For the heart with no companion
For the soul without a king
For the prima ballerina
Who cannot dance to anything
Once, long ago, when the world was a fairytale, all girls were princesses. This was important to remember because it led to the creation of the prince. For the princesses altogether decided that they needed a heart's desire. They wanted something to long for, as their compliment and companion. And thus the ideal of the prince was created.
Out of dreams and desires came the princes, who knelt before them and pledged eternal love. These princes kissed their tears away and kissed their hands in devotion. They were of far away kingdoms and noble creeds, yet the princes were all the same at heart because they came into existence out of the princesses' need. One cannot tailor need; it simply is. Need is the gnawing emptiness of what is not there, something that takes form only when filled.
Because they came after, these ideals, there were only so many to protect all the girls of the world. This was because the princesses did not require a prince to save and protect them all the time. Princesses were not that helpless. And being borne of love, a prince loved all princesses equally and purely, so there was no reason to set one above another. The princesses did not mind this arrangement, for so as long as they were loved and protected everything went happily like in the fairytales.
But then the world stopped acting like a fairytale and became unfair. So no longer did the prince manage to save all the girls. At times he only saved a few. Or just one. Or, tragically, he grew so weak he could not even save himself. And when they discovered the princes could fail, that they could break or fall apart, the girls stopped expecting to be saved. They gave up hoping.
So they began to forget what it was like to feel loved or give such love in return. That is when the girls of the world stopped being princesses.
Anthy remembered the story distantly when she took her walks, searching for their myths. Under the cover of the day, she traversed the worlds and counted their numbers like falling stars. It was her way of escaping the home of her brother's ivory tower. A domain of false spheres and constellations lighted above her. While she held onto lingering remains it taunted her with spun machinations that never went anywhere. It was her story without end.
She didn't hope to find them, except for phantoms and fairytales. Anthy knew deep in the scar tissue of her heart there were no more princes left. They no longer existed, not even in the distant lands east of the sun and west of the moon. The world was not for them any longer, and even if they existed they could not save her. She journeyed because her ancient, dead hope's momentum was the only thing that kept her going now. The memory within her was the only part of her that yet remained and could be considered living.
One day, Anthy came upon a world with five locked gates. The doors were made of heartwood oak and wrought iron that spiraled and splayed like swan feathers. Each one led out to the Ends of the World, her brother's domain. Never before had she traveled so close to the edge without him, so she turned to the unobtrusive corners of this world and willed herself not to be. Learning from the nights where she lay with her body still beneath him and her mind only listening to the turning gears of her brother's false sky, it let her slip in through the clockwork of this town's story.
Within the walls was a small, slumbering village. But the inhabitants did not know they were asleep. It was a place full of roses but not like Ohtori, and there was no wall of thorns keeping them in. Anthy knew she did not belong there. Instead, she went into the forest, for there was always a dark wood in worlds such as this. She continued on the single path until she stepped out into the sunlight upon a hillside cliff.
The cliff was by a grove, a clearing with one tree and beneath there she spied a dancing couple. He was holding the girl steady with his hands on her waist as she extended her arms up in an arabesque. It was as if dawn and midnight were dancing together, the fair boy gently holding the dark-haired beauty as she let him turn her. An enchanted and eternal routine. Like a sun pulls dusk behind it, the boy with snow white hair let her wind around his even steps.
The girl's hair was pulled tight and high upon her head, so the little amount that was long enough for a ponytail looked like a tuft of black feathers sticking out. Although she moved like a prima donna, her outfit was a simple black tutu and her legs were bare. They still held the awkwardness of a child in them, as she was just beginning to step into womanhood. Yet where her steps faltered, he was there to hold her aloft.
Watching them, Anthy felt the cold stirrings of hatred within her. Older than old memories of when she could remember jealousy or frustration. When she looked at them Anthy thought of her brother, her brother before in once upon a time. At the first blood of longing, the million swords she carried began tremble within her once again.
It was at the trembling that the boy stopped to stare at her. His gaze was that of a prince. Although he was child, they had to be eternally young to hold such ideals, his golden eyes were ancient and sad. When they rested on her Anthy felt the swords quiet and wait.
"My prince, why have you stopped?" the girl asked her companion as she finished her turn. The content flush on her face faded as she discovered his distant expression fixed on Anthy.
"There," he said to her in a quiet voice, neither moving nor averting his eyes.
Stepping in front of her companion, as if to shield him from Anthy, she called out imperiously. "Why were you watching us? Don't tell me you merely stumbled on this place, nobody comes here..."
"I came looking for a prince."
The girl's red eyes flashed in anger. "So you were listening as well."
