Disclaimer: I don't own Escaflowne. Never have, never will.
Fact: I support Escaflowne. Always have, always will.
I figured I wasn't giving enough credit to the creators, so thus I opened this way. But moving on, I'm finally back! I was terribly inspired writing this chapter, since I bought an Escaflowne DVD a few weeks ago. Episodes 9-12, yay! I felt I was watching the series again after so long! Though my sister was jealous and telling mom about how much it cost... yadda yadda... She bugs me so much sometimes.
Anyways, I dug right into the extras. I never realized Seki Tomokazu, Van's seiyuu, was such a funny person! I was laughing at a lot of the things he said and did, along with Miki Shinichiroh, Takayama Minami, and Iizuka Mayumi. I really hope I spelled their names right. I'm such a perfectionist.
I finished editing this chapter at 10 PM last night, so if there are mistakes or if it seems rushed at the end, that's why. And guess what! My(annoying) sister hasn't even read this yet! I think she stopped on Chapter 20... oh well, it seems like everyone has. Where has everyone gone? I miss my reviews! I know I'm slow and all that, but I try! I promise this chapter is the last of the war stuff, as I am moving on to another section of the plot. No, the war isn't over, it's just taken a different turn. Those of you who are here, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am so happy you still read this ficcie, and even happier if you read my author's notes at the beginning and/or end. Okay, I've been rambling so much, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself and shut up now. Please enjoy the chapter!



Chapter 24-
Ripped Apart

Each step taken seemed to be a burden to Hitomi. When she looked up, Hitomi could see some of the tents being constructed. She looked down at the man she supported, Van Fanel, and urged herself to go quickly. He had been terribly injured in battle and needed medical attention as soon as possible. Van had remained conscious, doing his best to stand up and walk himself, but it was obvious he was having trouble. Eventually he gave up, content to lean on Hitomi for awhile.

Hitomi smiled at his efforts, patting his arm. She was very concerned, however; Van was seriously hurt and the faster they arrived at the medical tent, the better. It was no illusion that he had lost a lot of blood, but Hitomi pretended to ignore it.

Finally, the two reached the medical tent, where Merle was pacing about restlessly. When she saw them, Van and Hitomi both were shocked into the reality of their situation by her scream.

"Lord Van!" she exclaimed, dropping her bundle of towels to the floor in shock. Van managed to raise his head, giving the cat girl a reassuring smile. "Hitomi, lie him down quick! I'll get the bandages - you stop the bleeding, for heaven's sake! Quickly!" Merle cried out hysterically. Hitomi nodded, trying not to let Merle's panicked voice get to her. Slowly she lay Van on one of the few remaining cots set up for the casualties. The men who had been in guymelefs, who had injuries to a lesser extent than the foot soldiers, tended to the men who suffered more serious injuries.

Yet, Hitomi and Merle were the only women there. Hitomi couldn't help but smile at the care they showed in tending to their fellow soldiers' wounds. Below her, Van groaned softly.

"Hitomi..." he said, but she shushed him. "Don't worry about anything now, Van. I'm here." she assured him, running her hand through his dark hair. At her touch, Van closed his eyes, but refused to keep silent.

"I thought I was going to be killed today," he began, as Hitomi soaked her washcloth in some warm water provided by one of the soldiers, "and I couldn't do a thing about it. It was - something I had never felt before - feeling defenceless about taking action." Hitomi opened what remained of his shirt, gingerly touching the wound to gain an idea of how deep it was. Blood still ran in a small river from it, but for the most part it had clotted. Van sucked in his breath quickly when Hitomi placed the cloth over the wound across his chest.

"Van, you were taking action," Hitomi began slowly, applying slight pressure around the wound, "You have taken action since the day you decided to marry Faye." At the mention of the princess's name, Van leaned his head back, staring up toward the tent's ceiling.

