"Thanks for helping out, kid. Although, you really didn't need to; you're probably tired after work today, right?"
The bearded man chuckled thankfully as the chestnut haired boy finished washing up the dishes, gently shaking his hands to dry them.
"Nonsense, Sojiro! It's the least I can do for you." Goro protested. He really meant it. He owed a lot to Sojiro, he just wished he could do more to help than bring in a little extra money and help out at Leblanc…
"Alright, alright… Have you had any dinner yet?" Sojiro conceded defeat.
"Yeah, Sae-san took me for some sushi. It was conveyor belt, but still… Oh! And I brought some back with me for Futaba!" Goro answered, pulling a small box of sushi out of his bag.
"Thanks, kid. Futaba'll really appreciate that." The bespectacled man smiled gently. Goro simply grinned back as he headed towards the door.
"Oh, right." Sojiro's voice made him stop and turn back. "That probation kid is coming tomorrow."
Goro's eyes widened. "Oh, wow, already? Do you think he'll cause any problems?"
"I dunno… He better not. Ah well… I'm not gonna get too involved so it should be fine."
"You don't think he'll cause any problems for Futaba, do you?"
"No. I'm not telling him anything about Futaba."
Goro frowned with a troubled expression. Futaba still wasn't in the best place mentally… He really didn't want a stranger barging in and making it worse. He shook those thoughts from his mind and smiled at Sojiro.
"Welp! I'm gonna go give this sushi to Futaba!"
Sojiro smiled back.
"Sure thing. Go relax for the evening, Mr. Detective Prince."
Goro wandered casually through the streets of Yongen, exchanging pleasantries with all the shop owners and housewives that greeted him. As he stepped through the front gate of the Sakura residence, his thoughts wandered back to Sojiro's announcement.
Goro didn't really know anything about them… He knew they were male. He knew they were staying in Tokyo for a year for their probation. He knew they would be attending Shujin Academy. He knew they were arrested for assault…. And that was about it.
'I just hope he's not too troublesome…' He thought to himself as he wandered upstairs. He softly knocked on the bedroom door.
"Hey, Futaba… You awake?" He asked, fully aware of how messed up the small girl's sleep schedule was.
His phone buzzed in his pocket.
He pulled it out and checked his messages.
[Futaba: Yeah, I'm awake.]
"Have you slept at all? I know that expansion for that MMO you like came out today…"
[I had a four hour nap]
"That's good to hear… So, are you doing okay?"
[More or less]
"More or less?"
[Yeah. Not great but not terrible.]
"I see… Oh, I've brought some sushi back with me. Do you want me to leave it for you outside the door?"
Goro heard a quiet groan from inside the room.
"Do you have another headache?"
"Do you want me to fetch you some painkillers?"
[That would be great, thanks.]
"No problem. But, maybe try turning the brightness of your monitors a bit? Should put less of a strain on your eyes."
[I'll do that.]
As Goro walked down the stairs, each floorboard creaking underneath his feet, he turned around and looked back at the door. The door slowly creaked open. A hand snuck out and carefully picked up the box of sushi, pulling into the room before gently shutting the door again.
A relieved smile enveloped Goro's face at the sight. He had barely seen Futaba for about a year now, so any glimpse of her was reassuring.
They had been living together for eight years now. His mother had been through a lot while she was alive… It just became too much for her to deal with… He didn't blame her for what she did. It wasn't her fault. It was the fault of the heartless bastards that ruined her life. While he was in an orphanage, a friend of his mother's had discovered his existence.
Her name was Wakaba. It turned out that both women had unfortunate relations with a scumbag by the name of Masayoshi Shido. It was thanks to this encounter that Goro discovered he had a younger sister. After Wakaba took him in, he made it his mission to be the best big brother possible. In fact, in elementary school, he was known as the kid who'd beat up anyone who insulted his sister. Life was fantastic.
And then it happened.
Goro had gone to town with Wakaba's close friend, Sojiro Sakura, who was essentially a father figure for the two teens. The two were buying everything Goro would need as he moved up into highschool. It was then that Goro had received a terrible call.
Wakaba had died.
She had flung herself in front of a car.
He couldn't believe it.
And then those men in black suits read her suicide note. The entire thing pinned the blame on Futaba. The look on her face plagued Goro to this day. He knew it wasn't real. He knew it was a load of bullshit. Instead of being consumed by grief, Goro was consumed with rage. Some monster had the audacity to defile Wakaba's memory and call her daughter a murderer… And he was going to find them. And he was going to make them pay.
The two went through hell the following few months. Being thrown from family member to family member. He knew they weren't welcome. They all thought of Futaba as the parasite that murdered Wakaba. And Goro wasn't even directly related to them. They never wanted to be lumbered with him. But he put on a brave face for Futaba. The worst was Futaba's uncle. They rarely ate. They weren't allowed to bathe. They had to sleep on the floor. They weren't even given blankets, and had to huddle together for warmth at night.
Finally, after going through all that pain, they had a saviour. Sojiro. He found out about their treatment. And he was disgusted. He did everything he could to free them from that situation, he even bribed the bastard to hand over custody. But, after a huge ordeal, they were free. Life was much better with Sojiro. It was nice to live with someone who actually cared about their well-being again. But… Futaba… She was understandably traumatized by… Well, everything really… She began suffering from hallucinations and locked herself in her room. And Sojiro and Goro had no idea how to help her… They desperately wanted to… But they just didn't know how…
Goro frowned as he fished the painkillers out of the bathroom cabinet. Was there even anything he could do to help? He felt completely useless… He couldn't do anything to help Futaba… And he couldn't do anything to repay Sojiro… His mind began wandering again as he poured a glass of water for Futaba and carried it back upstairs to her bedroom door. He carefully placed them on the floor and then knocked on the door.
"Futaba. Here's the painkillers and some water to take them with."
"Do you need anything else?"
[Nah. I'm pretty well stocked atm.]
Goro began to walk off until his phone buzzed again in his hand.
[I found some more info on Shido earlier.]
His eyes widened. The two of them had been investigating Shido ever since Wakaba died and her research disappeared. They knew he was involved. And they were determined to prove it.
"Really?! What did you find?!"
[Not a lot… Just that he took an undocumented trip to a place called Inaba about a month and a half ago. And when he came back, there were some discrepancies in various government funds.]
