Chapter 3:

Skip a Beat

Hanging by a Thread

Ever since my encounter with Chloe last week, I couldn't stop thinking about her. She was the only thing on my mind. I tried so desperately to think about something else that I cleaned up my entire apartment, and that place has been messy for years now. Not even that worked.

It's not going to get any better, especially now that I'm on my way to math class, where Chloe sits right in front of me. It has been a full weekend since we last saw each other. Will she greet me? Does she even remember what happened? As these questions kept popping up in my head, I couldn't help but also believe that the moment we shared was nothing to her. After all, she's a goddess among humans.

A mysterious thud then caught my attention. It came from behind this door just next to me. A plaque was hung up next to it that read, 'custodian room.' Without even a second of thought, I grabbed the knobbed and pulled the door open. Just like every other closet spread across the building, it's very small and filled with stuff like sanitizing bottles and brooms. A large container was pushed up in front of the utility shelf, so a normal person couldn't even squeeze through. In a small gap on the ground was a metal jar. This must be what caused the sound, but... that begs the question as to what made it fall.

Suddenly, a large commotion began growing down the hall. Sounds a lot like a bunch of footsteps... no. Those aren't footsteps. It resembles rhythmic marching. I turned my head to someone sliding around the corner and bolting towards me.

"L-Lana-san?!" I exclaimed.

"Yoshino-san! Perfect!" she said with a huge grin, but I could barely hear it with all the commotion behind her.

As soon as she caught up to me, she pushed me into the custodian closet despite my protest, jumped in with me, and quickly yet carefully shut the door behind her.

"Lana-san, what-" Before I could say anything else, she planted her hand over my mouth and shushed me while looking at me dead in the eyes.

The marching grew closer before coming to a stop... right in front of the closet door.

"Where'd she go?" a boy's voice asked.

"Coulda swore she went down this way," said another.

"Why are you guys even going after her? None of you are good enough!" one declared.

"And you think you are?!" countered another.

They began arguing amongst each other over who deserved to be with Lana, all the while she and I were stuck in an awkward position. My legs were sprawled on the huge container underneath us with my elbow jabbing at the surface to keep me from falling abruptly. Lana had one knee between my legs while her entire upper body leaned on me. My arm burned so badly, as it was the only thing keeping us up. Combine that with the fact that her breasts are squeezing against my chest... this is just too much.

After what felt like the longest two minutes of my life, the crowd outside began to disperse and made their way to their next class. It was then that my arm couldn't handle it anymore, and I fell on my back with Lana going down with me.

"Ouch," she grunted painfully.

"Why are you the one saying ouch?" I muttered quietly. "I'm the one who had to hold both of us up with just one arm."

"You could've just let go."

"And risk causing a sound that might get us caught? I don't think so."

"What? Is the thought of being caught with me like this really that bad?"

"That's not it, and you know damn well what I meant."

Lana picked herself up and sat next to me. At least there's some space for me to hang my legs off the container.

"Shouldn't we go?" I asked.

"Not yet," she denied. "I still hear footsteps out there."

"But we're gonna be late for our next class."

"Better than risk getting caught."

"Oh, suddenly you care about getting caught."

"Shut up."

We sat in silence for a minute. This is such a strange situation that I wouldn't even dream of. It happened so fast right from the beginning, and it's not getting any slower.

"Care to explain?" I sighed after a brief moment.

"Well, I think news went around about me and my sisters, so the second-year students were suddenly gathered outside of my science class," she said. "They all wanted to exchange line IDs, and when I told them no, they kept insisting. So, I ran."

"Hah, the price of uncontested beauty."

"Oh? So you think I'm beautiful?"

She turned her whole body and moved closer to me. Even in the dark, I could see the small droplets of sweat falling down her neck. That look in her eyes could kill a man.

"T-that goes without saying," I mumbled.

"Aw, you flatter me," she smiled playfully.

"Anyways, shouldn't we go now? Everyone should be in class by now."

"Eh, what's the point? We're already late. It's not like showing up now will make us any earlier."

"Better than not showing up at all."

"Fine, fine."

She turned around and reached for the doorknob until a sudden squeak stopped her. Our heads turned simultaneously to the utility shelf right next to us. A slight movement, a gleaming set of ruby eyes, and as small as the metal jar I picked up when I first opened the door... a rat?

Lana screamed at the top of her lungs and jumped, her back slamming against my body. If I was any weaker, the impact would've knocked me unconscious.

"Hey, hey! Calm down!" I shouted.

Thankfully, these walls are pretty thick, so no one should've heard that scream.

"What... was that?" Lana asked in a panicked manner, still gasping heavily.

"It was just a rat. Don't worry. They're harmless."

Her stiff body began to relax in my arms as she let out a prolonged sigh. Looks like I found the source of the thud from earlier. Talk about bad timing. We sat in that same position for a while before Lana finally realized it. Her head tilted up to look at me. I don't know what kind of face I was making, but it wasn't anything good.

