Chapter 5:

Boiling Point

Hanging by a Thread

After what seemed like a long day, the final bell rang to signal the end of class sessions. Uneventful is an understatement to describe today. It was just plain boring.

Ever since Chloe and I shared a textbook a week ago, there have been random guys coming up to me and asking me questions about her. Some even tried to get physical, claiming that I was "taking their girl away from them." That's hilarious.

I've always been alone. No one's ever approached me to talk before, but my meeting with the three Goddesses of Fate slowly changed that. At first, it wasn't anything significant. Just a few side eyes here and there.

While Lana and Chloe sometimes greeted me in the hallways, Alice would not give me the same treatment. Instead, she glared at me with annoyance like no other. I distinctly remember when she said she didn't hate me. Was that a lie? I'd much prefer it if she ignored me altogether, but perhaps that's too much to ask for.

I made my way to the library. Of course, the hallways around it are always empty. That includes the library itself. As soon as I walked in, I immediately regretted it. Sitting around the foremost table were the sisters themselves with stacks of journals and textbooks all around them.

What in the world are they doing here? They must know that I come to the library pretty often. That's the only place they've ever bumped into me after school.

Even after these past couple of weeks, I still can't shake off the fear in my heart. When it comes to them, anything could happen to me.

I tried to silently back away without making too much noise.

"Ah! Yoshino-san!" Chloe exclaimed, prompting the others to turn their heads. There goes my plan.

"H-hey," I greeted.

"See? I told you guys he would come. He always comes to the library."

"Good on you, sis," Lana said with a grin. "Who would've thought that a human would actually want to stay after school? Yoshino-san's kinda weird, don't ya think?"

"Don't say that, Lana."

While Chloe and Lana were talking, Alice gave me one look before turning her head away. I decided not to confront her about it. She looks like she's in a bad mood right now.

"What's up?" I said as I approached them.

"Chloe here says your pretty good at chemistry," Lana said. "Is that true?"

"I'd say I'm well-versed enough to know what I'm doing."

"Perfect. Sit down."

I found myself sitting on the only empty seat before I even knew it. What just happened? It felt like my body was being controlled for a second, but that could just as easily be her powerful demeanor.

I looked around the table to see many sketches for potential chemistry projects, which reminds me... Dang, I haven't even started on my project. At least it's chemistry. If it were any other subject, I would've half-assed it, but I like chemistry enough to put in some effort.

"So what's all this?" I asked despite knowing full well what it was.

"These are all ideas that we spent the last couple of days thinking about," Chloe replied. "However, I'm not too sure if any of them will be good enough."

I chuckled a bit. "What? It's just a regular project. You could do an exploding volcano, and that would easily get you the highest score if you could explain what method you used."

"That's just it... We can easily make a volcano explode, but how are we supposed to know how we did it? We just snap our fingers and boom."

Right... I forgot that they're goddesses who can probably force a real-world volcano to erupt. While I don't blame them for not knowing the science behind it, it is kind of amusing that they're stumped on something as trivial as this.

"By the way, who are your partners, Yoshino-san?" Lana asked.

"I don't have any," I answered. "I negotiated with my teacher to work alone."

"Eh? How'd you manage that?"

"I gave her a brief presentation on the science of exothermic reactions resulting in the emission of light and heat."

"Exo-what now?"

"Hm... think about the volcano project for a second. Let's say you have a scale model of a volcano and added some water. If you were to drop a small chunk of sodium in it, it would explode, emitting both light and heat."

"So explosions are what you call exothermic reactions but... a more extreme version." Chloe deduced accurately.


"Wait... That's it!" Lana exclaimed. "Let's just do that! Yoshino-san essentially just told us how it works, so we can use that in our report."

"It's a pretty simple project," I said, "but I can whip something up to make it sound like you know what you're talking about."

Suddenly, Alice slammed her hand on the table, her eyes glowing visibly red. That look alone sent chills down my spine.

"For how long are we going to keep him here?" she grumbled.

"Well, we don't really have a choice, do we?" Chloe asked. "If we're going to pass the project, we need his help."

"Hah, we need help... from a human?" Alice scoffed full of hatred.

"So what if he's a human?" Lana countered. "It's only temporary, so just suck it up."

Alice smacked her tongue as a sign of disappointment. While it does feel bad to have her treat me that way, I'm already used to it. It's not like this is the first time.

Lana raised her hand upward, causing all of the items on the table to glow. With a single flick, they dispersed into the air, flying all around us like this was some kind of magical library. The items then landed neatly on the floor next to us.

