"I'm sorry, who did this to you?" Ririka asked as she looked over her brother's face, checking for any more cuts or bruises.
"Ririka I'm fine. You know how my school is." Ryota said as he swatted her hand away from his face as she put away the first aid kit.
"No, I don't. Does the principal seriously not do anything about the bullying cases? They seem really severe." She asked as Ryota shrugged, trying not to wince at how tender his face felt.
"Honestly, it doesn't even seem like we have a principal. The student council controls everything in the school." Ryota said as Ririka stared at him strangely, her fingers twitching a little as she closed the medicine cabinet.
"You know what? I'm going to your school." Ririka said as Ryota's eyes widened, trying to grab onto her blouse.
"Oh God Ririka, please don't. They'll bully me even more."
But Ririka was barely listening as she grabbed her wallet and her jacket draped over one of the dining room chairs before rushing out the front door, much to Ryota's protests.
Pushing her way past the crowd of students staring at her, Ririka stuck out like a sore thumb with her navy blue hoodie, white blouse, and bright blue undershirt as she made her way towards a random classroom.
Pushing open the door, she was shocked to see students gathered around two of their peers who seemed to be engrossed in what seemed to be a game of poker. The attention of the students turned from their two peers to the outsider standing in the doorway, their eyes glowing as they tracked her every movement.
"Uh… hi? Can someone tell me where to find the student council room?" Ririka asked as most of the students looked at each other, seemingly confused by this request.
"...You're not from this school are you?" One student asked as Ririka gestured to the clothes she was wearing and nodded.
"Ah. That explains a lot," The student said as they walked towards the door and leaned out of the classroom, and pointed down a set of hallways. "Go down and then turn left. The door with the dragon-shaped door knocker is the student council room." They said as Ririka gave them a thumbs up and a nod in thanks before setting off down in the direction the student had pointed her in.
"Do you think-"
"No, she doesn't. If she did she wouldn't come to some classroom and ask."
"Should we have told her?"
"Nah. She'll figure it out."
Ririka didn't even bother to knock as she barged into the student council room, shocking everyone present in the room to the core.
"Hi, where's this student council president bitch?" She asked between pants as the councilors regained their composure, one of them approaching her somewhat apprehensively.
"Who are you? No non-council members are allowed in here without permission, let alone students from other schools." She said nervously as Ririka dangled a visitor's pass in the girl's face with a somewhat smug expression.
"I believe I have permission. Now, please direct me to this president of yours. My fist and I have some talking to do." She said as a voice behind her suddenly spoke up.
"If you wish to make threats, I would suggest doing it to my face and not to my secretary."
A shocked squeak and loud "President!" caused Ririka to turn around, heart burning with rage and fist extended.
"Oh! So you're the president bitch who's been making my brother's life hell-"
Ririka stopped mid-sentence, mouth agape as she stared at the girl before her. Platinum blonde hair, aquamarine blue eyes, and pale, almost white skin.
Just like her own.
Both girls seemed equally shocked staring at each other for a good few moments until Ririka suddenly found her voice and spoke.
"Why the fuck do you look like me?"
Although it was her who broke the silence, Ririka’s voice sounded meek and timid. She sounded in awe too, and judging from the other girl’s face whose eyes were wide with confusion, she felt the same.
She wasn’t sure what to say or do next, she just stared in complete awe. The council members in the room were quiet too, and for a moment, the only sound in the room was the humming of eight-bit music from a game.
The girl before her blinked and a small, almost nervous smile curled on her blue-painted lips. “I’m the one who looks like you?” She asked. “You’re the one who looks like me!”
“P-President,” The girl from earlier said. “You don’t know her?”
They shared a glance before her doppelgänger finally spoke up.
“No, Sayaka, I don’t know her.”
Ririka’s head was spinning at this point. The anger that had coursed through her earlier had melted completely and she almost forgot what she was even doing here. What… What was this? Did she just happen to look exactly like this girl or was it something else? She couldn’t think, she couldn’t even begin to put a name to the emotions filling her chest.
Thankfully though, there wasn’t any time for accusations or interrogations. The door to the council room swung open and a girl stepped in. She muttered some excuse about being late and looked up to find her fellow council members still in shock and confusion.
Ririka watched as confusion pooled in her eyes- (or eye, considering the fact she was sporting an eyepatch)- and suddenly, she broke the silence again.
“What’s going on with you guys? You look like someone died.”
Someone dying would make way more sense than this if Ririka were being honest.
“No, Midari, it’s nothing like that,” Sayaka replied with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“Kirari’s totally got a twin!” One of the members piped up. A laugh escaped her and Ririka wasn’t sure what was so funny.
“Twins huh…” Ririka asked absent-mindedly. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but something clicked just then. Even if the case was that they looked incredibly similar and they weren’t related by blood, calling them twins made sense. It was better than ‘creepy doppelgänger’ at least. An odd sense of relief began to fill her, maybe it was the shock wearing off.
She turned to the girl, Kirari. They looked at each other again and the girl’s smile seemed more genuine in a way. Maybe it was just to relax Ririka so then they could finally figure out their situation.
“...Do you mind talking for a bit?” Kirari asked.
Ririka wanted to laugh when she thought, “about what?”
The answer was, well, clearly everything.
