She did it, and Hitomi was so overcome with pride at her achievement that she almost forgot the reason she had beat it in the first place. It took Amano’s gentle pat on the shoulder in congratulations to remind her of her earlier request.
“Congratulations, Hitomi, I knew you could do it,” he said, his smile warm and Hitomi’s cheeks slightly flushed at his gaze.
“Well, I was really motivated,” she said, looking away, “look about earlier, you don’t have to if you don’t want to?”
“A deals a deal,” he said.
Hitomi gulped in anticipation, as Amano placed his hands on her shoulder and gently leaned in. The kiss was awkward short, it was longer than a peck, but was still just a long moment of two lips touching. When Amano pulled away Hitomi felt less in daze and more just a bit underwhelmed by the experience. How many times had she fantasized about this experience? Too many to count, but to be fair she had never thought it would happen.
They are silent, and finally Hitomi looks up at him, and blushes.
“Thank you,” she said finally, and because she didn’t quite know what to do with the silence she went on, “It was nice.”
It was nice? she repeated in her mind, who says that? You’re such an idiot, Hitomi.
They don’t really say or do anything more. It is Yukari coming over that breaks the tension.
“Hey, Hitomi,” she said and there is a stiffness in her greeting that catches Hitomi off guard, “I have to go, my mom is waiting for me at home.”
“Oh, right,” Hitomi said and turns back to Amano, “Well um bye, I hope that you enjoy England or something.”
Really Hitomi, you’re on a roll, she thought, mentally hitting herself in the process.
“You really are something, Hitomi,” Amano said, “Good luck, and tell the rest of the team that I wish them best.”
Hitomi then notices him give a quick but strange look towards Yukari, and he then walks away, leaving the two friends alone.
“So that was it,” Hitomi said, finally breaking the silence, “I told him how I felt.”
Yukari nodded but didn’t reply, and they began to walk out of the stadium and towards the train station. The silence was uncomfortable which was strange to Hitomi. She could sense there was something that she was missing in the entire situation but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“So are you two together,” Yukari asked, once they reached the train.
Hitomi looked at her for a moment.
“No, I don’t think so,” Hitomi said, “he’s still going to England after all.”
“So?” Yukari said, Hitomi winced at the sarcastic twinge in it, “You love him, right? You can keep in touch.”
Hitomi is silent for a moment.
“I don’t know,” Hitomi said, “I don’t know if I like him that much. He knows how I feel, do I really need more than that?”
The silence suddenly grew cold and Hitomi looked at Yukari.
“Yukari, did you…”
“I thought you really liked him, are you sure that it is enough for you?”
Hitomi felt as if she had just been scolded.
“I did!” she protested, “It’s just, I don’t know. I mean he didn’t say anything.”
“I liked him,” Yukari said, “I would have done anything for him.”
Hitomi looked at Yukari for a moment.
“Yukari, I’m sorry,” Hitomi said, “I didn’t know.”
“No, it’s my fault,” Yukari said, “I didn’t say anything.”
“Why didn’t you?” Hitomi replied.
“Well, you mentioned it first,” Yukari said, “and I didn’t want to cause a riff between us. Besides the two of you make more sense then him and me.”
Hitomi smiled and leaned in and hugged her.
“I don’t think so,” Hitomi said, “I think you two would be perfect. I am sorry I didn’t notice. I feel like such a fool.”
Yukari gave a shrug.
“You’re right, Hitomi, long distance doesn’t make sense,” Yukari said, “and it’s not like I’m lonely. I still have to take care of you don’t I?”
Hitomi pulled her in tighter and smiled.
“Yes, yes you do.”
“Did you really slay a dragon, Grandma?”
Hitomi closed the book of fairy tales that she had been reading to grandson, Daisuke, and smiled.
“Well I didn’t actually slay the dragon, but it wouldn’t have been defeated if it wasn’t for me,” she said, “dragon’s are fierce creatures after all, and I was only 15 at the time. It was a feat just to survive it!”
Daisuke’s eyes widen and Hitomi can tell that he is completely impressed with her story. Of course what six year old wouldn’t be proud to say that they had a grandma who survived a dragon.
