Chapter 28: True character

“I’m sorry for disturbing you…”

“No… I’m sorry too for complimenting you at a rather odd time.”

“N-No! I just wasn’t ready for it! I’d rather you say you’re always welcome… to say more…”

It was a funny conversation, and gradually we both started to laugh uncontrollably.

“Fufu, it’s so much fun talking to Haruyuki-kun like this, but… the rice is going to get cold at this rate, so let’s have dinner soon.”

“Ah, it’s been smelling good since a while ago, and I’m really looking forward to today, too.”

“… U-Um, Haruyuki-kun, what happened to you today, saying things like you’re looking forward to it?”

I wanted to say nothing and the same thing as always, but I was aware I was being more honest than usual.

Perhaps it was because I was aware of my feelings for Tojo-san.

I had never thought about it clearly, but I chose to have the one-month trial period and did not quit my part-time job because I was probably planning to reject her marriage proposal at the time.

But now that those thoughts have started to disappear and I’ve started to feel happy about the time I spend with Tojo-san, I think I’ve finally become able to interact with her in a positive way, without any strings attached.

By being in contact with her, the time that had stopped was moving, or I became more emotional. 

The more I think about it, the more embarrassing it feels, but it is now a clear fact for me.

“You see, I… think that Tojo-san is…”

I was about to utter something when I was startled by the front door opening.

What jumped in with the sound of footsteps walking down the corridor was Hino-san with a more serious expression on her face than usual.

“Asahi? What’s wrong? It should already be past your working hours…”

“Sorry to interrupt while you were in the middle of something.
We detected a suspicious signal just before the end of the shift, and I’d like some time to investigate.”

“Suspicious signals? Please do.”

“Please leave it to me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Somehow, in spite of my being surprised, she began to grope my body.

“Ha⁉ Ah, um…!”

“Asahi⁉ Touching Haruyuki-kun’s body so carelessly…! Even I still need the courage to touch him up front!”

In direct contrast to my flustered, red-faced face, Hino-san’s face was so stern that I was afraid to look at her.

As soon as I saw that, the shame disappeared from me, and before I knew it, I just silently surrendered myself to her.

“… This is…”

For some reason, Hino-san took out her favourite handkerchief from my pocket.

“Um, that’s the one I usually use.”

“I know what it is.
It’s just that…”

She put her nose close to it, and for some reason, Hino-san smelled the handkerchief. 

Then, with a squeaky crease between her eyebrows, she put the handkerchief back in my hand.

“Slight scent of vanilla… probably tobacco.”

“P-Please wait! I don’t smoke.”

“I know that.
Did you lend this handkerchief to anyone?”

“Ah, aah… I dropped it today in a coffee shop and had another customer pick it up.”

“Can you describe this person?”

“Well, he wore glasses, had a relatively childlike face and… he didn’t leave much of an impression as he was elusive, or rather, my memory of him is already starting to fade a bit, so I can’t tell you exactly how he looked.”

“… I understand.
That’s all.”

Hino-san reached into my pocket once more, where a handkerchief had been, and pulled something black out of it, about the size of a ballpoint pen cap.

I couldn’t hide my confusion as something completely unrecognizable came out of my own pocket.

“It’s the latest in miniature eavesdropping devices.
It doesn’t have a long-lasting battery, but if it is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, even at this size, it can deliver highly accurate audio to the big-brain device.”

At the same time, Hino-san took out a case-like object similar to a capsule from her pocket, which she called a small eavesdropping device, and stored it away.

“This is a metal capsule made to block Wi-Fi and normal radio waves.
As long as we keep the device inside, we don’t have to worry about anyone eavesdropping on us.”

“Why….
would I have such a thing… I have no idea what it is—”

I brought in such a dangerous thing as a wiretap.

If Hino-san hadn’t noticed, I might have leaked something important while talking to Tojo-san.

Perhaps sensing my confusion, Tojo-san, who had silently waited by my side until then, gently held my hand to reassure me.

“It’s all right, Haruyuki-kun.
You’re not responsible for it.”

“B-But…”

“I already know who did it.”

Tojo-san’s voice became low and cold, unimaginable from her usual appearance.

“Fuyuki-sama… an elusive childish face and the scent of vanilla-flavoured cigarettes; it’s definitely that man.”

“Yes, he finally made contact, but I didn’t expect him to focus on Haruyuki-kun instead of me.”

I had no idea what they were talking about.

Tojo-san took out her phone and opened a folder of photos.

She then selected a photo showing one man and turned the screen towards me.

“Isn’t this man the one who approached Haruyuki-kun?”

It was a man in a suit with glasses and a childlike face on the screen.

His hair was neat, and he had a carefree smile, giving off a completely different impression, but he was definitely the man who had picked up my handkerchief at the coffee shop.

“Ah, this is him.”

“Is it as I thought? That man could do that easily.”

“Who in the world… is he?”

“… If possible, I would have preferred to solve the problem without telling Haruyuki-kun.”

Tojo-san, her face downcast with an apologetic look, tightened her grip on my hand a little.

I dared not respond but silently urged her onwards.

“… He was an excellent employee of my father’s company.”

“Eh…?”

“Kosuke Kadokura, my father’s former secretary, and…”

Tojo-san stifled her voice once and barely managed to continue speaking.

“He was my secretary before Asahi joined the company.”

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