Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 Utena / Penguindrum Fanfic – Seinen Kakumei Utena, Part Eight

Seinen Kakumei Utena (it's Seinen, NOT Josei), crossing with Penguindrum starting Part 2
Rating: T for mature and sensitive subject matters.

Timeline: 10 years post Revolution, a few weeks post Fate Train Transfer

Notable "Mysteries" Covered: Nemuro Hall, Child Broiler, Million Swords, Fate Train, Shadow Girls, Invisible People
Summary (or rather, Excerpt): “The revolution succeeded; it crumbled afterwards only because those whose lives got revolutionized did not follow up on the revolutionary success,” said the Bride, her words setting their closed hearts aflame. “This time, will you help us help you?”

After what seems like an eternity of non-fic writing, I have again written something in tribute of this timeless shoujo anime classic.  This is a work dedicated to the passionate, wonderful people at In the Rose Garden (fic thread here), which even now remains the coolest place for Utena fans to hang out online.

Other sites hosting this fic includes: 

At last, we’ve gotten to the “Missing Link” portion of the story  - a series of chapters devoted to revealing the complicated backstory of Seinen Kakumei Utena.  Largely set in the Nemuro Research Era, this part shall focus on how Tokiko came to be a pawn in Akio’s sinister game, as well as how those surreal Mawaru-Penguindrum elements came to be.   Even at the risk of making the fic even longer than it already is, I’ve written Miki’s father into the story because it fits just right.  Oh, and I think everyone could tell just who those trio of girls following the future Mrs. Ohtori around really were. 

Seinen Kakumei Utena

Utena and its characters belong to its 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

Part Eight: Missing Link I

Time: 10 years post-revolution
Place: Chida Mansion

“Nemuro-kun . . . please endure,”

They had since reentered the room of stars, and have since laid Nemuro down over the red canopy draped bed – now attached to a cluttering of EU operating room equipments.  Donning surgery gloves and masks just like the EU nurses, all four penguins now were crowded around the pink-haired man, as they started “operating” on him under Chida Tokiko’s pained, worried gaze; Nemuro himself was expressionless to the point of appearing almost mannequin-like, like he really was the computer-like man people from their other lifetime had labeled him as, back when-


Turning around, Tokikio saw that the Shadow Boys, both standing beside Kozue, now were “semi-illuminated” as they watched her with visible eyes clouded with questions.

“The graying Indian man said you had this Fate Diary,” said S-taro, his voice airy and brittle around the edges, “was it pink, with two dragons on the front cover, and a sea turtle on the back?”  He raised his voice, its sound urgent and demanding.  “Are you related to the Oginome family?” 

“The Indian was involved in the Kiga Subway attack, wasn’t he?”  K-taro’s voice and expression were tension filled, edgy.  “Was he working for Sanetoshi?  You guys were talking about this Fate Train Research . . . is that what you people call the attack?” The boy now was as fearful as he was angry.  “You . . . you had a laser-thingy that looks just like Masako’s . . . were you part of Kiga?”  

Brown eyes glinting with more than reflected lights, Tokiko observed the boys for a brief, quiet moment, prior to speaking.

“I see you’re both remembering a lot of things,” she said.  “Would you mind telling me your real names?  I’d rather call you boys something a little more formal than K-taro and S-taro.”  S-taro opened his mouth as if to reply, but stopped as K-taro tugged on his hand.

“Boys!”  Kozue chided them for their distrust against their main helper.

“It’s okay,” soothed Tokiko, before again facing the Shadow Boys somberly.  “I think I’m now closer to finding out your true identities than I ever was before  . . . small world, indeed.” Her voice and expression grew even more somber.  “I did eventually find out about Watase Sanetoshi, and what the boy was to become.  There is one thing about the late Kiga Leader I’m certain of: he had to be the one working for the Graying Indian Man, and not the other way around.”  She glanced off and away into the distance.  “With the Ends of the World, it’s never the other way around.”  Behind her, the penguins continued their work on Nemuro, who bore the cutting and prying in motionless silence.  “The day I fell into his trap must’ve been over thirty years ago.”


