2017-06-14 - Réflexion: Juri vs. Shizuru, First Duel

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Title: Réflexion: Juri vs. Shizuru, First Duel

Juri and Shizuru face off in the first duel of the challenge bracket tournament. Shizuru goads her opponent into granting her victory, but it's a double-edged sword.


Shizuru Fujino, Juri Arisugawa, Anthy Himemiya, Kozue Kaoru, Kasagami Araki, Miki Kaoru (NPCed by Sayaka Miki)


Duel Arena

OOC - IC Date:

06-14-2017 - 01-26-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Duel Arena +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  The most forbidding feature of Ohtori's campus looms at the far rear of
  campus, but remains visible even at the main gate. It is an odd structure, a
  great white decagon that slopes upward, forming the support for a hulking
  jade pagoda. This pagoda, however, is made not of tile, but of living
  forest. A dark canopy of leaves forms a vaguely pyramidal roof, supported
  invisibly by the gnarled trees beneath. Though this arena is akin to a
  potted plant on a grand scale, it's hard not to see it as a single discrete

  Entrance to the arena is possible only through a single, grand gate. Bone
  white, the gate sprouts stylized marble wings at either corner, which arch
  up to form a frame for a three-meter diameter carving of a rose, its white
  petals worked so delicately they appear silken-soft. This gate is locked at
  all times, only permitting entry to those with the proper signet ring.

  Inside, a fairy-tale path of white stone guides a visitor through the
  graveyard darkness of the forest, until they reach the center, where a wide
  corkscrew of a stone staircase is driven into the soft earth. Ascending
  feels oddly effortless, though the steps are as identical as they are many.
  At the top is the duel arena, an uncanny place that feels as though it were
  hung from the sky. This stone-floored dueling field is rarely the same
  twice, changing according to the people and emotions that fill it.
<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The Dueling Arena, at sunset. Hidden on Ohtori's campus, protected from the ruin that afflicted most of the greenery here during the invasion, it continues to stand, unknown to most students and concealed by a dark secrecy that suits its strange edifices.

Shizuru Fujino, vice presdient of the Ohtori Student Council, is not the first to arrive today.

Her rose crest ring glints at her left hand as she steps across the threshold onto the arena, the white stone stretching out before her. The stairs are for those who do not know a simpler path. The castle above, however...

"My," Shizuru says, stepping forward. She's dressed in her school uniform, skirt and light shoes and perfectly white jacket and all. The only difference she's allowed is the epaulettes at her shoulders and the lavender cord down her left side, gathered at the breast.

"My," she repeats, shaking her head and shrugging lightly. "I do hope I haven't kept you waiting, Arisugawa-san." She steps across to her designated place--because of course she knows it--and turns around with a smile.

"I know how valuable your time is."

Juri is the only person Shizuru addresses right now, of course. Casually, she sets her hand out at her side, fingers half-curled. "Unless you're prepared to concede? It would certainly save us both a lot of effort." Shizuru speaks that way.. But she doesn't sound entirely bored.

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

Juri smirks, and runs her free hand through her luxurious red-gold curls.

"Spare me," she replies, her flippancy deceptive. "We both know that neither of us would be satisfied by such cowardice."

Her other hand is holding her favored sword, which hasn't seen the light of day in a very long time. At club she duels with a tool -- an implement, designed for sport fencing. But this is something else entirely. It sings, alive with sharpness. It gleams, well-tended even in repose. Its strength is evident at a glance.

It is, in other words, much like its owner, though any singing is confined to metaphor, in the glowing intensity of her eyes. Many other opponents would get nothing but a lazy glance, but this one she's taking seriously from the outset.

She takes a moment to glare up at that impossible castle, then back down to her opponent. "Let's get on with it," she suggests, surfacing with a flash of teeth, but not quite a grin. "Can't keep our audience waiting." With a sharp gesture of her chin, she refers less to the Engaged and Rose Bride, and more to the folks with opera glasses way out on an Ohtori parapet.

"After all," she remarks casually, "This is like an early finals. I doubt they'll get a better show in the whole tournament."

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Red fabric whispers across the smooth arena floor as the Rose Bride makes her stately approach, steps measured beneath the bell of her full skirt. With her she brings a breathless still, the sort that would doom sailors to long days adrift, which permits even the slightest of sounds to carry to the edges of the arena and all its occupants.

True to her title she has two roses gathered to her breast, both hands cupped around them so only gentle curls of amber and lavender show. They are fresh blooms, diagonal death wounds still dripping water from their stems, culled from her personal garden that very morning. The duels call for sacrifice and the Rose Bride obliges.

Her face is as calm as the absent winds, her eyes lowered to the beauty nestled between her palms. As she steps up first to Juri Arisugawa, then Shizuru Fujino, she is all demure deference.

That is, to any observers. Each duelist in turn experiences the intimacy of receiving a token from the girl who might one day belong to them. The lamb approaches the Lioness and offers a rose to match the sunset in her mane. The Rose Bride is the most daring of prey, breaching Juri's personal space to secure the bloom at her breast with no apparent flicker of fear in those downcast aquamarine eyes.

