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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20. Chapter 20

 

Miyazono and I hatched a plan. It was a good plan. I think. Maybe. It'll probably make Aunt Reiko happy. And even if it didn't, it was the thought that mattered. 


I never thought of Aunt Reiko to be the sentimental type. But I guess any person who has regrets is sentimental. It's just some are better at hiding it. 


We agreed to execute the plan at the end of the week, on the precise day when Aunt Reiko's husband died. It would be the day when she'd be the loneliest. 


Until then, I had other stuff to do. 


Clean the baths, the toilets, the walls and floors and ceiling lights. Clean everything that could be cleaned, and as Miyazono put it: 'put your heart in it and the guests will feel your sincerity'. I'm pretty sure she learned that line from Aunt Reiko. 


But I had a plan of my own I needed to execute. 


Yuki. 


Somebody killed her. Somebody followed me to the forest. Somebody was afraid to follow me further in. Because they must know about Yuki. About the murder that happened here.


It was a thought I had before but didn't act on it until now: there's bound to be a newspaper report on Yuki. It’s a small village and there was no local paper, but there was a regional paper. Not like much happened in the region. Which is why a murder would be like crack cocaine for the local writers. It'd be the one piece of news that could actually sell papers. 


There's a reason why mystery novels sell even when the whole publishing industry is in free fall: people just love a good murder case, that and romance. 


The next day, I made use of Aunt Reiko's newly found concern for me and requested three hours off in the afternoon. I told her I wanted to go to the local library and look for any books that might be useful for raising my straight Bs to straight As. She said that there'd probably be nothing useful there, but was so happy with my apparent change in attitude towards work and studies that she let me go anyway. 


When Miyazono heard of my three hours of freedom, she forced my deceptive method out of me and laughed when I told her. 


She said, "You city boys are so sly, can I still trust you?" 


"You can always trust me to lie when I need to." 


“Ehhh, really?” Miyazono chuckled and went back to work. 


I put on my boots and headed for the local library. 


It had been a while since I took a nice long walk during the day. The snow was white and the sky was blue. The clear sky stretched until it met the tips of the dark mountains at the other end of the valley. In the summer those mountains would be green, I assume. Because that's what trees do in the summer: turn green. But in the winter, despite the constant snowing, they were pitch black. They almost didn't look real. Like they were a painting. 


The village itself was bustling with activity. Or at least it was as busy as it would get. 3pm in the afternoon: the first wave of exhausted skiers were coming back from the slopes. They carried their skis on their shoulders, they heads covered with helmets, ski googles covering half their faces. 


I wanted to ski too, but skiing is a luxury sport. And I wasn't earning anything. 


Around this time of the day, the shuttle bus from the Shinkansen station came in and another wave of tourists would come with their luggage cases. Some of them wearing jeans, some of them wearing sneakers, stylish in the city, stupid in the mountains. 


A whirlpool of languages: English, Korean, Chinese and on and on. When I first arrived here, I was intimidated by the international mix. Japan's tourism industry really depended on foreigners. All these different languages and all I understood was a few bits and pieces of English here and there. 


Apparently Aunt Reiko had picked up conversational Korean and Chinese somewhere along the way. Miyazono somehow learned fluent English. 


Anyways. Hands in my pocket, I walked past the stream of tourists, out of the tourist area of the village and into the local neighborhood. Things immediately turned quiet. The air was still. Nothing and no one anywhere. 


Here was the local combined middle school and high school. The gates were closed, the children busy helping out at the local businesses their parents ran. This area would come alive in the spring. But it's not like alive and dead was much different in this place. 


The residential houses were different from those in Tokyo. They were strewn about rather than in uniform and space saving rows. And yet they were somehow packed tightly together, as though they sought protection from the cold from each other. 

 

A little ways away from the school I found the local library. I went in.

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A/N: And we've reached the 20 chapter milestone! Thank you to everyone who has read this far :) 

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