Utena and Penguindrum characters belong to their various owners.
WARNING: Parts of this work contain depictions of transphobia, controversial shoujo fantasy trans situation that in no way reflects real life trans people, and misogynic magic attack leading to forced masculinization. This particular chapter also contains non-graphic depiction of child sexual abuse, so be warned.
Time: 10 years post-revolution
Place: Chida Mansion
“Takakura Kenzan; right hand man of Kiga Leader Watase Sanetoshi, and a key figure in the Kiga Subway Attack from sixteen years ago. After Watase perished in the event, Takakura had continued to run the Kiga Group as replacement leader, up till when the police raided the group, and he and his wife Chiemi went into hiding.
“None of the sources ever mentioned that the Takakuras have any children in the first place. The search for ‘Takaura Himari’ came up with nothing, either.
“And, while there was indeed a late member of the influential Natsume Family being involved in Kiga, he apparently only had two children, the elder of whom, Natsume Masako, is now the young heiress of Natsume Corporation.
“There is no mention of her having any twin brother to begin with,” concluded Tsuwabuki, looking up from where he was net surfing via his smartphone, and at the self-proclaimed Takakura brothers – both of whom now shade-free and visible even under the starry night sky.
“There is no way you’d find any info on us in this world,” muttered Shouma, crestfallen, “because this isn’t really our world, but rather . . .”
“An alternate reality you Children of Fate created by offering up the penguindrum – your lives – to enact the Fate Transfer,” stated Tokiko, apparently well-versed with the workings of such magic. “The more one changes the existing fate – riding the Fate Train, powered by the Diary’s spell – the worse the backslash will be. Rejection by the new world – getting burned, becoming non-existent – is punishment incurred for having destroyed the old one, your ages being halved is also an extension of--.”
“Hold it,” Wakaba cut in with a raised hand, “this massive info block needs to get broken down before we can understand any of it! You,” she pointed at the Takakura siblings, “you two are really adoptive brothers: Takakura Shouma, son of Takakura Kenzan, and Takakura Kanba, brother of rich heiress Natsume Masako.” Both boys glanced away and to the sides. “Back in this ‘original world’, the two of you, along with your sister Takakura Himari, had all inherited the bad karma accumulated from your parents’ terrorist acts – especially the Kiga Subway Attack. Himari, like Kanba, is adopted; unlike Kanba, her biological parents had no ties to the Kiga Group; yet, out of you three, innocent Himari was the one who got ‘punished’ by a terminal illness; not only that, but she also got possessed by the ghost of Oginome Momoka, a victim of the Subway Attack and Chida-san’s cousin’s daughter . . .” she turned towards Tokiko, “. . . who apparently has magical powers both before and after she died?”
“What we call magic is basically people manipulating the various elements of the world through willpower alone,” explained the veteran witch, “with a sufficiently strong will, even a complete novice can enact at least partial magic. What we call artifacts are objects that magnify the human willpower. Ohtori Academy is equipped with such artifacts at various spots, and the Fate Train itself is the physical manifestation of nature’s artifact; the Ends of the World picked both the Duelists and the Children of Fate on the basis of their having exceptionally strong wills,” her voice turned brittle with old grief, “though none present - not even myself – can compare with Momoka-chan when it comes to sheer willpower . . .”
“It says here that Oginome Momoka died at the age of ten, sixteen years ago; so when you say she could use magic . . .”
“Momoka-chan was only eight when she basically seized ownership of the Fate Diary from me. Even at that age, the girl had willpower enough to get burned for what she believed in . . .”
“Okay, back on track,” worried that the conversation would go off course, Wakaba hurriedly continued on with summarizing the fantastical story since revealed. “Momoka’s ghost told the boys the only way to save Himari was to get the ‘penguindrum’ – without telling what the thing really was. It is while hunting around for the mystery item that the Takakuras met and befriended Momoko’s sister Oginome Ringo, who inherited the Fate Diary from her late sister. At the same time, the ghost of Kiga Leader Watase Sanetoshi – involved with Ohtori, and had retained his magical powers even in death – approached you siblings under the guise of Himari’s doctor. Sanetoshi then coerced Kanba,” she pointed at the baleful child, “who needed money to pay Himari’s medical bills, into helping a remnant fraction of the Kiga group with acts of terrorism, which lead up to Subway Attack Take Two. Prompted by Momoka’s ghost, Shouma boarded the train under Kiga’s attack - which Kanba and Sanetoshi’s ghost were also on – trying to stop everything. With both Momoka’s and Sanetoshi’s ghosts present, the normal train got superimposed by the ‘Fate Trains’ – a fate altering ‘cosmic force’ that Ohtori has been trying to harness since over thirty years ago - and its nature as an artifact magnified the Takakura brothers’ willpowers, to the point that they could actually extract the essences of their own lives - the ‘penguindrum’ – as per Momoka’s request. Offering up their penguindrum, the boys used it to enact a “Fate Transfer”, which basically means “destroying” the original world and putting a new one in place; our world, where Subway Attack Take Two never happened a few weeks ago, where Himari is healthy and has family, where all your previously tormented friends are now in happier situations. Yet, neither of you exist in this new world you’ve given up your lives to create, and even your current insubstantial ‘transparent selves’ are at risk of fading completely away.” Out of breath, the flush-faced young woman paused to gulp for air. “Okay, I think I kinda get the gist of it now.”
