2021-02-10 - Elevator Confessional: Crimson

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Elevator Confessional: Crimson

Saito Araki receives an invitation from the Mikage Seminar. He accepts.


Saito Araki, Mamiya Chida, Souji Mikage


Ohtori Academy - Nemuro Memorial Hall

OOC - IC Date:

2/10/2021 - 11/02/2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ohtori Academy +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  The ivory crown on the brow of Southern Cross Island, Ohtori Academy is       
  separated from the world by more than just water. Outside, education can be   
  a luxury. Within this white-walled compound, education is /luxurious/.        
  Marble colonnades spring up like fountain spouts, scarlet flowers drench      
  every free surface. The architecture is at once daringly art deco and         
  austerely Classical, white marble lending an angelic weightlessness to        
  pillars and fences that can seem more woven than carved.                      
  At the center of campus is the Chairman's Tower, a dizzyingly tall spire in   
  the center of a manicured grassy field. Radiating around this field are the   
  lecture halls, dormitories, art buildings, and other facilities by which the  
  chosen few receive education, with small class sizes in large buildings.      
  It's common for students to refer to a building's location as if the hour     
  hand of a great clock extended from the central tower. At twelve o'clock,     
  for instance, the Duel Arena looms like a jade stormcloud, a great forest     
  forming a living pagoda of leaves that reminds even longtime students that    
  their school keeps many secrets.                                              
  The rose is the emblem of Ohtori, and campus is decorated with a profusion    
  of them, both living and frozen in frieze. Poppies are favored as well, and   
  thick carpets of either flower can be found wherever the loosest excuse is    
  available. Only the most bitter of winters seems able to fully erase the      
  faint fragrance from the air, and students who leave the island via quick,    
  convenient bridge or ferry can often find a memory of it on their clothing.   
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Kashira Seijin - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuM3LVm03eo

"They don't make 'em like that anymore!" chortles the tanuki-like silhouette of Amano to anyone who'll listen. Which is everyone, since his recent promotion. He tells and retells the story; to the secretary, to the salarymen, to the middle managers. Even to the janitor.

"A uniformed courier," he gushes, "In a suit nicer than the President's! We hardly even have a mailroom anymore, urgent business is all conducted over email! I've made sure of it!"

Two of the older employees exchange a bemused look. Their new boss is not quite the youngest person in the room, but he is down there. Change is slow here, and its acceptance is even slower. Everyone toasted Amano's promotion; he unquestionably earned it. But it doesn't smell like champagne anymore.

"The briefcase was handcuffed to his wrist," Amano explains breathlessly, "And inside it was--"

This office smells of air filtration, black tea, and -- late at night, or sometimes during peak times mid-day -- desperation.

"--well, it's like I said. They don't make 'em like that anymore."

But just now there's also a trace of something else, something that lingers like nostalgia even though it's long gone.

"I'm not sure what it's all about... but it must be awfully important."

Everyone's head swivels to look curiously at the office in question. Where, still shedding a wistfully perfect rose perfume as though the hungry air is ripping it out, consuming it as quickly as may be --

-- THE INVITATION sits on the desk of Saito Araki.

The envelope couldn't be more different than the manila one he received a week ago. Like that one, this one contains an evaluation. UNLIKE that one, it isn't inside; it's outside, it's everywhere, it's intrinsic. Anyone who receives an envelope like this has been deemed worthy of something extraordinary. Everything about it centers attention; the heavy matte paper, exactly creamy enough to be richer than white, exudes wealth as well as the smell of roses. Saito's name has been stamped, rather than handwritten, on its front, implying that someone made a stamp just for him, just for this occasion, and its deep black ink -- with the slightest hints of purple, not unlike the tones of cherry or oak in a fine red wine -- shines. It is square, rather than the more mundane dimensions of a typical envelope.

And on the back... the first thing Saito recognizes; Ohtori Academy's Rose Seal, pressed deeply into real, black wax.

The letter is no less impressive; the Rose Seal appears as an extraordinarily subtle watermark, white-on-white, just the faintest hint of it, a quarter-circle in each of the four corners, as though this piece of paper is one piece of a larger, grander cloth. The calligraphy is old-fashioned, and more than perfect enough to be font; but it isn't; someone took the time and care to write this by hand. The words are centered, both literally and metaphorically. They are THE center of a universe of their own circumscription; around them, a little thing like the world must revolve.