Time: 20 + years pre-revolution
Place: Ohtori Academy, Japan Branch

“So how’d you find the place, Tokiko-kun?” asked the Acting Chairman, a towering, exotic man now smiling down upon her with even teeth that seemed all the whiter against the rich tone of his dark complexion.

“Well . . .” Chida Tokiko, Project Inspector sent forth by the Board of Directors, made a show of studying the fine, almost cathedral-like architecture of the prestigious private academy, all the while cursing the heat on her face that she knew would betray an unbecoming flush, “this certainly looks more than equipped for peaceful studying.”  She had not taken on this job to court handsome men; this was all for the sake of . . . a slip on an inconspicuously stone-resembling patch of ice sent her sliding sideways . . . and right into the Acting Chairman’s solid embrace.

“Careful,” he spoke, his breath a little too ticklish against her ear.

“Thank you,” she quickly straightened up and away from him; handsome as the Acting Chairman might be, he really was acting too familiar with her.  “The fault is mine for venturing out without winter boots, thinking the snow should’ve melted with spring so close.”

“The snow doesn’t melt easily around these parts,” said the man, hands in his coat pockets, smothering eyes on her, “which, considering the topic of the Research, seems appropriate.”  Tokiko, studying the snow stains marring her velvet high heels, felt a pang in her heart.

“Yes . . .”

“ . . . don’t think we’ve been introduced formally before, Professor.”

At the voice and the footsteps, Tokiko looked to the distance (how sound could travel in crisp winter air) to see a male student hot on the heels of a pink-haired man who somehow managed to appear understated despite his violet jacket and shades.  The student (nondescript by comparison) extended his hand to the man.  “Inoue, Inoue-”

“Inoue Tsukiichi,” the pink-haired man – whom Tokiko now recognized as the renowned genius Professor Nemuro, Project Coordinator of the revolutionary research which drew her here working as its inspector – walked on without stopping.   “I’ve come across your name on the file listing.”

Even at the bluntly dismissive reply, Inoue Tsukiichi picked up his steps as he kept on chasing after the professor, following him up a flight of snow-coated steps; there was a flash of magenta glint as he moved, drawing Tokiko’s attention to the rather flamboyant ring on his left hand-

“Tokiko-kun?” Akio called back to her from where he now stood a little further ahead. 

“Ah,” Tokiko hurriedly caught up to the man. “Sorry to keep you-” Her perfunctory apology got cut short by his hand clasping down upon her waist. 

“Your waist is so small,” his purr reminded her of a languid lion,  “I can wrap both hands completely around it.”

There was a flash of red-colored . . . something fluttering briefly across a corner of her vision (looking like a flag? a dress?), disappearing almost immediately upon the split second that she saw it.  Either way, the distraction was enough for to break whatever charming spell the sensuous man was weaving around her, as Tokiko quickly armored herself up with the glacial poise she often used against overtly eager men in the workplace.  

“Rumor has it that your hands are big enough to keep even Chairman Ohtori right in your palm, Acting Chairman-san.”

Giving no hint of having been stung, the Acting Chairman tilted his head back and laughed.  “Purely rumors, of course.”  His deep-set green eyes glanced sideways down upon her.  “Who’s been spreading them, I wonder?”

Tokiko smiled saccharinely back up at him.  “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

His hand retracted, and she spoke no more for the rest of their walk to the faculty office.


Back home, she found four pairs of little girl shoes at the door  - with one pair smaller and significantly more expensive than the others – and knew that her brother had again been inviting his new friends over.  

“Chida Nee-san,” a blue-haired little girl, exquisite as a well-crafted doll given life in her luxuriant frilly dress, came into view giving the woman a dainty bow, “welcome back.  I’ve come by to bring Mamiya-kun some of my class notes, and is just about to leave.” 

“Thank you, Hoshimi-chan.”  Tokiko beamed indulgently at the young lady, and at the taller, older trio in less fancy dresses having since come up from behind.  “Ayako-chan, Byako-chan, Cyako-chan; good to see you girls here.”

“Hi, Chida Nee-chan~” replied the three via their a synchoized, theatrical-sounding chorus, before they skipped foreward to swarm her from all sides in fluttery, colorful blurs not unlike that of flapping moth wings.

