Author's Notes: I actually had the outline for this chapter done a little over a week ago, but for some reason I just couldn't get it to come out into story form or flow at all. I suppose it was a writer's block of sorts (those always come at the most inopportune times). Then I got into drawing loads of Princess Tutu fanart... Anyway, not sure about the quality of the writing this time, but I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Chapter 2 Special Notes: To avoid confusion, Ahiru is going to give names to both Fakirs. Since the original Japanese version called him "Fakia", I figured I would borrow that. So they will be Fakir and Fakia. XD
Reviewer Responses (since the reviewer reply feature doesn't seem to be working for me):
Princess-tutu-007 - Thank you for the compliment. :D
Ele Goddess of Elements - Thanks a bunch for your support on all of my Princess Tutu fanfiction. I'm sure I don't deserve it, but I'm grateful just the same. I'm sorry the update took awhile. I hope you find it to your liking. :3
Madelyn xD - Thank you!
ColeyCarissa - -brief sigh of relief- I'm glad the idea wasn't already done. I'd feel horrible if it had been (and discouraged, since it really sounded like fun). Glad you liked the idea, though. Thanks for reviewing!
ChibiBotan88 - Thank you. :D Hope this continuation doesn't disappoint.
Itsy-Evil-Spiders - Thank you for the vote of confidence and the review! As for the twins themselves, you'll have to wait and see what I have planned for them. I'm sure it's apparent they're not likely to get along very well, though. XD
Cherry Emi - I'm glad you found it to your liking. :D Fakir angst is honestly something I like to play around with, but I'm not sure I've really got it down to the point I want yet. I'm working on it. XD LOL Taking one home would be quite a handful. How do you explain to your mother about the scowling dark-haired shadow in the corner? XD Thank you for the review!
Akaina - Thank you. My writing style is kind of weird, but I'm glad you find it to your liking. As for where it goes, even I'm not entirely sure of that yet, but here's the next part, anyway. Thanks again for the review!
And now, on to the story's continuation.
Disclaimer: I do not own Princess Tutu or any of its characters.
Chapter Two: Complications and Old Faces
Azure eyes slowly opened into the beckoning light, and Ahiru vaguely wondered where she was and what had happened. Everything was blurry in both her muddled mind and the vision that greeted her sleepy eyes.
She was still a duck, right? All of that other nonsense must have been an illusion her mind created in its dormant state. She missed being human, that much was undeniably true, but she knew this was the way things were supposed to be. Ahiru was a duck and Fakir was a boy. They were definitely not a human girl and...two boys.
Ahiru raised a languid hand up to rest on her forehead and sighed, the other pushing back the warm blanket lying over her shoulders.
'Wait, what?' Distress broke through her thoughts as reality came through and she sat bolt upright. 'Hands? Forehead?'
The redhead squeaked in surprise, suddenly very aware that her body was indeed, fully human.
Panic then overtook her senses. If it hadn't been a dream, then that meant Fakir was...?
There was a small clearing of a throat from just beyond her and Ahiru jumped in surprise, startled. Fakir sat on the very far end of the bed, facing away from her and fists clenched tightly over the bedsheets.
Ahiru nearly breathed a sigh of relief. At least that part of it had been nothing more than a sleep-induced mirage. Fakir was very much just one person, sitting there clear as day.
However, if she were in human form again, that must have meant that he...
"...Fakir?" she questioned hesitantly.
The dark-haired young man didn't even spare her a glance, his attention fixated instead on the floor, hands clenching and unclenching the white fabric. Ahiru thought he appeared incredibly troubled about something.
She swallowed, feeling more anxious from his lack of response as the seconds passed. "Um, did you write a story for me?"
"No," he replied simply, softly.
Blue eyes blinked in utter bewilderment, then widened in horror. "Y-You didn't? Then who did?" She kicked the outer covers off of her, keeping the same piece of laundry she'd grabbed from outside wrapped securely to keep her decency. "Fakir, did we get sucked into another story? We have to do some-"
For the second time that day, Ahiru's words completely faded into nothing, all color receding from her face.
While Fakir was still sitting on her bed, unmoving aside from his strange hand contractions, another Fakir had also just entered the room, arms crossed. His gaze rooted her to where she sat, eyes a darker green than she remembered his the color having been before.
"I wrote it," the doppelganger supplied, glowering as if daring her to make a comment.