"I was living up to everyone's expectations, Hitomi." Van explained, "I was not taking my own actions. I knew I had to get married someday, and I also knew that, for the past year, it could only be you." Hitomi's head shot up from her work, and she gazed at Van's face, scrutinizing it. She could see no falsehood in his eyes, no matter how hard she tried. Van turned to her, knowing that she was staring at him.

"I really thought that, if I waited, you would come back." he said, wearing a deep look in his burgundy eyes. For that moment of silence, they held each other's gaze, almost as if the other's secrets would be revealed in eye contact. Van broke the spell by speaking.

"My advisors did not understand who I was waiting for, or for what reason. They urged me constantly to marry and produce an heir, as I had no family left. To them, I was living in a dream for the past year." He finished, closing his eyes again. Hitomi shook her head. "No, I don't believe it." she said firmly. "You rebuilt your country within a year after I left. No one who was disillusioned like that could do such a thing in so short a time. You were prosperous, Van, and you needed someone to share that with." Van opened his eyes, searching her.

"Hitomi, it was true that I had grown close to Princess Faye in the year you and I were apart," he began, "When Gendas proposed that I marry her, I knew it was time to take some kind of action with my life. But Hitomi-" he cut himself off as he raised his arm, laying his gloved hand on top of her small one, "In truth, she was no more closer to me than a sister. I was lying to myself in marrying her."

Taking a strand of hair out of her face, Hitomi put her other hand on top of his. "Van..." she choked, tears brimming the edge of her eyes. Van swallowed the sudden lump that had formed in his throat, and spoke, "I can't lie anymore. I can only hope that Faye, who died to protect me, can forgive me for deceiving her, and that you, Hitomi, can as well." At his words, she slipped her hand out from under his, and embraced his battered body, sobbing.

"Van, Van... of course I forgive you. Just hearing you say that..." she broke off, looking down at his face, "I love you. Don't ever leave me again." Van took her words in contentedly, wrapping his arms around her shaking form.

"I won't. I promise to be careful from now on, and never underestimate my opponents." She held him tightly, until she realized he had finally passed out from lack of blood. Wiping her tears away, she turned around to see Merle approaching with the bandages, and the girls quickly went to work, cleaning his wounds and wrapping them in the clean bandages.

When she finished, Hitomi left him alone, sitting outside in the shade of the tent. The wind blew her hair, and to a passerby she looked at peace, but her mind was churning with thoughts. Van loved her. She knew this for a fact. And she loved him back. Some fallacious vision couldn't dismiss this truth. She would never leave Van for anything or anyone - never again...

Sitting in his stables, the scent of dried hay filling his nostrils, Prince Tobias sat with one knee drawn up. He could think of nothing but that woman. Her presence had seemed almost unreal in the bloody field, similar to a beautiful angel in hell. He couldn't get his mind off her. Who was she? He felt something for her, although he was still unsure if he should call this love. Too drastic, he told himself. He had always had the reputation of being very level-headed and practical. Besides, love was a mutual feeling, and the woman had not even seen him, let alone got to know him.

Tobias sighed. These emotions were far too complex. He had never been in love before, and he didn't know how to handle it. The last thing he wanted to do was tell his father. If only Faye were alive, she could tell me what to do... He squeezed his eyes shut. Back there, he had gone insane for love of his sister. Could it have been that he saw Faye in that woman who shielded Van Fanel from his attack? When would this longing for her stop?

Gripping his sheath that lay at his side in the hay, Tobias stood up quickly and whipped his sword out in a quick flash of silver. His target jumped deftly backward on his heel, landing on his other foot. As Tobias slipped his weapon back in securely, a tall man stepped out from the shadow of the hayloft.

"You're getting skilled, Tobias." Ladislaus smiled, seeing that his charge had grown so much. However, Tobias only shrugged as he attempted to tie the bands of his sheath around his waist.

"What's wrong?" Ladislaus asked, concern in his eyes and voice as he asked. Tobias fingered the jewels on his sheath; he actually felt like bursting out his feelings to his guardian, telling him every single thing on his mind.

"Nothing," he said instead.

