Disclaimer: I do not own Magic Knight Rayearth.

Author's note:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow authors Keren Oliviero, Shinomu and Ascella Star for their wise and valuable opinions and encouragement without their help, I dread how my story would have turned out.

Enjoy!

Chapter 1

I lost a brother

"Zagato, Zagato, big brother!" A raven haired toddler in sleeping clothes came running down the corridors into said big brother's room, calling out to a solemn looking older boy with long raven hair. Hearing the call, he immediately tore his eyes away from the books scattered on his desk to look into the clear azure eyes of his younger brother. The solemn face with delicate features lit up with an indulgent smile.

"Oh here you are running around to disturb me again, my Lantis of the skies. You have had another nightmare? " teased the young Zagato affectionately with their special term of endearment while ruffling Lantis's fine hair. The toddler nodded and clung to Zagato, his young, innocent face wearing a contented smile in his brother's warm and reassuring arms. Zagato tickled little Lantis, who bursted out in peals of childish laughter, making the older boy chuckle and join the laughter.

All of a sudden the warmth dissipated. Little Lantis' smiling face soon contorted with horror as he saw Zagato crumbled into dust in front of his very eyes. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes until there was nothing left of the older boy only dark emptiness, a gaping void... in Lantis heart.

"ZAGATO!" The dashingly handsome, tall, strong and well built young man with short silky raven hair gasped and woke up with a jolt on his bed. Lantis touched his face, which was wet with tears. He found himself fighting down lumps in his throat and the bitter brine welling up to his eyes to no avail, and couldn't help but keep weeping.

That vision was no mere nightmare, for the reality is his older brother did indeed crumble to dust along with his true love Princess Emeraude. Lantis sobbed and sobbed as he knew Zagato would no longer smile at him. Those warm, gentle amethyst eyes and the hauntingly beautiful face would only exist in his memories. Not an atom of his brother was left; there was no grave, no body, no funeral, no memento for Lantis to keep as a reminder of his one and only elder brother.

How long shall this go on? There was no way for this grief to end. Eagle Vision, his now best friend, have been most helpful and supportive and Lantis was glad that Eagle have always been there for him, but still...

Lantis thought of his native country, Cephiro again. Once life had been idyllic, it had always been Spring for him, as if his life was as perfect as the country itself. No storms, no catastrophes, it seemed nothing could ever go wrong. It had not been up to him to question the Pillar System then, when he knew no cares, no sorrows, only bliss. He had been a most cheerful child with a sunny disposition. He was told his eyes reflected the perfect cerulean skies of Cephiro hence the nickname "Lantis of the skies".

Coming from one of the most prominent noble families of Cephiro and being the baby of the family, Lantis was simply doted on by his loving parents and his older brother, whom he held as the dearest person to him. Once, his younger self thought they would always be inseparable.

Notwithstanding any faults Zagato had, there was no denial that he was a good elder brother, and there was no way Lantis could expect more. The brothers had loads of happy memories together. Sibling rivalry had never got in the way of their close relationship. When the younger, azure eyed Lantis got more attention from their parents, no jealousy was seen from young Zagato, who nonetheless adored his younger brother. When Master Mage Clef showered Lantis with praises, telling that his power and skills could rival his elder brother's, Zagato would only tell Lantis happily how proud he was of his little brother. As far as Lantis remembered, Zagato, his older brother had always looked out for him and stayed by him through everything...illnesses, injuries and scrapes.

Then there was this little game the brother enjoyed even when they became grown men and were assigned the positions of Kail and Sol, the most powerful men of Cephiro next to Master Mage Clef. When Lantis slacked off in the trees, he chose the same spot so Zagato would catch him during his daily strolls in the royal gardens. Just for the sake of making Zagato raise his eyebrows and exclaim with mock exasperation. "How could you be always taking naps being the Captain of the Guards and being the only magic swordsman in Cephiro?"

They were so close to each other that they were more than brothers, they were best friends. Despite the fact Zagato was the first born, he'd never regarded himself as the superior or more important of the two. Zagato respected his younger brother as equal to him in terms of everything, power, strength and intelligence, and never hesitated to confide in Lantis or even turn to him for advice and opinions. Lantis was told all the time that his heart's as good as gold and pure like the skies.

But these days were no more. Life would never be the same. Eagle Vision, Geo Metro and Zazu Torque were ever so nice to him and Lantis appreciated their company a lot, but he missed his brother and his home country terribly. This sorrow plunged his heart to perpetual winter, despite the best efforts of Eagle to cheer him up. Lantis couldn't help feeling as gloomy and dismal as a cold, damp winter's day, bleak, grey and icy, his heart like a still lake frozen over because of the loss of his elder brother.

