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Saionji Kyouchi turned his gaze downward. The highest balcony of the 'Tower of Roses' provided a view of the school that could be rivaled only by a bird in flight. Saionji himself stood at the edge of the balcony, one foot on the top of the railing, allowing him to look down on the populace far below. He liked looking down on people.

"You're not going to throw ten yen pieces over the edge and yell, 'Look! It's raining money!' to the people below again, are you?" Touga Kiryu asked from his position several feet behind Saionji as he sat lackadaisically in a straight-backed, wrought iron chair. The shapes of roses were etched in the ironwork throughout the seat.

"I most certainly will not!" Saionji snapped. "They are beneath my charity."

"I take it that you're broke again?"

"My father is simply late in updating my accounts. I'm certain that he'll be sending some money soon." Saionji shifted uncomfortably, then decided to change the topic. "Today seems rather dull, wouldn't you agree?"

Touga sipped some wine, pulled out his not-so-little black book, and began going over the numbers within. He didn't bother to look at Saionji as he said, "It feels as though a great storm is building on the horizon, bringing with it a great change in all of our lives."

Saionji gave a toss of his head, causing his long, greenish hair to flow in the slight breeze. "That sort of talk might impress those flighty women you seem to enjoy leading on, but it is wasted on me. Today is going to be boring. I can feel it in my bones."

Touga looked up from his book to stare his vice president squarely in the eye. "I'm not being loquacious. There's something in the air. I can feel it."

"Prove it!" Saionji snapped. "Make something exciting happen."

At that moment, a tremendous bolt of lightning flashed from the skies and struck the balcony, lancing no more than five feet from where Saionji stood. It struck a statue of a nymph, shattering it into a thousand pieces of white and blackened marble.

Touga gave a smile of pure evil towards Saionji.

"Well? Where is it?" Saionji asked.

In thirty generations of Kiryus, not one member of the noble line ever went through the indignity of facefaulting. Touga was not about to start, though he had never been so sorely tempted in doing it. Instead, he said, "Just wait for it, and it shall come."

And at the front gates of Ohtori, Kodachi Kunou approached.

Ohtori Academy Blues

The sequel to Roses and Swords
i.e.: Yet Another Side Story to Quantum Destinies

by D. B. Sommer

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at sommer@3rdm.net.

This one might be rougher than usual. No prereaders this time out. ^_^

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the folks from Ranma ½, Revolutionary Girl Utena, or any of the other series cameos.

The story of Quantum Destinies is owned by Jurai Knight, and is archived on his site at: http://home.earthlink.net/~sthesken/fanfics/qd.html

Now with that out of the way…

Kodachi Kunou carefully examined the unique entryway to Ohtori Academy. She had heard of the 'Wall of Thorns' before; it was unofficially considered one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the Empire.

The wall, and the academy it surrounded, was erected in 1825 at the request of one of the then Emperor's advisors, a shadowy figure known only as Dios. What role he actually served the Emperor was unclear, though none questioned him openly. No drawings or pictures of the man existed, save a single silhouette drawn by one of the Emperor's concubines. No one knew for what purpose Dios had the academy built, but it was rumored that he personally designed the entire school, from the highest tower to the smallest carved rose.

The architecture of the school was very unusual, especially for a society as steeped in tradition as Japan was at the time. It was a mix of several foreign styles, heavily influenced by both Greek and Roman characteristics. The resemblance was easy to see in every building and area of the school. Even stranger was the dominance of roses that permeated the entire length of the academy. Everywhere one turned there was something that involved roses, whether it be in the style, design, or an actual rose garden. There was nowhere that it did not exist. Extremely strange, indeed.

Discovering the location of Utena Tenjou's school had been no problem. One random search on her computer and Kodachi had discovered over two dozen web pages dedicated exclusively to 'The Prince of Ohtori.' That title rankled Kodachi. The girl was nothing more than a commoner, and, aside from the gender issue, had no business claiming a title such as that. It also meant she was undoubtedly egotistical if she carried the airs of being a member of the nobility. Like most of the other girls Kodachi detested, it was unlikely Utena would acknowledge her proper place as subordinate to herself, and might very well become irate when she was informed, in no uncertain terms, that Ranma had only used her for a one-time sexual fling and that she was to have no further contact with him. It might very well be that further steps were going to have to be taken.

Kodachi entered the school's grounds, and turned to the left, as she began plotting additional ways to keep Ohtori's would-be prince away from Kodachi's own.

Had Kodachi lingered several minutes longer, she would have run into someone she had more than a passing familiarity with, and would no doubt have found her energies diverted onto another course of action. Instead, she was not present when Akane Tendou approached the gates of Ohtori.

There were many that would have claimed that someone as driven to be physically the best as Akane Tendou was, would have had no appreciation for something as artistically beautiful as the wall surrounding Ohtori. They would have been wrong. Whereas it was true that Akane preferred to spend the majority of her attention on such things as the Arena fights and her own training, she had a great appreciation for artwork. However, she disliked openly acknowledging that, concerned that people might think less of her fighting abilities if they knew she enjoyed such a non-physical related pursuit. Also, she was uncertain if that were the sort of thing her mother would have approved of. She had raised her daughters on disciplines of the body, not of the mind.

So it was when Akane approached the impressive gates that the purpose of her journey was momentarily forgotten. She stood in silent awe of the intricate work before her and moved closer to the wall, allowing her hand to play over several of the lifelike vines, staying mindful of the stone thorns that still looked menacing despite their age. The texture of the work was unbelievable, as though the whole thing had been erected just a few days ago. She felt it was almost as though a gorgon out of Greek mythology had somehow turned real plants into stone.

She stood there, gazing at the wall for several moments before returning her attention to the matter at hand. There was a specific reason she had come to Ohtori, and it was not to admire its impressive architecture. Luck had taken Akane by the hand and led her to discovering the identity of the girl that had dared to put the moves on Ranma. It had happened only several days after the incident at Ranma's house, as Akane spoke with Sakura, that she overheard someone making a remark about Utena helping her school win in a fencing tournament against Furinkan and how unbeatable she was, even though she was a looker. Akane was mildly curious about a person that was dubbed unbeatable, and asked the guy who he was talking about.

The speaker seemed a little embarrassed, but showed Akane the picture of Utena. It had not been in the youth's hand for more than a second before Akane tore it out of his grasp and stared at the photo so evilly that everyone was certain her gaze would burn holes in it. After calling the picture several unpleasant names, she grabbed the boy by the collar and demanded he tell her everything about Utena. Once she got the location of the school out of him, she made her plans on what to do about meddling girls with bizarre hair coloring.

And now she was there. It was going to be a simple matter of telling Utena 'keep the hell away from Ranma, or you'll be sorry.' And if the girl were stupid enough to try to play off the warning, she'd find out what it meant to be really sorry for trespassing on other girls' boyfriends.

Akane, as per her nature, went straight into the academy's grounds.

Nabiki tried getting a better look at the rapidly dwindling form. For the briefest of moments, she thought it had been Akane that had went into Ohtori, but that was absurd; her younger sister wouldn't have had any reason to go there. More likely it was just someone that had the same haircut as Akane, and it had been a long distance away when Nabiki had spotted the girl that had been standing outside of the gates.

Shaking her head clear of such thoughts, she refocused them on her true mission: telling Utena Tenjou she was not to come within fifty meters of Ranma Saotome ever again. Nabiki would have preferred 'informing' Ranma of the rules as well, but she was not foolish enough to believe that anything good would come of openly browbeating him into submission. She was going to have to play things differently when it came to him.

Nabiki was a little surprised at how angry she was with Utena. The level of hate was actually greater than what she usually felt when she saw Ranma and Kodachi together. A quick self-examination of her feelings made her wonder if it was because Utena had gotten farther with Ranma in one day than Nabiki had in the weeks she had invested in trying to get him. In the end, it was irrelevant. After today, Utena Tenjou was not going to be a factor anymore. Words would be what Nabiki used first -she was a thinker after all- but if her warning to stay away fell on deaf ears, then it might come down to roughing up the pink-haired tramp a little bit. The upside to that was it would prove that Nabiki had surpassed Ranma again. It only made sense since Utena had beaten Ranma, and Nabiki would have beaten Utena. A physical confrontation would also be more satisfying, since it would also send a clear message on what Nabiki thought of women that stayed overnight at Ranma's house.

Nabiki entered the academy grounds, and decided to make a left. It was only a matter of time now.

A grappling hook anchored itself onto the far side of the wall that surrounded Ohtori. Moments later it was followed by a figure of average height, dressed in the formal looking black uniform of a male member of Ohtori Academy. The shadowy figure was over in an instant and crouched behind several bushes that were located near the wall. It darted its head over the bushes and looked around. A smile slowly formed on the figure's face as it realized its plan had worked flawlessly and no one had detected its presence as it entered the academy grounds.

Ukyou Kuonji stood up and began walking with the easy gait of someone who had traveled the academy a thousand times before. Ukyou had to hand it to her self, she now blended in perfectly with the rest of the student population and wouldn't draw a bit of attention to herself. That was just the way she liked it. That way Utena Tenjou would never see her coming until it was too late.

Discovering just who had been the naked, pink-haired slut in Ranma's bed was had not been that difficult for a ninja of her skills. A few questions here and there, and an article in the paper of the winner of a fencing tournament, with accompanying photo, had been all that Ukyou needed in tracking Utena down. Warning the tramp of what was going to happen in the future concerning Ranma was going to take more precision though.

Like the good ninja she was, Ukyou, while in disguise, studied the lair of her opponent, making notes on the size and dimensions of Ohtori Academy. There was no telling how many allies Utena might have, so confronting her alone and in a one-on-one situation was going to take some skill. After observing the academy for two days, Ukyou knew she had a great plan. She would steal a men's academy outfit, disguise herself as a guy, then discover the exact location of Utena Tenjou and follow her (as only a ninja could), until the girl was alone, then Ukyou could deliver her warning. And if the slut insisted she would continue sleeping with Ranma, Ukyou would beat the living crap out of her until she gave in to her demands.

As she set out to blend into the Ohtori population, Ukyou took note that though she might not have thought much of Utena Tenjou, there was one thing she had to concede in the pink-haired girl's favor. Utena had really good fashion sense. The uniforms the men at Ohtori wore were far superior to the silly skirts and blouses the girls there had to wear.

At the highest balcony of the Tower of Roses, Touga Kiryu gazed down at the world below through the opera glasses he kept with him at all times. From there he could see every inch of Ohtori, including the area of the wall Ukyou had just leaped over. His gaze followed her as she made her way into the student population.

Saionji had already left, but as was Touga's wont, he spoke out loud to himself. Just because others could not hear you boast about your superiority was no reason not to announce it to the world. "Well, well, well. I never thought he would have the nerve to show up here again. It appears that even I underestimated how correct I was about the storm on the horizon. It appears it truly is going to be an eventful day."

Kodachi Kunou began to wonder if it had been a good idea to arrive at Ohtori in her Imperial Academy uniform. Her clothing marked her as a stranger, and she was finding herself the object of a great many stares. Ordinarily, she might have enjoyed being the center of attention, but given the task before her, it would have been better if no one had taken note of her presence. If the rumors she had heard were true, Utena was immensely popular and would have many friends that would flock to her aid if it came down to a fight between the girls. A woman of loose morals like Utena Tenjou would stoop to anything, including having others fight her battles for her.