“Sure,” She said softly.
Ririka was in awe at how huge the school was. It seemed even bigger than her own, and her school was combined with a university. The soaring view of the school's many gardens could be seen from the window of the lounge she was currently in as she pressed her face up against the cool glass, leaving palm prints against the pristine surface.
"Is our school really so special?" Kirari's voice interrupted Ririka's awestruck thoughts as Ririka turned around to see Kirari seated rather neatly on one of the plush couches as the girl gestured for Ririka to sit down.
Taking a seat, Ririka began fidgeting uncomfortably, after all, what do you say to your twin who you haven't seen in seventeen years? So many questions ran through her mind, yet she couldn't find the voice to ask any of them.
"So, how has school been for you?" Kirari asked, finally breaking the awkward silence between the two of them.
"Ah… tiring," Ririka said with a laugh. "Study, practice, rinse and repeat. I should be lucky I'm even getting any sleep at all." She said as Kirari looked at her quizzically.
"What school do you go to?"
"TSOPA," Ririka said as Kirari raised an eyebrow as if expecting Ririka to explain. "Tokyo School of Performing Arts," Ririka said with a sigh as Kirari slowly nodded.
"But you live in Kyoto?"
"Yeah. Takes me two and a half hours to get to school, I have to leave at five-thirty in the morning if I want to be on time." Ririka said as Kirari stared at her in shock.
"Your family doesn't own a car?"
"Nope. We just take public transport."
"Oh, my," Kirari said, raising a hand to blue-tinted lips. "My sister is poor."
"Hey! I'm not poor, you dipshit!" Ririka yelled as the girl called Sayaka placed a teacup in front of her and Kirari.
"Thank you very much, Sayaka," Kirari said with a gentle smile as Sayaka blushed, bowing deeply. "This is Ceylon Dimbula tea. Doesn't it smell lovely? Drink, before it gets cold." Kirari said as Ririka looked at the cup before looking up at Kirari and back down at the cup.
"I don't drink tea…" Ririka said as Kirari glared at her, suddenly making Ririka feel rather small. "It's fine though! I'll just drink this!" Ririka said as she grabbed the cup and chugged its contents.
A foolish mistake.
"Ow! Fuck! My tongue!" Ririka yelped as she placed the teacup onto the table rather roughly as Kirari stared at her.
"Anyway… Kirari said, setting her cup down on the saucer as she folded her hands on her lap. "I'd like you to transfer to Hyakkaou."
Those words caused Ririka to choke on her saliva.
"I'm sorry you want me to what?"
"Since your current school is so far from your home, you may as well. And you can better take care of your brother since you seem to be rather concerned about him. After all, you did come all the way here willing to fight me for him." Kirari said with a chuckle as Ririka fidgeted a little, twiddling her thumbs.
"But I worked too hard to get into TSOPA…" She murmured as Kirari sighed loudly.
"At least consider it."
Picking at her food, Ririka looked up at her parents, who were staring at her with looks of concern etched across their faces.
"You aren't eating. Is something on your mind?" Her father asked as Ririka shrugged.
"I'm considering transferring schools." Ririka blurted out as her mother and Ryota looked at her incredulously.
At these words, Ryota spat out the water in his mouth.
"Oh God no, please don't. The school is a whole hellscape." He begged as Ririka went on, fully ignoring him.
"I mean, Ryota's been getting bullied in school so often, I may as well go there to keep an eye on him. Plus it's a lot closer to our house. We only need to travel for half an hour rather than two hours and a half." She said as her father nodded.
"But what about TSOPA? You worked hard to get your scholarship there." He said as Ririka sighed heavily.
"I can always sign up for the residency program there. They offer residency programs for ex-students with coaching and everything." She said as her mother held her hand, squeezing it softly.
"Are you a hundred percent sure that you want to transfer to Ryota's school? It's a big decision." She said as Ririka looked at her mother, father, and brother, blue eyes filled with determination.
Ririka found out about a couple of days later, the student council room held a sense of intimidation to it. She hadn’t picked up on it previously, but sitting here on one of the couches, watching fish in an aquarium swim peacefully, made dread open up a hole in her chest. She felt out of place. Even if her uniform matched the other students and she was officially enrolled, she felt like she wasn’t supposed to be here at all.
Maybe because she wasn’t. Or at least she wasn’t meant to meet Kirari.
As she looked ahead at the aquarium and the smell of tea filled her nose, she thought about everything that had happened. It still didn’t make sense if she were being honest. There were still so many questions. The biggest one was if they were even twins at all or just happened to look so much alike it was unreal. Although they had been jokingly calling each other sisters in the past week, they still needed answers.
The thought of her actually having a sister made her head spin.
Another question lingered in the back of her mind though. If they were right if they were twins, cut from the same cloth, born from the same mother… Then why were they separated? The thought of being torn apart from someone she never even had the chance of getting to know made her sick. If something did happen to them once as children, she didn’t want it to be repeated.
Ririka took a breath and looked down at her now cold tea. Her questions could wait, she just had to get through the day first. Maybe from there, they could figure out what to do next.
The sunlight streaming from the windows warmed the room. She wondered what exactly the council members did during their meetings, more specifically she wondered what Kirari did. What kind of life did she live? What kind of life could Ririka have had? It was all hard to imagine and gave her a headache if she tried to think about it for too long.
