Title: Elder Sister
Warnings: Spoilers for the first season and the beginning of the second; manga-based. Pre-series. One-shot.
Characters: Ferio, Emeraude, Clef, Zagato, and Lafarga. Lantis gets a mention.
Notes: Yes, I am reposting this story. I have gone through and made some revisions, and I hope the story is better now. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Magic Knight Rayearth and its characters and settings belong to CLAMP, not me. I have no rights to the series, and this is merely a piece of fan work.
His earliest memories were of a dark land falling apart at the seams. He only knew to be afraid because he would often sneak out of the nursery with a hidden pastry or an illicitly plucked flower from the courtyard to visit the only memory he had of his mother: messily braided golden hair and tear-filled golden eyes. He hoped to bring a smile upon her face, even a little one, but when he entered the room she only cried harder and called for his sister to take him away.
He recalled asking about his mother, and he recalled nobody answering his questions, but he remembered that after those episodes, his sister would let him leave the flowers and pastries and gifts in front of her door, and she would never scold him, and instead took him to her room to play games and to tell him fantastic stories and legends of knights who would come to save Cephiro when times were troubled. He always listened intently, and he always fell asleep before the end of these stories, but he always remembered waking up in her arms in her room, and only being sent back to the nursery after breakfast when his nanny stormed into the dining hall, flustered and panicked.
He could not remember when or how his mother died, but he remembered how old he was when his sister left for a time, and how everyone panicked, and how his nanny had used brute force to make sure he stayed put in the nursery. When his sister returned, he remembered throwing a fit because no one would allow him to see her, and he remembered that the skies had changed to a bright blue, and there was a sun, and trees outside of the palace walls, and a floating mountain and an ocean and everything his sister had ever spoken about in her fairytales.
And then one day, the kind Master Mage finally let him see his sister in private.
Men in blue-clad armor were gently ushered out, and the door clicked shut behind him, and there his sister stood in the throne room, above crystal steps, smiling ever so gently, and looking ever so much younger than she used to. He was astonished, for she looked like a goddess, but then he remembered that this was his dear sister, and he ran to her and jumped into her arms.
She embraced him, and he cried and slurred his words hurriedly about how much he had missed her, and please never let him be far away from her again, and has she seen how beautiful Cephiro was now?
She gently pulled him away from her, and he remembered her kind smile, and her soft words, and her sad eyes.
"My dearest little brother," she said, "I'm afraid I may never get to see you many more times after today."
His heart stopped, and he felt hot tears rush to his cheek. "No!" But he already knew that no amount of protesting would change anything.
"Remember the fairytales I used to tell you in the nursery?" she said. "Remember how I spoke of the Pillar, and how the Pillar supports the world with his prayers and his strong will, and that Cephiro is beautiful and peaceful because of him?" He nodded. "I am that Pillar now, Ferio."
He sat in her lap in silence for a while, sniffling and wrapping his mind around her words. She said nothing and only gently held him, and he knew that this would be the last time she could do so. She was not praying right now to tend to him—Cephiro could be suffering right now because she was paying attention to him right now, and not Cephiro, and then there would be no more blue skies and no more ocean and no more floating mountains. There would be the darkness he was born to, the crumbling rocks, the scared people, and crying mothers. And now, because of his sister, there was no more darkness, not even in the nighttime, because of the many stars and the bright moon, and if they went back to the days when he escaped from the nursery and she told him fairytales and played games with him, Cephiro would fall apart again.
"I understand," he said, finally, using his sleeve to wipe his face dry. "You can't worry about me anymore. You have to worry about everyone, everyone, and if you don't pray, Cephiro won't be beautiful, right?"
She didn't say anything.
"So, don't worry about me!" He smiled brightly. "I remember the story about the knights you told me about. The Magic Knights, right? Let me train with your soldiers! Let me worry about you for once, and I will protect you!"
She sighed. "You always did fall asleep before I finished telling those stories. But perhaps that is for the best. When you are older, remind me to finish them for you. All of them."
He laughed. "I know only people from another world can become a Magic Knight. But I want to be the best swordsman I can be, for you, to protect you, so that if anything ever happens to you, I can save you! So you'll never need to summon the Magic Knights!"
She smiled gently again, and her eyes were still sad, and she kissed him on the forehead and called for the captain of the guard and sent the two away with a request that he begin training the young prince. Before they left the throne room, Ferio glanced behind his shoulder and smiled at his sister. "I promise!" he called. "I'll be the best swordsman there is, just for you!"
He spent many days and months and years training after that. His spent his playtimes swinging around the wooden sword that the captain gave him, and he often tracked down the other children in the courtyard of the palace to practice with. He was often frustrated with them, because they only saw it as play, as pretending to be knights and soldiers in an epic battle of good versus evil, and no, Ferio would often scold, this is for real, so please quit playing dead, you don't actually have magic powers, and your stance is horrible! The other children would often pout that he was no fun, and they would complain to their mothers and their fathers, who eventually approached the Master Mage.
Every morning after breakfast since then, the Master Mage summoned him to his chambers, sat him down, and began to teach him about politics and diplomacy and other boring big words that he had no interest in learning about.
