Hikaru was training hard; aside from the times Fuu and Umi would come to study in her gardens, she didn’t even manage to see her two best friends. There was the odd weekend where they’d been to Cephiro, but this really had to take precedence, as much as she disliked being away from Lantis and Eagle.
“I don’t understand,” said Umi, looking up at Hikaru.
Fuu sighed, “Umi-san, we’ve been through this question twice now, I really don’t think-“
“No, Fuu. I don’t understand why Hikaru has to train so hard for this when she once defeated her father – head of their dojo – at kendo,” Umi leaned back and accidentally came into contact with Hikari, who was quite grateful to get any attention.
Fuu and Umi decided to make a fuss of Hikari while they waited for Hikaru to finish her current session of training, pondering what to do in order to give her a well-earned break.
“Umi-san, you know how time seems to freeze here while we’re in New Cephiro?”
Umi rested her chin on the top of Hikari’s head, “Yeah?”
“Don’t you think it might be fun to go there for a maybe a week, and get plenty of revision and practising done?”
Hikaru overheard as she wiped sweat from her brow and walked over. She and Umi seemed to take a while processing this information.
Umi was the first to speak, “We should speak to Clef about this; we haven’t stayed there for that long before.”
“I love it!” exclaimed Hikaru, “Can’t we go now?”
They exchanged glances, grinned wildly at each other, and with that picked up their belongings and made a mad dash for the main house.
“I need my textbooks!” Umi exclaimed, “There are other textbooks at my house, we have to stop off there on the way!”
“I should collect some things, too!” Fuu added, hastily packing the remains of her study materials into the bag she’d hefted along to Hikaru’s house, “Hikaru-san, you cannot possibly take that shinai sword with you, we’ll get stopped by Tower security! You have your own sword held by Master Mage Clef in New Cephiro.”
Umi and Fuu hastily exited the room as Hikaru started throwing off her kimono and hakama pants in order to put on ordinary clothing for their venture into Tokyo. She pulled a bigger bag from her bedroom storage cupboard and shoved a week’s worth of clothes into it.
“I’m taking someone’s travel card!” Hikaru called from the front door, snatching her keys and a prepay travel card from just inside the house.
Kakeru came running, “You’re paying me back later, Hikaru-chan! Where are you going?”
“Tokyo Tower, of course!”
Satoru looked up as three blurs passed him as he raked leaves in the garden, “Again, Hikaru-chan?”
Hikaru did nothing but wave as Umi took her other hand and pulled her towards the closest Metro station. Satoru had to wonder why Hikaru was holding such a large bag for a trip lasting perhaps a few hours, but he learned not to ask questions about her days out with Fuu and Umi; she would never share anything out of the ordinary with them.
The Magic Knights travelled almost in silence, looking very excited. They hadn’t had a rushed, spontaneous trip before.
The first stop was Umi’s house. Fuu and Hikaru hadn’t come here before – they were amazed by the size of the house and the beautiful neighbourhood it stood in. They had always known Umi’s parents were well-paid company executives, but they didn’t really know what to expect.
“Did you want to come in?” Umi asked as they reached the front door. Hikaru was quite red-faced from carrying her heavy bag this far, but she and Fuu nodded enthusiastically. Umi led them in through the door, nonchalantly ascending the stairs with their intricately carved wooden banisters in the spacious hallway.
“Hikaru-san, I almost feel as if I am in Cephiro here,” Fuu whispered to the redhead, eliciting a giggle from her.
Hikaru ditched her bag in the hallway, ever so conscious that it looked incredibly out of place in the Ryuuzaki family’s pristine house. She shrugged off the thought and followed Fuu and Umi to the secondary bedroom of the house.
Umi’s bedroom was just as spacious as one would expect from the rest of the house, decorated in blue, white and silver. A painted wood four-poster bed sat in the middle of the room, currently covered with some of Umi’s exercise books, a silvery laptop that was charging, and what seemed to be at least a ream of loose paper. The closets had delicately painted wooden doors, and pearly white netting hung from the canopy of the bed.
“This could be a room at the palace in New Cephiro, Umi-chan!” Hikaru remarked, looking around all wide-eyed, “I never realised just how luxurious your house is!”
Umi smiled, amused, but shrugged off the comments, “It’s all I’ve known, though, Hikaru, just like I find your family’s traditional house different.”
She had a better plan than Hikaru’s bag that was slung over the small girl’s shoulder; an aircraft cabin-size suitcase on wheels. She flung open the wardrobes and more carefully selected her clothes than Hikaru had.
