Withered Roses Don't Always Die
3:47pm, Saionji’s Mansion
The Green Rose flinched as he lay in bed, remembering the blinding pain from the impact of his fall from the summit. Though his health was fine, he was still mentally exhausted and couldn’t even pull himself out of bed for Kendo practice.
It was the day after Saionji’s demonstration of the outcome, which resulted from End of the World. This would have to be the most uneventful day the Student Council had ever had. All, except Touga, had remained indoors the entire day. Yes, they skipped classes. Saionji imagined that they were all shaken up. Hell, he knew he was.
It was late in the day; classes would be ending soon. As he lay on the soft mattress of his bed, Saionji wondered if Touga would do as he said and get them an audience with the Chairman. This issue had to be addressed.
What would he say? What would the Chairman do?
All of these questions in his head was driving the Green Rose mad. With a sigh, Saionji got out of bed and headed to the shower. Maybe this would help ease his mind.
4:33pm, Saionji’s Mansion
Saionji had taken a lasting shower. The water turning cold is what finally drove him out. Wrapped in a bathrobe, he went back to his bedroom and flopped down on the bed. He nearly sprang back to his feet when a loud clap of thunder rang from outside. Not a moment later, the lights when out.
Sighing, Saionji crossed the room and stopped at his desk. He picked up the dark gray MP3 player laying there and then went back to his bed. He relaxed again as he began to listen to his selected song.
Aishiteta to nageku ni wa
Amari ni mo toki wa sugi te shimatta
Mada kokoro no hokorobi o
Iyasenumama kaze ga fuiteru
This song, along with the weather, was making Saionji sentimental. He longed to return to his Grandmother’s house, but he knew it would be far too painful. What he truly wanted was to go back in time, back before he’d ever come to this horrid school. Back when he and Touga were…
Hitotsu no me de asu o mite
Hitotsu no me de kinou mitsumeteru
Kimi no ai no yurikagode
Mo ichido yasurakani nemuretara
Kawaita hitomi de dareka na itekure
Saionji shut his eyes tightly at the thoughts invading his mind, hoping to make them go away. He opened his eyes again when he heard more thunder. It’d finally started to rain.
The real folk blues
Honto no kanashimi ga shiritaidake
Doro no kawa ni sukatta jinsei mo warukuwanai
Ichido kiri de owarunara
Kibou ni michita zetsuboto
Wanagashikakerareteru kono chansu
Nani ga yoku te warui no ka
Koin no omoi to kuramitaita
Saionji groaned. Why these memories? Why now? Touga’s behavior from the previous night was causing the red-head to weigh heavily on his mind. It annoyed Saionji. He hated the fact that a little part of him wanted to believe that Touga still cared for him.
Dore dake ikireba iyasareru no darou
The real folk blues
Honto no yorokobi ga shiritai dake
Hikaru mono no subete ga ougen to wa kagiranai
The real folk blues
Honto no kanashimi ga shiritaidake
Doro no kawa ni sukatta jinsei mo warukuwanai
Ichido kiri de owarunara
By now, Saionji was thoroughly depressed and staring quietly out the window as he lay idly on the bed. He put this particular song on repeat and continued to watch the rainfall. Before long, he had fallen asleep.
Enter Saionji’s Dream
In a large graveyard, a nine-year-old Saionji was sitting in front of two headstones. They belonged to his parents, who’d just been buried that past week. In front of him was a basket of white Dendrobium Orchids. He had brought them from his Grandmother’s garden. They were a flower his parents loved equally.
The young boy was wearing tan khaki pants and a white shirt. It was the way in which boys had to dress for school. His wavy green hair was tied into a low ponytail that draped over his right shoulder. His black and purple backpack sat at his side as he stared at the two headstones.
His cheeks were wet with tears, though he was no longer crying. He gave a small shiver as a cool wind blew past, making his ponytail shift to his left shoulder.
“I knew you were here,” came a familiar voice from behind him. He turned to look at the newcomer. It was Touga. He was wearing the same school uniform as Saionji, though his shirt was dark blue. The red-head dismounted his bicycle and slowly appraoched his friend.
“I couldn’t find you after class; you weren’t at the park; and you weren’t at your Grandma’s. I knew you had to be here,” Touga said as he sat down next to the other boy.
“Sorry…” Saionji murmured, looking down at the grass.
Touga groaned inwardly. He knew it was selfish, but he was tired of seeing his friend look so sad. “You should stop it, Kyo-chan…” he said, using the nickname he’d given his Japanese schoolmate.
He held back a chuckle as he saw one of the boy’s eyebrows twitch, which was then followed by light flushing of his cheeks. Saionji kept his eyes averted.
“You really should. A sad expression like that doesn’t look good on a pretty face like yours, Kyo-chan,” Touga stated, grinning.
The shade of red on Saionji’s cheeks got deeper and he turned to look at his friend, only to have a cookie shoved in his face. It was large and coated with plastic wrap.
“Here! I got it from your Grandma,” Touga said, smiling.
