If I Could - Chapter Seven
Saionji really started in on her the next morning. When he saw
her, his eyes widened, and anger instantly flared in them. "What
exactly do you think you’re doing?"
"I’m waiting to practice?" Kohana asked, puzzled.
Suddenly she realized what he was angry about and frowned, gesturing
to her outfit. The loose white tank top and the red shorts were
nothing to get excited over, not by her standards. "There
was nothing else—"
"Your disrespect does not go unnoted. The traditional
outfit of the hakama and keikogi is all that my students wear in
this room." Turning away, he said, "You obviously cannot
show the required respect for tradition. You may leave."
Kohana grimaced at his back, her hands clenching tightly into fists
before she made them relax. "Saionji-sensei, I—"
"I am no longer your teacher. Your pathetic attempt to make
me into one has failed. Goodbye." He placed his shinai in
"I said leave!" he snarled, his ponytail whipping
as he turned to face her. He looked much angrier than he had a right
"Won’t you at least—"
Stalking toward her, he spoke slowly and menacingly. "Obviously
your hearing has failed you prematurely. If so, read my lips; you
are not welcome here."
That was just too much. Kohana squared her shoulders, ready to
tear him into shreds if need be. "I’m not wearing this
out of disrespect, Saionji-sensei, I’m wearing it because
I thought it would be more disrespectful to fall out of the practice
outfit every time I moved! Do you really think that any of them
would fit me? They’re made for guys!"
"You’re rich. Have one made that doesn’t have
that particular flaw." He still advanced on her, scowling
"And how would I get one this quickly? You can’t blame
me for something that’s not my fault!"
"No?" he asked, now standing mere inches away from her.
"I can say, however, that you have no talent for kendo. You’re
slow, you tire too easily, you’re clumsy, and you have no
strength at all. The way you go through your kata is painful to
watch. If you want to be a Duelist, I will not help you.
Find someone else to teach you!"
Kohana glared up into his fiery purple eyes, trying desperately
to keep herself under control. It was holding, for now, but only
a thin thread remained. "You can’t expect me to learn
everything flawlessly after the first day! Of course I’m slow
and clumsy—I’d never even held a practice sword before
yesterday! You’ll have to let me stay on—I know I’ll
improve. I spent two hours last night practicing!"
"Practicing what?" he sneered. "I very much doubt
it was your kendo. Your appetites, though the idiotic fools in this
school refuse to notice them, are quite well known to me. The only
practicing you did was likely on your back."
Kohana smirked, narrowing her eyes at him. "And after yesterday’s
lesson, I doubt you even do that much. Tell me, who did you sleep
with to get this position? Kiryuu?"
Before she could dodge it, his hand whipped up and connected with
her cheek, snapping her head around with force enough to knock her
onto the ground. "Dispense with your feeble insults and leave
my kendo room," he said coldly, standing over her and shaking
his hand as if he’d hurt it.
There was no doubt in Kohana’s mind that he’d hurt
her; her cheek throbbed, and she knew that she’d have bruises
from landing on the hard wooden floor. She glared murderously at
him and pushed herself up from the ground. "Do you think that
proves how manly you are, Saionji-sensei?" she taunted,
her fists clenching. "Do you think I respect you now?"
He stood silently and watched her as if she was an insect.
"Do you think your little outbursts frighten me at all?"
Kohana asked, her voice low and dangerous. Abruptly, she lashed
out with her fist, aiming for his cheek. "Well, they don’t!"
she snarled, her fist hitting him squarely and jarring her.
He looked almost surprised as he stared at her, his eyes wide and
his hand flying up to cover his injured cheek. As quickly as the
surprise was there, it was gone, and he grabbed her by the hair.
Kohana lashed out once again, her fist catching a glancing blow
on his chest, but due to her surprise it held no force. What had
she gotten herself into?
"I told you to leave!" he growled, shaking her by the
hair. "Get the fuck out, NOW!"
For an answer, Kohana grabbed his arm and sank her fingernails
into the flesh of his wrist. "Let me go!" she snarled,
feeling her nails dig in and wetness on her fingertips. She’d
drawn first blood. She squeezed harder, and then tried to drag them
down the length of his arm. Blood dripped into her hair.
Instead of dropping her, Saionji yanked her forward and then threw
her into the wall. Kohana ducked her head to try to protect it,
but it wasn’t enough. Stars briefly sparked in her vision;
she shook her head, trying to drive away the sudden fuzziness. Saionji’s
hand clamped down on her shoulder, and he began to drag her toward
the door, Kohana fighting the whole way. A few lucky kicks landed
on his legs and abdomen; one of them winded him, and his fingers
loosened momentarily. Taking advantage of that brief opportunity,
she flung herself forward and felt his grip slide away. Running
for the back of the room, as far away from the door as possible,
she could hear his footsteps behind her, gaining on her. Despite
her efforts, Saionji caught her again just as she’d reached
the corner and just before she whirled to face him. His fingers
dug painfully into her arm; instead of trying to escape him, she
lashed back with her foot, desperately trying to fight him off.
