Chapter 10:

Fortune's Favor

Hanging by a Thread

As much as I enjoyed the idea of stay together, the girls split up as soon as we bought our tickets at the festival entrance. And here I was thinking that I finally wouldn't be alone at a festival. Though, ten minutes later, Lana found me walking by myself, so she began dragging me along with her.

I feel sick. This... is a little too much for me.

"What are you doing, Asahi-kun?!" Lana fumed. "Don't you play video games?!"

"No! How many times do I have to repeat it?!" I shouted.

For what is almost the thirtieth time I lifted this plastic toy gun, I pulled the trigger, sending a foam dart at one of the many bottles that were stacked on a wooden shelf. It didn't even come as a surprise to me that I didn't hit any of them, but Lana was furious.

"Why do you suck so much?!" she grunted as she pulled the gun out of my hand.

"I already told you," I sighed. "I've never done this before."

"Heh, watch the master."

Lana leaned her elbows on the counter and lined up the top of the gun right beneath her left eye. With a deep breath, she pulled the trigger. The dart flew through the air and grazed one of the bottles. However, it didn't even so much as move an inch.

"What?!" she exclaimed.

"Whoa, if the master is this good, then I don't stand a chance at all," I snickered.

"Shut up! Just... watch."

She aimed again, but this time, the gun began glowing very faintly. From the tip of the gun, a thin, silver line formed a path to one of the bottles. It's... a thread. Judging by the other students who were still admiring Lana, they couldn't see it. So... why can I? No... more importantly, this is cheating!

The dart spun out of the gun, curving through the air before knocking over the bottle that was connected to the thread. The crowd behind us roared with a congratulatory cheer, spouting all sorts of flattery comments like how skilled and beautiful Lana was. She tilted back and gave me the cockiest grin I've ever seen.

"What was that, Asahi-kun?" she mocked. "Was there more you wanted to say?"

"You know damn well you cheated to get that shot," I scoffed.

"Oh, whatever could you be talking about?"

"Feign ignorance all you want. I..."

Saw the thread...?

Wait, what just happened? Those words wouldn't come out, even when I tried to say it a second time. Now, I'm just standing here with an open mouth, looking all dumb while Lana is staring at me.

"Asahi-kun?" she called.

"I-it's nothing," I gulped.

She leaned over to me and said, "Huh... you're being awfully suspicious."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Hmph, if you say so. Anyway, onwards to the next game!"

Again, I found myself getting dragged by the wrist before I even knew her hand was holding mine. We stopped at a stall that was hosting a ring toss game. The students next to us managed to get three out of eight rings around the peg. Strung up on the ceiling of the stall was an assortment of stuffed animals ranging in various sizes and shapes.

"Whoa! Look at all the prizes!" Lana beamed. "We have to win, Asahi-kun."

"This isn't any different from the gun range game," I said. "I'm not gonna do that great."

"That's the point. I wanna see you struggle."

"What are you, some kind of masochist?"

"Only to you, I am."

"Step right up!" the boy behind the counter smiled. "Land five out of eight rings around the peg, and you win one of these prizes!"

I gave the necessary amount of tickets to the guy, and he gave us eight rings in return. Lana and I split them up to where we both had four. I took one step back, bent my body forward, and tossed. Of course, the ring missed the mark by a long shot. After Lana's obnoxious snicker, she pushed me aside and readied herself for a toss. I don't know what I expected. The ring landed perfectly around the peg.

"Come on, Asahi-kun!" she laughed. "It's not even that hard."

"Easy for you to say," I grunted.

Lana landed all four of her rings while I missed three of them. With only one left, this shot will determine whether or not we win a prize.

"Let's go, Asahi-kun!" Lana cheered. "You can do it!"

"You're putting too much pressure on me!" I shouted.

I've never felt so nervous over something so trivial. No matter what, I have to land this shot. If not for my dignity, then for Lana's prize. I stopped at the sight of yet another thread. This one, however, wasn't silver like all the other ones—this particular thread is of the brightest red. As if my body was suddenly possessed, I tossed the ring. It spun through the air before landing perfectly around the peg.

"We have a winner!" the boy behind the counter shouted.

