The Nutcracker

Based on E.T.A Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice"


Author Note: First, I like to apologize for the late update of "Eternal Love of Guns and Roses" and hoped that this Christmas Special would make up for it. Secondly, I'd like to give thanks for all those that have review, favorite, or alerted the story, especially The Puppet Masters. I appericate all your support. Thirdly, I will update "Eternal Love" soon. But please enjoy this nutcracker special.


Act 1


"Lightning!" called Chris as she searched all the rooms of the Ptolemy household.

The brown haired woman had to find her before her aunt Morgan settled into a hissy fit that cold wintery day. And that day wasn't the appropriated day to hear her mouth for it was Lightning's birthday party. Everyone that the young girl has known was waiting for their guest of honor.

Just as Chris prepared to give up on the search, Lichty came rushing down from the attic stairs. He was slightly panting, but had a smile of relief etched on his face.

"Lichty, did you find her?" Chris asked, hopeful for a yes.

He regained his composure, answering, "I did, she was hiding up stairs."

Chris sighed, "Why she hides in that dirty little attic is beyond me. Doesn't she realize that she has guest down stairs." she sternly rolled up her sleeves and marched her way to the stairs and up into the attic with Lichty following carefully behind as to mediate the situation.

On the other side of the attic was Lightning looking dully at the snow covered scenery. She blew a warm breath on the window pane, watching it fog up and fades away silently.

"Lightning!"

Lightning shifted her light brown haired head over her shoulder, seeing a very crossed Chris with her arms folded strictly across her chest.

"Good evening, Christina."

"Don't you good evening me." she hurried her self to Lightning, preparing to yank her from her spot, "Do you have any idea who's down there waiting for you? And look at you, your dress is a total mess thanks to this place. Now c'mon so we can get you ready for your bitch of an aunt." Lightning rolled her azure eyes, nonchalantly, letting Chris drag her into the second floor of the house.

As the Lichty waited outside, Chris rummaged around the closet for a decent dress for the girl's gala. Lightning sat lazy on her bed after being scolded more once inside the privacy of her room.

"Ah here's something that you haven't worn." She pulled out a dress that Lightning had at one time refused to wear last year. It wasn't because it was ugly. It was a lovely light blue with a heart shaped bust that had a silver embroidered black belt. The dress lacy skirt reaches faintly above her knees, going beautifully with the heels that Chris had in mind.

Oh how she hated that dress. It was because her aunt bought for her solely to make fun of how lanky her body once was.

"Try this one on."

Lightning shook her head.

"Now listen, your aunt is probably ready to climb up those stairs and drag you down there, dirty or not. And I don't want her to try embarrass you because your stubbornness, alright? So get in this dress or else." Lightning hung her head, knowing that Chris was right. Her aunt would love to embarrass her if it made her look better for her godfather, Aeolia Schenberg. Reluctant in trying to please her dislikeable aunt Morgan, she uninterestedly went and retrieved her blue dress.

She hurried to put it on with her high heeled shoes only to rushed more by Chris when she was ready to fix her hair in a more elegant fashion then having it completely down like she usually do. She hoped that the wintery night would end quickly.

After tonight, no dresses that were bought to make fun of me, no pinching shoes, or makeup that are so bright that a clown would exclusively wear it, Lightning scrunched her face at the a last thought, And especially no Aunt Morgan.

"Alright, all done," Chris proudly announced admiring her work, "You know you look like your mother."

As Lightning stared at her self she did realize that there was some similarity to her. Somewhat like how her hair was sometime pinned up. If only she had her chance for adventure like she did.

Quick knocks rumbled at her door before it cracked open by Lichty. He dipped his head inside and said in a hushed voice, "She making her way to the stairs. Is she ready?"

Before Chris could get her answer in, Lightning interrupted, "Yes, I'm ready." Lightning was calm and prepared for her Morgan's scolding. And as if rehearsed, she beautifully stepped out of the room with a noble like air that when she met her aunt at the top of the stairs, she seemed to be a tad impressed. But that did not hold the reprimanding look of anger that was seeping from every wrinkle she made on her forehead.

The dark haired woman was not the type to be patient unless it was for her own benefit. Her niece, however, was not something she could benefit much from. At least, not until Schenberg comes soon. So until then she had play loving aunt to her robotic little brat of a niece.

"It's about time you decide to come down. Now, come here and welcome your guest." She wheeled around with her fake welcoming smile followed by the teenage beauty behind her.

