Withered Roses Don't Always Die
Each of the Student Council members had received mansions of their own to live in during their time as such. Though there were five council members, there were only four mansions. Touga and Nanami shared one together since they were brother and sister. The house which had been given to Saionji was located on the west end of the school grounds. Two days after Utena’s visit for morning tea, Saionji could be seen traveling through the halls of the school to return to his house. It was quite a ways from the Kendo hall, but Saionji didn’t mind the walk. It was a mere fifteen minutes at most.
After arriving home, Saionji locked his door and then headed upstairs to take a shower. He discarded his hakama and undid the tie, which held up his hair. He sighed as he felt the familiar weight of the wavy mass tumbling down his back and around his shoulders.
Now fully nude, he turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature until he was satisfied. The hot water felt like heaven on his tired muscles. After soaking his entire body, he glanced down at the small scar on his chest. He’d been shallowly cut during the Duel with Aion. The Green Rose closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the wall in front him, lots of things weighing on his mind.
After washing, he remained in the shower until the water began to run cold. He turned the faucet off and, with a slight shiver, stepped out of the shower. Just as he began to dry off, he jumped a bit as the doorbell rang. Frowning, the Green Rose threw on a bathrobe and went downstairs to the front door.
“What?!” he screeched, flinging open the door.
No one was there. He growled and was about to slam the door when he noticed a white envelope laying on the ground just outside the house. He picked up the letter and studied it. It simply had his name on it.
He closed his door and relocked it before going upstairs to his bedroom. He sat down on the bed and curiously opened the letter. He scoffed as he read its contents. It was an invitation to one of Nanami’s ridiculous parties. She was once again unveiling some new piece of random jewelry she received from relatives.
He often got these invitations, but he never went to any of the functions. ‘You’d think she’d take a hint…’ the Green Rose thought as he strode over to the small trash bin next to his desk.
“You should get out more, Saionji…” he recalled a feminine voice saying.
Remembering those words caused Saionji to pause just as he was about to throw the letter away.
“You should really be more social…” the voice continued.
Saionji frowned a bit as he stared into space, his hand starting to tremble as he gripped the letter tighter.
“Are you sure about that?” the voice of Utena finished.
His frown soon faded and he looked down at the crinkled piece of paper. He stared at it for several moments, as though looking to it for answers. Finally, he sighed and glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. It was just seven o’clock. He still had time to get ready.
Nine o’clock, Nanami’s Party
Out in the academy’s conference room, the students had gathered there in formal attire to attend Nanami’s party. Only a select group was invited. Guests had to present their invitations at the door to enter.
As usual, Juri and Miki both attended Nanami’s party. The blond girl had even managed to drag Touga out to this one, which was rare.
“Hey there, you guys!” Miki greeted as he and Juri approached Touga and Nanami.
“So, Nanami, what have you got to show off this time?” Juri teased, not really meaning any harm.
Nanami giggled as she held onto Touga’s arm, “You’ll see soon enough!”
The four Roses turned in curiosity as they heard scattered gasps and murmurs from around the room. They, themselves, were also quite surprised at the sight.
Handing his invitation off to the boy at the door, was Saionji, of all people. This was the absolute first time he’d ever shown up for one of Nanami’s gatherings. He looked very dashing in his all black tuxedo, which was accented by a green rose. What really stood out was the fact that his hair was out of its usual wavy state. It was completely straight and only slightly curled under near the very tips. Like this, a true length of his hair was revealed. The straight tresses almost reached the backs of his knees.
Saionji’s amethyst eyes were focused on the floor as he slowly crossed the room, stopping only to receive a glass of champagne from one of the servers.
“Is that who I think it is?” said Juri, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her.
“I-I actually think it is…” answered Miki.
“I…I don’t believe it…” Nanami said, “Saionji’s never…”
Touga said nothing, the red-head only stood silently with a pleased look on his face.
It wasn’t long before Saionji reached the spot where they were standing, “Good evening,” he greeted softly, his eyes still focused on the floor.
“Wow, it really is you, Saionji,” Juri said, surprised. “What in the world possessed you to come out of hiding?”
Saionji finally lifted his gaze and settled it on the Orange Rose, “I’m allowed to leave my home when I desire, aren’t I?” he asked dryly.
