Title: Troubled Hearts (Prolgue-1/?)

Author: Matthias (Solarsenshi@gmx.de)

Beta: None (at the moment)

Category: General/Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for now)

Pairings: Hikaru/Umi, Fuu/Ferio, Lantis/Primera, Caldina/Lafarga, Presea/Clef, Ascot/?, Eagle/?

Timeline: Several years after the end of the manga, does include a few topics and concepts of the anime. The most of it though is manga-related. Hikaru IS The Pillar, her power IS not fully necessary to stabilize Cephiro but there nonetheless, Mokona IS the creator and still around (to annoy Umi), that's everything important you need to know.

Summary: The crowning of the official new Pillar is near and with it the marriage of Shidou Hikaru and Lantis. But the Pillar has second thoughts and a vacation with her best friend changes everything… Not to mention the typical new menace brewing, mind you.

Disclaimer: Magic Knights Rayearth belongs to CLAMP and assorted companies. Possible new characters and the plot belong to me.

Legal Disclaimer: This is a work of Shoujo Ai (not Yuri yet), if the thought of two girls falling in love offends you or is illegal where you live, turn around, shriek and leave very, VERY fast. Or I'll send Mokona after you! J

Distribution: My site (www.catstrio.de), ff.net (www.fanfiction.net), Shoujo Ai archive (www.shoujoai.com), others might follow. If you want to post it, just tell me where and I would be more than pleased.

Chapter Notes: This part is not pre-read because I'm in the process of searching a new beta reader (Athenia, my current one will be off to college in a few weeks) which might take awhile. Since I am not native to the language, excuse me some mistakes.

 

Prologue: Plans

(Voiceover Hikaru)

About four years have passed since I was elected to be the next Pillar by none other than Mokona who turned out to be the creator of Cephiro AND our world. *sigh* Anyway. We had returned to our world to finish High School and establish some sort of bridge between Cephiro and our world. The interaction was coming along nicely so far – much against our first assumptions of what the world governments would say about the discovery of a world inside our own.

In Cephiro we have formed a new system more suitable for the people and their wishes. They had to lend their own efforts now and together we formed a double ruled republic. That's the best I can describe it. The two main instances of power were me and Fuu for that matter. Me… Well because I AM the Pillar, even if not really technically anymore, by trial I did have the strongest heart in Cephiro and the people were a bit reluctant to let go. And Fuu because she is the newly crowned Queen since marrying Ferio last year, not that any of us would have expected otherwise. Under us was the Council of Representation, hosted by elected representatives from each region of Cephiro, as well as ambassadors from Autozam, Fahren and Chizeta, our neighbors and allies. To make it simple, the new world was a much more peaceful and harmonizing world than our own. A stability caused by the hard trials Cephiro went through in the past.

After we finished High School Umi, Fuu, me fully moved to Cephiro, while our families stayed at home. An agreement we had made for each other and our families a long time ago. Our ties were so deeply rooted in that land that it became more a home to us when the world we had been living in constantly for fourteen years but it was hard for our parents or siblings to live a world where they were already established in the society. The new Cephiro was our creation, a creation of our united hearts and we wanted to make sure it stayed this way. Even if it meant taking huge responsibilities.

One of this responsibilities was the official crowning of the "new Pillar", me, four years after her election. Technically I was already established by the system and Mokona but as most humans, even Cephirans craved for a ceremony. And to mark the beginning of a new area and the change of the system, I was going to marry Count Lantis. A proof that the tragedy that had befallen Emeraude and Zagoto would not be repeated.

So, we thought anyway, but everything came different than we could have ever thought.

Pillar Year 5008, Year 4 since the founding of the new Cephiro

"Come in, Umi."

The huge double doors swung open and a blue-haired girl on the verge to adulthood stepped into the dimly-lit chamber. The girl stood there for a while adjusting to the strong magical atmosphere that was radiated in the chambers of Guru Clef, Master Mage of Cephiro. Ryuuzaki Umi, Water Knight and entrusted Counselor and Captain of the Pillar's guard stepped forward. She did not really know why she had come here. Her face was troubled betraying the girl's status in her long blue robe. No, that was not really true, Umi knew what had brought her here but she didn't know why, not really anyway.

Cephiro's oldest living inhabitant – and frankly the youngest-looking – turned around from his studies and greeted the young Magic Knight with a warm smile but his features remained serious. "Does something trouble you?" Umi laughed and it was a bit bitter. "Then does something not trouble me?" There was no use in trying to hide the troubles of her heart from the wise man, even if the implications pained him. Clef nonetheless was taken a bit aback by the sharp and bitter tone Umi's voice had taken. Ever since the wedding of Hikaru and Lantis had been announced she had been this way and Clef knew all too well why.

Umi sighed and relaxed her posture. "Gomen nasei, Clef. I didn't mean to snap at you." Clef shook his hand and waved his staff in a nonchalant gesture. "Nonsense. I do not blame you. After all I'm… already familiar with such situations." Both were silent for a moment, when they thought back to the first time the Magic Knights were summoned and for what purpose. "All the more reason for me to be sorry bringing such a situation again. At least it will be over in two weeks and nobody will ever know."

"And yet you will remain in love," Clef stated humorless and a solemn expression on his face. Umi shrugged. "Unrequited and… not with you, I'm sorry." Cephiro's Master Mage whacked her on the head with his staff. "Stop that. What is in your heart, you cannot abandon. That you are willing to stay with your beloved no matter what is a strength for itself. Love, even if unrequited, means to do everything to ensure the other's happiness."

"As with you and Presea?" Umi asked with an arched eyebrow and slow smile on her face. Clef fidgeted with his robe. "Well… maybe…" The Water Knight kneeled down and embraced the smaller elder softly, much to his surprise and a bit annoyance. "Arigato for cheering me up." Clef smiled at her. "No problem." As Umi moved to leave the room, the Guru called out to her again. "Oh, and Umi…" She turned her head slightly. "Hai?" His expression was once again serious and his tone of voice had something lecturing to it. "Do what makes her happy." The girl's body tensed for a moment as she closed her eyes, fighting against the familiar sensation of temptations. "I'll try."

With that she left the chamber and the door closed behind her. Guru Clef heaved a sigh. "I'm getting to old for this." A soft "Puu" came from one corner of the room, from which a white-pinkish, rabbit-like creature bounced forward, a somewhat sad expression on its cute face. "Puu? Puu, puu, puu. Puu?" Clef nodded at Mokona. "Yeah, hopefully they'll come through in the end. If not…" He looked thoughtfully out of the window, his face darkening. "… we'll just have a repeat of last time."

Dawn approached quickly and the new morning came over Neo Cephiro. High up in the royal castle, a lone figure stood on a wide balcony. Red hair descended freely down her back, the familiar pigtail undid, her long and glamorous robe blowing slightly in the morning wind. Before her the land that she had so strongly helped to create. The long green areas, the serene or wild lakes and rivers, the ocean in the distance, the mountain and volcano stretching to touch the sky, the islands up in this beautiful blue sky, even the Forest of Silence which hadn't been completely cleared of its natural monster source and the no-magic rule. All this the regal appearing but yet so young girl at age and experience held dear. She, who was many things. Fire Knight, Knight Commander of the Magic Knights of Cephiro, her friends called her Hikaru, Shidou Hikaru. The people, the people called her simply the Pillar. The system was by her own wish repealed, yet the people looked up to her, practically worshipped her, because she loved them. For them, she still was THE Pillar. In their hearts they would always believe in her, because she had saved them and created a new, a better world. Still yet, Shidou Hikaru, the Magic Knight of Fire, the acknowledged Pillar of Cephiro was troubled.

