A/N: Long time no see, huh? I've been feeling somewhat motivated lately, and I felt a spark for this story/collection in particular. Here's to hoping this fic might get back off of its feet again! I've really missed writing and exploring this concept.
Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all of its character do not belong to me. They belong to the wonderful Itoh Ikuko and HAL films. I'm just borrowing them for fanfiction purposes.
Beneath Black Feathers
Excerpt 2: Origin
To Fakir's delight, the nameless redheaded girl was still there when he returned the next day. It was odd, but he almost thought it looked as though she hadn't moved at all.
The young boy was too excited to dwell on that, however. He hadn't been interested in making friends before, but he also hadn't expected to find anyone he could tell his stories to or share them with. Through the discovery of this girl, he found something to truly look forward to.
She was attentive. Whenever he read to her, she listened closely, almost as if she were trying to soak up every word. And yet her eyes never gained any gleam to them that reflected the desire to know more and she never asked questions. It was confusing to Fakir. He could not tell whether she truly enjoyed his stories or not.
Yet she always said that she did. And somehow, even if there was no conviction behind those dead words, the dark-haired boy reveled in it. Just to hear her say it was enough for now. It was more than he ever could have hoped for before.
And while the girl showed no spark of curiosity about him or even the things around them, Fakir found himself becoming more and more intrigued by her as the days passed. She started to show that she was more than just an empty shell - there were still bits and pieces inside.
He just had to find them.
On the fifth day, a bird had dropped by and fluttered down, interrupting Fakir's reciting of his latest story with a loud cawing. Irritated with the unwanted arrival, the boy got to his feet and tried to chase the black winged creature away.
He abruptly paused in his shooing motions, blinking back at the redhead with mild surprise reflecting in his green eyes. It was the first time she had shown independent interest in something all on her own, aside from the time she had saved him from the river. His brows raised.
"I'll make it go away," he assured her quickly. Then, he puffed his chest out almost proudly. "Don't worry, I won't let it hurt you."
But she wasn't even looking at the bird any longer. Her soulless eyes fell on Fakir, instead. "Where is the raven?"
"Huh?" The bird was still obviously cawing away right in front of them, avoiding the boy's kicks in its direction. "It's... it's right here! Can't you see it?" She couldn't be blind, he reasoned quickly. Even if the luster of her blue eyes was lacking, she had read his story when they first met. That definitely required sight.
"Where is the raven?" she repeated, still looking at him. Her eyes were blank, but he almost thought he could feel a strange intensity to them that hadn't been there before.
However, Fakir was getting exasperated. Why was she suddenly being stupid? The dumb bird was directly in front of them! "I told you! It's right-"
"The raven. I have to..." She trailed off and looked down at the grass, blinked once, and raised her eyes to meet his once more. "I don't remember."
Finally, the bird took flight and departed. Fakir was no longer paying it any attention, though. He squatted down beside the girl, eyes narrowing as he scrutinized her face. "...You have amnesia?" How he didn't consider that until now, the boy didn't know. It seemed obvious. She didn't have a name or even seem to know where she was. That meant her entire memory was missing?
The term was obviously just as familiar to the redhead as everything else, however - which was to say not at all. She merely looked at him with her eerie calmness. "I don't know."
Fakir scoffed, righting himself again. "Of course you don't. If you did know, you wouldn't have it!"
"I wouldn't," she said, but it wasn't either a question or a statement.
Reaching down, the young boy patted the top of her head where she sat. "Well, I'm gonna help you get your memory back!"
It was like a quest or an adventure, and he could feel a thrill rising in him at the very thought. One day, he could even write a story about it! Surely that was a tale people would find worth reading!
They fell into something of a habitual pattern in days following. Fakir would return each day with new ideas to try to bring her memory back. Though creative in his attempts, the boy hadn't yet found a breakthrough that reached the girl or unearthed anything noteworthy about her. She was largely unresponsive unless he brought up ravens once more. But even when he came up with every raven reference or story he could possibly think of, she still could not recall what the significance was.
And it wasn't until the ninth day that he finally discovered something important.
When Fakir came to greet her that afternoon (and feed her, as he had also periodically started to bring food once he realized she wouldn't find nourishment of her own accord), the package in his arms spilled out over the grass the moment his eyes landed upon her.
"What happened?" he exclaimed, instantly coming to her side, his eyes alight with panic. She was blemished with scrapes and bruises on her face, arms, and legs. And she looked as infuriatingly calm about it as ever, merely staring back at him, her hands folded in her lap.
"A rabbit," she spoke with serene emptiness in her tone. Her hand pointed to the stone wall nearby. "It was trapped. And there was a cat. I freed it."
Just the facts, spoken evenly, not a shred of emotion or even the slightest hint of pain or discomfort in her voice. Fakir gaped at her. "You freed... a rabbit? Up there?" She nodded. "And what happened? How did you get all bruised up?"
Her gaze traveled over to the wall. "The cat."
The girl's simple answers were even more annoying when he didn't understand the details. Fakir scowled at the stone structure before turning the expression back on her. "Why did you fight with a cat? You could have just freed the rabbit and left it alone!"
"It was stuck," she told him, still speaking as though the subject matter was as interesting as the dirt on her bare feet. And to her, it probably was. "I had to protect it. The cat scratched. And I fell. I did not let the rabbit go until it was gone."
