Disclaimer: Not mine. No money made. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's note: I decided to leave the Japanese terms 'sensei' and 'senpai' and not translate them. 'Sensei' is used to address not only teachers but also, for example, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, politicians etc. or other authority figures as well as artisans who have achieved a certain level in their craft e.g. writers. 'Senpai' is used to address senior colleagues or mentor figures, underclassmen address upperclassmen in this way too. You can find plenty of information about these and other Japanese honorifics on Wikipedia.
3. The Surprising Dessert
Another new day. Another bright and sunny morning.
Yako had slept the whole night through in her school uniform. She woke up to discover that she was enclosed in the iron circle of Neuro's arms. She felt ever so lucky that she hadn't been squeezed to death while she slept. And why had she woken up in the first place? Naturally, because Neuro was nibbling on her ear. Or maybe she could rather describe it as munching as more discomfort than pleasure was involved.
Bursting with false cheer (always a sign of imminent danger), Neuro informed her that she should get her ass out of bed so they could be on their merry way. He'd apparently caught scent of a new mystery. She informed him just as jovially that actually letting go of her would be conducive to her getting said ass out of bed. That is, if he didn't plan to get it to the bathroom himself.
Yako regretted her words that very instant. He did let her go, only to haul her over his shoulder, momentarily knocking the breath out of her. Then he proceeded to the bathroom. All the way there his hand was shamelessly resting on the ass that had somehow ended up being the centre of recent conversation. She was beginning notice that her hellish boss had a distinctly perverted side. Yako wished she could pretend to be all saintly and say she really and truly minded.
Either way, she was thankful to whatever heavens that when she begged Neuro to please wait outside the bathroom while she showered, he actually complied.
As she was standing under the steaming stream of water her mind wandered back to the events that had taken place just yesterday. Even in her wildest fancies she would have never imagined biting Neuro in a fit of anger would end up… like this.
Yako winced as she felt a slight sting on her right shoulder as the water hit it. Oh right, he'd returned the "favour" yesterday, not to mention what other things he'd done yesterday. Yako put a hand against the bathroom wall trying to steady herself as her legs suddenly felt wobbly. The flush of her skin wasn't entirely due to the hot water either.
Her pulse was thundering in her ears. She couldn't believe how easily she had been swept up in the sensations Neuro elicited. If she hadn't stopped Neuro before his hand reached further under her skirt…
No, no, no! Don't go there, she told herself adamantly. Yako shook her head from side to side as if that could somehow pull her mind back from its decidedly unchaste downwards slide.
She quickly turned the water off, got out of the shower and started drying off.
"If you don't want to be dragged through the streets in a state of undress, I suggest you get ready within the next ten seconds," an ominous voice rang from the other side of the bathroom door.
And then Neuro began counting.
Yako started throwing her clothes on at top speed. She knew better than to hope it was an empty threat. Neuro's threats were never empty.
The door burst open just as she managed to put the last button of her shirt through the appropriate buttonhole. He had the gall to look disappointed. Her growling stomach interrupted the moment.
"You have ten seconds to eat," he said.
That went better than putting her clothes on. No one could shovel down food like Yako could.
When they were finally going out of her house he of course used the opportunity to announce that they were in danger of being late for the meal and grabbed her by the head to drag her along.
"Didn't you say that a gentle approach would evoke a more favourable response from me?" she asked morosely, as her shoes scraped along the pavement.
"Don't confuse business with pleasure, Yako."
It just figured he would find a loophole that would let him continue handling her like a potato sack. They were almost all the way to his next meal when he finally got bored with dragging her and let go of her head.
Despite regaining the ability to move of her own free will, Yako found it hard to concentrate. She could hardly keep from blushing every five minutes as she remembered the events of both the previous day and this morning.
She still couldn't quite believe that Neuro was interested in her. In that way. Yako wasn't so naïve as to believe that all of it meant undying love was knocking at her door. Love was a far too human concept to apply to a demon from hell. But in the end she did not mind that. He wanted her and that was far more than she had ever hoped for.
