A story of a thousand wants.
“And then, you fold this triangle down to make the head.”
“Yes! Very good, Iris-sama!”
At the double cheer resounding from behind, Ryuunosuke tears his eyes gratefully away from his textbook and glances over his shoulder, curiosity prickling at the back of his neck. “What are you two doing?”
Susato turns to face him, beaming. “I was just teaching Iris-sama how to fold a paper crane. Look how well it turned out, Naruhodou-sama!”
“It was only because Susie was so good at teaching me!” Iris Watson chirps, lifting her arms to proudly show Ryuunosuke the small, folded crane that rests on her hands. “It’s so cute!” The girl whirls around once, bright pink curls spinning with the motion, and the crane very nearly seems as if it could take flight right then.
Ryuunosuke crouches in front of her to get a better look, admiring the piece. “It’s really good considering it was your first time, Iris-chan.” Indeed, there is barely a careless crease or wrinkle in the paper, only straight, clean lines that are evident of a studious precision. “I still remember when I first tried folding one when I was younger. You couldn’t even tell it was a crane at all.”
A good-natured giggle spills from Susato’s lips, her hand going to her mouth. “That’s very like you somehow, Naruhodou-sama.”
“O-Oh, is it…?”
“But origami is something that can be done by anyone,” she continues, looking back fondly to Iris’s crane. “All it requires is a little patience.”
“Well, true enough.” His disastrous first attempt had left a bitter taste in his throat, and Ryuunosuke recalls the indignant determination that had refused to let him rest until he had folded a successful crane. “I actually got pretty good at it as I kept folding more, although I haven’t done any since we came to London.”
“There’s still paper here if you want to make one too,” Iris calls, waving the sheets in his direction.
After a moment of contemplation, the words escape of their own accord. “…I think I will.” He reaches over to take one of the proffered papers. “…Wait. These papers are my notes from previous cases!”
“Oh, are they?” Yet the untroubled tone with which Iris responds tells him that she is perfectly aware. “They were just scattered all over the floor, so I figured they were just going to be thrown away later anyway.”
“I might’ve wanted to look over them for reference in the future…”
At the excuse, weak to even Ryuunosuke’s own ears, Susato places her hands on her hips and looks at him sternly. “Is that how you should treat valuable documents, Naruhodou-sama? By leaving them without care or organization on the floor?”
“Besides, if you are in need of references from our past cases, I have also recorded information in my notes.” With that, Susato fishes out a small, bound book, a certain pride brimming in her motions. “You may look through them at your leisure.”
“…As expected of you, Susato-san.” It is certainly not the first time, and he knows it will be far from the last, that awe at her diligence washes through his entire body and leaves a strange warmth in its wake.
“It is simply my natural duty as your legal assistant, Naruhodou-sama,” Susato smiles. “With that, I trust you have no objections to the usage of your scrap paper?”
My case notes were downgraded to “scraps”... He allows himself only a small sigh, relenting at last. “I guess it is better than just seeing them all over the ground.” Without further ado, Iris hands him a sheet and cheerfully sets about folding another one.
At that moment, the door to the attic suddenly bursts open and a tall, lanky man waltzes in, a wounded expression on his face. “What’s this? No greeting when I arrive home, and instead I find you all cooped up in this dingy, dusty attic? Without me?”
“Please don’t talk about the room you rented us like that,” Ryuunosouke retorts, barely glancing up from his task. “Welcome back, Holmes-san.”
“Sherly!” Iris squeals and bounces to the self-proclaimed great detective, wrapping her short arms around his waist. “Welcome home! How did the case go?”
A jubilant laugh rings in the air. “Need you even ask, Iris?” Sherlock flicks his distinctive deerstalker with his index finger in triumph, a wide grin meeting Iris’s sparkling eyes. “Another case closed by the great detective Sherlock Holmes! We can rest easy about rent for the month.”
Is that really the sort of conversation you have with a child? Ryuunosuke does not say, but Iris, unperturbed, claps her hands together with equal delight.
“And now,” Sherlock continues, turning to survey the rest of them. “It’s my turn to ask again, just what you all are doing cooped up in this dingy, dusty, decrepit attic—Ah!” He holds a hand up to forestall the exasperated shape that Ryuunosuke’s mouth has formed, smiling slyly. “Allow me to make a deduction!”
