Payment

Katsuragi Haruka straightened the collar of her shirt, scrutinising the reflection staring back at her from the mirror.

Wanting to hide it from Yako, Haruka had only changed into these clothes after her daughter had left for school. She didn't want the girl to know what she was doing -- after all, she respected Yako's decision when it came to where she worked and what she did. Her grades weren't fantastic, considering the school she went to, so it was good to see her interested in a vocation. And, after Seiichi died, she wanted Yako to be interested in something. More than ever.

Especially something that Seiichi could have related to.

But her husband's death had made her into a single parent... and she now had the sole duty to get the best for her family. So, without embarrassing or stressing Yako out, Haruka was determined to do just that.

It wasn't definite that Yako's colleague would be there at this time, but it was a possibility -- and that made the trip worth it.

Haruka smiled at the mirror. Her suit was perfectly ironed. Her hair was neat, eyes bright... she was sure that she would make a good impression.

Although what made her think it would matter so much Haruka wasn't sure of.


It had been about thirty seconds since she'd knocked on the door, and Haruka was wondering what to do now. Surely by now...?

She tried the door: it was unlocked. Best try it, then. Perhaps the assistant had merely stepped out for a moment. He may have left a note of some kind... though that was doubtful, if there wasn't one on the door.

She slowly turned the knob, and, conceding that the lack of movement inside meant no one had yet heard her, slipped inside.

It was a fairly normal office room. Television, sofas, bookshelf, two desks (presumably one for Yako -- how proud that made her feel) with computers, telephones and writing equipment... nothing special, but pretty large.

It took her a moment to notice that the man she was seeking was lying on the sofa. Sleeping. Oh.

That hadn't been expected, but, as much as she didn't want to be intrusive, her reason for being here was a very important one. Something that had to be taken care of immediately -- whether Yako continued working here or not.

"Um..." she murmured, hoping that he was a light sleeper. She didn't want to have to shake him awake. Ah, what was his name again? "Nougami-san?" she tried.

The man jerked awake, blinking when he saw her. "Okaa-san?" he asked, voice deeper than she'd heard it before. Perhaps he'd been sleeping for a while -- odd place to sleep, though, at this time.

"Call me 'Katsuragi'," she corrected, walking a little further into the room. "I was wondering if I might speak to you."

He stood up gracefully, picking up his blue jacket from its place on the main desk. "You may call me 'Neuro' but... what might you need?"

"It's about Yako's work here."

He gave her a smile, but it seemed a little strained. "Would you like some tea?" he asked politely.

When she declined, he nodded sharply. The atmosphere in the room changed slightly: he seemed to realise that she wanted something, and that she wouldn't give up until she got it.

Good.

They sat down at the main desk and he raised an eyebrow at her. "So, Katsuragi-san, what do you want?"

She wasn't exactly sure how to say this, but it wasn't as if she wasn't used to interviewing people and getting information out of them. "I'm merely wondering... You get a lot of work, but are you paid for your detective services?"

In the blink of an eye his expression became a little less friendly. He was sharp. "That is a matter for the company."

"Which my daughter is a large part of. She's not an adult yet. I have full control of her finances -- and she's still been asking for her allowance as though she isn't getting paid for her job here."

After a tense moment, Neuro replied with, "I am in control of the agency's finances. Our income and outgoing purchases are all regulated by me -- and the money from our clients is in my hands. We're paid a commission for each case."

Haruka had thought as much. "So my daughter gets no money for her services?"

"She's never once asked for payment," the man stated flatly. "I never considered it."

Haruka's eyebrows shot up. "So what you are saying is this: my daughter comes into work every week day -- and, indeed, some weekends -- to work for you -- don't give me that look, I am not fooled by this 'assistant' premise; I go along with it because Yako does -- and she doesn't get paid at all? Nothing? My daughter has been injured in the line of this work."

"... I am very sorry about that," Neuro said. But something about it didn't quite ring true -- a slight smug glint in his eyes, perhaps?

And suddenly, Haruka was angry. But she fought it down, knowing it wouldn't get her anywhere. Yako had, fortunately, inherited her father's sweet temperament... but Haruka was not quite as adept at controlling her temper. "I'm not going to ask you where the money does go. I'm sure that is 'a matter for the company', too. However, from now on I want Yako to be be paid her fair share."

