2015-03-01 - Ohtori's Circus Challenge

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Title: Ohtori's Circus Challenge

Ohtori's Cultural Festival is in full swing, and it's time for the main event. With Touga Kiryuu as the ringmaster, seven teams will step up to be humiliated for the sake of the ~magical~ mystery prize!


Rei Hino, Ami Mizuno, Haruka Tenoh, Michiru Kaioh, Zoisite, Kozue Kaoru, Ikiko Hisakata, Sakura Kinomoto, Nori Ankou, Mai Tokiha, Fuu Hououji, Hikaru Shidou
GM: Juri Arisugawa


Ohtori Academy - Central Tent

OOC - IC Date:

1 June 2014 - 03/01/2015

<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Infinity's cultural festival can accurately be called 'zany,' but as the sun climbs to the apex of the sky over Ohtori's, that word becomes more and more inadequate.

No expense has been spared in erecting tents and wagons, festooning streamers and balloons, and hiring animals. The petting zoo alone is so spectacularly full of the cuddly and soft that many younger siblings and other animal afficionados are unlikely to make it any further inside than that.

Much of it is, realistically, impossible for a class or club to have constructed on their own. This is normal. Ohtori values teamwork and excellence, of course, but the best, most impressive way to express it is through leadership: coming up with a dream, creating a design, organizing a plan, implementing every step, and then getting to enjoy the results. And it took serious coordination of a variety of construction firms and other adult professionals in order to turn the school into the bonanza it is today.

It was worth it.

Riotous music leaks out of tents to waft through the air, some played by music clubs, others by hired performers. There it joins the smell of peanuts roasting in a massive bronzed dish which turns blinding whenever the sun hits it directly; popcorn is being popped in a huge crystal dome, and one can actually walk inside (or, for the less brave, just put in a hand with a bag) to safely consume this edible, lightly salted and greased snow as it wafts down from overhead. It's sanitary, through the simple genius of engineering a mesh floor -- any popcorn uncaught falls safely through to the collection layer at the bottom, to be molded with caramel or chocolate or hot sauce into new shapes and other treats.

Of course, it's teeming with people. Parents and siblings and friends from all three Sister Schools -- plus what seems like the entire population of Southern Cross Island's little coastal town, an oft-forgotten ward of Tokyo that is like a slice of paradise, with its beachside cafes and white-walled stone structures. They mass and unmass, streaming into various tents -- but as the clock on the Chairman's Tower approaches noon, the vast majority of them are creating a swift current of people towards the central and largest pavillion.

It is red, burning red, the joyous, shouting color of circuses, and trimmed in real gold. Several of the sides are tied open to let people -- and air -- inside, but even so it seems like a whole separate world within, as though the bright silks and velvets are a portal to another, stranger land.

There are concentric bleachers, piled high with lush cushions, around the sides, enough to hold thousands of people. It is rapidly turning into standing room only.

And down in the middle is a massive, presumably open space -- shrouded perfectly in darkness but for one brilliant white spotlight which shines upon a top-hatted sillhouette so perfectly still that they might as well be a statue. Surely this is the Ringmaster. What are they waiting for?

  • DONG*

The clock strikes twelve, and at that exact moment, the lights come up, revealing a ring of colored circles on the ground, each one large enough for a pair of people to stand on.

The Ringmaster lifts his head, revealing the razor-sharp chin, sparkling eyes, and brilliantly charismatic smile of Touga Kiryuu, Ohtori Student Council President.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" he booms through the crowd, with such perfect projection and diction that he hardly seems to be raising his voice with anything but enthusiasm. "Boys and girls! Children of all ages! Welcome... to the Ohtori Circus Challenge!"

How much of the screaming is for the event, and how much is for him, personally, is a little difficult to sort out.

"If our contestants would be so good as to assemble, two to each color of the rainbow, the show will start... now!"

His hands thrust outwards, and fireworks explode, raining golden glitter and silver stardust down on the crowds, or so it feels. The mood is electric, the clapping becoming uniform, hands beating faster and faster to summon the brave and the bold to the center.

Or at least -- those who signed up, or /were/ signed up by someone else, earlier that day. Ohtori has outstanding security, and men in dancing bear suits -- or, possibly, dancing bears -- successfully find and escort any reluctant heroes to the stage.

<Pose Tracker> Ikiko Hisakata [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

No matter how often Ikiko visits Ohtori, the shcool never fails to impress her, and that's on a /normal/ day. On a day like today, when everyone is going all-out to impress everyone? Downright stunning.

She was one of the bold ones who actually signed themselves up for the challenge, so when the Ringmaster calls for people to assemble, she cheerfully bounds down the aisles to the rainbow of colordots. Thinking for a moment, she chooses the orange dot and stands on it, leaving plenty of room for whomever her partner winds up being.

(Why orange? For good luck, since it's about as close to Cute Wolf Tsukiko's colors as a standard rainbow gets.)

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei Hino has had a few misgivings about her school since her father forced her into it..and though much of those misgivings were the product of that simple teenage rebelliousness, she has the sense to recognize a good thing when she sees it. The cultural festival has always been one of the sweetest smelling flowers of the Academy's bouquet for her.

It's one of the times when the school's blindingly blue blood pumps through the veins of the students' pure visions, one of the precious few times in life when the fullest of resources are marshalled to impliment young imagination. Rei has been to Tokyo Disneyland more than once..but not even that truly captures the rawness of a mind that hasn't yet learned real limitation or practical sobriety.

In a city that often feels a tension between the closely cluttered distribution of modernity and tradition, the Cultural Festival is a beauteous harmony of both, an evenly balanced scale that doesn't tip so tremendously in either direction. The new refreshes the old, and the old shapes the new. In this way it captures that elusive spirit of Tokyo and Japan itself that Rei most loves. A time for adventure and experimentation, but not lost wandering.

Today she joins the central ring. Why not join this motley contest? It seemed novel enough at the time..and something about the culinary competition that she'd so recently judged had put her in the mood for a somewhat zany contest. Often her competitive nature can get in the way of such things; she doesn't often participate in challenges testing something that isn't among her strongest strengths. But today is about the boldness of participation. The trials unknown, preparation would be impossible.

And so she steps upon the violet circle, peering to the Student Council President in a sleeveless yellow turtleneck and a purple skirt.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The clock strikes twelve, and moonlight bursts out on you from your hiding place --

Nori Ankou had participated in the cultural festival for the first time in her life. In Hokkaido she had always been a wet noodle drag among her fellow students, and in her first years here at Ohtori she had not been much better, choosing in fact to be completely absent the year before. But things are different now.

For one thing, she's in a club. A very prestigeous one. But the fencing club is not the consumer of all of her time. It does explain, though, why when the electrifying mood fills the big top, she is wearing a padded suit - it's promotional for the pavilion of the blade's celebration, of course. And it means she didn't have to change, even if she's regretting it a little in the June warmth.

But she feels an excited chill when the bell strikes, and the Ringmaster is revealed. A chill that contrasts to a small blush in her cheeks at the ringing charismatic tones of the oh so elegant Touga Kiryuu. Nori bites her lip, and then -

A bear puts its paw on her shoulder. Nori looks up in a moment of Kuma Shock.

The bear(-costume wearing person... right?) smiles, as best as the costume permits.

Soon enough, Nori finds herself nudged down the aisle, sweating bullets and looking decidedly unglamorous despite her long flowing hair. She steps forwards into a color that suits her - and finds herself facing the elegant form of Rei Hino while standing firm in the violet circle.

"Ah! Hino-san," Nori says, clasping her hands before her. "I hope you've been enjoying the festival so far--"

<Pose Tracker> Sakura Kinomoto [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

For a girl who grew up in a modest household, Ohtori is nothing short of a fairy tale school. When Ohtori commits to something, there is a certain guarantee of showmanship to be expected, but this is beyond anything of which she can dream. The dancing bear suits are cute, and for a ten-year-old girl, they are particularly alluring.

Sakura came alone today; she had initially expected to come with her older brother as a sibling bonding experiment, but at the last minute, there was a work emergency and Sakura comes alone. Unbeknownst to her, Touya had signed her up for the challenge through a regular at one of his many jobs. It is when one of the cute bearsuited (it looked awfully authentic, for a costume, though) figures ushers her on stage, she skittishly moves herself onto the green mark.

As she makes her way up the stairs, there's a nervous utterance. "Hoeeeee!" she cries out, quietly under her breath. There is enough room for a partner on the mark. Meanwhile, her lips purse as she looks around for anything familiar in the unexpected situation-fortunately, she does see a familiar face on stage already, and at Ikiko she offers a jovial wave.

It is when she sees the overwhelming crowd her eyes widen and she can feel a bit of nervousness form like popcorn in her stomach. Her hands hold down the hem of her red skirt as she toys with it, reminding herself that everything would surely be all right.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu has had quite enough excitement for one school festival by now, after the haunted house at Infinity went horribly wrong. She *thought* she was signing up for a ticket to see the circus exhibition when she filled her name in on the form.

Only now does she realize that she somehow misread 'participate in' on the form, as one of the mascot-bear-suited dancers herds her down to the ring. (It *WOULD* have to be bears, she reflects ruefully as she thinks back on the haunted house shenanigans.)

She digs in her uniform jacket for an elastic band to help keep her glasses on, and as she reaches the red dot, she pauses to bow politely to the crowd before starting to get her glasses properly secured. Hopefully she'll have a familiar partner ...

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The circus is in town. And it's starting at the stroke of midnight, too! Sounds like something supernatural, right? Well, who knows?

After all the excitement Hikaru's been through for one event, she's hoping that things will be a little easier today. Of course she made the mistake of signing up without realizing what she was getting herself into at first. She did a double-take as she realized what was going on, but decided to go with the flow and go along with it. She did find an elastic to tie her red hair back with so it wouldn't get in the way too much. In fact, speaking of red...

"Looks like it's you and I, Fuu-chan," Hikaru says as she heads to the red dot and smiles to her buddy. How do these things seem to happen, Hikaru and Fuu being together as a duo? If only Umi were here then things might be a little more interesting. She turns to bow to the crowd as well.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.


"Pardonnez-moi, is this the signup table for le cirque?"

"Why, yes it is! Have you come to volunteer, miss?"

"Ahahaha, mais non, I have come at the behest of une amie, who is unfortunately ill with a dreadful case of the stomach flu but who wanted to make sure she did not miss out on a spot!"

"Oh, the poor dear! Well, you're certainly a good friend for helping her out! What is her name, miss?"

"Kozue. Kozue Kaoru."


"NON! ARRÊTEZ! GET YOUR FILTHY PAWS OFF ME, YOU DAMN DIRTY BEAR!!" Such shrieking fills the popcorn-tossed air shortly after Touga makes his call for 'volunteers,' growing in volume and ear-piercing intensity by the moment. Placidly, totally unruffled by the yowling dervish in its furry arms, one of the bears deposits a certain Zoë Palissandre in the center of the ring -- and, with a large paw, gently prevents her confused attempts to escape.

