2018-07-23 - The Hardest Kind Of Love

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
The Hardest Kind Of Love

Utena and Kasagami are long overdue for a talk -- and decide to go on a hike.


Utena Tenjou, Kasagami Araki


Nishitama Park District

OOC - IC Date:

07-23-2018 - 05-01-2015

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

> Feeling a little cabin fever on this empty campus. Don't have the cash to go anywhere far for Golden Week. Thinking about taking the train as far as I can, then hiking around in the mountains a bit for an afternoon. And I thought maybe it would be good for us to talk about stuff

> If you wanna come, meet me @ Three Peaks Trailhead @ 11am tomorrow


Three Peaks Trailhead, it transpires, is about a half hour walk from the train station, so there's a pre-hike involved. But there it is at last: a stout pole buried in the ground, the kanji for the place burned into its length.

The path it demarcates is well-groomed but steep, good tamped-down dirt and the occasional big hard stone. There is the implicit promise of lush forest further along -- it's in the air, that peculiar damp scent of life that permeates even on the warmest spring days, of which this is one. But here it's mostly meadow, tall grasses, vaguely flowery brush, and the occasional large tree.

At first Kasagami might wonder if she got here first, but the truth is out there -- there are a pair of feet dangling downwards from a tree that overhangs the trailhead. And they're wearing red socks, and black and white sneakers with cute little red bows. The rest of Utena is invisible inside the leafy boughs.

The feet kick lazily, almost like chimes in an invisible wind. Their owner must be spacing out.

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

> It's depressing isn't it? Yeah, I'll be there, packed and ready. Just don't dare fall behind while we're hiking!


One train ride, a pre-hike, and Kasagami Araki is near that post that marks where the fated trail begins. The young woman has smartly ditched her usual clothes for a pair of black shorts, a t-shirt with the name of an indie j-metal band, and a proper hiking backpack that looks decently stuffed full of what one might assume to be the essentials for a good long hike.

She's ditched her usual coat, wonder of all wonders. The boots however have been tearing up that steep path for quite some time. Useful, her particular footwear in these circumstances. A frown crosses her face for a second, and she considers peek at her phone, before her good eye glances up. Socks! Swinging feet and sneakers! Despite herself, she smirks, and holds in a chuckle. Then one gloved hand finds a pinecone.

And then she flicks it right at Utena's dangling feet! "Morning, you tree climbing fiend! Get down here, or I'm coming up! " 'Threatens' Kasagami good naturedly. She's already reaching for a branch to haul her lanky body up towards with a bit of a 'hup'. The young woman holds her apprehension tightly inside. It's still awkward. But part of her can't help but think of the Utena of right now as the very same Utena that inspired her when she first met the pink tressed young woman. A tiny, knotted ball of guilt squeezes despite her airy words.

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

The pinecone glances off of Utena's foot, and startles her legs into swinging and an "Oi!" from her mouth. Once it's clear who's down there, though, she points her toes, bends her knees, makes a proper pike position and vaults down in a forward flip.

Because if you're going to dismount from a tree branch, why not have some fun doing it?

She lands a little harder than she might have -- her knees bend deeply as she sticks it -- because she has an improper school backpack (eg, her only backpack) on and it also looks pretty heavy. Also she had to turn one foot out of the way to avoid landing on her own hair, given the bent knees. There's so much of it now. For a moment, the world rained long, heavy strands of sakura pink.

In her usual red shorts and gray sports bra (someone needs to take Utena shopping), she's foregone the black jacket in favor of a lighter, red-and-white checkered button-up blouse, worn open with the sleeves rolled up. Maybe she borrowed it from someone.

"You made it!" she says, happily. "Let's go already, yeah? Weather like this, there's no substitute for moving your body."

And without further ado she sets off down the trail. She subtly lets the older girl set the pace, matching her stride for stride without seeming to even notice, which is about as much guile as Utena Tenjou is capable of. It would be something wholly nonverbal, a raw expression of physicality.

"Christ, I've missed forest," she sighs, as they are quickly engulfed by a green, shaded world. "I miss the one on the island every day."

