You know what? I hate html.I wish I was doing almost anything else.Like getting laid. I could be having sex right now, but noooo.I watched Utena lose her virginity again this weekend.That scene is so hot.The fine line between obsession and madness is... what was I saying?GIRL ON GIRL ACTION!!!I want that outfit. I like red and black. What a surprise.This layout took forever to get just right. But that was because I took so many breaks.I never ate glue in kindergarten. Hard to tell, huh?Gio keeps talking about food. What a bitch.LEGS.See, I'm being productive. Now if only I could do this at work, where productive is just a dream...GODDAMMIT STOP TALKING ABOUT FOODYou know, those are the only important things in life. Food, sex, and sleep.Everything else is just window dressing.I have to clean my house still. That sucks.I hate cleaning. I should buy maids.I want to go to a museum, but I don't want to get out of my jammies.I suck at being energetic.Funny, you don't look Druish.


From the Ashes


It seemed to Shiori that the entire campus had changed over night. Even the colors were different. They weren't as bright, didn't shine like they once had. On the other hand, everything seemed more in focus, as if a shimmering veil had been lifted.

Shiori was trying hard to be happy, really she was. She had joined the fencing team and practiced diligently every day. She wasn't nearly as good as Juri, though. No one was as good as Juri.

She had been late to practice today. It hadn't been her fault! That horrid teacher with the strange glasses and the riding crop had stopped her to lecture her about her inattention during class.

Juri hadn't scolded her when she came in late. She hadn't even glanced at her. It infuriated Shiori.

Look at me, she thought furiously. I know you love me; why pretend that you don't?

Shiori wondered how she ever could have missed it. It was as if the same veil that had been lifted off the campus had also left Shiori's eyes clear.

And what should I do now that I know? She wondered. Shall I rip your heart out and hold it my hand while you bleed? You're so lovely when you're hurt, after all.

Just a few weeks ago, the idea would have filled Shiori with joy, but now.she just felt confused.


Juri's command tore Shiori from her thoughts. Somehow, it was her turn already. "Ah, yes!" she responded nervously.

The match was over almost instantly. No one could beat Juri, least of all Shiori. Juri nodded appraisingly. "Your stance is improving, but you need to improve your lunges. Don't be so hesitant. And relax. The foil isn't going to bite you." She smiled a little when she said that, and Shiori wondered if Juri had let her defenses down recently, or if her best friend/worse enemy had always been so obvious.

She nodded. "Thank you, Juri-san." And that was all. Juri turned away and shouted "Next!" and Shiori faded into the background.

Weeks passed, and Shiori tried to be content; did her best to ignore feelings gnawing at her heart. She still practiced every day, she still lost every bout she fought with Juri, and Juri still looked at her with those longing eyes, but almost never spoke to her outside of practice.

Shiori hated it. It was that, along with the fact that she was tired of practicing yet never improving, that compelled her to ask Juri for extra help after everyone else had left the fencing hall. Juri's eyes widened just a bit.

"I'm.not sure that that would be a good idea."

But Shiori wasn't going to give up so easily. She looked at Juri imploringly. "Please, Juri-san."

That did it; all of Juri's resistance crumbled. She sighed in resignation. "All right," she said. "Meet me here tomorrow at seven exactly." She managed a glare. "Don't be late."

Even Juri's sharpness couldn't keep the smile from Shiori's face. "Thank you, Juri-san!"

Shiori's excitement had faded by the next day. Instead, she felt as if she had swallowed hot coals. She couldn't pay attention in class, and the teacher's comments had the whole class laughing at her.

She hated them. She hated them all. Everyone was mocking her, even Juri.

No. Juri never laughed at her. She shouldn't think like that. She wanted to be Juri's friend, didn't she? A real friend, not the strange and unhealthy relationship that they had shared for all these years.

Shiori arrived at the fencing hall at 6:45, only to find Juri already there. She was practicing, and, oh god, she looked beautiful. She was control and grace themselves.

