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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#26 | Back to Top12-08-2009 05:36:38 AM

Arthkael
Wakaba Wrangler
From: Somewhere in Italy
Registered: 08-09-2009
Posts: 19
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Say you're 21 years old and you've lived 1 year of your life thinking you were beautiful and then 20 years being constantly told that you were ugly. By everyone. By yourself. When you're 21 someone comes along and tells you you're gorgeous. Do you believe them?Do you suddenly feel gorgeous?Are you able to act as someone who is gorgeous?I think that's what Utena saving Anthy is like from Anthy's point of view. Like trying to believe that the last 20 years and your whole identity is a lie. But it's the only truth you know, and it involves hundreds/thousands/millions of years rather than 20...

Yes, it makes perfectly sense. It's more clear now. Thank you emot-smile

Ooh what does the sentence 'Domine, non sum digna' mean? I'm sorry I don't know that one... Is it Latin?

Yes it is. It means 'My Lord, I'm unworthy.'

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#27 | Back to Top02-03-2010 06:09:35 AM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: An absolute nightmare of a chapter to edit, the worst for me in years. It's probably got something to do with having to move past the inactive bit of the story to the more active bit, or to do with setting up stuff for later. For some reason intros and peaks are much easier to write and edit than the stuff in between them. emot-gonk

I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.
~William Shakespeare~


Chapter 6: Once Upon a Time

Within our garden’s many-layered maze was a forest grove, secluded from the outside world. A cherry blossom tree grew at its center. I sat cross-legged leaning against it, Utena lying with her head in my lap. We’d just finished eating a picnic lunch which had been her idea, as had the location.

It was a pleasant day, much calmer than my own mood. The sky was blue; a cooling breeze stirred the leaves. My fingers stirred through Utena’s hair as I watched dappled shadows move over her face.

“It’s almost certain,” she said, rubbing at her eyebrow, “that Chida-san is working with Mikage-san.”

“Yes,” I said, although given what I knew I thought it unlikely. Not if Mikage thought that Utena was Chida Tokiko.

“She was meant to come to a meeting this morning,” said Utena. “But she didn’t show. Miki-kun’s made this big diagram showing the connections between everything that’s happened, and he says that’s probably why.”

“What does Arisugawa-san think?” I was curious in spite of myself. Utena cringed a little and didn’t answer for a moment. She had a troubled look on her face, one that made me want to smooth it away.

“She thinks I should ah…talk to you about it.” She rubbed her eyebrow more fiercely. I stared at her, sure Juri had insinuated far more than that.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Utena sounded faintly apologetic. “So uh…what do you think? That is…” She took a deep breath and met my eyes for the first time. “Do you know how they could be connected? Chida-san and Mikage-san?”

“Her younger brother is his rose bride,” I said simply. I knew she already had that information, and that she didn’t know I knew it.
“Yeah…” said Utena, and we sat in silence for awhile. I couldn’t shake the feeling she wanted me to say something else, something more. But I had nothing I wanted to say.

“Your hair’s up again today,” she said unexpectedly. “Do you have another headache?”

“Yes,” I said, “but it’s bearable.”

Shots rang out nearby.

Swearing, Utena shot out of my lap, coming to her feet in one smooth motion. She looked around desperately, pink hair flaring as she spun.

The baying of hounds filled the air.

“It’s a hunt,” I said calmly, smoothing my skirt and remaining seated. “Their prey must have run onto our property.”

“This is Japan!” protested Utena.

“I recognize the sounds,” I told her, and I did, intimately. I was certain it was a hunt, improbable as that might be. The baying grew louder. Utena whirled uncertainly while I watched her.

“They’re getting closer,” she muttered.

“Yes,” I agreed. They baying was so loud I thought we might be about to catch a glimpse of them passing.

The undergrowth parted and all of a sudden the pack raced into the clearing itself. There were three black, three brown and one huge mottled monster. Slathering eagerly they leapt toward us, or more precisely, toward me.

My calm dissolved. With a sharp cry I was up and backing into the tree, arms up to protect my face. Utena yelled and threw herself in front of me, somehow managing to shoulder the first beast aside, even as it sprang for my throat.

“Utena!” I gasped out, more terrified for her than I had been for myself. Power blazed around my hands and I reached toward her heart from behind, instinct taking over. With pure blazing thought I drew the sword of Dios, catching her shoulder with my free hand as she fell forward. Amazingly she managed to keep something of her wits about her, simultaneously kicking at the second and third dogs. But she was off-balance. The fourth hound ducked through and bit her shin.

She gave a sharp cry and kicked it away.

I reached around her torso and thrust the sword-hilt into her waiting hand. She was anticipating the pass-off, and effortlessly twirled the sword into a defensive position. The mottled hound recovered itself and re-leapt. Utena swung the sword two-handed and flat side out, batting it back. It sprawled at our feet, then gathered itself on its haunches. Eying me it let out a bloodcurdling snarl.

“Heel!”

The command was sharp, proffered by a well-dressed man on a massive black stallion. As we goggled the horse curveted wildly; he reigned it in with considerable skill. Three more horses pulled up around him, their riders glaring in our direction.

The hounds slunk over to their master, growling and drooling.

“What the hell was that?” yelled Utena, pointing her sword at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

The man ignored her and watched us from beneath his broad-brimmed hat, which had a scarlet feather curving at its side. For some reason he looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. His features were shadowed, and only his ice-blue eyes (as cold as my brother’s) could be seen.

“Get out of the way,” he ordered expressionlessly.

“What?” growled Utena. She didn’t move. I peered over her shoulder, and the man stared right at me, strange eyes glittering.

“Hello Kitsune,” he said, and now his voice took on a wheedling edge. “Why don’t you come over here and play?”

I stared at him.

“Are you crazy?!” yelled Utena. “She’s just a girl!”

“Even you,” the man told her emotionlessly, “aren’t quite that stupid.” He turned back to me. “We’ve caught you, so you might as well give up.” He actually grinned, displaying prominent canines. “No tricks. We all know what a deceitful creature you are.”

Something niggled at my memory. Another time and place, another forest (not just a grove), running and running, panting and sobbing, sprawling exhausted at the base of a tree (but it hadn’t been a cherry tree…it hadn’t been Japan…). Hearing hounds baying in the distance, racing ever closer. Hearing shots ring out: the horn-blares and shouts of hunters.

And Akio pulling up into the clearing on his princely white charger, pivoting it gracefully to smirk down at me.

“What’s this?” he’d purred while I trembled on hand and knee, practically under his horse’s hooves. “They’ll be here soon. Best run while you still can, little sister.”

I stared at him, begging for mercy with my eyes but not really expecting any. (I’d already known better.)

The hounds’ baying grew louder.

“They’re almost here!” Akio laughed exultantly. “Which hunter will win you this time, I wonder? Personally I’m betting on the Count’s son.”

Wheezing helplessly I pushed myself to my torn feet, and whirled to stumble back into the forest.

“Good girl,” called Akio as I made what retreat I could. “He’ll like you better if he has to catch you.”


Ice-cold with fear I pressed my back against the cherry-tree and gasped at the man on the horse. The Count’s son, and later the Count in his own right. I couldn’t remember his name, only his title. I stared at his three companions and couldn’t remember their names either…but I could remember them. Belonging to them, all at different times. Yet the Count…I had been his the longest. He was the victor who had gotten the furthest in those duels, called hunts, and as was so often the case, gotten the furthest with me.

“That’s a good girl,” purred the Count, seeming to sense his opportunity. His eyes bore into mine hypnotically. “Come here.”

Unthinkingly I took a few uneven steps. With a sharp cry Utena stopped me, one arm an iron bar across my chest. Still wielding the sword with her free hand she tossed me a glance, a volatile mix of horror and appeal.

“Are you crazy?” she hissed. “You want a fight?!” she yelled back at the Count. “Is that it? You’ll have to come through me to make Anthy do anything she doesn’t want!”

“She wants it,” he said ever so reasonably. “She’s been caught according to the rules of the rose hunt and she knows it.” His eerie eyes turned on me. “I said, come here!”

I tried to go to him. Utena’s arm was rigid, catching me across the torso and holding me back. With a cry she dropped her sword, turned, grabbed me by the upper arms.

“Snap out of it!” she yelled in my face. She shook me. “Anthy!”

“Hurry up!” ordered the Count.

I went limp in the face of conflicting messages, bones turning to water. Utena’s hands were the only thing holding me up, even as they had previously held me back. With a sharp cry she caught me and swung me up into her arms, hoisting me protectively in front of her. 

“You can’t fight like that,” the Count told her, still damnably reasonable.

“I don’t gotta,” Utena hissed at him, as angry as I’d ever seen her. “Anthy is already mine.”

I was shocked to hear her actually say that; I think she was past the point of knowing what she said. The Count stared at her. So did his men. So did I. A rifle was slung on the Count’s back…slowly he reached for it. His hounds growled. I shivered. Utena tensed, I could feel her muscles flexing where our bodies made contact.

“What’s going on here?” demanded a new voice, an icily familiar voice. Utena whirled with me in her arms, and the grove whirled around us, flickering for a moment with strange mottled shadows. (If you looked closely you might see figures in them, figures of what used to be girls acting out plays that used to have meaning. I knew better than to look.)

Then Utena fell to her knees and dropped me in front of her. She bent over, gasping for breath. Weakly I rolled onto my side and clutched my knees to my chest.

Juri strode into the grove, staring incredulously.

“What was that?! Those men and horses…where did they go? Utena…what were you doing?”

“I dunno,” wheezed Utena, recovering enough to pull me back toward her. She stroked my cheek anxiously. “They just disappeared. And did you see those huge dogs? They coulda killed us!” She bent over me.

“Anthy, can you hear me? Are you okay? Anthy?”

I put a shaking hand over her hand, but I couldn’t talk yet. Couldn’t really think.

“Is she alright?” Juri again, kneeling next to Utena.

“I dunno.” Utena’s voice was strained. “Those were friggin’ hunters of all things! They came out of nowhere and called Anthy a fox spirit! Crazy bastards!”

Juri looked at me appraisingly, then looked back at Utena.

“They did? How…interesting.” Utena glared at her.

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing,” said Juri, “but I’ve never met anyone else who made such myths seem plausible.”

“Shut up,” grated Utena, “you don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“And you,” said Juri, reaching over to retrieve the sword of Dios from the ground, “don’t know what you’re defending.”

A slap rang out. I sat up and stared at them, Juri’s reddened cheek and Utena’s tearful fury. The sword of Dios had fallen back to the grass.

“Stop it,” I said. “Please.”

“Sorry Juri,” Utena muttered, staring at the ground, fists balled at her sides.

“No need to be sorry,” said Juri tightly. “Just open your eyes every once in awhile. See what’s right in front of you.”

With that she sprang up and strode away. Utena didn’t stop her. I put a hand on her rigid back, felt it shaking, took my hand away.

“No, no,” she said softly, reaching out and entwining our fingers. “Don’t stop.”

With a deep breath she lay down and stared at the sky, eyes swimming with the tears she refused to shed. I lay down too, pillowing my head on her chest. It was a relief to hold her and be held.

