Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 Utena / Penguindrum Fanfic – Seinen Kakumei Utena, Part Two

Excerpt: “The revolution succeeded; it crumbled afterwards only because those whose lives got revolutionized did not follow up on the revolutionary success,” said the Bride, her words setting their closed hearts aflame. “This time, will you help us help you?”

After what seems like an eternity of non-fic writing, I have again written something in tribute of this timeless shoujo anime classic.  This is a work dedicated to the passionate, wonderful people at In the Rose Garden, which even now remains the coolest place for Utena fans to hang out online.  Seinen  Kakumei Utena takes place in the anime’s continuity, but will also incorporate certain elements from the movie; on top of that, characters from Mawaru-Penguindrum will be making their appearances starting in this part.   Set ten years after Revolution and away from Ohtori Academy, the matured cast will react and battle against the Ends of the World amidst real life adult problems.  The entire story had already been planned out in draft, and the speed with which further parts gets posted will depend on the kind of feedback this story might receive (please C&C using the blog’s "comments" function).  The thread for Seinen Kakumei Utena on the Rose Garden forums is here.

p.s. I’m still on the outlook for other places to post this, but I truly don’t know what other archives with reasonable traffic there are to post Utena fics . . .

p.p.s. Look up the "Seinen Kakumei Utena" label in this blog to search for all available parts of this fic.
On to the fic:

Seinen Kakumei Utena

Utena and its characters belong to its various owners.

WARNING: Parts of this work contain depictions of transphobia, controversial shoujo fantasy trans situation that in no way reflects real life trans people, and misogynic magic attack leading to forced masculinization

Part Two: The Fruits That Could Have Been

There was nothing beyond her sleep.  She was sleeping the sleep of the drained, the voided.  Asleep without dreams, she slumbered in the darkness after too much light, the light said to be-

“. . . I’ve told her, again and again!  I’ve told her not to involve everyone like this!  How is this any different from what he was doing? But she-”

“We’ve all come willingly to help you; we’re the only ones who can.”

Two voices, one high without being feminine, the other low and decidedly masculine, cut through the blankness of her mind, and revived in her thought possesses and memories that had lied dormant till now.  Mind working anew, she began waking amidst the loudening sounds of talking.

“I don’t need help!  I’m fine the way I’ve become, and nobody in my new life knows!  I-”

“Are you running away?”

“ . . . just don’t worry about me anymore!”

There were sounds of china breaking, of bodies slamming against wooden floor, of struggling, before a near-silence – broken but by strained breaths – ensued.  The lower-pitched voice was the first she heard speaking again.

“Are you running away?”

“ . . . I don’t want them to think they need to feel sorry for me.  Can’t you understand? I don’t want them to be dis-”

“They’ll never be disgusted with you; not you.  They’ll only be disgusted with me.”

“ . . . don’t say that.”

“Whatever you want to hear, keep you head high.  Did you not promise her that the two of you are to shine together in this time and place, ten years after Revolution?”

Eyes snapping open, she jolted up standing in a defensive stance – one that had been ingrained into her through the many years of fencing training from her childhood and youth – and quickly accessed her surroundings.

She was alone in a modern Victorian-style bedroom suite, one that remained decidedly feminine in spite of its sparse furnishings.  Cut roses, petals pristine as the pristine walls, could be seen scattered about the desk, the window stool, and parts of what she could see through the opened bathroom door in artful disarray; it took her still-hazy vision a moment to realize how they were all subtly lacquered.  Curiously, she poked at a rose with her soul sword, and found its supple petals to be crisp as eggshells . . .

“… what the hell?” exclaimed Arisugawa Juri, voice ending in a shout.  It was indeed the blade of her spirit held in her hand, the very one Shiori had once pulled from her chest while possessed by the black rose signet, the very one Ruka had -

“Shiori?” she called out while looking frantically around the rose scattered room. “Shiori!”

A flash of light from a corner of her vision sent her whirling towards the source.  It was the full-length mirror on the bedroom door, reflecting the morning sun beyond the window, along with that of her own image: curls loosened, face bare, body clad in a housedress one could sleep comfortably in.  Juri was certain she could not have looked any more ridiculous wielding her renaissance-style soul sword while in this getup.