“Umi-chan, come on, come on!” Hikaru whined, almost jumping up and down, “I want to go back to New Cephiro today!”
Fuu giggled, “She’s right, Umi-san, we still have to go to my house, too! Aren’t you forgetting your books, by the way?” she added, pointing to the various books on the embroidered bed cover.
Finally, they made their way down the stairs. Unfortunately, Mrs Ryuuzaki was standing at the bottom of them, next to Hikaru’s sports bag, and looking at Umi’s suitcase, “Umi, where are you going with that suitcase? Are these your friends from the Tokyo Tower?”
“Yes, Mum. This is Hikaru Shidou, and Hikaru’s bag, and Fuu Hououji.”
The two girls bowed; Fuu slightly more demurely and less energetically than Hikaru.
“We’re having a sleepover at Fuu’s house,” Umi added, trying to cover their story.
Mrs Ryuuzaki raised an eyebrow. “Really? Isn’t this a little short notice for Fuu’s parents?”
Fuu repeated her bow, “I assure you, Mrs Ryuuzaki, my parents do not mind one bit.”
Umi’s mother successfully fooled by Fuu’s decorum, the girls descended into the nearest Metro station for their final stop at Fuu’s house.
“But Umi-san, we will have to use the same excuse if my parents or sister ask the same question of me.”
Umi opened her mouth to speak, but Hikaru piped up, “Fuu-chan, we’ll say you’re both staying at my house – my brothers won’t mind for tonight – and I’m carrying my bag for uh, we’re going to play tennis or something?”
Fuu nodded with a smile, decreeing this as good a plan as any.
The Hououji residence was part of a gated complex in a quiet part of Tokyo, although not quite as upmarket as the neighbourhood Umi lived in. A large garden lay out front, and a pretty brunette – her hair nearly as long as Umi’s – was watering flowers, wearing a ridiculously frilly white apron over a long sun dress. She looked up as she heard voices approaching, and smiled at the three girls as they entered through the black metal gates.
“Good afternoon, Fuu-san!” she called, setting down the watering can.
Fuu smiled, “Good afternoon, Kuu-oneesama.”
Umi whispered to Hikaru, “I guess the formality and politeness runs in the family?”
Kuu approached them, and introduced herself with a bow to her sister’s friends, “You must be Umi-san and Hikaru-san. My sister speaks very fondly of you both. I’m glad she has such good friends. Are you staying over tonight?”
Fuu rescued them from her sister, “Kuu-oneesama, we are going to Hikaru’s house this evening. But first we are off to the park, so she is carrying a few things for that.”
Finally, they escaped into the house. Fuu’s house was bigger than most, but as before, still did not quite match Umi’s in terms of space and lavishness. The house was mostly quite plainly decorated, with white walls and neutral coloured furniture. Fuu’s room was a little more colourful; mostly decorated in pale and natural greens, of course, and a lot tidier than Umi’s.
“That was Fuu-chan’s sister? They look nothing alike” Hikaru observed, not quite as quietly as she could have. She and Umi sat on Fuu’s bed as she pulled out her own small suitcase and went through her wardrobe.
Fuu nodded in agreement, however, “We look a lot like our separate parents – I look more like Mother, and Kuu-oneesama takes after Father – but we both have the same coloured eyes.”
There was a vast over-abundance of books in the room, as well as a desktop computer, a couple of scientific calculators, and neatly arranged pens and papers. Truly, this could be considered the bedroom of a young genius.
“You like to make computer programs, don’t you, Fuu-chan?” Hikaru asked, looking over at Fuu’s computer.
Fuu nodded enthusiastically, “That’s right, Hikaru-san, but I’m not very good just yet. I want to go into the computing classes at CLAMP School, as well as maths.”
Fuu zipped up her suitcase and looked over her room. There was an overwhelming urge to switch off her electronics at the mains sockets, as she did when she went on holiday, but she knew that time would freeze on Earth while she was in New Cephiro, and she’d be back just the next day.
“I will need this suitcase again in the summer,” Fuu said as they started to descend the stairs again, “I believe we will be travelling to somewhere in Europe for our summer holiday. It’s a shame that I can’t travel to New Cephiro while I am there.”
“I don’t know, Fuu, I’d say the Eiffel Tower in France is quite similar to our Tokyo Tower, isn’t it?” Umi suggested.
