The Twilight of Our Discontent
Part II: Fulfillment
She stood, as always, with her arm crossed over here chest.
He almost thought she looked younger, like she had when they'd
graduated, nothing like the pictures in the newspaper from
her trials. With a shock he realized that the difference was
her Student Council uniform.
"Kiryuu?" Arisugawa Juri uncrossed her arms, her
posture froze in regal straightness. "What is this all
He shook his head, feeling the familiar smirk settle on his
face. It seemed to be another part of his old uniform, but
like the old jacket, it didn't fit quite like it used to.
"I must admit, I don't know."
She raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "You don't know?
So you're not in with End of the World anymore? Has his greatest
puppet lost its usefulness?"
"I've been out of Ohtori too long," he said, his
jaw tensing. "I'm not involved."
"We've all been out of Ohtori too long." It was
obvious from her eyes that she didn't believe him, but he
could understand that. He had betrayed them, forsaken his
fellow council members when an alliance with Ohtori Akio proved
Touga rested his hand comfortably in his pocket and glanced
around. A towering bird of stone, a small but impossible pool
of water in the wall, a handle. How, he wondered, eyebrows
knitted, did we ever get in to the arena?
"It doesn't fit, does it?" she asked suddenly.
"Like these old uniforms, nothing here seems to fit.
What you remember doesn't match up to what you see, and there
are things you can't quite remember, quite important things
out of reach."
"I don't remember how we got in either," she confessed.
"All I could remember was my fencing foil. Somehow, I
had a feeling I may need it."
"Do you think we'll have to duel again?"
"Perhaps. But that wasn't why I brought it. It was more
like greeting an old friend--I didn't realize how much I missed
fencing until I felt the foil in my hands. I hope--"
But she stopped, looking past Touga into a corner. A figure
had joined them in the shadows, standing against a wall with
crossed arms. When he realized they have noticed him he stepped
forward into the light.
The light seemed an odd place for him. Although he stood
fairly proudly, his posture still suggested something of a
tiger ready to pounce, and his face was draped in the shadow
of his hair.
Touga looked towards him, then away. He felt awkward and
ashamed, unable to meet Saonji's eyes.
A small, twisted smile stretched across Saionji's face. "My
esteemed council members. It is an honor to see you again."
He brushed his hair out of his eyes, revealing a cruel looking
red scar over his left eye.
Juri's eyes widened slightly, and her jaw dropped a bit in
spite of herself. "You," she said simply, "you're
him. You're that hitter--I knew there was something about
the style of the deaths, but I didn't put it together until
He nodded once. "Yes."
"My old friend," Touga whispered finally, "I
find it so difficult to believe you could have taken up a
position that violent."
"Why? I had the training, and nothing else. This place,"
Saonji said, looking around with a bitter nostalgia in his
eyes, "left me with nothing but my aggression and my
sword. This arena builds monsters, not miracles."
Juri shook her head quickly. "That isn't true. I know
monsters--it's my job to know them. The difference is that
these monsters you speak of can kill children."
Saonji's glare locked on her. "What are you talking
about?" he asked, but his voice broke in a way that suggested
he already knew.
"That scar--all that the little girl could remember
about you was the scar. You couldn't kill her, and you must
have felt so wretched for killing her father with her in the
house that you gave her your old rose ring. The ones we all
"She was supposed to be with her mother in Cuba,"
Saionji muttered bitterly, "I was told that she went
with her mother."
"She still has the ring, according to the district attorney.
She hid it when they found out where it came from and wanted
to put it into evidence." Juri sighed. "So you're
playing the prince now too."
He shrugged. "What else is there to do? I've dedicated
my life to honor in my profession, so who am I to dishonor
so fine a tradition? Although I realize now that I should
have kept it. But I couldn't remember why I still wore it
or what it was for..." He glanced at their surroundings
again. "So why are we still waiting out here? I thought
End of the World instructed us to meet in the dueling arena."
"We're not sure how to get in," Juri muttered softly.
He paused, searching his memory. There was an unsettling
expression on his face, much like someone navigating a long
forgotten room in the dark. "Do either of you still wear
your rose seals?"
Juri shrugged. "I think it's in the bottom of my jewelry
"I'm not sure where mine is," Touga confessed.
"Don't you remember?" Saonji cried brightly. "That
was it--that was how we got into the arena!"
The shock of memory hit Touga and Juri full force.
