The sun filters through Utena’s dorm room window. Utena breathes in the fresh morning air and keeps her eyes closed, basking in the euphoric space between a good night’s sleep and waking up to a day with nothing but free time scheduled. She hears Mr. Mongoose rustling in the desk and Chu-Chu snacking on some cookies leftover from her and Anthy’s nightly tea time.
She smiles. Another perfectly sunny day in Ohtori Academy. No. More than that. Another perfect day.
A moment later her eyes snap wide awake as her door bursts open, slams into the wall, and bounces back. Before it closes, Nanami barges into the room.
Nanami points at Utena and orders her, “Get up! Get your magic-heart-sword!! Zombies are… Why are you wearing boxers?”
Utena glances down, “Um, I sleep in these?”
Nanami is wearing her student council outfit (starch pressed, no doubt by her lackeys). She’s carrying a large designer bag, though she’s struggling to carry it, almost as if it’s weighed down by more than the usual lipstick, cellphone, and psychological baggage. Her face contorts in frustration, and she stomps her foot.
“Ugh, even creepy Anthy wears a proper nightgown. I don’t have time to deal with your boy-girl bullshit! Zombies are coming and… IS THAT MONKEY WEARING A TIE? - CAN ANYTHING DRESS NORMAL IN HERE?!”
Chu-chu, sensing her glare, looks up and smiles with a mouth full of half-chewed cookies.
Utena gets up and stretches her calves. “Nanami, I like how I dress.” She begins to stretch her back when Nanami stomps her foot again.
“Utena. FOCUS! We need to get out of here. Zombies!”
Utena stops stretching and goes to look out the window. People do seem to be scurrying around in fear far more than usual… “Zombies… Is that even possible?” she wonders aloud. She hears a distant scream and notices that the students have started scurrying around more chaotically.
“Utenayourgirlfriendregularlypullsswordsoutofyourchestinfrontofamagicalupsidedowncastle” Nanami hisses.
“Yeah but zombies? Not even Ikuhara’s *that* convoluted in his symbolism*”
“Who?” Nanami asks.
“What?” Utena responds.
Nanami shakes her head in frustration, “UGH, let’s just go!” and throws Utena’s uniform at her.
Utena pulls on her outfit and glances at Nanami, who’s pointedly avoiding looking at Utena dressing. She asks her, “Why are you *here* of all places, anyway.” Utena’s face brightens, “Oh, you must have realized that we’re both fighting the same enemy, the patriarc….”
She’s interrupted by a loud “What the hell are you talking about, I already explained we’re fighting zombies, not poltergeists! But…” Nanami and slams her back against the wall, before softening her body language. “I… I can’t find my brother.” Tears well up in her eyes. “He wasn’t in his room. He must have been stuck studying late at night with one of his… study buddies… and slept on their couch or something. But I don’t know where and his phone keeps going straight to voicemail!”
She looks at Utena with a pleading look. “I know we haven’t always gotten along, you know, because of all your desperately slutty attempts to steal my brother away and all the times I’ve brilliantly thwarted you. But, you’re also the strongest one here beside him. Please, Utena.”
Utena finishes buttoning her jacket and takes a heroic stance. “Nanami, I don’t know what’s going on - but I won’t now or ever let that stop me from doing what’s right! Together we will find your brother. And the rest of our friends!”
Utena and Nanami go downstairs to the dorm kitchen, finding Anthy stirring a pot and watching QVC. Utena rushes over to her, “Anthy - there are zombies!”
Anthy smiles and stirs the pot, “Indeed Utena-sama. I suppose I’ll have to skip tending to the roses today.”
Nanami walks over to them and glances out the window in front of where Anthy’s cooking. “There was only one of them in front of the dorm when I got here, but I hit him with my bag until he stopped moving.” Nanami and Utena peer out the kitchen window and see three feminine figures hunched over a boy's dead body. Nanami sighs, “Figures that, per usual, Keiko, Aiko, and Yuko would be picking at my scraps.”
As they watch, more and more zombie students arrive, until a small crowd of at least 15 are pulling apart and feasting on the corpse in front of them.
