Princess Tutu
~Kapitel des Vogel~
~鳥の章~
(Chapter of the Bird)

31. AKT "Death and the Maiden"
~ Der Tod und das Mädchen ~

- Part 2 -

For some reason, Ahiru had seemed genuinely afraid of going to the lake when Fakir had suggested it. When asked for an explanation, all that Fakir could make out from Ahiru was that she had been at the lake and heard voices, and was really scared by them. Still, it was suspicious enough that Fakir was convinced that there they would find the answer, and when reminded of this, Ahiru seemed determined to conquer her fears and go with Fakir as well as Autor and Sagi to figure out this mystery.

When the four of them had finally reached the banks of the lake, Ahiru hopped out of Fakir's hand, and stood close to Fakir, her eyes watching the waters nervously. Even Sagi sidled up beside Ahiru despite herself, and Autor subtly peeked at the lake from behind Fakir.

The usually crystal clear lake was now a dark murky hue, as if within the lake's water no light could escape. Even the fog surrounding the lake had become the color of ash, oppressive and forbidding in its thickness. The chill around them made the four of them shiver, even when in town the weather had been relatively warm.

"D…do you hear that?" Autor asked between shivers.

A quiet, ominous moaning hung in the dank air. Ahiru recognized it as similar to that which she had heard the previous day, except this time it seemed even more unsettling and haunting.

"It's as if someone's…dying," Fakir said, frozen in place. "Painfully."

Then, a different, gentler voice whispered from somewhere nearby, "A…Ahiru-chan? Sagi-chan? You're here, aren't you?"

"That voice sounds familiar…" Autor said, stepping from behind Fakir towards where it was coming from.

A translucent cloudy figure appeared from the lake's waters. Her flowing watery dress was ripped and speckled with what looked like diluted black ink. The Lake Spirit's expression was bleak and haggard, and she looked very ill.

Ahiru was shocked to see the Lake Spirit in such a state. Though it only came out as quacks to Fakir and Autor, Sagi and the Lake Spirit heard her say, "Oh my gosh! What happened to you?"

"My magic is being sapped away by the one who's trapped in the bottom of the lake," the Lake Spirit said. "The Maiden of Despair who lingers there has become restless and disturbed, in a way she hasn't been before."

"So that's why their pendants aren't working, and why they can't turn human," Fakir said. "How can we fix this? Can we get rid of whatever's causing it?"

"You'll have to go to where she is, down there," the Lake Spirit said, looking weary. "You'll find her resting place, and whatever is haunting her needs to be removed."

With an exhausted sigh, she slipped back under the waves with these words: "I will show you the way; that's the most I can do for you now…"

Then, waves began lapping up against the lake shore, as an invisible hand traced a line of ripples to a point out at the lake center where a shallow whirlpool marked the spot.

o-o-o-o-o

The oars of the boat creaked as the small wooden boat carrying Autor, Fakir, Sagi, and Ahiru rowed towards the whirlpool. As Fakir stayed his hands, the whirlpool vanished, having served its purpose.

"Quack, quack," Ahiru said, pointing at herself and then at the water with one wing, indicating that she was going down to investigate.

Fakir nodded grimly. "Be careful, and come straight back up if you see anything," he said before Ahiru gave him an affirmative quack and dived beneath the surface.

While the group waited for Ahiru to resurface, Sagi, out of courtesy for Autor's bird allergies, perched herself on the other end of the boat from him, using her height to act as a sort of lookout for the lake's shores.

Fakir was anxious about Ahiru going alone to the bottom, having no idea what she would face down there, but as a duck Ahiru was most suited to check the premises, being the best diver of them. Still, Fakir could not help put stare at the water fretfully as time ticked by.

It was less than a minute, during which for Fakir it seemed much longer, before Ahiru resurfaced.

"Ahiru! Are you all right? How was it?" Fakir asked, bending toward the rim of the boat to look at her.

Though Ahiru appeared unharmed, the expression on her face was haunted and fearful. Upon seeing this, Fakir held out his arm and Ahiru flew out of the water and perched on it gratefully, seeming comforted by being close to him.

"Was it that bad?" Autor asked, frowning. "What did you see down there?"

After a pause, trying to compose herself, Ahiru first crossed her wings in front of her below her torso.

"The mime for 'death'…" Fakir said, his eyes narrowing.

Then Ahiru attempted to use her wings to make a box in the air, and gestured that something was in this box.

"Death…in a box?" Autor furrowed his brow, not familiar with Ahiru's mimes.

"A coffin?" Fakir said, his eyes widening as Ahiru nodded to confirm.

"A coffin, at the bottom of the lake?" Autor said. "At least we know what doesn't belong there. Is that supposed to be where the Maiden of Despair is?" he asked, crossing his arms and looking contemplative. "The story of the Maiden who was buried in the lake has been around for generations. But if she's been here all this time, why is her presence causing problems now?"

"If this coffin is what's causing the magic to be stifled, we'll have to get it out to restore the lake to normal," Fakir said, grabbing the rope off the hull of the boat. "I'll dive down with Ahiru and tie this around it, and when we come back up, we'll pull it out and row it to shore."

