Juri had finally settled into a routine of practices and meetings. After her initial encounter with one of the chairman's letters, the panther hadn't seen any evidence that he'd tried to contact her again. Could it be that he wasn't aware of her blatant snub of whatever it was he'd tried to offer her, or order her to do, or did he simply not care - biding his time until he can draw her back into the game she so loathed, yet was still to this day drawn to?Among other things, Juri had taken the time to refresh her feet of the paths on campus. Her mind recalled the darker passages, the places the students would go when they wanted privacy, the gateways to flow from one end of campus to the other without being noticed... able to blend into the shadows and unusual architecture of Ohtori Academy. Twice now she'd stopped in the shadows of the red rose bushes to stare up at the dueling arena, the place where Miracles hung suspended by magic and the power of the floating castle hidden to the eye of the casual observer.Yet, she was not quite ready to walk back up there and search for what she was looking for. To walk that connecting bridge would be to admit to the chairman that she was indeed back because of his petty little game of false princes and wicked princesses. Instead, to prevent herself from giving in to the curiosity that could very well kill the great cat, Juri focused her excess energy and inquisitiveness upon the members of the seitokai. It was best she learned as much as she could about the three young ladies whose strings were being pulled by End of the World. If she knew where they came from, she might be able to figure out why, exactly, they were wooed to the side of the tainted prince. It was a painstaking process filtering through the records and slipping her way into those less easily accessed. From the initial look, the girl that had assumed the panther's former position, Tsubasa Kikyou, was the least confusing one. She really didn't appear to have anything to hide and that alone bothered Juri. She would have to observe these three ladies and watch how they interacted. Someone had an edge among them and the odds were it was the most mysterious of the three – the golden haired goddess. Thankfully, for several reasons, Juri had yet to come in contact with the lovely young lady.Juri was alone in the fencing hall after she'd released the team to go about their afternoon business. Knowing she wasn't going to be bothered for a bit, she brought out her razor-sharp Spanish rapier and began to work on a series of slashes and parry maneuvers. The blade felt good in her hands once again, balanced perfectly, and she closed her eyes as she let her muscles remember the way to cut and slice just as she had years ago. The mind may pretend to forget, but the body never did.She heard the door to the fencing hall open and a pair of feet rush in, their pace that of a wild animal fleeing from, or toward, something in desperation. Not opening her eyes, nor stopping her blade, Juri continued on to finish the series she was in. As she swept around, she caught an old familiar scent of spice and heady perfume. Her lips curved up a bit and she stepped around, flipping the rapier up behind her, and graced the wild child with a sweeping bow, her long auburn hair flairing out as she did.“Kozue... what brings you to wander into my realm?” She finally opened her eyes to focus upon Kozue as she straightened up. “It's been quite a while, hasn't it?” And Juri had to admit that the years had matured Kozue into a captivating woman – at least to the eyes.
The whispers snaked through the academy like a rolling fog, battering bullet like against the mantle of her composure. Captivated eyes were watching every move she made as if expecting her to suddenly collapse in a heap against the rose choked stones of the school. She would not.That would be unforgivable."Miss Kikyou is back!""Miss Kikyou?""The Student Council Treasurer. She's been in the hospital for the last few weeks.""No way. Her? That's the Student Council Treasurer? What a let down.""Well she's no Amatsuichi or Emura, but you should hear her voice!""Her voice? What's so great about a voice?""Oh, you're so dense, sometimes. Let's go tell more people!"These were things she overheard nearly constantly and Kikyou didn't bat an eyelash at them. They never had and never would bother her. If anything the ignorant murmuring of Ohtori's student body only reaffirmed her resolve. The afternoon sunlight glimmered off the ring on her finger and slid along the length of the glossy dark blue headband that held her hair back out of her face. She moved through the corridors of the upper levels of the academy, the wagging tounges fading into silence as the number of students thinned like watered down liquor. It was only when she was free of their eyes that she allowed sound to pass from between her lips in the form of a throaty sign.She'd reached the top room of an obilisk shaped tower, leaning against the arched windows, to look down at the maze like layout of the academy. She was back. "I wonder what trouble Himeno is making this week."
