Towards the end of the series. Saionji is paid for his service to the Duels.
Your final Duel was instrumental in the cycle. With the drawing of the Victor's spirit sword, Revolution and the breaking of the World's Shell draws ever closer. You have elevated your fellow Duellists and their Brides to a new phase of the Duels. My sympathies, however, for your defeat.
Rest assured that you will be rewarded.
- The Ends of the World
Saionji read the letter over again, picking out particular phrases. Your final Duel. /Your fellow Duellists./ Their Brides. /Your defeat./
"Showed me the Ends of the World," Saionji growled to himself, crumpling the letter in his hand. "Told me to reinvigorate my soul. Sent me to Duel. I never had a chance of winning. Used to elevate the Duels. Sucked dry and cast aside..."
His half-formed diatribe was interrupted by a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" he called.
"Now, now," said the voice on the other side. "Who else would call at your dorm at this time of night?"
Saionji crossed the dorm room and threw open the door. Touga stood immaculate, in a perfectly pressed Student Council uniform, with a bouquet of green roses in his hand, and the words flashed across Saionji's mind - Rest assured that you will be rewarded.
The Ends of the World thinks he can buy me off with flowers? "What are those?"
"A gift from a friend."
"Anyone who believes in friendship..."
"Come now, you can't still believe that."
"May I come in?"
"Fine," Saionji said, and stepped aside. Touga walked into Saionji's apartment as if he owned it, but then, he always had behaved like that. Saionji considered leaving the door open behind him, an invitation that Touga could leave at any time he wanted, it made no difference to Saionji, and then reasoned that he may want to shout at the man and not disturb the rest of the building. He closed the door quietly.
"Do you have a vase for these?" Touga asked, showing off the roses again.
"You're the one with the flower-sending fans."
"Surely one or two of yours send flowers, every now and then?"
"If they did, I'd throw them away." Saionji stood in the doorway, unmoving, and wished for his sword.
"Even from the Bride?"
"Especially from the Bride."
"Even from your onion girl?"
"What are you doing here?" Saionji snapped.
"I would have thought that obvious. I'm delivering roses."
"Then give them to me and get out."
Touga raised a perfect red eyebrow. "You're more hostile than usual tonight."
"Our mutual friend's actions haven't pleased me much recently." Setting his hostility in ambiguous words and his own strange form of formality calmed Saionji, a little. He moved to the couch at the wall of his room and sat down.
"Our friend who sends such wonderful gifts?" asked Touga. He set the roses down on an end table, and sat on the couch himself.
You're too close, get away from me, Saionji didn't say. "Our friend who sent me to do his work for him," Saionji said.
"Come now," Touga said again, perhaps knowing how much the words made Saionji want to strangle him. "Surely you were doing everything you did for yourself? Or for the Bride? Or for eternal friendship?"
"Please. Our friend knew I'd never win that. He sent me out to win things for /him/. Like a wind-up toy..." Saionji laughed, and as ever, there was absolutely no amusement in the sound. "I was wrong to shout at Tenjou that the Rose Bride is a heartless, mindless puppet. She is, but aren't we all?"
"Are we?" Touga seemed closer. "Doing only what we're told? Dangling on our strings?"
"Yes," Saionji replied, simplicity itself in his answer.
"And is that so..." Touga's shoulder was brushing against Saionji's. "...unpleasant?"
Unbelievably, Touga was running a hand down Saionji's throat, starting to open his Student Council uniform, to stroke along the exposed portion of his chest, and Saionji was breathless as he always was when Touga touched him.
Saionji's jacket was hanging around his elbows, Touga's hands stroking his chest and running down towards his trousers, and Touga's lips fascinatingly close to Saionji's when suddenly the letter came back to Saionji's mind.
Rest assured that you will be rewarded.
Saionji grabbed Touga's wrist, stopping the taller man in his tracks.
"What's this, Kyouichi?" Touga breathed against Saionji's lips.
"You're dancing on your strings now, aren't you?"
"And is that..."
"Unpleasant enough. Get out."
Touga looked baffled for a moment... and then smiled, as if he knew how hard Saionji had fought for that rejection. "Very well, Kyouichi."
"Stop calling me that."
Touga said nothing else. He stood, leaving Saionji in disarray, and walked out of the door with an almost silent tread. The bouquet of green roses were still lying on the end table, as if Saionji had accepted them, and been paid for his puppetry.
Saionji reached up to pull his jacket back on, and then swore and pulled it off completely. Hell with it. Hell with him. Hell with all of them. Hell with the Bride, hell with Tenjou, hell with the Ends of the World and a thousand times to hell with Kiryuu Touga.
And it occurred to him, as he turned to look at the roses he'd been bought with, that if Kiryuu Touga was as much the puppet of the Ends of the World as he appeared, then he might be in hell already.
It wasn't funny, not in the slightest, but Saionji laughed and laughed and laughed, and thought he could see the roses wilting in front of his eyes.