Utena, Revolutionary Girl Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Princes ❯ The Palace of Memory: Becoming a Prince ( Chapter 10 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Title: A Tale of Two Princes
Chapter 10: The Palace of Memory: Becoming a Prince
Poetry is mine.
Shoujo-ai Content
Utena and its characters do not belong to me. I am just borrowing.
The swords clashed back and forth in an unsteady dance. And it was a dance, a light play, as he toyed with her across the uneven ground of the wild orchard. He was not using his full strength and it annoyed her greatly that he felt he could get away with such a blithe insult to her skill. She lunged forward but instead of striking, as he assumed she would, she kicked out her free leg and knocked his feet out from under him.
He sprang up onto his feet. "That," he chided, "was very bad form."
She blocked a quick slash from him and replied, "This is a duel, and duels like this have no rules."
They pushed back from each other with a slight jump. He was strong, inhumanly so, as he should be considering that he was, after all, a ghost. They came together again moving across the ground, the rules of engagement up in the air as between cuts with their blades they would try to trip, or in one instance make a connecting punch with a free hand. It was a fight as fights were meant to be, wild, gritty, and a bit dirty. Juri wondered how much the sword she held in her hands swayed her method of attack. She wondered what power it could give her.
Ruka took an advantage by pushing Juri to the ground, and she took no time in seeing his blind spot swiping at his legs. He was lucky enough to merely stumble. If she had succeeded, she'd have probably broken his leg.
He chuckled, "Juri, this has been so much fun. I have missed being able to spar with you. But you have to realize something, I'm not really here. I'm an illusion, a rather solid one, but still... I am dead. What do you think will happen when you stab me straight through? I can't die twice. Face it, I'm much stronger than you are and I always have been."
She had moved to her feet, standing defensively, but loosely. She considered what he said and then sighed sadly, "But you're only stronger because I've made you that way, Ruka. This is how I want to remember you. You could barely lift your head up the last time I saw you. You could barely hold my hand. Do you remember?"
He nodded and then it seemed that he was breathing abnormally. He looked...weak.
Juri shut her eyes and then opened them again to continue, "I've always thought of you...as stronger than me Ruka, because you were my teacher. You were my guide and my superior with a sword. I suppose... I could not think of us as equals in that light. Even if I would have been angry to hear anyone say it." She watched him stumble as he moved forward and then said, "But I am your equal, Ruka. I am as strong with a sword as you ever were. I am the fencing captain, and now, I am the teacher."
He dropped his sword and she moved quickly to catch him as he began to fall forward. She gritted her teeth at the sight of seeing him that way. She had been so angry with him for so many things. She hated him for leaving her without a reason, but she felt the reason for his actions press up into her. She saw him as being strong, and he loved her, so he could not let her see him as anything but what she made him. She walked him over to a tree and helped him to sit. She put a hand to his forehead and he winced.
"I am sorry."
He grinned slightly, but looked as if he was in pain, "For what?"
"I should have been more honest with you."
"Ditto." He was fading. His form was losing itself to a ghostly state.
She took in a deep breath and bit back her tears, "You live on in my memory. You live there and you are stronger, and you help me as you used to. There isn't any bad blood there in that memory. There is only everything we had hoped to be."
"And there shall I remain." He winced and then said, "I have to leave. This school has no place for me any longer." He paused and then chuckled, "I suppose this is...my graduation."
There are some things even stoic panthers can not bury into themselves, and so Juri let a tear go. He may have been a test. He may have been just an illusion. But he was still Ruka. He was still that gangly young man who gave her a reason to be happy after she had her heart broken. He was still her very good friend and she loved him, although not the way he wanted.
She shut her eyes, and felt his hand reach up to wipe the tear away.
"Don't worry, Juri. Please, don't worry."
The touch on her cheek faded and she opened her eyes. He was gone.
She stood up, sword in hand, and released a long breath. Memory was the key, but somehow she doubted that such a thing would be of much use for whoever her final opponent would be. She did not let naiveté settle in to make her believe that that was it. Because that was just the test and she had passed it.
"And now that I have passed, what does that make me?"
Ruka's voice whispered near her ear, "It makes you a prince of course. The panther prince, a prince of the wild... "
Startled she turned but there was no one there, only a feather, white and pure, sat on the ground next to her.
Fallen angels are we
With only mercy left to remind
In this darkness we are called
To shine light upon the blind
Fallen angels are we
With this truth that is so unkind
Into this world we have been called
To usher in change andto shine
Touga was not himself, or at least there was a part of him that was not, in his estimation, correct. He looked at the sword in his hand. The sturdy blade that shined in the light and looked as though it could cut through anything and the beauty of the piece was that it was simple. It was an easy design and not anything that would stand out, except for the hand guard which was brass and shaped as a large leaf. There was delicate detail in the hand guard, and there was great care to make it look as realistic as possible. He had not really taken care to notice anything about the sword when he had taken it.
