Christmas and New Year passed in Tokyo without much out of the ordinary. The girls celebrated amongst themselves and found little time to go to New Cephiro – besides, the Tokyo Tower was always very busy at this time of year. Christmas was meant to be a very romantic time at home, but Fuu found herself spending it with her family and no visit to Ferio. She wouldn’t want to give him any opportunity to be too romantic just yet, anyway. She was sure he was a lot more experienced in those sorts of things than she knew about. She was pretty sure he was a little older than her, anyway. And really, who could resist him?
She had seen a little on the subject in those “teen issues” manga that had been circulating at their schools since they turned thirteen, but she’d never given much thought to it. Would she want to do that? The comics had dealt with all the ugly possible outcomes, and she wasn’t sure it was a true representation…if their recent half-clothed skin-on-skin contact was anything to go by.
“Fuu, what exactly are you thinking about?” Hikaru asked, sat on Umi’s four-poster bed as Umi was trying to study under Fuu’s supervision again. Hikaru had noticed that her friend’s face had grown increasingly pink, and the blonde was never really one to stop and think about the sort of things she was currently thinking of.
“Nothing…” Fuu breathed, pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind.
“Don’t let him push you into anything, will you, Fuu?” Umi added, not looking up from her work.
Fuu went a much brighter red and spluttered, unable to form any words, much to Umi’s amusement.
“But seriously, Fuu, I know you’re basically helpless in Ferio’s presence. Don’t just do things to make him happy. Make sure you’re doing what you want to do.”
Fuu covered her face with her hands, and it was hot to the touch. Hikaru and Umi just kept on saying things that made her more and more embarrassed, and she wasn’t half as impressed as the other two seemed to be by this situation.
“Could I tell you something?” Fuu asked, suddenly thinking of her conversation with Kuu on her birthday. The other girls nodded, still looking amused. Fuu supposed they thought she would tell them something about what she and Ferio had been up to, but she knew she was going to disappoint or even upset them, “Kuu-oneesama said that she saw us appear from thin air in the Tokyo Tower. I don’t think we are really as safe and inconspicuous in our travels to New Cephiro as we think.”
Hikaru picked at Umi’s bed cover, “I have noticed, Fuu-chan. I have been checking the time on my phone when we return; I don’t think everything is going quite right either,” she looked up at Fuu, “But what did you tell Kuu-san? Did you have to tell her about what’s going on?”
The ensuing conversation left them all quite upset and confused, and Umi appeared rather more upset about Fuu sharing their secret with Kuu than she seemed worried about the travelling. Fuu hadn’t really spoken to Kuu recently about the whole issue, because it had left a bit of a sore point between them, and it saddened her more that it had also left Umi angry at her.
They all parted on something of an awkward note, Fuu and Umi’s hearts very heavy, and Hikaru wondering why both of them had taken this so badly, and not worried so much about what she considered to be much more important; the problem with time passing while they were away. She decided to take matters into her own hands and discuss this with Lantis and Clef sometime when she was in New Cephiro again.
January passed far too quickly for Umi’s liking. It was February, the month the exams would take place for entrance to CLAMP School, and her relationship with Fuu was still slightly strained, so she hadn’t invited her around for study sessions without Hikaru present at least. With just five days to go before the exams, she had considered asking her parents to pay for a tutor, but was still convinced that if they didn’t want her to go to CLAMP School, they weren’t going to pay for that either.
A letter had arrived in the post that morning, telling her when her exam was, and where she should go to attend it. She had disappeared into her room after reading it, leaving it on the table for her parents to find. Since then, she had been laying face down into the pillows, thinking she could really do with a visit to New Cephiro to unwind.
“Umi-chan,” came a voice at the door. Umi looked up as the door opened; it was her mother, carrying a hot drink for her, “Ah, my dear, I thought you would be studying…”
Umi sat up on the bed, but wouldn’t meet her mother’s eyes, “Did you read my letter, Mum?”
Mrs Ryuuzaki nodded, setting the drink down on Umi’s white desk, “We’re very proud of you, Umi-chan, pushing yourself so hard to get into this school. But are you really sure you wouldn’t rather go to the Kanazawa school?”