The stares Kodachi received were continuing to vex her when a male voice called out from behind, "Kodachi Kunou, is that you?"

Kodachi turned to see a young man, about her age, approach. His uniform was different from the other members of the school, being a tight-fitting white, almost military-style, shirt and blue pants. He was slender of build with black hair that was cut short all around, and about the same height as Kodachi. She took note of his face, thinking his somewhat angular face as the sort most women, including Kodachi herself, would mark as at least passingly attractive. The face was familiar, but Kodachi remained unsure of his identity.

"I know it's been close to a decade since you last saw me, but surely you remember who I am?"

The look of disappointment he gave triggered Kodachi's memory. "Miki Karou! Of course I remember you. We grew up together."

That was not far from the truth. The Karous had lived only two estates away from the Kunou's own manor. Almost as soon as she could walk, Kodachi had frequently visited Miki, and he did the same as well. The two played together frequently and for many hours on end. Both families were of the same rank in the nobility, and the relationship met with the approval of the heads of both households. As they got a little older, there were many afternoons where Kodachi would listen to Miki play, 'The Sunlit Garden' (a song he had composed himself at the age of five) on his piano. Ironically, that piece became incredibly famous and was played everywhere, even in lands outside of the Empire. Kodachi had always felt a special link to the song, since she was the first person Miki had ever played it for. He had treated her so nicely that she distinctly remembered having a crush on him, though as most girls at the age of six she lacked the courage to say anything about it.

That time of her life had been wonderful, but it all came to a sudden end. Kodachi had only been seven when the Karou estate had burned to the ground. Since the family had started to rise in prominence, they elected to sell their lands and move closer to the capital. Kodachi remembered that tearful farewell on the day she discovered Miki was moving away for good, never to be heard from again. Until today.

"It's been too long." Kodachi chose to play it safe and greeted him in as gracious and ladylike a way as she could, uncertain as to how Miki would react since so much time had passed. There was no telling how much he might have changed over the years. Even after seeing him for a few moments, she could tell that he had developed the formal bearing that befitted a noble of his station. The embrace she wanted to give him would have been improper, especially out in public as they weere, so she controlled herself and maintained her distance. Although the bright smile Miki gave her eased her concern. It was the same warm smile he had given her so long ago.

"I can't believe how many years it's been," he said. "You look incredible."

Kodachi felt a blush rise to her cheeks. She hoped he didn't notice it. "And I see you have become every inch the lord your father was."

Miki gave a nervous chuckle at that. "You're very flattering, though I hardly think I'm half the man my father is. You've certainly become a beautiful lady."

Kodachi felt her pulse race as he drew closer to her, until he was no more than a half-foot away. Now that he was next to her, she was able to see that he was a couple of centimeters taller than her. It felt a little odd, since Miki had been short for his age when growing up, and always Kodachi was the one looking down to him. Now he was almost as tall as Ranma. As the thought of Ranma entered her mind, she realized that she was beginning to feel the same tingly sensation that she usually felt around him, which she found very curious.

Miki was also finding himself the victim of the same tingling that Kodachi felt. It was recognizable as similar to the one he felt when he was in Utena, Juri, or, annoyingly, that stuck-up snob Nanami Kiryuu's presence. That he was now feeling it around Kodachi as well was a pleasant surprise. His agile mind began to wonder why all four girls seemed to affect him as no others did. What made them so unique, other than all of them being remarkable women?

After several moments of awkward silence, Kodachi spoke again. "I could not help but notice that your outfit differs somewhat from the rest of the student body."

"I'm a member of the Student Council," Miki eexplained. "All of the members wear them on campus. Actually, I wear it a lot of the time anyway."

"Really?" Kodachi asked in obvious interest. The Miki she had grown up with never seemed the type that would be interested in politics.

Noticing Kodachi's obvious interest, Miki felt his pride swell. Uncharacteristically, he was seized by the urge to start bragging to her. "Yes. In fact, I am the president of the first-year cadet student body."

"That's interesting." Kodachi found herself insatiably curious as to what sort of man Miki was now, and wanted to know everything. Miki was only too happy to oblige.

About fifty meters away, a far different scene from the happy reunion was occurring. Nanami Kiryu had always been fascinated by animals. Growing up, her parents had to scold her on numerous occasions for getting filthy when she would go out onto the estate and try to follow snakes, birds, rabbits, or any other small animal that lived on the grounds of her home. As she got older, she realized that she was a noble lady and could no longer do such things, but sometimes her heart yearned for those simple pleasures. With such passion for animal life in her heart, it was small wonder that when the Academy decided to allow a small menagerie of foreign animals to be exhibited, Nanami was there, watching them set up the displays.

The exhibit was composed of animals from the Imperial-controlled territory of Australia. It was like heaven for Nanami. There were koalas, platypuses, wombats, and even an extraordinarily rare chu-chu mouse from the wilds of the outback. Nanami thought it was adorable, especially with the earring someone put in its ear and those large intelligent eyes it had. But there was one other animal that Nanami liked above all the others, even the chu-chu mouse. It was easily the most handsome and interesting creature in the whole exhibit.

"It's really a boxing kangaroo?" Nanami asked.

"Yep," Mick Dundee, the man in charge of the menagerie answered. He was a forty-year-old that had been born in Australia, but had spent over half of his life in Japan, taking his menagerie place to place as he and his business were wanted. In reality, his Japanese was flawless, but he would usually lay on a thick accent that made him seem more exotic to the paying customers. He didn't bother to use it on Nanami. There seemed little point given the girl's rapt attention to the animals. It would have been wasted.

Nanami looked the kangaroo over again. It was nearly six feet tall, and looked like all of the kangaroos she had seen in the Nagoya Zoo, except for the boxing gloves on its hands and the oversized pink sunglasses over its eyes. "How do you get it to fight?"

"All you have to do is show him a picture of someone, then say attack, and he'll do it until they're knocked out."

"Really?" Nanami asked. "Do you mean if I showed him a picture of a girl, say, with pink hair, he would attack her?"


Nanami's eyes fairly sparkled with joy. "I'll be right back." And with that she took off for the direction of her room at top speed.

"Weird girl," the owner commented as he left the kangaroo to take care of his other animals.

The person that had overheard the whole conversation moved from behind the koala cages it had been hidden behind. It cast a baleful glare towards the distant figures of Miki Karou and Kodachi Kunou. "So, you'd dare to stand me up in favor of some worthless trollop, Miki. I'll show you!" The figure opened up the door to the kangaroo's pen and proceeded to show it a picture. "Here's your target. His name is Miki Karou and he's a big jerk." The figure then pointed to where the real Miki was talking with Kodachi. "Now take these ridiculous sunglasses off and attack."

The kangaroo became concerned as it squinted in the direction of the two blurs in the distance. Why had the stupid human taken off its glasses? Without them, he was nearly blind. The kangaroo gave a sigh as the human ordered him to attack again. It had a job to do if it wanted to get fed, so it hopped forward and hoped it went after the blur in the right.

Kodachi was still talking when a girl that was several meters away from them shouted out hello to Miki. He shouted a greeting back, then began to renew his conversation with Kodachi. He had barely gotten another word out when he said, "Wait. I've got to give that girl back a book I borrowed. Stay here and I'll be right back."

Kodachi said she understood and would wait as Miki grabbed his book bag and ran into the building the girl had disappeared into. Happiness began to fill Kodachi as she thanked the gods for granting her the luck to run into Miki again. She was still smiling when a cry of "Look out! Runaway boxing kangaroo!" filled the air. Turning in the direction of the voice, Kodachi found herself confronted by what indeed appeared to be a boxing kangaroo. The gloves were the giveaway.

"You've got to be kidding me," was all she got out before a bell rang in the distance and the match began.

Akane Tendou continued to walk the halls of Ohtori Academy. She had already covered two buildings and there was still no sign of Utena Tenjou. It irked her as to how one girl could avoid being spotted. She had pink hair and wore a boy's uniform. How hard could it have been to find her, even in a crowd? It appeared to Akane that she might have to resort to asking someone where Utena might be. She had not up to that point because she knew that Utena was popular, and if someone tipped her off to Akane trying to find her so they could fight, Utena might run away or get a gang together to try to take her on. Either way it felt like a bad idea. Locating Utena on her own, and without any advanced warning, was the best strategy Akane could come up with.

She was traveling down yet another corridor, looking in the rooms as she went past, when someone bumped into her. Caught off guard by the taller man -who had not been paying attention to where he was going- Akane found herself propelled backwards about a foot. If it were not for her superior sense of balance, she would have found herself thrown to the floor from the force of the collision.

Once recovered, Akane got a better look at the man with the odd greenish tint to his hair. A reprimand about clumsiness was on her lips when the taller man beat her to it by snapping, "Watch where you are going, you clumsy little fool!"

Outrage at the accusation stilled Akane's tongue for a moment. The second passed as she said, "You're the one who ran into me, you pompous asshole. How dare you say I-" The slap delivered to her face cut off the rest of the tirade.

"No mere girl may speak so to Saionji Kyouchi," he sneered down at Akane.

"You slapped me," she said in open disbelief as she held the place where Saionji had struck her face.

"And I shall do so again if you do not get out of my way." He swaggered a little, satisfied he had made his point to the impudent little girl.

"You slapped me," Akane repeated in the exact same tone as before.

Saionji brought his hand up and aimed for Akane's other cheek. His hand descended, but just as it was about to make contact, Akane's hand shot up and grabbed Saionji's wrist. The taller man was surprised to find Akane's grip was like iron, and he could not budge his hand an inch. "Unhand me, you little bitch!"

"You slapped me."

Saionji noticed that there was no longer any disbelief in her voice and the look she shot him was anything but cowering.

Nabiki Tendou examined the campus of Ohtori with a careful eye as she walked around, searching for Utena while getting an idea of what the school was like. The atmosphere was very different from that of the Imperial Academy. It felt much more relaxed, yet there was also something unusual about the place as well. There was a sort of quiet that held power, or at least so it seemed. It was an interesting place, to be certain.

Unlike Kodachi and Akane, Nabiki held no reservations about asking someone for help in locating Utena. If the person she asked seemed inquisitive about why she was looking for the pink-haired girl, Nabiki already had a lie prepared about returning something of Utena's to cover her self. That was the simplest way to find the target and get the whole sordid affair involving her put to rest.

Nabiki picked out a girl, standing alone, to approach. As she got closer, Nabiki saw that the girl was about her age, dressed in the standard Ohtori girl's blouse and skirt. She was very attractive. The only unusual thing about her was that her hair was green in color. Feeling there was nothing to fear, she approached the girl. "Excuse me, I wanted to ask you something."

Nabiki noticed the girl examine her very closely, and for the briefest of moments, thought she had an almost hungry look in her eyes. The look vanished as quickly as it appeared, if it had ever been there in the first place. "Of course. How can I help you?"

The odd glance had put Nabiki a little on edge, but the happy, helpful smile the girl gave her now put her mind at ease. She now felt certain she had been mistaken about the look before. "I'm visiting a friend here and I have to return a book I borrowed from her. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I lost her address and can't remember where she lives." Nabiki felt the lie was good enough to hold up under casual observation.

