A Past Long Forgotten

Chapter 2 – The Promise of Money

By Crow Skywalker

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Disclaimer – Don't own Escaflowne or its characters. It all belongs to its wonderful creators.

Author's Notes – I bet you thought I'd never update this, huh? Yeah well, I finally did update! So nya :P The reason it took so long? Well, I had half of it written..which was very different from this, actually. It was actually a breakfast scene with Merle, Hitomi and the rest of the royal family. But I ended up losing everything that I had written..and I only got around to writing it now. The next update? May be next week..could be a year from now, lol. I don't know. Every now and then I get a urge to update my older fanfics. Anyway, R&R and enjoy!

Pairings/Warnings – AU. Hitomi/Van, Merle/Dilandau, Millerna/Allen. Rated R.

Summary – Hitomi and Merle are the best of friends, traveling the lands in search of adventure, and meeting new friends along the way. Hitomi hates royalty, but what happens when she meets Van? Will love win over hate? And why is she having strange dreams? Is it buried memories of a past long forgotten?

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"I knew there was something strange about her!" Hitomi exclaimed, sitting down on the bed. Her hands felt the soft silk sheets, and her eyes roamed the room, taking in all of its expensive treasures. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this Merle! You know I hate people like this!"

Merle, who had been studying a rather large painting of the royal family that hung on the wall, whirled around to face her friend with a grin on her face. "Come on Hitomi! It's only one night!" Her eyes suddenly widened as she spotted an expensive looking ordainment sitting on a table. She immediately went over to pick it up, "Besides, who would pass up a chance to steal some goods?" She asked with a evil smirk, pocketing the object.

Hitomi rolled her eyes. She had known since she met Merle all those years ago, having run into the girl on her journies, that Merle had a fine eye for expensive items. She also had sticky fingers it seemed, for Merle couldn't help but steal whatever caught her eye.

"Me." Hitomi answered.

"But Hitomi!" The younger girl argued, her tail twitching behind her excitedly, "Just look at this stuff!" Raising her arms, she twirled about the room. "Imagine what we could buy with this stuff!"

"And if we're caught?"

Merle stopped, latching her hands together behind her with a wide grin, "I never get caught!" Hitomi raised a brow, and slowly her grin faded. "Okay," She sighed, "There was that one time, but you got me out of it!"

"He had your hand down, knife raised, ready to chop it off!" Hitomi argued, "If I'd been one more minute late then you would be known as Merle – the one handed kitty bandit!"

"But you got there in time!" Merle smiled, sitting down on the bed next to her friend, "And I lived to steal another day!"

Hitomi sighed, shaking her head and massaging her temples tiredly. "Merle, stealing from royalty isn't like stealing in the markets…if they find out you've stolen their things, they'll send you to the gallows, or whatever type of death penalty they use here in Asturia."

"Don't worry!" Merle slapped her on the back, "I'll be fine!"

Hitomi yawned then, closing her eyes as she stretched. "We'd better get some sleep – I want to get out of here first thing in the morning."

Merle got up, walking across the room before stopping at the door, her hand on the doorknob. "Sleep well in your new soft royalty bed!" She teased, exiting the room and closing the door just before she heard the thump signaling Hitomi had thrown one of the bed's fine down feathered pillows at her.

With a grin, Merle went to her own room across the hall.

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She was dreaming, she could tell. For one, she'd gone to sleep in a comfy warm bed, and now she was standing in the middle of a crowded street. That, and it seemed like she'd shrunk quite a few inches overnight, and by the looks of it, she was no longer in Asturia. No, she was somewhere quite different…yet somehow familiar.

Looking up, she saw the sky was a clear blue with very few soft clouds high in the sky. A few birds flew overhead, and the sharp sound of a horse galloping down the dirt road turned her attention back to her surroundings. Yes, she was in a marketplace, people making their way around her, looking down at her in disgust. Nobody let their child roam free in the marketplace, after all – so they probably thought she was a very disobedient girl.

"Hitomi! Come back here!" A voice called, and she looked over her shoulder. There was no one there, but she felt a grin spread its way across her face, and for a reason unknown to her, she took off through the crowds.

Who am I running from? Am I being followed? She wondered, but Hitomi found she could not control her body. It was as if she was stuck in someone else's body, watching as their life played out. A younger someone else, she'd noticed.

"Hitomi, please slow down!" Came the same voice, a masculine voice she noticed now. She did not slow down, but instead, she sped up with a giggle.

Why is he chasing me…what did I do? Why am I laughing?

She banged into someone then, falling back so that she landed on the ground. She winced, feeling the pain of having scraped herself on the rocky road. With watery eyes, she found herself looking up at a man who glared down at her.

"Watch where you're going brat!"