With that blessed sweet sound, the mirror-door flew open as her Shiori – cleaned up and in house wear just like she was – rushed in and practically dived into her arms like a frantic bird.  “You’re okay!  You’re okay!”

“Shiori,” Juri had to control her own breath to hopefully maintain her assured bearing (if she was to display even hints of uncertainty at this moment, fragile Shiori will break). “We’re both okay.”  

Nodding frantically at her words, Shiori wiped the sweat and teas off her eyes.  “When I woke up, I was already in some bedroom wearing these clothes.  I heard you calling me, and I-”.  She suddenly noticed the sword in her hand.  “Juri, is that-”

“My soul sword.”  Juri’s studied the physical manifestation of her character strength with pensive eyes.  “I don’t even know how it came out.”

Looking somewhat wistful, Shiori clasped her small hand over hers, fingertips touching the sword’s handle.  “It must have something to do with our very unusual ride on Himemiya-san’s van.”  A crease appeared between her brows.  “Did she know that strange light would knock us out?  Why did she show it to us in the first place?  She called that van ‘him’ . . . and Mikage’s name was on the plate, along with a black rose motif.  She then said this Chida-san is ‘his’ rightful driver, and that you’re mine.”

Juri snorted.  “That last past has to be awkward phrasing on her-”

A startled gasp from Shiori cut off her unfinished statement.  Glancing down, Juri did a double take as she saw her soul sword shrinking rapidly within her grasp.  In no time at all, it had become something small enough to fit on her upturned palm – an electric car key reminiscent of the one Anthy had used on the Mikage flower van, except the rose motif is maroon-colored instead of black.   They studied the transformed item in awe.

“This is . . .”


Both turned towards the still open door to see the agelessly small Chu-Chu waving cutely at them from where he perched upon Himemiya Anthy’s shoulder.  Anthy, now looking very domesticated with her hair pinned up (albeit in a less rigid style than that of her Ohtori days) while wearing a large apron over her nondescript housedress, offered the two a sagely smile.

“A sword, a hat, an apple – a soul by any other expression still is the same soul,” she said.  “It’s now a car key because that’s what will be needed for upcoming events.”

What kind of upcoming events?” asked Juri, again standing guardedly in front of Shiori to face the dark woman, whose eyes narrowed as her smile deepen.  “There were also a whole bunch of question you’ve left unanswered even now.  If you do want our help, you should-”

“We’ll be talking about this over our breakfast meeting,” she said.  “The other Duelists have gathered and are already down at the dinning room.”  Shiori looked like she wanted to say something, but Anthy spoke first.  “The clothes and accessories you wore yesterday are clean and in the laundry room.  If you deem your current wear to not be sufficient for seeing old acquaintances, Chida-san has prepared new clothing for you both here in these closets.  I’ll let you two get decent.”  She then left closing the door behind her.

It was only afterwards that Juri realized how neither they nor Himemiya had greeted each other good morning.

“I was going to ask her who changed and cleaned us, or if she used some magical witch power to transform us, or something.”  Looking disconcerted, Shiori walked up to the closet and started sliding its door open.  “Himemiya sounded so certain we’re going to change into what Chida-san has bought for . . . oh . . .”

Juri took a look in the closet’s contents herself, and had to forcibly suppress the whistle that she was about to sound. Whatever kind of person this Chida person was, whatever Anthy was plotting, she was not going to refuse Euro high-end casual wear just there for their taking.

A few minutes later, the two were elegantly dressed and already making their way down the ivory-toned spiral staircase, where each downward step brought them closer to the noises coming from the dinning room.   Already she could pick out Nanami’s voice, shrill and impatient just like all those years ago; Saionji’s voice had turned even craggier than before, albeit the tone was more controlled and civil; there was some young man’s voice whom she though she should recognize, but could not; then Miki’s voice, now sounding huskily sultry . . . wait, that was Kozue . . .

“ . . . appreciate everyone’s patience.  Yes, this meeting is taking place here at my house, but Himemiya-san is the one with the full plans.  It really is better to wait for her to come down before we commence . . .”

