Juri Arisugawa & Avari Rose
The sound of footsteps echoed through the dimly lit hallways of the Deputy Chairman’s office. The shadows swirled and peered, Juri could feel the weight of hundreds of gazes on her. The sound of rustling fabric stopped her approach, cold dread blossoming within her. Each story, each warning came back to haunt her as her mind reviewed what could cause the rustling of fabric within these chambers. Her resolve, shaken, Juri stood caught between two opposites. Yet as so often happened the colder, weary side of her dominated her and she walked forward. To her surprise, a shadowed figure rose from the ambiguity, a petite girl adorned in her own long violet waves.
“Himemiya,” Juri mouthed, though she did not voice her discovery. It was not her business at the moment. Her only concern was finding out why he had come back…what business he had with her, and, more importantly, Shiori. She had been hurt far too many times by those close to her, and to see the tables being turned sparked a sort of contradictory reaction—sweet revenge played across her mind, yet deep down, behind locked doors and gold chains, a certain someone she used to be called out for forgiveness, for compassion, for pity. For understanding. Those weak things that clung to her, like cobwebs. Remnants. Dust.
The other girl noticed the strawberry-blonde intruder and gave the slightest hint of reaction. Gathering her clothes from the floor, she began to dress, hurriedly at that, exiting with a mite of a bow and boarding the elevator, miraculously unruffled. Juri stood her ground.
“Mr. Chairman,” she spoke, more of a statement than a request. Her eyes were cold as she watched him rise, the eyes of heaven that still cried tears that turned to ice and hail upon reaching the world.
“Ms. Arisugawa, I am honored that you would pay me a visit. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Don’t. I’m not one of the fools you bring up here, I would hate for you to waste your sweet words on me.” The coldness in her voice, the bitter coldness did not lift. It merely was, as so many things were, frozen.
“Oh?” He inclined his head slightly, the barest smirk touching his lips.
“I came here to ask you a question.” Her body remained sculpted in rigid, unyielding posture, the barrier of her crossed arms and defiance in her level gaze. The cold in her pressing at Akio, forcing him to acknowledge her frozen state, the living sculpture of Juri Arisugawa, to respect it, fear it, respond to its existence. Nothing. No reflection of her cold, no answer, oblivious, oblivion, resolved and faltered. Staring at Akio, Juri held on to the opposite, to the devil in place of the angel that had fallen so long ago.
“Please, have a seat Ms. Arisugawa.” Akio made a gesture at the loveseat before his chair. Despite his lack of involvement in the general student body, he knew things. Knew that this young woman wasn’t the statue she made herself out to be. She was a painting coated in marble. Something lovely and complex lay beneath this smooth exterior. She sat, perfect posture, perfect rigidity, perfect frigidity. Looking out the window, the slightest of sad smiles curving at her lips, she refused to meet his eyes. She wouldn’t allow herself to be drawn in by those devilish green orbs, fall into his trap and let herself be tricked into acting on a whim.
“Please, trust me.” His smile was, aesthetically, perfect. Each movement of his jaw, the sparkle in his eyes manufactured and placed there to be disarming and warning, a mass of contradictions speaking to itself through a kindred.
“Of course Mr. Chairman. I would hate to be rude.” She strode to the love seat, willing her posture, her body to carry her, not to betray her. And yet, there was a voice in her mind that wanted to turn back…turn back to Akio and… No! Her mind treaded upon the path that would lead to its destruction and part of it, part of her welcomed it, embraced the release that it promised, but in the end knew the hollow truth of promises too well to give in.
“I am so glad, and you may call me Akio.”
“My, I’m sure you say that to all the girls.” She put the unsaid words in her eyes, the addition to what she spoke as she gazed at the devil before her. Her smile as soft and hidden as his. I can play as well as he, so much a demon but then, aren’t I one too?
“Oh dear, it seems my little secret has become public.” Akio smiled at his most dazzling. Each muscle was taught and his eyes glowed unearthly in their beauty. He took in the proud figure of his companion. Fencing had sculpted her body into one firm and toned, each muscle strengthened through training. Her face was sharp, all high cheekbones and arched eyebrows. Yet her eyes betrayed the rest of her; they were soft and warm, a window into something buried within.
And that was his target.
She saw the shift in him, a subtle difference that most would not have noticed. Most had not become players in game to disprove what it stood for, the only reason I’m here. Yet she saw it, the shift from smiling devil to predator. Something deadly and feline awoke within his eyes and seemed to watch her from beneath the placid calm of his gaze. Every nerve in her body screamed, every instinct in her soul shrieked, every part of her told her only one thing, go. Go, you are this strong, go you are not the predator, go he will win, go losing will mean more then losing your wings. Go. Her shoulders squared and she gazed back at him, summoning every inch of what she was, go. Not until I win this. Silence reclaimed her mind and with it the sense of loss and a metallic taste, fear. The used-to-be inside her shed silent tears, locked behind yet another door.
“What is it you wish of me?” He hissed. His hospitable air was no longer needed, all that was needed were answers. He played fair, even outlandishly nice. He would give you anything you wanted and more, he’d show you reason to do his bidding, and it would be your choice. That was how Akio Ohtori operated. His system was flawless.
The shell of a girl glared back at the panderer of desires. “All I wish is for answers, Ohtori. Answers and I shall leave. Answers and I shall never return.”
“Selfish girl,” he purred, approaching her. He entwined his fingers in strawberry-blonde locks and Juri remembered how much she hated being touched. But she did not flinch, she did not tense. She wanted to know, did not want to be the fool. Why was Ruka here? What compelled him to leave the hospital, if only to meddle with the hearts of the weak?