“I was doing some origami,” Susato interrupts brightly without heed for the detective’s grandiose conduct, gesturing to the short lineup of small shapes on the table before her. “And Iris-sama was curious, so she allowed me to teach her the most classic design, a crane. And it turned out beautifully, Holmes-sama!”
In a rare occurrence, Sherlock’s depressive episode at the interruption of his deduction does not linger and he straightens immediately. Taking Iris’s crane up in his hand, he tilts his head, examining it from all angles. “As I recall, origami is the traditional Japanese art of folding paper into intricate designs, am I right?”
“Yes, that’s correct.” With a nod of satisfaction, Ryuunosuke places his own completed crane next to Susato’s skillfully folded pieces. There is only a mild twinge of disappointment in himself as he eyes his crane’s slightly uneven lines compared to Susato’s delicate work. “So you’ve heard of it, Holmes-san?”
“As expected of Holmes-sama!”
“What kind of great detective would I be if I didn’t know this much?” One hand returns the crane to Iris, the other lands in a pat on her head, making her giggle. “It might be news to you, but I know how to make a few things myself!”
Ryuunosuke’s eyes widen. “Really? Did someone teach you?”
“I suppose you could say that.” But to his surprise, Sherlock does not elaborate, and Ryuunosuke catches only a snatch of something faraway and fond in his eyes before the detective blinks and turns his gaze back on the scattered papers. “But I must say, the two of you work fast.”
Susato and Ryuunosuke blink in unison, looking down. There is a small pile of cranes sitting between them both, clearly flourishing in their absentmindedness. Ryuunosuke feels his ears grow hot, and he throws half a sheepish glance at Susato, who returns a soft laugh.
Iris leans over the pile, starry-eyed. She scoops a handful up and lets them fall from her hands, smiling as the cranes scatter back to the wooden floor like large snowflakes. “Hey, Susie? You said that the crane is the most classic design, but why’s that?”
“Oh!” Susato brings a finger to her chin, tapping in contemplation. “If I had to say… There is a type of crane native to Japan that is said to be a symbol of good fortune and longevity. These paper cranes are representations of it.”
Something stirs in the back of Ryuunosuke’s mind at Susato’s words—stories and laughter from a childhood that seem like from a lifetime ago. He sweeps a look over the cranes in a quick estimate. Certainly, not a number that any would call ‘few’, but at the same time, not nearly enough. “There’s a famous legend about paper cranes, too,” he finds himself saying, words from his memories filling his throat. “They say if you fold a thousand of them, you’ll be granted a wish.”
“A wish?” Iris echoes, her deep green eyes widening.
“Ah, that’s right!” Susato nods in agreement. “There are many variations to that legend as well. Some say that you must finish the thousand cranes within a certain period of time. Others say that it only works if one person folds them all by themselves. But the fact that there must be a thousand cranes is the one, absolute constant.”
A wistful sigh escapes Iris. “That’s such a nice story. Wishes, huh?”
“It is a nice story.” Ryuunosuke smiles, a little wryly. “When I was younger, everyone wanted to do it, and they’d try. But one thousand cranes is actually a lot more than you’d expect, as it turned out. Most children would get tired of it quickly.”
“Why don’t we give it a try?”
All eyes snap to Sherlock, who is still standing serenely, now with his pipe in his mouth. He smiles down at them with something beyond his usual frivolity. “You seem to be off to a good start, anyway,” he continues, eying the numerous cranes sprinkled across the floor. “With the four of us, one thousand doesn’t seem so far away, does it?”
“I want to do it!” Iris chimes in, nodding energetically. “It sounds like fun!”
Susato clasps her hands together, merriment dancing in her eyes. “It does sound like fun. I’m sure if we keep steadily at it, we’ll reach one thousand cranes in no time.”
One thousand paper cranes. He rolls the phrase around in his head, trying to visualize the end number. Not an impossible goal, by any means, but a question presses insistently forward. “I don’t mind,” Ryuunosuke starts, “…But who gets to make the wish?”
The small sound of realization Iris makes is enough to make him feel ashamed of himself. “Not that it’s a bad idea or anything, not at all,” he hastily adds. “I mean, I’m just saying that according to the legend…”
“An excellent question, Mister Naruhodou!” Sherlock cuts in, unfazed as ever. He spins on the spot with a wink, a solution clearly on his tongue. “Why don’t we let the lucky person who folds the last crane make the wish? In any case, there’s still a while, is there not?”