They were walking up to the high arc doorway (one framed by delicate tendrils of thorny, lacquered rose vines) leading into the dinning room, towards the speaker with the cultured, lady-like voice.  From her angle, Juri saw a woman who could best be described as “gamine personified”: small face, long neck, and a body delicate enough to carry a vintage-chic slim-fit suit dress.  Yet, in spite of her elegant beauty (so luminous under the natural daylight), there was something sinister about her presence.   Maybe it was an overtly antiquated quality, like she was an old Hollywood screen siren on film, or a post-war pin-up girl in print – the glamour and charm remained with the image captured, but not . . . the musing got cut short as the woman had since turned towards them, smiling a gracious hostess’ smile.  

“Arisugawa-san, Takatsuki-san,” she walked up to meet them at the doorway, extending a delicate hand towards them both.   “Chida Tokiko, a friend of Himemiya Anthy and Tenjou Utena.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.”  They exchanged handshakes, during which Juri quickly glanced past Chida Tokiko and at the occupants of the dinning room.  

Indeed most of the old gang was present.  On impulse, Juri studied the girls first, comparing their physicality to Shiori’s and even her own.   There was Kiryuu Nanami, tackily groomed like a generic blonde on daytime TV; Kaoru Kozue, enticing albeit a little too goth in the eye-liner; even Shinohara Wakaba was here, fresh-faced even as a young woman . . . with her old acquaintances in the background, and Tokiko right in front, Juri abruptly came to realize what was off about the woman: her entire person lacked vitality.  While her features were indeed more beautiful than that of all three girls combined, and her manner more refined, Chida Tokiko simply lacked the vibrant freshness of a living young woman.  She was just like any of those lacquered roses around the house: eternally stunning when uncontested by live plants, but ashen in comparison to even a fresh-picked leaf.

As if reading her thoughts, Tokiko’s smile gained a playfully self-depreciating edge.  “I see you’re every bit as sharp as your friends say you are, Arisugawa-san,”

Not quite friends, thought Juri, but her focus remained on the peculiar entity she currently faced.  “Chida-san . . .”

“When I was young, I labored to keep flowers in eternal bloom.” Eyes downcast, Tokiko gestured at the vases full of preserved flora decorating every corner of the place.  “Now that I’m old, I mourn forever the fruits that could have been, but never were.” 

Strangely, Juri felt no fear towards Tokiko.  Rather, something about what she said roused deep empathy in Juri’s chest; and she knew she was not alone, with Shiori holding back a choking sob from beside them.  Still, there were questions that needed to be asked (for this woman might pose danger to them still).  “So are you like Himemiya?  Is that why you two are friends?”

“Arisugawa-san,” Tokiko’s melancholy lifted, so apparently amused as she was by the questions asked. “Himemiya Anthy is more than what human words can adequately convey, while I’m merely a preserved woman of my own making.”  A tender expression came upon her face, one that almost managed to liven up her person.  “As for why I call her a friend now, it’s because she gave me something I thought was lost to me forever.”  

“M-Mikage . . .”

Following Shiori’s shakily raised finger, Juri inhaled sharply at seeing an enlarged black and white photo hanging above the wall of the dinning room.   It showed a shorthaired Tokiko seated beside a freckled boy waif in what appeared to be the inside of a greenhouse.  Behind them stood a fine-featured, bespectacled man with shoulder-length hair – Mikage Souji, looking a few years older than how she remembered him back in Ohtori.  The texture and resolution of the image, along with the date scribbled at its corner, indicated that the photo was over three decades old.

“I knew him as Professor Nemuro,” Tokiko spoke on, wistfully.  “To many, he was a robotic scientist who turned into a monster.   To me, he was simply-”

A car’s horn, sharp and urgent, sounded from the general direction of what should have been the garage.  At the sound, Tokiko’s eyes widened like that of a mother hearing her child crying in the other room; all the still-life woodenness was lifted from her features in that unexpected moment, and she looked vibrantly human then.

“Please excuse me,” the woman quickly bowed even as she was hurrying off towards the source of the sound, leaving Juri and Shiori behind with their old schoolmates, all of whom tight-lipped as uncomfortable silence ensued.