She glides to the Student Council Vice President with wordless reverence, and her fingers are deft with practice as they tuck the lavender rose's stem into place. The delicate aroma of her garden lingers as the Rose Bride herself does; only Shizuru is close enough to catch how the Bride's gaze goes to the skirt she wears, unusual for a duelist. Her face is blank, so very blank. Then she's away, keeping her pace ceremonial as she returns the entrance of the arena.

The Engaged awaits her there, tall and noble. Upon reaching Utena she turns, skirt sweeping behind, and takes her place by the pink-haired girl's side. She addresses the duelists in a soft voice:

"If the rose is knocked from your chest, you lose the duel." Pleasant, bland smile; pleasant, bland eyes. That windless calm abates with her words, as if the world releases a held breath.

COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa transforms into Amber Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Anthy Himemiya transforms into The Rose Bride!
COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino transforms into HiME Shizuru!
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa has cleared the initiative order.
COMBAT: A new initiative order has been generated! Please check it with +initiative.
<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

"Ah, wouldn't we?" Shizuru smiles back at Juri. It brings an air of disappointment as she sighs a moment later. Her own hair is ruffled only by the faint breeze up here, brown and straight, very unlike the luxurious red-gold across from her.

She's already looked at Juri's sword, of course; she's seen it before. Her own weapon is not in attendance; she has no sword at all, not even a practice weapon. All the better to project her aura.

While Juri glares upward, Shizuru keeps smiling over at her. The suggestion comes, and Shizuru dips her head. "Of course." A brief laugh, from there, as Shizuru doesn't bother looking to the parapet.

"How delightfully arrogant, Arisugawa-san. I expect nothing less of you. I'll be sure to give them a show."

But the Rose Bride has her own part to play; Shizuru watches her with Juri, taking in each detail that she can as she moves into her personal space, pins a rose there. But to her...

Shizuru is still, accustomed to being helped into finery, when the Rose Bride reaches her. She looks down curiously, with a lifted eyebrow, at the look down at her skirt. "Perhaps we'll be better friends soon... Himemiya-kun."

Shizuru glances to Anthy as she goes, watches her with Utena. That bland look energizes her, somehow. Shizuru looks towards Juri again. "Ah..."

Her hand already out, she closes her eyes, and her cords, hair, skirt all shift as if from a wind gathering all around her, the scent of ozone in the air as yellow lightning crackles about her hand until a red naginata, strangely technical with a long cord at the end, bursts into being in her hand.

A sigh.

"I wish you'd conceded. I'm not as good with a weapon as you are, Arisugawa-san." A helpless shrug, as she steps back into a ready stance, naginata set against an inevitable charge in both hands, now. "But perhaps you'll dance with me for a while regardless."

COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino has used But That's Not My Concern on Juri Arisugawa.
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa perfectly counters Shizuru Fujino's But That's Not My Concern, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!
Juri Arisugawa's Reverse ability activates!  Juri Arisugawa's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa's counterattack, Inevitable Charge, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shizuru Fujino!
<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Juri says nothing at all to the Rose Bride; she doesn't meet her eyes, but gazes steadily off into the distance behind her -- which is to say, at Shizuru. Her free hand briefly clenches into a fist, then slowly relaxes as Anthy Himemiya retreats.

Tossing her curls, she briefly gives her opponent a salute, then -- as expected -- closes straight in. That naginata has a reach advantage; she slides straight up alongside the pole, fearlessly close, and only once she's right in close -- close enough for the two of them to taste each other's scent -- does she speak.

"I'm not as good a dancer as you are," she replies with a low, humorless chuckle, continuing her advance, trying to force Shizuru to retreat from all her momentum. "After all, you're doing this backwards and in heels."

Abruptly, she flicks out with the only thing left between them, their erstwhile chaperone -- the flat of her sword. It's a gorgeous strike designed not to sever roses, but rather, to numb limbs. Naginatas are a lot easier to wield with two hands.

COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa has used Poetry in Motion on Shizuru Fujino.
COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino narrowly dodges Juri Arisugawa's Poetry in Motion, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Juri Arisugawa is Psyched!
Shizuru Fujino's Fade ability activates!  Shizuru Fujino's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The Rose Bride surely hears Shizuru's comment as she retreats, despite her unmarred serenity. The aqua tassels at her shoulders flutter as the Vice President summons her weapon. To Juri she reflects indifference. Both women are welcome to project whatever they wish onto the submissive canvass of the Bride's reserve.

From her remove, the Rose Bride can watch the clash of finesse and ferocity with bare flickers of her big eyes, and often they are hidden by glare of sunset across her glasses. She folds her now-empty hands in front of her and attends to her Engaged and the duel, in that order.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru maintains utter relaxation, from the point at which Juri makes a fist to the point at which the utterly sublime fencer charges straight for her. Shizuru even nods at the salute as Juri comes, holding out her weapon and finally narrowing her eyes enough to judge where she's likely to be.

Past her guard before Shizuru can counter, Juri rushes, gets a raised eyebrow as she's right up close enough to speak.

"Heh," Shizuru answers with a little grin, "So you do appreciate me, Arisugawa-san." It cracks just for a moment her bored facade, the sting a little more exciting. Already he's stepping back, though.

