We had just noticed that our vehicle was approaching the floating mountain we had seen on our arrival in Cephiro when a strange feeling swept over me. I began to feel all floaty, like I was somehow disconnected from my body. It almost felt like I had become lighter than air.
“Fuu!” Umi cried. “The wind!”
I wasn’t sure what had upset her until I noticed that the wind was swirling around me and had started to lift me out of the vehicle.
“Fuu-chan!” Hikaru cried, reaching a hand out towards me.
Then I heard myself say, “This is the Shrine of the Wind… A Mashin…rests within…” in a strangely detached voice. Oh, I thought, feeling oddly calm, that’s what’s happening. My magic was of wind, so this would be my Mashin. It was calling to me.
“Fuu-chan!” Hikaru cried. The wind had lifted me well above the vehicle now, but I couldn’t find it in myself to worry. “Fuu-chan!” Hikaru cried again.
I felt myself start to dissolve into the wind, but I still felt no worry. As the last of me became part of the wind, I heard Umi call my name.
When I reformed, the wind was gently depositing me at the edge of a circle engraved in the center of an open crystal chamber. The circle was framed by six floating columns of crystal, there were thick crystal pillars forming a larger circle outside the columns, and there was a massive cluster of crystals hanging down from the ceiling. This must be the inside of the shrine, I thought.
Then an echoing voice said, “Legendary Magic Knight…” and I knew it was the voice of my Mashin. The wind then started swirling in the center of the circle, rising up and up and up until it nearly reached the cluster of crystals hanging from the ceiling. I saw two eyes with a jewel above them form within the swirling wind and my Mashin’s voice said, “The one who hath come here, to this Shrine of the Wind, in order to don me.”
Then the wind dissipated to reveal a massive green bird with four wings and a curved beak. “My name is Windam,” he said. “I am the Legendary Mashin that lies here, waiting for the Magic Knight.”
“…A bird…” I murmured. “A bird…that has four wings…”
Footsteps sounded behind me and I turned to see Umi and Hikaru approaching.
“Hikaru-san,” I said. “Umi-san. The Mashin has spoken to me. See there…” As I spoke, I had turned back around to point at Windam, so I was very surprised when I suddenly felt something slash across my back.
I cried out as I fell to the floor and when I turned to see who had attacked me, I was utterly shocked to see Umi holding her sword, blood dripping down the blade. “U…” I started, breaking off with a wince as my wobbling shot pain across my back. “Umi-san… Why…?” Why had she attacked me?
Then Hikaru summoned her sword as well and I cried her name in shock. That was when I noticed that their eyes were glazed over, like they weren’t really seeing me. What had happened to them?
Hikaru abruptly swung her sword at me and I jumped out of the way just barely in time. As Hikaru’s sword dug chunks out of the floor where I had just been standing, I heard someone laugh. Then a woman’s voice said, “You’re good at running away, missy.” As I turned towards the voice, the woman said, “Oh wait, I forgot to introduce myself.”
When I had turned to face the voice fully, I saw a dark-skinned, pink-haired woman. She was wearing a large red cape, black fingerless gloves, and what looked like a black bikini. “I’m Caldina,” she said. “My actual profession is a dancer, but I’m also a Raru—a person who can control other people or give them hallucinations with my dancing.”
“So you are Caldina, the Raru,” I said.
“Oooh,” she said, “a polite missy. I like you very much. Anyway, I’m controlling the two girls over there and I told them to kill you, missy.”
I could think of only one reason she would have done that. “Then you are also affiliated with Zagato, I assume.”
“To tell the truth…” Caldina said, “…he pays me. I’m a professional dancer and Raru, who works as much as I’m paid. I think it’s best for people to work earnestly.” Then she raised a finger and smiled at me. “That’s enough about explaining the situation. Let’s get on with it.” She flicked her raised finger and Umi and Hikaru raised their swords and lunged at me.
“Hikaru-san!” I cried. “Umi-san!” How could I fight them? They were my friends and I didn’t want to hurt them.
Before I could figure out what to do, Hikaru bodychecked me into the floor, her sword scraping against my armor. Reluctantly, I summoned my sword and interposed it between myself and Hikaru’s sword.
As I struggled to throw Hikaru off of me and get up, I looked up and saw Windam watching me. Why was he just watching? Couldn’t he do anything to break Caldina’s control of Umi and Hikaru?
“Young woman who came to this world to become a Magic Knight…” he said. “Show me the Proof that thou art worthy of donning me. Thy powers… Show me the strength of thy Heart, that makes thee worthy of becoming a Legendary Magic Knight.” I could hear the capital letters on the words ‘proof’ and ‘heart’ as he spoke.
