Chapter Six: A Moment In Time

The Lord's plan had failed...

For the moment...

Now the Duck-girl and Knight were alone...

Well, almost...

There was silence in the clearing after Autor left for the space of three heartbeats, enough for the occupants to realize that what had happened had really transpired, before everyone started talking at once. There were shouting, demands, threats of violence and joyful cries of reunion, but all of that barely dented the fog that surrounded Ahiru and she barely noticed Fakir's hand on her shoulder as he asked if she was alright.

In the space of a few hours-moments, really-Ahiru had been confessed to, had been changed back into a human, had been held at sword point, had tried to dance as Princess Tutu without actually being Princess Tutu, had nearly lost the one she loved and had just barely saved someone who might one day be her friend... Ahiru was exhausted and felt like giggling at the random thought that she had been saddened by the fact that nothing had happened while she had been a simple duck. If only she could have seen into the future, then she would've been grateful for the last few moments of peace! It wasn't that she wasn't happy to be human once again and to have her deepest wish fulfilled, but this was a bit much!

"Why is she giggling like that?" A voice that held a slight note of annoyance asked, reminding Ahiru of Fakir when she first started to get to know him, back when she thought he was trying to keep Mytho from getting his heart for selfish reasons...

"Use your brain, Ryu! You think you'd be perfectly fine after the day she's had?" Another voice, a female(her voice was a bit softer and higher)this time, asked dryly and with more than a little of the annoyance that her partner had. It made Ahiru laugh louder as she felt Fakir pick her up, only a slight wince betraying any discomfort that he might have felt, and start to carry her out of the clearing. "Personally, I'm more surprised that she isn't crying!"

Ahiru had felt the wince-despite Fakir trying to hide it-and immediately stopped laughing as she was reminded of the wound he suffered while fighting Autor, the wound he suffered while trying to protect her. "If it hurts to carry me, I can walk, Fakir... You shouldn't have to, anyway, your side-"

"-is perfectly fine," came Fakir's harsh reply, making Ahiru look at him in frightened surprise: His eyes were narrow slits in his face, his lips were compressed into a thin line, and he was staring straight ahead as they walked, ignoring the boy's voice behind them that demanded explanations for what had happened as well as what they were doing now and demanding that they come back while the female voice that Ahiru heard earlier shushed him, telling him that it wasn't the time. It was a frightening expression and Ahiru quickly wracked her memory for something she said or did that might have put that look there, resolving to solve the problem as soon as she could.

As she was doing this, Fakir caught her staring and stopped her from looking away when their gazes locked. He instead just looked into her eyes as if he was searching for something, something that he desperately needed to find, something she apparently didn't have; for, after a few minutes, his mouth turned down and he moved his gaze from her face to the woods again. "You just have been transformed and had to deal with Autor. With our luck, you would have tripped over something and broken your ankle, klutz that you are."

Ahiru's heart sank right down to her toes even though she knew that was Fakir-speak for saying he was worried about her, the fact that Fakir was carrying her while he had a wound on his side just proved that she was a burden where Fakir should not have one, that her returning was just a prelude to trouble for the village of Kinkan... She wondered if Fakir was thinking if it was a good idea that he turned her back into a girl when she did more harm to him than good, even when she was just trying to help. Maybe he should... Maybe she should just...

Growling lowly, Fakir seemed to be able pick up on the fact that Ahiru was contemplating asking him to turn her back into a duck-and leave her like that this time-so that he wouldn't have to deal with her stupidity, for the hands holding her tightened to an almost painful degree, causing Ahiru to gasp in surprise, brought out of her depressing thoughts by the sudden pain of the grip. Opening her mouth to tell Fakir to loosen his grip a little so that it didn't hurt so much, Ahiru was cut off by his angry voice overlapping her own soft request.

"Don't ever ask someone to dance again until after you pass all of Neko-sensei's classes!" His voice was as harsh as before, but this time it carried a bit of desperation in it that had Ahiru gaping at him in open mouthed wonder. Where was the stiff, unbending boy that just barked at her to stop doing stupid things? That told her nearly every day that she was always worrying about stupid things? The man that was holding her was a completely different animal, and that frightened her a little... "Seeing Autor look at you like that, like you were the one to blame for my mistake, seeing the sword almost stab you... Dammit, Ahiru, I thought this was over when we defeated the Raven!"

