2019-01-13 - TIMELINE 2: On The Night Of The Ball 2

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On The Night Of The Ball 2

Bullies start trouble at Ohtori Academy. Girls intervene in many different ways.


Usagi Tsukino, Takeo Akamizu, Utena Tenjou, Shizuru Fujino, Steven Universe, Nori Ankou, Kasagami Araki, Nanami Kiryuu, Endo Naoki, Rei Hino, Niramo Umokeshi, Ren Aizawa, Fumiko Inoue, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Anthy Himemiya


GM: Hotaru Tomoe

OOC - IC Date:

1/13/2019 - 04/17/14


<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Vienna Waltz - Don't Strauss - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4J0MKsG_is

The inaugural ball for the Sister Schools' student councils is in full swing. The dance floor is packed, both with participants in the Dance Queen contest, with newly elected officials, and with those who dance for other reasons, including plain good fun, and also spite, see: Ohtori Vice Prez Shizuru Fujino, who has just been asked by Usagi Tsukino and Rei Hino to adjudicate who's the better dancer. The challenge is further heightened by whether or not to comment on how the two of them just accidentally had tomato seeds splattered on their faces.

A rumor is circulating that the winner will be announced relatively soon; the night isn't that young anymore.

A warm spring evening is dipping into a cool spring night as deeply as Juuban Prez Masaru Fujimura just dipped his sixth partner of the evening out on the floor. That can't be felt inside; the moving bodies ensure a certain familiar oppressiveness to the air, as it gets hotter and heavier.

But it makes the relief from the gilded double doors that open out into the gardens more stark, and the occasional breeze wafting inward all the more tempting.

For that reason people are starting to cluster on that boundary, which makes it harder to get out -- or in. The gardens themselves are a desperately inviting promised land for anyone who's starting to get overheated, though.

Over at the food table, the newly elected Ohtori Prez Kasagami Araki seems to be hitting the canapes with a sort of frenetic desperation, accompanied by the too-cool-for-school-in-his-sunglasses Steven Universe, while her kendo clubmate Takeo Akamizu attempts to negotiate the horse she rode in on away from the punch bowl. (He still isn't moving.) A little gray monkey on the horse's back is struggling to extract his perfectly round face from the end of a champagne glass.

And along a nearby wall with a window overlooking the gardens, Ohtori Middle School Prez Nanami Kiryuu is befriending Anthy Himemiya, and has just led her away from her roommate, Utena Tenjou, and onto the dance floor. Further down the wall, Marinette Dupain-Cheng has been distantly contemplating the beauty before her, while gossipped about by her sleepover-planning and rapidly friendship-deepening classmates, Fumiko Inoue and Niramo Umokeshi.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Kasagami's comment just causes a singular response from Usagi Tsukino, she doesn't miss a beat, not even seeming embarrassed. "You're teasing me right?"

In fact she's saying it in the same tone as if she thought Kasagami were being spectacularly silly for overlooking it. "I'm obviously not a boy!" Though perhaps there's an underlying tautness within her about the idea of 'Ohtori' traditions not simply being the social dance between boys and girls now...

Usagi doesn't seem to understand there's anything amiss with the interaction with Shizuru Fujino, doesn't seem to grasp Rei's tension, "It's so nice to meet you Shizuru-san. It's okay if I call you Shizuru-san right?" Usagi then looks at Rei-chan as if to scold her lightly, "Rei-chan why didn't you tell all of us you knew someone like her?"

Mostly she's complaining because she likes to know every single beautiful girl or handsome boy her friends know asap. However then she puts a finger to her chin in thought, "Though I guess it's alright - since you go to Ohtori you'd never be able to stop talking about all the..."

A tomato seed strikes her forehead.

Usagi squeals in alarm as the juices and the seed slowly start to slide down her forehead in its slimy trail, and she goes cross-eyed looking at it. Before she looks at Rei and points at her, bursting out laughing raucously, "It got you too Rei-chan!" As if that fact had curbed off any distress she might have suffered as a result of that, "Look-look!"

Usagi places herself right beside Rei, and out of her gown's ribbon band she brings out her phone, thumbing it over to camera deftly quick as she holds it in front of them with a whirlwind speed known only to people who spend far too much time on their phone, "Chiizu!" And immediately snaps a very candid selfie of the pair of them.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"You're actually a Youma arn't you?" Takeo asks the small monkey fighting the champagne flute on his face. "A baby Youma sent my Morgana to torment you, and you've enchanged the horse to ignore me and ignore me pulling on HIS REIGNS because this is all some funny joke to the Queen of Air and Darkness isn't it?" He squints his eyes and looks at the horse. "Or. Was. It. The. Rabbit?"

Takeo stands staring into the eyes of the Horse, who as far as he can (Accuratley) tell doesn't even acknowledge his presence. He pulls on the reigns with both hands, but the something like one ton draft horse doesn't even move. He drops the reigns after a minute of desperate tugging and then puts his fae back in the horse's. "Would you move if I gave you a girl horse's phone number?"

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

Off the grand staircase, it's a little harder to notice that people are watching you, which is a blessing right now for Utena. If she knew that the inaugural belles of the ball were separately staring, not to mention little boys, she'd be a lot more self-conscious.

Instead, she's free to admire the garden through the glass, and the girl who showed her this bite-sized wonder of the world. Her breathing deepens -- a little, the dress doesn't help with lung freedom of movement, either -- until --

'Please forgive me, Utena-sama... you're embarrassing yourself for my sake...'

Utena's eyes go wide with panic, huge and dark in her face. Her fingers grip her skirts in a vice, and she peers down at her profile, dismayed. Her elbows are akimbo and reflexively she huffs sharply through her nose to check if she's brought some locker room funk with her from the basketball court to the ballroom floor.

Nothing -- it must be something else, something she doesn't even know about... probably something she's never even heard of, given the setting...

...her eyes creep back upwards to Anthy's, desperately.

"W-what, you think it's that bad?"

Enter Nanami Kiryuu.

For Utena's first impression, let's hit the books:


Guile * less 'g^Illes


Devoid of guile; innocent and without deception.


BGM Start! Yuuga no Kanojo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Tz21ulzbk

She returns the handclasp with Nanami, briefly sandwiching the younger girl's between the back of one of her hands and the palm of the other. Utena's are larger mostly by dint of muscle definition, and a little bit by overall proportion, but they're really very similar. Including in gesture; in a single instant she has thoughtlessly and automatically betrayed her own good breeding.

Twin smiles, too. All girls are princesses to Utena, but Nanami particularly checks the boxes of type, and she feels instantly both drawn to and protective of this example of the breed, as is her wont. Her being younger doesn't hurt a bit.

She exhales a little shakily at the compliment, and the spots of color high on her cheekbones start to fade. Her lips part to return the compliment but Nanami's already moved on, so she shuts them politely to let their -- student body president, actually, huh? -- finish. Utena leans in a little, listening intently.

Her surprised smile grows and grows, as Nanami makes an offer and Anthy accepts. When she's looked at, she looks back, with an encouraging nod and a waist-level thumbs-up, and she watches them disappear into the crowd with a growing sense of satisfaction.

She tries to lean against the wall at the hip, but ruffles are in the way, so she gives that position up as a bad cause and props her hands on her hip-ruffles instead, gratified. Even that doesn't suit the femininity of the dress -- but it suits Utena just fine.

"Well, how 'bout that!" she exclaims with unabashed gladness. "We're here five minutes and she's already made a friend!"


See also: Naive, ingenuous, simple, Utena Tenjou

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

That waiter is getting a solid reward later. For the moment, well--

"Don't mind our President," Shizuru says pleasantly. "She sees the dreams in everyone, and forgets base details like the differences between men and women."

A beat, and deciding a contest, is it? Well, first of all--Shizuru laughs in a pleasant, practically musical tone as Rei makes her joke, which... May or may not be reassuring. It sells her composure, maybe?

A beat, "Certainly," to the term of address, though this is something fairly rare, considering; most Ohtori students of Usagi's age wouldn't even ask. Rei is... special.

"But if you ask me, of course..." Shizuru smiles. She draaaws out the next moment, savoring the fact that she is making them wait, particularly impatient Rei.

"Why, I think it's very kind of our dear Hino-kun to hold back in the dance to allow her dear friend to shine so--going so far as a stumble... It's a true commitment to humility in the spirit of cooperation by all of our schools."

She extends a handkerchief that she's abrubtly holding. "Here," she offers. "Don't let me keep you, naturally." She begins to turn, her work... done.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

So far, this evening has been quite a smashing success!

Little Steven Universe is a fresh transfer student from the United States! From Beach City, thanks to an economic exchange of culture, many of their inhabitants have come to Tokyo to try a new life! And this little cinnamon roll of a child is among their number.

Looking quite the little gentleman, he bears a cream colored dress suit with matching shoes, a cotton candy pink buttondown, and a blush pink tie. He currently wears a pair of aviators, as fistbump explosions are dangerous to the naked eye. And a particular motherly figure thinks glasses are always cool. In his hand, a half-full fluted glass of sparkling cider!

"Yep!" he replies with, to the young lady that totally just entered the ballroom on a massive horse. "Really? Where are you from?" he asks kindly. "Steven! Steven Universe. I... Don't have any cool titles yet!" he adds. What did she mean by being careful here? Do good peopel get bullied or something? "Uh, okay!"

And as Kasagami speaks to two young ladies, the boy can't help but take a look back at the dress the girl with the pink hair has. "Okay, staring isn't really a good idea," he says aloud to himself. "I should go ask about it isntead!" With a bit of humming and a skip to his step, the boy begins to make his way over toward Utena and Anthy. Actually, the dark complexioned girl reminds him of someone he saw a time or two at Beach City... right? Ah, he never got their name. He stops for a moment. "Oh shoot! Her bracelet is still in the fridge! Man, how will I get it back to her now?!" He comments aloud, holding the side of his head. "Coming?" he calls toward Kasagami, having heard she wanted to get her number! For hangouts or something he is sure. If he has to, he will get her hand and pull her over! No need to be shy, after all! It's a party! And one of Stevens many amazing powers is friendship networking!

"Hiii!" the boy says, possibly with a Kassie in tow. "Are you busy, miss? I just wanted to say I really like your dress! It reminded me of my mom, she has pink hair and wore a ruffly dress all the time and stuff! It looks really nice on you!" His best attempt at being nice could go wrong depending. "My name's Steven, and this is Kasagami! She wanted to talk to you!" he says nicely, gesturing to the young lady with him. You can't see it through the aviators, but his eyes are full of stars at the sight of introducing two people! The smile at least can be seen.

Perhaps this was a bit brash compared to how people introduce folks normally here, but this little fella came up from a small beachside community. Friendship and togetherness was as important as anything!

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

NORI ANKOU has been fashionably present for some time and has been feeling a certain form of ennui, which is rooted, as she knows in a vague way, in the fact that she has a poor set of habits for engaging strangers. But as the press and warmth of the evening progresses...

Well, she wants the touch of a cool wind on her face, even if perhaps she can't quite get it yet.

She holds a glass of punch, which was thankfully filled and iced before the coming of that handsome stallion. She lets out a deep breath and lets her eyes shut for a couple of seconds. When she opens them again, she finds out two things -

One is that the evening can go on, and she isn't as badly off as she thought.

Two is the sight of the two girls with tomato on their faces.

Nori sidles three steps to the right and attempts to get their attention - or she thinks she does. For a moment she feels successful but then she sees Usagi produce her phone and go into selfie mode, at which point she hastens forwards as if to warn them about their HORRID STAIN upon their FACE and then there is a tiny but distinct screech of her heels braking as she sees Shizuru's hankerchief, and by extension (the extension of her arm) the presence of the Vice President herself.

This powerful Vice Presence makes Nori come up short with a genuine, unalloyed, unfeigned gasp of surprise. Then she looks at Usagi and by extension Rei with some wonder. "Ah -- Tsukino-san! I see you've been introduced--"

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

Kasagami pretends to not hear poor Usagi's retort, instead briefly peeking over to grin and wink way too smugly at the odango one. Oh yeah, she's deathly teasing. Before she can continue to scope out a certain pink haired newcomer, though, Steven cuts through the chafe.

"You don't mess around, do you, Steve-kun? Are all Beach City residents like you?" She can't help it, she likes the young man.

At first she's a bit incredulous, but slowly an amused smile blossoms back onto her face. She steals another glass as she lets herself get hauled over!

With only a brief fix of her hair, her gaze follows straight to Utena in more detail this time. Nor can she help but laugh as Steven introduces her!

"Well! Not only am I now underdressed at a Ball that's partially for me, but I'm being an awful host putting introductions on other people!" There's a light punch to Steven's shoulders, and a wink in his direction.

Then she tips into a bow, steel and grey not leaving Utena's. "Like my new friend said, I'm Kasagami Araki, your humble and lowly Student Council President! I don't think I've seen you on campus. It'd be impossible to miss someone so brilliant, so I'm guessing you're new to Ohtori?"

Yup, she offers to take Utena's hand. "I'm honored!" She has completely glossed over Anthy's departure via Nanami it seems.

