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I take a deep breath. I’m nervous, but I need to do this. Everyone claims that I am so graceful, I make everything look easy, that I am the model martial artist.
Even if I disagree, which I do, it’s not like I have a choice. I’m here today, and whether I like it or not, in less than a minute, I’m going to be jumping, leaping, spinning, and kicking.
Now, the time has come. I do everything I was supposed to do; and I don’t even have to think about it. I do it perfectly, and halfway through, I wonder why I was ever nervous.
This is amazing. I feel like I’m flying, free from the rest of life, free from school, free from stress. But too soon, it’s over.
I hear cheering and look over to see my sister, Mieko, jumping and shouting wildly while waving a handmade sign bearing “GO SENRIMA!!!!” in giant, sloppy letters. I can’t help but laugh - she always does something like this. Something genuine and heartwarming.
I don’t think I’d ever be able to live without her. We look practically identical, with the same eyes, the same face, the same smile. But we couldn’t be more different personality wise. She’s optimistic, upbeat, impulsive, and maybe a little overconfident, and I’m more of the uncertain, sarcastic pessimist. Except there’s one common trait. We would both die for each other in a heartbeat.
On the trip home from the martial arts building, she can’t stop talking. And I mean can’t. Mieko gushes about my kicks and spins and shoves me hard when I try to disagree. I can’t get a single word in, because my sister is so ecstatic about my performance. I sneak a glance at our parents, and I feel like they’re laughing at me, being bombarded with compliments from my sister.
The instant we get home, I bolt out of the car towards my room, glad to get away from the endless stream of compliments. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them, but something about them always makes me feel awkward.
I don't even realize that I fall asleep. Still dressed in my uniform, with my feet hanging off the bed,I wake up, groggy. A quick glance at the alarm clock in the corner of my room tells me it’s already 2 AM - I’ve been asleep for 9 hours! No point in eating dinner or really doing anything now. I roll over, about to doze off again, when I hear my mom scream, around the direction of the kitchen.
Instantly, all thoughts of sleep disappear from my mind. I leap up, and my feet hit the cold wood floors, already running. Grabbing a random school assignment on my desk, and rolling it up as I dash down the stairs, my mind is a giant whirling mess of thoughts. Is Mom okay? What was that scream for? AND WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING AT 2AM, CAN’T A GIRL GET SOME SLEEP?
My mom is running away, shouting, “Don’t go there!” She tries to block me, obviously concerned for my safety, but I push past her.
Arriving at the kitchen, I come face to face with a giant dragon.
Before I can register that there is a humongous mythical creature that I’m supposed to worship in my kitchen, it opens its mouth and my reflexes kick in.
“DIE!” I shout, bringing the rolled-up assignment over my head and onto its snout. It bounces off, not doing any damage, and the dragon seems to stare at me judgmentally.
I give it the best death glare I can muster and thwack it again, but this time with a wooden spoon I pick up from the counter next to me. The dragon roars in pain, and I pump my arms up in victory. Then, there’s a puff of smoke, and when it dissipates, it reveals my sister, rubbing her nose.
I set down the wooden spoon and cross my arms.
“Mieko, what’s up with this?” I ask. “It’s not nice to scare Mom, and terrify the living daylights out of me, too.”
Mieko sneezes, still rubbing her nose. I’m almost sorry that I whapped her. “Um… I may or may not have manifested shapeshifting magic.” She sneezes particularly hard. “Owwwwww… did you really have to whack me that hard?”
I stand driven into the ground. Magic? I know I should be happy for her but… why does she have it and I don’t? I want magic too! I try to push this aside, and manage to force out a reply. “That’s… great, Mieko!!” I attempt a happy, cheery smile.
What a great way to kick off a new day. At 2AM in the morning, when everyone sensible is asleep.
My sister knows me too well. Immediately, she frowns, and asks me what’s wrong. I feel my face beginning to heat up - how am I going to live down admitting that I’m jealous of my own twin?
“Uh… just tired…” I lie, feeling my fingernails digging into my sweaty palms.
Mieko still looks skeptical, but lets it slide, telling me to go get some sleep. I let out a relieved sigh and rush up to my room, slamming the door and turning off the lights. I don’t want to deal with this, and I really don’t want my sister finding out about my jealousy. Maybe if I sleep on it, I’ll feel better. Happier.
