"This is the last time we'll see each other," he said quietly.
Her eyes widened as she clutched at his arm, which he gently removed. "The last time- But Haru-"
"I can't take back what I've done and it's better for all of us if we cut ties here. For me, for you and your family, and your fiance and the Suzumiya family as well." If we had met in a different life... That, Haru would never say, but it was reflected in his eyes. Maybe I would be the one. Maybe I'd be the man standing at your side.
Her heart thudded in her chest as he leaned down to pat her head once, then turned to leave. This was it. She would never see Haru, the most important person in her life other than her parents, ever again.
Was this really the best thing for her? For him? For both of them?
All the words she wanted to say dried up in her throat as he walked away.
Come back, Haru. Come back to me.
She wished she could have said that.
Her heart thudded painfully as she woke up to the sound of her alarm. What the heck had she been dreaming about... Haru? Her? Letting him go? But why? Why had they been on a bridge at night? Why had Haru looked so sad? Why had he left?
She shook her head quickly trying to dispel her thoughts. The dream was so vivid, maybe- Without really understanding why, she flung the covers of her bed away and rushed downstairs.
"Just a few more minutes for breakfast, you're early today... but you're not dressed for school yet?"
She looked down at herself and winced, realizing she was still in her pajamas. That dream had unsettled her enough to rush down to check on Haru but here he was, cooking her breakfast and looking like he'd always belonged in her kitchen. It was just a dream. Haru was still here. She exhaled in relief.
He held the frying pan full of bacon steady, not transferring them to the plate he prepared. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm really okay!" The dream wasn't real, Haru was still with her. All was right with the world.
"Then you should probably get dressed for school," he suggested. "Don't you have a test today?"
"I forgot! I'll be right back!"
As she turned, she missed the fond smile that Haru sent her way.
It had been such a vivid dream, she thought to herself as she walked around the campus later that day. Haru, her, a bridge, her tears, him saying goodbye. What could have happened that they would be in that situation, that Haru would...
No, Haru would never leave her. He'd promised. He'd practically been her older brother growing up, protecting her and comforting her especially since her parents were usually away most of the time.
She had to get to the bottom of all these liars apparently surrounding her according to that fortune teller (who seemed rather sketchy), but Haru... Haru would never betray her.
No, because what Haru and she shared was something incomparable.
She was just unsettled by Senri's betrayal a few days ago, for sure. Maybe that was the cause of her strange dreams.
Two months later
"I see you're getting close to eliminating all the liars in your life," he said dramatically. "But I think you're going to be surprised by one of them-"
"One of them? I'm surprised by all of them!"
"Yeah, well, this one's special. Because-" He paused, clearly enjoying the conversation, "Because you'll never see it coming!"
"Never see it coming..." Her heart sank. Who would betray her next? Already she'd lost so much trust in some of her dearest classmates and friends... Who else was left to betray her? Kyoko? Sotaro? Who would hurt her the most?
It couldn't be.
"Well, consider this the best warning you'll get," Johnny said gaily, "I never warned the other girl so clearly, so you you should be grateful."
"What other girl? Wait!"
"Sorry, I'm off to meet my Oinky-kins, toodle-loo!" With that, Johnny disappeared as quickly as he came, only leaving her with the terrible thought she'd been trying to suppress ever since he'd brought it up.
Who else has been lying to me?
"Never see it coming," she whispered to herself later that day. I'm sorry, Haru, I'll make it up to you someday. I really just need to know.
She knew that Haru had some errands from her family later, which he usually would do in the hour before he picked her up from school. It would be the perfect time to check his room.
She took a deep breath before opening the front door of her house. So far, so good. She'd just quickly go in, confirm Haru wasn't doing anything bad, then-
This was it. Haru's room. She took a breath again before trying the doorknob. It swung open-
She hadn't been in Haru's room ever since she was a child - usually Haru was the one to come to her room when she felt lonely, so there was never a need to. It was as immaculate as she'd expected, Haru had always been meticulous in making sure their home was perfectly clean. Nothing was out of place and thu, s, nothing should be making her doubt Haru.
The drawer beckoned...
I'm already here, so-
She pulled it open and a piece of paper fluttered out. She picked it up, her heart sinking at what she read. An invitation from the Knave of Diamonds.
Why would Haru have this? Akari said the police are keeping everything from this thief under wraps.
She decided to look in the drawer properly, now finding maps, then underneath, a-
"Oh, Haru..." She lifted up the bracelet, which she knew had been stolen just last week.
The door opened and she turned to see Haru, clearly surprised to find her in his room. His eyes, she noted, immediately went to the bracelet and invitation in her hand.
"So you've found the truth," he said quietly. "There are other things in the drawer, if you'd like a look."
She numbly turned back to the drawer, realizing he was right. Earrings, more jewelry... Was this what her dream had meant? Was Haru really- how else could he- how else could he have so much rich things, when he hardly spent what he earned from her parents?