A date; a time. And then, underneath, in the same handwriting yet somehow, in its curves and lines, subtly more intimate:

Your path has been prepared for you.

And that is all. No introduction; no explanations. Clearly the Mikage Seminar expects its reputation to precede itself; just as clearly, since this is an Ohtori affair, it must somehow be connected to his niece, Kasagami. A parent-teacher conference, perhaps? And yet she isn't mentioned at all.

This invitation is entirely for him...


Against another cubicle row's wall, Amano restarts his story for a new audience. "Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard the news?"

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

Saito Araki runs a hand through his slowly greying hair, the light of his computer highlighting his face. He pays no attention to it, for said attention is focused on a single thing: the envelope and the hint of roses lingering in his nostrils. Even before he opens the beautiful piece of art that is The Invitation, he finds the world shrinking.

Amano's tittering and the deep pit of resentment still burning in his chest from his passing-over are a slightly noisy irritant and dull ache respectively. Though the square envelope is light in his hands, there's a more metaphysical weight that has his hands shaking. The whirring of the air in the room from the building's partially busted aircon is white noise that only enhances the enchanting effect of such an expensive piece of finery delivered to him in such an odd way.

He heard the story, of course, about the courier and the briefcase. Amano made sure of it.

This unassuming, often boring man that is Saito Araki can't help but smile despite the problems with his niece, how he was so cruelly shoved aside in the petty kingdom of the company he works at. The merely adequate, uninspired man amidst the Araki family feels something he's always desired but never been able to achieve. Simple, normal Saito with his low ambitions, he stares at his own stamped name and at the Rose Seal marking the envelope.

This was for him. Something out of the ordinary in such a maudlin life. Something SPECIAL. Unique. Ahh, how it excited him in ways that he didn't dare understand, even as it confused him in turn.

And yet he knew what the Rose Seal meant, event as he took a box cutter to carefully pry it off. He dare not break something so artful. It felt right to take his time with this. Neat, centered words has the man's brows squinting as he puzzles out their meaning. He is expected. The salaryman knows shockingly little about his niece's place of learning, and has certainly decided that he's ill disposed to the place. Or more accurately, ill disposed to his niece's failures, and the school by association. Lips purse, and he does his best to ignore the glances tossed into his office by his co-workers. It hardly helps to be seen too much. A lesson he can't quite instill in his wayward, overly-loud niece!

After staring at the thing, the weight of something in both his hands and his throat, he finally - reverently - places the note gently into a jacket pocket, though he knows not why this all feels so meaningful. A small bite of his lip. There's a meeting in an hour.

Perhaps, perhaps he just needs a walk. Some fresh air. In a move he hasn't done in literal years, he writes an email. Quick, terse, polite...yet final. Almost something worthy of a man just a step up above his position. The one he so wanted, but never put in the effort to gain.

And then he stands up, checks his watch, and heads out the door of his office without a word to his colleagues. The shockwave might persist for a day or two. Unremarkable Saito-san refusing a company meeting. Scandal in this humdrum place!

Saito Araki, on the way over to Ohtori Academy for the appointed meeting, can't help but feel both elation and dread in equal terms. Why is he summoned? And what, if anything, has it to do with the fool of a niece that doesn't know how to act!?

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Ohtori Academy, despite having the orderly, elegant, and cyclical layout of a clock, can be oddly labyrinthine. Blame the porticos. It's easy to get tunnel vision when surrounded by low marble ceilings and pillars on two sides, all of them in their own shadow.

It is all but impossible to approach Nemuro Memorial Hall without passing through one of those keystone arches, out of the darkness and into the light. Illuminated by the gold-peach shafts of an autumnal late afternoon sun -- not sunset, not yet, but on the precipice, dipping a toe into the notion -- it is both like and unlike other places on campus. Pillars and arches; balconies and windows; a broad, curved, staired approach; white on white on white on white on white. And yet something about it fails to perfectly match the classical architecture of the rest of the place. Like a loose tooth, it's just slightly offset; like a jigsaw piece placed in the wrong part of the puzzle, it's part of the bigger picture, but something at the edges doesn't quite FIT.

