Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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

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?”

Seinen Kakumei Utena takes place in the anime’s continuity, but will also incorporate certain elements from the movie; on top of that, prominent characters from Mawaru-Penguindrum will be making their appearances starting in this part.   Set ten years after Revolution (and weeks after M.P. ep. 24's Fate Train Transfer), the matured Duelists will react and battle against the Ends of the World amidst real life adult problems.  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.  The thread for Seinen Kakumei Utena on the Rose Garden forums is here.

p.s. This part contains my take on both MP's Child Broiler and SKU's Nemuro Hall.
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 Three: Prince, Interrupted - Prelude

The kitchen’s fridge was cold, the kitchen’s fridge was stocked; the kitchen’s fridge was Antarctica-condensed and at its very best – so much so, that the two apron-wearing blue penguins currently lazing within its confines wanted to never leave it, wanting instead to snack on forever within this ultra-cool sanctuary.


A crack appeared as the fridge door got pulled opened by the shivering Chu-Chu, currently decked in a miniature Eskimo’s fur coat.  In his tiny paw was a pentagon-star-shaped paper note, which the monkey mouse then passed into Number Two’s blue flipper before scurrying away out of sight.

“Kyu!”  Reading the note, Number 2 then pulled Number 3 out of the fridge with it.  Together, they hopped onto the countertop, grabbed the broad box of donuts, and exited the kitchen.  As the creatures made their way down the hallway, they passed by the dinning room and its loudly agitated occupants, passed the dark-skinned woman and the pink-haired man pushing a food service cart towards said dinning room, up the spiral staircase, past the white-painted, red-rose-lined washroom door displaying a scarlet “OCCUPIED” sign, and towards a bedroom with a shiny, stylized pentagon star bearing the letter “H” hanging upon its wooden door.

The screams from the dinning room came right as Number 3 opened the star-adorned door for Number 2 to carry the donut box inside.  Unfazed, the creatures stepped right into the dark, glittery interior, and up towards a girlishly ornamented bed veiled under red canopy curtains; two young-boyish silhouettes could be seen curled up face-to-face on the bed, each hugging a penguin to his chest (one black, one blue, beaks meeting in a kiss) . . . words, spoken in precocious, pre-pubescent tone, drifted upon the tranquil space (strangely unaffected by the noises outside) as tendrils of smoke:

“If there exists a god who listens, I want to ask him this:
“Can people do nothing but to embrace their own fates?
“And, suppose someone is to go against fate,
“Ignoring their predetermined gender and role to become someone they weren’t born to be,
“Will others still accept them as being human?
“I can’t stop thinking about the word fate . . .”

Even as the words flowed, the bedroom door closed seemingly on its own, blocking off the view and sound from within its dreamy confines.  Outside, the screams from the dinning room continued to climb both in the way of pitch and hysteria.


It started out with them looking at him, and him looking back; thus how they had stayed for one mercifully wordless moment.  Then came the screaming, the rushing off to throw up in revulsion, the muted looks of horror, and the tenuous orderly calm of their ten year reunion got shattered like glass.  

“Utena!”  Nanami, prone to hysterics even as a grown woman, pointed a shaky finger at him like he was covered in live roaches.  “You . . . you’ve . . . what the fuck?!”

“Don’t you swear at my Utena-sama!” Wakaba, his best friend from another lifetime, snapped at the blonde with startling violence, before turning towards him with a force smile that looked uglier than even her worst crying face  “Oh Utena-sama, just . . . just . . . what the FUCK?!”