Hikaru looked down at her hand and the ring glittering there in the rising sunlight. Lantis' engagement ring. She smiled softly for a moment before she sighed and leaned forward to position her elbows on the parapet. Two weeks, she mused. Two weeks and I'm getting married. The wind pulled softly on her hair. Married. A concept she should in all regards cherish and happily looking forward to. She was marrying the man she loved, Zagato's brother, the Kairu that she had fallen for during their second stay in Cephiro, the stay that had changed everything. A tear escaped Hikaru's eye before she could notice and blink it away. When why does my heart ache at the thought?

Hikaru had not slept well in a long time and her thoughts were more troubled the closer the appointed date came. Did she have second thoughts about loving Lantis? No, certainly not, Hikaru had made up her heart a long time ago. The tall handsome man had captured her heart and made it all the more worth to fight for the further existence of Cephiro. There was no doubt about her feelings for Lantis and she would more than love to take him as her husband – as much as it did agitate poor Primera. When why? Why did she feel, as if she was making the wrong decision, as if she would make someone terrible sad? Someone she cared for deeply… maybe more than Lantis? There was Eagle, yes, but as much as she cared for the Autozam Commander, Hikaru had long since decided that in the end Lantis had won the race for her heart. If it was Eagle, the young Pillar would have never accepted Lantis' proposal in the first place. "I'm confused. I cannot think clearly so near to him."

A pair of slender arms encircled Hikaru from behind and drew her into a soft and comforting embrace. The smaller girl closed her eyes and sighed, cherishing the feeling of warmth caressing her heart. "Hikaru-chan…" Hikaru was probably the only the one in both worlds earning the suffix, Umi never called anyone with –san or –kun or –chan for that matter. Okay, they had called Emeraude, Emeraude-hime but that was only proper, even for Umi. The Pillar's friend was always so kind around her, even more in the last years and since she became the official guardian of the most important person in Cephiro. Hikaru had always wondered why Umi had gone to such great lengths to get this position, always staying at her side, in good and ill times – not that there were many of the latter. Umi had supported all the way of establishing the new system and all of her decisions. The Fire Knight truly wondered with what she had earned such deep kindness and devotion from the taller girl.

"Then leave." Hikaru blinked, brought out of her thoughts and a little surprised at the boldness and strength of her friend's voice. "You still have two weeks and you are long overdue for a vacation." Hikaru turned around, her back now against the parapet, staring up into her sapphire blue eyes, every protest she had formed dying from her lips. Umi rarely looked stern in these days with her, now though there was a deep concern for her friend's welfare. It was true too, it was a long, long time since she had truly relaxed. School had taken a lot out of her, focusing on politics and other qualities necessary for fitting the role of the mutual Pillar, beside this she upheld and deepened her Kendo studies to keep in shape. Along all this, during the longer school breaks she, Umi and Fuu always went to Cephiro to work actively on the long and slow built of the new system, as well as the connections to their own world. In all this time she did have only a few days of relaxing at best.

"Well…" she began at last, not yet ready to give in. There was so much still left to do, to organize and plan for. There were delegations from all the major countries in their world coming, speeches had to be prepared, arrangement to be made… "How do you expect to make the right decision like this, Hikaru-chan? If there is even the slightest doubt in your heart, then make sure it is gone before the wedding or… that you have at least figured out its meaning. That you can't do when you load yourself full of work." Again she was right and Hikaru knew, so reluctantly she nodded. "Un, you're right, Umi-chan. I'm taking too much responsible. Just like Emeraude-hime."

Both girls were silent for a moment before Hikaru reached out with one hand to grasp one of her friend's. "Will you come with me. Just us two? I'm sure Fuu-chan and Ferio can manage for awhile." Umi looked down at their joined hands for a long time and there, that was then Hikaru saw a flash of… something in her eyes. Something that deeply troubled the Fire Knight. It was over quickly and Umi smiled at her, nodding. "Of course. Can't leave you alone, right? It has been a long time since we had fun together." As if suddenly bitten Umi hastily turned around and made her way back inside, her cloak flapping violently. "Well, see you in a bit then. We'll let the others know." With that she vanished inside, her eyes for a moment visible although Umi did her level best to hide them.

A sudden feeling of sadness washed through Hikaru at the loss of contact and the comforting warmth of Umi's embrace. All at once a few things became clearer. Hikaru's worries always intensified then she thought about her fellow knights happiness. With Fuu she didn't have to worry but Umi never allowed herself personal happiness, no cherished moments, neither with Ascot or Clef. She seemed to be solely devoted to her and being in her presence seemed to make her happy. But… Was that longing in her eyes? Longing for whom? And why now? In such a situation? And why, why did her troubled heart matched the feeling when she saw the expression in her eyes just now. Hikaru didn't know but she intended to find out. At least a week of vacation with Umi should be enough. She would find out, the Pillar would find the answers to the troubles in her heart.

The palace was a busy place usually but today started somewhat slow. The inhabitants slept in longer than usual and the usual day routine just began as Queen Fuu and King Ferio emerged from their bedchamber, both of them also having "slept" in. They were not surprised to meet Guru Clef already up with Mokona in tow, the spiritual father of the land was always up with the rise of the sun. The royal pair were surprised though, when Hikaru and Umi came around a corner, clad in simple clothes and not the usual robes of business or their armor.

"Ohayoo, Hikaru-san, Umi-san. You are up early," Fuu greeted and mustered the two girls for a long moment. Ferio, not as reserved as his wife, quipped at them: "You know, I really want to see the faces of some of the representatives when they see you like this." Fuu gave him a light shove with her elbow and the green-haired swordsman winced slightly. Hikaru giggled but got serious again quickly. "Actually, we will be absent today and the next days." Fuu wrinkled her brow in confusion. "Why?" Umi coughed at the unusual shortcoming of understanding from their friends. "She needs a little time off, Fuu. You know that and I insist on it."

There was silence for a few moments while Fuu looked thoughtfully, then her face brightened. "I guess, that is alright. After all you have a wedding in two weeks and you need to be in good shape for it…" Before Fuu could continue or ask the obvious questions, Hikaru cut in again. "That's the other thing, I'm feeling a bit troubled over… the wedding lately and I really need time to think and sort things out. I already talked to Lantis and he agreed." Reluctantly, Hikaru added in her mind. To be true he was rather unresponsive this morning, when the Fire Knight had informed her fiancé about her decision. Hikaru felt a little bad about leaving him but her decision was made, she had to find out what was going on with her. With a side glance at Umi she corrected, what was going on with them. Lantis less them thrilled behavior was not really troubling since he seemed to actually favor the idea for her to get a little vacation from her duties. Still, Hikaru could have sworn, as if there was something like silent surrender in his voice when he agreed. Did he know something, she didn't?

"Okay, if Lantis is okay with that, I guess we can't say anything about it, right anata?" Ferio asked Fuu who nodded slowly. Hikaru frowned at her friend. Fuu was not exactly a morning person, but this solemn mood was a little odd. "Arigato," said Umi for her and pulled on her. "We don't really know where we will be going but we call you." With that she pulled the Fire Knight after her and down the corridor.

Ferio looked at Fuu worried. "You okay?" Fuu nodded slowly but her features betrayed the gesture somewhat. "Is it right to push them?" The previous days the royal pair had some talks with Clef. Cephiro's Guru had told them about some foreboding dreams he had and his thoughts on the subject of Hikaru and Lantis, as well as Umi in this picture. Fuu had not been particular pleased but saw the reason behind his observations. "We are not pushing, just nudging a little," Ferio grinned at her but even he seemed to be a little unsure. "You know that there always was something, didn't you?"

