No. Escaflowne not mine. Allen Schezar not mine.

~*~*~*~

We met during Gaea's most windy Autumn season, when the leaves swirled around us as if dancing in the air…

~*~*~*~

"Captain…!!!"

"What is it…?" the golden-crowned youth turned to respond to his young crew. He searched his head for this one's name, "Gaddes, am I correct…?"

"Yes, Captain…" the younger man responded, bowing low. He pointed towards the camp they had set up, "Captain… some of the others have found… um… some*thing*…"

The elder youth frowned. Some*thing*…? he repeated in his mind. He nodded quickly and reached out for his sword, "Lead me there, Gaddes …"

"Yes, Captain. At once, Captain…" the obedient man returned, turning to lead the way to show his superior what he and the other men had found, "Though… we highly doubt you would need your sword…"

Gaddes led one young Allen Schezar towards a tree at the edge of the encampment. As they approached, the men turned to them and parted to the sides. Slicing through the crowd, the Knight of Caeli noticed they were nearing a hollowed tree with a bundle peeking from the shadows…

A bundle with feet…? Allen gasped as he glanced down towards the roots of the tree.

"Back to the camp, everyone…" the newly appointed leader commanded in a smooth voice, "Let me handle this…"

"Alone, Captain…?" a chorus of unsure voices floated past his ears even as the aforementioned leader nodded. More whispers flew past, but he ignored them. He had seen how delicate the tiny feet peeking out of the coarse fabric were, as well as the golden anklets that encircled them - there was no doubt their findings were female. Perhaps a young gypsy, lost as her band was traveling…?

"It's alright, little one… I won't hurt you…" he soothed as he knelt by the entrance of the shadowy hole. A pained whimper sounded from within as the creature curled further into her hiding place.

"Gaijin…" came a small whisper.

"I won't hurt you, young one… You seem lost…" he repeated his assurance as he encouraged, holding out a hand towards her, "Please… perhaps we may be able to find your band…"

Suddenly, quiet sobs trickled like a sad song from the tree, "Okaa-sanOtou-sanKen-nii-chanDoko desu ne…?"

He was about to abandon all hope as time crept past, "If you wish, you may join us later. We have a camp not far from—"

"Matte…!!" came a squeal as he turned around, a small body slamming into him. "IyaK-kowaiK-kowai desuMatte kudasai…"

Surprised at how his departure made her suddenly have a change of heart, he sighed quietly with a smile. "It's alright… I won't leave you… Come…"

~*~*~*~

As her hood slipped away from her crown, I swore I had never encountered such beauty… Goddess… did such angels exists in our world…? What hath I done to deserve such rewards from Fate…?
Raven plaits swirled upon her crown, woven with ribbons and butterfly combs… Eyes of shining emeralds, with the barest hint of gold… And unlike most, they were slightly slant, almost almond shaped… Query: I wonder where her origins lie…?

~*~*~*~

He wrapped the cool bandage around her broken ankle firmly.

"Ite…" she winced, her shoulders hunching.

He stared up at her, "I apologize, dear one… Have I hurt you more…?"

She turned to him, as if digesting his words. Solemnly, she gave a small smile, "IieArigato gozaimasu…"

Letting her silken skirt fall back into place, he nodded, though he did not understand the tongue she spoke with. "Rest… Let your leg heal… We will find your band as soon as possible."

She frowned at him. "Ba-an…?" she repeated.

"Yes… Your…" he hesitated, attempting to explain in the simplest of terms. The universal term for family struck him, "Your mama, papa, nana…"

She turned away, "Souka…" she whispered, setting her delicate chin upon her raised knees, "Okaa-sanOtou-sanObaba…" She buried her face into the material covering her legs and began sobbing brokenly, "Ken-nii-chan…"

"Hey…" the male soothed, coming by her, "Don't worry… We'll find them…"

He allowed her to sob upon his chest even as the sun dipped below the horizon and the first twilight star appeared. Exhausted, she ceased well into the night. He pressed her gently into the covers to rest.

"Don't worry, beautiful one… I promise we will find you a home… The words of a Knight of Caeli, Allen Schezar…"

~*~*~*~

As the days passed, I learnt more of the strange guest I had welcomed into my camp. Slowly but surely, her presence was accepted by the family of men I called my crew. We exchanged tongues, learning new things everyday. But I believe the most memorable… was the day I learnt her name…

~*~*~*~

She gasped with delight as she fingered the box he held.

