Shiori is waiting for Juri after the fencing club. The sun is low and blood-red. Her face and hair are in the shadow of the roof, but her body is lit-up by reddish light, as if she was beheaded by the sun.
"Juri," she says. "I want to talk to you. Will you come with me?"
Juri thought she was over it. Over her. But Shiori's pretty face looks like the nostalgia of past days, her voice sounds like a sad song with a cheerful beat, and when Juri takes a step towards her, wanting to prove she doesn't fear her nor her own heart, Shiori's hair smells like broken hope.
Maybe she should be afraid. Maybe she's not an adult yet - there's still a teenage Juri living in her heart, getting out too easily behind her cold facade. Adult Juri has no feelings strong enough to keep her captive. She doesn't feel empty. But her friendship with Miki, her sweet and scrambled memories of the other pink-haired girl in her locket - everything is soft.
Juri's feelings for Shiori were never soft, piercing like a foil. They hurt both of them.
Juri could be very brave when she nods and follows her, not feeling the pain. Or she could be a coward, fearing more than anything a wound the shape of a conversation they would never have had.
Shiori leads her to a small and cozy room. There are pink cushions and paintings of flowers, and it smells of the tea she offers Juri. Fruits and flowers. Good, but too sweet.
"How long did you like me?" Shiori asks.
"Are you sure you want to listen to this?" Juri asks. "It used to upset you."
"I asked," she answers, swinging her legs. It seems careless, but Juri is almost sure she still knows her, and that Shiori is nervous and overplays the opposite, and it makes her feel dangerously fond. "Besides, I was already upset about it. It's been a long time. I had time to change my mind."
Juri doesn't remember this in detail; Ohtori does that to you. Sometimes she has dreams. Shiori touching her, proud and cruel, needing Juri's strength and enjoying the pain, drawing a sword out of her bleeding heart. These should probably count as nightmares, but they leave her aroused and breathless.
"I was... twelve, I think, when I realized? You laughed and dreamt about the man you were to marry, and I was hurt. I thought it was because we would no longer be friends, but actually, I dreamt about marrying you. But I was not an option. I never was. I was strong and could play with the boys, but I was not one."
Shiori nods and smiles. She doesn't look disgusted right now, and Juri tries to suffocate the vicious dragon of longing in her chest.
"And when did you stop?" Shiori asks.
This is a hard question. Juri can remember... promising herself to keep her distance. To try to heal. To learn, to stop being a bird always hitting the same invisible window pane.
"When I stopped believing in miracles," she answers. She doesn't want to think about the specifics for too long, it hurts.
"It's sad, isn't it?" Shiori answers.
And then she walks to Juri. Sits on her lap. And kisses her.
It happened so fast, Juri couldn’t think. Or maybe it happened slowly, but her mind was paralyzed, thinking about dreams and miracles, about the hard truth of the world and the soft promises, about Shiori's delicate arms and full lips, not giving her any place to react.
She can only kiss back - and even this takes time - less a swift counterattack than trying to repay an infinite debt.
"I want you to believe in me again," Shiori says between kisses. And Juri doesn't want to, and it's what she wants most in the world.
It's all so soft, falling into a pink plush sofa, falling into old hopes again. Already Shiori is opening Juri's shirt and kissing her collarbones. Juri shivers from head to toe. Her heart is racing, and a ball of wet heat is exploding between her thighs.
"Will I be your first one?" Shiori asks.
Juri nods, and then she realizes that Shiori, with her face on her breasts, can't see her. "Yes," she breathes.
"Sure? No boy, no girls? Not even Ruka - do you remember him? We dated. You did too, if the gossip was true. Though maybe you were too hard to get, even for him."
"No one," Juri answers fervently.
"I'm glad," Shiori hums, and opens Juri's bra.
Juri tries to reciprocate, but her hands seem clumsy here. She can only massage Shiori's shoulders and run her fingers through her hair, and even this becomes difficult when she's writhing under Shiori's hands and tongue.
"And you?" she asks. She wants to know, but she also wants to gain a brief respite, to make it last - to be able to consciously commit this to memory.