Of course, she did. Fuu knew the other two knights ever since they had been summoned to Cephiro the first time. They had been together almost constantly since then. If anyone could state, they knew Hikaru and Umi and the relationship between them, Fuu would be on the very top of the list. Out loud, she said: "I guess so…"

Ferio frowned but didn't say anything.

(Voiceover Hikaru)

That's there our story actually begins…

Opening Scene (theme Yuzurenai Negai)

Tomaranai mirai wo mezashite

Yuzurenai negai wo dakishimete

(We see Hikaru standing beside a river and Lantis on the other side, a bridge is forming between them Umi and Primera are approaching. Instead of walking towards each other they wait for the other two to come, Umi embracing Hikaru lovingly from behind while Primera was perched on Lantis's shoulders. Between them a shot of Fuu and Ferio in matching royal gowns with crystal crowns appear. The three "couples" turn around to face the screen and behind them the MKR logo appears.)

Umi no iro akaku somatte-yuku

(We see Hikaru casting a fire spell illuminated by a white-red aura, we see Umi casting a water spell mingling with Hikaru's. Fuu joins the pair and casts a strong wind spell around their combined magic.)

Mujuuryokujoutai

(Mokona floats into the scene above the three, Hikaru and Umi's hands joined in front of them and Fuu with an arm around both of their shoulders, Ferio behind them with a hand on Fuu's right shoulder.)

Kono mama kaze ni sarawaretai

(We see Lantis with a taller version of Primera in his arms, Eagle behind them, to their right Clef appears with Presea who has her hand atop his staff. Smiling softly. Between them Lafarga and Caldina become visible, Mokona floats into the scene once again.)

Itsumo tobenai HAADORU wo

Makenai kimochi de

KURIA shitekita kedo

(Mokona dashes out of the picture, filling up the screen momentarily. The scene shifts to a beautiful view over Cephiro's surface from up in the sky. A blue dragon shoots through the picture, two people on its back. A four-winged bird rises beside the dragon with a lone figure on its back. The camera zooms closer on the figures, revealing Umi on the back of the dragon, a happily laughing Hikaru behind her, after them Fuu can be seen riding the bird.)

Dashikirenai jitsuryoku wa...dare no sei?

(The dragon and bird glide down towards the ground where a beautiful fire lion with a horn can be seen running beneath and between them. Hikaru jumps down and the three Knights retrieve their Mashin armor. There's a flash of light…)

Tomaranai mirai wo mezashite

Yuzurenai negai wo dakishimete

(Rapidly scene change. The Mashin in their Mecha form rise to the sky once again, straight towards a thick wall of blackness… A dark shadow, the outlines of a woman, can be seen looming over the three Mashin and the whole of Cephiro. Switch to the knights on a ground facing of a horde of monsters, purple flames erupt from which a smiling Nova ascends, a golden light overlays here image in which the outlines of another girl with long hair can be seen. Switch to a picture of the palace, a phoenix racing past it, closely followed by the lion, dragon and bird, close up on the Magic Knights in front of the entrance, they have their three swords raised, Umi to Hikaru's left touching her rapier diagonal to Hikaru's sword, the same with Fuu on Hikaru's left. Hikaru swings hers forward and draws a pentagram in the air.)

Iro asenai kokoro no chizu...hikaru ni kazaso!

(In the pentagram shots of the NSX (top right corner), the Fahren Dragon (top left corner), the Chizeta Fortress (right bottom), and a yet unknown ship (left bottom) can be seen. In the middle bottom the Neo Cephiro group can be seen, including Lantis, Eagle, Primera, Clef, Presea, Caldina, Lafarga, Ascot, Aska, Sanyun, Tarta and Tatra), the inner outline of the star is filled with the outlines of Cephiro as well as shots of the other countries in the background of the "corners". On the end of the star tips the outlines of the Magic Knights can be seen, as well as two other figures on the bottom two. One can be clearly recognized as Nova the other is unknown yet. The pentagram zooms in quickly and shows the Magic Knights standing side by side, their Mashin behind them. Their armor is a little different and Umi's sword resembles more an actual rapier now, while Fuu holds up an Escudo longbow, Hikaru's sword has a second, slightly bend blade coming out of the first one. Below them are Nova in a black and white Magic Knight armor with two pulsating blades in black and white, and the other girl in a golden-brown armor with a long staff which ends in an impressive battleaxe. She has long brown-black hair and purple eyes. A beautiful phoenix rises over the group and the picture is frozen.)

Magic Knight Rayearth

Troubled Hearts

By Matthias

Story concept based on the works of CLAMP

Chapter 1: Changes

(Hikaru)

"It's…" I stood there long, very long, trying to find the perfect word to describe the setting but I think there was nothing in human vocabulary to describe the scene. Before us lay a wide beach which seemed to have just jumped right out of a picture. The sand was almost snow-white and tickled slightly under my now bare feet. The beach stretched out in an U-shape like a typical secluded bay and the water of the ocean spilled against the shore with sometimes gentle, sometimes harsher movements. Above us the sun was shining brightly, presenting just the right conditions of clarity and warmth for the whole surroundings. All around us palms – yes, palms in Cephiro! – were surrounding the bay and concealing it from ground view. Nobody was here, except Umi and me.

"… beautiful," I finished my statement lamely, feeling, as if I had just spoken a dire insult to the area in particular. Beautiful did not even begin to describe it. Not by a long shot. There were seagulls circling over us and something akin to Earth's dolphins could be seen playing in the distance, their jumps and the rays of sun illuminating the water in a sparkling display that could clearly take your breath away. And I was sure, I hadn't even taken in everything the beach had to offer so far.

"You like?" Umi grinned at me and I shook my head to snap out of my transfixed state. "Un! This is truly amazing! How come nobody knows about this?" I could not help doubting that nobody had found this spot so far. It had been four years since the recreation and as big as Cephiro was, a spot like this would stand out to any person capable flying or taming flying creatures like a candle in a room full of darkness. So it was a bit unbelievable that we really were the only people on this whole, long beach.

Umi laughed lightly. "You are spending too much studying. A ruler should know his land, especially her best friends' private place." I blinked at that. THIS belonged to Umi? No way! "I have created this bay through the force of my will, took a lot of effort but it was easy with the vision I had in mind as a template." I didn't really doubted that she was strong enough to achieve this, our hearts were the strongest in the whole of Cephiro and the land albeit the Pillar system was technically abolished was still a land where the will determined everything. What really was on my mind was the question what exactly she did have in mind as a "template". The wish had to be pretty strong for such an outcome and whatever Umi had focused on had to be something she treasured deep in her heart.

Before I could elaborate this thoughts though, a shadow passed over us and a winged, blue dragon shot up into the sky. Selece, Umi's Mashin. My friend had surprised me, when she had called her Mashin for transport, in his true form. As it seemed, since we had proven ourselves several times now and our ties to the Mashin had become so deep, it wasn't necessary anymore to simply don them. Distracted by the departure of the ancient creature, I did not notice Umi's movement before it was too late.

