You know what? I hate html.I wish I was doing almost anything else.Like getting laid. I could be having sex right now, but noooo.I watched Utena lose her virginity again this weekend.That scene is so hot.The fine line between obsession and madness is... what was I saying?GIRL ON GIRL ACTION!!!I want that outfit. I like red and black. What a surprise.This layout took forever to get just right. But that was because I took so many breaks.I never ate glue in kindergarten. Hard to tell, huh?Gio keeps talking about food. What a bitch.LEGS.See, I'm being productive. Now if only I could do this at work, where productive is just a dream...GODDAMMIT STOP TALKING ABOUT FOODYou know, those are the only important things in life. Food, sex, and sleep.Everything else is just window dressing.I have to clean my house still. That sucks.I hate cleaning. I should buy maids.I want to go to a museum, but I don't want to get out of my jammies.I suck at being energetic.Funny, you don't look Druish.



Gerald Tarrant

Chida Tokiko, Chida Mamiya, and Souji Mikage. This is a rather odd sort of story that I've been working on for two years, and it's morphed into something that I didn't expect when I started it. I think it's interesting nevertheless.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena and all characters are property of B-Papas, Saitou Chiho, Shogaku-kan, and TV Tokyo. Please do not repost without permission.


The first time she saw him was purely by chance.

She had come in from Tokyo on the three o' clock train, and it was still light when the car pulled up at the entrance to the academy. She'd heard reports, of course, and seen pictures, but no reports or pictures had done Ohtori any justice. The entire campus was something out of a fairy tale, with ivy trellises and towered buildings straight out of a fantasyland, and the air was thick with the scent of roses.

She had met the Chairman once before, but that had been at a public fundraising function, and they had not spoken. This time, when he ushered her into his office, she felt a familiar tingle down her spine as he looked at her and addressed her as if they were old friends. Most men found her somewhat attractive, and it was with long practice that she had learned to ignore the stares. But the Chairman's stare was different. There was a heat in his gaze that sent the blood rushing to her cheeks, and it was hard not to blush as she answered his perfectly business-related questions, stumbling over vocabulary that a five-year old would have no difficulty pronouncing. His eyes meanwhile roved over her face, tracing her breasts and caressing her with their direct wanting.

She felt both relieved and empty as she left his office, with a promise to return in two weeks and bring her materials and the official orders from the Board of Inspectors with her. His eyes had been…arousing.

Uncomfortably, she took the elevator down to the ground floor and made her leisurely way down the covered walkway that led from the Chairman's office to the mathematics building. Red, red roses bloomed in every archway, and the scent almost overpowered her.

It was then she saw him.

He didn't see her. He was leaning against the railing, twirling a pen between his fingers. His eyebrows were knit with concentration and he was staring at something in the distance, looking down every so often to jot down something with the pen in the small notebook he carried in one crook of his arm. She couldn't see his eyes, covered as they were with a pair of dark glasses, but the sunlight caught his hair in a golden-pink halo. She stopped, watching him.

He was not wearing a school uniform, which meant he couldn't be one of the students, but he looked very young. She remembered the Chairman mentioning a young man who had come to Ohtori to take charge of one of his academic projects…perhaps this was the man?

She pictured the Chairman's face in her mind and felt that burning between her thighs again, pushed it away. She was a grown woman, with no time for silly high-school sexual fantasies.

The young man hadn't moved in quite some time, still staring off into the distance. She glanced at her watch. Her train was leaving in half an hour, and the car was undoubtedly waiting for her. She started walking again, closing the gap between him and her, was upon him, passed him, before she felt him turn and look at her. Felt his lack of interest, felt him turn back to the object of his rapt study.

What an odd man.

When she finally arrived back home that night, it was only with some surprise that she found the petals of a rose tucked between the pages of her appointment book. She hadn't remembered picking any roses.

"Neesan? Is that you?"

She didn't switch on the light, but instead entered the room and knelt by the bed in the dark.

"I’m home, Mamiya."

"Of course, you'll want to visit Nemuro Hall," the Chairman said, pointing at the map. "Most of the main projects at the Academy are conducted within those walls."

"Nemuro Hall?"

The Chairman nodded. "One of the largest projects is run by Professor Nemuro himself. Quite a genius, Nemuro."

"What kind of project is he leading?"

She expected a straightforward answer, some kind of medical technology research, perhaps, or whatever students of an elite private academy researched in their spare time. But he didn't answer her, simply walked to the far window and stared out into the sky.


When he finally looked at her, his eyes held the intensity of a perfectly sane madman.

"Have you ever considered grasping eternity?"

The second time she saw him was on her way home once again, the evening fading against the night sky just like the planetarium at the top of the Chairman's tower as he had explained eternity to her, eternity under the cold stars, the eternity that was in his eyes. More than explained. He had given her everything that she had never known she wanted, showed her that the world was not all she thought it had been. And as he had showed her, she felt that dangerous light kindle inside of her, saw her brother's face in her mind. Mamiya. Part of her hated herself for imposing her own wishes on him, part of her…

Part of her hated him for hanging on, when there was no hope.

Or perhaps there was hope.

Except for Mamiya, there was no one in this world that she loved, and she had made a pact with herself long ago that she would give herself to none other than the man who won her heart. But that afternoon, she learned that love and desire were two different types of eternity, stretching off in opposite directions into the stars.

