Goto's Past III

"Assassinated?" he echoed in disbelief.

Only days prior he had been relieved of his assignment after the threat had seemingly passed. Yet out of nowhere, despite the culprit being behind bars, the politician he had been guarding had been suddenly murdered in his own home. While Goto held little sympathy for his charge, who had been suspected of corruption and was under investigation anyways, he could not help but remember that woman from Criminal Intelligence whose questioning of him had been altogether suspicious.

"It's nothing for you to get worked up over," Subaru chided with a glare – perhaps assuming that it had landed some sort of emotional or psychological blow.

On the contrary, rather than being taken aback by the news, Goto's interest was piqued. That woman had made a point of questioning him directly, avoiding communication with the police. Her involvement was odd to begin with. Something stunk, though he was hardly in any position to sniff out what it was. He was only a bodyguard, anyways.

While the news that the brunette man in front of him had delivered came as a surprise, Goto's expression quickly sobered. He gave a brief 'goodbye' as Subaru took over his shift, before heading out the door of the office.

The sun was ducking behind the horizon as he stepped out onto the streets. Another morose day with a cloudy sky. He sighed to himself as he shoved his hands into his pockets, stalking off toward his car. Another night of cup ramen spent in front of the television – the same monotonous routine day in and day out.

At least it seemed that way as he strolled into the convenience store and made a beeline for the noodle aisle. But when he came to the section with ramen, he found an unexpected obstacle standing in his way.

"Well, hello there stranger," she greeted heartily with a wave. "Goto, if I remember right."

His gaze settled on the basket in her hand, where she had a myriad of ramen flavors and a pile of various snacks, to the point of overflowing. "Yeah," he answered finally, as though there was little else to say. If anything, he seemed a bit annoyed to have to run into her here of all places.

"Let me guess, you can't cook so you're here to pick up ramen to eat tonight."

"You are obviously here to do the same."

She grins sheepishly, rubbing at the back of her neck, a subtle brush creeping up on her otherwise pale cheeks. "Well, you may have caught me there. I have never been a particularly good cook. But I'm kind of surprised, Goto. I thought you'd have snagged you a wife with some culinary skills with that handsome face of yours."

"There is no need to flatter me," he grumbled back.

"Ohh, so you're single."

He sighed. "Is this conversation necessary?" Uncharacteristically, where he was able to remain largely aloof around most other people, she managed to ruffle his feathers enough to provoke a reaction where others could not.

Kazuki chuckled, giving him a shrug. "I guess you're probably anxious to get home and eat your noodles. I understand, I won't keep you any longer, Mister Bodyguard." She gave him a mocking salute before shuffling past him while humming under her breath. Despite her eccentricities, there was something undeniably charismatic about her.

Just as he was about to let her go, something occurred to him – his curiosity about the case. And Goto found himself peering after her. "Hey, Amemiya. About that politician I was protecting..."

"Ah, yeah. I hear they don't have any leads on who did it," she told him, as though guessing where his line of thought was leading. "But they seem to suspect it was an accomplice of the guy they already have in custody. I figure they'll probably be interrogating him soon."

"You aren't involved?"

Her brows peaked. "Who, me? Now why would I be involved in a case like that?"

It was obviously her attempt at dodging his query but for as clever as she thought she was, Goto was determined to extract something from her. "Before, you said—" All of a sudden an audible noise interrupted his sentence – grumbling from her stomach.

"Sorry, sorry. I forgot to eat lunch earlier." She didn't even sound embarrassed about it.

"Alright." With a sigh, he resigned himself. It was likely that she would find some way to wriggle out of answering his questions anyways. Better to relent and forget about it to begin with.

"Say, there's a ramen place just across the street. It's actually really good. Do you want to go eat together?"

That question actually managed to a elicit a look of surprise as he stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, jaw slightly agape. It was a good opportunity to ask her more questions – practically an open invitation. He spent only a moment debating it before assenting with a nod of the head.

They each had a hefty grocery sack in their hands as they ambled across the bustling crosswalk and made their way to the small shop. Once inside, they settled down side-by-side at the bar. Kazuki eagerly placed her order and he followed her lead, not particularly fussed about any of the offered flavors. Perhaps his taste buds had lost the ability to discern. Everything tasted bland anymore.

"For someone who seems pretty dedicated to their job, you're sure sticking your nose where it doesn't belong. Haven't you ever heard the expression 'curiosity killed the cat'?" she remarked from beside him, not even bothering to look over at him as she addressed him.

Those dark, narrowed eyes of his turned on her as he responded evenly, "I'm not a cat."

As though the reply caught her off-guard she paused for a moment to look at him before bursting out in laughter, wiping a tear from her eye. "Really, that was an unexpectedly straightforward response. You're really honest, aren't you, Goto?"

"Are you trying to avoid the question again?" He cocked his head back, frowning.

"Hey, let me ask you something." She had a far off look in her eyes as she gazed over at him. It gave Goto the impression that she was not really seeing him at all. "What would you do if somebody you loved suddenly went against everything that the two of you had stood for? Could you go against them?"

That question seemed a little too serious for the conversation. Unsure of how to answer, he turned pensive, at which point she broke out into laughter again. "What are you cackling for?"

"Sorry, you just seemed to take it so seriously. It was a joke! A joke!"

It definitely was not a joke – he could tell as much by the melancholic expression that she had been wearing. But while she was content to deny that momentary collapse in her jovial facade, he found that it made her seem a little more human and a little less... odd and unrelatable.

"Your noodles."

As the steaming bowls were set before them, Kazuki made quick work of hers, shoveling mouthful after mouthful in as though she was half-starved. Goto, in the meantime, studied her silently while waiting for his to cool.

"Aren't you going to eat?" she asked finally, still chewing.

He frowned at her. "It's too hot."

"Huh? You're surprisingly finicky. Maybe you really are like a cat."

A subtle blush crept up on his cheeks as he turned his head away to avoid her gaze. "What are you on about?" he muttered defensively.

"You said you're single, right, Goto? What do you think about dating me?"

Flabbergasted, he jerked back around to face her, brows furrowed as though he was almost indignant about the question. "Date?" He almost seemed to scoff at the word – but perhaps it was because he was shocked at how upfront she was about her intentions.

"Yeah," Kazuki answered thoughtfully, her words punctuated by a firm nod. "I like you, Goto."

At a loss for how to respond, he could only gape at her in return.

"Your noodles should be cool enough now. Eat up!"

It was all he could do to obey, if only because otherwise the two would settle into an awkward silence. He needed time to process what she had just said. Was she mocking him? Making fun of him? Surely she was not serious?