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The Adventure of the Sudden Departure

Chapter Text

In the bustling climes of Yokohama's leisure district, a vast, wide locale framed on each side by flourishing greenery presented an imposing bastion against the evening sky. Its surface was festooned with bands of paper lanterns, casting their flickering light on three figures standing outside. From within, peals of intermittent laughter pierced the still air before fading back into silence; though it had an unassuming grace when seen from the outside, the building brimmed with the promise of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Politicians, diplomats, hospital directors, a few hand-picked emissaries from the fields of the arts, and sundry socialites of every description.

One of the three figures fidgeted slightly as they passed through the entrance, feeling like a fish that was just on the cusp of exiting water. A young lawyer recently returned from an exchange study tour overseas and his faithful judicial assistant would, in normal circumstances, find themselves with a great deal of difficulty gaining entrance to an event like this...

From a closed circle of mingling high-society types emerged a man whose brows had shot up on noticing them at the entrance. Adjusting the belt of his kimono he bustled through the crowd, welcoming them in with open arms.

...were it not for a rising literary star and old acquaintance who owed them a great deal, was happy to repay them at every opportunity, and who had, through much persuasion and under great reluctance, agreed to allow them to bring a +1.

"Locum Student Naruhodo Esquire, it's absolutely delightful to see you again! Ms. Mikotoba Esquiress, words fail to express the bounds of my joy!" With exuberant warmth, he clasped Ryunosuke's hand, then dipped into a light bow in Susato's direction. Receding immediately into a stoic sneer, he turned his frigid eyes to the man at their side. "Sholmes."

"And a very good evening to you as well, my good man!" Ryunosuke felt a soft sigh escape him; it seemed like, despite nearly a year of separation, the two would have no trouble continuing their constant catfights. Sholmes inspected the author up and down, the familiar spark of mischief dancing behind his eyes. "I must say...you're looking hale, hearty, content, well-fed, successful and sociable." He thrust his finger aloft, his wry smile curling into a corkscrew twist. "If it hadn't been for that obscene facial hair, I wouldn't have recognized you at all!"

The prospect of the night ending in raised voices and hurled fists was beginning to seem more than likely, but Soseki drew himself up, receiving that jab with only a mild scoff in response. "Yes, yes, very funny, Sholmes." As he closed his eyes with a serene aloofness, his hands went up to adjust his collar, fixing it with a tidy little motion before moving to do the same for his bow tie. "Unfortunately for you, I am a man of stature now, and I'm afraid I won't be rising to your puerile barbs any longer."

"Hm..." The great detective's eyes slid stoically shut; Ryunosuke felt a slight surge of relief, while Susato had the faintest suspicion he'd taken that as a challenge. Finally he spoke again, his tones gentle and matter-of-fact. "No, I suppose not. After all, you've done quite well for yourself with your children's book, haven't you?"

The effect was immediate. "It's a satirical masterpiece―" He barely managed to splutter before lapsing into a hard wheeze, his hands having seized up around his tie hard enough to nearly choke himself. Disentangling his fingers from his collar he slammed one fist to his side, teeth set in a feral snarl.

"Ahahaha! Yes, that's quite what I thought, Mr. Moustache!" Sholmes snapped his fingers, beginning to move in the direction of the dining table. "Come, come―let's leave our friends to their fun, hm? My interpreter won't be here for a while longer, I fear, so I suppose you'll have to do."

"Not―" He hissed, rubbing his neck, still smarting from the double-blow of wounded pride and mild suffocation. "As you English are wont to say, not ruddy likely!"

"Oh? Alright, then. I suppose I'll communicate with the Minister of State through a combination of Japanese and charades." Throwing his hands into the air in a double wave, he struck a pose brimming in equal amounts with confidence and tackiness. "'Yoroshkoo'! How'd that sound?"

"What?!" Indignance morphed into disgust, which passed the baton back to fury. "Absolutely not, Sholmes, you're going to embarrass me in front of the delegates―" Came the snarled reply, hunting doggedly at the man's heels as he vanished into the throng of bustling socialites.

