~ Chapter One ~
The Magic Knights' visit to Cephiro was near a close for that weekend. It was to be their last night until their next visit, but Umi Ryuuzaki had made up her mind as to whether or not she was to return to Tokyo.
Unlike her two friends Hikaru Shidou and Fuu Hououji, she had nothing to return to.
Her father and mother were killed in a plane crash during a trip to Aomori City.
The mansion she lived in left too many memories, and the money that her parents left--which were seventeen large bundles of treasure--was useless. Because of that, she knew that nobody in Tokyo was going to love her for her but rather for her money, so she could never find a suitable husband to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a bride.
Hikaru and Fuu may be a bit hesitant about letting Umi stay, but she knew that in the end that they would. After all, it would not be a final goodbye; Hikaru and Fuu would still visit, and they both would end up staying in Cephiro forever--or perhaps, at least, while Lantis and Eagle and Ferio were still alive.
Umi knew that she had to break the news to Hikaru and Fuu that night. She couldn't have done it when the three Magic Knights first arrived; she'd have to have explained why, and the visit wouldn't be a happy one. Everybody would be feeling sorry for her, and she didn't want that. Not when Hikaru and Fuu were around, anyway.
But first, she had to make sure that it was all right with Guru Clef before she made any hasty decisions.
She stepped into the throne room gracefully, as she normally did, and saw Clef glancing out on the new, stable landscape of Cephiro. He immediately took notice of Umi's entrance and shifted his attention towards her.
"Yes, Umi?" the guru asked.
Umi took a deep breath, opened her mouth... and nothing came out. Damn, this is harder than I thought it would be, she grumbled mentally. Just try to think of it like when you came here to apologize, except happier. You have nothing to be sorry for this time!
She tried again. It was successful. "Um, I was wondering if, uh, it would be all right for me to stay a bit longer."
"Have you talked to Hikaru and Fuu about it yet?"
"No, Clef, it's just me. I want to stay... longer," Umi said, growing uncomfortable with what she was asking out of Clef. Couldn't she just go out into the villages and get a cottage for herself? Was it really necessary that she needed the guru's permission? "I haven't talked to Hikaru or Fuu about it yet. This is solely my decision. I don't want to go back to Tokyo."
Clef narrowed his eyes a little, but the softness within them just continued to shine. "Don't you think it would be best if you stayed with your family and friends instead of deciding to live here forever?"
He read me like a book; how did he know that I wanted to live here? Was I that obvious?
"My parents... would have no problem with it, I'm sure. I think they're approving of it right now. And my friends would understand. Those three have that ability, plus, they're living lives of their own," Umi explained. "Otherwise, I have nothing to go home to. I have no job. My parents... aren't..."
She tensed and bit the inside of her lip. Clef noticed and put a hand on her arm reassuringly and smiled. "If you don't want to go back, I'm sure you're old enough to make that decision. You don't need to explain everything. You're welcome to stay at the castle for as long as you wish."
Relieved, Umi wanted to make sure it was absolutely fine with the guru. "Are you sure?" Clef nodded; Umi smiled. "Thank you. You don't know how much I appreciate this."
"You ought to tell Hikaru and Fuu about your decision now," Clef suggested. "You might as well inform the others. It'd be best if no one was surprised tomorrow morning."
Umi graciously (and over-excitedly) thanked Clef again and left the room silently. She only hoped Hikaru and Fuu were going to be just as understanding. Of course, if she knew them well enough, they would with no doubts...
"You're not coming back with us?" Hikaru tilted her head, shock widening her eyes. "Why not, Umi-chan?"
"There's no reason for me to go back. I'll end up being bored; my friends all have careers--even you two--and I don't, and my house is empty," Umi explained. "You two have jobs, friends, and family. I don't have anything back in Tokyo except friends. They'd understand why I left, I'm sure."
Fuu closed her suitcase and looked at Umi in her usual manner. "Are you sure that this decision is wise, Umi-san? Your friends and relatives will miss you terribly."
