Author's Note: Thank you, readers, for your continuous support all these years. Your constancy and dedication made all the difference. And thanks to the following for inspiring this story:
"Escaflowne: A Reunion" by batang-gala on DeviantArt
"Wings of Love" and "Van and Hitomi after..." and all other Escaflowne works by escafan on DeviantArt
"A Fallen Angel Rises Again" by Penybright on FFNet (my first Escaflowne fanfiction that told me that we writers have to power to create happier endings!)
"A Happy Ending" by Tajima Minato
Every single Escaflowne OST and the series itself, of course
These last few years have been memorable, especially with how my perception and appreciation for Escaflowne have changed over time. I hope that I've remained faithful to the original series and successfully depicted an alternate future for our most beloved universe. It's been a joy sharing my vision with you, and I hope that this story only increases love for Escaflowne.
If you're pleased with this story, then please read "After and Ever" by Eunjung (myself). You'll find a link in my profile.
Thank you for everything, everyone.
Disclaimer: I do not own "Tenkuu no Escaflowne," its characters, or its story plot. They belong to their respectable owners and creators.
Memory of Yesterday
Memory XVII: Forever and After
A year had passed since Mamoru's grand adventure on Gaea. When he had returned from that fantastic planet, he had arrived only minutes after when he had first left, no one being the wiser. Mamoru successively went through his first year of senior high and was well into his second. And now he sat outside beneath a tree on school grounds, reading a very interesting and beautiful card that had just arrived for him only moments ago.
From about ten feet away, a pretty girl asked her friends, "Hey, who's that cute guy beneath the tree there? He's an upperclassman, right?"
The group of first-year girls stopped to see who their friend meant. When they followed her gaze towards Mamoru, they faced their friend and gasped, "You don't know him?"
The girl blinked. "Eh, should I?"
"That's Samurai Kanzaki," a friend whispered.
A girl with pigtails nodded. "He's only a second year, but he went to Kendo Nationals this summer and ranked third in the entire nation. He probably could have ranked first, but someone injured his foot during the semi-finals. Kanzaki-senpai had to discontinue from there."
Adjusting her long sleeves, one of the girls explained, "My cousin went to that competition: he's a club member too. He told me that Kanzaki-senpai told the judges that he was fine and tried to move on to the finals. But our captain noticed Kanzaki-senpai limping—only once—and figured out that the last opponent had illegally injured him.
"Well, that guy got disqualified from the tournament when they looked at some video footage. Then Kanzaki-senpai and a Yokohama student that moved up a place were supposed to have a match to determine third and fourth place. When the Yokohama boy saw how composed Kanzaki-senpai was despite the amount of pain he had to have been in, he forfeited the match."
"It's for sure: he's the best one on our team, and the club is thinking of making him captain soon," the pigtailed girl from earlier confirmed to her friends. "They say that when Kanzaki-senpai has a match, you can't even recognize him and think the samurai have returned. He acts like a samurai prince with a sword in his hand. That's why they call him Samurai Kanzaki. Undoubtedly he's famous and pretty popular with everyone."
Another girl added, "But he's so scary!"
"They say that he's killed a person."
"Well, it isn't confirmed, but a lot of people think so. The way he practices kendo, you know he could really take someone with a real sword," the shortest of the girls whispered. "Motoyama-senpai asked Kanzaki-senpai once if he really ever did kill a person. He didn't say anything and only gave Motoyama-senpai a straight face."
"Well, Kanzaki-senpai doesn't look like a killer," the girl who had first noticed Mamoru sighed dreamily. "But he sure does have killer looks!"
"You only think so because you haven't seen one of his matches! His face gets really intense—he's even hotter then." A few girls fanned themselves to cool their hot cheeks and ears.
"But it's still weird to know he might have killed someone."
"He's a bit weird anyway."
"Yeah—all of those rumors about his older sister?"
"His older sister?"