Ohtori aspires to timelessness, but, perhaps, the trapezoidal roof, boxed windows, and high chimneys embody a slightly older era's opinion of what timelessness IS.

Inside: darkness again; no windows in the foyer. A vase of roses on a reception desk, which somehow fail to match the smell of the perfume, as though whatever was ground into the envelope was more intensely present, more roselike, more real than their own faint dustiness. A tinted window, with no secretary behind it in sight. A bell, in easy reach, presumably to summon them. And a piece of paper, with clear print along the top, awaits Saito's use of the pen nearby. It's for him, surely.

Nemuro Memorial Hall Interview Record





Not JUST for him, then. But it is something familiar in this place, a place that just a week ago collectively laughed at him, jeered at him, dismissed him and his concerns:


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

It takes some wandering to find Nemuro Hall for Saito Araki, partly out of a stubborn sense of being an adult as he fails to navigate campus! No matter the sanity straining amounts of beautiful white pillars among the campus and pure wealth as well as beauty on display, Saito can't help but present himself as an adult in the way he walks, and acts. Aloof from whatever drama may be going on in this place. He ignores any of the students he passes, similarly to how he walked into the place on the night where his niece was enjoying herself during the masquerade.

The appearance of Nemuro Hall, however, is almost comforting. Perhaps he's part of the generation that feels such architecture is timeless. Or maybe it just appeals to him in general. Either way, he pauses, absorbs the slightly offset building as compared to the others, and steps inside. This is the place where he's been invited to, he knows it in some deep part of him!

The light dims to almost nothing, and the scent of roses invades Saito even moreso than the sight of them. One fist clenches. The smell of roses only leads him to memories of his niece, and how she seems to so flippantly to disregard the situation of herself, her family, and...well, perhaps even his own feelings. Hasn't he been trying for her?

A single finger hovers over the bell instinctually. He could tap it down, offer whomever is tasked with filling out the paperwork with doing so. And yet...he can't. The bell's vocalizations are almost nonexistant, only to himself, as he backs off of it. There's a gutteral 'chuh' sound as he notes the paper, the pen, and the man scowls.

It's his business' instinct that has him filling out the paperwork with nothing short of spite. Doesn't he deserve better than this? To do everything himself, to have his opinions ignored, from niece and work alike!? Surely he deserves more than this life!

Name: Saito Araki

Age: 47

Sex: Male


He frowns at the last part, shakes his head, and the pen once again contacts paper.

Class: Graduate

His hand shakes a little more, his handwriting is that much less professional. He can hear the laughs and jeers tossed at him, and the sounds of girls protesting his actions so rudely! They all combine in a blob of white noise, pounding in his mind's eardrums. He's above those little girls, no matter how impassioned. He has an adults' wisdom!

Surely that's why he's here. To give his niece wisdom. To give those petulant girls' opinions of how he treats his niece wisdom that they must hear. He underscores 'graduate' twice, as if to make sure that point is hammered home, almost petulantly!

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The pen slips in Saito's grasp; his double underline of the word 'graduate' accidentally becomes a double strikethrough.

There's no time to correct it; a shadow has appeared behind the tinted glass, summoned perhaps by the quieter-than-quiet press and release of the bell. Or perhaps not, since it has been some time since then. Either way, her idyllic silhouette -- definitely a HER, which is one such ideal of the receptionist -- reaches forward and, speedily, retrieves the paper off the counter, pulling it back through the finger's-width gap between it and the window.

"You are expected," she says. "Right this way."

The person who emerges is forgettable. Conservative clothing, plain brown haircut, and even her loveliness, such as it is, is such an expected part of the secretarial package as to be wholly unnotable here. The main impression she leaves Saito is of the sound her heels make as they proceed together down a narrow hallway -- flanked, to either side, by empty chairs, and above them, on the walls, empty frames. You could foley a clock with those clicks of shoe on tile.

The end of the last hallway they go down is shrouded in darkness; such is its distance. By the time Saito reaches it, she is no longer with him. She doesn't vanish into thin air; nothing so jumpy. It is simply that he must have left her behind.

