TRC – Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1.

An imaging gem flashed as it began to record a full magical image of the murder scene. It was a gruesome sight: a mauled body hastily hidden behind a fern tree that had once been planted just off of the paved road to the Island’s one and only school building.

The dump site was about twenty minutes from the port town of Egg Roost, placing this smack dab in the middle of no where on this small island in the larger equatorial chain. And to add to the scene’s eerie state, it was raining.

Typical.

Not so typical was the fact that the dead body would occasionally spasm in the rain, causing steam to briefly flare up where rain contacted the surface of the remains.

“Gotta love magic,” Detective Kana Mayoi mused before she took a sip of her early morning coffee. Her orange scaled wings were already flexing slightly as the familiar taste of the sleep-chasing liquid went down her throat. It was a familiar sensation to accompany a familiar sight. The dark blue uniforms that she and her partner wore spoke to everyone of their shared profession, that they were members of the Mystryal Detective Agency.

Yes, Kana Mayoi was very much used to the odd hours that came from working cases such as these. The coffee was a familiar friend- a friendly face in a constant sea of changing locals and suspects.

“Yeah,” Detective Ranagi Kaie agreed as he waited for the all-clear to step onto the scene, “It’s something alright.” His grey-violet eyes glanced over to the Imp girl managing the imaging gem, “You sure we should be letting the kids handle this part?”

For a moment, she cast him a side eyed glance that, if he’d been looking at her, would have been read as ‘are you kidding me?’ A roll of the eyes and a slight shake of the head followed that as she realized that no, her partner was just in one of his moods again. “You’re the one who says they’re never going to learn how to do it right if we don’t let them get any experience,” Mayoi finally replied with a friendly smirk, which he once again missed seeing. “Mika’n is doing a good job so far.”

“Miss Yuki,” Kaie corrected the casual nick-name usage, “isn’t who I’m worried about.” No, his concern was focused on the hyper active Lycan girl with an eagerly wagging tail who was presently following the dark-haired Imp around, as it had been since he’d started talking to her a few moments ago.

Detective Kaie’s stares could be mistaken for something untoward if Mayoi didn’t, and hadn’t known him better for a good seventeen years now. Didn’t know how one parent’s concern for their kid could be shifted over to another.

“Aya?” Mayoi asked, frowning slightly. “C’mon, Kaie, she’s fine.”

“She almost came to the waygate naked, and even now she’s missing her uniform sleeves, and we’re standing in the rain.” Kaie countered. “Why are you letting her get away with stuff like that, again?” And yet again, the scowl on his face told a different story to those that didn’t know him. “You’re the one who took her in, Kana. Why aren’t you more concerned for her safety and well-being?”

“Because I know how to separate my feelings as a detective from my feelings as a parent. Which is why you’re worrying too much about Kendal through Aya,” Mayoi smirked. “The pup’s stronger than she looks. She’s a Lycan for crying out loud, and you know how her sister raised her before I took her in. She’s fine with a bit of rain.” She then clipped his arm with one of her wings for a bit of teasing, “Eh, unless maybe you’re ashamed to admit that you’re hoping Kendal-?”

“Why do I even put up with conversations like these?” Kaie interrupted, finally looking away to scowl at his partner. “You’re insufferable as always.”

“You put up with it because we both went to the top detective school in the world,” Mayoi explained, grinning the entire time. “And we both graduated top of our classes. We’ve got the highest cleared case rate of this last year, too!”

“And all that’s because of-” Kaie was interrupted as the dark-haired Imp girl called the all-clear. Mikari Yuki, an elf of the Imp orientation, was in her Second Year of the academy, making her 18. Unlike the other two students, she didn’t seem to have any real exceptional talent beyond making up wild theories. At first, Kaie couldn’t figure out why Mayoi kept on enlisting the girl for internship cases, given how poorly her grades were in the Academy’s tests. But even so, he couldn’t deny that, in the field where it counted the most, some of their more recent cases never would have been solved if not for her wild theories… or Ayako acting on them on impulse and discovering something even stranger than Mikari’s theory of the day.

A part of him wanted to say it was luck, and yet… another part countered that it was very likely just that she was good at field work and not good at paper work.

“I’ve got what we need!” The girl waved at the other dragon in their little gang of student-interns, as she put the image gem back into its case. “Have at it, Bones!”

