“Come on,” Kirari grinned, “It’ll be fun. It’s our last year here anyway. It’s not like people will remember the specifics of this particular school festival."
An expressionless mask stared back at her. “I would prefer not.” The voice intoned.
“Vice-president, this is an excellent opportunity to gather votes from the general student population who have no stake in the election. Eating competitions such as these, where people bet on the contestants similar to how they bet on race-horses–”
“No,” the monotone voice cut Sayaka off, causing the younger teen to bow her head a smidge. Out of the corner of Ririka’s eye, she caught Kirari frowning slightly. The vice-president shifted her weight from one foot to another, folding her arms, and regarded her sister and the secretary standing in front of her. While Ririka never shied away from poor odds or being ganged-up on, it was a whole other story when the people teaming up to harangue her were her own devious sister and her sister’s passionately supportive girlfriend.
“I quite like your idea, Sayaka,” Kirari encouraged, shooting her sister a pointed look. “As we all know, Terano currently holds the lead. I realize I anted up my seat, but do you truly want her leading the clan?”
Ririka shrugged. Knowing Kirari, the younger twin probably had machinations and schemes in place already to secure her re-election as president. Most of the student population still referred to Kirari as ‘President’ anyway, either out of habit or resignation. It was just like her sister to make an ostentatious showing at the last minute to add to the dramatics.
“We have contacts at the nearby franchise store who will be more than willing to provide us with 100 burgers– even with only a few days notice.” The tablet returned to its rightful position in front of Sayaka’s face; the secretary madly tapped the screen. “It is well within our budget, pre-supposing that we have roughly ten contestants– we can set the participation fee at five votes a piece and– ”
“How do you two expect me to eat while wearing this ?” Ririka plucked her mask off, revealing a flushed, indignant face. “You can’t cram food through the eye mesh.”
Kirari tapped her chin with a finger, appearing pensive. “Well, we’ve never tried! Now is as good of a time as any, wouldn’t you say–”
“No.” Ririka flatly declined.
“Perhaps we can simply saw a circular hole where the mouth is,” Sayaka contemplated aloud as she scrutinized the mask.
Kirari immediately threw her head back, a fit of laughter bursting uncontrollably from her blue tinted lips. Try as she might, Kirari couldn’t help but dart her gaze between the mask in Ririka’s grasp and her unimpressed expression while attempting to regain composure. It was futile. Each glance at the mask only caused her to resume giggling uncontrollably.
“That won’t be a good look,” Ririka stated on her sister’s behalf emotionlessly. Her lips pressed into a thin line at the secretary’s blank look as she was forced to elaborate. For someone who was vaunted as a genius, Sayaka could be so obtuse sometimes. “The student body doesn’t need to... get wrong ideas.”
Sayaka’s brow furrowed further in confusion. She casted a helpless look at her girlfriend, who was gradually recovering from her wheezing fit, hand hovering over her mouth.
The president inhaled sharply and schooled her expression back into one of neutrality. “Ririka,” Kirari stepped forward and placed a hand on her twin’s shoulder. She leaned in. “You need the votes. It’s just a burger eating contest and you love burgers. Why wouldn’t this be a good idea?”
It was now Ririka’s turn to look stupefied. Was Kirari being serious? She started into Kirari’s earnest eyes– eyes which currently only held keen excitement and nothing more. Or rather, nothing that Ririka could quite detect beyond that. Still, it was clear as day that a burger eating contest was a bad, bad idea. Masks and food did not mix well and yet…
“Because I don’t view everything in this world as a possible plaything!” Ririka vented, burying her rapidly reddening face in her hands. Sometimes, just sometimes, she wished that she had a less eclectic human being for a sibling, someone who didn’t find amusement in sadistic and humiliating acts.
“My, my,” Kirari smiled, turning back to her sibling. She circled behind her secretary and idly played with Sayaka’s ponytail, letting the soft, dark hair fall between her fingers. “Is that how I come off as? An uncaring twin sister? I’m simply trying to improve your chances in the election.”
“The president is right, you don’t have that many votes. This is an opportunity–”
“I’ll consider it!” Ririka breathed out from between her fingers, quickly slipping the mask on. Almost like flipping a switch, the vice-president’s posture straightened and her words flowed from her lips in a measured manner. “I’ll have to consult with Mary Saotome. Please excuse me.”