An ordinary wooden door with a singularly extraordinary knob awaits, invitingly ajar. The knob is an intricately carved leaf, which has sprouted out of an engraved spiral. Hanging from it is a much less elaborate sign -- in recognizable handwriting.


It transpires that the interview room is more of a cell. There is barely room in it to sit upon the stool that comprises its only furniture. The seating faces a portrait-proportioned mirror, one that reflects little until its subject is directly in front of it; not easily can one look down on it from above. And not easily can one fail to be addressing oneself, once in place.

The only other thing in the tiny, claustrophobic chamber -- which, unlike the muted beige-violet of Nemuro Memorial Hall thusfar, is unremittingly, gloomily gray -- is another glass frame. Unlike the ones in the hallway, this one is not empty. A monarch butterfly, wings spread wide, perfectly pinned and pressed and preserved, will be Saito's only company in this oppressively silent confessional.

At some point the receptionist must have given him back the paper, because it's in his hand again. And like the front desk, there is a small counter here, below the mirror. A small counter, and a gap between it and the glass, where he might turn it in.

The gap is expectant, and so is the stool, and so is the quiet. An introduction is in order.

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

Saito barely notices his mistake, distracted as he is by the emerging shadow of the easily-dismissed secretary. He barely notices her existance outside of just being the kind of office drone that even he tends to ignore and pretends he knows who they are when he arrives each morning on the job.

That he loses sight of her is neither unexpected or really commented upon by the office veteran, Saito too worried about where he's going to notice whom he might be near. With the echo of her heels in his ears, the man looks about in the dark-shrouded hallway with that beautifully carved knob. Curiousity overcomes him. He can't look away from the carved leaf, nor how the words 'Interview Room' seem to be something unable to be ignored.

Why does he feel like he needs to be here? He shoves the thought aside.

"What are you doing here, Saito?" he asks himself with a dour mutter even as he opens the door. Saito is so full of questions in his life right now, but can't even answer that very simple question.

Somehow Saito feels closed in, uncharacteristically hating how tight things feel. It's tighter even than his little office. The grey gloom feels like it's reaching out to strangle him. Indeed, he feels like a prisoner now that he's here. Tossing away his own cell key, he closes the door, and takes the unasked command like a proper salaryman.

He turns in his paperwork, elbows going to knees after he does so. He runs both hands through his short hair.

"What is this? Am I supposed to talk about personal matters to more children?" he started, bitterly, even as he yearned to break the silence. He almost felt compelled to talk just to make sure some sound was in this oppressive place.

And so he talks about the first thing on his mind.

"Look at all this. Everything around here is so elegant, so expensive. If this is the world my niece wants to inhabit, that she can't continue to act so childishly! But who can blame her? Surrounded by people with no respect for authority, for adults. No respect for me. As long as she thinks she can accomplish anything by chasing after things that have no value, that don't gain her a foothold in the adult world, she will be nothing!" Growls the man in frustration.

Such a surface level venting of his woes. An adult should be able to do better than that.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Confession Elevator - RGU OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvv6gz64R6E

It isn't inappropriate. Saito is, after all, still at surface level.

But that begins to change.

It happens suddenly, with the whir of motors and the shudder of stillness becoming motors, and yet it feels distant, gradual... natural.

And all over Saito's head. When the wall behind him glides by, gray becoming gray becoming gray becoming gray, he doesn't even have a chance to notice.

No, that's saying too much.

He doesn't even have a chance.

There's nothing CHILDISH about his company; the paper was accepted with alacrity and grace, almost vacuumed into the slit. And the silence has become a very specific one, with the slightest overtone of white noise that accompanies an open mic.

Someone invited him here, to explore his potential.

Someone is LISTENING, even now.

And without judgement, it seems. As the first of his grievances overflow the basin of himself and splash around the room, there is no objection; no embarrassment; no jeers, certainly.

What there is, is weight.

He feels heaviness sinking onto him. The openness of this room to his feelings is, at the same time, a closure of everything else. The whole world compressed to a single confessional cell, and to his singular confession. There's nothing outside of it, outside of him; nothing more important, more vital, than the here, the now, and

and his feelings. It's funny (it's not funny) how the baggage he brought in with him he was able to carry down the hall at a brisk walk. Now there's no way he could lift it without using both hands, puffed out cheeks, pouring sweat.