"Nani desu ka…?" she asked, to which he had learnt as 'what?' or 'explain…'. He opened the lid and lyrical music floated into the air. Her eyes lit up brightly, "SonnaKirei desu ne…"

"It's a music box," he explained, setting it on the table for her. Helping her stand, she limped towards the table and stared in wonder at the twirling figures and the small mechanical band that played its song. She clapped her hands with child-like joy. Turning to him, her lips mimicked its best, "Moo-siko bokusu…"

He broke into a smile, "Quite…" Fingering the inscription on the side, he whispered in a quieter tone, "It belonged to my mother…" He pointed to the name, then to himself, "Mama. Mine…"

She studied the strange words that framed the wood, then his face. Reaching out, she touched a cheek, "Namae…?"

Name, he translated with the limited vocabulary he had learnt recently.

"My name is Allen Schezar, a Knight of Caeli…" he responded, sliding easily onto one knee and kissing her hand. As he turned toward her, he found her blushing furiously. He smiled genuinely, a hand to himself, "Allen."

Despite her flushed countenance, she smiled prettily and returned the gesture. A similar hand to her chest, she whispered the sweetest sound aloft autumn winds…

"Atashi wa Akiko desu…"

~*~*~*~

Akiko. Autumn child. And very befitting, as we had met during the same season…
She made no mention of her origins. I did not press her for details. Whether she couldn't remember, or *wouldn't* remember, I cannot tell…
I let her stay. She was a gift from the Goddess as she flitted through our camp. A gifted cook, a superb medic and a wonderful tailor, the men soon not only accepted her, but were less-than-likely willing to let her go.
Nonetheless, I have to let her go someday, I thought… So preparations were made to ask Lady Gabriella at the palace to take her in, perhaps as one of the young princesses' maid or nanny…
Alas, the best laid plans always go awry…

~*~*~*~

"You are… sending me away… Aren-nii-chan…?" the girl he had spent the last 6 months with in the wilderness questioned haltingly in his tongue, with exception to the last word.

"I am not sending you away, per se, Akiko…" he explained, catching her hand as they stood by the sill, bathed by lunar's embrace, "I am offering you a chance to live in luxury in the capitol… I have a great friend who would place you within the chambers of princesses. Would you not like that, dear one…?"

She turned her eyes from him, "Souka…"

That one word broke his heart.

For the past 6 months he had been teaching her his language, she had never reverted back to her own. The only word she kept dear to her heart was by adding -nii-chan to his name, which meant 'brother'. He had grown attached to the suffix, and somehow… now… perhaps he was growing attached to the girl who said it…

"May I propose a compromise, Akiko…?" he suddenly suggested. She lifted her head slightly, "What this… com-pro-mise…?"

"I'll take you to the capitol regardless, and introduce you to my friend. You may stay there for a few days to decide which life suits you best…" he stroked her porcelain cheek, "If you wish to stay in the palace, then we shall respect your choice. If you wish to remain with the Crusade, then… I have no qualms about your decision either…"

Her eyes lit up, "Really…?" Before he could respond, she flew into his arms, "Sankyuu…"

He was stunned at her reaction, then softened his features, patting her head. "You are welcome, my dear Autumn Child…"

~*~*~*~

We arrived at the palace just in time for the Summer Festival. Seeing Akiko's bright eyes, I suggested accompanying her to the Annual Summer Bazaar. Before I could say more, she had dragged me through the throng of people, past the brightly colored stalls…
She paused at a few of them, staring curiously at the strange things behind the counters. I explained each to the best of my knowledge. I even won her a few keepsakes, to her delight. It was truly a beautiful day…
As evening approached, we laughed happily as we left the Bazaar, only to stop by a small stall at the edge of the square. She tugged at my sleeve, begging me to explain what the star-within-a-circle symbolized. I told her it was the sign of a fortune teller. Her eyes lit up, and she pleaded for permission to have her fortune read. I sighed and consented. A quarter of an hour later, she emerged, a strange contented smile on her lips.
I asked if she had enjoyed the premature reading of her future, and she nodded wholeheartedly, though keeping it a secret. I knew better than to ask, for her own fortune was for her own enjoyment.
Little did I know she would tell me either way…

~*~*~*~

"Ne, Aren-nii-chan…" she began as she patted her companion beside her on the knee, "Why do we have two moons…?"

