The Girl from the Mystic Moon: The Remix
A fanfiction written by Kari and KyonKyon
Was it all just a dream? Or maybe a mass hallucination? No . . . it was real . . .
Kanzaki Hitomi tried desperately to regain her bearings. Okay, she thought frantically, let's have a recap. Hmm . . . I heard that that idiot Amano was leaving our anime cult – Yes! Finally! – then I stayed up all night listening to subliminal messages in some anime or another –Weird . . . – and then I asked a "favor" of Amano – What the heck was I on?!? – and then this weird boy showed up in the middle of my recitation – THANK GOODNESS! – but then I saw him get killed and somehow I stopped it – huh? – and then, to top it all off, I find out he's a jerk too and I get transported to his world – not good. On the other hand, I don't have to face my idiocy concerning Amano or go to that convention with him. Hmm . . . guess there's a silver lining to everything. Okay, back to the present.
They were completely surrounded by a type of creature Hitomi supposed must be native to the boy's home planet, whatever it was called. They seemed to be a sort of cross between wolves and humans, though it was too dark for her to be sure. One thing was certain, though. They were not looking at the boy and her in a very friendly manner.
The boy's eyes darted around worriedly. "The glowing eyes have encircled us like a wreath of stars in the night," he muttered under his breath.
Hitomi looked over at him incredulously. "What did you just say?"
Van frowned. "As one attentive may recall, I said 'The glowing eyes have encircled us like a wreath of stars in the night,'" he repeated, clearly enunciating each syllable.
Hitomi bristled at his patronizing tone. "I heard what you said," she snapped irritably. "My question is what's the problem with just saying 'we're surrounded'?" she asked, her voice a mixture of exasperation and disbelief. "Who do you think you are? The king of whatever planet this is?"
"Greetings upon your return, Van Fanel," interrupted Ruhm, stepping forward from the pack.
"You-you've been to the Mystic Moon?" inquired Ruhm incredulously as the trio rode on top of a yak-mammoth. He glanced back at Hitomi. "So that girl there is—"
"Yeah, she's one of the people who live there," Van answered in a friendly tone. "I was kinda doing a favor for Yu—I mean , I was venturing forth on my noble quest of Dragonslaying, when without preamble I was transported by a mysterious pillar of light, of which I know not the source, to the very place of which you speak. After the noble beast of legend was properly slain, I was transported back in a similar manner, but by some whim of fate I was unluckily burdened with some extra luggage."
"Excuse me," Hitomi said softly in a dangerous voice, clenching her teeth in an effort to not scream at his pretentious speech, "but what do you mean by 'extra luggage'?"
"I mean that which was not intended to return with me from the Mystic Moon," he answered calmly.
"Oh, and here I thought you were talking about—" She froze suddenly, as images entered her mind. A burning city . . . the sunlight glinting on metal claws . . . rows of soldiers being cut down by an invisible hand . . .
"What?" inquired Van.
Hitomi stared blankly out into space. "Ne-nevermind," she said slowly.
After one very awkward night, during which Hitomi tried vainly to sleep, the yak-mammoth finally came to a stop at the top of a rise. In the valley beneath them was a majestic, though quaint, little city protected by thick walls, windmills blowing gently in the breeze in front of them and the very atmosphere of the area radiating a sense of tranquillity.
"Below us is Fanelia, little lady," Ruhm said reverently.
Hitomi leaned forward in her seat and stared for several long moments, trying to take the incredible sight in. As her sleep-deprived senses slowly awakened, however, her face took on an incredulous look, and, in a slightly slurred voice, she commented, "Awfully poor excuse for a kingdom, don't you think? I mean, come on, only one city? Man, I feel sorry for the monarchy."
"Um, excuse me," Van began testily.
"And just look at the primitive living conditions and the poor education system!" she babbled incoherently. "Absolutely horrific!"
"How can you tell it has a poor education system just by looking at it?" Ruhm queried curiously.
She clumsily jerked her thumb back at Van. "I've been sitting next to him for hours."
"True," agreed Ruhm.
Van fumed quietly.
"Prince Van's back!"
The cry echoed down the halls of the factory, resounding off the walls and being closely followed by the frantic footsteps of the young boy. Skidding to a halt, he nearly flew over the balcony as he shouted to the busy peasants working feverishly below, "Prince Van's back!"
Fear in their eyes, all of the workers looked up from their work on the aerosol cans to stare at the boy. Even the foreman was speechless.
"What do you mean he's back already?" he barked roughly, but uncertainty was in his voice. "He can't have returned yet!"
The boy shook his head furiously. "No, he's back! They're about to open the gates for him right now!"
The foreman swore colorfully. Turning to the workers, who were now all looking to him for direction, he forcefully bellowed, "Quickly, hide the cans in the warehouse! I want you all out there to welcome him immediately! He cannot suspect anything!" Seeing they were all still staring blankly at him, he roared, spit flying from his mouth, "Go! Now!"