The campus was dark when she departed the Chairman's office, not only dark with the artificial night sky of the planetarium, but purely dark. The darkness seeped through the faint beams of the streetlights and wrapped its warm, chill hand against her cold cheek, a familiar touch, like ghosts. She clutched her purse tighter.

The lights were still on in Nemuro Hall as she took the turn around the corner. Of course. Time stopped for no one, but perhaps a genius could hope to make it stand still? On a whim, she glanced into one of the lighted windows.

The curtains were not drawn all the way and she could make out a shape against what looked like rows of bookshelves at the far end of the room. A silhouette hunched over in a chair, bent in silent scrutiny of the computer screen. His hand moved on the mouse. Click. Click.

Clicking like the sound of her heels on the pavement as she moved through the air soundlessly, the darkness enfolding her form past Nemuro Hall, past and away. She heard the whistle of the train in the distance.

It was him, she realized belatedly as she stepped into the foyer of the darkened house, greeted by the musty scent of medicine and herbs that had become an almost indistinguishable part of her routine. Him. Nemuro.

He had seemed…familiar. Why was that?

The smell of the medicine suddenly overwhelmed her and she swallowed, trying to keep from emptying her small dinner onto the tiles of the floor then and there. A soft sigh from the next room. Mamiya.

Instincts told her to check on him. Her brain refused. She licked her lips. The purse settled into its place on the corner of the mirrored table. One foot in front of the other, moving to the door. The smell of sickness was there now too, along with the medicines and the herbs. A single candle burned on the windowsill of his small room, illuminating the too-thin boy in the bed.

He was asleep.

She reached down one hand to touch his forehead. It was damp with sweat, and sighing, she got up opening the window just slightly so that some air could circulate. Opening windows was dangerous – Mamiya could catch a cold, or worse, but she was feeling dangerous tonight.

Have you ever considered grasping eternity?

"What I hate most," she whispered, "is someone who doesn't take care of himself."

A slight shift. "Nee…neesan?"

"Hush," she said quietly, smoothing the light brown hair back, touching his face. "I'm home."


"Mamiya…I have something for you."

"What's that?" he murmured sleepily, looking up at her with large brown eyes, like a deer's. A deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, unable to move, frozen in the last seconds of its life, so vulnerable.

"I don't have it yet." She got up, closing the window, covering him up with the comforter and blowing out the candle. The smoke drifted up through the pale moonbeams. A last sacrifice.

"But you'll have it soon…for a long, long time. I promise."

When her parents had died and left her and Mamiya alone, it had been the beginning and the end of everything.

She'd graduated high school early. They told her she was gifted. A genius, or at least incredibly gifted to the point of being one, and so she moved away to the University to study law. She was going to become a lawyer, a famous one, because that was what her father was.

She didn't want to be a lawyer, not exactly. She didn't know what she wanted, really, but it didn't matter, because her parents said so. And she was good at law. She was good at everything, but she didn't mind being good at law too, since it made her parents happy. She with her genius IQ and her heavy bag of books and slight figure out of place in the dark law school dominated by the heavy busts of Plato and Aristotle and Demosthenes.

She had never been on a date, unless one counted that awkward afternoon with one of the boys from her history class, bumping into him at the ice cream counter and accepting the offer of a free cone. They had not spoken much…three and four word sentences about the weather and about school. After a few weeks, she forgot all about him.

She had never been kissed.

It had been three in the afternoon on a cool autumn day and she had been studying with the window open when the telephone rang. Her parents were driving down a deserted road when another car had whipped around the bend ahead and hit them head on. Her mother was killed on impact and her father had died from internal bleeding hours later. They had not been found until the next day.

The driver of the car that hit them had left nothing. A crime unsolved.

Mamiya was a shadow of a child at the time, a child possessed by the demon of a disease of which there was no cure, and she was an adult. She told the courts she would take care of him. What else could she do?

She had always been very independent, but there was a fence, a wall, holding her in. Even away from her father, there had been that barrier, the feeling of eyes watching her when she wasn't looking. And now that he was dead, she had the feeling of being watched by ghosts, hovering just out of the reach of her vision, flitting to and fro through the ceiling beams above her head, whispering their words into the recesses of her mind. They were waiting to take her away, just like they had taken her parents away.

She didn't mind. She had always been watched. The ghosts did not bother her. She didn't know if Mamiya could see them, but he never said anything to her about them, about death, even though he lived every day from the confines of his bed, staring out the window at the world that he would never have the chance to see or touch, because it took too much out of him to move further than the recliner in the garden.

I'm your sister, she told Mamiya, and I will take care of you.

She loved him, or at least she thought she did. She loved him like she had loved her parents, because he was family, because she was not entirely sure what love was, but that was all right, too. Geniuses did not fall in love.

And Mamiya was something real, her lifeline among a sea of ghosts.

She was to have been formally introduced to Nemuro by the Chairman on that third visit, but Ohtori was not in his office when she went to find him, and though she waited a long time in the planetarium, gazing up at the now-sunlit ceiling and out the huge window looking down upon the school grounds, he did not come back. She didn't want to think he had forgotten.

So she waited, the feeling of doubt gnawing at the pit of her stomach that he had indeed forgotten about her. She made excuses. Perhaps he had an emergency. Perhaps he had a meeting he had forgotten about and could not inform her in time. Perhaps, perhaps. How could he have forgotten that she was coming? How could he have forgotten about her, after…?

