Stealthy's Shorts [Newest Addition: May 14th, 2024. - "Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery!"]

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StealthyWolf
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Passing Smiles

Post by StealthyWolf »

Passing Smiles

“Hey, Dad.” I step off of the dirt path and sit down on the grass in front of the headstone.

“Sorry, I know it’s been a couple years since I’ve come here to talk to you, but after Hisao… I had to get away from this place for a little while.” It’s been four years to be exact. More than ‘a couple,’ I’d say.

“I really need to talk this out though, so please be patient and listen.” I take a deep breath and try to gather my thoughts, but I don’t think they’re meant to be organized right now.

“Mom was happy to see me again. I mean, she’s visited a few times since I moved and we talk on the phone every week, but it’s not exactly the same as coming home.”

Home. It still hurts to call it that without him. “Or you, you know?”

I pull my legs in and hug my knees. “Anyways, I wish I could say I’m back because I was ready to face everything… but I wasn’t. I’m not. It’s been kinda a rough year. Last week one of Rin’s friends, a girl named Saki Enomoto… well, she died. That’s why I’m here. For her.”

Tears fall onto my knees and soak through the sleeve. “Dammit. Sorry. I told you I wasn’t ready.”

Wind passes through the leaves above, shaking the branches. “I’m doing it again – or rather, I have done it again. Four years now. You’d think I’d be past that after everything that happened but I’m not. It’s frustrating.”

“But that’s just it, right? You used to say life was just a game of running in circles. I thought you were just making a joke about running on a track, but it’s more than that isn’t it?”

“Sometimes you’re at the other side of the track, so very far from the beginning. Where you can see the progress you’ve made. Where you can see where you stand amongst the others.”

I rub the inorganic material on the prosthetics under my hands. “Sometimes you’re right back where you started, wondering if you’ve ever even left the spot to begin with.”

“That’s what I thought for a little while, but I was missing something. I think I know what it was now, but I’ll save that for the end. I’ve got a lot I want to say.”

“I was lying earlier, when I said I came back because of Saki. That’s not it, or at least not the full truth.”

“You see, a half a year ago one of Hisao’s classmates also died. I barely knew her, but Hisao talked to her somewhat regularly. Naomi Inoue. See, unlike Saki we didn’t expect her to die. It just happened. A couple months before that, Rin’s aunt died – the one I told you about last time I was here. And a month after Naomi I heard about another one of my classmates from my first year at Yamaku dying.”

“That one happened a long time ago, but I only just heard about it. I might’ve mentioned her to you when she had to drop out way back then.”

“Since then I’ve read and watched a few stories centered around death and it’s been a real gut punch each time. I don’t know why I put them on; I know how they’ll make me feel even before then, but I still did.”

“Maybe it was just to get a good cry out.”

“I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that death has been on my mind a lot recently. I thought I was getting better, until all that happened. I felt like I was getting so close to being at the other end of the track again, like when I met Hisao and introduced you to him.”

“Turns out I’m just back at the start.”

“I didn’t even know Saki all that well. We talked a couple times in passing, that’s about it. I talked to Naomi a few more times than that thanks to Hisao – but again, we weren’t close.”

“They were just… one more smiling face in the background of my life.”

“One I can’t ever see again, despite there being a time where that was unimaginable.”

“Now they’re gone. And the amount of faces shrink again.”

“I don’t even know why I’m crying. Not exactly at least. Saki’s dead, but I don’t think I’d cry over her. Naomi… maybe, but that was a long time ago now and she was Hisao’s friend anyways. Definitely not Rin’s aunt or a classmate from forever and a half ago.”

“But it hurts all the same.”

“And I don’t know what to do.”

“Anyways… that’s where I’m at. Sorry, I don’t have all that happy an ending to all of this. Thanks for listening.”

I stand up and brush the dust off of my legs. “Oh, and that missing piece… I think it’s that even when we’re back at the beginning, we’ve still moved forward. It’s just a matter of being able to recognize that.”

“I’m trying to figure out how to get there still. I’m sure I will, with a bit of time. But for tonight I think I’m just gonna stop by somewhere and pour one out for Saki.”

“Then I’ll probably visit Hisao. Been a little since I talked to his parents.”

“See you around, Dad. I promise I won’t be gone as long this time.”


Notes on this story

I wrote this yesterday after hearing about XPND.Dev's passing and to sort out some of what emotions I was dealing with. After talking to HDKV and getting his thoughts, he convinced me that it was worth posting so that's why I am.

I originally thought about writing a story somewhat similar to this some time ago. A few times actually. It wasn't until now that it came together right. See, I think there's a lot of people we have in our lives that we don't appreciate as much as we should until they're gone. For me, one of those people was Dev. This game and the community I've grown fond of over this past year and a half has meant a great deal to me, and the new waves of activity alongside the preservation of the game and these forums happened in large part thanks to Dev. Personally, I didn't know him all too well. I think we only ever interacted in public spaces too, just talking about things on the discord. Still, when I heard the news it hit me a lot harder than I expected. My only regret is that I didn't reach out to talk to him a bit more while I could've.

I guess the main reason I wrote this and what I wanted to say was this: Thank you Dev, for being a passing smile in my life and for everything you did while you were here. This one's for you.

My Writing:
Uncertainty (A post Emi-Good Ending Story)
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StealthyWolf
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Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery! (SS23 for Guthrum)

Post by StealthyWolf »

Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery!

What’s Emi planning? Our first plan failed, and now she’s hosting another meeting the very next day, but this time there’ll be ‘a couple more’ people to help out? I thought she wanted to keep the group small and discreet, which is why it was only Hisao, her, and I the first time around.

Well, in any case I better pick up my pace since I’m already late. Ehhhh, Emi will just have to deal with it.

I am curious as to what she’s planning this time around though. We’re lucky Nurse didn’t catch on to what we were doing the first time and escaped with only empty hands.

That being said, I doubt we’ll get more than a second chance, so it better be good.

Ultimately I think we could probably just ask Nurse and be done with it, but this is Emi’s secret to unravel so I’ll play along. She was so secretive over what it was the first time around that I’m not even exactly sure what ‘it’ is that we’re trying to discover.

It’s a nice distraction and break from the usual slog of meetings with Shizune, planning club activities, and school work that usually take up the bulk of my day though, so I’m fine with that.

Then again the only one I have to blame for all that busywork is myself. It’s what I signed up for when I became track captain after all. At least now I can get away from the stress and riff-raff and just have some fun.

Oh hey, look, I’m here.

I glance around the halls to make sure no one followed me since Emi’s invitation specifically called out discretion and that this would involve a ‘personal matter.’ Looks like I’m good to go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You’re finally here!” Emi swings the classroom door open.

“Yeah, I-”

Ryuunosuke barely starts a response before Emi practically pulls him through the door. Poor guy. For being the track captain, he’s such a push-over. Couldn’t be me.

“Hurry up and get inside! You-” the door slams shut, but I can still make out Emi’s voice, “-were the last one we were waiting on!”

Ah, good. I was worried for a moment that I may have still ended up getting here too early. That would’ve been lame. The perfect moment should be in just about-

Yeaaaah, no. Screw that. I’m heading in. I’m more of a “feel it out” type of guy anyway.

As I reach the door I hear the new kid asking some sort of question. Waste not a second! I slam the door open. “Alright! Now we can really get this thing started!”

Looks like there’s six of us here including me. Not bad for a detective crew. But it’s also a weird number. Too small to consider it a full team, but much too large for a classic detective duo. Why’s it called duo anyways when it can be three or sometimes four people? Eh. Mystery for later.

The open seat between Lilly and Ryuunosuke will work. Emi’s standing at the head of the tables, rearranged into a shape much more fitting for a meeting. She looks at me in shock.

I push past Emi. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna steal your spotlight or anything. I respect that this is your meeting, but I did just make it eight times better!”

“What are you doing here, Haruhiko?” Emi crosses her arms.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I grab one of the chairs pushed off to the side and pull it up to the table. I should probably give Lilly a bit more space. “I’m here for the mystery and investigation.”

Ryuu needs to make some space. He’s too slow, so I shove him and the chair over enough to make room. “Woah- hey!” He wiggles annoyingly as I move him.

After there’s space, I sit down and face Emi. Damn, for heading this meeting she’s not doing a whole lot of leading. “So, what’s the plan?”

Ryuunosuke grabs my collar with his one good arm. Not that he even has a ‘bad’ one – or wait, wouldn’t that be both his good and bad arm? “What’s the big idea man?” He growls.

“Dude, you’re disrupting the meeting.” I try to slap his hand off but his grip only tightens. Now he’s trying to act like a leader? Weird. Especially since this is Emi’s meeting.

Then he registers what I said and falters. “Me? Wha-”

“Yes you. You’re making a scene.”

“I’m making a scene? Hah! Look who’s speaking. Besides, who even invited you?”

“That mattered? Who decided that? That’s stupid.” This isn’t a club room. This isn’t even a club meeting since half the people here aren’t in the same club as Emi, The Captain, and I. Had they done either of those things I’d have knocked before bursting through the door.