Again the pigtailed girl spoke up. "Kanzaki-senpai's older sister attended Kamakura-Kita Senior High too. She was known for track and fortune-telling. Actually, the top three school women track records are hers—she made them during her second year. And upperclassmen say that Hitomi Kanzaki-san had the most accurate fortunes. But she quit telling them during her first year's second semester."
"They say she met some prince of a foreign country and started dating him—afterwards, she wasn't interested in fortune telling anymore. It's too bad that during her second year, after the track meet where she made all those records, she died in an accident."
"You're kidding…that's too terrible to be true."
"Well, that's what Onee-chan told me. She was in the same year as Kanzaki-san, so she would know. But some of Onee-chan's friends say that Kanzaki-san didn't actually die and it's just a cover up so that she could marry her boyfriend and go live with him."
"But how can that be true?"
"Well, the supposed funeral was very private. Only family and very close friends were allowed to attend. Also, Kanzaki-senpai says that he learned a lot of kendo from his brother-in-law. His older sister was the only sibling he had. It must be true since Kanzaki-senpai doesn't seem the type to lie."
"So does that make Kanzaki-senpai a prince too?"
"Ha, ha, that's funny! Samurai Prince Kanzaki!"
They're ridiculous but they're pretty close to the truth, Mamoru thought while watching in the corner of his eyes the girls talk about him. He knew the rumors that surrounded him at school; he knew what students said about him, what his upperclassmen in the kendo club feared about him.
Of course it had all started when he had returned from Gaea. No time had passed since he had first left, so no one had realized he had been fighting on another world for several months. Therefore, no one but his mother, Yukari, and Susumu could explain why Mamoru had suddenly become the best swordsman at Kamakura-Kita Senior High School and why his life views had changed.
Rumors were rampant about Mamoru Kanzaki's new skills, many alike to the ones that the girls from before had repeated…sometimes far worse and damaging in reputation. I wonder what Aniki and Onee-chan would think if they had heard any of them. I'm sure Onee-chan would be angry, and Aniki would just laugh at me. He still thinks I'm a marshmallow.
When the gossiping girls finally left, Mamoru returned his attention to the ornate card in his hands. His rosy pendant gave a faint happy pink glow while he reread the crimson-gold announcement. "I like the ribbons and the glass beads," Mamoru chuckled, tracing a finger over the fancy trimmings. "They definitely went all out with this."
And they should've, considering all the trouble that they'd gone through. Plus, they're the most important people there...
Movement caught the side of Mamoru's glance, causing him to quickly turn to his left. When he did, his eyes met with a junior high school girl's gaze; she blushed in reaction, embarrassed to have been caught staring. Mamoru noticed that instead of a regular school bag, she had a duffle bag slung across her shoulders with a practice sword in her hand. Who is she? And what is she doing all the way here?
"Hey, Kanzaki! I want a word with you!"
Mamoru frowned, knowing that he was in some trouble. He stood up from his spot beneath the tree, some older kendo club members walking towards him. When they met, Mamoru stood eye to eye with his upperclassmen. Although only a second-year, his stature did not allow his seniors to look down on him, fortunately so. "How can I help you, Warukuchi-senpai?" Kanzaki asked as politely as possible.
"What's the big idea?" the third-year snapped.
"You beat everyone in your year so that only you qualified for Nationals, and then you knocked out our teammates during the competition. And then because your foot hurt a little, you withdrew?" The angry senior jabbed Mamoru's forehead with his index finger every two syllables. "Who do you think you're kidding? You think you're some big shot?"
His fingers came around for one final jab, but Mamoru caught his wrist.
"Warukuchi-senpai, my opponent fractured my bone," Mamoru stated firmly, bringing down the older boy's hand. "I withdrew so that I had a chance to use my right foot again. And I didn't intentionally knock out our teammates. It's just how the tournament turned out with our seedings."
"Shut up, Kanzaki," another upperclassman snapped.
"We don't want to hear your lame excuses."
"I'm sick and tired of your little attitude!"
"This is all just a misunderstanding," Mamoru tried reasoning against all the growing anger.
