“Natsuki, are you sure you’re not overreacting?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Monika! I placed the entire set of My Decadent Sins in the closet yesterday, but now it’s gone! And I was just getting into it, too…”
Natsuki’s usual daily routine is thrown into disarray as she commences a desperate search.
Sayori speaks up. “I don’t know where your manga went either. The last time I lost something, I never found it again. …I still miss that teddy bear plushie sometimes.”
She fails to help Natsuki’s confidence in the slightest. Yuri is just oddly silent about it all and tries to stare into her book harder than normal. Still distraught by the situation, after a second she composes herself once more, her wits at least still about her.
“Hm… This is a crime of the highest degree. I won’t let this stand. I absolutely refuse to!” Natsuki pauses for a second, recalling something she had read about. Perhaps something from a manga she had once read…? About a detective investigating crimes? In a flash, she decides.
“Fear not, for Detective Natsuki is on the case!” She poses assertively as if holding a magnifying glass in her right hand.
“Um… Natsuki? You said that out loud.” Sayori tries unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle.
Natsuki blushes. “Oh. Jeez, would you stop laughing already, Monika?” Upon being called out, Monika averts her gaze and tries to force her fits of laughter to subside. Still, the shadow of a smirk remains on her face.
What normally happens in this sort of situation? Think, Natsuki, think… Oh yeah, the detective looks for evidence first, then talks with witnesses to figure out what happened. That seems easy enough. That settled, she steps over to the closet and pushes the door open. She picks up a step stool and unfolds it to gain access to the upper shelves. As expected, only a rectangle without dust sits in the place where the box set was. She squints at the surrounding volumes of manga in search of fingerprints but discovers none.
I guess this is a dead end, then… She steps down from the stool, puts it back into its original position, and closes the door, her goal now to interrogate possible suspects. Her first choice: Monika. Natsuki walks over to her, standing alongside a desk at which Monika is dutifully writing a poem.
“Hey, Monika.” Hearing her name being called, she perks her head up.
“When did you last see my set of manga?”
“Oh, uh… let’s see… I remember seeing it sometime yesterday, I think… I dropped by in the morning today to pick up a book and I opened the closet then, too. It was still in there.”
“I see…” She pauses, then affects a dramatic tone. “But how do I know you’re not making it up? Maybe you were the one who stole it and you’re just lying to cover up your tracks!”
“Natsuki, please…” Monika sighs. “Do you really think I’d do that?”
“N-Not really, no. I just thought it’d… make for better drama…” Her voice trails off at the end, slightly embarrassed. “That’s all the information I need from you.”
Natsuki strolls over to her next victim.
“Sayori, could you talk for a minute?” She looks up, momentarily distracted from idly flipping through a book.
“Tell me one thing: Do you know anything about where my manga went? Do you know anyone else who might?”
“Uh… isn’t that two things?” Sayori hazards a question meekly.
“Whatever! You know what I meant.”
She scrunches her face in intense concentration. “Well… um… I don’t know. Maybe you should try asking Yuri instead. She might know something about this.”
“But wouldn’t it be the perfect defense to pretend you don’t know anything? How do I know you’re not the culprit?”
“Natsuki, why do you keep talking in that voice? It sounds so silly. You need to ease up on people a little more, you know.”
“Ugh… I guess you’re right.” Grudging acceptance drips off of every syllable she says.
Natsuki turns her head in the direction of the desk at which Yuri was sitting, but which is now populated by a book with a bookmark sticking out of it.
Natsuki looks back at Sayori. “Wait, where did Yuri go?”
“I think she went to the bathroom…”
“I’ll just have to head over there and see for myself, then. Thanks for the info, Sayori.”
With that, Natsuki walks to the door, leaving Sayori puzzled as to what she could’ve possibly meant by that.
In the corridor, Natsuki heads to the nearest bathroom and sits down outside the door. She waits. And waits. Minutes pass by as Natsuki stares at the wall and counts the tiles. Finally, the door opens.
“Ah…!” Clearly taken by surprise, she spins her head wildly, finally focusing on Natsuki, who stands up. “Natsuki…? I wasn’t expecting to see you here. W-Why did you…?”
“I j-just had a few questions to ask about my missing manga, that’s all.”
“D-Don’t say that word!”
“Oh, come on, Yuri. Just because you can’t appreciate literature doesn’t mean you can tell me what I can and can’t say.”
Yuri looks away, her cheeks flushing. “T-To tell you the truth, I…”
“Come on, spit it out!”
“I-I… I took your manga.”
Yuri sighs. “You kept talking about how great My Decadent Sins was all the time and… it made me curious. S-So maybe if I read it, I’d have more to talk with you about. But I thought it would be too awkward for me to just ask you, so at lunch I went into the clubroom and put the set in my bag so that I could take it home later.”
Natsuki doesn’t believe a word of what she’s hearing. “You… went to all that trouble… just to try to find something to talk about with me?” Her voice trembles. “You… you really didn’t have to…”
Yuri raises her voice slightly in the short pause that follows. “The set is… still in my bag, actually. Perhaps you’d like to read it with me… I-If that’s okay with you, of course! I mean, I know you’ve already read a few volumes, so I’d end up being a bother t—”
Natsuki smiles smugly. “Oh, be quiet. Why not? I think this whole detective business made me forget what happened in the manga, anyway.”
Side by side, they walk back to the clubroom.