The sound of a door opening snapped her out of her thoughts, forcing any of her questions to the back of her mind. She looked up and saw Kirari walk in. Surprise glimmered in her eyes and there was that smile again on her face. Somewhat warm, but still kind of scary.
“Look at you,” Kirari said as she sat on the couch on the opposite side of Ririka. “It’s like looking in a mirror.”
“This is still so weird,” Ririka muttered.
“Imagine how I feel! Just a week ago my reflection tried punching me!”
“I said I was sorry…” She said as her face grew warm.
“It’s okay. I’m just trying to lighten the mood… This is weird for me too. After all, it’s not every day you find your sister.”
“We’re not even sure of that yet.”
“Right, so what did you want to do about the possibility of us being related? Take a DNA test?”
“Can we do that?”
Kirari sighed. “Probably not. Us doing something like that could raise suspicion from my family. And if it turns out we’re right, then that’ll put the elders in a corner. I found something I wasn’t supposed to find, imagine how panicked they’ll be? It’ll be a mess.”
The adults in Kirari’s family- or elders as she put it- seemed scary. Maybe that’s where Kirari got her intimidating personality from. Still, though, she didn’t want her to end up in trouble.
“Maybe we could look around your house?” Ririka asked. “Any information about me was made after I was adopted so maybe there’s something before that?”
Kirari’s eyes lit up. “This is like a detective show!”
“Yeah,” she laughed, “Like a detective show.”
They looked at each other and broke into fits of laughter. It surprised Ririka at how normal it felt just then… How easily they clicked. They were interrupted by the bell and the familiar sense of dread settled in the pit of her stomach.
“...How is this going to work?” Ririka found herself saying aloud.
Kirari frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I- No- We look exactly alike! I mean there’s suddenly a copy of you running around… Don’t you think that’s going to freak people out?”
“You’re making it sound like a movie,” Kirari said with a laugh. “But don’t worry. We’re in different classes so there won’t be much confusion. Well that and, the students here are scared of me, they won’t even look at me half the time!”
“Don’t be, I set it up this way on purpose. You don’t have to worry so much, Ririka. After this, do you want to start our detective game?”
“Yes… I want to know what’s going on.”
“I do too.”
Ririka looked up at her and smiled. “I’ll see you later then.”
Kirari returned her smile. It was identical. “See you.”
As Ririka made her way to her class for the next lesson, she heard loud footsteps and panting from behind her as she felt someone smack her shoulder.
Turning around to face her younger brother, Ririka let out a long sigh as she rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"What do you want? I have to get to class and I'm sure you need to as well." She said, annoyance filling her voice as Ryota shook his head.
"Look, people are asking questions. 'Why is your sister wandering around with the president?' 'Why does your sister look like the president?' 'How does your sister look like that and you look like that?' I don't know how to answer them and it's frustrating me! Plus, I want to know why you decided to transfer to my school! You already had TSOPA! I don't get it!" He said. His voice raised as Ririka looked around, awkwardly grinning at the many students passing by as she looked at her brother, his breathing heavy and laboured.
She knew how the poor boy felt when it came to people comparing them to each other. He was consistently compared to her by their extended family simply because she had gotten into one of Japan's most prestigious performing arts schools. For him, school was his only escape from the comparison, and Ririka transferring there must not have made things much better for him.
"Hey, I know you're upset, but you don't have to yell at me. Take a deep breath." She said gently as Ryota followed her command, his breath shuddering as he exhaled.
"It's alright. You're just frustrated. We'll go talk to Kirari about it later okay?" Ririka asked as Ryota's eyes widened.
"Yeah? I'm sure she'll be fine with it." Ririka said as she patted Ryota's shoulder. "I've got to get to class now, bye!" She said as she walked off, leaving Ryota behind to splutter and stammer at thin air.
"You know what? This was a bad idea. Forget I said anything, I'll go eat lunch by myself." Ryota said as he turned to leave before being caught by the wrist.
"Nope. You already said you wanted to do it. No turning back." Ririka said as she pulled her brother towards her as she opened the door to the student council room.
"Ah. Ririka, I should let you know that you being able to come into the council room as a non-council member is a privilege only given to you. Other students, especially housepets," Kirari said nodding at Ryota. "Are prohibited from entering." She said as Ririka followed Kirari's gaze towards the nametag around Ryota's neck.
"Is that what this means then?" She asked as Ryota nodded. Sighing, Ririka took a seat in one of the chairs around the table, nearest to Kirari.
"Look, I genuinely don't care about the weird hierarchies this school has. He's my brother, and he wants in." She said as Kirari looked at her with an eyebrow raised before sending a withering gaze at Ryota, who cringed a little.
"And what do you want out of this?" She asked him as he jumped a little, almost dropping his lunchbox.
"N-nothing!" He yelped as he placed his lunchbox down on the table. "I just want to help my sister. My family knows nothing about her either. Whenever she asks my parents about the people who left her at the orphanage, they said that the people at the orphanage know nothing about her either." He said as Ririka nodded, causing Kirari to prop her head up on her hands, her features suddenly expressing interest.
