Chapter 7:


Hanging by a Thread

I woke up to a blinding light. I tried to tilt my head away, but it hurt too much. White walls, some curtains, and a small machine sat next to me. This is... the nurse's office? Oh... that's right. I got hit in the head with a bucket. This must be the first real injury I've ever had in my entire life.

My eyes tilted down the bed to see a girl with silvery hair and her face buried in her arms. This feels a lot like déjà vu.

A subtle groan of pain forced its way out of my mouth. Despite my efforts to conceal it as much as possible, it was no use. Alice perked right up with a distressing face.

"Yoshino-san!" she shouted. "Are you okay?!"

I opened my mouth just a bit and found it extremely difficult to utter even a word.

"I'm... fine," I took my time saying.

"Thank goodness," she sighed with relief.

I froze, not because of the pain, but because Alice was showing genuine worry for me. I thought for sure she would brush off my injury like it was nothing. After all, I'm just a human. It's surprising that she's even here.

"What were you thinking?" she grunted. However, it was not with the same hostility as before. "If that bucket was any heavier, you could've died on the spot!"

Her eyes began to water with frustration.

"What was I supposed to do?" I asked. "I couldn't stand there when I knew it was coming."

"I'm a goddess," she countered. "Something as simple as a bucket would've tickled me at most."

"Hah... I guess I wasn't thinking about that. At the time, I just wanted to keep you from getting hurt."

"You're so... reckless for a human."

An intrusive thought played itself in my head, forcing a chuckle out of me.

"Is that funny?" Alice grumbled.

"Not that," I scoffed. "I just thought about an iron bucket bouncing right off the side of your head. It's terrible, but it's kinda funny."

She didn't say anything, only watching me as I desperately tried to suppress the smile on my face. To my surprise, she blew an amused breath of air.

Alice sat back and crossed her legs as she looked at me with the same gentle face I had seen that day at the mall. Only then was I finally able to drop my smile, replacing it with an expression of awe.

"You really are an interesting one, Yoshino-san," she smiled softly.

"Uh... um..." was all that came out of my mouth.

She then let out the most genuine laugh I've ever heard from her. "Seriously? All I did was smile, and you're already speechless."

"W-well... it was just so unexpected after everything that has happened."

"Indeed. Even I'm having a hard time keeping my composure next to you like this."

"I can't really blame you, can I?"

"No, you most certainly can not."

I began to relax, but my heartbeat was steadily rising. While this conversation is still far from normal, It made me happy that I could talk to her comfortably for once.

"Yoshino-san. Do you know why I've been trying so hard to keep my sisters away from you?" Alice asked.

"Lana-san mentioned something about a twist of fate," I answered after a brief pause.

"That is exactly correct. What you humans call a twist of fate is a major understatement of what we refer to it as."

"Then... what is it really?"

She rested one arm on her legs and propped her elbow upon it, leaning her chin on the fingers. The tone of the whole room shifted to match her solemn demeanor.

"A twist of fate is the worst possible way to die," she said. "Your fate gets tangled up in the threads of those who created it. You'll die, and when you do, you won't go to the Underworld. No... you'll cease to exist."

"That sounds... awful," I gulped. "But what does that have to do with me being around you?"

"Because it is inadvertently caused by us, the Moirai. If you continue involving yourself with us, your thread will continue to tangle itself up until eventually... it bursts. Even though you don't have a thread, we can't be sure that it still won't happen. Although we can technically stop it before it kills you, you will still have to go through the most excruciating pain."

"That's why you were so angry about keeping me around."

"Indeed. Well... I can't say that it was the entire reason."

"What else was there?"


She tilted her head away as a subtle blush grew on her face. Am I imagining things? I'm pretty sure I have a concussion right now, so it's possible.

"Alice-san?" I called.

"T-the other reason..." she stuttered. "I assumed you were just another one of those boys."

"Just... another one of those boys?"

"You know... at the back of the classroom."

I knew immediately who she was referring to. There's a group of guys towards the back of our homeroom class that always tries to hit on them. As if that wasn't enough, they make the topic of their conversations painfully obvious. It's a valid reason.

While I admit the girls are beautiful, I wouldn't stoop low enough to start undressing them in my head. Regardless, I can understand why she would be suspicious of me.