"I don't believe you, if you'll pardon me," Ladislaus replied. Tobias turned to look at him. Nothing could get by this man, he knew, yet he was still polite about it. He has raised me, after all - he probably knows me better than my own father. They stared at each other for so long, that finally Tobias knew he would have to explain.

"I can't stop thinking of her, Ladislaus. The woman on the battlefield." Ladislaus, who had heard about her already, nodded. "Yes, it is unusual that a woman was there in the first place. I wonder if she is with Fanelia? Or maybe Asturia?" As he speculated these things aloud to himself, Tobias interrupted quietly.

"I don't care." Ladislaus turned to him.

"What do you mean?" he asked. The Prince looked toward him. "I don't care where she's from, or even if she's an enemy." Upon saying this, he suddenly found a great many things to add.

"She showed me something... that even in war, a man cannot lose his humanity. I really lost it back there, and if it weren't for her..." He trailed off, unsure of how to finish. He crossed his arms in concentration. Ladislaus approached him, trying to read his expression, as if it would help him guess the end of his sentence. An idea came to him.

"So what you're saying..." he began, hope rising in his voice, "is that you're grateful to this woman for stopping you. If your father heard that..." It was Ladislaus's turn to leave his sentence incomplete. Tobias looked up, uncrossing his arms.

"I would just like to know her better." he replied simply, as if that were the only explanation needed. The older man nodded, though he did not really understand his charge's meaning. How could he possibly do that? He turned to leave, but not without a last word.

"Your father would like to launch another attack the enemy again, preferably soon. He's impatient enough as it is." Tobias nodded, but his mind had suddenly drifted away. Ladislaus stared at his vacant expression for awhile, leaving only after he realized that he must look the same.

The boy can't fight, he thought. I have to explain to King Gendas that he just can't uphold the army on his own. Maybe that will convince him to end this war, unless he wants his son to end up like his daughter... A thought came to him then. He had to see King Gendas, right now. The future of his son was at stake, as well as the country's. At that moment, he didn't care what would happen to him, or what the King might do, he just had to talk with him on the matter.

His steps became more assured and quick - hasty decisions tended to do that to his movements. He must find out the true purpose behind the war, a purpose so dark that the King was willing to send his own son out to the battlefield.

It did not take long to find him; long strides carried the King down the hall to where Ladislaus had stopped in surprise. Gendas, upon seeing the minister, immediately began interrogating him.

"So, what did he say? Is he planning the next attack on our enemies?" He would not even wait for an answer before asking a new question. The subject of each question drifted so far from the actual truth that Ladislaus almost forgot what he had rehearsed to explain to the King. However, he soon found the words to give.

"Your Majesty, the young prince is not ready to battle." he explained slowly, though this was the least of his planned explanation. Gendas looked a bit confused, but as was his way, he demanded a reason. Ladislaus glanced around, then said everything in a rush.

"Sir, I seriously doubt his mind can handle the stress of planning war strategies. He still seems infatuated with that ghost woman he saw out there in the desert. That a woman was even there is quite unlikely. I listened to the boy as he described her; it's too surreal to believe." The King fell silent, bringing his hand to his chin as if pondering. He was not long in making a decision.

"Ladislaus... why not give my son what he desires?" He stared at the man in front of him, his eyes aglow. The old minister's eyes widened in shock.

"You mean- the woman he saw? What are you suggesting?" he almost shouted at the King, but Gendas was too amused to notice.

"We could bring her to the palace, introduce her to my son..." he trailed off, more ideas coming to his mind. Ladislaus would not let him sink into any thought. "What if she is unwilling? She may not wish to leave her kin for a strange land." Gendas considered this, though not for a long while.

"If it is for my son's well-being," he began slowly, "I will take her myself. Ladislaus-" he said sharply, so that the minister straightened his posture, "I will arrange the battle plans for this time only, and I want you to make sure that Tobias receives these instructions when they are complete." He swept away quickly, without even listening for Ladislaus's assent, and disappeared in the darkness at the end of the hall.

