A/N: So, it took 3 years, but this fic is finally over! If it weren't for Mangaka-chan's betaing and encouragement to continue, the second half of this fic would have been written even more slowly. I also want to thank her for her offer to collaborate and we're excited to present This Pendent Heart, the light novel. Each chapter is illustrated beautifully by Mangaka-chan (remove all spaces and punctuate accordingly): sites (dot) google (dot) com (slash) site (slash) thispendentheart The site will be updated with new illustrated chapters regularly. I've also uploaded the revised versions of the earlier chapters on FFN, so don't be surprised if you find new scenes, chapter divisions and such in them, but I would really recommend checking them out on the website because Mangaka-chan's art is just stunning (also check out her deviant art page at mangaka-chan (dot) deviantart (dot) com).
A big thank you to Moon Shadow Magic for her untiring, patient help with betaing for revision. She's helped me make this story presentable and I really appreciate all the time and effort she put into doing so. All mistakes that remain are, of course, my own.
And I want to thank all of you for reading and leaving feedback and encouragement and inspiration. I don't know if I would have managed to write it all out otherwise. Hope you enjoyed the ride.
So long, and thanks for all the fish,
Summary: When the story ends, almost everyone in Goldcrown Town forgets that their lives had once been turned upside down by a story, that there had ever been a girl named Duck at all. When Duck herself begins to forget, Fakir finds himself forced to write a story that costs him dearly.
Disclaimer: I do not own Princess Tutu or any quoted/cited materials.
Once upon a time, there was a poet who tried to drink his sorrow, hoping that if he contained it in his veins, it could not drown him. He watched the moon as it shifted petal by petal by petal like a swollen rose in the lake.
The universe lay at his feet, and he watched stars dance on the waves of space, as light does on water. But stars and space did not matter. To embrace the moon, he thought and reached with arms open.
He could not hold it, that moon as soft and formless as water. It swallowed him, and he died by poetry. Wanting to grasp the beauty of the moon, he found only a silky drowning embrace. (1)
Fakir was miserable because Duck was not. No, he had no illusions about himself: he knew he was a selfish bastard. He was not selfless enough to be content in her contentment, to find comfort in the fact that she was taking her reversion back into a duck so well. It was all good and well for the Prince and Princess to leave behind humdrum reality, for the townspeople—who hadn't even been as deeply mired in Drosselmeyer's The Prince and the Raven—to forget the entire nightmare. The burden of memory had been bearable at first because he'd known he wasn't alone—Duck too shouldered it with him. But that too had changed.
When Duck first returned to being a duck, of course Fakir had grieved at losing the lively red-haired girl she had been. But she had been and would always be the one who had healed him, who had saved them all. Girl, duck, it didn't matter he told himself, and believed it except sometimes in the darkest hours of the night, when she slumbered in her nest of blankets and he stared mindlessly at his ceiling, haunted by memories of the girl she had been, the carefree laughter, the awkward grace, and always, always that unceasing chatter.
But she was still Duck and so he could live with things the way they were now he told himself firmly even as his heart ached because with each passing day those memories of her became slightly hazier, paler. And then, somehow, as if his own troubled thoughts had woken her, she would quack sleepily, inquiringly from her makeshift nest and he would grouse at her to just go back to sleep, but would feel his own heart eased, his own worries soothed: she was still Duck and nothing in the world could change that.
Of course he stayed beside her as he had promised and they happily spent endless hours in each other's company. He made certain the bathtub was always full of water so she could swim around if she felt the need, and kept his pockets perpetually stocked with bread. She sat in a little basket lined with a soft blanket on his desk and would peer over his arm as he worked at the stories Drosselmeyer had left unfinished or hopelessly tangled. They took walks together, Fakir slowing his pace to match Duck's slow waddling, and often in the evenings, he read aloud to her while he tried to find in other novels, books, and poems hints on the art of writing so he could improve his own attempts at fixing Drosselmeyer's foolishness.
Fakir didn't have much experience with writing, let alone with spinning tales into reality, and so finishing the stories was slow, tedious work. As often as not, what he wrote didn't change reality at all. Through trial and error he learned that spinning tales had as much to do with the emotion and intention he put into the piece of writing as it did with the quality of the work. Naturally, shoddy writing reflected that he hadn't spent much time on it, and if he didn't spend much time on it, it wouldn't have much of his intention and desire for it to become real in it. He soon realized he needed to learn how to write well, and to do so, he had even stopped attending Goldcrown Academy for the Fine Arts.
He had a new goal in his life and dance didn't seem to fit into it. Besides, it took away from the time he could spend with Duck since pets were not allowed in the building—an ironic injunction considering that the previous instructor and the accompanist had both been animals. But of course no one remembered that.
