"Love is a fearsome power; however it is but a double-edged sword."
There is a legend about a servant woman who fell in love with a powerful Prince. He was always the target of assassins, and each time he escaped he almost died. After years of her painful love, she made a deal with a witch who gave her powers to protect the Prince in exchange for her blood. The witch warned the girl that she must hide her identity, or else the spell would be broken, and she would die a violent, painful death. She also warned that every time the girl used her powers, more blood would fill the vial. And when the bottle was full, she would die.
The woman did not care about her circumstances, only that of her beloved. Every time her masked identity would save him, he would ask for her name, but she would disappear into the shadows: only to come again when he needed her most.
Finally, when the woman was close to death, she removed her mask and told the Prince of her identity. The Prince rejected her immediately for they were of different classes, and she threw herself off the castle wall: towards a violent, painful death.
If death finds us no matter what, how would you choose to die?
Fakir's breath was labored, but he was determined. His heartbeat was loud, drumming in his ears; and the sweat poured down his body in bucket loads. His black hair with the slightest greenish tint was tied up and out of his face, and his expression was a permanent scowl. He was concentrated at the task at hand, and even though it had been hours, and his body was heavy, he continued. He slashed, parried, blocked, and tried to breathe even. With each stroke, his sword became heavier in his hand, but he had to win.
"Again!" Karon commanded, to his son and protégé. His brown hair was matted with sweat and grease, but his eyes were shining. He was a knight who could no longer fight because of his age; however, he trained his adoptive son to be one.
They had been fighting for hours, doing drills and battling each other's intellect.
But his son had lost again.
Fakir, already beaten to near death, again readied his sword. Sure, Karon had many wounds, plenty of bruises, but he wasn't nearly as beaten as Fakir. That was probably because though Fakir was practiced, his endurance still wasn't as much as Karon would have liked.
To anyone else, the scene of father and son fighting would have looked awful- even sadistic. However, their relationship was a loving father and son, well, until a few years ago.
Karon understood his son was fighting the world at his age, the age of a youngster. He too had wanted to save the world and such. Different from him, Fakir had more practical dreams of protecting the people he loved.
It was achievable, he had told his son, but he had to work for it. Karon did not push Fakir harder than he could take: but throughout the years, he had gradually grown stronger and more tolerant to his attacks. It would soon come to the point where Karon could no longer fight on an even ground with his son.
Fakir was a cold child, ever since long ago. With his parents being killed by the group of assassins called the Ravens, he had been very hard to approach and was insistent that the now blacksmith/former knight of an adoptive father, train him.
Fakir worked extremely and abnormally hard, and Karon admired that about his son. Sure, his raising would have been easier if he had a mother, but Karon couldn't despair for his own love life. His son, a boy scarred by past experiences, would need much more love and attention- and he couldn't divert his attention for a second for fear that his son would deem it as abandonment.
His son was warmly attached to him (well, as attached as he could be with his given psychological state), until he became the species of teenager, where it became increasingly difficult to have a conversation with him at the table. When Fakir turned fourteen, two years ago, he found quills and writing supplies in the trash.
Karon had carefully collected them and hid them, for he had the lingering feeling that he would want them once again.
Fakir was always brooding about something or other, and always had his nose in books, researching about his friend Mytho.
Karon didn't know exactly what it was about Mytho, but Fakir stuck close and made sure he was always guarded and safe. Mytho had no family and was currently living with them, but his son had obviously seen something worth protecting in the young man.
But the more Karon worried, the more Fakir retreated into himself. So, Karon just trained him, gave him pearls of wisdom, and did not bother with the affairs of the young man. He was left alone to struggle and find the answers to his own problems, since he never asked Karon for advice. If he did, Karon would be happy to oblige, but since he didn't, they ate in silence or minimal conversation.
He continued to parry and block Fakir's blows, finding holes in his defense and honestly and dutifully pointing them out with his sword.
Karon believed that each time Fakir got hit, he learned.
