Chapter 4: Needle and the Clockwork Boy

Once upon a time, there was a fairy. A good fairy. Not one of the bad fairies, oh no, not the sort who trick you while you are at the well, and then steal away your baby brother. A very good fairy. She lived in the Land Beyond The Clouds with all her fairy brothers and sisters. They slept on beds of white wispy cirrus, and played hide-and-go-seek among the cumulonimbus. They ate only strips of dried sunlight, and clothed themselves in the hides of passing zephyrs.

Now, every fairy has their use, their special purpose. Every fairy has a task to which they, alone, are suited. And this one, she was named Needle, for she could sew anything one might request. It was Needle, herself, who had sewn the wondrous ball gown for Cinderella. She created the flowing robes of emperors, and the silken kimonos of a thousand princesses. Some say that she had even sewn the great black veil of the Goddess Moon, so that she might tease her lover the Sea God with different glimpses of her face each day of the month.

Needle had brought wonderful beauty to the land. And no creature who ever wore one of her creations was unhappy. Never.

Now, it came to pass that around the time that Man learned to fly in great roaring machines of metal and smoke, The Land Beyond The Clouds was conquered by the Dragon King, Ferocious Black. An incredible beast with silver horns and breath of fire, the Dragon King had lived for centuries. He had conquered the forests of the Nymphs, and the great seas of Mermaids. The Dragon King had conquered all the magical creatures, from fairy to gnome, but still he was unhappy.

For, you see, the Dragon King Ferocious Black...was blind. He could see no beauty in the world, and because of this, his heart had turned to coal. With incredible cruelty, he ruled over the Magical Lands. He ordered Nymphs to be stabbed to death with stakes made from the very trees they loved. He commanded Mermaids to be transplanted into pools of tar, where their golden fins would grow heavy...and pull them into the drown in darkness.

And, Ferocious Black took particular delight in pulling the pretty pink wings off of Fairies.

Isn't that mean?

Things went on like this for a long time, until one day, it came to be the Dragon King's 500th birthday. The edict went out to each corner of the Magical Lands that every single subject was to come and present the Dragon King with a present within a moon's time. Those who did not...would be put to death. However, the subject who presented the King with the most beautiful present...would be granted one wish. Anything within the King's power to give...would be given to that person.

Needle knew that this was her chance. If she could present the King with the most beautiful present, she could ask him to free the Fairies. And then, once again, the Land Beyond The Clouds could live joyously, and without fear.

Needle sent her brothers and sisters far and wide to gather what she would need. Blue Diamonds from the mines of the Elder Dwarves for the eyes. Honey from the Queen of the Bees to dye the skin. Petals from the Red Yara Flower (which grows only on ground walked upon by a dying unicorn) for the lips. And, the finest thread in all the land, spun from the dewy cobwebs of spiders to stitch it all together.

Needle worked day and night, her pink fairy wings fluttering as fast as they she flittered around her creation. It needed to be perfect, absolutely perfect.

When she was done, Needle stepped back and asked her brothers and sisters, "Is he not the most magnificent creation I have ever made?"

They were all in agreement. Her creation, tan and smooth, lean and delightful, was quite beautiful indeed. "But, Needle," they said, "Ferocious Black is blind! He will never see your creation. And if he can not see it, how can he fathom the beauty you have made?"

Well, this was a perplexing question, indeed. Needle thought, and thought, and thought. The moon crept high into the sky as the days past. Soon, it would be the night of the New Moon...and Needle would have to present her gift, or be killed by Ferocious Black's Royal Guards.

Needle left her hut and looked up into the sky. "Oh Great Goddess Moon," she cried, "How can I show the Dragon King the beauty of what I have made? What can I do?"

"Moo," said a nearby air-cow. (Air cows, by the way, are not actually eaten by the fairies, but kept to mow down the clouds like lawnmowers. No one wants an unruly cloud!)

"Sssessss..." said the wind.

"Moo." "Sesss." "Mooooo." "Sesss."

