“Are you okay?”
Myuhi asked with a puzzled expression. She found it strange how Shinichi could genuinely be hurt by a weak tap like that.
“Damn it, nothing works, so it hurts like it normally would.”
Shinichi muttered as he looked up with teary eyes, while Monica fearless laughed as she snorted and looked down at him. Only Myuhi stiffened.
“Be grateful that I’m even letting you off with just that, you naughty brat,” Monica said.
“…So you really did come just to keep an eye on me, huh.”
“Of course I’d keep an eye on you after that display. There was no telling what you were up to, after all. Or do you want to say that you’re not that kind of man?”
“Ku, I can’t argue with that at all!”
“…You sure are honest in the strangest of places,” Myuhi said.
Myuhi just wryly smiled as he readily accepted that, while Monica shook her head.
“Don’t you just want people to think of you that way? More importantly, there are still places left to check, so quickly wrap it up. The reinforcements have already arrived, so be sure everything is finished before my rehearsal.”
“I am your boss, after all. I’ll pay you properly, so work hard.”
“…If you tell me after all of this that you didn’t prepare it, I’m going to get mad, okay?”
“Don’t worry, I already have someone taking care of it. Well, it might not be as quick as you, but you can be at ease.”
Monica understandably couldn’t do things as quickly as he worked, and while Shinichi wore a slightly resentful look, he still nodded in understanding.
He turned his attention back to the wall, and Monica’s expression from defiance to that of dissatisfaction and muttered quietly.
“It really is just too cheap of a price to pay, though,” Monica said.
“That’s not true, nyaa,” Myuhi said.
“Huh?” Monica said.
Monica didn’t seem to understand, but Myuhi just wore a faint and somewhat troubled smile.
“At the very least, it’s not to him.”
──He really knows how to reward himself, doesn’t he?
In truth, the reward from Monica to Shinichi was not one that was so easily determined.
Monica insisted on compensating Myuhi despite her insisting that she didn’t need to be compensated since she was hired by Shinichi, so it only stood to reason that she would be persistent in trying to pay Shinichi himself.
But it wasn’t so simple to find a reward that suited Shinichi. At first, she tried to pay him, but a record would be left behind no matter what method they used so long as the amount was substantial.
With the Snake keeping an eye on them, any transfer of funds would likely be investigated.
Moreover, his usual way of erasing traces wouldn’t work. Paying in kind posed a similar problem.
Shinichi explained that, but Monica just asked him how he wanted to paid in, insisting to find something, so he had no choice but groan and give up.
“What a pain. Can’t you just pay me later?”
“So we can worry about it later? Just hurry up and decide already.”
Monica urged Shinichi not to slack off, while Shinichi frowned, and everyone else inwardly laughed.
The payer was demanding the payee to name a price, while the payee insisted that they didn’t want anything.
Above all, they spoke with each other as though they were a pair of a capable older sister and a carefree younger brother.
Wasn’t Shinichi leading Monica by the nose earlier? Just where had those skills gone?
“…Considering the future, anything with potential asset value seems to be out of the question. If it’s something other than money and can be personally prepared by you, and furthermore, if the transfer leaves even the barest records, then maybe…”
Shinichi tilted his head as though he couldn’t believe that something so convenient could be a thing, but the Sister soon clapped her hand and said.
“Then Shinichi-kun, why don’t you just receive Monica as your payment?” the Sister suggested.
“Sister!?” Monica cried.
『Mama, wait! What about our Tomoe!? 』 Shouko said.
“That’s too precious of a reward for the job,” Shinichi said.
Monica was shocked to hear the Sister even suggest that, while Shinichi just uninterestedly rejected it, and a certain katana was completely ignored.
For various reasons, the three of them were troubled.
“Oh, that’s too bad. The fact you’re seriously saying that is a bit scary, though,” the Sister said.
──This kid is a bigger player than I thought.
“The heck? Should I be happy about that or angry?” Monica said.
──In the first place, is that supposed to be a rejection or a compliment!?
“It’s just like you to be more concerned about that, though,” Myuhi said.
While understanding the sister’s suggestion as a joke, Myuhi was half impressed and half exasperated by Shinichi’s attitude that so readily declared that Monica was more valuable than the job at hand.
“What to do? Oh, someone messaged me. Yousuke?”
While Shinichi tilted his head at the complex atmosphere emanating from the women, each for a different reason, Shinichi noticed his foster vibrating. He took it out and peered into it.
When he saw the name and the number beside it, he was shocked.
“Oops, I forgot to respond. That’s a crazy number, though.”
There were heaps of messages from his younger brother. Shinichi read them one by one, starting with the oldest message. However, after finishing reading all of them, he tilted his head in a puzzled manner and voiced the question that had arisen. He spoke it aloud without a trace of consideration for the astonishment of those around him.
“Monica Chantal, I feel like I’ve heard that name before.”
“Huh?” Myuhi said.
“Hah?” Monica said.
“Oho?” The Sister said.
Everyone doubted their own ears, but none of them said anything as a terrifyingly profound stillness filled the place.
A certain katana was laughing hard, but neither Myuhi nor Monica could hear her.
“You, just who do you think you’ve been speaking with until now!?”
Naturally, after that brief moment of silence, the one who stood up in a fit of rage was none other than the person in question.
While she had accepted the fact that Shinichi didn’t recognize her at the start, the fact that he still didn’t recognize her after everything they’ve spoken about hurt her.
She was the legendary songstress, but this wound ran deeper than that, hurting her as a person and as a woman. Understandably, she was furious.
But as expected, his response couldn’t be more casual, or rather indifferent.
“Hmm? Oh, yeah. You’re Monica Chantal, so I guess you’re the same Monica Chantal that’s having a concert tomorrow?”
“What do you think we’ve been talking about this whole time!?”
“Couldn’t a different person with the same name just happened to come to Hokkaido too?”
“As if!! We’d have known already if that were the case!”
She yelled, and Shinichi nodded in agreement. His response carried an air of nonchalance compared to her intense emotions.
Monica had an emotional outburst, while the Sister was quietly astonished, but Myuhi – as a stalker who’s known him for so long – knew that he was dead serious, and she just laughed.
“Ahaha, Icchi, you really say the funniest things from time to time, don’t you?” Myuhi said.
“What are you talking about?” Monica said.
『That adorable part of him is what got Tomoe.』 Shouko said.
“Oh, my,” the Sister said.
“Hey, that’s a bit much, don’t you think? Even I— Hmm? Actually, on second thought…”
A wry smile, an astonished face, a genuine smile, and a smile laced with killing intent all turned to him, but while Shinichi was about to deny the accusations, in the end, he couldn’t help but agree.
──Am I the one in the wrong here?
“Okay, I apologize. I just found it hard to equate you with the singer you.
I don’t know anything about your professional life, so it was hard for me to imagine it.”
Shinichi honestly apologized in that manner, not knowing that that only rubbed salt on the wound, and the women were torn between laughing and being exasperated.
“A boy that’s sure to cause trouble for those around him and even for himself, huh,” the Sister said.
It was a troublesome disposition indeed, the Sister smiled, while Shouko floated in the air and gave a knowing nod.
『That’s why it’s fine, Mama. That’s precisely why our daughters (lineage) can’t leave him alone.』
A sigh escaped as she laughed and treated the matter as though it were someone else’s problem. Despite the brief time this pair of mother and daughter spent together, despite the environment they grew up in being entirely different, somehow someway they still ended up resembling each other so much.