Withered Roses Don't Always Die
Five magnificent creatures stood before Akio. The chairman frowned deeply. “So…you’ve all made your choices, have you?” the dark-skinned man asked.
The Pegasus strode forward several feet. “We have,” Touga’s voice answered.
“You’ve proved to be exceptionally useful to me throughout all this, Touga. I don’t wish to kill you, any of you. Won’t you reconsider?” Akio said, staring at his former underlings.
“No,” was Touga’s firm reply. None of the others stated otherwise.
Akio closed his eyes. “Very well. Then let’s see if I can’t make you change your minds…” he said, his natural calm restored. Akio reopened his eyes, which were now glowing purple light. His body began to change.
The Pegasus nickered. “Miki, protect Utena,” Touga said, knowing that there was a battle ahead of them. He didn’t want Akio to use Utena’s presence against them.
“Yes,” the Plesiosaur said, going over to the staircase where the pink-haired girl sat, totally stunned. Since his body had flippers instead of legs, Miki could use the low level of water in the room to get about.
“Miki…” Utena whispered as the large blue lizard came to guard her.
“Are you alright, Miss Tenjou?” Miki asked with concern, bending his long neck down so that his head was directly in front of Utena.
Utena blinked in wonderment a few times, before smiling softly. “Yes, I think I’ll be okay…Thanks,” she said.
Touga and the others prepared themselves for a fight. Akio was now a beast like them. His form was the same one Saionji had seen in his nightmare. The large winged wolf growled at them, obviously not afraid of the fact that he was out-numbered.
Akio struck the first blow. He gave a howl and sending giant spikes of black ice barreling toward Touga and the rest. The flaming Pegasus countered by rearing back on his hind legs and flapping its wings, which sent streams of fire shooting forth to dissolve the ice. The room was then filled with steam.
Akio sniffed the air, and then made a swift dodge to his left, barely escaping a fireball cutting through the thick steam. He gasped as he was forced to dodge again to avoid being captured by Nanami’s tails. What he didn’t realize as that they were driving him in one particular direction. Akio used his wings to jump out of a swipe from Juri’s talons, only to receive a painful blow to the face upon his landing.
The chairman cursed when he let a small yelp escape him as he fell backwards. He shook his head to clear it and got back to his feet. He took a quick sniff of the air and then jumping backwards as Saionji attempted to snap his head in his jaws. It had been Saionji who had hit Akio a moment before, when the Green Rose discovered that his tail made a pretty good club.
Saionji’s form was larger than Akio’s and his body was extremely light. This allowed him very swift movements. Saionji could fly faster than he could run, but his legs were long enough to allow him agility on the ground. The only downside was that Akio was heavier, so Saionji had to make sure that he did not end up being pinned.
Finally, Akio was tired of running and he and the dragon locked horns, both trying to push the other in one direction. Saionji’s claws left scratch marks in the floor as he strained, even using his wings, to push back against the physically stronger animal.
Saionji was forced to break away from their clash when Akio’s paw slashed at his long neck, leaving four claw marks. Akio used this time to topple the dragon and pin the squirming lizard with a paw on his throat.
Akio gave a howl as he was rammed in the side by Touga. The Pegasus had impaled the wolf with his horn. This successfully removed him and his hold on Saionji. The wolf scrambled away from Touga. Their movements caused the clouds of steam to slowly dissipate.
The wound in Akio’s side healed after several seconds, as did the scratches on Saionji’s neck. He had not released his hold on them yet. A higher pitched howl came from a platform as Nanami launched her tails like spears at Akio, but ended up piercing the ground as he dove aside.
Juri screeched and tackled Akio, latching onto his back with her talons and hurling him into a wall. He regrouped quickly and growled. Fighting them was harder than Akio thought it would be. He did not think that they would take so quickly to their new bodies.
“What are they doing, Miki?” Utena asked from where she sat, she and Miki watching the fight.
“We figured everything has a breaking point, Miss Tenjou,” the Plesiosaur answered, without moving his mouth.
“You mean they… They’re?” Utena asked, wondering if she had the right idea. Miki nodded.
They were trying to kill Akio.
Both their attentions were brought back to the fight when they heard a startled neigh. Akio had managed to jump on Touga’s back, and the Pegasus was flailing and kicking like a rodeo horse as he tried to throw the wolf off.
The flames didn’t seem to be bothering Akio as he held on with his claws. Finally getting fed up, Touga flopped down on his back. He was satisfied with the yelp he got from the wolf as he crushed him under his weight. Touga got back to his hooves as quickly as Akio began to collect himself again.