“It’s Tyler, Yuki,” The Dragon, who was serving as their coroner, remarked with a friendly grumble. “My name is Tyler Obonz, not ‘Bones.’ How many times do I have to tell you? I’m NOT Bones.”

“Only six hundred and eighteen more times, Oh, Lord of Bone-town,” Mikari laughed as she gave a mock bow.

“Fine,” Tyler rolled his eyes, and then with a “Whatever,” he knelt down to examine the corpse.

Tyler “Bones” Obonz- Age 20, one of the top Dragon-born students in the third year’s medical examination class. Kaie didn’t quite understand how the ice-blue-scaled Dragon had managed to make the incredibly accurate deductive leaps he did despite being a corpse major, but Mayoi quite frankly didn’t care as long as the results were good. And good they were, even if his attitude towards others left something to be desired.

For a few moments, the dragon boy sat there. His exposed, blue colored scales were looking icy cold in the morning rain as he basically stopped moving to make his surface examination. If someone didn’t know better, they might think him a solid statue of carved ice wearing clothes for the sole purpose of disguising that it was an ice statue, and not a living being.

Finally, after several tense moments, he reached out and began poking whatever parts of the body seemed to interest him with a wooden examination stick. Then, he muttered what sounded like a hybrid of “Fascinating” and “Interesting” mixed in with a little “What the hell?”

“So, what do we have, Bones?” Mayoi asked with a grin, joining in on the nickname that Tyler only occasionally protested on days like today when the cases were strange and confusing.

The corpse jerked again, proving that point in dramatic fashion.

‘Kids, the lot of them,’ Kaie shook his head at his partner’s kid-like antics, all too much of a temptation to not have those younger than her imitate her actions. At least she curbed those antics around his daughter, for the most part. Mayoi seemed to encourage those traits in her own daughter, which, in turn, rubbed off on Kendal.

“Too early to tell actual cause of death, but at a glance?” Tyler stated aloud as he poked the shoulders of the mauled corpse, one of which caused the corpse to once again flinch. “Male, late forties, I’d say Leprechaun from the skull’s forehead prominence. Poor sucker got eaten at some point, probably by a Lycan, going by the teeth marks.”

“Eeep!” The Lycan girl let out a startled sound, her own ears shooting up in surprise. “It wasn’t me!”

Finally, Ayako Mayoi- Age 17, First Year Student, Lycan. Despite being what Kaie would classify as the stereotypical ‘class delinquent,’ the blue-eyed, brown-furred wolf-born girl scored consistent A’s in tracking and interrogation. Mayoi often joked that the girl could sniff out a lie a mile away, and Kaie had no doubt she could. Ayako had also learned a penchant for sly jokes of an inappropriate nature in any situation from living with Kana Mayoi- her adoptive mother- for the last eight years before starting classes, and subsequently getting her own apartment, as all students at the Mystryal Academy did when they began their first year.

“We know that, Aya,” Mikari put her hand on the shorter girl’s head and rubbed briefly between the ears.

“I know,” Ayako snickered. “Just messin’ with ya.”

“…” Kaie fought back the urge to comment at the way Mayoi’s face lit up at that remark, and instead forced himself to ask, “So do we put down ‘mauled to death’ as COD?”

“No. He was probably just eaten afterwards. As for the, ah…” The body shook again. “Shaking? Not a clue,” Tyler stressed. “You know I can’t tell anything for sure until I get a look at his insides and figure out what’s making him jump.”

“You mean beyond what’s already… outside his insides?” Ayako asked, a slight grin evident on her face as she forced the words out in a way that sounded suspiciously like a joke.

“Hah, hah! Nice one!” Mayoi grinned, her green eyes gleaming brightly at the way her daughter had said that, “Ten points to your final grade!”

Kaie didn’t dignify that with a response about ‘favoritism,’ as Mayoi would equally hand out points like that to any student who made a joke, Daughter or not. Most students working with them usually picked up on that really early on.

“So, who found the body?” Mikari asked, standing up on her tip-toes to look over Bones’ shoulders.

“The daughter did,” Kaie answered as he finally fished his note-pad out of his pants pockets. “Identified him immediately as one Shirou Tsubaki, the school’s Enchantments teacher.”

“Ident’d how?” Ayako asked, sniffing at the body with some obvious unease. “He’s missing his face!

