“What did you say?!?” yelled Yuki-san to the man’s face.
The man in black stands up from his chair and towers over Yuki-san. He brushes her hands away from his collar with ease, and pats down his own suit.
“Geez…this suit’s about a month’s pay, y’know. Is that any way to treat someone who’s been looking for you for so long, Kanny?” inquired the man in black.
Yuki-san steps away from him, shocked at the man’s familiarity with her. She was rattled by the mysterious stranger. I want so badly to comfort her, to snap her out of this state of shock, but I'm frozen in fear of all that is happening.
“I don’t understand… who are you?!?” cried out Yuki-san.
Now the man in black was shocked. He stood still, his face a pained mixture of loss and disappointment.
“It’s me. Your brother Junpei. It’s been a long time Kanny, but I’ve found you.” said her alleged long-lost brother.
"My brother? My brother and mother left me and my father long ago, then died in a car accident! Who are you to say any of this?" said Yuki-san
The man's expression grew from sadness into anger. His face tightened, and he began to speak almost through his teeth, as he struggled to tame his rage.
“So that’s what he told you, huh? Mom and I did leave, yes. We wanted to take you along as well, but that bastard of a father threatened us with his connections to the mob. We did what we could to find you, but you moved soon after. Even through crippling sickness, Mother never stopped looking for you Kanny. She loved you. I promised her that I would find you and unite us once more.”
This is…there’s no way this could be true!
Yuki-san had the same thoughts as I did. This must be an elaborate prank or revenge from those thugs that Daisuke took care of at the abandoned warehouse. Still, a part of me entertained that what this man was saying could be true. I look at Yuki-san and she was biting her lip, making it seem that she was thinking the same thing.
“I wish mom could see how beautiful you’ve become …” as he sheds a single tear.
“There’s no way this could be true! You must be a thug getting revenge for last time!” I yell at the man in black.
Yuki-san puts up her guard as he approaches us. Yuki-san grabs an empty coffee pot from the counter, ready for anything that might happen.
“Wait Akan-!” as I try to pull her back.
The man in black stands directly in front of Yuki-san and starts to hum softly. Yuki-san is shivering, and the sound of the metal coffee pot drops to the floor when he embraces her, whispering closely into her ear:
“Go to sleep,
Go to sleep,
Little Kanny can’t go to sleep…
What to do…?
What to do…?
Mama’s going to help you…
Close your eyes, don’t start to cry…
Close your eyes, until the sunrise…
Sleep soundly and good night.”
It was Akane’s lullaby. Or rather, Akane’s mother’s lullaby.
This was the song she sang to me so that I could wake up to this world!
Yuki-san starts to break down and starts sobbing uncontrollably. The man in black pulls her head forward towards his chest.
“We’re finally together Kanny…” he says to her.
There was no doubt about it now. This man is her brother. There was no way anyone else could know about Akane’s lullaby. I’m standing in shock, flabbergasted at what had just happened.
“C’mon butler, get some tissues for your princess.” he says to me.
I do what he says and try to find some tissues in our classroom but no luck. I run outside to the hallway to try to find some tissues.
I look to the side and I see class president holding a small packet of tissues in her hand.
“Give it to her Kazuki-kun. I’ll explain everything to you later.”
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have time to be suspicious. I run back into the classroom with some tissues to find Yuki-san on the floor holding her brother.
“Big bro Junpei…” says Yuki-san.
I hand the tissues to Yuki-san, who gets up from the floor. She wipes away her tears.
“Thanks good sir.” says Junpei-san.
I walk a few steps back to give the two of them space to talk. Suddenly Junpei-san notices something behind us near the door. He smiles and then lets out a small sigh.
“You can come in, the mission was a success.”
It’s the class president! She walks towards Junpei-san with her head held high, a stark contrast to her usual meek demeanor that she displayed in class.
“I should probably explain. This is Tsubasa Takemi, my assistant. Or as you may know her, the class president, among other things...”
Class president’s nerves are riled up from the last comment, but she does a small bow to formally introduce herself.
“Hello. I’m sorry for deceiving you all.” she explains in a monotone voice.
She’s like a completely different person…
“Thanks a lot Tsubasa-chan! I wouldn’t have done it without you darling!” as Junpei-san hugs class president from the side.
“Oh! I should probably explain. I’m an up and coming private detective.” as he hands me his business card.
“In fact, one of the main reasons why I'm here is that I've been trying to find you Kanny! Tsubasa-chan has been checking around this area for a while, and when we heard some thugs were captured here by a couple of high school students, I had a feeling that it could be you Akane. Tsubasa even went deep undercover, not only at the school but at your workplace as well. What would I do without you…Neko-nee?” teases Junpei-san.
