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The undignified founding of the holy hot springs of Cephiro

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Whether they'd previously been there or not, no one actually found the hot springs until a decade had passed and the Knights moved themselves to Cephiro permanently. They were tucked in about the mountain which had once housed Rayearth, and now housed a shrine which was less empty than one might expect - it had become the seat of a new sect dedicated to him and to his most recent Knight.

Not that any of the Cephirans who knew the Knights had quite found a way to gently let Hikaru know that people were praying to her - or, more accurately, perhaps, that they were praying to the thought of her in hope it would bring them the strength to follow her example, stand up for what she believed in so strongly that the whole world had to change with her.

She'd been the Pillar, however briefly, Clef told himself when he first found a reference to the Lady of Light in one of the Priests' new codexes and asked who they meant. So prayers would have happened anyway. He just… wasn't certain quite what she would make of it. So he hadn't said anything, and it became apparent on their moving over that no one else had, either; she was bemused by the small gifts which kept turning up outside her door, and he'd turned down two requests to set a shrine there so people could officially leave their offerings at it on the basis they really needed to ask her about that.

He was, however, saved having to explain why only Hikaru was being gifted presents when the other two also found offerings outside their doors.

Mostly it was just fruit and little trinkets - the three women had simultaneously decided this was how Cephirians went about welcoming people into a new home, and nothing more. But Clef had spotted at least one charm bracelet in Umi's collection loaded with actual live charms, carved by hand from small shells and rigged for happiness and luck and victory (Umi didn't need any help on that front!) which must have taken at least a year of work by several ocean spirits working together - it had that much power woven into it, magic which held the roar of the deep-sea currents.

Clef didn't know whether the religions of the Knights' land allowed for veneration of living beings, or - well, he had absolutely no idea what they believed in Tokyo at all. Which seemed a rather large blind spot after ten years of friendship, but it wasn't the kind of thing which came up in everyday conversation.

All in all, it was a mess he didn't know how to wade into, so he was mostly hoping someone else would get there first- if Fuu would just go and ask Ferio about it, things would be easier for all of them. And it was why, when the idea of a trip out to the fire shrine came up, he'd not been the only person to hesitate. But they couldn't explain why it was possibly a strange idea without explaining more than any one of them wanted to, so here they were, a whole group of them - on the other side of the mountain, utterly bewildered, as Umi's head came up and she shot off up the hill, closely followed by Hikaru, with Fuu following behind to join in their excitement at the softly steaming pools clustered along a gully.

"We should set up a proper resort!" Umi was saying, dipping her hand in the water to check the temperature. "Put in an Inn, and changing rooms, and-"

Ferio leaned closer to Clef, voice dropping low. "Did we give the whole of the mountain to the Priests?"

"If Hikaru wants half the mountain, I'm pretty certain they'll give it to her," Clef returned, dryly.


"That would mean telling them about- their current status," Clef added, and Ferio winced. "It should be easier for you than the rest of us! Can't you just-"

"What, because I can offer to worship Fuu very thoroughly if she's upset by the whole concept?" Ferio snapped back, flushing. "No, thank you! You spend half your time arguing with Umi anyway, can't you just - mention it in the middle of a shouting match or something?"

"What, 'No summoning doesn't work that way and I don't care if you can't read the books you need to learn the theory even if the entire population of sea and strand have decided to worship you'? That doesn't seem the politest way to break it to someone!"

"…Can we make Lantis do it?"

The two of them stared over at Lantis, who side-eyed them and shifted closer to the girls where they were pointing out apparent features of the springs to a very interested Caldina, and a bemused Ascot and LaFarga.

"I don't think he's going to agree," Clef sighed. "We could still let them just go visit the Fire Shrine, it's pretty obvious when there's a great mural of your greatest deeds with a bunch of gifts in front of it. Isn't it? And the Priests are the ones who're meant to talk about stuff like this. It's their job, not ours!"

Hikaru came bouncing up to them, beaming, just as bright and happy as ever she had been. "Who does this part of Cephiro belong to?" she asked, brightly. "Do you think they'd let us put a building here? Or - does Cephiro have its own hot spring traditions? I've not seen any elsewhere."

