Kasane is born ugly, but her mother is beauty and grace, stunning in her presence.
Kasane has a house but no home to come to. She knows so many people but she has no friends. Kasane has a guardian but her guardian is just as bad as her bullies.
Kasane’s bullies’ cruel words shame her, and hits her self-esteem. The strangers she meets on the streets laugh and scorn like they’ve laid their eyes on a monster. Kasane’s guardian embezzles the inheritance left for Kasane and has no shame in using it to buy whatever catches her fancy.
But Kasane has gifts from her mother, gifts to make her rise to the peak of the world, to stardom.
(Gifts to Kasane, but certainly poison to those her lips touch.)
And Kasane will know beauty and masks and lies because she has nothing to lose.
There is a play, and Kasane is casted as Cinderella as a joke. Ugly Cinderella, whose inky curtain of hair covers every inch of her face.
But for all the reluctance and unwillingness to be a laughingstock, Kasane feels a rush of thrill for the first time in forever. She belongs on the stage, just like her mother. Her blood thrums and her character- Cinderella is her and she is Cinderella. No longer is she ugly Kasane, liar and victim. She is now Cinderella and has dreams of a better life.
But that soon falls away too. Nishizawa Ichika tries to put herself into the feet of Cinderella, and she needs Kasane off the stage to do so.
Kasane grits her teeth and lies, hoping someone will catch it.
No one realizes, and so, Nishizawa Ichika replaces her.
Or at least, Ichika was supposed to. After all, who’s to know the switching of faces when there was no one to see it?
It is only a pity that Ichika falls down down down and hits the ground from too many floors up.
After all, two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.
Igarashi Iku-senpai was the only one to have ever come close to Kasane without the intention to harm. And that was enough said.
Iku-senpai was like a sun, Kasane mused, pulling people into her orbit, bright and daring and so happy-go-lucky all the time.
To have met again years later was a great surprise, even if there was no possible way that Iku-senpai could’ve recognized Kasane.
And yet, somehow, she did.
(A long long time ago, Kasane would have admitted tentatively that Iku-senpai was perhaps the only one Kasane could ever call a friend.
A long long time ago, Kasane would have been happy that Iku-senpai was far far away from death.)
Kasane has been putting on a mask called Nina Tanzawa for months now. Playing as someone else is difficult work, but Kasane will do it, because she is now someone who everyone who gazes upon with awe.
Deep, deep down, Kasane envies Nina. Beautiful Nina, with tired parents, and a childhood stemming from a troublesome syndrome. But still far luckier than Kasane’s own hell of a childh-
Kasane scowls, shaking herself out of it, she would not let herself look upon that time again. Not when she has everything she wants, right at her fingertips.
Peering into a mirror, all that is reflected is “Nina Tanzawa”, with her head held high, shoulders back, red tinted lips curling into a smirk: one who has gotten to the highest point of life and can bathe in luxuries easily.
Yes, Kasane thinks, I am Nina Tanzawa now, actress and happy, but mostly above everything else, beautiful and important.
It all comes crashing down once the real Nina throws herself off a building. Habuta runs himself ragged, picking up the pieces and making negotiations with Kasane’s guardian and paying the hospital bills.
Kasane cannot find it in herself to be anything but glad that Nina is not dead, only a Sleeping Beauty. Despite her eagerness to take from the beautiful, she had never wished for Nina’s death.
(But in a private corner of her heart, she cannot disagree that she is relieved that she has not lost the easy, cultivated path to fame.
She has been spoiled by what beauty brings her, and she is greedy for more.)
Kasane should have known. How could have she thought she was lucky enough to come across someone who would not have any relation to her mother when their faces were almost identical?
Nogiku, beautiful Nogiku, with eyes far too old for her age, and yet naivete shining through for the simplest of things. Nogiku was radiant, but she was dulled and cracked from the bitterness of life.
Nogiku was... for a lack of better words, entrancing. She drew Kasane in, with the bottomless depth-sadness, really-in her eyes, how sometimes her involuntary actions were unusual responses to what should’ve been common in normal childhood.
(Kasane laughed as she caught herself, she was a hypocrite. After all, she was just experiencing her own should've-been-childhood as an adult now.)
When Nogiku confirmed her betrayal against Kasane, Kasane nearly crushed her hands underneath her robes of Lady Macbeth. Her face, though, said nothing of the pain in her hands, nor the crushed state of her heart, and only a light smile sat itself on her dainty face for the audience.
Acting had never been so important, yet so useless to Kasane.
(Perhaps, Kasane lamented, perhaps, if they’d met under different circumstances, if they never had a feud that began before their births, if they simply hadn’t been so unlucky, maybe they could’ve been bosom friends.
But those were only pipe dreams for an innocent, naive child, and Kasane was anything but.
Not with all the screams and whirlpool of horror that would consume her if she ever looked back.)
Kasane understands what she’s done, but there is little remorse, if any left, now that she taken so many faces and destroyed so many people’s lives.