But I don’t. All I can think about is the fact that my sister is all cool and magical and I’m not - I’m ordinary. I attempt to reassure myself: magic or no magic, I still have friends, I’m still cool, and I’m still a great martial artist… right?
My hopes sink the moment I walk into the kitchen for breakfast. My parents are talking to Mieko about her new powers and how amazed they are, and how they want to see her do more. They don’t even say a “good morning” to me like they usually do.
I bite my tongue before I blurt out something rude and tell myself that it’s just the novelty of the entire thing. Surely my parents will remember that their other daughter exists soon! I shrug it off, just like I’ve done with every other event that’s happened in the past day involving the whole shapeshifting thing.
I go upstairs to grab my bag, once again trying to get my hopes up. Perhaps school will be better. I take a few deep breaths, and walk out the door. The wind soothes my mind, and light drifts through the leaves. Sunlight warms my face and I inhale the fresh breeze.
I see my best friend, Eika, walking in the roads in front of my house. She looks up and waves hi. I grin so widely I’m sure I look insane as I run towards her. We greet each other enthusiastically, and I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. At least there are still people in the world that care about me; just me!
But then her head turns and her eyes go as big as saucers.
“Senrima…”, she says, beginning to shake, “why is there a dragon in your house?”
I internally scream in frustration. Ugh, Mieko! Couldn’t she swallow her pride for a few moments instead of showing her powers off to everyone in the world?! All I wanted was to walk to school with my best friend, the first person to show signs of caring about me in hours, and Mieko had to show up and ruin it! She had to steal Eika’s attention!
“Senrimaaaaa! Earth to Senrima!” Eika shouts, waving a hand in front of my face. “Everything OK?”
I take a quick glance back and see the door is shut. Thank the stars! “Yup, everything’s fine.” I say, trying to calm down. “We better get to school.”
Eika shrugs, the dragon, aka Mieko, seemingly forgotten. I breathe out a sigh of relief as we strike up a silly conversation and walk to school together.
My friends run up to us at the instant we arrive, and I grin at them too. We go sit under a cherry blossom tree, as we laugh and joke - just like old times.
But nope. Of course it was too good to be true. Of course the problem with Mieko wouldn’t just disappear. 5 minutes after I arrive, Mieko saunters in, then immediately, grinning smugly, dramatically shapeshifts into a giant dragon.
I facepalm, groaning, as the entire student body gathered in front of the campus lets out a gasp. There’s silence after that as Mieko spins around slowly, but it doesn’t last long.
Everyone in the entire school is on her as she shifts back into her normal form. They ambush her with congrats and questions, oohing and ahhing. Even Eika leaves my side, rushing over to Mieko, forgetting her best friend. Mieko drowns in the attention, laughing, answering questions, shapeshifting again, and I just stand there, watching, as everyone pays attention to my twin. I’m stranded somewhere light-years away from everyone else, lonelier than I ever thought I could be, and no one could care less.
The bell lets out a screech resembling a dying donkey, and Mieko rushes inside. I think that she even regrets that episode back in the courtyard. Her adoring fans, everyone in the entire school, rush after her. My friends. Eika. Even the teachers who’d been out in the courtyard. No one notices me, standing there alone as I rub and blink the tears away.
At lunch, all anyone can talk about is how amazing my sister is. I’m not “Senrima” anymore. I’m just “The cool magical girl’s sibling”. My so-called friends ramble on and on about how amazing her dragon and magic are - until I storm off, eyes narrowed, throwing my half-eaten lunch into the trash. Fine. If they don’t care about me anymore, well, I don’t care about them. I try not to look back as I storm off, but I can’t, and my heart shatters all over again; they’ve gone over to Mieko. Just like everyone else in the building.
I find a quiet alcove in the halls and sob into my hands.
When I think I can’t survive another moment of “Oh, your sister is so great!” finally, finally, the bell rings, releasing me from the torture that is school. Mieko rushes up to me while waving bye to her fans, and gushes about how amazing the attention is and how happy she is with her powers. I fight the urge to cry again. What kind of sister am I, not happy for my own twin? I stare at the ground and tune her out until we get home.