She totters toward the green dot, pulling strands of her coppery hair away from her lip gloss and whining softly under her breath. "C'est impossible...quelle catastrophe..."

And then she notices Sakura. "Euh...a kid? You are my partner in this ridiculous farce, non?" Zoë asks, smoothing her skirt, too desperate and embarrassed to be mean.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's been a long time since Ami got out and saw the world -- the beautiful world of human beings -- in all its splendor... or at least, since she could appreciate it. Today, though, she's managed it; it's been a bit of a rough road to feeling like she can go out and be with people again -- but she knows that it's nowhere near as bad as she's making it out to be.

Accordingly, she's gotten herself all the way to Ohtori... mostly because she knows she's got friends there, and she can be reasonably sure she'll have /someone/ to participate in the festivities with. She sees Rei, and for a second -- even though she knows she shouldn't -- she hesitates. Rather than just rushing over to her fellow Senshi, she imagines the day thereafter -- lets herself think about what it'll be like.

By the time she stops imagining, the second spot in that colour is gone. Taking a deep breath, Ami assesses the other colours. Blue seems too obvious... maybe...

She decides to try something blue-esque, at least; she moves toward indigo, standing alone. It's a little nerve-wracking, truthfully, to be the one 'starting' a square -- but /someone/ has to, right? And besides -- one can't just spend one's whole life waiting around...

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

The Ringmaster's speech had all the flair of a showman, as he conducted to them their instructions. "It's good to have it reinforced that people don't change, no matter the role." A girl stood off to the side, eyes lidded. She wore a smirk on her expression like a sticker she'd pressed over her lips, meant to obfuscate her annoyance at having been volunteered anonymously. With one leg propped up against the wall, and arms crossed, she waits for him to finish. "They simply acquire fancy hats." She quips to noone in particular.

Gliding her fingers up and down in an even cadence on the arm, she tried not to look too irritated. Well known for her shamelessness, it wouldn't do for everyone to see her bothered, the best way to irritate the person who had done so back was to look like she was unperturbed and entirely into it. She would simply find a way to offer trebled repayment to them later. She liked that word, it sounded... so melodic.

A casual curve of her head turns into a sidelong glance, at someone in particular, her eyes opened to reveal a dark glint in her eyes. At least she wouldn't be alone in her humiliation. She'd seen to that.

As the announcement ends, she falls out of her position casually, gliding forward on long legs towards the blue blue dot... only to use this momentum to veer sideways at the last moment and roughly hip check the elementary schooler away from the inside of the green dot so that she might join her chosen vic- opponent herself. A note of fake apology enters her voice, yet she doesn't actually apologize. "Oh. How clumsy of me. You'd best take your place /elsewhere/ quickly." She certainly doesn't expect the elementary schooler to put up a challenge, though perhaps she's mistaken?

Eyes face front, rather than actually looking at Zoe, she allows a vicious smile to appear upon her expression in profile, "So glad you could join us. Zoë-chan." A beat, "Ready to take another fall? Do be a dear and smile for the crowd. Wave." The last few words are low, guttural things as she lifts a hand to do exactly that, with playacted grace, "It's a happy day."

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori approaches Rei just as she's settling into her position, shifting her weight upon the balls of her feet to rest. She smiles brightly, and waves in greeting. "Hello, Ankou-san! It's lovely to see you. Very much so! You too, I hope?"

A familiar shape flickers in the background..a close-cut bundle of blue hair that's as familiar as the sun but far more dearly missed. A smile breaks out upon her face without any conscious will of her own. Her gaze tracks back to Nori, and her smile, still sustained, takes on an apologetic quality. "I..forgive me, Ankou-san. I don't mean to be rude at all, but..well, I just saw a friend that I've quite missed, and she looks a little lost. A rain check, perhaps lunch some time?"

She hopes that her apology will be taken in the spirit with which it was given. Whether that happens or not..she steps away from the violet space, and approaches the indigo circle, her face positively lit up. She throws her arms around Ami and hugs her closely..not long enough that it would seem strange to onlookers, but with all the intensity of her sentiment.

"Ami-chan..it's so good to see you. Let's show them what for, eh?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai Tokiha is among the volunteers 'helped' along by the dancing security bears. She'd had no illusions of being able to take things easy - even with all the contracting out her class did, there's a fair bit of helping out to be done for various events. Somehow, she wound up on the committees of two 'class-run restaurants' - the harsh meeting of having been in the recent cooking competition on Ohtori's behalf, and several classmates remembering her as 'that girl who works at a restaurant all the time'.

So it's been an adventure. Someone else entirely, though, seems to have signed her up for this event - thus the bears, and thus her abrupt arrival into this pavilion. She's dressed for this circus, at least, having been dragged here straight from managing butlers for class 10-B - and so in an outfit composed largely of bright colours. It's more attention-grabbing than she might have preferred, but...

Well, she doesn't have a karaoke microphone, but this is kind of like that sort of stage. There isn't the solemn dignity of a high-consequence competition, this is just in the name of fun...so she straightens her shoulders, smiles like she's just been assigned to a table of a dozen arguing salarymen, and strides for the violet circle.

Nori gets a less strained smile, and she murmurs under her breath to her new teammate. "Well, here we are - did you volunteer, or did someone rope you into this too?" There may be blood in someone's future. (Unless Takumi or Eri or Mikoto did it, in which case there will be a lot of incoherent stammering.)

<Pose Tracker> Sakura Kinomoto [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

"Hnn!" Sakura is taken aback by a few seconds by the hip check; unsure of what had actually happened. Backing up a few steps to look at the older girl, she sheepishly stands still before scurrying away. Kozue is correct, she will not fight back, certainly not on Ohtori turf and with someone older than herself and certainly not someone with that kind of determination. Her cheeks are extended outward as she hustles towards the vacant orange spot next to Ikiko.

Deflating quickly as she certainly does not want Ikiko to believe she would be put out by having to partner with her, she nervously laughs, "I hope you don't mind me joining with you! I didn't realize we would have to compete for a spot!"

Her hands are still wringing the hem of her skirt, even more nervous at the potential of being forced away from her spot. She was not aware this was such a competition already!

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

No stranger to flood lights and cheering, Haruka takes his place in the blue circle. He is not one for teamwork, preferring solo sports, solo efforts. There's one person, though, so closely joined to him that she does not really count as a separate person. She is not standing in any ring, though her florid handwriting is on the signup sheet for Haruka. Thus, blue.

"Yare yare," he smiles, putting a hand through his bangs as he takes in the spectacle. "Ohtori doesn't like to hold back."

<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B0CyOAO8y0

The yellow dot is quickly occupied by the clicking heels and splendid grace of Nanami Kiryuu, and one of her cronies, the one with pigtails. She has a name, but it isn't important -- at least not today. All vermin are more or less the same. Quite popular among the legions who do not know her well, she basks in the crowd's adoration and enthusiasm like a flower turning towards the sun.

Touga and the crowd applaud the suckers -- ah, contestants -- onto the stage, but he only has to gesture once for silence to get it, as in total control of the crowd's mood and attention as a puppetmaster over his strings.

"My my," he purrs, looking over the pairs of girls with a connoiseur's eye and a smile just for each and every one of them, individually, one at a time, "What a lovely group we have assembled! And with the help of the Ohtori Fashion Club, they're about to become even lovelier!"

Curtains pop up around each dot, and a seven second costume change commences. It's not optional. Those who struggle are rewarded by looking ridiculous. Those who go along with it get to sparkle like crazy, sequins galore. Whoever is wielding the makeup brushes is a real artist, too, bringing out high drama with slashes of shadow and blush. There are modesty curtains /bisecting/ each dot as well, so nobody catches any untoward glimpses of each other, and any secrets discovered, the Fashion Club will go to the grave before telling.

The crowd goes wild as the curtains come back down, revealing the fabulousness that has just has been wrought.

Touga appreciatively tips his magnificent tophat, then glances up towards the high wire platform. The audience, of course, glances with him, drawn to it like a lodestone.

"Presenting the first task... ladies and gentlemen, Ohtori's very own Kyouichi Saionji!"

The crowd roars as the spotlights shine on the long-limbed and long-haired Student Council Vice President... in a black tuxedo and full clown makeup. He looks like he's about to rob a bank.

Still, Saionji doesn't lack for charisma, either, and as he tosses his long green curls behind him, the screaming gets a little bit more excited. Grabbing a nearby microphone with only the slightest squawk of feedback, he speaks into it with the languid serenity of someone forced to be here, but too dignified to do anything less than his best.

"For your first task," he rumbles, "Only the strongest will survive! One of you must travel across the Rickety Bridge of Despair..."

It rises out of some dry ice fog in another part of the arena. As promised, it looks very rickety indeed, ropes and artfully rotting planks. What fate awaits anyone unfortunate enough to fall beneath it is still shrouded in mystery.

"...to retrieve your color's Hammer of Victory!"

There it is, an open, massive faberge egg. Sticks with likely-looking colored tassles are sticking out of it. One is helpfully oriented the opposite way, displaying a massive hammerhead that looks to be platinum. Platinum, and embedded with jewels of an unknown but probably absurd value.

"Bring it to your partner, who will step up and ring the Strongman's Bell!"

Curtains rise, unveiling a very typical mallet-smashing sideshow display, complete with rising counterweight to ring the massive bell some twenty feet up.

Typical, except for how it seems to all be wrought from iron as finely worked as glass, as though a Victorian fairy spun lace from the bones of mountains. It is magnificently steampunk.

Touga projects more grandly and effectively without amplification than Saionji did with it. "Victory will go to the team with the best combined score of speed and strength! On your marks! Get set!"

He fires what is hopefully a blank from a golden pistol into the pavilion's rafters. Saionji calmly sidesteps the bullet.


OOC: This is a two pose round event. In round one, half the team will go get the hammer while their partner cheers/jeers/eggs them on. I will pose the NPCs at the end of the round. Then in round two, the hammer will be passed off and they can root for their partner, who will run up to smash the Test of Strength and try to ring the bell. The active teammate in each round (as opposed to the cheerer) should +roll 1d10+0. An odd result indicates that fortune favors them, and they should have an easy time with their task. An even result indicates that fortune spurns them, and due to some kind of freakish bad luck, they should have a hard time with their task.

OOC: Also, don't forget to mention the details of your awesome (or unfortunate) new circus costume!

DICE: Haruka Tenoh rolls 1d10+0 and gets 2!
DICE: Kozue Kaoru rolls 1d10+0 and gets 3!
DICE: Mai Tokiha rolls 1d10+0 and gets 9!
DICE: Fuu Hououji rolls 1d10+0 and gets 9!
DICE: Rei Hino rolls 1d10+0 and gets 10!
DICE: Sakura Kinomoto rolls 1d10+0 and gets 6!

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As Rei approaches her, Ami can't stop herself from smiling -- she wasn't exactly sad about the possibility to meet someone new, but... there's part of her that could once again use the reminder. "Rei-chan," Ami says, voice as quiet and shy as usual but with just a little extra spring in it. "It's good to see you."