The peasants promptly dropped their tools and ran. As they rapidly exited the building by any means possible, the boy leaned lazily over the railing and called down to the foreman, "Hey, what's the prince got against hair spray, anyway?"
The foreman smirked. "Small accident when he was a kid."
"Open the gates!"
As the giant doors, creaking slightly, opened before them, Hitomi could only look on with sleepy wonder as the city's interior came into view. However primitive it had looked from the outside, it was in fact quite picturesque when one was standing, or sitting on top of a yak-mammoth, inside it. All of the buildings were in perfectly ordered rows around a building she supposed must be the palace, which itself was framed by several majestic trees and a striking blue roof. Meeting her nose in a delightful medley was the fragrant scent of freshly baked bread and another that she couldn't quite place, but somehow reminded her of the boy next to her. Not to mention that it seemed that the entire population of the city had appeared to greet them, though some seemed more than a bit out of breath when they arrived. Noticing this, Hitomi frowned.
"Say, Van," she whispered, "why do those men look so exhausted?"
Jolting a little in surprise, he looked over at her, clearly not having heard a word she'd said. "Pardon?"
Hitomi rolled her eyes. "Nevermind. I'll just tell the king he needs to build better roads."
"Um, you probably should know—"
"Look, you 'probably should' get down there. Those people look like they're waiting for you to say something," she said, yawning widely. "Oh, and try not to make it too elaborate."
"Just get down there!" With that, she pushed him off the yak-mammoth.
To her great disappointment, he managed to land easily on his feet. It seemed almost pointless, however, as he was bowled over the next second by an orange blur.
"Merle!" There was a loud thump as both bodies hit the gravel. Hitomi winced a little in sympathy as Van gingerly stood up and brushed himself off. "Merle . . ." he groaned, rubbing his head. "I thought I told you not to do that anymore."
The cat-girl seemed completely oblivious to his discomfort, however. "Van-sama!" she cried, throwing her arms around his neck. He braced himself for the impact this time and managed not to fall over again. Seemingly uncaring, she continued jubilantly, "I'm so glad you made it back safely, Van-sama! I was worried to death about you!"
Van regarded her flatly. "You thought I was going to die too, right?"
"Um . . ." For the first time the cat-girl seemed slightly uncomfortable, sweating a little before tightening her hug around him. "It's just that I'm so happy to see you!" she shouted cheerfully. She then proceeded to lick his face eagerly.
Hitomi watched in amusement as the boy tried vainly to stop the cat-girl's display of affection. He had had it coming, after all. Her face soon darkened, however. "First wolfmen and now a little cat-girl . . ." she murmured. She looked up at the sky. "This can't be the Universe of the Four Gods, or Cephiro, or the Sengoku-Jidai Era so where—"
"Lord Van?" A single voice called out, hesitantly.
"Lord Van." A chorus of voices this time, all originating from a group of four men who abruptly emerged from the crowd, standing in front of it and gazing steadily upon the flustered young boy, who was still attempting to detach Merle from his torso. Finally managing to after a particularly rough shove, he straightened up and faced the men.
The foremost one, who had a heavily scarred face, looked at him with something akin to admiration. "Lord Van . . ."
Van nodded and raised his hand above his head. "I, Van Fanel, having fulfilled the sacred Rite of Dragonslaying, have returned triumphant with a Drag-energist," he said formally, meeting the scarred man's eyes.
The other men gasped. "That's the real thing all right . . ."
They all knelt and began to bow.
"You mean this thing Van pulled out of the dragon?" inquired Hitomi, who had gotten off the yak-mammoth with Ruhm's help. She rummaged through her bag and pulled out the curved red stone. "That's what it's called? A Drag . . . energist?" She noticed the odd looks the four men and Van were giving her. "What?"
Van strode over to her and considered the object she was holding. "This is in truth the Drag-energist I removed, so what now am I holding?" he muttered to himself, examining the contents of his own hand. "It appears to be of similar make, but . . ." He froze as all of the crystal rose's petals suddenly fell off at his touch.
In a parallel magical world, a strangled cry rang out. "No! Beeeeeeeeeast! I love you!"
Van and Hitomi watched in amazement as the mysterious article simply melted into thin air without so much as a shimmer. Van was the first to recover from the shock. "I see it's no longer a concern," he stated confidently, though his face held a peculiar expression.
"I guess . . ." said Hitomi uncertainly. Realizing she was still holding the Drag-energist, she thrust out it to him. "Uh, here. The Drag-energist."
"Huh? Oh, yes . . . yes." He took the proffered object and resumed his stance in front of the heartily embarrassed generals. "Shall we?"
Snapped abruptly out of their horror, they hastily bowed, and the foremost one powerfully proclaimed, "We four brigadier generals of the samurai of Fanelia verify this to be true, Prince Van."
