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~ Chapter Two ~

"Damn it, damn it, damn it!"

"What's wrong, Chikari?" a raven-haired girl asked her friend curiously, interested in the sudden outburst. Suddenly, she narrowed her eyes. "Don't tell me that you forgot to set the VCR again for-"

"No, no, no!" Chikari Aibara snapped, in a bad mood all over again. "The Larenim's getting all shaky again and Eirei believes it's all this other world's fault and he's trying to destroy the strongest people in it!"

Seirei Midzuma tilted her head and sighed. "How do you get to know such things?"

"I'm just lucky! Or unlucky! Whatever! When are Kakeru and Tsuyoshi going to get here?! We need them, oh say, right now!"

"Chikari, are you sure that those hallucinations aren't just getting to your head? You've been under a lot of stress lately," Seirei asked.

"I'm sure. Now, you know telepathy; you call them and tell them to hurry up!"

***

"MIZU NO... RYUU!"

Umi shoved her hand towards the ground, and a manipulation of the water dragon Selece flew towards the kimono-dressed man. He prepared to put up a barrier, but he was too late, and Umi's spell knocked him over with his clothes tattered.

"You're messing with the wrong people if you wanted to avoid a fight with a Magic Knight!" Umi boasted. "Now, why were you attacking? What do you want?"

The man stood up wearily, various places on his streaming with blood. "You... you are the strongest person in this world, aren't you? You are a Magic Knight... you must be the strongest! I never expected it to be a woman!"

Great. It goes from being "just children" to "just a woman". Just great! Umi bit her lip. "I sure am! Now, if I were you, I'd run before I'd get myself killed!"

"That's what you should be doing now," the man smiled wickedly. "But that's if you were you, not if you were me."

Umi braced herself for another attack as she scanned over the man. Geo had called him "weird", but to Umi he just seemed like a typical Japanese priest: clad in robes with his hair tied up in a tight bun on the top of his head. Of course, the closest thing to a Japanese priest that Geo had ever seen would be Qiang Ang of Fahren, who wasn't even a priest and didn't even dress like one! He wasn't even Japanese; he was Fahren-ese (if that was even how she was supposed to say it), and Fahren represented China greatly.

His robes were a blinding white, though, and his hair was a bright golden-colored, which annoyed Umi to no end. (It was not blonde hair.) He wasn't a pleasant sight to look at if Umi wanted to keep her eyesight as good as it was.

"Umi!" Ferio called. "Don't be so conceited now; I don't trust this guy. I think he might have been hiding-"

"EIMIN!"

Umi began opening her palm to release another attack to dodge this one, but before she could she found herself on the ground. Above her stood a man, who could not be any more than a year older than her. He had unruly maroon hair and dark, auburn eyes that were trying to look tough, but the innocence within them failed them to do so. In his right palm a bright crimson light began to glow as he glared at the priest-man.

"Stupid girl," the man who had saved her hissed. "Don't you know that "eimin" means "eternal sleep"? That would have killed you instantly!"

Umi inhaled sharply and was about to spat back to the maroon some rude words of her own, but the kimono-man interjected.

"Hi no Gogyou! Your companions must be elsewhere, then. I guess I will have to wait to deal with the Cephirans."

"Why the hell are you attacking this time?"

"Chi no Gogyou knows. You should ask her before asking me for clarifications," the kimono-man smirked as he faded away. "Until next time, Magic Knight. Hi no Gogyou."

When the kimono-man's existence was now undoubtedly gone, Geo finally came riding on some sort of motorcycle from Autozam. "Hey! Don't tell me I missed a perfectly good fight!"

"I wouldn't call it a "good" fight, Geo," Lafarga solemnly informed Geo as he, as well as the other males in the forest, turned their attention to the newcomer who had saved Umi's life.

Umi stood up, brushing off her dress and vest before following the suit of her friends. Her anger had cooled off and she was finally able to be polite to the stranger. "Thanks... uh..."

"Kakeru," the man smiled as he shuffled his feet sideways so he could easily look at everybody: Umi, Geo, Ascot, Ferio, and Lafarga. "Kakeru Shidou. That's all you really need to know for now. And you are...?"

"Shidou"? Did I hear correctly? "Umi Ryuuzaki. Say, are you related to Hikaru Shidou in anyway?"

The men on the other side of the small clearing in the forest glanced at each other with confused looks.

"Hikaru-chan?" Kakeru asked before laughing. "Of course! She's my little sister to whom, as one of the Shidou brothers, I'm sworn to protect from any man who dares to date her!"