Ahiru backed up to the headboard, eyes darting rapidly between the two identically-dressed versions of the ex-knight.
"What's going on here?" she choked out, fingers curling around the blanket's edge as if begging the cloth for support.
As abruptly as he came, the second Fakir swiftly left the room once more, leaving Ahiru alone with the other, who was still refusing to even face her.
For some reason, his lack of words and reactions really bothered the redhead. "W-Well?" she pressed. "Do you know? Will you tell me something? I'm so confused!"
His hand had ceased its rythymic gripping pattern upon the sheets, but he still failed to offer any explanation, or even a sound to assure her he'd at least heard her.
She felt tears begin to well in her blue eyes. Everything had changed so drastically within the span of a few hours. Ahiru felt like she was around two very different people now, instead of the Fakir she had grown to know and befriend.
Was this her fault for that secret wish she held in her heart? That selfish desire to be human again?
Her blood ran cold at the thought.
However, before she could dwell any further upon the possibility, Fakir Number Two re-entered the bedroom, parchment sheets held in his hands. He wordlessly approached her and offered the papers, expression still as unpleasant as it had been before.
Ahiru gave him a questioning glance before gingerly taking the inked papers into her hands, which had begun to shake upon the realization that the writing upon the parchment must be the story that would explain how this had happened.
The duck-girl hesitated, eyes avoiding the curving black lines. She had a feeling something in this story was going to reveal more than she really wanted to know.
...But hadn't she just been upset over the confusion of not knowing how or why? It would answer that, at least. If she wanted to know, she had to read it.
Blue orbs rose to the top of the page, eyes dancing across the page and drinking in the story from the ink one line at a time.
Her small hands began to shake more vibrantly as she read onward.
Fakir had been suffering like this all alone?
He'd seemed fine whenever he came to visit her by the lake. Even smiled from time to time, which was a rarity for him. Why hadn't he said anything or expressed how he was really feeling?
Ahiru bit her lip, realizing the answer to that almost immediately: She was merely a duck. Why would he confide in a creature of nature who couldn't even speak to him?
In truth, Fakir really didn't confide in anyone. Not verbally, anyway. He always kept his feelings locked so deeply inside himself and hidden from the view of even his closest friends and adoptive family.
And what pained her the most was that he'd been enduring this inner battle because of her.
Once she finished reading the end, where ink had been spilled over the remaining blank parchment following, Ahiru carefully placed the sheets beside her and glanced up to the identical twins of her treasured companion.
Her cerulean eyes took on a serious luster, reflecting the depth of her determination. If this was her fault, then she would be the one to find out a way to fix it and to return Fakir back to his full self. No matter how long it took, she owed him that for causing this mess.
"I assume you understand the situation now."
She nodded, her eyes somehow drawn back to the motionless Fakir instead of the speaker, the former of whom was still sitting immobile on the bed's edge. The azure orbs softened. This version of him reminded her greatly of the few glimpses she'd witnesses of his weaker and un-safe-guarded moments, the parts of himself he was always afraid to bare openly. Her gaze then trailed to the other, still standing tall with his arms crossed, face like chiseled stone. His confidence was definitely there, along with perhaps his surly and cold nature, among other things she couldn't name for the time being.
She smiled at the both of them, one of which took no heed of her gentle gesture, the other of which merely raised an eyebrow ever-so-slightly.
"I'll make sure you get back to normal," Ahiru resolved, standing up and gathering the papers from the bedside into her hands.
The darker green eyes met her clear blue. "And what makes you think that's what I want? Are you stupid?" Ahiru mentally noted this was the side that most likely carried his condescending and rude nature as well, offering a glare in return to his comment. He glowered right back at her, continuing. "I asked if you read the story, but perhaps you should read it again if nothing sunk in." He turned from her and sneered as his counterpart, who lifted his head long enough to supply a weak and blank stare. "That can stay here and wallow in his self-pity and guilt for all I care."
"Well...Well what about what he wants?" Ahiru protested, feeling a need to stand up for the wordless twin that made no move to defend himself. The redhead moved to lay a hand on his shoulder, but retracted immediately when he pulled away from her approaching touch.
"It's fine this way," he spoke in an almost monotone voice, though underlined with a tinge of bitterness. "I don't have to put up with his selfishness anymore."