The two came into the main living room where most of the adults were chattering in their tight gowns and stuffy tuxedos. The air hinted with cigars and cigarettes that irritated Lightning's nose and overwhelmingly crowded.

She surrounded by the adults for only an hour and she could feel her ears bleed from the political talk and adult humors that went over her head. It was mostly her aunt that conversed while she quietly listened in.

Lightning sighed, not noticing the tap on her petite shoulder. She hadn't expected the same blonde hair and green eyed man that taught her to protect her self.

"Graham!" Lightning stared, wide eyed, at the Graham Aker. He smiled at her, missing his little student dearly. He must have come to her rescued at the right moment, because her eyes lit up with release, regardless of her blank expression.

"It's been awhile, Light. I see you haven't changed much."

Lightning silently scoffed, "Yes, it has been a while. I'm glad to see you."

"Really now, you always don't look like it. I don't even think you have been keeping up with swordsmanship, have you?" Lightning narrowed her gazed at the blond man. She doesn't care to be teased like a child or made fun so openly in public.

"Graham, don't pick on Lightning. You know how she is." Billy Katagiri came in, escorting to the true guest of honor—in her aunt's eyes—Aeolia Schenberg into the room with a firm face.

Morgan redirected her attention to Schenberg as if she was a dog excitingly waiting to chew on her long awaited bone. But the man's attention was not on the woman, but on his godchild, Lightning. He remember when she was nothing more then a little girl who hair held pigtails and smile that struck at his old heart. And yet, she became more of a femininely adult like, but still has dome of her childlike curiosities. He hoped that she still felt the same about toys.

"Uncle Aeolia, I'm very pleased to see you."

The old man smile, "Yes and I'm dearly happy to see you." He lightly took her hand, planting a gentle kiss on the back of her palm. Hidden behind her veil, Morgan glared furious daggers at Lightning's back. Her fingers flexed her fingers in the desire of wanting to tug on that pretty brown hair of hers.

"I have some things for you near the Christmas tree. Would you do me the honor of coming with me?" She nodded taking his arms while leading her to the tree on the other side of the room. Both Billy and Graham lagged behind them.

"Good evening, Ms. Ross." Billy calmly greeted.

"Good evening, Mr. Katagiri and Mr. Aker." Morgan Ross struggled with her smile.

She then steadily followed after her niece and Schenberg, while Billy and Graham watched carefully after her. Never the less did it the break the sudden interested gazes of the crowd as they clung to the movement of Lightning and Schenberg.

When they came upon the tree, the whole room surrounded them like mice sniffing around for a single sign of a meal. Lightning knew they packed roughly about them because of her famous godfather; it wasn't mush of a surprise to her anymore. Aeolia placed her three present in front of her.

"I hope that you will like them."

The box opens, much like a door, with a young brown haired doll stepping out. He dressed in a royal blue army uniform and his cap secured, marched arms at the ready. His hair reached his shoulder and smiled with his blue eyes looking up to her. Lightning marveled at how he kindly saluted her.

The next box popped with party confetti that held two clowns jumping out. They seemed like twins, but only oddity about them were the different eye color. One of the boys smiled politely and whose hair parted to the left. His twin appeared to be the opposite, not only by his hair parted hair to the right, but by the arrogant air of him. He had a sour frown, almost bored by the scene while his brother shook his head before proceeding next to the soldier that greeted them.

The last toy box, all sides fell, revealing a purple haired drummer boy. He reminded Lightning of herself a little, the way his face stayed expressionless, but could see his emotion through his eyes. He calmly played a rat-tat-tat tune on his drum taking his place next to clown brothers.

These were such amazing gifts that Lightning wasn't sure that she should keep them, but showed her gratitude. "I really appreciate these gifts, Uncle."

"Not yet. There is one more gift. You'll find it under the tree."

The girl's eye looked over underneath the Christmas coated tree, seeing that there was indeed another gift. This one was different from the others. It was nothing that likes the others. Instead of human characteristics, it was mechanical body[1]. Unlike the others, it did not move or gave any sign that it could move on it own.

Lightning became intrigued. Her hands found themselves to grab hold of the little toy and bringing it close to her face. Unknown to herself, she was becoming fond of this one more.

"Its name is Exia." Aeolia told her with awareness of how this was developing.

"What is he exactly?"

He simply laughed, "Isn't it obvious, he's a nutcracker." Lightning stared at the nutcracker, admiring it in not the normal way that a girl should at her age. Adore a toy? How silly is that? Not in the slightest bit, she thought, her heart swelling a little.

