A Shoujo Kakumei Utena fanfiction by Ariane Kovacevic, AKA Fuu-chan.
"Mmmmmm... What're you doing ?"
The vice president threw an absentminded look at the the prone shape of Doug's body lazily lying on his bed and sighed inwardly. Sometimes, he'd have appreciated it if the other showed more understanding of the order of things, and their respective places in it. Shrugging, he turned back to the screen that was for now the only thing of interest to him, replying :
"Checking my plans."
There was a slight sound as Doug sat up on the bed and yawned.
"What plans ?"
Sighing audibly this time, the vice president faced his current lover and said curtly :
"The only plans I can make. Why don't you take a nap, I have work to do."
Doug paled as he heard those words, understanding their true meaning. The vice president distantly noted the sudden palor of the other's skin and the widening of his nut brown irises as he finished his sentence, and braced himself for what he knew was coming.
There was bitterness in Doug's voice, mixed with sorrow. At least he knew defeat when it slapped him right in the face...
"You're still aiming to get Kyri-sama..."
Doug's hand clutched the bedsheets.
The vice president snorted, annoyed at having to give up subtlety, but recognizing the necessity of getting rid of anything that might hamper him in his quest.
"Of course Doug, did I ever tell you otherwise ? As it happens, I needed something else to focus my mind for a while, to regain some serenity..."
He smiled, both mocking and gentle.
"You gave me what I needed, and I have to say you were a very pleasing distraction, but now you have served your purpose, and I have no time to waste on you anymore..."
Looking at the stricken expression of the secretary, he chuckled.
"What ? Jealousy, Doug ? You always knew. You and I, all those who belong to BAIT have the same goal, the same longing..."
The secretary watched his lover helplessly, unable to reply or to defend himself. Yes, he had always known it'd come to this, but somehow he had let happiness trick him into abandon and now he was paying the price for that mistake. He watched, enthralled, bespelled, as Tim stood and walked to him, his long silken hair glistening with the sunlight. He should have reacted, shouted... He should have... But he couldn't, not even to save his life. Tim squatted before Doug, slid a finger under his chin, forcing the secretary to look him right in the eyes with what could almost have been tenderness, and whispered softly :
"Are you jealous of me, of Kyri-sama... or of both ?"
Doug recoiled abruptly, as if the words had burnt him. Bowing his head, he choked down the cry that was rising in his throat, trying to detach himself from his body, from the pain devouring his heart. He had known he was nothing in the other's eyes, but... He shook his head, not trusting himself to speak, not trusting himself to face the gorgeous predator who had well and properly ensnared him. As silence and despair engulfed the air around him, a part of him remembered a name. Perhaps...
"I'm going down to the third floor. Anybody wants something to drink ?"
The girl looked away from her monitor, replying :
"Yes, get me a double expresso..."
She didn't hear the door of the fifth floor plateau close, her mind once again wholly focused on the screen before her. So... Pursing her lips, she considered what her course of action should be for about ten seconds before taking up the phone beside her and dialing a number.
"Well, this is a very pleasant surprise, indeed. One trusts you enjoyed your trip here..."
The girl laughed, feeling mirth rising within her as she realised that her memory of the vice president had been a mere shadowy reflection of the original. The way he stood out among the crowd, the way the sunlight always caught in his hair, the way the breeze gently flew his black trench coat was unnatural, giving him a feel of unearthliness. As if the universe had no choice but to acknowledge and honor him... The girl nodded gracefully.
"Of course, but..."
She smiled teasingly.
"A surprise, Tim ? Why, I remember you telling me I had to come back very soon when last we saw each other..."
The vice president chuckled softly.
"That's true, but I have to admit to my great shame that I didn't expect you to fulfill my dearest wish so quickly..."
Heat rushed to the girl's face, unbidden, and she blushed, unable to help herself. Ah well, there wasn't anything she could do about it, so she went along with the situation, slightly turning her head away from the vice president in a perfect imitation of shyness. From the corner of her eye, she noted the almost imperceptible widening of his smile, and knew he had taken the bait. Good. Still, he hadn't let anything show through his mask when she had mentioned their last parting of ways.