Turning on her heel, the vice-president brusquely exited the room, letting the door slam carelessly shut behind her. Now alone with the president, Sayaka tilted her head, processing the situation as Kirari tugged the tablet from Sayaka’s grasp and replaced it with her own hand. “Do you think she’ll go through with it?” Sayaka asked distractedly.
Kirari shrugged. “Who knows?” A thought struck her and an accompanying grin made its way to her lips. “Say, Sayaka, do you care to have a side bet?”
“You don’t have to accept,” Kirari offered quickly to her anxiety stricken secretary. She ran a thumb over tense knuckles.
Curiosity got the better of Sayaka. She turned to look at Kirari– albeit with a degree of trepidation. “What do you have in mind, President?”
“I was just thinking…” Kirari began, leaning in to whisper in Sayaka’s ear.
The student council meeting room had been converted into the headquarters for the school festival. Bundles of cables snaked their way across the floor, criss-crossing at the most unfortunate of places while portable monitor stands cluttered the space between the meeting table and one of the aquariums. Numerous stacks of papers sat on the meeting table: budget adjustment requests, photocopies of receipts for reimbursement, assorted checklists and other odds and ends that would make anybody’s head spin.
Kirari stared at the chaos. Well, anybody’s head except maybe her girlfriend’s. How her secretary had managed to stay afloat of all the events was a feat forever enshrouded in mystery to her. She pushed her glasses up and casted a quick glance at Sayaka standing beside the monitors, a clipboard tucked under her arm and a pencil behind her ear, juggling no less than three walkie talkies in addition to the earpiece she donned.
“–yes, there are extra tanks of helium in the shed #2, but it will cost your club– We are not responsible for the AV equipment, you’ll have to get someone else– Drop the extra burgers in the courtyard, a girl with the name ‘Yomozuki’ will be there, she’s short and will be eating candy or playing video games, you can’t miss her– yes, she's 'the furry'–”
Kirari fought the urge to rub her head. Chaos was fun, but when so many people needed to be handheld, that drained most of the entertainment away. As much as she wouldn’t like to admit it, watching Sayaka single-handedly orchestrate the logistics of the school festival slowly increased her anxiety level. She bounced her knee, the heel of her loafer tapping a soft staccato on the ground. Being temporarily out of the spotlight had its advantages. She was grateful that the other ex-council members were too distracted to pay her any mind.
“Man, when’s that eating contest gonna start?” Midari yawned, stretching in her seat and nearly swatting Yuriko in the face. She waved at the largest monitor in front of her, ignoring the angry glare Yuriko shot at her. All was still in the scene depicted: a clean, empty stage with a long table, with pyramids of neatly wrapped burgers stacked every meter or so apart. “The people competing aren’t even there yet! And there’s like no sound. What gives?!”
Irate that her girlfriend was saddled with the workload of no less than five people, Kirari plucked a stack of papers and dropped them with an audible thud in front of Midari. In one smooth motion, Kirari removed her glasses and leaned in to regard the one-eyed girl’s face. “You can help Sayaka and sort the receipts. Make sure they’re all itemized correctly. I don’t want people thinking they can expense 5,000,000 yen on a pack of hundred takoyaki skewers like last year, Ikishima.”
“I’ll run through the checklists,” Yuriko pre-emptively volunteered, sensing admonishment heading her way. Her hand extended toward the delicately balanced pile of clipboards.
“Don’t!” Sayaka barked, pulling the walkie-talkie away from her ear. Nishinotouin flinched, jerking her hands back as if the secretary’s cry had electrocuted her. Sayaka nodded at the meter-high tower of papers at the end of the table. “We need to catch up on budget adjustments. We don’t have a treasurer anymore, so double-check all the calculations–”
Sayaka's earpiece buzzed in protest, demanding her attention once more. She scowled, turned around and tapped it, fighting the urge to fling the device across the living room. “–I told you it’s in the shed– I– Just… look again!”
