White Lily

Step Away From Glory

Notes and Disclaimers: Chiho Saito, Be-Pappas and Ikuhara Kunihiko and several other corporate entities own the characters of Shoujo Kakumei Utena and I thank them for allowing us to play with them.

I would like to say, up front that I am a proud member of the Shiori Death Advocates, but as my moon sign is in Aquarius, I am also contrary by nature – thus the following story. I also realize that some of what I write is not necessarily canonical, but I think is nonetheless valid a viewpoint. 

Thanks to Alan Harnum for questioning me about this piece until I had firm beliefs, if not a good story. :-)

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Step Away From Glory

 

Dear Juri-san,

By the time you get this letter, I will have left Ohtori. I have to leave now, while I can, but I wanted to apologize to you before I left.

Something happened last night, didn’t it? I think everyone in the school knew something was going to happen. It was like right before a big storm breaks, when everything is still and waiting. Just after sunset I sat at my window and I could feel it happening. Whatever it was happened in the forest behind the school, didn’t it? I don’t expect to ever know what it was, but I think I can guess. On the whole, I’m just glad it wasn’t you.

When I woke up this morning, I could feel that everything was different – like I was cleaner than I had been in years. And for the first time in a long time, I felt happy…and free. Which is why I’m leaving. If I’m gone you can move on and in time, maybe, forget me and come to truly believe in miracles. And I need to leave while I can – or I may not be able to anymore.

You’ve always been very self-assured, very competent, but I wanted this to be an apology for many things, so I hope you’ll bear with me and read everything I have to say. You probably think you understand why I did the things I did, but since I don’t myself, I don’t see how you can. But then, you always were better at everything than everyone else, so maybe you do understand after all.

Do you remember the day we met? You protected me from the upperclassmen who were harassing me. It was amazing, but right then I knew you were one of those people – the kind of people who make it in life, for whom everyone else steps out of the way. And I wanted to be near you, because you were so nice to me, and because if something good happened to you, if I were close, I could share in it.

When Ichiro joined us, it was great – perfect. He and I put on plays, sang songs, made up games – and you joined us, protected us, laughed at the jokes. You made both of us feel special. It was a kind of paradise, really and I always knew it couldn’t last.

I knew immediately when it changed. One day he and I were laughing over something silly and you were smiling at us. I looked at you and I could see you staring at us, but it was different. There was something scary, something chilling in your stare…something adult. I didn’t like it, but I pretended not to notice. It’s not like it’s easy to ask you personal questions – it never has been.

I thought I could survive you loving him. You were growing a little colder, a little more adult every day, but you never said a word, never made one move and I thought that our friendship was stronger than that. And maybe yours might have been.

One day, after fencing practice, Ichiro found me in the gallery and we watched you giving pointers to the younger members of the club. He sighed so wistfully and I turned and glared at him. He was watching you with that look I’ve seen so many times – who am I kidding; I’ve probably stared at you the same way. And that look held such longing, that I began to hate you. You thought I was innocent didn’t you – you told me I was innocently cruel. I wasn’t, Juri-sempai, not even a little. At that moment, I wanted to destroy you. I knew that if I didn’t act soon, I’d become a footnote in his mind, a half-remembered name when he looked at photographs, “Oh, and that’s Shiori, a girl who used to hang out with us.” Nothing more than a vague memory.

The rumors began around then, too. That you were wearing a locket with someone’s picture in it. Some people said it was Ichiro’s and I felt my heart grow even harder. One day, when I was changing after gym, I heard a new rumor, an uglier one. I hit the girl who said that it was my picture in the locket. I bashed her ugly, sneering face in and walked out of the locker room. When I got back to my dorm I cried for an hour. So I decided to do the next best thing, and make you hurt the way I was hurting.

A few weeks later, Ichiro came to me and told me he was transferring schools – his father’s company was sending him away. All at once, the plan came to me. When I looked up at him and smiled, I knew you were watching. I could feel you watching us. Him.

How many different types of fool have I been over the past few years, Juri-sempai?

I was such a hypocrite, smiling at you, telling you to believe in miracles, all the while scheming to seduce him.