"Inaba…? Hmm… Why would he go to a quiet countryside town…? And how would that affect the funds…?" Goro muttered thoughtfully, placing his hand on his chin. There had to be some kind of link…
[Probably another side piece or somethin]
"That's unfortunately a rather likely scenario…"
[I'll keep looking into it. Have you found out anything about those mental shutdowns and psychotic breakdowns?]
Goro let out a tired sigh.
"Nothing much yet… But, considering the aftermath of each incident, I can't help but think that they are linked. I think someone may be inducing them for political gain… It's just a question of who and how…"
[Fight on, Feather Black…]
"Thanks for the support, Feather Green…"
An exhausted yawn escaped Goro's mouth.
"Well… I'm gonna go do some homework and then take a nap… Lemme know if you need anything, okay?"
[Kk get some rest]
Goro had somehow managed to miss the delinquent for his first two days at Leblanc. He heard him cleaning up the attic during his first evening, but he had other things he needed to do, so he didn't check. The second day, he was busy at work thanks to the terrible train accident caused by a mental shutdown while Sojiro and the delinquent were shut in traffic after visiting Shujin. But on the third morning, the delinquent's first day at Shujin, Goro finally saw him.
The chestnut haired boy was sat at the counter, enjoying his breakfast and watching the news when he heard footsteps walking down the stairs. He instinctively turned to look. He was greeted by the sight of a tall, scrawny boy.
His raven hair was fluffy and soft looking. Goro genuinely couldn't tell if it was just unkempt or if it had been styled.
His onyx eyes were hidden behind a simple pair of black large framed glasses. Although, the glasses couldn't hide the large, dark bags underneath his eyes.
His skin was almost sickly pale, creating a rather unnerving contrast against his black blazer.
His body language was extremely tense, his shoulders stiff and his foot tapping nervously against the wood flooring.
Although, the main thing that caught Goro's attention was the hint of sadness within his eyes. They looked so dull and lifeless…
This really wasn't what he was expecting at all. When he heard of a delinquent, he kind of imagined someone with dyed, spikey blonde hair, sharp hateful eyes, scars on their face, ripped clothing… Maybe he was visualising the bullies from Feathermen…
The boy's eyes widened at the sight of someone in the café before it was open.
"...H-Hello…" He mumbled, avoiding eye contact as he spoke. His voice was much deeper than Goro expected. It was also very soft and quiet… It was quite nice, actually.
"Hello." Goro pleasantly replied. Was this guy really arrested for assaulting someone? He didn't look like he could even say boo to a bedsheet…
"Sit down. I made you some breakfast." Sojiro announced, placing a plate in front of the seat next to Goro.
"O-Oh, thank you…" The boy muttered quietly as he took a seat. Goro noted the look of surprise in the boy's eyes. Was it really so shocking to be given breakfast?
"But, geez, kid… Couldn't you have at least tried to make yourself presentable for your first day?" The bearded man sighed. The boy glanced down at his uniform worriedly. "No, your uniform's fine… I'm talking about your face… I mean, look at you…"
The boy frowned down at the floor, his hair hiding his eyes.
"... Can't sleep. Too loud and too bright…"
"So, you've barely slept in three days? You should've said something!" Huffed Sojiro. God, this kid was troublesome in every way other than the way he thought he would be!
"Oh, I know how you feel… I had that problem when I first moved to Tokyo as well… You'll get used to it." Goro remarked, hoping to make this boy feel more at ease. The boy glanced up at him.
"Um… Who are you?"
Goro smiled at him.
"I'm Goro Akechi, Sojiro's adoptive son. So, you'll probably see me around here a lot. Nice to meet you." He answered, extending his hand. The boy looked down at the hand with a shy blush as he lifted his own hand and shook.
"Ren Amamiya. Nice to meet you too…"
"'Ren'... Like, the lotus flower?"
"What a pretty name."
Goro noticed that Ren was extremely polite, to the point where it was unnerving. It felt like he was a robot who only had a handful of possible responses.
"So, how do you feel about the Tokyo subway system?" He asked, remembering how daunting he found it when he moved to Tokyo. The scowl on Ren's face said everything.
"Yeah, I know the feeling… What's the subway like where you're from?"
"Don't have a subway. We mostly just walk or take the bus. Or take the train to get to the nearest city."
"Wow, you really are a country bumpkin…" Sojiro muttered as he gathered ingredients for another batch of curry.
"Where are you from?" Asked Goro.
Goro's eyes widened. Inaba! The place that bastard went! He hid his reaction. Sojiro didn't know that him and Futaba were investigating Shido and if he found out, he'd probably kill them.
"I've only briefly heard of it… Is it known for anything?" He asked as a cover.
"Steak skewers and a serial murder case." Was Ren's blunt reply. Again, Goro's eyes widened.
"O-Oh! Right, of course! They're referred to as the Inaba TV Murders, right? That was the case that flung Naoto Shirogane into the spotlight, wasn't it?" He remarked. He remembered the news stories about that. Shirogane looked so cool in his interviews…
"Yeah. That's the one."
"Right, c'mon, boys. Get a move on, you'll be late." Sojiro announced as he took the two empty plates away and placed them in the sink.
"Oh crap, that time already?! C'mon, I'll take the train with you and show you the way to the Aoyama-itchome line." Goro gasped as he glanced up at the clock.
"O-Oh, um, thank you… And thank you for the curry, Sakura-san. It was delicious."
"Yeah, thanks, Sojiro! It was as great as usual!"
"Yeah, yeah, just get going already. And can you-"
"Flip the sign? Already did it. Bye!"
The train ride was a quiet one. Goro tried to get Ren to open up, but the raven haired boy very much kept to himself. It felt as if he was scared to speak. After seeing Ren off to his required line, Goro let out a quiet yawn and began his walk to Kosei. As he wandered through the streets of Shibuya, his phone buzzed.
[Futaba: So, you've met the probation kid, huh?]
[Goro: Yeah. He seems nice… Quiet and timid, but nice.]
[Goro: He really didn't say much…]
[Futaba: He looks like a nerd]
[Goro: That's not very nice, Futaba]
[Futaba: With his height and glasses, he looks like some kinda cryptid]
[Goro: That's not very nice, Futaba…]
[Goro: But, he mentioned that he's from Inaba]
[Futaba: You think he might know something?]