Ahiru felt her toes curl and her fingers clasp inward to fists at both sides, irritation crawling up her spine at an alarming rate. "Well what do you two plan to do like this?" she bit out in frustration, desperately quelling the urge to shake them both out of their funk. "What good is going to come of-"
"You want to go back to the Academy, right?" the more assertive of the two interrupted.
She blinked. "Well, I guess I could, but-"
"Then I'll write a story so you can return," he cut her off again.
The statement and its implications, however, caused his twin to raise his head, facial expression perturbed. He rose to his feet. "And what makes you think you can just abuse that power and write stories to solve everything?"
The darker-eyed Fakir completely ignored him, his attention on Ahiru. "I'll accompany you, since a Knight lives by his word."
"I'm going as well," the other challenged. "I hold to the same promise. And I'll honor it."
His counterpart sneered back at him, a ghost of a smirk on his lips. "Honor? How can you talk about honor? You're nothing but a coward that hides behind his shield."
"At least I think about the consequences before I act, unlike an idiot who swings his blade blindly."
The more aggressive twin snatched the collar of his other's shirt. "Do you want to start something?"
"Enough," Ahiru interjected, pulling one off the other. "If we're going back to the Academy, then we'll go together, Fakir. Er, Fakirs." The duck-girl looked back and forth between them. "I guess I can't call you both Fakir," she mused with a chuckle, despite the situation. Ahiru set her gaze on darker-eyed version. "So, you can be Fakir," she decided, then turned toward the other. "And I'll call you... Faki...ah...Yeah! Fakia!"
She smiled at them, both of whom offered rather identical blank expressions in return.
Even if neither wanted to be a part of the other anymore, they were still connected. Ahiru could tell. And she would just have to do her best to help them accept one another and return to the proper single version of her dark-haired friend.
Fakir turned on heel and started toward the doorway. "I'll inform you when the story is finished," he supplied lightly, turning around long enough to glare at his solemn counterpart. "In the mean time, why don't you make yourself useful and find her something to wear?"
Fakia offered a visibly weaker glower in return. "I don't need you to tell me what to do," he grit out bitterly. "And you'd better be damn careful with whatever you propose to write."
His twin paid the comment no heed, calmly striding out of the room as though nothing had been said to him at all.
Once the surly side was out of sight and earshot, Fakia lifted his gaze to Ahiru. "I suppose you do need something to wear," he begrudgingly agreed, moving to leave the room in search of temporarily-suitable garments.
The redhead stood still for a moment, eyes slightly widened in surprise from finally having been spoken to by the silent side. "Wait," she beckoned lightly, one arm suddenly pitching forward to grab the hand of the retreating figure as the other kept the sheet about her form.
He froze, face once again barred from her view, but did not retract from the touch. Slowly, he turned around and lifted light green eyes to her bright blue. "Ahiru?"
She flushed, immediately releasing his hand as if the skin contact had burned her. "S-Sorry," she stammered. "I don't know what came over me."
Fakia gave her the silent treatment again, though his eyes were still fixed upon her in something she almost thought resembled...worry. She bit her lip and averted her gaze. "I'm glad you're not ignoring me anymore," she near-whispered. "I thought I did something to upset you so you wouldn't even look at, much less speak to me."
A small gasp fell from the duck-girl's parted lips when she felt his hand close around her own, azure eyes lifting back to his figure in bewilderment and curiosity. If anything, the luster in his eyes had become even softer, swirling with worry, shame, and a note of tenderness she wasn't familiar with seeing.
The hand upon her own remained, and tightened slightly as he spoke, "I know what happened has upset you, confused you, and probably angered you. And you have every right to feel that way." He squeezed the girl's fingers once. "You're not at fault for anything. I'm not angry with you, Ahiru. I'm disgusted with myself," he clarified in a bitter mutter. "All of me. I didn't mean to let you get carelessly dragged into another spinning story or possibly place you in danger again. I hope you can forgive me, even if I'm not worthy of it." He ended the last on something akin to a strangled whisper, and gently released his fingers from around hers.
"I don't blame you!" she blurted immediately, just as he had begun to make his way toward the doorway again. 'It's my fault!' she wanted to scream. But the words died before they could pass her lips.
Fakia paused in mid-step upon hearing her outburst. "Well you should," he said simply.
Wordlessly, Ahiru watched him exit, sheets pooling around her as she sank to the floor in his absence.
She knew Fakir always blamed himself for things that weren't his fault: His parents' death, being unable to protect Mytho to the fullest, unable to help and shield all those he cared for. He could not forgive himself, even when she was certain no one else blamed him for anything that had taken place.
