By the time Conan got to Agasa's house, the other members of the Shonen Tantei-dan were already packing their things into the trunk of a massive rental van. Ayumi-chan stood on top of two suitcases as Mitsuhiko and Genta handed her a third. Haibara approached with her brown duffel bag, surprisingly full for a two-day trip. He brushed the thought aside with a mental shrug. Haibara would be Haibara.
Ayumi saw him and waved. "Conan-kun!" In waving, she dropped the case she held onto Genta and Mitsuhiko. Defying the laws of physics, it bounced off their heads and spilled open on the ground.
"My eel!" Genta moaned, leaning down to pick up his now-revealed stash. As Mitsuhiko and Ayumi stooped down to help him, Conan picked one up and read the label. Eel and Rice. He managed to hold back a groan of exasperation.
"Genta, we're bringing our own food, you know," he said, tucking the bento under his arm.
Genta held the boxes he'd picked up defensively to his chest. "Well, I'm bringing my own food, too, and there's nothing you can do to stop me."
"If you bring that along, it will spoil and cause food poisoning when eaten," Haibara said, carefully navigating the fallen luggage to place her bag in the back of the van. "If you don't want to get sent home with food poisoning, I advise you to leave those in hakase's fridge." Though her tone made it clear it wasn't a suggestion. She gave Genta her Look, deadpan but intense and authoritative at the same time, daring him to disobey her. She raised an eyebrow for added effect, and Genta was a goner.
He nodded, unnerved. "Y-yes, Haibara-san." Genta shuddered and muttered, "Kowai." He stood up with his armful of bento boxes. "Come on, guys, let's take these inside."
"Hai!" shouted Mitsuhiko and Ayumi cheerily, and the three of them walked back to the professor's house.
With a shrug, Conan lugged his suitcase to the back of the car. Haibara stood in the shadow of the door, glaring at him with arms crossed. "Why are you here? You told us you were busy this week and couldn't come."
He didn't need to meet her eyes to know the ice was there. "Hattori called last week and invited Ran and me on a camping trip. Since occhan couldn't drive us, hakase's letting us tag along with you guys. Ran's picking up Hattori and Kazuha-chan from the airport. They'll be here soon."
She inhaled sharply. Setting down Genta's bento, he hefted his suitcase onto the pile. "Don't worry. They're both bringing their omamoris, and Ran went to pray at a shrine before she left. So don't worry," he teased, finally turning to look at her. "There won't--"
Haibara barely breathed. Her eyes wide, she stared blankly at the ground in front of her, gripping her arms like a lifeline. "Oi, Haibara." he took her hands, tried to loosen her grip. "Haibara, what wrong?"
In just one second, she seemed to come back to herself. She shook her head, her eyes regaining focus, her breathing returning to normal. "Nothing." (She was lying.) "It was nothing."
"Are you sure?" he caught her eye, met her stare. "If it's something, you have to tell me. We're partners, remember?"
She smiled as though he'd told her a joke (except she never laughed at his jokes, only his pain). "Hakase wanted to show you something about your skateboard. He made a few improvements."
He frowned. "Don't change the subject on me, Haibara."
"We'll be leaving soon," she continued as though he hadn't said a word. "He'll want to see you before we go."
Peeking around the van's back door, he watched Agasa emerge from the house, shooing the actual children back outside. Casting another glance at Haibara, Conan scowled. "This isn't over," he shot at her, grabbing Genta's bento. She smirked infuriatingly as he ran to Agasa's front door.
Genta tried to engage him in conversation, but Conan just held up the bento as he ran past. "I've gotta put this inside," shouted Conan over his shoulder, the perfect excuse. Slowing to a stop in front of Agasa, he waved Genta and the others on. "Heiji-oniisan will be here soon," he shouted. "Go ahead and wait for him. I'll be right out!"
At the mention of Hattori, the Detective Boys raced each other outside. Agasa opened the door, letting Conan go in first. "You'll love what I've done this time," he said excitedly.
