Act 1: The Plot Device (Part 1)

1

When I took a good look at Yumeko during her self-introduction, I knew she was trouble.

Fine, I felt rather than knew, because if I knew how much trouble she'd turn out to be I'd tell the teacher I was having stomach cramps, appendicitis, or even a miscarriage and ran away saying "Nope, nope, nope," all the way home and told Mom I'm transferring school, and if we had the money, move all the way to Kamchatka – "if" being the keyword. Yeah, the only other school nearby was a Catholic school where they sang their holy book every morning and put their prayers to a bearded Caucasian man while pretending to eat his flesh – probably something that might look lovely and family-friendly to someone who didn't read Lovecraft – but yes, I'd rather spend three years there than allow that fated meeting to happen.

Now reflecting on what I just said, maybe Fate actually chose me because of my melodramatic nature. I couldn't help that, it's just not fair. Like a pig to slaughter, it was not the pig's fault that her meat was delicious.

Okay, I just compared myself to swine. Way to go, Yukiko, you'd unlocked a new level in self-depreciation. Have a badge and wear it with pride, it said "I compared myself with a pig" in bold letters.

Yu-Me-Ko.

Yu-Ki-Ko.

Our names only differed one syllable (and just one extra line in katakana), but we couldn't be any more different.

"Good morning everyone, my name is Yumeko Uehara. I've just transferred here this morning, from Tokyo."

Let's start with her greeting. I knew that kind of voice. She could sing. Me, my voice was so bad that I'd only sing if you pay me a million yen per song, ironically, like the rates set by those bigshot artists. It was so bad that it was ridiculously expensive, har har.

"Please treat me well," Yumeko said with a bow, her silky black hair sliding smoothly as she did.

That girl probably spent more on hair products than I ever spent on food.

Then she glanced in my direction. Me, the girl who sat all the way at the corner, by the window.

I gulped. And she looked away. It was deliberate, I knew it, and it wasn't my imagination either. I pretended to wipe my glasses.

Voice: Yumeko 1, Me 0.

Body: Yumeko 2, Me 0.

Looks: hat trick.

Hair: I'd suspend judgement on this one. My hair was a bit short, but it's not bad.

Height: four-o.

"Thank you, Uehara-san. Please take your seat," the male teacher said, motioning to an empty chair. Boys and girls alike were already chattering, some of them asking her questions with eager faces. Probably clichéd questions, they must have memorized a script somewhere.

Popularity: five-zero.

"Yukiko," the twintailed girl by my side whispered.

"Huh?"

She looked around before continuing in her hushed voice, "Your face is red."

Oh, gee!

"I just… don't feel very well, Sasaki-san," I answered faintly, resting my cheek on an arm. Poor Momoka. It'd been quite a few months already. She kept going on first name terms with me while I kept addressing her with her familial name.

I wondered why I'd be jealous of someone like Yumeko. I usually never cared for bimbos like her. Maybe it was the intelligent glint in her eyes.

Oh…

I just noticed. She kept her introduction short, because she wanted to pretend like she didn't want to make herself stand out too much, like she was a modest person! Passive-aggressive pretentious modesty! It's like she was saying, "Hey everyone, don't mind me, I'm just an ordinary, boring, unattractive girl," just to make others blurt, "Are you frigging kidding me?" Just, no. If you're unattractive, then what the heck was I?

Look at her make-up! She was sneaky enough about it that she could pretend she was just a student with natural beauty. I knew she was wearing them!

And that confident, self-aggrandizing pose!

Guys, stop staring at her… front! It was disgusting and you all weren't even hiding it!

I hit the desk with my forehead.

Ow, my glasses.

It was so unlike me to feel worked up just from some bimbo. She was just an empty airhead, a social showgirl.

But then I noticed another sneaky glance from those subtly mascaraed eyes.

I couldn't help but to examine a sneaking suspicion that I tried to suppress with all those internal rants.

One: she was targeting me for reasons that, heck, I didn't know. I knew that glance. It was the "Oh, you're so cute, let me play with you," kind of glance. Princess-level bullying!

Two: she was smarter and more competent than me. She had looks, manners, social skills, popularity, money – yeah, don't leave out money – and now my guts were churning, telling me that I might be seeing someone who outclassed me in an area that I had felt secure in - intelligence. That was just unfair. How could someone had everything? Why couldn't humans have the same STAT points so that they could distribute it as they wanted? The world was messed up because we had too many game breakers already!

Relax, relax, Yukiko, you're being irrational again. Quick, think of something else.

No, brain, bad! Of all things, why did you have to remind me of the kitchen. Mom, why were you so sloppy at cooking? You knew I couldn't stand seeing everything messed up that way. How did you even make that stain on the ceiling? Now my brain kept reminding me all day that, "Yukiko, you have to clear up the kitchen first thing when you're home, and I'd constantly flash graphic images of what the sink and stove looked like just to make you squirmy all day. You have that bit of OCD, remember? OCD, ooo! You're welcome."

I exhaled sharply and turned my gaze outside. A black van was parked outside the school fence. Maybe one of those vehicles that transported yakuza and their questionable wares. Okay, to be more realistic, the police had issued warning of the terrorist Doomsday cult that performed bombings in the adjacent district's city. Maybe it's something to do with them.

Wait… How was that even realistic?

"Yukiko, are you jealous?" Momoka whispered with a small smile.

"No, of course not," I answered simply, not even looking away from the window.

"Don't worry, you're not bad, you know."

Why would I be jealous? We lived in different worlds.

Yumeko lived in the world of the living, the world of people, a world of masks, pleasantries, veiled selfishness, makeup and hypocrisy. And I, Lady Yukiko, master of fantastic realms, I lived in the world of ideas, words, stories, books, stylized pictures and art, eldritch horrors, and all its secret joys. I didn't care about mortals like her.

Yet I decided to shroud myself with mediocrity, going with the flow, pretending like it was nothing.

Inertia was the downfall of many.

I should've run.

Later that day, Yumeko went to see me.

I still didn't run.

She singled me out in person...

…and broke my life.


A/n: hello readers. i'm mia, the author. this story is going to have everything. everything. uh i hope you enjoyed reading, and my writing is not too bad. next chapter will come, i just don't know when