Chapter 4:

No Strings Attached

Hanging by a Thread

"Oh, I forgot my textbook," Chloe said in her usual quiet voice.

Despite that, almost all the boys' heads turned like a bunch of piranhas. Before anyone could get the chance to ask her if she wanted to bump desks, she tilted back at me with a smile.

"Yoshino-san," she called. "Could I share with you?"

Just as immediately as their heads turned, everyone's eyes shot at me like daggers.

"But I'm sitting behind you," I rejected as politely as I could. "We can't just move the desk back."

"I'm more comfortable with you, though," she said as if pouting. "Would that be alright, teacher?"

"O-of course," the teacher answered.

Looks like Chloe's charm even works on grown women. If it were anybody else, she would've just told them to choose from the person to their left or right. With a gleeful face, Chloe moved her desk to mine, which meant that I had to move slightly as well so that she didn't bump into the guy next to me.

"Thanks, Yoshino-san," she whispered, her face seemingly sparkling.

"Sure," I said with a brief sigh.

So much for pretending not to know her, but I am admittedly happy that she feels comfortable enough to share a textbook with me. This reminds me of when I was teaching her about chemistry. I thought she had forgotten since she has barely talked to me since.

And so, class went on like normal except that Chloe was sitting right next to me. My eyes would unintentionally turn to her, but I drew them away just as quickly as it happened. Up close, she's truly something else. I can see why even the most popular second and third years want her so badly.

"Thanks for sharing with me, Yoshino-san," Chloe smiled.

"Yeah, of course," I said while packing up.

As I made my way out of the classroom, I heard the slight whispers of gossip coming from every direction. The stupid questions like, "When did they get so close," or "They're not dating, are they?" How childish... all of them.

After spending a lonely lunch in the library and an uneventful hour in my English class, I made my way to the locker rooms. Physical education... arguably the most hated class in the entire school. I share that sentiment as well. A majority of us walk to school every morning, so I don't get why they need to subject us to more physical torture for fifty minutes straight.

I stepped into the boy's locker room and began changing into my uniform. It's just fifty minutes. Once I'm through with this, it's smooth sailing for the rest of the day.

For the first five to ten minutes of the class, students are expected to change into their uniforms and run laps around the track until the coach is ready. I usually run alone while the other guys run with their friends, but that's fine. It's not like I'd want to talk to someone while running anyway.

"Alright, kids, gather up!" the coach shouted while blowing his whistle.

All of us met up at the center of the oval track, and the coach began roll call. After he was done, he sent us back on the track because I'm sure, just like every other day, he had nothing planned as far as lessons go.

Eventually, some kids just gave up and decided to sit by the track or walk extremely slowly. This is how it always goes because no one actually cares about this class.

When I was just about to make another lap, a pebble smacked the back of my head. It came from where the building is, but I don't see anyone. It was probably someone from the second or third floor. They sometimes throw random things out of the building to mess with the kids in PE. I turned around to start running, but again, another pebble. This time, I couldn't ignore it.

I made my way over to a corner where a hand abruptly grabbed my collar and pulled me in. Before I could even process it, I found myself standing in a dark room lit only by the small windows near the ceiling. This is... one of the gym storage rooms.

"Finally," a familiar voice said. "I was just about to force you out of there myself."

It took me a second to figure it out, but there's only one person in the school who has that kind of silver hair. Those emerald eyes glowed mystically in the dark.

"Alice-san?" I asked.

"Ho, I'm honored that you still remember me," she smiled.

"I'm the one who should be honored. Anyways, what's up?"

She flicked a finger inward with a faint flicker of light. A chair that was sitting on the side slid across the room and stopped right behind me. For some reason, this whole situation terrifies me.

"Sit," Alice said.

"Y-yes, ma'am," I gulped nervously as I sat down.

She began walking towards me menacingly. My heartbeat is steadily getting faster, and it's not for the right reason. Her footsteps echoed in the small room as she circled me, studying me meticulously.

"What's this all about?" I mustered the courage to say, but it was still shaky.

"Well, I was going to let it go since you have a thread now, but after thinking for a bit..." she paused in front of me and tilted her upper body down to meet my eye level. "I'm very curious about how a human could live so long without one of our threads."

"What do you mean?"

"The fate of every mortal is predetermined by us, the Moirai. What they do, where they go, and when they die. As evident by every past incident, those who don't receive a thread die before they reach the age of two. How is it that you survived for so long? And so... unscathed?"

She reached out to lightly grab a hold of my chin. Her hands are so cold yet soft to the touch. Her glowing eyes pierced through mine as if she were peering into the depths of my soul.

