Death representing endings, change, transformation, and transition.
“The cameras are rolling in 3… 2… 1… Welcome to the final election gamble!” Runa’s maniacal laughter rang in the thick silence of the room. “Here with us we have President and Vice President Kirari and Ririka Momobami, Mary Saotome, and Terano Totobami. I’m sure they’re all ready to duke it out in this final gamble!” The short girl pulled her lollipop out of her mouth with a disgusting slurp and gestured to the screen next to her. Beside her an infographic of the upcoming gamble popped up, “I’ll now explain the rules of the gamble so listen carefully, I won’t explain them again! We will be playing a game similar to the debt settlement gamble! But instead of using playing cards, we will use a set of the major arcana tarot cards. I will deal out three cards to you, you will pick one of your cards to reveal to the other person and the rest will stay hidden. Once your card has been seen you will be able to trade one of the remaining two cards for a new card. However, no one, including you, is allowed to see the card until your hand is revealed. The person with the highest combined number of all their cards wins the match. If you receive a reversed card that will count as negative points, nyahahah! We will play five matches, whoever wins the most rounds will win the gamble. However, you must be careful if during the final reveal of all of your cards you have the fool card you lose the entire gamble. Nyahaha, doesn't that sound fun!” There was a menacing glint in the girl’s eye.
Mary glanced at Ririka who sat in front of her before her attention drifted to Terano who was the first to speak. The dark-haired girl wore an almost disgusted look on her face as she addressed Kirari, “I’m surprised you let your dog take off her muzzle.” Terano threw a glance at Ririka, wearing the same disgusted expression.
Mary could feel a vein begin to almost bulge in her forehead as she clenched her fists and moved to stand up. “Mary…” Ririka whispered warningly. The blonde pursed her lips but did as she was told.
Kirari had a calm smirk on her face, “You and I both know Ririka is not my dog.” She paused for a beat, “What’s fascinating is even in the position you are in, a three to one gamble, you still insist on acting superior. I greatly look forward to seeing your face during our gamble.” An almost devilish smile took over her face at her words, sending a shiver down Mary’s back.
“Okaaay…” Runa cleared her throat in the awkward silence, “We will have three sets of two versus two gambles. The first two will take place now at the same time so get ready folks!”
Someone from the election committee walked up to their table and produced a new pack of tarot cards. Mary watched Ririka out of the corner of her eye as the cards were shuffled. The older girl wore an unfeeling expression, giving away none of her emotions.
She swallowed hard, unsure of what she should do, she wasn’t prepared to face off against Ririka. Not so soon, not like this. Her mind raced. Should she throw the match? From what she had seen the older girl was an incredible gambler, possessing a cold calculating mind during games and a completely unreadable face. Normally she wouldn’t hesitate gambling against someone she cared so deeply about but the stakes of this gamble were too high. Who was she to hold Ririka’s fate solely in her hands, especially if Kirari lost.
Her heart raced as the cards were dealt out, she stared at the three cards in front of her hesitating just for a second. She glanced up meeting Ririka’s gaze, her expressionless face softened as her lips quirked up in a small smile. Finally, Mary picked up the cards.
Judgement (20), High Priestess reversed (-2), and the Wheel of Fortune (10). Mary smiled to herself; this was an amazing first hand.
The election committee member spoke up beside them, “Okay, reveal your card.”
She held out the Wheel of Fortune (10) card in front of her. Ririka gave her a soft smile, the stark change in expression confusing her as the card was slowly held up. “I trust you, Mary, I hope you know that’s why I’m doing this.” A dark look came over her face, “I’m so sorry, I hope you forgive me.”
“Wha- What?” Mary’s heart plummeted; this was the moment that was bound to come. The moment when the Momobamis were going to turn on her and devour her. In the back of her mind, she knew this was inevitable. Of course, Ririka would never feel the same way about her, nowhere close. Mary was always just a pawn to them.
Mary closed her eyes just before Ririka unveiled the card. Unsuccessfully trying to prolong the moment, not ready to be absolutely crushed by the other girl. Slowly she opened her eyes, and all the air in her lungs left with a small whisper, “What?”
There Ririka was holding the Fool. “Riri, why?”
Mary looked to the table next to them where Kirari and Terano played their match. The younger twin noticed the eyes on her, looking at Mary with a smirk on her face. Terano narrowed her eyes at the younger twin in suspicion, “What are you planning, Kirari.”
The twin only smiled and set her cards down gently and looked at Runa.
“What?!” Terano’s indignity screech echoed in the room.
Kirari only smirked as she stood completely ignoring Terano, walking away from the table to join the spectating election committee on the couch.
Mary’s attention shifted back to Ririka as the older twin spoke, “I’m doing this because I trust you completely Mary. You’re the only one who can truly win.” She had a sad smile on her face as she stood. She stopped as she walked by Mary on her way to Kirari and leaned down, placing a gentle kiss on her cheek. She felt a warm hand cup her cheek for a few moments before she heard a whispered, “good luck,” in her ear.