Umi nodded hard and hid her eyes behind her hair as her mother sat down next to her, setting an arm around her shoulders. She thought she might choke up, “I want more than anything to spend the next few years with Hikaru and Fuu, and if this is the only way that you’ll let me do it, then I’ll do it this way.”
Mrs Ryuuzaki looked very disconsolate, and pulled her teenage daughter into a hug, “Don’t go to the exam, Umi-chan. You’ve put yourself through enough stress already.”
“Don’t go to the exam?” Umi demanded, tears welling up in her eyes as she looked up at her mother in shock.
Her mother pulled a handkerchief from her apron and wiped Umi’s face as the tears spilled, “No, Umi-chan, I mean that Father and I will pay your scholarship. We’ll stay here in Tokyo so you can go with them, if that’s what you want. It won’t affect our jobs if we pull out of the move. We just thought that we knew better for you.”
Umi hugged her back, crying more freely now, “Thank you so much, Mum.”
“Make sure you help and support your friend Fuu-san, though, okay? She still has to do those exams. She could probably do with your encouragement.”
Umi smiled, wiping her own eyes, “I don’t think Fuu needs any help, Mum. She’s the most clever girl I know. She’s going to ace it.”
Fuu herself was just sitting at her desk several miles away, plotting a digital study timetable for her last week. She spotted the notification light on her mobile phone flashing, and even though she had put it in silent mode for studying, she picked it up to check her messages.
It was from Umi. It was a long mail, apologising for how she had acted before, and telling Fuu that she had great news. She didn’t happen to share this “great news”, however, and so Fuu looked up Umi’s number and called her.
“I’m going to CLAMP School, Fuu!” Umi almost screamed down the phone as Fuu heard her pick up, “My parents realised it was upsetting me and now they’re going to pay for me to go!”
Fuu put the phone back against her ear, as she had been holding it at arm’s length, and now she had a huge smile on her face for her friend, “That’s great, Umi-san! Now we just have to see if I can get in.”
“I have no doubts about that, Fuu.” Umi beamed, “But Hikaru and I will be there to see you come out of the examination hall, I promise! At least you can study without having to help me.”
They chatted for another short while, happy to be talking to each other again. Umi declared that she didn’t want to fight with Fuu again, and thus they swore to never fight again. Fuu was pleased that Umi had apologised, and happily accepted it, she herself apologising for getting into a situation where she had to share their secret with Kuu.
“Kuu-oneesama does think Ferio is very cool too, though, Umi-san,” Fuu giggled, remembering when her sister had seen the photograph. Umi laughed with her.
“I think I’m going to talk to Ascot properly when we’re next in New Cephiro, Fuu,” Umi admitted, “I don’t think there’s any point delaying the inevitable, do you?”
“Oh, I agree. I’m very pleased for you, Umi-san. When do you think our next visit will be?”
Umi considered this, looked at her calendar on the wall, and then said, “Well, I think it would be nice to go the evening after your exam, don’t you think? If Hikaru is free, of course.”
“That sounds great, Umi-san,” Fuu agreed, “Should I leave that up to you? I should probably get to studying. Congratulations on getting into CLAMP School, again!”
Umi grinned, “Thank you Fuu! Of course I’ll talk to Hikaru. Good luck with your studying. Bye bye!”
Fuu dropped her phone on her desk and walked over to her bed. She opened the drawer of her little bedside cabinet and pulled out the photo of Ferio that was now hidden in her diary – she couldn’t leave it out, her parents might ask questions about who he was, where he lived, and what on earth he was wearing. She smiled at the photo, taking care not to get any fingerprints on the glossy photo. She might ask Kuu to borrow the camera again, and take a photo with Umi, Hikaru, Lantis and Ascot as well next time. She was sure Kuu would love to see them, even if she was slightly upset about Fuu possibly favouring them over her family and her life in Tokyo.
Fuu felt slightly cheated as she left her last exam at CLAMP School campus, as she was the only one of the Magic Knights that didn’t get her yes or no immediately. However, she forgot about this entirely as her friends enveloped her in a hug to rival the one she’d received on her birthday, asking how she’d done, and squeezing her harder when she said she was confident in her results.
“It’s all over, we’re all in!” Hikaru squealed, jumping up and down.
Fuu laughed, “Subject to results, Hikaru-san!”