"You never disappoint," Conan agreed with the same enthusiasm. As he stashed Genta's bento in the fridge alongside the others, Agasa produced a little skateboard with oversized wheels from behind the counter. "There's a first time for everything, I suppose," Conan added with a quirk of his lips.
"Judging by appearances, are we?" Agasa laughed.
Conan climbed into one of the chairs at the bar. "Guilty as charged. But what is it? A jet-powered skateboard for a toddler?"
"Watch this." Agasa pushed a hidden button on the underside of the skateboard, located where it couldn't be accidentally engaged. Immediately, the skateboard doubled in length and width, and he grinned. "It's just like your skateboard, but it has a better battery and can change sizes. Small enough to fit in a child's backpack-"
Agasa pressed the button again, and once more, the skateboard expanded to double the size. "-or large enough for, say, a sixteen-year-old male." With a final press of the button, he shrank the skateboard to its smallest size and passed it to Conan. "What do you think?"
Conan couldn't stop smiling. "I think it's great! Thanks, hakase. This is awesome. I always have a little trouble with transportation when I'm myself and away from home, but this changes all that." He looked for a place to put the skateboard, but Agasa just held out his hand again. Handing it back, he added, "I like the new paint job, too. The red and blue are a nice touch."
"You think so?" He nodded thoughtfully. "Ai-kun disagrees, but then again, you two do that quite a lot." He chuckled at his own joke.
The front door burst open with a lively, "Kudou!" and two seconds later, Conan found himself held half a meter in the air by a certain beaming, boisterous Osakan.
"Hattori," gritted out Conan, "put me down."
His grin didn't falter, not one bit. "Heya, Kudou. Great of ya ta invite us out here for a nice trip." He looked past Conan to Agasa. "An' thank ya for lettin' us come. This'll be great," he laughed.
Through the door came two of the strongest women Conan had the privilege of knowing. "Heiji, put Conan-kun down," groaned Kazuha. "Ya don't hafta cart 'im around like a sack of potatoes."
With a huff, Hattori set Conan down. "Ya're no fun," he grumbled to Kazuha. He reached down to ruffle Conan's hair, but not today no thanks. Darting away from Hattori's grasp, Conan found himself at Ran's feet.
She crouched down and pushed a few stray hairs from his face. "Good morning, Conan-kun. You remembered to pack everything?"
He nodded, fighting the warmth rising to his cheeks. "And Occhan said he was going out with Megure-keibu. He said not to worry because when someone dies, Megure-keibu will be there to help."
"I'm sorry I missed you this morning. I meant to say goodbye before I left, but you were too tired." She reached down for his hand, and they walked outside together.
He went red. Hattori's absolutely going to blackmail me with this later. "Sorry. I was making sure everything was packed. And Mitsuhiko wanted to talk about a detective book Shinichi-niichan gave me, so I talked to him for a while."
"Okay. Just be sure you remember you have school on Monday. You need your sleep-"
Kazuha came up behind Ran. "Ne, Ran-chan, let's take the middle seat. I wanna tell ya all 'bout Heiji's last case and what an ahou he was," she said, eyes glittering with mischief.
Ran returned the devilish look. "Oh, you are not going to believe what Shinichi did a few weeks ago."
"Most outrageous story wins?"
"Loser hosts the next get-together," Ran shot right back.
"Oh, you are on." Kazuha took Ran's other hand. "Sorry to take your nee-chan, Conan-kun, but we have a tie ta settle."
"We'll talk more later, okay, Conan-kun?" Her eyes did that thing- like they magically catch the light at just the right angle, and suddenly his brain stopped- his words didn't work, he couldn't move a muscle, and she's just... gorgeous. That smile that breaks his heart worn so effortlessly, Ran let his hand slip from her fingers as she ran off with Kazuha.
