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A Quantum Destinies Side Story
By D. B. Sommer

This is a story set in Jurai-Knight's 'Quantum Destinies' universe, and you will have to be familiar with that piece of work to follow this story. The events within take place after chapter eleven of Quantum Destinies.

Disclaimer: The Quantum Destines universe is Jurai-Knight's. Many of the characters within are not. Revolutionary Girl Utena is also owned by someone else.

Author's notes: Ages have been played with in the Utena story to make it more compatible with the Ranma characters. A 14 year old or so coming onto Ranma might make for a wee bit of trouble. ^_^

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

Chapter 1

The sound of Professor Hiro Fuji's footsteps echoed through the vast halls of the Ministry of Science as he made his way towards whichever room the monthly meeting with the other scientists of Project Phoenix was scheduled to take place. As important as the project was, he would have thought that they might have been permanently assigned a room of their own. However, since they usually only got together once a month to review the test subjects, it had been deemed been a waste of space, never mind that the entire future of the Empire might be decided by the project. Sometimes he wondered if it was nothing more than a matter of pride for feeling so strongly about the project. Pride. That was something he still retained in abundance, though some claimed it was closer to arrogance, several of his fellow scientists among them.

Fuji ran a hand through close-cropped black hair that showed just a touch of gray. It was a holdover from his time in the Security Directorate. The routines that had been ruthlessly hammered into him then had remained with him his entire life. He still ran four miles every morning, then performed five sets of sixty push-ups followed by the same number of sit-ups. Despite being nearly fifty years of age, physically he appeared to be no more than in his late thirties. The appreciative stares he received from women told him that. He was still quite the physical specimen, and hardly the type most would have considered to be one of the premier geneticists in the world. Of course, with Project Phoenix underway, the next generation of the Empire might all turn out like that, if not better.

Impatient, Fuji checked his watch; there was still a half hour before the meeting. News reports had said traffic was heavy today, so he had left his home early. Of course since he had left early instead of late it turned out that the reports had been exaggerated and now he would be forced to wait. He hoped he would have better luck at the meeting.

Fuji was still lamenting his luck when the sounds of children playing from up the hall caught his attention. Having nothing better to do, he went to investigate. As he turned the corner and located the source of the sound, he also spotted two familiar faces also involved with the project. Doctors Naoko Akagi and Yuji Katsuragi were being accompanied by two young girls, no more than six years old or so, playing with one another. A close look at the childrens' faces told Fuji which girl belonged to whom.

"Doctor Akagi. Doctor Katsuragi." He bowed before both, who bowed to him in return.

"It's nice seeing you again." Akagi gave a warm smile. "I don't think you've ever met my daughter." She turned to the two girls. "Ritsuko. Say hello to Professor Fuji."

The blonde girl broke off the tug-of-war she was having with the other girl and politely said hello. Ritsuko didn't have a chance to do anything else as the black-haired girl then shoved her aside and took her place before Fuji. "My name's Misato," she declared with a smile.

"Don't shove me, Misato," Ritsuko complained.

"Why don't you make me?" And with that Misato stuck out her tongue and shoved Ritsuko again. Ritsuko responded by shoving her back, then the two began to roughhouse in earnest. Fuji noted that there was no actual meanness in either girl's features, implying it was more of a convenient release for the excessive energy such children always had. Though it was obviously more enjoyable for one than the other.

"Play nice with Ritsuko," Katsuragi warned as Misato continued to press her advantage, much to Ritsuko's irritation.

"Kids," Akagi said in the tired voice that only people raising children could use. "My nanny canceled at the last minute, so I had to bring her here."

Katsuragi said the same thing and complained about the problems of being a "single parent in this day and age." Fuji was suddenly glad he had never married and had to deal with any children, or more specifically, children that young. In truth, his life now almost completely revolved around a very special set of youths; a life mirrored in the others that were coming to the meeting. "Since we have a moment to ourselves, I wanted to ask you something off the record. How do you think the project has been coming along? And I just want your basic opinions, not some long-winded speech from the project's mission statement. We'll have more than enough of those at the meeting."

Akagi and Katsuragi looked at each other, then laughed. Katsuragi spoke first. "I should say we have complete faith in it."

"After all," Akagi continued. "We've already given Ritsuko and Misato the treatment. Putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak."

"I guess that does pretty much say it all." Fuji was astonished. Neither scientist was known for their blind faith. It was surprising that they would be willing to give their own children the treatment at such an early stage in the project. Of course, given the age limitations with the current form of the treatment, if they waited too long neither child would be eligible for the process. Missing their opportunity for it would eventually leave them behind when the treatment was made available to the rest of the public. There was still a safety factor to be considered, though. Certainly, Fuji was not so overconfident as to believe that the treatment was one hundred percent reliable, but what in life was? And it was not as though they were his children. He decided to just stop worrying about it and moved the discussion onto other topics.

Time passed quickly as they became absorbed in their conversation. A handful of other early arrivals joined the trio. Eventually, the children became more of a nuisance as they began to grow bored with all of the "grown-up talk" and tried harassing their parents into doing something with them. The doctors sent their daughters to another waiting room where a secretary could keep an eye on them. It was shortly after their return the remaining project members showed up, and everyone entered the room.

Upon entering, Fuji saw that the room they were using was more comfortable than what they had used before. It was at least twice as large and had a greater feel of importance to it. Director Saito, the head of the project, must have arranged for the 'upgrade' of their own. The long table, which could seat as many as twenty, was of a very visually appealing redwood, undoubtedly imported from the Western North American Prefectures and costing an exorbitant amount of money. The chairs were also very plush, covered with a material that reminded Fuji of satin. They were a far cry from the uncomfortable plastic backed ones they had previously used at all of the other meetings.

