Chapter 4


After school.

In the end, Utena wound up standing in front of the entrance to the Dueling Arena forest.

       It's not that I particularly want to go on a date. But it would've sucked for whatever friend Touga brought along if I just left them waiting, so here I am.

Utena grumbled silently to herself while she waited impatiently for Touga to appear.

       If it was just Touga being left waiting, that'd be fine. But I don't want to leave some poor friend waiting.

       Yeah, once his friend comes, I can explain the situation and head back. No way am I actually going to go through with the date.

Utena continued to frown, like she'd been doing ever since her chat with Touga. Wakaba, smiling next to her, stood in sharp contrast. She was busy admiring herself in the compact she'd bought yesterday - a cute one that looked like a white seashell.

Anthy, however, wasn't with Utena for once. Utena had told her to go on ahead of them. It wouldn't do to show up at a double date with three people.

Utena turned to Wakaba, who still seemed oddly happy.


"No, it's nothing. I was just thinking they're late, that's all."

"Hey, what's going on, anyway? Does it have something to do with the President coming to see you earlier?"

"...I'll let him explain himself once he arrives."

Utena hadn't told Wakaba about the double date thing. She'd just asked her to come with her after school. Even so, Wakaba had gladly agreed. Utena was grateful for that, but she was still wondering why Wakaba looked so happy.

       Did she get the wrong idea about something...? Utena thought, concerned.

Utena's concerns were unfounded, however. Wakaba had no idea why Utena had invited her here - she was just happy that Anthy hadn't been invited along, too.

"By the way, whoever asked to meet you here must be pretty weird. This forest is totally off-limits, you know."

"Oh, it is?"

"Yeah. I guess you hadn't heard, but it's written in our student handbooks and everything. Ordinary students aren't allowed in."

"Ordinary students, huh? So non-ordinary students can go in?"

"Exactly," another voice answered, instead of Wakaba.

Utena spun around in surprise. What she saw was...

"Hey, sorry to keep you waiting, Tenjou Utena-kun."

...Kiryuu Touga. Riding a white horse.


The horse was pure white, and so beautiful that it looked like it had stepped out of a fairy tale.

       A prince on a white horse...

Yes, those were the words that came to mind, seeing Touga sit astride his mount like a knight from the Middle Ages. The sun was at his back, making him look all the more dazzling.

"What's wrong? A sports prodigy like you has never ridden a horse before?"

"So this date is supposed to be... horse riding?"

"That's right. The two of us will fly like the wind on my beloved steed."

Touga rubbed his horse's neck with a practiced hand. It let out a long, calm snort. Even with her untrained eye, Utena could tell it was pleased.

"...It seems happy."

"Oh, I think she's just happy that a lady like you will be riding her."

"Not this again," Utena complained, in response to Touga's flirtatious remarks.

"How much longer do you intend to hit on her, Touga?" an arrogant voice cut in. Utena knew it well.

       No way... that guy?

Coming up from behind Touga was, indeed, Saionji. Like Touga, he was also riding a horse.

       Just great. Utena cursed her own thoughtlessness. Touga had said he was bringing a 'friend.' Of course she should have expected this.

The guy who threw away Wakaba's love letter, which had been tacked up in the hall.

The guy Wakaba had been trying so hard to forget.

The guy who Wakaba had slapped, her eyes filled with tears.

Those memories flashed relentlessly through Utena's mind.

       I can't believe I invited Wakaba on a double date with Saionji...

"He's the friend you were going to bring!?"

"Sure. He is my only friend, after all," Touga replied, winking at Saionji. Saionji turned his head, deliberately refusing to look at him.

"Sorry, Wakaba! C'mon, let's go. I really didn't know..." Utena turned back to Wakaba. But Wakaba's attention was elsewhere.


"So when he said 'Tenjou Utena's friend,' he meant you...?"

Saionji and Wakaba's eyes met. They stared at each other in silence.

To Utena, watching, it felt like time had frozen around them.