What could she do for him now?
This mess was her fault, not his. She should have said that, just like she had planned to. Even if he wouldn't accept it, she needed to tell him it really wasn't his problem to drastically worry about and blame himself for. He was only caught up in the crossfire of her own selfish desires, having struggled with his own fears to make her happy.
Fakir cared that much for her.
And she didn't deserve it.
Ahiru cared for her friend too, of course. They'd become close over time. (Well, as close as anyone could expect to get to someone as closed-off as Fakir, anyway.) However, when she was helpless to aid him like this, and forced onto the sidelines to watch, it was almost unbearable.
Stranded without knowing what to do, or how to go about doing it.
Watching. Waiting. Hoping.
The freckled redhead decided she was going to need some outside opinions and others' supposed solutions on this dilemma. Alone, she didn't have the power - or the knowledge - to do more than trip over her own feet frantically and quack her concerns and worries.
And going back to Kinkan would help with that. Aotoa, as weird as she considered him to be, did seem to know quite a bit about Fakir. Maybe not in a personal sense, but his input on the matter might be of some help. That was, however, on the assumption that his memories of "The Prince and the Raven" had not been banished along with everyone else's. She frowned at the thought. It was still the only plan she had for now.
'If only Mytho and Rue-chan were still around,' she thought dismally. As much as it would pain her to see Mytho and to possibly reawaken the strength in those feelings for him again, he'd also spent a great deal of time with Fakir. Granted, he'd been heartless at the time, but more than likely, that wouldn't have affected his memory.
Rue probably knew even less than she did about Fakir, but despite the graveness of the situation at hand, she still wanted to see her again. Maybe even become better friends, if given the opportunity.
Fakia chose that moment to re-enter, pulling her from her thoughts. He approached her bent down before her small form, depositing a small heap of clothing onto her blanket-coated lap. "These should be able to keep you covered for now, at least," he supplied, rising back to his feet. "They're mine, and they might be a bit loose, but they should keep you clothed better than a mere blanket would."
She blinked at the pile of clothing over her lap, an amused smile working onto her features. She raised a pitch black shirt from the garment lump. "You really like dark colors, don't you?" The duck-girl chuckled, lifting her gaze to find his expression perplexed. "I don't mean it in a strange way," she amended. "Thanks for letting me borrow them."
He nodded once. "Bright colors do suit you better, though."
Clear sapphire eyes blinked. "You think so?"
Another almost imperceptible nod was given in reply and she beamed. "Well dark colors certainly suit you," she mused. "I don't think I could even imagine you wearing bright reds or yellows! Black, blue, and green in dark and earthy tones look especially good on you." He flushed slightly, but she took no notice of the color in his cheeks as she continued, "But red certainly suits Rue-chan, don't you think? Though I think violets and white also look really nice on her, too. Oh! And black. Definitely black and...maybe even a darker green shade? Rue-chan should try wearing green, I think." A bemused smile slowly worked onto Fakia's lips as he beheld her almost literally lighting up with all of her energetic musings. "And Mytho's eyes really stand out when he wears dark colors, but I think he also looks great in plain white and light pastels of blues. I bet he and Rue-chan would look so wonderful contrasting their colors and dancing-"
"Ahiru," he broke in gently. "You're rambling."
A hand rose to cover the red rapidly staining across her cheeks and freckled nose, a timid quack squeaking through the gap of her fingers.
It took her a moment to pass the embarrassment and realize she hadn't reverted back into duck form, due to the slip-up. "Eh?" She looked up from her hands, puzzled. "Why didn't I turn back into a duck?"
Fakia shrugged. "I guess that's due to that fool's-"
"The story has been completed," came an irritated tone from behind them, a piercing green glare narrowed on his twin. "Get a good rest because we'll be expected in class tomorrow morning."
Ahiru fidgeted with Fakir's clothing. "That soon?" she gaped openly. "B-But we don't even have our uniforms anymore! And we're not registered in the dorms or anything! And my ballet shoes are gone!"
Fakir shifted his gaze to her. "It's taken care of," he assured. "Until we get there, just wear whatever that moper supplied you with."
"That moper" scowled, briskly turning on heel. "I'm going to take a look at this stupid story you wrote before we do anything."
His twin shrugged. "It's not like you have the power to change anything, even if you wanted to. That responsibility fell to me, and me alone. Deal with it."