Umi felt a chuckle coming on as she glared at Kakeru with an eyebrow raised. Oh, I can't wait until you meet Lantis and Eagle! "I... see..."

Then, something finally dawned on Kakeru. "Wait! How do you know cute, little Hikaru-chan?"

"Cute, little Hikaru-chan?" I admit that Hikaru is adorable, but this is going too far!

"Hikaru, like Umi here, are the heroines of Cephiro," Ferio told Kakeru. "They are the Legendary Magic Knights and have saved Cephiro on more than one occasion. We thank you for saving her."

Kakeru grinned virtuously. "Well, as the Hi no Gogyou, I have to protect the Larenim by protecting the people who support it! You know, that man is the Guardian of Nature, but he cannot get rid of it easily. He can only kill one person at a time to get his task done. And in order to get rid of all the life in a world, dimension, planet, whatever, he has to first kill off the strongest ones. Say, Hikaru-chan isn't here, right?"

Umi shook her head. "She went home to Tokyo."

"At least I know she's safe," Kakeru smiled. "I only wish you could go back--in fact, I wish all of you could go to our world. However, the Guardian of Dimensions have stopped all transportation between any worlds and any dimensions."

"So Hikaru and Fuu can't get into Cephiro?" Ascot asked, a quiver of worry sweeping through his voice.

Kakeru frowned. "Hikaru-chan and this other girl cannot get to Cephiro. They have to stay in Tokyo. It's safest for them."

Mashin! The Mashin are in another dimension of Cephiro--how am I supposed to fight my strongest without them?! And without Hikaru and Fuu...

"There's something I don't get," Geo said with a scowl that Umi could only guess was for the fear of Eagle's well-being. "Why would the Guardian of Nature of all people try to get rid of all of the life in the world? It couldn't be anything as bad as Autozam's pollution problem that drove him to do this."

"I don't know why he wants to get rid of all of the life in this world or any world at all, but I do know that it is somehow connected to the Larenim," said Kakeru bitterly. "I don't understand-" Suddenly, Kakeru's head jerked up. "I have to go," he said. "Duty awaits!"

In a flash of fiery light, the older brother of the Magic Knight Hikaru Shidou was gone as quickly as he had come.

***

Presea threw her eyes down at the floor at Clef's prediction about the strange explosion that had occurred only a half an hour ago. "It can't be true. Not again. But there is no other explanation, is there?"

Clef shook his head solemnly. "There are no invasions from the other countries, and there never will be. Those treaties that we signed after the Magic Knights' last battle secured that we will work to help each other, not destroy each other. I doubt there are more countries or even colonies beginning to form outside of these four countries. But I do not know why Cephiro is crumbling again. Hikaru fixed it so that even with the absence of the Pillar, Cephiro will continue to be stable. That is the only reason why that calculation is contradicted."

"What do we do?"

The guru fell silent, and by his troubled expression, Presea wisely followed suit. Maybe we're just overreacting, she tried to reassure herself. It can't be anything too bad--could it? But Clef isn't known to exaggerate little problems like this, and if he doesn't know what it is or what to do about it...

Presea shook her head, unwilling to think any further. All of the Cephirans were just starting to rebuild their homes, and Cephiro was just beginning to restore itself! Why did tragedy have to befall upon them now of all times?

"Clef, Presea."

The two turned their attentions to the group that had just walked in. All of them--Umi, Ferio, Ascot, Lafarga, and Geo--had tired and disturbed faces. Clef immediately took this to importance, and Presea knew that he knew that it had something to do with the explosion.

"Are you five all right?" asked Clef.

Umi nodded. "Yeah, but... we're all in trouble. It's hard to explain since I can't remember everything that Kakeru said," she turned her head towards the men, who were even more solemn than she and not as melancholy.

"Hikaru's older brother has something to do with what's about to go wrong with Cephiro--whatever it's going to be," Lafarga said. "What he said..."

After Lafarga and Ferio stated what "Hi no Gogyou" Kakeru said and their thoughts on what it was supposed to be mean, Presea only had more questions to ask and could not understand the relevance between this "Larenim" object--or person--and the explosion from a while ago. However, panic began to rise rapidly through her when Geo said, with much fury as his calm voice could carry:

"This so-called "Guardian of Nature" is going to kill all living things in Cephiro, starting with the strongest people. I consider it lucky that he doesn't suspect Eagle, or even you, Guru Clef, of being the true strongest people in Cephiro right now."

