Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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

Seinen Kakumei Utena (it's Seinen, NOT Josei), crossing with Penguindrum starting Part 2
Rating: T for mature and sensitive subject matters.

Timeline: 10 years post Revolution, a few weeks post Fate Train Transfer

Notable "Mysteries" Covered: Nemuro Hall, Child Broiler, Million Swords, Fate Train, Shadow Girls, Invisible People
Summary (or rather, 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 (fic thread here), which even now remains the coolest place for Utena fans to hang out online.

Other sites hosting this fic includes: 

Seinen Kakumei Utena

Utena and Penguindrum characters belong to their 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 Six: Prince, Interrupted – Main III

The moment his soul sword touched the joined blades, against which the swarm of flying, adversarial swords were hammering violently against, Saionji Kyouichi immediately understood the reason behind Anthy and Chida-san’s strained expression – one that Tenjou’s friend Wakaba (a spectacularly brave woman whom he shall forever in his mind associate with Joan of Arc) now also displayed.

It was agony.

Agony, like the ones from getting blow-beaten by his father’s merciless kendo bokken, exploded across his hand despite none of the Swords of Hate even touching him.

“It’s like . . . fire’s burning where I’m holding the hilt,” wheezed Wakaba, who nonetheless kept a firm grip on her soul sword with both hands, its sharp tip now repeated impacted by the hate-filled sword points.

“The Swords of Hate inflict phantom pain,” explained Chida-san, her once orderly short-fringe now ruffled from the wild winds swept up by the crashing blades, “vivid impressions of hurt even when the body is actually unharmed.  Even with these soul swords largely buffering its effects, remnants of the faux discomfort still can impact our psyche.”

“If this is what the Swords feels like ‘buffered’, then Utena-sempai really is incredible for staying coherent even after a decade under their effects,” said Miki, wincing in apparent ache as he kept his sword up with the rest of those raised. 

“How it must have been like for Utena, especially in those seven years before Himemiya found her,” murmured Juri, looking strained and regretful but still upholding her perfect fencer’s stance. “Back then, If only I had -”

“Juri,” drenched in sweat, Shiori-san held the taller woman’s gaze and shook her head (all the while still holding up her own soul sword); the latter’s moodiness lightened, as she affectionately ruffled the smaller-woman’s maroon-haired head.

“Different people will sense different kinds of agony – usually the kind they fear the most – from the Swords,” said Anthy, rich serpentine long locks flaring as she now emitted an ethereal glow that Saionji knew was already largely soothing everyone’s senses, “but it’s all in the mind.  And, the more people there are to shoulder the pain together, the less painful it will be for everyone.”  

“Just where is my Oni-sama?” demanded a red-faced Nanami, who strained to uphold both soul sword and dagger against the brutal metallic onslaught.  “Why isn’t he here with us when his soul sword is right in your hand?”  Beside her, Tsuwabuki was panting like a beaten puppy as he had a hand holding up one of Nanami’s (the one carrying the heavier sword), while struggling to hold onto his own blade with the other.

“Kiryuu-sempai entrusted his soul sword to aiding Utena,” replied Anthy, eyes focused on a red thread of light tied around the soul sword’s hilt now slowly coming undone.  “he will show up when he chose to.”

“What are those Shadow Girls?” asked Tswabuki, wincing as he observed the endless stream of swords sailing into the Shadow Girls’ shadowy depths (still oblivious to the swords, they remained engrossed in an animated discussion with the featureless Shadow Boys over their story, all the while being entertained by the apple-juggling acts currently performed by the penguins (two blue ones numbered “1” and”2”, joined by an unnumbered black one) hanging around).  “I see them around Ohtori, sometimes even around the University Division . . . they don’t seem to know that the swords are stabbing them, and they don’t seem to care about what’s going on even . . .”

“The swords can only hurt those who feel,” murmured Tokiko, not quite answering all of the boy’s questions.  “Without memories, without hearts, those three are beyond feelings, beyond sadness  . . . beyond joy; they crave stories only out of a base instinct to fill the void inside; with the enchantment over this sanctuary working to dull their perceptions, there is little way for them to know . . . or care. ”

Juri turned towards Anthy then. “So these swords – immortal vengeful ghosts that had been tormenting first you, then Utena, for all this time, are just going to disappear off into some void, and never to return?”