She watched Ririka’s back as she walked away, feeling so many emotions swirling in her. A lump formed in her throat and her eyes stung as one emotion overpowered the rest.
A sob threatened to break free from her throat. Mary just barely held it in as she turned back to the election committee. “Wow what a surprising turn of events!” Runa didn’t look nearly as surprised as she claimed to be. “We’ll move on to the main event then, Mary Saotome versus Terano Totobami! Who will claim the President’s seat?”
Mary numbly left her seat to join Terano at the other table. She couldn’t even tell if her shock was evident on her face or if she was hiding it well.
It was all happening too fast a new pack of cards was already being opened and shuffled. There was suddenly not enough air in the room, not enough air in Mary’s lungs. A crushing panic came over her at the weight her shoulders bared.
If she lost this gamble Ririka… Something between a cough and a sob left her throat. She glanced up at Terano and saw the unbridled rage her eyes held. She would ruin the twins. Kirari specifically, not that Mary cared, but whatever happened was bound to be reflected onto Ririka too.
The cards were dealt out, each one sliding to a stop directly in front of her. She needed to get a hold of herself if she was going to win. A sharp slap rang out in the room. Her cheek blossomed in pain and her hand stung, but the important thing was she could breathe again.
Mary picked up her cards without hesitation, daring anyone to say anything about her display.
The World (21), the Empress (3), and the Hanged Man reversed (-12).
Not a bad first hand, Mary thought, though it would be stupid at the beginning to exchange any cards yet. The threat of getting the Fool card was way too high, it was not yet time to take those risks.
“Okay show your chosen card!” Runa’s voice cut through the thick tension in the room. Mary held out the Empress (3) and Terano held the Hermit (9). Definitely a good choice not to exchange any cards. “Would anyone like to exchange any cards?” Silence sat heavy in the room. Mary was locked in Terano’s intense gaze, was she bluffing like Mary with the low nine card?
No. Whatever the rest of the cards the risk was too high to exchange a card yet.
“Okay reveal your hand!” Mary dropped her cards on the table revealing a total of twelve. Terano’s cards also fell revealing the Chariot (7), the Hermit (9), and the Wheel of Fortune reversed (-10), for a total of six.
“Mary wins the first round!” A deep sigh escaped the blonde, relief flooding into her. Even if everyone had left her to battle alone, she could still win. No matter how many people abandoned her she was still strong.
“Saotome, do you want to be President? Or are you just the Momobamis’ little pet?” Despite the bite to her words, Terano’s voice was completely calm, revealing nothing of her true emotions.
A new deck was once again opened and shuffled. “I’m here to win, nothing will change that.” Mary sneered, not sharing the same polite tone.
Terano hummed in thought for a moment as the cards were dealt. “I see,” She started slowly, “So you are just a glorified lap dog. You’re doing exactly as they say, aren’t you?”
Their cards slid in front of them, as Mary clenched her fists under the table. She ignored the whispered conversation of the twins behind her. Grabbing the cards, she hissed, “Don’t underestimate me Totobami.”
Her thoughts faltered slightly as she looked at her cards. The Hierophant (5), the Emperor (4), and the Fool.
Not just the Fool but also low cards. This was definitely not a good hand. “Okay show your card!” Mary held out the Hierophant (5) and Terano held the World (21).
“Would anyone like to exchange a card?” Mary held up the Fool without revealing the card and received another one, leaving it face down on the table.
Terano narrowed her eyes at Mary’s choice, “You already received the Fool? Maybe it’s a sign for you to drop out of the election. The cards are trying to tell you something, Saotome, give up.”
“Shut your trap!” Mary growled, slamming her hand on the table.
Runa chuckled nervously at the display, “Okay ladies please reveal your hand!”
Mary set down her cards and flipped over the new one, the Star (17), combining for a total of eighteen. Exactly what she needed.
Terano smirked and revealed her hand, the World (21), Strength (8) reversed, and the Sun (19) for a total of thirty-two. She grit her teeth, she was absolutely blown out of the water on the hand.
“Round two goes to Terano Totobami! This gamble is really going to be neck and neck through the whole thing, huh!”
Her stomach was starting to churn with panic again. She needed to breathe. This was only the second round, there were three more ahead. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath; she could panic later now was the time to win. She heard the gentle noise of the cards once again sliding in front of her. She pushed away the burden on her shoulders into the back of her mind.
She opened her eyes and revealed the cards, paying no mind to Terano’s goading smirk. The Lovers reversed (-6), the Star reversed (-17), and Temperance reversed (-14).
This was quite possibly one of the worst hands she could receive. They were all reversed, almost no way to come back from this hand. Was it even worth the risk to exchange a card?
“Okay go ahead and reveal a card! This game just keeps getting more and more interesting.” There was a mysterious and foreboding sparkle in Runa’s eyes.
Mary held out the Lovers reversed (-6) and Terano held out the Hierophant (5). A low card, maybe there was a chance to win this hand still. Was it worth the risk of losing it all? She studied Terano, only a smug look graced her features. God, Mary thought, she might be more stuck up than Kirari.
