Chapter 11:

Pack Light

Hanging by a Thread

I took a step onto the school bus and sat in an empty seat. Even after everyone was seated, I was still all alone. That wouldn't have been the case if the boys and girls weren't being separated, but I suppose that's to be expected for a thirteen-hour trip.

Today is the day of the first-year field trip to the Kunisaki Peninsula. The teacher said something about fieldwork and 'learning the old ways.' I zoned out as he was explaining what we would specifically be doing. I kind of regret it, but not really.

One by one, the buses began taking off. Now, I just need to find something to occupy my time. I downloaded a bunch of mangas to read along the way, but I don't know if it'll last the whole thirteen hours.

Suddenly, my phone rang. At the top of the screen was a notification from Line. I pulled it down and opened up the app. One of the only options that popped up was a group chat I shared with the girls.

We've had it for a while now. Lana took it upon herself to name it 'Moirai plus our favorite human.' As humiliating as it was at first, it slowly grew on me.

I pushed myself up to see the girls waving at me from the back of the bus. Lana had both of her arms flailing back and forth in a seat by herself, Chloe was subtly waving with only the top half of her head peaking over her seat, and Alice was just sitting next to her with her arms crossed and a soft smile.

I sat back down and began replying to the text messages.

Lana: "Asahi-kun!" which was followed by a waving bunny emoji.

Me: "What's up?"

Lana: "Come over here! We're all the way in the back."

Me: "Didn't the teacher say we can't mix boys and girls?"

Alice: "Who says he has to know?" with the same bunny emoji sticking its tongue out.

Chloe: "Sneak over, Asahi-kun. You can do it!" A massive sticker of a cheering bunny popped up.

Where did they find all of these bunny emojis?

Me: "It's not a matter of whether I can or can't. I just can't. The teacher is right there!"

Alice: "Stop being a coward, and get over here."

After a momentary sigh of disbelief, I peeked over the seat towards the front of the bus. Looks like the teacher is occupied with his phone right now. With perhaps as much bravery as Hercules himself, I got up from my seat and quickly scurried towards the very back.

Thankfully, none of the girls along the way said anything. Most of them already knew where I was going anyway. Right as I reached the end, Lana grabbed my arm and pulled me into her seat. Why is my heart beating so fast from doing something so small?

"You did it, Asahi-kun!" Chloe exclaimed quietly yet so full of energy.

"See?" Lana laughed. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

"You've no idea how much willpower that took," I said while panting heavily.

"Well done, Asahi-kun," Alice giggled. "That was quite heroic of you."

"That's the last time I'm listening to one of your crazy schemes."

"Hah! No, it's not, and you know it," Lana smirked.

What am I gonna do with these girls? I've never broken the rules or disobeyed my teachers before. Suddenly, I'm doing it just because they told me to. I've changed.

"Anyways, why'd you call me back here?" I asked.

"What do you mean, why?" Lana scoffed. "So you can be with us and not alone up there."

"That's it?"

"Were you expecting something else in particular?" Alice smiled wickedly. "We could always arrange a little something for our dearest human friend."

"Uh... O-on second thought, I think I'm fine with just being here."

"As you should be."

Lana suddenly laid her hand on top of mine, which was sitting on my lap. She then rested her head on my shoulder, and all I could do was stay perfectly still with my heart pounding. I began freaking out, but not as much as Chloe and Alice when they noticed it.

"Lana!" Chloe shouted as quietly as possible. "Stop that!"

"Hm? Why should I?" Lana taunted with a smile. "We still have a long way to go. Asahi-kun and I are just getting cozy."

"Let go of him, Lana," Alice growled. "He's getting uncomfortable."

"No, he isn't. Right, Asahi-kun?"

Her cold voice made my ears twitch, and that alluring look on her face made my skin crawl. Combine that with the others glaring at me as if demanding me to disagree... I'm gonna die one way or the other.

With my mouth trembling, I mumbled with broken words, "I... d-don't... mind."