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

Utena leaps down gloriously, and Kassie can't help but find herself grinning at the combination of grace and pure athleticism. Her hand reach for a branch falls, she turns opposite the tree, and watches with a small glow at how the girl lands. One hand points, and fingers snap just as that rain of pink hair settles, index finger aimed right at Utena.

"Beautiful!" Kasagami sounds just so pleased for a moment at the display.

Then she's stalking forward, eyeing the One Engaged as she passes briefly with a nod of approval. "As though I'd miss out on an opportunity like this! Good exercise, decent challenge, good company? Hah, yeah, and wonderful mountain air that we're going to soak in and absolutely conquer once we devour this trail like a pack of wolves!" Then she flicks her hand dismissively.

"...There's probably better analogies, but you get the point."

Kasagami sets a brisk, but not foolish pace. She's been on enough long distance treks to know to conserve her energy, yet is always up for a challenge. And so she sets the pace just two hairs above a proper hiking pace. It won't be bad to start. But she fully expects to sweat alongside her companion at the later points, while still allowing enough breath to talk.

Her nostrils flare, and she sucks in some of that forest air. "I'm a bit jealous, I'll admit. I wish I could've been here to see what it was before..."

She flinches, loses a step, then stubbornly picks up the pace for a few movements. "Well. Can't forest fires clear space for new growth? Or something? I'm not looking into a biology major here in college!" Smile! Deflect. Her laugh is just a bit awkward here.

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

"It wasn't really a forest fire," Utena says, her eyes going briefly distant as she remembers the many traumas of that trying time. "It was a bombardment. I don't think anything comes back from that without help." Which it's getting, from the club and the fundraisers and all of that.

She shakes her head, her hair again echoing the motion with a lengthy ripple, as it does most movements. It's certainly been bobbing along with her as she keeps up with Kasagami's pace without complaint.

With every passing minute the trees are getting thicker, the trail narrower. It's fair to call it a bit claustrophobic, even.

"You didn't miss much, transferring in midyear like that," she promises. "Saionji yelling at me a lot. Touga smarming around the place. Miki making doggy eyes at Himemiya. And, sure, there was the giant robot and the military and stuff, but like -- it was so not cool. They were really bad guys. And, uh, girls, I guess," she amends, remembering Miyu and Alyssa.

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

Kassie resists the urge to sigh. "Of course it wasn't. Between alien abductions and near-apocalypses, I swear this lovely city is cursed!" Mid-step fist to the heavens. It doesn't last long though.

That trail narrows, but Kassie doesn't slow. Neither does she speed up. The feeling of everything getting close, almost crushingly claustrophobic has her drawing in a breath. In. Out. Proper Zen like her Mother called it. Lips purse in thought as she listens to the pink tressed prince.

"Worthless noise, carousing that's one part admirable and one part hedonistic, and absurd robots. Eh. Sounds kind of ho-hum overall if you ask m..." Pause.

Yeah, she actually pauses, turns back, and stares at Utena.


Good and bad eye narrow, and Kasagami's hands clench into balls. "Wait, who didn't invite me to the military invasion!? With soldiers crashing upon the sacred walls of Ohtori Academy and not being repelled by my blade as I stare them down in the eye!?" Pardon her for a moment. Two hands run through her hair. With a sucking breath, she's stalking forward with a bit more of a brisk pace right now.

Silence for a bit. "A King walks through battlefields to protect her Prince. I should have been there." All of that previous fury and excitement deflates like a balloon. Kasagami almost sounds ashamed at not being present for part of Ohtori's most trying of times.

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

Utena stares at Kasagami, obviously gobsmacked. Her pace stutters -- she catches herself before she can fall with an exhaled 'at-cha-cha,' then jogs a few paces to catch up.

"It wasn't... romantic like you're making it sound. It was really..." She trails off, shakes her head. "I'm glad you weren't there, Kasagami. I wouldn't wish it on anyone I cared for."