Conan barely registered the door behind him opening again, this time Agasa and Hattori coming out. After Agasa locked the door, he handed Hattori a little device. "Hattori-kun, you can sit in the front seat if you navigate. Conan-kun? Let the others know we're just about ready."
His false name rousing him, Conan managed a nod. "Got it."
It took ten minutes to find everyone- Genta thought it was a good idea to play hide-and-seek while they waited for the others to come out. Haibara hid in the car's backseat where she'd dozed off, and Mitsuhiko was behind the house. Ayumi was the seeker, and Genta painfully failed at hiding behind a bush.
Everyone piled into the van, vying for the best seat. Haibara took up two in the back with her sleeping there while Kazuha and Ran had already claimed the middle. With an hour-long drive ahead of us, Conan was looking forward to a nice, long nap. To his luck, however, Genta sat next to Conan, and Mitsuhiko on the other side of Genta. Conan could only pray they would leave him alone.
Agasa climbed into the driver's seat, Hattori next to him fiddling with the GPS. "Everyone buckled?" Each passenger responded in affirmation. "Then off to adventure we go!"
"Haaaiiii!" shouted Genta and Mitsuhiko beside Conan . He groaned internally. These two would be the death of him.
A low hissing broke into Conan's dream. "Na, Kudou, wake up," it said as Conan woke to someone roughly shaking his shoulder.
Groggily, he lifted his head off the window and was greeted by the dark face of the Detective of the West. "Hattori?" He put on his glasses and yawned. "What do you want?"
Hattori pointed over his own shoulder, out the car door. "We already finished settin' up camp, an' the brats want ya ta help 'em collect firewood while Kazuha, nee-chan, hakase an' I start preppin' lunch."
Stretching, Conan stood and followed Hattori out of the car. A quick glance at his watch. 12:32. "Oi, wasn't this campsite supposed to be only an hour away?"
Hattori rolled his eyes at that. "Yeah, the professor took a few too many wrong turns, addin' on 'bout two hours ta the drive."
Conan snorted. "Figures. With both of us in the same place, our luck's bound to be the worst. Bodies might as well start falling out of the sky now."
(A nervous laugh from each of them followed by silence. Apprehensive pause, waiting for a scream to erupt through the air. Double checking every inch of their surroundings for anything suspicious. Relaxing internally when nothing happened.)
Conan broke the silence. "Did you wake up Haibara?"
"Nah. The little nee-chan bit off the freckled brat's head when he tried ta, so we're all lettin' her sleep 'til she feels like wakin' up."
Conan nodded. "A wise decision."
Ayumi, her admirer club in tow, ran around the back of the car. "See, I told you he was awake."
Genta grabbed Conan's arm and started to drag him away. "Come on, Conan. Hakase said if we get firewood fast, we can eat sooner. I'm starving, so you better pick up as much firewood as you can."
"Oi, Genta, let go of me!" he struggled to get loose, but it seemed Genta was listening when Conan told them about the unbreakable grip.
Mitsuhiko and Ayumi-chan jogged to catch up. "Genta-kun, that's not very nice. Conan-kun just woke up, so you shouldn't be so rough with him," Mitsuhiko said.
Genta huffed as Conan wriggled out of his grasp. "But he got to sleep while the rest of us had to listen to Heiji-niisan's stories. They were so long and boring-"
"Except for that one with the eel. You thought that one was really good, didn't you." Mitsuhiko's eyes glittered with mischief as nudged Genta with his elbow.
"How could I not? They were fighting people, and the murderer was way creepy..."
They chatted easily about cases and murders as they walked to the forest. The kids told Conan some of Hattori's stories (most of which he'd already heard, but he didn't have the heart to stop them) and he came back with a few of 'Shinichi-niichan's' cases. Before any of them knew it, an hour had passed, but they'd barely collected an armful of kindling each.