That dark aura surrounding Alice only got darker.

"Is that so?" she muttered as she stood.

She then shoved herself down on the seat, pushing me and Lana further towards the window. Without saying anything, she grabbed my arm and leaned her head on my other shoulder.

"You said you don't mind, right?" she smiled seductively.

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

"Alice!" Lana grumbled. "It's two people per seat. Go back to your own."

"Hm? But Asahi-kun here just said he didn't mind," Alice hummed.

"It was directed only towards me!"

"Did he say that? Shall we ask him again?"

Both of their heads turned towards me, each with strikingly different tones. On one hand, Lana had her brows furrowed with her mouth pouting as a sign of annoyance. On the other, Alice loosened her eyes and smiled at me. Both were equally threatening.

What do I do? I've been in this situation plenty of times already, but I still don't know.

"Guys," Chloe said. "You're making him uncomfortable. Look at him. He's trembling."

It was only then that they realized just how nervous I was. Finally, they stopped glaring at me so intensely.

I'll have to thank Chloe later, but that thought was short-lived when she also stood up and reached her body over Alice. Her soft hands grabbed onto my face, dragging it over so that our eyes could meet.

"Would you like to come sit with me, Asahi-kun?" she asked.

"Eh?!" Lana exclaimed.

"Alice left my seat, so there's a spot now."

"Chloe..." Alice muttered.

My head hurts. I think I'm about to pass out.

"Teacher!" one of the boys in the front suddenly called out. "Someone snuck to the back with the girls!"

"Huh? What?!" the teacher grumbled.

Of course, it's that one guy who keeps trying to make a move on Lana. His entire squad turned around with devious smirks on their faces. To think they would stoop so low just because of jealousy.

The teacher stood up and glared at me all the way from the front.

"Yoshino-kun?" he questioned with genuine disbelief.

I've never been one to break the rules. The only time I've ever said a word in his class is whenever he calls me up to answer a question. He must be very surprised to see that, of all people, it's me who has gone against his words.

"What are you doing all the way back there?" he asked.

"Um... W-well," I gulped.

"We called him back here, sir," Chloe stood up and said out of the blue.

"Chloe-san?" the teacher said.

"Yes, sir. The thing is... we're not that familiar with Japan just yet. We wanted to learn a little bit more about the culture and common courtesies so we could do our best. Asahi-kun is our only friend right now, so we were more comfortable with asking him. We apologize."

Lana and Alice stood up to say, "Sorry, sir."

"There's no need to apologize, girls," the teacher said. "If that is the case, then I will allow Yoshino-san to stay back there. But... Yoshino-san."

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"Try to keep your hands to yourself, eh?" he grinned while throwing me a thumbs up.

"Eh...? What?!"

He then howled like a madman with that beastly laugh of his.

When we sat back then, all of their eyes turned to me. As if I wasn't already in a bad position, the teacher had to go and make it worse.

"That's right, Asahi-kun," Lana taunted. "Try not to touch us."

"Last I recall, it was you guys who were latching onto me," I sighed.

"Whatever are you talking about?" Alice scoffed sarcastically.

She went back to her seat, finally opening up some breathing space between me and Lana. With her legs and arms crossed, Alice shut her eyes and threw her head back. Looks like she has finally cooled off a bit.

Lana pulled out her phone and opened up a music app. With a smile and no words, she handed the right side of her earphones to me. As soon as I heard just half a second of the song, I instantly recognized it.

"Is this... my playlist?" I gasped.

"Hehe, yup!" she grinned. "Not bad at all. Apollo would be proud of your taste in music."

"Does he even understand Japanese?"

"Ah, how disappointed he'd be if he heard you say those words. When it comes to music, my dear Asahi-kun, everyone understands, regardless of the language."