A cold hand wrapped itself around Sayaka’s as Kirari motioned wordlessly for her to hand the ear piece over, only to mentally sigh as Sayaka quickly filled the void in her grasp with a second walkie talkie. There was only so much Kirari could do right now. She slipped her glasses back on and wandered away from the commotion, “This is Kirari Momobami–”
"Oh, hey!" Ikishima exclaimed loudly, drawing both Sayaka and Kirari’s attention to her. Midari redirected them to the giant monitor. “It’s starting!”
“–if Sayaka said it’s in the shed, it’s in the shed,” Kirari finished the call and wandered back to the table, shoving the ear piece into her blazer pocket.
"Welcome to Hyakkaou Private Academy's 122nd Annual School Festival! I'm Runa Yomozuki, the head of the election committee! And boy, do we have a special surprise for everyone this year!" Runa proclaimed excitedly before pumping her fist, "To kick things off with a bang, we’ll be hosting the first ever burger eating contest in school history!"
Kirari rested her chin on Sayaka’s shoulder, a look of utter boredom on her face as she watched the contestants being introduced one-by-one as they made their way across the stage. They all honestly looked the same; men were truly carbon copies of each other at this point. She snaked a hand under Sayaka’s ponytail, aimlessly drawing random characters on her back. It didn’t take long for her girlfriend’s spine to stiffen. Kirari was all but about to declare victory in Sayaka’s ear when her secretary shakily lifted an arm, speechless, and pointed at the screen.
A figure Sayaka was all too accustomed to following strolled up to the contestants’ table: custom blazer, ruffled silk cuffs, perfectly even looped wreaths of platinum hair– even the neutral smirk was affixed in place on her blue lips. A momentary wave of confusion washed all words from the secretary’s mouth. She rubbed her eyes with vigor, nearly displacing her contacts. What she was witnessing– or rather, will witness soon– was nothing short of unbelievable.
A perfectly sculpted eyebrow rose in amusement as Kirari regarded her twin on the screen.
“HOLY SHIT, IS THAT THE VICE-PREZ?!” Midari guffawed, her hand repeatedly slapping the table in glee as she tilted her chair to balance on its hind-legs. She was practically salivating, spittle flying into the air with every word she shouted.
“Shh!” A hiss– presumably from Yuriko. The head of the Culture Club simply wished to melt into the floor at this point.
Sayaka’s eyes widened and her jaw nearly hit the ground when ‘Ex-President Momobami’ turned around with a serene expression and gracefully took her seat. The walkie-talkie fell out of her limp hands as she stared, clattering on the ground. Try as she might, Sayaka was unable to tear her violet eyes away from display. “Pre...sident?” The title tumbled incredulously out of her mouth.
At any other time and space, in her wildest imaginations, having two Kiraris would titillate her inner fantasies into a frenzy.
In reality, however, the prospect of having two Kiraris– the real one standing beside her in person and the… the… imposter ready to partake in the grotesque burger gorging contest– was swiftly descending into a waking nightmare.
“Our final contestant is none other than our former president, Kirari Momobami! Such grace, such splendor! Is there a gamble she won’t truly take on?”
‘Kirari’ politely raised a hand in acknowledgment toward the camera.
Enraged, Sayaka scooped the walkie-talkie off the ground and fumbled at the knob. She dialed into the election committee head’s frequency. “Cut! Cut the feed! Cut the feed, Yomozuki! I swear to God if you don’t cut the feed to the broadcast–”
“...and to ensure absolute neutrality, we will be streaming the entire gamble!” Runa Yomozuki spun into view on a wheeled chair and declared happily, pointing her purple sucker directly into the camera with a devious wink. She proudly tugged at the sash slung across her small frame (‘I AM REAL’, the sash proclaimed with vigor). “This will be a timed contest– whoever can eat the most burgers in ten minutes takes all the votes! Nyah!!”
“YOMOZUKI!” Sayaka shrieked into the device, utterly consumed by rage. The veins on her forehead pulsed and strained. She slammed the walkie-talkie back onto the table with enough force to rattle the precarious towers of documents. One day… someday, Sayaka swore she will get back at the pint-sized gremlin for this.
“Contestants, are you ready?” Runa lifted a flare gun into the air, index dancing on the trigger.
“Calm down, Sayaka.”