No sooner does she say that, though, than the first task is revealed; looking at the bridge with wide eyes, she considers it for a few moments... and then defers to Rei, ultimately. "I think you're up first," she says. "I'll be cheering for you the entire way!"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Swirling curtains envelop Mai for an absurdly brief time - she panics, initially, but realizes that this kind of thing is non-optional. When the makeup dust clouds and fluttering cloth have parted, though...well, slightly absurd might be a description. Another might be 'who told the costumers' - there's a certain theme to her outfit and makeup combination.

It's fire. Ohtori-themed gold predominately, with crimson and orange woven throughout. Billowing cloth to lend the flicker of flame to an acrobatic dance, bright enough to illuminate her presence in the ring. More worrying to Mai herself are the fact that feathers have been involved - combining with the draping cloth to give the air of a firebird, a blazing phoenix risen to the challenge.

Coincidence. It's got to be coincidence.

It's brilliant, though - after her initial, somewhat panicked inspection, Mai can't help but be impressed. She'd hardly recognize herself in this...but the Student Council isn't done making this absurd. The Bridge of Despair beckons, with ridiculously ornate prizes to be claimed at the far end. Mai takes a breath, and turns to Nori.

"Okay. I seriously didn't plan on getting into this, but...I'll do my best to not drag you down. So...speed. I think I can manage that - it doesn't look too far off from what I have to deal with daily. Sound good?" She grins, and then flies for the bridge. ...not quite literally. But a full-on sprint, with billowing cloth wings blazing in her wake...there's imagery here. An image that's only reinforced when she reaches the bridge itself, barely even slowing as Nori's comments echo behind her.

Treat it like it's a rush delivery at Linden Baum. Those planks are where some kids spilled their drinks, those ropes the bags of sloppy high-schoolers...she practically dances her way along the treacherous path. It's not a perfect movement - a few times, she has to hop back from a board beginning to splinter - but she never stops moving, and her footwork bears experience. Steps turn into spins turn into hops to safe spots - and then she's through. A moment to stop at the far end of the bridge, just basking in what she's done here....and catching her breath.

...that was actually pretty fun. This might not be too bad - she turns back to her partner, punches the air in victory, and then reaches for the violet-tagged hammer.

Who in the world made them out of solid metal?! Eyes boggling, Mai grips the handle tightly in order to lift it...and then eyes the bridge she needs to take back. She mostly remembers which boards are safe, but...she might not be flying quite so lightly for the return trip.

DICE: Juri Arisugawa rolls 1d10+0 and gets 4!

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83bmsluWHZc

Well, it..seems that her outfit wasn't to be. Closing her eyes in minor irritation, she doesn't fight it, and allows the fashion club to do their work. It seems that she'd be eaten up and spat out by this circus regardless of her wishes. Better to roll with it, yes? The main event fast approaches.

Rei crinkles her nose as the green-maned peacock starts strutting up with all the empty-headed vanity of the bird for which she's named him. Touga's..alright. Not her cup of tea by any stretch, but even as he philanders he seems like he's above it all. Vice President Saionji is like a rancid fart under the covers, a foul essence that lingers no matter how well one tries to air him out. It isn't so much that he's ever done something that's curled her lip, but he reeks of a repulsive quality to her.

The rules are announced, the bridge arising from the mists. Her gaze flickers between the passage and her partner, and again in sequence, and she grins. "I'll take the low road..you take the high road. Let's see who reaches Scotland first." And she assumes a runner's pose. A galloping gait has always been fairly natural to her. The starter's pistol cracks like thunder..and she launches forward.

Not much time for thoughtful planning. The bridge looks like the rotting crossing of a Western movie safari, when pompous Englanders dodge the spears of dark-skinned savages. Empty-headed gaijin trash in other words, the kind of fare that presents milquetoast mustachioed men out to be heroes against artificial odds. Such stories always go one of two ways.

The bridge holds..or it doesn't.

A single thread of fate carries the heroes through every time..well, no. Not a thread. A rope. One of two, in fact. The wooden planks seem like such a foundation, but they're meaningless. They aren't what's keeping people aloft. It's the ropes..the braided railings on either side. They are the key. If one snaps, then the other will hold true. If both break..well, then the only way forward is to climb their length.

Rei grins to herself mid-sprint. She's figured out the key, and this will be utterly simple. Victory is assured. All that she has to do is to focus on the ropes, and the rest will take care of herself.

She reaches the foot of the bridge, her arms outstretched at either side, fingers extended and palms down, gliding above a meager gap of air between her touch and the fibrous balustrades. Her feet slam into the wooden boards one by one with a confidence that defies their decrepit appearance. For a while, it seems like she's really figured it out.

A little while.

A very little while.

In the movies, the boards break the second the adventurer's foot pushes down. One and done, so to speak. But then, in the movies, the pants-peeing explorer has the sense to timidly tiptoe across. The brazenly bold are punished for their hubris. This doesn't occur to Rei. On the sixth plank of the bridge, her right foot presses down, and the weight holds..if she were stepping lightly, then that would be that. But she is bounding, not walking, and she cannot gallop without pressing her sole down first. It's that tension, that bounce..that downward press and upward launch that snaps the wood in twain. And so, halfway through her leap to be, the footing fails her and her right leg drives down instead of up.

As though in a cartoon, the top of her fallen foot digs up into the bottom of the next board, and she falls flat upon her face..and the length of the bridge beneath her brow buckles and breaks, almost in a heartbeat. She begins to fall facefirst through the gap that she's created, and only a hand snapped up to the heavens saves her as it barely manages to grasp a length of rope connecting the flooring to the rails.

Her body dangles from her one arm's single thread. Teetering and swaying, she hurls her other arm up, the adrenaline paving over her embarrassment. With both hands clutching the rope, she hauls herself up, decimeter by decimeter. So much for her so-called brilliance..but she makes it all the same.

The rest of her race is practically uneventful, though far more cautious. She takes each step like the movie morons she'd mentally mocked moments ago. When she reaches the azure-clad hammer she feels more annoyed than ever, and returns with just as much of a cautious gait. Her left eye twitches with a mind of its own as she hands it off to Ami-chan, grinning with thin-pressed lips. "Here, Ami-chan!"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori's eyes cast towards the other spots - she seems briefly about to wave to Kozue, until she hip-checks the heck out of an elementary school student. Her hand lowers a little, hesitantly after this, and then she looks back at Rei with a smile. "Oh, yes. I hope you'll have a chance to come by the pavilion for our club, I'm very proud of the knife thr-"

Blink blink. "Oh! Yes, certainly," she says, raising her hand to wave at the departing Rei. Shrouded in violet light. Alone.

She lets out a sparkling sort of sigh even as Rei Hino leaves her. I hope I'll be as stylish one day, she thinks to herself with wistfulness. The arrival of the handsome Haruka Tenoh doesn't help the blush.

And then comes... a waitress. "Oh," she says to her, "I was actually, ah, well, I don't know how to put this, but I guess you could say I had to bear with things..."

But then, the matter is declared. Touga's admiring her, and saying she's lovely. Nori blushes again, before -

Curtains fall. "Wah!" There's a flurry of zipping sounds as Nori is shucked out of her fencing outfit like an unusually pale cob of corn and rapidly garbed in something more fitting to the occasion. Which, when the curtain is raised, turns out to be...

A fortuneteller! Nori's hair has been bundled up underneath a colorful headscarf, with a beaded blouse and a long flowing black skirt decorated with glossy sequins. Her makeup is rather heavy and includes a sequin as a beauty mark on the side of her lips. She also has a large crystal sphere in one hand, which she raises up with a surprised expression.

"Ah!" She then looks at Mai, blinking owlishly. Before saying, in reply, "I... Yes. Yes, of course." She's already making her way forwards, and so Nori is left standing there, her crystal ball held up - "I predict your triumph and your success, mysterious bird of flame...!"

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu is still a little too off-balance to really put up a fight during the rapid costume swap - and she's actually rather grateful that somebody's bringing more suitable clothes for this than she thought to dress in. She's still a bit discomfited by the result, though - a sleek-fitting green leotard, much like a gymnast might wear and shimmering under the spotlights - and she has to straighten her glasses back out after the makeup artists are done. But it could have been a lot worse.

She's definitely pleased to see that the forcibly-displaced Sakura paired up with Ikiko, although Kozue-san gets a slight frown when Fuu had time to direct some attention her way. The instructions are given quickly, though, so Fuu doesn't have time to dwell on anyone else's rudeness.

Hikaru is a kendo practitioner, so her upper body strength is probably superior out of their pair, Fuu thinks. She coordinates quickly with her red-headed companion, doing a few warm-up exercises during the last bit of the instructions ... and when the starting gun goes off, she sprints to the beginning of the bridge. She does NOT sprint across the bridge, though - she picks her way across, quickly and carefully, grateful for the freedom of movement her leotard was designed with. She's able to avoid putting her weight squarely on any of the boards that would actually break under her weight - one or two of them splinter and fall just from a testing probe ...

She's probably not setting any speed records, but Fuu reaches the hammers, finds the green one, and begins making her way back, wondering if the bridge will still support her weight plus that of the hammer.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Haruka keeps his arms crossed, not deigning to look at the fashion club members, just smiling up at the crowd. When the screen hides him, he's wearing a sport jacket and a partially buttoned dress shirt with slacks. When the screen leaves him, he is in the exact same position, down to the slightest detail of smile and angle of feet, but every article of clothing has changed. Tight pinstriped trousers, a crimson flash of a belt, a close-fitting cropped white jacket with ornate panels. A smart, elegantly brocaded vest adheres trimly to his torso, and where it parts to rise to his broad shoulders, ruffles as delicate as a French dessert spill free. The jacket is bullfighter-short, cutting off above the hipline, sleeves ceasing halfway down the forearm to permit freedom of motion. Whether he is a bullfighter, a flamenco dancer, or a Spanish nobleman is uncertain. Whether he is downright spicy is, however, not a subject open to doubt among reasonable, unbiased individuals.

"A race!" he approves. "This should be fun."

As he takes on the Rickety Bridge of Despair, it becomes evident that Haruka's advantage with the mallet is his disadvantage with the bridge: he's tall and muscular. Boards that Ikiko could breakdance on snap under his foot immediately, forcing him to seize the handropes and grapple his way along laboriously. The process is slow and wobbly, but Haruka doesn't panic. It will take a lot longer if he drops off the bridge entirely. He passes Rei, who had been more aggressive, and tosses a smile down at her as she struggles to lift herself onto the creaky old rope. "Sorry," he says, carefree, stepping over her hands. "If it were any other time, I'd pick you up in a heartbeat.