Enthusiastic nods from Susato and Iris, a grin of satisfaction from the detective—not that it was ever an option, but how can he say no? “Well, let’s do our best, then.”
“Yay!” Iris skips to the table for more paper, beginning the folding process in quick, dainty motions, while Susato turns curiously to Sherlock.
“What would you wish for, Holmes-sama?”
Sherlock snaps his fingers. “A case from a rich client!” he announces dramatically, squaring his arms in the strange pose he makes when in high spirits.
Ryuunosuke tilts his head quizzically. “If you want money, why don’t you just wish for money?”
“Goodness, Mister Naruhodou.” Sherlock wags a finger in his direction, shaking his head as if the answer is obvious. “Do you think I take cases just for the money?”
“Stop looking at me like that. No! If the case is a worthy challenge to the intellect of the great detective Sherlock Holmes, then all the better! I didn’t make my fame by only taking cases based on how much I was paid, you know.”
Despite the lightness in Sherlock’s voice, the twinkling look in his eyes, the undercurrent of deliberate resolve is all genuine and Ryuunosuke cannot help but smile. “No, I didn’t think so.”
“And what about you, Iris-sama?” Noticing the younger girl’s progress, Susato presents her with more paper just as Iris folds down the head of a new crane. “Do you know what sort of wish you would make?”
Iris happily accepts the sheet, her expression bright with the possibilities tumbling through her mind. “There’s a lot of things I’d like to wish for! I’ll have to think it over.” But abruptly, her fingers slow in the middle of a fold, her gaze seeming to travel elsewhere.
“It should be for something important, shouldn’t it? The wish.” Her voice comes out subdued, solemn, as she continues to stare at the half-formed crane in her hands. “Something important like… being able to meet my papa soon.” The note of uncertainty makes something in Ryuunosouke’s chest twist.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he thinks he sees Sherlock tense.
“...I think,” he begins carefully, “you can wish for anything you want.” He thinks for a moment, and then nods, decisively. “That’s what wishes are. Whether or not you think it’s important, or whether or not you think it’ll be granted, all that matters is that it’s something you want, right?”
Only for a moment, he wonders who he’s really trying to convince.
“That’s right, Iris-sama,” Susato speaks now, resolutely. “Please don’t fret about it too much. If you find that you need another wish…” She gestures triumphantly to the still sizeable stack of papers they have gathered and deposited onto the table. “All we have to do is fold another thousand cranes!”
“…You’re right!” Just like that, Iris’s smile is back on her face, the shadow of doubt from moments ago nowhere in sight, and she and Susato giggle briefly at each other. Ryuunosuke marvels at the scene and hears a sigh of what might be relief from behind him. “What about you, Susie? What would you wish for?”
“Me?” For all her enthusiasm about folding cranes, the slightest thought of the end goal does not have appear to have crossed her mind. Susato tips her head into her chin, contemplative. “I… I don’t know. There’s nothing that I feel warrants something as grand as a wish—ah!”
He jumps slightly at her exclamation. “Did you think of something, Susato-san?”
“Yes, I think so.” Susato turns to look at him, and for some reason, her eyes seem very bright. “I would like to wish... for Naruhodou-sama to become the wonderful attorney he hopes to be.”
“Huh!?” The less than flattering sound leaps out as Ryuunosuke’s own eyes widen. “No, no, no, that’s- that’s not— I mean, shouldn’t you wish for something for yourself? I-I can’t possibly accept—”
“Do you truly think that it’s only for yourself?” There is fire in her gaze and steel in the words she returns as she stares at him, unwavering. “It’s something that I too desire, from the very bottom of my heart.” Her eyes travel downward, landing on the object at his hip, and soften. “Wish or not, I believe that it will happen. This is simply… asking for a little assistance.”
He has nothing to respond with but a meek nod, something hot building up in the corners of his eyes and an lump in his throat.
“Mister Naruhodou, do you need a handkerchief?”
“N-No!” Ryuunosuke scrubs briefly across his face with his sleeve, leveling a scowl the best he can at Sherlock before glancing back to Susato. “Susato-san... thank you. I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations.”