A sudden toll of the grandfather clock broke her train of thought. It was time for her to retire for the night and for Morgan to work her claws for the attention of Schenberg. Morgan sauntered her way pass the people, landing next to Lightning.

"Aww, it looks like Lightning's bed time," the crowd laughed, "Come with me, Lightning." Being inconspicuous with her action, she squeezed her shoulders, almost piercing her with shoulder blades. Lightning tightened her jaw, forcing a tiny smile on her behalf.

"It was nice to see you, uncle. And thank you, everyone for coming." she curtsied and left out the room without a second glance. Lightning did not appear to notice that she was still clutching the nutcracker.

Once behind privacy of her room, Morgan quickly threw her on the floor. Morgan scowled, her fist balled. Lightning glared at the woman in return.

"You pretty little brat...I sometimes don't understand you. You must like make me look like the bad guy, don't you?"

"Honestly, dear Aunt Morgan, being a bitch is something you were simply born with. It is truly pathetic to try to steal the attention of a mere child." Lightning concluded, earning a shift slap to the face and pull of her hair.

"That is why I can't stand you!" she ungracefully let her saliva fly out of her mouth, "You annoy me as much as your nuisance for a mother! I detest her as much as I do you," she saw that Lightning continued to hold her resistant glare. She wanted to break that maddening feeling of that girl refusing to accept the authority she had over her and what better way to kill it then take what she now treasured the most, "You know, Lightning," she sneered, "You're too old to be playing with toys." The vicious woman snatch Exia out of Lightning's hands.

"NO! Aunt Morgan, give him back! Give Exia back!" she howled.

"Oh! You want this back?" Lightning solemnly nodded.

Morgan in the most surprising way, actually, looked to be hand Exia over. Lightning reach out, ready to take him back. She felt a wave of happiness as she felt her fingertips brush against his back.

It was a delicious feeling when the toy, instead in the safety of Lightning's arms, went flying across the room, cracking the head and breaking off the arm. Lightning's heart sunk to her stomach. This was a rare moment that Lightning expressed emotion of hurt on her face and Morgan enjoyed the pain filled stared.

"Oops, it slipped."

Lightning quickly scrambled to retrieve him, but was beat by Morgan's foot. She happily pushed her wait on the nutcracker, watching him crack more. And to rub more salt in her wound, she kicked the toy further across the bedroom.

The woman smirk having finally taking her leave. Before closing the door, she took one final look at her crestfallen face. She smiled more widely, going back to the party with more of a good mood.

Lightning, however, painfully went to get her precious nutcracker. The young girl assessed the damage, noticing that it was just as sever as the pain in her chest. Exia was fractured in certain parts of his body, scratches on his paint, and his arm looked to fragile enough to break at any moment. The sight of his injures wretched havoc on her heart.

Trying to shallow it all down, she gather Exia in her arms and to her bed. She cradled the broken up nutcracker in her arms. She soon drifted in a sleep, holding on to her injured Exia.

Outside her door, a certain godfather watched as the girl sleep.


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Lightning begun to stir, cracking her eyes open as the grandfather toll the midnight hour. They soon dropped to her arms, forcing her to propel up to sitting position. Exia wasn't there in her arms. It was almost like he disappeared while she slept. It slowly dawned on her that her aunt could have taken him away. She didn't even want to think about the horrible things she could have done to him by now.

"Exia…." She whispered.

Lightning dropped her head back on her pillow, hard. It was quick second that she felt something poking through the pillow case. She creased her forehead, pulling herself back up to look under the pillow.

"Exia, you're alright! And your not damage anymore."

Her heart felt a sense of happiness, finding Exia was safely underneath her head. And it grew more, seeing that it was no longer broken up, but in the meant condition that he was before suffering under Morgan's assault.

"I wonder how you got fixed." A small note was attached to Exia's back. It was small, but very….confusing.

"Do not forget and do not let go of your feelings and faith in Exia"

A.

A…? Did uncle fix Exia, Lightning thought before she shook her head, what does it matter now, he's better now. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Lightning decided to put on her nightgown now. Settling Exia on a pillow, she went to her dresser and took a white gown from the second draw.

Thud

Lightning surprised, hurried to put on the gown after hearing the sound while she had shed from her dress. She looked over to the bed, Exia missing from the pillow. Instead, Exia stood in doorway looking out into the oddly dark hallway. Exia jumped and disappear, once again.