"Yay! Asahi-kun!" Lana exulted.

She jumped and threw her arms around my neck. It took a lot for me to keep myself from falling over. All around us, jaws were touching the floor. Being stared at by a bunch of people is one of my biggest gripes. However, I paid no attention to them. At that moment, there was only one thought in my head; Lana looks so beautiful when she smiles like that.

"I knew you could do it," she grinned with excitement.

"Hey... did you do that?" I asked.

"Do what? You landed it!"

It was clear from her face and her words that she had no role in what happened. What was that then? It's just like how I saw the thread when Lana shot the gun, but the thread I saw just now was red.

"Congratulations! You may choose any of the prizes hanging up here," the same boy from before said.

I didn't think I would struggle so much with choosing one. Stuff animals aren't really my thing. I was going to ask Lana to pick one until I saw her eyes fixed on a koala bear. Looks like my decision is made.

"That one, please," I said.

"Gotcha!" the boy said as he grabbed a metal rod to pull it down.

With the koala bear in my hands, I extended my arm and held it over to Lana. That smile on her face slowly faded, replaced by a seemingly sparkling gaze.

"What? It's yours, isn't it?" she said. "You made the last shot."

"I'm not into this kind of stuff," I scoffed. "Besides, we only got this far because you made all your shots."

Reluctantly, Lana took the koala bear and held it tightly to her chest. That's that, I suppose. It's not like I was playing to earn prizes. Just being here with her is enough for me.

"Asahi-kun," Lana mumbled.

"Yeah?" I said

The moment my eyes landed on her, they froze. With the most graceful smile, she said, "Thank you. I'll treasure it forever."

What is this? Why is my heart beating so fast? I wanted to hold her just because I felt like it. This feeling wouldn't go away no matter how hard I tried to suppress it.

I forced myself to turn away, but the blush on my face was probably still obvious.

"Let's... get to the next game," I said.

Her face lit up and once more, she took my hand, "I was waiting for you to say that!"

We ran through the crowded plaza while taking a brief moment to study each game we came across. Being dragged by the wrist always annoyed me. I tolerated it whenever the girls did it, but this time... I didn't mind so much.

"How about this one?" Lana asked. "A nice change of pace."

Towering above us was a massive wheel that was divided into many pieces, each with its own different texts. One of them says, 'Do a cartwheel,' while another one says, 'Make your partner laugh.'

"Welcome!" two girls approached us and greeted us. "Would you like to spin the wheel? You have to do whatever it lands on."

"Looks easy enough," I said.

"Go for it, Asahi-kun!" Lana cheered me on.

I stepped up to the elevated platform and grabbed one of the sticks. With a mighty swing, I plummeted my arm toward the ground, sending the wheel into a blurry spin.

The slower the wheel got, the more curious I became as to what it would land on. That curiosity turned into anxiety when I thought about all the embarrassing stuff it could make me do.

Finally, the wheel stopped, and the arrow landed on the worst possible thing.

"Kiss your partner!" one of the girls shouted.

"W-what?!" I exclaimed. "B-but..."

"No buts! You agreed to do whatever the wheel said. Now, your partner... Oh?! Lana-san?! Lucky you!"

"I... I can't possibly kiss her just like that."

"Well, since you spun for the both of you, that means either of you can do it!"

"How does that make it any better? Why would Lana-chan kiss-"

Suddenly, a pair of fingers grabbed my chin, pulling me down a bit. Immediately after, I felt the touch of lips softly brushing against my face.

"Ah!" the girls squealed deafeningly, catching the attention of almost everyone around us.

Their reaction was just about what I expected. Lana smacked her lips as she let go, breathing a breath of warm air on my cheek. Her fingers lowered, and she backed away.

I tilted my head to see her face lighting up like a cherry, a huge smile streaking across her face as those devious eyes narrowed intimately.

"You asked why would I kiss you?" she whispered. "Because... you're very special to me, Asahi-kun."

My mouth was open, but no words came out. My heart skipped a beat. Then another... Then another. At some point, my heartbeat was the only sound I heard other than her voice.

"What's wrong? Paralyzed?" she giggled. "Anyway, I think I've spent enough time with you. The others should have their turn with you. Hopefully, you can forget about what just happened for at least an hour, hm?"