[Goro: I dunno… He is just a random teenager…]
[Goro: I'm gonna try and befriend him.]
[Futaba: For info or do you genuinely wanna be friends?]
[Futaba: Awww how sweet]
[Goro: Oh shut up]
Goro stayed true to his word. Whenever he saw Ren, he'd strike up conversation. The raven haired boy seemed slightly baffled by the fact that someone actually wanted to talk to him. Goro understood why. Someone had somehow managed to leak Ren's criminal record online and now all of Shujin knew about it… And assumed the absolute worst about him. Goro had overheard a few of the rumours from some passing Shujin students as he roamed around Shibuya.
'His father is a deadbeat drunk'
'His mother is a hostess'
'He deals drugs'
'He carries a knife'
'He'll attack you if you look at him wrong'
'He murdered someone before'
These rumours were some of the most exceptionally stupid things Goro had ever heard. You were telling him that the shy boy who drops coffee cups after being startled by a loud noise on the TV and then apologises profusely for breaking them… killed somebody? Forgive him for thinking that was a complete load of bullshit.
And then the confession happened.
Suguru Kamoshida was supposedly targeted by a group named the Phantom Thieves Of Hearts. His heart was 'changed' and he confessed to everything. Abusing the volleyball team, harassing female students, silencing anyone who stood against him, attempting to expel students simply because he didn't like them.
Goro could barely make sense of what happened. Especially after learning that one of the students that was almost expelled was Ren. Goro remembered that Ren was half a day late on his first day despite leaving on time… Was it possible that Kamoshida tried to sabotage him to give him an excuse to expel him…? He wanted to investigate more but his higher ups refused. They said it was simply a coincidence. Some students playing a prank when Kamoshida's conscience caught up to him. Goro didn't believe that. Goro thought there was more to it.
It wasn't until one night where Ren slipped up that Goro realised it wasn't just Shujin that was getting Ren down.
Goro walked up into Leblanc's attic to chat to Ren again. The raven haired boy was slowly beginning to open up and Goro was eager to make more progress. But Ren wasn't there.
"Hey, Sojiro? Do you know where Ren is?" He called down.
"He went to the bathhouse." Was Sojiro's answer.
"Might as well wait for him then." Goro muttered quietly as he sat himself down on the sofa. That was when he noticed Ren's phone laying on the nearby desk.
'Leave it alone.' Goro told himself as his hand picked up the phone. Curiously got the better of him as he turned the phone on. The lockscreen was a selfie. A blond boy was holding the phone with his other arm around Ren's shoulders, grinning wildly. Ren had a small smirk on his face as his cheek was smooshed against the blond's. The cat, Morgana, that Ren had taken in after finding it abandoned was sat on top of his head, looking very cheerful. A blonde girl was stood on the other side of Ren, holding onto his arm and flashing a peace sign at the camera with a big, beaming smile.
Goro smiled. It was a relief to know that Ren did have some friends at Shujin. However that relief faded when he unlocked the phone and saw the sheer number of notifications there were for Ren's messaging app. He apprehensively clicked on it. Aside from a handful of chats and one password protective group chat…
It was completely flooded with hateful messages.
Goro couldn't believe the shit he was seeing.
[Satoshi: Can't believe I was friends with a violent psycho]
[Kaito: You're the one who should have got beaten up]
[Kiyoko: Stay in Tokyo. Never come back. No one wants you.]
[Saeko: Inaba used to be nice. Don't ruin it, you freak.]
[Asahi: You deserve to have a mental shutdown.]
Goro's blood boiled at the sight of these messages. What the fuck was wrong with these people?! What the hell made them think it was okay to say those things?!
But those weren't the worst ones.
The worst ones were from Ren's mother.
[Mum: Did you even think about the consequences?!]
[Mum: Of course you didn't!]
[Mum: You never do!]
[Mum: You're just an idiot who rushes in without thinking!]
[Mum: You've completely ruined our reputation!]
[Mum: All you had to do was do as you were told and come home!]
[Ren: But, if I did nothing, there's no telling what he might have done to that woman…]
[Mum: Am I supposed to care?]
[Mum: That has nothing to do with me.]
[Ren: What was I supposed to do? Just ignore her?]
[Mum: What part of that is so hard to understand?!]
[Mum: Forget it]
[Mum: Obviously nothing I'm saying is getting through to you]
[Mum: Don't bother coming home]
[Mum: You're not welcome in this family anymore.]
Goro gritted his teeth to hold back his rage. He couldn't help but wonder about Ren's father. If anything, that conversation hurt more.
[Ren: Dad, you believe me, right?]
[Ren: You know that I didn't do anything to that man, right?]
[Dad: You're not my son anymore.]
It suddenly made so much sense why Ren was so closed off. After receiving messages like that, it wouldn't surprise Goro if he felt as if no one wanted him around. A determined scowl appeared on his face as he pulled out his own phone.
[Goro: You have Ren's phone bugged, don't you?]
[Futaba: I would never disrespect someone's privacy like that!]
[Futaba: … Yeah, I do. Why?]
[Goro: So, you've seen all those messages he's got]
[Futaba: Yeah. Well, all of them except the password protected chat, but I'll crack it.]
[Goro: … Or you could just leave it alone?]
[Futaba: But passwords are intriiiiiguiiiiing….]
[Goro: I think we should do something to help him]
[Futaba: You mean…?]
[Goro: Let's punish those assholes]
[Futaba: I have the perfect thing!]
[Goro: Which is?]
[Futaba: A virus I cooked up]
[Futaba: It basically just completely destroys your entire phone. And if you have any other devices connected to the same wifi…. Well…]
[Futaba: Mission Start?]
[Goro: Give 'em hell, Feather Green.]
Satisfied by their plan, Goro quickly closed everything he had opened, turned the phone off and placed it back where it had been laying on the desk. To keep himself entertained, he grabbed a book Ren had bought and placed on the shelf. He figured that if he had to wait, he might as well keep himself entertained.
It only took half an hour until that familiar head of fluffy black hair appeared up the stairs.
"Hello!" Goro giggled as Ren froze in place at the sight of him.
"Sojiro told me you were at the bathhouse, so I waited for you."
