Riddle in a Romance
Written By: Lady Lunar Phoenix
Beta: Lady Lunar Phoenix
A/N: This is pretty much the final version of this fic. I've taken some time off from it and read over it, fixing the errors that I have found in the process. I don't know if I'll do it again. So yes, a line or two touch ups here and there!
"The front desk said...!" Sometimes being a leader didn't have real perks. Ok it had 'no' perks. He was literally in charge of the lives of his friends, ensuring they didn't die on dungeon runs. While at the same time trying to manage the Detective Prince who had all, but, stalked them. Not that the group was complaining, they had developed almost an endearing fondness for the young detective. But the front desk said it was their turn in the hot springs! So why were the girls in there and hurling wooden buckets at them?! It HURT... "Come on guys let's go." He finally called out over the shrieking voices of the girls and the thumps of the buckets as they hit or missed their marks.
Teddie scrambled out of the water, ok the fact that he dropped on Yukiko kinda justified her anger. But he came dashing out of the water as fast as he could as the rest of the guys went running for their lives. Yosuke shut the door behind Teddie as the smaller boy took up the rear. Shielding them from any more stray buckets. "That was just wrong. Kanji-kun you said that the front desk told us we could come in right?"
"Yeah..." Kanji was blinking, his eyes wide with shock at the sudden sight of the girls in nothing, but, a towel. Even if it was just a misunderstanding did they 'have' to get those buckets flung at them? It wasn't like they were raging perverts. His own Shadow not withstanding of course... *cough*
There was a soft sound of rapid approaching steps as Naoto turned the corner, his gun drawn and at the side. "What was all that screaming?" He asked looking over at the four. His expression turned from alarm to confusion as he took in Teddie's wet state, Yosuke's pissed off one, Kanji's embarrassed one, and Souji's 'just kill me now' woebegone look. "I thought someone was being murdered with all that noise."
Souji turned his head to look over at the shorter boy, watching as the smaller boy relaxed. But he looked annoyed as well, sliding the gun back in it's holster. "Worried about us? I'm touched," Souji replied, a faint smile on his face as he spoke. "Seems the times got mixed up and we accidentally walked in on the girls," he explained patiently, when Yosuke interjected.
"But who gave them permission to just chunk Bucket's at us! It's not like we were trying to rip the towels off their bodies or anything!"
"Does this mean you forgive us?" Teddie asked looking at the detective. After all, they had gone behind the boy's back to get him to spend the night. Calling the boy's grandfather and asking if Naoto could stay. Course once Naoto found out he'd been so upset he refused to leave the room for the most part. For that matter he pretty much refused to talk or do anything with the group. Watching the garden when he was left to his own devices as though it was more interesting.
"I'm here on a murder investigation, random voices screaming in the night concern me," he retorted, as he straightened out his coat before turning to leave.
"Hey Naoto-kun why didn't you come with us?" Yosuke asked, fixing his attention onto the smaller boy. "Shy?"
"I-I have better things to do," he retorted hotly, but a brief look over the shoulder revealed a light dusting of red over the teens' nose and cheek. Right before the smaller boy ran, not walked, off.
"Wow he's a shy one when he's not on duty," Souji noted absently, as he pushed himself from the wall he had been leaning against. "Come on everyone let's go back." He turned back towards their room.
*** Later that night. ***
Naoto was going to be difficult, he was bright with a quick mind and gun hand to boot. The boy was piecing it together about the Team's involvement with the murders. But at the moment if Naoto believed their guilt or innocence, and realistically there was no 'innocence' about it, it was up in the air. Sometimes Souji caught Naoto looking at them as though he was trying to figure something out. But if it was on social interactions or if he was spending time with murders Souji couldn't tell.