"You... you stole all of this?"
"What if I told you I did?"
"You really did...?"
"I can't believe that you found out," he said almost too calmly.
"I- I can't believe you did this! Haru, why?"
"I don't think you could understand."
"Help me understand. Is it money...? You know my parents would help with that."
"It's not money," he said. "I don't think you could understand." He exhaled. "Are you going to report me?"
"No," she said quickly. "Haru, I'm going to leave now."
"No? Wait, where are you going?"
"I'll be right back!" She shielded her eyes from him as she quickly left the room, intent on finding the person who'd caused this moment in the first place.
"Well, this is a surprise! How did you find me?"
"I'm not sure exactly how, but I keep finding you when I really need your advice" she said. In a stroke of luck, Johnny had been near where she'd seen him earlier today, sipping tea at a nearby shop. Had he met Oinky-kins, whoever that was?
"All right, I think you already found out. Did you?"
She nodded. "What... what should I do?" Do I turn Haru in? He'd go to jail, maybe I'll never see him again. If he's still there when I return, that is.
"I don't want to see you sad dear, I'll help you." Johnny's voice was kind. "What do you want from finding the liars in your life? Do you just want to move on without them, perfectly understandable, or do you want to actively help them to stop lying?"
"Do I have to spell it out for you? If you could reform someone, make them repent and change, would that not be enough for a second chance?"
"It would depend on the lie," she said truthfully. She couldn't forgive Koh, but if it was Haru...
"I agree," Johnny said sagely. "But if it's someone truly important to you, I don't think you can easily cut them out of your life. Would you want to lose someone so important to you that life would be less joyful without that person?"
She froze. Losing Haru... she couldn't even imagine it. But why- why would it hurt so much? As her parents reminded her, she depended too much on Haru at times. When she got married, Haru would certainly leave, either stay with her parents or move on with his life...
And that hurt. "I wouldn't want to lose him." Because no matter what, Haru is the most important person to me. If he was lost, she'd go everywhere in the world to find him. Because her life wouldn't be wonderful without him there, because he's always been there to take care of her.
How could she had thought she loved Koh when Haru, oh, how long had she cared so much for Haru and not known?
"Then fight for him then," Johnny said, his hand pounding her on the back rather forcefully. "It's not enough to find the liar, fight for your happy ending!"
"I will!" If Haru was not at home, she'd find him even if she needed to go to the end of the world and back.
A rare occasion, her parents had returned again from their business trips abroad for a family dinner that very day. Perhaps that was why Haru had not disappeared as she'd expected when she came home, ready to immediately find out where he'd gone. He avoided her gaze as he served their food, then left for the kitchen.
"We're back for the exhibition our company is holding to promote our business in Japan," her mother said cheerfully.
"Yes, there will be something special on display that will hopefully draw crowds."
"What kind of thing? Will a celebrity be coming?"
"Well, maybe there will be when they find out what we have on display." He smiled. "A very rare tiara, it took a lot to arrange it, but its beauty will certainly attract a lot of people to visit it."
Her heart sank. Haru was in the kitchen, he would have definitely heard that. Something so rare would definitely attract the Knave of Diamond's interest.
"We'll have it mentioned in the ads," her father continued. "We have a lot of activities planned, so we'll be very busy for now."
Haru had shown no signs of leaving after dinner, but she wasn't naive. Why would Haru stay if she had unmasked him?
Or would he stay until after the exhibition? Because he wanted to steal it?
Her thoughts made her dizzy as she hesitated in front of Haru's room. No, he would not leave now. Not if he wanted to find out exactly how to steal the tiara, the best place to find out would be by her parents' side, with their trust.
She had some time to plan... but what could she plan against Haru, who was clearly a master at stealing what he wanted?
I want to believe in Haru... that he won't rise to the temptation. He won't want to steal the tiara at her parents' exhibition.
No, he won't.
Because if he does, I'll never see him again. Whether he gets caught or not. He would disappear, like in my dream.
And I don't want that. It doesn't matter if he lies, when I already know the truth.
Haru cares for me more than anything in the world, cherishes me. And I can make him understand that he should want that too, that he should want me. More than just his employer's daughter who he's cared for since she was young.
The next day
The notice had been sent. Her father had paled when he flipped through the letters on the dining table that morning at breakfast and found it. In the chaos that followed - her parents calling up Akari's father, members of the police showing up to take the notice for examination...
He didn't seem surprised to see her. "You know I sent out the notice to your father, right?"
She nodded. There was no question that Haru had sent it; it was probably too easy for him to slip it in with the other letters before her parents woke up.
"Are you going to stop me?"
"And you're warning me?"
"I want things to be fair between us, Haru."
"I..." He fell silent. "I can't believe you still haven't told your parents."
"...Haru, you should know why I haven't yet."
"Why is that? Don't tell me it's because it's like that anime you were obsessed with last year, the one with the phantom thief who fell in love with the detective who attempted to catch her?"
