Chapter 17:

To Each Their Own

Hanging by a Thread

I stopped in front of a massive building with the most grandiose entrance I've ever seen. Just by looking at the people coming in and out, I knew immediately that I'd be the odd man out as soon I stepped through those doors. I don't even wanna go inside anymore, but... I have to. The girls can't save me this time. Well, they can, but they won't.

With as much confidence as I could muster, I walked in. My heart shouldn't be beating this fast from something like this. Just a week ago, I was kissed by a goddess... and a week before that, I was kissed by another goddess. It's embarrassing that I can't handle something like this. So much for growing out of my social anxiety.

A kiss is a big deal, though, isn't it? I'm not just being weird, am I? I'm totally justified... I think.

After a short elevator ride, I found myself standing in front of a vault-like door with a keypad on the knob. I reached a finger up to tap in the code until I realized that I had completely forgotten it. Chloe literally told me what it was yesterday.

I gave up on trying to remember it and rang the doorbell. A small device to the left side of the door lit up, and a voice came out.

"Who it is?" asked Alice.

"It's Asahi," I said. "I forgot the code."


The door unlocked and out popped Alice, who was giving me an annoyed stare. Seconds passed without a single word exchanged. This is so unbearable, mostly because all she's wearing is an oversized shirt. With the sleeves nearly slipping off her shoulder, I was shown a lot more than I needed to see. It doesn't look like she has any leggings on either.

I shut my eyes and tilted my head away in a desperate attempt to keep these perverted thoughts from flooding into my head.

"Oh? Why aren't you looking at me anymore, Asahi-kun?" Alice hummed seductively.

"Because I'm trying to be respectful," I muttered.

"You don't have to be respectful around me."

"I'm choosing to, now put on some clothes."

"How disappointing."

I walked past her while she stretched her arms into the air and yawned. Turns out, that wasn't the end of it. As soon as I turned the corner, I froze at the sight of yet another mortifying sight.

Lana had her legs spread out in a perfect split upon a yoga mat, wearing the shortest shorts I've ever seen. The top of her chest was barely covered by that thin tank top as she bent over. With her elbows on the floor, she was browsing through her phone. When she finally looked up, I completely lost my breath.

"Oh. Hey, Asahi-kun. You made it," she smiled gorgeously.

In my whole life, I've never turned my entire body faster than I just did.

"W-what are you doing?" I stuttered nervously.

"Hm? Just a bit of exercise while we were waiting for you," she answered. "You sure took your sweet time getting here."

"I mean... this hotel is pretty far from my apartment."

"Oh yeah. It is, isn't it? Anyway, how long are you planning to stand there without looking at me?"

"As long as it takes for you to cover yourself up."

"Ehhh?" she hummed, and I could literally hear that smirk growing on her face. "Why? Are you getting excited from looking at your friend? That's kinda weird, Asahi-kun."

"S-shut up."

I decided to leave before this escalated any further. Lana suddenly became super conscious about what I said.

"Hey, I was just kidding!" she shouted playfully. "Come back!"

"Put on some actual clothes, and I'll think about it," I replied.

I opened the door to another room and backed myself into it. This is hard. Lana and Alice both confessed their love for me and here I am, completely oblivious as to how I'm supposed to act. On the outside, it seems as though nothing has changed. They're still acting the way they did before, and they never once brought up the kiss after it happened. What am I to make of all this?

"Asahi-kun?" called a sheepish voice.

Chloe was standing right next to see with those huge eyes beneath a pair of square glasses that I'd never seen her wear until now. Why am I suddenly thinking about how cute she looks in them? When did my mind become so twisted?

"Hey, are you okay?" she asked.

"Y-yeah," I said. "Just a bit under the weather."


She rested a hand on my forehead as she began bombarding me with questions.

"Did you eat anything weird? Are you sick? Perhaps a cold? It is getting very chilly outside. Is your heater at home working properly?"

"Calm down, Chloe-chan," I chuckled. "It's nothing serious."

"Are you sure?"


She seemed reluctant to let this go. Chloe has always been this way. Whenever she sees that I'm hurt even in the slightest, she always wants to make sure that I'm okay. I think it's cute that she cares so much about me, but sometimes, it can become a bit too much.