The prince smiled broadly at this announcement. "Thanks, everyone."
Hitomi, however, simply stood there, completely frozen in shock. Whoa . . . he's a prince? she thought numbly. Glancing over at the still-fallen Merle, she muttered, "Well, he does have his own personal menagerie . . ."
The crimson guymelef with its skull crest stood out in stark contrast against the common green guymelefs as was guided to its position by another soldier on the ground. Upon reaching it, the guymelef's face mask popped up, revealing the general Luvan from earlier. He inhaled deeply. "Mmm . . . I love that smell! Guymelefs are the greatest!"
"Um, sir," the ground soldier ventured hesitantly, "don't you think we should clean out the guymelef before this evening? There haven't been any wars lately so it's just been standing unused in the warehouse for almost a decade. We could at least get rid of some of the mold and rats."
"Nonsense! Heh heh . . . A little mold never killed anything except my sense of taste and I already put rat poison in here so that will take care of the rats!" His eyes became slightly glazed. "Yes, it will take very good care of the rats. Heh heh . . . yes . . . heh . . . the rats . . . heh heh . . ."
"Um . . . sir?"
"Are you certain that the fumes from the poison and the mold aren't impairing your judgment?"
"Nonsense! Heh heh heh . . . If you kids can get high all the time on all that junk and not have it affect your performance then I'm not going to keel over from just a little mold. Heh heh . . . mold . . . heh . . ."
"But, sir . . . you're not a kid anymore."
"Nonsense! Heh heh heh heh heeeeeeeeh . . . kid . . . heh . . ."
Hitomi rifled quickly through her bag. Clearly, Yukari had had some odd ideas about what she would want to change into after her "challenge" with Amano was done. Among the usual toiletries of her duffel bag and Yukari's kneepads from the previous night were her school uniform, a jogging outfit, and her Arisuwaga Juri wig and costume.
"I can't believe she'd think I'd want to wear that home," Hitomi muttered under her breath. Sometimes, she just plain didn't understand Yukari.
Her only choice clear, she switched her Furikan High School uniform for her real one, thinking it ironic that she would be forced to follow the tradition of all magical girls transported to strange lands. Briefly, she wondered if it was around now that the undoubtedly handsome mysterious stranger from her dream would appear, but she quickly dismissed the thought as just a wee bit too weird. Besides, thinking of her dream made her realize, for about the hundredth time that day, how incredibly tired she was. She hadn't slept in what . . . almost two days by her count, except for a couple hours of rest on the yak-mammoth, which, in her opinion, didn't count as rest at all. Yawning, she opened the window and made a pillow out of her arms on the windowsill. What am I doing here? she thought idly, as she rested her head on her arms.
"Huh?" Hitomi opened her eyes blearily for a moment before closing them again. "Who are you?"
"Hitomi, it's me!"
"Wha . . ." Hitomi slowly opened her eyes completely. She was lying in an endless pool of slightly glowing white which radiated a sense of nostalgia. Rubbing her eyes tiredly, she mumbled, "Who's me?"
"Who do think?" the voice demanded jokingly.
There was no mistaking that tone. "Yukari?" Hitomi asked, blinking rapidly, though she felt wide awake now.
The redhead materialized in front of her. "You bet, kid," she chirped, winking cheekily.
Hitomi simply stared. "But why are you . . ."
Yukari's expression sobered. "Look, Hitomi, something important has come up."
Hitomi sat very still, rigid with fear. "What is it, Yukari?"
"It's . . ." She trailed off uncertainly.
"What?" Hitomi's heart was racing now.
"It's . . . it's . . ."
"What? What is it, Yukari? Tell me!" she shrieked hysterically.
Yukari burst into tears. "Keiko's boyfriend dumped her!"
Hitomi simply stared. "What?"
"I know!" sobbed Yukari. "She's totally depressed now and it's all that jerk's fault!" She look up at Hitomi. "But she's still totally fallen for him! She wants you to do a tarot reading for him! Please, Hitomi! It's the only way we can get her to forget him!"
Hitomi almost fell over, would have were she not hindered by the fact that she was sitting sprawled across the ground and not standing. Nonetheless, she leapt to her feet, fully ready to berate Yukari for getting her worked up over something so pointless, when something tugged at the edges of her memory. She stopped mid-cry, suddenly confused. "Wait . . . Didn't we have this conversation already?"
Yukari's tears stopped immediately. Rolling her eyes, she said thoughtfully, "Hmm . . . maybe that's why this is called a flashback." She sighed dramatically. "Sometimes, I just don't know why I put up with you, Hitomi. You can be so slow."
Hitomi flushed. "Hey, it's not like there were cherry blossoms or anything!" she snapped defensively. "Besides, who are you to talk? You're the one messing up this flashback!"
