Fanfic: Last Train Home [Chapter 06]

The girls decided to hold off their visits to Cephiro for a while, feeling that their visits themselves, rather than any time-based deterioration, was causing ‘damage’ to the portal. This was despite wanting to celebrate Fuu’s official engagement to Ferio; all of it had come rather suddenly, and it was hard to decide between common sense and matters of the heart.

“While you were off getting engaged to the prince of a whole country, Fuu, I decided to talk to Ascot,” Umi said out of the blue, as the girls were out shopping the day before Fuu’s results were due.

“Really, Umi-san? You’ve kept that quiet for weeks.”

Umi nodded carefully, “We decided we would become a couple, and see how it goes.”

Hikaru grinned, distracted from her search for the right coins in her purse, “That’s awesome, Umi-chan! Now the three of us have Cephiran boyfriends…well…or fiancés.”

When they stopped and sat down at a self-service café, Fuu took a moment to consider Umi’s relationship with Ascot. She had been so sure, the night Umi had excitedly told her about visiting Clef for comfort during their second stint in Old Cephiro, that something was going on there. Fuu also recalled Clef being a little pensive when he mentioned Umi that morning he had explained his map to her.

“I thought marriage didn’t exist in New Cephiro,” Hikaru said, counting out yen on the café table, “Because Lantis didn’t know about it until he asked me how you would profess your love to someone. So what’s changed since then?”

Umi looked pleased at the opportunity to direct talk away from her own relationship woes, “Ferio flirts up a storm, but I think he’s secretly a softy and he wanted to do this for Fuu. I bet if we asked him, we’d find out how it all happened.”

“Whenever we next get to go to New Cephiro, that is,” Fuu added, though was conscious that she was unwillingly going to bring the mood down;“But I get my exam results tomorrow, so maybe we could actually go after I receive my entrance confirmation?”

Umi nodded, “I think the portal can handle one more visit before we start to get serious about senior high school.”

Hikaru had gone to buy a hot drink from a vending machine, and she now returned with a steaming cup of cinnamon-scented hot chocolate, “Guys, I just realised, I haven’t really checked on Eagle in a long time. Clef said he’s getting better all the time, but I haven’t been allowed to go and see him for a while.”

Fuu smiled, “Well then, maybe tomorrow will be a good opportunity to do that too, Hikaru-san. He’ll be more than pleased to see you.”

•••

It was no real surprise at all that Fuu got her entrance confirmed to CLAMP School, and the three of them celebrated loudly at the front gates of the school once they had torn themselves away from that final ceremony. It was time to travel to New Cephiro again, although they were conscious that they shouldn’t take too much mass through the portal, and try to make the most of their stay.

And so, once again, the girls were on a Metro ride from CLAMP School to Shiba Park.

“Don’t you think we could borrow clothes while we’re living there?” Hikaru said, carrying a small bag with only the barest of necessities in it; nothing like the massive case she had taken a few months ago, “They’re not exactly short of clothes in that palace, surely.”

Umi agreed, “It would be nice to wear traditional Cephiran dress, really. Considering we might live there one day, I’m sure it would be nice to integrate. Do you think they’ll dress Fuu up like a princess, rather than allowing her to roam the palace in jeans and hoodies?”

“Please, Umi-san, I do sometimes wear a skirt outside school,” Fuu added sheepishly, sat quietly next to the other two as she tried to place a call to her sister, “Ah, Kuu-oneesama? Can you please tell mother and father that I passed the entrance exams? Yes, I figured I was having trouble because you were also trying to call me. Thank you. Thank you very much! I will see you later for dinner.”

Umi marvelled at the fact that Fuu and her sister acted much like this was no big achievement, but then decided that in her household, the perspectives for educational success were probably set slightly differently. Their parents were both accomplished scientific researchers, after all.

“I think it would be inconvenient to always dress something like Princess Emeraude, though, don’t you think?” Hikaru considered, remembering the beautiful flowing dress that the late princess had worn in every vision, memory, painting and tapestry she had appeared in, “I hope they give Fuu-chan something more…practical.”