"Who's your friend?"

"Utena Tenjou." Nabiki watched the girl's reaction to the name carefully.

"I know who she is," the girl said, then gave a thoughtful little glance towards Nabiki. "In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw her out by one of the rose gardens over by Mujuru Hall just a little while ago. Why don't I take you there? That way we'll get there quicker and might find her before she leaves."

Nabiki wondered how she had gotten so lucky and thanked the girl for her generosity. The two set off for the rose garden immediately.

The girl struck up a conversation as they continued to walk. "My name's Michiru Kaiou, what's yours?"

"Nabiki Tendou." A slight twinge of guilt struck Nabiki as she realized she had forgotten her manners in not introducing herself sooner to the polite girl.

"You're from the Imperial Academy, aren't you?" Michiru asked.

"What makes you say that?"

"Your security cadet uniform. I thought I recognized it as the Imperial Academy design."

Nabiki found herself admiring the girl's powers of observation. That same perceptiveness might cause some problems too, if Michiru asked too many questions. "Yes, I am." Nabiki kept the explanation as brief as possible.

Michiru pressed on. "Are you close friends with Utena?"

"Not really," Nabiki admitted, which was the truth. "We sort of met through a mutual acquaintance. We don't know each other all that well, though she made a definite impression in the brief time that I've known her."

"I don't really know her too well either," Michiru admitted. "I tried to get to know her once. Unfortunately, I found out she had different preferences."

"What?" Nabiki asked.

"We're different sort of people," Michiru clarified. "That, and one of her stuck-up bitch girlfriends threatened me. I still have to pay Wakaba back for that." The last comment was more of a personal thought that was spoken aloud than a statement meant for Nabiki. Michiiru seemed to realize that and focused on her companion once again. "Utena is a very impressive person. She has a commanding presence, like yourself."

"Ah, thanks." Nabiki was uncertain of what to make of the comment. It was very flattering, yet there seemed to be the hint of something else behind those words, some veiled meaning.

The conversation was briefly discontinued as the duo entered a large multicolored rose garden that was tucked out of sight between two large buildings. It was very big, and to Nabiki's eyes appeared a little strange, and not just because of its location. It took her a moment to figure out why that was. "It's in the shape of a rose."

Nabiki had been correct. From the air it would have been more obvious, but even at ground level, her sharp mind was able to figure out what the strange design the rose beds formed. The border of the garden was rounded, and the oddly curving stone paths that separated the flowerbeds from one another, formed the beds into the petals of a rose. It was a very appealing design.

Nabiki was still admiring the arrangement, when Michiru suddenly grabbed her and pressed their bodies together. "Oh, Nabiki. You ignite the fires in my breast in a way no other woman ever has," she announced in an unusually loud voice.

"What?!" Nabiki barely got out. It was one of the few times in her life where she had been caught completely off guard and didn't have the faintest idea of what to say. The surprise was so great she didn't even try to get out of Michiru's grasp.

"You have no idea of how attracted I am to you. I want you to kiss me now," Michiru whispered hoarsely as she placed a hand behind Nabiki's head and drew their faces closer together.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

The rage in the voice that had come from behind Nabiki snapped her out of her shock. She turned, Michiru somehow keeping her grip and spinning with her. Before them stood a young woman. She had short, close-cropped blonde hair, very broad shoulders, and stood a good three centimeters taller than Nabiki. Her outfit was the dark gray design of an Ohtori Security Cadet. Its style differed from the Imperial Academy design in both a flaring of the outfit at the shoulders and the way the column of buttons lined up on the far left side of the top rather than down the middle. That, and a face full of rage, helped to accent the differences between her and Nabiki.

"Oh, Haruka. I didn't see you there." The wicked grin Michiru gave indicated otherwise.

Haruka Ten'ou ignored the remark and focused on Nabiki instead. "You little Imperial Academy cow. How dare you bring your pathetic ass here and poach on Ohtori turf. The sluts there aren't good enough for you?"

"This isn't what it looks like!" Nabiki protested.

"You mean you aren't holding my woman in your arms and trying to seduce her from me?"

"We've had this argument before," Michiru said before Nabiki could utter a response to the accusation leveled against her. "I'm not your property. I can sleep with anyone I want. Besides," she slid a hand along Nabiki's posterior. "Nab-chan excites me in ways you were never able to."

"What are you talking about?!" Nabiki roared. "We only just met ten minutes ago!"

Michiru summoned pain into her voice. "How can you say that after last night?"

Nabiki decided she had had enough of the little game and refused to play anymore. She roughly pushed Michiru away, nearly causing her to stumble and fall.

"You Impy slut! I'm going to rip off your tits and stuff them down your throat!" Haruka shouted as she charged Nabiki. No one got away with laying a hand on her Michiru.

Nabiki barely got out of the way of the fist leveled at her. Even as she regained her balance from the dodge, Haruka recovered as well and swung a punch for her head. Once, twice, Nabiki got out of the way of the blows, then lashed out with one of her own. Much to her own surprise, Haruka easily blocked it and responded with a high crescent kick, connecting with her opponent's temple. Defensive skills came to the forefront as Nabiki rolled with the blow, gaining both the distance and time she needed to recover. Her hand went to her temple where Haruka connected. It was painful to the touch.

"All right, Flower Child," Nabiki used the derogatory name some used when referring to Ohtori Academy students. "Bring it on so I can tell everyone back at school what a bunch of wimps you Ohtori bitches are." No more words were exchanged as the fight truly began.

A bright smile blossomed on Michiru as she looked on and admired her handiwork. It was so much fun having women fight over her.

Ukyou Kuonji was beginning to wonder what was wrong with her plan. Infiltrating the school twice without being spotted had been easy. Stealing a male cadet's uniform from the men's locker room had been easy. But the problems had seemed to come as she walked across the campus in her search for Utena. As students laid eyes on her, many seemed to stare in awe or recoil in fright and ran away. She had perfected her male mannerisms for years, so there was no chance they could see through her disguise. The outfit she wore was indistinguishable from the other male cadets. She went into the men's room and examined herself in a mirror to see if she could spot some oddity that was making her stand out in the crowd, but there was nothing.

So she continued walking around, gaining a variety of unusual reactions from the crowd. She was almost desperate enough to ask someone what was wrong when she found herself confronted by one of the students. It was a girl, slightly taller than her and maybe a year older. She was attractive, had curly, red hair that extended down to her shoulders, and wore a white uniform that reminded Ukyou of the male cadet's outfits. What captured Ukyou's attention was the look of pure anger on the girl's face. She was so enraged that the muscles on her face were actually twitching. Ukyou heard several people around her say, "I wondered when Juri would show up."

"You have a lot of nerve showing your face around here again," Juri spat out.

Ukyou looked behind her to make sure the girl wasn't talking to someone else. No one was there. "Umm. I've never been here before. You must have me mistaken for someone else." Ukyou hadn't thought it would be possible to get Juri any angrier. She was wrong.

"You pig! How dare you try to play dumb with me! It's only been a year, but don't think that even a hundred years would erase the image of your face that's burned in my mind!" Juri shouted.

"No, really. I'm not whoever you think I am. My name's, uh," Ukyou had to come up with one fast. "Ryouga Hibiki."

Juri did not react to the lie. "Give it up, Ryuunosuke. I don't know what your game is, or why you could have possibly come back here unless it was to rub my face in my loss, but it doesn't matter. You shall pay! Sword girl!"

A girl appeared next to Juri, bearing two swords in their scabbards. She handed one to Juri. With a flick of her wrist the sword was pulled from its sheath and pointed in Ukyou's direction. "Don't worry," Juri said. "Unlike you, I have some honor, you back-stabber."

Juri nodded her head towards the sword girl. The girl went up to Ukyou and handed her the remaining sword. Ukyou accepted it more out of reflex than anything else, though she did not yet draw it from its scabbard. "Listen to me. My name is not Ryuunosuke. I have never been to Ohtori Academy or seen you before in my life. I'm just looking for Utena Tenjou. Once I find her, I'll be out of your life forever."

Juri's sword remained in its guard position as she shifted her feet into a combat stance. "Play ignorant all you want, but it will do you no good. For the crimes you committed against my heart, there can be never be forgiveness, only blood and revenge. Prepare yourself!"

Ukyou left the sword where it was. "No. I refuse to engage you in a pointless fight because of a case of mistaken identity." She was about to add more, but had to duck to the side as Juri's sword thrust nearly caught her in the face.

Juri backed up. "Don't worry, Ryuunosuke. For what we meant to each other in the past, I won't kill you. I'll just scar you so you'll forever remember the price of betrayal."

A second sword thrust nearly found its mark, and Ukyou at last drew her own weapon. The look on Juri's face indicated she wouldn't listen any longer. The fight might not have been of her choosing, but Ukyou was damned if she was going to play pincushion because some psycho with a sword thought she was someone else. She would teach the Juri girl the price one paid for attacking a ninja of the Kuonji clan.

As Miki Karou walked back to where he had left Kodachi, he felt very pleased with himself. It was turning out to be an unexpectedly wonderful day. Kodachi Kunou had reentered his life, and everything seemed so much brighter that it was almost as though nothing could go wrong. He was also surprised by how emotional he felt about it. Had someone at the start of the day mentioned that he would meet Kodachi, and he would feel so ecstatic about her return, he would have called them foolish. Certainly he and Kodachi had been close, but that had been ten years ago, and it had only been a childhood friendship. Something to be treasured, but also not something that could be taken that seriously. Yet almost from the first instant he had laid eyes upon her, he felt his pulse race and his heart beat more strongly in his chest. She had indeed grown beautiful, easily as attractive as any girl he knew, including Anthy or Utena. Still, there was something else about her; something that went beyond mere appearance. It was almost an instinctive reaction. As he stepped over the unconscious kangaroo, he began to wonder if perhaps his youthful relationship with Kodachi had meant more to him that he originally believ…

Unconscious kangaroo?

He looked back to take in the scene again. Certainly strange things happened at Ohtori, like Anthy's explosive curry, the near lynching of the Moroboshi triplets at the hands of the female student population, that little problem with the Arbyfish, and the whole sordid 'Case of the Haunted Jacuzzi,' but having battered foreign animals lying strewn about the ground was something that just cried out "You'd better take another look at this."

Upon looking more closely at the prone animal, Miki realized someone was buried underneath it. He bent down, and with a great exertion lifted the kangaroo, releasing whomever was trapped under it.

"Kodachi!" he cried out as recognized the figure.

Kodachi was, at last, able to sit up, and she tried to regain her bearings. Fighting the kangaroo had been difficult, as well as downright bizarre. Not only was the peculiar nature of the battle enough to throw her off, but there was the unorthodox fighting style of the animal, as well as the fact it had a vicious right hook. Even Akane didn't have one as powerful as that.

Miki heaved the unconscious animal to the side and bent down to examine Kodachi. The words spilled from his mouth. "Are you all right? Are you hurt? What happened?

"I'm fine," Kodachi assured him.