Autor pursed his lips, hesitating uncharacteristically. "I'm not one to be superstitious, but are you sure you're up for coming face to face with a ghost?"

Fakir nodded. "This is the only recourse we have." Turning around, he added more quietly, "…and this isn't the first ghost I've faced."

Autor sighed and acquiesced, "Just remember to keep your head. I'll be here holding onto the rope," he said, grabbing a hold of one end of the rope. Sagi made a short squawk-like sound from her perch on the boat's bow and waved one of her wings, as if to wish the two of them luck.

"Quack," Ahiru said, holding up a wing before Fakir could dive in.

"What is it?"

Ahiru hesitated, glancing off to the side, anxious. Then, she made the box mime again, touched one wing to the other and then recoiled, wincing, before looking back at him with worry.

"The coffin…it hurts? If you touch it?" Fakir asked, puzzled.

Ahiru nodded gravely, worry still in her blue eyes.

"It'll be fine," Fakir said. "I'm no stranger to pain, so whatever it might do, I can handle it."

Ahiru sighed, apparently not convinced. Still, she nodded solemnly and jumped into the water, glancing up and ready for Fakir to follow her.

After taking a breath, Fakir jumped over the rim of the boat and into the water with a splash.

o-o-o-o-o

Even though the lake wasn't all that deep, when he got within sight of the coffin, the water around him became as dark as if he were deep in the ocean, and the water felt as cold as ice. The only reason he could see anything around him was a faint yet menacing crimson glow emanating from the coffin sitting on the lake floor below him. Were it not for whatever magic that allowed him to breathe in this place, Fakir knew he would likely end up under the waves of the lake forever, just like the Maiden who was laid to rest here countless years ago.

Remembering Ahiru's warning about touching the coffin, he braced himself for whatever might come as he swam toward it, his hand gripping the rope reaching forward.

When Fakir's fingers brushed the dark wooden surface of the coffin, something slashed across his midsection, pain searing through him as he felt himself being torn in half.

He nearly swallowed water despite having mentally prepared himself for the reaction. The young man fumbled to keep a grip on the end of the rope in his hand, the shock having stopped him in his tracks and thrown off his focus.

Then, he felt a gentle feathery poke on his left shoulder. He turned to see Ahiru hovering at his side, her blue eyes alarmed and worried.

Heartened by seeing her at his side, Fakir looked back at the coffin and spotted a tarnished brass handle on which he could tie the rope around. He gathered his courage, and then threaded the rope around the handle, all the while ignoring the flashes of pain and mental images of being dismembered.

He yanked a tight square knot around the handle, and headed for the surface. Once Fakir surfaced, Autor helped him back into the boat. After Fakir caught his breath, he grabbed the rope and Autor began rowing back to shore. The rope was more than long enough to reach the bottom of the lake, so by the time they reached the shore and got out of the boat, they still had to pull the rope out a bit before the rope became taut.

When it did, the rope needed both Fakir and Autor pulling as hard as they could to get the coffin to move. It didn't seem stuck on anything, but rather it was as if someone was pulling against them, like an eerie tug-of-war.

Their efforts did not go unrewarded though; as the coffin was pulled out of the lake, the dank fog began to lift, and the sunlight began to shine through, warming the air around them.

Finally, with a final heave, the coffin was pulled onto the sandy shore. Gradually the weather around the lake cleared, and its water was cleansed of the shadowy taint.

"Quack!"

Ahiru and Sagi glanced at their pendants, and like the lake itself, the gems had returned to their respective magenta and blue hues.

However, the water that lapped the coffin's walls still was darkened. His clothes still damp from the dive, Fakir could feel the air around the coffin was significantly colder than the surrounding temperature. The crimson glow remained emanating from it.

"We still have to deal with this," Autor said, glancing at the coffin.

"Careful about touching it," Fakir said to Autor. "I had a hard enough time when I was getting the rope on it."

Ahiru and Sagi, having retrieved their clothes that they had brought over in anticipation of their success, had headed for the water to transform back. Once they had done so and changed in a patch of reeds, they went toward Autor and Fakir, and in doing so passed near the coffin. Upon approaching it, both their pendants suddenly turned pitch black.

"Ahiru, our pendants…" Sagi said, fingering hers and glancing at Ahiru's.

"They turned black!" Ahiru exclaimed, cupping her pendant in her hands, looking between it and the ominous coffin. "That's what's wrong. This coffin has a Raven's shard in it!"

Just as she said those words, a horrible shrieking voice erupted like a hurricane gale from within the coffin: "GO AWAY!"

It was enough to startle all of them there for a moment. But Ahiru, remembering the dream she had and realizing what she needed to do, steeled herself and gripped her pendant. This time when she called upon Tutu's power, there was no resistance. With a flash of warm golden light, Ahiru transformed into Princess Tutu.

As the white-garbed ballerina stepped gingerly toward the coffin, a maiden's translucent specter appeared and hovered above it. She was gray like the color of storm clouds, and her tattered dress had numerous unkempt rips along the sleeves and skirt, as if they had been torn by endlessly tormented hands. Her tortured crimson eyes glared out from the gray haze of her body as vividly as molten iron.

