Tsukiko sat on the floor of the piano room cross-legged, with a several documents strewn around her and across her lap.
“Just like your mother.” Came an amused huff from the door. Tsubaki was standing there. “I barely have lifted scissors from your head when you are already doing research.”
“I’m sorry, Tsubaki-baasan, but I need to know these things. Thank you very much for cutting my hair though. My head… it feels lighter. And somewhat clearer too.” Tsukiko smiled but pointed at one of the family trees on her lap. “Could you please explain your side of the tree for me please? You told me a lot about the Kagemiya but I’d like to know about Midorikawa too. Especially considering that Shugo is using that name. And… Tsukasa-jisan too…”
“Certainly.” Tsubaki stepped into the room. “But do sit on the chair. That’s what they are for.”
“Of course.” Taking a seat once more next to her grandmother, Tsukiko spread the tree in front of the old woman. She pointed at the row of names there.
“I understood that Tsu-names were a tradition among family yet your siblings…”
“I suppose that’s how Shugo-kun explained things to you. He wasn’t entirely incorrect. Tsu-names are a tradition… I’m my branch of family. As you can see, my father was name Tsuyoshi. As the eldest child of his, I followed the pattern. But my mother was Tamako and then my younger sister was Takako. Our two brothers in the other hand were Tensei and Toshiyuki. Everyone neatly lined on the same row of kana.” Tsubaki chuckled. Tsukiko didn’t mention how grateful she was for the translation of the kanji in the names. But the explanation did make sense.
“And your father’s siblings then? Were they in the t-row or… u-line?”
“U-line. He had three sisters: Yukimi, Kumiko and Sumika.”
“So basically, there is always something in common between siblings but when the generation goes down, the children inherit the first syllable? Or at least the first born does.”
“Yes. It is not always… Takako-chan and I wouldn’t have needed to follow the tradition as we married into other families but Ki’ichi was dear and liked the names we came up with from Tsu-syllable.” Tsubaki chuckled.
“It’s a nice tradition.” Tsukiko smiled back. “You don’t mind that kaachan didn’t go along with it?”
“She was a Kagemiya. She had no obligation to it, just like Tsubame-chan didn’t have to and Tsukasa-kun wouldn’t have had to if he’d ever married.”
“Speaking of family… I’ve decided to organize a gathering among the remaining members of Kagemiya and Midorikawa families.” Tsubaki got up and walked out of the piano room. Tsukiko folded the family tree and hurried to follow the woman. They made their way to the Japanese style sitting room and the drawers at one wall. Tsubaki opened one of the drawers and pulled three letters from there. She remained standing there, looking at the sealed letters. “I thought about things we discussed yesterday. About the deaths of my son and daughter… About the danger you and Shugo-kun are in and… I think it’s time to gather the Alliance.”
“And for Alliance to stand strong, we need at least three of the central families united. In this case, the Kagemiya and the Midorikawa… and maybe the Ayanokoji too. Even those members who were born under different names.” Tsukiko surmised and then blinked at her own knowledge. Tsubaki turned around, a smile on her lips.
“There you go… Let the memories and knowledge come back to you with time. It’s all there if you just let it come back with its own time.” The woman gave the three letters to Tsukiko. “In the end there aren’t that many people to contact anymore. Our branch has dwindled to six members and I don’t even know where Lucas-san is anymore… Ki’ichi’s sister’s family is down to two… His brother died young and unless he had children outside marriage – which I doubt – there is no one there… My family… There is Takako-chan’s son and Toshiyuki-kun’s son and daughter. Tensei-kun had a son who died as a child… But my siblings are all dead and buried.”
“And you are giving these letters to be because?”
“Given stories you’ve told about your time in Tokyo and elsewhere… You’ve already met them all.” The woman stated cryptically.
Tsukiko looked at the letters in her hand. They were all sealed with wax and signet ring. The seal in two of them depicted a traditional Japanese castle while the wax itself was very dark blue. Kagemiya. Shadow palace, indeed.
The third letter in the other hand had emerald green wax with old-fashioned stylized river in it. Midorikawa. Green river. Tsukiko had once seen the image in a book that had showed examples about how kanji had evolved into their simpler forms.
She turned the letters around to read the names. The kanji were the same she’d seen on the family trees. Two of them from Kagemiya family tree, the two sisters who were Tsukiko’s second cousins. And one from Midorikawa family tree. A first cousin once removed.
“This person is Takako-san’s son?” She blinked at the name. Tsubaki just smiled.
“He was quite close with Tsukasa-kun when Tsukasa-kun lived and studied in Tokyo. They were like brothers really… And as you can see, naming tradition is quite nice, isn’t it?”
“Okay, stop admiring yourself. Your hair is nice, I get it, no need to gaze admiringly at it through the window reflection.” Shugo groused. Tsukiko looked up with a smirk. They were sitting in the shinkasen back to Tokyo and the girl hadn’t stopped looking outside the window and twisting her sidelocks between her fingers.
“Does it bother you?”
“…You look like Ei-chan.”
“I do not!”
“Yes, you do. Maybe your hair doesn’t lie as flat as his and maybe your bangs are different but the style is the same anyways. Down to the length of the sidelocks.” The boy teased.
“Stop it! Besides my hair is still longer than his!”
“I shall not!” Shugo laughed. “Kami, I’ve missed this. Hei-chan and Shin-chan were always fun to rile up too, but I rarely see them anymore… Good to have you back, Tsukiko.”
“Good to be back.” Tsukiko shrugged with a smile but sobered then. “Why haven’t you been interested in knowing more about our family? I’m sure Tsubaki-baasan would’ve helped you. No need to rely on my memories that might not even return in the timeframe you desire.”