"Then understand this." The third-year Warukuchi punched Mamoru across the face, knocking him to the ground. However, young Kanzaki stood right back up, only to quickly dodge a punch from another upperclassman.
"I don't want to fight," Mamoru declared, sidestepping the attacks. The upperclassmen ignored him as they continued their assault. The second-year managed to avoid some of the punches but found himself in trouble when they began to kick as well.
Shit, why do I always get in trouble like this?
"Kanzaki-senpai!" Mamoru turned and noticed the junior high school girl from before throwing him her practice weapon. He reached for it in midair and caught it with ease. He then turned to his opponents, and they all faltered one step back beneath his intense emerald eyes.
"It's just like the rumors," one of the thugs murmured beneath his breath. "His eyes change when he has a sword in his hand."
To reassure his own faltering confidence, Warukuchi spat, "Whatever, he's still the same bastard. Get him."
Steadying himself, Mamoru focused his energy into his balance and blade and dashed through his oncoming attackers, skillfully striking their most vulnerable points. After knocking the wind out of them and watching them collapse to the ground, Mamoru warned, "I won't tell Captain about this incident, so please don't bother me again."
With bitterness, the third-years retreated. As they ran, they spat back curses, swearing that Mamoru would regret his actions.
Only glad that the fight was over, Mamoru gratefully turned towards the girl that had thrown him her practice weapon. Handing it back, he said, "Thanks for that."
"Ah, it was nothing," she waved with rosy cheeks as she approached. "I'm just glad that you're all right." She then remembered the card in her hands and panicked. "I'm sorry! This is yours. I picked it up for you while you were fighting."
Amused, Mamoru took the card and smiled, "Thanks."
With two blinks of her big eyes, the junior high girl asked tentatively, "Would you be second-year Mamoru Kanzaki-san?"
"Yes, I am." He wondered if this girl, like many others, would be frightened by him and run away. He would not be surprised, really, especially after a year of rampant rumors about him and his sister and this incident just now.
Shockingly, the girl instantly gave him a deep bow. It took all of Mamoru's self-control not to laugh out loud at her ninety-degree bend. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Kanzaki-senpai!" She blushed at her forwardness and amended while standing upright, "I mean… you're not my senior yet, but please take care of me when I enter in the spring!" Her grey eyes glittered as she exclaimed, "You're exactly as the rumors say! You were amazing when you cut those boys down. Kanzaki-senpai has magnificent form, just like a samurai!"
He tried being polite, but Mamoru could not hold back all of his chuckles. When he noticed that his laughter made the girl self-conscious, he quickly put on a straight face as an apology. "Um…what's your name?"
"Ah, my name is Inari Kogane, but everyone calls me Naria-chan."
Mamoru wondered why Fate loved toying with him, especially with this short-haired, almost-feline girl. Her hair is a little different—and of course she isn't dressed the same as Naria…but if you look at her face long enough, you can see that they look exactly alike… Really, destiny had a bad sense of humor.
Well, fair enough: he could play the game too. "I recognize your uniform," Mamoru nodded. "You go to Toyoda Junior High, a few train stops from here. How do you know about me?"
"Um…" Inari blushed and shyly stared to the side. "I'm part of the kendo club at my junior high. Everyone on our team knows about you. We actually attended some of the competitions you were at."
Standing up, Mamoru picked up his school bag, dusted himself off, and looked to the junior high student kindly. "Well, since you want to be here next year, would you like me to show you around a bit? I'll even show you the club room and introduce you to our captain. It's small thanks, especially when you really helped me a lot just now."
"I would love that. Thank you very much, Kanzaki-senpai!" Inari then turned her attention to the card in his hands. "It's beautiful. What is it?"
"Oh, this?" Mamoru smiled while holding it up between two fingers. "It's a wedding invitation from Onee-chan."
"Ah, the famous track runner, right?" Inari smiled. "You must be very proud of your sister, Kanzaki-senpai."
