Did she have the right to claim innocence beyond that common to a mere child? Was her adolescence tainted with the sins of pride, envy and, most of all, lust?
Her pride was well-known as the panther was quite used to getting what she wanted, being on top, being the best and being in control. That pride had always been with her, fueled by her accomplishments, conviction and the image, the mask she always wore. Bred well, born well, and raised to not let others see her cry, Juri was certain the taint of pride would never leave her. It was probably there as a child. Does that then mean she never even had the innocence of a child - the wide-eyed wonderment of the world?
Envy manifested in her as acute jealousy over the one thing she could never have; the only thing to bruise her pride. In reflection, she supposed that her envy shared a place with the wish that her life would have been so much easier had she just been born male. Not that she didn't like being a woman, she was quite fond of her own physique and pleasure centers, but it wasn't easily at all growing up to find out that she was sexually attracted to those of her own sex; that she wasn't normal. It was silly, she knew this, but suddenly reaching puberty only to find that instead of liking boys as every twelve year girl should, she liked girls. Specifically, she liked her best friend, more than anyone ever should.
She became jealous when anyone ever paid attention to Shiori. Juri did not want to stifle the girl, but she was afraid that as the violet-haired girl grew into womanhood, became more and more beautiful, some man would notice her and take her away from Juri. She knew she didn't have a chance with Shiori; her friend wasn't disgusting like her – the girl was normal. Amazingly and brilliantly... normal. But she couldn't be open to her friend. Oh no, that would never do. If Shiori knew, Shiori would have left Juri and stopped being her friend. So, Juri kept quiet and tried to hold onto Shiori as much as she could. But she couldn't hold on too tight; she could only protect her. And the best way to protect her was to keep away people who might hurt her. Or take her away from Juri.
The panther pushed herself off her desk and crossed to the cabinet to set down the dirty glasses, two more joining the third. As Juri looked at the three glasses setting next to each other, she felt a twinge of guilt. She really was just using Wakaba to keep Chigusa focused away from Shiori. Yes, the panther did like to play a little cat and mouse with the straight girls that danced and she would most certainly enjoy Wakaba's company, but she actually felt a little... dirty for what she had done. Juri's instructions to Chigusa would not leave Wakaba unaffected; the Wicked Queen was aptly named. Her only hope is that her position of power, both as Chigusa's boss and her supplier, would prevent her from scarring the waitress. Juri did like the cute waitress and that innocence was something the panther oddly felt she needed to see from time to time. It kept her in check, reminded her that not everyone that walked into Club Ohtori, or Juri's life for that matter, was as seeped in sin as she was.
And that's when it all came down to the deadliest of her sins – lust. It fed her other two sins each and every day that she walked into the club and set her piercing gaze upon the bared flesh of the dancers, the patrons, as well as the face of any beautiful woman to cross the threshold into a world of dark and dirty secrets where dice are thrown behind closed doors with destiny awaiting the winner.
Juri may love, but it all began with lust, and it would all probably end with lust. Love was something she could not let show. Love made her weak and in the Game she couldn't show weakness. Thus she denied her love. Denied it to those observant enough to notice and therefore denied it to herself as long as the one who held her heart did not present herself with whip in hand to flog the soul of a lovesick panther, intent malicious but justification so wrong she was innocently ignorant to the root cause.
Juri's hand went to her chest of it's own accord, searching for the golden trinket she had left at home. “This is ridiculous,” she muttered to herself and picked up her somewhat dryer jacket and slipped it back on. She straightened the collar and slipped a hand into one pocket. Feeling a small package within, she drew it out and stared for a very long moment at the small thin wafer-like squares wrapped within the package.
She unwrapped the package and plucked one square off the paper and moved to put it in her mouth. She paused an inch from her lips and closed her eyes.
"Haven't you ever wanted to escape reality? Let the things that hold you back, the things you regret, go for a moment?” A chuckle. “Just one moment from time and things will be better. I promise..."
Juri's hand started to shake as she pressed her other hand to her forehead. It was hard to deny the call, the desire... the craving. Her day had gone far from smoothly and just one hit... one hit would make her feel better. She could go on with the rest of the night and it'd wear off well before she had to drive home.
"Just one moment from time and things will be better. I promise..."
She clenched her jaw and, with effort, lowered the LSD from her lips. “No, it won't make everything better,” she whispered, her breathing a little ragged, as she opened her eyes and returned the drug to it's packaging. She quickly poured herself a shot of whiskey and slammed it, grimacing and shaking her head in the process as the liquor burned it's way down. She hated drinking the stuff straight, but it was able to get her mind off the acid long enough to regain control.