Juri merely chuckled and closed her eyes, ‘Yep, this is Saionji alright.’
“But this is so unlike you,” commented Miki. “You never participate in anything other than the martial arts events. Why are you being so…social all of a sudden?”
Saionji glared at Miki, getting very annoyed by the questions. The Blue Rose gave a nervous chuckle and shrank back when the taller boy looked down at him.
Nanami giggled and actually let go of Touga’s arm to latch onto Saionji’s. “I absolutely love what you’ve done with your hair, Saionji! I’m so glad you came!” she squealed.
“Indeed,” Touga said, speaking for the first time since the Green Rose arrived. “That look suits you. You should keep it.”
Saionji closed his eyes, “It’s nothing permanent,” he said. “I just wanted a break away from the ordinary…” he added softly, re-opening his plum orbs.
Touga was silent for a moment before smiling, “Of course.”
10:45pm, Nanami’s Party
By now, Nanami had revealed the new piece of jewelry she’d received. It was a diamond broach that she said was given to her by her…cousin’s wife’s step-niece’s great, great grandmother. Saionji rolled his eyes. He was one of the few that didn’t clap when Nanami put on the broach. Personally, he thought it was ugly. Besides, there was something else on his mind that he need to speak to the others about.
11:23pm, Nanami’s Party
It had taken some work, but Saionji managed to pull the other Student Council members away from their entourages.
Nanami frowned, “What in the world is this about, Saionji?” she asked, grumpy because she’d been snatched away from all the attention.
“There’s a matter I would like to talk to you all about tonight. It concerns these…” Saionji said, holding up his right hand to show the new Rose Crest ring he’d gotten from End of the World.
“The rings?” Juri asked curiously, “Well, what about them?”
“I won’t talk about it here. Come and meet me at the summit tonight after the party.” Saionji told them. The others were unsure, but agreed anyway since it was about their rings.
Midnight, The Summit
Shortly after Saionji spoke to them at the party, the other Roses lost sight of him. They found out later that he’d been seen leaving early. They were still wary of things that could be said at the meeting, but they went to the summit like he’d asked.
When they arrived, Saionji was already there. The Green Rose was sitting quietly in his usual chair at the white coffee table where they always had their council discussions. Saionji saw the others approaching and stood up, coming to stand before them.
“So what’s wrong, Saionji? What about the rings?” Miki asked, standing next to Juri.
“First of all, I’d like to ask if any of you have tried to remove your ring since it were first given to you?” Saionji questioned, speaking calmly. Touga and then others looked at each other and then nodded ‘yes’ in reply.
“Try taking them off now.” The kendo captain stated. They others did, and each failed to do so.
“Wha…?” Nanami murmured as she pulled and pulled to get her ring off.
“They won’t…come off…” Miki said, straining to remove his.
“What is this, Saionji? Why can’t we take them off?” Touga asked, looking at his old friend.
“All in good time, Touga,” Saionji answered. “But now I’d like to know if any of you have happened to acquire any recent injuries?”
“Recent injuries? What do you mean?” Juri asked, arching an orange eyebrow.
“Any injury at all. Anything.” Saionji said.
“Hmm, well, I burned myself by accident while cooking the other day…” Nanami said, looking thoughtful.
"Did you feel any pain?" Saionji asked Nanami.
Nanami scoffed, "Well, of course I did! How could I not?!"
"Just what are you getting at?" Juri asked.
"Did you notice anything strange about the burn?" the Green Rose asked.
Nanami blinked, "Anything strange? Well...I did think it was odd when the pain didn't last very long... And the blister I got from the burn seemed to be completely healed after only about a couple of minutes..."
Saionji closed his eyes, "Just as I thought."
"Are you saying that there's a meaning behind what happened, Saionji?" Touga asked, not getting the whole picture.
Saionji sighed, "Yes. Now...I know this is going to sound crazy, but I believe that these new rings have somehow robbed us of our mortality."
The silence that washed over them was electric. "What the hell are you talking about? Robbed of our mortality? What's your proof?" Juri pressed, frowning.
"When I dueled alongside Tenjou, I ended up getting a shallow cut on my chest. A cut, which had completely healed within seconds." Saionji explained.