"Right, let's get this started!" Lana shouted enthusiastically.

"Y-yeah!" Chloe joined her, though it was more reserved.

Chloe spun her arms around with a twirl, summoning a nearly perfect rendition of Mount Fuji. I've only seen it once in real life but numerous times online.

"This looks amazing!" I awed, circling the table to catch every angle.

"You really think so?" Chloe asked with her usual sheepish tone.

"Of course! Even the snow that encompasses the tip is flawlessly detailed."

"T-thank you."

"That's Chloe for you," Lana laughed. "She made it a tradition for us to visit Mount Fuji at least once every time we come to this world. If anyone can create a picture-perfect model, it's her."

"Cool..." I gasped under my breath. "Okay, so now you need to add water to it."

Alice spun one of her fingers in a circle, and a small stream of water began falling into the volcano crater from seemingly nowhere. However, she still kept that scowl on her face.

"Uh... O-okay," I gulped. "Now, let's add some sodium."

"Some what?" Chloe asked.

"Ah, I apologize. I thought you could make anything appear with that magic of yours."

"We may be goddesses, but we can't just make anything," Lana said. "However... it's because we are goddesses that nothing is impossible."

She stood up and walked away before enveloping herself in a layer of bright light. Suddenly, she was gone.

"Where did she go?" I asked.

"Who knows," Chloe shrugged. "She'll be back, though. Just give her a second."

A second was quite literally all she needed. That same light appeared next to me and out came Lana with a small vial in her hands. Inside were a number of grayish cubes. Attached to the clear exterior was a label that read 'Na.' I scanned the vial when she handed it over to me.

"Where did you get this?" I questioned suspiciously.

"One of the storage rooms in the science wing," she answered nonchalantly.

"I... don't think it's okay for us to have this."

"Oh well. We have it now, so let's just use it."

As unsafe as this is, I really want to try it. I'm pretty good at the written portion of chemistry, but when it comes to any practical experiments, I lack experience. High school doesn't allow us to do actual fun things.

Reluctantly, I uncapped the vial and rolled out a huge chunk of sodium. With my hands shaking subtly, I held it over the crater and let go. With anticipation, I watched as the chunk slowly disappeared into the hole.

The next few seconds happened so fast that I couldn't even process it until I found myself surrounded by all three of the girls right after a sharp flash of light. Chloe was holding onto my left arm, Lana was latching onto my right arm, and Alice was standing in front of me.

"Yoshino-san!" Alice shouted as she turned around. "Are you okay?!"

"Y-Yoshino-san?" Lana called. "Hey, Asahi-kun! Answer me!"

"I think he's unresponsive..." Chloe panicked and said. "W-what do we do?"

"N-no. I'm... fine," I said after collecting myself.

"Yoshino-san!" Chloe exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around me. What's going on? When did they suddenly surround me, and why are they so worried?

"What happened?"

"Take a look," Alice said.

I peeked over her shoulder to see the table that was once there in ruins and rubble. The model that Chloe made was completely gone. Did it... explode? That would certainly explain why my heart was beating so fast, but I couldn't even see it happen.

"So that's it," I gulped.

"Thank goodness," Chloe mumbled while letting go of me. "I thought we were too late."

"Were you guys... protecting me?"

"W-well, obviously!" Lana backed away and said. "It's not like we can just sit by and watch you explode, especially since you're helping us."

"I see... I'm sorry, Chloe-san," I said shamefully. "I destroyed your model."

"N-no! Please don't worry about it," she exclaimed. "I can make a new and sturdier one. I'm just... happy that you're okay."

What is this feeling that's taking over me right now? I've never had anyone worry or care about me. My heart is beating so fast that I think I might faint any second now, but that could just be the adrenaline from such a dangerous experience.

"All's well that ends well, I suppose," Alice sighed. "That was reckless for a human. You almost died."

"I... I didn't think the reaction would be that strong," I gulped. "I'm sorry.

Alice waved her glowing hands at the table. Each individual piece began glowing as well and reattaching themselves to each other. In just a few seconds, the table and chairs were whole again.

"Well... I guess that idea was a bust," I said.

"Not necessarily," Chloe disagreed. "The only thing we need to do is make the volcano sturdier and maybe reduce the amount of sodium we add to it. In any case, that test run helped us a lot. Thank you, Yoshino-san."

"It's not like I did that much."