"You are a strange one, Oh Great Goddess Moon," replied Needle with a giggle, "But, as you bid, I will seek out the Muses and ask for their help." Needle turned to go back inside. But, before she did, she looked over her shoulder at the moon and asked, "One more thing, Great Goddess Moon... Do you still like the veil I sewed for you? I notice that on some nights, you don't wear it at all, and some nights, you only pull it up half way."

But, the moon would only smile in response, and pulled a curtain of clouds between herself and Needle to hide.

"Oh, you are a cheeky one!" Needle exclaimed, "Still in love with the Sea, are you? Don't worry. Next time I see him, I will give him your greetings."

And, in fact, Needle did as she said. For the next day, she traveled down to the Sea, and she told him of the Moon's lingering love.

"Oh, Great Sea God, the Moon...she pines for you. Every day, she hopes that you look upon her beautiful face to view the love and light that shines only for you."

Well, the Sea was so overjoyed to hear this, he immediately parted to let Needle walk across a dry path to the Island of the Muses.

Once there, Needle went straight to the Palace to ask the Muses if they would help her with the gift. But, the Muses would hear nothing of it.

"Why should we help you, silly little Fairy? You bring us no gifts, no offerings, no sacrifice. Be gone, little Fairy!"

Needle went running from the Palace. How could she have forgotten to bring the Great Muses a gift? She sat down on the steps of the Palace and proceeded to weep loudly. She sobbed and sobbed as she clutched at her wispy hair. What was she to do?

"Why do you cry, little Fairy?" A voice asked.

Needle looked up to find a tall woman garbed all in black standing over her. The woman seemed to be shrouded in veils woven from sadness, and smelled primarily of tears tinged with mold.

"Who are you?"

"I am Tragedy, the Muse," the woman replied as she sat down beside the tiny fairy.

"But, I was in the Palace just now, with all the Muses, and you were not among them!"

"It is true." Tragedy lifted an end of her long veil and gingerly handed it to the small fairy so she could dry her tears. "My sisters banished me from the Palace long ago. I bring only tears and sadness, and they believed it unfitting for a Muse. Now...tell me...why do you cry?"

So, Needle told Tragedy her story, and the Muse of Tears found herself quite moved. "I will help you, little Fairy."

"But, I did not bring you a gift!"

"Ah," said Tragedy, holding up her veil to show Needle the wet spot, "But you have already given me your tears. That is gift enough."

That night, the Moon lay low on the waters, flirting with her lover once again. As darkness took hold of the island, Tragedy snuck into the Palace. She crept down the ornate hallway, trying the doors of each of her sisters, and finding them each locked. Finally, she came to the very last one, and to her surprise, it was open.

The door belonged of the youngest sister, Song.

Tragedy tiptoed inside and put her hand over Song's mouth...and stole her voice.

She had nowhere to put it, however, so she wrapped it up in one of her veils, where it was absorbed along with all the many tears she had dried through the ages. And, when she returned to Needle, this is what she gave to the little Fairy, along with her blessings...that it would help the Dragon King to see the beauty of the world.

On the day he was to receive his gifts, the Dragon King sat upon a throne of gold, a dozen or so dragonet advisors bustling around him, arranging things. Dragonet advisors like to arrange things, you see, and then rearrange them yet again. The primary purpose of an advisor of this sort is to look busy and important...rather than to actually –advise-.

And then the Magical Creatures came, one by one, to present their gifts. The Nymph Leafwind, who had once charmed the Maharajah with her sultry dance, spun and writhed for the Dragon King. The entire court was impressed with the exotic seductiveness of her movements, and more than one called out a marriage proposal when she finished...

But, the blind Dragon King was not impressed.

The Mermaids brought beautiful cloaks speckled with thousands upon thousands of tiny pearls. But, the Dragon King found them bumpy, and not to mention...too heavy to wear.

The Banshees sent howling screams of delight, in celebration of the birth of the Dragon King. But, frankly, absolutely –no one- found these beautiful, and they were subsequently taken out back and fed to the pigs.

"Who is next?" The Dragon King asked.