Prior to seeing them again, Tenjou Utena had already dreaded his old friends’ possible reactions to his current maleness more than anything.  And now that he had already seen and heard for himself their revulsion against him, he felt a metallic coolness slowly but surely stabbing through his person, going in the back and coming out upfront, keeping him upright like an insect pinned upon invisible cardboard, helplessly awaiting eternal damnation.  With his entire body now stiffened from the neck down, he could turn only his accusing glare towards the one responsible – Himemiya Anthy; whose hand had tightened around his, whose wisps of stray hair stood at the back of her dark neck as if from static, whose lush tresses would have been rippling upon the still-air by now, if not for the pins holding them down; ever-mysterious Anthy, whose head was lowered like a woman either about to be struck – or about to strike out.  An inaudible sigh escaped his lips – what kind of reaction did she expect from these people, anyway?  Eternal Anthy, having already coexisted so very long alongside this world, should have known better than to think the old gang would readily accept his current self just because they had been school chums for that one (apparently very forgettable) year.  Did she not know that these people were all cogs of the world?  Be they shrewd or playful or idealistic or obsessed, they all were puppets with strings pulled by their world – a world that had always been adversarial towards him, even since before the Revolution, back when he was just some little girl in a boy’s uniform whom all the teachers hated, whom all the boys (with few exceptions) thought of as non-sexual, whom all the girls . . .

“Your . . . face!  Y-You’ve got facial hair

“Oh Utena-sama,
what did that
evil man
do to you?”

. . . words, human words, spoken in voices girly and shrill, spoken in noises metallic and sharp; already Utena could see them – those gleaming, metallic lengths rearing their ugly heads at him in multitudes of hundreds and thousands, appearing so very real to him that Nanami and Wakaba might just as well be faded shadows fluttering across some distant walls in some other place and time as these hateful, hate-filled  swords came thrusting closer and closer and . . .




Juri’s voice – stronger and even more authoritative-sounding than in her teens – blasted out like gunshot, silencing the hysterical girls and shattering his sword-filled vision like hammer against mirror.  Utena saw that she was even more beautiful in person than on Anthy’s glossy magazines, where some of the shots did made her look bulky.   While still powerfully-assured, the frosty aloofness marking her youth had apparently been warmed by the years, as the fencer-turned-model came up towards him in broad, easy strides, stopping such that her smiling face faced his.  “It’s good to see you again, Utena.” 

“Juri-sempai,” he made himself smile back in reply to her earnest voice and expression.  Had he still been that foolish fairytale-obsessed girl he once was, Utena would never have questioned Juri’s apparent easy acceptance of his person.  Now that he was older and wiser, he knew to carefully analyze the “whys” behind how people act towards him; knew, and understood how he should (must) react in return.  “I see you have Shiori-sempai with you.”

From behind Juri, Shiori quickly stood up to bow at him from behind the dinning table she shared with the rest of the stunned group.  “Utena-san, good to see you again.  It’s been so long . . . ” she gestures (somewhat awkwardly) at the empty seats left, “won’t you join us for breakfast?” 

“Y-Yes, Utena-sama!” Wakaba spoke as well, forcing herself to sound normal and failing.  “We got so much to catch up on, to plan . . . ”  

“Ah, please pardon me,” Miki shakily returned from where he rushed off to (with Tsuwabuki tiptoeing thief-like back towards his own seat in his background), and stepped up towards Utena as well.  “Fish went down the wrong way, and I had to get cleaned up.”  The young man offered his pale hand in a blatantly brave gesture.  “So great to see you again, Utena-sempai!”  Utena saw, from behind him, Kozue rolling her slightly bloodshot eyes.

Eyes on the young man he used to think of as a cute little brother, Utena gave him a firm, lasting handshake, and observed the goosebumps now rising on his thin neck with a sort of detached coldness. 

“Utena,” Anthy had by now moved to beside the dinning table, setting the food and drinks down for their rigid guests with the languid, emotionally-void grace of a restrained lady.   “The breakfast meeting is about to start.”

Letting go of Miki (who sagged in relief), Utena walked up towards the group, all the while internally steeling himself to take on the cutting questions that were sure to come.

Surprisingly, there were no questions asked – no words at all – as everyone simply continued their breakfast in silence; the dubious glances, on the other hand, could be seen getting passed around at a much higher frequency than the teapot and the dessert tray combined. Brusquely stuffing face with Unakyu (thus not-so subtly deterring conversation directed his way), Utena saw Anthy sipping her tea while glancing across each and every uncomfortable face around the table at a measured, purposeful pace, before lowering her cup and cutting straight to the point.

“I would like to begin by thanking everyone for coming together and pledging to help the Victor,” smiling thinly, she spoke in a voice as demure as her words were shrewd.  “It’s most rare these days for people to remember favors owed, and be willing to enact repayment.  One gets pleasantly surprised when it still happens.”

