2018-04-13 - Utena Challenges Kasagami

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Utena Challenges Kasagami

Lunchtime, the day before the election; Kasagami is holding a campaign event, and Utena crashes it to issue a challenge.


Anthy Himemiya, Kasagami Araki, Nori Ankou, Eri Shimanouchi, Shizuru Fujino, Steven Universe, Fuu Hououji, Niramo Umokeshi, Ye-jin Song, Utena Tenjou



OOC - IC Date:

04-13-2015 - 04-10-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Garden +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  Ohtori's grounds rarely miss a chance to include flowers, particularly roses
  and poppies, whether they be in planters, decorating terraces, or engraved
  into the stone walls. Nowhere is this theme more evident than in the
  courtyard garden, an open-air enclosure surrounded by the pillars of nearby
  walkways, permitting those traversing the facility to enjoy a bit of natural
  beauty on their way to class.

  The courtyard features a French formal garden, with nature kept in strict
  manicured order, man's dominion over nature turning shrubs and blooms into
  paint for the gardener's brush. A great glass jewel of a greenhouse
  dominates the courtyard, with the same lacelike white-painted cast iron that
  decorates the walkways supporting its cloudy antique glass panels.

  In contrast to without, the garden within the greenhouse is rampant and
  lush. Order is maintained with a subtler hand, and everywhere the flowers
  and trees are permitted to spill a bit, nature's cornucopia lovely in its
  excess. Exotic, oddly-shaped blooms that would wither outside the glass cage
  flourish within the winterless warmth, and small quantities of tropical
  citrus fruits are produced, most destined to be gifts for valued visitors.
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Disposition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiTtWnx_rjY

In her purple curls and glasses, Anthy Himemiya is just as much a fixture on the Ohtori Academy campus as the greenhouse she now stands within. Neither rose garden nor girl is known overmuch for change. Yet beneath these white marble arches the seasons still pass, coming and going with the student body as the semesters turn. This is change such a traditionally-minded institution will sanction: cycles which can be relied upon to change nothing at all of import, in the end.

So it is that instead of the frilled cream-and-dark middle school uniform this crop of students have grown accustomed to seeing Anthy in, she wears sharply-tailored orange over grey pleats to show her passage to high school. This is in utter defiance of her abysmal grades, it must be added, as it so often is by black-coated gossips in hallways.

It is a recent change of sorts, too, that Anthy is here in what all know to be her rose garden. She has been absent a month and more, her rose bushes and guided vines grown a bit wild around their edges -- still thriving but clearly missing the gentle care of their tender. Though green eyes wander to the creep and untrimmed overgrowth from time to time, she is not here for her roses today.

The crowd, that's also new.

A structure of lasting delicacy, wrought of white iron and glass, the greenhouse is widely regarded as a place of quiet beauty -- a place someone might go to watch the dew slide drop by drop from velvet petals in the early morning. It has not, to any attendant mortal memory, played host to extravagant, teeming celebrations.

Today is a little different. When Anthy does seek the sight of her roses, it is through decorations and over refreshment lunch tables and between people, so many people. Everyone knows the rose garden belongs to Anthy Himemiya... but Anthy Himemiya belongs to Kasagami Araki, and today the lines of possession could not be more clear.

She attends the elbow of her Engaged with a smile of welcome on her face that does not flicker, her fingers laced together in front of her new skirt. When Anthy says hello to the people Kasagami greets, it is in a polite murmur, hard to hear over nearby conversation.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Clearly, Kasagami's touch has been felt within this lovely Garden. Like many in the school, she loves roses and has hardly gotten changes done in that respect. No, through a small army of contractors and Gardening Club members on her List, the lovely greenhouse has been reborn!

Dark red roses is the overarching theme. Tables and chairs of the usual white lattice variety common to the school have been topped with a vast array of lunch foods, from small sandwhiches, tai-chasuke, strawberries and cakes, and even various french and italian foods. There's an entire roasted chicken cut up and ready to be eaten. Sparkling cider, soda, water, and other drinks are available for hungry students.

There are others though amongst the flowers. A non-insignificant presence of yellow, rose and a few sunflowers, has cropped up. On the hanging ivies, dark green makes an appearance, with outlines of more dark red. And a few perches have been added around the Garden as well: mostly smaller birds, but the big Golden Eagle Beatrix is near Kasagami and there's a white owl hanging around near Anthy!

Speaking of, right beside Anthy, Kasagami seems a little more like herself these days. She's smiling, offering alternating compliments, flirtations, encouragement and generally being her warm self to those that greet her. Still, the sense of exhaustion is still in her eye. Her jaw is a little more tense than usual. She's a coiled up spring wearing a mask of the outgoing brash woman that she's always been.

A glance to Anthy. "Everything's in place, right? I hope nothing's out of order. This has to be perfect! It's going to be my victory, Anthy! ...At least the new uniform makes you almost good enough to stand by me." She stage whispers forcefully. Before she finds a glass and clinks it!

"Welcome everyone, to the Student Council Election Luncheon, brought to you by yours truly, Kasagami Araki! I'd like to thank you all for coming here and giving me the opportunity to meet with you. Look around you, at the changes we're already introducing! Opening the Garden to our student body properly and modernizing Campus will be just the start of what we can do, if you elect me as Student Council President! Let your ambitions soar like an Eagle, if you let me guide you into the sky!"

As if on cue, Beatrix lets out a sharp cry, Kasagami reaching over to run a finger down the bird's back lovingly. Then, there's another sound. Right outside, a black and red hellicopter descends from above in the open courtyard, trailing a banner with her campaign slogan and image on it that's been plastered throughout school. Ohtori's school antham, remixed in a blend of jazz and metal, is playing over attached loudspeakers in the ride as people are let off rope-drop style! Or a small parachute if they'd rather. Kassie raises her glass.

"Our guests of honor, Ladies and Gentlemen! My loyal friends that have helped me get where I am today, ready to lead this school into a rennaisance of growth and innovation!"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The helicopter ride to the gardens of Ohtori is surreal, or perhaps super-real, in a way that relates to the perceptions of Nori Ankou. She still feels a little blurry, like a film strip played in front of a hot glass bulb of pain. A golden bulb. It still burns.

And yet pain can be galvanizing.

Nori Ankou sat like a stone in the helicopter. Her outfit is part of why.

Nori is wearing a straw hat that has been draped with several layers of dark gauzy mesh, which trails with ragged weight - weighed down in fact by several small silver hooks ending in black and red costume jewels - as a veil in front of a face which has been obviously made-up, with dark mascara and (in a slight twist) bronze-shaded lipstick.

The rest of her clothing is spartan, almost. A long simple dress that has been dyed black and which has subtle, almost arbitrary creases in its coloring, like it was left carelessly in the rain or perhaps tie-dyed in two different sorts of coloration. The sleeves come down to the wrist, fringed with tattered lace in a faint pink. She is wearing bridal gauntlets hooked to silver rings on each hand's middle finger. Her fingernails are painted black. The dress comes down to the ankles and she is wearing black open-toe pumps without much heel. Her left ankle has a wrapped string of prayer beads interspaced with Taisho-era copper coins which have already left skin stains, potentially on purpose.

When the rope drop comes, Nori rises from her seat and advances to the rope. She slides down without mishap, due to a mixture of malicious intent and strategically-located bicycle clips and a hairpin.

Once on the ground she takes three lateral steps so as not to get struck by other descending students and stares directly at Kasagami, hands at her side.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> So Silent - Zak Hemsey - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKw2OlWO59k

An empty box lay upon her bed. The paper packaging within just askew. A stack of make-up homework lay upon her floor table, evidence of the days she'd missed. The reflection in the mirror is that of a girl tying the red tie of the high school uniform. Meticulously adjusting it in the same way she used to with her old Ohtori teal and white - before the design was changed.

Once she's finished, she stares for a short while. Once upon a time she'd looked forward to this moment - the moment where she'd be wearing the same uniform as Mai Tokiha, and later the same as Mikoto Minagi... and...

It's not a thought she can finish. Caught between one and another, it slips away like sand. And she just stands there in silence.