“Get a grip, Arisugawa. You still have work to do tonight,” she said to herself. “You know that's not the answer to your problems.” Slipping the package back into her pocket, she realized that she needed to sell it off before she lost to temptation.
If it hadn't been for Shiori bringing up the fountain, I'd have been fine tonight. Stupid little bitch. She already forced me to ruin my life once with this stuff, does she have to keep pushing me to ruin it again? Juri paused in her thoughts. Not like she even realizes that's what she's doing. Just like she never realizes what any of her actions do to me. She laughed bitterly. I wish I could be that blissfully ignorant of my actions. Then I could claim innocence as well, even if it was a cruel innocence.
Juri sighed and ran her hands through her hair in defeat. Even so, I love her so much I hate her. There really is a fine line between love and hate.
The panther needed to move, to get rid of the drugs in her pocket and it was best that she check and make sure everything was alright out on the floor. And hopefully by the time Utena returned from the diner, her hands would stop shaking.
Upon opening the office door, the sounds of the club washed over her anew. Being in her office for long periods of time has allowed her the ability to tune out the music and sounds of drunk and drugged patrons cat-calling the dancers or fighting with each other. Yet, once back out on the floor, she opened herself back up to them, savoring the mixes that she could identify as Miki originals, as well as keeping an eye out for any trouble or potential customers.
And speaking of which, Juri was quickly able to unload the acid she had in her pocket to one of her minions to further sell outside of Club Ohtori. She charged a certain price to the small-time dealers and they were free to resell for whatever price they wished under the agreement that they did not lace the drugs with anything. Juri prided herself on the purity of her LSD and, as long as the product stayed pure, the smaller dealers were sheltered under her protection from the police as well as rival dealers.
That done and the panther was feeling a little better knowing that she'd removed the temptation from herself. She'd be able to make it the rest of the night without having the drug on hand. People who've never taken drugs in their lives have a wonderful saying: Once an addict, always an addict. Current users never believed those words, but Juri knew the truth intimately. It was always a fight, and she didn't always win.
Seeing there was no further damage, business-wise, to the club due to the unexpected shower everyone received, Juri was satisfied with the current state of the club. She stopped at the bar for her usual as she'd had enough alcohol for the night. She took one sip of her drink before she was accosted by one of the bouncers as well as a waitress complaining about the behavior of one of the more rowdy patrons.
“Calm down, Megumi,” she said. “He comes here to see the Wicked Queen and every night he tries to touch her. I'm convinced the man is a masochist considering how many times she's kicked him in response, but some men like the abuse.” Juri was half-convinced Chigusa liked to taunt the man, and the panther herself, but chose not to voice it. “Regardless, he's probably too drunk to tell the difference between you and her.”
She patted the woman on the arm and then turned to the bouncer. “Drag him out after you make sure he pays his tab,” she said.
The waitress thanked her profusely as the panther gave the girl the once-over. She noticed a bruise starting to form on the woman's arm, so she caught the waitress lightly by the hand as she started to head back to work. “Hold on,” Juri said and carefully examined the arm. “It looks like a deep bruise, nothing more. It'll be tender tomorrow, but you shouldn't be hampered by it.” She brought the waitress' hand to her lips and placed a kiss upon it. “Let me know if it ends up worse than that,” she said with a charming smile. The waitress nodded and tittered an agreement before disappearing back into the throng to acquire the next drink order.
Juri chuckled and retreated back into the deeper shadows of the overhanging empty balcony. From there, she sipped her drink and surveyed the main floor. Utena wasn't among them and Miki was still in the DJ booth with the Rose Bride. Across the way, the panther caught sight of the cerulean wolf within the other shadows and idly wondered when the mercenary would inquire as to her potential job.
And speaking of blue... Juri didn't see Chigusa anywhere. Either the dancer had gone backstage to primp once again after getting wet, or she left. Without telling her. Before her shift was over. The panther narrowed her eyes for a moment before deciding she really didn't care which as long as the dancer was alright. It was a dangerous game her and the Wicked Queen played, but one that would certainly be rewarding when one of the two decided to move to the next level. Juri idly wondered what Chigusa was like in bed; women are rarely what they appeared to be to the world while engaged in sex.
Juri's thoughts drifted a bit further in the direction of sex, though the Wicked Queen was not her mind's guest. She stayed in the shadows, observing the crowd as she waited for Utena's pink-framed countenance to appear.