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Sudden Squall

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The idea had been for Umi, Hikaru, and Fuu to spend a week out in Cephiro to properly get to know her as she was supposed to be, now that she was no longer crumbling about the edges, and the world wasn't coming to an end. They had packed supplies enough for the week - they packed eight nights worth, actually, just in case something delayed their return to the castle.

Ferio had offered to go with them, as had Lantis. Clef was just watching them warily as he tried to explain how to use the map-stone again. It contained an interactive map of the region with the planned trail marked out on it with each of the suggested campsites marked plainly along the route that Clef had planned for them. It would take them through a number of places they'd heard about and wanted to see. Double tapping the comm symbol in the lower corner would allow them to check in with the others at the castle - every night, as agreed before this trip was consented to since they still weren't even of age yet in Tokyo - and call for help if they needed it.

"Why are you so worried?" Umi laughed, ruffling Clef's hair. She had never been very good at even pretending to show him any respect as the most powerful mage in Cephiro, which she claimed was down to him still looking like a kid. In actuality, it was because she thought of him as a friend, which meant she treated him like she would any other friend who happened to be over a foot shorter than her. "It's not like we didn't spend twice this long out on our own before."

Clef flinched, Ferio sighed, and Lantis shifted on his feet so slightly you wouldn't have noticed unless you were watching him. Umi just wrinkled her nose at them, forcing herself not to apologise. If they were all going to eventually be living together in Cephiro, they would just have to all accept what had happened. She definitely wasn't going to ignore it.

"Just be responsible," Clef said.

"Well, I wasn't planning on being irresponsible," Umi snapped. "It's not like we're planning to go get ourselves into trouble. And what do you mean 'responsible'? Do you expect us to go partying with the villagers or something? I mean, we're still weirdo strangers to most -"

Clef flailed his arms at her. "You know what I mean!"

Umi rolled her eyes and turned to the other two girls. "Hey! Why don't we go jump in a lake? It looks like there's a good one over that way!" She pointed to the southeast.

"We should climb lots of trees!" Hikaru joined in.

"I believe we should also try to swing from the branches into the lake," Fuu added, eyes gleaming behind her glasses.

Cackling gleefully, Umi watched Clef's patience crumble and his eye began to twitch, and since she obviously had a death wish, Umi reached out and ruffled his hair, yet again - this time knocking his coronet askew.

"Would you stop that!" Clef batted her hand away, which only made Umi more persistent in her next attempt. That got her properly thumped in retaliation

.*.

The first day was perfect. It was bright and clear with a gentle breeze. Their enthusiasm got them the first campsite faster than anticipated. Which was actually on the shore of a little waterfall lagoon. It didn't take long to set up their shelter, and even less time for Umi to convince the other two that they should totally go for a swim and tell Clef all about it when they called in that evening.

He didn't sound too pleased, much to Umi's steadfast amusement.

.*.

The second day was a little overcast, and the wind whistled loudly in the trees above them as they wove their way through the new forest of Eleru, pausing at the edge to look down over the side of the cliff that had settled mostly in the same place as the one they had first set foot in Cephiro a few years before. There was a splendid view of the ocean from up there and they stood looking out at the waves crashing on the beach below.

"That doesn't look so good," Hikaru said, pointing out at the clouds rolling in.

Umi blinked. "Huh, I didn't think there was supposed to be any weather like that this week."

"It is not as if Cephiro really has an understand of meteorological forecasting," Fuu said.

"True." Umi stared out a the roiling edge of the storm front and then at the light spattering of clouds above them. "Do you think we can make it to the next point before it hits? Or should we stop here?"

"I'm not sure I want to be on the side of a cliff if it turns out to be a bad one," Hikaru said.

Since the reformation, Cephiro's weather was still settling into some semblance of a pattern. While it mostly seemed to be calm showers when it rained, they had been getting the occasional fierce lightning storm. Some of the people were still getting used to the idea that this was likely to become a normal - if possibly only seasonal - thing to happen.

"Cliffs bad. Got it. Probably not under the trees either?"

The three of them agreed to pick up the pace and see how close they could get to the next stop before the weather hit.

.*.

Perhaps they had judged wrong, or maybe the wind had picked up faster than they anticipated, but one minute they were still trekking quickly along a mostly dry path, and the next the sky opened above them in a torrential downpour.

The first words out of Umi's mouth were not the sort to be repeated in polite company as she rushed to grab for the shelter. It was her day to carry it. Unfortunately, in her rush and general want to get dry, the first things out of gemstone of her gauntlet were two changes of clothes and a towel - all of which were immediately sodden in the pouring rain.

"For pity's sake!" she hissed, and grabbed hold of the blasted disk thing when it was finally released, and flung it into the nearest clearing.

Only the stupid thing didn't actually open like it should. It just lay there like a huge dinner plate in the middle of the soggy grass. Umi stalked over to it and gave it a swift kick with her foot, Hikaru, and Fuu hurrying over to see what was the matter with it.

"I can't see the symbol that is supposed to be on the top of it," Fuu said.

"It's probably just too wet," Umi argued, giving it another swift kick hard enough to flip it over.

As soon as the disk landed on its other side, it burst open, sending the three of them flying back into the mud.

"Or maybe it was upside down?" Hikaru called over the loud rumble of thunder.

The three of them clambered to their feet and flung themselves through the door of the funny little egg-shaped shelter. Fuu went to put on the little portable heater, while Hikaru set about finding the kettle and sorting out hot cups of tea. Umi took a few minutes to grumble loudly before giving the door a firm kick.

Why did it matter which way it sat? It wasn't like it made any sense that a nearly two-foot wide disk turned into a shelter big enough for three narrow beds, a tiny shower room, and almost enough space for them not to feel completely claustrophobic inside.

They spent most of the evening sat with cups of tea watching the storm out the window.

.*.

The rain showed no signs of stopping by the time they went to bed, and they agreed to head back in the morning if they could work out a decent way to do so while staying dry.

Maybe they could see more of Cephiro on their next visit.