One day about halfway through Emeraude’s sixth year as Pillar, I had a conversation with Zagato that left me very troubled.
I was relaxing in my favorite spot in the castle gardens, being lulled towards sleep by the birdsong surrounding me and the susurration of the waterfall entering the nearby pond, when I heard Zagato’s voice come up from below me. “So, you’re up there again, Lantis?” he said.
“This is the warmest spot in the castle,” I replied, carefully sitting up on the tree branch I had been lying on.
“You’re the only Kairu in Cephiro and the Captain of the Pillar’s Guard,” he said. “What will happen in an emergency if you keep taking naps?”
I wasn’t completely certain I had truly earned the title of Kairu, given that Clef had yet to call me that, but I wasn’t going argue about it. Instead, I jumped down out of the tree and said, “Although I’m a Kairu, Cephiro is supported by the heart of Princess Emeraude, the Pillar, so there are no wars. The quests to kill monsters are after sundown.”
Then I noticed that he was looking at me with an oddly pensive look on his face. “What’s wrong, Zagato?” I asked. “Is something on your mind?”
“Lantis,” he said, “what do you think about the Pillar?”
That was an odd question to ask. I was about to ask him to clarify what he meant when he continued. “What do you think about this current system, in which the Pillar is responsible for everything here? The one who can become the Pillar must have a stronger heart than anyone else. And the one who becomes the Pillar is also the creator of Cephiro. But is the Pillar’s heart really free?”
Was he questioning the Pillar system? “Zagato…” I said. Those were dangerous words. How would Cephiro survive without the Pillar system?
Then a soft sound from off to my right caught my attention. I turned to look in that direction and saw Princess Emeraude standing in the covered walkway on the other side of the nearby pond. She was looking at Zagato with an oddly longing expression, but there was also a degree of sadness to it. Had she heard what he had said?
Then Zagato turned to look at her. His face took on the same longing yet sad expression and I suddenly understood what was behind his words. He was questioning the Pillar system. He and Emeraude were in love with each other, but her duty as the Pillar kept them from being together.
Several months later, Guru Clef initiated a conversation that took a surprising turn.
I had just finished a training session with him and the crater my last spell had left in the ground below the cliff we were on was still smoldering when he said, “You have gotten stronger once again, Lantis. You have enough magical power to become an Iru and enough swordsmanship to become a Daru. You are the one and only Kairu in Cephiro.”
I was elated when he said that. With that one simple sentence naming me a Kairu, I knew I had truly achieved the goal I had been working towards for more than two and a half centuries, ever since I had realized that I would never be able to match Zagato’s strength as a mage. Zagato had been calling me a Kairu for almost a year now, but this was the first time Clef had granted me that accolade. It hadn’t been easy to achieve. Just having both the power of a mage and the skills of a master swordsman wasn’t enough to be called a Kairu. To be called a Kairu, you had to be able to meld your magical power and your fighting skills into a seamless whole.
“Your older brother, Zagato, is the Soru who helps with the prayers of Princess Emeraude,” Clef continued. “And you, the younger brother, are the Captain of the Guard that protects the princess.” Then he smiled brightly at me. “I look forward to seeing which of you will surpass me first.”
He wasn’t serious about that, was he? I knew that he had said it before, but I still felt a need to refute that statement. “Guru Clef, you are the one who taught us our magic,” I said, “both myself and my brother. And you are the supreme Iru in Cephiro. We will never be able to even match you.”
That was when the conversation started to get surprising.
Clef shook his head in reply to my comment. “Cephiro is a world of will. The strength of the heart determines the outcome of everything…whether it be the effectiveness of a spell, its success or failure, or even the future. Those who have a wish are strong…like how Zagato is now.”
Was he alluding to what I thought he was? I had to ask. “Guru… Do you know about Zagato and Princess Emeraude?”
He ignored my question and thrust his staff out, pointing it at the world spreading out from beneath the cliff. “Look!” he said. “This is a beautiful world. There are no natural disasters and the people live here peacefully. What creates Cephiro and preserves its peace is the heart of one girl. But…” His expression took on a touch of sorrow. “Who can protect that girl’s happiness?”
“Guru Clef…” I murmured. I was almost certain now that he did know about Emeraude and Zagato’s love for each other, but I couldn’t say anything until I was completely certain. If he would just admit to me that he knew, then maybe together we would be able to think of a way to change things. Because right now, it seemed all too likely that Emeraude would eventually be driven to summon the Magic Knights. I knew Zagato well enough to know that he would do everything he could to stop the Magic Knights, which meant that both of them would end up dead.
“You and Zagato have been wonderful students,” Clef said, turning back to face me fully. “I am fond of you. And I have watched over our Pillar, Princess Emeraude, ever since she was born. I do not want to see any of you cry. I want all of you to be happy.” The touch of sorrow in Clef’s expression had gentled as he spoke of us as his students and charges, but now it grew stronger again. “But happiness differs for everyone. Even if the wish that the princess has sealed within her heart were to be fulfilled, she…” Clef paused for a moment, then continued, even as the sorrow in his expression grew yet again. “She would not be able to forget that others would suffer because of it. There are people who can’t be happy even if their wishes come true. Lantis… Is this world truly beautiful?”
Now I was certain that Clef knew about Emeraude and Zagato, but the way he had done everything possible to avoid saying it straight out had made me sure that he would deflect the subject even if I brought it up clearly. If he was going to refuse to talk about it, then I would have to make a decision on what to do about the situation on my own.