Ryunosuke tapped his chin in a musing sort of way, watching the two of them saunter-and-stomp, respectively, into the eclectic mix of the crowd. Perhaps it was his background as a violinist, but...somehow, Mr. Sholmes always seemed to find a way to play Soseki-san like a fiddle.

"...Well...I suppose old friends have a way of picking up from where they left off, don't they?" Susato ventured, tending towards extreme diplomacy.

Ryunosuke gave a quick nod in response. "I suppose they do. At any rate...this is a pretty fancy affair, isn't it?" He glanced around the room, featuring an eclectic scattering of vivid garments and imposing figures, and couldn't help but feel fairly out of place in the field of fashion. Wanting to make a good impression, he'd scoured his wardrobe for the most formal garment he owned, and after a lot of fruitless searching realized he was already wearing it. As esteemed as the respectable uniform of Yumei University was, it wasn't exactly the stuff of gala dinners.

Susato had fared slightly better, having donned a bright kimono strewn with elaborate ivy patterns trailing its familiar cherry blossoms. She nodded, joining him in looking around. "I've been to some events like this in the past, with father. They're always rather remarkable, though..." One of her hands went to her cheek, tapping it restlessly. "Not always interesting." She broke into a soft smile, covered slightly with her fingers. "But with Mr. Sholmes here, I'm sure we'll have an exciting evening!"

Ryunosuke didn't doubt that for one second, although ― as he threw one glance towards the detective's theatrical motions at the dinner table ― he wasn't quite sure if that was a good thing. Still, he tried to focus on the positives, glancing across to trail the various waiters cutting their way through the crowd with elegant steps. "The food all looks wonderful, too. At events like this...they bring it right to you, don't they?"

Susato gave a gentle nod, and bolstered with the spirit of experimentation, he flagged a bespectacled figure down. Catching their eye, the man approached with rapid steps, and Ryunosuke felt a familiar feeling take root in his chest as his features grew clearer; his slim build, his stoic expression, the slender streaks of grey swishing across his hair. When the man was a couple of steps away, he glanced up and seemed to freeze at the sight of them.

"Ah!" Balancing his tray delicately in one hand, he unleashed a ferocious coughing fit into the other...and, as he came back up with a speck of crimson trailing down the corner of his mouth, there really could be no doubt. "My apologies...I didn't expect to see you two here."

"...H-hello, Inspector Hosonaga." Seeing him wipe the fleck of blood off his face with a neat, practiced motion, Ryunosuke noted that the detective's endless stream of part-time jobs didn't seem to have ended yet.

He threw out an admonishing glance, pushing his spectacles onto the bridge of his nose. "Waiter, Naruhodo-san. Just a waiter."

"Oh, um, right. Of course." Ryunosuke wasn't quite sure if the inspector's disguises ever worked, but either way, he deserved the courtesy of having someone play along.
Susato took the lead in doing so, giving him a gentle bow. "Hello, Hosonaga-san. It's been a while, hasn't it?"

A quick nod. "The police department never rests. Still..." He lingered for a moment in silence, bridging the chasm of gutwrenching memories the voyage over had resulted in for all three of them, before shaking his head. "...despite the circumstances, I hope your stay in England was rewarding."

Though unbeknownst to the detective, the magnitude of understatement to that sentence was remarkable; but, being that they were still firmly in the realm of small talk, Ryunosuke found himself faced with the challenge of trying to compress all the sensations of that nerve-wracking, revelatory, terrifying, joyous year into a succinct sentence. He tapped his chin for a moment, before carefully concluding: "Yes...on the whole, yes." The waiter nodded; that seemed to be all that was necessary.

A soft smile came from the assistant at his side. "It's good to see that you're doing well, too. But..." Susato tapped her cheek contemplatively, speaking as quietly as he could muster. "If you're here, doesn't that mean you're working a case?"

The faintest trace of a shade came over his face as he glanced from left to right, ensuring no prying eyes were aimed in their direction. "I'm afraid that's highly classified. The only information I can give you is this..."

