AN: Hello, hello! And I'm back with a new chapter! It hasn't been a long wait so far, but this did take me longer since I went to watch a Let's Play of Mother 3 after playing the game myself, to make sure I'm getting character/world details at least as accurate as I can manage. That said, this chapter is pretty long, so I hope you'll find it worth the slight wait!

Summary: The truth isn't always what we expect or what we can easily accept, but a story's birth is a new beginning. Accept your role? Defy it? A choice must be made, for the phoenix has risen, but darkness looms on the horizon. - Princess Tutu/Mother 3 Crossover

Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Princess Tutu or Mother 3. All rights to their wonderful creators. I am merely borrowing them to weave a story.

The Pillars of Light

Chapter Two: Meet the Locals

Crumpled papers and ink stains were littered everywhere around the once-neat desk. Some stray pieces of crushed parchment were even lying on the floor, dots of ink blending with the grains of the wood. And in the middle of it all, holding his head in his hands as he sat in an old chair, was Fakir.

After spending months repressing his powers and trying to push them away from his conscious as much as humanly possible, Fakir was finding it quite difficult to undo the process. He needed to be able to spin a story to get them where they needed to go, but... could he even write things into reality any longer?

There simply wasn't a choice. He would sit here all damn night and all of the following day and however long it took until he figured this out. He had a responsibility - not just to the people of Kinkan Town, but to find out the truth.

He was done with living lies. And not a single person here deserved to be stuck in them, either. If this wasn't where they all came from, he was going to get to the bottom of this.

...If only his damn writing powers would work!

Just how the hell was he supposed to word this perfectly to transport them to a place they had never been? All he had was the name of the place: the Nowhere Islands. That was it. He didn't know what the place looked like or what would be waiting for them there. Without anything to draw from, how was he to manage this?

Frustrated with himself, with his writing, with the Oak Tree, with everything, he dropped his duck-feathered quill and stood abruptly, his chair screeching against the wood as it was knocked back. Ahiru gave a startled quack from the vicinity of his bed, but he merely waved his hand once without looking in her direction. "I'm fine."

Tense, irritated, and anxious beyond all measure, but fine. He just needed something... something that was missing.

He had his inspiration - Ahiru was right here with him and she was part of this story. Yet the words had no spark of life to them. No matter how many times he wrote the simple story out in different ways, the power felt dead and dormant.

Had it... really been too long? Could he possibly have suppressed the story-spinning ability out of existence entirely? The Bookmen had said it wasn't possible to actually be rid of it, but...

Staring down as his black-smudged hand, Fakir clenched his fingers inward and then out again. A creator... just what was he to create with words? Did these ancient story-spinners expect him to become like Drosselmeyer?

...No, there had to be more to it than that. He would have to try to be patient until he could get the truth. Worrying about it now wouldn't do him or Ahiru any good.

With a sigh released through his nose, Fakir walked over to the bed and scooped the duckling up, carrying her over to the open window. Placing her on the sill, he leaned against it himself, idly stroking the feathers down her back with one finger. His eyes turned up to gaze a the crescent moon in the sky, gray clouds shifting over the bottom of it.

"I wish you could tell me what it is that you saw in your dreams," he spoke gently, but tinged with anxiousness he felt. "I never realized how much more could be accomplished when two people worked together. Not until you."

Red hair. Blue eyes. Smiles that put the sun to shame. A smaller hand in his. A determination as strong as his own. A shared goal.

She's the one who changed me.

Ahiru gave a small quack from beside him, reaching a feathered wing to rest on his free hand. He quirked something almost reminiscent of a smile as his gaze fell back down to her blue eyes, dropping the fingers from her back to briefly lay over the feathered wing on his other hand.

...Change. Come to think of it... a few years had passed since the end of the story, but Ahiru remained as small and as yellow of a duckling as always. It was just another one of those things he had turned a blind eye to. She never grew physically as a duck.

Fakir's brows furrowed as he turned his head back to stare up at the moon. There were many things that didn't have answers, many mysteries left unsolved, and they just kept piling up.

This role... if he took it, what would happen? Would his fight against fate before have been for nothing? And what if he couldn't even accomplish what it was that they needed from a "creator"?