He couldn't sleep sometimes because of his worry. Wondering if he was doing the right thing, making the right choices, which was why he was still up. So when he heard the soft sound of someone getting up, he turned to look. He was on one end of the room, a small slender framed person was sitting up. He watched as they quietly climbed out of their beds trying to fathom who it was. Could be either Teddie or Naoto, were they going to the springs? The girls 'had' to be out by now, and some friendly companionship, would be nice. That is if it was Teddie, if it was Naoto he couldn't really know what that would involve.
Maybe a mind game? He watched as the person got up slipping out of the room with all the stealth of a mouse. So of course he got up as well, pulling on his robe as he did so. It wasn't Teddie, the kid wasn't skilled at being quiet, even in his human form. Which left their current snoopy Detective, but why was he leaving? It couldn't be to try the same prank on the girls right?
He followed the smaller boy, creeping along as the smaller boy made off with a towel in his arms. Was he going to the hot springs now? At this hour? But whatever, it was a chance to spend some time with the Detective and perhaps figure out what Naoto or the police force was thinking about the case. He followed the smaller boy until the boy disappeared into the first room before the hot springs. Then Souji returned and snagged his own towel and went back to the hot springs.
He slipped in quietly securing a spot for himself to change before putting up his sleep wear. There were a few remaining bottles of cold drinks resting in half melted ice That would work, during a break they could have those. With that in mind he slid the door open revealing the hot spring once more to him. Yet oddly enough like before, he saw someone scurrying off to hide behind some of the large rocks in the water. He frowned before shaking his head. Yep, defiantly shy.
"Naoto-kun it's only me." He called out as he walked over stepping down into the hot spring.
"Get out!" The detective called out with an oddly mixed tone, shock mainly, but there was fear as well. Which raised Souji's interest.
"Why? We're all men here." He walked along towards where he saw the smaller boy disappear off to. The water was a bit of a blessing, it allowed him to keep tabs on Naoto, while allowing the same in reverse. He could see the small waves stir as Naoto moved to counter him, keeping that rock between them. "Naoto what's the matter?"
"Nothing, now get out," he growled, as he moved to keep them apart. He was sounding increasingly agitated and it bothered Souji to hear that.
"Naoto-kun, I realize you're probably upset that the guys went behind your back and pretty much kidnapped you here. But you're acting like a child, I'm not going to hurt you, it's not a contest or anything. I just want to talk to you." He noticed how it got very quiet on the other side of the rock when he said the word 'child'.
"I'm not a child!" Naoto shot back heatedly, the water making a splashing sound. Apparently he struck a nerve as Naoto struck the water in anger. "You want to talk then talk!" It sounded like the boy had barred his teeth in anger. Why... oh then again, Souji remembered his Uncle mentioning Naoto's situation in the police station.
"Not like this Naoto-kun. Not with a rock between us, nor with you clearly set on wanting to kick my ass for talking to you like this," he replied, letting his own annoyance seep into his voice. He made a quick attempt to get around the rock, but Naoto countered. He could hear a splash and realized the Detective went under for a moment. But it wasn't enough of a slow down.
"Stay away from me," Naoto threatened, and he rolled his eyes.
"Naoto-kun give me one good reason why I can't see you?" he asked then had any idea. "What? You're scarred up by something?"
"Yes." It came out fast, Naoto was intentionally grabbing onto the first excuse offered to avoid showing himself. Which meant it was a lie, no one readily admitted to things that affected them deeply.
"You're lying, you answered too quickly for that to be the case," Souji replied, and smirked as he heard Naoto's quick intake of breath.
"I am thought to be everywhere, and have only one rival. He hides within himself, and stays where ever I can not reach. Who am I? Who is my rival?" Naoto countered, a riddle, but the boy sounded almost happy.
'Everywhere, but with only one rival. What is everywhere? Air is, but it's not considered as having a 'rival' in any classic sense. Something that can be found anywhere... Good and evil... Light and...' Souji laughed in answer. "You are the Light, and he is the Dark."
"Please respect my wishes, I just don't want anyone to see me. I detest my body." Naoto yielded that answer to his question.
