Disclaimer: Characters belong to CLAMP, not me.
Pairing/Characters: Kurogane/Yuui, Hahaue/Chichiue, Fay/Freya, Fei Wong/Hahaue, Souma/Kendappa, Ichiro/Chitose
Rating: R, for blood and violence and language and disturbingness. Same as the film.
Summary: (Film: El Laberinto del Faun, or Pan's Labyrinth) In a world enduring civil war, Kurogane is uprooted from his home and sent to a military outpost with his mother. In the labyrinth behind his new home, he meets a young boy who sets him three tasks, but it is difficult to live out your fairytale when people insist on you growing up.
Author's Notes: Again, thank you to fengtianshi for the extension, and for the wonderful challenge! ... Now to work on my entry for the next one ;;
Kurogane dragged the chalk along the wall and opened the door eagerly. It opened into Fei Wong's office, a room he had never actually seen before. It was a large room, with an uncomfortable-looking bed in one corner partially hidden by a curtain. There was a basin and a mirror on one side of the room, on which was a razor (though Kurogane wondered why on earth the man kept one, as he appeared never to use it), and a small sofa which was losing its stuffing. The focus of the room, however, was the large desk, behind which was a chair elaborately decorated with a bat-motif. Next to the desk was a small wooden crib.
Kurogane's door opened behind the sofa. He peeked out from behind it and saw Fei Wong by the mirror, sewing... his mouth? Kurogane wanted to cheer and gag at the same time – cheer because someone had finally done some damage to the man, and gag because it wasn't exactly nice to look at. He instead started to examine the material of the sofa – dark green with a strange black pattern – and wondered who had attacked Fei Wong Reed so effectively. Kurogane wanted to thank them.
Fei Wong finished stitching the gash in his cheek and taped some gauze onto it. He was touching it gently, trying to work out how bad it would get, when there were brisk footsteps heading towards him. Kurogane pushed himself back against the wall, hoping the sofa was enough to hide him.
"Sir," the soldier said, "there's been a problem."
"What?" Fei Wong snapped.
There was a shuffling noise. Kurogane wished he could peek out and see what was going on, as Fei Wong, when he spoke, sounded horrified.
"What happened?" the Captain breathed.
"The girl ran to her rebel friends," Kyle wheezed.
Kurogane felt a stirring of something not unlike pride. Tomoyo was a lot tougher than she looked!
"We were attacked..."
"Get him some water," Fei Wong snapped, "and the medic."
There were footsteps as someone left the room. When Fei Wong continued, he was slightly quieter. "How many were there?"
"I didn't count, sir. I guess about fifty or so."
Fei Wong cursed. Kurogane thought it was rather bad parenting to swear in front of a baby.
"How many've we got?"
"Thirteen, sir," Kyle replied, "including myself."
Fei Wong swore again. Kurogane hoped Syaoran wouldn't pick up the habit.
"They'll attack tonight," Fei Wong said slowly. "We have few men left, and most are injured. They'll attack – but they won't win," he added. "However many of them there are, we will kill them."
"Right, sir," Kyle replied. "Shall I gather the troops?"
"I'll do that," Fei Wong said. "You, come with me, and let the medic take a look at you."
There was the sound of them leaving the room, and then Fei Wong said offhandedly, "And get someone to kill the boy."
Kurogane's hands tightened into fists. What a coward! Fei Wong didn't even have the guts to kill him himself! At least Kurogane could have revenge. He would have the best revenge: Kurogane would escape with Syaoran, Fei Wong's precious son, to a place where the Captain could not follow. In this world, Tomoyo and the other rebels would kill Fei Wong, or at the very least severely inconvenience him. Kurogane smirked at that. Fei Wong Reed would not keep the upper hand, and when he fell, he would fall hard.
Kurogane poked his head out from behind the sofa to see if he was alone, and upon seeing he was he stood up and walked quietly over to his brother. He hadn't been allowed to see Syaoran, not properly: only a glimpse during Atsuko's funeral, and all he had really seen were blankets. Syaoran was slightly podgy, as most babies were, with very light brown hair. His small fists clutched at the air.
