“Good night, Naoto-san!” Yukiko said, with a gentle smile and a hand wave. Naoto returned the gesture, with a smile of her own.
“Good night, Yukiko-senpai. Take care.” The detective said, curtly but amicably. She then turned around, and got inside the car sent by her grandfather. On the front seat was a well-dressed man, who promptly addressed Naoto as she closed the door.
“Good evening, Naoto-sama! We received word from the Tokyo Police Department already. Was the trip alright?”
“Mm, yes, Yakushiji-san.” Naoto let out a silent chuckle. After the extremely formal environment she was in while working in the latest case, the first two people she talks to in Inaba are, ironically, Yukiko-senpai and him. Although the former had maintained quite the casual conversation with the detective, it was still one imbued with courteousness; and the same could be said of Yakushiji-san, the Shirogane family’s secretary.
Not that she disliked it, though. In a way, that’s what most of her interactions during her life were like, especially when her work was involved. She supposed she just got too used to coming back to Inaba and being greeted with a simple “Yo”, or “Hey”.
Of course, meeting Yukiko-senpai after arriving at the station had been a pleasant surprise. While not the closest inside the Investigation Team, she was still an important friend, someone Naoto looked up to in a way. As the car started moving, the detective looked though the window at the black-haired girl, whose bus home had just arrived. With a small smile, she thought that maybe not being as close meant each opportunity to talk like this was extremely valuable.
On the way to the Shirogane Estate, the tiredness from working hours on end finally started to appear to the detective. Even if it was still early in the evening, she decided it would be for the best if she went to sleep as soon as possible. It was a shame, though, since she had spent quite a few days away and wanted to enjoy a little more the nice evening in Inaba.
The bluenette sighed. At least she got to meet a friend before going home, someone she enjoyed talking to. Even if it wasn’t the person she was most expecting to see.
Shirogane went for the pocket hidden inside her blue coat, snatching her cell phone and opening it. As her house was starting to get visible, she texted Yosuke Hanamura, another member of the Investigation Team. She wondered if he would be at Junes for a night shift right now, but soon let this thought go. She was already getting home, so there was no way she could meet him now (…and maybe Teddie, of course).
‘ARRIVED IN INABA. INVESTIGATION WAS TIRING BUT SUCCESSFUL. LOOKING FRWRD TO GROUP HANGOUT.’
She pressed the “Send” button and then put the phone back in her pocket, as Yakushiji-san parked the car. Usually he would offer to open the door for her, but Shirogane was too impatient this time around and left the car quickly.
“Anything wrong, Naoto-sama?” The secretary asked after leaving the car, seeming a bit worried. The small detective looked at him, taking a second to process what he said, and then tugged on the tip of her hat.
“No, Yakushiji-san, all is well. I just wish to go to sleep soon… I’m feeling rather tired, and would like to be well rested from tomorrow on.” As she finished saying, both Naoto and the man started walking towards the entrance of the Shirogane Estate. Yakushiji-san took the lead to open the door.
“Oh, of course! Tomorrow is when your friend comes to visit Inaba, right? And everyone from your group will be reunited.”
Naoto nodded, letting out an “Uhum”, but kept quiet about the slight inaccuracy in the secretary’s words. While tomorrow Yu-senpai would indeed be returning to Inaba, he had already talked with the whole group about delaying their big meeting to the day after that. The reason for that, obviously, was his… Er…
It surely felt quite strange to properly say it out loud, but she shouldn’t need to feel embarrassed to simply voice it in her thoughts. She psyched herself up. ‘Justice-For-Nanako-Plan’. That’s what Yu had named his intentions to spend tomorrow with Nanako.
Naoto knew she wasn’t the only one who found this naming rather… unconventional. At the same time, she secretly knew that his inspiration for it was the Tarot Deck’s Major Arcana, something she owed to her vast knowledge (and, she’d never admit it out loud, to her fondness of games and Tokusatsu that persisted since her childhood; games with Arcana or Zodiac themes weren’t uncommon).