"I make you weak at all the worst times. I keep you safe, I keep you fine. I make your hands sweat, your heart grow cold, I visit the weak but seldom the bold."
There was a pause as the Detective puzzled the riddle out. When he answered his voice was more subtle, they found their game to play. "Fear." At Souji's soft sound of approval for the correct answer he asked a question of his own. His tone bold, confident. "Are you in any way connected to the murders and kidnappings of Inaba?"
Souji closed his eyes for a moment, yes, a dangerous game for them to play. "Yes. What is your view on the kidnappings?" He opened them again, a battle of wits perhaps, but he had to look after the group.
"I am a God, a Messenger, and a way to keep temperature." That was an easy one, he smiled did Naoto want to tell him? This way saved face.
"Mercury," He answered quickly, a Roman god, Messenger to the Gods, and the liquid metal.
"I have come to believe that you may be the one to lead us to the true murderer. I had my doubts... But over time I've come to decide you are not the murderer. But I need to know how these murders are taking place."
He nodded deeply relieved at that piece of information, before thinking of another riddle. "The rich need it, the poor have it, if you eat it you will die. What am I?" He asked leaning against the rock that separated the two. Why did Naoto detest his body? Because he was so short? Didn't seem to make sense to Souji.
"You're Nothing," Naoto replied, and then waited for his reward.
"I can't tell you. You wouldn't believe it, and it's something that wouldn't stand up in a court of law anyways. I have to go the path I have been and hope that at the end I find the person. But needless to say, it's the method can be liken to throwing someone out into traffic." He stood still for a moment thinking of a new question to ask. "Are you planning to stop me?"
There was a soft sound that caught his ears, he turned towards it to find ripples in the water. Naoto seemed to be moving closer around the rock. Was this part of the game? He stood there waiting pretending not to notice when Naoto peeked about the rock itself. They were on dangerous grounds now after all. "Can not be seen, can not be felt, can not be heard, can not be smelt. It lies behind the stars and beneath the hills. Ends life and kills laughter. What is it?"
Naoto was quiet for a bit before finally replying, "Darkness and No. Though I should." He was quiet for moment more before finally giving another question. "If I tried? Seeking to apprehend a criminal is dangerous after all. It's best left to the authorities, so no excuse can be used." The silence grew again before he voiced his question, a strain to his voice that hadn't been there before. "I'm always number one, I bear nothing to show it; I am stronger then the rest, to play it you have to know it; Unlike all of the royalty, I do not have a face; there is no crown atop my head. What am I?"
Naoto was straining, the boy was too small the heat of the springs getting to him faster then to Souji, the conversation was dragging on too long. Stubborn kid why did he insist on hiding? "An Ace in a deck of playing cards. You'd lose because as stubborn as you may be, your strength doesn't match mine," he replied his voice growing firm. "Enough games Naoto-kun, you're beginning to suffer in the springs."
"No sooner spoken, then broken. What is it?"
It had gone on too long. Naoto's breathes were audible to him now, the boy was panting, he was also losing focus. Having not asked a question for Souji to answer. Souji couldn't keep this up, not if it meant endangering the younger classman. "I'll turn around if I must, but get out of the spring," he ordered, turning as he did so. Once his back was towards Naoto, he heard the soft sound of a body pushing its way through the spring. "Silence, the answer to your riddle that is."
He heard Naoto in the distance climbing out of the springs. There was a sudden splash causing Souji to turn around and look. Naoto was holding on to the side of the spring, he got to the other side of the spring, but had finally passed out from the heat before he could get out. Souji rushed over as quickly as he could in just a towel and waist deep in water. "Naoto-kun! Can you hear me?"
The teen's instinct or weight was probably the only thing keeping him resting against the wall. He pulled Naoto back, his fingers already seeking a pulse when his eyes took in exactly 'why' Naoto 'detested his body'. The detective wasn't a boy at all, pale from being covered by layers of clothes. The towel was wrapped tightly around a very clearly developed chest. Who would have thought that the Detective Prince was a Princess?