The sword flicks out, and Shizuru lets go her naginata with that arm as she steps backward, forced back enough that her shoes click against the stone each way. But she shifts in the process; the flat rings out, but Shizuru's angle makes it the blade further up her arm, where it gives her only pain rather than debilitation.

"But you're such a good leader," Shizuru points out, hopping back quickly more to compensate for Juri's sheer momentum. Her hand goes back onto her weapon, and she swings out once, twice, three times, getting into a rhythm down up mid up down mid like the dance they're talking about.

Her swings go for the rose... but they go for the body, too. Arms, legs, torso, Shizuru isn't picky. Whatever wins, whatever uses up more of her opponent's energy.

"It's so rare to see you spare a kind word that way," she says with a smile.

COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino has used Bloody Waltz on Juri Arisugawa.
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa narrowly braces Shizuru Fujino's Bloody Waltz, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Shizuru Fujino is Psyched!  Juri
Arisugawa's Block ability activates!  Juri Arisugawa's Parry ability activates!  Diversion and Exhausted applied to Juri
<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

As Shizuru launches her counterattack, Juri's forward momentum slows, then reverses, like a pendulum. She's on the defensive now, and while she matches the naginata stroke for stroke, it is not without cost -- her breathing quickens from both exertion and excitement, and she smiles, too.

Orange roses twirl; golden sparkles explode.

But she can't help herself -- she loves dueling like this for its own sake, which is its own kind of sin, and this exchange is distractingly pleasant, precisely the same as a long intricate volley in table tennis.

Back -- and forth.

"I'd never dare lead senpai anywhere," she quips cheerfully, the honor a very mild insult as to age, while she's shifting her stance and going on the advance again. Each slice is a duel-ending threat this time, and they seem to both linger in the air, these long, perfect sweeps, and yet pass by in the blink of an eye. The beat of two hearts.

"And I hate false modesty. You may not fight as a sport," the sword goes left! "But only a fool would think you lack commitment to the art," the sword goes right!

"And I am no fool -- and no man, to underestimate you so routinely." She knows your game, Shizuru.

COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa has used Unstoppable Juri on Shizuru Fujino.
COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino narrowly dodges Juri Arisugawa's Unstoppable Juri, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Juri Arisugawa is Psyched!
Shizuru Fujino's Fade ability activates!  Shizuru Fujino's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Enjoying the cat fight, Miki?"

From the wall just beyond the silent bells is an observer, leaning over the stone parapet. Fingertips playing upon it in a rhythm unfamiliar to the musician's ears.

She's currently in her school uniform. Some would argue it's because she didn't have a chance to change. The unkempt nature of her blouse and skirt seems to prove that.

She doesn't have her opera glasses in her hands. Even if it'd give her a better view, perhaps she wants to watch this one with her eyes wide open. And yet her attention is on a figure in her periphery just as much as it is the fight ahead of them.

"You should be. After all, when two women fight, it's always to the benefit of the men watching."

Her tone is steady enough that one might second guess the sarcasm.

You have invited Kasagami Araki to +join or +summon you.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Back -- and forth.

Shizuru's ring glints in the setting sun's light as she strikes again, ducks downward, moves forward. Rarely does she do much of anything like this in this way. But does she enjoy it...?

Maybe she enjoys the conversation.

"How dutiful. What a fine young girl Arisugawa-san is," Shizuru says, her approval dripping with playful condesencion as she plays the role she's given. But that's a feint of its own, meant to make it less clear how pressed she is by this new assault. Each slash could cut this short, each passing between one of their heartbeats. Are they together, now...?

Left, Shizuru ducks right. Right, Shizuru shifts to the side and lets the blade hack across her other arm and spare her rose entirely, brown hair sliced and left fluttering in the breeze.

"My, Arisugawa-san," Shizuru says, darting back and putting up her weapon again. "You make me sound so deceptive. Whatever will I do...?"

She feints forward once, then again. "Maybe I will be a little honest. I have some interest in fighting," she admits...

She swings left suddenly, and the head of her naginata snakes out, curling as a metal serpent to coil about Juri and squeeze out of nowhere.

"...And maybe I have reason to believe you'd appreciate being treated as a man by a girl."

COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino has used Love's Chains on Juri Arisugawa.
COMBAT: Without the Barrier flag, only a melee attack can counter a melee attack. Please counter with the correct range of attack,
or with an attack with the Barrier flag.
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa narrowly counters Shizuru Fujino's Love's Chains, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Juri Arisugawa is Quipped!
Juri Arisugawa's Reverse ability activates!  Juri Arisugawa's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa's counterattack, Unfulfilled Juri, partially gets through, doing 5 Fatigue damage to Shizuru Fujino!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami of course, is here. Not in the Arena, but in the usual observation spot. She has a drink, a table and chair to kick her feet up on, and an opera monocle to peer out on the action. She's grinning wide, watching their back and forth. Truly, it's an amazing sight. And like every Duel she's witnessed, heart pounding!

"I am. Very, very much so!" Gleefully chirps Kasagami Araki. When that head of Shizuru's naginata lashes out? She whistles. "Ooh, what a technique! I'll have to be careful. Tricky one, our VP-chan! Still, not even holding a sword? That's just unfair. Can you really call that a Duel?" Comes the Disciplinary Executive in a lightly mocking tone. She pats her family sword, leaned up against her table, affectionately.

