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Disclaimer: I don’t own Magic Knight Rayearth or any of the characters portrayed in it. They belong to CLAMP, and are being used for 'creative purposes' only, as allowed. (see the legal information on clamp-net.com) All hail CLAMP! ^^

Summary: Clef’s life is in danger, and Umi finds herself being pulled into a world full of intrigues, politics and assassins as she tries to help him stay alive. (main:) Clemi. Also contains F/F, H/L/E

Note: repost of the chapter as it first appeared on ffn - will be edited heavily at a later date. ^^;





Tea was over. Long over.

Clef had dragged it out for as long as possible, eating slowly, asking for seconds when he really couldn’t eat anything at all – but it was over, and all the washing up was done (he’d volunteered to help) and now Umi was gently herding him back to the dining table where Lantis was waiting. LaFargo was pacing the length of the table, and everyone else had vanished – Ferio and Ascot were still out with the other Knights, and Ascot would probably make sure they stayed out for a long time, in case Clef felt the need to blow the castle up or something.

Not that he’d thought of doing such a thing, of course.

This was both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because now there was only Umi to hear this – bad because now Umi was there to hear this. Without the others here, there was nothing at all that would make her leave… yet if he was being honest with himself, Clef was glad of it. At least she could check his temper. Though it would be more helpful if should could get rid of his nagging headache.

“Well then,” Umi said, pushing him down into a seat – one he noticed was well away from the other two – and sitting down next to him. “Shall we begin?”

Clef wasn’t quite sure when Umi had become part of the ‘we’ instead of an observer, and from the looks on their faces, neither did the other two. But all three men nodded to her, silently handing over control of the meeting.

“Well.” She repeated, not having expected control to pass to her so easily, and not quite sure what to do with it. “How about one of you” she indicated the swordsmen “explain what you want to do, then any objections can be raised” Clef slid a little lower in his seat “and we can go on from there.” Again, all three nodded – then Lantis realised either he or LaFargo was meant to start speaking, and turned to stare at the other guard until he got the message. Lantis was NOT going to speak first.

LaFargo finally sat down, resting his hands on the table. “Well… the new measures we took a few months ago to monitor visitors to the castle seem to have cut out the poisoning attempts, and most of the human assassins have been blocked now – so what we really need to stop these magic attacks, the monster summons, the long range spells, and the like. Firstly, we still think better shields are in order.” He shot a glance at Clef, but the mage stayed silent, willing to try playing by Umi’s rules. “We’re still working on the ‘how’ aspect, but we’ll find a way around it. To that end, we’d like to start training the guards within the next few days, so when we have the system sorted out it can go up straight away.” He paused, then looked at Lantis, passing the explanation over.

“There is one other thing.” The dark haired Cail said, glowering more than usual at LaFargo. “Shields and the rest will only work when you’re here, and even then aren’t foolproof. The rest of the time... you need a permanent guard, a bodyguard in fact, to watch your back.”

There was silence. LaFargo shifted in his seat, not daring to look down the table. If Lantis had ever chosen a moment to start fidgeting when nervous it would have been then – as it was, he just sat normally, but he wasn’t quite looking at Clef, either.

Umi was, and as the silence went on and he still didn’t move she was growing steadily more anxious. He hadn’t even blinked yet... why wouldn’t he react? His knuckles were white where he was gripping the sides of the chair.

“A… bodyguard.” He said finally, his voice shaking slightly. Umi reached out and took hold of his shoulder and he turned to face her, finding it easier to keep control if he was staring at her rather than the other two.

“Yes.”

“And how…” Clef bit his lip and reached out, unthinkingly, for Umi’s hand; she grabbed his fingers tightly and held on as he struggled to keep his temper.

“We know it isn’t a brilliant solution, Clef. Especially not with the conference coming up – but we need you to be safe while you’re there, more than ever.” Lantis spoke quietly, almost soothingly. “Think of the repercussions if an attack succeeded there! Not only would we loose our only trained diplomat, only decent negotiator – unless you count the Knight of Wind, who isn’t officially Cephiran and so couldn’t do it anyway – but it would send out the message that Cephiro itself is weak and vulnerable, if our most powerful mage can be harmed or killed.”

“And having a bodyguard there won’t send that same message anyway?” Clef bit back sarcastically, though there wasn’t as much of an edge to his voice, and his shoulders had slumped forwards.

“A bodyguard can be explained, reasoned away as a… a prop, a statement of your worth…” LaFargo reasoned, beginning to relax into his chair now.

“Still, how exactly do you think I’ll get permission from the organisers to take someone with me? The conference starts in less than a week, and the reservations have been made for months. Mine’s for a single room. Who d’you think you would get on such short notice, anyway? You two could hardly come along, either of you.”

“You won’t know until you’ve asked.” LaFargo said, shrugging his shoulders. “As for who… out of the castle guards, I’m sure we can find someone suited to the position…”

Clef just huffed as a response, though he winced slightly at the thought. Two weeks with a perfect stranger invading his privacy and space… not the sort of thing he needed at a set of already stressful talks! His eyes drifted from the table to meet Umi’s gaze as he sighed, deeply. In the end, he didn’t really have much of a choice, did he? Then he noticed the light frown on Umi’s face, and blinked at her.

“Umi?” he asked, quietly. “What’s wrong?

“Huh?” She blinked back, focusing on his face, then shook her head slightly to clear it. “Nothing’s wrong… it’s just… you’ll be away for two weeks, and you need the same person to stay with you the whole time, right?”

Clef nodded. “Barring emergencies no one is allowed to enter or leave the Venue, probably a hotel, for the duration of the talks.”