The Oak Tree had pressed it repeatedly, though: Accept your role. Could that... have anything to do with why his writing was failing now? Was it because he was wavering and unsure?

Accept... his role. If he did, in writing, would that be the key to making his story move?

It was worth a shot, anyway. He had run out of ideas and he had been at this ridiculous task all afternoon and evening already. With one last stroke to Ahiru's feathers, he picked the duck up from the window and brought her back to the bed, where she had been nestled earlier. Then, with one last glance at her, he returned to his desk and the mess still strewn about the top and the floor, pulled his chair out, and took his quill in hand.

Taking a deep breath, he pressed the end of the pen to the page and began to write.

Once upon a time, there was a man and a duck who defied Fate and fought their way out of a story-spinner's control. The town was saved, the prince and princess flew off to have their happily ever after and years passed... but not all was well.

Fate wasn't finished with the man who cast away his sword or the duck who gave everything to see the prince smile. What Fate had in store, neither of them could say, but once more, things were being set into motion beyond their control. Now, the man had to take Ahiru and travel to a place he had never heard of before called the Nowhere Islands, to accept a new role.

He was not prepared, but the role of creator... he would accept. It was his duty to the town of Kinkan to continue their story - to protect them with his own power.

Fakir paused, feeling a familiar warmth envelop him - much stronger than he was used to. In fact, he didn't think it was stemming from him at all. It was coming up from the... floor?

There was a startled quack from behind him that broke him from his stunned state with the force of solid brick to the head. Turning and rising so quickly that he nearly stumbled out of his chair, he made his way over to the bed, and gathered the duck into his arms. He knew it was time. Something was happening - and he could tell that Ahiru felt it, too.

"Ahiru, are you-"

His own voice was abruptly cut off as another filled his senses - even seemed to fill the entire room.

Thank you, young Creator. Remember your role. With the last of my power, I will send you on your way. Seek the truth. Seek your ancestors. Rebirth... in your hands is the Fate of All Things...

It was the voice was the Oak Tree. However, before Fakir could form another word on his lips, the ground beneath his feet began to shake, light beams shooting up from the wood flooring and circling him and the bird held securely in his arms.

White consumed his senses in a matter of seconds, flooding out everything with an intensity so bright that he had to shut his eyes. Instinctively, he clung tight to the duck in his arms, determined not to let go of her no matter what.

The sensation that followed was... strange. For a brief moment, he felt like he might explode, but then the constricting feeling was gone and what replaced it was... what felt almost like floating or flying. There were colors flashing by his closed eyelids, but they were all too meshed and mixed for him to make any sense of it. He could still feel feathers beneath his fingers, though, and that was what mattered to him the most.

Ahiru was with him. And he would protect her with everything he was.

"Woof! Ruff! Woof woof woof! Owwwooooo!"

Fakir's brows furrowed at the noise that echoed loudly through his eardrums. Who the hell let a dog loose and-

Wait. Where the hell was he? Didn't he and Ahiru just...?

Blinking his eyes open, Fakir took a deep breath as they adjusted to the light, sitting himself up quickly and searching for the familiar yellow-feathered duck as soon as he could see clearly enough to differentiate colors. "Ahiru? Ahiru where are-eugh."

Fakir recoiled instantly when he turned and found a sheep's tail near his face, looking around with an incredulous expression on his face. He was sitting on a partially broken fence and surrounded by sheep, of all things?

More shocking (and worrying) than that, however, was the fact that he couldn't see even spot a sign of the little duck anywhere. Panic rising in his gut, he moved to lift himself up to his feet-only to get abruptly bowled over by a large brown mass.

"Ruff! Aroooo woof!"

And that brown hairy thing proceeded to enthusiastically started licking at his face, to his immediate displeasure. "Get off, you-! I have to find- Go home, you stupid-!"

Finally, the dog backed off and Fakir brushed himself off, glaring at the animal and motioning away with his hands. "Go on! Shoo!"

And could swear, in the moment that followed, he saw the dog roll its eyes.

"Boney! Settle down, will ya?" Fakir frowned at the unfamiliar voice, but the dog answered it with a happy bark, tail wagging as it ran off in the direction the voice had come from. And a moment later, a man appeared with the dog trotting at his side. He was tall, kind of rugged-looking, with a bit of facial hair and sideburns, and most noticeably, a large brown cowboy hat perched down on his head and overshadowing his eyes.