“Practical isn’t a word in the Cephiran vocabulary when it comes to clothing, Hikaru-san. Have you seen all the shoulder armour, capes, gloves, jewellery and things l like that?” Fuu reminded her, thinking about what their friends wore, “And Master Mage Clef always used to wear that horn-like jewel on his forehead. I don’t know what sort of cultural significance it might hold, but I think it probably wasn’t of any real benefit to him.”

Umi giggled, “I always just thought it looked kind of rude.”

This made Hikaru laugh as well, and Fuu tried not to in order to maintain her image of being the mature and proper one. She had a reputation to uphold, anyway, if she was going to become a princess.

Oh dear, was she getting so very used to the idea already?

The queue for the Tokyo Tower was very long again today. Fuu wondered if they would ever get in, but she was also feeling very apprehensive about it this time. Every time they travelled through the portal, they were damaging it a little bit, and their decisions for whether or not they’d live there were coming closer and closer.

Fuu knew she’d never be able to say no to Ferio at the moment, but if she was honest she felt they were still in the ‘honeymoon period’ of their relationship, and she was waiting for him to become more comfortable with her and start showing some more of his flaws. What if she got stuck living in Cephiro and then they fell out or broke up?

She expressed these thoughts to Umi and Hikaru, who regarded her with surprise and then gave her a reassuring pat on the back, saying that if they all decided to go and live in New Cephiro, it would always work out okay because they were together.

“And will you make time for us when you’re Princess of New Cephiro, Fuu-chan?” Hikaru asked, bringing a wry smile to Fuu’s face.

“Of course, Hikaru-san,” Fuu said, feeling that she should ruffle her small friend’s hair, but withholding, “I would never forget about you two! Besides, aren’t we going to live in the castle together forever?”

Umi was the only one to notice the strange looks they were getting from various people stood in the line with them, and said quite loudly and clearly, “Guys, we probably shouldn’t get so noisy and enthusiastic about this RPG in public.”

There was a blank stare from Fuu and Hikaru before they both realised what Umi was doing, and then had to hold in sniggers.

“Ah yes, sorry Umi-chan, but I am so excited to see whether we get to stay there or not! And we have to roll to see if Fuu-chan is going to marry Prince Ferio…”

“Did we decide the odds on that?” Fuu asked, hiding her amusement behind her hair.

“I’d say they’re pretty high, wouldn’t you?” Umi said with a sly smile, making Hikaru giggle and Fuu return to her girlish blush.

They entered the Tower just five minutes later, paid their entrance fees and took a slightly more leisurely walk up to their observation deck. Fuu was still feeling heavy-hearted about this, and Umi and Hikaru noticed this – it seemed harder today to will themselves into New Cephiro.

“Fuu-chan, come on, we want to see Lantis and Ascot!” Hikaru said with a pout, shaking her friend’s hand encouragingly. Umi did little but look at her in a concerned way.

“Okay,” said Fuu, not wishing to disappoint her friends, “Okay, here we go.”

The blinding flash of light happened, and Tokyo disappeared in favour of the beautiful world of New Cephiro below them.

“Wait!” screamed Umi, clenching her friends’ hands harder than ever before, “Wait, we should be arriving in the throne room, not up here!”

Hikaru laughed, exhilarated, “Umi-chan, just go with it, this is fun! We haven’t done this for so long! Besides, Fyula will come along to catch us really soon.”

Fuu wasn’t so sure about this, and she pulled her arm over to her face to push her glasses back up her nose, never letting go of Umi or Hikaru. Would anyone come to catch them? Fyula’s absence – or any other beast for that matter – was too obvious now, and even Hikaru was starting to look worried. Umi had her eyes closed and was biting her lip hard.