"Leave me be!" the ghostly Maiden of Despair exclaimed, cringing and clutching her head. The eerie crimson glow of the coffin pulsed and flashed brighter with her words. "Do not come near me! This torment is mine alone to suffer!"

"Why do you try to send me away?" Princess Tutu asked, holding out an upturned hand toward her. "You're in pain, and I want to help you be free of it. There is a shard in your heart that doesn't belong there, and I can remove it for you."

"No, no, no!" the Maiden of Despair said, lowering her head as she shook it desperately, her arms wrapped around her shoulders as she shuddered with anguish. "If you try to help me, all you'll do is take the suffering onto yourself! That's why you can't come close! I must keep it away from everyone, so no one else will be a victim to its curse!"

"But even hiding yourself here, others are affected by it, no matter how much you try to keep it to yourself," Tutu said, placing two hands over her chest, closing her eyes sorrowfully. "Your suffering causes others to suffer, like the spirit of this very lake where you rest. The pain that you feel isn't yours, so it isn't right for you to take it on all on your own like this."

The Maiden of Despair paused, shuddering again. "So…this means that even after trying for the past few moons, I'm not strong enough to keep this pain away from others…"

Princess Tutu touched her pendant and smiled with sympathetic eyes at the ghostly maiden. "The lake had been well for all this time up until now. You had hidden it so well that it was only this day, when it had already built up for so long, that anyone even noticed. That's more than enough for you to do." Tutu held out her hand welcomingly once again. "Please don't worry; I will remove it from you and keep it from making anyone else suffer."

Tears came to the ghostly maiden's eyes. "If you would do this, if I would let it go, then promise me…find a way to destroy it as soon as you can. Don't let what happened to me happen with anyone else."

"Yes," Princess Tutu nodded with a benevolent smile. "I promise I will."

The Maiden of Despair placed her hands over her heart and sighed with sad relief. She floated down onto the ground, and with soundless steps, walked toward the lake, leaving the coffin behind.

As the maiden's spirit disappeared beneath the waves, the coffin faded away, and in its place a dark crimson glowing shard remained. All four points on the shard looked as if it could prick a finger by mere touch, with one of its points being as long and thin as a stiletto.

Princess Tutu stepped gracefully forward and cupped her hands around it gently. When she did so, she started. Painful memories began to flood her mind—her, crying in the lake when she returned Fear to Mytho and caused him to suffer; her, sinking into the Lake of Despair, wanting to return the shard of Hope to Mytho, but being unable to because of her own selfishness. Wincing, her hands began to tremble, and she had difficulty grasping onto the shard.

Fakir, seeing Tutu's face, grimaced and walked up to her. "Let go of that!" he said, snatching the shard out of her hands before she could protest.

As soon as he did so, however, vivid unbidden images came to his mind of countless crows swarming the room around him, ripping his parents apart as he helplessly watched, before a searing pain slashed across his abdomen, as if he were being ripped in half himself. Fakir cried out, clutching the hidden scar across his chest, dropping the shard onto the dirt.

"Fakir!" Tutu exclaimed, placing a worried hand on his arm. Panting, Fakir found that the searing pain had disappeared after he had let go of the shard.

Autor's brows furrowed as he stared pensively down at the shard. The glowing crimson shard stood on the ground balanced up on its stiletto tip, as if held up by an invisible string. "It causes pain to whoever holds it…hmm. This'll be a problem if none of us can even grab onto it, much less carry it away elsewhere."

Fakir frowned, his voice still rough from the horrible memories he was forced to relive. "Remember what the Maiden of Despair said? We need to destroy it as soon as possible. There's no point in keeping it around."

"Unless I'm mistaken, that won't be possible without the Prince's sword," Autor replied, crossing his arms. "In the meanwhile, we have to keep it safe and away from the other person who's trying to collect them for a worse reason. I'd try to pick it up myself, but…"

Autor glanced down at the shard. He reached for it, and then cringed, taking a step back. "I doubt I'd be any more able to than either of you."

Then, someone else bent down and picked the shard off the ground.

The three glanced up with surprise at Sagi, who now cupped the shard in her hands. Her expression was belabored, but she held the shard without wincing.

"How…?" Autor looked at Sagi with amazement. "It doesn't affect you?"

"I think it does, but… not as strongly as the rest of you, it looks like," she said, biting her lips.

"Will you be all right?" Tutu asked Sagi, looking at her with concern.

"I… I think so," Sagi said. "In any case, we need to take it with us, don't we? If I'm the only one who can hold it, then I need to keep it until we know what to do with it, right?"

"I suppose so," Fakir said, crossing his arms. "We have to keep it out of Caras's hands, so we can't let it out of our sights." He frowned. "I hate to ask you to do this, but it seems we don't have any other choice right now."

"It's fine," Sagi said. "I would rather take it on myself than watch all of you suffer from it."

o-o-o-o-o

In Ginkan, a clammy breeze brushed against the bare branches of the tree outside the inn Mytho and Komaro were staying in.

