2017-09-01 - Beauté: Miki v. Kasagami, First Duel

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
09-01-2017 - 02-14-2017
Beauté: Miki v. Kasagami, First Duel

Valentine's Day, and there's a duel in the sky. Kasagami defeats Miki, advancing to the finals of the challenge bracket to face Utena. In the aftermath, Miki asks Sayaka out.


Kasagami Araki, Miki Kaoru, Sayaka Miki, Anthy Himemiya, Shizuru Fujino, Utena Tenjou


Ohtori Dueling Arena

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

Butterflies ripple in Kasagami's stomach as she passes through the Gate to the Arena. The Duel with Shizuru was a close won thing, and has only underscored just how strong her fellow Duelists are. A smile might sit on her face, and confidence is in her every move. But she knows not to underestimate any one of her fellow Councilors now.

Even her opponent tonight. Maybe especially her opponent tonight. Up the winding staircase she goes, and the falling sun casts oranges and reds across her form. A large silhouette stretching down the length of the Arena when she gets to the top. Running a hand through her hair as she steps into the Dueling Arena proper, she reaches into her pocket. Pulling out a pocket watch, she stares at the photo within. A small smile as familiar faces peering back.

"You've come this far, Kasagami. Don't blow it." She mutters to herself as she stretches and pats the hilt of her sword. Mentally psyching herself up, images of her friends and lovers flash through her mind. Her stance grows a little more steady.

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


Ohtori Middle School hallway, between fifth and six period.

Miki Kaoru's locker overflows with chocolate, and it's piled on his desk too -- the piano looks like some kind of cupidic shrine -- but he's left it all behind.

"Sayaka-san... I know this is really last minute, and it's Valentine's Day..."

Uncertain and sweet is a good look on Miki Kaoru, blessing his cheeks with a slight flush and his eyes with a hopeful shimmer. It isn't quite that simple, though -- whatever the nerves running up and down his skinny frame, his delicate voice has an edge of mystery to it, and there's eagerness tucked into the corner of his smile.

"I was wondering if you'd... do me a favor? Please? You see, I have a competition today. It would really mean a lot to me if I had someone there to cheer me on..."



Miki Kaoru takes the stairs two at a time, stopping every so often with a click of his heels, to turn and graciously offer Sayaka a hand up the last few steps prior -- equal parts gentleman hero rushing towards the field of battle, and excited golden retriever. She can see the way he slows down for the final ascent, though, as he's about to pass out of the wings, and onto the stage of his destiny.

His shoulders straighten, then a little more -- too much. His grip on the hilt of his sword is too tight. His free hand is trembling and a little bit damp.

He really is nervous. He really needs someone right now.

He really needs Sayaka.

Kasagami can just barely see the crown of his head -- a bit of blue hair -- past the gate, since he's still a few steps from the top. She can't quite see what he's doing, though, as he turns and smiles weakly down at his companion.

"It's nice, us coming here together like this. It feels appropriate, don't you think?"

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


Sayaka looks over one shoulder, the other claimed by her carelessly tossed bookbag. "Hnn?" she inquires. The idea that this request would actually relate to Valentine's Day is so outlandish that Sayaka is no more nervous around Miki than she normally is. But his expression gets her to turn around fully, large blue eyes blinking.

Her shoulders rise, her lips stretching as her heart starts to beat much too fast. At first, all Sayaka can do is point to her own nose.



Sayaka's cell phone is balanced atop a bottle of styling creme, which itself is atop a tissue box on the bathroom counter. A video of a pretty girl speaking to the camera is playing; she presently only has one side of her face made up, and is displaying a mascara wand to the screen. Sayaka has one knee up on the counter and keeps glancing between the Youtube video playing tinnily on her phone, and her own face in the mirror. She has her eye held open with one hand, which also pinches the tube in its crook, and the other is gingerly, cringingly brushing her own wand through her upper lashes.

"Now, for the lower lashes, we're gonna use just the tippy-tip..."

"Ah! Slow down," Sayaka complains. Glancing at the clock, she blanches, reaching out to the phone to tap the video back a bit. The phone, leaning against the mirror, swivels a bit, pushing the bottle out from beneath it and sending both clattering in different directions. Sayaka's knee slips off the counter as she lunges for one or both and catches neither, ending up bent over the counter. Popping her head up, she sees the grainy smear she made beneath her eye.

"...and then you're done!" her phone is chirping from the floor. "That's all there is to it, I guess! If you liked this tutorial, make sure to like and subscribe!"

Sayaka lunges off the counter for her phone with murder in her eyes.


Sayaka jogs in place for a step or two, her skirts bouncing. When the automatic door finally catches up to her, she races outside. On the walkway, elementary school girl bobs along past her without a second glance, but after a moment, Sayaka turns around and runs back to the red backpacked child, conferring with her briefly. She takes a knee, facing away from her, and the girl grabs the zipper on her back and tugs it up from 50% closed to 100. Sayaka turns around, and lifts her hand. The two exchange a big high-five, and Sayaka continues running.


Sayaka blushes noticeably as she places her hand in Miki's. She is hardly a princess, today; for most girls at Ohtori, this blue and white skater dress would be casualwear--can't let Miki know how hard she was trying, or that she zoomed by home just for this. But for Sayaka, this outfit (and especially this makeup) is such an oddity that she feels like she is somehow tricking or cheating Miki. It doesn't help that the last time she did this, Kozue shamed her for it. Miki's princely behavior is helping with the guilt.