"Hikaru-chan," she breathed and my head snapped up when I noticed how close we were to each other. Not to mention that Umi had already discarded her top and was leaning over me now in her tight blue-black swimsuit that outlined her form very nicely – to say it nicely. My friend had truly matured into a beautiful young woman that betrayed her still young years. Everyone who would see her and know that she was still no older than eighteen, would guess her in her early, middle twenties. I had not come around to notice that with the daily close proximity between us. But only now, when she didn't fair fancy, long robes or official armor, the radiating and natural beauty came to the surface. Few people saw her like this and if they would, I'm sure Umi would have thousands of suitors already. Not that there weren't enough already besides Ascot and maybe or should I say better Clef? Umi had never given any indication to be with any of them.

"Do you know, who I had in mind? Who helped me creating this. Do you want to know how I call this place?" Now I was truly curious. Had she found someone I didn't know about? But, I would, wouldn't I? Umi never held any secrets back from me. If there was someone, or if she had began to finally bond with Ascot or Clef, she would have told me, I would have known. Still, I could feel the strong magic at work here, supporting the setting. That was no illusion but a solid place, formed and secured by the image of a very strong wish. If it was a person Umi did have in mind, when this had to be someone she held very dear and had very deep feelings for. I could feel the unconditional love floating this place as a prime emotion in its foundation.

"I have named it… Hikaru Bay." I stood there frozen to the spot once again, literally paralyzed this time. This breathtaking place, shaped by Umi's willpower alone, was meant to be… mine? No, not mine, shaped from Umi's feelings for… me… I could feel tears glittering in my eyes but didn't bother to wipe them away. I couldn't really as unable to move as I was. My heart jumped at the thought that my friend had devoted this beautiful beach solely to me. Could that mean…? Was it possible that…? Thoughts raced through my mind, scenes from the last years, Umi's devotion to me, turning down any suitor who wanted to come closer to her. That had always disturbed me somewhat and left me feeling that I was the cause for my friend's endured loneliness… Maybe it really was. Do you love me, Umi? I asked myself with a quiet, musing smile, surprised at the thought. No, not the thought more a surprise at how much it didn't surprise me…

Umi unbeknownst to me had turned away with a wicked grin on her face. "Well, since we are all alone here, we can even bath naked!" I stared incredulously at my friend as she began to loosen her bikini… "Nani…? Umi-chan!" was the only thing I managed to sound somewhat shocked while spluttering. Umi paused halfway and shot me a mischievous look. "Hai?" I was not quick enough to avert my eyes to the ground, still to wrapped up in the concept of the previous discoveries, and caught a good glimpse at very delicious… ack! "I… I… don't think this is such a good idea." There was a silence in which I didn't dare to look up. "Oh, okay," my friend finally said a bit disappointed though I could not tell, if it was mocking or real. She pulled her bikini top back up and smiled brightly. "Come on, Hikaru-chan, let's hit the waves!" With which she turned around lightly laughing and took of towards the inviting ocean. Damn you, Umi, I thought, reverting to a less used method of cursing, I probably have dreams about this for some time.

Still, despite the open, daring action, I felt my mood was even better than before and I realized that most of this had been teasing to bring me out of my tight, usual day rhythm. We were on vacation and Umi had quite effectively brought me in the right mood. Shrugging of the confusing feelings making a mess of my mind, I began to race after my friend with a playfully outraged shout of: "Come back, you!" Umi just laughed and I soon joined in.

(Umi)

The water splashed against my bare legs, cooling the skin from the warm sun above. It was not really hot today, just right for a day on the beach. Don't get me wrong. Since the Pillar was officially abolished Cephiro didn't have so much weather control than before but all in all the weather was stable… compared to our world. The waves were mostly gentle and as I lowered down to cool the rest of my body, I felt the tension from long, exhausting days of work leave me and my muscles relaxing.

I looked back and saw Hikaru from a distance entering the water. Her skin was still a little flushed and I felt bad for taking her by surprise and teasing her like that. But… The talk with Clef in the morning had left me thinking and when I came back and saw Hikaru standing there on the balcony, I could not help but jump at the chance. I didn't know, why I was doing that, honestly, I had kept quiet all these years. However, seeing – feeling her doubts, maybe, just maybe, there was still a possibilities. Thin probably, very, very thin. Yet, I could at least say afterwards that I had tried.

I turned back to the open sea and swam for awhile, occasionally diving under the waves. The embrace of the ocean was comforting and soothing. I felt in my element here. Water was my magic and therefore swimming came as something as second nature to me, although I had never done anything even semi-professional. I had discovered that a long time ago and whenever I wanted to relax and needed some peace, I would go swimming somewhere. That was even better than fencing. The cool water against bare skin, the enveloping sensation… I was only half-kidding when I suggested we could bath naked, because when I was alone, I often did. I felt much more free that way.

A squeak escaped my lips as I was suddenly swim-tackled from behind and momentarily pressed under the water's surface. I emerged with a gasp and spitting some choked water to find Hikaru smiling at me with a sly smile. "Got you, you little vixen you." Her tone was totally playfully and I knew that I had achieved what was planned with my earlier actions. My friend had lighten up considerably and was up for a nice day of fun. A prospect I found entirely delighting, even if it was just two good friends sharing the fun. I could live with that, for now. And during all this, I could show Hikaru what she had and would miss. A slow grin crept into my face and settled down there.

"Oh yeah?" I answered and lunged forward. Hikaru squealed and jumped away, taking off quickly. I jumped after her and chased her swimming through the low sea. We were both laughing, all the weight of responsibility being washed away. I think both of us didn't have fun like this in a near eternity. In my opinion Hikaru worked really too hard to my liking. She wasn't the Pillar anymore – even then the people still saw her like it. And that my redheaded goddess could support the land with her heart alone, we had tested this already. But after two days I had to virtually drag her out of the prayer room because she was straining herself too much. If I had to voice my opinion about this, I'd say that the people's worshipping and belief in her was getting to Hikaru's little, pretty head. It was time for her to let go a bit. That's why we were here.

After a few minutes where I let her escape two or three times, I finally caught up with my friend. Hikaru didn't resist when I pulled her back on the back of her own bikini. I shivered a little bit at the sensation that surged through my body, as hers pressed into mine. Tiny sparks began to make their presence known but I ignored it, knowing that I had already done enough back then. If I acted on my impulses now, I would just end up terribly confusing and hurting Hikaru.

"Gotcha, you can't escape now," I said, playfully tweaking her. Hikaru giggled and her eyes twinkled with humor and something I couldn't immediately place. "Why would I want to?" That took me by surprise and I would have jumped, if it weren't for our position, when she leaned in closer, pressing our bodies even more together. The redhead smiled amused at my reaction and her smile deepened to one of affection. I was not prepared, as she suddenly turned her head a bit more and leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. "Arigato, Umi-chan."

And with that she wiggled out of my arms and swam away giggling. Leaving me wondering what the heck just happened. I was not sure what she was thanking me for, the bay, the relaxing day so far or… other things. Frankly I didn't care because for that smile I would jump down in a pit of lava, if it made her happy – without any hesitation. I touched my cheek with one hand while my gaze followed my friend as she swam a few rounds before she encountered some of the dolphin-like creatures and began antiquating. Had she just flirted with me?!? It surely looked like it. It was too playful for simple gratitude and too mischievous for payback. I told myself that I was seeing things, that my friend was just overwhelmed and grateful for my gift, however, why was my heart so warm all of a sudden?

À cry of delight brought me back to my senses and I noticed Hikaru happily playing with the dolphin creatures and I smiled deeply myself. She was truly amazing. Everyone seemed to love her because she was so full of love herself. Even the animals couldn't resist her charm, heck, I had seen beasts crumble before her sweet, innocent and pleading eyes. You could not help but love her, that's why I could not help but falling in love with her… As much as it hurt sometimes.

