When the End Begins
by Death Quaker
Disclaimer: "Revolutionary Girl Utena" is copyright 1997 to Chiho Saito, Be-Papas, Shonen Linkai, and lots of other people who are most definitely not me. This fanfiction produces no profit for me or anyone else whatsoever, save the profit of fun (and that's probably even stretching it).]
When you're fourteen, you might still believe that a fairy tale existence someone has tricked you into believing in might really exist somewhere.
But everybody grows up. Everybody realizes their school is just a school and the magic tricks you saw and life and the life-and-death battles you fought were just children's games. You learn to escape the shell of your pastbut, if you're truly grown up, still hold the past's lessons dearlyand learn to live in the now and for the future.
She was confident that most of the people she once knew during her strange, dream-like adolescence had freed themselves from their shells and were living happy adult lives. There were no princes or witches, although there were roses and thorns and love and sorrow aplenty, and simple miracles no one ever recognized as miracles, that made life interesting and magical enough.
Still, even though she might now almost convince herself the place where she had confronted and conquered and almost been conquered by her own clinging memories and dreams was really "just a boarding school," memory told her it might have actually been a trap, a gilded cage, and not everyone could graduate... escape.
There was one face she expected no one would ever see except living in hollow eternity at Ohtori Academy.
Yet there it was, out in the "outside world." New lines appeared faintly at the eyes and mouth, although considering the time that had past by her reckoning he was still impossibly young looking. It was definitely that face, cruel and soft and sad eyes, mouth that marked those called "Charming," a face she remembered loving and hating, fearing and eventually pitying. She was not alone in those feelings for him, either, she knew. If anyone else remembered him, it was in pity or hollow, faint loathing.
His expression was almost alien to what she remembered of him. His eyes were wide, lost, even more lost than what she remembered in brief moments that perhaps involved stars? He was staring out emptily onto the expanse of ocean that laid out before him, crashing and sighing in the near-twilight.
It was off-season, autumn winds making the beach a place vacationers had no desire to be. For someone who wanted a quiet walk, someone who liked the sound of the waves and didn't mind the wind, it was perfect, however. He was the only one there, besides her. He sat in a tattered rental beach chair facing the sea, near motionless, shoulders slumped as if he were very tired. Perhaps he'd traveled a long way to get here?
Something shimmered. A tear going down his face, reflecting light from a slowly sinking sun. Out here in a world of grownups, he looked like a child.
This was someone she would have preferred to have remembered as a dream, and not a particularly pleasant one. Still, who she was today... she still owed him for a good deal of it.
So the Prince approached the crying Child and gave him a gentle smile. The Prince leaned over and kissed the Child's tears away, hoping perhaps it would give the Child strength to overcome whatever it was he mourned.
He did not even see her until she had almost touched his cheeks. He could not stop her from offering this strange, disquieting comfort, but he looked at her afterwards, eyes even wider before, reflecting the sea before him."Why?" He asked in a quiet rumble; it sounded as if he had not spoken in a long time.
She shrugged and gave him another smile. "It was the only kind thing you ever did for me. And I realized I'd never thanked you."
She began to walk away, but he caught her with his eyes before she could leave.
God, she was a beautiful woman. In her prime, a lovely woman with flowing pink hair and sky-colored eyes that still, after all this time, held that glorious glow known as hope. Any observer might also have noticed some lines of sorrow starting to grace her face as well, comfortably living alongside her optimism, but he only saw her eyes. His face cracked a faint smile. "You haven't changed at all."
She shook her head. "Of course I have. We all change. But... I guess we stay the same in some ways too. I guess... we change what we want and keep what we need." She laughed, and self-consciously rubbed the back of her head in a habit she'd never dropped. "I was never good at being philosophical."
Not knowing what else to say, she shrugged and began to move away, and with sudden speed, he stood and grabbed her arm, locking his eyes with hers. Empty eyes became filled with sea-colored fire, and then poured out into loss once again. His grip loosened, but remained desperately wrapped around her arm.
"The Power of Dios is gone, isn't it?" He said in a tone she could not quite fathom. Anger, grief, acceptance, relief.
"Where is Dios? Is he gone?"
She shrugged. "Was there really such a thing as the Power of Dios?" She shook her head. "Anthy was freed. That's all that mattered to me. If there ever was a miracle power, it's long gone from here."
He stared at her, but she simply shrugged again and began to walk closer to the waves. Still holding on to her arm, he found himself walking alongside her.
She looked up at the sky, which was starting to turn evening gold, although the sun had a little ways to go before meeting the horizon. Not far away, the bright white blot on the sky that was Venus had briefly decided to pair itself with the orange giant, in a strange, balanced-and-yet-unbalanced parallel. "It's going to be a beautiful evening," she said.
He was looking at her, as if someone had handed him a gift he wasn't quite sure what to do with. A brief gust of wind brought her scent closer to him; she smelled of Ivory soap and roses.
She stopped walking when they came to a tidal pool close to the edge of the surf. She pointed at the surface, particularly at his dim reflection, wide sad eyes and lavender hair. "Dios? As far as I know, that's him."
A rush and a loud crash, and the momentum of a heavy wave caused the edge of the sea to wash into the pool, disturbing, distorting, and erasing both their reflections as it passed.
She pivoted on her heel, gently pulling out of his grasp in a natural movement, leaving him still holding his hand in the air at her elbow's height even when she was already a step away. "I hope you find what you're looking for, Akio-san. I hope you didn't come all the way out here for nothing."
The Prince-who-wasn't walked away, her footsteps softly squishing in the sand.
"Utena!" He called out, although as she turned, she saw him still staring at the pool, waiting for the disturbed water to return his reflection to him.
"Tell her... tell my sister..."
He pursed his lips and turned back to his half-formed reflection. He seemed to have no energy in him to complete the sentence.
Utena nodded, and only guessed at his intentions, but reassured him regardless, "I will." The wind blew, sending her hair and mackintosh flying in waves around her. She walked away and disappeared up the beach, soft formless imprints in the sand the only evidence of her passing. Akio continued to stand, watching the pool.
"Thank you," he whispered.