"But you're memory's so boring!" Yukari whined. "This story has to pick up sometime!"
"You're not helping," she said very flatly.
Yukari grinned at her friend's grouchiness. "Well," she said lightly, "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."
Hitomi gave her a half-lidded glare that was supposed to look menacing, but came out only looking sleepy. In a dangerously reasonable voice, she commented, "Hmm . . . Pardon my asking, but could you tell me how I could have 'woken up on the wrong side of the bed' when to my last reckoning I haven't slept for two days?!?" The last part was screamed hysterically.
Yukari didn't look remotely disturbed, however. After her friend had calmed down a bit and was breathing normally, she asked pointedly, "Pardon me if I'm wrong, but aren't you sleeping now?"
"Only if this is really a flashback and not a hallucination," she moaned.
Yukari sighed. "Fine . . . I was planning on staying longer, but . . . have it your way." She faded away into the white.
Dumbfounded, Hitomi stared at where her friend had been standing but moments before. "But—I didn't—I mean—wait—" she stammered, trying to undo the damage she had done, but Yukari did not reappear. Beaten, she sank slowly to her knees. "Great," she muttered. "Just great." She looked around and scowled. "Now how am I supposed to get back?" she asked furiously of the featureless world, easily ignoring the fact that it was as inanimate and as unlikely to respond as her wall from the previous night.
Defying all logic, however, her outcry did produce a response of sorts. There was a slight pop! and Yukari materialized again in front of her, smiling cheerily. But this time, her redheaded friend was wearing an ostentatious pink dress with several lace petticoats, an enormous white bow tied around the waist, and matching frilly white gloves adorned by pink ribbons. To top it all off, she had also apparently donned pink ribboned Mary Jane's and an ridiculous pink hat.
"I almost forgot!" she giggled, twirling a pink staff that appeared to end in a bird's head. She pivoted abruptly on one foot and tossed the strange object in air, chanting some arcane tongue as she did so. Instantly, the void they were standing in blushed with the whirlwind of thousands of cherry blossoms swirling through the air. Yukari giggled, and caught the staff again. Not noticing the aghast look on Hitomi's face, she simply winked and chirped, "See? Now it's a real flashback, complete with cherry blossoms!"
Hitomi simply stared at the fluffy pink costume. "It so better be a hallucination," she muttered as she finally faded away.
Groggily, Hitomi shook herself awake. Still slightly sleepy, she glanced down at her watch. She had slept a bare ten minutes. Groaning, she held her head in her hands. "If all my dreams here are going to contain that many weird parodies," she said to herself, trying to stifle a yawn, "maybe it's better if I don't sleep." Her mouth, however, opened wide despite her efforts. "Then again," she mumbled, laying her head back down on her arms, "I could always make them into doujinshi . . ."
Her thoughts were scattered by the sudden presence of a shadow in her personal sunbeam. Looking up, she noticed the possessive cat-girl from earlier hanging upside down in her window. What was her name again? Ah, yes. Merle. Tired as she was, Hitomi could only watch her with a sort of sleepy preoccupation. "Did you already escape from the zoo again?"
Merle leapt down gracefully onto the windowsill and haughtily licked herself clean before raising her eyebrows at Hitomi. "I am intrigued. What is this 'zoo' you speak of?"
"Uggh . . . too weird for a zoo." Moaning, Hitomi collapsed on the windowsill, the cold of the wood against her cheek restoring some of her senses. "So, anyway, where do you stay normally?"
The cat-girl stuck up her nose. "I live here in the royal palace."
Hitomi tried to feign interest. "Really? Since when?"
Merle sniffed disdainfully. "Since I can remember."
"But how did you come to be here?"
"Well, it's a long story actually . . ."
Forty-two point zero seconds later . . .
Hitomi sniffed and had to prevent tears from spilling over. "That's so sad," she cried.
Merle sniffed too, sorrowfully this time. "I know. Believe me, I know! But no one will listen!" The two girls began positively bawling and leaned against each other for emotional support.
Finally recovering after several long moments, Hitomi wiped her eyes and smiled. "So, Merle, why are you here?"
Merle looked up, startled. "Huh? Why am I . . . here?" she said slowly. "I . . . oh, yeah!" Suddenly all traces of distress on her face vanished and were replaced by open hostility as she scowled fiercely. "Stay away from Van-sama!" she screeched, her tail bristling to twice its normal size.
Hitomi glared at her indignantly as she hopped down onto the floor. "I wouldn't think I'm the one with the problem . . ." she muttered under her breath, settling herself back on the windowsill. She was about to close her eyes when she noticed Merle approaching her duffel bag, claws already extended. "Hey!" she shouted, leaping to her feet at once.
Paying her no heed, Merle dug through her bag, giggling mischievously. "You sure have a lot of junk!" she shrieked, throwing various items over her shoulder, most of which were generally aimed at Hitomi. She paused suddenly, and whirled to face Hitomi as a thought struck her. "Just how long are you planning on staying anyway?" she demanded angrily.