“Thanks…” Saionji said, giving a thin smile as he took the cookie. After unwrapping it, he broke it in half and held one piece out to Touga. “Have some.”
Touga gladly accpected the offer since he had not gotten a cookie for himself.
Everything was peaceful as they sat together, and Saionji felt comfort when Touga wrapped his arm around his shoulders. However, the wind began to blow harder, and the sky was suddenly filled with clouds.
Lightning flashed in the sky and there was an inhuman growl. It seemed to come from every direction. “What’s going on?” Saionji asked, a little frightened as he looked at Touga. Saionji gasped.
Touga’s eyes were misted with a white shadow and there was a trail of blood leaking from the corner of his mouth. Saionji screamed and scrambled away from him. The red-head fell over limply, dead.
The growling sound filled the air again. Saionji backed up against his mother’s headstone as a beast barrled toward him. It was a large wolf with light violet fur. It had pair of huge feathered wings on its back, big clawed paws, a tail like that of a lion, and long pointed horns on its head.
The beautiful, yet evil looking thing stopped just as it reached him. The terrified Saionji curled up against the headstone. He slowly looked up at the creature, tears welled in his eyes all over again.
It huffed in his face and said, “You’ll always belong to me…”
Exit Saionji’s Nightmare
Saionji gave a deep gasp as he jolted upright, awaking from his nightmare. His eyes were wide and green electricity danced throughout the room. His powers had been brought forth by this shock and fear. His hand rose to cover and rub his watering eyes.
He hadn’t realized it, but for a split second, his eyes had changed. His plum pupils had become slits, like the eyes of a lizard. This strange occurance was gone now, however.
After calming down, Saionji took off his headphones and glanced at the clock.
‘Eight-thirty?’ the Green Rose thought, frowning. ‘Where in the hell is Touga?’
A pang of dread spread through him immediately after that thought. ‘That…thing…’ Saionji thought, his hand on his forehead. What the hell had the monster in his dream been? And what did it mean by…”you’ll always belong to me”?
Just then, the doorbell rang downstairs. Sliding out of bed, the Green Rose jogged slowly out of his room to answer to the door. He held back a sigh of relief when he saw Touga standing there when he opened the door.
“Touga…” he breathed, trying not to sound happy to see the red-head.
“What is it, Saionji? Are you not feeling well?” Touga asked with genuine concern.
“No, it’s nothing,” the green-haired teen answered him. “What is it?”
“I spoke with End of the World,” Touga said, swirling his white umbrella a bit.
“He’s agreed to meet with us tomorrow night,” Touga told his friend with a small smile.
Saionji couldn’t help giving something that only slightly resembled a smile, “Good.”
Silence was thick in the air as the five Seitokai members rode the elevator up to the place known as the Observatory. It was the night scheduled for Saionji and the others to speak with End of the World about the discovery. It was weird. He’d been waiting eagerly for this night, but now that it had arrived, the Green Rose was dreading what lay ahead.
The elevator creaked as it came to a stop. The doors opened and the five Duelists exited. They were all dressed in their council uniforms, and Saionji’s hair was back to its usual wavy state. Stars twinkled and danced all around them as they traveled further into the Observatory, no one speaking a single word.
The quiet was broken by a silky smooth male voice. Each Rose knew who that voice belonged to, the Chairman. They could now see the man from where he sat. He lounged in the same floating, thrown-like chair as before. He was dressed in his white Princely attire, his light violet hair draping around his broad shoulders.
“Good evening, sir,” Touga said to the older man as he and the others came to stand before him.
“I understand there’s something you all wish to discuss with me?” Akio asked, smiling coyly as always.
“Yes, there is,” Saionji answered, taking a couple of steps forward. The Green Rose lifted his right hand, causing the green Crest ring to gleam. “I’ve figured it out.”
“Oh? Figured what out?” the Chairman asked.
“You’ve trapped us. You’ve taken away our ability to die. Not only that… why is it that I can only remember certain things about my life before I came to Ohtori Academy? I only remember what you want me to remember, don’t I? It’s the same for Touga and the others, isn’t it? What is it you’re planning, Ohtori? Have the Duels become so dire that all this is necessary?” Saionji asked, his amethyst eyes focused directly on the Chairman.
The older man was silent. Saionji held back a triumphant smile, the Green Rose already feeling as though he’d won.
“Did you honestly think that none of us would notice? Or were you counting on the fact that no one would have the nerve to approach you? How foolish,” Saionji said, smirking lightly. His ego was getting the better of him. The Green Rose felt as though he’d backed the Chairman into a corner.
Of course, what Saionji was forgetting was that it’s unwise to close in on a trapped animal… they have a tendency to show their teeth.
Akio chuckled and began to lightly clap his hands. “Very good. You successfully figured out part of my plan. I’m impressed,” he said.
Saionji frowned, “Quit stalling. I want to know what’s going on here. You’re no normal man… I see that now. Who…no, what are you?”
The other Seitokai members stood silently as they watched the Chairman, who seemed unfazed by Saionji’s words.
