"So far there have been three targets… one who's still alive and has recently been released from the hospital…" Naoto rubbed her temples and blearily glanced at the alarm clock. At nearly midnight, she was already dozing at her desk, and she had barely read through half of the reports. The soft pitter-patter of the drizzling rain outside wasn't helping her situation either. With a yawn, Naoto grabbed the remote off the corner of her desk and switched the television set on.
"—is now midnight. Welcome to the Midnight Channel where we take a look at some of the most famous unsolved murders right here in…" Naoto scoffed at the opening line and turned back to the papers in front of her. The brightly-colored bear mascot and the eerily glowing yellow set in the background were definitely inappropriate visuals for a subject matter such as murder. At least the annoying narration would help keep her awake for the next hour or so.
"Narcotics…?" Naoto raised an eyebrow at the toxicology reports for all three victims. The first victim Yamano Mayumi's involvement with Namatame Taro had been brought to light shortly after coming to Inaba to do a feature on the Amagi Inn where she was staying at the time. It caused a big scandal, and the entire production was cancelled. Several days later on April 12th, her dead body was discovered by a third year at Yasogami High School tangled between television antennae. She had been drugged and suffocated somehow before being displayed for the public to see.
The second victim was Konishi Saki, the girl who had discovered the first body. Her body was discovered hanging from a power line on the morning of April 15th, three days after the first murder. Her cause of death was identical to Yamano Mayumi's, including the lack of forensic evidence to link anyone to the two crimes.
The most recent victim Amagi Yukiko, who was released from the hospital a little over a week ago, miraculously escaped the culprit before a third murder could occur. She first went missing on the evening of April 16th and was discovered near the Junes Department Store on the 18th in a state of panic and delirium after wandering into the road and being hit by a car. Officers were unable to extract any cohesive information out of her before she fell unconscious, but after recovering from her comatose state, she unfortunately couldn't remember any details related to her kidnapping. Naoto's brows furrowed as she pieced the information together because something was horribly wrong with this picture.
There were no suspects in any of the three cases.
A loud buzzing noise startled Naoto into a standing position. Looking back down at her desk, she released a sigh of relief at the sight of her phone vibrating and half-covered by papers she had set aside. Taking a deep breath, she sat back in her chair and answered the cell phone with as much dignity as she could muster at the moment. "…Hello?"
"The fact that you answered this call means that you're still awake. Shouldn't you be asleep right now?" She stiffened at the sound of the stern voice on the other end and swallowed the invisible lump in her throat. "You're already working, aren't you?"
"I'm just acquainting myself with the case files, Grandfather..."
"That's no good, Naoto," his rough voice scolded from the other end, and Naoto found herself crossing her arms defiantly in response. "You must be tired from the long trip. Just take this night to rest up first."
"Criminals wait for no one," Naoto shot back into the receiver.
"Precisely," he cut in. "Which means that they'll be free to do as they please when you're stuck in bed from overexerting yourself."
She wanted so badly to say something—anything—in response to that but realized that she couldn't.
"Please just rest tonight, Naoto. I only say this because I care about you."
"I… Alright then, Grandfather. Goodnight."
Naoto almost slammed her phone on the desk in frustration. She could understand her grandfather's point but… but…
"Another person could be targeted anytime now…" she muttered before dropping her phone on top of the messy stack of papers and wandering away to put her futon down for the night. "I won't make the same mistake as them…"
It was the 17th of May… It had been about a month since the last incident. For Naoto, it was officially her first day on the case.
Naoto crossed her arms at her spot in front of the school gates. Her intuition told her that Tatsumi would most likely arrive within the next minute, but that didn't stop the discomfort that came from all the students' curious stares… The male ones, in particular, couldn't keep their eyes in acceptable ranges, she noted with a frown. They made the skirt that she meticulously kept at three inches above the knee feel more revealing than it should've been, so she backed into the wall behind her defensively and stared at her watch.
"Woah!" She snapped her head up in time to catch Kanji and his wide-eyed gape. "Wh-what're you doing here? How'd you…?"