“Actually, the Tokyo Tower was loosely based on the Eiffel Tower, so you are quite right, Umi-san,” Fuu waved to her sister as they passed her. “I will see you tomorrow, Kuu-oneesama! And I will make sure to buy you some pastries if we pass the Tokyo Tower!”
Kuu responded with nothing but an excited grin, and then she went back about her gardening.
The final stretch of their journey seemed to take forever. The girls passed the time by searching through their bags and pockets for the entrance money into Tokyo Tower and its top observation deck. By this point, they probably should have considered buying annual passes or something similar.
“I would say that this is not a bad price for interplanetary travel, wouldn’t you?” Fuu asked brightly, counting her coins and notes.
Hikaru nodded energetically in agreement, “I used to be annoyed about paying to get into the Tower, but now I don’t think the cost is so bad, either.”
“Why is this taking so long?” Umi moaned, shaking the handle of her suitcase in frustration.
After what seemed like hours, they emerged from the Metro station closest to Tokyo Tower. They raced through Shiba Park with their suitcases bouncing and dragging on the paths – Hikaru trying her best to carry her hefty and less conveniently shaped bag behind them – paying little attention to the famed Buddhist temple that they passed. The Magic Knights were met with a very long queue of people trying to get into the landmark; they had forgotten that it was the end of the summer period, it was a weekend, and it was the middle of the day.
“We should have known!” Umi cried, sitting down on her suitcase in a huff. Fuu did the same, albeit slightly more daintily. Hikaru shrugged and sat down with a ‘flumph’ noise on her comparatively softer and lower down bag. They were perhaps the only people there with travel bags – at least the only local people – and were receiving a few strange glances from people around them.
“I do suppose they’ll let us in with these cases,” Fuu said, noticing the attention they were receiving.
Hikaru gazed up at the Tower, “Fuu-chan, surely foreign tourists come here all the time with bags and cases? And old people with their shopping carts, maybe?”
“At least we could talk about what we’re going to do while we’re there,” Umi suggested, cutting into the considerably more serious conversation about luggage, “So, we intend to study, but I imagine Fuu will want to see Prince Lover-boy, and-“
“You could kiss him, Fuu. That could be your target for the end of the holiday.”
Hikaru looked surprised, “Fuu-chan, you and Ferio haven’t even kissed each other? Haven’t you been a couple for a long time, now?”
“Well, yes, we have been together a while, but…not…not always officially…”
Umi was wide-eyed now, “Hikaru, do you mean you and Lantis have?”
Hikaru grinned to herself, standing up so that they could shuffle forwards a little more in the customer line, “Well, definitely more than Fuu-chan and Ferio!”
Fuu and Umi were astounded; little Hikaru had beaten them both to this important step?
“How do you reach?” Umi asked, echoing the thoughts Fuu was too polite to ask, “Do you have a box or a telephone directory to stand on?”
Hikaru looked marginally annoyed, “Well, no, we can’t really do that standing up, but it does work, you know. And there’s no such thing as telephones in New Cephiro, Umi-chan, so don’t be silly.”
Umi chuckled, and even Fuu had to laugh at this, in particular the wording. Hikaru put on her frustrated face, and moved forwards in front of the other girls as the line moved up again.
“How much longer do you think we’ll be waiting?” Umi asked, leaning backwards precariously on her suitcase to look at the length of the line, “About twenty minutes, maybe?”
Hikaru stood up to look, but to no avail, only frustrating her further, “I’d agree, Umi-chan.”
Fuu pulled out her mobile phone and checked the time. It was just past two in the afternoon, and they hadn’t eaten anything yet, “Should one or two of us go to get some food from a vendor, and the other hold the space in the line?”
“I don’t know, Fuu-chan, they usually feed us quite well in New Cephiro for free if we can hold out that long,” Hikaru suggested, earning a nod of agreement from Umi. That way, they could save the money for their next trip.
The next ten minutes were held in silence. Umi had a few mails from her school friends, asking if she was doing anything this afternoon. She bit her lip, knowing they’d resent her if they knew she was choosing Hikaru and Fuu over them yet again. She fobbed them off with some story about studying, and then something at home with her family.
The line moved up. Hikaru actually wanted to receive mails from her friends, for they hadn’t spoken to her since the incident the other morning when they’d tried to give her an intervention. Instead, she decided it would be best to inform her eldest brother Satoru of their intention to sleep at their dojo tonight. He seemed to be glad to get mail from her, and responded almost immediately saying she could do whatever made her happy. This seemed quite overblown for such a simple request.
