Disclaimer: Koori no Mamono no Monogatari & its characters © Shiho Sugiura
The Real Story of Rapunzel
a Koori no Mamono no Monogatari fanfiction
"... but the Prince heard a voice that he thought familiar and instinctively, he called out. Rapunzel immediately recognised the voice of her long-lost love and she ran to him, crying in joy. As she held him, her tears fell into his eyes and the Prince could see again. And so they lived happily ever after-"
Soft laughter cut abruptly across the spell that had been weaved into the audience. The storyteller placing a wrinkled hand on her chest to calm the startled racing of her heart as she turned towards the direction of the laughter, now gone.
About to rebuke the unwelcome interruption with a sharp word or two, the old woman's rheumy eyes landed on the most elegant lady she had ever seen and the words that had been on the tip of her tongue were forgotten.
"My word," she murmured, unconsciously leaning forward slightly; jet-black hair in a braid trailed down to the stranger's waist, the simple yet obviously rich material of the white robes worn embroidered at the edges with threads of red and cinched at the waist with a matching crimson red sash. Perched on a low wall, slender sandaled feet swung side-to-side.
"I beg your pardon for interrupting, honoured storyteller," gentle dark eyes flashed briefly with mirth before replacing with deferential respect and apology as an elegant hand lifted briefly. "But were you telling the children the story of Rapunzel?"
"Aye, that I was, my lady." The storyteller stood up hastily, bobbing a curtsey to what she believed must be one of the nobles come to visit the village, an action greeted with a small smile and a wave of a hand clearly dismissing such formalities. The audience of three small children immediately scrambled up at the storyteller's action and bowed in child-like imitation of the old woman's before the tallest tugged on the storyteller's robe, tiptoeing to whisper gravely into her ear. Once finished, he turned to bow gravely once more to the stranger, a gesture answered with a wide smile that was noted and received with a broad grin. Tugging the wrists of the two girl children with him, the three ran off, the youngest heard exclaiming about "that pretty pretty lady that we have to tell Mama we saw!" as their figures receded into the distance.
"And they lived happily after, the Prince and Rapunzel, is that not how the fairytale ended, storyteller?" Continuing their conversation as if there had been no interruption, there was a hint of reproach in the stranger's voice that gave the old woman pause before she murmured assent.
"But what if I tell you that that's not how the real story happened, that that's not how it ended?" A distinct note of almost-sly amusement had the storyteller jerking her head up immediately, light eyes narrowing as they gazed into dark ones.
"But that's not true," the storyteller stated firmly without thinking, before hastily adding. "Begging your pardon, my lady."
"Ah." With that noncommittal reply, the stranger brought one hand up and rested her cheek on it, tilting her head as if in contemplation.
"But pray, tell me what happened in your..." the old woman paused. "...version, my lady."
"You need not fear me, storyteller." That reassurance did little to calm the storyteller's frazzled nerves, silently agonising as to whether the stranger had been offended with her curt dismissal of the other's opinion. The nobles had the strangest eccentricities, and the storyteller thought to herself that it would be best to entertain the stranger, rather than risked being thrown into the village jail as affronted nobles were wont to do at times. 'Better to listen, rather than speak and get one's head chopped off' was her conclusion as she finally glanced back up.
"Ah." Nervously, the storyteller licked her lips, lowering herself slowly back down onto her stone seat.
"If it pleases you, my lady, I would be delighted to hear your version of the story of Rapunzel," was the carefully worded response.
Soft laughter followed that reply, a knowing look tossed in the storyteller's direction before the stranger shrugged lightly, a teasing lift to her lips.
"I'll tell you my version then, storyteller. The witch that Rapunzel had stayed with was not as the common story made her out to be. The truth was..."
The storyteller listened politely, holding her tongue from questioning when the witch became male, and then a magician, an when Rapunzel turned out to be a boy. Soon though, she found herself caught up in the tale of the demon magician called Wild, whose garden had been intruded by a human coming to steal the fruits that only grew there that the latter's pregnant wife wanted. Caught the second time, the human had agreed to give up his unborn child in exchange for his life, but went back on his word when the child was born. The magician had then stolen away the child when he was seven years of age in fulfilment of the contract, but left a way for the parents to come get the boy, Rapunzel, if they had but really wanted to. He cared for the child, never raising hand or voice against Rapunzel and waited. Yet, the years passed, and Rapunzel's parents never once stepped into the magician's territory.
"But Wild told nothing of this to Rapunzel." The stranger's voice grew grave. "One day, a Prince discovered the tower, and Rapunzel in it. He wanted to take Rapunzel away from the tower. Take him away and release him from what he saw was the prison of the demon magician Wild. The Prince told Rapunzel what had really happened, that he had been stolen as a child, but Rapunzel did not believe. He had known nothing but kindness from the magician and could not imagine that the magician had done such a thing as to deceive him all these years. The Prince promised to come back the next day when he realised that Rapunzel would not be convinced, and Rapunzel decided to confront the magician that evening. He found out that everything the Prince had told him was true..." the stranger trailed off, the smile on her lips now faded as her gaze regained focus of the present, alighting on her attentive listener whose hands had clasped together in nervous anticipation.
"What- what happened next, my lady?" the old woman asked, voice eager.
The smile regained some of its earlier humour as the lady began to resume the telling of her story. Something further up the road caught her attention just then however, and whatever the stranger saw lit up her face, happiness evident. The storyteller could see nothing no matter how much she stared in the same direction however, and she turned back expectantly as the stranger hopped down from the wall and crouched at her feet. Ignoring the storyteller's loud protests as the ends of the other's robes swept the sandy ground, the stranger continued.