“Well, how’d you find the Acting Chairman?”

“Isn’t he every bit the fox we say he is?”

“And every bit as dangerous!” 

“We knew he weaseled his way to power somehow!”

“Why would the Academy need an Acting Chairman when the real Chairman is alive and well-”

“Girls.” Ohtori Hoshimi called out in a quietly warning voice rather precocious for her years – one that signified her status as said real Chairman’s only child – and the trio of older students all backed off from a mildly overwhelmed Tokiko to regroup by the younger girl’s side entourage-like.  “Pardon their exuberance, for they’re members of the Drama Club.”

“Oh no,” Tokiko quickly reoriented herself as she smiled graciously at these children.   “Thank you all for coming by to see Mamiya.”  “Did he . . . ?”

“We made sure Chida-kun took his medicine right after eating, and that he got back to bed an hour afterwards,” assured Hoshimi; Tokiko relaxed. 

“Mamiya is lucky to have a bright young lady as yourself as his pen pal and friend, Hoshimi-chan; you even helped him make so many lovely friends so soon after our coming here.” She made sure to include the other girls into the conversation so they would not feel left out – ill feelings festered easily between such children. 

To Tokiko’s surprise, Byako giggled as if having heard a biting joke.  “Oh, Chida-kun made more than just friends here, Nee-chan.”

Ayako was already eagerly leaning forward.  “Do you know?  Do you know?  Do you wonder what we know?”

Cyako clasped her hands together while kicking a foot backwards.   “The little prince falls for the sweet rose blossoming in the vipers’ pit; drama ensues-”

“Girls!” Ohtori Hoshimi raised her voice at them – rather harshly, this time – prior to speaking softly to Tokiko.  “Pardon their crude manners, for they’re of common origins.”  The trio traded ironic hurt looks from behind the stern-faced girl’s back.

Tokiko could do little but to smile warmly at them all.

As the girls were leaving, the trio took turns whispering furtively in the woman’s ears while their young mistress was busy with donning her jacket and shoes.

“Watch out for a guy called Inoue Tsukiichi from among the hundred working under Professor Nemuro.”

“The man is keen on marrying into the Ohtori fortune, and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.”

“Girls . . . !” Hoshimi, already beyond the opened door, called back to her “friends” in the tone of one calling after straying dogs they were walking.  

“Then . . . au revoir!” said one of the trio – Tokiko could not discern who was who amidst their rapid, theatrical dancing around – before they all flitted out of the door hurrying after the Ohtori heiress, who was already getting onto her chauffered family sedan.  Locking the door behind the girls prior to letting out the sigh she had been holding in all along, the woman finally got to check on the one to have invited the girls over – the very reason why she had gotten the job at Ohtori’s Board of Directors – her terminally ill younger brother, whom all the doctors had long since given up on.

Said brother was clearly awake in his bed, his doe-like brown eyes narrowing in a (Languid? Weary?) smile at seeing her.


“You should be asleep by now,” she chided while sitting down on the stool cushion beside the bed.  “Did you behave yourself in front of the ladies, Mamiya?”

Mamiya rolled a thin shoulder. “What could I possibly do to them that can count as misbehaving?”

Tokiko knocked her brother lightly on the forehead. “Don't say such stupid things, you brat.” 

Mamiya let out a light chuckle . . . one that betrayed his shortness of breath; Tokiko felt her heart sank: the many medications were having very little effects on his ever-weakening state, after all.

“Hey, Mamiya?”


 “Have you been going to the Academy by yourself?”

All at once, all the jocular mannerism vanished off of her brother, to be replaced by the hardened, guarded look the boy had been displaying with increasing frequency as per the decay of his health: no, Nee-san, the roses would not be happy having been made to last so long; no, Nee-san, the flowers would not be happy with keeping their petals only to never bear fruit; no, Nee-san, I’m fine with dying like any other terminally ill human being – I do not wish for eternity, especially not one that will keep me being twelve forever and ever . . .

“You’re taking all your courses here by correspondence,” biting back developing tears, Tokiko’s pressed on with her words, which came out a notch harsh sounding.  “There’s really no need for you to-”

“Did the skinny trio say something to you?” asked her brother, boyish tenor blunt and stinging.