Lightning gasped, running to the door. The girl threw it open to seeing nothing but complete black. It was jaw dropping. It was like the whole house vanished outside of her bedroom.

What was going on? Where did Exia go now? And—is that her Christmas tree down there?

She saw that down below was her living room with tiny red and orange lights flashing on the ground. And above was the night sky with a few planets hovering over the scene. But everything looked like a tiny battlefield from where she stood. She leaned in to get a closer look, losing balance and tumbling from the large height.

Her body felt the air pressing against her making her feel slightly light head. The landing itself wasn't as graceful either. It felt like a bag of potatoes being dropped. At least the she didn't break any bones or cracked her skull.

Lightning looked around, amazed about the sight. It was a battle. A strange battle with…rats against toys? Lightning blinked a few times, thinking she hit her head much hard then she thought she did. This must be some sort of dream, right?

"What do we have here?" a raspy spoke behind her.

A large red rat stood, reek of sulfur and blood. When he grins his teeth looked jagged yellow knives. His body towered over her, his round gut sticking out.

"Well, well, well, the princess has come after all." Lightning looked around her finding no other girl that he could call a 'princess'. Almost dumbly, she pointed to her self.

"Yes, you stupid girl, who else would I be talking to? Now, get up." The red rat ordered.

"And who are you tell me what do?" she demanded, resentfully. The red rat glared, grabbing roughly on her arm to pull her up.

"I am the General of the Rat Army. I'm practically the right paw of the Rat King! Now, shut up and get moving, princess." The general grabbed Lighting tossing to some rat lackeys, dragging her away to Rat King.

Hidden from their view was Exia surprised that the girl had followed him here. He had to round up some help. He went off to the Christmas tree where his army was waiting for him.

Meanwhile, the Rat General took the captive 'princess' to Rat King's hideout. The horrible rat and his minions entered the threshold of the dark chimney mantle. It was much larger then it was expected, almost the size of living room. Lightning could feel the ash powder her feet as they dragged her to the throne. Watching them were the many rats of all different dark colors.

"Your, Majesty, we brought you the Toy Maker Princess." announced the Rat General.

The rat minions threw Lightning in at the foot of the throne. Peering from his seat, sat the Rat King, a slivery blonde rat with piercing purple eyes. From where Lightning sat, he was definitely the leader. From what little could told, he was young and manipulative by the way he smirked. And he was clever and can be tyrannical if necessary; it was some of the similar characteristics that Morgan had that Lightning seen many times to notice.

"My, what are you doing here Princess?"

Lightning stood up from the floor, "I'm here for my nutcracker. And I demand to leave now." His cohorts laughed.

"The nutcracker you say. So, he has come back," he murmured, before bring his attention to Lightning, "I'm sorry, Princess, but we'll have to keep you here."

"And may I ask why that is?"

The King smirked, "We'll need bait for your beloved nutcracker. And what a better bait then you." The rats to begun to move around her. A few of them sniffed around her feet, forcing her to jump away from their nose and their paws grabbing at her gown. Lightning angrily swatted at them, peppering a couple kicks and punches to nose. Soon they became too much for her and quickly became overwhelmed.

BANG!

As fast the rats came, they quickly dispersed away from her. A rumble of a drum came flooding into her ears. The sound reached all the way to the Rat King, shocking him that he would come so early. The drums increased in volume, followed by the march of boots. Lightning dazzled at the sight of light streaming in and emerging out of that light is Exia, beside him was the brown haired soldier and the nice twin clown on one side and other was the purple haired drummer with the once frowning clown brother. The drummer's begun to hit harder and faster on his drum, a signal to set for battle.

Exia raised his sword up in the air then pointed it to the Rat King and charged with an army for battle. The rats stood their guard, only the Rat General taking the lead, going in with the others. The brown haired girl felt a rat grab her. She saw that it was armed, so thinking swiftly the girl kneed him to take his weapon.

The battle started, with many taking injuries on both sides. Lightning tried to find Exia as soon a possible. When her attention was not on her surrounding, a rat came up proceed to come up behind. Another shot came rushing to its head causing the rat to fall dead. Lightning whirled around seeing the corpse lying there.

"Princess, are you all right?" yelled a voice. It was the soldier that was with her nutcracker's side.

"You…"

"Are you alright?" he asked again.

She nodded. The soldier exhales noisily, taking her hand to lead her out. Lightning pulled away, she wasn't leaving without Exia with her.