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

Juri's held close to Shizuru by the naginata's blade, which is not really metal, she's coming to realize. Even as it raises bruises on her torso, she admires its fluidity, and that of its wielder. For a moment her eyes widen with surprise, perhaps even a certain innocent interest (as she is not often surprised in battle).

And then they narrow.

Like slits.

Like the walls of a garbage compactor.

"Hmph," she grunts, tossing her hair into Shizuru's face -- but despite that splendid ojou maneuver, her arrogant disdain sounds halfhearted. Like she's fighting another instinct. "Treated as a man," she repeats, while spinning with the squeeze, unwinding herself from the naginata like a kite from a string.

But she doesn't leave. She stays right in Shizuru's face.

"Never on the worst day of my life have I wanted to be a man," she growls in her face. "I think you're the one who wants to treat a girl that way -- leave me out of your fantasies."

And then she strikes again, even more viciously this time -- a single blow rather than many, a sort of swordsmanship tour de force. If a videographer had to pick a single slash to record the history of fencing with...

...it wouldn't be this one, because she used her elbow, corps-a-corps, a one-inch-punch variety, right at the other girl's gut.

COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa has used Froissement Croisé on Shizuru Fujino.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Miki Kaoru's like the Alanis Morissette song. No matter the verse, he's got one hand on his stopwatch. What varies is what's in the other.

Today it's opera glasses. His stopwatch hand doesn't halt the timer. Maybe the message is that Kozue doesn't rate a measurement. Maybe it is that whatever Miki was timing, it damn well wasn't 'how long until Kozue shows up.' Or maybe there is no message and he's can't stop it because he's timing something else at the moment. Whatever the case, he is mentally keeping track of time as regards his sister.

"You're late," he points out, eyes still on the fight. "If you don't want to come to watch these, you don't have to." His lips tighten. "Are you sure these duels are benefitting anyone?"

Kozue notices no reaction at all from Miki at the shower of sparkles that kicks out of Juri's attack, or the dramatic counter to the wrapping attack. Miki is a low-affect sort of boy, but he is not a doll either. He should have reacted.

Where is he looking with the opera glasses, if not the fight?

COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino narrowly counters Juri Arisugawa's Froissement Croisé, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Juri
Arisugawa is Psyched!  Tangle applied to Shizuru Fujino!
COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino's counterattack, Backwards And In Heels, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Juri Arisugawa!
<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Kozue's eyelashes flutter. So Shizuru went there. She shouldn't be surprised, but she still is a little.

That would be dangerous ground even for her. One she's willing to tread on, but not without consideration of risk.

And yet for all the subtleties of the duel- Kasagami is focusing on technique instead. "Kasagami... in a world where women are often considered the subtlest of knives..."

Kozue's head dips as if disappointed by the realization, "...you're a truncheon."

Given that Juri is out there, and who's talking- it may be the pot calling the kettle black.

There's no click of a reset button, or a stop of the watch. And the smile Kozue has upon her expression when Miki points out that she's late is unpleasant. As if to indicate she's late due to something he wouldn't like.

"Aren't they?" Her lips press together into a hint of a smirk, before she cants her head in the Rose Bride's direction, "If you could win the Rose Bride over with your stunning rendition of Gaspard de la Nuit, wouldn't you have done so already?"

Her eyes return to the duel in time to watch the Juri's swordsmanship tour de force. But it's not her technique she's interested in. It's her response to Shizuru's challenge... and how Shizuru will manage her own rejoinder. Will she do it? Will she actually do it?

She wonders what form it will take.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Meanwhile, someone who is not at all unlike a doll watches the duel from her privileged vantage, polite demeanor and expression unchanging.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru keeps a number of tricks to herself, when she can; it's a part of hr strategy. Now though she's focused for a moment on that surprise, on that interest. It's not something she typically sees out of Juri. It makes her curious.

...But the narrowed eyes of the other girl bring Shizuru a widening, wicked smile as she looks at her opponent. She savors each instant of that reaction, delivered to her just before hair in red-gold. She can hear the half-heartedness of Juri's disdain.

"No?" she asks, sweetly, pulling back her weapon and reforming it as Juri spins loose. It's too close for her to properly use it, but that doesn't matter to her right now. Instead she watches that growl of Juri's. "Ara. My fantasies, is it? What a rich imagination you have, Ari--"

A swing for her stomach; Shizuru shifts to bring her weapon into the way, but it doesn't work, doubling over the older girl and forcing her back with a decidedly inelegant cough. Her rose is at least safe for that moment as she stumbles back, quickly shaking her head, hair flipping back with the motion as she lifts her weapon between her and her opponent.

"Maybe I do. Ah, how shameful of me; not a pure girl at all. But maybe it's not me you take issue with. Maybe..." Shizuru feints forward, casually.

"Maybe it's that I'm not her saying these things."

COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino has used Casual Conversation on Juri Arisugawa.
COMBAT: Juri Arisugawa perfectly dodges Shizuru Fujino's Casual Conversation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Pardon me for actually wanting to win, Kozue-chan! I know, I know, how vulgar of me. A true bludgeon on the heads of graceful maidens such as yourself. But don't worry, I'll be certain to make you flower girl for my wedding to the Rose Bride." Offers Kasagami in turn, mocking and straightforward as ever. Still, her good eye narrows beneath the lens of the opera glass. A sigh. "Our VP really does hit below the belt, doesn't she? A bit crass, and that's coming from me of all people."