“Mamiya,” Tokiko willed her voice and expression to soften, so as not to agitate the frail boy.  “I know you like Hoshimi-chan, and that she likes you . . . but Hoshimi-chan is not an ordinary girl,” and certainly not without her flaws, thought the woman.  “As Chairman’s Ohtori’s only child, her husband will inherit from her leadership over the entire the Ohtori clan.  Even though Hoshimi-chan is still so young, there are already a number of people out there who are keen on possessing her.  For you to join in the fray-”

“It’s shameless,” Mamiya gritted out the words with as much hatred as his young mind could muster up, “all those men acting like they’re courting Ohtori-chan when they’re all just after the money and power; rabid old goats.”

Tokiko, who did not know whether she should laugh or cry at her twelve-year old brother’s condemnation of the late teens in the Research as being “old goats”, settled for hanging her head. 

“I see Ohtori-chan,” her innocent, ailing brother went on.  “I’m the only one who do; I will be her prince even if it cost me my everything!”

Exhaling in exasperation, Tokiko wordlessly began the mechanical process of setting up the gadgets for Mamiya’s sleep-aiding injection, all the while hoping that Ohtori’s Reseach could shed more hope upon her brother’s increasingly hopeless-seeming health situation. 

A few days later, having finally acquired all the proper paper work, Tokiko went straight for Professor Nemuro, intent on making him speed up the revolutionary Research on Eternity – not for the Academy, of course, but for her brother; for slowing or perhaps maybe even stopping the ever-worsening decay of his failing body.

Student assistants, their stances assured and worldly despite the ill-looking design of the Ohtori boy’s uniform they had to wear, could be seen milling about at every nook and corner of the research building; Tokiko could not help but again notice how they all were donning rings identical to the one she saw on Inoue Tsukiichi – the very one Ohtori Hoshimi’s entourage had warned her about.  A number of them were carrying uprooted young trees around – were those relevant to the Research?  With the plants looking so leafless and dry, the woman wondered what was the point of protecting their likely deadened roots by keeping them under wraps . . .

That was then that she saw.

Redness – the same crimson shade as what she saw just days ago while the Acting Chairman was putting the moves on her – could be seen fluttering out from beyond a dim, shadowy corner to the side.  This time, the woman could see that it was actually a piece of puffed, creased fabric likely belonging to a full length-ed, full bottom dress, and it now flowed adrift upon the air in spite of how it was winter indoor.  Curiosity piqued, Tokiko stepped up towards the ill-lit corner . . .

“So that's Professor Nemuro, the genius? And he really doesn't know about our current research subject?”

“Looks that way. But, the Professor's intellect is warranted by you-know-who.”

Startled by the conversation’s topic – and the fact that she recognized one of the nasally teen boy voices to be Inoue Tsukiichi’s – Tokiko lightened her steps as she moved soundlessly up to the corner, and peeked around -

“His thesis is interesting, but the man himself is quite dry,” Inoue Tsukiichi, cigarette between his lips, leaned towards another paler, also cigarette suckling boy, igniting the latter’s tip in a rather intimate manner; ironically, the two happened to be standing right underneath a “NO SMOKING” sign. 

“Let him act how he wants, Inoue-san,” smoky gaze upon bright-eyed Inoue, the paler boy inhaled deeply, prior to taking the cigarette between two fingers to speak better – the rose motif ring glinting under the dim lights as per his hand movement.  “People who act like him can make enemies without realizing it, and that will be his downfall.”

“Ha, I don’t care enough about the Professor to want his downfall – he is just like a computer.”  Exhaling clouds of smoke, Inuoe took out his cigarette as he leaned towards the other boy such that the tips of their noses now are touching.  “We’ll use him for all he's worth . . . Kaoru-san.”

Instead of backing away, the boy Kaoru spoke with his pouty lips brushing against Inuoe’s thinner ones. “How are things proceeding with Ohtori-chan?”

“Proceeding as planned.” 