"But let's get you to your room so you can unpack and have a bit of time to yourself..."
As the vice president took her suitcase from her and steered her away from the train station, the girl allowed the shadow of a smile to touch her lips. The man was good, she knew it. This game was going to be very interesting indeed, she'd enjoy every single moment of it.
And she intended to win.
On the top of the highest tower of Cambridge, a man was smiling. On the ground far below, people walked, talked, lived, so small... In a slow, lazy motion he chased away a stray lock of hair the mischieveous breeze had flown in his face. None of them knew, suspected... He shook his head, relishing the gentle warmth of the sunlight on his face.
The pawns were all moving very obediently to their designated places. Soon, the chessboard would be ready for him to enter the game.
And win the prize.
The girl leaned the palm of her left hand against the window frame, letting her gaze wander across the beautiful view of the gardens. She had found the sight enchanting the first time, and she was happy to see it hadn't lost anything of its magic. She whispered softly :
"I'll never understand how you can focus your mind on studying in such a wondrous environment... Really..."
She distantly heard the very light sound of the vice president's steps as he joined her side. His reflection in the window smiled at her as he said :
"Focusing one's mind is a matter of will, isn't it ? Besides, the silence helps..."
The girl stayed silent for a moment, watching a couple of ducks landing gracefully on the surface of a nearby pond, then replied :
"Yes, it'd help to engulf myself in a story to write, in a book I'd be reading, or in the music I'd be listening to, but studying..."
The vice president looked at her, apparently surprised at her reaction.
"Come, Ariane, I'm quite sure a strong-willed lady like you wouldn't have any problems studying here, you'd merely need to want to..."
The girl shrugged, sighing. Stepping back from the window, she said in a strangely earnest tone of voice :
"I apply my will to things that matter to me. Not to the rest."
As a familiar gloomy mood was taking hold of her, the girl felt anger at her own stupidity for letting deeper concerns show through her mask. She forcefully sent the unwelcome thoughts back, and started as she felt a hand lightly resting on her left shoulder.
"My, but you seemed to be very far away..."
Snorting like a horse, the girl grinned.
"Sorry, it happens to me sometimes."
The vice president nodded, his fingers comfortingly squeezing the girl's shoulder.
As if he had known...
The girl's heart skipped a beat, ice suddenly encasing her soul.
"I know just the thing to change your mind..."
Abruptly, the girl realised her companion was talking, and desperately focused on his words, trying to ignore the fading echoes of the shock that had struck her a moment before.
Fear... No, more.
Damnit to all the hells.
"There'll be some sort of reception tonight, all my friends will be present, all the members of BAIT, and..."
The girl frowned, cutting him off before he could continue.
"Reception ? I'm sorry, but I'm not fond of anything of the kind."
He laughed gently.
"You ? I don't believe that for a second. You'd be the jewel of the evening, besides, everybody has heard about you from me, and they'd be very disappointed if you didn't come..."
The girl flashed a smile at him, getting a grip on herself.
"You, my dear friend, are a vile flatterer. Admitting I even liked those kinds of events, I most certainly didn't bring anything suitable for a formal evening. As a matter of fact, I've never even owned a proper tenue de soirée..."
The vice president pursed his lips.
"It's true that it could be a problem, but..."
He looked at his watch, and swore.
"Gods, it's late... I have to go, but we'll talk about this further my lady..."
As she heard the knock on her door, the girl jumped from her bed and went to open it, quietly ushering the young man inside.
She bade him sit on the bed while she herself went to lean her back against one of the windows. Watching the one who had come without the slightest trace of amusement on her face or of smile on her lips.
Trying to understand how this had happened.
Wondering for what was likely the last time before a point of no-return if this was the right course of action. At last, the young man broke the heavy silence, asking in a diffident voice :
"Do you think there's anything you can do ?"
The girl looked at him fixedly, trying to determine what whim of the universe had gifted this man with the insight or intuition to call on her when it was the last thing he should have thought of. She took in the grief radiating from him, knew at once it was genuine. This wasn't a trap, at least.