The weight of the world.

The weight of his world.

Going down...

But the mic is on. The line is open.

And his own reflection looks back at him as he growls.

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

Someone is listening. A person that isn't those children, that isn't his fool of a niece, that is worth speaking to. His eyes only see himself as he peers at the mirror before him. Despite the motion of the elevator-confessional, all he can sense is the pure weight of everything that's been holding him down for so long yet he has been too much of a coward to admit aloud, even to himself.

And so his knees and arms ache thanks to the weight of his own difficulties, in a room of static and introspection brought to that ever-listening figure he knows is there taht he can't see. Not that it matters who.

This is all about Saito Araki. He is the only one that matters right now!

"She'll never be anything even if she does decide to do something with her life." Saito finally says, a little quieter.

But then the salaryman grows bolder as he speaks feelings he had never truly dared admit.

"She will not! All she does is DESIRE things without a plan, without any consideration to what's practical! How can someone like my niece amount to anything if she doesn't even know what the adult world looks like. How can she change our family's fortunes with such a limited worldview and a head full of fantasy ambitions!?" He starts to rant, unburdening himself with increasing force that he would never dare use in public. This is no yelling thing, but firm and venemous with the power of someone who's had his dreams again and again crushed down into a little cube of ambitionless, tiny little desires.

This ordinary man tiny little sparks leap up.

"But I do. I know what an adult's life is like. It should have been ME! I should be the one that the Araki name rides on! I should be the one to do something with a once well respected name, not that little brat of a niece of mine!" And now comes the true confession.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Behind and above him, the gray yielding to gray yielding to gray yielding to gray yields, for the span of a rectangle, to black. Ohtori's rose seal, cut out of the negative space at the coffin's end.

And it was a coffin. One could say unmistakably, but there's no one to see. No one looks.

Not even Saito's singular companion, for whom flatness beneath glass was not solitude enough; he, she, it has shrunk itself further, unsought-for and unseen, from butterfly to chrysalis.

Another coffin goes by...

Then a third, sooner than before. Either the elevator is, fractionally, picking up speed, or there are more and more coffins to pass, deeper down and deeper in...

...or both.

There's something unfairly claustrophobic about the cell now; as quickly as Saito unburdens himself, he finds himself with more burdens than ever, and heavier than ever. Forget traveling, now -- he couldn't even lift them. He couldn't even BUDGE them.

But he's still attached.

And they're going down... dragging him down, down...

"Deeper," says a voice -- and it's a shock, this sudden evidence of something in the universe other than Saito itself; like darkness that cannot realize itself without the existence of light; a profound revelation, that he is so alone with his troubles, and yet not entirely. Not completely. Not yet.

The voice is a man's. Authoritative and soft at the same time; the iron fist, the velvet glove. Young or old -- timeless, ageless, the only visible lips in the room are Saito's own, trembling in the gloomy mirror. It too has darkened. He can barely see himself in it anymore. Only his biggest, most outsized features even make an impression.

"Go deeper," Mikage -- surely it is Mikage, of the eponymous seminar, master of legends and maker of men -- commands; instructs; entreats; invites; dares.

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

Saito feels as though the room is going to crush him. The weight has him curling more and more, elbows starting to shake as he struggles to keep himself from collapsing beneath the pure size of his own problems and untaken roads and desires that he's had to live with. His face is growing red. His mouth is set in a grim line as he just lets everything go.

He goes Deeper. The voice is a shock to the senses, like cold water down the spine. He feels awake, if somehow even more struggling under the many feelings in his heart.

"I...I can do better. Better than her. Better...better than some simple office job. I should be the one to lead the family to a better future. No. I'm the only one who can do it! I have to do it. My Brother isn't here any more to guide her, and that fool of a wife he was so obsessed with and burdened by. I will no longer need to stand in the shadow of my brother, not now, he's no longer in my way! Yes, I deserve to have everything that I've ever been denied by everyone else in the family. I can be more than my brother ever was...all I need is something to hold onto. Something to grab what I need, to reach for the reigns of the Araki family name! So I can shove away the shadow cast over me by...by his death. By her death! If I can just crawl out of this darkness they cast over me, I can be the one to bring my family to the status that it truly deserves, and that foolish Kasagami will never need to bother with ambition that doesn't suite someone so immature as she is!"

