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~ Chapter Three ~

"Where to start, where to start," Kakeru rubbed his chin with his forefinger as he stared at the ceiling, seated on the bed with Umi sitting next to him. Chikari was standing across from them with her arms angrily crossed, the patience in her eyes simmering thin. Once again, the older brother of Hikaru Shidou suggested, "It'd be easier if you explained it all to your friend-"

"It was because you opened your big mouth that you had to come here to explain everything," Chikari spat. "It's only fair that you do it."

"But didn't you say that you promised to-"

"Just. Do. It."

Umi could tell that Chikari was trying to suppress her anger--the way that her face and arms tensed explained it all. She knew that however hard that Chikari tried, she was going to explode sooner or later, and Umi knew that it was up to her to make sure that it was never.

"You could explain why the Guardian of Nature is trying to kill everybody, targeting me, the "strongest", first."

"I don't know why he is trying to kill everybody, but I do know that it is somehow connected to the Larenim," Kakeru explained. "Otherwise, we the Gogyou wouldn't be constantly aware of his plans. Whatever the Larenim senses, we sense, and we have only formed a theory: the Guardian of Nature--Eirei is his name--is trying to destroy the universe the hard way rather than the easy way--or maybe, this way is easier than just destroying the universe at its core."

"Larenim?"

Kakeru turned his head to meet Umi's eyes. "Eh?"

"What--or who--is the Larenim?"

Chikari glared at Kakeru, but he ignored her and moved on. "Why, the Larenim is the core of the universe! Don't worry, it's nothing like the Pillar of Cephiro. It's a mineral, not a person."

"How do you know about the Pillar?"

"It comes along with being a Gogyou, knowing general facts about each world and planet in the two dimensions," he explained, waving a hand. "However, the Guardian of Nature knew, too, but he calls you the strongest in this world because you are a Magic Knight. What is a Magic Knight, anyway?"

That's right, only those closest to the Pillar know the legend of the Magic Knights, Umi remembered. I guess I should tell him the truth of the legend and not glorify the position. "A Magic Knight is, basically," she paused, finding the best way to put it, "somebody who is called to Cephiro to... kill the Pillar."

"Oh, I see."

"Wait a minute," Chikari interfered, but stopped as quickly as she began, snapping her angry gaze to the floor. "Never mind."

"Anyway, as I was saying, the Larenim is the core of the universe," Kakeru went on. "It's just like the core of a star or a planet; it's the center of the universe needed to hold it together. However, it is as old as the universe, perhaps even older," he looked at Umi again, this time with an abundance of sincerity within his golden-brown eyes. "It's unstable, you see, and ready to collapse when we least expect it. That is why so many people have been attempting to destroy it."

"Not only for that reason since many people have tried to destroy it before," Chikari continued with the most serious expression Umi had ever witnessed from her. "That is why the Gogyou are born. The four of us are sworn to protect the Larenim from those who wish to destroy it. No matter Eirei's plans, we have to do our duty."

"But what if he is really trying to help it?" Umi asked, surprised to find herself defending the man out to kill her. Nevertheless... "How do you know he's trying to destroy the universe? Do you even know his side of the story?!"

"We don't need to," Chikari snapped. Umi felt herself becoming uncomfortable around her friend--she was certainly much different than the frivolous girl that Umi used to know! "We know that the Larenim is supported by the life of the universe--all life. Eirei's trying to destroy that, therefore, he's trying to get rid of the universe."

"You said that you don't know why he's trying to, though!" Umi exclaimed, jumping to her feet and grabbing Chikari's shoulders. "Can't you talk to him and work it out that way?!"

"The Gogyou aren't called merciless without a reason," she responded, her features calm and unmoved by Umi's reactions.

Shocked, the Water Knight slowly sat back down on the bed. This isn't right, she thought. Chikari is not like this--she's never like this! So why? Why?!

Kakeru placed a hand on Umi's shoulder. When she looked up, she saw a reassuring smile on his face. "One of the other Gogyou once said the same thing," he said, "and she reminds me of you, in a way. Another Gogyou once came up with the idea that perhaps the reason why Eirei is trying to destroy the universe is because he feels that the Larenim can't be saved, and for the better of the universe and the population within it, it must be destroyed at once."

"And like I said when Tsuyoshi came up with that," Chikari pressed between the two of them, "it doesn't fit with Eirei's strategy."

"What other reason is there?"

"That's why you should ask him," Umi interjected once more. "Don't fight until you know the whole story from his point of view!"

***

Satoru was the father figure of the Shidou household. He had been ever since his father left Tokyo to train, ever since his little five-year-old daughter Hikaru had defeated him when he really had been trying his best.

Besides the complete humiliation, the Shidou father had another reason why he left, and only Satoru, the eldest son, and Kakeru, the youngest son, knew what it was. Masaru and Hikaru never knew, and it would be best if they never found out that their father and their brother Kakeru were involved with the battle for the fate of the core of the universe. Satoru only knew so that he may train Kakeru in the arts of Kendo before he had to face the tests to become a Gogyou.