Fakir pressed Ahiru even tighter against him then, startling her so much she let loose a soft quack that had him chuckling as he pressed his face into her hair, for which she was partially grateful for because it meant that he couldn't she how red she had turned; on the other hand, she had just been thrown against the dirt and spent the last couple of months as a duck, swimming in a rather tepid pond. Did her hair even smell clean? What did it smell like? Did Fakir... like it? She was just about to ask him when he once more interrupted her.

"I thought I almost lost you again..."

Ahiru drew in a startled gasp of air, raising her embarrassed gaze up to meet Fakir's and was even more shocked by the sheen of tears there; she had seen him cry only once before and the only reason she had seen it then was because he thought she was just a simple little duck. Having him weep like this in front of her cause a few tears of her own to well up, much like they had on that day so long ago, and Fakir's smile seemed to say that he was remembering it as well...

It also hit her that he had to confessed to loving her, but Ahiru had yet to tell him how she felt, not that all of that was her fault. Part of the reason was, however, a deep, bone chilling fear. It was a fear that was only partially founded by the thought that she would disappear in a flash of light if she told Fakir she loved him, the other part was that he only told her he loved her as a way to get her to turn back into a girl because he was as lonely as she was...

That fear was dissolved as soon as she looked into his eyes and saw how well and truly afraid he had been, like the time he thought they had lost Mytho to the Raven's power. Now the only thing that held in her own confession was the thought that she would disappear; she knew that Fakir wouldn't write that happening, but what if he had no choice...? Swallowing down her words of love, Ahiru simply reached up and cupped Fakir's face.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Their eyes connected and a spark of something flew through Ahiru's body as the look in Fakir's eyes reminded her of the emotion she had seen earlier, the one that told to tell Fakir not to listen to Worry so much. The emotion she was frightened that he had lost, the emotion that had scared her once Mytho had reclaimed it, the emotion she could feel bubbling in her chest and pushing past her fears, her lips, making her almost break down and just tell him...

The Knight and Duck-girl were moments away from what both had dreamed of...

The Man and Women held their breath, hoping for a happy ending as well...

But it was not to be...

For there was a danger in the words...

A danger none of them knew of...

A danger that might claim the life that was just saved...

Charon was so focused on the story in his hands that he failed to see the muted pink glow behind him, so desperate to read what would happen next he did not even realize that someone had come up behind him and that someone was reading over his shoulder until the person spoke.

"He's a rather morbid writer, isn't he?"

Charon jumped up in shock from the desk, complete with a startled yelp as he scattered pages around the room in a odd sort of hail, spinning on his heel to see who had spoken to him in a manner that an advanced ballerina would envy. When he did see who it was, his jaw dropped in utter shock, for he could not believe what his eyes were telling him, could not believe the simple truth standing in front of him as his senses tried to process just exactly what was going on...

There had been pictures of the man standing before him in every history book in their small village and even some paintings in a few homes; some depicted him as tall and lean, with a rather generous amount of mustache, others portrayed him as short and fat, saying he had a habit of chuckling rather maniacally, and others still showed him as a man of no outstanding features that tended to bleed into the wallpaper... Yet, just by standing in front of him, Charon could tell that this was the real deal, that this was Drosselmeyer-san, in the flesh and bone.

Some of the depictions were right, which meant that various people had seen him, or at least had been told about him; Drosselmeyer-san was tall, but not overly lean like so many claimed, and his head did not touch the ceiling of Charon's home. At best, he would give the writer only a few inches over himself and would go on to add that while the supposedly dead man did have a beard, it was not a gotee like many claimed, but rather an old sort of eruption from his chin that seemed to be trying to get away from the body it was attached to. Add to the fact that Drosselmeyer-san seemed to be inclined to feathers with an old sort of billowy dress style and Charon found himself more intrigued by the man's presence than intimidated.