“You skipped over the part where Ringo and Himari were also there on that Fate Train, offering up their own lives trying to save us and everyone,” Shouma’s voice was husky with memories. “Other than that . . . yeah.” From beside him, Kanba exhaled raggedly, but said nothing. The Duelists all regarded the miserable Children of Fate – whose folly closely paralleled that of their youth – with heavy-hearted empathy.
“The chicks who smashed their world’s shell . . . huh?” murmured Kozue, blue eyes clouding over with old ghosts; watching her, Miki’s mouth had tightened into a flat, horizontal line.
Time: 8 years pre-revolution
Place: Outskirts of Kiryuu Estate
“They’re breaking out! They’re breaking out!”
“Geez, you get so excited . . .”
Eyes wide, the boys watched as the many new-formed butterflies infesting the plants started unfurling their wings with the languidness of coral polyps. Cheering aloud, the flush-faced Kyouichi then grabbed Touga into a bear hug – one that the latter only struggled half-heartedly against, as he kept his impassive eyes upon the emerging insects.
It can be said that the butterfly never existed before the chrysalis broke.
Much later, as the two were treading home together under the sunset . . .
“Man, it’s so cool that the kendo dojo right next town is giving classes to beginners,” said Kyouichi, merrily pushing their tandem bike – loaded with both their backpacks – along the unpaved, shrub-flanked path connecting the towns. “Now we both have an excuse to stay away from home more!”
“Ba-ka,” Touga, empty-handed yet also less cheerful, kicked at the pebbles on the ground, “what good is it if we still got to go back every night?”
“I wish moments like this can last forever.” Smiling still, Kyouichi’s face nonetheless showed growing wistfulness. “We don’t ever have to see our fathers again.” From beside him, Touga calmly observed how the boy’s knuckles had whitened against the bike’s handles – his friend has always been most adamant about walking the bike instead of riding it on their way back.
“I’ve stopped wishing for anything since.”
“Since . . . ?”
“Kyouchi, do you think the butterfly can remember how it was like as a caterpillar?”
“I can’t remember how it was like before I got here,” admitted the precocious redhead, “not my old life, not my old home . . . not even that couple’s face.” Even now, he could not think of them as his “real” parents, in spite of worldly conventions. “I can’t remember anything before that day at the cabbage field . . . before you.” There was a glimmer of something in Kyouichi’s eyes that had him quickly looking away. “When things change completely, when even the scenery changes, it’s almost like . . . a revolution.”
“Yeah . . .” agreed his young friend, sounding more pensive than usual. “It’s been almost two years since you and you sister got . . .adopted. Is Nanami-chan doing okay at the Kiryuu household?”
“She’s okay,” muttered Touga. “She thinks they’re our real parents.”
“Then at least Kiryuu is still leaving her untouched.”
“At least there’s tha--”
Peals of girlish laughter alerted the boys into quieting down. A visibly happy couple was coming onto the path from a side road, with their lushly-groomed young daughter – piggybacking upon her father’s broad shoulders – currently generating the jubilant sound.
“. . . and everyone in class agree I’m the best choice to play the princess in the school play, cause I’m the prettiest!”
“Pumpkin, just because you’re pretty, it’s not nice to brag -.”
“I’m not bragging – I’m proud! I’m pretty because I got papa’s blue eyes and mama’s pink hair! And when I get older, I’ll become a beautiful model just like Mama for sure! Now, Mama; for my princess costume, I need this Sebastian Dior Baby Tiara – it has real crystal, not the cheap-looking plastic you see on little girl toys . . .”
“Oh, this daughter of yours . . .”