He leaned in, lowering his voice to a breezy hush. They hunched forwards as well, poised and listening amid the surrounding murmur of ambient voices.

"...the hors d'oeuvres are exquisite." Under the lamplight of the vast locale, his spectacles glinted in an ominous crescent. "Care for a sample?"

"..." Ryunosuke sighed, pulling back. He should've probably known better than to expect him to reveal confidential police information; despite his eccentricities, he'd done nothing but his utmost for his investigations each time they'd encountered him. "Sure."

Retrieving one strange cucumber-and-caviar concoction each, the waiter-detective gave them a quick nod before withdrawing back into the bustling throng. From the direction of the dinner table, Ryunosuke sensed he could hear a familiar voice raise a couple of decibels too high and sighed, glancing over. "I guess we should keep an eye on them, shouldn't we?"

Susato nodded. "You go ahead, Naruhodo-san―father said he'd be slightly late, but I'd like to welcome him when he gets here."

With a quick nod, Ryunosuke made his way over to the dining table, where Soseki was embroiled in a one-sided but furiously intense quarrel with the great detective about the proper way to eat lobster. On seeing him approach, an air of grateful relief settled over...both of their faces, actually. Being the mutual ally of two rivals was a strange position to be in, but there it was.

Still, as he took the seat by Sholmes' side, Ryunosuke couldn't help but smile. Back when they'd parted ways at the coast of England, he didn't think they'd see each other again for years. The relative speed to the man's visit was definitely a pleasant surprise, but brought with it a share of questions bustling around his mind. Ryunosuke waited for an opportune moment to ask them, which, in this case, came when the great detective had finished slurping the meat out of an array of claws, to the neighboring author's express disgust. "So what brought you to visit, Mr. Sholmes?"

"Telegram from Mikotoba inviting me over―and it was about time I saw how you'd flourished in your native land, no?" He twisted around to face Ryunosuke and leaned his head against one hand, entirely nonchalant to the way he'd just planted his elbow in a saucer of soy sauce. "But I must say, the trip over was far more dreary without your company. I practically had to frame the other passengers for entertainment."

A quick chuckle, before the memory of who he was talking to sent a soft hum of concern creeping through his chest. "'Practically' means that you...didn't, right?"

"But enough about me!" Sholmes continued, straightening his arm to wring his shirt out over a slab of tuna. Ryunosuke felt he was familiar enough with the detective by now to know he wouldn't actually do anything that drastic, but...still, there was a tiny nagging feeling at the back of his head that couldn't help but wonder. Grinning wide, the man continued: "How have you fared since your return, Mr. Naruhodo?"

"Oh, well..." He tapped his chin for a moment, trying to sum up the events of their return and coming up remarkably short. Despite having enough experience by now to be able to open their own legal consultancy firm, the notion of cementing a business and trying to market themselves entirely on their own had seemed strangely daunting. Every so often they did find themselves consulting on cases that called for experience from the overseas courts, but...overall, the past few months had been peaceful, relaxing, and, compared to the wild days of Great Britain, far too boring to bring up. "Can't complain, I think. It's been nice seeing family."

"A delight to return to, no doubt. Mark my words, one day I'll meet your parents―or perhaps even Ms. Mikotoba's father!" This time, the buoyant grin that played across his face left no doubt in Ryunosuke's mind that that joke had been on the intentional side.

"...I'm sure you two would get along." He deadpanned back, before lapsing into a moment of pondering. As nice as it was to see him, there'd been a noticeable absence at his side ever since they'd met him at the docks. "Speaking of family, aren't you slightly...well, worried about leaving Iris on her own?"

With flickering facets of scorn flying across his face, Sholmes snapped his fingers―then rapidly found himself having to wave off a confused waiter who'd interpreted it as a signal. Shaking his head, he turned back to Ryunosuke. "My dear fellow, the girl is eleven! You don't think she should have to take care of me her entire life, do you?" He brought one finger to his temple, affecting a musing melancholy. "I knew I'd have to leave the nest sooner or later, tearful as our separation was."