So, the King believed in this woman as well, Ladislaus thought. Then it must be true. He could not help but feel pity for her - but if the war were to ever end, perhaps she would sway the Prince's feelings first. The minister shook his head; for once even he was at a loss.

The cry of an eagle roused him later that day, his eyes watching the dancing candle flames on the tent roof. Draping his arm across his forehead, Van closed his eyes again before the light spots caused him to become dizzy. He knew he had to get some sleep. Night would soon fall, and that was the best opportunity to attack the enemy.

Not wanting to think about it, Van rolled over in his cot. He sucked in his breath quickly, realizing that he had leaned on his wound. It had been a week since the battle that had caused it was over, but it still stung when he put pressure on it. He sat up, placing his hand gingerly on the bandages wrapping it.

He wouldn't be able to sleep now. He felt deep inside - perhaps his wound had given him the feeling - but he knew that the enemy would attack soon... very soon. Van clenched his fist. I won't allow the enemy to get the upper hand again!

At that moment, a man hurriedly made his way over to the King of Fanelia. Van turned to him, knowing that he was the one who repaired guymelefs. Escaflowne must have received a great deal of damage in the last fight. However, what the man had to report was surprising.

"King Van, the Ispano guymelef Escaflowne did not suffer as much damage as you had thought. In fact, it is battle ready whenever you are." The man looked the King over, knowing that he would not be able to fight for awhile. He had many bruises covering his chest area, in addition to countless scrapes and cuts, as well as a few more serious wounds that had fortunately been patched up. However, despite his injuries, the young King beamed when he heard this news.

"That's excellent. Send word to every able bodied man that we will move forward for battle within the next few days." The messenger, though taken aback at the King's confidence, could only nod. He bowed deeply his exit and departed promptly.

When the man had disappeared from sight, Van put his hand to his side, as if it would help the undeniable pain that still remained. He knew that no other King would put his life in direct danger so soon after a hard battle, but there was no other man to take charge of the armies apart from himself. For the first time, the King of Fanelia thought it would be a good time to appoint a second-in-command to the throne and military. He had no blood heir, he regretted. Van pondered the choices that came to his mind.

Perhaps Frestic... he had always been by his side since the reconstruction of Fanelia almost two years ago. Also, he knew Hitomi better than any of his other lords and would take good care of her if he were gone. But I won't let that happen. I'll always take care of Hitomi, no matter what. The vivid memory still was fresh in his mind - Hitomi standing in front of him, ready to die rather than not be involved. But he couldn't let her! She had no fighting skills, nor a weapon. Whatever was going through her mind, Van knew that Hitomi could not be there in the middle of the chaos. Seeing casualties of war was enough without actually fighting.

Van lay back on his cot, closing his eyes again. He would need as much sleep as he could before the battle ahead - one that would hopefully show which side was stronger, thus who would be the eventual victor.

Hitomi awoke to the sound of a horn, calling men to arms. Unfortunately, she didn't want to hear it at this moment. Covering her head with the blankets, she squeezed her eyes tight, but the murmurs and shuffles of awakening soldiers still met her ears. Patiently, Hitomi waited them out, until everyone had left.

But there was one left.

"HITOMI!! You lazy slug, get up!!" a shrill voice pierced Hitomi like a sharp knife. Throwing the blankets aside, she glared into the face that the voice belonged to. Merle glared just as angrily back. Although she was wearing a dress that reached the floor, Hitomi was sure that Merle's tail must be swishing about.

"Just because you're not a soldier doesn't mean you don't have responsibilities of your own!" Merle shrieked, nearly dropping the bandages she held in her arms in anger. Even though she knew there would soon be a battle, Hitomi couldn't resist a fight with Merle.

"Yeah, but it's all right if I'm a bit late, isn't it?" she replied, crossing her arms stubbornly. Merle's fur suddenly was not standing on end, and she had a grin on her furry face.