"I can assure you that I would never," I said.

"I know," she scoffed. "After looking at your recent memories, it appears you worked so hard for us simply because you told us you would. How straightforward. But... as a matter of fact..."

She hopped off her seat and leaned over the bed, propping one of her knees on the side as her face moved closer to mine.

"It didn't seem like you thought of us as anything other than goddesses," she smiled seductively. "Are we not your type?"

"W-what are you... talking about?" I mumbled as I backed away. "I've always thought you girls were beautiful. It goes without saying."

"It does, doesn't it? But sometimes... we need to hear it from people we're interested in."


She backed away, only keeping that devious smile that was obviously making fun of me.

"I won't accept you just yet, Yoshino-san," she said. "But at the very least, I won't push you away any longer. You'd better be prepared to die if you decide to associate yourself with us."

"Uh... I think... I'll pass," I gulped.

"Are you sure? It's not every day you get to be surrounded by three beautiful and elegant girls such as ourselves."

"That's true, but I would rather not be in constant danger."

"I see. Well, I suppose a countermeasure is necessary."

"A what?"

Suddenly, Chloe and Lana appeared from a mass of light next to the bed holding cartons of French fries.

"Oh, he's awake," Lana hummed as she took a bite.

"Are you okay, Yoshino-san?" Chloe asked with huge eyes full of worry.

"I'm fine," I said.

"That's two injuries you sustained for us," she scolded. "You need to be more careful."

"It's not that big of a deal."

"Why do you keep saying that when it clearly is?"

I shut my eyes and let out a sigh. No matter how many times I tell Chloe I'm okay, she persists. Is this what it's like to have someone worry about you? It's kind of unpleasant when I now have to worry about her worrying about me.

"Anyways, Alice?" Lana said.

"He said exactly what we expected him to say," Alice answered. "I can't blame him. I would've said the same thing."

"Is that so? Well, sorry to tell you, Asahi-kun, but your opinion has been invalidated."

"Wait, what?" I gulped.

"We decided that we're gonna have to keep you with us. Someone who defies us is not someone we can let run amok."

"Eh?! Where did this logic come from? Alice-san, I thought you wanted me gone."

Alice leaned forward with a wicked smile. "I did, but... you've piqued my interest, Yoshino-san. It's been a while since I've met a boy who didn't immediately fall head over heels for me at first sight. I'm curious about how long you'll last."

"How does that make any sense?"

"Don't worry, Yoshino-san," Chloe poked her head in front of mine with a soft smile. "We'll take good care of you."

This wasn't supposed to happen. I was so ready to finally alleviate myself of all this drama. I can safely say that I've now experienced talking to someone normally, and it's nothing like what I imagined. Sure, they're goddesses, but that makes my argument all the more reasonable.

"I-I'm fine now, so you guys can go," I said.

"What if we want to stay?" Chloe asked.

"I need to rest for a bit longer."

"We'll wait for you then," Lana grinned.

"In silence."

"We know how to be quiet," Alice chuckled.

They just stood there with bright smiles and sparkles floating all around. What is this? Have I finally lost it? I think I might be permanently brain-damaged.

As if that wasn't enough, the girls stayed true to their words and waited for me in complete silence. Every time I tilted back for a peek, they were still smiling at me. I'm glad it didn't take long for me to fall asleep.

The next second, I woke up in an empty room. I stared at the clock on the wall in front of me. It's been three hours since the school day ended. Was I really out for that long?

I looked around the room. Nobody. I took a peek behind the curtains to my right. Nobody. Did the girls leave? And here I was thinking that they were actually gonna stay until I woke up. What a foolish thought. They're goddesses. I'm sure they have more important things to do than waiting around for a tiny human like me. That's fine, though. It's not like I was hoping for anything.

Normally, when we get sent to the nurse's office, we're supposed to check out with the nurse. I didn't feel like waiting, so I grabbed my bag from the table and left. Loitering around where I'm unwanted... doesn't suit me.

The rest of the day went by in a flash, and I found myself walking through the crowded hallways the next morning. Left and right, students were hanging out and chatting away. Some of them were blocking the entire corridor.