It irked her that he was not there.

As the clock struck 2 PM, she decided that she was tired of waiting, after all, and if he would not come then she would go down and find Nemuro herself. She didn't need the help of any Chairman to get what she wanted. She was a genius in her own right, perfectly capable of bumping shoulders and intellect with Nemuro himself, and for Mamiya's sake, she had to try.

For Mamiya's sake, and perhaps for her own, too.

She turned down that same corridor she had traveled twice already, except this time it was not dark, nor was the sun setting. The same scene of roses was still there, rose petals, rose pollen, the sexuality of flowers in the air, and before she could allow herself to feel dizzy, she hurried on past them, holding her breath. Past the spot where she had first seen the pink-haired man intently watching whatever it was in the distance, so intently that he had spared her no more than a passing glance.

Breezing up the stairs into the front door of Nemuro Memorial Hall, she stopped to catch her breath. The heavy front door was propped open with two cement blocks stacked one on top of the other, to let the air in, perhaps? She couldn't see how the building could ever become stuffy, with its high-vaulted foyer ceiling and elegant receiving corridor. There were pictures on the walls, but she quelled the urge to glance at them as she walked by. She was here for business. Pictures could come later.

There were myriad corridors leading off to deep, dark, unknown places, and she walked down the main hallway and back again, not quite having the nerve to venture off into any of those unknown places. Surely Nemuro's office would be near the front of the building, with a sign on the door? It was usually how things worked, but Ohtori was not usual, and nothing happened usually here.

The breeze floated through the front door, carrying the smell of roses.

NEMURO, the plaque on the right wall read, next to the first door just out of the foyer. The door was closed. She blinked, sure it hadn't been there before, but then again, maybe it had and she had overlooked it. She stared cautiously at the door for a few seconds, but it was just a door, and doors did not open by themselves, no matter how strange Ohtori Academy was.

She knocked.

There was no noise from inside, and she waited a few moments before knocking again, but again there was no response. Placing her fingers on the door handle, she pushed down ever-so-slightly, and as the door eased open, peeked inside.

The room was empty.

Not knowing whether to feel relieved or disappointed, she opened the door all the way and stepped inside, closing it behind him. The room was a combination of an office and a study, with a huge desk at the end of the room, massive bookshelves behind it, and large windows looking out into the central school courtyard. There was a computer at the edge of the desk. Whoever had used it last had forgotten to turn the monitor off before he or she left the room, and the screen-saver scrolled across the screen in bright red.


A boring screen-saver, she decided, but perhaps this genius Nemuro had no time for such trivial matters as thinking up a creative one-liner for a screen-saver. She crossed the room and seated herself comfortably in one of the padded velvet chairs underneath the windows, and waited.

NEMURO HALL, the screen-saver said, scrolling monotonously, unblinking. NEMURO HALL NEMURO HALL.

"Who are you? What are you doing in here?"

He was how she remembered him, pink hair floating wispy around a too high-boned face, slim form balanced against the doorframe in a mockery of ease. She stood as he surveyed her, decided that she was no immediate threat to his health, watched him as he detached himself from the doorway and floated across the room. Like a ghost, her mind whispered to her, a living ghost.

The chilling sense of closeness, of stifling familiarity, wrapped itself around her, breathed once, and then floated away on the cool air of the room, yet she could not look away. It was in his eyes. They drifted across her face again, touching her ever so briefly, a chill wind in passing. They gave away nothing. No hope, no fear, no emotion at all. Lifeless.

She remembered the Chairman's eyes on her body and felt the prickle at the back of her neck.

"You-" she wanted to whisper, but the word shaped itself on her lips soundless, and she did not speak.

You remind me of someone.

"What are you doing here?" he said again. He'd crossed behind the desk and had his hand on the mouse. The screen saver was gone, replaced by a black screen with small icons placed aimlessly through the dark space. His fingers across the plastic were long, bony, feminine. She remembered him leaning against the railing framed by the sun, pen in one delicate hand moving across the white expanse of paper.

For some reason, he frightened her.

"You're the research coordinator, aren't you?" she said, folding her hands in front of her. "Professor Nemuro?"

He said nothing.

"The Board of Directors sent me…I'm here as the current inspector. Chida Tokiko."

The lifeless eyes swept over her again, pale and ghost-like, and for a second, something flared in them. He turned away from her.

"Pleased to meet you," she said.

Mamiya was asleep when she came home, with Nemuro following in her footsteps. She didn't know why she'd brought him home, just that the invitation had come out of her mouth without her even really knowing how it had done so, and to her surprise, he'd accepted. She made tea as he stood in the living room, staring at the decorations on the walls and the pictures on the fireplace mantle.

As she poured the tea she heard a noise, saw him stiffen and move to the window. Startled, she looked up. Mamiya was in the garden, looking like he had been shuffling to his seat by the table, but he was frozen in motion, looking, she realized, towards the living room window. Nemuro stared back. She saw him raise a hand, gently touch the window glass. She saw their eyes meet.

And then Mamiya moved and she put down the pot hurriedly, going to the garden door.

"Mamiya! Didn't I tell you to stay in bed today?"

"But the roses…I got a little worried about them…"

She hurried out, taking him by the shoulder and hustling him back inside. "Get back in bed right now!"


"What I hate," she continued, pushing him into his room and turning up the covers around him, "is someone who doesn't take care of himself!"

