“It still seems like there are only private houses spread out here and there in all directions. What should we do?”
“Yeah, this place is bigger than I expected. I thought we’d be able to take a walk to look around and investigate.”
“That’s impossible. It’d probably be quite hard to manage even with a bicycle. There’s a lot of mountains around so there are many mountain roads too.”
“You’re probably right. Let’s go to the local museum first.”
As she said this, Mutsu opened one of the car windows halfway. A chilly wind strongly blew into the car, but Toushirou didn’t utter any complaints.
“Are you getting carsick?”
“Yes, sorry about it.”
“It’s because it’s a mountain road with many twists and turns. It takes about 30 minutes more to downtown, do you want to take a rest somewhere before the museum?”
“It’s fine, Shirou-chan. I’m worried that you’ll be reprimanded at work if you spend too much time keeping me company.”
Mutsu tiredly leaned back on her seat and closed her eyes. Then she took off her glasses and rubbed her nose bridge.
“I won’t, don’t worry. It can be said that I’m gathering information and patrolling. More importantly, I need to send some documents to Yuno-san too.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Documents aren’t exactly perfect, because people are rarely concerned with them.”
“Really? Oh, and thanks for the bento by the way. You certainly seem to know how to cook.”
“That’s right. I think I would be a great wife, I just can’t find anybody who’ll have me”
Toushirou quietly hummed in agreement, but still got a smack on his thigh from Mutsu.
“Gah! As I thought, I should have gone with Mutsu-san.”
Hiroto prostrated himself on his desk. Sousuke could imagine that if Hiroto really had done that, he’d without doubt have complained that he should have stayed with him, so he didn’t reply.
“The boss said that he’d be here shortly, so we’ll also be able to set out soon.”
Sousuke still hadn’t gotten the data from Toushirou, so he seemed to be doing some independent investigating. But there is a limit to what can be investigated from an office, so he soon reached a stalemate.
“But don’t you agree that the boss’ ‘shortly’ could easily mean over an hour though?”
“Well… yes, that’s true. More importantly, I’m concerned about the fact that we haven’t heard anything from Mucchan.”
“She seems to be getting along well with Miyazaki-san.”
“Are you jealous?”
Hiroto, who was in the process of going to get another cup of coffee, stopped in his tracks.
“No, it’s not that. How do I put it? Um-”
“It’s okay. The two of them are friends. And didn’t Mucchan have someone she likes?”
The door opened with a bang and an unshaven man in his fifties could be seen standing in the doorway.
“Really? Mucchan has someone she likes? How do you know that?”
“You got back unexpectedly quickly, boss. …That’s what she said when we went for a drink before and I asked her about it.”
“Yuno-san, you went for drinks with Mutsu-san? Please invite me along too!”
“Oh, me too please, me too! By the way, where is Mucchii? She messaged me that she was going out to do field work, has she left already?”
After pouring himself a cup of coffee, with practiced motions the boss plunked down on a chair and started flipping through the document files he had received from Sousuke.
“These are the ones from Miya-chan? I see. Yucchii, call them to inquire about the present situation.”
“Yes, on it!”
Unlike his earlier relaxed chit-chatting, the boss’ way of giving instructions was brisk and concise but now he was humming as he sipped his coffee.
“Hi, Mutsu-san. Where are you now?”
“I’m on the way to the local museum in Hakonou. Haven’t decided where to go after that, though.”
“Did you find anything?”
Hiroto understood that this was the information Sousuke and the boss wanted to know; therefore, he tapped the speaker button so that the two of them could also listen to the conversation.
“Nope, nothing. But the place that came to mind was a Shinto shrine which was rumored to have a kitsune as a chief priest. The rumors are true, and from what the kitsune told me, they’ve been noticing a strange presence during approximately this same period when people have been disappearing. Oh, and this place is VERY rural, so you’ll definitely need to come by car.”
“So, Mucchii, are you coming back then?”
Opening his zippo lighter with a clink, the boss brazenly started to smoke at the desk.
“I’m empty-handed so I will for now.”
“Are you saying it could be dangerous?”
“There are too many things we don’t know. And we haven’t even been able to talk to anybody, there’s nobody in the gardens or fields. Well, that might be because it’s winter though.”
Sousuke went to get the ashtray from the kitchen, but before he could place it down, the accumulated ash fell down with a plop.
“What is it?”
“The boss dropped ash on the table.”
“What?! Go to the kitchen!! You idiot, who do you think is going to clean it?”
After yelling this, Mutsu hung up. Only the empty beep-beep-beep sound could be heard.
“You’re mean, Sou-chan.”
He gathered the scattered ashes into the ashtray, and used a tissue he found on the table to wipe off the remaining traces.
“Well then, what should we do before Mutsu comes back?”
“There’s nothing to do, is there? You checked as much as you could, right Sou-chan? Let me take a look at that too.”