Revolutions – Chapter 16 (Immortality's Price)
A Kannazuki no Miko, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mai Hime X-Over Fanfic
March 10, 2013 – April 1, 2013 (updates through May 10)
Word Count: 10,300
More Author's notes follow at the end. Comments and Criticisms are greatly appreciated!
IMPORTANT NOTE 1: Please go read DezoPenguin's "Madness of the Sun", if you haven't already. Now. I'll wait. Seriously.
*16 Years Ago*
Death, Utena thought, was suspiciously similar to life.
Actually, she wasn't altogether sure if she was dead or alive at the moment. The doctors and nurses seemed to think she was alive, and the various machines hooked up to her beeping and booping seemed to confirm this assessment, but Utena was faaaairly certain that she had died when a hundred thousand swords had come careening into her and ripped her to shreds.
And, even if she wasn't somehow dead physically, something important inside her was, so she might as well be considered dead, right?
Hope. Faith. Love.
What was the point of living if you didn't have any of the above?
But, somehow, Anthy had done it, had done it for god knows how many years, so, Utena thought, she'd be able to, too. Maybe.
And she wasn't just living for herself anymore after all, or so the doctors told her. Funny. She had heard that pregnancy was supposed to be a huge, massive, all encompassing phenomenon, but, she hadn't even known she was pregnant until the doctors had pointed that fact out to her. She hadn't felt any different. She just wasn't far enough along, she guessed. For better or worse. Probably better for now, with promises to get worse later on.
It was just so hard to motivate herself to be excited about living when she was confined to a hospital bed day after day after day.
Did you hear? Did you hear? Have you heard the news?
The shadows on the walls around her bed were dancing and somersaulting and cartwheeling capriciously, and Utena couldn't help but feel tendrils of bitterness threaten to come into her heart at their enthusiastic mobility. She continued to lay in the hospital bed, as she'd done for weeks now, and stared up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the annoying chatter of the shadows she could see only in the peripheral of her eyes, and the voices that were talking to her, but only if she wasn't listening to them.
The Prince! The Prince! We have a new Prince! Well, um, maybe 75% of 35% of 42% of a new Prince? She's actually not quite there yet, and we're not really quite sure either why she's not ready to commit all the way...
Utena thought one of the shadows was now creeping into the corner of her vision – the one with pigtails, looking at her curiously (or would have been, if she had recognizable features beyond an outline).
... seriously, Prince? Are you just going to lie there all day, every day? You've finally returned to humanity. Aren't you going to get out there and slay some dragons and rescue some princesses?
Utena closed her eyes, and curled up on her side as best she could with a couple of tubes sticking out of her. Go away, she thought. Please. Just... go away.
The shadows didn't answer her, so Utena thought that maybe they had finally listened to her.
But then, she realized, they hadn't.
They'd just been scared away by a more powerful summons.
... The brave and mighty Susanou no Mikoto...
Utena's eyes snapped open. Oh, no. Not this again.
...The country of Izumo falls on the river of sunlight...
Utena grit her teeth. "Stop it." She hissed. "Stop it. Whoever you are, stop it. Stop... calling me."
... Eight-headed dragon of the land...
From deep within her, Utena could feel a very loud roaring, as something she didn't quite understand, but was quite fundamental to her being, started to rumble, and shake, threatening to awaken.
... diminish at the blade of the Tatsuka sword...
"NO!" Utena shouted, squeezing her eyes shut again as she balled her hands into fists and pressed her wrists against her eyes, trying to smother out the twin voices chanting insistently inside her head.
Takemi Katana no kami. Iwatsutsu no oh gami. Kanayana Hiko no kami. God of Kanayama Hime no kami. Tsurugi no Ikusa gami. Tate no Ikusa gami...
"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Utena screamed, suddenly feeling very, very angry. "What more do you people want from me?! What haven't I already given to you?! I'm not who you think I am! I'm not a Prince! I'm just a normal girl! Stop it! Get out of my head! GET OUT!"
Her screaming got the attention of the nurse on duty who rushed into her room, a bewildered look on her face. "Oh, for the love of...!" Seeing Utena in the middle of another fit, almost ripping out the pink hair straight from her head, even as she had already ripped out the tubes that connected her to various monitoring systems, the nurse quickly hit the panic button on the wall. "I need two orderlies to Jane Doe's room, stat. She's at it again."
Within moments, two larger men came to the nurse's aid, and between the three of them, they managed to wrestle the agitated girl back down onto the bed, but only after she broke one of their arms, and gave the other one a black eye. Eventually, the nurse was able to inject her with a calming drug.
"... get... out." Utena muttered, slowly sinking back into slumber. "... please. Just... get out of my head. I'm not... I'm not... whoever... you think I am. I'm not the Prince. I'm not... Ame... no.. Mura... ku..."
Sleep claimed her.
She spent the next several weeks drifting in and out of consciousness, as the hospital staff struggled with whether or not they should deem her a dangerous patient.
It wasn't until the end of October, did Utena finally succumb to destiny, and answer the insistent calls of the Solar Priestess.
She was asleep at the time, and in her dreams, she could see a determined teen aged girl with tawny colored hair wearing the purple robes of the Lunar Priestess standing in front of a ceremonial mikoshi – her mikoshi, Utena realized, or the mikoshi of the deity she had become when she had caused a Revolution to occur at the fundamental-building-block level of the universe.
Six swords were embedded in the stone floor just in front of the mikoshi. Six powerful sealing wards to ensure that the God of Swordsmen would not be summoned willy-nilly, that only under the most dire of circumstances, when Yamata no Orochi had ruined the world, would Ame no Murakumo be disturbed.
Three of the six sealing wards had already been broken.
Utena stared at the girl, and felt her heart stir. She... she knew this girl. Somehow, she got the distinct impression that she knew this girl very intimately, as though they had spent a very, very large amount of time very close to each other.
A strange thought floated through Utena's mind as she stared at the girl.
Shouldn't... shouldn't your uniform be red? Utena wondered.
And then wondered why she would wonder that.
The girl began to chant.
"... The brave and mighty Susannou no Mikoto. The country of Izumo falls on the river of sunlight. Eight-headed dragon of the land, diminish at the blade of the Tatsuka sword."
Utena stared at the girl in horror. "No..." She whispered. "No. Please. You're the one who's been calling me all this time?"
