A Vision of Escaflowne Fanfiction
The standard disclaimer: Yeah, okay I stole these characters from the marvelous creators of The Vision of Escaflowne...and Rurouni Kenshin too. Yadda yadda yadda. Please don't sue me ^_^ The main story line is of my own delusional imaginings. Blah blah blah. Please do not distribute. Thanks.
A Broken Land shall rise again;
Vengeance and Hunger as Guidance.
The Wheel of Fortune turns.
Feathers tipped in Blood;
The Dragon's Sword forged in heated Battle.
Thy Kingdom's Heart it shall possess.
CHAPTER II "Strange Acquaintances"
Van Fanel was tired and cranky. They were returning from Asturia, having completed negotiations for a trading treaty, and decided to camp for the night. Van needed to take a walk to stretch out cramped muscles and get away from the stink of sweaty horses. He hated horses. Horses were animals for gentleman such as Allen Schezar. Van would never want to be as refined as a gentleman, though royalty he was. And dammit, he always got saddle sore.
It had been six years since the war with Zaibach, and Fanelia was finally rebuilt to the point where it could stand head to head with other countries. The meeting with the King of Asturia had worked out quite well. Van even had the chance to spar a little with Allen Schezar. It had been quite a while, and Allen had been both impressed and disgusted with how much Van had grown as a swordsman, and well...in height.
"You're making me feel old," Allen had grumbled after Van disarmed him with a quick maneuver. Van had laughed it off, knowing that the same maneuver wouldn't work twice. With Van's new height came reach, and a variety techniques. He was even a bit taller than Allen by about an inch or so. This wasn't too much a surprise since both remembered the towering height of Van's deceased older brother, Folken. The years had also matured and broadened Van's body. His posture and bearing were like Folken when he was 21. Finally, Van had the strength he needed to compliment the agility of youth to wield his sword effectively.
The sparring match afforded Van a release of tension. This enabled him to sit through the long and tedious meetings with the King Aston and his advisors. He actually managed to keep his composure without yelling at everyone to hurry up. He was thrilled at the arrangement that he worked out with the Asturian King. Thrilled may seem a strong word, but Van was damned happy to get out of that stuffy room with something done. The new trade agreements between their two countries would vastly improve Fanelia's economy.
Allen had also agreed to follow them back to Fanelia, as soon as he could for Van's 21st birthday. It looked like his sister, Celena, would accompany him as well. On another positive note, Allen had accepted the new position as Asturia's ambassador in Fanelia's court. It was all hush, hush right now though. Van figured that Millerna would probably hate his guts for a while once she found out.
Dinner was an entirely different matter. With the notable absence of Princess Millerna at the table, the subject of her refusal to marry had come up along with Dryden Fassa's betrothal to Allen's sister. The elderly Asturian king had many problems with his youngest daughter. He had cultivated her over the years to rule in his stead. Of course, he expected her to marry the right man to rule beside her. Millerna had waved that aside saying that she didn't NEED a man to help her rule. There was the not so subtle hint that the one man she did want by her side wouldn't be acceptable to the King of Asturia.
The blood between Allen and King Aston had remained bad ever since the Great War. Aston had never forgiven Allen for abandoning his country. Allen had never forgiven the King's refusal to help Chid, Millerna's nephew, from Zaibach's attack on Freid. Both Millerna and Allen knew that Chid was really Allen's son. He was the result of Allen's affair with Millerna's eldest sister, Marlene, who was now deceased for nine years. Chid, believed himself to be the son of Freid. Millerna and Allen decided it was best that Chid's true father not be revealed.
For the sake of Millerna, Allen and King Aston managed a workable relationship. It was at best a strained civility. When the King brought up the subject of an blood heir, Millerna pointed out that Eries, Millerna's older sister didn't exactly enter a convent. Once Eries married, her children would become Millerna's heirs. Eries could not herself rule, even though she was the elder. For reasons known only to the king, she had been brought up to become the Advisor to Millerna. Eries had not been trained to rule. The royal house's future was up in the air, and the King's nerves were frazzled. It was remarkable that the meeting went as smoothly as it did. It didn't mean that the Asturian king was in a GOOD mood. The bent of the conversation was definitely NOT to his liking.
