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through the PA system as the train continued to scale up the mountain. “Urei Town,” I thought to myself, “it’s been a long time since I was last there.” Before my mother’s untimely death four years ago, we used to go up here once a year to play with my cousin Midori. No matter what time of the year we went though, it never snowed. Today, though it’s different. The town’s been covered in a perpetual snow ever since the day I left ten years ago regardless of the season. I’ve heard explanations as farfetched as a yuki-onna (snow woman) causing it to Al Gore’s latest romp on Global Warming. “Haruo-kun, so how’s school going for you?” My cousin asked as we walked to her inn. “It’s alright; the only class I’ve been doing well in was my creative writing class,” I told her. “Do you want to become an author one day?” She asked curiously. “Maybe, who knows? The only thing I’m able to write though are fairy tales, no matter how hard I try; and in today’s society, who believes in them anymore?” Nodding she said, “Well, I think they’re romantic. The prince rescuing the girl from her fate through true love. There’s nothing else like it. You can almost say that they’re magical.” “Yah, but all of the goods ones have already been told. I want to write something amazing. Something heartfelt but I lack the inspiration.” It’s been three days since I started working at Midori’s inn as a bellhop running people in and out and guiding them towards the springs. Although it’s the middle of winter, there haven’t been many people around these parts lately due to a series of mysterious disappearances. “I’m telling you I think that the Yuki-Onna may have gotten him,” I heard a spectacled male slur as I cleaned the baths. “Do you actually believe that stuff?” One of the other customers asked. “Those sorts of things only exist in children’s tales.” That night, as a storm was brewing outside as ice clashed against my window I suddenly heard something moving downstairs. Midori? I wondered as I stood up from my bed and headed down the hall grabbing a bat. I heard the clang again. What was it? Could there really be something real such as a Yuki-Onna? I shook my head, telling myself that something like that couldn’t exist. As I headed down the hall, my heart raced as I saw the front door swinging open and close just like in a horror movie. Only I was the star. Feeling around the wall for the switch, I turned on the lights. “Mew.” What? Looking around, I noticed a small kitten that managed to sneak in to escape the storm. It had a stripped grey coat with a small mark that was shaped like a moon on its head. I sighed. “Poor kitten. You were hungry weren’t you?” I picked up the small kitten in my arms and grabbed a bowl of milk. As I opened the fridge, Midori walked down asking what I was doing. “Chasing off ghosts,” I said with a smile. “Well, next time be a little quieter.” She said as she groggily wiped her eyes. “Fuyuu?” She said as she saw the kitten I was holding. “It’s a kitten I found. I think I’ll keep it here.” I told her as she ignored what I just said. “I think we should keep it here.” Midori replied. “What’s it’s name?” she asked. “Shiro,” I told her as I attached a cute bell to it’s neck. “This way I’ll always know where it is.” Walking around the small shopping district, there were a couple stores beside the bakery. In the middle, there was a small plaza dedicated to the founder of the town. Just as we were walking, Shiro suddenly jumped off and ran around the corner. “Shiro!” I
said as I chased it down. Spotting it in the distance, I saw it head near the woods where a girl picked it up. She was beautiful with long black hair wearing a white jacket that almost made her blend in with the snow, although she was a bit on the short side. “Good morning,” the girl said as she handed Shiro back to me. “Take good care of this kitten!” She said with a smile. “What’s its name by the way?” “Shiro.” She smiled as she called it by its name. “Shiro. That’s a great name.” “By the way, for rescuing your cat...you owe me something.” “Owe you? Since when did we become friends?” I asked her perplexed by her openness. “Let’s see, I want a…cream puff!” Agreeing to her terms, I told her that I wanted at least know her name. “Yukiko!” She said with a bright endearing smile. “I’m Haruo.” “Delicious!” She said as she chomped down on the cream puff. “This one is perfect.” She said as I stood there staring at it. “The warm cream surrounded by the flaky dough. It’s heaven!” This girl, she gets happy off of the smallest things. Realizing that I was going to be late to meet Midori again to help her carry the supplies, I left Yukiko. “We should meet again. How about tomorrow?” I told her as I was leaving. “Wait,” she told me grabbing my hands,” let’s make a magical spell.” A magic spell? She nodded. “So that we could meet again tomorrow.” Chapter Two Noticing that my shift was over, I went over to downtown where Yukiko was waiting in front of the park. “You came!” She said with a smile. “Of course, didn’t we make a spell?” “Yah, but…” She said as she shyly looked away. “Idiot,” I told her. “When you make a promise, you have to keep it. That’s the golden rule of the ShiroShiro fan-club.” She giggled. That day, the two of us went around town looking at the various shops. Passing