Seeing her like this, the free, untamed spirit, the joyous and big heart, brought back affections memories about the past. It made me happy to see that she hadn't completely lost this innocence and purity. No, I knew she had never lost it, only buried it much too often deep under the responsibilities she weighed upon her shoulders. Seeing her laughing, playing with the creatures without a care in the world and the creatures openly playing with her, it made my resolve even firmer that I would do anything to make her happy. Even if it was destroying any chance of personal happiness for me. The only thing that made me truly happy, was seeing Hikaru happy.

"Umi-chan! Are you coming?" the fiery goddess called out to me with a wave. She was riding one of the creatures now and obviously enjoying herself. I giggled at her attempts to hold on against the higher waves out here and decided to join the fun once again. Maybe I was selfish, but I had to at least try. Emeraude didn't have the courage to openly declare her love for Soru Zagato and changing the system although she had fully understood how necessary it was, how cruel it would be to the next Pillar – Hikaru. However, there was no true Pillar anymore, the situation was different and there was still… Lantis. Yet, I could not deny what was in my heart any longer. Clef's words had stirred more in me when I was ready to admit to myself. But a dream was a dream and a true wish could not be denied, not in Cephiro. One principle that Hikaru had declared herself so often.

"Hai, I'm coming!" I called out and chased after my friend, my one and only, true love…

(Lantis)

The day sure was quiet without Hikaru around. Not that there wasn't enough to do but without Hikaru everything settled down in a somewhat dull routine. Further arrangements were made, invitations written for the ceremony. A ceremony that might never take place, or at least with an unexpected – to the outside world – to it. It was not unexpected for me. I had realized the truth long ago actually. Hikaru might be able to fool herself but she could not fool me. The reason I was so upset in the morning was because I knew, if I let her go on this vacation, nothing would ever be the same again when she came back. There would be the most dreaded "talk" and I was surely not looking forward to it.

But I wasn't like Zagato – not that he had had any competition. If that truly was, what she wanted, I would let her go, I wouldn't push her into an unsatisfied future because in one thing I was similar to my mutual rival. Both of us – and probably a lot of people more – would do anything to make Shidou Hikaru happy. Even if it meant, to give her up.

"Lantis?" I flinched inwardly at the light voice resembling the sound of tiny bells. I did not have to turn around to know that it was Primera who had quietly slipped into my personal chamber. "What is it?" I asked, performing the long practiced ability to conceal my emotions tightly. It would not be good for the pixie to hear what was going on. I think it would pain her too much. She had reluctantly let go when I had made my proposal to Hikaru and despite her own feelings she did get along rather nicely with the Fire Knight these days. I think she was like Umi in this regard, Quietly stepping back and accepting the circumstances.

"Um… Guru Clef wanted to see you about something. There are some issues concerning the Autozam treaty he needs to discuss with you." I had expected as much. Cephiro's Master Mage was troubled this days but for other reasons than Hikaru had been the previous days. Something was amiss and it concerned Cephiro's welfare. That's why we were speeding up the arrangements with Eagle's home country. The treaty would offer us a highly supply of FTOs and other mechas, together with a handful of battleships. Even if Cephiro was a peaceful country, a non-magical defense was good for balance and would prepare us for any troubles probably endangering the new alliance. Especially in light of the growing connections to Earth. You could never know with their torn political unity.

I nodded simply, realizing that Primera would need a confirmation. There was a lasting silence in which I never felt the pixie's presence slip away, hovering uncertainly in the air. "Lantis… are you alright?" I nodded again but I began to see how futile that was. If anything elfs were good at detecting even the best hidden emotions. Primera had never given any indications that she pried but that would not mean that she didn't.

I heard a buzz of tiny wings and a moment later she had zipped past me and faced me now sternly, hands on her tiny hips. "I don't believe you. What's on your mind? Is it because Hikaru left?" I sighed wearily and defeated. As I said you can't hide anything from a pixie, if they didn't want you to. And this particular one was a special kind. "I guess…" Primera watched me closely. "Its not particular Hikaru? Its more Umi going with her." Another sigh, she was drawing the truth out again, slowly. "Maybe." The pixie huffed. "Maybe? Yeah, sure. Are you really just going to sit there and brood or are you going to fight for her? I didn't let you off the hook for you to give up now, you know?" she snapped irritated.

I let our another breath and meet her tiny, inquiring eyes. Damn, why did she have to be such a smart-ass just now. I really wished she would just leave me alone but the chances of that were probably microscopic slim. "What's the use fighting for something you already lost," I answered tired of holding up a front just for reputation's sake. I knew Primera even longer than I did Hikaru and there was not really any use in faking emotions.

Primera looked at me crossly but thoughtful, for once. "You really think so? Why did you propose when in the first place?" I didn't have to answer her. She knew all too well why. Because I loved her anyway and just searched my chance. Umi had stepped back in the belief that Hikaru only had eyes for me and for the longest time I thought she did and that she never could or would respond to her friend's feelings. And whenever we saw each other, Umi and I, there were this tiny flash in her eyes that told me that I would terrible regret hurting Hikaru.

As if I ever could. Everyone loved Hikaru. I mean, who possible couldn't? The pixie in front of my face was a good example that she could bring everyone around in the end. I could only fall in love with her, for her purity, her love for everything and everyone, just like the last Pillar, Emeraude. Just like my brother had fallen for her, for the same reasons. What this it about us and Pillars anyway. We loved them but ended up making them both miserable. There was no question that Hikaru was still the Pillar to me and mostly anyone else. She proved it several times and I think even though Mokona accepted Hikaru's wish and abolished the system, she still held the power and the traits of the Pillar. And if she denied herself the truth any longer, if we really followed through with this charade, where was no telling, if Cephiro wouldn't be affected by her misery. That's why I knew it would be the best thing, the honorable thing to do. For the land, for Umi, for Hikaru… But it did hurt oh so much.

"Fine, if you think you have to brood around here, suit yourself," Primera exclaimed frustrated. "I'll go in the meantime and make sure those girls don't do anything funny." With that she raced past me towards the door. "Prime-chan," I called out softly and as expected the pixie stopped hovering and waiting. "Let them be." Silence again. I could sense her was struggling, for any response to bring me out of this "stupid behavior". But I'd made my decision. Hikaru had to decide for her heart. If she really wanted to be with me, well, when I would surely not complain, but if… Well, I would regret it, I would "brood around", in the end I would accept it…

"I… I'll tell Clef you're on your way." With that the pixie slipped out of the door, her voice cracking. I hated to do this, to upset her. Primera was kind and very devoted. Maybe if things were different, if things would become different… No, it was still too early to think along such lines.

(Hikaru)

Alone I sat on a stone staring ahead. The sunset made the ocean a beautiful crimson shade. It was the second day of our vacation. Umi had gone out for a late swim and relaxing shower afterwards, which left me alone for the moment. That was good since I really needed to think. I had told myself time and time again that it was ridiculous but I had given up the thought somewhere during the day. Umi and I were flirting, openly. I was flirting too, with my best friend… who had been in love with me for the Kami knows how long. Oh, silly thought, from my position, after all I could consider myself a minor Megami-sama…

I mean Umi. Sweet, kind, devoted Umi. In love with ME? Before my very eyes and I had never seen it. I had never given a fleeting thought in that direction, considering the possibility behind her single devotion, a devotion just to me. To my happiness. I felt so bad… and amazingly thrilled at the same time. Why was that?