“Did that really happen?” she asked eventually. I was a silent for a moment, thinking how to answer.

“Not now,” I finally whispered. Her hand went reflexively to my head, felt the hairpins there, hesitated, then started stroking anyway.

“We’re not at Ohtori,” she murmured. “I just don’t understand…how these crazy things can happen when we’re not there anymore.”

“We’re not at Ohtori,” I agreed, “but Ohtori is not really a place.”

“Y…you mean…” She paused, hand shifting to run lightly down my arm. “Your skin’s like ice,” she hissed, pulling me more fully on top of her and wrapping her arms around me. “It’s a person,” she guessed and I was surprised at her perceptiveness.

“Yes,” I said.

“But I gave him Dios,” she said stubbornly. “And it can’t be Dios.”

“I’m Ohtori too,” I said and my voice was odd to my own ears.

Utena gasped. Then her arms tightened around me so much I couldn’t breathe.

“Anthy…” she said harshly, brokenly. “Don’t say that…”

“Shh,” I said, “it’s alright.” For long moments more she held me, then her arms loosened and she sat up, helping me up too.

“Let’s go back,” she said, looking everywhere but me. “It’s getting late.”

I helped her pack the remains of our picnic.

“My leg isn’t hurt,” she pointed out when we were almost back at the house. “That’s so strange.” She looked down at the sword of Dios which was shoved through her belt. “But it all really happened cos the sword is out. Hmm how do I put this thing back? It always just disap…”

I had waved my hand already. The sword vanished in a spray of golden sparks. Utena finally looked me in the face. Actually she stared.

“Sometimes,” I told her. “You should listen to Arisugawa-san.”

I stepped inside before she could answer.

* * *

I woke with a start, dripping with sweat and utterly terrified. I stared, not understanding what I saw. Juri’s hand gripped my bicep; we stood in the middle of the ballroom. This room was unused, dusty and undecorated. It remained an empty space, wide wooden floors that needed polish and an immense chandelier that stayed unlit. There were mirrors on the walls to catch the dancers and throw them back at their admiring selves. Now they reflected the night hanging outside the arched windows: a sliver of moon and cruelly gleaming stars. And us: Juri and I locked in a parody of a dance.

Juri’s nails dug in, as did her probing eyes.

“Come here often?” Her voice was mocking. I stared at her, suddenly aware my cheeks were damp with tears.

She stared back. Her hand tightened then relaxed. With a sigh she let me go. I stumbled back, then dropped to my knees. I still wasn’t sure what was happening.

There had been people here moments ago; the room had been full. A prince had danced with a princess, both decked in bejeweled white. Others had danced too, whirling like so many brightly colored roses. Opulence, such opulence, I hadn’t seen its like in nigh two hundred years. Courtiers had lounged on chaises and I had knelt before one such, offering him grapes, pouring him wine. His stiff brown beard had bristled as he leaned in to force a kiss instead. His hand had pulled roughly at the neckline of my gown.

A dance for the new year. For the new emperor. But not for his sister, ostensibly just another lady of the court. Never for his sister. Always for his princess. Always for the princesses he rescued, who usually didn’t need saving. No rescue for his sister. There would never be a rescue for her. Never ever. That was understood.

It was all part of their fairytale, carved out by metal. Written in her blood.


I blinked again and focused on Juri’s bare feet, and the hem of her frilly white nightdress.

“..telling me that you sleepwalk?” she said incredulously, and I detected a hint of accusation. I said nothing, and after a pause she continued.

“I followed you. One can’t be too careful…strange things have been happening lately.” She hesitated. “You were crying.” Something in her narrow gaze informed me she was sure this was some kind of trick.

I realized she had woken me. Managing to gather the tatters of my composure I rose to face her.

“Thank you.” I turned to go but she grabbed my wrist.

“Hold it! Where are you going?”

“Back to bed,” I said blankly. “Sorry for disturbing your rest.”

She stared at me like she didn’t know what to think. She didn’t let go.

“What’s going on?!” Utena had arrived on the scene, sliding a little as she rushed over to us in blue pajamas and red socks.

“Himemiya-san was…sleepwalking,” said Juri, removing her hand.

“Oh,” said Utena reaching my side and wrapping a comforting arm around me. “She does that sometimes.” She scratched her nose and blushed a little as she noticed the gauzy material of Juri’s nightdress.

I do?

“Then you should keep a better eye on her,” said Juri. “Lock your door.”

“I do!” protested Utena. “It doesn’t help any.”

I stared at my feet. I hadn’t known any of this. What else did I do in my sleep? What did I…say?

“Stop her from leaving your room,” insisted Juri. “Who knows what will happen if she’s free to wander the house. She could hurt…herself.” Or someone else echoed her unspoken words.

“What am I supposed to do?” snapped Utena. “Tie her up?! I usually wake up in time and guide her back to bed, which by the way is what you’re supposed to do with a sleepwalker. I suppose you grabbed her or something like that, huh? Maybe you slapped her?” The heat that colored her cheeks intensified and her voice was rising.

I stood quite still but felt a niggle of something in my belly. What was it, this unfamiliar feeling? They were talking about me like I wasn’t even here. Like I was some kind of doll that Utena had to protect and Juri had to suspect. But I wasn’t a doll. Not anymore. I pulled away from Utena.

“I’ll seal the bedroom door,” I told them, for once in my life unable to hide my irritation. “It won’t be a problem anymore.” I turned to go back to bed. Utena caught at my arm but I’d had enough of that for one night.

“No,” I told her without turning around. “I’ll meet you up there.” Pulling away I padded out the room. I heard raised voices behind me.

“That’s your fault!” hissed Utena.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Juri, “I’m sure you annoyed your girlfriend all on your own. You’re annoying me.”

“Why don’t you understand?” cried Utena, and I hesitated for a moment wondering if I should turn back and get her. She sounded so upset…

“She has nightmares, okay?” she continued, as I hovered just outside the door.

I did?

“Terrible nightmares,” said Utena, “I can’t bear them sometimes. But you act like it doesn’t even matter.”

There was a pause. When Juri spoke she was still cold but with an edge of uncertainty.

“Everyone has nightmares.” Her voice became bitter. “Nightmares of Ohtori, and we all know why that is.”

“But Anthy has more!” insisted Utena, voice rough with tears. I wondered if she’d grabbed Juri, she sounded so intense. “Not just Ohtori, Juri-san. All the Ohtoris before that. If you could hear the things she says…the sounds she makes…” She was crying now in earnest. “If you knew…”

“Utena-kun,” said Juri so softly I almost didn’t hear. Risking a peep I saw she’d pulled Utena to her chest and was holding her tightly.

“They’re getting worse,” cried Utena, “She’s getting worse. What should I do? What do we do, Juri? Everything is getting worse…I’m scared of what’s coming…”

“Shh,” said Juri. “We’re in it together. We’ll work it out.”

Utena sniffled and burrowed her face in Juri’s chest. She was hiccupping from the force of her tears. I got the funny feeling she’d been holding herself in check, trying not to cry for the longest time. I got the feeling she couldn’t have cried like that, made those heartfelt admissions if it had been me there holding her.

I left.

Turning at the end of the corridor I walked straight into Miki.

“Ouch!” he yelped springing back, then blushed and apologized profusely. Muttering my own apology I tried to step past him.

“Wait, Anthy-san!” he called, “There’s all this noise…what’s going on?”

“Utena and Arisugawa-san are talking privately,” I said as calmly as only I could, rain or shine, life or death. “Go back to bed, Miki-kun.”

He blinked at me. I turned and walked away. Leaving him to do what he would. Leaving Utena and Juri to take what comfort they could.

* * *

Events were like a bloody ocean now, one swell breaking after another. I knew something else would happen soon, inevitably, without me being able to stop it, or slow it, or wish it away.

And so it did, the very next day.

It happened in the form of Takatsuki Shiori, walking in on us all in the meeting-room. She entered without so much as knocking, or waiting to be announced.

“Shiori!” cried Juri, leaping to her feet and leaping away from Utena. They’d been seated together on the couch, heads bent over Miki’s latest chart.

I looked up from the corner table where I was pressing black petals to dry them, then organizing them into a rose sugar-pickle. If black roses were going to bloom it seemed like the thing to do.

“How dare you!” yelled Utena, leaping up to stand shoulder to shoulder with Juri. “How can you show your face here after what you did? You tried to shoot Anthy!”

Juri folded her arms but added nothing to Utena’s tirade, biting her lip as she stared at our uninvited guest. Miki glanced nervously between them from his armchair. I saw his fingers edging toward his pant pocket, no doubt searching for his stopwatch.

Shiori laughed, a light and lovely sound.

“Oh that’s all in the past, Tenjou-san. Can’t I visit my oldest and best friend?”

“And who might that be?” said Juri.

Tense silence.

“How did you get in?” asked Miki.

Shiori laughed again but this time with a hint of strain.

“The door,” she told Miki sweetly. “I suppose the past is exactly that,” she added to Juri. “But I haven’t come here to talk about the past.”

“So what did you want to talk about?” asked Utena, tone and stance aggressive. I couldn’t help noticing that she was edging between Shiori and myself.

I looked down at the sugar-pickle. When it was finished it would last longer than the live roses had. Was that a good thing? Could flowers that were forced to last ever be happy that way?

“Actually I wanted to give you all an invitation.” Shiori smiled and reached into her handbag.

Utena tensed.
Juri’s arms unfolded.
Miki clicked his stopwatch on.

Shiori pulled a card out and flourished it in the air.

Utena sagged.
Juri’s brow arched.
Miki clicked his stopwatch off.

“It’s from Akio-sama,” Shiori revealed, eyes darting quickly from one of us to the next. “He’s holding a ball.”

“He’s WHAT?” gasped Utena.

“Let me see that.” Juri snatched the invitation away and I watched Shiori maneuver herself so their hands ended up brushing. I had to admire her deftness. Juri pulled her hand away like she’d pricked herself on a thorn. She stared at Shiori for a beat, eyes wounded. Then she busied herself over the invitation, all cool calm again. Shiori’s smile broadened.

“Why would he hold a ball?” mused Miki.

“Something to do of course.” Shiori giggled. “Life’s boring without parties.” She slanted her eyes at Miki. “Kozue-chan will be there. She wanted me to make sure you knew that.”

Miki’s eyes lit up.

“Sh…she did?”

“She misses you,” said Shiori. She turned to me. “As Akio-sama misses you.”

I didn’t have time to respond before Utena made a dive at Shiori. It was so unlike her that I half-rose to my feet, but Juri got there first, catching Utena’s shoulder and pulling her back.

“Calm down,” she ordered. “She’s just stirring you.”

Utena blinked and took a deep breath. I sat back down. Utena shoved her hands into her jean pockets and took another breath.

“Thanks,” she muttered, still glaring at Shiori.

“Goodness me,” said Shiori. “It seems like it’s a crime around here for siblings to be…affectionate.” She smiled prettily at Utena. “Guess it’s a good thing you don’t have any family.”

Utena’s glaring got worse.

“I didn’t realize you knew so much about Utena,” said Juri smoothly, dangerously.