"It's fine," Umi waved her hand with a laugh. She never did get around telling anybody of her parents' deaths, but she figured it would be better to explain when she can actually do so without breaking down. "It's not like I'm never going to see them ever again; I'll visit from time to time, just like how we used to--no, I used to when it came to Cephiro. I'm sure the two of you would be making this same decision someday, too, eh?"
She raised an eyebrow at them jokingly. Fuu blushed, and Hikaru had a thoughtful look on her face. "But, Umi-chan, I always figured that if we ever decided to live in Cephiro forever, we would be together when we made that decision."
"I think it's healthier for all of us if we just made that decision on our own, Hikaru-san," Fuu said. "After all, we can still travel to and from Cephiro; your heart is strong enough to do so."
Hikaru shifted her gaze to the ground. "It won't be the same..."
Umi smiled and rested her hands on Hikaru's shoulders. "It's okay, Hikaru, don't worry. Whenever you come to visit, I'll still be here. It'll still be the same; we only see each other whenever we visit Cephiro anyway."
Hikaru had no chance to respond when Ferio popped his head into the room. "Hey, why don't you three come on out? Quit packing and enjoy the last few hours you have; Geo and Zazu are here."
Ferio left the room almost just as soon as he stepped in, and Umi grinned wickedly at Fuu. "He has a point, Fuu, you really should be spending the last few hours not packing, but with him! Who knows when you get to see him again?"
Fuu's face reddened again, much to Umi's delight. She could not taunt Fuu further, for Hikaru had already bounced to the door. "Let's go! Let's go! I want to see Geo and Zazu before we have to leave!"
"We're coming," Umi called back cheerfully and glanced at Fuu once again. She just had to squeeze in one last comment: "Say, you're old enough to get married..."
Ever since they received the news that Eagle was recovering practically as quick as light, Geo insisted that he and Zazu go back to Cephiro as often as they could. There was never a pattern that they followed like the Magic Knights did--that being one weekend every month--but a spontaneous, let's-go-check-up-Eagle week. It had been occurring for the past six months, and this was the first time in a long time that Geo and Zazu were in Cephiro the same time the Magic Knights were.
Zazu had been looking forward to seeing those three girls, especially the red-haired one, ever since the last time the two groups were in Cephiro together. Although he was an adult now, Geo could hardly believe that Zazu didn't have a girlfriend yet. There was nothing wrong with Zazu other than his "slight" obsession with mechanics, and he wasn't quite as picky as before. Or, at least, it didn't seem to be; Zazu had a tremendous growth spurt after the failed invasion and was only a head shorter than the prince of Cephiro. Finding cute girls shorter than him shouldn't be so hard anymore, Geo figured.
Zazu could match up all three of the Magic Knights' first and last names to each face, while Geo only knew them by their hair color and Mashin. He never really had the chance to talk to them. Whenever he came to Cephiro, Geo only talked to the officials, Lantis, and Eagle. After all, until Eagle was fully recovered, Geo was in charge of the diplomatic meetings between Autozam and Cephiro.
He didn't like it, and he had a choice, but he had to stay loyal to his commander and friend.
This trip, Geo decided, was going to be one where he can actually enjoy himself in Cephiro for once. It had been months since Cephiran doctors told him that Eagle was quickly recovering, and Autozam's pollution problem was diminishing by the day. There was nothing to really talk to Guru Clef and Prince Ferio about, and this was the Magic Knights' last night here. There was absolutely no harm in trying to take a little leisure this time.
"Say, Geo," Zazu piped up, plopping down next to Geo, who was sitting on the edge of the fountain in the castle's gardens. "Why don't we wait until tomorrow to see Eagle? I mean, after all, Hikaru and the others are going to be leaving tomorrow and we're going to be here for a week."
Okay, this time remember, Geo, Hikaru is the red-haired one! You were right in thinking that her named started with something like 'Hee', Geo mentally scolded himself. "I bet you just want to get a change to flirt with one of them, eh, Zazu?"
"But we haven't seen them in months, Geo!" Zazu pointed out. "And you never even said anything more than a "hello" to them; don't you think it be healthy for you to have a decent conversation with one of them?"
The older man shook his head. "Maybe during dinner, I'll get to talk to them. I came here to check up on Eagle, so that's what I'll do first once Guru Clef gets here. Maybe this time we can actually choose where we want to sleep..."
