"He isn't here today again, huh." Yosano's voice is like a dull blade against Ranpo's ears as she cuts through the silence that had engulfed the main floor of the agency. No one else was around, the secretaries were off in a separate room conversing over something or another - the only person left is Ranpo, who's leaning against a desk that is not his own.
She recognizes it straight away as a new agency member's desk - Kunikida Doppo's desk.
Ranpo doesn't turn his head nor his body to look at her. He remains still, with his arms folded over his chest and staring out the window.
"Ever since the incident has been wrapped up, it's been raining nonstop." Ranpo answers after a beat. "I'm not a fan of the poeticism in noticing this."
The doctor sighs softly. She doesn't need to have her best friend facing her to know what sort of expression Ranpo is making, she can already tell what it is. "Are you going to see him again today?"
"I see." She expected that much. Yosano of all people knew that once Ranpo set his mind to something, he didn't stop until he achieved his goal. It was admirable as much as it was equally annoying - which a person called it depended on their position in reference to that stubbornness of his. "In that case, take these with you."
Ranpo finally turns his head then, gaze focusing on a small paper bag Yosano is offering out to him. He doesn't hesitate to accept it, but still offers a questioning quirk of a brow.
"They're vitamins. He hasn't left his apartment in a few days now, after all. You've been cooking food for him every night even though he barely eats, haven't you?"
The stare they exchange is confirmation enough. Ranpo decides not to waste his breath answering, grabbing his inverness from his desk and turning to leave. "I'll give him your regards as per usual."
"Don't overwork yourself, Ranpo-san."
"Perish the thought!"
Whether he intends to listen or not is another matter entirely.
The walk back to the agency dorms is awfully quiet, awfully boring, as dreary as the grey clouds overhead. The rain hasn't stopped since the Azure King incident had been resolved - or more accurately, the king had been cornered and decided that killing himself and taking whoever he could with him was a better choice than repenting for his crimes in prison. Those sort of criminals exist, and had it been Ranpo who dealt with the case, he would have carried on like normal. He knows he can't save everyone.
Unfortunately, he wasn't the one who had taken that case. Instead, it had been a new member of the agency, a young man by the name of Kunikida Doppo. A former math teacher, he was exceptionally bright and had a level head on his shoulders. His ability was unique and required someone with keen memorization skills and knowledge of what items could fit within the range of his ability to materialize items at will.
Yes, Kunikida was smart, but he was still foolish. He was, by all accounts, still a kid. No amount of accomplishments nor the level of your job could affect your age, even Ranpo knew that.
So really, Ranpo isn't surprised that a kid feels ultimately destroyed with what had happened, believing it was his fault that people had died because he had given the information to the police that led to the unfortunate demise of a group of individuals chasing after the Azure King. Kunikida isn't Ranpo, so he can't anticipate what the criminal may do in response to his actions completely… And Ranpo didn't feel inclined to act more than he had to when helping with the case. No one badgered him for it, as they never would.
Ranpo stops once he reaches the stone walls outlining the agency's dorm apartment. He studies the plain grey building for a moment with a sigh before crossing the threshold, closing his umbrella and resting it against a wall on his way up the stairs to the second floor. His footsteps echo against the rusty metal, and he makes a mental note to tell Fukuzawa they should be replaced soon while he makes his way to stand in front of a door.
Right next to it on a block of wood, handwritten, is the name 'Kunikida Doppo'.
Ranpo lowers his gaze. A piece of paper in between the door is sticking out - a paper he had put there the night before, to test if the blonde had left his apartment at all. This is merely confirmation he hasn't left… still.
"Kunikida, it's Ranpo. I'm coming in."
Ranpo doesn't bother to wait for one, plucking the paper out from the door to tuck it into his pocket before turning the handle to push it open.
Everything is the same as yesterday, nothing has moved - not even the man laying vacantly on his side against his futon, gazing into nothing with tear stains on his cheeks. It's a pitiful sight that Ranpo doesn't try to let his gaze linger on for very long before shifting towards the small table pressed against the wall to his right: there's a tray of food that hasn't been touched, the chopsticks perfectly aligned next to a napkin and a cup of orange juice.
At least the cup was half-empty.
Ranpo's not much of an optimist despite his energetic personality, so calling it 'half-full' wasn't in his nature.
"Yanno, a part of me is genuinely surprised you haven't pissed yourself what with becoming a vegetable on your futon." Blatant antagonizing. Not that he earns any response, no matter how much he wishes, for once, he'd get something back. "… That's supposed to be Katai's job, after all."
Even at the mention of his friend, Kunikida doesn't react.
Self-blame is truly the most terrifying monster alive.
