Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Tutu and I don't make any profit from the writing of this story.
A Chill Wind
"No, no, no! You'll never succeed if you stay at this level. You've got to concentrate!" Autor adjusted his glasses and put his hands on his hips. "Try again. Drink some tea, it'll help." A droplet of sweat rolled down Fakir's forehead and onto his nose. He scratched it away as though it were a mosquito. Any distractions, any stray sensations, could spell the ruin of one of the people he held dear... When it came to that final moment. His rage at that smug bastard was simmering, the lid of the kettle of his tolerance clattering. He needed to focus his mind like the edge of a sword. He needed to think only of the story, and let the ink flow from his heart through the quill. He needed-
"What are you waiting for? Get started already!" Barked Autor, and that was all the excuse Fakir needed. Fakir stood up, sending his chair clattering away, and spun around with a practiced speed and finesse.
"You... You..." He couldn't even finish the thought, saliva gathering in his mouth and teeth clenched painfully. He dove at the thin boy, grabbed his collar, and slammed him against the bookshelf. "You... Keep distracting me! See what happens! That smug little remark could have cost Charon's Life! Or Duck's! Or Raetzel's! I'm fighting a battle on these pages!"
Autor gulped. "I'm simply trying to prepare you for the real thing. You think your enemies will sit idly by and let you write to your heart's content? You have to learn to put up with distractions." He put on a calm facade, but the truth was he was frightened out of his mind by his bigger, stronger upperclassman. He hoped logic would work to calm Fakir down a bit. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were in the drama program."
"Hmmph." Snorted Fakir. "Fine, well... I'm not ready for that yet. Just let me get a bit better at writing on my own before you have your fun." He wheeled around and righted his wooden chair, sitting down heavily. "And your tea tastes like crap."
Autor simply adjusted his glasses, folded his arms, and leaned back against the shelf.
It was an unusually cold night. Rue awoke suddenly as a gust of air blew across her face. The window wasn't open when I went to sleep, she thought to herself. She rolled her body up and wrapped her arms around herself, thin silk of her midnight blue nightgown not protecting her from the breeze in the least. She got up out of bed, shut the window, and started a little fire in the small cast-iron stove. Shutting the door of the stove firmly, she held her pale hands up to it to try to recapture a bit of the lost heat. Her outstretched arms, slender and thin, were covered in goosebumps.
"Oh, now don't do that." The girl whipped around, towards the direction from which she'd heard the snide voice, the unmistakable voice of her dark prince. "You're so beautiful when you're shivering." She turned again, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, frigid arms embraced her from behind. His fingers were like icicles. She gasped, startled and excited. "Your skin... So pale and smooth... drawing up and tightening. Your pretty mouth... Lips turning blue... Your ivory teeth... Chattering..." He nipped at her ear.
"Mytho! Stop this at once!" She attempted to wrench free of his grasp, but the shape behind her vanished in a puff of black feathers, each one a shaving off some chill nightmare. She knew inside that she loved him, but she hated herself for it. She wanted nothing to do with this dark champion, this demon inhabiting the empty husk of her lover. On the surface, she could separate the two entities, but inside of her, in the part of her that loved everything about this boy, they were one and the same. She was connected to him, unable to break away, doomed to love this monster forever. For better or for worse. 'Till death...
"I'm over here, my love." He said softly. He was lying across her bed, now covered in more feathers, quite naked. Any warmth that had been radiating from the small stove was gone now. He was offering his body to her, long and lean, pale and frigid on the black sheets. Colder and colder it became in the little room high in the air, as she felt herself being drawn to him, her beautiful prince, the object of all her desires. He held out a hand to her, and she accepted it.
Duck couldn't sleep. It was just too cold, and no matter how many quilts she piled on top of her loft bed, the clammy sensation just wouldn't dissipate. She tossed frustratedly. She turned aggravatedly. She even curled into a little ball, out of some kind of exasperated despair She was miserable. The coldness was scraping, scraping, scraping at her, like a long fingernail being dragged down her prickled spine. The discomfort bordered delicately on pain, like frigid needles probing her blushing joints.