“Mokona and the Rune Gods are gone, aren’t they?” Fuu asked above the sound of rushing wind and Umi’s panicked mumbling. Hikaru nodded her a hopeless yes, and Fuu worried she might run out of ideas soon. Hikaru and Umi had spells, but only for attack.

“Do you know where we are falling to?” Hikaru asked Fuu, looking below them, “I wonder if we can fall into some water.”

Fuu nodded and looked down too, squinting hard against the wind, trying to remember the map that Clef had made. She got her bearings and nodded downwards, “I know that village, it’s Aueria by the Sea, where Ferio lived! We can fall into the sea there if we’re lucky!” Fuu looked over to Umi, “I have a plan, Umi-san, please don’t panic when I let go of you. Just hold on to Hikaru-san.”

Umi’s bright blue eyes snapped open, full of apprehension, “Fuu, don’t do something stupid!”

Fuu gave her a nervous grin and let go of her two friends, clapping her hands together just hundreds of metres above the natural harbour of Aueria, and cried a spell, “Winds of Protection!”

Umi and Hikaru found themselves bound inside a green bubble with Fuu, and the rushing wind stopped. The three of them felt their feet touch the bottom of the bubble, and then they crashed into the sea.

“Now we just have to figure out what to do from here,” Hikaru said, as the bubble rose back to the surface. They didn’t seem too far from the coast. It was probably swimmable.

“We’re going to get very wet, aren’t we?” Umi asked, still shaking. The two of them looked at Fuu as they breached the surface, who was still concentrating very hard on maintaining the bubble with a frown on her face.

“I don’t know, Umi-chan, do you think we can help maintain Fuu’s spell and use it to roll back to the shore?”

Fuu opened her eyes a little, still concentrating, “I don’t think it would hurt to try that, Hikaru-san. There aren’t many other options.”

With that, Umi and Hikaru snatched her hands and willed as hard as they could for the protective green bubble to remain. They found it remained intact, and perhaps became even stronger. The three of them looked at each other and laughed, and then started rolling it towards the shore by walking in time. It was a hard process, because they seemed to have to exert many times the amount of effort to walk a normal distance, but they couldn’t complain. Besides, at a point near the shore, the waves were also starting to pull them in towards the beach.

“We still have to wonder what’s going on with the portal, though,” said Umi, concentrating on keeping her steps in time with Fuu and Hikaru. She couldn’t really accuse Fuu of being the one that caused them not to appear in the throne room, since she had basically saved their lives with her magic, but she did have her suspicions.

Hikaru nodded, having the same thoughts, “I think we need to talk to Clef again. We didn’t really get any proper answers from him the last time we brought it up.”

“Look!” said Fuu, pointing ahead of them with the arm Hikaru was holding, “There’s people on the shore!”

The residents of Aueria by the Sea were understandably surprised to have three girls in strange clothes travelling towards them from the sea in a glowing green bubble.

“Thank god, I thought we’d all have water-damaged stuff!” Umi said as the three of them landed on the beach.

The bubble disintegrated, and Fuu promptly staggered over and collapsed in the sand, exhausted. Hikaru leapt to her side, Umi rescuing her possessions before they could be claimed by the sea water.

“Fuu-chan, are you okay? Are you awake? Talk to me, Fuu-chan!”

Fuu smiled weakly, half-opening her eyes to Hikaru, “I’m okay, Hikaru-san, I just used a lot of my energy protecting us. And thank you, Umi-san, I wouldn’t want to lose my phone to the Cephiran ocean.”

The villagers witnessed all of this and approached them with some caution, obviously wanting to help, but still wondering if these strangely-dressed girls were a threat.

“Of course,” said Umi, “We didn’t ever visit this part of Cephiro when we were here the past couple of times. They might not recognise us.”

“Oh, I see,” Hikaru said, and beckoned Umi over, “Look after Fuu-chan please, Umi-chan, and I will try talking to the people.”

Umi nodded and began to pull Fuu a little further up the beach away from the water. Fuu thanked her, and Umi pulled her up to lean against her, “That was amazing, Fuu. You saved us.”