...All this time, and it was still no easier to get a straight answer out of him. "Not exactly what I meant, Mr. Sholmes."

"Oh? Well, not to worry, not to worry." Smiling, he turned his attentions to his plate once more. "In my absence, Ms. Lestrade is co-lodging in our Baker Street flat, meaning she's no doubt in the hands of a responsible adult!"

With Iris supplying the 'responsible' half and Gina supplying the 'adult' half, that did add up. There were still a few points of interest to turn to, but before he had the chance to speak the second course descended; and, seeing no hope of being able to drag Mr. Sholmes away from the siren call of the feast before him, Ryunosuke joined him in digging in.

 


 

From her position near the entrance, Susato had stood watch, quietly observing the rippling trails of dignitaries―and, finally broke into a relieved smile as a familiar man strode through the doorway, setting his bag down as he surveyed the room. "Hello, father!" She tapped her fingers to her cheek, betraying a slight concern. "Dinner's already started, you know...I was beginning to worry you wouldn't make it."

With a gentle smile, Mikotoba approached. It didn't seem like he'd dressed up substantially for tonight's affair, but slight dashes of additional color were emblazoned on his shoulders, melding the staunch neutrality of a university professor with a modicum of flair. "Just had to take care of some errands. I wouldn't miss it for the world, don't worry. I'm assuming the others have already...?"

Before he could finish that sentence, a loud voice rang out in their direction, piercing through the general bustle of the crowd. "Ah, there he is!"

Susato turned her head slightly and found herself faced with an approaching man wearing an ornately-decorated black-and-white kimono, embroidered with crashing waves and scattering leaves. He was built like a miniature mountain, short and stocky, but above all else...strangely familiar.

Her father gave the man a quick nod of acknowledgement, though, so she accompanied him in a brief bow. "Good evening, sir." Her hand went to her cheek as her brow furrowed. "My apologies...I'm sure we've met, but I can't quite recall your name."

To Susato's relief, her lapse in memory didn't seem to offend him. A wide wave of his hand brushed the remark off. "'Course, 'course! Last time I met you, you were, what―seven? They grow up so fast." A sigh that started soft and sentimental grew loud and melancholy as the man shook his head. "Just means we've gotten a lot older, haven't we, Yujin?"

With a quiet smile in response, Mikotoba gestured between his daughter and the stranger. "Susato, this is Director Fukuyama―we were medical students together, as well as co-workers for a while." He placed a hand to his chin and shut his eyes, musing aloud. "Of course...he's moved a fair way up in the world since those days."

"Ah, you're making me blush." Despite those ostensibly-humble words his grin was wide, without a trace of diffidence about it. Resting his hands over the collar of his robe, a wry glint entered his eye. "Still slumming it in the university, are you?"

"I'd hardly call it slumming, Fukuyama-san." Though his expression remained professionally stoic, there was a low warmth to his voice as he continued. "I find my work very satisfying, and the students are a pleasure to teach."

"Pfhah." Rolling his eyes with theatrical extravagance, the director leaned in towards Susato. "He's always been like that, your father. Could've been a rich man, but he had to go and be a great man instead!" He pulled back and sighed, scratching at his temple. "Think he made the right choice, though. We're working like dogs down at the hospital, what with the recent breakouts."

"Ah, yes..." She nodded, no stranger to these types of conversations; with her father's line of work, doctors and scientists had abounded at small house gatherings as she grew up. "They've been in the newspapers for a while, haven't they?"

Mikotoba nodded. "Yes...the situation's starting to raise concern. Despite the progress made on the medication, the fatality rate has doubled." As he continued, his voice settled into a sombre contemplation. "The production rate has accelerated, but...there never seems to be enough."

"Mhm." Fukuyama let out a quiet breath, joining him in melancholy tones. "That's why I'm bound for the coast of China in three days. Administering emergency aid, you know."

"Really...? I'd heard nothing about that." A thoughtful pause lingered for a moment, before the smile drifted back to the professor's face. "You're not considering a career change to 'great man', are you?"