"Appropriate?" Sayaka's nerves surge back. The reason this is appropriate is something they have never once spoken of. "Y-yeah."

Sayaka just can't worry about her own feelings, though, as she takes in Miki's expression. She reverses her hand atop Miki's to grab it, and cups it with her other as well, giving it a firm shake. "You're gonna win for sure," Sayaka says, and she believes it. Heroes always prosper. "I'll cheer so loud I'll lose my voice tomorrow! So you just decide what you want to eat for victory dinner!"

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

The Rose Bride stands at the side of her Engaged, there at the appointed time with the appointed culls, the blue upright in her grasp and the dark crimson ever so slightly askew. She's so close to the taller girl that a strong breeze could easily bring belled skirt to brush slender pants leg -- but the sky is smooth and the air is gentle, and so their striking silhouettes remain together but apart.

Kasagami Araki arrives first to receive a measured look that could be no more unreadable if the lenses of the Bride's glasses obscured her eyes altogether, and nothing more, but this is still more than she has received on previous occasions. An expected blue-topped head comes into view accompanied by uncustomary chatter, and the Rose Bride can be seen to tilt her head, eyes wide and curious, to an angle that reaches acuteness as another blue-topped head joins the first.

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

Shizuru Fujino is not in the Arena this evening. No, her time was recent, and now she is in her usual place on the opposing tower along the wall with the bells, seated in a fine chair with a pot of tea and a cup in her hands. Some prefer to sit directly in the crenelations.

Shizuru imagines herself somewhat more civilized than that.

Her opera glasses allow her to see more that the particular acoustics of this place allow her to hear; she watches Kasagami, spotting her nerves, seeing her look at a photograph, and imagines something there. She's stretching. ...The Vice President is unemotional, speaking to no one for now up here with her.


Instead she looks at the gate, the stairs, and from her vantage point she can see more than Kasagami can. Miki's nerves... But more importantly in a way, more telling, Miki's guest.

"My," she murmurs, picks up a little vanilla wafer and dips it in her tea, bringing it to her lips. "My, my..."

There is none of this interest in her eyes; there is nothing there at all, hidden by her eyepiece. She stares. Makeup, on that girl... Closeness with this one...

And Kozue's interactions with both.

Shizuru slides her attention over to Kasagami again, before she looks to the Rose Bride, the Engaged. Always here, before it starts. If she's a bit impatient, she could certainly be blamed.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena isn't looking so good. It's unquestionable that her health has been in steady decline since Christmas -- since it happened -- but it's reached a new low. Her eyes are bruises, sunken in her face. What little hair she has seems dull and lank. Her lip is split and there's a scratch on a too-prominent cheekbone; she's always cut a sharp profile but there's a line past which the aesthetics break down and a person becomes uncomfortable to look at, and she's over it.

She hasn't been meeting anyone's eyes. She looks everywhere but at the other Duelists, and responds to all attempts to make eye contact by pulling her cap's brim lower. The sole exception is Anthy, who she cannot deny, but her expression when she gazes into her roommate is, if anything, worried.

But she can't help but react to the surprise of the second bluenette on the stairs -- guess who's coming to dueling -- and she bites her abused lip. Her shoulders droop another quarter-inch.

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

She can only see just a shock of blue at first, but it's voices that get to her. And one she knows a little too well for her liking. Her mouth twists into a snarl, and Kasagami's sword whumps to the ground loudly. One hand on her hip, her head tilts. She makes a show of yawning.

"Heeey, Miki-kun! Don't tell me you're getting cold feet! And after you brought a date, too! You'll spoil the romance if you hesitate!" Taunts Kasagami with a wide grin. Her good eye narrows a second, and finally it flits over past Anthy to Utena. Lips purse. Worry lurks in her gaze for a moment. Who, or what, did that to the pink haired Engaged? She looks awful. Sucking in a breath, she lets it out. Concentrate, Kasagami!

Back to needling her opponent. Her voice carries, as usual. "Really, though, I have to admit I didn't expect you to last a single round. Much less beat your sister! Impressive! Maybe you can give our audience a good show tonight, huh?" She laughs, eager. Her hand is already on the hilt of her extravagant blade, though it isn't drawn just yet. There's protocol to be followed, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Miki Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Rhapsody In Blue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh9ghHKHcmw

Miki relaxes in Sayaka's grip. It feels safe and familiar, although it is neither; but he hasn't seemed to notice her makeup or her outfit. For his part he is of course in his usual uniform, whose little epaulettes and cords only really make sense here, at home in a way they can't be in the ordinary hallways of school.

There's still stress in his spine, but it's much reduced. This was such a good idea.

"Thank you, Sayaka-san," he says, just above a whisper, like the softest impression of a high C.

Kasagami's voice carries down to them, and he finishes squaring himself and takes the rest of the stairs at a militaristic march. He does not bother dignifying her schoolyard taunts with a reply; he doesn't care about her expectations.

Paying Utena's black and blues little more heed than Sayaka's mascara, he does have eyes for Anthy. Big blue doe-eyes. He looks at her roses, her tiara, her hair. Is it violet or indigo...

Internal strains of Gershwin guide his hands as he rolls his shoulders for good luck, then unsheathes his epee. It catches the light from above, which rolls downwards from one end to the other. His duelist's salute towards Kasagami is fluid and lovely. It has echoes of Juri in it; the Dueling Club has its own particular flair to its rituals. "I'm ready for you."