“…I didn’t want to go there. At first, I didn’t know about the Kagemiya, I just forged some records for us both to exist. But then the world adapted to us and I remembered the beach and okaa-san. I erased all my hard work but all the same I realized that if I went to Kyoto, I’d find Hoshi, not Tsukiko. And I didn’t want that. I did search for clues of your wellbeing while I could. Like when you were cheering on Okita Soushi-san during his match against Hei-chan. Shizuka-san sent me a video and you were captured on it.” Shugo smiled at the memory. “But mostly I just wanted to concentrated on what I had then and making connections for the future so you’d be safe.”
“Okay… I can’t say I understand but…” The girl looked out of the window. “Thank you for looking after me.”
“You do realize that Tsubaki-baasan has been teaching me to take over family connections eventually? Even though you are older than I now.”
“Ah… Can’t be helped I guess. Ganbatte?”
“What’s with that uncertain tone?!”
The bell rang when Tsukiko stepped into Café Poirot. A quick glance around told her that only Azusa and Mai were on shift. Apparently Amuro was to work in the evening. Good.
“Welcome to Café Poirot!” Azusa greeted. “Ah, Tsukiko-san. The usual?”
“Yes, please.” Tsukiko sat down on the table furthest from the window to wait for her order. To think that she was regular enough to have a ‘usual’.
“That jacket looks a bit too big for you.” Mai mused when she placed a can of white tea and piece of chocolate cake in front of Tsukiko. The now short-haired girl took the tea can and once Mai placed a tea cup for her, poured herself some. The refreshing aroma wafted from the cup and Tsukiko couldn’t help but smile.
“It originally belonged to my uncle. It’s a protector’s jacket!” The girl replied. “I found it at Tsubaki-baasan’s house and asked if I could keep it. Tsubaki-baasan said it was okay and when I found Tsukasa-jisan’s keys from the pocket, she also gave the address to his house in Tokyo. I just came back from checking it out.”
“I see…” The bespectacled girl mused. “Your uncle is dead then.”
“Yeah… Hmm, given your family’s connections, you might’ve heard of him. Kagemiya Tsukasa.”
“Ah! The missing heir! It was quite the gossip in the circles back then… Never met him myself and neither did Takuya-nii but…” Mai’s eyes widened in realization. “He was your uncle then.”
“My condolences then. Losing him must have been hard.”
“I’m already over it but thank you.” Tsukiko smiled wanly. “I might not remember much and his death might hit me all over again when I do remember but… Is it silly to hang onto him so much? I mean… I’m not trying to reach to either of my parents like this.”
“I don’t think it’s silly at all. Especially if your grandmother was the one to raise you and your uncle used to visit you. If you have not seen your parents in years, why would you miss them?” Mai shrugged. “Okay, it might be my own bias speaking as I don’t actually know your parents but… There is nothing wrong in seeking support from other members of family instead of those of closest blood relation. Just look at me! I can’t stand my own parents and Takuya-nii is the biggest support I have in my life aside from Kouki-san.”
“Okay. Thanks. What do you think about my new hair cut?” Tsukiko grinned then, eyes drawing close.
“Very cute. It suits you.” Mai smiled back. “So… how was your uncle’s house then?”
“Dusty. Extremely so. Thankfully the cupboards and fridge were empty in the past three years but no one has gone there in ages so dust has gathered…”
“What are you going to do about it then?” Mai asked when she started to wipe the table next to Tsukiko’s while the other girl took a sip from her tea.
“I thought about asking a bit of help in cleaning the place up.” Tsukiko grinned over the rim of the teacup. “Since Ran-san and Suzuki-san have so much experience in cleaning up Kudou-senpai’s place… You and Namida-chan are naturally welcome too.”
“I’ll think about it. Tell me when and I’ll try to see if I can arrange my shifts around it.” Mai shrugged.
“Well, there is no need to hurry yet.” Tsukiko mused. “I need to go through the place anyways first… But I’ve thought about moving in there. I wouldn’t even need to pay for it since it’s Kagemiya property…”
“You want to get out of Jodie-sensei’s apartment then?”
“Yes… Don’t get me wrong, she is a nice woman and all but I can’t impose her forever. Especially not when I’ve figured out where I’m from and all. And shuttling between her place and Subaru-nii’s place is sometimes a bit of a chore…” Tsukiko chuckled mirthlessly. “I would have to take a bus from Tsukasa-jisan’s house so I’d get to school but in the end it isn’t that far away. And I don’t even need to change busses or anything.”
“If you wish so, it sounds quite good.” Mai nodded thoughtfully. Over the counter Azusa requested the girl’s help and the brunette left with a short goodbye to Tsukiko who dug in her cake slice.
“Namida-chan, chotto!” Tsukiko hurried after her other friend she’d spotted walking ahead of her. Namida turned around, careful of the grocery bag on her arms and smiled at the approaching girl.
“Ohayo, Tsukiko-san.” The shy girl smiled.
“Ohayo-san, Namida-chan!” Tsukiko greeted with a smile. Namida blinked before smiling.
“Hai, Kyoto-ben to be exact. I went to visit my… home last weekend and… well, some words are sticking with me now.” Tsukiko shrugged with a sheepish grin. “I try not to use it too much until I get the intonation correct in the words but… I’m not actively avoiding the vocabulary either. What comes naturally to me, I shall say.”
“I see. It’s good to see you doing well again. You seemed so tired last I saw of you.” Namida smiled sympathetically.
“Yes. Thank you for getting me to the nurse’s office.”
“You’re welcome. Where are you headed to by the way?”