The detective sighs, picking up the tray of untouched food and taking it to the kitchen. Like all the days before, the process is the same: he throws the food away into a plastic bag, ties it up, and sets it aside with a mental note to take it with him when he leaves Kunikida be for the day. Next, he pours out the juice in the glass, cleans it thoroughly with warm water and dries it off before setting it on the counter to fill it again. He decides on simple water this time before returning to Kunikida's side and sitting down on the floor.
"These are from Yosano," Ranpo says, setting down the small bag she had given him next to the glass of water he places directly in front of Kunikida's face to ensure he sees it. "They're vitamins. You haven't been eating or drinking much, so I'm guessing this is a feeble attempt to make up for it. Don't let me have to face her wrath by bringing them back."
The idea of Yosano's wrath seems to be enough to cause Kunikida to act - if only to sit up so painfully slow, opening the paper bag to study the contents before pouring them out onto an open palm. Ranpo watches for a moment, sharp eye unblinking while Kunikida pops the vitamins into his mouth. Seeming to be satisfied, the raven nods slightly and turns to the desk at his back. He presses his fingers into a book pressed into the far right corner of the table, dragging it in front of him.
The cover has the kanji for 'Ideal' written in bold black ink.
Ranpo wonders if Kunikida has thought of his 'ideal' at all since the incident, but he dares not voice it. He keeps his lips pressed into a thin line, opening the book to the first clean page he finds and reaches inside his vest for a pen.
"… Ranpo-san." Kunikida's voice is hoarse. That much is expected, since he hasn't spoken a word in days or drank much of anything. "What… are you doing?"
"Writing your schedule for tomorrow."
"Tomorrow…" Ranpo can almost hear in the blonde's voice how he hangs his head, "I won't be coming."
Ranpo's hand doesn't so much as hesitate as he pops the cap off his pen and starts writing down times along the left side of the notebook. "That so? Shame. Guess I'm doing this again for nothing."
"Ranpo-san… It's enough…" Kunikida's voice quivers. It sounds as if he's trying to keep himself from crying in the older's presence. "I no longer deserve to work at the agency. I can't save anyone…"
This time, the detective doesn't say anything. The only noise that comes from him is the sound of the pen scribbling on paper, the eventual turn of the page to continue writing the schedule planed for Kunikida, and the tapping of an index finger against the desk to occupy himself. Ranpo wasn't really the type to sit still, but moving around in a place not his own was too impolite.
Granted, he's impolite by nature, but considering the condition of his coworker, he's forcing himself to stay in place.
"Ranpo-san? Did you hear me-"
Ranpo cuts him off by snapping the book shut and standing to his feet. "I heard you loud and clear, your hoarse voice aside because you've been refusing to speak to me or eat anything I've made." Is he irritated? No, that's not the right word - he's frustrated, more like. He doesn't act on his own to help people often after his jaded teenaged years, so to see it go ignored, and by his coworker of all people, makes him feel frustrated. At the same time, he can understand why Kunikida is acting the way he is so forcing the blond to do anything isn't the smartest choice either.
Ranpo turns to the younger man then, green eyes staring Kunikida down with a rare seriousness. Now that Kunikida thinks about it, it’s the first time he’s ever seen such a serious look on the other’s face. "But what you said happens to be the words of a foolish man. We're a detective agency; we’re not heroes, we’re not angels, nor are we God. We'll never be able to save everyone we meet. There will always be lives we can't save - that's the ugly truth. No matter how much we wish it not to be so. However, just because there are people we can't save doesn't mean it's the end. Our job never ends. We have to keep moving forward, to protect the people who are alive in the place of those we lost."
Something in his words seem to hit something deep inside Kunikida. The younger man sits up a bit straighter, mouth falling slack - but nothing comes.
Ranpo expects that much. He won't wait to hear whatever the answer is, either.
"I'll come again tomorrow, Kunikida. See you then."
Then, he turns with a casual wave of goodbye and leaves the way he came in.
"The rain seems to be letting up a little compared to yesterday."
Ranpo turns his head. Yosano is at his side with a smile on her face, but her gaze isn't focused on him - it's focused outside, up at the dreary grey clouds.
The detective studies her face, and eventually joins in watching the rain with her. "So it would seem."
"I don't think this rain is a bad thing. Good things come from rain sometimes, after all. You know, budding flowers or rainbows."
"Rare for you to aim for cliche sayings, Yosano-san. Does something have you in a good mood?"
"If I was in a good mood, you'd comment on that first instead of cliches." The doctor offers out a manila folder to her companion. "But I do think this rain will cause something to grow by the time it ends. Give that to Kunikida when you visit today, alright? I think it may have some use."