He grinned at her. "You can call me Mamoru, Naria-chan. I think we can be considered good friends after something like this."
"Y-yes, M-mamoru-senpai!" He called me Naria-chan! Getting over her embarrassment, she asked, "So your sister is getting married?"
He nodded as he walked towards the kendo dojo behind the school. "Yeah, she's getting married today."
"Eh?" Inari ran a little so that she walked beside the senior high school boy. "You're not going to her wedding?"
"It's very far away, and I don't know when I would be able to come back home. Onee-chan would want me to stay in school, I'm sure." Mamoru laughed. "Besides, it's best that I leave Onee-chan and Aniki to live their newly wedded life. Three's a crowd, and an annoying little brother is most unwelcome right now. Anyway, how about that tour I promised?"
And so Mamoru showed the junior high student all around Kamakura-Kita High School and introduced her to the kendo club as promised. Then they said their farewells and promised to see each other again in the spring. When Mamoru saw the young lady at the induction ceremony that April, he smiled and casually greeted her and her friends.
Mamoru did not realize how due to this greeting and the fact he was the new team captain that his popularity would boost amongst the first-year girls or that the kendo club would receive double the number of female members. He did not realize that in turn would multiply the Valentines Day chocolates he would receive and make Inari most unhappy. Mamoru also did not realize how his interaction with Inari would gradually increase, leading to eventual love confessions and dating.
Sometimes Mamoru wished he had his sister's abilities and could see his future with Naria-chan; but that would have taken the fun out of everything.
Instead, he enjoyed that year of senior high school that he and Inari shared. And he promised to enjoy the future time that they would spend together.
The day was bright and beautiful as a sacred ceremony took place in the Valley of Dragons. Royalty and nobility gathered in the palace square as they observed a wedding everyone had anticipated for the last rotation.
Hitomi had taken everyone's breath away when she had arrived in the capital that morning from Arzas. In front of the palace's towering steps she had stepped out of her palanquin that had carried her all the way from the city gates. And Fanelians could not help but to admire the bride and her lovely traditional dress.
Three heavy layers of silk rested on top of a long underdress; the first overdress was sleeveless with gold and royal blue decorated edges, its purpose to flare the underdress' tall collar; the second overdress was white silk with long sleeves trimmed with scarlet and gold designs, creating a long train; the final sleeveless overdress came over the second, having the back trail down like stylized dragon wings. All of this came together with the heavy brocaded red sash tied at Hitomi's waist, with a blue insert with Fanelia's royal crest. Her delicate veil stayed in place thanks to the intricate clasps attached to her twisted and pinned hair.
As Hitomi ascended the steps, Van waited at top with a thumping heart. Although not as heavily dressed as his bride, the groom also wore an elaborate dress for his wedding day. He wore a high-collared shirt beneath a white tunic, the edges lined intricately with golden draconian designs. Around his waist was a cerulean and gold striped sash, accompanied by Fanelia's royal sword. Over all that was a crimson coat kept together by a golden fastener that had Fanelia's crest worked into the center design.
When Hitomi finally stepped over the last stair, Van took her right hand and led her towards the center square where the high priest waited. The couple kneeled in front of the religious figure and the altar behind him. After blessings from the priest, he motioned the groom and bride to rise while handing them two small cups of wine. Carefully and shyly, Van and Hitomi exchanged wine as they gave their eternal vows to one another.
Then together they stepped past the high priest and towards the altar. While Hitomi offered three different branches to Fanelia's deities, Van cautiously lit and burnt the offerings.
The three branches represented the following: large blossoms for the forest god that blessed Fanelia's land; a branch from the topmost part of the center tree for their dragon god that guarded their nation; and a moon-flower for the Mystic Moon goddess that blessed them with victory and Hitomi.
Once their prayers were done and offered, the couple faced each other for the final part of the ceremony.
Delicately lifting Hitomi's veil, Van could not help but to smile at the blush blooming across his bride's face. His gentle and affectionate smile in place, he picked up the two golden pins from the altar. Shaped as open fans bejeweled with chandelier energist crystals, the pins represented Hitomi's ascent to the throne as much as Van's sword meant his.
