2018-04-14 - Accolade of Utena

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Accolade of Utena

Having challenged Kasagami to a duel, Utena heads towards the arena. Sayaka and Kozue stop her, to give her the last thing that she'll need to set the scene.


Sayaka Miki, Utena Tenjou, Kozue Kaoru


Ohtori Academy

OOC - IC Date:

2018-04-14 - 04-10-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ohtori Academy +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  The ivory crown on the brow of Southern Cross Island, Ohtori Academy is
  separated from the world by more than just water. Outside, education can be
  a luxury. Within this white-walled compound, education is /luxurious/.
  Marble colonnades spring up like fountain spouts, scarlet flowers drench
  every free surface. The architecture is at once daringly art deco and
  austerely Classical, white marble lending an angelic weightlessness to
  pillars and fences that can seem more woven than carved.

  At the center of campus is the Chairman's Tower, a dizzyingly tall spire in
  the center of a manicured grassy field. Radiating around this field are the
  lecture halls, dormitories, art buildings, and other facilities by which the
  chosen few receive education, with small class sizes in large buildings.
  It's common for students to refer to a building's location as if the hour
  hand of a great clock extended from the central tower. At twelve o'clock,
  for instance, the Duel Arena looms like a jade stormcloud, a great forest
  forming a living pagoda of leaves that reminds even longtime students that
  their school keeps many secrets.

  The rose is the emblem of Ohtori, and campus is decorated with a profusion
  of them, both living and frozen in frieze. Poppies are favored as well, and
  thick carpets of either flower can be found wherever the loosest excuse is
  available. Only the most bitter of winters seems able to fully erase the
  faint fragrance from the air, and students who leave the island via quick,
  convenient bridge or ferry can often find a memory of it on their clothing.
<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Passionate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HqnFK6mZcY

Do you know? Do you know? Have you heard the news?

Everyone's heard. It's the eve of the election, and Ohtori's prodigal daughter has returned -- in a uniform that the guidance counselor didn't complain about, natch -- just in time to challenge the heir apparent to the Presidential throne to a fight after school.

It isn't entirely clear where that fight will be taking place, but curious onlookers are lingering on campus later than they would otherwise -- at corners and underneath overhangs. The basketball court is packed, a sensible guess, but the wrong one.

Nothing is strange about something being strange about the school this afternoon. The shadows are darker, the hallways at oblique angles that catch and hold the eye along sinuous curves.

Distantly, down the hills of the island, that place where sky and sea intersect has lost its difference entirely. Neither is blue. The candle of day burns at both ends, igniting both. Ohtori Academy is contained by gold.

Utena Tenjou has an uncanny ability to pass alone through busy places. Despite the throngs of would-be spectators, her footfalls echo in quiet courtyards, competing only with the hopping of frogs. The soles of her sneakers slap the flagstones of tunnels under bridges, and there's a grimness to them, a heaviness to each step, that can only be grief.

But their pace is too fast and too steady to submit to paroyxsm. She doesn't linger, doesn't waver. She is a girl with a destination, and her journey is one of commitment to a straight line, no matter how dangerous -- even deadly -- its promised collision could be, already was scarce days ago.

She rounds a corner, and the girl that emerges into the light is not a girl with nothing to lose; she is so much more than she was, weeks ago. Her legs pump, her arms swing, her hands clench and unclench into fists. She is a girl with something to win.

And more than that -- that particular blueness in her eyes that has nothing to do with their color -- she is a girl with someone to avenge.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Has she heard the news?

Of course she has. It's far-reaching enough that even this expelled blunette knows. She made it a point to keep up with Ohtori gossip even though her banishment makes it so she can't step one foot on campus.

Fortunately - they're not on campus. Or at least - it doesn't feel like they are. The shadow of Nemuro Hall cut a line across the sunlight before bisecting the shorter shadow of a stone wall. As if even the act of making shade was one of violence. She couldn't remember why she came here other than for counseling but it feels like there's something strange and liminal about this place. Like the rules don't apply to her.

