Yeah, another new AU story. I got inspired again. And basically, whatever I feel inspired to write, I'll write. Hopefully with this being my third ongoing PT story, I'll be able to keep inspiration running for at least one at any given time.
Now this is probably the crackiest idea I've had yet (and that's saying something, in relation to "Distorted Reflections"). But it sounded so fun and different that I really wanted to try it. That, and I got support from Mangaka-chan about the idea (Thanks a lot!)
A few notes to get out of the way, so you won't be completely and utterly confused to the point of insanity while reading this:
1. Like I mentioned, this is AU (Alternate Universe), but furthermore, it does not involve fairytales. The characters and their relationships are the main thing I will be focusing on. And the characters themselves will also be considerably older (Rue and Mytho - 21, Fakir - 22, Ahiru - 19). Also, Ahiru is not and has not at any point, been a duck.
2. The setting is modern. I will borrow Kinkan Town's name and hereby change it to Gold Crown City (adapting with the translation instead of the given Japanese, this time). Sadly, you will not be seeing quills or fire-lit lamps.
3. The story revolves around the base of the two top (and bitter competitive rival) publishing companies in Gold Crown City: Raven Ink, Inc. and Night Ink, Inc. CEO (Chief Executive Officer, highest standing company position)'s are respectively Rue and Fakir (perhaps they're a bit too young for CEOs, but I took a little bit of writing freedom).
4. While there will be no adult themes, be prepared for Teen , to some extent. Nothing graphic.
5. Other lesser characters will appear throughout and have their own small roles.
6. Also be prepared for what you might consider a bit OOC. I've taken the liberty to change characters' past relationships and present, aside from those that have not yet met in the story. Don't berate me for the OOC-ness, because I'm basically telling you to expect it. However, I will most definitely try to keep parts of their personalities the way they should be, along with other elements of their pasts, etc.
7. If you have any further questions, feel free to message me or leave them in a review. I will gladly clear up whatever I can.
With that said, I hope you can enjoy the story. Please spare a review if you have the time.
Summary: Mix two very competitive publishing companies, one very gifted asset to be fought over, a jealousy-prone and proud CEO of one company, the cold, ruthless CEO of the other, and a lowly cleaning girl whose innocent crush will get her caught up in everything... It's a recipe for disaster. Break-ups, buried secrets, disillusioned lovers, lies, revenge schemes, unexpected attractions, and one hell of a drama.
Dedication: This first chapter is hereby dedicated to Mangaka-chan, for your support and help with the idea. I really appreciate your feedback and the encouragement to stop worrying about this and write it. XD Thanks!
Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all of its characters do not belong to me.
Chapter One: Cause and Effect
The silence that hung in office number twenty-nine of the Raven Ink Publishing company left a veil of suffocating unease in the air.
A woman, whose hair shade mirrored the company name to a tee, was seated at the largest of two grand desks in the room, long and pale hands entwined underneath her pretty face. A stormy, almost worried pair of crimson eyes were narrowed on the magazine laying before her.
The other occupant of the room stood just beyond the door, deep amber-colored gaze appearing apprehensive, but also carrying a light of curiosity. He ran a hand through his unruly mop of silver-white hair.
"Why the urgent call?" he broke the quiet atmosphere, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
The red eyes lifted from their scrutiny of the gloss cover and met the golden-brown across the room. "Come here and see for yourself."
He strode forward almost casually, ignoring the heavy feeling that grew as he came closer to her vicinity. Just before he reached her desk, the young woman abruptly stood and threw the magazine directly at him.
The man caught the flying bound papers right in the gut and took a step back upon the impact, eyes wide with surprise. "Rue?"
"Page sixteen," she bit out, crossing her arms over the crisp black business jacket and turning sharply away from him.
Obediently, his gaze shifted over the cover of "Gold Crown Publishing Weekly", and he began turning the smooth pages to the one in question.
He only managed a glance at page sixteen before dropping the booklet to the floor, golden eyes broad, mouth agape, and a healthy flush rising from his neck to his ears.
"W-When did they...? How?"
She threw her arms up in the air, whirling back around to face him with a similar expression and facial coloring. "I don't know!"
"You said the security cameras were off!"
"I thought they were!" she argued heatedly. "It was after hours!"
He brought a hand to his brow, stroking the skin at his temple where the pounding of a headache was beginning to form."Well what are we going to do now? This is going to be all over Gold Crown by midday!"
She released an exasperated and stressed sigh. "I don't know!"
"It was your bright idea in the first place!" he reminded her.
She flushed more deeply, curling raspberry-coated fingernails inward to form fists on either side. "Well you certainly weren't complaining at the time, Mytho!"
The hand fell from his face, revealing the darker hue upon his cheeks. "T-That has nothing to do with this!"
Rue glared venomously at him for a moment, before swiftly reseating herself. "Well we've got to stop this before it leaks everywhere." She angrily snatched her cell-phone off of the desktop, punching in numbers hurriedly, and waved the white-haired man out of the room while waiting for the other line to pick up. "Hurry up! Go and find every goddamn copy of that thing in the building and get rid of them!"
Mytho frowned, his expression dubious. "You expect me to run around the building like a madman stealing magazines from everyone?"
"Yes," she flat-out stated impatiently. He merely gave her a hard stare in reply and she bristled. "Do you want everyone to see that?" she questioned incredulously, tapping a painted fingernail on the glass desktop while still waiting for an answer to her phone call.
He swallowed visibly. "Of course not! But I don't see why I'm always having to run around and fix your mistakes!"
She slammed a fist down on the see-through glass, rattling the surface's contents, among which a cup of coffee fell the carpeted floor and spilled out over its cream color. "Stop wasting time arguing with me and get those cursed articles away from the staff! Now!"
Mytho's golden eyes narrowed as he straightened his baby blue silk tie. "I'm not through with this, Rue. We'll talk later."
"Send Ahiru up here while you're at it," she added dismissively, gesturing to the stained carpet, and further growling at the busy tone emitting from the receiver at her ear.
He stiffly turned on heel, pristine white business suit reflecting in the dim light, and stalked out of her office without another word.