In the next room, Emma rested on Mytho's bed. Her long tale had evidently worn Emma out, something that did not go unnoticed by the prince. Mytho had insisted that Emma rest for a while and dine with them, but the princely gesture was too much for a humble woman like Emma, who insisted she was just fine. After some gentle arguing, Komaro, who had been watching the exchange without comment, said politely, "If you will pardon me, Miss Emma, but if you and your people are indeed being wrongfully persecuted by the authorities in this town, going out again in daylight would be quite perilous. It would be better to stay here until dark before attempting an escape to safety. And if one is to set out on foot, it would be best to do so when one is well rested and with a full stomach."

Emma could not argue against Komaro's reasoning, and after a heavy sigh, she conceded to Mytho's original suggestion.

Now, with Emma resting and Komaro away arranging dinner with the innkeeper for the three of them, Mytho was left to himself in the small drawing room. He sat in the chair that Emma had occupied earlier, watching the sky through the dusty windows of the inn. In the west, the sun had started its daily descent towards the horizon, drawing Mytho's thoughts to the town where his princess and young brother currently resided.

Rue…Trutho…I hope they are both well…

But Mytho's reveries were cut short when suddenly he felt a strong tug within his chest.

"Tutu!" Knowing what must be happening, Mytho could do little but try to steady his hands on the table in front of him. Thankful that both Emma and Komaro were safe as his consciousness began to slip once again, Mytho wished fervently that regardless of the reason Tutu needed his power, that Tutu and his other friends would be safe, before everything went black.

When his eyes fluttered open again, the shadows in the room cast by the sun had grown longer, but otherwise nothing else in the room had changed.

Mytho slowly pushed himself up and touched his heart. "What is happening in Kinkan?" the prince asked, grimacing.

Looking out the window again, he frowned, golden eyes clouded with worry. "Rue, Trutho, everyone…please be safe…"

o-o-o-o-o

Rue and Trutho posed together in a pas de deux arabesque in Kinkan Academy's practice building, the former in her claret ballet practice dress and the latter in a loose white shirt and black dance pants, his eyes disguised in amber dye.

While Rue stood with her arms and legs lifted with calm dignity and an easy grace, Trutho's brows were knitted tensely, his hands grasping Rue's waist tightly, trembling a bit from the effort.

"You don't need to grip so hard," Rue said, glancing back at him. "You're not holding up my entire weight; you're just supporting it. Relax your muscles. It'll look more natural that way."

"R-really? Okay, then…" Trutho pursed his lips, and then with just a bit of hesitation, loosened his hands and arms. Immediately he looked less stiff, and his expression became calmer to match.

"There," Rue said, turning her head back into position. "That's better."

"It is? Great!" Trutho said, a small smile appearing on his face.

Above the studio floor in the balcony overhang, a mauve cat sat watching the pair of dancers with what seemed like a twinkle in his eyes, his tail twitching back and forth eagerly. It was as if the cat could sense the budding connection between the two and was relishing it.

"…And here is the academy's dance studio," a woman's voice said as the door behind the cat opened. The cat's tail paused in midair as he turned around toward the voice.

Yagiko-sensei, wearing her usual prim pink dress, and a stocky man in a brown suit and pants walked into the room, with the dance instructor leading the way in, a hand gesturing toward the studio floor. "As you can see, Inutoshi-san," Yagiko said, lowering her voice, "our resident royal highnesses are currently using it for their private practice session, so we'll avoid disturbing them and just take a look from the second floor here."

"Ah yes, I see," Inutoshi nodded, his hand at his chin. "It is indeed a nicely built studio. It would be a pleasure to teach the apprentice dancing class here."

"I'm happy to hear that," Yagiko-sensei smiled. "When would you be ready to start?"

"Would tomorrow be too soon?"

"No, not at all!"

"Then let's…"

Inutoshi broke off when he saw something behind Yagiko-sensei that put a shocked expression on his face. "Eh…? What in the world is that doing there?!"

Yagiko-sensei turned around as Inutoshi marched toward the balcony overhang. "Oh, why look," she said, her smile widening, "It's Neko-san—"

"Shoo, shoo! Get out of here, you stupid cat! GIT!" Inutoshi exclaimed, waving his arms and growling threateningly as Neko-san hissed with displeasure and darted towards the open doors.

"Now…I'm sure it was completely by accident that someone let some mangy stray into the studio," Inutoshi said, brushing off his hands. "So as we were saying, let's get started with—"

"How DARE you mistreat Neko-san like that?!" Yagiko-sensei cut him off, looking at him furiously. "Forget it! You're fired!"

Then, her expression changing to one of alarmed dismay, Yagiko-sensei left a baffled Inutoshi behind, chasing after the cat as she wailed, "Wait, wait! Neko-san, come baaaaaack!"

The commotion had not gone unheard, as Rue and Trutho glanced above with puzzlement.

"What was all that about?" Trutho asked, looking back at Rue with a tilt of his head.

"I've no idea," Rue replied, furrowing her brows. "But, no matter. Are you tired? Do you want to stop for now?"

"I guess so," Trutho said, wiping his forehead. "You don't look tired, though – should we go on still?"

"I'm an experienced dancer, so it's natural that I'd have more stamina than you," Rue said. "I don't want to risk any accidents from overexertion."