Or maybe it was a very clever one...
Shaking her head, she paced into the small room, conscious of the fact she'd never be able to rule out this possiblity, and also acutely aware that she had no right ignore the plea she could read in the young man's eyes.
One couldn't deny oneself, or one always eventually paid a terrible price.
The girl stopped before the young man and smiled softly.
"I make no promises, but I'll give it a try..."
Sitting down beside him, she looked out the window. The sun was low on the horizon, the sky clear of clouds... Musing aloud, she added :
"I wonder how this has come to pass... Is it Destiny ?..."
She faced the young man.
"Is it Fate that led you, Doug ?"
When she heard a knock on the door, the girl sighed. There was no way she'd agree to participate in what had always been to her a waste of her time. No matter which arguments Tim would come up with, she'd never... Another knock on her door interrupted her train of thought, and she opened it, gathering the strength to face the coming onslaught.
"Good evening miss, this is for you."
A man in groom uniform gave a packet into her hands and bowed slightly before going away. Dumbfounded, the girl looked blankly at the empty staircase, and eventually went back into her room, putting the packet down on her bed.
Now what was this nonsense about ?
Puzzled despite herself, she opened the packet, and suddenly stepped back with a sharp intake of breath.
She closed her hands in fists, biting her lower lip, and went back to the packet and its contents.
A wonderful state blue evening dress, whose simplicity and cut indicated very high class clothing. Damnit, but it was beautiful. Really beautiful. Beside it was a white rose and a short message.
I think I've managed to settle the clothing problem. Please, come to the reception, we'll be waiting for you.
Laughing suddenly, the girl took off her blouse and her jeans, taking the packet with her to the mirror. She never wore lots of jewelry, and never used makeup, so the silver earrings and ring would have to do. The pendant, well that would be hidden below the dress. It wasn't for public display.
Gods rot Tim, but she had no graceful way out of this now. None that wouldn't also mean admitting defeat, and hell if she'd do that. So all right, if he wanted her to appear at the godsrotted reception, she'd attend, she'd play along. But her way. When she looked at her reflection on the mirror, she noticed the feral smile on her lips, and nodded.
As expected, this game was proving to be the best in a long, very long time.
The streets were almost deserted, and the rare passers-by were too focused on getting back home to remark the shadow that fell on them in the night, but if they had lifted their heads they would have seen a young man standing at the top of Cambridge's highest tower, his shape detaching itself against the rising full moon, and the breeze flying his hair. He was smiling confidently, his eyes blazing with an inner fire that would have frightened most of the people of the ancient town.
It was done.
Now, the time had come to end the game and declare his opponent chess mate.
Had the girl not known she was in Cambridge, she'd have sworn she was in one of Vienna's great ball rooms at the end of the last century. Some kind of reception... Those had been Tim's words... Damn him. As she walked through the crowd of guests, each more richly clothed than the other, the girl desperately focused on walking forward, ignoring with difficutly the whispers that rose in her wake. She hated these society gatherings, she had always hated them. Hell, she just had to make herself deaf to all those snobbish bastards and step forward.
"Aw, look at her hair..."
"And her face..."
"She didn't even use makeup..."
"Really, I wonder which remote part of the countryside she's coming from..."
The girl froze. That last gibe hadn't even been whispered. Turning slowly to face the offender, she allowed ice to claim her self, and smiled pleasantly :
"A nice evening to you too, dear lady. It's so kind of you to welcome a guest in such a distinguished fashion..."
"Really, it's so kind of you to let me know with such subtlety that there are even remoter places in the world than the one I was born in... You must tell me your hometown's name..."
The girl brought a hand to her lips, ignoring the shocked expressions around her.
"Oh, but please excuse my lack of manners, it's unseemly of me to waste time with insignificant bitches when I should be attending the vice president of BAIT..."
