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although you deserve much, much more


 Dear Chrissie,

This isn't long enough or good enough for you, my dear.  It is possibly too sketchy, certainly too sappy, and very much an Aki story all around, being 80% shoddy dialogue and 20% even shoddier plot, with a ridiculous happi endo tacked on for good measure.  The title is from the French story, "La belle au bois dormant."  The Japanese use the translation of that title, rather than the shortened English version, "Sleeping Beauty."

NEVERTHELESS--I did not marry Lantis off to Hikaru, so please don't hate me XDDDDDDDDDDD

<3 *MWAH*



WARNING: Here there be spoilers.

The Two Beautiful Boys


On the left, Lantis, younger brother of Zagato, former High Priest of Cephiro and the misunderstood villain of MKR, series one.  To his right,  Eagle Vision (yes, they are all named after cars), Commander of Autozam.    Really, they're so good looking, there's no real further excuse needed for slashing them.  But, if you need one...

Canonically, Lantis is paired with Hikaru, one of the Magic Knights, by implication in the manga, and explicitly in the anime.  Unfortunately...

Chrissie and I HATE Hikaru.  She is about the most Mary Sueish character that ever Mary Sue'd her way through a series with smiles and rainbows and SPARKLY SPARKLY LOVE.   She is popular.  She is pretty.  She is sporty.  She is cheery.  She is UNIVERSALLY adored by everyone, MALE AND FEMALE, in the entire effing series.  That is quite enough to make us hate anyone, let alone someone with her puppyish naivete, which neither of us consider to be a virtue. 

Plus, Hikaru isn't of their world--she's more like an occasional visitor, with an entire life and a family outside of Cephiro.  AND THE LITTLE HUSSY LOVES EVERYONE, so, you know.  :grin:  It isn't precisely reciprocation!

The general interpretation of the ending of MKR II is a sort of Eagle/Lantis/Hikaru triangle, but when I read it, I really didn't feel that Eagle loved Hikaru.  My own conclusion is that Eagle is basically head over heels for Lantis, but Lantis is pretty damn oblivious, despite the fact that he implies more than once that his feelings for Hikaru and Eagle are similar.  In fact, that's what initially catches his eye about Hikaru--she reminds him of Eagle.

Here is a reasonable summary of the characters and their relationships.

Basically, Chrissie can't resist Eagle because he's a Fuji-type--smiley, smart , capable, whimsical, understated, vaguely manipulative but with the best of intentions!   Chrissie, on the topic:
i personally think lantis is blind
  and that eagle is 999999999999x better than hikaru! and smarter! and hotter! and more smiley!


I can't resist the idea of Eagle/Lantis because 1) I genuinely believe Eagle is pining like a conifer for Lantis, and 2) the "best friends, where one is oblivious to how the other feels!" trope is my Kryptonite.   3) Plus, Lantis/Eagle make a very standard "pairing"--the strong, silent, slightly oblivious seme, the frailer, cheery but with a hidden tragedy! uke.  Also, they're pretty.  Yeah.

I like Eagle for all the reasons above, and because he doesn't make a cloying fuss over being a martyr.  There is almost no screen time wasted on him bemoaning his fate, or the fact that Lantis wins his heart and then leaves him to go on a potentially fatal mission.  And while initially I was a little slashfaced at the fact that he was willing to leave Autozam hanging, as Chrissie pointed out, he already knew he couldn't save Autozam by becoming the pillar, and he didn't really have time for a Plan B.  Instead, he used his terminal disease in a way that would give his beloved Lantis what he wanted and render his passing more meaningful.  Can't really blame him, there.



Au Bois Dormant



She always went immediately to the pavilion, no matter how many people waylaid her with smiles and promises of Cephiro's finest delicacies, walking faster and faster until she scampered up the steps at nearly a run.

More often than not, he would go with her, listening to her chatter and Eagle's gentle replies.

Inevitably, after several minutes, Eagle would send both of them away.

Once, Lantis had lingered a moment to ask him, "Do we tire you?" 

No, Eagle assured him.  Actually, she makes it quite lively. 

There was a wryness to his words that Lantis did not understand.  "Then why not let her stay?  She seems to enjoy talking to you."

Where is your chivalry?  Eagle chided. That child has better things to do than sit at a sickbed.  Let her make the most of her time while she is here.  

"If you think I can influence what she wants to do, you've forgotten what happened in a remarkably short time."

Fortunate, then, that she wants to be with you. 

Eagle's "voice" sounded slightly flatter than usual, and Lantis had tactfully departed.

It was after one such visit that he looked down to see Hikaru frowning as she walked, lower lip tucked slightly under her teeth in an expression he was coming to know. 

"Why hasn't he woken up?" she burst out suddenly.  "It's been a long time, hasn't it?"  She looked to him for confirmation, perhaps remembering that time did not always move in lockstep between their worlds.

"He's rebuilding his strength," he reassured her.  "Before coming here he exhausted all his reserves of energy, and that is not to be lightly thrown off.  Were it not for you, he--"

Hikaru had stopped walking.  "Is it--is it because I'm not here enough?  Because I try to keep wishing it all the time, even when I'm back in Tokyo, but maybe it doesn't work from there."  

"You're no longer the pillar," he reminded her.  "And Eagle's will is strong enough without any help.  He will wake when he is ready."

She sighed, then laughed.  "The first time I saw him, I thought he was like Sleeping Beauty!  Lying there so peacefully.  But he isn't really asleep, of course."

"No.  His mind seems alert enough."  Alert enough to follow the Council's proceedings, and at times to seem almost impatient for more progress on the device they were designing to purify air.  Zazu often dropped by to give him technical details, which spared Lantis the task.  He vaguely understood the principles; they were current discussing the possibility of having it initially powered by the djinn of Chizeta.

She looked anxious still, and he took her hand.  "Come on.  Presea has promised you a special treat today, hasn't she?"

