This story... I thought of it in and wrote it at the beginning of 2020 but commissions and other stories took precedence, and as such this one has waited a looong time to be shared. I hope you enjoy! It's sort of like a sister fic to Follow My Lead, though not directly related.
For the play they're putting on here, it's basically just Sun Nation and Black Lions from the games. Cuz I am not original in coming up with plays and I needed one that involved weapons haha.
Disclaimer: I do not own Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight.
Fall From Grace
Chapter 1. Rehearsal
"Only one of us can emerge from this victorious, General."
"Indeed, Commander. That is why it's a fight to the death."
With a performance on the horizon, Seishou's rehearsal room is filled with students from Classes A and B alike practicing for the upcoming play, prepping costumes or painting sets or carrying boxes. But everyone else pauses in what they're doing to watch the two lead roles review their climax scene.
For now, they have no costumes or prop weapons, just their track suits, pushing their forearms up against one another as if using swords. Claudine takes a step forward and Maya skids back, but the shift in weight causes Claudine to feign slipping, so Maya regains control. After a bit of pushing and grunting, Claudine gives her next line.
"The Sun Nation Army cannot win this fight. Withdraw your forces and limp on home like the curs you are."
"Nonsense," Maya says cooly. "Today, victory is ours. It is you who should retreat, lest your side suffer even more casualties. Make a wise decision, Commander. Surrender to me."
They glare intensely at one another for a few more seconds before they give a mutual shove, which sends them both leaping back to face each other again. Just then, there's a loud clap from their instructor.
"All right," Ms. Sakuragi cuts in. "That's a good place to stop. Excellent job, you two."
Both Claudine and Maya straighten up from their mock battle and give one another a nod of approval. They pause to get a drink and stretch out a bit more before they continue rehearsing different scenes together with their friends, who had all been cast as soldiers of the two opposing armies.
The lesson runs a little past the designated end of the instruction, but everyone is enjoying themselves so much they don't mind staying. Even after Ms. Sakuragi has commended them all and taken her leave, most of the girls linger and continue practicing.
And of course, Maya and Claudine end up being the last two still there, even an hour after classes have ended. Without any props yet, they simply go through their fighting movements imagining they're holding swords which, - considering their revues - isn't a difficult thing for them to do. They spend extra time parrying one another, raising their arms above their heads to mimic a block, stumbling back when the other gives a calculated shove.
The leaders of the opposing armies they are playing are meant to be entirely equal, and so their fights will always end in draws. That is, until the final battle at the end of the story when they realize their similarities are far greater than their differences, and eventually combine forces and join their armies together.
The girls go over one of their final fight scenes, one where Claudine's character has feigned defeat and is on her knees. Maya comes down on her with a strike that Claudine blocks, though right now they're both still imagining their weapons.
"Surrender now," Maya commands. "And I will show mercy."
"Ha!" Claudine grunts. "Surrender? Never! That's for the losing side - that's for you to do, General!"
With this exclamation, she surges upward and knocks Maya off balance, following up with her own attack. Maya staggers back several paces and just barely manages to defend herself as Claudine comes at her with all her might.
They clash a few more times, until both characters eventually collapse in unison, and their battle ends in yet another draw. The two of them drop to their knees and hit the floor together as if unconscious, then push themselves back up a moment later.
"That was well-done as always, Saijou-san." Maya gets to her feet first and offers her hand. Claudine wipes her arm across her forehead and accepts it.
"Not bad, yourself," she replies with her chin high.
They dust themselves off and clean up the studio, then head to the locker room to change back into their uniforms. As per usual, they walk back to the dorms together. They discuss the play over supper, and then head off to their respective rooms for the night.
The following day during their lessons, they rehearse the play on the actual stage where they'll be performing in order to get a feel for their surroundings. Just about every performance they've given while here at Seishou has been done on this same stage, and all of the girls involved give a stellar rehearsal - particularly the two leads, as it should be.