<Pose Tracker> Nanami Kiryuu [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Nanami, for her part, likes being a princess to people. She beams up at Utena during their handclasp, thick sparkly eyelashes around clean young eyes. Her small body is puffed out by hair, hem, and bow.

Nanami's white gloves squeeze Anthy's dark hand, and she smiles. This girl is more her height. "Thank you," she says. "I'll be happy to repay your indulgence with some hors d'oeuvres... oh, you could have gotten them anyway certainly," she laughs gaily, "but isn't it more fun to get them as a present?"

Nanami leads Anthy off into the crowd, but she keeps firm hold of her hand. Glancing behind her, she checks the hem and shoulders of Anthy's dress. Hm... not quite yet it seems. That's all right. Might as well build this girl up a bit first.

"Everyone seems to be heading over to the garden," she observes. "I wonder what's over there?" Charting a course into the thick crowd, Nanami keeps Anthy reassuringly close as she goes. "Oh, right! The tour! Well, right now we're standing under a chandelier gifted by the Italian ambassador in 1973." Nanami couldn't tell you which side Italy was on in WW2, but she knows a lot about Ohtori. "It's very large, isn't it? You can't tell just by looking at it, but this style was desiged to look like a hot air balloon... a long time ago." Nanami is looking up, still holding one of Anthy's hands as the crowd of fancy party-goers shifts around them. "I guess maybe back then it would be obvious..."

Looking down, Nanami makes a surprised sound as she looks at Anthy's face. "Goodness, you have such great big eyes. Oh, I don't mean to be rude... I'm just a bit jealous." Nanami's gawkish-big eyes aren't really anything to worry about in terms of sheer, innocent-looking size. "Perhaps it's the glasses... are they for seeing things, or just for style?"

An elegant implied compliment.

Also a subtle avoidance of the fact that Nanami couldn't think of the word "prescription."

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo Naoki has been in attendance since near the start of the ball, arriving on one of the long staircases without much fanfare. Between all the shouting and the horses it's easy to loose track of all the comings and goings, and he was fine enough not to make a big splash on his descent down into the dancehall.

His wardrobe is not expansive enough to include anything fancy enough for a ball, but some bargaining and a bit of help from the Juuban fashion club have helped him secure an outfit for the occasion. Like many of the boys present he wears a dark tuxedo and white tie, his only accessory a fashion club approved orchid pinned near his chest.

Normally Endo would avoid events such and these-or, as the second best option, he would find the buffet table and the expensive food and never leave. Things are different tonight on account of him having a date, one Ren Aizawa.

"Okay!" He tells her, "I think I'm ready to dance for real." This after around 15 minutes of not real dancing at the waltz instruction station and also roughly 2 minutes of apologizing for stepped on toes, collisions, and other dancefloor fouls.

But he's definitely got it now. "You'll be dance queen for sure, Ren-chan." Endo gives this somber assurance as he takes his partner by the arm, heading back out to mingle as newly licensed waltzers. "What's going to be your first royal order, huh? Huh?" He leans in expectantly, clearly enjoying himself.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"Because my school life is none of your business, Usagi-chan!" Rei snaps, the utter dismay over her best friend blundering into the delicately-woven social net of Ohtori Academy turning into anger by the time she gets to communicating it. Certainly it's not the only thing she's mum about -- Rei has been slow to share details of her life. She hasn't even told anyone her birthday yet!

Most students wouldn't ask, and Rei, under her own power, has enough sense not to paint a giant target on her back; especially not to someone like Shizuru, who remembers elementary school not so long ago, and the difficult path she took to establishing herself as a power in Ohtori instead of a pariah. But if she throws Usagi under the bus here, that has implications for the rest of the night, not to mention greater issues. (i.e. Usagi crying like a baby.)

Which means she can't just take the easy solution, this time, and sell Usagi out.

And she just kind of has to watch the train wreck which is Shizuru Fujino casting judgement on their dancing styles. The edge of her smile kind of twitches a little as she lets the sword of Damocles hang, screwed onto her face so tightly that the grooves are ruined. Oh, she thinks, just get it over with, I already know I'm going to be fixing this night for the next three months.

Of course, on the outset, Shizuru's assessment is entirely kind, offering a perfectly plausible explanation for why Rei was doing so poorly. Perhaps it back-handly points out that she wasn't dancing well, but it does so in a way which elides the possibility that it was just her own incompetence. It sounds absolutely diplomatic. It's even possible to ignore that particular honourific.

But unfortunately, Ohtori is more complicated than that, and Rei has been here her whole life. She knows a dagger when she sees it slipped in. Not only an insult -- but a considerate insult. She'll be paying for this one later. Great. Fantastic. Is it too late to throw Usagi under the bus no matter the consequences?

Instead she laughs - the sound is a little forced, which in itself shows just how much of a wrench Usagi is throwing into the night - good-naturedly. "Oh, my, you've found me out, Fujino-san..." At the very least she will certainly maintain the facade. More or less.

This facade would be easier if there were not suddenly tomato on her face.

And then Usagi does an Usagi thing and Rei sucks in a breath through grit teeth. "Usagi-chan!" She snaps, and that irritation is perfectly captured in a candid snap. Shizuru offers a handkerchief; perhaps Rei snatches it up a little too abruptly. She pats at her face, as if she could fix her diplomatic expression back on physically.

Another tier of the house of cards comes crumbling down when NORI ANKOU arrives, a girl whom Rei had previously had grand luck convincing she was elegant and mysterious because she wasn't there for elementary school. This, if anything, is even more humiliating, especially since she knows Nori probably isn't gasping over her.

"Hello, Nori-san," she says, every mora carefully constructed. "Your dress is lovely tonight." Frankly she could not care at this point if Nori were wearing a very fashionable paper bag; if she spoke her mind, she would just start shouting at Usagi and never stop.

(Let's leave aside for the moment that much of Rei's existence is shouting at Usagi and never stopping.)

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The extent of Usagi's patience is similar to Rei's, though for a different reason altogether. It has much to do with her distractibility. The tomato seed and the selfie for example. Rei's annoyance is glossed over by a simple, "Wait until the others see this-!" She couldn't present the Inner Senshi with a video of Rei's entrance to the ballroom but she can offer them...

Yet, Shizuru is savoring holding out on them, and it goes unnoticed, unbothered. Until finally Shizuru seems to be getting to her answer, and Usagi waits expectantly. Eager.

And then... there's a certain fluttering of her eyelashes. Like she's been slapped yet doesn't realize it. "Wait..." Is trying to comprehend what happened, and still doesn't seem to realize it long even after it's happened. "...Rei-chan was..." Instead her features have a downshift into mild despondency, as an insecure smile creeps onto her features.

Perhaps she wouldn't have truly believed it until Rei herself confirmed it.

Of course Rei was holding back. She knows what a hard worker she is, and so full of talent. A shining star of this school full of girls all more glamorous than she was. The two were only equals when it came to them as friends. In their back and forth sparring. In nothing else could she ever be unless Rei was holding back.

Then the girl bursts out laughing again instantly, at nearly the same moment Rei is, "I guess that means I win!" The girl waves a finger back and forth as if to lightly scold her, though it sounds friendly, "Shame on you for holding back on me Rei-chan."

Under any other circumstances the other Inner Senshi would know about this event as soon as it happened, as that photo would be uploaded on social media at the speed of light.

It'll get there eventually... when she remembers to.

Usagi instead takes Nori's handkerchief. "Nori-chan!" She allows a little squeal, "You look - amazing!" Smooshing the handkerchief over the seed then dabbing away at the trail, she allows herself a giggle. "How are you finding time to come talk to us though when you're looking like that?" Usagi holds up a finger, "Oh I know, I know! You're keeping a low profile until you find that special someone you have your eye on. Is that it?"

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

Some of Utena Tenjou's anxiety comes rushing back when a boy half her size marches up to her to cheerfully inform her that she looks like his mom. He has a sweet face though, and a winning look in his eye, and -- let's be honest, though it lends the mom thing some credence, she has a tendency to adore, champion and protect the small, female or not. So she stifles the natural urge to grimace and instead takes the compliment in the spirit it was obviously meant.

Which is to say, she grins instead, and bows at the waist gracefully to both admirers, which doesn't exactly use that skirt of hers to best advantage. A proper lady would have pulled off the most fantastic curtsey, all ruffles and rustling (and her smile might have been a little less raffish, to boot). This does give him and his companion a good look at the twin roses in her hair and on her chest, though, which are that iconic ruby red for petals of romance. Simultaneously too vibrant, and yet not dark enough, to be the crimson that is the new Student Council President's signature. This was selected to another's taste.

"Thanks!" says Utena, who isn't thinking about the flowers she's adorned with at all, except when they poke her uncomfortably. "Nice to meetcha, Steven." No keigo; she exudes an ease, a sort of intrinsic casualness quite at odds with the tone of the party, which transcends the need for such niceties. "I think you wear pink pretty well yourself!"

Dutifully she turns to Kasagami, now twice introduced. Steel and grey, meet empyrean blue. Paradoxically, the exchange with Steven has helped her find her feet (figuratively; literally she hasn't seen them in an hour, and is starting to grow concerned about sending out a search party), so most of the worry has drained from them, leaving a good-natured amiability behind. That, and maybe still a touch of that inner core of vulnerability. She can't help it -- especially not in these clothes.

See also: 'Brilliant' makes her a little self-conscious in a completely different way that 'mom' did, but she's already aboard the chill-and-hang train, so she rides it out.

"Yo, New Prez," she replies -- her voice is the sort that can be filled with laughter without being anything but cheerful and friendly, the warmth of a bonfire on the beach -- "From what you just said, it sounds like the honor's all mine."

Utena takes Kasagami's hand and shakes it firmly. Pump pump.

"Congrats! I was just thinking earlier that you have something kind of special going. To win by one vote -- that means that every single person who voted for you is each the reason you won. I think that's kinda cool!"

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Fumiko does have a point, but... "Well, it might be a tad difficult with these ballgowns, but it should be okay as long as we're careful. Though I think I might try to avoid going to any balls in the future..." It wasn't just the fact that there's a dance floor so close by, with the heat of the dancers making the air sweltering.

The entire atmosphere of the ball makes it feel like she doesn't belong, and if those looks from Ohtori students were any sharper, her borrowed ballgown could be cut to shreds.

"Marinette-san, i'm going to see if I can get us some refreshments...and maybe some late night coffee for you." A ball doesn't exactly seem like the type of place you could find an energy drink, but surely there's some hot and fresh coffee around, preferably one of the fancy kinds that Marinette enjoys so much!

Regardless on if Fumiko comes with her or stays with Marinette to keep a watch on her, Niramo makes her way along the sidelines and trying her best to not accidently step onto the dance floor. That was a tragedy waiting to happen. But...there was a poor man trying to drag away Kasagami's horse away from the punch bowl. And... "Wait...would horses even have phone numbers?" Uh oh, Niramo said that out loud, didn't she?

Well, no going back now! Stepping forward to place some fancy snacks onto a plate (which also includes the last of the bacon - how did it disappear so fast?), Niramo smiles upwards towards Takeo. Not someoone she recognizes from Juuban, but there is a few years difference between the two. "I'm Niramo Umokeshi, from Juuban. Are you enjoying yourself, Horse Whisperer-san?"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Clad in a beautifully modest white dress with matching heels, Ren somehow hasn't managed to fall over ever since dressing up. She doesn't do this often, and although she was sure she'd be uncomfortable and awkward, nothing of the sort could be further from the truth. She instead feels elegant and poised, as if this is just second nature to her.

Of course, perhaps it could be because of the fact that she's here with Endo on a date. Thinking of him makes her smile widely, squashing any nervousness from her thoughts over actually dancing with him in front of everyone. When the time finally comes, she takes a deep breath and nods eagerly, letting him lead her out onto the dance floor. His verbal reassurances causes her to giggle slightly as they move.

"Well... how about we just dance, for now? I'm sure I'll think of something..." Ren replies, squeezing his hand slightly.

<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"Hm... I don't think this would be a relatively common happening at Ohtori balls though, Niramo." Fumiko tilts her head slightly at her friend, knowing that there is more than just friends having tired spells causing her to not want to go. "Are you afraid that you'll show up too many people with your dancing skills and steal the night?"

Coffee would be a great idea, and not just for Marinette. Fumiko could use a little boost herself. "Um... would you be all right by yourself for a little bit, Marinette? There seems to be a horse, a monkey, and someone talking to them near the table and I'm afraid that Niramo might have some trouble by herself."

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Takeo stops as he is suddenly spoken to. His eyes go wide and he slowly turns his head to looks into the green eyes of the younger girl who spoke to him. He blinks more than a few times and opens his mouth to answer ...


Sparkles sits chewing some high quality apples. A flickering phone screen, plugged into an outlet, is currently playing an episode of My Little Pony Netflix. Next to her is a stik, with a gloved on it. It's one of those gloves that fakes being a human finger, which allows her to press buttons on the smart phone.