"The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle," Karon rehearsed the knight's motto in his head as he reminded himself that hurting his son would do him good in the end.
At least, that was what he hoped.
When Fakir was born, the local doctor had told his parents, Karon's sibling and wife, that he inherited the "cursed scar." It was a legend, the doctor had said. He had never seen it before in his life! When they had asked about the scar, the doctor had simply smiled and said that the legend had it that he was fated to be a knight, who got split in half, who died in vain.
Karon shook the shiver from his spine as he dutifully found another hole in Fakir's defense, but instead of stabbing or cutting him as usual, Fakir's sword cut him.
Karon smiled- the hole had been a fake- a set-up. Fakir had lured him into being defenseless, or as defenseless as Karon could be.
"All this training would do him good," Karon thought. He surely would not die in vain now.
Karon again tuned out the clanging of the swords and focused on strategy. They were both tired, and Fakir was worn almost completely, so it would be easy to simply let him waste his energy and then he would finish off their practice battle.
As soon as Karon relented, Fakir simply matched him.
"The boy was learning," He told himself, and he mentally praised his son. He attacked, Fakir sidestepped.
It kept on like this, and Karon told himself to not underestimate the boy's abilities. It was hard enough that they were both tired, but it was like Fakir had endless energy.
The sun's light slowly made the swords shine and their location darken. Karon thought that he only had moments left before the sun finally set. Where had the time gone? They had both been so concentrated in strategy that they had not remembered that their practice stage was light by the sun- whose light would only last awhile.
Karon faked, where Fakir immediately went in for his undefended side, and Karon disarmed him.
With a loud clang, the sword ran from his son's hands and into the grass below- about ten or so feet away.
They both knew that it was over.
The air was dense with silence, and the only thing that was heard was the sound of ragged breathing from Fakir, and trained and even breathing from Karon.
If this had been a real battle, Fakir would have been killed, and they both knew it.
Fakir didn't break the silence, and neither did Karon. Karon was trained to wait and observe, and react. Fakir was just sulking that he lost again.
So, this time, Karon would have to reinforce his self-confidence and speak. "You did well, Fakir. You are certainly improving."
There was a light in the boy's cold green depths, but it only lasted a second. If Karon had been untrained, he wouldn't have seen it at all. Karon's praise was hard to come by, and with two sentences, Karon had successfully inflated the boy's pride.
Karon had a nagging feeling in his chest that he had to do something more, something more meaningful, before it was too late.
"Fakir, I think it's time to give you the Lohengrin sword. Do what you must and have no regrets."
Fakir stopped his every motion, knowing exactly what this meant. He stared at Karon for a couple of seconds, and studied the ground, somewhat bashful. And then that feeling was gone, and he looked straight into the eyes of the only father he knew and asked, "But, I lost."
"With loss you learn," Karon said his pearl of wisdom like an old, wise sage.
"My training isn't over." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. But still, it was filled with a subtle hint of doubt.
"No, but you have progressed enough that you can have it. I have taught you all I can- I hope that you can improve each day with or without me. Failure isn't the route we wish for, but sometimes it can lead us to our destiny."
Fakir breathed deeply, in through his nose, and out through his mouth. He was mentally preparing himself for receiving the sword, the sword he had often dreamed about receiving, the message it would send to others: that he was a practiced swordsman. He was that of legends.
Karon had found the sword when he was a knight, and even though it responded to him fairly well, he had always felt that it was meant for someone else. It was the sword of legends- lost in a mythical battle that maybe had never existed. But that's why it was a legend- no one knew which part was true, and which was a lie.
Karon slowly took the sword out of its sheath, and put it into his son's hands. The hilt, which was so familiar, yet at the same time not truly his, left his hand with more determination and courage than Karon ever had. He was fully prepared to admit that Fakir was better than him when he was his age, but he still had doubts about the sword. It meant that Fakir was a practiced swordsman, but it also meant that he was dealing with fate.