All of a sudden, she felt his fist smash into her back, just over
her kidney, and she doubled over in pain, clutching her back. Saionji
snarled, jerking her around to face him, and his expression was
a mask of anger. "What does it take to get you to fucking
Instead of speaking, she lashed out again and caught him in the
stomach, still holding her injured back with her other hand. Scrambling
wildly, she managed to get a few steps closer to the wall, but Saionji
grabbed her around the wrist, his fingers locking around it like
a handcuff. The small momentum she’d gained was overrun by
his; she only had time to turn her head before she crashed into
the wall, pain exploding in her chest.
Jerking her wrist up forced a small cry of pain from her, the first
she’d given. Saionji’s body pressed hers into the wall,
his breath hot on her cheek. "What do you want from me?"
he growled, jerking up on her arm again. "Do you expect me
to—" He suddenly stopped.
"I want you to teach me," Kohana gritted out,
a tear rolling down her cheek because of the pain. "I want
to learn kendo. I don’t expect anything else from you, and
I don’t care if you decide I’m a better punching bag
than a student, so long as I learn something! I can’t duel
if I can’t fight!"
"I don’t want anything to do with it!" he snarled.
"I don’t give a damn whether you beg or plead or play
mind games with me, I don’t want to teach anyone
"And why not?" Kohana shifted as much as possible with
him still holding her to the wall, trying to ease some of the pressure
from her wrist. "Who gives a damn whether there are more Duelists?
Have you ever thought that there might be a reason I asked you to
The tension in her arm abruptly lessened as Saionji stopped pulling
up on it, and when he spoke his voice was a low whisper. "What
do you mean by that?" he asked, and then suddenly asked something
that made no sense. "Have you heard from Ends of the World?"
Kohana couldn’t cover up her surprise. Her mind stuttered,
trying to find some explanation for it, but all she could come up
with was that Saionji was insane. "What?"
"Ends of the World," he carefully repeated, as if to
a very small child. "Have you gotten a letter?"
"What are you talking about?" Kohana snarled, angrier
than before. "You’re fucking insane!"
Strangely, Saionji stepped back, slowly letting her arm down and
making no move to stop her when she turned. "You can stay
on," he said abruptly, and then turned away. "Get a
shinai from the bin."
Rubbing her aching shoulder, Kohana complied without comment. The
seething anger inside of her would have to wait.
That night, she got a call from Kiryuu. "Are you busy?"
he asked, without any sort of preamble whatsoever.
"I’m doing my homework," Kohana said, slightly
irritated but covering it with her usual warm graciousness. "What
"I’m sure it can wait. I wasn’t able to find
you at lunch or after school today, otherwise I would have asked
earlier, but I was wondering if you’d like to come over tonight."
She’d specifically avoided him all day, so that he wouldn’t
see the bruise on her cheek, but it was safe enough now that she
had some makeup to cover it up with. Frowning and rustling some
of her papers, she said, "I’m not sure… I have
an essay to write, but it’s not due until Friday…"
"That’s plenty of time. I’ll pick you up in a
half-hour." He laughed softly. "Unless, of course, you
decide that your essay is a better conversationalist."
This might be a problem… but it would look worse if she didn’t
go. Kiryuu would realize that she had decided he was unimportant
at present if she didn’t go, and she knew well that an ego
like that had to be placated. And he was an absolutely delicious
lover… "How could I possibly think that?" Kohana
smiled to give her words more warmth, stacking her books neatly
and putting the papers in order. "Are we going out to dinner?"
"If you like. I’ll see you soon," he said.
After she hung up, Kohana darted to the bathroom and began to apply
her makeup. She’d have to figure out an excuse for the bruises—and,
of course, she had a perfect one. "I had to leave a little
bit early today," she recited to the mirror. "I had
a horrible headache, and Saionji was nice enough to let me go home
early to rest when he saw that there was no way I could continue.
Thankfully, I got home before I fainted, but I was on the stairs…"
Smiling, she finished dabbing concealer on the bruise and revised
her lie. It was way too transparent. "Saionji was a jerk about
it, of course, but even he saw that I couldn’t practice any
more. Honestly, how do you manage with him on the Council? He threatened
to kick me out of the kendo room again, but just before I left,
he said that I could come back tomorrow…"
It took less than five minutes before she was disturbed again;
instead of a phone call, Akiko was at the door. "Kohana—there’s
a package for you."
"I’ll be there in a minute. Just leave it on the table."
Finishing with the last of her makeup, she carefully inspected her
work and pronounced it good enough. Kiryuu would be able to tell,
of course, but even if he didn’t believe her lie, he would
still pamper and coddle her. That was just the kind of person he
was; he liked to be needed, even if he wasn’t always there
to provide whatever it was that someone needed.
Just as I like to at least pretend to need people. It’s
strange—we fit together so well.