A wry smile stretched her lips when she suddenly realized that what she had privately and sarcastically dubbed as "Neuro's way of showing that he cares" turned out to be just that.
Come to think of it, he was quite violent towards Godai also, wasn't he? Should she let the scowl-faced man in on the fact that this probably meant Neuro had some fond, friendly feelings for him (or at least the demon equivalent of that)? On second thought, the man had been traumatized enough as it was. Springing that kind of news on him would be entirely too cruel. Yako couldn't suppress a giggle as she imagined what kind of expression Godai would show if she did tell him.
Neuro looked at her, taking notice of her slightly evil-tinted giggle. Then he grinned at her in such a manner that it made her fear not only for her own virtue and chastity but the virtue and chastity of everything within general vicinity. Her face also achieved the shade of a ripened tomato. Damn, why couldn't she control her own reactions when she was around him!
By the time they arrived at the office where the crime had taken place, Yako had managed to get somewhat of a grip on her emotions. From the looks of it, some poor fellow had been poisoned. The police had already started gathering evidence and questioning suspects.
Both Sasazuka and Ishigaki were there too. Thankfully, Usui was nowhere in sight. That man's personality was downright nerve-grating. Only someone as calm and unfailingly loyal as Tsukushi could possibly put up with working for him day in and day out.
As usual, there was a short but intense moment of Sasazuka giving Neuro a look full of suspicion and Neuro looking back with a fake cheerful smile plastered on his face. Ishigaki, as was his wont, accused them of being case stealers. Sasazuka told Ishigaki to shut up and threw his latest anime collectible out of a nearby window. Then the older detective turned his attention to Yako.
"Hello, Yako-chan. Quick to arrive at the crime scene as always," Sasazuka said, but without even a hint of accusation in his tone. He even gave Yako that slight older brother smile that seemed to be especially reserved for her. He had always been surprisingly tolerant of her involvement in the investigations.
Yako returned his smile. "I just seem to have a sixth sense for these kinds of things, Sasazuka-san."
Sasazuka didn't say anything. Yako's smile became strained. Any moment now her head could have a painful encounter with the floor or the wall. And indeed, a hand latched onto the back of her skull in a familiar vice-like grip. She felt the claws beneath his gloves dig ever so slightly into her scalp.
"Yes, yes, sensei has very sharp instincts for things like this." Neuro's tone was falsely jovial. "It's the same as when she can smell a dumpling stand from a 500 metre distance."
"I see," Sasazuka said in his usual apathetic manner, regarding Neuro with a simultaneously blank and scrutinizing stare.
Yako felt relief when Neuro finally released her head. He really was particular about keeping business and pleasure separate, wasn't he? Inadvertently her mind wandered back to the pleasure part, some of which she had experienced first hand yesterday. Yako felt a blush rise to her cheeks when she realized in what direction her thoughts had wandered once again.
"Yako-chan, are you all right? You look a bit flushed," Sasazuka said.
Yako looked at the older police detective, slightly startled.
"I'm fine Sasazuka-san." She tried to will her blush into disappearing.
"Are you certain? This doesn't look like it will be a very complicated case, so if you feel a cold coming on then maybe you should go home and rest for today. Let the police handle it."
Yako hovered between gratefulness and panic. Sasazuka was so kind and it was so nice of him to care for her well-being, but if she didn't refuse him as fast as possible then any moment now she would be confronted with razor sharp claws situated bare millimetres away from her eyeballs. Her internal Neuro-alarm was already ringing. Indeed, she heard a sound that was reminiscent of a knife being drawn.
"I absolutely refuse!" she cried out then cringed when she realized how loud she'd been.
Sasazuka looked slightly askance and Yako immediately felt guilty for bursting out like that. The guilt was admittedly dampened when she caught the telltale metallic ring of claws being retracted behind her back. Now to try and smooth things over with Sasazuka.
Yako gave an awkward laugh, putting one hand behind her head in a gesture of embarrassment.
"Sorry if that came out too loud. I just absolutely want to solve this case. And thank you for your concern, Sasazuka-san, but there really is nothing to worry about," she said.
"Are you sure?" he asked again, looking slightly suspicious.
Yako could hear claws unsheathe.
