Kaito couldn't help a quiet cackle as he read the latest news story on his heist. Or, his rehearsal, rather.
The Black Pearl at the exhibit had been a fake, a pretty, sparkly fake. He’d known before he’d ever sent out the notice, but he still wanted to get his hands on the real deal. The chance was low that a pearl would be the legendary Pandora, especially since pearls were opaque. Yet pearls were often used as symbols of the moon, so Kaito figured he'd at least check and maybe mess with Nakamori-keibu while he did so.
What he hadn't counted on was a child opponent waiting for him on the roof of Kaito’s take-off point. Startled, he couldn't help but brush against the child’s mind. It had felt… familiar, in a way, but Kaito couldn't think from where, which didn't make sense. With his eidetic memory, he’d remembered every mind he’s ever brushed across since he first came online as a Guide in freshman year. To not remember… it was inconceivable.
Even way back when he was first getting a hang of the whole mental mind mojo, he’d always remembered.
Kaito had always know he'd be a Guide. His father was a Guide. His mother was a Guide. When the primary status test from a school physical came back, it had been no surprise.
Kaito was a Guide.
What did come as a surprise was his guessed rank.
Kaito was an A-rank Guide.
That meant he could calm any Sentinel, including Level 5s or those with five senses activated. The most he thought he'd get would be a D-rank level, equal to his Pops who could bring Level 2 Sentinels out of a zone with ease.
His mother, however, wasn't surprised by his rank and for good reason. After his primary results came back, she had revealed a secret of her own. She, too, had been classed as an A-rank Guide and his father had as well. But they used a kind of mental magic trick to come across as a different rank altogether to other Guides or Sentinels who tried to get a read on them. Kaito's mother taught him the same technique to make it appear as if he were an E-rank Guide.
When he went for his official testing and paperwork, Kaito was recorded as being far below his real rank.
He hadn't understood at the time why his parents would do such a thing. His mother had said that it led to people underestimating them, which he took to mean that it made astonishing others with magic easier. Over the years, though, he realized just how much higher level Guides had it rough.
Lower levels were abundant. In terms of ratios, Guides were about equal in population to Neutrals and roughly 90% of Guides were low leveled. They far outweighed the Sentinel population, but Kaito thought that might be a throwback to those “ancestral” times. Sentinels were the strongest warriors of the tribes, but this also led to a large number of them being killed in fights with neighboring tribes. No doubt the gene pool was significantly reduced because of that.
Despite the low numbers, the impact Sentinels had on society was great. Kaito hadn’t gone a day since he was born without hearing something about a Sentinel helping out the police or another one zoning out in the middle of the street. With enough low levels Guides around, most of the Sentinel Level 1s and 2s and the rare 3s were able to live relatively normal lives.
Their way of life got even easier after the drug Senes was created to normalize their senses and make them appear Neutral. Senes worked on everything from 1s to 5s, dampening senses long enough for Sentinels to get somewhere safe. Though Senes worked as a short-term solution, it was still encouraged for Sentinels to find a Guide to bond with for a long-term solution.
However, the Level 5 Sentinels was where it got tricky. At Level 4, a Sentinel zone could turn into a “fugue”, where the Sentinel was completely unresponsive to the outside world. The lights were on, but no one was home. Only a Rank B or higher Guide would be able to draw them back out.
With Level 5s, that “fugue” turned into a “rage”. Despite not always being accompanied with anger, a “rage” could lead to destructive actions towards others or the Sentinel themselves. Only rank A Guides could get a handle on the raging Sentinel without getting injured in the process.
Because of these reasons, the fugue and the rage, high level Sentinels were often bonded to a Guide as soon as their status results came back. A bond was usually enough to keep Sentinels from going over the edge in a zone and let the Guide know when their Sentinel was starting to zone out, but once a bond was made, it was permanent. There was no going back from there; there would be no one else. A bond didn’t just keep the Sentinel safe, it made them and their Guide into partners for life.
Kaito didn’t want that for himself. He wanted to be free to choose his own partners, nothing based on levels or ranks. Had he been recorded with his real ranking, he would have already been bonded to some needy Sentinel or been stuck at the Center awaiting a Sentinel with a level equal to his ranking. That’s why he faked his mental expertise, in order to get that freedom he so rightly deserved.
Of course, the mental shield his mom taught him also helped with being Kaito KID. It led to another barrier between Kaito and KID. If Kaito was a Guide and KID was not, they obviously couldn’t be the same person, right?
Kaito’s inner musings were interrupted by a call of his name.
“Good morning, Kaito!” Aoko greeted him happily, taking a seat next to him.
“Morning, Aoko,” Kaito replied, glancing up from his tablet. As his eyes flicked up, he felt a brush of someone against his mental shield. Eyebrows turning down, he glared back at Hakuba, the smarmy prick. The British-Japanese merely smiled slyly at him.