You know what happened – I won. Well, for whatever it was worth. I sold my soul and my innocence for a Pyrrhic victory. And Ichiro and I went away together, into the sunset, never to return.

Please forgive me for the blurry characters – I can’t seem to stop crying.

My heart was empty of everything but that meaningless victory and I savored it, thinking of you here, alone, no one to make you laugh, no one to love you like we did and I would laugh – really – like an evil character out of a bad movie.

And it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see you again, to see how your suffering had changed you.

I did return, and when I saw you again, I almost changed my mind. I couldn’t believe how cold you were. You were like a completely different person. Even your smile sent chills through me. You knew I had been sent to crush you, didn’t you? And you were scared. I wish I had known. At the time I thought it was just that I wanted to see you again – see how I had hurt you. Even to ask for forgiveness, so I could do it again.

Now comes the strange part. If any of this sounds ridiculous, it’s because I’m not sure it really happened or if I dreamed it. One morning I rose, and noticed that it was a beautiful day. I left the window open to air the room out a bit, I even put a freshly cut rose in a vase on my desk.

When I got back from class, there was a noise, like someone knocking something over. I looked around and saw that my desk was wet – the vase had been overturned. And there, in the puddle, was a locket.

I had never seen it, but I knew instantly that it was yours. I picked it up and stared at it, as if it might reach out and bite me. Where had it come from, who brought it here? I watched it swing for a long time before I gave in and opened it. I was horrified…and furious when I realized that my revenge had been worthless. And that that stupid pimply girl, with her vicious whisper in the locker room had been right. I was sick about it. How could you? All the time, you were looking at me, not him? I couldn’t bear it.

Did I do what I remember doing next? I remember going to The Mikage Seminar…an elevator…and finding you in the fencing hall. Yes, Juri-sempai, I remember all that, and teasing you so cruelly, although the words that came out of my mouth that were not mine. And I remember taking a sword from your chest. Did that happen or did I dream it?

I found myself in the Forest, fighting that girl, Tenjou Utena, and saying things I barely remember or understood. I knew it had to do with you and the Student Council, but as I was speaking I had the most horrible feeling. None of this, not from the very beginning, had been my idea. It was some role I had been given to play, and I didn’t like it at all.

The next day I pretended nothing had happened, simply because I am a weak, pathetic girl and I simply couldn’t face the truth, not to you, not to myself. So I pretended that I had not hurt you, or attacked Tenjou-san, or Himemiya-san or anything. If I pretended nothing had happened, I couldn’t hurt you any more than I already had. I pretended that I had never seen the locket. I pretended that I was nothing more than the girl who stole your boyfriend. It made it easier for me to look in the mirror.

And it might have stayed that way except that boy came back to the school. Ruka–sempai. I could see immediately that you hated him and I hated him too. How ironic, isn’t it? All I wanted now was to redeem myself in your eyes, so I tried, I really did, to distract him, to…yes, seduce him, so he’d leave you alone. I could see the loathing in your face every time he neared you. I’m sorry, Juri-sempai, I really am. I tried to make him leave you alone, but it was no use. He used me as a weapon against you and I never wanted that, never. Once again I found myself saying someone else’s words, acting someone else’s role and I almost lost you. No, I did lose you. You protected me, but I could tell that you loathed me too, and knew you were better off without me. Or maybe that’s what I was thinking.

I think that I have been a complete fool from beginning to end, haven’t I? My weakness made someone able to play me against you and I don’t even know who or why. All I know is what I’ve done to you has made you cold and hard, like steel. And I’m sorry, I truly am. It’s no excuse to say that I didn’t mean any of it, or that I couldn’t help myself. All I can say is, that I’m glad it’s all over.

Yesterday, when that something happened, I knew it had to do with Student Council business, and Tenjou-san and you. But when I woke this morning I felt the same way I did when we were young and happy and that’s why I have to leave, right now, before I hurt you again.

I hope that you can forget me and forgive me all that I have done to you. I’m going away to find the true person who is Takatsuki Shiori and I sincerely hope you can find the wonderful warm person that was Arisugawa Juri before long. Maybe one day we can both believe in miracles again.

I wish nothing but the best for you,

Sincerely,