"Absolutely! Er…that is to say, it is really quite warm today and I was in a hurry. If I look a bit flushed then that's the reason," she finished lamely.
There were several seconds of silence as Sasazuka regarded her with an unwavering stare and she gave him her best sunshine smile. Then he nodded as if saying "All right, I'll let it slide this time". Yako was secretly grateful. She could feel that Neuro's presence beside her had gotten less murderous. The situation diffused, Neuro ambled off to inspect the crime scene, leaving the talking with Sasazuka to her. She asked him about the case and as always he did not mind filling her in on the details, ignoring any protests from Ishigaki.
"Yo, Sasazuka!" someone's overly casual greeting interrupted their conversation.
They turned to see Higuchi Yuuya saunter into the crime scene. As always the police-employed hacker looked carelessly aloof.
"Don't greet senpai so disrespectfully!" Ishigaki barked as if he'd forgotten that the selfsame senpai had destroyed yet another treasured collectible only minutes ago.
"Higuchi," the chain-smoking detective greeted in his usual apathetic manner.
"Higuchi-san! What brings you here?" asked Yako.
"Oh, Katsuragi's here as always. Nice to see you too. Sasazuka called and asked if I could look at the victim's computer. Said it might have something to do with the case."
Out of the corner of her eye Yako saw one of Neuro's Tools of the Demon World latch onto a computer screen. Evil something or other, she guessed. It looked like virulently green pea mash spread over the screen, complete with multiple small eyes and mouths. Lovely.
"If it's you, then I'm sure you can figure out anything that has to do with computers," Yako said, trying to both distract herself from the unappetizing sight of the demonic tool at work and to delay Higuchi from going over to the computer.
"A compliment from the famous high school detective herself? Why, I'm flattered." The smile he gave her almost skirted on the borders of rakish.
"Don't mention it. It's just the truth, Higuchi-san." That Tool of the Demon World had thankfully done its job and was out of sight by now.
"Just call me Yuuya. We're around the same age anyway," he said easily.
"Um, sure… Yuuya-san. Then you should call me by my first name too."
It was only polite to return the courtesy, right? Sometimes she did forget that he was just a couple of years older than her. It was probably due to him being a detective already at his age as well as the confident way in which he carried himself.
"Say, Yako-chan, you do remember that we still have to go out for tea sometime," Higuchi said.
Somehow she felt that the way Higuchi said "Yako-chan" and the way Sasazuka said "Yako-chan" was distinctly different. She couldn't quite put her finger on it though.
She tried to remember when they would've arranged that. Ah yes, there had been that one time when he had thrown out a remark like this. However, he had done it in such a casual manner that she had hardly taken it seriously.
"Yes, tea. I know an excellent tea house around this area." He was smiling at her in that slightly cocky manner of his, looking at her with undivided attention.
Yako knew that she had always been just a little bit slow when it came to these things. And no, she wasn't hereby admitting to Kanae's statement that she was beyond dense when it came to male-female relationships. That she hadn't been aware of Neuro's "flirting" couldn't possibly count. Far as Yako was concerned, not having noticed she had been the target of some bizarre demon "courting ritual" only reaffirmed her status as a sane human being.
However, now it did dawn on her that it looked an awful lot like Higuchi was asking her out.
Oh god, why now? Not that she wasn't flattered. Yako did find him attractive in a way, but there couldn't have been a worse time for this. She couldn't be interested anymore. Right now Neuro overshadowed any other male presence in her perception. If Higuchi had asked her just a few days before this… Then what? She realized that wouldn't have helped any, maybe it would have even made things worse.
Yako knew now (even if she could still hardly believe it) that Neuro had been interested in her for a while. Of course the demon had such a high opinion of himself he probably could not imagine her being interested in anyone else. Nonetheless, he probably wouldn't appreciate someone encroaching on what he considered his "property". But perhaps he would not care at all? Or maybe he would tear both her and the unlucky fellow limb from limb?
This was getting confusing and had the potential to have dire consequences. She had to decline the invitation quickly but politely.