"Well then, I guess you don't mind if I assist Lord Van in removing his bandages?" She began walking away, when Hitomi suddenly leaped out of bed. As she ran off, she yelled over her shoulder, "Why didn't you tell me that's what it was?!" Merle giggled as she watched her run off, returning to her own duties.

Hitomi was soon outside the tent, where she ran into Allen. He was standing with the troops who would soon occupy the guymelefs. Turning to her, he said, "Hitomi, there you are. If you're looking for Van, he's with the Escaflowne." She thanked him hastily and ran off again.

Sure enough, Van was there, but he didn't look like he needed any help. His bandages had been long removed, and the deep wound had closed up well.

Escaflowne looked as sturdy as it ever had; it almost looked like no damage had been done to it. "Van!" she called. He turned, smiling upon seeing that it was her. He met her open arms and they embraced. Hitomi gingerly placed her fingers on his wound.

"I'm so glad it's healed. Are you sure you're ready to fight again after such a short time?" she asked, her eyes showing the worry her voice didn't. He nodded.

"I'm ready for anything." he replied confidently. Hitomi couldn't help smiling at that. "Then go, you daredevil." she said, patting him on the back. She was surprised at her words - she sounded just as confident in him as he did. Hitomi smiled up at him as he climbed into Escaflowne. Van's recovery had been swift - only a week and a half since the first skirmish had passed. Smiling at her encouraging words, Van squeezed her hand, then leapt into the cockpit.

"Take care of yourself, Hitomi." he called to her as the chest closed over him. She waved back toward him, as Escaflowne raised itself from its genuflected position, its cape fluttering slightly from the movement. Quickly retreating away from the huge suit of armour, Hitomi watched as Van pointed his sword toward the horizon. This battle would be different from the last; Fanelia and her allies would be the aggressor this time rather than the enemy. At Van's command, the other guymelefs hastily formed a queue, poising their swords at their shoulders.

The procession moved out without grand ceremony, for a surprise attack was an order. In fact, the army soon disappeared under the faraway dune, leaving an eerie silence on the landscape. Only when she couldn't hear the thunderous marching of the machines anymore did Hitomi turn reluctantly toward the tent, where Merle sat tending to the seriously injured men of a week ago. Most of the soldiers were recovering well, thanks to Merle and Hitomi's care.

A physician had arrived a few days ago, tending to the injuries the two girls did not have the experience to handle properly. Before the physician's arrival, an elderly priest from Fanelia had been sent not far behind them. He had ministered to the soldiers who were beyond medical help, instigating prayer meetings with the others in the camp. Hitomi had attended many a meeting herself. The meetings had decreased in number, however, since the physician, experienced in his field, made his appearance.

As she sat down, Hitomi said her own prayer, one not used by everyone else; rather, it was just a muttering of encouragement and safe return for all the soldiers. But to the few who passed her, it appeared that she prayed fervently, and they shook their heads at her, leaving her to her almost hopeless prayers. A still fell upon the room, as everyone made his way to his own cot, pulling the white curtains that surrounded them shut. Night was fast approaching, the only time battle could be waged.


Scattered sand fell in the guymelef army's wake, stirring small animals from their burrows. Small rodents chattered uselessly at the machines, disturbed from gathering seeds for the scorching day ahead. The army - in particular, their leader, Van Fanel - paid no heed to them, their intent on the destination ahead. They had left before sunset, so as not to be caught under a fierce sun, but they still had to exercise great care. The enemy was expecting a night attack, so they would not be unprepared. They were, however, not prepared for the swiftness with which the Fanelian army would bounce back from the previous battle.

Van kept his eyes ahead, searching far for a change in the environment. His diligence was rewarded when he caught sight of Genduta's capital city outskirts. A few sentries were posted in the watchtowers, and they scattered upon the sight of the Fanelian army. Not long after, trumpets were sounded in alarm. The surprise had served its purpose, there was no need to keep silent any longer. Van raced forward, releasing the blade of his massive sword, a slight curl of smoke rising from the hilt made it appear to have sparked momentarily.