Fakir's mouth fell open, eyes widening with the new information. "You protected it..." he repeated. "You... wanted to protect it?" His voice was almost hopeful.
"Yes," she answered with no hesitation, though there was still not a drop of anything remotely like emotion in her voice. "I must protect what cannot protect itself."
He stared at her in silence. Suddenly, his throat felt very dry. He wished he had his quill and paper with him so he could write down her words - this was surely a breakthrough and he didn't want to forget this moment. Taking a shuddering breath, he forced his lips to move, intent gaze never leaving the endless blue of her eyes. "...Why?"
His voice was barely a whisper, but she seemed to have heard him regardless. "I don't know."
And maybe she didn't, he thought. But he was reminded just a little bit of a story... a part of a story he read not too long ago.
Resolved, he got to his feet. "Wait here," he instructed, turning around. "I'm going to get some bandages or something. You can't keep open wounds like that, dummy." His words were chiding, but inside, his heart was hammering. Somehow, he just knew that this was the lead he was waiting for - the answer. "I'll be right back."
True to his words, he returned just a few minutes later, panting hard from having run the full distance to and from his house back to the girl. And aside from a roll of bandages and a bottle of ointment meant to treat her injuries, he was carrying just one more thing with him: a book that was lodged under his left arm. For the moment, he set the latter item aside, eyes lingering on the cover bearing a raven and a crown for a split second before he turned his full attention to the redheaded girl again.
Wordlessly, Fakir set about cleaning her wounds and scrapes, applying the ointment (which she didn't even flinch away from, he noted) and bandaging her up where it was needed. Once that was done, he settled himself beside her, squirming slightly back and forth and looking as though he had been caught doing something he shouldn't have. It wasn't until almost a full minute afterward that he looked up at her, almost shyly, but with an underlying determination present in his eyes.
"Can I... Can I check something?" he ventured uncertainly, despite already knowing that she wouldn't have cared one way or the other. But this... this would either solidify everything or force him to start searching all over again. His heart beat faster and faster and-
"Fakir can," was all that she said.
Before he could lose his nerve, the boy reached out to press his palm over the nightgown she wore - right over the area of her heart.
And when he felt nothing beating beneath his fingers, his own heart skipped one. "I know who you are," he spoke almost breathlessly, as though he couldn't believe it himself. His hand quaked slightly as he pulled it away from her, wide green eyes glued to her face. Fumbling, he reached blindly down for the book and held it up to her.
"This is your story," he told her, voice wavering between awe and disbelief. "You're the princess who lost her heart."
"The princess who lost her heart," she repeated monotonously.
He nodded, swallowing down hard as he pealed back the cover of the book. "The selfless princess. You sealed away a monster raven by shattering your own heart because your words couldn't sway it from destroying your kingdom. The king wanted to declare war, but you wouldn't allow it. You wouldn't fight against it. You gave up... everything. To protect your people."
And the more he spoke of it, the more it all made sense. She remembered the Raven. Even without her own emotions, she recognized significance of that term - not the bird, but the Monster Raven that she sealed away. And she protected the rabbit, without a shred of care for her own safety, rescued Fakir from the river when he fell, showed no emotion no matter what did did to get her to react...
Right before him, with blank blue eyes and brilliant red hair like the setting sun, was a story brought to life.
A story that had no ending.
However, Fakir was not selfless like the heartless princess. This was not a story that he wanted to share with anyone.
"Why do you keep interrupting?" Fakir's frustrated voice demanded of his companion, expression clearly irritated as he glanced up at her from where he sat propped against her side. The book entitled "The Princess and the Raven" was held up in his hands between them. "You wanted me to read it to you again, didn't you? Why do you want to stop at the part about the stupid prince?"
When her blank, luminous blue eyes looked at him, though, he knew he couldn't deny her, even if he couldn't see what she found so interesting about this Prince Siegfried character. He was boring! All the story even said about him was that he confessed his love for the Princess and vanished. Who cared about that mushy stuff? Good riddance to him. Gruffly, the boy sighed. "Don't you want to hear about where you save the kingdom instead? It's a lot more interesting..."
"The prince," she spoke evenly, shifting to look at the book and pointing to the single picture on the page. "He's gone."
"That's right," he snorted. "And you don't need a worthless prince who just disappears like that. He hardly served any purpose to the story at all. Forget about him."
Losing his temper, the boy shot to his feet, throwing the book down to the ground. The redhead didn't even flinch. "Forget the prince! He's gone! He disappeared! And if you want a prince so bad, then... then..."
She blinked back up at him innocently. And for a moment, Fakir could fully imagine her with a shining crown of gold and lavish dress, smiling back at him.
"When I grow up... I'll be your prince."
A/N: I felt the sudden inspiration to write another part of this. And the pull was so strong that I even had to set aside the other idea I was currently working on developing to give all of my attention to it. There might be another part of this soon, if the inspiration keeps flowing. I hope you're enjoying it so far.
Be patient for the raven prince. He'll come eventually. I wanted to flesh out more of the back story, first, to establish just how he's different from Rue/Kraehe in the series and why.
Any questions or comments you may have are welcome and appreciated!
Thank you for reading.