The Twilight of Our Discontent
Part I: Discontentment
Kaoru Kozue rapped her nails sharply against the desk and
narrowed her eyes on the young girl's face. "You lost
him?" Her voice was a low and dangerous hiss.
The young girl blinked her wide eyes and stammered in fear.
"We-we didn't lose him, as such, but--"
"But you don't know where he is."
The girl at the desk dropped her eyes toward the phone. "Let
me just, uh, call the doctor. I'll just call the doctor."
Kozue stormed back toward her husband and lit a cigarette.
Instinct told her to snarl "call the lawyer", but
after the mess of her second divorce she'd seen it prudent
to simply marry a lawyer. "I can't believe this,"
she muttered instead, exhaling a cloud of smoke into the waiting
room. "This isn't some fucking state-run rat hole--we
pay good money to see that he's well taken care of!"
"I know, dear, I know." His arm still felt foreign
around her back and she had a feeling that this new arrangement
wouldn't last long.
Whether out of love or a simple sense of duty, she'd been
to see Miki-kun every other Sunday since that day seven years
ago, the day a man from the hospital called to say her brother
had had an accident, and could she please meet the doctors
there to discuss it? It had taken three people to restrain
him, fighting the compact strength of a fencer to force him
onto the gurney and pull him screaming into the sunlight.
A seizure, they'd called it, his nerves responding to things
that weren't there, but she knew better. From the hall she
could hear him, frantically screaming about castles and eternity
and shining things, and with shaking hands she signed the
paper allowing him to be medicated.
That had been only a few short years, but it felt like ages
to Kozue; ages of Sundays, finding him writing math formulas
that looked like Greek to her, or playing their tired old
song on the small piano tucked away almost as though by accident
in a back room of the asylum. He would spend hours, the nurses
said, playing the same lovely song in a tiny room sandwiched
between a chemical closet and empty beds.
Yes, that was Miki, she'd muttered with a sigh.
The nurses there loved him--always patient and quiet, more
like a boy than a man, and never resisting the medication
that kept the delusions at bay. He'd never quite accepted
reality again after that day in the library, but he was peaceful
in his world of piano and math and reading the books Kozue
But the desk girl was back, drawing Kozue out of her memories.
All they had found in his room, the little girl said, wringing
her hands, was a torn envelope with a red wax seal on the
back. A rose seal, like that odd silver ring he had.
Kozue cried out suddenly and made as though to strike the
girl, held back only by her husband. How could these nurses,
these doctors who were relieved to find so easy a patient,
just let him slip through their fingers?
The light clicked on and Arisugawa Juri caught her reflection
in the hall mirror. She had earned that self-satisfied smile,
even if her eyes didn't hold it. She'd killed that expert
on cross, caught him in his own mistake and dragged him through
it, making him out as a fool to the jury. Nothing else the
prosecutor could bring up would replace that image to them;
this case of robbery now revolved around a broken chain of
custody and an officer with a grudge.
The trial was as good as hers.
Juri was good at what she did--she was good at getting behind
lies and around the technicalities and poorly done investigations,
good at convincing twelve intelligent people to suspend their
preconceived notions and understand that her client was innocent,
no matter what that moron from the district attorney's office
She was going to have to move to a new jurisdiction, she
realized. James Cheviot made it too easy for her to best him.
She'd been the first woman to make partner at her firm, and
the young redheaded secretary who worked under her called
her "Prince" with stars in her eyes. And it was
true--to replace that girl, she was playing the prince for
the firm, complete with pro-bono representation and charity
under an assumed name.
She slipped the burgundy coat off her shoulders with a small
sigh. This was what you wanted, she told herself, this is
the success you were promised at that prestigious academy,
and when you graduated at the top of your class. Her clothes
were rich and soft, and she pampered her body to pass the
time. She would wink and flirt with the girl who called her
prince, and she could stand proudly before the court in her
tall boots and her feminine sport coats, flipping the curls
out of her eyes and tossing a well-timed question at a witness.
She'd fought hard to get here, to earn her place at the top
of a brutal ladder.
So why, exactly wasn't she happy?
She sighed again, a deep ragged sound like a death rattle,
and started running the bath. Her apartment was massive and
sparsely furnished, full of the bleak discomfort of solid,
drab colors and smart modular furniture.
She'd left the bath to fill and went back to the main hall
for her mail. She sifted quickly through a newsletter from
her alma mater, something from the firm and a letter to someone
else that had found its way into her stack, nothing worth
This seal, this bit of wax pressed in a familiar shape...with
a quick swipe of her letter opener the envelope fell to the
floor and her shaking fingers slowly unfolded the slip of
paper in her hand. The apartment was silent but for the rush
of water in the bathroom and her heavy breathing.
Ten minutes later she was out the door, water still running
in the tub.
The house felt empty without Himemiya.
Utena dropped her keys on the table and set about fixing
a snack, wiping the sweat off her forehead with her arm. The
birds chirped outside in the small stretch of woods behind
their home, drawn by the sweet smell of Anthy's roses and
looking for the bread and seeds she would throw to them from
time to time.
Anthy still grew roses, but she had finally stopped calling
her love "Miss Utena". She'd taken to wearing ankle-length
Bohemian skirts and chunky thrift-store jewelry; she left
her hair down and made up her eyes on special occasions.
Utena had recently become a lady's gym teacher at a local
high school, and it wasn't uncommon to find her students in
the back room of Anthy's tea shop, having their palm read
or sharing their troubles over steaming cups. See Miss Himemiya,
Utena would hear the girls whisper in the locker room. If
he dumped you, see the Rose Witch. She can help.