She brightened at this.  "She promises a special treat every time, and every time it's delicious!  Mm, remember the one she made for Umi's birthday?  I wonder if all Pharle can cook so well?  Do you think it's part of their craft?" 

As they continued back to the castle, he looked over his shoulder to where the pavilion stood, sheltered behind the wall of greenery. 


***

"Guru Clef."

"Lantis.  Just a moment, please."  Clef was shaping something between his hands, and raised them in the air.  He inspected what appeared to be an amorphous blob of blue light, which rotated obediently as he closed his eyes.  Various other colors bobbed within it.  "It has potential," he decided, and dismissed it with a clap.  "It is good to see you, Lantis.  But what brings you here?"

He shifted almost unconsciously.  Clef knew quite well that Lantis was unable to regard him as a friend, but there was no one on the four worlds who knew more about magic.  If anyone understood the nature of Eagle's malady, it would be Clef.  "I had a question for you."

"If I can help you, I will."  The sorcerer sounded sincere enough, and in all truth what had happened to Zagato had not been his doing.  

Yet he could not help the stiffness in his voice.  "What do you think of Eagle's condition?"

"Eagle?  He seems content, when I speak with him.  Have you detected some change?"  Clef's grave, ageless face looked up at him, and he thought carefully.

"No."  Eagle was...himself still, that much was certain.   When he was not looking down at that immobile countenance, it was surprisingly easy to forget that  they were not merely spending another afternoon in desultory conversation, as they often had on Autozam.   "Hikaru is concerned because he continues to sleep."

"Is she?"  Clef's brows drew together.

"You are not?"

"It is my understanding that Eagle will awaken when he is ready." 

"And when might that be?"

Clef tapped the bottom of his staff against the floor.  "You forget that Hikaru is no longer the pillar."

His fist wanted to clench, and he told it to relax.  It was, he reminded himself, the nature of sorcerers to be pedantic.  "I haven't forgotten."

"If she were, Eagle would be awake already.  As it is, I can only say that it is not up to her, nor is it  up to you or me."  The sorcerer
turned back, and the ball of writhing light formed itself again. 

"Do you wish him to recover?"  The words were out before he could think better of them.

"Eagle?"  Clef's voice held a suggestion of raised eyebrows.  "Of course.  A very intelligent, charming young man.  I have high hopes of what the coalition will achieve under his leadership."  The glow pulsed faster.

"He tried to put Cephiro into an eternal slumber."

"Were you not planning something similar yourself?"

"I am of Cephiro.  I had my reasons--you know them."

"Eagle's reasons do not strike me as being wholly related to Autozam's predicament."

"You mean--his illness."

Clef said nothing more.  After a moment, bands of light began to play against the walls.  He bowed silently, then turned on his heel.  He had nearly reached the door when the sorcerer spoke once more.

"You will let me know if there is anything he needs?  We would all rejoice, were he to open his eyes."

"Of course," he said shortly, and left.


***


Ahead of him, the late afternoon sunlight flooded across the lawns and spilled down the hallway.  As he approached the dais that led down to the courtyard, he caught a glimpse of a golden head through the frail spires of the banister. 

Fuu, the Magic Knight who wore the odd lens over her eyes, was sitting on the bottom step, gazing out through the pillars.  A book lay open in her lap, and her mouth curved in unguarded pleasure at her thoughts.   He executed a bow as he passed her, and she started.

"Oh!  Lantis.  I hope I'm not in your way."

He smiled indulgently at the frail-looking girl, who took up barely a quarter of the step's width.  "You are waiting for someone?"

"Ferio,"  she admitted.  "He said he'd come find me as soon as training ended."  Unconsciously she twisted the plain ring on her finger, and blushed when she saw him smiling. 

"He misses you a great deal."  He thought of Hikaru, living in that other world, the world of no magic.  It was difficult for him to imagine, yet it held so much of her: her family, the place and the tongue of her birth.

"He is already badgering Clef to find a way to come visit me in Tokyo," she said wryly.  She was looking down at her ring, and did not see him start.  "But I shouldn't complain!  After all, Umi has it much harder.  Every time she leaves, Ascot asks her if she is coming back soon."  She giggled, the sound unexpectedly lively. 

"I take it the Palu's suit does not prosper."

"I think when Umi looks at him, she still sees the little boy whose nose she once wiped!  But after all that might change," she added firmly. 

"You wish to see them together?"

She hesitated, then said slowly, "It's no easy task to change yourself, even for the one you love.  I believe he must have wanted her to like him, very much.  Umi doesn't see this yet, but she may someday."

"Fuu!"

Ferio was striding up the steps, flushed and slightly breathless. 

"Ferio!"  The green-eyed girl sprang up quickly, though not before carefully placing her book on the steps. 

The swordsman caught her hands in his own.  "I came as quickly as I could, but the new recruits insisted--Oh, hello Lantis," favoring him with a quick grin.

He bowed in return, and knowing that he would not be missed, made his way past the couple and out through the pillars.  Behind him, Fuu and Ferio's voices blended cheerfully into the distance. 


***

The details of the palace grounds tended to shift from day to day, as if reflecting the multitude of wills that occupied them.  He had hardly passed the hedges that generally marked the start of the gardens when he heard himself being hailed.

"Lantis!"

Zazu, waving energetically, and Geo, shading his eyes against the slanting light.  He braced himself for the quiet scrutiny of Eagle's second-in-command.  Zazu seemed to bear no grudges, but there was something in Geo's eyes that suggested suspicion, or reserve.

"You left very suddenly," was the closest he had ever heard the man come to an accusation, and even that had been said abruptly, as if on impulse. 

He had not denied it.

"Council's adjourned for the day, and we're off to see Eagle.  Like to come?"  The jaunty young man swung his goggles by their strap, sauntering along as if it made little difference if Lantis came or not. 

He fell in step beside them.

"Go every day, do you?"  Geo's voice was bland, but he knew those keen eyes would be fixed on his face.