However, Fakir did a double-take when he noted something tripping along behind the unknown man. His eyes widened in surprise as relief filtered through him. "Ahiru!"

"Quack!" The duck's large blue eyes lit up when she saw him, the large feather bobbing on the top of her head as she wobbled her way past the stranger and the dog.

"Smart bird you've got there," the man remarked with a tip of his hat as Ahiru ambled toward Fakir in a flurry of quacks. "Came to the door quackin' away a storm and led me right over here."

All attention on the small, feathered duck, Fakir picked her up once she reached him and pulled her protectively into the crook of his arm. Stupid idiot... thank goodness she wasn't hurt. Now, however, there were other pressing matters at hand. Giving a reassuring pat to Ahiru, he turned his gaze back to the man, his lips thinning out into his perpetual frowning.

"Where am I?" Fakir demanded in a rather rude tone, glowering green eyes settled on the stranger. "Is this the Nowhere Islands?"

The man's eyebrows rose up and disappeared into his large hat briefly before they lowered again. "You're in Tazmily, on the Nowhere Islands, yeah. ...And sittin' in my sheep pen."

Coloring slightly, Fakir immediately got to his feet and rubbed at the back of his neck awkwardly. He should probably at least apologize for destroying the fence, but it's not like he damn well meant to. Strange as it was, he couldn't even remember falling or impacting anything, though the damage was apparent. And he sure as hell did not have money on him to pay for repairs.

Despite feeling the man's gaze on him, Fakir kept his eyes locked on a point in the distance, crossing his arms over his chest. He could feel Ahiru making some kind of movement in his arms, but he ignored her as well.

"...You're not from around here, I take it." The gruff words from the older man almost made it sound like he wasn't particularly used to making conversation, either.

"No," Fakir replied shortly and curtly. The air felt oddly heavy. And a silence followed afterward that hung awkwardly over them until running footsteps could suddenly be heard fast approaching. The ex-knight looked up again, just as a blond boy (probably mid-teens, from the looks of him) bounded up to the man and the dog.

"Hey, dad! Did you find out what that crash in the yard was just-" Spotting Fakir, the teen cut off in mid-sentence and blinked at him and the duck carried in his arms. Noting that Fakir's expression was less than friendly, he shifted uneasily. "Oh. U-um... hi." He turned back to man at his side. "Someone you know, dad?"

"...No," the man answered after a moment, still studying Fakir out of the corner of his eye. "Looks like he feel into the sheep pen."

Fakir looked between the both of them, his eyes wary and filled with distrust. There was no way he was going to stand here and try to explain a situation that he didn't even understand - especially not to strangers.

The cowboy-like man reached up to adjust his hat again. "My name's Flint." Then, he reached out to pat the blond and blue-eyed boy on the shoulder. "And this one here is my son, Lucas."


"Oh, and Boney, of course. Sorry, boy." Then, raising an eyebrow at Fakir, Flint went on to ask, "Who might you be?"

Fakir hesitated as he looked back and forth between father and son. He didn't really have the time to be standing around here giving awkward introductions and things. What he needed to do was find those damn "Ancients" and figure out what the hell he was expected to do in his role of creator.

"Never mind that," Fakir spoke at last, shaking his head. "Sorry about your fence, but I'm in a hurry."

"Quack!" Ahiru protested from his arm, in a manner that he had come to recognize as her being discontent or irritated with him. However, Fakir chose to turn a deaf ear to her. He was not going to ask anyone for help and and he was damn well going to get this over with.

It was the Oak Tree's fault for not telling him more or giving him clearer directions. And if there wasn't much time to be had, he couldn't squander it here in this Tazmily place or whatever it was called. So despite the indignant quacking from his arm and the incredulous stares from the three - yes, three - even that damned dog was looking at him like that - in front of him, Fakir turned and hopped down the small cliff, walking off with quick steps down into the village.

What he needed to do was find the nearest forest or something. That would be a perfect place to find one of these ancient trees that he needed to speak with.