“Touga-san talks about her a great deal,” said Shiori. “It’s such a bore. Anyway…” She glanced around the room. “I do hope you’ll all attend. And Juri-san…” She fluttered her eyelashes at the older girl. “Save a dance for me.”

She flounced out of the room, and presumably out of the house.

“Should I go after her?” asked Miki, “get her to come back and give us more information?”

“No,” said Juri tightly. “The less we see of her the better.”

“But we gotta see her if we’re gonna help save her,” argued Utena, moving back to the couch. The other two stared at her incredulously.

“Uh, sorry for saying this Utena-san,” said Miki. “But it sure didn’t seem like you wanted to save her just then.”

“I was mad,” said Utena, sticking her chin out stubbornly. “I don’t think good when I get mad.”

“Understatement of the year,” muttered Juri, but she raised her hands when Utena turned her glare on her. “Look, right now we have to decide if we’re going to this ball. And what is the chairman playing at?”

“What.” Miki clicked his stopwatch on. “Does.” He clicked it off. “It.” On. “Mean?” Off again.

“It means he’s still plotting and planning,” said Utena. “Damn him, I told him to leave us alone!”

“Like he would listen,” said Juri. “He’s always been his own master.”

“But I gave him Dios,” argued Utena, like that should settle it once and for all.

“I wonder what that actually did to him,” said Miki. “Theoretically speaking. It should have converted him back, right? To uh, whatever Dios is or was…”

“You’re the genius,” said Juri with a shrug. “Your guess is probably better than either of ours. Personally I think Utena should have killed him.”

“What?” Utena stared at her.

Juri shrugged and passed the invitation to Miki; he started to pour over it, no doubt looking for clues.

“Some people can’t be saved,” said Juri. “It’s a painful lesson that most of us don’t learn until we’re being stabbed in the back.”

Perhaps unconsciously Utena’s eyes darted to mine. There was no hiding that she’d done so; I had stopped pressing petals and sat watching the conversation. She turned bright red and looked away again.

“B…but he started off good,” she argued. Almost against her will her eyes darted back to mine. By then I’d made my face blank, a helmet with the faceguard down. It was a reflex, and one I was suddenly happy to have.

“Surely…” said Utena, voice trailing off as she gazed at me. “Surely he…he…”

Juri followed her gaze and put a hand on her arm. Utena’s head snapped back round to her.

“Surely he should be able to be good again?” guessed Juri. “Life isn’t really like that.”

Utena stared at her, eyes haunted. Yet again they flickered to mine, then back to Juri’s as though scorched.

“What do you think, Anthy-san?” asked Miki. “You uh…know him better than anyone.”

I felt my distant gaze gliding over to Miki, to study him remotely. He flushed and looked down.

“Anthy?” prompted Utena. I looked at her instead.

“There once was a monkey that fell down a rocky cliff,” I said. My voice was faraway, the story was an old one that had been whispered to me in a snow-covered palace.

They all stared at me, intensely curious. I continued calmly.

“He’d always lived at the top of the cliff, so he could see everything there was to see. All his needs were taken care of in the garden that grew there, filled with magical fruit. Naturally he wanted to get back up the cliff, back to his place on top of the world inside the magical garden. But it wasn’t going to be easy, because he was injured in the fall. His tail had turned crooked, whereas once it’d been straight, but he was still very attractive.”

“An attractive monkey?” said Juri dryly. ChuChu chirped a protest from where he was pinning useless scraps of paper onto Miki’s corkboard. Utena giggled. The tension broke.

“Yes,” I said and found it in myself to smile a little. “Attractive, and cunning too. The other animals always believed in anything he said.”

“So he wanted to get back up?” prompted Miki. He’d curled up in the armchair hugging a cushion to his chest. He looked entranced, just like a little boy. I smiled at him.

“Yes. Although he was hurt he did his best to start climbing. He must have climbed, oh, the height of a very tall tree. But of course he’d never climbed higher than that before. And the truth is…” I paused and looked around. They all leaned forward a little, and I thought how like children they were, even as young adults. I had my audience in my grasp.

“…The monkey was a very lazy creature. He’d never had to do anything for himself, courtesy of living in the garden of magic fruit. He’d always known everything, courtesy of living at the top of the cliff where he could spy easily. As I said before, he’d never climbed higher than a tree. So…”

“So?” said Utena.

“So he stopped climbing,” guessed Juri. Her voice was thoughtful, a little sad.

“Yes,” I said. “He stopped. Because it only took a moment to fall. But it would take a lifetime to scale that cliff. And it wouldn’t be easy; it would be filled with sweat and blood and determination that he just didn’t have.”

“The moral of the story,” put in Juri, “is that you shouldn’t trust a creature that has everything handed to it on a silver platter.”

“Is it?” I said. I turned back to my rose sugar-pickle.

“Do we go to the ball?” said Miki, sounding very young and sad. “It sounds like it would be a stupid thing to do. But Kozue’s there…”

“We’re with Utena,” said Juri stolidly. “So it’s not really about making smart decisions, is it? We’ll just have to fight the monkey again. And kill the bastard.”

“Huh?” said Utena. “What are you guys talking about?” She gazed searchingly over at me, and I felt the heat of it for long aching moments. But I didn’t look up; I had to finish the sculpture. I had to get rid of the black roses, and turn them into something that would last even if it wasn’t forever.

“Of course we’re going to the ball,” she finally muttered. “Takatsuki-san and Kaoru-san are on our list.”

“On your list,” murmured Juri, but she shrugged good-naturedly and I knew she’d follow Utena into a warzone. Which was actually what she was doing.

I frowned down at the flowers as the talk petered off, and Miki left the room to call Saionji, who it was agreed would be a valuable ally. Juri went off to search for appropriate party clothes (sometimes she could be quite the girl). Utena came over to sit across from me, staring at the sugar-pickle.

“What does the story mean?” she asked.

“Do you really not know?” I pushed the last petal into place. Then I shivered as Utena’s hand lightly brushed mine.

“It means you think I did the wrong thing,” she said tightly. “That I made another mistake that’s gonna put us all in horrible danger. Like I did before when I made you scry.”

“No,” I said, “I can’t usually see the future.” Gently I pulled my hand away from hers. It was just that her touch burned now, like purifying fire, and I was already so singed.

“Look at me,” she said, and there was hurt in her voice and shadowing her big blue eyes. “We’re in this together, okay?”

I looked at her, wishing I didn’t have to. The urge to hide, to contain, to hold back and be safe was growing every day. It hurt to be like Utena. It was easier to be like Anthy.

“Okay,” I said. I tried to look away but her hand caught my chin and directed my eyes to her own.

“I’ll pull you up that damned cliff on my back if I have to,” she swore with feverish intensity. I gaped at her. She’d understood the fable, and far more than the others. I’d misjudged her again.

Perceptive when it counted.
Determined unto death.
A regular fool.

“We’re in this together,” she repeated. “Promise me. Promise me, Anthy, that you won’t give up. It’s the only thing that could make me give up. If you gave up.” Her hand let go of my chin to cup my cheek. “So don’t give up.”

I couldn’t look away from her pleading eyes, simply had to give in to her desperate demand.

“I won’t give up,” I whispered, and I turned my head to kiss her palm. Her eyes warmed and she smiled at me, but oh so sorrowfully. I smiled sadly back.

“Good,” she whispered. “Oh good. I can do anything knowing that. Anything I have to.” Her hand shifted to cradle my neck and she leaned across the table to kiss me.

And for one sweet delusional moment I believed she really could.

TBC in Chapter 7: Dressing Wounds

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#28 | Back to Top02-03-2010 08:37:33 PM

Melancholic_Soul
Dancer Romancer
From: VA
Registered: 04-28-2009
Posts: 1513

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

I'm glad you came back to this emot-keke

I wonder how these manifestations might continue with Anthy, and I really want to know what will happen at this event. I was totally creeped out by Shiori's appearance... she's awfully bold to traipse into Juri's den...of course, I could totally see her doing that. I think the fact that she did makes Juri even more wary of her than usual. Poor Juri T^T

Also, I find it perfectly fitting that Anthy sleepwalks, it really does seem like it would be a natural tendency of hers.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v476/anthy_utena/rukasan.gif Believing in the power of Love and Justice since 1999
Red Lobster CGM- Burning Shrimp since 2013
Amazon FFC fucking shit up since 2015
Best Buy Warehouse - Tech decks on deck since 2016

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#29 | Back to Top02-04-2010 12:06:06 PM

gpink
Eternal Castellan
Registered: 11-21-2009
Posts: 265

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Great there's an update. I was just about to sell all of my possessions and bribe you with the $50 to finish the story. emot-smile
I really like the way the story is moving, also foxhunts make everything better emot-smile

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#30 | Back to Top02-04-2010 06:52:42 PM

spoon-san
Someday Shiner
Registered: 03-18-2009
Posts: 3423

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

I've finally been getting to reading your fanfic, sharnii, and it is wonderful.  Great humor "If you say Eternity, I'm getting out of the shower right now."  And the idea of associating Anthy and Akio with ancient dieties to give this sense of scale of how they stand in relation to time and the world and really makes it big.  And I believe I mentioned in a review as to how much I appreciated the stop watch in the last chapter.  Anyways, brilliant stuff.

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#31 | Back to Top02-20-2010 01:50:52 AM

Itsuke
Pathtracer
Registered: 12-08-2008
Posts: 341

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

You know, I often wonder what Anthy dreams when she sleeps, but I can't imagine it can be anything other than nightmares...

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#32 | Back to Top02-20-2010 01:52:37 AM

Prince_of_Stars
Someday Shiner
From: The Hellsing Organization
Registered: 06-12-2008
Posts: 4165
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Spot on!


http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c174/chani_sama/prince-sig.png

Sir Hellsing: Leader of the Feminine Failure Revolution
Faithfully failing at feminine tasks, gender roles, and the conventionality of femininity since 1990.

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#33 | Back to Top04-27-2010 07:29:29 PM

teyhy
High Tripper
From: Ecuador
Registered: 04-27-2010
Posts: 245
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

wow... this fic is great sharnii, this is exactly how I see Anthy and Utena's relationship going, marvelous, and Utena and Juri drunk is just emot-rofl , just keep doing what you doing this fanfic rocks.


Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils - H. Berlioz.
http://i929.photobucket.com/albums/ad133/teyhy/for%20fo/Untitled-1copy.jpg?t=1280266589

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#34 | Back to Top10-07-2010 11:31:22 PM

WinstonTA
Touga Topper
From: Washington, D.C.
Registered: 11-28-2007
Posts: 53

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Sharnii,

I went back and reread sections of Roses Grow and what you have done so far with Thorns Wither.  I really hope you are still planning on continuing this series, I would love to read more of this amazing story from Anthy's point of view.