She stepped out into her sitting room, glanced at the box that
lay on one of the tables and recognized it instantly. It was a florist’s
box. "Such a thoughtful man," Kohana murmured to herself,
a wry smile on her face. "Roses, of course, but what color?"
The scent wafted out as she opened the box, the heady perfume filling
the air. They were bright and rich red, of course, and the card
lying on them said, ‘Rose petals are the softest things on
earth’. Grinning, she flipped it over, and as she’d
suspected, there was another line of Kiryuu’s writing on the
back. ‘I have more at home’.
"Fiend," Kohana chuckled. Interesting. If he’d
wanted to entice her, he couldn’t have picked a better way.
Even after only a few days of knowing him, she felt as if he’d
been there her whole life. Shaking her head, she went to put them
in water, dropping the card in the garbage. In only a few days,
she knew him almost as well as she knew Sakura or Ichida. Aside
from the history she knew about them, there was hardly any difference.
It was strange to meet someone who could put her at ease so quickly—usually
there was a period where she had to test them, to figure out what
they wanted and what she could get from them, but with Kiryuu it
was as if she already knew.
And interesting, the way I can never quite stay irritated with
him when he exerts his charm. I’ve got to be more careful
"I wonder why he’s spending so much time with me?"
she asked herself, arranging the roses carefully. "I know
it’s not because he trusts me. He doesn’t trust anyone."
He was right not to, of course. Just as she was right not to trust
him. But it made no difference—even if she didn’t like
him, as she reluctantly admitted that she did, she would still have
spent the night at his house. He was interesting.
After meeting her for the first time, I held on to the preconceptions
I’d formed even before I met her. I didn’t want to think
I might be consigning a kindred spirit to the unprofitable struggle
I’d faced, so I decided not to think that. I had assumed that
after our first meeting, she would be flattered and fascinated,
the way my meaningless admirers were, and she would put up some
ineffectual resistance before ‘allowing’ herself to
be seduced. After that, she should have fallen in with the others,
a pretty face and a heart laid open for me to toy with. I assumed
that I would become bored and that I would serve my time educating
her to be the Seitokaicho, finding out her weaknesses with ease
and speed and sending her on to whatever awaited her with no regret.
She was just another toy, no matter how much she reminded me of
myself, and I had more than enough affection and admiration already.
It’s frustrating when things don’t work out the way
you expect them to.
Instead of convincing her and flattering her into submission, I
found myself in bed with her so quickly that I wasn’t exactly
sure how I’d gotten there. It seemed like I knew her, and
I kept noticing that when I would normally have met with some resistance,
she would encourage me. She would drop little hints, sly innuendos,
promising smiles and almost, but not entirely, plain words to the
effect that in my bed was where she wanted to be. I couldn’t
help but be startled afterward—for once in my life I’d
been the seduced as well as the seducer. It was almost as if we’d
come to an unspoken decision that the preliminaries were mostly
meaningless and carried out only by habit. Halfway through our date,
if that was what it could be called, I wasn’t sure that I
could have prevented sleeping with her even if I hadn’t wanted
to. It seemed so easy, so natural. That, I think, was one of the
strangest things about our friendship—no matter how cruel
or perverse or affectionate our later games seemed to anyone else,
they were always natural to us.
Surprise number two: she was the most experienced girl of her age
that I’d ever been with. Due to my previous experience with
girls in her grade, I hadn’t expected all that much, and that
low estimate was disintegrated by her obvious skill. The time and
talent she hadn’t invested in her schoolwork was being invested
elsewhere. I shouldn’t even have to mention that this pleased
me immensely. That was when I began to think that perhaps training
her to be the Seitokaicho wouldn’t be completely boring after
Afterward, I surprised myself by actually bantering with her, at
least until Nanami bothered us. Talk after sex had never interested
me much before; I replied to it as a matter of habit, but to actually
pay attention? Ridiculous. But I did, with Kohana. She intrigued
me. And then, after a short period of rest and silence, which, unlike
most, she seemed quite happy to keep, she got up and began to dress,
as if it had been just another night and just another lover.
I have to say that I was faintly offended by this. I was not
just another night and just another lover. It was as if I’d
been used—exactly the way I used other people. And I could
hear the laugh in her voice as she said she would let herself out.
My mind stuttered blankly for an explanation for a moment or two,
and then it suddenly smoothed into place for me. I’d been
right. She was like me, more than I’d suspected, and certainly
more than I wanted. I was seeing myself at that age—female,
but from what I’d seen, the motives and the methods were exactly
the same. I didn’t even realize that I’d almost completely
disregarded my main objective until we reached her house.
A girl. A girl younger and (supposedly) less experienced had somehow
managed to completely evade giving me what I wanted from her, instead
diverting me into pursuit of something pleasurable but pointless.
I hesitate to think what would have happened if Saionji had been
the one to speak with her—I don’t think I would have
had an assistant at all, and I probably would have found Saionji
collapsed in his dorm. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I’m
not sure that anyone else would have been able to handle her.
