Before Shinichi was a large Japanese-style inn.
It had been built just recently to accommodate the rise of demand from the tourists from Garesto. The inn had a good reputation for its old-fashioned Japanese culture and employees thoroughly trained in the spirit of hospitality.
“Literally, the Japanese Inn ,” Shinichi said.
“Kyui!” Youko said.
“Don’t stray from me.”
Shinichi nodded, impressed and satisfied, but his arm was immediately pulled, and he was dragged away.
“I’m glad you like it, but we have to keep going,” Frire said.
“Ah, sorry,” Shinichi said.
Shinichi apologized to Frire and allowed himself be dragged away.
Aristel and Myuhi wryly smiled, and Ryou looked at them aghast.
Youko was on top of Shinichi’s head as usual, but there were no other students.
The inn wouldn’t be able to accommodate everyone if all the students of the academy were to come at the same time, so their schedule was arranged, and they were sent here as an advance party of sort.
Frire as the teacher representative, and the top three rankers as the student representatives.
Shinichi was here because he was officially under Frire’s supervision and couldn’t be left alone.
The other students were each sightseeing while taking their own route toward the inn, so having Shinichi here was better for Frire and him. It made it look like his movements were being restricted when in fact this was actually giving him more freedom.
A clear voice greeted them as they passed the huge gateway that adorned the inn’s grand entrance.
A beautiful woman in Japanese clothes stood in front of several hostesses lined up.
“My name is Haruka Tsukishima and I am the proprietress in charge of this inn. Thank you so much for coming here from such so far away.”
In the face of that courteous greeting accompanied by a gentle expression, they found themselves bowing back by reflex.
The sight of her captivated Frire, and Shinichi had to poke her to get her back.
“T-Thank you for having us. I’m Doneju, the teacher in charge of this field trip. We are very grateful to you for taking our request on such short notice.”
Frire included a small apology as she returned her greeting.
Though the proprietress would never show her fatigue on her face, one could only imagine how much effort she must have put to arrange their stay.
“Not at all. It just so happened that we had an opening today and tomorrow. However, we must apologize because we were unable to completely book everything due to the abruptness of the scheduling.”
Despite that she was even apologetic because she couldn’t book out the whole inn as the contract demanded.
Whether she was sincere about that or not, and even if she was actually being sarcastic, Shinichi was impressed by how seemingly experienced she was from her response.
“It was us who called on such short notice. I’ll remind the students not to bother the other guests, but if something were to happen, please just let me or these three know. Oh, but not
The proprietress and the other employees were curious why Shinichi was the only exception, but they were experienced enough not to ask needless questions and just naturally nodded.
“I understand. If you’ll allow me, I can show you to your room right a──Eh?”
But then the proprietress cut her speech midway and opened her eyes wide in surprise.
Frire and the others were curious what happened, but their attention were gathered fully on her.
They did sense someone laughing, but in the end, the proprietress’ agitation became an assist.
And in the next moment, a young voice rose and a dress was flipped, laying bare the secrets hidden beneath to the light of day.
For a moment,
Someone had quickly lifted up her dress.
Aristel screamed and she quickly held down her dress, but unfortunately, that striped something had already been witnessed by everyone.
As the proprietress and the hostesses were all petrified by the sudden turn of events,
A young, lively boy about the age of an elementary school student was standing there with a V-sign.
“A-Ahh, I’m so sorry!”
While the hostesses were stunned by the sight, the proprietress came to her senses and immediately apologized.
Fortunately, there were no other guests or male employees in the entrance hall, but the proprietress knew that this wasn’t a matter that could be put aside just like that.
The little boy knitted his brow and was about to leave after snorting out a ‘hmph’, but—
“Huh? Ah, wawa!?”
—His body was suddenly lifted up.
Before anyone knew it, Shinichi had caught him by the scruff of his neck and brought him back up to eye level.
Shinichi glared at him, and the boy shrank back, unable to swear in the face of such a threatening atmosphere.
The proprietress and hostesses panicked because of that, but Shinichi suddenly relaxed his gaze.
Then he nodded and praised the boy.
As expected, it was not just one person who was confused but everyone all around.
“I saw something good thanks to you,” Shinichi said.
“Huh? Uh…” The kid said.
“What in the world are you telling a kid!?” Frire said.
“S-Shinichi-san! I-If you wanted to see, you could’ve just asked…” Aristel said.
“Enough, Ari-chan, saying any more than that is dangerous~” Myuhi said.
“I saw nothing, I saw nothing… I saw nothing!” Ryou said.
Shinichi had given a thumbs-up and praised the boy despite the commotion, but that only led to the boy becoming stunned and puzzled, too unnerved to say anything.
“…I see,” Shinichi said.
Shinichi seemed to have felt something from that, as he nodded once and brought the boy back down.
The boy glanced at the proprietress for a moment before vanishing into the inn.
A tinge of loneliness could be felt from his back.
“I’m so sorry! My foolish son did something so discourteous!”
“I-It’s fine. It’s what you would expect from a kid, so please don’t worry about it.”
Aristel had been full of shame, but now she was bowing her head.
She actually did mean what she said, so she asked the proprietress to raise her head, but she refused to budge.
“So he really was your son. What’s his name? How old is he?”
Shinichi started talking as though nothing had happened.
“Huh? Ah, yes. He’s Kouta. He’s still just in his first grade of elementary. It might be because of my inability to raise him correctly, but he’s pulling a lot of pranks recently.”
Despite being taken aback by the change in topic, the proprietress raised her head, then apologized and bowed again.
“Ahaha, it must be tough… But you should be careful. If you leave him like that, if the pranks stop being just pranks, it really will be
Shinichi smiled despite saying such disquieting things.
In fact, they were so disquieting that they froze the air.
Describing something as ‘the end’ just had that much anxiety and truth behind it.
“Hey, Nakamura, what are you saying…” Frire said.
“He was really troubled when I praised him, you know. That’s not how someone enjoying a prank would react. That kid… He pulled that prank precisely because it was the wrong thing to do. He must’ve wanted to get someone’s attention,” Shinichi said.
As for who that someone was, Shinichi’s gaze made it resplendently clear.
And indeed, the proprietress herself seemed to have an idea what he was getting at, as a different kind of apologetic expression filled her face.
The hostesses around also made a face that suggested they knew something.
“That’s why if he stops pulling pranks, you should take it that he’s given up.”
A cruel yet gentle prediction about the moment when a child stops expecting anything from their parent.
“I highly recommend you make time for him even if it’s hard. You see… Whenever I see troubled kids that want attention, I can’t help but want to help them. Well, I’m just some kid that knows nothing about being a parent, though.”
Shinichi took advantage of his own position to poke his nose into an unrelated person’s parent-son relationship whom he was meeting for the first time.
The proprietress was just shocked by his audacity and lack of embarrassment.
“…Thank you for your concern.”
In the end, how did she take his advice which no one asked?
The proprietress bowed her head once again, but it was clear that it held a different meaning behind it.
 – Written as Za Nihon Ryokan. Perhaps a reference to Za Warudo/The World?