"If you please, Himemiya-san," he requests, and it's a markedly lower C than the one Sayaka got. Like he suddenly has a cold, husk lingers in his voice, the lengthening shadow of a boy growing into a man.

COMBAT: Miki Kaoru transforms into Blue Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
<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 both roses gathered to her breast, hands cupped around them so only gentle curls of blue and dark crimson 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 Miki Kaoru, then Kasagami Araki, 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 Rose Bride brings the boy genius and his piano hands a smile made no less pretty for how slight it is. She has luminous aquamarine eyes for Miki and Miki alone, right up until they veil downward and give themselves instead to the delicate placement of rose in breast pocket as if too shy to bear the young man's regard. With a brief fussiness to her fingers, the Bride ensures the bloom is just so before she leaves him.

She sweeps to a pause before Kasagami Araki and, for once, looks up to the tall swordswoman. Their height difference would seem to give the Disciplinary Executive an edge, and that blazing presence could easily overwhelm, but invasive proximity and the sweet scent of fresh-killed roses grant their own fey power. The Bride does not look away from both of Kasagami's eyes, does not need to watch what she is doing to secure the severed stem perfectly in her coat pocket; a crown gleams golden in indigo (or is it violet?) hair, more power possessed by the Bride and not this proto-King. Then she's away, keeping her pace ceremonial as she returns the entrance of the arena.

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: Miki Kaoru has cleared the initiative order.
COMBAT: A new initiative order has been generated! Please check it with +initiative.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka's is doe-eyed and desperately affectionate, right now. Poor Miki. Doesn't he know how brave and strong and wonderful he is? Leaning forward, Sayaka's face is soft.

Then Kasagami shouts, and her eyebrow twitches.

Suddenly, it's a little more obvious that Sayaka's bare arms are a little thicker and harder than an average girl in a cute skirt. There is a determined ire to her expression. Miki doesn't see, as he walks ahead. But as Sayaka follows, she glares right at Kasagami, her legs bracing widely atop her cutest flats.

"Araki," she says under her breath.

Then Sayaka bites her lip, and tastes her pink lipstick. In an eyeblink she remembers why she is here, and looks back to Miki, drawing one leg in to take a narrower stance. Her fingers flicker nervously at her sides, and she lets her eyes wander the field, to...


Sayaka didn't expect her fellow Chevalier. This seems different from her own duel against Juri. If one could really call it a duel, given how poorly Sayaka fared. Utena doesn't look well at all. On another day, Sayaka would have gone to her. Here, she feels it would be a mistake, like a visitor trying to help a patient in an operating room. The people here know what this is, and Sayaka doesn't. She looks away guiltily after a moment.

The pinning is next. Sayaka had hoped that she was here because Miki was duelling for some other reason, now. But it seems Kozue was not lying, this time. The way they look at each other makes Sayaka feel the cheapness of her dress compared to Anthy's, the clumsy simplicity of her makeup, the ungainly shape of her androgynous body. She swallows and tries to slip into her mind, and think of nothing until it is over.

When it is, she clears her throat and returns her eyes to the field. She feels the tension of a storm about to break, and waits for the opening notes.

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

Sayaka gets a grin and a long stare in turn. She doesn't turn away, Kasagami meeting the sword puella head on, as she so often does. "Imagine seeing you here, Sayaka-chan." Quips the young woman. "You're a very good girl, always making sure you stand by your friends." That part, at least, has no edge of an insult. Then she turns back to Miki.

Kasagami's hair sways just a moment when a gust of wind catches it just right. Her good eye stares down Miki, and her laugh is just a bit lower. Of course he's not going to play ball. The fencers of the Council have that aloofness in common. Juri might be better at it, but Miki's seriousness is something to be considered.

Still, one sweep deserves another, and she steps into a quick bowa to the young man. Belligerent though she may be, she's a samurai daughter. She has some manners.

"I'd expect nothing less! Show me what burns inside of you, Miki! If you won't use your mouth, then tell me with your sword!"

Her voice is all enthusiasm. Even the approach of Anthy doesn't dull it, even as there's something more to their interactions this time. Scent of roses war more than the previous seeming ignoring she's always done for Anthy. Perhaps still an object, but one that can cut. The rose sits on her chest as Anthy declares the Duel open.

Her own tall figure stretches out, shadows facing each other even as Kasagami draws her blade. Steel rings out from wood, and she holds it in front of her in a one-handed stance. She's coiled like a spring for a moment, strong and tall for her age. Then, she rushes Miki with a howl of a war cry, sword rising up and falling as she tries to bring it right down on Miki's sword-arm with the flat of the blade. Not to cut, but to dull and shock the young man's flesh.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Intoxicating Roses on Miki Kaoru.
COMBAT: Miki Kaoru narrowly dodges Kasagami Araki's Intoxicating Roses, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Miki Kaoru's
Fade ability activates!  Miki Kaoru's Flash ability activates!  Exhausted applied to Miki Kaoru!
<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena is accustomed to watching Anthy pin roses on other people, and it doesn't trouble her overmuch today. That leaves her full attention available for not looking at Sayaka.

Guilt drifts between the two of them like black smoke. Like tumbleweeds.

When Anthy returns to her side, Utena looks down at her and smiles weakly, like the last flash of the sun before it sinks beneath the horizon. Then she adjusts her hat and resigns herself to waiting for this to just end.

