Category: Abuse (mild). Angst. Deathfic. Language.
Disclaimer: Shoujo Kakumei Utena does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.
"I love beautiful things," the petite, blonde girl told her smaller and fairer companion.
The two sat side by side, reclining on an intricately carved stone bench that must have seen stranger couples than themselves. The girl was demure, refined, and undeniably beautiful, but while her appearance was that of any young, well-bred woman, her eyes were not. They were slanted, piercing, and they gave off a cold, almost hostile air, thinly veiled by her natural charm.
Her lunch mate, however, was everything the girl seemed to be at first glance. The small boy who picked lightly at his lunch box was bright, sunny, and almost glowed of childhood innocence. Pure- he seemed to embody the very word. His eyes reflected this in their wide, trusting naiveté.
"You do?" said a soft voice, only beginning to deepen in the inevitable force of puberty.
The girl nodded, a self-important gesture which served no other purpose than to accentuate her words. The boy knew she loved beautiful things, just as she knew he knew it. She continued anyway, relentless in a voice which bordered on shrill.
Their conversation, if it could be called such, continued. If a passing student had bothered to listen for even a moment, it would have been clear that the dialogue was more of a monologue. She talked. He listened. She questioned. He nodded. She asked him for his opinion and he patiently waited until she gave it to him. All in all, it seemed to suit both of them fine.
The lunch bell rang out, clear across the bustling campus of Ohtori's Academy, and students and teachers alike began their trek from the sun-filled gardens and fields to the classrooms and offices, which were equally as bright.
The girl stood, and students around her were briefly blinded by her bright, pastel uniform which she insisted upon wearing. It was her due as a member of the Student Council, and she intended to take it. Her blonde companion, though more servant than anything else, stood as well. They were a comical pair, what with his head barely reaching past her slim waist.
"What class do I have next, Tsuwabuki?"
"You have gym next, Nanami-san. Your class is playing tennis, so I brought your shoes and your racket." He smiled up at her and pulled out a duffel bag from beneath the bench. She took it from him, exchanging it for the remains of her lunch, then stood impatiently as he disposed of the boxes, packing them neatly away to be cleaned later. Sighing her irritation, she silently passed the bag back to him, and took off to the courts in stride, leaving the little boy struggling behind her under the weight of his burden.
Some time later, after he had done everything his Princess demanded, Tsuwabuki came back to that same bench they had spent their lunch period at. The stone offered him comfort in a way that no other creature on earth could, and in ways that no one else understand. Permanente, unchanging, invincible and invulnerable to those around it, it symbolized everything he thought a big brother should be. It symbolized everything he wanted to be. And perhaps he hoped it's constant influence in his life would further him towards that ideal.
He seated himself lightly, taking care to make no sound, to disturb nothing around him. He fit there so well that a passerby would never have noticed him. He belonged.
One elfin hand reached out to caress the stone, smooth from the harsh weathers that had tempered and refined it. The other pulled out a small rose-sealed writing tablet, and finally he managed to tear his attention away from his musings and focus on the book completely. Leafing through its timeworn pages, he found the section he was looking for. It was a list of sentences, some long, some short. They spanned every topic, every ideal. Philosophical, preferential, educational, or simply silly, they all bore one common thread. They had been spoken by his princess.
Producing one black, ballpoint pen, he added the phrase, "I love beautiful things," to their ranks, right beneath the one that read, "The only way to cure an illness is to first get rid of the disease." He remembered when she'd said that. He remembered it all too well.
It had been late one weekday, when the sun hovered low in the sky directly above the horizon, almost as though it couldn't make up it's mind whether it wanted to bathe the earth in it's light for a few more minutes or give in to the ever pressing threat of darkness. Nanami had been standing by her window, eyes downcast and staring as the jostle of students milled below like a swarm of angry insects.
He'd though that, not bothering to state it aloud, when suddenly she spoke up. Her voice was unusually bitter, perhaps even a little cynical as she regarded the mass of tireless pests. Bugs, she'd said. All of them are bugs. And they're swarming… they're an illness, Tsuwabuki, and the only way to cure an illness is to first get rid of the disease.
