Disclaimer: This disclaimer applies to all chapters of this story. The anime/manga/movie Shoujo Kakumei Utena and characters from said anime/manga/movie belong to whomever they belong to, and not to me. I should think this would be obvious. The following characters (very, very slight spoiler alert) belong to me, and may be used with permission:
Tenjou Nishiki and Nishiko
Kasajima Mari, Mika, and Maki
...and any other characters that do not appear in the anime/manga/movie.
Kagayaku Means to Shine
Anime: Shoujo Kakumei Utena
Primary Pairing: Utena x Anshii
Written: 22 May 2005
Re-written: 19 July 2006
Edited: 18 July 2012
Fairytales are stories, and stories have ends. Or so they like to tell you. But what happens when the story doesn't end? What happens when there is no 'happily ever after' on the last page, only a life left behind and a life yet left to lead? Duels have been won and lost, a princely young woman has come into her own, a witch has learned what kindness feels like. Panthers and songbirds, playboys and wild girls have shed their chains and stand straight and tall for the first time. A power has...or perhaps has not...been granted to the victor. And there is nothing for it but that life should carry on. But we do not begin at this candid acceptance of the inevitability of time. We start with a wounded Prince lying on the precipice, whispering a promise to the Princess-Witch who wounded her as their fingers slip apart...and with the Million Swords that seek to destroy them both.
"Soshite...itsuka, issho ni..."
But Anshii's fingers slipped from hers, and all she could do was lay there, watching as her princess slipped out of her reach forever, falling away from her into endless blackness, still locked within her rose-emblazoned coffin. Blue eyes closed slowly, and she quietly ceased to care. She just lay there, limp, waiting for the swords to come and deliver her from a life that had suddenly become nothing but the burning, never-ending pain of loss and failure. She had failed to resist Akio's schemes, even knowing full well who and what he was. She had failed to protect Anshii. She had failed everything, and only wanted it to end.
The Swords could feel. They could feel the most basic and insistent of emotions, hate, rage, hunger. And as they watched the broken girl who had wished to be a prince, they felt hunger in abundance. They swirled in the air around her, hungry but cautious. The other prince had always diverted them from what they wanted, driven them into the flesh of the witch, which wasn't nearly as satisfying. But this one wasn't him. This one, this girl, was helpless before them. And they would feast. They dove.
The hunger turned to rage. Somehow, this slip of a fourteen-year-old girl, lying on the ground and wanting nothing more than to die, was untouchable to them. They lashed out with their rage, tearing the arena stone from stone until nothing stood. Finally, they ceased and withdrew into unsettled rest. They weren't satisfied - they would never be satisfied - but their rage had been spent, for the moment. They neither knew nor cared what became of the girl who played prince.
Utena fell. She fell, the air tugging at the tatters of her boys' uniform, and didn't even bother to scream. She was too numb to want to open her eyes, too tired to really care that she would probably liquefy upon hitting the ground, hurting too much to even be afraid of the peace that death would bring her. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she wondered if perhaps this timeless, weightless feeling was what Himemiya had desired so badly that night, when she tried to throw herself off of the roof. She felt bad now, for saving the other girl.
'It's taking an awful long time for me to hit the ground...'
There was a faint, familiar tingling along her limbs and she opened her eyes to find herself staring directly into eyes that she knew as well as her own, despite only having seen them once.
"Dios," she breathed, and he smiled, then gently kissed away a tear that had spilled down her cheek, making her smile weakly with the nostalgia of it. She felt safe in his presence, just as she had so long ago. Touching her stomach, covered in blood and tatters of cloth, with one hand, he leaned close once more and breathed soft words into her ear before fading in a shower of white rose petals.
Suddenly, she understood. And it saved her.
Anshii felt the piece of paper in her hand crinkle, and forced herself to relax. She closed her eyes briefly, leaning against the cool stone wall of the apartment building, and tried to force the sudden nervous tension from her body. It had been more than eight months since she'd left Ohtori, and suddenly, finally, she had found her prince again. She ran her fingers through her unbound hair, frowning slightly as she felt the lightness of it and remembered. She'd cut her hair, so that it fell to about her hips now, instead of nearly to her knees.