As the dark-haired young man and the quacking duck hurried off, Flint once again reached up to tip his hat back and forth before he set his brown eyes down on Lucas. The boy's brows were drawn in slightly, as though in worry.

"...You think he means trouble?"

Lucas seemed to ponder that for a moment, before his brows uncreased. "I... don't know. We noticed just a few days ago that things were getting weird, right? Everything's been fine for three years and now... The animals aren't chimeras anymore, but they're unsettled by something. I got attacked by a wild boar on my way to see Lighter and Fuel the other day."

Flint gave a stiff nod of agreement, still looking off in the direction that the stranger disappeared into. "Something isn't right. That's all I can tell."

A small silence settled in as the wind picked up, rustling Flint's hat and Lucas's hair. Boney gave a shallow whimper from below them. "D-Do you think..." Lucas started to speak, but stopped, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again. He didn't seem to be able to continue.

Lightly, his father placed a hand on his shoulder. "I don't think we should start worrying too much yet."

"But the dragon..."

"...Yeah. I've seen him, too. But he's not attacking anything. Let's not be hasty."

"I just..." The teen paused to take a steadying breath before he continued. "I don't want anything like... that to happen again. I don't think I'm s-strong enough to..."

As he trailed off, Flint looked up to the sky before sighing deeply, moving his hand up to ruffled the boy's hair. "Remember, Lucas. You're not alone. The needles are pulled and you passed your heart the dragon, but upholding this reborn world isn't your responsibility; It's all of ours."

Lucas nodded faintly, reaching down to pet Boney as the dog licked at the fingers of his hand hanging at his side. "I think... I'm going to at least follow that guy. To see what he's doing. I don't want to see the forest go up in flames again or-"

"Lucas." His father's voice was stern, but not unkind. The elder man took another slow breath before continuing. "Let's go say hello to your mother and Claus, first" he suggested. A faint smile came to Lucas's lips. "Maybe they'll give us a bit of guidance."

"...Yeah, you're right."

"Woof woof!"

Fakir quickly decided that he did not like Tazmily. People were obnoxiously friendly around every turn. They didn't even seem to care that he was a complete stranger! And all he wanted to do was get out of here, dammit!

His scowl still in place and duck in arm, Fakir made his way past a building called the "Yado Inn" and headed through the tall archway between it and another building. Unfortunately, he found a brunette woman just beyond it, all but up in his face and waving a-

"Would you like a nut cookie, dear? I just baked a whole batch! Fresh out of the woodstove!"

"No, I-"

"Hey, I have some extra cookies, too! They're slightly unclean, but still good!"

"Mike, you haven't made any cookies for years!"

"Aw, I was just kidding, Caroline. Everyone knows yours are much better, anyway."

"I don't want any damn-!"

Pushing his way through the villagers, Fakir stalked on ahead, feeling more and more aggravated with every step. Who the hell walked up to someone they never met and shoved cookies into their face? This place was full of nutters - which would explain the 'nut' cookies, he supposed with an inward snort.

Coming to a clearing just beyond the village - finally, he was out of that place - Fakir noted that off to the west, there appeared to be a large, tree-cluttered area. Hope surged in his chest. And again, there was that strange warmth he felt with it. What was that?

Well, the important thing was that he finally found a lead to something that might be useful. And he didn't have to ask a single person for directions or tell them anything about his situation.

...Hmph. Of course he could do it on his own.

And Fakir had been about to walk off toward the woodland area just then, but paused, his eyes drawn to something in the distance. There was... some kind of drawbridge pulled up? And a little further than that, what looked like an old castle. His brows furrowed as he stared at the distant stone structure.

Why could he swear that something about that building seemed the smallest bit... familiar? He didn't think that he actually recognized it. And he had never been to this "Nowhere Islands" place before, either. Perhaps he had seen it in a book?

There was a soft quack from down in his arms and Fakir snapped out of his silent contemplation, turning his eyes down to the duck nestled into his arm. She, too, was looking at the old castle. Unlike Fakir, though, she didn't seem content with just looking. Pulling a wing free, she pointed toward it.

"Quack! Qua-quack quack!"

"What?" He blinked, and then frowned. "No, idiot. There's no time for that. We have to go find those trees or whatever they are."