Utena saw the ex-Duelists all further stiffening at the ex-Bride’s words; none of them could deny that the Victor had changed their lives for the better (albeit but for a while), yet all of them had gathered here only after being approached with the promise of miracles – solutions to their worldly problems.  They knew they were not helping him for free even after everything he did for them, and there lied the problem that ate at their own comfort zone.

Nanami, offensive spitfire that she was, was the first to strike back.   “And what does Utena need help with?”  Does he now want to turn back into a girl or something?  How did the tomboy get changed into a man in the first place, I wonder?  Was that the Power of Revolution?  Thank god I lost the duels!  Or did Utena just get man-genes from the spirit of Dios?”  She concluded her tirade by letting out the trademark spiteful laughter of her adolescent days . . . one that gradually died down under Anthy’s steady gaze.   “W-What?  You got a problem with what I said?  Talking down on us in that backhanded alien way of yours . . . I mean, sure, Utena did breeze through our lives in that foolishly open way of hers that got us to be more open ourselves, and we all became nicer to each other for a while, closer for a while . . . but her Revolution failed!  The so-called Victor just disappeared off the face of our world, and most of our lives just took bungee jumps like right afterwards!  So what the FUCK-” she punctuated the swear-word with a fist to the table that sent the plates rattling, “-kinda favor did we owe you, either of you?”  The blonde glared viciously back at the dark-featured woman, whose gaze remained steady; whose smile now gained a pitying edge.

“The revolution succeeded; it crumbled afterwards only because those whose lives got revolutionized did not follow up on the revolutionary success.”

Her listeners all jolted at Anthy’s words as if struck; Nanami, in particular, looked like she had just swallowed a frog.  “F-Follow up?”

“My brother was both exhausted and enchantment-bound in the days immediately following the Revolution.  Had even one of you summoned the resolve to seek out Utena then, he would’ve no way of stopping you, and she will be found.  I could’ve then followed your trail towards Utena, used what power I had to restore her body and soul, and together we would returned immediately to Ohtori to claim the awakened Power of Dios and stop my brother’s mad games once and for all.”  Anthy’s voice darkened as thickening clouds.  “Instead, you and the other Duelists simply went blissfully on with your days while giving the Ends of the World ample time to recover, to grow strong.  Do you now blame his present control over your world on us?”

“ . . . present control over our world?” squeaked Tsuwabuki like a trapped mouse.  Utena saw how most of the others had gone wide-eyed at this piece of info as well; not Juri, who just seemed pained and resigned.  Anthy took a dainty sip of tea prior to speaking on.

“I believe Juri-sempai was the first among you to have figured it out: that the world outside of Ohtori Academy – what used to be the real world – now too have come under the End of the World’s control.  Even this place,” she gestured with her pretty dark hand all around the elegant interior of the Victorian style mansion, “an ‘anti-Ohtori’ designed by Chida-san – and later fine-tuned by myself – as a sanctuary against external influences; even its barriers are not completely impenetrable, not against the kind of power my brother has accumulated in the past decade.”

Juri spoke up at this point.  “Some colleagues of Shiori and mine were revealed to be but stage props that could be made disappear at Himemiya’s will.  This reminded me of how, back in our day, even adults from the outside world were also similarly bewitched by the Ends of the World like us boarding students.”  She glanced ever so briefly past the Kaoru twins, before looking Anthy right in the eye. “I have no idea how this sort of thing can be accomplished outside of Ohtori, though . . .” Utena, who had since learned about Anthy’s manipulation of Mr. Kaoru (among many others) after their reunion, easily caught the subtext.

“People are deception-prone by nature,” Anthy faced Juri naturally and without apparent guilt.  “You show them crude illusions, and their eager minds will naturally perfect the images for their hungry eyes.  Remember the ‘miracles’ you saw in Ohtori?  The arena in the sky, the inverted castle, the materializing swords . . . these were all artificial projections running upon power – both his and mine; also used were the humans my brother had sacrificed for use as fuel, but those used to came in insufficient quantities . . . until now.”  Utena calmly noted how the whole group was now looking at Anthy like she had just admitted to being a mass-murder, and how the dark woman still was speaking in casual tones.  “In that period after I just walked out on him, my brother must have been devastated to find himself lacking power enough to control even a little private school.  Having already experimented with spell-bounding outsiders before, he must have somehow discovered his current method of mass-ensnaring humans from the world outside – to make them willingly surrender themselves to him for the things he could offer, and become the fuel to empower his fairytale kingdom unto eternity.”