He looked down. "I'm sorry."

"Just stay there," she said, exasperated, and closed his room door, going back into the living room. She saw he had already picked up a teacup and was sipping at it. "Sorry you had to see that," she said apologetically. "My brother Mamiya. He's sick, but a little headstrong. Refuses to stay in bed." She tried to laugh and heard the sound fall harsh and discordant on the silent room. Wincing, she stopped.

His fingers enfolding the teacup were as pale and delicate as ever, and he did not look at her nor acknowledge what she'd said, just stared down at his tea with the intensity of a madman. She wondered how the liquid perceived his eyes peering down into the murky depths. She wondered if he ever went outside.

"What do you want?" he said to the tea.

"It's a bit too strong," she said suddenly. "Don't you think?"

In that startled second when he looked up at her, she saw that burning again, the intensity of it as their eyes met for just a split second and then he blinked.

"Even though I let it steam for the same amount of time I usually do…"

Her eyes flicked away from his face, back to his hands wrapped around the teacup, and in the reflection of the china she caught a glimpse of her eyes, behind the glasses.

"I wonder," she murmured, "if even an hourglass can run slow."

"I can't guarantee completion," he said shortly. Taking another sip of his tea. His hands clenched on the cup. "It's running its course as planned. Don't ask for any more."

"I’m not worried about that," she said, bravely, daringly, in the back of her mind seeing the Chairman sitting in his chair behind the large table, smiling, saying, have you ever considered grasping eternity? Because if she had to start from somewhere, here was as good a place to start as any, and she was no longer innocent.

"I know you're not one for taking orders," she said carefully, still staring down at the table, at her own hands around the cup. "Genius is a godly thing…its spirit can't be tied down to earth."

"I’m not a genius," he said, and his eyes met hers for a second time. And he did not look away.

She had meant to test him, to tease him, to slide her gaze away from his, to make him follow, but she had underestimated him, and the fire in his eyes was just as intense as the eyes of the Chairman when he had made her burn for something forbidden that day she had come to the Academy.

But this was not something forbidden, and yet she wanted it because it was so alive and somehow sweet and pure, as if there was a bird trapped within the body of the man struggling to break free of its cage.

Grasping eternity. Here. Now.

Later in the darkness of the room with his measured breathing ragged even in his sleep, she sat and watched the stars move across the black sky out of the window. It had been his first time, by the way he had fumbled and groped, but she hadn't minded, the fumbling and groping made more erotic by the fact that she was the true mistress, the queen to whom he bowed in trembling seductive silence. She, the quiet, unobtrusive scholar, transformed into an object of desire for one brief moment in time.

The couch was narrow but she dared not get up and go to her own room, waking Mamiya. Running her fingers through the wispy hair for just one more moment, she placed one bare foot on the stone floor, saw the tinted glasses laying where they had fallen, bent and picked them up and placed them on the table. Rising, the cool air of the darkened house caressing her naked form.

When she looked down on his sleeping face again, she suddenly realized that he was very beautiful.

What was the difference between sex and love again? Life and death? Did that matter? She was not sure how the equation came together in her head, because all her life she had believed that love was a truth that was given in the face of hope, and she had never had any hope, and thus no use for love. But if the very act of physically giving herself to someone could make her feel so much more alive than any longing for love had ever done, perhaps the world had no need for love altogether.

Love, then, was something archaic, outdated, dying or perhaps already dead. There was no room in eternity for love.

And yet she loved Mamiya.

Was that because she was a ghost among ghosts? Was it because ghosts had already spent their lifetime seeking eternity, and failed, and were forever condemned to wander among the living, still looking for something they had never had?

She went with him to school the next morning, laughing at his expression when he had woken up on her couch with a thick comforter pulled over him and nothing on under that, with the smell of toast and coffee in the air as she set breakfast down on the low table and shaken him gently.

"Where…what…" he said, before he had looked at her and his eyes had darkened, and he looked away.

She smiled. "Don't be gloomy. I am going to school with you today to start my report for the Board. I want to see these students of yours…these brilliant high schoolers."

"They're not my students," he said in a low voice, but rose from the couch, wrapping the comforter around himself and picking up his garments gingerly from the arm of the couch, where she had folded and laid them when she had woken up that morning. It didn't seem proper in the morning light for them to lie about scattered on the floor.

"Your breakfast," she said, not responding to his statement.

"Where is Mamiya?"

She wondered what had passed between them in that brief glance between her brother's eyes and his, but did not mention it. "Asleep. I gave him his medicine half an hour ago. Did you want to speak with him?"

He shook his head. "I won't trouble him then." A curious gentleness came into those eyes. "I'm sure I'll see him when we come home this afternoon."

When we come home.

They finished the food in silence, standing up at the same time as he handed his plate and cup to her, his hand brushing hers as she took the china. Suddenly he grasped her waist tightly, leaning in for a hard, bruising kiss on her mouth before she could cry out, and then released her. She staggered back.

"I'll be waiting in the car," he said, his voice emotionless. The door slammed behind him.

She stared at the closed door, feeling her heart pounding, suddenly wondering what she was doing in this house with a broken past and an empty future and a present that stretched out as long and as bare as the night. She saw his eyes as they had been last night, burning, burning deep into her soul, and she shuddered.

And she knew why he seemed familiar.