"One is the Mystic Moon, and the other, Luna," the blond-haired man explained, smiling up at the two spheres, "They say both are cursed… but I believe otherwise…"

"Really…?" she returned with childlike wonder. He turned to her and nodded quietly.

"Ne, Aren-nii-chan…" she fidgeted, her makeshift dinner tray lain on the steps of the docks they had chosen for their meal. She edged herself closer to her companion, "Did you know that people can come from the big moon…?"

"The Mystic Moon…?" he affirmed, a surprised eyebrow arched elegantly over his eye, "Where did you hear such things, Akiko…?"

"The woman at the fortune stall. She told Akiko she came from the big moon…" the girl explained. Then she smiled secretly as she bowed her head, "She also say that Akiko will find a happy life with someone she love…"

"Is that so, Akiko…?" he laughed, a brotherly arm draped over her shoulders. She nodded, "Aa… And she say that Akiko should tell him soon, to make Akiko's happy life come true…"

"And who is this lucky boy, I wonder…?" he massaged her shoulder and leaned against her.

His gesture was in vain, for she detached herself from him and turned up to locked her gaze with his. There was something familiar, yet foreign shining in her eyes.

"Akiko…?"

"You, Allen-kun…" she answered, raw feeling poured into her sweet voice, "You are Akiko's love…"

~*~*~*~

I supposed I should've known all along. But I had turned a blind eye to it. Besides, I had never experienced love before, and so one cannot blame me for being naïve. But the moment it hung before my eyes, I knew it to be true…
I was similarly attracted to Akiko, but knew it not as love yet… However, her feelings for me were pure and genuine. I did not have the heart to turn her away…
The first kiss we shared that moonlit night was as chaste as our virgin hearts. She tasted of peaches and wine, sweet and addictive. She smelt of cherry blossoms, reminding me of my happier childhood. Indeed, she was beautiful…
Akiko clung to me constantly, and I guess my open affections to her did not go unnoticed after all. Our relationship was kept a secret, but Gaddes and Lady Gabriella guessed it within a week. Perhaps it was her transition between calling me 'Aren-nii-chan' to 'Allen-kun' that alerted my fellow crewmember. My mentor on the other hand, had resorted to suspending me from my studies for a week to 'sort out my priorities'. I must say, I *did* use the time rather… productively…
It was during that time that I first took Akiko to my bed…

~*~*~*~

Her willing lips pressed back with as much fervor as he had initiated since evening cast its first rays upon the two young lovers seated by the window.

"A-allen… -kun…" she whispered, her swollen lips tempting. He stroked her lily-white cheek, "Akiko…"

She hung her head as her cheeks heated, warming under his fingertips. Nuzzling his chest, she whispered, "I am ready… koibito…"

He cradled her slight body and carried her to his bed where the sheets had already been pulled down for the night. She clung to him as he settled her back onto the pillows. He stared at her robed chest, suddenly unsure of what to do.

She tilted his face to lock her gaze with him. "Hajime kudasai, Allen-kun…?" she whispered, granting him a slight peck on the lips. He broke into a smile, his resolution renewed…

Warm white hands slipped past the snow-white robe to reveal flushed pink skin underneath. Though she was definitely not of white blood, her pale features seemed to argue otherwise. As the last of her worldly coverings were shed, he stood back to admire his first love.

She shyly shied away from his appreciative stare. Her raven tresses whispered past her lily-white shoulders, framing a slight pert chest that continued down a small feminine waist that later flared outwards as slender hips and alabaster legs. He licked his suddenly too-dry lips.

"Akiko…" he whispered, then his lips formed a word in her language, "Kirei…"

"Allen-kun…" she called.

He languidly began unbuttoning his similarly snow-white shirt. As she gasped, his groin tightened. It was both an agony and a relief to finally step away from his dark leather trousers and crawl back onto the bed with her.

"Akiko…" he breathed, claiming her lips once more, but instead of the passionate kisses they had shared throughout the evening, this one was soft and tender, as if to assure her during the times to come.

"Allen…" she returned, her slim legs traveling up his long leg and resting against his hip.