When he's finally across, Haruka grasps the mallet and swings it a few times; he's actually going to need to use it soon. But there will be time for that later. It's obviously too heavy safely stow in his belt or under his arm, so he gives up an arm to it, forcing his way across with three limbs, occasionally swapping the heav mallet to his other hand, to rest across that shoulder for a while. Finally, well behind the frontrunners, he braces his feet against the rope and leaps back onto solid ground, jogging his way in the direction of the test of strength.

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Hikaru finds herself caught in the costume swap and doesn't know what she's gotten herself into for real this time. She finds herself in a red leotard, just like what Fuu's wearing, only red. Apparently, they want to match up the two of them more or less. Hikaru's not about to argue with it, since she's come this far and has decided to accept it and go with the flow.

Taking the time to coordinate with Fuu is useful, since she figures she could do better with the hammer swinging rather than running with it. She too takes the time to warm up during the last instructions, waiting for the starting gun to be fired. When it goes off, Hikaru immediately goes into upbeat spectator mode. "Go, Fuu-chan!" Hikaru calls out cheerfully to her buddy. "You can do it!" She watches with wide eyes as she hopes that Fuu can do this. When Fuu grabs the hammer, Hikaru increases the cheering, watching and waiting for her to get across that bridge.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

At the Fashion Club's arrival, Ami goes perfectly still -- not because she's comfortable with this, but because she's so uncomfortable that her whole body has chosen to lock up in response to the Fashion Club's tender ministrations. Covered in sequins and sparkles and perfectly-blended blue eyeshadow, by the time the curtains are pulled aside, Ami looks like a whole different person.

Looking like you belong somewhere -- and knowing it -- can go a long way toward making you feel like you actually belong somewhere. Ami watches the detailed breakdown of the contest with a smile, looking to Rei earnestly again.

Then she's off. Normally, Ami is pretty reserved... but this is a little different. In spite of herself, she can be pretty competitive, too -- and accordingly, as Rei starts to cross the bridge, Ami begins earnestly shouting, "Come on, Rei! You can do this! I know you've got it!" She pumps her fist excitedly, practically /hopping/ at the chance to watch Rei go, even though she keeps plunging through the bridge. They can do this, she thinks -- just because things are going badly /now/ doesn't mean they have to /forever/... right?

Of course.

<Pose Tracker> Sakura Kinomoto [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

When the curtains surround her and cover her, it is a familiar feeling for Sakura. Although the Ohtori Fashion Club is not as delicate as Tomoyo, they are every bit as skillful in flair and costuming talent. There is a few seconds for dramatic flair before casting it aside and revealing the elementary school girl's appearance to the world.

Around the top of her head is a jester's cap, in white and orange colors to reflect her appearance and the color she is representing today along with Ikiko. There are rhinestones and other flashy fabrics covering her body, resembling the costume she had once worn to capture Watery, however, this time with bell-sleeves and a different color scheme. Even though some might consider ten too young for makeup, there is lip-gloss and a light touch of mascara to draw out her eyelashes, emphasizing the green eyes.

When the rules are announced, Sakura takes a look at Ikiko and offers a diplomatic smile. "I'll go first!" she cheerfully announces, starting to stretch her legs by lunging forward and doing a few other stretches to prepare for a sprint. The bridge looks rickety, certainly, but Sakura is reasonably confident in her speed and ability to traverse such things.

And with that, like Mai, Sakura is off to the races. Her pace is steady, but not enough to wind someone with as much practice as herself. There are nimble steps as she moves quickly from perceived security in strong wood, before fate strikes.

Or, rather, those bell sleeves.

Caught on a splintered piece of twine from the bridge, her sleeve reels back pulling her with it. From there, it is an awkward grab at stability where her fingers manage to hold onto the rope as the rest of her foot falls through the wood that has been pressured once too many and the rest of her body seems to give way as well.

For a few minutes, she begins dangling from the rope before using it as a way to pull herself up. Once she manages to pull herself onto the bridge, it is a few sprints further before she manages to grab the orange hammer and begin the trek back. "Got'cha! Time to head back!"

Everything will surely be all right, or so she tells herself.

<Pose Tracker> Ikiko Hisakata [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Ikiko blinks in surprise at the sudden costume change, but doesn't fight it -- well, other than forcing herself to wait until the change is complete before looking at her new outfit. The fabric, while light, looks almost like a lizard (or a pangolin, perhaps?) in emerald-green scales with orange (of course) trim. Knee-length boots and elbow-length gloves of a tougher fabric add to the effect, and the face makeup features subtle lines and patterns adding to the scaly motif. Instead of a tail, the outfit has a shoulder-cape, and scaly hair decorations have been added to her ponytail in an echo of spine ridges.

"You can do it, Sakura!" Ikiko calls to her younger compatriot. She stands near the bridge, waiting for Sakura to return with the hammer.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Touga receives the smile that he expects from everyone as his gaze sweeps over from her - entirely insincerely. And then Saionji appears, looking every bit the clown. She couldn't help but feel that was even more fitting than Touga's chosen role. Nori receives a wave as her hand is retracted.

Then come the modesty curtains. At Ohtori. Kozue's chuckle is filled with mirth as she presses a hand against her right shoulder, allowing the fashion club to do their work without any other resistance. When the curtains part again, her face has a crimson star painted on one cheek and the symbol for II symbol of Gemini on the other, her still slate-blue hair glittering in the spot light. She's wearing a stylized version of the student council jacket, except that its laden with dark blue sequins and trimmed with red. Gold epaulets grace her shoulders. Below the waist, she's wearing a loose and flaired white sequined pants.

As her eyes sweep from her toes up, she had to admit that she looked acceptably good, but she still hated it. It was someone's idea of a joke. One she was the butt of. Still she wears it entirely without shame, trying to not allow her 'teammate' to see any signs of weakness in her sparkling blue eyes as the Clown finishes his explanation. "Wait for me Zoë-chan~ I'll be right back!"

It begins, and Kozue dashes forward in her lane. Swimming was an almost elemental expression of herself, one she could perform without thinking about. This was quite another race entirely, one where she had to sacrifice speed, and pay more attention. Swimming pools were not obstacle courses after all. Nimbly she hops from one plank of the Rickety Bridge of Despair to the other until she reaches her first obstacle, a plank which gives way at her touch, and she hesitates, foot frozen as she shifts her weight back to her other foot.

Then she skips forward, to bypass that plank entirely, her pace less hurried, more sedate as she tried to anticipate the hazards. She pays no attention to the others, it was just her and the bridge, just like how it was her and the lane in the pool. Another one splinters near the end, and rather than backpeddling, she makes a desperate hop forward, as if her fingers were trying to reach a high octave on a keyboard, which is less graceful than it actually looks, and she lands on 'Terra Firma' once more.

Breathing in and out rhthymically, she dashes forward gripping her own platinum hammer, with green tassels, and watches as its head plummets towards the floor as she hastily tries to rebalance it within her arms. "You'd plate your toilet seats in platinum just to see your face in them, Kiryuu." She grunts with a low whisper as she struggles with the balancing act.

The return trip would be harder, but as she looks back at Zoë, across the bridge, she realized that nothing could be easier. All she had to do was bring her hammer to the goal. A dark smile graces her expression, as she hoists the hammer to her shoulder, holding it there with one hand over the haft as she looked back over the return path. It suddenly felt /so/ much lighter just looking her teammate. You might call Zoë her inspiration after all!

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Zoisite's question ends up going unanswered, and a double-take reveals why: having rudely disposed of poor Sakura, Kozue's all of a sudden beside the disguised Shitennou, who can't help but gape dumbly for a long, furious second as his new partner hisses her threats like the snake she is.

But, ah! Touga's complimenting the girls (and, though the president's no Kunzite, a blush warms Zoë's fair cheeks all the same) and announcing a...test of strength? The redhead snorts; how dreadfully inelegant! Surely there are other attractions to torture the contestants with? Ones befitting their grace and beauty? (Zoë's grace and beauty, that is; no one else comes close in her mind.)

Well, if she's quick, she can fetch the hammer (a rickety bridge is nothing against her exquisite agility) and dump it in the hateful Kozue's lap for her spindly arms to deal with. Yes, she thinks with a smirk, that will be--

--about the time the Fashion Club descends upon the group with the force of a typhoon, and Zoë finds herself sequestered behind silk curtains, hands and powders and brushes and combs a butterfly flurry around her head and more hands drawing stockings up her legs, pinning and clasping and tucking and draping and-- she lets it happen, once she realises what's happening. Who doesn't love a good pampering?

For her patience, Zoë is rewarded with the full bloom of spring: a leotard of deep green velvet, its chest embellished with floral beading, cuts high on her hips and encircles her throat; thigh-high stockings striped in soft gold and cool violet adorn her shapely legs; high-heeled boots of warm brown leather, their sides buttoned closed with gilt roses, reach her knees. Pink roses -- live, not silk or some other synthetic fabric -- twine in gold ribbon at her hips and shoulders and peek out from the fiery curls of her unbound hair, itself a cascade of faerie loveliness. Crystals wink at the corners of her eyes, whose lids are now smoky and green and all aglitter, and atop her newly-manicured nails.

The crowd roars just for her, and she drinks it in--

Too long; chirping, Kozue's already taken off! "You- I hope you fall off the bridge!!" Zoë shrieks, shaking her fists at the bluenette's back.

So much for teamwork.

<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Nanami flaps her hand at her minion, who scurries off across the bridge. The girl is quite light-footed, though not the fastest, and emerges with her hammer in more or less the middle of the pack.

Touga commentates throughout, leading the crowds in gasps of horror and amazement as Rei and Sakura fall and cling, as Mai soars. He raucously urges Fuu and Haruka to speed up, citing school ordinances that forbid tortoise and the hare morality plays on cultural festival days.

And there was absolutely a hidden microphone in the faberge egg which picked up Kozue's jeer for the crowd to hear -- and for Touga. He laughs patronizingly, and the crowd laughs with him, not against him. "You'd be the expert, wouldn't you, Kaoru-chan? I've never known a girl to take longer in them."

'Ooooooh,' gasps half the crowd, while the other half keeps giggling.

That leaves the order of people emerging from the bridge, hammers in tow, as:

Mai, Fuu, Kozue, Anonymous Nanami Slave, Haruka, Sakura, Rei.

Since the winner will be chosen based on a combined score of speed and strength, the outcome of the Test of Strength is a lot more important for the partners of the bottom of that list.

It matters for everyone, though, because that Test of Strength apparatus is intimidating in the extreme. It's starting to belch steam out of its nostrils (the whole construction looks like a traditional, unisuited strongman, all of gears and levers and cranks) -- eager to be challenged by its foes. Its crown is a fiber optics display that will, momentarily, read out strength scores between 0 and 100.

Can anyone hammer its base so perfectly as to ring the bell? 'Perfectly' is the key word, for while brute force plays a prominent role, this is a circus, and that means there's a trick to it. There isn't much of a way to understand that trick without a great deal of observation of (and, even better, practice with) exactly how those gears wind, when the inner clock ticks. But there is a place for cleverness, and a bigger one for luck.