Sparks from Juri's strikes, and Shizuru's swing in turn, has her whistling. "Oooh, brutal! Finally starting to look like a real Duel. Come on, hit harder!" Yells Kasagami, despite knowing the pair can't hear her, like some sort of soccer hooligan. Or Duel Hooligan, in her case. She doesn't look back, but finally Miki gets a word from the woman.

"See, that's your problem! You should enjoy these kinds of things if you're going to participate! Of course they benefit someone! The winner, obviously. And everyone participating. Because when you're in a Duel, the only thing that matters is who's stronger, more skilled, and just a little more lucky that day than their opponent. Nothing else matters, until the first rose falls. I really don't see how this doesn't get even your blood pumping!"

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

Juri's angry now, but even so, she senses the feint and moves with the followup. "Maybe you've said too much," she murmurs.

No, that was a hiss.

Was infuriating her a good strategy or a bad one? Is this hot fury, making her careless and overextended, or icy rage, perfecting her strikes, veiling her in impenetrable steel?

The fact that it's almost impossible to tell speaks not to Shizuru's lack of social awareness, but rather to Juri's general lack of expressiveness. She only really has one setting, and pissed off is pissed off is pissed off. Look not to that stone-hard face for subtlety.

"I can't imagine," she lashes out, with both tongue and sword, "That your future husband would appreciate his fiance speaking in such a vulgar manner."

This time she uses the blade, not the elbow. This time it's worth catching on camera. The one gorgeous, glorious perfect strike.

It is only enhanced by the look in her eyes. Chin up, shoulders back, core tight, and think -- murder.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Juri Arisugawa has used La Belle on Shizuru Fujino.
COMBAT: Shizuru Fujino counters Juri Arisugawa's La Belle with The Last Word, initiating a BEAMWAR! Please see +help beamwar for
further information.
BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino and Juri Arisugawa's attacks collide. Juri Arisugawa has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the first of three rounds! Now accepting new BEAMWAR entrants in this round only!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Miki starts to take the opera glasses down when Kozue correctly guesses, instinctively trying to hide his voyeurism. But no, that's not the way. He's going to play these games now, and he's going to win. Still, the flinch is obvious to Kozue.

"I don't play piano for such a reason as that," he says, genuinely offended though also changing the subject. Who would play for the sake of a crush?

He does look down from the opera glass to glance at Kasagami when she insults his twin. Kasagami is in a sense opening a different front against Miki's enemy at the moment, but it still rankles him. It's only a moment later that he catches onto a problem. "You would marry Hime--" He corrects himself. "The Rose Bride? If you won?"

Glancing back at Kozue, he does a double-take at the state of her attire. He's in enough of a mood at this point to let her see him sigh.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Maybe. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

It's quiet, but Shizuru hears it, continues smiling in the face of all of that anger. Was it a good strategy? She doesn't know. It's just true that Juri is almost impenetrable even to her own social senses. There's no way to tell until it's all done. No way to tell until the battle is over.

It's almost exciting. Shizuru's eyes are as dead as always in the moment though, not quite bored but distant.

Shizuru starts to say more immediately, and pauses as Juri swings out at her, slipping back quickly foot after foot... But as she moves, she hears what Juri says.

Her eyes widen sharply, in perhaps the only true surprise she's shown to most of the Councl.

They narrow just as quickly, as Shizuru grits her teeth and slams her weapon towards Juri's, blade to blade, her arms crackling with yellow light again as if from the earth beneath, to meet her opponent.

Her entire demeanor radiates anger. "So," she says, sounding utterly calm, "You've heard about him, have you? Ah... I thought I could keep that private. How unfortunate."

Her words are calm, but her face isn't; something mad slips into her gaze, beneath the distant look.

Shizuru pushes forward.

BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino has placed her bid! Juri Arisugawa still needs to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

If Juri were Kasagami, she'd grin like a demon as they go into a blade lock. If she were Touga, she'd murmur something devastating. If she were Shizuru, maybe her inner demons would rise into the windows of her soul, too.

But she's not.

Her heart may be a shattered mirror but it's also that of an athlete -- of a competitor. Her stance lowers -- her grip strengthens -- and she strains, her whole body a titanium cord, the ultimate expression of one kind of strength. Tirelessly honed muscles, and absolute precise control over them, may not be as popular a perfection on this campus or even in this arena as certain other ascents, but it is hers.

And she doesn't flinch from the sudden power on display, the power of that wild gaze, the power crackling around her opponent.

And when she speaks, it isn't a ploy to win. Indeed, her eyes are wide, surprised once more.

"So it's true... Tenjou isn't the only Engaged on this platform."

Yeah, confessing that she just got Shizuru to admit to something she'd only suspected is probably not a good path to victory. It just... pops out of her mouth, almost guilelessly.

Innocence can be cruel.

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

"Of course you don't." Her fingers stop playing upon the stonework- as she turns herself around, leaning with her hip against the wall, long legs crossing at the ankles, "It's more that she won you over that way. You're not so naive as to think she learned your song-" The your is pointed, instead of our- "-by coincidence."