It was not the first time he referenced that in his… jokes, if she could call them that. Memories passed through her mind in a flash: Yu saying being kicked by Chie was like being run down by a Chariot, or that Dojima-san was the Hierophant of the police, or that Naoto was fortunate for whatever reason… It seemed like he was in on a joke that no one else was, and even if the detective picked up on this pattern it still didn’t make those jests any funny or less weird. She guessed that comedy was the one thing Yu-senpai wasn’t good at.
After getting inside the house, Naoto had dinner with her grandfather and Yakushiji-san while giving them details about the last case. She finished her meal quickly, and excused herself to her room. As the detective was preparing to go to bed, her phone vibrated, indicating a message had just arrived. Unconsciously, a small smile appeared on her mouth.
‘I see, gr8 detective as always lol
yeah, lookin frwrd to it too!’
Shirogane chuckled a little as she read his message, but soon her smile turned into a frown, as she sat on her bed with furrowed brows. While this text seemed normal enough, the truth was that the detective had been noticing a few strange things about the boy recently.
Naoto was very happy for having the friends she had. Yukiko, whom she met and chatted with today, was a prime example of this: even if they didn’t hang out as much alone, they got along very well and surely could be at ease with each other without the whole group together. That didn’t mean, however, that there weren’t those she felt she was closer to. Initially, her biggest bond in the group had been Yu Narukami, who was close to everyone; however, after he left the town, Naoto made efforts to try and solidify her relationship with the rest of the team. She never expected, however, that this would work best with Yosuke of all people.
His status as ‘Prince of Disappointment’ was not just for show, as might be expected, especially in moments like the Beauty Pageant or when he made any sarcastic remarks. However, after solving the murder case together and actually getting to spend time with him afterwards, the boy showed other sides; better sides. Of course, he would still say stupid things every now and then, but over time it became clear that it was much less out of ill intent and more out of ‘mouth moves before the mind thinks it through’.
So, hanging out with him had been… quite enjoyable, to say the least. He had an interesting balance of sense of humor and seriousness, even if he would sometimes make a joke or sarcastic remark in an inappropriate time. Whenever he would afford to make those in a suitable moment, Naoto couldn’t hold back a snicker and rarely even added a remark of her own. She was never a no-humor kind of person but socialization sure did wonders for her joking capabilities.
So, what was the problem with Yosuke? He was acting strange. Weird. Awkwardness would manifest in him every now and then (not unnatural for a teenage person, she thought), but it had been happening a lot more in their latest meetings. He’d be quieter in certain moments, and then suddenly go on an outburst of talking at others. Sometimes he seemed to be in deep thought, while in others he was totally distracted, with his pupils unfocused (she could swear he seemed to be gazing at her direction, though).
The Shirogane heir put her cell phone back at the desk just beside her bed. With a sigh, she decided she was better off letting this go, for now. She could focus on dealing with whatever was going on with him tomorrow.
The tiredness from both work and the trip hit her like a brick all of a sudden, so instead of neatly reclining on the bed as usual, Naoto just let gravity do its job and let herself fall sideways on the soft mattress, with her face somewhat smashed against the pillow. Pulling the light blanket over her body, she closed her eyes, resting comfortably despite the loose position she was laying down. In her mind, she recalled a few details of the case she worked on, glad that she was able to end it before Yu-senpai came back. She would not want to lose the opportunity to see this dear friend of hers again and most importantly, to have all of her friends reunited again like the old times.
…But Justice-For-Nanako plan (seriously, what a terribly long and off-tangent name) resulted in the postponing of this reunion. The planned consensus was for them to meet up the day after the next, so tomorrow everyone would be doing their own thing. What could she do to fill the empty gap in her schedule? She had no immediate work to attend to, and honestly just wanted some time off for herself, to relax. A yawn followed this, watering her eyes.
“Hmm…” She certainly missed the food from Inaba. She could have lunch somewhere in the Shopping District, maybe Aiya or even Marukyu Tofu for a change. Meeting Rise would be a nice bonus, though she wasn’t sure if Rise was already in town.
…Maybe I should invite Yosuke to come with me. Would be fun.
Another yawn. Though he doesn’t really like tofu…
Her eyes closed for good this time, as she slowly fell asleep. But I… could call him anyway…