"Of course," Touga muttered. "The Rose seals
came in that first letter, the invitation from End of the
World. They opened the door and revealed the castle."
Heavy footfalls echoed in the distance, halting the conversation.
They turned to face the entrance apprehensively.
"You don't think..." Saonji began quietly.
A small, pale face framed in short pink hair peeked nervously
in the door. "Sorry, I didn't remember how good the acoustics
were in this place."
"Tenjou Utena?" Touga whispered.
Saonji twitched slightly, but seemed to be too tired to hold
his old grudges with any conviction.
Juri fixed the approaching figure with a pleased look. "Good
evening, Miss Tenjou."
Utena smiled and moved as though to slide her hands into
her pockets, but her old modified uniform didn't have hip
pockets. "So, uh, where's Anthy?"
"I thought it was your turn to watch her," Saonji
"I dunno, she had something she said she had to do,
but I got a call yesterday saying she was back here at Ohtori.
I was told to meet her at the dueling arena, but I couldn't
for the life of me remember that it was in the forest. Isn't
"We wouldn't know," Juri muttered, looking away.
"None of us have kept our rose seals."
"Did we need those? Good heavens, I must have lost it
when we moved. All I could remember about Ohtori was something
cold on my ring finger. Well, that and the councilor with
A slightly uncomfortable silence filled the area. Touga coughed
lightly and Saonji looked around but could find nothing to
"Do any of you remember what we were dueling for?"
Utena asked suddenly, her brow furrowed introspectively.
"The Rose Bride," Saonji said, "and the power
to revolutionize the world."
"But wasn't there something more?" Utena asked
suddenly. "I'm almost convinced there was something more.
"Something small," Juri said, speaking mostly to
herself, "small and very personal, something we each
cared for very dearly and could never, ever express."
"Eternal things," Saonji said suddenly. His eyes
had taken on a distant and somewhat pained look. "But
nothing is eternal. You are gone forever the moment no one
"Miracles." Juri laughed hollowly. "There
are no such things as miracles, though. You make your own
luck and if you're lucky you fetch up happy."
"Power." Touga shook his head. "It's nothing.
It's useless, and usually the people who want it the most
are those who should have it the least."
"I wanted to be a prince," Utena said, slightly
embarrassed. It seemed a bit silly to her now. "God,
what was I thinking?"
"Do you think Miki ever found his Shining Thing?"
Juri asked nostalgically. "I remember how he would speak
of almost nothing else some days."
There was a stumbling from the door, and a small, sad voice
said "No." Kaoru Miki walked in slowly, taking in
the surroundings with an anxious curiosity. "I can't
even remember what it was, really. It wasn't a thing at all,
it was a feeling...but what did I want to feel? Drat, my memory
"Miki," Juri whispered with a serene smile. "I
was so worried when I read about what happened to you, the
seizures and the breakdown...although I admit, I couldn't
remember where I knew you from or why I cared so much."
He squinted at her, then at the others assembled. "Please
forgive me," he said, "But I'm not sure why I followed
the note. And that I'm late, I think--I got a little lost
on the campus. It's been a long time since I was allowed to
try functioning without medication."
"Medication? Seizures? What happened?" Utena asked.
There was something nagging at the back of her mind.
"It's nothing," Miki muttered, "I just didn't
take to the real world very well." He cleared his throat
and reached into his pocket. Click. The end of the stopwatch
lanyard was still in his pocket, but his staring at the numbers
on the dial was a familiar and comforting site.
"Tell me," Touga asked suddenly, "why did
you keep that stopwatch with you when you were not keeping
time for the Student Council? I always wondered."
"I can't remember that either," Miki said sadly,
"but somehow when I got back here I had to bring it with
me. Somehow it made the remembering less painful." He
clicked the stopwatch again and pulled it fully from his pocket.
Swinging from loop of the lanyard, shining with an unnatural
brilliance that attracted the eye, was Miki's rose seal.
The duelists stared at the dangling ring, breath caught and
"You...you kept it?" Touga asked with disbelief.
"I kept everything I had with me that day. This uniform,
my ring, my music folder--I wouldn't let them take these things.
As I say, the real world did not sit well with me."
"Somehow," Utena muttered, "somehow everything
seems alright again."
"It is done," Saonji said, a bit of hope glowing
in his eyes.