“But President, your sister– that imposter !” Sayaka’s knuckles were white as bone as she threw an arm out at the screen, nearly making contact.
“Let her.” The two words sounded more like a challenge and less like permission. Kirari strode over to her usual seat at the end of the table, watching the monitors keenly at an angle. Sayaka swallowed any other further protests and demurely followed suit, silently taking up her usual post beside Kirari as the latter crossed her legs.
“...and Kirari Momobami has moved onto her third burger in less than a minute! Then again, I expected nothing less from our former president. I wonder what other skills she has hidden up her sleeves!” Runa tittered enthusiastically.
Kirari merely crossed her arms, cocking her head slightly to the side. Gone was the amused twinkle in her blue eyes. To say that she was unimpressed with the way things were put on display would be the understatement of the century. It was clear from the president’s expression that disgust was rapidly taking over amusement, from the subtle twitching of her eye and the way she bit her inner lip. Sayaka wasn’t a betting woman, but even she would gamble on Kirari being the only-child in the Momobami branch when this cursed day was finally over.
“And that’s burger number five for Kirari Momobami!” Runa shout-casted zealously into the mic in her small hands, capping it off with a hearty laugh. “She’s got plenty of time left to snag the world record!”
Everyone in the room stared– entranced– at how the ex-vice-president-turned-fake-president seemingly unhinged her jaw to take a gargantuan bite out of the burger in her hand. The blue lip gloss had long since faded. Shiny grease coated ‘Kirari’s’ fingers as she caught a few strands of shredded lettuce threatening to escape her mouth. Tomato guts littered the table in front of her, its liquid entrails mixing with scraps and debris of previous burgers that didn’t quite make it.
“Is that why your clan’s called the ‘Hundred Devourers’, Prez?” Midari cackled, watching as the ‘ex-president’ reached for another wrapped burger from the pile.
Kirari shot a bored look at Ikishima. “How about I remove the ‘death’ part from your surname so you can live forever ?”
On screen, ‘Kirari’ flattened a burger with the palm of her hand, slapping it as if she were crushing it– both literally and figuratively. The camera zoomed in, capturing the oil globules mixing with the liquid of tomato viscera. A string of onion jutted out in protest, only to be disciplined by a finger hastily pushing it back between the bun and patty. Three bites was all it took for ‘Kirari’ to devour the pancaked burger.
Silently and deliberately, Kirari removed her glasses, folding the arms delicately and placed them on the table. The world blurred just enough to obscure and spare her the details. Her lips pursed into an even more neutral line, if that were even possible. She laced her fingers under her chin, propping her elbows on the table before solemnly closing her eyes.
For the first time in her seventeen years of life, Kirari Momobami did not want to see.
“Our vice-president has had plenty of practice when we were growing up. Her enthusiasm for American… cuisine wasn’t a secret by any means,” Kirari explained casually, eyes still closed, as if she were describing the average temperature outside in the courtyard. Her mind, though, pondered: was it even fair to ascribe the word ‘cuisine’ to a diet of what was essentially obesity-inducing carbs and fats and grease ? ‘Grub’ felt more appropriate. Memories of Ririka enthusiastically digging through a bucket of KFC during Christmas resurfaced, unbidden, as well as recollections of Ririka ripping into the packaging of numerous Happy Meal toys in her quest to ‘catch ‘em all’.
Put gently, Ririka had a lot of practice.
Dismissing her wayward thoughts, Kirari’s hand idly waved at the monitor where her sister continued inhaling the burgers at a speed that could only be described as ‘otherworldly’ and ‘break-neck’. On screen, ‘Kirari’ hurriedly wiped away a mixture of mayo and ketchup that a loose piece of lettuce had dolloped on her chin; that same hand soon rushed for another burger, cramming it into her mouth and sinking her teeth into it. By now, all pretenses of formality had been dropped; the concept of chewing with one’s mouth closed was all but abandoned.
“Nonetheless, it appears that I’ve neglected to teach her table manners,” the younger Momobami twin commented, just as Ririka nearly choked on screen, eyes bulging wide as her cheeks inflated like a pufferfish’s.
Sayaka sighed, closing her eyes as well after seeing a dribble of drool escape the older twin’s lips. She twisted the knob on her walkie-talkie. “Inaho, that zoom-in was wholly unnecessary.”