Emi puts a hand on his far side. “Don’t worry about it Ryuu, it’s no big deal.”

The annoyance in his eyes fades into a dumbstruck gaze. “I thought you said this was a ‘personal matter’ and that it was a private meeting.”

“That was mostly because I didn’t want every kid in school involved. Not lying though! This is kinda personal.”

“So are we throwing this guy out on his ass or not?”

“He’s fine.” She glances towards me as if I was some annoying bug, intruding in the room. “Probably.” Rude.

Ryuunosuke looks back at me for a moment and shakes his head, then lowers his hand. “Fine. How’d you even find out about it anyways.” Hmm, he seems more assertive nowadays; I like it on him.

He turns to Lezard and stares accusingly. Lezard raises his hands, “Woah! Wasn’t me, man. Yeah it’d be a little funny, but I got standards.”

His girlfriend gives him an incredulous… look? Huh, guess it does still work. Gotta thank that guy from 3-2 for the advice. She’s not literally looking at him, but she still is. Makes sense.

Lezard backs away from her too, “What? It would be kinda funny though!”

Lilly raises her eyebrows and sighs, “It would still be rather rude considering we didn’t know to what level of privacy Emi was hoping for.”

“Well yeah, that’s why I didn’t do it.” I’m actually surprised Lezard didn’t tell me. Last year he definitely would’ve, though last year Emi wouldn’t have invited him.

But if this meeting’s ever going to get started we need to move on. “I overheard you guys blabbing about it yesterday in class.”

The new kid finally joins the conversation, “You were definitely asleep. You could’ve even given Suzu a run for her money.”

“I wasn’t.”

“We called out to you. Twice even.”

“Heard it; ignored it. Wouldn't be very good at acting like I was asleep if I talked back, now would I?”

“He’s got a point.” Lezard points out helpfully, but Lilly glares somethin fierce ‘at’ him. “Ahaha-what I mean to say is… why even act like you’re asleep in the first place?”

Isn’t that obvious? I sigh, then say, “Clearly because the most interesting things happen around the person that sleeps in class while they’re supposedly oblivious!”

New kid joins back in with the first smart thing I’ve heard him say since he got here, “So you were basically trying to ‘trick the… cosmic… system’ into making something interesting happen while letting you still observe it?”

“Exactly! New kid’s on it. The rest of you need to catch up.”

“Name’s Hisao, by the way. Not exactly new around here anymore.”

“Anyone transfer here since you?”

“Well, no, but-”

“So you’re still the new kid, new kid.”

‘Hisao’ rubs his forehead and turns back to Emi. “So, what kinda thing are we here for anyways?”

She eyes me suspiciously for just a bit too long, then rushes to the closet to drag a whiteboard out. “So,” Emi uncaps the red marker and tries to write something, but it’s dried up. She tosses it and grabs a blue one. After a quick test, she writes ‘Nurse’ on the board and circles it.

“So,” she repeats, a little more annoyed, “Shi- I mean Nurse has been acting suspicious these past few months and I aim to get to the bottom of it! And you all are going to help me.” She also grabs her bag and produces an image from it. It’s Nurse. She sticks it onto the board underneath her writing. Respect the attention to good visuals.

“Ah, so that’s what this is about.” Hisao seems to be in the know already. Girlfriend privileges, likely.

Lezard sits up and rubs his chin. “Now that you mention it, I have noticed that he seems more distracted nowadays. Like, he’s looking at his phone more often and stuff.”

“Not just that,” Hisao stretches like he’s preparing for some grand expansion. It better be, considering how big a deal everyone seems to be making of it. “He leaves earlier than he used to – or rather, he leaves on time more often. Plus he doesn’t seem to be taking many extra shifts. He also seems happier than normal. Almost like he’s glowing. Then, as you noticed Lezard, he daydreams and gets distracted much more often now. The final new behavior is that he’s even more secretive about his personal life than before.”

I yawn. “So the guys’ in a good mood and finally got sick of hearing himself talk about his boring life. Big whoop.”

“Oh, who’s being slow now?” Emi smirks. “But I guess you’d be used to that, huh?”

“Woah, woah, woah now. I’d be the one on top if you weren’t such a freak of nature.” Did we come here to get some dirt on Nurse or argue? I’m starting to think it’s the latter.

Maybe in the 100 meter. But Ryuu’s still safely above you in the 400 and middle distance, Miki’s got you beat in hurdles and long distance, the 200’s a complete toss-up between so many of you, and-”

“Sheesh, I get it coach. Back to the point already.” Damn, I didn’t come all the way here just to get ganged up on.

“The point,” Emi uncaps the marker and scribbles the previously listed ‘oddities’ out on the board, “is that these are all tell-tale signs of something very specific…” She circles each item and connects it to a blank circle. Afterwards she glances around the room and says, “Any guesses as to what?”

Lilly’s the first to respond. “Perhaps he got news of a nice raise in the near future. I hear Yamaku tends to revise their contracts and other such obligations around now.”

Boooring.

“Good guess, but it doesn’t explain the secrecy and I think normally he’d be taking more shifts if he was promised a raise, not less.”

Ryuu chimes in next. “Maybe a good job offer then. He takes less shifts so he can take training courses and doesn’t talk about it to anyone because he’s deciding to let us know when he’s ready.”

Lame.

“I’m sure he’d be happy to move up if that was his goal, but if it meant leaving the school behind…” Emi looks out the window for a moment and smiles, “…Well, Nurse loves this place. He’d be more bittersweet than outright cheery if that were the case. Besides, I think he’s happy with where he's at in his career.”

Emi scans the rooms expectantly again. Isn’t the rule something like, ‘two guesses and then reveal the answer,’ or something like that? That has to be a rule.

She looks at Lezard and gets a helpful shrug in return. Wait, is she avoiding making eye contact with me? Rude! I mean, I don’t really have a guess either on account of this being a bit more boring than I had hoped for – but still, rude!

“Well,” Hisao sits up and stretches,” Those were pretty much my first two guesses as well. My third one was that maybe he was just happy with how all of the students have been doing recently-” yep, that’s just as interesting an answer to the question as you are a person “-but that was wrong too. At least, Emi thinks so. She has a much more interesting theory.” She’d better.

Hisao turns to Emi and gestures for her to take over. Emi smirks. “It’s really simple actually. Boys are pretty easy to read and Nurse is no different. There’s only one thing that makes them as giddy as he is right now.”

One thing, huh? What could… wait. Wait, wait, wait! She can’t mean- “Nurse has a girlfriend!?” Lilly flinches when I suddenly sit up and slap the desk, but dammit this actually just might be worth my time!

Emi snaps her fingers and points at me, “Bingo!”

“And since you brought all of us out to help you – and, and because it’s the only way this whole thing will be worth my time – you must think it’s someone we know!” Damn, I’m actually getting a little excited.

“Something like that.” There’s some chatter amongst the others as interest rightly peaks at this reveal, then Emi draws us back in, “I obviously have my own suspicions, but that’s what we’re here to find out!”

She takes to the board again and writes in big bold letters ‘GIRLFRIEND?’ and circles it, then connects it to Nurse. Next she draws a line from it and makes another circle, ‘Suspects.’ “So, next I want to hear who everyone thinks it could be!”

First one she lists is ‘Emi’s secret guess.’ What happens if one of us guess the same person? Meanwhile everyone starts to converse more freely. Lezard’s first guess is someone amongst the staff, like Ms. Miyagi or someone in the nursing staff, but Emi quickly shoots down the latter idea seeing as he’s technically their boss – or rather in a position of power over them – so it’d be unlikely. I mean, I guess, but it’d be much more fun if there was a scandal afoot! Still, Ms. Miyagi and Ms. Imai are the only two that end up on the list.

Ryuu jokes that it could be a student and Emi plays along adding ‘student!?’ to the list. She also scribbles down a couple names including Hisao, despite his protests. Again, it’d be more interesting if it were true but Ryuu’s actual answer is one of the security personnel that Nurse talks to frequently: ‘Ms. Kanemaru.’

Lilly comes in with an interesting idea. “Could it be someone’s parent?” Now that’s an interesting idea! The man acts like he’s some sort of Casanova after all so it could be any number of parents and depending on the answer it could lead to some spicy implications.

Emi raises an eyebrow then quickly turns to the whiteboard. “Student’s parent.” She says out loud while writing and circles it. Then she notices she wrote an extra ‘s’ at the end and goes to erase it, but chuckles to herself and leaves it. “Got any ideas?” She asks Lilly.

“I’d imagine it’s someone with similar interests as him and who doesn’t have a partner of their own, though admittedly I’m not familiar with the families of many others here so I don’t really have a good guess. Perhaps someone else does?”

I wrack my brain for ideas. I’ve been trying to let the others do the speaking, but screw it. “The albino girl’s mother is a doctor, right? Seen her around a few times and never with a guy.”

Emi adds and says, “Rika’s Mom.”

“But we shouldn’t write-off married couples either! Some people are into that type of thing. If Taro’s mom is anything like him-”

“I’m gonna stop you right there.” Hisao interrupts. Is he the type to actually have a spine when it comes to others, but not for himself? Bleh. Still, I should try to find out one of these times. Didn’t seem like an outspoken guy when he got to class, but I guess he did end up with Emi.