"Who does he consider...?"

Nobody said anything, but from the shift in body movement of the four men and the blue-haired woman's shoulder levitation, both Presea and Clef realized that the Guardian of Nature's primary target was the Water Knight.

"Umi," Clef murmured downheartedly.

The Magic Knight smiled. "That's okay, as long as you and Eagle are safe," she reassured him. "It's better me than you two, anyway. I always have Selece to call on."

"But without Hikaru and Fuu-"

"It's fine! Don't think I didn't learn anything from the last battle as well; I have. I've learned that there is always another way to suit the circumstances. We just have to listen to our heart."

Presea, feeling that there was now enough information to decide what to do next, asked once again, "What can we do right now, do you think?"

***

"KAKERU, YOU IDIOT!"

Kakeru cringed at the sound of Chikari's rage. When he was called back to Tokyo, he hadn't expected for the other three Gogyou to know that he had been in another world. In fact, his idiocy left him forgetting that Chikari well understood everything going on with the Larenim before he received the message of Eirei's whereabouts and his actions. What he least expected was for the Chi no Gogyou to inform the other two: Seirei Midzuma and Tsuyoshi Kazeo.

"You know you shouldn't have gone off on your own to fight Eirei," Seirei narrowed her eyes at Kakeru, her arms folded tightly across her chest. "You know that the Guardian of Nature can immediately take away your life with a single spell; he doesn't even need to steal your sword and strike you with it."

Tsuyoshi was the only man Kakeru knew who could laugh whenever he was angry with somebody, and that exactly what the brunette boy preceded to do. "Oh, don't be too harsh on him, girls. He just runs off without telling us things, getting into danger, wanting to help others as quickly as he can. You know, the usual before he nearly gets himself killed. Look! This time he comes home without a single wound!"

"Still."

"At least I found out where the Larenim is threatening to bring down next, and Eirei's next targets," Kakeru pointed out, hoping to calm the three down. He hated to get his three friends angry; it was worse than getting his three siblings angry! "Terashi-san shut down all transportations between our world and the world that's going down next except for us."

"YOU STILL SHOULD HAVE TOLD US BEFORE LEAVING!" Chikari shrieked once again, her anger not yet boiling down. In fact, Kakeru feared that he only made her even more upset.

Of course, since Tsuyoshi laughed at his friends' mistakes and hypocrisies instead of showing his anger, he could never stay upset with anybody but his mortal enemies. "Well, as long as you're safe this time, Kakeru," he said, planting a hand on Kakeru's back. "So, what planet is the Larenim pulling down this time? You said "world"--is it in the Hashira Dimension?"

"HOW CAN YOU FORGIVE HIM THAT QUICKLY?!"

"Chikari," Seirei snapped. "Kakeru has important information to tell us. I don't know if you knew any of this already, but I would suggest that you pay attention."

The tan-curled hair girl responded to Seirei's request by simmering down, but her reluctance was still very apparent.

"Yes, it's in the Hashira Dimension," Kakeru confirmed. Tsuyoshi cupped his chin into his fist, looking thoughtful. "The world is Cephiro, and Eirei's target is one of the Magic Knights, whoever they are. There's only one of them there now: Umi Ryuuzaki. I don't know when Eirei's going to attack again, but-"

"Did you say Umi Ryuuzaki?" Chikari asked. Kakeru, bewildered by Chikari's sudden coolness and apparent knowledge of this woman, nodded. "No way."

You know, I'm not even going to ask. She's going to end up being Chikari's long lost friend or something, Kakeru concluded before going on. "I don't know when Eirei's going to attack again, but I'm going to go back so that I'm there when he does. You guys just stay here and make sure everything goes well on Earth. Just in case."

Tsuyoshi and Seirei nodded, but Chikari was unwilling to agree with Kakeru's decisions. "Na-uh, I'm going with you! I don't care what you say!"

It was hopeless; as the Chi no Gogyou, the strongest Gogyou, Chikari always got her way.

But why do I sense a lack of trust...?

***

Eagle had been chosen to take the test to become the Pillar of Cephiro. If Hikaru was not in Cephiro, Eagle had the strongest heart. But he was in a comatose state, no matter what the doctors reported oh so long ago, but that didn't mean that the Guardian of Nature wasn't going to find out soon!

Since Umi had no idea if the Guardian of Nature was a honorable warrior, she realized that it would be better if those from Cephiro deal with this problem on their own. The Autozamians had no part in this, and they shouldn't.