"Er, you see, Yuuya-san…"
If she told him something like "Sorry, I'm already going out with someone else" there were plenty of nosy people present who would not hesitate to ask for details which would then result in her having to admit having... What was it that she and Neuro had? Yako just didn't feel like announcing it to the world when she herself wasn't even that sure.
This was quickly becoming too much for her. Yako had zero experience with these things. She had never had to refuse a guy asking her out. In fact, she had never been asked out, period. Talk about milestones of a teenage girl's life piling up. And what if she had grossly misinterpreted the situation and Higuchi just wanted to have tea as friends? Doubts stacked upon questions upon doubts.
"Sorry, but sensei is currently very busy and has no time for such trivial matters. And she doesn't like tea anyway."
Neuro had appeared right at her side. He had his usual good boy mask on but his gaze was boring into Higuchi. One of his hands gripped Yako's shoulder with a force that was far from tender.
Yako not liking anything that was edible or drinkable was a flimsy excuse at best. To everyone present it was rather clear the real message was "Back off".
Higuchi, however, didn't look like he was in a very obliging mood. He smirked.
"Really? I recall Yako-chan saying that she likes tea, especially the blend made by the secretary at your office," he said.
Neuro's eyes became a little more demonic. After the HAL incident, Higuchi certainly had to be aware that Neuro wasn't a normal human, but it did not look like he would retreat because of that.
They were staring each other straight in the eye now. Square off between demon and hacker. Sasazuka and Ishigaki were observing this with some interest.
Unexpectedly Neuro was the one to break the gaze. Higuchi was surprised too, judging by his confused blink. Yako didn't know what to think anymore. Added to that, Neuro's cheerful façade made a sudden return. For some reason this made Yako wary. She felt like he had something up his sleeve.
"Well, who knows in the end? Sensei sure has some strange tastes," the demon said breezily.
Higuchi frowned, recognizing the implied insult in those words. An uncomfortable silence fell and Yako concentrated on looking at the sleeve of her sweater.
The silence did not last long though.
"Why, sensei, you were right – it is rather warm today," Neuro said in a deceptively light tone.
Consecutively he shrugged out of his jacket and folded it neatly over his left arm. This only made something on his right arm painfully stand out. Yako knew that she had been wise to feel wary. His devious intent was obvious to her now.
The bastard, he hadn't let it heal at all!
Neuro enjoyed the look of panic on Yako's face very much. All eyes were drawn to the telltale mark on his arm. He felt that not letting it heal for a while had been really worth it. Besides, she needed to be taught a lesson and he had to let the Higuchi brat know clearly whose slave she was. Two birds, one stone.
"Wow, that's some bruise you have there," Sasazuka's wimpy partner – Ishigaki, was it? – voiced what everyone else was thinking as they looked at the twin crescent marks which stood out on Neuro's skin.
Next Ishigaki of course had to ask the obvious question which everyone else already knew the answer to.
"Did someone bite you?"
Neuro gave an extra cheerful smile. Yako looked like she was steeling herself for whatever he was about to dish out. Ah, he would truly revel in seeing her reaction to this.
"Sensei likes to leave a mark," he pronounced happily.
The insinuation was about as heavy-handed as it could get.
Yako's jaw nearly hit the floor. She was staring at him in utter disbelief. That lasted for quite a few seconds before it started to fade. He watched with delight as her expression quickly transformed into one of outrage.
Pointing an accusing finger at him, trembling in fury and red from pure embarrassment, Yako blurted out the first thing that had floated to the surface of her mind.
"It's not like you didn't do it too!"
Deafening silence followed. You could've heard a pin drop.
Yako clapped a hand over her mouth, paling when she realized what she'd said and what that obviously implied. This, thought Neuro gleefully, was what humans called digging your own grave, wasn't it? She'd gone about ten shades of red within five seconds flat. Forget embarrassment, she was looking mortified. Excellent.
His little slave had perfectly fallen into his trap. Not only had she practically announced to everyone present that she and her "assistant" had a relationship, but she had also led them to believe that it was that kind of relationship. Truly amusing.
He surveyed the general damage.