through the shops, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Yukiko ever went shopping. Every time we went around, she looked surprised with a face full of wonder as she marveled at even the littlest of things. “Haruo, what’s this?” Yukiko asked as she picked up a cell phone. Huh? A girl who didn’t know what a phone was, did such a breed actually exist? “It’s a cell phone. It’s like a regular phone only smaller.” “Tele-phone?” She asked puzzled. Wow. This girl was totally out of the loop. “It let’s you talk to people over long distances.” “Like a letter?” “Yes, like a letter.” I told her as she grabbed a pen and began to write on it. I sighed. “I can’t believe you almost got us thrown out of the store.” I told her as she apologized holding the cute fox-print stationary I bought her. Passing the plaza, Yukiko looked in awe as she saw children throwing coins into the fountain. “Haruo, what are those children doing?” “They’re throwing coins into the well; legend has it that it will grant your wish.” Amazed, Yukiko reached for a handful of coins in her pocket and threw them all into the well. “Whoa! You’re not supposed to throw that many inside.” I told her as a snowflake gently touched my nose. “What did you wish for by the way?” “Cream puff!” Geez. This girl could’ve probably bought a dozen with the amount she threw in. As we walked outside of the bakery, we ended up passing by the woods again. “Yukiko, what were you doing here in the first place?” “I’m waiting.” “Waiting for whom?” “My most precious person.” “Do you remember what he looks like?” I asked hoping I could help her find him. Nodding her head she said no. “Well then it could be
anyone,” I told her as I looked around pointing at random people. “Wait I know! It’s the guy from the bakery. You know the one who makes your cream puffs!” Getting mad she puffed her cheeks and turned her head. “Ha-ha, don’t worry I’m sure you’ll find him.” Looking towards the ground, I noticed a coin sticking out in the snow. Picking it up I noticed that it had the year 1997 written on it. The last time I was here. “Here hold onto this; it’s a special coin that will make any wish come true. But it’s only one.” I told Yukiko as I handed it to her. “I’ll treasure it forever.” The next morning in the middle of a huge blizzard, Midori and I suddenly heard a knock at the front door. It was Yukiko telling us the news that the resort was being closed down due to the recent disappearances. Crap. This isn’t good. Especially, Midori’s business as it relied almost solely on resort attendees. “What were you doing out here all by yourself in the middle of this storm?” I asked Yukiko. “I-I wanted to see you.” “Won’t your parents be worried about you?” I asked her. “Don’t worry, they know that I’m gone.” Worried, I told her that she should at stay here until the current storm passes. She agreed. That night, I had a dream. I was holding a flute that my mother gave to me when I was a kid. “Haruo, this is a magical flute. It will grant your wishes, but only three.” She said as we walked outside. As usual, she wore a blanket to cover up her frail body that was beat-up by her bout with cancer. “Let’s see, in that case, I wish for you to get healthy so we can go to the festival!” I told my mother as I played it. “Haruo,” My mother told me as she began to cry, “I promise, we’ll go there again this fall.” The next second, I was abruptly awakened by the smell of something burning. A fire? Grabbing as many water bottles I could from my room, I rushed downstairs. “Eh? Where’s the fire?” I asked Yukiko as I saw her carrying a spatula and covered in black. “I made breakfast.” Please don’t make me eat this I preyed to the upper Kami. I’m sorry for any of my past transgressions. Just spare me. Please. “Yukiko,” Midori said as she walked down the stairs in a bath robe, “next time, I’ll help you.” She said as I sighed. Not wanting my food to go to waste, I found Shiro standing at the table. “Here you go little buddy.” Shiro suddenly jumped and pushed it away. “I guess even the cat doesn’t want it.” Later that afternoon, I took Yukiko back down to the shopping district hoping that I’d be able to help her find the person she was looking for. So do you remember anything about him? “Ummm…we ate lots of cream puffs together?” I knew it. There had to be a reason why she was so damned addicted to those evil things. “I see, well he must have been fat.” Saying no she said that he was skinny and small. “But that’s all I remember. There was one other thing though.” “What was it?” I asked. “A duck.” Finding a bench by the plaza, the two of us sat down and talked. “So Yukiko, you still have that coin I gave you?” Nodding she said yes. “Why don’t you go and use it while we’re here?” She said no telling me that she was saving it for a day when she or someone else really needed it. “It’s too special for me just to toss away like that.” As we sat there, I suddenly noticed a poster that caught my attention. “Winter Festival? Hey Yukiko, do you want to go?” She nodded. That night, as I sat in the bath, I began to recall something from the past as I held my flute in my hands. I remember the first wish, but what was the second thing I wished for? As I looked around, I began to notice the snow. That was it. My second wish, I wanted to see snow. More than anything else.