Ren seemed genuinely baffled by the fact that Goro wanted to hang out with him.
"Why not? It's not my fault that you're so interesting." Goro chuckled in response. Ren's eyes widened.
"I-I'm…?" He cut himself off as he glanced off to the side as he bashfully fiddled with a tuft of hair.
"Sorry…" He mumbled.
Goro tilted his head, confused by the random apology. "What for?"
"For being so rude… You kept coming to talk to me and I kept being really dismissive and trying to get away." Ren muttered, staring down at the floor in shame. Goro shook his head.
"No, it's fine. It's completely understandable, considering everything that's gone on at Shujin. Plus, I probably came on a bit too strong… Sorry about that." Goro gave his own apology. Ren awkwardly chuckled.
"You did come on a little too strong for my liking, but I've met more forward people."
Goro chuckled back before staring at Ren with a thoughtful expression.
"Ren, could I ask you a question?"
"H-Huh? Um, sure, if you want to…"
"Are you perhaps scared of me because I'm a detective?"
The sudden tensing of Ren's body language was all the answer Goro needed.
"That's fair enough… Getting arrested must've been a traumatic experience…" The chestnut haired boy mumbled understandably. "Could I ask you something else?"
Ren frowned as he propped himself up on the banister.
"What exactly happened when you got arrested? You don't exactly seem very dangerous to me. The opposite, really…"
Ren grimaced. "I-I didn't… I didn't do-"
Goro noticed Ren's hands beginning to tremble uncontrollably. The raven haired boy tried to stop them, but to no avail. Goro stood up from his seat and walked over to Ren, taking ahold of his hands and halting the shaking. Ren looked up at him in surprise.
"Please tell me what happened. I'm willing to listen." He pleaded quietly. Ren's mouth fell open as his eyes watered up. The shock that someone actually wanted to hear his side of the story broke Goro's heart. Ren closed his eyes and took a large gulp to brace himself.
"I was walking home from practise. It was pretty dark out because we ended up staying way later than we anticipated. As I was walking through, I heard a man and a woman shouting. The man was threatening her and the woman was begging him to stop. I walked over to see what was happening and saw the man grabbing the woman's wrist and trying to force her into a car. I kinda just moved on instinct and grabbed his shoulder to try and calm me down. He swung around and tried to hit me but he was drunk so he fell over and hit his head. He said he'd sue me. A-And…"
Ren hesitated. This was obviously the part of the story that affected him most. Goro gave his hand an encouraging squeeze.
"A-And then the police came over. The man said him and the woman were having a disagreement when I came over and suddenly attacked him… And he made the woman agree with him… E-E-Everything's kinda blurry after that… I don't… I don't really remember anything after that…"
Goro frowned as he gently tugged Ren over to his bed and made him take a seat.
"That's understandable. You probably went into shock… But, it sounds to me that this man blackmailed that woman… Do you remember anything about him? Did he have any prominent features? Or did he say anything that stuck out to you?" He asked, hoping to help Ren in some way. Ren frowned as he tried to remember.
"U-Um… I don't… I don't really remember much… I mostly saw him from behind and when I did see him from the front, he had his hand on his head injury, so… I do remember that he was bald, though… And I think he had a goatee. And words… Hmm… I… I remember him telling the woman that 'the police were his bitches'..." Ren reminisced, clutching his head. Just thinking about that night gave him a terrible headache.
Goro's chest pounded. That description… It was vague, but oh so familiar… And police being his bitches… That would mean he had to be pretty influential…
"When exactly did this happen?"
"About… 2-3 months ago."
The times added up.
It was him.
Goro snarled at the thought of that bastard. Just how many damn lives had he ruined?! He took a deep breath to soothe his rage before flashing Ren a comforting smile.
"I'll see what I can find. It's clear that this man rigged the trial somehow…" He announced. Ren looked up at him in surprise.
"Y-You believe me?"
"Why wouldn't I? I'm a detective, I know a false testimony when I hear one."
Ren stared at him in shock. It was one thing for his rowdy friends to believe him, but an actual detective listening to him and believing him? It didn't feel real.
"Although, there is something else that I'm curious about…" Goro spoke up again, placing his hand on his chin.
"Oh? What is it?" Ren asked in anticipation.
"You mentioned you were at practise; what exactly did you do at your old school?" Goro asked with a smirk. Ren turned a light pink and looked away.
".... -al… -re…"
"Hm? Sorry I didn't catch that."
Ren grumbled as he flushed from pink to red.
"... Musical theatre…"
Goro couldn't help but grin at that revelation.
"Wait, why are you embarrassed about that? If you enjoy it, just do it."
"People laugh at me for it…"
Ren flushed a brighter red.
"I get a little too into it…"
"How do you mean?"
"... One time… I was cast as the villain for one of our productions… and apparently I was so convincing as a maniacal madman that I made some kids in the audience cry…"
Goro had to try his hardest to stifle his laughter. Ren flushed a much brighter red.
"What? D-Doesn't that just show that you're a great actor? You shouldn't be embarrassed, you should be proud!" The chestnut haired boy assured him. Ren frowned bashfully.
"W-Well, yeah… I suppose… But, still, I made children cry…"
"Not your fault that the kids were pussies."
This time it was Ren trying his hardest not to laugh.
"Whoa! Little harsh, don't you think?!" He gasped out in disbelief.
"What?! I'm just telling the truth! Don't hate me for being honest!" Goro defended himself. Ren couldn't hold his laughter back anymore. Tears streamed from his eyes as he clutched his stomach. He had no idea that the pleasant detective prince could be so ruthless. But, you know what?
He liked it.
Another month passed. Another Phantom Thieves incident. This time with a much more prominent target. Ichiryusai Madarame. Goro was over the moon when he and Sae Niijima were assigned to investigate the case. I mean… Phantom Thieves? Stealing hearts? Making criminals confess their crimes? It was like something straight out of a manga!
