Heya! I joined a Saimatsu gift exchange and was given the chance to write for one Nina! I hope you enjoy this weird little fic c:
Kaede Akamatsu was attending Hope's Peak Academy as the Ultimate Pianist, and while she recognized that may not have been the most impressive skill to be recognized for—especially not when she was among the Ultimate Astronaut, Inventor, and Tennis Pro to name a few—she made sure to make the most of her unique position. No other school would give her such ample opportunity to hone her skills at what she loved doing the most, and she did everything in her power to prove herself as worthy of her title.
Still, she found it a little odd that one of her opportunities to do just that came in the form of an entry level music appreciation class they stuck her with about midway into her high school life. When she asked, she was told it was so her year could have at least one class together, considering the wide range of different subjects all the students covered, but she knew she wasn't going to grow closer to any of them if she watched them all roll their eyes and ignore the classical music flavor of the day. Besides that, a majority of that group also shared a history class together, which was a much better opportunity for everyone to grow closer in Kaede's eyes.
The class often involved the tall, off-putting Korekiyo going on various tangents about his talent, but every so often, others got to flex some of their miscellaneous knowledge as well. One day, a classmate she'd never really looked twice at was given his time to shine. It was during a particularly confusing day focusing on the political turmoil that lead up to a certain war, and Kaede's head was swimming trying to keep up with all the details and all the parties involved. The professor could probably tell as much, because when he scanned the class, his facial expression changed and he switched up his pace by asking someone to summarize what he'd covered so far.
"Ahem." The sound of someone clearing their throat came from a desk in the back of the room, where a hand was barely raised.
"Yes, Shuichi?" The professor prompted.
Kaede turned to see a boy dressed in all black, face mostly obscured by a large hat. Despite that, she could tell all the attention turned on to him had affected him, as he started fidgeting with his hands and stuttering as he spoke. Regardless, when he did manage to cough out his sentence, it was to perfectly explain what had just been discussed in a way that made it click for everyone who was lost. It may have been a more roundabout way of explaining it (especially when his clear anxiety was factored in,) but that somehow made it easier for Kaede to understand. The resounding "Oh!" seemed to give Shuichi a smile, and Kaede couldn't help but return it.
The professor smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Shuichi."
After class, she watched him scurry away and realized that was probably the first time she'd actually noticed him since introductions way back on the first day of school. What a curious boy, she thought. Perhaps the time to meet him properly was on the horizon…
Shuichi Saihara was attending Hope's Peak Academy as the Ultimate Detective. Not that it mattered, because he wasn't even the best detective in the school, much less the world, or whatever the standard for Ultimate students was. Why did the school choose a half-rate detective who accidentally solved a case once to attend when the headmaster's own daughter, who was ten times the detective, was two years above him.
The suffocating feeling of being trapped in someone else's shadow extended to his class as well. Everyone had crafted such tight relationships right off the bat, but he couldn't find the courage to reach out to anyone to try and start a conversation.
Even in the entry level music appreciation class, he couldn't help but swallow down any contributions he would have made otherwise. Still, it was a great opportunity to listen to one of his other classmates gush about the subject she loved so much. Kaede was an odd girl in his eyes. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about the way she would go off on tangents about her favorite music, composers and pieces made him want to listen intently to every word she was saying, even when she would start rambling and not end up saying very much. The day dedicated to Beethoven essentially became an entire class period of Kaede going on endlessly about his songs and how his piano pieces stacked up to other artists, both contemporary and otherwise. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to him, but once the music started playing, Kaede would commentate the pieces while they were playing, helping put what she was saying into perspective.
When the only song Shuichi recognized for the day started, Kaede crossed her arms and nodded her head. "Ah, the Moonlight Sonata. It's one of his most famous works, and for good reason, too! I love the way it starts slow, but ramps up into a real technical challenge. What a masterpiece..."
Glancing down, Shuichi caught sight of Kaede's fingers drumming the desk to match the song, their movements almost hypnotizing, even without a piano to give those movements sound.
That was about where class ended, and as everyone was shuffling out, Shuichi stayed back a bit, hoping to finally work up the courage to at least say hello to Kaede. They were back in the halls by the time he'd gotten the nerve to do anything, and just as he was opening his mouth to say something…
"Shuichi." A hand grabbed his shoulder from behind and startled him back to silence.