"I said no, dammit! Just-" Cutting off on an irritated sigh, Fakir turned sharply to head in his intended direction, ignoring the duck's quacked pleas. This wasn't a joy trip or some kind of sight-seeing tour. The Oak Tree said that the "time" was near and had pressed that he needed to come here and take up a role. Strange castles were not on the list of priorities.

Ahiru wasn't content with his decision, though, and continued to make a squawking spectacle of herself from where she was settled into his arms. fluttering her feathered wings around. "Quack! Quack-qua-qua!"

It was hard to keep an eye on where he was going when she was being such a nuisance, but Fakir kept walking quickly and determinedly, even as his attention was on the flailing and agitated bird. "Idiot! This isn't the time for-"

His speech was abruptly cut off on a loud grunt as something - or rather, someone - crashed right straight into him, a thud heard just before another unfamiliar voice reached his ears.

"Ow! Hey! Watch where you're going!"

Though Fakir stumbled backward after the sudden collision, he managed not to fall. The same could not be said for the person he had literally run right into, though. And he barely cast the strange young woman on the ground in front of him a glance as looked down to make sure that Ahiru was all right. Which she was, thankfully, but he could tell that she was concerned for the stranger. Fakir, however, was not in the mood to deal with any more people.

"I'm in a hurry," he told the woman with bright, short and untidy pink hair coldly, ignoring the angry quack from Ahiru at his words. "So stay out of my way."

And with that, he was off again, as if nothing happened.

Or rather, he would have been, if it weren't for the fact that he felt a sharp yank on the back of his ponytail, forcing him backward with a tight grimace. "What the-!"

"Who the hell taught you manners?" Another tight jerk to his hair, even rougher than the first. "You're the one who knocked me over, you ass!"

"Let go, dammit!" Fakir growled, viciously pulling his hair free with one hand while keeping Ahiru secured with the other. Once his dark ponytail was freed from the woman's grip, he turned around to face her, gritting his teeth from the pain in his skull. "What the hell is your problem?"

The woman, who was now obviously standing, regarded him with distaste, crossing her arms and glaring right back at him with vibrant green eyes. "You just knock a person clean down to the ground and don't even apologize? And then you even go on to say 'stay out of my way'? As if it was my fault? I don't stand for that kind of behavior! Show some respect!"

Fakir's impatience was rapidly climbing off of the scales. Who was this boy-ish looking girl with a bad attitude? And why did he have to have rotten enough luck to keep running into these crazies?

"It's none of your damn business!" He replied heatedly, tucking his second arm down around Ahiru again, almost protectively.

"You're lucky I didn't see you knock someone else down like that or I'd knock your block off!" And she shoved her gloved fist almost right into his face, as if to threaten doing just that.

"Quack! Qua-quack!"

This seemed to catch the attention of both Fakir and the odd woman, who looked down toward the little duck. And just like that, the woman's deep scowl lifted up into a smile.

"Oh! Hello there! You didn't get hurt, did ya?"

Ahiru shook her head. "Quack!"

"Does this nasty man say nasty things and mistreat you too? I bet he does. You poor thing."

As she reached out to pat Ahiru, though, Fakir roughly yanked his arms back, his expression twisting fiercely. "Don't you dare try to touch her."

Raising her eyebrows, the woman blinked at the odd display. Then, she shrugged her shoulders casually. "Okay, fine. I'll just do this my way."

Fakir stiffened, preparing to fight to guard Ahiru if he had to. Yet the woman made no move to attack or try to grab the duck away. Instead, all she seemed to be doing was looking at her.

Blue eyes to bright green. For just a moment, it felt like something in the air had changed, but there was nothing but silence.

Then, the woman straightened up. Quirking an eyebrow in confusion, her eyes trailed back up to Fakir's. "...That's not a duck."

Whatever Fakir had been expecting to happen, it was definitely not for a declaration like that. And he tried to ignore the surge of slight panic in his gut. It's not like anyone knew about Ahiru. And her true form was a duck! This woman was clearly just as insane as the rest of those village folk - perhaps even more-so.

"Of course she's a duck," Fakir spat, hiding Ahiru away from the strange woman and ignoring her feeble and confused quack from the fabric of his sleeve.