"Hey," Kurogane said softly. He knew it wasn't wise to wake a sleeping baby, but he really needed to get them both out of there.
Before he did that, however, he glanced at Fei Wong's desk and at a glass the Captain had placed on it. He had apparently been drinking before the arrival of Kyle and the other soldier. Kurogane had a small bag in which he had packed his precious belongings – his mother's scarves, his favourite book, some clothes for himself – and from it withdrew his mother's sleeping medicine.
First he used the dropper-thing in Fei Wong's glass, but upon decided that was taking too much time he just unscrewed the lid and tipped as much as he could into the glass that would not look suspicious. Upon deeming there was enough sleeping medicine in there to knock out a large mammal, Kurogane nodded in satisfaction, re-sealed the bottle, put it back in his bag, and turned to his baby sibling.
He lifted Syaoran slowly, surprised at the relatively small weight, and the baby awoke. Syaoran blinked and made a baby noise of discontent, almost giving Kurogane a glare. His eyes were a deep brown.
"Sorry," Kurogane whispered. "But I have to. We've gotta go, you and I. Somewhere better."
He started to gently rock him, hoping to soothe Syaoran back to sleep, and Kurogane was pleased and a little surprised when it worked. Syaoran fell back into a doze, tiny hands gripping Kurogane's shirt. Kurogane ensured the child's mouth was free, and then turned back to the sofa to find his chalk. As he did so, he heard footsteps. Panicking slightly, he ducked back behind the sofa and started scrabbling around for the chalk. He had a moment of, 'oh gods no not now' when he saw the stick had rolled out of reach into the centre of the room.
Fei Wong clomped over to his desk and leant heavily against it. He rubbed his forehead and reached for the glass. Kurogane, praying Syaoran would keep quiet, stood slowly and started sneaking towards the door. He did not see Fei Wong Reed begin to drink the tainted whiskey, though he would have felt a thrill of victory had he. Kurogane was too busy sneaking towards the door and trying not to disturb Syaoran (he appeared to be trying to fall asleep again) to see what Fei Wong was doing.
Kurogane had reached the door and breathed a sigh of relief when there was an explosion outside. He froze, and Syaoran jolted awake and made a whimpering, whining noise. Kurogane's head turned slowly to look over his shoulder.
Fei Wong was staring at him: the young boy framed in the doorway by orange-red firelight, clutching to him a bundle of blankets that was his baby brother. "How...?" Fei Wong began.
Kurogane started to run. It was difficult not to jostle Syaoran, but he did try his best. He held his brother protectively; both arms wrapped around him and triying to dodge all the commotion. People were running around the house like chickens without heads and shouting about the invasion of the rebels. Kurogane thought wryly that Fei Wong's soldiers were really not very good at coping with emergencies.
He dashed out into the courtyard and paused to glance over his shoulder and re-arrange Syaoran in his arms. Kurogane's breath caught in his throat when he saw the Captain stumbling towards him. Why didn't the man just give up? He couldn't get hold of Kurogane – Kurogane was going somewhere far away where nothing would hurt him, and he was taking his little brother. Why couldn't Fei Wong just give up? Kurogane didn't want to have to run through the labyrinth: he didn't know how long he could hold out. Kurogane was fit, but he was still rather small.
He set off at a run again, heading through the darkness towards the labyrinth. As he did so, he had a very odd feeling: as if this had happened before, but not necessarily to him. It was as if he was watching himself run and, at the same time, watching another child in another time tracing his footsteps.
How frightened must Yuui have been? Yuui hadn't even had any hope or knowledge as to where he was going. While Kurogane knew inside the labyrinth was the Prince, and the Prince would lead him to his kingdom, Yuui had no idea what was going to happen to him. He had run into the unknown, terrified of what was ahead but equally scared of what was behind.
