To Tenjou Utena-san,
This letter will never reach you-- even if I were inclined to send it, I have nowhere to send it to. I can’t imagine that concerns you though; by the time you left, I think you loomed much larger in my mind than I did in yours.
I wonder if you you knew the impact you had on the world around you? I remember that you always seemed untouched by the world’s attempts to stain you, that you never compromised yourself because of the scorn or flattery of those who thought themselves your betters. It was something I admired about you, which is, I suppose, why I was so angry with you every time it seemed you might falter, or show yourself false.
I’ve only ever told this story once before, and never to you, but when I was a child, a boy was lost in the river trying to save my sister from drowning. His efforts came to nothing-- he was swept away in the current, and she was saved by a woman downriver. I never knew if he had parents or friends-- I assume he must have, but I can’t remember there was much of a fuss about him, when he was lost. After I left Ootori, I searched through the news clippings from the papers back then, but I couldn’t find anything that mentioned him by name, not even a proper obituary. It’s as though he vanished from the world. Nothing exists to show that he was ever real, except my memory, and I can’t even remember his name.
I think that it was time that took him out of the world, more than anything else. What occupied my mind when I was a child faded, and in the end, I had enough to do to take care of myself. Days went by when I didn’t think of the boy who died, and then weeks, and years, and he was gone.
That isn’t what
should will happen to you.
I will not forget your name. See? I’ve written it here to prove it.
The day after the Revolution, you had vanished like a mirage. Like that boy. Just walking across campus, I think I heard half a dozen different theories about where you had gone-- but by the end of the week, I didn’t hear your name in the halls even once. Everything about the world, the school, was exactly as it had always been; every rumor said you’d been ejected against your will. It was very picture of a failed revolution, vanished into the current without a ripple. Not a single thing had changed.
But I saw the Bride walk out of the gates. Gates that I had passed every day, but which it suddenly seemed to me that I couldn’t remember ever having crossed myself-- and I knew that the egg had been cracked, and you had gone beyond the limits of that world. When I heard the bells ringing, I knew the Revolution had come, for anyone who had the will to grasp for it.
I will not forget this time. We may never meet again, but I will not forget you. That outside those gates, you exist. That you changed the world.
By the time this reaches you, I will be in Paris! M. Des Rochers accepted my application-- he said the citrine gown in particular was divine. I know I owe a great deal of his favorable impression to you; no one else shines on the runway like you do, sempai.
I’ll be sorry to miss your showing at the championships, but I’ll be cheering you on from Paris. I don’t know when I might see you again, but I promise: I’ll be there for our ten year reunion no matter what. Whether you call it escape or graduation, we’re all in the same class now, no?
I hope you find what you’ve been
I hope you find her.
All my love,
Congratulations on a brilliant victory. I must as always acknowledge you as the
second finest swordswoman I have ever seen.
PS. I hope you like the daffodils; roses seemed inappropriate.
My dear Juri-sempai,
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your last letter-- All this week and last I’ve been sewing pearls into the train of Mme. Thierry’s wedding gown. Tedious work, and I can’t help thinking as I do it that’s it’s a shame it’s such a tradition that brides wear white-- the color doesn’t suit her at all. (At that, for her second marriage, white really can’t be called appropriate even if it didn’t make her look utterly a ghost!) Still, it’s a lovely design, and M. Des Rochers does what he can; he’s talked her into a lovely burgundy trim, which makes her look a bit less washed out. But still, don’t you think it’s a shame more brides don’t wear red?
Ha! Don’t think I can’t see your reaction to that from here! It’s true though, and don’t you think it’s time you stopped blaming Himemiya for the things that happened? What she did,
it wasn’t her it was her fault, of course, but she wasn’t any more guilty than the rest of us. And I can’t imagine, what it must have been like, to be so close to-- Well. You know.
I saw her, though. Himemiya. Five days ago, walking to from work, in the park down by the river. She was planting begonias, if you can imagine. Don’t drop everything and fly to Paris (or, well, do if you like! I’d love to see you again) but Tenjou wasn’t with her. We only spoke briefly; I had to get to work, and she--
I used to be able to feel, whenever I caught her eye, how much she hated me. A sort of cold malice underneath her smiling face, you know? (You needn’t make the face I can see you making here either; she was kindness itself. We’re not children any longer, and more importantly, we’re not the people we were before we were free.) We didn’t have much to say to one another. I think maybe the two of us are too much alike to ever really be comfortable together, but she’s looking for Tenjou as well. I think she’s been looking since she left.
I invited her to our reunion, I hope you don’t mind? And told her to bring Tenjou as well, if she finds her. I think it would be good to see everyone again. Don’t be too mad!
All my love,
PS: I asked Kiryuu-sempai to attend your bouts at the championship on my behalf, so you’d have at least one friendly face to cheer you on!
Dear Tenjou Utena-san,
I said once that we might never meet again, but I find I still expected that we would. It’s strange, don’t you think, the lies we tell ourselves? That first year, after I left --after I followed you, if I’m to be perfectly honest, and why not?-- I expected to see you on every street corner. The first day, I thought I saw you out of the corner of my eye half a dozen times. I know, of course, and knew then, that I was imagining things. The world is wide, and endless, and to find one person among the multitudes, however so bright-- well, it would take a miracle, would it not?
But then, I find I can no longer quite so easily disbelieve in miracles. I lay that at your door; knowing you made it impossible not to believe in such things. So I thought I would see you. Shall I tell you a secret? Most days, I still expect to. It’s impossible, I find, to imagine you blending seamlessly into a crowd. Surely, wherever you are, you shine so brightly that no one could mistake it.