Right now she's holding Sayaka's hand while they sit together on a low stone wall, a thumb rubbing through the grooves as she lets warmth bleed into her palm. It took tough love to get her off that rooftop, but that doesn't mean she needs to needs to cut her deeper before the emotional wounds had started to scab.

Usually she'd be talking - right now though she doesn't need to.

She's wearing an open short sleeve violet shirt that's tied to both expose her mid-riff and conceal it behind the knotted ends. A tiered skirt of blue, and a pair of sandal heels. There's a pair of sunglasses with blue lens, embossed with leaves covering her eyes.

As Utena rounds a corner, she doesn't break contact with the hand but leans over to murmur. "Here she comes." Even with the sunglasses on, she almost needs to squint at the sun at Utena's back. She raises an opposite hand just up to her shoulders, wiggling her fingers at her.

The closer she gets, the more intensely blue Utena looks in those lenses, but none moreso than the eyes. It doesn't take her long to decide that's a good look. Far better than that of the girl who walked into the arena - going through the motions unto her execution.

Putting a hand up to one of the temples, she takes off the glasses and inserts them into her purse. "What are we going to do with you Utena?" There's only a light tang of amusement in her words, the girl her hand seems attached to the reason why she doesn't seek to alter the mood too much, "I was looking forward to holding everything that happened over your head for a little while - and then you came out for us that night to back them up."

She wouldn't ever think that Utena came just for her. But all the same the word stands out anyhow as her own sort of reflection

You came... you came... for me.

There's a somber sort of pause as she exhales and gives her a more serious look. "... So you're really going through with this then? Really committing to it? Because when you beat her..."

The word 'if' doesn't enter her mind. Despite the cynic in her - part of her wants to believe. That something is going to balance the scales just a little after Mami Tomoe died. "... it's never going to end you know. You're going to be defending yourself against challenge after challenge for who knows how long? Maybe all of high school... maybe longer."

There's this thin smile which shows off her light blue shade of lipstick. It seems just a smidge smeared. "Sure you don't want to get out of this life while you still can? I don't mind introducing you to a few people... getting you a job modelling... I bet you'd be a real hit."

She's pretty sure she knows what her answer will be. She saw it in her eyes after all. But she feels like going through the motions anyhow. Of offering for her to get out of this place. This masquerade of princes.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

This part of campus is old, and ill-travelled. There are classes nearby, though Sayaka has never had one of her friends peel off in this direction to attend one. Few of the stone archways, walkways, and statues have any sharp edges left, the toll of years and, surely, foot traffic bygone.

This place has been on the campus she attends every day, but Sayaka is not sure she has ever been here. It was Kozue's choice, but perhaps Sayaka would have found it on her own, because sitting here, she never doubted once that Utena would pass this way. Next to Kozue, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, Sayaka has visibly succumbed to Aohime not only in companionship but in wardrobe. A casual blue dress shirt buttoned up with flinty oblong buttons until three from the top, a grey vest not buttoned at all, and black jeans make for a Sayaka almost handsome enough to hold Kozue's hand. Where on their own both girls might come across as androgynous, next to one another they diverge: tall Sayaka becomes taller, lithe Kozue becomes more sleek. The elegance of Kozue's bob and the relative simplicity of Sayaka's part amplify one another. Is it a paradox to say they match perfectly?

As Utena approaches, Sayaka's smile is warm but tiny, a lit match in a snowstorm. Her face is haggard from still-lingering shock. One of Sayaka's shoulders is lifted from planting a hand on the stone fence she's seated on, and the other, slack, hangs down until her fingers entwine with Kozue's near her thigh. The same posture which might have seemed carefree on another day seems dilapidated now. Sayaka can't lift her free hand like Kozue, since that arm is load-bearing, but she lifts her chin in a brief greeting to accompany the smile.

