Chapter 18:

Fortunae Cedere (Finale)

Hanging by a Thread

The end of the year is coming up in a couple of days, bringing the coldest weather I've ever seen so close to the solstice. I'm not complaining, though. Contrary to most people, I for one enjoy the cold. It's better to bundle up and freeze than to drip with sweat. No one can tell me otherwise.

I don't know why I like the cold so much. Maybe it's because the heat is just that bad. I'd rather freeze to death than die from a heat stroke. But... over these past couple of weeks, I've grown tired of the cold. Even as I stood here in the middle of an empty park, a wave of uneasiness washed over me. Why is that?

I tilted my head towards the sky and breathed a heavy sigh. As painful as it was, I kept perfectly still, inhaling the frosty air as it burned its way down my lungs. It's fine, though, because this is nothing compared to how cold I feel now that the girls' departure is approaching.

What will happen when they leave? I guess I'll go back to the quiet life I had before. Will I be able to adjust? I'm not sure. To be honest, I'm afraid. They were my first... everything. All the things I've always wanted to do, I did with them. From hanging out like normal people to something as simple as talking.

My first friends, my first happy memories, my first... love... all three of them. How selfish can I possibly be to want them for myself? Well, not like it'll matter in the end. They'll be gone soon, and after that, I'll be all alone once more. Perhaps this is what they call, 'fate.'

Beneath the glow of the sunset, I threw my head back for yet another sigh. Let's not think about that. I'll figure it out when I get there. For now...

"Asahi-kun!" Lana's voice shouted from behind me.

I turned around, and as if their sudden appearance worked some kind of magic on me, a smile grew on my face. Lana came running at me with the tail of her fuzzy white coat waving behind her. Following next to her was Chloe, the two strings of that black beanie flailing around her face. Alice wasn't too far behind with that one outfit we shopped for together during our first... hangout. Like always, she was walking, keeping her composure even when her sisters couldn't contain their excitement. They look so beautiful in those winter clothes.

When Lana caught up to me, she took my hand and looked at me joyously.

"Long time no see!" she said.

"Wha... It's only been a few hours," I scoffed.

"Shut up, dummy. Let me have my moment."

"Good evening, Asahi-kun," Chloe simpered. "How are you today?"

"I'm okay, thanks," I smiled. "How about you?"

"Better now that we get to see you."

I stumbled back a little. It's laughable that those words can catch me off guard when I've already been confessed to by the three of them. Still, it's embarrassing that someone could say something like that to me, and it seems Lana caught on to that very quickly.

"Eh? You've got him all flustered, Chloe," she laughed before turning to me. "What's wrong, Asahi-kun? Feeling... 'under the weather' again?"

"S-shut up," I mumbled.

"I think I know what'll help to warm you up."

Lana suddenly threw her arms around me and planted a soft kiss on my cheek. It went exactly as she said. I'm definitely a lot warmer now than before.

"W-what..." I gulped, not because of the kiss, but because Alice was now walking towards us with a disgruntled expression.

"There was no need for that, Lana," Alice growled.

"You jealous or something?" Lana snickered in response, "Weren't you the one that said 'all is fair in love and war,' my absolutely honest sister? Unless... You're not going back on your word, are you?"

"Nonsense. I just think Asahi-kun was already nice and warm, and you ignorantly intruded on his personal space."

"That's not true, is it, Asahi-kun?"

They both turned to me, fully expecting me to take their sides. The last time I had to do this, I wasn't really thinking that much and ended up choosing Alice's side simply because Lana's opinion was straight-up dumb. Now, I feel like I have to be conscious of their feelings. This is hard.

"I... don't mind it," I answered unsteadily. "Just give me a heads-up next time, Lana-chan."

"Will do!" she grinned.

"Asahi-kun..." Alice sighed. "I don't know if that's the kindness you harbor or the fact that you seemed to enjoy that kiss."

"Uh... I..."

"Why wouldn't he enjoy a kiss from me?" Lana smirked. "I'm the Lachesis, after all."