The girl didn't answer her; she probably didn't even know she was there. She just continued to chant, even as the spirits that protected the mikoshi started to stir. Utena stared at the wooden structure just behind the 3 still standing swords.
The spirits were angry. They knew the summoning ritual required two souls – the Solar AND Lunar Priestesses, and the fact that there was only one girl chanting meant that she was not performing the ceremony properly.
It meant that she was insulting Ame no Murakumo with her presence.
The guardian spirits were angry, and they attacked.
They lashed out with tendrils of buzzing spiritual energy, causing the entire cave that housed the mikoshi to rumble like thunder and spark like lightning. It was a terrifically frightening display of foreboding power, and the energy whipped at the tawny haired girl relentlessly, painfully, tearing out chunks of flesh from her body and opening up cuts and wounds everywhere.
The girl muffled a cry, and collapsed to the ground, where she laid, shivering, in fear and in pain. Gasping for breath, she placed her palms on the ground, leaving bloody hand prints in the dirt, and then pushed herself up, bringing her prayer stick up in front of her once more.
Her arms might have been trembling so hard she couldn't keep the stick upright, and there might have been tears in the corners of her eyes, but there was also burning fire and grim determination in those lilac depths too.
She continued the summoning ritual.
"... Takemi Katana no kami. Iwatsutsu no oh gami. Kanayana Hiko no kami. God of Kanayama Hime no kami. Tsurugi no Ikusa gami. Tate no Ikusa gami..."
Utena stared at the girl in horror, even as she felt that roaring at the back of her head grow louder and louder. "Stop it!" Utena cried, cringing. The heavy feeling in her chest kept getting heavier and heavier.
She could feel another presence inside her heart, and her mind, as though it were a bright white light, getting strong, and more powerful, eradicating her memories and her thoughts, erasing anything that might have once called itself 'Tenjou Utena', and leaving her only as Ame no Murakumo, God of Swordsmen: The Prince.
"Along with the powers of the eight hundred million gods, I wish for the revival of Ame no Murakumo. Onegai. Release the god of Susanou. The atoning life shall be driven out."
"Please." Utena begged, one last time, weakly falling to her knees. "Please, no. I'm not who you think I am. My name is Tenjou Utena. I'm just... I'm just a normal girl. Like you. You're just a normal girl too. And you... you'll die if you don't stop. Please. You're not strong enough alone. Please. Stop-"
The three remaining sealing wards shattered.
And Utena was no longer a normal, regular, teenage girl.
She was the Prince, the Hero, the Saviour.
She was the incarnation of justice, and hope, and goodness.
She was Ame no Murakumo, the God of Swordsman, and she had been summoned once again, to destroy and seal her eternal enemy, Yamata no Orochi, the Eight Headed Demon of Despair.
She was no longer in the cave, standing beside the girl who had so stubbornly summoned her against the harsh punishments of the gods. Instead, she was rising forth from where she had been buried, 300 years ago, on the moon, and her form was godly indeed, enormous, white and glowing, in the shape of a sacred sword.
... what... what is going on? Utena wondered weakly.
She could hear a voice calling her. A girl's voice. A familiar voice.
And that's when it hit her; that's when Utena realized why the tawny haired girl had felt so familiar to her.
She was the Solar Priestess, reborn once again. And the feelings of fondness that Utena had felt for the girl had come from Ame no Murakumo within her, recognizing the soul of the Solar Priestess, she who spent 284 years out of every 300 in solitary confinement on the moon, in the Lunar Shrine on top of which the God of Swordsman was entombed.
Curious, Utena thought. Aren't there supposed to be two Priestesses?
And then, not for the first time and not for the last, she wondered how she could have possibly known that.
The commands of the Solar Priestess were being uttered thousands of miles away from her – from the Earth, in Japan, at Oogami Shrine, and yet, Utena no Ame no Murakumo, could hear them as though they'd been uttered directly by her ear.
"With the Mutsu sword, I wish to begin the ritual to cease the god. Descend, god of swordsmen, Ame no Murakumo."
And Utena found herself barreling towards the earth at enormous speeds, the blues of ocean, the greens of land and the browns of mighty mountain ranges streaking past her, barely recognizable, before she stabbed into the earth at the feet of the Solar Priestess, she who had summoned her, and transformed into her true self, a true god, impossibly tall, and gleaming white to all who beheld her.
It was disorienting, and Utena thought she might throw up from the sudden nauseous she felt from being able to see the world all over at once through what felt like a million sets of eyes all over the place, though, the chief pair she was seeing with right now were glowing green, and godly, set in a body of gleaming white, vaguely mechanical seeming armour.
She could also see, and feel, two heartbeats inside her, neither of them her own. One, she recognized right away as belonging to the Solar Priestess, Kurusugawa Himeko. Ancient memories and instincts recognized the reincarnated soul of the Solar Priestess instantly, the one who spent the vast majority of her time locked in the Lunar Shrine, in darkness and solitude, after accomplishing her duty of sacrificing her life to undo Orochi's evil and re-writing the universe so that all who were killed and all that was destroyed was undone.
Kurusugawa Himeko had summoned her – the Prince, Ame no Murakumo – by herself this time. Preposterous! The strength of will and spirit to complete the ritual to commune with the gods was incredible, beyond the capacity of humanity.
But, if anyone could have done so, it would have to have been she who could endure nothingness, emptiness, blackness, the torture of solitary confinement, again and again, and again, for 95% of her existence, for as long as humanity walked the earth, and still go on.
Utena no Ame no Murakumo gazed down at the Solar Priestess within her, and felt humbled to be in her presence. She – the Prince herself – awed and humbled by the tenacity and sheer strength of will of a human girl...
The other heartbeat within her... curious. It was not the Lunar Priestess, Himemiya Chikane. It was someone else. Oogami Souma. Seventh Neck of Orochi himself, harbinger of death, despair, and destruction. The young man had taken the Lunar Priestess's position, on the upper navigational platform. His eyes were set in determination, and Utena no Ame no Murakumo could feel the strength within him too, the nobility, the goodness. He was refusing his destiny, rising above it. She could not help but feel fondness for him as well.
"Let's go, Himeko." Souma said quietly.
The Solar Priestess, nodded.
Off to battle they went.