“Then it’s all good.  With you being a secured item with Ohtori-chan, and me having a hold on the Acting Chairman’s sister, the world is ours.  And when we’re alone like this . . .” With that, the boys went through the door marked “REAR EXIT”, their lusty chuckles audible until the door shut itself behind them.

Neither noticed the key left on the floor: one that had slipped out of Inuoe Tsukiichi’s pocket during the more than friends’ sizzling conspiring earlier on.   Deftly picking up the item, she slipped it into her own pocket and went on her way to the meeting with Professor Nemuro.

Homosexual liaisons among the Research’s assistants were not her concern . . . if not for the fact that the boys involved were both romantically linked with girls of power and prestige in the Academy – with one of the boys being her ailing brother’s love rival, even.  Did Mamiya know about this?  Was that why he was so hostile towards the Research and its assistants?

And there was also another matter that concerned her as the Inspector overseeing the Research – that the student assistants harbor ill feelings towards Professor Nemuro, Research Coordinator.   Unsurprising, considering how the man was both brilliant and cold – an awe-inducing yet alienating combination.  However she looked at it, this could only be detrimental to the already difficulty-plagued Research; just one more thing she needed to go over with the Professor.

Vaguely, she wondered about just where had that red-dressed person that had lead her to eavesdropping on the boys disappeared off into; having no clues to follow up on, the woman had no choice but to redirect her focus upon what was coming up ahead.


“You're the Research Coordinator, Professor Nemuro, right?
“I was sent by the Board of Directors.
“I'm here as their current inspector, Chida Tokiko. Pleased to meet you.”


Tokiko’s first impression of Professor Nemuro was that he was every bit the socially-inept, computer-like genius she thought he would be.

“You’ve called me all the way out to your house, so what do you want?” asked the man – the very first man to have reacted so coldly to being invited to her home.  She tried to lighten the atmosphere into one more conductive for conversation with inane small talk (although she was indeed mystified by the hourglass running so peculiarly slow during the tea making), but the Professor would have none of that.

“This job I was given is running its course as planned,” stated the man, apparently seeing right through her intent to make him hurry his Research.  “I can't guarantee completion, however.”

“I know that you’re not one for taking orders from others . . .” Tokiko then tried to butter up the Professor by praising his genius-quality; said genius, however, dismissed her attempt, as he then had the gall to lecture her on the sheer arrogance of mere humans trying to grasp eternity (this from the Research Coordinator advancing the work) . . .

Just when the conversation was about to degenerate into an argument, Mamiya’s sneaking out of bed into the greenhouse broke the tension.  Even as she harshly scolded her brother for again endangering his fragile health, she noticed Professor Nemuro’s wide-eyed expression (one that made him looked more like a wonder-filled youth than a haughty genius), and realized that she had been crying.

While running off after uttering quick apologies (no way could she reveal runny makeup in front of a near-stranger), Tokiko noticed her usually unsociable little brother being exceptionally amiable towards the Professor, who appeared awkward yet sincere as he conversed with the ailing boy.  Having speedily cleaned up as she hurried back to the greenhouse, she found to her surprise the boy and man still getting along well in spite of their equally incompetent social skills. 

That was the moment she started letting down her guard against the Professor: any man willing to know and be kind to her brother was good in her book.

After putting her brother in bed and having made him take his injection, Tokiko continued on the conversation with Nemuro, this time in a more sincere manner:

“It's for his sake, that I'm involved in this.
“The doctors have told me that there's nothing left but to give up hope.
“But if the research succeeds . . .”

Even with his stance softened by empathy, Nemuro’s words remained blunt as ever.  “ The research has nothing to do with medicine; even if it succeeds, it may not help your brother's illness.”

“But, maybe I could grasp eternity for him,” insisted Tokiko, studying the mirror against which she placed her picture with Mamiya in a vain attempt to cool the budding desperation in her heart.  From the mirror’s reflection, she saw something glimmering within Nemuro’s now much warmer eyes – something definitely more than mere pity – and Tokiko found herself actually becoming a little bashful. “I'm sorry for crying like this.”

“It's all right,” Nemuro assured her, the understated tenderness of his current expression brought out the true beauty of his exquisitely androgynous features, revealing the “computer-like genius” to also be a humanly attractive man.