"Who will prove their might for all to see?" opines Touga, urging the hammerers, still awaiting their hammers like the anchor of a relay awaits a baton, to do their very best. "And which team will come in last -- and pay the penalty price?" Each one of his p's is a dipsmooch to the language, his alliteration sexier than it has any right to be.

It's Hammer Time.

OOC: Runners, please deliver your hammers to your partners! Hammerers, please +roll 1d10+0 immediately! The highest two rolls will ring the bell, with everyone else getting progressively lower "strength" results based on dice outcome. In case anyone's AFK, I will roll on behalf of anyone idle, in three minutes' time, because we need to know the outcomes before the hammerers can write.

DICE: Ikiko Hisakata rolls 1d10+0 and gets 9!
DICE: Ami Mizuno rolls 1d10+0 and gets 1!
DICE: Nori Ankou rolls 1d10+0 and gets 3!
DICE: Haruka Tenoh rolls 1d10+0 and gets 5!
DICE: Zoisite rolls 1d10+0 and gets 6!
DICE: Hikaru Shidou rolls 1d10+0 and gets 6!
DICE: Hikaru Shidou rolls 1d10+0 and gets 3!
DICE: Zoisite rolls 1d10+0 and gets 9!

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

As she hangs like a strung up pinata, naturally Haruka Tenoh feels the need to blithely boast at her as he glides over her, as though he could walk on water. Her nose crinkles and her brow furrows mid-dangle. It doesn't matter how cute he may be, what an arrogant prick. As though she were giving him a moment's thought. Well, she was now, but not to muse upon all the other times the self-righteous ass would deign to climb off of his imaginary white horse to 'save' her.

Her heart is pounding when she finally hands the hammer off to Ami. It had a surprising weight to it, more substantial than the token trinkets in most school-bound relay races. She falls down onto her butt as she completes her task, panting audibly. Only now did she glance down to realize what she's wearing..her eyes widen to saucer-size as she realizes that she's wearing a very unflattering bear costume.

How..on earth..could she have missed that before? It isn't even just shaggy fur. She's wearing brown sequins from toes to tip-top, the suit's belly as broad as a barrel. No wonder she'd tripped, she attempts to convince herself. Maybe..in another context it might even be cute. But when somebody else dressed her up like this, for a costume? UGH! The gall of it all!

That doesn't matter now, though, she has a friend to cheer for! Pushing herself up to her feet with an awkward push of a bear paw, she thrusts her fist in the air! "AMI-CHAN! AMI-CHAN! NUMBER WAN! NUMBER WAN! HIT THAT BELL, YOU'LL DO SO WELL! YOU COULD DO YOUR WORST, YOU'LL STILL COME IN FIRST!"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai has a moment, dressed elaborately in wings of fire on the precipice of a mysterious chasm, where the absurdity sets in. The costumes hide identities to some small extent - even those people she's met before, she has to double-take before recognizing again. The comment to 'Zoë-chan' earns one of those double-takes...but there's no time to worry about that.

It's not a contest she wanted to be entered in, but she's going to give it her all nonetheless. Mai picks her way back across the bridge - Kiryuu's admonition ringing loudly enough that she dares not tarry - and even with the hammer's weight across her back, she manages a few feats of seeming flight. The Fashion Club did its work well with this one - even without training, Mai's costume flutters like it's made of flames.

She comes to a halt before Nori, hammer in hand. "Well - fortune delivers this treasure to you, o seer. Use it wisely." However dramatic the words, however triumphant the costume, the grin on Mai's face betrays what she really thinks of this situation. It's all for fun, and whatever the result...as long as people are stepping up, they're worth applauding, right?

Even those who didn't get a choice in stepping up.

Hammer and crystal ball trade hands; Mai doesn't hold it as a seer would, but retains it in claw-like hands, akin to a dragon clutching its treasure. Or a bird, more likely, who ever heard of a phoenix-dragon? She cheers as Nori steps up to the plate, and....

...ah. That's too bad. Still - she tried. And knowing this school's council... must have been some trick to the apparatus. In spite of the score, Mai cheers anyway - it's helping her sanity to think of this as the karaoke stage, and no matter how someone sings...if they sing, they're worth cheering.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

While there's a piece of Fuu that relishes the sound of one of Ohtori's upper echelon getting taken down a peg, she's too busy re-crossing the bridge - trying to keep up with Mai-san, really - to spare attention to admire the effect of that rejoinder. She can't really use her hands this time due to the hammer's weight, so she has to remember as well as she can which planks were trustworthy and which ones are treacherous, as well as which ones she skipped entirely on the way across.

She hands the hammer off to Hikaru, nodding to her red-haired compatriot ... but rather than cheering, she just hunkers down, hands on her knees, and works on catching her breath. There's a *reason* why her preferred sport is archery - less running around.

<Pose Tracker> Sakura Kinomoto [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

The hammer proves to be heavier than she expects. Her way back on the bridge is significantly more gingerly than going across. Each step is hesitant before she makes it through and both of her hands are grasping onto the rope siding as she makes her sluggish way from the bridge while carrying the hammer. Each step has a loud creak, a warning of weakness, as her feet briefly touch before moving along. %t Though she is close to the last, she hands off the hammer to Ikiko with an embarrassed smile, bringing her palms to her knees as she bends slightly in relief. "Sorry for being so slow, but do your best, Ikiko-san!" Once she raises her body to see further, she sees the very handsome student council president at work. Though his presence is enough to make her feel red in the cheeks, she brings her focus back to where it needs to be: Ikiko.

Sakura is a natural cheerleader with her sunny disposition, and it is with all of her practice she starts a cheer for her fellow Juuban student. "I~ki~ko, I~ki~ko! DO YOUR VERY BEST! SWING HARDER THAN THE REST!"

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Continuing those cheers is no problem for Hikaru, who really gets excited when the hammer is brought to her by Fuu. "Thanks, Fuu-chan! You did great out there!" She says before turning to run over and ring the bell just like she's at the carnival. Indeed, Hikaru has taken Kendo, and she has a good amount of upper body strength, but that hammer still feels a bit heavy all the same. "No wonder Fuu-chan had trouble carrying it," Hikaru says to herself as she rushes towards the bell ringing game.

Once she gets there, Hikaru takes a moment to catch her breath and then takes a few deep breaths to ready herself. Then she grips the hammer with all her might and lifts it up. Yelling out, 'KIAI!' Hikaru slams the hammer down and...... comes up just a tiny bit short. "No!" Hikaru says, shaking her head as she walks back towards Fuu. "I'm sorry, Fuu-chan, but at least I tried."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

With her firebird of friendship on the way, Nori can look away. When Kozue tosses such casual words towards Touga, it's strangely interesting, enough that she turns her crystal ball to try and study matters a little better, her beaded blouse glistening and rattling a bit.

Of course, Touga's sister is being rather imperious, but that's to be expected, Nori thinks: she is something of a big deal around here. Taking in a breath, Nori calls out, "Hurry, hurry! Fate doesn't wait for you to be late--!"

She watches intently as Mai moves, pursing her lips and shifting around in her outfit. Nori's poses get increasingly confident during this heart-stopping interval, but then quick enough Mai is coming back with the hammer. After a moment of fussing, she says, "Here -- hold this, I --" It seems expensive, and it would be rude to harm the costume budget so severely.

But she has it. The hammer. Looking up at that intimidating bell, Nori admires its artistry for a full second -- before she lunges forwards, raising the hammer up as she'd seen in several cartoons containing tests of strength. In fact, overbalancing!

In fact her form is really rather bad, though she does put her all and a little bit of that disturbing strength that more than a few girls who wear dresses like hers have behind it. The bell doesn't ring, though, and Nori doesn't hoist the hammer up afterwards, instead just twisting it off the impact point and gasping for breath.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

The hidden microphone was something of a surprise, though she takes it in stride, completely unblushing. After all, this was the image she wanted to cultivate, as she offers an entirely insincere wink to Touga with the implication of a promise.

Whether it actually carried the weight of one though? Who could say? She had her goal. And it was now in sight, as she made the slower return trip one step at a time.

Her return to Zoë might seem threatening, except for the fact that as she touches solid ground again, she shifts the hammer from her shoulder, open palmed and parallel to the floor as if it were a peace offering, thumbs just loosely hanging onto it.

When Zoë would reach out to take it though, she releases her thumbs, allowing the weighty mallet head to slip. Gravity does its work for her as it careens to the ground the mallet head striking Zoë's right foot. "Oh! How /careless/ of me!" She lies aloud, before whispering. "An eye for an eye, a foot for a hand." A beat, "Or did it go another way?"

She doesn't help her pick it up, standing tall and straight, with arms crossed as if daring her teammate to retaliate. "Ganbatte, Zoë-chan~"

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As Rei hands the hammer off in dead last, Ami grips it tight. It's -- it's so /heavy/, she thinks, as she moves up toward the bell. They really spared no expense -- it feels so... powerful. She rushes forward toward the bell, Rei's cheering in her ears... and...

... then her feet betray her, and all at once she hits the ground in /front/ of the bell, rather than the bell itself. The hammer -- put out to steady her fall -- just barely grazes the edge of the target, and...


With a little cringe, Ami looks back toward Rei, letting the hammer stay where it is. Raising a hand to the back of her head, she says, perhaps not even loud enough to be audible, "Sorry..."

<Pose Tracker> Ikiko Hisakata [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

"Thanks, Sakura-chan!" Ikiko grins to her partner. Her eyes widen slightly at the weight of the hammer, then a smile starts crossing her face. It's a cheerful smile, possibly even /too/ cheerful -- the smile of someone who just had an Idea, and it will be memorable, whether good or bad.

She starts swinging the hammer /horizontally/, like the track-and-field implement of the same name. Once she spins the hammer up to speed, she does an /underhand/ swing, crouching slightly as she does so, then leaps as the hammer arcs upward, gaining a few precious inches.

While in midair, she swings down with the hammer, curling up on the handle as she does so. Between the extra inches to fall and the conserved angular momentum, the head of the hammer plummets like a meteor onto the target. The impact, decently mighty in its own right (at least for an elementary-schooler) catches the hidden gears at just the right time, catapulting the weight up to solidly ring the target bell. Ikiko strikes a triumphant pose--!

--then starts staggering back to Sakura a moment later. "Dizzy..." she groans, her eyes practically swirls.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

A hidden microphone in the egg, how clever! Zoë's mean-spirited laughter rings out loud and sharp with the rest, spurred onto coloratura heights by Touga's retort. It takes some of the sting out of seeing Kozue fail to fail; as much as Zoë had been hoping her partner would plunge into whatever alligator pit might be waiting beneath the Bridge of Despair, public humiliation is public humiliation.

And speaking of which...

The redhead eyes the returning Kozue closely. Those mallets are heavy, she knows, and she wouldn't put it past the HiME to return it by chucking it at her face.