It was like standing in a dark room, absolutely sure that I was
alone, and then turning to find someone else standing beside me
so closely that her arm brushed mine. Startled, interested, and
wary, I requested more information about her—of course, I
had already found out about her illness before I approached her,
but that wasn’t what I was interested in. I was told that
I would have to find out about her on my own.
Even then, I couldn’t help expecting that she would eventually
fall into place and do as she was told. Namely, fall in love with
me and be my willing slave. That was what almost everyone else had
done, and that, I assumed, was what Kohana would do.
She kept adamantly refusing to do it.
There was always that hard look in her eyes, as if she was saying
to me, ‘You can have this, but not this. You can be my lover,
but I won’t love you. You can be my superior, but I won’t
listen to you if it doesn’t suit me. You can keep things from
me, but I’ll find them out even though you don’t want
me to.’ She only went along with something if she decided
that it was in her interest to do so. It was like all of the power
I had, all my skill at manipulating people and all the admiration
that I received from everyone else, all of that was nothing. I was
a toy, to be used when her appetite demanded it, and thrown aside
when I had no further use at the moment. Needless to say, I didn’t
So, after her first clash with Saionji, I made myself intrusive.
The only way to capture more of her notice than passing interest
was to be in a position of power when she was around—I tried
to make sure of that, while keeping it as subtle as possible so
that I would feed her ego by showing her that she was valuable enough
not to be one of the people I lorded over. At first, I fell for
the display she put on about wanting to be loved, and concentrated
my efforts on that, but I’m sure that it had very little effect
on her. She already knew that I used girls who loved me.
I ask myself, sometimes, what it was that interested me so. She
was, after all, just a pretty girl, and I could easily have gone
without seeing her other than at Seitokai meetings and the occasional
quick liaison in a secluded spot. The answer?
That was what she wanted. She wanted me to leave her alone except
when she had a use for me. As determined as she was to show me that
she only went along with the things I wanted because she wanted
them too, I was equally determined not to let her think of me simply
as a tool to be used. I wanted to create a situation where she would
find it more advantageous to have me around. I wanted her to want
me; not only with her body, because we both knew that was unimportant,
but with her mind and her heart as well. Even when I first met her,
she was anything but another pretty girl. She constantly upset my
expectations, just as she had done, though in different
ways and for different reasons. Where she had been noble,
Kohana was a lying, backstabbing fraud. Where she was kind
and caring, Kohana was cold and unmoved by anything but her own
desire and her own anger. It shames me to say so now, after eight
years of growing away from the person I was, but I could relate
to that. I could even admire it in a twisted way. She was a beautiful
deceiver, armed with lovely lies and sweet seduction, and unlike
the other girls, she was an important star in the constellation
of Ohtori. Charming, witty, sensual, intelligent—she could
have been a great ally. Even I had to recognize worth when I saw
The hard pace of the next days was increasingly frustrating. Not
because of the kendo—although the exercise was unfamiliar,
her body was slowly adjusting to the demands that were made of it.
The problem was the men in her life.
In fact, most of her problems stemmed from Saionji and Kiryuu.
No matter how hard she tried to stay calm during Saionji’s
thinly disguised attempts to force her to stop learning kendo, almost
every day there was a fight of one kind or another. Thankfully the
brawls didn’t happen every day… but they did happen
often enough that Kohana had started to carry makeup to cover up
the bruises she couldn’t pass off as marks from the shinai.
There was no way she was going to give up.
And Kiryuu was almost as bad, with his insinuations that she might
do better in fencing and his constant pestering. It was true, she
did find him interesting, and she liked him, but he was entirely
too present in her life. She didn’t want a boyfriend, she
wanted a lover. It was truly beginning to trouble her that he wouldn’t
let a day go by without stopping her to speak to her. It seemed
as if he wanted a part of her. She didn’t like it. He’d
already gotten too much for safety’s sake when he’d
pried the ‘confession’ from her.
There was nothing she could do to drive him away, however…
and when she was with him, she didn’t really want him to leave.
He was intelligent, interesting, a wonderful lover… and she
liked all of those qualities about him. He interfered a great deal
in her life, however—she would be simply walking through the
halls, minding her own business, and he would appear out of nowhere
to flash his charming grin at her and distract her while she was
trying to concentrate on how to pry what she wanted out of Saionji.
It didn’t make life easier for her in any way… and it
didn’t make it any more comfortable that all he had to do
was smile and flirt with her to distract her.
The secrets were more important. Not Kiryuu, not Saionji—the
secrets of the Dueling Arena and the secrets that the Seitokai were
keeping. Kiryuu knew them, she was sure, but he wouldn’t volunteer
any more about them whenever she spoke to him, no matter how subtly
she pried. And Saionji…
He was impossible.
He was maddening!
