Withered Roses Don't Always Die
The next day, Utena set about finding two people to fight along side her in the upcoming Duel. There was only one place to go for help: the Student Council. Utena sighed. She was dreading this, but it had to be done.
She made her way into the courtyard during lunch and looked for the usual swarm of girls that could expose Touga from outer space. She found the “swarm” quicker than she would have liked. “Oh man, there’s no way I’m going to try and swim through that ocean…” Utena murmured to herself.
At that moment Utena noticed Nanami approaching the sea of girls from the opposite direction. Utena knew what was about to happen and had to admit that she was grateful. Within a matter of minutes, Nanami had chased away the flock of fangirls and was clinging obsessively to her big brother as she always did. Utena chose this time to make her approach.
The red-head turned around and smiled coyly. “Why, Miss Tenjou… what can I do for you today?” the Seitokai president asked.
Nanami glared and growled at Utena, “Just what do you want?”
Utena ignored Nanami and focused on Touga. She explained her encounter with the boys from the academy in Amsterdam. “Do you know anything about them?” she asked.
“I do indeed,” Touga replied. “The school is actually a college called Crystal Lotus University. Their status on the list of the top schools in Europe is second only to Ohtori. I can understand why they would want to pick a fight with us.”
Utena nodded in understanding. “The Duel scheduled is a three-way battle. I’ve never done one of those before… And I wanted to ask you if you’d be my second fighter?”
“Of course he won’t!” Nanami bellowed before Touga could even answer. “Take your problems somewhere else and stop bothering my big brother!”
“Yes, Utena. I will fight with you,” Touga said calmly, smiling. He said “yes” partly because he wanted to get in Utena’s good favor, and partly to spite Nanami.
Utena smiled happily. “Thank you, Touga,” she said, enjoying Nanami’s shocked expression.
Later That Day
After recruiting Touga, Utena ate lunch with Wakaba and then headed back inside for class. When seventh period was over and classes ended for the day, Utena made her way toward the Kendo room. Her next task was probably not going to be pretty.
She’d never really been comfortable when approaching Saionji, but it was okay because she usually she didn’t have too. He hated her, and she wasn’t too fond of him either to be honest. But still, he was the best choice as far as a third fighter.
She wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if he was in the Kendo room, but this was where he usually could be found after class. He’d either be training or cleaning. She slowly slid open the Japanese style door and stepped into the large room. Saionji was indeed here.
The Green Rose was practicing with his Katana, not seeming to have noticed Utena yet. He twirled and spun with his sword as though he was fighting an opponent, swinging his sword in the deadliest manner. Utena didn’t approach him too quickly. Saionji was one of those types where you never knew when he was going to snap. She had once wondered if he was bi-polar.
She stopped mid-way into the room and just decided to wait until he acknowledged her. She dared not to disturb him. After several moments, Saionji stopped and flipped his ponytail out of his way. He glanced at the pink-haired girl, “What?”
Utena flinched at his tone. Though she was tempted to say forget it and leave, she spoke anyway. She began to explain her situation one last time. Saionji remained quiet throughout the entire explanation, and even when she had stopped talking, he said nothing.
After a few seconds he closed his eyes and swung his sword over his shoulder, “No,” he answered simply.
Utena frowned lightly, “Saionji, please. I’m asking for your help. Just this once,” she said, thinking maybe he wanted her to plead.
“No,” was still his answer even after that.
“Saionji, I need you,” Utena said, clenching her fist. “If you don’t, Crystal Lotus University will win and Anthy will be theirs!”
Saionji opened his eyes and looked at her, “What did you say?”
With that, Utena realized how she would rope him in. She hadn’t noticed that in her previous explanation, she left out the fact that Aion planned to make Anthy the Rose Bride for his school.
“They’re planning to take Anthy,” Utena said. “If I don’t win in this three-way Duel, Anthy will become their Rose Bride.”
Saionji stared at her, his face expressionless. “Alright…I’ll fight.”
The day for the appointed Duel arrived and Utena could now be seen making her way to the arena. Anthy was already there, the girl waiting for her “Prince” in the spiral elevator. Anthy disappeared when Utena stepped inside the lift, leaving behind only her school uniform. The doors closed and the elevator began to move. As she was lifted into the sky, Anthy reappeared before her, this time dressed in an elaborate red gown.
Anthy cupped her hands around Utena’s face and slowly moved them downward to her shoulders, chest, and her hips, using her powers as the Rose Bride to modify Utena’s clothing into a more Princely appearance as she touched her.
