His steps quicken with every second that passes with no sign of her. How could he have lost her so easily? One minute he has his back turned, and the next, she's gone. Yumi always did have a strong wanderlust, but…
"Daddy, Daddy! Look! Come on! Let's go over here!" he'd heard her say as he stopped to inquire about a small pair of earrings that Eriko might like.
Her words not totally registering to him, he'd replied absentmindedly, "All right, Yumi. In a bit, just be patient."
Only when he'd gone to reach for his wallet did he realize that Yumi's warm tiny hand was no longer wrapped in his, and her pudgy little shape gone from his side. Yumi was clearly his daughter; she had his capacity for patience.
Eriko's going to kill me, he thinks, a pathetic attempt at a joke to comfort himself as the cop in him runs through a series of the worst case scenarios in his mind, the adrenaline rush forcing him to move faster. No no no, he mustn't think like this. Yumi's probably just run off into one of the toy or candy stores, looking for something for Anika's birthday. After all, that's what they'd come here to do, as well as to spend some quality time and give Eriko a break.
God, I hope she has enough sense to stay where she is until I find her…wherever she is.
He doesn't have a choice. He's going to have to call security. He tries not to dwell too much on the irony of needing help from the mall cops when he himself is a cop who's worked on cases involving missing people as he approaches the directory.
"Yes sir, how can I help you?" asks the lady minding the counter between snaps of her gum, her shadowed eyes glazed with the two o'clock daze of midday as her fingers drum against the desk.
"H-hello, I'm looking for my daughter Yumi. She's run off and I need help finding her," he presses, trying to keep his emotions leveled. It would do no one any good to panic.
"Yes, sir. Can I have a description of her?"
"She's six years old, about a meter tall, she's wearing a pink jumper with a plain white shirt, and a pair of purple tennis shoes. Her hair is short and brown, and her eyes are dark brown."
She's the spitting image of her mother…
The receptionist takes note of all of this on a pad, nodding absentmindedly as she continues to chew. Each snap and pop pierces his mind like the tick of the clock over their heads for every second he doesn't know where Yumi is. "Mm-hm. Okay. I'll call security right now and issue an alert."
He is about to thank her when a voice calls out to him. A very loud and familiar voice. Two of them, actually. "Aizawa, Aizawa! There you are!"
He turns. Well, what are the odds? "Matsuda?"
The gang had been fooling around at the rink, just coming back for a break after couples' skate had ended. Light and Misa had practically stolen the show, though not for reasons that Misa would've liked. With their fingers laced around each other, they might've been the most lovey-dovey couple out there had it not been for Ryuzaki dragging on them as he crouched down towards the floor and had Light pull him along, holding on with both hands to the chain that bound them together. Oh yes, that earned them a few bemused looks from bystanders and got many more to move out of the way.
Behind them, Erin and Matsuda skated arm-in-arm as they sang along to the song blasting overhead, almost tripping over themselves as their bodies shook, their faces flushed with laughter.
Right when the song ended, Ryuzaki abruptly announced, "I'm thirsty." He used his weight on the chain to swerve to the edge and plant his rear on the curb, the sudden jerk yanking Light away from Misa and leaving her spinning out of control while Light found himself flat on his back. Luckily, Matsuda managed to break away and catch the girl in the nick of time, though he did leave Erin floundering around on her skates for a few seconds while someone else caught her by the wrist.
"What the hell, Ryuzaki! You could've caused an accident. Give us a warning next time, will you?" Light snapped, working on getting himself back on his feet before shuffling his way to the edge next to his compatriot. He rubbed his sore back.
"I did issue a warning," said Ryuzaki as he let Erin go. "I said I was thirsty."
"You dummy, that's not a warning!" chided Misa as Matsuda guided her out of the rink to join the rest.
"Hey, no problem, guys! Drinks are on me!" Erin volunteered, taking off her skates to leave her in her sock feet. "You know what you guys want?"
"Anything as long as it's diet!" said Misa, taking her seat beside Light.
"Oh, I'm not picky. You can get me anything," cheered Matsuda. "Hey Light, are you okay? That looked like it hurt. You need an ice pack or anything?"
"No, no, I'll be okay, don't worry about it. I'll just have bottled water if they have it," said Light.