"Do I look the same in your eyes as you do in mine?" she mused aloud, watching his shadow on the glass behind the curtain as he crossed the front lawn towards the car in the drive. "When you look at me…do you see just another trapped soul, deserving of pity? I wonder…Professor…"

A rustle at the door made her start, but she knew what it was before she turned, frowned at the boy standing behind her in the doorway, his large eyes curious.

"Neesan? Are you leaving?"

"I'll be back tonight," she said, as gently as she could, hoping her voice did not shake. He just stood and gazed at her for a moment, and she had the horrible feeling that he knew everything. But he smiled then.

"Can I have some breakfast?"

She put the china hurriedly back on the table, removed the last two slices of toast from the toaster and poured a cup of water from the bottle in the refrigerator. "Your medicine is in-"

"The cupboard. I know, neesan. Have a good day." Taking the cup and plate from her and retreating back into his own room. She heard the door shut with a soft click.

She picked up the teacup from the table again. Heard the engine of the car start with a roar, then purr, standing in the drive, waiting for her. She wondered if he would drive off without her if she waited inside long enough.

I wonder if even an hourglass can run slow.

"I'll save you," she said fiercely, not certain which of the two she was addressing, the one waiting patiently outside to spirit her away, or the one waiting patiently for death behind the closed door. "I won't let you die. I'll save you."

The teacup fell from her hand and shattered.

The ride to the school was longer than if they had taken the train, but she didn't mind. It had been a long time since she had ridden in a car, and he was surprisingly more talkative than she would have thought previously.

He asked about her past, her job, her school, and she told him. She asked about his, and he told her. There wasn't much to tell, and as she had guessed, it was very similar.

"My mother died of a heart attack," he said simply, "when I was nine. My father had passed away a year before that in a plane crash. I had a younger sister, but she had hemophilia and died when I was fourteen."

She watched the trees blur past, realized they were approaching the school as she saw students dressed in the green school uniforms trickling down the sidewalks towards classes.

"Don't you get tired of being alone?" she said, softly, pressing her fingertips to the glass window.

He didn't answer as he turned right, carefully easing the car under the arched gate, carved with stone roses.

"You love your brother," he said after a moment. "Don't you?"

It was her turn to remain silent, but he seemed to have expected that, turned the wheel swiftly and braked smoothly into the parking spot. "I had a chance to talk with him yesterday, while you were sleeping. He said…" he hesitated. "He said that you had come to the Academy to meet me. Is that true?"

She turned the handle on the car door. "Let's go," she said. "I have work to do."

She half expected him to argue, or to ask why. Why, neesan?

But he wasn't Mamiya, and he got out of the car, locked it, began walking up the path so suddenly that she blinked and had to run to catch up. The wind caught at her hat and she clapped it to her head with one hand to keep it from blowing away. It was a sunny day.

Was it her imagination, or did her hand linger on his a moment too long as they both reached for the front door handle at the same time?

Nemuro Hall didn't seem so unfriendly the second time around, perhaps because she was with the master of the hall and he made her feel safe. They passed several green-clad students who nodded to them but did not speak, eyes intent on their own errands. She wondered at the grandness of the place, the musty smell of reverent old age clinging to the walls and ceiling. He must be great indeed, to have such an old hall renamed specifically for him.

She mentioned this to him, and he laughed. "Nothing as grand as that, I'm afraid. My grandfather was one of the founders of the school, and they named Nemuro Hall after him. I'm just his successor."

They took the stairs down to the library on the second floor, and as they passed through the doors, a dark-haired young man came up to them, bowing.

"Chida-san, this is Yamanaka Junichi. He's the student head of the project and also the school Student Council President."

"Nice to meet you," Junichi said, bowing again, glancing up from his bow to look at his professor. She thought she detected a strange glance in his eyes, and she stole her own glance sideways. He was smiling.

Wasn't that odd, now.

"Yamanaka-san," she said, and the boy's attention snapped back to her.

"Yes, Chida-san!"

"Perhaps," she said, running one finger along her chin, "you could enlighten me on this quest to…obtain eternity?"

The boy's face blanched, and she felt the Professor's hand on her arm, a firm but gentle pressure.

"I'll explain it," he said. "Go on back to your duties, Junichi. We'll be back to check on you."

The boy bowed again and was gone. She turned to him. "What's this, now?"

He smiled again briefly. "Nothing."

"The ring," she said, reaching out and touching his hand, the finger on which the boy had worn the heavy silver ring. "They all have it. Why don't you?"

They had supper that night on a park bench overlooking one of the lakes that surround the academy, just the two of them. It amused her. It was like a date, yet not, the two of them sitting there on the bench with his arm awkwardly around her, and she leaning up against him. He smelled like roses.

"Your brother is a sharp boy," he said at last. She looked at him curiously.

"What makes you say that?"

"Our talk yesterday. He is unusually sharp for his age."

"The teachers always did say Mamiya was gifted," she said. "I'm sure if he had stayed in school…well, who knows, he could be at Ohtori right now."

His arm stiffened around her for a moment. "I'm not sure Ohtori would be the right place for him."

"Why not?"

He didn't answer her question, instead pointing to the lake below with his free hand. "Look," he said. "Ducks on the water."

She laughed softly, letting him keep the secrets behind his eyes for now, because what did it matter if Mamiya would have gone to Ohtori or not? What if did not change the past, nor the future, and what existed now was only the present. "Tell me about eternity," she said instead.