A week has passed and it was the day of the festival. Located by the woods, people everywhere enjoyed themselves to the jubilant atmosphere. “Haruo, let’s go over there!” She said as we went from the dance floor to a field covered in snow. I looked around as I began to get a sense of déjà vu. This place, it was familiar. I thought to myself as I realized that it did. I was here ten years ago, with Yukiko. “Yukiko, I have something important to tell you,” “I think I know who you’re looking for….it’s me.” With those two words her face began to tear. “Ever since we first met back in the park, I knew it was you. The name, everything. The weirdness.” She said as we stood there staring at each other. “We met, here ten years ago in the fall. I was…” “You were playing with your flute by yourself.” I nodded. “Haruo, I’ve been waiting…I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.” She continued to cry. “Haruo, do you like me?” “Of course I do, Yukiko. I’ll always like you. No matter what.” I told her. “Haruo, let’s make a spell again.” As we grabbed each other’s hands, she said “but you’ll have to close your eyes and I’ll close mine.” Suddenly, the world became just the two of us; together. That night, I heard sounds coming from downstairs again. “Shiro, what are you doing?” I said as I closed the door half-asleep. Just then, Midori burst on the lights and came in with a panic. “Haruo, Yukiko…she’s disappeared.” With just those few words, my entire world came to a screeching halt. All that joy from earlier gone. Without thinking, I ran outside; into the middle of the coldest storm. Chapter Three Shit. Was this it? Was I going to die right here right now? I thought to myself as my hands began to cramp from exposure to the snow. Trying my best to hold on, I managed to yell out Yukiko’s name one last time. As I laid face-down against the snow, I suddenly felt a warm presence around my body. Opening me eyes, I saw a ghostly figure of a woman. Was this the infamous yuki-onna? I thought to myself as my heart began racing faster and faster. “Young one, don’t be alarmed.” She told me. “I’m only here to protect you. As long as you never mention this chance meeting to anyone. Especially to her.” “I-promise..” I told her as I went back to sleep. Ding-a-ling, it was the sound of a jingling bell. Upon opening my eyes, I saw Yukiko standing there with Shiro. “Yukiko?” I looked at her noticing that she was covered in mud. “What were you doing out here?” I asked. “I was looking for Shiro. He ran away last night while I was asleep.” The next morning, I was silent at the table as the yuki-onna’s words reflected in my mind. “Haruo, where did you go last night?” Yukiko asked puzzled as to why I was out that night. “I was looking for you.” I told her. Although it was the truth, I couldn’t tell her anything else, after all I made a promise. “Haruo, can I meet your parents today?” She nodded. “But first you have to buy me some cream puffs!” After going to the bakery so many times, the shop owner pretty much has a running weekly bill for us. “Here you go Haruo! Hot fresh from the oven just like the little miss likes them.” I bowed. “So how big is your house?” I asked Yukiko. “Ummm…let’s see, if I remember it was pretty big and it had one of the prettiest views in the world.” As we approached the woods, I asked her, “is there really a house all the way out here?” She nodded as she ran up the hill. It was a strenuous hike taking all day that led to the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, we arrived at three stone monuments as she suddenly froze. “I could’ve swore, my house was right here…” Yukiko said as she began
running all over the place. “No…” she said as she kneeled to the ground. “It can’t be…” Reading the monuments, a chill suddenly ran down my spine. “Here lies the Taikami family, 1857.” 