Fakir's eyes opened the second the hilt touched his hands, as if feeling the familiar after so long. His eyes had a sort of fire in them, that of determination. He had finally climbed high enough that he could be a protector.
Sure, he was only half-way there, but Fakir was sure that he would practice drills every day, and that he would improve.
Karon slid the belt of the Lohengrin sword unto his son. The time had finally come. The time where Karon could protect him had ended- the time now was that he hoped that Fakir had absorbed all his knowledge, that he could protect himself with what he learned.
He was a parent, so he was prone to worrying. But his regret that he couldn't help his son more dominated his heart for more than a fluttering second. The feeling that he didn't raise him right almost choked him- but he simply swallowed it down.
As soon as Fakir got both parts of the sword, there was a mystical aura around him; one that Fakir hadn't even noticed himself.
"The story moves…" A dark voice, unheard to anyone, mumbled in glee. A dark shadow loomed in the sunset, cackling lowly to himself.
"Fakir, I have to go home and prepare dinner. Can you get some cheese from one of the shops?" Karon asked of his son, and his son grumbled a bit; but he was glad to be trusted with not only the sword, but to get to show it off.
"Of course," Fakir answered, walking away, not noticing his father's feelings: just so elated and proud with himself.
As soon as Fakir was out of the field, where they had started to practice for so many years, Karon didn't move.
It seemed as if he wasn't able to. And then he slowly sat down in the grass. The grass was long, and as he sat down, it tickled the sides of his torso because it was knee-length.
More than anything in the world, he wasn't as proud of his son as he wanted himself to be. He chastised himself for being petty, yet at the same time, fear choked his throat and his body.
Fear for his son.
He had dreams about it, sometimes. He had dreams about how Fakir would go off one day, on his horse, get into battle and be split in half- watching how he failed to protect the people he loved.
And slowly, Karon took out a piece of gold out of his pocket, and traced the pattern of it. It had an almost regalia feel to it, but it had always made him feel better.
But the regret, that he could no longer protect his son, that he could do more, remained.
Karon pushed it out of his heart once more, and then decided to go back home.
Fakir couldn't help but walk tall and proud. This was the moment he had been waiting for, for almost a good sixteen years. If anything, it was an important milestone for him.
But, Fakir knew damn well what feelings his father had about training him, hurting him. Fakir always saw the brief millisecond of pain that came with each blow that touched his body. It pained him to see his father hurting because of what he wanted, but Fakir knew that despite everything, his father wanted him to accomplish his own dreams.
Some of which even he, Karon, could not complete.
Sometimes, Fakir was pretty lonely. If he wasn't sparring with Karon and learning from him, he was with Mytho- and when he wasn't with Mytho, he always was looking out for him, or reading books for him.
Lately, the noblewoman by the name of Rue, who had often played with Mytho as a child, was hiding him from Fakir: or just wasting Mytho's time.
Rue knew just as well as he that Mytho clung to anyone who would reach a hand out to him- anyone at all. That's why Fakir was so protective of Mytho: who knew when the guy would go off with a dangerous person or something?
That's why he wanted to be a knight- to protect Mytho. Technically, he was always Mytho's knight, but he wanted the sword he had now- to prove once and for all that he was of legends.
But of course, being made of legends had a completely darker feeling than he would have liked to admit. Sure, he was proud of all he had accomplished, and yet… Every time he looked at the story of Princess Tutu, he could never turn the page, never see what would happen to the Knight.
That's where all the legends surrounding the kingdoms came from. The book was written long ago, but no one knew who actually wrote it. In all the books he had found, it was one that no matter where he asked, no one knew. The author's name was thoroughly scratched off: it was the same with many other stories, and sometimes, books even had endings ripped out of them.
He never understood why such a thing had to happen. He didn't even get it, and he didn't get why he was thinking about such a stupid subject.