I had a letter, the other day, from Shiori. Do you remember how once you all but begged me to speak to her? I wasn’t what she needed then, and though I didn’t really see it at the time, she wasn’t what I needed either. (Wanted, yes, of course, but being near her... I always felt like I was drowning. When I looked at her, I couldn’t see anything else; not the world, not even myself.) Distance has done us a world of good. I can be a friend to her now, as I never could before. She’s doing well; she’s been accepted to an apprenticeship at an atelier in Paris, and though I miss her terribly, I’ve never known her so happy. She was laughing, the last time we spoke, and we promised to meet again to drink tea for our ten year reunion. Nanami has said she’ll bring cookies. (We were all in different years at school, of course, but as you know as well as anyone, we graduated together.)
I’ve lost contact with most of the people we knew at Ootori; the longer I’ve spent outside his world, the more those years feel like a dream. While I was there, I was perfectly content...or well, no, not perfectly, I suppose. When I was offered the opportunity to smash the world’s shell, I leapt for it. But until I left (following you, or at least, the path you opened), until I drew my first breath outside those gates (his gates), I never knew how constricted I had truly been. I knew, on some level, I knew it was a cage; I didn’t know until I left that it was a coffin.
I can’t remember most of my classmates. Not their names, not even their faces. I have, some days, a dreadful suspicion that unless we follow the path you opened, unless we walk out of his world and into this one, none of us are even real. (Kiryuu has a long monologue on the idea that what we were was dead, and that the act of reaching for our freedom is in fact the act of being born, which I am not at all certain he means in a purely metaphysical way, but as I know he pressed his attentions on you relentlessly while we were at school, I will assume you have heard it, and shan’t bore you with it here.) I’m not entirely certain why it is that it doesn’t bother me more to have forgotten so much, when the thought of forgetting you filled me with such terror and fury, but I think--
You opened the door. But if you forced us out through it, this world would be as much a cage as that one was. I followed you; they can choose to do the same. And surely, we will meet again someday.
For someone who finds such amusement in the affection I bear Miss Tenjou, you seem more than half in love with her yourself. You do realize, that even should we attain the miracle we’re seeking, and find her again, she never really had eyes for anyone but her bride? How many letters have you written now? Do you put them in bottles and throw them into the sea, or do you file them in your attic in case that’s where she’s been hiding all this time?
But in answer to your question, no, of course I don’t doubt she’s out here somewhere. Have you written to my sister lately? She appears to have decided to chart a new course with her life.
Your dear friend,
PS. When next you write her, send Tenjou a kiss from me.
My dearest Juri,
Of course I will be coming to the reunion; didn’t I say when I first left that I’d be there if I had to poison someone to get the time off? (I didn’t by the way; M. Des Rochers is fond enough of me, and even more usefully, wants to know if I can talk you into coming back with me for our show in June; he was more that pleased to let me have the time.)
I know we said we’d have tea, but I hope you don’t mind that I’m taking the liberty of bringing a very nice bottle of cognac as well. It was a gift after our last (very successful!) showing, and we’ll find a lovely balcony where we can get drunk together, and refuse to share with Kiryuu-sempai.
By the by, has Nanami rsvp’d yet? It won’t be the same without her, but the last I heard of her, she was backpacking in the Andes. Other than her and our guest of honor, I think everyone’s checked in. (I’m counting Himemiya; it may have been eight years ago, but she did say she’d be there, and I got the impression she wouldn’t forget.)
In any case, I shall be counting the days till we see each other again!
Our ten year reunion is next month, did you know? I don’t believe you’ve received an invitation, though If you’d left a forwarding address when you shattered the boundaries of the world, I might not have two drawers full of unsent letters. But you never once did anything the easy way, did you? Always flinging yourself headfirst into whatever was most unreasonably difficult. Ten years looking for you around every corner, and you might as well have been a mirage, no more real than a castle in the sky.
It’s not that I’ve begun to forget, or that I’ve started to doubt my own memory. At this point, I don’t know if I could disbelieve in you if I tried. Nanami found you, didn’t she? Nine years as a veritable shut in, only showing herself to throw another book to her editors, and then suddenly, she wants to see the world. This year I’ve had letters from her from Nepal, Senegal, Nigeria...I know that must have been you; who else could it have been? Kiryuu tried to get her to take more of an interest in the world before, but he’s as much bemused by her sudden globetrotting as anything else.
Though I haven’t given up on finding you myself, I suppose that if only one of us were ever to see you again, I’m glad it was Nanami. Of all of us, I think she was the one who needed you most. Once, I admired you because I thought you needed no one. It was what I wanted most for myself, at the time. Even after I left that place, and admitted to myself that you had saved me when I never would have saved myself, I still thought you were above that kind of need. It’s taken me years to see that that was nonsense.
Shiori told me once, years ago, that she had run into Himemiya in Paris. I don’t think anyone else has seen her since, though I suppose I don’t know if they’d mention it if they did. I hope she found you. I’ve thought so much, over the years, about how we all needed you-- but she’s the one you needed, isn’t she? I hope, even if she didn’t find you, that she comes to the reunion. There are things I find I want to say to her, and to you as well, of course, but-- If I can’t say them to you directly, perhaps it will do to say them to the one who loved you best.
It’s not that I’ve given up on meeting you again, it’s that I find I can’t imagine the two of you apart. Even if, as Shiori said, Himemiya is wandering the world looking for you, I think the two of you will always be together. I said once, in the first letter I wrote to you and never sent, that I followed you when you opened the gates. That’s not quite right, is it? She was the one who followed you, and all the rest of us, we followed her. You opened the path, but she was the only one who saw it. So as much as I owe to you-- I owe it to her as well.
With hopes to see you soon,