Their first real performance for an audience is in three days' time, so all that's left to do is continue practicing and wait for their costumes to be finished.
At the very least, Claudine and Maya are given their prop swords to practice with so they can go over their fighting scenes together, even after the lessons have ended. Their friends linger to observe and give feedback, and to review their own scenes together as well. Little by little, the other seven girls finish what they want to go over, and eventually they all end up watching Maya and Claudine in their fight scenes.
The two of them drown out all else but each other, focusing solely on their task at-hand in order to perfect the scene. They use their dialogue to help remind themselves and one another of the fight sequence. As Maya brings her weapon down, Claudine side-steps first, then gives a twirl to put herself behind her enemy.
"At last," she declares. "You're mine, Commander!"
As she swings, Maya quickly pivots and parries her at the last second, sending her back a few steps.
"In your dreams, General."
From there it's a bit more fighting. They go through the motions as if they were in the actual play, no longer in the practice stages of swinging slowly and softly. They move with precision and confidence, letting the props hit with a bit of force, putting their weight into the attacks. Of course it'll be even more realistic with their costumes and with the sound effects the crew will be providing for them, but even now the lack of those things doesn't prevent them from getting fully into character.
Their swords clash a few more times as they've trained to, and they rememberer the hits and blocks as if it were choreography for a dance number. After the next parry, Claudine gives her line.
"Is the glory of victory truly worth the lives of your soldiers? Surrender for mercy's sake, if nothing else!"
Maya charges her with a shout and Claudine evades, then blocks immediately as Maya swings upward at her from the front. They glare intensely at one another, suspended at a stalemate as Maya barks back.
"My soldiers are willing to die for this victory, and so am I."
"Then you're a fool!"
"If you aren't just as serious, then you're a coward!"
After that, it's a few more hard hits, and then Claudine gives a slice at Maya's chest. And she isn't quite sure what happens when Maya blocks as practiced, but Claudine's grip on her prop suddenly falters, just a fraction. But it's just enough to have Claudine's sword flying from her grip.
This isn't intended, and though Maya is right in the middle of her staged counterattack, she reacts and quickly stops her swing before she can actually hit her partner. She lets go of her prop with one hand and instead reaches out to grab Claudine's hand to prevent her from swaying at the awkward shift in weight.
"Saijou-san, are you all right?"
As Claudine processes what had just happened, she nods.
"I'm fine. Let's do it again."
Their friends looking on are a bit startled at the blunder, especially from Seishou's top students.
"Say, you two," Junna calls. "Don't you think that's a wrap for today?"
"I agree," Nana says. "If you practice too much, you'll exhaust yourselves and it'll be counterproductive. What you need now is rest and some food!"
Maya is already nodding in agreement with them, even before she looks down at Claudine's hand to find it's slightly red and most likely sore. She loosens her grip on Claudine's wrist and then releases her.
"They're right," she says. "We still have ample time to go over this routine tomorrow, and the day after. This is more than enough for tonight."
Claudine huffs and glowers at her, not because she's irritated at Maya, but because she's upset with herself for causing the disturbance in their rehearsal. But she doesn't oppose all eight of her friends who are now giving her imploring looks. She simply sighs and walks over to retrieve her sword.
"Fine. But we're practicing even longer tomorrow if we have to."
The nine of them help tidy up the stage and the space they'd been using, and then head back to the dorms as a group. By now, it's early twilight.
"Man!" Karen squeals. "I can't wait for this play! It's not every day we get to act as knights!"
"Not counting the revues," Junna mutters.
"I hope the weather holds out," Mahiru sighs. "It looks like it's supposed to rain the day of the performance."
"And?" Kaoruko asks. "We'll be indoors, so it shouldn't be an issue."
"Yeah, but-" Futaba reminds her. "The weather will affect the audience. People might not wanna go out in the rain just to sit in an auditorium dripping wet for an hour and a half."
"I think it'll be fine," Hikari says.
