Chapter 14:


Hanging by a Thread

"Ah, this is nice," Lana sighed. "I feel happy for no reason."

"Me too," Chloe mumbled with her face half in the water.

"Mount Olympus could never compare," Alice smiled.

There they were, the three sisters of fate relaxing in a pool of steaming water. Surrounding the hidden hot spring was a collection of beautiful plants, creating the perfect atmosphere for tranquility.

Lana leaned her back on the wall behind her and lifted her arm to rest it on the side. She began humming a beautiful tune that brought back some memories.

"We should bring the others here someday," Lana giggled. "I'm sure they'd enjoy it."

"By 'others,' do you mean our brothers and sisters?" Chloe asked.

"Nah, I meant the girls. Y'know, Artemis, Hestia, and Athena."

"As long as there aren't any boys around that could taint their eternal virginity," Alice scoffed.

Their minds trailed back to the days of old. From ancient Greece to now, the fates were left alone due to fear. As daughters of the primordial Goddess of the Night, it only made sense. However, as they went on in isolation with no one but themselves for company, they grew colder to those around them.

Zeus, who commanded. Hermes, who tried. Dionysus, who offered. Everyone who came to their doorstep came too late, and they were immediately turned away. Their unrelenting bitterness and resentment toward their fellow gods remained for years. They came to disassociate themselves from them entirely, indifferent to whatever reason they could've possibly had. It wasn't until long after the fall of ancient Greece that they were able to open up to their fellow gods.

"At least we were able to make up, right?" Chloe smiled when she sensed the tense atmosphere. "Poseidon, Aphrodite, even the twins are kind to us now."

"They're only kind because they still fear us," Alice scoffed. "If we were just any other goddesses, they wouldn't even try to speak to us regardless of our situation."

"Not Hestia or Dionysus. They actively tried visiting us despite being refused so many times. I still remember when Hestia invited us outside for a marshmallow roast at the hearth."

"You mean that time you burned a marshmallow until it was completely black and proceeded to swallow it whole?" Lana laughed.

"T-that didn't happen!"

Alice chuckled before saying, "No, I think I remember. You ate that burnt marshmallow and tried to pretend that it was good for Hestia's sake. She was so surprised that you could struggle at something so simple."

Chloe shoved her head beneath the water in embarrassment.

"She can't even deny it anymore," Lana snickered. "Hestia... How did she end up at the front desk of our hotel?"

"She knew we were going to stay there, so she made the necessary preparations to meet us," Alice said. "What I was more surprised about was Bacchus. What in the world is he doing in Japan?"

"Good thing, though. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a place to drink alcohol. Plus, the drinks were being made by the wine god himself."

"That's true. Once you drink his mixtures, everything else pales in comparison."

Chloe plopped out of the water to chime in. "Bacchus is so much more mature than his late-night version. Remember when Dionysus broke into our tower and spilled wine on dozens of our fresh threads?"

Alice's lips twisted as if reminiscing an unpleasant memory. With an irritated tone, she answered, "I will never forget. He basically wiped hundreds of potential human lives with wine alone."

"It's fine," Lana laughed. "It's not like those threads went to anyone."

"Still, how can he just barge in, make himself at home, and proceed to impede on our work?"

"That's Dionysus for you," Chloe giggled. "He'll attempt to turn even the most stoic of us into party animals."

"Load of progress he made."

"Don't you think he changed us just a little bit?" Lana asked. "If he hadn't pursued our friendship as he did, then we probably would've never opened up to our peers."

Alice dropped her head slightly, staring at her reflection in the misty water. In it, she saw a remnant of the once cold-blooded goddess she was. Quiet, composed, always pessimistic, and always ready to end the life of any living being with just a snip. That reflection then shifted to the person she currently saw herself as—just another girl who wanted to live normally.

"I guess he did," she said as a small smile grew on her face.

Lana and Chloe couldn't help but smile along with her. They often think back to the times when they actually were the evil witches from the rumors. As times have changed, so did they, and they couldn't be more happy about who they are now.

"How are our reserves looking, Chloe?" Alice asked.

With a deep breath, Chloe shut her eyes and concentrated. A subtle shockwave sent a ripple through the water, and she opened her eyes which were now glowing.

"Not good," she answered. "At this rate, it'll last... about another month before we have to go back to the heavens."

"Already?" Lana sighed.

The mood fell, for they knew what that meant. Creating threads, distributing threads, and cutting threads. These are the jobs they have as goddesses, and they understand that.