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

As appropriate for a proper young lady, Shizuru's chewing is inaudible. She doesn't seem to even notice that she's eating as she watches the pageantry of the unfolding duel, traces every line of too-prominent cheekbones in Utena's face, looks to broken aesthetics and poor health, dullness so unlike this girl. It should be pleasant, watching her breaking down. Nonetheless, Shizuru watches it.

It's rather like pressing one's tongue against a broken tooth, over and over in fascination at each new hurt. Utena may avoid looking at the other Duelists, but Shizuru most certainly looks at her.

Shizuru cannot see the details of Anthy with the Duelists, knows well that particular intimacy, but she can see Sayaka's rage. She can see her rage, and her femininity, so different from the girl who was brought to her office after a little scrap. So different from the brave Chevalier.

Kasagami's bombast provides the perfect opportunity to look back to the beginning of the fighting here with swords rather than glances. "...Well," Shizuru murmurs, waiting for point and counterpoint, lifting her teacup to take a sip. Utena's smile lingers in Shizuru's mind, and a low laugh shudders through her shoulders as she watches the Duel. She does not explain.

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

Miki is entirely in Anthy's thrall, when she draws near. He starts trembling again when she affixes the rose, but it isn't with nerves, but anticipation. He breaks their gaze before she does, demurely looking down at his blade rather than being so forward as to take more than a second or two of soulful gazing.

Kasagami didn't get a rise out of him when she attacked him directly, but her going after Sayaka -- even with a supposedly benign greeting -- makes his eyes flash. "Don't call her that," he says, firmly. "She isn't Sayaka-chan to you, Araki-san."

He refuses to consider the double-meaning of Kasagami's taunt, which is to say that he is not too innocent to get it, but that he is unwilling to think about it too much. "From what I've seen so far, it seems as though you're the one who uses your mouth excessively, to disguise your poor swordsmanship," he retorts. And that's all he has to say.

The war cry doesn't shock him but the move towards his sword-arm takes him a little off-guard -- he shrinks back, away from the charge, focusing on keeping his arm safe rather than keeping his sword in a dangerous line. Still, he's no pushover, not hardly, and technical achievement is his strength. Exhaling into the motion, he winds up in a backwards lunge, like he's been rewound to the beginning of a race.

On his marks -- get set -- go.

He comes for Kasagami with surety and skill, striking at her again and again with both confidence and grace. He does not strike for her arm. Every strike is a strike against the rose.

Against the rose, and for...

COMBAT: Miki Kaoru has used Metronome Strike on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly braces Miki Kaoru's Metronome Strike, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

That flash in his eyes, his firm voice. Smile. "Finally talking? Good. Girls hate it when their dates don't know how to carry a conversation! You can do it if you try after all!" Another laugh, only for her eye to narrow. That smile fades just slightly.

"My swordsmanship is poor, is it? Well, I'll admit I'm not as technically sound as Siaonji, but..."

Miki is as swift as she expected. Perhaps even swifter. As he shrinks back, then steps forward, she has a good idea of what's coming. Both hands grip her sword, overlong as it is.

Miki is at the advantage as he slips in closer, and that smaller blade is a lost faster than hers. She might be absurdly quick on her feet and strong to match, but maneuvering such an awkward blade on the defensive is always a challenge. The first few strikes are met with blocks of her sword held straight up defensively. But that flurry gets to her: cuts to her fluttering coat on her back have dark red roses and black leather falling in turn. Then, some red of her uniform. The tip of that epee even brushes the petals once, but none of them fall as she turns just in time. Her breath falls quickly. Her eye shines as she wars with the young man. Every strike is met with a grin. She looks so very, very happy right now.

Finally, she takes a small leap back, and then, up into the air! Her body twists acrobatically, one hand going to the back of her blade as she has it fully extended past her shoulders. As she falls down against Miki, her single eye seems to glow as the light catches it. Hair obscuring her other eye, she's like a falling comet, or perhaps a descending hawk.

"You can have all the skill in the world, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't match it with pure power and fury! Only absolute, crushing, overwhelming might can save this rotten world, Miki!"

As unsubtle as ever, she puts her whole body into the blow as she tries to slash through boy and rose alike.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on Miki Kaoru.
COMBAT: Miki Kaoru narrowly braces Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Miki Kaoru's Block
ability activates!  Miki Kaoru's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Miki Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Miki doesn't look happy at all, just determined. His mouth is as straight a line as a musical staff. Which isn't to say he's completely indifferent to the heat of competition; an athletic flush is rising in him, and his hair is starting to sparkle with sweat. And this time, when Kasagami leaps at him, he shows more confidence. He brings his epee up to intercept, and there's a mighty clang where the two blades impact.

And his eyes... his eyes hold judgement within them, narrow and sharp like a child watching an adult transgress.

"That's easy for you to say, isn't it? What's the English saying?"

His English, by the way, is practically perfect in every way.

"<<When all you haf is a hammer...>>"

Then he disengages into a roll -- that isn't typical Western swordsmanship, he's gone off the mat entirely -- which ends in a surge almost vertically up Kasagami's torso. She dwarfs him anyway, but this strike from below is well inside her blade, the length of the nodachi used against her; if he's able to keep the momentum she may have some serious trouble defending herself.

"I'm not going to be nailed by you!" he shouts. "There are better things to fight for than merely might itself!"