"I would like coffee or tea, but failing that, I will accept anything as long as it's sweet," said Ryuzaki. That he had not apologized for making Light fall was not lost on Erin.
She saluted them all regardless. "Gotcha!" As she trotted off to the snack bar, Matsuda looked around, not for any particular reason, but when his eyes landed at the entrance of the rink, he spotted a little girl in a pink jumper with her tiny hands cupped around her mouth.
"Daddy? Daddy, where are you?" She wasn't crying like some children would when they were lost, but the way her little voice carried out certainly had a twinge of worry in it. Either way, Matsuda recognized her almost instantly.
Yumi? What was she doing here? She must be visiting the mall with her dad, but where was Aizawa at this moment? Instinct prompted him onto his feet, making him temporarily forget that he still had his skates on until he found himself having to cling to the railing for support.
"What's the matter, Matsuda?" asked Light.
"H-hang on, I see a little girl over by the entrance. I think it's Aizawa's kid," grunted Matsuda as he tried to regain his balance. "But I don't see Aizawa with her. I'm gonna go check it out."
"Ooh, ooh! Bring her over here!" Misa suggested, flicking her wrists with excitement. "Misa's never gotten to meet Monchichi's kids before! Ohhh, is that her in the jumper? She's so precious!"
Just before Yumi gave up and started to look elsewhere, Matsuda glided to her, grabbing onto a support beam to brake. "Hi, Yumi! What's up?"
Recognizing him, Yumi waved and flashed a charming smile, revealing a gap in it where a bottom tooth used to be. "Oh! Hi, Mr. Matsuda! Have you seen my daddy? He ran off. I told him to stay put so I could go look for a present for Anika and when I came back to ask for money he was gone. I've been looking all over for him."
Matsuda laughed, wondering to himself if it wasn't the other way around, or perhaps a mutual misunderstanding. She was certainly taking this better than he imagined Aizawa to be taking it at the moment…
Nonetheless, she really shouldn't be wandering around the mall by herself. "Well Yumi, I haven't seen him, but I can help you find him."
"That would be great, Mr. Matsuda! Thank you so much!" Matsuda couldn't help but blush. Sometimes a "thank-you" was all he needed to make his day. When they were still working together, Aizawa didn't tell him that very often. Most people didn't.
Around this time, the rest of the gang joined them around the entrance. Light and Ryuzaki had taken off their skates while Misa kept hers on. "Oh, is this Yumi? Hi, I'm Misa-Misa! Nice to meet you!" The idol bent down to take Yumi's hand and shake it.
Yumi tilted her head and blinked. "Hi, Misa-Misa! Hm. Are you the lady that shows up on the cover of the magazines at the supermarket? You look kinda like that lady." In the eyes of a child, everyone was equal.
Misa clapped her hands. "Why yes, that's Misa on those magazines! Wow, Monchichi's daughter is so smart, and cute! So what brings you here, Yumi? How come you're not with your daddy?" Behind her, Light rolled his eyes, a ghost of what could be construed as a smile teasing at his lips.
"Monchichi? That's not my daddy's name. Mommy calls him Shuichi. Sometimes she calls him Honey, too. Mostly I just know him as Daddy," the little girl says with a shrug. "I was looking for a present for my sister for her birthday, and then Daddy ran off. I'm looking for him since he has all the money."
"Well, don't you worry your sweet little head. We'll help you find him. In the meantime, maybe Misa can help find a good present for your sister? Misa is an expert at present-giving. What does she like?"
Yumi rocked a bit on her heels in thought. "I'm not really sure. Anika's turning one and she doesn't talk very much because she's still learning. Mostly she just crawls around and moos like a cow."
"Awww! A baby, huh? Misa has just the thing to get her for her first birthday! Light darling, will you watch Yumi until Misa comes back? Misa will be quick!"
"Erm, okay, Misa." They'd have to stay with the girl anyway, at least until they found Aizawa.
Misa had enough sense to turn in her skates at the counter to get her boots back. She stops only to take her can of soda out of Erin's hand on her way out with a brisk, "Thanks a lot, BRB!"
"Uh…you're welcome," she answers out of her earshot. "Hey, what'd I miss?"