"Hey, we have to leave. Allelujah, Hallelujah, and Tieria are about to light the logs. The rats would have no choice but to leave. And we have to have you out of here, Princess."

"I am not going anywhere while Exia is still here!"

"But Princess—"

"I am not a princess! I have no time running away like a coward." And with that, Lightning continued onward to Exia, leaving the soldier baffled. The girl bustled her way around, evading the colorful bombs thanks to clown brothers. Lightning fought and sliced throw the rats that stood in her way. A light was beginning to burn logs; she had only a few minutes before it completely burn.

"Give it up, Exia!" roared the Rat King.

Finally, she saw them, Exia and the Rat King clashing swords together. She hurried as fast as her could carry her. The room was becoming brighter and hot as she ran. She watched as Exia dodged different attacks and Rat King furious with assault. However, the Rat King tricks Exia in to believing in a misguided attack, earning him a stab to his shoulder. He fell, the King stand over him, preparing for the final hit to end him.

Lightning thoughtlessly jumped on Rat King's back, jabbing him one good time in the shoulder. The King howled, bucking her off his back. Lightning quickly regained her stance, ready for the string of attack he commenced.

The young girl's was swiped off the floor by his tail. She fell hard to her side. The Rat King crazily grinned, but it short lived when a sword plunged in his heart. The King was ended, but the danger was not over yet.

The logs were fully burning and the smoke was now circling the room. Light's throat was becoming raw, the smoke was now having affecting her. Her vision blurred and she slumping down to the ashy marble. She hardly felt warm arms lift her up. She heard clanging, as if various metals were being dropped. Once again, she passed out with the only the sudden cheers filling her hearing and tiny view of the prettiest color of malty brown eyes she have seen.


Act 2


"Lightning…"

Who is that?

"Lightning…"

The girl opened her eyes to the beautiful scene of a frosted covered forest. The crystal like ice glistened and sparked in the full moon light. The wind blew sweet cold winds that actual felt nice to feel. Some snow flakes were sprinkled on her hair and clothes.

My clothes…?

She was dressed in an off the shoulder silver gown with the skirt laced with ribbons and bows. She was decorated with pretty jewels that littered her neck and wrist.

"Lightning…"

Lightning looked up to meet a young man, around her age mostly. He was tan and had hair that was the color of coal, but his eyes were the brightest brown. He dressed in royal looking clothing, he oddly familiar for someone she hasn't met before. The boy kneeled in front of her, with an angry stare in eyes. What did she do to make him angry?

"What were you thinking?"

"Huh?"

"Going to the chimney like that? Do you have any idea that you could have died?" he scolded, he frowned.

"Well, I had to—"she stopped for a minute, looking in the boy's eyes, "—Exia?" The boy down casted his gaze.

"Yes…and n—" Abruptly, the girl flung her arms around, Exia his neck. She was happy that it was him; she nearly thought that she lost him in the chimney. She hugged him tighter. What a relief, she thought. Exia, however, peeled her arms away from him.

"What's wrong?" she asked, looking confused.

"That name is no longer his name anymore." Spoke a female voice. A wind of snow swirled before them, displaying a beautiful woman with long black hair and blue eyes. She looked so gentle and fragile compared to most of the women Lightning knew. She was queen like in her appearance, more then Lightning would ever believe herself to be.

"What does that mean? And who, may I ask, are you?" Light voice was neutral, but inside she felt slight hostility.

"I am the Snow Fairy. And I understand that you are confused," she smiled, forlornly, "You see, Exia was name that he had taken up when he was turned into a nutcracker. Now that he is human, again, he can no longer have that name anymore." she said, sadly looking at Exia with sympathy. Lightning stared at him for a moment. Poor Exia, you lost you identity now that you're not a nutcracker. Was that somehow my fault?

Lightning's thoughts were interrupted, feeling a tug on her end of her dress. She looked over her shoulder, finding that a child half way buried in the snow was pulling on her dress. The little girl grinned when she had gotten her attention.

"Lady, will you play with us?"

Lightning raised a brow, "Us..?" More children pop out of the snow, staring excitedly at her. What little could be seen, they were dressed in white as a snow and had the emblem of a snow flake on some visible part of their bodies. Before she could answer, she saw that some of them had already dislodged themselves out of the snow, taking her to the lake. Some of the children were skating across the frozen rink. They were all like little experts compared to her and their movement were like they were dancing on ice.