She only smiles at him again, an infinitely gentle expression. “What would your wish be, Naruhodou-sama?”
“A wish, huh…” He has pondered the question from the moment their shared goal was decided—but he is sincerely at a loss. “I… really don’t know. I guess I’ll think about it when we get close to the end.” A wish meant a desire, a hope.
…I wonder… if it would work…
He glances out the window, from where he can see sunlight spilling in and a few, fluffy clouds drifting lazily through a blue, blue sky. Sherlock may have called the attic ‘decrepit’, but bathed in a golden glow, there is not a sight more welcoming.
A warm breeze blows into the room, sending a few papers whirling.
But he reaches for another sheet.
“…How are you doing? Are you surprised to see a letter this soon? Just after we left, I remembered a few things I forgot to tell you, so when the ship stopped at a port to resupply, I took the opportunity to send this.
You’re probably still getting used to London, aren’t you? I wanted to mention that there are some things left in my old room at Holmes-san’s place that you might find helpful, like books and stuff. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t take everything back to Japan with me, so if you’re up to it, you can go over to Baker Street sometime to take anything you’d like. In fact, it’d make me really happy if you got some use out of them…”
The sound of the horse carriage clattering noisily away is quickly replaced by that of his own heartbeat, pounding loudly in his chest. It seems silly that such apprehension should eat at him, compared to everything else that has happened, and for the life of him, he cannot find a logical rationale for it.
He takes a deep breath, lifts his hand, and knocks solidly on the door of apartment 221B.
Immediately, pattering footsteps race closer from the other side, and with a click the door swings open. Deep green eyes blink up inquisitively up at him, before they widen in recognition and delight. “It’s you! Come in, we’ve been expecting you!”
Asougi Kazuma inclines his head briefly, unable to stop the corners of his lips from turning up at the child’s enthusiastic greeting. “Good day, Miss Watson.” If the still-puzzling facsimile of her in court hadn’t been lively enough, she is a thousand times more spirited in person.
“Just Iris is fine,” she says cheerily, ushering him in. “Have a seat anywhere you’d like! My special herb tea is almost ready!”
“Ah-” he starts, “You don’t have to-…” But Iris has already vanished elsewhere into the depths of the apartment, presumably to the kitchen. Bemused, Asougi looks side to side, his gaze sweeping over the cluttered sitting room. Despite her encouragement, an assortment of strange contraptions litter every possible place to sit, and he does not particularly feel like carelessly engaging with them.
“Why, if it isn’t Mister Asougi!”
The airy voice from behind him sends a jolt down his spine and Asougi whirls, a hand automatically reaching for the saber at his side. In the next moment, his eyes land on the voice’s owner and he relaxes with a huff. “Detective Holmes.”
“There’s no need to be so wary.” Sherlock Holmes, sans his usual distinctive hat and overcoat, shrugs whimsically, appearing utterly unconcerned with Asougi’s instinctual reflex. “You’re our honored guest for today.”
He bows slightly. “Thank you for your invitation.” It’s not that he means to be curt, but cautious uncertainty still holds him in an iron grip—how should he react to the man who pulled the strings behind his interrupted first journey to London?
But Sherlock only beams, undaunted. “Think nothing of it. You’re Mister Naruhodou and Miss Susato’s dear friend, after all—how could we disappoint them in treating you otherwise? In fact,” He fishes a folded paper from his front pocket, waving it before Asougi. The scrawling handwriting from what he can see on the envelope is achingly familiar. “Mister Naruhodou explicitly requested us to look after you and lend you a hand where possible.”
“Naruhodou… he worries too much.” A wry smile escapes him nevertheless. “But I’m afraid I won’t be staying long. I’m only here to pick up some items Naruhodou left behind before I return to the prosecutors’ office.”
“Mister Naruhodou mentioned those as well.” Sherlock snaps his fingers in the direction of the stairs. “Take whatever you’d like! I told him anything left is fair game for my experiments.”
He bows a second time, turning away. “Excuse me, then.”
“Ah, just one moment, Mister Asougi!” Sherlock calls, striking a strange pose. “The bottom of the lowest shelf in the farther corner of the room. I suggest you take an especially close look.”
Asougi pauses with his foot on the first step, puzzled.
