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When You Wake

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it was only a test, but she swam too far against the tide

she deserves what she gets

the sky became mad with stars as an outstretched arm slowly disappears…

please, don’t worry – there’ll be no fuss

she was nobody’s nothing…

 

when he awoke the sea was calm

and another day passes like a dream…

“lifeguard sleeping, girl drowning” – morrissey

 

She knows this story.

 

Once upon a time, there was a princess.  She is placed under a terrible curse and must go

on a quest to break it.  Along the way, she becomes stronger.  She meets new friends.  She falls

in love with a dashing prince.  She overcomes insurmountable odds and learns she can do

things she never dreamed possible – she even slays a dragon (an evil one, not the good kind, of

course).  In the end, the curse is broken.  Peace is restored to the kingdom.  She marries the

prince.  They live happily ever after.

 

She knows this story.

 

Just as she knows it was never hers.

 

Her eyes opened the moment her heels clicked against the floor of the gazebo.  Queen

Erlsel still knelt before the gateway, but the Queen was not her concern.  Not when Prince

Aero – when Arc – was dying on the other side of the city.

 

The trip to the palace had never felt longer, even though she was running full pelt.  Still,

she knew she would make it in time.  That was part of their deal, after all.

 

The blinding flash of the Tiara ensured the guards would not stop her.

 

Its mere presence – her mere presence – ensured the three gathered by his bedside would

not stop her, either.

 

She had expected her heart to feel impossibly heavy as she knelt by his side and took his hand

in her own.  When she closed her eyes to make her wish, she was surprised to note that it wasn’t.

 

It was, unexpectedly, practically weightless.

 

There was a time, back when the whole mess was just starting, that she had convinced

herself maybe it could be.  Back then, she had thought she could become the Princess.

She had thought she could break the curse.  She had thought she could marry the Prince.

 

Back then, she hadn’t known what every bedtime story leaves out.

 

She hadn’t known there would be a cost.  Prices must be paid for happy endings, and

a happy ending of this magnitude doesn’t come cheap.

 

And in the end, she tells herself it’s only fair.  It’s not her story, but it is theirs.  They were

born into that life, so it’s only fair that the one who wasn’t is the one who pays the price.

 

They had been willing to do it for her, after all.

 

“They have already agreed,” the voice of the Great Magician was colder than the night air

around them.  A chill coursed down her spine, and she hugged herself against it.  “Where

you were unwilling to make a choice they went ahead and chose for you.”

 

“I was making a choice,” she said.  Her back was still turned to the hooded figure behind

her.  She couldn’t look at her, not now.  Somehow she knew she would lose her nerve if she

had to look into those glowing red eyes.

 

“They reached a decision first,” the Great Magician said.  It wasn’t fair – but these things

rarely were.

 

“Well, I’m making a decision now,” she said.  Her voice was strong as she turned to face her.

“And as the Platina Princess, my decision is the one that matters.”

 

“You don’t even want to know what they agreed to?” the Great Magician asked.  It was

almost – almost – enough to give her pause.

 

“…no,” she finally said.  “It’s irrelevant now.  Because I’ve decided, and this is what’s going

to happen.”

 

His skin is cooler now.  She thinks back to a time not so long ago that she would have loved to

see him shirtless – that the sight would have reduced her to a blushing, stuttering mess.  There’s

nothing romantic about it now.  He was dying, and now he is not, and the fact that he is shirtless

in bed beside her is just a consequence of the previous state of dying.

 

She hadn’t expected the wish to take so much out of her.  He was just starting to wake up when

she lost consciousness, and she had awoken to find herself in bed beside him.

 

She hadn’t expected that, either.

 

“That’s why you’re a brat!” Gurenda called from the other end of the dock  “You’re so easy to

fool.”

 

When the Great Magician appeared beside them, a feeling of finality clenched itself around her

heart.

 

“Yucie, I liked your world…I really liked it,” Beth said softly, and even though the Great Magician

had already told her the words were like a slap in the face.  They had made a decision without

her – just as she had made hers without them – and they would see it through.

 

“Please become a good Princess,” Erumina added, smiling kindly at her.  “After all, you are our

representative.”

 

They were saying goodbye.

 

She pressed against the barrier.  She knew what would happen, but in that last moment she found

she didn’t want it – not like this.  The Great Magician hadn’t had to go along with this – there was

no need for the theatrics.  It could have – should have – been easier.

 

“Miss Yucie…Miss Yucie, you will always be our precious friend!” Kokoru called through her tears,

but it was too much.  She couldn’t do this – couldn’t make them go through this.  She threw herself

against the barrier, crying out her protests, but Gurenda only laughed at her.

 

“It’s useless!” the Demon Princess chided.  “Do you think you can break this magic barrier made

by the elegant, fantastically magical Princess of the Demon World?”

 

No.  Of course she couldn’t.  But Gurenda shouldn’t have placed the barrier there in the first

place – this wasn’t part of her deal.

 

But it was part of theirs.

