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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23. Chapter 23

A voice clear like the wind, pure like the snow. I turned and my shadow touched her. Yuki appeared in her white kimono, her long hair filtering the last rays of sun, a smile at the corner of her eyes. 


I invited her to sit down and pulled out the drinks I had saved up for her. Yuki's eyes sparkled and she examined the cans as if they were rare artifacts. She cradled them lovingly, then opened one and began to drink. She let out a satisfied sigh. She was content. But she didn't pass on. There were still a few more drinks to go. 


The dying sunlight enveloped her slim frame, shone through her sleeves and hair. But when she put down the cans, they were empty. She was here and yet she wasn't. Part of this world and not part of it. She was able to appear in front of my eyes, but as soon as sunlight faded, she would disappear. 


A ghost that could only appear during the day. I smiled at that thought. God had his sense of humor. 


Yuki asked, "What's so funny?" 


"It's nothing." 


She opened the second can. It began to snow. The flakes glittered in the sunlight like stars. All around us, like we were in the night sky, flying like birds, free like the clouds. I breathed in the cold air, my heartbeat slow. 


I wanted to ask Yuki if she preferred the night sky or the glittering snow. And then it occurred to me: I've never come to meet her at night — except that one time. 


We sat together, enjoying the magic of winter. Time passed, like the snow, one flake after another. Slowly, silently. 


Eventually she finished the second drink. I decided to ask her. 


"Yuki, do you remember the last time I came to find you?" 


"Mhmm."


"At night, when somebody followed me and you told me to go home." 


"Mhmm." 


"Who was it? Was it the person who killed you?" 


Yuki held up the empty can against the sunlight like it was a torch. She said, "I don't know. But I sensed danger and I didn't want you to get hurt...so I thought it might be better to send you home." 


Something about what she said. Or rather, the way she said it. She sounded too casual, too relaxed. Unnatural almost. I recalled the night when she told me to go home; there was real panic in her voice. Whatever this danger was, it was real and life threatening. 


I told her about the footsteps that I found at the edge of the forest and how I followed them back to the village. She said nothing. I told her about my investigation, how the library was suddenly closed down, how the newspapers were taken away. 


Something in her expression changed. Her eyes became agitated. She no longer appeared like a serene spirit, but like a girl. A real living girl. 


"Why do you have to investigate?" she said. "You'll only put yourself in danger." 


I looked at her, startled. I thought that she might thank me for my efforts, worry about the village. But this…


"Because I want to find out who killed you."


"Why? Why do you want to find out?" Her voice became vehement. Her eyes incredulous. 


"Because someone killed you. Somebody in that village is a murderer. Someone got away with it. That person took away your future, your dreams, every happiness that you might have found later in life." 


Yuki's expression softened. A sad smile formed on her lips. She came up to me and put a hand on my cheek. Her hand felt impossibly cold, my soul shivered. But this numbing sensation somehow felt sincere, loving almost. She said, "You have so much kindness in your heart, but it is wasted on me." 


I said nothing. 


She said, "I suppose you won't understand because you've never died before. But when you die, you'll find out that death is freedom. I am released from whatever worries I had in life. Death gives you perspective. Once you are dead nothing matters anymore, your heart is freed from all its burdens and you see yourself and the world for what it truly is. 


“All those stories about vengeful ghosts aren’t true. There’s no such thing as a vengeful ghost because ghosts have nothing to be angry about. Anyone who has died will know. Death is a blessing. 


“And death isn't the end of life. It's just another part of it. Everybody dies eventually. So why are so mad about it? I suppose I may have missed some things that I would've encountered later in life, but that's alright. I just got to the end a little sooner than I was meant to be. But in the end it is all the same."


The sun faded. Her hand vanished. She rested her head against my chest. She felt so light, as if she barely existed. 


"Yamata-kun, thank you so much for trying to helping me pass on. My heart has been touched by your kindness. But leave this village and live your life. Perhaps when you die we will meet again." 


I wanted to shake my head. I wanted to disagree with her. I had to find the killer. I had to bring justice. I couldn't give up. It just didn't feel right. 


I said, "But - but I haven't brought you all the drinks yet." 


Yuki’s chest rose and fell. Her breath hung in the air. 


She said, "It's time for you to go. Someone who cares very much for you is waiting outside the forest." 

 

Yuki faded with her breath.

 

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A/N: Happy Sunday~~

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