As everyone began seating themselves in the same order they usually did at the meetings, Fuji looked all of the other project heads over. All twelve were present, including his old friend, Professor Kouzou Fuyutsuki. Almost directly across from him was Doctor Yoshiki Matsuda. That was the one Fuji wanted to see the most. This was the meeting where he got his overbearing ego deflated a bit. The others were all prominent members in the scientific community, and all vital to the project, but those two along with the Director, were the only ones that truly mattered on this day.

Small discussions broke out among the various members. It was not until the head of the Project, Director Saito, entered that the others quieted down. He gave a simple greeting and took his seat at the head of the table.

Once comfortable, the meeting officially began. "Are there any urgent messages or problems that demand some sort of immediate response or attention?" Silence was all that met his deep baritone voice. The Director nodded his head in approval. "Good. Then I don't see any reason why we can't begin the meeting. I want Professor Fuji to open the review today. His preliminary reports seem to give us some unique insights as to how the project is progressing."

A wide grin spread across Fuji's features; this was exactly what he wanted. He opened up his briefcase and passed copies of his monthly report around the table. Once everyone had a copy and had a chance to open to the first page, he began. "Allow me to review a few things before I begin. As most of you are aware, we arranged for several of the children to be placed together in Ohtori Academy. Unlike most of the other children, who we were going to allow to awaken first, then bring together, we wanted to see what would happen if they were in close proximity to one another beforehand. Now that they have had time to assimilate with one another, I'm proud to announce that the study has garnered some very interesting results.

"Each of the seven members of the test group have shown excellent scores in both intelligence and physical activities, all of them high above the norm for children of that age, and slightly above the average of most of the other groups. Interestingly, on their own and without any outside encouragement, they have taken over the entire membership of the student council and demonstrated an aptitude for leadership, though in somewhat unique ways. They have even managed to spread their influence to some of the teaching staff. Combined, they represent the primary driving force at the Ohtori itself. It is their voice that is heard above all others. There is no non-project child even close to them in influence and power there."

Fuji watched as all of the project members listened intently to his speech with satisfied looks. He had known that placing the children in the school was an environment that would produce conclusive results. Again, he had to suppress the satisfied smirk he wanted to give, since most of the others had originally met his idea with skepticism.

"Exemplary leadership qualities are only one facet of this experiment that has met with our project goals. The children have also organized a formal way of producing a hierarchy to choose who the alphas of the group will be. They have formed something of a duelists club, whereby they engage in a number of duels per week. The results of these fights serve to enforce the rule of the alphas of the group. I have the informal ranks on the sheets before you."

Eyes poured over the individual test numbers in comparison to the alpha rankings among the Adams and Eves. With only the exception of Saionji Kyouichi, who was ranked fourth among his peers when he was the third highest in the test scores, the rankings followed the numbers pattern from highest to lowest, just as Fuji had thought they would.

Fuji continued, "As you will note, Utena Tenjou has the highest scores of all of the test subjects at Ohtori. In fact, I believe only Nabiki Tendou is currently rated higher than her, and Tendou is a year older. In less than two months after her awakening, she has become the alpha of her group, defeating even Touga Kiryuu, whose score is only slightly lower than hers." He resisted rubbing his hands in satisfaction as he looked towards Matsuda. This was where he poked the buffoon's bubble of arrogance. "Since every other member of the group comes from a noble family, and she comes from nothing more than common stock, I believe it is safe to assume that the theory about the noble bloodlines containing superior genes and automatically becoming the alphas of the group is blatantly incorrect. Or as Miss Tenjou is apt to say, 'Nobility is carried in the heart, not in the blood'."

Doctor Matsuda gave a restrained evil glare. He and Fuji had argued from the beginning about the superior genes that the nobility possessed. That Matsuda was from a prominent family, and Fuji had come from a lower class background, only served to widen the rift between their viewpoints. "You've been spending a lot of time with that particular test subject, haven't you, Professor?"

"Not so much more than the others," Fuji said, noting the venom that had dripped from Matsuda's voice. It was true that he had spent more time with Utena, convinced that she would blossom into an alpha that would show up the rest of the noble-blooded children. However, he had done nothing to tamper either with her or with the project itself. He already knew that the theory of the superiority of noble blood was nonsense. Trying to cheat by altering any part of the program for his benefit would have done nothing but show doubts about his own theories. It was true that Utena was a personal favorite of his, especially since her scores were so high, but he would never have allowed that to bias the project. It showed how little Matsuda understood Fuji to believe that he would stoop to such tactics.

"She has received extensive training in both armed and unarmed combat, but that was only an attempt to gauge her abilities. The others underwent the same training upon their awakening. The only difference is that she has continued to rise at a phenomenal rate, much more quickly than any of the others. You can see that on the weekly measurement charts in comparison to the other children. It's all in the file I gave you."

Matsuda ground his teeth quietly enough so that the others did not hear. Apparently, Fuji was telling the truth, much to his irritation.

"Don't feel so bad," Director Saito told Matsuda. "I thought there was a good chance the noble bloodlines would prove superior to others. However, as time goes on, it appears the process is more random than we thought."

With the head of the project all but ordering him to calm down, Matsuda forced himself to relax. With great reluctance he admitted to himself that it might be the truth. There were also indications from the other children that the purity of the noble bloodlines made no difference in test scores or becoming an alpha of a group. There was possibly still a chance that, in a larger test group the nobility would prove superior, but it was becoming less likely as the time continued and more results came in.

Fuji took silent note of his victory. Now he had something to cut down Matsuda with the next time he became too pompous. However, it would have to wait, Director Saito made his order to continue all too clear with a single look of 'keep the meeting impersonal'.