A long and drained sigh echoed through the hallway of floor three, a tired and rather small young woman coming around the corner near the west side offices.
"Ten in the morning and I'm already exhausted," she muttered to herself, half-lidded blue eyes reflecting her tired state. "I'm starting to think Lilie dumps the ink refill container on purpose."
Yawning widely, she blinked when a water fountain came into view, a large puddle formed beneath it and slowly spreading. The redhead nearly dropped the ink-stained mop and bucket from both of her hands. "Malfunctioned again?" she nearly choked in disbelief.
The fountain merely sprung another leak in response, causing her to grimace. "I'm not a mechaaaaniiiiiic," she whined dramatically, dragging herself toward the sopping mess.
It seemed everyone and everything was out to get her, today. And she was still two hours short of lunch break.
"AHHHHH!" the girl exclaimed, nearly jumping three feet in the air, bucket and mop flying in opposite directions as she toppled face-first to the tile floor.
A familiar cackling laugh came in response from directly behind her. "Quite jumpy today, aren't you little apprentice Ahiru-chan? Quite jumpy indeed!"
She frowned from her prone position. "Can you stop doing that, Mr. Meyers?" She paused. "And stop calling me that!"
"Ah, but the Prince is coming," he waved a white-gloved finger in an all-knowing manner. "You should be on your best behavior. Don't want him seeing you like this, now do you? Certainly not."
Her eyebrows drew together in puzzlement. "Prince? What in the world are you talking about?"
Well, not much the old man said did make sense, she reasoned to herself. She should have been accustomed to his nonsense by now.
He laughed in the same strange manner and she lifted her petite form back to her feet, facing the old man with a glare of disdain. Ahiru could never figure out why Rue had hired such a crazy, ancient man. He dressed like he was from the circus, wearing flamboyant, bright colors, and a really ugly cape with an equally odd hat. The old coot was more like a twisted company mascot than a janitor.
"You're in a good mood," she muttered, frown deepening from the sight of his almost maniacal grin.
"Yes, yes," he agreed with a nod. "Things are about to get very interesting. All thanks to my genius, of course." He took a mock-bow and continued down the hallway, his incoherent, arguably senile babbling and almost evil-sounding cackles echoing through the open hall.
Ahiru shook her head and sighed. It was almost an embarrassment to have to call that man her senior. He hadn't taught her anything about cleaning duties, like he was supposed to. All he did was call her that stupid name and try to scare her when she wasn't paying attention.
Languidly, she waddled down the empty stretch to retrieve her fallen cleaning mop and get back to work.
"Mytho-sama!" came an indignant shout. "What's the meaning of this?"
"Urgent recall for this issue! We apologize!"
Ahiru blinked, turning toward the origin of the voices. Around ten feet beyond her, a young white-haired man dashed out of the open office door and headed her way, arms filled with what appeared to be a stack of magazines. His amber eyes were wide with blind panic and he seemed not to notice the bucket directly in his intended path.
Blue eyes widened. "Mytho-sama! LOOK OUT!"
There was a metallic clang that resounded through the hall as the man's right foot landed directly into the bucket, which slid into the growing puddle of water from the leaking fountain, and sent the white-clad man bowling right into her.
Their screeches mingled in the morning air as their bodies collided, throwing the pile of glossy magazines every which way, and ultimately leaving Mytho sprawled on top of a very-startled cleaning girl, the bucket rolling innocently away and bumping against the wall.
Many of the company's employees, inevitably hearing the cries and the loud crash nearby, had come out of their cubicles to see what the commotion was about.
Mytho hurriedly removed himself from on top of her, stammering numerous apologies as he scrambled for every issue of the fallen "Publishing Weekly", face bright with both exertion and embarrassment.
Ahiru pulled herself to her knees, bending down to reach for one of the water-logged magazines in attempt to help, but her golden-eyed senior quickly snatched the bound text from her view, stashing it on the crown of his enormous pile.
The redhead blinked, rocking back on her heels. "Is something wrong with the issue, Mytho-sama?"
He grabbed the last two magazines he could find, climbing back to his feet and holding his free hand out to help her do the same. Her cheeks flushed a dull red as she placed her small hand in his and allowed him to lift her to a standing position.
"If you see anyone carrying one of these," he gestured meaningfully to the stack in his arms. "Please bring them straight to me, alright?" She nodded uncertainly. "Whatever you do, don't flip through them," he added, almost on a plead. "Can I trust you to do that for me, Ahiru?" The freckled young woman nodded more eagerly and he smiled. "Thanks. I'm counting on you."
She blushed to the roots of her hair as he left to continue his jog down the open hall and grinned at his retreating back, feeling her legs nearly give out beneath her weight.
Mytho was trusting her.
The cleaning girl whirled back around, eyes set with a new determination as she proceeded to get her discarded cleaning aids from their dormant and forgotten positions.
She would definitely not let him down!
The redhead looked up and Mytho waved a white-sleeved arm from the corner of the last office. "I almost forgot to tell you!" his voice carried from the end of the hall. "Rue wants to see you in her office as soon as possible!"
She waved back. "O-Okay!"
When Mytho's white mess of hair disappeared around the corner, the freckled girl made a beeline for the nearest elevator, mop and bucket on hand, and entered the side that just happened to be empty and ready for use.
It was always best not to leave Rue waiting. She was a strict boss, very dedicated to her job, and quite the perfectionist, as well. Despite that, Ahiru still felt she could get along with her and even relate to her, sometimes. Not that the CEO actually opened up to her, by any means, but it was just a feeling she had in context to the dark-haired woman.
Rue was someone Ahiru respected, but not feared, unlike many of the other employees in the building.
...Even if she just so happened to have a huge crush on her employer's boyfriend.
The thought alone made a puddle of guilt form in her gut. She couldn't help but be attracted to the gentle Mytho, who was always kind to her and understanding of her various mishaps and situations, even when she knew he was romantically involved with Rue.
"Mytho is already mine, Ahiru. Don't go getting any funny ideas in your head while you're employed here, understand?"