“Turning humans into fuel . . .”  a wide-eyed Wakaba wondered out loud, tremblingly.  “Something like this-”

“This should not be news to you, Wakaba,” Anthy’s voice now was darkly husky, “ you, Shiori-sempai, Kozue, and Tsuwabuki-kun; you all rode the elevator down the morgue underneath Nemuro Memorial Hall, where the Hundred Boys of the Black Rose-” She got cut off by Shiori’s scream of sheer terror – coming so high in pitch, Utena thought for a moment that the glass windows might shatter.  Juri held onto her girl at once, protecting her like a coat of green around a young hatchling. 

“T-this . . this VOICE!” Shiori now was shaking uncontrollably as she pointed an accusing finger at Anthy.  “You!  You were that dark-skinned boy together with Mikage, the one who stabbed the black rose into my heart and make me . . . make me . . .”

“. . . express your true self?” asked Anthy, and Shiori crumbled like a crushed origami piece within Juri’s strong embrace. “Like I told you before, making people do things they don’t want to goes quite against my nature – though I cannot say the same for my brother.” Anthy now locked gazes with Juri, who eyed her like one would at a black widow right upon their skin.  “Do you know? Nemuro Memorial Hall was the prototype Human Broiler – my brother’s first attempt at mass-producing human fuel; its initial success paved the way for other such broilers to be built beyond the grounds of Ohtori throughout the past decade.  There are at least three such external broilers that I know of here in Japan alone: the Aranjia Agency that you both worked for, with its avocation of unrealistic beauty standards and draining work schedules, is really a front for the Beauty Broiler designed to process vain women and men into pure, mindless fuel.  Had I not interfered when I did, I wonder how much longer it will be before strong, perfect Juri-sempai finally gets grinded down into human petroleum to power my brother’s fancy cars?” She then tittered daintily to her own words amidst their growing horror, its sound as cruel as it was provoking.

“Witch!”  Breaking under the strain, Tsuwabuki shot up from his seat.  “You’re that monster’s sister, you-” He was quickly dragged back down by Miki, who then quickly covered his mouth – in the same fearful way that a parent will cover a child’s mouth when they were held hostages by some gun-wielding criminal.

“You know,” slim elbows perched on the table, Anthy rested her small chin upon the backs of her delicately crossed fingers, “since finding Utena and settling down, I’ve had ample time to again check on the notable Duelists of her generation.  Imagine my un-surprise at seeing how all of you are still living under my brother’s control.  There’s Wakaba,” the pale-faced girl opened her mouth, but Anthy beat her to speaking, “working as an office assistant at the recreation and lifestyle section of a magazine that’s really a subsidiary of a much larger corporation ran by the Ohtori family.  Saionji-sempai works for the same magazine now and then, as a freelance photographer for the entertainment section; both him and the currently jobless Kiryuus-” she paused briefly as if only to observe the redness now inflaming Nanami’s face, “-have financial advisers watching over their accounts – guess which high school alumni they all belong to?  Kozue, the music agent your father set you up with to get you on TV – the one who introduced you to hard drug before overdosing and ‘died’ – now is a music teacher working at Ohtori.”  Kozue looked like this was all old news to her, but her twin had paled at the information.   “Miki, your family lawyer provides legal consultation to Ohtori’s Board of Trustees; he visits the Planetarium at least once a month, though he can only see my brother in his pre-adolescent Dios guise.  Tsuwabuki-kun, you are currently enrolled in the University Division of Ohtori Academy, although you do reside off campus.”  Leaning back on her chair, she now included the entire overwhelmed lot of them within her piercing, scorching gaze. “Last time, your unified apathy had wasted the Victor’s sacrifice while greatly empowering the Ends of All Your Worlds.  This time, will you all finally take action to win back your own lives – even at the cost of helping me, whom you all distrust – so I may help Utena win back hers?”  Back straightening, she faced them more solemnly.  “This time, will you help us help you?”