"So your family doesn't know anything either." She said as Ririka and Ryota nodded. "Interesting… We'll get to the bottom of this mystery." Kirari said. Her voice was filled with determination as Ririka squeezed Ryota's hand.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, causing Ririka to flinch. Kirari gave her a worried glance before looking at the door.
“Come in,” She called.
The door creaked a bit as it opened but eventually, revealed a girl. She sorted through the files in her hands, not even paying attention to the guests in the room, and started muttering about some games being played. Ririka couldn’t get a good look at her, but judging from the tone of her voice, she was annoyed at something.
“Look, Kirari, I don’t see why you have to send me in to collect info from teachers when you have a secretary.”
Kirari blinked, “Oh I-”
She shoved the files in her hand, “Seriously, you don’t have to send me in to do some low-level job. I have other stuff to do, you know? Anyway, here’s the info about that Jabami girl who transferred about a week ago. Pretty talented gambler, but I think I could take her down. Maybe if I dipped into the council funds… Actually, nevermind.”
“Oh! Another thing, there’s another transfer student? When the hell did I miss that? The students won’t shut up about her, says she’s your clone or-”
“Um… hi,” Ririka muttered quietly.
The girl nearly jumped and her eyes widened, “Holy shit! Clone girl?” She looked over to Ryota, “And a housepet? Uh, what’s… going on?”
Kirari rolled her eyes as she looked through the files. “Mary, this is Ririka and her brother. Ririka’s my... I guess sister is the best way to put it.”
“Yeah, not a clone,” Ririka said with a bit of sarcasm laced in her voice.
The embarrassed blush that washed over Mary’s face almost looked cute. She muttered a half-hearted apology as her gaze flickered to the floor. After her embarrassment faded and Kirari thanked her for the information, her eyes met Ririka’s.
Yeah, definitely cute.
Mary checked her phone, “Oh, I gotta go. Apparently, something’s going on in the cafeteria.” She looked at her again. “Bye, twin girl. And housepet. Ugh, this is weird- look, just tell me the story later, okay?”
Kirari laughed, “Sure, Mary.”
Ririka watched as she left before they went on about the last parts of their plan. Honestly, she was only half paying attention at that point.
The interior of the car felt way too fancy for Ririka's liking. Shifting and fidgeting around to find an agreeable position, the poor girl made an absolute fool of herself in front of the dignified girl before her.
"...Are you done?" Kirari asked as Ririka looked up at her, an embarrassed smile plastered across her face as she sat upright.
"Yeah, I'm done now," Ririka said with a weak chuckle, making Kirari giggle a little bit as they both descended yet again into an awkward silence.
"You know, it shouldn't be this hard to start a conversation with you. I mean, you are my twin after all." Ririka said dryly as Kirari chuckled softly from behind her hand.
"I mean to be fair, it is our first time meeting after seventeen years. I would find it hard to start a conversation with you too." She said as Ririka snapped her fingers.
"Excellent point, so it's been seventeen years. What's it been like? Growing up with your family I mean." Ririka asked, the question seemingly catching Kirari off guard as she looked at Ririka quizzically.
"Well, tell me. How's life been for you?" Ririka said with a toothy grin as Kirari began to fidget with her fingers before suddenly stopping.
"Well, for starters, I'm the head of the clan in my family…" She said as Ririka's jaw dropped in shock.
"No way. Is that even legal? I mean, you're just a kid and all." She asked as Kirari shrugged.
"I honestly don't know, and I'm not really inclined to care. I just want to get away from my family. It's so stressful." Kirari said, burying her head in her hands as she suddenly felt a pair of arms wrapped around her. Looking up, she saw that Ririka had gotten out of her seat and was now hugging her. She wasn't used to the affection being shown so all she could do was awkwardly pat Ririka's back as she returned the hug.
"You're really stiff," Ririka commented as Kirari let go of her, causing the latter's ears to turn red.
"No, it's fine. Don't apologize. I can tell you're not used to it." Ririka said as Kirari looked up at her. Did Ririka happen to have psychic powers? But before either of them could say anything further, the car came to a halt.
Looking out the window, Ririka's jaw dropped at the sprawling estate. It looked extremely grand and magnificent with its neatly manicured lawns and beautiful flower bushes artfully arranged to make it look like something out of a fairytale book. It was definitely not where someone like her should be stepping foot into. And was that a waterfall in the main garden?
"You live here?" Ririka sputtered out as she stepped out of the car while Kirari nodded while looking at Ririka's awestruck expression with mild amusement.
"Yes, I do. Is it really so stunning?" Kirari asked as Ririka stared at her and nodded.
"Uh yes? Literally, no one I know has a waterfall in their garden."
"There are koi fish in the pond at the bottom of the waterfall too."
"Koi fish? Get outta here." Ririka said as she dashed towards the pond and saw huge koi fish languidly swimming around the pond. "Your house is a freaking wonderland." She said as Kirari giggled at how excited Ririka seemed.
"I'm glad you think so, but we have a mystery to solve." She said as she made her way towards the main building, Ririka following close behind her.
Ririka couldn’t help but take in every aspect of the estate once they’re inside. She took in how big the rooms were, how everything felt set up in a way. The inside of the estate almost felt like a display case, a perfect little dollhouse with no space for any mess.
