Here is number seven of the 100-themes challenge, Complicated. I can't begin to express how oddly challenging writing this story was for me. Writing as Naoto comes fairly naturally and others [being you, the readers] believe I do well at it. However, I found myself unsatisfied with this story after having written it seven [I'm no exaggerating] times and still, I don't believe I am.
Fiyerna was kind enough to edit this for me after I finished writing it and assured me that it was well-written. Still, I am saddened that a lot of the original content was lost in the making of this, but I hope that this version is still entertaining.
This is more-so highly implied SoujixNaoto then an actual blatant romance story. It is from Naoto's POV as she tries to figure out why it is that she's unable to read him.
...My main worry is that I fell out of character with this.
The first official meeting I had with Souji Seta occurred when he appeared before me in the Junes lobby, asking for any information I might have accumulated from my time spent with Kanji Tatsumi. His method of approach was very casual; he walked up to me and gave me his name. He never acted in a manner that suggested he might need the information for any questionable methods, nor did he do anything that would normally be considered suspicious. I didn't tell him everything I knew, given the current state of the town of Inaba, with a murderer running around as he pleased. I couldn't tell anyone—trustworthy or otherwise—about the case or any theories I'd since created myself.
As I watched him walk away once our conversation had come to a close, I made a note to keep a close eye on him and the group of friends I'd seen him wandering around the town with on a daily basis. He was involved with the case, but as for how much… I wasn't sure. It was instinct that told me to keep Seta and his friends under my radar. While none of them were outwardly suspicious, and would look like normal high school students to most anyone who looked at them, I knew there was more to their group meetings at Junes then a simple gathering of friends. They way they moved and spoke with each other… something was going on, and I needed to know what it was.
Each of the members of what I now know to be the 'investigation squad' were easy to read. Their hobbies, likes and dislikes were easy to divulge from simply observing them from a distance or listening to small portions of their conversations. I admit, even as a detective I did not often fall into the position of a spy, tailing a person group of persons for a long period of time to observe them, but I needed to learn all I could about them to see their connection to the case—and it was easy enough to gather information on all of them… save for their leader.
There was something about him… a feeling that I couldn't name that surrounded him and plagued my mind when he was around. His eyes were among the most expressive I'd ever seen—yet they said everything and nothing at the same time. They were like a cipher, a code that could only be cracked and understood after countless hours spent studying how it worked. His emotions were controlled—guarded… Occasions in which I saw him express any negative emotions—anger, sadness or fear—in public were rare and only one sticks out vividly in my mind. All I have to do is close my eyes and I'm able to see the hospital room where we all stood gathered around a large TV, about to condemn and innocent man to a terrible fate.
Logic had always been a strong base on which I lived my life. I didn't have time for childish games or allowing myself to believe in what could only be considered a 'fairy-tale'. When I noticed the unusual connection between the victims of the murder case and sudden appearances on TV, I never stopped to come to a solid conclusion on how it was the two were connected—I just knew it to be true and acted upon impulse, knowing that I was close to an answer—to something. I had approached Seta and the others the day I was to appear on TV and asked them several questions about the case, being careful with my words. If I said anything too directly, they could very well easily make up excuses to avoid my presence and keep me at a distance, making things more difficult for myself.
As I spoke with them, they faltered under the questions I asked and the conclusions I came to. I had answers they already knew and thought they'd kept hidden from the public. I was making them nervous and I knew it, only giving me more reassurance that my theory about them being close to the main point of this case was correct. When I'd finished speaking, I felt a sudden pull and I looked up. Seta was starting at me, his light eyes carefully meeting my own and suddenly it was as if he were the one who'd been asking all the questions and I was the one under the microscope.
He could see straight through my questions, read my thoughts and he knew what I was going to do. Yet still, he said nothing about it. He frowned, giving me a look that said he disagreed with that I was doing. The look he was giving me was a warning—a silent plea to not follow through. He didn't want to make a scene for myself in front of his friends, but he didn't want to simply step to the side and allow me to do whatever I wanted. However, I couldn't let him control me; I couldn't allow myself to fall into his gravitational pull. I wasn't his friend—I wasn't like the others that stood around him like a pack of animals to the alpha male.