I'll keep him safe, Kurogane promised. I'll stay by his side forever and make sure he can always be sure of something: that he has me.
Into the labyrinth: in the dark and in fear it looked so very threatening, as if Kurogane was running from one monster into the belly of another. He reassured himself with the knowledge that there were no monsters inside, only Prince Yuui, with his soft hair and sweet smile and joyful eyes. Yuui's happiness at seeing Kurogane would banish all the darkness and fear.
Panic really started to set in when Kurogane couldn't find Mokona. He had no idea where to go, and the spirit had always led the way before. Without it he was completely and utterly lost, and now he would be completely and utterly lost with the Captain in pursuit. Kurogane took a random left and ran. He stopped paying attention to where he was going, simply taking every corner he found, ducking down passageways, eternally aware of the lumbering noises behind him that could have been his imagination or could have been Fei Wong.
Kurogane's heart very nearly stopped when he reached a dead end. He looked around wildly, heard Syaoran whimper, heard footfalls behind, and was pretty close to crying in despair when he heard a familiar, "Puu!"
Kurogane looked up with relief to find Mokona White sitting on top of one of the walls. It tapped the stones with its paw and they melted away. It then hopped to the wall behind it, and that melted too, and the one behind that. Grinning now, confident he would win, Kurogane followed the bobbing white shape. Everything would be okay.
Rescuing Kurogane had been high on the list of priorities of both Fay and Tomoyo. While Fay was fighting downstairs, Tomoyo rushed up to the boy's room with Hideki and Subaru. The guard outside it had left as soon as the fighting began.
Tomoyo pushed hard, but the door was locked. She pushed her hair away from her face and turned to Subaru. The other twin had been quiet with a dark fury after learning of the death of Hokuto; Tomoyo was grateful she wasn't Seishirou or one of Fei Wong's soldiers.
Subaru kicked the door in. The first time it started to bulge inwards slightly, but the second kick had it collapsing with a loud bang.
Kurogane's name was on Tomoyo's lips as she entered. She stopped. The room was utterly empty, save for a pile of books on the bedside table, an unmade bed, and a chalk square on the wall.
Yuui was waiting for Kurogane by the stairs down to the underground tower, shifting from foot to foot and clutching Ginryuu. Mokona Black was half-asleep on his shoulder. When the young prince caught sight of Kurogane, his face lit up and he let out a little cheer. "I knew you'd make it!" Yuui squealed as Kurogane approached. "When I heard the explosions, I did get a bit worried, but I knew you'd be okay!"
Yuui lifted his arms as if he was going to embrace Kurogane, but the sword and Syaoran got in the way, so Yuui made an awkward sweeping gesture instead and Kurogane tried not to grin at the Prince's silliness.
"It's nothing," Kurogane said valiantly. "The explosions are from the good side."
"An explosion doesn't care which side it's on," Yuui said soberly. "It doesn't care who it hurts."
Kurogane tried to mask his annoyance at having his bubble burst by re-arranging Syaoran and his blankets. "When's the portal to the other world open, anyway?" he asked.
Yuui grinned and held the sword out to Kurogane. "When you open it, silly!"
Kurogane raised an eyebrow at the sword. "How'm I supposed to do that?"
Yuui indicated Syaoran. "You need to spill some of his blood, and the portal will open. It doesn't have to be much at all," Yuui added hastily as Kurogane's grip on his baby brother grew more protective, "just a little drop! Actually, come to think of it, the sword's a bit much. I have a pin somewhere, hang on..."
As Yuui started patting his person in search of a pin, Kurogane looked at Syaoran. The baby blinked at him with his large brown eyes: quiet, unassuming, but... trusting. Human babies were really helpless: they couldn't even sit up on their own for the first few weeks of their lives. They had to depend on others to take care of them. Kurogane couldn't trust Fei Wong to care for Syaoran, so it was up to him.
"No," Kurogane said softly.
Yuui looked up. "Pardon?"
Kurogane cradled little Syaoran close to him. "I won't hurt him."