Although, he couldn't help but feeling a little jealous. He wished he had whatever power these anonymous thieves had… He'd make Shido grovel and beg for forgiveness for the rest of his life…
Futaba was excited by his assignment as well. She was fascinated by the Thieves. She was convinced that they were changing hearts by altering their targets' cognitions, but she couldn't really prove it unless she met them. Thanks to this, Goro was determined to find them. Sojiro and Ren, on the other hand, were stunned that Goro had been assigned to the case. He told them during one of Ren's brewing lessons. They both thought it was strange that they assigned a teenager to the case. Sojiro couldn't help but feel like they were mocking Goro; making a fool of him by making him work on such a ridiculous case. And Ren was worried that, because it was mostly only Goro and Sae investigating, that they'd overwork themselves and pleaded for Goro to remember to take it easy from time to time.
Speaking of Ren, him and Goro had become much closer since their conversation about Ren's arrest. If anything, they had developed a playful rivalry after Goro taught him how to play chess. The two greatly enjoyed each other's company, but they enjoyed teasing each other even more. Goro had so much hanging out with Ren now that he had really begun to open up. He wasn't the shy, timid boy he was when he first arrived. He was fun, cheeky, passionate about music, cocky at times. He had a love of terrible puns, loved trying new food, blunt with his words. He was just so much fun to be around.
Goro froze in surprise while walking through the TV studio hallways. He had heard someone speaking loudly about going to a theme park and getting some food. Who could blame him for being curious? What he hadn't expected was to see Ren standing there with his friends.
He unconsciously called out as he stared at the raven haired boy in bewilderment. Ren stared back. So did his friends. The girl seemed surprised while the boy seemed pretty hostile.
"What are you doing here?" He asked. Ren's eyes widened behind his glasses.
"Oh right… I forgot to tell you. I had a social studies trip here. For today and tomorrow." He replied nonchalantly. Goro raised his eyebrows. He genuinely couldn't tell if Ren was lying or not. He was a sneaky one…
"Wait… Aren't you Goro Akechi?! The Detective Prince?!" The blonde girl asked in surprise as she recognised Goro's face.
"Seriously?! How the hell do you know someone like that?!" The bleached haired boy demanded an answer from Ren.
"He's the son of the guy who took me in." Was Ren's blunt reply.
"So, school trip? You enjoy it today?" Goro awkwardly spoke up, plastering his charismatic Prince smile onto his face. The two blondes grimaced.
"Some creep hit on Ann and then forced me and Ryuji to carry some heavy ass cables for him." Ren answered with a disgruntled expression. Goro couldn't help but wince at that news.
"Oh god… Do you have any idea who he was?" He asked.
"Yeah, he gave me his business card after telling me I had the 'slamming bod' he was looking for for a model shoot." Ann huffed, pulling the crumpled up business card out of her bag. Goro took it from her and looked at the name.
"Ah… I know this guy… Don't worry, I'll sort him out." He assured them as he slid the business card into his pocket.
"How?" Ryuji scoffed dismissively.
"Let's just say… I have some influence around here." He answered, flashing his signature smile. Ann's eyes widened, Ryuji grimaced anxiously and Ren. Ren was completely unaffected.
"Dude… Your smile is sweet but your words are bitter as hell…" The punkish boy mumbled.
"You get used to it. Welp, anyways, I wanna ride rollercoasters, let's get moving." Ren changed the subject, childishly grabbing onto Ryuji's shoulders and playfully pushing him.
"Wha-? Dude, chill!"
"Nooooo, I've never been to a real theme park beforeeeee" Ren whined.
"Really?" Asked Ann and Goro in unison.
"For real? There ain't one in your hometown?"
"The main hangout spot for kids our age there is Junes; what do you think?" Retorted Ren with an unimpressed expression.
"Wow, okay, point taken."
"Well then, I'll let you guys have fun. I've got a briefing to attend. What are you doing here tomorrow?" Goro asked as he began to excuse himself.
"We're gonna be the audience for a recording of an interview." Ann informed him.
"Oh! Well then, I'll see you tomorrow!" Goro chuckled excitedly.
"What…?" Ryuji growled. It seemed that he had taken a dislike towards Goro for some reason.
"Wait, are you-?"
"The person being interviewed? Yes, yes I am." Goro smirked at Ren.
"Oh goodie." Ren huffed in response, rolling his eyes with an exasperated grin.
"No need to jump for joy. Well then, it was lovely to meet the two of you, I'll see you tomorrow. And Ren, I'll see you at home, save some curry for me." Goro snickered as he began walking away, waving at the trio.
"Nah, I'm gonna eat your share." Ren shot back as they began walking in the opposite direction.
"You are insufferable."
As Goro turned the corner, his phone buzzed in his pocket.
[Futaba: Damn, he got you whipped, huh?]
Goro's brow furrowed in confusion.
[Goro: What in the goddamn are you talking about?]
[Futaba: Oh, you know ;)]
[Goro: No, I don't. What do you mean?]
[Futaba: I mean you want dat ass ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)]
[Goro: DON'T BE STUPID]
[Goro: Futaba, I've only known him a couple of months!]
[Goro: I just enjoy his presence, that's all]
[Goro: He's an interesting rival]
[Goro: I'm being serious!]
[Goro: There's nothing going on!]
[Goro: I wouldn't feel like that!]
[Futaba: Methinks the man doth protest too much…]
[Futaba: (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)]
[Goro: I'm not!]
[Futaba: Mmhm, yeah, sure]
[Futaba: K game downloaded later twink]
[Goro: STOP CALLING ME A TWINK]
[Futaba: Stop being a twink then]
Goro shoved his phone back into his pocket as he tried his best to ignore the sudden heat in his cheeks.
Goro let out an exasperated sigh as he sat down in the break room of the TV studio. He couldn't believe Ren. That crafty lil asshole actually told him to his face that he sucked at his job ON NATIONAL TV. He had guts, Goro gave him that. But he knew that Ren didn't have any malicious intent and, in a way, he was right. The Thieves did do more than the police in those cases. He shook his head with an amused smile on his face as he ate the lunch that Sojiro had made for him. Sure, it was the afternoon, but it was the first chance he'd had all day to eat. As he munched on his food, his phone buzzed once again. He frowned when he saw who it was.
'She better not call me a twink again…' He thought, opening the chat.
[Futaba sent an image]
[Futaba: Whomst the fuck?]
Goro opened the image to find a screenshot from the camera Futaba had installed in Leblanc's attic. It was Ren, his cat, his two friends from Shujin and another person sat together, eating a hot pot.