His words grew louder as he continued, more forceful, more hungry. He was gasping, as unfamiliar passion filled him. It hurt to feel, to speak.

But it was just so good to desire things.

"I could do so much more with it than she ever could."

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Coffins thunder past in threes and fives and eights.

The elevator's rumble has become a scream.

There is no maximum -- and so Saito learns the dubious freedom of being, perhaps for the first time in his life, totally, completely denied any agency in his fate, as he is, plunging, plunging downwards. Falling--!

But there is also no bottom. No end, not to the depth and the darkness and the weight. First it dragged on him and then it dragged HIM and now it DROWNS him. The universe, which shrunk once already into a place with only him and the man taking his confession, compresses once more, into a single microscopic perspective. And though he might have forgotten, students of science know that when the world of tiny things become enormous, blown up out of all proportion, those things become unrecognizable. Troubling and strange; intricate and urgent; there isn't even a chrysalis on the wall anymore, just a leaf, but if you looked at that leaf the right way it would contain multitudes of mysteries.

No one's looking at it the right way.

But Saito's reflection, which is now only his eyes, looks at him the wrong way -- he sees his hunger there, a hunger unsatiated, a hunger undeniable, a hunger unquenchable, in a world that cares nothing, nothing, nothing for the agony of his existence.

He is drowning beneath the weight of that cruel world.

He is free falling into the heart of its darkness.

He is out of control--!

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

Saito can't take the words back, any more than he could stop himself from giving voice to his deepest, darkest thoughts in this screaming and twisted confessional. As the elevator howls around him and he's pushed, compressed, CRUSHED down into his seat, he feels tinier and tinier until all he can do is stare at the pair of hungry eyes glaring back at him.

Just looking at this hungry, greedy set of eyes that reflect the worst of himself is terrifying, but he can't recognize that as he's dealing with the sensation of being utterly unable to help anything at all. He feels like a terrified child reaching out for a parent, for both parents, for some sense of stability in a world suddenly gone to madness.

"I could do more than she ever could! Because I'm an ADULT! Not a child. Not a child like her! I deserve the power and the respect and the ability to change where my life takes me. I deserve the CONTROL!" Saito howls, repeating himself as he screams into the ever-falling void. Control. He repeats that word like a mantra, over and over, as if warding off evil spirits. He's trying to convince himself. The man is lying to himself that he has any sense of it all. That he can control fate, the world, his family. Everything.

He can't control anything. There's nothing he can do but continue into freefall, hands clenched hard enough to cause knuckles to go white. Terror is laced into his voice alongside envy.

And so he stares back into his own eyes, and tries to reassert himself with more useless words over and over, trying to not sound like a scared teenager.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mitsu no Naifu - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6TSYnEUgr4

The elevator crashes!

The elevator stops.

Is there a difference, when you're frozen in time?

What is momentum to paleozoic amber beneath the microscope?

It's all gone now, in any case. There is no butterfly nor chrysalis nor even caterpillar; only a framed leaf, carbon unborn as even the least sentience, as the silent companion to Saito Araki, invisible over his head.

But though the speed is gone -- the intensity remains -- the agonizing, crushing pressure of the intolerability of the moment -- its unchangeability -- its inexorability.

And Saito's inability to change it.

To change anything.

He is trapped, trapped and alone, alone with his misery in the depths of Ohtori, the depths of himself, the depths of darkness.

Until the little hairs on the back of his neck feel a shadow fall across them like a physical weight.

And for something to cast a shadow, in a place like this...

...it must be somewhere LESS dark.

Someone has opened a door for him. Behind him, his savior stands, a slight, unassuming person who occupies the threshhold between boy and man. But his age is gloriously irrelevant to Saito, because of what he exudes, that power which makes desperate people open like flowers to the sun:


Saito wishes to speak to the manager of the very world, and right now, this pink-haired fellow seems very much to be it.

"I understand," he -- HE UNDERSTANDS -- he has taken Saito's confession and offers empathy, that fertile ground for that which comes next, that which he offers, that which only he can provide:


"Your only choice is to revolutionize the world."

The cruel and unchanging world, where a man is outshone by a child. What worthier cause could there be than a revolution against it?