COMBAT: Miki Kaoru has used Changement de Rhythme on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly dodges Miki Kaoru's Changement de Rhythme, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki's Fade
ability activates!  Kasagami Araki's Flash ability activates!  Stagger, Stun, and Trap applied to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The Vice President can appreciate both what Miki has learned from Juri and how he remains distinct from her; that particular duel is a vivid memory for many reasons, after all. She continues sipping tea as she watches Mikiin particular respond to Kasagami's taunts, watches Kasagami, well...

With as happy as the swordswoman looks at the moment, Shizuru remains entirely emotionaless. Kasagami talks again about this rotten world. The Vice President continues to wait. ...And she isn't disappointed.

One eyebrow lifts at Miki's shout. Just one. He's not going to be nailed. "Ah," she sighs, "Why can't you be as adorable as he is, Araki-kun?" A beat, "Though I have to agree about there being better things to fight for..."

Here, she leans in slightly, watching that much more intently.


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

Sayaka isn't used to having someone stand up to someone bullying her. She sways a little, feeling a pleasant warmth in her cheeks. "Miki-kun," she says to herself, just to hear the name.

He's being so heroic that she can avoid burying her face in her hands in frustration when Miki yells about being nailed.

Sayaka knows the barbaric strength of Kasagami, and she's impressed to see Miki--a normal boy, isn't he?--holding it back like a Puella Magi. She can't help but fear, though. She can't wish him to health twice, if Kasagami injures Miki or his priceless hands.

"F-fight," Sayaka says to herself quietly. Then, "Fai-TO! Miki-kun! Fai-TO! Miki-KUN!"

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

Kassie pulls back a step as Miki rolls away. Definitely not your standard fencing tactics. But this isn't some simple fencing fight. If anything, Kasagami looks more and more into the whole thing with every passing second. The adrenaline, facing a young man so strong and skilled, and as he finally shouts?

"Oh-hoh! Might is a means to an end, that's true! What you use all of your strength, and skill for, that's what defines you as a person!"

Kassie recognizes the danger instantly. He's in a perfect position. But her mouth keeps running. Somehow it never seems to distract her. "Which makes me curious! What are you fighting for, Miki!? Do you have any idea how much you shine right now!? This isn't the quiet young man, always so serious and aloof that I've always seen! Fighting you, with that passion in your voice, is WONDERFUL!" That laugh rings out once again. This, to Kasagami Araki, is true pleasure.

But neither is she resting on her laurels. She knows she can't block that attack, and so as Miki rises she throws herself hard towards the ground backwards in a leap. It isn't quite a roll. Her right leg comes up, and she leans back torturously as Miki's epee lashes out against knee and even across her shoulder and neck in a perfect cut of fabric. A strip of charred flesh and slightly tanned white is exposed around neck and shoulder. The landing steals her breath. She's probably bruised from the reckless defense, but at least the flower's okay. Kassie is looking torn up already.

Rather than immediately rise? Her free hand goes to her coat pocket. In one smoothe motion, rose-covered knives are flicked for Miki. For a girl with one eye, she's pretty accurate.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose on the Wind on Miki Kaoru.
COMBAT: Miki Kaoru narrowly counters Kasagami Araki's Rose on the Wind, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!
COMBAT: Miki Kaoru's counterattack, Attaque Au Fer, partially gets through, doing 19 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!  Critical
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=676A6VymGCk

Tempered metal shrieks; combatants shout; from a not-so-distant physical remove and a phenomenal emotional one, Shizuru sighs. All of these sounds belong to the Dueling Arena, even characterize it, these various vocalizations of conflict.

Sayaka Miki chants like she's watching a televised sporting match.

It may be a vocalization of conflict, but it falls far outside the strictly defined acceptable variance of the Duels. The Rose Bride looks at the blunette, just... looks. And continues to do so, whether and until Sayaka feels those deep aqua eyes on her like needles pricking skin. Or thorns.

If Sayaka does look the Rose Bride's way, she shall receive the most feminine of disapproval, conveyed by a wincing moue.

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

Miki's flush is starting to get embarrassed; he does not enjoy Kasagami's appreciation of the fight. It feels dirty in a way he can't describe and doesn't want to. Not that the duels have ever been clean -- Juri prefers him at the piano for a reason. And not that dueling can't be a little fun. But this...

"None of your business!" he shouts back, flustered, which makes him less articulate than he's been. "You wouldn't understand anyway!"

Disappointment is writ plainly across his face when Kasagami evades what, to him, was something of a masterstroke. Imagination, imperfection, that's been called his strength before and for once he thought he understood what his senpai meant. But apparently not. It certainly didn't carry him to victory.

And his grip shifts, unsure, in his hands, as Kasagami starts chucking knives.

'Fai-TO! Miki-kun!'

Sayaka. He's not just on stage for Kasagami's amusement -- he's got a real audience today. An appreciative audience. His ears were already burning but it intensifies further... and transmutes, from humiliation to a headier brew.

Straightening, he purses his lips in a proud little mou, then starts swatting away the knives, one, two, THREE! Each impact explodes their petal sheaths, and the boy bursts through the last of them in a perfect lunge, unwilling to give Kasagami the space she seems to desire. The point of his epee comes uncomfortably close to the rose, ultimately passing beneath the older woman's armpit.

If this were a play, that would be a kill.

But it's not. No matter; he doesn't stop, thrusting a second time with eye-blurring speed.

"Stop using the roses like that!"

The objection bursts out of him unexpectedly; even he seems surprised by it. But he doubles down on it with an almost audible grind of his jaw. "It's not -- they're not your weapon! Not everything beautiful exists just to hurt other people!"

