Author Notes: Huge thanks to Someya again! Lately, she's become my plot development buddy; we talk about everything! I don't think this mystery is particularly smartly planned, but it was fun to plan and write even though it took us ages to smooth out all the bumps along the way. Love you a billion times more than your guinea pigs, Someya~
Disclaimer: I don't own Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro or anything related to it.
"That mystery barely made the grade," Neuro deplored with a gloved hand resting on his stomach, "I thought your international fame would bring high quality mysteries but it seems your evolution has come to a stop again."
Yako looked up at the demon exasperatedly, "Maybe that's only because your stomach is probably the size of the universe."
"Are you implying that my stomach is constantly expanding like how you humans think the universe is?"
"I think it's better if you don't tell me…" The detective slumped her shoulders.
She had never heard her demonic partner say that his hunger has been satiated – not even temporarily. If she said 'yes' to his question, who knows how he would reply? That his stomach was indeed constantly expanding and henceforth is impossible to fill for eternity? The thought didn't appeal to Yako at all. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Neuro's signature blank expression, alerting her to potential sadistic tortures but her phone started ringing in her bag all of a sudden, saving her from whatever he was planning. Fishing the device out of her bag immediately, she spoke into the phone politely, "Hello?"
Whilst the blonde was on the phone, a demonic battery on the end of a strand of Neuro's dark hair tinkled in slight motion. It was such a small movement that one might have mistaken it for the breeze but this didn't escape Neuro's senses. When he heard Yako decline whatever offer the other end was making, he snatched the phone from her hand and swiftly agreed to whatever it was they were discussing. The nineteen year old jumped up to try and retrieve her phone but was easily held at bay with a firm hand planted on her head, not to mention the large height difference even after three years of separation between her and Neuro.
Carelessly throwing the mobile phone back at Yako who only just caught it, the demon's eyes gave off a spectacular glow, "Another mystery requires our attention, Yako."
"I'm sure the concert was going to feature Klavieres? Why has the programme been changed to feature Keane Schwartz? I've never heard of him…" The blonde detective murmured quizzically to herself as she looked from programme to ticket. Neuro asked who Klavieres was. "Klavieres is a young pianist who has been referred as a piano genius. Ever since winning a prestigious international music competition, he has become world famous overnight." Yako explained as she gestured to the pianist pictured on her ticket, a child obviously of Asian descent.
As the lights dimmed, sounds of the orchestra on stage tunning could be heard and before long, the concert commenced. Item after item, each piece was performed with gusto and excellence. Intermission came and went. When the time came for Keane Schwartz to perform his solo piece on the concert grand set up at centre stage, everyone was doubtful if this man could manage to fill in the audience's disappointment, many of whom had paid to come see a world famous pianist. The man emerged from the stage wings, dressed in a neat snow white suit with a black bowtie at his neck; the suit only making his skin look even paler than it already is. His slicked back hair was light blonde with hints of silver under the spotlight and his eyes a mesmerizing ocean blue – an appearance typical of the Nordic races. Even from a distance, many were charmed at first sight with the young man's appearance. After settling down at the grand piano and adjusting the seat a few times, he lifted his hands onto the keyboard. Pressing down on the keys firmly but with feather light touches, the first few chords sounded into the silent concert hall. With the change of the rhythm came a change in atmosphere. The pianist's agile fingers glided effortlessly over the black and white keys, the music flowing from the large instrument in unending threads. Reverting back to the original melody at the beginning of the piece, Keane's touches were soft and romantic, the sound produced somewhat like the piano's love song to the audience. When the performance ended, the concert hall exploded into applause. Many gave Keane a standing ovation. However, the small majority of the audience that weren't as enthusiastic were those who were the masters of music. Even their clapping seemed a beat off from the roar of others.
The evening's performances concluded with a climatic and extravagant rendition of Tchaikovsky's piano and violin concertos starring Keane and Violette, the one who had given Yako and Neuro free tickets to the Tokyo College of Music's concert which was held to celebrate their a hundredth anniversary. As she stepped out of the concert hall and thinking of relaxing for the rest of the night at home, Yako was roughly jerked back into the hall by the collar of her shirt.
"Have forgotten to feed your master?" The multi hair coloured demon sighed, "But I can't expect much from a goldfish with a memory of only three seconds, can I?"
Yako was about to say something in defence although she was too used to being demoted or promoted at odd intervals, but a young woman's chipper voice called out to her, dragging the nineteen year old from her train of thought. The approaching young woman was in her mid twenties and to say the least, she was attractive. She had long wavy black hair that gleamed a faint chocolate tint under light, maroon eyes that reminded Yako of autumn and long eyelashes that complimented her beautiful facial features. The young woman wore a simple silky sapphire blue dress; there were no fancy decorations nor was it an extravagant design. Despite this, the dress complimented her beauty greatly.
"To think the famous detective Katsuragi Yako would come watch our performance, it truly is an honour!" Violette smiled, "It's great to see you again too, Mr Assistant."
Putting on his fake persona, Neuro returned the greeting, "Teacher wanted to come and meet Klavieres no matter what so she made space in her schedule. But she was rather saddened to find him replaced. What happened to Klavieres?"
Yako looked up shockingly at her demonic boss – so shamelessly straightforward as usual! She nudged him gently in the stomach. He simply glared down at her. She surrendered.