They waited grimly upon the wasted remains of the earth for their ancient enemy to appear. Yamata no Orochi, the Eight Headed Demon of Despair, Incarnation of Rage, Misery and Desolation.
Utena no Ame no Murakumo felt very little surprise, only a grim sort of epiphany, really, when she saw who lead their enemy.
It was Himemiya Chikane, the Lunar Priestess herself.
Of course, Utena no Ame no Murakumo couldn't help but realize, with a heavy heart. Of course.
While the Solar Priestess drank heavily from the river styx at the beginning of every life – she HAD to; there was NO WAY her mind could retain any semblance of sanity if she remembered the details of centuries upon centuries of nothing but darkness and solitude – it was the burden of the Lunar Priestess that the guilt of her sins were so heavy, they found ways to creep into her memory, even between cycles of reincarnation, until that guilt had built up and up and up so much that she just couldn't take it anymore.
If Utena no Ame no Murakumo had to guess, it was probably the end of the Lunar Priestess's last life, 300 years ago, when she was Shimotsuke no Kugamiya no Chikane, and the Solar Priestess had been born Shimotsuke no Tokiha no Himeko, that finally did it. That life had been especially cruel and especially unjust to the Lunar Priestess.
Really, Utena no Ame no Murakumo thought, it was inevitable that the Lunar Priestess would be driven towards the enemy's side, into Orochi's embrace. Who else but he could claim to understand the deepest and darkest of her despair? It was, actually, surprising that the Lunar Priestess had held out for as long as she did.
They fought. The seven disciples of Yamata no Orochi fought against the Solar Priestess and the boy who defected from them, and it was not much of a battle, at least, not until the individual disciples themselves combined and finally summoned Yamata no Orochi himself onto the battlefield.
Things got a little more complicated after that.
For a while, it appeared that Yamata no Orochi would finally emerge as the victor for the first time in his unending battle with the God of Swordsmen, and things began to look very grim indeed as the Solar Priestess and Lunar Priestess themselves turned their swords onto one another...
... until Himemiya Chikane finally managed to goad Kurusugawa Himeko into running her through.
Then out came the truth.
Lifetimes of longing.
A burden built upon dredges of guilt accumulated to a breaking point across millennia.
A brutality meant to sever all chances of redemption.
And then a miracle happened. Something eternal and shining. Something revolutionary.
Not only did Kurusugawa Himeko absolve Himemiya Chikane, she returned her feelings.
She told her she loved her too. That she'd always loved her and always will. And no one, not Orochi, not Ame no Murakumo, or any of the other 800 million gods in the universe could ever change that.
And the light that shone from the Priestess of the Sun was so strong, darkness didn't have a chance at all, and yet another disciple of Orochi turned against his master. Onizuka Tsubasa reached out and gave Oogami Souma that little bit of strength he needed to break free and continue his fight against the darkness of despair, and Yamata no Orochi was defeated, banished once again, sealed under chain and ward again, at least, until the next cycle.
But the damage had already been done. Yamata no Orochi had already ruined the world, turning it into a wasteland, and for his evil to be undone, one of the Priestesses of the God of Swordsmen would have to sacrifice her life to move the gods to action. The energy from her life would be broken up, and used to repair the damage done to the fabric of reality brought on by Orochi's rampage. It would have to be done quickly; there wasn't much time left.
Utena no Ame no Murakumo tried to give her priestesses as much time as she could to say their goodbyes, for the next 300 years, but of course, it could never be enough.
"Find me, Himeko!" Chikane cried, even as she was lifted away. "I'll come back! I promise! Find me!"
"I will, Chikane-chan!" Himeko cried back. "I promise! I'll look all over the world for you!"
And then they were pulled apart.
And Utena could hear herself speaking, though how she was speaking, or how she knew what to say, she didn't know. She watched as the Lunar Priestess slowly walked up the long steps of the Lunar Shrine, a pensive expression on her face.
I WILL NOT ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, Utena could hear her own voice booming. WILL YOU BLAME YOUR FATE, LUNAR PRIESTESS? DO YOU WISH FOR THE VOID'S PEACE, OVER THE EVERLASTING CYCLE OF PARTINGS?
Through giant glowing eyes that she finalized came to accept were her own, Utena stared, in silent fascination and horror, as the young woman reached the top of the steps. Before stepping into the shrine, the blue-black haired girl turned to look up at the earth once more. After a moment, she shook her head.
"I met Himeko again," Himemiya Chikane said, her voice soft, and resigned. "So I'm happy now. More so than anyone." She turned and walked into the shrine, settling down into a seiza, on her knees, for a very, very, very long wait. In silence. In darkness. In solitude.
No. Utena thought to herself. What's going on? This isn't right. They just... they just saved the world. They should be happy. Why isn't she happy? Is she... is she just going to stay there? In the shrine? Imprisoned?
YES. Utena could hear that part of herself that was now eternal, miraculous and shining, above it all, above all of humanity, Ame no Murakumo, the Prince, all that was good in the world. FOR THE NEXT 300 YEARS, THE SOUL OF THE LUNAR PRIESTESS SHALL REMAIN IN THE LUNAR SHRINE. THAT IS HER CHOICE.
And Utena stared at the Lunar Priestess, stared into the beautiful, porcelain, sad, sad, sad, sad face of Himemiya Chikane.
Tears were silently spilling from the girl's eyes, and she made no move to brush them away.
The resemblance was remarkable. The loneliness. The longing.
... THE LUNAR PRIESTESS SHARES MANY SIMILAR QUALITIES WITH THE ROSE BRIDE. WITH THE WITCH.
Then how can she want that? Utena thought desperately to herself. How can anyone... be happy... to want that?!
And then Himemiya Chikane uttered one word, just before the doors of the Lunar Shrine slammed shut with a resounding, final, deafening boom, which told Utena that, of course, she didn't want any of this at all.
She wasn't happy at all.
Who could be?
The doors of the Lunar Shrine slammed shut.
And Utena found herself falling. Falling, falling, falling, out of the upside down castle -shrine in the sky, rushing back down towards the earth, her giant, vaguely mechanical armour disappearing, her body shrinking, smaller and smaller, becoming softer, flesh, and warm, a human body, topped with a head of pink hair. The hospital she'd been bedridden at for the last several months (months? When had the weeks stretched out into months?) began to loom in front of her, growing larger, and larger. She passed through the roof, through the top three floors, and she could see her hospital bed. She could start to feel it under her body, the crinkly feeling of her hospital gown, her head coming to rest on the pillow, everything growing dark again, as her eyes were closing.