"What do you want to know?"

"Well," she said, "I'm the inspector. Anything you want to tell me about it, I suppose."

He chuckled a bit. "I doubt the Board of Inspectors wants to read a twenty-page report on the meaning of eternity. Besides, didn't you learn about it yourself today, watching my students?"

"I suppose I did, a little bit." She thought. "Though I must confess that I don't understand exactly how building telescopes and entering data will enable the human race to find whatever it is that you call eternity. What the Chairman told me sounded quite grand, but I don't quite grasp it."

He shook his head, his eyes quiet and amused. "It's not the human race, Tokiko," he said. "The human race doesn't deserve something like eternity. They don't understand it. It's…" He stopped abruptly, looking for the word. She touched his arm.

"Too beautiful, you mean?"

"Maybe." The setting sun touched the Ohtori bell tower and it gleamed golden in the twilight for an instant. "Whatever it is, there are only the select few who truly know the meaning. My students, for example. The Chairman. You and Mamiya."

She blinked. "Me and Mamiya? What do we have-"

"Well," he said softly. "That’s why you're here, isn't it? To save him?"

She turned away. They sat in silence for a while, with the wind rustling the grass and the water. The ducks paddled in a wide circle, once, twice, and then took flight, fluttering into the purple and rose sky. The water lapped after them, stilling. She had always liked the sunrise and the sunset, those in between times when the world was silent, and there were no ghosts to trouble her by flitting around her head, always just out of sight.

"What about you?" she said. "What do you seek eternity for?"

He laughed softly, and she frowned. He held up a hand. "Funny," he said. "I didn't."


The arm around her grew stiff for a moment and then relaxed. "I didn't," he repeated. "I was just like the rest of humanity, not knowing what eternity was, not caring. Until…you."

"Me?" she whispered, and he bent his head and kissed her cheek. She closed her eyes, but did not pull away. The touch of his lips against her skin reminded her of the ducks on the water, of the water after their passing, calming as if the ducks had never been.


"Mamiya will need me soon," she said hurriedly, turning her head. "Look at that sunset."

He played along, releasing her and putting the things back in the picnic basket. They could both feel the moment still there, expectant but ignored. Some things were better done in the dark and in secret, and on a hilltop overlooking the school at sunset was not what she wanted. "You two are quite a family, you know."

"You're quite a man yourself," she said, and she felt his own amusement as he pulled her to her feet, the moment fading at last.

"Eternity makes it so," he said. "Come. Let's go home."

He had not come inside with her, had dropped her off at the house and then had driven off into the sunset. The light in Mamiya's room was on, and she removed her shoes in the hallway, set her purse on the long couch in the living room where they had made love, and carefully pushed open her brother's door.

He was in bed, reading. The window was open.

"Mamiya!" she scolded, crossing the room to close it. "You'll catch cold!"

"But I like the smell of roses," he said, not looking up from his book. "They make me think of home."

His words pierced her like thorns and her hands dropped from the heavy window bolt to hang at her sides, clenching and unclenching into fists.

"Neesan?" She heard him put down his book, draw back the covers.

"I'm sorry, Mamiya," she choked. "It's my fault…it's my fault that you…"

Warm arms wrapped around her waist, warm arms too thin, and she felt him lay his head against her back as her hot tears dropped onto his interlocked fingers under her breasts. "It’s not your fault, neesan," she heard him say. "It's not anyone's fault."

"I was selfish…I didn't think…."

"Shh." Warm fingers stroked her forehead and she closed her eyes, feeling only a strange sensation of floating come over her. If she could not be sure of anything else, she could be sure that Mamiya, at least, was no ghost. "Don't cry, neesan. Nothing is your fault."

"I'll do it for you," she said, turning to embrace the thin body and she felt his hand drop from her face and cling to her like fading life itself. "I…I can't let you die. I won't. I won't!"

"I-" he began.

"I love you, Mamiya," she said desperately.

There was a pause so brief that she wouldn't have noticed it if she had not been listening.

"I love you too," he said softly. "Neesan."

The next week, Mamiya caught a cold.

She'd known that his leaving the window open would result in him catching some sort of cold, but this was worse than anything he'd ever had before. Usually when he had a cold, because of his weak immune system, he would have to be admitted to the hospital and put under the scrutiny of several nurses in white caps and uniforms and then a doctor in his white coat, pompous and overbearing, who would always inform her that it her brother would need to stay a few days in the hospital but it was nothing serious.

And after a day or two, Mamiya would come home and she would berate him and he'd lower his eyes and say he was sorry.

This cold began like all the others – a hacking cough, a slight fever. But when she came home the third night, having been gone at the Academy all day again, the hacking cough was interspersed with whimpers of pain, and the slight fever had turned into a raging one that burned her fingers at her slight touch to his forehead. Nemuro had come in with her, to help her see to her brother before he went home for the night, and even before he heard her choked gasp, he was already reaching for the phone.

"Get him out of bed and into the front room," he said quietly. "I've called an ambulance."

She felt nothing as they placed him gently on the stretcher and took him away in the car with the flashing lights, only a vast, distant coldness that had replaced everything. She faintly remembered warmth – Nemuro was warm, his form beside her as they sped towards the hospital in his car, like the warmth in the darkness that one night they had spent together in her living room, warm like a living, breathing human. But had he been warm because he was, in fact, human? Or had she been trying too hard to make him into what she wanted him to be?