It was as if she’d hit a dead end. All Saionji would ever
do when she even touched on them was make snide remarks about her
performance, or if she’d pushed him too far, explode. It didn’t
make for very pleasant days. Worst of all, she hadn’t made
any sort of progress with him. None. She, who had considered herself
as near to irresistible as humanly possible, had failed to make
any sort of headway whatsoever with the incredibly stubborn Saionji.
It was as if all the skill and all the care she took to make sure
that she was the closest thing to a dream on earth had no effect
Well, perhaps it had some effect… but not nearly enough.
He should have been begging for even one night with her, and all
she got was the furtive slide of his gaze over her body when he
thought she wasn’t paying attention.
In an effort to convince him that she was most definitely available,
she finally decided to try stronger measures than the subtle hints
she’d been dropping. She had graduated to free sparring with
Saionji once in a while, and all she had to do was wait for her
When it came, she was in the middle of a mock-battle with him,
her shinai clumsily reaching to strike at him while he easily flicked
her strikes away. It was more than frustrating, more than maddening—she’d
never failed at anything she’d tried so hard at before, and
here she was, failing at both kendo and seduction! Her temper almost
got the better of her before she saw her chance.
Saionji stepped to the side, effortlessly blocking another of her
strikes and sending her shinai flying out of the way. She was quick,
but he was quicker and he had years of practice to back up his speed.
She could feel his eyes on her, not only watching what she was doing
but also the way she moved and the way her thin and sweat-soaked
tank top stuck to her skin. It was the only reassurance she had
that he actually even cared for women. "Move faster,"
he snarled, anger and desire mingling in his eyes. "You can’t
expect to win if you can’t hit anything!"
To prove his point, he swung the shinai at her in a flurry of blows.
Blocking desperately, Kohana managed to catch the first few on her
shinai, but he quickly overcame her awkward defense and landed stinging
blows on her arms. They were more of an insult than anything else;
he could have ended the match there, but he’d chosen to make
her fight on even though it was the end of the day and they were
both tired. "I’m trying," she panted, swinging
her shinai back up into a defensive position. "I can’t
help it that I first picked up a sword less than a month ago!"
"You’ll have to try harder," Saionji sneered.
"You’ll never win a duel at this rate." Launching
himself forward, he battered her shinai down.
Kohana’s developing instincts and her anger demanded that
she dodge to the side, but her logical mind suddenly froze her in
place. Now was her chance. She let one hand fall from the hilt of
her shinai, as if Saionji’s blow had wrenched away her grip,
and relaxed the tiniest bit before his shoulder crashed into her
It worked exactly as she’d hoped; inelegant, crude even,
but the only way she could think of to force him to act on more
than his contempt for her. Her legs tangled with his, and she reflexively
grabbed at his shoulder, trying to steady herself. Saionji was shocked
into seizing her to keep them both from falling, dropping his shinai
as they staggered and holding her tightly. His forward momentum
had carried him a bit too far; Kohana couldn’t move without
falling, her arm locked around his neck, her body pressed tightly
to his and her cheek lying against his chest. Winded because of
the blow to her chest, she stayed still, feeling the light sheen
of perspiration on the smooth skin of his chest. His arms tightened
around her and she felt him take a deep breath.
Finally! Some sort of reaction!
Very, very slowly, Kohana pulled her feet under her, her body sliding
along his until she was standing upright, still clinging to him.
He didn’t seem to be inclined to let go of her either. Perfect.
Carefully lifting her head, she brought her gaze up to his eyes,
her lips gently parted.
Those pretty purple eyes were darkened with hunger, the pupils
dilated. Kohana didn’t smile, didn’t do anything but
watch him. Surely he could feel that every inch of her was completely
willing. Surely he could feel how much she wanted him to just give
in. It was almost painful to be this close without actually having
You have to kiss me, or I think I’m going to die…
It was as if he heard her thought. Leaning down, his arms tightened
around her, his lips tearing at hers in an ardent, angry kiss. The
aching want she felt was quickly stripped away; Kohana dropped her
shinai, wrapping her other arm around his neck as well, and returned
that kiss with ferocity that almost surprised her. Her anger was
shredded, replaced by a growing sense of triumph. Still out of breath,
Kohana clung tightly to him, gasping for air and digging her fingers
into his shoulders as his hands began to press and knead at her
sides. It was as if he was trying to decide whether to tear her
clothes off right then.
In all her frustration, Kohana had never considered that he might
want her exactly as much as she wanted him. The thought was gratifying.
Mouth locked on his, she moved with him as he took a step forward
and then another, until she was pressed up against the wall of the
kendo room. All of her self-control was involved in not ripping
off his traditional hakama and keikogi right there—she
wanted to feel him all over her, to take him and make him hers.
But if she knew anything about him, she knew that he always wanted
to dominate. He had to make the first move.
And he did, finally tearing the thin cloth of her tank top out
from under her shorts, his hands roaming her skin. Divine, calluses
just rough enough to be pleasant and fingernails just long enough
to bite gently. His hand slid up to her breast, molding it with
And suddenly he pushed himself off of her, turning his back and
walking a few steps away.