It was only after the merry family had passed them, when he found himself still glaring after their departing silhouettes, that Touga could truly comprehend just how much he hated that irrelevant little girl; no, not because of her foolish childishness, but rather, her being cherished, protected, and loved. Why did the world choose kids like her to give loving parents to, while leaving him and his friend and god knows how many others as defenseless preys to predatory adults--
“Kinda reminds you of Nanami-chan, doesn’t she?”
Kyouichi’s question hit Touga like a bucket of ice, cooling the boy’s rage and leaving him with a gut-wrenching feeling that some years later, he would recognize as despair; his poor sister, a mere hostage whose well-being was reliant upon his staying in their pedophile “father’s” favor . . . how could she possibly compare with that blessed pink-haired brat?
“So bubbly and energetic, and determined . . . I bet she’s also a type-B too.” Insensitive as always, his simpleton friend – sounding down somehow – continued on in this undesired tangent. “Just now, I saw you watching her . . .”
“. . . with this scary look in your eyes.”
Turning at the voice, the boys saw the pink-haired girl from before walking up towards them . . . no, it was not her. This one is older, less flashily dressed, and definitely more mature of character. Her left arm was entirely covered in bandages, and her right hand held a large pink book: one with two stylized dragons, along with the word “Diary” on the front cover.
“Are you hurt? In Pain? Unloved?” asked this new girl, her amber eyes – neither blue nor foolish like those of the other one – glinting enigmatically under the late afternoon sun. “I can help you if you want to.” Her gazed then trailed off Touga and towards the bruises (barely) revealed under Saionji’s rolled up short sleeve. “The both of you.”
Pretty face paling, Kyouichi quickly rolled his sleeves back down. “You . . . You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Don’t I?” asked . . . or rather, countered the strangely knowing girl. Getting over his bafflement, Touga stepped up to beside his now trembling friend.
“You’re just a kid. What makes you think you can help us?” He made a point of eyeing her bandaged arm. “You look like you need help yourself.”
“Uh uh.” Unfazed, the girl held up her bandaged arm like she was showing off a badge. “These burns are the price I willingly pay to claim ownership to this magical artifact.”
“Magical . . . artifact?” asked Touga, not quite prepared for the peculiar turn the conversation was headed.
“I have, under my ownership, the magical Fate Diary,” explained the girl, whose mature voice and manner contrasted her childish words to eerie effects. “Written in this diary are the magic spells that can change the scenery of the world, and with it, the fates of the people inhabiting the scenery.”
“What’re you, a witch?” snipped Kyouichi, obviously still displeased over the girl pointing out his being abused.
“I wonder,” mused the strange girl, taking no offence. “Women, men, children . . . even animals, I can change all their fates just by reciting the Diary’s magic spells. And when it’s done, no one else but me will know anything has been changed,” she took a further step up towards the perplexed boys, “you’d both escape your bad fates without anyone knowing--”
A delicately slender woman – looking elegant still despite how her left arm was also similarly bandaged like the girl called Momoka – came hurrying up towards them. The girl widened her eyes.
“Auntie . . .”
“You can’t just run off from the clinic!” The aunt (who would look much younger if not for her conservative hat and stiffly styled waves) appeared to have a hard time running while wounded and on high heels (the unpaved, grass-matted path probably made it worse), and was breathing raggedly by the time she reached the girl. “Your burns are serious. . .” Her eyes widened in fright at seeing the pink diary in the girl’s hand. “The Diary . . . ”
“Sorry, Auntie,” the Momoka girl hung her head. “I wasn’t able to bring back Uncle Mamiya after all. The backslash--”
“Stupid!” This aunt berated the girl with a harshness that distorted her otherwise sweet voice. “Nobody asked you to do that for me! You’re just a child! A child! You’re not supposed to have to burn--” She forcibly stopped her tirade, having noticed the wide-eyed boys present. “Momoka-chan,” deliberately softening her expression, the woman reached for the pink diary, “you have to give that back . . .” The girl deftly moved it out of her reach.
“No . . . ?”
“The Diary has since changed ownership – it is not your burning stake any more; it’s mine now.”
“Momoka . . . !”
“It’s okay now.” Smiling up at her aunt, the girl’s small face now appeared aglow with something divine. “You can’t withstand the Diary’s flames without the Devil’s Ring, can you? But I, I’m not afraid of getting burned to change the world for the better. From now on, I’ll take the world’s punishment in your place for the sake of its people.”