“The swords are going into the shadows’ darkness,” Anthy’s voice sounded distant, faraway, “with the trio attuned to my brother, theirs is a darkness that leads to the Ends of the World.”

Even apparently pained by the swords, Nanami’s lips quirked in a vicious smirk.  “. . . I like what I think she’s saying.”

“So do I,” replied Juri, strained expression pensive still.  “But when it comes to beating the likes of Ohtori Akio, there’s just no way it could’ve been this easy.”

Anthy remained silent through the girls’ exchange; Saionji had to agree with Juri’s assessment of the situation: if it was this easy, Anthy would have saved Tenjou and defeated her brother years ago.  There would definitely be even tougher trials ahead, before Tenjou and everyone gathered could truly break free from the coffins the Ends of the World had locked them into.

“How long is this sword-baiting act gonna take anyway?” asked Nanami, impatient after a moment of silence.  “We can’t keep this up forever.”

“For as long as it needs taking,” replied Anthy, facing the large-as-ever swarm of swords with creased brows, “this really is the only answer I can give you at this moment.”

Nanami opened her mouth as if wanting to say something more, then decided against it as she quietly continued on enduring the “buffered” pain along with the rest of the grim-faced, wordless group.

Noticing that Wakaba’s upheld soul sword was now wavering from her depleting strength, Saionji unthinkingly reached out a hand to support the petite woman’s shaky wrists.  It was only when the young woman turned toward him wide-eyed and blushing that the brash man realized he might have acted inappropriately.

“Ah, Wakaba-kun . . . pardon me if this seems-”

“O-Oh no . . .” Wakaba quickly turned her face away, her ears red to the lobes, “thank you, Saionji-sempai.”  Despite the pain she had to be under, there was something bashful about her bearing – something that alarmed Saionji greatly.



“I’m sorry,” he said, and the girl’s wrists stiffened in his grasp.

“For what?”

“For what happened in Ohtori . . . for knowing that you liked me at the time, and still allowed you to, even knowing I could only hurt you in the end.”

“Why hurt me?” she finally asked after a significant moment of silence; her face still was turned away. “Is it because someone special like you will always refuse a nobody like me?”

Saionji inhaled deeply at the young woman’s misconception.  “I’m no one special, Wakaba-kun; I never was.  You see those scums showing up on the news getting arrested for beating up their wives and kids, for harassing their girlfriends even after they split?  That’s me.”  The others present were noticeably paying attention to his talking, but he had to speak on.  “Touga and I . . . we’re not capable of being good boyfriends or husbands, not when-”

“Shut up!” Wakaba whirled her head around to glare at him, showing a wild, uncharacteristic hatred reminiscent of the time when she forcibly dragged out his soul sword after suffering his cruelty.  “You’re just saying these things to push me away!  You’re not attracted to me cause you think I’m not good enough for you!  You . . .” Her words ceased as he tightened his grip on her narrow, vulnerable wrists.

“Do you know how I treated Anthy back when she was the world to me?” he asked, his expression somber to the point of being ominous.  “Were there no rumors at all about the things I did to her – in front of other people, behind closed doors?” Out of a corner of his eye, he saw Anthy lowering her head amidst some of the others’ curious glances; in front of him, the hatred had drained off of Wakaba’s expression, replaced by numb shock.  “Wakaba-kun, you were the free rabbit that risked the hunter’s wrath to take his stray hunting dog into your own den; the dog, even while grateful, still ended up biting you in the end, because biting others, even those he thought he loved, was his lowly nature.” 

“But you’re not that kind of person now . . . are you?” asked Wakaba, her voice almost childlike in its current vulnerability.

“I don’t know,” replied Saionji, his voice a dull murmur.  “I haven’t really been with any woman – not even for casual flings – since Ohtori.”

“What’d you mean ‘really been’?”

Knowing that Wakaba still was badly hurt by his past actions till this very day, Saionji decided that he owed her an honest answer even on something this personal.  “After leaving Ohtori, there’ve been times when I screw people so I can get things from them in return.”   From his angle, he saw Nanami clucking her tongue as if exasperated by his stupidity in revealing this in front of a roomful of (now shocked) people.  “I won’t call those ‘real’.”  At Wakaba’s wide-eyed expression, he smirked in self-depreciation.   “See?  Karma exists after all.” 