Shiori didn't know how long she stood there watching before Juri turned her head and saw her. All of the confidence left her eyes.

"Put on your gear, and we'll begin."

Juri was a good teacher: patient, with a discerning eye, but Shiori was awkward, and had difficulty imitating the stances of her more experienced friend. Finally, Juri sighed and grasped Shiori's wrist in one hand, and put her other hand around Shiori's waist. Shiori's breath hitched, and Juri tensed, just realizing what she had done.

They simply stood there for a moment. Shiori could hear Juri's shallow breathing.

It would be so easy to break Juri right now, to pull away with a friendly smile and a "playful" comment about perversion. Shiori's considered it.and found that she didn't want to.

Finally, Juri cleared her throat. "You should hold the foil like this, and hold your body like that. Do you understand?"

Shiori nodded and looked Juri in the eye. "Yes, I think I do."

They didn't practice for very long after that.

When Shiori got back to her room, she took off all of her clothes and stood naked in front of the full-length mirror. What she saw disgusted her: the small, unimpressive breasts, the stretch marks on her thighs left over from growth spurts; she was horrid looking.

What does she see in me?

Her roommate, Rika, who Shiori thought was asleep, suddenly turned her head. "Gawd, Shiori, put some clothes on."

Shiori glared at her. "I don't have anything that you haven't seen."

"That doesn't mean I want to look at naked girls. Do you think I'm a dyke or something?"

Shiori flinched. "Fine, fine," she muttered while putting on her nightgown. She crawled into bed, but found herself unable to sleep. Rika's comment kept echoing in her head: "Do you think I'm a dyke or something?" It was a long time before she was able to nod off.

The next evening, she walked to the fencing hall nervously, unsure whether or not Juri would even be there.

Indeed she was, looking as regal and statuesque as always. Shiori bit her lip. It was a nervous habit that she had had for years. "Hello, Juri-san."

Juri looked at her, eyes cold. Clearly, she was going to pretend that yesterday had never happened. Shiori could deal with that.

The practice was uneventful aside from Juri's slight smile and comments on Shiori's improvement. Shiori wondered if this would be their new pattern, a new rut to fall into. Would they spend the rest of their days like this, coming so close, but never truly meeting?

As they were putting the equipment away, Shiori was struck with an idea. Knowing that she would panic if she thought about it too much, she blurted out, "Juri-san, would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow?"

Juri's surprise was easy to miss, but definitely there. "I don't think that that would be a very good idea, Shiori."

But now that she had actually asked, Shiori wasn't willing to take no for an answer. She remembered what had worked well before, and looked at Juri entreatingly. "Please, Juri-san? As a favor to me?"

Juri froze for a split second. Then she shook her head, but said, "What time would you like me there?"

Shiori smiled awkwardly. "Around eight?"

Juri nodded. "All right."

They parted, and Shiori raced back to her dorm, both excited and terrified. She slammed the door when she came in, and Rika sat up in bed. "Some people are trying to sleep, you know?" she said, annoyed.

"Rika," Shiori said, her voice intense, "why don't you spend tomorrow night at Kenji's?"

Rika frowned. "And why should I break school rules for you?" She smirked. "Do you have company?"

"No!" Shiori exclaimed. Then she blushed. "Well, yes, but not like that. She's an old friend, and I'd like the opportunity to talk with her privately."

Rika shrugged. "All right, whatever. Turn out the lights, will you? I'm trying to sleep."

Shiori was glad that Rika could sleep, because she certainly couldn't. Her mind was racing, trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. Should she order take-out, or should they go out to a restaurant? It should probably be a restaurant. Take-out was too cheap and simple. Juri deserved better than that. But could she get a table at a nice restaurant without a reservation? She would have to try.

Shiori was so worried that she didn't think she'd ever get to sleep, but she must have, because the next thing she knew, there was sunlight streaming through the windows and Rika was nowhere to be seen.

Shiori was immensely relieved that it was Sunday, because there was no way she could have concentrated on school today.