As an onlooker, Touga found this Momoka girl’s current expression to mirror that of a portrait of Joan of Arc he once saw on TV; years later, he could recognize the expression as one of strength and nobility.
“Don’t say such stupid things . . .” whimpered the now defeated-seeming aunt, a tear tracking past the beauty mark beside her attractively curved lips. “Either way, you’re not using the Diary while still wounded.”
“But these boys--”
“You can’t help everyone,” stated the aunt, already ushering the little girl off and away. “No one can. We’re going back to the clinic, where they’d transfer you to a hospital closer to your home . . .”
“Crazies,” muttered Kyouichi once those two were out of sight, before turning back to his friend. “Say, Touga, your birthday party is coming right up. I wanted to come, but Father said we’re not going . . .”
Mind back upon his own issues, Touga’s expression darkened along with the dimming skies above. “Unless you want to join in the after party, there’s really no point in coming.”
“After party . . .” Kyouichi appeared blank, before comprehension dawned upon his reddening face. “They . . .”
“Even the top dogs need to network with other top dogs,” the redhead was now as sullen as he was self-conscious. “I suppose Kiryuu thinks I’m adequate entertainment for their fine gathering.”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I don’t know; maybe wait for some magical witch to come change my fate?”
Green eyes clouding over, Kyouichi reached out to grab a handful of Touga’s red tresses; the latter remained impassive to the touch.
“The grownups all like that hair of yours,” murmured the young boy, his pained, husky tone making him sound a lot older in that instant. “What if you cut it off?”
Downcast, Touga’s voice dropped to a brittle whisper. “If the Kiryuus think I’m disobedient, they’d turn on Nanami.”
“Then . . . what if you have to get it cut because of some accident?” asked Kyouichi, gesturing up ahead at the wild shrubs, with their outgrown branches eating into the path.
Happy to see evidence of functional brain cells still thriving underneath his (oftentimes gullible) friend’s thick skull, Touga’s mood lightened as he practically leaped onto their bike’s front seat; Kyouichi was already at the back, lithe arms latching onto his waist with as much eagerness as he himself currently felt.
“Ready . . . set . . . GO!”
“It’s regretful that such beautiful hair has to get cut.”
“For this to happen right before the party . . . ”
“Can’t be helped.”
“I suppose not.” Sighed Kiryuu, his crow-lined eyes scanning over the crowded, ornamented party hall, in a purposeful way that alarmed his “son” (currently made to sit upon a throne-grand chair that served to better display his lithe built to the attendees). “Thorny bushes on the shortcut connecting the towns . . . wasn’t Saionji’s son with you back then?”
“It was an accide--” Touga blurted out . . . prior to quickly quieting down. But it was too late: he gave himself away.
“Was it?” asked, or rather, pressed the cunning adult. The tainted child, still very green, struggled to act innocent.
“Papa,” he stressed the word (despite the nausea it brought him), hoping to pacify the man. “The bike went under the branches, and my hair got tangled in it--”
“Happy Birthday, Touga-sama,” said a leering man – one of Kiryuu Papa’s innumerable business partners - leaning down to purr in his ear; Up front, some woman – likely his mistress judging by their age difference – was down on one smiling up at him, catlike.
Cornered, Touga could do little but hide behind his impassive façade while groaning inwardly: the haircut was fast turning out to be just as useless as the one who suggested it; stupid, stupid Kyouichi . . . he could only pray that Kiryuu Papa won’t do something too bad to the dumb kid, now that he knew. Kyouichi’s father Saionji was Kiryuu’s right hand man, so maybe he would get spared--
Blinking, he now saw an alarmingly disheveled Nanami standing in front of him. On reflex, Touga sent a suspicious glare cutting at Kiryuu Papa, but found – to his surprise and relief – the often assured man now recoiling in shock and fear.
“Happy Birthday,” said his little sister, holding out in her hands a dirty white box.
Before the boy could ask her what was going on, Kiryuu Papa’s wife-of-convenience (whom they had to call Mama) had since cut in with her imperious voice.
“Nanami, why do you look like that?”
“This is for Onii-sama,” replied Nanami, as a wild kitten popped its head out from the box.
A strangled-noise could be heard coming from Kiryuu Papa’s tight throat, piquing Touga’s interest. Could the man be afraid – or better yet, allergic – of cats?
Kiryuu Mama probably knew more than he did about Kiryuu’s cat phobia. “Feh, what a dirty looking thing. Get it out of here!”
Nanami pouted. “But, Mama . . .”
