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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My latest story! I think it's the best yet :)
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12. Chapter 12

"Satoshi, why are you running?!"


I stopped just in time. A little more and I would have knocked her down. I breathed hard. What should I say? What should I say? If I tell Aunt Reiko the truth, then she will fire me in order to apologize to the guest. Invading a guest's privacy is probably the biggest mistake ryokan staff can make. And I did that in the worst possible way. The image of the man and the woman, naked in the futon, him on top of her...


Argh! 


I saw Miyazono standing behind Aunt Reiko. We made eye contact. The swirling panic in my eyes, my flushed face. The image in my mind. There was a moment of recognition in her eyes. 


Miyazono said, "Aunt Reiko, Yamata-kun helped me clean out the larger family rooms on the second floor. But progress is slower because we're short on staff today. I rearranged Yamata-kun's work schedule and we just finished the second floor, we'll start on the third floor next." 


Aunt Reiko glanced at me. "Satoshi, is that right? You were helping Haruka?" 


"Y-yes." 


Aunt Reiko noodled. "Alright, back to work. And no running." 


She left, which just left me and Miyazono standing in the corridor. She said, "Quick, back to work." And then she added, "Come to the dining room after the guests have finished eating dinner. I need to talk to you about something." 

 

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The rest of the day was a whirlwind of work. Clean the guest rooms, polish the floor, dust the lamps (even where guests can't see them), clean the bathrooms, arrange the lobby slippers in a neat row so that guests can come back and just take off their shoes. 


I cleaned the couple's room last. When I knocked on their door, no one replied. They were out doing something. I handled the futons with extra care, making sure  not to touch anything I didn't have to. 


Dinner was served and eventually the guests went back to their rooms. Aunt Reiko retreated to her little office and it was just me and Miyazono again. In the dining room. 


I sat there, waiting for her. Whatever answers she wanted from me, I would have to give them to her. Because I owed her my life. 


Miyazono came in from the kitchen. She was still in her work clothes. She put down a canned drink in front of me. Orange juice. And a bowl of udon noodles. Leftovers, but still good. 


She said, "There are two things I want to ask you." 


Her voice was even, serious, kind of like Aunt Reiko. For a moment I saw a future ryokan manager in her. 


"Why did you go to the forest on your own? There's nothing there." 


The footsteps, the drinks, Yuki. Of all the things in the world, this was the only thing I couldn't tell her. Because Yuki was a secret in the forest, a little treasure no one could know about. At least until I find who or what killed her. 


I answered her question with another question. "How'd you find me?" 


Miyazono eyed me. She said, "I heard you talking to someone. Who was it?"


Tch, so she's playing that game, huh. 


I said, "I was talking to someone on the phone." 


"Impossible."


"Why?" 


"Because Aunt Reiko confiscated your phone. And also that forest has no reception. Maybe one of the last spots in Japan without reception." 


I said nothing. 


Miyazono rested her chin on her hand. "So...why were you there and who were you talking to?" 


Her gaze bore into me, searching me, prying every inch of me for information. I averted my eyes, sweating under my work clothes, my heart galloping. 


Miyazono sighed. "Fine, I can see that you're not going to talk. Even though I saved your life...maybe next time I'll let Aunt Reiko kill you, hmmm?"


I swallowed. Not good. Miyazono is the closest thing I have to a friend out here in enemy territory. And she had saved me two times. I couldn't just give her silence. But Yuki...


I said, "I just like to take walks in the forest, that's all." 


"Hmmm..." She narrowed her eyes. She didn't believe me.


I averted my eyes. I prayed that she wouldn't push me further on this. 


She clapped her hands together. "Alright, then here's the second thing I want to ask you." She leaned across the table, her eyes sparkling, the grin of a dirty old man on her face. "What did you see in that room upstairs?" 


She looked kind of creepy, but whatever. I told her and contrary to that perverted grin she had, she blushed like the young maiden that she was and asked for details. Every last detail. When I told her that I didn't have photographic memory and thus couldn't remember literary every tiny detail, she looked disappointed, but then stood up. "Wait here," she said. 


She came back with a big fat book. The guest book. 


I said, "How'd you get that? I thought Aunt Reiko kept that under lock and key." 


"And guess who has the key?" 


Good point. 


Miyazono poured over the pages until she found the most recent record for the room upstairs. Along with that she had photocopies of the ID cards the two guests used to check in. This girl was scary.


"Ohhhhhhhh!" She exclaimed. Her eyes were wide. Her breathing was shallow.


"What?" I couldn't believe how childish she was all of the sudden. But then again, I was curious too...


She said, "The man was born in 1975, the woman in 1994!! Could this...could this be an affair?!" 


I looked at the ID card copies. The woman was indeed young, maybe a college girl, certainly pretty, would probably turn heads at whatever office she interned at.  The man was almost twice her age. Wouldn't be the first boss to have an affair with the intern, I suppose...


We laughed and poured over the details, speculating what their relationship was and Miyazono contemplated every minute detail she was able to squeeze out of me. We slurped the bowls of udon and then talked more. 


Eventually when the conversation quieted down and the mood became a little more serious, I said, "But thank you, Miyazono. You've saved me twice already. I owe you a lot." 


She scratched the back of her head in embarrassment. "There's no need to be so formal, it's only natural, right?" 


Ah this girl, she is so humble. I suddenly remembered that she said that she had never been to the big city, that her parents were never interested, so she’s never been there. Maybe I should invite her on a trip to Tokyo. Maybe in the summer. I said, "No, really. I mean you made me dinner even when Aunt Reiko said I wasn't allowed to eat. Why did you do that? That was so risky." 


Miyazono was silent for a short while. As though she was contemplating how much she should tell me. Eventually she said, "I don't like eating alone, that's all." She averted her eyes. I couldn't tell if she felt embarrassed or if her thoughts were far away, in some distant past. 

 

I opened my mouth to say more, but the door to the dining room slid open. It was a guest. I recognized him. It was the man who was born in 1975, the man who is (presumably) having an affair with an intern, the man I walked in on whilst in the midsts of passion (with the presumed intern). He came to our table.

 

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A/N: I think I goofed off a bit in this chapter, but it was a lot of fun to write :P

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