Sherlock winks at him, mischief and goodwill in equal measure. “I think you’ll find something very interesting there.”
The attic glows with midmorning light, exuding an atmosphere of welcome despite the clear lack of inhabitants. Asougi stops at the top of the staircase, letting his eyes wander from corner to corner and taking in every sight of the cozy, if slightly lonely space.
This is the room where his best friend stayed and learned and lived, in their year of separation.
The room is sparse now, but by no means empty—a number of packed boxes and heavy-looking hardcover books still line the shelves against the wall. When he runs a finger along the desk, only a few specks remain on his glove; someone has been up here to dust recently.
A soft splash from nearby catches his ear, and Asougi turns to see a small glass tank filled with water—and prawns, of all things. He peers dubiously into the tank, wondering what in the world possessed his friend to keep such tiny sea creatures. As far as prawns go, they seem quite healthy—not that he can tell. Perhaps Sherlock, or more likely Iris, cares for them now in Naruhodou’s absence.
There is a door at the end of a shallow recess that branches off from the attic, still bearing Mikotoba’s name. He smiles briefly at it before moving past to the shelves at last.
Naruhodou Law Consultation Office may be labeled at the entrance, but it is Mikotoba’s influence that is clear in the level of organization present. Boxes are neatly labeled and books sorted by subject in a way that is not quite believable of Naruhodou, as far as Asougi remembers. He sifts through them one by one, pulling out the files he deems useful and putting the rest carefully back with a mental word of pity for their eventual fate at the detective’s hands.
Although knowing Sherlock, the threat might have been made in nothing more than simple jest.
Speaking of the detective—Sherlock’s words from earlier float into his mind.
The lowest shelf in the corner, was it?
In that spot, there is another large box tucked away, unlabeled. When Asougi lifts it, the box feels surprisingly light for its size. He sets it on the table, raising the lid to set aside, curiosity prickling at the back of his neck.
The box is filled to the brim with strangely shaped paper.
Asougi picks one up from the multitude, eying the crane as it sits inoffensively on his palm. Paper cranes. The classic shape of origami, a common pastime in Japan. He has not expected to see one an ocean away. And moreover, this many of them. There is only one explanation.
A thousand cranes…
There is not a child in Japan who has not heard the legend, and Asougi recalls it dimly in his own memory as well. A pretty, fanciful story of wishes and hope, but ultimately, nothing more.
Yet somehow, here in Naruhodou’s room, he is not surprised to see them at all.
A single square piece of unfolded paper he had missed at first glance flaps conspicuously from a corner of the box, and Asougi pulls it free.
His eyes widen as he turns it over and catches sight of his own name in familiar scrawls, messier than usual as if written in a haste.
I folded these cranes with everyone here, although we didn’t get around to finishing the very last one.
But, I don’t think I need them anymore.
So if you’d like, if you want—…”
Vaguely, Asougi becomes aware of a quiet, choked up sound that is filling the attic. At the same time, breathing is strangely difficult.
Then he realizes—the laughter is coming from himself.
He presses a hand to his mouth, his friend’s note shuddering in the other. There is a bizarre obstruction in his throat that threatens to leave him gasping.
But in illogical contradiction, his heart feels lighter than ever.
Ahh, I have never been a match for you, Naruhodou.
When he makes his way back downstairs, Naruhodou’s note in his pocket and boxes balanced in his arms, Sherlock and Iris are there to greet him and grin knowingly at the look on his face. The fragrant smell of tea wafts warmly through the air.
“It’s still hard to believe we folded all these!” Iris says as she lifts the lid up to marvel once again at the collection of cranes.
“A nostalgic sight indeed,” Sherlock nods in agreement, puffing from his pipe. “Well? What do you intend to wish for, Mister Asougi?”
Asougi starts at the question. True, Naruhodou had indicated that the cranes be left to him, but if it had been a group effort as his friend mentioned, can he really accept them? “…Are you sure I can take them? After all, I didn’t help fold a single one.”
“We don’t need them!” Iris’s response is bright and immediate. She closes the box with a flourish, leveling a kind gaze at him. “Not anymore. Besides, if they said you should take the cranes, you should.”
“That’s right. It’s not as if I hoped you would gallantly proclaim that you needed no such thing and then I could wish for a rich client—”
“Now, now, Sherly, drink your tea.”