He looked around the world of Kinkan Village, where the cobblestones dominated, and the people where rushing here and there. The architecture was old and somewhat had a German/Slavic feel to it: but even the old somehow found a new glow. It had been a town where he had grown up in, along with Mytho and Rue. Today, it lost its lackluster appearance that he often thought of it, and it had a shine of possibilities.
Even though he had no mother, he had a mother figure in the form of Raetsel. She was definitely a beauty, and she often came over to check on him. She lived in a separate village, but Fakir could never remember the name.
It bothered Fakir that even though Karon had some feelings for her, and she was more than ready to admit that she had feelings for his father, nothing came out of it.
But, what was he to do? He was a child in a "situation." He wasn't stupid- he knew that Karon gave him more attention than other fathers simply because of his past. He was cold to him a lot now, and even though he regretted it a little, he wanted to show his father that he didn't need to hover and make sure of his situation. Karon had to take care of his own.
But what more could he do than that? Karon didn't like interference in his life. So Fakir kept to himself and kept as quiet as he could.
He walked past the bread shop without paying attention to the argument that was happening inside.
"AHHHHIIIIIIIRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUU UU!" Came an utterly frustrated voice from deep within the bread shop.
"Uwah! I'm suuuper sorry, Neko-sensei!" Came the apologetic voice of a certain orange-haired girl.
His voice seemed to prickle, but Fakir was studying the cheeses next door.
"It's Neko-yama sensei! If you keep failing at making bread, YOU'LL HAVE TO MARRY MEEEEE!"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorrryyyyyy!" Everyone could hear the panicked footsteps as they ran away from the shop.
Fakir had gone inside the cheese shop, asked for the cheese displayed in the window, and paid.
"AHIRU! IF YOU'RE LATE AGAIN…"
"I'm sorrrrryyyyyyy!" Interrupted the voice of the sorry girl, already farther away.
The baker at the bread shop sighed, and retreated back into his shop. The whole village knew that he was a bachelor still, and had not courted a girl in a very long time. But the drama that often occurred with the new girl of the village was often hilarious and fun to watch: not only because of his radical personality, but the way she failed at nearly everything was fantastic.
As nearly the whole village watched the squabble, Fakir was already on his way back home, not caring for one second about a stupid girl who couldn't even make bread.
Fakir kept thinking, rethinking, and doubting- that was unusual. Not the fact that he was thinking- no, he did that all the time. But the fact that he doubted himself was a first.
Did he have the courage to finally face his fate, did he have the courage to flip the page of that book, and see what happened in the story? Did he have what it took to finally be a Knight?
He had the sword, but that was only part of it: he didn't have the mindset.
He passed the library, and immediately stopped. Why not go now, why not flip that page, and face the facts? The Knight in that story had tried to defy fate: he had tried to fight the crows; he had tried to save Princess Tutu, and the Prince.
Fakir always seemed to stop, and as the page came to an end, describing as the Knight fought the crows, and was thrown into the air, Fakir couldn't make himself continue.
He knew that before he could do anything himself, he had to know. But, did he really? What if the Knight just died? What would make him feel better after he read it, after he knew the knowledge, after he knew what would kill him?
He didn't know- but he knew one thing.
Today was the day. Today was the day everything changed.
He turned, and went through the doors of the little library, nuzzled in between an empty restaurant and Kinkan Academy.
He took a breath, and tired to keep his pulse even as he nodded casually towards the owner of the bookshop, a man with gray around his temples, but otherwise bald. He was scribbling something, but as soon as he heard the door open, he nodded and went right back to his work under the little green lamp.
Fakir trudged through the stacks books, and went up the stairs to the second floor. Usually, no one was here, and he could read in peace at his place by the window. Usually, it was the perfect place, secluded by the towering, intimidating bookshelves that would have otherwise scared away customers.
Again, no one was here, and instead of sitting at his usual spot, he dragged the chair over to the table by the window, and picked up the book- so worn and yet the magic was as new every time he opened it.