Her smile is quite patronizing, "Not after you made it quite clear that you're someone who can fight... like us."

But Kasagami is speaking and she looks briefly over her shoulder, "Aren't you counting the skins of raccoon dogs before they've been caught?" Kozue murmurs sweetly to Kasagami, "But let's say you're right- I do have some ideas for the floral arrangements."

And while Kasagami is distracted checking for belladonna would be the perfect time for a light trip down several flights of stairs.

However, Miki reacts to Kasagami in a way that causes an internal smile- her fingers beginning to play on the stonework anew, her expression impish at the coming light joke, "What do you think Miki? Lilies? White?"

Soon enough though it's the murderous advance of Juri against the cold wall of ice that is Shizuru that draws her eyes back to her periphery.

She wasn't going to do it...

But that didn't mean there wasn't something to be learned.

"Maybe that pair would appreciate if I set up a private room for them to retire to after..."

She says in a light whisper, inaudible to the other observers. Not even a trace of a jest.

"...for a rematch of a different sort."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki lowers her glasses, just for a moment, to peer back at Miki. There's silence, and slowly, a cheshire grin crawls up her mouth. "Would I!? Bold question. I did just say that, didn't I? What a serious question when we're all up here having fun!" Then, a casual shrug and toss of her shoulder as she goes back to watching. "Or, I am, anyway."

A small chuckle. "Tell you what! Since I happen to be in a generous mood, I'll make you a deal. And let's be a little hypothetical here, because I've never seen you fight...let's just say you and I end up as opponents. If, somehow, during that duel you manage to make me get excited, I'll answer your question. Make me cry, make me shout in anger, in surprise, even in bone-chilling pain! Anything from a cool, calm, collected guy like you, and I'll answer any two questions you'd like. How's that sound? Even if you lose, you can gain something over me! You don't get chances like that often, now do you? And all out of the kindness of my heart!" Shriveled and greedy as it may be.

A wink. "Because people cool as ice need to burn every once in a while. Let loose. Go wild and let out everything they're bottling up. It's good for you, don't you know, Miki-kun? And I'll bet whatever's inside of you might even give me a run for my money!"

Kasagami huffs, even if she's suddenly brushing her drink back slightly. Just in case. She wouldn't put it past a certain Kozue to be that underhanded. Her brow twitches. "I'm just speaking inevitabilities. And please. Give me red roses any day." Pause. "And it better not be anywhere near the color of Touga's hair, or you're fired." Shudder.

But then she's distracted by the clashing Duelists. That drink falls from the table, and she's over to the lip of the viewing area, one foot up, dangerously leaning out. "Now THIS is what I was waiting for!" Comes Kasagami, body tense in utter suspense.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

There is a certain... call it lack of slackness, rather than tension, to the way the Rose Bride holds her shoulders as she watches the clash of two wills. She knows the weapons to be secondary, regardless of the flair of their wielders. Soon the outcome will be decided, the bracket advanced. Soon she will be a critical step closer to knowing who will challenge her Engaged.

Utena is close enough to see her eyes narrow fractionally, but probably doesn't notice. It is a small thing.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru rarely shows much real feeling. She rarely feels it. But this... This brings memory. This brings some of the closest things she comes to that. And she lunges forward with the strength of those feelings in her arms, regardless of the cuts she's already sustained defending her rose.

Shizuru might contest whether she has a heart, but as she stares at Juri, it is a mirror as well, her eyes reflecting surprise as much as they show anything else besides that strange, cracking feeling behind.

This is the way it could shatter. In here...

It pops out of Juri's mouth, what she says, and it stings the older young woman. She dips her head briefly and starts laughing.

"How foolish of me. Yes, you're correct. Was it my recent absence that gave me away? Either way, it becomes terribly scandalous that I'm fighting for another Engagement. And I'm not even wearing my other ring."

"You really got me. I wonder how I'll make it up to you?" She shoves forward suddenly, stepping as sparks fly between their weapons, heedless of those that reach her face.

BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino has placed her bid! Juri Arisugawa still needs to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Juri can't keep her eyes off Shizuru -- she's transfixed by what she sees behind those eyes. But there's something to be seen in her own, too. That roused anger, certainly, but there's more to be had on that plate. Sorrow... and maybe just the slightest taste of fear.

The Arisugawas are wealthy and powerful as well. An arranged marriage is not at all out of the question. It's brutally easy to imagine their roles reversed.

She shakes her head, curls ruffling over her shoulders. No -- no -- she has to... focus.

Shizuru laughs and Juri growls.

The Fencing Captain steps straight into the sparks, bringing her greater height and strength fully to bear at last. She feels the world narrow to just herself and her blade, and it's such a relief to not have to deal with anything else that it crashes over her like a cool wave on a hot beach.

"Sounds like you really need a miracle -- but you won't find it -- here!"

And she heaves.

BEAMWAR! Juri Arisugawa has placed her bid!
BEAMWAR! Juri Arisugawa rallies, fiercely pushing back Shizuru Fujino! Juri Arisugawa has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino takes 16 damage! Juri Arisugawa takes 5 Fatigue damage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the third of three rounds! No longer accepting any more BEAMWAR entrants!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"No," Miki says, with a quiet zeal quite unlike the reaction Kozue must have hoped for. "I don't think it was a coincidence at all."