"If you say you're okay, then I won't press on it any further," she sighed. "But the moment you feel something is up, let me know right away. Okay?"

"Will do," I smiled.


Then, what sounded like a doorbell rang through the room. Chloe and I exchanged looks before making our way into the living. We looked around to see that Alice and Lana were nowhere to be seen.

"Guys?" Chloe called out.

"Over here," Alice said.

We turned the corner to see both her and Lana setting up assorted boxes on the dining table.

"Asahi-kun! Come, come," Lana said giddily.

"What's all this?" I asked.

"Bento boxes! We ordered them a bit ago, and they just came in."

"Care for some lunch, Asahi-kun?" Alice smiled.

"Hm... I am a bit hungry," I said. "I haven't eaten at all today."

Suddenly, all of them shot me intense glares. It felt like a spider was crawling the back of my neck as I tried not to notice it, but I gave in.

"W-what?" I gulped.

"What do you mean, you didn't eat today?" Lana grunted. "What's wrong with you?"

With a frown on her face, Chloe muttered, "You shouldn't be starving yourself, Asahi-kun."

"I didn't do it on purpose," I gulped. "I just happened to not eat anything. That's all."

"And that's supposed to help your case, how?" Alice scoffed.

"I-it's fine now since we're about to eat, right?"


I've been so used to eating one meal a day that I don't feel myself getting hungry until at least twenty hours later. Not the healthiest way of living, but I can get by. It's not like I do anything that warrants me to eat any more than that.

I took a peek at one of the bento boxes among the rest that were sitting in perfect symmetry. Then I trailed to another one before moving on to the next. Looks like they're all different from the vegetables to the protein.

"You choose first, Asahi-kun," Alice said.

"Eh? Why me?" I asked.

"You're the guest of honor for today. Plus, you haven't eaten yet, so go on."

I lifted a finger to my chin as I assessed each of them. They all look delicious, but one stood out more than the rest.

"This one," I said.

"Are you sure?" Alice questioned a bit suspiciously.

"Uh... Y-yeah?"

"Hm... Alright. Your turn, Lana."

"I want this one!" Lana shouted as she held it in the air.

"And you, Chloe?" Alice asked.

"Um... Um..." Chloe mumbled as her head twisted left and right.

"The day isn't getting any shorter, Chloe-chan," I laughed.

After giving me a brief look of annoyance, she placed a finger on a box and said, "This one."

"I suppose that leaves me with this one," Alice said as she took the last one. "Alright. Let's dig in."

We each opened our bento boxes one at a time to give the others a good look. I'll be honest, I was a tad bit jealous of Lana's box. It was the only one that had Wagyu beef. So that's why she was so excited about that one.

I can't complain since I purposefully picked the one with the most vegetables. This box could pass for a vegetarian meal had it not been for the two pieces of fried pork cutlets. Since this is basically free food for me, I wanted the girls to have the best ones. Even then, the proportions are all off here. How did the restaurant mess it up so badly? Thankfully, I wasn't born a picky eater.

I took a bite out of the cutlet and accompanied it with strands of lettuce and some rice. My eyes shot open. This is... really good. I don't know if it makes up for the small amount of pork, but it's good nonetheless.

"How is it, Asahi-kun?" asked Chloe.

"Could use a little more of the pork cutlets," I said. "Other than that, it's good."

"That's your own fault," Alice chuckled. "You chose that one because of us, didn't you?"

My chopsticks were almost in my mouth when I froze instantly upon hearing those words. My eyes trailed up to see them all gracefully smiling at me.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said as I took another bite.

"Hah! Look at him trying to act cool," Lana laughed with an elbow on the table. "Did you really think we wouldn't notice that you chose the least appealing one?"

I froze yet again, this time in the middle of chewing. I've been discovered? Already?! Why in the world were they paying attention to something as minor as that? I don't even know how I'm supposed to explain myself. I'd like to ignore it altogether, but they won't stop looking at me.

"Were you being considerate of us?" Chloe giggled. "That's so sweet of you."

"It's nothing like that," I sighed. "You guys bought me food, so naturally I should let you have the good ones."

