This is the first of one-hundred soon to come stories. I posted a chapter in Downward Spiral about a challenge that I was taking and as I said there, I've already started the stories. I admit, this one was stretching the theme to it's limits, but I did follow it, as I used the "semi-official" first meeting of Naoto and Souji (during the Kanji arc). There isn't any romance in this--unless you squint and read at Club Escapade (there is no alcohol). You might see... something then, but I doubt it.

Regardless, I hope this is enjoyable for you.


"…Kanji Tatsumi?" Naoto asked, frowning as she blinked slowly. "I have indeed spoken to him on several occasions." This boy… I saw him in Tatsumi Textiles the day I went in to speak with Kanji Tatsumi's mother.

"I was… wondering if you knew anything about him." Souji said casually, "We… we go to the same school and we've been trying to speak with him. We're classmates after all… But he seems to think we're out to get him. I noticed that you've spoken to him before and he doesn't seem to mind talking to you. I thought that—since he seems to have run off somewhere for the moment and we can't ask the man himself—that we could see if anyone knew his interests. A common ground for us to approach him on."

Naoto raised an eyebrow, clearly not believing a word Souji was saying. Of course, it is my job to detect lies. His eyes are meeting my own and he's showing no signs of nervousness. Most anyone—perhaps even an officer—would easily be fooled. However… Why is he suddenly interested in Kanji Tatsumi, just after he's appeared on TV? Collecting perhaps? No… he doesn't seem the type. However… He seems to have befriended Yukiko Amagi who appeared on TV shortly before Kanji Tatsumi as well. …Of course, I cannot confirm if they were friends beforehand or not. But still… Something about him…

"You wish to know his interests?" She finally spoke, resting a hand on her hip, leaning her weight to the side as she spoke, carefully watching Souji's reaction.

The silverette nodded, hooking his thumb in his pocket, allowing himself to fall into a more relaxed stance that matched Naoto's.

"Interests, likes, dislikes… I'd like to know what he's like under his 'tough-guy' mask."

Naoto's eyes widened slightly, hand slipping several inches down her hip in shock.

"His… mask?"

Souji nodded, smiling. "You noticed it too, didn't you? He's not really as—I believe the term is 'bad-ass', as he appears. He seems like… a very nice person. I want to see what's under his mask."

The sleuth remained silence, staring at Souji with a calculating gaze. Tatsumi's… mask? Just by seeing him on TV and speaking to him—rather, running from him—twice and he's able to… see so much? Is he just trying to make an excuse to appear interested, to divert me from his true motives? It is unusual that he would approach someone asking such questions just after Kanji Tatsumi has just disappeared. Of course… if he were involved with this case, he would want to appear as innocent as possible. Still… letting others know of his interest in Tatsumi would immediately bring him to light as a suspect, or perhaps he is aiming for the opposite effect—No. That doesn't make sense…

Naoto's eyebrows furrowed slightly in frustration as she began to chew at her lower him. This boy… I've never had to think so hard on one's motives before… I cannot figure him out at all. He doesn't appear as if he'd be a murderer… But I cannot rule him out as someone who is involved in the case. Somehow… I know he is involved, yet… Shaking her head, the sleuth sighed softly, raising a hand to rub the bridge of her nose. I'm… thinking too hard. He has only asked a simple question. Never before have I tried to calculate something as small as this before.

Looking up, the detective's gaze meet Souji's again, silver-blue eyes carefully guarded as she tried to read into Souji's well-masked silver ones.

"Well, Seta-san—You did say that was your name, correct?—Kanji Tatsumi…" She finally spoke again. "He seemed very nervous when speaking with me. I do not believe he is used to speaking to others—beyond his mother—on such… docile terms. His voice was much quieter and his tone far more civil than the one I happened to see him using with you and your acquaintances. " Naoto paused for a moment, watching Souji for any reaction that might help give her a clue as to what was going on. When nothing happened, she continued. "Yet… his actions were somewhat… strange. As a person he seems… somewhat normal—simply lacking stronger emotional control as far as his temper is concerned, however…"

The detective paused again, her gaze moving away from Souji's as her eyes fell to the ground, a look of deep thought falling across her features.

"I simply had the feeling that he harbors a complex of some sort, that's all."

This time it was Souji who raised an eyebrow in question, silently urging the other to explain more.

"Beyond that, I haven't spoken to him enough to come to say anything that might be of use to you. I apologize for not being able to assist you in your… goal."

Souji shook his head, grinning. "No, that's quite alright. Thank you, you've helped more then you know."

The silverette turned, walking towards the door of Junes, pausing for a moment to glance back at Naoto. His head tilted to the side slightly, blinking slowly, causing Naoto to frown.

"Do you need something else?"

Souji shook his head, opening the door. "No, it's nothing." He had one foot out the door before he paused again, pulling back inside as he turned back to Naoto. "You're… just like Kanji."

"I… beg your pardon?"

"You're a lot like Kanji Tatsumi." Souji repeated, "In the sense that you're not what you seem."

Naoto felt something catch in her throat, suddenly feeling nervous. Forcing a casual tone she shook her head. "I'm afraid I don't understand what you're saying. Are you claiming I do not have a control on my temper like Kanji Tatsumi? I can assure you—"

"No, no. Not that. I'm saying… I think, there is a lot more to you then what the public sees. Something underneath the 'detective'."

"I don't recall telling you I was—"

Souji grinned again. "Have a good day." And he left, leaving Naoto staring at the door, mouth hanging opened slightly.

"What was-?" She closed her mouth quickly, turning way from the door as she tried to push away the tight, nervous feeling in her chest, inhaling deeply. What… was that about? Was he trying to get information out of me? How could he have known why I was here? In a small town like Inaba, I suppose the knowledge of someone as young as me working with the police would spread quickly but—No. There is something else much deeper going on but…

Naoto's fists clenched at her sides as she glared at the ground. Who is he? Why… why couldn't I read his motive? How… how was he able to get under my skin so quickly? All he did was introduce himself and ask a question… Why!? The sleuth glanced back at the door, a small frown tugging on her lips. Souji Seta… I have no doubts now that he is indeed connected to this case.

"…It seems that there is much more to this case than I originally thought." The detective straightened herself, pulling a small brown notebook from her pocket, jotting something down quickly in a neat script. "This case… is going to be very interesting."