The trail widens again -- and the trees drop off. Ahead is a beautiful view: the distant Three Peaks, as promised, mostly snowless by late spring and with a vast array of forest, lakes and rivers spanning the space in between.

There's a broad, mossy round at the edge of the cliff.

"Let's stop for a minute," Utena suggests. "I want to see this."

She walks up to the very edge and peers over it -- then gets distracted by a dragonfly zipping by. Her eyes blink a few times, trying to focus on it, as it hovers right in front of her face.

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

Kassie's pace doesn't falter, but something about Utena's tone and then that pace stuttering has her pausing for a second. Lips once again purse, and she lingers to peer at her friend-slash-rival in turn.

"Sometimes I think that's your problem, Utena-chan. You're too nice. Then again, that's part of what I find so endearing, so don't you dare dissappoint me by changing!" Toes grind into her boots.

"Anyway, let's just agree to disagree." She smoothly offers, pondering. What horrible battle could she helped to defend against that has Utena so willing to defend against? She doesn't quite realize the tension growing in her stance as she makes the hike.

Her chest feels less crushed as the path opens up, and then they meet that mossy, beautitiful edge. All of Kasagami's anxieties, her fears, her worries ease for a moment as she takes the time to peer over that beautiful expanse. She sucks in a breath of the mountain air, and peers even as Utena walks right up to the edge.

Kasagami smiles, exhales, and takes a few steps closer. "...It really is a beautiful vista." Comes the young woman, admiring the view, just before she eyes Utena. Focusing on that butterfly. A brief frown. Then a brief chill runs down her spine.

She reaches out, right for vaguely Utena's collar just in case to try to pull her back if she can manage.

"Hey! Don't peer into the proverbial abyss and fall over!" Despite her words, there's real worry here. Her mind's eyes just imagines Utena toppling over. Perhaps that would be an advantage as a Duelist.

Kassie finds she can't stomach such a thought.

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

Utena obligingly topples over -- backwards. She rolls her shoulder to avoid colliding with Kasagami's arm, and settles into a spread-eagle on the moss.

Her backpack crunches a little beneath her, and she frowns, then wriggles out of it. A moment later it's a pillow -- much better.

All this time, she never stops looking. At first, when she was falling back, she was looking at the sky instead of the monsters. Now, from below, she's looking at Kasagami.

Her eyes trace every inch of the other girl as though memorizing her.

"Maybe we shouldn't," she suggests, almost as quietly as the sigh of the wind as it flows past them, carrying a bounty of pollen and late-spring petals out over the chasm below. "Uh, agree to disagree, I mean. Maybe we should like... talk? About... stuff?"

Her lips twitch, but the self-deprecating grin doesn't do much to hide the actual anxiety on her face. It borders shyness, but isn't; "I'm bad at this stuff," she says, honestly. "So you might have to be a little patient."

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

Kassie lets out a brief sigh of relief, and then looks back to Utena. Wince. She can feel that crunch just a bit. Her good eye fixates. Then she slips her own backpack aside, tosses it to the ground, and puts herself back towards the dirt as she sprawls out with so much amount of very much larger than usual teenager. She sucks in the scent of passing pollen. Huff. Kasagami sneezes briefly, and looks to Utena.

"For once, I'm in complete agreement Utena. In several ways, most of which I'm going to let you figure out!" Grin. She leans over, and tries to poke Utena on the nose!

And then she abruptly settles, her face falling. "I'll be as patient as you want. I was greedy, Utena. I fought you on an uneven arena. It wasn't very noble of me." She starts, cutting off abruptly. Her bruised pride wars with her own desire of her own internalized 'nobility'.

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

Utena giggles as her snoot is booped -- still very much a girl and very much a child, and not at all ashamed of either. But she stills as things get serious, her breath catching in her throat as her lungs fail to keep up with the change of tone.

She holds very still, until she can exhale it without laughing, and then lets it out in a long sigh instead.

Now that they're on the same level her eyes disappear into the heavens, since she's staring straight up.