Fuu smiled, “It’s nothing, Umi-san. I’m sorry if I’m the one that caused the problem with the portal today. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Umi shook her head, “Let’s not worry about that right now, Fuu. Let’s worry about getting to the castle all the way over in northern New Cephiro without the help of Mokona or any supplies.”

The girls paused to watch Hikaru conversing with the villagers, who all suddenly took a step back and then fell to their knees in a gesture of honour; obviously Hikaru had just told them who they were. She was probably being particularly modest and not mentioning that she was the one that abolished the Pillar system, however.

They were slightly surprised when Hikaru cast an ‘Arrow of Fire’ into the air above them, but this only served to impress the villagers more, and, as Fuu commented to Umi, served as an emergency flare in case anyone such as Clef was monitoring anything unusual from the castle.

Hikaru bounced back over to her friends, pleased to see the tired Fuu sitting up with Umi’s support, “Fuu-chan, they would like to take us in because you are ill, and give us a place to rest and eat.”

“And because we are the Magic Knights, right, Hikaru?” Umi added.

“Well, if there’s one way for people to know you’re not a threat to them in New Cephiro, telling them that is the best way about it, Umi-chan!” she grinned and bent down to speak to Fuu directly, “Fuu-chan, can you get up and walk for a little way with our help?”

Fuu smiled and nodded, and then her two friends helped her up. The villagers were starting to scatter, and a friendly older lady remained stood there with someone who was presumably her daughter, around Ferio’s age. The older lady introduced herself as ‘Alhana’, and her daughter as ‘Laurana’.

It transpired that the two ran the local inn, and they were honoured to host the Magic Knights if they were in need of somewhere to stay. Laurana seemed to understand a little of the natural medicines that New Cephiro offered, and she took charge of Fuu.

The inn was an old stone and wood building with around five guest rooms, made in a style that reminded the girls of pictures and films of medieval Europe. There was apparently a wood stove burning somewhere in the inn because they could see smoke drifting from a high chimney, built a safe height from the thatched roof.

Hikaru and Umi were uncomfortable with leaving Fuu, but they had insisted on helping out at the inn to pay their way. Umi of course was very happy to cook, although Hikaru was somewhat lacking in culinary skills. Umi took Hikaru as her kitchen assistant, and soon sent her out foraging. They were getting better at identifying Cephiran produce, after all.

Hikaru didn’t need to wander too far in order to find some friendly farmers that had heard her earlier story, who stacked her up with armfuls of vegetables and fruit. She declined the meat they offered, asking them to keep it for themselves due to their overwhelming kindness. Cheerful and pleased with herself, she started her walk back to the Aueria Inn.

It was at that point that she met up with Laurana, the innkeeper’s daughter, who was searching in a small kitchen garden behind the inn for herbs.

“Hello,” said Hikaru, leaning over next to her as far as she could without dropping anything, “Is any of this useful to you?”

Laurana looked up in surprise. She was a pretty girl, a little taller than Umi with the same kind of build, and long curly brown hair and brown eyes, “Where did you get all of that, Miss Hikaru?”

“The farmers back there gave it to me. The people in Aueria sure are friendly and helpful!”

Laurana nodded and smiled, “They certainly are when they’re indebted this much to a few people,” she started to pick through the leafy plants in Hikaru’s arms amongst the other vegetables, “There is most of what I need here, yes, but there is just one more thing I will need to find before I return. Please could you make sure that Miss Umi keeps some of these aside for me?” and she pointed to three distinctly different plants.

Hikaru nodded very definitely and asked Laurana to help her put those in the bag that was slung over her shoulder. The Cephiran girl was quite surprised to find the different electronics and Hikaru’s purse in there, and asked about them, “Ah, well this one is for communicating – it’s called a mobile telephone but it stops working when I’m in New Cephiro, and this one is called an iPod, which plays music, and these are travel and bank cards, that we use for money.”

