Escaflowne is not mine!

Chapter One
No shit, there we were
Philios- (Friendship, The First Love)

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Eries POV:

It was the last bout of the day. The bell rang, then there was complete silence. The wind threw the dust from the arena into our faces. No one coughed; no one breathed.

The two opponents approached each other, bowed to us in the Royal Balcony, bowed to each other. They stared at each other for a long time. Then their swords clashed, once, twice and then one blade went flying and landed in the dirt. The audience rose as one with thunderous applause.

It was the most exciting tournament I had ever seen, and I'd been required to spectate at rather a lot of them. Even Millerna had been enthralled, but, as we discovered at the truly magnificent conclusion, for the wrong reasons. She climbed up onto her chair and yelled, "The little blonde girl won! Yeeeeeeeesss! Yippee! Yippee!!!"

"That's a boy, dear, " I said. I grabbed a handful of Millerna's frilly dress so she wouldn't fall over the rail, and I looked back down into the arena, at the top of the soon-to-be Caeli's yellow head. As he kneeled to be knighted, he weaved a little. He put his hand into the dirt to steady himself, and then rose to his feet. He looked exhausted, or maybe he was in shock.

"..........Oh. ........Are you sure?" My little sister didn't sound convinced.

"Yes. They announced his name. Allen Schezar."

"Awwwww," she said and sat back down.

"Sorry, Millerna. He's just a very, very pretty boy."

Marlene, on the other side of Millerna, sighed. "He sure is, " she said.

I stared at my older sister. Uh-oh. Not again!


Allen POV:

I think hundreds of people shook my hand before I managed to slip away. My cheeks felt numb from holding a smile, my legs felt rubbery, most of the rest of me was just plain sore, but my hands really, really hurt.

I tried to relax my hands, but when I forced myself to unclench them, the cracks and blisters on my palms and fingers opened and bled through the dirt. Eeew. I allowed them to slip back into their comfortable and familiar sword-holding shape. I should wear gloves.

I walked aimlessly through the palace complex, always choosing whichever route had the least amount of people. Maybe I could find someplace to be alone.... but I wasn't so lucky. I walked down a dim alley between some big stone buildings, rounded a corner, ran smack into someone, and knocked him ass over teakettle. Oops. Shit. And oops again. Balgus doesn't much care for battlefield invective. Think pure thoughts. Right...

"Sorry," I said and extended a sticky hand to the brown-haired boy sitting on the pavement before me. He took my hand and I pulled him up. He was a bit taller than me, and rather skinnier, with a pleasant smile.

He looked me over, too, from my dust-covered tunic, to the scuffed sword at my side. "Hi. Were you in the tournament?"

Unbelievable. I've run into the only person in the whole palace complex who wasn't watching today. "I won," I said. "I'm a Caeli." Shit. Why did I tell him? Please don't shake my hand. It hurts.

He didn't shake my hand, probably because I'd hidden it behind my back.. "You won?!" he said. "You won the whole day?! Wow! Congratulations. You must have really wanted it!"

"Not really," I said before I could stop myself.

".....Oh, man! Hard luck, buddy. How old are you? Fourteen?"

"Age isn't a factor. They award it based on merit. .....I'm fifteen."

"That's not very fair. You don't really have to accept it, do you?"

"Yes. I already did. I need the money. Family debts." My family estate, my mother's doctor bills, an airship, a guymelef, lands and servants, and all of it traditionally entailed, unsellable. Born to it, I must pay.

"Oh. Well.... Uh.....Well, maybe you'll like being a Caeli knight?"

I couldn't think of anything to say to that. I just looked at him.

"Uh....... You want a beer? You wanna go steal a couple from the refectory?" he asked.

"I don't drink."

The brown-haired boy grinned at me mischievously. "You do now," he said.

"I don't steal." ...Anymore. I'm an honourable Caeli knight now!
I'm not a bandit. No, really! I'm not! Really!

He shrugged. "Well, I'll do that part. .....You've gone all white. I suppose you don't eat, either. Did you have lunch today?"

"I don't remember." Which was a lie. The memories always come back after I have to fight, or whenever I'm too tired to push the memories away. Whenever I shut my eyes...Fighting at Balgus's side, hundreds of people dying at my feet, my hands are soaked in blood. ....I should wear gloves.

"No lunch? Sheeeeesh! Come on." The brown-haired boy herded me down the alley and I went.


More Allen POV:

Having led me to the best situation he could get for me, Balgus went back to Fanelia and I was left to finish up my training as a Caeli knight. The other Caeli knights couldn't fault my swordplay, but it soon became clear that I knew absolutely nothing about anything else. How to provision a garrison, weapons of mass destruction, tactics, strategy, piloting ships and guymelef? I knew nada. The Caeli enrolled me in the Pallas University military officer's training program. All the other students were older than me and had invested years of their lives in the program and weren't amused that I was promoted ahead of them. They were even less amused when I was appointed teacher's assistant to the fencing master. Eeeeg. I did not make friends.

But Dryden, the kid who hadn't seen me earn Caeli, was going to the University, too. We didn't have any classes in common, he wasn't in the military program, but he was the only other kid my age who ate in the refectory, too. It was inevitable; we sat together, the 15 year old untouchables. Actually, Dryden dormed with the regular students and people waved to him and talked to him sometimes, so I guess he wasn't detested the way I was by the military students.

None of the Caeli would really associate with me either. They were all at least twice my age and I had no idea what to say to them. I think they tried, though. ....I'm sure that was supposed to have been some sort of bonding ritual...

Dryden had finally showed up in the refectory. He dropped his tray on my table, did a double take, and reached out to seize my radically shortened hair. "Oh, my god! Did they haze you?"

"Sheesh! It's just a haircut. It'll grow back. It's not like they gang-raped me and hung me naked from the flagpole. Let go of my hair!"

"So they did haze you," said Dryden as he sat down opposite me.

"Look, I kind of like it, so leave off already!"

"....Right. Sorry. Nevermind."

"Fucking civilians. Sheeesh," I said.

"Oh-KAY! I get the idea. I'll drop it." Dryden gave me an innocent smile. "Hi. How are you today?"

"Fine. You?"

"Peachy. And speaking of peaches, what else did they cut?" And he bent over and looked under the table at me.

"You jerk!" I leaped over the table, grabbed him around the neck. "Noogies for you!" I said and ground my knuckles into his head. He howled and laughed and attempted to get away.

"Schezar!" Eeek! I let go of Dryden and jumped to attention. It was my commanding officer. My Caeli commanding officer. "What are you doing?'" he snapped.

I opened my mouth to say something, but Dryden beat me to it. "We were just playing, sir," he said.

"Playing?" The Knight looked back and forth from Dryden to me and then he rolled his eyes and walked away.

Aw, shit! What a way to make an impression.... I walked back to my seat with the dignity befitting a Caeli Knight, sat down and started eating. Dryden watched me quietly at first, but giggles escaped from him. I shook my head at him. "Playing," I said. "Thanks so much."

"It was all I could think of," he said and shrugged. "Could have been worse."

I smiled and nodded.
Could have been worse. That just about describes my whole life. At least I've got plenty of room for improvement.

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