In short, for those first months after she had transformed back into a duck, the two were inseparable. Of course, she couldn't communicate with him directly, but intelligence and understanding shone in her eyes when he talked to her, and often she would quack heartily or nod or shake her head in response to what he said. Granted it was only one half of communication—she could understand everything he said and he could understand only a fraction of the things she wanted to convey, but well, he could live with that if she could. And just living was enough.
Charon had slowly grown accustomed to his son's affection for his new pet; he couldn't understand why the little duck meant so much to the boy, but if it was one of the few things that could make Fakir happy, Charon wasn't going to object. Of course Charon had been upset when Fakir dropped out of that school for no reason, but he couldn't get the boy to budge on that point at all. Every time he tried, the boy just shrugged off Charon's words before he could even really begin. To abandon ballet so suddenly after years of training and hard work, it made no sense to Charon. He couldn't figure out what drove Fakir anymore. Maybe he was just at that age.
But in the face of Fakir's stubbornness, Charon had decided to let things be for the time being—it was clear that Fakir wasn't merely lazing around the house; he was deeply involved in some project and spent an inordinate amount of money on books. As long as Fakir was trying to do something with his life, Charon found that he didn't mind much. For the time being.
As weeks turned to months and months to nearly a year, Fakir finally began to notice a change so gradual in Duck's behavior that at first he dismissed it as his imagination. But as time passed, there was no denying that she responded less and less to his words until one day, well into winter, he noticed that she didn't nod or shake her head at his comments at all anymore.
He had come home in a foul mood, stomping into his room, tossing the books he carried onto his bed. "How could anyone else possibly need a centuries-old book on rhetoric?" Fakir demanded angrily as Duck scurried out of the way of his frantic pacing. "The damned fool who checked it out probably doesn't even know how to read! How am I supposed to finish that story without it? I don't even know why I—" he grumbled over Duck's furious squawking at having been so unceremoniously startled, her quiet afternoon upturned into chaos.
As she continued her quacking upbraiding of him, he could not shake the feeling that she was responding only to the anger in his voice, as an animal understood human emotion from the tone rather than the content of what was being said. And the awful suspicion that she had lost the ability to understand human speech began to seep into his mind. He stopped mid-stride, mid-sentence, the rant, the book, the story forgotten. His hands fell limply to his sides, useless, powerless as anger gave way to a sudden, awful fear that seemed to erase all his thoughts.
But the little duck merely fluttered her wings in lingering irritation at him, settling into her basket as if nothing were wrong at all. Somehow, her unconcern, that casual preening of her feathers, snapped him back to himself a little and the overwhelming dread that had threatened to consume him settled like an uncomfortable stone in the pit of his stomach. He forced himself to face her, to say in as steady a voice as he could, "I know this sounds stupid Duck, but I need you to nod your head if you understand what I'm saying."
The duck merely tilted her head to the side curiously and peered up at him before returning to preening. The stone of dread grew heavier. "This is serious, you idiot!" The anger rose in his voice. "Nod your head if you can understand me!" The duck quacked sharply and waddled out of her basket with a huff of annoyance.
With growing desperation, Fakir called to her retreating yellow form, "Stop! Duck, please, just stop and turn around if you understand what I'm saying! I'm begging you." But despite the pleading edge in his voice, the duck merely continued on her way out of his room without once looking back.
Duck waddled away sadly from the loud human whose yelling was starting to hurt her ears. She knew he was only making all that noise because he was in some sort of terrible pain, but she couldn't for the life of her understand why. He didn't look like he was injured; she didn't see any blood or anything. He wanted something, she thought, the way his cries were filled with pain and desperation…and despair, yes that was it, despair.
But she did not know how to help him because she couldn't even see what it was that had hurt him. She could not stand the sight of him in such pain, though. All she could do was waddle away and try to fetch the other older human who lived here. After all, the man probably had a better idea of what was wrong since he could understand the boy and would be able to help.
The little yellow duck looked all over the house but it seemed that the man wasn't anywhere to be found. At last, she decided to return to the room where she had left her shouting human. Although she couldn't really understand why, she felt that she should know him, that she should feel like she had known him forever, that there was a deep bond between them forged slowly and painfully, one she could not bear to lose.
She found his room a war zone on her return: papers were scattered everywhere, books lay on the floor tossed aside as useless and what looked like the remains of an inkstand and ink pooled on the floor in one corner. The duck-feather quill he always wrote with lay perfectly untouched and unharmed on the desk as it always did when he wasn't using it.
His back was to her as he sat in the bay window looking outside and for some reason she was struck with the thought that he was a knight. Her knight. That sounded much better than her human. She puzzled over the strange word, not entirely sure what it meant or even why she thought it belonged to him. But the word, like the boy before her, gave her a feeling of strength, of protection, of kindness, and "her knight" seemed to fit him so perfectly that she couldn't think of him any other way. And yet, as he hunched there before the window, there was nothing particularly strong or protective or even kind about his posture, only a sort of brokenness in every line. Even so, somehow she knew he was all those things, would break himself to be all of them.