Ahiru sighed, meeting Fakir's darker gaze for a second before he too, parted from the room.
Those two were definitely more alike than they seemed to notice.
Picking herself up from the floor and taking the bundle in her arms, she decided it was time to change out of her poor form of sheeted-cover and into something more efficient.
For some odd reason, the thought made a rosy blush rise from her neck upward. She'd never worn male clothing before, much less some that belonged to a person she knew or considered close.
Somehow, that made it seem like more than just wearing someone else's borrowed clothes.
The redhead shook her head frantically. It was just clothes, for crying out loud. Covering that humans had to keep modesty in check. Nothing more, nothing less. She was being stupid by dwelling on it, as Fakir or Fakia would have tactfully supplied themselves if they were present.
Ahiru let the sheet fall slowly from her shoulders and slip to the floor, bunching around her in creased white folds, and proceeded to pull the dark blue ink-colored cloth over her head, followed by stepping into a rather baggy pair of black shorts.
'There,' she dusted her hands together, as though having successfully completed a difficult task. 'That wasn't so bad.'
She blinked suddenly, her sensitive nose picking up an interesting aroma: Dew-spotted maple, a touch of fresh green grass, and a darker, musty and masculine smell that she wasn't familiar with, but found inexplicably pleasing.
Ahiru was undoubtably surrounded by Fakir's unique scent.
She'd sensed it only a few times before, the short moments when he was close enough to her. Though recently he also had the faint remnants of ink spills that added their own splash to the aroma, she noted.
However, being trapped by the smell felt different than just catching a whiff. It had a feeling to it that was sort of reminiscent of being hugged or held by him. A calm and safe, yet firm atmosphere.
She felt the blush return to her face and hurriedly darted out of the room before she could focus on it any further.
Ironically enough, though she'd sworn she could never forget it, she currently couldn't recall what Mytho's distinct fragrance had been.
'That's just because I haven't seen or been near him in a long time,' she assured herself quickly.
It had nothing to do with Fakir. Absolutely nothing.
Ahiru walked in an unusually silent manner, the presence of two shadows on either side of her forming a bit of an uncomfortable air. Even though both Fakir and Fakia were striding a fair distance apart from her left and right sides respectively, the duck-girl somehow felt like she was being sandwiched between them.
He always had managed a sort of over-bearing presence, even as just one person. And now that he was a set of twins, it was like that element doubled and spread like a dark cloud hanging over the three of them.
Could they - either of them, even - cheer up, just a little?
The redhead found herself suddenly wishing the Ballet Academy building wasn't all the way across the courtyard.
Already, they'd attracted the stares of nearly anyone who passed them, or vice versa. And Ahiru mused that it probably was an odd sight: One small redheaded girl walking between two identical dark-haired twins that towered over her. She also noted that the majority of the female glances in her direction were that of either envy or disapproval.
The blue-eyed girl swallowed, averting and shifting her gaze constantly as the promenade continued. She never actually had the opportunity to read the story Fakir had written the night before, or had it been passed to her to view by either one of them. The duck-girl vaguely wondered just what the people around had been forced to believe had "always been this way", if anything.
After what seemed like an eternity, the trio finally reached Academy's front doors and made their way inside. Ahiru felt her shoulders slump in relief as they momentarily parted ways to the girl's and boy's respective changing and locker rooms. It felt like someone had just removed a heavy weight from the back of her neck.
However, the relief was incredibly short-lived.
Upon opening the locker room to the girl's section, Ahiru was nearly overblown and pummeled by a mob of students that circled her immediately. Some were squealing, some were shouting, one was tugging her arm back and forth, and every single one of them was making a lot of noise. Already her head was spinning, unable to concentrate on any of the voices among the throng of excitement.
The redheaded duck-girl weakly pulled herself away from the group, backing up against the west-side lockers. "W-What's the problem?" she sputtered nervously.
Lilie's familiar blonde head poked out from the crowd. Her emerald-colored eyes were sparkling. And that was always a bad sign.
"Oh, Ahiru! To believe the rumors were true!"
"Rumors?" Ahiru managed in an inquisitive squeak, being closed in on all sides by her peers.
"The twins," an unfamiliar voice provided, "who never take interest in anyone, stepping in as your personal guardians! It's like a fairytale!"