“Is there someone important in your life?” she could not help but ask, even knowing that for once, it was her being too-familiar with the opposite sex.  “Or is it that geniuses never fall in love with other people?”

“So it would seem,” murmured Nemuro, his faint blush showing evidence to the contrary.

A light, impish titter could faintly be heard in the air – one that they knew to be from Mamiya’s room – giving away the fact that her sharp-eared little brother had been eavesdropping on them all along, and had managed to read between their lines with his precocious mind.

“Oh, the brat . . .” Tokiko raised a hand to her own face, and found it red hot to her great mortification.  Surprisingly, it was Nemuro who started chuckling first, with her too joining in soon afterwards.

This was, perhaps, a rather insignificant moment in her frantic day-to-day; but Tokiko could not help but think that should she have eternity in her grasp, she would want for times like this to last more than a while longer.


Under Tokiko’s supervision, Nemuro started devoting a lot more effort into the Research, with his peculiar experiments now producing more definite results than ever.

“All the other trees have since withered away within a month after getting uprooted, un-watered, and placed out of the sun,” he said to her, gesturing at the dried, leafless trees in the ill-lit underground lab, none taller than a young prepubescent lad, prior to pointing at one that had not only remained full-leafed, but were sprouting small buds.  “This one, however, flourishes on as if still rooted upon fertile soil under the sun; at this rate, its buds may even blossom into full bloom.”

“Incredible,” Tokiko gently caressed the tree’s fresh, supple leaves, her manicured fingertips brushing against the small, green buds.  “Could this be . . . an apple tree?”

“Malus domestica,” replied Nemuro – fitting that he would term the plant by its binominal name, “under Rosaceae.”  His voice, however, was warm at the edges.  “I thought you’d find this less than impressive after having seen the Arena and the Castle.” 

Yes . . . there were those too: the arena hidden behind a forest, up in the sky, over which hovered an upside down castle said to contain eternity.   She would never have had believed in the existences of such logic-defying things, if not for that mind boggling tour Nemuro gave her showcasing his research’s progress thus far.  Even with the definite, complicated equations involved in their eventual harnessing – those were not man-made creations, as the genius professor had told her, but rather, pre-existing cosmic entities partially accessed by human means – it all still seemed surreally magical to her.

“Those were indeed . . . impressive, but what you have here is so much more relevant to what we’re . . .” something occurred to the Project Inspector then.  “But onward growth goes rather against the concept of eternity, doesn’t it?”

She saw Nemuro’s lips quirking in a conspiratory smirk.  “I want to steer the Research in a direction that can best help even a terminally ill child recover and grow.”

Tokiko’s heart skipped at beat at the man’s frankness.  “Nemuro-san . . .” even while heady with exuberance – a emotion she had not felt since her parents’ death, since taking on the crippling burden of being her sickly brother’s sole caretaker – the Project Inspector still kept herself clear-headed enough to ask the important questions.  “But what about the students working at the neighboring section?  Surely they will not approve of the Research going off course.”

“My contract with the Academy allows for me to keep secret the details of my work to even my assistants – who are contracted to carry out the tasks I give them without question.” Nemuro’s violet eyes narrowed behind his shades.  “Besides, the boys in the neighboring section haven’t exactly been frank with me regarding what they’ve been doing on their end either.” 

Tokiko arched a brow at his words.  So Nemuro had noticed the blatant cover up regarding the student assistants’ work right in this same research building – work that even she, the Project Inspector, had been denied full access due to the intricacies in their contracts – noticed, but cared not. 

“Not like I care what they’ve been up to anyway,” Nemuro’s words confirmed her belief.  “So long as they stay out of my way, it’s fine.” 

Tokiko wanted to tell the Professor that he should care; that it was always what people overlooked that proved their downfall.  He had to realize how he was up against young vipers wearing the skins of youths – most of whom more malevolent than the science-focused genius could ever hope to be.  Already, they’re keeping research progress from even him, their Research Coordinator. Should he continue on underestimating them-

Flump . . .

The sound of fluttering fabrics startled the preoccupied woman into turning sharply towards the glass-screen lab door, through which she again saw that enigmatic fluttering red dress – this time in much greater detail than before.