"What? All this over a cut?" Juri asked, starting to feel that this was revealing itself as a huge waste of time.
Saionji shook his head, his straight hair swishing back and forth. "That's not all. During my fight against Tenjou, I was hit by one of the red convertibles that dash around the arena. The pain of getting hit, full force by a speeding car, was blinding. I fell unconscious. Yet, when I came to, there was absolutely no pain. No bruises, no broken bones, nothing. Can any of you explain that?"
The electric silence was back again. No one knew how to answer. Until...
"A-Actually..." Miki began, speaking quietly. "When I fought with Miss Tenjou... the same thing happened to me and my sister..."
Nanami and Juri gasped softly. "Miki...Are you serious?" Juri asked, shocked.
Miki nodded uneasily. "Yes, I am. When we woke up, a-after the duel was over, I didn't feel any pain at all... It was like the car had never struck me..."
"And...what about your sister?" Nanami asked, curious and a bit worried.
"She hadn't broken anything, though she had some bad bruises," Miki answered.
"So it was as if the car had hit only your sister, but you can clearly remember it striking you as well?" Saionji asked the Blue Rose.
Miki looked at him and nodded, "Yes."
"That only further proves my point." Saionji said.
The others were quiet for several moments, before Juri spoke again. "I'm not convinced... I mean, it could be just a strange coincidence."
"I agree, and besides, would it be so bad to not be able to ever acquire injury? Because perhaps we won’t age either," Touga said, chuckling.
Saionji gave the red-head a disgusted frown. "I would rather grow old and die, than have someone pulling the strings in my life. My life is my own. I won't allow anyone to live it but me! And I swear I'll kill whoever tries to do so, without an ounce of regret!" Saionji shouted.
"Saionji..." Nanami murmured, she and the others all hushed from the Green Rose's outburst.
Saionji lowered his frowning eyes to the floor, "Still...if you bunch of idiots don't believe me..." he began, reaching into his pocket. "Prove it to yourselves..." he finished, taking out a pocketknife and tossing it toward them. The knife landed at Touga's feet. The Red Rose looked down at it, and then looked back at Saionji. Surely he didn't want him to...
“Pick it up and stab it into your heart,” Saionji instructed calmly.
The other four Roses gasped. “Are you crazy, Saionji! How can you be so sure that you’re right about this?” Nanami barked.
“You honestly can’t expect one of us to do something so reckless,” Miki said in a scolding tone.
Saionji frowned, ‘Cowards…’ he thought.
“Very well,” the Green Rose said as he turned his back on the others, “Being convinced myself, I guess I’ll have to show you, since you can’t seem to trust my word.”
What he did next caused Touga and the others to gasp in horror. Saionji walked over to the railing at the summit’s edge and carefully stepped over it. The Green Rose was now standing on the tiny ledge.
“Saionji…get down from there…” Touga said with authority, tossing his cool and composed manner to the wind.
“What the hell are you doing, Saionji?! Get away from there! You might fall!” Juri shouted, Miki and Nanami standing stunned.
“That’s exactly why I’m out here,” Saionji stated, his voice holding no signs of fear.
“There’s no need for you to take things this far! Not over a silly theory!” Touga said, trying to reason with his friend, who he honestly believed had finally lost his mind.
Saionji glanced at him, “It’s not a theory. I’m right, Touga. And I’ll prove it to you all,” he said, his voice almost monotone now.
“And what if you aren’t?!” Touga yelled.
Saionji was silent for a few seconds, “Then I suppose I’ll finally have my freedom…” he whispered, his words barely audible. He then stepped away from the ledge and fell, plummeting miles down towards the courtyard below.
Nanami screamed as she saw him fall, her hands jolting upward to cover her mouth and muffle the scream, which was a reflex action.
“Oh my God…” Juri breathed, her eyes wide and her body trembling visibly. Miki was pretty much in the same state.
Touga was no longer with them. The others soon noticed this and began to follow him. The red-head was sprinting as fast as he could to the courtyard to see the result of Saionji’s “test”.
‘No… No… No… Please, no…’ Touga repeated in his mind, his eyes still wide with shock and fear as he ran.
