I'm looking for the King and will find the way
The truth and the one that gives life

Payable on Death
And we're seeking the wise, nowhere to run

Looking for the Son

            -P.O.D

            She found herself floating in space, suspended in an eternity of black interspersed with points of brilliance. She was almost exactly between two blue-green spheres: Gaea and Earth. And perhaps the term 'floating' was not quite accurate to describe her condition. To float, one needed a body which was to be floated.

            She had none.

            She had no wings to support her in the non-existent air, no Guymelef to encase her in an interplanetary journey. She needed none; she was a disembodied consciousness, receiving images and feelings without the eyes and body needed to receive them. And then she was falling…

            She was falling towards Earth – but because she had no body, she felt no rush of velocity, no atmosphere-entry friction, only seeing things blur past her with the speed of riding something a thousand times faster than the bullet trains of her youth. She glanced from side to side, taking in the scenery of the homeworld she had not seen for years – and somehow, certain images were being seared into her mind, clean and sharp, like she could never forget them…

            …a swirly white cloudbank which she plunged through, a blade through silk, towards the western hemisphere of Earth….

            …a mountain-range, snow-topped and very black against the contrasting brilliance of the snow, rocky and rough and sharp…

            …veering to the left, now, towards a flatter region, all green vegetation that was not as lush as the tropical islands of the equator, but beautiful nonetheless, and with sandy ground too…

            …a town all tiny and small below her, but busy and bustling…

            …towards a white building, sleek and modern…

            …and then she stopped.

            She saw the sign in front of the building – the hospital – reading the Western alphabet with all the ease of a student who had gained high marks in her high school English classes. She saw a boy with remarkably long hair done in a braid walk into the hospital, a plastic bag of McDonald's food cradled in his arms. She followed him.

            He walked through corridors gleaming with the sterile cleanliness typical of hospitals; veered to the left; walked into an elevator. Hitomi took careful note of the directions, though she wasn't sure why. Somewhere on the third floor, the braided boy greeted a group of other people, mostly teenagers his own age but with three young adults in the group as well. They conversed in low voices, before the braided boy began distributing the food that had been in the bag. A sandy-haired girl stood up then and walked into a hospital room – Hitomi trailed after her, feeling the same urge to follow as she had felt for the braided boy.

            The door swung open. Hitomi took one look at the still, pale figure lying on the hospital bed. She gasped in shock…

***

…and sat up. Her green eyes were wide and staring, her breath coming in harsh, startled gasps. She could geel her thin nightgown sticking to her back with sweat – it was an unpleasant sensation, as was the fact that her bangs were clumped together, again with sweat.

She heard a long in-drawn breath, and turned her head to see Van seated at her bedside. His clothes were rumpled, and there was a distinct mark on his face that meant that he had fallen asleep with his cheek pressed against a blanket-seam. "Hitomi!" he cried out, uncharacteristically emotional as he enveloped his wife in a tight embrace, relief giving extra strength to his arms. "V…Van…?" she asked, voice soft from disuse, as the Ryujinbito king nuzzled his face into her hair, pressing kisses on the top of her head.

He didn't reply, silent as he held Hitomi in his arms, face hidden.

"You've been in a coma for three days."

Hitomi's eyes snapped to the doorway of the room – the royal bedroom, her mind identified her surroundings – to see Millerna there. The blonde Asturian queen moved into the room, sleep-deprived blue eyes checking her friend over for any sign of lingering illness. Gaea's premier healer smiled in satisfaction and relief as her practiced eye detected nothing amiss.

"I'm going to get some of my things, to examine you, Hitomi," Millerna told her. "Try to see if you can pry Van away from you by the time I get back."

Hitomi nodded dumbly, green eyes far away as she thought back to what she had seen.

"Van."

He held onto her.

"Van."

"…"

"VAN!" The thirty-six-year-old ruler looked at her, a little surprise in his dark eyes at the urgency of her tone. Hitomi grabbed him by the shoulders, looking at him very earnestly.

"Van, I know where Rian is. He's alive, Van, Rian's alive, and I know where he is. I know how to go there."

Van gaped at his wife for one long moment. "Hitomi…Rian's dead…"

"He's not dead, Van, he's not! I saw him!" she insisted stubbornly. She grabbed at the Atlantian pendant hidden under her nightgown. Van sighed and was about to press her back into the bed, insisting she get more rest – obviously she was delusional – when he noticed something.

The stone was glowing.

"Wha -…?" A light blazed forth from the pendant, coalescing into a column of radiance around both Fanelian royals. Van felt himself floating up, drawn by a force like gravity inversed – just like he teleported to Gaea and Earth, all those years ago…

***