It makes me wonder if the gods listen to music from our world. Just thinking about Zeus sitting on his throne on Mount Olympus with earphones in while blasting modern pop songs is kind of funny. Then again, from what I've seen with Bach and Hailey, they seem accustomed to the popular culture of this world. Even these girls are living evidence of such.

We sat in still silence for a while, listening to every song that came next. Alice and Chloe were going through a list of all the items they brought along. I can't imagine when the latter half of their infinite storage will be used. For example... the flat-screen television.

Suddenly, a small roll of paper smacked the side of my head before landing on my lap. I looked over to the others, but they were preoccupied with a video. How do they even have reception out here?

Reluctantly, I unfolded the roll and read the contents that looked as though it was written by a child. To be honest, it probably was.

It read, "Don't forget that you're nothing special. You don't deserve their attention, so stop acting all high and mighty."

I looked tilted my head past the seat in front of me. Why am I not surprised to see that it was those boys again? They were all glaring at me as if I had committed some type of crime. Well, it's funny because they probably do see it that way.

Lana snatched the paper out of my hand and as soon as she read it, her eyes went wide. All that's missing is the glowing light bulb that's supposed to be floating above her head.

"Asahi-kun," she grinned deviously. "I just had the most genius idea."

"Uh... O-okay?" I said nervously. "What is it?"

She rested a hand on my shoulder as she pulled herself closer. "You don't need to know. Just stay right there."

Words can not describe the anxiety that washed over me when Lana suddenly threw her face in front of mine. If she had moved any closer, our lips would be touching. The others noticed immediately, and their reaction was just as I expected.

"Lana!" Alice exclaimed quietly. "What are you doing?!"

She said nothing, only staring deep into my eyes with a huge smile. Her warm breath brushed past my cheeks. What in the world is this supposed to be?

"L-Lana... chan?" I gulped.

"Shush," she winked.

From the corner of my eye, I saw those boys with their jaws dropping to the floor. Now I get it. Her intention all along was to make it seem like we were kissing. Still... there had to have been a better plan.

After what else like hours, she finally pulled herself away with an expression oozing with satisfaction.

She then tossed the paper to her sisters and whispered, "Don't worry. I was just making the boys up there jealous. They threw a paper at Asahi-kun with a criticizing message."

As Alice read through it, that annoyed look did not go away. "You could've handled that a lot differently."

"Yeah, Lana," Chloe chided. "You didn't even ask Asahi-kun if it was okay."

"Oh my," Lana laughed in response. "I was only trying to make those boys jealous, but it seems there were other victims as well."


"Asahi-kun," Alice said very coldly. "Switch seats with me."

"Uh... alright...?" I agreed hesitantly.

"Wait! Don't!" Lana protested, but it was too late.

As soon as I stood up, Alice grabbed my arm and pulled me down next to Chloe. With that, she sat down in my seat and maintained her usual posture.

"What's the big idea?!" Lana growled.

"You had your fun," Alice scoffed. "I feel more comfortable with leaving Asahi-kun next to Chloe rather than you."

"Eh?! W-what do you mean? Chloe is just as bad, if not worse than me."

"She won't do anything. Right... Chloe?"

"That's right," Chloe smiled.

I sometimes feel like I get absolutely no say in the things they do to me. 'Sometimes' isn't even the right word. It's more like... 'all the time.' I'm just collateral damage of whatever pops up in those incomprehensible heads of theirs.

"Pst, Asahi-kun," Chloe whispered.

Her phone, which was held in her hands, suddenly began floating in front of us. Panicked, I snatched it out of the air and peeked over the seats. It doesn't seem like anyone saw it.

"What are you doing?!" I whispered back but with much more urgency. "You can't just make stuff float out of nowhere!"

"No one's going to look back here."

"All it takes is for one person to turn their head and it's over."

"We're hidden enough to where no one will see, so give me my phone back."

Once again, she made it levitated to where we could clearly see the screen. It's not like I can stop her, but this is way too risky. Sure, the seats are tall, so the chances of being caught are extremely low. Even if someone took a peek, the most they'd see are our heads. However, that doesn't make it any less nerve-racking.