"When I can."  Sometimes by the time he went, the twin stars had already sunk into the horizon, leaving him to find his way by mage-light or memory.  But Eagle always greeted him the same way.

Lantis, he would say.  You've come back.

He hung back as they entered the pavilion, Zazu's thick-soled boots clumping briskly up the steps. 

"Eagle, are you asleep?"  The mechanic peered over the rim of the sleeping pod curiously. 

Awake enough to hear you coming from leagues away, Zazu Torque.

"That isn't me you hear, it's that heavy lummox, Geo," the mechanic grumbled.  "We came by to tell you the latest Council news, although there isn't much happening.  They've let the greybeards in now, so there will be more beard-waggling than planning."

"Ignore him, Eagle," Geo cut in.  "He's only grumpy because he wanted to look into the Dome's reactor, and Chang An stopped him."

"It isn't as if we're still at war," Zazu said heatedly.  "And I only wanted to see if it might be helpful for the purifier."

If you poke your nose where it does not belong, you must expect to have it tweaked.

"Consider the fate of Autozam is at stake, Eagle, I'd think you would be more sympathetic!"

"If you do not stop rising to the Commander's bait and deliver your news, we will not be back in time for the evening meal," Geo commented.

"Deliver it yourself, you were there too," Zazu retorted, and sat down on the steps to sulk.

If Hikaru were here, you would not be pouting!

"But she isn't, so there's no need for good behavior," Zazu yawned, laying himself flat against the cool stone of the pavilion. 

Geo went over the details of the latest meeting concisely, not being prone to digressions praising the beauty of either certain mechanical schemes or various Council members.

Eagle followed him closely, often asking for clarification, or suggesting an alternative viewpoint. 

When they were done, a slight snore rumbled out of Zazu's childish face.  Geo leaned over and nudged him with a toe, and Zazu sat up rapidly, blinking his eyes.

"Up, Master Mechanic.  What will the Cail think of your degenerate ways?"

The Cail has had plenty of time to acquaint himself with our degenerate ways, so I think you need not worry about his opinion.

"At any rate, it's rude to sleep in the Commander's presence."

"Why? He is sleeping in ours, isn't he?  Actually, Commander, were you really sleeping, or just resting?" Zazu inquired.  "Say, do you sleep and have dreams, like you did before?" 

There was a moment of silence, like a slow heartbeat.

Come to think of it, I do not know.  The passage of time is...a little difficult to track in this condition.

Eagle's voice held an unfamiliar note of uncertainty. 

"But you don't remember dreaming?"  Zazu persisted.

No.

"Just as well," Geo interrupted.  "Don't waste your energy on dreams, Commander.  Hurry up and recover, Autozam and the Council are waiting for you."

Yet I am fully confident they are in good hands.

"But not the best," Geo said.

"Perhaps you do dream, but you don't remember them, or you don't know you're dreaming," Zazu pondered on.  "After all, how can you tell if your eyes are always closed?"

Some dreams are best forgotten.  The words had the curious flat quality that he had come to associate with fatigue.  Geo merely leaned forward to clasp his Commander's hand. 

"It's time we were going.  Rest well, Eagle," he said roughly.  

He delivered another glance at Lantis before they left, half thoughtful, half troubled, but otherwise made no comment on his lingering in the pavilion.

Lantis.  You've come back.

"So I have," he said, and sat down.

***

Later on, when it had grown dark, Eagle apologized.

Ah, I made you miss your evening meal.

"You are also missing yours."

Surely you are not going to pretend that I need food? 

"One does not need to feel hunger to desire food," he pointed out.  "Is there nothing you feel an appetite for?"  Perhaps, he was thinking, Eagle is lacking sustenance.  Perhaps he has slept so long that he is forgetting the needs of his body.

Nothing you could find on Cephiro, I'm afraid.

"You say that as if traveling to Autozam were impossible.  If you request something, they will all be fighting for the honor of bringing it to you."

Don't put the thought in their minds!  Geo would bury me in sweets if he thought they would help me wake one minute sooner.

"He is not the only one," thinking of Clef's words.

Eagle was silent.   

There is a bird somewhere who sings from a branch just beyond the pavilion, the commander said finally.  I have often wished it would sing for me, on the nights that it was quiet.  I tried to will it to, you know?  The sentence ended in a soundless laugh, a burst of humorous self deprecation. 

"Even on Cephiro, unless you are the Pillar, you cannot will any other living thing to heed you.  You can only control yourself."  He thought of Ascot, and smiled.

I soon found that out.  And do you know, if I could command it to sing, then I think...that song would lose its value.

"Because it would hold no freedom."

Precisely.  Perhaps, another ripple of amusement, Perhaps that is what I am eating now.

"Birdsong?" 

Freedom.

"Freedom..."  He glanced around the small pavilion, wholly dominated by Eagle's bed, now painted in shadows.  Eagle's face was a paler shadow, nearly swallowed in the gloom. 

Why, the decision to sing, Eagle said lightly.  Did you hear what Geo said?  It seems that they are coming closer to a solution to cleaning the atmosphere.  I hope it will not be too long before such birds are singing in Autozam. 

"Fortunately, the Chizetans are less secretive than the Fahrenites."

They do not need to be.  Only their royal family is capable of controlling the Djinn.

From there it was a discussion of bloodlines, the different quality of magic on the known planets, then the potential for further planets that were unknown, and so on and so forth, until even the largest of the triple moons was washed out by the incoming flood of dawn.

***

"Lantis!"

He turned at the sound of his name.  Lafarga was striding towards him, Ferio in his wake. 

It was rare that the Captain of the Guards had words for him, and he waited with some curiosity.

"Guru Clef wishes to see you," the man said formally, as he drew near.   

"For what purpose?"

"Whatever it is, it was important enough to interrupt drills, so I think you'd better heed it," Ferio said with his customary bluntness.

"I'll go immediately."

Clef looked up as he entered the workroom.  "Lantis.  I apologize for summoning you so abruptly."

"How can I be of service?" 