Then she'd tossed back her pretty blonde head and laughed softly. Not her almost trade mark laughter with a hand placed to one side of her mouth as she declared her mirth to the whole world, no… this laughter was soft, musical, and as he tilted his own head to one side, he imagined that he could hear words, the lyrics of her soul. That was when he knew he would do anything for this girl who hid herself to the world and only opened up to her brother… and himself.
A soft squeal brought him back to his senses, to the present, and two bright blue eyes turned to watch as a bicycle, sorely in need of oil, wobbled up the hill. It tottered to one side and it's occupant let out a soft oath as he steadied himself.
Twilight had stolen across the sky, bringing with it a sense of closure. The time he had made for himself was now running into the rest of his life, and quickly he packed himself up and headed off in the direction of the Kiryuu Manor. His time, as all else, was hers.
Days passed in a daze and life continued as it did. The phrase, "I love beautiful things," seemed to have made a permanent mark on his mind, for in his own innocent way, he formed the following idea.
"I want her to love me. She loves beautiful things. If I give her the things she believes are beautiful, maybe she might love me too."
Tsuwabuki knew everything about Nanami, from her musical preferences to her tastes in cuisine, and he knew that she loved nothing more than pictures. He'd seen her stand for an hour staring at water-colored terrain on the canvas of some obscure museum, and he'd seen her room, plastered with paintings, photographs- murals of life that he could barely hope to understand.
From that idea, he formed what he was best at. A plan.
That day he forsook the time he spent pensively on his stone bench and instead made his way to the art room (one of the many) of Ohtori. Peeking his head curiously around the door, he found himself confronted with a veritable warehouse of paints, pastels, pencils, and paper, not to mention the thousands of other supplies used in the creation of expression. It had several students as well, one of who spotted his straggly mop of golden sunshine. She extracted herself from the canvas which surrounded her and skipped merrily over to the door.
"May I help you?" Her voice came sweet, high, and melodious.
Eying his surroundings with all the inquisitiveness of a newly born child, he hesitantly nodded. His only response, for he had learned from Nanami to be brief when addressing those older than he, was, "I want to learn."
The smile that broke her face was almost enough to make him forget his mission. But Nanami's smile, he thought to himself as he followed his eager new sensei, was burned into his memory, and nothing, not even the smile of the pretty older girl, could replace it.
Perhaps a week later, bearing the fruit of his heart in the form of a small, framed canvas, Tsuwabuki finally felt confident enough to present his work to Nanami. His sensei, the pretty girl whose name he'd learned was Yuri (though she had been unofficially dubbed Genki no Bara by all), told him he was talented. She said, perhaps fifteen minutes after he'd picked up the delicate brush and feathered his creation onto a piece of rice paper, that she would have gladly died, twice over, if only she could have had his ability for the first sixteen years of her life.
He didn't know if she was right or not, or if perhaps she was exaggerating to appease the emotional needs of a child for approval, but he did think that maybe he was a little better than most his age, if only that. He painted what he saw in his mind, and if the brush and paints and oils flowed slightly surer, so be it.
Hefting his light burden, he trotted up the steps of the Kiryuu mansion, slipped unannounced through the oaken doors, and made his way to the extravagantly carved marble entrance which he knew to be Nanami's. He knocked, once, and waited for her answer.
An impatient, "Who is it?" made his heart skip a beat, and he spoke timidly.
"It's me, Nanami-san."
"Tsuwabuki? Oh, fine then, come in. This had better be important…"
He pushed the door softly and stepped over the threshold without a sound. Now that he was here, in front of that cool, impassive gaze, he found himself fidgeting slightly. His voice caught in his throat, and though he tried and tried, his voice refused to obey him. After an eternity of silence, Nanami spoke again.
Sprawled, yet somehow seeming all the more a lady, she rolled her eyes once. "If you can't tell me what you need, it's not all that important, is it? I'm busy right now." She shooed him off with one delicately shaped hand. "Go away and come back when I have time for you."