      • BACK AT THE BALL***

"Er... Nope. Horses do not use phones at all .... I was ... Uh ... Trying to convince him by being funny?" Takeo answers, immediately leaning on the table wiht one elbow and raising an eyebrow just so while also giving that roguish grin of his. Has this look ever worked on a girl? No. In fact the last time he's pretty sure the girl he used it on threatened to have her Dragon eat him. However Takeo gives it his full go. His other hand holding the reigns to the large Clydsdale. "I wouldn't drink the punch. But I bet there is ... " His eyes go to the plate where he spies the last bacon topped yum yum.

His eyes remain there, transfixed, his mouth open mid speach. They quickly pan up back to Niramo's green eyes. "That'sthelastbacon." He says blinking a few times. Nothing else. Just that and very quickly. The corner of his left eye twitches once. He gives a tug on the reigns just so the horse is fully aware that he's not done with him.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

A light thud to the boy's arm has Steven looking up to Kasagami. "S-Sorry! I uh, I'm the guy that gets people to meet each other back where I'm from. It's second nature at this point," he says with a shrug.

"People say I should add it to my resume," he says, only half-joking.

Lars totally told him to.

Indeed, this small little buttercup means no harm from his compliment, though exlusion of detail definitely doesn't help the situation. Though how do you tell someone 'My mom wore a similar dress as her bodily form every second of her life?'

You don't in most circumstances.

The boy takes off the aviators and palms them in his hand as he looks at those pretty roses! Someone talented must have set up her ensemble. "Hm!" comes politely from the boy onlooking. She doesn't use those ending syllables! She is new. Thsoe are gonna take some time to get used to. A hand cups his left side face. "Aw, thanks! It's the family color."

Not lying.

As Utena and Kasagami speak, the boy turs toward Kasagami at the final comment. "You won by just one vote?! I don't think I have heard of that ever! That's one heckuva tight race!" A beat. "So, what are ya gonna do as your first President thing?" the boy asks innocently. He has no idea. A pocket square is used to clean a smudge off his glasses as he talks, the fluted glass held carefully while doing so.

There is... something about Utena though. She seems to carry herself a bit different from everyone else around here. It could be that she is new, but it feels more like how Steven himself is acting compared to everyone is well.

For a brief moment, he thinks back to what Kassie said about how to be careful in Ohtori because he is a good person. A small chuckle within. 'Nah,' he thinks.

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

Watching Rei's smile twitch is almost in the neighborhood of starting to make up for the interruption of the dance earlier. She remembers full well little Rei Hino, and thus is quite certain that she'll look into the layers of her statement.

Shizuru smiles, through the whole tomato experience. Through Usagi's sad look... and her bounce back. When she starts laughing, Shizuru regards her with what Rei can surely tell is interest.

...And this is perhaps not the healthiest thing.

"Yes. But I'm sure you can forgive her. She's always working so hard."

A beat. The gasp that announces Nori to her is met by a curious look from Shizuru--who immediately recognizes her, though to look at her one wouldn't know it, a show of Shizuru placing one of her many dear students. She of course pauses instead of leaving. Naturally.

"Yes, it is," Shizuru agrees, and then adds, "It seems that you're quite popular, doesn't it?" she says to Usagi, and the fact that there is no hidden meaning in this does not stop it from sounding like she's implying some secret or another.

She smiles at Nori. "The fencing club, yes?" And to Usagi (and Rei), Shizuru adds, "Please, treat this as if it were your very own school. You're more than welcome."

Heh heh.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Out on the dance floor, the Juuban High School President -- a senior, and also captain of the baseball team and the science club, he's almost offensively accomplished -- finds himself again between partners, just as Ren and Endo tango past.

An intrigued light comes on behind his eyes, which follow them for a few seconds, before Masaru Fujimura runs his hand through his hair (very fashionably spiked), takes a moment for the song to come around to just the right beat, and steps in, brushing just past Rei and Usagi.

"Yo, Naoki-kun," he drawls to his underclassman, smiling charmingly at them both, especially Ren. His eyes linger on her a beat too long, or at least long enough to make his interest clear. "May I cut in?"


With a sigh that instantly makes Takeo's hair look like he spent an hour inside a gale-force windtunnel -- a sigh that clearly communicates that this is harrassment, and that the only reason things will now progress is to make that harrassment end -- Kasagami's noble steed finally stops drinking and begins to follow the boy according to the grip on his reins.

The monkey, whose face is now deformed into being a little bit long like the champagne flute, has finally unstuck himself, and gives the horse a disgusted look before leaping off onto the table and continuing to help himself to canapes all by himself. When Niramo takes the last piece of bacon-wrapped asparagus out from under his paw, he is compelled to deliver a second Look as well. Et tu, Niramo?

There is, indeed, coffee. Also tea. Also various sodas. All of these things are being served by a bartender who is keeping an admirably straight face (it matches his mustache) when kids try to place ridiculous orders (a problem that happens here a lot). In any case the girls do not have any trouble stocking up on caffeine.

However, there is also a minor incident beginning to unfold, near the food table with Takeo, Niramo and Fumiko, and blocking their way to the nearby doors to the gardens, through which the horse-related escort quest might end, or at least achieve partial victory.

"E-excuse me..." A pretty little girl, elementary-aged, with long violet hair looks up at the barricade of older kid backs. Shizuka Tsukimura would like very much to go out to the gardens to look at the roses, and also to find her friends who went that way some time ago, and she can't get past. Her anxious little voice rises like a slightly shrill flute as she makes a nervous effort to be heard. "P-please let me through..."

At first the older boys ignore her, but laughter starts to emenate from their clump as her request penetrates. They aren't moving.

"Give us a kiss," someone suggests, tapping his cheek and starting to bend down over her. "You have to pay the toll, Chibi-chan. That's how things work here."

OOC: Visual aid for Shizuka: https://static.zerochan.net/Tsukimura.Suzuka.full.2101643.jpg

<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

The music shifts, and Marinette's eyes snap open.

She blinks rapidly, as if trying to remember where she is for a moment. The last few nights have admittedly been something of a haze of preparing for the gala and imagining what the gala might be like, and she has to reassure herself that this isn't another of her dreamed-up fantasies of what could be.

Admittedly, those imagined scenarios had a lot more shoujo bubbles and a lot less teasing from friends, so this is more likely reality than not.

"No coffee! Definitely no coffee, I'm not going to be able to drink that for a week!" She thinks to say this a little late, after Niramo and Fumiko have already started to head off. Huffing for a moment, she shakes her head. "I'll be fine - I want to check a few people out anyway. ...I mean a few things! Check a few things out! ...just leave me to my doom, okay?"

Her feet are in some nice heels, it shouldn't be this easy to get them into her mouth.

The things she wanted to check out do admittedly include some people, though. There was admittedly a hope in the back of her mind that she could sneak in a totally-platonic dance with Adrien, but searching the crowd for blonde hair doesn't seem to be meeting with much success. She can spy a frustrated Chloe in there somewhere, and if that isn't an indicator that Adrien is scarce then nothing is.

(Rumour has it that certain fashion designers with sons at Juuban may have decided to hold an impromptu photo shoot/fashion show just outside the doors, to demonstrate the latest line. Such is fate.)

Disappointment might weigh heavy, but this is a gala! A party! A chance for everyone to show themselves at their best! And...amateurish though it might technically be, she does kind of want to show off her own hard work. To that end, she starts to make her way toward the central dance floor; while it might be difficult to join in the waltzes without a partner, she can at least keep an eye on things from the fringes. That might-

-be immediately undone by circumstances colliding. A hem she didn't completely finish sewing comes loose on one of the inner skirts. Tiredness crossed with inexperience causes a misstep in unfamiliar heels. Abruptly, Marinette finds herself beginning to topple forward, and all she can think to do is take another step forward to try to recover and maybe get her foot untangled.

The net result is a middle school Juuban student in a pink-and-red-and-black dress careening out of control through the wistful waltzers, potentially on a collision course with Masaru, Endo, or even Ren. The only warning is a panicked cry of "E-excuse me!"

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

How fortunate it is that Nanami disrupts their awkward moment -- or is it? That confusion and dismay in Utena's eyes stays with Anthy, even as she's led away.

All this bright chatter from Nanami makes it easier for Anthy. She can offer smiles and nods as the blonde girl carries the conversation, and the questions asked mostly have simple answers. This, in turn, sets her at ease with the other girl.

Just in time for Nanami to lead her by the hand into the thick of the crowds. It's Anthy's turn to make things easy for the other girl, as she hastens her step to keep close. Having just discovered a new friend, now she needs her; so deep in the sea of formless faces Nanami's is the only one she recognizes, a lifeboat clung to. Her fingers squeeze, like she fears to lose their link.

"The tour..." Sweat beading the back of her long neck, Anthy nods. She listens politely, obediently looks up at the chandelier, as Nanami waxes knowledgeable about a historical detail of a traditional school nested within an ancient fairy tale.

"You must care about Ohtori, Nanami-san, to know it so well," she murmurs, her voice subdued by the press of people.

The comment about her eyes brings them back down, aflutter -- and thus her long dark lashes, graceful in curvature though not so richly thick as Nanami's, flutter prettily too. Anthy is all manners as she bobs her head and says her thanks for the compliment. It's clear, so clear, that she is unused to receiving them thus.

"I need my glasses," she replies to the question, which may answer it. Or may not...

A chattering Ohtoran in a velvet-trimmed turquiose gown backs up a step too many without checking behind her and brushes into one of Anthy's grand green sleeves, and she huddles her shoulders up a bit. Then she makes another effort, because Nanami is being so nice. "Your dress is really so pretty. Did you have it made special for the ball?"

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

If anything, Kasagami only looks warmly to Steven. "If you're going to drag me to interesting and beautiful people like this, Steve-kun, then I'm going to insist you transfer to Ohtori so you can keep doing it!" Teases the young woman. Certainly she's joking!

Kassie raises a brow, but slides quickly into a nice and firm handshake. The rose really does suit Utena. Resisting the faint urge to pluck one of those petals out of the other girl's hair, Kasagami soaks in the sound of Utena's voice. It's hard to tear away from, not that the newly minted President wants to.

Smoothing down her coat with a light flick, she lets go of Utena's arms and leans lightly towards the staircase.

"Isn't democracy a wonderful thing? The people at Ohtori are going to be leading Japan, in government, athletics, and in business. Knowing that so many people believe that I can help usher in that ambitious, passionate generation moves me to my core!" A hand goes to her chest, she closes her eyes. A light sigh as a hand runs through her hair with a shake.

"Trust me, it was a hard fought victory, all respect due to Touga-kun. By the skin of my teeth, but between you and me?" Grin. Leeean in to whisper.

"A battle that is won with every last bit of your sweat and blood are the best kinds! Putting your heart and soul into winning is how things should be!"

"The Kiryuu family are not to be taken lightly." Offers Kass to Steven, before shifting slightly. A hand goes into her coat, and then she's pulling out an honest-to-goodness scroll. She unfurls it, the bottom rolling to the ground.

It's bordered in swords and ohtori roses, the top reading 'President Araki Reforms Agenda' in big bold letters.

"Stagnation kills dreams, and makes the flame of ambition gutter out. So, I and my fellow councilors will be implementing a few reforms to make sure that Ohtori is more competitive than it's ever been! Student rivalries are a healthy outlet for often misguided passions of youth. Oh, and enforcing the traditional standards of Ohtori excellence that have seemed...lacking." Flick. The whole thing snaps back up.

A smaller notebook is soon having a page torn out, a number being jotted down to be presented to Utena. "Don't ever hesitate to call if I can help you with anything. Advice, fitting in at school, history. Lunch in the gardens. How to join the kendo club!" That last one's a bit pointed as she brings up extracurriculars.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei and Usagi both greet her and Nori smiles at them before saying, "You look marvelous, both of you. Such a contrast. I did not know that you two were -" Well, she might have known but she wasn't paying attention, or perhaps that information was p r i v i l e g e d . . .

"You have such a classic style... but I bet you are comfortable as well as gorgeous, aren't you, Usagi?" Nori says, first part to Rei and the latter to, well, there aren't many people named Usagi right here. "And - uhuhu... yes, exactly; I haven't found my perfect dance partner yet, and I don't want to settle for anything less."

Shizuru speaks.

Nori swallows at her words. They are soft, but have power. She breathes in and breathes out, as if buffetted by the near occasion of power itself!

"Yes - that's right," Nori breathes. "Ah - ah -"

Is she about to sneeze? No: She wants to correct the apprehension of Shizuru that Nori, at least, perceives to be wrong, but cannot quite bring herself to do it. Sweat beads on the back of her neck. Her eyes turn down to her glass as she takes a long sip, letting a shard of ice get into her mouth, which is relieving.

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

"No kidding?" Utena replies to Steven, as to his relationship to the color pink. "Well, your family obviously has great taste."

She settles back as he interrogates Kasagami as to her agenda, her eyes twinkling a little as she enjoys his enthusiasm. And hers, for that matter; New Prez obviously means business, as the end of her scroll slaps the floor. For the second time in the evening, her eyebrows inch towards her hairline, but she doesn't interrupt.

