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The Kingdom's Collapse

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When She'd told me She was leaving, with a self-righteous smirk in Her voice, I had thought She was bluffing.

Now, in my tower, I see Her leave, but only from a distance. It's more like I see a mass of pink and purple. And yet I can hear Her foot clack on the ground once it is outside of my world. Each step echoes in my mind.

Things stop being like they were, in little ways. The Student Council starts to try to behave like an actual student council, organizing class meetings and fundraisers. Of course, it’s a collection of comical disasters and they give up their positions to students who actually know what they are doing. They begin to do other things, and are happier like that.

Other things change as well. The flowers smell a bit less sweet. The animals are a bit less obedient. Or maybe I’m simply imagining it.

Things are more unnatural, more stilted, more awkward, more real. But they continue, and that is all I can ask for.

Until they don’t continue anymore.

Nanami is first to leave, after Her. In some ways this is unexpected, but in other ways it is ridiculously obvious. She'd given up her ring first. And, after getting the connection to Touga that she wanted, she had realized that she had barely wanted that connection in the first place. She leaves a note about how her interests were incompatible with the classes offered, and it addresses her brother to say she is taking her portion of the family inheritance, in order to start a business. The letter is obvious allegory, much like the classes. Everything is allegory around here.

She was not that good of a student or a duelist. I didn't see much reason to miss her, other than perhaps her role to other students. Her disappearance is the beginning of the collapse. I sit, changing the records to reflect her absence.

It isn't all that long afterward that Tsuwabuki leaves. He doesn't leave a note, which is probably an allegory too. And, after him, almost directly, a girl. Another girl. A few boys. A larger group of children. In fact, within a month, the entire elementary school body disappears entirely. It is surreal, even for this godforsaken world. But, in the end, younger children are too interested in fitting in to really think of anything else.

That is my theory, anyway. Were She still here, She may have suggested that young children were still pure, and that I had no true power over them. That young children did not yet have roses. She would have smiled and removed Her glasses and kissed my knuckles and apologized for speaking out of turn. I would have made a point to press my hands into Her invisible scars as I fucked Her.

She is not here. I can hear Her echoing footsteps, though they are softer. Not for distance, but because Her hard shoes have worn, or perhaps She has replaced them with more comfortable shoes for walking. I imagine Her in Her pink dress with tennis shoes and I make a noise like laughter.

(Or maybe, beginning to feel tired, She began to make less resolute steps in the interest of practicality.)

Next is Saionji. That is a bit of a surprise. His departure is less triumphant, though. Apparently his grades have slipped too low to stay. Of course, that's allegory too. I wonder if he will be the last. It becomes more and more plausible in my mind as he steps over. He is no inspiration or hope or anything.

Touga is next to me in the tower when Saionji leaves. His mouth is a thin, straight line. He turns to me after the departure, and he is almost like Her, in that as I fuck him he shows no evidence of pleasure. He says words to me, and I know they are allegory and do not care enough to listen or reply or decipher. I can hear Her mocking footsteps, and I wonder if perhaps Saionji is following Her. If so, I am still in power, as She is my dear sister and anybody She has, I have. If so, it is only a matter of time until he returns.

Touga puts his clothes on. He pulls close, almost like he wants to kiss me. He does not do so, obviously. I do not want him to.

Another person soon leaves. I do not know her name, though I know that I know her face. She has been a part of everything at least once. She is the only one to not leave alone. A few friends, two boys and five girls, are surrounding her and they are a sort of mob, chatting excitedly. Apparently, despite seeming plain, she is pretty popular. I know one of the boys, from the midst of plots, as the rejected black rose duelist who could not go deep. In any case, I can sense she is not following anybody. She is making her own path.

I envy her, almost, and for the first time I consider leaving. But I could not leave my own kingdom, obviously.

The steps are a bit less frequent, but still a steady beat. I imagine Her feet covered with blisters, new scars for Her deserved retribution, and I make a noise like laughter.

(Or maybe She has made her way to a clue and She wanders, slowly examining evidence which can point Her to the right place, preparing Her next move with a measure of confidence.)