Instantly the sword came down upon the gigantic gates, held firm only by a single beam. Others like it joined, raining blow after blow upon the ever-weakening door. When it would not give, Van, in a last desperate move, thrust Escaflowne's weight against the gate, and it finally gave way.

Foot soldiers rushed in through the damaged door, ready to do battle with the first man each met. The sound of swords meeting each other rang through the night, as the soldiers made way for the guymelefs coming from Genduta. Van searched for the leader, King Gendas, but the man was no where to be found. He directed Escaflowne down the wide streets of the capital towards the palace.

Fighting back the urge to tear into the place inside Fanelia's guymelef, Van instead scanned the courtyard for people. Sure enough, soldiers armed with crossbows charged toward him, ready to fire. However, terror struck them upon seeing the sheer size of the Ispano guymelef, thus several men fired without waiting for the command.

Van easily swung his sword with such a force that the men of lighter build fell backward in spite of their armour. The grappling hooks attached to steel ropes were meant to bind guymelefs long enough to capture the pilot inside, but because they had not fired all at once, Van was able to cut through the ropes effortlessly. The last of the men fired in unison, but the results were as fruitless as the hasty group that had fired first.

Seeing that they had already lost their advantage, the men scattered out of Escaflowne's path. Van reached the wide palace doors, wide enough for Escaflowne to march right inside. Slicing through the door with his sword, the thick bar that didn't even succumb to battering rams gave way, and with a swish of his cape, Van entered the palace.

He placed his sword in front of him, watching in wary anticipation for more soldiers, but to his surprise, he discovered there were none. Nevertheless, he took careful steps, feeling very safe inside Escaflowne. There's no way a whole army of guymelefs can attack me with such limited space to move, he thought, and this added to his sense of security.

Van stopped, hearing a faint sound behind him. The floor rumbled underneath his feet, as the sound became more frequent and much louder as he listened for it. It was a guymelef, and it was inside the palace as well! Van was not worried, knowing there couldn't be more than two or three. He could take them down with Escaflowne easily. Once he knew where the footfalls were coming from, he turned to meet them.

A lone guymelef came out to meet him, and Van recognized it instantly. Serenity! he hissed to himself. Gendas's own guymelef had come to greet him! Van stepped forward, ready to meet his opponent.

"Let's end it here, you son of a bitch." he said in a low voice. The man inside must have heard, for he raised his guymelef's sword in challenge. But he did not attack. Instead, he spoke.

"What is valuable to you, Van Fanel?" The voice did not belong to Gendas, rather, it sounded much younger. Van, not expecting his opponent to waste time with words, puzzled over the owner of the voice and the words that he spoke. However, the man had more to say. "If you died here, what would become of your country, your people, your land?" At this, Van rushed forward, his quick reaction catching the other man off guard.

"I will NOT die!" he declared, glaring viciously down at Serenity, who was pinned against the wall. Soon Van found himself peering into Serenity's cockpit. The man inside grinned wickedly back at him, and Van suddenly recognized him.

"Prince Tobias!" Van exclaimed, unable to believe his eyes. Was this the man he had fought the last time? What was he doing inside his father's guymelef?! He released his hold on his sword, as Tobias stood his guymelef up to full height.

"Yes," the man replied, "you are correct, Van Fanel." Van shook his head, the sweat from exhaustion as well as confusion released from his skin.

"Why?" he implored, "I never dreamed you would aid your father in his greed-driven ambitions!" Tobias stopped for a minute, staring back at the Fanelian King. His father would never start a war based on his own wants. This war was started - He stopped again. He was not really sure of the reason. But looking upon Van, rage filled him. He's trying to trick me! Tobias thought to himself. That bastard killed my sister, and that's my reason for fighting! I don't know what Father wants, but I sure as hell know what I want!

However, he had to keep a cool head, and go along with his father's plan. He smirked to himself, and he knew that Van Fanel could see that smirk in Serenity's body language by his reaction. Tobias picked up where he left off easily.