“What?!” I yell in surprise.
When we were at the Purrfect Café, Neko-nee did look familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now with the pieces of the puzzle together, we both realized they were the same person! There was almost no way we would have realized it unless he told us.
Class president was “Clark Kenting” us the whole time. But did she really have to act clumsily at the maid café today?!?
“C’mon Neko-nee! Do it for your master…please?” Junpei further teases.
Class president gently whacks her master on the head, but reluctantly agrees to his request.
“*Sigh* Hello master-nyan! I’m Neko-nee!” says Neko-nee.
“No way!” exclaim Yuki-san and I.
The comedy routine ends when class president apologizes for her sensei’s immature behavior.
“Anyways, I have a proposal for you Akane: come live with me and start over. We can be together again.”
Yuki-san hesitates before answering his proposal. Her expression goes from a longing desire, to a melancholy smile.
“I can’t.” she says, a look of remorse in her eyes, in spite of the soft determination in her voice.
All of us are shocked at her answer.
Why wouldn’t she want to be with her brother? He’s her real family!
“Akane! You’re being crazy. I promised mother that I would take care of you! I can’t let you be alone! It would be irresponsible.” argues Junpei-san.
“I can't go with you because I have people I care about here.”
Yuki-san gives me a slight glance before looking back at her brother and class president.
“I’m glad that I finally have you in my life…but I can’t leave yet. Father is still in the hospital and I can’t leave him.” she says.
Junpei-san’s patience was waning. His fists were shaking at Yuki-san’s unexpected resistance to his proposal.
“Your…” Junpei-san corrects himself.
“Our father was a weak man who brought us nothing but pain and misery! He’s the reason why mother’s dead and why we’re separated from each other. I’ve even taken mother’s last name as respect to her! I can take care of you now!”
Yuki-san eyes glances towards the ground. Gradually, she unwillingly looks up into her brother’s eyes.
“You may be right about father, he brought us nothing but despair, but…he’s the reason I’m here. Despite him being trouble, he’s been trying to raise me all this time the best he could…you and mother weren’t there.” explains Yuki-san.
So she still cares about her father…
Junpei-san sighs heavily and pulls up a chair. He flips it forward, resting his arms on the back of the chair.
“Stubborn as always. You know, I remember when you were little, you would never let go of your stuffed cat animal. Everywhere you went you had it.” he reminisces.
Yuki-san lets out a small laugh as she wipes away her tears.
“I still have it, y’know. I’ve patched it up throughout the years…”
“So you won’t go with me?” he asks.
Yuki-san shakes her head. It’s like her brain is telling her to leave, but her heart is telling her no.
“Fine. Promise me this, at least. Finish your business you have here with father and whatever. But when you’re done, you let me know.” he requests.
She looks at him as if she wants to agree, but can’t bring herself to decide. Yuki-san doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would make a promise she didn’t intend to keep, and it was inspiring to see her hold true to her character in the face of such shocking developments.
“I remember that age when I was rebelling against my elders…” he laughs.
“You’re only a few years older than me big bro.” Yuki-san says.
Junpei-san stands up and puts the chair back into the table. He takes one last sip of the coffee and puts it back down on the dish.
“Nothing wrong with being a little sweet, I suppose…”
Junpei-san hugs Yuki-san one more time, then exits the classroom. Yuki-san turns around to see him exit, and opens her mouth, wanting to say something. However, she stops herself. Only Yuki-san, Takemi-san, and I were still in the room. We were all still trying to process what had just happened.
“I’ll give you his contact information later Yuki-san. Although he can be weird, Junpei Kasai-sensei is one of the most brilliant detectives in the country. He’s even been called overseas to solve some cases!” said an excited class president.
Despite her “real self” being serious, she’s quite fond of her sensei…
It was getting late, and we still had some cleaning up to do for tomorrow! I grab a broom and start sweeping the floor. Yuki-san picks up her brother’s coffee cup and pauses. She puts it in a bin with the other cups to wash later. We had to clean up quickly, since Daisuke and Mary were probably waiting for us at the old building to study.
“How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?” said Mary in a broken accent.
She and I were rehearsing with the class of 2-A. To be honest, I was hesitant in accepting the part of our stage production, but knowing Mary being Juliet; it was like a sign from the universe to make my move. Ever since we’ve sat next to each other in class, she’s the only one that wasn’t scared of me. She didn’t care about how mean I looked, or the rumors of my troublemaker days with Kaz. Instead, she called me a big dummy with a smile in class. I’m not the type to fall for such a scatterbrained girl, but somehow I feel happy when I’m interacting with her. With sis in the hospital right now, I don’t have many good things going for me. She’s the only one that knows about it. She promises to keep my secret since I didn’t want Kaz to worry; he’d just recovered from an accident and almost died because of my failures. Being Romeo to her Juliet, it was an opportunity I can’t let pass.