Zazu grinned. "I bet you're scared that you're going to like the Magic Knights so much that they're your friends and that you don't want to miss them when they--or we--are away."
Geo twitched his fingers in the air, lightheartedly ready to shove Zazu into the fountain. "Whatever gave you that crazy idea? And since when did you become so wise?!"
"That's almost saying that you're admitting it," his grin turned wider and his eyes more devilish. Zazu had grown up a lot the past few years, and Geo was becoming quite uncomfortable with some of the changes that time had done to the "kid".
That was not saying that Geo actually had that fear that Zazu mentioned. He just never had the time to get to know the girls better, and although he was in Cephiro leisurely, he had to spend as much time as he could with Eagle while sparing time to enjoy Cephiro's new landscape. Whenever he came to this country, more and more it was turning back into that "fairy tale" landscape that Lantis had described it to be (although not in those words). It was real, and Geo wanted to be inside of the countryside instead of overlooking it.
After all, Autozam had no nature for Geo to enjoy. Cephiro was one of the few places that he could enjoy real fresh air in.
The cheery, red-haired Magic Knight ran up to the two of them. Geo saw the other two come in with the prince and almost chuckled at the play that they were performing on the way in. The short-haired girl--Fuu, as Geo remembered--had her face turned beat red while she walked alongside Ferio. The blue-haired girl--something-"mi"--was busily making sly comments to match her sneer. Ferio was laughing and had his arm around Fuu. It reminded Geo so much of the days back when he was a teenager.
Problem was that the Magic Knights were no longer kids, much less girls. They were the same age as Zazu, so they were really now adults, but Geo had a hard time picturing the four of them as anything but kids!
How long has it been since we first encountered the Magic Knights? Geo mused to himself. How long has it been since Eagle fell into his coma? Too much time has passed for me to count...
"Why haven't you two been around as often as you used to?" Hikaru inquired after giving Zazu a quick hug. (Geo noted that Zazu was blushing after Hikaru pulled away) "You have heard that Eagle is getting better, haven't you?"
"They've been around more often than you think," Ferio said. "It's just that they happen to be here when you three aren't in Cephiro."
"Oh," Hikaru muttered quietly, looking a little downcast.
Geo smiled; he may not have remembered Hikaru's name at first, but he did know enough about her to not like it when she looked disappointed. "It's nothing against you Magic Knights," he reassured her, "but the president had been keeping us in Autozam to help with the pollution problem. He's been letting us come on certain days to let us check up on his son, though."
"As Eagle's father, the president was just as worried about him as we were!" Zazu said, giving a thumbs-up.
Hikaru smiled, and Geo let out a slight sigh of relief while the other two Knights commented on Hikaru's reaction. Well, other than seeing her being upset, things gets rather harsh when the Knights start to get offended by us! I'd hate for another confrontation to spark between us and them.
"Guru Clef has other things to tend to right now," Ferio informed Geo while Zazu and the Magic Knights were talking. "You could see Eagle and later we can talk later about how Cephiro could help Autozam."
"I'd rather not do any political business during this trip, Ferio," Geo said. He learned a while ago that the prince didn't like formality at all. "All I want to do is enjoy Cephiro's countryside for once since Autozam has no countryside. But talking to Eagle is something I need to do. Let him know what's up in Autozam lately."
Ferio nodded, understanding what Geo meant. "Very well then. Tomorrow I guess you can go sight-seeing, since it's already too late. Plus, since tonight is the Magic Knights' last night here, they may want to spend some time with you and Zazu a bit."
The blue-haired girl laughed a little as she turned to Geo and Ferio. "Don't give all three of us all the attention; Hikaru and Fuu are the only ones going this time!"
Geo, Zazu, and Ferio, in unison, exclaimed, "What?"
"What do you mean by that, Umi?" Ferio asked. "You're not going back to your world tonight? When are you, then?"
"Whenever these two visit and I decide to visit Tokyo," she explained. "But I will always come back because I want to live here in Cephiro for the rest of my life."
"What about your friends? Your family?"