Miki carefully looked her over. Her skirt was torn in several places, her hair was a mess, and it appeared that not only were her knuckles skinned, but she was beginning to get a black eye. "You're hurt. Let me take you to the infirmary."

Over her demure protests, he gently scooped her up, cradled her in his arms, and headed to the infirmary. Kodachi found herself surprised at how gentle his grip was, and how excited she became as he carried her, almost as though they were a married couple and he was bearing her over the threshold. It felt right, in some peculiar way. And though a part of her mind felt guilty about enjoying herself in a man's grasp other than Ranma's, since it was Miki, it would be all right. At least that was what she told herself as she nestled slightly in his hold.

From the balcony of the Tower of Roses, Touga continued holding his opera glasses to his eyes as he surveyed his domain. Things appeared to be happening all over campus at once. There was a runaway boxing kangaroo attacking some student. People were flooding out of Utsutsu Hall where the sound of steel was ringing loud enough to be heard even from Touga's vantage point. And one of the Moroboshis was being beaten by members of the women's soccer team. Still, his eyes observed all that was going on as he continued to look for something that cried out for his personal attention.

At last he found it. In one of the rose gardens, the 'Iron Dyke' (as Haruka Ten'ou was affectionately known by all who were not either one of her fellow security cadets or one of her conquests) was engaged in a fight with someone Touga was not familiar with. It was quite odd -not that Haruka was in a fight; that was a commonplace occurrence- but that her opponent was holding her own and was not a member of the Student Council.

Touga continued to watch. Haruka's opponent was unquestionably a girl, and appeared to be dressed in the security cadet uniform of a different school, one he did not recognize immediately. Perhaps it was a fight between rivals from different schools. No doubt, given Haruka's personality, she had made many enemies and this might very well have been one that had come to challenge the tall blonde. Either the new girl was incredibly courageous, or stupid, challenging Haruka in her own backyard. In either case, the matter might bear further investigation. He continued observing the fight until he managed to get a good look at the new girl's face.

"Oh, baby. You've certainly caught my interest." One glance was all it took for Touga Kiryu to want to get to know the new girl better. It was not so much that she was beautiful, Touga knew many women far more attractive than the new girl, though her features were quite pleasing to the eye. It was the look in her eyes as she fought Haruka. There was a fire in there that called out to Touga in a way few women could.

His money, looks, influence, and personality made literally dozens of women fall under the sway of his charms. After the first hundred or so, he grew bored with them; it was the same thing over and over again and held only the minimum of entertainment anymore. However, in the last year or so he had discovered a new breed of woman, the only ones who could ignite his desires anymore. It was the handful he knew whose spirits of independence could come close to matching his own. Juri Arisugawa had been the first, though he had not come close to catching her interest, and for the life of him he could not figure out why. Utena Tenjou was the second girl that attracted him even more, but she seemed immune to his charms as well. As vexing as both girls were, still they were able to hold his interest and actually excite him, an effect very few women had on him anymore. Actually, the sex he had with Kozue was better than what he had experienced with most other women; it was just her personality that he found dull and boring.

It was Touga's sincere hope that once he wooed either Utena or Juri, or perhaps both, the spell they wove over him would not fade away. The effect they had on him, even in resisting his charms, was most pleasing. Of course, now there was another woman whose spirit might catch his interest as well. It was a matter worth investigating, so he made his way downstairs and towards the garden where the battle was taking place.

He was only halfway there when he found himself stopped by Saionji, who was moaning and cradling his right hand with his left. Curiosity got the better of Touga as he asked, "What happened to you?"

"Some bitch broke my hand," Saionji whined.

Touga filled in the blanks. "I always told you, you were too free with your slaps. It was only a matter of time before someone like Utena or Juri made you pay for it. Now let me see your hand."

Saionji held out his broken hand and allowed Touga to grasp it. Touga's hold was gentle as he looked at the hand, making sure not to pull or twist it too suddenly. "Hmm. Tell me if this hurts."

He brought his fist down hard on top of Saionji's hand. A scream echoed from one end of the campus to the other.

"Yes. It is broken. I recommend you go to the infirmary to have it checked out." Touga released Saionji's hand, noting that the youth now chose to slump to the floor rather than take his advice. Still, Touga was used to Saionji ignoring him like that, and he had more important things to do than help the injured youth to the infirmary. After all, there was an attractive woman he had to meet.

It was five minutes later that Saionji was only regaining his feet, when the rest of his kendo team found him in the halls. Upon seeing Saionji's condition, the remarks began to fly.

"Whoa! What happened to him?"

"He sure looks pathetic."

"It looks to me like he got his ass kicked by Juri."

"Nah. It looks more like Utena's work to me."

"I think Wakaba pistol whipped him again."

"ENOUGH!" Saionji roared. The indignity of it all. How dare they mock him because a few women got lucky and attacked him when he had an off day. "A coward struck me from behind as I was simply going to class. She ambushed me from the shadows and was upon me before I knew what was happening. I injured her grievously, and forced her to run away. However, due to my own injuries, I have decided to seek out medical assistance while I dispatch you to finish her off. The ter… hey! Where are you all going?" Saionji called out to the backs of the group as they walked off.

One of the members turned. "Look, sempai. Just because some little girl kicked your butt is no reason for us to do your dirty work. We're your kendo team, not your lackeys."

Saionji's face turned purple, and it took all of his force of will to not scream obscenities at the lowborn simpletons. "I see. Then I suppose what she said about us is true, that our kendo team is nothing more than a bunch of pushovers that don't deserve to wear a hakama."

That made them stop. "She really said that?"

"I believe her words were, 'If the kendo team captain is this much of a pushover, there's no reason for me to bother fighting the rest of his team," Saionji said quite convincingly.

The fifteen members of the team looked at each other. At last they seemed to come to a decision. "It does look bad that Saionji had the snot beaten out of him by some little girl."

"That isn't Juri or Utena," someone else added.

"Right," another confirmed. "Maybe we'd better let her know that all of us aren't morons like Saionji."

"Or wimps like Saionji."

"Or perverts like Saionji."

"And that we don't go around slapping women, like they were whores or something, like Saionji."

"ENOUGH!" Saionji roared again. "Just go out there and avenge my… I mean the team's pride!"

And with that the fifteen men set off, not caring enough to give their leader a backward glance.

"There are two girls fighting in the halls!"

Professors Chono and Sasaki heard the ring of steel on steel as people ran to watch the battle between the swordswomen. A look of concern was exchanged between the two men. "We'd better put a stop to this," Chono said as he took a step down the hall as other students continued to speak.

"Wow! Juri sure is unloading on that guy."

"It's Ryuunosuke Fujinami. Are you surprised?"

"That she hasn't killed him yet? Yes."

The professors stopped where they were. Chono looked to Sasaki. "Juri Arisugawa?"

"Most likely," Sasaki confirmed.

"I don't feel like displeasing that particular noble's daughter. I heard the last professor that angered her ended up being relocated to Alaska and was teaching the natives north of the Arctic Circle about the Empire," Chono said with a shudder.

"Let's just hope she doesn't kill the boy, eh?" Sasaki agreed as the two decided to call it a day and see if they could make it to a bar and begin drinking a little earlier than usual.

Ukyou Kuonji found herself hard pressed to defend against the insane redhead with a sword. It was not so much that Ukyou was unused to the weapon she had -her grandfather had trained her extensively with swords in the past- it was that the girl was unbelievably good, quick, and powerful. The ninja had yet to take the initiative since the fight started.

A tuck and roll got Ukyou out of the way of another flurry of strikes. Juri's attacks were actually seeming to become stronger as time went on, and Ukyou felt herself beginning to tire ever so slightly.

She tried a high overhand strike, hoping Juri would meet it high and leave herself open to a blow to the chin. Instead, Juri caught the backside of the descending blade and knocked Ukyou off-balance, connecting with a kick to the ninja's stomach as she went past.

Ukyou ducked the next swing at her head. Sparks flew as Juri's sword ricocheted off the brick wall behind Ukyou. The ninja's attempt at a strike to the taller girl's sword arm failed as Juri sidestepped the blow and hit Ukyou in the back of the head with a hard back-fist.

That was enough for the ninja. She did a back flip through the air, narrowly missing Juri's blade. As she landed on her feet, about ten feet away, she went into her shirt and threw a half dozen throwing spatulas at the red-haired girl. Ukyou was dismayed to see Juri easily deflect each one of them.

"I see you've changed your fighting style," Juri shouted. "It won't do you any good. I'll still beat you, Ryuunosuke!"

"I'm not Ryuunosuke!" There was no further elaboration on Ukyou's part as she was steadily driven back by Juri's blows. Ukyou began to wonder if she would be able to win this fight even if she had been armed with her spatula. She pushed such defeatist thoughts from her mind. She was a Kuonji ninja, the best of her generation. She would win.

With renewed confidence, she tried going on the attack again.

Akane Tendou continued walking through the halls of Ohtori, becoming increasingly angry at the fact that she still hadn't managed to turn up Utena Tenjou. Maybe the girl had somehow heard Akane was coming and had decided to leave before the fight could take place, the coward.

Her search continued until it came to an abrupt halt as she found herself confronted by a group of young men, each dressed in a hakama and bearing a bokken.

"And you are?" Akane asked

"The Ohtori Academy kendo team."

Just what Akane needed, more bokken wielding twits like Kunou. "What do you want?"

One of them said, "To avenge ourselves on you defeating our leader."

"Wait a minute," Akane said. "You mean the jerk with the greenish hair?"

"Yes," the speaker admitted. "Actually, we congratulate you on beating him up. He is an insufferable prick. However, he is still our leader, and for the insults you leveled against us, we must discipline you."

Akane sighed. More annoyances on her way to deal with Utena Tenjou. At least this would give her a chance to get warmed up. She brought her fists up. "All right. I'm always ready for a fight. Who's first?"

The speaker spoke again. "What do you mean 'first'?"

Akane found fifteen bokkens pointed in her direction. It was turning into a really miserable day.

Kodachi kept finding herself involuntarily meeting Miki's eyes. They sort of reminded her of Ranma's, in a way, although he and Miki were worlds apart in personalities. Miki was much more soft spoken and openly caring. He also carried himself with much more confidence around Kodachi than Ranma normally did. And he acted every inch the lord he was taught to be. Though, unlike her brother, Kodachi found it appropriate on Miki.

Kodachi took another sip of her tea. After Miki had carried her to the infirmary, she had received some bandages from the doctor and a clear bill of health. Once Miki was certain she was all right, the two of them went upstairs to the school cafeteria for tea. It was a far cry from the basic one that was at the Imperial Academy, and rivaled the beauty of the one at Blackhall. It was in the open air, and the designed columns made her think once again of Roman architecture. The tables were luxuriously designed as well, being of an exotic, carved wood from the mainland of China. It was a befitting place for both herself and Miki to relax and drink tea.

The small talk exchanged between the two continued, and Kodachi found herself surprisingly attracted to the friend of her youth. She wondered if it had something to do with the cologne he wore, which was similar to the one Ranma seemed to use so often. She was glad she already had her heart set on Ranma. A few months earlier and she might have been tempted to ask Miki out. He was so sweet and caring, acting every inch the gentleman, unlike that letch, Mikado Senzanzin. Yes, it was a very good thing she had already come across Ranma in this world.