With the King's "subtle" touch, the subject shifted to Van's bachelorhood and when he planned to marry and "go about the duty of securing an heir". After all, it wasn't entirely off subject. They were taking about royal lines and heirs still, weren't they? It was in Asturia's best interest that its ally would have it's future throne secured. Allen tried to redirect the conversation, but it was royal gossip. King Aston was delighted to be on the other end of the conversation for once.
Van could have suffered through the speculations, except his stupid advisor, Raden, decided to open his big mouth. He assured King Aston that Van was indeed "looking for a wife at the moment and was planning to get married quite soon". Van wanted to give his austere and proper advisor a kick to his dignified ass. The gleam in the Asturian King's eye was enough to raise Van's hackles. He knew what would happen. Before the day was out every eligible female in the country with blue blood in her veins would be vying for his attention.
The first few years after the war made it easy enough to put off his "kingly duty", especially since all of Gaea knew his love for the girl from the Mystic Moon. The need to rebuild his kingdom could not be ignored. Now that six years had gone by the excuse of long distance love was wearing thin.
His love for Hitomi hadn't worn away. Van knew that he wasn't doing Fanelia a favor if he had no successor to secure his line. He had an obligation, and unfortunately, Hitomi was unavailable for that position. He tried to look for Hitomi in every girl he met, feeling for some echo of the soul that had answered his so long ago, but his searches always ended in failure. One girl didn't have the right laugh, another didn't have the smile, and no one had Hitomi's heart. It didn't really surprise him. He never expected to find someone just like Hitomi. He didn't want to either.
He felt guilty about not keeping in touch with Hitomi as much as he should have. The rebuilding of Fanelia occupied his time and his thoughts for quite a while. During the first year, it had been easy enough to contact her. He could reach out and literally feel his whole body on the Mystic Moon. Hitomi had been amused at how often he checked up on her. His presence in her mind was more than enough to keep her content. However, the more time that went by, the harder it became to see Hitomi at all.
Half way through the second year since Hitomi left, something disturbing happened. He woke up in a sweat from a dream in which he heard Hitomi speaking a prophecy. Well, at least he THOUGHT it was a prophecy. He had never been sure. Van was uneasy for days after that, not getting any work done. He wrote down the words he vividly remembered, only to be annoyed with himself. He ended up stuffing the sheet of paper into an obscure and messy drawer.
He decided to check on Hitomi's mind to make sure everything was all right. All he could feel from her was contentment and happiness. He couldn't see her for some reason, but it was enough to put his mind to rest.
After that, all he could see was fleeting images, and a sense of well being. It never really worried him, though he was curious why it was so difficult for him to see Hitomi. He often wondered if his mind was just filling in the blanks half the time, and if maybe, just maybe, time was eroding away their bond of love. Even with the difficulties, Hitomi always answered, even if all she could communicate were feelings. She still cared for him, but he could feel that there was something else...a sadness underlying the happiness she projected. What it truly was he didn't know.
It had become routine, this half feeling, half seeing of each other. Comfortable.
Thinking of Hitomi made Van long to see her. He stilled his mind, grasping for the crystal pendant that she gave him. He tried to visualize her, making the image of her as clear as he could. He was disturbed when he found that he couldn't picture her or feel her at all. There was no trace of the girl from the Mystic Moon.
Startled, he opened his eyes, realizing that he had continued to wander farther into the woods. There was a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye. He stopped and stared in fascination.
A pillar of light hit the ground in the middle of a forest. A slight breeze rustled the leaves, whispering to themselves of the strange presence among them.
The young woman, kneeling on one knee, glanced up at the sky. It was night. The Earth and its moon peeked out from between the branches of the trees.
