Author's Note: This is my Village Square contest entry for the theme Alternate Universe. The original idea was influenced by the fantasy novel Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, but although some elements are similar, I did my best to have this story stand well enough on its own without taking anything away from the actual book.
As always, I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon nor its characters.
"I do not think that what is called love at first sight is so great an absurdity as it is sometimes imagined to be. We generally make up our minds beforehand to the sort of person we should like, grave or gay, black, brown, or fair; with golden tresses or raven locks; - and when we meet with a complete example of the qualities we admire, the bargain is soon struck."
- William Hazlitt
She stood upon a small stage in the dark with her eyes closed and her hands neatly clasped at her slender waist. Her full lips were parted slightly, and yet despite her rosy cheeks, there was no breath to be found within her. She was nothing more than a machine with insides of copper and brass and gears that would only begin to turn by tightening the wind found in the small of her back. Even so, the young gentleman found her to be an exceptional creation.
"And here we have the star of tonight's performance," the owner of the theatre announced. He was a cheerful fellow with a rounded face and small black eyes, and as he spoke, he would twitch his mustache and jostle his head about his shoulders. This, of course, caused his rather tall black hat to tilt ever so slightly to either side, and every time in which it happened, he would feel the need to have it readjusted. "Fine craftsmanship, wouldn't you say?"
"Very fine," his companion agreed. He studied her porcelain face- which was framed perfectly by her golden hair- carefully once more, his dark eyes following the gentle slope of her nose and the soft smile on her taut lips. He, too, soon found himself smiling just to look at her. "One of your dancing girls told me she even has her own wardrobe."
"That she does!" the other laughed. "This black dress is just one of three that she wears for each song. We hope to have more numbers added to her repertoire, but for now, her folk songs are more than enough to keep our audiences entertained."
It was then that the manager gave his guest a quick once over as well, for though he had done well to hide it better than his older brother had at the front door, he was a bit curious as to why the young man had such a keen interest in the thing. After all, those of high society rarely had any interest in technical marvels such as the one before them, and even less would ever think to step into a theatre tucked between a small, middle class banking firm and general store. However, his appearance did little to hint at any eccentricities he may have had.
He was not a tall individual by any means, being no more than five eight at best, and while he was wearing a purple vest and ribbon, the rest of his clothing was fairly modest. Nothing more than a wool tailcoat and a felt top hat. Even so, his darker complexion and bare hands suggested that he was not ill-acquainted with more common work and a life spent under the scrutiny of the elements. A notion which only made his host all the more curious as to whom he could possibly be.
"And what was it that you said your name was, sir?"
The gentleman blinked as if having been brought out of a daydream, yet it was not long before he smiled again. "I am Lord Kai Makani," he replied with a tip of his hat, "and I would like to purchase this little marvel from you if I may, Mr. Ramsey."
The man gave a startled gasp, his eyes becoming wide with surprise, yet soon he collected himself once more. "Forgive me for saying so, sir, but you have yet to even see her perform! Besides, not only would I ask what you would think to do with her, but what would I do without her? I cannot have tonight's show be canceled so suddenly, after all..."
"And so it shall be her final public performance," Kai insisted with a stamp of his cane. "Though I have no doubts that her performance will only reassure me that this is the perfect wedding present for my bride, I suppose it shall prove to give me a better judgement of how well to compensate for your loss." Then, after having spared another glance towards the mechanical woman, he continued on with all the more enthusiasm. "Of course, I do intend to at least offer you the same price for which you purchased her. It would only be fair given the circumstances, and perhaps you could find yourself another star for this stage of yours."
By the time the curtains were opened, the young gentleman had spent two full hours watching the statue. She could not move without the manipulation of her attendants, of course, yet he found that in those two hours, he was never wanting for further entertainment. If anything, he would have liked to have been able to order that her costume be changed and fluffed at least another dozen or so times.
However, it was when she began to sing that she truly captured his heart.
The voice that came from the creation's mechanical throat was surprisingly, wonderfully clear. She sang in every range, and to his joy, she was also capable of singing with multiple voices as her own chorus. The only misfortune was the way in which she did so put such a great strain on the gears that there was a slight, yet still present, tinniness to the sound. Even so, he fancied that this imperfection had haunting beauty to it as well- one which he felt suited an all most mystical being such as herself.
The first song, a telling of the Great Victory, ended then and the curtain fell once more. Kai breathed for what felt like the first time since the performance had begun and laid back in his seat. He said nothing to the few patrons that shared his box, for though he had many thoughts, none seemed capable of explaining what he had felt in that moment. Joy and adoration were, not surprisingly, the first to come to mind, yet he could also not deny the sensations of envy and even fear that she had sparked within him.
Before he could dwell on these things further, the dark curtain rose for a second time, and he found himself at an immediate loss for words. Unlike the garish colors of her folk costume and the dour nature of the black velvet dress, the soft blue gown she wore brought her far beyond any of his expectations. It was so long that it pooled effortless about her feet, and as the dancers- whom he felt were crude in comparison in their pink and flowered dresses- lifted its hem, he was caught off guard once again by the show of her perfectly crafted porcelain legs and feet. It was also then that there came an audible gasp from the audience.
Her eyes had opened and her clasped hands had risen to her bosom.
As her lips parted, she began to sing of the Harvest Goddess and the fabled love that had happened between herself and a mortal man. However, he heard nothing of her voice. He was only aware of her eyes... those crystals that held all of the South Sea within them. All most as if she were the Goddess herself beckoning him, the humble farmer, to stand at her side and asking that he may love her.
He stood from his chair as soon as her song was complete, and just as swiftly as his feet could carry him, he flew to the backstage. He took little care in keeping quiet, and though his stumbling earned a number of well deserved glares from the audience and dancers alike, he only stopped in his pursuit when her third and final performance began.
Just as she was when he first saw her, she was garbed in black. Her hair had been loosely curled and just above her left ear, there was a single goddess drop which was all but lost in her golden tresses. He knew what she would sing even before the tubes within her throat were opened, yet even so, he could not help but be astonished to hear it sung with such passion and respect for a goddess long asleep.
The gentleman stood transfixed, his own gaze filled with wonder, and while he knew it was foolish, he still hoped that she may come alive. Perhaps then she would turn to look into his eyes as he did hers only moments before. This, of course, was impossible, for she could only open her eyes and lips and raise her hands to her breast. All the same, he waited... only to watch the curtain fall one last time, shrouding her in darkness as the Goddess herself.
"And what did you think, Lord Makani?" the proprietor asked, beaming brightly in the lamplight. Kai said nothing at first, his mind still lost within the melody as it played on in his thoughts, but it was not long before he, too, was grinning. "Does she suit you?"
"Very much so," he replied. "In fact... I should think I will keep her for myself instead, for I doubt I should know how to share her."
"I suppose it is only fair to tell you then that the girls here have taken upon calling her by the name of 'Claire,'" the other said with a chuckle. "It would be a great shame to leave her without a name, wouldn't you think?"
With a word, Kai began to scale the stairs that led to the stage, and when the older man began to follow him, he held up his hand and continued on alone. He wanted this moment to belong to him as well. Like a man who had come for his long awaited bride. One whom had eluded him for years far too numerous to count, and yet the very same one whom he could not help but love.
"Claire." She gave no reply even as he came to stand behind her, yet when he came to step before her, he was delighted to find her eyes were still on him and him alone. Gently, his well worn hands placed themselves atop her own, and once he was sure that others could neither see nor hear them, he bent his head an whispered in her ear. "Claire...
"I have come to take you home."