Yuui frowned. "He'll barely feel it. We only need a little drop."
"I won't hurt him," Kurogane repeated.
A moment passed. Yuui wasn't angry, this time: he just looked broken. "Even though you said you'd follow my orders now?"
"He's my brother," Kurogane said. "He's a baby. I won't hurt him."
"He killed your mother."
Kurogane shook his head. "Fei Wong Reed killed my mother. This child didn't ask to be born, but now he is, so I'll look after him."
Mokona White fluttered onto Yuui's shoulder. Yuui lowered his eyes. "This is the end, then."
Kurogane swallowed. "I guess."
Yuui walked over to Kurogane, put his hand on his shoulder, and lightly kissed him on the corner of his mouth. "Goodbye, Kurogane."
Kurogane took a deep breath and rocked Syaoran gently. There was a prickling behind his eyes, but there was no time for that now. He would get through the labyrinth and head out into the forests on the other side. He would hide there until he could find Fay or Tomoyo, and then they would raise Syaoran together. He was sure Tomoyo and Fay wouldn't mind acting as parents for the boy.
Kurogane gave Syaoran a brave smile. He opened his mouth to reassure him things would be okay when a heavy hand clamped down on his shoulder and turned him around. Kurogane found himself staring into the unfocused eyes of Fei Wong Reed.
"Give him to me," Fei Wong ordered.
Kurogane tried to step backwards. "No."
Fei Wong's hands reached for Syaoran, and Kurogane had no choice but to let go lest the struggle hurt the child. He still aimed a vicious kick at Fei Wong's shin, though. "You'll lose him!" he shouted. "He's my mother's child; he'll never listen to you!"
Fei Wong turned and started walking away. Kurogane, not done, yelled after him, "He'll never obey you!"
In one movement, Fei Wong drew his gun, turned, and shot. He walked away without bothering to see what he'd done.
It took a moment for Kurogane to truly register what had happened. He heard the shot, and he felt the sudden pain in his side, but even as he touched the suddenly sore place between his ribs and saw his fingers covered with thick red-black blood he failed to comprehend it. He just didn't get shot. He was a child. He was too young to die.
He collapsed onto the ground slowly, thinking vaguely that maybe it would hurt less if he was lying down. His main thought, however, was how much he wanted his mother.
Those stories were the problem. Atsuko had allowed the boy to fill his empty head with so much nonsense he couldn't distinguish it from reality. There had been that problem with the 'charm' he insisted on keeping under Atsuko's bed, and Fei Wong had now seen the boy talking with thin air. Quite mad. Death was the best thing for him, really. Fei Wong was almost doing him a favour.
Syaoran had started crying at the gunshot and was still wailing. Fei Wong held him away from his body. He'd get someone to look after the boy when he got back to the mill. Fei Wong didn't know what to do with children until they were old enough to obey orders and fight.
However, when he left the labyrinth, he saw the ones who would look after Syaoran were not who he intended.
The Dragons of Heaven and their new allies had formed a half-circle around the entrance to the labyrinth. There was no way past them. At the centre, Tomoyo and that traitorous doctor stood together. Fay was holding a gun.
Tomoyo stopped forward and took Syaoran. Fei Wong did not protest.
He did, however, reach into his pocket and withdraw his pack of Clow's cards. "Give my-"
"No," Tomoyo said shortly. She stepped back beside Fay and tried to soothe Syaoran by bouncing him gently in her arms.
"He will never hear of you," Fay explained. Then he pulled the trigger, and that was the end of Captain Fei Wong Reed of the Dragons of Earth. His precious cards fell to the floor and were soon trampled, stained, and forgotten. They were only playing cards, after all.
Time was going much too slow and much too fast. Kurogane was in so much pain, and he wanted it all to end, but at the same time he was terrified of dying. He was too young. There was so much left he wanted to do. He had wanted to become a police officer or a doctor, and if not have a family at least spend more time with the one he loved. He would win Yuui back, but now it was much too late. He couldn't move. Kurogane was only aware of the pain and how hard it was to breathe.