“It’s the clothes,” Tyler guessed, prodding at a piece of dark blue cloth that still hummed with a faint magical enchantment. “They’re standard teaching enchanter’s robes, and I can’t imagine anyone else on the island would have them at this quality of durability…” He paused for a moment, “Hmm, we might be able to get some DNA off of this because of that. I’ll have to run some tests to see if the rain washed anything off or not… Oh! You!” He snapped his fingers at a nearby town guard. “Collect some soil samples! We might be able to get some blood out of the dirt if it’s soaked in!”

Kaie and Mayoi shared a glance that held all of a silent conversation. Tyler would be getting some extra points for, to excuse the pun, pointing out the robes and the potential evidence sources. It would have helped narrow down the identity if they hadn’t had the daughter to confirm it already.

“I feel sorry for the kid, nobody deserves to find their own dad like that,” Mikari shuddered slightly in the cold early morning rain, then went to brush a bit of her short-cut hair behind one ear, as if trying to wipe the previous shudder-inducing thought out of her mind. “Any chance of tracing scents, Aya?”

“Nope,” Ayako shook her head. “The storm last night washed away any scents from the murder. The only thing that’s fresh around here besides all of the body stink is the scent of a girl, and the town guards.” Her nose wrinkled in disgust as she glanced in the direction of one of the town’s guards, who was standing perimeter to keep anyone or anything from getting into the active crime scene, “Do they even take proper care of their gear? Everything they touched smells like rust and sulfur, even if it’s all muted by the rain.”

“Probably the sea salt in combination with that,” Tyler remarked as he got up from where he was kneeling beside the body. “I hear it does a number in on untreated Draco steel.”

“Probably not the sea salt,” Ayako shot back, “there’s a few extra smells in there that I’ve usually smelled from Kaie after a night with Chief Lle-“

“Oh, joy,” Kaie cut that sentence off before the girl could pick up the metaphorical cat and throw it through the miles-wide gap between the twin moons, “look what time it is. Time to ship the body to the slab and get him under a knife.”

“Great, glad you volunteered,” Mayoi snickered, patting Kaie on the shoulder. “Because I’ll be observing Mika’n and Aya on the interview with the daughter.”

“Wait- What?” Kaie looked at his draconian partner as she slipped off with the elf and the Lycan, leaving him alone with Bones to watch as they were left with a rotting corpse. They were already laughing about the interrupted comments about Kaie’s personal life, tails swishing in mirth where applicable. Kaie sighed.

“Dang, that’s cold.” Tyler shook his head, “A person’s love life should be private…” Then he shot a smirk at Kaie, “Except when it’s put out on public display all the time.”

‘Damn it,’ Kaie swore internally. And here he was thinking he was safe from the joking with this kid. Mayoi’s infectious joking nature simply refused to die out like a bad magical joke-curse. “You do realize I can dock you for that remark?” Kaie offered.

He couldn’t actually do that, but what the boy didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him in the long run.

“Nah, it’s fair game.” Tyler continued to smirk, “The Chief’s my dad’s boss’s wife’s second cousin’s sister’s B.F.F.’s fifth cousin’s former roommate.” Tyler said the entire sentence once without stuttering, making Kaie wonder if the connections leading back to Mayoi were legitimate or if his partner had made it all up and told Tyler to save that sentence just for a situation like this.

It was then that the body jerked again, continuously for a few moments, as if laughing, and then went silent and still as any dead body should be.

‘Yeah, laugh it up, chuckles,’ Kaie glared at the body. ‘It’s not like you didn’t have a love life, or something.’ The man had a daughter after all, and even in death, that still didn’t give a body any right to laugh in someone’s face about their personal issues.



Tsukia Tsubaki was an Elf, much like Mikari Yuki herself, but of Drow lineage instead of Imp. Beyond genetics, however, and even having been born and grown up in different regions, Mikari couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t related to some degree. They both had similar crimson eyes and similar(ish) dark hair, although Mikari’s short hair was a vibrantly bright shade purple, opposed to Tsukia’s waist-length near-black hair. (Ah, the freedom of no detective-training regulations.) Maybe they were distant cousins? Distant enough that she had never heard of any Tsubakis in her family tree, at the least.

