17th in my 100-themes challenge. The fourth upload today I believe. Unless I miscounted something on accident. I hope you all enjoy this. It is somewhat darker then my normal writing, but I hope that you enjoy it none-the-less.
I must take the time to thank Senpai--Fiyerna who beta'd this for me... Thank you.
It had all happen so suddenly, over a week had passed before the effects of the event fully settled themselves in Naoto's mind. At first, nothing changed. She woke up at the normal time, prepared herself for the day, and went to school. She would speak with her friends—the "investigation squad"—during lunch when they all ate together on the roof, and then she would walk home with Rise at the end of the day. But with each passing day—unnoticed by the detective—a piece of herself would fall away, and the next day she'd speak less, pack a smaller lunch, and walk just a little slower on the way home.
By the end of the month, Naoto had stopped talking completely. She forgot her lunch almost every day—and the days she did have one were the days Yakushiji had woken up early to see to it that she walked out the door with one. She would walk home by herself, taking back roads to avoid others.
Of course, no one said anything. They simply assumed the prince was grieving for her loss, but her friends knew better. It had been Rise who finally took the initiative to do something about it. She told Kanji to tell the school that she would be gone for a few days due to illness—this was a lie, of course, but the easiest cover story she could think of and her grandmother was happy to play along.
It was Kanji's job to keep Naoto busy while Rise was gone and keep her from catching on to the idol's actions, but the sleuth never made an attempt to figure out why Rise had disappeared. She didn't ask questions, she didn't look around the city—it was as if she'd gone completely numb to the world around her, and it had the entire investigation squad in a panic.
Rise arrived back in Inaba three days later, praying that she'd been quick enough and there was still time left. Yosuke meet them at the station and quickly lead them down to the main road where Dojima was waiting by his car with Nanako and the others. A silent greeting passed between Dojima and his nephew as the silverette kneeled down to give his cousin a quick hug before everyone climbed into the car. It was cramped, but no one dared complain.
It took exactly half an hour to arrive at the cemetery. Souji had been riding in the front seat with Nanako on his lap, and he was the only one who got out, quietly asking his cousin and the others to stay behind. Rise had told him everything on the train and everyone knew it was better he do this alone—that he was the only one who could do this.
The silverette made his way through the maze of tombstones silently, following the directions Kanji had told him again and again in the car until he'd memorized them—it had only taken twice. Once to memorize and once more to make sure it was correct. Glancing around as he walked, Souji wondered if he'd taken a wrong turn by mistake when he noticed a small figure crouched in front of a large marble tombstone.
The stone was beautiful, well kept, with a large vase of flowers sitting in front of it, a small plate of onigiri sitting next to the vase, and candles burning on either side of the stone. It was obvious that it had been visited every day. Weeds had been pulled from the surrounding area, leaving only fresh grass with a layer of dew on the blades, sparkling dully in the afternoon sun. Dirt had been brushed from the stone's surface, making it spotless.
Slowly and silently, Souji approached the figure before the tombstone and knelt down. He paused for a moment, waiting until the figure looked up, revealing stormy gray-blue eyes. He sighed softly, leaning forward as he pulled Naoto against his chest, wrapping his arms around her waist tightly. Her head was curled under his chin, her face pressed into his shoulder, hands gripping desperately at his shirt.
It had only taken a few seconds before the dam broke and everything she'd been holding in came out. Her shoulders shook violently, but Souji only tightened his grip with one arm, using the other to run a hand through her hair gently, setting her blue cap to the side. He kissed the top of her head gently, shutting his own eyes briefly as he fought back the faint sting in his eyes. Seeing her like this hurt nearly as much as the words on the tombstone in front of him.
His arms tightened again as Naoto shifted closer, her sobs quieting down, turning into silent tears. The silence would be broken ever few seconds as the sleuth hiccuped or sniffled, but other than that, no words were passed between the two. There was nothing to be said—and nothing that needed to be said. At least, not at that moment.
Naoto had slowly begun to fall apart, piece by piece, and she finally shattered in Souji's arms. But it was alright. He was at her side now, and that was all she needed. She could entrust her pieces to him, gather them up and place them in his hands… because he had always been the glue that kept her together, the careful craftsman who repaired all her cracks.