Touga was first to reach the courtyard, and what he saw made him drop to his knees. “No…” he whispered with anguish.
Saionji was indeed there, though it was obvious that his test had failed. The Kendo captain was laying on the ground in the center of the courtyard, swimming in a massive pool of blood underneath him. His body was shockingly still in one piece, but the angle in which he lay was terrifying. His body was in a twisted position that would have been physically impossible had he been alive. Saionji’s eyes were shadowed by his hair while the bloody puddle beneath him continued to grow.
Touga didn’t even acknowledge the fact that the others had also arrived to the area. Nanami screamed again, tears welling in the corners of her wide blue eyes. She felt faint. Juri and Miki were pillars frozen in shock and horror.
The scene was quiet enough. Only the sounds of frantic breathing and Nanami’s choked sobs filled the air.
“You damned fool…” Touga whispered, his voice shaking. “Why did you… How could you…?”
“Oh, my God.”
Those words from Juri interrupted Touga’s whispers, and he lifted his gaze.
“L-Look!” Miki gasped, pointing to the Green Rose’s body.
Reluctant to see it again, Touga looked, and his blue orbs widened all over again. Saionji’s blood was…flowing backwards?
It was true. The sea of blood that had gathered underneath the Green Rose’s body was receding. It was slowly returning to his body, leaving not a single stain on the ground as it regrouped. Touga and the others watched with stunned expressions as this phenomenon took place before them.
As the blood returned to its shell, Saionji’s body began to move. His evergreen hair continued to shadow his eyes as he slowly pushed himself upright. His bones made frightening crackling and snapping sounds as they repaired themselves. His lithe form slowly untwisted from its grotesque state.
Now sitting up, plum eyes snapped open as the Kendo captain arched and gave a deep gasp of pain. He panted shakily as his head lolled to the side, his neck still broken. It was the last thing to fix itself. Panting and trembling, Saionji stood up carefully, nearly falling a few times.
“I rest…my case,” was all he said to his teammates, looking at them with tired violet eyes. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he felt extremely dizzy, but he’d gotten his point across.
He finally collapsed, though Touga ran to catch him. He didn’t fight against the red-head like he normally would have. He needed something to lean on and Touga was the closest thing.
“So…” Miki said, finally finding his voice.
“What…do we do now?” Juri finished for him, the others all looking to Saionji for guidance for the first time since they’d known each other. Touga looked down at his friend, waiting for him to answer.
“Touga…” Saionji breathed, still panting lightly.
“Arrange an audience with End of the World…” the Green Rose told him, “We need to talk…”
“Alright, I will,” Touga said honestly. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
After making sure Saionji was alright, the Roses parted ways. Juri, Miki, and Nanami all departed shakily to go back to their homes. Touga, however, was busy helping Saionji back to his mansion. Though now physically stable, his friend was still trembling and disoriented. Touga wanted to make sure he made it home safely.
Their trip was silent the entire way, neither sure what to say to the other. When they reached Saionji’s house, the Green Rose carefully pushed away from Touga. “Thanks…” he murmured, before going to unlock his door.
Touga didn’t say anything. The red-head only watched his friend with emotional eyes. Saionji wondered why he was just standing there, but still said nothing. Just as he was about to enter his home, Touga suddenly embraced him from behind.
Though a bit surprised, he still didn’t fight. He just stood there, and let his friend hug him. Touga’s face was pressed against the back of his head, into his hair, and his body was quivering.
“You’re crazy…” Touga whispered into his hair, “If you’d died… If you’d…left me…”
Saionji tilted his head, looking up at the star-filled sky above. “Then you’d just have one less person… to torture…” he whispered somberly.
“No, that’s not---“
“Goodnight, Touga,” were Saionji’s next words. He pulled out of Touga’s arms and slowly entered his house, the Seitokai president watching silently as his friend gently closed the door.
Leaning back against his front door, Saionji was able to hear Touga’s words. He made no reply, and he quietly listened to the sound of his friend’s fading footsteps as he left.
He sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair, the hand coming to a casual stop at the back of his neck.
‘Huh?’ Saionji thought as he took his hand away from his neck, looking down at it. His fingers were damp. Though confused for a moment, he soon understood and the tiniest of smiles managed to creep its way onto his face.