Fuu had just received mail from Kuu, saying that she was glad to meet her friends, but was still confused by how they had become such great friends in the matter of a day. Fuu pondered this question as they shuffled their bags slightly closer to the entrance of Tokyo Tower, and elected not to respond until they were back from New Cephiro; it would be less than an hour in Earth time, anyway.
“I make it ten minutes until we can go in,” Hikaru observed, practically halfway into a backwards hand-stand as she leaned back to look at the queue.
Umi put her phone away in one of the front pockets of her suitcase, “It’s getting closer, at last! Now, Fuu, you didn’t answer; do you accept our challenge?”
Fuu decided not to respond for a short while, still pondering a suitable response to Kuu, and then looked up with a pink face, “I guess I could give it a try?”
Umi clapped her hands together with glee, “Excellent! Well, I won’t push you for information until we return from New Cephiro.”
Fuu remained in a highly embarrassed silence right up until they got into the Tokyo Tower ticket office, listening to Umi grilling Hikaru about her antics with Lantis. To be honest, Fuu was quite shocked that Umi wasn’t the one of the three of them furthest into a relationship; she wasn’t in one at all.
To her surprise, there were no problems with the large bag and suitcases going into the Tower – like Hikaru had said, they assumed the girls were tourists and let them through with no questions.
“Come on, come on, come on!” Hikaru shouted at the inside of the lift that took them to the top observation deck, alarming the people around her.
The three of them bailed very quickly out of the lift, as they had planned their ascension so they were the last in and first out. Hikaru slung her bag over one shoulder and held out her hands to Umi and Fuu, who held on to her tightly and kept a good grip with their free hands on their cases. They closed their eyes and concentrated all their will.
“To New Cephiro!” The three of them cheered quietly, eyes opening only when they appeared in the throne room of the Castle, much to the astonishment of a seemingly ever-present Master Mage.
Umi threw an arm up in the air in greeting, “Clef! We’ve come to stay for a week so that we can cheat the Japanese school entry system, could we please borrow some rooms?”
Clef looked even more incredulous; “Don’t you think you should ask before you come to stay for some time, Umi?”
Hikaru prodded Fuu in the small of her back while Umi and Clef argued this out, “Fuu-chan, go to find Ferio! We’ll let you know later where we are,” and she pulled away Fuu’s suitcase.
Fuu staggered forward a few steps, looking slightly shell-shocked, “Th-thank you, Hikaru-san.”
The royal Castle of New Cephiro had changed little from her fist visit here. Despite its size, most of the Castle was contained only within one floor on one of the three spikes that comprised its elegant architecture – however, this one floor was very spacious and contained a surprising amount of rooms. It was certainly mostly empty, devoid of anyone she could ask for directions. She set off in a direction that she thought might be in the vicinity of most of the sleeping quarters.
Fuu rounded a corner to come rather face-to-face with a pink-haired, dark-skinned woman, who, upon gathering her senses, embraced her in an energetic hug, “Fuu! It’s good to see ya, girl! I had no idea you three were visiting us today!”
“Good afternoon, Caldina-san,” Fuu greeted, brushing herself down as she was released from the hug, “It was a last-minute trip. Hikaru-san and Umi-san are in the throne room with Master Mage Clef. I was looking for Prince Ferio, though, I wonder if you can assist me?”
Caldina opened her mouth to say something suggestive, but decided that the rather reserved Fuu would not be best appreciative of it, “I reckon I last saw him with Lantis in the courtyard, but that was a few hours ago. He could be back in his suite; do you know where that is?” Fuu shook her head, “Really, doll? You’ve never been there? Let me take ya.”
“Thank you very much, Caldina-san,” Fuu said, with one of the small bows that always amused the dancer. Fuu was oblivious to this, and followed Caldina down the corridor. It grew lighter towards the end; Fuu realised this was the opposite end to the large opening at the front of the Castle, and there was a large window with a panoramic view of southern New Cephiro.
“That one, there,” Caldina gestured towards a door with a carved wood design on it, orange gems embedded into them, and thus far indecipherable Cephiran script etched in at eye level, “I’m gonna go meet the girls. You behave yourself, missy!”
Fuu watched Caldina depart, slightly nervous about entering this room. She wondered if she should knock, or just walk in and surprise him – if he was even there.
“Ah,” She said, just as Ferio did; the green-haired Prince had opened the door, having heard voices outside.