"Oh? What's this? Lachesis herself would kiss humans without their consent? My, my, you must've learned such a devious act straight out of Hera's playbook. My apologies. I should've known."

"What did you say?!"

They went further down the path with Lana continuing to pester her with criticism and insults while Alice was walking as if she didn't care at all. Yup, they're sisters alright. I couldn't help but chuckle.

Chloe approached me from the sideline and looked at me with worried eyes.

"Are they bothering you too much?" she asked.

"Not at all," I said. "It's kinda funny watching them go back and forth. It's just hard having to choose between the two when I wanna make them both happy."

"Don't worry too much. They won't hold a grudge over something as simple as this."

I hope so. I don't want them to leave with loose ends, especially when it's involving me. Next thing I know, a lightning bolt will strike me on a random day in the future just because Alice might still be mad at me.

"Shall we join them?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah," I said. "If we don't move now, they'll be long gone."

Together, we walked along the path in an attempt to catch up with the other two, but it's looking unlikely given how far their rant has taken them. Chloe then reached into her pocket and pulled out several chocolate balls encased in fancy wrappings. I recognize those; they're the really expensive ones, and for good reasons too. I've only ever tried it once, but it literally melted as soon as it touched my tongue.

Chloe seemed to notice me eyeballing the chocolate, as she laid one in her palm and lifted it to me.

"What?" I scoffed.

"You looked like you wanted one," she said.

"Nah, it's nothing like that. I can't handle sweets all too well."

She didn't take it all too well, as her eyes went wide. "What?! But... sweets are so good! Not even nectar could compare."

"They're too... sweet, I guess. I get sick just thinking about it."

"You had ice cream with me not too long ago."

"Yeah, like a single scoop."


Chloe quickly turned her head away with a pout. What the... It's not my fault that I don't sweets. I've tried to like it many times in the past, but I never understood the appeal.

I tilted my head up at the sky. The glow left by the sunset was fading, steadily being replaced by a shade of the darkest blue. Time passed by so quickly. It felt like only minutes ago since this morning when we were scouring for a place to have lunch.

"Asahi-kun!" cried Lana, who was bolting back towards us.

"W-what?" I stuttered.

She threw an arm back, pointing a finger at Alice. That blank look on Alice's face told me everything I needed to know about how their argument went.

"Tell that pig that I refuse to be her sister any longer!" Lana grunted. "Chloe! From now on, you're my only sister."

"Eh? Why?" asked Chloe.

"Don't listen to her, Chloe," Alice sighed. "She's going through it right now."

"What is that heathen saying?" Lana asked with her head peering around as if she couldn't see Alice. "I can't seem to hear her."

"Um... I think she's telling me to ignore you because you're going through it," Chloe answered.

"What?! Alice!"

"Oho, and suddenly, I'm very much visible," Alice scoffed.

Once again, they went back and forth with Chloe stuck in the middle, trying to calm the both of them down. I couldn't help but crack a smile. The constant bickering and nonsensical insults they kept throwing at each other... they really are sisters.

"You guys are adorable," I laughed.

That single sentence prompted them to immediately stop.

"Quite the smooth talker, Asahi-kun," Alice growled unpleasantly. "You'd better not be talking like that with other girls."

"What? Do you know who I am?" I scoffed. "What other girls would I be talking to?"

"He's right," Chloe agreed a little too quickly. "Asahi-kun literally can't talk to any other girls. He doesn't have the capability."

"What the... did you really have to word it like that?"

"I mean, she's not wrong, but who knows?" Lana muttered. "You said it so naturally. Should I take a peek inside that head of yours?"

"Definitely not. Get away from me."

"Hehe..." Lana giggled menacingly. "Come here, Asahi-kun!"

Every time she took a step forward, I took a step back. Every time she reached an arm at me, I tried as hard as possible to slap it away without hurting her. As much fun as Lana looks like she's having, I'm out here fighting for my life. I can't have them reading my mind. They'll see all the sad thoughts I've been having, and I don't want them to see that and be saddened by it.

"Lana-chan! Quit it!" I shouted.

"Not until I get a good look at ya," she laughed. "Chloe! Formation B."