"Shouldn't you be helping my sister?" Ferio asked one afternoon when the Master Mage scolded him for falling asleep over his books. "That's your job, isn't it?"
Clef sighed. "You are a prince, and you must learn these very important things to rule this country."
"Doesn't my sister rule it? She's older than me, and she's the Pillar! And I thought you were supposed to help her with her prayers! Not teach me about things I'll never need to know!"
"High Priest Zagato is in charge of that," he said. "And you do need to know this, because your sister is the Pillar. This means that you are next in line for the throne when you are old enough, and you must uphold the laws where she cannot. I must be the one to help you learn all of this because of the cruel fate that took your parents away from you when you were too young to know them."
Ferio scowled. "I'd rather be helping her with my sword."
"I know you would, but that is not your job as prince. Now, recite to me…"
He only put up with the lessons for a few more months before he made sure to duck whenever he saw anyone who looked like they might be searching for him to drag him to his books, and he began sneaking outside the boundaries of the castle. He apologized to the captain of the guard profusely, saying that he can no longer train with him, and Lafarga had understood, and Ferio wondered if Clef had requested that he stop training him. No matter—Ferio often sought the expertise of the swordsmen who protected the villages surrounding the palace instead, and he found that their styles proved more useful anyway. They certainly had more time to spare than Lafarga did, and he really could not impose on him anymore anyway.
Ferio had reached adolescence when the swordsmen of the villages rounded up to go on a hunt and invited him to accompany them. Monsters had started creeping up in the surrounding forests, which Ferio thought was odd. Hadn't his sister said that the Pillar made sure there were no monsters? But, he figured, no one was perfect, and she might have been preoccupied with more pressing matters, so he didn't question it further.
After a couple of mishaps with the first few monsters, he figured out the tricks to slaying the more common beasts, and he made sure to go to the villages everyday so that he would not miss any chances to go on the hunts. The swordsmen were happy to oblige, and he enjoyed hearing their compliments that despite how young he was, he certainly was one of the most skilled swordsmen they ever fought with. As a reward for his great work, they gave him a sword that towered over him. After a month he fought as though it were an extension of his arms, much to the joy of his fellow hunters.
He asked one of them, one day, on the way back to the village from a hunt, after being praised for his skills, "Do you think I'm good enough to become a Magic Knight?"
The swordsman looked confused. "What? What's a Magic Knight?"
"You don't know? They're only supposed to be the most powerful knights in Cephiro! They go to the Forest of Silence and get the Escudo, and then they go to the Fire Shrine, the Sky Shrine, and the Sea Shrine and revive the Mashin, and they save Cephiro when the Pillar's in trouble! You've never heard any of the stories?"
The swordsman laughed. "Boy, you are too young to remember what it was like before Princess Emeraude became the Pillar. If these Magic Knights existed, we would never have had to go through all of that, and the princess would not have to be the Pillar, and from what I hear of the rumors, the Royal Court would not have such a difficult time keeping the young prince in line."
Ferio smirked at the last comment. "Oh, I'm not sure if Princess Emeraude not being the Pillar would have helped the prince any." He had made careful certain that the villagers never knew who he was, lest Clef or someone else from court ever sent someone after him. That, and he had become great friends with many of these men and women and children. He did not wish to have their dynamics change once they realized that he was heir to the throne for as long as his sister was the Pillar.
"Ha! Well, they'd be less worried about him, for sure, since the princess would be in his place, anyway. But, no, son, I've never heard any stories of the Magic Knights. It's probably just a fairytale. But, to answer your question, if these Magic Knights did exist…" He stroked his chin in careful thought. "Maybe someday, you'll be good enough. You've still got a lot to learn, kid. I heard that the high priest's younger brother can give any of us a run for our money." He laughed. "It's not fair, Lantis can use magic, after all. We can't compare ourselves to him."
Ferio did not ask again about the Magic Knights. Perhaps they were just a fairytale, a hopeful story his sister had told him, but he did not care and he did not wish to hear it. He refused to let go of one of the great things that still tied him to his sister.
He was near adulthood when Clef found Ferio on his way back in from the villages and, without asking any questions about where he has been or what he has been doing, told him that the Pillar wanted to see him.
This was the first time in ten years that Emeraude had sent for him, and Ferio was, frankly, nervous. He was an able swordsman, yes, and had already topped all of the swordsmen in the villages, and he only continued to train so that he would not make a fool out of himself when he challenged either Lafarga or the high priest's brother to a friendly duel, but he had a bad feeling about this meeting, that something terrible was going to happen, but he could not refuse an audience with his sister. So, he quietly nodded, and followed Clef to the throne room.
That was the first and only time he ever laid eyes on the High Priest Zagato. He was close by his sister's side, and his sister seemed to want to look anywhere but at him, though, oddly enough, not out of disgust but out of shame, and also diffidence. Zagato was a tall man in luxurious dark clothing, suitable of a priest of his standing, Ferio supposed, and he seemed… Ferio could not figure out what it was about him. Like his sister, there was something odd there, but he did not know the High Priest well enough to pinpoint anything about mannerisms that may or may not be out of the ordinary for his character.