Her current one and a half minute good nature time limit now up, Hitomi rapidly grew very annoyed. "I suppose it would seem like a lot," she said irritably, "to people who wear the same outfit everyday."
The cat-girl, however, paid her no attention, focused instead upon the pendant in her hand. With no warning except an sly smile, she snatched it from her grasp.
"Ah!" cried Hitomi, rubbing her hand. That had hurt. She'd have chain burn for days.
"That's a pretty stone," Merle whispered, almost in a trance as she watched it swing back and forth.
"I suppose it's better than a nail file," Hitomi muttered under her breath.
The cat-girl grinned impishly. "I think I'll keep it!" she cried, throwing open Hitomi's door and darting down the hallway.
"Hey!" cried Hitomi, suddenly snapping awake. "Come back here!" she yelled, dashing after her. A giggle from further down the hallway was her only reply. Enraged, Hitomi ran faster. "You little cat burglar!" she cursed loudly, turning the corner. Merle was just in view. Picking up her speed still more and feeling the adrenaline coursing through her system, she screamed, "I'll teach you not to mess with the Chestnut Fist!"
Merle skidded to an abrupt halt. "The what?" she asked incredulously.
"Kachü Tenshin Amaguriken!"
As the scream rang down the hallway, Merle rapidly collapsed under the impact of over a thousand punches in five seconds. Stunned and more than a bit dazed, she then proceeded to faint without much dignity.
Hitomi massaged her hands as she walked over to the fallen cat-girl, wincing slightly but smiling victoriously nonetheless. She smirked as she retrieved the pendant from the now slack clawed hands. "I guess you know now not to mess with a grandmaster of the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu," she whispered smugly. She turned to leave. "Anything Goes, eh? Useful sometimes . . ."
She stumbled suddenly, jerking slightly and eyes going wide in surprise, as a wave of exhaustion swept over her. Now that the adrenaline had worn off, she felt more tired than ever. Yawning, she leaned against a nearby doorway, trying to summon the will to walk back to her room.
The familiar scrape of a sword being unsheathed drew her instantly back to the present. All her senses on alert, she peered cautiously around the doorway.
The scarred general from earlier and Van were facing each other at opposite ends of the room. As she watched, the general drew his sword in front of him and Van tensed slightly in anticipation, preparing himself for an attack. Silence reigned supreme, thick in the high-tension atmosphere. Just when Hitomi was about to give out from the stress, Van unleashed a battle cry and charged, employing a lunge clearly intended to be fatal. The general, however, was unmoved, and smoothly blocked it. The two men struggled against each other, growling as each tried to overpower the other, for a few moments before the sensei easily forced his pupil stumbling back. Slightly menacing, he advanced on the young prince.
"You're not charging aggressively enough, Lord Van!" he scolded, flexing his arms. "Come at me like you mean to kill me!"
The prince straightened, but refused to meet the general's eyes. "I just don't like Mortal . . . Kombat." He scowled. "It was such a crummy game!"
"Stop, Lord Van!" reproved Balgus frantically. "You know such technologies are illegal here!"
"That would explain the subnormal intelligence," Van grumbled.
"Oh, like that explains it all . . ." Balgus muttered under his breath.
"What?" Van asked, puzzled.
Realizing his slip of tongue, Balgus hastily continued his lecture, "Lord Van, it is a poor thing for a man who is about to become king of Fanelia to hold such a weakness for animated violence!"
Van insolently looked at the floor. "It's not like I'm becoming king because I want to." He glared at Balgus. "It's just so I can place a restraining order on Merle."
"I understand your sentiment, but she is your sister," replied Balgus forcefully.
"What? Was my mother secretly a cat-woman as well as a—"
"Lord Van!" Balgus interrupted loudly. "We have a guest."
Startled, Hitomi glanced around her. No one else was there. Remembering her manners, she hastily bowed before the two men. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to snoop," she murmured softly.
Van looked relieved. "Oh, it's you."
Hitomi glared at him. "Who did you think it would be? Miss 'I-desperately-need-a-restraining-order' Merle?"
Van seemed slightly uncomfortable. "Well, yeah," he answered cynically, some of his former imperial reserve returning.
Hitomi grinned vindictively. "Let's just say I've placed a temporary restraining order of my own on her."
"Um . . ."
"I've heard what happened," said Balgus, coming between the two teens. "It would seem that Lord Van owes you his life." Smiling warmly at Hitomi, he continued, "After the coronation ceremony, we will do all in our power to find a way to return you to the Mystic Moon."
Hitomi staggered back as though she had been slapped. "But—but I don't want to go back!" she stammered. "If I go back, I'll have to face that airhead Amano and Yukari and all that stuff I did while brainwashed and sleep-deprived!" She appeared ready to cry.