She will admit that she was a nervous. She didn't skate much and had a dislike for falling on her rear. It wasn't until all the snow children were holding hand that she started to like it more.

"This is the Toy Maker Princess, huh? She is very interesting."

"You didn't have to tell her. Now, she'll be worried about me."

The Snow Fairy smiled, "Is it wrong to inform a girl who is in love with you about your troubles. Especially if you love that girl too." Exia shot his gaze at her. She spoke of it with such calmness and understanding that it shocked him. The Snow Fairy met his gaze, unwavering to her statement. She knew that he was having feeling for her. The way he looked at her as she treated some of the burns she sustained let her know. She guessed a case of love at first sight on both parties.

"Marina—"

"You know, being happy is nothing to feel bad about. Even though you don't have to fight any more, there will always be something worth much more then fighting. You shouldn't let it slip away."

Exia nodded, staring over to Lightning, watching her face light up. Back when he was just a nutcracker, he felt her unhappiness. The lost of her family that cut deep within her and cruelty she dealt with under the hand of her aunt. It made him, have a sudden rush of warmth knowing that she was able to look happy now, even if she wasn't smiling yet.

"Oh! Weren't you supposed to meet the Lockon and the others and see the Sugar Plum Fairy too?"

Exia nodded, "Is about time for us to go, now."

"I see, I'll have the children to give her back then," Marina gently clapped her hands, causing one snow boy and one snow girl to rise out of the snow, "Louise, Saji, could you would tell the children that, um…" Marina looked to Exia for the answer.

"Lightning…"

"Right," she stated more confirmed, "Lightning would have to go."

"We'll try our best ma'am, but I don't think the children would like that very much." Saji concluded after glancing at how much fun Lightning and the others were having. It seems that Lightning was really enjoying it herself. But regardless, the two of them went to the edge of the icy lake.

"Everyone, Lightning has to go now!" called Louise. The children groan skating their way to with many sad goodbyes coming after.

"How about…I come again another time." She probably shouldn't have been asking that, but she was starting to hate the said look on their faces. And it was worth it, seeing that all had a better expression then gloomy ones they were forming.

"Lightning!" Exia called, waiting by a carriage that the Snow Fairy called. Lightning waved goodbyes and advance to where he stood. He open the carriage doors for her, helping her climb in. After climbing in after her, Exia settled in his seat. He looked back at Marina, who stood next to him outside the carriage.

"Thank you again, Marina."

She smiled, "There is no need," the Snow Fairy leaned and kiss Exia's cheek, "I hope to see you soon." The kiss was cold, but it gave him some warmth. Lightning wasn't particular liking about the scene. But the kiss caused her give a hard shallow, turning her head away. Her cheeks were red and puffed out. She wasn't that big of a fan of snow anyway. After a few more waves, the two of them were off into the white blanketed forest.


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Moments have passed, but neither Exia nor Lightning spoke a word. This has been the longest time that he hadn't heard her say anything, even if she didn't speak much. This is starting to be ridiculous, he thought. He opened to speak, but stopped himself.

Lightning was still red in the face. She had her arms folded across her chest tightly as she possibly could. And every time she glances at the snow and ice, she glares at it while quickly taking her eyes on something else that might interest her. Occasionally, when she set her hands on her lap, she squeezes them. Even her jaw looked to be wired shut for a reason.

"Are you alright?" asked Exia.

"I'm fine, Exia." she swiftly announced.

The princely boy frowned. She was being difficult and she didn't have to be.

"My name is Setsuna." he lowly said.

"Excused me? I didn't catch that." Lightning practically spat out the words. She never felt so angry at a person befo—well, there's her aunt, but this was different. This was something of a new kind of anger for even her.

"My name is Setsuna, it was the name I had before I became a nutcracker, and if I did something then just say it."

"You didn't do anything."

"Then—" the boy halted himself; it finally dawned on him about the problem, "Was…this about the kiss Marina gave me." He saw that she grabbed the skirt of dress roughly. So it was the kiss.

"I'm surprised. I never pegged you as the jealous type." Lightning's eyes angrily widen, shooting them at Setsuna.

"I am not jealous. I'm a lot of thing, but jealous…" she glared outside the carriage, "Why would be jealous of a flake." Lightning mumbled. For a moment, she could have heard giggling in the frosty air. That made her upset enough to frown a little more. Setsuna shook his head, smirking inwardly.

"We don't have that sort of relationship."

Lightning scoffed, "Liar" she declared.