"Gaea" she murmured. She looked down at her clenched fist and bit her lower lip. Reluctantly, she opened her hand and stared at the heavy gold ring that was her mother's farewell gift. Two tiny gems winked up at her. She winced slightly, and quickly stuffed it into her pocket. She would dwell on her mother later...and her father. First she had to take care of herself. She took a quick look around, squinting in the darkness. She was careful not to thrash around too much in case some unfriendly local wildlife decided to pay her a visit for disturbing the peace.
Her travelling sack lay a couple meters from her and along side it, her staff. She blinked, not remembering bringing it with her to the hospital. It would have been a little too conspicuous bringing the long, curved walking stick with her. She remembered her mother telling her of the time she transported Van and herself away from the attack on Fanelia and her duffel bag, which was sitting in the room she was staying, got taken along for the ride as well. She picked up the staff and fondly ran her fingers over the intricate cravings that decorated it. Tiger, Crane, Mantis, Monkey, Snake, all the different animal spirits that existed in the arts of fighting. At the head of the staff was a relief carving of the Dragon, animal spirit of her discipline. Perhaps someone out there thought she might need it. She hefted the staff and grabbed her sack. Who was she to argue?
After a bit, she found a small clearing located beside a little babbling brook. She smiled at the obvious cliché, but it was after all the perfect way to describe it. It ran along the rocks, merrily laughing and making delightful conversation with the wind while small fish darted around in the moonlit water. She rolled her eyes at her metaphoric ramblings. She definitely needed to give her brain a rest. She was starting to personify every bloody thing around her.
She gathered some dry twigs and kindling in order to start a fire. Just a small one, she reminded herself. There's no need to announce herself to the world.
She fished around in her bag, looking for the waterproof matches she was sure she stuffed in one of the pockets. She found them along with flint as well. She hesitated, wanting the warmth of the fire quickly but then with an inward groan, she stuck the matches back into the bag, figuring she should learn how to use the stupid flint while she could and keep the matches for emergencies.
After a few frustrating attempts, plus energetically performing her little dance of rage, she managed to strike a spark and get the kindling going. Before long a small, cheerful fire was going, and she laid out a small loaf of bread and a chunk of cheese that she had brought along with her. She rummaged through her sack looking for a change of clothes. Might as well try to dress as if she was from the place. Her mother warned her about standing out too much. Apparently Gaeans were quite observant about "unusual" clothing especially school uniforms.
She quickly changed into a loose top, a pair of slacks, and boots. Then she pulled out her black cloak to keep her warm. It smelled of her mother's flowery scent, reminding her to bring out the ring from her pant's pocket before stuffing everything back into her bag.
She raised the ring up to the light of the fire in order to examine it better. A finely etched dragon wound its way around the ring. The two gems she had noticed were its eyes. They twinkled at her mischievously, hiding many secrets in their depths. The firelight washed away any trace of colour. She slipped the ring onto her right ring finger, and frowned when she felt it tighten as if it was claiming her. Damn, she was doing it again...overworking her brain. She needed to keep herself occupied so this whole experience wouldn't overwhelm her. Something in the back of her mind kept nagging her, something that needed to be done. What it was she couldn't grasp just yet, and it was driving her nuts.
"Oh Mother." She sighed and closed her eyes, feeling salty tears creep between her lashes. She ground a fist into her eye. "Are you happy now?" She searched her mind, vainly searching for some trace of her only tie to Earth. There was nothing. She sat back on her heels and let a couple tears trickle down her face.
Seiki grimaced. Her thoughts were becoming chaotic and all this excess of emotion wouldn't help her in this situation. She needed to clear her head. Standing, she took up her staff and went through a simple kata, striking out in front of her and displacing the air in a little breeze.
Slowly but surely Seiki's movements became faster and more complex. The step of her foot, a quick turn of the staff, her kata was no more than a blur of motion.