Isn’t it obvious? The used-to-be whispered. You know everything but people now. She ignored the melodious sound of nostalgia oft remembered, the sound of her longing. If she couldn’t hear it, it wouldn’t hurt her.
Tied by your own chains, it tsked, disappearing into a dark corner. How will you free yourself?
The hand abruptly left her hair and cupped her chin roughly, lifting her face up to look at him.
“You seem preoccupied Juri, is something wrong?” He leaned nearer to her, his lips brushing her ear, taunting her, waiting for her to lash out, waiting for her reaction. Juri remained cold and impassive. She could feel his smile, feel the taint of darkness and feel something within her answer it while its opposite fought and shrunk away screaming.
“Akio, about Ru-” Her words were cut off my Akio’s finger pressed against her lips. He was suddenly very close to her, his face too near hers, his breath caressing the contours of her cheek.
“Ruka isn’t the reason you came Juri. Or have I misjudged you? Would you really come here to ask me about a guy?” He was so very close, practically breathing the words into her, filling her lungs, her blood with the words. Two blades within her mind crashed and broke as she was cut asunder and unable to answer. What is the right answer? No answer in her mind as she lay, gazing at Akio through a clouded haze.
You don’t belong here, used-to-be chided. You should be asleep right now. She begged the voice to be silent, begged for her conscience to quiet itself a spell. She wasn’t sure why she was here at this ungodly hour, in this dark and evil room, consulting with the devil. Wasn’t sure why she felt the ice around her being chipped away—chipped away, not melting.
“Oh? It seems you have no answer,” his voice hummed into her ear. “What do we do with you now?” A pause, and he nipped at her ear. She stifled a gasp. No, we couldn’t have that.
“All dressed up and no place to go,” Akio continued. “Such a pity.”
A frantic mood washed over her. What should she do? What should she do?
“Don’t patronize me, Ohtori,” she hissed bitterly, eyes widening ever so slightly. He did not cease his pursuits, rather he wrapped his arms around her waist, fingers feather-light as they traced patterns along her sides. Long, dewy fingers glided upwards to rest under her breasts; it took all of her strength to keep her breathing steady.
“See? Not so bad, is it?” he cooed, guiding her off of the loveseat and over to the more spacious couch. The used-to-be had closed her eyes to it by now, choosing paperdolls over the current events. Snip, snip, dolly is cut out now, free from that empty white that traps her. Snip, snip, dolly has a new outfit. Snip, snip. Such a pretty dolly.
“S-stop…” Juri pleaded fruitlessly. She didn’t want to admit her loss, not just yet. “Please…” She arranged the words, hoping to unlock some sort of magic phrase. “Stop, stop,” “Please stop,” “Stop please,” yet he continued to caress her, continued to play with his new toy.
“Damn you Akio, I said STOP!” She screamed arching her back, she waited for the sound to let her know it had cracked, and it did not come. She fell back to the couch, her body drained, too tired to fight.
“Damn you Akio stop, stop, stop, stop…” She turned her head to the side, her voice fading back into the darkness even as each word still tumbled from her lips. Akio laid a hand over her heart leaning in close, his lips brushing hers.
“So strong,” he pressed down slightly on the firm flesh beneath his hand “fighting so hard,” he pressed further “But you were weak in the end. You came to me. The strong let the weak come to them…” He kissed her on the lips, hard and forceful. She had lost.
She had promised herself long ago that she wouldn’t cry. Crying showed that she cared, that it affected her. Being hurt by those she held close had no effect on her.
Who are you fooling? Used-to-be had laughed, flipping through a magazine. You have no reason to push away everything. It’s just an immature act of rebellion. Juri wouldn’t let herself believe that. No connections, no ties severed. Like two magnets with identical poles. They push away naturally.
Used-to-be sighed. Whatever you say. I have a bucket for your tears right here, see? I’ll keep it here whenever you need it. Just close your eyes and let ‘em come. She resumed her interest in the magazine. Juri had sighed, a shudder, and closed her locket. Each click of the clasp could be her tears.
But now, she felt them burning hot against her eyes, threatening to seep through her lashes and stain her pretty, flawless face. Her wall of ice was still being chipped away, something terrible swinging a pick wildly, shards scattering soundlessly through the air. Blood mixed with ice.
Don’t you know baby, I’ll never stop.
Akio-sama… Juri felt the tears as they drowned her, felt herself meld with them, lose herself to them. Let herself stop fighting and float away, just stop being, and float away.
Used-to-be held out a hand and felt a teardrop. She hoisted the bucket over her head and danced in the rain of tears, humming a random tune as her flame of strawberry trailed out behind her.
Akio had wordlessly removed her clothes, and she lay on the couch, vulnerable and weak, soon to be broken. The tears flowed unabashedly, yet silent were they; she wouldn’t satisfy the man’s sick longing with a whimper. Then he truly would win, and she would lose both to herself and he. He placed a thumb on her chin and turned her face towards him. He ran the thumb over her swollen lips.
“Aww…don’t cry. Aren’t you supposed to be strong?” He trailed a series of kisses down her flat stomach, stopping briefly above his target.
“I never was strong…” she spoke, mostly to herself. He unzipped his pants and took her. She did not cry out, just bit her lip, just closed her eyes.
“That’s right,” he said once he had finished, dressed in full, unruffled as his sister had been. “In the end, you were just a girl.”