Both of us were dressed in costume for the first time. I’m wearing an ornate shirt that looked medieval along with giant pantaloons that were period accurate made by the costume (or cosplay) team’s knowledge of sewing and authenticity. Mary was wearing a long pink sequin dress, with her blonde hair down. She was taller today, due to the high heels she was wearing, which was quite some trouble for her to walk around (I had a chance to hold her arm to help her walk!) Her costume was slightly bigger than her size, but nevertheless, it looked great on her. It was adjusted a little bit since for the final scene there would be blood packets inside her dress for the actual performance. There were quiet whispers and gasps inside the stage at our first appearance in character.
“They definitely look the part…”
“I wish I was the roadrunner just so I can be that close to Daisuke-kun…”
“That dummy’s so lucky to be next to her!”
I try to ignore the ambience of the room, but I can’t help but think. She’s cute in her costume…
“Line! LINE!” yelled Renge, the president of the Literature club and our production director. In addition to working at the maid café in Kazuki’s class, she immediately accepted the opportunity for directing the play. It was distracting since she was still wearing her maid uniform.
Crap! I’ve been day-dreaming too long!
I quickly look at my script and remember the line.
“With love’s light wings did I o’er these walls; For stony limits cannot hold love out! And wha-”
I’m interrupted once more by Renge, who was just about ready to throw her old-fashioned megaphone at the both of us. Mary and I both give a big sigh before being reprimanded again.
“Daisuke! It’s like you’re barely trying! Romeo’s head over heels for Juliet in scene! Act like you’re in love!
I try to hide my face since I could feel the blush rushing to my cheeks.
I am! I’m technically method acting…
“And you Mary-chan, you’re playing hard to get. Don’t be so resistant, accept this fool. Uh…you know what I mean Daisuke!” says Renge who realized her unintentional insult.
You’re not helping me Renge!
I take a breath to compose myself.
C’mon Daisuke get a hold of yourself! You want to express your feelings! Just do it!
I deepen my voice, and project out into the stage.
“With love’s light wings did I o’er these walls; For stony limits cannot hold love out! And what love can do that dares love attempt; Therefore, thy kinsmen are no let to me!”
I look deeply into Mary, and I see my reflection inside her big blue eyes.
I’m too close!
I take a step back and rub my face. I was close enough to Mary that I saw her slightly blush.
“Great! That was way better Daisuke-kun! That’s a wrap for today. Good work everybody!” says Renge.
“I can’t wait to get out of this costume!” says Mary.
We both head to the back to change out of our costumes. There were probably liters of sweat that drenched in the costume from all the lights, and my nerves from being so close to Mary.
I finish changing and I hand leave my costume back on the rack. I walk outside of the building, only to find Mary waiting for me.
“You took too long you big dummy.” she says.
We both started to walk towards the old building. It was her study day after school with Kaz and Yuki-san, the Ice Witch. She returned to her normal roadrunner self. Her red track suit still had traces of a long black stain, which I can tell she tried to wash off with no avail. But there was something different today. I noticed she wasn’t wearing her usual Masked Avenger pin. Instead, it was the Phantom Defender!
He’s my favorite character! Why the sudden change?!?
“Uh…nice pin you have on today Mary.”
She jumps at my compliment. She pulls her pin closer to me for a better look.
“Yeah! You know the Phantom Defender right? It was super hard for me to find since they’re so rare!” she explains.
“Don’t you usually have a Masked Avenger one? Why the change?” I ask.
You dummy! That’s super creepy that you know she wears a Masked Avenger!
“This is super embarrassing, but since we’re friends I’ll let you on a secret.”
“What do you mean Mary?” I ask.
She skips ahead of me a little bit and smiles with her hands behind her back.
“It’s because of someone I like…” she blushingly says.
“He said that he liked the Phantom Defender more than the Masked Avenger…maybe he’ll notice?”
Who told her that?!? Was it Kaz?!? My partner in crime is trying to help me get with…?
We arrive at the old classroom. She turns around to me before opening the door.
“Maybe you can tell him for me…?” she asks.
She turns back towards the door and opens it. Mary speeds inside to see Kazuki and Yuki-san patiently waiting for us. I see her immediately run towards Kazuki, who notices her new pin. She gave a different smile to him, one that was different than the one she would give to me when we goofed around.
Oh god it hurts.
My best friend quickly gives me a wink.
“Took you two long enough!” I jokingly say to Kaneko-san.