Under their collective gazes, Juri too found herself at a loss of words.  Since leaving Ohtori with Shiori, she had had no contact with any of the Duelists, nor had she heard much about any of them since.  For there was, amidst the vigorous struggles that became daily routines, an unspoken consensus between them not to dwell on the past or its people – the future they want, and only that, was important enough to occupy their hectic thoughts.  Those assembled here were obviously not strangers to her, but they might as well have been considering how none of them had anything to do with her life for the past decade.  They were friends that could have been, but never were – the hardest group for anyone to break ice with, more so in her case.  

“Sempai,” Kaoru Miki, the closest to her in the old days, was the first to open his mouth, “Nemuro was the name of the Memorial Hall.  It’s the place holding the seminars that became a ruin overnight, the one that we all forgot about!”  An androgynous slip of a young man now, he spoke to her as though time never had passed, and they still were as familiar with each other as was at Ohtori. 

“The place where Mikage-sempai – or maybe his real name is Nemuro – stabbed those black roses in our hearts and drove us to try and hurt Utena-sempai and kill the Rose Bride,” Tsuwabuki Mitsuru, now matured into a copper-haired preppy, followed Miki’s lead, setting the tone for a less awkward reunion.

“Whatever his real name, he has to be generations older than us,” stated Saionji Kyouichi, a solidly handsome man now wearing his long locks in a tight braid.  “And, he was already an adult in that vintage pic.  There was no way he should’ve been able to pass himself as a schoolboy when we were at Ohtori, but he did.”   

“Chida-san herself looks to be about our age even today,” Wakaba frowned lightly as she pinched her lower-lip.  “Could the Chairman have turned them into undying zombies with his demonic powers, like in those horror flicks?” 

“Why, I’ve yet to see a flick where zombies can turn into cars,” chuckled Kozue, somewhat too wildly, “I mean, have you seen that pink van he became?  Every bit as square as he ever was.”  Steadying herself, she then faced Juri and Shiori more properly.  “But where are our manners?  It’s the distinguished Juri-sempai, whom we haven’t seen for ten years!  Let’s show our ladies’ lady some looooove!”  And she was already out of her seat and leaping straight at the bigger woman amidst Shiori’s startled scream.


The roar impacted Kozue like a gunshot, freezing her less than a feet away from the stunned Juri before she was to slump to the floor, slacked.  It took Juri a moment before she realized that Miki was the one to have generated that harsh sound.

“Miki-kun . . .”

“I’m sorry, Juri-sempai,” muttered the agitated young man as he rushed forward to try dragging his twin up and off the floor.  “I thought I had cleared her of all recreational substances before we came here last night.  She must’ve managed to slip something past me to get high with after all.”  He then whispered to his sister, now clawing at the floor as if under demonic possession.  “Kozue, get up on your own feet please!  You’re embarrassing yourself-” A vicious claw swipe to his face cut his sentence short.

“Fuck you!”  Kozue snarled up at her brother like a wild animal cornered.  “You never fucking cared about what kinda shit I got into on my own!  It’s only when your elite friends are watching that I become an embarrassment to you!   You fucking hypocrite closet case fag!  You think I don’t know what you’ve been up to with that chicken-hawk family lawyer?  Telling the court I’m unfit to manage my share of the inheritance . . . you money gulping cocksuck!  You would’ve kicked me out already, but daddy had my name and only my name on the property, so there!”

Face twisted from savage rage as Juri had never seen on him, Miki pulled back his hand as if to strike the now hysterical Kozue.  To her continued shock, it was Saionji who stepped up and sleekly grabbed onto Miki’s slim wrist.

“Miki, if beating your sister up will get her to kick the habit, I’d beat her for you,” said the much bigger man, as Miki started to tremble at what he almost did in front of everyone.  “But it won’t.  I know addicts: beatings will only drive her even further down the addicted path.  And I know you; you’d only end up hurting yourself even worse than you’d ever hurt her.”  Letting go of Miki, Saionji picked up his now subdued twin like she weighted nothing to him, and sat her back down on her chair.  Kozue remained glassy-eyed throughout her being moved about.