1857? That was over a hundred years ago. Breaking into tears, Yukiko looked at her hands and asked “What-what am I?” Hoping to find a good response I told her, “You’re Yukiko.” She nodded her head. “No I’m not. What is this? What am I? Why is there a grave here?” I couldn’t answer. No wait, I realized the answer but didn’t want to say it. Running away into the woods, Yukiko suddenly began to glow. I decided to approach her in hopes of comforting her. “Please, don’t come near me. I don’t know what I’ll do to you.” She must have realized it by now as a huge snowstorm began covering the area. “Yukiko…” I hesitated, “you’re the yuki-onna. I knew it ever since you saved me, last night.” Suddenly, Yukiko vanished into the snow parting with the words “…liar.” Yukiko’s voice rang in my head. In her place I saw the coin I gave her. “I’ll treasure this forever.” I didn’t know what to do, what to think as I picked up the coin and threw it at the monument. I suddenly found myself all alone in the middle of the largest snowstorm with nothing other than the dark void that was growing inside of me. Chapter Four That night, I had a dream about the third and final wish. “Yukiko, don’t cry. I’ll be back someday. Here play this.” I told her as I showed her the flute. “This is your flute,” She said. “My mother said that it’s magical. If you play it and make a wish, it’ll come true.” As I handed it to her as she tried her best to play it. Pffft. I laughed. Pfffffft. I laughed even harder. She sounded like a duck with its mouth closed. “Aaaah, you’re teasing me,” she said. “Here why don’t you make a wish while I play it? I’ll do my best to make it come true.” “So what did you wish for?” “It’s a secret!” I guess some things just never change. Waking up, I suddenly found myself back in the inn. “Midori?” I asked as I saw her sitting there by my bed. “I’m glad you’re alright, you know, you could have been one of the other people who disappeared into the snow. Here, this arrived this morning.” She told me as she handed me a letter. It was from Yukiko. Haruo-kun, Although our time back together was brief, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for showing me what it was like to be loved and loved back. I have a request. I never made that final wish on your flute, but I want to now. While I couldn’t bring myself to give this to you in person, I hope that you’ll forget about me. That way, you can live. That’s my final wish. Love, Yukiko Inside the envelope was the coin that I threw out yesterday. I couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t have been gone just like that. There had to be a way to save her I thought to myself as I grabbed my flute and ran to the monument. “I-I’m sorry Yukiko,” I whispered softly into the air. “I can’t grant you that final wish.” I said as I played the flute and then left it near the grave. “That’s the one thing that I’ll never do.” Epilogue “The End.” I was finally done with my term paper I thought to myself as I looked up at the sky. I wasn’t satisfied though. My ending. It wasn’t how I wanted to make it,
but what else could I do? People just don’t come back to life after they die. No matter how much magic is involved. On the last day of my vacation, I decided to head over to the fountain holding the coin I gave Yukiko just two weeks ago. “You never used it,” I said to myself as I threw the coin in the fountain. “Heh, I’m such an idiot.” I told myself. “Things like that, they only happen in fairy tales.” Two years have passed since that day I was last at Urei Town. I’ve been so focused on my studies recently that I haven’t found the time to go back there after all these years. This year though, I had to go especially after I published my first novel Snowfall: A Winter Fairy Tale, the about the Snow Princess. The ending you ask? It remained the same, no matter how many times I tried to re-write it. Except there was one slight difference: I made myself the main character. Was it narcissism that made me do it? No, it was my feelings for Yukiko that I still held onto even to this very day. As I boarded the train up the mountain, the city was alive. It was no longer snowing and the city that was once covered in a white blanket was now full of life. It was Spring, the season where life begins again and with it the possibilities of summer. The harshness of winter was gone, a thing of the past. Visiting my cousin, I told her that I was only going to be there for a couple of days. “Going back there again?” She asked me as she was busy running around serving customers. I nodded. “Of course, I just finished the book.” Just as I was walking to the door, I suddenly heard a familiar bell. “Long time no see little buddy.” God, how many times is he going to do this I wondered to myself as I chased Shiro out the door. Suddenly, he turned towards the woods and towards a dream. “I’ve been waiting, I’ve been waiting for a very long time.” Yukiko said with a bright smile.
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