As she steeped in her misery, fetal and defeated by the cold, she was struck by an intense feeling of paranoia. No, paranoia was not it- this was a genuine alarm going off in her mind. Something terrible was about to happen. Her hands clasped the red gem, forever on her neck. There were no words for this kind of feeling, this primitive wrench of her gut. Danger was near. Would she fight or fly? Fly... She thought to herself. But I'm just a duckling. I can't fly yet... All I can do is depend on others. I've yet to step to that edge and over... What would Princess Tutu do? What would Miss Edel have said? The feeling passed, and Duck allowed a deep breath to escape her chest.
As she clutched at her pendant, the nucleus of her miserable existence, consciousness faded. Uneasy sleep took her, and while she had no discernible dreams that night, the drawn curtains of her mind were as black as a crow's wing.
"What happened to you? You look absolutely miserable!" Quipped the magenta-haired teen, clips sticking out of her mouth as she fiddled with her bangs.
"Worse than usual in the mornings! Were you up all night thinking about Fakir?" Lilie supplemented, her long wavy hair already done up in pigtails.
"Oh yeah!" Said Pique, making an 'I just remembered' gesture with her fist and palm. "Rumor has it that Rue and Mytho have started shacking up! The girl next door to Rue, Whatsername, said she heard them talking in the middle of the night... And then doing more than talking! What do you think about that?"
"Shacking up! Rue is leaving the rest of us little girls behind! For someone who asks to be called 'lady,' she sure doesn't act like one!"
A deeper voice cut in. "Are you girls talking about... Me?"
Duck simply didn't have the energy to participate in this gossip. So when Lilie's falsetto sentiments were silenced mid-sentence, she was a bit surprised. She looked up at her friends, and the sight that greeted her was surprising to say the least. Beyond the just-made-up hairdos of her two friends, Rue was walking towards her, slowly, eyes locked on her in a predatory way. Dressed in her uniform, she was looking vaugely downtrodden; her natural beauty somehow dimmed and her smile duller than Duck's memories suggested it should be. Her pale skin did not glow, her hair did not shine. As she walked closer to Duck, she began to smile a bit, and then she grinned. As she passed Pique and Lilie, her eyes closed, and she tilted her head to one side and joined her hands.
"I bid you a good morning, Duck. I came here to ask if you would honor me with a dance today in class... Like we used to do, all that time ago."
Duck's face turned a bright pink. "Dance... with me? But why?"
Rue, still grinning, looked a little less happy up close. In fact, her expression was looking more and more like a facade. She chose her diction carefully. "Well... We're friends, right? Friends like to dance with each other. It's just what they do. Other girls would have said yes right away."
"Uhhh... Of course, Rue! I'd love to dance with you. I guess I'll see you in class...?"
"Very well. 'Till then. Good morning, you two." She cast a gaze over her shoulders at the speechless pair and winked; then turned on her heel and gracefully made her way back to her dorm on the other end of the long hallway.
The young trio watched her make her way down the corridor, dumbfounded. Pique shrugged and shook her head. "I just don't even know what to say." Lilie, her face a mask of voyeuristic pleasure, clasped her hands together.
Ballet Class started normally. Duck, Pique, and an Lilie took their usual spots on the barre and began to stretch out, murmuring their disdain for the daily exercises scrawled on the chalkboard. As the advanced class strutted in, Duck's attention was focused squarely on Rue. The pretty Prima Ballerina was making her best effort to beam, as she usually did, brightly and cheerily, but something in her was just missing. Duck continued to watch her as her partners and she began to stretch and do their routine, and her absent-mindedness caught the focus of their feline instructor.
"Mish Duck! Please focush on your own performansh! Like a flower, we all musht grow from the inshide outwards." He bounced away on this cryptic note, assumedly to heckle someone else.
"Phew!" Exhaled Pique. "Got off easy that time. But y'know, Rue does look a bit different today. I wonder what's up?"
The blonde looked both ways to make sure she wouldn't be overheard. "I heard that sometimes..." She began, looking mischievous.
"Uh huh?" intoned Pique. Duck was interested too, but didn't want to seem enthusiastic to know.
"If the guy's really good..." She continued.
Pique and Duck nodded. "Yeah?"
"You wake up feeling super sore!" She sqeaked, face in hands. "You can hardly even walk!"
"Ah hah! So that's it!" exclaimed Pique, again making a gesture with her fist and palm.
As the two continued to cluck on the subject, Duck withdrew a bit from their conversation and began practicing steps. After a while, the time came for the advanced class' presentation. Rue stepped out in front and addressed the class.