Suddenly, a familiar deep, melodious voice came to his mind: "Lantis, after my death, don't mourn for me, for I am not important enough for you to mourn. Don't waste time grieving for this worthless brother. Lantis, promise me, do move on quickly... and don't even think about revenge, for death is the price I must pay for my transgressions. I wish that you could be free to follow your hearts true desire without having to go through what I am going through. I wish you to be at peace and may you live and prosper with the happiness I never had in a truly beautiful land".

'Zagato?" gasped Lantis. Lantis looked around then he kicked himself for such a naive thought, how could the dead ever come back? Must be his mind playing tricks on him with the last memory he had of his brother.

"Be free." One of the last words his brother said to him on the fateful night the brothers were separated forever echoed in his mind. The same thing his brother wished for his beloved Princess Emeraude.

Lantis closed his eyes, the images of his ruined, devastated brother coming to his mind. Under the facade of the ruthless traitor of Cephiro, described by the rumors that reached Autozam toLantis' ears, hid a suffering heart torn by guilt for harboring a forbidden love and the despair of having to make the choice of either his love, or his duties and country. Zagato had been a noble and caring High Priest, well loved and looked up to by the people of Cephiro, the very people who he dedicated himself to serve and protect. He assisted the Princess to pray for the peace and stability of Cephiro and the welfare of the inhabitants with all his heart, Lantis could recall the late High Priest worked tirelessly to ensure the prosperity of everyone in Cephiro and loved nothing more than to see everyone happy and content...particularly the Princess...to the point that he hardly ever thought about his own happiness. He had deeply loved Cephiro and its ruler and Pillar Princess Emeraude. But ultimately he was forced to choose either one or the other as the natural consequence of how the country runs. Given the choice, Zagato would not want to turn himself against his own country, he would not want to harm others. Lantis could only watch helplessly as his own flesh and blood was crushed by the weight of sin (is that really a sin?) of falling in love with the Pillar of Cephiro and falling into the spiral of despair, not just because he could not be happy with her...but because Princess Emeraude would choose the fate of assisted suicide at the hands of the Magic Knights!

It was enough to Zagato that his love could not bloom, Lantis knew Zagato had attempted all he could to bottle it up like Princess Emeraude, knowing she was as unattainable to him like a goddess to a mortal in terms of the laws of Cephiro and that love would destroy the country. Their love would be against every law in the land. Zagato was fighting a constant mental battle between love and reason just like Princess Emeraude did. And for a long time his older brother was content simply by working alongside the princess, even if he could not have her, he was contented to just stay by her side, to help her pray and protect her. Simply the sight of Princess Emeraude being there, just being her, would suffice for Zagato to feel warm and blissful. To Zagato, being in the presence of Princess Emeraude is paradise in itself.

But soon Princess Emeraude's conscience gnawed at Princess Emeraude herself so much that she would consider fulfilling the legend. By loving Zagato back as he loved her, she would rather choose an assisted suicide by fulfilling the legend of the magic knights than allowing herself to neglect her role as Pillar of Cephiro, even when it became an unbearable burden on her.

The knowledge that Princess Emeraude would choose to die was the final blow to Zagato, shattering his heart into a million pieces like a sledge hammer to a beautiful sculpture of fine crystal... Zagato, his elder brother, was indeed as captivatingly beautiful as a work of art. The was an unearthly and mysterious charm about him with his graceful form, his elegant poise, his flawlessly exquisite face, and his ethereal amethyst eyes.

Zagato, as the High Priest, prayed and prayed, tried again and again to convince himself that the love he felt for the Pillar was just an infatuation... that he must be rational... he must give up his love and put his duties ahead of his heart. But who could ever? If even someone as strong willed as Princess Emeraude could not succeed in putting her love out of her mind how could one expect his brother to do so?

Cephiro fell into ruins not because of Zagato. As powerful and well versed as he was, he did not have the power or will to destroy Cephiro just by himself. The fate and well being of the country lied solely on the Pillar's hands. The Pillar could pray no matter where she was, no matter what obstacles she faced. Cephiro was crumbling because Princess Emeraude loved Zagato and couldn't devote all of her heart and soul and mind to Cephiro... even when she locked herself up in the water dungeon and tried all she could to forget about Zagato, she could only make a pretense to do so outwardly but inside her heart...she loved Zagato too much that no matter how much she forced herself to stop loving Zagato, she simply could not do anything about her feelings. And for that, Princess Emeraude paid the ultimate price with her life.

Lantis thought painfully how that was NOT fair, not fair...why must someone have the weight of the world on her shoulders and ALONE? Falling in love...that alone was the sin that ruined and caused the destruction of both his brother and Princess Emeraude. The Pillar System caused immense suffering towards these two beautiful and good natured people who were both very dear to him. Lantis could feel the suffering they went through, the guilt and sorrow they both bore was so immense that Death was the only way out for them, and ironically the only way for their love to bloom. But why? Why is falling in love a crime? What evil they committed except making the mistake of falling for each other? Yes, the Pillar could not fall in love as she must devote all her waking moments to pray for Cephiro, the High Priest was to assist her in her prayers, and their relationship was not to go further than that.