A defeated breath released from her mouth. It was a hopeless little infatuation. Rue didn't need to worry.
Resting the cleaning utensils against the rail inside the moving compartment, the redhead reached out and pushed the button for floor number eleven, the very top floor of the building, and stepped back as the elevator doors closed and the contraption pulled her upward.
She vaguely wondered what the urgent call could be about.
Sure, she could recall making some clumsy mistakes here and there, but she'd been getting better at the job, lately. Less accident-prone, more efficient, even punctual...
The blue-eyed girl shrugged inwardly. There didn't seem to be any cause for having her fired yet.
A token 'ding' noise brought her back to her senses, the elevator coming to a halt and doors sliding open to allow her passage. Ahiru bent to retrieve the bucket and mop, making her way out of the transportation device and down to the two grand oak doors at the very end of the corridor.
Ahiru knocked clearly upon the wood surface, until the feminine voice within answered, "Come in."
Taking the invitation, she pulled upon the brass handle of the righthand door, easing it open and entering the boss's personal office. "Er, I heard I was to come straight up here to see you, Rue, so-"
"Rue-sama," the black-clad lady at the desk corrected patiently.
"Rue-sama," Ahiru repeated, despite how strange it sounded in her head. The young CEO couldn't have been that much older than she was, afterall.
A flash of pale green caught her eye and Ahiru raised a hand to wave to the older woman sitting at the other occupied desk in the room. "Good morning, Edel-san!"
Serene blue eyes blinked back as the lady waved a hand in return, a very small smile on her pale lips.
Rue cleared her throat, directing Ahiru's attention to the spill on the carpeting near her desk with a wave of her hand. "If you could kindly clean that up, I'll send you on your way."
Ahiru smiled brightly, blue eyes shining. "Right away, Rue!"
"Rue-sama," she corrected again, a light note of irritation in her voice.
The redhead merely laughed and approached the mess in question, lowering to her knees and extracting a cleaning solution bottle along with a clean cloth from her make-shift belt. Shaking the container, she raised her sapphires to the ruby eyes that were watching her. "Did something happen? You seem a little stressed, Rue..." The raven-haired woman narrowed her gaze. "...-sama," Ahiru finished uncertainly, still not approving of the way it sounded on her lips.
The CEO averted her gaze. "You haven't seen the new issue of Gold Crown Publishing Weekly, have you?"
"Not yet," the redhead applied the clear liquid to the dark coffee stain and began scrubbing diligently. "Mytho-sama was running around collecting them for some reason."
Rue raised one graceful eyebrow. "You seem to have no qualms with using the honorific with his name," she mused aloud.
Ahiru hastily ducked her heated face out of view. "It's not that I don't respect you or your position, Rue...sama. It just sounds weird to me."
The black-clad woman sighed, leaning back in her chair. "Well if you come across that magazine anywhere-"
"Yes!" Ahiru interrupted, pumping a fist into the air. "I will bring it straight to Mytho-sama!"
Rue blinked in surprise of the outburst and the redhead lowered her hand quickly, flushing. "Er, I mean..that is...Mytho-sama specifically asked me to do that."
"Bring them to me instead," the raven-haired lady instructed. "There's no need for you to go bothering Mytho."
"But he asked me t-"
The head of the company silenced her with a crimson glare. "Mytho is not in charge here, nor is he your employer. You will bring any of those misplaced issues straight to me. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Ahiru conceded dismally, blue eye retrained upon the carpet.
She did wish Rue was a little less possessive of Mytho. Sometimes the way the head acted in regard to him was akin to a borderline unhealthy obsession.
"So," the cleaning girl broke the sudden silence once more, unsure sky blue orbs drifting to her employer's direction. "What was the problem with the newest issue of Gold Crown Publishing Weekly?"
Rue hastily turned away from her probing gaze, and Ahiru could have almost sworn she saw a tint of red staining her boss's ivory cheeks.
"...It's nothing," she replied off-handedly. "Just a little misinterpretation of a...an interview, on their part. It made the company look bad."
The freckled redhead turned her attention back to scrubbing the dull brown color out of the floor, applying more liquid and pressure as needed.
Rue's cell-phone broke the newborn silence, and Ahiru nearly jumped when the usually-composed CEO literally snatched the device and flipped it open urgently. "Hello? Yes. Yes, this Rue speaking. ...Pardon? What do you mean you can't? I know you can get all of those issues and stop production! And you will! Immediately!"
Ahiru tried not to appear like she was eavesdropping, thrusting the cloth more roughly against the remaining soiled area of the cream carpet. She was certain of one thing from what little she could deduce of the broken conversation and the fear in Rue's red-colored eyes: The mishap with Publishing Weekly was certainly more than 'nothing'.
The verbal phone exchange had lowered to whispers and the janitorial girl chanced a glance up, only to meet Rue's hard ruby stare and an elegant pale hand pointing straight toward the office doors.
Complying, Ahiru rose to her feet and collected her cleaning products, pausing to wave to Rue's green-haired secretary once more before exiting the office completely.
She lifted her arm into view, eyes roaming over the clock face situated on her wrist.
Thirty minutes until lunch break.
Ahiru sighed again, long salmon-colored braid falling over her slumped shoulders.
A half an hour was certainly enough time to clean that horrible fountain mess on the third floor.
Rue slammed the cell-phone shut, dropping it carelessly onto a stack of papers. "Greedy bastards!" she snapped. "They think I'm going to forfeit that much money to stop production of a magazine that my company pays for? Ridiculous!"
"You have quieted them now, Rue-sama?" inquired a passive voice from her right.
Raven Ink's CEO sighed. "For now."
"I must say, that position was quite...suggestive to be so openly printed," Edel mused. "I'm certain they must have had a field day with the footage."
Rue crushed her hands around the paper she was holding, her expression mirroring fury at its worst. "I swear, I'm going to kill whoever is responsible for stealing a security tape and further daring to sell it to the media!"
"Very few have access to that well-secured property," the pale blue-eyed woman added.
"Oh, I'll flush out the rat," Rue assured darkly, her long nails scraping against the glass surface of her desk. "And make their lives hell for the rest of eternity."