"Apparently Klavieres decided to withdraw at the last minute and we didn't have time to find another guest performer. That was when Keane volunteered to perform since he was confident that he would be able to fill in for Klavieres. Of course, the conductor was concerned at first but it all turned out fine," Neuro tried to hide his smirk as he listened, "No one really knows why Klavieries withdrew so suddenly though; he was still here for the final rehearsals and he didn't say anything to me either."
From behind Violette, the piano soloist with the Nordic appearance approached the trio. As he neared the group, his hand automatically slid around the violinist's waist as he apologized for interrupting before having a short exchange of words with Violette. Yako tiptoed up as Neuro bent down a little so they could whisper amongst themselves. The detective whispered, "It's a little odd that Klavieres wouldn't tell his sister about his plans or views about the orchestra. If he planned to withdraw, he wouldn't have turned up to the final rehearsals either."
"I've gathered as much, slug," The demon playfully pinched the girl's cheeks and stretched it as if it was rubber, "I wouldn't have bothered coming to this terrible thing of a music concert if there was no mystery behind this."
"My apologies for being rude; allow me to introduce myself," The pianist said as he held out a hand, "I am Keane Schwartz."
Out of complete politeness, Yako shook his hand. Up close, Keane's features were even more distinct and charismatic. Everything seemed so perfect about him. But as soon as Yako shook his hand, it was as if the cherry red skin of the apple had been peeled off to reveal the actual rotten insides of the fruit. His handshake was firm, almost unwilling to let go of her hand. Even when their handshake was lasting for an abnormally long time with Yako wanting to have her hand slide out of his, she couldn't help but notice that the man was eyeing her up and down with a sly smile plastered to his face as if she was a fine piece of vintage on auction. The blonde girl couldn't shake off this uncomfortable feeling that Keane Schwartz was more than he seemed. It kept her on edge.
Naturally, this didn't escape unnoticed by a certain someone.
Strolling down the backstage hallways as if he had every right to do so, Neuro looked left and right of the hallway which was littered with practice and storage rooms. Yako had been unsure with the way things were unfolding and expression on Keane Schwartz's face was burnt into the back of her mind. It was like having an itchy spot where she just simply could not reach – it irritated and irked her to no end. She was so bothered by it that when Neuro had stopped in front of her, she kept on walking. When she realized that only her footsteps could be heard, she raised her head and was slightly traumatized to find a sharp claw pointing at her forehead. If she had taken another step forward, the finger tip would have drilled itself into her head.
Unlike his usual self, Neuro only said, "Pay attention."
Yako watched as the dichromatic haired man entered the practice room with a grand piano situated in the middle of the spacious room. The room was adequately equipped; its walls and ceiling was obviously sound proof and a metronome sat on a small table beside the piano. Before following suit, the detective read the name written on the whiteboard outside the room and flinched. Keane Schwartz. Hesitantly, Yako stepped into the room. Every fibre of her being rejected her decision of entering the room. Normally when she knew Neuro was with her, she would possess a certain degree of relief and security but even though she was in the same room and within reaching distance of the demon, she couldn't help but feel exposed. Watching as Neuro sat at the glossy black piano, the blonde exclaimed, "Neuro, we're not meant to be here at all! If you play the piano –"
But all the demon did was put a gloved finger to his lips. For a moment, he seemed to study the monochrome keys laid before him. Then with a dainty move of his fingers, one of the most beautiful tunes Yako had ever heard streamed out from the piano. The left hand was a light accompaniment and the right hand an elegant melody. Although the performer showed no expression whatsoever, the sound he produced was stunning. His large hands gave him advantage over the chords and his arm movements were swift, shifting his fingers from one position to another. When the music halted, the detective was amazed; thinking even somebody like a demon from hell could play the piano in such a way that captured human hearts. And then that thought was completely sliced up into little shreds when Neuro bashed the piano with all his might, a grin on his face. The chord was composed of ten clashing notes, marking the beginning of something exotic and unworldly – not pausing there, the demon's fingers danced across the piano keys like they had a life of their own, moving so fast that Yako could barely follow them with her eyes. The notes seemed to all be played at random because they collided with such an appalling sound and yet, she could tell each key was pressed with precision. She cringed with every note. At the climax of the piece, the piano was deafening and Neuro's facial expression was the very definition of twisted joy.
When it was all over and Neuro didn't play anymore, Yako's whole body had stiffened up in shock – from her companion's astounding music skills or the sudden change in musical style, she didn't know herself. "How was that?" The odd hair coloured man asked from the piano, "Have you picked up any clues, goldfish? Or were you simply so overwhelmed by your master's musical talent that your three second memory has refreshed itself again?"
The blonde detective could think of nothing but the vociferous piano notes still reverberating in her ears. Suddenly the room seemed too quiet. Yako let her eyes do the talking; her eyes scanned over every inch of the room but avoided looking at Neuro. Just then, a team of backstage crew burst into the room in a rush of footsteps, "Hey, what are you two doing here? Backstage is for authorized personnel only. All guests should have left an hour ago!"
Turning around so he sat facing the intruders, the mystery eating demon's eyes flared fluorescent green as his smile widened, "Pianos with shorter and thicker strings have more inharmonicity. The longer strings on a concert grand can vibrate more accurately than the shorter, thicker strings on a baby grand, which means that a concert grand's strings will have truer overtones," Neuro crossed his long legs and said in that deep velvet coated voice of his, "This concert grand doesn't sound the same – what are you hiding inside?"