Eventually she decides... "Just another day."


It shouldn't be this confusing finding out where class 10-B is. She's already asked three upper classmen and she's still gotten lost in the white angular corridors despite visiting the high school building countless times.

And yet the hallways felt like a labyrinth for her as she passed by a gathering by the lockers.

"I wonder if she'll miss another day?"

"Who knows? But there's no way Araki-senpai will let that slide. Missing so many days on the start of the semester is inexcusable..."

"Do you think she'll make her cry again? It would serve her right..."

A wave of nausea hit her abruptly, but she forces the bile down her throat and makes herself keep walking down the corridors of the labyrinth of her own making.


The time from then until lunch is something of a blur for her - not dissimilar to the last two days. However she found the tension releasing as the bell rang and she found herself heading to the gardens. Only to see-

A luncheon.

A falcon screeches overhead - the gardens are filled to the brim with people enjoying themselves. She suspects she would have known about this had she bothered to turn her phone back on.

Reluctantly turning her bento over in her hands, she drops it back down into her school bag, hiding it's very existence.

Given the fabulous people in attendance - she doesn't exactly stand out. Less so with the jazz and metal anthem surrounding her until it faded until it became part of the school - the buzz of conversation following - even the colors of the garden's flowers. It would be easy enough to write her off as one of Kasagami's many admirers, hoping to own some part of the President-to-be's coming victory. Hoisting up a plate, she grabbed a few of the finger food offerings that met her dietary needs and found some green tea.

She intends to make herself scarce at one of the more secluded corners of the party but... it wouldn't do not to say something first.

She approaches from the side so as not to distract from anything too important. "It's a lovely luncheon." Might be the first thing Anthy and Kasagami hear from her. "I can tell that you put a lot of care into making it happen, Himemiya-san."

She's been conscripted into enough gardening parties that she knows her hand in this. And she also knows that Himemiya's been denied Ohtori's gardens for too long. She waits for Kasagami to look her way before saying quite evenly, "Congratulations on your coming victory, Kasagami. We're all looking forward to it."

Her words fade away into Ohtori white.

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

The Student Council Election Luncheon. ...Quite the name; of course it would have to be held at the rose gardens. ....Of course it would be singularly unsubtle. The sound of the helicopter and its music do a lot to command attention, ever-increasing spectacle the name of the game here.

...it makes it easy for those who would rather not be the center of attention. Shizuru Fujino is not wearing the uniform of Ohtori Academy, its high school or otherwise. She stands high on another floor, looking down the railing towards the gardens, hands along the edge. Her attire is casual of a sort--business casual more like, and the long cream coat she's wearing conceals much from here. Her hair is down, her red eyes on those in the garden.

Specifically, she's staring down at Anthy Himemiya as if she's looking more through than at her. ...Easy to miss, but present. One hand lowers, but the other--with engagement ring and perfect manicure both--remains, fingertips light in their resting place.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

It's been a bit of a weird start of the school year for Fuu Hououji - not so much because of events *off* of campus, but specifically because of new things *on* campus. First, of course, is the fact that she's now part of Infinity's high-school division, which brings with it a new uniform (which she's still getting used to, a little bit), a new set of floors to attend classes on, new teachers, and all that.

But more than the above is the fact that she's gone from being a member of the archery team to being the captain of the high-school division thereof ... and discovering that not only does this put her in charge of students a couple of years her senior, but that she also has a hand in making sure the middle- and elementary-school teams are coming along well. Fortunately, her old captain Yumi is happy to lend a hand with the organizational side of things, and there are plenty of other students - established members of the archery club, for the most part - eager to pitch in with the usual tasks of getting the new school year going.

The sudden invitation to lunch is an oddly welcome interruption for Fuu ... although it's not until she's looking at the helicopter that she realizes - consciously - just where the invitation came from. And where it's going to take her. Only one school - one *student* - would send a helicopter out to collect people like this ... at least, one student whom Fuu knows personally.

Fuu is her usual polite, smiling self on the ride from Infinity to Ohtori, although she's fairly restrained in socializing. She doesn't try to pry into Nori's grief, although there's a look of concern in Fuu's green eyes when she regards Nori across the rows.

And when Fuu emerges from the helicopter, one hand half-instinctively holding her skirt down as she walks, she gives her surroundings (and the people about her) a slightly baffled look. She's *very* out of place here, much as she always feels when she sets foot on Southern Cross Island, but it feels even moreso for some reason.

At least there are some familiar faces to be seen ... some more welcome (and more welcoming, no doubt) than others.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.


That wind tearing noise. He can hear it outside his class window. That was a...! As he begins to try and see its origin, an adult enters the classroom, and requests his attention to come to the office. A little worried, the boy gets up and follows, though quickly finds out that his intended destination is elsewhere. "No way!"

The little man is lead to the chopper, and guided to get aboard. "Make sure to be back soon," they say. The boy has nothing but stars in his eyes as he gets on. He is near vibrating with excitement! Some folks were already present it seems, going to the intended destination. "Hiiii! -ah," the boy says, but stopping, seeing some present. This might be a weird flight. Nonetheless, he is always prepared for emergency flights. Pluto's friend taught him what most be done.


Back to the gardens of Ohtori. Steven learned all sorts of cool plant lessons here! Which really helps out. Turns out a lot of places Rose Quartz and the Crystal Gems established have a uh. A plant problem. And cutting them down seems mean.

This school seems so advanced compared to Juuban. Perhaps it might be location, or due to the surrounding neighborhoods. Still, it was nice to get to visit! And an invite from Kasagami is always welcome. He had a lot of fun when she came over to visit, though more questions were raised than answered when the boy began to ask.

"Hello Partay!" Steven calls out stepping out of the chopper and jumping down. He adjusts a set of aviators on his face, and makes sure his uniform is unblemished and perfect.. The Gem-child's eyes dart from attraction to attaction, from Kasagami, to the garden, to the BIRDS THERE ARE BIG BIRDS HERE.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"I checked, Araki-sama. Everything is exactly where it should be." Anthy leans in and tips upward so that her Engaged might better hear her. This whisper may not pass stage muster; she's simply seen to mouth something to the taller girl. She bobs back down to her heels with the same smile.

The rose garden cannot host as many people as, say, a grand ballroom. This is simple math, a hard limitation. The crowd does not near overwhelming for this girl who finds them so fearful. They have invaded her sanctum, though, and that is far from nothing. A pleasant expression is her best veil, today and always.

Eri's greeting is the first to get more than a murmur and a nod from the dark-skinned girl. "Shimanouchi-san, thank you!" And then, after Eri continues regarding Kasagami's coming victory, she chimes in, "I'm sure we all are."

Enough people mill the rose garden that the regard of any specific one, however intent, takes a while to register... even as sensitive as the Rose Bride can be. Some regards are more subtle than others, after all. But to such insistent pressure Anthy does yield, bruises lightly beneath it, and turns to see where it might come from.

She finds a moment between guest-greetings, disguises it as looking at the owl beside her, then up to the sky. To Shizuru Fujino. A reflection passes, impossible to say whether across the lenses of Anthy's clear glasses or her green, green eyes.

Then Anthy is bobbing her head hello to the next arrivals. "Welcome!"

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.


When Niramo woke up this morning, she thought of it as nothing more than a normal school day, dealing with the return-to-school blues, difficult questions to be answered and homework to bludgeon through. Afterwards, maybe she could finally catch up on her favorite anime and try to talk Takk into eating food that wasn't completely healthy for once.

Like most plans, however, they were quickly thrown out the window once Kasagami Akari is involved.

An elegant envelope slipped into her locker told Niramo to await a ride at the residence of one Steven Universe, and only a moment's hesitation was needed before she sends a quick message to Steven to let him know that she would be going to his house today. Considering Kasagami's preference for fast cars and smooth rides, the vehicle picking her up is bound to be an exotic sports car.

When the helicopter lands and slides its' doors open for boarding, it just goes to show that Kasagami Araki will always defy expectations.