Edel cleared her throat. "I also couldn't help but notice that you seemed a little rougher on Ahiru than usual, today."
The raven-haired woman frowned. "I just can't stand it when she mentions Mytho."
"Did you have a quarrel with him?" her secretary asked lightly. "Your stress level appears above the average."
Rue blinked crimson eyes in the older woman's direction and then smirked. "You can really see everything, can't you Edel? Mytho and I did have a bit of a dispute this morning."
"Over the magazine article."
The female CEO nodded. "I get the feeling he's changing recently," her voice reflected the tiniest sliver of worry. "Like he's..."
"Not completely wrapped around your finger?" Edel finished for her.
Rue blushed, averting her red stare to the clear desktop. "He's just suddenly taken an interest in deciding things completely for himself and questioning my authority."
"Not completely wrapped around your finger," the green-haired secretary nodded in confirmation. "Don't you think he needs a little breathing room?"
Her ruby eyes lit with a wild, almost fearful fire. "He'll drift away from me!"
"A caged bird doesn't fly."
Rue's expression scrunched up in distaste. "Oh, don't you even start with your riddles today!" She hastily thrust a painted fingernail at the entrance. "Take your lunch break early."
Edel nodded calmly and rose to her feet, obediently taking leave.
The raven-haired woman's eyes lifted momentarily just as her secretary's back disappeared from view, and caught a familiar golden-amber gaze it its place, causing her own ruby orbs to broaden considerably.
He calmly stepped beyond the threshold of her office, letting the door click silently behind him. The usually-dull and passive gleam in his gaze was missing, replaced by a confidence she had never seen before.
The previously-small spot of worry in her conscious abruptly expanded to the size of a killer whale that inconveniently lodged itself into her dry throat.
"And that's what happened," the redhead finished, eyes bright with confusion and facial expression reflecting embarrassment.
Edel smiled in an almost fond way. "So you've had quite the interesting morning, Ahiru."
She nodded feverishly, sparing a reply through her mouthful of sandwich, and swallowed before continuing. "He really came out of nowhere! I'd never seen Mytho look that freaked-out before!"
"Have you thought about telling him how you feel?"
Ahiru nearly spurted her drink out as it touched her lips. "Ehhhhh? No, no, no!" She flushed red from head to toe, waving her hands almost frantically. "Mytho is with Rue and I'm really okay with that! I don't want to cause problems!"
The green-haired woman tilted her head to the side, still smiling in a cryptic manner. "Your chance may come sooner than you think."
The freckled young woman blinked in bewilderment. "My chance?"
"Will you take it when it comes? Or will you chose to look the other way?"
Ahiru raised a thin salmon-colored eyebrow, further puzzled. "You lost me, Edel-san."
"No matter," the elder woman half-shrugged. "Just remember that I'll be here when you need to talk to someone, alright?"
The redhead grinned, sapphires shining her appreciation. "I know I can count on you, Edel-san!"
Rue's secretary rose from her seated position, gathering her remaining lunch items and offering another smile in the younger girl's direction. "Have a pleasant day, Ahiru. I will see you tomorrow."
Ahiru waved with her free hand, the other being too busy holding a chunk of baked bread to her mouth to allow her a verbal farewell.
"I didn't get a phone message or written request for you to see me," Rue stated, avoiding that new luster in his eyes.
He stepped away from the door. "I said we'd talk later."
"And I didn't confirm it," she immediately replied. "Yet you sti-"
"Considering our personal standing, it seems rather inappropriate that I should have to call if I'd like to see or come and speak with you," he cut in, hard tone slicing right through her own.
Her perfect posture faltered. "What's gotten into you, Mytho?"
"Sense, maybe?" he offered sarcastically.
Rue rose to her feet, hands finding her hips. "I don't believe this! Has someone brainwashed you? It's like you're a completely different person!"
"It's like I'm not your toy anymore?" he inquired quietly, bitterness in his voice.
Her shocked crimson gaze finally met the stern golden orbs halfway across the room, but words failed her.
"This is going to stop, Rue."
His voice was demanding. She had never heard such a firm decision from him before. It left her speechless, mouth agape in some odd mix of shock and horror.
"I let you have your fun with being in charge throughout all of high school and even through college," he continued. "But this has to end. If we want this relationship to work for real, you have to stop acting like you're Queen of the World."
"I-I run this company! How can you even dare to speak to me that way, Mytho!" her voice nearly exploded as her hands tightened their hold on her jacket. "You know how much I love you!"
His amber gaze narrowed, colorless brows drawing together. "Then prove it."
"Prove it?" she repeated.
"Stop this little game of yours," he clarified. "Treat me like a person and not a possession."
A cold gleam drifted into her red eyes. "And if I refuse?"
"FINE!" She threw her arms into the air. "See if I care!"
His eyes softened almost solemnly for a moment. "Have it your way, Rue."
"Yes, my way. And you'd better learn to respect that if you want to keep working for this company!"
Mytho cleared his throat. "There's no need for your threats. I've come to another decision."
She blinked, unperturbed. "Oh?"
He brushed a lock of pure white hair from his eyes. "I'll give the media something new to talk about."
His golden-brown gaze turned downright frigid, and she felt a shiver run down her spine when the thin line of his lips parted.
And with those two simple and powerful words, the former star employee of Raven Ink turned around and headed right back out the way he came.
Rue's hands were shaking through their death-grip on her business coat. "Wait! Mytho!" her voice cracked with desperation. "You can't leave the company! You...You have nowhere to go!"
The slender young man paused, facing her for a brief moment with a ghost of a smile. "I called an old friend. Ironically, he was delighted to hear the news and offered nearly double what you pay me here, if I take the very same position there. I'll be much better off, not only mentally, but financially."
Rue's eyes flared in fury. "That no-good dirty bastard!"
The white-haired man paid her outburst no heed, pulling the large door open.
"No, Mytho! Please!" she pleaded, pitching forward to run after him. "Think of the company! All of the other employees!"
"I'm thinking of myself, for once," he concluded.