The woman only continued to stare, however, a strange and unreadable expression on her face. Unnerved by it, Fakir quickly turned around and picked up his pace again, grumbling under his breath about how strangers couldn't mind their own business and had to make things difficult.

He never once looked back after that. Fakir could care less if she was still standing there stupidly or what was wrong with those villagers or about the man called Flint and his son and their slobbering dog. He had a purpose and a goal - nothing was going to hold him back from that.

Lucas slowly made his way down the hillside up along the graveyard a short distance from Osohe castle, hands in his pockets and expression thoughtful. He still wasn't sure what to think about that strange young man's sudden appearance. And he didn't actually know where that guy went, either, which left him at a bit of a loss. How was he to follow him if he didn't know where he was going?

"Hey, Lucas! Hey!"

Hearing a voice, he looked up, eyes broadening slightly as a woman in a simple blue, coat-like dress hurried forward with a hand waving and a welcoming smile. Lucas couldn't help but smile right back at the sight of her familiar pink hair and her grin, returning with a wave of his own. "Kumatora!"

Coming right up to him, she finally slowed to a stop, idly kicking a rock out of the way with one of her boots. "Since you weren't at home, I thought you might be up this way. I think we need to talk."

Lucas's smile faded slightly at that, his eyes glancing off into the distance. "Y-Yeah... you can feel it too, huh?"

"I just came over from Sunshine forest," she told him, hooking a thumb off behind her. "I went to check on the animals and see if I could figure out what had them getting all rowdy and aggressive all of a sudden."

His eyebrows raised, a hopeful look on his face. "Did you find out anything?"

She was quiet for a moment, as if trying to decide just how to word her reply. "It's... like they're all full of sadness and hate and I can't make sense of why," she spoke, her voice low, but tinged with frustration. Heaving a sigh, she turned her eyes up to meet Lucas's. "I'm worried... they haven't felt this way before. Everything's been peaceful for years until now."

"...I'm worried too," he agreed softly. "My dad's saying not to jump to conclusions, but I don't like what's happening. I want to stop it before... before..."

She reached out to pat him on the head. "I know. Don't worry. We'll get to the bottom of this before anything gets out of hand."

With a bit of a pout, he batted her hand away from the large, curled cowlick on top of his head. "Aw, c'mon, don't do that! I'm not a kid anymore!"

Kumatora grinned, unable to resist giving him a little noogie to top it off. "You'll always be wittle Wucas," she teased.

"Stop iiiiiiiiiiiiit!" he whined loudly. And when she finally removed her hand, he shot her an unamused look before he sighed. "There's something else I think I should mention, too. Another strange thing."

"Oh?" She piqued one eyebrow. "What's this strange thing, then?"

"There was a crash early this afternoon. And there was a duck that suddenly came quacking at our door and... it led us over to the sheep pen, where-"

"Wait," Kumatora interrupted, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "Let me guess. You found a guy and he was tall, dark-haired, rude, and had a permanent scowl on his face."

Lucas looked at her as though she had just read his mind. "Yeah, that's him! He was in the sheep pen and sitting on the busted the fence. Looked like he fell or something. Did you see him in town?"

She shook her head. "Nope. Just saw him a couple minutes ago, heading out to the Sunshine forest. He claimed to be in a hurry and told me I better stay out of his way."

That made Lucas's blue eyes glimmer with amusement. "Did you punch him?"

Pounding a fist into her open hand, she growled. "I wanted to! What an asshole! If I see him again, I might just punch his lights out for the hell of it anyway."

Unable to hold in his mirth, Lucas laughed. "Well, he should know better than to mess with you."

"Right?" She grinned, but then it faded as quickly as it formed. "I'm wondering about that duck that he had with him, though."

"Huh? What about it?"

"I thought I would communicate with it through mind-reading, y'know, just to see if that guy was abusing it like poor Salsa was abused and held captive by that damn Fassad. But..."

Lucas was silent, but his eyes urged her to continue.

"...I couldn't communicate with it," she said at last. "That duck... is no duck. And not any kind of animal if my psychic powers can't reach it."

They exchanged a wary look, both of their expressions grim. It went without saying that everything about that man and his "duck" was suspicious. And given the changes that coincided with their sudden arrival, possibly dangerous, as well.

