Every year they gather. From all over Japan, they come to the Kirijo Estate to remember the past and celebrate the present.
Fuuka slips out the door after dinner to walk off her buzz. She's never been much of a drinker, but Mitsuru always brings the most wonderful red wines and Fuuka knows how one indulgent sip can turn into three glasses. Besides, Fuuka needs to be alone with her thoughts. She loves Yukari and Junpei dearly, in the deep way only soldiers and survivors can care for one another, but even she needs a break from them to decompress.
She slips off her silk kimono -- a Christmas gift from Mitsuru -- and hangs it on a hook in the kitchen before stepping out. She's wearing a revealing bikini, mint-colored, emphasizing her small, soft curves. It still shocks her when she sees her reflection in a mirror. Fuuka feels good about her body, but a part of her still finds it odd to be a woman and not a gawky girl anymore.
There's the ocean, and immaculate beach stretching left and right. Fuuka, on a whim, walks leftward. The sands are deserted save for a few stranglers huddled around campfires. Fuuka avoids them. The sun is setting on the horizon, an eruption of purples and oranges and scarlets reflected in ripples on the choppy seascape. There's a thin line on the horizon, an oily smear blazing with the dying of the light.
Fuuka can imagine Minato looking back at her from there.
She's fifteen minutes out from the estate, not so far considering her casual stride, when she decides to turn around. It is then, at the furthest outstretch of her walk, that Fuuka sees him.
A young man, dressed in a black suit, standing up to his ankles in the advancing surf. Barefoot. Hands in his trouser pockets. Wearing an odd blue hat.
Her heart skips a beat.
Immediately, her libido is clamped down on by the "caution is the better part of valor" hunk of her brain, that nagging part of her that's grown quiet in recent years but has never stopped whispering You're not good enough and You're not pretty enough and The only boy who could love you is deader than dead.
But Fuuka isn't young anymore. She hasn't been since she saw the Moon try to crash down out of the sky. So, before she can talk herself down from the ledge, Fuuka finds her feet are already walking her toward the mysterious young man.
He's short, sure, but so is she. A tad on the feminine side, but that only adds to the cultured, confident look he exudes. When she gets up close, he glances out of the corner of his eye at her. It's a very Aegis look -- cool and analytical -- but rounded out by a fierce intelligence her robot friend would only match with a few more years of living life. (Not that Aegis would ever have as nice as looking a neck.)
Those eyes, though... he's seen things. Fuuka knows that thousand-yard stare all too well. She sees it in the mirror every day.
"Um -- hi." AGGH. STUPID FUUKA STOP TALKING STUPID. "Nice suit."
"Thank you," he says primly, tone neutral.
"I'm Fuuka. Fuuka Yamagishi."
He stares at her for a long moment, only at her eyes and not her chest, before plucking one hand out from his trouser pockets and offering it to her. As he does so, his suit jacket opens up and Fuuka freezes at the sight of the holster and gun strapped to his chest. "Naoto Shirogane, Private Detective." His handshake is warm and firm, without being crushing like most men's.
He nods. "You're from the Kirijo Estate, aren't you?" Fuuka nods. Before she can ask him how he knew that, he adds, "Your sandals."
"My sandals?" She looks down at her feet.
He gestures casually to her footprints, which are being washed away by a resurgence of the surf. "There's a Kirijo Group logo embossed on the sole, it makes a slight impression in the sand."
When the water retreats, Fuuka lifts up her foot and hopes she's not being taken for a fool. Sure enough, the Kirijo Group's logo stares up at her from the wet sand. She blinks twice before she can bring herself to look away. "Wow," she says, breathless. "You really are a detective!"
"Naoto-kun!" someone, a girl, cries out. Fuuka turns her head and sees, up the shore, near a concrete sidewalk the spirals up a hillside to the island's sole public hotel, two people. One is a silver-haired boy in swimming trunks who Fuuka can't place but whose distant face tugs at her memory in a familiar way. The other is, of all people...
"Risette?" she gasps.
"Come on up!" the pop idol calls down, practically popping out of her bikini as she bobs up and down on her tippy-toes. "Nanako-chan's hungry! And we're ready to start roasting the marshmallows!"
Naoto doesn't yell back. Instead, he nods. The silver-haired boy gives a friendly wave, then the two teens head back up the trail.
"Was that -- ?"
"In actuality," the detective says, "her name is Rise. 'Risette' is just her stage name." He nods to her. Fuuka suspects he can say a lot with carefully calibrated nods. "It was nice meeting you, Ms. Yamagishi."
Freaking, Fuuka blurts, "Um, I was wondering..."
"Would, um... you seem nice" -- and here Fuuka kicks herself for calling any man 'nice' -- "and I was, uh, wondering, would you liketomaybeget togetherfora drinktomorrow?"
Naoto pauses; Fuuka watches as he parses her blathering. "T-thank you for your kind offer," he says, a blush touching his cheeks, "but I'm already here with my boyfriend Kanji."
"Oh." A pause. "Oh!" Another pause. "Oh."
He tips his hat to her, then pulls it down a little too tightly and turns away. Fuuka watches him walk up the shore with a sigh.
"Man," she mutters to herself, "why are the good looking ones always gay?"