"I love you…"

~*~*~*~

Our first union was not the most perfect one, but it served us well. Albeit its clumsy, unsynchronized rhythm, we clung to one another more dearly than before soon after.
Never have I felt so free, despite bound to someone of this world. Never so joyful, nor in bliss. Truly, this was love… Akiko and I, we were one…
Many more nights were spent exploring one another, learning of new things I would never have dreamt of. My first love… my first woman… Everything seemed perfect…
Everything, until I met Princess Marlene…

~*~*~*~

"You will be her private escort," Lady Gabriella instructed. He sighed, "I had assumed that you were her escort, Lady Gabriella…"

His mentor frowned at him, maroon-braid shifting. "I *am*, young Schezar, but King Aston insists on a male escort while the Princess is away from the capitol. I will stay by her side, but now, you will too…"

"Why has King Aston chosen me, Lady Gabriella…?" the blond knight complained half-heartedly, "Surely there are others more suitable—"

"You were chosen upon the Council's recommendation," the elder declared fiercely, standing up from her seat. Then she felt the bridge of her nose, "You worry that your duty would clash with your time with your young foreign lover, do you not…?"

A little defeated, he turned towards one side and mumbled, "Yes…"

"Young Akiko shall have to learn that you are a dutiful knight, Allen Schezar…" the elder quipped lightly, though not in the tone that suggested acidity. Rather, she sounded almost motherly. She sighed, "You have no choice in this, Schezar… and as high as my rank within the Council, I cannot aid you this time…" Coming by him and patting his shoulder, she urged, "Come now… It is time I introduced you to the Princess…"

~*~*~*~

As soon as I laid eyes upon her, I felt a twinge of feeling, followed by a pang of guilt. Nonono… I could not be falling for a Princess, and yet still be in love with my beloved Akiko… Oh, but my heart was torn between them - a princess of my own blood, and a goddess of foreign reign…
As my duties continued, I spent less and less time with my faithful lover, and more and more time with my new Lady. And during that time, I believe, my heart swayed precariously between them both.
In time, I knew, I had to choose between them.
And to my damnation, I chose wrong…

~*~*~*~

"Akiko…!!" he gasped as his lips parted from the princess' own. Dazed, the woman of royal blood hardly noticed the pale face that peeked out of the shadows, betrayal shining in her emerald-gold eyes.

"What is—" Lady Gabriella rushed into the scene and took everything in at once. Holding the princess steady, she motioned to her apprentice, "Allen, GO!!"

"B-but…"

"I will take care of Princess Marlene," the elder hissed, cradling her charge. She jerked her head towards the fading footsteps, "Run after her…"

"Thank you, Lady Gabriella…"

"Akiko…!!"

"Allen-kun said he loved Akiko…" she sobbed as she turned to face him, backing against the roof, "Did he lie to Akiko…?"

"No…" the frantic lover shook his head, reaching out to her, "I never lied to you, Akiko… I would never hurt you…"

"But Allen-kun kisses Marlene-hime… like he kisses Akiko…" she argued, her small voice choked with tears, "How can Allen-kun love two women, but Akiko loves only one man…?"

"Please, Akiko…" he pleaded, the tear-streaked face mirroring his breaking his heart, "I *do* love you… You'll always be the first one I love… Come back…"

"Be Allen-kun's first love…? But not only love…?" she whined, "Doushite…?"

"Only love…" he amended, falling to his knees, "My only love… Please, don't go, Akiko…"

~*~*~*~

Akiko and I returned to our cabin in the Crusade in tears. We made love, but I was more guilt-laden than passionate. I did everything in my power to assure her she was still mine. Watching her sleep that night, I renewed my vow…
However, I believe her seeing me grant the Princess' first kiss killed her. Slowly, my Akiko began slipping away from me. She would refuse spending her time with me, instead choosing to work with Gaddes and the others on the Crusade. She even went to the extreme of refusing to lie with me at night, preferring to sleep alone.
I was angry at first, but anger did not sustain me. It was like watching my mother waste away when Celena had disappeared. I would not let another die in my eyes again. I had to regain my Akiko, no matter the costs…
I set a date a week prior to the anniversary of our meeting. Lady Gabriella covered my back, and for that I was truly grateful. Heeding her constant nagging, I decided it was time to offer Akiko official Ladyship…
How did I know I was already too late…?

~*~*~*~

"Gaddes, have you seen Akiko recently…?"

