A/N: Guess who just finished all 26 episodes of Princess Tutu.

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Act I: The Prince and the Princess

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Once upon a time, there lived a prince who exuberated both beauty and talent. Unfortunately, he belonged to a kingdom where no beauty was ever beautiful enough and no talent was ever talented enough. And no matter how hard he worked, he retired every night as nothing more than an afterthought.

How miserable, he thought, to be condemned to the life of a shadow. What he would give to be acknowledged. Oh what he would give.

Then, as if his wish had been heard, bells rang the next morning. The king called upon his name, and before the kingdom, declared him the rightful heir. What a miracle that was for the prince, who had known no joy greater than that day.

However, his happiness was not fated to last.

As soon as nightfall rose, black feathers spotted the kingdom streets, floating atop puddles of red. The prince awoke to screams and, grabbing his sword, ran to see a horrific sight.

Everywhere lied bodies, of the people, of the king and queen, each of their hearts plucked out of their chests. And standing atop all these bodies was a single, mighty raven. How mighty that raven stood, its claws and beak dipped in the blood.

Frightened, the prince took a step back, just as the raven dove forward. But instead of attacking him, it simply soared into the dawn.

From then on, the prince swore to slay the raven, so that he may return the hearts it had stolen from his people.

Years passed. The prince had travelled across the land, gaining strength and mental fortitude, yet the raven he had not found. Instead, what he did encounter was a princess.

And this princess, having fallen in love with the prince, would beckon to him every day and say, "Dear prince, forget this raven you chase and come be with me. And together, we will be happy."

And every day, the prince ignored her offer.

When word came that the raven was spotted, the prince hurried to chase it. But once again, it was not the raven he found, but the princess.

"Dear prince, if you must chase the raven, then at least take me with you. And together, we will be happy."

And once again, the prince ignored her offer.

More years passed, but the raven remained as evasive as ever. Just as the prince was upon the brink of madness and despair, the princess appeared for the final time.

"Dear prince, listen-"

The princess had yet to finish when the prince stuck his fist into her chest.

With unbearable cruelty, he plucked out her heart. It throbbed in his hand, alive and beating. Blood stained his fingers and dripped down his arm.

To his disbelief, his plan worked, for black feathers descended from the skies. The mighty raven appeared, delighted by the offering. And thus, it dove, to seize the beating heart.

The prince would not let the raven get its way. He unsheathed his sword, and the battle begun. For three nights, they battled, and for three nights, the princess lied abandoned on the ground, bleeding.

The princess stopped bleeding on the third night.

The prince slayed the mighty raven on the third night.

But when he opened its stomach, he noticed something was amiss. No matter how hard he looked, he could not find the hearts of his people.

Once upon a time, there lived a prince who exuberated both beauty and talent. Unfortunately, his beauty was lost and his talent was wasted. He succeeded in his mission, but it was a success in vain.

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Act II: The Princess and the Hero

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Once upon a time, there lived a girl abundant in both diligence and sense. Unfortunately, she belonged to a kingdom where blood mattered more than sweat and grandeur upstaged earnestness. And no matter how hard she worked, she retired every night as nothing more than an afterthought.

How miserable, she thought, to be condemned to the life of a shadow. What she would give to be acknowledged. Oh what she would give.

Then, as if her wish had been heard, birds sang the next morning. The prince called upon her name, and before the kingdom, leaned in to kiss her. What a miracle that was for the girl, who had become a princess that very day.

However, her happiness was not fated to last.

As soon as nightfall rose, black feathers spotted the kingdom streets, floating atop puddles of red. The girl awoke to laughter and, clutching her dress, ran to see a horrific sight.

Everywhere lied bodies, of the people, of the king and queen, each of their hearts plucked out of their chests. Before the bed of the sleeping prince was a single, mighty raven. How mighty that raven stood, eager to devour the prince next.