“I’m delivering a letter… and then I’m going to Bell Tree Tower where Suzuki-san will be giving us a tour.”
“Bell Tree… Aren’t you afraid of heights, Tsukiko-san?” There was a thoughtful frown.
“Only if I don’t have anything solid beneath my feet.” They were walking past the Agasa house when Tsukiko slipped the letter into the mailbox before continuing walking with Namida. And if the letter was slipped inside another that read ‘Haibara Ai’ as the recipient instead of ‘Miyano Shiho’, that was her business.
The view from Bell Tree Tower was magnificent. There was no doubt about it, even if the elevator ride to the viewing platform was a bit stifling. The kids were naturally excited about getting to see the view and Sonoko was having the time of her life teasing Kogoro. Tsukiko could only shake her head when Kogoro accidentally went into the wrong elevator in his panic.
“Mou, otou-san… I’m sorry about this Sonoko.” Ran apologized.
“Don’t worry. This is normal for him, isn’t it?” Sonoko said smugly.
“Leave the poor man alone, Suzuki-san.” She sighed and leant her elbows against the banister.
“Nah, let’s just enjoy the great view from the Bell Tree!”
“Nee, Sonoko, what’s that building?” Ran pointed a bit to the left.
“Oh, that small thing is the Asakusa Sky Court. No connection to the Suzuki Financial Group.”
Small thing… It was easily one of the highest buildings in the area. And not even finished at that…
“Even after it’s finished, it’ll probably only come up to this first observation deck at most.” Sonoko continued.
“That’s one for Bell Tree then.” Genta commented.
“Of course!” The rich girl laughed.
“Ano ne, have a look at that river! It’s got so many bridges!” Ayumi noticed then.
“Aa, that’s Sumidagawa.” Conan explained. “The blue one over there is Komagata-bashi. The red one is Azuma-bashi. And that railway bridge right ahead of us is the Touto Bell Tree Line.”
“Oh! There’s a train!” Mitsuhiko noticed.
“It’s so cool!” Genta echoed.
“Are? It’s stopping on the bridge…” Ayumi muttered.
“It’s just slowing down. Asakusa Station is right on the other side of the bridge, after all.” Mitsuhiko explained. “That’s right! How about we make a miniature model of the Touto Bell Tree Tower and its surroundings for our summer homework project?”
“Oh, that’s a great idea!” Genta agreed.
“It sounds fun! Conan-kun, Ai-chan, let’s all work together!” Ayumi invited the other two along.
Tsukiko smiled at the children’s excitement. And in her mind thanked the fact that she hadn’t needed to do summer homework in Before. Though remembering what Hoshi had done might be handy in the case the kids got in their heads to ask her for tips… Ugh.
She just wanted to enjoy this moment for a little bit longer… And preferably without that soon-to-be-corpse swindling foreigners with loud voice and irritating English accent. And his customers-slash-victims being obviously Americans given their reactions.
Tsukiko pulled her phone out and began tapping a message. General complaining about the obnoxious behavior of the trio on her right. How the real estate seller was obviously swindling the two with 30-years-old house that had 4-star view and thanks to Bell Tree would certainly be a 5-star property. And how the couple absolutely loved the house without apparently even seeing it close up first…
Amuro would surely lend a sympathetic ear to her.
Oh, someone apparently shot
him. Maybe he swindled the
wrong person in the past.
Ran screamed next to her. The visitors in the tower panicked.
“It’s a sniper! Everybody get down!” Conan shouted from where Ai had already hit the deck. Tsukiko ducked and looked at the message Amuro had sent back.
Are you alright? Are you
still at Bell Tree? Is anyone
The girl laid on her back and tapped a message while Conan was using his glasses to locate the sniper.
It was a sniper. No other
shots fired. I think C will
give a chase. I’ll follow.
Then she pocketed her phone and from an agile roll back on her feet, she sprinted towards the door, mere moment before the boy did the same.
Conan went to one direction, Tsukiko went to another. On the way she met with Sera.
“Sumi-nee!?” The girl gasped in surprise.
“Ohayo!” The tomboy grinned. “Hisashiburi, Tsukiko.”
“You on a job?” Despite Tsukiko’s foreknowledge, it was a reasonable assumption since Sera had been taking jobs and she hadn’t been with Ran, Sonoko and the kids even though Sonoko would’ve surely invited her too.
“Yeah. But now my target is dead so…” Sera shrugged and Tsukiko chuckled.
“You do realize that sounds like you were in a league with whomever took the shot.” Tsukiko smirked wryly.
“Ah… True…” The elevator came to a stop. “I’ve got my motorbike close. There is an extra helmet too.”
“Okay. Tantei-chan went to get his turbo-engined skateboard from Agasa-hakase’s car. But no matter how fast it is or how skillful he is with using it. Going to traffic and chasing the culprit is going to be dangerous.” Tsukiko zipped her jacket up and accepted the helmet given. “This is going to break so many laws…”
“Well, desperate times require desperate measures. Ever ridden a motorbike before?”
“Once. It was in Kyoto. Hattori-san, tantei-chan combination.”
“Ah, you got the basics down then.” Sera grinned when Tsukiko settled behind her. “Hold on tight!”
North of Mitsumedori. To the left to cross Sumidagawa by Kototoi-bashi…
“I can see him!” Sera shouted.
“Me too!” The truck ahead of them was changing lines and couldn’t see Conan… “Hurry!”
“Prepare to catch him!”
But Conan ducked underneath the truck. Tsukiko let out a sigh of relief. The motorbike ahead of them turned to one-way street and from there to busy road. And opened fire at Conan, hitting another car’s tires! The car went out of control and forced Conan close to guardrail!