Despite all her decorum and diffidence, Ferio’s presence generally caused Fuu to become something of an infatuated, awkward schoolgirl. She wondered if she felt more attraction to him now, or when he was a rather more ruggedly handsome “hunter” at their first meeting. His boyish good looks, and – oh my – those beautiful citrine-coloured eyes of his, made her knees rather weak.
“Fuu, are you alright?” Ferio asked, noticing the visible swooning of his significant other, but trying not to appear too narcissistic and acknowledge this, “We weren’t expecting you today. This is a nice surprise!”
“We have come for a week, in fact,” Fuu reached out to lay a hand on his arm, in part to balance herself but mostly to provide some sort of contact. She smiled, her face very rosy, “I’m glad to see you, Prince Ferio.”
Ferio chuckled and took both of her hands in his gloved ones, pleased to see the ring was still there, “Fuu, how many more times have I gotta tell you?”
“I’m sorry, Ferio-san. I can drop the royal title if you really-“
Ferio shook his head, shaking her hands to get his point through, “None of your weird formal Earth titles, either – I’m just Ferio.”
Fuu looked down at the floor, more flustered than ever before, “Ferio.”
“Much better,” he said, and pulled her close for an affectionate embrace. She froze for a moment, but then recalled her challenge from Hikaru and Umi, and gathered the courage to nestle her face in his clothes and gather her arms tightly around his waist. Ferio, surprised but glad of Fuu’s slightly improved confidence, lightly kissed the top of her head. She made a small squeaking noise, and he laughed quietly in contentment.
Fuu looked up almost immediately, and adjusted her glasses, “May I see your room, Ferio?” She figured that if she was going to have this kiss happen, it should probably be somewhere private where nobody else would find them. Who would enter the Prince’s suite without permission?
Ferio said nothing but nodded, opening the door again. Holding on to his hand, Fuu followed him in. The room did not include the bed she expected; instead she found a smaller-than-envisioned room housing a small sofa and a writing desk, as well as shelves of books, trinkets, ornaments and trophies, “This is the lounge,” he explained, nodding towards a door on the back left wall, “My bedroom is actually through here.”
He had to stop as Fuu released his hand and sat down somewhat abruptly on the sofa. She resolved that she wasn’t going to enter his bedroom if she could help it; he might think she had other plans for the afternoon.
“Are you all right, Fuu?” he asked, standing over her and looking concerned. She was quiet for a short moment, and then patted the space next to her. He raised an eyebrow to her and sat down, placing his hand on her arm and watching her face carefully, “You’re breathing weirdly.”
Her face quite flushed from his proximity and the task ahead of her, she bravely looked up into his eyes, “I thought that, well…” she paused, but Ferio’s expression encouraged her to continue, knowing he wouldn’t judge her for this – no, he would probably be quite pleased, “That I, no, we had reached the stage where…we would be expected to kiss.”
Ferio felt quite a lot like laughing, but managed to present her with only a warm smile, hoping she didn’t spot the normal spark of mischief in his eyes, “But do you want to kiss me, Fuu?”
Fuu fixed her eyes on one of the orange gemstones embroidered into his otherwise unpretentious royal garments, avoiding his gaze, and nodded. Ferio lifted his other hand to her chin, and tilted her head up so that she faced him properly. Her lips parted slightly in surprise, butterflies beginning to flutter like mad in her stomach.
“Close your eyes, Fuu,” Ferio directed, his voice low and soft. Fuu swallowed in apprehension and did as he said, deciding at the last moment to remove her glasses and place them carefully on the arm of the sofa next to her.
She sensed Ferio lean over. He paused; she was trembling slightly. Regardless, in the next second she felt warm, soft lips on hers for the first time, and she relaxed, savouring the tenderness. She smiled slightly as a tingle ran down her spine, feeling like she was the heroine of a shoujo manga. A long moment passed, and Ferio pulled away. She opened her eyes wide at him, holding a hand to her mouth.
“Oh dear, Fuu, was I terrible?” Ferio joked at her apparent shock, realising this was probably his beloved’s first ever kiss.
To his further amusement, Fuu looked horrified and dived to hide her face against his chest, “No…Ferio, that was…” she tried to suppress a yelp as he pulled her onto his lap, one arm now around her waist and the other across her thighs; she was glad that she was wearing three-quarter-length trousers today, “Um…quite magical. May I retrieve my glasses now?”
“I don’t know, Fuu,” Ferio said, leaning in to place a small kiss on her closest cheek, “After that, I might want to kiss you some more.”