She pulled out the phonebook and began to search through the restaurant section. She found several names that she recognized as being both very good and very well known and wrote the numbers down. However, she was dismayed to find that every restaurant she called told her in no uncertain terms that she would have had to make a reservation weeks, or even months, in advance. One person even laughed at her! Shiori put down the phone, feeling sick. She was always messing up, always embarrassing herself. Juri would laugh at her.

Except, Shiori knew that Juri wouldn't laugh. Juri had never laughed at her. Shiori sighed. If she had to take Juri out for cheap food, then she would. Curry might work.

Putting the restaurant problem out of her mind for the moment, Shiori opened her closet. She shouldn't wear anything too fancy-she wouldn't want to look out of place. Of course, she couldn't look sloppy, especially knowing that Juri would be looking perfect no matter what. She must have tried on fifteen different outfits (people were always telling her that she owned too many clothes, and Rika was constantly complaining about the lack of closet space), but she finally decided on a simple skirt and blouse ensemble, with a pair of nice sandals. The weather was a bit chilly for the outfit, but Shiori decided that she didn't care.

She spent the rest of the day cleaning the dorm. She would just die of embarrassment if Juri came over and found the room messy.

She finished with very little time to spare, and was just finishing putting on her makeup when she heard a knock at the door. A shot of panic went through her, and she almost decided not to open the door. She shook the feeling off, and tried to look calm and composed as she opened the door.

Juri looked perfect, just as Shiori knew she would. For a moment they simply looked at each other. Then, Juri smiled faintly. "You look very nice," she said.

And there it was again: that slightly soft look that only Shiori ever received.

Shiori looked Juri over, and her eye was drawn to a simple but lovely silver choker around her neck. "That's very pretty," Shiori said, pointing to it. "Where did you get it?"

Juri looked at the choker as if just noticing that she was wearing it. "It was a thank you present after I did some modeling."

Shiori forced a smile. "Oh, that's nice." Inside, she seethed with jealousy. She had heard people mention that Juri was a model, but to actually hear Juri say it was beyond agonizing.

Juri was beautiful; Juri was graceful. She was elegant, and composed, and everything Shiori wasn't. It just wasn't fair.


Juri's voice pulled Shiori back to reality. "Sorry, Juri-san, I was just thinking." She tried to brighten. "Well, I guess we should go." She looked at the ground. "I hope you like curry."

Juri nodded. "I love curry."

Shiori felt a wave of relief wash through her, though she did wonder if Juri really did like curry, or if she was simply trying to spare Shiori's feelings.

The restaurant Shiori had chosen was an easy walk. The two young women talked very little, and only about inconsequential things, such as school.

Shiori was very glad to see that restaurant wasn't very crowded, and she and Juri had no trouble finding a table. They sat in silence for a while, and it was only after a waiter had taken their orders and left that Shiori worked up the nerve to speak.

"Thank you for coming, Juri-san."

Juri looked a little surprised by the sudden conversation. "It was no trouble," she said simply.

Shiori decided that she should keep the conversation going. She wouldn't make much progress rebuilding her relationship with Juri if they just sat in silence the whole evening.

"Juri-san, am I getting any better at fencing?"

Juri thought for a moment before answering. "Yes. Your main problem is nerves. You need to learn to relax."

Shiori smiled awkwardly. "It's just, I watch you, and you're so good at it."

"I've been practicing for years. You've just started. Don't compare yourself to me."

But I can't help it, Shiori thought bitterly. Comparing myself to you is all that I know how to do.

The two of them fell silent when the waiter appeared with their food. Shiori pretended to concentrate fully on her hamburger curry, finding that easier than talking to Juri.

The meal passed in silence until the bill came. Juri reached for it, but Shiori stopped her. "I invited you, didn't I?" she pointed out with a smile.

"It's no trouble for me to-"

"Juri-san," Shiori said, softly but firmly. "Let me pay." Juri relented reluctantly, and Shiori held back a sigh. Why did Juri always insist on treating her as someone who couldn't take care of herself?