Frightened, the girl ran forward, grabbing the prince's sword. The raven evaded her first strike, then her second, before disappearing into the shadows.

Alone with the prince, the girl lifted the sword once more. Her beloved prince will never be stolen away, this she swore. The raven will never have him.

And so, with unbearable cruelty, she slammed the sword into the prince, instantly shattering his heart.

Years passed. Despite her best attempts, the prince had left her, to travel the land. She tried to persuade his return, but all her pleas fell on deaf ears.

This caught the attention of a handsome hero who, having fallen in love with the girl, would beckon to her every day and say, "Dear princess, forget this prince you chase and come be with me. And together, we will be happy."

And every day, the girl ignored his offer.

When word came that the prince was spotted, the girl hurried to follow him. Once again, she tried to persuade his return, but all her pleas fell on deaf ears.

The handsome hero, seeing her desperation, lowered his shoulders and offered her this, "Dear princess, if you must have the prince, then let me bring him to you. So together, you will be happy."

And this offer, the girl did accept.

More years passed, but the prince still had not returned to her. Just as the girl was to drown in sorrow, the hero appeared for the final time.

He was beaten and worn, with a large wound to his chest. Under his arm was the prince, who looked to have just partaken in a mighty battle, unconscious but alive.

"Dear princess, listen-"

The hero had yet to finish when the girl ran to the prince and hugged him. So delighted was the girl with the offering, nothing else existed in her eyes. Quiet and forgotten, the hero retreated to the sidelines.

Reunited with her prince once more, the girl did all she could to heal him. For three nights, she nursed his wounds and numbed his madness. And for three nights, the hero watched.

The hero disappeared into the woods on the third night.

The prince awakened on the third night.

But when he opened his eyes, the girl noticed something was amiss. No matter how much she showered him with love, he would never love her back.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl abundant in both diligence and sense. Unfortunately, her diligence was scorned and her sense was forgotten. She loved the prince, but it was a love in vain.

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Act III: The Fox and the Raven

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Once upon a time, there lived a fox who shined in both humor and wit. Unfortunately, he belonged to a kingdom where heroes were praised, not comedians. And no matter how hard he worked, he retired every night as nothing more than an afterthought.

How miserable, he thought, to be condemned to the life of a shadow. What he would give to be acknowledged. Oh what he would give.

Then, as if his wish had been heard, a raven sat upon his balcony the next morning.

"If it is a hero you seek, it is a hero I shall help you become," said the raven.

"And how will you do that," asked the fox.

"By becoming the villain," replied the raven.

And so, the raven would cause problems in the kingdom, of which the fox would then jump to the rescue. And over time, the raven helped the fox transform into a handsome hero that garnered the kingdom's praise.

Only, his happiness was not fated to last.

You see, the fox, now a hero, made two companions across his adventures.

The first was a prince who exuberated both beauty and talent. While the prince existed, there was no feat the fox could do to outshine him.

The second was a girl abundant in both diligence and sense. While the fox wanted her so, she had no interest in him or his follies.

One day, the raven and the fox staged their grandest act yet. The raven was to kidnap the girl, so the fox could come sweeping in and save her. Once the prince witnessed such magnificence, he would have no choice but to acknowledge the fox as superior. Once the girl was in his arms, she surely fall in love with the fox.

To the fox's dismay, their act was foiled when it was not he who saved the girl, but the prince. And the girl, instead of falling in love with the fox, grew skeptical of him.

So one day, she decided to tail the fox and peeked into his home. A gasped escaped her lips when she saw the fox talking to the raven.

Before she could flee, black feathers blinded her vision. The fox stood in the way of her path, eying her with pity.

"You know, the story would have been perfect, had you just accepted your role and loved me."

The girl struggled, but her struggles were futile. The books she had been clutching fell before her feet.

Finally, her struggles came to a stop, for the fox had ripped out her soul.

"From now on, you accept your role. And your role is to fall in love."