The laugh that slipped from her fell perfectly in tune with the piano music. Teasing Emura always seemed a circular thing. She shook her head making that black silk curtain ripple over her shoulders and against her arms gently where she sat comfortably in the lengthening shadows."You do know a bit about Arisugawa. A fan, are we?" She reached over the golden haired girl to play a few of the lower notes in alternating sucession. "If you ask me I'd say the two of you are more similar than she and I. But that's a debate for another time."Returning to the higher, song bird like scales again she allowed the song to invade the conversation as she listened to the hectic voices of the students beyond the hall. They were like sheep and extras; not quite on stage but not behind the curtain either. There could only be one director. And one star."I'm sure you'll be interested to know, my dear Secretary, that your estemed Miss Arisugawa has filled the empty Fencing Coach position at the academy." Himeno bowed her head a bit. "And it seems there's know lapse in her knowlege about End of the World and the Student Council."She lifted her hands and the silence swalled the song as suddenly as if the piano had been sliced in half. She leaned back on the bench, bracing herself with her hands, and tipped her head back to look at the rose crest created by the colored glass of the high windows."The school has changed since her reign but still... We don't know how much she knows, how much End of the World told the old duelists, or even if they went through what we did. If she gets involved it could mean more trouble for the student council."
The sun outside had shifted till the light that spilled in through the stained glass windows now illuminated the center of the room leaving a majority of the piano and thus, the two of them seated at it in shadow. The Student Council President seemed perfectly at ease in it, with her hair spilling to the polished stage floor and rivalling the darkness, winning naturally, while her own golden tresses beckoned the light closer an flashed in citrine and topaz shades defiantly. "I'm not a four year old to break a toy simply for the sake of breaking it." She tipped her head back a bit, lifting her eyes sedatly to the rafters over head. "Really, as long as she's the key to eternity I'll keep her. And as long as she doesn't cause any trouble I don't care what she does."Ruriko had never bothered labeling the people around her. Terms like friend or lover always seemed like titles such as queen or duchess, for her to be much interested in associating them with anyone. Though Himeno was possibly the only one she'd tangle up in such categories she never forgot that, in that case, the dark haired president also teetered neatly on the enemy line as well. Though Himeno encouraged forgetting they were, in the end, rivals for their goals. Taking the power of miracles for themselves. The sound of music filled her thoughts like water spilling into a vase, an ambiguous melody that couldn't seem to decide what emotion it wanted to display. A good imitation of the girl who played it. The reassurance about the extinction of the Rose Dragom rumor was good news atleast, though she doubted the rest of Himeno's report would follow this trend. She studied the glossy coat of her nails as the Student Council President went on speaking."I don't suppose you heard about the new fencing teacher shut up with your prize in here the way you were. Thinking of making her a bride in more than name only, Miss Secretary?"Amusement touched the sapphire color of her eyes. "Only if she asks nicely, Miss President." That dry witt humor again, easily miss if one didn't watch the shifting tones in her eyes, that which she let slip to the surface. Ruriko leaned back, allowing the song that Ruriko played to swell around her as she digested the entirety of Himeno's words. "As for that name..." She paused a moment, closing her eyes lightly. "Arisugawa Juri; birthdate, December first, blood type A. Former student of Ohtori Academy, captain of the school Fencing Club, and one of the previous Student Council members. She held the...Treasurer position I think. Perfect grades, flawless attendance, loved by teachers, adored by students, called The Prince of the academy."Ruriko had made it a point to research all the previous Student Council members before her own induction ceremony. She arched an eyebrow in Himeno's direction. "I wonder, if we held the two of your records together how many differences we could find. I'd think...two. Four at the most."
A true smile touched her lips at Emura's dry banter. If she had been able to have any insight into Utena's thoughts about herself and the Student Council Secretary, Himeno really couldn't have agreed more. She crossed the stage to sink down gracefully on the piano bench next to the golden haired girl as the hall's door closed with a soft whisper behind the strawberry haired rose bride."You're such a kind mistress to the doll, Emura." Dark hair spilled over her shoulders to tangle against her cheeks creating almost tribal like designs against sallow pigmentation. Emerald eyes danced unreadably behind the black curtain as she lifted fingers and rested them on the ivory piano keys lightly. Her lips curled a bit,"No. That particular rumor has died and hopefully won't be back." Her fingers began to move as she drew a soft melody from the instrument. It wasn't as good at the golden haired shoki's playing but it was far from bad. "More than likely it's just students playing a prank."Despite her words however, Himeno had a shadowing feeling that it was something mroe than cruel jokes and gossiping girls that were behind the spreading myth. The chill that rose on the back of her neck, the thrilling feeling of forboding, and the memories of the night in the dueling forest when they were initiated into the student council. Well...that was taboo territory, that."If we're to talk about shadows then it's one from the past I'm worried about." The song she played took on a sound that was almost amused. "I don't suppose you heard about the new fencing teacher shut up with your prize in here the way you were." She shot Emura a sly, teasing look from around her hair. "Thinking of making her a bride in more than name only, Miss Secretary."She played four pointed notes then fell into the repeating chorus of the song again, allowing a few measures to fall between the line of conversation before she picked up the thread again."As to the issue...does the name Arisugawa Juri ring any bells for you?"