I just wanted to send you a quick note to remind you that there are some people out here who love your stories emot-smile


“You taste so good,” she whispered against my skin, lingering where my neck met my shoulders. “You taste like...”
“If you say eternity,” I said drily, “I’ll get out of the shower right now.”
~Utena & Anthy, "Thorns Wither" fic, Chapter 4

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#35 | Back to Top10-11-2010 04:10:29 PM

liberrrty
Miki Molester
From: The land of the white rose
Registered: 08-31-2010
Posts: 39

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Sharnii,

I'm really sorry for the crime against art/nature/Dios but after reading this I just had to make some fan art of Miki in a princess gown waiting to be taken to the ball. (My hand just moved by itself I SWEARZ school-devil )

But yeah I'm a complete fangirl for all your work (you should seriously write novels), please please please keep it up whenever you can. Miki-kun has to be able to go to the ball someday right emot-frown?

ps. Also poor Utena needs to get some. Pesky swords, always getting in the way of things :imaginary juri shower shlick because a etc-saiowank is rather innapropriate for this situation:

okay creepy fangush over emot-biggrin


Bishonen's back babies!

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#36 | Back to Top10-11-2010 08:14:44 PM

WinstonTA
Touga Topper
From: Washington, D.C.
Registered: 11-28-2007
Posts: 53

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

yay I'm glad someone else posted feedback to Sharnii, cause I want more than anything for her to post more of her awesome fic as soon as she can emot-biggrin

Maybe if we get more people to post feedback she will be further motivated.


“You taste so good,” she whispered against my skin, lingering where my neck met my shoulders. “You taste like...”
“If you say eternity,” I said drily, “I’ll get out of the shower right now.”
~Utena & Anthy, "Thorns Wither" fic, Chapter 4

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#37 | Back to Top01-10-2011 03:22:04 AM

tlrc
New Student
Registered: 01-09-2011
Posts: 4

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Why do Sharnii not update new chapter? TT_TT

I been shock when saw Utena said some naughty words like "fuck"... I dont think a noble prince can say that.
I was thinking about HP when I read chap 6 .. Can we have more fight, adventure or something... not much sex? I like when A & U lovey dovey but...  (>_<) (blush)

Last edited by tlrc (01-10-2011 03:44:54 AM)

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#38 | Back to Top03-01-2011 07:13:01 PM

Prince_of_Stars
Someday Shiner
From: The Hellsing Organization
Registered: 06-12-2008
Posts: 4165
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Gosh, I know it's been AGES since I've been able read up on your stuff (I blame the Army), but I did enjoy reading it. Your writing is very thorough, and I enjoy your plot twists and character interactions. Please continue writing. etc-love


http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c174/chani_sama/prince-sig.png

Sir Hellsing: Leader of the Feminine Failure Revolution
Faithfully failing at feminine tasks, gender roles, and the conventionality of femininity since 1990.

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#39 | Back to Top05-18-2011 10:53:04 PM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Thanks very much for the feedback, guys and girls. etc-love I appreciate hearing your thoughts and reactions.

Where did you post this evil Miki fanart, liberrrty? It sounds hilarious and like something I'd like to link to the fic!

Gosh, it's been ages since I've been on our happy forum - but here's the latest chapter of Thorns Wither which I posted on fanfic.net awhile back.

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#40 | Back to Top05-18-2011 10:55:54 PM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.
~Chinese Proverb~


Chapter 7: Dressing Wounds

It was evening and I was watching television in the lounge with Juri of all people. I’d been watching the home shopping network when she’d walked past, and to my (hidden) shock, joined me eagerly.

“Oh, I just love that,” she murmured, gazing at the pearl necklace that had been flashing across the screen at various angles for the last ten minutes. The sleazy male announcer smiled toothily and assured us it came with a special certificate from the Japan Pearl Science Laboratory.

“It’s gorgeous,” I agreed, quite taken by the way it contrasted with the model’s dark skin.

“I’m tempted to buy it,” she said. She reached for the phone, then sighed and pulled her hand back.

“Too expensive?” I guessed.

“No, it doesn’t go with my ball gown.” She pouted at the screen. “If it did… But my older sister gave me a strand of pearls last Christmas. I can’t really justify getting another set.”

“A shame,” I commiserated. Distantly I considered how odd it was to make small talk with Juri of all people. Especially since I didn’t really make small talk. Of course nobody really talked to me about my interests; maybe that was the difference. The rose bride hadn’t had interests.

“Yes,” she agreed. She glanced sidelong at me, perhaps noting the way I fiddled with the neckline of my blouse. “Why don’t you buy it?”

I reached for the phone. ChuChu cheeped at me from where he sat between us and I pulled my hand back reluctantly.

“Controlling little bugger,” muttered Juri, eyeing him.

“He’s right,” I said, turning back to the screen. “I shouldn’t.”

“Too expensive?” she guessed.

“No. It’s just I have so many jewels already.”

Juri frowned slightly.

“Of course you do.”

I said nothing, just stared at the screen and imagined the model wearing the pearls was me. Juri turned back too. The announcer assured us that the necklace’s clasp was 18K gold, as opposed to that of any competitors’ products which were sure to be an inferior 14K.

Juri oohed. I ahhed.

Just as suddenly we glanced sidelong at each other than back at the screen. ChuChu chortled between us, clapping his paws. The television screen flickered enticingly.

“I love this show,” muttered Juri, sounding like she couldn’t believe she was speaking to me, and so amicably too.

“I watch it whenever I can,” I told her, not knowing why I offered that information.

“You do?” She smiled for a moment than caught herself. “So do I.”

“Of course,” I told her with a small smile, “I have to get away from Utena first.”

She actually laughed.

“I bet you do. She’d hate this.”

“She does,” I agreed. “Each time she’s watched it she’s fallen asleep. Last time her mouth was open and ChuChu poured his chili-soup down it, and I’m afraid I was too busy watching to stop him.” I shook my head at the amusing memory. Of course Utena hadn’t been all that amused…

“That sounds like Utena,” Juri leaned forward as the products changed and the announcer started raving about a two for one offer on Stars Moon Sun perfume. Apparently it was worn by women of society and was guaranteed to make you attractive to everyone with a sense of smell.

Juri reached for the phone. Then pulled back her hand with a sigh. ChuChu emitted an enquiring peep.

“I’ve got too much perfume already,” she sighed. “Although…it would be nice to wear a brand new scent to the ball. And you get two for the price of one!”

“Yes,” I agreed, wondering if it was really necessary for me to smell like roses all the time. Whose idea had that been anyway?

The announcer informed us there were three fragrances, ostensibly sun, moon, and star. The model was a beautiful redhead: she looked somewhat French. Smiling coquettishly she began spraying her wrists with perfume. The announcer grabbed her wrist and started kissing it.

“What does sun smell like?” wondered Juri.

“I think it’s the sandalwood, sugar orchid and cashmere one,” I informed her complacently. “With base notes of amber and freshly picked ginger.”

“Is there any other way to pick ginger?” said Juri drily.

We giggled.

“You know,” she said, favoring me with an opaque look. “You really pay attention to detail.”

“Yes,” I said. A pause.

“Why?” she asked, and the flickering of the TV set coupled with our sudden and surreal camaraderie loosened my tongue.

“It was my job,” I said.

We stared at the screen. The model was spraying moon scent around everywhere now, and the announcer was having a coughing fit. Juri smirked a little, the turned back to me.

“About that,” she said, eyes and voice uncomfortably direct. “Was it really necessary to keep offering me orange roses at every opportunity?”

I sighed and looked at her, meeting her frank assessment head on.

“It was my job.” My voice was soft, but unapologetic. Juri frowned. I waited patiently for what was coming next, heavy condemnation, or perhaps a slap.

“I shudder to think,” she muttered, “what I would have done if I’d won one of those duels.” If she’d been my victor she meant. I smiled faintly at her, and she arched an eyebrow.

“I already know,” I told her. “In another life you did.”

She gaped at me, a bit like she had when the sword fell out of the sky to slice the rose from her breast. But her next question surprised me.

“Tell me,” she whispered, not contesting my statement. “Tell me how it was.”

The next product offer had come on, something about a concealer that could hide any blemish. Neither of us paid attention.

I eyed Juri. ChuChu covered his eyes with his paws and peeked at her through them.

“Tell me,” she said, sounding like she was nervous but trying to cover it. I shrugged.

“You made me sleep in the hall, and insisted we couldn’t share a dorm-room. You said it was…inappropriate. When you found me inside cleaning, you slapped me and threw the orange roses out the window.” I bit my lip. “There was glass everywhere. Takatsuki-san came by and…acted shocked and upset. You two had an argument. Then she took me to her dorm.”

I pulled my eyes back from the alternate past and found Juri staring at me hungrily.

“What then?” she demanded.

“That,” I whispered, “is not something you want to know.” I sighed. “It would only hurt you.” I folded my hands tightly in my lap. “Contrary to your expectations, Arisugawa-san, I have no interest in hurting you or anyone else.”

“Because of Utena,” she said, studying me with an implacable expression.

“Because of Utena,” I agreed. We looked at each other, then simultaneously turned away. It was an understanding of sorts.

“I like the concealer,” she said. “But it’s the wrong shade for my skin.” She glanced sidelong and added drily. “You hardly need it.”

“Yes,” I murmured sotto voice, “I have nothing to hide.”

She stared at me. I felt a smile hovering at the edge of my lips. Unexpectedly we both laughed.

Utena walked by, did a double-take, and walked inside slowly, scratching the back of her neck and looking like she didn’t know if she was having a dream.

“Sit down, Utena,” invited Juri, “we’re watching The Shop Channel.” Utena grimaced then looked confused as Juri giggled and I covered my smile with my hand.

“I, uh, that is…” She scratched her nose, looked at us again, and decided this strange occurrence was worth her hatred of the channel. Tentatively she plopped down between us, picking ChuChu up by his tail and dropping him back down on her lap. He chattered excitedly at her. Always a fan of his antics she grinned and stroked his head. He closed his eyes and made a noise between the purr of a kitten and a dying asthmatic.

“Oh my,” said Juri as a set of kitchen knives flashed across the screen. “That’s perfect for you, Himemiya-san.”

From the corner of my eye I saw she was smirking. I felt a faint answering smirk cross my own face.

“Should I?” I wondered, reaching for the phone.

“No!” yelped Utena, grabbing my reaching hand and sitting on it. “We already have enough cutlery. More than enough.” She glared at me. “Don’t tell me you two sit here buying everything you see.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Juri.

“We only buy necessities,” I added primly.

“Yes,” said Juri earnestly, her eyes wicked as she studiously avoided looking at Utena. “Why, the only things we’ve purchased tonight were that strand of pearls and…”

Utena’s eyes goggled.

“…two bottles of perfume for the prince of one,” I added.

“No it was four for the price of two,” corrected Juri. “And don’t forget…”

Utena looked like she might faint.

“…the concealer,” I finished. “For you of course,” I told Utena mischievously. She eyed me nervously.

“Makeup? But I don’t even like makeup…”

“You really need to wear it,” Juri told her.

“I do? But er uh…why do I…uh…”

“You should listen to Arisugawa-san,” I told her, utterly enjoying her astounded look. There was a pause during which Utena looked flabbergasted and Juri held her breath to keep from laughing.

Then we burst.

Over the laughter Utena swore and muttered idle threats but I caught the surprised smile she threw me, relieved and proud all at once. I think she’d thought Juri and I would never get along. I patted her hand and let her think her optimistic thoughts.

One agreeable conversation did not a friendship make. But it was a nice interlude from all the animosity. I was beginning to realize that about ordinary life.

