Another slow-to-form sisterly relationship, but this one is a bit different than the one between Hitomi and Millerna. Hitomi's developing partnership with Van did cause Merle some pain, partly because Merle felt useless and excluded, and also because she could see the strange changes in Van that Hitomi's actions had caused. Oddly enough, Merle realized that Hitomi and Van shared a special bond before they knew it themselves, and she was the one who finally encouraged Van to seek out his lady love. To some degree, she acted as Hitomi's protector and confidant. Merle was always the first to raise the alarm whenever Hitomi went missing, which occasionally corresponded with Van's disappearances. Hitomi's feelings towards Merle are a good deal less complex since there are clear "big sister-little sister" overtones to their shared conversations. Hitomi may have developed some respect for Merle's role as Van's only childhood friend, while Merle eventually learned to trust and accept Hitomi as the only person capable of making Van happy in a way that she could not. When Hitomi leaves to head back to Earth, we see Merle waving and saying goodbye.