After Hitomi's "crowning," the couple faced Fanelia's court. In unison, they gave a slight bow to their subjects, marking the end of the ceremony. The crowd cheered: Fanelia finally had a queen.
Hand in hand, Hitomi and Van promenaded past their guests to take their seats on their thrones waiting for them at the very end of the square. While they paraded past, Allen, Celena, Gaddes, and the Crusade crew bowed in custom. "Hitomi looks lovely, doesn't she?" Celena remarked with sparkling eyes.
"Yes, she looks spectacular today," Allen agreed.
With a dreamy sigh, Celena clapped her hands and said wistfully, "I can't wait to get married. Seeing how happy those two are, I want a wedding too."
Blushing beside her, Gaddes inconspicuously took her hand and stiffly promised, "You'll have your day, too."
The Crusade crew noticed Celena's cheeks pink, which prompted them to cut in between the couple. Again they reminded their sergeant not to get too familiar with the Miss, especially in public. Annoyed, Gaddes snapped that it had been a week since he had spent time with Celena and he did not need them dogs to interrupt what little time they had now. The men continued bickering with their second-in-command while Allen pulled his sister slightly to the side.
"I'm not against you marrying Gaddes," Allen told Celena calmly. "In fact, I would like it. But I must ask if you're willing and ready to deal with this for the rest of your life?" The elder brother nodded his head towards the ruckus known as his men. Already they had tangled themselves ridiculously as they lightly brawled about "their Lady."
Laughing, Celena then retorted, "A better question, Brother, would be if you are."
Allen only sighed at the thought.
Away from the amusing Asturians, hastily the Noble Houses of Fanelia lined up to offer their congratulations to the newlyweds as they sat on their thrones. Amongst the nobles, foreign guests also joined the line to offer blessings.
"Congratulations," Dryden laughed as he shook Van's hand and kissed Hitomi's. "It's good seeing you two finally married."
"Yes," Millerna agreed as she held her eight-moon old son against her.
"It's an honor to have the King and Queen of Asturia present at our wedding," Van said with a nod.
Quietly, the new Queen Consort held out her hands and inquired shyly, "Millerna, may I…"
"Yes, of course." Carefully Millerna handed her child to Hitomi, who held the bundled infant with a maternal grin.
"Hello again, little Prince Renard," Hitomi giggled as she touched the baby's nose lightly with her fingertip. "You've grown some since I last saw you. I'm sure soon, before I know it, you'll be a fine, grown-up prince." She continued to shower love upon Renard as she babbled to the baby.
Van watched his wife from his seat, warmed by her adoration of the little prince. She'll be a wonderful mother to our own children, for sure. I really couldn't have asked for a better woman to be by my side. She'll need her own child soon, it seems.
After a few moments more, Dryden and Mllerna gave Fanelia's king and queen their wedding gift and retreated to allow other guests to offer congratulations. Eventually Duke Chid and Eriya came forward and offered their congratulations as well. Or actually, Child formally congratulated Van while Eriya leapt towards her lady now made queen and cried in her arms.
"Lady Hitomi, I'm so happy you're finally married," the eleven-rotation old cat girl sobbed. "I'm so happy that you finally found your happy ending! I just wish—I just wish that Sister could have seen you this beautiful…"
"Eriya..." Hitomi combed Eriya's hair with her fingers, just as she had the first time they had met. "It's enough that you're here to see all of this for her. It's more than enough, dear one." They held each other in happiness for a little longer. Afterward, Chid then guided Eriya away so that other nobility and royalty could greet the newlyweds.
The next person had Van and Hitomi bowing gratefully. "Congratulations, My King, My Queen," Lord Hiigo bowed. "May your reigns be long and enduringly blessed by the gods."