***   ***

In the central garden of Ohtori Academy, there was an elegant greenhouse shaped like a bird cage. The only things grown there were roses. Red roses, black tea roses, Julia roses, and older strains... it was like a rose exhibition. There was even a rare breed of white rose that was only cultivated here. It was clear that roses had an important place in the academy - the school crest was even shaped like one.

Unfortunately, however, the ordinary students weren't allowed into this museum of roses. It was for the exclusive pleasure of the Student Council.

One of them, Kaoru Miki, came here occasionally to admire the flowers. He didn't water them or anything, he just enjoyed spending time amidst their beautiful fragrances.

"It's been a month since we came here last."

"You're right. You've been working a little too hard lately, Miki."

Sitting alongside Miki was his twin sister, Kozue. She wasn't a member of the Student Council, but other students could enter with a council-member's permission.

"You think so?"


That's all they said. For them, that was enough.

Unselfconsciously, Kozue took Miki's hand. He didn't refuse.

"Don't overdo it, Miki."

"I know. I won’t."

The twins' conversation was short. It was almost like their clasped hands were conveying their thoughts between them.

"Kozue, I..."


As Kozue stared straight at him, Miki hesitated. 

       We're becoming adults. At some point, we'll have to walk our own paths.

...was what he wanted to say.

Miki had lost his duel against Utena. He'd wanted to protect her, but instead, he'd been defeated by her. And although Kozue had been saved in the end, he hadn't been the one to save her.

That's why Miki wanted to become stronger. So he could at least protect the people important to him. To that end, he'd recently been throwing himself into both piano and fencing. He felt uneasy when he wasn't driving himself to greater heights. Pushing himself like mad, he felt like he was getting a little stronger, a little closer to being an adult. Even if that was nothing more than a delusion, it made Miki feel a little better.

However, Miki still couldn't keep himself away from Kozue. Even while dedicating himself to piano and fencing, he always made sure to set aside time for her.

After all, Miki...


...cried a strange voice. Not a person's voice, of course. It belonged to Chu-Chu.

He now noticed that Anthy was in the middle of the rose garden, watering the plants. Chu-Chu was by her feet, grappling with a frog.


"Oh." Anthy turned. She looked startled, like she hadn't noticed the two of them until now.

"How long have you been here?" Kozue's tone was venomous: as if to say, ‘you're interrupting our private time.’

For whatever reason, Kozue disliked Himemiya Anthy. She felt like she had a reason for it, though nothing in particular came to mind.

"Oh, just for a moment," Anthy responded, neutral as always. Either she hadn't noticed Kozue's hostility, or she was choosing not to respond to it.

"It's unusual to see you by yourself," Miki cut in, sharply squeezing Kozue's hand. "You're not with Tenjou-sempai today?"

"No." Anthy smiled slightly at some private joke. "Today is pest control day."

***   ***

"Come on, Tenjou Utena," Touga said, taking her hand. He pulled her up, with surprising strength.

"D... don't be ridiculous, Mr. President," Utena protested, even as she was settling in to the saddle behind him. Anyone other than Utena might have lost their balance and fallen off the horse. Touga didn't seem particularly concerned, though.

"Right, like that. Not bad."

"Wasn't that dangerous? I hadn't said anything about wanting to ride."

It was her first time on a horse, and she was higher than she'd expected. The leaves on the ground looked tiny from here, and so did Wakaba.

"Oh, should I have treated you like a lady?"

Utena and Touga

"That's not what I'm saying. Geez, you're always so..."

"Yes?" Touga's face was surprisingly close to hers. Involuntarily, Utena remembered their first kiss.

       You always come at me out of the blue... you're so high-handed.

"Hang on tight, Tenjou." Touga said, suddenly shaking the reigns. That was the signal to "run." The white horse faithfully obeyed its master.

"Hey, wait a second! I'm gonna fall!"

"It's fine. You can hold on to me!"

"Who would want do that?" Utena's response was drowned out by the sound of the horse's hooves.

The white horse's pace gradually increased, and so did the jolting of its movements.