Turning away before any comment could be made, the girl glided among the crowd, feeling fury rising within her and wondering if she wanted to quell the emotion. Suddenly, people around her parted, making way for a young man who was coming directly towards her. The girl laughed delightedly. She should have known. Damn him, but his over the top arrogance was almost endearing.
He was not wearing a three piece suit like most of the male guests, but rather what looked like a princely uniform that suited him perfectly, enhancing - if such a thing was possible - the aristocratic slenderness of his features. Gods rot him, he was gorgeous, there was no other word to qualify him. On the left side of his leather belt was hanging a fencing foil whose golden hilt shone brightly, reflecting the light of the dozens of candelabra artistically dispersed around what had to be not a reception room, but a ball room. He stopped a few paces from her and bowed at her, holding out his gloved right hand to her.
"My lady, your presence tonight is an honor to this place, and to us."
Her anger forgotten, the girl remembered lessons taught years ago and curtsied, replying :
"Thank you sir, but I fear you're too kind with this humble person..."
He grinned at her.
She let him take her hand and steer her away from the crowd that had apparently been struck dumb by what had just happened.
"You ought to be ashamed to have tricked me into coming to this horrible reception. I hate them, and they hate me as well. You'll be very, very lucky if I don't ruin your evening you know..."
Tim laughed when he heard that.
"No way, you're a welcome sight, a welcome change in the boring routine of all those fools. Let them hate you, feel free to hold them in the deepest contempt, they deserve it, and enjoy yourself..."
Suddenly, the girl noticed the still form of Doug on the other side of the room, watching them. She whispered softly :
"They all deserve it ?"
Following her gaze, the vice president shrugged.
The girl sighed.
"Even him ? Even the one you..."
Fingers closed around her left wrist, making her turn back to face the vice president.
"He, like the others, is insignificant..."
She stared at him steadily.
"He loves you, and his pain is genuine. Does it count for nothing ? Was he nothing more than a toy to be discarded once it had outlived its usefulness ?"
He laughed shortly.
"Oh come, Ariane, let's drop the masks, shall we ? Of course they all are tools to be used and then thrown away, useful for a time in our quest and then unnecessary burdens to get rid of..."
He grinned suddenly.
"If you don't break the eggshell, you cannot make an omelette, right ? You and I are above that, how can you think I'd let myself be distracted into caring for a weak dying light when beside me stands the brightest of all flames... Come, the musicians will soon start playing, let's dance..."
The girl nodded slowly, feeling a strange impression of cold seeping through her being as she acknowledged that the time for petty games was past. Usually, when she stepped into the higher gameboard, the feelings that engulfed her were intoxicating delight, but this time...
This time, something...
The girl smiled at the vice president.
"You and I don't share the same quest Tim, you're mistaken. But you are right in this that it is time we dropped pretense and masks. I don't like your attitude and the way you scorn one you knowingly hurt. So, I have reached a decision in this matter : you're going to change that attitude of yours, and change it right now."
"You're incredible, really. What makes you think I'd ever comply and follow your will ? What makes you think I'd ever turn away from my goal ?"
"It's pretty simple : because you have no choice."
Uncertainty flashed in his eyes for the briefest of moments, then he shook his head, laughing.
"Is it the certainty of defeat that makes you lose your mind, my lady ?"
The girl kept on smiling at him.
"Not at all. I'm not your lady, Tim, and I'm not anybody's. You're going to obey because there is no escape for you, or anyone I choose to use my will upon..."
She reached inside her bodice.
"And since you refuse to understand, I'll abandon subtlety and show you proof of the truth of my words..."
The girl took out the pendant she had kept hidden until now, allowing the light of the candelabra to reflect on the delicate shape of a superbly engraved golden rose. At this precise moment a deep silence fell over the ball room. The vice president hissed :
"Who are you ?"
The girl shrugged.
"I would have thought that obvious by now. I am the One from the End of the World..."
He whispered softly :
"You lie. This is a masquerade of sorts, you are..."
The girl waved impatiently, cutting him off.
"I am exactly who I said I was. Believe me or not, as suits you best. I am done waiting for you to behave..."
She raised her right arm towards the ceiling, her palm open.