Seeing that his appearance did not garner anything after the initial shock, Drosselmeyer's grin slipped ever so slightly as he continued with his statement as if there had not been a pause. "The man that has been adding to Fakir's work, the man that you had cursed for writing in the story that your 'son' had worked so hard on. He wasn't always like this; before everything that had happened, he would write the most amazingly boring stories that you could think of. Every single one had a happy ending and none of them had the drama, the overwhelming trials, the very life that mine had... yet, now he writes as if these children were his puppets to play with, when he knows how much I hate to share."

"They aren't your puppets anymore, either," Charon growled as he remembered what Fakir had told him following those dark days of the Raven; about how the whole thing had been a broken story, written by the man standing in front of him. "They stopped being your puppets when that damn bird was killed, when that Prince kid left and the wall surrounding the city crumbled... and they will stay not being your puppets if I have anything to say about it!"

Drosselmeyer put up his hands-one of which promptly fell off-in a placating gesture and gave Charon the kind of smile that reminded the man just who it was he was talking to, which in turn made him even more resolved to never make Drosselmeyer smile again. "I'm more than willing to let them keep their free will, as your young Fakir has taken over the narration of this story, in a rather inciting voice as well. My interest in the fact that someone else has been interfering with what your 'son' has written and if he continues, this rather interesting tale will turn rather morbid. More morbid than any of my tales and everyone your young charge knows will probably die, the boy included if he's feeling particularly spiteful... and something tells me that he's in the mood to be downright malevolent."

Charon felt his heart sink straight through the floorboards as he thought of what the supposedly dead writer just said, thought about the characters that he had just been reading about, his son first among them; despite the fact that they never met face-to-face, Charon could tell that his son felt a great deal about them just by the way that Fakir wrote about them, particularly the duck-girl that seemed such a large part of his son's life... and there was still that nagging feeling that he had met the girl before... Not mention the fact that all of this was because of his son writing a story that a deranged psychopath wanted... "And you know this man?"

"Of course I do," Drosselmeyer stated, his smile growing in magnitude and depleting in sanity, making Charon take an almost unconscious step back when he leaned down and casually reattached his dropped hand. "He's my brother."

"Brother?"

"Yes, my brother," Drosselmeyer looked offended at the shock that colored Charon's tone, even going to far as to roll his eyes at the man. "Even I have family, despite what many writers claim... Why, he even was the inspiration for The Prince and the Raven!"

"What?" Charon could no longer support himself and sank back into the chair he had spent the last few hours in, heedless of the papers he crumpled while doing so, unable to think of anything beside the fact the man that many believed to be a psychopath, that a covert group were so desperate to get him to stop writing that they cut off his hands, had a brother and that brother was quickly turning out to be even worse than the man standing in front of him! "This can't be possible..."

"It is possible, Charon, and that is the very reason he has turned his sights on your 'son', doing his very best to destroy the boy and everything he holds dear..." Drosselmeyer's voice had dipped into a low, hypnotic tone that had Charon unconsciously leaning forward to hear what he had to say, caught in the man's large, black gaze. "He is angry that the boy is attempting to write a happy ending for him and the duck-girl Ahiru, detesting the fact that their star-crossed lovers ending is being thwarted. He, like me, cannot affect the story directly, but he can act through others and attempt to deride Fakir's story that way..."

Charon felt his heart constrict at the news that was just dropped in his lap and once more cursed the fate that had befallen his writer-son, wishing as much as he had before that there was some way he had the power to rewrite Fakir's story. Swallowing hard against the onrush of emotion that Drosselmeyer's comment brought on, Charon istead focused on the problem at hand: how to beat the man that was interfering with his son's life. "Alright, you said that you based The Prince and the Raven on him... Was... Is he the basis for the Raven...?"

Drosselmeyer's eyes grew even more dark as he focused completely on Charon, still smiling that manic gin and making Charon swallow hard, realizing that this was the man that had wrapped the entire town in his grip for as long as the oldest of the village had remembered... "Of course he was, my dear Charon; I couldn't be the bad guy in my own story, now could I?"

Writer and father had banded together...

Fighting a common enemy...

Each with his own reason...

Each eager to stop the reason behind the tragedy...

For the Lord threatened not one story...

Not one life...

But two...

