The Snow Maiden

I was always a straight B student. Because a C made me look dumb and an A wasn't worth the effort. Scoring an A is for suckers. This pissed off the wrong people (my parents), so I was punished by being sent out here: a village in the snow country. But instead of building character, I met this village's darkest secret: the girl in the snow. She was dead and she changed my life. - UPDATES EVERY MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY!

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Author's note

My latest story! I think it's the best yet :)
AA

10. Chapter 10

Why did I even go out to find her? I mean any rational person would've dismissed Yuki as a figment of imagination. There was no way that she could exist. And even if she did, it would be better not to get involved with her. Do my job, leave the village, go back to Tokyo and live my life. 


But.


I was bored and curious. The memory of her just wouldn't leave me. A girl who existed only in the forest, in the snow, wearing a white kimono. 


So I went back to the forest. Part of me hoped to see her again. Part of me hoped that she was just an illusion. Either way I had to find out.


Aunt Reiko was out for another meeting. Which was strange, Miyazono said. I asked why and she said that before I came, Aunt Reiko only rarely had these meetings. Now she had them several times a week. God knows why. 


I shrugged at that time. Maybe the village's economy was in trouble. Maybe there weren't as many tourists this time. Not my problem. In fact it worked to my benefit. Less work for me. Miyazono said that these meetings usually last several hours and so I decided to use this chance to find Yuki. I snuck out the backdoor and headed for the edge of the village, the edge of the forest, the end of civilization and the beginning of the eternal white. 


I got to the entrance. Nothing to my left, nothing to my right. No footsteps. Just plains of undisturbed snow. 


"Yuki?" I called out. "Hello?" 


Nothing. Ugh, I felt stupid for just standing here. Like I was expecting something. As though I actually believed in ghosts. 


One more time. "Yuki? Are you there? Err...I got another vending machine drink with me." 


Footsteps appeared. Almost immediately. As though the words 'vending machine' were a summoning call. Which is kind of pathetic if you really think about it. But hey, whatever works. 


The pair of footsteps were right in front of me. But no person materialized. 


"Yuki?" I pulled the drink out of my pocket. "This is chocolate milk." 


Wether or not Yuki was happy about that was impossible to tell because I couldn't see her. "Uhm...are you there?" 


For a short while there was nothing and then more footsteps appeared. This time I saw the depressions appearing one by one in the snow. It looked like a person walking, towards the forest, except there was no one there except me. 


Maybe she could only appear in the forest? Why though? Come to think of it, she resisted when I mentioned that I would take her to the village. Maybe she doesn't like the village? Maybe it has something to do with her death? Yes, that would be the most logical conclusion. I made a mental note to ask her. 


One by one the steps appeared and I followed diligently. We came to the bend where I first met her. And then she appeared. She sat on the pile of snow, wearing a white kimono and holding a red wagasa over her shoulder. Which she didn't have the first time I met her. 


Yuki said, "You came back." 


I sat down next to her. "I wanted to find out if you were real or not." 


"You didn't think I was real?" A smile in her voice. 


"Any rational person would think that this was all fantasy." 


"And you aren't rational?" 


"Maybe, maybe not. But it takes an irrational person to help a snow maiden spirit pass on the next life by buying her vending machine drinks." 


"Are you mocking me?" 


"I am describing observed reality." 


"What's 'observed reality'?" 


"That which we can see is real." 


Yuki seemed to contemplate this for a while. Then she said, "You are wrong. Helping me doesn't make you an irrational person in your so-called 'observed reality'." 


"Then what?" 


“It makes you a kind person." 


I raised an eyebrow and glanced at her. She had her head tilted slightly, her lips smiling. Rays of light found their way and landed on her, enveloping her in an otherworldly glow, making her seem somewhat transparent, as though she were less human and more like the remains of whatever she once was. 


She shouldered her wagasa and blocked the sunlight. Her "body" solidified in the shade. 


I said, "You really are a ghost." 


"I don't like the word ‘ghost’, but I suppose that is the best way of describing my existence." 


I opened my mouth to ask her the question that has always been on my mind: why are you here?But she turned to me and reached into my pocket. 


She said, "You said you have something for me?"


She rummaged though my coat pocket, digging here, moving there, her icy fingers exploring with childish eagerness.


"Alright, alright, jezz...I'll get it for you!" I reached into my pocket and our hands touched. A chill went through me but I didn't let it show. I pulled out the can. "Here's your chocolate milk." 


Yuki took it into her hands and examined it as though it were some kind of rare artifact. An object from a time long gone. Something from a different world. Which was true. For her anyway. 


Once she had seen every detail of the can, she opened it and took a sip. "Delicious! Is this Hokkaido milk? It's so smooth and...and...milky!"


Milky...was her vocabulary that of a kindergartner? It felt like whenever she held a drink in her hands, her personality would turn to that of a child and her speech with it. I always thought spirits were supposed to be wise and dignified all the time...but I guess it's part time for her. 


While she drank the chocolate milk, I asked, "Yuki, why are you here?" 


"Hmm?" 


"Why are you tied down to this life? Why have you lost your memories?" 


"Didn't I tell you last time? Once I try every drink in the vending machine, then I might move on."


"Yes, I know. But why?" 


"Why...hmm..." Yuki thought for a while and took one more gulp. "I guess I was killed when I was alive. Yes...I think that is what happened." 


So it was a murder. But she didn't seem to be harboring any grudges. But if it was a murder, then it must have something to do with the village. There is no other town or village within an hour from here, three hours if it snows heavily. But above all: she resisted my attempts to bring her back to the village. 


I took a breath. "Did someone in the village kill you?" 


Silence. 


"Yuki?" 


Her eyes were on me, but they gazed past me, beyond the white path. She said, "Someone is coming." 


She vanished. The can dropped onto the snow. The perfect white stained by drops of chocolate milk. 

 

"Who is — " I said but stopped. I heard the sound of snow crunching under a pair of feet. The steps came fast, steady, urgently. Who was there?

 

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