Ahiru blinked with wide blue-eyes as the girls chorused in excited squeals. 'What?' her mind nearly screamed in confusion. 'Personal guardians! What on earth did Fakir write?'
"So what's the story?" came Pique's tone from somewhere in the crowd. "You don't just disappear suddenly from school at the same time as the best male dancing duo, and reappear together just as mysteriously." Her amythyst eyes were gazing curiously through a gap between two larger girls. "What happened?"
Ahiru opened her mouth, then closed it. And repeated the gesture several times.
Just what was she supposed to say? Neither Fakir nor Fakia had warned or told her about any of this!
Lilie raised a petite hand to her mouth to hide a giggle. "Look how nervous she is! I bet they must have done something extreme, like elope!"
Ahiru felt her cheeks flush. She didn't know what to say and she didn't have anywhere to go or hide. This was like a nightmare!
"Oh, so you bonded?" came another girl's voice.
"Or maybe more!" giggled another.
"With twins, no less! That's so daring, Ahiru!"
"Just how far did you go?"
"Who's the better kisser?"
The redhead's back slid down the smooth locker surface, until she was sitting on the floor, face flaming. Each question was more bold, with more embarrassing implications than she could even register presently. "N-Nothing!" she stammered out of her trembling lips. "There is absolutely nothing like that going on!"
For a moment, the room went silent, a dozen different pairs of eyes staring at her.
And as quickly as they'd gone quiet, the squeals erupted again, flooding the room with over-excited chatter.
"You can trust us! We won't tell anyone!"
"Oh, but what I wouldn't give to be in your place!"
"Yeah, she's right! You're so lucky!"
"I always admired those two, but they were kind of the untouchables, you know? Wouldn't open up to anyone!"
"So spill already, Ahiru!"
"N-Not now," Ahiru managed in a quick and quackless sputter, pulling herself back to her feet. She grinned nervously. "We're going to be late for class if we don't hurry."
Lilie popped out of the female mass and glomped her in a death grip, rubbing the top of her head roughly. "Silly, silly Ahiru! You'll always be late no matter what you do!"
Pique came forward to pry the blonde girl's vice lock off of the redhead, whose face was rapidly turning blue from lack of oxygen. "She won't have to worry about being late at this rate! You're suffocating her!"
Lilie's hands rose to her face in mock-disbelief, releasing Ahiru - who was visibly gasping for breath - from the infamous tight grip. "Of course I'm not!" she denied immediately, grinning innocently from between her palms.
The redhead braced herself against the lockers, catching her breath and quickly proceeding to change for class. Thankfully her female classmates were preoccupied for the time being, which finally granted a brief span of time she could have strictly to herself.
Fakir apparently hadn't spared any decent amount of thought to how his story was affecting her in the process. The duck-girl scowled, pulling her hair up into a binding twist behind her head. She'd have to have a little chat with him about that later, for certain. If the current situation continued as it was, she wasn't sure she'd even survive another day.
Maybe the twins would not be averse to a little editing of the story, for her sake.
Ahiru sighed, smoothing her leotard and heading for class. 'Fat chance that is,' she thought, spirits already having fallen to low to be especially hopeful about anything.
As soon as she opened the tall oak doors that separated her from the practice room, the redhead found the two shadows hanging just off to the right side, as though they'd been waiting.
"Not late?" Fakir questioned, pulling from his slouch against the wall. "Small miracles can happen, I suppose."
She offered a suffering glower to the one responsible for her being overwhelmed by her female classmates. "Oh, shut up," she retorted. "But before that, tell me what the heck this "guardian" thing is all about!"
The surly twin's arms crossed, and Fakia shifted uneasily a foot or two off to the side of him. "I would think that'd be obvious," he stated, then smirked in a most self-satisifed way. "Then again, this is you we're talking about."
The blue-eyed redhead really wasn't in the mood for Fakir's snide comments. Most especially not since this particular half seemed to be chock full of them. "Well, what's the big idea?" she pressed impatiently.
He shrugged, glancing once toward his counterpart in dim recognition. "We made a promise and therefore have an obligation," he clarified. "As guardians, we have perfect reason and excuse, if necessary, to stay by your side."
"Just look what you did!" she bit out, pointing across the room to where the female populous of the class had clumped together, pointing and giggling at the trio. "Any time I go near them, I get bowled over by questions and suffocated by crazy classmates!"
"Ignore them," Fakia offered neutrally.
