old man concluded.
"Not a problem," Lafarga grunted.
Ascot could not hold back an audible sigh. His noisy escape of breath drew the Autozamian's attention. The man came closer to Ascot and stared intently at him, narrowing his eyes.
The attention made Ascot cringe. He took a step backwards, trying to unobtrusively place Lafarga between himself and the creepy man. To his dismay, he only drew the attention of the rest of the people in the room. Ascot felt his face going red. What? Do I have soot smeared all over my face? "I-is something the m-matter?" He meant to add "sir," or some other similarly polite words, but found speaking itself difficult enough for the moment that he decided not to bother.
The old man hissed sharply and took a step back. He waved one hand, and three armed soldiers swiftly came to his side. "Actually . . . we've changed our mind. Autozam does not wish to deal with Cephiro after all."
"What?!" Lafarga bellowed. "What sort of nonsense – !"
"If you do not leave the planet within five minutes, we will consider it an act of war," the old officer said coldly, his expression turning ugly. He drew a rifle from the holster on his hip. All the soldiers in the room followed suit.
"Five minutes?" Ascot gasped. "But this place is – we can't possibly – !"
"Don't question." Lafarga drew his sword. "Just run. Head back to the ship. I'll hold them off until you're safely away."
"But – !" Ascot had a thousand questions in his mind. His heart was pounding in terror. He wanted to argue with Lafarga, say it really wasn't necessary to buy him extra time just because he wasn't an amazing, buff swordsman like Lafarga . . . One stony look from Lafarga evaporated all his protestations. Ascot turned and sprinted for the door.
"Open fire," the gray Autozamian ordered simply.
No one tried to block Ascot from reaching the exit. As he charged out into the outside waiting chamber, several laser bolts ricocheted off the ceiling and floor, but missed him. Lafarga roared a battle cry. Ascot reached the elevator and jabbed the call button. The doors immediately opened . . . but then Ascot realized that if he took the elevator back up to the top, he would cut off Lafarga's only escape route. Once the swordsman finally decided to run, he would charge out into this hall, and wait vainly for an elevator that was a hundred floors away . . .
Is there an alternative, so that I can leave Lafarga the elevator? Ascot scanned the room and noticed a disguised door that was labeled "staff only." Maybe they have a backup elevator? He ran over to the door and pushed it open.
"G'ack!" Ascot had not anticipated there being an alarm on the door. Too late to back out! He dove into the room and ran headfirst into a staircase. The room was poorly lit, but Ascot could make out the details of a spiral staircase that dropped deeper into the floor, and also ascended up endlessly into the sky. Hundreds of floors' worth . . . of stairs . . . The sound of laser fire was growing louder . . .
He forced himself to run – all the while trying to guess what the soldiers might expect him to do. The logical thing to do would be run up: so Ascot ran down. Three floors down, Ascot left the staircase and ran for a well-lit hallway on one side of the room. The hallway soon turned into an enclosed walkway that connected two buildings. Ascot did not let himself look up or down, just focusing on reaching the end of the hallway. Once he did, he nearly collapsed. I wish . . . I followed Caldina's advice . . . and exercised more often . . . He leaned heavily against a wall, closed his eyes, and desperately hoped that Lafarga had gotten away and was now heading back to the ship. I don't understand . . . why would they change their minds like that? Did they intend to betray us from the start? Ascot's heart was still pounding painfully. If Ferio were here, he'd know what to do. He wouldn't have just run away like a frightened child.
Ascot tried to slow his breathing and collect himself. I've got to get to Lafarga, ASAP. Reluctantly, he pushed himself off the wall and walked into the new room. Immediately obvious was an elevator nestled in one corner. Overjoyed with his lucky break, Ascot went over, called the elevator, and boarded it for the long ascent up to the 139th floor. He couldn't recall just which one they had landed on, but that button had a sticker beside it which said "Landing Platform." He figured it was a safe guess.
This elevator had no windows, so Ascot had nothing to watch but the changing elevator display screen that listed the current floor, weight, and velocity of the elevator. Around the 92nd floor, an invisible loudspeaker in the elevator hummed to life.
Attention all denizens. There are two fugitives loose in this area. One is tall and blond – the other is brunet and dressed in green and white robes. They are considered extremely dangerous, and any means necessary should be used to neutralize them . . .
Ascot clutched his hat around his ears and whimpered. "I'm not dangerous . . . although, for once I wish I were." I know a little magic, but I don't know if it would work away from Cephiro . . .
The loudspeaker repeated its message, then clicked off. Before Ascot could form a viable plan, the elevator doors opened on the 133rd floor.
Seven robed citizens were waiting on the outside. Ascot gaped at them. They stared back. "Um . . . excuse me . . ." Ascot carefully negotiated his way through the group. Once he was past them, he broke into a run. He had no plan, no idea where he was going. He saw several white doors on the far side of the dark gray room, so he chose a middle one at random and charged through.
It lead to a staircase. Good. Ascot tried to make his aching legs run upstairs once more. Once he thought he had gone up six more floors, he pushed open the door on the landing and stepped through.
This time he found himself outside, in the smoggy air again, on a landing platform. But, though similar, it was plainly not the one he and Lafarga had landed on. And, unfortunately, this one was not empty.
"It's one of them!" Several soldiers in dark gray robes noticed Ascot and opened fire.
The landing platform had several personal vehicles parked on it, so Ascot dove behind one of them for cover. Laser beams struck the ground around him, making smoking scorch marks, and one struck the vehicle he was hiding behind with enough force to shift it an inch.
Desperate and out of ideas, Ascot decided to try summoning one of his monster friends. He had little confidence that the spell would work, so far away from his friends and Cephiro – but to his relief the magic circle appeared around him like normal, and a glowing portal opened in the sky.
The Autozamians had never seen magic before. They ceased fire and backed away, muttering nervously.
The monster Ascot had called – a large, hairy one with oversized claws and spiked wings – lunged through the portal and landed heavily on the platform surface. She cracked the ground where she touched down. The Autozamians collectively squawked in fright and bolted.
"Just keep them distracted until I find Lafarga," Ascot directed his friend. She roared in acknowledgment and flew after the fleeing Autozamians.
Ascot noticed an open-air bridge that crossed over to a larger, better lit landing platform, and started heading that way. The smog blurred his vision, but before he had gone too far, he realized that he recognized the patterns of light on the ground and the building up ahead. That's the one! I found it! Ascot tried to coax his weary legs to run, but instead had to settle for a brisk walk.
"Stop him! Don't let him get away!"
Ascot recognized the strained voice and turned to see the cruel Autozamian officer from earlier. Now, the older man's face was purple with fury, sickening to see. The adrenaline kicked in again and let Ascot resume running.
Something small bounced on the platform and landed in from of Ascot. Surprised, he took several steps backwards.
The small orb exploded. Ascot jumped back and tried to shield his face from the flames with his hands. Then, he heard a loud snap and felt the ground shift under his feet. He dropped his sleeve from his eyes and realized that the bridge had broken. It was falling. Before he could collect himself enough to think, he was plummeting and found it hard to do anything but scream. He felt his hat leave his head and grasped uselessly after it. The lights along the sides of the buildings started to blur together, dizzyingly. Then everything was slowly quenched by blackness . . .