A spark of an idea flashed in her mind for a moment. The idea of two little girls, young and naïve, running around here and ruining the makeshift dollhouse. It made a smile spread on her face, but at the same time dug something deep into her heart.
All of that was potentially taken from her, from them. For a second she almost didn’t want to be right. At first, the idea of having a sister made her head spin, and sparks of excitement light her skin on fire. Now… Now what? If they were right then what did that mean? Was something wrong with her? Was that why she was separated?
“Ririka?” Kirari’s voice brought her back to reality.
“Y-Yes? What’s wrong?”
“You didn’t hear what I was saying? About looking for evidence?”
Ririka's eyes flickered to the floor as her face burned. “No. I’m sorry, what were you saying? We need evidence?”
Kirari turned to keep walking, “What did you think we were just going to walk aimlessly for an hour? Nothing fun happens like that! We need evidence, birth certificates, photos… Anything that can prove we’re right.”
Ririka forced any feelings of doubt down. She did want to be right. Even if the reason for them being torn apart was due to her inadequacies, even if she would never fit perfectly into the display, she wanted to be right. She nodded and said how she understood their plan before the two of them went through the house together.
Kirari’s room felt less like a display. There was more life in it than most of the house, and honestly, Ririka found it to be a welcome change of pace. She looked around the room, taking in the aquarium filled with fish before settling down on the frilly blue sheets.
"Your bed is so comfy…" She said, lying down and rolling across the bed, enjoying the silky texture of the sheets against her skin as Kirari chuckled and took a seat next to her.
"I'm glad you think so, but please don't get distracted. Remember what we came here for." She said as Ririka sat up and sighed. Half of her didn't really want to look for evidence, even if they weren't sisters by blood, she enjoyed Kirari's presence.
Sure, having a brother like Ryota was great but Ririka always wished to have a sister, someone she could share clothes with, someone she could gush over Kpop and Jpop artists with, someone who she could teach all her dance moves to and talk about petty girl drama with, and now that someone had walked right into the palm of her hand, she didn't even want to let them go.
That wasn't selfish right?
"Ririka? Are you alright?" Kirari asked as she raised a hand to her face, swiping at her own eyes. "You're crying a little." She said as Ririka furiously scrubbed at her eyes with the cuffs of her uniform sleeve.
"Y-yeah, I'm good. Let's just start looking for evidence yeah?" She said blandly, trying to keep traces of tears out of her voice as she got up and strode towards Kirari's desk.
Kirari's desk was extremely messy in comparison to the neatness of the rest of the room. Worksheets and books were scattered all over the desk, along with what appeared to be construction plans for different buildings and schematics for what seemed to be a functional iron man suit.
"And Ryota calls me a slob…" She muttered to herself as she opened up random drawers, after having gotten Kirari's permission, only to find nothing noteworthy inside, only random stationery and post-it notes neatly stacked inside.
At that point, Ririka had half a mind to give up and just accept that she would never find the truth until Kirari called her and beckoned her over, a large leather-bound journal in her hands.
"It's a photo album of me when I was a baby. I found it in my closet. I completely forgot it was in there." She said with a chuckle as she sat down on the bed, Ririka following suit as they thumbed through the yellowing pages.
"Oh goodness… please don't look at that…" Kirari said, face aflame as she averted her eyes from the page while Ririka let out a loud laugh.
"This you?" She asked, pointing to a photo of what appeared to be a two-year-old girl running away from three maids holding up different outfits, dressed in nothing but a diaper.
"Yes…" Kirari said as Ririka laughed even harder, smacking Kirari's shoulder as she leaned against the girl, her entire body trembling with laughter as Kirari's body seized up for a moment before relaxing once more.
"Gosh, you're hilarious you know?" Ririka asked as Kirari rolled her eyes and turned the page.
"Oh… This was a photo of me when I was just born." Kirari said softly as if too loud of a volume would awaken the sleeping baby in the photo.
"Yeah… but something's off," Ririka said as she took the album from Kirari and gently slid the photo out of its protective casing. "The photo's been folded." She said, noting the crease as she unfolded the photo to reveal another baby, with features identical to baby Kirari, fast asleep.
"I don't believe it…" Kirari said softly as she took the photo out of Ririka's hand, the latter still frozen with shock.
"I have a sister."
The sound of her pounding heart filled her ears as the room seemed to spin. It felt like something had split open, and it was digging itself into her chest. She was right. They were right. They were actually right.
“We’re twins,” Ririka gasped. Her voice came out strained as tears began to fall. She wasn’t sure why she was crying, she thought this would be a happy moment. She was happy, but also confused and scared and so many other things she couldn’t begin to describe. She was almost afraid of whatever was building tearing open her chest.
She looked at Kirari, just to see if they shared a feeling. Her sister wasn’t crying like she was. Her eyes were wide though, and if Ririka’s eyes weren’t blurred with tears, she would have seen the slight tremor in her hands.
They didn’t say anything for a moment. They took in as much of the situation as best they could, all while emotions continued to flood both of them. Ririka grabbed Kirari’s hand, squeezing it tightly as if she were terrified of something. Kirari accepted the gesture with a slight delay but held on to her just as tight.
“Ririka,” Kirari said.
There was the sound of a door opening.
“W-What was that?” Ririka asked as she wiped her tears away.