Carefully, I attempted to squeeze my way through without being noticed. However, it's as if fate is now intentionally trying to impede my daily life. One of the guys laughed way too hard at a joke that he swung his elbow back. I had lowered my head before to avoid attention, so what happened next came and went in a blur.

I stumbled back and threw an arm at the wall. Every breath felt painful.

What... is happening...? My vision became blurry, and my ears were ringing. I thought I had recovered from the injury I sustained yesterday. Clearly, I was wrong.

The same guy that hit me carefully grabbed my shoulder with a worried face, spewing incoherent words at me.

It's so loud... There are too many people here... too many voices. My mind feels like it's about to explode. I want to get away from here, but I can't even move.

'Please, go away,' I said in my head. However, no matter how hard I tried, the words wouldn't come out. Somebody... make it stop.

"Yoshino-san," a soothing voice whispered in my ear.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my hand, and the headache immediately disappeared. It was as if the hallway itself faded along with everybody else. However, the person standing in front of me was still there, and her hand was still holding onto mine.

I looked up to see Alice glaring at me with a disheartened pair of eyes.

"A-Alice...san...?" I mumbled.

She gently pulled me closer to her and rested her other hand on my head, forcing a subtle flinch out of me.

"Does it still hurt?" she asked.

To my surprise, it doesn't. At least, not as much as it did before. However, that wasn't the only thing. I couldn't feel much at all. Am I happy that she's here? Or am I sad that she's making such an expression? I don't know. What I know is... the longer I kept my gaze on her, the more the pain was fading away.

"It's nothing," I said as I brushed her hand away. "I just need to be alone for a bit."

"What if you collapse, and no one's there to help you?" she grumbled.

"If it happens, then it happens. That's it."

Her grip on my hand became tighter as if disapproving of what I just said. Those eyes that used to look at me with worry were now filled with agitation.

"Let's go," she said.

"W-what are you-"

She didn't even let me finish, as she began dragging me through the hallway. Already, the chatters were rising again, spouting all sorts of nonsense that insinuated the impossible. Alice and I... are nowhere near as close as they think.

"Alice-san, we missed the turn," I said.

"We're not going to class right now," she replied.

"Eh?! Then... where are we going?"

We stopped in an empty classroom. Alice let go of my hand and shut the door. With a twirl of her fingers, it locked by itself. She then pulled out a chair and looked blankly at me.

"Sit," she demanded.

Reluctant as I was, I did as she asked. What am I even doing here? I should be in first period, resting my head on the table. Instead, I'm sitting in a dark room alone with Alice, the goddess who once hated my guts more than anything.

Alice pulled her hair back before tying it in a loose ponytail. She then knelt in front of me and assessed my condition, moving her fingers around my head. It's weirding me out, but I'm too stunned to even say anything.

"Do you feel anything strange?" Alice began questioning me.

"Apart from the way you're looking at me? Not really," I said.

"Does it make you nervous?"

"Well, obviously."

She kept those judgmental eyes on me for a good bit until she stood back up and turned around.

"Then... how do I change that?" she asked.

"Change?" I repeated. "What do you mean?"

"I have to look at you more from now on, so I should change the way I am, right? That way, you won't get nervous."

My mind went blank. I'm sure I misheard her just then, but the way those words kept repeating themselves so vividly in my head told me otherwise. Why would she feel the need to change just for me? It doesn't make any sense.

"I... hah... forget it," I sighed. "It has nothing to do with you, so don't worry about it."

"Then what is it that's making you nervous?"

"I'm just... not used to being looked at so intensely."

An awkward silence followed. I lied a bit just then for my convenience. The truth is that I'm not used to being looked at all. Even if it's just for a second, I get unnerved whenever someone glances my way. It's not a problem with her. It's my own issue.

"So that's it, huh?" Alice scoffed.

She then turned around with a soft smile, a strong contrast to her usual hostile gaze. The way her hair fluttered as she spun made my heart flutter the same exact way. As if that wasn't enough, she crept closer before leaning her head in.

"Then can I keep looking at you from now on?" she whispered.

What is this? How am I even supposed to react? No one has ever been this close to me before, especially while looking at me like that. Shoot... I can smell her aromatic scent. This is way too much for me to handle.