One could not live on animosity alone.

* * *

“I have nothing to wear to the ball!” fretted Utena, staring into our closet like she more often stared into the fridge. “Absolutely nothing.”

“We could go to the castle,” I offered from where I sat on the bed watching her. “There are dressing rooms there that fill whole rooms.”

“We could?” she said, turning to stare at me. “There are?”

I shrugged.

“Who else is going to wear them?”

She grinned slowly.

“Yeah. Cool! Let’s do that. I hate spending money on clothes. Seems like such a waste.”

“You didn’t mind spending money on that new sports jacket,” I reminded her.

“That made sense,” she argued. “It’s got this breathable material that’s really good for warming down after you exercise. Plus the red is such a pretty color.”

It was my turn to grin. She blushed and looked away.

“Okay okay, you win. But let’s go to the castle for party clothes.”

I patted the bed and she moved to sit cross-legged beside me, facing me. Draping her arms around my shoulders she pressed an affectionate kiss to my cheek. I smiled at her, and closed my eyes in conjunctioin with the closing of hers.

The room whirled around us. Roses, crushed roses, twisting thorns. Blood, acrid and wet, flowing down my face, sticking in dried clumps to the roses. Metal, sharp and burning metal, stabbing, melting, solidifying, making up the bones and structure. Roses making up the softness of the flesh, giving color to the illusion. Not a girl but a doll. A beautiful doll, more desirable than a girl, but just a doll. A doll with no heart.

I opened my eyes, slightly dizzy from our passage. Utena’s arms tightened around my neck temporarily.

“It’s different when we both do it,” she husked. “Easier.”

“Yes,” I whispered, hoping the sense of our passage was different for her than it was for me. I had the feeling it would be, Utena being Utena. And I was intensely glad of that.

“So where’s this room?” she asked, extracting herself and helping me up. I took her hand and guided her through the maze of halls, instinctively knowing the way, just as I knew the words to say to each and every duelist. We shortly arrived at one of the dressing rooms and ChuChu disappeared into a fur coat with a squeak of glee.

“Don’t make any holes,” I told him, but I could already hear him chewing. I sighed. Utena grinned at me, and led us over to the closest rack.

“Wow,” she said, “there’s so many to choose from.”

“What do you want to dress like?” I asked her. She looked sheepish as she checked out a row of glitzy uniforms and I grinned at the flush rising in her cheeks.

“A prince,” I guessed. “I thought you said you weren’t a prince?”

“Did I say that?” she mumbled, and I could tell she was embarrassed. I laughed and pressed a teasing kiss to her neck on the way past.

“You look good as a prince,” I murmured, deciding not to tease her any longer.

“What will you wear?” she asked, wandering over to where I was studying a rack of delicately made gowns. She reached out one hand to stroke the flimsy material of a violet and lace concoction. “So pretty.”

I stared at the dresses but didn’t really see any of them, and wondered if I should tell Utena I didn’t care. I would wear anything; I’d worn all these before. Balls held no allure for me, I hated crowds of people. Always every eye had been on me, watching me, lusting after me, or whispering jealous lies about me. Or jealous truths, it didn’t really matter which. And of course there was the original crowd, and the hateful things they’d said for millions of years.

Nothing good had come of crowds. Nothing good had come from any of the myriad of balls, or dances, or parties, or feasts. Every single one had ended in heartbreak…not that the heartbreak had been mine. As a matter of fact the party I’d attended with Utena at Touga’s invitation was the only good memory I had. I remembered her unexpected rescue…the way she’d draped a tablecloth (of all things!) about me…the innocent way we’d danced…

I’d decided she was interesting that day, as far as victors went. Stupid to be sure, but interesting. And unlikely to hurt me, which made a nice reprieve.

“Which do you like best?” I asked. “I’ll wear that one.”

“Are you sure?” She reached out to stroke a shimmering gown in green so pale as to almost be another color. “I love this one. You’d look…amazing in it.”

I reached out and took it: the Greek-style gown I’d worn the night Akio had thrown the loser of the latest gladiator match (the duels of the time) to the lions.

“What are you thinking?” asked Utena, slipping an arm around my shoulders. “I get so worried about you.”

“You do?” I turned in her arms, the dress sliding between us, then dropping to the floor. I slipped my arms around her waist, deciding I’d pick it up later.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I can never tell what you’re thinking. And sometimes…sometimes I’m scared. That it’s something that h…hurts you.”

“Oh Utena.” I sighed and rested my head on her chest. “You shouldn’t worry.”

“So help me stop,” she said, and her voice was tight. She pressed a kiss to my head, a fierce kiss and clutched me closer.

“Tell me what you were thinking just then. Tell me why your hair is up in pins, when it hasn’t been in the whole of our time together.”

I was silent.

“Anthy…” she practically begged and I could tell she was trying hard not to cry.

“It’s not that easy,” I whispered, closing my eyes tightly. “I was made to keep secrets.”

“Just begin,” she whispered back. “Try. Please try. Maybe you’ll get somewhere. Maybe…” her voice caught, “I can help.”

“I know you want to.” I sighed and bestowed a kiss to her breastbone before lifting my head to gather her eyes into mine. She studied me anxiously and I lifted my hands to gently frame her face.

“Don’t kiss me,” she warned, voice husky, eyes swimming with tears. “I get distracted when you do that.”

I sighed again. My far too perceptive prince. What was I going to do with her? How was I going to protect her from herself, and more importantly, from me?

“What were you thinking before?” she repeated. A tear leaked out and trailed down her cheek. I pulled her head down and licked it up.

“Anthy…” she warned, voice tense. She broke away and took my hands in hers. She stepped away then, holding them loosely between us but in a way that made me think twice about pulling away. I stared at her. She stared back. Another tear escaped from her big blue eyes. My heart hitched. I couldn’t take much more of this…

But she truly didn’t know what she was asking.
And I didn’t know if I could give it to her.

Another tear. I closed my eyes and started to try.

“I was thinking about the last time I wore that dress.” I opened my eyes. Utena was studying me, silently imploring me to continue. I took a deep breath.

“It was at a banquet, hosted by Akakios in honor of the latest…victor.”

“Akakios?”

“Akio-san,” I told her and her eyes widened appreciably. I laughed bitterly, which surprised me as much as it did her.

“Akakios is Greek for innocent, as in not evil,” I told her. “It was his idea of a joke.” My lips curved in a parody of a smile. “You know, three saints supposedly had that same name.”

“Oh,” she whispered, eyeing me anxiously, her hands shaking slightly where they held onto mine. “W…what was your name?” I could tell that she hadn’t thought this far behind us before, had never considered that I had other names. Other faces. I thought about stopping before she could think some more, but she took a step toward me.

“Please…” she added, eyes holding mine more securely than her hands did.

“Anthy,” I told her quietly, “he started to call me that then.”

“It’s Greek?” she said wonderingly.

“Yes,” I whispered. We stared at each other for a moment.

“What does it mean?” she said, and I sighed knowing that I couldn’t say I didn’t know. Not now.

“Flower,” I said. She closed her eyes.

“Of course,” she whispered. “It suits you.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “It does.” She was silent for a moment. Then she opened her eyes and gazed at me imploringly.

“What else?” I looked down.

“The victor…I forget his name, had picked that dress out for me. We went into the garden…” My eyes went hazy, my memory turned inward. “…out by the fountain, under the fig tree.” For some reason I remembered plants better than people. It had always been that way. Perhaps because I actually liked plants.

“There was a log there,” I murmured, “an olive that had been uprooted but was yet to be dragged away. I don’t know how that came to be…”

I closed my eyes and made myself go on.

“He said something about the dress. About how it made me look. I don’t recall it exactly, it’s not important. And then he told me to turn around. So I did. And then he pushed me down against the log and…”

“Stop!” Utena’s voice was horrified, her breathing harsh.

I stopped but didn’t look at her, fearing what I might see. Slowly she sank to her knees, dragging me down with her by her inextricable grip on my hands. I went. We knelt together and I heard that she was crying, soft pitiful sobs. I opened my eyes and looked at her. She was staring at me through her tears and oh, how her eyes reminded me of another time and place.  A younger Utena gazing at a younger version of me.

“I’m sorry, Anthy,” she sobbed, “I was wrong. I shouldn’t make you…” Her tears came harder and she couldn’t keep talking. I pulled my hands from her suddenly limp ones and reached forward to gather her into my arms; she sunk onto my lap instead. So I held her there and stroked her hair.

“It’s okay,” I told her calmly, “don’t cry, Utena. It doesn’t matter, none of that matters.” What I was saying wasn’t as important to me as getting her to stop crying. So I was shocked when she stopped suddenly, pushed herself into a kneeling position, and glared at me.

“It does matter!” she growled, knuckling fiercely at her eyes. “How can you say that?”

I said nothing, and she sighed, anger dying away in a heartbeat. Gently she retrieved one of my hands, and pressed it to her quivering lips. I watched her steadily. Watching me back she pressed my hand to her heart and held it there.

“Why is your hair up?” she said.

The look in her eyes (love, anger, grief) was strangely hypnotic. I found myself answering without really thinking about it.

“It helps me.”

“How?” she said, and for a moment I wondered if she was using the power of Dios against me. But no…she wouldn’t do that…

“I don’t know.” My breath hissed out in frustration at my inability to explain properly, at having to even bother to explain. “But it does. It’s like… I feel more like…myself.”

“You do?” She bit her lip.

“I do.” I sighed. “Like I know what to do, and how to be. Like I used to feel.”

“Like you used to feel?” she repeated blankly, and horror began to dawn in her eyes. “Y…you mean…when you were the rose bride?!”

I closed my eyes against her disappointment.

“Yes.”

“I…I don’t know what to say.” Her voice was raw and aching and when I looked at her I saw she’d closed her own eyes. She bought her other hand up to clutch mine to her heart with both of hers.

I looked down, stricken.

“I’m such a fool,” she said suddenly, and with real bitterness. “All this time I thought it would be easy, that if I just got you away from that place, from him, that if I just won a stupid duel…” Her shoulders slumped. “You could stop being the rose bride and that would be that.”

Her hands let go of mine and reached to clutch at my cheeks instead.

“But it’s not that simple, is it?” she whispered, and I saw then that she wasn’t angry at me, but with herself.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I started to cry, the sudden onslaught of tears not something I intended to do or knew how to stop.

“It’s okay,” she husked, pulling me forward and resting my head on her shoulder. “It’s my fault, for not understanding. For presuming, like I always do. I’m sorry…”

“Stop that,” I told her, voice choked with tears. “Nothing’s your fault.”

“It is,” she corrected, and her hands trembled where she clutched me to herself. I was crying too hard to argue, and it took a long time for the tears to go away. When they did I was tired, and empty of the confusing feelings that plagued me. Blissfully empty in a way I hadn’t been for a very long time. I sighed and curled myself up in Utena’s arms, and she sighed too and held me closer.

Time passed.

Eventually ChuChu came to find us, peeping softly and climbing up Utena’s jacket to fit himself neatly into her top pocket. She smiled weakly at him and sat up. I sat up too. She looked at the dress, grimaced, and shoved it away with her foot.