The view on the flight over to Ohtori is so much different and breathtaking than it is from a car's passenger seat or a packed subway train, and easily demands most of Niramo's attention. Having been friends with Kasagami long enough, Niramo has a few items in her bookbag in case she needs to suddendly attend a social event at Ohtori. Plain silver loop earrings and a simple chain necklace help enhance her Juuban uniform, and an extra ribbon helps holds Niramo's normally loose ends together. The others on the helicopter are a surprise, but it doesn't stop her from attempting small talk on the flight.

The landing was smooth and seemingly effortless, and Niramo exits the aircraft with a large smile and her bookbag in front of her, helping to keep her skirt from flying in the draft of the propeller's blades. There's quite a large amount of decorations here for any normal party, but the extravagance is fitting whenever Kasagami is involved. It quickly becomes obvious that their ride was chosen just so they could make quite the entrance, and if there wasn't any rumors about them before at Ohtori, that will change before the day is done.

Restraining the urge to look around wildly around like Steven, at least while there was so many eyes still upon her, Niramo walks forward to meet Kasagami, and nods her head towards her friend. "Kasagami-san, thanks for having us here today to celebrate your victory. I'm pretty sure Ohtori Academy is going to be quite different once you're Student Council President!"

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

When running for Student Council, it is necessary to be seen. Even at events that aren't your own.

Ye-jin Song is in attendance, a smiling face in the crowd, making regal waves to friends and potential voters as she makes her entrance. It's a subdued one, thankfully, Ohtori's VP hopeful more content to be seen than heard. At least, by the general public. She does have her own little coiterie in tow, to which she gestures toward the helicopter and remarks with a hand lifted conspiritorally over her mouth: "If she's so concerned about Ohtori, why's she dumping her trash here?" She's rewarded with her deserved tribute of tittered laughter, and breaks away from her entourage soon after.

This is, of course, so she can find a snack. A strawberry is plucked from a nearby table, the girl pausing to clap her hands together as Kasagami's speech comes to a close. "Yay, Kasagami~" She trills in tactful approval. The little red fruit is popped into her mouth after, and she soon finds a cup of tea and chair to sit in to enjoy the spectacle.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Once Upon A December (piano) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs2VL_HYG9Y

Utena Tenjou's return to the campus of Ohtori (after her long absence, rumored to be due to illness) is met with a mix of open-mouthed shock, blushing, gasping and shrieking -- at least on the part of the female half of the student body. Which isn't to say her new look isn't also a hot topic on the part of the boys.

Ne, ne, isn't that Tenjou-senpai?

  • sigh* It really looks good on her...

I think I like her best this way.

Whoa... you seen her yet?


I wonder who's gonna be the first one to...

After her intial splash amid the morning rush, she disappeared -- she did NOT sit classes -- and was witnessed departing one of the guidance counselor's offices once, for a trip to the powder room. Here at lunchtime, she's leaving the office again, and has the strained look of someone who has just engaged in a protracted battle with some combination of academics and bureaucracy.

But the mild stiffness that comes from bending over a desk, the finger and wrist-cramps from writing for hours and hours, they definitely pale in comparison to the overall vivacity she exudes, a wholesale alteration from the person who all but faded from the school like a ghost, months ago. Her every footfall is bright with energy -- even if her eyes are extraordinarily blue in all respects. More than just color.

In a sea of first-week freshmen, Utena's uniform is somehow too new, too crisp, in a way above and beyond the others, as if it were only pulled from a stack today and had no opportunity to settle onto the shoulders of a hanger. And it's totally unmodified; it couldn't be more basic, yellow jacket and gray skirt.

They fit her snugly. The shoulders of the jacket strain slightly with each pace, hints of the muscles inside. Her legs being mostly bare is nothing too unusual, but it's undeniably different with a skirt at the top -- the way the hem swirls with every movement. It is feminine -- she is feminine, and the addition of a certain delicacy and softness to her long, strong look does not detract from her loveliness.

Or her sadness.

And yet...

She holds her head high. As her impossibly long hair, more than worthy of any princess, flows behind her like rosewater, Utena Tenjou parts the sea of students wherever she passes.

(It, too, has a freshness to it that it owes to its extraordinary genesis. Normally, hair gets older as you go down from roots to end, but this hair is almost entirely the same age down to the very second, and its luscious hue challenges the greening sakura for pink primacy and wins in a landslide.)

She may walk quietly, but she also walks steadfastly. One sneakered foot in front of the other (red socks and all; they go pretty well with the yellow and gray, but are nevertheless the only old things she's wearing, other than her preferred piece of jewelry), she doesn't drift and she doesn't float. She doesn't quite know where she's going, but she knows that she'll know it when she gets there.

A massive crowd spills out of the garden's courtyard, its cup runneth over with the sea humanity.

Her eyes widen, bewildered.

Tables and chairs and food. Walls and perches. But more fundamental changes, too. Flowers that shouldn't be there -- and what few originals remain look unkempt.

They widen further still. Grief is joined by shock, by an even fresher distress. They become faintly glassy. Too bright.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki breaks into a grin as the guests arrive. Many of her black-coated hangers-on cheer, birds add in their own noise, and that blasted music keeps playing! The young woman knows how to draw in attention and a crowd, certainly. Kasagami strides over to the group as they hop down, arms open as she greets friends and 'friends'.

"And there we are! Nori-chan, Fuu-chan, Steve-kun, I'm glad you all could make it! I wanted to personally thank you for everything you've done!" Her gaze finds Nori's sharp one boring into her. And that outfit. She's like a mourning priestess or miko if you put it through a very, very odd religious filter. Of course, this is Nori, and she wears it well.

She knows exactly why she's being stared at, and her smile looks about as fragile as glass. "You look good. I'm glad you're...doing well, Nori. Hopefully you can relax, the school year will be a bright one. I promise."

Before things can get too awkward or it feels like Nori's about to shine an unlight fist into her face, it's on to Fuu and Steven! "Fuu-chan, looking as beautiful and elegant as always! One of these days I'm going to drag you to a ball, you deserve someone skilled enough to show off your grace in public! Make yourself at home, it will be my campus soon enough!" Grin! All of that confidence, as she offers a hand. If taken, Fuu will get a small twirl, and a light shove on the shoulder.

"Get something to eat and drink, all of you! Steven! Watch the beaks, there's a pouch you can feed them with on their purches! I'll bring Beatrix over next time, we can really let her fly!"

There's servants here and there, though far fewer than normal. This is a luncheon after all, and those invited are either here by invitation, by political need, or simply being admirers, or just lucky. That does grate at Kasagami a bit, and she mulls it over even as she leans back towards Anthy in her obedient and unflappable doll-like state. Her sheath and hood ornament is right where she belongs.

"Well keep it up. I expect loyalty from my subjects. You're my first one, after all." She offers back. Kasagami is too busy socializing to note Shizuru from on high. She's not thought that much about her mentor, with so much happening and the fact that she's going to be gone. It won't be long before that hits her though.

Eri Shimanouchi approaches, and Kasagami actually looks past her once. Then she suddenly snaps her head back like a hawk to a mouse, good eye opening wide as she looks the young woman over in a moment of stunned silence. She has the good graces enough to not let her jaw hit the floor, but her entire body tenses and all of that good cheer and projection bleeds out of her.

A tongue wets her lips and she finally convinces herself that Eri is here and talking. That tone makes her heart skip a bit. Her face darkens a bit with barely contained worry, guilt, and boiling rage at her beloved Shepherd and friend. Her look says the thing she can't here with a crowd.

'Where have you been?'.

"Eri-chan." Her throat bobs. Her tone isn't pleasant, but at least she almost sounds 'incredibly irritated' rather than swallowing a storm of words not fit for print.

"I'm glad to see you made it. I'm glad my texts finally got through" That last bit is whispered, and sharp as a knife. She mouths words 'Office'. She can feel her chest tighten. So many things she wants to say, so many emotions she needs to throw like darts. Then she plasters on a smile, and lets out a sigh. "Get something to eat, you need it. I'm not having my friends starve."

Niramo is a welcome distraction.

