Wakaba and Utena walked slowly to the small church, hand in hand. Wakaba opened the rusted gates, the hinges squeaking loud enough to make her wince. Utena brushed a piece of pink hair from her face as a sharp breeze danced around both their legs.
"Are you gonna be okay?" Wakaba looked concerned.
Utena nodded, glancing at the ring on her finger. Watching as it shimmered even in the dull light of the cloudy sky, she felt a surge of strength from within. It had been years since she last visited, and despite the guilt and fear, she knew it was time to return.
In the same hand, she held a bouquet of roses, hand-picked by none other than Anthy for this special day. Their bright colors were a stark contrast to the dullness of the sky and the decayed earth beneath their feet.
The pair stood in front of the lonesome, decrepit church. Her heart thumped in her chest. Utena felt a crashing wave of memories come flooding back. She could almost hear the thunder, the sound of the rain pounding violently against the stainglass windows. She could feel the sorrow and despair from her childhood creep into her bones, beginning the process of hallowing her out and filling her with nothing but hopelessness.
Wakaba, noticing the far-off look in her eye, gave her hand a squeeze that brought Utena back to reality.
"...I'm okay." She spoke softly, trying her best to give Wakaba a reassuring smile.
With Utena leading, they walked around to the back of the church towards the small cemetery. The field of death looked as if it hadn't been kept up with in years, judging by the yellowed, crinkling grass and tall weeds that lay all around the small patch of land. With a heavy breath, Utena let go of Wakaba's hand, her eyes scanning over each of the individual tombstones that displayed the names of strangers she couldn't help but wonder about.
Her eyes finally fell upon the names of her parents, the surname "Tenjou" clearly displayed in bold lettering on each cold stone.
Wakaba stood behind her, watching carefully as Utena reverently kneeled down in front of her mother's gravestone, wishing deep inside that she could do more besides stand there in her best friend's time of need.
"...Hi mom. Happy Mother's Day." Utena nearly whispered, forcing a smile. "It's been...a long time, huh? Years." She surveyed the rotten plot where the tombstones rest, wishing she had had the strength to manage the upkeep of her parents' graves over the years.
Taking another deep breath, she continued. "...Sorry I haven't been around. I've been caught up in a lot of stuff. But, I got these for you..." She gently laid the pink roses in front of her knees.
Words seemed to be failing her at the moment when they really needed to matter.
"After you and dad died I...I didn't have the will to go on anymore. I mean, what would be the point, if nothing is... eternal." Utena's voice trailed off. Keep it positive, Tenjou. She thought.
"B-But, I met a prince! A kind, noble prince who gave me this ring, see?" She held it up, as if expecting an answer. A complement.
"...He said it'll lead me to him someday. He made me want to be a prince, mom. Wouldn't you be proud to see that? Me, on a white horse, saving princesses from evil..." She was struggling to keep her composure, almost wondering if she should just run away from this place of misfortune.
Wakaba placed a hand on Utena's shoulder, nodding at her to continue when Utena looked up at her.
With a hard swallow, she kept going. "...I met a 'princess' actually. It's kind of a weird situation." She breathed a soft laugh. "I won't bore you with the details, but I'm trying to protect her. She's sweet, but lonely...she looks so sad all the time. I hope I can change that. She grew and picked those roses for you. Aren't they pretty?" Her voice was beginning to crack.
"I wish..." She bit her lip, tears stinging at the corners of her eyes. "I wish you could have met her, mom. I really do."
Listening to Utena's heartfelt confession, Wakaba was nearly at the brink of tears herself. She cluthed Utena's shoulder harder than was necessary.
"And I have a best friend too." Utena looked up at Wakaba with a small smile. "She's really loud, and not the brightest sometimes..." Utena breathed another laugh as Wakaba pouted. "But she always looks out for me. And I'll look out for her too."
Wakaba began to cry unrelentingly. Utena placed her hand over Wakaba's, patting it gently as she turned her attention back to the stone.
"...I think..." She paused, feeling a tear leak past her bright blue eyes and slowly roll down her cheek. "I think I should go now...I have somewhere to be. But...I just wanted to tell you that I wish you didn't have to go away so soon..."
Slowly, she rose to her full height, Wakaba's hand still resting on her shoulder. Utena wiped her tears on her uniform sleeve, trying to show the courage and strength of a prince, and princes did not cry.
"...I love you mom. And I love dad, too." She spoke, her voice barely a whisper as she turned her attention to Wakaba, who was currently sobbing all over her shoulder.
"There, there..." She gently petted Wakaba's little onion head. "We can go now."
Sniffling, Wakaba nodded, walking away from the tombstones. Utena followed, a small fraction of weight lifted off her heart.
The wind blew the petals from the roses into the air, leaving a sweet scent in their path.
The cemetery gates closed with a creaking thud.