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.”

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.

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

The Lonely Snow Princess of our school - Akane Yuki.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

She was scared.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

It was something deeper, I could tell.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

She was crying.

“Of course, it isn’t.”

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

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

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

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

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.

Maybe, we could become friends.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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






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

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

What happened to the cool, perfect beauty?!

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

Why are you so cute?!?!

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.

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

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

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

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

Akane Yuki wasn’t the Lonely Ice Princess.

She was just a regular girl.

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

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.

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.

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

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.