"Megami-chan?" Oh, what a wondrous freefall. Speak of the devil. She hadn't used this nickname in years since I nearly snapped at her the last time. I didn't like to be entitled Goddess. From her lips though, it sound just affectionate, worshipping too but in deep endearing kind of way. Too endearing too my liking. I had not seen the reason behind it, had not WANTED to see it. Now, with the striking realization, I didn't mind Umi calling me that. From her, it made me feel all warm inside.

I knew she was behind me, standing there uncertainly, sensing that something was off. That were would be a change, an irreversible change in both of our lives. And quite frankly that didn't even began to describe it. A change could be good or bad. For the better or worse. And whatever I chose I would end up with both. I just wanted the wind to blow strong and take me somewhere far away. Sure, I could sidestep, stall this conversation a little longer, think harder. But… "We need to talk." There, I said it!

Umi behind me stiffened, it was amazing how I could predict AND sense it without seeing her. The beautiful face, framed by long, in the light of the setting sun sparkling blue hair. This eyes so full of kindness and a deep spirit. The tall, athletic body… I always cleared impossible hurdles before but this… This was going to be hard, very hard. The problem couldn't be solved just by concentrating on it, like a school test or a political problem. This was a matter of the heart. Usually one of my stronger traits but… This was not usual. It wasn't even expected.

"Hikaru-chan…" Her voice softly, pleading. I held up a hand and she ceased her attempt of speech. God, how should I begin this? How should I END this? My mind kept traveling back to the quick exchange with Lantis shortly before our departure. He had been unusually quiet and a bit distant. As if he had known exactly what would happen, what discoveries would be made. And he had let me go, in spite of maybe losing me. I didn't want to lose Lantis just yet. However, I had to make a decision now. I started this and couldn't chicken out. That wouldn't be fair to Umi. And it would certainly mess up our vacation, a vacation she had planned so nicely.

"I feel like a complete idiot and I'm sorry for it." I spoke quickly before Umi could voice a protest that had sure been to come. "But I guess, no one can really be held responsible for that. I did a lot of thinking over these last days, Umi, and I think you have a good idea about what." A pause. Silence. A nod probably. "I was innocent back then, naïve even, I never saw it and that's what I'm sorry for. I lived on, made friends, best friends in you and Fuu, I fell in love with Lantis, eventually. And I never realized the obvious thing in front of my eyes. The hurting you endured or the cause of it…" In a soft whisper, I added: "Me…"

"Demo, Hikaru-chan…" Umi tried but I wouldn't let her. "NO BUTS!" I interrupted forcefully and I guess she flinched at my unusual tone of voice. "I had always tried to make anyone happy, to make you happy, those I held dear. I never wanted to cause anyone pain, not even unintentionally. But who's to blame, if it is not the best that I can achieve? Maybe me for not being observant enough, maybe even you for keeping quiet all this time, knowing fully well I would want you to tell me. Maybe nobody or maybe both of us," I mused with a rather sarcastic layer to it. I didn't dare to turn and look at her, I knew I wouldn't be able to hold my resolve or making any reasonable decision. Reasonable decision… could we even have any of those or was it already too late for them? I truly didn't know.

I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking, thinking quick. Was where even a choice. I had Lantis, I was going to marry Lantis! How could I throw that away only because I didn't want to hurt my best friend? We loved each other, truly, deeply. Lantis loved me and I did love Lantis… or did I? If you had asked me the question a month ago, when the Kairu had made his proposal, I would have laughed at the ridiculous question. Sure I did. I still did. But did I love him more than… Umi?

I let the concept pass through my very being, listening closely what my heart was telling me. We had met four years ago, thrown into a strange world, a friendship shaped and strengthened by hardships. As long as I knew her since then, Ryuuzaki Umi had been by my side, making sure I'd smile, cheering me up when I was down. Heck, she even encouraged me when I had doubts about Lantis before or played counselor when I was still deciding between him and Eagle, she listened when I needed an understanding ear… Umi had always been there, no matter what. When I was sad I could turn around and be sure, she was there, welcoming me with a warm embrace. When I was happy and enjoying life, I could be sure she would be right by my side, sharing the joy with me. And when I thought about all my close friends and let my love sort out an order, as hard as it was for a person like me, Umi was high up, looming like a supreme goddess over them all. No, question there. So… Was there really a choice?

(Clef)

The lasting silence of my chamber usually was a comforting one. There was nothing that could interrupt my meditations, no unprepared interruptions. In times like this though, then my spirit was troubled and I've looked forward to an uncertain future, the silence became rather unsettling. Up to a point there you rather welcomed a distraction.

"Guru Clef?" It was a testament to my nerves that I slightly jumped. There was only a handful of persons in Cephiro who could manage to pass my barriers undetected – Hikaru and Lantis among them. The latter now stepped quietly beside me and stared out of the top window, showing the beautiful evening sky. I could sense the heavy burden pressing down on his heart but I could not do much to lessen them. It was for the best that I did not address the matter.

"You called me?" I nodded quietly. Waving with the staff in my hand and the window changed, showing a picture of a dark void with a brilliant, sparkling pool of light in the middle. Thin lines and cords stretched from the light out in all directions, like the net of a spider. In the nothingness around the light where normally existed nothing else, but if you looked closely you could see the void move, edging closer to the light while simultaneously expanding outward, eating away on the reality around it.

Lantis next to me drew in a sharp breath. "It developed that far already?" The Kairu did not seem to be pleased and neither was I. "Apparently. I was surprised myself. This is a threat we can't ignore. I have sent Primera to get Hikaru and Umi back…" I held up a hand to still his protest. "I know, I know, bad timing. But that can't be helped. We must have a full council to discuss this matter and we absolutely need all the Magic Knights. If we do not act quickly, all the hard work they did for the gateway might be in vain." There were a lot of things that could that I didn't even want to think about but quite frankly we could simply lose our independent status when what I feared came to transpire.

Lantis heaved a weary sigh. "Of course you are right. Still… Wouldn't it be better to know what exactly we are dealing with? Sending the girls into a battle, where they don't even have a clue about their enemy… We all know what happened last time." I waved the question away. "Already taken care of. I send the NSX II in company of Ascot to test the strength of… it. Unofficially and private of course." Lantis smiled. "Of course. It was all a bit easier in the old days, right?"

That was a theoretical question and he knew it, but I still nodded. "Maybe so. But we all decided that this was the best solution and after all our say in everything is still strong enough to justify such actions. They are for 'national security' after all." The other raised an eyebrow at my unusual sense of humor but staid silent.

After a while he spoke up again. "You said all the Magic Knights?" I held up my staff in response and let the image vanish before I sharply turned around. "Yes. Unfortunately we still don't have any clue about the Earth elemental. That might not even be necessary though. After all we have… her." I did not see him but knew instinctively that Lantis was frowning. "Is this wise?" I sighed in response. "No. But I'm sure, I don't have to explain my reasons. We have no other choice in this matter." Lantis was silent for a moment, then I stepped forward towards the door. "I'll go wake her now. Inform the rest of the High Council, as soon as Primera brings back the other two, we will have to share this matter at last."

Without another word or waiting for a confirmation, I stepped out of the chamber. Walking silently through the hallways, I finally reached a seemingly dead end on the lowest section. I tapped with my staff against one of the sections and the tip began to glow softly. The wall slid open, revealing a doorway. Leading into a darkened room.