Juri, for her part, moved hesitantly up to the young man she once knew.  “Miki . . . ”

Teary face scrunched up, Miki cried with the despair of a boy at the end of his world.   “She won’t quit, sempai, not after having been hooked on the stuff for ten years.  Father actually knew about this back when he was alive, but he bribed the school to turn a blind eye to Kozue’s habit.  Since then, she’s been spending money like water just to keep shooting up.  And now that our parents had both passed away, I’m the only one who takes care of her, and I don’t even how to go on-” Juri had since drew her old friend into her embrace, hushing him and patting his heaving back in a manner so familiar, she startled herself.

“Shhh, Miki, it’s alright now . . . let’s get back to the table.  We’re about to have a breakfast meeting, right?  Let’s all eat first, then worry about stuff later.” She ushered Miki towards the long dinning table, with Shiori following from right beside her.

“Words of wisdom from the plus-size model,” muttered Nanami, idly toying with her chopsticks.  While not herself offended, Juri noticed the pointed glare Shiori was directing at the blonde, and kicked her lover’s heel lightly as they got themselves seated.   Shiori composed herself, and turned pensive.

“Ten years ago . . . that was around the time when we got kicked out of Ohtori, Juri.”

Juri nodded grimly, still gently patting a shaky Miki on his back.  “The period immediately following Revolution, when we had to quickly put the whole thing behind us, because our lives abruptly got swarmed by problems.”  Her voice went heavy with regret.  “We did not went after Utena, because she took a backseat to our own survival.”  She glanced all around at the rest of the group.   “Was it like this for everyone else?  I’m asking because if we all got saddled with problems that kept us from finding Utena at the same time, then we can be certain that Ohtori Akio was the one who disrupted our lives, again, to prevent us from finding the Victor.”

Wakaba was the first to answer her.  “I wasn’t having any special problems at the time; just that my Dad got transferred overseas, and our whole family moved with him out of the country.  I did wrote back to Tatsuya asking him if he heard anything about Utena’s whereabouts, but after a few month even we stopped writing each other and drifted apart.  I would have completely put my Ohtori days behind me by now, if not for Anthy approaching me asking me to come help Utena.  She’s offering to give me whatever I name as prize, but I’d come regardless since this is Utena-sama!”  She ended her words with a cutesy beam – one that Juri felt was a little too exuberant even for her.   

“But for Akio-san to have caused something like that, he needed to have at least partial control of an international company’s overseas branch.” Tsuwabuki scratched his chin, obviously trying to look older and wiser but failing (albeit cutely).  “Is it even possible for a high school Acting Chairman to have this kind of far-reaching influence?”

“Is it still too early for your brain in the morning?”  Nanami snapped at her former errand boy, who cowered like the child he once was.  “The thing that calls himself the Ends of the World is not even human!  His influence might reach every corner of the globe for all we know!”

Tsuwabuki rubbed the back of his head self-consciously.  “Umm . . . anyway, I forgot about Utena-sempai pretty soon after she was gone.  I mean, nobody even told me much about the Revolution, and I guessed I just stop thinking about it on my own.  I was just some brat then.”  He shrugged helplessly.  “Oh, and I came here with Miki-sempai and Kozue-sempai, cause Himemiya-sempai said she’d help . . . us get through our problems if we help her.”  Beside him, the Kaoru twins remained unmoving as woodcrafts as they stared down into their empty plates in silence.  Watching them from across the table, Saionji let out a heavy, punctuated sighed.

“I suppose it’s our turn to provide convenient exposition.”  He glanced sideways at Nanami – the one seated beside him.  “What’d you say?  Can I tell them?”  Nanami, who had been defensively antagonistic for all this time, bit down on her lower lip and nodded grudgingly.  Saionji turned back towards the rest of them.  “I don’t know if you guys remember, but Touga always did have the tendency to breakdown emotionally when things get rough.”  He received blank looks from everyone (except Nanami).  “Oh C’mon, since we all remember Mikage now, some of you should remember how Touga was skipping school and hiding in his room for like the entire time we got hounded by the Black Rose Duelists – all just because he got defeated dueling Tenjou.” 