Kohana almost screamed at him. Clamping her jaws shut on the absolute
rage she felt, she took a few deep breaths to calm herself and then
stepped away from the wall. She carefully kept her voice low and
even as she asked, "Saionji?"
She barely saw him turn before her head was rocked to the side
by the backhanded slap he threw at her. Crumpling to the floor,
she again gritted her teeth over the snarl that wanted to escape
and then held her injured cheek.
"Don’t," he said. "Don’t ever try
that again. I have no interest in a whore like you."
Stunned, Kohana could only watch his back as he left the room.
Then, pushing herself up from the floor, she chuckled, still holding
her injured cheek. "Bad move, Saionji. You shouldn’t
insult people who like you." Her eyes narrowed in enjoyment.
Once her heat and frustration had cooled into icy anger, Kohana
found it much easier to analyze and plan. Taking all factors into
account, she began to see patterns she hadn’t before. Saionji
had an overriding need to dominate that could be used against him,
and though she couldn’t be as vicious as she liked and still
come out looking like the victim, she could still keep him on a
short leash if she simply used the tool he’d finally given
His last words to her had sounded angry, yes, and he had sounded
disgusted, but underneath that, he had been ashamed of himself.
It explained a lot of things. She’d been too angry with him
to see it before, but every time he’d gone a little bit easier
on her, it had been after he’d hit her. Every time she’d
caught him looking at her body, she’d seen the shame in his
eyes as he quickly looked away, even though she hadn’t understood
what it was. It was as if he knew he shouldn’t look at her
or want to touch her… and he definitely knew he shouldn’t
But every time he did, he grew angrier with himself, which in turn
made him lash out at her for being the source of his problems, which
made him angrier…
He had already caught himself in a neat little trap. All Kohana
had to do was use it to her advantage.
The only question left was the person who would punish him if he
were caught, and that one was easy enough to answer. Kiryuu. He
was the only other lover she had with any connection to Saionji,
the only one on the Seitokai that could expel a student without
a lengthy teachers’ hearing, and it was easy to make the assumption
that he knew about Saionji’s violent nature. It wasn’t
as if Saionji was careful to hide it, which led to other assumptions,
all neatly interlocking in an arrangement she felt to be true. Kiryuu
had told Saionji that he would tolerate no more abuse toward Kohana;
Kiryuu had either warned Saionji about her manipulative nature or
had made clear that he thought he had some sort of claim on her;
Kiryuu was as interested in her future as Seitokaicho as she was.
And he actually was a friend of Saionji’s. This was gratifying.
She could take Kiryuu’s friend away from him and hurt Saionji
badly, and still come out looking like the innocent.
All she had to do was brave a little pain. And what did a little
pain matter anyway? She’d been dealing with headaches that
would knock grown men down since she was ten years old.
For a few days, Kohana let her plan wait. Saionji needed to get
over his current spell of guilt, more severe than any before, and
Kohana had other things on her mind.
The rest of the Seitokai were her problem now. Though she hadn't
seen them all together again, she'd caught glimpses of Arisugawa
and Kaoru around the school, doing whatever it was that they did,
and she'd managed to unobtrusively turn the gossip to them whenever
she could. So far she'd gathered quite a bit of information—most
of which was useless except as a measure of their outside personalities.
Arisugawa was one of the most private people in the world, it seemed.
Kohana was only able to find out three useful pieces of information.
She was friends with a girl named Shiori, had never gone out with
any of the guys, and she apparently hid a bad temper underneath
her elegance. An intensely reined in personality like that was always
likely to hide a softer core—Kohana would have to find out
where the weak spots in her control were.
And Kaoru... he had a twin sister who was quite the man-chaser,
though without the finesse that Kohana had. Apparently Kozue was
quite possessive of Kaoru, chasing other girls away from him in
subtle ways, and generally keeping him on a short leash. Kaoru himself
seemed to be exactly as she'd pinned him; an innocent, though his
genius gave him great strength that wasn't readily apparent. She
actually felt a little bit of affection for him, despite the fact
that he was a member of the Seitokai and thus party to the secret
they were keeping from her. Kaoru might be the easiest to crack
about it... but then again, he might not be if it was personally
important to him.
After long thought, she decided tentatively that the reason Kaoru
had dueled Kiryuu was that he objected to Kiryuu's possession of
the Rose Bride. Yes, Kiryuu had explained to her a little more about
the duels and what it meant to be a duelist in between amusing themselves
in other ways. Possession of the Rose Bride was all. The rose on
one's chest was more important than life itself. And the Rose Bride
was sworn to do whatever the current Champion asked, otherwise treating
them exactly as a fiancée. It was no small stretch to think
that Kaoru would be disgusted at Kiryuu's control over his sister.
Already being in a relationship somewhat like that would lead Kaoru
to abhor it in others, and it helped that she'd heard that Kaoru
was a friend of Nanami's.