“As if you have any chance of not getting in,” Umi said, giving Fuu a gentle nudge as they walked off towards the CLAMP School’s own Metro station, “So you’ll find out next month, just after my birthday?”
Fuu nodded, swiping her travel card over the gate in the station, “That’s right, Umi-san.”
The other two followed, and to their surprise even the athletic Hikaru wasn’t able to keep up with Fuu today as she descended stairs and escalators at speed, anxious to return to New Cephiro and meet up with Ferio.
Only a few stops were between CLAMP School and the Tokyo Tower – yet another benefit of attending this school next year. They could travel to Cephiro almost every day, if they wanted! Fuu giggled to herself and happily pulled her coat and scarf cosily around her neck. She thought somewhat absently that her hair could do with a cut soon, as it was getting almost past her shoulders. Or would Ferio prefer that her hair was longer? Only Caldina seemed to have much shorter hair in New Cephiro, and she wasn’t even Cephiran. Hikaru and Umi also had long hair…
She asked this question to Hikaru and Umi themselves, who told her that she should only do what she wanted with her hair, never mind whatever the expectations were in New Cephiro. She smiled and agreed with them. Ferio had fallen in love with her while she had this hairstyle, after all.
“I will need some new glasses soon, though,” Fuu added, looking out of the window of the Metro train as they pulled into Shiba Park’s station.
Umi had the foresight this time to grab onto Fuu’s arm, stopping her from getting away from them quite so much this time. Fuu would now display as much enthusiasm as Hikaru when they went to New Cephiro, something quite uncharacteristic of this normally calm and collected girl.
Hikaru once again checked her mobile phone for the time before they disappeared through that portal into New Cephiro. They had this time chosen a particularly quiet part of the observation deck, just in case anyone witnessed the same thing Kuu had.
The Prince of New Cephiro had apparently been waiting around in the throne room all day; they didn’t quite have the hang of time difference between there and Earth, and it was difficult to tell what time they might arrive there on any given day. At least they had got used to counting the days inbetween, though.
He was surprised to be cuddled very hard by this same enthusiastic Fuu, looking with wide eyes at Hikaru and Umi before smoothing Fuu’s ruffled blonde hair and planting a kiss on the top of her head, “And to what do I owe this, Fuu?”
She laughed into his chest, happier than ever before, “All three of us are going to school together, Ferio! I think I did really well at my entrance exam – it’s an academic test – today.”
Upon puzzling over their unnecessarily complicated Earth education systems and deciding this was a good thing, he grinned, nuzzling her hair, “That’s fantastic, Fuu,” he then looked over at the other two, “You must all be very pleased.”
Hikaru nodded like she had never been more sure of anything else before in her life, accompanied by a happy smile from Umi.
Ferio had actually gathered some more sensible people to help him plan this ‘wedding’ he was so adamant about having; Clef and Presea, to be precise, with Lantis wearing his sensible face in present company.
Clef didn’t know a lot about this, surprisingly, but he was willing to put his own ideas into the conversation. They figured that marriage on Earth was the greatest declaration of love and devotion possible, and from what they gathered, it wasn’t really restricted to any particular religion, tradition or political system. Ferio at least understood this thing with the rings, and Clef suggested he should probably clarify the situation with Fuu at some point.
Clef also added that it would be very good for state publicity and possible uptake if Ferio, as reigning Prince of New Cephiro, to be the first one to take part in this sort of ceremony. Just when were they going to get her to agree to this, though? Fuu and her friends had made it quite clear that they intended to finish ‘high school’, which would take another three Earth years. Since the Cephirans were still not completely clear on the time conversion, they weren’t really sure when this would end up happening.
Lantis managed only to impart that he wasn’t going to get any good information from Hikaru, because she only seemed to be able to produce childish and slightly romanticised descriptions of marriage, and it wasn’t really helpful when she kept declaring that she would quite like to marry both Lantis and Eagle…and all her other friends.
Ferio had trouble not laughing at Lantis’s situation with Hikaru. The magic swordsman had always been a serious and stoic figure. For him to be involved with the naïve and ever-cheerful Hikaru, even without their massive height difference, made quite a strange picture, and Ferio was sure that many people other than himself puzzled over it. He was also sure that Umi and Ascot might make moves on each other sooner rather than later, which in some ways pleased him and in some ways made him worry for Ascot.