Being presented with paper also presents Utena with a logistical conundrum, and she sucks on her lip for a second as she considers what to do. Her hands fluff the ruffles at her hips, instead of accepting the note. Because she can't. Because:

"This thing has no pockets," she complains, then shrugs, which offsets the negativity a little bit with the way it makes her shoulder muscles tense and release, while triggering a wave to roll downwards through her hair no less impressively than gravity did the scroll. "Don't worry, though, New Prez. You don't seem like someone who's gonna be hard to find. I'll just swing by the club some time."

She pauses.

The rose signet on her finger collects the light, then sends it glittering off.

"Not to join, though," she hastily corrects, before Kasagami can get the wrong idea. "Sorry," and it sounds like she really is, her smile turning just a little bit rueful, "But swords aren't really my idea of a dedicated hobby. I just whack around sometimes."

She looks back over at their other companion, so carefully cleaning his sunglasses, and grins again. She can't help it; the kid's charming. "What do you do for fun, Steven?"

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Fumiko's question has the ravenette looking out over the dance floor, her fingers poking and entwining with each other out of nervousness. A lot of people look happy and so graceful, but that doesn't hide the inrational urge that she would be the first one to be boo'ed out of Ohtori if she so much as tried to waltz.

A vivid memory replaces itself in her mind, and Niramo winces from the slow motion replay. It was a wonder the school didn't make her pay for the DJ equipment. "...something like that, Fumiko-chan, but...not in the way you think."

Takeo certainly has a charming smile, but his target might be a bit too young for it to be fully effective. He certainly looks handsome enough, but Niramo isn't quite sure about trying to have a date with someone old enough to be her senpai. It doesn't stop a bit of pink to color her cheeks, however. "I think i'll just have a soda. Never really liked tea...it's essentially leaf juice, and that just sounds nasty to me."

The horse whisperer's last words were rushed and mumbled, but a moment of following his gaze has her realizing what exactly he meant suddendly feels like she's under the spotlight. And the monkey was staring at her too...

Well, there's one elegant solution from one not-so-elegant student. Grabbing a knife from the refreshment table (was this real silver?!), she carefully cuts the veggie enhanced with meat in half and offers a serving to both Takeo and the monkey. Why did Ohtori has a monkey in a ball, anyways? "I can always have something with bacon later. I'm more of a sweets girl myself!"

Following after Takeo and the massive horse with a can of unopened soda in hand, Niramo is quite grateful for the the cold biting into warm skin. But word starts to be heard over the music and the crowd as she nears the exit. An elementary student seems to be having trouble getting out to the cool air outside, and the 'men' blocking her way apparently ignored the memo about chivalry. But the last comment has the Juuban student frowning. "A kiss...as a toll to leave?" No one seems to be paying this any mind, like it's normal! Well, if no one is going to teach them manners...

Placing her half-eaten snacks on a waiter's tray as he passes by, Niramo marches up towards the taller boy and is quite grateful Marinette talked her out of the taller heels. She's quite small for her age, but she's not going to let that stop her. "Trying to enforce a toll onto a poor girl who just wants some fresh air? If this is the only way that you can get a kiss, then you certainly act like the troll you look like!"

What happened next could be blamed on anger and nerves, but it was just the selfish desire to see a bully get what he deserves.

A cold can of carbonated soda is raised up, shaken furiously for several seconds and then, aiming right at his white cream tuxedo...

Niramo opens the can, spraying him up and down with sticky sweet grape soda.

Once the soda finally stops spraying him and his companions does Niramo's actions finally catches up to her brain. That's when the dawning realization that she have yet another reason to avoid dances dawns on her. "...oops."

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Occupied with her own demise as she is, Rei fails to notice Usagi taking things at face value until it's far too late. In the middle of school territory, she's keyed into little expressions - that's where half the insults come from, after all. So when Usagi trails off, Rei is pretty sure she can guess exactly what she's thinking, especially after her admission that she wanted things to be fair.

Frustration flits over her face, because of course Usagi wouldn't notice the real conversation. She never asked to babysit Usagi through interpersonal intrigue; didn't she explicitly tell Usagi not to come tonight? It's not her fault Usagi is too plainspoken to realise what's going on. Her smile twitches, again, just barely flashing a line of grit teeth.

Who cares if it hurt her feelings?! It serves her right for not listening in the first place!

Rei certainly doesn't care. This is Rei not caring. The care caboose has left the station with nary a single passenger. Rei couldn't care less. Wait, look, she just dropped to a new level of apathy! Science thought it could not be done and yet here she is, without a single care for Usagi's stupidity.

"Sure, this time," she says, of Usagi's supposed win, and she can't quite keep the irritation out of her voice. Normally, she'd be annoyed at losing. This time she has so much more to be annoyed by.

And it's not enough that Usagi is bringing her ridiculous hangups to Ohtori - she's being dragged through the coals by Shizuru Fujino, and as Shizuru begs forgiveness on her behalf her cheeks flush with angry embarrassment. It's a particular dagger in the dark because Rei tries so hard to make her effort seem effortless. She has absolutely no illusions that Shizuru does not understand her implications perfectly.

This is leaving aside the very alarming point that Shizuru seems interested in Usagi, which, again, Rei isn't caring, she doesn't care, Usagi wouldn't listen to her anyway.

It does not escape her that she is getting utterly destroyed. The nail in the coffin is the way Shizuru so casually implies Rei in her statement; her teeth grind a little as Shizuru smilingly welcomes them. "I am sure," she says, the tension in the words like a steel rope, "we will show them the full extent of Ohtori's hospitality, Fujino-san."

The expression on her face could still technically be called a smile, in the same way that a misshapen stick discarded from some mid-summer storm could still technically be called a weapon.

"Thank you," she says to Nori, utterly dry. Her classmate is very clearly on Team Shizuru, to her biased eyes, and perhaps it's unfair to be frosty to her, but Rei has long since progressed past the point of pique which would see her able to navigate gracefully.

And that's when the High School President brushes past them as if they were so much set dressing.

That's a much easier target to be angry at.

"What's your problem?!" She demands, angrily, of Masaru Fujimura. "There's an entire group of cute girls here, and you're trying to break up a happy couple?!" Never mind that she has no problem with breaking up happy couples if it's for her own ends; she's mad. "Are you blind, or just stupid? Set an example for your school and have a little grace!"

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Takeo hears the voice and he looks over to the sound of it. Especially when he hears the voice of a guy asking for a tax. His eye twitches agian. And his attempt at stupidity with roguish grins and impressing girls simply vanishes. "Excuse me a moment. Enjoy the bacon. It's delicious." is offered quickly to some random person he passes. (I'll give you all a moment to take in that Takeo just GAVE away bacon. You good? Okay then.) The boy stands up straight, and his head snaps to the altercation. His eye twitches again when he sees what is at worst a late middle schooler, but is likely a high schooler hitting on an elementry school girl and insisting on a kiss. He moves with the horse that oh so gratefully sighed agreement toward the pair.

While Niramo is basting the boy in soda, Takeo gently taps the little girl on the shoulder, and smiles down to her. "Excuse me miss. Would you like to ride this horse into the Gardens like a Princess?" Takeo's voice is kind and sweet and offering what looks like an incredibly awesome horse to a little girl. Then he looks the boy in the possibly soda drenched eye.

"Hi. I'm gonna punch you in the snoz."

And then Takeo does just that. From the form, it's clear that Takeo has studied Martial Arts for many years. In fact, he has studied martial arts since he was able to walk, what wiht Mama-Sama being an enthisiast of the sport. It is however the first ACTUAL punch he's thrown since becoming Lancelot. All his other attacks are usualy followed by a lightning based something.

Not this one. It is pure, and simple, an old fashioned and ancient right reverse punch aimed for the intended location. The exact middle of the other boy's face. He smiles at the little girl after throwing the punch, though he is cautious for retaliation. "So! How about that Pony ride?"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Usagi actually shows herself off in front of Nori by doing a little twirl, which causes the skirt of her gown to flutter to about mid-thigh. "I picked it just so I could have something to move in - after all a ball isn't a ball without dancing right?" Whereas she nods eagerly at Nori's explanation, "Just as expected!" As she nudges her, "You won't settle for just anyone!"

"Of course I can!" Usagi says so cheerfully that Shizuru might begin to feel thoroughly gaslighted by how well she buried her insecurities, "I know better than anyone what a hard worker Rei-chan is!"

However then Shizuru comments that she's... "Popular?" Usagi seems to straighten up to her full diminutive height, giggling as she folds her hands together in pleasure, "Well I am running into a lot of friends at the party so it might seem that way!" And she certainly doesn't refute it.

Furthermore she seems gleeful at the invitation. "Oh! Maybe I'll take you up on that and come by..." However Masaru Fujimura brushes by her, and that seems to refute it on its own. After all she just went unnoticed by the Juuban Student Council President.

The brush by though does catch Usagi Tsukino's eye, which turns her head from Shizuru to him as she follows him passing her by. "... more... often. Wow... Fujimura-senpai..." She certainly knew him by reputation, and he's almost obscenely handsome... and the upswing of the idea that she might indeed be viewed as popular does bolster a thought in her head. Perhaps he just didn't see the two girls he stepped by. "... what a guy..."

That makes sense to her on a certain level, more sense than her being outright rejected.

Even as Rei is annoyed by it, Usagi instead walks towards him as if drawn by a certain magnetism and actually approaches him from the side. "Ano... eto..."

Now that she's actually approaching though, how handsome he truly is does seem to be sinking in. Enough that her cheeks are going pink, and it feels like her heart is doing flip flops. However Rei Hino beats her to the punch. And Usagi draws herself up, and whispers as if scandalized, "Rei-chan! I'm sure it's not like that! Besides..."

The girl looks at him, then looks away, managing this tiny nervous giggle as she begins poking her pointer fingers together and taking them apart, "...if they're not interested in trading partners... maybe you're right in that... he doesn't have to look very far for another partner?" She's cut the boldness with a touch of passivity. Or at least it seems that way until she says, "... like...m-?"

Then she hears a panicked cry of 'Excuse me!' and she turns just enough to see the girl about to collide. All she manages to get out before it happens is a simple...


Her only thought as it happens is a singular note of sympathy. She's so clumsy herself she could easily see them in swapped positions.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"I mean this school looks super nice! But it was hard enough to get Pearl to let me go to Juuban even though its really close to my home. She would rather keep me home!" No context is given further. Kassie moves in to whisper to Utena. He strains to listen without looking too obvious. He doesn't get a lot.

"Was that who ran against you?" the boy asks. "They must be if it was that-- Oh cool a scroll! Are you gonna cast a spell or something?" he asks. Once again, doesn't look like he is kidding. Sadly, it appears to be just a newsletter. Though on some of the fanciest paper and etching ever seen! He wonders if people handwrite it somehow.

"Are you gonna do competitions with the other schools?" the boy asks nicely. "I gotta find a club at Juuben, but if I do a competition, maybe I will run in to you two!"

The thought of what kind of club hasn't passed through his mind that much quite yet. He likes music, cooking, and making friends! Maybe there was a surfing club?

"Yeah! Pink was just her color!" he says happily. "Seems like it is mine too. Where did you get your dress by the way? Did someone make it for you?" he asks. Curiosity seems to be key tonight.

"Don't feel bad with the swords!" the boy adds toward Utena. "I don't really like weapons either. I rather just keep people from getting hurt by them! Talk it out. You know."

A direct question toward him now, as he dons his aviators. "Me? Well, I live on the beach out near the seaside park! I like to do all sorts of beach stuff! Play my ukelele, swimming, surfing, hanging out with people, listening to my moms tell monster fighting stories, shopping... All sorts of stuff!"

One of these things are not like the other.

"How about you two?" he asks in turn! Kasagami's favorite things to do are quickly being made apparent, but maybe she has some idden ones! And Utena is sitll a bit of an enigma!

Always good to meet and learn new people!

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

Steven says the magic word! "Steve-kun, by virtue of lifting up Ohtori, I'm going to force the rest of the Sister Schools to follow! You'll be knee deep in competitions, from athletics to the arts, to science! No one will go unchallenged! Only the most talented and strongest will survive!" Both hands clench. Someone is way too into this.

The President leans hard into an overly dramatic sigh as Utena declines her number. At least she didn't get laughed at like that one time in middle school. "Ahhh, my old enemy, the flowing ballgown! ....Twisted my ankle once in heels, never again!"

Okay, and then she just laughs loud and proud. "If you do not see me you will hear and feel my touch all over this campus! You'll be sick of it in time I promise!" Then she's further shot down by Utena not joining the kendo club!

"What a shame! You could learn. You certainly aren't an armchair general judging by how you move. I'll have my eye out for you."

Her eyes turn downward to that ring. Then she looks back straight into Utena's eyes with an eagerness that boarders on hunger.

"Don't dissappoint me this semester. Enjoy the party, hmm? Find a good dance partner."

Then the commotion starts. Kassie's visage becomes far less pleasant. "...At this rate maybe I should have brought a shinai at least. Steve-kun, take care. I'll drag one or both of you out on my morning exercise routine some time!" With a wave of her shoulders, she eyes a familiar ring one more time before she strides over to the scene of the fight with Takeo and that middle schooler.