Classes dragged the entire week, and everything seemed so scrunched in an orb of uncertainty. At least, it did for Kozue. No sign of her brother, the sole purpose she had returned in the first place. He wasn't in any of the buildings he once loved to leisure in. None of the instructors had any idea where he could be. Both the students at the piano recitals and fencing games knew nothing of where he had gone off too... And, as the stressed seemed to pile on top of one another, the student body in general seemed to be in a slump. Nothing outspoken or amusing was going on, and Ohtori was slowly pacing itself in a tight, unknown dilema. As she rushed to and fro, classes seemed only to get longer. There had to be a way to rush this. Or, was it forever to be moving at the stillness of the hour? One day, as Kozue heard the bell that sounded the lunch period, she suprisingly took a new way towards the cafeteria. It was through the forests of Ohtori. "These remind me of... home." she quietly whispered to herself. She could no longer stand it. And, suddenly, she found herself running. Running. Faster than she had ever before. Across campus, like a blur of her distorted past. Her breath was turning into a pant. And, she stopped. Her legs, still motors. Holding the vice that had captured her, she looked up. Up at the building before her. She read the sign to herself: Ohtori Fenching Hall. "Quite a familiar place," she chuckled. "I remember watching Miki as he dueled the captain.The captain. She was the only other person close to Miki. Was she still in Ohtori? Kozue had heard of her return, days ago... But, could it be? And would she hold the key Kozue was so long searching for...?Without a second thought, Kozue reached for the brass doorknob. Suddenly, her heart was beating faster than ever."This...fencing thing, may just be the thing to bring me closer to you."
Juri ran her hand over the smooth surface of the high-backed chair before sitting down in it. As she freed her auburn hair from between her and the chair, she chuckled. A few of he students glanced over at her as her eyes tracked the various pairs engaged in clashing blades, but she really didn’t notice. After she’d left Ohtori, Juri figured the throne she used to sit upon as she went through practice to quickly disappear; it simply wasn’t Miki’s style. Being the best next to her, the boy was sure to follow in her footsteps as captain of the team once she graduated.“What do you think of Hikaru’s form?” Juri’s question was directed to the right and after a long moment of silence, she received a reply.“Well, her strikes are a little off-center,” came the hesitant reply.Juri looked over and tilted her head upon seeing it wasn’t Miki that had answered her. Internally, she sighed at her mistake; she’d gotten caught up in the memories from her time sitting exactly where she was with her kohai and friend at her side. She missed Miki terribly, especially now that Shiori had left, probably for good this time. After graduation, Juri had kept regular correspondence with him until this last year when once again Shiori had consumed any energy Juri had toward other endeavors. By all rights, Miki should be a senior this year, though the boy was smart enough he could very well have graduated early. Seeing as he wasn’t there at fencing, Juri assumed the latter.“Yes, but do you see why she is veering to the left slightly each time she moved in?” Juri took her eyes off the boy, one of the seniors that remembered her from before, and once more watched the girl she was speaking of.After a bit more hesitation that annoyed Juri (she wished the ones that remembered her would stop being afraid), the boy pointed out how the girl seemed to be favoring her front foot. She was happy the boy noticed it, though he did miss why she appeared to be doing so. After a few more minutes of analyzing the girl’s form, Juri called a halt to the sparring and corrected the girl’s form. From that point on, she moved about the rest of the team and worked with each pair individually. She was still direct and commanding as she had been years ago in the fencing hall, this still was her domain, but she was much better at delivering her criticism than in the past.Oddly enough, when one of the youngest girls broke down and cried because she simply couldn’t follow Juri’s instructions to any benefit (the girl was woefully untalented), Juri gently calmed her down while firmly reminding her this was the first practice and, with everything else, the more one practices, the better one gets. As the students left to shower and head off to their dorms or someplace to eat, Juri took her time cleaning up the equipment as she thought over how practice had gone.“My, my, Arisugawa… How odd that you would enjoy actually teaching instead of dominating,” Juri mused as she locked up the equipment cabinet. She chuckled and checked her appearance in the bathroom before heading back to her office, You really have matured, haven’t you? The thought struck Juri as funny, even more as she looked at the larger scope of her life. Model turned teacher – how amusing.She reached her office and stepped on a small pile of envelopes shoved under her door. Looking down at them Juri sighed, picked them up and deposited them in the trash. “Much more mature, indeed,” she said as she rolled her eyes. She never did understand the point of love letters. Perhaps that was because she never felt the urge to write one.Setting her keys on her desk, her eyes were drawn to her windowsill. There upon the edge of her partially opened window was a vase with a single orange rose within and an envelope beneath it. As the wind through the window brought the scent of that rose to her, she stalked across the room to stare down at it. Her eyes were narrowed, facial expression unreadable, and she watched the wind blow a few of the petals off the rose.There was no question where the rose had come from, no mistaking who that envelope was from. Juri had seen enough of them in her time at Ohtori to never forget the look of the envelopes End of the World left for his Duelists.For a very long moment, Juri stood there looking down at the letter. As much as she hated to admit it, she was curious what it would say. She’d known the chairman would eventually contact her, though she would have though he’d figured out by now the right way to do it and also wait a day or so. Pity that the broken and deceitful prince never changed his ways. Perhaps that was his fatal flaw and Juri tucked it away for later use.Slipping the envelope out from beneath the vase, Juri turned the letter over once in her hand to take in the rose crest pressed into the sealing wax on the back. A moment later, she ripped the letter neatly in half, her expression quite calm and serene. Setting both halves on the windowsill, she took the orange flower from the vase and brought it to her nose. The scent of that rose, that particular type of rose, invoked a stir of emotions she was surprisingly prepared for. She cupped the rose in her palm, squeezed just enough and then reopened her hand outside the window. The wind pulled the orange petals from her palm where they drifted on the air currents across campus. This time would be different. “I will not play your game,” she said as she picked up the ripped letter and deposited it on top of the other unwanted love letters.