The walk back was awkward. Shiori wanted to kick something. This wasn't how things were supposed to go! When they reached Shiori's dorm building, Juri turned to go, but Shiori stopped her. "Would you like to come in for coffee? Or tea?"

Juri looked at her coldly. "I don't think that that would be a good idea. It's late, and we have school tomorrow."

Shiori bit her lip (she should stop doing that, she told herself). "Tomorrow, then?" Juri wouldn't meet Shiori's eyes. "Maybe." Then she turned brusquely and walked away without looking back.

Shiori walked to her dorm not sure whether to feel happy or sad. Dinner hadn't been a disaster, but neither had it been the reconciliation some secret, hopeful part of her had wished for. The whole thing, Shiori decided, had felt like an awkward first date.

Shiori didn't like that thought at all. After all, she didn't want to date Juri. She didn't even want to think about dating Juri. It was gross, and weird, and not normal. It was all well and good for someone like Juri to be not normal. She was pretty enough, interesting enough, special enough to not be normal. Shiori wasn't like that.

Shiori realized that she had reached her room and had been standing in front of the door for who knew how long. Sheepishly, she opened the door. Rika looked up from her murder mystery. "Did you have a good time on your date?" She asked slyly.

Shiori scowled. "It wasn't a date!" She snapped.

Rika shrugged. "It was just a joke. No need to bite my head off."

"Sorry," Shiori muttered.

"Don't worry about it. Are you going to bed?"


"Turn off the light then, will you?"

Shiori began to undress, folding each article of clothing before placing it in the laundry. When she was younger, she had simply tossed the clothing in the basket, but the first time she had spent the night at Juri's, she had seen her friend fold the clothes first and had resolved to do it the same way.

After putting on her nightgown, she snuggled into her covers and tried to fall asleep. She soon realized that it was futile. The evening kept replaying in her head. She examined everything that she had said, cursing how stupid she must have sounded. She considered all the comments that Juri had made, trying to unearth their hidden meaning.

Sleep overcame her just as she was beginning to worry about having tea (coffee?).

The next day Shiori put all of her willpower into concentrating on school. The end of the semester was coming up, and Juri's grades would be no less than perfect. Shiori didn't have a chance of achieving that, but she didn't want to be humiliated.

As soon as class was over, Shiori rushed back to her dorm. She raced through the rooms, trying to tidy them. She went through the teas half a dozen times, wondering if Juri would consider herself too good for them. (She knew that she was being ridiculous. Juri would like whatever Shiori served her.)

Shiori was dusting for the second time when she heard Rika come in.

"Shiori, what in the world are you doing?"

"I'm cleaning. I have a friend coming over."

"Is this the same friend as before?"


"You are so weird."

Shiori bit her lip (she should stop before she chapped her lips). "Rika, would you mind staying at Kenji's again tonight?"

Rika stared at her. "Jeez, Shiori, are you that embarrassed by me?"

"No! It's just that Juri-san-"

"Juri-san?!" Exclaimed Rika. "As in Ice Queen Arisugawa?" She giggled. "What could she possibly see in you?"

"What are you talking about?" Shiori demanded. Tears pricked at her eyes. She had asked herself the same question a thousand times, but hearing it from someone else enraged her.

"Look, Shiori, there's nothing wrong with you. But Arisugawa-san is way out of your league."

"For your information," Shiori replied, her voice glacial, "we've been best friends for years." Rika's smirk told Shiori just what her roommate thought of that claim. Shiori stood up. "There's no reason for me to deal with this." She stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

She didn't start crying until she was outside. She wandered aimlessly, not caring where she went. Despite that, she was forced to admit that maybe her subconscious had had a specific destination in mind when she found herself in front of the fountain where she had met Tsuchiya-sempai so many times. (Or was it only once? Those few days were fuzzy in Shiori's mind.) She sat on the edge of the fountain and prepared to feel very sorry for herself.