“Your world is very advanced, then,” Laurana said, taking a cloth from her apron to wrap the leaves in, “I will make sure I do not get your belongings dirty with this.”

Hikaru smiled and nodded again, and bid her farewell.

“Oh, Miss Hikaru?”

The red-haired Magic Knight stopped and turned to face her.

“I don’t suppose that while you were travelling, you met a young man with green hair and scars? I did not want to trouble Miss Fuu with this question in her condition.”

Hikaru opened her mouth to speak, and then reconsidered it. She had to mean Ferio, but she wasn’t sure she should tell Laurana she knew him, because this all sounded quite ominous, “I’m not sure, we met a lot of people while we were travelling through Cephiro as Magic Knights.”

“He’s the Prince, isn’t he?” Laurana asked, realising that Hikaru was stalling her with a story, “Miss Hikaru, I know you know who he is.”

“He is the Prince of New Cephiro, yes,” said Hikaru, however, she looked very sternly at her new acquaintance, “But he and Fuu-chan are together, so you can’t talk to her about this, please.”

Hikaru walked back to the inn, feeling bad that she’d had to talk to their host that way, but glad that she was probably protecting Fuu from something she didn’t need to know. Maybe she’d discuss this with Umi.

“Wow, that was fast, Hikaru!” Umi said, looking cheerfully at all the food Hikaru had got together, “I guess it will be a vegetarian meal, but that’s fine. There are really friendly people around here, huh?” She then noticed that her friend was not as cheerful as she should be, “Are you okay, Hikaru? Are you missing Lantis and the others?”

Hikaru snapped out of it and shook her head, “No, I’m okay Umi-chan, but I need to talk to you about something when there’s nobody else around,” she said this because she knew Alhana was around somewhere, and dropped all the vegetables untidily on the central counter in the farmhouse-style kitchen, “But let’s get started, shall we?”

Umi raised her eyebrows in surprise, but then she nodded and started looking around on the table. She recognised a fair few of them and started concocting some recipes in her mind, but she really wasn’t as proficient at savoury meals as she was at desserts.

“There are some things in the larder as well, girls,” Alhana said on her way past with arms full of laundry, “Please take what you need, since you are helping us out.”

“Thank you, ma’am!” Umi called, and she and Hikaru ran over to the store-cupboard to investigate, “Does this look like cheese to you, Hikaru? And this big metal churn down here in the corner, perhaps it’s animal milk?”

“We could try a little bit, I suppose, Umi-chan,” Hikaru suggested, and at Umi’s agreement she went hunting through the cupboards for cups or glasses – she returned with two and a small ladle.

Together they sampled the milk, pulled faces and swallowed it, “Perhaps it is a little like milky crème fraîche or soured cream?” Umi suggested, wiping her mouth, “Not good for drinking, but definitely good for cooking,” she looked around, “Where do they have water around here, Hikaru?”

“I could ask Alhana; she only went out to the back garden,” Hikaru suggested, “Why don’t you go and check on Fuu-chan?”

“Wait!” Umi said as her friend stood up, “Hikaru, what did you want to tell me when we were alone?”

“Ah!” Hikaru acknowledged, “I think Laurana has some history with Ferio, because she asked me about him when I went to get food. Although I pretty much told her that he was with Fuu-chan and that she shouldn’t mention it to her.”

Umi looked surprised, “What kind of history?”

“I’m not sure, Umi-chan, but didn’t you think Ferio was a little…you know…when we first met him? Flirty?”

“Definitely,” Umi agreed, “But he’s really changed since Emeraude’s death and having Fuu in his life.”

“I don’t think this is going to end well,” Umi sighed as she and Hikaru moved out of the kitchen to go their respective ways for their next tasks, “Oh and Hikaru, don’t you still have that mirror pendant? Can’t you get hold of Lantis?”