Fuji switched topics. "There have been several other discoveries as well. Extensive psychological profiles and observations suggest that Juri Arisugawa demonstrated lesbian tendencies in her pre-awakening days. However, shortly after her Phoenix qualities began to surface, she has been interacting with the Adams of her group in what is almost surely sexually interested ways, though in my estimation she is unaware of her own behavior."

"You're certain she wasn't bi-sexual all along?" Katsuragi asked with a hint of eagerness in his voice.

"Psychology isn't a perfect science, of course," Fuji said. "But all the evidence indicated she had no interest in men. We focused on her very early when it appeared we would be able to this difficult to produce situation and are confident of our theories."

"So it appears that the biological attraction factors we built into the children are capable of overriding deviant sexual tendencies," Katsuragi said with a measure of satisfaction drifting into his voice.

"Must you be so crude?" Professor Anno asked.

Katsuragi held his hands up defensively. "I only mean deviant in the sense that it interferes with the procreation with the species, which is the one of the ultimate goals of the project. Perhaps 'sexual preferences' would be a better term?"

Anno nodded reluctantly in agreement.

Fuji cleared his throat. "I wouldn't go so far as to declare that a statement of fact. This is only one test subject, and there is no guarantee that her interest in Adams will hold, or that she will give up seeking same-sex partners either among the Eves or outside Project Phoenix altogether. We are certain that, to date, she has had no sexual contact with any of the other children; that is the most important data we'll need to draw any conclusions. We'll need more test cases to see if the pheromonal cues of the Adams and Eves is capable of overriding inherent sexual preferences, or if it's some kind of psychological change that the Phoenix Children undergo themselves."

"Still, if she has suddenly expressed interest in the Adams, and none of the Eves, then it's not unreasonable to assume that the pheromonal cues are playing a role in this," Director Saito broke in, obviously intrigued. "I want a very close eye kept on her. Double the amount of people assigned to observe her, while still being surreptitious about it. This is exactly the sort of thing we've been looking for in the Mark II process. Please continue."

Doctor Akagi listened to the conversation while continuing to leaf through the information on several of Fuji's test results. She had heard the old argument before and had her own ideas on the matter. Unlike the others, she chose to keep them to herself until she had more data. As she continued reading and listening at the same time, something on one of the later pages caught her eye. She interrupted Fuji before he could continue. "I'm concerned about this unusual attraction Nanami Kiryuu seems to have for her brother, Touga. Is it as bad as it appears?"

Fuji nodded. "She has been showing a very intense interest in her older brother. There might have been signs of it before her awakening, but now they're conclusive. She has definitely shown extreme signs of possessiveness and, of more concern, possible sexual interest."

"Do you think it's a breakdown in the genetic 'circuit breakers' we put in the children to keep siblings from becoming interested in one another?" Saito asked. It had long been a worry of both himself and the others that the attraction factor would carry over to siblings. It had always been the opinion of the Council that having an Adam and Eve living under the same roof, without any other Adams or Eves available, would result in a coupling over seventy percent of the time. If they could not develop a way for family members to resist being interested in one another, the whole project would have to be scrapped. Inbreeding was still a problem, even with the genetic restructuring that Project Phoenix children had undergone. To combat that possibility, they had put genetically placed responses in each of the children that if a pheromonal lure was similar to theirs, they would not feel any attraction towards one another. Simulations indicated it would be effective up to a first cousin level. Any relation beyond that and the buffer was apparently ineffective. They also had no accurate data on how effective it would hold up among half-sisters and brothers, a situation which none of the test subjects was in.

Doubt was apparent on Fuji's features. "Unknown. But even if that is the case, I don't think it's cause for alarm. None of the other project children that are siblings have demonstrated similar behavior."

"Indeed," Fuyutsuki agreed. "Two of my test cases, Tatewaki and Kodachi Kunou, have never expressed that sort of interest in one another. And I believe Professor Fuji's own test subjects, the twins Miki and Kozue Kauru, have not either."

"Possessiveness, but not sexual attraction," Fuji clarified, though close observations made him wonder at times concerning Kozue. But now was not the time to mention them. Likewise there was another factor that indicated there was no problem. "Aside from that, we are fairly certain she had had intercourse with Touga."

"Good," Fuyutsuki said. "And Touga has expressed no interest in Nanami, correct?"

"True," Fuji said. "There's never been any indication that he has any desire for her. On the contrary, he's rebuffed all of what we think are her advances. Never a sign of anything beyond filial love for her."

"It could be a genetic flaw," Matsuda admitted. His previous anger was now forgotten as he delved once again into the project's results. "We always knew there would be as much as a three percent error ratio built into the process. Admittedly, that's a lot better than the initial ten percent we were suffering in the Mark I children, but it's still room for error. It sounds to me like this might be an instance of it."

One of the other members that had remained silent up to that point, Doctor Kunikida, leafed through several sheets until he came upon a curious detail. "What's this about an esper that hangs around the alpha of the group?"

"Oh, that." Fuji was surprised Kunikida had gotten that far through the report. "Her name is Anthy Himemiya. From what the Moebius Institute tells me, she's a telekinetic of enormous power. She'd be a valuable member of the Institute except for one tiny detail: her personality is complete passive. She wouldn't harm a fly on her own. She was transferred to Ohtori to see what her reactions would be in a school environment in the hopes that she would become more aggressive, but there have been no noticeable changes in her personality.

"Curiously, shortly upon the formation of the duelists club, Anthy began spending time with them, or, more specifically, remaining close to whoever the current alpha of the group is. It's more than a general attraction. Her initial interest was in Saionji, but the moment he fell to Touga, she switched her attentions to him. I had assumed it was some sort of sexual attraction, until now. Utena has become the alpha of the group, and Anthy is now… well, almost completely subservient to her, as near as we can tell."