And what colors, for the wedding of the King and Rose Bride?

"Doesn't she have the right to choose?" he answers accusingly. "Won't you even let a gardener pick the flowers for her own wedding?" He takes a certain satisfaction in how easily they make taking the high ground, and how well he thinks of her feelings. It comforts some doubts he had. He doesn't make his meaning plainer to Kasagami, though he knows Kozue will need no hints. He doesn't look at her as he replaces the opera glasses.

He looks at the fight, this time. He can't help but feel elated to see Juri winning, instinctively. She is his senpai and his friend, his tutor and most frequent sparring partner. But his more calculating side, which he is attempting to foster, hopes she is defeated here somehow. Perhaps he could defeat Shizuru, though he doesn't place good odds on it. He knows very well exactly how often he can beat Juri.

It doesn't matter which way he hopes; it won't affect the outcome. So why does he feel guilty either way.

"Juri-senpai," he comments softly.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru doesn't largely want to look away from Juri; as they clash, she uses her arms, her hands, her wrists to sense movements of their clash. She uses her eyes to take in anger, and sorrow... And fear. What does it all mean? She can only guess.

But it's like air to a woman of few strong feelings like Shizuru... Or like oxygen to fire. She watches Juri shake her head. She smiles, but this time it's a wicked thing, a smirk. She can guess this. She knows the Arisugawa name.

The Captain growls at her, and Vice President has two hands to Juri's one but nevertheless is smaller and not so strong, a more delicate combatant. "Haha--"

Juri heaves, and Shizuru stumbles back a moment, the blade coming perilously close to her rose as she recovers herself. "Won't I?" she asks, hollowly, except that question is not oxygen but oil to this fire. She looks tired, her arms exhausted, but she still looks angry, and she still looks strangely distant again, a manic combination that invites reprisal, asks for it.

"I'd better. You know how it is. Women in our positions..." She clicks her tongue. "And you know how far I'll go to claim that miracle."

Her weapon scrapes noisily, awuflly against Juri's, "But you'd know all about doomed hope, wouldn't you? Honestly... It's pathetic." She shoves, sliding to try to slip past Juri's guard for a final strike at the rose--

"And we both know it!"

BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino has placed her bid! Juri Arisugawa still needs to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Juri Arisugawa [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

If only she could stay there forever, in the land of blades. Blades have never hurt Juri; she is their master, never their slave. She can read them easily, and their wielders, too. She can feel Shizuru's strain nearly as much as her own, and fizzes with it, down every nerve ending. She knows about the attempted slide almost before her opponent does, and moves to react automatically.

'Women in our positions...'

Her gaze flickers.

'Doomed hope...'

Her lips twist out of their simple hard line, which had, in its way, emulated a razor itself.

'We both know it!'

"SHUT UP!" Juri snaps, her face no longer just murderous but broken. "YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!"

And to end this -- to end it now -- to end it by any means necessary, no matter the risk -- to end the agony of being in the presence of this dark mirror for one second longer -- she doesn't spring out of the blade tangle, which would be the smart move, the safe one -- but keeps bearing down, straight between Shizuru's arms.

Orange and purple petals fly...

...as the bells begin to peal.

BEAMWAR! Juri Arisugawa has placed her bid!
BEAMWAR! Shizuru Fujino rallies, her The Last Word exploding through Juri Arisugawa's La Belle for a total of 106 Fatigue damage! Shizuru Fujino is victorious!
BEAMWAR! Juri Arisugawa is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Heh." Kozue doesn't seem particularly surprised by his sudden zeal, "You're hoping that it means she adores you. My adorable big brother. That she's looking for you to liberate her from her cage. And of course she'd be grateful to her liberator." There's a distinct pause before her voice becomes low and dangerous, "But what if she wasn't?"

Perhaps she's hoping for her indignation to build up. Perhaps. Will he change them to the Rose Bride again at the last moment?

"Would you still be happy for her- if she wouldn't have you, her savior? If she wouldn't play for you anymore?"

The back and forth clash between the hollow existence of the Vice President and the unfulfilled one of the Treasurer is reflected in her eyes with every flash of sparks. "If she'd just been using you all along?"

And then there's Juri's final shout, her desperate advance to end this blade lock. Petals fly- bells peal...

... and she can't look away.

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

Juri's sword drives Shizuru's rose straight to the ground, but not before her own begins to scatter. It happens almost too fast to see, but the Duelists know. The truth of the timing is engraved on both their hearts.

"Feh," she acknowledges, a wry smirk twisting her lips but in no way expressing happiness. "I did underestimate you, senpai... I didn't realize how much you were like him."

Head held high, she walks towards the stairs (because she will die, actually die, before having to share the elevator with Shizuru right now). "Congratulations."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki lets out a long, long sigh of disappointment. She'd hoped that Miki would play, and yet, it seems she's struck a nerve. Or perhaps, a gold mine. Something she'll hold on to for later, just in case. She forces a smile. It's almost ugly. Shadows fall on her good side, burnt skin made all the more apparent as she leans back just a bit.