“It’s in our room at New Cephiro Castle because I didn’t want to risk losing it in our portal trips…” Hikaru said, “But I can try willing it here, I suppose, and I can send another flame up into the sky while I’m outside.”

“Thanks, Hikaru,” Umi said, and she began her ascent of a rather crude staircase, glad of the well-treaded rubber soles of her boots – and also quite glad that they hadn’t suffered to much from the sea water and sand, since they were quite expensive and she didn’t want to have to explain anything about that to her parents.

She wasn’t really sure which room Fuu was in, so she crept around and looked through cracks in the doors. She found one at the end of the corridor with the door slightly open, where Fuu lay on the bed looking drowsy.

“Hikaru has got us some really good food, Fuu!” Umi said with a big smile on her face as she entered Fuu’s room.

Fuu smiled back half-heartedly and said, “That’s great, Umi-san. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to help.”

“Well, we wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t indisposed,” said Umi, and then saw Fuu looking more apologetic than before, “Sorry, Fuu. What I mean is, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been able to save us.”

“We did it together, Umi-san!” Fuu responded, laying back into the pillows again, “Ah, Laurana-san has been very good to me so far. She said she was going to make me some revitalising potion, so I believe she has gone looking for plants.”

“Yes, I think Hikaru saw her when she went out looking for food,” Umi said, and then she sat down on Fuu’s bed, “Fuu, we think Laurana might know who Ferio is. Hikaru asked Laurana not to talk to you about it, but I just thought you should know.”

“Not talk about what, Umi-san?” Fuu asked, looking confused.

Umi sighed. Whoops, she’d given too much away, “Well, we think he might have known her more closely when uh, didn’t you say he grew up here in this village once Emeraude became the Pillar?”

“I see,” said Fuu, and she turned her head to look out of the open window – her carer had left the shutters open so she could take advantage of the fresh Cephiran sea air, “Well, I can’t expect him to have been perfect his whole life, can I?”

Umi was surprised that Fuu hadn’t taken this badly at all, and she patted her friend’s arm, “Are you sure that’s okay, Fuu?”

Fuu shrugged, and held Umi’s hand, “I couldn’t use Ascot as an example, but you wouldn’t think Hikaru is the first girl Lantis has ever loved, would you?”

Umi shook her head, “I suppose you’re right. Maybe you should talk to him about it, though, if it starts to bother you. I don’t think Laurana will speak to you about it, though.”

Fuu hesitated, and then thought this was as good a time as any; “Umi-san, about Master Mage Clef–”

“Umi-chan!” Hikaru’s voice came from downstairs, and then they heard her stomping her way up the staircase in her slightly heavier boots, “Umi-chan, there are two pails of fresh spring water in the kitchen now, and look!”

Hikaru appeared at the door looking very pleased with herself, and she held up the gold mirror pendant that Lantis had given her so long ago.

“Hikaru, don’t be so loud, you’ll disturb the other guests.” Umi hushed, “But well done! Have you spoken to Lantis?”

“Yes, and he’s going to tell the others that you two are okay as well. He said if we can wait for a day or two, he will ask Geo and Zazu to come and collect us using one of their ships from Autozam. He directed me to a clearing near a forest a little way up the coast, so we don’t upset the people in Aueria by getting into a crazy spaceship.”

“You didn’t tell them that I am ill, did you, Hikaru-san?” Fuu asked, hoping that nobody back at the castle was worrying about her.

Hikaru shook her head, “No, but I did tell Lantis about your awesome lifesaving magic, and he was very impressed.”

Fuu smiled to them both and sat up slowly. Her single-size bed was positioned against the wall, and she pulled the pillow up behind her back so she could sit comfortably against it. “I think I should be okay to make that trip by the time we need to, Hikaru-san. I think I just need a particularly good night’s sleep and some good food.”

“Food!” Umi exclaimed, “Food, Hikaru, we need to get back to the kitchen!”

“See you later, then, Fuu-chan!” Hikaru waved, being pulled out of the room by Umi, “We’ll bring you some of our concoction soon!”

