If you haven't, you might be interested in reading my side story "Van's Musings" first. I had to paint the Van in this story through a separate short to sort my understanding of his character out. Here you go, final chapter!
"Hitomi, why can't we see each other past this moment?"
Clasping her hands close to her chest, "Van" Hitomi started. "I tried so hard to look for it – this feeling I have when I'm with you. This feeling… is hard to explain; it is happiness mixed with sadness. It's a type of loneliness that somehow gives me comfort, like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. I've met a few people in my world but the feeling I had with them was never quite right. Doesn't it seem like we're meeting each other like this precisely because we were never the same since we parted?"
Van gave her a thoughtful look then laughed. Van has never been as vocal about these thoughts more so his feelings but one thing he was sure of was the truth in his heart. In his youth, Van had known and accepted his feelings for Hitomi long before she was able to sort out her own feelings. Van may have had a wayward means of expressing himself, but he had hoped, the same way a single matchstick could light up the road ahead, that Hitomi would reciprocate his affections. Their time together in the past was brief but at this moment, Van knew what Hitomi was trying to tell him – even if she herself wasn't quite aware of it herself.
"Hitomi, I loved the form you appear in right now." Van smiled. "and I love you still. I'm sorry it took me this long to say this to you clearly."
Van's eyes were clear, not a shadow of doubt behind his words. For the first time, Hitomi had realized what she was trying to find in vain in other people – the purity of Van's heart. Van lived his words and all the promises he made he kept as if these were his life's purpose. The sudden realization seemed to have finally unlocked a door in Hitomi's mind.
"Van, you are my once and never again." Hitomi smiled with tears in her eyes. "I feel so lonely and happy that we met. My heart is yours always."
Van leaned forward and reached for Hitomi's chin. Instinctively, Hitomi closed her eyes. She felt the warmth of Van's lips. As the King's lips continued to caress hers' gently, Hitomi could feel herself being pulled back by a heavy but non-malicious force. The waking world has summoned her.
Van slowly opened his eyes. From where he lay, he could see Merle at the foot of his bed.
Sensing her long-time master's waking, her ears, white with the accumulation of the years, perked up. "Lord Van, you're finally awake! We were all worried!"
Van weakly looked around and realized they were alone in the room. Ever so slightly, he took out his frail arm from under the heavy covers to reveal the now pinkish-white pendant that Hitomi had gifted him so many years ago.
"Another dream about Hitomi?" Merle inquired in a comforting tone.
With great effort, Van smiled as he gave his most loyal subject and friend a slight nod.
"I'm happy you're awake, Lord Van" Merle cried as she gently squeezed Van's hand.
Feeling exhausted from the very act of waking, Van began to feel a heavy weight on his body. The years since the liberation of Gaea from Zaibach has become nothing more than legend. The king had fought more battles since and his body had paid dearly for Fanelia, his home country's sake. With each new war, Van had to thank his lucky stars that it never came to a point where he needed to reawaken Escaflowne. He knew the darkness that lurks in his heart all too well. Hitomi had risked her life to save him from despair and in her absence, he wanted to honor her sacrifices for him by relying only on his own power.
The years grew long, and the sacrifices were great indeed. Van loved Fanelia too much and was duty-bound to give his last breath to her people. He gave the throne an heir and by the next full moon, he would have his first great-grandson. Despite everything, only Merle knew of what was truly in his heart and Van was eternally grateful that someone understood the loneliness he had to bear; that it was his duty to bear it. Van knew that Hitomi believed in him; this gave him the power to believe in himself.
Van enclosed his fingers around the prized pendant and thought about the countless number of times he had wished on it to bring Hitomi back to him. These wishes were in vain because his own heart had betrayed him. Hitomi belonged to the Mystic Moon. She would be safer in a world that does not have to face death as a means of living.
The thoughts of Hitomi living to the fullest back in the Mystic Moon had kept him going. Kingdoms rise and fall. Each battle was hard-fought, and Van kept death as his constant companion and Hitomi in his heart. Van had agreed to a treaty by marriage and had worn Hitomi's necklace on his wedding day, to Merle's astonishment. Van had reared 2 sons and raised them to support each other – to write the story that he and Folken never had. The situation in Gaea was like the tectonic plates – always moved by and moving towards violence. Van had thought countless times that even though Gaea was a means for the people to Atlantis to repent from their sins, why does it seem like the people in Gaea have not any other purpose than to pay for those same sins.
Van's thoughts were interrupted when he suddenly felt feel the great slumber beckoning him.
"Merle." Van whispered as he looked at what his dimming vision could only make out as her silhouette. He gently closed his eyes one last time.
Merle tightened her grip around Van's hand. Merle had sensed the difference in the air. She broke into uncontrollable sobs. A dim line shone in between her hands.
"Hitomi's pendant?" Merle gently released Van's had and noticed the pendant he was holding has now turned white. Her eyes drifted to her master's face and saw a smile on his face, as if asleep. Merle wiped the tears from her old eyes.
"Good night, Lord Van."
"KAN-ZA-KI – SAN!... Eh?!"
Hitomi was already packed to leave when Mikage, her co-teacher, waltzed into the faculty room. Mikage stood thoughtful for a moment then realized "I forgot you were meeting your fiancé's family tonight! You've definitely come a long way from your loooooooooooong rut."
"Hey! That's not nice!" Hitomi exclaimed. She was juggling a stack of papers along with her personal belongings.
"I've always thought you had rotten luck with love. I figured a man broke your heart so bad you just swore off romance."
Hitomi chuckled at the other woman's remark "That's far from the truth, actually. I had the most unforgettable first love."
"Ehhh? So why are marrying someone else?"
"HI-MI-TSU. That's a secret for me to keep." Hitomi teased as she walked out of the room.
Hitomi walked towards the school gate where her fiancé was waiting for her. On the way, she stopped by the track where her students were doing their daily training.
This place will always mean something to me. The new facilities, the new uniforms, the different faces will never change that.
My life here and on Gaea will always mean something to me. The new promises of tomorrow and the new life I will lead will not change that.
As she turned to take another step, a gentle breeze passed by. A white feather crossed her path then flew up into the blue sky.
No other love can replace ours, Van. I know this now. Our love is truly a lonely one. I never could have fathomed that my first love could bring such sorrow.
Whenever Hitomi's thoughts strayed, it was always thoughts about Van. Whenever she thinks about the last time they met in their dreams, she would always think about his smile.
It's as if his smile is telling me to live will all my heart. I will continue to carry both this happiness and sorrow so together we'll see what the future holds.
Hitomi, empowered with her newfound resolve, smiled to herself as she crossed the school gates.
Author's notes: Ah, well... thanks for getting to this chapter. Frankly, I didn't know how to end this short (I seriously thought this was going to be a chapter at most). I was struggling for some time when I came across Captain America: The First Avenger on cable TV by chance (gotta appreciate the randomness of cable TV programming!). I figured of course! Not all feelings need to have a clean-cut beginning or end. Transitions are messy in real life and in some cases, we're stuck in the limbo our entire life. Btw the Escaflowne Movie was sooo different from the series. I thought I could get ideas from the film but the mood was just so off from what I've already written. Got some good ideas from the Escaflowne songs though. This show will always be one of my favorites.