Next is Juri. Of course Juri is next. She never much liked the idea of miracles in the first place. She wears a casual yet fashionable v-neck shirt, which clearly shows her neck as bare. She winks at a few girls, who all blush, some of embarrassment but some very clearly of interest. She blows a kiss as she waves goodbye, making theatrics of her departure.

A decent amount of girls go after her, holding bouquets of every sort of flower except roses.

After the audience has left and the crowd dies down, another girl leaves as well. I recognize her as Shiori, after a moment of confusion. Well, the confusion is to be expected, she is rather unremarkable and uninteresting in appearance. She holds a dueling sword in her hands, Juri's, and it looks as if it is painstakingly polished, though the distance makes it hard to tell. I cannot make out whether she follows Juri to return it, or if she simply wanted a polished sword for her own pursuits. It makes little difference.

Now Her footsteps are more frequent, more frequent than even in the beginning. I imagine Her running in a panic and slipping in the rain, bashing Her head on concrete and starting to bleed and I make a noise like laughter.

(Or maybe, now that She has a destination in mind, She cannot help but go faster, ready to finally find what She is looking for.)

There's a while where nobody leaves. A while of peace, where I strain to hear Her, listen for the telltale sign of Her turning back, recognizing Her stupidity. It's steady, and I hate it and I ache for the turning sound.

After deliberation, the next person to leave is Miki. He visits the piano room but does not play, instead smiling in nostalgia and recognizing it as nostalgia and walking out. Upon further inspection he is holding something. He is holding a letter.

Almost a split second later, his sister also leaves, also holding her own letter. They travel in the same direction, but I sense they are following the letter, rather than each other.

With him and Juri gone, and Touga spending more time in my tower than outside of it, the fencing team is disbanded and all of the members leave for some other place to pursue their interests.

Her steps stop for minutes before coming in bursts, and I imagine Her aching, fatigued, possibly diseased, and barely able to step, staggering after taking struggling breaths, and I make a sound like laughter.

(Or maybe She has made it into a routine now that she knows Utena is in some specific type of place. She checks each hospital/school/house/something before leaving and crossing it off Her list, slowly narrowing down Her options until She has finally won.)

Touga stands, rather than lying on his stomach, and looks out of the window. I ask him what is wrong, and he gives me an allegory about a butterfly nibbling at a leaf of cabbage. I know this one, for once, mainly because I saw the day in the cabbage patch, I used it, I know it by heart. He gets deep into it, and, before I know what is happening, he has started to cry.

I tell him to come to me.

He tells me that he's grateful for my temporary solution to his permanent problem, before he tells me that he is leaving.

I tell him that the temporary solution is only there until we open the doors to the castle of eternity, and I lie and say we will open it together and be the princes.

He tells me that an old friend of his mailed him the contact information for a highly trained therapist. He tells me that it has to be better than internalizing the shame and loathing of the moment. He tells me that he understands now that even if his behavior toward his best friends was understandable, it was wrong. He tells me that he feels remorse. He hands me a photocopy of the letter, saying it is just in case there is any humanity left in me that I want to salvage. He tells me that I could escape, too, and perhaps someday leave my shackles I had disguised as a palace.

I snatch the letter he handed me, and grab at the one in his hand, as well. By the time I reach for it, he is already at the door. He looks at me like he wants to say something, but then he just smiles and tells me that there is no eternity, and that that is the precise reason that people can't just wait to die in their coffins.

He isn't talking to me, not really. He is saying something he wishes he had said in the past, something he wishes he had realized.

He leaves the tower. I burn the photocopy of the letter. After I do so, I wish I had not been so spiteful. Knowing his location could be useful in possibly stealing him back. I realize that I’ve never been much of a planner. No, She was always the one to orchestrate the plots. I was nothing but a figurehead in my own kingdom.

I watch him walk out of the gates. He is the only one outside, as it is the middle of the night and no other students are out of bed. It makes sense that, unlike the others, he does not want to make a scene out of leaving. After all, leaving a school to get therapy is not exactly a thing you hold your head up about. The lack of adherence to pattern still throbs in my head, though, silently whispering "allegory" as if it is some joke I am not allowed to get.