"You didn't need to, but... thank you, Asahi-kun."

Their smiles only grew wider. I wonder if they realize how uncomfortable this is making me, but I guess it's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Can you guys stop looking at me and eat?" I grumbled.

"Ah, sorry, sorry," Lana snickered. "Let's give him some space, girls."

Finally, they went back to eating. Being stared at during mealtime is one of my biggest gripes. I don't mind as much when it's them, but it still felt like I was about to pass out.

Lana was the first to break the silence, rambling on about something that happened between her and Apollo. Apparently, he's a womanizer like no other. There was once a period of time when he tried to get with all of the fates but was rejected each time. Even Chloe, who I thought to be the kindest of the three, said no in the blink of an eye.

The conversation somehow shifted to the King of Gods. Apparently, he's anything but a king. Like most other gods, he's done some really messed up things in the past that even the fates hold a grudge against him. That's even more apparent now that they know he's the reason behind their mother's absence.

After a couple of minutes of eating and chatting, we all finished our meals. Despite being mostly vegetables, that bento box was actually delicious. I wonder where they ordered it from.

"Ah, I'm satisfied," Lana sighed with content. "Hey, do we have any desserts?"

"I think we ran out of mochi yesterday," Alice muttered. "Let's do something simple today. How about... ice cream?"

"Ice... cream?!" Chloe exclaimed in the quietest way possible, but her excitement was very clear.

I almost laughed at her reaction. She had that exact same face when I suggested ice cream during the Autumn festival.

"I guess we know what we're having for dessert," Alice giggled. "So who's gonna go and get it?"

"I can," I offered.

"Is that so? Then I'll come with you."

Lana immediately shot up and shouted, "Eh?! No, absolutely not. I don't like the idea of Asahi-kun being alone with you."

With a finger on her chin and a devilish smirk streaking across her face, Alice said, "What? Why do you care if I'm alone with him?"

"Because you're the most likely to somehow kill him," Lana shot back with a sinister smile.

They locked each other down with menacing sneers, all the while Chloe was sitting in between them with a blank face as if this was completely normal.

"I'll go with Chloe-chan then," I threw in.

"Eh?!" Alice and Lana exclaimed.

"M-me?" Chloe gasped.

"Yeah. Since these two are hellbent on keeping each other away from me, I'll just go with you," I said.

"How is that any better?" Alice protested.

"I don't know, but that's what's gonna happen now. Quick, Chloe-chan, before they say something else!"

"Oh! Y-yes!" Chloe grinned.

We bolted towards the exit while Lana was roaring at us to come back. With our backs pinning the door from opening, we shared an accomplished moment of laughter.

"Shall we, Asahi-kun?" Chloe asked as she extended a hand to me.

Taking her hand, I smiled back, "Yeah."

A flash of light completely covered us within a second. The next thing I knew, we were standing at the entrance of an alleyway. I took a peek outside to see that we were right next to a convenience store. How... convenient that we landed exactly where we needed to be.

"Alright... I think we're clear," I said. "Let's..."

I stopped when I saw Chloe squatting on the ground with her hands covering her mouth. She noticed me staring at me and smiled.

"Oops," she giggled. "I forgot how cold it had gotten outside."

It only just now dawned upon me that all she's wearing is a skirt and a short-sleeve shirt. I quickly took off my jacket and wrapped it around her.

"Here," I said.

"Eh? N-no, Asahi-kun... you don't have to," she muttered beneath those cold breaths.

"Don't worry about it. I was the one who dragged you out here. It's my fault for being careless. Come on. Let's get you inside."

I helped her up, and together, we made our way into the store. Chloe took a couple of seconds to warm up. Slowly but surely, her shivers were beginning to fade.

"I'm okay now, Asahi-kun," she mumbled.

"Are you sure? We can take a bit more time," I said.

"No. My sisters will get worried if we're out for too long."

After grabbing a basket, Chloe and I browsed through the ice cream freezers for a good five minutes. Each flavor we passed caught her eyes. She was practically drooling just from the sight alone.

The only ones we ended up going for were a box of vanilla popsicles with chocolate layers and a small carton of cookies and cream. There's not a single doubt in my mind that she would've bought every single one she saw had it not been for me.

