A/N: Can anyone say cliché? I was inspired to do this by a beautiful song I had on replay. This is AU, which means it has nothing to do with the original Naruto universe itself, and this is very Beauty and the Beast-esque. Please do not flame just because you dislike the pairing.
Characters might get OOC during occasional moments, but I'll try my best. Constructive criticism is something I love and hate, so bring it on, and I'll try my best to improve. Also, no offense meant to Rock Lee fans. I just used him because he seems desperate for Sakura's love.
Disclaimer: None of the Naruto characters belong to me, but to Kishimoto.
Information: Remember, this has nothing to do with the original Naruto plotline; I'm just borrowing the characters for this AU fic. Let's just place the characters in the age gap between 18 and 23. Now, on to the fic!
The Flower and the Marionette
Chapter One: Prologue – The Tale Begins
Once, in a castle far far away, there lived a prince and his servants. The prince was handsome and talented, but his heart was bitter and cruel. He treated his servants with disdain and prejudice, and looked down upon those less fortunate than he.
On a stormy winter's night, a knock at the castle door brought about the visit of an old, haggard woman who requested to see the prince. When he appeared at the doorway, the old woman begged him for food and shelter from the cold. She said that she had nothing in return to give him but her sincere thanks. The prince laughed and turned her away. Again she begged him, saying that those who did no good would suffer for their sins, but again he laughed and turned her away.
The old woman nodded solemnly and in a flash of brilliant light, she transformed into a beautiful enchantress. Blinded by her radiant presence, the prince fell onto his knees and begged her forgiveness, but she had seen through him and knew that he would not change. The enchantress put a spell on the prince, his servants and the castle, transforming the prince into a puppet with wooden limbs and painted eyes, but left his heart intact in a wooden container in his chest.
The beautiful castle was transformed into one of broken stone and wood, tattered flags flying against the stormy sky. And the forest around grew taller, enshrouding the castle and its inhabitants in a mass of thorns and leaves.
Before she left, the enchantress told the prince that if he could learn to care and love, and find someone who loves him only for his heart, the spell would be broken. But she also told him that slowly, the container that held his heart would crumble away, and once all broke away, he would die with a tortured soul, and his puppet body would remain in the castle forever.
The years passed and the prince grew even more hateful and cruel. He kidnapped people from the nearby towns and brought them back to the castle, killing them and turning them into puppets like he, until all started to fear him and no one dared to tread in the cursed forest. Yet no matter how many he created, how many lives he took to keep him company in the dreary castle, he was always alone. For who could ever love a wooden puppet?
The sun rose high and bright above the town, its brilliant rays cast upon the thatched rooftops of the townspeople's cozy homes. Cart-bearing horses clattered down the cobblestone with merchants in tow, loud shouts announced the opening of the daily market as sellers advertised their wares with bells and wooden signs. Haruno Sakura skipped down the pathway, leather-bound book in hand, humming a merry tune as she counted the money in her palm. She was running errands for her father today, and she wanted to stop by the library for another story after visiting the market.
Increasing her pace, she greeted the townspeople as she stopped by each store to purchase the necessary items. The merchants smiled at her and whispered compliments to their neighbors as she walked down the row of stores and towards the town library. The librarian had just unlocked the door when she stepped in, picking the nearest book from the shelf, the bags of goods dangling from her free arm. The librarian slid down from the ladder and greeted her warmly.
"It's nice to see you again, Sakura. What book do you wish to borrow this time?"
Sakura took a quick glance at the cover of the book she had picked off the shelf. It was extremely worn and tattered, the black leather having peeled off the backing of the book. The pages were also brown and frayed. Opening the cover and turning the page, she saw an illustration of a woman with long flowing hair clutching a staff, and a young man kneeling at her feet. As she read the words on the opposite page, the elderly librarian smiled at her.
"I'm sure you've heard the story of the prince before. This book is really old; almost no one borrows it these days. But some say the prince is still there in his castle, waiting for the right time." The librarian said.