Yet Kozue hands it over almost decorously, as though the emerald-studded thing were a priceless ceremonial treasure. Zoë, cautious, reaches out her hands to take it--

And freezes, a yelp caught in her throat, as gravity takes over and brings the mallet down onto her foot like a dinosaur-killing asteroid. The gaudy thing is heavy enough to crush all those small bones to dust; it's only thanks to the steel hiding in the toe of Zoë's fashionable boot (for it wouldn't do to leave a girl working with, say, elephants to walk into the ring unprotected) that she escapes that fate, and only just. Tears flood Zoë's eyes, and she keeps them from ruining her makeup through sheer force of will.

"Is that how it is? Then you will regret this twice over," the disguised Heavenly King hisses through his clenched teeth, fixing Kozue with glassy, hate-filled eyes. Then, louder, "Merci beaucoup, Kozue-chan."

Limping and wishing he could float, Zoisite makes his way over to the steampunk strongman. He's kept half an eye on the other hammer-wielders thus far, and Ikiko's wildly successful strike has given him an idea. Not to swing the hammer like a thunder god -- no, he's a millennia-old Shitennou, but he's not the physical powerhouse Kunzite is.

Instead, Zoë waits, and watches the motion of the tower's parts, its inner clockwork and outer valves, committing the patterns to memory. It takes little enough time, ten or twelve seconds, and when she feels she's got it down--

Zoë hauls her arm back: DOWN goes the hammer, UP goes the clapper, CLANNNGGGG goes the bell!

She leaves the hammer by the metal man, and shakes out her foot as she returns to Kozue. All smiles.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Haruka sighs, long-suffering, at Touga's jabs. "Enjoy the single life while you can, Kiryuu," he grunts to himself. "One day you'll be down here instead."

Kozue's amplified insult endears her to Haruka, though he hasn't met her before. With her headed back from the Faberge egg and Haruka just arriving, he has the chance to encourage her. "A guy who isn't patient enough to wait for you to get out of the washroom," he tells Kozue sadly, "is never going to be patient enough to make you glad you did."

Coming off the bridge third-to-last isn't going to win Haruka any points. Swinging his hammer, he lets it rotate in the air and snatches it. "This is more like it," he grins, eyeing the bell. Most of these girls don't come up to his shoulder. It's not exactly a fair contest, is it? But Haruka didn't come up with it, he's just participating.

Filled with hubris, Haruka pays no real attention to the other competitors, instead smiling at photographers, waving occasionally, and waiting for his turn. He doesn't notice the odd lack of correlation between the power of a blow and its result, or think about why this machine might be so complicated. When it's his turn, he steps up, lifts the hammer with a flourish of his embroidered sleeve, and clasps his free hand to its base, the wielding hand up under its head. His torso arches, ornate Spanish jacket parting wide as his arms draw back, brawny shoulders testing the limits of the silk tunic beneath at the moment of the hammer's platinum-glinting apex, where it hangs in the air, the tip of a great unborn blow.

Then Haruka drags his hands together as his whole body swivels down, straight down, the hideously opulent hammer whistling like a descending artillery shell. The toll of its impact caves in the front of the hammer (no spectacular feat for platinum), and the sudden stop to Haruka's momentum drives his bangs and lapels towards the ceiling for an instant.

He lingers there a moment, pants once. Then, rotating on his heel, Haruka turns to face the crowd with a sunny grin, swinging the damaged hammer over his shoulder. The first knuckle of his free hand covers the opposite eyebrow, then draws straight across his forehead with satisfaction, slinging a few gleaming diamonds that suspend themselves in the merciless stage lights.

But the crowd's reaction, and the oddly noncelebratory noise that the readout behind Haruka makes, make the remaining sweat on Haruka's brow turn cold, and he glances behind him. Sixty? It didn't even hit the bell?!

Haruka's smile remains, but it's tight, as if he got called on for homework he hadn't completed. Ikiko had hit the bell.

That girl is in SIXTH GRADE.

Haruka is in trouble.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

And the question might have been on people's minds - if there was Haruka? Michiru often was about, particularly at a big event such as this. Haruka might feel that their terrible performance might have gone unseen by the other. Eyes might scan the crowd, and find nothing but happy faces.

A parasol opens, as if to protect the participant beneath from the sunlight that the tent already blocks from her.

And oddly enough, the design upon the umbrella was partitioned into white and black slices, the white slices bearing an emblem - that of a black rose. Beneath the shade it casts was Michiru Kaioh, a secret little smile dancing upon her face as she lingers in the stands, her eyes settling upon Haruka proper. Having observed her Herculean effort from admist the faces of the crowd. A whisper to the woman she sat beside, "Did you see the power with which he struck the target? Marvelous."

And perhaps she was one of the few with her hands raised, clapping lightly - if a bit slowly.

And with the parasol balanced delicately upon a shoulder, Michiru rises to a stand. "Excuse me," she says, speaking to the woman sitting beside her as she steps across her. "It is nearly my turn."

With that said, Michiru was to make her way down the stands to one of the little halls therein - to be beset upon whatever uniform the Fashion Club had sewn for her. Michiru might have had a few suggestions for them, as well.

She would be arriving for the next round of events, no doubt.

<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Nanami, who seems to have brought in a male minion at the eleventh hour to strike the bell /for/ her, stamps her foot in frustration as he fails to follow through.

But the crowd is buoyant, and eager to cheer each competitor on, growing louder and louder as the hammers come down. Sometimes the applause is rather consoling, however, when unexpected results arise.

Never is it more supportive as when the elementary schooler rings the bell, though, and Touga flashes Ikiko a smooth thumbs-up and a heartmelting smile. Then he tilts that thumb slowly, sadly downwards, looking Haruka dead in the eye as the Infinity student scores a less-than-fantastic result.

"Tsk. All the patience in the world will win you no favors if you just -- can't -- ring -- their -- bells," he observes slowly, inexorably, precisely, with a cool chuckle and a toss of his head. His magnificent mane spreads out behind him like a cape. "Looks like you've still got a ways to go."

He brings the crowd to the edge of their bleachers with anticipation as he raises his arms, the light dims, and the drums roll.

"Ladies and gentlemen! I give you your first round victors, fleet and strong: Ikiko Hisakata and Sakura Kinomoto of Juuban Elementary School!"

A spotlight illuminates them, glitter falling like rain. It catches on the crystal hairpieces the Ringmaster has smoothly affixed to their heads, little tiaras with the Ohtori emblems at the top. "Look at those girls shine," Touga narrates fondly, while the applause rises to a tsunami.

He surfs it effortlessly. "And now... your last place losers. Let's be kind to them -- this competition isn't over yet! Give a round of applause to Ami Mizuno of Juuban, and our own Rei Hino of Ohtori!"

A second spotlight falls upon the middle-schoolers in question.

Then comes the green goop, probably bought directly from the 1990s-era warehouses of a famous children's television channel. Cymbols crash.

"Look at those girls slime!"


Touga doesn't let it go on for too long, waving the crowd back into silence. It isn't really kindness, just showmanship -- he doesn't want them fleeing the stage in tears or anything due to protracted cruelty. He needs underdogs, after all, to make this passion play sparkle.

"Now for their chance to redeem themselves! Ladies, look behind you and you will see a Door Of Mystery!"

Indeed, an archway rises behind each of the seven starting platforms, hung with curtains of beads in each of the corresponding seven colors.

"Those of you who have shown us your strength -- now you must show us your wits! Approach your door and it will give you a question. Answer, and pass through to collect your prize: a golden charm." Indeed, there is a bowl full of them on the far side of the doors. They are all shapes and sizes, representing a cornucopia of possible objects.

He smirks. "If you cannot, you are welcome to pass through this door instead."

A central archway, hung with a constant waterfall of more slime, emerges in the middle of the arena.

"Once you have your reward, bring it to your partner... who, instead of displaying swiftness, will be showing us their courage."

The lights come up on the final, darkened portion of the arena... revealing a karaoke system, with speakers and lights and lyrics, which is at least twenty feet tall and probably capable of hacking into Ministry servers.

"Each charm represents a word, from Apple to Zebra! You must call out a song that prominently features that word... and then you'll be performing it. So... hope that your partners answer quickly, and choose your charms well. On your marks..."

The sound of a rumbling engine pours through the arena, revving as though it were the start of a race. Soon an electric beep accompanies it. Then another. Then a third.

The final is an octave higher, signaling the beginning of the Grand Riddle-Karaoke Prix.


OOC: Due to time constraints, this is a one round event! The hammerers must answer a riddle to pass through a door (or, alternatively, pass through the slime door) to grab an object and return it to their partners, who will choose an appropriately themed song based on that object, and karaoke. (Not on top of each other, the singers get to take turns.) Each riddler can come up with their own riddle (use Google if you don't have one in mind) for their character to figure out, or fail. I encourage you to work OOCly with your singers (the people who did the bridge last event) to pick an object/word that results in a particularly funny, dramatic, or otherwise awesome song selection.

<Pose Tracker> Ikiko Hisakata [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Ikiko strides forward to the Door of Mystery with only slightly wobbly steps, glad for the breather when the Ringmaster explained things. "I am ready for the riddle!" she states to the door.

A voice comes across the speaker attached to the door: "Take one out and scratch my head, I now am black but once was red. What am I?"

Ikiko presses a finger to her chin as she thinks. She looks upward as she rummages around in her mind, and her finger slips off of her chin, sort of like...

Her eyes widen. "A matchstick!" she declares!

The door unlocks with an audible click, then opens via hidden mechanisms. Ikiko darts forward to the bowl of charms, looking them over before deciding on a star. Taking it, she scrambles back to Sakura. "Here you go, Sakura-chan!" she says to her partner, handing over the charm.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori is able to recuperate herself somewhat by the time the bell ringing is judged. She isn't at the bottom of the list, at least. That's reassuring. Straightening up, she adjusts her hair scarf slightly, and even applauds the... young yet immensely powerful heroines of Juuban Elementary!

And she tries not to do more than titter a little as a mysterious green goop splatters down onto the former teammate of hers, and Ami Mizuno as well. Some obscure part of Nori is pleased here, eve if she knows it's a bit mean.

But then matters shift. Touga's casual showmanship and subtle cruelty are piquant, but her attention is turned towards the rising archways in their colored beading. "Ah--!" Where DID they come from? And then another waterfall reveals itself...

And there is more and more of that nauseating green goop. Nori Ankou, wisely enough, fusses her way towards the violet beaded curtain, and then a speaker erupts and a question comes, from whatever source.

"The man who made it, didn't want it," comes the voice. "The lady who bought it, didn't use it. And the beloved who used it, did not know it. What is it?"

Nori looks momentarily thunderstruck for reasons that are unclear, and this may give someone else the opportunity to slide past her. The reason, of course, involves a similar riddle coming from an elegant woman with gray skin and immortal eyes, but that's a problem for another day. Nori, scraping herself together, gives her answer:

"A funeral urn!"

And with that, through she goes. Looking at the bin of charms, Nori sees nothing that calls to her immediately - such as a beluga, for instance, or a bone - and reaches in to pluck up something off the top, then. A small eagle with proud wings stretched out.