He began reading the chapter of the Knight and Princess Tutu- how they managed to find the lake that had been waiting for them for over 200 years.
The way Princess Kraehe taunted Princess Tutu, how the Knight protected both the Prince and Tutu by offering to fight.
The lake turns to ice as the crows approach him, and he easily fights them off until he is thrown in the air…
The page ended as he knew it would. It was impossible for him to get past this page, and it seemed like he never would.
And then, out of nowhere, a cold hand reaches where his hand is currently stalling the page, and gently helps him flip it.
Fakir was too curious, and at the same time afraid of his fate, that he didn't bother to look up and thank the person who had so gently helped him.
As he read, his face twisted in pain, reacting. The Knight had been thrown into the air, and was fighting the crows- but suddenly, it became too much for him… And then together in a swarm, hit the Knight as one, sending him into the dark depths. A pool of blood rose to the surface of the again water of the lake.
Fakir swallowed, and he couldn't bring himself to read anymore. The Knight had died- the Knight had been useless to Tutu and the Prince. The Knight had done all he could, and yet… Nothing mattered anymore. The Knight had died, and he was to die too.
"Everything is not as simple as it seems." The voice brought him back to the real world, and he remembered there had been another person in the room.
He looked away from the book, and looked to the person that had helped him.
It was a woman with long, green hair, and blue eyes. She had two little strands on the top of her head standing up in different directions, and her clothes were very weird. Yellow and red striped pants, a layered top and a very poofy skirt; she looked more like a clown puppet than human. But she was definitely someone Fakir knew.
She was Edel, the woman who often sold jewelry by wandering around the town and having a very specific customer base. She did not see people who were not on her "list." But also, she had recently adopted the failure of a bread making girl named Ahiru. She wasn't cold, she was just… inhuman. It was weird for him to use such a term, but parts of her personality where nearly robotic. She sometimes spoke in cryptic phrases, and she made more questions than she gave answers.
What was she doing here?
"Have the book, Fakir." She took the book, closed it, wrapped it, and put it into his hands.
And how did she know his name?
"Remember: may those who accept their fate find happiness. May those who defy it find glory."
"Did you write this?" Fakir asked, knowing that such a phrase was in the book as well. It was something that had slipped out of his mouth for no reason at all, and yet, something felt oddly familiar about this person… As if he had met her before- but that was impossible. They had never crossed paths in this village.
The woman looked curiously at him, and blinked once. "No, but I knew the man that did."
"Who was he?"
"The answer you are looking for, you must find on your own."
"Is he still alive?"
The conversation was going nowhere, and Fakir knew that no matter what he asked the mysterious woman, no answer would be told to him.
"Why do I need the book?"
"To find the answers you seek."
Fakir rolled his eyes. It was like Fate had taken a human form and she was speaking to him, giving him useless objects that he could use in the possible future… If he had one.
But what was the purpose of fighting if he simply died in vain? What was the purpose of protecting, if he could not protect in his last moments? May those who accept their fate find happiness. May those who defy it find glory. The words rang in his head with a new vigor. The Knight got recognized in the story, right? So what if he hadn't defied Fate? He had tried: he had protected the people he wanted to protect, even in death.
Maybe, even if that Knight hadn't succeeded, he had set something in motion. Maybe he, Fakir, could succeed. If he was going to carry on, why not change the legend? Why not defy Fate? Why not fight for his future? Protect the Prince?
He could do it, no… He would do it. He would change his future. He would change the legend.
Instead of being the Knight who died in vain, he would be the one who lived.
He looked up from the book in his hands to thank Edel, but she had gone in the same way she had came- silently, swiftly, and like a cat. She left so quietly that even his trained ears couldn't pick up on her movements.
That woman was more silent and trained than he was.
Dark clouds gathered around the square of Kinkan, and Fakir didn't even notice until blackness surrounded the town. He was walking towards home, and something just didn't feel right.