"I..." was the only thing I could say.

"Go, and come back to me once it's my turn again."

With that, she quickly disappeared into the crowd. What the heck... How am I supposed to concentrate on anything after that?

I began making my way through the busy sidewalk. This festival is gorgeous. So many games, so many food stalls, and so much to see. There was enough to keep me distracted for the rest of the day. If that is so, then why can't I stop thinking about what just happened? She said that she kissed me because I'm very special to her, but... what does that even mean?

My mind suddenly snapped back into reality at the sound of a familiar voice. I looked around until I spotted Chloe, who had her back against the poll of a streetlamp with several second-year students surrounding her. Those are the same guys that ganged up on me in the hallway a while back: the ones that Chloe rejected. Even from here, I can see her face clearly implying that she's uncomfortable.

"Come on, Chloe-chan," one boy said. "Let's take a look around together."

"Please, don't speak so informally to me," Chloe retorted, yet still keeping her polite demeanor. "We're not close enough for you to do that."

"That's why we're trying to get closer to you."

"I already have a prior engagement, so I must refuse. Please, leave."

"What, is it that first-year again?" another boy grunted. "What was his name? I can't even be bothered to remember. That's how much of a nobody he is."

This time, it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. When the bar incident happened, it felt as though my mind was collapsing. For someone to call me what I've been calling myself in my head... it was painful. However, upon hearing those words now, I feel nothing.

Chloe, on the other hand, was suddenly making a scary face.

"Take that back," she growled.

"What? You can't be serious," one scoffed. "Why are you even defending someone like him?"

"Because he is very dear to me. Now, Apologize."

"Hey, let's just forget about him and have some fun."

Even from here, I could see her eyes subtly glowing. I've only read about the wrath of the gods in tales and myths, and I think I'm about to see it in person if I don't do something right now.

"Chloe-chan!" I shouted while waving my hand.

The scary look on her face was immediately replaced by a grin of elation.

"Asahi-kun!" she exclaimed as she ran over.

I ignored the disdainful glares of the second-year boys and walked off with Chloe.

"Were they bothering you?" I asked.

"You've no idea," she sighed. "They kept trying to get me to come with them even though I already told them no. As if it wasn't already bad, they began to berate you. I don't understand humans like them."

"Heh, love can do that to someone."

"Love? Aphrodite would disapprove. What they have for me is not love. I bet it's something perverted."

"Can you really blame them?"

"Wha... What are you trying to say?!"

She playfully slapped my arm, but I couldn't stop laughing. That pout on her face made me want to keep messing around.

"L-let's go," Chloe stuttered. "I'm hungry."

"Now that you mention it, I am as well," I agreed. "What do they even sell here?"

"I saw a yakisoba stall, and it looked really good!"

"R-really? Yakisoba doesn't seem like something you'd find at a school festival."

"It's being run by some students in the culinary classes, so I think it'll be fine."

"Huh... Let's go then."

She led me through the plaza with our hands together. Every so often, she would pause and point at something new with a huge smile. Just seeing her unbridled joy makes me happy for some reason.

It only took a minute for her to find the yakisoba stall in the maze-like festival. Lana and I played so many games earlier, and I don't even remember where one of them is.

"Welcome!" the student behind the counter greeted. "What'll it be tonight?"

"Fujinomiya Yakisoba!" Chloe said after scanning the menu.

"Yokote Yakisoba for me, please," I added.

"Coming right up!" the student said.

The order came out rather fast. I took a peek behind the stall to see multiple makeshift stoves set up to cook on order. From the looks of the line that was steadily growing behind us, this seemed to be the most popular stall.

Chloe and I took our seats at a picnic table that was set up among others in an open circular area. Small decorations like colorful banners and fake flowers were dotting the grass around. Above us, strings of lanterns were hanging from tree to tree, creating a picture-perfect setting. The effort of the student council really shines here.

"This is so nice," Chloe simpered. "I wish I could live like this forever in an eternal cycle of bliss."

"You're a goddess, aren't you?" I asked. "What's keeping you?"


Upon hearing that one word, I effortlessly understood exactly what she meant. My words were ignorant of the fact that they are goddesses who do a lot of work to maintain this world. Watching her take small bites with a smile, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her and the others.