Again Duck had the nagging feeling she'd had now for weeks, even months, that she had been forgetting something important, something that meant all the world to her, but it had happened so long ago…She should know more about him than the mere fact that he was the human who took care of her and fed her. She should be able to remember that he was much more to her than that, but no matter how hard she tried, the thoughts slipped away, shapeless, formless, like mist on a lake.
On waddling closer to him, Duck could see the silent tracks of tears running down his face as he gazed mindlessly at his faint reflection in the glass. That expression too—the tears, the slump of defeat in his shoulders—gave her the same uneasy feeling, as if she had seen this before, as if she should remember something.
She wished she could help him, that she could ease his suffering, whatever caused it. But all she could do was give a little fluttering hop onto the seat of the bay window and then onto his lap. Duck looked up at him, her blue eyes brimming with compassion and tried to offer him all the comfort she could.
Fakir gazed down at the little duck that had somehow found her way into his arms and was looking up at him with worried tears welling in her eyes. He was reminded of the moment when he had gone to the small pond by the smithy with his despair at failing to protect the prince, at being found unworthy of Lohengrin's sword by Charon. She had seen him then at his worst, seen him when he couldn't have sunk any lower and had never thought less of him for that weakness.
"You're seeing me in a worthless state," he whispered, echoing his words from back then. He was jabbing at a wound to feel the pain, for even as he said the words he knew that Duck most likely neither remembered nor understood what he had just said to her.
In her absence, after his pleas for her to turn around had failed, he'd calmed long enough to try to figure out what had happened. And the answer that came to him was as simple as it was sinister. She had transformed back into a duck when she gave up the last shard of the Prince's heart and ever since then she must have been in the process of turning back into a duck entirely. Animals, after all, even the most intelligent ones, couldn't understand the intricacies of human speech, could only grasp a small fragment of it. And ducks, most likely, didn't have much call for long term memory in the same ways humans did either. All the complex memories she had formed as Princess Tutu and as Duck must have slowly been fading from her mind until only the most basic and simple ones remained.
It was all painfully clear in hindsight. He remembered how, soon after she had returned to being a duck, they would walk to her pond. He would on occasion dance on the shore as she swam, and every time, she would leave the water to join him. Somehow she managed to pirouette even on webbed feet. And every time he was left in nothing but awe and admiration of her grace even though when she had been human those words could only have applied to Princess Tutu's ballet, never to Duck's.
But he could not remember the last time they had danced together. The past few times, she had merely swum nearby, watching him with interest, but not coming towards shore. At the time he had thought that perhaps she was merely tired, or maybe even losing her interest in ballet. He certainly was, and as it had been half a year since he had attended the Academy, there was no longer the pressing need to practice hours on end each day to keep up his form. Since she was participating less and less often, he had let their impromptu pas de deux lapse without a thought to what it might mean that Duck, who had adored ballet with her heart for as long as he had known her, no longer wanted to dance.
How could he have failed to notice that all the skills she had learned as a girl were disappearing? How? How could he have failed her? He should have noticed, should have done something before it was too late, before—. And the truth of it had struck him like a physical blow: she wasn't Duck any longer, but rather merely a duck. Her humanity had faded away.
That was when he had taken his rage out on his books and his writing. It was all worthless. Everything was worthless if Duck too had forgotten their battle with the Raven, their struggles, their despair and their hope, if she had forgotten him, if he had lost her. He stormed at the unfairness of a life which destined him for nothing but loss. Would there never be an end to it? He had already lost his parents to the Raven. He had already lost the prince to whom he had sworn allegiance, sworn to protect at all cost. Even though Mythos' story had ended happily, hadn't he still lost his closest friend to Drosselmeyer's story, because in the end a fairytale prince could not dwell in everyday reality? Hadn't he already mastered the art of losing well enough, losing further, losing faster? he wondered bitterly. (2)
But when all his rage had passed, the sorrow stayed. He did not know how long he sat at the window gazing blindly, when he was shaken out of his stupor by a sudden, slight weight settling in his arms and he looked down into Duck's worried blue eyes. She was watching him so intently he could see the reflection of his own tears in her eyes.
Surely she must remember something of him, something of herself, to gaze at him with such concern. He buried his face in her feathers as he held her gently.
Things only worsened over the next few weeks. Fakir could see Duck beginning to languish at living indoors and often found her looking out the window as skeins of geese and ducks filled the sky, returning with the spring. She was even starting to go off her food a little. He supposed it was only natural since she was a wild duck and not a domesticated one. She had spent most of her life at the pond out in the woods, not cooped up in some house.