"Yes, I heard you," Anthy said. She did not want to say that it was the ballerina's anxious tone that called to her most and made her conscious of being the intruder she was.
The prince said nothing. Not even when the girl's fingertips brushed against his knuckles, covering his hand.
"Then you should know there's nothing for you here."
"I was searching for him to keep hold of a memory. That is enough."
"Oh really? Are you a princess?" the girl asked in feigned disinterest. "Wandered out from some silly story?"
"I am what is left when a girl cannot be a princess."
"And what's that?"
"A witch," Anthy said simply.
The hidden jealousy simmered into indignation, then to fear. For she knew, in the dark unconscious corners of her mind, what witches were capable of. "You can't have him. He's mine."
"That is something a witch would say. All stories know that the prince belongs to the world, and it's his love that makes girls princesses."
"I'm not a witch. Witches don't love anything but themselves. They steal princes away and eat their hearts to live a little longer," she said and drew the boy to her possessively. "But I love him. More than anyone else could ever love him! And I will not let you take him from me."
Anthy remembered the way the door clicked as she leaned against it. How steady her voice became when calling to the crowds: Yes, I took him (and tended to his wounds). He's mine because I love him more than anyone else (he is my brother). You cannot have him (and if I cannot have him no one will). He's mine forevermore so turn your hatred upon me (it is all right because I hate you equally for what has become of him).
"He's not mine to take." Anthy murmured and turned her gaze away from him, even if it meant the ache of the memory would begin again. She stared at the girl with half-closed eyes. "But he's not yours to keep."
"He will be bound to me. My father has told me so. You don't know anything about it..."
"I know what is left behind when a prince has nothing more to give. And he cannot give you that."
"It's fine this way. I love him even like this..." she said, touching his jaw with her fingers. Reverently. She murmured to him, "You don't need anything else but me."
"Rue..." the boy's voice was like an echo. It resonated but had nothing of its own to show for it. Even calling her name, all it told was how many times Rue must have whispered her desire for him, in the hopes that the next day he would repeat it back with the same fervency.
"You see?" Rue called to Anthy as she drew his arms over her in the beginning of a pas de deux. "This is what I take from him. His hands, his mouth, his embrace, they are mine even if he's nothing more than a doll..."
"A doll cannot love, they only move for another's whims..."
Anthy bowed her head as the prince looked on in silence. Like Rue's arabesque she lifted up her arms, only to touch the dusky nape of her neck and unbind the hair she kept back. It spilled over her shoulders and face like waves. She could feel it brush against her eyelids, gentle like her brother's lips when he kissed her tears away.
Rue laughed and wound her fingers through his cravat and over his chest. "Are you trying to seduce him? It won't work in this story, he has no heart."
With a small curtsey, she stepped back. Anthy let her arms spread wide as if to grow wings and fly away. She performed an en tourante, spinning fouettes, twirling effortlessly to the edge of the cliff. The scenery blurred and she could almost feel the pull of her own story calling her back, the swords demanding her blood. She could almost let go when—
A pale hand caught her as she slipped, and slender arms drew her away from the ledge into a tender embrace. Anthy tilted her head to view the golden eyes of Rue's prince, staring at her without expectation or want. And yet his presence was insistent. It ached within her like any bygone tale that once held true.
What could have been out of instinct, but mostly from design, Anthy let him pull her back. Her hand fell against his chest, and she wondered what kind of sword could have been pulled from his hollow, noble frame. Would the hilt bear flowers or birds, would the blade have been strong enough to bring about Revolution? With a smile absent of regret, she gently pushed herself away from him.
"Do you understand now?" she asked Rue.
"Mytho, come here," Rue commanded with a quiet desperation that showed she did not and could not understand. No matter how similar their fates were. Or how Anthy's words were the only truth she had ever heard. "Come back."
Without even a backward glance at Anthy, Mytho descended from the edge with unparalleled grace. Rue pulled him to her, winding her arms up around his neck and her fingers through his snow white hair. She buried her face in his chest, even though he had no heartbeat to drown out the sound of Anthy's words.
He would stay with her until something else needed him. And then he would leave her as if he never knew anything else. It was his existence, the only thing left of him was the emptiness of how others needed him and how he could not fill it. Yet, even if he sloughed her off again and again to pitch against an abyss, she would claim him as long as he returned to her call. She would never leave him because he was her prince, even if she was not his princess.
Anthy, when she remembered pain, could remember the feeling Rue was holding onto so tightly.
And I greet you from the other side
Of sorrow and despair
With that love so vast and shattered
It will reach you everywhere