Withered Roses Don't Always Die
Chapter One, Intro
Once upon a time, years and years ago, there was a little Princess, and she was very sad, for her mother and father had died.
Before the Princess there appeared a traveling Prince, who rode upon a white horse. He had a regal bearing and a kind smile. The Prince wrapped the Princess in a rose-scented embrace, and gently wiped the tears from her eyes.
"Little one," his voice gently stroked, "though you bear up alone in such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, not even when you grow up. I give you this to remember this day.” He presented her with a ring and continued, “ We will meet again. This ring will lead you to me one day."
Perhaps, the ring the Prince gave her was an engagement ring and this was all well and good. But, so impressed was she by him, that the Princess vowed to become a Prince herself one day.
But...was that really such a good idea?
High atop the second tallest tower overlooking the prestigious Ohtori Academy, five Roses sat around a white lounge table. Red, Green, Orange, Blue, and Yellow were their colors. They were the Seitokai, the Student Council. They were the most talented and privileged teens among the hundreds that inhabited the massive learning facility. They were loved, as well as hated, by their fellow students. It’s hard to say whether this matter bothered them. One would have to decide that for oneself.
Though teammates in a sense, the five roses were far from friends. And perhaps not even allies. They were Duelists. This was a personal claim made by each of the five, though this claim would soon be tested to its limit.
The Duelist. The five Roses were especially selected by a man who called himself End of the World. Their “employer” gave his orders through letters. Only one rose knew him personally. However, this was about to change. As duelists, their goal was to bring forth a new world order in which each would be granted that which they desired most in the world…
That which is eternal.
That which shines.
That which brings fame.
The power of miracles.
The power to bring the world revolution.
One could call this “mission” of theirs a competition. Though each would be granted what he or she desired, the one to bring forth the revolution would have the power to shape the world any way he or she liked. It was a desperate “whoever gets there first” race.
The only “thing” that stood in the way for any of them was a girl named Utena Tenjou. She was another Duelist who seemed to just appear out of nowhere. So far, none of the Student Council, despite their skills, had been able to beat her. They couldn’t have that, now, could they?
It was extremely rare to see all five Seitokai present for a meeting, but the Red Rose, who often received his orders directly from End of the World himself, had insisted that they all be there. Four of the Roses were silent while their President spoke to them. Though, when he finished his sentence, the air around them was anything but silent.
“What?!” The four Roses shouted in unison.
The President chuckled with amusement at the reaction of his fellow council members. “I believe that you all heard exactly what I said,” the Red Rose, Touga Kiryuu, stated in his usual seductive tone. He coyly raked his slender fingers through his blood red hair, waiting for his associates to recover their composure.
“Are you serious, Big Brother?” Asked the Yellow Rose, Nanami Kiryuu. She was Touga’s younger sister and known as the “Queen Bee” among the eighth and ninth grade students.
“You’re saying that End of the World wants an audience with the five of us? When?” Pressed the Green Rose and Vice President of the Student Council, Kyouichi Saionji. He was the school’s Kendo team captain, as well as the martial arts team captain. Originally from Japan, Saionji moved to Europe at an early age. There, he met Touga and the two became best friends. Though their relationship would hardly be described as that now.
“It’s rare to see you taking such an interest in End of the World, Saionji,” Stated the Orange Rose, Juri Arisugawa, who sat directly across from the Green Rose. Juri was captain of the fencing team and a former model for a French magazine. She, Saionji, and Touga together were known as “The Handsome Trio”, despite the fact that Juri was female.
Saionji ignored the Orange Rose’s comment and glanced at the duelist to his left as he heard the all too familiar clicking of a stopwatch. There sat the last of the Rose Crest Duelists. Miki Kaoru was the youngest member of the Student Council, as well as the smartest. Though he was only in the eighth grade, his scores and report cards were ranked even beyond college level. Quiet and rather timid, Miki was also an excellent pianist. Together with his twin sister, the two of them wrote a song called “The Sunlit Garden” when they were only six years old.
All eyes were on the Student Council president, the other council members waiting for their leader to answer their questions. “Last night, End of the World, told me that he wishes to meet with all of us tomorrow at midnight. As for the place, you all need only meet me here at the appointed time and I am to lead you to him. He wants to talk with us about a very important matter.”
