Emeraude breaks free of her prison as an older version of herself. The girls celebrate their victory and thank each other for being there. They wonder how to get inside the castle and the Rune-Gods explain that it’s projected by a barrier created by Emeraude. They tell the girls that their true enemy is stronger than any other, much to their confusion. The Knights break the barrier with their magic and head inside. They find Emeraude and exit their Rune-Gods. Emeraude introduces herself but the others are surprised by how different she looks. Hikaru gives a brief summary of their journey, but when she mentions Zagato’s defeat Emeraude gets angry. She accuses the Knights of murdering the man she loved and summons her own Rune-God. The Knights are brought back inside their Run-Gods and they escape the crumbling castle. Hikaru wonders if that was really Emeraude and Rayearth confirms it. Windam says that she was the ones the Magic Knights were meant to fight. Emeraude takes up Zagato’s sword and vows to make the Knights pay.
She attacks and destroys the castle with a single shot. Fuu tries to block another but all three of them are knocked down. The younger version of Emeraude contacts the Knights and confirms that she is the one they’re fighting. She explains that Cephiro’s condition is all her fault, not Zagato’s. Emeraude was only supposed to pray for Cephiro, but instead she fell in love with Zagato. As a result she thought of Zagato more than Cephiro and couldn’t forget about him, especially since he loved her back. Hikaru asks why she summoned them and Emeraude says it was so they could kill her. The Pillar can’t take her own life and no one in Cephiro can harm the Pillar, so the Knights had to be summoned from another world. Zagato was trying to stop them in order to save Emeraude. Emeraude’s current form is a result of her grief from losing Zagato. Young Emeraude asks them to kill her before she wishes for Cephiro’s total destruction. Rayearth gets stabbed through the shoulder, with Hikaru suffering a similar wound. Clef, who is free from Zagato’s spell, contacts the girls and says the current Pillar needs to disappear before a new one is chosen. Hikaru asks why Emeraude has to die just because she fell in love. Emeraude asks them to grant her true wish: to let her be with Zagato. The girls stand and their Rune-Gods combine into one. Tear in their eyes, they strike Emeraude down. Emeraude is happy to finally be only Zagato’s. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu find themselves back at Tokyo Tower seconds after they left. They hug and Hikaru wish they could go back to Cephiro.
Forget about the princess being in another castle, the princess is the final boss! This is the twist that Rayearth is known for and I personally have never seen it replicated. The weight and tragedy of the situation is really hard hitting (enough to make me overlook the usual formula). Throughout the season the characters kept going on about how beautiful Cephiro was thanks to the Pillar System, but the reality was far crueler. Emeraude just wanted to be with the man she loved more than anything, but it wasn’t meant to be. Emeraude might be happy in death, but having to kill the one they were trying to save surely won’t sit well with the Knights. Overall, I think this season would have been better suited to 13 episodes. The good parts were really good, but the filler was repetitive, tended to drag, and didn’t really add all that much. I prefer the far more abbreviated manga version. We’ll see if the second season fares better.