Someone behind her wrapped their hands around her small form, pulling her to her feet. They did not let go of her, holding her close to them in a protective way. Unable to see who it was, Hitomi continued to look up at the older man, who was now staring behind her in shock.

"I-I'm sorry! I did not realize – " He started, eyes wide as he bowed slightly. "I'm sorry, please forgive me young lady."

The hands around her shifted, and the old man walked away, disappearing into the crowds. Hitomi watched him until she could see him no more, and finally the hands disappeared as well.

"Hitomi! Didn't I tell you to wait – " Scolded the masculine voice she'd heard earlier. "The marketplace is an unsafe place!"

Hitomi, eyes full of tears and her vision blurred, turned to see who was talking, only catching a glimpse of silver before –

"..Mom and dad are going to be very unhappy!"

Hitomi opened her eyes, breathing heavily. Glancing around, she found herself back in the room she'd fallen asleep in – safe within Asturia's Palace walls. She scrunched up her nose upon remembering she was sleeping in a royal room. Sitting up, she tried hard to calm herself.

That boy…the one chasing me…who was it? Why was he chasing me? How did he know my name…did he know me? She shook her head, trying to remember, but the dream was fading from her memory now. All she remembered was the silver flash – she had not gotten a good glimpse of him at all – and…

Mom and dad? Her eyes widened, and she felt a warm wetness sliding down her face. Reaching up, she found that her face was full of damp tears. When had she started crying? Had she been crying in her sleep? Most importantly, why was she crying? Was it because…mom and dad…but she had no parents!

Hitomi shook her head furiously, wiping the palms of her hands across her face to dry the tears. She'd been an orphan since before she could remember. She remembered the orphanage she had stayed in until she was fifteen – an old house full of small children, all under the care of an old woman she had called "Baa-chan".

Lying back down, Hitomi stared at the ceiling. The old woman had been very strict, but she'd taken pretty good care of the children there, and as long as you did all your chores, there was no punishment. It had been a simple life – early breakfast, chores until snack time, little playtime – she'd been happy there. But for some reason the other children had taken a disliking to Hitomi.

Like little children usually do, they'd picked on her and called her names for many years. She'd been the black sheep, the one who was never allowed to play with the others. Finally at the age of fifteen she'd left the orphanage, leaving behind their tormenting voices. Baa-chan had begged her to stay – had told her she was not allowed to leave – but she'd gotten up once everyone had gone to bed one night, leaving a small scribbled note of goodbye, and had left the orphanage, never looking back.

I wandered for months, not knowing where I was going, Hitomi mused, a small sad smile on her lips as she thought about the past, and then one day, I came across Merle…and then I wasn't alone anymore.

After being alone for so long, it had felt good to have someone by her side. And as it turned out, Merle and her had a lot on common. They'd immediately became the best of friends, and had been traveling together since then.

I'm not alone anymore, Hitomi yawned, suddenly sleepy again as she turned over and pulled the covers closer, so whoever my parents are…I don't care, I never want to meet them!

With that angry thought in her head, she fell back to sleep.

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Early morning sunlight was making its way in through the windows, casting rays of light across the sleeping cat girl. Merle rolled over, basking in its warmth as she purred contently, her latest favorite steal in her arms hugged close to her.

"Psst!" A finger poked her in the side, and Merle grumbled, cuddling closer into the bed. Millerna hovered closer, poking the cat girl more forcedly. "Hey! Wake up!"

Merle growled a cat-like growl in her sleep, but made no sign of waking up.

Millerna grabbed Merle's arm, shaking her awake. Finally, one of Merle's eyes opened to give her a hateful look.

"What?" Merle snapped waspishly, before realizing whom she was talking to and sat up like a shot, hiding the object in her hands behind her. "Oh! I'm sorry! I'm just really cranky when I'm woken –"

"It's okay." The blonde haired girl smiled.

"What time is it?" Merle asked, raking a hand through her hair.

"The sun rose just ten minutes ago." Answered Millerna.

Merle stopped what she was doing, blinking at the girl. "You uh…woke me up kind of early." She said, trying not to yell obscenities at the princess for ruining her good dream. She'd been in a room full of gold! She sighed, thinking back to the glittering walls…how delightful it had been!

Millerna sat on the edge of the bed, looking kind of uncomfortable as she played with her hands anxiously. "I need to talk to you."

Merle raised a brow quizzically. What could a princess possibly need to talk to her about? Unless…her eyes widened..did the princess know she was stealing half the stuff in both her and Hitomi's room? Oh shit..

"Yesterday was my eighteenth birthday." Millerna said softly, still not looking up from her hands, "And my father…he's announce my engagement."

"To who?" Merle asked, suddenly curious.

"Van Fanel of Fanelia." Millerna answered.

Merle's tail twitched, and she looked thoughtful. "Nice guy."

"You've met him?" Millerna finally looked up at her, and Merle smiled.