"Do you think she can sense their pheremonal scents?" Fuyutsuki asked. There had been little study done on a possible link between espers and Phoenix Children. Too little was understood about the genetics involved with psychics, and considering the last horribly doomed attempt at genetically creating espers, all such projects were shelved until more studies could be done to understand them better.

"The Institute has theorized that she has somehow subconsciously tapped into their hierarchy, perhaps through a low level of telepathy, and that she's following the alpha of the pack. Given the number of times she has switched to the alpha, I think it's a distinct possibility."

"I haven't seen any indication of this at the Imperial Academy. We have a couple of espers registered there," Fuyutsuki said, then admitted, "Although I haven't exactly been looking for it either."

"It could be just this particular girl. If she's that passive, she might be looking for someone like an alpha to follow," Saito said, having more familiarity with espers and the Institute than the others. "We still know next to nothing about the creation or mechanics of psychic abilities.  It's not a priority, but I think it would be advisable to keep an eye out on interaction between the children and any espers they meet to see if similar reactions occur."

The others nodded their heads in agreement, their minds staring to race with the new possibilities.

"It's been an eventful session today, and it's just beginning," Katsuragi said to the group.

"Heh. Small surprise," Matsuda said in better spirits. A great deal of the information that he had learned today was going to be applied to the children under his observation. "This project represents perhaps the greatest single achievement in the history of mankind, and it is entirely the Empire's. No one can even come close to what we have achieved here, and it is largely thanks to us."

Fuji took note of the number of heads that nodded in satisfaction around the table. It really was amazing what people could intentionally forget when they chose to. He took it upon himself to burst the pleasant little bubble they had wrapped themselves in.

"Lorenze Keele," Fuji said softly, and found himself rewarded with the room falling into a deathly silence.

Matsuda recovered first, then shot Fuji an evil stare. "Look, the Germans' Human Instrumentality Project was an abysmal failure. Over ninety percent of the children became complete psychopaths. The Germans themselves were planning on redoing the project from scratch before we took care of the matter."

"And what of the remaining children that were not failures?" Fuji asked.

"They were liquidated. The Germans were afraid that any children they produced would turn out like the other test subjects. We got that from Keele's own personal files when we captured them."

"Yes. Very convenient, that. We were never able to get our hands on anything else of his over the years, except that one time," Fuji said as he watched Matsuda light up a cigarette. Talking about Keele always aggravated Fuji's older rival to no end. Starting to smoke was always a sign of that aggravation. Fuji took delight in the time he had gotten Matsuda to go through an entire pack in one meeting.

Director Saito entered the conversation. "We back checked it through the Directorate. Files and the bodies of all the test subjects were accounted for through alternate German resources."

"Besides, it doesn't matter," Matsuda reassured him. "Black Ops teams killed Professor Oppenheimer. He was the mastermind behind the genetics portion of the Human Instrumentality Project. Once he was dead and all of his notes and experiments were destroyed, the whole thing was completely scrapped. They couldn't have recreated the project, even if they wanted to."

"And Keele's dead," Akagi provided. "He died when his Antarctic base was destroyed six years ago."

"Did they ever find the body?" Fuji asked, fully knowing the answer.

"Of course not!" Matsuda snapped. "The whole base was completely vaporized, along with over four hundred members of the Empire's best special forces units! I should know! My son was among them!"

"We all feel for your loss," Director Saito said, then turned to Fuji. "Your personal obsession about Keele is showing again, doctor. He's long since dead, and everything about the Human Instrumentality Project has ceased to exist."

Fuji had to shake his head at that. His fellow project members were becoming more desperate to reassure themselves that there was nothing to fear. "Keele's been declared dead by our own much-vaunted intelligence service four other times in the past thirty years, once while I was still a member of it, and he always had a nasty tendency to turn up alive anyway. Forgive me if I am a bit incredulous."

"Paranoid, you mean," Matsuda murmured just loudly enough for everyone to hear.

Fuji shrugged, his respect for Matsuda deteriorating further. "I just find it terribly convenient that everything and everyone related to whatever it was he was working on in Antarctica was completely destroyed. We still have no idea of what he was up to. The whole thing reeks of a set up."

"That is irrelevant to this discussion," Director Saito informed him, his patience at losing the direction of the meeting at an end. "We are here to discuss Project Phoenix, not if a terrorist like Lorenze Keele is still alive. Let's continue with the discussion."

That declaration ended any further talk of the matter. Fuji completed his presentation. Others followed, though none were as full of the number of new discoveries that Fuji's had been.

It was as the group broke up (and Fuji shot Matsuda a smile, causing the older man to leave in a huff) that Fuji took the opportunity to talk to Fuyutsuki. He was met pleasantly, and the two began a private discussion about the session's events.

"I hope to have a great deal more to share with the others the next time we get together," Fuyutsuki said.

"Hoping to one up me?" Fuji knew Fuyutsuki would not take that statement seriously. The two had been friends for too long.

Fuyutsuki gave a light-hearted grin. "Top you? Never. But I think things in my group of children are about to happen. My gut instincts tell me it's going to be something big."

Fuji took note of how eager Fuyutsuki was. That would make what he had to say even easier. "Speaking of big, I was thinking…"

"A dangerous pastime."

"I know," Fuji chuckled. "Seriously, I have an idea. I know that Utena is the alpha in my group and likely to remain that way. Touga is close to her, but I want her tested against someone new. Someone that might be tough enough to give her a run for her money."

"I suspect this is where I come in," Fuyutsuki said.

"Yes." Fuji took the plunge. "I'd like to test her against one of your children. Either Nabiki Tendou or Ranma Saotome. Utena's scores are right in-between the two. And we know that a differentiation of less then thirty points is insignificant."