As nice as the waking world is, they never had a problem with leaving. However, it's different now. Going back to the heavens was inevitable, but they felt a strange sensation as if their minds were telling them to stay.

For weeks, they pondered, questioning why they felt this way when the answer was so obvious. In them, they felt sorrow and regret. This time, they were leaving someone behind.

"Asahi-kun..." Alice whispered.

"What do we tell him...?" Chloe mumbled miserably.

None of them could answer, for if there truly was an answer, they would've known by now. How could they possibly break such news to him when even they didn't want to leave? It was perhaps the most difficult task they had ever received.

"We just... have to tell it as it is," Alice said, but her voice was shaking. "That's all we can do."

"I don't wanna," Lana said adamantly.


"No, Alice. We finally found someone we care for. Someone who treats us normally without any bias. Someone... who accepts us for who we are. How can we just give him up?"

Again, a moment of silence.

"I don't want to go back either," Chloe mumbled.

Alice turned to her and, after a brief pause, said, "You, too?"

"If we leave... Asahi-kun will be alone again. I don't want him to be sad."

"We have no choice. If we decide to leave our jobs behind, then the entire human race will be no more."

They couldn't argue with that. It's nothing but the cold, hard truth. The Moirai holds what is perhaps the most important job in the heavens. Every human must have a thread. It's impossible for them to simply abandon it. Even if they did, the king of the gods, as fearful as he is of the Moirai, will exercise his authority to bring them back no matter the cost.

"Do you guys... recall what he said to us earlier today?" Chloe asked.

"How could I forget?" Lana chuckled. "It was the first instance of someone showing us their genuine feelings. No sugarcoated words, no ulterior motives—just a cute little human who's trying his best to please us."

Chloe giggled as she continued. "It was always him. No matter where we dragged him or what we said, he always spoke his mind. Unlike everyone else, he saw us not as goddesses, but as normal people."

"What did he say again? Kind and sweet? Affectionate and compassionate?" Alice giggled. "That was certainly a shock."

"Yeah! What was that about?!" Lana exclaimed. "How can he just say something like that with a straight face? He's such a fool."

Alice laid a hand over her mouth as she laughed. "You say that, but I still see a smile on your face, sister."

Lana turned away with a blush. "S-shut up..."

"It's okay, Lana," Chloe simpered. "I felt the same way. It was such a surprise that he could even say things like that. I wonder what goes on in that little mind of his."

"What else besides the foolish thoughts of a human?" Alice scoffed. "He really is... so stupid... but, I suppose that's just a part of his charm."

Chloe laid her hands on her cheeks as if exploding with elation as a massive smile stretched her dimples apart. "When he said that... it made me so happy. Oh, and the gifts he got us!"

"Dammit... It's not fair that you two get to wear yours in the water," Lana grumbled. "I can't bring that hair tie in here because it'll get ruined."

"What a shame," Alice smiled. "I, for one, don't plan on taking this off any time soon."

"Asahi-kun..." Chloe said giddily. "He's such a sweetheart."

Alice and Lana unknowingly joined her in silent jubilation. However, the mood fell ever darker when they realized yet again that they only had one month left with him.

"Isn't Asahi-kun... so different from everyone else?" Lana asked. "From humans to gods, there wasn't a single person like him."

"Indeed," Alice chuckled. "The ones who did approach us asked us to change their fates. Those who came to us without any knowledge of who we were only did so because of how we looked. Isn't that so funny?"

"Do we even look that great? Aphrodite, Hera, and so many more are on another level," Chloe said.

"Asahi-kun seems to think so."

Lana and Chloe flinched at the sound of those words. Perhaps it's because she feels the same way they do, but Alice didn't bother calling out those obvious blushes.

Alice tilted her head up with a breath of air. "Men are pigs, gods and humans alike. They see beauty, and they flock. Count the number of times we've been scouted to be models or... what do they call it... idols? Yeah, idols."

"Too many to count," Lana scoffed.

"Exactly. Even if we don't think much about ourselves, the people of this world seem to think otherwise. Nothing we can do about that."

"But Asahi-kun, on the hand..." Chloe smiled. "His thoughts are so straightforward."

"To be honest, I was expecting to see something lewd in that boyish head of his, but woe is me when I found out that he's just a less-than-normal boy," Lana said dramatically.

"Did you want him to see you that way?" Alice asked as if implying as such.

With a heavy blush suddenly streaking across her face, Lana exclaimed, "N-no! I was just saying... like... b-based on all the other boys we've met, he never saw us that way."