Ahiru raised her blue eyes to blink in his direction, stunned. "You agree to this, too?"
"He made a point."
She could hardly believe her ears. Being flanked by these two constantly was going to cause a world of problems. "I'm not going to hold you to some promise like it's set in stone!" she argued. "And I can take care of myself!"
Fakir offered a dark-green stare of disbelief. "You can't walk across a room without falling on your face, much less be prepared if anything remotely dangerous were to happen."
"I did fine without that kind of protection before!" she defended heatedly. "And 'stay by your side' does not translate to 'glue to your hips'!"
"That's not for you to decide. Discussion closed." Fakir stated with finality, turning away from her and heading for the barre to begin his pre-class warm-ups.
Ahiru abruptly realized the full extent of what Mytho must have gone through during his time under Fakir's "supervision", even if maybe the silver-haired boy had actually needed the guidance due to his silent death wish whenever something "helpless" crossed his vision.
Then again, at least Mytho had been spared the ability to feel, during most of that time. She, on the other hand, could feel quite a bit right now; mostly anger toward Fakir's arrogance.
Maybe she'd feel at least slightly better after getting one little urge out of her system.
Approaching the barre where Fakir was currently stretching his legs (Fakia mimicking his procedure from nearby), she walked right up behind the unsuspecting black-clad twin and kicked him directly in the shin that was bared within perfect range of her small foot. Her reward for the action was a painful grunt from the victim, followed by staggering as he just barely braced himself from a fall by grabbing the barre with both hands.
Ahiru smiled innocently at the death glare he sent in her direction and trotted away, satisfied for the time being.
He most definitely deserved that, at the very least.
"Settle down, class!" came a very familiar voice from the open doorway.
Ahiru craned her neck around, expression turning to one of puzzlement. The face that emerged from the shadows beyond was different from Neko-sensei, despite the voice being almost a mirror to the former one. First and foremost, the man was most definitely a man, and not a cat.
The duck-girl blinked. Kinkan town had returned to normal, so that must have meant the animal-people returned to being people. It made sense.
But if she squinted, the redhead could almost swear he still resembled a cat in some ways. And the scruffy head of sun-faded burgundy color was also a lot like the fur shade she remembered.
"Now return to your warm-ups and be ready to start class in five minutes, or...I WILL HAVE YOU MARRY ME!" Neko-sensei bellowed through the enclosure, his skin breaking out with beads of sweat.
Ahiru diligently started her stretching so as not to bring the instructor's attention to her this soon.
He was definitely the same marriage-obsessed Neko-sensei. Some things would never change.
Once class had ended, Ahiru immersed herself into the large crowd of students leaving the practice room, burying her small form amongst them. What she needed to do now, was to find Aotoa and ask him a few questions, as well as give him a look at Fakir's story.
That meant ditching the shadow-duo, whom she was sure were going to try and follow her after class.
She didn't dare cast them a glance as she let herself be guided out by the flow of the students. And as luck decided to finally shine in her favor, the duck-girl seemed to have lost them once emerging from the entrance. Ahiru used speed to her advantage and hurried across the open lawn of the scattering academy body, making a beeline straight for the library.
Surely Fakir and Fakia would never think to look for her there. And it was also the most common hang-out of the blue-haired musician, who was just who she needed to see.
Barely coming to a halt before running right into the door, Ahiru realized she'd forgotten something.
Namely, the manuscript that she needed to give Aotoa. Berating herself with a quick bonk to the head, she whirled around to fix her mistake.
However, what greeted her vision from just a short distance away was one that made her eyes widen to the size of saucers.
A brunette dressed casually and not in the common school uniform, was hanging from to the arm of an unmistakable white-haired Prince (who was also dressed in simple garments). The young woman stared back at her with broad crimson-colored eyes. "Ahiru?"
"Rue-chan!" the duck-girl squealed happily, running forth to wrap her friend in a hug. "I missed you!" She spared a shy smile to amber-eyed boy beside her, her cheeks taking on a reddish hue. "And you too, Mytho." The color deepened when he grinned gently in return.
For former Princess Kraehe returned the girl's embrace and pulled back, her expression still filled with unmasked surprise. "You're human again," she noted, and paled slightly as her eyes momentarily met with Mytho's, a teasing smile forming on his lips.
Ahiru chuckled sheepishly, one hand rising to curl behind her head. "Yeah, um...things happened."