"You have heard that we are working on a solution regarding Autozam's atmospheric pollution?"

"I do not know the details, but I have heard of the plan."

"Chizeta has generously allowed us to borrow the power of their djinni, but it is not a force easily harnessed.  Their raw powers combined would suffice to cycle the air through the motor that the Autozam mechanics have built, but there must be an integrating force that helps the two connect and channel properly."

"You wish for me to help supply that force?"

"As a Cail you are skilled in the art of barrier building, are you not?"

"A strong, small barrier, such as a shield.  Not a barrier as large as the one you are proposing, Clef."

"The size is not important.  I and the other sorcerers can help enhance it, but we require you to provide us with a template."

"I see."  He digested this, turning over the possibilities in his mind.  "It will not be easy," he said thoughtfully.  "The different magics have never merged that well, even those of Cephiro."

"No.  But for the fate of a planet, we can expend the effort."

"When would you like me to begin?"

Clef looked up at him, dark eyes intent.  "If you are not otherwise engaged...?"

He thought of the pavilion, where Eagle was waiting.  Perhaps he was sleeping, and ought not be disturbed so often.  Geo himself had said that the Commander seemed tired; perhaps they had talked too long the night before.

He shook his head.  "If we are so near success, it would be foolish to lose momentum through delay."  Bringing his hands up, he said, "Please watch," and shaped the first three runes of protection.  A glowing triangle sprang up, and Clef studied it through narrow eyes. 

"Can you hold it there for me?"

"As long as you need."

***

"Whew!"  Zazu flopped down.  "I could do with a cold beer right now.  You wouldn't guess it, but that little guy's a slave driver!"

"That 'little guy' is the chief sorcerer of this planet, old enough to be your grandfather's father.  And if he catches you calling him that you might find yourself turned into a vespa for your impertinence!"  Despite her words, she handed them each a frosted glass, ignoring Zazu's protestations of eternal love.

"Not even Clef can do that," Zazu protested, between gulps.  "Don't think that just because we're outsiders, we don't know the rules."

"Thank you, Mistress Pharle."

"Lantis," she acknowledged, ignoring the muttering mechanic, and gave him a slight bow with her hand placed over her chest.  "Clef is very pleased with your efforts."

"I wish he had more reason to be pleased."   For ten days they had been rotating shifts at the palace, and he felt himself trying to cast barriers even in his sleep.  Yet for all that they had been unable to fully mesh the three forces, and what worked in theory was disappointingly unstable in practice.

"We'll get it yet," Zazu gritted.  "The concept is sound, I know it is!  It's just a matter of integration.  For some reason, magic just  seems to disrupt the internal mechanism, no matter how we change the design."

"It is a matter that has stymied us for more than seven days, though," Presea sighed.  "And time is growing short.  Tarta says that Rakoon and Rasheen are growing tired, and will have to withdraw to replenish themselves soon.  Lady Aska has offered to replace them with summoned creatures, but somehow I don't think that would be a good idea."

They all contemplated the vision of the capricious Lady in charge of handling the complex mechanism.  Zazu shut his eyes.

He sat for a moment longer, then got to his feet.

Zazu opened one eye, and squinted at him curiously.  "Lantis, where are you going?" 

"To find advice."

***

I believe that you must create a new kind of magic, Eagle said finally.

"A new kind?"  He frowned.  "Is that even possible, or truly necessary?"

It has occurred to me before that different magics may not work well together.  Particularly here, where so many other factors become an issue. 

"I could understand that our unfamiliarity with other magics might make for poor skill in handling them.  But why here in particular?"

Lantis, you are from Cephiro.  You surely have faith that any barrier created by Clef and his sorcerers, with your help, would be strong enough to contain the force from the djinn. 

"Of course."

Yet those from Chizeta may not feel the same faith.  Some may even hope that their djinn will prove too powerful to control in this fashion. 

"Would they not set aside such petty thoughts in the face of a common goal?"

Even those from Autozam may not not be comfortable working with so much raw magic.  Zazu has often complained to me that these magic users do not understand mecha.  Furthermore, do not forget that until recently, we were the aggressors.   Lantis, I doubt there is much love lost between Autozam and the others, despite Hikaru's plea for goodwill.

"You exaggerate the problem, Eagle.  The four nations are now allied, after all."

Will you tell me that no one looks at you suspiciously, simply for having spent time with us?

"I--"

It was not such a long time, in truth.

"Even if things are as you say, how will using a new magic solve them?  And just how would we create this magic?"

It would provide a front for the Council to unite behind.  If we still had the Mashin, they could provide a similar front, but unfortunately neither they nor the Magic Knights are currently with us.

"And this new magic?"

I will create it.

***

"If Eagle says he is capable of synthesizing a new kind of magic, I will not dispute his claim. He is uniquely suited to find a complementary type, after all.  Of the Council members, he has the best understanding of mecha, and he has studied the magics of the other worlds closely."  Clef moved slowly past the wall filled with scrolls as he spoke, and came to rest at the large round window at one end of the room.

"Do you think he was right about the reasons for our failure?"

"Though it pains me to admit it, there is truth in what he says.  He is a shrewd judge of character despite his young age, and it may be that his idea is the only solution."  The sorcerer's eyes were fixed thoughtfully on Autozam, a grey pearl hanging innocuously in the sky.  "I have noted that the team from Autozam seem wary of our magic, and the sorcerers for their part are largely ignorant of how the mechanical portion of the purifier works.  Including myself, unfortunately," and Clef smiled ruefully.

"I had not thought it possible."  Lantis frowned.  "To create an entirely new kind of magic..."

"But it is.  Perhaps possible only on Cephiro, because of our planet's unique nature, but nevertheless possible.  All forms of magic used here were once created by someone, including your own, Master Cail.  Did you never think of that?  Many of the specific spells you use were in a sense created by you, although someone may have taught you how to shape them."

"That's so... I have never looked upon it in that light."