"The samurai of Fanelia can help you with that task as well," Balgus answered calmly.
Eyes brimming with tears, Hitomi sighed in relief. "Thanks."
"Halt!" cried Ruhm suddenly.
Startled, the caravan of wolfmen stopped and looked up at him. Ruhm sniffed the air curiously.
"Weird . . ." he murmured. "Something smells funny, but I don't see anything."
"You're sure it's not just the absence of the hair spray fumes since we left Fanelia?" called a wolfman from below.
Ruhm grimaced. "You're right. I forgot how much that place reeks of the stuff. Carry on." Without any further speculation, the creatures of the caravan began moving and continued their march back to the tribe lands.
None of them noticed the periscope that appeared out of thin air to watch them.
"Oh! I wanted to see Van-sama all dressed up . . ." whined Merle as she stood in the crowd of commoners.
Meanwhile, Van was hoping desperately that his coronation helmet wouldn't fall off during the Rite of Accession. Lousy Merle, he thought angrily, remembering her "present" from before the ceremony. Because of it, he had "carelessly forgot" to let her in with the other high-ranking nobles. Please, don't let my helmet fall off. Please don't them see my hair, he prayed. Please, oh please, don't let them notice . . .
Panicky, Van stuttered, "Y-yes?"
The priest frowned. "You may want to stand and take the sword now."
Van reddened. "Of, c-course," he muttered, embarrassed. He stood and took the proffered weapon as the priest shook his head disapprovingly. Trying and failing to think of anything to say to rectify the awkward situation, Van settled for mental cursing.
Lousy Merle,he thought vehemently.
Far removed from the ceremony, a couple of guards were conversing as they guarded the city gates.
"Dude!" the one exclaimed.
"Dude . . ." the other replied in agreement.
They were silent for a few brief moments, enjoying the bird's-eye view of the surrounding valley.
"Dude!" the first solider exclaimed again.
"Dude . . ." replied the other.
More silence followed their statements. Finally, after great deliberation, the first one asked, "Dude . . . you going to that party tonight?"
The other one laughed. "Dude, you know I am! Gonna talk to that sweet lady hair spray!"
"Sweet." He looked out over the valley, squinting in the bright light of the setting sun. Suddenly, he frowned. "Dude, what are those wavy things out there?" He pointed to the end of the road, where the air was shimmering oddly.
The other one stumbled clumsily over to the edge and looked. Then with a massive effort of will, he cuffed his fellow soldier on the head. "You idiot! That's just the left over fumes from the hair spray we were, uh . . . using . . . heh heh." He stumbled back into his former stance against the pillar. "It's all good, right, dude?"
"Dude . . ." agreed the soldier.
They were unable to argue a moment later when the liquid metal shot through them and shattered the gates.
"What's going on down there?" wondered a man sitting on the ledge. Around him the townspeople murmured.
"I see smoke . . ."
"Is it a fire?"
"Oh no! The hair spray factory!"
"Enemy attack! It's an attack!" cried the cavalryman as his horse leaped up the steps. He looked around at the frightened citizens. "Get all the women, children, and hair spray cans to the mountains! All you men prepare for battle!" he barked. "Clear the road!" He galloped further down the path.
There was silence for precisely three seconds before pandemonium broke out. Men rushed to find glaives and halberds to use in defense. Mothers scurried down the streets screaming frantically for their children and hair spray. The frightened little children hastily finished picking their noses and fled, squealing.
"An invisible enemy?" repeated Balgus incredulously. The breathless soldier nodded.
"Balgus?" The three other generals gathered around him.
Shaking his head to clear it of all frivolous thoughts, he immediately bellowed, "Hold them off with your melefs!" He looked down at his three generals, and frowned at their slight tipsiness. "Luva. Asona. Yurizen. I'm counting on you."
"Yessir!" They departed at once.
Van stepped forward. "What task am I to perform in this heartless and unjustified skirmish?"
Balgus turned to face him. "Take your guest, the Lady Hitomi, to the shrine."
Van looked at him in confusion. "Do you wish for us to pray for protection in the graveyard?"
Balgus rolled his one visible eye. "The other shrine." He breathed deeply and shook his head. Sobering, he instructed, "Should it prove necessary, take Escaflowne and flee."
"Escaflowne?" murmured Van uncertainly.
"Van-sama!" cried Merle as she struggled against the crowd, trying to force her way back. "Van-sama! I'll stay with you and fight!"
Her efforts proved fruitless, however, as the swarm of runny-nosed kids continued to press against her, pushing her further and further away from the palace. In a last desperate attempt, she leaped ferociously above them, planning to cling onto a wall and continue from there. Unfortunately, by some extraordinary stroke of ill luck, a stray aerosol can went flying through the air at that moment and hit her in the forehead, knocking her out. Landing on the children's heads, she was carried unconscious away from Fanelia.