"Uh... Lana-san?" I whispered nervously. "We should get out of here."

"Y-yeah. Agreed," she said.

Finally, we were out of that cramped space. I felt the warm sweat on my forehead turning cold. I guess it was pretty hot in there with just the two of us, but it was hard to notice at the time.

"I should... head to class now," I said.

I tried to get away as fast as possible, but Lana grabbed my wrist.

"You're gonna leave just like that?" she asked.

"Well, yeah. What else am I supposed to do?"

An energetic grin suddenly appeared on her face. For some reason, it sent a chill down my spine.

"Hold on tight."

"Huh? W-wai-" I couldn't get the full word out of my mouth before we were covered by a bright blue light.

The next second, we found ourselves in a completely different environment. My head tilted left and right to see two concrete walls in between us. An alleyway?

"W-what just... I mean, wha-... how did we..." I stumbled on my words.

"Smell that?" Lana said as she took a whiff of the air.

Despite my obvious confusion, I did the same as her. It smells like... food? I couldn't even think before Lana grabbed my wrist yet again and ran for it. The sunlit sky was way too bright compared to that dark closer, which my eyes had yet to adjust from. I held a hand above my eyes and blinked a bunch of times until I could see clearly again.

Lana let out a faint snicker when she saw my jaws drop. Many people were walking down a bustling street with outdoor vendors yelling over one another, advertising their products. This is... that one popular street market on the other side of the city.

"So?" Lana pranced in front of me and smiled.

"What am I even supposed to say?" I scoffed, still flabbergasted.

"How about something like, oh Lana, that was amazing! How did you do that? You're so cool and beautiful!" she said while trying to imitate my voice. "Something like that."

"I mean... how did you do it?"

"What? You know who I am. Teleportation is nothing to me."

I should've guessed. She's a goddess, but just like Chloe, they use their powers in places where they could easily get caught. What does it matter if I keep it a secret when they're being so careless?

"Stop standing there like an idiot, and let's go!" Lana grinned ecstatically.

"Y-yeah," I said.

We followed the flow of the crowd, browsing through each stall meticulously. Many times, I wanted to stop and just buy what was in front of me, but Lana kept insisting that we get a good look at everything. From light snacks like mochi to whole meals such as entire bowls of ramen. I had to buy two water bottles because this was taking so long. Even if she is a goddess, how can she stand running around aimlessly like this?

"Can you just make up your mind?" I said for the fifth time.

"Impatient, impatient, that's the biggest problem with you humans," Lana hummed in response. "Well... you do only have a hundred or so years to live, so I guess you should spend every second of it sparingly. Fine. We'll settle for whatever you pick, but you're paying."

"You never even had money, did you?"

"N-nonsense! Now, hurry up!

"Oh, suddenly you care about hurrying up?"

"Can you stop asking so many questions?!"

I laughed at her pouting expression. She may be a goddess, but she still acts like any other human being. It's refreshing and made me a little more relaxed.

"Alright, let's go," I said.

"So you're paying, right?" she perked back up and asked.

"Sure, sure."

It only took five minutes for me to stop at a stall that was selling karaage boxes. That's a hefty difference compared to the forty minutes we took just looking around.

"Whoa, looks good!" Lana exclaimed.

"We walked past it four times," I reminded. "And every single time, you said that there was more to see."

"You have to assess everything before making a decision. That's what Athena told me."

"Uh huh... and something tells me you don't do that at all."


She slapped my arm, forcing a subtle flinch and a yelp out of me. I don't think she meant to slap me that hard, but it stung a lot. She really needs to keep her strength in check. As far as I can tell, she's the most careless out of the sisters.

"Haha! You two remind me of my youth," a huge man came out from behind the counter and said. "What'll it be today?"

"Two orders of karaage, please," I answered.

"Gotcha! One moment."

He rushed to the back, where a makeshift kitchen was set up and frying tons of karaage. The odor alone was enough to instill a nice feeling within.

"Um, excuse me," said someone from behind us.

Lana and I turned around to see a well-dressed man who seemed a little older than us. Well, older than me since Lana could be thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years older than me. He stretched several inches over me and had a gentleman's demeanor to him.

"I couldn't help but notice your otherworldly beauty," he spoke with a soft voice. "If it is not too much trouble, may I have your line ID?

Lana stared emotionlessly at the man as he held his phone to her. I can't blame him for trying. Not even the popular kids at our school were able to get her line ID, and some of them are way better candidates than I am.

While I was still waiting for my order, I uncapped my water bottle to take a sip.

"Sorry, I'm taken," Lana declared as she latched onto my arm.

I nearly spit out every ounce that was still in my mouth. Instead, I had to force it down my throat, which caused me to cough profusely right after.

"O-oh, I see," the man said with clear disappointment. "I'll leave you be, then."

When he was out of sight, I turned to Lana, who had a proud look on her face.