“The strength of my heart…” I echoed. He had just told me why he was only watching—I had not yet proven myself worthy of his aid. But how was I supposed to show him something like strength of heart? Through my actions? Or was it something else he was looking for? I could at least try to see if it was actions he was looking for. Renewing my efforts against Hikaru, I kicked out and threw her off of me.
As I pulled back from Hikaru and she and Umi lunged for me again, I said, “Here, in Cephiro, the heart determines everything. The strength of your faith…determines one’s future.” Suddenly I knew something I could do to stop Umi and Hikaru without hurting them.
I held my sword up in front of me horizontally in a sort of salute, then I swept my hands first up, and then down, and reached inside myself for the words I would need. They came to me and I shouted, “Imashime no kaze!”
Wind swirled around my sword, lifting it out of my hand and holding it upright in front of me, then two gales blasted out of my hands towards Umi and Hikaru. The winds wrapped around them, lifting them off the floor and immobilizing them.
Seizing my sword, I leapt towards Caldina and pressed my sword’s blade up against her. “Well done,” she said, clapping. “I must say that a girl who’s going to be a Magic Knight sure is different! To be able to use such magic! I’m really impressed.”
Then she backflipped away from me, saying, “Let’s get on with my next move, then.” As she turned upright again, she said, “It’s kind of sad that I only have one customer, but oh well.” She drummed a rhythm on the floor with her foot and I heard the sound of bells.
Then, without me having decided to do so, my hands gripped my sword tighter and began to raise it in front of me. Wha… I thought. What is this…? My body… My body…is moving by itself…! I tried to resist whatever force was controlling my body, but all I managed to do was make my movements shaky. On wobbling feet, my body approached Umi and Hikaru.
“Oh!” Caldina said. “It looks like you fell under my spell rather nicely.”
So that’s what’s happening, I thought. Caldina was controlling me. Despite now knowing what was happening to me, however, my concern couldn’t help but increase. Caldina was working for Zagato, which meant that her intentions for me were undoubtedly not something I would like. Given that she was making me approach Umi and Hikaru, I was seriously worried that she was going to use me to attack them.
My feet halted me right in front of Umi and Hikaru and my hands began to raise my sword higher. I threw everything I had into resisting and was briefly successful, but then my arms jerked and my sword slashed across Hikaru’s cheek. “Hikaru-san!” I cried.
The hand holding my sword jerked backwards and then swung forwards. My other hand came up to grip my sword as well and then it slashed out, slicing through Umi’s breastplate and across her chest. “Umi-san!” I cried.
“And like that!” Caldina said. “I’m so happy that you’re following my directions so well. ‘Legendary Magic Knights’ sounds so all-mighty, but they’re cute little missies… This should take care of ‘em.” She laughed and my hands reached out towards Umi and Hikaru, slashing my sword at them again and again.
Hikaru-san! I thought. Umi-san! Please wake up! My hands lifted my sword high over my head and I grew more desperate. At this rate, I might seriously hurt you… My hands started to swing my sword downward and my thought changed. No, I might kill you!
Then Windam spoke again. “Thy powers…” he said. “Show me the strength of thy Heart that makes thee worthy of becoming a Legendary Magic Knight.”
“The strength of my heart…” I echoed. Suddenly, I felt something snap inside me. Had Caldina’s control broken?
“Well, let’s call it a wrap now,” I heard her say. If her control of me had broken, she wasn’t aware of it. “If it takes me any more effort, I’ll have to charge for overtime. So, I’ll have you get rid of those two with your hands, miss. Oh yeah. Since you call yourselves Magic Knights, I have your finish ‘em with your magic! Make these two girls rest in peace with the magic you learned!”
I felt something urging me to call on my magic, but I didn’t feel any compulsion to do so. Still, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to take Caldina down by surprise, so I played along with the urge. Raising a hand in front of me, I started to say the spell. “Midori no…”
“I’ll let you follow them soon after they pass away, missy!” Caldina cried.
“…shippuu!” I cried, whirling around to release the spell at Caldina.
“Aaaaah!” she cried as the spell blasted towards her. “How can this…!” The spell hit her and knocked her to the floor. As she struggled to sit up, her cape hissing and smoking, she stammered, “Wh-why…?”
I smiled at her. “It’s a matter of your heart,” I said.
“Heart…?” she repeated.
“You were hired by the person known as Soru Zagato,” I said. “Correct?”
“Y-yeah…” Her tone was wary, but also confused, like she couldn’t see how that was related to what I had said.
“Do you feel that you could risk your life for the person who hired you?” I asked.
“My life is my own!” she cried indignantly.
“I…” I started. Then I paused. How should I frame this to make sure that she understood what I was saying? After a little while, I figured it out and restarted. “It seems to me I am thinking that I can risk my life for these two. I hadn’t realized this before, but I am certain of it now…that I want to use all my powers to save these two and that I want to save my dear comrades even if it means risking my life.”