“Now!” Sera yelled and pressed more gas. Tsukiko held out an arm while holding onto the older girl with her other one. She caught the kid but skateboard was an unfortunate sacrifice.
“What the hell are you– I mean, what are you doing here, Sera-no-neechan?” Conan asked once they stopped. Tsukiko settled the kid more securely between them. No thanks. Of course…
“I’ll explain later! Let’s go!” Sera stated.
In the distance Tsukiko could hear sirens while Sera explained her involvement to Conan.
“Eh? You were at the Bell Tree?”
“I was following the man that was shot. As a detective.”
“Then you were there when is happened, weren’t you?”
“Yeah. I never though he’d be murdered.”
“I still maintain the opinion that he had swindled a wrong person.” Tsukiko mused.
“Saa…” Sera hummed. “I see him! Hold on tight!”
Kuramae-bashi was full of police cars… and fire. The trio skidded to halt when a hand grenade exploded.
“He’s insane…” Tsukiko muttered when shielding her face from the heat. The sheer amount of property damage and casualties… And the culprit flew out of the flaming inferno, landing right before them and driving past.
“Kuso! Hold on, we’re going after him!” Sera cursed.
“No, provoking him further is too dangerous.” Conan said.
“Did you tag him, tantei-chan?” Tsukiko asked idly while pulling out her phone.
“Yeah. We’ll know where he’d headed soon enough.” The boy replied, activating his glasses.
“In the meanwhile… would it be okay to pick another motorcycle helmet then?” Tsukiko scrolled the map on her phone. “There is a shop close-by and they have a model I’ve been eyeing a while. Well, ever since I found out about Shugo and the fact he has a motorbike.”
“He does?” Conan blinked.
“Yeah, he was actually the ‘Green Person’ Sugiura Kaito-kun wrote about in his diary. Shugo’s motorbike is green so it makes sense.” Tsukiko shrugged.
“Really?!” The boy’s eyes widened before narrowing. No doubt recalling what was written about the Green Person in the diary and connecting it to knowing where Akai had been directly after Raiha Pass.”
“Really. Saa, let’s go.”
“Sure.” Sera grinned and they sped back to the direction they’d been coming from.
With a new helmet and Conan using the borrowed one, they headed for the culprit’s location.
“He might have another getaway vehicle there.” Conan concluded about the location given.
“This is bad… Let’s hurry!” Sera said.
“Yeah! But be careful!”
“I know! We’re just going to check!”
“It’s never ‘just checking’ when it comes to detectives!” Tsukiko protested. When they drove on, she spied through the bike’s side mirror a black nondescript car driving behind them. Jodie and James…
Between the containers was the getaway bike parked. And when they stopped… The culprit himself stepped out. Tsukiko wanted to hit the two for having their faces in full view. At least her helmet covered her chin and she hadn’t flipped the visor up.
A gun was aimed at them. Tsukiko grabbed a hold of Sera’s jacket and other arm went around Conan’s middle and then she threw all her weight to the right. In the progress she also kicked Sera’s right leg so it wouldn’t be flattened by the bike.
The bullet clipped Sera’s helmet when they all went down. Conan got up. Idiot.
“Kuso… Sera! Oi, Sera!”
Tsukiko took out her phone and called Amuro. She heard him answer just in time to hear the screeching of tires and more gunshots when the culprit shot at the FBI’s car.
“Agent Camel!” Conan gasped when the agent stepped out of the car to shield them. Just when more shots were fired at his bulletproof vest.
More screeching and shots. Jodie’s distant shouts.
“You’re mine! Bring it on!”
And then the explosion.
“What the hell!” Tsukiko couldn’t help but exclaim.
“Ouch…” Sera gritted her teeth when getting up.
“Are you okay, Sera-no-neechan?” Conan asked.
“It was just a clip on the helmet, right?” Tsukiko asked right after, sitting up.
“Y-Yeah… If I didn’t have this, I’d be dead for sure…” Sera answered.
“Looks like neither of you are hurt.” Camel stated.
“Never mind that, are you okay, Agent Camel?” Conan walked up to the man. On the background, police cars were arriving.
“No problem. I was wearing this.” The agent showed the vest hidden underneath his shirt. “About Jodie-san’s gun…”
“Keep is a secret, right?”
“Tsukiko, is that your phone?” Sera asked then.
“Aah! I must’ve dropped it!” Tsukiko picked it up. No scratches, good. “I was about to send a message when the bad guy appeared. Talk about a bad timing… It started to call… Moshi moshi? Tsukiko desu…”
“Tsukiko-san…” The familiar voice of the waiter-slash-NOC-slash-private-eye began. Oh, it was serious. He’d swapped from ‘Okiya-chan’ to ‘Tsukiko-san’. Personally, Tsukiko didn’t mind the change but the tone.
“Gomen… It was an accident.” The girl hung her head when she got on her feet.
“Do you understand how worried I was when you send an e-mail saying you and Conan-kun were chasing a sniper and next comes a call with gunshots in the background?” Amuro didn’t shout. Thankfully. But at the same time that calm… It was like a calm preceding a storm.
“I’m sorry.” She said with a small voice. For some reason Jodie’s scolding’s didn’t dig out such feelings of guilt. But then again, they were usually after the fact and when Tsukiko was well and safe.
“Are you at least alright?”
“Hai… Just a bit scratched from falling off motorbike but it was that or getting shot so…” She shrugged but then grimaced at the pain shooting through her right shoulder. “Ow…”
From the corner of her eye she saw Sera and Conan getting up and following after Camel and went after them.