Dashing back, already panting, Nori holds it out. "Ah, Tokiha-san - here, umm -- good luck!!"

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Hikaru looks to Fuu and says, "We can do this, Fuu-chan!" She gives a wink and a thumbs up before rushing towards the Door of Mystery. She stops and waits for her riddle to be said, racking her brain at the same time while wondering what kind of riddle she'll get. "Why couldn't Fuu-chan have done this instead?"

Then she hears someone speaking. "Thirty men and only two women, but they hold the most power. Dressed in black and white, they could fight for hours. Who are they?"

Hikaru frowns as she thinks it over. "Thirty men and only two women..." Then it hits her suddenly. "I've got it, they're chess pieces!" Hikaru grins as she goes through the door and finds herself in front of the charms.

Running her hand through it quickly, Hikaru's hand comes out with a charm shaped like a heart (a Valentine's type one, don't worry) with that she rushes back to Fuu. "Here, it's all yours! Go for it, Fuu-chan!"

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As the pair are given their incredible penalty game for their stunning performance, Ami closes her eyes and lips and just lets it all run down her. She's gone from looking marvelous to looking green in a moment -- and yet it's all still kind of fun just the same!

She turns her gaze out toward the door of slime as the second contest is explained... and immediately, in spite of her current slimed status, finds herself ready to go. A riddle -- on the surface, that sounds like just her kind of party! On the other hand... a riddle is going to take time to convey... she's going to have to think about it... she's already slimed...

Accordingly, rather than even /attempt/ the riddle, Ami goes into a full-on sprint, stopping only briefly to get the first two words of her riddle. Rather than attempt it, she just bolts through the /slime/ door, looking at the bin of charms only long enough to see a crescent slash of a moon, snag it, and bolt back toward Rei.

Despite the fact that she's been /double/ slimed now, Ami gives Rei a big smile as she returns the charm to her friend, saying, "It's all yours! I know you can think of something!"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The round comes to a close. Mai finds herself grateful for the elaborate costuming and makeup; the back-and-forth innuendo between Touga, Kozue, and Haruka is turning her skin as red as some parts of her costume. Aloud, she mutters. "Can they really get away with that kind of..."

Oh. Right. Ohtori council is involved.

The besliming of the Ami/Rei team brings fear and anger back into the quation. Fear, because...eugh. A terrible fate, to be avoided at any cost. And anger...because neither she nor Nori signed up for this, and someone's got to pay. Mai holds the crystal ball out to her partner, worry plain on her face...

...and then she looks over to the darkened corner of the arena, beholding what the council has decided is an appropriate test of courage.

Mai Tokiha is very, very quiet for a moment as the rules are explained. Slowly - ever so slowly - she turns back to Nori, and this time her expression is one of hungry -delight-. Already, her partner's rushing for the riddle-door, challenging its mysteries...and when Nori returns with the eagle trinket, Mai is positively grinning. "Great work, Ankou-san - I'll do my best!"

Once more, Mai Tokiha takes figurative flight - if anything, she's even more eager to reach this stage. Never mind the contest, never mind the audience - the rabbit is being thrown into the briar patch on this 'courage' test. With one hand, she holds the item Nori picked out; with the other, she's already reaching for the microphone. She just needs to come up with her song of choice....

...how can she decide? So many options. So many things she wants to sing - even if she narrows it to what's tied to the item that was picked, this is the field she wants to battle on. Eyes flicker to the screens, the endless possibilities of songs - because there's nothing Ohtori wouldn't have licensed for this kind of thing, is there? Well, when in doubt, there's one band that's always good for karaoke, dated as it might be...

"ABBA!" She calls out, grinning to the overseer of this event, holding up Nori's claimed token. "The song, 'Eagle'. Prominently featured enough for you?"

She has a minute to compose herself as the instrumentals are loaded, the intro played. Doubts begin to speak up, that she's doing this in front of a massive audience...but all the same, it's her element as much as anything is. Karaoke, the entire purpose being to sing one's heart out regardless of consequence - whether for two people or two hundred, it doesn't matter to her. The firebird spreads her wings, jumping into the circus's madness with all her heart.

"...And I dream I'm an eagle! And I dream I can spread my wings! Flying high, high, I'm a bird in the sky, I'm an eagle that flies on the breeze..."

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

A monotone rose blooms in the stands, and Haruka sees it with a tightness in his throat. Then he dips his head, smiling philosophically. Well, if she's going to make an appearance, he's going to have to prepare the way.

Haruka grins a pirate grin up at Touga. "I'll give you credit. It takes a brave man to be so proud his lever doesn't work right."

Haruka listens to the rules, nodding a little periodically. It's obvious what he has to do. At 'Go!', he strolls with his hands in his pockets, walking past his door without so much as a glance.

"Hey!" the riddler inside says. "What has a shell like a hermit crab, claws like a hermit crab, feet like a hermit crab, eyes like a hermit cr..."

Haruka continues walking by and, without pausing, steps directly into the Slime Door.

No one knows Michiru's discography better than Haruka. Here, in front of this vast crowd, it wouldn't do to make Michiru take the second-best charm for her preferences. Sheets of lime-green goop drape over Haruka's careful coiffure, flatulate on her fabulous face, squelch on her shoes, gargle on her garments. He emerges inside like something from the green lagoon, and shakes out one of the lapels of his jacket to form an umbrella for the charm. His eyes travel them quickly, and his selection is easy: the rose in gold. It has no stem, so he cups its bulb in his hands and shields it under his jacket, that hand still clean from its place in his pocket--did you think he was just being cool?

When he emerges, Haruka strides up to greet Michiru, every surface coated, and slings some slime from his face so she can see his smile when he dips a knee to offer the pristine, gleaming golden rose on an upraised palm, his eyes holding hers, his boyish glee irrepresible.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"...but meows like a cat?" the riddle finally concludes behind Haruka.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu takes the charm from Hikaru, smiling reassuringly - although she's really not all that assured of anything herself. They have to sing karaoke?

This is FAR from one of Fuu's favorite activities. Sure, she does it once in a (long) while anyway, when she's forced to, but it's far from a favorite hobby of hers. Still, this seems to count as 'no choice in the matter,' so she keeps smiling as she heads up to the karaoke stage, wracking her brains for a good song where hearts are a major theme. There should be something she can come up with, maybe one of those songs she's heard popular idols like Utau Hoshina singing ... but she keeps drawing a blank all the way up there, at least until she remembers one particular album she's got at home. Something she got because there were a couple of RPG theme songs in the collection.

"'Stay In My Heart'!" Fuu calls out, holding the heart charm up so the judges (whoever's judging it, anyway) can see that yes, her song matches up with the charm. Now she just has to wait her turn to sing - and try to remember how the song goes, so she's not just fumbling along with the animated lyrics. Her turn finally comes around, she receives the mic, and despite her dislike of karaoke, she breathes in deeply, waits through the intro, and starts singing - competently if not beautifully - along with the sedate, almost-haunting melody.

o/~ Until the wind's direction changes, I'm just waiting in this place
Not even stepping forward, for fear of regrets

o/~ With my heart adorned in its opposite colors
I was always stopping on my journey

o/~ I hear a voice calling to me,
elling me that I'm not alone
All the people who can't be replaced are here,
In a place where there hearts can shine - 'Stay in my heart' o/~

Yeah. She doesn't LIKE doing karaoke, but she can carry a tune. It helps when it's already a song she likes.

<Pose Tracker> Sakura Kinomoto [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

The moment the spotlight shines down and they are crowned, she lights up immediately. Her mouth turns upward sharply and her hands find her cheeks. The recognition is nice, particularly when it started out questionably. Sakura is jubilant in the spotlight as she wraps her arms around Ikiko, squealing excitedly. "Way to go, Ikiko-san!" For a moment, she watches the very handsome student council president before having her attention brought back to the unfortunately slimed Ami and Rei. Her hand flies to her mouth and she recoils in horror. "T-That seems really harsh!" Sakura quietly notes to herself.

But there is not enough time to offer any kind of sympathy, and fortunately neither seem too worse for wear. The next event is announced and Ikiko is already running ahead. Ever the dutiful and loyal partner, Sakura is ready for whatever comes ahead. Mentally, she is running through every song Tomoyo has sung and remembering the lyrics of any song in her music class or from the radio when riding with Touya.

Taking the charm, Sakura cocks her head. It is almost too simple, and it takes her off guard for a few seconds before snapping her fingers. She has it.

The jester shoes with the bells on the end announce her arrival before she even gets close and she calls out to the judges running the karaoke, "Twinkle Twinkle, please!"

Once Fuu completed her song, Sakura was up next and the tiny jester held the mic in her hands. It was one of the few things she knew in English, from both her classes and a foreign colleague of her father's teaching her once upon a time ago. Once the musical cue started, she began her song:

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

How I wonder what you are?

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky~

As the song runs its course, she gives a polite bow and curtsy, before handing the microphone off to the next competitor.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Zoisite titters behind one elegant manicured hand as Ami and Rei are slimed for their joint failure. He'd be even more amused if he knew their magical identities, since it's always a good day when Sailor Senshi are humiliated (even if he's not there to see it), but he's quite content with bearing witness to the misfortune of anyone that isn't him.

From there, Touga (who's quite obviously enjoying himself, a peacock in full strut) hands down the next challenge: a riddle, and a song! Zoë can do both, she knows, but (and here she lets out a tiny breath of relief) it turns out she'll be the one answering the riddle and fetching the charm--

The charm, she notes to herself, rosy lips curling upward in a cruel smirk, that will determine Kozue's song.

You said it yourself, my dear: an eye for an eye.

Thus empowered, Zoë glides with the air of a vernal goddess toward the door marked out with green crystals (she's not about to ruin her lovely costume with slime), ascending the staircase as though climbing toward Olympus' summit. Glitter and rose petals trail in her wake.

The speaker set in the door wiggles, its faceless voice gleeful. "I am a box that holds keys without locks, yet they can unlock your soul. What am I?"

"Oh," Zoë's thick lashes flutter; her hands reach for her heart. "Pour moi? A piano, bien sür!"

With the correct answer given, the door swings open, and Zoë steps through to the bowl of tokens. Her hands rifle through the golden trinkets, rejecting a heart, a star, an airplane (though that one earns a giggle), until her left hand hits upon something with legs and a smoothly slanted top. Her fingers tighten around it, snatch it from the bowl.

Moments later, she's sauntered back to Kozue to deposit her prize into the other girl's hand.

It's a piano.

Leaning down, Zoisite hisses, "I have been playing this game for millennia, little girl," before straightening and clapping his manicured hands together in a seamless parody of girlish enthusiasm. "Bonne chance, Kozue-chan!"

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Moving with a slow purpose out from the dressing rooms - Michiru seemingly having changed in a handful of seconds. Caballero Haruka - the warrior, the gentleman. Michiru steps out from the rooms. La dama del mar. The woman with a feather in her hair - black, and with long threads, held across her brow with a band.