"Power to revolutionize the world, come to me !..."
Clouds suddenly hid the full moon, appearing out of nowhere.
"Shaka, Virgo Gold Saint, I summon thee, let me clothe myself in thy being, and let thy powers be mine !"
The girl slowly let her right arm fall at her side, and the clouds disappeared, allowing the moon to shine again. She looked around her, feeling the other's presence within, the power like burning flames devouring her heart as it had always been. The detached, haughty coldness that was Shaka engulfed her and she focused on her opponent, who snorted.
"What was that ? Were you trying to impress me ?"
The girl smiled, bringing her hands together in front of her and replying :
"Why should I bother to impress lowly beings like you ?..."
As a light started shining, radiating from the girl's hands which were now closed as if in a prayer, the vice president's right hand moved towards his fencing foil. His fingers closed on the weapon's hilt, but he didn't draw it, asking the girl :
"Are you challenging me ?"
She ignored him, closing her eyes as the light's radiance became blinding. Once she felt ready, she started opening her hands, still smiling. He didn't understand, but then she had known he wouldn't. They always lost once she brought the duel to the higher gameboard.
Thunder roared, deafening, its echoes amplifying in the ball room.
The girl turned on her right, towards the huge baywindow on the other side of the candelabra, and froze.
Someone had appeared in the room.
The man was tall and lean, almost willowy although there was no hint of weakness in his wonderfully built frame. He stepped forward, and the girl's mind reeled, the haughty coldness that had inhabited her giving way to a feeling of ice that was worse than fear. As he walked towards her, she thought he was like a feline, one of the beautiful tigers of Siberia. Oh yes, beautiful, so beautiful that the sight of him sent her hear beating a strange drums solo...
Instinct took over, and the girl released Shaka's cosmo she had gathered between her hands, hurling it at the intruder.
As if in a dream, she saw the man waving the power blast aside like one would have a pestering fly. She stepped back. How could this man fight back an attack cast at the speed of light ? How...? He walked calmly towards her, and she didn't move. She didn't flee. Although every fiber of her being was screaming at her to run, she simply waited for him.
As he wanted her to.
She barely heard Tim's awed whisper :
He took her hand and kissed it softly, bowing.
"My lady, I am honored to meet you at last, I've been waiting for you."
His right arm wrapped around her waist, and he whirled her around. She only then realised that the silence of the ball room was now being filled with the melody of Sibelius'Sad Waltz.
From the beginning, all this...
No... No she couldn't lose like this, she had to fight at least, apply this will she was so proud of and win free. He was a human being, no matter how unearthly beautiful, no matter how powerful. There had to be a way of escape. There had to be ! He chuckled softly, whispering in her left ear :
"What is it my lady ? Are you contemplating the way I weaved the net around you and trapped you ?..."
She was losing track of reality, losing track of the floor below her feet, swept away by the hauntingly beautiful music. By him...
"Or are you still unwilling to acknowledge defeat ? Shall I prove to you how utterly complete my victory is ?..."
His lips lightly brushed the side of her neck.
"Fighting me will gain you nothing. The Power to Revolutionize the world is mine, it was mine from the moment I claimed you..."
She barely felt the movement as she was passed from his hands to the vice president's. Sibelius'Sad Waltz was echoing in her soul.
"To think that my goal was standing so close to me all this time..."
What was this voice ? Whose ? Someone she knew...
"I wasted time scheming to win Kyri-sama when you were within my grasp... And he used all of us to ensnare you..."
Tim's voice, yes...
Laughing, full of admiration. Recognizing defeat, conceding victory to the other.
No, hell, not so easily.
The girl looked the vice president right in the eyes, her face set in an emotionless mask, whispering fiercely :
"You know nothing about this Power, you don't understand. And I'm not about to let you or him have it..."
In a super-human effort of will, she made herself deaf to the music, and closed her eyes, invoking in thought with the last of her strength.
Power to revolutionize the world, come to me...
She staggered, almost fell, but Tim's arms steadied her, drawing her further into the music, away from reality.