Oh no, not this again. I quickly turned around to see that Chloe was already there waiting to grab me, and Alice had her fingers twiddling around a silver thread. I dodged past Chloe's arms and pulled her in front of me as soon as Alice threw her arm, making the thread strike her instead of me.

"W-whoa!" Chloe exclaimed when she found herself suddenly wrapped in a bundle of threads.

Afraid that she might fall and get hurt, I caught her right as she tripped. However, that gave Lana the perfect opportunity to tackle me to the ground, taking Chloe with us. Thank the gods we landed on the grass and not the concrete path. That could've ended very badly. Well... in a way, it kind of already did.

While I had my back against the ground, Lana was sitting on top of me with a knee on my chest, a huge smile adorning her face.

"I win!" she cheered with her arms in the air.

"That was pretty good, Asahi-kun," Alice giggled as she approached us. "I can't believe you almost countered our 'catch-him-before-he-runs' tactic."

"And I can't believe you guys actually made up something like that," I chuckled. "Sometimes, I have to remind myself that you guys are actual goddesses."

"That's right," Lana lowered her head with a massive grin. "We are goddesses. And you, Asahi-kun, have the privilege of being our favorite human."

"Wow, I'm so thankful."

"Why did that sound sarcastic?"

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

Her eyes began subtly glowing. "Oh? And here I was thinking that I should respect your wishes to not have your mind read. Perhaps I should just do it."

"Alright, alright!" I laughed. "I give up."

"Um... guys?" Chloe's sheepish voice suddenly said.

We turned our heads to see her on the ground next to us, her entire body still tangled in Alice's thread.

"Oh, Chloe!" Alice exclaimed. "I'm so sorry. Let me get that for you."

"Please, do," she grumbled.

Alice undid the threads, allowing Chloe to finally move around a bit. I should probably apologize for making her take the hit. Then again, as scummy as it was, they were trying to pull off that stupid formation on me again. It had to be done.

"My hair is all messy now..." Chloe sighed.

"Lighten up, sis," Lana smiled. "We're the only ones here anyway."

"Well... apart from Asahi-kun..."

"Hm? Why does that matter?" asked Alice. "Did you want to impress him or something?"

With a bright red hue growing on her cheeks, Chloe protested, "N-no! It's nothing like that... I was just... erm..."

"Eh...?" Lana hummed. "What's wrong, Chloe?"


"Hah! Look at how embarrassed she looks."

"Asahi-kun! Tell her to stop!"

"What?" I said. "What am I supposed to-"

Suddenly, the land that was once lit only by lamp posts sprung aglow. A magnificent array of colors filled the darkness. From the trees to the wall of bushes and shrubs, all of it was decorated with strings of light.

The girls came to a halt, keeping their heads still for a few seconds before turning them again to look elsewhere. Their eyes sparkled as if they were reflecting the colorful lights off those jeweled pupils.

"Whoa..." Lana mumbled under her breath.

"Mount Olympus could never," Chloe giggled.

"It's beautiful," Alice smiled.

Beautiful... huh? I've seen lights like these at least a hundred times. They were always something I'd look at and move on. I turned to look at the girls as I wore a smile of my own. I never knew that something as simple as lights could be so beautiful.

"Look at the tree! And even the bushes!" exclaimed Lana. "Why'd they put so many lights everywhere?"

"Well, it is Christmas day," I chuckled. "If anything, they should've had these set up a while ago. I wonder what took them so long."

"Let us continue down the path," Alice said. "I'm sure there is more to see."

We continued through the park, taking in all the lights that came from seemingly nowhere. Lana often stopped at a random point to gaze at those that were further in the distance. It's kind of strange how we haven't seen anyone at all. With a grand display such as this, I'd assume people would be flocking just to get a picture. That's right... it is very strange.

The path stopped at a roundabout with a fountain at the center. There, the Christmas lights were much more abundant than the rest of the park. As such, it was much brighter and more colorful. The girls ran up ahead with their heads twisting left and right as a huge smile adorned all of their faces.

"Asahi-kun, come here!" Chloe grinned.