“It’s one of the servants, I think,” Kirari whispered.
“You have servants?”
“Yes, yes, I know it’s a lot, but now really isn’t the time to comment on my life.”
“Got it, one life-altering reveal at a time.”
“I don’t think me having maids is the equivalent to us being sisters.” Kirari smiled at that last word as if finally saying it meant everything. “But someone being here might be a problem-”
“Miss Kirari?” A voice from the other side of the door called. “Why are you home from school so early, I thought you had a council meeting today?”
Kirari sighed and looked at Ririka as if to say, “told you.” She brought a finger to her lip and Ririka nodded before her sister went to open the door slightly.
“Hello, Yui,” She said sweetly. “I did have a council meeting, but I canceled it. I wanted to… plan something for Sayaka, so I needed the time to think. I still need to be alone for a while if that’s okay.”
Ririka frowned. Sayaka? The secretary?
“Oh, I understand!” Yui said with a small, embarrassed laugh. “But I thought I heard someone talking in here?”
“That was just Mary, I needed her help for something so I called her.”
“Oh, how is she? It’s been a while since I’ve seen her.”
“She’s fine, Yui. Now, I should get back to what I was doing.”
There were a couple more words exchanged before finally, Kirari got to close the door fully. Her back was pressed against the door and she breathed a small sigh of relief before settling next to Ririka on the bed.
Ririka waited a second before asking, “Isn’t Sayaka your secretary? Why would you plan something for her?”
Kirari laughed, “It’s just a story, don’t worry about it.”
“But your maid sounded like she knew what you were talking about. Like you’ve done that before-”
“We just found out we’re sisters and some lie is what you want to talk about?”
“Well, this is what sisters do, right? Talk about their crushes… Come on, I’m trying to make things less weird around us.”
“We have the rest of our lives to build a sense of normalcy, we don’t need to do ‘girl talk’ right away. Besides, the last thing I want to talk about is my feelings for Sayaka.”
“So I was right!”
Kirari smiled as she fell back on the bed. “Yes, I suppose you were right.”
They fell into a comfortable silence after that, even though their minds were flooded with questions and they wondered what they were supposed to do next. Ririka thought about where her place in the family would be as she looked around her sister’s room. Her existence couldn’t just be a secret tucked away forever, but how was she expected to act if she ever did come into the spotlight?
She thought about it, meeting the rest of the family that had something to do with her separation. The thought of meeting them, of asking why she was torn apart in the first place made an uneasy feeling settle into her chest. She looked over at Kirari, her eyes were closed and she looked relaxed like she was about to fall asleep.
Her feelings over their entire situation could be discussed later when they’re both awake and fully ready to talk about it. For now, contentment filled her. Their little mystery had been solved, their game was over. It was relieving in a way, to be able to have answers for something, to be able to be right. A yawn escaped Ririka’s lips and she let herself rest against the pillows as fatigue began to slowly make her drift away.
In a perfect world, it would have ended there.
It hadn’t been long since they fell asleep, around ten minutes or so, when Ririka woke up to the sound of footsteps outside the door. She hadn’t heard the knocking beforehand. Before she could even understand what was going on, let alone prepare for it, the door opened slightly.
If they were under different circumstances, in a different world where Ririka got to actually meet Yui properly, she would have thought she was pretty. She was a younger woman, with long, dark hair and even darker eyes. Kirari would have told Ririka about how she was one of the few newer maids she favored, and maybe Ririka would have liked her too.
Instead, Yui stood there in the doorway, eyes wide and mouth agape, clutching the laundry she was meant to put away like it was a lifeline. Panic coursed through Ririka and she opened her mouth to say something, hoping a lie would come out.
“You know who I am?” She found herself saying.
The photograph itself was faded. Stains of yellow spilled outwards on the edges and the color of her, of their dresses, were distorted slightly. What once was a vibrant blue years ago was now dark and faded. Ririka traced her finger along the crease down the middle, before folding the right half like how she found it. Just like that, her side was erased.
She opened it again and there they were. Neither side was erased, just two halves together like it was supposed to be. She kept playing with it, folding it and refolding it until the scent of tea filled her nose. She looked up and turned to see Yui balancing the tray.
“You asked for tea?” She whispered to Kirari.
“It wakes me up.”
“Oh my god.”
Yui set down the tray and poured it without a word. When she set the cups in front of them and Ririka muttered a quiet thank you, the woman looked as if she saw a ghost. She stared at her.
“You’re… You’re really her, aren’t you?”
Ririka nodded. “It’s me.”
Kirari put down her cup and reached for the photo in her hands. She placed it across the table and Yui took it in her own hands. She frowned at the picture.
“Where did you even find this?”
“In an old photo album,” Kirari replied. “It was in my closet. I completely forgot it was there… And I- we- wanted to know why it was in there in the first place. And how do you know about Ririka?”
Yui took a breath and stole another glance at the picture before turning to them. “Everyone knows about you, Ririka. Me, the rest of the workers, the elders. Everyone except the children. We had to keep everything about your existence a secret from Miss Kirari for obvious reasons… But it seems you went and found each other yourselves.”
“...I can’t say.”
“Yui, please,” Kirari asked. “I want to know.”
“Please. Ririka has a right to know, I do too.”
