"Doubt eats at the soul, crawls into the mind, and stays there- hunkered down, and waiting patiently. It shows itself at the darkest moment, when there is no one to help you. There is no way to truly wipe out doubt, because it plants seeds in your head- and once the right situation comes, you begin to doubt yourself. And that- that- is truly deadly."

-x-

Once upon a time, there was a lovely maiden. Her beauty was of every woman in the entire kingdom times tenfold, yet she did not believe that. Every day, she would return home to the curses and the belittlings of her father, the town drunk- and cry herself to sleep at night, only to venture outside with a smile on her face. One day, when she was walking through the forest, as she did every day, she heard the whisperings of the great oak tree. "Child," the oak tree whispered, "Do you wish to become beautiful?" The girl nodded her head, and the oak tree smiled. "I will make you beautiful." In the language of the trees, the old oak whispered some things, and in a sacred ceremony, sprinkled crepe myrtle petals over her. In seconds, the maiden could feel herself become beautiful. As she hurried towards the stream to see her reflection, she kept thinking Oh, what it would be like to be beautiful! What it would be like... And she finally reached the stream. She leaned over, and searched the water for her reflection, only to scream in realization as she did not have any. She rushed back to the oak tree, who, when asked, replied "You wished to become beautiful, my child. And since everyone has a different definition of beauty, you now fit all of them." The girl cried and cried, because now- now, she couldn't be seen by anyone.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a famous person once said: but if you yourself cannot appreciate your own beauty… Who can convince you that you are beautiful?

-x-

"Lady Rue!" An elegant, cultured voice spoke. "Another letter has arrived!"

Rue snapped out of her trance, her rhythm, and almost slipped out of her développé. Instead, she caught herself, gracefully pulling out of the pose and into a very "Rue" pose. Picture perfect posture, stomach tucked in, her face neutral yet closed, neck extended, and chin up. It was a regal pose, and her feet were gracefully underneath her. Rue did not clumsily fall out of a développé. She was a lady- she was graceful, composed, punctual, silent, and beautiful.

Her pianist, the wonderful Signore Pingüino, raised an eyebrow as she pulled herself together, yet said nothing at all.

His classic tuxedo was lined with a very subtle orange-faded-into-yellow on the edges of the jacket. He had a baby-blue cuff links, and even though he was clearly amused, he didn't dare to say a word.

A girl, about Rue's age, with long brown tresses of hair and equally brown skin rushed in, nervously patting a speck of dirt on her uniform- a grey blouse with a white chest, and grey puffy short sleeves with navy blue lining the ends. Her skirt was a matching grey as well, the same nay lining the lower hem, with long, knee high white socks, and Mary-Jane black shoes. She was Rue's maid- Anté Ėate Rina- but, the whole household called her "Rina."

By now, Rue was ready to accept the letter, and even though she had been in the studio for about two hours, at this moment, she didn't seem to have burst a sweat at all.

Rina had always admired Rue- the way she danced, her boyfriend, her all-around perfect life. But the thing that really made her envy Rue (other than her marvelous, perfect dancing) was the fact she had a benefactor.

This benefactor had never been in the house, and as far as Rina knew (and she knew a lot) Rue had never seen her "daddy-long legs" but every so often, would get a letter filled with money or jewels and a short note.

Rue accepted the letter, and the letter-opener knife that Rina had brought along with it- a curved knife, with a black raven's feather as a hilt.

The room was expectantly silent, as Rina waited, curiously. She never knew what these letters contained, but she knew Rue enjoyed them very much.

The only sound in the room was the slice to the top of the letter. Rue's features were upturned into a very small Rue smile, and she was again expecting advice or a jewel as she usually received. Instead, what she got was a shorter note than usual:

My lovely daughter,

I will be visiting soon.

In the letter, the only thing enclosed was a black as night Raven's feather.

Rue's eyebrows scrunched up in confusion, and retracted her hand as if she had touched fire. Sure, it was in her "daddy long legs" orderly cursive script, but the slant of it was almost sinister. Rue fought a shiver from her body, and the instinct that something was going to go very very wrong chided her brain. She knew she should be excited, but her instinctive feeling overrode any other emotion. However, she couldn't be perceived as worried or afraid. She was a lady- she was graceful, composed, punctual, silent, and beautiful.

She folded the letter, and began to walk towards the entrance of the studio. "Rina, I need to get dressed."

Rina's eyebrows scrunched up as well. Usually, Rue would be happy after a letter- she would immediately ask Rina to put on whatever was given to her (usually expensive jewelry). But today, she was serious. Shouldn't she be excited? Instead, she seemed to have remembered something.