"A long time ago. I was very young back then."

"So you've been to Fanelia?" Asked Millerna.

"I've been everywhere!" Merle boasted with a grin.

A silence followed, and Millerna looked away, her eyes suddenly sad. "I tried to tell my father that I don't want to marry Van, but he wouldn't listen. That's why –"

"You were running away last night?" Merle filled in the blanks.

Millerna smiled slightly. "Yes. I thought that if I could go to Fanelia, talk to Van and get him to understand…then father would change his mind." She laughed bitterly, "Obviously, I didn't make it very far. And if you guys didn't show up –" She paused, shaking her head. "I thought I'd be able to make it on my own, but it seems I need some companions. What I came here to ask is…do you think I could come with you? You've been to Fanelia before…you know the way." She hesitated, looking up at Merle with pleading eyes, "Please?"

Merle sat back, eyes wide. The princess wanted to go with them? But.. "I don't think Hitomi would like that." Merle confessed with a shake of her head, "She doesn't like royalty much."

"But..I have to go!" Millerna grabbed the girl's hands, "Please – I'll give you anything!"

Merle eyes twinkled suddenly. "Anything?"

"Yes!" The girl nodded, "Anything, and of course, I will pay you good money to escort me to Fanelia!"

"…money?" Merle's tail twitched suddenly, and she suddenly gave in. "All right! We'll do it!"

"Thank you so much!" The princess cried, "I think I would die if I had to go through with this marriage..I can't possibly marry someone I don't know!"

"No problem!" The younger girl waved a hand. "So, when do you want to leave?"

"Now."

Merle choked, her hand falling to the bed as she stared at the blonde girl in disbelief. "Now?"

"Yes. I'm already packed, and I need to get out of here before my father wakes up."

"But..but.." Merle began to protest, but she suddenly remembered the promise of money. "Well, I suppose we could leave now." She smiled, "Just give me a few minutes to wake up Hitomi and break the news to her."

"Do you..think she'll take the news well?" Millerna asked.

"Oh yes, she'll be only happy to help you out!" Merle lied, getting off the bed.

Hitomi's going to kill me…

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"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU MERLE!"

The cat girl winced, backing away from the furious girl in front of her. Hitomi had not taken the news well, and was now standing before Merle seething in anger.

"I can't believe you just agreed to do that..without asking me!" Yelled Hitomi, stopping back to the bed where her things lay. She savagely shoved them into her pack.

"But Hitomi!" Merle whined, "She promised me money!"

"So you're going to drag a stuck up princess halfway across the country just because she doesn't want to marry some other stuck up prince?" Hitomi scoffed.

"Well," Merle hesitated, "..yeah." She made her way closer to her friend, "But Hitomi – she's in trouble, and I want to help her!"

"You just want her money." Hitomi rolled her eyes.

Merle blushed. "Well, that too – but she's desperate to get to Fanelia! She's already attempted once..next time something worse might happen to her!"

"So?"

Merle put her hands on her hips, "Well, don't you want to know you did something good for someone?"

"I did something good last night," Said Hitomi, keeping her back to the cat girl as she hurriedly packed, "I saved her from that drunk bastard out in that alley!"

"Well, now you can do something better!" Merle clasped her hands together, "You're saving a perfectly nice girl from marrying against her will!"

Hitomi turned to her friend, glaring at her. "I don't care if she's marrying a frog! Its none of our business, and it has nothing to do with us! It's her own problem!"

"Fine." Merle turned away from her, crossing her arms, "Maybe I'll just take her on my own."

Hitomi stopped glaring, her anger suddenly disappearing. "But…Merle!"

"I'm not changing my mind!" The cat girl declared, "I'm going with or without you!"

Hitomi sighed, finally giving in. "Fine, I'll go. But Fanelia is out of our way.." Arms were suddenly wrapped around her, and for a moment the dream flashed back into her mind – the same safe and loving feeling returning to her. She hugged Merle back.

"I'm glad you're coming Hitomi…" She let go, winking at the taller girl, "I really wouldn't have gone without you, you know!"

"Yeah well," Hitomi picked up her bag, ready to go. "Just because I agreed to go..doesn't mean I'm going to be nice to her!"

"Got it." Merle smiled in response.

"And she's not going to go all 'princessy' on me, either!"

"She won't."

"None of this riding horses with her legs to one side…she'll ride properly, or I'll make her walk!"

"I'll make sure she does."

"And.."

Merle pushed her out the door. They were already late, they needed to leave as soon as possible – and Hitomi could go on forever! Millerna was waiting for them downstairs, and she didn't want to keep her waiting.

"Okay, Hitomi! I understand!" She laughed. "Don't worry about any of that! Come on, we don't want to keep the princess waiting!"

Hitomi shot her a frustrated look, but said nothing.

To Be Continued…