No. Utena thought. No! This isn't right! This isn't right at all! Someone! Anyone! Help her!
WHO CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE TO HELP HER?
Utena didn't answer. Gritting her teeth in determination, she squeezed her eyes shut, and reached.
She reached as high and as far up as she could, her arms long enough to touch that upside down castle-shrine in the sky, on the moon. She reached inside the Lunar Shrine, her hands groping, until she found the form she was looking for, the Lunar Priestess, Himemiya Chikane, sitting in solitude by the shrine doors, her head bowed.
Utena reached. From behind, she wrapped her arms forward around the Lunar Priestess's shoulders, and she could feel the girl's back, warm, thin, and weeping, pressing up against her front, as she pulled the girl into a tight hug.
The Lunar Priestess's eyes opened in surprise. Slowly, she turned to look behind her, and teary blue-green eyes met fond ocean blue eyes for the first time.
"Who... are you?" She whispered.
Utena smiled kindly. Come with me, she said. You don't have to be alone here. I'll send you back to your loved one's side. Come with me.
The Lunar Priestess stared at Utena in wonder, in fascination.
She closed her eyes, and nodded.
Himemiya Chikane's form wavered, once, twice, and then faded into Utena's body, into her lower abdomen, into her womb.
Utena's eyes snapped wide open and she gasped, back in her hospital bed, broken out in cold sweat, the machines beside her booping and beeping crazily with her return back into the mortal world.
'Did you hear? Did you hear? Have you heard the news?'
"Who's there?" Utena asked, feeling dreadfully tired.
Everything felt fuzzy and blurry, and disorienting. She couldn't remember where she was, or what had happened, though she couldn't quite shake the feeling that something very important had indeed just occurred.
She warily looked about her, but there was no one else in the room with her. She was alone in her hospital room, with only the shadows, splayed against the wall, caused by the setting evening sun streaming in through the blinds.
She didn't really pay the shadows any attention, couldn't really, when she realized that there was someone else in the room with her: Her tummy was now very, very, large, easily recognizable even with the blankets pulled up. She was well into the third trimester by now.
'Whip out the pink jumpers and the baby shoes! You're gonna want some barbies, stuffed animals, and frilly dresses! She's gonna be a girl!'
Did Ohtori always seem so... creepy? Juri couldn't help but wonder as she pushed her sunglasses up into her hair and stared up at the rose themed iron wrought front school gates. Somehow, she had remembered this place to be more whimsical and elegant, what with all the artistic, European-inspired architecture. Of course, back then, she had been but a child, and the elementary through university level school had been her entire world, a small, tightly enclosed world of which she knew nothing beyond, so, maybe it was natural that she had thought so highly of the place.
Now, as an adult looking back, she realized that the magic this place once held for her had faded somewhat, and for that, Juri couldn't help but feel glad. She was suddenly very thankful that she hadn't gone to University at Ohtori.
"Arisugawa Juri." Came a familiar voice.
Turning to the side, Juri spied a tall, familiar man with a head full of long luxurious red hair and a charming smile. The smile surprised her; it was far more tired, and far more sincere, than she had ever recalled seeing it.
Kiryuu Touga extended a hand out to her. "It has been too long."
Juri looked down at that hand, and after a moment, grasped it, and was a little surprised to find it firm, but polite. "It has been a long time, hasn't it, Touga?" She eyed him appraisingly. "You look... well."
She was being polite – he looked like hell. Well, maybe not quite hell, but, he certainly wasn't the slick bastard she remembered him to be. There were lines around his eyes brought on by more than just years, and a hollow sort of sullenness about his face. High cheekbones which once charmed the very skirts right off half the female student population, now just made him look a little haunted.
Unfortunately, Juri could quite easily recognize what made him look this way. Indeed, she herself could be said to have sported (still sporting) a similar expression, since Himeko's departure; Kiryuu Touga was in mourning.
"The years have been kinder to you than they have me," Touga answered easily. He motioned to the gates. "Maybe it is because I have stayed here and had the pleasure of meeting fresh new faces year after year, each year younger than the last, but I do feel far older than I should." He laughed quietly. "You are lucky to have escaped Ohtori, Juri."
Juri frowned. No one ever really escaped the torment of adolescence, least of all if you spent most of it at Ohtori, but she could understand what he was getting at. "You did too, Touga, if I recall correctly. Didn't you spend several years running a part of your family's conglomerate? I understand you only returned to Ohtori relatively recently as its headmaster. What made you come back?"
"The same thing, I suspect, as what makes you stand here upon Ohtori's door steps once more." Touga replied softly.
Juri's frowned deepened. "The body?"
Touga didn't answer right away. Instead, he flicked his eyes up at the rose themed gates, and motioned towards it. "Please, why don't we go wait with the others in the board room. Miki and Kyouichi are already here. My sister as well, Nanami, if you remember her. You are the last to arrive." He paused. "The police wanted to interview all of us involved in the student council back then. They have already spoken with myself at length, and saw Kyouichi this morning. They are interviewing Nanami now."
"Nanami." Juri couldn't help but feel the corner of her lips tug up into a smirk, even as they entered onto school grounds and walked towards the administrative building. One did not simply forget about Kiryuu Nanami.
Touga chuckled. "Yes. She is Tsuwabuki Nanami now. She married Mitsuru two years ago."
A flame-colored eyebrow lifted in amusement. "Miki's replacement on the council?"
Touga nodded. "The same."
"In the eyes of some, perhaps." Touga laughed again. "But, recall, Mitsuru-kun has been in love with my sister since he was 9 years old. Some would argue that he is happier than he knows what to do with himself."
"How is Takatsu..." Touga paused for a moment, and then made an apologetic face. "Ah. Forgive me, I must be tired, but, it is not Takatsuki-san whom you are with anymore, is it?"
Juri raised an eyebrow. Her former colleague really must have been very tried to make such a social blunder. That wasn't like Kiryuu Touga, infamous Student Council President and Resident Campus Playboy, at all. He really must still be shaken up about the body. "I haven't spoken to Shiori in 10 years, Touga." She said quietly. There was an awkward pause in their relationship. "Not all of our hearts remained stuck in high school."