Blood ran down his side to his arm to his fingers, and from there dripped down into the underground tower. Droplets landed on the strange tablet, showing the prince and the knight and the baby. Kurogane would never know that kingdom. He would never get to walk through the gardens with Yuui or marry him in the royal church or watch him sleep in their shared bed. He'd never even grow up.
As if it was happening to a numbed area of him, Kurogane felt someone place his head on something soft and run their hands over his forehead. He wanted to ask, 'Mother?' but all that came out was a slight wheeze.
Whoever it was began singing softly. It was dull and unclear to his ears, but he was sure he'd heard it before. Someone had sung it to him. Oh, yes... Tomoyo's lullaby...
There was someone reaching for his hand, too, threading their fingers through his. "Hey," the owner of the hand said softly. "Come on. They're waiting."
The new arrival tugged on Kurogane's hand and he was pulled to his feet. He started when he realised the pain had gone. He looked down at his chest and saw no blood – in fact, he saw new clothes in rich reds, and when he looked along his arm he found that clean too, and when he looked at his hand he saw it clasped in another's. Attached to that hand was an arm, and attached to that arm was Prince Yuui in smart blue clothes with a thin silver circlet around his head and a warm smile on his face.
Kurogane frowned and looked around. He had a sword at his hip and a black cloak over his shoulders. He was standing in a great hall, and there was light streaming through beautiful stained glass windows. It looked like a church of some sort, but with a much friendlier atmosphere. The many seats were full. On one side, he saw two girls with long white-blonde hair, and a little boy who looked identical to Yuui who nodded at him. Beside him was a small girl with violet eyes and long black hair, who was taking notes on the proceedings. Mokona White and Mokona Black – wings intact – jumped from the girl to the boy to the other girls, unable to stay still.
In the other row of seats – and here Kurogane's breath caught – were a man and a woman, and in the woman's arms was a baby. The man had black hair tied back in a short ponytail and was grinning widely, as if the proceedings were the best proceedings he had ever seen. He had his arm absently around the woman's shoulders, and she was smiling too, though in a calmer way than her husband. Her eyes were soft, her hair long and dark, and the baby she held looked utterly content. Kurogane's parents smiled at their son and Father made Syaoran give his big brother a little wave.
"But I thought..." Kurogane said, turning back to Yuui. "I didn't complete the third task."
"You completed it perfectly," Yuui replied. When Kurogane looked confused, the blonde child smiled and explained, "No true knight would hurt an innocent. A true knight would rather die."
Kurogane blinked. This was a lot to take in.
Yuui stepped forward shyly. "Will you be my true knight, Kurogane?"
Kurogane rolled his eyes. "If I have to."
Yuui giggled and wrapped his arms around Kurogane, who hugged him so hard the blonde was lifted off his feet. Kurogane spun the delighted prince around in a circle and the world was bright and happy, filled with cheering and applause and Yuui's smile. Kurogane grinned and knew this was how things should be.
Tomoyo cried when the child Kurogane Suwa died in her lap in the dark labyrinth. The boy bled from the wound Fei Wong had given him, but there was something oddly content about his expression when he drew his final breath. They – Tomoyo and Fay and the others who had known the boy – agreed Kurogane had gone somewhere better.
Once upon a time, in a beautiful kingdom far away, there was a prince and a knight, and they were very much in love.
Can you see it? Underground, in the kingdom filled with light...
The knight guarded his prince with his strength, and the prince guarded the knight with his healing kindness. They were together at all times, never allowing separation, and they were happy – for this was all they desired.
A knight takes his true love's hand and gives him forever...
They married on the prince's sixteenth birthday to the joy of the kingdom, and spent their lives together until their final moments – and it is said, in the kingdom underground, that even death was not a barrier to them, and that their ghosts are only seen together.
And together, they find home.
It is also said, in the worlds above and below, that the knight left traces of his time in the world above, if one knows what to look for.
You do see it, don't you?