He looked into her eyes. Searching for something. "There is a large demand for materials needed to solve cases... and we have one other staff member to pay. Not to mention there is the rent for this place, electricity bills... infrequent income... But, I don't need much in the way of payment." Here, he smiled widely, something out of place with the expressions she'd seen on his face during their meeting so far. "And, no matter what you say, I am only Sensei's assistant. I am just more experienced with money than she is."

Haruka held back a sigh. Her daughter and this man both said the same thing about their roles... but her 'mothers' intuition' told her that there was another story behind it all. Still, she wasn't quite as convinced as she'd made it sound -- and, as she'd decided earlier, she would respect Yako's choices. Nothing could change how proud she was of the girl. Her flesh and blood.

"Thank you, Neuro-san."

"That's alright, Katsuragi-san... I'm afraid I'm in the middle of an investigation at the moment, but I'll get in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss the matter further."

Haruka bowed her head in respect. She made to get up, but Neuro gestured that he wasn't quite finished.

"I'm interested," he said, dazzling green eyes sparkling, "what made you come all the way here, rather than asking Sensei herself?"

"I don't want to worry her," replied Haruka after a pause, wondering how much she should tell to a practical stranger. But an insight into Yako's family might help him understand his 'Sensei' better, which would be good no matter how she looked at it. "But her father's death has put a lot of stress on the family. I want her to continue in the school she chose, but it's a private school and the fees are somewhat steep."

Neuro's head tilted unsympathetically. "So what you're saying is that, because of your own tragedy, Sensei's future is threatened? And you're using the money she earns to help put her through school, rather than giving it to her?"

Haruka gripped the edges of the chair angrily, barely managing to keep her temper reigned in. She supposed that must be what it looked like to a stranger, but this was rude. Did she want Yako working with this person? "I want Yako to enjoy her childhood while she still can..." she said, gritting her teeth. "Me putting her through the school she wants, where she has friends, is my way of protecting that childhood. Your agency threatens that protection -- but I'll allow her to work here because I want her to be able to get the things she wants in life. And if that means using a portion of her earnings to help pay the school fees then so be it."

He tilted his head to the side even further before righting it again a second later. "Sensei is very like you. She's just as hard-headed."

From his tone, she wasn't sure if he meant that as a compliment or as an insult. She decided to take it as the former -- and it always pleased her to know that she had similarities with her daughter. The way the girl ate sometimes made Haruka feel a bit far away from her, as though she couldn't understand the main 'love' of Yako's life. Noticing the similarities between them lessened that small loneliness.

"I'm interested," she said, gazing at him candidly, "why Yako?"

"Hm?" he asked, stretching back in his chair in a more relaxed position.

"Something must have drawn you to her... what was it?"

Neuro hesitated before deciding on an answer. "Sensei had a lot of chaos in her heart. But she carried on."

Haruka stared. "Chaos?" she whispered.

"Yes." Nougami nodded, watching her changing expression. "After her father died, her heart was no longer settled, as it was before. But she carried on..."

"Yes... My daughter is strong."

"And Sensei... she recognised my potential," he continued, smiling brightly. "She saw in me my abilities to aid her in locking up the world's criminals, in fighting crime and everything it does to people. She has helped a lot of people, but she has also helped me... I have a lot to thank her for."

And there it was again: that smug glint.

This time, Haruka gave in and sighed. Did he really think he could fool her with that rubbish? It was practically verbatim from an episode of a crime drama she'd seen just the week before.

But he was right, about the 'chaos'. Haruka hadn't noticed it at the time, grief-stricken as she was, but looking back she could see it for herself. Yako had been lost... and, much as she wished it wasn't so after meeting him properly, Nougami Neuro had been the main cause of her return. When he'd arrived Yako had become less listless. More active in things, in a way that Haruka, even as her mother, had failed to make her.

"Is tomorrow a convenient time for you to call?" she asked, steering the conversation back to more tangible matters.

Oddly, Neuro responded by sniffing the air... a great deal. Eventually he said, "About one o'clock?"

Blinking, Haruka nodded. That was fine by her.


Disclaimer: Yuusei Matsui owns Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. Yay for him.

A/N: This was just covering two questions I had regarding the series. For most of the time, Haruka seemed pretty casual about Yako's occupation, and Yako never seemed to ask to be paid for helping Neuro out. Granted, he'd probably pay her in slime or something if she did, but it was implied that Godai was paid for his work. I thought that both of these things were a bit odd and wrote this to explain them.

Thanks for reading. I hope they weren't out of character or anything... It was fun to do a scene between them but it wasn't the easiest of things, especially as I know next to nothing about Haruka. ^_^ Please, if you have time, give me your thoughts!