"Yes, of course, you are right." Touga answered cordially enough, but Juri could tell her remark had hurt him, for then he continued, quite smoothly. "I meant to ask, how is Kurusugawa-san?"
Juri didn't answer him; if he knew Himeko's name, then he likely knew he was hitting below the belt by enquiring about her.
When they made it to the board room, they found Miki sitting at the table with Saionji Kyouichi at one end. Seeing Juri, a smile came to Miki's face and he stood up. "Juri-san." Said the ocean blue-haired man. He came over and gave Juri a hug, which she returned.
It still felt a little strange to Juri to have to reach upwards to embrace Miki. She supposed that she would always remember him as a pre-pubescent, even though he was quite tall now – almost as tall as Touga, though he still had a slight build. "Miki," Juri said, warmly, "when did you get back to Japan?"
"Just a couple of days before I called," Miki replied. He paused, and then offered Juri another hug, a tighter one. It surprised Juri a little bit – Miki was kind, but never overly affectionate – until he whispered into her ear. "I'm sorry about Himeko-san. How are you holding up?"
Truth be told, Juri couldn't help but feel a little annoyed. Honestly, when had everyone and their dog been able to poke their noses into her business? But, she supposed, such was the fate of one who made a living even on the edges of the limelight. While the paparazzi hadn't made it to Fuuka, Juri had been less than pleased to find them all waiting for her in Tokyo.
"I'm fine, I'm fine." Juri lied, patting Miki on the back. She then offered him a rueful, slightly sarcastic smile. "It's not my first time around this block."
Miki chuckled. "No pendants?"
Juri frowned. "Well, actually..."
The blue haired man raised an eyebrow and frowned in disapproval, but before he could say anything, Saionji had made it to them and had offered her his hand. "Arisugawa."
Juri was a little surprised but took it. "Saionji."
"It is good to see you in good health. It's too bad this reunion wasn't happening under better circumstances." Saionji said, and Juri's surprise went up a notch. The Saionji Kyouichi she remembered was far more angry with the world and too arrogant to bother with pleasantries. The green haired man before her had mellowed, significantly.
It was an interesting contrast, Juri decided. Saionji and Touga had been friends (or at least, had experienced a relationship as close to 'friendship' as the two of them had been capable of) during high school, and had been constantly compared and contrasted by the female student population. Whereas Touga seemed weaker with grief now, Saionji looked far stronger and healthier now than he did as a teenager.
If Juri had to guess, Saionji (nee Shinohara) Wakaba, Kyouichi's spouse, probably had a lot to do with that health. Indeed, the green haired man even mentioned his wife now. "Wakaba sends her regards."
Juri smiled faintly. "How is Wakaba doing?"
"She was a bit disappointed to not be able to come, but we are expecting our first child soon. Beyond that, she is in good spirits."
"That's good to hear." Juri smiled. "Congratulations. Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
"We do not," Saionji admitted, running a hand through his wavy green locks with a hint of a rueful smile. "I wanted to find out in advance, but she did not, and she seems to win all the arguments these days. Everything's been painted green, to be safe."
Juri couldn't help but laugh. "Wouldn't everything have been painted green anyway?"
It was then that Juri heard the high pitched, overly mellow-dramatic wail of a true diva, one she hadn't seen in almost a decade. Seriously. There might have even been violins playing in the background when Tsuwabuki Nanami spun into the room with her wrist held up to her forehead, as though the most horrific of travesties had befallen her.
"My god!" The blonde bombshell cried, "the nerve of that man! How dare he insinuate that I, Tsuwabuki Nanami, might have anything at all to do with this horrific discovery! Oh, the scandal! Oh, the shame! Oh, I don't think I can stand it!" She flopped over onto the nearest chair in the room with such force her seat spun around.
Juri couldn't help but crack a smile. "Hello Nanami. Still as dramatic as ever, I see?"
Nanami smiled knowingly at Juri. "The academy seldom awards comediennes, Juri-sempai."
"Oh, I don't know," Juri chuckled wryly. "You were quite humorous in your last soap opera, weren't you? What did the critics call your performance? The most delightful impression of a heifer they'd ever seen?"
"Shut up and die in a sewer, Sempai." Nanami said, still smiling as sweetly as a princess. And then she blinked and whirled her head around to address the harried looking police detective who had come into the room with her. "Oh, I didn't mean that as a real threat, officer. That was a joke."
"For the last time, that's 'Detective', Tsuwabuki-san," the harried looking man said warily. "And yes, it was pretty obvious to even this 'buffoon trying to pass himself off as law enforcement' that that was a joke." He looked over at the new addition that had entered into the room. "Are you Arisugawa Juri-san?" He asked.
Juri nodded. "I am."
"Good. My name is Arima Soichiro. Could you come with me please?"
Raising an eyebrow, Juri nodded curtly, and then left with the Detective to sit in the other room – a currently unused office.
"Do you know why you are here, Arisugawa-san?" The Detective asked.
"According to the headlines," Juri replied, "I believe you found a body on campus? One that looks like it's been here for approximately 16 years, which would have been when I was attending Ohtori Academy, and was part of the Student Council, as Treasurer."
Arima nodded. "That's right. The body was found in the forest behind the school, which I understand, was off limits to all students, except for the Student Council. That is why all the student council members are of interest to us." He sighed. "Honestly, I don't get these new fang-dangled philosophies that allow kids to have so much power in the administration of a school. It's just asking for an accident to happen."
Juri raised an eyebrow. "A school governed for the students by the students is not a new philosophy." She said crisply. "Why, take Fuuka Academy, for example. It is arguably one of the best schools in the country, and it runs strictly on that principle."
"Yes, and you were a Director there until recently, were you not?" Arima looked down at his notes and frowned. "That's somewhat unusual, isn't it, Arisugawa-san? That someone like yourself, with a background in fashion, and fencing, but nothing really with education, would end up on the board of directors at a school?"
Juri's eyes narrowed. "What are you trying to insinuate, Detective?"
"Nothing at all." Arima said. Then he sighed. "Alright, I'm just going to come out and say it, Arisugawa-san. Were you involved in some sort of cult or "secret society" that performed duels with live swords in the clearing in the forest behind the school?"