The dueling arena was somehow infinitely larger than they
had remembered, and the once unmarred marble floor was choked
with roses of purest white. And there was Anthy, like a shock
of red blood staining a white kerchief, in the red gown of
the Rose Bride and with her hair pinned up. She smiled, warmly
and with feeling, and beckoned the duelists to join her at
the far end of the arena.
Apprehension restrained them as the looked to each other
for guidance. Utena finally shrugged and took a first step
forward. They followed slowly, feeling their trepidation ebbed
away, replaced with a growing sense of relief.
"Himemiya," Utena asked slowly, "what..."
"Shh." Anthy placed two fingers lightly over Utena's
mouth and turning her eyes to the duelists. Her eyes were
full of affection. "I wonder, have any of you realized
what binds you? There is something stronger than the rules
of the rose seal, something you took with you after you left
the dueling game."
Silence. Juri took an unconscious step forward. "Misery.
None of us are really happy with our lot in life, no matter
how much success we have had."
"Always a particular talent of yours," Touga added
in a quiet, playful voice.
Juri shot him a look, but the venom she had been so well
known for felt stale and heavy.
"Yes." Anthy had the air of a kindergarten teacher,
pleased with the intelligence of her students. "You've
all been very unhappy since you've left here, and I fear it
is my fault. I made too many promises I could never keep.
It was necessary. For the game."
"We thought," she continued, leading her charges
closer to the center of the arena, "that the game was
necessary, no matter how cruel. It was the only way we could
bring the revolution. I was the Rose Bride, not the Rose Witch,
and I was too afraid to tap my power. I was too far in the
game, too used to the evil that had settled in my heart after
it overtook the Prince. But now I've learned. I'm using my
powers for good, as you say."
"Miss Himemiya," Miki asked softly, his face reddening
slightly, "I'm sorry, but what exactly is going on?"
"I'm fulfilling my promises." Anthy turned to face
them again. "We'll go to the castle, the castle where
eternity dwells, and together we can have miracles, eternity,
anything sacred and glowing..." She trailed off, her
eyes glowing with love and anticipation. "I have a gift,"
she said softly, "for each of you."
Slowly, gently, and with perfect grace, she leaned over and
pressed her lips affectionately to Saonji's ear. She whispered
slowly and almost silently, and he seemed lulled by her words.
"What was that, old friend?" Touga asked when she
There were stars in Saonji's eyes when he answered. "An
incantation for eternity. I can say it if I'm alone, and for
just a moment I can glimpse eternity."
Anthy approached Juri next, laying a hand lovingly on her
cheek. "What miracle would you ask of the Rose Bride,
Juri was silent, biting her lip. "Just tell me--is there
a miracle for a girl like me?" Her voice broke a bit
and she cleared her throat.
"There are many. I can give you anything your heart
desires." She laid a hand over Juri's heart silently.
"I will build you a woman of ivory with hair of gold,"
she said finally, "and give her a heart as pure as yours."
Her eyes found her way to Miki, who was blushing and looking
nervously at his feet. "I'm sorry," he muttered,
"but I've just remembered what my Shining Thing was.
It was the untouchable innocence of childhood hope."
Anthy laughed quietly. "That, you already have. If you
like, I could help you find it."
He looked up quickly and tried to speak, but the words stuck
in his throat. He could nodded, his eyes full of gratitude.
She looked to Touga and paused, her head tilted questioningly.
"I'm sorry, but I can't give you what you ask,"
she said finally.
"No, you can't," he whispered, turning instead
to face Utena. "All I need is your forgiveness."
He knelt before her, looking up into her eyes. "I've
done dreadful things to you, and I'm sorry. I can't explain--"
Utena glanced around, slightly uncomfortable. "I forgave
you a long time ago, Touga. I understand, even if I don't
agree with your choices. Come on, stand up already."
Anthy turned slowly to Utena and reached for her hand. "And
what may I do for you, my Prince?"
"Silly Anthy," she whispered, "I already have
everything I need." She clasped the offered hand tightly
and reached next to her to take Juri's. Miki bowed his head
reverently and slid one hand into Touga's, the other reaching
for Anthy's empty hand.
"Old friend," Touga muttered, finally meeting Saonji's
eyes. "Can you ever--"
"Be still," Saonji whispered, "there is nothing
I need to forgive you for." Together they stepped forward,
completing the circle and looking up into the sky.
Eternity's castle spun over them, moving slowly down, down,
down to wrap them lovingly in contentment.