“Tsukiko-san… I know things are complicated right now… but would you be willing to sit down someday and get the facts straight with me?”
“Huh?” Tsukiko blinked but had to think then. She had told so many lies to people in order to make them stop looking at her past. Jodie and Amuro being only fraction of them. “Sure… There is something I got to talk to you about later too.”
“My name is Kagemiya Hoshi, I’m the daughter of Kagemiya Tsubasa and Lucas Ahola, sister of Kagemiya Daiki who goes by the name Midorikawa Shugo. The file I showed you weeks back… Michiko was a fake name my mother used.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. I gotta go now though. Someone’s gotta keep an eye on these two and make sure they’re alright.” She hung up and pocketed her phone, ready for police questioning. The names she’d given to Amuro would keep him satisfied for a while.
They were being debriefed by the three FBI agents about the suspected sniper, Timothy Hunter, and his possible motives, including the murder that happened in Seattle couple of weeks ago. They made sense and what Tsukiko remembered about the movie conclusion, the people who died, had it coming.
“As for the sniping, we discovered some strange items from the roof of the building suspected to be the sniping position.” Shiratori stood up from his chair.
“Strange items?” Jodie repeated.
“Right.” The chubby officer got up and walked up to the whiteboard. “In the space for the cleaning rails on the side facing the Bell Tree Tower, we found a die and a 51 mm bullet shell.” The put the photo of the items up. “The shell has the same caliber as the 7,62 mm bullet used in the crime.”
“It also matches the NATO bullets used by MK11, Hunter’s favourite rifle.” Black stated.
“Sort of redundant question but…” Tsukiko lifted her hand up. “Could that shell be from the bullet that killed the man in Bell Tree Tower?”
“Very likely but until the forensics are done, we can’t know for sure.” Megure replied. Tsukiko put her hand down with a nod.
“About this die… Was there a die left with the shell at the sniping position in the Seattle case as well?” Shiratori asked.
“No, I haven’t heard about anything like a die being found there, but there is a connection between Hunter and dice.” Camel answered. “Hunter loved playing dice games, and has a tattoo of dice here on his left arm.” The man indicated his left bicep.
“It’s tenuous connection, but it means Hunter could be trying to leave some sort of message with this die.” Megure stated.
“Yes. And the greatest piece of evidence that Hunter was behind this, lies with the victim.” Black added.
“You mean that Hunter had a definite motive for murdering Fujinami-san?” Megure asked.
“Yes.” Jodie took over the explanation. “Seven years ago, Fujinami Hiroaki sold Hunter substandard Japanese property, and is responsible for bankrupting him.”
Tsukiko snorted at their surprise.
“Something funny, Okiya-san?” Satou snapped. Tsukiko leant back in her seat and shrugged.
“Well, it’s known that whether they like it or not, but Japan is much more racist that they want to let out. It’s incredibly hard for foreigners to get good houses either by renting not to mention owning them. Considering what I saw this… Fujinami doing with that American couple… it was obvious that he was swindling them. I mean, the entire Japanese culture reflect trust in community and conforming to norms. Using school uniforms and adhering to dress code is only part of it. I’m a hafu, I’ve garnered my share of stares, especially when I still had blond hair… So given the country we live in Fujinami swindling Hunter is not out of the realm of possibility.”
“Well, anyways, that mean Hunter’s the culprit for sure.” Kogoro commented.
“Speaking of Fujinami-san, why was Sera-no-neechan tailing him?” Conan spoke up then.
“That’s right…” Takagi mused.
“Why were you tailing Fujinami-san?” Satou asked.
“A relative of a classmate of mine was thinking about marrying Fujinami, but she thought he was involved in something fishy, so she asked me to conduct a background check on him.” Sera answered. And during my investigation I found out about Fujinami swindling good-natured foreigners by selling them substandard Japanese property.”
“Got what he was asking for then…” Tsukiko muttered but considering the elbow Conan dug into her side, she wasn’t quiet enough.
“Well, it’s awful that he was murdered, but it’s good in the sense that the relative isn’t interested in getting remarried anymore.” Sera continued. “Oh, that’s right. From what you’ve said, I doubt this will be the end of Hunter’s crime spree.”
“That’s right. Wasn’t there a later a case… the one where Ran collapsed in the bathroom, where Sera had been investigating for a relative of a classmate too?” Tsukiko thought.
“Yes, you’re right.” Shiratori agreed with the female high school detective.
“Is there anyone else that Hunter might want dead?” Megure asked the FBI agents.
“Jodie-kun, the photos.” Black said. “The FBI believe there are at least three people he may be after.”
“Yes. We believe he is likely to try and murder these three people.” Jodie stated after putting the three photos up on the board. Jack Waltz, Bill Murphy…
“Well, can’t murder them if they are in San Diego.” Kogoro smiled.
“No, they’re both currently in Japan.” Black interjected.
“Walts arrived in Kyoto with his family two days ago, and Murphy’s staying in Nikkou. They’re planned to be in the country for another eight days.”
“And finally…” Jodie pointed at the last photo. Moriyama Hitoshi. Whereabouts unknown.
“So two out of three are in Japan.” Ran said in worry.
“He’s going to target them for sure!” Kogoro decided.
“Right. Alert the Kyoto and Tochigi Police immediately.” Megure nodded. “Okay! Put out an urgent warrant looking for Timothy Hunter as a key person in this case!”
“I can call Fumimaro-han.” Tsukiko offered and got up from her seat. “He asked me for an update anyways.”
Finally the debrief was over.
They were walking away from the station when Sera stopped.
“Still, I wonder why that Hunter guy decided to seek revenge now, six years later?” The high school detective pondered aloud.
