The Hanged Man representing pause, surrender, letting go, and new perspectives.
There was a ringing in her ears drowning out everything else. She won the Presidency but at what cost? Her freedom? Her future? Her life? With Ririka’s hands nearly around her throat in their possessive hold, it seemed like she had sacrificed all of them.
Yet what did she expect to happen when she allied herself with a Momobami? Just because Ririka had a more docile nature on the surface compared to her twin did not take away from the fact that at the core she was still a devourer. That fact was more than true, Mary was firmly caught in the trap of her jaws. So firmly, in fact, that of no consequence of the presidency or the twin’s schemes Ririka owned her heart. And she had taken her heart in those jaws and crushed it.
The events directly after the gamble were a complete blur to her. She could barely register the camera in her face and the excited words of Runa announcing her as the new President. What was clear were the two pairs of demonic eyes that stared at her from across the room. Her eyes unfocused off of them as bright lights shined in her face and pictures were snapped. She raised a shaky hand to block out the light as Runa continued to drone on with her questions. “How do you feel about winning the gamble?! What are your plans as President? Will you reinstate the student council? Who will you choose?”
The questions were shot at her rapid-fire, not giving her any chance to respond to them. Her mouth went dry preventing any chance of response besides a panicked, “Umm…”
Quickly the sound escaped her, she felt an arm wrap around her shoulder and guide her away from the camera and lights. She looked up, surprise vaguely registered in the back of her mind as she was met by Ririka’s still uncovered face, even in front of the cameras. Looking back, she saw the other twin had put on a charismatic smile for the camera and had taken her former place, answering questions for her.
So that’s all she was. Just a front for the Momobamis, they were still in control. They always had been.
Distantly she heard quiet whispers in her ear. A small, repeated phrase by Ririka, mumbling a heartbroken, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, Mary. Please, I’m so sorry…” She kept repeating it, chanting it almost like a prayer.
She was guided out of the room and into the hallway where Sayaka was waiting for them. Through the fog in her head, she could hear them talking amongst themselves.
“Where’s the Pres-,” Sayaka gave a quick glance at Mary, “I’m sorry, where’s Kirari?”
“Runa was interrogating Mary for the camera, so Kirari took over while I led her out of the room. I don’t know what’s wrong.” The fog was so thick in her head she couldn’t hear her words, much less the clear worry in her tone.
Sayaka gave a quick nod in understanding; silence took over the group as they waited. Moments later a smirking Kirari came through the door, “The broadcast is over, we should be free from questions for the rest of the day.”
Ririka gently directed Mary to follow the rest of the group, who had started walking to the student council room, with a gentle arm wrapped around her shoulder. Her limbs felt numb and her mouth felt like it was filled with cotton, stopping any of her protests from coming to the surface. She could only blindly follow where she was guided.
They entered the student council room and Kirari moved to her usual spot at the table, pulling out the chair. “I do believe this is your seat now Mary.”
Numbly she followed Kirari and sat in the seat. It felt wrong as if she was an imposter. This seat, this win, it was all supposed to be a good thing. So many things had changed in such a short amount of time, she could barely process them.
She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up, seeing Ririka smiling hesitantly at her. “You did it.” She whispered.
Mary swallowed hard, ignoring the pang in her heart.
A loud dramatic sigh sounded on the other side of her, “I hate to cut the celebration short but there are important matters we need to discuss.” Kirari fixed her with a piercing stare, “Mary Saotome, you are the new head of the Hundred Devouring Families.”
Several weeks earlier soon after the Tower of Doors gamble ended, Kirari and Sayaka sat in her office alone. As usual, her secretary was worried about her choice of giving up her seat as President of the academy. “President, please! You need to be more focused on gathering votes! Terano has already accumulated a large sum!”
Kirari could only chuckle at her worry, “I’m not at all worried about how many votes I have. Though it may be helpful to collect a few more.”
“But your precious aquarium! To keep it intact you need to win and become president again!” Her face was starting to grow red from so blatantly arguing with her President, this was out of character for her, but she couldn’t help but be extremely worried.
Sayaka flinched in surprise when Kirari burst out into laughter, “You are so logical Sayaka, it’s fascinating. Of course, you would think I want to win the election.”
“What?” She breathed out in surprise.
“My dear Sayaka,” She trailed a finger delicately along her jawline, “If I had wanted to continue to be president why would I offer up my seat? Though it is fun to watch my fish try to swim against the current, that is not the point of this election. It’s quite simple,” She paused for a beat, “I don’t want to win.”
“But President…” Kirari gave her a pointed look, “My apologies, Kirari, why would you not want to win?”
The twin hummed in response, “My older sister has a plan, so I think it would be rather interesting if I gave her my support.”
“You are the new head of the Hundred Devouring Families.” The power behind the phrase seemed to echo in the room. Ririka had been watching Mary closely since the gamble had begun. Something had changed between now and then, it seemed like the girl was barely there; her eyes were glazed over and unfocused.
She couldn’t help but feel like this was all her fault. She should have never put so much pressure on Mary, she should have never abandoned her like she did. But did she really ever have another choice? If she wasn’t careful the tears that stung in the back of her eyes would well up and spill over, now was not the time for that. It would be entirely selfish to be the one who cried right now, especially after what she had done.
She felt pain stab through her chest as she watched Mary in this state. Where had all her fire gone? The one that always burned so brightly, so confidently no matter the situation. It had been smothered, extinguished by the demon that lived inside of her and her twin.
She should never have involved Mary.
“Sayaka?” Kirari prompted, pulling Ririka out of her self deprecating thoughts, “Do you have the paperwork?”