“Is there…” She looked at the vast clothing racks stretching out everywhere around us, “…any dresses in here that are…” She took a deep breath. “Okay?”

I knew what she meant.

“No,” I said, and looked down ashamed.

“Well,” she said, “maybe you’d better buy something off that shopping channel after all.” I looked at her then, at her tentative smile. I wiped my face and tried a smile back. Leaning forward she kissed my forehead.  I watched her rise and pick out a prince’s outfit, and thought that I didn’t like it when she cried, or the self-hatred I’d heard earlier in her voice. It was wrong for Utena to sound like that.

Potentially it could destroy her.

“Utena,” I called, and she turned to me so quickly it revealed the hair trigger she was on.

“I think…” I wiped my cheeks again. “I want to let my hair down. W…will you help me?”

Her smile was like the sun, her eyes the color of a sky clearing after a storm.

“Or course!” she said. Then more subdued: “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I said, “but not here. Let’s go back to our room.”

“Good idea.” Utena turned back to the rack and snatched up the nearest uniform, clearly not caring which one it was. Immediately her eyes were back on me, glowing with happiness, and I considered how easy it was to make her happy. Unlike me, it seemed to be her natural state. No wonder she’d been friends with that strange Wakaba girl.

“Let’s go,” she said, grabbing my hand and twirling me around, once, twice. I went easily with the motion, well-accustomed to all styles of dance and to following my partner. But I still gaped at her, and she grinned back at me.

“We gotta practice,” she told me reasonably. “I want to show you off properly. And impress everyone with all my fancy moves.”

“Your…fancy moves?” I repeated faintly.

“Like this,” she said, demonstrating by picking me up and twirling. I shrieked a little at the suddenness of it, then grinned back at the cat-that-ate-the-canary smugness on her face.

“Hold on,” she whispered, coming to a halt and bending her head to kiss me. Her tongue teased at my bottom lip, slid wetly into my waiting mouth.

The room whirled around us. Roses, gently falling roses, decorated by their thorns. Water, the freshness of cleansing rain or tears, pearling on the roses. Metal, clean and sharp, leading the way of a victorious charge. Rose petals, that of the defeated enemy, drifting down all around. Not just a girl but a prince. A true prince, more desirable than a mere girl, and more than the old prince. A prince with a heart.

I opened my eyes, slightly dizzy from our kiss. Utena’s arms tightened around my neck temporarily.

“I love the way you kiss me,” she husked. “It feels like magic.”

I smiled at her and pressed another quick kiss to her lips. We were sitting on our bed, and I turned so she could better access my hair.

“That’s just the transition between the worlds,” I said, “the power of Dios.”

“No,” she said, “I know what that feels like.” She shrugged a bit. “It doesn’t feel all that good actually, although it’s better when we go together. But kissing you…”

She leaned forward and kissed my neck, very softly. Her hands went to my head and tugged lightly at the first pin.

“That,” she whispered, “is a power all of its own.”

I smiled, and felt a flicker of my own happiness. It was good to feel it again; I’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

“I love your hair,” said Utena in her most dreamy voice, slowly removing another pin.

My smile broadened. Yes, definitely, she had a thing for my hair. Perhaps it was a power of its own too? Closing my eyes I enjoyed her gentle fingers, the give and take as each and every hairpin was removed. ChuChu sat in my lap and made his strange half-purring, half-dying sound. I gave him my finger and he chewed happily on that instead.

When my hair was finally down we slid under our covers and prepared to nap, for all that it was only the afternoon. We both needed it. Depositing ChuChu on his own pillow, I wrapped my body around Utena’s, wanting to be as close as possible, only forestalled by her entwining her body around mine.

“Thank you,” she whispered sleepily, rubbing my back.

“For what?” I whispered into her neck. She shivered against the sensation of my breath against her skin.

“Taking down your hair,” she whispered, her voice starting to slur as she fell into sleep. “I know you only…did it…to please me…”

I gasped, but she was already asleep. And I was too tired to do more than let myself fall into the arms of sleep too.

Wrapped in Utena’s arms.

TBC in Chapter 8: A Distance Drear

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#41 | Back to Top04-12-2012 06:19:33 PM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Hi Sharnii:

I've always loved long Utena fics, and yours ranked as one of the top favs.  Would love to see more chapters, if that's possible on your end.

All the best online and beyond!


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#42 | Back to Top04-14-2012 11:44:21 AM

BlackBeforeRed
Acknowledged Smart Person
From: The Nightosphere
Registered: 07-09-2010
Posts: 178

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Oh my god, for a second I actually thought it updated emot-aaa too bad, Thorns Wither and Roses Grow are my favorite Utena fics etc-love

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#43 | Back to Top08-18-2012 04:31:52 PM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

I'm overjoyed that you are again updating this fan favorite at fanfiction.net after our very LONG wait.  Keep up the good work! emot-dance


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#44 | Back to Top08-18-2012 07:40:59 PM

BlackBeforeRed
Acknowledged Smart Person
From: The Nightosphere
Registered: 07-09-2010
Posts: 178

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

She updated? SHE UPDATED emot-dance There must be a higher power in existence poptart excuse me now while I squeal with joy emot-biggrin

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#45 | Back to Top08-20-2012 06:44:08 AM

Chrome Homura
Poor Saionji :(
From: Oregon, USA
Registered: 06-07-2010
Posts: 517

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

emot-aaa

This is unexpected. Now all we need is for someone to re-ignite the flames of Alan Harnum's inner Utena fan so he'll get back to work on that one project of his, and then the holy trinity of Utena Fanfiction will be complete.


"My blood is steel, my heart is glass... I have emerged unvanquished from many battles... Never have I been put to flight, but neither have I stood victorious... This bearer stands here alone, forging steel atop a hill of blades... for that reason, my life has never needed meaning. My body has always...

been made of infinite swords!"

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#46 | Back to Top08-20-2012 11:26:51 AM

Melancholic_Soul
Dancer Romancer
From: VA
Registered: 04-28-2009
Posts: 1513

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

yaay emot-keke Beautiful work as always ^_____^

I like Juri's insistence that she is indeed a redhead. I really liked Juri and Saionji's banter in this chapter.

Ah, and Akio makes an appearance. I found I was actually sad for him in those final lines, but it's hard to trust the untrusted, you know? I can't wait until Kozue's appearance, I want to know how's she's going to react to Miki.

Thanks for the update! emot-keke


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v476/anthy_utena/rukasan.gif Believing in the power of Love and Justice since 1999
Red Lobster CGM- Burning Shrimp since 2013
Amazon FFC fucking shit up since 2015
Best Buy Warehouse - Tech decks on deck since 2016

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#47 | Back to Top09-02-2013 08:26:35 PM

Prince_of_Stars
Someday Shiner
From: The Hellsing Organization
Registered: 06-12-2008
Posts: 4165
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

Came back and re-read this after finishing SKU again tonight. Such good memories for me. emot-keke


http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c174/chani_sama/prince-sig.png

Sir Hellsing: Leader of the Feminine Failure Revolution
Faithfully failing at feminine tasks, gender roles, and the conventionality of femininity since 1990.

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#48 | Back to Top01-06-2015 12:15:29 AM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

The grave is still the best shelter against the storms of destiny.
~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg~


Chapter 9: These Loves which Can’t be Named

We were dancing because it was the best way to move across the crowded dance floor, looking for Utena’s friends, looking for anyone we knew. Normally I would have welcomed the opportunity to sway and spin in Utena’s arms. But now I only wanted to leave. I rested my head on her shoulder and tried not to think about that. Instead I watched the crowd intently, watched while apparently dancing.

“This is nice,” whispered Utena, her hands smoothing at my hips, then sliding up and over my back. “I like dancing with you.”

I kissed her shoulder lightly before resting my head back on it.

“Are you getting distracted?” I asked her.

“No,” she mumbled, pressing a kiss to my head then burying her face in my hair. “Mmm Anthy, you smell so good.”

“You’re distracted,” I said. “We’re supposed to be finding people.”

“What people?” she mumbled back, embrace tightening. “There’s only you.”

I smiled to myself. Then frowned as I caught sight of a dancer I recognized. Chida Tokiko. She wore a long black dress with a slit that went all the way up her thigh. She danced with a man with candy-cotton hair, nobody that I knew. He slid her backward in a romantic gesture and she dipped her head back gracefully. And looked me right in the eye.

“It’s Chida-san,” I whispered to Utena. “She’s seen us.”

“Huh?” Utena sounded like she was just waking up. “What?” She twirled me around and stared at Tokiko. “Damn.”

I shared her sentiment.

“What do you think she’s doing here?” asked Utena beginning to steer us in their direction. “Does it mean she’s working with Akio-san?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I…don’t know.”

“It will be okay,” Utena told me, arms tightening again. There must have been something in my voice. Suddenly, strangely, I caught sight of my own murky reflection in her silver epaulets. I stared. Stared into the fey green eyes that said they knew your secrets.

But I didn’t know anything anymore. I’d lost all that…left it far behind. When I’d followed a girl-prince who couldn’t exist and didn’t know what she was talking about, I’d lost my version of reality. Utena had seemed to make up answers that were impossible, and I didn’t know what would happen, what could happen.

Maybe that was what real life was like for ordinary people?

Tokiko was dancing away with the pink-haired man, out of our reach, disappearing into the crowd. Lightning flickered constantly outside the massive windows; the rain was beating against them hard. The storm was upon us now, roaring outside. There was a lull in the music. Thunder clapped. Chandeliers flickered in time with a lightning strike so bright as to illuminate the sky for a timeless instant. Then it was over. The crowd oohed appreciatively; I heard nervous laughter. My arms went around Utena’s neck and I buried my face in her chest.

“It will be okay,” she repeated, and I don’t know which of us she was trying to reassure. The cellos were playing a solo now, their deep and haunting voices like rough yet powdered hands sliding over my thighs, then parting them. I saw a man stop dancing nearby and force his partner down, force her to her knees. I shuddered and stared. Lightning flashed again, glinting blindingly off Utena’s epaulets. I reared back with a sharp cry, putting my arm over my eyes. Utena reached for me, her hands catching at my torso on either side of my breasts. She drew me up, keeping me in a standing position. I looked past her, looked for the man with the woman at his feet.

He wasn’t there.

“Anthy!” Utena drew me back in, held me close against her body. She put her lips against my cheek and spoke softly. “Stay with me.” Neither of us knew why she said it. Her fingers were chill against the bare skin of my back.

A woman screamed. We both whirled, and stared along with the rest of the erstwhile daces as a gap parted in the crowd, revealing her huddled on the floor, sobbing. A tall man stood over her, fist raised brutally.

“No!” gasped Utena at the same instant as I recognized Sonoda Keiko, a face I’d never thought to see again.

“Stop it!” yelled Utena, and she leapt through the gap, charging at Keiko’s aggressor without a second thought.
It was a princely thing to do.
It was a stupid thing to do.

The gap in the crowd parted, and as I started forward vice-like fingers closed over my arm and yanked me back.