“Right…” Sonoko nodded.
“I see what you mean.” Ran agreed.
“I’d rather wonder if it’s actually Hunter shooting people.” Tsukiko stated. “Because excellent shot or not. Motive or not… Head injuries are not a thing you can recover just like that. Not even after eight years. Hunter was incredibly lucky to survive the bullet and the surgery. But there is no way he could’ve made the shot to Bell Tree Tower in that condition. Especially if he needs to use meds constantly to even function normally.”
“It just happened to be now, that’s all.” Kogoro groused. “Still, you better stop playing your detective games! You almost died out there! And brat! You better not go wandering off either!”
“Hai!” Conan smiled.
“Aww, you do care, Mouri-tantei.” Tsukiko grinned.
“Sera-san, I am glad that you weren’t hurt…” Ran began with downcast eyes. “But please don’t put Conan-kun… Don’t put Conan-kun in danger again, okay?”
A knot formed in Tsukiko’s stomach. The nerve! While she understood that Ran was worried about Conan, but by now the boy had been in many near-death situations. Especially when it came to movie climaxes. And since movies did happen in this world… Now she was digressing… But to ask that from Sera even though they all had gone after the culprit fully aware that he was dangerous. Not to mention that they’d saved Conan from that car…
“Don’t worry! I’ll make use to protect Conan-kun.” Sera smiled. “Not to mention, there’s no bullet that can shoot through Conan-kun’s heart right now. Or your heart either, of course!”
“Me too!” Tsukiko spoke up. “I might not be able to stop detectives from investigating but I can try my damnest to keep them safe. Okay?”
“Okay…” Ran said a bit uncertainly.
“Good. Sumi-nee, can you give me a ride?” Tsukiko heaved her new helmet on her shoulder. Sera twirled the motorbike keys between her fingers.
“Sure. Where to?” The tomboy asked.
“Kudou House. I’ll be spending the night with Subaru-nii.”
There were fireworks.
“Upgraded ball-dispensing belt.” Tsukiko said when Subaru went to the window to see what was going on at the roof of the Agasa house. “I do wonder how Agasa-hakase managed to fit the fireworks into the belt buckle.”
“They certainly have fun.” The man stated. “By the way, are you alright? After what happened today…”
“I… I guess it has not sunk yet. And considering the situations I’ve gotten before… Especially Touto Tower case… It wasn’t really even a close call for me. For Sera, yes, with that bulled. For Kudou, yes, with that car. But not for me.” Tsukiko got up from the chair and stretched. “Oyasumi, Subaru-nii.”
“Oyasumi, Tsukiko.” The man wished back.
End of the day. The next day that was. Tsukiko had been spending the day at Kudou house before leaving to meet with Amuro in a café at Teito Department Store. This time she was wearing just a plain denim jacket.
“Thank you for coming, Tsukiko-san.” The man greeted her.
“Thank you for making time for this meeting, Amuro-san. I’m sure you have a busy schedule.” Tsukiko smiled back, taking a seat. The two of them made their orders and waited for them in silence. Once they had them, and Tsukiko had taken a sip of her jasmine tea, she leant back in her seat and looked in the eyes of the private eye in front of her. Amuro had not even touched his orders.
“So…” The man began. “I think you have a lot to explain.”
“Did you find out anything useful in the past 24 hours?” Tsukiko asked back. “I did give you a bunch of names.”
“Names which in the end yielded no help with Kyoto Police stonewalling us.”
Us. Us as in Furuya Rei’s comrades?
“Ayanokoji-keibu is a family friend. And Kyoto is the turf of the Alliance. It is not easy to get information about us which is why most of us use fake names. Some remnant from Bakumatsu era I suppose…” Tsukiko mused, taking another sip. Tsubaki had told her about the reasons for alternative names. The Kagemiya had supported the Shogun when the American’s were demanding entry but at the same time they’d been curious about the foreign commodities and culture and investigated on their own, under different names so their family wouldn’t be accused of treason.
“Mostly, I’m concerned about the things you told me when we were on the way to the tennis meetup. You know as well as I do that you lied a lot back then. Some of it can be excused with your amnesia which you weren’t aware of and you were doing so in order to protect yourself but now…” Amuro leant his elbows against the table.
“Now that I actually know where I come from and whom I’m connected to, I need to make sure false information isn’t spread around…” She paused and continued then with a smile. “And give enough facts to you to keep you satisfied and not go poking for more.”
“Not everything I told you was a lie. And some things that I said were constructed around my assumptions about my own situation.” The girl sighed. “I’m a hafu. My father is European and my mother Japanese. They both worked for Interpol. My mother was a loan to Saitama police under the name Michiko until her death. I don’t know where my father is and frankly I don’t care either. I was in accident after my mother’s funerals and then spend quite the good time unconscious in hospital, hence the memory loss. When I woke up I gave my fake name to the nurse – Okiya Tsukiko. Subaru-nii is a family friend so he went along with my adopted story. I guess Shugo persuaded him a day before I met him.”
“Midorikawa-kun is your full-blooded brother then?”
“Yes. But he is as good as a stranger to be right now… It’s been ten years since we spent any time together properly. If there were something else in between, I’ve not remembered it yet. I did find out that he used the name Hibiki Boshi to pay my hospital bills.” Tsukiko smiled a bit ruefully. “Probably why I told you about Kagemiya Boshi, too.”
“Well, you certainly have the same intuition than he does.”
“And your original name is… Kagemiya Hoshi?”
“Yes. And Shugo was Kagemiya Daiki until ten years ago when he began living with Ishikawa-san.”