       Are horses supposed to be this rough!? Flustered, Utena grabbed Touga's back. When she did, she noticed Touga grin silently, though he still wasn't looking at her. No doubt he was pleased that she'd girlishly clung to him like he'd planned.

The white horse carried the two of them deeper into the Dueling Arena forest.

***   ***

Meanwhile, Wakaba had been left behind.

       Well, it isn't a white horse, but...

She stared at Saionji. Sitting astride a healthy-looking black horse, he looked princely enough to her.

       My prince is here... My own stubborn, cold, love-letter-dumping prince.

Saionji held her gaze like a magnet. Everything was still, like a scene out of a picture book.


"Well? Get on." Saionji's words broke the spell. "Behind me. Let's catch up to those two." He eyed the saddle behind him.

"But..." Wakaba looked down at her school uniform... specifically, her miniskirt.

       If I ride a horse in a skirt like this, I'm gonna be exposed.

"If it's too high, I'll help you up."

"Thanks. But..."

"What? Do you hate horses?"

"No, it's not that... it's just, this skirt..."


Apparently Saionji didn't understand why Wakaba was hesitating. With no other choice, she decided to spell it out for him.

"Well, um... everyone would be able to see, wouldn't they?"

"Don't worry. There's nobody around but me."

       You're the one I don't want to see!

At a loss, Saionji stared at Wakaba, who was looking down in embarrassment. His eyes showed both annoyance and surprise.

At last, he reached out for Wakaba's arm, and...


...yanked her up to join him. He held her there, supported in his arm.

"S, Saionji-san..."

His face was right beside hers. She was so close, she could even hear his breath.

"You can ride like this, right?"

Saionji deposited Wakaba beside him. Both her legs hanging off one side - what was called 'riding sidesaddle.'

       Oh, man... we're so close... Is my hair okay? I thought it looked pretty weird the last time he saw me... And I ate curry for lunch, will he be able to smell it? I don't want him to think of me as 'that girl who smells like curry.' But if I turn my face away, that'd be rude, right? What should I do...?

She kept staring at Saionji, frozen.

Saionji, meanwhile, looked like he was about to say something, but decided it was too much trouble. Instead, he shook the reigns with his left arm - his right arm still wrapped around Wakaba.


"Ah! Eeek!"

The black horse ran like the wind... or at least, that's how it seemed to Wakaba. In fact, it had only started a slow trot. Still, Wakaba clung fiercely to Saionji. She felt like she'd fall if she loosened her grip at all.

At least she wasn't worried about her hair or whether she smelled like curry anymore.

***   ***

On the north side of Ohtori Academy stood a wide forest. It was so large, it could even be seen from the town below. Ordinary students, who weren't allowed in, just called it 'The Forest.' It was only known as The Dueling Arena Forest to a very restricted few.

Utena and Touga raced through it on their white horse.

"Touga, can you slow this thing down!?"

"What was that? I can't hear you!" He gave no sign of slowing down.

They raced down a path that was so narrow, it could have been mistaken for an deer trail. The wind from their passing sirred up leaves behind them.

"So why did you invite that girl?" Touga shouted back at her.

"What do you mean?" Utena shouted back. It was the only way they could hear each other.

"I told you to bring a friend along. Why did you bring her, and not Himemiya Anthy?"

"Wakaba's a friend, too!"

"Was that all? Or was it that you couldn't ask Anthy?"



When Utena had tried to invite Anthy, Touga's words had sprung back into her mind: 'Are you sure that your friend thinks of you as a friend, too?'

       I'm Anthy's friend. Or, at least, I think I am. But... what about Anthy? Does she feel the same way? Maybe I didn't ask her because I wasn't sure...

Unexpectedly, the white horse came to a stop. As the silence of the forest returned, a feeling of loneliness swept over Utena. She felt like she had to say something, just to break the silence.

"Touga... we left Wakaba behind," she said, changing the subject. She didn't want to talk about Anthy.

"Maybe she didn't want to spoil the mood."

"Don't be stupid." Even Utena's blustery voice was quieter than usual.

"Hey, Tenjou. Can't you reciprocate my feelings a little? Surely you've noticed how I feel about you."