"Niramo-chan! Of course, how could I have the people I care for not be around for my new role as this campus' leader. All the more reason to transfer soon! I want to make sure the requirements aren't as lax as they have been. Hard work pays off, and I'm tired of delinquents coasting." Why is she glancing sideways at Anthy with the ghost of a frown. Must be a trick of the light.

"I will transform the campus, NIramo!"

Kasagami Araki looks back to Anthy a second time, then around to the group at large. Ye-Jin as she sits gets a smile, and even a bow to her soon-to-be co-worker in her mind, winking as she straightens in a faux conspiracy. Another tidbit for the rumor mill!

She joins with Anthy, even taking her arm in a way that's possessive. "You know, that actually makes me think." She starts, voice raising such that the crowd can hear it.

"This is a lovely section of school, it really is. But it's...missing something. Compare it to the courtyard, or even one of the open air lunch areas. Now, I wonder what could be the problem! Ahh, I know!" she snaps her free fingers.

"Everyone, I have had an epiphany! As my first act as your Student Council President, we will fund a beautification drive! And I don't mean more efforts on restoring the forest. No, we will start with this very Garden! Larger, better and more unique plants! A section for a proper aerie, not just foliage! Flora and fauna both, open to every student at Ohtori to take lunch or hold outdoor functions! There's barely enough room to sit and chat. It'll be large enough to hold a small Ball in summer!" Grin.

Then she looks to Anthy as some of her admirers cheer on the idea.

"Don't you think that will be nice, Anthy? It will be my first mark on the campus!" The idea, for all her inner tormoil, seems to bring an ambitious spark into her gaze once more.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There's a polite dip of her head at Anthy's thanks. She doesn't say much else, because she can't call attention to the fact that her absence has been felt by the Gardening Club. However at Kasagami saying she's glad her texts finally made it - there's a flicker of something in her eyes. It's hard to say what given the slight flutter of those dark eyelashes.

But she answers quite smoothly, "They did. I'm sorry I didn't answer them." She lies. "There was something pressing that I had to take care of."

Whether Kasagami's whisper of 'Office' is heard or not is hard to say. The dip of Eri's chin might just be gravity more than agreement. However she holds up the plate in her hands fractionally to show that she does in fact have food. "Don't worry..." She says quietly - her meaning seeming to double given what all of them fought for, "... I'd never put you in that position.

Unable to excuse herself quite yet, she takes up a cucumber sandwich between two fingers. "Itadakimasu..." She says before biting into it absently. Like such motions are mechanical - more than anything.

The thought occurs to her that she can't remember if she's eaten since before the night of the battle... but it doesn't bring any sense of haste or gusto to her eating this right now.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The birds. The birds! Nori remembers those birds fondly. That is to say, she remembers being fond of the birds. In the moment she is fond of nothing in particular.

I should eat something even so, she tells herself.

But then here comes Kasagami. Nori's eyes are not as piercingly pale now, the dark blue of her irises looking black from behind the veil. Her shoulders sway as Kasagami gets near enough to her to speak. (Sadly Fuu's attention escapes her, for now; the whirring projector that Nori feels like she's been watching the world through has too narrow an aperture.)

Her answer to Kasagami is subdued, and thus easily overlooked (underheard?) if people aren't tending closely. Tonelessly, she says, "For those who see it" in reply to Kasagami, and then she manages a small, tooth-baring smile.

"I think," she says, "that I will get some cake, while I can. Thank you, Araki." No friendliness, not even the traditional san.

Then she moves forwards with a rustle of fabric and a jingle of funereal coins.


"Song-kun," comes a lead-bell voice behind Ye-jin. "I want to ask you about your platform."

Nori Ankou rustles into a seat within chatting range. Nori has a paper plate with five different kinds of cake slice on it. She is holding a plastic fork in a slightly trembling hand. As she spears into the strawberry of her own slice that parallels Ye-jin's, she just goes ahead and asks it.

"Will you make Araki suffer if you are successful in your campaign?"

She then puts the strawberry in her mouth.

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

The reflection passes. Shizuru looks down into Anthy Himemiya's opaque glasses, and does not learn any of the secrets she might have wanted by looking at her. She stares still, distant. There is nothing to say from this distance. ...A distance that goes far, far beyond the mere fact of Shizuru being stories up and Anthy on the ground.

Shizuru looks down at those arriving, those speaking... But it is not the Garden that has the bulk of her attention, soon enough. As the crowds make their show, as the crowds spill forth...

Shizuru Fujino says nothing as she watches the girl who came to this school with the Rose Signet. She says nothing as she watches widening eyes, shock, distress...

The former Vice President of Ohtori's Student Council is silent as she watches.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven casts an eye from behind those sunglasses at Nori. He has so many questions on that outfit, though he has seen some folks wearing really strange outfits kinda like that out near the arcade. Maybe it is some sort of statement? It was certainly... unique.

"I-I can feed them?!" Steven retorts, stars in his eyes. The boy cranes (heh) his neck to view the nearby birds. He must give them treats! Or food! Or something! The boy quickly heads on over to check out the feathered friends. Wait, before he does. Were there others here he knew? The boy begins to look around for Kasagami's... um. Something, Anthy. That question's answer really needs to get refined eventually. Maybe he can find her in this crowd. This was her rose garden though, wasn't it? She has to be here, especially if used for a party by Kasagami.

Some folks look familiar. He thought he saw one of the girls he met briefly at the library, that girl that hoseted the cruise event too! He even thinks he saw a familiar tinge of pink out of the moving bodies of the crowd. But before he can pick someone to talk to further, Kassie makes an announcement! "Yay! GO Prez!" Steven yells over the crowd. She will do great.

And he quietly hopes it distracts her from whatever caused her to ache. She does seem to be doing so much better. Hopefully it isn't just a front due to being in public.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami's speech though causes her to pause in taking bites of her sandwiches as if she were missing a beat in her thoughts. Her eyes half-lid for a moment, and she finds her eyes searching out Anthy Himemiya's as Kasagami solicits her fellowing gardening club member's response.

She isn't able to bring herself to clap, or offer her own form of congratulations.

Instead she looks around the garden after, which already seems so saturated by the cream and mustard and Ohtori white as to drown out all other color.

Eventually her chin dips and she just focuses on eating again.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Suspecting nothing, Fuu accepts Kasagami's hand, expecting it to be a handshake. The twirl takes her somewhat by surprise, but she manages not to be thrown too far off by it. It also gives her an easy excuse to look around the garden more than she'd already been able to do so - although she's likely to miss a lot of details in that quick 360.

"I believe I know somebody who can show my dancing skills off already," she replies to Kasagami with a wry tone - and is that a look of challenge in her eyes? - before she makes her way over to the serving tables, weighing what she's already seen and heard. And what else she's seeing and hearing, in the course of things. Her usual aversion to Ohtori is mostly due to the cutthroat intensity of competition and enforcement of the pecking order ... and that intensity is on display as much as ever. Possibly moreso.

She overhears Nori's question, at least in enough of a part to get the gist of it, and ... well, 'make X suffer' isn't what she'd consider a good platform for anybody to run on. Friends or rivals or bitter enemies, the students of Ohtori have to share a campus with each other, and more frequently than an outsider like Fuu ...

Or, for that matter, like Steven. Fuu collects a couple of small sandwiches and makes her way in the direction from which she heard Steven's voice ring out. The fact that he's near the birds makes it an even more appealing choice - she finds herself glancing around to see if there are any other birds she recognizes ... although the Falconry Club probably *doesn't* let their flock out loose that often, do they?

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

All those who pay their respects to the party's undisputed center of attention and the President-presumptive are, in turn, bade welcome by her first and most obedient subject. Anthy distributes pretty nods and softly spoken greetings. "Steven-san, hello. Please have some refreshments, Umokeshi-san. It's nice to see you again, Huouji-san." To the spectral Nori Ankou she gives a proper curtsey; to Ye-jin and her cheer, a dipping nod.

Anthy Himemiya is Kasagami's bird in hand for the announcement, coming along with a docile grace that betrays her practice at such handling.

