day by day

Anthy knew about the art of pretending that she cared. She'd had centuries to study it. Some of her owners wanted to feel that faded shadow of faked affection, like dried rose petals eked out with artificial perfume and coloured dyes: others simply required her obedience, her passivity, her acceptance of their ownership.

Some of them were even genuine enough, in their own way, and loved some shadow of her that they thought they knew. It was easier when those ones didn't get too far. Quicker to cut the ties.

Anthy loved Akio, of course. And that was all there was to it, and all that there could be to it.

When Utena walked further and further along the road which she thought that she had chosen, Anthy could only watch and play her part. Princesses are to be rescued, after all, and Utena loved her princess. So it went, from the roses to the poison to the promises to the dagger in the back.

And so, as it always did, to the million swords and the coffin.

(And at least it was over for Utena by then, and she wouldn't have any more to suffer.)

The dead should lie down in the grave when it is their time, the quick-living, quick-dying mortals should accept the cycle of the gods, human beings should bow their heads to the pain that is created for them --

She did not expect the torn, bleeding, thorn-ripped hand that offered her freedom. She was bound to her wheel of pain and loss and sacrifice. She could not let go. She could not walk away.

Except she did.

And now each night Anthy cries herself to sleep, in perfect tears that do not redden her eyes or mark her face, because she may have given up her destiny and her fate and her bondage, but she has also given up any control of her own life. Utena may not want her any more. She may be hurt. She may die.

Each night she must refuse her brother's love and the million swords, once again. Her freedom is won day by day, and it terrifies her.

Ohtori Academy is waiting for her, with all its sunny gardens where the white paths make perfect lines and the green, green grass is rich and soft as sleep.

And each morning, she tells herself, A little longer. A little longer, because maybe I will find Utena today.

But it is lonely, being mortal.