"Tsk... I can't accurately see your past since you didn't have a thread," she muttered. "The only thing I know... is that you didn't live to simply live. No, you lived to survive.

"I only did what I had to," I said.

"Indeed. You followed an aimless path your whole life. No relationships, nothing eventful... just... nothing."

"Alright, I get it," I growled, smacking her hand away.

"I mean no disrespect, of course. In fact, it amazes me that you were able to determine your own fate up until now."

"So what? Are you gonna tell me that I'm also gonna die in ten years due to a car accident?"

"I won't say whether you will or won't. As the very weavers of fate, we can't just tell humans -..."

Her brows suddenly furrowed as she looked at me once more. She quickly grabbed my face with both hands and focused on my eyes, forcefully turning my head left and right.

"W-what are you doing?!" I shouted.

"We gave you a thread, did we not?" she asked.

"What are you talking-"

"Answer my question!" she boomed.

Her voice echoed in the small room. That glare and her abrupt change in attitude made me shake subtly with fear.

"Y-yes... you did," I said, finding it hard to say just that. "At least, I think you did. That's what all of that was when Lana threw that thread at me, right?"

Alice began to calm down, her hands slowly sliding down my face.

"Then how come... I can't see your fate anymore?" she asked. "When Lana gave you a thread, I saw it clearly. You would make new friends in your classroom and form close relationships with those who once ignored your existence. However, I don't see anything. You could die tomorrow, and I wouldn't know."

I'm not too sure I understand everything she's saying, but it definitely sounds serious.

"Then... what can we do about it?" I asked.

She stood upright again and threw her fingers at her chin to contemplate. After a few seconds, she sighed with annoyance and grabbed my wrist.

"You're coming with me," she demanded.

A bright light surrounded us. Just like with Lana, we found ourselves in a completely different environment. However, it wasn't as smooth as before. My leg hit something, sending me back onto a seat but not without dragging Alice with me as she still had her hands on my wrist. With a thud, we fell into an awkward position.

My back was pressed against a wall while Alice was hovering over me with her other hand pushing against the same wall. From here, I saw a lot more than I wanted to see. We locked eyes once again, but it wasn't the same situation at all. I looked over Alice's shoulder for a second and immediately knew where we were.

"A photo booth?" I grumbled. "You couldn't have chosen a better place?"

"I-it's not like I can choose exactly where I go," she muttered back. "The only thing I was thinking about was a place where we wouldn't be seen."

Suddenly, the curtains next to us slid open, and the two people standing behind it stared at us for far longer than they needed to.

"S-sorry!" they shouted while pulling the curtain shut.

I know my face was beet red the whole time, but Alice didn't even look fazed. She seemed more surprised that we were in such a position than how we got caught.

"I think I might just die," I sighed.

"I won't let you," Alice rebuffed. "I still need to figure out why our threads don't work on you."

"Relax, I didn't mean it literally. Let's just get this over with."

Alice lifted herself off of me and left the photo booth. I joined her after collecting myself from such an embarrassing situation. This feels like deja vu. Instead of the street market that Lana took me to the other day, we were standing at the center of a mall. Various stores were lined up all over the first and second floors.

"And what are we doing here? I asked.

"An experiment, so to speak," she answered while subtly waving her hand around.

With a flick, an illusory thread attached itself to my chest before disappearing.

"Alright," she said. "Go."

"What? What do you, go?" I grunted. "What am I supposed to be doing?"

"Anything. I'm just here to see if that thread really works."

"Okay, so what does the thread say?"

"That's for me to observe. If you follow the path that I made for you, then all is well. If you don't... I'll figure out what to do if it comes to that."

"You make it sound so ominous."

"Oh well. Now, get going."

I reluctantly stepped away from her and assessed my surroundings. I haven't been here in years, but it doesn't seem like much has changed. That fast food joint is still in the exact same spot, but that jewelry store that I used to think was way overpriced is gone. Serves them right. A single necklace was worth two months of rent.

I gave up on trying to think about everything and went to buy some fries from the fast food joint. After making my order, I stood to the side and waited. My eyes peaked over at Alice, who was sitting in a small lounge area still watching my every movement.

"Um... Excuse me," someone said.

I turned around to see two girls who looked just about my age. They were holding their phones to their chests with smiles on their faces.

"W-we're if wondering you can give us your Line ID," one of them said sheepishly.

At that moment, I completely blanked out. My head tilted left and right to see that no one was next to me.

"Me?" I asked while pointing at myself.

"Yes, you!" the other one grinned.