Oh no. Shiori didn't want to look up, but it was if her head was being controlled by invisible wires.

"Oh, hello, Juri-san."

Juri looked alarmed. "Shiori, what's wrong?"


"Don't be ridiculous. You're crying." Juri paused, then spoke again. "Come back to my place."

Shiori wanted to turn her head and sulk for the rest of the evening. Instead, she felt the invisible wires again as they drew her up until she was standing.

She and Juri walked side by side, not speaking. It wasn't until Shiori was sitting on Juri's couch that she finally spoke. "This is a really big room. Do you have a roommate?"


"Oh. I do."

"I know."


"Shiori." Juri began, but trailed off. "Would you like some tea?" She said eventually.

Shiori nodded, then stood up. "Thank you, Juri-san, for being so kind." She brushed her hand against Juri's, then blinked in surprise as Juri recoiled.

"Shiori, what are you doing?"

Shiori took a deep breath and stood up. She walked over to Juri, slowly, as if trying not to spook a wild animal, and caressed her friend's cheek. (Something about the gesture felt so familiar.)

"Why do you bother with the mask?" Shiori whispered. "I can see right through it."

She wasn't sure if she kissed Juri or if Juri kissed her, but they were kissing--hungrily, desperately, as years of pent up longing were released in a frantic burst.

Shiori had never been so terrified in her entire life. She was kissing Juri! She was kissing Juri, and she still couldn't stop feeling inferior: she wasn't kissing as firmly as Juri, her lips weren't as soft as Juri's, she couldn't use her tongue to send electric sparks through a person's body like Juri could.

Shiori might have continued in this manner indefinitely, but her thoughts were interrupted when Juri's hands brushed against her breasts. Shiori gasped and pushed herself against Juri. Then her eyes widened as she realized what she had done. She leapt back. Juri did the same. They stared at each other, wary and alarmed. There was too much going unsaid, too many questions not being asked.

"What do you want Shiori?" Juri's voice was rough.

Shiori was tempted to turn the question back on the other young woman, but refrained. That wouldn't solve anything. Finally she breathed deeply and looked Juri in the eyes. "I'm not leaving tonight." Without another word, she strode to the bedroom. She walked quickly, knowing that if she slowed down for even a moment, she would bolt out the door and never return.

She heard Juri's footsteps following hesitantly behind her, but she didn't dare look back, illogically worrying that it would cause Juri, her Eurydice, to disappear. It wasn't until she was sitting on Juri's bed, taking off her uniform, that she dared look at Juri.

"You could sit down too," she said with an uncomfortable smile. Juri sat down mechanically. A thought occurred to Shiori.but.surely not.

"Juri-san," she ventured cautiously, "is this the first time you've."

Juri sat rigidly for a long moment before nodding curtly.

Shiori giggled nervously. "Uh, well, it's not hard. I mean, I haven't done it very often, just once, and that was with. A boy, but I guess we can learn together, right?"

Juri looked at her, and then began to gently undo the buttons on Shiori's blouse, awkwardly at first, then more quickly. Once the shirt was unbuttoned, Juri tossed it aside and slid Shiori's skirt off. Shiori gasped at the sudden chill. She eyed Juri's uniform. "Why am I the only one naked?" She asked, trying not to sound petulant. Juri grimaced and quickly removed her uniform. Her expression was stoic and her movements mechanical, as if she was doing a particularly distasteful job. However, once she was undressed, she pulled Shiori to her with unexpected ferocity.

The sex was messy, awkward, exciting, frightening, and Shiori had never felt so free. Lying together in the afterglow, she finally felt able to say something that she had been holding in for years.

"Juri-san. I really hate you, all right?"

Juri started to pet Shiori's hair. "That's fine. I hate you too."

Shiori sighed in relief and rested her head on Juri's breasts. "Just as long as we're clear on that," she murmured contentedly.

It wasn't as if everything was fixed, or that any of this was going to be easy. However, for what seemed like the first time in her life, Shiori could breathe freely.