Now, if only she could prove it to her satisfaction, as she’d
proven Kiryuu’s involvement in her feud with Saionji…
but that could wait. There was so much going on that she needed
At least no one had really commented on her bruises. The only one
who ever questioned her was Kiryuu, and he at least pretended to
believe the lies about how she got them. Things were progressing
quite nicely with him, though she was careful to watch him more
closely than ever. He sometimes offered her little attentions, like
a velvet ribbon for her hair so that it would stay out of her eyes
during her sword training, or taking her out to dinner on a day
that neither of them were busy. Of course, she reacted to this as
she naturally would have if she hadn't been the one who instigated
it; cautious, a little confused, but gradually accepting of them.
He still hadn't caught on, and it kept him occupied. He wouldn’t
have a chance to interfere in her plans.
As Saionji’s shame lessened, Kohana began to stay on the
alert, waiting for the fight that would set her scheme in motion.
It came as a blessing when Saionji told her that he was going to
leave her alone to practice for a while. She had a few moments alone
to add up facts about the Seitokai and what they seemed to want
from her, and the castle. She hadn't been back to the duel grounds
yet—a pity, as she would have loved to see it during full
daylight. It had come to hold a kind of fascination for her—as
she practiced, she reviewed everything she had seen and done on
the night of the duel.
If only she could see some kind of proof that she wasn't just working
for nothing. Hope wasn't an emotion she felt often, but Kiryuu had
given her hope. A hope of a hope, anyway. The cruel bastard. Hoping
for hope was painful.
It took a lot of effort to turn her mind away from that thin hope.
She'd already decided that she was going to win the duels, if only
for that slight chance that it might be real, and there was no point
in dwelling on it further.
An hour, two hours passed, and Saionji still hadn’t shown
up. If he’d had a test, it should have been over by this point.
Kohana wondered vaguely if he was going to come back at all, but
dismissed it from her mind, concentrating on forcing out just one
more perfect strike. Her whole body ached from exertion. It wasn’t
the last of her exercises—there were always more—but
she couldn’t hold the shinai up properly any more. Tired,
she let her trembling arms rest.
Saionji's voice came from the doorway. "I had begun to hope
that someday you might be a creditable duelist. Thank you for showing
me that I was wrong before I wasted any more time on you."
"How long were you standing there? Because if you just got
here, let me fill you in on what happened while you were gone. I
practiced. I practiced as hard as I ever have." He was absolutely
intolerable! "Just because you weren't here doesn't mean I
was slacking off."
"I highly doubt that. I should never have taken you on. Now
that you've proven to me that you haven't the discipline to learn,
you may leave." The utter contempt on his face was almost enough
to make her angry instead of cold. He walked over to the back of
the hall, ignoring her completely.
"Saionji. I put the shinai down for a few moments because
my arms were trembling. I haven't even let go of it yet. I don't
care if you want me here or not, I will come here and I will practice
with or without your help."
He didn't bother to turn around when he answered her. "I won't
have an undisciplined weakling sullying my hall. Leave."
Kohana stalked over to him, disregarding the weakness in her legs.
It was time. Grabbing his arm, she hauled him around to look at
her. "I'm staying here and I'm learning. Teach me or not, but
I won't leave either way."
Saionji threw her backward, her feet skidding over the polished
wooden floor and nearly going out from under her before she caught
her balance. Snarling, she rushed him, trying to remember what he'd
taught her. It felt good to give in to the anger, because this time
it was useful. It would get her what she wanted.
She connected with a couple good strikes on his arm and chest before
he managed to evade her. He hadn't expected that; he was off guard.
Quickly she threw herself to the side before he could grab the sword
from her, landing another hit on his back. He growled and grabbed
for her again, missing by a hair.
"What's the matter, Saionji? Can't catch a girl whose body
is rotting around her?" she taunted.
When he grabbed at the sword again, she rapped his knuckles sharply.
The pain only made him angrier, his face twisting in rage, and the
gaps between his fingers and her body began to lessen. He was catching
up to her. For a moment she wondered at the wisdom of allowing a
murderously angry swordsman to attack her in a kendo hall, easily
within reach of many sharp objects, but she tossed it off. This
was actually fun, in a twisted way.
Until he caught her hair. She let out a yelp of pain, feeling some
of it come out by the roots as he dragged her backward. Her feet
tangled together and she crashed into him, dropping the practice
sword, fighting and clawing at him to let her go. They hit the floor
hard, rolling over and over in a tangle of limbs.
Thrashing wildly, she fought with every ounce of strength she could
muster. It was no use; they were pressed together so tightly that
his weight alone would have pinned her down, and naturally, he had
landed on top of her. So she did what she could to enrage him further
as he fought her down, even going so far as to spit in his face.
That did it. Something in Saionji snapped, some vital connection
between his anger and his actions had been made, and for the first
time, Kohana vaguely felt a sense of fear. He grabbed her head and
slammed it into the floor, pulling it up by the hair and slamming
it down again. Stunned, Kohana went limp for a moment. It was long
enough for him to pin her arms to the ground, holding the rest of
her with his weight. As her head cleared, she began to fight again,
forcing her exhausted body to comply. His eyes were wild with sheer
fury, his teeth bared in a snarl. "You've been the bane of
my existence since the first day I heard about you," he panted.