A gust of wind blew from behind Conan, sending a shiver down his spine. He shifted his bundle of kindling to his other arm and looked around. It must've rained within the past couple days because a decent amount of the branches they found were still damp. The ground had dried out for the most part, and only the occasional leaf drooped under the weight of rainwater. It was going to rain again- that much he could tell from the scent of the wind. Maybe a day or two? he guessed, reaching down for another stick the size of his arm.
"Ooooh!" Genta let out an excited shout.
"What was that, Genta-kun?"Ayumi-chan called from somewhere in the area.
"Hey, Conan, you can climb trees, right?"
He frowned somewhat irritably. "Yeah." Countless lost cat cases do that for a person. "Why?"
"There's a branch here that'll be enough for a hundred fires if we can get it down! Get over here!"
"Where are you?" shouted Conan, his irritation adding a sour note to his voice.
"Doesn't answer my question," he muttered, looking around. Genta's close-shaved head peeked over a bush. "Which tree?" Walking around the bushes, Conan stood next to Genta and followed his gaze.
"This one." The tree in question was an older one, a little bigger than the others with plenty of footholds. A large branch had snapped off from the trunk near the treetop, but it fell onto some branches below and was stuck there.
Examining the situation, he said slowly, "I'm not sure it's worth the effort to get it down. We can collect plenty of wood just by picking it up from the ground. Besides-"
"But all our wood is wet," Mitsuhiko interrupted, dropping his pile at his feet. "And hakase said that only dry wood makes good fires. Won't that branch up there be dry, 'cause of the sun?"
"See, Conan? Mitsuhiko agrees with me." Genta puffed out his chest, and Conan resisted the urge to facepalm.
Ayumi, cheeks puffed up in irritation, stormed up behind Genta. "Genta-kun, shame on you! Be nice to Conan-kun!"
If he noticed her frustration, it didn't show. He turned around and grabbed her shoulders, making her drop her bundle of sticks in surprise. "Ayumi, you want a good fire, right?"
She stammered, "Y-yeah, but-"
Genta released her, whipping around and looking at him. "See? Even Ayumi wants you to get it. Come on, Conan, do it!"
Conan threw up his hands in surrender. "Fine!" he dumped his bundle of kindling at the base of said tree. "Fine, I'll climb the tree. But if I fall, I'm landing on you, Genta." He pointed accusingly at Genta.
Genta beamed. "You're too good at this to fall, Conan! Don't worry about a thing."
"Says the one keeping his feet on the ground," Conan muttered, motioning for Genta to come closer. "Give me a boost, will you?"
Despite his grumbling, Conan climbed the tree with ease, reaching the top on a manner of minutes. The view was incredible, with a lake's edge only a short distance away. The surface of the lake rippled, and more than once he saw a fish jump out of the water. A boat drifted along the current, dwarfed by the huge lake. The captain of the little fishing boat cast a line out and leaned back, relaxing as if he had all the time in the world. He vaguely recalled the professor mentioning that this area was known for its fishing and made a mental note to ask him about finding a bait shop nearby.
"Conan, hurry up! I'm starving!" Genta shouted.
With a sigh, Conan looked away from the lake's serenity to his friends below. "I thought you had a backpack full of snacks," he called down, not bothering to hide his exasperation.
"That was earlier," came Genta's indignant reply.
Conan rolled his eyes. "Ah, yes, I do apologize for my rude behavior, Genta-sama. I had not realized the astronomically large span of time that has taken place since you had last eaten," he muttered to himself in a mock-polite tone. "Would you like some tea and crumpets to go with your whine?"
Another burst of wind blew by, rattling the branches and forcing him to focus solely on the task at hand. The branches dipped and swayed as he inched forward, reaching for the end of the broken one. Just barely managing to touch it, he pushed the broken branch up, and the opposite end fell through the branches holding it up. Like a spear it fell towards the ground, smashing through any layers of branches in its way. With a reverberating crack, it landed on the ground, embedding itself in the soft dirt.