A dragonet advisor ushered a tiny fairy into the grand throne room and announced, "Needle the Sewing Fairy, your Majesty!"

"And what have you for me, little Fairy?"

Needle lifted into the air and spun around three times, "Your Majesty, I present to you my creation... I call him...Ryuichi!"

Into the hall walked the clockwork boy that Needle had made with her thread and cloth, a life-sized doll with blue diamond eyes, flower lips, and honeyed skin. Everyone was astonished. It looked just like a man! A very beautiful man, but a man nonetheless.

Yes. The courtesans all gasped, the jaws of the dragonet advisors dropped (and most of them forgot for quite a few minutes to look quite as busy as they should have).

Needle's wings came to a stop as she perched upon Ryuichi's shoulder. She pointed at the Dragon King and commanded, "Sing, Ryuichi!"

And sing he did. Ryuichi's mouth opened, and a stream of deeply sad notes, as cutting and fine as glass, floated out of his throat to fill the throne room. No one who heard the song remained unaffected. Many onlookers that day fell to their knees and wept openly, for it was truly, the most eloquently wistful song they had ever heard.

For Needle the Sewing Fairy had taken the veil of tears Tragedy had used to absorb Song's voice, and sewn it into Ryuichi's throat. And sound that passed through his lips was fated to bring tears to the eyes of whoever heard it.

At that moment, the Dragon King whispered, "It's so...shiny! I can see it, glistening in the distance, shimmering and bright! His voice, it shines for me!"

But, what the Dragon King saw wasn't Ryuichi's voice. In fact, what he was seeing...

Were his own tears.

No longer was the Dragon King to be blind to the beauty and majesty of the world. Needle's creation, Ryuichi's song, had lifted the darkness from his eyes, and allowed him to once again see.

In an instant, the Dragon King understood that the song was made from the tears of all the Magical Creatures he had imprisoned, tortured, and killed. It was the song of his own cruelty, his own folly. It was the song of the tragedy he, himself, had made.

That day, the Dragon King freed not only the Fairies, but all the Magical Creatures.

Ryuichi came to live with Ferocious Black in his grand palace, and Needle returned home to her brothers and sisters.

The Lands of the Magical Creatures became peaceful and content under the rule of the now -Benevolent- Dragon King, Ferocious Black.

And they lived happily ever after...

For a while.

It came to pass one day, in the Land Beyond the Clouds, that a Royal Doctor arrived at the house of Needle the Sewing Fairy.

"You must come quickly," he said, grabbing the little fairy exactly where she did not want to be her long pink wings... "A terrible thing has happened!"

"What is it? What what?"

"It's the Dragon King! You must undo what you have done!"

All the little fairies looked at each other, and then they looked at Needle. And Needle looked at the Royal Doctor. Because, really, they needed much more of an explanation than –that-.

"Day and night, night and day, Ferocious Black does nothing but lay in his garden, listening to Ryuichi sing. He will not eat or drink. He will not sleep. He sees no one. He has grown thin and sickly. But, he refuses to let his doctors look at him. Ryuichi's song is the only thing he wants. He is obsessed. Surely our now benevolent and beloved King will soon die if something is not done!"

"I will come!" And so, the Sewing Fairy packed her needle and thread and flew directly to the Royal Palace.

She found the scene to be exactly as the Royal Doctor had described. Ferocious Black lay among great rosebushes, his tail curled around the clockwork boy, Ryuichi. The great dragon had become so thin and weak, that he could do little more than whisper his repeated command:

"Sing Ryuichi. Sing for me, Ryuichi!"

For, the Dragon King's heart had turned from ice. With every song, he grew more despondent, more alone. And yet, he was addicted to the beautiful illusions Ryuichi wove into his songs. Illusions of love and sorrow, of joy and tragedy. He desperately wanted love him the way the figures in Ryuichi's songs loved one another. When each song ended, he found himself hopeless and lost. Only by hearing another song could his heart be warmed once more.