Ferio frowned. He hated when his bad feelings were well-founded.
Emeraude sent Clef and Zagato away, both very hesitant to do so. Last time, no one seemed hesitant when the Pillar wanted a private audience with her brother. Why did these two powerful figures seem so… worried?
The doors slammed shut behind Ferio, and Emeraude quietly bid him to approach her. As he did so, he could not help but to ask, out of turn, but he didn't care because this was his sister and he hadn't seen her in so long and he had missed her so very much, "Elder Sister, what's going on?"
Her eyes were still sad, but now they carried a heavier burden than Ferio remembered. "My dear little brother, it seems like now might be the only chance I have to finish the story of the Magic Knights for you."
Ferio stood still for a moment, and remembered his conversation with the swordsman only a couple of years ago. "Are they even real?"
"Very real. And I'm afraid that they will be coming soon."
"Why hasn't anybody heard of them before?" he asked. "I asked some of the villagers, and—"
"They mustn't know. Please, understand that the Pillar before me—I only know of these stories because the Pillar before me was our uncle, our mother's older brother, and our father's dearest friend. I had told the stories to you because you often asked why mother cried so very often, and I could not think of a better way to answer."
Ferio frowned. "I don't remember an uncle."
"You wouldn't have. He died when you were very young."
"But, wait a minute! You said that when something goes wrong with the Pillar, if something happens to the Pillar, that the Magic Knights come and make things right! Didn't you? Did they fail? Is that why he died?"
"No. Our uncle, the last Pillar, died because the Magic Knights came."
Ferio froze. "What are you talking about?" he asked quietly.
Emeraude closed her eyes. "I've… I've done something terrible. I haven't told Clef yet. I haven't figured out how. You're the first person I'm telling, because it is most important that I do so. But please, please understand that I do love you, my dearest little brother, and I do wish for you to be happy."
Ferio let the heavy silence permeate between them as he tried to digest what she had just said. Something terrible? Magic Knights being the reason that the Pillar was dead? And that they were coming?
"Elder Sister, please, what do you mean?" But he knew, and he did not want to believe it, and his chest pounded and he found that he could not move his arms or his legs even if he wanted to. And he didn't want to, because to leave would mean…
"Ferio, please, come here."
As though she had used her powers to lift the weights on his limbs, he slowly trudged forward, one foot scuffing in front of the other, and as he stepped closer and closer to his sister, he found that his gaze drifted further and further to the crystal floor, which now looked so dull compared to ten years ago.
He stood before her, refusing to meet her eyes, refusing to see the truth of the matter. He realized he was crying. Her voice was soft and gentle, and sad, and with each word, Ferio felt the pressure of the air around him push harder and harder around his heart.
"I am so very sorry that I could not have been with you as you grew up. You have turned out to be a fine young man. I've heard many stories about you—and whenever I could I did watch you—I am very proud of you. Please, let me see you, for the last time."
And he slowly lifted his chin to meet her eyes. She had not changed. She looked exactly the same as she did those many years ago, but her eyes… her resigned, emerald eyes confirmed all of Ferio's fears. He wondered if she had willed him to fall asleep before she finished the stories about the Magic Knights, as if she had known she would have become the next Pillar and would have eventually met the same fate.
He let her study him, pulling every last strength of willpower he had not to turn his head away from her, not to let the crashing reality destroy him. She smiled the same, kind smile she always smiled at him, and she reached out her hands to grab his.
"You're a good man, and someday, you'll be a great king," she said. "You will make Cephiro proud."
"My sister… why?"
Emeraude turned her head away. "It must be done. It's the only way. Here—" She unfolded his fist—Ferio had not realized he had clenched it—and dropped a pair of rings into his hand. "Take this. They belonged to our parents. Our mother had hoped that someday I'd be able to give them to someone I would come to care about, but as Pillar, I cannot. So, please, I give them to you, for you to give to someone you will come to care about. And be happy, Ferio. For yourself, for me, and for the one you will someday love."
He stared at the rings in his hand. "But, my sister, I can't… I can't accept this!"
"It will bring me great happiness if you do," she said. "It will bring our parents great happiness if you do."
Ferio fell silent, and he curled his fingers around the rings slowly and tightly.
"I am a bad Pillar," Emeraude said quietly. "I am so young, and so foolish, and I did not last long."
"No," Ferio protested as he gripped his sister's shoulders and met her eyes. "You are a great Pillar. I can barely remember it, but I do remember the thunder and the lightening, and the darkness and the fear, and I remembered the day when that all changed, and I remember that you were the reason for Cephiro becoming beautiful. And I don't know what happened to you, and I don't care, but I promised that I will protect you, and that I will save you, and if that means becoming a Magic Knight myself, then so be it."
"You are my only sister, and you are the only family I have left. I will go to the Spring of Eterna, and get the Escudo, and save you, however I can. It's past the Forest of Silence, right?"
"But… to save me…"
"I will do it."
Emeraude said nothing at first, and the last memory Ferio ever had of his sister were of her final sad smile she offered him, and her final soft words to him of, "Thank you, my dearest, sweet little brother."