Mayoi thought that Tsukia Tsubaki seemed almost silently unconcerned that her father was dead, and even more so at the fact that she had discovered the body. There should have been more sadness hidden behind those red eyes than there was as she sipped her offered tea. But then again, perhaps it was the shock of having discovered the body… or maybe she was trying her best to not believe that it was her father? If so, it could be a valid reaction. She’d seen that a few times, though never quite this composed. Then again, who knew what happened in Tsukia Tsubaki’s life. For all Mayoi knew, she could just cope with trauma by bottling it up away until she could vent properly.

Regardless, Mayoi found the girl’s idle behavior unsettling to some degree. Almost like a familiar chill running across the back of her neck. That was never a good sign. Sensations like that usually preceded something bad.

As for smell? Ayako could confirm that the girl’s scent was the one that had been most prominent around the discovered body. But now that it was up close and personal, there was something else… a twinge of rust? No sulfur though… So why in Mizar’s name did the girl smell like only half of the guard’s armor’s scent?

“Miss Tsubaki?” Mikari began with an introduction. “I’m Mikari Yuki, this is my partner Aya-” Ayako waved. “-and our supervising teacher Detective Mayoi. We’re here about your father?”

“You’re the detectives sent in from Mystryal?” Tsukia asked. At Mikari’s nod, Tsukia continued, “There’s not much I can tell you, but I’ll do what I can.”

“We’re just double checking for sure, but was your father a Leprechaun…?” Mikari began.

“He was a Leprechaun, yes,” Tsukia nodded. “Odd, I know, but he said it was a miracle that I was even born, so…” She shrugged. “Yaovi works in mysterious ways, I guess.”

“Have you heard from your father since this morning’s discovery?” Ayako asked. “Maybe he was at work, or…?”

“No,” Tsukia shook her head. “I haven’t heard from him.” She frowned, sadly, “So… it’s him, then?”

“We’re fairly certain, yes,” Mayoi nodded. “The body’s a Leprechaun, too. Mid-forties from our initial observation.”

“Oh… Oh, Mizar,” Tsukia’s previously established facade of calm broke down then, hands shooting to her eyes as she sobbed heavily. “I knew it… I just knew it was him, but… He’s my dad!! There was no way he should have… could have…” After a few intense moments of crying, she calmed down, almost settling back down into that serene mask again, except for the now ever-present downturn look to her eyes. “Sorry. I just…” And then she started crying again.

“It’s fine, cry all you need to,” Mikari said as she looked sadly at Mayoi, who shrugged as if to say ‘What can you do but wait?’

That was the downside of living in reality rather than some fictional novel, Mayoi thought as Ayako tried to comfort the crying Drow. Novels always skipped the parts where the family cried and cried on end when someone died.

Once Tsukia had calmed down again, this time a few minutes later, Mikari resumed questioning the girl, “Can you tell us if anything was off during the last few days or weeks leading up to your father’s death?”

“Not that I can think of,” Tsukia shook her head. “He was staying later at school to grade papers, but that wasn’t unusual this time of year.”

“When was the last time you saw your father?” Ayako asked.

“Um… Probably at last bell yesterday,” Tsukia nodded after a moment. “I was going to pop in and say ‘see ya at dinner’, but he was busy with…” A pause entered as she fought to keep that mask in place, or so it seemed. Ayako sniffed faintly as Tsukia continued, “…Another student, so I just went home, then the storm blew in and he didn’t come home. He did that too, sometimes, when a storm came in and he was stuck at the school. So Mom and I wouldn’t worry.”

Mayoi made note of that fact on her note pad, and Mikari took that as her cue to continue on with the questioning in that direction. “Do you know the name of that student?”

“No, I-” Tsukia stopped then, visibly debating something internally. Then, after a few moments of indecision, she said, “Actually, her family runs the shrine on the sub-island just off shore.”

“A Shrine?” Mikari raised an eyebrow at the added detail.

“To the twin moons, Alcor and Mizar,” Tsukia said, suddenly very sure of the fact. “Their family is natural-born Lycan. I just remembered that her brother had a few spats with my dad, actually.” Ayako frowned at that last second amendment, but kept her mouth shut.

“I see,” Mikari mulled the new information over for a moment, writing it down in her own note pad before asking, “What were these arguments about?”

“I don’t know,” Tsukia shook her head in apology. “I was too far away to hear, and whenever I’d get close, they’d break it off and go their separate ways, pretending like they hadn’t been arguing a few minutes before.”

“I see…” Mikari mused, observing as Mayoi wrote down that information. “Was your mother aware of these arguments?”