"WHAT IS GOING ON!?" Cuts Kassie's voice as she approaches, trying to get an eye on the situation. Takeo in particular is met with a glare from the President. Boots tap impatiently.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo is putting his newly practiced waltzing skills to use, albeit rather slowly. Maybe so he doesn't accidently run over his partner. He seems happy to be dancing though, more comfortable in this sea of fancy people with Ren at his side.

At least until their slow sway is interrupted by fellow Juuban student Masaru. It's hard not to pick up on his intentions, considering the way the other boy's gaze lingers on his date. A glance is shared with Ren-and then Endo laughs. "Ahhh, really Fujimura-kun!?" His response is jovial, as if he considers the entire request a joke. "I worked hard to get a date as pretty as Ren, shouldn't you be more considerate of your juniors?" He is, perhaps, louder than strictly necessary. A good laugh between friends, surely.

The approach of one storming Rei Hino saves him from having to take further immediate action, though. "You see? Fujimura-kun has so many admirers already." He says to Ren, as if giving great praise. Also completely ignoring the context of the entire conversation being had. Usagi at least lends some creedence to the claim, though.

Also, there's a Marinette to dodge. Not that Endo sees her coming until particularly late, but her collision course is more toward Ren that him. Though depending on how it shakes it, that may also become his problem soon. "Uwaaa!"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Ren's absolutely absorbed in dancing with Endo. Nothing else really has her attention... that is, until Masaru Fujimura shows up. The spell is instantly broken, Ren blinking over at the upperclassman. "I'm... sorry. Who are you?" She questions, head tilting to one side. She's not sure if he's an Ohtorite or not... though he certainly seems to carry himself as one. It takes her awhile to mentally process his request, and she immediately blushes, looking to Endo.

"Umm...! I'm not sure you want to dance with me. I'm not that good." Part of that is truth, the other part is he not really wanting to dance with some stranger. Especially since she doesn't like the way he's smiling at her... or the way he's obviously expecting Endo to yield to his request.

She's about to suggest he ask someone else when the pink-and-red-and-black dress-wearing Marinette comes careening their way. "Oh no!" Ren sees the girl struggling not to fall, and on instinct moves forward to grab onto her. It's not as graceful of a move as she'd hoped, her ankle rolling a bit so that she goes into a spin with Marinette in her arms, the end result being an accidental dip of the Juuban student that looks similar to a somewhat well-executed dance move. Ren blinks down at the girl, cheeks starting to burn.

"Ahh... are you ok?" She holds the pose, albeit with some barely contained awkwardness. She chances a glance at Endo, then at Masaru and Rei, the last of whom has come over to chastise the upperclassman for trying to cut in. "Ahh..."

<Pose Tracker> Nanami Kiryuu [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Oh, there's no need to care about things you can't possibly lose," Nanami tells Anthy, genuinely surprised by the thought. "But I do like Ohtori."

The colors of the crowd are constantly shifting, a human glamour that Anthy's large eyes cannot escape. Nanami is the only color that remains constant, saffron as she is, attached to Anthy by a gloved palm. They've been nestled into the densest, loudest part of the room, and the temperature is palpably higher here, though not many are so gauche in their management of personal space as the turquoise lady. Nanami seems unaffected, even empowered, glittering where she stands.

"Oh certainly not," Nanami smiles. "It's hard to say honestly that I've had a dress made for an occasion if I never stop having dresses made... I just pick from what I have when the time comes." She seems to find that humble of her. "But I'm glad you like it." She takes her hand away from Anthy's to do a twirl, holding her skirts like a Disney princess. When she comes about, she sees it.

Just a little fraying, on the seam of Anthy's shoulder. It's time.

"Himemiya-san--do you mind if I call you Anthy?" Nanami's skirts slosh back into place as her rotation stops. "I hope this isn't too scary for you. Parties like this are part and parcel of Ohtori life I'm afraid... all the worse if you wish to find love. Worse still if you wish to find love with one of Ohtori's brightest stars..." She trails off, and her eyes fall down to Anthy's.

"Might I confide something?" she asks. Leaning forward, she moves her head near Anthy's, seeking the privacy of a whisper. "You are not the only one who--"

The bottom of Nanami's champagne flute bumps into Anthy's chest. It tips, cold frothy alcohol spreading across her collarbone and fizzing its way down. Nanami draws back as if shocked, but not before almost every drop was poured right onto Anthy's nice new gown. The flute somehow turned entirely upside down, apparently.

"Oh my! I'm so very sorry!" Nanami is still trying to keep the mask on, but she's a lot less worried about failing at this point, and there are bubbles inside her to match those on Anthy--bubbles of laughter. It was a good shot. If a giant stain down the front of her bodice was all the damage Anthy suffered from this, it would be satisfying in and of itself for Nanami. But, joy of joys, that humiliation is wholly incidental in the scheme of things. In the scheme of schemes.

"Oh no oh no, it's all over." Nanami tries to exult in a concerned tone. "Stay right here, I'll get you a towel." Surprisingly lithe, Nanami flits sideways and melts into the shifting crowd. To Anthy it will perhaps seem as daring as someone leaping onto a moving train. Turning, Nanami lets her true devilish grin spread, and dances her way through the crowd. She needs to get somewhere higher so she can see and get a good satisfying laugh in.

Behind her, Nanami has left more than a mess. The fizzing, instead of diminishing, keeps increasing, the champagne-soaked fabric seeming to catch with it. It wilts, going from smooth to grainy. It feels weak, like soaked tissue paper. And then it starts to come apart.

The edges of each piece of textile are eaten away. Even without the liquid, the dress would have started to come apart, but this accelerates the process immensely. Holes part, at seams, at soaked spots, at vents such as beneath the armpits. The dress is drizzling its way apart like something out of an adolescent nightmare. At first, some applied geometry will be able to keep Anthy decent, between a combination of applied arms and shifting remaining cloth, but that equation will only balance for so long.

Anthy's about to experience in real life something Nanami once had a bad dream about.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.


Soda sprays.

Then blood sprays.

The boy, shocked at the abrupt escalation, looks down at his shirt, face purpling for more than one reason -- then over at his friends.

There are a lot of them; it was a large enough cluster to block the double doors, after all. And suddenly it isn't a cluster of backs.

"Akamizu," someone sighs darkly. "Living up to that delinquent rep, I see."

Someone glances at Niramo and tsks disapprovingly.

They're a well-bred bunch in at least one sense -- financial -- all in tuxedos that cost far more than the average rent in Shitamachi -- but maybe in another one, too.

"I was just kidding around," says the original boy, dripping with two different kinds of fluids plus a sort of refined contrition. A little too much contrition.

He looks over at the approaching Student Council President, and inclines his head politely. His clenching fist relaxes, and Kasagami's presence seems to pour some authoritative oil on the agitated waters of his friends as well. "I was teasing the little girl here, a bit," he says, gesturing at Shizuka, who has watched this whole sequence with huge eyes, "When these two came up and started throwing drinks and punches."

Shizuka looks between everyone, then gives Niramo and Takeo a grateful little smile and hops up on the horse with surprising skill. Or maybe not. She looks kinda rich too.

"Thank you for helping me," she chirps at them, from atop the noble speed. Her smile is a rosebud blooming. Sweet little thing.

Maybe not so sweet. She gently touches her heels to the side of the horse, easing it forward, "Ah, please pardon us," which forces the whole group of boys to scatter as she prepares to disappear into the cool, sweet-smelling night.



Given that excuse, they do not reconvene, instead slinking into the larger crowd. Except for the original offender, who probably knows he's too visible to blend in; he dabs at his oozing nose with a hankerchief, while looking a bit sullenly at Takeo, Niramo and Kasagami and waiting to see what happens next.

Shizuka, too, waits on the threshhold, perhaps instinctively aware that it would be bad form to just take off like that. She looks back over her shoulder and down at her saviors.

"I hope you don't get in trouble," she says with tinkling worry, before turning those huge eyes on Kasagami, expectant.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Masaru did not sign up for what he gets. Ren reacts nicely enough, and Endo's rebuttal is a surprising reminder that this kid's got spunk, that it might be harder than expected to just take what he wants.

But he was in no way prepared to be yelled at by Rei, propositioned by Usagi, and nearly crashed into by Marinette.

When she winds up in Ren's arms, he grunts, "Nice," and gives Endo a curt nod. "Fair play," he agrees, though there's a faint glitter in his eye that suggests that he may make have another go at things when Endo is less immediately proximate.

Further promised by his bow in Ren's direction. "Masaru Fujimura, Juuban High School President," he self-introduces. "I'll leave you girls to it... try not to have too much fun, people will talk."

He turns away, and looks over -- and down -- at Rei and Usagi.

"Sorry, I have a pretty strict policy of only asking out high school girls," he explains in what starts like something sounding almost decent but is completely perverted in purpose by his drawl, "And you two are too cute for that."

Kiddy-cute, not hot-cute, obviously. The rare tongue that can spin kawaii as an insult.

"You're setting a pretty strong example for your school, though, kiddo." That's for Rei. "Shouting at someone on the dance floor over a simple proposition. You gonna suggest we duel with pistols next?"

He winks.

It isn't kind, not least because he obviously thinks that a girl like Rei fighting anyone, at all, for any reason, would also be extremely... cute.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Takeo grins up at the girl and gives her a wink. He shakes his fist one and then rubs the knuckles lightly. He doens't remember throwing a punch smarting that much. Well, when one normally wears armor and is super powered and can throw lightning he supposes one would forget. He thinks to himself he'll have to spend osme time on a heavy bag or something. Best to keep in shape. Then to Shizuka whom he winked, he grins and says, "It's okay. I have my own assigned desk at detention." He shrugs. Its a resigned shrug.

Before he turns to Kasagami to answer he leans in REAL close to the blood and soda dripping douche-waffle and says very quietly and for his ears alone. "You ever "tease" a girl, or hell, anybody like that again, and I promise I'll give you all the unwanted kisses you could ever want. And they won't be with my lips. Got it buttercup?" Then he turns to look at Kasagami.

He gives her the full assault of that Roguish grin that he used on Niramo and then gives a little shrug while spreading his arms wide. "Why Araki-sama! No need ot bother with this. Just a friendly misunderstanding between teenage boys." He makes a slight punching motion with his arm in the time honored tradition of silently saying; "aw Shucks." Then he gestures to the other boy. "We were just ... work'n it out, and this pretty young girl," He gestures to Niramo, "She opened her soda, and wouldn't you know it? It appeared to have been shaken up by somebody on wait staff." he tsks and shakes his head. "Exploded all over .... What's his name over there." He gestures to the boy. "I slipped horribly in the spilled soda, and wouldn't you know it, while flailing I performed a perfect right reverse punch and hit him in the snoz!" He laughs. "What a CRAZY coincidence!"

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

From desiring the last piece of bacon to giving it away, Niramo isn't quite sure what to make of Takeo. His heart appears to be in the right place though, as far as she's concerned. While she's focused on telling these high school students exactly what she thinks of him, the small part of her mind that isn't irrational from righteous anger is hearing how he is treating the elementry student. 'He's a bit of a flirt...but I think he'll be a good friend.'

And then Takeo punches a violet-and-cream student in the face, and she immediately feels better. Not that she's still embarrased about unleashing one major cleaning bill on a jerk, or that she wanted this to come to blows, but no one is going to remember her after seeing someone punch a bully in the face. Funny how the mind thinks of minor details in moments of panic.

She's not sure about who tsk'd at her, but just hearing it feels like a slap to the face. It's one thing to listen to rumors, but to be the subject of rumors? This year is going well...

Seeing Shizuka ride Kasagami's horse like a professional and scatter those bullies is the icing on this disaster-ridden cake of a night. At least she's out now, but...well, hindsight is 20/20. If only she didn't react so violently.

And then there's Kasagami, and that embarrasment is now ten times worse! Niramo's face heats up to rival that of a brilliant red rose, knowing that this is going to be mortifying. Ruining Kasagami Araki's night, among so many others? Was it too late to transfer out of Juuban?

No, Niramo. Deep breaths! The panic attacks is Marinette's corner of the market! Just take a deep breath.

Taking in a deep breath and reminding herself that she needs to let it go as well, Niramo holds the mostly empty can of soda in her hands, being careful not to spill anything on her own ballgown. Yuhira would never let her live that down.

Takeo is able to make an story on the fly, but if she's able to spin things right...well, the horse whisperer might be the key to escaping total social disaster. Poker face, don't fail me now!

(This should be the time to remind everyone in the audience that Niramo Umokeshi is not known for her poker face.)

"T-that's right, Araki-san! It was already shaken up - from moving around the ballroom, of course - and when I went to open my drink to cool myself off, he was sprayed head to toe from my can. Please forgive me." Taking this moment to evade Kasagami's gaze, she bows in apology towards the bloodied and grape'd student.

With her face feeling warm enough to cut through solid ice, Niramo waits for some sort of social sword to fall on her head. Sure, it was nice to stop these bullies, but this was exactly the opposite of evading attention and blending into the background! But she's not going to hide from any upcoming punishment.