“Himemiya-san,” purred Kaoru Kozue, “well aren’t you just as pretty as a flower? Time to dance.” Her arms twined round me like thorns, and I pulled away desperately. She grabbed me by the front of my dress, which promptly tore, sending me reeling backwards to huddle at her feet. Her giggling was laced with menace.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “you’ll get your precious prince back in a second. After she’s been too late to save the princess.” She sighed theatrically. “So many princesses, and so little point in saving them.” She pouted at me like a little girl. “Do you think if I ask nicely Utena-sama might have a go at saving me?”

I looked at her blankly. Inside I was seething; I was thinking about peeling her skin from her bones. Outside I did nothing, said nothing, showed nothing.

“I see we understand each other,” said Kozue, and I thought she just might. “Miki-kun invited me to tea,” she continued complacently, “and I expect I’ll come. Maybe you and I can take a car ride afterward.”

I rose to my feet, ignoring her lascivious gaze, ignoring the way her hand immediately clamped on my wrist.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she purred. “Orders are to let Utena-sama come to us. She does love a good rescue.”

I looked at her steadily, this time making no attempt to pull away.

“Whose orders?” I asked.

“You know whose.” Her eyes darkened with hate. I remembered the charged look between us when I caught her kissing Miki’s sleeping head in the music room, all those years ago. I’d taunted her then with my front of innocent confusion. In a way this was justice, and in another way I didn’t care about justice. She was nothing but Akio’s second-rate tool, not important enough to know the least of his plans. Not important enough to hold me here against my will.

“Let go,” I said so softly she had to lean forward to hear me.

She laughed derisively and her grip tightened. I smiled at her in turn.

“You might play at rose bride,” I said. “But I’m playing with Mickey.”

It was the first time I’d ever used his nickname. I relished the way her eyes widened, the blood that pearled on her lip as she bit it. I relished the way she lost control, slapping me as hard as she could. I flew back, but this time Utena was there to catch me, rushing out of the crowd to gather me into her arms. I let her help me to my feet but my attention was on Kozue.

And her attention was on me.

“Bitch,” she said. I just gazed calmly at her. She stared back, then laughed a little and gave a mocking curtsy.

“I’ll see you at the tea-party.” She flounced away.

“What tea-party?” hissed Utena, touching my bruising cheek tentatively. “God, Anthy, I’m so sorry…I was so stupid to leave you and…” She goggled. “What happened to your dress?!”

“It’s alright,” I told her. “I’m alright.” I let her help me into her jacket and button it up, knowing it would be useless to try and stop her giving it to me. Her red tanktop (she still had that thing?) fit her snugly and I rubbed my hands over the soft material. Soothing.

“Sonoda-san?” I asked.

“Hurt,” said Utena, and her voice shook. “The guy hit her before I could get there, Anthy, hit her really hard. I think he broke her nose – she was unconscious.” She closed her eyes for a moment and stood there uncertainly.

I took her hand and led her away from the dancing, and sat her down on a bench half-hidden behind a marble column.

“What did you do?” I asked, sitting close and slipping my hands up under her top to stroke at her skin. I wanted her to feel me, and I needed to feel her close.

“I punched his lights out,” mumbled Utena, “and then these servants came and took them both away on str…stretches! So crazy…”

“I think it was staged,” I said. My fingers had found her scar and were playing with it.

“Damn it,” whispered Utena. “We should have left when you said.”

“We can’t leave yet,” I reminded her. “Not without the others.”

“It’s not like my playing prince is helping anyone,” she said dejectedly, reaching out a gentle hand to cup my cheek around the bruising.

“That’s what he wants you to think,” I told her. I sighed and my own fingers stilled. “But I still don’t know why he really invited us.”

Utena stared at me.

“We know the bait, we know the trap,” I murmured, gazing sightlessly over her shoulder. “We don’t know who’s the mouse, or when the trap will spring shut.”

“That’s it!” Utena was up and tugging me up with her. “I’m getting you out of here. I just don’t care anymore, the others will have to find their own way out.”

She started marching down the columned hall and I followed the tug of her hand uncertainly, rather ashamed at the easing in my gut.

“Why?” I thought to ask.

“You’re the mouse,” she muttered. I gave a soft cry and she whirled around and pushed me up against the wall. Her hands gripped my shoulders, and her eyes were stormy.

“Damn it, Anthy, don’t you see? He’s been on the phone with you. He quotes stupid foreign songs and does all sorts of things to get us away from you, to get me away from you…” Her voice cracked and then rose desperately.

“Everything that’s been happening at home has meant something to you, something dark and horrible that I don’t understand, and you never tell me! But I know, don’t you think I know?! He’s got you pinning up your hair, and being so much like you used to be, and your nightmares are getting worse, you’re sleepwalking again – I thought you were past that, and then there’s those creepy hounds trying to hunt you and that black rose bride who tried to kill you…”

She was getting hysterical. I put my hands on her chest and pushed, not enough to hurt her, just enough to free myself from her now-painful grip. She stumbled back a little, blinking back tears. I went to her immediately, gathering her into my arms and pressing a kiss to her collarbone.

“Utena,” I whispered into the silence between us. “You’re right. I didn’t realize how right until now.”

“I hate being right,” she mumbled, and started to cry. I did my best to soothe her, leaning her up against the wall and pressing myself to her chest. I stroked her hair, and kissed away her tears as they fell, and all the while thought about what we were going to do.

Because being right didn’t guarantee a good plan.

“I don’t get it,” she finally mumbled, sniffling and wiping at her face. I handed her the handkerchief from the jacket I was now wearing, oddly touched to see that it was just like the one she’d given me so long ago, monogrammed with her initials. I still had that handkerchief. It was one of ChuChu’s favorite capes.

“Don’t get what?” I asked, licking up a stray tear on her chin. She sniffed and gave me a watery smile.

“Why he was after me all that time before the Duel Called Couronnement, but now he’s after you.” I stared at her.

“I mean, he wanted you then too,” she murmured, “but what he really seemed to want was the power. And he thought I had it.”

“You did,” I pointed out reasonably. “You do.”

“Yeah,” she said, “for all the good it’s doing. But Anthy, I gave him Dios.”

“You keep saying that,” I said.

“Because it should mean something!” Utena’s voice was frustrated, overflowing with an almost righteous fervor. “He should be more like Dios now, more like a proper prince! But he’s still evil! And crazy! And a pain in my neck!”

She’d lost her temper. I sighed.

“It’s not that simple.”

“It should be!”

“It can’t be.” I looked down. Suddenly her fingers were running through my hair, her face was buried in my neck. I felt her lips moving, caressing; my head arched back, and I tried to catch myself, catch my reactions. We were in public. More than that we were in danger.

“He can’t have you,” she almost pleaded, and I could tell she was on the verge of collapsing back into tears.

“Shh,” I told her. “Shh.” I stroked her hair, and kissed her lips, pouring my love for her into the gesture. She quieted, her focus shifting to kissing me back. Her hands fiddled with intent at my jacket’s buttons but I stopped her gently.

“Let’s go back to the alcove,” I said. “Arisugawa-san and Miki-san will know to look for us there. And we can keep an eye out for Saionji-san too.”

Utena gazed at me for a charged moment and I could see her thinking about throwing me over her shoulder and sprinting out into the storm. But the impulse died and she took my hand instead. We headed to the alcove.

* * *

Inside it we found Juri, staring down at Takatsuki Shiori who was kneeling before her. The disturbing thing was how Shiori was dressed. Heavy white makeup, truly elaborate hair-styling, and brightly patterned violet kimono complete with extravagantly orange obi.

“I didn’t know it was fancy dress,” muttered Utena incredulously. “You look like a geisha!”

“A maiko,” corrected Juri and I simultaneously. We glanced at each other and I saw the Juri’s eyes were strained with the pain she normally suppressed.

“An apprentice geisha,” I explained to a bemused Utena as she plopped down beside Juri, drawing me down beside her.

“Why?” Utena wanted to know, which I think was the question foremost on everyone’s minds. Shiori gazed up at us from her kneeling position and I saw her hands were resting on Juri’s knees.

“I have a lot to learn still,” said Shiori, and gone was the giggling girl who’d visited us only days before. “Now that Akio-sama has started the Ohtori Okiya.”

I tensed. Utena looked confused.

“A Geisha House,” filled in Juri gloomily. “Apparently he resigned from Ohtori Academy to take up this new venture. Ohtori Kanae-san’s father recovered enough not to need an assistant.”

I studied my nails. It was about time he recovered. I’d stopped visiting him years ago.

“Kanae-san…” muttered Utena. Her head came up and she stared semi-accusingly at Shiori. “Whatever happened to her?!”

“I don’t know,” murmured the would-be maiko. “But she’s not married to him.”

She’s in a home, I thought to myself. For little girls who stupidly take apples from strangers… I said nothing. I’d never liked Ohtori Kanae. I’d never liked any of my brother’s would-be brides. I felt my eyes turn to Shiori’s chalk-white face and linger.

“Oh that’s too bad,” said Utena, but she sounded half-guilty as she said it.

“Shiori has come here,” said Juri in voice so brittle one wondered when she’d fall apart, “to ask me to be her patron.” She sighed. “I don’t know how you can be so brazen,” she told Shiori, and she sighed again.

“You’d be perfect,” said Shiori and her voice was pleading. “Oh Juri-san…I know there’s been…tensions between us, but we are childhood friends. That doesn’t go away. And you’re…wealthy, I wouldn’t ask if you weren’t. I have…” Her lip trembled. “…Nobody else to ask.”

“You want this?” Utena asked incredulously. “Are you crazy?!”

“Geisha are special,” said Shiori stubbornly and an almost fanatical light entered her eyes. “There are only a few thousand left in Japan.” She blinked up at us appealingly, the vulnerable birdlike quality she’d always had heightened by the heavy makeup. “Geisha know secret arts, they’re admired and respected and loved, they take part in the flower and willow world that so many never see! Yes, I want that. Of course I want it.”

“You’ve always wanted to be special,” said Juri, head hanging dejectedly. She wouldn’t look at any of us. “You’ve never been able to see…just how special you already are.”

“Juri-san,” whispered Shiori and her hands tensed on Juri’s knees, then crept up her thighs. “Oh Juri-san…if you truly think so…then be my patron. It’s the p…perfect relationship for us to have.”

“Yes,” said Juri bitterly. “I suppose it is.”

“Now hang on just a second,” said Utena, putting a tentative hand on Juri’s slumped shoulder. “You’re not buying into this are you? Juri? It’s a trap! Akio-san must be starting the dueling game again…we can’t support that!”

“I know that,” said Juri turning anguished eyes on Utena. “Don’t you think I know that?” She stared down at Shiori who was waiting patiently, eagerness shining in her eyes.

Enjoying the melodrama, I thought distastefully. Playing with the puppet on its string. She won’t make much of a geisha if she doesn’t learn to hide that.

“They’re rose brides,” argued Utena, “we saw that on the hotel rooftop. Right Takatsuki-san?” She glared down at Shiori.

“A rose by any other name,” said Shiori. And her makeup split a little as she giggled. Yes, she had a long way to go.

“What’s the point of it?” insisted Utena, grabbing one of Shiori’s hands off Juri’s leg and leaning in close. “Don’t be stupid, come back with us. You don’t need these kind of games, or to be someone’s slave.”