The act of falling for each other might be regarded as inappropriate, unlawful and neglectful of their duties by the majority... but love is blind, and when love comes, who could resist? Who got the right to judge if that was a mistake anyway? Who is to say who shall not fall in love with whom?

Despair is capable of turning perfectly good, moral, upright and just people into outright villains. Lantis read this from many stories and romances, but one thing he would not know was that was happening to his own brother before his very eyes. Once a person succumbed to it, there was no going back. His brother literally fell off the edge and Lantis was powerless to prevent it. Under that facade of ruthlessness, Lantis knew the destruction of his country pained Zagato's heart as much as Princess Emeraude's. Not to mention on top of that he was forever burdened with the sin and ignominy of a traitor not because of any desire of power, not because of greed, not because he wanted to rule but because he was hopelessly in love with the Pillar of Cephiro.

And even then Zagato never wanted Princess Emeraude for himself... Zagato's only motivation to turn against his country that he loved and served with all his heart and positioned himself against the Magic Knights was to save Princess Emeraude's life because she was going to commit assisted suicide! The utmost desire in his heart was to save her life and relieve the unhappy Princess from her burdens as the Pillar, he wanted to see her smile more than anyone else. Even when he was fully aware that he would be branded as evil and an unforgivable sinner, even when he knew this love was doomed to end in tragedy from the beginning, he still chose to follow his heart and would fearlessly bear the consequences for it.

However, even in his deep anguish, Zagato still had Lantis' best interest at heart and refused to let his good, pure, honourable younger brother to be involved with his sin and shame as the brother of a traitor who violated all the laws of Cephiro and his duties. Zagato then beseeched the unwilling Lantis to leave Cephiro, even if it meant being cut off from the only person who he could turn to when he needed him the most...the only one who would care for Zagato as a person, like any other human, not just as the High Priest on a pedestal.

The thought of having to choose between the LIFE of your beloved or your country when one could not exist unless the other ceases to exist... Lantis shuddered to think what would he do if he was Zagato? Lantis wasn't sure which one he could choose either and it was fortunate he did not have to know, thus on this ground, he resolved firmly never to judge his brother's actions.

Why, why did Zagato and Princess Emeraude had to face this decision, it was way disproportionate, out of order! Yes, it was true Zagato and Princess Emeraude had broken out of their professional relationship as Pillar and High priest, as Master and Subordinate, that was what Lantis was disappointed in them and even Zagato himself said he had been a big fool. But Lantis had never had the experience Zagato had, he never felt what Zagato felt, so he felt he should refrain from judging his brother. There were, of course, no shortage of lovely women lusting after the tall, dark and handsome Lantis with piercing blue eyes but he just did not feel anything for them, for they were just not what he was looking for.

Zagato and Princess Emeraude loved each other and each other only, so besides the issue of not being professional, what vile, immoral thing they committed to deserve THIS? The reason why they had to suffer so much was… the natural consequence of the Pillar System! It dawned on Lantis' mind, the question is NOT whether Zagato was right or wrong in choosing his beloved over Cephiro or whether Princess Emeraude should choose Zagato or Cephiro, they shouldn't even have to face this choice in the FIRST PLACE!

It pained Lantis further that if they lived in another place, another time, that love would be allowed to bloom and would never be regarded as a sin. It was so obvious they were meant for each other. Their love would even be celebrated. The fault does not lie in Zagato or Princess Emeraude, it lies in that wretched Pillar System!

His brother did not have to fall from Grace and lose his life, Princess Emeraude didn't have to feel so bad that she choose assisted suicide by summoning the Magic Knights! Their love would be perfectly legitimate! That unfair Pillar System!

Yet one thing Lantis could understand in Zagato was how comforting was to at least still see your beloved alive and safe and well. Not being able to see that person is just...too much to bear. Lantis found himself fighting down another lump in his throat...

It is so silly of him to think so but Lantis would give everything and do anything if he could see his brother again. The dead would not come back, no... but Lantis knew there is something he could do for his brother and Princess Emeraude other than grieving for them.

The eyes opened again and a new determination shone in the azure depths. "Be free... and be at peace. Zagato maybe the peace you thought of is to sit back in a foreign country and live in what they call peace and quiet and forget all about you but, no, I won't be at peace with that. I am free to make a decision I won't regret. I don't know if you could see me, but I don't care even if you turn up now and tell me you don't like it. Let them call me a traitor's brother, and so let them think all they want to think, I am not going to give a thought to them! I am going back to Cephiro and eliminate the Pillar System and the Legend of the Magic Knights once and for all so no one will suffer what you and Princess Emeraude suffered! That is the way I would find peace. That is my freedom, this is what my heart wishes for above all else, a wish that I would not relinquish under any circumstances. I will follow my heart like you no matter what price Ihave to pay! Even if it means my life!"

Lantis drew his sword and summoned his spirit horse to get him back to Cephiro..