Juri frowned.  Now that Saionji mentioned it, she did recall something like that: Touga going catatonic after using all the dirty tricks up his sleeve and still getting defeated by Utena, Nanami’s subsequent role as Proxy-President of the Student Council in support of her Onii-sama, and the entire deal forgotten along with all memories related to the Black Rose Duelists – until now.  In hindsight, it was cold of her and Miki to just let the elder Kiryuu rot in his room without caring; while not friends, they were acquaintances after all, and cunning as he was, Touga was really only a seventeen year old boy who could be (and was in fact) badly hurt.  Apathetic; that was how all the Student Council members really were, be they coolly rational as herself, or sweet mannered as Miki.  Was that why none of them could defeat a swordplay novice like Utena during the duels?  Because what mattered upon the arena in the sky was neither skill nor power, but the character and the heart?  Utena, the Victor to the very end, was the only one among them with the capacity to care about other people . . .  

Was apathy the reason why none of them had gone after Utena immediately after the Revolution?  There were days, weeks even, between Utena’s disappearance and her own expulsion from Ohtori; had she gone after the Victor using the intelligence network she still had before her own downfall, could she have changed history for the better?  Could she have then saved Utena, saved Shiori and herself, saved everyone?

“Anyway,” Saionji went on, “the Kiryuus and myself did indeed find our lives in turmoil soon after Revolution – about a week or so after you girls got kicked out.  I won’t go into details of what had happened, but believe me it was bad.  Touga . . . he got damaged the worst, and hasn’t really been the same since.”  Something about the way Saionji use the word “damaged” reminded Juri of how Anthy had described Utena's current situation.  But before she could prompt Saionji to elaborate further on Touga’s plight, Tsuwabuki had eagerly cut in.

“Touga-sempai was skipping school a lot that year.  Nanami-sama was unhappy all the time, but she wouldn’t tell me what was wrong no matter how I asked her.”  He gulped at seeing Nanami’s baleful glare.  “T-that’s about the time when we drifted apart, and Miki-sempai had been my closest older friend since.”

“All three of us left Ohtori right after the school year ended,” Saionji’s lids were closed as if weary.  “Like with Arisugawa and Takatsuki, everyone from Ohtori took a backseat to our problems as we struggled to stay afloat.”

“Stay afloat?” blinked Wakaba, confused. “But you were all special kids coming from old money-”       

“We were kids,” Nanami spat out the last word with much agitation.  “It took a long, uphill battle before we got the money that should’ve been ours in the first place.  And by that time, Onii-sama was already-”


Turning at the sound, everyone did a double take at seeing what appeared to be two apron-wearing blue penguins carrying a long sashimi boat through the high arc doorway.  Setting it clumsily down the long dinning table (with Shiori and Tsuwabuki quickly helping to avoid a spill-over), the penguins then bowed servant-like at them, before turning to leave upon webbed feet.   Juri noticed the numbers “2” and “3” being written on the two creatures’ respective backs as they exited the doorway.

Kozue broke out into giggles.  “Raw fish served by penguins for breakfast, now that’s living in style.”

Tsuwabuki tentatively picked up a slice of tuna toro via the “public” chopsticks, tried it on his own plate, and “ooh-ed”.  “Wow, this is really fresh and sweet!”

“Don’t touch the fugu,” warned Nanami, poking suspiciously at the colorful, lushly arranged sashimi pieces.  “The penguins might’ve been the ones to cut the fishes for all we know.”

“Well, if those penguins are good enough chefs to make these intricate floral formations with the puffer fish, I gather they’re good enough to avoid cutting the liver.”  Mouth full, Saionji picked up a label off the boat-platter, and swallowed before he read off it.  “Licensed Usuki non-toxic fugu: safe to consume.”  At his words, multiple pairs of chopsticks shot forward to pick off the pieces like ravenous bird beaks. 

“The animal accomplices just prove it,” flitted Shiori, nervously picking up a slice of farmed salmon herself.  “Chida-san really is like Himemiya-san, whatever that is.”

Bride.  Witch.  Flower blossoming at the Ends of the World.  Back in the day, there had been scattered pieces of rumors floating around Ohtori regarding Himemiya Anthy, and Juri herself had utilized her eyes and eyes trying to dig deeper into the girl’s background; but none of the information she got could really define what the Rose Bride really was, at least not by rational understanding.  