It was a medieval princess costume, one tailored in a full bottom style so theatrical as to be almost cartoon-ish by modern standards.  At first glance, it looked like the windswept (despite their being indoor) dress was hovering phantom-like in the ill-lit hallway; a closer look revealed its wearer to be a petite female (one probably still in her teens, judging by her figure) whose hair was done up in a rigid, chucky updo, whose features were completely shrouded under shadows; glasses, glinting as ice patches, gave away the coldly watchful gaze Tokiko knew was pointing at her like an icy blade.

“Who are you?” she asked, already rushing towards the lab door.  The cluttered “failed” trees were scraping at the fine material of her garments . . . which soon got tangled up against various leafless branches.  By the time she finally managed to get up to that door, the red-dressed girl was already nowhere to be found; only an apple, bearing that exact same shade of crimson as the dress, remained upon the floor.  Picking it up, she studied the sticker bearing the text “KIGA APPLE”, with a penguin motif printed underneath the words.  Feeling indentions under her fingertips, she turned the fruit around to discover the letters carved onto the crimson skin:


What in the world . . . ?

Nemuro had by now came up to beside her.  “Tokiko-san?” 

“Nemuro-san, that girl in the red dress had been watching us through the lab door,” she said, feeling her heart racing,  “did you see where she go?”

“I did not see anyone,” he got a better look at the apple in her hand.  “This is . . .”

Under their incredulous gazes, the carved letters started fading quickly off the apple’s surface, disappearing completely off the fruit’s surface.

Tokiko squinted her eyes at the apple’s now unblemished skin.  “Is this . . . regeneration? But . . . there should at least have been scar tissues left behind . . .”  She handed the apple to Nemuro, who studied it with his cool, analytical gaze.

“Reversal of state,” stated the genius Professor, “like the ‘time’ of this apple has been made to reverse, even while our time flows on; like the snow accumulation outside remaining frozen despite the rising temperatures, or that hourglass running slow the first time you invited me over for tea.” His frown deepened. “I’ve long since suspected that something is affecting the flow of time around the Academy and its surrounding areas; is this phenomenon related to the Research?”  Tokiko studied the man’s expression for a brief, wordless moment.

“Nemuro-san, how much info have you got on the neighboring section’s Fate Train Theorm?” She saw, to her non-surprise, the startled reaction in him that she expected – the Research Coordinator knew, but thought that she, the Project Inspector, did not.  “I’ve since gone through all the profiles of the student assistants.  Amongst them, Inoue Tsukiichi had entered the Research with the top academic achievements.  Even though the student researchers are using their contracts as shield to keep even I from accessing details of their work, there are those who will talk.”  Her voice darkened huskily.  “Apparently, Inoue Tsukiichi has been developing the Fate Train Theorem away from the Board of Directors’ supervision - supposing that people’s fate are as ‘trains’ upon which they are passengers, and that by ‘transferring trains’ people could supposedly take on another fate while leaving their original destiny behind.  Despite its outlandish nature, they say the Theorem’s development is nearing completion.”

Composing his expression, Nemuro placed the apple into a glass case, where a narrow spotlight illuminated it as specimen on display.

“Fate,” he mulled the word over while fiddling with the contents of a folder, “the peculiar subtopic the Academy has placed under our research – which, by logic, should include only topics relevant to eternity.  Even though the young men had told me nothing but clumsy lies about what they do, there are those close to them eager to ally themselves with me for their own gains, and they’ve been acting as my eyes and ears all along.  If their words are to be believed, then somewhere within this building is a factory operated by the neighboring division in secret.”

“A factory . . . here?”  Tokiko had not heard about this one before.  “Producing what?”

Having found what he was looking for, Nemuro produced a photo from the folder, and handed it to Tokiko.  The Project Inspector could not help but be visibly baffled by what she saw.

“This is . . .?”

“They may not look it, but the data I got suggest that these are indeed perpetual motion robots – ones infused with advanced AI, holographic camouflages, among many other high tech components.  One of their many functions is to channel their users’ brain waves, thus serving as extensions of their persons accordingly . . . almost like medieval familiar spirits being resurrected by cutting edge technology.”