“Would anyone like to exchange a card?” Runa’s voice broke their stare. Without thinking too much about the choice she gave away the Star reversed (-17). She had to at least try to win the hand, she wouldn’t win without taking a risk. A new card was placed in front of her, this could be the end.
Surprise shown in Terano’s eyes and haughtiness laced her voice, “The Fool again? The card seems to have really taken to you.” The dark-haired girl handed one of her own cards to Runa, receiving her own mystery card.
“Careful, you might jinx yourself.” Mary bit out as they both revealed their hands.
The Hierophant (5), the Wheel of Fortune (10), and the Hermit reversed (-9) for a total of six. Shit . She was not going to win this hand. She flipped over her remaining card revealing the Empress (3) for a total of negative seventeen.
“Round three goes to Terano, she pulls away with a two to one lead over Mary! Will there be a chance for Mary to have a comeback or will Terano crush the rest of the rounds?!” Mary clenched her teeth; she knew Runa was just trying to hype up the student body, but it was really starting to piss her off.
She was starting to catch onto Terano though. She just had to test her theory one more time to be sure. She focused on the rhythmic movement of Runa shuffling a new deck of cards once again, then watching them slide across the table and come to a stop in front of her.
The Hermit reversed (-9), the Lovers (6), and Strength (8). They both held out a card of their choice, Mary holding Strength (8) and Terano holding the Sun (19). Fear clawed inside her stomach causing it to churn with anxiety. Breathe and win. Those were the only options right now.
She traded the Hermit reversed (-9) for a new card. Her eyes lit up, just as she thought. Terano also traded in her card. The other girl had made a mistake, she had assumed that no one would take the risk of trading a card unless it was the Fool.
Simultaneously they revealed their cards. Mary’s stomach dropped as she revealed her mystery card. The Star reversed (-17), this might be the end of the gamble, giving her a total of negative three. Taking a calming breath, she looked at Terano’s cards.
The Sun (19), the Hanged Man reversed (-12), and the Devil reversed (-15), for a total of negative eight. “Wow!” Runa laughed maniacally, “That was close! Mary just barely managed to tie things up in the fourth round! We’re moving into the fifth and final round, whoever wins this hand wins the Presidency!”
Mary tried to analyze Terano again, but she wouldn’t meet her gaze, she was staring at something just above her head. Suddenly Kirari appeared by her side, “Terano, tell me, why do you want to be head of the family? What would you like to accomplish?” The younger twin’s eyes were glowing demonically as she stared at her.
“I want to save the family from your wretched grasp.” Terano’s words conveyed a sense of conviction but her eyes showed the truth. She had no idea what she was doing.
“Well of course,” Kirari smirked, “But I’m asking: how exactly do you plan on doing that?”
“Of course,” Kirari cut her off, “The only plan you had was to take revenge on Ririka and I. For all your bravado and scheming with the rest of the family, you never actually planned what you would do if you actually won. You never cared about any of that, it was always about revenge.” She leaned a hand on the table to be able to look her in the eye.
For the first time, Terano looked shaken, absolutely stunned. Her mouth opened and closed as she tried to come up with a response. Yumi could only look on helplessly as the girl sputtered.
Mary felt cold hands grasp her shoulders and slide up to nearly holding her neck. The hold was one thing.
Completely and utterly possessive.
Her mouth went dry as she looked up and saw the familiar face of Ririka. Her expression was emotionless, but her eyes were menacing and glowing, matching her twin as she also stared down Terano.
She may have avoided the life plan the Momobamis gave her, but it seemed she had fallen into something possibly even more deadly.
Her flight instinct activated as her entire body was screamed at her to run away but she knew that wasn’t possible. She was stuck and there was no way out. The only thing she could do was to continue the gamble.
The last hand of cards was dealt out with Ririka’s hands on her shoulders. Normally they would’ve been a comfort but now they felt more like a cage.
Numbly she picked up her cards, the World (21), the Tower (16), and the Magician (1). A nearly perfect last hand, though now it didn’t bring her any relief.
All she felt was the slow churning of anxiety and anger beginning to brew in her stomach.
“It’s now time to show your card of choice!” She could barely hear Runa through the roaring in her ears. It was as if she could hear the Momobamis’ dominating presence next to her.
Mary revealed the World (21) card and Terano revealed the Chariot (7) card. Desperate panic had come over the other girl’s face.
This was the end.
“Would anyone like to exchange a card? This is your last chance.”
A look of almost pain flashed on Terano’s face before she jerked as if she made a split-second decision, handing Runa one of her cards.
Another card was quickly slid in front of her, “Okay reveal your hands! Let’s find out who our next President is!”
Mary revealed her total of thirty-eight.
Terano set down the two cards in her hand, the Star (17) and the Chariot (7). With bated breath, she flipped over her remaining card.
“Like you said earlier,” Mary calmly spoke, resigned to her fate, “The cards have chosen who the fool really is.”