Bonus Chapter #1
When Hitomi opened her eyes again it was night, the cool air filled with a mixture of night sounds and the mummer of people. She pushed herself off the ground and onto her knees, looking around; she blinked at the bright lights. A group of track students surrounded her.
The redheaded manager walked up to her slowly. "Hitomi?" Yukari's voice was cautious.
She was back on the track field. She was back where it had all begun. She started to panic. Was it all a dream? It couldn't have been! What had happened?
"Hitomi...?" Yukari asked again. She stepped closer, extending a hand toward the clearly distressed girl. Hitomi's panicked green eyes turned to her friend.
"Yukari? But wait... no… this isn't right."
"What are you talking about Hitomi?" The students in the back glanced at each other warily.
"Hitomi! Where have you been? You're gone for months and then suddenly you drop from the sky?" The redhead shouted angrily, graping Hitomi's shoulders.
As if seeing her friend for the first time, Hitomi noticed that Yukari's red hair was longer, long enough to tie back. She had never been able to tie her hair back before. "But that means..." Hitomi looked down at herself and slowly rose to her feet. She was still in the dress, the same light blue dress she had been wearing when she was in Gaia. She looked further down only to find Escalfowne's energest still clasp in her hand. She blinked before looking back at her friend's face. Silent tears ran trails down Hitomi's anguished visage."Oh Van..." She moaned, hugging the crystal to her heart. At her feet she noticed her bag and the case with her bow Van had given her. The tears wouldn't stop. Why was she here?
"Come on Hitomi, I think its time we got you home."
Her family had been shocked. Her mother had even fainted, but they had all welcomed her and asked many questions that were far too hard for her to answer just yet. They had remarked about her hair having grown, that she had a tan, and asked where she had found the gown she was wearing. After hugging each of them tightly, she had asked to be excused for the night, promising that she was fine and would answer their questions in the morning.
She reached her bedroom door and leaned her forehead against it. She could still hear her parents talking with Yukari at the door.
"Oh Yukari, that couldn't have happened. You know that isn't true." Her mother let out a sigh.
"Not here perhaps, but wherever she went..."
"You don't mean that story about the dragon and boy that you and Amano told the police?" Her father sounded incredulous.
'Van...' Hitomi thought.
"Yes. He took her somewhere out of this world."
"How else do you explain her? Look at her hair, her skin, her clothes even! How else do you explain where she's been? I know we've all missed her and you even thought she might have been dead. No one believes what Amano and I saw that day. The police just said we must have gotten a hold of some bad drugs that night. But you know us! We would never do that."
Hitomi's head started to hurt and her body ached, but she turned from her room and went to the top of the stairs. "It's called Gaia." She said softly. Everyone at the bottom turned to her.
"The planet I went to was called Gaia. And the boy was real..." Her voice cracked. "His name is Van... He... He's the king of a country called Fanelia." She wiped her eyes. "I remember what Yukari is talking about... I was there! The dragon came out of nowhere... just like Van. It attacked us... but, but Van! He fought the dragon and killed it! He...he saved us… It was all, real! I don't care what any of you think!" She shouted at the small group below. "It was all real! He was real... And I want to go back... I want to go back home..."
"But Hitomi," Her mother stepped forward. "You are home." She reached out a hand as if to touch her daughter, even though Hitomi stood on the top step.
Hitomi laughed bitterly. "No, this is not my home. I don't belong here." She shook her head and a few tears flew off of her cheeks and into the air. "I don't belong here anymore. I'm not like you anymore. I want to return to Van, Merle, Folken, and Varie, and Chid and Millerna too... They are my family now..."
Hitomi could see the pain that passed over her parent's faces at her statement, but it didn't matter to her anymore. It was nothing to how her heart felt. And she knew she was right; she could never again fit on this world...
Hitomi fled to her room, slamming the door behind her.
She didn't leave her room for days. She cried bitterly till she felt drained inside. She had wished every way she knew how to go back to Gaia. She even tried to use her powers, but all she got was a headache.
But another thought popped into her head. Her cards. She hadn't tried them yet. She smiled in sudden hope, despite her depressed mood.
Moving away from her bed she rummaged through her duffel bag. The cards were near the bottom; exactly where she had known they would be.
Standing again she walked over to her dresser, where Escaflowne's engergist sat on a small cushion of silk that had once been a blouse. She starred at the stone, remembering the day that Van had retrieved it. Colors had swirled within its depths then, but now it was a dull, muted pink, with no sparkle at all. She sighed as she sat down on the floor and started to draw cards.
"The- what?" She looked down at the first card she had drawn. Nothing. It was blank, so was the next, and the next! She slumped back into the bed. All of her powers were gone... but that couldn't be! She frantically looked around the room. Searching for anything else she could use her powers with. The bow!
Her mother had been washing the dishes when she heard the sounds of splitting wood and curses from the backyard. She moved to the kitchen window and looked out, only to find Hitomi with a long wooden bow in her hand, and her hair tied up, facing the old pine tree. She had changed into a white blouse and a pair of black pants... clothes that Hitomi's mother had never even seen before, let alone bought for her daughter.
She watched as her daughter pulled out and notched an arrow. She then aimed toward, fired at, and missed a crude target that she appeared to have painted on a shirt, which was in turn pinned to the old pine tree. Hitomi's arrow missed the trunk and stuck in the back fence instead; her shoulders slumped.