"I'm not sure what they'd've done out there, if you didn't hold off Kasagami and her new sword," Sayaka adds a less (delightfully) backhanded thank-you. "If you owed me anything," her thumb rubs Kozue's, anything but idly, "then not anymore."

Kozue offers Utena an out, and Sayaka bows her head a little. "This is a rotten school, Tenjou-san," is all she adds. "Make sure there's something behind your opponent's sword that you can't live without."

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

Utena always stands out; in this place of age, it is her youthfulness that pops. Her uniform is too new, too crisp, in a way above and beyond the other freshmen, as though it were only taken out of a stack today and had no opportunity to settle onto the shoulders of a hanger. And totally unmodified; it couldn't be more basic, yellow jacket and gray skirt.

Her hair, too, has a freshness to it that it owes to its extraordinary genesis. Normally, it 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 vivacious pink challenges the greening sakura for primacy and wins.

Her sneakers and red socks are something old, though. And her eyes are something blue.

Her voice, too.

"I didn't," hold her off she says gruffly, Sayaka's words the first to jar her into speech -- after her march stuttered to a halt and a long, wide-eyed look at the two bluenettes -- and the sharpness, the edge to those two words is a knife she's clearly been stabbing herself with since the moment she woke up, and found out who wouldn't ever again.

She shifts from foot to foot as though placing any weight on either one is like stepping on daggers. Her stillness, unnatural in depression, is a thing of the past; even upset, even grieving -- especially upset, especially grieving -- she is continuously in motion. In a moment she'll start doing lunges, daggers or no.

"It never ended," she replies to Kozue, more measured, now, than before. "Just because I couldn't go on... that didn't make the rottenness stop. It just -- everything got worse, instead."

A pause as she looks them over again. For the first time, she joins them in a smile, totally at odds with her words. It is softer even than her hair, and more wistful than she realizes.

"...maybe not everything," Utena corrects herself. As is always the case when too proximate to glamorous lesbian women, she blushes a little, and doesn't realize that either.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Despite everything about it, there are things Kozue misses about Ohtori. Right now sitting on a stone wall with Sayaka as time passes them by ranks up there pretty highly. It feels like one those things they should have done together as kids and never got the chance to until they grew up a little. It felt like an illusion - that on any other day sitting together she'd swear they were almost cheek to cheek. Not so much today, not with how handsome she is.

Today after Utena goes - she might push it a little by leaning on her shoulder instead for a while.

For now though thoughts of her shoulder at stymied though by thoughts of her hand being so close. The pressure of her fingers increases just subtly. Just enough to set off a Pacinian symphony of corpuscles in her palm, "I guess that goes for the two of us." She offers in agreement to the girl who's hand she's holding.

The sudden motion of Utena shifting from foot to foot catches her attention. It's like she's always known her, stretching in hallways as they talked, making drives across the basketball court. It's like things have gone back to how they used to be some. And yet that doesn't feel passive. Just like her motions are not as she speaks. It feels like an active return - to something different and better, but with elements of wistful nostalgia.

Maybe that's what growing up is really about.

Those little changes that differentiate from the sameness.

She doesn't speak while Utena is talking, letting her finish in it's entirety, "... Heh." There's a faint smirk as she gives Sayaka this brief sidelong look, which looks briefly triumphant in response to Utena's 'maybe not everything.' before her eyes shift forward again to fall upon the jock, the Prince, the girl in motion, "I can't even argue with that. Even if things changed... changed a whole lot even... they just weren't the same without 'you' around."

The way she emphasizes 'you' may not seem so strange anymore. There's something unspoken there. The two haven't had much time to talk with everything going on. And yet - the rottenness just got worse and worse as it drove her to new lows.

And yet - when they both hit rock bottom. Who came for each of them?

There's a strange sort of symmetry there, despite how different the journey has been for the two of them.

"Shame I can't be there. Cheering you on. But maybe that's for the best..."