He's a little hoarser than might be expected. Maybe he's getting winded?

COMBAT: Miki Kaoru has used Flight of the Bumblebee on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly counters Miki Kaoru's Flight of the Bumblebee, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki's counterattack, Turning the Petal's Edge, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Miki Kaoru!
<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

'Fai-TO! Miki-KUN!'

Shizuru listens as she watches blows traded, swords set out at roses and shouts exchanged. She finds it more interesting for a moment than Kasagami's talk of passion, which cools for her long before it reaches her ears. Maybe because she prefers Miki as he is, more understated. Or maybe...

Maybe it's something else. Regardless, as Anthy listens and stares her disapproval, Shizuru chuckles in faint amusement at Sayaka's cheering. "And you interest Kaoru-kun, hm?"

But Miki calls back, fast and fast and shouting. Shizuru narrows her eyes here, holding her teacup and avoiding showing any sign beyond that that she is particularly focused. Frustration. Not hers, of course, though there is some of her own, distantly, at this Duel to begin with.

She decides not to say anything at all, even this far from the action, but her eyes remain on the Duel, now.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena glances over at Anthy, remembering her first duel against Miki, before his hand got crushed by Zoisite.

'Ganbatte, Utena-sama!!'

If she were in a sassier mood she might raise her eyebrows, dryly comment. Instead she just closes her eyes.

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

The young man, amazing as ever, both shatters her smaller blades and even comes in for the kill. Her coat gets a neat tear as that blade passes under her, then he's attacking again. Once again, his speed and willingness to keep up close. Right about then, Kasagami decides she really hates rapiers. Tiny, flexible, and more bite than pure crushing power.

But deadly all the same, particularly in Miki's hands. His objection hits her rather hard, and her gaze lowers. But then, she sucks it back in. She too is sweating, putting in way too much effort. She has to finish this.

"What are you talking about, Miki!? Of course they're weapons! Beautiful, deadly, they tear up anything in my path to becoming a King! Roses are our due, as members of the Student Council! Not using them for such would be a travesty!"

And that's when she raises her hands, sword held aloft. All of those dark roses about her outfit sway in the wind as they gather about her sword. She isn't backing off any more, trying to get away from Miki. She bets everything on one blow.

Up her sword goes in both hands, and there's a sea of roses surrounding it. Beautiful, swirling petals almost block the pair from view for a second. And then one foot slides forward, and she swings that sword down with all of her might. Wild, savage, and uncompromising, the floor of the Arena trembles for a moment and blades cut ruts into it as Kasagami yells, passionately and with her dream clenched in her heart.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Kasagami Araki has used Bloody Rose Storm on Miki Kaoru.
COMBAT: Miki Kaoru fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Finisher, Bloody Rose Storm, taking 94 Fatigue damage!  Miki Kaoru is unable to
keep fighting!
COMBAT: Kozue Kaoru transforms into Kozue and Cassandra!
COMBAT: Kozue Kaoru transforms into Kozue Kaoru!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka isn't doing great at selling herself as a newer, bluer femme alternative to Miki's Anthy crush, as she beats the air with one fist during her cheer. "Fai-TO! Miki-KU-"

Sayaka feels something creepy, and when she looks down, she finds someone creepy. Frowning, she looks back at Anthy across the arena. Self-consciousness cascades over her at this judgement, and Sayaka feels her cheeks grow hot as she becomes newly aware of her lowly station. The Kaorus, who spend more on lawyers than Sayaka's dad makes, are on the lower end of the outrageous tower of class privilege that is the Ohtori Student Council. Is Sayaka just embarrassing Miki by being here?

Screwing up her mouth, Sayaka glares at Anthy and pointedly keeps eye contact as she starts to cheer again. "Miki-KUN, fai-TO! You tell her! You're the best, Miki-kun! Miki-kun, Miki-kun, can't be beat!" She's forcing it out past her shame, now, and it gets easier as she builds momentum.

Kasagami lifts her rose-swirling sword up high.

"Miki-kun, Miki-kun...!"

Are the duels supposed to be like this? That seems like magic... it only has to cut a little rose off.


When the sword drops, Sayaka feels it beneath her feet, and an instinctive shriek of fear rips from her as she stumbles forward, hand extended as if she could shield him.


<Pose Tracker> Miki Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mienai Bara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AL9sOMS9jE

At the very beginning, Kasagami's first strike against Miki led him to protect himself rather than his victory; he got his primary arm -- and hand -- out of his opponent's way by any means necessary, all but diving out of her path rather than meeting her sword to sword.

At the very end, he doesn't want to send his sword into that sea of petals. He doesn't want to tear apart their beauty to find Kasagami's blade beneath, like a snake in the grass. He doesn't want to compromise himself that way, right after making his declaration. This isn't like protecting his precious, miraculous hand; this is protecting something else.

But he doesn't protect that facet of his innocence. He dare not. He's already made the choice to sacrifice the present for the future. Sayaka shrieks for him but to him she's shrieking for something else, a part of him he's already lost.

He mustn't lose any more.

Raw frustration and disgust screw his face into a knot made out of roasted tomato, though, and he cannot see clearly -- he strikes through but he does not strike true, catching nothing but air.

While Kasagami, meanwhile, finally adds blue petals to the red that she's all but blanketed their arena in.

The bells toll before he's even registered it, and he looks down.