[Goro: The two blondes are Ren's friends. If I remember correctly, he told me that the boy is Ryuji and the girl is Ann.]
[Futaba: Then who the hell's string bean?]
[Goro: How should I know?]
[Futaba: He's got a Kosei uniform. You go to Kosei. Figure it out, Ace Detective]
[Goro: The image quality's shit. How the hell am I supposed to figure it out?]
[Futaba sent an image]
[Futaba: There. Solve it, bitch.]
Goro frowned in confusion as he recognised the boy in the image.
[Goro: That's Yusuke Kitagawa…]
[Goro: He's a second year at Kosei and was a pupil of Madarame…]
[Goro: How does he know Ren…?]
[Futaba: Hey, yeah…]
[Futaba: They seem pretty buddy-buddy, huh?]
[Futaba: Wonder how they met?]
Goro scowled as he looked at the photo again. Yusuke did seem to be sitting rather close to Ren… Goro's scowl grew larger. He felt a strange twinge in his chest.
[Goro: I don't know.]
[Futaba: Oh my god, you're jealous, aren't you?]
[Goro: I'm not jealous.]
[Futaba: You are.]
[Goro: I'm not.]
[Futaba: You obviously are]
[Goro: Don't be ridiculous.]
[Goro: Ren is allowed to have friends, you know.]
[Futaba: Yeah. Don't mean you're suddenly immune to jealousy.]
[Goro: Why the hell would I be jealous?]
[Futaba: You know why.]
[Goro: Not this shit again…]
[Futaba: You right now - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ee86DRxtHU]
[Goro: OH FUCK YOU]
[Goro: STOP IT]
[Futaba: Stop being such a tsundere~~~~]
"Akechi-san? Sorry, but we need you, could you come to the briefing room in a few minutes?" A tired woman asked, poking her head around the door.
"H-Huh?! Oh, um, yes, of course. Just… Give me a few minutes." He hurriedly responded.
[Goro: I have to go.]
[Goro: And stop spying on Ren and his friends, it's creepy]
[Futaba: You know I'm riiiiiiiiiiight~ ( ˘ ³˘)♥]
Goro let out a flustered groan as he hid his face in his hands. He frowned down at his bag as he tried to rearrange his thoughts. And he hated it. Because in the end, he had to admit it.
Futaba was right.
A couple of weeks later, Goro had noticed Ren acting a little strangely. He seemed kind of… on edge. And quite tired. It was when he came home and was anxiously glancing over his shoulder that Goro finally put his foot down.
"Okay. What the hell is going on with you?" He asked while the café was empty, slamming his hand towel onto the counter.
"What are you talking about?" Ren played dumb as he glanced behind him out the corner of his eye again.
"We're not stupid, kid. It's obvious something's bothering you. I mean, look at you: it's clearly keeping you up at night." Sojiro spoke up, backing Goro. Ren frowned as he looked down at the floor.
"It's nothing… Just someone from school keeps following me…" The raven haired boy muttered quietly. The other two raised their eyebrows in surprise.
"They keep following you?" Goro repeated anxiously.
"Yeah… At first, they kept following me at school, during break and lunch and whenever I had stuff to do after lessons had ended for the day… But, now I keep seeing them trailing after me in Shibuya…" Ren explained, rubbing his tired eyes.
"Have you confronted them about this?" Asked Sojiro, crossing his arms.
"Yeah, but whenever I ask them, they just say that they were so absorbed in their book that they didn't realise where they were going…" Ren mumbled.
"Don't sound like much of an actor…" Muttered Sojiro with an unimpressed expression.
"Have you told anyone about this?" Goro enquired nervously.
"Who do you think people are gonna believe: the student council president or the delinquent on probation?" Ren sighed dishearteningly. Goro's eyes widened at that revelation.
"Wait, the person stalking you is Shujin's student council president?" Sojiro asked in confusion.
'Sae-san's sister…?' Goro pondered to himself.
"I-I wouldn't really call it stalking…"
'I would.' Goro bitterly thought.
"Wh- Did you do something?" Sojiro asked, trying to make sense of the situation.
"No. I-I don't think I did, anyway…"
"Well, even if you did do something, constantly following you is way out of line…" Sojiro huffed, scratching the back of his neck. Ren remained silent. He was just so tired… Goro glanced off to the side as he tried to figure out what could possibly be going on. Why on earth would Niijima-san…?
Ren sighed as he lifted his glasses from his face. "I'm gonna go take a nap…"
"Sure thing, kid. You look like you could use some rest." Sojiro agreed as Ren trudged sluggishly upstairs. After the raven haired boy had disappeared from their sight, Sojiro let out a long sigh. "The hell has that kid got himself into now?"
Goro sighed back in response. "At this point? I don't think even he knows…"
The chestnut haired boy stretched his back contentedly as he wandered through the college hallways. He enjoyed learning about all of the available courses and the details of everything he needed to know. Now all he had to do was ace his entrance exams at the beginning of next year. But he was confident, so that wasn't much of an issue. Turning a corner, he noticed a familiar brunette. He hadn't properly met her before, only brief encounters when she brought spare clothes for Sae and the like. The sight of her reminded him of the conversation in Leblanc a few days ago. He couldn't help but approach.
"You're Sae-san's younger sister, aren't you? May I talk to you for a moment?" He called out to her with his polite detective prince persona on full display. The brunette turned around curiously.
"Is it about the Phantom Thieves… Akechi-kun?" She shot back, seeming a little hostile.
Phantom Thieves…? Why would he talk to her about-? Oh right, she was the student council president of the school they debuted in… Well, might as well play along.
"... You're quite perceptive. I was wondering if there were any points in common between the Kamoshida and Madarame cases. There have been victims, after all. The Phantom Thieves must be pursued." He remarked on the spot. Thank god he asked Ren to give him some pointers in acting… Sure, he only asked to get Ren to open up, but damn that lesson came in handy.
"You criticize the Phantom Thieves, and yet you don't doubt their actual existence." Makoto commented, seemingly trying to catch Goro off his game. He simply smiled back. She was gonna have to try a lot harder than that… He already had a much more shrewd rival.
"Oh, you saw that show on TV." He giggled with his usual princely smile. "Common sense can get in the way at times when pursuing the truth. Many details become logical if I think on the basis that they do exist."