"Yeah," she agrees. "God, that feels like a million years ago, how screwed up is that?" Frowning slightly, she tries to do the math on the time involved, then just heaves another sigh and gives it up.

"Apparently I was, uh, possessed. I never really found out what it was. A hungry ghost or whatever? It was... eating me up, from the inside. It made it... impossible to feel anything, but like... shame. And I think even before he set up shop I was already having those problems. Depression isn't a very noble trait either. But it's also not an excuse... I stopped really seeing anyone. I know it hurt your feelings... I hurt you. You deserved better."

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

Kasagami isn't much better. She finds her own gaze peering up high, past leaves and the forest canopy. A warm smile lingers. The sound of Utena, the glorious Prince, being so happy has the Duelist luxuriating in the sound. And in her mind, why not? Shouldn't a King and Prince be close?

Her entire body twitches for a second at the knowledge they'll be enemies, no matter how she feels.

"Time is always...eh, convoluted." She tries to say that casually. She's just being awkward.

And then she's on her knees, eyes wide, and peering at Utena as the full weight of things hit her right in the chest. "Possession!?" There's actual shock in her face, and it takes Kassie a few seconds to gather herself. "...I guess that explains a lot. Idiot!" She mutters suddenly, and gently reaches for Utena's cheek. Fingers try to touch...and a knuckle wrap.

It's a light thing, and Kasagami feels even worse than before. "I wanted you to shine with me. And if we had to fight? Then we should fight on equal footing! But I was worried for you too! I'll admit, I wanted to...I'm greedy, I wanted to fulfill my dream, but I really was worried about you!" Pleads Kasagami. Her eyes mist up, and tears fall.

Gulp. "So I guess what I'm trying to spit out is that we both deserved better."

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

Utena's cheek is very soft -- and it warms beneath Kasagami's touch. It's more than just the afternoon sun. She doesn't cry. She smiles, a bit sadly, and reaches out in turn to wipe the other girl's tears from her own cheek.

"Hey, don't cry," she pleads. "It's okay. I mean, it's not okay, everything is terrible, but if you keep crying I'm going to start too. At least you don't have to worry about me anymore, okay? I'm okay, and you seem like you're getting better, too..."

A bird calls in the distance. The tips of the grass around them waver in the wind. Utena smells like wild roses and sun-drenched summer afternoons, but the mountainside smells like these things too, and more -- a certain alpine sharpness, the dry loaminess of dirt, a very, very distant tang from the never-really-very-far ocean.

She inhales and exhales slowly, trying to match her breathing to Kasagami's, to calm her.

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

Seeing that sad smile, and having her tears brushed away, it's enough for Kassie to smile a bit herself. Eyes close, and finally she pulls away. The gesture is a touching one to her. A small thing sure, but knowing that there's something to salvage here puts a little more ease in Kasagami's heart. Her troubles are myriad, some seeming insurmountable, but the knowledge she might earn Utena's friendship once more is a balm.

"I guess I'm not exactly striking the most majestic of figures here." She tries to play it off all cool. She's still blinking away tears and trying to not look like a mess. Arms go to hips. This may not be all that effective.

"...Oh, I'm going to worry about you, alright. That you're stuck with I'm afraid. But at least for now I won't fret. Ugh, I'm glad no one else can see me like this. Last thing I need is to be seen blubbering like an elementary school student." Ahem! Clearing her throat she looks away for a second time. A deep breath, and she takes in so many scents. Her heart's still pounding from that outpouring of her feelings, and she tries to find some calm. Slowly, her breaths grow more measured as Utena adds hers to the mix. She's silent for a good minute and a half.

By the time she's facing the pink haired Prince once more, she can at least wipe away the remains of her outburst with some kind of dignity.

"Utena. Thanks. I hope we really can become friends without...anything getting in the way." She's almost measured here, without her usual bravado. She rubs the side of her head, just a bit awkwardly. Shifting her focus back to nature, she finally lets herself relax.