"It should be!" Nana agrees. "I think this play is unique and intense enough that we'll have a full house either way!"
"Plus!" Karen chirps again. "Wouldn't it be so cool if it was like… thundering and stuff during that final battle scene? It would really add to the suspense!"
Everyone chatters on merrily behind them, but Maya notes her partner is brewing silently, likely still upset about her little mistake earlier. So she falls back half a pace to walk directly beside her now, brushing their shoulders together lightly.
"Saijou-san? Are your hands all right?" Without waiting for an answer, Maya reaches down to take one and holds it gently. "Perhaps this will help."
Claudine reacts like a cat being splashed with water and quickly yanks her hand away.
"Mechante va! What do you think you're doing? We're in public!"
"My apologies." Maya smiles, glad to know that Claudine is behaving normally. But if she knows anything at all in this world, it's that her perfectionist of a partner will always beat herself up over something like this. Maya waits quietly for another moment as they walk, and sure enough, Claudine cracks.
"I'm sorry about earlier. I ruined our whole routine."
Maya glances behind them to see the others are still talking and focused on their own conversations before she reaches down to hold Claudine's hand once again. Claudine doesn't shake her off this time. Maya slips her fingers between hers and gives a little squeeze.
"There is no need for apology. We were all a bit tired by that point, and we being the ones to bear our swords the longest were getting a bit unsteady with our grip. I've no doubt that we'll pull through when it matters most and give a dazzling performance for our audience in three days' time."
"You're right," Claudine admits, which is something she almost never admits. "But now I know I'm going to keep worrying about dropping it at that scene every time."
"But you won't," Maya says, as if it's the surefire truth. "You will be almost as amazing as I will be, Saijou-san. Of that I'm certain." She makes sure to slip the little challenge in her words, knowing full-well it will ignite the spark inside her feisty partner. And Claudine reacts instantly, just as Maya had anticipated.
"You're so full of yourself, as always. I'm going to perform even better than you and claim that top spot for myself."
Maya nods calmly.
"I still eagerly await that day, Saijou Claudine."
"Just you wait. Keep up that arrogance and that day will come sooner than you think, Tendo Maya."
The smug snideness of their words and tones would be enough to fool most of the world into not even bothering to notice how tenderly their hands are still entwined.
As the group arrives back at the dorms, the girls file inside. But Maya keeps Claudine back a moment, giving them a bit of privacy. Claudine looks up at her and waits expectantly. Maya gives a slight tug to her hand and pulls her a step closer, until their proximity is nothing short of intimate.
"Please," she murmurs. "Do not fret over this, Claudine. I am confident no such thing will happen again, especially not during our performances."
"It won't," she agrees. "I can promise you that."
Maya smiles. "I am glad. After all, I cannot afford to worry about you as my partner, Saijou-san. As my rival and equal, I know full-well you can take care of yourself."
"You're damn right. And I don't have the time to worry about you either, Tendo Maya. So you'd better work even harder to maintain your top spot or else you'll be sorry."
They share a mutual kind of smirk, one that's haughty and conceited. But the glare in their eyes isn't hard enough to smother the ounce of honesty behind the farce.
Of course, both of them know they would drop all else and do whatever it took to help the other if anything were to actually go amiss, and that they already spend a good amount of time worrying about one another on a daily basis.
But their relationship - complicated as it may seem to others - comes as naturally as breathing to them, and they both comprehend the other's meaning and true feelings easily without speaking them.
A gust of wind blows, causing them both to shiver. Maya wraps an arm around Claudine's shoulders, and Claudine leans into her side.
They enter the building and follow their friends for supper and a shower, leaving the night behind them just as a light drizzle begins to fall.
A/N: After so many oneshots and stories where they have a pre-established romance, it was a bit refreshing to write them as their canon selves for a change (though of course still with a bit of extra closeness).
Sorry if chapter 1 felt fast-paced. This was written by one-year-ago me, and even in editing and revising it I didn't want to change too much out of respect for my ideas at the time.