"Your friend is a remarkable young man," Clef continued slowly.  "In his condition, he finds the time and will to grapple with not only one, but two complex problems.  Most would be too focused on recuperation to feel responsibility.  In fact I fear he spends too little energy on reviving himself."

He looked sharply at the sorcerer.  "Two problems, Guru?"

The petite chief sorcerer swung around.  "Lantis, I charge you with watching over him.  He must not be allowed to spread himself too thin."

It was as if he could feel the weight of Eagle's body, limp in his arms, and his voice grated unnaturally.  "And how do you propose I stop him?"

"I have faith in your abilities too, Master Cail.  And if not those, then your friendship."

Lantis passed a hand over his brow.  "Before...He hid his illness from everyone.  When Eagle sets his heart on a path, he does not heed even his closest kin."

Clef lifted his eyes towards Autozam again, and sighed.  "Then you must make sure he chooses the right path." 

***

He could not spare a glance for the shifting beauty of the landscape, and strode along with his boot heels digging into the soft turf.  They almost rang when they struck the steps of the pavilion.

Lantis.  You've come ba--

"Is it true?" he asked harshly.  "Do you deliberately retard your recovery in order to assist the sorcerers with their goals?"

Lantis, I have plenty of time to think.  Is it so bad if I devote a little of it to them?

"Of course not.  Yet the days come and go and you are still lying here, Eagle!"

They are separate matters, Lantis.  You cannot blame the sorcerers for my condition.  They did not ask me for my assistance.

"I am not blaming the sorcerers."  He took another step, until he was leaning over the bed.  "Eagle, swear to me that you are not keeping something from us again."

What did Clef say, to make you so upset?

"He said the idea was sound.  He believed that you could do it, that you were suited to the task.  But he suspects that you are diverting too much of your energy to puzzling out solutions.  That you risk remaining in this state."

I know my limits.  And the fate of Autozam is at stake.  You cannot expect me to lie idly here and think pleasant thoughts when my people are still suffering. 

"Knowing you, I could not.  But nor would your people ask you to throw your life away."

You were prepared to do the same when Cephiro sought a new pillar. 

He could say nothing to that, and scowled. 

I am grateful for your concern, Lantis.  But it is too soon for you to worry.  I do not even know if I will be able to successfully manipulate the magic of this planet yet.

"Promise me.  Promise me that you will not risk yourself unnecessarily."  He did an unprecedented thing then, and strode forward to seize one of Eagle's hands in his own.  The warmth of it was a slight shock, but he gripped it tightly.  "Promise me!"

I promise I will do nothing that is not necessary.  But you know we have limited time to work, Lantis. 

"Why must it be you?  Can no one else think of a solution?" 

They are more than welcome to try.  In fact, I expect Clef is already setting the sorcerers to work.  But we cannot rely on their success. 

"Is there nothing I can do?" he asked, almost angrily.

There is much you could do to help me, if you are willing.  But I'm afraid it will be tedious.  I can call on Geo and Zazu, if you would prefer to be at the palace.

"Don't.  I will remain here."

Thank you, Lantis.

***

What do you feel? 

"Nothing."

Try again.

"...still nothing."

Try again.

"Eagle, you must rest.  It has been half a day."

I am resting.  Try again.

"Is there...did you put something in my hand?"

Did you feel it?

"Just now, very faintly--like a pressure against my fingers."

Ah!

It was odd how in that moment, he could see the triumph flash into Eagle's eyes, as clearly as if they had been open all this time.
 
***

After that breakthrough, he had due cause to wonder if indeed Eagle ever slept.  He himself dozed occasionally against the pillars, swathed in his cloak, sometimes waking when Eagle's voice murmured in his dreams.  Their meals were brought to them by various denizens of the palace, but if they arrived when Eagle was directing an experiment, they often went forgotten until the next batch came.

I should remind you, Eagle said contritely, the second time it happened.  Once I stop smelling them, I lose track.

"I will not starve."

But you should rest.

"Then so should you."

I will.  But first, let us test the melting point.

***

Tell me of Hikaru's world.

The request came suddenly on the third day of their labor, during one of their infrequent pauses. 

"She does not speak of it to you?"

I have asked her about many things, but I would like to know more.

There was an odd twisting quality to Eagle's last words, and with some surprise he identified it as wistfulness.  Without fully understanding, he found himself recounting details that Hikaru had mentioned to him, names and places scattered carelessly like flower petals throughout her conversation. 

He was recounting a story about her brothers when Eagle asked him suddenly, Would you like to meet them?

"Her brothers?" 

Yes.

"But they live in Tokyo."

That does not mean you will never meet them.

"What are you saying, Eagle?"

I believe it may some day be possible to travel to that world.

"How is that possible?  Mokona and his kind have left us."

It is not the difficulty of reaching that world which stymies us, but the difficulty of returning.

He considered the issue.  "Because of the lack of magic there?"

Precisely.  Think of a world without magic, Lantis.  There, you would be only an ordinary swordsman.  Any device we could fashion to send you there would no longer work for a second trip home.  It is possible that there would be no way back.

"To leave Cephiro forever...to live in a world without magic.  Ferio is brave to consider it, if he knows the consequences."

Would you consider it?

"...would you?"

All that keeps me alive is magic.  I am not quite sure what would happen were I to enter a world without it, but I doubt the change would be beneficial. 

"Then you must recover."  It was the first time he had heard Eagle speak so bluntly of his illness.  Despite the dry, matter-of-fact tone of his words, he found himself slightly shaken.

I thought it was strange, Eagle went on musingly.  There is no magic in their world, yet their stories are full of it. 

He said nothing.  His heart was filled with a strange apprehension.

She told me one, once.  It was called the Beauty in the Sleeping Woods.  A lovely story.

"You must recover.  You will recover.  We will visit Hikaru's world together.  I am sure she could find a way to send us home."

You are like her, and the twisting quality was back.  You, too, have a good heart. 

***

On the fifth day, Eagle said, Summon Guru Clef.