Fuyutsuki considered that. Testing either one of them against Fuji's 'pride and joy' would be a valuable experiment. It would give one of his children experience against another highly ranked Eve from outside the test group. Certainly, it was an opportunity he was reluctant to pass up. Also, if either Ranma or Nabiki defeated Utena, it would give Fuyutsuki bragging rights to the top alpha in all of the test groups. All he had to do was choose which one.

"Saotome," Fuyutsuki decided. That way he would still have his number one child in reserve, just in case Tenjou somehow defeated Ranma, not that Fuyutsuki thought that was likely. He had seen Ranma fighting with Nabiki. Tenjou might have been good, but the skill with which Saotome, as well as Nabiki, fought would be difficult to match. No, Fuyutsuki thought, there was little doubt that when it came time for the next session, he would be able to proclaim that his test subjects were the best of the best.

"When should we have them meet?" Fuyutsuki asked.

"I think a couple of days should be enough,' Fuji said. "Why don't we surprise them? We'll inform them on the same day the match is to take place."

"I would like it at Imperial Academy," Fuyutsuki said. Home field advantage never hurt.

"I was thinking the same thing." Fuji did not want the possible loss of status to occur on the Ohtori Academy grounds. On the offhand chance Utena lost, one of the others might try to press an advantage and take her position as alpha. It would be best that the fight occur at the Imperial Academy.

"I'll call you with more precise details."

"Good," Fuji said. "I want to go over some of the new information we received today. Then in two days we'll meet."

Both men decided to break up the discussion and departed. Fuji got into his car and drove off, wondering exactly how to tell Utena that she had a duel of a different kind coming up.

Sweat poured as the elegant clash continued, wood striking wood, yielding an oddly alluring symphony broken intermittently by the sound of a strike on flesh. Blows rained in, each wooden blade seeking its target so as to gain victory for its wielder. In an ever-widening circle, the two duelists met, thrusting, parrying, swinging a blow in an overhead arc only to meet with air, then being forced to back off lest the other connect with a sword stroke of their own. And so the dance continued.

Everything about the dueling pair was a demonstration in opposites. One was a tall, powerfully-built man with a greenish tint to long hair that curled at the ends. His opponent was a girl, shorter by a head and slender, though tightly muscled, with pink tresses that flowed straight down past her neck. The man was using a technique that relied upon his superior power, whereas the girl's relied more on speed. Even their school outfits were different despite a similarity in styling: stark white for the man, jet black for the girl.

The heated duel was just entering its third minute when the man, Saionji saw the opening he needed. His opponent had at last made the mistake he knew would eventually come. He brought his bokken over in a wide swing, knowing that he would strike with a resounding blow into Utena's skull. A wide smile broke out across his features as the satisfaction of his long-awaited revenge upon the girl overwhelmed him.

That damned Utena Tenjou! In an instant, his mind flashed back to the day he had first set eyes upon the odd girl with the pink tresses and who wore the elegant black styling of a boy's uniform to school. The one that had the audacity to publicly challenge him to a duel on only her fourth day at the Academy. Even then, he knew it would be a day to remember. The instant she had issued her challenge, the hushed whispers of the crowd that had gathered to admire him (and he had many admirers, though not as many as Touga) gave him the information he needed to know.

"It's the new girl."

"Her name's Utena Tenjou. I heard she's a second year cadet."

"No. She's only in her first year. Why does she wear a boy's uniform though?"

"Who knows? She might be a little strange, but there's something about her that's just so…sensual. It makes her handsome, yet still feminine."

"Ha! It sounds like you're in love, Wakaba. You're giving up on Saionji pretty quick. Though there is a presence about her…"

Saionji ignored the rest of the comments and scoffed at the insolence of the bizarre upstart. He approached her, intent on delivering a reprimand that would remind the others to remain in their proper place as well. As he got closer, he could have sworn he detected the odd scent of something in the air, and suddenly felt himself drawn to her. The effect was even more powerful than the one he had when his fellow Student Council members, Juri Arisugawa or Kozue Karou, were around him. Looking at the new girl's face, a face full of confidence yet lacking in arrogance, he found himself in agreement with the others. There was a sort of sensuality around her that made the cross-dressing seem somehow appropriate. He silently decided that, after delivering his reprimand, he would make her his before Ohtori's most infamous playboy, Touga, had the chance to.

The crowd, which had already parted when Utena had delivered her bold challenge, gave an even wider berth as he approached her. Saionji stood towering above her, looking down into eyes that held no fear of him, just righteous determination. The girl was far too impertinent for her own good. He brought his hand back so quickly that only a few in the crowd were able to follow the movement. With one blow he would put her in her proper place. The hand descended and the girl…

…ducked almost too quickly for Saionji to follow. In missing the slap, he found himself off-balance, giving her the opening she needed to deliver a kick into his stomach, driving the air from his lungs.

She stood over him, a smirk on her face that would have enraged Saionji if he had still been able to breathe. "If that's all the speed you have, it's not going to be much of a fight."

She turned without giving him another glance and made her way to the gymnasium. The crowd followed her, not giving Saionji a backward glance. His anger swelled as he vowed to hurt the soon-to-be-not-so-pretty-girl. No one humiliated Saionji Kyouichi like that. No one.

He then moved to the gym, shoving the people aside that moved too slowly to make way for him. He saw that the girl had already drawn a bokken from a nearby rack and was going through a basic kata with it, loosening up. Only later would he remember that she had moved with an exquisite grace that even the best swordsman among them, Touga, paled in comparison to.