Surprise rippled through Utena's mind like a blanket being aired out at her Engaged's droll humor. The song didn't ring any bells at all, but then few things did those days. Still, she stood steady and unmovable beneath the lovely girl's winter gaze. She was saved from reply by the sudden groan of the door open and the sweeping entrance of Himeno Amatsuichi, the Student Council's president. Dark haired and emerald eyed, the seitokaichou was the shoki's polar opposite. If her engaged was Winter then Himeno Amatsuichi was Summer. Utena inclined her head gently at the dismissive greeting and gave that ever ambiguous smile."Good afternoon, Miss President." She stood silent as marble during the duo's exchange and when attention was turned on her again she gave no more emotion than she had during the entire time she'd been standing immobile. "You can go, Utena. Try not to give more un-compliments to anyone else, would you."For a moment amusement kindled in blue eyes and then it was gone, smothered like flames beneath the weight of reality and duty. Was there really anything to laugh about? Particularly not from this ice queen who held her strings. No, the only one she could trust was Akio. He'd told her so, he'd proven it true, he was the only prince she had. Then why don't I feel like a pri-The rest of that thought hit some mental block like a brick wall and faded into darkness. The scent of roses filled her nose and mind and soul and she bowed gracefully."Of course, miss."And withdrew from the building, the ever obediant doll. She immediatly dismissed returning to the dorm building and instead cut across the tangle of stairs, platforms, and building and made her way towards the rose garden.
The petals of an orange rose have begun to fall from the single flower nestled in a black vase. The fragments of the vibrant blossom stand stark against the paper of a white envelop resting innocently on the windowsill of Juri Arisugawa's Office for the Fencing Captain to find when and if she returned.
Nothing was written on the either side of the envelope but the Rose Crest seal was pressed into the back. The chairman's seal.
Perfect. The word was like a well aimed sword that slipped neatly and smoothly into her chest and twisted. If she'd had even an ioda less control she would have hissed. Instead eyes like sky and cut sapphire fixed Utena with a look of mute appraisal and intense thought. She licked her lips as if they'd been bloodied and figuratively drew the blade from her breast. "I see. A point to you." And wiped the steel clean. "Tell me, do you know Seal's 'Kiss From A Rose'? If not I can hum a few bars and you can pick up when you think you've got it." The weight of her cool regard was lifted from the Rose Bride's shoulders when the doors of the music hall groaned open lazily. The dark haired girl who swept inside brought with her the scent of lilacs and sunlight, cradled in an atmosphere of absolute surity and poise. Radiance echoed in the smile she turned towards the pink haired student, laced with condescension or not. Yes, Himeno Amatsuichi acted as if she owened the room, and for all intensive purposes she might well have. "Good evening Himeno-san. Your sovereignty is showing again." She sat back down on the piano bench though she faced away from the instrument. The skirt of her uniform rested like shadow against the honey of golden brown wood. "You can go, Utena. Try not to give more un-compliments to anyone else, would you." She'd wait until the heavy doors of the hall had closed again, like the reshutting of a prison door. A silence descended on the room, thick and heavy and suffocating strung with impending trouble. Whatever Himeno had sought her out for it, friendly companionship wasn't it. She closed her eyes a moment, curling fingers lightly around the edge of the piano bench then opened again. Their attention fixed itself on Himeno then, comfortable and nearly expressionless. "You mentioned an issue. Not that Rose Dragon nonsense, again?"