Her thumb shifts out of Sayaka's palm to rub the back of her hand as she turns to her companion, murmuring low and a little wickedly - wickedly mostly because it's not so low that Utena can't hear it, "... I think me 'cheering' for her was the cause of every single one of her errors last season."

Looking at her out of the corner of her eye, she mentions idly, "Speaking of which - you look mostly ready for the big game... but it feels like there's just... something... missing."

Obviously when she heard about Utena fighting Kasagami... she'd heard that she'd done so unarmed. This feels like a verbal nudge to her girlfriend.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Alongside Kozue's smugness is Sayaka's embarrassment. Much as she would love to be looked up to by no less a personage as Utena Tenjou, she would have been more comfortable if it was for something like sword-summoning, moral fiber, or inspirational speeches, as opposed to falling in love with and successfully wooing someone of the deliciously wrong gender. She's still getting used to that herself. It makes for a nice image, though, as Sayaka's red-cheeked embarrassment seems to retreat perfectly in time with the expansion of Kozue's blue-lipped pride.

It's at least as nice that it is an emotion other than sorrow. Sayaka might on another day have been scandalized that her girlfriend had been "distracting" Utena Tenjou somehow, but today Kozue only wins a subdued (if no less satisfying) sigh of unsurprised surprise. When Kozue looks at her out of the corner of her eye, though, Sayaka's eyes are clear again. She shifts her weight towards Kozue to free that load-bearing arm, holding up a palm as the ring on her middle finger glistens pale blue. "Yeah," she agrees. "I think so too."

The Soul Gem reforms atop Sayaka's palm in its egg-like form, clasped by curved golden bands and peaked by a decorative moon. Still seated, Sayaka closes her eyes briefly. A slit opens in the air next to the gem, visible only by the small eddies it makes in the air and the ghostly seafoam that bubbles there. With a metallic slither culminating in a soft clack, a sword hilt slides out and halts, more than half its blade still hidden in the aether.

With Sayaka holding her Soul Gem in one hand and Kozue's hand in the other, there is only one free hand between the two girls. With placid trust, Sayaka gives Kozue a little nod.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Right now - she's pleased to get anything out of Sayaka other than sorrow. So she'll take these small triumphs in the constant battle of - perhaps not getting over her sorrow or even getting through it - but getting Sayaka Miki used to it.

She's held Sayaka's soul vessel in her hands before for long amounts of time, knew it's weight. It's exact warmth. It's glow. It's a strange thing to know such things about one's soul of their significant other - but these are things she knows. She doesn't say anything during this process. To allow it to remain there so close to Kozue right now was such a significant gesture of trust that it's unimaginable.

One that feels like there's no logic, or reason to. An expression of true madness. The expression on Kozue's face has this vague distance to it as the slit forms and seafoam bubbles, and a golden hilt slides out.

Wrapping her thumb and fingers of her opposite hand along the hilt in a reverse grip, the magical steel materializes a few centimeters at a time from the bubbling magic.

Her bangs feel like a whisper brushing the side of Sayaka's face, the softest and lightest of touches - in contrast to a kiss on a cheek that feels like more than just a peck. The suction pressure remains just a little extra long. Just long enough that when the stimulus leaves her face, the lightest artistic imprint of blue remains with it. A rorschach painting of lips.

It's only then that the blade slides fully free from the soul gem - and she whispers, "I'm so glad you do."

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The swords do not come out warm or cool, leaving no impression of temperature when first grasped. Sayaka has little occasion to know it, wearing her gloves all the time. Whereas many of the Council swords have leather grips, Sayaka's swords are wire-wrapped to create a bumpy, slip-free hilt. It is not as abrasive on the palm as it might seem, as many tiny smoothnesses wind to create a roughness together. The knuckle bow is not quite in the form of a musical clef, but it recalls one quite clearly. The shell guard is relatively shallow, and embossed and textured as well, so as to grip rather than divert blades that lock with it, suggesting a more muscular and less elegant style of combat than the Student Council engages in. Pale gold gives way to lunar silver as it slides free, the scent of clean water filtering through the air.