The leaves rustled again, but this time it wasn't the breeze. The stones on her ring flared with light, as if in warning. She gripped her staff, whirling to meet her unwelcomed guest. A tall, dark-haired man stepped out into the bushes with a look on his face that was as surprised as her own.
Van watched in wonder as a slender figure danced through a complicated choreography of motion with a strange-looking staff. He stepped forward again, without really knowing why. The pendant burned with intense light. The leaves rustled with his movement. The figure stiffened and turned towards him. The dark cloak swirled around...
"Who are you?" There was a curious look in her eye. Her face was still and calm. It took a moment for Van to realize this person was undeniably female, so intent he was in examining the lightning quick, movements she had been going through. She felt familiar, as if he met her before, but he was unsure with the firelight behind her, casting her features into shadow.
"Uh, sorry about barging in on you like that..." Van glanced back the way he came from. "To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure how I ended up here in the first place." He felt nervous. This girl made him feel uneasy.
The girl's posture relaxed slightly, but her guard remained up. She tilted her head, as if examining him and nodded to herself. She cleared her throat.
"I was about to eat," her voice was softer, losing the edge he heard earlier. "You can join me if you wish." She gestured to the little fire and the meal she had laid out.
Van hesitated, feeling guilty that this woman was offering to share her small meal. He knew back at camp there was enough food to feed a healthy appetite for a week easily. He brushed his dark bangs aside and smiled back at the woman. "Sure, why not?" He glanced back where he came from. "It will give me a chance to get my bearings." She turned back towards the fire and crouched, and then glanced back at him, waiting.
He walked to the fire and stuck out his hand awkwardly. "Name's Van." The woman gave him the most peculiar look before taking his hand in a firm grasp. "Seiki. Himura Seiki." Her hand had a rough feel to it, callused, not a stranger to hard labour.
"Seiki." Van tasted the name as he sprawled down beside the fire, "What a strange name. Does it mean something?"
Seiki shifted slightly, and broke the loaf of bread evenly. She passed him a piece and then pulled out her small cutting knife from her boot sheath to cut the cheese. "My grandmother once told me it meant 'true heart'."
"I see." Van studied his mysterious host, now that the firelight was more cooperative. She looked...young. She glanced up, and frowned at the utterly shocked look on his face. "What?"
"Nothing," he stuttered, embarrassed. She continued to stare at him with her eyebrows raised, disbelieving. "It's just that...well, you look a lot younger than what I thought earlier..." he trailed off and barely restrained himself from grinding the heel of his boot into the dirt.
"And just how old do you think I am?" There was amusement in her voice.
"Um, 13 years, maybe 14?" He blinked when the girl snorted, and then started laughing, loud silvery peals of laughter that rang in the still night air. He stared at her harder, sensing that he was missing something.
Seiki was light haired, blond he thought, and it was long, tied in a loose braid that hung half way down her back. Wayward tendrils of hair drifted across her face. Her features were slender and sharp. Her cloak rendered the rest of her shapeless. She seemed a little grim at first, her eyes a little red and puffy, but the smile and her laughter brightened her face. She was beautiful, he thought, surprising himself. He had never really thought of anyone as really beautiful except Hitomi.
Seiki chuckled a little bit more before she calmed down. She finished cutting the cheese and handed him a chunk.
For the second time that night, Van sat there blinking, speechless. His hand remained outstretched with the piece of cheese sitting in his palm for almost a full minute before he realized how strange he looked.
"So, how old are you?" Seiki started to rummage around in her bag, looking for something.
"How old do you think I am?" Van responded automatically as he shifted a little to get a better look at her sack, curiosity getting the better of him. Seiki pulled out her water canteen and set it down on the ground before swiftly tying up the bag. She looked over her shoulder and gave him hard look, her eyes narrowing a little. Her head tilted in thought. Van could feel himself start to sweat under Seiki's scrutiny. All of a sudden Seiki trashed her "I'm-carefully-examining-you-under-a-magnifying-glass" expression and grinned.