I broke the gaze and turned away, walking past them as I resigned myself to what could very well be my own fate, but I knew I wasn't going to die. It wasn't because only the first two victims had died and the others had miraculously been saved—nor was it the fact that all the ones who'd been kidnapped somehow flocked themselves around Senpai. I knew they would come, because they were connected. They were doing something to put the murders on hold and I needed to know what it was. It was essential for solving the case and I wasn't going to walk away from a clue that was being so clearly presented to me—no matter what it would cost me.
He—Senpai—and his friends all saved me from the foolish mistake I made of setting myself up as bait for the case. They followed after me despite the way I'd previously treated them; they fought and risked their lives to save me. They saw my ugliest side, yet not once was judgment ever passed upon me for it. They accepted me into their group when I asked that I be able to help them in their investigation. Little by little, I learned more about each of them, but I still remained a mystery to them. Rise-san and I would walk home together, but if asked a question about anything regarding myself, I doubt her answer would be very different then the answer the others gave… but Souji was different.
With Senpai, I feel as if I'm being watched from all angles. His eyes stare into my own and read past every single defense I try to put up to keep others at a distance. He is able to break down each one without much effort at all, sometimes with nothing more than a simple smile. He makes me feel uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time. Terrified, yet safe. When I'm with him, things like my gender or age, detective or otherwise… they don't cross my mind, not unless the subject is brought up directly. It doesn't matter to him; I am simply "Naoto".
Every day he peels another layer off and gets closer to my core—to the parts of myself I locked away, not wanting anyone to ever see. The child, the woman… the detective I'd always wanted to be. He sees all of them as a whole and tells me repeatedly that he's glad I'm a girl.
Every word he says embeds itself into my mind and, try as I might to forget, it only makes itself more clear, visiting me in dreams and silent moments when I stop to think. I have to be so careful with my words around him, if I say something too quickly; I'm terrified that everything will spill out after it. I can't hide anything from him and I can't seem to find a reason why.
Is it because he listens? That he takes in everything I say and never passes judgment on me, even if I say something foul? Is it just a talent? The others flock around him so closely, following him without question as a leader. As scared as I am, I find myself chasing after him as well.
He's a mystery that I can't seem to solve at all. Each time I find an answer; ten more questions come with it. He is an open book, with seemingly nothing to hide. But the pages are blank, completely white, leaving the one who looks upon them disapointed, or—at least in my case—with stronger curiosity. They—his pages—are written in an invisible ink that can't be revealed just by adding heat to it—No, they need more. A great deal more. And each time I'm able to decipher a page, I find myself wanting to figure the next one out with and longing I haven't felt in a long time.
Never before have I been so eager—so desperate—to learn about another person. I've always taken pride in my independence, the ability to take care of myself with minimal intervention from others. I've solved countless cases that the older and so called 'more experienced' detectives spent hours cogitating over… but I can't seem to figure him—a single human being—out.
Being with him, it's like the control on my emotion I took careful pains to build up is suddenly switched off. Things that I kept away from the world come spilling out and he listens to each one, committing each one to memory as if it's something precious—be it a like, dislike, or hidden pain from my past, it doesn't matter. He's never forgotten any of them.
This feeling… I don't know what it is—but it's dangerous. I shouldn't allow myself to get so close to another. It's just setting myself up for pain. It always has been. Once I'm no longer of interest, I'll be left behind, tossed into the play-pen that I'm always locked away in when my usefulness is used up… But with him—with Senpai—I find the fear is cast aside and it's almost as if I'm willingly allowing him to envelope me fully.
It's confusing… complicated. I never know what to expect—or what is to come. I'm scared—terrified, but I embrace that fear fully, knowing that he is there, following the gut feeling that is telling me everything will be alright. This feeling—it shouldn't be here—whatever it is. I've never felt it before, but I can't ignore it. It is something that's grown each day since I met him and I feel that if it were suddenly to disappear, I'd be throwing enough of myself away to cause my Shadow to appear again—should that even be possible.
All I'm able to do is wait. Wait—learn and grow. I will follow the path that Senpai has shown me. There is an answer to this at the end, and still more paths to choose from when I reach that end, but… Despite my confusion—despite the fear and unease—from the things I don't know… I want to walk this path. I want to understand what it is that I don't understand, and I know that I'll be alright…
…Because he's walking with me.