Steering himself, Kiryuu-san put up a shaky brave front as he advanced upon the little girl, who started backing away.
“Give it to me.”
Face reddening, Kiryuu now was trying to brutishly pull the box away from Nanami. Alerted, Touga got up to interfere. “Wait a minute.”
The man looked like he would have likely struck the boy, so angry did he seem then, but the fact that they were surrounded by “classy” guests hindered his violence.
“It’s been a while, Kiryuu-san.”
The womanly alto – coming languidly from some distance away, yet still was effective in cutting smoothly through the droning whispers of the gathered guests – stilled Kiryuu Papa.
“Hoshimi-chan . . . I mean, Mrs. Ohtori.”
Cutting a tall, shapely figure from where she stood at the door to the hall, this Mrs. Ohtori Hoshimi was fair-complexioned to the point that all other women present were rendered dowdy shadows against her luminous glamour; the slinky black gown - one matched by a semi-lucent shawl covered in red rose petals – was also of classier style than the puffed dresses of those others. There was this white-suited, pale pink-haired young man smiling rakishly by her side: even then, Touga knew that could not possibly have been Mr. Ohtori.
“I have something to discuss with you,” she said, making no effort to take even one further step into the hall. Tensely nervous somehow, the usually haughty Kiryuus now humbly made their way over to greet her, forgetting the kids.
“Onii-sama . . .” Nanami called out to Touga, again offering up the messy boxed kitten with glints of uncertainty within her teary eyes. Chest warmed by relief, the immaculately-groomed boy put his hands upon his dust-covered sibling.
“Thank you, Nanami,” he said, kissing away his sister’s tears. “This is the best present I ever got.” The girl – who must have been through quite the scuffle trying to get him that kitten – trembled joyfully in his arms. “Now, go get yourself cleaned up and call it a night.” He gestured for a waiting maid to come over and take the now dreamy-eyed child away.
Relaxed – as he was no longer under pressure to “pull train” from Kiryuu Papa – the boy was just about to call it quits too, when the “ladies’ ” gossiping caught his attention:
“That’s Ohtori Hoshimi, the clan heiress, right? I see she’s again out partying with these club host types.”
“With her husband the current Ohtori Chairman getting continuously spotted around both pink salons and saunas, who can blame her?”
“ ‘To each their prowl’, huh?”
“But she is decked to the nines . . .who knew that a boarding school could make for such lucrative business?”
“Don’t you know? The Ohtoris have been making waves at the financial district with their heavy-handed investing. On the academy side of things, I heard even the Prime Minister had paid a fortune to get his mistress’ bastard son into the Academy . . .”
“Happy birthday, Touga-kun.”
Jolting out of a trance that he had somehow fallen into, Touga turned to see Mrs. Ohtori standing right beside him, smiling down.
“In case you’re wondering, you’re no longer expected to attend the after party,” the “matron” – looking startlingly young up close despite her heavy-handed makeup and hairstyle – tilted the champagne glass in her hand at the pink-haired man she brought, who now was socializing with the lustful crowd gathered at the side hall (with the Kiryuus amongst the gathering). “Sanetoshi-kun has since replaced you as the ‘entertainment’.”
“Who are you?” the boy could not help but ask.
“Someone with power enough to bring change.”
“Power . . . to bring change?”
“With enough power, anything becomes possible” explained the woman, as an impossible change started coming over her, making her less glamorous, yet also more exquisite; less tall, yet also more lithe. “With enough power, you can free yourself and your sister from this fate; you can even help your friend change his.” In no time at all, the transformation was complete, and in place of the sultry siren stood a dew-fresh young girl – her near-nakedness ethereal against the shawl that now adorned her as a nymph’s wings - beaming at the awed boy. “It would be like a revolution.”
“How’d you . . . know? How-”
“The Devil who reigns in the absence of God knows the whole of this world. The witches who works for him know what he knows.”
“You’re . . . a witch?” Touga thought back to the strange girl and aunt he and Kyouichi had previously encountered. Could this “witch” – one who had just proven her power – be the salvation he had stopped hoping for since long ago?
The now barely dressed, barely adolescent Mrs. Ohtori observed the boy with impish, knowing eyes. “Like I thought, you’re not scared; instead, you want my power, and want to be like me – a witch who wields the Devil’s power.”
“I’m a boy,” said Touga, actually sounding dejected.