At first, she'd planned to cut it all off, to return to the dimly remembered days of being young and happy, of shoulder-length hair and freedom and love. But in the end, she'd only cut just over a foot off. Those days were over and done with, and she had a future to look forward to. She smiled faintly at her adolescent worries. Utena wouldn't mind. Utena probably wouldn't notice.
Anshii rubbed her eyes tiredly, and couldn't hold back another smile. No more glasses. Yet another gift from her beloved, departed champion. She'd left them behind in her brother's office the day she left, and never regretted anything less. But now she was just stalling. Taking another deep breath, she gathered up her courage while examining the place that she'd finally tracked Utena to.
Much to her surprise, her prince had fled the country entirely. According to her information, Utena had initially returned to her aunt's home but had left again not long after, ostensibly to study abroad. Anshii had discovered no more details than that, although after finding out more about the other girl's extended family she surmised it had not been a pleasant time. It had come as a shock to discover that not only were Utena's parents and her aunt rather estranged from the girl's extended family, but that said family was a large and very traditionalist group of business moguls, collectively owning a more-than-respectable slice of the Japanese real estate market. It had probably been their money that sent the young woman to Ohtori Academy, and their influence that had removed her from the country. Why, Anshii had no idea.
When she'd discovered Utena's trail again, the girl was attending American high school on a student visa, taking English as a second language courses, and living in a tiny apartment, in a small building, in an area that could be described by a generous soul as, well, 'quaint'. This was where Anshii had finally tracked her to. It was a nice enough building, she supposed, made of faded, patchy red brick in a row of identical, equally old apartment buildings. Quaintly American and totally unlike the Gothic splendour of Ohtori, which might have been part of the reason Utena had chosen it.
Apartment 1-B. Anshii raised her hand and knocked lightly, three times. She stepped back, fidgeting a little, and half-prayed that Utena wouldn't be home, that she could put this confrontation off just a little bit longer, until she was more prepared, until she had thought of answers to all the questions she just knew were coming. She waited a moment, and nobody answered. She almost turned to leave, but at the last second forced herself to knock again. Even if she left, she had nowhere to go – the cab that had delivered her had already driven away.
She had barely taken her knuckles away from the door when it opened, and what she saw there nearly made her faint. Her prince, her champion, her Utena, was standing there, framed in the slender opening allowed by the heavy chain on her door, with her jaw hanging open...and roundly, thoroughly pregnant.
Anshii couldn't decide if she wanted to faint, die, or both. There was nothing in the world that could have possibly prepared her for the sight of this, and the first thought that struck her was that it must have been some kind of mistake. That this wasn't Utena, that she, with her dubious skill in English, had copied the address incorrectly, had misread the placard on the mailbox out front. But one look into those limpid blue eyes, the eyes that had haunted her dreams ever since leaving the Academy, and she knew it was no mistake.
They stood and stared at each other for several moments, neither one of them quite sure of what to do, when suddenly Utena grunted in discomfort, one hand going to her lower back as she winced. The purple-haired girl stepped forward out of pure reflex, only to be stopped by the chain on the door. A stabbing pain went through Anshii's heart when Utena closed the door, although she knew objectively and from the sound of it that the other girl was only slipping the chain. It was over in seconds, and then she was stepping in through the re-opened door and wrapping one arm around her champion's waist to help her back inside. Utena gave her a tired smile as she got settled onto the couch with a sigh.
"So..." she murmured, looking up at the dusky-skinned girl, who stood awkwardly just out of arm's reach. Anshii couldn't help it. The tears sprang to her eyes unbidden and she fell to her knees, resting her head on Utena's lap with a choked sob.
"Utena-sama!" she cried, her tears wetting the pink-haired girl's cotton pants and her breath hitching between bouts of broken-hearted weeping.