“Tell me the story Grandma,” Daisuke said, “Tell me about the dragon. How big was it?”
Hitomi spread her arms out really wide, as if to press upon the child just how enormous the dragon actually was.
“He was this big,” she said, “and his teeth were very sharp. It was very lucky that the prince was able to defeat the dragon.”
She didn’t actually know whether that boy that she had met all those years ago was a prince, but it made the story more interesting and it wasn’t like Daisuke would believe this story forever. The fact that the story really was true was something that Hitomi kept to herself. No one knew the story of how one night a while confessing her feelings for an old classmate, a mysterious boy descended from the sky and slew a dragon at a nearby shrine.
Hitomi couldn’t really convince her grandson that the boy was more intriguing to her than the dragon, of course she hadn’t been able to convince her children either. There were many moments throughout the years to where her thoughts and memories would sometimes drift into her mind and she would wonder whatever became of that boy and whether that whole event was something she had imagined.
Not that she had any regrets, Hitomi had lived a nice ordinary life and she was very proud of her children and her grandson was one of the finest kids she had ever known.
But there was always a little voice in the back of her head, that whispered to her of something she could’ve had, another life that she could have lead.
It had bee a long month, this stay in another world that Hitomi just couldn’t understand. She didn’t know what to do and was left on her own during the early days of Van’s coronation. It was over a week before anyone seemed to address what to do with her. All Hitomi could feel was that she was in the way. She was a foreigner who couldn’t really engage with anyone else.
Van himself never talked to her, Hitomi spent most of her time with Merle, who never seemed to quite warm up to her. Like Hitomi, Merle was kept out of the inner workings of Fanelia’s government. So they both spent many an hour outside the council room, waiting for Van and Balgus to emerge.
All Hitomi wanted to do was to go home. Her mother must be worried sick, and her beeper had long stopped beeping. She had lost contact. She missed everything about Earth, the food, the people, the sky. Seeing it hang in the sky each night was eerie.
It was two weeks in that Hitomi began to suspect that Van was avoiding her; he must’ve felt guilty, bringing her here, at least that is what Merle said in one of the few moments the catgirl decided to be friendly.
It wasn’t until 3 weeks in that Balgus came to her and said that they might’ve found a way to send her home. She would be sent to Freid, where monks talked about a mysterious pathway to another world. According to Balgus, if anyone in the land of Gaea could get her home, then it would be them.
Van did actually meet her at the landing where a merchant ship would transport her to the monks. He didn’t say much, but the look in his face told Hitomi that there was something that he wanted to say to her.
“Thank you,” she said, finally not being able to take the silence any longer, “congratulations, on being king or something.”
She sounded like a fool, but she just didn’t want to leave it like that.
“Thank you,” he replied and she looked at him, surprised at his own show of gratitude.
“Thank you for helping with the dragon,” he continued, “I’m sorry that I brought you here, and Merle says good bye.”
His last words were awkward and hurried that Hitomi couldn’t help but smile a bit. Maybe she had misjudged him a bit.
“Your welcome,” she said, and on an impulse she leaned forward and quickly pecked him on the cheek. It had only felt right. And with that she boarded the airship, and prepared herself for the journey back to her life, only looking back once, at the boy she had left behind.
Never in the history of her short young life had a house looked so empty. The Schezar estate was just too big and too full of memories that Hitomi felt very aware did not belong to her. Allen was an attentive husband, particularly to someone like Hitomi who needed a lot of guidance in order to pick up all the social cues that an Asturian wife of high class should know, but lately his “guidance” had begun to grate. She had become painfully aware of the way that she felt that he often framed her as a his little wife who didn’t know any better, some person who had to be protected and molded into his vision of family.
It was stifling, and the fact that the rumors had begun to spin around about her husband’s activities with the youngest Asturian Princess. Millerna had refused to come by after Hitomi and Allen were married, and her companionship was something that Hitomi hadn’t realized she would miss. Millerna would have been the one other person in Asturia who had known where she had come from and what she had been through. But that was lost to Hitomi as well. Allen had become the only person she could turn to, and she was finding that she didn’t find much comfort.
