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!


Author's note

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

14. Chapter 14


"I want to talk to you."

Something in his voice. He didn't say it casually. There was insistence. Like there was something he wanted from me. 

Miyazono held onto my sleeve. She didn't let go. She and I made eye contact and I saw that she was calculating something in her mind. Obey the costumer or make a graceful excuse? What are chances of the excuse working? What are the chances of offending him? How much did he want to talk? Was it worth resisting? 

Ryokan rule: Never stay alone with a costumer in a casual setting. Exceptions can be made if the costumer is a regular and knows the staff well, but for the most part there should be a wall between costumer and staff. Casual chatting was not the norm. 

I could feel the silent gaze of the man on me. He was expecting me to come back. 

Miyazono let go of my sleeve. Her fleeting glance was filled with worry. Sending the least experienced (and only drafted) staff member out onto the battlefield wasn't a wise decision. But Miyazono must've come to the conclusion that disobeying the insistence in the man's voice must be even worse. 

Miyazono went into the kitchen. And I went to fight solo. 

I sat down. I said, "Sir, I am so sorry about what happened earlier."

For a moment the man said nothing. His eyes were on me, examining me, searching me. 

Awkward. What the hell am I supposed to do now? I glanced surreptitiously at the kitchen. I couldn't ask Miyazono for help. And making that eel rice from scratch would take at least another twenty minutes. I was on my own. 

The man said, "You're not from around here, are you?" 

I sat still. Very still. The snow, the forest, Yuki. Who killed her? 

I said, "How do you know that?" 

"What's your name?" 

"Yamata Satoshi." 

The man looked at me with no particular expression. He said, "It's easy to tell that you're not from around here. It's the way you look: your hair, your skin, your clothes, that look in your eyes. A city boy." 

I wasn't sure what to say to that. Was he insulting me? 

He said, "Kids who grow up around here look different. They dream of the city but never go there. Maybe once or twice in their lives. They look tougher. A little rougher. More independent." 

Yeah, he is definitely insulting me. Was it because I walked in on him and his lover? Maybe. But he was the costumer and therefore I had to stay silent. 

He said, "But that look in your eyes. City kids and countryside kids really do look different. I think you are smarter. I think it's because the schools in Tokyo are better. The cities are also more competitive, so there is more pressure to study. You become smart about how to game the system. You become cynical from an early age because you see how cut-throat life can be.“ 

He glanced at the kitchen. "But kids like her who stay in the countryside...they stay pure. Unless they really want to go the city. Because of their dreams. And then they usually have their dreams shattered." 

Then he looked at me again. "It does make me wonder: in all my years of skiing, I've never seen a city boy like you come to the countryside to work. Why are you here? Shouldn't you be having fun with your friends? In Tokyo? You look like a Tokyo boy to me." 

I avoided eye contact. He is asking a personal question. Which costumers do sometimes. It's only natural. We human beings are curious about each other. But he was still a costumer. How much should I tell him?

I said, "I was sent here to help my aunt during the winter holidays, that's all." 

"Oh-ho, and you don't need to study for next year? For university entrance exams?" 

"I won't get into Tokyo-U, but I'll be fine." 

Straight-Bs with unfailing consistency. But I didn't tell him that, as tempting as it was. 

"Hmmm...." He was thinking. About what? New questions? Or maybe something he wanted to tell me? So far, he struck me as the talkative kind of guy. Maybe that was why he wanted to talk to me. Yeah, that's probably it. 

Miyazono came back with two trays loaded with two large bowls of eel rice. One in each hand. Her hands weren't shaking. Damn, this girl was strong. 

The man said, "Thank you, I'll take these to the room." 

Miyazono said, “Sir, they are quite heavy. I'll bring them to your room."

The man said, "At least let me take one. I'd feel bad to let a girl carry something so heavy on her own." 

He took a tray from her and they walked out of the dining room. He glanced back at me. He said, "Oh right, and kid, forget about what you saw today."


I merely nodded.

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