‘I’m just saying, we shouldn’t rule it out.” I shrug.

Hisao rolls his eyes, “and being obnoxious about it.”

“Just calling it like I sees it man. Hey, what if Hisao’s mom? Add that to the list!”

Emi crosses her arms. “I’m not adding that.”

“Why not?”

“First off,” Hisao cuts in, “my parents live halfway across the country and have only ever talked to Nurse over the phone. Second, I think my Dad’s the one that’s been doing most of the talking with the staff. Third, they’re happily married.”

“Never underestimate your parents! You never really know, you know?”

“Haruhiko, we’re not adding my mom to the list.”

“Eh, if it turns out to be the answer don’t come crying to me.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Okay, so Hisao actually can stand his ground. Good for him. Makes him just a little less boring. But just a little.

Lezard rubs his chin making an audible scratch. Did he stop shaving? “Well, speaking of mothers-”

Lilly cuts him off. “I swear, if you make a ‘your mother’ joke just because Haruhiko did…”

“Sweetheart, darling, dear, love of my life-” Lezard tries to play it up, but it clearly doesn’t impress Lilly. “-I-I would not sully my good name with such a low bar joke! Surely you trust in that?” Hah! It used to be his go to.

And hey, wait a moment. “I wasn’t joking. Hisao’s mother is a legitimate candidate.”

Hisao snaps, “Drop it Haruhiko, or I swear to the gods I’ll get Miki involved.”

“Damn, man! Okay, okay, I’ll leave it be. No need to go nuclear.” He must’ve got an in on me from Emi. Shit! He’s even sharing a knowing glance with her. Uncool, Emi. Let the man start playing the field on his own before giving him the cheat codes.

Lezard clears his throat and straightens an invisible tie. “I was just going to suggest someone I think everyone’s seen talking to Nurse on more than one occasion. At least, if they’ve paid any attention.”

“Oh, and who might that be?” Lilly’s tone has softened. Is it really that easy to earn her forgiveness?

“Well, uh, Emi’s mother.”

No one says a word for a moment, instead sharing curious glances with the others; wondering who’s going to react first. Instead Emi casually shrugs and silently adds ‘Emi’s Mom’ to the board.

After a little more discussion a few others are added with varying levels of skepticism: 3-1’s class rep’s mother is apparently single and on friendly terms with Nurse, though she’s been reportedly seen with someone else; Mutou is tossed out though mostly as a joke, but people have seen the two hanging out a bit more often as of late; a couple teachers from the lower level classes are mentioned but only two end up on the board and I don’t know either of them; and finally they add one of the therapist’s names for good measure.

Image
Shout-out to Sharp-O for helping me put this together!

When she thinks the list feels expansive enough, Emi recaps the marker and turns back to us. “So, next up is how we’re going to find out who the mystery woman, or man, is – and I already have a plan!”

There’s an almost physical relief that sweeps across the room as everyone realizes Emi’s not gonna ask for more suggestions. While they’re getting comfortable, Emi pulls a couple more sheets out from her bag and pins them to the board. From a distance they look like crude battle plans and the messy scribbling makes it no easier to decipher.

Luckily the translator is here. “Here’s what I was thinking…”

Emi’s plan basically boils down to four rather simple steps.

One – Group A, consisting of Emi, Hisao, and Lilly, go to Nurse and asks to use his phone since they all either forgot theirs or it died and they need to make a call.

Two – Group B, consisting of Ryuu, Lezard, and me, wait until they have the phone in hand to immediately swoop in and draw him away for a couple minutes. Chalk it up to a minor emergency like a cramp and ‘over-react’ to it.

Three – while Nurse is away, Group A snoops through his contacts to see if there’s any obvious girlfriend in the contacts, look for a pet name like ‘babe’ or ‘love’ or something like that, steal the number onto one of their phones, and figure out who it belongs to afterwards. If there are none, they scan for any suspects listed earlier and skim their message history to see if they’ve talked about going on dates or something to that effect.

Four – have Lilly call her older sister and fake some sort of conversation as a cover for when Nurse gets back.

“And that’s basically it!” She even planned out when and where we’d pull of this stunt. Catch Nurse on his way out to lunch so he’s least expecting it and mapped out some diagrams for how it’d look. “Any questions?”

“Yes.” Ryuu raises his hand. “What if Nurse is quick to dismiss the fake emergency and comes back before you get a chance to dig anything up? You know, like the first time we tried this.” They’ve tried this before? And failed, by the sounds of it.

“You’ll just have to make sure it keeps him distracted long enough! Plus, that’s why you’re bringing him so far away this time. You run there, he runs with you, and afterwards he’ll need to walk back because it’s uphill and easier!” So if I’m hearing this correctly, Emi’s grand plan is basically what her failed ‘Plan A’ was, just a bit fancied up to better fit more people and not make the exact same mistakes again.

Lezard raises his hand next. “What if he decides to take his phone with him? If Ryuunosuke’s claiming it’s an emergency, won’t he want that with him just in case he needs to call someone?”

Emi waves it off. “He carries two phones. His personal phone and a work phone.”

“And if he gives you his work phone?”

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t.” Emi shrugs. Ryuu moves to press the issue and Emi cuts him off before he can even begin. “Look, I can handle Nurse. Worst case scenario he sniffs us out and I ask him directly! I just thought this would be fun.”

“Fun? Maybe…” I stand up and quickly take my place next to the board, turning it over to the backside. I can’t take this anymore; these guys are on the edge of something possibly fantastic and they’re gonna squander it like this? Nah. That’d be too lame. “… But I’ve got a plan a thousand times better…” I’ll even throw Emi a bone and keep the skeleton of her plan intact. I’m just going to make sure it’s worth everyone’s time – especially mine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“So we went along with Haruhiko’s plan because…?” I lament as I give myself a once-over in the mirror. I mean, I know why. I was there for it – obviously – and I even agreed to it in the end, but I’m really, really starting to wish I hadn’t.

“Gotta admit, the man’s got good taste.” Hisao coos. I look at him through the mirror, and he’s looking at my ass. I spin around and use the force to slam him in the side with the comically large carrot plush that Haruhiko so generously gifted with the outfit. “Ow!”

“Pervert.”

He latches onto the pillow and pulls it towards him with considerable force. Refusing to let go, I end up right in his grasp.

“Gotcha.” Hisao smirks. I stick my tongue at him and, after stealing a quick kiss, he releases me. “But seriously, you look good.”

I cross my arms. “Course I do! That’s not the issue here, Hisao. The latex is uncomfortable, I feel exposed, I think the spandex is a bit too thin, the buttons on the suit don’t work, it’s going to be cold, and worst of all, this outfit is just way too cheesy.”

“Hmm, I think that’d work if you were a mouse. Perhaps ‘carrot-ty’ would be more fitting?”

Not helpful, Hisao. I cross my arms and give him an unimpressed pout.

“Yeah, that one was bad.” He shrugs off my glare and I turn back to the mirror. Well, if there’s one thing it does right is it extenuates all the right places.

“Besides,” Hisao wraps his arms around my shoulders and meets my eyes in the mirror, “I don’t think comfort is the goal, it’s clearly designed to be exposing, the spandex isn’t that thin, the buttons are meant to be decoration, probably, I’ll lend you my jacket and sweatpants for when you’re waiting around, and-” he kisses my cheek then whispers, “-I think it looks sexy.”

I turn to look him in the eyes. Damn, I want to kiss him so badly but that’d basically be letting him get away with winning. “It’s also not very Christmas-y. Wasn’t that like, half the hook?”

“We can strap a mistletoe on one of your ears.”

“You’re impossible.”

“I know!” He smiles widely, “But you were the one that picked me!”

I shake Hisao off of me and go back to looking myself over. I am not having a wardrobe malfunction on top of this already ridiculous outfit.

If it were quite literally any other guy on the planet I’d find it very, very weird that he had multiple bunny-girl outfits in a whole slough of different sizes on hand. Buuuut this is Haruhiko we’re talking about. Still, when he said he ‘had something just for this occasion,’ I thought he meant like a few different suits and ties that were unisex – not this.

“I get that we’re playing into the whole ‘magician show’ act and all, but couldn’t he have picked something less… objectifying?” I sigh. It’s all in place, and that’s pretty much all the stalling I can do.

Hisao laughs, “You’re the one that told me we shouldn’t try arguing with him. And I’ll say it again, you agreed to it.” Of course I agreed to his plan; it’s basically a better version of mine in every way and since that already failed once I couldn’t say no to the only other good idea anyone had.

“Hmph. I know I did.” I lower my voice, “It’s a good plan after all.”

“What was that?”

Apparently not enough. “Nothing.”

“No, no – it was definitely something. Care to elaborate?”

“You are really testing your luck today, aren’t you?”

“Every day since my heart attack.”

I turn to face Hisao and put my hands on my hips. “And how’s it faring?”

Hisao raises a hand to his chin and his eyes go up and down my body. Then he nods to himself with a grin and says, “I’d say it balances out.”