"You’ve been nothing but trouble for me—your pathetic
attempts to learn the sword, your arrogant words and your disgusting
displays—I won't put up with it any longer!"
There was no way she could give in, even if she was a little afraid.
It might be giving up her only chance to control him. He had to
be so angry that he didn’t know what he was doing anymore,
and she knew exactly what to say. "You're nothing to me, Saionji.
Only a means to an end. And once I'm through with you, I'll throw
you away like all the rest." She smiled ferociously.
"You little whore!" Pulling her arms above her head,
he clamped one hand around her wrists and slapped her across the
face with the other.
Disregarding the blood taste where her teeth had cut the inside
of her cheek, she grinned at him again, her heart quickening as
her fear grew more real. His eyes held nothing but animal wrath.
This would be painful—if she didn’t keep herself relaxed.
Just a few more words, and a little pain, and then it would be her
victory over both Saionji and Kiryuu. "Only to those who are
good enough. And you aren't." She undulated against him. "Enjoy
this, because it's all you'll ever get from me. You don’t
deserve any more."
As she’d hoped, he latched onto her meaning—probably
he could only think that it was the best way to hurt her. Tearing
the cotton tank top down the front, he snarled wordlessly, too enraged
It was searingly painful in the beginning, but she forced herself
to relax despite the pain. It was easy enough—she’d
had to ignore pain since the very first time her bad migraines had
started, and they were harder to relax through. Deciding that it
was just rough sex helped quite a bit. She’d had experience
enough with that. He didn't seem to notice at first when she began
to thrust her hips up to his, the friction turning delightful as
she grew wetter, but he did when she began to moan, though it was
soft. It snapped him back to himself, the mostly rational Saionji
that would never dream of raping a woman. Kohana locked her legs
around his hips before he could pull away. His eyes were wild with
horror at his actions, but he began to calm down as she smiled,
though he still tried to pull away. Slowly, carefully, she loosened
one of her arms from his grasp, his pretty, confused purple eyes
moving to her hand as she brought it up to his face. Those eyes
turned unbelieving as she laid her finger across his lips, puckering
her lips in a silent "Shh."
Saionji would have said something anyway, but she was moving again
before he could. Snaking her arm around his neck, she began to push
her hips upward again, urging him to respond with little strings
of kisses placed across his chest and up his neck. In moments it
had turned from quasi-rape to heated passion. This was much more
enjoyable, and Kohana let him know it with little purrs of delight
and sucking kisses along his neck. Ripples of bliss flooded her
limbs; his forceful thrusts had her gasping. The confirmation, the
crowning glory of her victory, came when he hesitantly placed a
kiss on her temple.
That's right, give in. You don't need to be afraid of what
I'll do to you afterward. You’ll at least survive it.
The fabric of the keikogi he was still wearing was a delectable
abrasion on her nipples; the feel of him pounding inside her and
the knowledge of her triumph kept her at the edge of orgasm for
a long time. Saionji rained kisses down on her face, his free hand
no longer pinning hers to the floor, but wandering the length of
her body. Only her concentration on pleasing him kept her from her
And she did please him. It was easy to tell. His little growls
of pleasure were absolutely adorable, much more agreeable than the
contemptuous tone he affected. Surprisingly enough, he was also
an attentive lover, and quite skilled, though he was a little unrefined.
That could be changed easily enough.
Before long, both of them were straining to reach their peaks.
And such a wonderful strain it was, pressure coiling in Kohana's
middle, Saionji's warm breath teasing her ear as she scratched lightly
down his back. With a last desperate thrust of her hips, the urgency
burst, her climax flowing through her in torrents of rapture. She
was forced to stifle a loud moan in his shoulder. Not long after
that, his cock drove into her one last time before he shuddered
in sensual delight.
After a few moments of rest, he slowly moved off of her, as if
he were trying not to frighten a wild animal. It must have been
a fair comparison, from his point of view.
Some sort of conversation should follow this.
She was too tired to care. Days and days of unceasing practice,
never a rest in sight from all of the work she had to do, her only
recreation as strenuous as any work already, and the most recent
indulgence of said recreation, not to mention the fight beforehand…
she was completely worn out. Saionji was silent beside her, no doubt
waiting for her to open her eyes so that he could stutter out some
sort of apology. That didn't make her any more inclined to put forth
the great effort of speaking.
The floor was just hard enough to be annoying. Using the last of
her strength, she rolled over, curling herself up to Saionji's side
and using his shoulder as her pillow. He stiffened, no doubt surprised.
Cracking an eye open, she glanced wearily at his face. He was watching
her as if he didn't quite know what to do with her. Satisfied, she
closed her eye and huddled closer to him, shivering a little. She
was very cold.