But regardless of how beautiful she was, Naoto was still dangerously overheated. He put her up on the floor before climbing out beside the girl. The drinks would still be cool, and right at that moment he had to get Naoto's body temperature down again. He grabbed the bucket and brought it and chilled water held in it. At first Souji was going to just douse the boy, but finding out the truth, he couldn't do that anymore. Instead he took one bottle and rested it against Naoto's forehead.
Her skin was an unpleasant red from the heat, her breathing was only just starting to ease up. Her hands reaching up and clutching at the towel, even in her state she realized how she was dressed? Souji shook his head before putting the bottle back into the bucket and dipping his hand in. He cupped a small bit of water and poured it over Naoto's face, letting it drip down. He needed her to wake up, she moved so sluggishly at the moment it left him worrying. A young girl posing as a boy, Souji could piece together why she might do this if he had the time and inclination. But at the moment all he cared about was the fact that there was a young woman in his arms who was dangerously overheated.
He was reaching to scoop up more water when the hands at Naoto's breasts tightened. Just before the girl righted herself and pushed him off her. His ass hit the wooden floor as Naoto turned herself around showing her back to him as she shook. He sat there and watched as she began banging her hand on the floor with increasing frequency.
"Why? Why why why why why WHY didn't you just get out of the room when I asked you the first time?!" Naoto demanded, the voice hadn't changed, still low emulating a male voice. The Detective was furious that was obvious, but considering the deception she had pulled Souji wasn't feeling all to forgiving about that.
"Because I thought I would be sharing a hot spring with a young 'man' not a young 'wo'man. After all I'm sharing a sleeping arrangement with you." He growled as he yanked her around to face him. He saw her hand curling into a fist, ready to throw a punch which he countered by grabbing her throat. He held her firm, startling her that he did it at all or with such speed.
"What's stopping you?" She asked, her voice was cold, challenging him in ways the guys never did. He could feel her soft skin, she truly had the body of a girl. Such a sudden contradiction and he couldn't say he was riding high stress at the moment. Instinct said to protect her, help her, but if she wanted to be treated like a man, he had no problems laying her out so hard she'd realize what she was up against.
He reached out behind her as he let go of her neck. Grabbing the bottle he had saved for her to drink before nearly ripping the top off. Forcing it to her lips he waited for her to defy him. But she was weak, the heat left her drained and the strength he saw in her eyes was more a front then anything else. Her hands had snapped back to her chest, holding the towel, but now her right hand slipped up to his hand. She began drinking from the bottle guiding him in how high to tip it.
"I won't tell them you're a girl, if that's what you want. But in exchange I want you to try less on being a detective and more being a teenager." He watched her eyes, which had been studying him, grow wide. A blush forming on her cheeks as she pulled away from the bottle.
"I... I don't know how, all my life I've been around adults. My peers want little to do with me. Save for perhaps foolish dates." She looked amused as she spoke, of course being the Detective 'Prince' probably afforded her a great many would be 'girlfriends'.
He had to chuckle at that, a smirk showing on his lips. "Oh? Well do you like boys or girls?" He asked and watched in his own personal amusement as Naoto started and blushed fiercely. He saw her looking out of the corner of her eye, studying him, then again all he wore was a towel. The smirk deepened as did the pain. Kanji saw her first, even if he thought Naoto a boy. Kanji had first rights to the girl.
"I... I have to go," she blurted out, her cheeks were on fire, and despite clearly being dizzy in the effort. She forced herself to her feet and out the room, to change and return back to their rooms.
It left Souji sitting alone on the floor staring at the doors. Giving her time to change and flee, while the half drank bottle of melon soda rested at his side. Picking up the bottle, he swirled it about a few times before tossing it back himself. Maybe being the Leader had a perk or two, after all he found a princess in the deal.