"Hey, what did I tell you? No more 'sama'. Just Utena." Smiling slightly, running her fingers through Anshii's hair and scolding her playfully, Utena carried on as if it hadn't been over eight months since they'd seen each other, as if she weren't pregnant, as if Anshii hadn't...but she had, and she continued to sob helplessly as she released all the grief, guilt, and frustration she'd held tightly in check these last months. It was all wrong. She should be on her knees begging for forgiveness, not sobbing like a child and leaning on the prince's strength like she always had before, relying on Utena to make everything right again. Eventually, berating herself mentally, Anshii managed to lift her face from Utena's lap and look up at the other girl. She lowered her eyes again quickly, though – it felt like looking into the sun.
Utena wrapped a loose lock of purple hair around one fingertip and smiled, "Did you cut your hair? It looks nice down." Anshii was interrupted in her efforts to nod when she found herself bursting into tears all over again.
"I'm so sorry..." Anshii cried between gut-wrenching sobs, "I'm so sorry, Utena!" And then she only wept harder, as she wrapped her arms around Utena's waist and her fingers unconsciously passed over where she just knew the scar was, the mark of her betrayal on the body of her beloved.
"Shhh, Himemiya. I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago. It's alright." Utena continued to stroke her former roommate's hair gently until the sobs began to ebb, until Anshii lifted her head once again, until she finally managed to look at Utena's face and produce a small, sad, watery smile. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyelashes matted, her face shining with wetness.
"Utena..." she said it slowly, as if tasting the word without the suffix, and smiled again, a somewhat less pathetic attempt this time, "Utena. You should call me by my given name." Utena nodded.
"Anshii, then. Here..." she produced a handkerchief from one pocket and offered it to Anshii, "Dry your face." Anshii gave a short laugh that turned into a wet hiccup and took the square of cotton, slowly getting to her feet to join Utena on the couch, where she suddenly realized she was exhausted. She'd never felt such powerful or complex emotions before in her entire life. Yet another attempted to intrude, outrage at everything her brother had kept from her, but that one was old hat and she brushed it away without dwelling on it. Taking the opportunity that Utena's patient silence offered, she tried to gather her thoughts as she slowly dried her eyes. But all she could recall was the last time Utena had offered her a handkerchief, and how she had felt. Green eyes hesitantly rose to meet blue, and the gentle affection she found there made her want to cry again.
"Oh, Utena..." she murmured softly, lost in those eyes again. A gentle touch grounded her, Utena's hand cupping her cheek, a thumb brushing gently across her cheek, wiping away the newest tear that she hadn't felt escape.
"Don't cry, Anshii. It's okay. This is real, I promise. Ohtori is nothing but a memory now." Anshii lifted one hand, holding Utena's against her face, desperate to believe that this was the real world, that he held no power over her now. Somehow, she couldn't bring herself to believe that this was really the end of her journey, that she was really sitting beside Utena, really touching her.
Pregnant or not, her champion was undoubtedly the most beautiful person, male or female, that she had ever met or could ever hope to meet. She might be a bit odd, a bit of a tomboy, maybe a little coarse, blunt, and tactless, but there was a core of honesty, loyalty, and beauty that shone from within her like a warm hearth fire, drawing people towards her. She'd shone like the sun in the gloom of Ohtori, and even here in the real world she held the light and warmth of a welcoming bonfire.
Suddenly, Anshii blushed and lowered her hand and her eyes. How could she have been so foolish? Utena was pregnant. One didn't generally get that way all alone. Of course. Hadn't she just been thinking of how amazing Utena was? She obviously had a lover, a boy, someone to share her new life with. She didn't need Anshii. The purple-haired girl could feel her heart straining in her chest, pain radiating outwards from the much-abused muscle as she realized that her dream of sharing her life with Utena was not to be. With the ease of long practice, she slid a mask over her real feelings and forced herself to look calm again, trying to tamp down all the rampaging emotions she'd just finished letting out. The speed with which her demeanor changed was almost ridiculous, as she plastered a polite smile across her face, hoping it was mostly dry and she didn't look utterly ridiculous.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Utena...showing up unannounced like this, how rude of me! I'm sure you must have better things to do, I'll just get out of your way now. Thank you for the handkerchief, I don't know what came over me..." she stood and made to leave, only to be stopped by a firm but gentle hand around her wrist.
"Anshii..." But Anshii didn't turn around. She knew that if she turned and looked at what would certainly be a face full of pity, she would most certainly break down into tears again, and she couldn't afford to do that - not with her face so carefully in place.