The door shut and Rue fell to her knees, one pale hand gripping the carpeting so tightly that her knuckles turned stark white.
How had things gone so horribly wrong? Why did Mytho suddenly have to develop a will of his own?
...And why the hell did Fakir have to rear his ugly head at such an inopportune time?
Mytho stared at the floor outside of Rue's office.
He'd gone through with it. Just like he'd planned. Finally taken a hold of his life with his own hands, instead of being pulled along by her every whim and desire.
However, a small part of him had hoped, even counted on the possibility that she would accept handing his own reigns back to him, instead of pulling him along like her own private pet.
And if she really loved him like she claimed she did, she would have.
But she refused.
He frowned at the tiled ground. How stupid he'd been to think she would be open to any form of change. Especially one that threatened a lax on her universal control and power over him.
The amber gaze finally lifted, staring down the empty hallway.
Maybe...Maybe this was still for the better. He would miss the company as a whole and how at home he had come to feel here, but this is the way it had to be.
It was his first step down his own road. He couldn't turn back now that he'd exerted enough courage to pull himself this far.
He did not need Rue.
She was probably waiting in her office right now for him to come meekly through the door and apologize.
One of his hands clenched into a fist at the thought.
He'd prove to her he could move forward on his own. Without her.
"Stupid windows never want to come clean!"
Mytho blinked in surprise, finding he was suddenly no longer alone in the corridor. Roughly twenty paces ahead, a diligent redhead was scrubbing a white cloth frantically over an invisible marking on one of the large windows. The small ladder beneath her was rocking almost ominously.
'Moving forward means moving on.'
His formerly-dismal expression brightened with a smile as he strode casually up to her side. "Ahiru?"
"Wah!" she gasped, falling backward and flailing her arms, losing her footing from the step-ladder in the process.
She braced herself for the imminent impact of the ground, eyes shut tightly, but instead felt a far different sensation that was nothing like a hard floor. Blue eyes blinked open, finding a pair of familiar white-clad arms wrapped under her own.
She turned beet red on the spot, matching the voice with the warm presence behind her. "M-M-M-Mytho-sama!"
The young man chuckled, amused. "Running into each other a lot today, aren't we?"
"S-Sorry!" she stammered, her shoes sliding against the waxed floor as she tried to remove herself from his close embrace. "I don't mean to be causing so many problems for you!"
He hoisted her gently to her feet before letting go of her lithe frame. "This time it was completely my fault for startling you," he said. "There's no reason for you to apologize."
In a bold and spontaneous gesture, he lifted her hand in his, and her sapphires grew wide as they clashed with the bemused amber. "Let me make it up to you, Ahiru."
She immediately began shaking her head back and forth. "N-No, no! There's no need! I'm perfectly fine! Thank you for catching me, Mytho-sama! I'll try not to be so clumsy!"
"I insist," he furthered with a charming smile. "And I won't take no for an answer."
The redhead looked ready to protest again and he placed a pale finger against her lips.
"How about I treat you to dinner at Ebine's tonight?"
She shook her head again, removing his hand from her overheated face. "But-But that's so expensive and I can't-"
His face fell. "You're not available?" he interrupted, sounding sorely disappointed. "Or you'd rather not go with me?"
"That's not it!" she assured him quickly. "I'd love to go with you, but-"
"Great!" he cut her off, amber eyes shining happily. "Then I'll meet you out front at six this evening. See you, then!"
Without another word, the light-haired young man jogged down the hallway, leaving a very flushed, shaken, and completely flabbergasted cleaning girl behind him.
Upon coming to the elevator, he dug a hand into his pocket, pulling out his silver-colored cell-phone. While waiting for the transport machine to reach his floor, he popped the receiver open and hit the redial button.
"Hey, Fakir. It's just me. Yeah, I finished talking with Rue. She seemed more concerned about me leaving the company, than anything. I know you're not surprised." The elevator light clicked off and the doors swung open. Mytho stepped inside, still holding the phone to his ear. "Ever the businessman, aren't you?" he remarked in a bemused manner. "Yes. I'll be there first thing tomorrow morning."
Mytho pulled the communication gadget away from his ear and clicked it shut, stuffing it back into his pocket.
The shadow of Rue's overbearing presence was gone.
His life was now his own for the making.
A stern emerald gaze stared out the tenth story window, Raven Ink Incorporated's large red and black sign visible directly diagonal from the tall figure's standpoint.
The cell-phone in his right hand, mirroring its owner's eye color, flicked closed as the young man turned around and tossed it carelessly to his desk. He tightened the back of his dark green, almost black colored ponytail, and brushed invisible dust from the crisp black designer suit.
"Today has just been full of surprises," he remarked to himself, voice masculine and deep.
The cold green gaze found the open magazine on his desk and lingered on the full-color spread image with displeasure. The man in the color photo was depicted quite shamelessly pinned by the female in a very intimate way. "Took him something this strong for him to realize just how he appears to everyone else when he's with her."
Fakir could hardly believe it. Throughout the entire expanse of their high school days he'd let that girl drag him around on a leash, and never once lifted a single finger in protest.
He brushed the magazine off of his desk and left it bunched up on the floor.
At least Mytho was waking up now and realizing he didn't need that treacherous girl to run his life.
The man smiled to himself, settling in his chair.
And he'd gained more from this turn of events than he could have possibly imagined.
Now if only he could find the person responsible for selling that piece of gold to the media and thank them personally.
Fakir leaned back in his office seat, arms rising behind his head.
Business life was good.
Sapphire blue eyes roamed over a cream-colored dress, one hand rising to pick at the sleeve.
No, she couldn't wear this. It was old, needed cleaning, and it probably still smelled like mothballs!
Ahiru shuddered, dropping the old dress to clothing-littered floor. Why...Why didn't she have something more presentable to wear for such a wonderful turn of events?
"A date with Mytho," she mumbled dreamily. "I never thought I'd ever..."
The redhead abruptly slapped a hand to her forehead. "It's not a date!" she reminded herself quickly. "Not a date! Just dinner! Just what he thinks is repayment! Not a date!"
