After hanging up the phone, Mutsu took a small sip of her hot black tea. At Toushirou’s suggestion, the two of them ultimately ended up taking a break at a café before heading to the local museum.
“Our idiot boss got ash on the desk.”
Mutsu’s carsickness had faded, and her body had warmed up, so her complexion was getting better. After checking the time on her phone, she gulped down the remaining tea and started urging Toushirou to leave.
“Oh, I’ll pay.”
“No, this is a work expense, I can’t let you pay for me.”
With these words Mutsu gave Toushirou a 500-yen coin.
“This is for my part. Let’s pay together.”
“You’re quite upright.”
“It’s because I’m at work.”
When they finished paying and left the shop, they could feel that the wind had grown even colder. The sky had also turned darker, giving of a gloomy feeling.
“I have to go back soon. Will you be okay on your own?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s nearby, isn’t it? Where is the train station?”
“What? Isn’t anybody joining you today?”
“Well, I’m a little worried.”
Mutsu said that she was going to the local museum for now, so Toushirou gave her a nod and told her how to get to the station.
It took 30 minutes of driving from the mountain where they’d stopped before they finally reached a place that seemed like an actual town. But even there people and traffic were scarce, and despite it being the central part of town, the train station was far away.
“Shirou-chan, your police station isn’t here in Hakonou town, is it? You’ve only been here on police box duty, right? And you were nearby after I got off, weren’t you? Why? And you were the one who went to ask us for help? Why?”
“What made you think so?”
Toushirou had been smiling until a moment ago but now he frowned.
“If you don’t want to say it for whatever reason, we can treat it as if I never asked. But…”
Mutsu bit back the words she had wanted to say. They were words that she herself did not want to utter.
“You don’t trust me?”
“Yeah, it seems like since last year I have this weird feeling. Maybe I’m worrying too much though.”
“Can we talk about it after this is over? There are things I can’t decide on my own when it comes to how much I’m allowed to tell you.”
“Is it connected to some other stuff?”
Toushirou softly brushed against Mutsu’s cheek that was rosy from the cold and gave her his scarf, wrapping it around her neck.
“Don’t catch a cold. I’m really going back now. I won’t be able to come immediately even if something happens. Will you be okay?”
“… I’ll be fine.”
Mutsu’s voice sounded so frail that it surprised even herself. She shook her head and tried once more:
“I’ll be fine, you can leave it to me.”
This time her voice sounded cheerful. Even so, Toushirou’s frown remained.
Toushirou suddenly exhaled and relaxed his face.
“Don’t simply give me a report of what you find out, you’ll have to bill me properly too.”
After saying this, he briskly left. Mutsu stared after his gradually shrinking silhouette for some time. Then she turned around, changing directions, and headed for the local museum.
The museum was in a building with various smaller halls, housing with several different facilities including a library. Mothers accompanied by children and various other people could be seen nearby, some entering and others leaving.
The building had a wide entrance with an information board just next to it. The latter indicated that the museum and library were next to each other on the 2nd floor. There was an elevator just on Mutsu’s right-hand side, but she mused
(Why are there stairs on both sides of me then?)
And so, she looked around before deciding to climb the staircase to the left, as she wondered about these inconsequential things.
After passing by the entrance to the library and entering the museum, visitors were immediately faced with the sign VISITORS ARE WELCOME TO FREELY LOOK AROUND placed on an office desk. Next to it there was a form asking visitors to write down their names.
(So that means there’s no clerk, then.)
Mutsu disregarded the form and immediately entered the archive. Things like archaeologically excavated earthenware stood displayed in showcases together with explanatory notes.
Mutsu was wandering around, unable to find anything particularly of interest, when she suddenly came across a spider displayed among the other things.
(What the… Somebody’s got an awful taste.)
Even as she thought this, she quietly peered into the showcase, wondering why there weren’t any examples of bugs other than the spider.
“A-ty-pus kar-schi. Soil spider. Does it nest in the ground then?”
The note next to it explained about types of spiders and their habitats, as well as providing detailed information about the Atypus karchi spider.