"We should've gotten more," Chloe mumbled dejectedly.

"This is more than enough," I scoffed. "Eating too much ice cream is unhealthy. Well, I guess our laws of anatomy don't apply to you goddesses, huh?"

She said nothing. I thought that was a pretty funny joke, albeit a tad bit corny. Maybe I missed the mark.

"Chloe-chan?" I called to no avail.

I turned to see her eyes wandering off. She was looking at an ice cream stall at the corner of the store where a man was sitting back, waiting for his next customer. In the coolers in front of him sat large buckets of various ice cream flavors.

Hah, she really loves ice cream, doesn't she? Fine... just this once.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wallet. The man behind the counter perked right up from his seat when he saw me coming.

"One cone, please," I said.

"How many scoops?" he asked.

"Four. Strawberry, chocolate, taro, and cookie dough, if you don't mind."

For a moment, his eyebrows raised, probably astounded by such an otherworldly combination. I can't really blame him. I, too, was equally surprised when I saw it for the first time.

He handed the cone and let out a lighthearted chuckle. "That's a weird amalgamation you got there, kid."

"It's an acquired taste," I said as I paid for it.

I walked back over to Chloe and handed her the cone, but she seemed very reluctant to take it.

"What? Grown out of it already?" I laughed.

"N-no... It's just..." she mumbled sheepishly. "Why do you keep doing nice things for me?"

"What do you mean? Why would I not?"

"I'm not... as good as my sisters."

I froze as soon as I heard those words. What did she just say? No... the real question is why she would even say something like that.

"Not as good as your sisters?" I repeated. "What is that supposed to mean? You're a great person, Chloe-chan."

"You don't have to tell me things to make me feel better, Asahi-kun," she forced a smile and said. "I've long known that my sisters outshine me."

'Why...' It's so obvious, isn't it? I once asked myself that very same question even though the answer was as clear as day. When I look at her look like this, I can't help but be reminded of myself... someone who feels like they're always excluded... someone who's not good enough.

I dropped the basket and immediately threw my arms around her, careful not to touch her hair with the ice cream cone in my hand.

"Asahi... kun?" she gulped.

"I'm not just saying these things to say it," I said. "You're amazing, Chloe-chan. I know you're much quieter and more reserved than the others, but that's just a part of your charm. You've shown me more care than anyone else in the world, which I think is evidence of your compassion. I like it. You may not think of yourself to be equal to your sisters, but I do. So... don't be sad."

Was I always able to speak this way? I've never given out compliments like this, but when I did, they never sounded genuine. This time, however, it felt so natural. For some reason, I can't stand watching her get sad. Even if I have to break away from the shell that has caged me for so long, I'll do it if it makes her happy.

Chloe reached up and gently pushed me away. I was still a bit worried, but when she lifted her head, I realized that I didn't need to be. That newfound smile on her face was everything.

"I'm okay now, Asahi-kun," she said. "Truly."

"If you say so," I smiled. "And here. Eat this before it melts."

She took it and began subtly gnawing away at the top as if she didn't want to embarrass herself by eating the whole thing in one gulp. I wouldn't even be surprised if she could.

I paid for the rest of the packaged ice cream, and we left the store. Once we were in the alleyway, Chloe had already finished the ice cream I bought for her. I knew it. She could've eaten the whole thing right then and there if she wanted to.

"Alright... ready?" Chloe gave me her hand and asked.

"Yeah," I said.

Together, we teleported back to... somewhere? I looked around to see that we were standing in the middle of an empty road. All around us, snow covered the ground.

"Huh? Wait... this isn't... home...?" I said before slowly realizing where we were.

Behind us was a familiar shrine that sat abandoned at the foot of a massive incline. The few trees that were spread around had already lost all of their leaves with piles of snow forming upon the branches. To my right was a set of railings at the edge of a cliffside and below it, a slope that was covered in a layer of snow. Even with the blinding whiteness, I could make out the small shrubbery that dotted its way down the mountainside. Just beneath the horizon was the grand city of Tokyo.

"This is... Mount Fuji?" I asked breathlessly.

