"Don't overwrite the memories of the happy times you spent with sad ones."
At Mr. Nanase's words, the girl began to cry. Had something happened to her daddy...?
"They said they're getting a divorce. They said I can't see Daddy anymore," the girl said, rubbing her eyes. "Suddenly... All of a sudden, Daddy was gone."
It's children who end up being hurt by adults' affairs. Standing in front of the girl, sobbing so hard her shoulders shook, I was unsure what to do with this unexpected development.
"Even if my parents say it's solved, it'll never be solved to me. That's why I wanted you to solve this case."
So that's what it had been about... But how should we resolve it? I walked up beside the girl, but had no idea what to say to her.
"You're right - this korokke is good."
Turning to Mr. Nanase, I saw him sitting on a bench and chewing on korokke. Oh, the korokke from before.
The girl hesitated, looking confused, but wiped away her tears and slowly headed over to Mr. Nanase.
"You too, Amekura."
I took the paper-wrapped korokke from him. It was still warm, exuding an oily aroma.
The three of us sat side by side on the bench, eating korokke.
"I haven't eaten this korokke since then. It reminded me of Daddy and it made me sad..."
"I bet your dad feels the same way."
"Does... does Daddy hate me...?" the girl murmured sadly.
"Of course not! I'm sure something happened between him and your mother, and..."
I knew that saying it wouldn't cheer her up one bit. But still...
"No one knows how strangers feel."
That's too blunt, Mr. Nanase...
"But he's not a stranger..."
"Everyone aside from you is a stranger. Sometimes you don't even find out how family feel until years later."
He was right... But even if he said that to her right now...
"Do you hate your dad now?"
"I couldn't... he'll always be my daddy."
"Then believe in what you see. It's not nice to doubt the dad who was so kind to you, is it?"
"No, but..." The girl looked at the ground.
"I told you. Don't overwrite the memories of the happy times you spent with sad ones. The things in your memories aren't a lie."
I felt a strange persuasiveness in Mr. Nanase's words. It was almost like I was the one being cheered up. How strange.
"I don't like saying things that make people feel better for a bit..." The girl looked up at Mr. Nanase. "But kid. The taste of korokke eaten together isn't the kind of thing you go forgetting so easily."
The girl stared intently at the korokke, then began to chew once more.
"Yeah... I wonder if Daddy remembers it, too..."
Afterwards, we talked about the girl's school and her pet hamster. I couldn't tell whether or not Mr. Nanase was listening, but the girl looked like she had brightened up again.
"I'm that way," the girl said as we left the park, pointing to the corner of the tree-lined path.
"Uh, will you be okay?"
"Yeah. We solved the case."
The girl smiled.
"Mr. Detective... I won't forget the taste of the korokke we ate today, either."
I turned to Mr. Nanase, still facing sideways.
"I see," he said quietly.
And thus, our first job came to an end. After all that, Mr. Nanase solved it all by himself and I could do nothing. I had glimpsed a slightly different side of the surly detective who stood before me.
"Mr. Nanase! It's not too bad working in the cold case investigation division, is it?" I called to the suited figure walking into the distance.
"That's the last I do."
My only boss, Shonosuke Nanase. From that day onwards, I continued to follow along after him.