He recognized the voice, and had to keep in a groan as he turned to see the other, more accomplished Ultimate Detective staring him down. "Hello Kyoko," he managed to say without sounding too disappointed.
His intention was to ask what brought her to the area reserved for classes two years beneath her, but she didn't seem to be in the mood for pleasantries, because she answered before he could even open his mouth to ask. "I have a mission for you."
"A mission," he parroted. "Why don't you do it? You're better than me."
Kyoko narrowed her eyes, likely annoyed that she was going to have to say more than she wanted to."Once I explain what the mission is, I trust you'll be able to answer that question for yourself."
Trying to fight it was futile, so Shuichi figured he may as well start listening sooner rather than later. "Alright, what is it?"
"My father has asked me to track down some evidence of some classmates of ours breaking the rules of the school." Referring to her father seemed to be physically difficult for Kyoko, but the rest of the sentence was what caught Shuichi's ear.
"Breaking the rules how?" He asked.
Kyoko spoke quickly, but efficiently. "As you know, some talents require more space for storage than your average locker, so the school has a program in place to provide extended lockers for those students."
"As I know?" Shuichi asked. "How do you extend a locker in a school's hallway?"
"Don't ask stupid questions."
With a sigh, Shuichi said, "continue."
"I've already busted one person for an unauthorized locker extension, and that was Junko Enoshima from my class." Kyoko looked around, as if to make sure whoever she was talking about wasn't around. "The other suspect is someone from your class, and I need you to investigate her locker for me."
"Her?" Shuichi could already feel his face heating up. "You want me to invade a girl's privacy?"
"Please don't be a baby," Kyoko said. "I would do it myself, but an upperclassman lurking around underclassmen would garner too much attention."
Shuichi decided not to call attention to the fact that she'd just told him something she said she wouldn't just a minute ago. Instead, he continued, "alright, who is it?"
"Tsumugi Shirogane," Kyoko said her name quietly, but Shuichi knew enough about his class to know who it was based on the first syllable of her name.
He nodded and put a finger on his chin. "I...don't think I know where her locker is. But I'll get on it."
"All I need is some sort of proof that her locker isn't authorized," Kyoko told him. "A picture on your phone will suffice."
"Alright," Shuichi said.
The two parted ways, Kyoko shooting glances every which way to make sure no one was paying her too much attention. Shuichi turned to see that Kaede was long gone, and with a sigh, decided to go about his day as normal, though while also keeping an eye out for Tsumugi.
It didn't take long at all to spot his classmate, because she happened to be hanging out near Kaede just moments later. When he saw the sight of the two girls exchanging pleasantries and one of them digging through her locker, he retroactively realized he saw them in that particular spot often, and his mind started connecting the dots. Tsumugi's locker must have been in that general area! Now it was just a matter of finding the time to try and infiltrate it. Luckily, the school usually didn't ask questions when students claimed they needed to skip a class for talent-related reasons, so Shuichi quickly ducked out of his next class, grabbed his lockpicking materials out of his own locker, and settled down in front of the locker he deduced to be Tsumugi's. Granted, the hallway was crowded when he first saw Tsumugi, but he was fairly confident his deduction was correct. He sat himself down and started meticulously breaking into a woman's private storage area.
Wait, he had to stop himself from thinking of it like that, or else he would lose his mystery-solving drive.
Finally, the door unlatched and he swung it open, feeling the sweat starting to roll down his face. "The suspected crime is a larger locker, right?" He asked himself, half hoping for a response from somewhere. "Then in that case, I could theoretically just step inside and..."
Shuichi nervously put a foot beyond the threshold of the locker and leaned in. "I've never realized how roomy these are by default. I didn't know I could fit in them..." He looked around to try and track down any evidence of an unauthorized extension, but with such a dark and cramped spot, he couldn't make out much. He grabbed his phone from his pocket and switched his flashlight on to see…
Just as he had registered that the decorations inside the locker were musically themed, the door slammed shut behind him, locking him inside what he now knew as Kaede's locker. With the door closed, he was now painfully aware of just how little space he had. He tried to jiggle the latch, but school lockers aren't exactly designed to be opened from the inside, so he was trapped. He sighed with the realization that he had no choice but to bang on the door, beg for help, and pray that whoever heard him was not the owner of the locker he was now inhabiting.
