Sunlight filtering through the summer-lush trees of Asturia
created mottled, dancing patterns on the city's main roads and atop
Van Fanel's messy head. The young king was bent over as he walked,
assuming Bishounen in the Midst of Soul-Crushing Angst pose 23 -
shoulders slumped just so, head down, hair obscuring the eyes but not
the mouth which twisted to keep itself in a neutral position as
bishounen tries to be stoic in the face of said Soul-Crushing Angst.

Allen was more of a pose 28 sort of bishounen - hands
clenched, hair perfectly mussed, eyes soft and lost in thought,
preferably performed in the rain wearing a white, open shirt. Van,
however, had mastered good old 23 when he was but a young tot, and
had perfected it since then. He was widely credited for creating 23b --
23 performed sitting down, bishounen holding sword as if it is
bishounen's only friend. Van gave regular lectures on the finer points
of the position during the Annual Bishounen Convention, usually held
in Detroit.

Today, Van variated his favorite pose by shoving his hands
deep within his pockets. The reason why was clutched in his left hand:
a letter he had written the previous night to Hitomi for whom he had
proclaimed his eternal love and desire to see naked.

Van had been consumed by the drunken conviction one usually
has after one's catgirl sneaks seven bottles of vinu out of the palace
kitchen and into one's room. Unfortunately, it had shriveled and died
the next morning, when Van regained his sanity. The young king was
now walking around Asturia in hopes of finding some sort of endless
pit to throw the note into, where Hitomi could never, ever find it.

(Van had never read Edgar Allen Poe or 'The Big Book
O'Anime Cliches'. Otherwise, he would have known the Direct
Correlation of Secret to Irony, i.e. the more painstakingly an object is
hidden, the more assuredly it would be found. Van should have left the
letter on his dresser and called it a day.)

Van was a sincere bishounen, and he now slipped into old 23
because he was in a severe and genuine state of angst. There were a
lot of strange (and graphic) things in the letter he was afraid to
consider while sober, but they rang true in some profound way. Van's
head hurt, and he didn't know what to do.

This was a condition he found himself in more and more these
days. The only time he was ever certain of anything was when he was
in Escaflowne; where the blood burned through his veins and the
hoarse screams came unbidden from his throat, where there was only
the steel joy of justice and the clinical precision of battle-

Somewhere, in the distance yet near his heart, there was an
ageless, ethereal chant of "Esca-flow-ne. E-sca-flow-ne..."

At the noise, Van whirled around, hand on his sword. The
chanting promptly stopped. The young king stayed like that for a time
but, as he nothing unusual continued to happen, he relaxed and began
walking again.

Where was he? Oh, right. Nowadays, Van was only confident
when he felt the wind in his hair as he piloted Escaflowne in its dragon
form; assured of his actions because they were the products of destiny.
Escaflowne was his _birthright_, the only thing he could lay claim t-

Again, as always, voices lifted to heavens in exultation. "Esca-
flown-e, E-sca-flown-e."

Van spun around again. The countryside was a portrait of
silence.

He thought for a little while.

In his guymelef there was only supreme glory-

"Esca-aa-aa-flown-e."

Van whipped around hard to the left. Still, only quiet except
the slightest rustle from the bushes, as if from a bird or squirrel.

He shrugged Oh, well. Turned around on his heel as if about to
continue his journey.

Escaflowne was the fierce, divine-

"Esca-flown-e, E-sca-flo--ack!"

Van dove into the bushes.

After a brief but painful scuffle, Van rose, hauling a pale man
upright by his coarse brown robe.

"Who," he gritted through his teeth. "Are you? And, in the
name of all that is holy, why do you keep doing that?"

The man kicked and struggled, but he was not in the physical
condition to combat Van's strength and determination.

"We..." He faltered. Five other robed, hooded men stood up
sheepishly from their hiding place in the shrubbery. "We are your
chorus, Van-sama. And what are we doing that offends you so?"

"Singing!" Van shook him for emphasis. "Everywhere I go,
whenever I start to think or do something exciting, this drone of
'Escaflowne' starts up! Can you _any_ idea of how irritating it is?!
And it's distracting too -- do you know how many times I've lost my
advantage in the fight because I turned around to see who was calling
the name of my guymelef?!"

"Forty-seven."

Van shook him again, then strengthened his choke-hold. "So,
why do you keep _singing_ then?!"

"We're not singing," the man said with a touch of indignant
condescension. "We're chanting. We are the Fanelian Chanting
Monks, who have served our King and his guymelef for over five
hundred years."

"Why?!"

"For inspiration, of course, Van-sama!" the monk exclaimed,
shocked at his ignorance. "To motivate your tired and discouraged
soul during the hardships of battle!"

"All you're doing is _annoying_ my tired and discouraged soul
during the hardships of battle," Van snapped. "So will you just shut-up
and leave me alone!"

"We come with the guymelef!" the monk protested. "It's the
standard Ispano package deal: the machine, its soundtrack and a
service warranty."

"I don't care! Just go away!"

The monk's eyes grew tremulous and large. "Go... away?"

"Yes!"

"You don't want us?" The monk Van was holding was tearing
up; the rest began sniffling. "But... this is our whole life! We love
chanting Escaflowne on its way into battle! What else is there for us to
do?"

Van looked at all the monks he had made cry and felt
immediate regret. He was not a cruel man. Nor was he a Y-class evil
bishounen. He had registered as Bishounen type A14 - young angst-
ridden hero with a heart of gold - and he stood by that.

He loosened his grip on the monk's collar with a sigh. "Fine.
You can follow me around. Just be quieter about it or something,
okay?"

Before he raised his cowl, effectively blocking his face from
view, Van saw the monk's eyes shine with joy. "Of course, Van-sama!
Thank you, Van-sama!"

And just like that, they vanished.

Van shrugged and sighed again and continued on his way. It
was still early enough to dispose of the letter before anyone noticed
his absence.

Perhaps, though. Perhaps one day he could tell Hitomi those
things he had written, those things he could only admit to himself
while drunk, and she... it would never happen. But, in a dream of
dreams, somehow, someday, maybe he could say them, and she
would-

"E-sca-fl-"

"Shut up or I'll *kill* you!"

"Yes, Van-sama."

- say them back.

Finis