He nodded once, still unable to find the voice to argue, and stepped out. The closing of the door behind him sent a tiny shiver through his back. His plan lay in shambles around his feet. Not knowing what else to do, he left through the same manner in which he'd entered. Nothing changed, but from that day forth, like clockwork, Nanami began to receive anonymous envelopes and packages which bore, what most would call, masterpieces of artwork and imagination, at least one a week. Their subjects, like their origins, were as diverse and mysterious as any anomaly ever left unsolved.
Everything went as planned, and just as he had seen her do before, each time she receive one such work, she would study it intently, with a foreign look of longing in her eyes. He'd blushed once as he found those slim finger's caressing his pseudonym signature, "T. Sun."
His latest piece had been a stroke of symbolism on his part, though he'd never believed himself to be a very complicated person. Born of acrylic onto the flesh of canvas, he gave life to a creation that perhaps even he himself did not understand the full depths of.
It was a ballroom, full of lights, merrily twinkling, and in that ballroom, a masquerade. The players, so he'd coined them, were reflections from the mirror of his mind, and they were reflections of those he was close to, those he knew about.
The main focus of the image was a girl garbed in radiance, golden and warm, but whose cloak sheathed her in a protective wrap of gloom. She hung, quite precariously, on the arm of a beautiful man, with the face of a cherub and the eyes of a beast. Surrounding them, perhaps in some semblance of unknown order, (maybe some kind of hierarchy- maybe some kind of demented chess board) were others.
Perched in a corner reclined a true angel, complete with wings and a halo of golden locks, whose avid, watchful eyes damned without words. Draped on the floor by the angel's feet lay a boy, innocent, whose sad eyes reflected sorrow and sadness. He was Death, but so too was he compassion, and all knew it- Death whose tears ran like the river Sphinx. Clinging to the shadows, a monster named jealousy dwelled- his smiled seemed as bitter and caustic as his hair was the shade of his envy. And enthroned above them all, the king and queen, whose royal pinks and purples ranked them as different, even in present company.
Last, the only character in the act who Tsuwabuki recognized. Himself. The artist. The boy who gazed up at the golden girl, and the half-man-half-god, and who wished he could be them. The boy who stared silently in longing, wishing that for once in his life, or at least in theirs, they might notice him.
But it was a picture.
And they never did.
He'd sent it to her, and her eyes had been so enraptured that he found it nearly impossible to breath. Days and days passed, and still she gazed at it with unconcealed fascination. A child's attentions were a difficult thing to keep, but he'd found the key. That image. She couldn't tear her thoughts from it any more than she could her eyes.
Weeks and weeks, she'd just gaze. She found her fingers move of their own accord to touch the cool, rough surface. Constant contact, constantly there. What she saw in it, he couldn't understand. She didn't know he was the artist, didn't care. But the image held her still.
She loved looking for the truth, in her own perverted way, and in that portrait she found something she understood perhaps. She called him over one day, tilting her pretty neck at a slight angle towards him, then asked him in a voice he could never refuse, "What do you see, Tsuwabuki?"
And he told her what he saw.
"I see you, Nanami-san. I see you, Touga-san, and the rest of the Student Council."
He reached forward to touch the image, but the child-like fingers which had created it faltered, and his brush sent the picture clattering to the ground. A dent marred its formerly flawless framework.
Her reaction was violent and she lashed at him for his clumsiness. "Idiot! How dare you? How DARE you? Get out of here! My God, get out of my sight! I can't believe I let you near me! You make me sick. You make me SICK!"
His chest burned and he fled. Tears wanted to come as he ran aimlessly, but somehow his pride, buried in the depths of his soul, refused to allow him that pleasure. Her words replayed in his mind.
"You make me sick."
He found himself cutting through the crowds, ending up, somehow, at the entrance to his dorm. Something nagged at him, something important.
"You make me SICK!"
The same fingers which had painted his damnation clawed at his shoes and socks, leaving them in a trail as he closed the door to his room silently. His lungs felt constricted and he popped the top few buttons of his uniform.
"You make me _SICK_!"
Vaguely he recalled Nanami-san telling him something about being sick. What was it? What was making his head spin and his stomach do little flip-flops? What…?
"YOU MAKE ME _SICK_!"