I walked over and stood next to them. Together, we admired the lights once more. Beneath a starlit night, the cold wind brushing past us, and the ambiance provided by the fountain water—it was the perfect ending to the holiday, as well as a perfect ending... to the time we have left together.

"This is it... isn't it?" I said out of the blue.

They fixed their eyes on me for just a moment before turning away. The uneasy silence that followed gave me the answer I was expecting.

"You... knew?" muttered an ashamed Chloe.

"There's no reason why the park should be totally empty on Christmas day," I scoffed.

Once again, their faces dropped. I knew this moment would come for a long time. I thought I was prepared to see them off... so why it is that my heart still feels like it's falling down a hole?

"Then... I guess this is goodbye," I said as calmly as I could, but my voice was shaking.

They avoided my eyes for a while, but their thoughts were as clear as day. Are they hesitant? Do they wish they could stay? These questions raced around in my head, but I couldn't ask them. For all of humankind, they need to leave. That's all. As much as I want them to stay, I should know better than anyone that I have no right to ask that of them. I have to be brave.

Alice was the first to walk up. From beneath the bangs that covered her face, she appeared with a look that was void of light, like someone who had lost their reason to live. I know that look. After all, I once walked down that path.

Gently, she took my hand, and our eyes met. Just by gazing into her sunken eyes, I could tell how deeply saddened she was. Not just her. The others are sharing that same look of sadness.

Hold it in, Asahi. I have to see them off on a good note. I can't cry... not yet.

"Asahi-kun," Alice said with the quietest tone I've ever heard from her. "I... Haha..."

As that painful smile stretched her cheeks apart, her eyes began to shine. Like a water dam that was filled up to the brim, the tears began to fall.

"I don't even know what to say," she whimpered.

She covered her mouth with a forearm and shut her eyes, her body noticeably shaking as she attempted to combat the convulsive gasps forcing their way out of her mouth. Beneath these sealed lips, my teeth grit harshly. What can I say...? What could I possibly say right now to make this better? That's just it. No matter what comes to mind, there is nothing.

"I've pondered this moment for so long now..." Alice said. "There were so many things I thought I could say when it came time, but now that I'm here... my mind has gone blank."

She squeezed my hand harder, but I couldn't even feel the pain.

"Would you miss us? Of course, you will. But... just thinking about how it will be for you once we're gone... It's driving me crazy. What will you do now? Where will you go? How selfish these questions are, but I can't help it. I have to know, Asahi-kun... will you be okay without us?"

"If I gave one answer or the other... will it change my fate?" I asked.

She said nothing. The answer was obvious from the start. Even if I said, 'No, I won't be okay,' they wouldn't have stayed, and that's fine. It's fine... No, it's not, but I can't possibly say that, can I? I'm just a human among billions in a world that is overseen by the gods. I don't deserve them. I never did. So I can only be thankful that they gave me their time. That's all I can do.

"Remember when we first met?" I chuckled. "I admit, the first thing I thought of when I saw you guys was that you were the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Celebrities and models, not a single one of them could hold a candle to you. But that was it. I released you guys from my mind because I knew there was no way I could do what other students couldn't. I was just... a nobody. But... when I started to get closer to you guys, I couldn't stop thinking about where we would go or what we would do next. It became something I looked forward to each day. I was... happy."

Memories of these past couple of months replayed themselves in my head like a bunch of film strips, each rolling through every single day I spent with them. It's a shame that it had to end so soon. My only regret is that I couldn't make the most of it.

"You guys gave me something I never thought I would have in my life, so the only thing I can do now is to thank you," I said. "Thank you... really."

"Asahi-kun..." Lana grunted. "Stop talking... now."

"O-oh, um... Did I... overstep? Sorry, I was just... talking out of line."

"You... idiot. Did you not hear a single word I just said?!"

She stormed over and grabbed me by the collar of my jacket. With as much force as she could muster without hurting me, she slammed her head on my chest. What started as small gasps eventually morphed into the most agonizing wail. Nothing in the world could hurt me more than hearing her screams echo in the night.