"You haven't answered my question, your Majesty." He pointed toward the door Van had destroyed with his sword. "If you died here, what would become of your country, your people, your land?" Van did not answer, so Tobias prodded further, knowing he would react to what he said next.

"What would become of the ones you love?" At this, Van's head snapped up. The Prince's words struck something deep inside, and a strong gut feeling filled him. Forgetting all about Tobias, he raced for the door. But the soldiers outside were ready for him this time. They had repaired their ropes, and were armed upon Van's exit from the palace. As one, the men fired, and Van was overcome. Though unable to move, he struggled uselessly, grunting from the effort, but the more he struggled, the more he became entangled in the ropes. Realizing he was trapped, he yelled toward the sky in vain.

"HITOMI!!"

She woke with a start, hearing a cry in the air. Was it a hawk? The night was cold, and Hitomi shivered underneath her thin blanket. She had not counted on how chilly the nights would be, since the days were extremely hot. Closing her eyes, she tried to go back to sleep. She realized that sleep was impossible now for some reason, though she stayed under her blankets to keep warm.

Suddenly, a shiver seized her, wracking her body deeply. Her eyes flew open. There was someone here. She could feel him approaching, though no sound was made. Willing herself to breathe more easily, Hitomi listened for some kind of sound. Then she heard them, the dull tap of cautiously taken steps.

She squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting the intruder to know she was awake and conscious of his presence. Yet, she couldn't just lie here, without knowing what he wanted. Quietly weighing each decision in her mind, she decided that she would surprise him, but not without knowing that the other soldiers were within earshot. Whatever he was after, it couldn't be anywhere near her tent.

Then the steps suddenly stopped. Hitomi opened her eyes, staring straight ahead at the tent wall. The dark shade of the tent wall had taken on a deeper, shadowy hue, and Hitomi jumped up.

Just in time. The intruder, not expecting her to move so quickly, fell forward, but caught himself before he landed in her cot. Hitomi stared at him; he was of a large build, it was almost hard to believe he could take those light steps. His eyes peered at her from underneath a large turban, the only part of his body that wasn't clothed in black.

Hitomi refused to let her fear show. She had managed to scrounge her blanket in the time that she jumped from the bed, so if it was her only weapon, it would have to do. The man stepped closer, his very footfall shaking her, and she felt dwarfed by his presence.

"Stay back..." she managed, but even these words came out haltingly. The intruder's eyes glinted, almost as if he smiled at her fear. Hitomi wished he would say something, anything - that would lessen her fears in knowing he was at least human. Against her will, she found herself backing away from him, her blanket clutched uselessly in her hands.

"NO!" she exclaimed, finally tossing the worn sheet at him, which he caught easily in two hands. Then, to her astonishment, he tore the blanket in half without so much as a flick of his wrists. The sound brought her back to herself, and she did what she had been avoiding up until now - she fled.

He was on top of her in an instant, with agility that didn't become him. Hitomi tried to fight back, kneeing him in his groin, beating his chest, striking him in any place she could think of. But nothing seemed to faze him. His weight crushed her thin body into the floor, and he suddenly grabbed her wrists, pinning her down. Terror seized Hitomi; is he going to rape me? Her legs had gone numb, she could no longer fight back.

He seemed to realize this, as his hold on her loosened. Hitomi waited, feeling ashamed and vulnerable laying like this. But nothing happened. Instead she felt a damp cloth shoved roughly to her mouth, and though she tried to hold her breath, the smell leaked into her nostrils. Her eyes softly closed, her head rolled back, and she knew no more.

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Sorry to end it there! I'm glad this chapter wasn't as long as the last one. I was reading the ending to this one, and it seemed so horribly rushed. Did you notice? (I hope you didn't _>) I like to take my time, so it tortured me, but then I said to myself, "who cares for once," and I left it alone. The next chapters may be difficult to write, since I am trying to get this different atmosphere going, so as always, expect a wait! Until then, help boost my ego with reviews! Uh, please?

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