The Detective Boys huddled around the branch as Conan came down, Mitsuhiko and Ayumi breaking off the smaller branches and piling as many as they could carry into Genta's arms.
"Well? You satisfied?" Conan picked up his own pile and started walking back in the direction they'd come without waiting for an answer. "Come on, we're going back."
"Wait up, Conan-kun," Mitsuhiko called after him. Scrambling to pick up their respective piles, the Detective Boys followed Conan back towards the campsite.
"Oh, so that's what it was? Ran-kun and Kazuha-kun are making snacks for when you get back," said Agasa, talking into the- What did Kudou call it? wondered Heiji. A 'detective' badge?
Agasa sat in a camp chair next to Heiji's speaking with Kudou. Heiji was trying to get some sleep because of a certain group of excitable children who refused to leave him be on the ride up. On top of that, Agasa used Heiji as a GPS (for the record, not his fault the old guy didn't hear him when he said to turn left), and it was stressful. After all that, Heiji collapsed into his chair and dozed until Agasa set up his chair next to Heiji's, tense and muttering something about 'the cave incident.'
Kudou's tiny voice came in from the other end. "Hear that, Genta? You're not going to die." Chattering in the background seemed somewhat irritated. "It's not much further, and it's not my fault you got us lost." More bickering. "You're the one who wanted us to-" Kudou huffed. "This is what I get for trusting first-graders," he grumbled. Indignant yell. "Anyway, see you back at the camp, hakase."
"Good luck with your friends," Agasa laughed.
Kazuha noticed Agasa tucking the badge away in his pocket. "How far away are they?"
"About twenty minutes. They collected more firewood than they can carry, so it'll be a while longer than they originally expected."
"It's a good thing Ran-chan an' I finished makin' snacks for when they get back. The kids've been gone for nearly an hour, right?"
"They probably just lost track of time. Conan-kun does that a lot," Ran said, rinsing her hands off in the birdbath.
"I just hope they get back before the storm. Those clouds over there 're lookin' nasty."
Lifting the brim of his hat, Heiji stared at her. "What're ya talkin' 'bout, Kazuha? I checked the report, an' it's not gonna rain 'til late tomorrow night."
"Take a good look at the clouds over there," Kazuha met his eyes and pointed somewhere eastward, "an' tell me you don't think they're gonna come thunderin' down on us."
He followed her finger to a group of clouds swarming at the tops of a mini-mountain in the distance. Maybe those clouds looked like were producing a pretty heavy storm, but Heiji had got his pride on the line.
Shaking his head, he snorted. "C'mon Kazuha, just trust me. I mean, even if it storms, we got tarps an' all that stuff ta keep ya dry, hime-sama."
Her huff was more like an angry bull's. "Heiji-"
"Kazuha-kun has a point, Hattori-kun. Isn't it possible the report was wrong?" Agasa broke in calmly, and Kazuha puffed up a little. "On a similar note, we are fully prepared to combat a storm like that, so there's no reason to argue."
"See, Kazu-ahou? We'll be fine. What's the worst that could happen?"
Kazuha gasped. "Noooooo, Heiji, you said it!" She moaned in a very 'what have you done' tone.
"Ya have your omamori, right?"
"Yeah, but why're ya-"
"Ya cursed us, ahou! Ya never say 'what's the worst that can happen' 'cause then the worst is gonna happen!"
"Look, that ain't gonna happen. Besides, I'm not gullible enough to fall for that sorta stuff. De-tec-tive, not gull-i-ble," he grouched, pulling his hat back down over his eyes.
"Hey! Ya're the one bein' gullible, believin' a report over your own eyes," she shot back.
Opening one eye, he lifted his hat again to look at her. "Fine, if I tell ya I'll take ya ta that place if it rains, will ya get off my case?"
She thought for half a moment before breaking into a devilish grin. "Deal. But, in that case, ya gotta keep Conan-kun 'round ya all day today."
Kudou? Why would she...?
Ah, yes. The falling bodies.