"Why did it have to be you?!" she cried. "We've left behind so many humans, and never once did we feel anything... so why... why does it hurt so much this time?"

"Lana..." Chloe whispered as her eyes rapidly filled with tears.

Chloe then ran at me and pushed herself into my arms next to Lana. I bit my lips, desperately trying to keep my emotions in check.

Stop... please, stop crying. If not for your sake... then for mine. I can't handle this.

"Of all people, it had to be the one human... we cared so much for," Lana muttered.

Alice took my hand from the side and rested her head on my shoulder. I... love them. I really do, but I can't say that now. Otherwise, it'll hurt them more once they leave. Whatever happens, I have to make sure they leave without any regrets, as this is most likely the last time we'll ever see each other again.

I don't know how long we've been standing like this, but it's been a while, so much so that snowflakes began to dot the night sky. Even though my body felt weak from being in the cold for so long, I dared not move. I'll give them as much time as they need.

After what felt like hours, Lana was the first to let go with the others following shortly after. Their swollen eyes looked at me with guilt and sadness.

"Asahi-kun," Chloe said. "Promise us... Promise us you'll continue to live on normally... and that you won't let the thought of us drag you down."

"Heh, I promise," I said with the most sincere smile I could muster. "I'll be okay."

No, I won't.

"I'm used to being lonely.

Not anymore.

"You don't need to worry about me."

Then why am I worrying about myself?

"So... just go."

Please... don't.

My mind feels like it's crumbling. So many words were fighting to come out of my mouth, but I sealed them within. I can't say it. No matter how much pain I'm feeling, I have to make it easier for them to leave. My life is too short for them to worry about me. It's the least I can do.

Chloe ran up to hug me again.

"We'll try," she whispered before shifting to a confident tone. "We'll try our hardest to make it back to you... so... don't be sad. Alright?"

No... please, don't say that. If I raise my hopes now, it'll inevitably hurt. I don't ever want to feel this pain ever again.

"Yeah," I replied without thinking. "I'll be waiting."

But I know it is very unlikely that we'll meet again.

"Then... it is time," Alice said as she backed away.

Her sisters joined her. They shut their eyes for a moment before reopening them to reveal a culmination of all their eye colors combined. Wings of the brightest white sprouted from their backs. For the last time, they looked at me.

"Thank you... for everything, Asahi-kun," Chloe smiled.

"And don't forget to keep your promise, Asahi-kun," Lana grumbled.

"Make sure to take care of yourself, hm, Asahi-kun?" Alice giggled.

Wait... don't go yet. There's so much more I want to say. Please...

I lifted my hand slightly to reach out for them, but I kept myself from going any further. I can't stop them now. This is the best possible outcome. At least they'll be fine.

But what about me...? I want to cry too. I want them to know that I won't be okay without them.

No... why am I thinking like that? At that point, I'm just being selfish. My mind was stuck at a crossroads even though I knew which path I had to take. I have to let them go. This is the only way for them to move on.

"Farewell... Asahi-kun," their voices whispered to me.

Just like that, they disappeared, leaving behind a shower of white feathers. I took one step forward and reached my hand out to grab one. However, it disappeared just as quickly as the girls did.

They're gone... They're really gone.

I tilted my head slightly and peered into the sky. Then, I took one more look at the Christmas lights that surrounded me. For some reason, they don't look as beautiful as they did before.

The wind is picking up, and the snow is continuing to fall. I need to get out of here before I freeze to death. I made my way down a lonely path as haunting voices began echoing in my ears.

"Hey, Asahi-kun!" Lana shouted at me as she held up a stuffed toy. "Look! Ta-da!"

"What... is that?" I sighed.

"Eh?! It's a penguin!"

"I've never seen anything like it."

"Well, obviously. They live way up north."

"Kinda looks like you, Lana-chan."

"What did you just say?!"

That was when Lana received a stuffed penguin at a claw machine when we went to an arcade together. She was so excited to finally win after spending about thirty minutes on that one machine. Well... 'win' is a strong word. She was trying so hard to get the penguin that she emptied nearly a quarter of the prizes inside that claw machine. The store clerk ended up giving her one from the storage. That defeated look on his face was hilarious.