“And that . . . car, is that really Mikage?” 

Shiori seemed to be worrying endlessly over the human/car issue, and Juri (who got handed salmon roe seaweed salad by her weight-conscious lover) could not say she blamed her, not after the overwhelming car ride into the Light of the World, not after seeing the soul sword turning into a car key . . .

“Those women said it is,” the word “women” came out of Nanami’s still chewing mouth laced with distaste.  “Uttered some gibberish about how he could only function as a mechanical being after getting ‘graduated’ by Akio.”

“Anthy basically said it was some guilt/shame combo that made Mikage unable to function in the real world as a human being.” Saionji clucked his teeth.  “Akio apparently screwed the poor guy over real bad.”

“Chida-san said Mikage can still appear as an autistic human, and had asked us not to get scared should we see him around this house,” supplied Miki while helping his shaky-fingered, high-strung twin fill her dish.  “I haven’t seen it . . . him yet, though, so I don’t really know the extend of the damage.”

There was the word again.  Damage.  This time, Juri decided to speak up before the direction of the conversation was to stray off again.

“Has anyone seen Utena?” she asked. “From what Himemiya told us, she too is suffering from some kind of damage.”

“Anthy said Utena will be joining us this morning,” said Wakaba between mouthfuls of onion-wrapped urchins.  “We’re still waiting for them.”

“Truth be told I was also looking forward to seeing what became of Tenjou,” said Saionji between sips of his rose green tea.  “She really was the best among us, in spite of her sheer stupidity.  No wonder she can draw people towards her like fire draws moths.”  Juri could taste very diluted levels of bitterness in his tone directed at Utena, even in this here and now.

“Pardon me, but where is Kiryuu-sempai?” asked Shiori.  “It sounds to me like he should be here.”

“They told us Onii-sama is here, that’s how they got us to come,” snarled Nanami while struggling to pry the meat off an oyster she picked.


“Touga went  missing a while ago,” explained Saionji.  “Himemiya approached us saying she had found him, and that he had chosen to stay with Tenjou and help.”

“But help with what?” Nanami tore the oyster’s flesh apart with much violence.  “We’ve been here since the middle of the night and I still haven’t been allowed to see my Onii-sama, let alone Utena. Those women are acting all secretive; why can’t they just give us some straight answers?  I mean they obviously need our help-”

“We do need and appreciate your help, Nanami-san; pardon us if we made you feel otherwise.”

All turned towards Anthy’s voice.  The apron wearing (former?) Rose Bride was standing beyond the high arch doorway with a food service cart carrying miso soup, desserts, and more green tea.  While her left hand was on the cart’s handle, her right hand was pulled to the side – it was clasped onto a slightly bigger, much paler hand belonging to someone off view from the dinning room’s occupants.   As if only now noticing how her companion was hiding off to the side, Anthy tugged at the hand. 

“Come on out,” she said to that person; gently, pleadingly.  “There is no need to feel awkward around them.  These are all old friends who know and understand you; they are here to help, Utena.”

Everyone waited with bated breath as Utena was slowly but surely dragged out by the latter’s deceptively delicate-looking hand and into plain sight.

What followed was a moment of utter, eternal-seeming silence, before it was shattered by Nanami’s and Wakaba’s high-pitched screaming.  Juri thought she heard Kozue’s strained moaning, but was not entirely sure as her focus stayed mainly upon Miki and his fleeing the room with a hand to his mouth (with Tsuwabuki quickly following him).  Shiori and Saionji both managed to remain silent, but the stunned looks on their faces might prove even more hurtful than any sound they could have made; Juri dreaded to know what kind of expression she herself was currently betrayed by.

Tenjou Utena, the Victor of the Duels, the one who liberated their troubled youth, whom they had not seen since, now stood before them looking big-shouldered, thick-necked, flat-chested, broad-waisted, and hipless in unisex casual wear; the long pink hair was now cropped into a pageboy cut, framing a handsome face that sported a small goatee.
The girl who wanted to be a prince had now become a man.

End Part Two

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