"Well, we haven't read his mind recently because he requested it of us, so... I wonder how much his mindset has changed," Chloe said. "We've been a little too touchy with him recently."

Alice poked her chin as her eyes trailed up. "Now that you mention it, I'm surprised he never brought up that kiss I gave him during the festival."

Chloe perked up with her eyes wide open. "Eh?! you kissed him too?!"

Both Alice and Lana turned their heads at her. It was at that moment that Chloe reread her own words and realized what she had just implicated. She backed away slightly, but their eyes wouldn't stop glaring at her like daggers.

"What do you mean... too?" Alice asked suspiciously.

"Hold on, we'll get to her in a second," Lana grumbled. "You, Alice? Of all people, you were the one who kissed him?"

"What can I say? The moment was right."

"Was it on the cheeks, or... the lips...?"

The most devious smile appeared on Alice's face. "Oh? Why do you want to know?"

"B-because!" Lana yelled before her tone shifted. "I... kissed him... too."

"What?!" Chloe boomed.

Even Alice couldn't keep her composure, as her brows rose and her mouth opened just slightly enough to indicate surprise.

"What about you...?" she growled. "Was it on the cheeks or the lips?"

"You answer first," Lana countered with the same energy.

Their clashing bloodlust caused the water to boil and shake. The surrounding foliage shook as if a strong gust of wind was present.

"Mine... was on the cheek," Chloe suddenly said.

The water calmed as the others shifted their attention to her. She was always seen by her sisters as the one who didn't have the confidence to do anything by herself. The fact that she could take the initiative to deliver a kiss was appalling.

With extreme nervousness, she said, "It happened before we left the hotel. He... was sad. He hated these festivals, and even though he didn't want to go, we still dragged him with us. That's why I did it."

As surprising as it was that she could do something like that, Alice and Lana felt the need to calm down.

"M-mine was on the cheek as well," Lana said. "There was a spin-the-wheel stall, and it landed on one that said, 'Kiss your partner.' Asahi-kun didn't wanna do it because he thought it'd be disrespectful to me. So I did it. That's... all."

She pushed back on the wall behind her with her arms crossed. Her face morphed into an awkward frown, as it was a thought that had been stuck in her head ever since it happened.

"I, too, kissed him on the cheek," Alice sighed. "I brought him to the rooftop right before the fireworks display. He told me that... he never had anyone to go with him to these festivals. Having to sit by and watch while other people were having fun with each... it was painful to hear. I can't even begin to imagine how he must've felt. And so, I kissed him to reassure him that he wasn't alone anymore. That's... my reason."

None of them said it out loud, but they were equally glad that none of the others kissed him on the lips. Their words resonated with each other. Even though the reasons they gave were different, they felt something else within their singular heart, but all of them refused to acknowledge it for one reason only.

"But... he'll be alone again... won't he...?" Chloe muttered dismally.

Lana gritted her teeth while Alice bit her lips.

"We told him, didn't we?" Chloe muttered, angry at no one else but herself. "We told him we'll never leave him. We told him to stay with us. We told him... not to worry, and yet... we're about to do the very thing we assured him we wouldn't do."

Alice was about to speak, but she faltered. "Chloe..."

"I'm so angry," Lana chuckled with frustration. "I've never felt like this before. We've gone and left this world so many times. We've lied to humans before, so why... why do I feel so terrible about this?"

Her heavy breaths were audible as her eyes grew visibly red and watery.

"If it were up to me, I wouldn't go back either," Alice said. "These past couple of months have had some of the best moments in my life. I'm sure it's the same for you girls as well. But... we have no choice."

"I know that," Chloe mumbled. "I do, but... it still hurts."

The mood fell drastically. What should've been a relaxing moment in a hot spring turned into a regretful realization. They've grown far too attached to Asahi to simply leave him, but their responsibility as the Moirai thwarts any attempt to stay.

"We... should tell him..." Chloe said.

"Yeah," Alice agreed.

Lana didn't say anything. Instead, she was the first to get out of the water. The others followed behind her after exchanging saddened looks.

They made their way to the changing room, dried themselves off, and slipped on their clothes. All the while, they remained completely silent.

After finishing up, they stepped out onto the now-busy street. Immediately, the cold Autumn breeze swept past them, a stark difference from the soothing warmth of the hot spring.

"Did Asahi-kun say where he was going?" Chloe asked.

"Not specifically. The only thing he said was that he would be nearby," Alice answered. "Let's take a look around."