Utena tried to push herself away from Touga's back, but it was hard to make much of a gap between them on the horse.

"I just don't..."

"I understand. It's your prince, isn't it?"


"The prince who saved you when you were young, and wiped away your tears. Who sent you a letter each year on your birthday, and told you you could meet him at this academy..."

Utena's prince - the person who had saved her after her parents' deaths. She had no idea who or where he was. But she'd always yearned after him. She'd even started wearing boys' clothes, to become more like him.

"He said he'd meet you here. Don't you think the author of those letters could be a student here at Ohtori?"

Touga's words sounded like an invitation. He was leading her thoughts towards a particular conclusion.

       Is my prince... him...?

Utena locked eyes with Touga.

"Couldn't your prince be a guy like me...?"

"Stop it." Utena dismounted, hopping down from the side of the horse.

"Don't run away, Tenjou."

Utena's body froze, like she'd been struck by lightning.

Utena and Touga

       That's right. This is a good chance. To find out whether he's really my prince. I've been meaning to ask him directly for a long time. Not to mention asking more questions about the Dueling Game and Ends of the World...

       But... I'm afraid. I'm not sure I want to learn the real answers. Whether they're what I expect or not... I'm not sure how I should respond, or what I should do afterwards. I'm not confident.

       But still...

Utena tentatively turned back around, only to find that Touga had already dismounted himself, and walked up behind her. He was not respecting her personal space. Indeed, he was close enough to kiss...

"Are you really..." she began to blurt out, her voice cracking. Her throat was dry, and her heart was pounding. It felt like her blood was boiling within her body, and her mind started to feel dizzy.


       Say it.

Utena took a deep breath, and looked at Touga. Seeing the resolution in her eyes, even he looked serious for once. He put aside his playboyish demeanor, and faced her head-on.

"Are you..." Her voice seemed to echo across the silent forest.

"Are you really my prince?"

"And if I am?"


In the silence that followed, Utena became aware of the quiet, rustling sounds of the forest all around them.

***   ***

Saionji and Wakaba's black horse walked quietly through the forest.

Saionji was being unexpectedly gentle with the horse. Whether that was because Wakaba was riding, or whether it was just his usual riding style, she had no idea.

"Saionji-san, do you do a lot of riding?"

"I haven't for a long time," he answered, eyes fixed straight ahead. "But this was our usual course back in middle school."

"Touga’s and yours?"

"Yeah," he nodded.

He looked a little grim, so Wakaba tried to lighten the mood. 

"You and Touga are best friends, huh?"

"Best friends? Who told you that?"

"Who...? Um, well, you run your club and the Student Council together, and they say you used to room together back in middle school, so..."

"Yeah, maybe we were, back then."

Wakaba didn't fail to notice the hint of a smile on Saionji's lips. It looked somehow childish, and seeing it made Wakaba happy, for some reason. It felt like this side of Saionji was hers alone to see.


Apparently Wakaba had started grinning at Saionji as she stared. He looked back at her questioningly.

"Oh... uh, it's nothing." Wakaba hurriedly turned away again from Saionji's face, which was far too close.

       This is unreal. I'm actually riding on a horse with Saionji-san? There's no way anyone will believe me if I tell them. I can hardly believe it myself...

"Now, where did that jerk Touga get off to?" Saionji muttered, looking around. There was no sign of him or Utena. They couldn't even hear any hoofbeats.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have dragged my feet so much."

"Don't worry about it. It's Touga's fault for racing off ahead of a novice rider like you."

"I knew it!" Wakaba exclaimed, in her usual voice.

"Knew what?"

"You've been slowing down for me because it's my first time, haven't you?"

"Not really." Saionji turned back away unhappily, and fell silent.

       So he was taking it easy for my sake after all...

Wakaba stared at Saionji out of the corner of her eye again. His sullen expression struck her as very childish.

Pretentious and unfriendly, but a kind person underneath - Wakaba had always imagined Saionji like that, but now it seemed that he really was like that in reality, too. Come to think of it, that shoujo comic she liked, with the toothpaste gift, also featured that kind of cool, standoffish boy.