"Elin, this is Yumi. She and her dad got separated, so we're going to help find him."
Her face breaks out into a grin as she tilts her hat out of her face with her wrist, her fingers occupied with balancing three cans of soda and a water bottle. "Well hello there. Don't worry, these boys here are detectives; they're good at tracking people down."
"Just like my daddy."
"Like your dad, huh?" she parroted, not knowing then the meaning of those words.
A mischievous smirk crossed her lips, and she whispered, "Hey. You wanna see something funny? Check this out. Ssssh." She stood up straight and tall and started to pass out the drinks save for one can of soda for herself.
Ryuzaki examined the can from top to bottom as he held it pinched between his fingers, his expression blank and owlish. "I am quite certain that they were serving coffee."
"Tried it. It sucks. You wouldn't like it, no matter how much sugar you dumped into it. The soda's a lot better. Cheers!" With a crack of her fingers, she opened her can of soda and took a healthy swig.
Ryuzaki though kept picking at the tin loop, unable to lift it. "This is one of the reasons why I do not care for canned soft drinks; I can never seem to open the can."
Erin threw her arms into the air in mock despair. "Lord help us all! Ryuzaki here's found something he actually can't do!"
Light screwed the cap back on his water after taking a swallow and scoffed. "Well, that's no surprise coming from someone who's chewed his fingernails down to the bone. Here, I'll get that."
In one second the entire front of Light's once immaculate white shirt dripped and dribbled with 255 milliliters of sticky Dr. Pepper™ (roughly estimated). He tried not to look as upset as he really was—how he hated getting his clothes dirty—though Yumi's giggling did nothing to help the situation. Light's fingers twitched with restrained fury as Ryuzaki took back the can and took a sip.
"She's right. That was rather amusing," he deadpanned, his tone suggesting the opposite of his words. His nose twitched very slightly when he pulled the can away from his lips. "Another thing I don't care for about soft drinks is that they bother my nose. The carbonation makes it tingle." He took another slurp, anyway, treating the beverage like he would a cell phone. Cumbersome, but necessary. It was still very sweet, after all.
"Uh…heh-heh. Okay, I think I'm gonna go get some napkins," Erin offered, hastily making a 180 back to the snack bar.
"Hmm…well, that explains why you're not wearing shoes," Aizawa grunts, gesturing to Matsuda's wiggling black sock-clad toes.
Matsuda himself looks down at them, afraid to look up again when he feels his face turning red. "Oh. So I'm not. I must've forgot them. Anyway, let's skedaddle on back to the rink now—"
Suddenly, Aizawa's phone rings. Who could be calling him now? His caller ID reads—
"Er, excuse me, I'd better take this." Click. "Hello?"
The sound of her sweet voice on the line almost jolts him off balance. Oh thank God, she's okay! Or so she sounds. "Yumi?"
"Hi, Daddy!" There's a bemused pause on his little girl's end, and he could've sworn he'd heard her say, "Hey, mister. How'd you know my daddy's number?"
He strains his ears and hears a third-party reply along the lines of, "An educated guess."
That voice. He can recognize that maddening monotone anywhere.
Oh no. Not him. Of all times and places…
It's been a while since their falling-out that had ended with Aizawa leaving the task force. While his anger on the whole thing had cooled since then, and he doesn't feel bile rising out of his throat at the thought of him, he isn't sure if he's ready to face his former "boss" again; indeed he had doubted that he ever would, at least any time soon.
But he doesn't have a choice. Yumi is with him. She's with the man who is the reason he finally came home and doesn't even know it.
Blogger looks stunned. He supposes that this is just as much a surprise to her that they would meet again in this way as it is to him. "Matsu, you didn't say that Yumi was Aizawa's kid," he hears her whisper, like something bad is about to happen. Probably another fight not unlike the last one.
"I didn't? Oh. Oops."
She facepalms. "Oh man. Talk about awkward…"
"Where have you been, Daddy? How come you ran off when you said you'd stay put?"
I could ask you the same thing, he thinks with an internal sigh of relief and exasperation, but he doesn't. It doesn't matter now. What does is finding her. "I'm sorry Yumi, I guess I didn't listen. Do you know where you are now?"
"Uh-huh! We're at…um, Radio Hut!"