In any case, Ferio now held this wonderful girl in his arms, and he had to figure out the best time to “propose” properly. It should probably be in a private location, he considered, knowing full well how shy and reserved Fuu could be in front of large groups of people, and he didn’t want her to be publicly pressured to make a decision and not make either of them look bad in the process.
“Master Mage Clef,” Fuu said, snapping Ferio out of his little daydream and releasing herself from his arms, “We should talk to you about the portal between New Cephiro and our world. We are starting to worry that it might be malfunctioning.”
Hikaru wiped the smile off her face immediately and nodded seriously, “I have found that sometimes, when we return, a few minutes have passed. My phone always stops operating in New Cephiro, and the clock resumes back in Tokyo, but I have been worried about this. The first few times, it has come back immediately as barely a second passing.”
Umi added, “And Fuu’s sister even saw us disappear and reappear after a few minutes the other day when we came here. We had no idea. Is there something wrong with the portal?”
Clef looked very surprised, perhaps even worried. Ferio’s arms fell to his sides, believing something to be very wrong if Clef didn’t have one of his immediate, calming and educated answers, “I had no idea this was happening, girls. Are you sure there’s something wrong? You’re not just imagining things?” he paused to gather his thoughts, and then focused on the Magic Knight of Wind. “Fuu, did you have to share information about New Cephiro with your sister?”
Fuu nodded, looking at the floor, “I had to tell her. I cannot keep things from my own family. But, if I am honest, it was good to share it with someone outside the country or my two best friends, as sane as they have been keeping me for the last year.”
Clef looked unsatisfied, but accepted what she had said. Fuu breathed a sigh of relief, and Ferio reached for her hand from behind her. As Clef continued to puzzle over the conundrum with the portal, Ferio pulled her quietly away through the corridors to that large panoramic window near his quarters.
“What do you think will happen if the portal starts to fail?” Ferio asked her, looking out at Cephiro with a slightly pained look on his face. Fuu looked up at him, but he wouldn’t look back at her, his eyes fixed on the beautiful world out in front of them, “I don’t think I could stand to lose my sister and you, Fuu. Not both of the people I love the most.”
Fuu almost felt tears well up in her eyes, thinking about that final battle with Emeraude, but mostly wondering what she herself would do without Ferio in her life, and how bad she would feel to know he existed on this plane, without her, “I don’t know, Ferio, but I do know that we’re just going to keep coming here as long as we can.”
Ferio finally looked down at her, his normally warm eyes rather more lukewarm and sad, “Thanks for trying to make me feel better, Fuu, but I still worry.”
Fuu’s green eyes widened as Ferio took her hand, and he stooped, to rest on one knee, much in the way he had kissed her hand at their first meeting. But now, he was holding that hand with the ring on her ring finger, and he was looking up at her with an intense look in his eyes.
“Hououji Fuu, Magic Knight of Wind, my beautiful and brilliant girl from another world. Before I possibly lose you forever, would you consider, officially, becoming my wife?”
Fuu’s other hand flew up to her mouth, not quite believing what she was hearing and getting involved in here. Married? Did they have enough time to get married? Did he expect her to stay in Cephiro with him? What would she do if they were permanently separated?
“Fuu, please, don’t think to hard about it. This is just…” he looked a little vulnerable as he considered his words, “a question from my heart to your heart.”
Fuu closed her mouth, steadied her nerves and looked back into those enchanting eyes of his, “Then yes, Prince Ferio, I would very much love to be your wife.”
Ferio looked more relieved than anything, and he stood up and immediately enveloped her in a very tight hug. They stood there for a few minutes before Fuu started to tear up and sobbed uncontrollably into his tunic. Ferio made no move to comfort her, as he knew they were tears of happiness rather than desperation, and he let a few tears fall from his own eyes. With that, they both burst into nervous laughter, and shared a small kiss.
Well, well. Engaged to be married at the age of fifteen. What on Earth would her parents say? What would Umi and Hikaru say? What would the people say to the Prince of Cephiro marrying off to some girl from another world?