"What an irrelevant question, Miki-kun! Choices are only reserved for the strong, and for those that grasp for a choice despite whatever else Fate might decide to throw in their way! And from what I've seen, well...anyone who'd be willing to offer their hand so easily on a fight between two people, with no ability to change the outcome doesn't have strength or desire. Pathetic, really." Huffs Kasagami with a shake of her head. She couldn't think of what might be going on in the two Kaoru's heads half the time. But at least for one of them, she's getting a small idea of why they're in the fight.

Or at least, she thinks so. But the thought is scattered even as the rose on Juri's chest is torn asunder, a second before Shizuru's. Kasagami lets out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.

"...Beautiful." Mumbles Kasagami Araki entirely to herself. One hand is on her chest. Her breathing slowly returns to normal as bells ring.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

There are things that Shizuru can feel in a duel like this; the strain in her muscles, on her bones, for instance. Though often she relates to the world at a remove, these aches touch on the edges of her awareness. They're pleasant, in their own way. But she has questions. She has a need here.

There is unabashed hunger in Shizuru's expression as she speaks her words, as she sees that hrd line twist into something else. She says her last--

There's a scream in her face for it, and Shizuru exults in it, the brown-haired young woman staring back with red eyes. Broken. She doesn't know anything. She looks in manic, fascinated satisfaction.

But she doesn't let herself be lost in that feeling; she keeps moving, and as Juri bears down, Shizuru bears down too. Her rose hits the ground on Juri's sword.

But Shizuru knows, and she begins to calm, putting on the same expression as before except for the flush in her cheeks of exertion... And the interest in her eyes.

"Ah, is that so?" she asks, leaning casually on her weapon. "So vicious... Arisugawa-san. Isn't it lucky that the two of us are so little alike?"

She smiles. "Thank you. You were wonderful."

Shizuru is content to stay here in her victory for a little while longer... And catch her breath.

But her eyes flicker over to the audience.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Petals scatter, and the Rose Bride blinks in sync with this final mutilation of her precious flowers.

Then the bells peal, and the Bride inclines her head, eyes lidded. In this motion she is as ceremonial as she was at the duel's inception. She maintains this obeisance for the span of a held breath -- not to either victor or defeated, but to the duels themselves. When her chin lifts again, aquamarine eyes study Shizuru.

After a beat, she says, "Congratulations, Fujino-senpai." She looks back to the gleaming arena floor and the rose remains dotting its surface before following her Engaged away. They take the long way down, as is their way, though they pause to give the fallen Lioness the privacy of a good lead.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Miki looks levelly at Kasagami. "Are you sure you have that right, Araki-senpai? It would be harder to stop you from getting excited." It's always more harsh when the quiet one insults you. But Miki can't quite let that lash land clean either. "Besides," he adds. "My teacher says I've gotten a lot more passionate when playing. I don't need you to help me."

Miki stands up abruptly, as if unable to endure Kozue's ridiculousness while seated. "You think everyone's like you," he accuses. "Himemiya-san isn't like that at all. She's nice. She wouldn't even understand what you're saying about her! She's..."

Miki falls silent as rose petals of two colors fly. Kasagami finishes his sentence in a way he would not have. "Beautiful."

"The Vice President," he breathes. "She beat... Juri-senpai." He won't have to face her... but he'll have to face someone who could beat her.

But it wasn't a fair fight. She had some secret to hurt Juri with... a fiance? He'll ask later. Much later probably, when they're exhausted from practice and it can just slip out. It can be hard to talk to Juri.

But Shizuru couldn't do that to him. The person he's preoccupied with will be right there watching. Hoping for her freedom.

Before leaving, he faces the duelling arena directly. "Juri-senpai," he says. "You were strong."

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

Passionate. When playing.

Does Himemiya really make him believe that?

Passionate- when playing.

There's perhaps this sort of faint unease there. She's not certain what to make of it.

Passionate when playing.

The kind of things people say to a pianist to sound like they know what they're talking about. That they're artistic. That they're an expert.

For just a short moment there's nothing upon Kozue's expression discernible as she stares out upon the dueling arena.

But then Miki's reaction is exactly the sort she expected. Her head dips as if Miki said something dreadfully naive to her, and her lips curl, before her neck turns just enough that he can see one eye fully, and part of another, "The fact that you think she's different-"

Juri's comment causes her lashes to flutter, before Shizuru's rejoinder and insincere thanks turns her attention back for a moment, interrupting that thought. Before she finally allows herself to breathe. Then turns herself back around fully, her backside pressed against the stonework.

And then her eyes are askance upon Kasagami, "-and you, that she's pathetic-" And now her eyes are neither on Kasagami nor Sayaka, but straight ahead, as if it's to be interpreted as a challenge to both of them, "-proves that she's better off in my care after all."

Pushing off the stonework, she wiggles her fingers in this insincere wave only after she's walked past towards the long stairwell, "But I'll prove that to both of you in the dueling arena."

She has no fear about walking down the stairs with her back turned to them. She's halfway down when she finally rakes her hand through her hair and says mildly nervously, "I didn't think she'd willingly match herself up against Arisugawa-senpai in the first round. And then not even..."

As she considers the implications of this, in what stake the Vice President has in this in her downwards descent, she adds- "What a terrifying woman..."