"What was that...?" I sighed.

"Hm? You didn't like it when I clung onto you and said that I was already yours?" she asked with a coy smile.

"I-it was just so sudden..."

"Too bad. It had to be done. Sometimes, you have to go in hard so that they never bother you again."

"Sounds like this isn't your first encounter."

"Far from it. I'm very experienced in dealing with these kinds of situations."

"Alrighty!" the cook said as he brought out two small boxes of fresh karaage. "That'll be seven hundred yen."

I gave him the necessary amount and picked up the two boxes, handing one of them to the excited Lana. As we were walking away, the cook shouted, "You lovebirds enjoy!" which was then followed by a beastly laugh.

I almost choked again. Is this really what it looks like? My eyes tilted at Lana, who had a big smile on her face as she was chewing. Either she didn't hear him, or she didn't care. She did say that she's had a lot of experience, so I shouldn't question it.

We walked through the crowd while eating. Lana finished her box faster than I could eat half of mine. Do goddesses have bigger stomachs than humans do? Chloe was able to down a bunch of dangos as if they were nothing. I decided not to ask since it might come off as arrogant. Perhaps I should've bought two for her.

Eventually, we were out of the street market and standing before a wonderful park that sat beyond. There, many people were sprawled on blankets in the grass, talking, laughing, and just having a good time. With this particular street market as popular as it is, the park is always packed.

"Whoa!" Lana's expression brightened as she ran ahead of me.

Her head twisted left and right, beholding the verdant nature all around. I couldn't help but smile. It's like I'm showing around a clueless tourist.

She ran over to a little pond and peeked at the ducklings that were enjoying their swim. The next minute, she was jumping around the tall grass like a child, laughing with fulfillment. She then fell to the ground and rolled over. Her eyes trailed to the many clouds in the sky.

"You seem to be enjoying yourself," I said as I approached her.

"Of course!" she sighed peacefully. "The only reason why my sisters and I are even here is to enjoy ourselves. We don't get many chances to relax in the heavens."

"How come?"

Her smile slowly faded. Did I ask something I wasn't supposed to?

"Every mortal needs a thread," she began. "The human population is always growing, which increases our workload. Even now, the threads we've spun in advance are slowly thinning. Once it runs dry, we'll have to go back up and continue our work."

Lana let out a heavy sigh before closing her eyes. Even though they're goddesses, they have it pretty hard. I wonder how many chances they get to come down to this world. Could be once every year. Could be once every thousands of years. Whatever the case, I feel sorry for them.

"Oh well!" Lana suddenly sprung up and shouted. "I don't wanna think about work while I'm down here. Come on, Yoshino-san! There's still a lot more to see!"

For the next hour, Lana dragged me all over the park. There were so many things that I'd seen before, yet they were so alien to her. At least I found some satisfaction in watching her reaction to these unfamiliar sights.

"I've seen many things throughout human history, but this?" she said as she looked around. "This is probably my favorite era."

"Have you ever had any human friends?" I asked.

"Nope. You're the first I can consider even remotely close to that."

"How come?"

"Cuz' humans are boring. All they do is work, eat, sleep, and repeat. The same could be said about you, but I was interested in you the moment you showed yourself without a thread. I need to study you a bit more to find out why that happened."

"So that's why you've been dragging me everywhere today."

"Part of it, but not all. Regardless of our first meeting, I can comfortably say that you're the only human ever to catch my attention."

"I-is that so...?"

We continued walking along a stone path that led into the center of the park. This is where all the cherry blossom trees are. We saw them while Lana was running around the entire park, but she didn't notice them until just recently.

"How beautiful," she gasped silently but enough for me to hear.

"I think this is a nice ending to an eventful day," I chuckled.

"I agree, which reminds me..."

Lana ran up ahead and stopped in the middle of the path. Beneath the shadow of a large cherry blossom tree, she stood there with her hands behind her back and a soft smile I wouldn't have guessed she was capable of. The faint rays of sunlight combined with the falling cherry blossoms decorated her already beautiful appearance. We locked eyes, and for just a moment, it felt as though time had stopped.

"Thank you, Yoshino-san," she said. "I had a lot of fun today."

I couldn't even say anything back. I simply stood there... dazed. She was the only person I saw amidst all the people passing by. Each heartbeat felt so heavy as if my heart was desperately trying to break through the cage that was chaining it within.

"Not even gonna say anything back?" she snickered as she ran over to grab my hand. "I have that effect. Sorry, not much I can do about it."

"N-no, I was just..." I couldn't even finish my sentence.

"Hah! You're totally speechless! Come on. Let's head back to school. My sisters are probably wondering where I went."


We ran through the park together with our hands connected, trying to find a secret spot so that Lana could teleport us back. The entire time, my eyes were locked on the back of her head, but all I could see was the image of her standing under the cherry blossom tree. No matter how hard I tried to forget it, it kept replaying itself in my head. This... is so bad for my heart.