However, his rage blinded him as he tore a bokken out of the rack, nearly destroying it in the process. No time was taken to warm up as he brought his weapon up in a guard position, giving only a moment for Utena to prepare, then attacked. Adrenaline pumped through his system, exciting him even further as he lashed out with vicious strikes, trying to break through Utena's defenses to deliver unto her the beating she so richly deserved. But somehow her defenses held. He tried harder to power past the blocks, and in so doing, made a mistake. She brought the bokken up into his stomach, then lashed across his face with a power that he had not thought possible for her lithe form. The blow sent him reeling across the gym. He recovered long enough to try to defend himself from her increasingly powerful attacks, but it was to no avail. A third and fourth blow found their marks. A fifth one caught him across the temple, driving him into unconsciousness.

Later, he woke up, head bandaged and ringing as though he had a concussion, though he was able to think clearly. He saw Touga sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed, which he quickly realized was in the school infirmary. The first thing that went through Saionji's mind was surprise that his old friend had cared enough to see how he was. However, that illusion was quickly shattered when, after asking a few cursory questions about Saionji's condition, Touga began interrogating him about the "fascinating new girl" that he had heard about. Saionji informed him that it had been a lucky blow, and that the girl would lose when next they met.

But that had not happened, and Saionji had met defeat a second time, even more quickly than he had the first. Shortly after that he dropped a match to Juri, one in which he had challenged her in an effort to improve his morale. Fearing he had lost his touch, he had gone into intensive training to improve both his conditioning and skills. Dean Fuji had even helped him by having several special trainers run him through an intense physical regimen that was far more difficult than anything the school's normal curriculum carried. After completing it, he was certain that it would make the difference.

And it had. He was now poised to take his long awaited vengeance. All he had to do was connect with Utena's undefended head. He brought his bokken across, committing the scene to memory as the wood was only a split second away from impacting with her skull. The thought turned sour as, at the last second, Utena ducked under the blow; the bokken striking nothing but her trailing hair. As what happened all too often when he fought Utena, Saionji found himself off-balance for a moment. It was a moment Utena took full advantage of. Her right hand, the one holding the bokken, came up and caught Saionji full in the nose, breaking it. Pain overwhelmed him as blood poured from the broken proboscis.

She quickly followed up with another blow even as the first cry of pain escaped Saionji's lips, bringing a knee up into his stomach and doubling him over in pain, driving him to the ground. The bokken slipped from his grasp and clattered to the floor. It was as he was trying to regain his footing that he heard the words that cut in over his agony.

"Hey, Saionji. Remember how you hit Anthy the other day?"

An image of Anthy came to him. The exotic, dark-skinned girl had once been his. But the instant he lost a duel to Touga, she had changed suitors and gone to the victor. When she was with Touga, there was nothing that could be done; even Saionji would not cross him like that. But once Utena had defeated Touga, Anthy had ignored the playboy altogether and began following Utena. In Saionji's mind that meant she was available. So, on the previous night he approached her, demanding they begin their relationship again. Anthy politely rejected his advances, claiming she belonged at Utena's side. In anger, both for her rebuff and for the implication a mere girl was more desirable then him, he backhanded her across the face. It had not been the first time he had slapped a girl for forgetting her place, or even the first time he had struck Anthy. He left her holding her face, warning her that if it was only winners she desired, then she would have one come tomorrow.

And now tomorrow had come. Apparently Anthy had told Utena what had happened or she had seen it for herself. Utena did not sound particularly pleased either.

"Answer the question!" she spat.

"Yes. I remember."

A bokken crashed into his skull, hard, driving him into unconsciousness.

"Big mistake," Utena said, nudging Saionji's prone body with her foot to make sure he would not be getting up any time soon.

A finger hit the button on a stopwatch. "Three minutes, forty-five seconds, Miss Utena. An impressive time considering Saionji's increased skill level."

"Thanks, Miki." Utena turned from Saionji's fallen body to the others, whose forms were partially hidden of the shadows of the room. The room itself was very strange, located in the highest tower on the campus, and prohibited from everyone but the Dean and the Student Council, and whomever they chose to bring with them.

The circular design of the room itself was odd. It was large, about forty feet long and fifty feet wide, and an ideal size for dueling. As with nearly everything else with the academy, intricate roses of wood had been sculpted and adorned the top of the room where the walls and ceiling met. The large windows that dominated an entire side of the room allowed the morning light to bathe the chamber in a soothing yellow glow. During noon the whole thing was brightly lit, and Utena would occasionally go there to enjoy the day. But as the sun set, it would produce shadows that hid everything on the opposite side of the room, giving the whole area a very sinister feel. Perhaps that was why most of the duels tended to take place during those early evening hours.

The other six occupants that had witnessed the fight emerged from the shadows, varying degrees of emotion on their faces. Touga Kiryuu turned the smile that so many of the school's girls swooned at, upon Utena and appeared truly impressed, while his sister, Nanami, hid nothing of her jealousy as she scowled in Utena's direction. Miki Kauru had a friendly smile for Utena, mirroring their own easy friendship, while his twin sister, Kozue, had nothing but disdain directed at the girl with the pink tresses. Juri Arisugawa had her usual imperceptible look, while Anthy Himehiya rushed over and practically gushed over Utena.

"That was a wonderful victory, Miss Utena." The fading sunlight glinted off of Anthy's glasses as she plucked the pink rose, that she had given Utena for luck, from the lapel of her left breast. After that, Anthy offered the sweating girl a white towel.

Utena took it, mopping the sweat from her brow as she accepted Touga, Miki, and Juri's congratulations. Occasionally, she still felt as though she were the odd girl out, especially since she was the only one that wore the standard black uniform of the school while the others, save Anthy, wore the white version of the same outfit, identifying them as the representatives of the Student Council. The one reassuring thing was that even the girls wore the same uniform as the boys. With the style of clothing Utena usually chose, she didn't seem out of place among the female Student Council's uniforms, that were much more masculine in style than what most women at the Academy wore. The only one in the room others would have been easily able to identify as a woman, from a distance, would have been Anthy, who was dressed in the standard white shirt and blue skirt of a female student of Ohtori Academy.