“Sayaka,” Kirari called in the lightest tone she could muster. Her heavy chair scraped sharply against the floor as she rose to her full height. She briskly moved toward the door, skirt swaying aggressively. There were many things in the world that she could financially and emotionally recover from; this was probably not going to be one of them. “Let’s pay my beloved older sister a visit, shall we?”
“Ugh…” Mary wrinkled her nose as she held Ririka’s long hair back, watching the older girl feebly cradle the toilet as she heaved up semi-digested stomach contents for the umpteenth time. “How are you now? Better?”
Ririka merely groaned in response. The cool tiles against her stockinged legs were an understated blessing. Normally, she would be disgusted at the thought of collapsing on the restroom floor, but she was beyond care and reason at this point. The only thing that disgusted her was herself. If she could convince Mary to excise her stomach with a questionably dull knife, she would’ve done so by now.
Mary weakly patted the older Momobami twin on her back. Never in a million years did she imagine she would be holding some girl’s hair back as she continued hucking the contents of her stomach into the toilet, as if she were playing the role of a dutiful wife whose partner was experiencing morning sickness. “Thirty-two burgers. Thirty-two fucking burgers in ten minutes , Ririka. Ten . You tied the world record set by a grown man. Did you have to go that far? You could’ve won with thirteen.”
Ririka sniffled, spitting into the toilet bowl. Her mouth felt like a cow had died in it and made the round trip down to her stomach and back to her taste buds– which, really, wasn’t too far from the truth. “Side-bets,” Ririka gasped before letting her stomach borrow her mouth again.
The blonde grimaced as she gently tugged the older girl back, eliciting painful whimpers. She closed the lid and flushed, trying to not look at the contents as she did so. “I don’t think you had to worry about that. I still can’t believe...” Mary sighed, unable to synthesize her bafflement and amazement into words. Granted, she was the one to push Ririka into impersonating Kirari– at the time, it was like killing two birds with one stone.
“You had side-bets,” Ririka whispered hoarsely, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, looking nothing like the epitome of grace. A light sheen of perspiration coated her forehead. Her bangs clung to her skin in disarray. “We’re supposed to be accomplices, remem–”
Nausea interrupted her yet again. Mary reflexively threw open the toilet lid just in time for a stream of projectile vomit to narrowly miss the sleeve of her red blazer. Ririka idly wondered if she would even have any functioning taste buds by the end of all this. Her sweaty hands clung to the edge of the white porcelain.
Mary's fingers gently massaged between Ririka’s shoulder blades. “You could’ve eaten only fifteen and came out with more votes than your sister,” she reasserted with less edge in her tone. Mary wrinkled her nose as she re-flushed again.
The bathroom door swung open and familiar footsteps steadily approached. Mary watched as Ririka stiffened, her pale face blanching even more. “Oh, no,” the fake ex-president groaned weakly.
“Leave.” Kirari’s voice rang loud and clear through the bathroom.
Growling, Mary turned around to see the ex-president and her secretary looming over them. "Look, we don't have to listen to your powerless ass now. So why don't you–"
“Leave. Now." Kirari’s voice made the hair on the back of Mary’s neck stand on end, sending chills shooting through her veins and freezing her in place despite the missive. Ririka’s hair fell from her grasp. A hand darted out and gripped the second-year blonde by her chin, nails threatening to dig crescents into the skin. "Are you deaf, Mary Saotome?”
Despite sweating bullets, Mary grinded her teeth and stood steadfast. “No damn way I’m leaving Ririka with you of all people–”
"This is a family affair." Kirari snapped, blue eyes crackling with electricity. "Do not make me repeat myself again, Saotome. Or I will guarantee you that you will have no election to compete in and no–" Kirari's gaze flickered to her helpless sister still on the ground "– partner to speak of."
Behind Kirari, Sayaka Igarashi brandished her infamous taser and clicked it on and off, zapping the air with sharp buzzes. Violet eyes narrowed into an emotionless haze, reminiscent of an apathetic assassin.
