The Hitomi of Fateful Confession was a passenger being swept along in Van's wake. The Hitomi of Fateful Decision now knows enough to have some say in her fate.
The Hermit represents a search for deeper truth, a search that often needs to be conducted alone.
By the time of Fateful Decision Hitomi has learned some of those truths and now is the time to apply them.
Fateful Decision apparently** opens about halfway through Fateful Confession with Hitomi awakening in the nurse's Office with Amano watching over her. Naturally enough Hitomi wonders if she's dreaming or if she's come back.
The scene then cuts to the girls clubroom where Yukari is sorting out some stats as the other girls head off. Yukari sticks around so she can "butt in" on Hitomi and Amano but the scene ends with a pensive look on her face.
As the scene changes to a voiceover from Amano it appears that Hitomi was describing her experiences on Gaea (which I don't recall occurring in the original episode) and Amano is thinking of it as quite a romantic dream. Much of the scene in the nurse's office is very similar but Hitomi is different. The expression on her face shows that this is quite different for her.
For a start Hitomi is much more perceptive this time around and picks up on Yukari's crush on Amano almost immediately.
There are other subtle differences going on. Hitomi doesn't actually do the reading but the wind blows the Tower into her hands anyway and the next card is again the Ace of Serpents.
On a couple of occasions (including an amusing classroom anecdote about Newton) we see a white feather appear and disappear, although it is clear that only Hitomi can see it.
Back in Asturia Hitomi's disappearance is being discussed as the Zaibach army sets up a perimeter around Asturia. In Zaibach itself the failure to detect Hitomi's signal is causing some unrest, and is apparently ruining the machine.
It would appear that Zaibach need Hitomi, but also need Hitomi not to be too close to Van. Good luck with that. :)
Another beam of light lands in the outskirts of Palas, signs of a discarded uniform, and a girl, a young woman, wandering lost in a forest.
Allen is at the family home talking about Hitomi over a bottle of wine to his dead father. For someone that proposed marriage in
Storm Premonition he is remarkably calm. Alternatively Hitomi's removal has broken the influence of Operation Golden Rule of Love and with a little introspection he is again seeing his lost sister Celena in Hitomi.
Of course that is when the young woman who is apparently Celena walks in.
On earth Hitomi doesn't want to go back but is grieving for Van somewhat.
On Gaea Van is also grieving but doesn't want to admit it. This is a pointless exercise with Merle around, especially as Merle knows and loves Van enough to both see and speak the truth. This is a quiet, moving, scene in which I feel sorry for Merle even as I'm applauding her courage and honesty.
At his father's grave Allen is introducing the still silent Celena to Princess Eries. He asks Eries to look after Celena when a butterfly draws Celena's attention. Oblivious, Allen and Eries continue their discussion and Eries agrees to look after Celena in the palace.
Celena catches and kills the butterfly. Unfortunately, Jajuka isn't here to stop her as he did in The Black Winged Angel.
And then Celena changes, calling out in pain. The changes are a complete physical change with her shoulders becoming broader and more muscular.
It is Dilandau* who stands up and in a panic calls for Jajuka. Jajuka arrives in a cloaked guymelef and carries Dilandau away.
Folken doesn't know Dilandau's background but thinks he is one of the sorcerer's experiments in altering fate.
Zaibach are attempting to bring Hitomi back to Gaea.
Hitomi is going through with the first kiss for a timed run with Amano again but is doing so as a deliberate attempt to see Van again. Her apology to Yukari is significant here.
Van is attempting to fly to the Mystic Moon on Escaflowne.
All the pieces are in place as Hitomi takes her position on the starting blocks and Yukari turns on the light.
It may be the romantic in me but I think that Zaibach's contribution is minimal in this, that it is Hitomi and Van driving this.
As before Amano returns the pendant (but not her bag) just in time.
Van and Hitomi return to Gaea to the middle of a battlefield.
*Rambling about Dilandau and Celena
As seawasp alluded to here, the whole Dilandau is Celena storyline does raise some vexing gender issues but I'm not entirely sure how to express them.
The sorcerer's experiment has genetically, but unstably, changed Celena from female to male. When the change happens you effectively see what Celena would have been had she been born a boy. Obviously being forced into this in an extremely painful way (there have been some hints of this in occasional flashbacks of Celena) has been a major factor in Dilandau's insanity.
It is hardly surprising that some of the insanity has leaked into Celena, the almost joyful killing of butterflies and snails is not normal behaviour.
TV Tropes identifies Have You Tried Not Being A Monster as a sort-of gender/homosexual equivalent to the Fantastic Racism allegory/metaphor (cf the "Have you tried not being a slayer" line in Buffy The Vampire Slayer). This example is almost an inversion of sorts as Celena has been forced to become the monster, and is resisting it.
I could just say that the message here is to respect personal choice in gender, which is true as far as it goes. However I'm left with the feeling that leaving it there is somehow is a cop out on my part.
There's more to it than that and I'm not sure what. On this topic, possibly more than any other in this series of posts, happy to take comments and hear what people have to say.
**So where did Hitomi really go?
Getting back to the episode itself this is the million dollar question: did she simply go back in time, or did she go somewhere else?
To go back in time would mean that Van never killed the dragon. I'm also not sure what it does to the scenes with Hitomi's mother in The Guided Ones, or with Hitomi's pager in The Day the Angel Flew.
For what it's worth I think that The Hermit card is the key, that Hitomi actually went to some sort of pocket alternate universe that replayed those events with limits, and then disappeared when she was finished with it.
That in essence, Hitomi was on a solitary quest as a Hermit seeking the understanding of who she is, and needs to be.
Day 1 - Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 - The Girl From the Mystic Moon / Ace of Serpents
Day 3 - The Gallant Swordsman / Death
Day 4 - The Diabolical Adonis / The Hanged Man
Day 5 - The Seal of the Brothers / Judgement
Day 6 - Capitol of Intrigue / Justice
Day 7 - Unexpected Partings / The Chariot
Day 8 - Sub vs Dub
Day 9 - The Day the Angel Flew / Temperance
Day 10 - Memories of a Feather / Ace of Birds
Day 11 - The Blue-Eyed Prince / Knight of Beasts
Day 12 - Prophecy of Death / The Devil
Day 13 - The Secret Door / High Priestess
Day 14 - Red Destiny / The Emperor
Day 15 - The Gender of Escaflowne
Day 16 - Dangerous Wounds / The Magician
Day 17 - Lost Paradise / The Star
Day 18 - The Guided Ones / Wheel of Fortune
Day 19 - The Edge of the World / The Empress
Day 20 - The Gravity of Destiny / The World
Day 21 - Operation Golden Rule of Love / The Fool
Day 22 - False Vows / The Moon
Day 23 - Reaction of Fortune / The Hierophant
Day 24 - Destiny, Free Will, and Personal Responsibility
Day 25 - The Black Winged Angel / The Sun
Day 26 - Storm Premonition / Ace of Beasts
Day 27 - Fateful Decision / The Hermit
Day 28 - Zone of Absolute Fortune
Day 29 - Eternal Love
Day 30 - Looking Back at The Vision of Escaflowne