Soon, they came out from underneath the branches of white trees. The ground was a lane of sugar and sweets. The sky went from dark blue melting into a taffy color of yellow. The air was shifted to a chocolaty scent instead of the piney aroma that once clung to them. Even the ground was no longer pebbles and rocks, but sugar rocks that crackled as they moved. Up ahead of them, towered a pink castle that landscaped a variety of sweets for plants, such as tarts, lollipops, chocolate bars, and many other sweets that are appealing to a child's love for treats.

Coolly, Setsuna announced their arrival to once crossing the bridge. Awaiting them were Lockon and drummer boy along with a brown haired woman in long bubble gum dress. How wonderful, another woman waiting for Ex—Sets—this guy!

The carriage halted in front of them, both Light and Setsuna stepping out. The woman went up to Setsuna, hugging him. This hug wasn't affection as a couple relationships; it was more along the lines of a relationship of a mother and child.

"Welcome back to us, Exia." The woman in pink said, hugging him in a motherly way.

"My name isn't Exia, anymore. It's—"

"His name is Setsuna," Lightning said, standing shoulder to shoulder with him, "I think he…likes it better this way." She didn't look at directly into his eyes. She didn't want him to blush of embarrassment flash across her face.

"Setsuna, huh? And you must be the Toy Maker Princess."

"That's what every ones been calling me so far." She took a moment to glance at Lockon. He grins nervously, shrugging. The brown haired girl rolled her blue eyes, suddenly feeling the woman leading her into the castle.

"Lockon, you and Tieria, help with Setsuna prepare then meet Hallelujah and Allelujah in the ball room," the woman then stared motherly at her, "I'll be helping Lightning with her gown." She took Lightning inside colorful building, holding on to her like a child in an unknown place. Lightning was able to get one more glance to Setsuna with Lockon's arm slung around his neck. Tieria seem to be making a comment about his attire by the way he was eyeing them. It was a quick moment that Setsuna was staring at her as well. This made the young girl blush a shape of the woman's dress.


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The woman had introduced herself as Sumeragi, the Sugar Plum Fairy, as she helped Lightning pulled on a white corset gown. Sumeragi had asked her for all the details of the battle even before they arrived to the palace. Light told her everything about what happen only leaving the fine points of their trip and the kiss on the cheek thing out, which Sumeragi wouldn't mind.

"Sumeragi, why does every call me the 'Toy Maker Princess'?"

Sumeragi stared at the three-way mirrors to show Lighting in her gown in different angles. "It was said," she started, "That Toy Maker saved Setsuna from dying at the hands of the Rat King before Setsuna became prince. He turned his body in a metal nutcracker so as he could heal and could one day take his throne back. However, there was a price. He was to stay that way even if he regain his authority and leadership back," in spite of of the sad tale, she smile unexpectedly, "But he was promised there would be a girl that would one day save him from that form and return him human again and gain his love. And because this was a person that the Toy Maker promised to him, we called her the 'Toy Maker Princess'."

"Really?"

Sumeragi nodded, "Really." The Sugar Plum Fairy decorated her hair with a ribbon, pulling Lightning's hair into a ponytail. She noticed that Lightning distantly thought about some thing. She thought back for moment, picking the probable thought that hung on the girl's shoulder.

"I take it that you met Marina?" she asked, inspecting her reaction. Lightning frowned at the Snow Fairy's name.

"Well, I'm finished," she affirmed, "And you have nothing to worry about Lightning. I don't think Setsuna feel that way about her like that."

"Why?" she asked, dislike inserted in the tone.

The Sugar Plum woman smile, "Because, she couldn't turn him back to being human. You did…" Lightning's face lit in a shade of red. She thought about the cause of Setsuna becoming human be her fault, but not into a positive.

"Are you ready, Toy Maker Princess?"

Lightning hesitated, but gladly nodded, "Yes I am."


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The ball room was huge and vast, and every nationality was there. They all were enjoying themselves in a much better mood then Lightning's own birthday party. So far the Sumeragi had her meet and greet some people from China, Russia, Arabia, and so on and so forth. They all came to congratulate Prince Setsuna in his return to power. And even with political talk they were more interesting then ones she was use too.

Lightning soon fully met and conversed with Lockon the toy soldier, Tieria the drummer boy, and Allelujah and Hallelujah the clown brothers.