Fine. He earns himself a quick kiss. It’s a nice bonus that he moved on too!

Buuuut I better ensure his mind doesn’t drift back. He’s been winning a few too many battles of wits lately and I will not stand for it! “Now come on! We’re already late and I can’t wait to see how Lilly looks in one of these!”

Hisao stretches and hands me a spare jacket and pair of sweatpants from his closet. “Alright, let’s go.” I take them from his hands and he chuckles to himself.

“What?”

“Nothing, nothing – it’s just… I still can’t believe Lezard actually convinced Lilly to wear the costume.”

“I know right! How’d he manage that anyways?”

Hisao shrugs. “Beats me. Though I think I did hear Haruhiko helping him scheme some sort of pitch for Shizune before school ended yesterday.”

“That would be how then.”

“You think they managed to convince her?”

“All they’d have to say to convince the prez is ‘hey, want to help us put Lilly in an embarrassing position?’ and she’d work extra overtime to help.”

“Huh…” Hisao rubs his chin. “… no, you’re right. Lilly was certain that there’d be no way the school would approve something like this. If Shizune pulled some strings and got it stamped off then there’s no excuse left for her anymore.”

“And I’d bet Shizune convinced them by using some sort of body positive angle thing.”

“Well, whatever she did got the a-okay and even managed to get a couple posters printed and posted – all in under a day.”

“Really? I must’ve missed them.”

“Yeah. Saw one on the board near the cafeteria and a few others dotted about.”

“Well, at least not too many people will see them before the main event.” They’ve only been posted for half a school day then, right? Who even looks at those things? The clothes still hanging over my arm catch my eye. “Ahh! We’re supposed to be leaving!”

“Right, right. Let’s go.” Hisao puts his shoes on while I slip into the clothing. It’s not the first time I’ll be leaving the boys dorm in Hisao’s clothes – and not the last either – but the bunny ears are definitely new.

Though if there’s posters that'll mean at least a couple students will probably show up.

Just have to keep reminding myself that Lilly will be there too. “I’m getting kinda excited!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The fabric scrapes against Emi’s skin and the buzz of the crowd is muffled again. Emi starts, “Well…” She pauses and takes a couple steps back towards us. “It’s not completely full… yet.”

I can’t help but sigh. Is there no way I can get myself out of this situation? No, probably not. Participating in this event, embarrassing as it is, is still better than going back on my word.

A familiar warm hand plants itself on my shoulder – Lezard. “You’re gonna be fine, love. This sort of thing is really common.”

I can practically hear him giggling under his breath. I turn towards his voice, “I understand I come from a privileged background, but I still can’t believe outfits like this are acceptable in any way at any school. I feel like I’m practically nude!”

“Trust me, that’s far from true and all the better for it!” This time I can hear Lezard smiling. I’m not. “Only kidding! You look fine, try to have fun!”

Ugh. I collapse onto the ground to hug my legs to get Lezard off me for a moment. “I don’t feel fine.”

I hear Lezard shift and then him crouching in front of me. “Seriously, you look amazing! Think of it like you’re in a play.”

“And what’s my role? Sexy eye-candy side-piece number two?”

“Definitely number one.”

Emi cuts in, “Hey!”

“What? I’ve got my… preferences.” I dread to think of whatever type of face he’s making right now.

Emi huffs. “Lilly, do I have permission to beat your boyfriend to death with this absurdly large carrot plush?”

“Permission granted.” He’s the one that talked me into this gambit then played dirty, getting my cousin involved. I’d call it karmic justice.

“Woah now!” Lezard quickly scrambles behind me, using me as a shield. How charming. “I’ll get Hisao involved!”

Emi laughs, “He’d be on my side. Now get out here and face your death like a man!”

“Not happening, I’ve got ambitions and you wouldn’t take Lilly down with me!”

I lift my head in the direction Emi footsteps were last at, “Do it. I’ll be free from this purgatory as well then.”

“Awww! Then I’d be alone and I definitely can’t have that!”

Lezard lifts his arm and shoots it past the right side of my head. “Aha! See?” I have to surpass the urge to bite his arm. It would be so easy to as well. Maybe later…

A phone buzzes in Emi’s direction. After a moment of jostling, she says, “That’s my queue. Better get going!” Her footsteps quickly head out and around to the back entrance. “You got off lucky this time, Lezard! This time.”

I turn my head and call out, “I’ll see to it that he gets his due punishment.”

“Yes please.” Lezard coos. A breeze goes over me, followed by a soft thud. “Oomph!” Damn, she missed me.

“Gotcha!” Emi teases as a door opens near her, then quickly shuts before Lezard can respond.

He makes a few dissatisfied grunting noises before dropping what’s probably the plush on the ground. Then his footsteps head towards the stage. Cloth moves and the sound of the idle crowd picks back up again. It’s already much louder than earlier.

Lezard whistles. “That’s uh… Haruhiko and the prez sure know how to draw in a crowd.”

I’m gonna be sick.

The cloth moves again and even muffled I can hear the sheer intensity of the student body out there. Is it the whole student body? It can’t be. Can it? The sound grows louder and echoes off of every corner of my brain, amplifying the volume with each bounce, dulling any other thought in my head.

“Woah there!” Lezard wraps an arm behind my back. “You doing okay there, darling?”

It’s only then that I realize I’ve nearly fallen onto my side. It seems like I was crouched down for a little too long. “I’m… okay. Just lost my balance there for a moment.”

“Seriously, Lilly, give me the word and I’ll call this off. At least your part in it. I know I joked about it earlier, but you don’t have to do this.” His voice is calm and measured. It’s not often he uses that tone. It’s rather comforting.

But it’s what he’s saying that’s the problem. I slowly stand myself up, with his support, and straighten any of the wrinkles in the clothing I can feel. “I do have to do this, Lezard. For my own sake. I refuse to go back on my word and doing so now would betray at least two promises I’ve made.”

“There’s being open to having more casual fun, and then there’s this. That-” He pauses. “-out there, I mean. It’s something else entirely.”

“You’re doing a terrible job selling my participation in this event.”

“I mean it.” He moves closer and takes my hands in his. “No one would blame you for taking a step back. I saw your cousin out there, and even she looked surprised by how many people had shown up.”

“Shizune? Surprised? Now that’s definitely a rarity.” I’m trying to gently work him off the topic of giving me an out.

It doesn’t work. “Point is: it’s fine to take this ‘putting yourself out there’ thing just a little slower. So, what’ll it be? Are we going through with this, or do we bail and make good use of some private time?” Lezard rests his forehead on mine, and his warm breath wraps around my neck, sending shivers down my spine.

“Oh, so you’re tempting me with the promise of intimacy now?”

He teases my arm with a stroke of his fingers – a string of electricity rising up its length as he goes. “Is it working?”

Yes. “Nope.”

“Then I guess we’re doing this.”

“So it seems.”

“I’ll be off to play my part then.” He kisses me and backs off, reverting back to his more laid-back tone. He reaches the door and opens it. “Here’s a promise to keep you going: we will get that alone time later! I bid you adieu.” His English is terrible - and French even worse - but passable.

Fare thee well, mo daft leannan.” With that, the door closes again and I’m left to steel my nerves.


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Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery! (SS23 for Guthrum) Part 2

Post by StealthyWolf »


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The door clicks shut and I rest my forehead on the glass for a moment. Classes are over which means it’s time for my lunch. That’s really only half my day done? I shouldn’t be surprised. Christmas season has always been an intense time every year since I started here. Hell, even before Yamaku this time of year brought about all sorts of stress.

But it’s worth it.

Seeing the relief on Matsubara’s face after he realized how much easier his new wheelchair would be to navigate in - not to mention the much lighter strain on his arms - is worth the sore shoulder from helping him move back and forth so many times.

Not to mention watching the faces of some of the kids slowly get brighter and brighter as they learn to live more independently and confidently. Today’s prime example was Ikezawa. She had requested a few different skin creams and lotions to help find one that makes exercising more comfortable and I don’t think I’ve ever held a conversation half as long as that one with her.

Though sometimes these kids gaining confidence grows to a whole new level. A problematic one. Exhibit A being-

My stomach groans loud enough I almost think it echoes down the empty hall. I push off of the door and stretch. There’s plenty more paperwork and reviews and meetings before the day ends, but for now I’ll stop worrying for just a few minutes.

I start my journey out to my car and as I’m passing by the gymnasium a quite familiar voice calls out to me from inside. It’s almost like she heard my thoughts earlier. What a terrifying thought.

“Shi- I mean Nurse!” Emi quickly moves to catch up to me. Unusually, it sounds like she’s not wearing her blades.

“Ah, Sunshine. I was just-” I turn around and forget what I was going to say.

She giggles, waves, and gestures towards the auditorium. “So, you coming to watch our show or what?”

Image
Artist asked not to give links

She says that casually as if she’s not standing before me wearing what has got to be the most ridiculous outfit I’ve ever seen her in: bunny ears, what looks like just the sleeves of a black tuxedo with a red bow and some sort of thin black cape, an extraordinarily revealing latex corset, and sheer stockings. She’s even wearing matching black loafers on her prosthetics.