Fakir looked up to see blackness. It was almost scary, not being able to look up and see the sky. It was almost… sinister.
Something was definitely not right. He had to get home. Now.
Fakir ran as fast as he could, opened the door, and slammed it shut.
A dark voice cackled in glee as the show began, but it was unheard to anyone in the town.
"Fakir, we may not be able to have dinner as planned." Karon spoke, as he came out of the shadows. The house was dark, and Fakir (even with his night training) had to let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the house.
Fakir swallowed, and was about to speak as a terrible scream wafted through the air.
And then, there was the sound of glass breaking: a sharp crack and the shattering of windows.
Then, there were a thousand different sounds of panic: screaming, crows cawing, broken glass, the smell of smoke, darkness…
Fakir knew what this meant: the Ravens had finally attacked their peaceful town- and that was when everything within him collapsed. He had to finish them: he had to kill them… He took the sword out of its sheath and began to strategize in his head how he would rip them apart, limb by limb, and how he would kill-
"No, Fakir. You have to flee, or you won't be able to protect Mytho."
Karon's words brought him back to reality and away from his rage. Karon is right. If I don't leave now, Mytho will die, much like my parents did.
But what about Karon? Fakir shifted his thoughts to the only father he knew, and if he was to escape, what would happen to him?
Would he die, much like his parents did? Fakir couldn't bear the thought. For so long, he had Karon as a father and mentor, and he wouldn't be able to bear it if he died…
"Don't worry about me, Fakir." Karon's voice rang strong and sturdy, just as the man himself. He was capable of defending himself, and others, if necessary. But Fakir would have to flee with Mytho.
Speaking of which…
"Upstairs, curled in a blanket, and he has retreated into himself again."
"Damn it!" Fakir raced up the stairs, faster than he ever has before, with the dutiful push of adrenaline. Mytho had done this before, and he was likely to do it again. But now was not the time…
"Fakir!" Karon called from below. "I already prepared your things! Even Mytho's!"
For that part, Fakir was relieved. The family motto was to always be prepared and have an emergency escape kit, and it had finally come in handy.
But Fakir had to take care of Mytho, the Prince of a distant land. You see, right before his coronation as King, the Ravens invaded his town, and Mytho had to flee and hide his identity as everyone he knew and loved were to be slayed by the Ravens.
Ever since then, Mytho blocked the memories of that time, and had become a shell of his old self. Sure, he protected things needing protecting, like little birds who were scared to fly, or animals from a fire, but all his emotions, his whole past, seemed to be erased.
And every time something catalyzed a thought to that time, Mytho would have an episode. He would retreat into himself and mumble things that seemed useless but were actually very important. Only two people in this town knew who he was: Fakir and Rue, the noblewoman.
Curse her, that woman. She wasn't good enough for Mytho. She was awful, using him to make herself feel better…
Fakir reached the room where Mytho was mumbling to himself, curled in a blanket in the vetal position.
"Crown," Mytho was currently mumbling. "Pieces."
Pieces of a crown? Fakir had never heard Mytho talk of such a thing.
"Broke the crown."
Fakir did not enter, but simply listened.
"The heart of the people. The last treasure."
Fakir couldn't stall anymore. He entered the room, but Mytho wasn't paying attention to him. "Hid the pieces. Scattered them across the land."
Fakir shook Mytho, but he didn't snap out of it until he murmured the last words, "Have to find it to fight the Ravens."
And that's when Fakir knew he could not let Mytho find the pieces of this crown. He couldn't let the Prince die at the hands of the Ravens, couldn't let another person he loved fall victim to them.
Fakir had a purpose now. He had someone not only to protect, but he had something to protect against. Mytho wouldn't- couldn't, fight the Ravens. He would surely…
"Fakir?" His voice asked, melancholy and empty again.
"Mytho, we need to go. Now."
Fakir had made his choice.
Done! Woo-hoo! How was it? Good? Bad? Eh? Review, so I can know what to do better next chapter!