Creme ruffles crest the top of the dress, baring Michiru's shoulders. A ribbed blouse beneath said ruffles, baring her arms as well - a turqoise sash around the waist, and a dark skirt that reaches down to her ankles, criss-crossed at the hems with multicoloured lines. Each step brings with it a *tap*, the thick heels of her shoes resounding against the ground.

Slowly, she steps to the proper position to receive the token. And only a moment later, Haruka emerges from the slime. A breath catches in Michiru's throat, and she dips her head forward - feather bobbing perhaps a bit comically. But the intensity in her eyes was very real. And something in them softens.

Extending her hands out gently, as if collecting a piece of precious porcelin from the other, Michiru wraps her fingers around the token, and accepts it from Haruka. Not once do her eyes waver. Not until she takes the rose from her and turns, the skirt flouncing with the movement, a secret little smile gathering one or two more little bits of information beneath it.

It was her turn to collect the microphone, and Michiru brings it to her lips.

Not often does she sing - normally, violins sing for her. But her voice is clear, and trained.

The Rose of May. A quiet, almost mournful song - it sung of duty, it sung of battle. It sung of masks. Michiru's eyes flicker towards the announcer's stand, as she finishes with the last verse.

o/~ Led here by fate
No longer afraid.
So here now I lay~
My roses of May. o/~

With those last words, Michiru hands the microphone off to the next, her eyes leaving the stands to flicker over the crowd proper.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwCYHXRB50U

Rei grins brightly, waving off Ami's apologies, murmuring back with the same volume. "Don't be! If I hadn't fallen on my face and strung myself up then everybody else would be eating our dust. Besides, we're Sailor Senshi! We don't have a single thing to prove."

Truth be told..they're both responsible for their dragging position in the rankings. But who cares? As far as Rei's concerned, their skill is beyond reproach, and chance always plays a factor in this. At the end of the day, this is silly nonsense. If it weren't, then Rei wouldn't be wearing a sequined bear costume. That much she's completely sure of.

Then the spotlight falls on them...and the slime right after. How utterly infuriating.. Rei smiles and waves in the moment. She wants to flip everybody off, or march straight up to Touga's obnoxiously sculpted facade and spit in his eye, or both. One of the benefits of growing up under a prominent politician of a father that she well and truly despises is that she learned long ago to keep the lid on. It's still true, this is all silly nonsense. Easier to wave it off and knee a few strategic crotches in the weeks to come if they happen to float into her personal space.

Dignity is how you carry yourself, after all. The outfit is only as shameful as they accept it to be. And if most of the school disagrees, then it wouldn't be the first time that Rei Hino thought that everybody around her is an contemptible fool. Spite and anger is how petty hearts of darkness are born. The best response to an infantile display is to shrug it off completely, no?

All that being said, a part of her hopes that Touga gets up to some dirt sooner or later. How wonderful it would be to have a good reason to break that saturnine nose of his.

At least Usagi isn't here to see this. /That/ would be hard to live down.

Ami runs for it, and Rei's filled with pride. For all that her friend has been through so recently, she isn't letting this nonsense drag her down. It would be easy to assume that Ami Mizuno is a person that intellectualizes everything to a fault, yet here she is, charging through the barrier and cutting the Gordian Knot.

In no time at all, Ami returns, slimed and slimed again, and offers a well-slicked charm, shoving it into Rei's hands. She grins brightly, taking it without a flinch. She's a miko, after all. She's waded into far filthier swamps than this.

And then..she looks at the charm. The word is clearly marked..but that alone doesn't offer her much to go off of.

"DERRIERE!" So..cheerfully written.

Rei blinks..and glares..and stares.. and blinks. /Really? Seriously?...SERIOUSLY?.../ She closes her eyes, grins ruefully..her jaw clenching..

And in that moment, she remembers something. Something that's normally out of her well refined wheelhouse..but, well..she'd heard it was 'experimental.' That it 'pushed boundaries..' That had been enough for her to take a nibble, the anglerfish's light beckoning her into monstrous and misshapen jaws. She'd never..really known what to think of what she saw. Like the victim of a story of existential hero, whose hair had been shocked pure white by the inhumanity of visions never meant for mortal eyes. But in this moment..she recalled the words.

And so she sang.

"That isn't love...

Love isn't that..." Cough COUGH! She's a stickler for fidelity..

"I am in love, but I am not loved...

Definitely isn't love...

Derriere isn't love..." And there it is. Damn you, charm...

"I want to be loved, but I never seek it out...

I offer myself and throw my life away,

Looking neither left nor right, I will just earnestly,

Cheat, wheedle, interfere,

And trample down and kick strangers

And we get the hell out!

(And we get the hell out!)

And we get the hell out!

(And we get the hell out!)

And we get the hell out!

(And we get the hell out!)

And we get the hell out!!!

Even if I slip on a banana peel,

It's all for his sake anyway.

If anything, that is probably

A kind of loyalty



<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Over the Love - Florence and the Machine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSPOCVjla_4

Haruka gets a look during their return. For once tonight, its a nice one, Kozue being pleasantly surprised by his remark. She was used to the crowd going against her after all. It's what she wanted, and at the same time... didn't. Her feelings were complicated like that. And he was handsome enough to look at to boot. "And you would be...?"

There's a pregnant pause to give him time to respond before she turns her request for a name into an entirely different question, "...patient enough to make me glad I left?" Even her smile seems genuine "You're so cute when you're trying to be charming."

All smiles. That's the team of Zoë and Kozue. She watches Zoë take the hammer, looking over her to watch the handsome stranger of Haruka make their attempt. It turns into a sneer at Zoë's own statement, only looking at him out of the periphery, and yet still focusing most of her attention on him. "Only twice over? Why not make my repayment a trebled one, Zoë-chan? Wouldn't it be fitting for Ohtori's /principal/ pianist?"

And yet the disguised Heavenly King is gone, and Kozue watches, as the he expertly clangs the bell. Surprise does flicker in her eyes, that was worrisome, even in this state he was that strong? She doesn't take her eyes off of him as he returns, even when the girls are slimed.

She only turns away when the door of mystery is revealed, watching Zoë vanish with his limping gait towards the challenge. The riddle itself causes all the emotion to go out of her otherwise beautiful face, her affect flat as the Heavenly King answers it, and returns with the charm. As it's handed off, Kozue's smile doesn't return. In fact, she pales to the color of a ghost as he hisses into her ear. Hurriedly her mind whirls as it considers songs that feature the object prominently.

There was only one song she could think of off-hand, a Western song which she'd /never/ play, much less sing, except in private. This wasn't fun for her any longer.

Numbly she turns to look at the stage, contemplating running off it again, like she had when she was younger. Both hands clench, as the rough edges of the charm dig into her palm in one hand, her nails in the other.

She'd fled once off a stage, she'd fled again from Zoisite, the Heavenly King . She'd be damned if she would flee tonight, she decided to take the lesser humiliation.

"Millenia?" She finally states vacantly at first, her expression saying everything, he'd won this round, but she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of seeing himself victorious so early in their little feud, as some fire goes back into her voice, "If you think you've triumphed here, then let me show you exactly what a little girl is capable of."

Lifting her chin high, and tucking her shoulders back, she walks towards the stage like a dead woman, but with all of her dignity intact, as she calls out the name of the song without any sort of enthusiasm, "Over the Love by Florence and the Machine." It takes a while to load the song, where she's standing in silence, before breaking it to say, "Let's get this over with." She mutters to no one in particular.

When it finally loads with the percussive instrumentals she takes up the microphone in a single hand, before her other hand grips around it, joining it. Her voice comes out hoarsely, huskily at first with the prompt, before it levels off.

o/~ Ever since I was a child.
o/~ I've turned it over in my mind
o/~ I sang by the piano
o/~ Tore my yellow dress and
o/~ Crieddddd and criiieedddd and criiiieeeddd!

She's not the best vocalist, and her English is only passable, but despite her best efforts to keep her emotions in check, some sentiments still creep through, making it sound morose and subdued.

o/~ And I don't want to see what I've seen
o/~ To undo what has been done
o/~ Turn off all the lights
o/~ Let the morning come, come.

Despite the courage she's displaying by not fleeing from the performance, Zoisite definitely got trebled payback here.

<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Touga smirks a patrician's smirk right back down at Haruka, but he doesn't reply; there's not enough time, not with the busy narration act he needs to perform.

That, and he doesn't need to. Haruka can say what he wants, but only one of them was outperformed by an elementary schooler today, while the other has the crowd wrapped around his little finger. Here in the heart of his power, Touga is very secure indeed.

He announces the riddles and their answers, leads applause and laughter for those who choose slime and speed instead of cleverness and victory, and orchestrates the introduction of each songstress as well as their subsequent adulation, which is recorded in an applause-o-meter. This has been quite a variety show -- a real set of talents on display. Each song is backed by karaoke but also lights and even fireworks at appropriate moments, the Ohtori Audiovisual Club rising to the occasion.

Collectively: impressive.

It isn't surprising -- this /is/ Ohtori, after all. Even Nanami puts on an only slightly off-key show, dazzling the stage with a rendition of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have quite the reversal victory here... I present to you the winners of the second round, slime-and-all, Rei Hino and Ami Mizuno!"

The lights and confetti pour down, and onto each of their chests he -- chastely, though his very nearness risks intoxication -- fastens a beautiful crystal pin, one that bears the visage of a microphone with the head of the Ohtori rose crest.

He winds down the applause with a gesture.

"And the losers -- Nanami Kiryuu and Keiko Sonoda!"

Down comes the slime, and the magnificent ojou-sama laughter of someone expecting to laugh at someone else turns into a gurgle of dismay that her brother knows her friend's name. In some ways the slime is secondary.

The drums roll. "And now the moment you've all been waiting for. Combining the scores from the first event," they are projected on a scoreboard nearby, "And the second event," which appear underneath, "I give you your grand prize winners..."

Cymbols. Darkness. Spotlights.

"Mai Tokiha and Nori Ankou, you have won the Ohtori Circus Challenge!"

The earlier engine sound bursts into a triumphant roar as two cars, both American, both white and silver, both gleaming, burst through the tent walls to skid to a stop on the stage. They are both of them overflowing with red roses.

"And here's your prize -- for two girls who have displayed fleetness and strength, wisdom and courage -- you deserve worthy carriages to whisk you to your many future balls."

One license plate says ROSE RED while the other one says SNOW WHITE.

With a flick of his wrist, he tosses them keys (the keychains determining which goes to which car), apparently indifferent to the idea that they may not know how to drive (never mind the age legality question). The guys who drove them in hang around, though, a discretely helpful presence that can presumably get the vehicles wherever the girls want them to go.

The crowd screams its jealousy and delight.

"Remember, everyone," Touga calls over it, "The day is young! Get out there and enjoy the rest of our Cultural Festival! Mystery and mayhem await, and maybe, even--"

His smile gleams blindingly bright.