Somehow I manage to find my voice. “Right, there was that… some students were talking… something about a magic… and you were- … What are you wearing?”

Emi grins widely and leans to the side, letting her twin-tails hang. “Looks like I win this time.” She giggles.

I raise an eyebrow and cross my arms. “If I had known outfits were on the table I’d have busted out my-”

She rushes over and covers my mouth. “No, no, no, nopity-nope. I do not want to hear another word.” She glares directly into my eyes. I shrug, which is enough to convince her to back off of me. “It…” Emi’s cheeks flush. “… was Haruhiko’s idea.”

“What’s with the delayed embarrassed reaction?”

She grits her teeth and turns away, her face deepening a few shades. “Oh you shut it. Anyone would be embarrassed in this thing, I mean just look at it! Actually... don’t. I’m just glad he didn’t make us wear puffy little tails.”

“Yes, because that would be what was too far.”

Emi crosses her arms. “Yes. It would be.” She snatches my hand and starts dragging me along. “Now come on, let’s get to the show! I’m going on soon so I’m done handing fliers out.” Is that her excuse? The only foot traffic she’d find in that corner of the school are medical staff and students recently discharged from a check-up or visit. Hardly the most receptive audience, I’d imagine.

She’s leading me to the amphitheater. Does that mean this production was officially sponsored by the school? I don’t see how they could’ve managed that. “How did you get Principal Miyake’s approval for the costume choice?”

“Haruhiko and Lezard managed to talk Shizune into helping get the word out. She apparently went the extra mile to get us the theater and ‘other such’ approvals.” Hakamichi’s involvement explains everything. I swear that girl could get recreational drugs legalized on this campus if she wanted to.

Emi bites her cheek in a pout. “And here I was thinking she’d be the voice of reason. Well, not voice, but- anyways, we’re here!”

I expected to see a nice set of students present – I mean, I’d even heard buzz about it all day – but a turnout like this… First of all, the front section of chairs are completely full. I even see a couple students sitting on another's' lap. So right off the back we have at least a hundred students present there. Same goes for the wheel-chair accessible region and there’s extras nearby as well. About a dozen more. Beyond that, it seems no one wanted – or was rather directed not to sit further back than that so the remaining are standing in the lanes or sitting on the ground up front. Another twenty or thirty at least. That’s almost half the students at the school.

Emi pauses after entering, her eyes widening at the crowd. I retrieve my hand and ask, “Something wrong?”

“No… there’s just a lot more than last time I looked.” She shakes her head. “Anyways, I’m off to prepare for my part! Hope you like the show!” She giggles then dashes off to the side entrance leading to the backstage area.

A few students turn to glance at her as she goes, but most are distracted by the ongoing show on stage. The apparent star of the show, one Haruhiko Suzumiya, seems to be finishing up some sort of trick that involved a member of the audience. Miura glances at both sides of a card, one with some vulgar writing on it, and mouths some similar vulgarities while walking off stage.

Suzumiya gives a flashy bow, then lifts the microphone to his mouth. “For my next trick, I’m going to switch things up!” He snaps, which is surprisingly audible given the gloves he is wearing. Speaking of, the rest of his outfit is exactly as loud as his personality. It screams ‘magician’ at the top of its lungs, down to the absurdly tall top hat and cape. At least I can say Emi’s outfit matches.

After the snap, he slowly brings his finger to his mouth. “Shhhh….” He waits for the quiet buzz to go nearly silent. “Thank you. This next performance works best in near silence, so I humbly request your cooperation.” He gives another flashy bow and as he does a pair of footsteps comes from off-stage.

My immediate expectation was Emi, but that doesn’t sound like her walking. Then I’m even more shocked to see none other than Lilly Satou walk out on stage in an outfit matching Emi’s - the only major difference being her wearing heels instead of Emi’s loafers.

Her expression and posture are as composed as ever, though there’s a stiff edge to it that I’ve not seen before. There’s an immediate, loud reaction from the crowd, which even included a distinct amount of cat-calling from the feminine crowd.

The resident magician holds up has hands to draw attention back to him, then moves to zip his lips. The crowd quiets down, but not without a few people getting their last piece in. As for Satou, the cracks in her composure are definitely showing. No amount of blush could mask that level of red in her cheeks.

She’s carrying a box towards center stage, and when she gets there Suzumiya takes it from her and sets it on a chair next to him. As he does, it collapses revealing a large jug of water and a paper reading, ‘Magician’s refreshments. Caution! Heavy.’

Suzumiya quietly picks up the jug and takes a long draw from it, then sets it back down.

“Now…” The crowd interrupts him with a growing laughter as more people read the sign. He plays into it, pointing at Satou and silently shushing the crowd again which only worsens the situation for a moment. She doesn’t seem to notice anything’s off.

Suzumiya wipes fake sweat from his brow and straightens his bow-tie. “Thank you, Lilly, for bringing out the important tools…” He winks to the crowd, “...for this next trick, however your assistance will also be further required.”

He moves to grab another chair from off stage. As he walks, Satou raises an eyebrow. I don’t think she was informed of this part of the script.

With the chair in hand, Suzumiya returns and sets it next to Satou. “If you wouldn’t mind, please take a seat here.” Satou obliges.

“As many of you are well aware, not everyone present has the ability to appreciate every trick performed tonight. With that in mind, I will now call upon otherworldly spirits to move sound beyond its physical capabilities.”

He moves a few of the objects off stage, leaving just Satou and the chair she’s in. “But I’m going to need those visually capable to cooperate for this to truly work.” He moves his hands in small circles and points upwards. A moment later the lights slowly brighten throughout the room. Chatter picks up in the hall.

“Can everyone present please confirm to those unable to that there are no speakers on any of the walls or roof in the room?” Everyone’s heads twist around and scan the room. Sure enough, it seems like the few speakers that are usually present have been temporarily taken down. I had been wondering why he wasn’t using a mic.

For a couple minutes the crowd mumbles about to each other and checking for speakers everywhere they could think, including under the chairs, before Suzumiya draws them back in with another distinct snap of his fingers. “With that complete, I shall begin by snapping my fingers a few times.”

Sure enough, he lifts on hand and starts snapping it rhythmically. Each time he does, it’s loud and clear. Then he starts walking across the stage behind Satou. “If you want to participate best, I recommend closing your eyes and keeping track of my movements through sound alone. This will be our baseline.”

He reaches Satou and starts walking in a circle around her. “I will walk this same path for the remainder of this half of the performance. Starting on one end, circling around my lovely assistant,” he finishes one slow loop, “going to the other end, and back again.”

He waits until he reaches the end of the stage before turning around and retracing his steps, all the while snapping about every two seconds. “If you are ever in doubt of my location, I invite those able to open their eyes again and confirm my position on stage. In fact, I encourage it for the sake of those unable.”

When he reaches stage-left he turns and it begins, with every other snap seeming to come from the opposite end of the stage than him. With every snap he points towards where the sound is going to come from, all the while continuing the monologue about the spirits and other such nonsense.

Once he reaches the other end of the stage he switches it up again, pointing everywhere around the room as he snaps with the sound seeming to come from wherever he points every time. It’s too dark for me to make out, but nothing seems to be off about the room.

Just as the trick starts getting old, he switches things up again and starts ‘transporting’ his voice around too, though not nearly as globally as the snaps. Much like a ventriloquist, he even ‘speaks’ with his mouth closed, alongside amplifying and dampening his vocals. The final part is him repeating the snapping section while doing so close to Satou’s sides so she can feel the air from his hands move. Sure enough, the sound starts moving around again.

The cycle from earlier repeats in similar fashion as well, before another visually impaired member of the audience is invited to take Satou’s place. She seemed really relieved by that. Then comes time for the next trick. Satou takes her leave, and Emi comes onto stage.

As with Satou, there’s a chorus of cheers and such. I can’t help but sigh and shake my head. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these are still high school kids.

Instead of a box, Emi’s carrying a platter. “For my next trick, I’m going to require a volunteer.”

Immediately a whole slew of hands shoot into the air. I can’t imagine Hisao is amused. Wait, is he even here? I’d imagine he would be considering Emi’s presence. I don’t think he’s so shy as to not chew out at least a few of these far too eager volunteers.

Suzumiya scopes out the crowd. “Who to pick, who to pick…” He turns to Emi. “Any participants that catch your eye?”

She raises a finger to her chin and exaggeratedly scans the crowd as well, until she makes eye contact… with me. “Ooh! How about him!” Alright, so this was definitely a scheme.

“He looks to be the perfect volunteer!” Suzumiya agrees. A hundred pairs of vicious eyes turn their attention to me and I’m almost transported right back to secondary school myself.

I raise my hands defensively and shake my head, but it’s no use. Before I know it I’m on stage as well. “And what, might I ask, will I be helping you with?” I lean in to the extravagant nature of Suzumiya’s show. If I’m gonna be up here, I may as well have fun.

“If you may, please reveal what’s on this platter.” He gestures to Emi, dutifully holding the plate with a grin on her face.

I hover my hand over the plate. “I hope there’s nothing too exciting under here…”

Emi’s smile drops into a frown and glare, and the groans in the audience tell me I’ve succeeded. Suzumiya holds it together though. “I assure you it’s nothing so interesting. In fact…” He gestures for me to proceed.