Her voice rang with false calm as she answered, "It's alright, Utena! I'm sure you're busy with school and such things, so I'll just be going now..." She tugged on her hand, but despite being away from the duels, Utena hadn't weakened in the least. Her grip was firm and Anshii couldn't break free.
"Anshii, look at me." Utena's voice was firm, and Anshii couldn't help but turn her head, dreading what came next, but Utena's expression held nothing but patience and affection.
"Anshii, you don't have to run away from me, and you don't have to hide your feelings." Anshii's eyes must have widened, because Utena smiled before continuing, "Yes, I can tell when you're being dishonest about how you feel. You can leave if you really have to, but I would prefer it if you came and talked to me. I want to know what you're really feeling."
"Oh, Utena..." Anshii murmured as the hand fell away from her wrist, but she didn't turn around, "You can't know how I feel. I can't tell you. You have a lover now, somebody to care for you...I can't tell you this." She heard Utena getting to her feet, and suddenly arms wrapped around her waist, hugging and releasing her quickly. The warm roundness of Utena's belly was softer than she'd expected.
"I don't have a lover, Anshii. There's no one in my life."
Anshii turned to face Utena, bewildered. "No one? But how..." she glanced down at the prince's stomach, silently questioning. Utena dropped her eyes and looked vaguely ashamed, and the answer hit Anshii like a load of bricks.
"It was...it was him, wasn't it? That time...the roses..." Utena gave a slight nod, and Anshii felt the floor fall out from under her. Her mouth opened and closed, and she groped for something to say, but what words were there for this? How does one apologize for something like this? 'I'm so sorry for having you deliver roses to my brother, knowing he'd push you into bed and rape you'?
She continued to fail for words, until she saw a single tear leak out from the corner of Utena's eye, and then she felt like slapping herself. 'Idiot! She probably thinks you hate her now! Say something!'
"I'm sorry." Utena said softly, "I'm sorry for what I did to you. I'm sorry for what I did with him. I was so confused, and he was so much like the prince I'd always dreamed of. And...and he looked so much...so much like...I knew who and what he was, and I did it anyway. And I hurt you, and now this..." And then it was Anshii's turn to comfort Utena as she wept. There were so many questions yammering about in her head, the noise was deafening. But she didn't ask any of them. Utena was already under enough pressure, and it certainly wasn't her place to add to it.
"Utena..." she began, but the other girl cut her off.
"I could have had an abortion. My family wanted me to. They sent me here when I decided not to. When I realized I was pregnant, my first thought was the same. But I couldn't. In the end, I just couldn't. I couldn't snuff out this tiny little life in my stomach. And I thought maybe...maybe it would look like him. And then I almost did it. But...if it looked like him, I thought, it might be like a piece of...of you. And then it would be okay, because I...because I love you, so much." She fell silent for a moment.
Anshii couldn't help the blush that spread over her face then, and was quietly glad that the way Utena was leaning on her prevented the pink-haired girl from seeing her face. But Utena wasn't done.
"I know, I know! It's stupid, we're both girls, I'm pregnant by your brother, there are so many reasons it would never work and now you probably hate me and-"
Anshii was having none of it. Gently lifting Utena's face from her shoulder, Anshii looked up into those watery blue eyes for a brief moment before stretching upwards and planting a soft, sweet kiss on those perfect pink lips. Pulling back, she smiled at Utena's bewildered expression.
"Utena...for such a smart girl, you can be so very dense sometimes." she murmured, "I love you. I always loved you, from the moment you told me that you fought for Chu-chu's sake and not mine. And I still love you now." Tears were running freely down both of their faces as they embraced.
Suddenly, Utena stiffened in her arms, and Anshii frowned slightly, concerned.
"Utena?" she inquired, but the pink-haired girl didn't respond. "Utena!" she said louder, and this time the response was a soft grunt. Stepping back a bit, she looked up into blue eyes full of pain, and a bit of panic crept into her voice. "Utena? Utena?"
"Anshii..." Utena groaned, "It's time." Anshii blinked.
"Time for what?" The sound of water dripping from the couch onto the floor answered her question.