"What are you doing there, sweetie? I thought you were at the roller rink—"
"Ah, Mr. Matsuda must've found you, already! Yeah, we were waiting there. But then one of his friends, Mr. Ryuzaki said he knew a place where I could get a present for Anika, so we're over at Radio Hut, now."
What in the world? What is he up to?
Well, at least from the sound of things, Ryuzaki isn't making her cry or anything like that. That had racked at his nerves. If Ryuzaki could get close to reducing a grown man like him to tears through his mind games, there's no telling what he'll do to a little girl.
A part of him doesn't want to believe that he could be that vicious.
Plus, if that stubborn ass is there, Light is probably with him, too.
"Well…all right, Yumi. Just stay where you are, okay? We'll be right over."
"Okay! But please hurry, these presents we got are so cool. I love you, Daddy."
No need to look all sentimental in front of Matsuda and Blogger. He turns away slightly before answering a bit softly, "I love you too, Yumi. I'm hurrying."
After waiting for Matsuda to retrieve his shoes, the walk over is relatively short, though the three find themselves needing to take the escalator up to the second floor where Radio Hut is located. On the way, Aizawa is bombarded by questions by the loud-mouthed American student like how is he doing and how's the clan. She's trying to make sure that he's more or less okay. While he does appreciate her concern, what matters to him most at the moment is Yumi.
You shouldn't even be here. If anyone should be home right now, it's you. But he has no authority over L's decisions, not now and probably not so much then, either. Ryuzaki had better be careful from here on. Losing Ukita had been too much; they don't need more innocent lives wasted on this case.
In the meantime, he'll do what he can on his part. No matter what, he'd never leave his two girls to grow up in a world where Kira's terror is law. He'd told Eriko this late one night when this had all begun. He hoped that she understood—as their mother, of course she would—but that hadn't stopped the investigation from putting their marriage in a vise. Things at home aren't at present as tense as before, but it lingers.
He clears his throat. "My youngest daughter Anika is having her first birthday this weekend."
"Aw, that's cute! Congratulations, man. Make sure you do it big! You only have a first birthday once." She slaps him on the back as they jump off the escalator, something he hadn't expected from her. Americans…
"Thank you." He might have missed out on Yumi's sixth birthday back in August, but he wouldn't miss Anika's very first birthday for the world. He doesn't need anyone to remind him of this.
Sure enough, he sees her outside the store with Light (with painfully conspicuous soda stains down the front of his shirt and khakis) and "Ryuzaki." She's smiling from ear to ear while fiddling with a chunk of red and black plastic, designed like a ladybug's shell. It looks like a cell phone.
It is a cell phone.
She runs to him with her arms outstretched, her shoes pitter-pattering across the marble tiles as she zigzags between a few passersby. He walks to her in kind, his steps aching but eager, bending at the knees so she can throw her arms around his neck and kiss his cheek when they meet. For the moment, it doesn't matter as much who's watching.
"You had me worried there, Yumi."
"Daddy, you worried me more. Don't ever run off on me again," says Yumi with a sternness that would normally be reserved for the other way around. She always has had a way of wrapping him around her little finger, even when she's gotten in trouble.
She's just like her mother.
"What's that you have there?"
Yumi holds out the phone to him, beaming. "Like it, Daddy? Mr. Ryuzaki let me pick it out."
"Sorry for making you chase us, Aizawa," Light said, bowing to him slightly. "I tried to stop them…"
"Better to have called beforehand than to have you go to the rink to find us absent," muttered Ryuzaki, his hands tucked in the pockets of those same baggy jeans he's always worn.
Of course he'd act like nothing happened. That's just how he is. Either he doesn't know the depths of how morally unsound he can be, or he simply doesn't care. The "world's greatest detective" can't be bothered with such trivial matters as right and wrong, so long as he gets the results that he's after.
"Mr. Ryuzaki showed me how to use a cell phone. Now whenever we get separated, I can call you. And look! I got one for Anika, too! One with cow spots on it. Do you think she'll like it, Dad?"
"Ryuzaki…Anika's one. She doesn't have much use for a cell phone, at the moment," he says finally, his mind racing with images of his two daughters as teenagers eating up all of their minutes and running up the bill.