"Okay," Trutho said with a nod. "Thanks."

Rue blinked, a little taken aback. "It's nothing to thank me for."

"All right, you can take it or leave it, then," he replied with a grin as he headed for the men's changing room. "See you in a bit!"

o-o-o-o-o

After the two of them had each changed back into their Kinkan academy uniforms, with the only difference from the other students being the golden crowns on their heads, Trutho and Rue headed toward the classrooms for their daily visitations, arm-in-arm and at ease with one another.

"So, we're going to the beginners' sculpting class next, right?" Trutho asked, looking at Rue.

"Yes," Rue replied. "And after that should be the advanced orchestra. Both of them shouldn't involve us talking at all, so if you can just sit quietly, there shouldn't be any problems."

"I should be able to do that much," Trutho said with a small laugh. "I think I'm getting used to this, slowly."

"Getting used to what?"

Trutho and Rue turned toward the sudden third voice and saw Caras step out from around the corner, his eyes narrowed curiously at them.

"Huh? Uh, I…" Trutho blinked, taken aback by the sudden appearance, and was ill at ease upon realizing who it was. "I was getting used to, umm…"

Rue glanced at Trutho, seeing his unease, stepped in and said, "It was a private conversation. There's no need to answer him, Mytho."

"So it was a sensitive topic, was it?" Caras said, his attention shifting toward Rue. "You're having trouble with something? What a shame. And you two seemed to be getting along so well lately."

Caras's gaze put Rue on edge, and despite herself, she had to turn hers away from those all-too-familiar crimson eyes. "It's none of your business!" she exclaimed, trying to hide her fear.

Trutho noticed Rue's alarm, and not wanting Caras to threaten her, he stepped in front of her and broke in shakily, "Y-yeah, what she said. Stop bothering us!"

Caras cocked an eyebrow, a vague smirk on his lips. "I merely stopped to chat. Yet my presence bothers you so? Very well, then. I shall leave you."

It wasn't until Caras had disappeared behind another corner that Trutho let out a breath, relaxing his tense stance. "He…he's gone. Thank goodness."

Rue looked at him. "You didn't need to do that."

"But he really seems to intimidate you," Trutho said, frowning at her with concern. "So I couldn't just stand there and let him go at you."

"It seems like he intimidates you more than me," Rue retorted.

"But you were…" Trutho trailed off, not sure how to respond.

Rue sighed. "Never mind. Let's just get going and not be distracted by someone like him."

"Sounds good to me," Trutho said with a nod, linking his arms back with Rue. At this point, it was hard to tell who the one leading was.

o-o-o-o-o

Ahiru headed back to Kinkan Academy with Fakir, Autor, and Sagi. As Ahiru walked, she looked over at Sagi with slight worry. While her expression seemed tranquil and unbothered, Ahiru knew from having previously being around her that it was a little too stiff to be true. Like ripples in a pond, even if there were no visible waves, there was a disturbance beneath the surface of her otherwise usually calm demeanor.

Ahiru then realized that the relatively calm backstreet they had turned onto looked familiar. "Hey, isn't this where Takako-san lives?"

"Takako?" Autor said, his head perking up. "The fortune-teller? Oh, her," Autor said, his eyes rolling slightly.

"Do you know her?" Ahiru asked him.

"So to speak," Autor replied, pushing his glasses back. "I visited her once while I was investigating Drosselmeyer's bloodline. She's on the family tree on one of the side branches, and she seems to have some extrasensory powers of vision. But she doesn't have any Spinning powers, nor does she have any descendants, so I didn't look into her further." He sniffed. "She's still as phony a fortune-teller as the rest of them; she can't really tell the future."

"Yet the truth remains so, that I am closer to Drosselmeyer's bloodline than you are. I don't think that ever sat well with you," a velvety woman's voice said behind them.

The group turned toward the voice. "Oh, Takako-san!" Ahiru said as Takako stood there, a basket of various groceries poking out from beneath her fawn-colored cloak. "I guess you were out shopping just now?"

"That is true," Takako said with a nod. "Certainly nothing as exciting as what you and the Prince are going through in your respective sides of the story."

"That's right; you can see how Mytho is doing!" Ahiru said, smiling. "How is he? Has he solved the raven problem over there yet?"

Takako sighed. "Mytho's situation remains perilous. Ginkan still has much intrigue that has yet to be revealed. Furthermore, each time you borrow his power, he falls into a deep sleep, and sometimes it happens at most inopportune times for him."

Ahiru paused, her face falling. "Wait… 'borrow his power'… borrowing Mytho's power… you can't mean, Princess Tutu…?"

"Indeed," she replied soberly. "As it was a shard of his heart that allowed you to become the magical princess before, so still that shard of heart is needed for you to become her now."

"What do you mean, 'inopportune times'?" Fakir asked, frowning.

"Once, when the ravens were raiding the town, in the middle of fighting them off, he fell unconscious when you became Princess Tutu," Takako replied. "It was quite well that Komaro had been with him to get him out of there, or else I'm not sure how he could have escaped unscathed."