The Prince's expression turned grave. "Things happened?" he repeated. "Something bad?"
"It's kind of hard to explain," the redhead started. Unnerved by the boy's stare, she began poking her fingers together rythymically. "Fakir sort of has...a problem."
"A problem," Mytho further echoed her words, eyebrows drawing together.
"Well, tell us what the problem is," Rue stated simply, becoming frustrated.
"There you are," came a familiar and perfectly synchronized set of voices from beyond the trio.
Mytho and Rue both began to turn around, recognizing the deep tone on the spot.
"Ah, so you can tell us what the problem is, Fa-"
Ahiru couldn't see their expressions, but from the way Mytho's voice died into nothing and Rue went unusually rigid, she could certainly make an educated guess to their reaction.
Fakir and Fakia, however, were still focused on Ahiru. Both of whom looked severely displeased. "Thought that was pretty funny, didn't you?" the surly half accused. "We thought something might have happened to you, you idiot!"
Ahiru frowned, her previously happy features being marred by lines of irritation. "Don't you even start! I can walk around campus without two scowling escorts!" Fakia seemed to take mild offense from the comment, but said nothing. Fakir, however, seemed to be suppressing the urge to yell anything further.
The newcomers, flabbergasted into silence, said nothing during the exchange, and left a lingering and uneasy quiet atmosphere.
And as suddenly as the silence came, noise blew out again - in the unexpected form of Mytho's laughter.
Four startled pairs of eyes turned on the Prince, whose right hand rose to clutch at his chest. "T-This," he choked between outbursts, "Unbeli-Unbelievable!"
Rue, finding nothing about the situation humorous at all, solidly smacked a pale hand to the back of her love's head, sending him sprawling out onto the lawn and effectively ceasing the laughter in the process.
Fakir, Fakia, and Ahiru merely gaped at the couple's display.
"Now then," Rue brushed her hands approvingly over the fallen form of her Prince. "You two -erm, three," she corrected with a feminine cough, stern eyes raising to the duo and redhead. "Have a bit of explaining to do."
Ahiru laughed nervously and both versions of the ex-knight crossed their arms in defiance.
Rue sent a suffering stare to the dark-haired twins, and laid pity-filled red eyes on crystal blue. The brunette Princess reached forward and patted Ahiru's head almost sympathetically."I'm sure it must have been hard enough with just one, much less two of him."
Both of the green-eyed duo's expressions clearly stated what they thought of Rue and her remark.
Ahiru's shoulders slumped. "This was that problem I was talking about, by the way."
Leave it to the duck-girl to state the obvious.
The forgotten Mytho finally rose from his grounded position, an impressive grass-stain streaking his left cheek. "Well, why don't you tell us how this," he gestured meaningfully to the "torn" knight, "managed to happen."
Ahiru sighed, gazing toward the split duo, who were still sending her the "you're-going-to-get-a-lecture-later" glare.
She suddenly wished she were a mere duck again, floating on the lake outside of Fakir's cabin with no worries to speak - or quack - of.
It was going to be a really long day.
For weeks, this chapter would just not flow. And then today, once I got it flowing, it wouldn't stop. Not that I'm complaining. There were actually a few more elements I had planned to include in this chapter, but it was just getting too long for one segment. I apologize.
And yes, as you can tell, I write long stories/chapters. I can't help that. I'm not content to leave readers with just tiny bits in each part. I think, as a writer, you need to provide sufficient material to bring the reader into the story. Then again, that's just how I feel about it. You're welcome to your own opinion. I do apologize if some find it boring to read something so huge.
But I hope this continuation was worth the wait? Despite the trouble this chapter gave me, I did have a lot of fun writing it out. I'm sure you can probably tell that. I'll be getting to work on the second chapter of Darkness of Heart, too. So keep an eye out for that if you're interested in its continuation.
I know I piled a lot of angst on Fakia and Ahiru early in this chapter, but I really want to develop that, so bear with me if you can.
As for Mytho's personality, I took the liberty of adding to it. Afterall, you only get to see "Prince with full-heart" Mytho in the very last Act of the series. ...And Drosselmeyer wouldn't really create a character that was simply a "brave and handsome" Prince. Or so I chose to think, anyway. Hope his changes don't bother you.
Anyway, that concluded chapter two and all of my author's notes.
Please review if you can spare the time. I really love to hear your feedback. All comments and criticisms are most welcome.
And thank you for taking the time to read this.