"Yes." Juri replied, quite easily. "Though it wasn't a cult or a secret society. Just a bunch of stupid students convincing themselves that they were special. We knocked roses off of each other's chests. In retrospect, that was stupid and dangerous, but I wouldn't call it illegal."
"I'd say the lines of legality become quite clearly crossed when a skeleton shows up with evidence of so many stab and cut wounds embedded in the bone it looks like it went through a lawnmower."
Juri frowned intensely. "May I see the body?"
Arima shook his head. "Not unless you want to go down to the morgue."
"Then you are welcome to do so later. In the meanwhile, all I have are these." He put a stack of photos down in front of her.
Juri picked up the first picture and stared at it.
It was a picture of a skeleton wearing a very shredded up boy's uniform, black in color. Even from the picture, Juri could tell that the skeleton was very, very scratched up and pock marked, as though it really had been through a lawnmower. The skull still had bits and pieces of long, pale pink hair stuck to it.
As Juri stared at the picture, she could not help but feel a strange sort of closure come over her.
"Do you know who that is?" Arima asked.
Juri's brow crinkled. She nodded.
Arima raised an eyebrow. "You do? Who is he?"
Juri frowned. "She. It's a girl."
The detective's second eyebrow raised. "How did you know that? She *is* wearing the boy's uniform after all."
Juri's frown deepened. "The boy's uniforms were green. There was only one person who got away with wearing that, and she was a girl. But I... I can't remember her name." She said, feeling suddenly very troubled, and disturbed.
It's... it's her, Juri couldn't help but think. HER! But... who was she? And why can't I remember...?
Arima blinked, and sighed. "Well, at least you're all consistent." He muttered. "All of your peers pretty much said the same thing. You all look at this picture, like you should know her, and yet you don't." He shook his head. "I don't get it. 25 years I've been on this force. You're all smart, rich, powerful people, so I'm sure you've all lawyer'ed up already, and should know what not to say. You all could have kept us tied up in the courts for decades until this became just another cold case. And yet, somehow, you all show up, some of you even travelling pretty long distances, and you all agree to meet with me without a lawyer, you all say the most ridiculous things that would implicate you like that." He snapped his fingers, even as he shook his head. "I don't get it. Was there something in the water here, or something?"
Juri frowned. "Something... to that effect." She said, very slowly.
"Do you care to elaborate?"
Juri took a deep breath as she tried to gather her thoughts. "Actually, Arima -san," she said quite calmly. "It might interest you to know that I have not yet reached out to my legal council. However, I also have absolutely nothing that I feel I need to hide here, and if you are going to find justice for this girl, whose name I cannot recall for the life of me, but who I distinctly remember making a very large difference in my life, perhaps even having a hand in making me who I am today, even if I can't remember how, then I want to do everything in my power to help you." She frowned. "Have you tried to contact the actual administration of the school from back then? The Chairman from that time? You can't tell me that a girl can disappear from a school and not have this incident reported and recorded somewhere."
Arima sighed. "You're partially right, a girl shouldn't be able to just disappear from a school, but there are absolutely no records at all of this student having disappeared while attending this school. There was one student who dropped out around that time, but his name was Tsuchiya Ruka, and he died of heart failure. As for the Chairman from back then, Ohtori Akio has been MIA for many years now."
Those two names she hadn't thought about in years now hit Juri harder than she thought it would have. Ruka. Akio. Juri's heart twisted into knots, and for a moment, she wondered what the world was coming to, and when it had stopped making any sense at all.
Empty photos suddenly filled. Photo albums suddenly appearing in boxes. A body found. Names, long dead, in body and memory.
Juri frowned. "What about his sister?" Her brow deepened. "At least, I seem to recall that... that there was a girl, his sister. I can't remember her name, but she..." She looked at the picture of the skeleton. "She was important to this girl. They were always together. I remember that."
The Detective took note of Juri's words.
They talked a little more, getting mostly nowhere, before he finally let her go.
At the end of the conversation, he looked at her, and asked, "is there anything else you want to tell me?"
Juri considered this for a moment, and finally nodded. Reaching into her jacket pocket, she brought out an old, stylized rose pendant, opened it, and handed the item to him.
Arima raised an eyebrow. "What's this?"
"A picture of her." Juri said quietly. "I used to wear a rose pendant with someone else's picture inside when I went to school here. That pendant broke, somehow. I don't remember how. But, I remember getting a new one. And asking... asking her for a picture, to put into it." Juri frowned as she tried to reach into the depths of her memory. "... badminton." She said. "I remember asking for it during a game of badminton, I think. Anyway, I got one."
The Detective stared at her for a moment, before looking inside the pendant.
Inside was a blurry, under-focused and overexposed action shot of a girl with long pink hair wearing a black blazer and holding a book bag over one shoulder. She was looking in the camera's direction, long pink hair flying in the wind. There was an easy, confident smile on her face, and clear, remarkable ocean blue eyes.
"Can I keep this?" The detective asked.
"I would like it back eventually." Juri replied.
"I'll do my best, but I can't make any promises."
"I suppose that will have to do."
Their interrogation thus ended, Juri went back to the boardroom. Saionji and Nanami had already left, leaving just Touga and Miki.
"Would you like to do some catching up over dinner?" Miki asked.
Juri nodded. "Yes. I would like that." She looked at the Detective. "Can I go now?"
The Detective nodded. "Yes. Thank you for your help, Arisugawa-san. I'll try to return your pendant as soon as I can."
When he said this, both Miki and Touga raised their eyebrows, and looked over at Juri, who didn't answer. She just got ready to leave the room.
"Headmaster," the Detective looked at Touga. "May I have a word?"
Touga looked like he didn't much want to give the man any more time, but eventually, he nodded. "If this could be done quickly."
While Touga talked to the Detective, Miki and Juri grabbed their coats and made to leave the school.
They actually almost got to the front gates, when Juri heard Touga call her name.
"Wait, Juri. Please!" Touga called, slightly breathless from having to catch up to them. "May I have a word with you?"
"Yes?" Juri raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"
Touga shot Miki a look, and the other man raised an eyebrow before excusing himself, leaving the two of them alone.
Unfortunately, now that they were alone, the ambiance between them became unmistakably awkward.