Maybe Nemuro was also just a ghost, one of the ghosts that had haunted her since childhood.

When they'd arrived at the emergency room, they were informed that Mamiya had been taken to intensive care, that the fever was too high and they were afraid that he might have suffered brain damage. The professor had stepped protectively in front of her as they announced the news, but she'd gently pushed him aside.

"I need to hear this," she said.

They had stood there together in the waiting room while the doctors departed to run more tests, to hook up more tubes. She hated the tubes, the thin-spidery plastic wires that ran like webs ringed around Mamiya's body, hated how whenever she came into the hospital to visit him he would look up at her out of a sea of tubing, like some bizarre cyborg. He knew how she felt about it, but he would only smile and say, hello Neesan, are you ready for me to come home?

As much as she hated them, the tubes made Mamiya more real to her, because a ghost would not need tubes to keep it alive.

"Are you all right?"

The question was barely audible, a whisper of air from his lips above the already barely audible hum of the television that muttered in the corner of the room, but it was the light in his eyes that caught her again, like lamps in the darkness, lamps of celestial light that at the same time held no life whatsoever. Her breath caught and for a moment she could not speak.


She turned her head away violently and felt the effect lessen. "I'll be fine," she said, hoping the emotion in her voice did not show. "It's only another cold. He gets these all the time. He'll be out of the hospital in a few days."

He placed a hand on her shoulder, and she let it linger for a few seconds before he asked, "Do you believe that?"

The question sent an uncontrollable shudder through her, and she wrenched his hand away. Staring out the window fiercely, glaring at the distant streetlamps, at the even more distant pale moon that shone like a watchful guardian over the towers of Ohtori Academy. "Don't ask me questions like that," she hissed. "You hardly know me."

There was a thoughtful pause. "No," he said slowly. "I don't know you. But at the same time I feel like I know you too well. You search for eternity also, do you not?"

"Don't be stupid."

"When I first met you," he continued as if she hadn't even spoken, "when I saw you standing there by my desk in my study, at first I thought you were a ghost. Because I know everything that goes on in Nemuro Hall, from the name of every student that passes through those doors, to what goes on in every room. Only ghosts may enter my hall without me knowing. And I did not know you had come in."

She hadn't even noticed when she had pulled out her handkerchief, started twisting it in her hands, twisting it into a tight spiral, spiraling in itself over and over again. Neverending. "Don't be a fool."

"You seem to like calling me that. May I ask why?"

She could barely refrain from slapping him, the arrogant wisp of a man who stood before her. He was barely taller than she was, but for some reason he seemed taller tonight. Maybe it was just the stark whiteness of the hospital waiting room in contrast to the colors of the Ohtori professor's garb that he was still dressed in because he hadn't had time to go home after Mamiya had been rushed to the hospital. The television murmured in the background.

"Don't talk to me about ghosts," she said instead, her voice low and trembling. "You don't know the first thing about them."

He considered her words. "Maybe not. But I know enough to know that you are no ghost."

"You have no way of knowing that," she said. The handkerchief was taut beneath her fingers and she could feel the silk digging into the skin of her fingers. It was pink silk, pink like his hair, pink like the sunset in which she'd first seen him on the balcony of Nemuro Hall. She felt herself twist it tighter, harder, as if her fingers were moving of their own will and she could only look down, watch as the fibers of the silk strained against the sustained abuse of an act for which the handkerchief was not made.

"You are a fool," she whispered.

The lifeless eyes raked her body but she did not look at him, knowing that if she did, she would not be able to escape it, whatever it was, the strange power he held over her, over the students at his academy, over everyone who he had ever touched. Over Mamiya. "Why?"

"There's no such thing as eternity," she said desperately, wanting him to prove her wrong. "Everyone knows that. You're on a fool's errand."

His lips quirked in a half smile. "You may be right. And you may be wrong. Just because no one has ever grasped that eternity doesn't mean that it's not there. How do you know unless you go looking?"

"You're wrong," she said. The silk was warm under her fingers, no longer a square of cloth, but a long rod of hard fabric. "You're wrong. You know everything that goes on in your academy? Then why don't you wear the silver ring, like all of your other boys? What makes you so special that you don't need it?"

His eyes hardened, and for the first time that night, something flashed in them that might be a spark of life, but it was so brief that it might have not even been there, and then she knew that she had been tricked.

"You lied to me. You lied to Mamiya."

"I never lied."

"You talked about grasping eternity," she breathed, holding his gaze, not afraid now. Simply ashamed. Angry at how he had taken her and manipulated her, working her over with his false truths. "You don't believe in eternity in the first place, do you? Not then, not now. About me helping you believe…it was all a pack of lies!"

"I never lied to you!" he thundered, and his eyes were alive now, as alive as she had ever seen them, swirling with an anger that frightened her, and she took a step back, coming up against the wall, bumping her head painfully.

"You lied to Mamiya," she whispered. "You lied…you lied!"

"I love Mamiya!" he cried, and his face crumpled with a sudden pain that shocked her. He turned away, but it was too late – she had already seen it, seen the emotion that his expression held, and it was not only the intensity that tore at her heart. It was the sheer fact that she had only known one other who had ever spoken with the same emotion when talking about her brother.

And that was her.

He did love Mamiya.

