Withered Roses Don't Always Die
“Saionji, are you sure you’re okay?” Utena asked with worry as she sat next to the Green Rose.
“Hn,” was all she got in reply as Saionji tore off a piece of his student council jacket, using it as a makeshift bandage for his bleeding chest.
“Never mind me, Tenjou. Just go and open the gate,” Saionji said to her, wincing a bit as he bound his wound.
“Just get going, you stupid girl!” the Green Rose hissed, glaring.
“Right…” Utena said with a nod, before carefully making her way back to the Rose Gate.
Saionji stood as well, gazing skyward at the battle between Touga and Akio. Currently, the Chairman had the upper hand, and it wasn’t a minute longer before he sent Touga hurtling towards the platform. The flaming Pegasus crashed into the stone floor, sending clouds of dust into the air around him.
The horse gave a weakened whinny as it tried to get back up, only to soon find itself pinned by Akio’s mighty paw. Akio stared down at Touga almost regretfully. Touga only glared.
“You know it didn’t have to be this way…” the winged wolf said. Touga looked away, giving no reply.
Akio growled. “So be it…” he said, opening his mouth and preparing to bite into Touga’s throat.
“HEY!!” shouted Saionji, his voice causing Akio to halt before sinking his fangs into Touga.
“What…?” the wolf whispered, eyes wide as he turned around.
Touga lay on the ground beneath the wolf, just as shocked at what he saw. “Kyo-chan?”
Standing at the other end of the platform was the Green Rose, very much alive. Purple, lizard-like eyes glared hatefully at Akio, even though Saionji was currently in his human form. Though he was breathing rather heavily and stained with blood, Saionji did not falter in his stance. In his right hand, Saionji gripped his katana, which he held high, its tip pointed at the Chairman.
“How… How are you still alive?” Akio growled, frowning.
“Simple… It’s because I’m not dead yet,” was Saionji’s snide reply, even having the gall to give the Chairman a challenging smirk.
“You…” Akio snarled, his fur standing on end. “I’LL KILL YOU!!!” he roared before charging, barreling toward the injured Duelist.
Saionji didn’t move as Akio pounced, a curtain of gray dust and debris flying into the air. Touga was silent as he, and Utena waited to see the results of the attack. As the dust cleared, they could see Akio’s twitching form frozen above a kneeling Saionji. Upon his pounce, Saionji had dropped low enough to embed his sword into the wolf’s throat, while he remained untouched.
“Hak…Ahk…Urhk…” Akio choked, his blood streaming down the blade of the katana. “Y-You…!” he managed to say.
Saionji smirked again, his face betraying how worn out he really felt. With a hard slice to the left, he freed his sword, cutting the wolf’s throat in the process.
Staggering backwards, Akio shook with pain and glared at the Green Rose. Not waiting for his neck to heal, he charged again. This time, he didn’t attack the Japanese teen physically. Instead, he launched several sharp blades of black ice from his wings.
Saionji’s body looked like a green lightning bolt as he dodged the ice, flitting and speeding around the room as Akio continued his assault.
Down below the platform, Juri, Nanami, and Miki observed what little they could see from their current position.
“After his other attack, I really didn’t think Saionji would survive…” Miki commented softly.
“I know we’re not exactly “normal” people, but to have that much endurance isn’t natural,” said Nanami from her perch on Miki’s back.
“Hm,” Juri murmured with a knowing chuckle. “That’s not endurance. If anything, it’s stubbornness that is fueling Saionji now…” the Orange Rose stated fondly. Nanami and Miki looked at each other.
Above them, Akio growled angrily as he tried again and again to slice Saionji to pieces with his ice attack, but to no avail. He’d been hoping to tire the Green Rose out, but it didn’t seem to be working. Saionji’s lightning fast movements had yet to slow down.
It was then that Saionji simply disappeared. Wide eyed, Akio spun around to try and spot where he was hiding. However, he saw no sign of him.
“Lose something, Fido?” came Saionji’s voice from high up. Akio looked up to see Saionji plummeting toward him from one of the higher ledges. His sword poised, Akio had no time to react before he felt the stinging pain of Saionji’s blade plunge into the top of his head.
Blood gushed from the wound in his head as Saionji rammed the sword in deeper, before pulling it out and jumping to a safe distance away from the yowling animal. After several seconds of this, Akio collapsed onto his side, body twitching.
Unable to support himself any longer, the Green Rose sank to his knees, panting shakily. Saionji knew Akio wasn’t finished, but he hoped that the wound to his head would at least buy him a couple seconds to rest.