Yui sighed. “God, I’m going to get fired for this. I actually liked working here too, paid well enough.”
“We won’t let that happen!” Ririka said. She turned to Kirari and grabbed her hand, “Right?”
The woman was pretty when she smiled. Her expression was soft and there was a warmth in her eyes that calmed Ririka for some reason. “Look at you, wanting to protect me... If I tell you, you have to pretend you didn’t hear it from me.”
“Promise.” They both said.
She took another breath. “Originally, there was this excitement when you two were born. The servants were excited at least, I think. Haru told me how everyone was rushing around, getting everything ready for the twin girls about to be born. And, when it finally happened, there were a couple of days of peace. It was as if things would finally feel alive around here.”
“Then, everything stopped. Haru and a couple of others were told to get you two ready, and suddenly, you were taken into this room filled with the other elders. A game was going to be played…”
“What game?” Ririka asked.
Yui looked away, “The game that would decide who was to be the heir and who would be given away. There wasn’t a need for two heirs, only one. Your grandmother placed a die in your hands and whoever threw the winning number would be the leader. If the rules were fairer, Ririka would have been the heir. She was born first… but the dice didn’t pick her.”
“Ririka, you were stripped of the Momobami name that day. Any status you could have had was taken too. You were dropped off at an orphanage soon after. That picture was taken to remember you since everyone was told to act as if you never existed in the first place. That’s why you were separated.”
It was funny, her intuition from earlier was right. The joy she had felt when she found out Kirari was actually her sister had been tainted by something else. Now she knew exactly what it was. She was abandoned not because something was wrong with her, but because she lost. Of course, no one would want someone who threw the game to be their leader.
A game of chance decided that she would never be a Momobami. She could dream, she could try all she wanted, she could even find her sister for god’s sake but it wouldn’t be enough. She wasn’t enough. Kirari was though. She didn’t have to dream.
“I have to go.”
Kirari actually seemed surprised. “What? No, Ririka, you can’t.”
Taking each other’s hand was one of the few instances of touch they had picked up immediately, it had felt safe. Like it was theirs. Like it would always be theirs. Ririka was the one to break that trust, she pulled away as tears stung her eyes. Don’t touch me, she seemed to say. Don’t look at me.
It didn’t take long for her to escape the house. There was a moment right before Kirari reached her where she stood outside, somewhere down the street. It was there that the past seemed to catch up with her and she didn’t even try to wipe away the tears of anger that fell.
When she got back to school the next Monday, Ririka was surprised to find a letter in her locker. The envelope simply bore her name and class in a weird chicken scratch, as if someone had rushed out the writing. Shrugging and assuming it was nothing more than a love confession from a classmate or an underclassman, she opened it, but what was inside was what she was least expecting.
I'm really sorry about what happened that day. Can you please come to the student council room? I'd like to talk to you.
With a dry laugh, Ririka placed the letter back into the envelope before stuffing it into her bag as she left the locker room.
Ririka entered the student council room without even a second thought, ignoring Sayaka's shouts of protest at interrupting a council meeting, she pulled the letter out of her bag and threw it onto the table where it landed right in front of Kirari.
"You want to talk right? So come on, let's talk." Ririka said, fists clenched as Kirari looked up at her, eyes cold as she looked at the other councilors before gesturing for them to leave. After the councilors had left, Ririka slid into the empty seat in front of Kirari and the two once again fell into a tense silence.
"So… how was your weekend?" Kirari asked, a weak smile on her face as she attempted to defuse the tension between them.
"Okay, I guess. Went for my residency, got a gift for Ryota's birthday, practiced the drums, did some dance practice, the usual weekend stuff. You?" Ririka answered nonchalantly as Kirari fidgeted a little.
"Fine, I suppose. How are you feeling by the way?" She asked, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice as Ririka sighed.
"I was upset at first but honestly I don't feel anything now," Ririka said as Kirari looked at her quizzically as if confused as to why she had answered that way. "I mean, at first, I was upset, don't get me wrong, but after a while I just kind of realized that there wasn't really a point in being angry. I already have a loving mom and dad and a great little brother, I guess discovering I have a twin sister was just a happy little accident, even if I wasn't meant to meet her." Ririka said, her hand finding Kirari's as the younger twin looked up at her.
"But that reaction just now-"
"Was to get them out of there quickly. I did go to a performing arts school, remember?" Ririka said with a smile as a red flush spread across Kirari's cheeks as she cleared her throat.
"So you're not mad at me?" She asked, her voice suddenly small as Ririka shook her head vigorously, squeezing her sister's hand.
"Of course not. I would never be mad at you for something you didn't do." Ririka said as Kirari smiled weakly. "In fact, Ryota and I want to invite you to our place. Today's his birthday and he thought it would be fitting if he celebrated his birthday with both of his sisters." She said as Kirari looked at her as if refusing to believe the words that had just left Ririka's lips. For a fleeting second, Kirari couldn't speak at all, too surprised by the proclamation.
"Are you sure?" She asked when she had found her voice, sounding uncharacteristically nervous as Ririka's grip on her hand grew firmer.
"A hundred percent."
The car ride was awkward. Both Ryota and Kirari simply stared at each other while Ririka would attempt to initiate a conversation before being brutally shut down by one of her siblings.