This is new. I don't think I've ever been asked to exchange Line IDs in my entire life. This doesn't seem like a prank either, as they had noticeable blushes on their cheeks. As flustered as I was, I mustered the courage to speak up.

"S-sorry," I said as politely as possible. "I don't give my line ID to people whom I just met."

Oh... is that so?" they mumbled. "Then... sorry to bother you."

I don't know what they saw in me that would make them so dejected after I refused them. I'm not the most social person in the world. Unlike those popular kids at school, I don't give out my line ID as if it were candy. Having to answer one person's text is a hassle already, let alone multiple people at once.

"Order for Yoshino Asahi!" the cashier called out.

"Thank you," I said.

As soon as I got my fries, Alice came from out of nowhere and grabbed my wrist.

"Wha- Hey!" Despite my protest, she kept dragging me along before tossing me back into the photo booth.

With an irritated expression, she walked in and shut the curtain behind her. With her gaze still fixed on me, she grabbed the edge of the curtain with a pair of fingers. In one swift motion, her fingers zipped down, and the curtain stuck to the side of the booth as if it was glued to it.

"Who are you?" she scowled suspiciously.

"W-what do you... mean?" I cowered away, pushing myself further back into the booth.

"How did you do that? No... what are you that allows you to do that? You defied your fate that I, one of the Goddesses of Fate, bestowed upon you."

"Alice-san... I don't mean to make you any angrier than you already are, but... I have no idea what you're talking about.

"You were supposed to exchange Line IDs with those girls, not reject them. That was your fate."

"What? How is that my fault?! I just did what I'd normally do."

"That is exactly why it's strange. Your very being is supposed to be determined by us, but you somehow keep ignoring it. No... that's not possible."

Once again, Alice forcefully grabbed my wrist and dragged me out. It's just one thing after another. This is beginning to annoy me.

"Where the hell are we going now?" I sighed.

"We're going to try again," she said while putting another thread inside of me. "I'm going with you this time."

"Hah... Fine."

We walked into one of the clothing stores, where a kind lady standing near the front welcomed us in. Alice kept her eyes on me the entire time while I browsed through the hoodie section.

What's all this about fate? So what if it doesn't work? Why does she care that I'm different? It's not like I'm gonna do anything bad. I'm just me—a nobody.

"Hello there!" a cheerful employee suddenly greeted me, which made me jump a little. "Are you finding everything okay?"

"Yeah," I said after calming down.

"Perfect! And how about you, ma'am? Wow! You're so pretty! How about taking a pick from our finest selections? I'm sure they'd all look great on you!"

"Uh... N-no, I'm okay."

"Nonsense! With a face and body like yours, every piece will surely look great on you. How about this? Or this one?"

She kept picking off glamorous pieces of clothes and shoving them into Alice's arms. Now that she's dropped that disgruntled expression, it was actually kind of funny. The way she's trying so hard to decline but the lady just won't listen... it makes her seem a lot cuter than normal. The best part is that I know she's trying to be polite despite her status as a goddess. If she wanted to, she could easily stop her.

"W-wait, please..." Alice begged, but the lady wouldn't give up.

"Alright! You've got some of the store's best selections in your arms right now," she said proudly. "Why don't you go and try them on?"

"But I-"

"I think your boyfriend here would love to see you trying on different outfits!"


I almost let out a burst of laughter, but Alice is sure to get angry again. Her head turned to me with the most irritated look she's had today, but the subtle blush that adorned her natural beauty made it a lot less intimidating.

"Yeah, Alice," I smiled deviously. "I'd like to see you try them on."

"You see?" the lady grinned happily.

"Ugh... Fine," Alice finally gave in and went into one of the changing stalls.

I sat down on a small seat in front of the stall and waited. The lady was standing right next to me, her eyes sparkling as if eager to see Alice in these clothes. I thought she was just trying her best to sell the products, but it seems she had a little bit more in mind.

After a minute, Alice walked out, and I nearly lost my breath. Loosely covering a white laced shirt with thin straps was a black coat that stretched down to her thighs. A buttoned short skirt wrapped around her waist, almost enveloping her entire belly. I know she isn't doing it on purpose, but the way she's posing so nervously makes it all the more attractive.

"Oh my!" the lady squealed. "You look absolutely charming! This style suits you so well! What do you think, sir?"

While her body remained still, her eyes trailed to me. I lifted my hand over my mouth to cover the obvious red hues on my cheeks. The way the clothes fit so perfectly and enhanced her natural figure left me speechless.

"It... suits you," I muttered.

