Naoto leaned against the corner of the club she was at, knowing that she would seem rather out of place if anyone were to catch sight of her. A short, rather effeminate looking high school 'boy' didn't exactly fit in at a place with neon lighting and loud dance music blaring around. And she wouldn't have been here, save for the fact that she had unfinished business to take care of here.
Pulling her cap down tighter, Naoto looked up at the stairs leading to the upper part of the club and began to climb up them, knowing her appointment awaited her. It was probably a smart idea that the appointment was in the most private part of the club … shaking her head, Naoto braced herself as she finally cleared the final step, and found herself on the second floor of the club.
It was mercifully empty up here, the sound muffled slightly. Glancing around, Naoto wondered if her appointment had been canceled; the person she was here to meet didn't appear to be here, even though he had said to be there at the time and date it was … Scowling, Naoto was about to head downstairs again when a voice hit her ear.
"Heh, right on time. Guess I should have expected it." Whirling and putting a hand to her hidden revolver, Naoto stopped when she saw that it was her contact who had spoken. He was sitting in the corner of the room, away from the light and sound, just sitting there and watching her. Letting her hand drop, Naoto stepped closer to where he was, examining him. One of the first things she had been taught by her grandfather was to remember every single detail about a person. Looking this newcomer over, she began to do just that.
He was average height, for a man, standing at what she guessed was five feet nine inches, if not five-foot-ten. He dressed in dark pants and a black shirt, explaining why he had blended in so well with the shadows of his corner. The boots that covered his feet were western in style and make, possibly leather, and dark with age. There was a silver chain connected to one belt loop, leading into his pocket; although she couldn't see it, Naoto suspected by the style and make that it belonged to a pocket-watch.
Giving him a mental plus for having good taste, Naoto examined his face. His skin was darker than she had first thought, a faint brown hint overpowering the normal skin tone of a Japanese native. Perhaps he had some Hispanic or Latino in him, if several generations back. His hair was wild and thick and hung down to his shoulders in a grey-brown mane, giving his already intimidating appearance a few more notches. Naoto didn't doubt that if he were to face Tatsumi Kanji from her class – or even that Narukami student that Kanji hung around a lot – the man in front of her would be able to intimidate them with ease.
The main reason for that was the eyes that Naoto now found herself locked onto; they were sharp, the fringe of the man's bangs stopping just above them. The shadows from both the corner and his hair made them stand out even more than they would have normally. Most of all though, Naoto suspected it was the color that made her stare the most, and what made him so intimidating. While the logical part of her brain dictated that they did have a color, a pale grey or brown, the rest of Naoto's mind felt like the eyes locked onto her own had no color at all.
Shaking her head, Naoto drew a breath and forced her mind to work correctly; she wasn't about to let a mere stare disconcert her. "… You are Aragaki Shinjiro, correct?" She asked, remembering the name from her talk with Kirijo Mitsuru earlier in the day. She had gone to see what information she could find out about her sister's death, and the red-haired woman had pointed her towards the man who sat in front of her now.
"Tch. Who else would be in this damn place?" Shinjiro responded, eyes still locked on Naoto's face. "And what the hell are you standing for? Grab a chair and sit your ass down."
Glaring from the coarse language, Naoto sat down all the same, watching Shinjiro with her blue eyes. "Kirijo-san warned me that you would be rather coarse; I didn't think she meant it like this, however." Fighting to keep her voice low enough to be mistaken for a boy's, she looked at Shinjiro again; he was still watching her, fingers drumming against his bent knee as he waited for her to talk. "She directed you to my attention when I went to ask her about my elder sister, Arisato Hamuko. When I asked why, she said that you would have more details about her."
An amused smirk crossed Shinjiro's face. "Heh, no wonder you're so soft spoken; no boy at your age would talk like that, especially if his balls dropped when they were supposed to." Ignoring Naoto's offended spluttering and faint blush, the young adult's smirk turned into a scowl. "Drop the damn act; your sister told me about you already."
Embarrassed at having been caught so soon, Naoto dropped the façade and cleared her throat again before speaking in her normal tone, very grateful that they were alone on the floor. "Very well. At least you haven't denied that you knew my sister." Retraining her eyes on him, Naoto looked at his face to see if he would give any response; he still watched her, colorless eyes completely passive.
"Yeah, I knew your sister, to put it mildly." Was his eventual response, voice completely calm; Naoto arched an eyebrow.
"And what are you implying, Aragaki-san?" She demanded, feeling her ire beginning to rise. A corner of the man's mouth twitched upward, and her suspicions grew another notch. "Were you and my sister more familiar than mere friends and classmates?" The upturned twitch turned into a knowing smirk, and Naoto felt herself wanting to reach across the table between them and slap Shinjiro across the face. "… Were you and my sister intimate?" she didn't mean for the growl to slip into her voice, for all the good it did; if anything, it amused the man, not intimidate.
"Heh, you have a fuckin' stuffy way of talking, y'know?" The low chuckle made Naoto's temper stir a bit, but not as much as what Shinjiro said next. "To answer your question, yes, Hamuko and I had sex." Even though his eyes remained sharp and focused on her, Shinjiro's voice grew distant and soft. "Best night of my life … she didn't deserve to die."
Naoto bit the inside of her mouth, wanting to do nothing more than demand to know why this man had accosted her sister. "… Kirijo-san said you were with her at the time of death, but you weren't at her funeral." She stated, getting to the reason of her impromptu visit with the man. If anything, his eyes became sharper, and Naoto had the distinct impression of a wary animal backed into a corner. "Did she show any unusual signs before she passed away?"
"Tch. I know you're a member of the police force; if you want to know that, go read the fuckin report on it." Shinjiro's voice dropped into a low growl. "I didn't get my ass out here to play another game of twenty questions."
