Chapter 3: A mirror has two faces

January 25, 2007

Wordcount: 1116 words. Sorry it’s so long.

She fastened the pin on her blazer. It was a small, golden ankh pin. Once that was done, she examined herself in the mirror. Her cobalt blazer brought out the colour of her blue eyes extremely well. It also provided a sharp contrast to her golden hair, which she had done in her usual style; three braids above each ear, pulled back and held by a red rose. She raised her shoulder-length hair from her shoulders, exposing her lily-white neck. Her skin was the same colour and tone; she did not tan easily. Turning her head a little to the side, she pursed her lips.

“Any longer and they’ll think you’ve gone to another matchmaking session, little sister,” her brother was leaning against the door.

He wore his customary red coat with his hair sticking all over the place and a half-face mask. The mask was chalk-white, a contrast against his lightly-tanned skin. The edges though, had been decorated with lacquer; the patterns were in the shape of flames. It suited him well, both in his position, personality and power. She looked him up and down, the look on her face conveying her approval.

“All done. Do you think this is overkill?” she pointed to her lips which she had touched up with lip gloss. Otherwise, her face was clear of any makeup.

“No,” he had read the file on the boy earlier today, and it had seemed like a straight fight.

He came along because he doubted it was so. Whenever something seemed simple, it rarely was. He also relished the chance to watch his sister in action; it was not often that she was called to participate these days. The school was quite strict on who they allowed to participate in fights like these, and looking at the names of the girls who were to be his sister’s proxies, he doubted that everything was as simple as it seemed. They were the second and third-ranked representatives, and no one in their right mind would want to place all their eggs in one basket.

“Onii-chan?” his sister’s sweet voice broke into his daydream.

She looked up at him, concern written on her face. He simply shook his head, deciding not to tell her of his misgivings. Turning to the stairs, he offered his arm to her. She winded her hand through the crook of her arm and they walked down the cramped stairs gracefully. Leaning her head against his shoulder for a while, she smiled, glad to have her brother.

At that moment, they looked like the perfect pair of siblings; the handsome older working brother helping the beautiful younger sister. Or so the caretaker of the house thought as the siblings left. The girl was always polite to him; she rarely, if ever, forgot to tell him if she was going out. It was the same case this time. As her brother took out their coats, she bowed to him and wished him a good night. He nodded, and watched them go out with a smile on his face. They were an easy pair of masters.

~~~~~

She let the water run. It was hot, but it did not burn her skin, just warmed her. On her back were numerous pimple scars, all caused by running too-hot water while bathing. She did not mind the pimple scars; they hid others she would rather people not see. Reaching over to her back, she felt for the scars. Some new pimples greeted her, but she knew from experience that they were not ready to be popped yet. Sighing, she tilted her head back so that the water fell over her forehead and hair, covering her face. As the water rushed across her face, she felt as though her sins were being washed away.

The simple sensation of water running over her evoked a variety of emotions that was not simple. It was a whole basket of them, from wistfulness that she could not spend forever under the water’s loving embrace, relief that it was over for now, and a little dread that it would happen again. It was just a matter of time. They would always find ways to come back, and she would always have to confront them. They would track her down soon, and then it would begin again. She would not lie to herself and said that she hated it; she merely wished that they could have timed it better.

As the water rushed down her exposed neck, she became aware of a change in the atmosphere. She would not have this place to herself in a few minutes’ time. Resigned, she quickly washed herself and left the baths. As people came in through the main door, she made her escape through the side door.

~~~~~

They came out to a large chamber carved out of the rock. Lighted by candles in carefully-hidden groves, the chamber consisted of a raised area and small benches, also carved out of rock. The principle was already there, looking grim but proper in her three-piece suit. Then there was also the two girls who were to be her proxies in case she could not continue for any reason. Their very presence here sent a chill down his spine. They were the next best after his sister; it was generally considered suicidal to gather all the best in one spot.

The girls were accompanied by their teachers or guardians who were cloaked, as tradition. They were here to observe along with their charges, and were actually nothing more than witnesses. Nodding in greeting to them, they returned grave nods all around. Both were serious, competent people; they knew and loved their passions well. The two representatives, nicknamed “Kaguya” and “Himeko”, both loved what they did, no doubt with influence from their trainers. Their nicknames were not given in jest either; both were at the top of their fields.

“There, Onii-chan,” his sister turned towards her opponent, and he felt as though he had been struck in the gut.

The woman standing next to the boy was a woman he knew well. He knew her so well, he could taste her on his tongue. She smiled when she saw him staring at her. Raising her fingers to her lips, she blew him a mocking kiss. His sister’s hand shot out to hold him steady, knowing that her brother did not take too kindly to insults. He merely squeezed her hand reassuringly. There was no need to get angry or insulted at this woman. She was of no consequence, but she did put the boy she was holding into new light.

“Be careful,” was all he said to his sister.

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