"Thank you for everything, Cousin," Hitomi said. She wished that she were better with words, especially to the man who had given her away on her wedding day. Hiigo had been the one to climb the palace stairs with her and to safely guide her into Van's hands; furthermore, he and his family for an entire rotation had prepared her for this moment and the rest of her future in the palace. "Without you, I wouldn't have been ready to become Queen."
Chuckling, Hiigo assured, "You would've been ready regardless, especially with how you endeared yourself to our nation."
Indeed, during Hitomi's rotation of training to becoming a proper Fanelian noblewoman, the young lady had dedicated herself to the orphanage and making room there by getting children adopted. Fanelians had witnessed Hitomi's earnest efforts and sincere love for their country—not just their king—and had seen her heart extended to every subject in the kingdom. Under the House of Arzas' guidance and her own labors, Hitomi had destroyed earlier rumors about herself and had convinced everyone that she would make an excellent consort.
"Thank you for fulfilling your duties, Lord Hiigo," Van acknowledge gratefully. "I couldn't have appointed a better guardian for your queen."
"The honor was all ours, Your Majesty." With a mischievous twinkle in his hazel eyes, Hiigo said boldly, "I still stand by what I said, Lord Van. I'm not afraid to start a scandal in Fanelia if it means winning the heart of the one I love."
That made Van scowl, which only startled Hitomi. "Eh?" Looking from between her "cousin" and her husband, the queen inquired, "What is he talking about Van?"
"N-nothing." The king shot Hiigo a warning glare, promising that no such opportunities would come. Understanding, the Fanelian lord gracefully backed away, his congratulations finished.
Hiigo being the last of the nobles in line, Van stood up and offered his hand to his new wife. "Let's go and greet your new subjects, Queen Hitomi." Into her ear, he whispered, "I really like the sound of that."
Gladly Hitomi took his hand and together they descended the palace steps into their people's exclamations. Streamers, flowers, and confetti filled the air as the celebrations began. Lovingly the royal couple mingled with everyone. Nina, orphans, and former orphans with their new families approached Hitomi and offered their congratulations to her.
"We're glad that you've finally become our queen, Lady Hitomi," Sara beamed as she held her mother's hand.
Patting her child's hand, Sara's mother bowed reverently, "We will pray for your long reign with Lord Van." A number of the other adults and parents followed suit.
A child could not help but to add, "And safe delivery when you have children of your own!" Other young ones eagerly added their opinions on the subject. The girls asked if they could watch over the baby prince or princess in the palace or play with the royal child when it was old enough.
Blushing from their earnestness, Hitomi laughed uneasily, "Now, now, wait to do that until it happens." She tried not to catch Van's eye, not wanting him to see how embarrassed she felt.
As more children realized that they could hold their new queen's hand or meet her, they gathered around her, all saying one way or another, "I hope the gods bless you, and you bless us." And then they handed her one of two flowers: either a pure white moon-flower or a pretty pink poppy.
Collecting more and more flowers into her arms, Hitomi stared at the children in confusion, not understanding their meaning. "We were right earlier," Sara finally explained. "You were a goddess from the Mystic Moon. You brought us fortune and happiness."
Recalling her first encounter with the orphans over a rotation ago, Hitomi swiftly protested, "No, that wasn't just me. I—"
"Without you, I don't think we would've found this happiness."
"And you're definitely the most beautiful person I've ever seen."
"I agree to that," Van teased while kissing his wife on the cheek. Into her ear he said, "Now go showoff your beauty to them." He then pushed her slightly forward, encouraging her to mingle more with her adoring subjects. As she entered into the fray, Van stepped back to observe the people reaching out to touch Hitomi's free hand and pleading to have one exchange of words with her or to simply catch her eye.
"Aren't you jealous, My Lord?" Gatos asked as he came up beside him. "I didn't think you'd allow Lady Hitomi to part from your side after you married."
"I'm extremely jealous," the newly wedded man admitted. "But what can I do? I can't keep the people from their new queen. Look at them—they can't get enough of her." Just as Van said, even more people swarmed around Hitomi to congratulate her as the new queen. When the crowd finally swallowed her whole, Van sighed. "Besides, Fanelia can't love my wife more than me—that's for sure. And being her husband, I have special privileges."