Wakaba did not laugh, of course; she simply turned away to again face the many swords’ hateful onslaught, with the singular tear trailing down her profile the only hint of her inner turmoil.  Turning away himself (and calmly noting how a number of his peers were quickly glancing away), he noticed Miki’s downcast eyes, and realized that of everyone here taking on the swords, the boy was the only one to have remained truly “alone” – Kozue, still with them up till moments ago, was noticeably absent from her twin’s side . . .

It was then that the sound of a delicate, rather familiar piece of piano music started pealing through the Swords of Hate’s monotonous droning; startled, everyone turned towards the opposite corner of the now largely damaged dinning room to see Kozue seated at a pink piano (occupying a corner that Saionji was facing from where he sat during the breakfast meet, thus knew to be empty back then), with the ribbon-wearing blue penguin “Number 3” seated beside her on the matching pink bench; together, they played a duet on the instrument, with the girl riffing and scatting along the flowing melody, prior to singing the lyrics:

“Won’t you play for me
Our special melody
And let your fingers dance
On piano keys

“All the birds and bees
Are chasing butterflies
They’re dancing endlessly
In that endless dream we used to hold”

“Kozue . . .” Miki’s expression was one between bafflement and wonder.  Saionji saw that the boy’s soul sword now had visibly transformed into one that surpassed its former glory in both design and aura, and knew Kozue was supporting her twin even as she sang (a song that he now recognized to be The Sunlit Garden with lyrics).

“The melody you wrote for me
With the wind so cold on our cardboard scene
Won’t you stay with me my one and only”

Even as she sang, Saionji realized how his hand was hurting a lot less than before.  Glancing around, he saw that he was not alone; the Duelists have all gotten more relaxed, enough that their attentions were no longer solely on the hate-filled swords (their once overwhelming onslaught now seemed faraway somehow), but rather, on Kozue’s startlingly mesmerizing vocals (even though her piano playing remained amateurish compared to Miki’s).

“Let me sing for you
Our special melody
I’ll be there when you need
Another soul to help you stay afloat

“Maybe we can carry the weight of two
Two hapless fools”

Even with the swords rushing the points of their blades, everyone was looking at the Kaoru twins now; at Kozue, who remained seated at the piano with her back to everyone (her heaving shoulders betrayed how it must had strained her to perform while enduring the hate-filled swords’ hammering) even after the song was done; at Miki, glaring at her from behind.

“Why . . .?” asked Miki, in shivery, teary outrage.  “Why here . . . why now, when I no longer expect anything from you?”  In reply, Kozue slammed both hands down upon the piano’s keys in a blast of dour notes (it was only then that Saionji noticed the black rose motif marking the instrument’s side).   

“This is not about you,” hissed the girl, her voice sounding so rasped that Saionji wondered how she ever sang like she just did.  “Can you still not understand that I can do things for myself, or just for people other than you?”  Penguin Number 3 nuzzled itself against her like a vulnerable child, and Kozue, even while enraged, hugged the cushion-like creature to her side.


“Your Utena-sempai is back; go help already.”

Everyone whirled their heads around to see a visibly ruffled up – but radiantly aglow – Tenjou Utena standing ahead of them all holding his (his and Touga’s, actually) soul sword against the still-enormous swarm of hate-filled blades.  Relieved from the Million’s onslaught, Saioniji immediately felt his own strength returning, along which much of his pain-dulled wits.

“Tenjou . . . you fool!” He tried going up to Utena, but found an invisible, impenetrable barrier of sorts having materialized between them, keeping he and the other Duelists back and away from the action up front.  “You’re not trying to fight these many swords all on your own, are you?”

“That’s my Onii-sama’s sword you’re using, tomboy!” yelled Nanami, likewise struggling against the barrier.  “You’re really putting all the strain onto him by ditching our help!”

“Utena!”  Anthy knocked against the barrier like it was a physical wall.  “This is too much for you alone to handle, let us-” Her voice got cut off by Utena’s almost majestic roar, as the latter abruptly brightened to the point that the entire space was now engulfed in burning light – one that had a damaging effects on the Swords of Hate, apparently, as the hateful blades now all were visibly crinkling up like paper under fire.  “Utena . . .”