"No. Your test run was very valuable. Imagine if we did that in front of the teacher and the classroom. We wouldn't be able to show our powers so easily compared to just you."

"I guess that makes sense. Anyways, now that we've sort of got that down, let's write the report."

We sat back down at the table. I couldn't help but knock a couple of times on the surface. Amazing... It really is as good as new. If anything, it's way better than before. The scratches that were once there are all gone.

Lana and Chloe grabbed a notebook out of their bags while Alice was once again just sitting there with her arms crossed.

"Okay, Yoshino-san. How should we start it off?" Chloe asked.

I pinched my chin. "Hm... How I always start my science reports is to add a brief description of a real-world situation pertaining to your project. In this case, the eruption of a volcano. Of course, you wouldn't use the same elements because the cause and effect are two entirely different things."

"How about something like, 'A volcano in real life.' Dun, dun, dun," Lana seemed a little too proud of what she just said.

"Uh... maybe something more informative and less... theatrical," I suggested.

"My head hurts."

It hasn't even been a full minute yet since we started brainstorming. Despite being goddesses, they're not really adept in the science of our world at all. I guess there was never a need for them to know.

That makes this a bit more difficult. I at least hoped they would know some basic science, but that's not the case at all. If they're going to pass, a practical demonstration won't be enough. They have to know what they're talking about as well.

"I can't think of anything at the top of my head right now," I said. "I'd have to do a little more research on my own time."

"Didn't you just give a presentation about this topic?" Lana huffed sarcastically.

"That's just it. Copying my recent presentation would only implicate you guys as plagiarizers."

"Looks like even the human equivalent to the Goddess of Wisdom has his limits," Alice mocked. "I thought you were going to help us, but perhaps I overestimated you when you were praising your own capabilities."

"That's enough, Alice," Lana growled. "He's here to help us, so let's not criticize him."

"Hah, you never were one to favor humans, Lana. You've changed."

"And you haven't. I'd argue that's even worse."

They glared spitefully at each other. I'm not too sure what kind of history they share, but aren't they sisters? I'd hate to be the one who causes a rift between them. Maybe I should just leave.

"A-Alice... Lana... let's calm down," Chloe attempted to quell the outrage. "Let's just do what we need to do and leave it at that."

"Yeah, Alice," Lana smirked. "Why don't we?"

"Watch your tone, Lana. I'd hate to drag us back to the heavens so early."

"You're clearly overreacting. So what if a human is interacting with us? We signed up for it as soon as we set foot into the waking world."

"You're allowing him to get too close to us. Minor interactions like small talk in passing are fine. However, it is a different story when we are doing this much."

Lana perked up and shouted, "What's the difference?!"

Alice rose from her chair with a face full of rage. With a dangerously calm tone, she spoke, "The difference, my dear sister, is that we are the Moirai. We have a responsibility to uphold and balance the fate of every human. With just a single word from any one of us, their fates could change drastically. Imagine how it is, say... for Yoshino-san here, if we involve ourselves in his personal life."

"He doesn't even have a thread anymore. You said so yourself when you out there doing exactly the thing you're so against right now. If anything, keeping him close to us will allow us to figure it all out."

"Enough!" Alice boomed, sending out a violent shockwave that knocked down many books from their shelves.

The thud of the many books echoed through the halls of the library before slowly fading, replaced by petrifying silence. Lana's angry expression fell, but it looked like she had a lot more she wanted to say.

"Yoshino-san. I think you should go now," Lana muttered, but our eyes wouldn't meet. "Thank you for your help today."

"Y-yeah..." I gulped. "If you'd like... I can still put together a brief research paper that'll help you guys make your report."

"That... sounds nice. See you soon."

I quickly grabbed my bag and rushed out of the library. I didn't make it far before I stopped at a corner, resting my head against the wall. My heart is beating so fast, and a trickle of sweat made its way down my face.

They're too dangerous. Every second I spend with them is a chance that I'll die for real, especially with Alice. If I somehow slip up, and she ends up cutting my thread, that's it.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I shouldn't have made that promise. This could've been the last time I ever saw them.

I tilted my head up and breathed a sigh of displeasure.

It's fine. I'll just go home, make the research paper, and give it to them. After that, I'll avoid them no matter the cost. Even if I have to give up on the only people who've ever spoken to me, it certainly beats dying.

Finally, within the safe confines of my home, I plopped down on my bed. I know I said I would make it, but who says I have to? If I just don't do it, there would be no reason for me to see them again. I'm just a human. It's not like they're gonna hunt me down because I decided otherwise.