Nishizawa Ichika was a cute child, yet she was a bully armed with a sharp tongue. Oh well, Kasane tells herself, at least she was a given a chance. It was just an accident, very unfortunate really, that Nishizawa-san fell off the ledge.
(As she said those words, Kasane brought her hands and laid itself against her porcelain skin, right where a long deep scar should have been, and smiled her gentle, yet empty smile that failed to reach her eyes.)
Nina was lovely woman, but was always pulled down by burdens and expectations. (A flicker of remorse, true genuine regret, filled Kasane’s eyes, but they always disappeared a second afterwards.)
Nina, who suffered from her sleeping disorder, but had caring parents to make up for it. Nina, who had crippled self-worth, but a sprouting seed of hope and ambition. Nina, who feared sleeping, but had more than enough persistence to chase it off. Nina, who had been at the end of her rope, met Kasane, who gave Nina a reputation, false as it may be.
Yes, Kasane chuckled with no real humor, life was fair to Nina. It was only that Nina was too fragile, too weak to change herself.
Nogiku has a sort of beauty that radiates from more than just having a pretty face. Undeniably so. Kasane pities her really, such beauty, yet so much more misfortune than good.
Kasane thinks that this is a fitting punishment for a betrayal for someone like Nogiku: being reduced to nothing but a figure locked up, just like her poor, poor mother, trapped in a basement where light never reaches, never getting a chance to quench her thirst for vengeance.
(Kasane’s eyes dim and grow colder. Kasane had no intention of waiting for her death when there was still so much more for her to do.
She muses, had Nogiku let the matter rest and left the past where it belonged, neither of them would have been in such states: one who was locked inside a room away from prying eyes, and another having too many secrets to keep before they would all spill out.
But truly, like mother, like daughter, in too many ways alike.)
Kasane reminisces of times before the betrayal, before identities were realized, before everything went wrong, and Kasane realized the only she could truly depend on was herself.
When they’d meet in the small, quaint cafe, Nogiku would stare at Kasane, as though searching for something, but Kasane had a feeling she wasn't really looking at her. No, her gaze was one of resignation for the same results, and then Nogiku would catch herself and divert her gaze, and the topic would change.
When they had sat on the gritty sand of the beach, Kasane would catch the momentary happiness giving way to sorrow. No, instead of “giving way”, it would be more accurate to say that in Nogiku, happiness and sorrow lives in tandem, and more often than not nowadays, sorrow and rage and resignment fills her face now that she lives like her late mother.
Kasane would linger on those moments, where neither knew the identity of the other, and their time would be spent as friends, talking of the mundane and boring.
(But Kasane understood Nogiku’s wish for tabula rasa- a blank slate. After all, was that not what Kasane wished for at the end of everything, where she could throw her ugly self away and become a different person?)
All the world’s a stage, Kasane waving off the memories, and I am the last one laughing.
She turns and once she steps past the doorframe, she is no longer Kasane anymore. Now she is someone else entirely.
Kasane looks back and all she sees are hands clutching her legs, any inch of skin, trying to drag her into the pool of darkness they arise from. Trying to pry them off does nothing, her hands only slip through, and behind her is her mother in all her wondrous glory, young and smiling a familiar smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.
Kasane hates it. She hates the image of her mother, whom everyone seems so attached to. She wants to yell and scream and throw tantrums, because Fuchi Sukeyo does not need to be alive to still be important.
She is so tired. No matter who she becomes, no matter how diversely beautiful her face become, all everyone seems to need is Fuchi Sukeyo. All Kasane is, is just a substitute for a dead woman.
Kasane knew she was walking under the light of her mother. But she thought she had broken away from her shadow, when she survived the role of Lady Macbeth.
Kasane has lived too long in the light of the stage, her ears have been filled with the applause and cheers of the crowd, her eyes have gotten too used to the light, that when she falls into the unforgiving abyss, she has forgotten how it felt. She is in a black hole, void of sound light and the happiness she’s worked so hard to attain.
But who is the applause really for? The product of her wondrous acting skills she plays as or Kasane herself? (Kasane knows the answer to that question, and she cannot help feeling bitter, like someone has stolen what should have been hers.)
How ironic that her life of happiness is her ultimate cause for her unhappiness. She is nothing but a bystander watching her credit stolen by her own creation, the puppeteer behind the puppet.
(Kasane understand now: while she may be the last one laughing, while she may be the winner, she is all alone, playing a game for someone else)
What is Kasane when all she is, is a lie?
Kasane burns like a shooting star, fast and instantly. Kasane fuels herself with a hatred for her ugly self, her desire for beauty, her life on the stage, and with the help of her lipstick, she manages to rise to the top, but it’s not forever. All stars wink out eventually.
Nothing in Kasane’s life was permanent; everyone has come and gone. Kasane should have expected it, but she had deluded herself with how great she’d become.
Oh well. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances.”