Amuro frowned faintly. It seemed that his previous conclusions weren’t that far off the base but this new information certainly added to it. Tsukiko did have a blood-brother. Brother which used the name Hibiki even. To think Midorikawa Shugo was the hacker bothering the organization was certainly a surprise. But then that left the identity of Kage as… not so mystery.
“You are Kage, aren’t you?” The man asked the girl in front of him. In the end it didn’t surprise him as much it should’ve. The warning to stay away from the Okiya siblings, the confusing pronouns used by other members of the organization, the name given when he first asked her… Just put on a jacket that conceals the shape of her torso and a cap that shadows her eyes, speak from a lower register and voila! You had an androgynous person out of her.
“Bingo!” The girl smirked.
And this also meant that she had the NOC-list that the Hunters had been using. She was their leader and decided to order in which the targets were eliminated. Her brother was the one to track those targets down and Yamato was the one taking the targets out.
“Your honestly is appreciated… but are you sure you can trust me with that much?” Amuro asked. Given the fact that Tsukiko was connected to Vermouth, there was no way she would not know about him. Especially after cornering him at Mouri Detective Agency to threaten him.
“You’re cut from the same cloth than someone else I know. I trust you with my secrets. But unfortunately, I can’t trust you with my life or freedom.” She shrugged.
Sensing the time to change the topic, Amuro reached for his own cup of coffee.
“Are you going to continue solving this… sniper case too?”
“Well, not solving per say…” Tsukiko mused and flagged the waitress down for a bill. “But with Edogawa-kun and Sera-san running after the truth… someone’s gotta keep an eye on them. I’m not as smart as they are but what I can do is watch their backs so they don’t get hurt. That’s almost as important as solving the case itself. Right, Zero-san?”
Amuro had closed his eyes for a moment of savor the bitterness of his coffee whilst listening to the girl speak but his eyes flew open when hearing the name she had used to address him.
But she was already gone. Only exactly the correct amount of yen was left on top of the bill, next to her empty teacup.
This was troublesome.
Next day. Third day of people getting sniped down. Tsukiko woke up to Conan mailing her information about two other people dying. Moriyama Hitoshi last night and Timothy Hunter himself in the early morning hours. And some television wise-crack managed to entice panic by saying anyone could be target now. The internet was blowing up.
“Well, good thing it’s Golden Week and there is no absolute need to go anywhere…” Tsukiko muttered before putting her phone away. Jodie was working on the case. Sera and Conan were sticking to indoors while scouring for whatever information they could find.
And that’s how the third day went by.
Fourth day began. The trio converged by Sumidagawa, near the spot of floating platform from which Hunter had been shot.
“It’s really strange… It’s the closest-range sniping yet, but they both missed once.” Sera stated whilst peering through binoculars. Conan was reading map which had the sniping locations, victim locations and the distances marked. Tsukiko was sketching once again.
“Yeah…” Conan nodded.
“Maybe they were both nervous about facing another sniper.”
“I’m concerned about all the snipings being near Asakusa too.” The boy continued.
“Right…” Sera nodded. “Maybe there’s some other special meaning behind the dice, ranges and lines of fire…”
“I think we should also consider why the dice were left on the sniping spots and not near the victims. It wouldn’t have been that hard to hide a dice at Bell Tree or near Yasuhara residence… Or even Hunter’s location…” Tsukiko stated. “One of the key characteristics of snipers is patience. Patience to find out about their victims and wait for the opportune moment to shoot. Fujinami and Moriyama had clear routines and Hunter himself was in hiding. They would’ve been easy pickings any moment.”
“That might be…” Sera began but was interrupted by Conan’s phone ringing.
“What is it, Jodie-sensei?” The boy asked and put the phone on speaker.
“We did that clinical autopsy, like you suggested.” The FBI agent began. “There were a lot of painkillers in his stomach, really strong ones.”
“Painkillers?” Sera repeated.
“And we found out why, when we did an MRI of his skull. There was a bullet shard embedded near his brain stem. And it wasn’t recent…”
“The bullet he took in the war eight years ago, right?” Conan confirmed.
“Yes. The removal was deemed success, but a fragment must’ve been left behind. It would’ve put pressure on his nerves, especially his optic nerves. He would’ve suffered from frequent and intense migranes, and was probably nearly blind.”
“So, I was right.” Tsukiko mused. “Hunter shooting those people was incredibly unlikely.”
“Nearly blind? Must’ve been hard for him to snipe Woods in Seattle, then…” Sera began.
“What if the current sniper was behind that too?” Conan suggested.
“But then there’s no reason for the showdown with Hunter…”
“No. There’s one possible reason.”
“Student fighting the master… A fight to death to see if the student was worth of putting time and effort into… to see if the student can handle himself on his own and be good enough to eventually take a student of his own and pass on the skills… Isn’t that quite often used plot device in fantasy and pseudo-historical books?” Tsukiko thought aloud.
“Yeah. And if so, then there’s another meaning behind the second Japanese sniping and the sniping of Hunter.” Conan nodded. They wished goodbyes then and Conan called Takagi immediately.
“Hai? Takagi desu…”
“Takagi-keiji, it’s Conan.”
“Ah! Conan-kun! You’ve got a great timing. Could you tell Mouri-san that Lee-san actually happened to have an alibi, and also–…”
“Never mind him, what about Waltz-san and Murphy-san?” The boy interrupted.
“Waltz-san’s still in Kyoto, but Murphy-san said he felt safe now, and left without a word to the local police guard, boarding the Oururi Express train leaving for Tokyo at 9 am. Apparently someone sent him a ticket, and he’d promised to see them.”