"Fall in love?" echoed the girl.

"Yes, you are a princess. And the job of a princess is to be rescued. To love and worship her rescuer."

"To love and worship… my rescuer…"

Pleased, the fox sent her off. To the raven, he said they would restage their last act. The fox would make sure he was the one to save the girl this time.

The raven said nothing.

Meanwhile, the girl walked through the kingdom streets. Lost in a daze, she would have been hit by a passing cart, had someone not grabbed her wrist.

"Be wary of your step," said the prince. "I will not be there to always rescue you."

"Rescue…?"

She looked up, and the prince's frown deepened. Something was off about her, to stand before him without any books, books she kept as intimately on her person as he did his sword.

The longer he looked at her, the more his expression softened. Like him, she worked so hard. Worked so hard only to go nowhere.

Leaning in, he kissed her forehead and said, "Go home and sleep away your troubles."

From atop the watchtower, the raven watched and said nothing.

Also watching were the king and queen. In this kingdom, there was always someone more beautiful, someone more talented. But a kind heart was rare indeed. Not many held an instinct so strong, to protect the people without any expectation of return.

They asked for the bells to be rung the very next day.

From the streets, the fox watched the prince be crowned and blessed. The fox watched the girl shower the prince with affection.

Controlling his breath, the fox revised their act. The kingdom would be in peril. As soon as the night fell, streets would be painted with puddles of red. A hero would come save the princess. Only this time, it would not be from the evil raven, but from the evil prince.

The raven said nothing.

Finally, it asked, "And how do you plan to turn a good prince evil?"

Now, the fox, being no short of cunning, said, "Why, by shattering his heart, of course."

And just as he said it, the opportunity arose. The prince was stepping down, unguarded. The fox transformed his appearance into that of a harmless human, then jumped to ambush him.

But before his attack could land, black feathers blinded his vision. The raven stood in the way of his path.

Alarmed by the sudden presence of the raven, the prince drew his sword. And with his sword, he pierced the raven from behind, instantly shattering its heart.

As the raven fell, it told the fox, "If it is a villain you seek, it is a villain I shall help you create."

By nightfall, the kingdom had gained an evil prince. And how mighty this evil prince was, leaving the streets drifting with feathers of black.

The fox heard a cry and, gasping for breath, ran to see an incredible sight.

You see, the fox made two companions across his adventures. Both were now fallen on the floor. Both were now in dire need of a hero.

And so, for the many years to come, the fox set out to rescue them.

It turned out to be tedious and dreary work. So tedious that he long stopped caring about winning the girl. He long stopped caring about surpassing the prince. He just wanted the story to be over.

Once upon a time, there lived a fox who became a hero. Unfortunately, the newer generations lost interest in hero stories, preferring to laugh at comedies instead. Old and drunk, he attempted to be funny again, but it was an attempt in vain.

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Epilogue

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Once upon a time, there lived an author who excelled above all others in storytelling. Unfortunately, he died.

And thus, his greatest work yet was left incomplete. His two sons, who had inherited this work, both tried to continue the story. Both messed it up epically.

The older son, having no brain, forgot to give the hero a conscience.

The younger son, having no spine, failed to guide the plot toward a satisfying end.

In the end, the once great work was tossed into the trash, the memory of it becoming nothing more than an afterthought.

That is, until one day, the story was rediscovered by a janitor. The janitor shared the story with her daughter, who then shared it with her friends. Those friends went on to scatter the story across the world.

And so, all the characters, once forgotten, returned to life once more. But it was no longer the author's great work, nor the work of his two sons.

Instead, it became a work of the people, written and rewritten, told and retold.

Through them, the prince had found his heart, unspinning tales of passion and romance. The princess had found her soul, set off on adventures of wonder and thrill. The hero had found his conscience, moving audiences with gestures so sincere and poignant.

For the one story that left them forsaken, they found a million others in which they could finally live happily ever after.

The end.