Title: Revolutionaries Anonymous
Characters: Miki, Juri, Wakaba, Saionji, Nanami, and Touga, with mentions of Shiori, Utena, and Anthy. So half the cast, pretty much.
Word Count: five separate drabbles totalling about fifteen-hundred words
Everything — his hand, the board, the crumbling Paleozoic material between them — is music. That's the answer.
What would the strings sound like if he could hear them? Not the gently lilting melodies he still sometimes plays on his piano. Those are pretty enough, in their way, but they're far too sweet, too quaint, too limited to describe the whole universe. They're too comforting and familiar. The universe, he knows, is terrifying and strange.
No, string music must be dark and elegant. Choral music, perhaps, in the voices of a hundred ghosts. But not with lyrics. At least, not with any sensible lyrics. They would be random, erratic. Disjointed. They would not follow one after another in a logical semantic pattern. And yet, when viewed not word-by-word but as a single coherent whole, they would evoke—
He has it.
The chalk scratches out an old and haunting rhythm as he writes. When he's finished, it falls from his quivering dust-stained hands and clatters on the floor.
"Shinohara, please," she cuts in, "I'm not your boss anymore. There's no need for such formalities."
The now-former model flashes a winsome smile. "Juri."
Oh, well. She didn't mean to invite her to be that familiar.
"I just wanted to say before I go," the younger woman continues, "that working for Real Beauty Studios changed my life. I would never have had the confidence to try out for this part if it weren't for you. I used to think that I wasn't…" And suddenly, she's crying. "And… and I used to think that people like you… I'm sorry. This is ridiculous."
And there it is. Juri never thought to hope that she would have such a tangible vindication of her dream for the studio. She goes to Shinohara and embraces her only a bit awkwardly. "There's nothing uglier than a beautiful lie," she says. "You and I, Shinohara, we're going to keep smashing up those lies. It will be long, bitter work, but you'll make it. Never stop to wish. That's my last advice to you. Wishes are just another form of lies."
"Thank you, Juri." Shinohara sniffles once more and dries her eyes. "Um. How are things between you and Takatsuki-san?"
Why does she have to bring that up now? "The 'things' you refer to have been over for a while. We tried. It didn't work. We agreed to give each other space for now, but we hope eventually to be friends."
"Oh! I'm so sorry!"
"Don't be. I have no regrets." She still isn't sure whether she means it, but the more often she says it the truer it feels.
"Um. Juri." Is Shinohara blushing? "There's that new tea house everyone's talking about. Rosehips. I've been wanting to check it out, but it's so lonely drinking tea on your own. So… would you go with me, sometime?"
Juri, who is not unaware of Rosehips's reputation, feels the blood rush to the back of her neck. "You're hardly subtle, Shinohara."
"Oh, that's nothing," says Shinohara. "You should have seen me in middle school."
Avant-garde is the word for Saionji Kyouichi. He's hot! He's cool! He's… not all that famous, actually. But what his followers lack in numbers they make up for in zeal. Especially the females. He doesn't mind as much as he might, either, since they're generally the sort of girls who can think.
This one smells like milk and coffee, and she has a pretty figure and a prettier face. He still might have passed her by, but she's also quieter and more earnest than the others, and she doesn't ask all the same questions about the roses and the swords, so he takes a chance and takes her out to lunch.
"I have to admit," she says shyly, "you're different from how I expected. After reading all your work, I thought you'd be a little more… well…"
"Pissed off at the world?" he suggests.
She laughs. "I was going to say 'intense.'"
"Yes, I've heard that one too. The truth is, I often am. I've just learned to switch it on and off. Talking to a beautiful woman — that's not the time to be angry." The girl blushes and quickly changes the topic.
Another day, another media reception, another brush with ruined reputation.
"Oniisama, you are hopeless," she says as she whops him over the head with a copy of the script she so carefully and considerately edited for him.
"What have I done now?" He rubs his temple and pouts, pretending to be hurt. Big baby.
"You know very well what you've done! You can't go saying things like that, about smashing the world open. It scares people."
"Should I say something other than what I mean?"
"You tell me. You're the one who wanted to be a politician."
He turns his pouting up another couple degrees, and she matches him with her glowering. Then they can't stand it anymore, and they simultaneously burst into exhausted laughter.
"All right," she says at length. "Enough of that. I have to go get in touch with my contacts to have them 'clarify' your statements before they hit the press. And by 'clarify,' I mean cake them with mud like a pig in the summer."
"What would I do without you, Nanami?" he asks.
"Oh," she replies airily, "the same things you do now, I'm sure."
"Naturally. But I'd only be half as effective at them."
They grin at each other, but the warmth only lasts a moment. She has work to finish. After all, there's a husband and daughter expecting her home by the end of the day.
It's one of those small-world moments.
"No way," Wakaba says the moment she walks in the door.
Juri squints. "That can't possibly be…"
The only two men in the shop turn to look. "Juri!" they exclaim with one voice.
The four of them quickly gather round one table. Wakaba introduces herself to Miki and tactfully reminds Saionji that they've already met. To her surprise, he remembers her after only a bit of prompting. "Looks like I missed my chance," he jokes, and, even more to her surprise, it doesn't sting like it once would have.
"Well, we all know why I'm here," Juri says. "What about you two?"
"I had a reading that ended about an hour ago. Miki was passing by and decided to see why there was such a crowd."
"Interesting choice of venue."
"I take it you've never read his books," Wakaba tells her date.
Miki, who has been silent for a while, suddenly speaks. "That woman in the corner," he says. "The one with the paper."
Wakaba looks. "I don't see anything special about her."
"I meant to look at the paper."
She did. So did the others. "Is that..?"
"On the front page!"
"It's official, then," says Miki. "The whole Ohtori Student Council is in this tea house, in one for or another."
They talk at length about what they've done since graduation, and none of them are surprised when a pattern starts to emerge. Inevitably, it leads them back to the day they all woke up to the realization that while they slept the world had changed in some fundamental but undefinable way.
"I wonder where she is now," Wakaba muses. No one needs to ask who "she," is, which is fortunate, because Wakaba would be hard-pressed to come up with a name or adequate description.
"Wherever she is," Saionji says, "I'm sure she's making bigger waves than all of us combined."
"If she were," says Miki, "wouldn't we have heard about it?"
"How would we know if we had?" Juri points out. "We don't remember anything about her, except what she did to us."
"I'm sure I would know her if I saw her," Wakaba says. "I was her best friend, once upon a time."
"Perhaps," Juri says, "she's settled down now. Perhaps she's had enough of revolution for one lifetime."
"Enough revolution?" asks Saionji. "Impossible!"
"I have to admit," says Miki, "that personally, I don’t think I could ever have my fill."
"I don't either," Juri confesses. "But you have to remember, we were on the outer edges that first time. Perhaps all we're really after is to feel what it was like in the center."
Wakaba feels a bit lost at this point, so she's glad when one of the women who run the shop — not the Indian lady, but the other, taller one with the gorgeous pink hair — brings her her tea. It doesn't occur to her until later that day that she never placed an order, and yet it came fixed exactly the way she likes it.