"She isn't with you, Captain…?" the younger man gasped, pausing from his work, "She left days ago…"

"No. She isn't…" he froze, alarm flared in the young Captain's heart, "Unless… no… she couldn't have…"

The blond-haired Knight of Caeli leapt onto his horse and sped back to where he had come from. He tore past the halls of the palace and threw his doors open.

Akiko was everywhere… The golden wind-chime hanging by his window… The origami figurines that decorated his shelves… The embroidered cushions she had sewn… Everywhere…

Everywhere but in his heart…

Lady Gabriella suddenly came up behind him.

"Lady Akiko isn't here, Allen Schezar…"

"No…" he shook his head in disbelief.

"She came to me a few days ago. She wanted to give you this…" she pressed a small folded note into his hands as he stood there, loss for words. Patting his shoulder, she began walking away, "I will send word to the Council to excuse you from your duties for a few days…"

The doors closed behind him. His legs buckled beneath him, and he fell back into a graceless heap.

"No…"

He clenched his hands into fists as the first tears began to fall. The folded note in his hand reminded him of his lover's last memory to him. He brought the note up to his misty eyes and trembled as he opened it.

A golden maple leaf lay inside, together with one word.

Sayonara.

~*~*~*~

Sayonara. Forever goodbye…

I had thrown away the first love I ever had. The only one whose pure heart beat only for me. How could I have been so foolish…? How was I so blind…?
How could I have shattered my dear Akiko's soul…?
I wept for days where I had crumpled to the floor, clutching the single autumn leaf and the last message my dearest one had left me. Lady Gabriella came in and whacked some sense into my head, and I was too tired to protest, so I listened. Her words made me make an eternal promise.
I vow, upon my life, I will never break another heart in the name of love ever again.

~*~*~*~

She approached him from her seat on the bower, "Allen…"

The Knight of Caeli smiled brightly at her and bowed, kissing her hand, "Princess Marlene…"

From above them, an elder cursed as she sipped at her wine, "You better stay true to your promise, Allen Schezar. Or so help me, I *will* behead you, as you asked…" Then she turned her eyes towards the Mystic Moon, "Rest in peace, Akiko…"

~*~*~*~

Reason for writing this fic:
Too many people end up bashing Allen for no good reason... just because he's a over-gentlemanly character. Aoi Akiko is new to both fiction writing and this series, but I find his character quite interesting. Gomen nasai if most of the Escaflowne fandom thinks I'm a nutcase...

[1] Ever wondered why Allen Schezar was so determined not to let anyone he loved get hurt…? As the series progressed, we saw that he had snagged almost every female (except the catpeople: Merle, who was very, very attached to Van; and Naria/Eriya, who were similarly very, very attached to the former's elder brother, Folken) he encountered, even *before* the actual timeline began - there was Marlene-hime, then Millerna-hime, and I believe perhaps at some point even Eries-hime, and of course, Kanzaki Hitomi… But has we ever wondered what the true reason was…?

[2] As a second note, when Dilandau demanded Hitomi's origins, how was Allen able to conjure up her origins 'from the East' so quickly… unless he saw resemblance to the Eastern people some time before…?
(*sweatdrop* of course, let us *conveniently* forget the fact that Hitomi-chan has honey-blond hair and evergreen eyes...)

[3] Yes, I deliberately put in a clear-cut language barrier between Allen and Akiko. Though in Escaflowne, Allen would've been able to speak 'flawless Japanese', in this, he shall speak 'flawless Asturian', and Akiko shall be the only one to use Japanese. Why? Have you contemplated the confusion it'd cause if they were of different races, but able to speak the same language...?

[4] Allen should be... um... 17 or 18 at the beginning of this fiction...? Akiko is 17. And contrary to belief, the Akiko in this story has no connection to the author's name *nod*.

[5] If most of you caught on that you've never heard of 'Lady Gabriella' while watching Escaflowne, well... you all deserve a virtual plushie. Yes, Lady Gabriella is my own original character. I have plans to continue my line of fictions formally introducing Lady Gabriella into the series. For the record, Lady Gabriella is 11 older than Allen Schezar, and is his mentor. I know, I know, he learnt most of his skills from Balgas, but what about literature and history and geography, ne...?

[6] If you've gotten this far, you deserve a reward. May Aoi Akiko offer you virtual lollipops...