“No, not that I’m aware of,” Tsukia shook her head. “But she might have, sometimes she doesn’t say things that are bugging her.”

“Speaking of,” Ayako took the lead then, interrupting Mikari’s next question with one of her own, “do you know where your mother is this time of day?”

“Um, she should be at the blacksmith’s shop?” Tsukia shrugged. “She was a bit distracted during breakfast. It was weird, like she suspected something was wrong even though dad’s spent… had spent some nights at the school during storms before.”

“Thank you for your time,” Ayako smiled and turned to leave.

“Um, wait,” Tsukia asked, stopping Ayako for a moment. “Do you have any idea why my dad’s body was… jumping like that?”

“Not yet,” Mayoi answered. “Our best coroner is working on it, though.”



In the hallways outside of the Dockyard Manager’s office that was temporarily being used as an interrogation room, the three female detectives took a moment to decompress after the interview.

“So, thoughts?” Mayoi asked her interns.

“She was forcing her answers on everything,” Ayako crossed her arms. “I could hear her heart beat increase with every question. I think she knows more than she’s letting on.”

“She could be our killer maybe?” Mikari offered with a shrug, giving the first wild theory of the case. It was clear she didn’t believe it herself just from the tone of voice she used.

“No way,” Mayoi shook her head. “That girl doesn’t show any signs of Lycanthropy.” An understatement if ever there was one. She didn’t have the ears or the tail for it!

“We still don’t know what the cause of death is,” Mikari reminded her teacher. “Maybe she used a spell…?”

“Spells-as-murder-weapon is circumstantial at best and won’t hold up in court unless it causes visible damage like burns,” Mayoi reminded her charge in return of the rules of the court. “I’ll buy that she’s got some info she’s holding back, like that student’s name. She wasn’t being very subtle about trying to push us towards that lead even if she was hiding the name… But to kill her own Da’?” She shook her head. “I don’t buy it.”

“She could be covering for someone else,” Ayako spoke up. “But then again, she was honest in wanting to know why the body was jerking around.”

“Wish we knew what that was about, too,” Mayoi sighed. “All right. Let’s get heading out so we can find the mother.”

“To the Blacksmith Shop!” Ayako grinned.



Egg Roost’s small town layout was definitely some designer’s dream exercise in space saving with a limited landscaping footprint. Docks near the eastern facing side, store houses to the west of that, then to the north were the shops, and to the south were the residential places.

Of the shops, there were a few small restaurants, a tiny grocers, a medium sized Inn, and the crafting shops, which included the Blacksmith’s forge. It was an open-air affair, with multiple stations in the back edges of the forge, with the front of it being manned by an Undine girl working at a small register, and a small storage section in the middle.

The Undine at the front directed Mayoi to the back, and so they went. Back there were three people working at the stations, Mayoi ignored the man who was obviously a guard who was working on maintaining his custom weapon, and instead focused on the two girls, one a Dragon, the other a Drow.

“Hello? We’re looking for Matoi Tsubaki,” Mayoi’s voice rung clear over the constant clanging from the blacksmith’s open-air forge. A dragonoid woman stopped her work upon hearing the name, and put her molten work into the water to cool before laying her tools and mask to rest.

“Yes?” She answered. Light blue hair and similarly water-hued scales framed the woman’s crimson eyes, something Mikari took note of.

“I’m Detective Mayoi, these are my training students, Mikari and Ayako,” Mayoi introduced. “We’re here to talk with Matoi Tsubaki about her husband, Shirou Tsubaki.”

“Well, you’re in luck,” the dragonoid woman said, taking of her gloves and frowning in dismay, “You’ve found her.”

Mikari and Ayako shared a surprise glance. A Dragon Mother having a Drow daughter? Drow was Humans plus Gnomes, not Dragons plus… Well, anything, really, especially not a Leprechaun! Genetics just didn’t work that way. Adoption was the only conclusion Ayako could come to.

Mayoi, to her credit, didn’t so much as flinch. “We’re just confirming a few things your daughter told us about the weeks leading up to this morning’s events,” she explained. “If you’d be okay with letting my students ask the questions?”

“Alright,” Matoi Tsubaki was reserved, holding her emotions back about as well as her daughter did. That explained a lot in that regard, at least. Like mother like daughter to some odd degree.