"Where... where did you get that picture?" Touga finally demanded. "Juri, what do you know about that girl?"
Juri frowned. "I've already told everything I already know to the Detective, Touga. Which is, admittedly, not much."
"Please." Touga said, and the pleading in his voice was unmistakable. "Juri. You know I am not one used to begging. If you know anything at all about her at all, anything, please, can you just-"
"Forget about her and move on." Juri snapped. "How many years have you now wasted on the ghost of a memory? Grow up, Touga, and get over it. She was never yours, and she wouldn't want you to think she ever was."
Juri's words hung in the air, as though she had slapped him verbally with them. And, somehow, Juri felt like she had slapped herself with them too. She could remember words she had spoken to Himeko so many years ago now. They echoed endlessly in her head.
Juri swallowed, her throat suddenly dry.
Suddenly, she understood, with complete clarity, why Himeko had needed to leave in the middle of the night, why she had had to cut herself off so cleanly, so abruptly.
Words Juri had once spoken to Himeko, she now repeated to Touga, but really, more, to herself.
"Don't waste your life." Juri said quietly. "It's not worth your youth and happiness waiting for a miracle. They may happen, but you still have to reach out to grab one for yourself, and you, you're not even reaching."
Juri swallowed. This next part was new. "The miracle isn't that she'll come back to you, because she won't. The miracle is that you will still be able to find happiness. The right one is out there, somewhere. Who knows, maybe you've even already met her."
Touga stared at Juri for a long time, his blue eyes staring deeply into her blue-green ones.
Finally, Touga cracked a smile. Another genuine smile. Ludicrous. "Juri, is there a chance you might be coming on to me?"
Juri laughed, a genuine, hearty laugh, the first one she'd had since Himeko had left her. "Not if you were the last woman on the planet."
Touga ended up joining Miki and Juri for dinner, which was an unexpectedly pleasant, though short affair. Juri enjoyed herself, she really did, but ultimately, she wasn't that close to Touga, and so, things she had hoped to get Miki's council on, she hadn't been able to. So, after Touga left, Juri invited Miki back to her hotel suite for a further chat.
She uncorked a bottle of white wine, as that was his preference, and gave him a glass with a generous amount.
Miki laughed. "Juri-san, are you trying to get me drunk?"
Juri rolled her eyes. "Wow. Hit on by two men on the same day. Which patron deity of sapphic love did I piss off recently?"
The blue haired man offered her a sympathetic smile. "... how are you holding up, Sempai?" He asked quietly.
It took Juri a while to answer, but finally, she sighed. "It's been pretty rough, Miki. I haven't felt this bad since Shiori. Actually, in some ways, I think this feels far worse." She gave a somewhat hollow laugh. "But somehow, today, after... after seeing her," there was no mistakening who 'she' was, "even if it was just her... remains... somehow, it made me feel better. Like I finally found closure for something I didn't even know I was missing."
Miki's eyes were downcast. "I... I feel the same way." He said quietly. "You know, all this time, I had felt like something was strange with my memory. You know how I am, Juri-san," he said. "I don't normally forget things, but for some reason, everything about Ohtori has always been so... so blurry. After Touga called me about finding her body, somehow, I've started feeling... relieved. Like I finally know what happened."
Juri nodded. They had covered this conversation already at dinner with Touga. "Mhph," Juri made a noise, even as she took a gulp of wine. "That's not why I wanted to talk to you though. Hang on." Finding a remote, Juri hit play, and the disc she had put into the CD player started to go.
Piano music started to play in the room.
Miki raised an eyebrow. "What's this?" He asked.
"Just listen and tell me what you think." Juri asked.
So Miki did as he was asked, and listened to the music with a critical, professional ear.
"Amateur." He said, after a few moments, though his brow was knit. After a few more minutes, he revised his assessment. "Talented amateur."
And then, after a few more minutes: "Very talented amateur."
Finally, when Juri hit pause, and gazed over at him, Miki returned Juri's gaze with a very intense look.
"What's her name?" He asked, in a serious, but excited tone of voice.
Juri raised an eyebrow. "How did you know she's a girl?"
Miki only chuckled. "What's her name, Juri-san?"
"What did you think?" Juri pressed.
The professional composer rolled his eyes. "Clearly, Juri-san," he said, quite dryly, "you already know that I am impressed. It is obvious that she has not had formal training, that much is certain. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I should be able to mold her to her full potential without prior training getting in the way, though it will take a bit of hard work to grind through those bad habits I hear."
Juri gave a melancholy laugh. "Can you already tell so much about her potential? From one song?"
"Juri-san," Miki said, quite earnestly. "A talent like that comes once a generation. If even you, forgive my words, with no formal training, can appreciate her work enough to known to bring it to my attention, how do you think I feel?" He laughed. "You were trying to find your legacy in fencing at Fuuka Academy, Juri-san. Even if you haven't found it there yet, please don't deny me mine."
Juri didn't answer him right away. She just continued to laugh, sadly, even as she shook her head ruefully.
When Miki asked her why she was laughing, she wasn't quite able to tell him.
She didn't tell him the identity of the musician that night, though she promised that she would disclose her identity to him in due time.
They chatted a little while more before the wine was finished. Juri walked Miki down to the hotel lobby to say goodbye to him there.
"It was really good to see you, Miki." Juri said, giving him another hug.
"You too, Juri-san." The blue-haired man laughed. "And I will be pestering you endlessly if you do not give me the name of that pianist."
"Yes, yes. I will." Juri waved her hand. "Just... just give me a little bit of time to prepare myself."
Miki laughed and then turned to go.
Juri went back to the elevator to head back to her room.
As the doors closed, an arm suddenly stuck in through the crack. "Wait for me please!"
Raising an eyebrow, Juri hit the 'open' button on the doors, and they opened once more, allowing a pink-haired girl carrying a duffle bag to board the elevator.
"Thanks!" She said, before her eyes went wide. "Oh!"
Juri's eyes went wide too.
They stared at each other incredulously.
Juri felt like she was staring at a ghost.
She wasn't that far off, actually, considering she'd been looking at pictures of the girl's body just that afternoon.
More so than most, Himemiya Anthy, the Witch, the former Rose Bride, understood sacrifice. More so than most, she understood loneliness, and despair. More so than most (but not all (but still most)).