“Risking…your life…?” Caldina echoed. She sounded—I wasn’t sure if it was surprised or confused.
“Yes,” I said.
“You missies been friends from a long time ago or something?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No. I did not know them until we were summoned to Cephiro from Tokyo.”
“Then why?!” she cried. She sounded very surprised now. “Why do you feel that you can risk your life, after such a short time?!”
“In your heart, time does not matter,” I said. “No matter how short the time that we have spent together, even if I don’t know too much about them…that just means there are lots of fun times up ahead as we learn more about each other. I decided that I will fight with these two in my heart.”
“Your heart…” Caldina echoed. She sounded—and looked—thoughtful, but I wanted to make sure she really understood what I was saying, so I lifted my sword and held it against her.
“So…” I said. “If you are to harm these two, I will have to fight you now.”
She started laughing and I looked at her curiously. What was so funny about what I had just said? “I did get some money from Zagato,” she said. “But how much he paid me wasn’t enough to give him everything I, the powerful and high-grade Caldina, have.”
Oh. She had been laughing at the idea that she would continue fighting after I had defeated her. I pulled my sword away from her and she stood up.
“I did hurt the Magic Knights,” she said, “so I did enough work for what he paid me.” She turned around and looked at me. “The stuff after that, I don’t really care.” She patted me on the shoulder vigorously. “Well, I think it’s going to be tough on you from here on, but try your best.” She squeezed my shoulder, then turned away from me.
“Is that really all right?” I asked. “I mean, since you were paid, isn’t it your job to…” I trailed off, since I didn’t really want to fight her, but I had felt like I had to ask.
“Listen…” she said. “It’s Fuu, right?”
“Yes,” I replied. What was she going to say now?
“I thought you looked awesome,” she said, looking back at me over her shoulder. “I can’t really say if it’s good or bad to have something that you can risk your life for, but I thought that was awesome. At least there was something that struck me more than Zagato did. I mean, I don’t know why he’s trying to raise such a riot.”
What was she talking about? “Wasn’t Soru Zagato’s objective total control over Cephiro?” I asked. That was certainly the impression Clef had given us.
“It’s no use to control this world…” she said, “…not now that Princess Emeraude has lost her powers of prayer and the world has become unstable and full of monsters.”
That…hadn’t occurred to me, but I could see how it would be true.
“I asked him once, actually…” Caldina said, “‘Considering how Cephiro is falling apart, why don’t you have Princess Emeraude continue her prayers and give you full control?’ The guy laughed and said, ‘I believe there is something more precious than Cephiro…’”
“‘Something more precious than Cephiro…’?” I repeated. What did Zagato mean by that? What could he value more than Cephiro?
Before I could ponder the question further, however, my sword jerked out of my hand and both it and my armor started to glow. They flared brightly and when I could see clearly again, they were both different. “My armor…changed again…” I said. “And my sword…” I had to take a good look at it before I could identify the difference. “It got…longer? The shaped hasn’t changed, but it is getting longer.” Its length was nearly equal to my height now.
Then Windam spoke from behind me and I turned to look at him. “I approve of the strength of thy Heart, with which thou believest in thy comrades, Legendary Magic Knight,” he said. As he finished speaking, light flared around him, then he became light and his form morphed. When it had solidified again, he still had an avian appearance, including large feathered wings, but his shape was now that of a robotic humanoid.
He dropped to one knee and said, “Thou still art not worthy of donning me yet. I will change my shape and become a part of thee and await the day to come.” Then light flared around him again and he dissolved into it. The light then coalesced into a large beam that shot into the jewel on my armor’s breastplate with an almost physical force. When I could see again, Windam was gone.
Looking down at my armor in bemusement, I said, “I wonder if I’m going to pilot a gigantic robot in the future…”
Then Hikaru’s voice sounded from off to my side and I turned to look at her. “Fuu-chan, are you all right?!” she cried. She and Umi were standing up, their wounds healed, and their armor had also changed.
“Yeah,” Umi said, “that weirdo that spoke the Osaka dialect suddenly showed up and…” She began to trail off as she started to realize that Caldina was standing beside her. “…and…” Then Caldina’s presence fully registered and she jumped away, flailing her arms and screaming in surprise. Umi’s reaction startled Caldina so much that she also jumped away, screaming in surprise.
“It’s her!” Umi cried. “It’s her!”
As Umi started running in panicked circles, screaming, and Caldina joined her with an amused smile on her face, Hikaru whirled around and dropped into a fighting stance. Before she could do anything, however, I placed one hand on her shoulder and the other on her head, saying, “It’s all right, Hikaru-san,”
And it really was. Caldina wasn’t going to fight us anymore. What she had said about me making more of an impact on her than Zagato had was confirmation enough of that.