"Let's enjoy this moment while we can then," I said. "As your resident human, I'll try to make it as pleasant as possible."

"You don't need to do that, Asahi-kun," Chloe giggled. "My sisters may not want to admit it, but just you being by our side has made our trip so much more pleasant."

"I'm glad I could be of service."

"Wow, what a true gentleman you are."

Chloe and I finished our plates and let out a sigh of contentment.

"That was way better than I expected," I said.

"Yeah," Chloe agreed. "But... I think they put a little bit too much spice in mine. My tongue is burning.

"How about some ice cream? I saw a stall not far from here."

"I-ice cream?! Erm... that sounds lovely, but... I think I ran out of tickets."


"There was... a lot of... food."

We each spent fifty thousand yen on these tickets at the beginning. I'm sure she could easily afford more, but spending that much on food alone is insane. Then again, it's Chloe I'm talking about here. She can eat multiple full-course meals all at once and still have room for more.

"Don't worry about it then," I chuckled. "I'll pay for it."

"No! Y-you don't have to," she rejected adamantly.

"It's alright. It's not like I can spend all of this on my own anyway. I only bought them just in case."

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

"Nonsense. Now, let's go."

After cleaning up our trash, we made our way over to the ice cream stand. Luckily, the line wasn't long at all. We were able to order as soon as we got there. Chloe stayed behind me the entire time with a shameful look. Is it that bad that I'm paying for her? Maybe there's some kind of arbitrary rule I'm unfamiliar with.

The student behind the counter gave me two ice cream cones. I got the vanilla one, and Chloe got... an amalgamation of strawberry, chocolate, taro, and cookie dough. I think I just figured out why she was hiding behind me.

"What is this flavor?" I scoffed, still holding her cone.

"It's an acquired taste!" she protested with an obvious pout. "Just let me enjoy it in peace."

"No, I think I need a bit more time to study this strange specimen. I've never seen anything like it."

"Give it!"

Chloe chased me into a grassy opening that the festival lights couldn't reach.

"A bit too slow, Chloe-chan," I laughed.

"Why are you being annoying?!" she cried out.

She grabbed my kimono by the collar and tried to pull me back, but I think she may have used just a bit too much force. Unable to retain my balance, I tripped and fell, dropping both ice cream cones on the ground. However, they weren't the only things that fell.

Once again, my body was hovering over Chloe with our eyes connecting. My arms were the only thing that kept us from getting any closer. The worst part is that her kimono is slightly undone, which reveals her bare shoulders.

"My ice cream..." she muttered.

Her brows furrowed, indicating that she was somewhat angry, but... she still remained cute even with such a face. Why am I thinking about something like that right now?!

"I'm sorry, Chloe-chan," I gulped. "I... I'll buy you another one."

When I attempted to lift myself, she grabbed one of my arms and held it tight. Her scowl only grew more intense. My heart is beating unbelievably fast, and it's only going to keep rising since Alice and Lana aren't here to stop this madness.

"C-Chloe-chan..." I mumbled nervously.

"What?" she growled.

"Can you let go?"

"Make me."

A single drop of sweat formed beneath my chin, dropping right on Chloe's neck, but she didn't care at all. Her disgruntled eyes were still fixed on me.

What can I possibly do to a goddess? I have a few ideas, but she will most definitely kill me if I go through with any of them. Either way, she won't let me go until I try.

Here goes nothing.

While my left arm was being held hostage by Chloe, I lifted the other one and held my palm over her mouth. In quick succession, I lowered my head with my mouth landing right behind that same hand. Finally, her grip loosened, and her jeweled eyes began to glow subtly. Had it not been for this hand, our lips would be touching.

Suddenly, a read thread formed right in between us, the same one from earlier. However, I couldn't even be bothered to pay attention to it—not in a situation like this.

"Sorry," I whispered. "This was the only thing I could think of."

I removed my hand and pushed myself away. After staring at me for just a few seconds, she lifted an arm and planted it over her eyes. A sinking feeling began pulling my heart down as if someone was tugging on a string. I know I was being intrusive, but... that was just a ploy to get her to let go. She kissed me back at the hotel, so this is fair game, right?