'If you commit the crime, prepare to serve the sentence.' Isozaki's words of wisdom echo in her ears, and how true it is. And there's no way Kasagami is going to believe this story...

<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Grace and poise are a distant memory as Marinette careens out of control. Frantic attempts to disentangle her feet have only made things worse, and she finds herself momentarily airborne as she approaches the interrupted dance. With little hope of preventing an awkward collision, she just closes her eyes in a final bit of panic.

And then - graceful arms catch her, spinning her around, dip her in an elegant dance move she'd more imagined than planned on taking part in. A face, pinched in panic, relaxes as Marinette looks up at her saviour.

Who...is a she. The Juuban designer blinks right back up, heat rushing to her face. "I - er - yes! Thank you - sorry for, um, cutting in?" There's a sheepish grin, and then muffled shuffling as she tries to disentangle that blasted heel. "Just - a moment -"

There's a faint sound of a popped stitch, and the girl cringes - but her foot is finally free. Her face heats up even more at Masaru's comment, and she struggles to get upright again as quickly as possible. A little help from Ren might be needed, and she whispers to the older girl once her feet are on the floor once more. "I really am sorry for interrupting your dance...though not too sorry for interrupting everything else." ...does she have much reputation left?

A glance over one shoulder, to see Usagi's sympathetic look, and...Marinette kind of just wilts. Muttering under her breath, though possibly loud enough for Endo or Ren to pick up on. "I just wanted to make a little bit of a scene, be noticed a little bit, not all this extra trouble, and now I'm going to get banned from Ohtori outright and have my name added to some gala-ruining Hall Of Shame..."

There's a commotion outside herself - a distant punch, a spill of champagne, and generally a reminder that Marinette's clumsiness may in fact not be the only disaster in the world. Shocking for a teenager, perhaps, but true all the same. She brushes imagined dust from her skirts, and gives the high school couple before her a smile. "...sorry again. I'm, er, Marinette - " She indicates a bit of the spiralling black embroidery near her shoulder - a twisting vine that secretly happens to be a bit of cursive writing spelling out that very name. " - and if there's anything I can do to un-ruin your night, er..."

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

Kassie's gaze flits from Takeo, to the bepunched 'victim', over to the young girl on the horse and then to Niramo. That purple haired girl's eyes though pierce right through her heart. Kids, her eternal weakness!

She runs a hand over her face, with the young man explaining himself and Takeo launching into the absolute worst confession she has ever heard. She's just staring at the young knight incredulously.

"Takeo Akamizu. You know, I actually like you. But you really, really need to learn when to stop opening your mouth. BECAUSE YOU'RE DIGGING YOURSELF A HOLE!"

Hands lap. "Right! Niramo, don't blast people with soda, that's high end artisan soda you're wasting. Congratulations, you get to help clean up the ballroom after the party's over." Sorry Nirachan, she does not believe any of this in the slightest.

She's rounding herself onto the bully and Takeo once more. "As for you, show some class at a ball for the Student Councils. You're embarrassing Ohtori! Normally I'd make sure you both have detention for a week, but I think there's a more fitting punishment."

"If you two want to fight, do it in a ring. Boxing club for a week, then a match officiated by yours truly. The loser gets that week detention. Now, all of you, apologize to each other!"

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

Waiting for her perfect partner--what a lovely, optimistic sentiment on Nori's part. It reminds Shizuru faintly of a pebble in her shoe.

It is, of course, as plain as anything that Rei doesn't care about Usagi, to Shizuru. So rei's tooth-grinding reply gets an even bigger smile from Shizuru. She is... perhaps not the best person to draw aggro from, no.

As for Usagi--if the true aim of Shizuru's words were pure sadism, she would be terribly confused by the great cheer of the girl before her. If she had predictable, simple goals like inflicting pain, then she would feel stymied, frustrated. As it stands, Shizuru if anything seems more interested, inclining her head gently in assent when Usagi accepts the compliment.

So very, very unlike the intrigues that are second nature to the Fujino heiress.

"I think you're right," Shizuru says to Nori pleasantly, and then there's a pause that she does well at acting like is her own idea as things get... messy, fairly quickly. Masaru walks past them, and the trouble starts, and just when it looks ugliest...

Shizuru watches Marinette cause the Gordian Knot. The happy couple are briefly broken up... but not really harmed.

And Rei Hino to the rescue. Shizuru watches the exchange in silence at first. At first, that is. "...Excuse me," she says quietly to Nori. "I'd very much like to continue our conversation later." Smooth, polite, and then the woman in purple glides the distance between herself and the clusterf--The tangle of people. She ignores Kasagami's shouts; presumably, Kasagami can handle whatever she's shouting about. Instead...

"Fujimura-kun," Shizuru says warmly as she approaches. "I see you've met my young friend Rei Hino. She's certainly passionate, isn't she?" A beat, as she touches Rei's arm from behind.

"I believe I missed some of the conversation in all the commotion..."

She approaches the rest of the way. "I must have lost it in my friend's youthful passion. I believe it was something about a dance?"

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"See you, Fujimura-kun." Not that the other boy is going far, but Endo is polite if nothing else. Or mostly polite, he's clearly happy to have come out on top the exchange. When the older boy's back is turned Endo's palms touch together as he makes a little bow of thanks toward Rei. To Shizuru too, once she comes to clean up the mess.

But-- "Ahhh...I got replaced anyway." Endo sighs dramatically when he turns to face his former partner. Only for a moment though, and then he's reaches to make sure Ren doesn't topple the rest of the way over and take Marinette with her besides. "You're being too forward, Ren-chan." He's teasing her, of course.

"Don't be sorry, you helped." Endo tells Marinette once she finds her footing, assuring her after, "I don't think they'll kick you out for falling over. I ran into someone back there and they let me stay." A vague gesture is made back in the direction of the dance practice area.

"I'm Endo." He makes his own introduction, giving a short bob of greeting. He lets Ren introduce herself, but adds: "You're from Juuban too, right? I've seen you before. I'm not used to these kinds of parties either."

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Ren looks from Marinette to everyone else. "Ahhh... what now? It's not like that...!" She stammers in Masaru's direction, as Endo and her help the Juuban girl right herself. When the upperclassman properly introduces himself, Ren can't help but smile. At least he seems to have manners... even if he gives her a "sly dog" vibe. "Nice to meet you... Ren Aizawa." She counters with a little bow of her head, biting her bottom lip as her eyes dart from him to Endo -- who thankfully did his best to keep her from having to dance with this guy. "Thank you..!" She mouths silently in his direction, and then turns to repeat the gesture to Rei -- and by extension, Usagi. They both helped!

Of course, there's a lot more happening on the outskirts of this little meeting space. Ren is temporarily distracted, craning her neck around to see a girl whose dress seems to be... disintegrating? "What...?" And then she flicks her gaze over to what looks to have been some kind of physical scuffle -- someone is bleeding, even! This is pretty scandalous for a place like Ohtori.

She's brought back to the little circle she's unexpectedly become a part of by some rather bold comments from Masaru regarding his preference for high school girls. Ren's cheeks turn an even more brilliant shade of scarlet than before, and if she were wearing actual pearls they would likely be clutched in some manner. Before she can say anything on their behalf, however, Shizuru comes over and does just that, defending their honor. "Oh wow..." Ren's not sure she would have been able to address Masaru in such an eloquent manner. Her eyes widen as they settle on Shizuru. Now that, ladies and gents, is class. Ren might be stanning a fair bit right now.

Shizuru's handling of things leaves Ren free to turn and smile apologetically at Marinette. "Oh no! No need to say sorry to us! I didn't mean to catch you!" She stops, eyes widening. "I mean! I meant to catch you! Just... not like that!" She manages to get out, wringing her hands together. "I'm just glad you didn't get hurt. The floor is pretty hard!" Indeed it is. Falling on it would not be very comfortable. "Oh! And I'm Ren! I go to Infinity, but I used to go to Juuban before transferring."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"Right!" Nori agrees with Usagi, and smiles again at the encouraging words, and then matters evolve rather swiftly.

Rei thanks her, but she doesn't mean it. Nori's eyes widen slightly but before then Rei has moved on and Nori is left to herself, momentarily vulnerable.

People are shouting in the distance! Did someone get hit? Nori looks towards Shizuru, just as Shizuru looks at her and excuses herself. "Oh, of course," she breathes, and then she folds her free arm before her and takes another sip of her punch.

The entire situation feels like it's turning sour. She's even lost track of the horse. Nori's head turns - just in time to give her, by cruel fate, a clear line of sight on where Nanami Kiryuu had taken that gardener lady out for a dance. Another spill! Even as the champagne flute tumbles, Nori muses aloud, "Is there a curse on this ball...? I wonder if I should leave, or if that would only be playing into its hands."

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Even knowing that her quickly rushed story wasn't going to fly, the disappointment in Kasagami's voice lets Niramo knows that she's hit rock bottom. The lack of a honorific is -very- telling. "Understood, Araki-san..."

Turning around towards the punched teenager, Niramo bows as deeply as she can, shame on her face. "Again, i'm really sorry for my actions, and I hope that the rest of the evening will be kind to you." Oh, why couldn't she just left things alone?

That's right, she saw someone getting harrassed and no one doing anything about it. At least the horse whisperer helped fight this injustice, even if he made it come to physical blows.

Excusing herself once all is said and done, Niramo makes her way towards the most secluded corner she can find in the ballroom and leans against the wall. And things were looking like it might be an early night tonight. With how loud the ballroom is and...something about a dress breaking apart, it seems to be a bad night for several people attending.

"Sorry, Marinette-chan. I hope everything goes like you wanted, at least." Mumbling out her apology even after losing track of her friend, Niramo settles herself in for several hours of watching the others. It's going to be a long time waiting for the dance to end so she can start cleaning up. Hopefully the borrowed ballgown won't get too dirty...

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei can't really blame Usagi for piling on her insecurities; she doesn't know what she's doing.

So naturally, Rei blames Usagi for what she's doing.

(Yes, she thinks in aside, she is being too harsh to Nori.)

Usagi says she'll come by more often and it is very lucky there's a boy around to distract her at that moment. Unfortunately, Usagi is just as distracted by him. "Usagi-chan!" Rei hisses, irate. Perhaps with Endo's estimation, it might look like she's staking out her territory. "Obviously there are better guys out there!" ... maybe she has a weird way of showing it?

Of course, turning to Usagi means she misses Marinette's acrobatic pirouette off the handle, but perhaps that's for the best. Neither does she direct her ire to poor Ren, who seems a little lost in the wake of it.

Masaru might be the Juuban president, but he'd fit in perfectly here, Rei thinks. She scowls darkly as he insults them with their very best qualities, and turns her own hypocrisy back on herself. "Oh, don't give me that! I see right through your --"

That's about when she feels a touch at her arm, and she snaps her head around to glare at whoever is touching her when she is clearly in the middle of something, only to find the unflappable Shizuru Fujino. She's not daft enough not to recognise what's just happened, and so she drags in a breath through grit teeth and doesn't argue. (This is very difficult. Give her credit.)

Meanwhile, sirens scream in her head, and they all sound like 'oh, God, now I owe Shizuru Fujino'. It's a very complicated klaxon. It's remarkable what a little heavy realisation will do for the nerves.

She turns to Usagi, and waves her wrist up and down to beckon her back to the safety of Nori's little island. She takes a breath, and puffs it out in a long sigh. "Geez, Usagi... are you happy now? You get to know just how crazy my school is. Don't blame me for trying to keep you out of it," she grumbles, before she looks back to Nori. "Nori-san could tell you, it's a high-pressure environment," she says, and there's a conciliatory undertone to the statement, which is probably as close as she can get to an apology right now.

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

The younger Kiryuu twirls to show off one of her many bespoke gowns; untethered, Anthy clasps her own nervous hands together over the dark green sash encircling her waist. It's such a relief when Nanami's face turns back to hers, giving her familiarity again amidst the growing crush of partygoers.

A shake of her head, to mean she doesn't mind being called by her familiar name -- quick, and prompted by Anthy's agoraphobia as much as their new friendship. Another follows, but haltingly, because she does not want to admit her fear when it is so thick around her.

This is no companionable dorm room, after all.

"It's- it's fine, Nanami-san. I just don't get out to them often. Oh..." Of course, she leans in too, to better capture whatever is being given in confidence.

And she does.


A yelp of cold-shocked startlement, utterly involuntary on Anthy's part, draws the attention -- and the dreaded stares -- of all those close-packed people, and she regrets it the moment it escapes her. She clutches her arms round herself, as if that could ward stares and hide embarrassment, but alas.

The drenched dress sticks to her, a dark and obvious stain spreading down the front of all that green fabric, and even though none of it is her fault at all the girl feels utter mortification. Nanami's apologizing but Anthy is the one cringing, at least until her friend tells her to stay right here...

Then she reaches out with one plaintive arm, even as she remains rooted in place, and gasps out, "Ah, wait, please..."

Her saffron friend is gone.

Anthy's left all alone... except she isn't alone, is she?