She reached out with trembling fingers, letting go of the ruined silk handkerchief, and it fell from her fingers to hit the ground with a soft plopping noise, just like her tears were running down her face and ticking against her hands. But it was his turn to step out of her reach, staring at her with those horrible eyes that were so alive and so haunted, and his next words were like spirits out of the air.

"And I love you."


The word whispered in her mind, and she made a violent grab for him, knowing only that she had been wrong, and she did believe in eternity, and that was all she wanted for Mamiya, that she would do anything-!

"I can't do this, Tokiko," he said hoarsely, and then he fled.

She was sitting against the wall, curled up in a ball, fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion and too many tears, when the doctor returned. The touch of his fingers against her shoulder woke her instantly, though her eyes were swollen too shut from crying for her to open them fully. The doctor was too polite to say anything, but she knew he noticed her blotchy face, her eyes swollen to slits.

"Your brother-" he began, but before he could go any further, she already knew.

"Thank you for all your help," she said steadily, reaching out her own hand. As the doctor shook it with a startled clumsiness, she smiled serenely, looking out at the night sky. "May I see him?"

Mamiya looked just as he had in life, looked like he was simply sleeping. His brown hair had fallen in his eyes and she brushed it away, kissed the closed eyelids one last time. There were no tubes, no monitors, no horrid beeping, and for that, she was glad. There would be nothing to disturb him now. He would be free. The ghosts had already taken him.

His skin, when she reached out to touch it one last time, was very cold.

She went back to Nemuro Hall for the last time two weeks after the funeral, after the movers had come and packed all her belongings, because she was moving back to Tokyo. They'd offered her a job at one of the schools there was an administrator, and the job benefits were enormous. She would be living well for quite some time, especially since there were no more medical bills to pay.

The hall was empty, just as she remembered it, and she wondered if Nemuro was watching the door from wherever he usually watched the goings-on in his hall. She had no desire to see him. She hadn't, not since he had run from her in the waiting room that night. Strangely, she didn't hold that against him. It wasn't a betrayal of her, nor was it a betrayal of Mamiya – it was simply a betrayal of himself.

The door to his office was squeaky, and her heart pounded a bit as she peered into the room. What if he was there, sitting at his desk, typing away at the computer that was as lifeless as he? What would she say to him?

But he wasn't there. The curtains were draw back from the windows and the corner light was on, but the room itself was empty of human presence. The screensaver was on again, scrolling dryly across the monitor like a mantra.


There was a teacup on his desk. That in itself wouldn't have been strange if there had been other things there as well to keep it company, perhaps a pad of paper, or a handful of pens and pencils, or a stapler, even. But there was nothing. Simply a lone teacup, centered on the wooden surface.


She took a step toward it, drawn as if by some invisible force, but before she could get any closer, there was a movement behind her and she jumped.

"Good day, Chida-san."

It was the Chairman.

"Oh!" she gasped, her hands going to her hair automatically to smooth it down, to her waist to straighten her skirt. "Chairman, I wasn't expecting you…"

"No good can come of you creeping about Professor Nemuro's study uninvited," he said with a hint of humor in his smooth voice. "I was told you were on a train back to Tokyo?"

"The train leaves in two hours," she said, her mouth dry. The way he looked at her, while saying something completely different, made her heart pound. "I just came by to…well, I don’t know why I came by exactly."

"Who does?" the Chairman said. "Actually, I am glad I caught you before you left, Chida-san. Come with me, why don't you?"

She should have argued, felt like she needed to argue, but she didn't, simply followed his broad-shouldered form out of the study obediently, following him to a room across the hallway where the door was left ajar. Odd. She'd never noticed this room before. Nemuro Hall did have a confusing effect on her like that.

He stopped walking. Turned around and faced her. She stopped in her tracks, stumbled a bit at his abrupt halt.


"Yes, Chairman?" she breathed.

His face was very close to hers, and she could feel the heat radiating off his skin at this close interval. She remembered his touch on her body from all that time ago and found that she had stepped closer to him, wanting to feel that again, craving his lips on her neck, his hand on her breast. Or was that Nemuro's touch, and she had simply been confusing the memories? She wasn't sure.

I love Mamiya!

And I love you.

"Did you manage to find eternity?" he said softly, an unreadable sort of smile on his face.

And before she could answer, he bent and kissed her.

She relaxed into the kiss, feeling his tongue flick between her parted lips to explore the inside of her mouth, and she moaned softly, leaning in, wanting more.


The feeling slid over her like cold water and she pushed him away, feeling something slither down her spine, knowing that what she had just done was wrong, but not knowing why. His eyes watched her, and she had a feeling he was laughing at her.

"I must go," she said shakily.

"So you have rejected eternity," he mused. "But that is no surprise. The gift of eternity, after all, is not for everyone. Or didn't Professor Nemuro tell you that?"

She said nothing.

He did laugh this time. "Goodbye, Chida-san."

She stared at him for a moment, boldly, her chin up and her eyes proud, and then turned her back and left the room. She glanced to her left as she exited the building, but Nemuro's door was closed. She could still feel them watching her, the ghosts. They were always watching. They were like the eyes of the boys that wore the silver rings on their fingers, the boys who were still hard at work upstairs, working towards an eternity that would never be. They were like his eyes, the eyes of the man she could not save and who could not save her.

There was no eternity, after all. No love, because geniuses did not fall in love, and ghosts had no need of it.

"Goodbye, Mamiya," she said.

23 May 2003