Thankfully, it did.
It felt like Heaven to Saionji’s aching body. Light-headed and hurting, the odd fact that he had not been attacked yet, even in his still state, didn’t puzzle him. The Green Rose couldn’t will himself to move. Being still felt so good.
His head hung, Saionji failed to notice that Akio was no longer in the place where he’d fallen to the ground.
That frantic shout from Utena successfully brought Saionji back to reality, but only in time for him to feel the pain of being pounced on by the large winged wolf. Gasping, the Green Rose struggled to free himself from Akio’s paw, which had him pinned to the floor.
Managing to lift his right arm, Saionji stabbed the giant paw with his sword. Yowling, Akio swiped his paw to the left, sending Saionji rolling across the floor. The swipe left four shallow claw marks in Saionji’s side. Thankfully, they looked worse than they really were.
Moving swiftly, Akio didn’t give Saionji time to get back to his feet before catching the slim body in his jaws. Panic flooded the Green Rose’s features as he was trapped by the wolf’s massive mouth. The boy was once more struggling to get free.
His mouth around the Kendo captain’s torso, Akio wasted no time in biting down on him. Saionji screamed in agony, all struggling ceased. He wasn’t sure if he’d been bitten in half, and he was afraid to look and see.
Blood leaked from Akio’s mouth in large quantities. Dazed by pain, Saionji fell limp, dropping his katana. He soon followed the sword to the floor as Akio dropped him. The Green Rose coughed and made a weak attempt to push himself up, but failed.
Akio tilted his head. “I’m impressed. Just what will it take to kill you, fool?” he said, chuckling.
Saionji couldn’t make his throat work. He hated this fact because he had the perfect comeback. Oh, well. Honestly, however, Saionji wasn’t sure why he was still alive. Panting and trembling, he tried to get up again. The Green Rose wasn’t ready for his duel with Akio to be over yet.
Over at the Rose Gate, the pink-haired girl was still struggling. Utena could hardly move the door at all now, feeling much weaker than before.
The deep voice from behind her made Utena freeze. Holding back a whimper, Utena slowly turned to look the Chairman in the face. Her back now against the gate, Utena stared up at the large animal in front of her. Akio’s huffing breaths and Utena’s trembling ones were the only thing that could be heard between the two of them. Utena yelped and grunted as she was pinned to the gate by Akio’s strong paw.
“Farewell, Miss Tenjou. You were…truly something… I swear that I will never forget you…” Akio said to the trapped girl, before preparing to bite into her.
It was then that Akio noticed Utena’s eyes focused on something behind him. Turning his head, all Akio had a chance to see were teeth and a mouth larger than his own. It was Saionji, once more donning his dragon form.
His mouth clamped onto Akio’s head, Saionji snaked his long body around Akio’s thrashing form. Coiled around him like a python, he squeezed. Akio roared and struggled to get free. Giving a mighty flap of his wings, the Chairman soared off into the air, Saionji in tow.
Akio began to beat his body up against the walls of the tower, trying to make Saionji let go. He flew into one wall after another, slamming the dragon into the hard stone. However, Saionji’s grip did not weaken.
“God…Saionji…” Utena murmured as she watched the sight above. Frowning, she turned back to the gate and began to try once again to open it. Her hands red and bruised, she ignored her pain. If Saionji could go on, she could too. Thinking that, Utena felt a little of her strength returning.
Straining, the girl grunted softly as she fought to open the door. “Come on…! Open! Uhn! Open!” she whispered desperately. Her eyes widened in delight when she felt the coffin slide several inches to the right. She kept going, pushing with all her might.
Slowly but surely, the coffin continued to move.
Somewhere in Darkness
Emerald green eyes opened slowly as an unknown light shown through the blackness all around. Curled up inside the never-ending ebony mass was the cold, naked form of Anthy. She slowly lifted her head and gazed Heavenward as the small sliver of light grew a little brighter by the moment.
“Who’s there…?” Anthy asked softly as the light shined upon her.
“I came to save you,” came the voice of a little girl, sounding only about six or seven years old.
“But…who are you?” asked Anthy.
“I came a long way to be with you, so please come out and meet me. Don’t be afraid of the world…” said the little girl. Slowly the light grew brighter, pushing back the darkness.
“Anthy! Anthy! Anthy…!” shouted the voice of a young woman. From where Anthy lay, Utena’s desperate face came into view above her. The pink-haired girl had managed to open the coffin enough for her to gaze inside.
Anthy, the real Anthy, stared at the other girl. “Is it you?” she asked.