"Yes, Lady Rue." Rina trailed Rue as proper maid should.

Rina's heels clacked as Rue walked silently down the hallway. Servants were running about, and every time she passed them, they would stop, bow, and she would nod in acknowledgement of their presence- but once she passed, they would return to whatever they were doing.

The hallways were grand walkways of the rich, the ceilings high and the windows in the rooms were large openings to the gardens. The mansion that Rue lived in was, architecturally, a mini-Versailles- tall, decorated columns with lots of servants, antique furniture, large bathrooms, and tiny living quarters for the servants on the highest floor.

Lavish gardens were outside, and flowers of all sizes littered the walkways with beauty, along with the never-ending mazes. Because of this, the landscaper and the gardener team were always hard at work.

Once they reached the end of the hall, they reached Rue's room. A big space, with a canopy bed and curtains of velvet overlooking a wide widow to the gardens, the main square, and the streets- unknown to Rue, there was a particular orange-haired girl running down the street and a dark-haired lad walking the opposite way.

In front of her bed was a wardrobe and a dark pine chest of drawers, and a vanity filled with perfumes, accessories, and hair accessories- also, in front of the vanity was a 16th century chair- a regal red and gold color scheme to the pastel vanilla of the vanity. On both sides of her bed were little black nightstands, each with a little black lamp.

In the corner, in the blind spot of the window, were a three-fold mirror and a platform where Rue would stand so she could be dressed.

She immediately walked towards the platform, and Rina stripped her uniform from Rue's body. Walking to the wardrobe, she pulled a light vanilla corset out, and proceeded to work fast at dressing Rue. After the corset, came a dress- a red wine dress, with a modern silhouette shaping very fashionably to Rue's hourglass figure.

Once dressed, Rina guided her to the chair in front of the vanity. Rina brushed Rue's hair, its raven locks not even ruined by sweat. Her eyes glittered a red ruby color, almost dangerously, as she stayed quiet and poised. Her thoughts, Rina observed, did not pass her face, and she was (even for her) a bit stiff.

Rina could see the tension in her shoulders, but Rue didn't say anything- her lips were pursed in an easy line (though it was a pretty hard line for Rue, Rina observed) and her hands were clasping each other in her lap as she watched.

The clock, all the way across the square, chimed. Once, twice, three, four, five times.

Dark laughter was echoing through the room, yet no one could hear it. The show- it begins. Enter the dark princess and her solemn solo.

Rina was focused on brushing Rue's hair and noting her subtle change in behavior, yet trying not to be obvious about it. Personal maids were there to give advice, but they weren't supposed to stick their noses into the business of their employers.

Rue was studying her reflection in the mirror, studying herself. She couldn't let her so called "instincts" ruin her demeanor, ruin her image. She had worked far too hard for this, far too hard at her persona for it to crumble once it hit a speed bump. Out of all the things to get her uncomfortable! Seeing her daddy-longlegs after years of getting his letters (at one point though, they didn't come) was supposed to be an exciting event! She had to be happy!

Rue smiled softly, and made sure Rina didn't notice. But her eyes flickered in alarm as it was not a happy smile, but a light grimace. What was wrong with her?!

Sure, she couldn't stand being in front of a mirror- she always picked herself apart when seeing her reflection. Eyes that were ruby red were surely unnatural and ugly, glazing like a wildfire- destroying everything, and scrutinizing everyone; her hair was that of a Raven's nest, unnatural grooves and curls were not in the least appealing; her body was fat, and she continued to do ballet for hours, while eating little to improve her weight, and her breasts were unsightly and small. Oh yes, she hated when she looked in the mirror, but she never showed it. A lady should never complain. Especially about a mirror, no less.

But this wasn't the problem. Something different, something sinister (that looked very much like herself) looked at her through the mirror. No, it wasn't a look, but almost amused sadism. Rue almost jumped, but her physical form did nothing.

But as soon as it came, it had gone. Rue couldn't even remember what the woman looked like: only the same, scrutinizing red orbs, and a smirk of something truly evil.

Surely, she was going mad. There isn't any other explanation, right?

Unnoticed by the two women respectively in their own thoughts, a suitcase appeared- packed with clothes and necessities. Neither of them paid attention to it as it was leaning on the other side of the bed, looking as if it had been there the entire time.

Rina preoccupied herself with one of the rare knots in Rue's hair as Rue's nerves began to skyrocket- a storm of emotions waiting, waiting, and waiting until the earthquake catalyzed the tsunami to strike.

Unknown to the two women, a storm was approaching. The darkness began to spread as black horses were being ridden into the square, robbers tossing smoke bombs, breaking glass, and the screams by the townspeople were unheard by the two- shielded by the expensive windows that were practically soundproof.