Now be realistic, Shuichi. Who do they know at the moment that they would chat up for that long? Anika can barely form words, yet.
"It's never too early to teach children about safety, Mr. Aizawa. You of all people would appreciate that. Of course, another thing you can do is handcuff your children to you whenever you go out so that you won't become separated to begin with. That's what Light and I do."
"I think the cell phone idea is better," grumbles Light. "It would teach them autonomy as well as safety."
"And I guess Aizawa's getting footed with the bill?" Blogger blurts, louder than she might've intended, having been, like Matsuda, hesitant before to say anything that could aggravate an already awkward situation.
"That's already been worked out," he replies, leaving it at that.
Aizawa is at a loss for words. Why would he do this? After what he did the last time they saw each other—
There's no way he can accept this. Once again, he can feel that surge of anger course through his body like kerosene and ignite his every nerve, though not as strong as the last time. He thinks he can buy his forgiveness by paying for phones that his daughters won't even use? This after withholding financial aid for his entire family for the sake of testing his loyalties?
"Yumi? Can I see those?"
Oblivious to her father's inner torment, she hands over the devices without question. He tries to block out her surprised gasp when he marches over to Ryuzaki and holds them out for him to take back.
"I'm sorry, Ryuzaki. But I can't accept that. My daughters have no use for cell phones at the moment, and besides I'd rather be held accountable for my own debts. I thank you for the offer, though," he tells him as calmly as possible.
His former boss's poker face never drops for a second. "Ah, I see. Too soon? I understand."
I'm sure you do, smug son of a—
"Not many would turn down an offer to have something paid for them, but you never were one of the many. By the way, your daughter…is very clever. You've done a fine job raising her so far, all things considered."
A part of him sneers inside. Oh save it. What would you know about raising a family? Cases are more important to you than people.
Another part of him is strangely not as bitter. He's not tickled by the compliment for sure, but at the same time…
"Wish baby Anika a happy birthday for us."
"Sure. At any rate, thank you guys for helping me find Yumi, but we'd best get going."
"Take care," Ryuzaki says quietly.
"Yes. You take care, yourself," he answers, not looking back at him. Oh, if he lets anymore people get needlessly hurt for this case—
"Huh? But Daddy, what about the phones?" Yumi demands as he takes her hand and leads her away from the group. Light and Erin are shaking their heads, while Matsuda has no idea what to say, though he does have an idea on why Aizawa's walking away from a free cell phone plan. Even when Ryuzaki attempts to be "nice," he still manages to piss people off.
"You're hopeless, Ryuzaki. Has anyone ever told you that?" he hears Light grunt.
"Phones come with plans, Yumi, and I don't have the money to pay for a plan for both you and Anika, right now." He bites back the strain in his voice as his throat tightens. "I'm sorry. We'll try to find something that's more within the budget."
"But Mr. Ryuzaki said he had the money. Why not let him pay for it?"
Yumi squeezes his thumb. "Did Mr. Ryuzaki make you mad? Is that why you said no? What'd he do, Dad? He's kinda weird and his face looks like a panda's, but he seems nice."
Aizawa wonders if she's not the only one confused by all this. The same man who had insulted him twice now is the reason he's even here to have this conversation with his daughter at the mall. Maybe he is hopeless?
Only question is, how hopeless?
"He…didn't do anything in particular. I just don't like people covering debts for me, especially ones that I don't need to have to begin with. Promise me when you grow up, Yumi, that you will always take responsibility for whatever you owe. And don't take up debts that you can't afford."
Yumi doesn't understand, but she nods. "Okay, Daddy."
He almost jumps when someone squeals to him, "Monchichi! There you are! Misa's been looking all over for you. Look at what Misa picked out for baby Anika! She'll look so cute in this."
"Huh? Oh. Hello, Miss Amane." Again with leaving her alone, Matsuda?
He only stops one more time for Misa to offer her gift: a pair of plush footie pajamas designed like a Holstein cow, complete with little horns, a tail and a little cowbell around the neck. "Yumi told me that Anika liked cows, so Misa got this for her."
He works up a smile out of courtesy. He's too tired to feel annoyed. Ryuzaki had already helped himself to most of his capacity for annoyance for today.