“Boy.” Tittered the “young” witch, as she gestured at the young man (Sanetoshi) she brought with a small hand. “Observe that boy over there: even though he calls himself a magician, he’s really the Devil’s witch . . . down to the naughty details.” Her girlishly sweet voice darkened with un-childlike cynicism. “So long as they surrender their bodies to the Devil and his cause, even boys can become witches,” her eyes upon him were as wells to drown in, “yes, even you.”
“Surrender the body . . .” pondered Touga, anxious yet uncertain. Naturally red lips curling, the “little” Ohtori Hoshimi stepped up closer to the boy, and pressed her slight frame against his.
“You, who’re already early marred, might as well also be early made; it was like this for me too.”
“You . . . too?”
The shadows upon the wall facing them started to sharpen and swirl, before quickly reshaping into that of humanoid silhouettes: two men - one bulkier than the other – together held down a violently struggling young girl, whom they were obviously assaulting.
The young girl’s silhouette was distinctively recognizable as that of young Hoshimi.
“It was my father who allowed for that to happen,” the witch’s voice gradually deepened from against his ear, “to force me to forget a past love and marry the one he chose. Unfortunate? Yes . . . but it got me into the Devil’s embrace, within which I’ve thrived until this very day.”
There was a brief shifting of the lights, after which the shadow play rape was gone – along with “young Hoshimi”, who now was again the tall, champagne sipping Mrs. Ohtori. Putting down her glass, she then held out a white, rose-motif-marked folder envelope to the dazed boy.
“This envelop is you birthday present from the Devil himself. Should you ever want to defy fate, then open it.
“With your friend and sister’s well being to consider along with your own, I suppose you have no choice but to go with this change.
“The way before you has been prepared.”
Giving the folder to the pale-faced boy, the society matron then stepped off and away into the side hall, where she then joined the amoral, lustful gathering of powerful adults – some of whom already openly groping the pretty young man called Sanetoshi, whose shirt has since been unbuttoned past his navel . . .
Left alone, the boy quietly left the debauched party and went back into the privacy of his room, where he then began checking out the contents of the witch-given folder.
The next morning, at the front gates of Saionji Mansion . . .
“You say he’s at the town clinic?!” gasped Touga, almost falling off his tandem bike at the news.
“Oh, it was terrible, Touga-sama!” Sighed the servant greeting him. “Kyouichi-kun got accosted by some strange men out in the bike trail last evening, and it seemed like they just mugged the poor boy for no reason . . . ”
Of course there was a reason for the mugging – to him, it was clear as day.
Having then hurried over to the clinic, Touga found, to his initial relief, his friend appearing not significantly more bruised than usual – in fact, Kyouichi could apparently sit upright upon his bed by himself. His heart soon sank, however, upon noticing the boy’s badly chopped green hair.
“Kyouichi,” the usually assured boy now had to gulp before going on, “I heard you got . . . mugged,”
“Mugged,” muttered his friend, blearily, “I guess that’s what Father wants everyone to think, huh?”
“. . . Kyouichi!”
“Kiryuu’s hired hands could’ve just done the dirty with me and be over with it, but instead they had to cut my hair too . . . just so I’d know who was behind this, and why this happened.”
“They . . . you . . .” Touga could hear his heart pounding in his rapidly numbing head; to think that this happened just because Kyouichi had tried helping him . . .
“It’s okay; if you can take it, then so can I,” said Kyouichi, actually smiling a bit. “Better this, than to keep falling behind you in everything-” The rest of his sentence got cut off, as Touga then enveloped him in a tight, desperate hug. “Hey . . .”
Is this to be their life? To get continuously trampled upon by those monstrous adults just for their being powerless children?
“Touga . . . are you crying?”
“No.” Small face drawing tight, Touga pulled back away from his friend to stand with his back rigidly straight. “Something like this will not happen again.”
And he turned to leave, before the startled Kyouichi could even ask him what was going on; then again, he had something much more important to do than to commiserate with his friend and fellow victim.
He had decided to give the Devil’s witch his reply.
Mrs. Ohtori (whose glamour remained flawless even under daylight) was, of course, right outside the clinic; Touga thought it likely that a witch of her caliber could channel his thoughts directly, and thus spontaneously appear to wherever he was to finalize his decision.
“So you accept the Devil’s present . . . or rather, invitation.”
“Then you, your friend, and your sister will all be attending Ohtori Academy in two years’ time. The Devil takes care of his own, so Kiryuu and Saionji will both receive warnings to keep their hands off the three of you starting this moment. As the Chairman’s wife and the Devil’s witch, I look forward to seeing you roam our unholy playground . . . witch.” Adjusting the shoulder strap of her understatedly classy handbag, the enigmatic woman – who could apparently turn back to a young girl at will – turned and started walking off.
