The world at birth
She is the princess. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Her parents die when she is five years old and it isn't until years later that she realizes she can't find any pictures of them, that the census records don't carry their names, that she doesn't actually remember who they were, whether her mother had hair like hers or her father swore when he was angry. She simply doesn't remember.
What she does remember is her brother reaching out a hand and pulling her to her feet. Her beautiful, kind brother who smiles at her with teeth as white as birch bark and cheeks as hollow and dark as the new moon.
The sister of a prince is a princess.
Anthy has a mark on the inside of her wrist shaped exactly like a rose.
Her brother strings her hair into his warm hands and says, "They are coming for me. What will I do?" His eyes are ammonite and his sorrow is diamond.
She takes his hands and smiles. "I will save you," she says.
There are a million swords that come for her brother, but actually Anthy counts a million and one. The last is the Sword of Dios and it takes her chest so hard that she can feel her body sawed in half. She cries out, her mouth glutted with taffeta blood, and her screams when they touch the air smell like gardens.
When she wakes up she is naked in Ohtori Academy and a man who looks exactly like her brother is carrying her to his bed. "My beautiful princess," he whispers. "My sweet bride."
Her blood runs down her legs but Akio licks it up for her.
The world in retrograde
Saionji knows where to hit her that it hurts the most. She wonders if Akio taught him that, and then decides not. Akio would never reveal his precious secrets, especially not to a jealous fool like Saionji.
She is not a masochist, despite what the Student Council duellists say about her. She no more enjoys pain than she enjoys wasabi. But she has learned to accept it, and it is not so hard after a while. What could possibly distress a girl who has stood the force of a million swords before falling from a castle into Ohtori? Her skin is too calloused to be broken anymore.
Instead she has dresses. Boxes and boxes full of dresses. They are silk and chiffon and cotton and lace, lace so delicate that it blinded two orphans in India to make it. They breathe around her body, taking the air from her lungs. Akio loves to peel the dresses from her, ripping them with the strength of his hands, but he always buys more for her after.
She never calls him prince. He commands her to, but she simply buries her face in his naked shoulder and murmurs soft, soothing sounds. She calls him beloved, master, lord. Akio simply does not understand that the schism is too deep. He cannot return to being Dios, and it is only because she cannot bear to see her brother dying that she stays in Ohtori where she has to look up to see the castle, not down, and where petty students gorge on spoiled revolutions.
When Saionji wins his duels, he whips his sword at her so hard that she thinks he means to kill her. For Saionji the sex drive is the death drive; he is like Romeo.
Instead he says, "You're so fucking dirty."
She never corrects him because there's no correction to be made. She is as dirty as a child forced to grow up before she is ready. Akio and Saionji put their fingers on her breasts and she dreams of a princess strong enough to save herself.
The world at end
Her name is Tenjou Utena.
She holds the Sword of Dios nothing like the way she holds Anthy. The sword she holds with the passion of her ideals, and Anthy she holds as if the Rose Bride is made out of the flower she is named for. Utena's hair smells nothing like roses and entirely like iron.
Anthy learns to hate her, then love her, and finally need her. She longs to cup Utena's fierce jaw in her whore's hands and tell her that when Utena is around, she has no need for princes or princesses or apocalypse. Utena has the power to break the fairy tale, to send the whole thing burning to the ground, witches and curses and impalement and all.
In Utena's arms, Anthy dreams of destruction.
"You scare me sometimes," Utena admits.
Anthy ducks her head. "I'm sorry, Utena-sama."
"No," says Utena, "never be sorry."
Ah, Utena is so innocent! But that is why Anthy can never forget her. Utena's innocence in a few months has brought her more than years of experience. So Anthy holds her tightly when they sleep and tries not to think about the future, only the now and Utena's peaceful smile.