A heavy stillness hung over the air, as everyone appeared resolutely tight-lipped, but Utena knew this silence would not last.  Just watching them, he could see how their closed hearts had since gone aflame from Anthy’s swaying words – they knew they had no choice but to side with the Victor and the Witch if they were to escape from Akio’s choking grip on their lives.  No longer able to trust Anthy after what she had revealed herself to be, they would have to turn to him, to have him make valid their decision for them. 

“Utena,” Juri, having the strongest personality from among the group, now spoke on its behalf.  “I think I can speak for everyone here that we all respect you for the things you did, and that we’re all willing to help you now, if you’ll let us.  But we will need to know what kind of help you need, and what do we have to do to give you that help.” She cast the full might of her sincere yet piercing gaze upon him.  “You’ve been quiet throughout this entire meeting Himemiya has held for you, won’t you speak up now, Utena?” A still traumatized Shiori – still huddled against the bigger woman’s embrace – nodded along with her words.

Having since put down his chopsticks, Utena wiped at his lips with a paper napkin (in a manner that he hope could rival Juri in assuredness).  “First off, there’s no reason for any of you to distrust . . . well, at least try not to fear Anthy, since she’s now with me.” He still ended up having to gulp down excess saliva prior to continuing, thus breaking the cool.  “Basically, she wants me to have my old body back, but I’m really fine with what I have now-”

“Hey, it’s fake!”

Before he could react, a bright-eyed Kozue had already reached over to pick off the paste-on goatee that he had accidentally wiped sideways.   Wakaba perked up as if having found gold.

“Then Utena-sama is still a . . .” she studied his lean but muscular built, and the excitement drained off her face,  “er . . . not.”

“Tenjou,” Saionji, silent until now, at last spoke up,  “I see that you’ve become a lot more muscular than before, but your bone structure still is small like that of a woman.  And your face . . . it looks like you’ve been cutting fat then applying shadows to make it look so angular.  You’re also wearing sport shoes indoor – are those heel lifts you got inside?”  Feeling the heat, Utena looked away from his intense gaze; the man pressed on.  “This is not some magical transformation that occurred in Ohtori, but something done here in the outside world, isn’t it?”  Lead on by Saionji’s sharp observation, everyone was looking at him now, and Utena could again spot those hateful metallic glints, currently reflected within their wide, baffled eyes.

“Utena-sempai . . . ” Miki, the smartest one among them, finally gathered his wits and started asking the on-point question.  “Have you been going through HRT?”

Lips drawn tight, Utena noticed now Nanami, Wakaba, and Shiori all inhaling sharply at hearing the term; only naïve little Tsuwabuki appeared at a loss.  “What’s HRT?” 

“Why, that’s hormonal replacement therapy, Tsuwabuki-chan,” drawled Kozue, still studying the fake goatie with much interest, “trannies have it to better camouflage themselves as the opposite sex-” Miki’s slap did manage to land this time, sending his high-strung twin backwards and off her chair.  The unexpectedness of the young man’s action set of that reflexive anger in Utena that he quickly had to quench; not quickly enough, it turned out, he could now see the stacks of swords literally framing all corners of her vision, sharp tips pointing towards the oblivious blue-haired man, now towering over his sister in righteous rage.

“If you’re going to be shooting off at the mouth then stay out of our meeting!”

“Your meeting?”  Glaring up at Miki from where she fell, Kozue struggled to get back on her feet.  “You fucking want me out of your life!”  Saionji reached out a hand offering to help her up, and she slapped it away without looking.  “Why do you even bother dragging me here acting like you’re doing this to help me?  What?  Just so you can play the dutiful onii-sama to the old gang, huh?”  From beside Saionji, Nanami could be seen paling at that word, but she did not notice.  “Well, fuck you to hell, you complete TOOL!”  Finally up on her own feet, she stormed off and out of the dinning room.