Even as the fizzing of spilled champagne intensifies, so does the monstrous pressure of all that attention. A circle has cleared around the embarrassed girl, three or four paces of clearance all round, but it isn't breathing room.

It's staring room.

Someone snickers. Someone else says, "Poor girl," in what sounds sympathetic, but whoever it is doesn't offer a napkin -- that ring of stares is too firmly in place to be broken. Most don't move because no one else is moving, either. And swiftly, it becomes too late to help.

The cold of champagne dumped down her front becomes, distinctly, the chill of air on wet skin.

With a gasp Anthy looks down and--


A scream pierces the party, pierces all merriment and mayhem and munching of hors d'oeuvres. The four-pace circle around Anthy Himemiya widens cruelly as students skid back and away from her -- it affords the entire ballroom a clear view, a clearer view of her than most have ever seen.

The girl huddles upon the floor hugging herself, a brown shivering heap upon the half-eaten ruins of her frothy green dress. The curl of her spine, the upward hunching of smooth shoulderblades, the quivering curve of her neck: she feels eyes upon them, the eyes of a hundred people, a thousand people...

A million people, and every set stabs like a blade. She can feel them sinking into her quivering flesh. Exposed, she has no protection at all.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"Introduce me to one then!" Usagi whispers back at Rei, "He's the Student Council President!"

"Hey it's alright Marinette-chan!" Giving her a quick examine, she finds the culprit and winces as she sees it come free from the heel. Then she whispers surreptitiously, "All of us girls certainly understand what it's like the first few times you go to a party in heels!" She winks with a sense of sororal solidarity, "So don't worry - your senpais would never hold being a little clumsy in them against you."

However she then blinks at the 'thank you' being mouthed by Ren and realizes that her dancing with the guy wasn't what she wanted, between that and the excuses she and Endo were making before. Usagi still can't imagine he did anything particularly wrong, but she can understand Ren not wanting to be cut in on. The girl gives her a wink, and a little 'ok' with her fingers as if she understands now.

The gesture is dropped immediately as Masaru turns to them and Usagi hears the decency and is oblivious to the perversion in the drawl. "Oh I see!" She says as she brightens, like that takes the sting off any rejection. "W-Well maybe next year then... you could... look me up...?" She has her hands clasped together at this point. However then he calls out Rei on her behavior.

And Usagi is torn because she'll almost always back Rei - however a handsome guy is involved, and she thinks Rei is overreacting some... but eventually she sideeyes Rei at the pistol remark and says, "Don't tempt her." In a low teasing tone. "She might take you up on that." Putting her hand in front of her mouth. Because Rei might just look up archaic pistol dueling rules purely because she was challenged.

However then Shizuru walks up and takes command in this strange way of tacking a back-handed swing at Rei while trying to redirect towards a dance. Usagi is oblivious to the dynamics here, instead being innocently voyeuristic in the idea of this gorgeous, commanding girl and hot guy facing off. Is that's what's going on? That Shizuru herself wants to dance with him...

Ordinarily she'd be intensely annoyed at someone beating her so opportunistically, but the sort of idea of a girl that gorgeous dancing with a guy that hot has a certain almost magical appeal to it... and the fact that he turned her down based on age keeps the annoyance at bay. How can she blame another girl for simply being born a few years earlier?

Usagi catches Rei's beckon and starts to walk back over to Rei, "Your school is pretty... different Rei-chan but I dunno... being here at the ball tonight. I still feel so happy about-"

And that's when Anthy screams.

Usagi goes bug-eyed because it might be a Youma, with that level of scream, and gives Rei a look, before looking in that direction to investigate towards the ring of people forming. She can't get through, she can only see glimpses of a girl on the ground, clutching her half-eaten through dress. There's more skin showing than is decent! Much more... Usagi realizes at least that must be why she screamed. "Oh my gosh!" Having a supernatural emergency turned on its head to something more mundane gives her this strange sense of wrongness of a different sort. "Everyone stop staring! What's wrong with all of you!? Someone find that girl cover!"

Putting her hands on the shoulders of two at the ring. "I better not see one single phone! If anyone brings one out I swear I'll..."

The shoulders form an immovable barrier, which she can't just cast aside, her face runs into it as she tries to push them apart like a vice trying to open up a crashed car, and failing due to her arms being so noodly soft. There's the sound of exertion as she pants out pathetically. "...I'll punish you!"

<Pose Tracker> Nanami Kiryuu [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"AND NOW, the MOMENT you've ALL been WAITING FOR..."

Spotlights are swivelling around dramatically as the lights of the room dim. Nanami is breathlessly jogging up the stairs, her skirts hiked.

"The Sister Schools proudly present... your VERY OWN two thousand and fourteen DAAAAANCE..."

Nanami rounds the top of the staircase and puts her hands on the balcony, peering over like a vulture. She takes a deep breath...

"QUEEEN! That's right! Anthyyy HIMEMIYA!"

"...ohhh HO HO HO!"

<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

In the end, it's Ren's verbal fumbles that finally break the spell of panic that had enraptured Marinette. She blinks twice in surprise as she hears the kind of words she tends to say, before laughing out loud. "It is! Though I'd rather deal with the floor than the crowds, or some of - well, never mind that. Thank you all the same for catching me, whatever the intention was!"

Her face is still a little red - Masaru's comments really did not help at all - but she nods gratefully to Endo. "I certainly hope so, or some of us might be in some serious trouble. I'm glad you got to stay, though! And - yes, Juuban. I think I might've seen you too - you're an upperclassman, right?"

At last, Shizuru shows up, neatly cutting through the tangled knots of the situation. Marinette murmurs, hopefully quiet enough to protect poor Masaru's ego, "Well, that was neatly done. I guess at a minimum, Ohtori has some more upstanding student council members..."

Probably quiet enough.

The commotion at the heart of the dance grows louder, and Marinette frowns. Turning back to Ren and Endo, she bows lightly. "Thanks again for the rescue - I really do hope the rest of your night goes well! I'd love to hear more about what brought you to Infinity, senpai, but...I'm kind of worried what that might be. If you'll excuse me..."

She ducks out of the dance floor entirely, trying to get a bit of distance in case she winds up tripping again. Usagi's concern this time gets a grateful smile - "Thanks - a bit of late-night sewing seems to have gone wrong." - and then it's time to get a little bit of air...just in time for Nanami's grand announcement.

Marinette's eyes dart from Nanami to the figure at the heart of the dance and back up again, and the glare she levels is sharp indeed. "I knew this party was trying to one-up the rest of us on many things, but on that kind of behaviour, that kind of - " Mercifully, the cursing under her breath is in French and Chinese, making it less likely for anyone nearby to understand all of it.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Be careful!" Endo calls in farewell after Marinette. He turns to Ren to speak again, but something abruptly interrupts.

It's hard to miss the scream, how the world seems to stop and refocus on Anthy Himemiya and what little remains of the dress she once wore. It's hard to see everything past the ring of gawkers that surround the poor girl, but he gets the gist of it. He too, though he may mean no harm, is just another pair of eyes boring into the hunched, purple-haired girl.

"How'd that happen?" He wonders, turning toward Ren. When Nanami declares Anthy queen, Endo frowns. "Yaaa, that's terrible! We should get her something to cover up, right?" Not that there's much they can do, so far away. But maybe they can get a table cloth, or a really big plate, or something.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Revolutionary Girl Utena - Overture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7jaPrhCF_M

"That sounds great," Utena says of Steven's hobbies; she was never one to worry too much about the details, and takes them in stride the way she seems to be taking everything else. "I'm the same, I like all that stuff, minus the ukelele, I suck at music, and minus the mom stuff 'cause I don't have one anymore."

She mentions it so offhandedly and casually that it's clear that it isn't a whole Thing with her. Definitely not. No orphan issues here -- or at least none she'd want to get into in the middle of a party.

"And plus basketball," she concludes with a wink. "Let's all play sometime! As for the dress, uh," she picks at it a little bit awkwardly. "It was a gift."

Kasagami breaks in to stare at her. She stares back, meeting her eyes directly. Behind the window of Utena's soul is neither eagerness nor hunger -- maybe a little bit of disquiet at being looked at that way -- but mostly cluelessness.


She has about as much idea as Steven as to what she's gotten into with this transfer, doesn't she?

"Bye, New Prez!" she waves, as Kasagami takes off over something behind her, not really seeing what or why. "Good luck!"

A few moments later -- a scream.

A spotlight.



Close up, Steven gets a front row seat to what happens next; the way Utena's eyes shine with agony the mirror of the victim's. The way a shudder runs through her, intensifying -- at the top of her head she's miserable. At her waist, she's furious.

But by the time it reaches her feet, she's something else. It's the opposite of distant; she's completely in the moment, completely /present/ in a way she wasn't really when she was just making party talk. She's electric. She's determined.

She's responsible...

She's taking care of this.

"Hold that thought," she tells Steven. "And, actually --"

It's been holding her back all night. And she's not going to let /anything/ stand in her way right now.

With a single gesture, she yanks off the gown. It goes soaring towards the rafters, ruffles and all. Underneath, impossibly, is a glittering prince; epaulets and cords. A gem shining at her neck. A ruffle at her waist, but only the one, lending formality to the garb without restricting her movement in the least.

It's magic.

Her colors are red and black, except for her hair, which is as pink as ever, and her eyes, which are also as blue as ever, only now there's no term for it but royal.

They twinkle at Steven, an almost revolutionary act at a moment like this -- with the absolute confidence of someone who knows this can be fixed.

It can be fixed, because it /has/ to be.

"Hold onto that too, if you want."

And then she's off.

The dress slowly floats downward, drifting into the little boy's arms.


Her first shout is lost to the crowd, but her second one cuts through it like a hot knife through butter -- or a sword through a rose.


The buffet table explodes -- flowers toppling over, drinks spilling, trays jarred -- as a pink blur lands on it, then vaults onwards.

It's magic.

The crowd's focus shifts, looking for the mystery -- looking anywhere /but/ Anthy Himemiya.

The next table gets the opposite treatment. Without disturbing even the champagne glass Chu-Chu just set down, its pristine white tablecloth disappears.

It's magic.

And then she's there, descending from a leap over the crowd and landing in front of her roommate. Those misfired gazes stop thudding into walls and ceiling and thud squarely into Utena instead.

But that's okay: she is a shield.


'You need more friends! Lots of them!'

How ironic, Utena realizes; the friend Himemiya made tonight was her.

The way she looked at her at the top of the stairs. The way she was the one who took the lead while Utena was poleaxed, even though it was Utena's fault they were there in the first place. The way she gamely took Utena's advice to trust in friends --

-- only for this to happen --

-- it's all her fault --

But it isn't regret that slathes from Utena's shoulders. That isn't helpful. It isn't what /she/ needs.

Maybe for the first time, that's something Utena can actually be.

And when she stops thinking too much about it, it's simply what she is, easily as breathing.

She reaches out her hand, absolutely self-possessed. Titanium panache; teflon confidence. And again, as it was earlier, back at the dorms, Utena discovers that she doesn't -- that she never -- has to dig at all deeply to find a smile for Anthy Himemiya.

This one is gentle. The morning sun kisses the dew, and Utena Tenjou smiles. A bird finds its wings for the first time, and Utena Tenjou smiles. A feather lands, tip-first, upon the pond, and Utena Tenjou smiles.

A black sweep between the distance between them is an extended hand at the end of a graceful arm, but it's equally an opened door. A newly built bridge between worlds.

"Let's dance, Himemiya."

Back in the dorm, it was her hair that had to catch up with the rest of her momentum, but now it's the fabric in her other hand. It falls like a parachute, hiding them both from view.

There's one more piece of magic: the swift, sure hands that transform the tablecloth into the finest gown every worn with a few tugs and clever knots -- there's even a white rose on the shoulder -- never once touch the exposed girl underneath it.

Even once they've emerged an instant later, prince and princess now instead of two desperate students on a ballroom floor -- Utena awaits the honor -- and pleasure -- of Anthy's hand.

The invitation lingers in her eyes... the encouragement to ignore all of these onlookers and focus only on one face... the assurance that no one will be allowed to see anything but the living shield of Utena's back once they start to spin...

...but most of all, the admiration. The same as it was, there at the top of the stairs, but different, too. Utena sees beauty -- the kind of beauty that can be targeted -- but she also sees bravery. She sees courage unrewarded by the world.

She sees Himemiya, and Utena Tenjou smiles.

And the world changes... a little.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Takeo raises an eyebrow at Kasagami. Like. REALLY raises that eyebrow. It might be so raised that the eyebrow dissapears somewhere into the inky darkness of his long black hair. He silently points to himself, then gestures to the other boy in a brief moment that conveys to Kasagami the following words "Are you serious? I'm literally a martial artist and this is some rih snob kid. I'mma kill him." No words are actually spoken, but the message is conveyed pretty clear enough.