"Yeah," Chloe answered. "I wanted to come here at least one more time with you before we left."

Suddenly, a gust of wind followed by a small snowstorm brushed past us, nearly knocking me off my feet. Looks like the winter winds are starting to pick up. It couldn't have come at a worse time now that we're standing near the top of a freaking mountain.

"That's cool and all, but it's a bit too cold up here for a nice visit," I chuckled, though I could feel my body rapidly losing its temperature. If anything, I'll probably not feel it at all by the end of this.

"It's fine. I just wanted to thank you. That's all."

"With this?"

"No. With this."

With her hands behind her back, she rapidly turned around and leaned her body forward while rising on her toes. Even though I flinched and took a step back, she was still able to reach my lips with hers.

The strong winds suddenly dispersed, taking the cold with them. A dome of the most beautiful snowflakes surrounded us like a barrier. Each passing second felt longer than the last, and so did the fulfillment of our breaths.

It's the same situation again... Chloe, a beautiful girl who is astronomically out of my league, is kissing me. Me... What is it that she's in me that makes her want to do this?

She opened her eyes as her hair fluttered endlessly. We locked onto each other for just a second before she closed them and pushed herself further onto me. The faint taste of that weird ice cream was still fresh in mouth her. Nonetheless, it tasted sweet... just like her.

At last, she dropped to her feet and looked at me. Her heavy breaths were much more visible than they were before, and so were mine.

Chloe took my hand and pressed her body up against mine. The cold wind slashed at my body, but it could not pierce through her warmth.

"Asahi-kun... Thank you so much," she whispered with an effusive grin. "For giving me someone to love."

"Someone... M-me?" I gasped just as quietly.

"Yes. You."

She looked at me as if she was expecting some kind of odd reaction. Unsure of what to do and say, I simply stood there, dumbfounded and nervous. I suppose she found my expression funny, as she let out a soft giggle before leaning her head on my chest.

"I don't get it," I mumbled. "Why would you love someone like me? I'm just a-"

"Asahi-kun," she interrupted sternly.

She lifted her head and looked at me with the most serious face I've ever seen her make.

"Why do you keep degrading yourself when we know you're so much more than you think?" she asked.

"I'm not degrading myself..." I said. "I'm just telling it as it is."

"And I'm telling you that you're wrong. You're the kindest and most caring person I've ever met. How could I not fall for you?"

First Alice, then Lana, and now Chloe. I don't understand any of this. Why do they have these feelings for me? Just what is it that they see in me when I don't even see in myself? So many questions raced through my head, but I couldn't find the answer to a single one, and I doubted that Chloe would give me a reasonable answer.

"Still feeling cold?" she asked.

"N-no..." I stuttered nervously.

"Hehe. That's good."

That smile on her face grew wider. The bright snow layering the backdrop glowed upon her skin, making her blush seem that much more obvious. If that's the case for her, I can't even imagine how mine must look. Despite how cold it is up here, I feel like I could melt at any moment.

"Chloe-chan... We should get back to the others," I said as calmly as possible. "They'll start to get suspicious if we stay out for any longer."

"Hm... fine," she sighed.

The dome that covered us from the snow fell, altering itself into sparkly strands that rotated around us.

"Ready?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"Hold on tight, Asahi-kun."

The strands continued to lace around us until we were completely taken by them. With her arms still around me, we warped back into the living room of the hotel room.

Chloe couldn't have chosen a worse place to land, as Alice and Lana were sitting right there. Those huge eyes stared at us until they morphed into the most dangerous scowls I've ever seen.

"Asahi-kun..." Lana growled.

"What do you think you're doing...?" Alice finished the sentence with the same animosity.

"Uh... I can... explain?" I gulped.

"Oh no, there's no need for him to explain himself, Alice," Lana snickered menacingly. "A simple lesson will serve him much better."

"I think I might have to agree for once, dear sister," Alice hummed, though she was exuding bloodlust.

"W-wait! This is just a misunderstanding!" I shouted.

But that didn't stop them at all. They both stood up and slowly walked toward me as if they were possessed. By that time, Chloe had already let go and was now acting as if she had nothing to do with this. I think... I'm truly about to die now.