Cautiously I stepped into the room and the wall resealed behind me. The only thing in the chamber, secured with the strongest wards in the whole palace, was a stasis sphere. Inside hovered the still form of a young teenage girl, with long pinkish hair and long-pointed ears…

(Umi)

I could not speak, I could not think, I could not do anything. It was just all too much. Hours before we had still enjoyed the nice weather and another day on the beach and now… I had know that this conversation would come, that she would find out sooner or later. I had made it as obvious as possible, without being too forward. But the way she talked, the way she would not turn around and face me, although I knew exactly why, it pained me. Something glittered in my eyes and I didn't need to reach up to tell they were tears. I felt like the very first day I had discovered that I was truly and totally in love with the redhead and wondered how long I had to cry that time for tomorrow's light to reach me, to end the night of sorrow. I had been miserable all night, couldn't sleep. I felt like I was betraying my best friend by loving her, burdening her with it. I was at my limits this day but at the end of the night, my resolve had hardened and even though I could and would not want to deny what was in my heart. I swore myself that she should never know.

"Well, you see. I think it's time to make a decision… No, wait a declaration is more like it since the choice had been made a long time ago. Only that I was too blind to see that there was a choice." God, that was going to be tough. I braced myself for the following lines. Of buts and howevers and I knew what would stand at the end.

"I cannot deny what was there between us especially the last two days. I know, I was openly flirting but still denied myself the truth that it was more than friendly teasing. I have been with Lantis for the smaller part of four years now. During school breaks and now for the last few months. And I just realized how stupid I was. I did exactly what I never wanted, what I... we wanted to stop from repeating. I let the people shove their beliefs upon me. Even though I despised it at first, I began to let the worshipping get to me. And with it the pressure. The Pillar is allowed to love, so why don't set an example? Her and Count Lantis love each other, perfect! Now they just need to marry to signal the start of the new future."

I gaped at that, rarely had Hikaru ever talked like that. In private a few times, yes, but outside her private chambers… No, always sweet, little Hikaru, who everyone loves. I knew how she felt over the whole worshipping act but hearing her like that, it was just like hearing my own thoughts. The redhead laughed bitterly and shook her head. "But that doesn't matter anyway. I love Lantis you know, I truly do, still I wished I wouldn't have let myself be pushed into this marriage. Then he made his proposal, I was overjoyed, yes, but that wasn't really the problem. I never let him know that there was something bothering me, I didn't even know something was bothering me! Or better, I didn't admit it."

Hikaru stopped and took a few deep breaths, probably trying to calm her nerves since she was beginning to babble. The period silence only made me hurt more. I could guess already how this was going to end and I was strongly tempted to just plead with her to stop, to say, no more, to forget about these two days and that everything could be like it had been. Nothing would ever be like it had been. Never again. I had known the risks, knew how small and thin the chances of success had been. But on a whim, acting on some mysterious words from our all wise local sage I had thrown everything away. And should I tell you something? I was glad about it. Even with all the grief it cost me now and would cost me in the future, I didn't regret finally letting go of the secret that I had kept for years. Maybe I should run now… No, I could never run from Hikaru. How bitter through may be, I could never run from my love.

"Demo… I accepted and I will probably stand there in under two weeks, in front of the whole representation of status and power of both of our worlds. There really is no choices anymore because it had been made long ago without me even knowing that I was truly making one." I closed my eyes in defeat. There it was. The moment there she would say that she loved me, as a friend, for always and ever but that it was Lantis she was going to marry and no one else, that she felt terrible sorry and guilty… I don't know, if I could stand it. "Onegai… don't…" I whispered but was ignored as expected. "And you know, I need someone up there with me, someone standing beside me, holding that ring and… slipping it onto my finger. Do you know who I want that to be?"

Oh goddess, no! Not that. Not that please! I shook my head furiously. She was going to ask me to be her Maid of Honor, Hikaru was asking me to stand up there with her and act as a witness then she and Lantis pledged their pact for live. I didn't think I could stand it. Not that. Anything but never that. Didn't she realize what she was doing to me…

Soft fingers under my chin, gently lifting my face and I felt myself becoming lost in this fierce sparks of ruby flames. We were so close, only inches apart. It would be so easy, was so beckoning… Her eyes so full of life, so full of love… love for… "You." And before I knew it, her lips were caressing mine in a soft and gentle kiss throwing me headfirst into the ocean. And that is then Hikaru's last words finally registered and the realization hit me with the force of a hammer blow. It would have surely knocked me down, if I hadn't felt Hikaru's arms around my neck, steadying me, drawing me deeper into the kiss. Firmly, passionate, almost desperate. I was always sure that when you are falling in love its just like blinking your eyes and the passion flies by you like the wind. Just now, I felt like I was falling in love all over again. With the same person. But this time it was the spark of a new beginning. And I looked forward to it, to learn how strong I could be, on this new path leading to love. My true love, my only love, my no longer unrequited love.

"Shh," the sweet goddess in front of me whispered and wiped a few tears from my face. "Aishiteru, 'Mi-chan." I think she would have to clean a lot of tears tonight… Not tears of pain and regret anymore but tears of joy. Joy from the happiest girl in the whole two worlds.

(Primera)

I could not believe him! Well, okay, maybe I could… a little. But I had not wasted four years of my life quietly stepping back for him to surrender at the first possibility that maybe something had happened between the two girls. I suppose it was no secret to any of the Cephirians that there was something, at least from Umi's side and I had found myself openly admiring her strength with which she played her role. I did not know, if I was capable to endure such a strain.

Still, although the atmosphere between us had always been admittedly high-charged with emotion, I was a little angry at Lantis. Surrendering that quickly was not his style. I was not so blind to believe that I had anything to do with it and though I normally would have jumped at the chance four years ago, this wasn't four years ago anymore. I still did love Lantis with all my heart, there would never be a doubt about that. However, considering the choices and sacrifices we made coupled with the still existing race barrier, how could I believe that things would change, even if Hikaru threw the wedding in favor of her best friend and protector?

All this things should have made me rather outraged at the scene I witnessed, concealed by a a few reeds nearby. Yet, as a pixie, we were so tuned to emotions, that they can swing from one side to another in a heartbeat. And the scene was so… so… romantic! Gee, I had no idea what really happened or lead to this, arriving late at the scene as I had, but seeing them embracing and kissing with such passion… As hard as it sounds, Lantis would have had no chance, not even if Cephiro crumbled around them… I felt a warmth engulf me just from being close to them without even extending my senses. I didn't dare to do this for once out of fear of being discovered right away and also because the sure intensity would surely have sent me in a trauma.

I inched a little closer to see and hear better when the two girls finally parted and sat down next to each other. Hikaru was looking down into her lap a bit sheepish and definitely flushed. So my guess was right, it was her initiating! Which I found a bit odd, thinking that Umi would have searched for her last chance in a desperate course of action. Still, this only meant that the matter was more than likely settled without question. Again I felt sorry for Lantis and a tad bit angry, but I bit down on it and watched curiously.

"You mean it?" I was not sure, if Umi really meant it as a question. The tall Water Knight should have guessed the answer from the question already. Yet, what I've seen from the first seconds she seemed to be rather taken by surprise. Hikaru looked up with a faint smile which spoke of all the confirmation Umi would need. The blue-haired girl shook her head a mockingly amused look on her face. "You know, you nearly gave me a heart attack with your little speech. I was sure, you wanted me to be your Maid of Honr or something!" Made of Honor? Oh, so Hikaru had taken the approach over the wedding… Weeding! But that would mean…!

The entitled Pillar laughed softly. "Gomen, 'Mi-chan. I didn't know how to say it and I think I only made up my mind during the whole talk…" Her friend raised a curious eyebrow and a little uncertainty creped into her features. However, the Fire Knight was quick to dispose her worries. "Iie, I meant what I said, Umi. I think a great part of me still and will always love Lantis. But… If it comes down between him and you, I…" She hesitated and looked down, her right hand trembling as she removed… The engagement ring! And held it out to Umi! What the heck was she…? "I would be more than happy, if you marry me."