I shrug and lift the cloche to reveal… an empty plate.

“It’s nothing!” Suzumiya gives a dramatic bow and pause. I assume he was giving time for an applause or roaring laugh that never came. Instead he got a quiet chuckle. Emi takes the cloche back from my hand as he clears his throat. “Yes, to start I’m going to need you to deposit a device of personal importance on the plate.”

“Oh my! In front of everyone? If you insist…” I turn to my adoring crowd and wink. The response is louder than what Suzumiya got, which I’ll take as a win.

“In other words…” Suzumiya’s eyebrow twitches. Looks like I’m finally getting to him! “… your phone please.”

“Ah, that. Of course…” I grab the phone in my jacket. I doubt I’ll get a call on break, so it should be fine.

As I’m about to set it on the plate, the familiar voice of the student council calls out. “Wait, wait, wait~!” Mikado and Hakamichi are standing up, though what really catches my eye is that Tezuka is seated next to Hakamichi. Anytime I’ve seen her at an event for Emi she’s been on her own, with Meiko, or more recently with Hisao.

Hakamichi starts signing, which Mikado dutifully translates, though I’m able to catch some of it on my own. “If I’m not mistaken~, that would be the phone provided by administration, correct? You’re right Shicchan! It looks like the one Mr. Mutou has!”

“I’m not sure I follow. Is that an issue?”

“Wahahaha~ Of course it is Mr. Nurse! One condition of this event is that no damage comes to any~ school property. Which of course includes your work phone! Yep~ yep. Can’t have that!” Hakamichi smirks when she says- or rather signs- ‘any school property.’

Suzumiya snaps and points to Hakamichi. “Thank you Ms. President! That’s correct, Nurse, I can not accept school property for this performance.” Was it just me or was that snap much quieter than the ones earlier during his earlier act? Hakamichi and Mikado take their seats again, looking quite proud of themselves.

I’m getting suspicious of this event’s pretense. “You’re not planning on breaking it are you?”

“Not at all!”

“Then it shouldn’t be an issue.”

“If you’d be so willing, we’d prefer not to take any risks here. I’ll ask again: might you provide a personal device?” He gestures towards the plate again, where Emi’s quietly waiting.

She raises the plate. “Come on! It’s for the show!”

I sigh. Whatever they’re planning, it seems like there’s no way around it. I return my work phone to my jacket and retrieve my personal one from my pants pocket. The second I set it on the plate Emi snaps it shut with a loud clang.

“Excellent!” Suzumiya spins back towards the crowd. “I will now procure information from his device and relay it publicly!”

“Woah, woah, woah now.” I poorly cup my hand over my mouth, then speak louder so that the crowd can hear. “If you wanted to see my personal photos you could have just asked for them!”

“Come on man!” Miura shouts from a couple rows back. “Just let him do his thing!” Her outburst gives others in the crowd confidence to shout in agreement and a few even boo me. Perhaps I overdid it this time around. I shrug, then turn to Suzumiya and invite him to move on with the show.

Wait a second, someone's missing from the stage – or more accurately, someone was replaced. Where’d Emi run off to, and why is Satou the one holding the plate now?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Come on, you gotta give me something to tell Haru! His stalling is worse than Nurse’s jokes.” I urge as I peek through the curtains nervously. Haruhiko’s ‘spirits’ are telling him Nurse’s name, height, weight… favorite work outfit? This is terrible. Worse still that only two of them were correct and one of those is plastered right on Nurse’s door.

Emi clicks onto another page on the phone. “Got it! His most recent shopping list. He mentioned liking to write down his receipts on his phone so-”

“Really?”

“What?”

“Groceries? That’s what we’re going with here?”

“It’s something, Lezard! Besides, I think-”

“Fine, fine. Just hurry up and list it off.” I pick up the walkie and beep it twice to warn Haru we’re giving something and to start preparing for it. I also take a breath to calm down. I didn’t think I’d get that weirded out by so many people checking Lilly out, but it didn’t feel good. I mean, of all people I get it. Just look at her! But… I don’t know. This is new to me.

“Ready?” Emi asks.

I peek out again to make sure Haru’s done with the showy part of the act and is listening to the paper ‘spirit radio’ on his ear. “Go.”

Emi starts reading it out and I write it down as she does. Luckily I can multi-task, so I start reading the beginning of the list slowly as I write. Haru nods thoughtfully as I go, then repeats. “His most recent shopping trip consisted of a two pound bag of rice, some nori seaweed, udon noodles, dashi soup stock, mirin, tempura shrimp, scallions, some Shichimi Togarashi, narutomaki- so you made or are making Udon soup with some onigiri?” There’s a gap as the next list starts, separate from the first as Emi noted. Good pausing point though.

Nurse crosses his arms. “It’s the plan for tonight, yes.”

It finally processes what Emi read to me a moment ago and what I wrote down. I stare, wide-eyed, at her. She shrugs and giggles, gesturing for me to continue. I sigh, then start reading again.

Haruhiko smirks. “But that’s not all you bought, is it? You also bought an array of beers… a pair of ‘play’ hand-cuffs…”

There’s a small grumble of ‘oohs’ from the crowd and Nurse steps back in shock, then turns to Haru. “Wait, what?”

Haru relents. “A tube of floral scented lubricant…” Haru is having way too much fun with this, and the crowd is eating it up.

“Now hold on a minute-” I’ve never heard Nurse sound impatient like that about anything besides someone's health. Was this too far?

Not for Haru. “And a box of-”

“Stop!” Nurse commands. We may have flown too close to the Sun here. He turns impatiently and points aggressively towards Lilly. “I was under the impression we were keeping things tame going forward and that’s a step too far for a joke, especially if my phone is really still here, Suzumiya.”

Haru feigns hurt at the suggestion that we did exactly what we did. “Are you saying we’d actually snoop through your phone in secret? Oh my… Were the spirits being truthful?”

The crowd is loving this ‘act,’ but Nurse is unimpressed. Haru shrugs it off. “Please, Lilly, would you mind showing that our dear volunteer’s phone is still in our presence?”

“Certainly.” Lilly lifts the lid from the plate, revealing a phone strikingly similar to Nurse’s. We’re lucky I had the same model as him, otherwise something like this would’ve been much riskier. Still though, we should be careful. If he gets a closer look at it, it won’t take long to fall apart.

Nurse takes in the scene for a moment, then sighs, rubbing his forehead. “Perhaps I was too aggressive there. I apologize for my earlier remarks, but I promise not to make another if you keep yours more appropriate as well.”

Haru does a flashy pose. “I believe we have found our dearly beloved Nurse’s limit, my friends.”

“Turnabout’s fair play, so long as there’s an even playing field. I just like it more when it’s a two-way street.” Nurse finally seems to find his footing again.

And Haru finally takes the hint to back off. “So you say, so you say. Very well! I’ll have the spirits only seek tame information going forward! So what will we hear next…”

“Got something?” I ask Emi.

She clicks a few times, hammering out either a search or a text. “Just a moment… aaaand sent!” She smiles. “I think we did it!” Her face turns sour. “But I kind of hope I’m wrong here… eheh…”

I raise an eyebrow. “Find a name?”

“No, but… well I just hope my memory is off is all.” She scratches her head. “Ah! We should get something ready for Haruhiko!”

“Right! Have anything?”

“Yes it's right…”

We decide to stick to more mundane things. Basic, cheap information that Emi would likely know or be able to get by following him for a couple hours, like where he went for lunch on a few days or less well known trivia.

Eventually we manage to sneak Nurse’s phone back out onto stage and if he knew something was up, he hid it well. The rest of the show plays out without much of a hitch, but I did notice the crowd slowly grew more disinterested as the acts went on. Haru may have front-loaded the event a bit too much, using his better tricks at the start like that.

The rest of us in the back are too busy helping him play out his tricks to really talk, and Hisao had to take five at one point from doing a little too much running around. But the show eventually ends and we all gather backstage after clean-up.

“You okay, Hisao?” Emi hands Hisao a cold bottle of water, then crouches over him to inspect him.

He’s been sitting on the couch with a damp cloth covering his eyes for a few minutes now. At first I was a little annoyed that he wasn’t helping finish clean-up, then I remembered hearing about him having to be taken to the Nurse’s office a few times when he first got here. Who knows what he’s dealing with.

Hisao gives a thumbs up, then sits up to drink some water. “Just a little worn out is all. Helping run a magic show like that takes more work than I expected.”

Haru bursts through the curtain. “Excellence doesn’t come easy!”

“And neither does a fraud magic show.”

“It’s only fraudulent if the audience knows the tricks!” Haru pulls a chair up to join our circle. “So, did we get results?”

“It would be nice to know that this wasn’t all for naught…” Lilly sits up. She hugs her arms and it strikes me that it is a little chilly in here. I just hadn’t noticed on account of all the moving around. I strip my jacket off and drape it around her arms, then sit next to her and pull her into a hug. She nestles into my side. Damn, she’s so adorable.