As the riders got closer and closer to the estate, the clock struck once again- a loud, booming strike that caused the women to look up. Surely, the clock had already stricken… Before they could react, however, the riders began to deface the gardens, riding over the flowers and shooting strange weapons never seen before. Loud bangs became heard as people dropped in the middle of panic, and more cries of absolute terror could be heard.

Servants in the halls and the foyer began to yell out in panic. Rina, startled, got the comb caught in Rue's black mane at about the same time she stood up.

A hookshot crashed through the window, and Rue let out a bloodcurdling scream- which made Rina absolutely petrified, unmovable.

A man, a robber, covered in black with a raccoon mask began to ascend to the mansion's second floor.

Rina didn't move, didn't react- she only watched in horror at what was going on. Rue, on the other hand, untangled her hair from the comb, took Rina's wrist, and began to run.

She hadn't even noticed that she had grabbed the bag next to the bed. Heh he he. The voice chuckled, unheard over the chaos.

"We must flee, Rina" Rue commanded. "To survive, we must flee."

"Lady Rue!" Rina said, absolutely lost. "What…"

"We must hurry!" Rue said, slipping off her shoes and holding them in her other hand, so as not to make noise. "We must make it to the stables!"

-x-

Rue wasn't sure what possessed her, but for some reason, she held tight to the tan suitcase as she rushed down the now deserted hallway. She didn't know when she grabbed it- but that didn't matter right now. She couldn't even recall whether she packed something in it or not. The adrenaline was pumping through her veins very, very hurriedly, and it didn't really matter, she decided. She had to get out of here, and fast.

What is happening? Her confusion ran across her face, and at that moment, she let it. Rina was far too preoccupied with being scared then looking at her. And for once, Rue really appreciated it- she let her façade fall, and she was genuinely worried. What would happen to her estate? Everything she had worked for? It was crumbling- and she heard several thumps as the robbers in black finally reached the second floor.

Rue hesitated for a moment, listening. Blood was flowing through her ears, and everything seemed tuned out- yet she heard that they were not headed in this direction.

She looked left, then right, and then left again. She put pressure on the wall, the "dead end" of the hall. The wall swung open, and Rue practically dragged Rina (she had now fainted due to pure fright) down the servants' steps.

Down, down and down she ran- the incline and the narrowness of the stairs almost giving her vertigo. However, she knew this was not the time. She threw Rina over her shoulder and unsteadily crept towards the stables.

They seemed undisturbed as they were deep inside the house, and Rue grabbed the saddle and the reins of her dark, black horse that was just as cultured as she was- her silent and beautiful animal named Corvus.

She shushed her horse, and gently placed Rina on his back, tied her baggage to the horse (along with a sleeping bag), slipped on her shoes, and got on by the spurs of her dark beast, and they raced off the property, not being seen by anyone.

Or so she thought.

-x-

Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. Four gears were thumping away, moving faster in a void where stories, lives, could be manipulated.

One showed a dark-haired Knight pointing a sword and facing the dark.

The one next to that one showed a Dancer, hiding in the darkness, willing to reveal herself.

The one below the Knight showed another- a white-haired Prince with a blank expression, eyes aglow.

The one diagonal to the Knight showed the noblewoman, racing on her horse towards the forest, fleeing from the only home she knew.

"Eh heh heh," The mysterious man cackled as he rocked forward and backward while he watched the show. "Nothing can stop the tragedy this time! They will suffer. They will grieve! All of them will lose in the most fantastic way possible! Their fate…"

The entire void vibrated, and the lights were quick to go off, but the gears kept moving.

Only the old man's lair seemed to be affected.

The darkness was consuming, but the old man did not fear it. He had faced "death." He had faced much worse than the dark: in fact, he sort of liked the dark. But this dark was different, more powerful; but it only enraged him. It was annoying and pesky- it had no place here. Here was his sanctuary, here was his lair. He was supposed to have control over it. There was not to be any incidents here like the last time. No, this would go as planned. He willed it, no- he needed it to- because his lair served only one purpose: and that was to entertain him.

"No!" He shouted, enraged and powered by the tragedy (that would occur soon enough) as he got up. He could not see anything, not even his hand curled into a fist and shaking at the sky. "No matter what he has done, you will not stop me!"

Instead of an answer, the finale of Swan Lake began to play, and he shouted, "No! You will not save them! They have already started down the path! You cannot stop tragedy! You did not even stop it from happening to you, did you?! You are powerless! You cannot save them! YOU CANNOT SAVE THEM!"

