She was engulfed in darkness but Hitomi could feel that she was falling in this void. This was a dream this much she was sure. Any minute she'll hit the ground then she'll wake up and everything will be alright again. But she continued to fall. Even in her dreams she felt the anxiety rising from her gut, up her chest, to her throat.
What if I never stop falling? What if I never wake up?
Her thoughts were in disarray. Hitomi was starting to get worried.
I need to wake up!
Fighting against the weight slowly building up in her chest, she tried with all her might to move her limbs. She felt like she was stuck in quicksand. Her arms and legs felt heavy like lead. As if drowning in slow motion, her breaths have become shallow.
No! I need to wake up! I can't… not yet… I haven't…
Somebody, help me!
A faint light shone through the darkness. She could make out one, two, no, three… then there were many faint lights around her.
These are... feathers?
Hitomi instantly knew she was saved. She knew this from the bottom of her heart; her angel had arrived. The weight she felt was lifted and was able to she raise her arms. A dark silhouette came and held her in a warm embrace. The pain was lifted from her chest and she slipped into peaceful slumber.
Her eyelids still felt heavy but Hitomi managed to open them. She could see the colour of the sunset. She could smell the pleasant fragrance of young grass mixed with the scent of the sun. This reminds her of a summer day.
"Where am I?"
Sitting herself up, Hitomi looked around. Her vision adjusting to the light, she could make out a figure sitting at the edge of a cliff a few paces from her. She immediately recognized that back. She has dreamt of this same moment for years but in all her longing, the figure never turned her way. The moment of waking was just at the edge of this cliff, she felt it.
This is the closest I'll ever get to meeting him again. Like several times before, this dream will be over as soon as I call out to him.
Hitomi's heart was pounding. She knew waking up from a pleasant dream like this was inevitable, but she wanted to know if this moment, even if it's just within a dream, was real.
The figure turned slowly until Hitomi finally saw the figure's profile. Even with half is face against the light his familiar features, one she could easily trace with her mind's eye. took Hitomi's breath away. In unison, they both stood and caught each other in a warm and tearful embrace.
Van was exactly as she remembered him: lean and the epitome of youth. His boyish ebony hair with the bangs, left in careless abandon, still hiding the secret behind his reddish-brown eyes. His scent, oh did she miss his scent; fresh young grass grown wild in the vast sunny fields of Gaea.
A quick as the waves change at the shore, Hitomi suddenly felt ashamed.
"Don't look at me!", she exclaimed as she pushed Van away. With her back to him, she covered her face with her hands.
"The years have not been kind to me. I'm not the same!", Hitomi whimpered.
A few moments of silence passed between them. A bit hesitant, but with the same gentle voice, Van finally spoke "Hitomi, what are you talking about? You're the same from when we parted not so long ago."
With her back still turned to Van, Hitomi removed her hands form her face. She took a close at her hands and saw fewer lines; at the back of her palm were the absence of sunspots she had collected over the years. She then realized she was wearing her high school uniform. Facing Van once again, she realized he was right. He too looked the same way as when they last parted in Gaea.
"Van, is it really you?"
Hitomi's voice cracked in desperation. This time is definitely different. The Van in her dreams never showed his face and the expected time of her waking was long past.
Van, smiling his gentle smile, spoke calmly. "Didn't you used to say that if we wish for it hard enough, all our wishes will come true?"
"Y-yes. I did say that, didn't I?" Hitomi, still cautious that she'd wake up in any moment took careful steps towards Van.
"Will you disappear when I touch you?"
Van reached out a hand to her but only halfway. Hitomi carefully reached out to Van's open hand. His hand felt rough with uneven and hard calluses, the same way they were back then.
"Hitomi, come sit with me."
Surprised, Hitomi looked into Van's eyes but she was unsure of what was to come. Van led her to the spot where he was seated the moment before. It held a view of the vast ocean before them. The waves kissed the jagged rocks below them; the gentle breeze brushing against their cheeks; the tall grass audibly dancing behind them.
"Yes, Van?" Hitomi was determined to hold his gaze.
"The years have passed in my world too."
Hitomi wasn't sure where this conversation was heading but she made sure Van could see she was determined to listen to him.
"I-… I finally understood Allen's father… his feelings towards the Mystic Moon, I mean."
Deep in thought, Van gazed at the horizon before them as he continued.
"Leon Schezar gave up everything to find the secrets of Atlantis. He gave up his family, his status for a chance to meet the girl from the Mystic Moon again. All his sacrifices lead him back to what was truly of value – his love for his wife, Allen's mother."
"Van, what are you trying to say?"
Hitomi was genuinely confused and worried. Appearing to him as her youthful self didn't make sense to her but this was a dream after all, wasn't it? And even if this was a meeting place for souls in the midst of slumber and waking, somehow it does make sense that the Van before her now was in fact an older soul similar to hers. How had Van lived his life all these years? Did he, like herself, age in relatively good health? Did Van manage to maintain the peace in the Kingdom of Fanelia. Did he… marry a princess and have an heir? Or two? Hitomi wondered as she bit her lip.
"Hitomi, I've dreamed about you over the years. This is the first in a long time that I've seen your face and heard your voice."
"It's the same for me too, Van!"
A smile came across Van's face. He was visibly pleased that Hitomi dreamt of him too.
"Hitomi, I've encountered countless mystical things in Gaea since you left. But one mystery remains to this day."
Hitomi felt she knew what Van was going to say. Was she going to pretend she didn't? How exactly does one hide a raging river in the middle of a desert?
Van smiled kindly at Hitomi. Her heart ached. This wasn't the same hesitant and boyish smile he had in his youth. She just knew that this Van was grown if not in appearance then in spirit. His was a soul run to the ground by duty. His was a hard life from the very beginning.
Over the years, Hitomi had been surely losing access to her visions. It's as if fate, thinking of itself kind and merciful, had taken back this gift and curse from her. But even without the visions Hitomi felt that Van has gone through so much since their parting. Her heart ached precisely because he knew by intuition that Van's heart is irreparably broken.
"You once told me that seasons change in the Mystic Moon. Did you know that the season is always the same in Gaea? If I were in the Mystic Moon, I would've dreamt of you in all seasons." Van said thoughtfully.
Hitomi squeezed his hand, still in fear that she'd wake up abruptly.
"Whenever I dream of you, you're always the same. You still have your unusual short hair and clothes from the Mystic Moon. But, Hitomi…"
Tears were rolling down Hitomi's cheeks now.
"Hitomi, why can't we see each other past this moment?"
Author's notes: This is one of the worst cliff-hangers every written. I just feel that I need to step back and think really hard on how I'll write the next part. Even if it's just remotely obvious, I still don't know where this story is going but I'll try my best to write a decent ending. T_T