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

Utena gives Kasagami the privacy she seeks; they both look away, and while she waits she absently runs her fingers through her hair, then ties it up into a high, high ponytail with a rubber band she'd had secreted on her wrist. The idea of the other girl as a striking majestic figure just makes her chuckle, low and dry. But she stills, and becomes serious, when the other girl does.

"We-ll," she replies, caution entering her tone in the manner of someone beginning a difficult undertaking, "That's the reason I invited you out here. To try to, like, talk things out. Because, everyone's stopped talking? And I figured, maybe we could start..."

With a sigh she flops back down on her back, letting Kasagami, sitting upright, loom over her. Once again her own gaze joins that of the clear blue sky -- its natural home, their hues identical.

"It's easy to say that I think all this fighting needs to stop," Utena muses. "But it's hard to say how to make it stop... how to put things right. They'll never really be right... a girl is dead, y'know? But..." She looks Kasagami straight in the eye, returning from the safe distance of the heavens to a terrible closeness, a terrible intimacy. "I killed her as much as you did. We're all responsible. Because we stopped talking."

At last she closes her eyes fully, long pink lashes on display. More than that, though, she's a vulnerable figure, there in the grass. Kasagami could overpower her in an instant, with Utena so very open -- not relaxed, but... released.

"The best way I can think of to honor Mami, is to try to understand the other side. Would you, um, maybe be willing to tell me about it? Why you're fighting?"

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

Kasagami doesn't speak at first as Utena lays herself out. Legs cross on the young woman, and her gaze follows the pinkette's motions. There's a slow, assenting nod. The One Engaged has the floor and very much the young woman's attention wholly.

Luckily the Duelist has no intention of harming her rival-slash-friend, and so remains silent for a few moments. It seems Kassie is taking in the seriousness of Utena's words and her perspective. She looks contemplative before she speaks. One finger constantly rubs along the face of her Rose Crest.

"We can agree on that much, at least. Frankly, I think this was inevitable, but what I think doesn't matter too much on that issue by now. This whole thing has gotten out of hand." A deep sigh. Her good eye narrows, and there's regret in her tone.

A sigh. "I could throw you the Shepherds' company line about freedom to use our powers how we like, but let's not kid ourselves. Part of the whole problem is that this thing is personal. That's why, Utena-chan."

It's her turn to flop into the grass, one knee up and the other crossing over it. "Eri Shimanouchi and the Shepherds are my family. A few of them hate it when I put it that way, but we really are a messed up family. Like really weird cousins. Hah, more than that in some cases." Smirk. She shakes her head fondly. Her voice bleeds love for them.

"When I joined up, it was so my enemies would think twice. Pure self interest. But somewhere along the way I found the love and support being in a group like that can give you. People I respect, care for, even...love. So I'll do anything I have to in order to make sure they're safe, and no one hurts them. I'll fight anyone who comes after them, no matter who or what they are."

She shrugs. "Sorry it's not something more grand or ambitious. Positively pedestrian, but losing family twice is something I swore over their graves I wouldn't let happen again." It's almost a whisper. Her gaze is distant for a moment, distracted.

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

Utena starts listening with her eyes closed, but as Kasagami really opens up, she slowly reopens them -- and turns onto her side, so that they're facing each other in the grass. Her sad smile returns, and remains, as she hears the love in Kasagami's voice.

"Don't be sorry," she says, afterwards, troubled only by the last thing her one-time friend said. "That's the best possible reason. Honestly, you know, I think I'm kind of relieved to hear it. And a little jealous, maybe." She grins self-depricatingly, but there's something honest and melancholy underneath. "After my parents died... I've never really had a family."

It's her turn, and she knows it. With a sigh, she rolls over the rest of the way. It's easier to talk about this stuff on her belly, with her nose in the grass. She watches a beetle march by.

"In a way, it's the opposite for me... the first time I showed up to one of those fights, Kyouko Sakura called me a thug. She was right, but only by accident, because she doesn't know me at all, and I don't know her... but, yeah, I kinda was? I was only there because Sayaka-chan asked me to be there. I didn't really understand everything going on, but Sayaka said that there were people dying, and that it needed to stop, and that was good enough for me, but really I was there for her. I wanted to be there for her. It was personal."