“Everyone!” cried Utena, as he slashed and dashed against the now much weakened Swords of Hate, many of which shattered before they could even bounce off into the shadows, “thanks for helping me come this far; I can take care of the rest now!  Anthy . . . now that there’s less of these things messing around my mind, I can finally remember now . . . back then, when the swords were coming for us, and I asked for your hand, you gave me so much more. . . you gave me-” 

Sounds of metallic hollering – desperate and hate-filled like the sound of a mob under fire – filled the air, as what remained of the swords thickened alarmingly all around Utena and her soul sword – to the point that they were about to cocoon him like they did before; Saionji figured that the weakened monstrosities were now trying to use their sheer numbers to bring down the powered-up Duelist before he could destroy them.

No way in hell he was gonna let that happen – not after the pains everyone already went through trying to save the wench’s pink-haired rear end.

“Anthy!” He called out to the dark-featured woman (former obsession, current coffin-breaking instrument). “Can you make Utena drop the barrier thing?”  Anthy did not seem to have heard him, so focused was she in trying to manually pry through the barrier with her bare, glowing hands.

“Utena!”  Juri, who had since stepped forward, was already slamming her sword against the barrier to resounding effects.  Miki, right beside the tall woman, did likewise.  “Stop blocking us out!  Let us in so we can help you!”   When their powerful blades combined still did null damage against the barrier, even Saionji had to resign himself to the fact that there really was no way for them to reach the sword-occupied Duelist.

“Utena-sama!” Wakaba cried with tears of agitation streaking her face; behind her, Shiori and Tsuwabuki both looked as worried as they were helpless. “Open up please!”

A rumbling sound, not unlike that of a plane’s engine, rose in volume against the sounds of clanging swords and metallic curses, as Utena’s power-shout then blasted over all other lesser noises:

“ . . . you gave me LIGHT!”

A brilliant aura erupted against the wall of hate swords amidst the sound of a grand explosion, crushing a good number of them while repelling the rest backwards and away.  In the middle of the sacred-seeming radiance stood Utena with his sword raised skywards; hair flying, shirt opened, muscled chest alit with splendor, the self-proclaimed “stupid girl who thought she could become a prince” now looked the quintessence of princehood.

“Eternity, Shining Things, the Power of Miracles, the Power to Revolutionize the World, the Light of the World that used to slumber within you, that everyone fought for, up till we finally met at the ends of our world . . . is now MINE!”  Thus proclaimed the triumphant being of light, who now was agilely going after all the hate-filled swords darting all around, smashing their brittle lengths with savage grace in front of the stunned group.   “I have it NOW!”

“ . . . awesome!” Tsuwabuki exclaimed in boyish admiration.  “Sempai is a machine!”

“So this is the Light of the World we were shown on our way here . . . ” Shiori pondered out loud from where she was perched flushed-faced behind Juri, who manoeuvred her soul sword forward experimentally.

“The barrier is down.”

“Utena-sempai is probably too into chasing after the swords to keep it up still,” commented Miki, sounding not exactly relieved.
“Then powerful as Utena has become, he still do leave openings,” Juri’s exquisite face now was shadowy with grimness.  “I don’t like this at all.”

“Well, long as the tomboy can keep this up,” gestured a heaving Nanami at Utena’s dramatic sword-smashing act, “then the parasite swords should all be exterminated fairly soon . . . ” eyes widening as if abruptly realizing something, she whirled towards Anthy.  “He can keep this up, right?”

“I do not know.”  Eyes wide with genuine, almost childlike awe as she watched the glorious entity that Utena had now become, Anthy looked even younger than what Saionji remembered her to be like at Ohtori.  “The Light of the World had slumbered within me for as long as history, but as the sword-pinned Rose Bride, I could access only but small scraps of its power – and that was already more than enough to keep up the projections you all saw at Ohtori.  What Utena is showing us here . . . this is far beyond even what I’ve seen from the Rose Prince back when he was in full flower!  I know neither the vastness nor scope of the Light’s full might; I don’t know . . .”    

“ . . . why didn’t I realize it before?” Utena spoke on even as he went about chasing the Swords of Hate as an agile dolphin after a frantic fish shoal.  “Getting sent to the hospital with my I.D.s and my parents’ savings right after I got skewered, having the fees all miraculously paid for on their records when they discharged me, easily going from one job to another even though I don’t even got a high school diploma, getting infected and sick from treatments at those cheap clinics but always recovering enough to go on . . .” 