"I warned Saionji he wasn't ready for this." Touga Kiryuu, the tall, strikingly handsome third year cadet and president of the student council, gave a disappointed shake of his head as he looked at the fallen form before them.

"He had it coming," Juri, the second year cadet with the curly red hair and lean, yet supple frame spoke with the air of authority. Miki ran a hand through his own short cut black hair before nodding his head in agreement.

"So the 'Prince of Ohtori' wins again," Nanami snorted in disgust, refusing to hide her contempt.

Utena ignored the sarcasm-laden use of her nickname and turned to Anthy. "Could you do me a favor and take him down to the infirmary? I think I broke his nose, and he's going to need it reset."

"Certainly, Miss Utena." Anthy gave her usual pleasant smile. Of course, Utena had now been with Anthy long enough to know that if she told her to dance naked while reciting haikus to the student population, Anthy would have smiled in the exact same way and gone off to do it just as happily.

Anthy made no move towards Saionji. Instead, he levitated off the ground, as though a set of invisible hands had lifted him, and began to trail behind the psychic girl. She went to the stairs that led back down to the main part of the school, Saionji's unconscious form following.

Utena noticed Nanami and Miki shudder slightly; they were still not used to open displays of Anthy's telekinetic abilities. In spite of the girl's power, unless Utena ordered her to, Anthy never used them. It was not as though the dark-skinned girl was afraid of her abilities or saw anything wrong with it; she simply never felt like using them. That was only one of the many odd personality quirks of the girl who had all but become as much Utena's personal servant as friend. She had tried to tell Anthy not to act so servile and just be herself, but it was to no avail. She did anything and everything Utena asked of her.

Utena was still pondering what to do about Anthy when the sound of clapping alerted her and the rest of the students to a newcomer's presence.

"I saw your handiwork pass me on the stairs. I'm sorry to have missed the fight."

"Dean Fuji!" Utena's heart raced as she stood before the man who had all but taken her under his wing since she had transferred to Ohtori. He was the one who had persuaded her to take the advanced physical training and hand-to-hand combat courses. Now she was in far better shape then she had ever been in her entire life and was nearly unbeatable in a fight, as any of the people in the room could attest to. Only Juri and Touga could press her anymore, and even then the outcome was never really in doubt to her. The fights simply lasted longer.

Utena calmed down a bit as the dean of the school, Professor Hiro Fuji approached her. "I might have been a little rough on him, but I'm sure he's okay. I wouldn't really hurt him." No matter how much he deserved it, she added mentally.

"Of course not. You're always in control and would never go out of your way to hurt anyone." He patted her on the shoulder. "You know, I couldn't help but noticing that you seem to be very popular in school nowadays."

Utena blushed. "I don't know what you mean."

"Come now, you're being too modest." Touga interrupted. "I hear the name 'Utena' on everyone's lips."

"Indeed," Fuji said, pleased at Touga's interjection. The boy was doing it to impress Utena, of that much Fuji was certain, but it still assisted him and his own intentions. "Ohtori Academy finished first in the fencing, kendo, volleyball, and basketball tournaments thanks in no small part to you."

"You're making too much out of it," Utena said, turning an even deeper shade of red.

"Not at all," Fuji assured her. "I was just wondering if you were going to run in the student elections that are coming up in a couple of months. With the school expanding as much as it has, I was considering opening up another position on the Student Council. You'd be the perfect representative."

"I don't know," Utena said, suddenly unsure of the direction the conversation had taken. "I don't think I'm cut out for politics."

"Neither is Kozue, but she's on the Student Council,"  Miki said, blissfully unaware of the insult. "I think you'd be a wonderful representative."

Kozue shot him an evil glare.

"You have all of the abilities to be an outstanding leader. Besides, all of your friends are already members" Fuji insisted.

Utena wondered where he had come up with the idea they were friends. Miki and Anthy, who were first year cadets like herself, were the only ones in the group she would call friends. The others fell into a variety of different categories.

It was very odd how she had seemed to just fall in with the group, just as they had more or less accepted her shortly after she had first appeared. It was almost as though they had all felt an inexplicable urge to be around one another. But they weren't really friends. Juri was more like an acquaintance, though there was something of a polite rivalry between them. She liked, but didn't trust, the silver-tongued Touga or the much more quiet Kozue. And she knew both Saionji and Nanami hated her with a passion. Despite the level of distrust she felt for many of the members, she still felt herself inexorably drawn to the group, compelled to prove herself to be the best among them. And she had proven that. Perhaps it was simply that they could provide her with the challenges she sought to improve herself.

And then there was that odd, almost palpable sensation when she spent time among them. It was only recently that she could admit that she found herself attracted to most of the men in the group, especially when they engaged in their regular duels, but it was not as though she actually wanted to go out with any of them. Saionji was a conceited jerk. Touga was admittedly handsome, but also a playboy that seemingly had over three quarters of the female population swooning over him (including Kozue, much to Miki's irritation). Miki was nice enough. Utena had almost asked him out early on, but then quickly reconsidered. She felt it would be best if they remain friends, especially since he was the only one on the council she felt she could trust. No. Although she was tempted occasionally, she was much more satisfied with the platonic relationships she had developed with the men in the group.

As to actually becoming a real member of the council, well, she did tend to hang around them most of her time. And she did have problems with some of the things they tended to do when acting as the Student Council. Perhaps it wouldn't be so objectionable to at least consider running for one of the seats.

Fuji saw the seeds of the idea beginning to take root. It was time to back off. Pushing too hard would only make her resent the idea. "It's just a thought. There is another reason I am here. I wanted to ask a favor of you."
Utena was relieved at the change of topic. "I'd be happy to help out however I can."