As the tall young woman holds forth on how this greenhouse garden could be best reforged to suit the desires and dreams of Kasagami Araki, the girl who has been her purple haired shadow for a month and more smiles a still, careful smile. She looks out over the assembled crowd for her roses and finds the dark red invaders first, crawling everywhere. With some difficulty she spots a tea-stained white bloom between tables and focuses on the torn edge of a petal.

And she listens, and keeps her smile, and clasps hands together in front of her new grey skirt, to hide their tremble.

The steel grey eye of her Engaged requires Anthy's attention and she turns her head as if in slow motion, relinquishing the rose. The obedient subject, summoned, complies.

With a smile as lovely and as difficult to see through as the time-stained greenhouse glass Kasagami seeks to remove, Anthy replies, "You're right. It will be very nice, Araki-sama. Perfect for your grand events."

When she looks back she cannot find the tea-white rose again, the crowd has shifted, it is gone. Anthy Himemiya looks down at her shoes instead.

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Ye-jin smiles at Kasagami's greeting, raises her hand to touch her thumb and forefinger together in an OK circle. This is about as much approval as she's given either presidential candidate, and par for the course. She needs some wiggle room depending on who wins, after all. Similar polite waves are made to those who depart the helicopter, despite her previous words.

She forgoes any further food for the moment, content with a tiny plate and her saucer of tea that rests on it. She retrains her most Ohtori posture as she sips, though the wiggle of her ankle betrays a tinge of restlessness. The prospect of more plants doesn't seem to particularly excite her either.

But Nori Ankou is soon there to distract her. She'd spotted the grimly clad girl arriving with the helicopter group earlier, though she had no catty remarks about her fellow Ohtori student to give. Lost in the crowd shortly after, Nori's reappearance gives Ye-jin a small start. Nori's demeanor too causes a noticeable pause. Her words even more so.

5r"Ankou-san," She says, after some consideration. "I only want students to be happy." A dainty sip of her tea, and she adds with a smile: "If that would make you happy, I'll take it into consideration."

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Hearing Kasagami's proclimation for her to transfer only makes Niramo shake her head, an easy smile on her lips. "Kasagami-san, i'm quite fine over at Juuban, and you know that. Besides, with how prestigious Ohtori and its' students are, I think it's best to simply try my best to empower others at my school in that regard!"

The epiphany shared by Kasagami, however, dims that smile for just a moment. She may not be here often, but she has seen this garden when it was fully tended by the graceful hand of Anthy Himemiya, and the thought of other flowers and fauna in this space would only seem to take something away from the garden, like trying to put too much color in too small of a frame. It would dampen the impact the roses alone would bring, and detract from the overall beauty. None of this is said, of course, but maybe an attempt could be made in public to attempt to disuade Kasagami from altering this garden, perhaps with the creation of a separate garden?

Nori's appearence certainly stands out in this crowd, standing out like a beacon in the night of conformity-enducing Ohtori uniforms. She was as silent as much as the helicopter was loud on the trip in, so Niramo isn't quite sure what to make of the Ohtori student, but she has to be a good friend of Kasagami to be picked up and making an entrance in the helicopter. Her rather abrupt departure from Kasagami is telling, however, and she can't help but wonder what sort of divide is going on in the background.

Joining Steven's and Fuu's lead, Niramo loads up a plate with several finger sandwiches, saving a few for herself and moving the others to the front of the plate, prepared to be sacrificed to the feathered beauties of the Falconry club. This was her first time actually being this close to the birds of prey, and seeing them this close draws a gasp from Niramo at the aura each bird seems to give around them, dignity and respect being demanded from those that gazes upon them.

"Fuu-san, Steven-san, I haven't had a chance to ask before now, but how's your first week back at school? I think my Social Studies teacher believes the break was too generous for us and is demanding even more work than before now. And it's only just him!" A long-suffering sigh leaves Niramo, her suffering clear to any that looks upon her.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Rebel Girl - Bikini Kill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOCWma5vOiQ

Although she did nothing to warrant it, the edge of the crowd seems to notice Utena all at once, and the murmuring picks back up, her name on the lips of a dozen's dozen. It sweeps through the garden, much more quietly than the music, the cheering, and yet -- penetrating. Inexorable as the wind. 'Tenjou.' 'Tenjou.' 'Utena.' 'Utena.'

And, like magic, a pathway opens up, for her to proceed inside.

Hem and hair bounce in time, as she strides down the primrose path. A phantom sled tugs behind her through a blinding blizzard. She shivers at the memory.

The flowers aren't the only thing that's different. The bafflement in her face -- lifted eyebrows, slightly parted lips -- intensifies as the presence of the Kasagami-alikes sinks into her awareness; the whole energy of the school feels altered, the familiar become strange, but nothing is quite so dramatic as seeing replicates of the coat that was draped across her injuries just the other night, now draped all over a vast swath of the student body.

But the pain intensifies, too. She thought she was ready for this, but she's not. Every step feels like a road of knives as she gets closer to the center of things -- gets closer to her, to them, to her. She doesn't wince -- or mince -- away, but grits herself through it, continuing forwards, her dominant hand clenching into a fist. Distres is chiefly broadcasted by her eyes, though not as tears per se. They were saucers, but now they're narrowing, almost to slits.

More aware of the gazes on her now than she was before, she steels herself against them, perfecting her posture further, defiantly indifferent. Silence falls over the party like a shroud as she walks.

Chin up -- shoulders back -- core tight -- neck long -- and think: MURDER.

It's particularly easy right now. As Anthy acquiesces to Kasagami's command, she starts shaking with anger. It binds her tongue momentarily, as she struggles to grasp the words that have slipped away from her as surely as the air in her lungs.

She is breathless with fury, as she comes to stand before She Who Would Be King -- as the cherry-red bows on her sneakers enter Anthy's field of vision on the ground.

Utena stands close to the two of them. Very close. Rudely close. Intimately close. All of these.

"Enough," she growls laconically, glaring up at Kasagami. She may have only been able to form one single solitary word, but the intensity she packs into it... she makes it count.

You could hear a pin drop.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Huh. Hopefully that helped cheer her up.

Steven turns back to the fluffy birds, who are easily capable of removing a finger. Before he moves to feed them though, a familiar young lady strolls nearby. "Hey Fuu!" the boy calls out. "Come check out these birds! You think they are trained to fetch things and do tricks? Is that what the falconry club does?" Honestly he wasn't sure what they did. Might have just been an enthusiasm club, though seeing these makes him think more along the training route.

Oh, it is so good to see Anthy! "Hiiii Miss Anthy!" the boy says politely. She is so quiet, polite and reserved. As he looks at her, he wonders. What excites her? What gets her blood pumping? She is always so mellow. Something must light her day up! Maybe he will find out one day.

But not today.

"Oh, hey Niramo! Some ride over, huh?" he says, smirking. Those helicopter rides will never get old. "Ehhhhh. Could be better. Still can't get behind reading literature and history stuff. I guess it is a side effect from beind told certain other history stories, and a lot of that pales in comparison. But! I will get by." A look to Fuu. "How bout you?"

And then Steven's party senses tingle. A shift in mood, of state! "Somethin's going on!" he says quietly. "Let's go check it out!" the boy adds, using his partywalk ability to move through the crowd unabated. Okay, not really, but he knows how to operate in a social scene it seems to get around.

Some sort of young lady. A vaguely familiar one. That hair again... It tugs a warm smile onto his face at its sight somehow. He knows why, but not why. Perhaps just provoking thoughts of her did it. An almost instinctual reaction to the memories of a kind person. What is it she is doing though?

She seems... distraught, angry. Enough so to disrupt a school event. "Ima go get a closer look, you two coming or hanging back?" he asks to Fuu and Niramo in a hushed tone.

Considering everything surrounding Kasagami and Anthy that he has questions for, this could prove to be enlightening somehow.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

For a while after - her gaze lingers on Anthy Himemiya - unable to understand that she's lost sight of one of her precious roses. It's hard to concentrate on other people - when she's starting to feel like she's lost her whole garden.

One of the few mercies of Eri Shimanouchi's life was that the whole divide between Mahou Shoujo was kept out of the classroom. Certainly she sat a whole semester in the same room as Sayaka Miki and Homura Akemi - but other than occasional glares she'd been spared these sorts of drama making it to school.