The conversation continued a little while longer before Miki at last asked the question Kodachi had wanted to avoid. "What brings you to Ohtori Academy?"

Kodachi supposed she should lie to him, but somehow couldn't bear to. "I'm looking for Utena Tenjou."

That caught Miki's interest. "Why, if I may ask?"

Again Kodachi's feelings won out over her better judgment. Taking a deep breath, she began, "There is this… young man I am interested in. He is a very impressive individual whom I respect deeply and have come to care for very much in the time that I have known him. We are destined for one another." A brief fantasy began to overwhelm Kodachi, but she managed to shake herself out of it. Actually, she shook herself out of it much more quickly than she usually did, and wondered if perhaps being so close to Miki might have had something to do with it.

"Go on," Miki insisted.

She found her heart pouring out to him, pleased that she now had someone with whom she could share her feelings. "I have discovered that a disgusting, unworthy girl by the name of Utena Tenjou is in pursuit of him. She has only recently met him, and has not known this man the way I have, nor for as long. She is only a trollop that cannot possibly satisfy or care for him in the way that he needs to be cared for. She would only bring pain to him, and I would save him from that by telling her why the two of them should not be together. I would protect him from her, no matter the cost." Kodachi paused for a moment as she felt herself overcome by emotion. She would save Ranma from Utena. She would.

Miki too felt himself overcome by emotion. At first, the whole matter went right over his head, but as Kodachi continued with her speech, and spoke with such heartfelt conviction to him, it suddenly made sense. A young man that Kodachi thought Utena was interested in. Someone Kodachi had known longer than Utena had. Someone that Kodachi cared for, and thought was worthy of her attentions and whom she felt very protective towards. Someone she felt so strongly about, that she had come to Ohtori to try to dissuade Utena from pursuing him. It all made sense.

Kodachi was in love with Miki.

It was all such a surprise to him. He figured she must have been keeping tabs on him and watching him from afar, no doubt afraid that he would not return her affections should she make the source of them known. When she saw he and Utena together, she must have misinterpreted the nature of their relationship, although Miki could not deny that he was very attracted to Utena, and that he had made tentative passes at her before. Either Utena was not aware of them or was not interested, and Miki did not want to press the issue. He was not Touga. Actually, he was quite shy when it came to women, at least the ones that interested him. And of late, the only ones that had truly interested him were Utena and Anthy, and his feelings for Utena were much stronger.

But now there was Kodachi to consider. He could not deny the immediate interest he felt upon meeting the old friend from his childhood. It was as he had said before; she had grown into every inch a lady he could admire. And there was that tingly feeling that had made its presence known when he had picked her up and carried her to the infirmary. In truth, when he was more than halfway there, a brief fantasy had entered into his mind of taking Kodachi to his room instead and throwing her onto the bed there, so they could engage in matters other than checking her health. It was a strange sensation, and he had immediately felt ashamed by the nature of the fantasy with his childhood friend, but now, now it appeared that Kodachi had similar feelings about him. He wasn't sure what to do about it.

No, that wasn't exactly true. She needed to be reassured that her feelings mattered to him. Kodachi would be at her most vulnerable now, having confessed her attraction to him in a surreptitious manner that was undoubtedly made to throw him off. It was a safe way of letting him know her feelings without taking the risk of him rejecting her out of hand, not that he would do such a thing to the sweet and gentle girl.

His hand found its way into hers. Kodachi gave a gasp at Miki's advance. It was the sort of thing she would ordinarily have slapped a man for, but she couldn't seem to summon any anger towards Miki, even if he was being quite forward. The truth was, his touch was exciting her in the same way Ranma's did, not that Ranma had ever touched her all that much. Her mind told her to take her hand out of his, yet again she could not seem to do it. It felt so nice having her hand held like that.

"You don't need to warn off Utena. She really isn't a bad person, and perhaps you've misjudged what she means to him," Miki told her as he brought his other hand up and began to run it along the hand he held.

Doubt began to fill Kodachi. "I'm not sure. You could be right, but I suspect she has feelings for him. And that worries me because he might return her affections instead of mine. I realize that sounds petty of me, but he isn't experienced in the ways of love and could easily be swayed by an insincere woman."

Miki could not help but feel Kodachi was right. In spite of having many admirers, he had very little practical experience with members of the opposite sex. Yet, as much as Kodachi excited him, he felt very much at ease with her. Without realizing it, he drew his face closer to hers. "For you, I'm certain he would find the ability to firm his resolve."

"Really?" Kodachi said as she drew closer to him as well.

"Yes." Their faces were no more than a few centimeters apart when Miki's elbow accidentally knocked his silverware on the floor. The noise seemed to break the spell that had formed between the two, and each drew back in guilt for what they had almost done.

"I'll get it," Miki said as he bent below the table to pick up the silverware. He could scarcely believe what he had almost done to someone he had not seen in a decade. It was wrong to try to move that fast and seduce Kodachi, especially when she was at her most vulnerable.

Kodachi also felt shame for what she had almost done. She loved Ranma, not Miki. Even if Ranma had slept with Utena, it ddid not give Kodachi the right to kiss other boys. Or did it? Was it really fair that Ranma could do whatever he wanted, engaging in any old sort of fling, and Kodachi would have to sit on the sidelines, remaining chaste? She suddenly found her thoughts in a turmoil. What did she really feel for Miki?

A figure stood at the edge of the doorway leading to the cafeteria, watching Miki and Kodachi holding hands. How dare Miki try to make out with some girl when he was supposed to get together with her. Well, she had something that would put a stop to that. She pulled out the smoke bomb she had picked up on the way to the cafeteria and lit the fuse. Drawing back her arm, she wound up and threw the small projectile, confident it would hit the mark.

It was almost to the target when Miki ducked under the table. The smoke bomb bounced once on the table, catching Kodachi's attention. She had all of one second to look at the round, blue orb before it went-


-and Kodachi found herself the sole recipient of the black cloud.

Miki finished picking up the silverware just as the cloud began to disperse. As the vapors cleared, he saw that Kodachi's upper torso was entirely black, and only the whites of her eyes broke the image.

"Oh my goodness! What happened?" Miki asked.

Kodachi slowly rose to her feet. "I have been humiliated, and it was by that person over there!"

The figure realized it had remained behind too long, cursing its terrible luck. Kodachi had spotted her and it would be best to make a hasty retreat. She spun on her heel and began to run down the hall.

She hadn't made it far when a broom hit her in the back of the legs, knocking her to the ground. She tried to regain her feet, but it was too late. Both Miki and Kodachi had caught up to her.

"Kozue!" Miki shouted in surprise. "Why did you do that to Kodachi?"

Kozue Karou, Miki's twin sister, scowled at him. "I wasn't trying to do that to her, not that she didn't deserve it. I was trying to do it to you."

"Why?" he asked

"Because you stood me up for our meeting so that you could romance her."

Miki slapped his forehead in frustration. "I'm sorry. When I saw Kodachi, I got excited and forgot about our meeting." He was about to apologize again when another thought occurred to him. "Why did you attack me though? We weren't meeting for anything important."

"It wasn't because you stood me up. It was because you stood me up for her!" Kozue leveled in accusing finger at Kodachi. "I remember you, Kodachi Kunou! You were a mean and evil little girl. Growing up, you used to terrorize me all the time. You'd throw mud at me and make me dirty. And you'd drop snakes down my dresses. And you'd tie my hair into knots and put bubble gum in it so I couldn't get them out. And you used to do all sorts of other things that made my life growing up hell. I hate you!"

Miki's hand found its way to the back of his head as a large sweatdrop formed. "Ah, Kozue."


"Kodachi didn't do those things to you. You did them to her."

"I did?" Kozue was momentarily confused. That wasn't right, was it? She stopped and thought very carefully about it. "Oops! I guess you're right. I did do those things and must have misremembered it."

"I didn't misremember it," Kodachi said as she balled both fists and had an unmistakable blue aura, which both Karous could plainly see. "In fact, I never did properly repay you for making my life a hell like that!"

Kodachi took a step forward. Kozue's survival instincts took over as she slowly tried to back away. Just as she turned to get a good run, Kodachi snagged her by the back of her hair.

Miki couldn't watch. He covered his eyes and just listened to the dull thud of flesh impacting on flesh. When the sounds stopped, he dared to peek at the scene.

"Yuck!" Miki said as he examined the twitching pile of flesh that still bore a resemblance to his sister. "Well, I have to say that she did have that coming." Miki admitted to the much more satisfied-looking Kodachi. At least Kodachi had seemed to enjoy herself. It was nice that something good had come of the whole situation.

The fist almost connected with Nabiki's head as she ducked under another one of Haruka's blows and struck with an uppercut of her own. Nabiki had no idea of how long the fight had gone on, but it was staring to wear even her nearly limitless energy down. Looking Haruka over, she judged that the Ohtori security cadet was in even worse shape. Nabiki had hit her with twice as many blows as she had received, and even though Haruka was stronger, and her ability to absorb punishment might have been a bit better than Nabiki's, it wasn't going to be enough. All it was going to take was a matter of time before Nabiki won.

A satisfied grin was plastered across Michiru's face as she watched the fight progress. It did appear that poor Haruka was losing the fight, but she had no one to blame but herself for not being good enough to win. And it would give Michiru a lot more free time to hit on whomever she wanted without the prospective prey constantly looking over their shoulder in fear that an Amazonian security cadet was barreling down upon them. As nice as Haruka was, sometimes her possessiveness was a real turn off.

"I see your handiwork in all of this, Michiru."

Michiru turned in surprise at the voice of the man that was suddenly appeared next to her. She might not have been a martial artist, but her powers of perception were excellent. It was unusual that someone as big as Touga Kiryu could have sneaked up on her.

"President Touga," she said dreamily as she unleashed her most powerful longing stare and latched onto his arm. "Oh my. Being so close to you makes me feel weak. Small wonder that no woman can say 'no' to you. Say the word and I'll go straight just for you, my lord." She ran a hand over an area of his body that she was certain would get her a response.

It did, in a way. Touga detached himself from her arm and cradled her chin, tilting it upward so she was looking directly into his eyes. He gave her the softest look he could muster. "I now understand why Saionji finds it so easy to slap women around. Just be thankful I'm a better man than he'll ever be."

"But I like being slapped. Especially by strong people. Why do you think I hang around Haruka so much?" Michiru said coyly. "Don't you find me the least bit tempting?"

"Slut," Touga said as he released her chin and ignored her from that point onward. He missed the evil stare she shot at him for turning her down so contemptuously. She'd get back at him. Not today, but someday. Definitely someday.

Touga waited for a moment when the two fighters parted and tried to catch their breath. It was obvious the new girl was going to win, but it would appear more dramatic if he was there to save the day now. And it was more likely Haruka would actually listen and back off if she was losing.

"Haruka," Touga said in a warning voice that carried the full tone of authority that he was so used to wielding.

Haruka seemed to notice him for the first time. She gasped out, "Fuck off, Prez! This isn't any of your concern."

"Oh? When a new girl visits our campus and is attacked by a member of my school's security directorate, it isn't any of the Student Council's concern?" Touga asked, maintaining his authoritative posture.

