Disclaimer: "Ookami Kakushi" is property of Ryukishi 07 and PeachPit.
From a distance, Nemuru could see a young man with black hair getting off the bus. His eyes darted across the people passing him by on one street, and the chatting citizens going down another. "Damn it, where do I go now?" he muttered. "She's not in the park…she's not in the supermarket…she's not—"
Nemuru stepped forward. "Excuse me?"
The man spun around. "Are you looking for someone?" asked Nemuru.
"Yes," nodded the man. He walked up to her and said, "Have you seen a woman named—"
He stopped. "Never mind," he muttered, and he ran off down the street.
For some reason, Nemuru began to feel sick. He couldn't have possibly been a relative, friend, or lover of…her…?
"Of course not," muttered Nemuru. She took a deep breath and repeated, "Of course not."
Sakaki leaned against the rose trellis, a few feet back from the crowd, and smiled at the melody soaring through the air. In time, he would have to resume his investigation, but for now, he decided to enjoy the peace.
"Ah!" spoke the old woman from yesterday. "Good afternoon!"
Sakaki looked to his left. A girl in a scarlet kimono with long, violet hair stood on the porch. She neither smiled nor frowned. She bowed and said, "Good afternoon. I am here to discuss something important with Kaori Mana-san. Shall I wait until she is done?"
"Of course, of course!" said the old woman enthusiastically.
The girl took her place beside Sakaki. Her eyes met his and for a moment, Sakaki felt petrified. There was something about her that made him wonder if his very soul was being pierced by her gaze.
"Lovely weather we're having, aren't we?" said the girl.
"Yes," said Sakaki, turning his glance back to Kaori through the window. "Indeed."
The last few notes died out and the girl hurried past him, ending the conversation. "Hmm, she's odd," muttered Sakaki.
Nemuru sighed and shook her head at the sight of Isuzu literally dragging Hiroshi around the central market while Kaname followed after and laughed. As much as she appreciated their friendship, she knew that this couldn't go on forever. Sooner or later, Isuzu would have to be reminded of the rules, and the consequences that breaking them would bring for her…
But pondering over this wasn't getting her shopping done.
Nemuru turned back to the bookshelves. Of course, she knew that a book wouldn't cure her father's ailment, but at the very least, it might provide him some form of entertainment. But what to choose…?
Nemuru looked up at the sound of the door opening. In walked the same man from earlier, his eyes shifting from the shelves to the counters. "What would a man like him be doing in the bookstore?" she muttered to herself.
Before she could look back at the shelf, the man walked over to her. Without thinking, she spoke:
"Ah, good day."
To her surprise, the man replied:
"Is…is there anything I can help you with?" asked Nemuru.
The man shook his head and walked past her. Suddenly feeling chilled, Nemuru took a step closer to the door.
"Satisfied?" said Sakaki coldly.
Nemuru couldn't bring herself to look him in the eye. In spite of everything he had done, she would've never wished this on him. He had been held over in the police station for thirteen hours thus far, with no food or water. And the police had gone too far in extracting a full confession out of him concerning his every movement during the town war. The results could be seen across his face.
Nemuru swallowed a dry lump in her throat. "Sakaki-san, I'm—"
"Don't you dare say it," Sakaki hissed. "You've done nothing to earn yourself the right. And even if you dared…"
"You would never forgive me," Nemuru finished.
"At least you're not naïve," Sakaki scoffed.
"But even so," said Nemuru, "you don't deserve this."
"Oh, just leave," Sakaki snapped. "I don't need your pity."
Nemuru hesitated. Not even Sakaki's glare could hide his moistening eyes.
"Very well," she said at last. "Goodbye, Sakaki-san."