"For today's performance, I have selected a guest from the beginners' class to aid me. Miss Duck, if you would?" a murmur went around.
"Er, yes. I'd be honored." Said Duck, repeating the traditional line.
As she desperately tried to match steps with the superior dancer, Duck was overcome with a sense of belonging, the friendship she cherished so much filling her with happiness. She treasured this time spent with Rue, even though she might look like a fool to an observer. So her eyes went wide and she lost her step when Rue whispered in her ear, "I'm sorry for this, Duck."
"Sorry for what?" Duck began to ask. But before she could speak, Rue lifted her, high above her head, and suddenly fainted. Time seemed to stand still. Suspended in the air for a brief moment supported by nothing at all, Duck half-turned to see her expression. It was one of deep, pitiful sorrow- Rue fell like a stone, landing on the ground in a heap. That face was the last thing Duck saw before her world went black.
Duck awoke to the sound of gentle sobbing. She started to sit up in the bed, but immediately a throbbing ache overtook her, and then a wave of nausea. She clutched at her stomach, swallowed, and lay back down, lamenting her miserable state. What happened to me? She thought to herself. One minute I was dancing with Rue, the next I'm here... I must have gotten knocked out when I fell!
She looked around the nurses' office. The room was rather large, and beside her bed was a small table with a pitcher of water and a bowl containing a towel. Beyond the table was a divider, and beyond the divider was the silhouette of Rue, who seemed to be dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. The sobbing continued. "R... Rue? Is that you? What happened?"
Rue turned to face Duck, her features hidden by the white screen. In a pained voice and between sobs, her dark outline said, "Oh thank heavens, Duck. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry." She sniffed and continued. "They say you hit your head when you fell... When I dropped you. They tell me I fainted... But I didn't feel that weak. I think... I think Kraehe took over in order to harm you. Oh Duck! First she took Mytho from me, now she's trying to take you, too!"
Duck was moved to tears by the girl's plight. As she dabbed at her own moistening eyes, she inquired "What do you mean, took over?"
"Kraehe is always in the back of my mind, waiting to take control of my body. She's not like you and Tutu... Probably. You allow Tutu to come out when you want to, right? But the thing is... I'm becoming more and more like her. I get these desires to hurt people... To do dirty things... I want to suffer and cause suffering!!"
Duck's mind spun. Dirty things? So Pique and Lilie were right? Now wasn't the time to think about that.
"And Mytho... He's so overwhelmed by the Raven's power he's nothing like the Mytho we used to know. All he wants to do is cause suffering as well. But the part of me.. But I still love him! I hate what he's become, but I love him nonetheless... Duck, what do I do? What have I done?"
"What? What do you mean? Did you hurt someone else?"
"Let me tell you about last night."
In a sea of black sheets, the two bodies, waves from opposite horizons, crashed against each other in a white surge. Tide drawing her in and out, Rue drifted; languidly floating on those cobalt seas, so far from safety she'd already died inside. Her glassy red eyes stared at the moon, glowing bright in the pitch-black sky. There were no stars.
Mytho's white locks fell around his ears and chin, sweat adorning his brow. As his obscene task reached its conclusion, as the pressure inside him built and built, his cruelty began to simmer. He reached an arm back, supporting himself over the impassive girl now with only one slender limb, and struck her, the damp sound of his palm on her cheek resonating through the room. The girl blinked, seeming to awaken, though her expression hardly changed. "Wake up, Rue!" He cried, eyes wide.
She gazed at him, blankly, the excitement of their coupling having left those big crimson eyes long ago. She couldn't refuse him, his magic was too strong; but she had been right to fear him. This was not love-making: it was some kind of punishment. His long, slender arm reached out, and his long, icicle fingers wrapped around her cool throat. He began to squeeze. His grip on her was simply…
A great wave crashed around her. Anew, the freezing cold washed over her naked body, drawing and tightening her skin and muscles, pain burning in her fingertips and toes. She was so cold. So cold and alone, as the boy rolled off her and lay still, save the furious heaving of his chest, on the black sheets. A tear formed in her eye, but had nowhere to roll. She closed her eyes, sinking under the black waves.