"What do you do with hot springs in Tokyo?" Ferio asked, avoiding the question and Clef's sideways glare at him for doing so.

"Oh, sit in them, mostly!" Hikaru looked back to where Fuu was watching Umi wave her hands about like she was putting up an imaginary building. (Clef was quite relieved to see that it was imaginary and not magic - that was another of those things where the theory she didn't know was more important than at first glance.) "It's the most relaxing kind of bath - you don't have that kind of thing here?"

"Not yet," Clef said. "We do have some natural springs which are used for bathing, even some that are good for one's health - but not heated ones, like this. It's not something we have many occurrences of, naturally hot water."

"It's wonderful! You'll see, if no one minds if we set up something here - do you think we could find someone to run it, though? To provide hospitality and towels, and-"

Clef motioned further down the path. "I'm sure, if you asked them, the Priests who are based in the Shrine would be happy to make some arrangement for you?" he said, feeling like a failure even as he did so, and even more when Hikaru beamed at him and shot off down the track, calling for Umi and Fuu to come along.

"Well, that was efficient," Ferio remarked, watching them go with the same mixed expression Clef felt on his own face. "They're probably coming back, so we could just wait here, I guess…"

Walking past them, Caldina reached out and rapped both of them on the head at the same time. "You are both worse than Ascot, and he's nervous about talking to people at the best of times," she scolded them. "If none of you are going to tell them, I am!"

"…Please?" Clef called after her, rubbing his head where she'd knocked it. She made a rude gesture back at them, and Ferio cracked up as they stood and watched her vanish down the path after the girls. Ascot came to stand beside him, peering over Ferio's head as Caldina vanished around the corner, and sighed.

"She kept making me try to talk to them about it," Ascot muttered.

Clef patted him on the shoulder. "Well, they should know in the next ten minutes or so, whether she says anything or not. …We're all waiting here, right?"

"What do you do when someone you know realises you've maybe been praying to them when things are hard for a couple of years?" Ascot asked, voice very small.

Shrugging, Clef led them over to the mossy hillside below the springs. "With Emeraude, I mostly just stuck 'sorry' at the start of any prayer," he admitted. "I've never been convinced Umi's got the patience for dealing with spurious apologies, though. But its not like we've been doing it officially, with priests and everything and talking about it, so…"

Ferio looked mildly smug as he sat down on the lump of ground that bordered the closest spring, a little further up the hill than the other two. "I've been telling Fuu I worship her for three years," he said, cheerfully. "So I'm fine."

Clef glanced at him, and then at Ascot, raising one eyebrow; when he reached out and grabbed one of Ferio's boots, Ascot reached for the other, and they tipped Ferio backwards towards the water before he realised what was happening.

By the time the Knights had returned (bringing both Caldina and the head Priestess, who was beaming ecstatically next to the bewilderment on the Knight's faces) Ferio was sopping wet and half-way up a tree, while both Clef and Ascot were somewhat damper than they'd been.

"That's not how you use a hot spring!" Umi yelled up at them from the path.

"Sorry!" Clef called back, and Ascot snickered next to him when he flushed at his own choice of word. "You didn't tell us the right way!"

"You didn't tell me I'm a goddess now!" she shouted back, waving her arms.

"I don't think goddess is quite the right terminology…" Clef hedged, and Umi narrowed her eyes. Two seconds later, he was splashing down into the spring with a yelp, the water having reached up to snatch at him. "You said that wasn't a proper use of the springs!" he shouted, and got another wave of water over his head for his trouble. "This is why I didn't tell you!"

"What, were you planning on telling Umi while you were both in the baths?" Ferio called out of his tree, cackling.

He joined Clef in the water a moment later, though whether it was the water slamming into the tree or the sudden wind that wrapped around it which tipped him out, Clef couldn't have said. He could hear Fuu saying, sadly, "we may need to do some etiquette lessons, so people know how to behave around the water," while Hikaru laughed - and what the Priestess was going to make of the lot of them, Clef didn't know. This was almost certainly going down in the chronicles as the 'undignified founding of the holy hot springs', or some such. But, as he pulled himself out of the water and turned to give Ferio a hand up, he couldn't help but be glad he was around to find out.