"You don't need my permission to do that," I gulped. "Just do whatever you want."

"Whatever I want, hm...? Are you sure you want me to do that?"

Oh, right. Didn't she threaten to kill me the other day? Her smile suddenly grew even wider than it was before. I need to watch my words from now on. Anything could happen.

"N-nothing dangerous," I added.

"Of course," she giggled as she backed away. "Anyway, are you no longer in pain?"

"No. It went away when I saw you."

I didn't even realize what I said until I saw her brows rising and her mouth opening in astonishment. What the heck did I just say? Even if that was the case, how did I manage to say something so... embarrassing? I keep messing up, and it's not helping my case at all.

"When you saw me... is that right?" she hummed with yet another smile growing.

"Uh... What I meant was..." I couldn't even get it all out.

She lifted a hand to her chin, her eyes curling at the same time. "Worry not, Yoshino-san. I know what you meant."

She turned around and began walking towards the door. Her hand sprung aglow, unlocking the doors to open them. Does she really know what I meant? I decided not to ask.

With her hands behind her back, she twisted around to look at me. "Shall we, Yoshino-san?"

"Y-yeah," I answered.

Together, we made our way to our homeroom class, where Chloe and Lana were waiting for us. With gleeful smiles, they welcomed me in.

Before I knew it, a week had gone by. It wasn't as simple as it sounds, though. This had to have been the most eventful week of my life, and that's not a good thing.

The girls have been overly friendly with me, cheerfully greeting me in the hallways and trying to talk to me. Despite my efforts to avoid them entirely, they kept bumping into me somehow.

The other day, they invited me to hang out at a national park, which I explicitly remember declining, but I don't recall how I ended up going anyway. The same thing happened a couple of days earlier when I bumped into them at a street market.

No matter what I did, I kept seeing them outside of school, and we ended up spending the rest of the day together. It... just happens? I don't know, but eventually, I gave in and accepted my fate. How ironic.

I can't necessarily say that I would prefer it any other way. The small moments I shared with them were nice. They would treat me normally, joke around, and laugh. I never experienced anything like it, so it took a little getting used to.

However, with all of this happening, I've been garnering a bunch of negative attention. Even the upperclassmen were now aware of me. For better or for worse, I was known as the first-year who's been hanging out with the most popular sisters almost every single day. I guess that's the price I have to pay.

"Alright, let's end it here for today," I said.

"It's about time," Lana yawned as she raised her arms for a stretch. "Studying sucks."

"Well, that's the only way to maintain a good grade. It has to be done."

"I know, but it still sucks."

Today, we decided to hold a study session. The girls kept the papers I made for them in perfect condition, and they'd been going through it even before this meeting.

"I think you guys are ready," I said. "You actually sound like you know what you're talking about now."

"It's all thanks to you, Yoshino-san," Chloe smiled.

"All I did was provide you guys with the right materials."

"Nonsense. If you hadn't taken the time to properly teach us, it would've been for naught."

"It's nice to have some humility, but learn to take a compliment every now and then," Alice scoffed. "You did a lot for us."

A sudden warmth washed over me. My heart began beating heavily, and I felt something churning in my stomach. Is this what it's like to be praised? How uncomfortable and embarrassing.

"Um... you're... welcome?" I stuttered nervously.

They only laughed at my failed attempt to accept their compliments.

"What was that?" Lana hugged. "You really are a loner, aren't you?"

"Was that not obvious from the start?" I sighed.

"Don't worry, Yoshino-san," Chloe smiled. "We're just messing with you."

I couldn't help but smile as well. Even though I'm blatantly being made fun of, it didn't feel bad at all.

"So, now that we're done for the day, how about some food?" Lana suggested.

"I am feeling a bit hungry," Chloe pitched in.

"Same here. Let's go," Alice said.

The girls began packing their belongings before heading to the exit, talking about the random things that happened throughout the day. Just like every other time, they're leaving me again, and that sinking feeling came back.

What's gotten into me? I've always been used to being left out. How is this any different?

Even as I questioned it, I already knew the answer. It's different because this time, I actually enjoyed their company.

I started noticing it only recently. Whenever the girls talked to me, I felt a hint of reserved happiness.