 

“Try not to get fooled again,” Gurenda said.  Her head was down, her arms shaking from where

they pressed against the barrier.  “Also, serve the Prince faithfully!  There’s no one else that would

stay with a brat like you!”

 

How she wished she could.

 

“Also, do something about those awful bangs,” Gurenda laughed bitterly, and she almost

smiled at her.  “And…and…don’t forget about your kindness.”

 

Never.

 

It was her kindness that was making her do this, after all.

 

While Gurenda’s head was bowed, she glanced back to their friends.  Her eyes landed on the

Great Magician, who nodded subtly before raising her staff.

 

It was never supposed to be like this.

 

“It’s time.”

 

She knows this.  She’s all too aware, but the knowing doesn’t make the doing any easier.  She

tells herself she chose this.  It was the only way.  A price had to be paid, and since she was

unwilling to let the others pay it the job fell to her.

 

She had agreed to this.  For them.

 

She brushes her hand against his forehead, smoothing the sweat-slicked hair out of the way.  He’s

so calm now, so different from the violent thrashing and guttural moans of not too long before.

She had seen the curse leave him, had seen him wake up in the moments before she had lost

consciousness herself – but the illness had still taken its toll on him, and he had fallen asleep again

not long after.  Frederik had left them together, knowing they both needed the rest and assuming no

one would mind their being together.  She’s grateful for that, for the few moments she had been

awake to watch him sleep so peacefully – it was all the time they had been allowed.  It would have to

be enough.

 

He shifts in his sleep, leaning into her touch, and it’s all she can do to choke down a sob.  He is not

hers, not any more.  Perhaps he never truly was.

 

That doesn’t stop her from leaning down, from pressing her lips ever so lightly against his own.  It’s

not their first kiss – if anything, it’s worse – but she knows all too well that it will be their last.

 

“Goodbye,” she whispers, and she steps back towards the Great Magician.  It’s pain, and it’s slow,

letting her hand linger against him as long as she can…but it’s time, and she had agreed to this.

 

For him.

 

For them.

 

It is time.

 

 “…you are aware this is entirely unprecedented,” the Great Magician said.  Her voice sounded

critical.

 

“I’m sure,” she said, sighing, “but you can’t tell me it’s impossible.”

 

“Your life for theirs…it is unconventional, but it should work,” the Great Magician’s voice was

quieter, as if she was still considering her proposition.  It wasn’t that difficult, really.

 

She was the Platina Princess.  She was the one the Tiara had chosen.  So, it went without saying

that her heart should be the strongest, and if all the Tiara needed was the power of strong hearts to

balance the power released by the wish it had to grant to destroy it…didn’t it make sense that her

heart should be strong enough for all of them?

 

So she would accept the Tiara.  She would make her wish.

 

And she would be the one to disappear.

 

“You would give up everything for them?  Your prince?”

 

“My prince will live,” she said.  Her voice sounded stronger than she felt.  “And so will my

friends.  Yes, I’ll give up everything for that to happen.”

 

“They will not be pleased,” the Great Magician pointed out.

 

“No, I don’t expect they will,” she laughed.  It sounded hollow to her ears.  “I only have one

condition.”

 

“Just one?”

 

“They can’t…they can’t remember me,” she said.  At the Great Magician’s silence, she turned

back to face her.  Her eyes had stopped glowing, nothing but darkness remaining beneath the

hood.  “If they remember me, they won’t let me go.  They won’t stop fighting until my world…all

of our worlds…are as doomed as this one.”

 

“You are so sure of this?” the Great Magician asked, and her smile is pained.

 

“It’s what I would do,” she said.  “I wouldn’t give up until it was too late.  I wouldn’t let them

go, and I wouldn’t let Arc die.  But if there truly is no other way…they can’t remember me.  None

of them – not even Arc.”

 

“It will be as you wish,” the Great Magician said.  She laughed, the sound defeated.  “Would you

believe they requested the same of you?  That I take your memories of them?”

 

“Let them think you have,” she said, sighing.  “They can’t know until it’s too late.  It’s the only way.”

 

“As you wish.”

 

When he wakes, it’s as if from the dead.  He had slept well and deep, and he’s encased with a

lethargy that covers the world in a sleep-addled fog.  He sits up, the blankets falling from his bare

chest to land at his waist, and he wonders why something feels…different.  Odd.  Off.

 

It must have been the dream.  He can’t remember it now, but it lingers at the edges, like a phantom

touch.  He shakes his head clear of the cobwebs and tosses his blanket back, standing and stretching in

one fluid motion.  He’s being ridiculous, and if he doesn’t rise soon Frederik will be pounding on his

door to drag him to his duties.

 

He heads towards the bathroom to wash up for the day, and as he leaves the main room he misses the

soft pink glove lying half under his bed.  Of course, he also doesn’t see the phantom girl sitting on the

edge of the bed, who bends to retrieve the glove and slips it onto her translucent hand.  She smiles at

him, the look too full of pain and sadness for one appearing so young.

 

She’s gone when he comes back into the room a short while later.  Not that he knows to miss her, of

course.

 

He doesn’t know anything about her at all.