Sayaka's breathing catches in her nose suddenly, and her lips twitch. It seems at first that Kozue smoothly withdrawing the sword from the Soul Gem has caused Sayaka some sort of discomfort, but the more natural explanation is owed elsewhere. Kozue's soft, painted lips linger, long enough for the initial startlement to fade down, for Sayaka to lean into the kiss just a little. The picture the two girls present to Utena is not passionate; if anything it has the emotional resonance of wound-binding--a comfort Sayaka is not otherwise able to receive, anymore. When Kozue's lips peel away to leave their coy tattoo on her skin, Sayaka's breath unstifles, draining with a hushed relief through her nostrils.

Standing at last from the wall, Sayaka does not seek to claim the sword, instead wrapping her fingers around the Soul Gem and dissolving it back into a ring on her finger. Hand in hand with Kozue, she approaches Utena, an emotional arthritis making her steps overcareful. There is a certain dignity in grief, however, that lets Sayaka look Utena in the eye longer than she would have been able to yesterday, and face her less-armored.

"I doubt there's been a worst fencer in those duels than me," Sayaka says, with a Mona Lisa smile. "There wasn't a single moment where I wasn't getting completely embarrassed and beaten up, and I cried like a little kid when I lost. If I didn't have a head like an empty melon, I'd have known it was impossible. So, I understand if you don't want to use the Idiot Sword."

With the finger her ring is on, Sayaka scratches her cheek, rueful. Her eyes are losing focus. "But I think maybe... I'm also the only one who really got what she wanted from the duels. I can't say that for sure, I guess. But I wanted Mami-senpai to forgive me. Nn-n." She shakes her head. "I wanted to become someone Mami could forgive. And I did." Sayaka's eyes start to refocus, as though the dampness in them were a lens. "And she did. So no matter what's happened, or what will happen... I'm grateful."

Sayaka sniffs, an abrupt, unsentimental motion to fend off a bout of crying. "So I hope you're okay with a sword like that, a sword for people who fight the wrong battle for the right reason. Because that's the only kind I have."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue had never grasped Sayaka's sword by the hilt before. It's something of a new experience for her. Her pianist's fingers are already memorizing the shape and the form with a muscle memory that she hasn't forgotten.

There was a time when she'd picked up Miki's skinny little epee when she was younger in a sort of curious wonder about the appeal of it. Despite not being some sword afficionado the contrast of genius elegance versus the straight forward violence of this sword isn't lost on her.

It felt more... honest. Than the way the Student Council dueled.

Her lips feel like a balm upon a wound deeper than unmarred skin as Sayaka leans into it. A strange sort of desire in that obsession for her kiss but one she seems to always enjoy.

Reaching with her legs for the ground, she presses her heels down firmly, before standing up hand in hand, only momentarily unbalanced. It only takes the faintest shift of her weight in that palm though to correct it. Remaining a perfect match even in this.

There's a certain vulnerability in Sayaka right now - one in which she approaches Utena without her armor. It reminds her of that night up by the pool, the sort of rawness about her. For a while she's quiet as she listens then sideeyes her at at the comment of 'idiot sword'.

There's something heart-wrenching about the fact that little Sayaka Miki got everything she wanted by losing the duels - only to lose her later to a battle of her own crusade. That sorrow is enough to grip her, to reach her too. But as touching as it is - she recognizes the intense grief behind it.

And so she acts - "Say~a~ka." There's something practiced about the way she says that, like she's done it many times before - and Sayaka might know the sort of mood attached, "As I recall you only had Miki's sword back then."

The hand holding the sword reaches over, pointed down between them. This might seem intensely dangerous - but there's a carefree recklessness to it. It might be puzzling, like she's handing it back, but then her pointer finger lashes out, flicking the lobe of her ear.