Of course, "cool but kind" was merely Wakaba's impression of him. But, after all, love is blind. Wakaba's view of Saionji was what was real to her.

"Saionji-san, I..." The words rose unbidden from her lips.


"Um, I... That is..."

Wakaba just needed to follow the usual script of a love confession. But she still didn't have the courage to go further.

"What's wrong?"



"...Forget it. It's nothing."

"Don't worry. Please, proceed."


"Go ahead."

Saionji was being stubborn. Wakaba had to say something now.

"Well..." But there was no way she could say she loved him now, either. Just like the first time, her confession had again ended in failure.

"Actually... what's the 'Rose Bride?'" With no other choice, Wakaba asked the first thing that sprang to mind. Not that she hadn't been wondering about it anyway; but she hadn't been planning on asking him.

"You mentioned something about it the other day. And I heard Utena and Anthy talking about it, too, and..."

Wakaba's voice wilted, then died. Saionji's expression hardened, transforming completely from what it had been a moment ago.

"I'm so sorry. It was rude of me to ask..."


Saionji suddenly grasped Wakaba's shoulders.


Silently, Saionji began to lean his head down towards hers. Wakaba's heart began to pound as his handsome countenance drew near. It felt so loud, she worried that he might be able to hear it.

       Oh man... he really is super dreamy...

His face was almost touching hers now.

       Is he going to... kiss me?

Wakaba wondered whether she should close her eyes. She sort of felt like she should, but she couldn't bring herself to shut out this sight. It was straight out of her dreams.

His lips drew nearer.

And nearer.

And nearer.

And then...

...he spoke.

"Don't get involved with the Rose Bride," he growled.

He made it sound like a matter of life and death. And yet, Wakaba detected a note of kindness in his voice, as well.

"With the Rose Bride...?"

"That's right. You shouldn't become mixed up in it." Saionji's gaze was fixed on her. She couldn't remember ever seeing anyone look so serious.

"I'll say it once more. Don't get involved with the Rose Bride. That's my advice to you."

The "Rose Bride." The term reverberated in Wakaba's mind. It felt dark and ominous. Like a curse.

***   ***

"And if I am?" Touga answered, watching Utena closely.

If he was the prince, that is.

       My prince...? The guy who saved me when I was young...?

Utena's left ring finger felt hot. That was where she wore the prince's Rose Seal. Eight years ago, while in despair, she'd fallen into a river but been saved by a prince. Since then, she'd received a letter stamped with the Rose Seal every year.

This year, the letter had pointed her to Ohtori Academy. There had been a photo, and the words "I'll be waiting for you here."

That's why she'd come. To meet her prince once more...

"Well, ARE you my prince?" she repeated. She was suspicious of Touga. She and Miki had researched his background, and even snuck into his room to investigate. "But you were in Amsterdam at the time..."

Amsterdam was the location of Ohtori Academy's sister campus. Where Touga was supposed to have been living when Utena had fallen into the river.

Touga just smiled at her questions, baiting her with his lack of response.

"Answer me, Touga. Are you... are you really my prince?"

"Here's your answer."

Touga moved closer to Utena. Utena pulled back, trying to maintain their distance.

So Touga moved closer. And Utena moved away... until her back bumped up against a large tree. Nowhere to run.

"Since I first saw you, I knew this day would come."

Utena saw her reflection in his eyes. For some reason, she thought she looked young again... like she'd been when the prince had saved her.

"I am your..."


It was neither Utena nor Touga's voice.

Utena took the opportunity to slip away from Touga. He didn't try to stop her, but simply gave a half-annoyed, half-amused smile.

"He never did have any sense of timing."

He turned back to look at Saionji and Wakaba, sitting aside their black horse.

The only sound was the rustling of the wind through the trees.



Cover & Translation Notes
Chapter 1 * Chapter 2 * Chapter 3 * Chapter 4 * Chapter 5 * Chapter 6



Translated by Dallbun, coded by Giovanna, and hosted on Empty Movement.