The other four Roses didn’t seem satisfied with Touga’s answer. Saionji, being painfully outspoken at times, was the first to voice his displeasure. “Again with these games…” the Green Rose groaned, “, just what does End of the World want with us? We’ll tell you whether it’s important.”
The other Roses nodded in agreement with Saionji’s words. This was something else that didn’t happen often.
“I don’t know,” Touga answered calmly, with his eyes closed. The rest of the council members twitched visibly.
“And what is that supposed to mean, Touga?” Saionji asked through clenched teeth, fighting the urge to dive across the table and strangle the Red Rose for what seemed to be a total waste of everyone’s time.
“It means that I don’t know,” Touga said. “End of the World hasn’t told me anything about what he wants to discuss. I’m just as in the dark as the rest of you.”
“Then…” came the withdrawn voice of Miki, the timid boy speaking for the first time during the entire conversation. “I suppose we’ll just to go for the meeting and find out…?”
Touga smirked, “I suppose it does.”
As per End of the World’s instructions, the Student Council members came to the summit of the spot located underneath the giant Rose Crest symbol. This was the same place where council meetings were always held. Though it was dark, light forever shined through the red Rose Crest symbol. The light created a beautiful silhouette of the massive flower logo on the summit floor. Standing in the center of the logo was Touga. He smiled when he saw his fellow Roses approaching, all dressed in their council attire.
“You’re here. I’m so glad you could make it,” the Red Rose stated calmly.
“Cut the bullshit, Touga. Let’s get this over already,” Saionji replied grumpily. The late hour wasn’t helping Saionji’s usual bad mood at all.
“I’ll say…” Miki agreed, the boy sleepily rubbing his right eye.
“Very well. Follow me please,” the red-head said to his teammates. He led the group back into the elevator that brought them to the summit. They got inside and Touga exposed a hidden panel to the left of the main collection of buttons.
There was only one button located on the hidden panel. He pushed it and the elevator began to move. They rode in the elevator for what seemed like years. Juri couldn’t help smiling a bit as she saw Miki’s head bobbing up and down as the boy fought to stay awake. Nanami giggled.
Finally, the elevator gave a ding and the doors opened. Each of them, save for Touga, looked on in awe as they exited the elevator. The room was a massive observatory, almost bigger than life. The ceiling and walls were nothing but millions of stars, cluttered with constellations.
“Wow…” Miki murmured as they ventured further into the huge room.
“What is this place, Big Brother?” asked Nanami, clinging to Touga’s arm.
“It is simply the observatory,” a deep, seductive male voice answered before Touga could.
All heads turned to the left. Standing in front of what seemed to be a gigantic telescope was the school’s current acting Chairman, Akio Ohtori. The extremely handsome man was dressed in a white uniform somewhat similar to the ones the Student Council wore, though his was far more majestic. His light violet hair was out of its usual ponytail and fell freely around his shoulders with the slightest bit of curl. He looked like a prince straight out of a fairy tale.
Naturally, everyone had their own reactions to him. Both Nanami and Juri felt the blood rushing to their cheeks as they watched Akio come closer. Miki shrank back timidly. Saionji kept his usual scowl present, and Touga smirked knowingly toward the dark-skinned man of distinction.
‘Slut…’ Saionji thought as he glanced at Touga, seeing how the red head was practically humping the Chairman with his eyes. The Green Rose stopped paying attention after a moment, becoming enthralled with his own thoughts of trying to figure out why the Chairman was there in the first place. Unless…
Akio stopped walking when he was close enough. A panel in the floor behind him slid open and a thrown-like chair rose from the hole. The chair, which was actually floating, stopped rising when it was directly behind Akio. The Chairman sat down and crossed his legs comfortably.
“My fellow Duelists, allow me to introduce…End of the World!” Touga announced in a dramatic manner. Three Roses gasped, one sighed.
‘I hate it when I’m right…’ Saionji thought.
“Thank you for bringing them, Touga,” Akio stated in his usual tone. “Now, as you all know, the most important duels of all are fast approaching and Utena Tenjou continues to dominate the arena. This, we cannot have, can we?”