“Thank you,” said the jaded boy, with perhaps one of his last few scraps of sincerity, “for changing our fates.”
“Save your thanks for the Devil, and your curses too,” replied the woman. “You’d be sure to curse this day at the point when you got shown the ends of your world.”
“I won’t,” insisted the boy. “Any change from now will be a revolutionary thing for all three of us.”
“Revolution . . .” murmured the woman, stopping in her tracks. “Say, there is maybe this one thing you can do for me.”
That surprised Touga. “What is it?”
“At Ohtori, you’ll meet a pair of twins around your sister’s age: one boy, one girl. You will see that they have hair the same shade as mine. There will be times when . . . when you’ll think you have to hurt them to get what you want.” Her husky voice dropped to a whisper. “Don’t hurt them too much, that’s all I ask.” With that, she stepped briskly into a waiting cab, and was driven off and away.
“Twins . . . huh?” mused the boy who just became a witch; whose way – along with those of his friend and sister – had just been set and prepared.
Time: 10 years post-revolution
Place: Chida Mansion
“There, I’ve found what should be our Oginome Ringo’s online diary,” said Miki, now with all the other Duelists huddled against him and his tablet. “It’s friends-only.”
“Hack it,” prompted Kozue. “I know you can.”
“Kozue--” Miki frowned, and was cut at by his twin’s glare.
“I’ve seen you done worse things for way more selfish reasons. Do it now.”
“I’ll do it!” Tsuwabuki quickly seized the tablet in an obvious attempt to defuse the Kaorus’ tension. It took him but a few minutes to get successfully logged in. “Done . . . okay, it really is this Ringo girl’s diary.” The blond squinted his eyes at the small, pale font used. “She mentions here about befriending a girl called Himari during a minor accident at the Tokyo Subway. But this Himari’s family name is Ikebe-”
“That’s her,” said Kanba, eagerness showing through his coolly impassive front. “She’s using our uncle’s family name in this reality.”
“We made it so that Himari and Ringo will still have each other as friends,” explained Shouma, fidgeting uncomfortably beside his brother, “even though neither would remember anything about what happened in our original world.”
Tsuwabuki cleared his throat, before reading off the entries. “Entry 320: ‘It’s been a few days since Himari-chan and I discovered that paper note sticking out of the teddy’s tummy – the one written by someone claiming to be her brother. Even knowing that she is an only child, something about that note – that terrible yet familiar-looking handwriting – had made this strange impact on not just her heart, but also mine. This is just as strange as our lack of memory about the accident on the subway train – it’s the fateful event that brought about our meeting, after all; we should remember . . . we should.
“Entry 321: If the same dream repeats, night after night, identical and endless . . . does that make it more real? Every night, I dream about being burned alive inside a subway train. I should’ve burned into ashes, into nothing, but this boy shielded me with his body, and took the punishing flames for me; he told me he loved me before I heard a sound like train cars unhooking, and he was gone, along with the flames, the dream, everything. Was that me subconsciously thinking back to the subway accident? I know that Himari-chan was there, but there was no boy involved . . . was there? I can never remember his face after waking up. To think there were no witnesses coming forth after an accident in such a crowded place, it’s kinda scary.”
A tear escaped Shouma’s eye; it was gently dried off by Tokiko’s silk handkerchief.
“Entry 322: It’ worrying how Himari-chan has become prone to sudden crying fits – she keeps saying she can’t understand why she can’t remember who her “brother” is.”
Both Takakuras appeared alarmed at hearing that. No longer able to remain standoffish, the boys got up over towards Tsuwabuki, who lowered the tablet so the diminutive duo could read the diary too.
“ This cannot come at a worse time, that with Himari-chan miraculously getting offered a talent audition by – god this sounds unreal even now – Double H’s agency! It turns out that Hibari Isada and Hikari Utada were actually friends of Himari in elementary school, but that they’d somehow lost touch. When their agency suggested the Duo becomes a Trio for marketing purpose, Hibari-san and Hikari-san actually nominated Himari–chan – whom they apparently remember fondly – as a potential candidate! But with Himari-chan now . . .” the cracking sound of Kanba’s knuckles briefly interrupted Tsuwabuki’s reading, before the preppy was to continue, “with Himari-chan now being so gloomy and on edge, I’m not sure if the coming audition can go well. I am now doing everything I can to cheer and relax her, hoping she’d be up to at her best then; this is such a big opportunity for her. I think finding this brother that Himari-chan and her family can’t remember having is important to stabilizing her emotions. I’ve been trying to talk Mom into hiring a detective, but she’s skeptical on prying so deeply into another family’s business . . . ”
“Well?” Kozue glared down at the Takakuras. “Have you boys now finally made up your minds to go back home?”