She shook her head.
"Then why? This is who I am, a thief. A criminal. I do this for myself, without thinking about those who I hurt to get my way."
"...because even if you are a thief, a criminal, you're not only that for me." She looked at him. "You're my protector, my comfort, my friend..." and her voice faltered. "And the man I love."
His eyes widened slightly for one moment, then the next he turned away. "No, I'm not."
"You're not? How can you know that you're not the one I love-"
"I've been taking care of you since you were a little girl. You've grown under my care, you can't want- no, you probably felt attached to me for most of your life, you're confusing that for love."
"I'm not a little girl, I know what it's like to want someone, to love someone. Haru, after everything I've been through especially during this last year, I've grown up. It's you, maybe it really always has been. I've never felt this way, even with him-"
"I'm not the right kind of man for you, even if I did feel the same way."
Her eyes widened. For Haru to say that last part, he who was always careful, measured with his words... "Who's to say who was the right man for me anyway? Koh wasn't, he just wanted me to fulfill his bizarre fantasies with his twin. You, Haru, you've always cherished me, cared for me. I couldn't want anyone else even if I tried."
"Not even Shotaro?"
"Shotaro?" How had he known about Shotaro? Had she mentioned him to Haru?
"He's the heir to the Suzumiya family, the perfect match for I&H to partner with. From all your stories about him, he seems to be the perfect man."
She wasn't imagining the unhappy tone of his voice. "He is, Shotaro's the real deal, but-" She shook her head. "If the feelings aren't there, I can't force myself to marry him. He doesn't deserve that."
"You might learn to love him."
"Maybe I would, but before I met him, I had already fallen for you, Haru. He never had a chance."
"You're absolutely irrational," Haru said, turning his back on her. "No wonder your parents felt like imposing a deadline for your finding someone - choose a suitable man, one who actually can take care of you."
She wanted to hope he was wavering... besides he had just said she was irrational, right? She pulled at his arm, forcing him to face her and when he did, she leaned up quickly and kissed his cheek.
"If you think that's going to sway me," Haru said quietly, "you have a long way to go."
"Then tell me how to sway you," she countered. "Haru, I'm serious. I won't let you steal the tiara."
He grunted, and then the next thing she knew, he'd leaned down, caught her in his arms, and kissed her.
"No, that won't sway me either" he said, but his voice betrayed how affected he was.
Maybe that would, she thought breathlessly, realizing he hadn't let her go yet. Maybe he has been swayed.
And if not, I'll make sure to catch him myself if he does steal it.
The day of the exhibition
The exhibition was a success. She'd tried her best to stay near Haru all the time, but her plans had been interrupted. Her parents, being so delighted that she'd taken interest in their business so belatedly, had squired her around in the last hour, introducing her to many of their business partners that she could scarcely keep an eye on him. Her heart had been beating so fast the entire time, waiting for any moment where some kind of distraction would occur that would let him steal the tiara, but it had gone peacefully.
"We have some things to finish up," her father said kindly, looking tired but happy while watching all the guests leave the exhibition hall. "Haru, please take my daughter home for now."
"Of course," he said, before turning to her. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes, I've said goodbye to Kyoko, Sotaro, and Professor Mori."
He nodded and they were silent until he'd started driving.
"...why didn't you?"
He smiled ruefully, keeping his eyes on the road. "Maybe you know why."
Had her words shaken him enough to reconsider stealing the tiara? The first time the famous Knave of Diamonds had not followed through on his threats? Her dad thought it had been because of the security company he'd hired, but really, it was because of Haru's change of heart-
They had arrived at her house. He opened the door for her, then paused.
"I won't stay."
She looked mutely up at him.
"Even if I didn't steal the tiara in the end, I have betrayed your parents' trust."
"No, you haven't-"
"I have. I'm unworthy of even watching over you - I would have stolen that tiara if not for you finding out my secret identity. I've stolen many other objects. I can't go back."
"Let me decide who is unworthy of being by my side," she said quietly, holding on to his arm. "Haru, if you leave, I'll become a spinster with cats."
"You don't particularly like cats," he said, a smile threatening to peek through his stern demeanor. "And I doubt the men of Japan will let you become a spinster."
"I will be if we can't be together." Her voice was soft. "Stay."
"If I stay, I... I might steal again. I would never want to be caught and bring dishonor on you, your family. But mostly you."
"You would never steal again, because I'll always be with you. Is that not enough?"
He sighed. "Somehow I don't feel that confident in myself."
"Then I'll keep you in check. And we'll find a way to get everything you stole back to their rightful owners." Her heart felt so full at this moment. "And then, only then will I let you kiss me again. Maybe that'll be a good incentive."
His eyes widened. "You know, I am a thief. Thieves steal kisses, you know. Like I did."
"I don't think you stole a kiss then if I wanted you to kiss me," she said with a smile. "And I'm sure you'll find a proper kiss better than a stolen one."