So far, their physical attacks were not fazing Akio. Perhaps it was time to up their game.
“Nanami! Juri! Up!” Touga shouted. Being the smallest, Nanami hopped onto Juri’s back as the Gryphon soared up, going to land on the stairs above Utena. Touga did the same. Only Saionji and Akio were left on the room’s flooded floor.
Akio didn’t understand what was going on until the spines on Saionji’s back began to spark with green lightning. The wolf’s eyes widened, ‘The water…’ was all he could think before the Green Rose unleashed his attack. The electricity’s voltage was even higher combined with the water and Akio gave a pained roar as he was electrocuted. The attack lasted a couple of minutes before Saionji stopped and Akio collapsed onto his side, unmoving. After several seconds of silence, the dragon began a cautious advance on the wolf.
Before he could get to close, Akio gave a ferocious growl and leaped to his feet, snarling. They had not killed him at all. Touga gave a frustrated burr.
“Touga, it’s time. Let’s try,” Saionji said from the room’s floor, never taking his eyes off Akio.
“Right. Nanami. Juri. I’ll need you for this…” Touga said, turning to the girls.
Nanami nodded, “I’m ready, Big Brother,” she said, getting off Juri’s back.
“Just give us the signal,” Juri said, standing ready.
Touga nodded to them both and then flew down to the floor where Saionji and Akio were having a roaring contest. He landed next to Saionji.
Their bodies then began to glow. “Juri!” Touga shouted, looking to where she stood.
The Gryphon then began to screech loudly, the sound almost ear shattering. The floor where Touga, Saionji, and Akio stood began to shake. Soon, the tiles began to crack. The water then began to flow out through the cracks and drained from the room.
By the time the room was dry again, Touga and Saionji’s forms had changed once more. They were back to normal, human again. Akio growled, confused.
“What’s this?” the chairman asked, his tail lashing back and forth.
The two said nothing as they turned to face each other. Each placed his right hand on the other’s chest, white light emitting from beneath their fingers. Their free hands locked as they began to lean backwards, pulling forth the swords they’d discovered during Touga’s duel with Utena.
“What?! How is this possible?!” Akio roared as he watched, enraged.
Both Touga and Saionji were poised with their blades. They stared Akio down. “Now, Nanami!” Touga yelled to his sister, his body going up in flames and electricity engulfing Saionji.
Nanami’s eyes shined yellow light as she began to howl. A whirlwind formed around her body. The cyclone left her and went to Touga and Saionji once it was big enough. The two boys locked hands once more as the wind around them began to spin faster. They were lifted off the ground.
Their powers spread to the cyclone, creating a tornado of fire and electricity. The massive vortex began to approach Akio, who could not avoid it. Instead, he put up a barrier, which effectively held the twister back.
Juri and Miki shielded Utena while Nanami tried to hold the tornado steady, but it could go no further because of Akio’s force field.
The barrier began to crack. Sensing this from inside the spiral, Touga and Saionji began to increase their power levels. The twister became bigger, and Nanami was still able to hold it in place. The shield cracked and split more, before it finally shattered.
“AHH!!!” Akio roared as he was enveloped by the vortex, unable to fly inside it.
Miki, Utena, and Juri watched from the stairs. “Surely that was enough to do it…” Miki said. “He couldn’t have survived… right?”
“I don’t know…” Juri said, glancing at Nanami. “I think you can let it go now.”
The Kitsune released her control of the tornado. It continued to swirl for a couple more minutes, but soon dissipated. When it was gone, it revealed Touga and Saionji at one end of the room, and Akio at the other.
Touga began to push himself upright after several seconds, as did Saionji. “Did we…?” Touga asked, panting a bit. All eyes were on the unmoving form of Akio, the wolf’s fur charrd in several places and electricity still dancing across his body.
“I think we…did…” Nanami said softly, hopeful.
Then…the unbelievable happened: Akio began to move.
Growling in anger, the wolf began to get up, his body starting to heal itself. “Is that…the best…you have…?” Akio snarled, his fangs bared.
“Touga, this isn’t working,” Saionji said to the red-head.
“Plan B?” Touga asked, getting up.
“Plan B,” Saionji confirmed, standing as well. The Green Rose transformed into the dragon again and flew towards the stairs.
“Plan B! Help Touga!” he shouted to Juri, Nanami, and Miki. The three nodded. Saionji flew closer and landed next to Utena.