Even those who were already at the party were part of this mercy to her. She didn't mind people giving her a wide berth... she didn't mind at all.

And then the crowd parts like the sea to the word 'Tenjou' and 'Utena.'

There was a time not too long ago where even she might find herself stopping on occasion to watch Utena on the drive across the basketball court. The sweat on her skin and glistening in her perfect pink hair. It's a momentary flash of nostalgia for her.

But with every step upon her approach - seeing her in the girl's uniform now - she understands that perhaps those days are long gone. And so perhaps are the days of small mercies.

The anger in the timbre of her voice, the red-cheeked fury as she comes to stop in front of Kasagami.

It may be a personal dispute for all she knows, a school rivalry - and yet all she can see is a Chevalier standing off against a Shepherd. And in that - something has changed for her. For this to be brought here, and now - in this garden.

There is heat in Utena's words, but the cold Eri Shimanouchi seems to radiate upon seeing her come face to face with Kasagami Araki could perhaps coat the flowers around her in rime.

One could hear a pin drop right now - and the girl doesn't say anything at all. All of her words being spoken by her flat affect and cold eyes.

The message she might as well be giving off is quite simple though:

Don't do anything you'll come to regret.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Ah, Niramo-san!" Fuu turns, an honest, bright smile favoring the other Juuban student. "It's been busy," she admits. "I was persuaded to step up and volunteer as the new captain of Infinity's high-school archery team ... I thought somebody else would at least try to step forward, so the rest of the team could decide between us, but it was unanimous. I just hope my skills are good enough for the job - archery *and* organizational." Her smile turns sheepish, "At least I have plenty of help and support ..."

A new arrival enters the garden; Fuu glances away as Steven takes notice of what's going on, and looks in the same direction that he is. Fuu's own smile fades somewhat (although it's still present in an acceptably social quantity), and a sandwich is offered to the most inquisitive bird nearby, almost without thinking about it. "I'm not sure whether I want to look closer," she admits quietly to Steven, "or get binoculars and watch from a distant place of safety ..."

By the time she finishes that sentence, silence has probably just about finished falling across the gathering. What was it Fuu was thinking earlier about the cutthroat intensity of Ohtori ... ?

But it doesn't stop her from shadowing Steven - whether to get that closer look for herself, or to be ready in case things veer even further south.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Swallow. Frown. Kasagami finally just rubs the side of her head and shakes it as she stares at Eri. "Idiot. I'm just glad you're okay." She mutters bluntly, and stares for a moment to make sure Eri really gets that sandwhich down. Only then does she finally turn her attention away!

It's...not unexpected, Nori's reaction. Kasagami doesn't seem to readily have much of a reply, as she briefly watches the woman walk away. Another casualty of the Puella War. They could've been such great friends too.

"It's always the pretty ones that have the most knives to throw into your heart, Anthy."

Steven's joy has Kasagami laughing despite herself. It's a good pick-me-up after Nori. Nevermind Fuu! "Oh, do you now! What mystery! Of course you've stolen someone's heart! I'm going to interrogate you on that one later Fuu-chan, enjoy!"

"One day I'll drag you out of that shell of mediocrity Niramo-chan! Mark my words!" She offers to the girl. Before she's off.

Anthy is obedient and true. "Just as I thought. Think of the student body, happy, invigorated here to continue pushing and bettering themselves! To reach higher and higher to push towards their dreams!" Then a scowl. "A shame you don't dedicate yourself to something. You waste yourself, Anthy." She asides to the woman.

A path is cut through the crowd and the world that Kasagami is building to admit someone very, very familiar. Defiance and fury in her as she walks up, pink hair atop beauty in that feminine attire that somehow has Kasagami's lips twitching downwards to a frown. The crowd fades in her mind as she comes to regard the one that stalks up to her. Utena Tenjou graces her, her Prince graces her.

That fury makes her heart sing and burn all at once. Kasagami stands tall, proud, and solid. Her good eye stares dow at the young woman amidst the sudden silence. She sizes up Utena like a hungry predator, seeking her intentions in that single, growling word and glaring face. She clutches Anthy's arm more. A little shift to draw her half apace away.

She has a good idea of the source of friction, but Kasagami can't let that go. Her eye narrows, returning the glare with looming and regarding Utena with both curiousity and a long, piercing gaze. The silence stretches on, tension in the air thick like falling cherry blossoms in a tornado.

"So, the long-lost Prince has finally returned. And what, exactly, is enough? Do you think I went overboard? Too many sunflowers for your liking?" Kasagami snarls in return, digging in that particular knife.

"Someone who's been away for so long shouldn't be surprised when ambitious men and women decide to start changing things. That is the only path forward." Rumbles the Engaged deep in her throat. Lingering anger poisons them as surely as the nipping bites of guilt gnawing harder in her chest. But she can't back down, not here, not now.

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Ye-jin takes note of the crowd parting, eventually. As figures begin to clear a path she turns her head, squinting toward the source of the disturbance. She recognizes Utena Tenjou as the same figure that raced with her cruise ship earlier, and she knows the name from the Ohtori rumor mill despite the pink-haired girls absence.

Though she had an inkling of some spat between her and Kasagami, she's not certain of the specifics. It seems like she may be finding out soon. The display is interesting enough that her leg stops twitching, and instead she hunkers a few inches forward in her seat, attempting to hear over the hissed whispers of those nearby.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori eats her cake with mechanical precision. She answers Ye-jin between bites.

"It wouldn't make me happy," Nori says. "But it would satisfy me. My reasons are secret. You will understand all, in time." The white cake slice is gone; Nori did not taste it.

As she tucks into the slice of sacher torte Nori speaks between bites. "I don't think happiness is real any more." Bite. "I think it's like evil in those philosophy classes." Bite. "It's mostly an absence. Mostly... you need something there. But I once heard someone," bite "say that you should get into vacuum cleaner repair, for nature abhors nothing more than a vacuum." The sacher torte is now gone, forever. (Well, that slice.)

She watches Utena, then. Even in this dry and funereal state her eyes widen slightly. Utena suggests a hope that Nori despises herself for feeling a want-for. It is not that easy, she thinks. There are rustles and whispers and Nori leans closer to Ye-jin as she begins to eat a slice of something she has not even looked at.

If she has words they do not come right away, but there is an ambiance of conspiracy. It isn't just a weird incense-ish perfume.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Fuu's promotion to the head of a club at Infinity is big news, however, and Niramo gives her friend a quick smile. "Really? Congratulations then, Fuu-san! I didn't even know you were attempting to run for Captain, otherwise I would have wished you luck! I'm sure you can handle it, though. You're a calm and focused person that can grasp the big picture, so while you might not see yourself as such, i'm sure you're going to be a great captain!"

The change in the atmosphere of the party, celebrating an upcoming victory to a sudden and brutal silence, pulls the attention from Fuu, Steven and the birds and towards to where Niramo left Kasagami. The silence is almost deafening in itself, but a name being whispered through the crowd gives the idea that at the person is known at Ohtori. Now if only Niramo could only see through the gaps in the crowd to see clearly, the pink hue of hair enough to act like a guidepost.

Seeing Steven take the lead, Niramo gives Fuu a quick nod. "I'll go in close, and make sure Steven-san doesn't try to jump into the middle of this. I don't think getting in the middle of Ohtori politics would be the best idea for him, but it's something i'm sure he'll do anyways." Plate in hand, Niramo follows in Steven's wake, using her smaller size to her advantage to slip through the crowd, even if she has to move awkwardly to squeeze through at points.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The crowd centers around Kasagami Araki and therefore, also, Anthy Himemiya. Their chatter and cheers wash inward like waves, and so too dull buzzing pain ebbs and flows through her. The Rose Bride preoccupies herself with suffering, a path both familiar and not without its treacherous rewards for her.

When the syllables within the crowd change, she is slow to hear. When their chatter ceases altogether, she thinks, good, I can focus more completely on my inner pain. And she does.

There's a patch of good brown garden dirt between Anthy's shoes, mostly untrampled by the gathering. If she could till the soil with the jagged edges of her pain alone, it could not be more well-seeded by that downcast gaze.