And it hit him, harder than even he could have imagined. A whisper tickled the back of his throat, and a thought took shape. "I make her sick. Illnesses make people sick. To cure an illness, you have to kill the disease. To cure Nanami, I have to kill what makes her sick."
"MAKE ME SICK!"
Barely aware he was moving, he pushed passed the art supplies which had occupied his room as of late, making his way to the bathroom. He tugged a stool over to the medicine cabinet, clambered on top, and fished around inside for a few minutes. Finally his fingers closed around what he sought.
Numb fingers fumbled with the lid of the container, mocking the "Child Proof" symbols it boasted, and white tablets, like marbles, poured into his cupped hand. He played with their weight, reveling in their feel until he decided these were the ones he wanted.
He hadn't even realized he was whispering her words, that word, until he glanced in the mirror and saw his mouth move. He began to pop the white tablets into his mouth one by one, chewing them 'til the chalk-like taste no longer mattered. Numbness spread throughout his body.
It started in the tips of his fingers, his toes. It crept with all the wariness of a cornered animal at first, but soon found that it need not fear. Numbness, coldness, to kill the disease. It felt… lonely. He wondered if this was what the disease felt like when it died. Did it feel anything? Did it matter? Did anything matter?
He giggled softly, his body folding in on itself as he curled up into a fetal position, prone atop his bed. His feverish, slurred voice seemed distant from his body.
A soft rap came at the door to Tsuwabuki's dorm room, and after a period of silence, there was a soft creak which signified that someone had stepped through the threshold. A delicate head full of blonde locks attested to who.
Nanami's gaze was curious, but steady. She had never been in Tsuwabuki's quarters before- she had no idea what to expect. However, the stacks of CDs and cassettes, bookshelves over piled to the brink, and piles of various canvases and brushes and paints were certainly not what she'd anticipated.
She perused the musical selection briefly, her eyes coming to rest on titles of every and any genre: classical, rock, metal, punk, alternative, he had them all. The books on the shelves broached every topic from religion to death to an improved state of living. They were by famous authors, and some by authors she hadn't ever heard of before. With a start, she realized some were in languages she didn't recognize. Literature, math, science, he had volumes of information on any topic.
Finally she looked at Tsuwabuki's art supplies, feeling a little nervous twist in her gut. Some pictures had been piled off to the side, discarded without care, and she _recognized_ them. That style, that feel… and picking up a rough sketch of her favorite work, the masquerade signed be one Sun, convinced her. Tsuwabuki had been the one sending her the artwork she so cherished.
That made her feel even worse.
After her little outburst, and after the several minutes it had taken her to calm down, she realized how ridiculously childish she had seemed then. Tsuwabuki hadn't purposefully tried to knock the painting from her hands. If anything, she should be angrier at herself in being so careless as to let go.
So she would find him, apologize to him, and make things as they were. Despite her treatment of the boy, he was, in many ways, her little fair angel. She did care for him, truly. And she would not loose him over anything so trivial.
Slanted eyes spotted his little form curled up on his bed, elfin hands coiled tightly into the linen covers. He looked so innocent, so at peace, that it irked her to disturb him. But needless to say, she was not one to be kept from her purpose. She leaned forward, laying her hands on shoulders that seemed surprisingly cold.
She shook him and his little body flopped forward like a rag doll. Something jostled on the covers, and she looked down, surprised to find an empty prescription bottle there.
Then it clicked.
Fumbling, afraid for what seemed to be the first time in her life, her fingers came to rest on his neck. Where? Where was it? The tiny little movement that would tell her that everything would be all right. Everything would turn out OK.
Where was it? Where? Something to tell her he was alive. Something. Anything.
She found nothing.
Her eyes looked down at the writing tablet on the night stand, opened to a certain page. As she skimmed it, only one sentence caught her interest.
"The only way to cure an illness is to first get rid of the disease."
Dry eyes wavered, and she replayed her ranting.
"You make me sick."
She'd said he made her sick.
Illness. Sickness. Disease.
And a though hit her, a thought that had her double over in hysterical laughter. But that laughter was replaced by sobbing all too soon.
It was for her love that he wanted to grow up, but it was for his love of her that he damned himself to childhood, for eternity.