"Excellent. There is something of a challenge match we have with the Imperial Academy. I met the Dean from there recently, and he was going on continuously about a student he has that is supposed to be an excellent fighter. The Dean's claim was that he is the best there is. Since, like you, I have such pride in our school, I could hardly let such a statement go unchallenged. I thought you might be willing to help out since you're the best fighter Ohtori has to offer. The only catch is, the match would be held at the Imperial Academy."

Pride swelled in Utena's chest. "I accept. It's time we showed everyone who the best school really is." Ohtori Academy had a tendency to be considered somewhat less prestigious than Blackhall or Whitehall, and less academic than the Imperial Academy, almost like a little sister to the other three. This would be a chance to show the Imperial Academy, at least, who had the better students. Besides, it would give Utena a chance to match her skills against someone new. She was surprised to find herself already wanting to meet whoever this 'best there is' person was.

Touga made his way to Utena's side. "I would consider it an honor to go with you."

Utena made a deft move to avoid the hand that was about to end up on her shoulder. Touga seemed to look for opportunities to come into contact with her (he was a touchy-feely person, Miki once said in private when describing Touga), and every time he managed to brush against or place his hand upon her, a not altogether unpleasant tingling sensation made its presence known. Undoubtedly, that was how he had picked up other girls, and Utena could almost understand the appeal. However, unlike those other girls, she was able to resist his charms.

"Ah, I'm flattered by the offer," she told him. "But I think I'll pass."

"Oh, come now. Going into enemy territory alone would be foolhardy. Please allow me to accompany you. I am one of the best fighters here." Touga backed away from her, subtly moving in what he considered a graceful, yet alluring manner. At least that was what the other girls claimed when they composed poetry to him. He had the grace of a lion during the hunt, the girls would say. The guys tended to say 'Bishonen Jerk-off,' but never to Touga's face.

Off to the side, Nanami ground her teeth in irritation. Why was her brother being so insistent on accompanying that rude and impertinent cross-dresser? And how dare Utena refuse his wishes, not that Nanami wanted the two of them alone together for even a second. It had to have been Utena's doing. Somehow the wicked little low-born, weirdo had hooked her claws into her brother and enchanted him. Nanami had never seen Touga so fixated on any one girl like this. True, he spent time with many different girls, but he just used them to feed his ego and brushed them aside when he no longer desired their attentions. Touga didn't care about them the way he did Nanami. She knew she was special to him, just like he was special to her. None of those other girls were a threat, so as much as Nanami did not like them, so she ultimately ignored them.

However, Utena was proving herself different from the others. Not only did she appear resistant to Touga's charms, but now her brother was starting to demean himself. It was not just in his choice of romantic partner, but in his behavior as well. They were Kiryuus, one of the oldest, richest, and most prominent families in the entire empire. They had made a fortune in various business ventures and headed one of the most powerful zaibatsus in the Empire. Their grandfather had even been a close advisor to the Emperor, at least he was until he died at the age of ninety-five in the bed of two of his many mistresses.

Many of her grandfather's traits had been passed on to Touga, including a propensity towards decadence and women. That was one of the reasons Nanami kept such a close eye on him. She had to make sure no undeserving woman came too close to her brother, which was actually all of them. She was the only one that was worthy of his attentions. She knew it in her heart, which, lately, would beat faster when he was close to her, or when she trained with him. Surely that irresistible attraction, that burning desire that preyed upon her thoughts all day long, was felt by him. Sooner or later he would come to realize that. It would just take a while. Sometimes her brother was awful thick-headed about the obvious.

In the meantime, Nanami would have to take steps to ensure that Utena would be… unable to return her brother's affections. Obviously the trollop was playing hard to get, all but demanding her brother pursue her. Well, her teasing was going to cost her. Nanami would see to that. Already a plan was forming in her mind. Utena was going to be away from the school, and away from any assistance some of the others might give her should she be threatened. It would be the perfect opportunity for something bad to happen to her. And Nanami knew just who could take care of it.

Utena, unaware of Nanami's thoughts, decided to end Touga's insistence. "You raise a good point. It would be kind of stupid for me to go alone."

Touga smiled. At least he had her.

Utena looked at  Touga, smiled, then said, "Hey Miki, want to tag along?"

Miki was surprised at the unexpected offer. "Uh…okay. I would consider it an honor too."

"I'll take Anthy along as well." Utena smiled sweetly at Touga. "I don't think it would be a good idea for you to be there. It really is beneath the president of the student council to attend such a small and insignificant fight. Why, the Imperial Academy people might think you have nothing more important to do here at the school."

Touga knew he had lost, but was too proud to hide even the slightest indication that he had. There would be other times, and Utena's sharp wit was one of the things he liked about her. "You are correct. It was merely concern for you that I was showing. But if there is any one person in this school that can take care of themselves, it would the 'Prince of Ohtori Academy'." A little flattery about self-reliance never hurt. He bowed and headed downstairs. Nanami followed closely in his wake, shooting a glare at Utena before starting a casual conversation with her brother.

Fuji smiled. Utena's mind was as sharp as a sword. "Then it's settled. I'll have a car pick the three of you up outside the west gate after school in a couple of days. Be sure to bring your best bokken and not a sword. After all, this isn't going to be a death duel."

"I will," Utena said as the others began to filter out of the chamber. "Oh, Dean! I almost forgot. What's my opponent's name?"

"Ranma Saotome," he told her.

Utena smiled in appreciation and thanked Dean Fuji for choosing her to represent the school. Things certainly were happening quickly all of a sudden. Excitement began to build as she wondered what sort of boy this Ranma Saotome would be like.


To be continued.

Chapter 2
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