This wasn’t the life that she had expected for herself, this was where she saw herself. She fingered a letter that had arrived today. Unlike most letters that came, this letter was addressed to the both of them and so she had thought it was fine if she opened it.
His Majesty, Van Slanzer de Fanel of Fanelia
And Lady Miria of Cesario
Hitomi felt like someone had just struck her through the heart. Even more so then Millerna’s absence in her life, Hitomi found that she missed Van and Merle most of all. They hadn’t spoken since the end of the war. Van had refused to look at her, he had just waved her away. She wondered how Fanelia was, but she was too afraid to write, and now it would be even more appropriate.
There had been a feeling there, one that Hitomi had not wanted to acknowledge, instead she had rushed to the arms of Allen who had seemed safe and secure. Yet now, seeing how things had gone, Hitomi felt a twinge of regret.
She had chosen the life of a lady, but looking back at it, maybe she should have chosen the life of a queen.
The dreams were constant, ones of a burning country and a fallen king. Hitomi would wake in a cold sweat, absolute fear running through her veins. She was no longer on Gaea, but the experience still haunted her, even all these months later. She could still feel the intensity of Van’s bloodlust and the discomfort of Allen’s confession. She just wanted to forget it.
But she couldn’t, she realized this. She had made a decision to return, and though there had been one moment where she knew she would have been able to get back, she let it pass her by.
What was she supposed to have done? She was just a girl, and ordinary high school student. She hadn’t been prepared for war and the countless moments of almost dying and fearing for her life.
She wanted to feel safe again. She wanted to forget every single detail of that world and the people she met and the feelings she felt, even if it meant that for the rest of her life there would always be a little piece of guilt and a sense of loss, lingering behind every expression, she wanted.
This was her choice, and even with the pain, this was what she wanted to live.
Hitomi met Amano and Yukari at the train station. Amano had just returned from England and Yukari had wasted no time in going to meet him. Hitomi had never remembered seeing her friend so happy, it was a good sight to see. It made Hitomi feel better about her decision.
“Hey Hitomi,” Amano said, and bowed at her, “How are you?”
“Good,” Hitomi said, “I thought graduation would never come. Welcome back.”
He nodded and smiled and looked to Yukari.
“Do you want to tell her?” Amano asked Yukari who nodded back at him enthusastically.
“Hitomi, we’re getting married,” she said, “I’ve decided to go and study in England. I hope you won’t mind that I won’t be joining you at university.”
Hitomi shook her head.
“No, it is okay, I had a feeling,” Hitomi said, “I don’t think I will be there anyways.”
“What? Did something happen?” Yukari asked, suddenly pulling away from Amano and walked towards her friend.
“No, nothing like that,” Hitomi said, “I just decided that Tokyo isn’t where I’m supposed to be. I probably won’t be able to see you for awhile.””
“I’m sorry for just telling you now,” she said, “and I don’t want to bring you down from your news. I just came to say good bye.”
Yukari smiled knowingly, it had been an unspoken agreement that they don’t really talk about what had occurred three years prior, and it had always been an assumption among the three of them that one day Hitomi wouldn’t be there anymore.
Yukari wrapped Hitomi in a hug, much like Hitomi had given her all those years ago.
“Be happy, Hitomi,” Yukari said, “you’re my best friend. I love you.”
“Me too,” Hitomi said, “and all you have to do is think of me. I promise, I will never forget you.”
There are tears on her cheek as she pulls away, she bids one more good bye and congratulations before walking away. Everything was wrapped up and settled. Hitomi now knew that this would be the end of the 18 years she had lived on Earth. She had done everything she needed, now she needed to move on to the next part.
So as she made her way across town and to the familiar high school stadium. She walked into the stadium, where she was met by a very familiar face, and as Van wrapped his arms around her, Hitomi could do nothing but smile. Sometime in the last few years, Hitomi had realized that this was the moment that every vision, every sense had lead her too, and nothing else could compare.
Kanzaki Hitomi’s life could have taken many different paths, but no path would ever be as grand or fulfilling as the one that she actually lived.