Kaede was fifteen minutes into her class period when she remembered the important book she had left in her locker. After quickly explaining her predicament to the teacher, she bolted from the room and made a mad dash through the halls. When she rounded the final corner before her destination, she froze in place. Was someone...banging on a locker? "Help!"
Kaede quickly arrived at the conclusion that someone stuffed a poor nerd in a locker, and set out to find the poor kid and let them out. "Wait, is that coming from...my locker?" As soon as she said that out loud, the banging stopped abruptly. "Hello?" She called, nearing her locker. "If you're where I think you are, you lucked out." She quickly put in her combination and opened the door, stepping back just in time to watch a black mass come tumbling out. She gasped as he hit the ground with a limp THUD!
"Oh my god, are you okay?"
The boy at her feet groaned before looking up, an ashamed expression on his face. Even though it was mostly obscured by a hat, Kaede recognized his face immediately. "Shuichi? Why were you in my locker?"
"Um..." Shuichi stuttered out several attempts at words, but nothing resembling a coherent thought was coming from his mouth.
"Here, let's get you on your feet, then you can tell me why you were stuck in there." Kaede knelt down and offered her hand, which he took hesitantly. She hauled him to his feet, and the two paused for a moment as they made eye contact. He was wide-eyed, but something about his gaze was arresting…
"K-kaede," he stuttered. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
That only made Kaede more confused. "You didn't know it was my locker…?"
He sighed and looked around, eyes darting every which way, as if looking for someone. She was too transfixed on his eyes to look around, though. "I was trying to break into a locker, but not yours."
"So what you're telling me is I should be alerting the authorities," she said flatly.
Shuichi blushed and held his hands up, shaking his head feverishly. "No! I was actually trying to solve a mystery."
That word caused a switch of sorts to flip in Kaede's mind. "A mystery?" She repeated. "Here in the school?"
"Er, yeah." Now Shuichi was back to looking at the ground, his eyes hidden by the wide brim of his hat. "The principal suspects Tsumugi's locker is breaking the rules, and I saw her over here earlier, so I thought maybe that was her locker."
"I see..." Kaede crossed her arms over her chest and puffed out her cheeks. "That still doesn't give you the right to go snooping in my locker!"
"I-I didn't know," Shuichi stammered again, looking truly ashamed.
"Tsumugi spends a lot of time around here because we're friends, but her locker is somewhere else," Kaede explained.
"Right," Shuichi said, turning to walk away. "Sorry to trouble you."
He had taken three full steps before Kaede was indignant for a new reason. "Hey, wait! Aren't you going to ask where it is?"
"What?" Shuichi stopped in his tracks. He was clearly flabbergasted by the suggestion.
"I said, I'm willing to help you out, Shuichi." Kaede reached for his hand again, grabbed it and turned him around before leading him in the opposite direction. The reason for her mid-class locker visit was forgotten entirely in favor of the excitement of solving a mystery and catching a culprit red-handed. Shuichi was struggling to keep up, stumbling over his own feet and getting flustered at the hand contact between them. Together, they followed the route she knew Tsumugi took and paused at a locker decorated with a small sticker from an anime. "I do believe this is it," Kaede said, putting a finger to the sticker. "This is one of her favorite characters."
"I'll take your word for it," Shuichi said, dropping to his knees and pulling out what Kaede could only assume was a lockpicking kit from his pocket.
Kaede watched him fumble with the materials and figured he wasn't very experienced with cracking locks like this. "So what do you need from her locker?" She asked, hoping not to distract him too much with idle conversation.
"It's not something in particular," he explained. "But rather the locker itself may be breaking the rules."
"What does that mean?"
"You'll see." A moment later, the locker unlatched and Shuichi slowly opened it, a dark void inside waiting for them. With a deep breath, he grabbed his phone from his pocket and turned the flashlight on before stepping inside.
Kaede's jaw dropped as his whole body disappeared inside and the light revealed a hidden passage leading to a larger interior. "Whoa! It's so much bigger on the inside! How'd Tsumugi manage to pull this off?"
"I don't know, but that's what's against the regulations," Shuichi said, starting to take pictures of the expansive wardrobe filled with various anime and manga cosplays.