The dark-skinned man smiled and gave another throaty chuckle. “You’re much wiser than I ever would have guessed. I admit you’ve me fooled. Very well. To reward your cleverness, I will reveal the awful truth…” Ohtori answered.
It was Saionji’s turn to be silent.
“As you all know, the final Duel is fast approaching. It is now left up to Touga to defeat Utena Tenjou. I will have to stop her myself if he does not win. She cannot be allowed to bring the world revolution…” Akio began. “You see, I am the ruler of the world you see before you, the world being this school; an alternate reality that is cozily locked away inside a mere coffin. What I say goes here, but over the years this does not satisfy me anymore. Through you all, the power to revolutionize the entire planet could be mine.”
The Student Council couldn’t believe what they were hearing; the five teens were only able to continue listening to the man’s words.
“For over one-hundred years, I have worked to reach my goal. You all, my faithful Duelists, have been right here at my side through it all. Now that we’re so close… this girl, this…fantastic young woman, has appeared… You see, she is the one thing that I cannot control. I can only hope to physically manipulate her into doing my bidding. Ironically, she doesn’t care about the revolution that could shape the world any way one wants it to be. She only wishes to protect the Rose Bride…and to find her Prince,” Akio explained, smiling.
Saionji and the others were stunned. One-hundred years? What the hell?
“Wh-…H-How?” Saionji finally managed to say, finding his voice again. “How the hell have we been here for one-hundred years? We’re middle and high school students!”
Akio laughed again. “Curious, isn’t it? Allow me to show you,” he said. A mild tremor shook the room then and a loud wiring sound could be heard. The room grew dark, the stars ceasing to shine around them. Faint red, green, blue, orange, and yellow streaks began to emit from the platform behind Akio’s chair.
“Behold,” the Chairman stated.
Behind Akio were five glowing crystal coffins. Laying naked inside those coffins were the student council members. Surrounding their bodies and conveniently covering their private areas, were roses of their colors. Besides emitting a shining light, their coffins were being guarded by statues. The statues were of animals, built around the coffins in such a way that it was probably impossible to open them.
A mighty Pegasus with the horn of a Unicorn guarded Touga.
A beautiful nine-tailed Kitsune protected Nanami.
A majestic Gryphon defended Juri.
A graceful Plesiosaur with a circular fin around its head preserved Miki.
And a angelic Oriental Dragon with a long winding body, wings, and elaborate fin-like ears shielded Saionji.
As if this wasn’t strange enough, there was a gaping hole in each of their chests. The holes were hexagon shaped. They didn’t seem like wounds. More like…a piece of them was missing.
The Seitokai members stood frozen in place as they gazed upon themselves. Minutes passed and no one spoke. So Akio took it upon himself to explain.
“The very day each of you set foot in this school, I knew you were the ones. I could tell you were the people that could aid me in my quest. I approached you all secretly and slowly swayed you into joining my cause. And without you even knowing it…I captured your souls…” the Chairman said, his voice never faltering.
“Wh-What?” Touga stammered, his composure gone.
“Indeed. You five are merely the ghosts…of yourselves. A hundred years have rolled by, and your youthful bodies have remained the same, and your spirits, you, have been oblivious to this fact. The way you see it, the flow of time has not changed. You have not even realized that the years merely start over once one has ended,” Akio said, chuckling. “Saionji, you did a wonderful job figuring things out, but you knew so little.”
When End of the World addressed him, Saionji came back to his senses. The Green Rose glared at the older man with hatred in his plum-colored eyes. “Y-You…damn bastard…” he cursed, green electric sparks starting to dance around his body.
“There’s no need to be angry. You will receive no punishment for your findings,” Akio stated calmly.
“Why did you tell all of that? What was the point? Other than to mock me?” Saionji growled, his eyes becoming slitted again. Once again, no one noticed. Not even Saionji himself.
“Besides that, I saw no harm in it. There’s nothing you can do to escape. Not now,” Akio said, smirking.
Saionji was trembling with rage now. The others backed away from him to avoid the erratic electric surges coming from his body. “You... BASTARD!!!” the Green Rose roared as a beam of green electricity sped toward Akio.
The Chairman merely chuckled as the beam bounced off a barrier that appeared in front of him a split second before he was hit. “Damn you…” Saionji cursed as he watched his attack fizzle out. Unwilling to give up, the Green Rose began hurling multiple bolts of lightning towards Akio. These attacks suffered the same fate as the first.
“Damn…” Saionji murmured under his breath, his eyes returning to normal.
“Well, I believe that’s enough chit-chat for the evening. Farewell, my Duelists, and good luck, Touga. I truly hope you will win,” Akio said calmly, before he and the coffins disappeared. The Seitokai members were left standing in the darkness.
When light returned to the room, the five Roses found themselves back at the summit.
All were silent.
All were frightened.
All were confused.
None… knew what to do.
Saionji did know one thing, however. He’d realized what that creature in his nightmare had been. It was…