"Oh no," Ahiru said, covering her mouth as horror grew in her expression. "I… I had no idea that whenever I transformed, Mytho would be…!"

"Ahiru, it's not your fault," Fakir said quickly. "You had no idea that Mytho would be affected like he was. Mytho wouldn't let Caras do as he pleases if he was here, and there's no way otherwise to get the shards before he can."

"But, but still," Ahiru said, her head drooping. "I just did so without asking if it was okay, and it's because of me that he's having more trouble when he has so much to deal with already…"

"Couldn't you ask him with a letter, or maybe through one of those telephones around the town?" Autor asked. "If he just knew about it, then you could know when transforming would be convenient for him, and then—"

"He still doesn't know that I'm Princess Tutu," Ahiru whispered, looking at the ground.

Autor blinked. "Really? But doesn't he already know that you're a duck, and so he—"

"Drop it," Fakir said sharply. When Autor looked at him with bafflement, Fakir glanced back at Ahiru, who was looking more and more uncomfortable by the second.

Sagi too looked at Ahiru with concern, still gripping the shard through her sleeve but now with a softer expression, as if focusing on another's pain lessened her own.

o-o-o-o-o

When Uzura reached the source of the pale glowing light, she found the light was emitted from an iridescent green gear that stood out among the other metal gears.

"Aoooooooh!" Uzura exclaimed with interest. "Is this where the 'source' is-zura?"

Yes, the calm, wise voice echoed from the reflections of a green-haired woman on the gears around her. This is where you can meet the one we were born from.

"So it's our Mama-zura!" Uzura said. "Then let's go say hello-zura!"

The little puppet girl leapt into the air toward the gear, as if she were jumping into a swimming pool. As she fell down toward it, the center of the gear shone with a bright light, and Uzura disappeared into it.

She found herself in a vast sunlit meadow, at the center of which grew a giant oak tree. She realized that someone tall was standing next to her, and when she looked up, the green-haired woman from the gear reflections was there by her side.

"Me-zura is here, too!" Uzura said.

Edel nodded. "Shall we go and meet the Tree together?"

Uzura grinned, and held up her tiny hand to the tall, pale woman. Edel took her hand, and together they walked toward the great oak tree.

"Are you Mama-zura?" Uzura asked the tree as they stood before it.

A light breeze picked up, and as they rustled the leaves of the giant oak tree a voice reached their ears. Children of my earthly body, I am called Yggdrasil, the tree said. I am the heart of this world, the source of all its magic and the fabric of its existence.

"You're the heart of the world-zura?" Uzura said, tilting her head, not quite comprehending.

Yes, my child, Yggdrasil replied. And as such, you and your elder are connected to the core of the world, allowing you to travel freely between this dimension and the world itself.

"Both my young self and I were able to do so," Edel said, "but as I had no heart to call my own, my travels between this dimension and the world were dictated by the whims of the Spinner who lived beyond his own death. That we are able to travel freely without his hands is thanks to my younger self, who leads us both on our own path."

From the beginning of time, there have always been Spinners, Yggdrasil explained. They are the ones whose blood is connected with my lifeblood, allowing them to shape reality with their will. It had been a gift, a way to communicate between the heart of the world and its inhabitants.

However, when the Spinner called Drosselmeyer gained his power, instead of following in the footsteps of the Spinners before him, he went further. He wanted complete control over the stories of the world, so that they might tell only his stories alone. And so, he built the machine that you see in this dimension, with its countless interconnected gears. With this machine that he built connected to the town named Kinkan, where my earthly remnants remain, he was able to control the stories by locking everyone inside, without anyone even aware of it.

"But Fakir destroyed the machine-zura," Uzura said. "I showed them where the machine was, way at the top of the tower. That's why everyone can be happy now-zura. Ahiru, Fakir, and all their friends aren't having the tussle-mayor's sad stories being told for them anymore-zura."

"That indeed set Kinkan free," Edel said to Uzura. "But the machine itself remains, and when it is not locked within the walls of the town, it can still affect not only Kinkan, but places outside Kinkan as well."

The machine is still connected to reality itself, just as I still am the fabric of reality, Yggdrasil said. That is why he still exists and is able to control reality even now. This very dimension has taken the shape it has because of the machine he built with his own hands, and those same hands still create his stories without those that live in them knowing.

"And there are those people whose strings of fate were tied to the machine itself as well," Edel said. "Two of them were of his creation, and the third was tied to it by Drosselmeyer's design and the will of the heart. The two he created are now in his hands."

"The white goose feather and the black raven feather-zura…" Uzura said glumly. Then she remembered the third one she had found. "But I got the golden feather-zura! The one that belongs to Ahiru-zura. I gave it back to Ahiru and Fakir before the tussle-mayor kicked me out-zura."

Yes, and thanks to you, the potential that lies within that string is in the hands of a young Spinner who does not share the old Spinner's will to relive the tragedies of the world over and over again, Yggdrasil said.

"The golden feather has a 'potential'-zura?" Uzura asked curiously. "What's that-zura?"

The young Spinner had once been stifled when he was very small, and it took the efforts of the owner of the golden string, the duck, to set his heart free once again. Even now, his power remains stunted and neglected, and if he were to face the old Spinner again, his victory would be unlikely. However, what allowed him to prevail and free the town itself was the power of the duck, through which he could funnel his untrained power and tell a story of his own.