"This is matter between different branches of the Junior Security Directorate. One of the few things you have no influence over," Haruka spat out. "Now run along and play with your sticks with the other members of your little council."

Haruka was becoming increasingly insufferable of late, Touga thought. What she said was true, to a degree. The Junior Security Directorate was very independent of the normal school functions, and even the Student Council could only affect it slightly without there being repercussions from the true Security Directorate itself. One thing the 'spooks' were was territorial. Technically, Dean Fuji had the final say on all matters concerning the school, and how the Junior Directorate functioned within it, but the reality was he would respond to pressure brought upon him if it appeared he was singling out the Directorate for some reason.

That the Iron Dyke was the second most powerful member of the Ohtori Security Directorate, right after that charismatic bastard, Mikage, was another problem. There had been many instances of friction between the Council and the Directorate of late, and it had been getting increasingly worse, not better. The Directorate's desire to snub the Council was becoming ever more irritating, and Touga wondered if he was going to have to take steps to ensure that things at the school continued to run smoothly once again.

"Leave her alone, Haruka," Touga ordered.

The command officially put Haruka on the defensive. She was not winning her battle with the Impy bitch, and now Touga was butting his nose in where it did not belong. It was probably for the sake of the new girl, knowing his craving for women. About the only woman Touga hadn't try to hit on was Haruka herself. Even he wasn't stupid enough to try that.

As for what to do now, it had become clear to Haruka that the fight had become one she was not going to win, and her options were limited. The idea that she would have to back down so openly to Touga was almost enough to make her act recklessly and charge him in an effort to get back some of the respect that she would lose if she was to turn tail and run. Especially with Michiru looking on.

Then the odds switched in her favor as five other security cadets rushed to the impromptu battleground. That brought a smile to Haruka's face. Even Touga, as good as he was, couldn't take on five well-trained opponents at the same time. The smirk she gave in Touga's direction improved her outlook considerably, even if he refused to act put off by the appearance of her reinforcements. "It looks like the shoe's on the other foot. Leave now. The Impy bitch is mine."

Nabiki finished watching the little power struggle going on and spoke to Touga. "I appreciate the offer, but I take care of my own fights. You'd better back off. I can handle them."

Much to her surprise, rather than retreat, Touga gave a little chuckle and moved next to her. "It wouldn't be very gentlemanly for me to leave you to take on all of these brutes by yourself. Please forgive me if I seem rude and refuse your recommendation." He kept one hand on his hip, giving every indication he was still relaxed, but Nabiki could sense the tension in him build up as he prepared for the upcoming battle.

Haruka found herself at something of a loss. She had genuinely thought Touga was going to back off. The man was behaving like an idiot, again probably to impress the girl. There was no way he would stand a chance. However, that presented a problem for Haruka. Regardless of how much she hated the Council in general, and Touga and Juri in particular, beating up the president was going to cause all sorts of problems for her and the Directorate. She was uncertain if she was really prepared to take the next step in escalating the little war that was going on among the students of Ohtori.

And then the matter was taken out of her hands.

"What's going on here?"

Haruka turned to the sound of the voice she knew all too well. Of course she would be here. Wherever Little Touga Kiryu went, the lamb, Nanami, was sure to follow. Of course this lamb had teeth, and she had not come alone. Three other girls Haruka recognized as Nanami's favored trio of subordinates was right behind her. All of them wore the same expression of concern and suspicion that their leader had.

That changed everything. Haruka had seen Nanami in action before, and knew she was a little hellcat when it came to a fight. If she felt her brother was threatened, that would make her all the more vicious. Haruka could take her easily enough in a one-on-one, but none of the other members of her reinforcements were that good. Nanami's three friends excelled at hand-to-hand as well and were at least as good as three of the other Directorate cadets present. The numbers might have been even, but the reality was the advantage was now Touga's once again.

As loathe as Haruka was to back off, she had no choice. She maintained her dignity, not rushing away, but leaving the battlefield slowly, clearly showing no signs of fear. "I won't forget this, Touga Kiryu. Nor you, Nabiki Tendou." She made certain those two could see her face and knew it was no idle threat. Turning away from them, Haruka was dismayed to see that Michiru had already left. She was going to have to talk to her girlfriend again about staying away from worthless sluts like Nabiki Tendou. Michiru was Haruka's property, and it was obvious she was going to have to be reminded of that little fact.

Nabiki watched as Haruka and the others departed. How nice. She had unexpectedly made some new friends today, and given Haruka Ten'ou's attitude, Nabiki would not have been surprised in the least if the two crossed paths once again. This little visit to Ohtori was proving itself to be just too much fun.

A handkerchief was held before Nabiki. Her eyes followed the hand it was attached to. She had heard Haruka call the man Touga, but she did not recognize him. She was about to ask him what the handkerchief was for when she felt something wet at the side of her mouth. She felt what it was with her finger, and as she withdrew it, saw that there was now a small bit of blood trickling from a cut next to her lip. One of Haruka's punches must have done more damage than she had realized.

Accepting the offered handkerchief, Nabiki reached out for it, her hand lightly brushing Touga's. As the two hands made flesh-to-flesh contact with one another, Nabiki was surprised to feel the same sensation she had when she came into contact with Ranma. Looking at Touga, she saw that he too looked surprised and wondered if the same thing had happened to him, as unlikely as it seemed. He was very handsome, and had a presence that commanded attention. He was very tall as well, tall enough that Nabiki had to crane her neck slightly upward to look him in the face, given how close they were together. So very much unlike Ranma, yet he somehow produced a similar effect upon her.

The heat seemed to rise to Nabiki's face, and she chided herself for the loss of control. She was not some simpering schoolgirl that swooned at a pretty face. She did not even swoon for Ranma, at least most of the time. Certainly she wasn't going to go soft just because she met some good-looking guy that carried himself like a noble. Kunou did that, and she never reacted this way to him. Of course, comparing Touga to Kunou was sort of like comparing herself to Ukyou: Nabiki was better in every way. It was clear as night and day who the more impressive noble was. There were those that could act the part of noble and then there were those who were nobles. Still, she never cared much for the stuffed shirts that made up the members of the nobility before, and she had no intention of starting now.

Then Touga drew closer, ruining her concentration again. The man was proving himself irritating, even if it was a pleasant form of irritation. She said, "Thank you for your assistance, Lord…?"

"My name is Touga Kiryu, but please, don't call me lord. That word feels inappropriate to describe me if it passes from your lips. Please call me Touga, Miss…?"

"Nabiki Tendou." Nabiki thought to herself that Touga was definitely close enough to be violating her personal space, yet again she could not seem to bring herself to back away. She was not basking in his presence, it was more like she did not mind his closeness. At least that was what she told herself.

"Nabiki Tendou," Touga repeated, savoring the way the name rolled off his tongue. "A powerful name for a powerful woman."

Under ordinary circumstances, Nabiki would have been unmoved by the flattery, but due to the genetic alterations performed on her, her body betrayed her and she found herself affected by the praise, largely in part because of the sincerity that seemed to be behind it. She was going to maintain some degree of formality though. "Thank you for the compliment."

Nabiki had not been wrong in assuming Touga's compliment had been sincere. Almost from the instant he was in her presence, Nabiki seemed to be producing the same sensations in him that Utena and Juri did. Forcing himself to take things slowly, he made a more careful examination of Nabiki, now that he was right next to her. He noted that she filled out her uniform nicely. Her bust was neither overgenerous nor small. She was on the tall side, but not the least bit lanky, and carried herself well, though his own impressive height still allowed him to tower over her. His earlier, distant assessment of her looks had been accurate. She was attractive, though not overly beautiful as Michiru was. The characteristic that really caught his interest and made her stand out from almost all of the other women he knew was the look in her eyes. It was obvious the girl possessed intelligence, as well as spirit and courage. An exceedingly rare combination indeed.

Unless Touga was terribly mistaken, and after many years of judging women he was rarely that, he was having an effect on her too. There was a blush on her cheeks that had only increased after her fight had ended, and she was studying him with an admiring, if guarded, eye. It was a look that expressed both interest and caution. She was evaluating him as they spoke, rather than being blinded by his charm and good looks. He found that to his liking as well. His body urged him to move in on her quickly, which made it that much harder to employ the caution that would be needed in dealing with Nabiki Tendou.

As the duo studied one another, while they each tried to force their bodies and thoughts into focus, they lost track of the time. It was not until someone gave a loud "Ahem!" that they snapped out of their mutual observations.

Nanami Kiryu was not amused. At first, it was because the butch bitch, Haruka Ten'ou, had dared to threaten her brother. Luckily, Nanami and her friends had come along to save the day. But instead of thanking her and showering her with appreciation, Touga was only paying attention to the girl in the strange uniform. Paying too much attention, as far as Nanami was concerned. The glint in her brother's eyes reminded her all too much of the one he usually had when dealing with Utena Tenjou.

Realizing his lack of manners, Touga turned to his sister. "Thank you for your timely arrival, Nanami. Miss Tendou and I are both grateful for your assistance. Things might have turned out quite differently if you hadn't arrived when you did."

What anger Nanami had initially felt melted away. "Of course, big brother. Anything for you."

Touga took it upon himself to formally introduce Nabiki and Nanami to one another. Nabiki noticed how Nanami's starry-eyed demeanor switched to cold suspicion when she regarded her. A cold smile met Nanami's equally cold greeting, and Nabiki found herself wondering if Nanami thought that she was trying to come on to Touga and considered the junior security cadet unworthy of her older brother. The more she thought about it, the more it felt right and the more it irritated her. It was an all too familiar opinion that Kodachi freely expressed when Nabiki was around Ranma. The idea that some noble considered herself superior to Nabiki because of something so simple as what family she was born into annoyed her to no end.

To test her theory, Nabiki moved even closer to Touga, all the while making it appear she was unaware of her action. She was rewarded by an even colder glare from Nanami. In response to the noble's scowl, Nabiki remained right where she was.

Touga hardly felt like complaining at Nabiki's new closeness, though he also noticed that his sister had a very growing, and open, resentment. There were times when her overprotectiveness vexed him. Sometimes he wondered if she thought there was any girl worthy of his attentions. Still, she was his sister, and he found it difficult to reprimand her for caring so much about him. That still left the problem of her interfering with his attempt to get to know Nabiki better. "Nanami. It's almost time for your next class."

Nanami became suspicious at the sudden change of topic. "Would you escort me to it, big brother?"

He resisted the hopeful look she gave him. "You're not a little girl anymore. You don't need me to escort you to class. Besides, I'm going to show Miss Tendou around."

"I can help," Nanami insisted as she renewed her glare at Nabiki.

Nabiki responded to that with, "Oh, you shouldn't skip your class. An education is very important, especially in one so… young."

Nanami was about to give a short retort, filled with defamation about Nabiki's sexual habits, when Touga spoke up again.

"Well put, Miss Tendou."

Nanami looked at Touga, betrayed. "But big brother-"

"Enough, Nanami," Touga said. "Go to your class. I'll take care of matters here."

Demurely, Nanami pouted, but managed a subdued, "yes, big brother." Before she and her trio of friends left, she shot Nabiki a look that rivaled the one Haruka had given when she had departed. Nabiki could not help but think that it was continuing to turn into an interesting day, all right.

