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~ Tomodachi no Happiness ~

A metal clang filled the gymnasium as the two combatants dueled. The girls on the sidelines watched with much anxiety. This was the match that was going to determine who was to be the next captain of the fencing team. Both of the girls had the skills and the chance to earn the leadership position.

The coach often dodged the opportunities to have the girls duel, for they often took a long while; they were equal in proficiency. But this time was one of the few times in which it was imperative that the two ninth graders fought.

While Umi Ryuuzaki had been chosen to become captain for the last match nearly two months ago--when they were eighth graders--the other girl, Seirei Midzuma, really seemed to be vying for the position for the ninth grade year, the final year of junior high. It was an oddity; she never had the desire to become captain in the past.

One of the girls stumbled. The bystanders gasped; this could be the deciding blow. But no; she had regained herself and parried her opponents' attack. She lunged forward, and the other did the same before one rapier was against one girl's head and the other rapier was against the other girl's upper torso.

The rest of the team's reactions were mixed. Many of the other ninth graders had expected this. For some of the seventh graders, it was a complete surprise. Eighth graders were torn between awe and bemusement.

This was the second tie between Umi and Seirei since Seirei's transfer to the campus back when they were seventh graders.

One of the girls took off her helmet and pulled her ponytail out so that the ebony strands flowed across her shoulders. She smiled as she brought her weapon back to her side. "Your call, Umi."

The other followed suit. "How much do you want this position?"

"Not much, but I'm doing this by how much you want it. Otherwise, I wouldn't be asking."

Umi glanced at the rest of the team, who all had eager expressions painted across their faces. She turned back to Seirei and said, with a tiny grin upon her face, "Rock Paper Scissors?"

Seirei shrugged. "Rock Paper Scissors."

After shifting their helmets to the right arm, they managed to get their left hands free. The two jammed their fists in midair twice. On the third slam, one hand stayed a fist, and the other freed two fingers. Umi landed with rock. Seirei chose scissors. By the rules of the game, rock smashed scissors.

"Looks like you're captain once again, Umi," Seirei said proudly. Umi had no smile on her face, which the other girl noticed immediately. "Umi...?"

Before either of the two girls could make another sound, the coach marched to the center of the gym where the two girls were standing. "Ryuuzaki-san, Midzuma-san, if it were at all possible for our team to have two captains, both of you would surely be them. I see the two of you have agreed on Ryuuzaki-san once again? That's excellent! I want to see you two in my office."

The coach turned on her heel and walked back to the rest of the team, but Umi and Seirei paid no mind to what she had to say. Instead, Seirei stared worriedly at her friend--this was unlike the Umi that she knew. There was something going on with her and had been going on with her since the field trip to Tokyo Tower. Seirei regretted now being unable to go; she only had to rely on their other friend's words.

"Umi, what--"

"Go home and get your studying done!" the coach bellowed. "I expect every one of you to do well in your academic classes for the sake of your staying on the team! Dismissed!"

Umi forced a smile. "It sounds like the coach wants to talk to us now. We'd better go before she gets angry."

She ran to the locker room to get out of her fencing outfit, but Seirei lingered for a few moments. What was wrong with her friend?

***

Tokyo Tower.

That's where it all began. That's where it all ended.

Cephiro. Legendary Magic Knights. Princess Emeraude. The High Priest Zagato.

The love of Princess Emeraude and Zagato.

The forbidden love.

And the Legendary Battle.

That's where it all ended. That's where it all began.

Tokyo Tower.

***

She leaned against the railing, staring at the flowing river of other students in the hallway below. Many of the other girls were flocking to their homeroom from the cafeteria, since most of the students who attended the campus boarded at school. Umi loved her parents, but she wondered if she should have chosen to live in the dormitories of the school. Witnessing the ardor between her mother and father was always the last thing she wanted to see, but nowadays, for another reason.

"Princess Emeraude... Zagato..."

Umi had talked on the phone with Fuu after she returned home from her fencing class. They--she, Fuu, and Hikaru--were going to meet at Tokyo Tower after school. It had been two months since they last saw each other, for all three of them had wanted to forget.

But how could they forget? How could they?

"Good morning, Umi!" Seirei leaned her back against the same railing next to Umi, trying to be as merry as possible to cheer her up. "At lunchtime, could you lend me your notes for English? I have to miss out because of a music competition today. The teacher just won't let us have a break!"

"Sure."

Seirei narrowed her eyes. Umi had not even glanced up from where she had been staring at, and her expression did not waver. "Umi..."

"Yes?"

"What's wrong?" she asked sternly. "You've been acting strange since just before spring break, and Chikari can back me up that it started after the field trip to Tokyo Tower. You can tell me anything, you know."

Umi smiled slightly. "I don't think you'd believe me."

"Try me. I'm likely to believe any story I'm told, and I don't think you'd lie to me if something's bothering you this much."

She had no answer for her closest friend. How could she begin telling the tale of Cephiro? How could she even explain Princess Emeraude and Zagato without breaking down into tears? Seirei would believe her, but how could Umi even tell her anything?

Seirei sighed. "Okay, fine, you don't have to tell me now if you don't want to. I'll wait until you're ready. Anyway--" The melody of the school bell rang, indicating that classes were to begin in a minute. "Oh, I have to get back to the music room. I'll see you at lunch, okay? I'll be expecting those notes!"