When the chief sorcerer arrived, Lantis held it forth: a ball of shining white, smooth and warm to the touch.  He placed it into Clef's hand.

To the sorcerer's wondering gaze, Eagle said, This is pennz.  I believe it will be the answer to our problems.

***

"But that isn't possible," Zazu said again.  "Nothing with such a high melting point should be so malleable!"

"And anything that malleable will be destroyed the second those djinn begin to huff and puff," added another mechanic.

You are forgetting its special qualities.

"I don't understand how anything can absorb magic the way you are describing!"  This from a Fahrenite scholar.

Not merely absorb, but to use magic to reinforce itself.  Thus it can channel a great force without being destroyed.  Nor will the unstable atmospheric conditions of Autozam easily destroy it.   

"Can you demonstrate this for us?"  Presea asked, and the sorcerers behind her nodded.

Certainly.  Can one of you suspend this in the air?

"I will do it," said a young woman dressed in green, standing in the second row.  She cleared her throat, whispered a string of words, and the bar of pennz began to glow, but did not move.  She started, and spoke the words again, this time accompanying them with a thrust of her hand.

A fine sheen of sweat began to appear on the woman's forehead.  "I don't...I don't understand," she stammered.  "It feels like trying to move a giant boulder."

"How odd," Tatra murmured.  Stepping forward, she placed a hand on the metallic white bar, just as Tarta grabbed at her nervously.  She straightened, holding the bar in her slim brown hand.  "It's slightly warm," she commented.

"That is the unique property of pennz," Lantis said, seeing that Eagle was silent.  "It is resistant to any magical interference, no matter how great the force implied.  Yet it can be shaped by mechnical forces, for use in crafting."

I have taught it to recognize certain forces.  All others, elemental or magical, it will not respond to.

"Then you want to build the purifier--"  Geo started,

"--out of pennz?"  Presea finished dubiously.
 
"But there's not enough!  That's only a tiny bar!  The purifier requires a large pipe for directing the polluted air, how will that suffice?"

There will be enough.

"How are you creating it?"

There will be enough, Eagle repeated, and this time there were no more questions.

***

The pennz appeared, hour by hour, in blocks as long as a man's arm.  They lay piled around the pavilion, and were constantly carted away. 

"You are shaping all this from thin air?" he asked, incredulous.

I am shaping it from raw magic.  There is so much here...I am only beginning to understand its potential.

There was some heaviness in the last words that struck him amiss, and his unease was intensified by the sight of the pennz, gleaming all around him, beautiful in its innate resistance.

"I never imagined you could do so much."

At first, I could not.  I could not even have lit a single filament, or raised the slightest breeze.  But it seems I have grown stronger. 

"But not strong enough to wake up," he said flatly.

I have my priorities, Eagle said gently.

***

He had gone to the palace to see how close the purifier was to completion, to satisfy himself that no more pennz was needed.  When he approached the pavilion, a strange unease gripped him, and he hastened up the steps.

No one was there, all were at the palace, working on or supervising the final stages.  The pavilion was silent once more.

Too silent, he realized, and reached out blindly.  Eagle's hand was cool to the touch.  Compared to the glare of sunlight outside the pavilion, his skin looked faded, almost transparent by comparison.

"Eagle."  Then more loudly, "Eagle!"

Lantis?  You've come back.  The words were strangely blurry, as if coming from underwater. 

"Eagle, are you all right?"

I...was dreaming, I think.  How odd.

"I apologize for waking you," throat loosening with relief.  "I came to say that no more pennz is necessary.  You can finally rest; they have enough, now.  Construction is almost complete.  They have begun testing with only Rasheen, and so far it is holding up well."

That is good news indeed.  Eagle's voice was still faint.  As you say, I can finally rest. 

"Geo is growing frantic, he says you should not have pushed yourself so hard."  He felt foolish, standing there clasping Eagle's motionless hand, yet reluctant to let go.  Finally he released it and sat down on the platform of the pavilion, facing the steps.  He remained there in silence for some time, his head resting against the side of the bed.

Overhead, a bird twittered and chuckled to itself on the pavilion's domed roof.
 
I would like to see birds in Autozam, Eagle said at last.

"We could bring some there.  If the purifier works, I see no reason why Autozam should not have a blue sky, and trees."

A blue sky...my father has never seen a blue sky.

"The President will be very proud of you.  Even if he does not fully grasp the miracle you have wrought."

Lantis? 

"Yes?"

You will...visit Tokyo...for me, won't you?

"I told you, we'll go together..." 

As you say, and the words were warm in his head, rich with quiet affection.

He leaned his head back against the bed, and closed his eyes.  After the unremitting tension of the last few weeks, the quiet of the pavilion seemed to seep into him, weighing him down with its peace.

When he opened his eyes again, it was dark.

"Eagle?" he said drowsily, then sat up, a chill sweeping over him.  "Eagle!"

***

On the fifth day of Eagle's sleep, two days after the purifier had been installed on Autozam, the three former Magic Knights returned to Cephiro.

He told Hikaru of events since their last visit.  Then he told her what had befallen Eagle, and turned away, unable to bear the look in her eyes.

***

Twenty days after the purifier had been weaned off of all outside power and begun to run on the collective wishes of the Autozam population, Lantis released the first whyte into its atmosphere.  It fluttered uncertainly within arms' reach of him, then caught a draft that carried it higher into a sky that still faintly looked and tasted of metal. 

***

Fifty days after the Fahrenite ships pull out of orbit to refuel and repair on their home world, Geo seized him as he rounded the corner from the training grounds.

"Lantis, I think you'd best come and look at this."  Eagle's second-in-command wore a tight look of anxiety in place of his usual phlegmatic calm.

When they turned the corner and arrived at the pavilion, amazement rooted his feet to the smooth stone path.  Geo's gaze followed his own, and their eyes passed over the diminutive chief sorcerer, who was already studying the massive tangle of greenery.  