Sakura curiously flipped a few more pages, glancing at each detailed illustration in wonder. Finally, she told the librarian that she would borrow the book, and with a smile, the librarian bid her goodbye and she exited, the tiny bell attached to the door ringing softly as she left. Out in the bustle and hustle of the morning crowd, she took a seat at the edge of the town fountain to read the book. However, she remained oblivious to the scene being caused just a few meters away.
"Another one! You are the greatest hunter in the town, Rock Lee!"
"Well, it's the radiance of my youth!" There came an enthusiastic shout directly behind Sakura. She jumped slightly and marked the page she was reading before turning around and staring into the face of Rock Lee, the town hero.
"Sakura!" Lee declared joyfully. "Have you heard the good news? You're going to be married soon!"
Sakura nearly dropped the book in disbelief. What did he say?
Immediately Sakura took notice of the finely cut diamond ring that was held in front of her, the sun glinting off its polished surface. She recoiled for a brief moment, before smiling halfheartedly and backing away. "Isn't it…too soon?" Sakura managed to choke out, trying not to snap Lee's heart into two pieces. Although she admitted that the town hero was an all round nice person, but he tended to act directly and was extremely blunt with words, like now, for instance.
"It is definitely not too soon! I'll protect you all my life; you'll always be safe with me, Sakura! I love you, and I will love you forever! Marry me!"
"Don't worry, Sakura. I'll let you decide tomorrow."
Lee chirped, before returning to the village center with his hunting crew.
Morning soon turned to night, and when evening had just begun to settle in, Sakura sat at the wooden dinner table with her father, flipping through the final pages of the book she had borrowed from the library. Her father ate in silence, which was very unlike him as he tended to chat about the day's events. He still managed to maintain some optimism despite her mother's death, but today he seemed to be worried about something. Sakura put her cutlery down.
"Father, what is bothering you?"
"I'm going to make a delivery to the next town, and I'm going to go through the forest."
Sakura's eyes instantly snapped open, and she closed the book she was reading with a muffled thump. "The forest…father, many of our townspeople have disappeared into the forest in the past few weeks! You can't go!" Sakura looked back down at her book. The legend couldn't possibly be true…could it? But she didn't want to risk it. The librarian's words rang in her head. Her father sighed. "I'll be right back." He got up from his chair and exited the dining room. Sakura slumped onto the table. Her father wasn't one to act on impulse…
Just then, a clattering of hooves startled her from her thoughts, and Sakura turned her head briefly to see her father driving a horse cart towards the entrance of the forest, his blacksmith tools piled on the back of the cart. The wheels clacked as they ran off the cobblestone onto the forest floor, the sickly light from the moon illuminating the pathway. He had left without telling her! Sakura immediately sprung to her feet and ran after the cart, screaming her father's name. But soon, the clattering faded away, and she found herself hopelessly lost in the forest. The crickets hummed in unison around her, when she heard a scream echo from ahead.
"Father!" Sakura yelled, feeling wings sprout from her ankles as she ran.
The clearing loomed before her as she halted, breathing heavily. The cart lay abandoned at the clearing's side, blacksmith's tools scattered over the muddied ground. Sakura searched frantically for traces of her father, but there were none. That was when she saw it. It was a black stone turret rising above the canopy of thick trees. Running towards it, she burst through the bushes to see a great gate that lay open, leading to a dead garden filled with wilted flowers and withered grass.
She was about to step in when a cloaked figure emerged from the darkness. His tattered crimson robe was wound around him and covered his head in a makeshift hood, and in the darkness of the hood she could see two eerie, inhuman eyes, roughly hewn as if painted on. A hand shot from the tatters of the cloak and grabbed her arm, and she froze as she felt the sensation of wood brushing against her skin. Looking down, she saw that little knobs that linked the sections of his fingers, and the conjoined wooden portion of his hand and wrist. Just like a puppet.
"I have taken your father." A voice said coldly. "He will never be returned. Go home."
And so they met, and so the tale begins.
Now, if you could drop this poor excuse for an author a review. Dx
What the 'prince' is dressed in right now is the same as what our favorite puppet master was wearing when he was sadly killed by Sakura and Chiyo. Yes, this fic is proof that Sasori-sama is still alive in my heart.