My life has always been uneventful. Even if I did have a thread from the get-go, I'm not too sure it would've been any different.

I'm just me, and I have to remember that they're goddesses. Compared to them, I'm simply a small bug that happened to meet them by chance.

I'm a nobody.

"Yoshino-san!" Alice shouted.

I turned my head and suddenly, that sinking feeling was gone. The girls were standing next to the library doors with their eyes fixed on me. As if the clouds outside dispersed altogether, the entire library was lit by the magnificent rays of light that were now pouring through the windows.

"Aren't you coming?" Chloe asked.

"W-what?" I said after a moment of hesitation.

"Didn't you hear a thing we said?" Alice scoffed.

"We're going out to eat," Lana said. "Hurry up!"

Time froze for a second. It was as if everything in that room had disappeared except for us. I couldn't move at all, only keeping my eyes on their smiles that welcomed me in. For some reason, it made me want to cry.

"Coming," I smiled, grabbing my bag on the way out.

That's right... They may be goddesses, but they're also people I can consider my friends. Whether or not the feeling is mutual remains unknown, and I don't want to ask just in case the answer might not be what I expect it to be. For now, I'll enjoy the moments I get to share with them.

Together, we made our way out of the school. It hadn't been that long since school hours ended, so there were a good number of students still in the building. I tried not to pay attention to the many eyes that were locking onto me.

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow at all. Just thinking about the questions that will inevitably come makes me nauseous.

"So, what are you guys feeling right now?" Alice asked.

"R-ramen," Chloe answered with a little too much guilt.

"Again?!" Lana exclaimed. "We ate it last time. Let's mix it up a little with some hot pot!"

"So we've got ramen and hot pot on the table," Alice said. "What about you, Yoshino-san? Anything you're craving right now?"

"I'm okay with whatever," I said.

"Not a valid answer. Just throw something out. Anything at all."

"Um... there's this nice little restaurant near my place that makes good comfort food."

"Wait, is that the place you got those onigiris from?" Chloe asked with her eyes suddenly sparkling.

"Yeah. I'm surprised you remember."

"Of course, I remember! Those were so delicious."

"Hey, what are you talking about? I wanna try it!" Lana butted in.

"Looks like we have our destination," Alice laughed. "Lead the way, Yoshino-san."

We made our way down the road and towards a humble residential area. Sitting right on the outskirts was a small restaurant. On the outside, it wasn't anything too special. The same could be said for the inside, but I've been coming here for years now. It's special to me.

"How interesting," Alice said while scanning the exterior. "From prior experience, most small joints like this tend to have some of the best food."

"I can assure you that this place is no different," I said confidently.

"Let's go, let's go!" Lana cheered.

We entered the shop through the front door, which rang a bell to signal our arrival. Just like always, there weren't that many people in here.

A pair of seniors sat towards the back while some of the adults here weren't being so discreet about how they were checking the goddesses out.

I led the girls to a table by the window. It has booths for seats, and it's the only table I've ever used. The owner of the shop reserves this table specifically for me.

"Ah, Asahi-kun!" a kind old lady greeted me.

"Hey, Granny," I smiled as I stood up to hug her.

The girls' interpretation of my life so far was only slightly inaccurate. Turns out, there is a person in my life who would call me by my name, one that I can even consider my only family.

"You hadn't stopped by for a couple of days," she scolded playfully. "I was worried something had happened to you."

"I'm sorry," I said. "It's my first year of high school, so I've been a bit busier than usual."

"Ah, no worries at all. In fact..." she tilted her head to look at the girls behind me. "I can see why you would be so busy."

"G-Granny... It's not like that."

"Hello, ma'am," Lana stood and bowed with the most polite voice I'd ever heard from her. "We're friends of Asahi-kun."

"Pleased to meet you," Chloe did the same with Alice standing up to perform the same gesture.

"Ah, what respectful and beautiful young ladies you are," Granny chortled. "Seems like you've found yourself some valuable friends, Asahi-kun."

"I know that," I smiled. "They're very important to me."

I didn't even realize what I was thinking until those words came out of my mouth. Wait... did I just say that?

The girls behind me all wore shocked expressions. Their eyes were wide, and their mouths slightly ajar.