Raising a brow, Gatos repeated loftily, "Special privileges?"
"Yeah," Van grinned most gleefully. "I'll know her better and more intimately than anyone else in this world or the next."
You hear that, Brother? Not you, Allen, Hiigo, or any man on Gaea or the Mystic Moon can have Hitomi. She's mine now, and that's the end.
"I never doubted you, Little Brother," a deep voice chuckled. "May the gods bless you, your queen, your reign, and all your descendents. I wish you two much happiness."
Hearing his brother's blessing made Van smile. Closing his garnet eyes, he relayed to the other side with all his heart, Thank you, Brother.
A white dove flew into the sky.
With a relieved huff, Hitomi and Van collapsed onto their large bed after their exhausting day. Curling herself against her husband's solid form, Hitomi managed to giggle, "I can't believe we actually made it."
"Why so surprised?" Van teased his wife while playfully pinching her cheek. "You've been preparing for this day for an entire rotation. Of course you would make it."
Green eyes rolled. "Oh please."
Chuckling at her reaction, Van turned over onto his back and spread his arms across the bed; Hitomi did the same, her head resting on Van's right arm. They lied still for a moment, watching some white moths hover near the dimly lit lamps. "None of your dinner exploded tonight," the new queen noted cheerfully.
"I'm not surprised," Van smirked, closing his eyes. "I heard from a little birdie that if Gatos pulled anything, his wife would make him rue the day he was born."
"Well, a pregnant woman is a force to be reckoned with. I'm sure Fanelia never suspected the calamity that would follow when Merle became pregnant." Hitomi shook her head, thinking of the havoc Merle made daily in the palace. It really was a wonder how Gatos survived the she-cat's mercurial mood swings; then again, it was a wonder how Merle put up with the tom's constant fussing over her condition. "Merle really has her work cut out for her, especially since Gatos told me that he wanted three more children after this."
Van snorted. "I'm sure Merle didn't like that."
"She told Gatos if he wants three more kids, he would have to give birth to them." Something akin to mischief glowed in Hitomi's eyes. "But you can tell she wants more children. She loves the thought of being a mother too much." Under her breath Hitomi added, "But I don't think Fanelia can handle that many children from that troublesome couple."
Don't get jealous, her husband thought with a silent chuckle. You'll be a mother soon enough, I promise.
"She really knows how to bother a person," Hitomi hmphed. She turned onto her side and beat a fist against Van's chest, forcing air from his lungs. "Her, Celena, Millerna, and the other women at court heckled me about what we were going to name our first child all through dinner."
Our first child's name... Van tried to fight back a blush. "A-and have you decided on anything?"
"I figured that it should be a joint effort—don't you think so?"
"So you don't have anything in mind yet?"
"I haven't had the time to think that far into the future, dear husband," Hitomi responded while lightly slapping Van's stomach.
"I thought that's all women thought about," he teased.
Deciding that it was time that she went on the offensive, Hitomi then recalled, "I heard all the comments that you yourself were receiving at dinner."
"Mm? What comments?"
"The ones where everyone warned you about upsetting me, especially with your lack of experience with women," Hitomi explained with a devilish grin. "I think everyone remembers your terrible track record with the opposite sex, especially with me."
"Might I remind you that part of that terrible record is your fault."
"Yes, your fault for being in love with the wrong man." A point that Allen, Dryden, and a number of other men had no qualms about reminding Van. In fact, they had all relished the past, reiterating how Hitomi had been infatuated with Allen and how Van had been far too awkward to get anywhere interesting with the girl he loved.
Of course, that was not lost upon Hitomi. "I'm sure, Van, that's not the reason why all your friends were so eager on giving you advice on how to make love to me."