"You say when you arrived this morning, it was like this?" Clef swung on Geo suddenly.

"Certainly it was not like this last night," he heard himself say.  "I don't understand," he said in bewilderment, with a current of rising anger.  "Who would do this?  Why would anyone want to prevent us from seeing Eagle?  He's proven himself to be no one's enemy."

He put a hand to the wall of twisted vines that had appeared in place of the doorway to the pavilion.  As if in response, the mass of tangled growth tightened around the point of contact, and he jerked his arm back with startled exclamation.

"It's no good," Clef said, seeing his reaction.  "I've been casting at it, and nothing has left even a mark."

"What kind of magic is this?" he whispered.

"He is truly a most...extraordinary young man," Clef murmured.

He turned to look at the sorcerer in amazement. 

Geo beat him to a reply.  "Guru, you surely can't be saying that Eagle did this himself?"

Clef nodded slowly.

"But that can't be," the tall young man said impatiently.  "Look, I'm aware that he picked up a few tricks before when he was resting, but this time he's been unconscious for weeks!  He can't even speak to us, and now you think he's created this wall to keep us out?"

"I cannot pretend to understand his reasons.  But of all the people on Cephiro, only he and I have created new magic, before.  And this is not of my doing."

Instinct told him that Clef's surmise was true.  Something of the wall of greenery spoke to him of the gentle, yet unyielding nature of his friend. 

"Eagle," Geo said miserably, in an unconscious echo of his own thoughts.  "What are you thinking?"


***

"Hikaru!  Hikaru, stop, you'll only hurt yourself!"  The former mistress of Ceres pinned her younger friend's arms firmly, despite her wild struggles. 

"I don't care!  Eagle is in there, we've got to help him!  Umi, let me go!"

"Hikaru, perhaps he doesn't want to be helped!  Don't you see what he's trying to tell us?  He wants to be left alone!"

The flame-haired girl went abruptly limp, and clung to Umi imploringly.  "Why doesn't he want to see us?" she whispered.  "Aren't we his friends?"

"Perhaps he needs rest," Umi said simply, although her voice was also trembling.  "Perhaps he doesn't want to be disturbed, even by friends."

"Perhaps he doesn't want us to grieve," Fuu added, then looked as if she regretted her words.


***
 
He dreamed that he saw Eagle standing before him, strangely radiant and colorless, as if built from glowing pennz.  His friend regarded him steadily, then reached out and traced the outline of his face with fingers that were strikingly warm. 

Tell Hikaru I am sorry, he said.

He awoke with a tingling cheek, and put a hand to his face, only to realize that it was wet with tears.

***

He still found himself at the place where the pavilion stood almost every day, lost in its fence of magical greenery.  Sometimes he heard birdsong, coming from within.

***

When a new Commander was appointed, Geo and Zazu returned to Autozam.  They told him that the government had chosen a younger cousin of Eagle's, Talon, to serve in his absence. 

"The President has aged much," Geo said on his next visit.  He, too, seemed to have aged, with fine lines creasing the corners of his eyes, that now frowned more often than they smiled. 

He wondered if of all of them, only Eagle looked as he had before, unchanging and unseen.

***

"He did it for you, you know," Zazu said out of nowhere, his face reddened by the many cups of mobeel they'd consumed.  The mechanic sat on his chair with the determined upright posture of one who felt the world already swaying.

"Did what?"

"Wanted to become the pillar.  Knew all along it would be no good for us, for Autozam.  Geo told me, afterwards.  Thought he could save you."  The young man fixed him with a knowing look that did not waver, even as he started to tilt in his seat.  "Knew there was something wrong.  Normally he's so careful with the FTO."

Lantis said nothing.  He sat as if he had been turned to stone.

"I wouldn't do it for you," he confided.  "You're not a pretty woman.   But I wouldn't hide myself behind a bunch of vines, either."  He swayed in the other direction, and Lantis unfroze with an effort, put out a hand to steady him.

"Eagle," the short young man sighed mournfully, "You're a hard man to understand."  He slumped forward, nose almost touching the rim of his empty glass.

He silently agreed.


***

Although there had been no time yet for larger trees to grow,  flocks of norcos, whytes and diamondbacks could already be seen crossing the skies of Autozam.  Fed by a delighted populace, they roosted on buildings and seemed more fearless, almost tame. 

***

One year after Eagle had fallen into his deeper sleep, he stood outside the unchanging screen of growth. 

"Eagle," he said quietly, "I am coming in whether you want me or not."

He took a deep breath, and placed his hands against the vines.  Once again, they thickened and swelled against his touch, repulsing him firmly.

I have taught it to recognize certain forcesEagle had said.

"You are not the only one who can make new magic," he gritted, and closed his eyes.  He thought of Eagle, his gentle smile and the relaxed line of his back when he lounged in the sun.  He thought of the underlying magnetism of his personality, the slim shoulders that so willingly assumed the burden of responsibility, the sharp mind that relentlessly turned over each new problem until a solution had been found. 

He brought every moment they had spent together back into his mind, every friendly word, every peaceful silence, every time he had looked up to see Eagle studying him with a smile. 

He thought of the time they had parted on Autozam, Eagle telling him, "I've already decided."

"Decided what?" he had asked.

"Not telling you," Eagle had replied, seeming mischievous. 

"I know better now.  I understand, so Eagle, let me in..."  He felt himself beginning to sink into the vines.  They were twining around him, his wrists and waist and legs.  He did not resist.

Instead, he went on thinking of Eagle.  His strength, his frailty, his intelligence, his courage.  His occasional fits of whimsy, his moments of transparent delight, his unbending resolution. 

Eagle.

He closed his eyes, as the vines wrapped around his neck. 

Eagle, there are birds on Autozam now.

He was bound tightly from head to foot now, so closely that he could barely breathe.  Yet there was no notion in his head of escape, or retreat; it was too filled with thoughts of Eagle.

Come see them with me.

And abruptly, he was through.

He stood in the sunshine before the pavilion, which looked utterly unchanged. 