Sometimes, she wondered if they were all part of some sort of cosmic joke. Of all things that could have been part of her domain, her sphere of influence, of all the basic fundamental building blocks of the universe, why did unrequitedness, unfulfillment & loneliness need an incarnation, and why did she have to shoulder that personification? Was that not, essentially, a doomed sentence from the get go? An existence that promised nothing but pain?
One of the very few beings in the universe who could possible know and feel her burdens even more so than herself, was sitting at the shore of the river styx, gazing out over the water, as though the waves had hypnotized him. His face was an expressionless mask. Indeed, she wondered if he even knew how to facially emote (at least, emotions beyond rage and despair, anyway).
"What are you waiting for?" The Witch asked the former Eight Headed Demon of Despair. "Like my brother, you have been cut off from the power that fed you, Orochi. You are no longer the incarnation of despair, as you have found someone else to take that mantle from you. You are free now and have the opportunity to join the mortal coil, should you wish. What are you waiting for?"
Orochi continued to simply stare out over the water, blinking a few times. He looked over at her blankly, and then looked back out over the water.
I… DO NOT KNOW. Orochi communicated, his thoughts projecting directly into her mind. He hadn't quite figured out how to use his mouth for talking yet either, it appeared. MY AGREEMENT WITH THE FALLEN PRINCE, WITH THE END OF THE WORLD, IS FULFILLED. I HAVE BEEN FREED FROM MY PRISON, FOREVER. I NO LONGER HAVE TO SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF DESPAIR. DESTROYING THE NEW DEMON OF DESPAIR, AS SHE IS DESTINED TO DO, WILL ALSO SURELY DESTROY THE HEART OF THE NEW PRINCE, SO, THAT PROMISE TOO, IS FULFILLED. THERE IS NOTHING HOLDING ME HERE, AND YET, I FIND MYSELF UNABLE TO GO ON, WITHOUT KNOWING HOW THIS...THIS ABSURDITY WILL ALL END.
Orochi looked back over at the Witch. He studied her in fascination, and after an eternity of a moment, he opened his mouth, and spoke, for the first time. "... You..." he said hesitantly, as though he wasn't quite comfortable with the concept of lips and a tongue. "You... have walked amongst humanity longer than I. Not... not just appearing before them, every once a blue moon, but truly walked amongst them." He blinked. "Tell me, Witch. Himemiya Anthy. Why is humanity so..." he furrowed his brow. "So... complicated? Why do they insist on continuing on? The Prince... the Prince was denied to them, for many millennia, and yet, they go on. From where do they draw their strength?"
She shook her head. "I cannot answer that. I am not human, after all."
Orochi frowned further. "But even so, you are the same way. Why do you continue on? You are loneliness. You are unfulfillment. You cannot even appear before the Prince because of the nature of your existence. She loves you, and so you cannot be with her. If you do appear before her, then it can only mean that she no longer loves you. If you appear before her, then the Swords of Humanity's hate, dormant within the heart of she who is also the God of Swordsmen, will awaken, and destroy you, and her. How can you stand this injustice? How can you stand to be the Witch?"
Anthy stared at her fellow god for a moment, letting not a small amount of surprise and wonder show on her face. Of all of the incarnations, she could never have thought that the Demon of Despair could understand her so well.
She couldn't answer him.
So, he simply frowned, and turned to look out at the waters of reincarnation again, lapping gently at his feet.
*Pokes head shyly into ff .net*
Hey guys, so I'm two weeks late with this chapter, and very sorry about that. I thought I could push this out before the local con, but that was waaay too overly ambitious of me. Sorry for the wait! :(
The idea that Himeko has spent centuries upon centuries in solitary confinement, and that is why she reacted the way she did to the assault, is the idea behind Dezo's "Madness", and it has long since become Kannazuki no Canon in my head. This concept is thus not mine at all, and all credit should be given to DezoPenguin. I have just long since incorporated it into the KnM canonical mythos in my head and I can't begin to fathom how the series could work if this wasn't true.
The gods' names in the Utena flashback came straight out of KnM because I seriously could not make that stuff up myself either.
The next chapter should be out before the end of June 2013. Things are still quite busy, but not at the ridiculous levels they were at previously, so I should be able to write a little more quickly!
jen-chan-shaw. livejournal. com
OMAKE I: The Joke Continues to Run
[In the student's council room, NANAMI is bawling her eyes out on HARUKA's shoulder, sobbing incomprehensibly. MIDORI walks by and looks at the scene and seems a little confused, until a light bulb comes on over her head.]
MIDORI: Ah! Happy she got lines in this fic besides 'Moo'?
HARUKA: [Nodding] Very happy she got lines in this fic besides 'Moo'.
NANAMI: Buwaaaaaa! [Still crying]
OMAKE II: A Fillery Mai-Hime Style Preview
[NAO's voice can be heard doing the voice over for a series of fast paced clips edited together very confusingly and with deliberate misrepresentation so brazen the producers should be ashamed of themselves.]
NAO: F*ck this! Why do I have to do the preview for the fan-service filler episode?! And why are you censoring out my swearing now!? I've been cursing a blue streak for the last three chapters!
SISTER YUKARIKO: Now Sister Nao, I for one, approve of the censorship! You are not representing our lord in an appropriate manner when your language makes the navy blush.
NAO: [Boggles] Hey! What are you doing in this fic? I thought the author felt uncomfortable with her ability to portray you in a positive manner so conveniently wrote you out of this fic!
SISTER YUKARIKO: [Confused] What? But there's supposed to be a couple of pretty important scenes set in a church next chapter, even if it is supposed to be the Hot Springs Episode? How can things happen in a church and I NOT show up?
SISTER MIYAKO: You know, you're not the only nun in Mai Hime, Kannazuki no Miko or Utena. But, you do have a point. Hmm. Either my agent messed up my scheduling, or I think the author might be getting her nuns mixed up.
SISTER YUKARIKO: [Stares in flabbergast at what SISTER MIYAKO is trying to pass off as a nun's habit] Sweet and Merciful Mother Superior! You have more T&A going on than an escort service!
NAO: ... Clearly I attempted to join the wrong order. Clearly. [Rolls her eyes.] Anyway, stay tuned for the next chapter of Revolutions, Chapter 17 – 'The Hot Springs Episode'...