"I can't do it anymore! They're all gone... that's why I can't go back..." Hitomi whispered, wiping at the tears in her eyes as she went to retrieve her arrow.
"Hitomi..." Her mother stood in the doorway.
Retrieving her arrow, Hitomi returned to her room without answering her mother.
She had missed them before. In her rush to see if all of her powers were really gone, she had missed the other set of arrows... the set of Van's arrows. When had he done that? She fingered the soft white feather... When had he done this for her?
She raised the end of one arrow so that the feather fletching caressed her cheek, and swept away her tears. 'Oh Van...'
The sun had set, giving birth to yet another night filled with painful dreams and memories of her angel. As with all the other nights since she had returned, Hitomi tried to sleep peacefully that night.
Child... Come this way.
She blinked and looked around. Everything glowed white. She was floating in nothing again... just like when she...
Come child, you do not have long.
A small glowing orb floated around before her pale, winged form. This was a dream, her mind was telling her. She had no more powers, so she could not be where she thought she was. But in this place she moved about on phantom wings, following after the glowing orb; as she did, the white faded into brilliant green grasses and trees.
Hitomi floated into a clearing surrounded by the tallest trees of the great forest she was in. The white sky had long ago darkened to a dim sunset, and a few rays of crimson light still pierced the gloom. She stopped and waited as many more spheres of light, like the one she had followed, began to move towards her through the trees.
"Where am I?" She asked, looking around at the ancient trees and white spheres in awe.
Child, we have brought you here. Oh Child, we have been crying for you.
"Crying for me...?" She questioned, turning her green eyes to the original ball of light. But it moved, floating up and into the trees. She reached out a hand, unable to follow it this time. "Wait-" She started, but was startled into silence by the arrival of a figure with wings. It flew over the trees, gliding into the clearing before her, followed by more of the small white orbs.
Van looked at the image of his beloved last love with disbelief etched into his features... but Hitomi was dead... wasn't she? She looked so real standing in the grass before him. His wings folded down against his bare shoulders. Even if it was a dream... He walked forward to meet her.
"Van... is that really you?" She whispered. Something about this place... something told her that this was different from her other dreams. They were mere feet apart now and she couldn't contain the urge to touch him. To see if he was real. She closed her eyes, reaching forward and... her hand rested on his well-formed chest. He was... solid. Real. Her eyes opened.
Hitomi?" He looked down at her through his unruly black hair; then suddenly gathered her into his arms. "Oh Hitomi... I've missed you so much... I thought that you..." He whispered into her golden hair.
"Van, you're real... this isn't a dream..." She breathed in his scent and basked in the warmth her body had been longing for since their parting.
Our Children... this is a dream.
A single ball of light detached from the glowing mass swirling around them.
Van and Hitomi turned. "But this can't be a dream... it's too real." Van said, holding her tighter against him, not wanting to let her go again.
Child, we have all been weeping... We cannot live with your pain. There is hope yet for you both, and that is why we have gathered our strength, to bring you here.
Hitomi looked up at Van, meeting his eyes before looking at the spirit lights floating around them. "Where are we then?"
In our land of innocence, our home of dreams and visions.
"The life stream?"
No, the heart of the planet.
Van flexed his wings slightly; it was odd to feel Hitomi's ghost wings brush against and through his own all at once. He rubbed his cheek against her hair. "So we are in the heart of Gaia?" He asked softly.
A few of the lights moving around them floated up into the air before blinking out. Our Children, we do not have much strength left, we cannot to keep your spirits here much longer. We must tell you, you will meet again.
"You mean..." Hitomi looked at Van. "I can go home again... back to Van?"
He looked down at her and blinked... home? But she was back on her own world, she was back at her own tome. Her voice interrupted his thoughts.
"I can go back to Fanelia?" A bright smile filled her face. Her home would always be with Van.
Yes, Child. But you cannot go now. We have given you our hidden power; you are the only one able to control it now. But in saving his life... you have drained your body of Atlantis's power.
Hitomi snuggled into Van's arms, nodding against his chest that she understood.
Until your powers and body are renewed, you are trapped on your own world.
Van stood straighter "Do you mean that once she gets her powers back, she can come back to Gaia?"
They turned to each other and smiled. He hugged her tightly again. "Hitomi."
"Oh Van... I will come back..." She leaned up and kissed him for all she was worth; they might not get another chance for a long time.
Van wrapped his arms around her, supporting her phantom weight.
My Children, you both need to grow and become stronger souls. You have been through much already, but this will be just as hard as the dangers you have already faced together.
Holding one another close, they listened.
We must warn you, it will take years for your powers to return fully, for you to travel through the stars once again.
The light moved before their eyes.
When the crystals glow... it shall be time.
It started to get darker. The lights were fading all around them. Their dream world was coming apart.
"Van!" She shouted, looking around in panic. Already, Van was fading, along with herself. "Van I love you! Wait for me!"
"I will! I'll wait as long as it takes!" His voice called back through the darkness.
Hitomi awoke with a jolt, Van's arrow still clutched in her hand. She looked around wildly. She was in her room again, right where she had been before the dream. The energist on the table caught her eye. In the very center, a small light, no more than a pinpoint, flickered in and out. 'It wasn't a dream...'
She rushed to her window, threw back the curtains and looked up at the night sky. "Van! I'll come back to you! I promise!"
Wait... there's more... =)