Bright red bows atop familiar sneakers step into view, one-two, disturbing Anthy's meditation on misery. She follows them up with green eyes, taking in the long bare legs and the sleek shape of their muscles, the skirted uniform above...

The impossibly pink fall of restored hair, lustrous and light. The miraculous blue of eyes that redefine, in this moment, the traditional color of anger.

Kasagami's possessing arm pulls Anthy a half-step back, so she falls more behind the imposing figure of her Engaged. She moves readily, and she stays where she is placed, in a position both protected and subservient.

Anthy blinks. Then she clutches her free arm upward to her chest, an 'oh my' gesture, and breaks her gaze away to look up at Kasagami as the ascendant duelist speaks. None watching know how difficult that shift of focus was for the quiet, strange girl in the glasses -- to tear away from the strong clean lines of a reinvigorated Utena Tenjou.

The girl herself is of mixed opinions on this, and defers any examination of that difficulty. This is as practiced as her earlier indulgence in her own suffering. She retains a smaller smile; the polite greeting one is no longer appropriate.

Anthy gives a little nod, as Kasagami speaks about why Utena should not be surprised. She says nothing at all, but this is not odd: not in the context of her own strangeness.

It is impossible, though, for Anthy to keep her eyes docile and loyal. They shift, drawn, back to the prodigal before them both. She looks up at an Utena Tenjou whose fury emanates like radiant heat, and she finds that this time, she cannot look away at all. She can only blink rapidly, fluttering curtains of dark curved lashes like a trapped butterfly might fan its wings. It is for all the world like she is waiting.

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

Shizuru looks down from her place far above, as the crowd parts enough. ...She hears the speaking of that name, and feels a certain irony as she watches. It's almost enough to be funny. ...Almost. Not quite.

Shizuru's eyes now are on Utena and Kasagami both, on Anthy, on the three of them; they are so close that to watch one is to watch all. And even at this distance... the sheer silence makes it obvious what that growl is. What that word is.

Shizuru looks distant still, watching someone that is too late to stop. There's no good reason she should want it to be, really.

...She glances to Eri, once, and then back to Kasagami, as she speaks. As she answers.

Shizuru's fingers curl, slowly, at her side, and she looks down her nose at the spectacle before her.

...As once again, her attention settles on Anthy's, and the weight of her antipathy is almost tangible.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Get Your Rebel On - RuPaul https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6ODP9zwytA

Utena's arms fold across her chest defensively, at Kasagami's stare, her sizing up, her frown -- and especially her words. It isn't the sunflowers that sting. It's what comes after.

"Enough is enough," she snaps back, her eyes narrowing even further when Kasagami white-knuckles Anthy's arm. She doesn't let them retreat, closing in even further until she and Kasagami are practically nose to nose; she and Anthy, hip to hip, separated mostly by purple curls and a pink curtain.

Her non-answer is answer enough: it isn't any one thing; it's everything. Fiery red and shining pink share a portion of the color wheel, but right now, stacked up next to each other, they look like complete opposites in all respects.

"I want to go together with you."

There is a collective intake of breath from many onlookers, at this outright declaration of love, this unbelievably bold confession. And Utena's untangled her arms, is thrusting... a ring? in the older girl's face. A matching ring. They're wearing the same ring!!

"After school," she continues fiercely -- eavesdroppers lean in closer -- "You and me."

A few people are starting to twig; the tension rises as their awareness flips like a sequence of dominos. The very last of them, the most innocent and naive, get it fully as Utena concludes, hotly:

"Because your path sucks."

Utena is incapable of ignoring the persistence, the eternity of Anthy's gaze; she shifts her weight beneath it, as though it bears down on every inch of her, makes her feel straight down to the furthest extensions of her body -- right to her limits. Kasagami is forced to contend with the increasingly obvious truth that Utena may still be staring her down, unflinchingly, but that nevertheless her attention is shared, and being apportioned away more and more with every passing heartbeat. She isn't just here to satisfy the fantasies of a would-be King.

She may not be here for that at all.

"I was gone before I ever left, but I'm back now." This low-voiced coda is added nominally in response to the implicit accusation in Kassie's words, but the words are softer, almost gentle.

"I'm home," she repeats, firming herself up again with force of will. No -- that wasn't quite a repetition, was it? Tadaima. A slip of the tongue, or maybe not. It was her return to the One Engaged. You can tell by how the cadence was exactly the same as someone would say 'Deal With It.'

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The term 'cutthroat,' it occurs to Fuu, may well be an understatement.

She barely knows of Utena Tenjou. She's only recently come to know Anthy Himemiya by name. And as for Kasagami Araki ... while Fuu is reticent to openly call her 'friend,' she *does* know the girl who aspires to the presidency of the Ohtori Student Council, better than she knows quite a few of her own Infinity classmates.

But she doesn't have to know Utena to grasp what she's doing here, what she's saying. She doesn't have to know Anthy to read how the darker-skinned girl holds herself, how she reacts to Kasagami, how she reacts to Utena. And she knows Kasagami well enough to know exactly how she'll react to a challenge like this - a counter-claim to not only contest Kasagami's, but to outright *defy* the self-acclaimed King in the making.

Fuu barely nods an acknowledgement to Niramo ... but that's mostly because she's trying to reach for the younger boy's shoulder, to make sure he doesn't go charging in, as if to save Niramo the trouble. Only if she actually manages to get hold of Steven before he might pull away, though - if he's already moving, her hand finds nothing.

'Cutthroat' is *definitely* an understatement now, in Fuu's estimation. There's no way Kasagami will take this lying down - and no way that her pink-haired peer is going to back away, either. An invitation to be shown off for a luncheon has turned into a front-row seat ...

Even though she's not *quite* sure what she's going to see in the next minute, the next five seconds, the next heartbeat.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

So wrapped up in her feelings over this kind of interruption to her day, it takes a while for the strangeness of this to penetrate.

What is going on here? There are too many strange parallels. Even in how Utena wears the same ring as Kasagami. What was this really about? It sounds like higher stakes - but the way Utena challenges her it might as well be a schoolyard brawl? She'd heard of Kasagami getting into fights. Heard of Kasagami even kidnapping students on campus.

But she can't really wrap her head around what this is really about. Is it about that? Something more personal? Or is this just some smaller conflict in some greater one?

She still remembers how one day the question of where Anthy was was nigh synonymous with 'Utena'. And then how the next - that changed.

Feeling a little dizzy from the surreality of it all, she glances upwards. Catching sight of someone in the upper windows.

In those few moments she remembers-

The girl in a different uniform. Sliced up and soaked with blood. Eyes vacant and staring into nothing even as an intruder entered.

Her eyes linger there, lips slightly parted - before they come down to rest upon Kasagami and Utena.

She'd known about how rotten this school could be for some time. She'd embraced it, tried her best to change herself to live within it - to survive within it.

And yet never has she felt more like she knows nothing whatsoever about it than right now - like she's on the edge of some great ocean - and making the wrong step she might slip right in and be carried away by a rip tide.

All the same - she's ready to put it all on the line for what she owes Kasagami, depending on what happens next.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That Anthy is drawn to look to Utena so completely passes by Kasagami. No, as always, she sees her as barely more than an object even now. A pretty sheath, and her sheath for a sword of power. Her black curls of hair flutter lightly, now that the trio are so close. Utena refuses to back down and leave the kingdom she's just barely started making. In better times she'd welcome it. Dreamed of it, even.

But now Utena looks for all the world a general about to hammer down the front gate of her castle.

Only when the ring is thrust into her face and that declaration made that she leans back slightly. The ring on her finger shines with a flash of light across it's surface. Kasagami stares at it, then back to it's owner.

"Is that so, Utena? It's one I've always hoped you'd walk with me. Does it look like thorns to you, now? Everything I've done was for..." Her voice raises, but she lets out a sigh. There's a crowd, too many listening ears.

And worse still, Anthy draws more and more of Utena's attention away from her.