A tense scowl appeared on Makoto's face at that explanation. "Is this… because my sister told you to do so?"
"It was just a coincidence." Goro pleasantly replied.
"Why do I get the feeling that you're enjoying this?" Makoto enquired, her scowl growing larger.
"... You may be right." Goro giggled sweetly.
"Phantom Thieves that use calling cards and succeed in their crime… As the so-called 'Charismatic Detective' it'd be hard for me not to see them as my rival." He remarked with an amused laugh.
"You have such high self esteem." Scoffed Makoto, seemingly a little irritated by Goro's bragging. "So the Phantom Thieves are evil and you are just?"
"Compared to people who manipulate others' hearts as they see fit, I believe that I'm on the side of justice." Goro smoothly lied. In all honesty, he didn't think he was much different from them. He desperately wanted that power for himself. If it meant that he could protect Futaba and make Shido grovel for forgiveness for stealing his mother from him, he'd happily manipulate anyone's heart. "Besides, I'm only using my natural-born talents for the sake of serving this world. Don't you think the same about yourself too?"
The chestnut haired detective watched Makoto very closely, anticipating her reaction. The brunette grimaced slightly as she averted her gaze, staring down at the tiled floor.
"...Oh, that's surprising. So, you're just the good girl type of pushover." He hummed thoughtfully. He genuinely hadn't expected that. She seemed so feisty at first, but now… Hm. That was disappointing. He figured he might as well mention what he actually wanted to talk about.
"Besides… I don't think stalking someone is very becoming of an honor student, wouldn't you agree?" He spat, dropping his princely facade for a few seconds and looking down on Makoto with disdain. She couldn't form any words. She simply stared at Goro in shock as he casually pulled his phone out and checked the time.
"... Looks like it's starting soon." He remarked. Finally, the presentation he'd been waiting for. "See you later. Give Sae-san my regards." He politely excused himself with his princely smile plastered back onto his face. He didn't even bother to look back at Makoto as he walked down the hallway towards his required lecture hall. As per usual, his phone buzzed in his hand. He checked to find the usual suspect.
[Futaba: Damn, dude, you didn't have to drag her so hard]
[Goro: She's been stalking Ren and causing him visible discomfort.]
[Goro: Excuse me for not thinking too highly of her.]
[Futaba: Well, yeah, I get that. Following someone around is pretty dang creepy]
[Goro: And watching them on hidden cameras isn't?]
[Futaba: B u t]
[Futaba: Was it really necessary for you to logic chess her into a corner?]
[Futaba: Mmmm, don't think it was.]
[Goro: It was entirely necessary.]
[Futaba: You sure you're not a sadist?]
[Goro: … I really wish you would stop calling me these things…]
[Goro: And actually, you know what? I really wish you'd stop listening in on my conversations.]
[Futaba: Hmm nah]
[Futaba: That's boring.]
[Goro: You're really annoying sometimes, you know that?]
[Futaba: I'm your sister. That's my job.]
[Goro: Fair enough…]
[Goro: I'm heading into a lecture now.]
[Goro: Gonna have to put my phone on silent.]
[Goro: I'll stop in at that bakery I like and bring back some donuts for you when I'm done for the day, okay?]
[Futaba: D O N U T S]
[Goro: I'll take that as a yes.]
[Goro: See you later.]
[Futaba: Later!! ⊂((・▽・))⊃]
An exhausted huff left Goro's mouth as he exited Yongen-Jaya station and began walking through the streets towards Leblanc.
The Phantom Thieves had struck again. This time their target was the Mafia boss, Junya Kaneshiro. Goro couldn't believe it. The police force had been trying to track him down for months, and yet the Phantom Thieves took him down as if it were nothing. He'd be lying if he said that he wasn't impressed… But he was pretty irritated as well. It made him feel a little incompetent. Now, people were beginning to criticize the police. Thanks to that, Goro had to work a lot more shifts the past week… Sojiro had threatened to complain to Goro's higher-ups. The bearded man hated seeing Goro come staggering home late at night, half asleep as he announced he had homework he needed to do.
It didn't help that Futaba's hallucinations had started getting worse again. Goro barely got any sleep because he was too busy worrying about Futaba. He desperately wanted to help her, but what could he do? He couldn't see or hear what she kept experiencing, so he couldn't really understand what she was going through. Not to mention, she still wasn't coming out of her room… Nowadays, it was only Sojiro who was very occasionally allowed inside. And on especially bad days? Futaba wouldn't even text anyone. The idea of her being completely alone, trapped in the hell that no one else could see made Goro feel sick. He still sent her texts throughout the day to let her know that he was there for her. But… still… He was worried that maybe she might feel like he was more concerned with work than her...
Luckily, he had managed to snag a shorter shift today.
"Hey, Sojiro… Can I have some curry? I'm starving…" He muttered as he entered Leblanc. He looked up to see that Sojiro wasn't there. Instead, Ren was sat at one of the booths with Ryuji, Ann, Yusuke and… Makoto? What? Why? Goro couldn't hide his confusion at the brunette's presence in Leblanc. Ren stood up from his seat next to Ryuji.
"Sojiro had to go somewhere after getting a phone call. He said he'd be back soon, but that was a couple of hours ago… But, I made a pretty good batch of curry earlier! So, yeah, you can have some curry!" He informed Goro with a cheery smile as he made his way over the café's kitchen.
'That'll be Futaba again…' Goro thought to himself. This had happened enough times for him to know instantly. It was practically a routine at this point.
"You look tired. Been busy?" Asked Ann, casually leaning on her elbows.
Goro let out an irritated sigh.
"I understand that the police force are irritated by the Phantom Thieves making them look like fools, but the fact that they're relying on me to clean up their mess is just plain embarrassing…" He muttered as he followed Ren into the kitchen.
"Pfft, maybe if they weren't so useless, the Phantom Thieves wouldn't have made 'em look stupid." Ryuji scoffed in amusement as he leaned back in his seat.
"True enough… Anyway, what are all of you doing?" Goro asked as he watched Ren pull a plate out of one of the cupboards. The two blondes huffed dejectedly.
"Studying for exams…" They informed him in unison. Goro glanced over at Yusuke in confusion.
"But, Kosei have already finished their exams for this term?"