Therefore, Satoru had always prepared a reasonable, but truthful answer whenever Kakeru had to go off on one of "those" missions. Luckily, since Kakeru was an adult two years older than Hikaru, he didn't need to be home all the time. This time, when Hikaru asked if Kakeru was going to be home in time for dinner, Satoru replied:

"He and his friends have decided to take a trip. Kakeru won't be home for dinner tonight, but," Satoru offered a reassuring smile, "I'm sure he'll be back tomorrow."

Hikaru beamed and said, "I see. It's good to know that he's finally getting some friends from outside of the family! Are these the same friends that Kakeru-oniisama met when his school took that trip to Kyoto?"

Satoru nodded. "How are your trips to Tokyo Tower been doing with your two friends?"

"Oh, it's always a lot of fun!" Hikaru said. "I hope that Masaru-oniisama and Kakeru-oniisama doesn't worry too much that I'm always gone for three days at a time when I go..."

"They're fine," Satoru reassured her, although it was a white lie. Whenever Hikaru was off to Cephiro and Kakeru was not busy, he and Masaru would always think about the bad things that could happen to Hikaru during those weekends. One Sunday, Hikaru was only five minutes late, and Kakeru and Masaru were just about ready to go out to Tokyo Tower to see if anything was wrong. Before they could get one step off of the Shidou residence, Hikaru came walking around the corner.

She had immediately been bombarded by her two older brothers with questions of worry.

Hikaru never told Satoru about Cephiro until she came back the second time. To apologize for making her brothers worry, she informed Satoru about everything that had happened. Masaru and Kakeru wouldn't believe her and would demand that she get some rest and stay home from school for a while to quit the hallucinations.

However, Hikaru did not know that Kakeru would have truly believed her. He would just be acting along the influence of Masaru like he usually did.

"Well, I guess I should go help Mother and Masaru with the rest of dinner," Hikaru chimed as she left Satoru's room, sliding the rice paper doors closed as she did.

Satoru glanced at the note Kakeru left on his dresser and sighed.

Little brother, I hope you understand what you are getting yourself into this time...

***

Kakeru and Chikari had not answered Umi when she requested that they talk to Eirei before they fought him, but the two Gogyou found that they had told Umi everything there was to know about the Gogyou and the Larenim--at least, everything that they knew. In fact, they had pretty much ignored Umi while they tried to figure out where they were going to live while Eirei attacked Cephiro, and that action only aggravated Umi further.

"Listen, if you guys don't talk to him-"

"Hey, Umi," Chikari chirped while Kakeru tried to find a way to open the window. "I want you to promise not to tell anybody what we've just told you. After all, there are only two reasons why we explained it all to you. Kakeru said too much last time, and it would be best to keep you informed."

"But-"

"Please don't tell anybody. Can you promise me that?"

"I..." Umi began, not quite sure if she could keep that promise if she made it. Didn't Clef and the others deserve to know? Clef needed to, anyway; he was the strongest, wasn't he? Eagle was going to leave Cephiro soon, so it didn't matter for him, but there was no way that she could keep this a secret. Cephiro was her home now, but it had been Clef and the others' for a very long time.

"We're only here to protect the Larenim by protecting the strongest people within it," Kakeru piped up, leaning his back on the window. "It's best for everybody if they didn't know. Chikari just didn't want to keep anymore secrets from you."

"I do have another question," Umi said, immediately reminded of Eagle and thinking about his position in Cephiro. "What if somebody isn't from Cephiro, but is the strongest in Cephiro?"

"He'll be killed."

"After all, isn't he after you, Umi?"

Umi nodded slowly. She had expected that answer. "Then, what if somebody is from Cephiro and is the strongest, but isn't on Cephiro when the Guardian of Nature attacks?"

"He's safe," Kakeru replied.

"Then it's a good thing that Eagle is leaving tonight," she muttered under her breath. She didn't realize how audible she really was.

"Somebody's leaving this world?!" Kakeru yelped.

"You can't do that, Umi!" Chikari responded at the same time Kakeru did. "You really are an idiot, Kakeru! Umi! It's a perfect target for Eirei--he'll know that you're trying to evacuate the strongest people and attack right there on the spot! Even if you weren't, he'd still do it! He is just as merciless as we are, maybe even more so!"

"So, everybody has to stay here in Cephiro?" Umi asked disdainfully. Chikari and Kakeru nodded. "Then I'll have to explain to at least two others what's going on--they're planning to leave soon, if they haven't already!"

Umi began running out the door, and Chikari and Kakeru glanced at each other.

"See, Kakeru, this is why you never tell anybody anything about the Larenim!" Chikari towered over him dangerously. "It's because of you that this is getting more complicated than it should be!"

"But, uh, Chikari?" Kakeru said, too frightened to argue with the Chi no Gogyou. "Wouldn't it be better if we followed your friend? I mean, she never really did promise you anything and-"

Chikari gasped. "That's right! Let's go!"

"Ow! Chikari! Don't pull on my arm so hard!"

Chapter Four: Dependence
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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.