Author's Note: Yeah, I have no excuse. I got fired in December and spent a long time looking for a job, found nothing. I'm living off of what used to be my 401k and concentrating on school. I just haven't had the time. The story's still not on hiatus and I swear I will finish it...we're actually moving towards an end now, I think...yeah, I don't generally know much more about what's going on than you guys do. Short but action-packed this time, enjoy.

Kagayaku Means to Shine
Anime: Shoujo Kakumei Utena
Rating: PG-13
Written: 15 March 2009
Chapter Thirty

T minus two days.

A wall of thorns and roses, stretched densely across a doorway that she absolutely must go through. Hands bleeding, she tears at the tangled stems, weeping and screaming and covered in her own blood. There is something coming for her, coming down the hall behind her, and all she can do is tear at the thorns until finally she sees the doorknob. But the thorns are growing back now, trying to entangle her, and she has to fight them off as she yanks on the door, desperate for just a glimpse, a peek, an inkling of what's behind it. Pink hair, purple hair, blue eyes and green, in pain...the door slams shut.

Nishiko woke up in a cold sweat, restraining herself from physically reaching out to claw at the remnants of her dream as her lungs strained for air. Her mind defied her, flailing into the darkness until it connected to something with a clicking sensation that rattled her bones. For the barest instant, she found herself staring into a pair of deeply familiar eyes and a mind that felt like coming home. She only had time to scream two words into that mind before the connection was severed. Falling back into her body felt like being hooded, as if half of her senses had suddenly been shut down. Suddenly feeling almost repelled by her bed, she turned and slid quietly down the ladder, not wanting to wake Satoru. When she looked back at the bottom bunk, though, she saw that she needn't have bothered.

Turning her head towards the window, she caught a quick flash of white and green and magenta movement from the corner of her eye and, frowning, pelted out of the room still barefoot and in her nightgown. It was not the first time Satoru had disappeared in the middle of the night, but it was the first time that Nishiko had caught her leaving and, being the determined sort of person that she was, the young Champion had every intention of finding out what was going on.

Satoru's journey, as it turned out, took them to the Tower, the Chairman's private residence. Nishiko waited while Satoru took the elevator up, then took it herself, pleased that it moved quietly and made no cheerful ding to announce its arrival at each successive floor. Unsure of which floor the Rose Bride had gone to, the young Duelist had no real choice but to stop at each floor, no matter how much it frustrated her to do so. Finally, though, she arrived on what seemed to be the right floor, if the voices in the next room were any indication.

Crouching out of sight behind part of the dividing wall, she settled in to listen.

T minus one day.

Long, slender fingers held a lock of thick orange hair back as the woman's other hand traced out a relatively large area on a map of Japan.

"We think we've narrowed it down to somewhere in the north island, but we still haven't been able to pinpoint the actual location.(1)"

"If it even has one," grumbled another, more angry-sounding female voice, "It was a huge school, but I can't find a single train stop or bus route or anything that lists it anywhere. I'm starting to think it doesn't exist in the real world."

"If it doesn't exist, how could people keep going back and forth to it? How would students transfer in or out, where did you walk from? It has to exist."

There was a brief silence, as bowed heads thought furiously all around the table.

"I think it exists, but can't be found unless you already know how," a thoughtful male voice mused aloud and, finding the others staring blankly at him, was obliged to expand on, "I remember that when Kozue and I started at school there, they sent a vehicle to pick us up. Did that happen to anyone else?"

A slow round of nods, and then someone else spoke.

"So we need a driver who knows how to get there?"

"Or maybe just a vehicle that knows how to get there."

"But where do we find those at?"

"Juri, how good are your acting skills?"

On D-Day, Nishiko fought.

The stairs seemed to fly away under her feet as she made her way up to the arena, her thoughts a jumbled mess surrounding a single bright spear of concentration: I can do this.

And then the arena opened up before her, a vast open space sporting only three still figures. Nishiki was the only one not looking at her; his eyes were cast off into space, his face turned upwards. Maki stood by her brother's side, clutching a terrifyingly black rose in one fist. Blood dripped from his knuckles as he stared at Nishiko, green eyes at once blank and enraged.

Nishiko blocked it all out, instead walking slowly towards Satoru and watching with some sadness as the girl's eyes moved to follow her approach. Once the rose was in place on her chest, Nishiko embraced the Rose Bride gently. She felt as if there was something to say, but as she drew the sword, she could only whisper softly, "I'm sorry."

Ignoring the shocked and confused look that Satoru gave her, Nishiko began to stride more quickly towards her brother, her whole stance reflecting determination. She leveled the tip of her sword at his chest, now adorned by a bloody black rose. Maki backed away as Nishiki's gaze moved from the sky to his twin, and for just a moment their eyes locked and something, something passed between them. They did not dwell on it.

Nishiko attacked first, as benefitted her fiery disposition, but did so silently. Nishiki returned attack equally as silently, and the dance was on. Metal slithered against metal, swept through the air, ripped fabric and maybe skin. Somebody kicked out, and then the fight was truly engaged. Swords became an accessory, a deadly, bloody accessory, to a fight of fists and feet that ranged all across the arena. And still, they did not speak.

Maki glared, Satoru began to weep, and still the twins would not open their throats even in pain.

Nishiko went rolling across the arena floor and came back up to her feet, blood seeping from a cut on her forehead. She stalked forward to reengage, and shortly it was Nishiki thrown back against the stones at the edge of the arena.

They fought and they fought, but all true fights have a victor and this was no exception. The fight ended, at long last, in the traditional way: one last slither of a sword through rose petals, a brief wind to carry them away.

But this momentous fight could not simply be allowed to pass without comment. Even as the petals were being swept away, footsteps sounded out from near the stairs, two sets. Eyes of green, blue, and purple turned to see, as Akio stepped out into the arena, trailing behind him a most unexpected person: Mika.

"Well fought, little princes," came Akio's melodious voice, "Well fought. Or should I say little prince, since one of you no longer deserves the title."

"Loser," came Mika's voice, strange and astringent, "Loser! I don't know why I even bothered! I knew you were going to lose, you were such a waste of my time!"

There was silence again, however briefly, followed by the sudden sound of running footsteps, echoing in the quiet air. The runner came to the edge of the arena and leapt onto the stones there, glancing back briefly to speak a single word.


Satoru screamed.

And then, like the champion swimmer that she was, Nishiko dove.



(1): The location given in the manga for the school is in a made-up city called 鳳凰 (Houou) after the fenghuang, the female Chinese phoenix (or a firebird goddess). This keeps a theme (in characters and meaning) with the school's name, 鳳 (Ootori, romanized in the old style as Ohtori), which can mean a male phoenix. Some people believe that the school is actually in Hokkaido, because there is Nemuro Hall and a city in Hokkaido named Nemuro, but no concrete location is ever actually given.