What Takeo ACTUALLY says after a short, startled laugh when he realizes that Kasagami is serious is; "Ohtori has a boxing club? Like. They allow that? Holy cats, these people have too much money." Then he slowly looks to the boy and a slow cheshire like grin spreads across the boy's face. "Well. I guess we get to see more of each other." He then says one word to the other boy with a shrug:


Looking over to Kasagami he's about to speak again. Perhaps applying that shovel once more to dig a little deeper hole, when the scream happens. He blinks. Looks to Kasagami and gestures toward it as if to say: "After you."

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Bye! Take care!" Ren waves after the departing Marinette, watching her until she disappears amidst the crowd. "Well! I think we should probably-" She's mid-sentence, mid-turn to Endo when a scream rings out through the ballroom. Ren goes still, head whipping in the direction it came from. Could it be a Jewel Seed activation? Souverain Heraut didn't ping her about anything unusual!

But soon enough, the cause of the scream is revealed to be Anthy. The girl she'd briefly laid eyes upon before with the dress that-

"Oh no!" Yes. The dress is gone now. Completely. Then comes the sound of laughter. Ren turns to look up at Nanami, who so brazenly directed everyone's attention to the mortified Anthy. She doesn't have time to react any further; to try and do as Endo suggests. Someone else comes to Anthy's aid -- a pink-haired girl who acts as a much-needed shield (though Usagi's efforts to keep people from taking pictures should not go unnoticed). Ren feels herself relax somewhat, placing a hand on Endo's shoulder with an easy smile.

"...I think she has it covered."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"Well if the schools are looking to expand the program, I think competitions would work best!" Steven adds. Kasagami sounds a little too into competition, but hey, maybe she is still on her victory high! Let her have her night!

"Wh...?" Steven ekes out when hearing Utena has no mother. "Oh, um. Sorry if it was a sensitive subject. A-And don't worry if you aren't good at music! You're good at other stuff I bet!" he whips back with. "It is a lovely gift!" Though it becomes more apparent that as she seems to do a once-ver at it that she isn't the type to wear dresses. Perhaps she is one of those cool ladies that wear suits!

Suddenly, Kassies is off like a bolt, yelling at a group of people. It looks like some kind of small scuffle took place. And was rather one sided. He eavesdrops, but remains in good company. "I wonder if she is always like that, he comments toward Utena.

And then a scream. "Who was that?!" he says, worried. A look back to Utena. It looks like someone stabbed her in the chest, with how her eyes are portrayed "I-- yeah...!" he stammers back, as she suddenly rips off her dress, to reveal...! Well, he is unsure how else to describe it other than princely. He also lacks any words to say, as well. It is not normal garb. It is something special. Like, Gem special. But not a Gem.

His little brown eyes slowly widen. In the next moment of instant action, he is onlding the dress torn off. "I-I..." Utena is already gone to assist the one who screamed. A look their way, and through a bit of the crowd he can see what the fuss is about. He abruptly turn-faces away. "Y-Yeah this is time for an adult!" he squeaks.

Utena comes to Anthy's rescue in quite a romantic way, spinning fine tablecloth into a designer dress in a snap. He sees it, he watches it happen.

This would normally be impossible by human standards, and yet it is wondrous and fantastical action that takes the evening. Hearing the declaration of dance, he fully turns around to see, still clutching that dress. "Magic... is here?" he says quietly. "A-And for once, it's not us?"

A smile slowly peeks out of his stunned wonderment. "This move is gonna be really fun, I can tell!"

A look to the dress.

"Maybe its a sign...?" It surely didn't seem like coincidence he would see this and follow with this specific kind of dress.

For now, he just has a lack of words that only his expression can help communicate. It was contentment.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei told her, didn't she?

But this is really the worst way to introduce Usagi to how cruel Ohtori can be.

She's pale at the best of times - ghost-girl they called her, not only because she could hear them but because she looked like one of those girls from the horror movies, blanch skin and black hair - but somehow she turns a shade whiter as Anthy's distress tears through the hall. Disgust knots her throat as Nanami announces her, complete with spotlights; of course it was orchestrated. Of course.

Rei turns away and comes face to face with two boys, elbowing each other and whispering awful jeers with their eyes forward. In an instant she slaps the shorter. "You make me sick!" She reprimands them, harshly, as she stalks back towards the refreshments table.

Is she really just going to walk away from a girl in peril? Is she really that callous?

Well, that's one interpretation. It's hardly new to ignore Anthy Himemiya's turmoil. It's practically an Ohtori tradition in itself.

In any case the meaning behind her abandonment is left entirely obscured because as if by magic, the tablecloth sweeps away from the table and leaves the china scandalously bare against the wood, while Anthy's own scandal is solved with a white veil. It takes Rei a moment to realise -- princes are fast things, after all.

She turns back to see her covered, and the tablecloth becomes a dress, and her hand loosens from the fist it has balled into.

"Someone's finally looking out for her, huh..?" There's a lot in those words - from someone isolated looking at someone else in an exclusion zone, clumsy attempts to reach out which always seemed to bounce off and end in frustration. She's no good at making friends without Usagi in the mix.

In the end, she smiles. "... I'm glad."

It's an uncomfortable sort of corollary which leads her to finding Usagi. For all the times the other girl closes into her personal space, Rei rarely returns the favour with non-hostile means. But now she touches her wrist - not quite grasping it but more brushing against it. "Um - hey..."

With a glance to the royalty of the evening, "let's get off the dancefloor, all right? ... the one thing I can't do is dance."

It seems, once again, that Rei Hino is a horrible lying liarpants.

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

Ah--it seems that the situation might have gone away on its own... As a much worse problem for someone takes the dancefloor. Masaru walks away, and Shizuru, instead, looks once more--not for the first, and not for the last time--towards Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride... ordinary girl.

Maybe the conflict with Masaru, counterpart from Juuban, might have been fun. The dance would not, and she glances down for an instant at her hands before abandoning that look entirely.

No, more vital now is to see Anthy Himemiya show real emotion. Is it real? Is it yet another facade put forth, like it might be with Shizuru herself? If it is, then it is an incredible performance.

...An ordinary girl would feel pity. She would feel outrage. ...She would feel glee, at the hated girl being shamed. And yet...

Rei, for now, is forgotten. The debt will wait for later. If anyone actually bothered to look at Shizuru in this instant, they would only see her stare. But who would? Endo, and Ren, they are busy. They're all focused on this spectacle. Impossibly, the Prince herself makes an appearance, shouting Anthy's name, and Shizuru's focus, too, is tugged. But she does not look away. Not until she sees Anthy Himemiya shielded by the Engaged, who shouts her name, who acts with concern for what they all know is a doll. Nanami's cruelty makes sense; it is a part of the game. But Utena makes no apologies; she does not complain that she let it happen. ...She asks her to dance. It is enough to make the stoniest heart move, the way Utena looks into Anthy's eyes, and smiles.

The Vice President does not notice that she has made a fist, and she does not notice the blood welling in her palm from where her perfectly manicured nails have dug into flesh. The tension doesn't even show in her face, as she stares, and indeed, her heart is moved.

The dull ache of resentment blooms into something far uglier, and that at least is more familiar to her.

She turns, as the focus remains on the beautiful dance ahead, and she does not watch what she cannot have.

Before anyone is likely to look back at her, Shizuru Fujino's heels are already clicking their way to the garden... and then beyond.

Her expression never shifts from the same mild, blank smile.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

There is the spotlight descending. The announcement of the declaration of... Dance Queen?! The spotlight falls on the mostly undressed girl and Usagi all but shrieks, "Not now!" She cannot believe in the possibility of foul play, in something so cruel. It does not cross her mind. It is simply the terrible coincidence of timing. How awful! However someone else is calling out her name.

Usagi Tsukino sees the entrance of the heroine, the white table cloth drape falling. The magic trick which causes the girl to rise from her misfortune opposite to... Usagi's mind sees a girl, however it also sees a Prince. The fact that she's a girl does not detract from the fairy tale quality of this at all. It has a classical, daydreamy quality in which she can admire something that seems almost like one of the stories from her youth on what magical moments might happen in the rendezvous between Prince and Princess, Boy and Girl.

It's... nostalgic again.

Her vision blurs and she doesn't know why she's crying, sniffling despite the happy smile, she dabs away at her eyes with the back of her hand at the same moment Rei says someone's looking out for her.

"Thank goodness..." She whispers huskily, "... thank goodness she found her in time." She doesn't know why she's crying still. She's a simple observer, so why does this feel so close to home? Dropping down on her heels, she starts to back up in the ever widening circle...

... and allows the magic of the moment to keep taking her breath away.

It's Rei that finally breaks the spell with a hand to her wrist. There's no cruelty in that. If anything it's a mercy to draw her away in some sense. The girl finishes wiping her eyes to look at Rei with a sort of incomprehension, "You can't?" The idea that Rei was holding back is holding on like a very tenuous balloon in the hands of a child. "You're not just saying that to spare my feelings?" She whispers, and let's that balloon go.

"Ehehe - you should have just told me you can't dance Rei-chan!" Usagi warms up to it, finally, "To let you in a little secret..." She cups a hand and leans in to whisper to Rei, "I'm not much of a dancer either." It may seem ridiculous, because of course Rei knows that. However admitting that is still difficult nevertheless. It's like she's admitting she's bad at something intrinsic to girlhood and growing up.

"How about we head to the buffet tables together?"

Starting to walk in that direction, Usagi offers conversationally, "I think I'll take Shizuru-san up on her offer and come by more often... your school is different but..." She smiles, "I don't regret coming tonight at all."

And then skipping in a step to then whirl around to face Rei Hino from in front of her, she laces her hands behind her back. The smile on her face feels like something magical unto itself. "... you don't need to be tough to go to Ohtori after all. You just need someone looking out for you."

Without waiting for a response, Usagi then turns back around and has a skip in her step as she heads for the buffet table. However... she's waylaid on the way by spotting a familiar head of hair that catches her attention... who immediately spots her and finds an excuse to head out to the gardens.

"Shingo!? I know it was you who told them 'nap club'! You get back over here! It's my job as big sister to make certain you've been properly fed!"

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

Any eyes that stay on Anthy Himemiya rather than turning to Nanami during that announcement will see: how each EMPHASIZED word STRIKES the quivering girl like a LASH, how her bare back SPASMS and she SHRINKS even as Nanami TRILLS her TRIUMPH.

And eyes do stay on her, because there will always be those in a crowd who thrive upon the anonymity it affords; eyes linger, because there will always be those who take advantage.

Alas for those empathetic hearts who cry out their support, for the girl is lost to her terror. The kindest souls look away, but far far more do not. She feels every stare, and in her mortified horror they are every last one of them ugly with disgust. They all want to look at her; they all want to condemn her for being there to look at. The spotlights glare down as if to say, Here she is! Here is Anthy Himemiya, and now we can all see her for what she is:

Not a Dancing Queen, nor anything royal at all...

Just a miserable, wicked girl who pretended to be something she was not.

Shame bows every line of Anthy's shivering body. Her forehead kisses the floor; if she prostrates herself enough, will the crowd take pity on her? No, the nightmare goes on and on--


--it slices in two, falling before the unmatchable, impossible gallantry of a prince coming to the rescue.

It ends, as all eyes rightly turn to Utena Tenjou in all her brilliance...

In all her magic.

All eyes turn to Utena, including a pair of wide green ones. Eyes the color of a fresh-cut rose stem; eyes luminant with tears, their lashes dewy and bright.

Anthy Himemiya looks up at the princely miracle descending to her. Those lines of horror distorting her face ease, leaving wonder and confusion. She doesn't understand, quite -- not yet.


Not until her devastatingly dashing roommate extends a hand and a brilliant, beautiful smile. Even as she clutches what fragments of dress remain to her chest with one arm, Anthy finds herself breaking into a--

--the white tablecloth flutters down, and at first no one can see the answering miracle of a smile transforming Anthy's face except for Utena, which is as it should be. It is for Utena.

She reaches up and takes the offered hand, and her own smaller one rests perfectly in the larger, dainty and bare. It is Anthy's trust, and her vulnerability, and it is also for Utena. She stands, allowing the dissolved remnants of a cruel trick to fall to the ground.

Her new dress fits Anthy perfectly, of course. It was made for her.

White hangs from Anthy's slender curves, a blouson draping that brings to mind timeless elegance. Unveiled, she stands at the center of the crowd in her finery and her happiness, but she only feels one set of eyes on her, and they are as endlessly blue as the heavens.

As Utena Tenjou gazes at her Anthy feels, for one magical moment, as radiantly beautiful as she looks.

And all she can do in return is stare back, and smile, utterly lost in the admiration -- and now all can see. She feels rescued; she feels safe. She feels her heart race, but for the first time in the evening it is not with fear.

Across the room and all the silence that has ensued thanks to their spectacle, a needle scratches audibly. And all can hear an inquisitive, "Chu?"

Someone's found the record player, unattended...

Soundtrack: Butuo no Eros - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdd2ylk_GRg

Her hand in Utena's is her answer, too: Anthy would love to dance. She smiles up at her roommate still, and her free hand finds Utena's shoulder and rests atop it, a light pressure through those princely epaulets. She cannot look away.

A revolution begins as they spin across the dance floor together: prince and princess; hero and damsel; roommates, and friends.