She rolls again -- now her back is to Kasagami, though her voice is perhaps clearer, since it's not fighting through grass. It's fragile, like glass.

"But... somewhere along the way I started to really understand why the Chevaliers were fighting. To really believe in it. And I do, I really do believe that that Tomoe girl, the other one, doesn't have to die for the world to be saved, or at least I think that murdering her pre-emptively is unimaginably unjust and that she deserves to be saved from it. And I really do believe that Eri and Kyouko are killing people to get more power... I've seen the obituaries, I could show you the names, the faces. They turned down help with their Witches from the Chevaliers, from Mami, because they would rather let one, ten, a hundred people a year in their territory commit suicide -- they actively encourage it, even -- just so they can be stronger than other people, have more magic. We all know Puella Magi don't have to do that, just to eat, just to live, because Mami and Sayaka are, were, living counterexamples, proof that there's a better way. What they're doing... is murder, it just is, and for the safety of all the ordinary people, the mothers and fathers and families in their territories, it needs to stop. BUT--"

All this time, she's been talking faster and faster, more and more relentlessly, uninterruptable -- which makes the climax at the end a little startling, almost a low shout. It drops off, afterwards, in volume, but rises in intensity.

"They don't deserve to die either. And I'm not going to let them die, no matter what I have to do to protect them. I don't know what justice is, for magical girls, but it isn't this."

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

"Hah, come on, you'll have it too one day. Well, something like it anyway. We orphans tend to. On that, you have my promise." Wink. Here, Kasagami sounds hopeful tinged with belief. How could Utena Tenjou, so true and valiant, not find a surrogate family? It's beyond belief to the Crimson Rose.

And by the twitch of a brow, perhaps another slight on the name of the Chevaliers for not being that family.

Still, she keeps her mouth shut and listens. Kassie rolls around, one foot down and the other leg laid out. She rests on an elbow, considering Utena intently with the slightest of frowns. She nods every now and then, unmoving aside from breaths and the occasional wind tossing her hair about. Kyouko calling Utena a thug gets a grin on her face and a sparkle of amusement.

Ahh, Kyouko-chan, never change.

More and more, Kasagami can't help but admire just how passionate she is for saving these faceless, unknown strangers of Tokyo in the territory they've all been fighting over. Concern burns a hole into Utena's strong back as she speaks faster and faster. There's no time to interrupt, even if she wanted to. The raw belief there has her clenching and unclencing her fists for a moment.

What a perfect Prince.

"Well said. Honestly? No one deserves to die by those things. If I had my wish, this whole...ah, situation with Puella Magi wouldn't be a problem. But that isn't the reality, unfortunately." She puts a fist to the ground to push herself back sitting up just a little too hard. The whole thing frustrates Kasagami.

"And if you'd said any of that about two months ago, I would've called you insane. Now? Maybe Eri-chan really is capable of that. The problem is that even if we all came together and decided to carve up Tokyo more, I doubt it would last in the first place. What if some other Puella Magi enters the mix? Maybe I'm wrong, but from the beginning, I don't think this whole thign is sustainable. People are naturally power hungry. They'll do terrible things for it. I should know." She lets out a bitter chuckle.

"Justice, Utena, is made by people with the will and power to enforce it."

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

Utena doesn't turn back around, as Kasagami replies, as she's frustrated, and finally as she speaks to futility, and to power. She hears her clothes rustle as she sits up, and the soft thump of her fist hitting the ground.

But she does sit up too, and turn around, settling herself into an effortless lotus -- probably solely for the reason of stretching her thighs, feeling that tiny burn as an equally tiny pleasure amid an extremely bleak conversation.

"I think you might be right," she agrees, "About Tokyo. But if I don't fight for a better world, instead of accepting the one we have, then there's no reason for me to fight at all." It's her turn to touch her ring, to rotate it gently around its finger.

Sighing, she tosses her head like a restless mare, sending her pink tail flicking behind her.