With that, I shut off the lights and tucked myself into bed. All the while, there was a fiery debate happening in my head. Should I, or should I not? What if they really do come after me if I don't?

Tsk... this is so annoying.

After grabbing a bag of chips, I sat down in front of my computer. I ruffled my hand through my hair and clapped my face to wake myself up. Screw it. I said I would do it, so I'll do it.

First, the introduction. Presentations always have to start with a hook. Otherwise, they'll seem lifeless and imply that no effort was made to polish it. Even the best presentation would pale in comparison to a mediocre one that is able to keep the audience's attention.

"Volcanos, volcanos..." I muttered to myself. "How about... 'Have you ever seen a volcano in person before?' No, that's too indicative that the presenter has."

Maybe the girls have seen a volcano eruption before. In fact, I don't doubt it. However, if they did try to fit that in, I'm not too sure that they'll be able to describe it scientifically at all. It'll seem fake.

"Maybe something like... 'Volcanoes are some of the most beautiful yet devastating exothermic reactions in the world.' Hm... That does sound a lot better," I recited.

I wrote that down on a sheet of paper and circled it. Right underneath, I added an entire segment explaining the science behind a volcano eruption. From the build-up of pressure all the way to the inevitable explosion.

Lana seems to be the most extroverted out of the girls, so having her do the introduction would definitely hook the audience like no other. The beginning should be a passionate narration without trailing away from the topic they chose, which is exothermic reactions.

I know I did my solo presentation using this topic, but I didn't revolve it around a volcano. There shouldn't be any evidence of plagiarism.

On my computer were pages upon pages of published research papers and articles pertaining to the topic at hand, particularly the violent reaction of volcanic eruptions. I skimmed through each of them and only wrote down the important parts.

Since Alice has an informative kind of voice that can make any explanation digestible, she should do the bulk of the informative section. Everything here needs to line up perfectly. Otherwise, the entire presentation is doomed. She'll need to speak clearly and cite her sources, so I wrote down the list of all the references I used.

Chloe has the softest voice, so she really shouldn't be speaking at all, but that kind of voice can be used effectively. She can act as a pacifier to end the presentation on a good note. To the side, I wrote her name and underlined it with my personal motivation for her.

Now, it's time for the main course: the volcano project. With spare materials I had sitting around from making my own project, I quickly put together a makeshift volcano. I'm surprised I still remember how to make it. It's been a very long time, but I've done this exact project before.

After securing the model on a table, I added some water and took out the jar of sodium chunks that Lana stole. I pulled out a large chunk and measured it. Looks to be about the size of a golf ball. I held it over the crater and began counting down. Five seconds in, my fingers separated, and the reaction occurred.

However, I couldn't move my hand away fast enough, and a sharp blast burned my hand.

"Agh!" I grunted as I grabbed my wrist with my fingers clenched as hard as I could make it. "Damn..."

Despite the pain, I opened my palm to see a large red gash where the blast struck. How did I manage to make the same mistake twice? I almost died from a similar situation today. At least it didn't blow up my table.

I pulled out a first aid kit from the cupboard and wrapped my entire left hand in a thick layer of bandages. Good thing I'm right-handed.

Can I even finish this? If anything, I can use this injury as an excuse to not do it. It does hurt a lot.

Hah, what am I even thinking? I'm already this far in. I might as well finish it.

I sat back down at the desk and wrote down a report about my mock experiment. The sodium chunk that I used just now is the perfect amount needed to mimic a volcanic eruption. All they need to do is move away to avoid injuring themselves like I did.

Fifteen pages later, it was finally done. From the introduction to the conclusion, everything they need to know to get a perfect score is confined within these pages. I should be paid for this. But... if it'll help them out a bit, then it's fine.

I dropped my pen and threw my head back with a deep breath of air. My fingers are shaking from writing nonstop. My neck hurts from bending it down the entire time. My left hand is still burning. Just the slightest movement emits a painful sting. I tilted my head over to the clock.

"It's two in the morning already...?" I sighed.

I haven't eaten anything at all today, and I don't think I'm going to at this hour. If I fall asleep right now, I'll get about five hours at least. The problem is that I rarely fall asleep right away. Tomorrow is gonna suck.

I stashed the research papers into my school bag and threw myself onto the bed. Funny how I put in so much more work on this compared to everything else I do. I haven't even started on my own project yet. It's fine, though. All I have to do is deliver it to them, then that's it. It'll be all over.