Mytho was still with Rue. He was just treating her to a meal. There was nothing remotely romantic about it!
"Nothing at all..." she trailed off again, eyes growing hazy.
The clock on her wall, glass face cracked rather unbecomingly, brought her back down to reality in a flash.
"I'M GOING TO BE LAAAAAAATE!" she screeched, throwing clothes all over the tiny room as she back-tracked through the huge pile.
Ten minutes past six in the evening.
He'd gotten there early, by force of habit, and positioned himself to lean casually against the resteraunt's embroidered white arch. The young man was fully aware he'd have to wait at least a little while.
Afterall, it was part of Ahiru's adorable charm to always be late.
Mytho glanced away from his watch, a smile working across his face as a panicked young woman ran full speed toward his vicinity, face flushed from her wild run and strands of bright red hair falling loose from the twisted knot on the back of her head.
"I'm so sorry!" she apologized immediately, panting breathlessly as she came to a halt before him. "I swear I left the house on time, but I got lost and then there was this little boy following me and trying to stick gum on the back of my dress and-"
Mytho swiftly took her hand, leading her startled and winded form through the walkway. "I wasn't waiting long," he assured her gently. "And it really just wouldn't be like you to be on time."
Her cheeks turned pink, nearly matching the shade of her dress. The way he'd said that almost sounded...amused, instead of upset.
Ahiru's blue eyes drifted shyly over to him as the walked in silence, drinking in his appearance. Mytho really did look stunning in his midnight blue suit, which brought out his eyes like twin golden fires. She blushed more deeply, only managing a small whisper of "Thanks" to pass through her dry throat as he opened the door for her.
'Ever the gentlemen,' she thought with a giddy and inexplicable pleasure, and took the waiting hand to lead her inside.
"Table for two?" Inquired a homely, welcoming voice.
Mytho nodded. "Yes, please."
Ahiru raised her sapphire gaze to a pair of dark, warm eyes, and felt herself smile at the middle-aged woman. She'd always thought most resteraunt hosts and waiters were to force smiles and polite behavior toward their customers, but this lady seemed truly and wholly delighted with her job.
To further Ahiru's assumption, the elder lady grinned in return, leading them to a very quaint little table by the window. As they seated themselves, she pulled a notepad from her apron. "Anything I can start you off with?"
The redhead glanced questioningly toward the white-haired man across from her, who pushed the menu closer. "Order anything you'd like."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. That's right, Mytho was paying. She didn't want to inconvenience him with unnecessary charges!
Blue eyes glanced from the eager waitress to the handsome young man and back again. "Er, the soup of the day, I guess," the pink-clad young woman ventured uncertainly. "And, um, a side of bread if that's available?"
"Absolutely," the homely host confirmed, scribbling on her notepad. She then glanced to Mytho. "And for you, Sir?"
"I'll have the same," he stated, smiling openly across the table at the flustered girl as he spoke.
The elder woman finished scratching upon her paper pad and whirled around, long skirt trailing out behind her. "I'll be back shortly with your orders!"
The odd couple lapsed into a silence that somehow became more comfortable as the minutes passed, but it didn't last for long.
The golden-eyed man's words shattered the quiet atmosphere and she sat bolt upright, straight as a board. "Y-Yes, Mytho-sama?"
"Just 'Mytho', is fine," he said with a light wave of his pale hand. "And I want to thank you for allowing me to treat you here, tonight."
"Oh, no," she objected. "I'm absolutely honored that you'd ask me, Mytho-sa...Mytho. And I'm really, really grateful!"
He blinked curious amber eyes. "Are you happy?"
"Thrilled!" she nearly shouted, jumping to her feet.
It took her a moment to notice other occupants of the resteraunt were staring at her, due to the sudden yell. Reddening to a ripe tomato, she hastily seated her small form back into the seat.
Mytho chuckled, eyes glinting with mirth. "You're so cute."
Ahiru lowered her head timidly, and was mercifully spared further conversation as a steaming bowl of soup appeared in her line of vision.
"And that's two bowls of brocoli cheese soup," she read off her list, then gestured to the loaf of bread in the center of the table. "With a side of bread for the two of you to share. Enjoy!"
Before either could form a reply, the lady literally skipped away, humming happily to herself.
Ahiru wished she could love her job that much.
They began dining in renewed silence, only the clattering of tableware making any distinguishable noise between them. Mytho cut a slice of bread and held it out to her, which she took gingerly into her own hands and nibbled experimentally. His gaze had meanwhile traveled out the window and she found herself pause with her hand clasping a raised spoon above the steaming bowl of soup.
Mytho's golden-amber orbs, as if sensing her stare, turned back to meet the sky blue.
"Did you speak with Rue today?" he questioned cautiously.
Ahiru froze, her entire body going numb.
Here she was, enjoying herself, and having dinner with her employer's boyfriend! When had that horribly large detail manage to slip her mind?
"M-Mytho," she started uncertainly. "What if Rue finds out about this?"
He blinked with disinterest. "I'm not chained to Rue anymore. We broke up. Furthermore, I don't work for her anymore."
"What?" Ahiru squeaked in utter disbelief, losing the grip upon the eating utensil in her hand.
The spoon crashed down into the bowl, sending a large green lump flying through the air and landing directly upon Mytho's flawless blue suit.
The redhead blanched, grabbing her napkin and hurriedly reaching over the table to fix her blunder. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to!"
Through her haste to help, the table itself leaned toward Mytho, sending both full bowls of brocoli and cheese barreling directly down into the young man's lap.
Her mouth fell open in horror.
And to further her already unregisterable level of shock, Mytho broke into an unexpected bout of laughter.
"Mytho?" she questioned hesitantly. "Are you okay?"
He laughed louder, turning heads all over inside of the resteraunt. "You're such a funny girl!" he managed between spouts of verbal amusement. "I've never met someone so strange!"
Ahiru wasn't sure she could get any redder at this point and reseated herself, folding her hands tightly in her dress-clad lap.
Blue rose hesitantly to meet the waiting gold.