Dutiful as ever she nodded, pulling something out of the folder that was hidden away in one of the drawers in the room. She handed the book over to Kirari.
“Ah, perfect thank you.” A smirk pulled at her twin’s lips. What was she doing, what paperwork was she talking about? “This is for you, Mary.” She dropped the book in front of Mary, seemingly breaking the girl out of her haze in shock. Panic began to claw at Ririka’s throat.
The cover read: Mary Saotome Life Plan.
An absolute look of pure horror took over Mary’s face, matching exactly what Ririka felt. This was never supposed to happen, this was not part of the plan.
“What the fuck is this.” A quiet rage was evident in Mary’s tone, she essentially took the words right out of Ririka’s mouth.
Her twin put a hand up stopping whatever she was going to say, “Open it.”
Something dark flashed in the blonde’s eyes as she clenched her jaw. Hesitating for a moment before complying, she opened the life plan.
Mary read the text aloud, “Due to the fact Mary Saotome, the new head of the Bami family, is not a Bami herself, she must marry into the family. This life plan signifies-” A strangled gasp escaped her as she went pale.
“Mary, what does it say?” She asked, desperation clear in her voice.
Before Mary could say anything Kirari finished the sentence for her, “Mary Saotome must marry Ririka Momobami.”
“I’m so sorry Pres-Kirari! You lost the gamble because of me!” Sayaka nearly sobbed out after they left to see Runa to confirm the twin’s gamble.
“Oh Sayaka,” Kirari wrapped her arm around her secretary’s waist, “You think I was surprised by the result? Of course, I already knew Mary would be clever enough to use you to tell the difference between the two of us.”
“Bu-But why?” She stuttered out.
Kirari giggled, “I was curious how they would react to that situation. I have to say it was rather amusing. But in the end, it worked out exactly how I thought, I wanted Ririka to win. If I had given her my support any other way she would have been suspicious of me. As I said before my dear older sister has a plan for this election and it would be rather fun to help her with it.” She hummed as a smirk overtook her face, “And maybe meddle a bit too.”
Mary dropped the life plan as if it had burned her, at the same time Ririka’s head snapped toward her twin with a look of disbelief. Mary could see the older girl’s mouth move but couldn’t hear anything over the ringing in her ears.
Marry Ririka Momobami .
She felt as if her heart was being torn in two. One piece of it made her adrenaline spike with excitement. The other piece was the exact opposite it had dropped all the way down into the pit of her stomach with dread. After everything that had happened, after becoming president, she was still doomed to a life plan.
Unknowingly she had said the question out loud and Kirari answered. “You cannot become head of a family that you are not a part of.”
Was this their plan the whole time? Mary may have won the election, but she had lost the game the Momobamis were playing behind her back this whole time.
She was thoroughly defeated .
And she was completely done. Mary stood up from her chair and began walking out of the room without a word. She heard Ririka’s voice and footsteps behind her, “Wait! Mary where are you going, we need to talk about this!”
“I’m going home, we can figure it out after the weekend.”
Distantly she heard Ririka attempt to respond before she was cut off by Mary slamming the door closed as she left. Numbly Mary made her way through the hallways, drifting along unfeelingly almost as if she was a spectator of her own life.
She made her way outside the gates of Hyakkaou Academy, she looked up at the sky seeing dark clouds covering the sun. She felt delicate drops of rain begin to gently hit her face in a light sprinkle. She needed to hurry home, this was more than likely the calm before the storm.
Ten minutes later she found herself in her family’s apparent. The light sprinkle had continued her entire walk home but never increased into the storm she predicted. The weather seemed content to stay the same for now.
She drifted through the deadly quiet apartment; nobody was home as usual. Only the gentle sounds of rain on the windows and the soft sounds of her footsteps sounded around her. There was nothing but the memory of the day to keep her company.
It was all wrong, things weren’t supposed to turn out like this. She had become President but at the cost of a life plan.
At the cost of marrying Ririka.
Was that a cost though? Her heart started to beat faster at the thought, was that such a bad thing?
Yes. It was terrible because she had been abandoned, forced into a position with an unbearable weight of the future chained to her shoulders. Only to find out it was all a part of the Momobamis’ plan. A plan that ended with her being trapped in their cage.
She walked into her room feeling a fire spread through her veins. She clenched her fists as she felt her anger finally come to the surface. Thunder boomed outside as she threw her school briefcase into the room, it hit the wall with an echoing thud.
She turned to her cluttered desk knocking off all of the books and schoolwork in a rage. Picking up one of the textbooks she threw it across the room, hitting her closet door. She turned next to the small bookshelf against the wall, screaming in anger as she knocked it over, spilling all of the contents on the floor.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a ceramic heart-shaped mug on the floor, she bent down, picking it up, and threw it with all her strength against the door to the room. It exploded on impact shattering into hundreds of small pieces.
Her chest heaved as she eyed her closet next in her destruction, she threw the door open only to focus on one specific jacket. She sank onto her knees as a sob wracked her body. Pulling out the winter jacket Ririka had given her days ago, the dam broke. She could no longer contain any of the tears she had been holding in since Ririka walked away from their gamble. Mary pulled the jacket into her, hugging it as close as she could. Tears streamed down her face as she sobbed, and thunder rumbled in the background distantly.
She fell back on the ground, looking at the carnage that was her room. She saw herself in the mirror that leaned against the wall, tears were streaming down her face. She stood and walked over to the mirror, jacket clutched absentmindedly in one hand. She raised her fist and shattered the mirror.