"I haven't the slightest clue," she said cheerfully. "I'm terrible at that kind of thing." Van stopped himself from almost falling over.
"Twenty," he muttered, shaking his head, his hair falling across his face. "I'm turning twenty-one soon." Seiki glanced at him and smiled wistfully. "What?"
"Your hair...it reminds me a little of my brother, the way if falls across your eyes." She laughed. "I'd have to say though, it's a heck of a lot more attractive on you than on my own brother, that's for sure."
Van blushed and was silently cursing himself for doing so. "I see." He turned to intently stare at the fire as if expecting it to do something entertaining.
After a few uncomfortable moments Van asked the fire, "So where are you travelling to?"
Seiki shifted and threw a couple more twigs into the fire. "I'm travelling to Fanelia." She looked up at the sky. "I think I took a wrong turn somewhere though."
"I see." Silence.
Seiki frowned a little and got up, grabbing her water canteen and walked over to the little brook. When she got to the edge, she almost stumbled in, but at the last minute grabbed at the branches above her. Saving herself from an untimely bath. She felt her face grow red, and furtively glanced over her shoulder to see if Van had seen her mistake, he hadn't. Van was still preoccupied with staring into the fire at the moment. She couldn't tell if it was the fire that made his ears seem as red as they were. She heaved a sigh of relief and filled the canteen up with water and took a small sip. Returning to the fire she offered the canteen to Van in order to wash down the dry meal of bread and cheese. Van accepted it gratefully, wetting his parched throat with the cool liquid.
Seiki threw herself back against a tree, settling down before eating her food. The guy was just too serious, she decided. He needed to lighten up a little. She thought he was going to pass out when she commented on the fact that he was more than passable cute. Conversation was not lively. What was with this guy? Van gave the canteen back to her and she took a few sips. She stuffed more of the food into her mouth and nodded her head towards the sword hanging loosely at Van's hip.
"Do you know how to use that sword?" she asked around a mouthful of bread and cheese. "Looks like a fancy blade."
Actually, to Van it sounded more like "To you no ha to uss tha swort? Loks like a facy bwade." He snickered, and tried to smother it, so he wouldn't embarrass his host, but the sight of her puffed out cheeks combined with the funny words made his laughter burst out with gusto. Seiki swallowed her food, and raised an eyebrow.
"So, the serious man has a sense of humor after all." She muttered dryly. Van wiped a tear away from his eye as he sputtered and choked out an insincere apology. Seiki snorted. "Nice to see you're having such a good laugh at my expense. So you know how to use that oversized knife or what?"
Van's hand drifted down to the sword lying by his side, his fingertips brushing against the hilt. His mouth drifted into a half-cocky smile.
The expression on Seiki's face went completely blank, what she always liked to call her "poker face". It worked wonders for her at the flea markets when she was bargaining. "May I see it?"
Van picked up his sword and eyed her warily. "Do you know how to use one?"
Seiki held out her hand wordlessly and Van passed his sword to her. Seiki drew the sword and lifted it up, the blade vertically up to her eye.
"Hmmmm, a two-handed sword." She tilted the blade till it hovered between them horizontally. Van felt tiny beads of sweat forming on his brow as he looked down the opposite length of his sword.
"Ummm...yeah." A tiny part of Van's brain started panicking and running around in circles. His silly brain couldn't make up its mind whether or not it was more worried about Seiki's reaction to the Fanelian symbol that decorated the blade, or to the obvious fact that she was pointing his own sword right at him. Common sense would have him worry about getting hacked to bits, but right now the little he had to begin with had flown out the window. He was more worried about being chased by a power-hungry noblewoman.
He brushed the thought away as he watched Seiki handle the sword, twisting it this way and that. This girl...er...woman wouldn't be easily impressed. And he highly doubted that she was a courtier sent to track him down and wile her way into his affections. Besides Celena, there were no noblewomen he knew who trained with weapons. Most showed more interest to the one wielding the sword. If the sword was shown, the "normal" blue blood would "ooo" and "ahhhh" and then that would be it. He had met a lot of noblewomen too, courtesy of King Asturia.