Van smiled. "It feels good to be teased about married life." He pulled Hitomi close to him and rested his head against hers. "Especially since it means that I finally have you forever." Kissing his wife—how he loved that concept—he chuckled, "I'm rather happy that I can do this whenever and however I want now." To prove his point, he kissed her again, only to have it returned by Hitomi.
They continued tenderly and passionately, fulfilling desires that had been held back all day and all rotation long. Gently Van asked for permission to go further, and Hitomi's slightly parted lips granted him anything and everything he wanted. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer and feeling his thundering heartbeat against her own. Without any thought but to know and feel more, Van's hands roamed the softness that was his wife.
At the sound of Hitomi's gasp, Van jolted awake and stopped all action. He hastily pulled himself away from his wife and sat up. Raggedly he declared, "We need to stop."
Confused and somewhat hurt, Hitomi breathlessly demanded, "Why?"
"We've done enough for tonight. Good night." Van chastely kissed her forehead and laid down on his side of the bed. Pulling the blanket over him, he looked like he meant to sleep. Fairly disappointed by this, Hitomi decided to punish her husband.
She crawled up behind him and seductively whispered into his ear. Touching her wet lips to the back of his neck, she sensually murmured about how empty she felt without Van showering his love upon her. Her slender fingertips danced and slid down his bare arms, leaving fire in their wake. Hitomi could feel Van shiver underneath her touch, so she knew that she affected him.
Unable to bear anymore torture, Van turned around and grabbed Hitomi's wrists and pinned her to the bed. "I promise you that you're going to regret this since we have a week-long holiday ahead of us."
Her breath caught in her throat as she felt his amber gaze burn through her body.
"When did you become so sly?" Van groaned helplessly as he rested his head at Hitomi's neck.
"When did you become so controlled?" she asked in return.
"You know I really will make you sorry later," the king warned gravely. "Now that you're my wife, I will do all that I wanted to do with you ever since I first fell in love with you. Especially now, since I don't have to compete with other men for you." Possessively he growled, "No more kissing or favoring other men—and I mean it. I don't care if it's to save someone's life. I'm a horribly jealous husband."
Snaking her arms around his waist, she planted a poisonous kiss on his neck and under his chin. "Who refuses to love his wife on their first night together."
"Hitomi," Van groaned as he slammed his head against his pillow. "I'm begging you, go to sleep. We're going to be very busy tomorrow, finishing formalities and such. We have a week to play, and I have everything all planned out. So rest while you can."
Holding herself tightly against his bare torso, the young woman mumbled, "I'm afraid."
Timidly she admitted, "I'm afraid to go to sleep."
Tucking some of her honey hair behind her ear, Van questioned why.
"I don't want to go to sleep and wake up to find all of this is just a dream...What if—what if I wake up and none of this happened? What if I'm just dreaming right now? Or what if I forget everything again?"
Van sighed, doubting that they would get any rest tonight: especially with how Hitomi had wound him up earlier or how she fretted now. "You're being silly. After all the trouble we've gone through, you think that this is all just a dream?" He wanted to laugh, but seeing his wife's teary eyes, he knew better than to do so. Instead, Van tucked her lovely body against his and rested his head and hand on top of her soft honey-colored head. Tenderly he assured her, "Don't worry, beloved. This isn't a dream, and you won't forget. Even if you do forget, I'll make you fall in love with me over and over again. We'll end up here, where we are right now no matter what happens."
Hitomi sniffled. "Promise?"
"Have I ever broken my word to you?"
"No." Relieved, Hitomi relaxed into her husband's warmth and snuggled closer. My husband, she thought most happily. He's now my husband, from here until beyond. "Good night, Van." She grinned as she wrapped her arms around him. Ever so quietly, barely a whisper, she said, "I love you."
"I love you," he answered contently as he reached over and put out the candlelight. His kissed her brow before closing his eyes.
As they fell asleep in each other's embrace and dreamed of their promising futures, the King and Queen of Fanelia also recalled all of the hardships and heartbreak that they had endured to reach their paradise. But remembering the pain and suffering did not hinder their smiles or their love.
It was just another memory of yesterday.