“Get on!” he said to her, the spines along his back laying down so that they wouldn’t stick her.
“Wh-What?” Utena asked, confused.
Saionji growled, “Shut up and get on, you stupid girl! We’ve got to get you to the Rose Gate. It’s the only way!”
“Wh-What?” Utena asked, confused by Saionji’s words.
“Shut up and get on my back, you stupid girl! The only way to stop him is if you open the Rose Gate!” the Oriental Dragon growled, irritated that Utena wasn’t moving as fast as he wanted her to.
“Go, Miss Tenjou,” Miki chimed in, “We’ll hold him back for you,” he said, giving Utena a nudge of encouragement.
Utena nodded after a couple seconds, a frown of determination on her face. Getting up carefully, she hobbled over to the dragon and climbed onto his back. Saionji made sure to lower himself so it would be easier for her, since she was injured.
“Hold on,” the Green Rose instructed, standing up again and opening his wings.
“O-Okay…” she said, holding on as best she could. “J-Just don’t fly too fast, okaaa-AAAHHH!!” Utena went on to say, but screamed as Saionji took off before she could finish her sentence.
Saionji flew swiftly through the air. Unlike Touga, he didn’t need to get a running start before being able to lift off into the air. Utena clung to the dragon’s back as his body rippled along the wind as he flew upward, heading for the Rose Gate.
However, Akio had been alerted to them with Utena’s scream. He understood their tactic now. Saionji would fly Utena to the Rose Gate while Touga and the others distracted him, making him unable to stop them. There was no way in Hell he planned to make it that easy for them.
Looking up at Anthy, Akio began to howl. His fur and eyes shined purple light as his cry got louder. After a few seconds, Anthy’s eyes began to glow too. The swords stabbing her body then stopped. The blades turned on Utena and Saionji and began to speed toward them.
Saionji realized what was happening when a sword grazed his underbelly. “Hold on tighter!” he shouted to Utena as he began to dodge the blades of hate. He spun and spiraled through the air, but the swords gave chase.
Utena held on as tightly as she could, keeping her eyes closed as the swords sped after them. She was becoming dizzy and holding onto Saionji was getting tiring. Seeming to sense this, Saionji called for Touga. He had an idea.
Touga was there in no time, thanks to Juri and Nanami keeping Akio off his tail. However, Touga could not fly as fast as Saionji could so he stayed as close as he could manage.
“Let go!” Saionji yelled to Utena.
“What?! Are you crazy?!” the pink-haired girl cried out in return.
“Touga’s going to catch you! Let go!” the dragon said, making sure to stay within range of the flying horse as he flew to escape the swords.
“No!!” Utena yelled, afraid.
“Tenjou! Trust me! Let! Go!” Saionji roared. “Trust me!”
Utena was silent, but soon answered. “O-Okay!”
“Now!” Saionji yelled as he flew above Touga and turned upside down. Utena did as she was told and let go, successfully being dropped onto Touga’s back.
“Ugh! Keep going, Touga!” Saionji called to the Pegasus, another of the swords grazing him once again.
Touga nodded and flew off higher into the air, Utena holding onto him. Now that she was on his back, the swords began to follow them. Still executing his plan, Saionji activated his electric powers and flew between Touga and the swords every now and then to draw them away. The swords would automatically follow him, seeing him as a moving lightning rod. The dragon was actually shocked when it worked.
Doing this over and over, Touga and Utena were able to reach the platform of the Gate. Just as he was about to land, Touga was tackled by Akio. This knocked Utena from his back and the girl landed hard a few feet away from the now fighting beasts.
Utena winced in agony from the wound in her torso, but she couldn’t give in to her pain because she didn’t have time to waste. She began to crawl towards the Gate, panting heavily. Noticing her advancement toward the door, Akio swiftly had several of the flying swords pierce Touga’s wings, pinning them to the floor.
The Pegasus neighed in pain. While the swords were lodged in him, he could not heal and it was extremely painful to move. Akio took this chance to charge Utena. The girl curled up and prepared for the worst. Akio attempted to pounce on her, but was batted aside by Saionji’s tail. The dragon was standing protectively over Utena, growling and glaring death at the Chairman.
“Move,” Akio growled after he recovered.
“You’ll have to kill me first,” Saionji hissed at him. “Fight me. Just me. One on one.”
Akio snorted. “Hm… as you wish. I suppose everyone should be able to choose their way to die.”