He inconspicuously swiped at a drop of sweat on the side of his face. He hoped that Seiki didn't see. Now that he had that ridiculous worry out of the way, he still had to deal with the fact that he was sitting defenseless with a stranger holding his sword. Rather than show his uneasiness, Van concentrated on eating the rest of his bread and cheese.
"Nice sword. A little heavy and not suited to my technique, but still very powerful weapon. The most I could do with it is maybe hack at a tree and chop some firewood though."
As Seiki sheathed the sword and held it out to him, Van had a hilarious vision of Seiki clutching the sword and wildly attacking a tree, chips of wood flying out all over the place. Caught between relief at the return of his sword, his own weird imaginings and the bread in his throat, his restrained laughed sounded like he was having a coughing fit instead.
Anxious, Seiki had come over and started pounding Van's back, asking if he had accidentally choked on some bread. Instead of helping, the beating itself only made Van laugh harder.
Realizing that Van wasn't in dire need of anything as serious as CPR, Seiki stopped hitting him. She walked back to the fire muttering about a "warped sense of humor", facing away from him long enough for Van to get control of his laughing fit.
Van studied her under his lashes and asked nonchalantly, "By the way, where did you learn how to use a staff like you do? I've never seen those moves before and you handle it really well."
Seiki was studying the fire wondering what Van had found so fascinating about it earlier. She looked up with a hooded expression on her face.
"You should head back to where you came from. It's getting dark. If you have companions, they must be getting worried now."
Van hesitated and then stood brushing himself off. Seiki obviously didn't want to answer his question. "Thanks for dinner." Seiki nodded stiffly having returned to her intense study of orange light.
Van walked towards the opening where he came from and stopped, thinking. He turned back to Seiki.
"Are you still headed for Fanelia?" he asked tentatively.
"My companions and I are headed there too."
"Um...Would you like a ride?"
Seiki silently rose and dumped the remainder of her water over the fire. She kicked it over with dirt for good measure. Van blinked to adjust his eyes to the bright light of the Moons. He turned and headed back through the crushed vegetation. He didn't see the grim smile on Seiki's face. Seiki picked up her bag and staff and followed Van out of the clearing into the forest.
As Seiki expected, Van was not travelling alone. It was no surprise that his companion was more than frantic. The poor elderly man was defining the meaning of hysteria.
"Your Majesty! How could you go wandering off like that? What if you had gotten lost and we couldn't find you? You KNOW that Sir Allen and Lady Celena are just days behind us! We can't afford to lose any time and..."
"Raden..." Van stared at his advisor "Relax and take a breath."
Seiki almost laughed out loud when she saw that the elderly advisor did exactly that. When Raden was finally calm enough to be introduced to Seiki it was difficult to miss the pure look of exasperation he shot Van. Van gave him a quelling look, effectively stopping all questions...for the time being. Seiki had no doubt that their "conversation" was far from finished.
The minute Seiki met Van in the clearing, she KNEW that she had to go with him. If he had not asked, she would have simply followed. Thankfully he had. Seiki had not been looking forward to trudging around the bush to discreetly follow the company he rode with.
Allen, hmmm? This must be the infamous Allen Schezar, the blond and gallant Knight that her mother told her about. What luck...this may prove quite useful after all. She wasn't sure why she was so pleased to find out that Allen Schezar would be meeting them in Fanelia, but she put it down to nostalgia. After all this time, she was finally meeting the "characters" in her mother's stories. There was some other reason, but she couldn't put her finger on it just yet.
In the meantime Seiki figured she would "ask" Van about his "title". It seemed she was developing a perverse pleasure in watching Van squirm. She grinned.
This would be interesting indeed.
The Prophecy, original characters, artwork and links © Melinda
Ho, dragonmmho 1999 - 2004. All rights reserved.