Just a moment longer...
Tenjou Utena, I summon thee, let me clothe myself in thy being, and let thy strength and courage be mine !
Burning flames burned away the coffin of ice encasing her soul, and suddenly the girl grew aware of her surroundings again. Smiling, she gave herself wholly to the presence she could feel in her heart. In a flowing movement, her right hand came up, holding the white rose that Tim had put in the packet along with the evening dress, and she slapped him with it, pusing him away at the same time. She freed herself from his embrace, and he fell backwards, in a slow motion.
The music abruptly stopped.
Breathing heavily, the girl watched the fallen vice president on the floor before her, and threw the white rose at his feet, saying :
"This is yours, I'm giving it back...."
In a fluid motion, she took off the evening dress, and dropped it before him, smiling.
"This as well..."
She ignored the muffled cries of amazement coming from the crowd, all too much aware that she didn't have much time. From the left pocket of her jeans, she fished out a couple of sheets of papers, and showed them to the vice president.
"By the power that is mine, I place upon you this one command : you will be true to the feelings hidden deep inside your heart."
Something flickered breifly in the vice president's eyes, fierce and unreadable. He had no choice, no way around the girl's words, as he had likely discovered by now. Suddenly, he turned on the left, tensing. The secretary was coming towards them, a question shining in his eyes. The girl nodded, smiling reassuringly.
It was done.
Distantly, she hear Doug's stunned whisper :
"Is this some kind of Fushigi Yuugi ?"
She burst out laughing.
"My lady, I must admire your strength, you're amazing..."
The girl turned to face the one who was the president of BAIT.
The one who had led her to this place.
The one who had trapped her, and almost won.
Reflexively, her right hand clutched at her blouse as the feeling of Tenjou Utena's presence faded and left her empty. Like a broken shell...
Fighting the pain away, she grinned at the president.
"It would seem victory isn't exactly yours after all, wouldn'it ?... Do you now understand what the Power is ?..."
She chuckled as she saw him looking quickly at the sheets of paper she had left on the floor beside Doug and Tim.
"Don't worry, I can't write you into not being..."
He nodded, smiling.
"Even if you could, I doubt you would... So that's what it is, imagination and dreams shaped into reality through writing..."
He looked at her sharply.
"But everyone has dreams... How come you're the one holding this power ?"
The girl shrugged, smiling back at him.
"You don't expect me to answer that, do you ?..."
Abruptly, all trace of amusement disappeared form her face, and she said, in deadly earnest :
"I can't force you to stop challenging me for the Power, but I will tell you this : those I have summoned until now, I could control. Some of those I could call hold the power to defeat you for certain, but they would also likely harm everything around them. I'll never willingly give you the Power, and if need be, if you still want to fight, I'll have no choice but to trust on my strength to control those I'll summon..."
He chuckled softly, shaking his head and smiling.
"Don't endanger this world my lady. I have no intention of fighting you, the more so I can see you're exhausted and in pain, there would be no honor in that..."
He came to the girl's side and gently supported her.
"I'll resort on a much better way of obtaining what I want..."
He flashed a blazing smile at her.
"I'll simply convince you to give it to me..."
She looked at him helplessly, feeling herself blushing like a fool, and eventually cursed.
"Godsrotted bishounen, don't think you'll have your way so easily !"
Before he could steer her away from the ball rom, the girl moved away from him and walked to the couple embracing a few steps away. Clearing her throat, she gently tapped Doug's left shoulder. The secretary reluctantly freed himself from the arms of the vice president, and faced her. She smiled charmingly at him, saying :
"Doug, I have a gift for you : as of this day, I've decided to share my power with you so that this evil minded person here won't try to bug me anymore. I know I can trust you to use it only to defend yourself, and I'm quite sure that your invoking Dark Schneider would effectively defeat any kind of enemy."
There was a muffled thud behind the girl, and she laughed, seeing in the reflection of the baywindow that the president of BAIT had fainted and was now lying most unceremoniously on the dance floor.
All in all, it had been an interesting evening.
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