Ranpo tilts his head to study the name on the thumbnail of the file: Taguchi Rokuzou.
His gaze softens.
"It just might."
"Moreover, I noticed you were talking with Fukuzawa-san earlier about something. You looked rather serious - that's not like you."
"Well, it's been a serious week."
"It has, but serious weeks in the past have never caused you to make such a look before." Yosano smiles warmly. "You really care about Kunikida, don't you? What a good senpai you are."
"He's a member of the agency, after all." Ranpo pops a piece of bubblegum into his mouth as he spins on a heel, heading towards the front door.
Yosano stares at his back, index finger tapping pensively against the desk nearest to her. She calls out to Ranpo before he can disappear out of sight, "Ranpo-san."
And of course he stops to acknowledge her, because ignoring his most treasured friend just wasn't an option. "Mm?"
"What were you and Fukuzawa-san talking about?"
There's a moment of silence, and then - Ranpo smiles. "Everyone will know soon enough, don't worry."
Like the last 6 days before, Ranpo finds himself in front of Kunikida's door. The paper he's stuck into the door is still there, and like every other time, he pockets it before knocking on the door and announcing he's coming in without waiting for approval that won't come from a man who is so crushed by his own self blame he's become a mute.
Something is different this time when he walks in to Kunikida's apartment, though. This time, Kunikida is sitting upright on his futon, staring out in the direction of his window towards the sky.
Looks like everyone's interested in the rain today.
"It's been like this since you shut yourself in," Ranpo says as he makes his way into the room, standing at the side of Kunikida's futon. "Feels like the weather is trying to mimic you. It's pretty creepy."
"… I suppose," Kunikida answers dully. It makes Ranpo's face scrunch in vague annoyance. "The smoke and flames from the explosion… Probably didn't even need to be put out by any firefighters."
Of course his thoughts are still consumed by that.
"I wouldn't know. I've been busy with my own work, so I haven't read the papers."
Kunikida lowers his head and stares down at his hands that are clenched on his lap. Ranpo watches him for a moment before taking a seat on the floor, then throws the folder he had brought with him onto the blond's lap. "Yosano told me to give this to you."
Unsurprisingly, Kunikida's eyes widen. He can see the name on the thumbnail clear as day, and he has every reason to be surprised. After all… That was the son of one of the men who had died in the Azure King incident.
"Why… Did you bring this here?"
"You're a member of the detective agency. You tell me why."
Kunikida hesitates. He squeezes at his sheets so hard that his knuckles turn white. "Taguchi-san was a single father. He was raising his son by himself. But, since he's dead… since he's dead-" Kunikida lifts his hands to his face and chokes out a quiet sob. "That child, because of me-"
"Kunikida, you underestimate other people. You underestimate them just as much as you underestimate yourself."
Ranpo sighs, expression pensive before he turns his back to the blond. Like every day before, he reaches out to grab Kunikida's notebook, filling in the first blank page he turns to with times, actions, where they took place, and who was to be involved. Kunikida has always been painfully exact in his schedules, so Ranpo put more effort than he showed in making sure what he wrote matched up with what the younger may have wrote if he were mentally and emotionally up for doing so.
The amount of time he's wasted counting the exact minutes and seconds while going from place to place for Kunikida's schedule he would never even go through with was annoying -
And it's probably the source as to why Yosano was warning him not to push himself, but of course he conveniently ignored that request of hers.
Honestly, he'd say he's surprised that Kunikida even waits for him to finish this chore of his, but it's Kunikida. For that reason, it's not really surprising. When Ranpo finishes the schedule for the next day, he snaps it closed, then turns to his coworker with the book still in his grasp.
"I spoke to the director today about making you the interim director instead of myself. He approved it."
The declaration makes blue eyes widen in shock. Kunikida ends up pushing his blankets aside, gawking for a few moments as if scrambling to find the words, but all he hears himself say is -
"Why? Why me?"
"Ranpo-san, you're the pillar of the agency! It has to be you! It can't be me, I-"
"Failed? So what."
The younger falters. "What?"
"You failed - so what. That's called being human. No one is perfect, not even me. Listen to me, Kunikida," Ranpo reaches out to grab a fistful of the blond's shirt and jerk him close. "What happened wasn't your fault. What happened is no one's fault but the Azure King who wanted to take other people down with him. It's not your fault you didn't see that coming, and no one that died that day would blame you. Just like us, they do their job knowing they could die any day. That's the pledge they make. That's the sacrifice they're willing to make, if it has to be made."
Blue eyes stare into sharp green, then soon drop with a hesitant expression.