"In the end, there was a confrontation between the magician and the Prince. The magician told the Prince to take Rapunzel away, believing that Rapunzel would be happier away from him, now that Rapunzel knew who he truly was. There was a... scuffle and the Prince fell out of the tall tower, Rapunzel instinctively reaching for the Prince but missing and falling after him. But roses suddenly appeared from beneath the ground, saving their lives. With a last glance back up to the tower and seeing the magician looking down at him, Rapunzel left with the Prince. But later that day, he discovered something..."
"What did he discover, my lady?" the storyteller prompted softly, when the stranger failed to continue for a good few minutes, gazing intently instead at the still empty dirt road.
"Ahh... that a kiss meant 'I love you'," the corners of the stranger's eyes crinkled as she replied, somewhat shyly. "Rapunzel understood then the kisses that the magician had always given him since he was a child, which he had always thought were protection spells. He remembered Wild calling out as he had fallen from the tower, calling out and begging the roses, and the roses that he had fallen on, cushioning his fall and saving his life. He remembered the white flowers that the magician brought back for him whenever he was sad, the leather satchel that the magician would empty over him, a wild white fragrant shower around him that always made him forget his unhappiness. He remembered every little thing the magician had done. And Rapunzel realised that in his way, the magician loved him. He rode back to the tower immediately and returned to his magician, knowing that the choice he had made was not one that would be approved by others; to choose a magician, a demon from the dark side, instead of reuniting with his parents. And yet, he knew that the one he had chosen was the most real and true to him; Wild was, afterall, the one who had taught him what was love. They are- were together, some say, to the end of their lives." The final words to the story were soft, barely audible to the old woman's ears as they fell from the lady's lips.
"Ah..." The storyteller let out her breath on a sigh, hands automatically reaching out to smooth away the dark strands of hair that had escaped from the stranger's braid in a motherly fashion as her mind ran through the story once more.
"Did they... live happily ever after?" The hesitant but hopeful, almost childlike, question as the stranger stood up, holding the storyteller's hand between her own, brought a thoughtful look, even as the stranger turned her attention yet again to the road.
The storyteller followed suit once more, standing up as her failing sight managed to catch sight of a hooded figure carrying a large basket heading their way at a brisk pace.
"That would be a mere fairytale, storyteller. But our lives are seldom simple fairytales that end happily ever after, are they? Real stories seldom are." Dark eyes gazed into hers as the enigmatic response fell from lips lifted in a wry smile. Old pain and weariness lurked in the depths of those eyes, in the corner of those quirked lips. "But, they lived as happily as they could. Rapunzel, at least, could never imagine living without his magician." The stranger bent, planting a gentle kiss to the wrinkled cheek before straightening up, letting go of the storyteller's hand as the hooded figure reached them and stopped.
"I thought I told you to wait for me in the village square." Pausing to give a polite nod to the storyteller, the masculine voice carried a tinge of irritation as a hand reached up and pushed away the hood, revealing jet-black hair falling over a sharp narrow face. Intelligent piercing eyes, one behind a monocle, flickered briefly to the old woman as lips twisted slightly in annoyance.
"I was listening to the storyteller's stories. And you always know where to find me anyway." Smiling and ignoring the obvious irritation on the newcomer's face, the stranger tiptoed slightly, pressing her lips to the man's cheek in greeting.
"Hn." At that miffed reply, the lady turned slightly, hiding a smile as she rested a hand casually on the man's arm, glancing and reaching into the basket he held to take out a single sunflower.
The storyteller had wondered if the man was truly a noble when he had removed his hood. Noble lords seldom carried large weaved baskets, nor wore such simple outfits. But she was struck speechless by the power and aura of the man as he glanced yet again at her and met her eyes. Such doubts flew out of her mind as she found herself trembling slightly, instinctively dropping into a curtsey. She frowned slightly in puzzlement at the amusement that lifted those lips in a small smirk at her gesture, then dismissed it as another one of the nobles' eccentricities.
"For listening, honoured storyteller. Thank you." Cool fingers pressed the sunflower stalk into her hand, startling the old woman out of her thoughts.
"Enough time wasting. It's getting late. Let's go home, Rapunzel." There was an impatient sound from the man as he nodded back towards the road, giving a gallant bow to the bemused storyteller with a secret smile before turning and stepping back on the road, resuming his walk without another backward glance.
"Yes, yes, I'm coming."
The storyteller had turned her head sharply at the name she heard the man call the lady as the latter threw a last smile at her before running off, the man slowing down long enough for his companion to catch up before they continued on their way, leaving the storyteller gaping behind, sunflower clutched in one hand.
She could still catch snatches of the conversation between the two as she settled back down shakily, gazing after the couple:
"...telling... true story of Rapunzel..."
"...spoiling the humans' fantasy... Rapunzel. Imagine... choosing... evil one, instead of the Prince."
"But it's the truth, isn't it, Wild?" Pleased amusement clearly coloured Rapunzel's words.
Spellbound, the storyteller clutched the sunflower tighter in her hand. No one would believe this version of the story of Rapunzel she had heard, and no one would believe if she said that she had met the real Rapunzel, and his beloved, who had not been the Prince.
Yet in her heart, hearing the low laughter of the monocle-d man as the face of the beautiful lady- no, lord, tilted up to look at his magician and give an answering bright smile; a fair hand reaching up to push back stands of dark hair from the demon magician's face, looking at the hands of the two that were entwined, she knew it could only be the truth.
The old woman stilled and watched until the couple had disappeared from sight before looking around her, feeling like she had just woken up from a beautiful dream. "They did, they will live happily ever after, Rapunzel and his magician, Wild," she impulsively proclaimed aloud to the silence around her.
The breeze that blew past as she finished speaking, bringing with it a scattering of white flower petals that fell around the storyteller in a gentle shower, appeared to agree.