Mary didn’t need to be told thrice. With poorly concealed fear in her eyes, she backed up, crashing into the partitioning before stumbling out of the stall itself. Even if Kirari didn’t destroy her outright, she had no doubt that the ex-president’s lap dog of a secretary would happily finish the job. “I’ll wait outside for you, Riri–”
“Sayaka, kindly escort Mary to the student council meeting room and ensure that she doesn’t leave until I return.” Kirari’s eyes slid over to her sister’s pathetic form. Kirari couldn’t tell what was more disgusting: the inhalation of thirty-some odd grease-loaded burgers or Ririka’s burgeoning friendship with a school toilet. “I won’t be long. Oh, and lock the door, please and thank you.”
Ririka whimpered as Mary’s footsteps withdrew.
As soon as the door closed and the lock clicked into place, Kirari sighed. “Well, was it worth it?”
Ririka shook her head, completely enervated. A cool, damp cloth met her face. Being behind her sister, Kirari quite couldn’t see what she was doing, leading to a narrowly poked eye and the occasional finger in Ririka’s mouth. "Mmmhm! Mhm! Hrmph! Kira-ph! Sto-pm" Ririka strangled out.
In typical Kirari fashion, that only encouraged the hand mopping at her face to become more belligerent in its cleaning efforts, smushing her cheeks and nose and mouth as if her face were one giant blob of dough. After what felt like a drowning eternity, an uncapped water bottle jabbed at the corner of Ririka’s lips.
“Rinse and spit, Miss America,” Kirari instructed in a slightly amused tone.
Ririka obeyed without protest.
“Do you feel better?” Despite the coolness in her sister’s voice, there was a slight undercurrent of concern.
Groggy, Ririka nodded and sat down, giving her knees a much needed break. Her back hit the stall wall and she crumpled, legs in a limbless mess on the ground. She stared at the toe of her loafer regretfully. “Unnnghhh… how upset are you?”
“About you asserting my identity and taking it for a joyride?” Fabric and foil alike rustled above Ririka, but she couldn't bring herself to tilt her head up and quell her curiosity. Frightened that any further motion would reduce her to a projectile puking mess again, Ririka simply continued staring blankly at her tip of her loafer. This prompted Kirari to crouch down, meeting her at her pitiful eye-level. “Don’t worry, Ririka, I’m coming to terms with it.”
What she saw in Kirari’s hand nearly triggered her gag reflex.
It was another burger.
Or rather, in Mary Saotome’s language: it was another fucking burger.
Every fiber in Ririka’s being recoiled in revulsion as Kirari opened her blue-tinted lips and took a small, delicate bite out of it. Her younger sister held eye-contact with her as she chewed slowly, with her mouth closed. Kirari swallowed, a thoughtful expression crossing her face. “It’s actually not bad.” Kirari proffered the burger innocently in front of Ririka’s face. Her other hand ruffled Ririka’s disheveled hair. “Would you like some, my beloved older sister?”
Dry sobs escaped Ririka’s lips as she scrunched her face in misery at the smell of grilled beef and onions. Where did her mask go anyway? “Go away,” she whined.
Kirari shrugged and took another dainty bite from the burger, her lacquered nails scraping the foil, her teeth crunching loudly on the lettuce. The crisp sounds grated against Ririka’s eardrum, causing her to shudder in horror. Her throat bobbed as she swallowed deliberately. “Please, Ririka, let me be the responsible one for once. Sayaka has informed me that death by choking on vomit is a possibility– and I can’t simply let you pass away in such an embarrassing and crude fashion.”
“Go away.” Ririka moaned, head lolling to the side. Misery dripped from every syllable. Drowning herself in the toilet bowl looked more and more appealing with each passing minute.
“You made me lose a side bet to Sayaka, too,” Kirari divulged, almost as an afterthought. She took one last bite before wadding the rest up in the foil. She rose, smoothing out her skirt and blazer. A flick of her wrist sent the litter flying into the trash with a soft swish and satisfying thud. “I know what can be a suitable recompense, after your little stunt.”
Ririka lacked the strength to brace herself, much less fight back at whatever Kirari was about to propose. “What?”
“As per the terms of my little gamble with Sayaka, I’ll need your bunny costume– the one you seem to enjoy prancing around in so much.” Kirari smirked, watching Ririka’s face fall further. “Oh, and your mask as well, please and thank you.”