Rage having since dissipated, Miki’s limbs grew rigid with awkwardness as he turned back towards Utena.  “Oh, Utena-sempai, I’m so sorry, I . . . Kozue, she was-” He was then gently pulled back down onto his seat by Juri.  

“Utena,” she gestured at him to continue. “If you could.”

“Just . . . start from the very beginning, tomboy.”  A now resigned-seeming Nanami too urged him to speak..  “What were those duels the Ends of the World made us fight back in Ohtori?  Just what exactly was the Revolution?  And if you won the final duel, how did you came to be this . . . whatever you’ve become right now?”

Utena saw, from behind the entire gang, Anthy looking encouragingly at him.  Gritting his teeth, he slapped a hand over his forehead hoping to clear the images of rattling metal from his vision, straightened his back, and started saying his piece.   “At the beginning  . . . it is.  There was once a prince living among many princesses all enamored of him, and he had a sister who loved him more than all these princesses combined . . .”


‘To hell with the punk; I’m so gonna leave, I . . .’ 

Angrily stomping up the stairs and onto the second floor of the mansion, Kaoru Kozue was about to go straight to her room and start packing, when she noticed the sound of running water.  Turning her head, she saw a closed, red-rose-lined washroom door displaying a scarlet sign that reads  “READY TO SERVE”.  Drawn by these words (so potentially vulgar for a washroom in such an elegant-seeming mansion), as well as needing to fix her makeup (she definitely needed to conceal the hand print now marring her face), she started walking up towards the washroom . . .


Before she could even react, Chu-Chu had literally flown past her while carrying a big “OUT OF SERVICE” sign, which he then slapped onto the bathroom door.  Somersaulting back down onto the floor, he nodded approvingly at his work, prior to scurrying rapidly down the hall and out of sight.  

“ . . . what the . . .?”

That was when she heard the piano music faintly audible in the air.

It was coming from the bedroom right next to the bathroom, its star-adorned door forced open a crack by a small, crumbled up paper note stuck at its corner.  From her angle, she saw only a narrow line of glittery darkness revealed.  Intrigued, Kozue walked up to the door, and pushed.

What she then discovered made even someone like her – who had gone through all the wonders and horrors of Ohtori and beyond – cry out in surprise.

What lied beyond the door was not a bedroom – not any room at all – but what appeared to be a vast galactic space of seemingly infinite size.   The sight immediately conjured in her memories of the Ohtori Planetarium, where she and that beautiful dark monster had . . .but this seemed so much more vibrant than the projector’s already stunning illusions; so much so, she could not help but step right through the door and into this surreal space.

She did not suffocate like she would have in actual outer space, of course, but nor did she felt any need to breath once inside; nor did she waver walking without ground.  A small creaking sound from behind notified her of the fact that the door was closing on its own; turning around, she saw no trace of any door at all, only that same, infinite-seeming starry space – one that’s enriched by the pristine sound of the piano piece she heard from the outside.  So, this was what Himemiya meant by an “anti-Ohtori” . . .

“Nice to have you joining us, Kozue-chan.”

Turning at the voice, Kozue saw Chida Tokiko playing at the piano – one that was colored in pink (accompanied by a matching pink bench), with a black-rose motif printed at the side.  Beside the piano was a red-veiled bed so little-girl-ish, so mind-bendingly juvenile, she would have torched it had she a lighter in her hand.  Walking up closer, her disgust at this abnormality faded slightly as she saw the two blue penguins – the same ones she had seen before bringing sashimi into the dinning room – huddled together in an insufferably cute pile, fat bellies heaving as they snored in their sleep.

She and Miki used to sleep huddled together like this too, once upon a time.  

On the bed beside the blissful birds was an opened donut box, its contents ruffled as if from the eager hands of young children.  Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Kozue did something that surprised even herself: she picked up a piece of the messy junk food and started eating.

“There’s rose tea on the coffee table beside the bed if you would like some,” supplied Tokiko in her sweet, warm voice.  Somewhat obediently, Kozue poured herself some tea, and sipped; she had since found herself slowly but losing hold on the wild rage she had prior to entering this place, which was beginning to feel to her like a huge pool of serenity easily cooling her fire.

