Chapter Seven

In the silence of the darkest night, we gather, eight under the power of the ninth, the all-powerful, Deus. Our sworn silence binds us under His power - our souls for His benevolence. The moon as our only witness, we swear alleigance. Deus.

Seven voices echoed this final Amen' to their private, moon-lit prayer'.

The lamps in the library were then lit, casting shadows, His messengers, on the walls. They flickered for a while, listening to the preliminary proceedings, before disappearing in search of more interesting passtimes.

Lord Kiryuu said commandingly. He held the secondary power in this small cult, the self-proclaimed leader.

This visitor - Countessa Tenjou Utena - seems a threat to our order. Do you consider-

You're certainly not wasting any time, Touga, Lady Arisugawa cut in, sneering.

I do so, then, in the best interests of all those present, the redhead replied, his hair and stony blue eyes glistening in the lamplight.

Do you mean your own best interests? The woman's emerald gaze was piercing, just as Touga's was.

You think I do this for my health?

Lady Arisugawa laughed. Yes, after a fashion.

Shiori's eyes widened. she whispered, putting a hand over her lover's.

Touga looked sharply at the woman. You are free to leave, if you like . . . If you think you'd survive.

A hush fell over the library. The shadows returned, shifting on the walls, hissing softly like swaying silk. They lingered in the room for a few minutes, listening to the passing silence, and then disappeared once more, siliding away.

It was Nanami who finally spoke. . . . I don't think . . . that the Cuuntessa poses much of a threat at all. A woman like that - She's useless. Nanami turned her attention to her brother, and smiled, a sickly sweet expression. Wouldn't you agree?

Lady Kaoru said, she is the first person to enter the woods in years. That, in and of itself, is quite a connundrum.

Miki studied his sister's cool expression. But it doesn't make her a threat.

Touga made a souft sound at the back of his throat. You forget yourself, Miki, he said coolly. Anyone who interferes with Deus' wishes is a threat. A pause. Anthy. What does your brother think?

Anthy remained silent for a moment. He doesn't like her, she said softly. He finds her presence - disturbing.

Touga said. You see? He looked at Juri, at Miki. Isn't that enough proof for you? The girl must be disposed of.

The only question, then, is how to do it, Kozue replied.

said the redhead.

From beside Nanami, young Tsuwabiki spoke up. We might poison her, he suggested.

Juri had risen from her chair, and was standing there, looking down at all of the others. Beside her, Miss Takatsuki looked singularly distressed. That isn't fitting. The girl ought to die an honorable death, if nothing else. I will challenge her to a duel . . . and kill her.

Again, silence pervaded the room as Lord Kiryuu considered this suggestion. Very well, he said after a time. But see that she does die, Juri. There will be no excuses if you fail.

Juri and Shiori returned to their room in silence. Juri, for her part, was thinking of the challenge she would soon issue to the Countessa. Shiori, too, had the impending duel on her mind, but she was wondering what had impelled Juri to volunteer herself. Though her lover was cold, Shiori could not believe Juri would ever kill anyone.

Strains of a Mozart concerto echoed through the halls, coming from the music room two floors below. Juri sighed. They're playing again . . . I wonder who unlocked the piano . . .

Probably Miss Shinohara, Shiori offered as they entered their chambers. She feels sorry for them sometimes . . .

Juri frowned. Lady Tenjou said she saw Miss Shinohara the other day, she said. As she spoke, she removed her earrings and put them in a porcelain jewelry box on the boudoir.

Yes . . . I know. Shiori stepped up behind Juri and began undoing the buttons on her dress.

Gave her quite a fright. The redhead watched their reflections in the mirror, her lover mostly hidden behind her own, taller figure.

Mmm . . . She's unhappy . . . afraid . . . They've all been afraid of late.

Saionji, too?

Shiori said, easing Juri's arms out of her sleeves. They grow ever more restless.

It's understandable, Lady Arisugawa replied and her dress fell to the floor. Five years is a very long time.

Alone in her bedroom, Utena could hear piano music. Unless she was mistaken, someone was playing a Mozart concerto. She thought of the locked piano in the music room, of what Lord Kaoru had said there . . . She was worried.

Maybe I've fallen into something too large for me . . . Dead husbands, malicious spirits . . . I'm almost sure it's those shadows that play the piano . . . Poor Lady Saionji . . . But . . . I don't know if there's anything I can do. She thinks I can - But I don't know . . .' She sighed, and rolled over on her side, listening to the quiet music. Utena strained her ears to see if she could hear anything from the Widow's room . . . But everything was silent, with the exception of the music.

Still, sleep refused to come.

Juri slipped into her bed, taking her place next to Shiori. Once the two were settled, a silence stretched over the quiet room. The shadows has ceased playing the piano, leaving the Manor in a deathly silence.

After a time, Shiori said, Why did you offer . . . ? Her lover made no reply. Juri - why did you say you would duel with the Countessa?

She could free us, the redhead replied.

Do you really think so?

Yes. I think . . . I think Lord Kiryuu senses it, and I think Lady Saionji senses it . . . He senses it, as well. Even the ghosts are aware of it.

So - You'll help her? Shiori's whisper was hopeful.

I shall try. And, if she succeeds, we shall all be free.

Shiori touched her lover's shoulder, leaning her cheek against the warm fabric of her nightshift. What will we do, when we're free, Juri?

I suppose we'll each go our separate ways, she said.

And the two of us . . . ? Juri sighed, but made no reply. What of us?

It's too early to say, Juri said. There is no guarentee that Utena will succeed.

Mm . . . Shiori slid her hand down her lover's side, letting it rest at her waist. But there is hope.

Author's Notes:
First chapter in a long while. A short one, too. Blah.
Aaaaanyhoo. Thanks to everyone who's reviewed, and sorry to keep you all waiting so long. Nyar!
Here there be shojo-ai. I hope these two get a happy ending, I really do.
Yeah. So, that's it for now!
Drop me a line if you're still enjoying the story! (Please!)
From the last outpost,
! SnM