The Captain sits up. “I’m interested too. This whole thing was a lot of work to put on.”

“Well…” Emi sits on the couch next to Hisao, causing him to bounce a little. “I think I might’ve got something, but it’ll have to wait till the end of Nurse’s shift.”

“You mean you didn’t get a name?” Ryuunosuke asks.

“Nope, but he had someone saved as ‘her’ with a heart next to it so I looked at a couple messages and it seemed like it was the right person.”

Lilly frowns. “I thought we weren’t going to snoop though any private conversations.” Lilly’s influence must be rubbing off on me because even I feel a little guilty about it, though it might just be leftovers from what happened during the show.

Emi raises her hands defensively. “I wasn’t snooping! Swear! But it’s hard to send a message without seeing the most recent couple.”

“Send a message? Sounds dangerous.” Hisao’s looking a little better already. Less pale, at least.

Ryuunosuke rests his chin on his hand. “I agree. I know you’re more familiar with Nurse than us, Emi, but that might’ve been too much.”

“It’s fine guys! Seriously.” Emi steals Hisao’s jacket from the back of the couch behind him and puts it on. I must’ve inspired her. “Besides, I didn’t really have time to do much else. And it’s not like I sent anything that put him in a bad spot. I just set up a meet-up is all. When she texts back he’ll know about it too!”

“Unless he cancels after figuring out he’s been tricked.”

Emi waves Ryuunosuke off. “Nah, he’ll probably just think he forgot about sending the first message.”

“Is he really that forgetful?” I ask.

“No, but it’s not like we can shift gears this late into the game.” Emi stands up and stretches. “And we have a couple hours to kill, so I’m gonna go change.”

Hisao stands up. “I’ll come with you, since your stuff is in my room.”

I rub Lilly’s arm. “Guess we could head out too.” I kiss her cheek, and take the opportunity to whisper, “Besides, it looks like you could really go for a... carrot... right about now.”

Lilly’s lips curl into a small smile while her cheeks redden and she whispers, “That was terrible.” She clears her throat and speaks up. “I would definitely prefer having the chance to change before what seems to be the finale.”

With that, I lead by standing up and saying goodbye to everyone, then escorting Lilly back to her room. Hisao and Emi follow suit and get ready to head back to the boys’ dorms. Lilly and I head straight for the nearby exit while Emi and Hisao head towards the hall.

Emi takes a moment to turn back towards us. “And Lezard, friendly bit of advice: make sure Lilly’s sitting up straight and holding her breath when you’re undoing the corset! And yes, that means it should come off first.”

“Will do.” I lift a hand to wave back as thanks. Lilly tenses up and covers her face, but her ears betray her attempts to hide the embarrassment.

As we’re leaving Haru makes the remark, “Damn, what’s so great about fucking anyways?”

Ryuunosuke puts on a sultry voice, “Wanna find out?”

“Not really. I’ve got important things to do. Besides, there’s no one else left anyways. The Drill Sergeant Duo already left.”

“That’s not what I… you know what, never mind. I’m gonna go shower, see you at the parking lot later.”

“Okay.”

Lilly and I escape out the door just in time to hide our laughs. I really hope Emi and Hisao heard that from the other hall.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“So, you think she’ll actually show up?” I start buttoning my shirt up. I thought about putting the sweater vest on just because it’s fun to see Emi groan at its apparent ‘lameness,’ but even just the thought drains me.

Emi slips into her own shirt, then starts working on putting her legs back on. “Mom? Probably. At this point I’m like 95 percent sure that was her number.”

“And you think Nurse and her…” I let the question hang in the air. Something about saying it out-loud feels awkward. A particularly inappropriate image flashes across my mind and I have to shake my head clear of the thought. I’ll blame Haruhiko for that. Sure, it was Emi who read the list, but he’s the one who read it out loud like that.

Emi uses her left leg as a poking rod and jabs my side. “You better not be thinking weird things.”

“I’m not!”

She pouts. “That’s gross, Hisao.”

“This is on you too! You didn’t have to tell Haruhiko about the hand-cuffs.” I cross my arms defensively, but still can’t bring myself to look Emi in the eyes.

Emi giggles. “I wonder how he’d react if I asked to borrow them.”

What. “Heh?...”

Emi notices my shock and is confused for a moment, then her cheeks go red. “Ijustmeanttotryandembaresshimforourgame! Not for- I mean-” She grabs my pillow and turns it into a weapon, assaulting my side repeatedly.

“Ow, ow, ow! Hey, knock it off!” I start laughing as I try and fail to grab it between smacks.

After about the eighth hit I manage to snatch it. Emi immediately shifts gears and refocuses on putting her second leg on. “Hmph. Pervert.”

“You were the one that brought it up!”

“Not in that context!”

I laugh as I finish putting the last button on my shirt through. “Okay, okay. I’ll admit my head was probably in the gutters there, but you can’t tell you weren't thinking about it, even a little bit, either.”

Emi’s leg clicks into place and her pout deepens. “I wasn’t!” She lowers her voice almost to a whisper. “At least not until you mentioned it.”

It’s not too often I get to tease her, but I love the face she makes when I do manage to pull it off. “Hmmm? What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you, but it sounded like you were making a suggestion…”

Her focus finally shifts to me and we have a stare off for a couple seconds, then she giggles. “Maybe, maybe. I’m too pent up to think straight right now.”

“Ah… sorry.” All we ended up doing was cuddling and watching a movie to pass the time, which was really nice, but I don’t think it’s what Emi had in mind.

She stands up and stretches. “No, it’s fine! I’d rather this than you have a heart attack while inside me.”

Sheesh. She’s so direct sometimes.

Emi tilts into my vision with a devious grin plastered on her face. “Hehe, now I’m not alone!”

“You weren’t in the first place. Now come on, we should get moving to meet the others.”

“Right.” Emi starts gathering her clothes into her backpack.

“Emi?” I cross my arms.

“What?”

“Pants.”

She looks down at her bare thighs. “Right…” She digs back through her bag and I shake my head. She’s too used to running around in her gym outfit.

~ ~ ~

“He should be out here in about five minutes.” Emi says as we all peer around bushes and trees into the parking lot. Mrs. Ibarazaki’s car pulled up about two minutes ago, almost completely confirming Emi’s suspicions, but we still need to see how she and Nurse interact to say anything definitively. I think Ryuunosuke is the only other person who recognized it, though I guess that’d be hard for Lilly to do.

I feel a warm hand on my shoulder, too rough to be any of the others here. I turn to see Nurse, shushing me. Shit… Without much time to even think about it, I comply, and his teasing voice rings out from behind everyone else. “Who we waiting for?”

“Gah!” Everyone jumps back from him. He didn’t even speak loudly, and he wasn’t that close to any of them, but I guess they had no warning.

Emi practically falls into the bush in front of her, Lezard probably would’ve gone through his if Lilly wasn’t on the brink of squeezing his arm off, Ryuunosuke darts to the other side of the tree he was next to, and Haruhiko just scrambles forward on the ground for a moment.

Haruhiko quickly dusts himself off and stands up, then he points at Nurse. “Caught you!”

“No, I think I’m the one doing the catching here.” Nurse crosses his arms.

“Impossible! We were the ones investigating here.”

“Who’s to say I wasn’t doing an investigation of my own?”

“Hmm… good point. In that case, we caught each other! But our catch of you is the bigger catch.” Haruhiko nods to himself.

I head over to Emi and help her clean herself off and stand back up. She also takes a moment to catch her breath, as does nearly everyone else.

Nurse shrugs, then his eyes dart over to Emi and I. “So, what’s going on here?”

Emi clears her throat and puts on her best smile. “Not much. Just a post show decompression with everyone! Right guys?” There’s an assortment of half-hearted agreements… until we all collectively realize that Haruhiko basically already outed us. Nurse is unimpressed by the show. Emi sighs. “That’s not working, is it?”

“Nope.” Nurse rubs his forehead. “I’m going to say it safe to assume today’s entire performance was a performance of its own under this pretense.”

“What? Not at all.” Haruhiko waves it off. “It was also a test to see if my tricks were good enough to draw out an actual magician. Clearly my reliance on others was still too prominent to sneak by them so I’ll have to try harder.”

“So you’re saying you didn’t orchestrate this entire event in an attempt to get information off of my personal device?”

“Course we did.”

Emi frowns. “Yeah… I should’ve seen this coming.”

Lezard slaps his own forehead in disbelief. “We all should’ve, with him.”

“That may have been difficult for me…” Lilly laughs nervously. Silence hangs in the air. “Was that… a bad time?”

Nurse shrugs. “Eh, I thought it was a good one.”

“More importantly,” Haruhiko leans in towards Nurse, “Just come out with it! Who’s in the car? We know you have a girlfriend so you may as well just tell us who she is. My guess is Hisao’s mom. Unless you’re into guys. Then it’s Hisao’s dad.”

“More importantly,” Haruhiko leans in towards Nurse, “Just come out with it! Who’s in the car? We know you have a girlfriend so you may as well just tell us who she is. My guess is Hisao’s mom. Unless you’re into guys. Then it’s Hisao’s dad.”

