Chapter 3: Return Of The Phantom (2/2)

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The noon sun was blazing mercilessly like a devious overlord, transforming the world into a brilliant, yet steamless, sauna. The detective strolled down the street towards the park to meet Sayaka Maizono, passing shop upon shop on the way. The vast array of colours ranging from red to blue to black to white whizzed past as Shuichi walked by the busy buildings, a spring in his step as he quickened his pace. Slender trees in tall black cages decorated the path he walked on, pulchritudinous purple flowers snaking up the thin trunks like dainty ornaments.

He aimed to arrive at his destination earlier than the assigned time, to make a good first impression of himself to the singer who he had admired a lot in his past years. However, beneath his mask of bravery, he was frightened. His walk slowly turned into a light jog as he headed towards the park faster than before. The navy haired boy couldn't waste any time - the quicker he met up with Sayaka, the quicker he could attempt to prevent the crime and catch the thief. The plan seemed simple enough, he just had to convince her to work with him.

Shuichi approached the open black gates of the park. The leafy plants coiled around the hot metal protectively, thorns not allowing anyone to touch it. He continued down the cracked path of the green area, slowing to a speedy walk as he searched for the singer. The park was huge and continued far over the horizon. Tall trees were scattered throughout the area, swaying in the light summer breeze. Birds and squirrels played in them, scurrying from tree to tree quickly.

As the detective walked towards the center of the park he laid eyes on a stunning fountain surrounded by worn wooden benches. Several had golden plaques on the back of them, deeming them important. It almost felt an honour to be sitting on them. The golden eyed boy scrutinised the scene carefully until the long dark hair of his former idol caught his attention. He breathed in the fresh air, trying to calm his nerves before sauntering towards her, a forced yet friendly smile on his face.

"H-Hello? You're Sayaka Maizono right?" He stopped in front of the girl taking in all her perfect features.

He'd forgotten how dazzling her appearance was, from her indigo blue eyes to her pale, slim face donning a faint pink tint of blush on both cheeks and her tailbone length hair, the fringe held back by tiny silver clips. She wore a long sleeved white shirt featuring a blue sailor collar, a large pink tailed ribbon bow on her chest. The dark blue tartan skirt hanging from her hips barely reached her black thigh-high socks, let alone her knees. Her shoes were brown and buckled, her feet pointed inwards and her knees touching as she sat on the bench. Her hands were on her lap neatly and looked distant as if she were daydreaming.

Upon hearing her name, the girl snapped out of her haze and looked up suddenly. "Yes, that's me. You're Shuichi Saihara I presume? Kaede talks about you a lot. I've heard so much about you! It's a pleasure to finally meet you!" She smiled cheerfully at the detective and patted the space on the bench beside her, calling the boy to sit down. He quickly obliged to her wishes and sat with her a few inches away, careful to stay out of her personal space.

"She... Talks about me? To you?" Shuichi was genuinely surprised. A famous celebrity really knew about him before they'd met. Kaede really was a goddess. He'd never taken Kaede for granted before, but he certainly wouldn't now; the girl was amazing.

"Yup! You seem like really great friends! It makes me jealous, you know. My boyfriend works for the Future Foundation and he doesn't really talk about me much to them at all. Not that it matters - he's still the same old Makoto Naegi." She was rambling to herself, more than anyone else really. She looked down at her lap again shyly as if she had embarrassed herself. "Ah, sorry for talking nonsense."

Shuichi smiled in response. "Don't worry, it's fine. I really don't mind... But could you tell me about the party tonight? It's really important."

The girl's shy smile faded in an instant. A stoic expression flourished on her face as her head shot up to face him. "No!" Her voice was a harsh whisper as she darted her eyes around frantically.

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