"Chloe... chan?" I called out nervously.

"It's Alice's turn," she said. "Go."


"Go... now... before she gets angry."

Without saying another word, I got up and left. As I made my way back to the festival, I kept turning around to see her still lying on the grass with her eyes covered. Perhaps... I went too far.

In hindsight, there were plenty of things I could've done for her to let go. That shouldn't have been the way I handled it, and now, I have to pay the price. I hope she can forgive me.

I stopped in the middle of the path. Other students were passing me by, laughing and having fun with each other, yet here I am, walking through the streets of a festival alone... just like all the other times. The only difference is that this particular case was entirely my fault. How foolish of me.

"Asahi-kun?" someone stepped in front of me and said.

I raised my head, and immediately, the feeling of isolation was gone. Alice stood there with a curious expression, and her mouth was moving in a circular motion. A small plate of takoyaki rested in one hand while the other was holding a small toothpick.

"Alice-chan..." I mumbled.

"You look like a shade wandering the Underworld," she scoffed. "What happened?"

"Ah, it's nothing. I'm just... being the stupid little human I am."

Alice poked one of the takoyaki balls with her toothpick and held it up to my face.

"Open wide," she demanded as if what's she doing wasn't weird at all.

"Uh... I... I just ate," I said.

"It'll make you feel better. Hurry up. My arm is getting tired."

After a brief moment of hesitation, I slightly opened my mouth to which Alice shoved the takoyaki within. It happened so fast that I almost choked, but I couldn't complain because... it actually tasted delicious.

"See?" Alice smiled. "Tasty, isn't it?"

"Y-yeah," I replied. "Where did you even get this? I don't recall seeing a takoyaki stall."

"I went to the night market in Harajuku."

"What, you teleported there to get food even though you're already at a festival?"

"They didn't have any here, so I went to get some there. Can't beat my own cravings."

"Hah... you're insane."

"You only just noticed?"

While throwing another piece of takoyaki in her mouth, she jerked her head to the side as if gesturing me to come along. Together, we browsed through the festival, constantly looking around to see if anything could catch our interest.

"I know I'm the one that set most of this up, but I'm a bit disappointed," Alice sighed. "Maybe I should've rented an ice skating rink."

"And where would we put something like that?" I scoffed.

"I don't know. I just feel like I've already seen everything this festival has to offer. But, there is one silver lining: a variable I have yet to consider."

"And what's that?"

She glanced over at me with a seductive wink. "You."

I'm sure she's not doing that on purpose, but it doesn't really negate the effects of such an alluring face.

"Hm? What's wrong?" Alice leaned a little too close to me and asked. "Your face is lighting up."

"Nothing," I sighed.

"Here, take another one. Maybe it'll work the same magic."

She fed me another takoyaki, but it did not work at all. The reason? Because she's still glaring at me with those intimate eyes. How am I supposed to calm down when she's purposely trying to get a reaction out of me?

"You're so easy, Asahi-kun," she laughed.

"Stop teasing me," I grumbled. "I've always reacted like this whenever you say or do weird things."

"I know. That's what makes it fun."

Before meeting the girls, I never had any real attention. As such, whenever they look at me like that, it feels like I could faint at any given second. That's especially so when it comes to Alice. She can make those faces as if she's been doing it her entire life.

"Hey," she suddenly began whispering. "Follow me."

She grabbed my hand, intertwining our fingers as she dragged me over to a secluded area outside the festival grounds.

"Ready?" she asked.

"F-for wha..." She didn't even let me finish before we were engulfed in a mass of light.

The next moment, I found myself overlooking the entire school. Below me, the lights of the festival shone brightly. From the lanterns on the trees to the colorful assortment of stalls that spread all over, I could make out every little detail. This is... the school's rooftop.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Alice appeared next to me and said. "I wanted to come up here before the main event started."

"What main event?" I asked.

"You'll see."

She dropped to her knees and dangled her legs off the edge of the building. With a soft smile, she patted the ground next to her. Reluctantly, I sat down next to her with my legs hanging off as well.