“Really, dude?” I really don’t get this guy. He’s almost as bad as Kenji sometimes. Almost. “I told you to drop that.”

“Why? I still think it’s the best guess anyone came up with. It just invites all sorts of fun speculation.” He shrugs, then puts a hand on his chin. “Hmmm, actually, that might still be a student or subordinate staff member.”

“Oooh… Emi, hold me back before I kill him.”

Nurse clears his throat loudly. “Getting back on topic, there are two things I would like to ask. First: was Ms. Hakamichi aware of the real scheme behind this event?”

“No…” Lezard admits. “We convinced her to help using Lilly’s presence as a pretense.” Lilly doesn’t seem particularly happy about that detail. Lezard creeps away from her bit by bit.

Nurse nods. “Then I will be informing her of what happened here.” Damn… I doubt she’ll be happy about being used like that.

“Secondly,” Nurse’s glare is directed towards Emi, “I’m also going to assume it was you who broke into my phone. Correct?”

Emi nods sheepishly.

“We will discuss this later. As for the rest of you…” In short order Nurse lectures everyone about respect, privacy, usage of school resources, amongst other things. He even manages to get Haruhiko to quietly listen. Basically, none of us were getting out of this without some level of punishment, tailored to each individual. Somehow, despite being on clean-up duty for the gym for the next two weeks and not knowing quite yet what Shizune has in store for me, I feel most bad for Lilly. She’s going to have to directly deal with her own cousin while under her full discretion.

After what feels like eternity, he sends everyone but Emi and I on their way. After they’ve made their escape, he turns to Emi. “As for you, Sunshine,” Emi flinches under his harsh stare-down, “we’re going to go and apologize for wasting your mother’s time.”

“Kay…”

Emi starts a shameful walk towards the car. I start to follow and Nurse sighs. “I should’ve known she had my pass code.” He catches me hesitating and gestures for me to get a move on.

As we’re walking, I decide to try to earn some brownie points back. He is in charge of my meds after all… “Sorry again, Nurse. Emi was meant to just collect some info… not send a message or make up that bit about the hand cuffs.”

He stiffens up for a moment, then buries his head in his hand and sighs. “Are you under the impression that that changes much?”

“I guess… No. Not really.”

“Good. Because it doesn’t. Given our relationship, I’ll do you a favor and decide if I believe you or not later when I’m in a better mood.”

“Right.”

Emi’s already at the car, getting another harsh glare from her own mother. What were we thinking trying to even steal his phone in the first place? Wait… Is he going to tell my parents? I’d really, really prefer he didn’t, which is exactly why it’s probably going to be exactly what he does later. If he hasn’t already. Well, we’ve come this far.

May as well see it through. “So uh… you and Mrs. Ibarazaki aren’t, you know.”

He raises an eyebrow and gives me a fierce look. “When was that stated?”

“You mean-”

Nurse nods towards Emi and Mrs. Ibarazaki and I start listening in.

Mrs. Ibarazaki looks exasperated. “… keep it under wraps until the end of the school year.”

Emi bounces excitedly. “You mean you are dating!”

“Yes. But again, we’d have preferred not letting half a dozen students in on that and risking most of the school getting those details.”

“Ehehehe… Sorry…”

Mrs. Ibarazaki notices us walking up and sighs. “Honestly, the two of you could’ve just asked if you were that curious. What was the point of getting so many people involved?”

I scratch the back of my head. “That’s kinda what we were planning on doing at first… but then Ryuunosuke overheard us talking about it and we were going to try to play it off as a secret investigation. We actually tried something earlier but it failed. Nurse didn’t notice what we were doing that time. We were talking about how to try again but then Lilly and Lezard walked in on us so we had to make something up about it and… yeah, it sort of escaped us.”

“We were going to try and keep who it was a secret! But…” Emi digs the end of her prosthetic into the ground. “Yeah, I sorta forgot about that when I told everyone to meet here.”

Nurse crosses his arms. “Even before that, your idea of a secret is convincing no less than five other students to help you host an event for half the school on the promise of getting said secret?”

“It wasn’t meant to be that big of a thing!”

“That’s not what’s important here.” He rubs his eyes, probably hoping the apparent headache will be rubbed away with it. I imagine he didn’t get so lucky. “In any case; next time, just ask. Now, Ideally this won’t be the talk of the school by tomorrow, but if it is I am holding you two directly responsible for this. Now get out of here.”

“Right.” We both say in unison, not wasting a second to escape the oppressive atmosphere.

Before we’re out of ear-shot though, Mrs. Ibarazaki calls out, “And Emi-dear, I’ll be seeing you at home, tonight, right?”

Emi’s face drops. “Right…” I almost think she didn’t say it loud enough until Mrs. Ibarazaki nods, so we leave.

After we’re out of earshot and eyesight, I look over and meet Emi’s eyes. She snickers, causing me to as well. Before I know it, we’re both giggling uncontrollably at the absurdity of today.

In between breaths, I say, “...and his face when Haruhiko read the part about the hand-cuffs!”

“I know, right?! That was hilarious! Hahaha!”

I wipe a tear from my eye. “Where’d you get the idea for that from?”

“Huh?” Emi calms down.

“You know, to tease him. I thought you were just going to go for his groceries, not make up some stuff to add to it. What gave you the idea to add that in?”

Her cheeks go red. “Uh. I… didn’t. I was reading a copied receipt.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So when you said you were hoping it wasn’t your mom…”

“Yeah… it was because I saw that.”

“Right. Um… I’m just not gonna think about it too much and hope I forget I ever heard it.”

Emi starts laughing again. “Too late for that.”

I join in because unfortunately, she’s right. Hello, newest nightmare.


Victim: Guthrum06

Prompt:

Emi finds out that her mother and the nurse are secretly dating (can be set after either of her canon endings).

Wow, okay... this took a lot longer than I had anticipated. To start, I'd like to thank BristerXD for helping with editing this beast. Was nice working with you again! I'd also like to apologize to Guthrum for taking so long, so uhh... sorry! Hopefully the story was worth the wait!

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a rather large short (13k words!), and merry very belated Christmas everyone! I'll try my hardest to make sure this year's won't take nearly as long.

Notes on how the story came to be if you are interested:

As for the story itself... When I first read the prompt I had to laugh. Seems like I was fated to write another Emi story, but that works for me. She's a fun character to write! And I definitely have spent a good amount of time with her by now. As for the contents of the prompt, my initial idea was to do some sort of dark and depressing story set after Emi's bad ending. I mainly strayed from the idea because writing something dark (at the time) just didn't feel write and I was just coming off of finishing my Fluff week story "Dash and Dine." All things considered, I'm happy I strayed away from the idea because this was a fun story to write.

I knew I wanted to to something big and absurd from the beginning because I feel like I've either read or know of a few takes on this idea and wanted to make sure I wasn't sticking too close to those if I had read them. So I decided to go with some sort of big "investigation" plan that was overly-complicated and bound to fail in some capacity. I think my initial thought was something like "imagine Scooby-Doo type shenanigans without the supernatural elements." It ended up straying from that inspiration a little bit, but that's where it started. The "Plan A" referenced at the start and that Emi suggests later on is along the lines of where my mind immediately went, but I thought it felt a little too tame and boring, thus came the introduction of Haruhiko. I also knew I wanted to include a few extra characters that might not normally be expected with Emi because it created some interesting opportunities for the story and situations. Which is when Lilly came to mind (Plus I don't think there's enough Lilly content - at least that I've ran into). Everyone else came afterwards to create a cast that I though both meshed and clashed nicely.

Thanks again for reading! And I'll see you all in SS24!

My Writing:
Uncertainty (A post Emi-Good Ending Story)
My Shorts and One-shots
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Re: Stealthy's Shorts [Newest Addition: May 14th, 2024. - "Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery!"

Post by hdkv »

Oi, mate!

I think this is exactly what we needed after recent news. The live moves on, and so do we. Had a really good amount of laugh reading this. The art piece is awesome!

StealthyWolf wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 8:06 pm

I swear that girl could get recreational drugs legalized on this campus if she wanted to.

The power of Shizune. Never underestimate this girl! xD

StealthyWolf wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 8:06 pm

Lilly Satou walk out on stage in an outfit matching Emi’s

I would like to see a picture of this, to be honest.

StealthyWolf wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 8:06 pm

Emi’s leg clicks into place and her pout deepens. “I wasn’t!” She lowers her voice almost to a whisper. “At least not until you mentioned it.”

…and a picture of those two borrowing the handcuffs... Ahem.

Again, a great story, haven't had so much fun from reading something in a while. Thank you!

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guthrum06
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Re: Stealthy's Shorts [Newest Addition: May 14th, 2024. - "Haruhiko Suzumiya and the Great Ibarazaki Christmas Mystery!"

Post by guthrum06 »

I did not expect this prompt to turn into a wacky Yamaku heist story, but I'm glad it did! Thanks so much for the great story.

My FanFics
Learning to Run (Complete) - Emi x Hisao in their 30s
Yamaku: the Next Generation (Complete) - Emi and Hisao's daughter goes to Yamaku.
Oil & Vinegar - Mutou and Nurse buddy one-shot

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