“They’ll see us as our ‘invisible’ selves . . .” muttered Shouma with his head down, “if they can see us at all.”
“Ah, shadows . . . ” The young woman then turned towards Tokiko. “Childa-san, now that we know who they are, how do we get them home? As their old selves, I mean.”
The experienced witch frowned lightly. “The Fate Diary has since been destroyed, and by the Takakura’s account Ringo-chan had used up its remnant power by activating the spell. A more . . . realistic approach would be to get the girls to see and accept the brothers’ changes, and--”
“And what?” asked Kanba, brutishly. “Have us haunt them like the ghosts that we’ve now become? They can’t let other people know about us, we’d be like some freak secret they’d have to hide from the world! This kinda ‘reunion’ can’t be good for them, and it’s not what we want either.”
“Your concern is valid,” said Juri, offering her piece after having since observed the brothers for a while. “Still, reunion or not, I do believe those girls deserve to know what has happened to you boys, and that this is all because of your self sacrifices; I believe you both owe each other that much.” Kanba rolled his eyes.
“Listen to this,” Shiori spoke up from where she took over reading off the tablet. “Entry 323: Today, while I was at Himari-chan’s place helping her practice for the audition, a letter has arrived for her. ‘To the one forgetting: come to the penguin tank at Sunshine City Aquarium at the time and date specified below. You shall find the forgotten truth that you seek.’ Himari-chan wants to go, of course – the fact that whoever wrote this somehow knows about her apparent amnesia makes for an irresistible draw. Yet . . . this seem too ominous to be safe. I told her if she insists on going, then she must let me go with her. And just now, right before inputting this entry, I’ve found in my mailbox that exact same letter! But . . . I haven’t even told anyone about my dreams of the burning boy (except for in this blog, but this is password protected so it must be safe) . . .” She and the Duelists all turned to stare at the Children of Fate, who glared back; Shiori then read on. “Just what’s going on here? I guess there’s no avoiding it – we both have to go and meet this ominous person, and face whatever fate has in store for us.”
“What’s going on?” Shouma could not help but ask. “Nobody should know about the Fate Transfer in this reality . . .”
Tsuwabuki squinted his eyes at the tablet screen. “It says here the meeting is . . . it’s today; around this time, even.” The brothers jumped.
“You mean Himari and that ditz are meeting some ominous freak at the Aquarium like right now?!” Kanba turned to bark at his brother. “Shouma! We’re going!”
“Oginome is not a ditz!” protested Shouma. “But . . . yeah, we have to--” He stilled at a hand gesture from Juri, who was eyeing the since emptied car repair cage with narrowed green eyes.
“Childa-san . . . I don’t suppose Mikage and Himemiya are still on the premises?”
“You’re . . . kidding, right?
“After you just ran off without saying anything . . . is this how you’ve been since?”
Wet, brand-marked face lifted up by Saionji’s broad hand, Touga continued to stare vapidly through him as though the other man was never there to begin with; green eyes bloodshot, his lifelong friend let out a dry, wheezing chuckle – one that sent trembles through (helplessly on-looking) Nanami’s petite frame.
“What? Is this something you want to show us? Some statement you’re trying to make?”
“Kyouichi . . .” whimpered the now fearful Nanami, reaching forth to try and unclasp the man’s large hand off of Touga.
“You . . . fucking HOLE!” Slamming Touga back down into the filled squat bowl amidst Nanami’s shrill, torn scream, Saionji then proceeded to deal blow after blow down upon the redhead’s naked torso to water-splashing effects. “You got any idea how worried your sister was for you?!”
Said sister had since pounced the enraged man like a frantic cat, and was clawing at him trying to get him off of her brother, to little effects.
“Don’t hurt Onii-sama! Don’t--”
“Touga! You think you can just ditch us after all that hell you’ve dragged us through with you?! You think you can just scare us away with this freak act, and, and--”
It was the partition door getting torn open that finally stopped Saionji’s violence; all three of them looked up and at the backpack-wearing Utena, now staring down upon the dazed, bruised redhead with hard, cloudy eyes.
“Touga, we’re leaving.”
End Part Twelve