Chapter 23 begins at Christmastime, unfortunately not a merry time for all. In fear of her friends’ safety, Kaida kicks Seiko out of the bookstore and does her best to dissuade Tristan’s friendship by telling him she hates him and wants him out of her life. Seiko temporarily moves in with Tristan and along with Mike, who finances the endeavor, they come up with a plan to make Kaida feel safe again. Awoken from a nightmare, Kaida finds that her friends broke into the store and installed a security system, giving her peace-of-mind for Christmas.

Then an old friend named Toyo, recently released from prison comes for a visit, bringing Kaida some books he rescued from a library that burned down. Kaida accepts the gift and agrees to a date with Toyo. Flipping through the books, Seiko finds a hand-drawn “treasure map,” and she and Yuki decide to go looking for the prize. Alex stays behind and watches the store while Kaida prepares for her date. A customer buys one of the burned books from Alex for a strangely high price. Alex thinks of mentioning it to Kaida, but he is distracted by her lovely dress as she leaves for her date.

While on their date, Kaida and Toyo discuss old times, and Toyo is stunned to learn what has become of his old pal Fudo. Kaida asks Toyo about pursuing a relationship, but he refuses for respect of his old friend. However, he manages to raise her spirits with a trip to the laser tag arena.

On their treasure hunt in the forest, Yuki confesses to Seiko her numerous fears including heights, snakes, and tight spaces. She cites her older brothers’ cruel childhood pranks as a root cause. The map leads the ladies into a cave where they discover a bag of jewelry. Seiko recognizes the jewels from a recent murder-robbery case. They are then cornered by the mysterious bookstore customer who turns out to be the murderer-robber. Before he has a chance to cause mischief to the ladies, he is attacked from behind by Alex, wielding a baseball bat. Alex receives a minor wound as a bullet grazes his arm, but otherwise no harm is done (except to the clobbered robber).

During a phone conversation, Tristan tells Seiko he once worked with that robber (named Ronnie) and that they were lucky to have survived the encounter. He then is asked by Mike to babysit some kids because Mike made the commitment before he was assigned extra work at the cafe. Tristan reluctantly agrees but takes the kids to the bookstore for a safer environment and help. Emily, the oldest, plays games with Yuki, while the younger boy Jacob reads a book. Seiko and Tristan attempt to take care of the baby Jon. Kaida excuses herself but returns later with snacks for the kids. She takes the crying Jon away from her brother and soothes him until their parents return.

Start reading at Chapter 28.

Read the summary of Chapters 28-29.