A clipped laugh boomed through the air. "Hah! Well, we do what we have to, don't we?" With a quick pat to his shoulder, the director gave him a warm grin. "It was good seeing you again, Yujin. Now, if you'll excuse me, I didn't come here to gab all night; eat, drink and be merry, eh?"

Giving a quick nod in the man's direction as he rejoined the room's miasma of mingling, Mikotoba glanced around himself for a moment before turning back towards his daughter. "I've got a bit more catching up to do, Susato. You should go ahead and join Naruhodo-san."

She nodded with a smile, and as she wandered in the direction of the dining table, her father retrieved his bag and disappeared among the bustle of the throng.

 


 

Ryunosuke's eyes lit up as Susato rejoined him, taking the seat to his left. As Mr. Sholmes had sunk further into focusing on his food, he'd managed (with some initial trepidation) to strike up conversation with some surprisingly-jovial socialites at the table, and the arrival of the 'legendary judicial assistant' he'd mentioned spurred a resurgence of fascination across them. He hadn't really considered it, but he supposed that to a great deal of parties here, their travels to England were the stuff you could only read about in novels and newspapers. They answered a flood of entranced questions, shared anecdotes that sounded less believable when he was saying them out loud, and bit by bit, the evening crawled onwards.

Embroiled in conversation, Ryunosuke hadn't even noticed that Mr. Sholmes' seat had been empty for some time until the detective returned to the table, leaning over the side of Soseki's chair. Though equipped with his usual warm smile, it seemed slightly faded. "Mr. Moustache. Could I invite you to a private sojourn?"

The response was as immediate as it was blunt. "No chance, Sholmes. I'm―"

"It's quite urgent." The detective's voice cut through his protest, carrying an unusual calm. "I'll repay you for the discourtesy, I assure you."

Soseki stared his stoic face up and down with a cold scrutiny and sighed, throwing his napkin to the side. "...Fine, fine." With a low grumble of "what's so blasted important that it can't wait until after gyunabe", his sandals thumped across the floorboards, straying slightly behind the detective's pace.

The exchange raised a slight curiosity in Ryunosuke's heart, but at that moment an excited "And you say the Queen interfered?" dragged him back to attention, turning back to the guests at his side with a flustered nod. After a while, out of the corner of his eye, he could see Soseki returning to his seat, sighing and mumbling and, it seemed, alone.

Ryunosuke excused himself as politely as he could manage and leaned over, shooting a quick whisper across. "What did Mr. Sholmes want to talk to you about, Natsume-san?"

"Ugh, the usual nonsense..." He shook his head, a customary weariness returning to his face. "I swear, that man stops at nothing to vex me."

With no real reason to press for detail, he supposed that was that. Dinner proceeded uninterrupted, and while the duo found themselves targetted by a flattering flood of inquisitive enthusiasm, Ryunosuke couldn't help but feel a trace of concern as the chair next to him remained empty. Eventually pulling back for a moment to glance around the room, he couldn't spot any sign of Mr. Sholmes anywhere, but...

He did notice, striding across the floor, the waiter-detective approaching the table.

His steps were rapid, clicking; carrying the same elegant professionalism as usual, but slightly too rapid, his face slightly too stoic, and with his brows furrowed into a hardened calm. Dipping down to the author's shoulder, he lowered his voice into a quiet whisper that Ryunosuke had to strain to hear: "Natsume-san? I'll need you to come with me. It's about Mr. Sholmes."

Soseki grumbled, whirled around in his chair and shot a hushed hiss back at him. "Tell that man that if he tries to pester me one more time, I'll personally―"

Hosonaga shook his head slowly, and at this distance, Ryunosuke could clearly see the sweat trailing down the side of his face. "I'm afraid he won't be pestering you any more, Natsume-san." As a vivid scattering of candlelight reflected off his glasses, he adjusted them with a gently-shaking hand and spoke the words that would ring in Ryunosuke's ears for the next two days: "Mr. Sholmes is dead."