Yixin's fists were curled in on themselves, her palms were layered in what would surely be a shimmering glaze of sweat, but she didn't know what else to do. Before her, in her irritatingly beautiful splendour, was Kim Jungda. Not that she knew that knew that in those initial moments.
At first, Yixin had fought to avoid the woman rumoured to rival her musical talent. She had steered clear of the southeast corner of the large building with the purpose of never coming across that woman, the one who got her teeth grinding in seemingly unprovoked frustration. It seemed irrational, but Yixin was protective over her music. The idea of somebody coming out better than her shook her spine and churned her stomach unpleasantly.
Avoidance, it appeared, had been fruitless. Especially when Yixin walked into her practice room and found another woman sat at the bench of the piano. There was no music being played, but there were tips of fingernails, painted deeply in green, resting on the keys of her piano. She could usually breathe through the anger, she was well practised in staying calm when she needed to do so, but there was something about the way the woman was sat. The lady was poised to play, and she was comfortable with it.
"Excuse me?" Yixin frowned, her tone beyond accusatory. "I think you have the wrong room. This is my practice room."
The lady didn't move, not for a few moments, until one finger pressed against one of the keys. More notes followed after the first, the melody created sank deep into a pit under the churning anger Yixin felt. The well of admiration within Yixin that was rarely touched began to fill, she was both wonderstruck and disgusted by the tune. It was dizzying, something was trying to click into place in her head and she could not, for the life of her, figure out exactly what what was. If anything, it felt like a memory that sat just out of reach. Her fingertips skimmed over it but it wasn't in her firm grasp.
Until the song ended with a gentle brush of a few keys.
"You know," the woman started, her Mandarin accented and somewhat clumsy in its tones, "I never expected to find Zhang Yixin here. Of all places, right here. Directly under my nose."
The lady twisted on the piano stool, her leather ankle boots placing themselves down on the floor before she stood to look Yixin in the eye.
"When I had learned of the Chinese prodigy in the northwest practice room, I'd been fuelled with this revulsion. How dare another musician be so admired by the company? I flew straight here from Korea to accept a placement with this orchestra with the assumption I would be the first choice. So imagine how I felt when, barely a week after my arrival, whispers emerged of a woman coming to dethrone me as the top player. And then when this woman appeared, she had everybody in awe. Each person she came across only sang her praises, adoring her passion and musical intellect.
"When I came in this morning to practice and hear the name Zhang Yixin, I was sure I was mistaken."
Yixin frowned, her fingers curling into the bottom of her shirt as she regarded the other woman with a sense of confusion. The lady rolled her eyes, stepping forward until she was within reaching distance from Yixin.
"I don't understand."
The woman laughed, curling her hair around her ear, "Of course you don't."
Again, the woman edged closer, her left hand sifting through her shoulder length her with fluttering ease. Her green fingernails sticking out amongst the strands.
"I'm normally a minimally jealous person. I don't feel hard done by very often, nor do I get these overwhelming waves of impulsive frustration at the mere mention of somebody I don't even know the name of." The woman's hand fisted in her hair, frustration marring everything about her appearance as Yixin stared at her, bewildered. How could nonsensical stress look so wonderful? "And then there are these feelings within me, this envy I feel when people come into contact with this unknown person. I want to be them, I don't want to be stuck at this distance, it's like I don't know what to do. I have these impulsions to get closer but they're wrapped up in the need to be better, to be the best."
Yixin took a slight step backwards as the woman's arm flung itself out of her hair, the black flash of a name on her wrist blurring in front of Yixin's eyes.
"And then I realised, it's you."
"Me?" Yixin's brows furrowed downwards, creating a valley between them.
"Yes, you, Zhang Yixin," the lady locked eyes with Yixin, a firm grip on Yixin's soul tightened. "Nobody else in this world has ever made me feel this way. I don't know if I want to kiss you or be better than you."
With those last two sentences, Yixin's brain whirred around, leaving her speechless until her wrists felt like they were on fire. "Kim Jungda?"
Accenting the questioning call of the name that had been on Yixin's skin from her birth, she showed both her wrists to the other woman. The other woman, Jungda, copied Yixin's action and there it was. On both wrists. Zhang Yixin.
"Oh my god," Yixin gaped, the feelings all making sense in a single moment.
The unbridled anger. The admiration. The fear of being second best.
On the left wrist, the name of your biggest rival. On the right, the name of your true romantic love. As if cursed, the two women only had one name to fit both categories, one person to be fuelled by in life and love.
Jungda clasped her hands around both of Yixin's wrists, leaving her heart pounding and the sweaty palms unfurling out to return the touch. In a moment of boldness, Yixin edged forwards, hoping to prompt the other to follow suit and she smiled when Jungda read the sign. In a moment of brilliance, Yixing pressed her lips to Jungda's, startling slightly at the thrill that came along with it.
It was her first kiss that meant something, not sloppy or nervous experiments with boys and girls who hadn't yet found their match either. There was an abundance of natural feeling that came with liplocking with her soulmate, paired with the need to make Jungda feel everything as equally intensely, or more so, that she could.
When they pulled apart, the sparkling feeling on their lips, Jungda leant forwards, "I don't know if I'm supposed to love you or hate you."
Yixin leant forwards again, smiling when Jungda's mouth fell open again, their hands slipping from one another's arms to thread into their hair. Jungda closed the gap in equal measure to Yixin, their mouths opening for their tongues to press and lick at each other.
Yixin's cheeks flamed up, her fingers holding Jungda's locks tighter and she breathed in everything her soulmate was exhaling. With their eyes closed, Jungda's fingers pulling Yixin's hair out of the ponytail it had been in to let it fall down around her shoulders, giving her more purchase to keep Yixin as close as she could.
It was hot, searingly so, and Yixin's entire world blurred out to everything but the heat. It was visceral, the physical feeling of a mind game under Yixin's skin as she kissed the woman she was forever bound to.
In order to breathe properly, Yixin broke the kiss with a sigh, then a pant. As air puffed through her body, her lungs grappling for something more, she smiled. "Why don't you just hate to love me?"
Passion for Yixin, she found, wasn't confined to only music. Jungda soaked so much of whatever Yixin had to offer her, often leaving her heart working in overtime to keep up with what was being drawn out of her. The only comfort was that she know Jungda was no better, Yixin burned just as brightly for her too.
There were moments when Yixing didn't know how fate had made the two of them rivals, those slow mornings where they did nothing but kiss were fine examples of that. Though, conversely, there were burning instances when she didn't know how she could be in love with somebody as infuriating as Kim Jungda. When Jungda put her name forward for the same solo as Yixin, the Chinese woman had never felt fury like it. She had screamed and yelled until her eyes stung from the number of tears falling from them. She didn't understand why Jungda needed to compete with her over the only role she had ever wanted, it didn't compute.
Not until she saw her girlfriend aim for the main soloist position a few months later and there was a burning compulsion in her heart. She needed to beat Jungda, she couldn't let herself be outdone, not when they constantly fought over who was the best between the two of them. Going against one another was the only way to find that out, and Yixing hated it to a degree. She didn't like the fighting, the teeth grinding and the feelings of inadequacy.
But then something else managed to shine through, the knowledge that they were making each other better. Not only in music, in love, too. They would want the other to feel the most affection, they wanted their soulmate to be better than all others, they constantly wanted gold. Yet, it was the times that were tinted in silver and bronze that stood out the most for Yixin. The comfort she found in her lover when she couldn't be incredible, and the security that brought her. It was all there, fully accented by the knowledge that they would never truly hurt one another. Nothing else quite compared.