Her eyes expanded for a single second, but they quickly lowered as an almost unnoticeably small smile grew on her face.

"Is that so?" she said while looking down at herself. "Shall I try on something else for you?"

"If you'd like."

"Hm... Then, Yoshino-san... wait for me."

As soon as she went back inside the changing stall, I felt myself drooping down. Why does my face feel so hot right now? I know Alice is beautiful. I've always thought so ever since the day I first saw her and her sisters, but I didn't have that much of a reaction until now. What's changed?

"Yoshino-san," Alice called out.

"Y-yeah?" I said as I lifted my head, and again, my jaws dropped unintentionally.

This time, her hair was tied up in a long ponytail. She wore nothing but a loose jacket over a heavily cropped top and a pair of baggy sweatpants. While the last combination was elegant, this one is much more relaxed and casual. It's like something she would wear to the gym but also maintaining an alluring style.

"Well?" she smiled seductively.

"What do you want me to say?" I asked with my heart beating like crazy.

The smile on her only stretched wider as she approached me. The lady next to us held her hands to her mouth as if she were watching a scene straight out of a drama.

"Say whatever is on your mind," she said with a soft tone. "You don't seem to have a problem with doing whatever you want when it comes to your fate, so this shouldn't be too difficult, hm?"

"Beautiful..." I whispered.

"What was that? I couldn't hear you."

"You look... beautiful."

I'm not looking at her right now, but I could tell that she was satisfied with a wide smirk.

"I see. Excuse me, ma'am. I'll buy this outfit as well as the one I tried on before."

"Of course!" the lady shouted unnecessarily. "Shall we head to the checkout station?"

I thought she was kidding at first, but Alice really bought those outfits. She had to have spent at least fifty thousand yen. That's a whole month of rent for me, and she dropped it like it was pocket change to her.

"Thank you for coming in!" the lady waved us out. "Don't forget to swing by next time!"

Alice and I haven't said a word to each other since we left the store. Together, we passed up many other stores that somewhat caught our attention, but Alice always shook her head and continued onward. Every so often, I'd look over at her to see that she no longer harbored the hostility she had before. Instead, she would trail away, avoiding eye contact with me the entire time.

"So... was all of that also a part of my fate?" I broke the silence and said.

"I don't even know anymore," she sighed. "No matter what I do, I can't seem to figure you out. It's like... you don't even exist in this world."

"That definitely made me feel better. Thanks."

"Well, it's fine either way since you don't really know anyone, but..."

She turned her head and finally, our eyes met. It was as if the entire world had gone silent, and the only thing I heard was her voice.

"I know you," she said nonchalantly, "and you exist to me. That should be enough for someone like you, right?"

It's just like with Chloe and Lana. They say something completely unexpected, and suddenly, I'm left unable to say a single word. Alice kept her gaze on me as if anticipating my reaction, but I couldn't even do that. Perhaps my lack of reaction is a reaction in and of itself.

"Nothing at all?" she scoffed. "I expected some kind of reaction. My, you truly have no experience with girls."

"I thought that was obvious," I muttered.

"It was, but it's more fun to tease you about it. In any case, I apologize for the way I acted earlier today. I was... frustrated, I guess. The fact that you defy fate just irks me."

"I mean, that makes sense. You're a goddess of fate, and I'm going against fate. You have every right to hate me."

"Hate? Who says I hate you?"

Alice handed me her bags so she could fix her ponytail, but when I tried to give them back, she kept walking forward as if to send a message... a painfully obvious and absolutely arrogant message.

"What's the meaning of this?" I sighed.

"My arms are tired," she winked. "Be a gentleman and hold those for me, won't you?"

"But you're a goddess..."

"Yeah, I am. What does that have to do with anything?"

I tried so hard not to hurl these bags across the massive foyer. The moment we lose sight, it's gone forever. She can smite me if she wants to, but would I care? Not really. It's not like my life means that much to me anyway.

"Yoshino-san," Alice called. "I'll be honest with you. The fact that you're defying me makes me want to tear you apart."

Did she read my mind just now? Or is it just a coincidence? Is it too late to say that I was joking? She then turned around with a sly smile as she shot a seemingly dangerous glare at me. From the corner of her eyes, a strand of green trailed off.

"But it seems I can't do that just yet," she muttered. "No... you've piqued my interest. However, you can not stay with us. Heed my words, Yoshino-san. From this moment forth, you have nothing to do with us. Understand?"

"Y-yeah," I gulped.

My body won't stop trembling. I'm sure she doesn't intend to hurt me, but I still can't shake off the chill that's freezing the back of my neck. This is extremely bad for my heart.