Chapter 5:


Third and Final Time

“Hinata, human beings are like glass bottles - they’re fragile and can only take so much before it becomes too much.”
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I remembered my father’s words the first time I saw Akane and once again when she confessed to me on the train to Kyoto.Bookmark here

It was then, I thought to myself, that the girl everyone revered was nothing more than a normal human being.Bookmark here

The Lonely Snow Princess of our school - Akane Yuki.Bookmark here

A beautiful, intelligent, perfect being who excelled at whatever she put her mind to, but she was always alone, always isolated, always wearing an emotionless mask over her face.Bookmark here

I’d heard the stories, like everyone else had, but I never imagined just how wrong they really were.Bookmark here

Three months ago, during the entrance ceremony, I saw her for the first time.Bookmark here

She was gorgeous; with silky, black hair, pale snow like skin and her every movement was beautifully elegant.Bookmark here

I wasn’t the only one who had noticed as I overheard many whispers about her.Bookmark here

Then, by some wonderful coincidence, I was in the same class as her.Bookmark here

I remember telling Inori and Kana about her, and it was from them that I learnt Akane scored the highest grades on the entrance exams, but refused to perform a speech at the ceremony.Bookmark here

I’d wondered why at the time, but I understand now.Bookmark here

She was scared.Bookmark here

Or, more accurately, I think she was scared of the pressure put onto her by those around her.Bookmark here

Before the day had ended, everyone in our class had started talking about her, and then, soon enough, we all heard the rumours and her nickname.Bookmark here

She had gotten that name back in middle-school after falling out with her old friends, though I feel that’s an understatement in of itself.Bookmark here

Akane saved her friend, Ami, from being badly burnt and Ami basically never said anything to Akane again.Bookmark here

By an even stranger coincidence, Ami and who I later learned were also Akane’s other old friends, were in our class too, and there were few pleasant rumours about them.Bookmark here

Ami got the brunt of the worst of them, but she never said anything to anyone who insulted her.Bookmark here

If anything, it looked like she had gotten used to the abuse - no, that wasn’t it.Bookmark here

It was something deeper, I could tell.Bookmark here

At first, I had always looked over at Akane whenever I could, finding myself captivated by her, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t the only girl looking Akane’s way.Bookmark here

Every day, Ami gazed longingly at Akane, and she always wore a guilt-ridden expression on her face.Bookmark here

She never tried to approach Akane, but she always looked like she wanted to.Bookmark here

Her friends seemed concerned by her behaviour, but I could never hear what they were saying.Bookmark here

They stayed as a close-knit group after being largely isolated from their peers.Bookmark here

Still, as the days went by, I found myself obsessed with looking at Akane.Bookmark here

At first, I thought I might’ve had a crush on her, but I knew in my heart that wasn’t it.Bookmark here

It was Akane’s face - more specifically, her expression, that drew me to her.Bookmark here

She was beautiful, no doubt about it, but she always looked so lonely to me.Bookmark here

Outside of her club activities and exchanging pleasantries, Akane spoke to no one and did nothing but listen to music or read.Bookmark here

During lunchtime, she was quick to leave without a glance back into the classroom - Ami had called out to her a few times, but Akane didn’t ever hear her through her headphones.Bookmark here

Curiosity got the better of me one day and I tried to follow Akane to see where she ate, and I found her, only to catch a sight I never expected to see.Bookmark here

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She was crying.Bookmark here

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“Of course, it isn’t.”Bookmark here

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I heard something shatter in that moment and finally I understood why my father’s words came to mind when I saw her.Bookmark here

That night, I almost called Inori to tell her what I saw, but I stopped myself just before I hit dial.Bookmark here

It wasn’t right for me to tell anyone what I saw, I knew that, but I didn’t know what else to do.Bookmark here

So, instead, I decided to be patient and wait for the chance to talk to Akane.Bookmark here

Perhaps, I thought, if we could become closer, then maybe I’d learn more about what she was keeping locked up inside her, maybe I could help her.Bookmark here

Maybe, we could become friends.Bookmark here

Maybe, this time, I wouldn’t screw it up.Bookmark here

When the school trip was announced and we were told to form groups, I excitedly asked Inori and Kana if we could invite Akane, though they seemed sceptical about the idea.Bookmark here

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“Do you really think she’d want to go with us?”Bookmark here

“Wouldn’t she be more comfortable by herself?”Bookmark here

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I said it’d be fine and, with their doubtful blessings, approached her.Bookmark here

As I walked over to Akane’s desk, I saw Ami looking at her once again and, she too, seemed like she wanted to invite Akane.Bookmark here

I didn’t know what to expect when I anxiously asked her to join our group, but I didn’t expect what we got.Bookmark here

She made the happiest, most wonderful smile and screamed, “I’ll go!”Bookmark here

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What.Bookmark here

Was.Bookmark here

That.Bookmark here

Adorable.Bookmark here

Creature?!?!?!Bookmark here

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I had to quickly excuse myself because I could feel a blush deepen on my cheeks.Bookmark here

I knew she was pretty, but what the hell was that?Bookmark here

What happened to the cool, perfect beauty?!Bookmark here

Weren’t you meant to be a noble Japanese woman: strong, intelligent and able to shoot a bow to defend her homeland?!Bookmark here

Why are you so cute?!?!Bookmark here

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That night, I was still taken aback by how cute Akane had looked and then, in that moment, I thought to myself - I definitely have a crush on this girl.Bookmark here

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I thought I might’ve done once upon a time but now I was certain of it.Bookmark here

If only she wasn’t so far out of my league!Bookmark here

Truth be told, until the day of the trip, I still thought of Akane as that perfect ideal her whole being seemed to radiate.Bookmark here

It was only when she told me about her anxiety that I finally realised how stupid I’d been.Bookmark here

Akane Yuki wasn’t the Lonely Ice Princess.Bookmark here

She was just a regular girl.Bookmark here

She just didn’t know how to act like one because of what had happened to her in the past.Bookmark here

Whatever happened between her and Ami ran deeper than the scars Akane still bore on her chest, and it still burdened her to this day.Bookmark here

I don’t know what exactly went down back then, but I was going to do my best to make sure Akane had the best time on this trip and wanted to be a part of our group.Bookmark here

After our talk on the train, Akane lightened up a little bit and she started joining in on our conversations more.Bookmark here

Though, all I could think about what the fact that I’d learnt a bit more about my crush and really wanted to make sure she had a good time in Kyoto.Bookmark here

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