Once Nanami was out of sight, Touga's mood brightened considerably. "Nicely done," he told Nabiki.

"You weren't so bad yourself," she responded. "Is she always like that?"

"Regrettably, most of the time," Touga admitted. "Still, she is my sister, and I try to look out for her." He decided to switch the topic of the conversation in an effort to learn more about the fascinating Nabiki Tendou. "So what brings you to our quiet little academy?"

Nabiki considered continuing her lie, but she had the feeling Touga would be able to see right through it. On the bright side, she doubted he was trying to set her up to be beaten by a boyfriend of his. She opted for the truth while trying not to reveal too much. "I have to see Utena Tenjou. It's sort of personal business though."

"Really?" That caught Touga's attention. So one remarkable girl he knew had some sort of connection with another remarkable girl he had just met. Interesting indeed. "Tell me more. Perhaps I can help you."

Another swing of the sword nearly took Ukyou's head off. It was quickly becoming obvious that this was the deadliest fight she had ever been in, including all of her fights with Ryouga. In spite of Juri's declaration earlier in the battle about not trying to kill her, the attacks the red-haired girl was using involved fatal strokes and it was taking everything Ukyou had to fend them off. Not that Ukyou herself was not retaliating with deadly force of her own, it was just that Juri's number of attacks and quality of strikes were far outperforming anything Ukyou was managing. As Ukyou continued to find herself driven backwards by the force of the assault, she noticed that her opponent's anger had not abated in the slightest. Even Ryouga would have had difficulty maintaining that level of emotion for that amount of time.

Ukyou found herself driven to the dead end of a long hall with neither windows nor doors that led to the outside. Her attempts to get past Juri failed, so she took the only option remaining and entered a room on the left, hoping there was a side door or window she could duck out of. Upon entering the room, a quick glance showed it to be a kendo training hall, complete with racks of wooden bokkens, but devoid of any people. There were no doors, save the one she had come through, and the only windows were set high in a far wall and had iron bars across them. Ukyou was trapped.

Desperation took over as Ukyou decided to try one last gamble to win her duel. She feinted an attack, forcing Juri to back off for a second. Backing up herself, the ninja gained the ten feet she needed. From within the confines of one of her pockets came her last trick. Ukyou hurled the small, pellet-like smoke bomb at Juri's feet. The detonation caught Juri off-guard and she began coughing as she inhaled a lung full of smoke.

Ukyou was on her in an instant, charging through the cloud and hitting Juri squarely in the chest with her lowered shoulder. The blow sent Juri sprawling to the floor, barely keeping her grip on her sword. The impact had thrown her out of the cloud, which was what saved her as Ukyou came after her, sword swinging. Juri barely got her blade up in time to keep the ninja from connecting. The blades locked together as Ukyou bore down with all of her weight over the prone Juri, her superior leverage giving her the advantage at last.

Juri was forced to turn her blade so that she could grip her weapon with her free hand near the point, in order to keep Ukyou from impaling her. Relentlessly, she felt Ukyou increasing her pressure and slowly force the blade closer to Juri's own.

"No!" Juri's mind rebelled at the very thought of losing to the 'man' that had already taken away her dignity and heart. With all of her will, Juri refused to lose.

As all of her thoughts focused onto that one idea, it was then that the stress of the situation caused the activation word to touch the back of her mind, and Juri Arisugawa had her first taste of the subliminal control program that the scientists of the Phoenix Project dubbed 'the boost.'

A wild surge of power filled her veins and permeated her entire being. As though Ukyou were a child moving in slow motion, Juri was able to bend her arms slightly, then thrust them forward, hurling Ukyou away, the leverage advantage she once possessed becoming meaningless.

Ukyou too was stunned by the impossible turn of events as she found herself colliding with a rack of kendo sticks upon her landing. The impact knocked the wind out of her, and she had only just managed to sit up when Juri came flying across the room and struck once again.

It was Ukyou's turn to barely get her sword up in time as Juri brought her blade downward towards the ninja's head. The force of the first blow sent a shock down Ukyou's arm. Even Ryouga had never landed so powerful a strike. A second two-handed strike was blocked, and Ukyou's arm went completely numb. Juri was relentless as a third stroke shattered Ukyou's sword, breaking it in half. The fourth impact knocked the hilt from the ninja's now nerveless fingers. The rage in Juri's face promised no mercy as the fifth strike slashed towards Ukyou's middle, and she heard the ripping of the material of her shirt, though there was no pain that followed. Juri drew back one more time, and Ukyou knew it would be the final blow. She tried being brave as she forced herself to watch, knowing she needed to face her end with courage. Involuntarily, she flinched as the sword descended downward and…

…stopped half-way towards its goal. It remained there for a moment before Ukyou understood that it wasn't going to come any closer. She switched her attention from the blade to the wielder, and looked into a face from which all of the blood had drained.

"I… I… it can't be," Juri stammered out as she pointed her sword at Ukyou.

It took the ninja a moment to realize Juri wasn't so much staring at her as much as she was at her chest. Ukyou followed Juri's gaze to see that not only had her shirt been slashed through, but her chest bindings as well. Her breasts were now exposed for the world to see, and from the crowd that had gathered at the doorway that had wanted to watch the end of the fight, a good portion of the world was seeing it. Ukyou gave a yelp and tried to cover up as best as she could.

Meanwhile, Juri still stared in shock at her prone opponent. "You can't be a girl. I know you always acted feminine, but you said it was because your mother was crazy and wanted a girl so badly that she tried to make you into one. That was the truth. There's no way you could have been a girl all the time. You're a guy," she almost pleaded.

"I told you I'm not this Ryuunosuke guy. My name's Ukyou Kuonji, and I've always been a girl!"

Juri didn't hear a thing. Her mind had simply seized up at the impossibility of Ryuunosuke being a girl the entire time and the implications of what that meant. All her strength seemed to leave her as the sword fell from her hand and she walked off, as though in a trance.

Ukyou just watched as Juri departed, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened.

It was an hour later that the bruised and battered form of Ukyou Kuonji found enough material to cover up her chest and finally located the dorm where Utena lived. It turned out to be a hall that was currently being renovated. Utena and her roommate were the only ones living in the entire building. Evidently there had been some sort of incident where Utena's room had been destroyed and the only place left for her and her roommate to relocate to was the partially completed hall. That suited Ukyou just fine. That meant the likelihood of interference was next to nothing.

As Ukyou pounded on the door, she debated whether or not to simply punch Utena out as soon as she answered the door, just on general principles. After all, if it hadn't been for Utena and her lascivious ways, Ukyou would never have been near Ohtori or had to go through the hell that she suffered through today.

After knocking for three minutes, Ukyou tried to decide what to do next. She was damned if she was going to go home without a confrontation of some kind. There was no way a simple locked door was going to keep a ninja of her skills out. She began walking around the building, looking at all of the windows. When she at last spotted one with several plants hanging from it, she knew she had found the correct one.

Ukyou pulled out a grappling hook and, after catching it on the roof, climbed up the wall and headed towards the window. She looked through the glass and saw numerous personal effects strewn throughout the room, including a man's school uniform sitting on the bed. That was all the confirmation she needed.

After her last escapade with climbing through someone's window, Ukyou was careful to check for any ninja traps. Her caution paid off as she found and disabled several traps. Once those were out of the way, she settled in and waited for Utena to show her ugly face.

"Here we are," Touga said with a tinge of regret as he led Nabiki to the hall where Utena now resided in.

Nabiki noticed the disappointment in Touga's voice, and was surprised to discover she felt the same way. She had spent the better part of the afternoon with him and not a moment of it felt like it had been wasted. Touga had proved a dynamic conversationalist and had a quick mind with an even sharper wit. The only real drawback she had noticed was that he tended to be an overly smooth talker and was a bit too heavy on the flattery. Aside from that, he was quite charming, and she still felt a little thrill run through her the longer she stayed in his presence.

As time went on, she became convinced that Touga was attracted to her, and she was forced to admit that the feeling was mutual. It wasn't love, but she thought to herself it was a lucky thing for Ranma that Nabiki was a one guy at a time kind of girl. Of course, that also meant that Ranma was going to be a one girl kind of guy, even if he didn't know it yet. If Nabiki was going to be restricted to a single relationship, then the same rule applied to Ranma.

"It's a shame the day must end now," Touga said, interrupting Nabiki's thoughts.

"The day's not over yet," Nabiki pointed out.

"It feels as though it is, now that we are parting company."

A very smooth talker, Nabiki noted. However, she had to admit that he had a point. It did feel as though something was ending, and Nabiki wasn't as looking forward to beating up Utena as she had been earlier in the day. Like Touga, she didn't want to leave either, but she had a mission to perform and he was a distraction she could no longer afford.

Nabiki knocked on the door. "Who knows? It's a small world. Maybe we'll run into each other again."

Touga smiled. "Then let it be so long rather than goodbye, so that we assure ourselves that we will meet again." He grasped Nabiki's left hand and slowly drew it up as he lowered his head at the same time. He gave her more than enough time to realize what his intentions were and remove her hand from his grasp. There wasn't the least bit of resistance. He brought the back of her hand to his lips, and kissed it. That wonderful sensation he felt in Nabiki's presence grew stronger as his lips met her hand. As she looked up, he saw that her cheeks had once again flushed red, as they had done several times during the course of the afternoon. There was no other reaction on her part, though. A woman of remarkable control.

Touga was about to leave when he noticed that no one had answered the door. He mentioned this to Nabiki.

"I'll just wait," she assured him, no wanting to stay in his presence much longer, given the state of turmoil her mind was in from the kiss. A little distance was what she needed right now.

Touga shrugged, then pulled out a key. "As president of the Student Council, I have access to any of the buildings. Not that I would let just anyone into a closed dorm, but I have a feeling you're trustworthy."

He unlocked the door for her and let her inside. It was only after the door closed behind her, with Touga on the outside, that she felt herself calm down. She tried putting Touga Kiryu out of her mind by focusing on what Utena had done with Ranma. It worked, to a degree, as some of the excited feelings she had felt towards Touga began to drift away from her. It was a good thing Ranma hadn't been around to see her behaving like that. On the other hand, it might also serve to make him jealous and not take her for granted the way he usually did. A jealous Ranma. Now that was a thought to consider, especially if it meant seeing Touga Kiryu again. The wheels of Nabiki's mind turned as she tried to locate Utena's room.

Ordinarily, Akane Tendou would have felt quite satisfied with herself, having defeated fifteen kendoists in the same day. She knew that somewhere, high up above, her mother was looking down and felt proud that her daughter had followed so closely in her footsteps. On the downside, Akane Tendou was breathing hard, her body ached with injuries and fatigue, and her uniform was ripped in the kami only knew how many places. In a handful of words, she looked like shit. She felt like shit. She would have been dead meat if the dishonorable groups of thugs had actually been able to charge her all at once. As it was, they were still able to attack her in two-by-two waves one after another. It had taken all of her skills, and still she had suffered dozens of hits, but in the end it was she who had been standing victorious over that group of idiots.