They walked around for a while, but they couldn't sense his presence anywhere within a small radius. Eventually, they stumbled upon a secluded road with a couple of shops sitting off to the side. Still, his whereabouts were unknown.

"Where in the world did he go?" Chloe mumbled. "If he was nearby, we'd be able to sense him."

"Gods, that boy," Alice sighed. "I swear, once I find him, I'll-"

Suddenly, all of them jolted at a sudden chill that rapidly slithered up their spines. At that moment, they felt it. The sensation of a withering thread was as clear as day. However, it was not the feeling they were familiar with; it was the feeling of a thread being completely erased from reality.

Their heads turned to the forest beyond the city. They've felt this before, but not for a long time. Despite that, they would be ignorant fools to not know what it meant. A twist of fate had begun, and there was only one person in the world who it could've happened to.

"Asahi... kun...?" Chloe whimpered.

"Find him! Now!" Alice shouted.

A burst of light engulfed them, and out came the three Goddesses of Fate in their heavenly attire; a white peplos dress with gold accents and a cloak that casts a large hood over their heads. Wings of the brightest white sprouted from their backs as their powers began leaking from their body.

Within a second, they disappeared faster than the naked eye could see. At the speed of light, they forced their way out of the city and into the woods beyond, heading toward the direction where they felt the twist of fate.

Like humans, even the gods have a set fate they will inevitably follow. Everything that happens or will happen, nothing can be hidden from the eyes of the Moirai. However, they came across an exception to the absolute rule: Yoshino Asahi. Whatever the reason may be, they could not see his fate. His life, his actions... his death—it was a complete mystery.

He was an enigma, one that they kept with them solely because they wanted to keep an eye on them. But, over time, they felt themselves abandoning their original intention. Although it wasn't something that they accounted for, it still happened.

Their singular heart wavered, and their fondness for one human drove them to near insanity. For the first time in their lives, the Moirai felt genuine fear.

With the most anxiety they had ever known, they rushed through the forest with only one thought in their heads. 'Asahi-kun... Please, be safe!'

It didn't take them long to find the lonely grove beneath the towering cherry blossom trees. Finally, they could see the red threads that had eluded them for so long. Upon landing in front of the round table, their expressions dropped at what they saw next.

No words could describe how they felt when they stumbled upon the mortifying sight of Asahi's body lying almost lifelessly on the ground. The lower half of his body was completely transparent, the only distinguishable part being the golden outline and the starry texture that dotted his body. Seconds passed like hours while the effects of the twist of fate were slowly devouring him whole.

Lana quickly dashed over and slid to the ground next to him.

"Asahi-kun. Hey, Asahi-kun!" she shouted.

No answer. She held a hand over his mouth to feel the most subtle breaths. Chloe and Alice joined her, and together, they rested their hands on Asahi's back. They shut their eyes, they paced their breaths, and they began pouring their powers into his body.

A golden circle appeared beneath their hands, brandishing Asahi's back with the mark of the fates—a symbol containing a lonely thread weaving around a spindle, a staff, and a pair of scissors.

In an instant, strands of radiant threads flung out of his body and streaked through the air, lighting up the grove in a grandiose display of brilliant light.

Slowly, the transparent layer began to fade, and his body was returning to normal. The goddesses maintained their positions, continuously driving the power to control the fates of every mortal and god into their human friend.

As their powers connected, their individual thoughts became clear to each other.

Chloe shut her eyes tighter as she began to shake. "Asahi-kun... please... don't die. We still haven't gotten to do all the things we wanted to do with you."

Lana choked back the tears that were beginning to form. "I swear, Asahi-kun, if you die... I'll send you to the underworld and bring you back just so you know how it feels!"

Alice pursed her lips with a frown. "I'm sorry, Asahi-kun. This happened because of us. No matter what, we'll bring you back."

With the full extent of their powers, they pushed even harder. The radiant light of fate grew to the point where the grove was shining as bright as Mount Olympus itself.

After what felt like a grueling hour, Asahi returned to normal.

"Phew... He's fine, now," Alice said.

The others plopped on the ground and breathed heavy sighs of relief. They turned to each other with encouraging smiles, but they immediately faded when they looked back at Asahi's unconscious body.

Lana stood and picked him up. For a moment, they shared the same unilateral thought. They were careless and this was entirely their fault. Was it a lack of discipline? Or perhaps it was something worse that flew over their heads. Either way, the one human they cherished almost died because of it.

Together, the girls made their way back to the inn.