"So you say, as it had been before, Fakir and Ahiru are ultimately the ones who would be able to wrest the reins in Drosselmeyer's hands away," Edel said. "But how would they accomplish this? To continue battling Drosselmeyer would simply be an eternal tussle between them both, a battle that would still abide by Drosselmeyer's rules."

"Then, what can we do-zura?" Uzura asked, frowning. "The tussle-mayor kicked me out of Kinkan, so I can't go back to help Ahiru and her friends."

The little puppet girl thought for a moment. "Fakir broke the machine in the tower to make it stop working-zura. I played around with the machine here once – can I break that one too-zura?"

That would bring untold catastrophe, Yggdrasil warned. The machine is built around me, and therefore what happens to the machine is what happens to the world.

"Uh-oh, so breaking it here would break the world?" Uzura exclaimed, aghast. "That's no good-zura!"

"I wonder… what did this dimension look like before Drosselmeyer's machine was built?" Edel asked. "You existed here before then, had you not?"

Before the old Spinner grasped the strings himself and tied them to his vast machine, the world appeared here in the form of a great shining tapestry, with the strings of fate of each being interwoven every which way, an ever-changing pattern that had a life of its own.

"Where did the strings come from-zura?" Uzura asked. "Did you make them?"

Back in the beginning, the strings of fate grew from my celestial form, as the origin of all things, Yggdrasil replied. It became such a vast tapestry that quite soon, I alone could not manage them all. So, I created guardians of the strings of fate, who called themselves the Norns, to watch over the tapestry and ensure that it flowed and wove neatly.

"Where are these guardians?" Edel asked, her painted eyes looking around. "Neither my younger self nor I have ever seen them."

It was the work of that one fateful Spinner, the Spinner more powerful and daring than all the others that preceded him, Yggsdrasil said grimly. When he built the machine, his masterwork, he found that the guardians got in his way of taking control of the tapestry. He could not destroy them without rendering his machine useless, but he was so powerful and determined that, with a few merciless strokes of his quill, he pulled the guardians down from their perches in my branches, stripping them of their powers and their memories of the otherworld, becoming but lost souls at the mercy of the whims of the Spinner himself. The tapestry of fate was then his for the taking.

"If the tussle-mayor stole the tapestry-zura, then how can we take it back?" Uzura asked. "I've tried to do everything I can, but now I can't even get back to where my friends are-zura."

"Perhaps our power alone is not enough to oppose Drosselmeyer," Edel said.

Uzura looked up at her. "Then maybe, we need some help-zura!"

"But, from who?" Edel asked.

What was once lost might be found again, Yggdrasil said. Children of my body, you are no longer bound to the old Spinner's whims, and therefore are able to act on your own free will. If you are now able to defy him, perhaps the lost guardians too might find their way again with your help.

"So they're lost?" Uzura asked. "Where could they be?"

"If they are in Kinkan, then we would not be able to reach them," Edel said with concern.

They cannot be in the town where my remnants are. For the old Spinner to build his machine, he had to have gotten them out of its influence. Although he has cut off my connection to them, I can sense that the guardians remain nearby, in a dormant state.

"Nearby…" Edel looked thoughtful.

"Me-zura, do you know where they are?" Uzura asked her.

"The town of Ginkan, the neighboring city," Edel said. "They may be lingering there."

"Aoooooh!" Uzura exclaimed gleefully. "That's not Kinkan, so we can still go there-zura!"

The path is open, Yggdrasil said as the ground below Uzura and Edel began to glow. Go forth and find the guardians. To return fate to its original state, the Norns must be found and awakened to their true power.

After a flash of pale green light, Uzura stood by the iridescent green gear, seemingly alone. But she knew she wasn't really alone.

"Let's go find the guardians-zura!" she exclaimed to the reflections in the gears before scuttling off into the distance.

This is something only you can do, Edel said as she watched Uzura from the reflections. Can what was once lost be found again?


Next episode preview

The three Raven Sisters perch on a bare tree, cackling gleefully to themselves. "When we finally eat the heart of a human, then we will have power like that of the monstrous Raven… and we will be free to do as we please, fearing nothing and no one."
Rue, sitting on the bench in the changing room with Ahiru and Sagi, watches in terror as the red toe shoe she is putting on turns black and sprouts thorns, wrapping itself around her leg.
(Ahiru's voice) "Rue-chan! What's wrong?!"
A young ginger-haired noblewoman reaches for a necklace that Caras has in his hands, but he holds it out of reach.
(Caras's voice) "Do you truly wish to cling to that hurtful feeling? Wouldn't it be better if you were rid of it? Wouldn't you rather be free of your endless suffering?"
Takako sits, looking at Fakir and holding her hand out to a golden glowing quill lying on the table before him. "Is that what Ahiru wants? Does she want your protection, or does she want your aid?"
Above the town of Ginkan, a pair of glowing red eyes glowers down from within the giant shadow of a dark bird. Mytho looks upward in shock. "The Raven!"