"So…" Kirari said, finally breaking the silence between her and Ryota. "What's Ririka like at home?" She asked, making Ryota look up at her, seemingly surprised that she was talking to him.
"Well, Ririka's fine at home. She helps out around the house quite a bit when she's not dancing or drumming or doing homework. She likes playing with our guinea pigs a lot though." He said as Kirari nodded, a small smile growing across her face while Ririka kind of averted her eyes, waiting for the inevitable expose that would follow right after those kind words.
"But she sleeps a lot. Like after she transferred to Hyakkaou she spends like half her time at home on weekdays sleeping, either in her bed or on the couch. And she takes really fucking long to shower as well, like hello ma'am, other people need to shower too." Ryota said as Kirari let out a laugh, pressing a hand to her blue-tinted lips while looking at Ririka, who was glaring daggers at a very smug Ryota.
"I don't take that long to shower! And you're one to talk, Mr. I-spend-twenty-minutes-doing-my-hair." Ririka said as the smug expression came sliding off Ryota's face.
"That's alright Ryota, I spend twenty minutes doing my hair as well," Kirari said as Ririka looked at her, shocked by the sudden confession.
"Kirari! You're supposed to be on my side!" Ririka exclaimed as Ryota let out a loud laugh before holding out a hand for Kirari to high five. Kirari stared at his hand strangely for a few beats before returning his high five with a grin.
At this, Ririka felt a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. It just felt right, to see her two younger siblings getting along.
She hoped that they could stay like this forever.
"Oh! You must be Kirari! Ryota and Ririka told us a lot about you!" A kind-looking woman with dark brown hair said as Kirari bowed to greet her.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Suzui," Kirari said as their mother quickly shook her head.
"No, please don't call me that. It makes me feel old. Just aunty is fine with me." She said as Kirari looked stunned for a moment, before nodding.
"Ririka, bring Kirari up to your room, won't you? Ririka and Ryota bought some clothes for you to use whenever you come over and feel like taking a shower." Their mother said as Kirari looked at the two siblings incredulously.
"You bought clothes for me?"
"Yeah. I mean, it fits that our sister should have some clothes to wear whenever she comes over to our house." Ryota said as Kirari looked taken aback at such a proclamation.
"Oh… I see…"
Ririka's room was chaotic. The walls and ceiling were painted with murals of the starry night sky. A drum kit sat in one corner of the room, the bedspread depicted a farmyard scene and on top of the blanket was a…
"Ririka, why is there a rat on your bed?"
Kirari was pointing to a small creature sitting atop Ririka's blanket, chewing away on a carrot. It blinked at her before Ririka picked it up and walked towards her, the little black and white creature twitching its nose at her.
"Tchaikovsky is not a rat, he's a cute little guinea pig. Go ahead and pet him." Ririka said as Kirari looked at Tchaikovsky apprehensively before reaching a hand out to pat him before quickly pulling her hand away, making Ririka giggle. Walking towards Ririka's drum kit, Kirari reached out to grab the drumsticks but stopped short of just touching them, looking at Ririka apprehensively.
"Wanna try playing them?" She asked as Kirari nodded slowly while Ririka took Tchaikovsky outside before reentering the room.
"He doesn't like loud noises. You can go ahead and start, everyone's used to me starting out of nowhere." Ririka said as Kirari nodded stiffly before sitting down at the drum kit. Unsure of what to do, Kirari just began hitting the drums and cymbals at random, causing Ririka to wince a little at the noise.
"How was it?"
Terrible. Please never play the drums again.
"It wasn't too bad…" Ririka said slowly, "I can give you lessons if you want me to!" She said as Kirari's eyes lit up.
"You mean it?"
"Yeah! Just let me know when you're available and we can arrange something." Ririka said as Kirari nodded eagerly while the door opened to reveal Ryota's head poking through the doorway.
"Whoever was drumming, you sounded awful. Anyway, Kirari, you can go shower first. I'll go shower in mom and dad's room." He said before closing the door as Ririka let out a chuckle before heading towards her wardrobe.
"These are yours. Ryota and I kinda guessed at your sizes. We based it on my stuff, so I'm sorry if the clothes are too big or too small." She said as she dumped a set of clothes into Kirari's arms. Turning the clothes over in her hands, Kirari couldn't help but admire just how soft the material of the clothes was and how comfortable it felt in her hands.
"Why is your family so nice to me?" Kirari suddenly asked.
"I made your brother's life a living hell. I took you away from your previous school and caused you to uncover a devastating secret that greatly upset you. So why is your family so nice to me? Why are you so nice to me?" Kirari asked, fists clenched as Ririka sat on the bed and took Kirari's hands in her own, her touch warm and comforting, allowing Kirari to relax a little.
"My family has never been the type to hold grudges, and Ryota, bless his heart, has always been a really sweet and forgiving boy. And I know I can't change the past, so there's no point in being angry about it now. Sure, it hurts to know I wasn't wanted by my birth family, but I have a mother and father who love me dearly and a little brother who I can play and joke around with," Ririka said, placing the towel on her lap on the bed before embracing Kirari in a hug. "Plus, now I have a little sister," She said as Kirari returned the hug, tears streaming down her face and wetting Ririka's red blazer.
"And I promise I will never let her go."