Asougi chuckles at their banter. “…Thank you.” But as he glances back to the box, thinking, an idea comes to mind. “Detective Holmes, Miss Iris, will you help me with something?”
They turn inquisitive expressions on him. “Hm?”
“Do you have string?”
The journey back to the prosecutors’ office is uneventful, and he spends most of it gazing aimlessly out the window of the carriage.
The box of cranes sits by his side, slightly emptier.
“String?” Iris echoes, her head tipping to the side in question.
“In Japan, it’s traditional to hang the thousand cranes in groups on string,” he explains. “It makes for easier organization, as well.”
It takes Iris little more incentive to hunt for the material, and the three of them begin the arduous task of threading the cranes together in sets.
“What about your work?” Iris asks, snipping another length of string.
He waves dismissively. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
At length, they finish the job, and Asougi silently marvels that there really were nine hundred and ninety-nine cranes stuffed in the box.
He turns and holds several strings of cranes out to them both. “You have my gratitude for taking care of Naruhodou and Assistant Mikotoba during their time in London. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Iris takes the cranes, bundling them carefully in her arms, and smiles widely. “Come visit us any time!”
Sherlock places a hand on his hip, a playful, knowing look in his eyes. “Bring that gloomy reaper with you too, Mister Asougi.”
Barok van Zieks looks impassively up from his desk as Asougi enters the office, nudging the door open with his foot—his arms are otherwise occupied. “It’s unusual for you to be late without reason,” Barok remarks.
“My errand took longer than I thought,” Asougi replies shortly. “I’m prepared to make my work up in full.”
“Hm. No matter. There is little to do today, in any case.”
“Is that so?”
Brief, concise, void of unnecessary tangents. Their conversations have always been this way so far. The vast abyss of tangled, convoluted feelings that lie between them still runs deep, after all.
It is precisely for that reason that Asougi reaches into the box, scooping out a handful of the contents.
Without a word, he walks up to Barok’s desk, and scatters the cranes onto the tabletop.
For several entire seconds, silence falls over the room.
Barok’s gaze flickers from the pile of cranes on his desk back to Asougi. To Asougi’s pleasure, there is no mistaking the genuine bewilderment in the other prosecutor’s eyes—he has well and truly caught the man off-guard for once.
At last, Barok opens his mouth. “…Prosecutor Asougi. What exactly are these?”
He cannot help the grin that spreads across his face as he turns tail and strides purposefully out of the room with the rest of the box, laughter on his lips and satisfied amusement in his chest at the former reaper’s flummoxed expression. “Wishes, Prosecutor van Zieks.”
There are still many, many left to give.
A few more strings go to Inspector Gina Lestrade when he comes across her delivering a report. Her loyal companion sniffs playfully at Asougi’s boots while he places the cranes in her outstretched hands—a silent word of appreciation and apology all at once even as she accepts them skeptically.
She waves goodbye as she dashes into the prosecutors’ office, the cranes trailing in flight behind her and Toby at her heels.
The next name on the list Sherlock wrote for him is a woman by the name of Viridian Green, a woman he has never met—
But Naruhodou has.
And Asougi thinks, there will never be enough gratitude in the world to Naruhodou for all the lives he has touched.
The box has never been heavy, but there is a strange weight in the remainder of the contents despite the fact it should feel the exact opposite now.
When he arrives at the gates, the sunset burning at his back, his feet freeze in place. But if he should stop here, it will have all been for nothing.
He weaves lightly through the rows upon rows of marked stones—these are not what he is searching for. There would have been no inscription, no indication—not for a murderer. It is only by the allowance of the prosecutors’ office’s records that he knows where to go.
At last, he comes to a stop, his eyes fixed on the blank headstone before him. For a long while, he can only stare at it wordlessly, everything he has ever wanted to say suddenly, inexplicably lost in his throat.
So instead, Asougi takes a step forward, and lets the last of the cranes in his arms fall to the dirt on his father’s grave.
In the dimming light, the cranes seem to faintly glow.
It is much, much later, after he has pulled himself away, that he realizes Naruhodou’s note is still in his pocket. He brings it out, smoothing the creases, looking down at his friend’s messily inked words, and recalls how to smile.
He begins, by folding the paper in half.