Hitomi surveyed the three-tiered room they were in with a critical eye. It contained no decoration except a Mayan-like mural on the far wall and an ornately decorated circle in the middle of the lowest tier. The only furnishings were what looked like three coffins on the opposite end. Most strangely of all, its entrance doors were shaped vaguely like a yak-mammoth and it had a rock suspended by thin ropes from the ceiling. Hitomi fervently hoped they were stronger than they looked.
As she watched, Van stepped into the middle of the circle and drew his sword partially out of its sheath. She barely had time to wonder what he was doing or why his haircontained hundreds of braids tied neatly with gold ribbons, before he sliced his thumb on its edge. Pressing the freely flowing blood against the energist, he closed his eyes and calmly raised the object above him. It glowed softly and he spoke.
"I, Van Fanel, newly crowned king of Fanelia, bind myself by eternal blood pact to thee, Escaflowne! Thou noble sleeping dragon, awake!"
Immediately, the silver blades of the circle began to revolve, creating an violent updraft. Blue dragons of light appeared at its foot and began soaring up the wind tunnel, cracking the mysterious rock above them. As enormous pieces fell off and were completely obliterated, Hitomi could make out signs of something silver contained within the structure. A few moments later the phenomenon ended and its product fell gracefully to the floor. Hitomi gasped.
"That's . . . That's what I saw in my dream!" she stammered. She glanced about nervously. "So where's the black guy he's going to fight?"
Her attention, however, was drawn back to Van, who had leaped upon the guymelef's knee. With a intricate wave of his arms, he placed the energist in the waiting red jewel. Instantly, the jewel glowed and slowly began beating in a way disturbingly like a human heart.
Van smiled grimly. "Good." The guymelef's chestal cavity began opening, and he removed his sword.
Snapping suddenly back to her senses, Hitomi ran down to him. "Wait! What're you going to do?"
Van placed his sword inside the cockpit and leaped into the pilot's seat. "Engage in combat with the invaders employing Escaflowne."
He remained motionless as the giant armor strapped him in, adjusting to his body and fine-tuning its movement to his. "Good, it's precisely as the honorable ancient texts described it to be . . ." he muttered. "I can control it!" Taking a deep breath, he cautiously stood up and tested out all the armor's functions. Each worked perfectly, emitting small bursts of steam from long disuse.
Hitomi gazed worriedly at the machine. "So if that white guy was Escaflowne . . ." she whispered, looking around agitatedly for its black opponent.
Van's face mask split open. "What do believe yourself to be doing?" he yelled. "Make haste and hide!"
The mammoth wooden entrance doors burst open abruptly. Instantly alert, Van squinted to see his enemy against the bright sunlight, but all he could make out was a vague purple glimmer. "They have made their appearance," he hissed, closing his face mask. Nearly avoiding stepping on Hitomi, who immediately backed away, he drew his sword and faced the doors.
Hitomi meanwhile ran up to the next tier. Halting, she panted furiously, "Where . . . where is the black guy?" Searching the area wildly, she noticed a shimmer to the left of the entrance doors. "Van!" she screamed. "To your left!"
"What?!" he asked bewilderedly. Puzzled, he glanced to his left only to see death approaching him in the form of three claws of lighting fast liquid metal. Stumbling back, eyes wide, he barely managed to avoid it, watching it lodge itself instead in the shrine wall. Wasting no time on recovery from the shock, he severed the deadly strand and charged after its origin.
"You're not escaping my blade of justice!" he thundered, unleashing a massive blow on his unseen enemy. The sword slashed through an invisible material and his opponent came into view. "A guymelef?" he asked in disbelief.
Hitomi gazed at the guymelef fearfully. "It's the other giant I saw in my dream!" she whispered, her face deepening into a scowl. "But it's blue! Someone had got to fix those configuration settings!" she shrieked, shaking her fist at the sky and completely disregarding the ongoing battle as she vocally vented her frustrations to the ceiling.
A sudden prickling on the back of her neck drew her attention back to the fight, however. She gasped in horror. Another guymelef was coming up behind Van and he didn't even see it! Frantically, she dashed across the floor of the shrine. "Van! Behind you!" she screamed, but he didn't seem to hear her. Dreading what would undoubtedly come next, she firmly closed her eyes.
A loud roar caused them to fly back open again. As she watched transfixed, Balgus himself lopped off the guymelef's arm with an immense burst of energy. Landing lightly beside her, he swung his colossal sword around in a great arc on the floor.
"Balgus!" queried Van.
"Lord Van!" appealed Balgus urgently. "Take Lady Hitomi and get out of here while you can!"
Sweat pouring down his face as he struggled with his opponent, Van growled, "I won't shame my ancestors by leaving my fair country in such great distress and surrendering to my foes!"