The stimulus meant to focus unfocused eyes. "And his sword wasn't some 'idiot' sword." She knows of course what Sayaka was trying to say. That her sword is the sword of an idiot - but it's convenient for her in this instance to ignore the intent. There are things about Miki she could label 'idiocy'. In fact she did so all the time. But she only allowed those words to come into her head and her lips.

Right now she just rolls her eyes, "Of course she's okay with your sword! It's not like she's walking to your hallway brawl with Araki. You think she can get away with fighting that sword bare-handed?"

That hand is one she offers forward Utena's way, as her hand shifts down the hilt to just below the guard, offering it like she's offering her a pair of scissors instead. "Just take it Utena."

But there's something else that needs to be said. Right now Sayaka's grief was something raw and out in the open. A wound she had to put her efforts towards healing so much so that she couldn't even engage with her own grief - even if it wasn't even on the same order of magnitude as her girlfriend's. And yet as she holds out the blade. She realizes there is a way.

"And Utena, you may have more than enough reasons to win this one already but..."

That pause seems to turn the unserious girl into something somber and serious, as she locks eyes with her, "... win this one for Mami-senpai too."

In that is an honorific granted that was never spoken in life. One she's only consistently granted to one other. But she does that for the same reason she asks that of Utena. The reality may be simple and apparent enough. She asks this of Utena mostly for Sayaka's sake, because she feels right now the girl could use any kind of victory in her life. Especially one won for her mentor too.

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

Utena is innocent enough to simultaneously be a little embarrassed by particularly major PDAs while unknowingly blowing past that line constantly in how she shows affection to other people. Innuendo? What's that? Is it some kind of pasta?

But the trust shared between Sayaka and Kozue now is much more beautiful than gross. A lump forms in Utena's throat as they create, and draw, the sword together, and she does not connect it to herself. There's a reason for that, and it isn't innocence.

It's because this is different. It isn't a part of the fairy tale. The bluenettes aren't prince and princess. They aren't knight and damsel. Neither one of them is the boy, and neither one of them allows their colors to stay between the lines anymore.

Revolution parts Utena's lips as gently as a butterfly's wings, though she knows it not for what it is. She can't recognize the escape -- but she does sense their triumph. When the soft, musical light rises from the orb that is Sayaka's soul to reflect in her own eyes, it reflects in a gaze that is soft and almost a little bit shy. She is keenly aware that she's being allowed behind forbidden veils into a sacred pace.

But then... that's something the three of them have done before.

Over and over again, really. Utena stands apart -- but not alone.

Instinctively, she kneels to accept the blade, her palms up. Her eyes up too.

"It's more than okay," she whispers around the lump, more than a little choked up. "It's the best kind of sword. From the best kind of people."

Her fingers curl around it with extraordinary care. The wind picks that moment to pick up and shove her mane forward, across her shoulders, and one of those long, fabulous hairs winds up dragging across the singing edge of the blade and is immediately and cleanly sliced off.

She rises, and her ability to do so without wobbling, without throwing out her arms for balance, speaks more than almost anything else about the transformation that has been rendered unto her -- that she has rendered unto herself, it is complicated, it is both -- about how far she's come already from the skeleton she was just weeks ago.

Just a little bit further, now.

"I got it," Utena promises them both. "Thanks for this. I won't waste it." And some of her solemnity is banished by a memory. Two memories. Both of them painful, but now... well, hindsight is everything.

"Jeez, you two," she exhales fondly, through a wan-but-genuine smile that does not so much hinder her own grief as embellish it, both feelings made more profound by their coexistence, "This is the first time you've asked me to win a duel, together. I used to have to accept these requests separately."

Sword heavy in her right hand, she folds some of those windblown locks behind her ear with her left.

"This is better," she concludes. "So I guess that makes me and Sayaka right all along."

Sayaka says -- she thinks the three of you can go back to the way things were, that she knows it seems impossible, but that it could be even better this time. That she thinks it could happen.

For what it's worth, Kozue... I think so too.