It broke his heart, but when spring fully arrived and the weather gentled, he went for a walk with her to the pond and paused by its shore. Kneeling before her, he looked into her eyes and said in a voice with only a slight quaver in it, "Duck, you're free." He walked away without once looking back.
As she watched the figure of her knight become smaller and smaller on her horizon, the little duck wanted to follow him. He meant so much to her for some reason that she could no longer remember. But just the thought of being closed in by the four walls of that house made her feel so trapped that she didn't think she could bear it. She felt so listless when all she had was that bathtub to swim in, its porcelain sides holding barely a puddle of water that tortured her with the taste of freedom. She would waste away if she had to stay there any longer.
And yet, she could feel her heart tremble with each step her knight took away from her.
Fakir returned to Duck's pond every day, sitting on the pier from dawn to dusk with a writing pad on his knee as he watched Duck idle around near the supports of the pier as if wanting to be close to him. He spent as much time with her as he could.
But now each hour, each minute, each second they spent together was haunted by the knowledge that she most likely didn't remember him anymore and she certainly didn't understand him any more than he could understand her. He felt like he was trying to love the memory of who Duck had been but no longer was. Yet something of the girl he once knew must have remained. Somewhere buried deep in her, surely, was some small memory of him, wasn't there?
For her part, Duck was more overjoyed than she could express when she saw her knight come back the next day and the next and the next. She quacked happily and spun delighted figures in the water. She had been afraid that he had abandoned her, but now she chided herself for doubting him. Somehow, she felt that she should know better than to think he would break his promise. But what promise was that? Had he made her a promise? She couldn't remember….
Fakir wrote desperately now, trying to turn Duck back into a girl once more. But even so, he felt terribly conflicted about it. If she turned into a girl once more, would she regain all that she had lost in her time as a duck? Or was that part of her mind irrevocably gone? Would she remember him if she were human once more? Would she be the same Duck he had known, the same vivacious girl who had befriended him in spite of himself, or would she be someone else entirely?
Would it be kinder to her to simply leave her as she was? Did she even want to be a girl anymore if she didn't even remember being one? Could he write back her memories? Did he even have that right? Was it fair to ask her to carry the painful memories of her past once more? The memories of having to give up her love, of having to sacrifice any chance of that love? Could all the good memories possibly compensate for all the pain?
And because he was so riddled with doubt, no matter how many pages he wrote, no matter how frantically he wrote, the words refused to come to life. They remained dead on the page.
Charon noticed the gloom that had begun to surround his son ever since his pet started to do poorly and he let her go by the duck pond. Fakir was spending far too much time out there. Such an obsession couldn't possibly be healthy. What was wrong with the boy?
It was just a duck after all. Charon was at a loss. After all, Fakir was no longer a child, and would most likely bristle at anything he perceived as an invasion into his life. Not for the first time in his life, Charon couldn't decide what to do.
One evening as he walked back from Duck's pond long after sunset, as morose as always, Fakir bumped into a swaying figure that seemed to be teetering about the empty nighttime streets of Goldcrown Town. As he helped the older woman up, he could see that she was still grinning widely despite having been knocked to the ground.
Suddenly, even though he knew it was irrational, he was furious with her. He was drowning in his own misery and hopelessness, in the bitterness of the hand Fate had dealt him, a hand it seemed he could not change even with his ability to spin tales into reality. He was losing a friend to a fate that was like living death.
He had foolishly thought Drosselmeyer merely meant that Duck would lose her human form for her animal one if she gave up that final heartshard, but it was much worse than that. She was disappearing after all—not in an instant, not in a flash of light, but slowly day by day, the girl he knew was fading out of existence. How could the world continue as always, how could anyone, how could this woman, be happy when he was filled with so much misery that he felt his pain should drown even the sun?
Which is why, with an angry scowl, he snarled at her, "What the hell are you smiling about?"
This merely elicited a giggle from the woman, eve as her careworn face and empty eyes belied her smile. She slurred, " 'Cause I've given up all my shorrows." Her declaration was followed by a hiccup and another inane grin.
With her words, all his anger turned to intense jealousy. This woman had achieved all he wanted. Gripping her shoulders, holding her up as much as her own legs were supporting her, he demanded, "How?" In response, she pointed vaguely behind her and then jerked herself out of his grip and ambled off unsteadily.
Fakir followed the general direction she had pointed in, and at the end of the quiet street, he found a building that cast squares of light from its windows onto the ground outside. He could hear the bustling within. A battered wooden sign read Lethe Tavern.
Lethe, Fakir thought, the river of forgetfulness. Taking it as a good omen, he entered and joined the tables of drunken men and women. After all, he had always been nothing more than a coward and worse than useless.
(1) A loose account of the death of Chinese poet Li Po
(2) Paraphrase from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art"