The memory of taking the sword suddenly swelled up around him a tiny hurtful sting, and then it passed.
From the sword he looked to where his opponent had fallen. The ghost was no longer there and somewhere a voice in his head whispered that the ghost had never been there.
He shut his eyes. He opened them and looked up at the castle he new was nothing but an illusion. He knew but he accepted that illusion. He understood that wish he had once held and after defeating the ghost he also knew that it would be possible to have his previous wish come true. All he had to do was give up everything he already had. All he had to do was defeat his next opponent and the castle, the duels, the wishes, dreams and wants of the past could spring back to life.
It would be so easy... but was it what he really wanted? He really did not know any longer.
He could not remember why he had given it all up in the first place. He blinked and the image of a girl cutting through a rose made him sway unsteadily.
He sat on the floor of the arena.
There was someone he wanted to remember but it was fading and being replaced by something he used to wish. And then all he could imagine was what he wanted.
He wanted to revolutionize the world.
We go, we go
Till our fears make us whole
We try, we try
Till we feel nothing inside
And for lack of wanting
Do we still have our wish
And for lack of remembering
Do we still get our wish
We go, we go
Till our vision slows
We fight, we fight
Till we are lost in the night
And for lack of trying
We have lost our true bliss
And for lack of dreaming
We come to the end just like this
She was trying to remember how to breathe, that simple skill of stilling her nerves before a fight. The first time she had ever been in a fencing competition she nearly hyperventilated because she was so nervous. That was just before she met Ruka, and just slightly after Shiori had left for the first time. She was trying to be cool and a brick wall of confidence, but she was failing. Her sister had come to that match and found her. The only time her older sister had ever been much help to her at all really, because she looked at Juri and said, "You have to remember to breathe, kid."
A long breath escaped her lungs as she exhaled. She shut her eyes and shook her head, and then she opened them and looked down the path. The dueling arena was to the left, and the dorms were to the right.
It would be easy to walk back to the dorms and return the sword back to Kozue. It would mean that things would fall back and chains might return. But did it matter? Should she really care? All she wanted was everything she already had. She wanted to be able to talk to Shiori like she was a friend. She wanted to be on the fencing team and be the best. She wanted to continue to teach Miki as best she could. She wanted to be able chat with Touga and not consider him an enemy...
Who was to say she would not still have that if she did not go to the arena? Who was to say that the chairman had any power at all that was real? Wasn't it all just tricks? Wasn't it all just something he did to try and keep what he already had?
She huffed and stepped towards the right...
Then she spun around on her heels and marched towards the dueling arena, whispering, "Don't worry, you just have to remember to breathe."
Dancing down the winter's end
There a few buds left lingering
Red of love, power, and blood
Orange of hope, desire, and change
They bloom about along the path
They bloom about as the frost takes them
They linger here at the end of it all
But roses,true,they all must fall
She wanted to be surprised when the gates to the dueling arena opened before her, but she wasn't. The droplet of water hit the archaic and blackened ring and the gates folded back as they had always done. Everything was still there, even the lift which looked in working order.
Juri considered her options and then decided to take the stairs.
The ghost of Ruka had called her a prince and the thought did not settle easily with her. She wasn't sure if she really wanted to be a prince. She wasn't sure if being a prince really meant much unless... She grimaced as she climbed the steps and thought of the girl she always referred to as a prince. She had never liked Utena. She never liked the girl but despite herself she always did what she could to help her. Not noticeable help, nothing expressively apparent except for that one time with the sword.
She hardly knew what had come over her when she offered out her sword to Utena the night she was to fight Touga for the second time. She could have been rid of the girl prince forever. The duels could have gone on... nothing would have changed. But maybe that was why she did it... Juri hoped for change, that gift of being able to change. She hoped for it in herself, for Shiori, and even in a mild way for Ruka.
Grinning, she thought of how awful it was to dislike the girl, especially when the feeling was not really true. It was just a shield against disappointment.
The dueling platform was coming into view. She gripped the sword in her hand a little more tightly and took in a breath. She shut her eyes and the question of who was waiting for her at the top entered her mind. The answer surfaced in her and made her heart give a vague ache.
Juri took the last step up and then turned to meet the eyes of her opponent on the other side of the arena.
She nodded slightly and made a quick swishing salute with the rapier. "Mr. Kiryuu."
"Arisugawa, so nice of you to finally arrive."
To be continued....