Princess Tutu
~Kapitel des Vogel~
32. AKT "A Tale of Two Cities"
~ Macbeth ~

All children who love stories, come gather round once more! Heheheheheh…


Extra notes

'inu' – dog in Japanese; -toshi is the suffix for a male name
(if the name were to be translated, I intended for it to be 'Dogustus', haha)

Yggdrasil – the name of the "Tree of Life" in Nordic mythology. The Norns lived beneath its branches, spinning the threads of fate.

The "Death and the Maiden" quartet composed by Schubert, or specifically its second movement which is the main theme of the episode, drew inspiration from a "Death and the Maiden" song he wrote previously. The quartet was written after Schubert developed a serious illness, and realized that he was dying. In his own words, he described his state of mind at the time to a friend in a letter:
"Think of a man whose health can never be restored, and who from sheer despair makes matters worse instead of better. Think, I say, of a man whose brightest hopes have come to nothing, to whom love and friendship are but torture, and whose enthusiasm for the beautiful is fast vanishing; and ask yourself if such a man is not truly unhappy."

The song's lyrics are based on a poem (same name) by Matthias Claudius. The following is an English translation:
The Maiden:
Away! Ah, away! Thou cruel man of bone!
I am still young. Go, instead.
And do not touch me!
Death:
Give me thy hand, you fair and tender creature,
I'm a friend, and do not come to punish.
Be of good courage; I am not cruel
You shall sleep gently in my arms.

(information based on article from Wikipedia)

31. AKT Music List

(the time ranges listed show what part of the song is used in the scene, based either on the tracks of the original soundtrack or the source classical music; you can also listen to or download the music used in each episode at this link here: hidden-currents DOT org SLASH cotb_ost DOT htm)

"Avant Title"
Played after the first sentence during the prologue, and stops right before the title.
The mysterious music used in each episode's prologue during the series; a foreboding version of "March" from the Nutcracker.

"Morning Grace (TV vrs.)"
Played at the title screen; imagine opening sequence here.
(Artist: Ritsuko Okazaki) The opening of Princess Tutu; shortened version played in the show.

"Death and the Maiden, 1st mvt: Allegro"
(end 1:30)
Played at the start when Ahiru is running to get out of the rain; ends when the four flee from the lake.

(from "Death and the Maiden" quartet; originally composed by Schubert, chamber orchestra version arranged by Mahler) An alternately thunderous, yet gentle and tender piece.

"La Traviata: Overture"
Played when Emma meets Mytho, and sits down at their inn room making small talk before she begins her story.
(from "La Traviata" opera, composed by Verdi) A quiet song filled with melancholy, nostalgic sentiment. The music transitions into a more lighthearted tone at 1:14.

"La Traviata: Prelude to Act 3"
Played while Emma recounts how she first met Trutho.
(from "La Traviata" opera, composed by Verdi) A quiet song filled with melancholy, nostalgic sentiment. The beginning sounds very similar to the Overture, but the latter part is more melancholy and sentimental.

"'Hungarian Rhapsody' No. 2"
(until 6:06)
Played while Emma recounts how Trutho went away with Lady Macbeth, and how she later meets him again briefly before he escapes from Ginkan.
(composed by Liszt) A passionate, yet solemn and sad anthem.

"La Traviata: Prelude to Act 3"
Plays again when Emma explains how she was injured.

"Death and the Maiden, 4th mvt: Presto"
Plays when Ahiru realizes that her pendant doesn't work; continues on as she wakes up Fakir and Autor, and they visit the lake and dive into it to retrieve the coffin.
A lively yet somewhat anxious and distressed piece as if for a frenetic dance.

"Death and the Maiden, 2nd mvt: Andante con moto"
(until 6:32)
Plays when Ahiru realizes that the coffin contains a shard, and transforms into Tutu; ends when Sagi agrees to hold onto the shard.
A solemn, grim song that sounds like a classical dirge.

"Death and the Maiden, 3rd mvt: Scherzo"
(start 1:34)
Plays while Rue and Trutho are having an instructional pas de deux; ends when Yagiko-sensei chases after Neko-san.
A pleasant, lighthearted melody that switches into faster, more vehement music.

"The Marriage of Figaro: Overture"
Plays while Yagiko-sensei chases after Neko-san.
A triumphant, happy song that also played during the first season whenever Yagiko appeared in "Black Shoes", episode 9. Yagiko's theme.

"Arabian Dance"
Played when the group meets Takako.
(from "The Nutcracker") A slow, enigmatic song. Could be thought of as Takako's theme.

"Largo"
Played when Uzura and Edel visit the Oak Tree.
(from Symphony no. 9 'From the New World', 2nd mvt) A slow, peaceful, nostalgic song. This was also played when Fakir encountered the Oak Tree for the first time during the canon series.

"Though My Love is Small (TV vrs.)"
Played at the end of the episode; imagine ending sequence here.
(Artist: Ritsuko Okazaki) The ending of Princess Tutu; shortened version played in the show.

"Ballet Music from 'Macbeth'"
This is played for the next episode preview.
(from "Macbeth" opera, composed by Verdi) A lively, exciting song full of action and drama.