Geo was having a hard time being convinced.

"Look, Umi, I'm a fighter, and I don't back out of potential battles so easily," he informed her, his back leaned on the hallway walls. "I'll agree to get Eagle and Zazu out of here, but I will be coming back."

Umi stomped her foot closer to the persistent man, hoping to corner him so far that he would give in to her request. Much to her dismay, he didn't even flinch, but she felt even more determination to continue forward. "This isn't your fight, though! This is only for the concern of the Cephirans, not the Autozamians!"

"I don't think I'd ever forgive myself if I leave here without doing anything to help. I have come to enjoy this place almost as much as Autozam," Geo calmly noted. "I know Eagle loves this country because he loves Lantis, and Lantis cares a lot for Cephiro. Eagle and Lantis are my closest friends, after all, so I have to help take care of the land they love."

Another step closer. "Did you not pay attention?! The Guardian of Nature is going to kill everybody in this world!"

"And when he's done with Cephiro, who's to say that he won't aim for Autozam? After all, it's in the same "world"."

"Hikaru's brother didn't say anything about him destroying countries, only worlds!" Umi demanded, almost right in Geo's face. "Technically, Autozam is a different world than Cephiro, otherwise Cephiro would have the same pollution problems. Autozam, Chizeta, and Fahren would have begun to collapse when Princess Emeraude died. No one in Autozam is going to get killed, and don't you think it would be better to die for your country?"

Geo stepped away from the wall and grabbed Umi's shoulders gently. Glaring into her eyes sincerely, he quietly said. "If that's the way you want to put it, then if I die fighting for the Cephirans' survival I will die fighting for the Autozamians' survival as well."

Taken aback by his words, Umi's body tensed as she prepared for more to say. "But..."

"I'll take Zazu and Eagle home, but I will come back to fight. You can't convince me otherwise."

"B-but..." Umi repeated.

"No "buts"," Geo turned towards Eagle's room. "I'll tell Eagle and Guru Clef, and if we leave tonight, I should be back by tomorrow morning."

Umi watched the muscular Autozamian disappear around the corner of the corridor and sighed. He's too hardheaded for his own good, she thought as she walked the other way, slowly heading back to her room. But I have a feeling that he doesn't really want to stay here in Cephiro, so why he is? Does he really have that much pride, or is it something else?

When she reached the door to her room, she heard the mumbling of two people speaking from inside of her room. She grew concerned; she remembered last time that this exact thing happened...

"Huh? Usuki-san... Kusanagi-san... what are you doing here?"

"Umi-chan... the JAS plane that your parents took... crashed near Hachinohe."

"... There were no survivors."

Oh, Umi, what could there be as bad as that news you got about two weeks ago? she told herself gently. There is no way that the Guardian of Nature could have come back without you knowing--isn't he going for you? And wouldn't have somebody--like Clef--told you by now?

She opened the door slowly so that she wouldn't startle the two people in her room, but when she peeked her head inside she found that she was the one to be startled.

"Hey! Umi-san! How are you?"

Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped to the floor. "Ka... KAKERU?!"

"The same!" the brother of Hikaru jumped to his feet from his sitting position on the bed. "I can't let a good comrade of my little sister plunge herself into Death Lake, now can I?"

Umi, after regaining her sense, quickly found that her temper was nearing its edge. "What are you doing in my room?!" she demanded.

Kakeru blinked. "Not quite as loud as Chikari, but hey," he muttered, then called over his shoulder. "Hey, Chikari, is Umi supposed to be related to you or something? She acts like the calmer version of you and when I told you her name you seemed to have known her."

Chikari?

"You know what? I'm not in the mood to kill you right now," a feminine voice rose from the corner of Umi's room. Umi turned her head towards the voice and was further surprised at what--or who--she saw. "But yes, I know Umi from back when we were in school."

Sure enough, the girl that stepped closer to Kakeru and Umi was somebody Umi recognized. A tan-colored, curly hair was the most familiar asset of hers, and she was the girl who had escorted Umi around during the field trip to Tokyo Tower during the eighth grade.

"Chikari," Umi breathed. "You-"

"I see that although we promised to tell each other everything, we both have broken that promise!" Chikari responded perkily with a laugh. "Nice to see you again, old friend!"

"How did I know that Chikari was supposed to be this Magic Knight's long lost friend or something?" Kakeru rolled his eyes.

Chapter Three: Foundation
Chapter Listings

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 June, 2001 by Bearit at grinandbearit@iamnotboring.com.