"This is horrible!" Needle whispered as she perched on Ryuichi's shoulder and searched his face. But, of course, Ryuichi didn't answer her, for he was only a clockwork boy and knew nothing of the world beyond Song. Ryuichi merely gazed quietly at the Dragon King, and waited to be commanded, once again, to sing. Ryuichi's whole world was comprised merely of what the Dragon King wanted, what would make him happy. How could a clockwork boy understand that the Dragon King was dying of melancholy induced by the songs Ryuichi sang?

Needle flew over to the Dragon King and yelled at him as loud as she could (which isn't very loud, considering she was a very –small- fairy), "You must stop! Think of your people! Your people who need you...who love you! You must help yourself! These are only songs! SONGS ARE NOT REAL!!!"

Ferocious Black would hear nothing of the sort. He batted at the small, annoying, fairy with his large claws as he shouted, "Sing! Sing for me, Ryuichi!"

Needle picked herself up from where she had landed in a rose, and stomped her foot, causing several pink petals to dislodge and float to the ground. "You are behaving horribly! Why can't you ever be happy with what you –have- instead of chasing after shadows and sparkles! There are so many people who love you... All of the Magical Creatures adore you now! Why do you turn away to try to find something which DOES NOT EXIST?"

"I must have more songs!"

"No!" Needle said, "If you will not listen to reason...I...I'll...take away his voice!"

Needle flew as fast as her little pink wings would take her towards Ryuichi. She wielded her needle like a sword, fully intent on slicing open his throat. Seeing what she intended on doing, Ferocious Black caught the little Sewing Fairy in his claws.

"No one disobeys Ferocious Black!"

With that, the Dragon King's eyes, full of flame and anger, grew wide. Without thinking, he did the most horrible thing someone can do to a fairy. He pulled off Needle's wings.

Pluck. Pluck.

Needle screamed in pain as tiny rivulets of blood poured down her back. The Dragon King lifted the tiny fairy to eye level and began to laugh.

A fairy without her wings, of course, will soon die. In retaliation, the Sewing Fairy leapt from Ferocious Black's mighty hand, her needle held aloft....

And cut out his eyes.

Needle fell to the ground with a "thunk" as Ferocious Black clawed helplessly at his face. "You wanted to see I showed you beauty. But, you couldn't appreciate what you had seen. You were gluttonous, wanting more and more, wanting...what wasn't even real. You don't understand the world at all," Needle said, looking up at the dragon as she crawled away from him on her hands and knees. "You do not deserve to look upon the world until you learn...

The beautiful illusion you have always chased is no more than a fairy tale."

With her dying movements, Needle grabbed her broken wings and began to sew. She took all the fallen pink rose petals that she found around her and wove them into cloth, and used the veins from her own shimmering wings as the thread. Inside her creation, she placed one of the Dragon King's eyes, and then beckoned Ryuichi to join her on the ground of the garden.

As Ryuichi knelt beside his dying creator, she handed him her final work: a fluffy pink bunny, with ears of rose petals, and a heart made from a Dragon's eye. "Take this to the World Below, my little Clockwork Boy. Go to the land of Men and see all that you can see. Sing for them. Love them. Spread beauty in your wake, and magnificence with your every step. When your journey is finished, you will be a king mightier than Ferocious Black could ever have imagined himself to be. He will see your deeds, for his eye will travel with you. And, if you are successful, he will learn that you don't need to chase fairy be happy."

Soon after she said this, Needle the Sewing Fairy died. Her friend, the Moon lifted her up, and placed her in the sky. And sometimes, if you look –very-, -very-, -very- close, sometimes you can see a flash of her needle as she sews in the night. Some people call them "Shooting Stars".... and I...we know better, don't we?

"What –are- you doing down there?" Noriko asked us, as she lifted up the tablecloth to peek underneath.

"Kumagoro is telling me a story!" Ryuichi replied, tilting his head to an impossible angle to peer back at the purple haired woman. "It's a really good one about fairies and dragons and cows! Wanna hear it, na no da?"

I rolled my eyes. All of them. The fake ones on my head and the dragon one locked inside this ridiculous bunny costume. I wasn't just telling him –a- story, I was telling him –the- story. Our story. But, he always forgets. What can you do? Needle didn't give him any brains, none at all. He's just my clockwork boy, made to sing, and little more.