"There's no harm in going over everything again." Yusuke bluntly responded. It didn't really seem like he was completely tuned into the conversation. Goro decided it was best to drop it. He shuffled into the kitchen, next to Ren.
"Hey." He whispered, tapping Ren's shoulder as he positioned himself out of the group's line of sight.
"What?" Asked Ren, glancing at Goro over his shoulder as he scooped curry onto the plate.
"Why is she here?" Goro asked in a hushed tone.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb! Why are you hanging out with the person that stalked you?!" Goro hissed under his breath.
"That was just a misunderstanding…"
"I don't understand how something like that could be 'just a misunderstanding'."
"We… just had the wrong ideas about each other."
"Be that as it may, you were obviously really freaked out by her following you around! How the hell can you go from that to being buddies?! I don't understand…"
Ren frowned as he tried to think of a way to explain.
"It… It was really awkward and uncomfortable at first… But we're working through our differences and setting them aside." Was what he eventually said. Goro stared at him with a baffled scowl. Just what the hell was that supposed to mean?! He let out a stressed sigh as he pushed his hair back.
"... Fine. If that's what you wanna do about it… But, if she ever does anything like that again, let me know, okay?" He requested. He couldn't help but feel a little protective of Ren. He frowned as Futaba's teasing echoed through his head. Ren smirked at him.
"I thought you were a detective not a bodyguard." He teased as he dumped a final scoop of rice onto the plate and placed it on the counter. Goro rolled his eyes and grabbed Ren's hand.
"Let me know, okay?" He pleaded, trying his best to ignore the pounding in his chest. Ren looked down at their intertwined hands in surprise before looking up at Goro's face, making eye contact. The serious spark in Goro's eyes caught him off guard. The raven haired boy smiled softly as he gently released his hand from Goro's grasp.
"Okay." He quietly agreed before grabbing a spoon and placing it onto the plate. Goro smiled back at him, relieved that he felt comfortable enough to accept Goro's help.
"Do you wanna join our study group? I think Makoto's getting bored of babysitting us." Ren asked as he handed the plate of curry to Goro and returned to the booth.
"Well, maybe I wouldn't mind so much if Ryuji stopped complaining and actually focused…" Sighed Makoto, taking a sip of her drink.
"Ain't my fault! When are we ever gonna need algebra?!" Ryuji huffed back, balancing his pen on his upper lip.
"Might as well, I suppose. Looks like you could use all the help you can get!" Goro replied with an amused giggle. He exited the kitchen and sat himself down next to Ren. After placing his dinner down, he opened his bag and pulled out his textbooks.
"So, who needs help with what?"
"Everything but English…"
"I'm doing rather well, it's simply Math and Physics that I struggle with."
"Basically anything involving numbers… I'm good with Literature and Music, though."
"I'm good with everything. I just need to revise them."
Goro raised an eyebrow as he leaned over to his fellow tutor.
"I'm getting the impression that we may need to focus on math, for the time being…"
Makoto sighed as she flicked through her math textbook.
"You do seem to get that idea, don't you…?"
"Hey, we can't help being stupid…" Muttered Ren as he scowled at the equations mocking him.
Goro chuckled as he opened up his maths textbook and pulled out his pencil case. Before making a start on teaching the second years, he pulled out his phone and sent a quick text.
[Goro: Hey, Futaba. Just letting you know that I'm home.]
[Goro: Well, I'm at Leblanc and I probably won't be back at actual home for a couple of hours because I'm studying with friends.]
[Goro: But, I'm here. And if you need anything, let me know, okay? I'm always here for you.]
[Goro: See you later. I love you.]
He locked his phone, figuring that he probably wasn't going to get a response. He hadn't really spoken to Futaba for about a week now… He'd heard her freaking out and spoke to her in an attempt to ground her, but he never really got a response. He just hoped that all of his unanswered messages were getting through to her.
However, what he didn't know was that this time Futaba wasn't responding because, just a few minutes before Goro had entered Leblanc, she had made a rather interesting discovery.
Goro hummed happily to himself as he scrubbed the dishes in the sink, listening to TV while Sojiro collected the payment from the customers who had just left.
"You sure you want to help out around here on your day off?" The bearded man asked as he placed the money in the cash register.
"Yeah, I'm sure! Besides, I haven't really been able to see much of you lately, so now we can actually chat." Goro cheerfully replied. He had finally been given a day off from detective work and, since his school didn't know that he had the day off, he figured he wouldn't tell them and use the chance to catch up on some much needed sleep. And once he had woken up and checked on Futaba, receiving no reply, he decided to help Sojiro at Leblanc.
"You can be real adorable sometimes, you know that, kid?" Chuckled Sojiro with a touched smile.
"I'm always adorable."
"Uh-huh, you keep telling yourself that."
"And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing at all. Keep scrubbing those dishes."
"Fine, fine…" Goro chuckled as he placed another mug onto the drying rack.
"God, two hours for just one cup of coffee…" Huffed Sojiro as he thought back to the recently left customers.
"They sure do love to chat." Goro replied with an amused smirk.
"You seem to get on pretty well with 'em." The bearded man remarked, wandering back into the kitchen to check on the new batch of curry that was cooking away.
"We have similar tastes in books. It's quite fun discussing all those twists in our favourite murder mystery novels… And tearing apart the awful ones." Goro explained. He did enjoy those conversations. That reminded him: there was a new novel by that author he loved being released soon…
"Well, as long as you're having fun…" Chuckled Sojiro softly as he picked up his wordsearch. The two of them quietly continued their tasks, listening to the TV but not really paying attention to what was being said. Until the bell rang.
"I'm back." Ren quietly announced, shutting the door behind him.
"Welcome back." Goro pleasantly replied, not turning around as he continued washing the dishes. There were a lot to get through, thanks to an unexpectedly large lunch rush.
"What? You look like you wanna say something." Sojiro asked, still a little irritated that Ren had walked in on his disagreement with Sae. He still hadn't told Goro about that incident, he knew that the chestnut haired boy would not take it well.
The room fell silent, aside from the buzz of the TV and soft splashing as Goro washed the dishes. Ren frowned curiously as he looked Sojiro dead in the eyes. And then said a sentence neither Sojiro nor Goro ever anticipated.
"Who is Futaba Sakura?"