“It’s a nice piece you’re playing, Chida-san,” said Kozue, although she judged the woman’s skill to be inferior to that of her brilliant twin.  “Is that piano . . .?”

“Appearances are merely outward expressions of the moment,” smiled Tokiko, slim fingers tapping across glossy keys.  “A man by any other form still is the same man.”

“Must be handy having a man who can be everything around.”  Eyes downcast, Kozue’s lips quirked in a bitter smirk. “Miki can only ever be Miki, and he still sucks at everything that cannot be put into technical term-”  Suddenly realized that she had revealed way too much to this near-stranger – another “ageless” witch who happened to be the Rose Bride’s friend, even – the young woman quickly tried guiding the conversation towards another direction.  “So what’s this?  Like, a lullaby for your penguins?”

“Oh, these penguins are not mine, Kozue-chan; this is a song I’m playing for their owners, to help them remember.”  Tokiko then gestured into the distance., where two young boys were seen wandering across an impossible-seeming dark horizon fading off at its edges, with two other penguins following closely behind them.  Shadow-cloaked as the group was, Kozue still could see that one of the boys – the one with the longer, wavier hair reflecting blue-streaks – was holding a donut with both hands as he nibbled upon it squirrel-like.  They were walking with their heads high, and their steps were light to the point of being almost dance-like . . . but somehow, watching them made her feel lonely.

“Remember what?” asked Kozue, concerned without understanding why: she was never big on kids . . . although these two were around the age she and her twin were back in their Sunlit Garden days, but for a self-centred cynic like her to feel this sort of affinity towards some totally irrelevant strangers . . .

“Their way back home,” replied Tokiko, her voice and expression strangely faraway.  “All the princes I’ve known tend to forget that.”

A light, whining yawn came from the penguin marked by the number “3” as it turned in its sleep – a movement that revealed to Kozue the small piece of photo it was previously sleeping upon.  Picking it up, she saw that it was a picture taken of three children – two boys franking one little girl – standing in front of a huge aquarium tank filled with swimming penguins.  The blue light from the tank had cast everything into monochrome tableau, but Kozue still could make out the two boys to be the same ones as those currently walking under the stars.  Flipping the photo around, she saw the childish handwriting scribbled on its back:

I’ll never forget; never ever.
I love you, nii-chans.

. . . onii-chan . . . onii-chan . . .!!

Unexplainably, as if a stopper had loosened from somewhere within her construct, Kozue found herself crying for maybe the first time since that ruined concert from her childhood – the one where the brother she thought she could always rely on failed her; the hateful memory she had been struggling to forget via sex, via drugs, via the passing of years and youth, yet never could; never ever.

Just why was this making her feel so . . . moved?   

“Nee-chan, do you have brothers?”

Sometime during her crying, the boys once wandering in the distance had since moved up to the bed, and were now facing her.  Even through tear-blurred vision, Kozue now could see how these children were not really shadow-cloaked due to lighting; rather, the entire expanse of their flesh was pitch blank as if absent from existence; only their hair, colored in reddish-brown and dark-blue, could be made out from their “silhouette-lite” features, upon which hung the identical elementary school soccer uniforms they currently wore.  The penguins following them – one black, one blue – now were flanking them on either sides, their bead-like eyes unreadable as they watched her.

“You look like a sister, Nee-chan,” said the “boy” with reddish-brown hair, his narrow arm placed around the thin shoulder of the dark-blue-haired one, who was still eating the donut.  “Can you be our sister too?”


Extra! Extra!

Ah!  That modeling gig we did last night was soooo fly!

So very fly, that we’ve come flying right back to our old theatre roots!

Well, a profession that pays by clothes alone could send any sane person flying back to their old roots.


Do you know, do you know, do you wonder what we know?

What do frogs and princes both have in common?

Is it the princess’s kiss? 

The muddied feet? 

Or is it . . . ?


Shall we go? 

Shall we go? 

Shall we tell them what we know?

. . . but!

What of the barriers standing in our way?

Barriers?  What of the witches standing in our way?

No matter!

Where there’s a will . . .

. . . there’s a way!

                                    And . . .
                        . . . so . . .

            . . . we . . .

. . . go-oo-oo-oo-oo!!!

End Part Three

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