After being bludgeoned so badly for no real reason, Akane was in a foul mood. Realizing that her injuries were going to slow her down, it was going to make her victory over the tramp, Utena, all the more difficult. That the amount of pain she was in really bothered her, put her in the foulest mood of all. So when she had finally broken down and asked someone where Utena Tenjou lived, and had found the place, Akane was really fuming. She didn't even bother with knocking on the door; with one mighty foot she kicked the door down.

"Knock, knock! Guess who's here!" Akane shouted as she went to confront Utena Tenjou.

Kodachi Kunou decided there was only one nice thing about her ash covered upper torso: it hid the black eye she was now sporting from the damnable boxing kangaroo. Regrettably, there was nothing she could do about the rips in her dress, so she would just have to look like she had just been thrown from a train. She must have looked terrible, but there was nothing to be done about it. She wasn't about to leave after all she had gone through. Utena had to learn how things were going to work from now on (i.e.: she would never have further contact with Ranma ever again or she would be beaten into a bloody pulp.) It was simple and straightforward, something a simple (very simple) and straightforward person like Utena would understand.

Kodachi realized she could not be entirely disappointed with the way the day had gone. Meeting Miki again after all of those years was a wonderful thing. Actually, it was about the only good thing that had come about from the whole sordid Utena affair. But it made her feel as though all of the hassles and humiliations she had put up with had been worthwhile. The two had already promised to get in touch with one another again, and Kodachi meant to keep up her end of the bargain. If only for Miki's sake.

She had parted company with Miki earlier, after he had given her directions to Utena's dorm. Kodachi had managed to hide what business she had with Utena, and once Miki realized that, he didn't try to press the issue. However, Kodachi was annoyed to discover that Miki apparently had a great deal of contact with Utena, and from the way he had said the pink-haired girl's name, it sounded as though he might have had feelings for her. Kodachi hoped that was not the case. It was obvious the girl was a complete slut, hopping in the sack with Ranma after she had just met him. She might very well have the same designs on Miki, and he deserved better than that.

He should be with a nice lady of the nobility who was soft, caring, intelligent, beautiful, and would take the time to listen to both his words and his gentle spirit. Someone like… Kodachi herself, only it couldn't be her since she already had her sights set on Ranma. But Miki did deserve someone like Kodachi, so she would simply take it upon herself to try to get rid of his desires for Utena and try to redirect them to a more worthy source. But not her, Kodachi reminded herself. It had to be someone else. Even though Miki had grown into a gentle, sweet, caring young man that any woman would be lucky to have.

The afternoon had made it clear he was quite a contrast to Ranma. Miki was refined, where Ranma was rough. Soft spoken where Ranma tended to be brash. More open with his emotions where Ranma tended to be subdued. It was a wonder she could find herself so taken with two such extreme opposites. Although she was really only taken with one of them, and not the other, or so she reminded herself.

Shaking that matter from her mind, Kodachi approached the dorm that Miki had given her the directions to, only to discover that the door to the place had somehow been knocked off its hinges. Kodachi looked around again, making certain that it was indeed the right place. Once again reaffirming it was, she went inside, curious as to what might be going on.

Anthy Himehiya approached her dorm, intent on cleaning up the place now that her classes were finished and she had taken care of her rose garden. It was as she arrived at the remains of her entryway door that she noticed something peculiar.

"I believe someone is in my dorm." She went inside and headed directly towards the room she and Utena shared. Since Utena was at a tournament in Hokkaido and owned a key to the dorm, that left her out as the one who had broken down the door. She would have waited for Anthy to show up first in any case. That meant there were most likely some intruders in their place. It wouldn't be the first time it had happened, though usually they were less destructive when they tried to get in.

As Anthy arrived at the top of the stairs, she heard four distinct voices arguing with one another, none of them belonging to Utena. She walked to her room and saw that there were four girls already there. All of them appeared as though they had been in a fight, and a very big one at that.

Kodachi noticed Anthy first. "Who are you?" Her question gained the others' attention as they stopped arguing with one another to look the new girl over.

"I'm Anthy Himehiya." She bowed before the girls. "And you must be the intruders who broke into myself and Miss Utena's home. Miss Utena told me quite specifically what to do with intruders when she wasn't here to deal with them. Although it is unusual for it to be girls instead of boys. You didn't steal any of our underwear or try to grab some locks of hair from Miss Utena's brush, did you?"

"Ah, no," Akane said, bewildered at the whole nature of the conversation.

"Good. That makes things easier," Anthy replied.

Before any of the girls could say anythinng further, an invisible force encircled their bodies, completely immobilizing them. Immediately their voices began shouting in protest, but their pleas fell on deaf ears as they found themselves telekinetically lifted up off the ground and put back to back in mid air. No matter how hard they tried, none of them could move an inch.

"What are you going to do with us?" Ukyou asked.

Anthy retrieved a coil of rope from Utena's closet. "It's nothing to worry about. You'll find out soon enough."

Anthy's blissful smile did nothing to reassure any of the girls.

Juri lay on her back on the stone bench in the middle of one of the numerous rose gardens present on the Ohtori grounds. An arm was across her face, masking her eyes, though leaving her mouth uncovered so that she could speak clearly. Her other arm was limply hanging over the edge of the bench, giving her the appearance of someone trying to get some sleep. The opposite was true, though. Her thoughts were in such turmoil that she needed to give voice to them before any relaxation could be had.

"It all started two years ago, long before I joined the council. I know you're aware of the rumors that circulated, and I never saw the need to correct them since the end result would have been the same even if the truth had been known. But the whole sordid affair was worse than you can imagine.

"Ryuunosuke Fujinami. Shiori Takatsuki. Juri Arisugawa. A triangle of friends, or so it seemed. Ryuunosuke was the captain of the fencing team, and I was his star teammate, eventually surpassing him in ability, despite being a year younger. We got along fabulously. Shiori was my best friend, though she got along very well with Ryuunosuke too. But there came a day when I discovered I was in love, and as longtime friends were apt to do with one another, I told Shiori that I loved someone. I was deliberately vague, for I had fear of my innermost feelings becoming known, and could only speak of things in the most obscure terms. I veiled things so she wouldn't suspect who it was I cared for, until I knew my feelings might be returned. I was frightened, for if my feelings were rejected, things could never be the same. Shiori gave me a rose that day, and told me not to worry, for sometimes miracles come true.

"A lie. There are no such things as miracles.

"How little I truly knew. Shiori assumed I meant Ryuunosuke, and she became jealous. She knew that our friendship would be forever changed between the two of us because I would be taking on a lover, a lover that she too craved, or at least that was what she thought I wanted. She was only half-wrong. Our friendship would indeed have been changed forever had my true feelings became known, one way or another.

"Shiori made her move the very next day. She believed Ryuunosuke cared for me, and lied to him by telling him that there was someone I loved, someone other than him. What a joke, she told 'lies' that were actually the truth, though she had no way of knowing.

"After that 'revelation', they quickly fell in love, and I only discovered that fact after the two of them transferred away from Ohtori. Everyone knew what had happened but me. I didn't find out until it became too late to do anything about it. Later, Shiori sent me a note telling me that she knew I must have hated her for her actions, and also that she still had no regrets for what she had done. And the worst part was, I couldn't seem to bring myself to hate her.

"How can someone be so right for so many wrong reasons?

"Oh the bitter irony. Shiori had misinterpreted what I meant when I told her in those veiled terms that there was someone I loved. I did care for Ryuunosuke, but not in that way. Never in that way.

"The one I was in love with was Shiori."

"Ah ha!" Touga said in satisfaction from his seat on the stone bench across from Juri. "You're a lesbian. That explains why you were so resistant to my charms."

"That and the fact that I have good taste," Juri said.

"So how do you feel now that you've confronted the one you improperly blamed for taking the love of your life away and discovered that he was actually a she?" Touga asked, now concerned.

The arm moved away from Juri's face as she sat up to look at Touga. "You think I would be angry at having been lied to all of that time, but curiously, I feel better. I mean, I never guessed that Ryuunosuke was actually a girl, but now that the truth has come to light, it changes everything. I had always blamed myself for missing my opportunity by not telling Shiori the truth and letting my feelings for her be known. Maybe she would have turned me down. Maybe not. But it was the not knowing that drove me crazy and made me so full of depression and rage. However, now I realize that Shiori must have known Ryuunosuke was a girl all along. If she hadn't, she would have said something in the letter she sent me. That means Shiori must have been that way the whole time, and that she simply preferred Ryuunosuke over me. Telling her my feelings would have changed nothing. She would have ended up choosing him… I mean her, over me. You can't have lost a chance if you never had one to begin with."

"So all of your angst was wasted, eh?" Touga asked. He was delighted to see Juri smile in return. It was a wry little thing, unburdened of the anger she once had. It made her look beautiful instead of just cute. "Now, how do you feel about the whole situation?"

Juri looked to the skies. Again a smile found its way to her lips. She couldn't remember the last time she had smiled for something as simple as a beautiful day. "I feel good for the first time in years. The triangle's forever broken. The cage I built out of my guilt is gone. I've put the past behind me. I'm free."

"And how do you feel about Shiori?"

Juri stopped looking at the skies and stared at Touga again. Slowly, she withdrew a gold locket that hung from her neck by a chain. She undid the clasp behind her neck, and held the locket in her hand. Opening it revealed a small picture of a girl within. "I realize now that she really was unworthy of any sympathy for being so damned unrepentant for what she did to me. Come on, stealing a guy you think your friend loves from right under your nose and laughing about it afterwards? She was a bitch." Drawing her arm back, Juri threw the locket as far as she could and laughed long and hard.

"Indeed," Touga agreed. Further thoughts were cut off as four people, tied together by rope, went rolling past at a blinding speed. Four incoherent cries of terror went up as the blur went down the path Juri and Touga were on and continued rolling out of sight

"It looks like someone broke into Utena's dorm again," Touga sighed.

"Did you see who it was?" Juri asked.

Touga shook his head, allowing the wind to blow back his hair. The women liked that windswept look. "They were moving too fast. More likely than not, it was the Moroboshis up to their usual tricks. I'd have them expelled if they weren't such amusing comic relief."

"Too true," Juri agreed as she lay back down and looked to the skies. Yes. Everything was much brighter now. Freedom was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

The rolling mass of humanity stopped once it reached the southern gates of Ohtori. Upon settling outside, the ropes snapped of their own accord and lay there, limply, along with the four girls who also laid there, limply. One by one, they teetered to their feet, their equilibrium still destabilized from the nature of their unusual dismissal.

"I think coming here was a big mistake," Ukyou moaned as she collided with Nabiki.

Nabiki tried to push her away, but missed and ended up falling down once again. "Definitely. I think I'll visit 'Miss Utena' another time. Like maybe in a year and without her freaky roommate around."

"You got that right," Akane sighed as things finally began settling down for her. Utena could wait another day. And maybe Ranma had lost interest in her anyway.

Kodachi kept her council to herself, and wondered if it might be a better idea to have Miki visit her at the Imperial Academy instead of on the grounds of Ohtori.

With that decided, and absolutely no energy left to squabble with one another, the girls all left Ohtori, vowing never to allow Anthy Himehiya's shadow to darken theirs again.


The end.

Author's notes: How about that. A Ranma and Utena fic without neither Ranma nor Utena in it. ^_^

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