With a tap of her finger, the video began playing. It looks like some kind of medieval show.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Game of Chairs," Chloe answered, a small box of popcorn suddenly propped between her legs. "You humans really know how to make some quality entertainment."

"Okay... never mind that. Where in the world did you get popcorn?"

"You've known us for how long now? This shouldn't even come as a surprise."

And to be honest, it didn't. I just felt like asking because I'm still not used to it.

Now that I've been sitting here for almost thirty minutes, I'm inclined to ask myself... just how long are these episodes?! I feel like nothing has happened except for talking. My mind is about to collapse from boredom, but I can't say anything when Chloe looks so immersed.

To my right, Alice and Lana look like they're browsing an online catalog of expensive furniture. A part of me wanted to join them, but that would make Chloe sad. In the end, I abstained and continued to force my eyes onto the screen.

It's fine. I just have to sit through this episode, and that'll be it. At least, that's what I thought before Chloe started the next episode after going on and on about her favorite character, who appeared for at most three minutes out of the entire hour.

My eyes eventually began to waver. This is what I get for staying up all night to make some last-minute preparations. I can't fall asleep yet. It'll come off as insensitive.

I just... need to stay awake for a few more minutes.

Suddenly, Chloe's head plopped on my shoulder. I tilted over to see her eyes shut and her breath intake slowing down. Last I checked, she was still glued to the screen. How did she fall asleep so fast?

"Chloe-chan?" I whispered.

No response. I guess I should be thanking the gods for answering my prayers. I carefully pulled the phone out of the air and stashed it underneath my legs.

The others might panic if I fall asleep too. Just a couple of minutes should be fine, right? My eyes shut, and I too fell into a dream.

"...hi-kun," a soft voice echoed.

"Huh...?" I mumbled.

"Asahi-kun..." it said again.

Someone was calling out my name, but I couldn't respond. From the darkness that clouded my vision, a crimson thread appeared. I've seen this before. They've been showing up pretty often recently, but I never knew what they meant. I've been meaning to ask the girls about it, but something always came up right as I was about to.

"Hey, Asahi-kun!" a more aggressive voice shouted.

It was only then that I snapped awake. The first thing that I saw was Alice's face right in front of me.

"Alice... chan?" I mumbled drowsily.

She stood back up and propped a hand on her hips. "Gosh, you're such a heavy sleeper. Do you know how many times we called your name? We thought something might've happened to you."

Chloe, who was holding onto my arm, squeezed tighter with a worried expression on her face.

"Asahi-kun..." she whimpered.

"Was it really that bad?" I asked.

"Sort of," Lana popped out from behind Alice and said. "We tried shouting your name and even pushing you around a bit. It almost seemed like... you were dead."

"What? Are you sure?"

"Trust me. We were about to slap you to Olympus if you didn't wake up just then."

That's so strange. All my life, I've never overslept for anything because of how light of a sleeper I am. Even the tiniest sound at night is enough to wake me up.

My mind trailed back to the red thread I saw. Not just in my dream just now, but out in the open as well. They would appear in the most random places.

I opened my mouth to speak, but as if fate disallowed it, nothing came out. I tried again. Still nothing.

"Asahi-kun?" Alice called out.

Am I unable to speak about it? How is that even possible?

"Hey!" I heard the teacher shout from the front of the bus. "Is that boy awake yet?"

"Yes, sir!" Lana shouted back. "We'll be right out!"


I looked around to see that we were the only ones on the bus. Outside the window, a couple of traditional buildings were laid in the form of a small noble courtyard. Lanterns cast their light around a beautiful garden beneath a moonlit night.

"Are we already here?" I asked.

"Yeah. We just got here," Alice answered. "Grab your bag and let's go."

As I readied myself to leave, I couldn't stop thinking about that red thread. There are too many questions that I can't even ask the girls about. Just what could it possibly mean?