Duck struggled to regain her breath. "Oh Rue... You poor thing..." She held out a hand and pressed it against the canvas divider. Rue sniffed again, and reached out to touch her hand through the obscuring barrier. As their fingers touched, Rue's fingers seemed to get a lot colder all of a sudden.
Suddenly and without warning, Rue launched herself out of bed, paced around the divider, and leaned over Duck's bed. "Good morning, Duck. I'd say long time no see, but that's not exactly true…"
Duck's eyes widened. "K… Kraehe?!"
"You see, it's true you haven't seen me in a while. But I've been watching you."
"Why don't you leave Rue alone!?" Shouted Duck, tears forming in her royal blue eyes. "She doesn't want to hurt anyone!"
"You think what Rue wants is of any interest to me?!" Shouted Kraehe right back. "Rue is a means to an end. And you're never going to live to see the end of this tragic tale!" The dark princess cupped a hand and with the other she withdrew from the obscured palm a long, thin stiletto dagger, obsidian black from pommel to tip. Twirling it expertly around in her hand, she poised it over the prone girl's pounding chest. "Die, you pest!"
Duck struggled to move, but black tendrils held her fast to the bed. Her heart was pounding, a tattoo resonating in her temples as she furiously fought for release. The knife moved closer…. It touched her skin through the sheet… There was nothing she could do but appeal to the prisoner behind those blood-red eyes.
"Rue! I know you're in there! Keep fighting! Don't give up!"
Her pendant began to glow.
"No no no no no!" Shouted Autor, hair falling around his temples as he pounded the table with a clenched fist. "Do you even think before you write? This is completely unrealistic!"
"What the hell do you mean, unrealistic!?" Retorted Fakir in a frustrated tone. The tension between the two boys was tightening by the minute. "It's what anyone would do in this situation!" The details of the story weren't what were important here. What was important was Fakir was getting better, and Autor hated that. Anytime now, Fakir would be just as good, senses as sharp, and Autor would be out of violently-delivered criticisms.
His stories flowed through him, longing to escape. Description pulsed in his brain, so voraciously that any object he viewed triggered a gush of adjectives to flow through his mind. The apple he ate that morning with a wedge of cheese for breakfast was not "Red," it was vividly crimson, stiff but yielding and lush with juice of a acerbic nature. Though no culinarian, the words that came to mind when he took each bite belonged in a gourmet's publication. He didn't know where they came from, but came they did, and they never seemed to leave.
"You… You..." Fakir lost all self-control. He'd had it, and he was going to enjoy this golden moment. "You insufferable yeoman! Writhe in your malfeasance while I ascend to my rightful position as Drosselmeyer's heir. You lout! You can't even criticize my technique anymore, so you postulate about my characters' choices, pontificating like a professor when you've previously professed to be practically powerless! I've had enough of your…" Fakir's eye twitched. "…Bullshit."
Autor adjusted his glasses. He looked shocked and outraged for about a second, then his face settled into its usual smirk. "You know, Fakir. I think you're just about ready. I certainly have nothing left to teach you." He crossed his arms across his chest and nodded downwards with his eyes closed. "Now all you have to worry about is saving the world."
Where Duck had been before, bound and helpless under Kraehe's dagger, Princess Tutu now lay. Golden light shone from her ensnared body as the tendrils were slowly dissolving. The peace-loving warrior appealed to her alter ego's friend through the eyes of her nemesis.
"Rue! Wake up! Kraehe's going to do something terrible if you don't stop her!"
The calm, assured sound of her voice left little room for argument. The expression on Kraehe's face contorted into a mask of sheer rage, as a scream erupted from her cherry-red lips.
"Eeeeeaugh! What did you do!?" and then... silence. The girl's head slumped forward and her wavy locks concealed her expression. "Oh no. Oh no no no..."
"Rue? Is that you, dear?" Beckoned Tutu. "Why don't you hold you head up and let me dry your tears? What you just did wasn't easy... In fact, for most people it would have been impossible."
"Tutu- Oh Tutu- I wanted so badly to kill you. I- SHE wanted to stab you through the heart!"
"Shhh, darling. You're you, Rue, and you can do anything you want to now. What do you want, Rue?"
The dark-haired girl lifted her head. Her ruby-red eyes were stained with tears, pouting lips twitching with sobs. "I want to see Mytho." She buried her face in Tutu's chest and cried and cried and cried.