Again, Naoto felt the trapped vibe come off of the man, and she pressed onto it as much as she dared. "I have. Several times, as a matter of fact. According to that report, she passed away due to an unknown strain on her heart and mind, both of them shutting down without showing any outward signs of discomfort or pain." Pausing, Naoto watched; his eyes were still locked onto her, nothing showing in them. Even if his voice gave his emotions away … it would be impossible to tell what he was thinking. "Normally that would be puzzling enough, but recent events have made me wonder …"
Pausing, Naoto considered her options at this point in time. One, she could continue with the subtle talk, gently edging and nudging Shinjiro into speaking what she knew was being kept behind his mouth. Or … she could come right out and lay her cards on the table, and possibly provoke a reaction out of him that way instead. Either way had its risks, and the way he just kept watching wasn't making it any easier on her poor nerves to settle on one option or the other.
Shinjiro's mouth was a flat line, fingers still drumming on his knee. "Tch. At least Hamuko would come out and say what she wanted to, consequences be damned." Naoto's gaze shot up to his, ready to demand an answer from him when Shinjiro stood up and walked towards the edge of the balcony that showed the rest of the club beneath them. "Hell, that's probably why she meant so much to me in the end …"
"Aragaki-san …?" Naoto wanted to stop him in his speech and ask what he meant, but something kept her in her seat.
"… I never expected to meet her … She came out of nowhere, just showed up in my life like it was no big deal." A softness Naoto hadn't expected had entered Shinjiro's voice, still looking out over the rest of the club. "By the time I had my mind wrapped around her being there, she had taken over me completely … Even with the pain in my past, even knowing I wasn't someone she should be with … she still broke past all of that. The night we spent together was proof enough of that."
Turning to face Naoto again, Shinjiro's hands slipped into his pockets, his eyes soft, even though they now locked onto her face again. "I figured you would try and track down the rest of us who were friends with her, y'know? I knew you'd want to know answers as to why and how your sister died, and what all had happened …" Chuckling sadly, Shinjiro's eyes closed. "While that's understandable, knowing the how and why won't change things. She'll stay gone; nothing can bring back the dead."
"… Aragaki-san, what are you getting at?" Naoto had never felt so confused in her life. "What does any of this have to do with what I'm talking about?"
Again, those colorless eyes opened, but now Naoto saw a whirlwind of emotions that made her stop everything, save breathing. Everything that she saw in those eyes, everything they told … she wanted to talk and ask him what his time with her sister had been like, wanted to know what her final year of life had taught her. However, something stopped her, and Shinjiro began talking again.
"It's in front of your eyes, Naoko." Naoto's birth name rolled off of his tongue easily; had Hamuko given it to him at some point? "Or has the past overcome you so much that you really can't see the truth anymore?" Stepping closer to her, Shinjiro pulled out his pocket watch and pressed it into Naoto's hand, the cold silver resting into her palm with ease. "… When you can answer that question with a solid yes, open it. Until then, just keep it on you somewhere. A pocket, a school bag, whatever; just know where it is at all time." Letting go of the watch, Shinjiro turned around and began walking towards the stairs. "I'm sorry, but I have to go now … If you want better information though, try talking with Aki. Or, if you're really persistent, track down someone named Aigis; she'll explain everything."
"W … wait a moment!" Shocked, Naoto got up, but the man was already going down the stairs, hands back in his pants pockets. "Aragaki-san, I still wanted to ask you a few things! Where do you have to go in such a rush?" The man ignored her still, and walked out of the club before Naoto could give chase.
Scowling, knowing it would be impossible to track him in this large of a city, Naoto sighed and turned her attention to his pocket watch again. What all had he meant by his last statement? He had spoken in more tongues than a fortune teller, and almost nothing he said made sense anymore. It was all hints and evasive answers, given in foul language and riddles.
And then he'd started talking about her sister. Naoto's mind skipped back to his eyes; until he had looked at her that last time, they had shown no emotion at all, and only continued to watch her with disinterest … And then the mention of Hamuko had brought a swirl of emotions to those pale orbs, as if something within him had finally settled. Then he had given her the watch and simply left.
"Ah, good, you're still here." Mitsuru's voice made Naoto blink, turning to look at the older woman as she stepped onto the floor as well, looking somewhere between relieved and apologetic. "I hope you haven't been here for too long."
"No, only five minutes. Why?" Naoto switched back to her male voice, pocketing the watch during the turn. Mitsuru didn't seem to notice, and instead sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry, but I was truly distracted by other matters when you asked me about Hamuko earlier today." The redhead's voice was also apologetic, confusing Naoto more. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but did I tell you to meet Shinjiro here ten minutes ago?" Naoto nodded, and Mitsuru's grimace grew more. "I was afraid of that … I apologize, Shirogane. I didn't mean to seem like I didn't want you to find out about your sister's fate, but my mind was in a million different places at once …"
"Kirijo-san, can you please tell me what's wrong?" Naoto asked, wanting to know what had the woman so distressed. Mitsuru sighed and looked at her again.
"There was no possible way for you to have met with Shinjiro today, Shirogane." Rubbing her forehead, Mitsuru wondered again what had made her say what she had earlier. "You see … he is deceased as well. He passed away about an hour after your sister, due to a combination of organ failure, internal bleeding, and exhaustion. The vial Hamuko was buried with contained his ashes."
Naoto didn't hear anything else she said, if she had even said anything at all, only hearing the regular ticking of the pocket watch that was still tucked within her pocket.
I don't know what the hell this is, where the hell it came from, or where the hell it'll lead. I just wrote it one night while 3/4 asleep, liked the flow of it, and had it sitting around my flash drive for a few months now. I figured I'd just post it to see what you all thought about it.
If you guys like it enough, I'll see if I can make more out of this.