"Lord Van!" cried Balgus desperately as Van proceeded to fight his adversary, heedless of the danger that laid directly behind him. Frantically, Balgus summoned his last reserves of energy and leaped onto the white guymelef's shoulder, parrying the second guymelef's potentially fatal blow.
"Balgus!" Van breathed softly, his heart racing.
Straining against the enormous blade, Balgus unleashed a battle cry and forced the enemy sword off. Recovering quickly, he vaulted himself onto its now visible shoulder and began attacking the face mask. "Lord Van!" he roared.
"Darn it!" The prince slid his blade along his enemy's and forced him off. Kneeling down, he extended his hand to Hitomi. "I cannot leave a damsel in distress! Grab on!"
Hitomi did so, but couldn't help muttering to herself, "Since when was I the one in distress?" Securing herself in the hold of the gigantic hand, she tried to feel comfortable as the guymelef ran out of the shrine . . . and into the fiery conflagration that was Fanelia.
Stunned, Van could only stare horrorstruck at the burning remains and gruesome carnage before his eyes. His face mask flew open. "All right, Balgus . . ." he said weakly. "Withdraw our forces . . ."
Feeling an all too familiar sensation of terrible premonition, Hitomi's eyes went wide. "Look out! Balgus!" she screamed.
Balgus managed to turn just in time to see the liquid metal fluidly pierce the air before it shot effortlessly through him. He fell backwards off his perch and collapsed on the ground before the pair.
"Balgus!" Van cried.
"Balgus!" Hitomi shrieked.
Grunting, he propped himself up weakly to talk to them. "Lord Van . . . Take Escaflowne and flee . . . and someday . . . return and rebuild Fanelia . . ." he gasped shakily. His eyes started to glaze over and close with pain. "Reunite the people of Fanelia . . ." he wheezed. Suddenly his eyes flew open, blazing with an internal fire. "And build me a monument!" Jerking only once, he collapsed dead on the soil.
In a galaxy far, far away . . .
"I sense a disturbance in the force, Master Yoda," gasped Luke Skywalker, dropping his lightsaber.
"Mmm . . . The disturbance I too sense," murmured Yoda. He closed his eyes for a moment in contemplation. "Something in all capital letters is being put . . ." His eyes widened in surprise. "For the first and only time!"
Struck motionless, Hitomi could only shudder helplessly as four blue guymelefs materialized suddenly before them. "No . . ." she whimpered softly. This was all just a hallucination. None of this was real. Not the enemies which could not be seen, not the city burning all about them, not the dead man lying before them in a pool of his own blood . . . "No . . . no!" she screamed hysterically.
Almost as if summoned by her distress, a column of light broke through the heavens and collected where they were kneeling. Remaining for only a few brief moments, it dissolved into the air, and carried them away.
High in the mountains, Merle revived with a jolt. "Van-sama?" she called weakly, glancing about her. Standing up abruptly, she stared with horror at the faraway pillar of light. "No . . . the hair spray factory exploded . . ." she whispered. Her eyes filled with sudden tears.
Authors' Notes -- Kari: ~*^_^*~ and KyonKyon: /'^_^'\
~*^_^*~: It's doooooooone! *collapses*
/'^_^'\: *pats head* Want a sedative?
~*^_^*~: Mmm . . sleep is goooooooood . . .
/'^_^'\: You know, you wouldn't have this problem if you watched your font sizes more carefully.
~*^_^*~: So I didn't notice I was typing in point 11 instead of point 12. Big deal.
/'^_^'\: It is when you're trying to reach a specific page length!
~*^_^*~: Your point being?
/'^_^'\: We could have skipped a few of the expanded viewpoints!
~*^_^*~: But we had to explain why Fanelia burned so easily!
/'^_^'\: Illegal hair spray factories?
/'^_^'\: *stare* You really are sleep deprived, aren't you?
~*^_^*~: Hey, it added a special realism to the work!
/'^_^'\: Very special. *sigh* Anything you want to say before you really collapse?
~*^_^*~: Dude is a non-gender specific pronoun!
/'^_^'\: Of course! Though in this chapter it is used in a masculine sense, we believe firmly that it can be used as a familiar form of address for all persons!
~*^_^*~: And so, we would like to give our compliments to couple dudes who we devote this beautiful, though nonsensical, chapter to:
/'^_^'\: Kaliko Rosa for answering our email on formatting, even though we later realized our computer was so ancient we couldn't use her detailed advice,
~*^_^*~: LishLish, who acted as a constant test tube for random ideas,
/'^_^'\: And our favorite dude and number one fan, the girl formerly known as Al,
~*^_^*~: Etowato! Duuuuuuuuude!
/'^_^'\: Dude! All we can say is:
~*^_^*~: Edud sknaht!
/'^_^'\: Dlrow eht elur segassem lanimilbus!
~*^_^*~: Until next time, our stalwart fans,
/'^_^'\: Ja ne!