Continuing his way in towards the forest, Fakir passed by another odd stone building, barely giving it a once-over as he stomped his way forward. He could see trees now, but none of them really seemed to stand out or call to him or anything.

Just how was he supposed to find the right ones?

Experimentally, Fakir approached a rather large and old-looking tree, and placed his palm up against the bark. Slowly, he let his eyes drift shut as he tried to reach his consciousness out to the tree. However, after a good three minutes of standing there and concentrating, his eyes snapped back open.

Nothing. Not even a glimmer of a voice or a whisper that would tell him a thing made itself known. Already far beyond annoyed and tense, Fakir slumped down beside the tree with a heavy exhale.

What had he gotten himself and Ahiru into?

"Quaaaack." A feathered wing pressed against his chest. Sighing, Fakir reached down run his fingers along her back.

"We'll figure something out, moron. Don't worry about me, alright?"

She gave another short quack, but relented with her wing, tucking it back down against her side. Moving her head up against his shirt, she nuzzled him, which almost brought the tiniest of smiles to his face.

Just then, something nearby gave a snap, like a twig breaking in half, and Fakir was immediately alert, his hand pressing against Ahiru's feathers. Had that crazy woman decided to follow him?

"Who's there?" he demanded. And when he was met with silence, Fakir got up to his feet, searching the forest floor an the bushes. He hadn't thought of what might be out here. And damn it all, he didn't have his sword - it was back in his cabin in Kinkan.

"Quack!" Ahiru suddenly exclaimed, just as Fakir caught sight of something coming out from the bushes - or rather, slithering out from them. The snake made its presence known with a his, rearing back and eying the man and duck as its tongue darted out threateningly.

Crouching down, his eyes never leaving the snake, Fakir groped the ground until he found what seemed to be a broken tree branch and clasped his fingers around it. Simultaneously, he let Ahiru down, pushing her off behind him. "Get back!" he urged her, watching the snake as it moved its head two and fro, mouth opening as it hissed again, louder. Fakir stood his ground in front of the duck, straightening and brandishing the broken limb with as much ferocity as he could. "I'll protect you."

And it seemed that those words were the snake's cue. It darted right forward and Fakir brought the leaf-covered end of the limb down with a loud cry, aiming right for the slithering green creature. However, when he pulled the branch back up, there was no snake, and his heart leapt into his throat.


"AHIRU!" Hearing that distressed cry nearly made his heart stop, but Fakir turned around as swiftly as he could, rearing back the limb and ready to beat the life out of that damn thing if he had to-!

He almost dropped the branch when he saw the snake's mouth clamped just below the little duck's neck, but the burst of adrenaline and fury only made him roar out as he lashed the limb right down on the snake's body with every ounce of force he could muster. There was a startled and pained hiss that followed after, and movement through the ground as the reptile made a quick getaway.

Fakir tossed the broken branch aside and fell to his knees, hands shaking as he reached for yellow-feathered bird and took her into his trembling hands. She was shallowly breathing, which he was more than grateful for, but...

"Ahiru, Ahiru... I'm so sorry. I failed you, I..."

He trailed off, looking at the area she was bitten and gently pushing the feathers out of the way. Fakir had never seen a mark like it before. The skin beneath her feathers... it seemed like it had a purplish-hue. And it was... it was spreading.

What... had that snake just done to her? How could he fix it? How could he save her?

Biting back a sob, Fakir clutched her to his chest, holding his shirt to the wound in hopes that it would somehow do something to help the strange purple blemish from spreading further or worsening.

"Ahiru, just hold on, just..."

...He shouldn't have brought her here. This happened because he was foolish, because he put his promise above her safety! He was a goddamn idiot and...

And now, he felt helpless to do anything for the one that mattered most to him.

AN: First cliff-hanger! DUN DUN DUNNNN!

So, the Mother 3 world and some of its characters have been introduced. For those of you that know of game, I hope you find the portrayals of the characters and the world to be accurate enough! I had a lot of fun with them.

As always, feel free to review (I really appreciate the feedback and I hope this continues to be entertaining enough to readers) and send me any questions or comments you may have and I'll do my best to answer them for you!

Thanks a lot for reading!