Nanami starts to look sick. She quickly turns away and slumps into a seat around to the table. “How could something so horrible happen,” she asks, and turns to face Utena. She sees the tremor in Nanami’s hands, the fear in her eyes. “Utena, it’s terrible… It’s, the sight, the smell…”
Utena’s heart breaks seeing Nanami like this. She sits next to her, “maybe it's just temporary, like what happened to the Black Rose duelists. All I need to do it figure out who to… Oh, you’re talking about Anthy’s cooking aren’t you?” Nanami is clutching her nose and shivering.
Nanami wails, “Why does it smell like that!? And why is it so lumpy and brown - does she cook with old snails? Spoiler alert: not even a zombie would eat something that rotten!”
Utena rolls her eyes and walks back to the window. “Anyway, that’s a big group. How are we going to get out of here?” Utena glances around the room looking for something to help them.
“Utena-sama, Nanami, would you like some curry?” Anthy asks.
Utena smiles while Nanami makes a barely concealed retching noise. “No thank you, Anthy.”
She turns back toward Nanami. Scratching her head, she asks again, “Ok. So, how can we get past that big, highly packed group of zombies?”
They hear Anthy in the background, with an oddly loud voice, “Oh my, this curry sure smells spicy! Must be the new recipe I used! Wonder how it turned out!”
Nanami turns green and her eye twitches. A blank expression falls over her face and in the next moment she lunges toward Anthy, “NO ONE WANTS YOUR WEIRD CURRY YOU… WEIRDO” and throws the whole pot out the window. She takes several heavy breaths before smoothing out her outfit and hair.
Utena leaps up, “Nanami, don’t be rude to — ” Suddenly a loud explosion rocks the dorm. They rush over to the broken window and see exploded and burning zombie parts covered in curry.
Anthy giggles, “Oh dear, maybe I need to work on that recipe a bit more!”
An hour or so later, the three crept along the school's classroom hallway, pausing to listen for shuffling feet and moans. “Why are we here” Nanami whispers. “Shouldn’t we be looking for Touga in the other dorms?”
Utena whispers back, “Touga is smart, he’d go to where the weapons are. The Kendo and Fencing classroom is our best bet. And even if he’s not there, it would be good to grab some more weapons.”
They continue to creep along the hallway. Nanami stops, “do you hear that?”
In the distance they hear a whishing sound and metallic clanging. Someone’s voice breaks through. “Next!” it goes, followed by more whishing and clanging. As they get closer, they hear a loud thud like a sack of flour hitting the flour. “Next!” rings out the voice.
Utena peers around the corner and sees an assortment of dead zombies on the floor. A tall figure in fencing attire stands in the center of the room, advanced upon by two remaining zombies. Utena is about to rush in to help when the fencer notices her and holds up her hand telling her to stop.
“Next!” it barks at one of the zombies. The zombie lurches at them. The fencer gracefully parries the clumsy attacker, swiping out its feet from under it. On its knees, the zombie reaches for the fencer. With a graceful downward stroke, the tip of the sword pieces through the zombie's squishy eyeball and exits through the back of its skull. For a moment the two figures freeze as if held in relief before the fencer slides the sword back out. There’s a THUD as the zombie’s torso hits the floor mat.
The fencer takes a starting stance once again and yells “Next!” The other zombie falls quickly in the same manner.
Walking carefully over the scattered zombie bodies Nanami, Utena, and Anthy approach the figure, who takes off their mask to reveal flowing orange hair and striking turquoise eyes.
Utena sighs in relief, “Juri! Wow, you killed all these zombies by yourself?”
“Hmph, were they zombies? Hard to tell - skill level is about the same as the normal fencing club challengers.”
Anthy leans down and pokes one of the zombie's open eyeballs, “Oh, definitely zombies.”
Utena pulls her away, “Anthy get away from there, it's dangerous!”
“Of course, Utena-sama, equally dangerous for all of us!” Anthy replies.
Juri pushes past them, turning back before exiting the room. “Yes, I killed them. Now I’m getting out of here. Good luck.”
Nanami steps forward and opens her mouth as if to snap at Juri. As Juri stares down at her, however, she closes her mouth and pretends to look very closely at her nails.
Utena steps toward Juri, “Hey - wait a minute! You can’t go off on your own!”
