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A new path

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"Don't you think it's weird?" Umi asked, the seventh morning they were in Cephiro, looking around as the strange shelter Mokona had provided for them overnight vanished.

Hikaru tilted her head at Umi, even as she tugged at her gauntlet to make sure it was firmly on her hand. They had all learned by now that those gauntlets stayed on at all times except sleeping. "The shelter? It's a little strange, but it's much nicer than a tent. We don't have to put it up, either."

"No, I meant - Umi waved a hand at the scenery in front of them. "There aren't any streets. Not a single road, anywhere you look - not a real one. A few dirt paths, but…" They were standing at the side of one of those paths, on the side of something Hikaru kept calling a hill but Umi was pretty certain should be classed as a mountain. From here, they had a pretty good view across a broad valley, several small villages and what looked like a larger town in the distance. But though there were one or two dirt tracks winding about, there were no paved roads at all.

Standing beside Umi, Fuu shaded her eyes to look out across the landscape. "I don't believe I have see any wheeled vehicles since we arrived in Cephiro," she said, thoughtfully. "If those without magic are also able to use these gemstones, it's not as though anyone would need a wagon or a truck. One could simply vanish an entire harvest into a stone, walk to market, and summon it all again to sell it."

Umi pulled a face. "It's like they skipped wheeled transport and went straight from walking to riding something which flies."

"When you have access to a flying horse, it does seem the logical next step," Fuu said, with a smile. "There isn't much need for paved streets through the air, after all."

"If everyone has a flying horse or transport or whatever, then why are we stuck walking everywhere!" Umi glared at Mokona, not for the first time. "Instead we get this one!"

"Mokona is very helpful!" Hikaru protested, as Mokona bounced away to hide behind her legs. "All our food, and the shelter, and showing us the way-"

"Which would be much quicker if we could just ride there, or fly there, or whatever," Umi pointed out, frowning. "If that Clef guy and the others who want us to become Magic Knights and save Cephiro want us to hurry up and do it, why didn't they give us any method of getting about places? I mean, with no roads anywhere it's not like we can just call a taxi and get a lift. Isn't it weird?"

Fuu glanced at Mokona, a frown beginning to wrinkle her forehead. "It does seem a little strange," she said, slowly. "Surely, if there is any urgency to this, they would want us to move as fast as we can."

"And if Mokona and the plan to have Presea make our weapons was all in place, why wouldn't they have thought about transport?" Umi continued. Now she'd had the thought, she couldn't move away from it. "It's just… it's weird."

Hikaru shook her head. "But if Clef meant to organise it, and then we were interrupted-"

"If that guy is meant to be the strongest mage in Cephiro, no way that old lady could have been a threat," Umi said, suddenly certain of it. The feeling of water rising to her call was still aching through her hands days later, sending goosebumps down her spine every time she thought of it. "He hadn't even taught us all magic yet, but he sent us away, and he didn't even contact us - we contacted him. He hasn't come after us, and he never did explain what's going on, and- Fuu, tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this is all just weird?"

Fuu nodded, slowly. "I admit, it does feel a little strange. Perhaps we have to have magic a certain length of time, to become Magic Knights? Or else transport would make us too obvious? But…"

"Why didn't he come find us?" Umi demanded. It hadn't seemed so strange at first, when they were first charging about - but they'd spent days walking around Cephiro, and that guy had magic and at least two flying creatures he should have been able to come find them with. They knew he'd survived the encounter with Alcyone's summoned creature. Looking out across the landscape and actually thinking about it made it just seem so strange.

"I do not like the feeling that I may not know what is truly going on," Fuu murmured.

"No." Umi frowned, kicking at the ground. "I mean, sure, Alcyone tried to kill us, but that doesn't really mean that Clef was telling the truth either, does it. Just that some of it was true. Or maybe they were working together to make us think he was telling the truth - maybe he's on the same side as Alcyone and Zagato." She wrinkled her nose up. The idea didn't feel good, an uneasiness in her stomach to match her mood. "I don't know what we can do about it, though."

"Mokona wouldn't lie to us, would you, Mokona?" Hikaru asked, and Mokona made a noise even Umi could admit to understanding as agreement.

"But Clef could have lied to him, and Presea, and-" Umi shook her head, hard. "I don't like this! What do we do?"

"We could try to be more aware, while we continue our journey?" Fuu offered. "Maybe visit one of those villages and ask questions?"

Hikaru picked Mokona up, holding him close. "We could go find Clef and ask him," she said, and both Umi and Fuu blinked at her.

"If he was lying the first time, won't he just lie again?" Umi asked. "We've even spoken to him since then - through Mokona."

"I think he's a good person," Hikaru insisted. "Even if he lied to us, I'm sure there's a good reason. If we go and ask him what's going on, if there's anything we don't know- Fuu, don't you think you could tell if he was lying, if we had a real conversation?"

"…Perhaps?" Fuu looked down the trail, the way they had been heading. "But that would mean turning back on the quest for the moment."

"I'm sure Clef can summon his griffin friend to give us another lift, or get us some other transport, if he forgot to the first time and he was telling the truth all along," Hikaru said, firmly. "We wouldn't be losing any time, not really."

"If we can find him," Umi muttered, and eyed Mokona. "Hey, you- you're good at telling us which way to go. Can you find your master for us, instead?"

Mokona was uncharacteristically silent, listening to them, and made no response until Hikaru added her own plea.

"Please, Mokona, take us to Clef so we can be sure we're doing the right thing?"

With a slow nod, Mokona concentrated, gem turning a deep gold before a light shot out of it, heading over the hill in the other direction - away from the path, but possibly in the direction of some clarity.