She sprinted away. Umi stared after her and smiled sadly. It was good to have somebody who cared enough to notice when something was wrong, but it was best to have a friend who didn't force her into telling her things that she wasn't ready to spew out yet. That is why, after Hikaru and Fuu, Seirei was her best friend.

"Good luck with your competition!"

Seirei stopped; although she was already halfway across the corridors, she had managed to hear Umi above the bustling noise of the rest of the students. She smiled, waved, and continued running.

"Tokyo Tower." Umi picked up her bag and walked towards her homeroom class. "How could I ever forget?"

***

Cephiro.

Where willpower is everything.

Where one person sacrifices herself for the peace of the world.

Where that one person is not allowed to love.

Cephiro.

How could a land so beautiful have such a sad and tragic legend?

How?

***

The sun was just beginning to set by the time Umi reached the tower. She felt a pang of guilt; she abandoned the evening's fencing practice. After she had such a good day, Seirei was going to be upset. The coach had appointed her the second-in-command of the fencing team the day before since the it was against regulations to have two captains, and since Umi was absent, Seirei would have to take over.

It was the first real practice for the semester, and Seirei, for the day, held Umi's position as captain. She was going to be swamped with vital information for upcoming tournaments that she would have to take care of before the next day at fencing practice. She would have no time to finish her homework without staying up past midnight.

Umi grimaced. If she had told Seirei everything when she had asked, if she had told Seirei about Cephiro during lunch, maybe she wouldn't have to feel so guilty about leaving her behind with the team.

Either that, or maybe she should have simply told Seirei that she wouldn't attend the practice before she left the campus.

Seirei would understand.

Of course Seirei would understand if she only had told her that she wasn't going to be at practice. That was all she needed to hear, after all, and she wouldn't push Umi for answers.

She wondered if she should tell Seirei about Cephiro. For the past couple of months, she didn't keep in touch with Fuu or Hikaru. They had each other's phone numbers and addresses, but none of them ever called each other or visited each other until the night before when Hikaru decided that they all needed to talk about it because they couldn't keep running from it forever.

Still, it would have been nice to have been able to talk to somebody about it. If not Hikaru or Fuu, then who better than Seirei?

"Umi-san."

She glanced behind her shoulder and saw a girl with short, blonde, curly hair and a green school uniform of the private school for geniuses. "Hey, Fuu."

Fuu walked over to Umi, her face solemn and her eyes melancholy. "How have you been?"

"Okay, considering. How about you?"

Fuu nodded. She was in the same condition as Umi--she tried to cover up her feelings in front of her family and friends, though without much success. Umi grinned a small grin.

"I see," Umi said, shifting her gaze to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower. "I wonder how Hikaru's doing..."

Though, in Umi's heart, she knew that Hikaru probably felt worse than Umi or Fuu, and for that reason, she knew that like herself, Hikaru would want to go back to Cephiro to help the country.

***

Autozam. Chizeta. Fahren. Cephiro.

Another chance to make things right.

It couldn't be turned down.

It hadn't been turned down.

The Magic Knights returned and fought for the sake of their own hearts.

They fought. They won.

There was no longer such a thing as Magic Knights in the land of Cephiro.

There was no longer such a thing as a Pillar.

This was truly a happy victory.

***

"Good morning, Seirei!" Umi chirped as she pulled a chair from the table and sat, a big smile plastered on her face. Seirei did not share the same cheerfulness; in front of her laid a pile of papers and books--her homework that she couldn't get finished the night before.

"Where were you yesterday?" Seirei growled, slamming her pencil on the table with a loud snap. "Leaving me to teach the seventh graders the basics of the tournament--alone? Leaving me to fill out all of the paperwork--alone? Leaving me to coach the entire godforsaken team--alone?!"

Umi laughed and waved her hand. Seirei continued to glare at her. "Sorry, sorry. I was a bit busy yesterday. I knew I should've told you before I left that I wasn't going to make it to practice. I'll be there at practice today for sure. I promise."

"Where were you yesterday? That's all I want to know." Umi continued to laugh, and Seirei realized that this was an authentic guffaw, not one that was forced to conceal her misery. The raven-haired girl frowned. "Umi...?"

Umi stood and bolted out the cafeteria door. "Another world!"

"Wha...?"

Seirei shook her head, picked up her pencil, and finished the last math problem from her textbook. She found it difficult to veil her smile of relief, although she was very much confused. It didn't matter. Umi was happy again--either that, or she had gone mad. Seirei found it more believable that Umi discovered resolution with her problem, whatever it was, so life could go on.

As a matter of fact, to Seirei, another world sounded like it had some truth in it.

But she would never find out what it is. All she knew that after that, Umi seemed happier and happier and spent a lot of her free time going to Tokyo Tower. Seirei never asked; there was no need to anymore, and Umi seemed content enough keeping it a secret.

Back to Silverlake Manor

Translation Notes: "tomodachi" in the title means "friends"
Disclaimer
: Umi does not belong to me, and neither does the story of Magic Knight Rayearth. They belong to the magnificent quartet CLAMP. Seirei and this short story is mine, though, but that's the only claim I have. I have no claims to Magic Knight Rayearth whatsoever.

Written on November 18, 2001 by Bearit at grinandbearit@iamnotboring.com.