Noriko let the tablecloth drop back on top of us. "No. I still have to fix your shirt. Thank god I have sewing skills or you'd have gone around half your life in rags. I don't even know how you tore this!" Noriko held up the shirt and looked at the overhead light through the tear in the sleeve. With a tremendous sigh, she folded the garment back into her lap and pulled the needle from where she had secured it in her lapel. "You're always falling apart at the seams, Ryuichi. I just don't understand it."

"And you always sew me back up. Right, Noriko-chan? Make me pika pika, good as new?"

"Well, someone has to do it."

Ryuichi peeked both of our heads out from underneath the table. "I really like your costume, Noriko-chan. You look just like a fairy princess with those big pink wings."

Noriko looked up from her sewing and smiled at us. She shook her head and poked her needle back into Ryuichi's shirt. "Why didn't you wear a costume, Ryuichi? I thought you liked dressing up."

"I do. I have my costume on. I came as a –real- boy, na no da. And Kumagoro is dressed up as a bunny!"

Noriko laughed. "Sometimes, Ryuichi, you're too weird even for me."

Right then the door swung open and Mr. K, who happened to be dressed as some sort of war general, strode inside. "Ryuichi! So this is where you ran off to..."

"He tore his shirt," Noriko explained as she tied off the seam. "There. It's fixed for now. Come out and put it on, Ryuichi."

Ryuichi climbed out from underneath the table and handed me to Mr. K while he shimmied back into his shirt. He hopped from right to left, doing a saucy little dance move to test out the shirt, and then threw his arms around Noriko in thanks. With a spin, he plucked me out of Mr. K's arms and then ran down the hall.

Ugh. I wish he wouldn't bounce so much when he runs. It really jostles me. I'm a very delicate creation, made of fairy wings and rose petals and a dragon's eye.

Apparently, it is Tohma's birthday, and –someone- planned a costume party. (I'm not blaming Ryuichi, even though it is –his- fault.) And, apparently, Ryuichi is going to sing.

I still like it when Ryuichi sings. But, I've learned to like other things, too. I like balloons, especially letting them go. Humans don't know where balloons go, but I do. They go to the Land Beyond the Clouds, taking our hopes and dreams to the fairies there. I keep telling Ryuichi to get me a balloon, so I can let Needle know that I've seen enough. She can bring me home now. Really. But, he won't. He says he likes it here, and he wants to stay for a while.

Well, I like other things, too. I like jokes. And playing. Laughter. And Ryuichi's friends. They are all nice people, really, even if some of them have –problems-. I mean even bigger problems than I ever had. (And I drowned Mermaids as a pastime.)

Especially Tohma. He has –lots- of problems.

"Tohma! You have a problem, na no da!" Ryuichi said as he bunnyhopped over to the birthday boy, who was standing on the balcony, looking out at the garden "One of your horns is falling down."

Ryuichi reached up and adjusted the costume horns on top of Tohma's head. "Thank you, Ryuichi-san. I'd be so lost without you."

"That's what I'm here for!" Ryuichi smiled his most genuine and unassuming smile. Compared to it, Tohma's smile looks like a paint-by-number replica of a Renaissance masterpiece. Tohma shook his head and looked back out towards the garden. "You make a good dragon, Tohma. I wish you'd be a happy dragon, instead of a sad one. Don't you like the party I made for you? Even Mika-san dressed up. Though, all those black veils look kinda spooky. Maybe she's planning on being your widow before the night is out."

They both laughed at this, though I am not exactly sure why Mika wanting to be a widow was funny.

"It's a wonderful party, Ryuichi-san. It's just that..." Tohma reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose before forcing yet another smile. "Someone I wanted to come...didn't show."

"But, so many people are here. So many of your friends! We all want to see Tohma-Tohma's happy shiny face. Please don't be sad..." Ryuichi sniffled a little and threw his arms around Tohma, squishing me between them in the process. "I just wanted to make Tohma happy again."

