“Once upon a time, in a kingdom terribly far away from here, so far that they do not even share the same wind, because the winds of Mabase are warm and wistful things, and they do not like the cold, there was a glacier.”
“Mako-cha--” The blue-haired girl cuts herself off in mid-call, her head drooping by inches. It’s been just over a year since her closest friend disappeared in the Chaos that was the breaking of Twisted. Ami has gotten used to there being noone else in the apartment, but not having anyone to tolerate her idle musings - or tell her that tomorrow is going to be better than today - that has been a fair bit harder. With a small sigh, Ami rolls the rest of the way out of bed and begins her day.
The egg is not long for this world, and as Ami chews it, so does her mind mull over the story she’s writing - and the memories she’s pulling from. Hazy, ancient memories from a time long forgotten and far removed from even Twisted swirl in her mind, vying for prominence. Her eyes return to the screen, and her forehead creases with worry lines.
She’d found her.
And suddenly nothing else mattered. An exaggeration, of course, but not so hyperbolic as it sounded - Ami felt in her heart that this was her task, and noone else’s. There was no feline guardian or long-lost love to protect and teach the girl - not here. Just her, her and noone else.
When Ami had first seen the young woman, she knew immediately. A wistful remembrance of times past swirled up within her, and even though the face was different, the radiant light from within was unmistakable. It was clear as day; her oldest friend - or at least, her newest incarnation - was wandering Twisted alone. And she knew what that was like.
Ami glances down at her laptop, sets her chin, and continues where she left off.
Now, it would be falsehood to say that the princess had no friends, for all that she did not associate with the other children. The palace librarians loved her dearly, as did her teachers. And of course, there was always the moon. She would sit on her balcony and look at the moon, wishing they could speak. Surely the moon would understand.
“I am quite lonely, and I do not know what to do,” she said to the moon. “None of my books can tell me what the cure for loneliness is, and none of my teachers seem to know how to unseal my lips. For so long noone listened, and now I cannot speak. I am so cold, and I am frightened of what they would think of me. I am tired of expectations. I am tired of solitude. I am tired of everything, and I do not know what to do.”
That night, the princess slept with her window open to the cold night air, and she dreamt that the moon was a girl in a gold and silver dress, with silver snowballs in her hair. They walked together until dawn, and what the moon told her was forgotten when the morning came. The princess awoke feeling somehow calmed, like everything was going to change, even though she could not have articulated why. This should have frightened her, for she was not accustomed to not knowing, but in this case, in this single time, she did not worry.
Once, so very long ago, long enough to make her young bones ache with the age of eons past, a friend had come to her in a dream. They had not yet met, but they loved each other as surely as the night loves the stars. This was not that story - Ami could not remember that story for all the magic in all the worlds. But this would do.
She knew the moon, and the moon knew her.
“Hello, princess,” said the white rabbit.
The princess paled. “Y-you speak.”
“I do. Where are you going?”
“There is a beast that threatens my kingdom. It must be stopped, and I have studied very hard.”
“Studying is a noble thing, but it will not protect you completely,” said the rabbit. “Give me some of the food you carry, and I will help you.”
The rabbit was a hungry one, indeed.
As her fingers fly over the keys, the young lady’s eyes look through the screen to see the story beyond. She is not creating it so much as she is breathing it onto the metaphorical page - and with each breath it takes new shape. It gains new life.
It has to be perfect, after all.
“You are smiling, princess,” said the rabbit. “Now. I said I would help you, and so I will. You are a princess of ice and cold, but cold is only a weapon against the self, not against the world. You must warm the beast.”
“But... I have nothing warm,” protested the princess. “I have never been warm. I am not sure what warm is!”
“What melts the ice?” asked the rabbit. Then, before the princess could answer this nonsensical question, the creature was gone, blended back into the snow like a secret that intended to be kept.
The blue-haired girl just needs to focus on typing, and she sets her mind back to it as she eats the next egg. It’s cold. Hadn’t she warmed the eggs? No. She must be misremembering. Focus. Just keep typing.
The beast is waiting.
And then it Roared.
The Roar was permafrost and a deep, killing chill. It was the cold that creeps beneath the skin, and it was more than that, it was familiar, because it was the frost that creeps into the hearts of lonely young girls when no one sees them for themselves. It was doubt, and it was fear and it was loneliness, and the princess knew the beast in an instant, because she had made it, one day of isolation at a time.
Emotions had been too much trouble; they had distracted from her studies, and so she had exiled them, one by one, out into the cold. That would have been the end of it, had she not lived in a kingdom where magic fell as freely as snow. The things she had rejected found each other and came together, and now, they were going to destroy her.
Outside, the window to her living room - the window to everyone’s living room - frosts over. Like all the windows in the Integra's arms, it is not truly attached to her room - but it is within her field of vision - and right now that’s enough. Simple things like time and space are no obstacle to a memory. And this is something more.
But the ice beneath her was not as cold as it had been. The princess looked down, and saw that where she had fallen was a thin film of water. And the water had spread, not very far, but far enough to show her what she needed to see. Ice is frozen water, and water wants to move. Water melted the ice. Movement melted the ice.
If the beast was her own frozen heart, then she needed only to move it.
“The moon is a beautiful girl with snowballs in her hair, and I love her, which means I know what love is,” she said, taking a small step forward. The beast looked confused, and it did not Roar again. “I met a talking rabbit while I was looking for you. It made me smile. It ate all my apples, which was very rude of it, but I gave them to it, so I suppose I should not resent their loss. It was a funny thing.” Her mouth twitched. “How it hopped! Like it thought it was larger than it was.” And then, much to the surprise of both herself and the beast that she had crafted so carefully, so unknowingly, she laughed.
The beast took a single step backward, whining. The princess sighed.
“If I can love the moon, I can love you,” she said. “I am sorry I did not love you properly before. I will try to do better, if you will let me.” Then she reached out her hand, and placed it against the great beast’s snout. “I am sorry,” she repeated.
She glances back at the screen, going over her writing one last time, checking it for errors in vain. There are none - she did not type this - it typed itself and she was a conduit. She nods her head once. This is good. She hits submit, and like that it is sent on its way to the Academy’s English Department. Noone who knows her has ever described Ami as vain, but she knows this was right. She has done well.
As she closes the lid on her laptop and goes to prepare for her day, someone in the Kohoku Public Academy opens the submission and stares. They’d hoped for talented help - they’d gotten an intervention.
It took the princess several hours to climb back out of the ice. By the time she emerged, the sun had already set, and there was her old friend the moon, shining like a snowflake against the sky.
“I am not afraid now,” she said. “Is this what you meant?”
The moon did not answer. The moon rarely does.