“Anthy…!” Utena gasped, barely holding back her tears, “At last…we meet…” she whispered, smiling softly.
Anthy continued to stare, before her eyes widened with recognition.
“Miss Utena!” she cried.
As those words left her lips, a loud noise sounded from outside the coffin. The sound was equal to that of an explosion. The tower suddenly began to collapse. The walls split and the floors cracked, the entire structure shook.
Observing this new development, dread began to fuel the Chairman’s actions as he fought to escape from the coils of the dragon’s body. Saionji hung on like a famished crocodile as he was beaten and slammed into the tower’s walls, leaving large bloody smears each time.
Utena to sensed that she was running short of time. The girl was now leaning into the coffin, her left arm outstretched towards Anthy.
“Anthy, quick, g-give me your hand!” Utena cried, straining to reach the trapped girl.
“No! Get out of here!” Anthy yelled to her savior, fearing for her life.
“Anthy! Your hand! Please! Anthy!” Utena shouted, continuing to reach.
“No, just leave me…!” Anthy cried to her, tears welling in her eyes.
“Anthy! Please! Hurry, your hand!” Utena screamed, feeling the ground shaking beneath her feet outside the coffin.
“Don’t do this…” Anthy whispered tearfully, still hesitant.
“Hurry! Give me your hand!” Utena pressured, leaning further into the coffin.
Out in the tower, Akio was finally able to shake Saionji off of him. Both beasts were back on the ground now. Akio panted and huffed. Saionji was glaring at him from the other side of the platform, the dragon fighting to stay on its feet. Blood stained emerald scales, wings full of holes, and deep wounds to the chest, side, and mid-section. The fact that the Green Rose was still standing at all was puzzling.
In his weakened state, the dragon’s legs trembled. Soon, Saionji lowered the rear of his body to the floor, unable to stay up anymore. However, he refused to lay down. The dragon had promised himself that he would not lie down until he was dead, or until he had won.
“Anthy, your hand! Please, hurry!”
Utena’s shouts reached everyone’s ears. Akio froze, eyes wide. She couldn’t have…?
“NO!!!” he roared, before charging towards the Rose Gate. Growling, Saionji forced himself to rise again and block Akio’s path. He and Akio would have collided if their fight hadn’t been interrupted.
The Chairman was suddenly attacked from the side by Juri. The Gryphon screeched as she sunk her talons into the winged wolf. The two then wrestled on the ground.
“What?” Saionji murmured, frowning at the scene. He was now a tad pissed that Juri had bothered them. Saionji had asked for a one-on-one battle with Akio and it hadn’t been over.
‘How dare she!’ he thought.
“Saionji!” called Nanami’s voice then. Saionji looked to his left to find her and Miki making their way onto the platform. Miki had used his powers to raise the water level. Nanami rode on his back, and he’d floated them up.
Nanami hopped off Miki’s back and darted towards to the now annoyed dragon. The yellow fox was greeted with a growl as she reached the larger animal.
“Who told Juri to stick her beak into this?! I asked for no help!” the Green Rose growled, looking down at the kitsune.
“Huph! You already know why! Just look at yourself!” Nanami barked, pawing at the green dragon. “Any longer on your own and you’d be dead!”
“She’s right, you know…” said Miki’s voice then, the Plesiosaur nodding as it lay in the middle of the platform. Saionji only growled and gave a frustrated huff, looking towards the Rose Gate.
Utena continued begging, pleading for Anthy to take her hand. She couldn’t understand the girl’s reluctance. Inside the coffin, Anthy sat trembling, biting her right index finger nervously. Finally, she looked up at Utena again. The girl was so worn. She looked to be in pain. Anthy gazed at her outstretched hand. It was so scratched and bruised.
What had she gone through to get to her…?
Anthy could only guess. Finally, shakily, Anthy slowly reached up. She leaned towards the light, tears rolling down her brown cheeks as her hand approached Utena’s. Outside, the Student Council continued to fight to keep Akio from the gate. The tower continued to split and crumble around them.
Akio was able to get away from the attacks and charged towards the Rose Gate once again, growling viciously. He would kill her! Her would tear her to pieces!
Their fingers mere inches part, Utena smiled softly. “Someday…” she whispered as their hands touched at last.
“Someday…together…” Utena murmured.
“NO!!!” Akio roared as he lunged for Utena.
“Together…” Anthy whispered in return as their fingers clasped.
“We’ll shine…” the two girls said in unison.
At that moment, the coffin, and everything else around it, overflowed with light.