The lights whirled on again, and Swan Lake seemed to have faded before it reached the climax; yet Drosselmeyer knew this wasn't over. Plus, with this extra player, the story would get ten times more interesting. He smirked as he again settled into the rocking chair to view the grand story take place on a grander stage, with a more intricate plot since the last run.

"This is going to be interesting."

-x-

Rue leaped unto the cobblestone streets, and headed towards the nearest patch of forest. Rina was still unconscious, and the shoes of Corvus clacked against the cobblestones, but it was unheard over the violence. People were screaming, and she thought she saw a woman with green hair and a clown-like wardrobe heading off in the opposite direction. As she rode closer to Mytho and Fakir's cabin that they shared with Karon, she saw the blacksmith fighting a man in black, and losing.

But instead of furthering, she reined Corvus in, and he neighed loudly, probably spooked, and she turned him, cutting across a lawn of a cabin that lead straight to the forest.

If it wasn't dark before, it surely was now.

The forest was pitch black, and Rue kept riding, not really knowing where she was going, but just focusing on away. She didn't run into the trees, surprisingly, but she was afraid she would have- if not guided by her instincts. Even though she hated them, she did conceive that they were useful sometimes.

A gust of wind chilled her to the bone.

It was starting to get cold… Too cold.

She continued to ride, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw a light. Instead of jerking Corvus in another direction this time, she progressively slowed him, and then turned him.

As she slowed, she felt consumed by the darkness. Something was familiar here.

-x-

"Rue… Rue…" A dark voice called her, trying to get her attention.

The girl was no more than five, and she was dressed up in a dress of black, and was holding on to a stuffed animal that she named Odile, a black swan- babbling to her friend, even if the animal could not speak back.

"Rue…" The same voice, though more irritated this time.

She kept playing with Odile, oblivious… And a ruby necklace swayed on her chest: glistening, more like: the only thing she owned not stained with blood, robbery, and murder.

The man dressed in black towered over the girl: he had on black boots, black pants, a black long-sleeved shirt, black leather gloves, a black cap, and a black raccoon mask that showed his deep, dark, cold eyes. His curved nose was perfectly visible, and a light mustache diagonally slashed across his upper lips.

At his side, he held a sword, and it was not cleaned yet- it was still swimming in blood.

His upper lip twitched, but the young girl paid him no mind. She was sitting on the cabin floor, not noticing the dead bodies- or the stench- that were peaking out of the doorway of the hallway.

She was simply playing with her doll, in her home, in the middle of the wood.

With sickening patience, the voice spoke again, "Rue, I have a present for you…"

-x-

She couldn't remember what, though.

Holding her head for a brief second, she tried remembering. A barrage of voices invaded her head.

"Rue~ A light, happy voice giggled. Though she didn't recognize it, it felt familiar. She felt the slightest bit intimidated by this character, and she could see why. The voice was so happy, yet so strong and laced with griefYet she didn't truly fear it, she was more wary of the voice. It showed that she wasn't as great as the voice's owner- and that, she hated. She hated feeling inferior. But, and this was most strange- she felt a pull to this person, to tell her everything that was wrong with her body, to confide in this person…. To confide that she wasn't as beautiful- wasn't as graceful or as silent as she wanted to be…

She had a sort of bond with this person, and was afraid of letting her go, letting her be found out. And though jealous, she realized that whatever secret this person had, she would keep it 'til the grave. But who was this?!

The next voice interrupted her thoughts, invading her brain, scowling "Rue." It was a disapproving, annoyed voice that rolled his eyes, guarding his character, in case she decided to twist him around her little finger. Her fists gathered at her sides as she thought that he was easily manipulated and utterly useless, yet never ceasing to try. Oh yes, she definitely recognized the owner of this voice: and to that she scowled. The knight who couldn't even die.

…She blinked, and her face contorted. Where did that come from? Had she confused him for someone else? Surely… Surely, that voice belonged to Fakir, her greatest enemy. He kept her from Mytho, the one she loved so much. All she wanted was Mytho, all she wanted was his love, and it was okay if he didn't feel anything; it was okay as long as he was hers… Fakir could go screw himself for all she cared.

She didn't understand, though, why he disapproved of her so much. What was so bad about her? She had money, eyes for Mytho, cared for him… She just didn't understand.

Maybe it was that they were too alike. Too protective. Too… use- no, she was useful. She was useful to Mytho, and that was all that mattered.