“Your daughter mentioned that your husband was spending extra time at school grading papers recently?” Mikari asked as Ayako began to wander around the smith shop, sniffing this way and that at everything.

“Yes, but that wasn’t unusual for this time of year,” Matoi said with just about the same phrasing as her daughter. “Shirou liked to get hands on with his student’s projects and papers. To… make sure that they did everything right.” There was an awkward pause that made her seem cautious about her phrasing.

Ayako sniffed for any trace of deception, but didn’t find anything off about the woman, not yet at least. “And he made it a habit to spend the night at the school if a storm rolled in?” Ayako asked, glancing past the overhang to the still wet streets.

“He did, yes,” Matoi nodded, her tail swishing slightly side to side as she answered. “I actually asked him to, after he came home one night in a storm. He was laid up in bed for almost a week after that with a cold.”

Ayako sniffed faintly at that answer, an honest one. Hmf.

“Your daughter also mentioned seeing your husband having a few arguments with a student recently.” Mikari laid out the last card, “Did you have any knowledge of what these were about?”

“News to me, really,” Matoi shrugged and shook her head. “We all tried to keep work, school, and home separate. If Tsukia saw anything happening, she didn’t tell me.”

Ayako sniffed at the weapon that the guard was working on when they came in, then the metal that Matoi had been working on. Ah, the same smell—rusted metal for everything? Well, that explained the heavy traces of it on Tsukia back in the interrogation room. Matoi likely worked on maintenance for the town guard’s armor enough times that the smell was likely permeated throughout the Tsubaki household.

But where was that extraneous sulfur smell on the guards (and only the guards, she was now noticing) coming from? It wasn’t on Tsukia and it wasn’t on this sword here… ‘Ugh,’ Ayako’s nose wrinkled as she decided she would probably be better off not knowing for the moment.

“One last thing, your daughter mentioned that the boy your husband was arguing with lived at the moons shrine,” Mikari then asked, “she couldn’t remember the name of the boy’s family, but we were thinking maybe you knew?”

“The moons shrine?” Matoi mused for a moment. “Sounds like the Noris. The boy was probably Tony, Muiri’s brat of a pup. I’ve never met him personally, though so I can’t imagine what they’d be arguing about. As far as I know Tony wasn’t in Shirou’s class this year.”

“Was his sister?” Ayako asked, frowning as she picked up a faint scent of something off from the blacksmith’s words.

“Miri?” Matoi thought for a moment, the nodded. “Yes, actually. She would come by the shop sometimes to practice enchanting on pieces of armor that were too damaged to repair.” She paused, as if considering adding something else to the conversation, then shook her head, “Sorry, that’s about all I know.”

“One more question, then we’ll let you be,” Mayoi spoke then. “Did you hear anything strange last night during the storm? A harpy cry or something like that?”

“Yes, actually,” Matoi nodded after a moment. “I heard a few Lycan howls sometime around nine. That was just before any part of the storm though, so I didn’t think much of it at the time because the younger pups here on the island tend to get hissy during the start of a storm, but it was unusual because I think it came from the forest…” she paused, as if making a deduction. “Oh, dear… My husband wasn’t killed by a Lycan was he?”

Matoi Tsubaki was completely stone cold at the apparent deduction of her husband’s death. Her face was completely neutral, her eyes barely seemed conflicted as well. Ayako took a sniff of the air radiating out from around Matoi, and… Nothing. Nothing but the smells of rusted metal. It was just… it was just too calm.

“It’s too early to tell,” Mayoi shook her head. “All we know is that a body was severely mauled sometime around time of death, either pre- or post-death. Could be your husband or could be not, but your daughter hasn’t heard from him since yesterday and it’s looking extremely likely that it’s him.”

“Oh, well, I do hope it wasn’t him,” Matoi cracked a genuine smile, “because if he’s alive, I need to kill him for putting us through so much trouble.”

And then there was a faint whiff of… of… Honesty. Excitement? Anger. Definitely some anger. Ayako forced down the urge to scowl by coughing politely then, “Um, thank you for your time, Mrs. Tsubaki.”

And so the detectives left.

“Suspect?” Mayoi asked the girls behind her.

“Definitely,” Ayako nodded.

“Oh, this isn’t even wild theory territory really,” Mikari agreed.

“Okay, so where’s a town map?” Mayoi asked, glancing around as she asked. “We need to visit that shrine next.”

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