It’s not much better there. Everyone seems to have forgotten me. My parents run straight to Mieko, ruffling her hair until it looks like it’s been through a hurricane, and talking to her, asking about her day as they give her huge grins. In fact, my parents, who have always loved both of us equally, don’t even look in my direction as hot tears roll down my face while I stomp up to my room and slam the door behind me.
My tears could form a whole new ocean. My life was amazing. I had friends, I was good at what I did, I excelled in school, and I loved my sister. Now, just less than 24 hours after Mieko found her power, it’s gone. I have watched my entire world turn to ashes.
And then I hear her come up the stairs, toes lightly touching the floor. I can tell she’s bouncy and happy. Happy with her new life, ignorant of what she’s done to me.
That does it. I fling open the door and give her my full, unleashed anger.
“MIEKO!” I shout. “You are the WORST sister ever. You’re just the most ARROGANT, VAIN, and COCKY girl to EVER WALK THIS EARTH, and it would KILL YOU to have to stay quiet about your powers for ONE MINUTE! YOUR POWERS HAVE DESTROYED MY LIFE; THEY STOLE EVERYONE IN MY LIFE AWAY FROM ME!”
Mieko seems taken aback by my sudden outburst, and her eyes begin to water. I don’t care.
“You could not resist a single opportunity to show off your powers.” I advance on her, my finger pointed accusingly at her, forgetting that she’s my sister, in the heat of it all. “I HOPE YOU’RE SATISFIED. I HOPE YOU’RE GLAD THAT YOU’VE DRIVEN ME AWAY, THROWN ME IN THE TRASH, AND STOMPED AND BEATEN ME. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY YOU’VE STOLEN MY FRIENDS. I HOPE YOU’RE GLAD THAT YOU HOG ALL OUR PARENTS’ ATTENTION NOW, AND THEY WON’T EVEN GIVE ME THE TIME OF DAY BUT THEY’LL GIVE YOU EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING! I’M SORRY THAT I COULD NEVER BE ENOUGH FOR YOU. I REALLY HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW… AND IF YOU ARE AT THE COST OF MY HAPPINESS, THEN GOOD! FOR! YOU!”
Mieko tries to get a word in, but I cut her off, my fury growing. I don’t even notice that the air around me is crackling, tinged yellow, or that it’s getting significantly hotter. I only care about this. Just me and my treacherous, betraying, arrogant sister.
I scream all my fury, resentment, loathing, and pain into three words. “I HATE YOU!”
And the world seems to explode.
A blast of heat and light, popping with energy, knocks both of us off our feet. I curl into a tight ball, waiting for the shockwave to pass. I shut my eyes, but I see red as the light tries to tear past my eyelids like it’s tearing through my world. My mouth is a desert and I am being burned alive. I want to scream but my throat is too raw, too dry to make any sound.
I feel tremors down to the Earth’s core as the house quakes. I can feel the floor shaking, feel myself being bounced up and down, each time my limbs thudding painfully onto the wood.
I hear Mieko scream in pain, and I don’t know if it’s the shockwave or her scream that shatters the glass frames lining the halls. I hear the clear sound of glass exploding into thousands of crystal-like fragments.
After what seems like an eternity, I can only hear the sound of my own breathing.
The air cools and it feels like heaven. I open my eyes, blinking, and I see the destruction that the shockwave has caused. The floors are cracked in some places. Plaster is peeling from the walls, and where it isn’t, the paint is blackened. All the doors have blown off their hinges. The picture frames and glass cabinets in each room are all shattered. Mieko is lying on the ground, groaning softly.
What have I done?
I run over to her, and she opens her eyes. I scream.
They’re not seeing me - they’re not seeing anything. Oh, gosh, oh gosh, what is this? I begin to panic, and I lean against the wall, breathing hard.
“Senrima -” she croaks. I look down at her. “That - whatever that thing was… it came from… you.”
I scream again, this time in terror. Oh no. I’ve blinded my own sister out of pride and envy! She’s not the terrible one. I am. Tears of shame blur my vision as I bend over Mieko while she tries to reach up and touch me.
“I’m sorry,” I say, choking on my tears.
But I know it’s not enough. It will never be enough to atone for what I’ve done.