"I guess this would explain how she manages to wear multiple outfits a day," Kaede said, hand brushing against a costume she recognized as being from a show she actually watched. "Just slip in here while no one's looking and she's got a whole wardrobe and changing room in here."
"Exactly." Shuichi took a couple more pictures and nodded back towards the locker door. "Let's get out of here before she comes back."
"Right!" The two swiftly left the locker and Kaede slammed the door closed behind them, making sure it was properly latched so Tsumugi wouldn't suspect anyone had tampered with her belongings.
Shuichi had put his phone and lockpicking stuff away and now had his hands behind his back. His face was starting to redden again as he stuttered out a, "thank you for your help, Kaede."
Unlike his own, Kaede's face lit up with a warm smile. "Of course! It was actually kind of fun solving a mystery together! Maybe you could invite me on your next one."
That didn't seem to help Shuichi's whole blushing situation. "Uh, maybe. I don't think I'll be solving a lot in the future, b-but if I do, I'll keep you in mind."
Before Kaede could respond, the bell dismissing class rang. Kaede jumped in place and her eyes went wide. "Uh oh, I totally just skipped class! I'll see you later Shuichi!" Without giving him time to respond, Kaede turned on her heels and dashed off to try and make up for lost time with her teacher.
After his embarrassing run in with Kaede, Shuichi made a beeline for Kyoko and delivered the evidence to her, explaining where her locker was and roughly how far the interior stretched. He left out the part about getting himself stuck in the wrong locker for obvious reasons.
Kyoko nodded along and when he was done, congratulated him on a job well done and had him text the evidence to her so she could relay it to her father. "See? You're a better detective than you give yourself credit for, Shuichi," she said as she turned to walk away. "I'll be sure to keep in touch if anything else comes up."
The praise landed on deaf ears, as Shuichi had already drifted off to thinking about Kaede. The way she basically defaulted to helping him without even asking if he needed it, and how soft her hand felt against his as she lead him through the empty halls. He was definitely keeping her in mind, but probably not in the way she had intended.
He replayed the investigation in his mind over and over until after school the next day. After he left the building to walk to his dorm, earbuds in and listening to some music, he was startled out of his daze by something brushing against his shoulder. He looked to his side to see Kaede, walking alongside him like it was something she did all the time. "Hey Shuichi," she greeted cheerfully. "How'd it go?"
"I gave the evidence to who it needed to go to," Shuichi answered, his voice soft. "I don't know what happened after that."
Kaede nodded understanding. "Well, I haven't seen Tsumugi all day, so I think they caught her."
"So our investigation was a success!" Kaede bounced on her next step, clearly excited. "We did it!"
Shuichi found her smile contagious, and couldn't fight his own mouth forming into a smile. "Heh, I suppose we did."
Without missing a beat, Kaede changed the subject, eyes darting to his earbuds. "Are you listening to music?" She asked. "Can I have a listen?"
"Are you sure?" Shuichi asked. "It's not classical music."
Kaede giggled. "I don't just like classical music, y'know," she said. "I can appreciate a little of every genre, so whatever it is, I'm pretty sure I won't hate it."
"Okay, but why?" Shuichi couldn't say he hated the attention, but it was odd to him.
"You can learn a lot about someone by what kind of music they like," Kaede explained, a finger held up for effect. "You're in music appreciation with me, so you already know a lot of what my favorites are, but I don't know that about you. Consider it your first step to becoming Kaede's friend!"
Just the prospect of that was enough to set Shuichi's face alight and his heart a-racin'. "Um, okay."
"Here." Kaede grabbed an earbud from his ear and gingerly put it in her own, leaning in close to him to make sure it wouldn't fall out. "Why don't you play me your favorite song. Or even just the first song that comes to mind when you hear those words."
Shuichi nodded and scrolled through the music library on his phone, but he was having trouble focusing with the knowledge of how close together Kaede's action had put their heads. Finally, he settled on an old classic from his preferred genre of alternative music. It was one that any fan of that band could recognize from the first note (which happened to be played on a piano, coincidentally,) and Kaede gasped as she heard it.
"This is a classic!"
"Really? I can put on something else," Shuichi offered.
"No, no, this is good." Kaede's smile was evident in her voice. "I happen to like this song, too. Let's listen to it together, okay?"