"I think that about settles it for me," the silver-white-haired young man grinned from ear to ear. "I'd like to get to know you a lot better. What do you say we go steady, Ahiru?"
For the life of her, Ahiru couldn't understand why she'd been directed straight to Rue's office after opening the doors to work the next morning.
As it was, the night before still seemed completely unreal.
Mytho had asked her out. In the romantic sense. As in...dating! Even after she spilled two bowls of hot soup in his lap!
The redhead felt the guilt return tenfold as she stood before the tall oak doors that separated her from the boss's domain.
Should she tell her and hope for the best? Keep it a secret?
Mytho hadn't told her what would be best. Not that she'd asked, either.
Sighing, she raised a small hand to the door and knocked.
"Come in," came the sharp tone.
Ahiru swallowed, swinging the door open.
There was no way Rue could already know, was there? She highly doubted Mytho had told her. And as for herself, she hadn't even told Edel-san the news yet.
"Yes, Rue-sama?" she broke out timidly, making sure to use the honorific that Rue liked to hear.
The raven-haired woman didn't even look up. "You're fired. Gather your belongings and be out of this building in five minutes, or I will call someone to personally escort you from the premises."
Ahiru's spirits plummeted to the floor. "Fired? But why?"
"Your services are no longer required." Every word from the CEO's mouth dripped with venom. "A replacement has already been hired. Now get out of my sight."
The stunned redhead managed a final glance toward the green-haired secretary, who looked back upon her with blue eyes full of solemn pity.
'Goodbye, Edel-san,' Ahiru raised a shaking hand to bid farewell to the kind woman.
She let the door close softly behind her and slowly made her way down the empty, lonely hall, pausing to stare up into the bright blue sky above through one large window, ironically the one she'd encountered Mytho by just the day before. The faded streaks of her cleaning remained like a guilty marking.
And it looked like it was going to be such a pleasant day, weather-wise. Ahiru found herself wishing it were dreary and pouring rain, instead.
She whirled around, trying to ignore the wetness that stung her eyes. "Edel-san!"
The older woman approached her slowly. "It is not the end, Ahiru. It is just beginning."
She blinked through her rapidly-blurring vision. "The beginning?"
"You'll find a convenient job opening remarkably similar to this, not far from here," the pale secretary supplied. "Another publishing company, in need of your determination and hard work."
Edel gave her a light push. "Now go! And good luck!"
"B-B-But I haven't got a resume and surely they'll ask if I've been working somewhere else, and-!"
The abnormally light-skinned lady smiled softly. "Trust me, Ahiru."
After a moment of contemplation, the redhead nodded, brushing the threatening tears from her eyes with a wipe of her sleeve. "Okay, Edel-san," she agreed with a small smile of her own. "Thank you for everything!"
And with the strangely-uplifting possibility ahead of her, Ahiru offered another smile to the sky outside as she darted down the open corridor.
Perhaps the sunshine wasn't mocking her today, afterall.
Rue sat immobile in her office chair, crimson eyes storming with fury and a bitter sense of betrayal.
She hadn't really meant to be stalking Mytho after their encounter the other day, but she really wanted to opportunity to make him reconsider his abrupt decision!
How unexpected it was to find him meeting up with Ahiru, of all people.
To dress in his best suit for her.
Take her to the most expensive resteraunt in the city.
Treating her like his freaking Princess...!
LAUGH when she made a complete mess of his perfection!
The fist wrapped around her can of soda had crushed the poor tin can, spilling its contents over the transparent glass.
Well, she certainly taught that goody-two-shoes-two-faced-little-bitch a lesson.
Out of sight. Out of mind.
Out of...her control...!
Rue nearly fell out of her chair.
How could she not have realized it?
If Ahiru remained working here, she could give her more hours, weird hours, deflect her every attempt to get time to spend with Mytho!
And now...she'd basically sent her right into his arms!
The female CEO rose from her seat, quickly snatching her blood-red cell-phone and punching in digits rapidly. The receiver rested against her ear. "This is Rue speaking. Ahiru should be out of the building by now. Follow her. And once you have her destination, call me back immediately."
Now that Mytho was not present to fix her mistakes, it seemed she'd have to do so herself.
The building itself was actually a little smaller than Raven Ink's towering structure, but it struck Ahiru as downright intimidating and even oddly foreboding.
A new place. New faces. And a new opportunity.
Gathering her flagging courage, she pulled the huge doors open and stepped into the entrance lobby.
"May I help you, mademoiselle?"
Startled blue eyes clashed with unfamiliar amythests. "Er, yes! I'm here to apply for a cleaning position I heard about?"
The young man at the counter beckoned her forward with an outstretched hand and overly-charming smile. "Fear not, maiden in search of employment! I, your shining Prince Femio, am at your every service!"
Ahiru smiled nervously in reply, her lip twitching. "G-Great..."
He typed rapidly on the computer before him and the ringing of a phoneline came a moment later.
Ahiru stepped closer as he tended the interruption, looking around the large expanse curiously.
"Yes. For the cleaning job. A name? I didn't get one. Please hold, Sir." Pulling the receiver away from his ear and covering the bottom, he cleared his throat. "Pardon me, mademoiselle, but I did not catch your name! Would you kindly grace this unworthy soul with a suitable reference to call you by?"
The redhead blinked thrice. "Oh? My name? It's Ahiru."
He brought the waiting object to his ear again. "Her name is Ahiru, Sir," he supplied as requested. "What? To you, Sir? But these types of interviews are generally for - No, I don't question your authority. I'll send her right up."
Placing the telephone receiver back into its handle, he offered a hand to the freckled young woman as he stepped away from his counter. "Let me guide you to the King of Kings, my lovely flower."
She gazed at the hand uncertainly, eyes turning to dots. "Hah?"
"The highest of the high has requested to see you personally!" He took her hand and began dragging her toward the twin elevators. "Why, your cleaning skills must be legend!"
Highest of the high...? Surely he didn't mean...
"The CEO of Night Ink wants to see me?" she inquired with an air of hesitant uncertainty.
"Indeed!" he confirmed, pushing her gently into the elevator. "Tenth floor, my dear maiden!"