“I’m not stupid,” said Shiori, yanking her hand away. “If anyone’s stupid it’s you. Thinking you’re not part of Akio-sama’s wondrous world anymore, when the very best thing that any subject can do is be loyal to their king.”

We all goggled at her.

“Yes, stupid!” hissed Shiori. “And ungrateful too! You could have been a beautiful princess, living with your prince in his castle, happy for ever after. Instead you’re shacking up with…” She favored me with a look of such open hostility I actually leaned back. “That.”

Utena gasped, taken aback. Her fingers slipped protectively through mine.

“You little fool,” said Juri coldly, suddenly pushing Shiori’s hand off her lap, pushing her away. “Believing the lies of powerful men, just because you want someone to want you.”

I want you, cried her wounded angry eyes, and I think Shiori knew that. Despite Juri’s harsh words she smiled up at her like the cat that ate the cream and slipped her hand back onto Juri’s knee.

“Be my patron,” she begged softly. “Just so we’ll stay in each other’s lives. Friends shouldn’t be apart too long. And it’s been years…”

Juri folded her arms over her chest and I saw her fingers digging into her own arm. She was tempted I could tell; it really was the perfect temptation. A relationship above reproach, protected by time-honored conventions. Innocent intimacy. A way to be one of the most important people in Shiori’s life, 100% guaranteed. A way to protect her, to help her, no matter that Shiori was the one throwing herself in harm’s way.

A way to have Shiori’s hands resting on her knees without anyone pointing a finger, without Shiori herself pulling away in horrified indignation.

“Alright,” Juri said, and then she bowed her head. When I looked at her she seemed smaller, older, less. If I’d drawn her heart-sword it would have been tarnished.

“No…” whispered Utena.

“Thank you,” cried Shiori, tears beginning to leak down her face, tracking through the makeup. “Oh Juri-san. Thank you so much!”

“Don’t thank me,” muttered Juri. “Please don’t thank me.”

And so it begins, I thought to myself. And so it will end.

The curtain pushed aside and Miki walked slowly in, hand in hand with Kozue. She was still wearing her indecently tight blue dress: not a kimono, but it didn’t matter. The past was unraveling in front of me now and stitching itself into a likely future. The colored skeins of Fate’s loom showed Kozue as a maiko too, eventually a geisha, while Miki sat at high-class banquets, watching her pour tea for other men. Watching what he couldn’t have, didn’t really want to have, and then partaking of it anyway, just by having her pour tea for him. Having their hands brush, hearing her arch words whispered in his red-tinged ear.

All this unrequited desire: these loves that could not, would not be named.

And Utena terribly tense at my side, hand clutching mine while she bit her lip in obvious agony. If it was her facing down this temptation there would be naming, and truth-telling, and bursting through the shell at any cost, every cost. But Juri and Miki weren’t Utena. And she didn’t understand them like I did.

Didn’t know what it was like to be Juri: loving past the point of reason, and never being loved in return.

Didn’t know what it was like to be Miki: bound forever to your other half, never able to stand alone.

“Kozue’s going to train to be a geisha,” said Miki miserably, “she won’t let me talk her out of it.”

“You don’t really want to talk me out of it,” purred Kozue, leaning against his back. “You’ve always been a romantic: you love the flower and willow world.” He flushed.

“Don’t be silly! I still don’t want my sister to be a geisha!”

“Why not,” she husked, breathing lightly against his neck. “It’s a perfectly respectable profession. Unlike what I was doing before.”

“What?!” Face bright red he whirled to grab her hands. “What were you doing?!”

“Trust me,” she said, lightly dancing back, making a token attempt at pulling her hands from his. Naturally they stayed joined. “You really don’t want to know.”

“You guys can’t do this!” cried Utena, glaring first at Miki then at Juri. Her hand trembled in mine. “Don’t be crazy! We didn’t come here for this!”

“I don’t think,” sighed Juri, “that we have a lot of choice.”

“There’s always choice!” hissed Utena. “Always!”

“I’m not choosing it,” cried Miki, staring at his sister sadly. “Kozue won’t listen to me.”

“Shiori had already chosen,” said Juri.

“That is so.” The curtain drew back all the way as though by invisible hands, and in stepped Akio, clearly waiting for his moment and right on cue.

“My lovely brides will shine like stars at Ohtori Okiya, and tonight is their grand introduction.” He smiled at Utena, but to me it looked more like he bared his teeth.

“The first party of many, and perhaps next time they will have learned enough to perform for my guests.” He smoothed his tie with long clever fingers. “Of course you all are most welcome to attend. There will be many geisha here soon enough, many flowers in my garden.” His hands spread expansively. “A bloom for everyone.”

We all stared at him. I half-expected Utena to spring up and challenge him but she didn’t. She was frozen beside me now, head bowed, fingers icy in mine. I turned to her and saw an expression that wasn’t often on her face: despair. My own heart turned cold.

“The one thing I wish above all,” purred Akio, “is that you would help me, Anthy. After all, this is the new Ohtori family business.” We stared at each other, he all smiles and I utter blankness.

“You would be the perfect Onee-san to shape these new buds.”

“No, Onii-sama,” I said stonily. He shook his head admonishingly at me, mocking smile intact.

“Oh, but yes you would. My little oiran* knows the world of geisha well.”

“I’ve forgotten,” I said.

“No you haven’t.”

“Yes. She. Has,” grated Utena, head still bowed.

“Well…if you’re sure about that.” Akio smirked. “I suppose you would know.”

“Let’s go,” snarled Utena, dragging me up with her, reaching for the uncharacteristically silent Juri to drag her up too. Utena’s head came up then and she glared at Akio with such hate I was reminded of the swords.

“This has been the worst party ever,” she growled. He looked very happy to hear it.

We left, with her shouting behind for Miki to hurry up.

“I’ll see you soon,” I heard him reassure Kozue before he trailed after us.

“Goodbye!” called Akio, stepping outside the curtain and waving enthusiastically. “Do come again. And Anthy, remember there’s always a place for you here.” His voice hardened imperceptibly. “At my side.”

Under his foot, he meant. I was beginning to think that Dios possessing him had been some kind of illusion. There was no Dios here. The only one who evidenced Dios was Utena.

As we headed for the door the storm grew worse, practically drowning out the music. We passed Saionji having a shouting match with Touga, indiscernible over the crackling of thunder. Utena let go of Juri but kept a firm grip on my hand. I put up with it patiently. Goodness knows what she thought I’d do if she let go.

“Come on, you idiot,” she yelled at Saionji, making a grab for him. “We’re leaving!”

“But I haven’t danced with you,” Touga told her with his trademark smirk. “Not since the rooftop where we got all hot and sweaty.”

“Shut up,” she bit out, tugging futilely at Saionji’s muscled arm. I could see this was going to end in more fighting. Reaching out I placed my free hand on Saionji’s broad chest.

“Come home,” I told him. He stopped glowering at Touga and turned to me, exactly as I’d known he would.

“Anthy…” he murmured, which he hadn’t called me since Ohtori. I didn’t like him calling me that but I bore it patiently. It served Utena’s purpose. Behind him Touga rolled his eyes.

“Are you coming or staying?” snapped Utena, and I could tell she was none too pleased about my hand on his chest. “We’re leaving NOW.”

She stormed onward, and I followed docilely, while Saionji followed me in turn. Juri and Miki trailed behind us, looking like guilty children.

“See you soon,” called Touga. “Call in advance if you have any special requests. A favorite girl perhaps?” I could practically hear the smirk in his voice. Playing at being Ends of the World, as always.

I didn’t bother looking back at him, focusing instead on the tensed lines of Utena’s back as she marched to the door. She strode through abruptly, ignoring the protests of the butler, searching anxiously for the limo. The rain was heavy enough to soak us in a second, the gale blowing it under the archway. I could barely see through my long hair, barely feel anything but the heat of Utena’s fingers on my wrist. I stepped closer to her, wrapping my arm around her waist as tightly as I could. She abandoned my wrist to twine her arm around my shoulders. We were both shivering.

“I don’t see the car,” she yelled to me, her voice barely evident over the wind’s strength.

“It’s gone,” I shouted back, because that was obvious, especially when you thought about who the chauffeur had been.

I could see her struggling with the impossibility of the situation, trying to decide what to do. After all it was insanity to be standing out in this tempest, and yet there was nowhere to go but back into the party. I wondered briefly if Akio had something to do with the weather…

But no, that was more my forte. Not that I could do anything about this storm. Or could I? I stood on tiptoes and put my lips to Utena’s ear.

“The sword.”

She stared at me, understanding instantly. A quick glance back at the others, all of whom were edging back inside the door, into the party’s warmth and light. Couldn’t they see it was all an illusion?

Utena turned back to me, and took my free hand in hers, kissing it with desperate intensity. Our eyes met: hers full of anxiety and belief. Slowly she placed my hand over her heart and closed her eyes. I closed mine too, tried to block out the wind and rain.

“Oh noble memory of the Power of Dios,” I murmured, “now slumbering here; I beseech you, appear fully before me.” I reached for the sword of Dios, that was also somehow the sword of Utena. Light bloomed, I felt the warmth and willpower of Utena’s heart gathering in the palm of my hand. Her body flowed backwards, supported midair by the magic, mine flowed back too in the opposite direction. The sword itself flowed forth between us. For the first time since I’d liberated the sword from the castle’s throne Utena’s voice joined mine in the final command, and somehow I could hear her despite the storm.

“Grant us the power to revolutionize the world!”

Then we were in each other’s arms again, while Utena kissed the hilt in a crusader’s salute. She smiled at me as she did so, a fierce determined smile. I was glad to see it, glad to see her looking like the prince she was. Then we crossed together to the awestricken others, where they huddled in the doorway.

“Let’s go home,” shouted Utena, reaching out to grab Juri’s shoulder, while still holding the sword. I held my free hand out to Miki, and catching on he clasped Saionji’s arm. Utena closed her eyes and lowered her head, biting her lip in concentration. I felt power beginning to build around us as she opened the gateway between worlds. Over Saionji’s shoulder I caught a glimpse of my brother, lounging against an ornate column. Touga stood beside him, just a little too close to be platonic, striking a laconic pose. They grinned at me in unison, and in that moment I realized we’d made a mistake. I’d made a key mistake.

But it was too late.

TBC in Chapter 10

*Courtesans in Japan during the Edo period – women of pleasure who were also skilled entertainers, the predecessor to the geisha.

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#49 | Back to Top01-06-2015 08:27:28 AM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

The classic LIVES emot-dance


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#50 | Back to Top01-23-2015 03:18:47 PM

teyhy
High Tripper
From: Ecuador
Registered: 04-27-2010
Posts: 245
Website

Re: [fanfiction] Thorns Wither (Anthy/Utena, sequel to Roses Grow)

YES! another chapter emot-biggrin
NO! cliffhanger emot-gonk

Anyway, many etc-love sharnii, thank you for the wonderful story

Last edited by teyhy (01-23-2015 03:19:22 PM)


Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils - H. Berlioz.
http://i929.photobucket.com/albums/ad133/teyhy/for%20fo/Untitled-1copy.jpg?t=1280266589

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