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"Why," Umi demanded, storming into the room where her parents were calmly taking tea as several servants took practised steps out of her way, "is the library and the entire practise wing restricted?"

Her mother looked up from the probably-important paperwork spread on the low table, and smiled at her. "Umi, dear. Did you lose your attendant again? With the foreign delegation here?"

"It's not like I'm in danger of running into them," Umi grouched. She was thoroughly irritated by the whole concept of her friend marrying this foreign prince, let alone with the actual process taking over half the palace. "What with the way they're being kept in their own areas away from everyone until the wedding- wait. They're in my training rooms? They're shut off so that Prince can use them?"

It was her father who shook his head this time, amused. "You aren't the only one in the Palace learning magic," he murmured. "In fact, those rooms are notionally for the Shrine attendants to practice and study-"

"I use them more than anyone else!" Umi snapped back. She was irritated at the best of times that because her parents were members of the nobility, she was meant to do the whole marriage and politics thing instead of just dedicating herself at a Shrine and getting on with mastering her magic. "And that man has no right to stop me being there!"

She turned on her heel and stormed out of the room, robes flying about her as she thumped along the covered corridors, and straight past the banners which marked the Library off limits. The only tiny good thing about this whole mess was that without needing to be in Court at all, she had more time to get on with experimenting with her magic. She'd found a fascinating instruction book that looked like no one had found it to prune it from the library only last night, and had made the mistake of leaving it out, thinking that with all the wedding preparations going on no one else was going to be in the library who would even know what it was. And the guy that had been picked for Fuu had no magic, so far as she knew, so he shouldn't care - she would just grab the book and take it back to her rooms-

The door rattled aside as she stormed in, the noise sounding very much like she felt as she stuttered to a stop on the threshold. There was a man there, pale, not overly tall, wearing strange robes which were probably expensive given the amount of embroidery and reading her book.

He looked up at the sound of the door, and blinked at her once. "I thought this room was off limits to the court," he said, accent strange but his meaning clear enough as he frowned slightly at the crests on her robe.

"You mean off-limit to the young women of the court, no matter how much of a nuisance it is, just because you and the men with you might want to wander in and stare at other people's books!" she snapped, stalking across the room. "I don't care if you are marrying the Princess, I need that book. You don't even have magic." Her anger was building high enough it was leaking into the air about her, chilling the air. Normally that was enough to make people back down, even if they didn't know why.

This man didn't move. "I don't?" He tilted his head at her, one eyebrow raised. "Well, that's news to me."

Umi glared at him, concentrating for a moment on more than just how irritated she felt and-

Well. There was a flicker of something in the air, alright. A faint hint of sharpness, like nothing she'd felt before; it was mantled down into quietness, but still… She took another step towards him, some of the anger fading as curiosity took its place.

Then the man looked at the book open in his hands, expression twisting into something she couldn't read at all. "But whether I have magic or not, I do not think this book is one you should be concerning yourself with."

"I am studying that book, and you will hand it over right now!" Umi demanded, holding out her hand.

Briefly, she was aware this was not how she was meant to behave in front of Fuu's husband-to-be, who…

…Should have no reason to recognise a banned text about elemental summoning.


"This kind of magic should only be practised where you have a circle of people to shield you from the effects should it go wrong, and the results should it go right," the man continued. The man, who was not wearing any of the kinds of clothes she would have expected for a Prince apparently famous for his skills with a sword, because those were a mage's robes, no matter how different to the ones she knew. "And I do not believe you are dedicated to a shrine?" He continued, looking again at her robes.

"You aren't the Prince, are you," Umi asked, slowly.

The man shook his head, a small smile twitching at his lips. "No. I'm one of his advisers, my name is Clef."

Umi became suddenly very aware that her parents had let her come charging in here, without any attendant, to yell at a seemingly unmarried man who wasn't even contracted to someone, one with a fascinating hint of power, and she blinked at him. "I have to go yell at my parents," she said, blankly, before turning to shoot back out of the room the way she had come.

"Will I see you at the ceremonies?" he called after her.

"Maybe!" Umi called back, then winced, and moved faster, realising she'd not even thought to get the book off him.

Oh, she was going to yell at her parents all right.