In the morning, people do notice his absence, and a few of them try to enquire after it, walking through the gate with no actual chance of finding him. A group of three girls is among the crowd. I recognize one of them as Keiko. They aren't really looking for him, so much as they're leaving because there is little of interest remaining with all of the special people gone.

That is my theory, anyway. Were She still here, She may have said that the "special people" were just the poor broken people I had taken advantage of. That they were under my spell and also the only thing sustaining my spell, and, with them mending their wounds in the right way, I had grown weak. That without anybody to play a prince to, with a school filled with people I could not control, I was unable to maintain my kingdom and the facade crumbled. She would have turned to me with Her fake smile and said it was okay because we were both eternal and we would find new fools and my power would never end because I would always have one fool left under my spell and broken. Her.

That night, I would have lied and called Her my princess and lied and promised to be Her prince and fucked Her slowly, gently, like She was a goddess and like we were equal. I may have even called Her beautiful.

But She is not here. The footsteps stop for a long period of time, and I panic, but then they restart, slower. I imagine Saionji jumping on top of Her and taking Her for his own, and Her helplessly waddling away like the whore She is, and I make a sound like laughter.

(Or maybe She cannot contain Her smile when she finally finds that She is in the proper place. She walks slowly, afraid to rush, wanting to savor Her success)

Everything is quiet. I wonder why, before realizing the student body must be incredibly small now. I look at the enrollment sheet and boggle.

I hadn't expected it to be down to three.

Do you know? Do you know? Have you heard the news?

Apparently several of our old schoolmates have met up!

I heard that the miracle girl got together with the girl in her old locket!

Eh?! I don't think so! I heard she got together with an old fencing teammate girl!

Whatever! What about that other girl?

The blonde one? I heard her business was quickly becoming a success!

I also heard she was single for now.

Yeah, yeah! Me too! But what about that boy that liked her?

Oh, hush! He has plenty of time to grow up. Why should he be with anyone?

Well what about the shining little boy?

I heard he went to visit some parent and talk to them?

And his shining sister too?

I dunno. I heard she got together with some guy.

Or was it a girl?

Well I heard her brother, for once, totally approved. Gave his blessings.

Must have been a decent match for the shining girl then, I hear the shining boy is picky!

Or maybe he learned to mind his business?

Even if he didn't, it's okay. He will, now that he's not here!

Of course!

Well, what about the eternal boy? You know, that creep?

He's kinda calmed down, or so I've heard.

I heard he's in some honors high school!

I thought he got kicked out of here for bad grades.

I dunno. I also heard he's seeing someone!

Yeah, that one onion girl!

No way, it was the red-haired devil!

Or was it someone else?

Well at least it was someone new, and not that girl he used to date.

Let's hope he's not abusive or anything this time around.

So what about the red-hair devil?

I haven't heard from him at all, actually...

Me neither, but I heard he got a haircut.

What, like a trim?

No! Like a real haircut!

Cool! I never wanted to say anything, but I thought that long hair was a bit over the top.

Yeah…

Oh, but what about the goddess and the revolutionary?

Well, duh! They lived happily ever after!

You think?

I realize with a start that I haven't heard Her footsteps for almost a half of an hour. I strain but they are entirely absent. Somehow, I know it is past the point of rationalizing or imagining, and yet that is my only remaining power. And so, I imagine that She finally grew too tired and collapsed entirely, another bum in the street to walk around. Or that Her legs gave out and now She's in a wheelchair. That She will never make it. That she will never make it. That she, crying helplessly, wishes she had stayed for her eternity. And that someday She'll come back.

And I make a sound like laughter.

Well, what happened to the bad guy?

Did he ever go after his princess?

Yeah, right! I heard that he stayed right there in his kingdom for the rest of his life.

Uh, isn’t he immortal?

Not without his sister’s magic, I’m pretty sure.

Well I heard that, even now, he haunts the school, waiting for his sister.

What? That’s silly!

How would you know?

Well how would you know?

What about you? Do you know? Do you know? Do you really know?