It was at hearing those words that Saionji abruptly realized how he was no longer repulsed by the masculine traits the ex-female now displayed; nobody was anymore – not even Miki and Tsuwabuki, who threw up at seeing the trans man only earlier this morning – as gender distinctions had no meaning for someone so absolutely, brilliantly, glorious: their undisputed, princely, Victor

Whoring ways notwithstanding, Touga did turn out to have excellent taste after all.

“. . . never attracting attention moving from one place to the next despite looking and acting weird . . . Anthy, how could I’ve pulled off any of that, if not for your Light protecting me all along?”

“Utena . . .” Anthy seemed to be at a loss for words; everyone else was too, seeing how the Victor had performed the impossible-seeming feat of cornering all the hate-filled swords into one cluttered, shivering mass, which he now was pushing towards the void of the Shadow Girls (blissfully unaware of the dramatic battle wrecking havoc in the now largely ruined dinning room, they now shared donuts and tea with the Shadow Boys, served by the high-intelligence penguins moving freely in and out of the wall) with his duo-strength soul sword, powered by the Light.

“Anthy,” Utena strained to get the words out (the beaten swords, while much weakened, still possessed the mighty strength of numbers),  “I finally understand now . . . life is a fairytale, with dragons and ogres all waiting to come battle us at every turn of the page; the symbols and metaphors we’ve come across so far are all representations of what’s really out here in the world.”  Even while engaged in a supernatural battle against vengeful deceased, his rasped voice now was soft and gentle.  “So it’s alright now, you can be a witch when the needy needs magic, I can be a princess when the weary needs tenderness, and we can both go from being one thing to the next – princes who help the poor, knights who slay the evil – and there’s no need to get pigeonholed by just one role or another - we can be anything that we want to be at any moment, so long as this allows us to help each other to go on living!”   The swords, now being pushed to close proximity of the oblivious Shadow Girls, started getting sucked into their dark void in large droves; Tsuwabuki and Wakaba, teary-faced both, let out joyous cheers while hugging each other like excited fans at a major game (Saionji noted how the two had completely forgotten the fact that they were adults of opposite genders pressing against each other chest to chest).

“Almost there now . . . ” Chida-san, having cautiously stepped up with soul sword in hand, looked poised to help should things went wrong at the last possible minute.  “You can do this, Tenjou-san!”  Seeing how a determined-looking Juri had since followed the older woman’s lead, Saionji quickly stepped up himself, while gesturing for Miki and Nanami to follow suit.

“Everyone . . .” Utena trailed off briefly as he took a deep breath, before looking directly at Saionji as he continued pushing their enemies into the shadow’s dark void, “Saionji-sempai, especially, this is the day . . . I get out of the coffin called Role!”

Meeting the piercing eyes of the one who went from being the fellow victim from his childhood, the rival from his teens, to the awesome godling that he now became, Saionji found his own heart overflowing with passion as he watched Utena push the remaining swords away into the darkness.  At long last, the girl trapped in her coffin now had struggled out of its deathly confines (albeit ending up a girl no more); with the revolutionary precedence set, maybe, just maybe everyone here would have a chance of getting out of their coffins too –even a wretched deadbeat like himself, even a complete mess like what Touga had become since; maybe they could all-  

“Is it really going to be that easy?”

The sardonic, hyper-masculine drawl – one that Saionji recognized even after all these years – startled Utena into almost dropping his soul sword, against which there were no longer anything for him to push nor battle against.  The Shadow Girls –having since absorbed all the Swords of Hate – now were motionless like artfully shaped holes upon the dinning room wall (with the Shadow Boys looking upon them with much uncertainty); within the still confines of their dark “void”, one could vaguely made out what appeared to be a very wide interior space cradling a modest-sized office desk like a too-large shell around a too-tiny yolk; behind the desk sat a familiar-looking man, facing the entire lot of them with his back straight, his dark hands clasped, and his sensuously curved lips curled in condescending mirth.

“Brother,” Anthy hissed the word from underneath her breath, like it was the most malicious of curses; Saionji, for his part, swore out loud.

Even after the battle against the hateful million, after the triumphant return of their born again Victor and Prince, everyone still found themselves facing their ultimate Adversary – who, on top of looking agelessly handsome, appeared disturbingly unscathed even after all the swords they had sent his way

Juri was (unfortunately) right: when it came to beating the likes of Ohtori Akio, there was just no way it could have been this easy.

End Part Six

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