Saionji growled, causing Akio to focus his attention on him. “And just what do you want us to do about it? None of us has managed to claim a solid victory against…that girl,” the Green Rose stated with annoyance.
“That’s quite true, isn’t it?” Akio said, smirking.
Saionji twitched. “So just what are we here for?” he asked, his patience growing thinner.
“I called you all here to make sure that your next duels go smoothly,” Akio purred. “I have some fun new toys for each of you. May they help you in the near future.”
A ball of white light then appeared in front of Akio. The sudden appearance of the floating orb caused the group of youths to gasp. It even caused Saionji’s frown to lessen. The ball floated in mid air for several seconds before it split into five parts. Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Orange were the colors.
The five orbs of light then floated toward each of the Roses matching their colors. “Take them,” Akio stated, speaking to the Roses before him.
The five Duelists glanced at each other, unsure. Touga was the first to take the orb. Holding it wasn’t painful, but rather like a new type of energy being introduced to his body. The red light then began to brighten, causing the others to squint.
When the light faded, a sword was in Touga’s hand, and a new crest ring was on his finger. The sword was beautiful, a gorgeously upgraded version of the Long Sword which he used when fighting Duels.
“Touga, the element of fire, as well as this sword are now yours,” Akio said, “Use your new abilities to win your fight against Utena Tenjou. Since our situation is so dire, you do not need a Rose Bride to draw this sword. I’m sure it will be a great help to you.”
Soon enough, each of the others had accepted their orbs as well. Each of their swords were upgraded; their old rings replaced by new ones; and their bodies granted elemental abilities.
Juri was granted Earth.
Nanami given Wind.
Miki had Water.
Saionji was bequeathed Lightning.
“Now go, my Duelists. Be strong in your endeavors for the sake of the revolution,” Akio stated to his group of fighters, quite excited to see where these new “toys” would take the five youths.
Four Duels Later
Though Akio had high hopes, Saionji, Nanami, Juri, and Miki had all lost to Utena once again. Touga was the last to Duel her, though that wouldn’t be for a while.
Currently, Utena and her good friend Wakaba Shinohara were traveling through the school’s maze of halls. “Such a nice day today! We should so go for a bike ride, Utena!” the perky girl said, walking arm-in-arm with Utena.
“Sure, why not? I’d like some fresh air,” Utena said with a smile, chuckling as they walked together.
Later That Day
After their bike ride, Utena and Wakaba parted ways for the day. It wasn’t dark outside, but the sun would be setting soon. Utena made a final trip to her locker to retrieve her books. Her mind began to wander back to previous days. She was thinking about her Duels.
She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard footsteps approaching. Utena turned to see three boys coming down the hallway. She blinked in wonderment. The boys didn’t look familiar, and their school uniforms were different from the ones the other boys at the school wore. Utena became even more confused when the boys stopped before her.
“Are you Utena Tenjou?” the leader of the three asked, smirking. The boy was handsome, his looks rivaling Touga’s. He had fair skin, deep blue eyes, and dark blue hair that reached his waist. He cleared his throat when Utena didn’t answer as quickly as he wanted her to.
“Oh, um, yes,” Utena said finally. “Who are you?”
“My name is Aion Hiroaki,” the boy answered, “My friends and I are from an academy similar to this one, that hales from Amsterdam. We’ve heard a lot about you, Miss Tenjou, and that’s why we’ve come to challenge you to a three-way Duel.”
Utena’s eyes widened, “You three are…are Duelists?”
The boys held up their right hands. They indeed wore crested rings, though theirs weren’t roses. They looked like lotus flowers. “Our school always seems to come second to this one, you see. So, we figured that if we defeat you, we’ll finally get the respect we deserve.”
Utena frowned, “That’s all? Pretty childish reason to challenge someone to a Duel.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. The Rose Bride of this school will become ours, and we will finally blow Ohtori Academy out of the water,” Aion said, “So, do you accept?”
Utena was silent for a moment before she replied, “Yes…”
“Perfect. As I said, it shall be a three-way Duel that will take place here, on the day after tomorrow. You’ll need two people to fight along side you, so choose your teammates carefully,” Aion said, “We look forward to beating you,” he added as he and the other boys turned to leave.
Utena frowned at their backs, her pupils trembling. ‘Teammates? I have a bad feeling about this…’