"Hah, but at least you really do have your spine back! Good. I have no intention of walking away now. After school it is! We've made too many assumptions about each other for far too long. Show me your best, Utena! If you really are the one I've been searching for, if you hate my path so much, then come show me one that's better! Bring your dancing shoes, you're going to need it!" She can feel the eyes on her, the burning questions. Those who hate her and support her all watching. One hand clenches even as she refuses to give up the narcotic plant in purple at her side.

"This home is going to be mine, after all!" More than anything, that possessive and greedy note in her voice reigns. Obsessive need for power and control. The echo, the endless loop of strength to gather and stop everything. Stop youma, the horrors of puella magic, brilliant enemies, precious enemies from falling by the hands of friends. She clutches Anthy closer.

And so too does that dark look settle upon Utena, as ready to devour like a hungry wolf as it was when she first stepped onto campus in her selfish quest that consumes her.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven creeps his way closer toward the front of the fray. The hushed whispers of the party event sounds like the most scandalous rumor has run afoul in this festive occasion. Even the birds are quiet now! How awful is that?!

A poofy head of hair can be seen weaving through the crowd, with two young ladies following close behind. Steven finally makes it to the closest edge of the ring, onlooking to this face-off. They both do not seem to like each other. What is it they do not like? Why here? Why now, in front of everyone like this?

Against his better judgement, he holds off for now. While they do not directly state it, there are threats being exchanged here. They feel veiled or glamored in a way that the standard partygoer here would not realize it, as if they are undergoing an exchange of wordly panache.

And then the pink haired girl flashes a ring. A ring he has seen before. Kasagami has that ring! Huh, is that a unique club signet or something? "Ooh, are you two gonna challenge each other in club activities?" he asks. A single voice from the crowd.

Or are they challenging each other for the right of newly claimed presidency?! He watches with held breath at this point. This is super interesting. But... even after saying that, there is far too much tension and anger in the air for it to be a simple challenge. Perhaps they have some sort of animosity? Or maybe this girl is... Kasagami's school rival?! OH MAN.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

They have been this close before, Anthy Himemiya and Utena Tenjou. Closer at points, including with every drawing of the Sword of Dios from the Rose Bride's breast by the girl who would be a Prince. She remembers each time. It should not be possible for eyes to shift that much further into blue, through sheer proximity, but there are many things about Utena that defy what is proper and expected. This is simply one of the more arresting of them.

Anthy moves no muscle, draws no breath. They are so close, the three of them, that Kasagami and Utena both are privy to -- and privileged by -- the subtle expression of her attention by way of that still avidity. So vivid and near are her eyes that their emerald shimmers visibly as they focus.

The Rose Bride attends closely to the challenge, as is proper, as is expected, as is right -- however nontraditional its tone. Anthy Himemiya draws breath again after.

Utena Tenjou says she is back, says she is home, and the girl at Kasagami Araki's side wonders. Beneath the deceptive calm that rules her features, she turns the wording Utena used over and over, rolling it like she might a thorny rose stem between bare palms to see every angle of the thing better -- though the examination draws blood.

A possessive clutching by the strong hand of Kasagami Araki disrupts any thoughts the Rose Bride might have in her head. The blankly bemused look on Anthy's face moments later dismisses the notion that this strange, silly girl with the terrible grades has any thoughts of her own whatsoever. She comes along as easily as she ever has, sticking to the duelist's side like the obedient sheath she's been called.

The Rose Bride and her Engaged both turn their gazes on the rebel, the party crasher, the challenger. Darkness dwells within both, but only vents from one. The challenge has been issued, and already she begins to sink into the role, to anticipate the ritual. Aught else beneath that remains there, unseen and unexpressed, as ever.

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

Shizuru doesn't look away from the scene unfolding when Eri looks at her. ...But the look isn't altogether unfamiliar, either. It's as hard to read as always out of Shizuru, but there's no emotion in her expression at all otherwise. ...If she even notices that Eri has seen her, she says nothing, indicates nothing. Just an empty look in her eyes, a hint of anger lurking deep down.

She watches Anthy's brief pause, that moment where she doesn't even breathe. And then she is looking to the Engaged and the Rose Bride both... and their challenger.

She, too, awaits the ritual, another of those here in this moment stretching on.

The hand at her side, unseen by anyone on the ground at this angle, finishes curling into a fist. She looks every bit the aristocrat now.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Utena meets Kasagami's hungry gaze, stare for stare. But her own, while equally passionate, doesn't match the One Engaged for darkness. If anything, there's a sort of buoyancy to her, a lightness. A release, now that she's rushing towards the place where she belongs, instead of resisting it -- or being restrained from it, imprisoned away from it, as she was for so long.

"For you," the shorter-yet-somehow-loomingly-tall girl finishes Kasagami's sentence quietly, where she hesitates. "Everything you've done was for you." She accepts this truth even as she realizes it aloud, with a note of melancholy that pumps the brakes on her rage -- forces her to take a breath.

Which isn't to say she isn't still pissed off. The grief coursing through her doesn't so much wind up eclipsing her fury as it infects it. It's her turn for her voice to raise, though it's more an intensification than an increase in volume or octave. Low and tight, and lower and tighter the more Kasagami manhandles her friend.

"But I'm not you. And I'm not 'the one you're searching for'. I'm not here to make your blood pump or your heart pound or draw you into some thrilling dance or show you anything."

She shakes her head as though shaking off being soaked in the One Engaged's words, her gaze, her framing of what it means to Duel at all. It sends waves of pink across her shoulders and down her back. Are they rose petals or hair or both? She's close enough that her scent is as strong and clear as the rest of her, so wild and untamed. Wholly unlike the perfume of this garden, with or without the new additions to the landscape.

Utena's nostrils flare, not at her own aroma, but unconsciously, as she breathes in another's.

"I'm not fighting you for you, Kasagami."

She smiles then, for the first time since she came to this place. It is beautiful, and it is angry, and it is sad, but it is not apologetic. There is no joy in it -- but there is something else. Something deeper. Something difficult to pin down. 'Pity' is too small a word, but 'compassion' might be too big. Certainly Utena Tenjou wouldn't think to describe herself in such a way.

"See you after school," she finishes, a fierce vow by way of farewell.

And then, a single word and a single look, all Utena dares take, all she can bear -- sapphires meeting emeralds for a single, electric heartbeat:

"Himemiya," she adds gently, affectionately, and it's hello and goodbye and see you later. It carries no expectations of a reply or even an acknowledgement. Utena saves Anthy the trouble of deciding what to do by leaving down the same path she came in, her strides chewing up ground with determination, with focus, with intent. Every step takes her further away.

Every step takes her closer to taking back herself.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Utena's epiphany strikes, and she finishes the sentence that Kasagami Araki wouldn't admit. A truth she's ran from as surely as her past for year after year after year. Even now, stared in the face by someone so much smaller yet larger all at once, she denies it in her heart. She's supposed to be a King! And a King lives for her people!

Teeth grit, and she stares the light in the face. Somehow, Utena seems luminous here in the Garden. Kasagami's mouth opens, to respond, to spit more acid in the face of her challenger. Her brow twitches, and she finds that she hesitates to deny it so openly. Even she can't lie to herself that hard, and she is trying so much to cover up her own selfish motivations for everything she does.

The low growl she lets out could easily be a choked down sob. "Maybe...maybe you aren't here for any of those reasons. But it will happen all the same, Utena! Good. Fight for yourself! That's how it should be! I'll be doing the same, no matter what you think!" She shouts back at the retreating form of Utena. The look she gives wounds. That smile bores right into her soul until all she's left with is a doll at her side that she clasps protectively as Utena speaks that very girl's name.

Kasagami finally turns her gaze to Anthy again. She reaches for a flute of cider, glances at it, swishes it as she grips harder and harder. Then she finally tosses it at a window of the Garden, flute shattering and window cracking the glass.

The Student Council member's eye looks beyond the crowd, her friends and enemies alike at the last whisps of pink hair. She shakes, in Anthy's arm.

"What does she know about me!? Nothing!" She mutters furiously to her Bride. Dark locks cover her face as she stands, absorbed in her own thoughts and anticipation for the coming ritual.