A tear falls with his gaze. Then another. And another.

"...no..." A supra-soprano C this time, and he looks over at the girls in a rictus of agony. He looks up, at Utena and Anthy, and he has never felt more alone.

More tears track down his cheeks, blurring his vision. He sniffs, and is very small. Which is reasonable. He's only in second year, after all.

"...it wasn't supposed to...not like this..."

He stumbles towards the blue-haired girl at the edge of the arena, the one who almost broke into the duel to protect him.

"I'm so sorry," he weeps blindly, slashing his blade at nothing, at shadows, and finally and most sadly of all just letting it clatter limply to the arena floor. "I had to win, I had to, and I didn't... and, and..."

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

Shizuru can analyze the progression of the duel, can look into its magic and mystery and make her guesses. ...She might, later. But for now she watches Kasagami speak of weapons, watch her swing her roses enough to make it hard even to see what happens in the middle.

There is still cheering. It becomes distant, to Shizuru, more than it already was; still she has not set down her opera glasses, still she listens to the strains coming from the arena rather than to anything here on this tower... And soon she will hear more music still.

The petals fall, and Shizuru watches Miki start to cry. He makes his protests; he looks to Sayaka. Kasagami is still there, as grand as ever.

Her lip curling in disgust, the Vice President rises, leaving her tea, pot and all, and strides into the tower from the balcony. Her steps are casual, bored, met with a light shrug that shows little of her feeling but the apathy that returns to her quickly.

Her fingers run over her engagement ring as she leaves.

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

The storm of dark red abates as swiftly as it came, scattered to the ground across the Arena. One hand flicks through Kasagami's head. She takes deep breaths. Her heart is hammering, body aching and adrenaline still thundering through her veins. The elation of victory rides high.

But somehow the sight of Miki weeping, stumbling towards Sayaka fills Kasagami with a rare emotion. Sympathy. Pity. She remembered falling to the Arena floor, driven down by the sharp words of Shizuru. That sting still sits in her heart, even if her victory today lifts her spirits.

But the edge of joyous victory is taken off. And so she turns away, shaking her head. There's no taunts, no gloating. Just bootfalls already making their way out of the Arena. A glance to Sayaka, and then finally, she stops by Anthy to return the flower.

"...It's going to take quite a bit of getting used to, with your hand in mind." A smirk, and a wink at Anthy. The only jab she'll offer, for both the Rose Bride and Miki.

For once she takes the elevator down, sword propped up beside her. She needs time to think. One gloved hand runs through her hair as highlights fade.

"You are an absolute buzzkill of a man, Miki Kaoru." WHUMP. That would be the back of her head smacking the elevator in annoyance. The pain at least dulls her growing frustration.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Letters - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBKCq9O4Tvg

Sayaka's raised hand falls, and swings a little at her side. She didn't have time to pick a bracelet from her limited and inadequate collection. Her wrists are unadorned. Her eyes are wide and tremulous as Miki lashes his pain about.

Stepping out of her flats, Sayaka throws herself into a sprint, her short hair rippling behind her until it is formless like water. She is fleet, her bare legs swishing her skirt, and as the sword she once wielded against Juri skitters away, she catches up Miki with a hug beneath his armpits, her knees bent to support him.

"Miki," she cries out urgently, wrestling bodily with his grief for a moment until she secures him. "Miki-kun, I'm sorry..."

The two sway for a moment, and then slide to their knees, borne down by Sayaka. Miki shouldn't be standing right now. "You fought so hard, Miki-kun, you're so strong, there will be more duels but she cheated, she cheated Miki-kun but next time you'll be ready and you'll see it, and you'll win because she's--she's awful and you're wonderful." Sayaka is babbling without even listening to herself, beside herself at seeing him in such pain.

She freezes as she spies Kasagami next to Anthy, fixing the would-be King with an icy glare over Miki's shoulder. She reaches up and cups the back of Miki's head protectively, unwittingly (unconsciously?) showing king and bride her own ring. Her own revolution.

"It'll be okay," she says, as she shifts her angry eyes to Anthy.

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

The Bride stands by her Engaged and -- that single detour of disapproval aside -- watches with still mien as the nature of her roses falls under discussion by those who vie to own her. Not a soul in the Arena or outside it can see past white lenses when Kasagami likens the roses to swords; a single person outside it may not need to, to imagine what stirs behind glass and beneath aqua. He remembers how Anthy feels about swords.

Thus Miki Kaoru will never know whether he receives any reward from the girl with the violet (or is it indigo?) hair for his earnest defense of her sacrificial children. Neither can her Engaged see that the Bride looks to her when the young man objects that not everything beautiful exists just to hurt other people.

She remembers the day she planted the seed that became the bush that bore the bud that bloomed to bring that blue rose into being. Now she watches it die its second death in a day, drowned beneath dark crimson petals like droplets and dissected.

The bells peal their mournful proclamation of the same. The Rose Bride lowers her head, seeming... well. There are a great many reasons a person in her position might lower her head, in this moment. It is for her observers to select from the possibilities.

The boy staggers toward them and she looks up, for just a moment, eyes big and bright and impossibly beautiful before glasses eclipse them once more. As for the swordswoman, the cant and attitude of the Rose Bride's head suggests that she also bears hidden regard; she closes and the angle changes, reflection sliding away to reveal eyes that are wide in a very different way, like those of a skittish doe. The Bride accepts the intact body of her dark crimson rose without a word, returning a silence eloquent in its mystery.