Behind them, a beautiful rose bush adorned with pink buds was growing up through Anthy’s discarded uniform. The rose buds bloomed instantly as the elevator reached its destination. The doors opened and Utena and Anthy stepped onto the Dueling platform. The two girls were surrounded by a flurry of pink and white rose petals.
Utena was relieved to see Touga and Saionji already on the arena floor. Both of them had been waiting for her to arrival. The two boys were dressed in their usual Student Council uniforms, each holding their new swords. Utena remembered the new version of Saionji’s sword from their last Duel, though this was the first time she’d seen Touga’s.
Juri, Miki, and Nanami all had them too. But what was even more puzzling than the swords, as the strange power the council all suddenly began to wield.
‘Just what is going on here…?’ Utena thought to herself, letting her mind wander for a moment.
“Miss Tenjou!” called a familiar voice from the other side of the arena. It was Aion. The handsome boy was present with the two additional boys from before. “I see you’ve brought along members from Ohtori’s famous Student Council as your teammates. Greetings, gentlemen!” Aion went on to say.
Touga nodded his head as a silent hello, while Saionji said nothing nor made any movements. Utena was a little confused by how uninterested the Green Rose seemed with Anthy now.
‘Strange…’ she thought.
“Don’t bother to introduce yourselves. I already know who you two are,” Aion said. “You may not know us, however. My name is Aion. These two fighting with me are Reiji and Li,” he added, motioning to boys at his left and right.
“Well then, without further ado, let’s get this Duel started. As you all know, this will be a three-on-three Duel between the Crystal Lotus University and Ohtori Academy,” Aion continued as he and his friends drew their swords. The weapons merely appeared in their hands after a flashing light emitted from their rings. The boys all wore dark blue lotus blossoms on their chests, the flowers matching their school uniforms.
“Since you may not be used to this type of Duel, I will explain a few things for you, Miss Tenjou. Since there are six of us Dueling, whenever someone’s flower is knocked from his or her chest, he or she will be immediately transported out of the arena. The transport is not harmful, I assure you. Then whoever is left on that team will have to keep battling until a winner is decided on either side. Do you understand?” Aion explained, smirking.
“Yes,” Utena answered, having been listening closely to what he said.
“Fabulous,” Aion said, “Now, Miss Tenjou, draw your sword!” he shouted, pointing his sword at Utena from where he stood.
“Anthy,” Utena said, looking to the purple-haired girl.
Anthy came closer and pressed her hand to Utena’s chest, white light shining brightly from where her hand was placed. The handle of a sword soon rose from within Utena’s chest, and Anthy gently took hold of it.
“Grant us the power of Revolution!!” Utena and Anthy recited together as the Rose Bride pulled the sword from her Prince’s body. The bells surrounding the arena then began to ring and the Duel had begun.
Anthy moved to the far end of the Dueling arena when the battle began, watching the fight silently with a stolid look on her face. The six Duelists poised in for battle. Utena became puzzled when Touga and Saionji moved to stand in front of her.
“Utena, focus yourself on Aion. We’ll deal with the other two,” Touga said to her, turning to glance at the girl. Utena took a second to think this plan over, and then nodded.
“Right,” she affirmed.
The two boys fighting along side Aion chose this moment to charge. Touga and Saionji did the same while Utena went for Aion. Saionji gasped softly as both Li and Reiji moved to attack Touga. Li swung his sword at Touga, forcing the red-head to block. Though Saionji tried to attack him, Reiji darted away from Saionji again and moved behind Touga. He gave a hard shove to the red-head’s back, which caused him to lose his balance. During this lapse in focus, Li took the chance to swipe at Touga with his sword.
He dove to the side and successfully dodged…or so he thought. Confused by the satisfied smirk on Li’s face, he looked down at his chest when the boy motioned to it. Touga’s eyes widened as the petals of his rose slowly fluttered away.
Aion smirked as he held Utena back with his sword, “Heh-heh, one down,” he said, chuckling.
“What?!” Utena gasped, pushing away from Aion to look at her teammates. She turned just in time to see the rest of the red rose petals fly away from Touga’s chest. The red-head’s body then began to glow and he soon disappeared in a whirl of red rose petals.
“No, Touga!” Utena cried as the petals vanished.
Saionji growled and turned to glare at Aion, “You bastard! That wasn’t fair! It was two against one!” he roared, thoroughly pissed off.
Aion gave a wicked laugh, “How sad. Two against three,” he commented, ignoring the Green Rose’s statements. Li and Reiji returned to Aion’s sides and the three pointed their swords towards Utena and Saionji. “Prepare to lose, Utena Tenjou!” Aion shouted.