"When did you..." Juri looks at Shiori through half-closed eyes. This way, she can see only her, nothing else of the room and the world. "When did you change your mind?"
"About what?" Shiori teases. Her hand ventures lower, and soon Juri's pants are half-open, just enough to slide in a hand.
Deft magical fingers, small pink tongue, and - every bit of her skin against Juri's skin, of her hair tickling her throat, is too much to manage, more surreal than a dream and truer than everything in the world. Juri remembers what she used to dream about. Giving pleasure as much as receiving, being skilled and strong and level-headed. What is level-headedness for anyway?
"About..." Juri blushes. "About me. Liking me."
"Oh, I don't," Shiori answers, words light and happy. "But I like that you like me. It makes you weak, and you need this. I can't let you forget about it."
It strikes Juri like a punch in the gut. "What?" She has already understood, the numbness in her arms and legs, the pain in her heart, the buzzing in her ears, every part of her understands except her foolish tongue.
"I don't love you," Shiori answers. "You're cute, like this under my hands, and you're very pretty, and you're so strong with other people, and I still don't love you. I probably never will."
"Stop this!" Juri commands. But her voice has lost its edge. Shiori is right. Juri is weak for her. It was so delightful only a moment ago, being powerless, passive, waiting for ecstasy like the dry earth waits for the rain. It's so wrong now.
"Why would I?" she asks. "You're enjoying this." And she rubs her fingers between Juri's legs, making pained pleasure spark in all her body.
"It's wrong," she says. "It's wrong if you don't want..."
"Oh, I do want this!" Shiori protests. She doesn't stop caressing and kissing Juri, even as the cruelest words fall out from her mouth. "I don't love you - I even dislike you. That's why I need to remind you that you're weak, since it seems I'm the only one who can do it. No, just joking. I actually love being the only one. It makes me feel special. Of course you can't understand what it means, you're feeling special all the time..."
"Stop!" Juri demands. There's strength in her voice, this time. It took all her energy, and she can't physically fight, push Shiori on the bed, get free. She can't even stop feeling pleasure, a dirty, soiled flavour of it.
"Because it's wrong? All sex is wrong, especially between two girls, has no one ever told you this? That's why it's good. And now enjoy. You wanted this so much, Juri. It would be sad to not make the best of it. And all my boyfriends told me I was very good at it." She squeezes Juri's clit, makes her gasps, then laughs. "No girls! You're still the first for something, you see!"
Juri could stop her. She's not restrained, she could kick and hurt Shiori. She won't. Of course she's weak, her body is weak, her heart is weak, in a way that goes far deeper than her strong muscles and haughty looks.
"Stop," she says again - begs, this time.
"If you had a bit more experience, Juri, you'd know that no one stops this kind of thing once it's started. It's rude to ask, really."
Her fingers twist inside Juri, and it hurts - it goes with the pain in her heart, and for one second the world makes sense again - and then she's overwhelmed by pleasure.
She's sobbing as Shiori stands up and washes her hands, still fully clothed, hardly disheveled. She's at Shiori's place. She should leave. She needs to leave. She closes her shirt, doesn't dare doing it for her trousers yet, so dirty are her underwear, but she has nothing else.
"Please stop crying," Shiori says. "I know you enjoyed this, I was here, you know? You should be grateful actually. It's not often that someone will give you your dearest wish without expecting anything in return."
"I'm dirty," Juri hates that she can't even keep herself walled in silence.
"Oh, you always were. Welcome to the real world." Shiori now rearranges her make-up. Juri knows she enjoys all of this. Why wouldn't she? Her Shiori was always cruel, as much as she was clever and beautiful and inventive. But she's no longer innocent, and everyone turns out to be a monster in the end.
Juri wonders about that bird, the one who kept hitting the same invisible window pane. Did he finally come through, and how sharp were the shards of glass sunken in its wings?
It's night now. the sun has finished setting. The whole world is dark, with only a tiny bit of deep red, that will soon disappear. Juri knows the sun always comes back, like the most burning, bright, blinding feelings. She wishes it didn't.