"My friends would understand," Umi assured Ferio. "And so would my family. Besides, with Hikaru's strong heart, they don't need me to go with them so that they can come back!"
"You know, Umi," Zazu said. "I would be staying here for a long time too if it wasn't for Geo's constant need to go back to Autozam to help with the pollution solution. After all, I don't think he knows how to fly the NSX by himself without crashing it."
"Why you little-!" Geo growled as he grabbed Zazu and pretended to choke him.
The others laughed at the two "brothers" before Ferio broke it off by escorting all of them to see Eagle.
It had been two days since Hikaru and Fuu returned to Tokyo, and Umi almost couldn't believe how boring it was without them around. Of course, whenever the Knights came to visit, there was much to talk about and many souvenirs from Tokyo that they brought to share. Now that the visit was over, the excitement was gone; everybody had already gotten used to Umi staying in Cephiro.
Everybody was busy doing other things as well, and most of them had their hearts set on creating Cephiro's landscape back to what it used to be. It was going well so far; Ferio, Lafarga, and Geo had set out to investigate the forests about two hours ago. Umi only wished that she had gone with them.
Maybe if Ascot wasn't busy, together he and she could try to catch up with them.
Umi wandered through the corridors, peeking into each room curiously to seek Ascot--or at least somebody--to accompany her outside into the countryside. She didn't want to go by herself for a simple reason: she needed someone to talk to on the way and she had no idea where the others were.
Or maybe it would be better if I just go outside on my own, Umi thought. After all, I'm not a "little girl" anymore. Sure! Why not? I don't think it'd be too hard to find Ferio and the others, and if I don't, I can just head on back to the castle. Nothing to lose! Nothing to lose!
So Umi turned abruptly and headed towards the exit when she suddenly heard Ascot behind her.
"Umi! Where are you going?"
She turned back around and smiled. "Outside for some fresh air. I was looking for you to see if you wanted to come with me."
"Ah-ah-ah," Ascot stuttered. Umi giggled, understanding quite well of Ascot's feelings for her. He had matured a bit with those emotions, for he was not as crimson red as he used to be. "Sure!"
"Great! Let's go now, shall we, or else we'll never catch up with Fer-"
Umi felt her heart stop at the loud noise, and her feet skidded on the ceramic floor due to the earthquake that the detonation generated. Both Umi and Ascot then stood as still as statues, waiting for something to follow. After ten seconds, they both breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that no more "sonic booms" would occur.
"What was that?" Umi asked, standing upright again. Ascot was about to admit that he didn't know when Geo came running into the hallway.
"There you are!" The Autozamian gasped as he stomped in front of Umi. "Ferio... and Lafarga... fighting weird guy... can't do anything... you Magic Knight..."
Umi's eyes widened as she felt Ascot walk up behind her. "Are you saying that Ferio and Lafarga are fighting some weird-o out there? And I didn't understand the last part, but..."
Geo paused, gulped down a chunk full of air, and began again. "Yeah, the first part was right. I can't do anything to help them, and we didn't exactly bring a communicator with us, so I had to come back to get you although I figured that somehow Guru Clef would know and let you know. The guy isn't in some sort of mecha or spirit thing, so I can't get into the GTO or else it wouldn't be fair."
She nodded as she started to run out the door. "I guess I shouldn't call Selece then," she muttered. Realizing her problem, she stopped and yelled back at Geo, "Hey! I hate to make you run again, but maybe you could show me where Ferio and Lafarga are...?"
Geo pointed in the direction of the woods. "When you run out the door, just keep going straight until you see some guy in a bright white outfit. I'll try to catch up."
"Umi, I'll go with you!" Ascot volunteered.
Umi agreed to this, thanked Geo, and, with Ascot not too far behind her, ran out the door.
Disclaimer: Magic Knight Rayearth and its characters are not mine; they belong to the wonderful manga artists Clamp, Mixx Manga, and any others who may hold claims to the series. However, the story is mine, so please do not post this on other websites claiming it as your own. All elements in here that are not part of Magic Knight Rayearth are mine, so please, if by some odd reason you would like to use them, ask. Do not post this story anywhere without my permission.
Written in May, 2001 by Bearit at firstname.lastname@example.org.