“And you need this person to be okay in a fight, but look more like a decoration or formality than an actual bodyguard?” Again Clef nodded, confused. Umi took a deep breath and glanced round the table.

“Then I have an idea. I could go.”

A deep silence fell heavily across the hall.

There was a brief pause while all three men stared at her, and Umi flushed bright red and dropped Clef’s hand, though she refused to look away. She was opening her mouth to defend her idea when, to her surprise, Lantis spoke.

“That… actually sounds about perfect. Who better as a ‘ceremonial’ bodyguard than a legendary magic knight?”

LaFargo nodded, slowly. “We know you’re good with a sword, and with magic – plus, you know Clef, so he shouldn’t be too uncomfortable with having you around. You get along well enough when you aren’t trying to kill each other, you know.”

“Most of the Representatives won’t suspect how strong you are because of your appearance,” Lantis continued, and Umi rolled her eyes, but let the comment go because Clef spoke up then, hesitantly.

“Being from Earth rather than Cephiro could be an advantage, as well; make you seem more politically neutral, or at least not as aware of the situation…” Umi turned wide eyes on him.

“Then you think it would work? You’d let me come with you/” He shrugged, looking down.

“You’d be a, ah, lesser evil, I guess.” He said, with a slight smirk. Umi grinned back, relaxing completely with the teasing comment.

“So I’m evil now, then?”

“Any bodyguard I’m forced to put up with must be evil. It’s in the job description.”

Ri~ght. Well, whatever. As long as it’s agreed I’m going with you?”

Clef’s face turned serious again as he stood up, watching her closely. “As long as you don’t mind it, Umi, I’d be grateful if you’d come along and keep these two from worrying themselves sick. I know you’ve all planned to stay here for a few weeks… you don’t mind missing your holiday?”

“Nah – the talk’s only two weeks, and our holiday is far longer than that, I’ll have plenty of time to relax when we get back. Besides, seeing somewhere besides Cephiro for once sounds like fun!”

“Even if you spend it all cooped up in a hotel listening to a series of boring speeches and dusty discussions?” He shot back, one eyebrow raised. Umi’s smile just got wider.

“I’ll just spend it distracting you, then. Or daydreaming – I’m good at that.”

“Then it’s agreed.” LaFargo cut in, anxious to get this finalised. “Umi will accompany Clef to the Conference of Nations, and act as his bodyguard. We can give her some extra training while she’s here before you both have to leave, and when you get back we should hopefully have a shielding system in place – and a number of candidates to be a permanent bodyguard. We can’t impose on your time too much, Umi; we’re deeply in your debt as it is, and you have another life to lead on Earth. If you’ll grant us the time to find a permanent solution – someone compatible enough with Clef that they won’t end up dead, but will stand up for themselves and not just let Clef push them around…” LaFargo was practically babbling, and clammed up quickly, a light blush on his cheeks when Umi started giggling quietly. Clef supposed he was tired, same as everyone else seemed to be.

Really, the entire castle could do with having a long vacation – he definitely could; preparing for these talks didn’t fit in with managing his job and the castle at the same time, never mind the random and impromptu everyday affairs he always seemed to be called in for.

Really, it was no wonder he’d slightly less control over his temper than normal… okay, fine. He’d been incredibly waspish for the past few days, the stress and the lack of sleep beginning to catch up with him. He really, really hadn’t needed this whole mess on top of that. Still, at least the solution seemed to be workable… Umi had taken hold of his hand again at some point, and he was grateful for the warmth in the touch.

They would make this work. It wasn’t as if they’d never worked together before, and they’d achieved some pretty incredible results. As well as some pretty incredible fireworks, but you couldn’t have everything… most of the time they got on like a house on fire.

Complete with explosions.

So, they fell out dramatically on occasion, snarking at each other. They were too much alike, he admitted privately, for anything else – but it gave them an edge in understanding each other, a way into their mindset. They could calm each other better than most if necessary, as Umi had proven today, a skill he was ready to admit would be useful at the summit; she could support him as he defended Cephiro from outside attacks.

His beloved country was evolving rapidly, and was more than desirable to many other systems. As they were just coming out of the seclusion granted by the protection of the pillar, they didn’t have much political weight yet, but he was doing what he could to change that. Eagle Vision as Representative of Autozam had been a great help at first, distracting others when he lost his footing, and both Autozam and Fahren had aided him learn to cope with this new arena… not so anyone else could see it or prove it, of course, but that was politics.

As for now, he sat listening to Lantis and LaFargo bouncing ideas around long into the evening. Umi stayed beside him and listened raptly to the discussion of a side to Cephiro she’d never seen before. In the end, with his headache beginning to stab threateningly at his temples, he gave in and left them to it while he retired to bed. (Escorted by Umi, and with a tough new shield around the room put there by Lantis and LaFargo themselves, but he was too tired to make a fuss even at that.)

He had the vague memory of promising Lantis that he would call the Organising Representative on Dleivus tomorrow, in their presence, and slid into cycling dreams where he argued with representative after representative to be allowed to bring Umi, while Lantis stood behind him, building a tiny steel cage.

He woke once, with the odd impression he’d promised to turn Umi into a small creature if someone would fit his room with a lawn instead of a carpet, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

Despite all this, he still got a better (and longer) night’s sleep than he had in over ten days, waking almost refreshed and ready to face another day of spells and preparations, as well as endless paperwork.

As soon as he got a certain communication out of the way, anyway.

Date: 2013-02-17 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wartorii00.livejournal.com
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