“Hey, we were busy at rehearsal Kazuki-kun. Sorry we couldn’t make it to your café.” says Kaneko-san.
Yuki-san and I (along with class president) kept Junpei-san’s appearance a secret. He was a private detective, and at the notice of class president, he wasn’t even supposed to be here. He was apparently working a large case, and so his status was better kept a mystery. If anyone found out about where he was staying or with, trouble could come.
“It was an interesting day…” I respond.
Kaneko-san plops down her bag like usual, but I felt something strange in the room. She was wearing a new pin, the Phantom Defender, but Daisuke was still standing outside the hallway, as if he saw a ghost or something.
“Are you coming in Akatsuka-san?” asks a concerned Yuki-san.
He turns around and waves us off.
“Nah…I have something to do after school today. See you guys next time.” He says.
Daisuke closes the door behind him, and there’s a moment of silence while the three of us stare blankly at his sudden departure.
He’s really moody today, but he’s probably off to visit his sister…We still need to make her chocolate!
I’m home in my bed now. The three of us left together when it started to get late. I messaged Daisuke soon after, but he brushed it off again, telling me he’ll see me tomorrow. There was still a lot of information to absorb, and I can’t imagine what Yuki-san had to be thinking.
I should message her…we haven’t even talked after we exchanged numbers after she started tutoring me…
I take the phone off my bedside counter only to be surprised by a notification.
The message reads “I apologize for what you had to see earlier Kaneshiro-san. Please excuse my immature behavior.”
Even in text form she’s still serious!
I type my response.
“No worries! I’m happy that you’ve found your family!”
No! That’s too informal…c’mon Kaz think!
I delete my message and start over.
“No worries! I’m glad you’re reunited with your long-lost brother! He seems like a really good guy.”
I hit send on my phone and hope that she responds back. I can see that she’s still texting out her response.
“Thank you Kaneshiro-san. He can give some people the wrong impression from what I remember, but he means well, and that is what I love about him.”
I try to come up with a response, but she texts me again.
“I apologize again, but it is getting rather late. We need a lot of rest after today, don’t we Kaneshiro-san?” the message says.
Sigh. At least I got to talk to her a little bit.
“Yeah! We’ll work even harder tomorrow LOL!” as I hit send.
Oh no! I shouldn’t have said that last part!
Before I can correct my response she her message is instantly sent to my phone.
“Yes we will. Good night, I’ll see you tomorrow Kaneshiro-san.”
Finally, she sends a cute black cat emoji sticker that is wearing pajamas and is sleeping.
“Good night, Yuki-san.” I text back.
I’ll see you tomorrow…
I have to admit, this year’s school festival has been miles ahead of the ones from before. It was my shift to stay by the school gates to man the ticket station for all the events. The sun was looking like it was about to set, so there weren’t too many people around anyways. Most of the students left for home or after school activities at this point.
All they see me as is just some grumpy doctor...
“I can’t believe the staff are making me stay later…not like I had anything better to do tonight than drink anyways…”
I slam the coffee can onto my table, and crush it easily with one push from my palm. I look around to see if there was anyone watching me, before I decide to get comfy and rest my legs on the table. I close my eyes and try to relax. Until I’m interrupted by a knock on the table.
“What! I wasn’t goofing off!”
I look up to see the man in black from earlier!
He’s caught me in a very awkward situation!
I sit up with my back straight immediately.
“You look cute when you sleep my darling...” he teases. Before thinking I blurt out:
“W-well you’re a pervert for staring!”
This chauvinistic dinosaur then reaches into the pocket of his suit jacket. I ready myself in case he brings out a weapon! He slowly pulls out to what appears to be a cell phone. He brings it close to my face.
“Why don’t I make it up to you with a date tonight?”
What!?! He can’t be serious! I’m actually a very busy person y’know! I don’t have time to go on a date with this strange person!
My heart starts to pound even faster, to the point where I couldn’t hear anything else that he was saying.
“I-I’m actually very busy tonight! But since you insisted…, I guess I’ll clear my schedule!” I say.
My hand instinctively reaches into the pocket of my lab coat, and I place my phone next to his.
I see a new phone number added to my phone. Judging by the area code, he wasn’t from around here. I put away my phone, but he doesn’t put away his. Instead he begins tapping away on his phone. I notice a vibration inside my pocket, and it seems I got a message.
“Thanks Mugi-chan! ” his text says.
How’d he know my name?!? I don’t even know his!
He notices my disbelief and points his finger covered by his black glove at the staff photo ID pinned on my chest.
Good grief! He’s making a fool out of me!
“What’s your name, you jerk!?!”
“Junpei. Junpei Kasai at your service my darling! I’ll pick you up tonight!”
I better figure out what to wear!