Allelujah and Hallelujah, in the corner of Lightning's eye, directed their wandering stares to a pair of sliver haired twin girls. The girls happen personality happened to match the brother to an extent, considering that one looked friendly enough and the other was more disciplined looking.

"You know, staring at them wouldn't exactly catch their attention."

Hallelujah staggered at the comment, "Who'd asked you?" he yelled.

Allelujah, on the other hand, agreed that he couldn't let one of the sisters get away while he was standing there. Swallowing his pride, he went ahead toward them nervous as fish waiting for its head to be cut off. Hallelujah gasped, chasing after his twin. But it was too late, the eldest twin had already strike a conversation with them and what it worse that the stern silver girl had already blocked his path. At first it was awkward, but gradually settled into something likeable for both of the twins. Lightning let out a breath to relief thankfully she spoke with Soma and Marie beforehand.

"That of you to do that for them," Sumeragi whispered, "I think they really deserved each other." She giggled at the sight of the brothers asking the girls to dance.

"I believe it's meddling to interfere with their own affairs." stated a disgruntled, Tieria crossing his arms. Lockon rolled his eyes, not surprised by the detached sentiments.

"They weren't going to do anything if they just stood. Something had to be done, don't you agree," Lightning aimed her question to Lockon, who thoughtlessly approved.

Tieria let out a breath of aggravation, trying to soothe the headache forming now about now. He really didn't understand the Toy Maker's decision on this girl. He would have to hurry back to the band to prep the commencement of the waltz before Setsuna's entrance.

Just as he turned to instruct the band, Lighting called, "Tieria, you're the conductor for the orchestra, correct?"

He frowned with his back turned, "Yes, what about it?"

"Nothing, I just to let you know that I think you wrote these songs beautifully." Lightning straightforwardly complement. She had a sense of him not liking her, but also not disliking her, and secretly hoped that they would come to good terms.

He neutrally glimpsed at her face, finding that she too had a neutral expression, "I will not say 'thank you'." he stubbornly mentioned.

"I don't expect you too."

And with that, Tieria went away towards his orchestra. Sumeragi was becoming impressed, she not use to seeing a person match up to Tieria before and not end up on far end of his stick, what little she could pick up in the exchange.

"Well, that was fairly entraining." she whispered to Lockon.

"Mmhm," he listened in.

Trumpet sounded and drums rumbled before a voice echoed, "His Majesty, Prince Setsuna F. Seiei!" Setsuna entered through the doors, all bowed at his presence and parted in two sides. The once nutcracker boy, nobly went to the Toy Maker Princess, acknowledging the soldier and the Sugar Plum Fairy with a nod. Tieria conduct his orchestra to begun with the waltz. As Lightning prepared curtsy, he stopped her. Setsuna, wordlessly, asked her hand with a kind of mannerism that held warmth and fondness.

She would not lie, she was scared. Her heart felt breathtaking excitement and nerve racking fear, leading her to almost run away. But her feet were firmly in place with her legs feeling like jello, shaking from the inside. And like before, her face went red as a cherry.

"You don't have to worry," Setsuna leaned into her ear, whispering, and said "It'll just be me and you this time."

That was enough, enough to let Lightning slide her palm in his. The prince led the princess in the middle of the dance floor[2]. The music begun to truly sound in their ears, the prince let his hand take position, the princess following his lead.

Everything that was once princess's life started to fade when the prince initiated his lead. The room became filled only with them and whole ordeal of it felt right. He twirled her around, having her back face his chest. They twirled around more times, submitting to the airy atmosphere. The princess rested her head on shoulder at the resting moments, letting sensation of safety and contentment wash over as it was the same for the prince.

And what felt like a century, they smiled.

The princess's heart went rapid, watching as her prince leaned in so close that his nose nearly touched hers. So many yearning emotions were running loose that the princess closed the painful gap that separated them. It started as a small kiss of one, coming behind with a long and passionate kiss. Heat hazed itself over her cheek bones and led her arms to wrap cautiously around his neck. All of this was blissful and sacred that when reality fell on them it was as if they were transported to a different world.

They noticed the funny smiling faces, the winking eyes, and gushing girls that dreamt of being in Lightning's position. The audience applauded, strangely, Lightning guessed out of joy for Setsuna. The girl could help but smile that people had gladly approved her relationship with him.

Lightning was finally content with her life. And it was all thanks to Setsuna, the nutcracker she fell in love with.

THE END


[1]: Basically, I'm say is a smaller toy version of Exia.

[2]: The music is the short selection of "The Flower Waltz".