"So then... I'm going to fight to keep your family safe, and I'm going to fight to keep everyone else safe FROM your family, too. To try to prove to your family that nobody has to die for them to get what they want. No more. It's up to you to decide if that means we can't be friends."

Settling into her seat, finding her balance, she stares at Kasagami -- really stares, looks hard, so hard that it's almost like she's looking through her. It's obvious that she wants to say something else, probably something difficult, but is holding her tongue.

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

Kasagami looks oddly relieved by the time Utena is staring her down so hard. In fact, for how grim the conversation has been? There's a measure of satisfaction in her glance. She takes Utena's look without flinching away. Brows narrowed just enough to be serious, not quite enough to provoke the woman when she's holding herself back.

"So you'll fight and fight and save until people's minds are changed? Hmm! Just don't forget to watch your own skin in the process. A sword is useless if it's wielder can't raise it because they've grown a second wind pipe." That brow pops up, and the smallest of smirks. Kassie couldn't help it. A deep breath.

"...Good. Honestly, Utena, we really do need to get to know each other better if you think that someone willing to fight that hard for a world isn't someone I'd be honored to call a friend."

She offers a hand over to Utena, scarred knuckles and all. Respect, ever growing since her defeat and now this opening of hearts, is clear in her gaze. It hardens for just a second.

"So, it'd be my pleasure. As long as, of course, you can accept someone who has her own dreams for Tokyo to fight for, and a family I'll stand beside come heaven or hell as your friend, Utena."

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

Utena grins a quick grin, like the sun peeking out from behind clouds, at what Kasagami has to say about getting to know each other better. She does know, of course. Everything she's saying is hardly more than a degree different from plenty of things Kasagami has said herself -- shouted, often, in the heat of battle, even.

She takes her hand, and she doesn't flinch from the hardness there -- not on the skin and not in the gaze. There's something rising in her, too, to match it.

It isn't hardness, exactly. It's similar, but different too. Again, that sense of openness -- like she's laid out on the grass instead of locked in a staring contest.

Her other hand comes over, and now she's holding Kasagami's in both of hers. She squeezes, gently.

"I understand, yeah. And I've only ever wanted to be your friend. Just..."

She spreads her legs, then, wide into a split and then a kneel and finally she's upright, and pulling Kasagami with her.

"Sometimes, if you really care about someone, you have to stop them from doing something, from being something, that they don't really want to be, to do. Sometimes that's a kind of love, too, the hardest kind of love. I learned that because of you."



"...because that's who you are...you want...to be King..."

Her whole body is forced to twist beneath the might of Kasagami and her Blessing. The only way Utena is able to remain upright is by slamming down one knee. From above, it's a good look. Satisfying. One could take a snapshot of this moment, the two of them in profile, and see a prince kneeling before her liege.

But only by ignoring the look in Utena's eyes -- which now refuse to break their stare -- which now contain the opposite of surrender. As her fight becomes more and more hopeless, she resists more fiercely than ever.


She draws them back towards the hiking trail.

"Don't answer me right now. Just... I wanted you to know."



"Not gonna move... until you figure out... that the world is so much bigger... than gosh darn Eri Shimanouchi. Y'should," she's starting to slur, "Find better people... to care about... than her."

Sayaka drives her elbow down, and her unopposed blade sinks deep into Utena's side. Sayaka's face spasms, her teeth clenched, and she halts far short of the hilt. Slowly, she releases Utena's arm, and hugs her around the neck. She presses her face into Utena's shoulder, her shoulders wracked with something that doesn't escape her mouth.

"She loved me," Sayaka begs Utena, so quiet it almost can't be heard.

With a sharp yank, Sayaka pulls the sword out of Utena. She wants to revoke this one, too. It disgusts her to hold it. But some things can't be revoked.

Roughly, Sayaka shoves Utena off of her.

Utena can't breathe.

Utena's lips tremble.

Utena tries to mouth a word.

It might be 'rough'. It might be 'love'.

Utena didn't move -- but she was moved.

Utena falls into an instinctive curl around her wound.

Utena does not rise again.