It did not occur to him to be afraid, as he mounted the steps for the the first time in a year.  Now that he had come this far, he was sure of what he would find.

Reaching the bed, he leaned over it, then bent down.

Overhead, a bird began to sing.  He wondered if it were the same bird.

Eagle's eyes fluttered once, twice, then opened. 

"Lantis," he murmured sleepily, "You've come--" and was abruptly cut off by another, more insistent kiss.


***

Much later, Eagle turned his face to Lantis and asked, "How did you know it would work?"

"I didn't.  But I couldn't wait a hundred years."

"Ah--so Hikaru told you the story?"

"Umi did, when I asked her to.  I was afraid to give Hikaru false hope."

Eagle looked at the wall of greenery in front of them, and laughed self-consciously.  "I've caused you all a great deal of trouble.  I'm very sorry.  It seems that my subconscious mind is a strange place..."

"Your conscious mind is odd as well."

Eagle only chuckled and pressed his forehead to Lantis' shoulder, then yawned.

"If you go to sleep again..." he warned.

"I know.  But you'll wake me, won't you?"

"...Of course."


~owari 
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Comments

Aki you are such a romantic :DDDDDDDDDD ♥♥♥♥
you love it, bb XD you know you do!
EeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEE!!! I adore you so much, Aki! Why on earth did you think I would hate you/this, I CANNOT IMAGINE. XD

Eagle is totally Sleeping Beauty, except of course he's the only one with the power to trap himself. I like the fairy tale nature of this without the fairy tale trappings -- the story itself isn't a fairy tale, but Eagle's mind forces it into one, with all the wishes and expectations he brought with him to this land of dreams come true.

Lantis does seem horribly oblivious for most of the story, but then, like I said, he is not particularly scintillating in canon, either. XD I wonder what he's like when he's not being strong and silent and broody. I'd love to catch a glimpse of movie night or something on Autozam, where Eagle & co. introduce Lantis to the cinematic masterpieces of their world, and Lantis watches obediently, only inserting the occasional hilarious deadpan comment.

I'm so glad that you gave Fuu a scene, too (was this part of the poor eaten fic that died in the womb? >_>), and included some mention of the Umi/Ascot relationship -- I am so much more interested in the other two Magic Knights than in Hikaru, though uh part of that may be the virulent Hikaru hatred at work. *rolls* They are both in such cute relationships (unless one considers Umi/Clef, which uhh I can see, but would not characterize as cute. XD)

I did not worry very much through the story, because I knew you were at the helm, although there were some moments when I remembered you going YOU ARE GOING TO HATE ME FOR THIS and I wondered if you could maybe have steeled yourself to off Eagle for the sake of artistic melancholy, but then I reminded myself that no! IT IS AKI I CAN TRUST HER. And my trust was justified. :3

I'm also glad that the relationship between them wasn't the only issue at stake in the story, that there was the bigger problem of Autozam's cleansing continuing alongside it, because honestly, how likely is it that these guys spend months doing nothing but mope about how they feel about each other. XD Instead, I could actually see the revelation happening in this fashion, and seriously, Aki, you don't know how long I've been waiting for a believable happy ending for this pairing -- it's been more than a decade! Thank you so, so, so very much for finally granting it to me. Love forever and ever. ♥))))))))))))
:HEAVES SIGH OF RELIEF: ok, bb, here are the reasons why i was worried.


1) lantis is dumb. like, DUMB AS DIRT. ^^;; god, i wanted him to be more...sparkly! humorous! BUT I RAN INTO THE TEZUKA QUANDARY, i.e. canon made him basically tall dark and broody!! there wasn't a whole lot to work with -__- i think the only time he ever SMILES is like, at the end with hikaru? NOT VERY PROMISING. but yeah, he's basically a boring expository tool here, and i kind of winced at that, even though i know you love eagle more.


2) it's really sappy. like, even for me, WAKING SOMEONE WITH A KISS FROM A SELF-INDUCED SLUMBER is kind of over the top XD i totally meant to handle the fairytale theme with a much lighter touch, but by the time i was done with the story i also really, really, really wanted lantis to GET A CLUE already ^^;; so um, kind of threw artistic integrity out the window in favor of smooching. he probably should've just shook eagle by the shoulder and been like, WAKE UP, you've been napping long enough -_-



3) ALL THE HANDWAVING. i actually tried to visualize the purifier and umm, totally couldn't, so i just hope you were able to take on faith the fact that it was a composite of technology and magic. i am way way way bad with plot, but resolving the autozam thing was important to me because of how it never got addressed in canon. and part of what i do like about eagle is that he's a good leader, which i would assume comes complete with a sense of responsibility.



4) it wasn't long enough? i wanted more flashbacks of their time on autozam, partly to flesh lantis out a bit, and partly to develop their relationship. i just couldn't figure out where and how to fit it in.



to clarify a few things--



originally there was more about umi and ascot, in the scene with fuu and ferio? but god, after it got deleted i just honestly couldn't REMEMBER how i'd written it, which made me really sad, because i remember liking it the first time around :sigh: there really could've been an extra scene with lantis running into umi, for symmetry's sake, since she kind of represents lantis' obliviousness XD but then i got into the whole pennz thing (pennzoil, AHAHA), and it just didn't happen.



(the birds are named after bicycle brands XD and the vespa is a scooter, so you can see i was trying to stay true to their ridiculous form!)



and yes, you are right--eagle is responsible for the fairytale mold (was the stupid wall of vines over the top, too -_-), but i do like to think that it was also just magical exhaustion from creating all that matter. it's just that i feel like in canon, eagle would see himself as an obstacle, because lantis loves hikaru, but hikaru loves eagle too? once he solved the issue of autozam, i think that he would seriously consider just napping until the love triangle resolved itself. he doesn't have a martyr complex or a deathwish in particular, i just think he puts lantis' happiness pretty high on his list of priorities. plus, you know, unrequited love sucks =(

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