Kaito knew that Hakuba had been the one to poke at his mind, but he couldn’t exactly get up in arms about it. It was a standard Guide greeting. Brushing minds allowed for one to have a deeper sense of understanding with the other. Guides who greeted each other regularly were generally more amiable to each other and people around them.
It didn’t mean that Kaito had to like it, especially when it was Hakuba. The Brit-Japanese was also a Guide, a Rank A as well and he wouldn’t let anyone forget about it. Kaito was constantly left grinding his teeth as the blonde continued to hold the title over his head as if it was something to be proud of.
Perhaps it was.
Hakuba’s parents had been Rank C Guides. The most they had hoped for was a Rank C, possibly the 10% chance of a Rank B child. When Hakuba was tested to be Rank A, they were ecstatic. He was a rare mutation (exceedingly rare, Kaito hoped, he didn’t need another Hakuba). Where Sentinels could pop up out of the blue of any family, Guide status generally followed a fixed set of rules. Gene determined their rank and going up a level was harder than going down. Being born outside of those rules was something special indeed.
It didn’t mean Kaito and Hakuba were equal though. Far from it.
Guides were ranked based on what level Sentinel they could calm down. That told nothing about their own unique mental abilities. Kaito had yet to explore his own, in hiding as he was, but he knew Hakuba’s ability.
The half-Japanese had a pet hawk, Watson, which he often talked about far more than Kaito cared to listen. But it was from listening to the Brit prattle on that Kaito found out Hakuba could see through the eyes of his pet. Any animal, really, but the closer he was to the animal, the easier it was to slip into the other’s mind and experience their senses. It was a useful ability for Hakuba’s chosen trade, but rather useless in everyday life. If he so chose, Kaito could run circles around Hakuba, any time, anywhere, any mind.
But that was Rank A Kaito.
Rank E Kaito had to put up with Hakuba’s holier-than-thou attitude and give a reluctant mental wave that was the equivalent of a dog wagging its tail; so great were the perceived power differences between Hakuba and Kaito’s mental shield.
“Great job on the heist last night,” Hakuba offered with that smug grin still in place. “I regret that I wasn’t there to catch you. I had other duties to attend to that night.”
“How many times do I have to tell you?” Kaito groaned, flopping down to sprawl along his desk. “I’m not Kaitou KID.”
“Yeah!” Aoko agreed, “Besides, Kaito wouldn’t be able to do all that stuff KID does. And KID isn’t a Guide like Kaito!”
“Something as trivial as Guide status would be nothing for Kaitou KID,” Hakuba defended quietly. “An E Rank might be able to pull off the feel of a Neutral given enough practice.”
“Why would I want to practice something like that?” Kaito grumbled. He turned his attention back to his tablet. Maybe he could find something on that boy from the previous night? “Shouldn’t I be trying to go up a level, not down?”
“Well, down is always easier, especially for someone like you,” Hakuba looked fully confident when he said that. So confident, Kaito wanted to sock him in the face.
“Can we talk about something else?” Aoko demanded. “I don’t like talking about KID and you know I’m not a Guide like you two! I don’t understand all this talk about ranks and stuff!”
“Sorry, Aoko,” Kaito averted his eyes, trying to show genuine remorse. He usually kept his Poker Face intact, but when it came to Aoko, there were few lengths he wasn’t willing to go to make her happy.
Too bad she wasn’t a Sentinel. Then he’d have it made.
Well, it’s not like he couldn’t marry her anyway. Guides, low level especially, had it easy. They could marry anyone they wanted without going through a whole bunch of compatibility tests and what-not. As long as they weren’t bonded, Guides had a free for all. It was when a Sentinel needed a Guide that things could get a little messy. If a married Guide bonded with a Sentinel, they were legally forced to divorce their husband or wife and marry the Sentinel, whether they knew that person or not.
Kaito really hated legislature sometimes, but at least he got to choose his partner. Sentinels didn’t get that choice. Their bonded was their partner and that was that.
“Apologies, Nakamori-san,” Hakuba ducked his head. “I was under the impression that all Japanese health classes were taught about the SGN statuses and the various terms and conditions of each.”
“Well, yeah,” Aoko huffed, “Of course I was! But that doesn’t mean I remember it all. It doesn’t apply to me, so I only studied enough for the exam.”
At that moment, the teacher called the class to order and started roll-call. Meanwhile, Kaito flipped through more news articles, trying to find more info on the kid at his heist. He had a name, Edogawa Conan, and occupation (detective, ha!), but that wasn’t ringing any bells.
He still felt like he had brushed the kid’s mind before.
Oh well, he’d probably never see the kid again. No use worrying over it.