Flung daggers can be returned, whether wrought of metal or furious gaze, and the young woman in the grand red gown will always know when they are aimed her way. She makes note of Sayaka's glare, acknowledges it with a look, and then turns her attention to the tall girl with the short pink hair and the dark hollows in her eyes. Utena is still the Engaged, and Anthy is still her Bride.

Tonight, perhaps they'll have a hearty stew.

<Pose Tracker> Miki Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Sunlit Garden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQzaHyVqHag

Miki listens to the blue-haired girl apologize, hearing her only from a distance through the wet tunnel of his own crying. But her words drop into him anyway, like stones into a cold underground lake. They send ripples through him, and he quivers. They enter and do not leave, and he sighs.

"And," he gasps. "And..." He wipes at his tears hastily with the back of his hands, scrubbing them off gamely, starting to shake with the effort it's taking to smile. He's gotta do it, though. He has to smile, because she's there. She's there and he can feel her hand in his hair and believe, in this moment, that it's his.

That he's not alone, after all.

"...and, and, you came, all the way here, for me," he concludes, out of breath and quite out of commas. "Thank you... Sayaka-chan."

He reclaims his weight on his knees, twisting to take her hands, which are about the same size as his. He thumbs over the ring, a mismatch to his own. But not such a bad match, either.

"Do you," it's a watery smile, but it's there, rueful and apologetic but also hinting of a brighter future, of the sun coming out from behind the clouds, transforming them all at once from stormy gray to a bright and blinding white, "Um. Pardon me for my, um, boldness," he's getting more formal, yet not more distant. His stammer is almost as charming as the glint of hope in his eye.

"It wouldn't be a victory dinner, exactly, but... would you like to go out, anyway? Sayaka-chan?"

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Maybe You Won't Die Alone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kxIbo2aEOQ

Utena was kind of zoned out when it ended, missed the precise blow-by-blow, but Miki's sheer distress gets her attention in the way that little else can. She's heading his direction, eyes still on the ground, short little steps that are practically heel to toe.

Sayaka gets there first, and she pauses, far enough out of their orbit to not interfere.

Also far enough from Anthy to completely miss Kasagami's little 'gift' of the unharmed rose, and those few sweet words.

But a tiny, tiny smile crests her lips. Her eyes glow, just a little, with the soft but fierce happiness of seeing others find happiness.

And without a word she takes herself out of the arena and out of their way, escorting Anthy back down the stairs silently but with that lingering, dreamy expression.

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

Sayaka is still giving Anthy a dirty look when Miki starts to shift. Her eyes move to the side of his head (a blue that nearly matches her own). Her breath stops.

He's known her since they were both tiny and she's never been Sayaka-chan until right this very moment. Now, of all times?

Sayaka is pliant with surprise as he takes her hands. His miraculous, piano-playing fingers around her useless ones. She startles (a little harder than might seem normal) when his thumb brushes over her ring.

"No... prob..." she says dizzily. At least she's too dazed to kick herself for that lame response. She stares cow-eyed at Miki's emerging smile, her pangs of pain at his tears starting to recede as suspense takes over.

Go out?!

Sayaka, eyes still damp from moments ago, stares without comprehension at Miki for a few moments. Then she starts to fill up with a great big breath, her novice heart pouring joy through the panic valve accidentally. Her face daintily made up, her previously unworn skirts snared about her legs from the run, Sayaka at last, entirely by accident, succeeds at being perfectly feminine with a tiny, confused whimper through her teeth.


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

And so it is Miki who gets to his feet first. He brushes a little debris off his knees -- red petals that slough off of him like bloodied snow, but they cannot stick to him further -- and, thus cleansed, bends down to offer Sayaka a gracious, and grateful, hand up.

"Ah," he murmurs, averting his eyes a little bit maidenly, himself, "I didn't mean to... pressure. To put you on the spot. If you don't want to... I understand, of course."

The lie waits in his eyes for her to see. They don't have to look at her to hold it; his windows are wide open right now, easy to read. They are -- he is -- needy, vulnerable. Her rejection would destroy him utterly; right now he may be pretending to be its wielder, but his heart is sitting on a knife's edge, an abyss of despair on either side.

His outstretched hand beckons. And trembles, just a little.

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

Sayaka puts her hands on her knees when she gets them back, and stares up at Miki with her lips slightly parted. She had started already to rationalize what he said as entirely platonic; it wasn't hard with such a clueless boy and a girl with such low self-esteem. But his new nervousness pushes the needle deep into romantic territory again, and Sayaka is getting dizzy again until she blinks. Somewhere in the instant that her mind is reconstructing Miki's face, it has to build Kozue's first. That's how it goes in the womb too.


The chances of this happening were so low that Sayaka had never even prepared for it. She would have to ask, and even if she were not a blue faberge egg piloting a dead body, she would not have had the courage. No. More than that. She did not have the clarity.

Miki, Sayaka, Kozue, hating and desiring.

Sayaka, Kozue, Miki, reflecting back and forth until none of them knew which was their own face.

Kozue, Miki, Sayaka, telling each other lies until they deceive themselves.

But the lack of resolve that kept her from initiating keeps Sayaka from mounting any real resistance, too. Sayaka would take Miki's hand even if it didn't look like he would shatter. The fact that he might gives him a vulnerability that she wishes she could wrap around, and makes his boyish beauty glitter.

"No," Sayaka says quietly, placing her palm atop his. "I want that very much."