Crap... They must think that what I said was totally weird. Granny must've sensed the awkward tension because she perked right up with a cheerful smile.

"Well, let's you guys started, shall we?" she grinned.

"Y-yes..." Alice suddenly became super interested in the menu in front of her. "I'll have the curry rice, please."

"One order of tonkatsu, please," murmured Chloe.

"A-and I'll have the omurice!" Lana shouted unnecessarily.

"The usual for me," I said. "Miso soup and... let's do four onigiris this time."

"Gotcha," Granny wrote all of it down. "And drinks?"

All of us said water, so Granny left to fetch the cups and put in our orders. No one said a word for the next minute. Every time I looked over at one of them, they would quickly turn away.

I knew it. I wasn't thinking about what I had said before, but it definitely sounded strange. I threw my face into the palm of my hands as I lamented in regret.

"Yoshino-san..." Alice muttered enough for me to hear.

"Y-yeah?" I gulped nervously.

"Did you mean what you said? That we're important to you?"

I contemplated my answer. Would things change if I answered one way or the other? As strange as it sounds, I'm kind of scared to lose them after we've only just started getting closer.

However, for something like this, I want them to know exactly how I feel. Even if things change... I have to get this off my chest.

"Yes, I did," I replied, prompting the others to turn their attention to me.

"Why?" Alice asked. "It's not like we've been that great to you. We're merely interested because you defy fate. We could say that we'll toss you out after we figure out why that is. Do you still believe in your own words?"

"Well... yeah. You guys already know this, but... I'm a bit of a loner. The joy of friendly relationships and laughing with my peers... I never had that. Perhaps it's because I had no thread. However, it can just as easily be the way I am."

"And then?" Alice said with an elbow on the table as if anticipating my answer.

"And then... I meant you guys. It was frightening at first, but as I got to know you individually, I realized that I had nothing to be afraid of. Even if you do end up leaving me someday... It was still nice while it lasted."

After I finished that little monologue, I couldn't even look at them. Despite how embarrassing it is, it's how I currently feel. Now comes the moment of truth. I wanted so badly to just stand up and leave, but I want to know... will things remain the same? Or will they change because of my impatience?

Suddenly, Chloe, who was sitting next to me, rested her hand on mine. I looked back to see them all with the most gorgeous smiles. This time, they were looking at me.

"So that's how you really feel," Alice scoffed. "How interesting."

"W-what?" I mumbled.

"Nothing at all," Lana giggled, "but... since we're that important to you, we get to call you by your first name, right?"

"Don't you already?"

"I do? Huh... I guess I do. When did that happen?"

"Well... anyways, yeah. You guys can call me by my first name."

"... Asahi-kun," Chloe whispered, but she immediately turned away.

"Asahi... k-kun," Lana muttered, but she found it difficult to say now that she was actually trying to say it this time.

"Asahi-kun," Alice said with a smile growing on her face.

The sun seems to have gotten a lot brighter for some reason. They look so happy, but for what? What's so special about calling me by my first name?

"If this is now what we're calling you, then shouldn't you refer to us a little less formally as well?" Alice smirked.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Like... Alice-chan?"

"Sorry, could you say that one more time? I couldn't hear you."

"Alice... chan."

As soon as I said it the second time, a grin appeared on her face but was quickly covered by her hand.

W-what...? What's with that reaction? Why is she turning away from me, and why do I suddenly feel like doing the same?

"Say my name, too!" Lana smacked the table and demanded.

"L-Lana-chan," I said, almost stumbling on my words.

"Me too, Asahi-kun," Chloe whispered.


They each tilted away with smiles full of satisfaction. My face is probably beet red, and it's not like hiding it will make it any less obvious. This is so mortifying.

"Then, Asahi-kun," Lana sang. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Let's continue to hang out just like this, hm? Asahi-kun?" Alice hummed playfully. "We still need to figure out who you are, after all."

"And don't worry, Asahi-kun," Chloe reassured. "You won't lose us any time soon."

And so, there began my steadily growing relationship with the three Goddesses of Fate. The fear that once lingered in the back of my mind was gone, and the chains that shackled my lonely heart shattered, allowing me to embrace a whole new world. For the first time in my life, I can confidently say that I'm looking forward to the days ahead.