"Yasogami High School is the local high school, is it not?" Naoto answered curtly as she stepped closer to the much-taller teen and held her hand out expectantly. "Have you completed the work as you promised?"
"Err…" He grabbed at the back of his neck and diverted his eyes. "…I didn't think I'd see you here so…"
"So…?" Naoto prompted indifferently, her eyes narrowing. "So what?"
"I kinda left it at the shop…"
She sighed and stepped on Kanji's foot, causing him to bend closer to her level then grabbed at the fragile chain he used to keep his jacket draped over his shoulders. "Why else would I inquire whether or not you would be attending school today?"
"Uhh…" Kanji honestly had no clue why she was so insistent on getting her point across. He just wanted to go home and eat the pudding he knew was still in the fridge. "I dunno."
"I asked if you would be attending school today," Naoto answered pointedly. "Why would I ask if you'd be here and make a promise to meet you directly afterward if I wasn't intent on meeting you at this location?"
Kanji knew some students were stopping to stare, so he tugged on Naoto's wrist as gently as he could to get her attention. "I got it, I got it. You want your cape back, right? Jus' follow me back to my place, and I'll give it to ya."
"…That's fine, I suppose," Naoto acquiesced quietly and removed her hand from his chain. He gave a small nod before stepping away and leading the way to Inaba's Shopping District. On the way over, Naoto was sure she saw two students following them near the floodplain… Their tailing skills were mediocre at best.
"I'm back, Ma," Kanji called once they entered the quaint textile shop. The aging woman at the counter smiled, though Naoto could have sworn the woman's grin widened at the sight of her. "I just need ta give her back something I fixed and—"
"Why don't you invite her in for some tea, Kanji-chan. And I'm sure you wouldn't mind sharing your pudding with the young lady, would you?"
"Please don't mind me, Ma'am. I shall be taking my leave as soon as I retrieve my item. It would be rude of me to impose on you…" Naoto gave a polite bow and was almost shocked when the wizened woman smiled even more.
"My, my, such a humble girl. And a sophisticated beauty to boot!" The Tatsumi matriarch definitely put the icing on the cake with her follow-up, "Just look at her… She's definitely an intellectual. There's no mistaking that aura of intelligence!"
Naoto could feel her Shirogane-senses tingling… It wouldn't hurt to stick around a while longer.
And there was pudding involved.
"Be my assistant," Naoto proposed suddenly with that regal air of hers, the spoonful of pudding in her mouth muffling and lessening the effect of her words just slightly. She knew it was unbecoming of her to talk with her mouth full, but she was struck with a genuinely good idea. Inwardly, she congratulated her great instincts. Kanji, on the other hand, looked nonplussed at her suggestion—no, order.
"I'm new to Inaba, so I require the aid of a longtime resident to acquaint myself with the area. You wouldn't mind, would you?" Naoto made sure her words were as mellifluous as possible despite the fact that she silently felt nauseous at the sickeningly sweet sound of her voice.
Kanji didn't think his day could get any stranger than it already was, but he was always up for being proven wrong. First, a rather cute girl had not only waited for him after school, but she had also fearlessly invaded his personal space in front of a good portion of the passing student body. Second, she had willingly followed him back to his home to pick up her newly-repaired cape (which looked absolutely adorable on her petite frame, he noted) and didn't care that he was a scary-looking guy who liked to sew (then again, she looked like she couldn't care less about his hobbies). Third, she actually followed him up to his room to hang out and eat pudding (which was also damn cute). And finally, she had outright commanded him to be her partner (for what, he still wasn't quite sure).
"It's obvious that the majority of those officers at the station don't seem to trust me, and they don't seem too keen to aid me beyond giving me their dusty case files…" Naoto thought to herself. She looked Kanji up and down before giving a small nod. He would have to do.
"Uh, are you sure you got the right guy…?"
Naoto smirked and crossed her arms, readying herself to say her winning line.
"…I'm just interested in you, Tatsumi."
A/N: Kanji makes a pretty good foil to Naoto, in my opinion. The cold, intelligent detective and the big, lovable oaf. :D
Also, Naoto's just making a misunderstanding like in the game... For shame. When will she learn?