“Don’t be nervous, Fuu,” Ferio laughed, pulling her back towards the throne room. Fuu was alarmed by this, and tried to stand her ground on the slippery floor, only succeeding in looking extremely awkward and almost falling over. Ferio chuckled and stopped to steady her, comforting her with another hug, “Fuu, they’re going to find out sooner or later. Why not let them hear the news from us?”
“Ferio, what do you expect from me once we are married?” Fuu asked, flushing such a bright shade of pinkish red that Ferio knew exactly what sort of things she was asking about, and he inwardly laughed at her nervousness. No, perhaps Fuu hadn’t been prepared for all of these things to happen so fast…
“I don’t expect you to do anything, Fuu. You shouldn’t let anyone push you to do anything you don’t want to do, even if it’s me,” He rewarded her with one of his most charming smiles, the kind that always turned her legs to jelly and almost swoon into unconsciousness.
And so, Prince Ferio of New Cephiro and the future Princess Fuu of New Cephiro announced their somewhat rushed official engagement to the awed audience in the throne room.
“I would like it if we could get married regardless of this problem with the portal,” Ferio explained firmly to Clef, “And we will figure out the important information after that. For now, I just want us to be together. Officially.”
Fuu was almost shaking. What was she going to tell Kuu when she got home? She had already been annoyed about the possibility of Fuu disappearing off to another world forever, and while she was incomprehensibly happy about the engagement, this was just going to bother her and ruin her mood. Added to that, nobody knew why the portal was failing, and it seemed to have become forgotten amidst the excitement of the news.
She and Ferio, after a couple of hours spent with the group getting nowhere regarding this portal dilemma, retired back to his royal suite. They made small talk for a while, before finding something more meaningful to talk about; after all, Ferio had promised her that one day, he would tell her about his childhood.
“I don’t really remember much before Emeraude became the Pillar, not even having parents. I’m not even sure I remember a Pillar before my sister. Clef really raised us from as early as I can remember, and you can probably tell that I left his care a lot earlier than my much more well-raised sister did.”
Fuu giggled to herself here, and Ferio flashed her a crooked smile.
“Where did you grow up, though?” Fuu asked, as she’d always been wondering about this but didn’t like to bring up this sort of thing in case it upset him. It still upset her – she had killed his only family member, after all.
“Ah,” said Ferio, and he brought out a new book; an atlas, it seemed. Interest instantly piqued, Fuu shifted over to sit next to him so they could study this map carefully, and Ferio pointed to the very south west tip of Cephiro; “After I left the castle, this little place, Aueria by the Sea. I don’t expect you travelled there when you were here before. I think Clef and I chose it because they were so far out that they would have no idea what the royal family looked like.”
Fuu shook her head, and asked if there were any pictures in the atlas of that particular village. Ferio laughed and explained that there weren’t any published pictures of anywhere in New Cephiro, since there wasn’t anything like her sister’s ‘camera’ she had brought with her several weeks ago.
“I’d like to see this little place sometime,” Fuu said, “It must be lovely on the coast.”
“It really was,” Ferio said, nodding, “But I have to wonder how it’s changed since Cephiro crumbled away while we were waiting for the new Pillar. A lot of it stayed the same when Cephiro was rebuilt by Hikaru and everyone, but nothing is ever exactly how it was. Besides, Aueria is right on the edge of the land; it would have been one of the first places to disappear.”
Fuu looked quite sad about this, as she figured that Aueria was pretty much her lover’s home town. He’d certainly grown up or matured there, at least.
“I should really learn more of your world,” Ferio said, moving closer and taking one of her hands in his, “It sounds fascinating. Sort of like somewhere between the technology of New Cephiro and Autozam.”
“I suppose that would be a good description, yes,” Fuu said, nodding. “I think I’ve described Tokyo before; I live in a city you probably can’t even imagine. Neither you nor I have been to Autozam, after all, so I don’t know what I could compare it to.”
Ferio took her hand, “We’ll have to make some royal visits to our neighbouring countries after we’re married, then.”
He chuckled as her face lit up as usual, but his expression softened when she said, “I don’t know how I’m going to tell Kuu-oneesama. And there’s no way I can talk to my parents about this. I’m choosing you and New Cephiro over them, aren’t I?”
He was used to her tears by now, and he pulled her over into a protective hug, “You don’t need to worry about that for a long time yet, Fuu. We’ll figure something out.”