The chill winds of autumn brushed against my face. Above us, the crescent moon along with a sea of stars lit up the night sky. If we weren't in the city, I wonder how many stars we'd be able to see.

"I bet this isn't anything like those festivals you've attended in the past," Alice said.

"Hardly," I chuckled. "But... to be honest with you, if I were just another student attending, I probably would've hated it."

"Hm? Why is that?"

"I've always despised festivals. Going to those events alone and having to watch other people enjoy themselves... It hurt because I thought I would never get to experience it myself. The only reason why I like it so much now is... well... you guys."

Alice rested her hand on mine. Our eyes locked, and I knew right at that moment she understood exactly how I felt. She, Chloe, and Lana... were once lonely as well.

I've always asked myself because I'm too cowardly to ask them... did I help them just as much as they helped me?

Suddenly, an ear-piercing whistle echoed across the sky, followed by an explosive pop. I tilted my head up to see an amalgamation of wonderful colors. Another one darted upwards before scattering its twinkling lights in every direction.

As if they were just an appetizer, many more burst out of the festival center in perfect synchronization. The explosions painted the sky with a whirl of the most dazzling colors. More and more kept whizzing up and adding to the beautiful portrait, like a gathering of artists dragging their paintbrushes across the canvas one at a time.

"I'm glad I stumbled upon you when I did," Alice giggled. "Otherwise, I would've had to enjoy all of this alone."

"Thank you, Alice-chan," I said without thinking. "I'll keep this moment close to my heart forever."

Our eyes met once more. After looking at me like I just said foreign words, she wore a soft smile and leaned closer to me.

"Asahi-kun," Alice whispered. "Come here. There's something I need to tell you."

From just her expression and those words alone, an inkling of fear began to wash over me. I think I already know where this is going. I've been preparing myself for a long time, but... I still don't think I'm ready for them to leave. I have no right to tell them to stay. If this is their decision... then so be it.

With a nervous sigh, I leaned my head closer to her. The moment I dreaded for so long has come. I waited for her to say something like, 'We're leaving tomorrow,' or, 'It's time to say goodbye.'

Her breath warmed up my ear. Each second felt so long, further increasing my anxiety. A part of me is hoping that it's not that. However, hope is an extravagant emotion to me.

I'm... ready.

Suddenly, another red thread appeared before me, this one joining the light show above. It was as though the cold winds dispersed, replaced by an ethereal warmth that coated my entire body. The fireworks were still whisking through the sky, but the explosions, I could not hear them.

Alice's fingers wrapped tighter around my hand. Strands of her silvery hair began fluttering in front of my face as she pushed her lips against my cheek.

My body feels paralyzed. I can't move. My head tilted slightly, but no more than that. When Alice let go, that tiny smack she made echoed in my ear. She wore the most beautiful smile I'd ever seen on her, and that opaque blush seemingly glowed in the dark.

"W-why...?" was the only thing I could say.

"Just because," she grinned earnestly. "Congratulations, Asahi-kun. You're the first person ever to receive my kiss."

"But... I don't-"

"Deserve it?" she scoffed. "You're extremely dense for a human. Look, I decide who I get to kiss. Understand?"

"Not really."

"You... Hah, I could just cut your thread right now to clean my record."

"I-I mean! I... understand?"

She laughed whole-heartedly and turned her attention back to the festival below. I didn't even know the fireworks show was already over until just now. Given the situation, it was hard for me to notice anything else.

"I'm glad you're still with us, Asahi-kun," Alice said. "Part of me thought you would've run away by now."

"How could I?" I scoffed. "You guys are the most eventful thing that's happened to me in my entire life. It's a pleasant change."

"Then let's keep it like that. For as long we remain together, let's keep having moments like these."

"It's my pleasure."

We sat in silence with our hands still intertwined. Just today alone, all three of the girls have kissed me. I can't imagine they planned this out from the beginning.

I breathed a heavy sigh in an attempt to calm down my rapidly beating heart. There's no point in trying to alleviate this headache that sprung from thinking too much. It's just that so many things happened today. From the bedroom to  this. I'm glad I was wrong about them possibly leaving, but... I think I might just slowly die the more I spend time with them.

What's going on? What is this feeling, and why won't it stop? There's definitely something wrong with me.