Scars on the Heart
A story inspired by The Vision of Escaflowne

By Sarah Dove

Chapter Six

Celena spent that night on a divan in Princess Millerna's apartments. She had felt strange all day; on one hand, immensely relieved that she was no longer to be confined, that she could look out a window or see a clock any time she wanted, that she could see Allen whenever she liked without going through the iron Ladies, that Millerna continued to smile at her and speak pleasantly, as she would to a normal, nice person who had gotten into trouble through no fault of her own. On the other, she seemed to have shrunk somehow, and she felt very small and bewildered in the world. It was like going from a dark room into bright sunlight, but the dazzled feeling did not wear off. She lay on the couch with her hands clasped under the pillow, behind her head, and tried to put things together in her mind. Thoughts rose and fell, changed places in her head.

I think I've been shrinking like this ever since I changed over. A bit at a time. In the end there'll be nothing left of me. But what is there of me to be shrinking in the first place? My childhood memories? I have them all, like pressed flowers in a scrapbook. In fact, I remember making scrapbooks when I was small, very clearly. Nothing is happening to my memory.

Dilandau had had a nightmare in which he was trapped in a suit of armour which kept getting smaller. He could not take it off and he could not die, even when it broke his bones. This nightmare had come just once, during a period of preparation before his first Alseides flight, while he was still getting used to working with the machine, and once he knew the enemy he had simply refused to dream it again. It was a stupid dream, based on an irrational fear.

Days slip away and I haven't gotten anything done. What did I do all day today? Talked with Allen about what happened while we were apart, tried on new clothes, got measured for things, had lunch, felt wiped out after lunch, slept for a long time, which was stupid because I bet now I won't be able to fall asleep for ages, met my lawyer…

The lawyer had come as a surprise to her. Lawyers did not figure prominently in Zaibach society, and as a child she had not really been aware they existed, so she had no firm preconceived idea of what they should look like, but even so she had certainly not expected long hair tied up with a scarf whose pointed ends reminded her of rabbit ears. For someone who was supposed to defend her life with mere words, he seemed awfully confident and cheerful. When Millerna heard he was coming, she refused to stay in the room.

'I understand,' Allen had said softly. 'It must be too painful for you.' The remark was not directed at Celena, so she was not sure if she should be listening. She looked out the window, tried to find shapes in the clouds. Unfortunately, they were fluffy cumulonimbus whose curves reminded her of the carapace of an Oreades.

'I don't know about painful,' Millerna said. 'But I don't think it would be a good idea for us to see each other again just now. I'm more worried about how he would feel.'

What happened there, anyway? Celena wondered. Neither her own memory nor Dilandau's was any help to her on this. Is the lawyer an old lover of Millerna's? I'd somehow had the impression Allen was the only man she was involved with.

She wanted to ask, but the opportunity did not arise. Millerna went out after that conversation, and the lawyer arrived almost immediately afterwards, giving Celena something else again to wonder about. He hardly seemed like Millerna's type, so perhaps the lover hypothesis was wrong, but then what was he to her? She decided to let Allen do the talking.

'Celena,' Allen said, 'this is Dryden Fassa, who will represent you in court. Dryden, this is my sister Celena Schezar.' He was very polite about it, in a way that Celena was beginning to think meant he was not very happy. The lawyer bowed and gave her a crooked, curly smile. Celena wondered whether she should get up from her seat and curtsey back, but Allen placed a hand on her shoulder, pressing down ever so slightly, and said to Dryden, 'Please excuse her for not rising. She has not been well, and should not exert herself.' The pressure, Celena understood, was a cue. It did not seem to her that getting up and curtseying counted as exertion. Allen was being overprotective again.

'Oh, no problem,' said Dryden cheerfully, and sat down on the sofa next to Celena. Allen stood still for a moment, then moved over to sit in a chair opposite. Did that not go the way he wanted? Celena wondered. I always have to guess. I never know answers for certain.

'You and I will have to get to know each other quite well, Celena,' Dryden said, interrupting her thoughts. 'Issues of character are going to be very important in this trial, so I have to understand you to represent you. And from the way you stared at me when I came in I think you want to know more about me.'

'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare.' Why am I apologising?

'It's quite all right. I was flattered.' Allen frowned at that, and Celena wondered what on earth she could say. 'I mean, let's face it, I'm pretty different to most of the men you've seen, I expect?'

'Well, it's not that you're different,' Celena said carefully, wishing Allen would say something to help her out. It was all very well to decide to let someone else do the talking, but then it helped if they actually talked. 'You just, um, you just have a different manner.'

'I have to say I'm surprised at yours. What happened to racing around in trousers getting into sword fights?'

'Who told you about that?' Allen asked, a little sharply.

'I spoke to your sergeant,' Dryden said, equally mildly. 'He gave me a glowing account of a very vigorous, almost aggressive young woman. And here I find her looking like a damp cat. It's hard to believe it's the same person. I hope we're not talking about a serious illness. What exactly is the problem?'

'Women's trouble,' Allen said, before Celena could tell him.

'That isn't very informative.'

'Oh, it was awful,' Celena said, suddenly anxious to tell the story. 'You never saw so much…' she trailed off as Allen glared at her. 'What?' she asked, beginning to feel annoyed. 'Can you not just say don't tell him about the blood instead of giving me meaningful looks I don't know the meaning of?'

'Blood?' said Dryden, looking concerned.

'Yes, blood. Heaps of it. It's stopped now and I'm feeling better,' Celena said firmly. 'It's not going to happen again.' I will it not to happen again.

'Good!' said Dryden. 'Good. We'll need you strong and well. You're looking brighter already. Hey, Allen, say something else to annoy her. It makes her talk.'

'I'm not trying to annoy her,' Allen protested.

'Does he annoy you, Celena?' Dryden asked solicitously.

'Well, a bit. Sometimes. Because he fusses.' Celena darted an apologetic look at Allen.

'Do you hear that, Allen? You fuss,' Dryden reported.

'Of course I heard that! Celena, you must understand that I am acting in your best interests.'

'Do you even know what I'm interested in?'

'That isn't what it means,' Allen began patronisingly, but Celena cut him off.

'I tried to explain to you. I can't match up to an idea you've got. And yes, you're nice, and yes, you're kind, and yes, I love you, but …' she faded off. 'I'm sorry. I shouldn't get angry with you… I'm not even sure what I'm angry about.'

'Oh, pooh. It was getting good. What are you interested in, incidentally?' Dryden looked at her keenly.

'Are you trying to stir up trouble?' Allen asked. Dryden shushed him and pointed at Celena.

'Swimming,' Celena said quickly, because Allen was glowering, 'I think I'm quite interested in swimming. And fencing. And dancing. I want to learn to dance properly.'

'You will,' said Dryden. 'I promise. I've found out that your hearing will be presided over by Justice Keller. He has a daughter about your age. That may work in our favour. What I need you to do is be good. If we can give a perfect report of your conduct since returning to, uh, female form, that will really help.'

He went on to outline his strategy for arguing the case. There was simply no precedent for anything of the kind, he said, so they were going to have to push for a landmark decision. At least there was no precedent against them. He talked on and on, making little jokes, and Celena listened dutifully. After a while, she reached over and took Allen's hand, trying to make things better. He smiled at her, but she still felt a tightness in her chest.

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