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
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
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
"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."
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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."
He didn't answer her question, instead pointing to the lake below
with his free hand. "Look," he said. "Ducks on the
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
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
"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
"Eternity makes it so," he said. "Come. Let's go
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
"Neesan?" She heard him put down his book, draw back
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"I can't do this, Tokiko," he said hoarsely, and then
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
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
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
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.
NEMURO HALL. NEMURO HALL. NEMURO HALL.
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
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
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