The photo showed an opened card box on an angled conveyor belt, where three blue, rotund objects looking suspiciously like children’s penguin stuff toys were cluttered in its confines.  The card box had the same penguin motif as could be seen on the time-reversed apple, underneath which the words "Pingroup Inc" remained faintly visible upon the startlingly-high resolution image.

Turning her gaze towards the apple in the showcase – unmarred except for the penguin motif sticker – Tokiko resolved to pry deeper into the neighboring section’s research, to make sure that it will not jeopardize the miracle Nemuro was trying to create via this Research.

She would allow nothing to stand in the way of her brother’s survival.


//“Professor Nemuro is awfully excited about the project recently, isn't he?”//

//“Didn't the Board of Directors send an inspector?”//

//“She really seems to be just right for the job.”//

//“Can no one beat a genius at his game?”//

//“Then, does the Professor still not know what all this is about?”//

Playing one of the many tapes she recorded from the various spy bugs she had since planted all around the research building, and listening via one single earphone (she kept her other ear free to listen for potential intruders), Tokiko’s strained attention perked as she finally came upon something relevant to what she wanted to find out.

//“He can have his Upside Down Castle, we shall have our Hole in the Sky,”// said a voice she recognized to be Inoue Tsukiichi’s.  //“With all the mysteries of the world clearly documented within the library’s infinite confines, there’s no way we’d lose in this fixed race between Eternity versus Fate.”//

//“That Watase boy’s ‘familiar’ invention is like the icing on our cake.”// said another voice – Kaoru Yuki, Inoue’s “friend”.  //“You know, he keeps asking me about when would he be formally allowed into the Research.”//

//“Like they would take a grade schooler onboard . . . kid should be grateful that we’re realizing so many of his outlandish ideas with the Research’s funding to begin with!  I can’t believe we’ve let him wrest us into designing the revolutionary perpetual motion robot to look like a penguin toy.”//

//“Geniuses can be stubborn when they got fixated on something, and that one-track-mindedness is what makes them easy to exploit.  We shall win against Nemuro, and have that which is promised to us by you-know-who.”//

“You-know-who . . . ” she tapped her manicured nail tips against her desk, murmuring aloud in her puzzlment.  “Just what are the little vipers going to have?”

“A taste of the Fruit of Fate.”

The deep, masculine drawl coming from behind shocked Tokiko into almost dropping her earphone.  Turning around, she saw, to her disbelief, the tall, imposing figure of Acting Chairman Himemiya Akio being impossibly present in her locked office room; and she could not even cry for help, not with the evidences of her illegal eavesdropping all over her own office desk.

“Have you not come to this academy seeking eternity for your brother?” asked the man, his dark, broad hand holding out an apple – one with the penguin motif sticker – in front of her widened eyes.  “Here is eternity, right in front of your eyes . . . but whether you can grasp it or not depends upon what you might, or might not, be willing to do.”

“You’re related to the girl in the red dress,” stated Tokiko, taking in the contrast of dark skin against crimson shirt, all the while willing her shaky voice to again be steady.  “You’re also the one in control of the hundred student assistants in place of Professor Nemuro, and the one who apparently controls the powerful Ohtori Clan.  Are you the reason behind the illogical, mystical elements of the Research, as well as the unusual time flow around the area? Just what are you, really?”

“So many questions, ” Silver-haired head shaking with mirth, Himemiya Akio put down the apple, prior to producing a ring identical to those worn by the student assistants, which he then dangled in front of her pallid face.  “I can give you answer to that which you ask, but it will require you being contracted to me via this ring.” Tokiko make no move to take the ring.  “I see you hesitate still.  By now, only one question should remain for you: who do you think could save your brother in time – me, or him?”

“Show me proof,” insisted the woman, refusing to back down even amidst her growing uncertainties.  “If you say you can save Mamiya ahead of Nemuro-san, then show me how you do it!”

Akio’s devilish smirk broadened into a canines showing grin.  “All that and more, I shall reveal to you.  I’ll show you the Ends of the World; yes, even you.”

End Part Eight

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