Fuu, cheered by the sight of her two friends, sighed to herself contentedly and reached for her bag at the side of the bed where Laurana had placed it within her reach. She was sure she had something to read in here, or at least a notebook she could write her thoughts in.

Of course, she thought as she pulled out a small book; in here was a pocket-sized world atlas and fact book. She had promised to show Ferio and Clef this when she could find the time, so she had picked one up in a book sale because it was small and convenient to carry, unlike the hefty atlases they had studied during geography and geology lessons at school.

This one had a small map of Tokyo’s Metro system in the back of it, as well as an obligatory map of the London Underground, and she looked over these geometric maps with interest. She wondered how New Cephiro would look with a modern infrastructure like this.

Flicking through to the back, she found a few empty “notes” pages, and with a smile pulled a mechanical pencil from her bag as well. She had studied Ferio’s ‘Legendary Magic Knights” book several times with interest, and she was fairly sure she knew enough about New Cephiro’s geography to make a world map of it.

Meanwhile, Hikaru and Umi were making a most excellent mess in the kitchen, although the end results would turn out to be quite tasty – despite Umi’s lack of much experience with non-sweet meals, and their inability to read any of the cookery books in the kitchen.

“What exactly do you call this, then, Umi-san?” Fuu asked, receiving a plate from her friends, and they sat around the small table in the guest room.

Umi looked over it, and ventured, “Cephiran…uhh…”

“Hotchpotch!” Hikaru finished, “Because that’s what it is.”

Fuu giggled, and sampled some of the food, “Well, I guess it tastes like…a variety of root vegetables in some kind of soured cream sauce…” She saw Umi’s disappointed face and waved her fork – or whatever the equivalent Cephiran implement was, “It tastes really good, though, Umi-san, I didn’t mean anything negative by the comment.”

“We’ll have to make some desserts tonight, too, Umi-chan!” Hikaru said, looking sincerely pleased by the food, “This is really delicious considering we didn’t know what we were cooking with.”

“Don’t you think it would be hard to find things to cook cakes with?” Umi asked, “Especially when the milk here tastes like crème fraîche.”

“You didn’t consider that the milk might be off, did you, Umi-san?”

“Well…I did consider that, but I figured that out-of-date milk would have a strange consistency, and lumps in it.”

Umi and Hikaru were pleased to hear that Laurana and Alhana also enjoyed their meal, and that they had plenty of food left over for other guests. Laurana had brought with her the potion she had earlier promised Fuu – a Cephiran traditional remedy for fatigue. Fuu waited politely until Hikaru and Umi left for the night before she drank it.

“You are very good with medicines, Laurana-san. Didn’t you ever consider becoming a pharmacist?” Fuu was met with a blank look from her carer, “I see, would you call it an apothecary?”

“Oh, I see!” Laurana said, clapping her hands together, “Yes, I did study under the village elder for a while, but I stopped due to some personal circumstances. You see, there was a young hunter I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life with, but he disappeared without a word one day and left me heartbroken. I haven’t found the will to study since then. And today I found out he wasn’t dead, like I feared. It’s worse.”

Fuu was taken aback; she must be talking about Ferio. Laurana was regarding her with concern, and she was conscious that she should at least say something sympathetic, “I’m sorry to have brought that up, Laurana-san. That must have been very upsetting.”

She shook her head, “The pain still feels quite fresh, and I just wanted to clear the air,” Laurana looked at Fuu’s face, her expression unreadable, “Your friends told you about him, didn’t they?”

Fuu had to avoid Laurana’s gaze after a few seconds; she could feel the hurt and jealousy, “Yes, they did. I hope you will forgive me, but I do not really wish to hear anything more about it, because Ferio and I are promised to each other.”

Marina G.

Marina lives on the south west coast of England and works in IT. When she's not doing that, she enjoys writing and drawing fan works for Star Trek, CLAMP manga/anime, Nintendo properites, and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.