Sasazuka looked like the older brother whose precious little sister had announced that she was eloping with the resident delinquent. Higuchi who had been the unsuspecting catalyst of this was looking at Yako with an expression that was part disappointed and part... intrigued? Poor Ishigaki looked like his imagination had taken a dive into places that were far too dangerous for his young and innocent fanboy heart.
Neuro himself of course felt almost as satisfied as if he'd just eaten a particularly tasty mystery.
"Someone, please shoot me now," Yako muttered miserably. Neuro chuckled behind his hand, earning himself a glare from her. She looked quite tempting all riled up like that.
Sasazuka cleared his throat.
"Higuchi, why don't you go and take a look at that computer now," he said in a perfectly calm manner, as if something utterly shocking had not just taken place.
"Sure. No problem."
Just as the brat passed by Yako he grinned cheekily and winked at her.
Neuro contemplated whether he should send one of the more interesting Tools of the Demon World to Higuchi's place – just so that the hacker could have a little refreshing surprise waiting for him at home after work.
After Higuchi was gone, Sasazuka looked at the strange pair for a moment, his gaze slowly switching back and forth between them. Yako stood tense, but Neuro couldn't have cared less what the human detective thought. With one last look directed at Yako, the older man gave a sigh that suspiciously sounded like defeat and left, dragging the still stunned Ishigaki behind him.
Yako felt like she could burst at the seams she was so pissed off.
"Are you angry?" Neuro asked.
The damn bastard sounded so very amused. Really, she shouldn't have expected anything less.
"Angry?" she hissed. "Try boiling mad! I wish I could say I can't believe you did that, but I know you too well by now!"
She glared at him. His grin only widened.
"Argh! Why did I even agree to this?" she asked. The question was meant to be rhetorical but she expected him to answer anyway and utter one of his usual master-slave theories.
Instead Neuro leaned closer and put a hand on her shoulder. The fact that his hand wasn't exerting the usual amount of pressure immediately put her on edge. He regarded her with an intense look.
"Do you want me to remind you why exactly you agreed to be mine?" he all but purred.
Yako felt a blush rise to her cheeks even though she was sure she'd exceeded her maximum quota for blushing in one day. Damn him, damn him to hell! Wait, that would be like sending him home on vacation. Why couldn't she ever win against him?
"No," she answered grumpily.
She had never been a good liar. Neuro loomed over her with a knowing smirk.
"Well then, I think we will solve this case quickly. I can already taste it on the tip of my tongue," he delivered his usual line.
However, as he did so he was looking straight at her.
She cursed him and herself for the shiver that he'd elicited from her with that. Despite everything, despite him being insufferable and incredibly arrogant and sadistic to boot Yako couldn't help it. She gave him the most reluctant nod in the history of reluctant nods. Or that's what she tried to convince herself of anyway.
Upon that his grin stretched wide enough to fully expose his sharp-looking teeth for a moment.
"Splendid!" He grabbed her and flung her towards the middle of the crime scene. "Time to point out the criminal, sensei!"
From where she had landed Yako gave a slightly pained smile and sighed. She knew she was all kinds of crazy for doing this. But what made her truly insane was the fact that she didn't regret it, not even for a moment. At least she could console herself with the fact that she had met the perfect match to share all her loose screws with.
Once again she found herself pointing her finger at someone who thought he'd had it all perfectly planned out. But she knew better.
"The criminal is you!"
There was not a mystery in this world that Neuro could not unravel. And for the times when the motivations of a human heart would need unravelling, Yako would be there. As long as he let her, as long as she could.
Besides, being "reminded" why exactly she had agreed to this madness didn't sound bad at all. Although it would be a cold day in the hot springs of hell before Yako ever admitted that out loud.
This was loads of fun to write, but it was also a challenge. A few times I felt like I was teetering on the edge with the characterization and writing something you hope others will find amusing is not easy either. Upon revising the story, I found that there wasn't much at all that I wanted to change, especially in this last chapter. I was mostly satisfied with it. That is a rarity for me. However, there are probably still some mistakes, but I did dry to correct any that I noticed.
Anyway, thanks a lot for reading to the very end. I hope you enjoyed it.