They were right, though; somehow, just telling Anthy your
troubles made them seem better. The world was brighter when
you left the tea shop, and your problems seemed to sort themselves
out with time.
Utena grabbed her water bottle from the fridge and took a
long drink. Yes, Himemiya the Rose Witch, finally using her
powers for good. She felt a lonely stab of love for her, that
girl with the simple smile who shared her home and her bed
and made her feel complete. They'd made each other happy out
here, on the edge of this small town, but they were somewhat
lonely. No one wanted to deal with them unless they needed
some of Anthy's magic.
The note was still tacked on the refrigerator door--"Utena,
my love...I'm going to heal an old but sore wound. I shall
see you later. Adoringly, your Anthy." Utena read it
over again and then went back to the stove to turn off her
The telephone rang and she ran to it, hoping for news on
whether she would have a job next year. But the dark, soft
voice on the other end muttered something that made long dead
memories resurface, and her eyes flashed suddenly with shock
as she dropped the phone.
He was like a lovely nightmare, a vision of beautiful terror
dressed in green and bathed in the moonlight.
He prided himself on the fact that his lovely violet eyes
were the last thing some people would ever see.
Saionji Kyouichi was the best in the business. He was neutral
in the games and territorial disputes of the underworld of
city crime, but if someone simply needed to be gotten rid
of he was there. You could find him in a small flat over a
noodle shop, practicing relentlessly to keep his skills sharp
or having a simple meal of rice and tea.
His was a life filled only with a romantic sense of discipline,
the strength and control of someone who was controlled by
their art. Generally, he enjoyed the dark solitude, and the
sense of fear from those who came to seek his services.
But sometimes, in the dark of night, he couldn't help but
wonder what it all was for. These were the nights when he
locked his door and sat at the small table, back straight,
glass bottle and tumbler before him. On these nights, he had
already done all the practicing he could usefully perform
that day, and already sifted absently through the books stacked
neatly in one corner. He could drink steadily and usually
held his liquor with the self-control he had over all other
facets of his life, but these nights would usually find him
slightly drunken, curled on his sleeping pallet with tears
in his eyes and a desperate desire to end it all.
A girl, he would remember, a beautiful girl with knowing
emerald eyes he couldn't look away from. On these nights there
was nothing but her eyes, and the soft touch of her skin and
smell of her hair was smothering him.
Ironic, that in those fatal moments he felt that last thing
he would ever see where those eyes, the compliment to the
last sight of so many who had crossed the underworld crime
lords. He would look to his sword, sitting in the center of
the room, suddenly a revered and hated figure looming over
his life, and when he finally decided to reach for it his
eyes would close and release him into oblivion.
It had been a particularly volatile night of remembering
for him, he realized. The light stung slightly in his eyes
and he winced at the sudden vertigo which gripped him. When
the dizziness passed he noticed a small square of white in
the usual shadows of the chamber. The morning light was illuminating
it in a way most picturesque, and as he stepped towards it
his heart was in his throat. He paused for a moment, curious
about the sensation gathering itself in the pit of his stomach.
Anticipation? Excitement? It'd been very long since he'd
had any use for these feelings; a slightly sinister calm had
gripped most of his life, so slowly that he hadn't even realize
how much a welcome change anything new and exciting could
Exciting? Oh yes. But the small sealed envelope contained
Being Kiryuu Touga was like running in a circle--it got you
nowhere, but it felt like you were doing something important.
Touga had been enjoying the local political circuit for a
year, having more control over the state of affairs than he
should have at his age. It was like life back at that school,
that prestigious high school, where the power of the Student
Council was beyond anything it should have been. But he didn't
question it--he liked the power, he liked the control, and
he especially like the interesting opportunities it allowed
him with certain ladies.
But every so often, one must stop running, letting their
exhaustion catch up with them as they realize the futility
of their actions.
Tonight, cigarette pressed between his lips, was one of those
nights. That girl--yes, what's-her-name, that cute blonde--was
dressing in the corner and muttering something about her boyfriend.
Touga ignored her and watched the smoke drift towards the
ceiling. He'd spent the last year in dark places like this,
running circles and getting nowhere, seeing nothing but the
next petty goal. He was knee-deep in the council's corruption,
watching their excesses with disgust. He'd always been pretty
good about ignoring his moral scruples, drowning any sense
of right and wrong in women and the cheerful exploits of the
rich and bored, but sometimes it could catch up with him,
and he felt like he was the one drowning, pulled under a current
he helped create.
He sat up, letting the sheet slide down his toned chest as
the girl left. He wished desperately that he'd picked up the
world-weary divorcee, someone who could have understood the
deep sense of disillusionment overtaking him. It surprised
him, because he'd never been an idealist, but sometimes he
could almost feel that maybe there was meant to be something
more to life, and that happiness wasn't measured by the dollar
or the number of people under your thumb.
But there was nothing for it. He stubbed out his cigarette
and shook his head.
Wait, was there? He opened the nightstand and pulled out
a small envelope, an envelope sealed in red. It'd been so
long since he'd seen this sort of letter, and for the life
of him he couldn't remember what was supposed to be in it.
Slowly he tore it open, pulling out a folded piece of white
paper and opening it gently.
Ah yes, that was it. A small, creeping sense--idealism, could
it be?--snuck its way into the back of his mind.