"I know. I...thank you, Ryuichi-san." Tohma leaned his head against Ryuichi's and sighed. Something wet fell on my ear and was immediately absorbed along with so much of Ryuichi's drool. "I just... I was hoping that..."

"You were hoping that tonight was the night when fairy tales came true."

Tohma's chest quaked against me. A sob? A laugh? I do not know which of these it was. But, then I heard him whisper, "Will you sing for me, Ryuichi? You sing. I'll listen. That always cheers us both up, right?"

"Of course!" Ryuichi exclaimed. Like a tsunami, he dragged Tohma back into the house by his wrist and ran over to the makeshift stage. Oh, everyone has sung tonight. Bad Luck. ASK. All the great NG bands. I got shoved into Shuichi's arms as Ryuichi bopped around, looking for the microphone that was, frankly, right in front of his face.

No brains. None at all.

I looked up at Shuichi and nodded at his shiny pink hair, which reminded me greatly of my box of fairy wings back home. "So, which of the fairies made you?" I asked. But, of course, he didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to my question.

"Hey Noriko," Shuichi said as he sat down on a bar stool next to the purple haired faux-fairy. "Sakuma-san is going to sing for Seguchi-san. Check it out!"

Noriko shook her head. "No thanks. I've seen it." She flagged down the bartender and ordered a scotch.

"Huh?" Shuichi scratched his head. If I could, I would have scratched –my- head.

And Noriko just looked at her drink.

"I've seen the way that Ryuichi looks at Tohma while he sings."

"I saw the way Ryuichi looked at him when he sang," Needle told her friend, the Moon. "He kept trying to tell the Dragon King with his songs, kept trying to tell him how much he loved him. But, the Dragon King could only see the illusions Ryuichi wove. The lonelier and more despondent Ferocious Black became, the more he wanted what he couldn't have, the harder Ryuichi tried to tell him that he could have what was right in front of his face. The little clockwork boy had fallen in love with the Dragon King. And the Dragon King was still blind, even though he believed he could see."

"That's so sad," The Moon replied, "I feel that I might just weep."

And, Tragedy the Muse, perched nearby on the North Star, removed one of her veils and handed it to the Moon. "Use this to dry your eyes."

Right then, a balloon floated up to the skies from the land of Men, containing a message from Needle's last creation, Kumagoro. "I want to come home. I want to be among the people who love me. I want to live in the Magical World where beauty is given freely, where wonder is as common as rain, and love isn't hard to find...if you just open your eyes."

Needle took Tragedy's veil from the Moon Goddess and sewed her answer into it using silver thread. When she twisted the veil, the Moon's tears, now rain, fell back to Earth containing Needle's answer:

"Then you are already home."

Thank you for reading "Affairs of the Inanimate". I believe this story has come to an end. I hope you liked this final chapter, even if it was a bit different. I wanted to portray the most obvious a completely different light than others had portrayed him before. I think I have succeeded. Of course, in this story, Kumagoro is the Dragon King, but so is a strange parallel of fate. And, in fact, if you believe Kumagoro...Ryuichi is no more than a clockwork boy...and therefore, an inanimate object, himself. I suppose this chapter really should have been it's own story, but I like it for a big finish.

Thank you, indeed, to all of my reviewers, including: Chu, Aja, aria, Patosan, meepu, Hitomi, Melissa, AkaTsuki, bisexual pygmie, Rula, Clarichan, osaeruyume, Flamingolo, the Harechan, cdg, Obscured Illusions, DemonandGoddess, Thou, firedraygon97, KageKitsune16, KagomeUndomiel, Yma, Lady Insomnia, Aibyouka, Pocketfirefairy, Rinoki Rio, trickynimegurl , Veleda, Renet, A. Krisis, Dark Shuichi, xpyne!, Speller-Sama, morbidbunny4, Happy Utena-Loving Yuki, Shimizu Hitomi, StarryEyedChick, and hopemia.

And, of course, as always I want to thank the hosts of gurabite and the great people of gravi-muse-meet. Without you, I doubt I could continue.

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