"But, what you said before, I can't possibly-"
"Yeah, the original interim director was supposed to be me - but this being said, it's my decision if I give it up, and who gets the title instead. It has to be you, Kunikida."
"Why me? I let those people die, it's my…!"
"Yea… but you care. You're mourning their deaths. That's why it has to be you." Ranpo looks down at the book in his hand, staring at the bold kanji spelling out 'ideal'. Kunikida's ideals and Ranpo's… they didn't match up at all. Ranpo's were far more selfish, while Kunikida was truly out to make himself to make a martyr. "Because me - I dont care at all. Their deaths don't mean a thing to me, even though everyone else in the city is out there weeping condolences or praying for the families who lost someone. It doesn't matter to me at all. The agency comes before anyone else in my eyes… Someone like me, who can't bring himself to care or worry for other people when its my job to protect them, has no business being the next director."
Kunikida stares, successfully thrown into surprised silence. He's unsure of what he should be saying, or if he should even consider saying something at all and instead wait for Ranpo to continue -
And Ranpo does, because he isn't the type to wait. Right now, perhaps it's best he doesn't.
"Kunikida, you can mourn the dead, but you can't let your mourning destroy you. I can sit here and tell you that they wouldn't want you to sit in your apartment and cry like a pitiful child, but the truth is, the dead feel nothing. They can't feel anything once they're dead. But what is the truth is this: you knew what they felt when they were alive, you know what they'd want you to do, and sitting here like this isn't it."
Ranpo is silent, staring at Kunikida's face before he slaps the notebook against Kunikida's chest with enough force to make the blond cough. He doesn't pull away just yet, instead leaning closer with a stern look. "What you need to do right now more than anything else is to wait, listen, and think for yourself."
Wait, listen, and think for himself? Just what…
Ranpo doesn't elaborate, of course. He lets go of the notebook when Kunikida lifts a hand to touch the item and quickly pushes himself back to his feet.
"I'm leaving that folder here with you. I'll see you tomorrow, Kunikida."
Just like that? Even though he hadn't been here long -
"Oh, and one more thing,"
"This time, read the schedule I wrote up."
Kunikida looks down at his notebook and flips through the pages. Halfway through, he slows upon noticing the handwriting that is not his own. Schedules that go back for an entire week, all in Ranpo's handwriting, all exact down to the second. Even though the detective had criticized his perfectionism, he went through so much work -
The young man stops when he reaches the final page.
Mistakes can fade away, but if you don't want to forget them, reflect on them so they won't happen again.
It's time for work, interim director.
Kunikida feels himself smile for the first time in what feels like forever.
The exhaustion from all his sleepless nights seems to fall over him all at once, and his body falls back against his futon as he falls asleep.
"Would you look at that!" Yosano nearly chirps as she strides up to stand next to Ranpo who's opening up a window, looking up at the sky that is slowly but surely giving away into blue instead of the awful greys that had been around all week. "The sun is finally coming out of hiding, isn't it?"
Ranpo scoffs. "About time, wouldn't you say? I was getting really tired of seeing it. I'm burned out on monochromes for a while. Give me the ugliest and brightest colors known to man for a while~"
The two of them share a laugh, which is soon cut short when the door to the agency creaks open with a nervous slowness. They both turn to look, eyes widening when Kunikida makes his way into the room.
"Kunikida…" Yosano's voice is hushed in surprise.
Ranpo doesn't say anything, instead trotting past his friend to make his way to Kunikida and stand before him. The two exchange a stare, indecipherable smiles on their faces.
Finally, Ranpo speaks, with a tilt of his head and a warm smile on his face: "Welcome home, Kunikida."
Kunikida mirrors his expression. "I'm home, Ranpo-san. I'm sorry it took so long." he steps closer, and without warning, brings the small detective into an embrace that causes Ranpo to squeak in surprise. "And thank you for not giving up on me…"
"Wh… Wh-" Ranpo stands frozen in place, face heating in a mixture of shock and embarrassment. He can feel the amused stare Yosano is giving at his back as he starts to squirm in Kunikida's hold. "W-What are you being so sentimental for, you big baby?! I just hassled you back in 'cause I wanted to have less work to do! Let me go - let me goooo!"
"Kunikida, you're back." Fukuzawa voice makes Ranpo go silent and slack in the blond's grasp.
Silver eyes glance between the two young men in front of them. Ranpo blushes harder under the scrutinizing gaze as he tugs at Kunikida's sleeves fruitlessly. God damn this guy for also being a martial arts student of Fukuzawa...! Ugh, whatever, he gives up.
"A case just came in. It's time for work, you two."
The duo blink, giving a glance at each other before exchanging a smile.