"C-Chloe-chan!" I exclaimed.

"What?" Chloe said nonchalantly as she lifted her fiftieth scoop of ice cream.

"How much did you eat? The tub was full like... five minutes ago!"

"Erm... G-goddesses need their daily dose of sugar in order to perform their duties! Yeah, t-that's it."

"And how many grams of sugar does this daily dose consist of?

"Wha... Stop judging me, Asahi-kun!"

"Haha! Sorry, sorry."

This was the first time I figured out that Chloe had the biggest sweet tooth known to mankind. We were sitting at a picnic table outside of a ramen bar. As soon as Chloe finished her bowl, she muttered something about wanting desserts. That was when I lifted my head to see her magically holding a tub of ice cream. I looked away for at least five minutes and when I turned back, she had already downed more than half the tub. I don't understand how she can handle that much sweetness. I'd rather drop dead than force myself to eat any more than a single slice of cake.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" asked Alice.

"Y-yeah... sure is..." I gulped nervously as I sat with her on the safety rail of the hotel balcony.

"Hehe, don't worry too much, Asahi-kun. Even if you fall, I'll catch you."

"Just falling off for a second will probably take a couple of years off my life."

"Well, we can't have that, now, can we? Give me your arm."

"Wha-! W-wait! Alice-chan!"

"This way, you won't fall."

I can't believe I went through with that. Alice somehow convinced me to sit next to her on the balcony safety rails. Well... I guess it's my fault since I agreed. It was supposed to be a quick conversation, but then she grabbed my arm and held it tightly. While she did keep me from falling, I was forced to sit there for an hour while trying to not look down. Lana was right about one thing. Alice is definitely the one who is most likely to kill me on accident. It often felt like she forgot I was human.

So many more moments in the past kept replaying themselves in my head. What's the point in thinking about it any longer? They're gone now. All that's left is to move on.

I promised them... so I can't... cry.

With a hand over my mouth, I dropped to my knees, and finally... the tears came out.

I can't breathe. I'm crying, but I can't even scream. Even when I shut my eyes, I see them smiling at me. I miss them... I miss them already. I want them to come back.

My heart feels like it's bleeding. It hurts so much. Why...? Why won't it stop?

With each passing second, I felt myself succumbing more and more to my own sorrow. I can't stop thinking about them. Just the thought of having to live the rest of my life without ever seeing them again was suffocating. Now that they're gone... it feels like I've lost a piece of myself. It feels like... I can't do anything anymore.

Is this what a broken heart is? How dreadful. I wonder... if the old me knew how it would feel on this day, would he still choose to remain by their side? I'm not even sure myself.

How I wish this was all just a dream. In the next couple of minutes, I'll wake up from my bed to the girls spamming the group chat. Hell, I'll even accept it if this entire semester was a dream. At least then, it would hurt less knowing our relationship was never real.

Hah... what is wrong with me? I can't believe I'm having such thoughts.

I knew from the start that I wouldn't be able to handle it if they ever left. A part of me wanted to beg them to stay. A part of me wanted to tell them that I wouldn't be able to live without them. That's funny, isn't it? What kind of a sick person am I? How could I even think to say something like that? I'm such a terrible person, but that's nothing new to me.

My head rose, my eyes opened, and I embraced the cold. The tears that were running down my face burned like ice, but I didn't bother wiping them off.

And here I was thinking that I was ready to see them off... what a joke. Still, I made a promise to them that I'd be okay. I should at least try to keep it.

I stood up and wiped the tears off my face. So that's it, huh? My time with the three Goddesses of Fate is over, and now, the pain of solitude has come back to welcome me with open arms. Once again, I am all alone.

I took one final glance at the fountain where the girls left. Will I ever see them again? It's a long shot, and I don't want to remain hopeful.

Fate is cruel, and hope... will only cause me more pain. But I'll wait. If it means returning to how we were before, I'll keep on waiting.

"Farewell," I said for the last time.

Hanging by a Thread