"Rue?" An unsure voice spoke, eyes empty. His voice was like a broken melody, silently encasing her mind, and guiding her away from bad thoughts while making her heart lurch. All she wanted was to encompass her arms around his small frame, to hold him, erase his bad memories and bad thoughts; help him so that he would be hers, only hers… He wouldn't need to remember anything. She liked how he was now. Mytho…You don't need anyone else but me. I love you, and I'll always love you- even if you become black and empty, just like me… I will love you forever and ever…

"Rue!" A voice, lower in stature than Rue's own, called attention to Rue's behavior: she snapped out of her possessiveness, and her posture stiffened back to the ladylike demeanor she had to be. In the woods, at this moment, she couldn't even tell if Rina was conscious, and yet she turned her mind away. Rina was reminding her who she was- she always kept Rue in check. By forcing her to keep up her façade, Rina was doing her a service. …Right?

"…Enter the Dark Princess" This voice gave her chills up her spine, and if she was at home, she would have drawn her legs to her chest and shivered until the voice passed over her, passed by, never to return. For some reason, she knew the voice was referring to her. But where had she heard it? Who did it belong to? How could she make it stop? It isn't so easy, another voice cooed inside her head. She shivered as an overwhelming dread took over her.

"RUE!"

The voice seemed familiar, and in an anguished cry, jolted her.

She… had never heard such sadness, such fear, such guilt, such anguish in her life. And yet, it rang in her head.

Where had she heard it before?

She didn't know. But something… something around here didn't feel right.

She had to get out of here. Something around here felt… sinister. Sinister like an evil god out there, watching her… Making sure that she would screw up, and do so all her life, no matter how hard she tried… She shivered again. This fear, this feeling of doubt and desperation, was surely getting into her head. She had to regain her reason.

She had to.

Her fists balled, and knuckles white; she decided she had to find shelter soon. The forest, or rather, her paranoia felt like it was closing in on her, like she couldn't breathe. A strange scent infiltrated her nostrils, a strange, sickening scent that hadn't been there before. Her heart clenched and her stomach knotted into curls and an agonizing pain went through her head.

She lurched, and almost fell off the horse if not for her iron grip on the reins.

She had to find a place for the night. She had to find one soon. Something, something... Something wasn't right here. She needed to leave.

But where would she go?

She couldn't go back to Kinkan… It was dangerous there.

She looked forward, and she saw the light again.

She raced towards it, and could barely see an outline of an old, abandoned cabin.

This is the first chapter out since my depression message in Muted World and Battle of the Bands. I am doing better, but I am still recovering. I'm also studying for the ACT and the English AP exams, and this update literally took forever for me to finish.

This doesn't mean I'll update on a frequent schedule (ha!), it just means that I'm doing better and that I somehow cranked out another chapter.

Here are the answers to the reviews!

Chapter 1:

ExodusARenfield: Thank you. I hope you read this chapter as well. Thanks for reviewing!

Lermaniac 4 life: I really do hope this will be your favorite. Thank you so much, and I will try to update soon. Thanks for reviewing!

Rebecca: I really do try. As Edel says in chapter two, "Oh, it had seemed so different, but it was still the same." I will try to update the next chapter ASAP. Some of my other stories… Oh, you shouldn't read My Dear Black Kitty. That one needs to be re-written. The Game is meh too. Everything else you are okay to read. Thanks for reviewing!

Guest: Thank you, and thanks for reviewing!

Fahiru- I invented that- but, as a child and even now, I really do love fairytales. I did take a little from the original Little Mermaid, but most of it is to suit my own purposes. Again, I try to keep the same premise of the characters- keep them the same, yet utterly different. Yeah, I do need to go back and fix some of the wording. I really do like Neko-sensei- just as I like pretty much every character the anime expands upon. Literally every single one is a work of art: and I'm so jealous of Ikuto Itoh that I can't even express it. I've researched pretty much every single episode of Tutu along with the music pieces (and found out some very interesting things) when I read your suggestion. I was going to do so anyway, because with any AU, I do it with as much depth as possible. Actually, I always like reading long reviews, it wasn't about nothing! Thank you for reviewing!

Chapter 2:

Lermaniac 4 life: Good to hear from you again. Thank you for your praise, but I'm always improving. I know lots of fanfiction writers who are incredibly talented, so if you ever want any recommendations, PM me. Thanks for reviewing!

K-chan's Kisses: Thank you, and thanks for reviewing!

Yeah: I will continue, don't worry. Thanks for reviewing!

All in all, it's been quite a chapter. Rue has lots of things going on, and I really do like her. Many people don't like her in the fandom, and I just can't understand why.

Though I do love Fakir and Ahiru (very much), I also love Rue and Mytho (he had depth, but at the same time no depth which was frankly amazing).

Thanks for reading, and please review if you can!