I held my breath and watched as Umi froze for a moment, staring at the offered treasure, as if it was about to transform into a snake and bite her. Then her eyes softened as she noticed Hikaru shaking with nervousness. I think, I began to understand now, what she was doing. It was one of the few traditional customs surviving Authozam's technological development. According to Eagle, if someone's love for their love weakened or changed in favor of another, it was custom that the person in between made his or her new love a present they had received as a gift from their previous lover. That way it should ensure that all concerned parties found happiness and the one left behind would not be doomed to his love for the rest of his life.

"Of course." Umi reached out and Hikaru slipped the ring on her new fiancée's ring finger. A ripple of magic swept over the ring's surface and the red Escudo gem flashed, turning blue. Umi smiled up at Hikaru with a warm smile. "I guess that seals it, hm?" The other girl blushed a little but nodded, taking Umi's hand firmly in hers, before she turned her head slightly to the side… in my direction!

"You can come out now, Primera." I squeaked surprised, not expecting to be caught that easily. Sure Hikaru still possessed the strongest heart in Cephiro but I thought she would be so wrapped up with Umi that she didn't notice me.

(?)

Nothingness, my one and only constant companion. All around me only non-reality of void existed. I was but I didn't know really who, I existed, I even had a name, a purpose maybe… But it was all blurry, as if my being was separated and the parts acted on their own, gathering information, without the links to put them together into a whole. As long as I remembered I was here. Or was it only a few months, years maybe…? My mind would not provide the information. And so I stayed where I was – no much chance there – waiting, waiting for the day where I would be released from… here.

Suddenly there was a change. The void seemed to give way to light and shadows. The parts slowly drifted together and I began to understand, began to be really aware. I was pleased somewhat since my conscious had gathered information from my surroundings even though in stasis and through the barriers surrounding my resting place. It seemed a lot had happened and the bits and pieces I had received from my mutual counterpart… Oh, how sweet! I looked forward to finally meet her. It would surely be fun.

"Awaken!" The voice bore command and was the only familiar one, I had heard before except for my counterpart's. A shifting of ley lines indicated that the stasis field had been gone and I slowly opened my eyes, blinking several times to readjust my vision. The chamber was dimly-lit and even with my enhanced vision qualities in the dark it was hard to make out the small form standing on the ground before me. I noticed that I was floating and lowered myself slowly down to more or less eye level with the figure. White hair with a hint of bluish, long ceremonial robes and a wooden staff twice his size.

"Welcome back." I smiled slyly at him. "So you finally decided to set me free. What has it been four years? Five? I had thought you'd let me sleep longer." Guru Clef did not show any emotions but his stance had become slightly stiff. "I had no choice in that matter. That does not mean though that you are of the hook." I studied him for awhile, searching for any signs of hidden intentions. Maybe that he decided that I was too great of a danger after all to simply freeze me away… There were none, which did not meant, that there couldn't be any I was not able to detect. He was not called a Master Mage for nothing.

Walking closer to him, each step like a predator closing in on its prey. "So," I mused seriously. "Why the change of mind? For all you know, I could blast you right on the spot and make my way out of here." His expression became grim. He knew that I could pull this off. Even still weakened from the stasis sleep I possessed the strength of a Magic Knight. Guru Clef might be able to match it but could he really hold me?

The boyish man made a gesture with his staff and a picture blinked into existence in the air between us. "This is why." My eyes narrowed as I studied the picture. I recognized it immediately. The void of fundament. The center of Cephiro's magical power and the base for the concept of strength of will and heart. "I see you recognize what this is. Now see." The scene changed slightly and I gasped, my mood darkening immediately. "What is THAT?" I exclaimed pointing at the expanding void and the slowly overshadowing light center. Clef was silent for a few moments before answering. "We don't know. As of now, we have no idea what causes it or if the void is really expanding or only something that looks like it."

With a wave the scene vanished and Guru Clef looked at me sternly. "What is important right now though, is that when the nexus disappears not only Cephiro's fundament would crumble but also you with it. That is why I believe, you would not want to undergo the actions you mentioned." I shivered at that. He was right of course. I was a shadow, a mirror image of someone else's heart, a creation born out of the terror of a moment. For as long as I existed, I had known only darkness in my own heart. I had not known what exactly I was or why I felt so utterly lost but… I knew I was not really real, not like I might wish to be. It was at that time Guru Clef found me and locked me away for my own safety, giving me some advice on the way… I was not truly sure yet, where exactly I stood towards this world but it seemed I had no choice in this matter.

"I see." Clef nodded and raised his hand, magic building and swirling. "MAHOU DEN SHOU!" Tendrils of shadow and a spiritual light wrapped around my form, stirring ancient powers in me. Powers that I was born with, that were there from the beginning and longer. A black armor with white fittings formed around me. Nothing extraordinary or really strong… Escudo armor I supposed. I looked down at myself critically. "Nice."

Clef turned around. "Follow me. We are going to introduce you now." I perked up at this excited. "Does that mean I'm going to meet Hikaru?" The Master Mage shot me a look over the shoulder that was between amused and warning. "Yes. But remember what I told you. So behave yourself. She has enough emotional trouble as it is." I was puzzled at this for a moment. I had not been able to sort out the gathered information from the last days. Emotional distress? Yes, now that he mentioned it, I had felt an unease lately… Did that mean? "Oh, so my Hikaru has finally given up on this Lantis guy? How lovely!" I received a glare at that and a lifted eyebrow. "How did you know about…"

"I've been aware of a lot of things around here, twerp boy. Or what do you think I had to do while resting? There wasn't much to do," I interrupted him and gave him a clear look that implied that he'd better drop the matter. For his own mind's sanity.

The small man grumbled something but unsealed the chamber quietly, for the first time fully opening the outside world to me again. "I guess so. Come now, we really have to go now… Nova."

 

TBC

Author's Notes

Cliffhanger, cliffhanger… Hey, as if you couldn't have guessed who that was, hm?

Well, it's done. The first chapter complete with sort of prologue. I wanted to write a pure MKR fic for some time now and the utter lack of any serious to mention fics with Hikaru/Umi. That prompted me even more to begin this. Since I'm done for the moment with the V-prelude and SiL might take awhile to get back on the way, I have "time" for this fic. I will try not to make it too long, for my own sake that is but I fear I will – as usual – not succeed.

Well, what is to clear up here? As I said the plot follows the Manga storyline (which is only really different in Season 2/Vol.4-6). There are several reasons for that. I did see/read both but the Manga first. What I did not like in Season 2 was that they changed the normal MKR plot that there wasn't a real enemy, just different people with different goals. Debonair was a dumb idea in my opinion because it took away the whole idea behind Season 1. Also the end of the Manga was more open for interpretation regarding Hikaru/Lantis, the Pillar System etc.

Nova. I have to stall until the next chapter. Won't say anything. J

Primera is a pixie, not a fairy (as much as my translation of the Manga goes).

Did you caught the worked in lyrics of "Yuruzenai Negai" in Hikaru and Umi's scenes during the declaration. I did this a bit on a whim, just a spontaneous idea of mine. Did it work well with the emotions or not? I'm not really sure.

That's everything for now. All necessary information how to contact me above. I really do appreciate constructive criticism (positive or negative), you don't get a lot of this very often.

Ja ne, yours

Matthias