Disclaimer: Escaflowne belongs to Bandai, Sunrise, etc.

Author's Note: A sequel chapter...and I kept it PG.



Ch. 2 "Burnt"

All through dinner I thought about Folken. He lingered in my mind: I saw his beautifully sculpted face in reflected in the shiny windows. I saw him in the candlelight. I heard his voice whispering in my ear...how I wished dinner were over quickly...

"Hitomi? Hitomi, are you listening to me?"

My spoon clattered against the porcelain plate. The sound reverberated through the large room, drawing everyone's eyes to me. I blushed.

"Yes, Millerna?" I said in a small voice.

"Are you feeling quite alright Hitomi?" She asked with a slight frown. I nodded quickly, wishing I could be gone from the table. Suddenly, Van stood up from his seat, his chair scraping heavily against the floor. "She's tired. Here Hitomi, I'll take you back to your rooms." Van's voice was flat and had a slightly brittle edge to it.

"But Van-"

"Hitomi, you're tired."

I nodded, feeling wretched for making A Scene. Allen gave me a kind look, which annoyed me somehow. I said my good nights to everyone and walked out with Van by my side. I felt uneasy at his sullen silence, he refused to meet my eyes as we walked down the dimly lit corridors of the palace. I sighed, "Van what's wrong?"


"I can tell you're mad about something. What is it?" I stopped walking and watched him. He refused to look at me. I reached out my hand and touched his shoulder but he jerked away, as if burnt by my touch. "Enough with the pretenses!" He gritted out. I looked at him in bewilderment; what was going on? "I know you went to see Folken today!" His eyes were hard, furious. My heart stopped and then fluttered faintly. I drew in a deep breath.

"I see nothing wrong with me seeing Folken." I kept my voice low. He clenched his jaw and frowned at me fiercely.

"I forbid you to see him anymore." His voice was imperious. I could feel my calm slipping away from me.

"You...forbid *me*? Give me one good reason why I shouldn't see Folken!"

"He's dangerous. Obviously. No gently bred lady would ever think of being caught consorting with my brother." How snotty he sounded then. How utterly royal of him. Since my arrival on Gaea, this was perhaps the first time I was reminded of our class difference. Despite his rough attire and casual manners ... Van was still of royal blood. He had ancestry, he had lineage, he used to have a kingdom too, before it got destroyed. He was a great idiot if he thought he could bully me into obedience.

"You're over-reacting." I said finally.

"And you are being stubborn!"

"Van, enough! I'm *tired* of you interfering in my life...you, and Allen, and Millerna. You're all the same," I told him heatedly, "you're all just using me for my powers and ordering me around like some sort of machine, well I won't take it anymore. Folken would never have tried to order me about like this." I told him. Perhaps it wasn't very nice of me to compare him to his brother, but I was truly tired of his sulkiness. Grow up Your Highness, face the music. Earth girls are different from your usual Gaean fare.

Van was silent. His bangs had fallen into his eyes again, hiding them from me. Suddenly, he took several paces back. "I'm not my brother." I heard pain in those few words, and my heart softened. I could never stay mad at anyone for long. "No, you're not." I confessed to him, without rancor. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then closed it again. Stiffly, he turned and walked away.

Van, why do you resent your brother so much? Can't you see that he's truly changed? That he's abandoned his past life in Zaibach and wishes simply to start a new one here in Asturia...here where his little brother now lives. Oh Van, I wish you would be more open with me...I just don't know what to make of you.