“Watch me,” Juri turns her back and begins to walk away.
Utena starts to go after her but feels a hand holding her back. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine - Juri is an excellent duelist” Anthy pipes in.
Upon hearing that Juri pauses. She turns back and levels her gaze at Anthy, cogs working in her brain. She advances toward her, “What do you know, Rose Bride?”
Utena steps between her and Anthy, “How dare you accuse Anthy of having anything to do with this. She’s a normal girl and she’s just as scared as the rest of us!” From behind Utena’s back, Anthy smiles blankly at Juri.
Juri looks from Anthy to Utena, before haughtily retorting, “On second thought, whatever is going on around here, hanging around the Rose Bride maybe isn’t a bad idea.”
With each of them now equipped with swords, the group advances down the hallway. Juri cuts in, “Ok, just what exactly is your plan - wander around till we get eaten?”
Utena pauses. She isn’t sure what the plan is. Well, her plan was just to wander around and find people and not get eaten. “Er, maybe we should have a plan session. Let’s talk in this classroom, the door can lock from the inside.”
Utena pushes through and squints into the darkness. She sees what looks like a young woman crouched in the corner. The figure slowly raises its head. “Shiori, is that you?” Utena switches on the light switch, and Shiori squints in the sudden brightness.
Juri haltingly steps forward. She whispers under her breathe, “thank god,” and begins to walk faster over to her.
But something doesn’t feel right to Utena. Shiori isn’t responding normally, her limps move as if weighed down by cement, her breathing is a strange rasping. Utena’s blood freezes. “Wait!! She’s a zombie - stay away!”
Juri stops and the group stares at Shiori.
Her vacant eyes glint with hunger, her skin shines pale and clammy, her clothes disheveled and dirty with brown, dried blood. She slowly gets up from her crouched position and begins to shuffle forward. A few meters away, she stops and tilts her head to look at Juri. A low growl - like that of a dying, rabid dog rattles out.
Juri clutches her pendent and hunches her shoulders forward. No, it couldn’t be. This isn’t the miraculous fate she had(n’t) wanted. The rest of the group falls silent, horror settling in.
Finally, the silence is broken.
“Hm, are you sure Utena-sama? She seems normal to me!” Anthy asks.
Juri lunges toward Anthy and screams, “Are you serious, are you serious?! She’s dead Anthy, she’s dead and she’s never coming back!!”
Closing her eyes and smiling Anthy chirps back, “Ok!”
Utena grabs Juri and pulls her back. “We need to go, now.” She closes the door between them and Shiori, then breaks the knob so no one can get in or out. The group walks away, and the dull scratching from the other side of the door slowly fades from earshot.
They sit in silence back in Utena and Anthy’s dorm. Juri had headed to the shower a few hours ago, and they listened to the distant sound of water hitting the tile and swirling down the drain.
Finally, Juri comes back. With an arrogant, unbothered voice she asks, “What’s the plan?”
Utena scratches her head thinking, then turns to Nanami, Juri, and Anthy. “The Chairman’s tower is the highest point on campus. We’re safest there, and we have a vantage point to look for Touga and the others. How does that sound?”
Anthy slowly blinks. “Hm. Are you sure, Utena-sama? It’s quite far away.”
“Exactly! The farther away the better. And maybe your brother will be there! He’ll know whats going on.”
Anthy responds, “Sure!”
Nanami and Juri look at each other and shrug. “Ok. We’ll go there.”
Utena walks to the front door of the dorm and turns the handle, opening the door for Nanami and Juri to exit. Utena smiles back at Anthy with almost sickening innocence. Anthy gazes back and is surprised to feel the corner of her lips curl up on each side. She puts Chu-Chu on her shoulder and walks up beside Utena, interlinking their arms by the crook of their elbows.
Utena looks surprised by the contact but then beams at Anthy her characteristic expression of naive hope. Anthy gazes back at Utena with bemusement, "I always said I’d be with you till the End of the World, Utena-sama.”
Utena laughs, “it’s not the end of the world, just the zombie apocalypse.” Anthy’s glasses flash as she tilts her head and smiles at her. They share another knowing look (though who knows, I don’t, what they each thought they knew about the other). Then, together, they set off after Juri and Nanami.