"W-Wait!" she stammered, attempting to stop the elevator doors from closing. "I-I-I'm not ready for this!"
The sparkling purple gaze disappeared from view and sliding doors shut completely, leaving her alone in the small compartment. She pushed the large round button marked as "10", and stepped to the side.
Applying for a job was one thing, but seeing the head of the entire company right away was unbelievable!
An image materialized in her mind as the transport unit rose, unbidden: A dark, surly and strict looking old man, glaring at her and smoking a huge cigar.
Come to think of it, she'd heard stories of this guy from Rue. Her former employer made him sound, if possible, even scarier and more horrible than what her mind had just conjured.
The elevator came to its destination, halting and parting the doors.
Where she'd been expecting a long hallway with which to stall while walking upon (much like the one before Rue's office), the onyx doors laid only a scarce few feet from her current position.
She approached them in a robotic fashion, one arm moving with its corresponding leg on the same side with each step. The redhead stopped when she came face to face with the pitch black doors, and swallowed the growing lump in her throat.
Maybe they were in desperate need of cleaning help. Maybe he wasn't scary at all. Maybe Mytho would come charging to her rescue...!
'Okay,' she decided with a mental bonk to her head. 'That's going a bit too far.'
Taking a very deep breath, she raised on small hand to knock gently on the surface.
"You've been stalling out there for almost a full minute already," came a cold and sharp masculine tone from within the office. "My time is not at your disposal, so stop wasting it."
Ahiru flinched, pulling the doors open and entering the enclosure.
The mental image she'd made, still fresh in her mind, faded piece by piece, leaving a rather...young-looking man in its place. However, she felt the terror climb her spine at the cold and calculating expression that laid upon his handsome face. It was almost like he had the aura of an ice dragon hanging around him, freezing her where she stood.
"State your business."
She opened her mouth, closed it. Opened it again, and closed.
Dark brows narrowed over unamused green eyes. "I asked you to stop wasting my time."
"Job!" she blurted, and hastily pulled her hands over her mouth.
He leaned forward on his desk, fingers meshing together to sit beneath his chin. "You're looking to be employed here?"
She attempted to stand straighter, looking anywhere and everywhere but the man's piercing gaze. "Y-Yes!"
"Tell me why you want to work for this company."
The redhead hesitantly met his eyes for a split second. "I-I heard you're in need of help in my...my area of expertise, you could say. And I'm a hard worker, I promise to do my very best! And-And I'm kind of in need of a job, so..."
"Are there any other reasons?"
She shook her head in a casual manner. "No, not really."
"Liar," he hissed, palms slamming down on on the surface before him as he rose from his desk.
She took a step back, startled by the masked fury of his tone. What in the world had she done?
The head of Night Ink approached her slowly, walking around her in an almost predatory circle. "I know a lot more than you think I do, Miss Recently-fired-from-Raven-Ink."
Her wide blue eyes were trailed on the floor, watching his jet black shoes move around her figure continuously as he spoke.
"Furthermore, I'm sure you know of another recent employee here, am I right?" he inquired icily. "Of course. Your boyfriend, as of the past night. That makes it no wonder how or why you've found yourself at my company's door, now does it?"
"I really wasn't thinking about Mytho when I came-"
The dark-haired man's pacing stopped instantly. "Do you take me for a fool? It's practically written across your forehead in bold black lettering!"
Her head rose suddenly in defiance, eyes alight with indignation. "Well what right do you have to interrogate me like you know everything?"
"Because you had the nerve to show your decievingly-innocent face at my door!" he rebounded harshly. "Any competent person in your shoes wouldn't jump between rival companies to trail after her boyfriend like a lost puppy!"
"Y-You don't know anything!"
Emerald eyes narrowed coldly. "Get out. And don't you dare show your face in my company aga-"
The CEO's last words were drowned out by the sudden crash of his door swinging open and bounding off the wall. The opening revealed a visibly-winded Rue, raven hair mussed up.
"Ahiru!" she burst out between attempts to catch her breath. "I finally caught up to you."
"How in the hell did you get up here?" Night Ink's head man spat in disgust. "I certainly didn't authorize your face appearing in my office."
Rue smirked in his direction, finally composing herself and standing proudly. "Well, Fakir, if you really want to know," she started, voice dripping with amusement. "Your little princely secretary was most helpful and so easily persuaded to be of service."
"God dammit, not again," Fakir muttered, averting his stormy green eyes with a roll.
Ahiru merely blinked, then felt a tug on her arm and raised the blue gaze to the clash of red. "Come on, Ahiru. We don't need to waste time with this arrogant asshole."
The redhead felt a firm grasp on her shoulder from behind, ice running from the clasped fingertips and rooting her on the spot.
"I'm afraid you're too late, Rue," Fakir smirked in a self-satisfied manner from across the top of the short young woman's salmon-colored mane. "This girl came here looking for a job, and I've generously supplied."
Holy...cow. This just kept getting longer and longer... But I insisted this had to make it to the point I intended to stop the first chapter at, so I hope you can pardon the length, if you were able to read through the whole thing. I've been writing this with nearly all of my spare time for the past three days straight.
Yes, Mytho's personality is warped. Think of PT-Mytho when he started questioning the authority placed on him. Keep that in the back of your mind when reading his parts, and maybe it will make more sense that way.
Fakir is just as Rue called him: an arrogant asshole. I know this. He knows this. Ahiru knows this. Rue knows this. And now, so do you. Give him time, people. Give him time.
I know I also said that fairytales would not be involved in this. And they're not. I just make little references to the original parts of PT for my own writing enjoyment.
And for those of you that might not have picked it up in the context, Mr. Meyers (Drosselmeyer) sold the video footage to the media. It really won't be of much importance from here on out, but in case you didn't catch that, now you're enlightened, useless as the information really is. XD;
So, liked it? Hate it? Wish to feed it to your roaring bonfire? Drop a review and let me know what you thought, if you can spare the time!
There is much more to come, for this particular fic is already mapped out from start to finish, in outline form.
And thank you for taking the time to read through this monster of a starting chapter.