A quick shower and a good sleep after a long day. That’s all it was supposed to be.
And then the phone rang.
Shougo dashed to it, suddenly delirious. He answered the call almost afraid of who was on the other end. His heart raced. Would her voice be on the other end?
“Gokigenyou, Onii-chan,” said the voice on the other end.
It was her. That voice could not belong to anyone else. IMOUTO.
Shougo was skeptical about the dangers of this stalker after his first few days at this new academy, but now he could feel the heat down his neck and along his spine. It was supposed to be easy work: just get in, uncover the identity of the girl who wants to marry into the family business and get out. This would be nothing for Shougo Mikadono, heir to a business empire, professional dancer, baked goods connoisseur, and secret agent.
It was increasingly clear, however, that IMOUTO was not someone to be trifled with thoughtlessly. She planned this out meticulously, deliberately baiting Shougo into a school filled with young women possessing outward traits that Shougo would find appealing. The soft-spoken girl with the delicious cream puffs; the short, angry girl with the twintail drills; the haughty, refined princess; the shy girl who becomes inexplicably energized at important events; the entrepreneur who capitalized upon the desire for men to pat younger girls on the head, and who also wears glasses; the fellow secret agent, cool, assured and most definitely female, so it’s not weird or anything to feel any attraction; and who knows which others may appear along the way.
IMOUTO was good. She was smart. Misdirection and deception; hide yourself among your mark’s friends so that you may get close. Her voice on the phone was distinctive enough to be identifiable, but IMOUTO was too clever to address Shougo with her normal voice when they were in public. She could be anyone, anywhere, at any time. Shougo knew that one trait of the perfect imouto is mastery of the art of camouflage; clearly, IMOUTO may as well have invented the art herself.
Shougo suspected everyone in equal measure, but he could not let any of the women he met become privy to that fact. Even Mister X was not above suspicion. Arriving at the perfect time to lend aid to the investigation and coming up with a convenient story to get close to Shougo? IMOUTO would certainly be brazen enough to employ such a tactic. Would she be aware that Shougo would be cognizant of this and use Mister X to heighten Shougo’s paranoia? Most certainly. Would she also predict that Shougo would see through that and assume the guise of Mister X, confident that he would never look right under his nose for IMOUTO? Most certainly.
She had all the pieces, making her impossible to predict. No matter. The only way to move forward would be to chip away at each girl and trip as many flags as possible. Shougo was at his smoothest and most assured at the dance. He made moves on three prime suspects and caught the eye of at least one other. He was so suave and debonair that not even the fear of IMOUTO watching him from parts unknown in the back of his mind. The small one never even noticed how deftly he unwrapped the ribbon on her dress and created an embarrassing situation. Shougo felt bad for her, but it had to be done. The well being of his company depended on it.
“The dance party was fun,” IMOUTO said on the phone. “I was right beside you the whole time.”
“Who are you?!” Shougo said. “What do you want?!”
“What … do I want?” IMOUTO asked. “There’s someone I like. It’s you!”
Shougo tried his best to quell the hot rage burning through him. He could scarcely bear IMOUTO‘s taunting calls. His investigation moved forward by mere inches that evening, but even the greatest cases had to start somewhere. Shougo would not stop working until he answered the most pressing question of his time …