"The path you must take has been prepared for you."

He steps aside, into the chamber beyond the elevator, that Saito can see it, and then join him in it. A vast, dark mortuary. A hundred coffins in the walls; a hundred pairs of shoes, lined up as neatly around the perimeter of the room as they could be in the foyer of a family home, if that home were tidy, if it were well-kept, if its space was cherished and respected by all who dwelled within.

"You have been chosen," Mikage promises. "You, Saito Araki, to walk upon this hallowed ground."

All he has to do is take the first step.

Out of stasis, and forward.

Forward, forward, at last...

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

There are offers that are simply impossible to refuse. Saito is trapped and crushed by the weight of his dark thoughts, his petty desires, all of the worst things that are bottled up inside of him that he might fight against on a better day.

This is not a better day. He turns to the slight young man, eyes blinking as if blinded. Which he is. Saito is blinded by that delicious authority, how the young man seems to understand, to care. Not like his foolish niece. No, Saito's gaze falls upon pink hair and salvation, and like a man dying of thirst in a desert, he all but comes crawling over. He very nearly needs to, his shaking knees barely able to push him up even as the counselor steps aside into the funerary chamber.

But despite the weight of all he desires, or rather because of them, he steps forward. There's no words this time. No outward sounds of acceptance to the path that is now laid out before him. But the office worker does indeed trod it, as he simply cannot refuse.

A shiver runs down his spine as he passes through the door, one step. It hurts. But the stasis ends, and his confidence rises. A smile, small and a little uncanny, falls to his face. He feels like grinning for some reason. But no, he's an adult, and he has to have some dignity.

Staring at coffin upon coffin, he soundlessly mutters the words that take root into his acheing heart.

'My only choice is to revolutionize the world'.

It feels so right to have those words in his mind. As if it were his destiny, his calling.

His path forward. Hands clench with purpose that he hasn't felt in some time.

"...Tell me what I have to do." Comes Saito, breathless, anticipation growing.

He has finally found his path to his revolution.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"Please look," Mikage instructs, as one of the coffins shoots out of the wall next to him. He pilfers it with both the casual ease of someone who's done this before, and the reverent grace of someone for whom this never loses meaning, no matter how many times it is done.

He extends his own hand for Saito to see.

"This is a Rose Crest ring," he introduces calmly; the pink crest, the white band. Identical to Kasagami's, and others.

He turns his hand over, revealing what he's removed from the tomb. "You see? This one has turned black. When a crest bearer dies, the color changes in this way."

Not so calm now. His voice is infected, from beneath, by the slightest throb of passion.

"Although I find the black one to be even lovelier..."

He's across the room; he's beside Saito; no time passes between these two truths, he simply is where he needs to be.

"For you," he offers, flipping his hand backwards almost lazily. "The Black Rose Crest..."

"...and my black rose," says a second, even younger voice, from behind Saito. He feels a hand on his back, between his shoulder blades. A soft touch, but absolutely assured. "This is your new heart," murmurs the boy. "Your new life!"

Behind them both, across the floor of the elevator, Mamiya's shadow emerges from Saito's. The silhouette's hand clutches a rose. It's a black rose, as all roses are, in shadow play.

But the one in the hand at the end of the arm suddenly wrapped around him from behind -- hovering above his chest -- is even blacker. It drips with night, with void; it swallows all colors near it, hungrily.

Mamiya holds it high, its clipped stem gleaming with a diamond's sharpness.

"I give the rose that blooms at the End of the World... TO YOU!"

He plunges it in with all his might.

But Saito feels more than one final sensation, before he feels nothing more at all.

That sharpness -- a terrible, fatal stabbing -- a death for a death -- a hot and sudden violence -- that of blood --

-- and the contrast of the smoothness of the ring slid over his finger -- a luxurious, frictionless texture -- a skin-crawling chill -- that of bone.

And still a third feeling, one he lacks the vocabulary to describe. Ordinary people don't know what it's like when a second soul enters their body, merging like a parasite, overwriting the book of their self like a cancer.

It is violation and it is ecstasy, to one whose path has been so assiduously prepared.

For to the prisoner of oneself, what greater freedom is there than to yield the key to their own destiny to another warden?