The maid had proved rather successful with finding him another pupil to mold and once she had left, he immediately set about finding out what the child's greatest weakness was, then he removed it as soon as the weakness was made known, despite the fact that he no longer had all the ingredients needed to do so. It was a risk to do so as it was, but his determination proved well worth it when he extracted the troublesome emotion. The girl lost her incessant chatter and became a bit more subdued, something both he and his ears appreciated as he informed her of the mission her predecessor failed at, something that he would punish the boy for when this story was made his as it should be...

"You knew Ahiru before, didn't you, my dear?" He questioned, walking around the girl, whose solemn, quiet nature was a vast contrast to her earlier behavior, to the basin in the middle of the room that had been repaired and once more glowing the hypnotic red that laid there before, "She was your friend before this past year, wasn't she? Where has she been since then? Why hasn't she seen you in the last year, in the last couple of days, even? Why hasn't she talked, walked, or even been seen near you? Doesn't that sound like she's ashamed of you, that she's embarrassed to be your friend? It's strange, considering that Fakir has been living with her this entire year now, so it must be that she thinks she's too good for you... but it is not her fault, my sweet, not that poor, innocent girl. We both know this: Ahiru is a simple girl and easily swayed by sweet words, words that Fakir has a mastery of, that he can twist to suit his needs. So, the real enemy here is... Fakir."

The girl's expression had not changed throughout the entirety of his speech; yet when he mentioned Fakir's name, a look of extreme anger that most would have been shocked to see on her normally pleasant face overtook her features, making the man in the shadows grin in triumph. It seemed that the emotion he had taken hadn't been the girl's only weakness... He could kill two birds with one stone if he played this carefully, and he had plenty of practice with being careful...

"Yes, Ahiru was perfectly fine with you, loved you even, before Fakir decided to turn his sights on her... She listened to your every word, until Fakir decided to whisper in her ear. Now, you have lost one of your closest, dearest friends, she has been trapped in the boy's home and now she has avoided you for a whole year because that boy corrupted her into thinking you were a nuisance because he was jealous of the relationship that you had with her."

He had turned to caress his mirror, something he had a habit of doing for the entirety that she had been there, so he didn't see the single tear that slipped down the girl's face and the fact that the anger had slipped back into the stoic mask she wore at the beginning. He turned just in time to see her exit the room, back straight and without looking back, which caused a slightly unhinged smile to spread across his face in a way that could only be described-and has been described-as 'creepy',

"Perfect. I was wrong before; getting rid of the girl won't change anything, she's not the one interfering with my story, I have to get rid of the source... With him out of the way, the girl will lose her will to fight and the way will be clear..." A flicker in the glass caught his attention, but when he looked closer, there was nothing there. Brushing it off as a trick of the light, the man rang for one of his maids again, a manic gleam to his eyes that made the woman who entered suppress a shiver.

"Watch that girl. Make sure that she finishes her mission before she gets even close to that damn duck-girl. Don't let her out of your sight for even a minute," His smile cut off whatever the maid was going to say as he continued on, completely oblivious to the tremor that shook the woman's body as he lifted his face to the rafters of his home and laughed long and low, "Worry not, she is waited for you at the front gate. I also want word if you see my original student. Don't interact with him, but make note of where he is going and why..."

The maid nodded once, made a shaky bow and made her way out of the room.

The man walked over to the basin, dipping a hand into the garnet liquid and letting it soak for a few seconds as he reveled in the feeling that laid inside. It had been a particularly strong emotion and the girl had been quiet adamant about holding on to it, yet he had been very persuasive in getting her to change her mind; his brother wasn't the only one that had skill with words, after all... "Soon, this story will belong to me, as it should have from the beginning, as it should have as soon as that puppet pieced his heart... Soon, it will all be mine..."

Soon!

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And so our story ends for today... What will our story be for tomorrow...? Will it have a happy ending...? A sad ending...? Or...?

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A/N: Wow, has it really been over a year since I updated this story? Really? Damn, I am soooo sorry you guys, I really didn't mean for this to happen! I just got so wrapped up in my job, my family troubles, the fact that my muse was hiding under my couch and wouldn't get out, no matter how many cookies I offered it. I'm not really sure if I even like this chapter, but I don't want to leave you guys hanging again, so here you go.

I'm going to re-watch Princess Tutu and see if that makes my muse come out of hiding. I also appreciate any feedback that you guys want to give me. Je ne!