Engarde

Kurai is depressed and Hatter is curious. Drama with Angst, I-3

Kurai was used to walking her realm with Noise’s steady presence at her back
like a tether that kept her from flying apart from all the different directions
in which her land, her people, her responsibilities pulled her. But today
she walked the length and breadth of it alone. She did it to reminder herself
that she, and her land, and her people, were not part of Assiah though they
were so achingly close to it. Close enough that it rubbed against the softest
skin until it broke and bled. She did it to remember that they were not angels,
or demons—no matter how individual members might theorize or debate; that
they were their own, a people apart. The forgotten and despised children
of God.

It was the Witch’s shattered realm that eventually drew her—with all its psychic
pain and loneliness like a blackened mirror for her own.

She stood where she had stood that first time, the first time she had fallen through
its silver borders. The first time she had seen Anthy as she really was, or was
meant to be. Kurai knew the Great Angels, lords of Hell, Lucifer and the Messiah,
and knew a fair number of their psychic reflections, but she had not—at least
not yet—meet anything like Witch. Or like Utena.

Kurai placed her hands against the smooth dome of silver and leaned her forehead
against it, careful to avoid thinking about going through the silvered
glass-like stuff.

And it wasn’t fair that she would fall in love, with one or both of them, when
she couldn’t have one or both of them. Just like last time—just like Setsuna.

It just wasn’t fair. She wanted to know when she would find someone
who loved her the way Setsuna loved Sara or Utena loved Anthy. Because she
was tired of being in love, when no one loved her back.

"One thinks that one’s lord’s Royal Wife is somewhat … distressed,"
Mad Hatter commented, hir voice sliding through the darkness like whiskey through
rich coffee.

Kurai looked up to where se sat, lounged insolently really, on a twisted tree
branch that she was fairly positive had not existed there moments before. "Hatter-san,"
she sighed resignedly. "What do you want?"

"Is it not enough that perhaps one wished to look upon Her Majesty’s beauty
and spend pleasant moments in her company?" Hatter asked sweetly. Cocking
hir head to one side she managed to look both coquettish, innocent, and sly.

Kurai made a face. "I’m not beautiful."

"Oh, there you are very wrong." Hatter appeared before her. Clasping
her chin with two fingers, se stared into Kurai’s black and silver-blue eyes.
"Her Majesty is quite lovely, and will only grow to be more beautiful with
time."

"Stop it!" Kurai smacked hir fingers away. "Stop it…"

Hatter might have been angered and offended had it not been for the naked pain
and distress on Kurai’s face. So se dropped hir hand without further comment as
se waited for the inevitable explination. Kurai wrapped thin arms about herself
and looked away.

"You don’t love me, or think me lovely, Hatter-san. You never have,"
she said without looking at her shadowed companion. Hatter’s face was unreadable.
"It was only ever a pretty lie to get the promise that you got." Kurai
turned to lock eyes with Hatter, and despite the tears her face was hard. "You
can stop lying to me now."

"This one does not always lie, Kurai. This one is honest and tells the truth
when it needs to be said—and you are lovely…" Hatter stopped as Kurai
shook her head violently, denying all se said. Se was not, perhaps, entirely sure
what se would have said to Kurai, to make her believe. But it did not matter.
Still shaking her head, and not looking at the demon, Kurai turned and plunged
into the swirling silver mists.

Hatter placed one hand upon the border of the other realm thoughtfully. It
hardened underneath hir fingers, and se got the very clear sense of no.
Se could probably force hir way in, but it was not hir way to do so. Se cocked
hir head to one side.

"What are you then, and what is our little Queen to you?" Se asked.

For a moment se saw the image of a girl with wild purple hair and emerald, inhuman
eyes in a dirty and torn smock. Hir eyebrow arched. The girl mouthed only one
word to hir.

Mine

~~~

It had not been one of her wiser ideas, Kurai determined in retrospect, plunging
into the silvered mists that were steadily encroaching into her territory.
But she had to get away from the Mad Hatter and all the pretty lies that
simply were not true, no matter how much she wanted them to be. Ever since
Setsuna had gone back to Assiah the weight of those lies—the ones she had
told herself, the ones other people like Akane had told her—pressed against
her until parts of her cracked from the strain.

Witch’s realm was one of psychic eminenations. A maelstrom of seething emotions
that shivered and changed, nearly physically tangible things that could rip
and tear. It was an unsettling place to be even when Kurai was able to control
herself, but when she was feeling shattered and beyond all protection it
was unbareable. Emotions like shining lances, like glistening swords, speared
her. Cut her open and left her to bleed.

She was rocking on the barren ground, hands pressed so hard against the sides
of her head that her ears rang, trying to block out all the endless screaming
that was as much her own as it was the the centuries of bottled emotions
left in this place to howl. Kurai had the disconcerting feeling of falling
and the sound of rushing wings. Then gentle fingers that were cold to the
touch pried her hands from her head. Witch knelt next to her, emerald eyes
bemused.

"You should have run from the swords."

Kurai resisted the urge to check herself for wounds. Somehow she knew that
nothing here could hurt her body unless she believed it could. Rather than
being reassured by the thought, she was terrified. She gripped Witch’s slender
arms. "Where are we?"

Witch shook her head. Pulling away from Kurai’s grasp she walked a little
ways away from the kneeling Dragon Queen and stared out at the endless horizons.
"We are in the place inside my head that is larger than the place outside
of it."

It was the same answer that she had been given before, but now it made more
sense—and less. Kurai stood up slowly, as if pushing through heavy water.
As she stood the decision she had start to make when she first stared into
Anthy’s strangely hopeful eyes clarified and solidified. "Come away
from here."

Witch turned back to her. They were so close that whispers sounds like ringing
bells, too loud, too likely to be heard. "Would you lead me from here?"

The air shivered around them, hinting at the return of the maelstrom. "We’ll
lead each other."

Witch’s smile bloomed, blazing and fierce. It was the last thing that Kurai
saw before the darkness claimed her and the rushing wind. When she awoke
Noise was peering down at her with anxious concern. Past her worried retainer
she spotted Mad Hatter who was staring not at her, but at the opalescent
dome of Witch’s domain. Kurai sat up, everything in her body screamed in
protest, but her head felt strangely clear. As if she had been cleansed of
the paralyzing depression. In its place was a hard determination.

She went to stand next to Mad Hatter, who glanced inquiring down at her.
Without saying a word Kurai placed her hand against the silvered surface
and thought: "Soon." It was enough.