“Sent him a ticket?!” Sera gasped. Tsukiko swallowed. This was the day…
“If he left at nine…” Conan muttered.
“Apparently he’d going to arrive at Asakusa Station at eleven.”
“What if that was trap set by the sniper?!” The boy realized and looked up at the teens. Sera was staring back at him while Tsukiko had long time ago put her sketch pad back to her backpack and was seeing the seating order from ticket selling site for the express.
“He’d be watching the platform with the perfect sniping point!” Sera said. “His target would even be sitting in the seat he picked!”
“He’s got to be near Asakusa Station!”
“Those express trains have compartments on the left side of the train… That means the sniper will take a shot from the left side too. We gotta hurry.”
“There is only three minutes left!” Sera went running to her motorbike, the other two following her.
“This is bad, he’s going after Murphy-san!”
Conan was on his fixed skateboard while Tsukiko was riding behind Sera once more. The boy spotted the van on the Komagata-bashi.
“We need to get to Azuma-bashi, Sumi-nee!” Tsukiko instructed, keeping an eye on things around them while the older girl concentrated on driving.
And then Conan went flying in one of this impossible skateboard tricks, landing neatly on the bridge. Sera skid to stop.
“Conan-kun! Don’t tell me… he’s going to shoot him while the train’s in motion?!” The tomboy realized.
“What else could it be?” Tsukiko replied. Before them Conan was heading to place his ball-dispensing belt to block the view. He tossed the skateboard and had the belt fly to catch onto the streetlamp in which the ball inflated then. The boy jumped up to the railing to attract Murphy’s attention with the light of his detective badge. And then the soccer ball got shot and gone.
“He’s going to be targeted himself at this rate!” Sera growled and pressed gas.
“There is a laser sight!” Tsukiko shouted, when they were practically flying towards the boy.
“Take the-!” Sera began but Tsukiko pressed her hands on the other girl’s shoulders to keep her in her seat.
“I’ll do it! Just drive and keep it steady!”
And they drove. Tsukiko rose to crouch on her seat and took support from Sera.
“Conan-kun! Look out!” Sera shouted. And Tsukiko jumped.
She didn’t even feel the bullet meant for the boy. She only felt the tiny body in her arms.
They slammed on the ground. And the pain hit. It burned. Worse than the bullet at Touto Tower. Maybe. But the burn…
“Ugh…” Tsukiko struggled to remain awake. There was something wet under her fingers. It was blurry in her eyes. Did she hit her head? Good she had helmet then… Someone was shouting… Two someones really… Who…? It was like her head was full of fog…
“Okiya! Hang in there!” There were hands pressing down and moving her hand away. Hurt! Hurt! Who? Tantei-chan?
“How’d this end up happening…”
“I’ll call ambulance.”
“Kuso! Kuso! Kuso!”
“Nee…” Tsukiko breathed. And then there was someone opening the visor. The girl grinned through the pain. “I kept my promise, didn’t I?”
In Kyoto station, a phone was ringing. It’s owner answered it when boarding a train.
“Moshi, moshi, Kagemiya desu…”
“Thank you for informing me. I’ll come over there right away.” Kagemiya Tsubaki hung up and turned to look out of the window. The ominous feeling had rang true then.
Tsukiko looked around the white space around her. This was familiar. And the two figures sitting on nothing were familiar too.
“Kage? Red Moon?” The girl blinked. “Are you alright? I haven’t heard anything from you since… Since meeting with Shugo.”
“Aah… We are just fine.” Red Moon smiled. “Just wanted to give you time to adjust.”
The woman got up and walked to Tsukiko. She put her hands on the girl’s shoulders gently.
“It’s okay. Whatever you are thinking about your situation, it’s okay.”
“We’ve known since the beginning that you were Jade and this body was Hoshi’s.” Kage added, appearing behind Tsukiko and hugging her from behind with their chin leaning on her right shoulder. “And it’s okay that you are neither because at the same time you are both and we are yours.”
“Kagemiya Hoshi never awakened her Kage.” They explained. “And if she’d never gone to Tokyo, she never would’ve. You awakened me. I’m yours.”
“And while I’m not exactly the same than no-gender here.” RM chuckled at the glare aimed at her. “I was still born from your desire to have fun but not to be caught. To be free but to have the actual skills to do so. Consider me a plus one, if you will.”
“Okay. You’re mine. Mine, not Hoshi’s.” Tsukiko mused. “Thank you for sticking with me.”
“Hmm… Just try not to get shot again.” Kage grumbled. “You don’t have plot armor like the others do.”
“I’ll try. But I do need to keep my promises too.”
“I also advise some caution…” Red Moon hummed. “But then again… all three of us have a bit of an reckless streak.”
Conan and Sera were attentively listening to the police and the FBI once they’d given their statements about the incident. While Tsukiko was in surgery there was nothing else they could do. And once the surgery was over, the hospital was only allowing the family visit. What made the situation tricky was the fact that on the moment of being shot, Tsukiko had had the identification of Kagemiya Hoshi with her (probably retrieved from Kyoto or given by Shugo) and not that of Okiya Tsukiko. Meaning that her grandmother in Kyoto had been alerted rather than Subaru and not even Jodie, with whom Tsukiko was residing, would be allowed to visit, not to mention any friends.
The surgery took a bit over an hour. The fastest shinkasen from Kyoto to Tokyo took over two hours. They could do nothing but wait.
Shugo appeared as some point to sit on the bench next to Sera and Conan.
“So… what happened?” The hacker asked them.
“The sniper was aiming at Conan-kun when we were trying to save Murphy-san’s life. Tsukiko jumped in front of the bullet from my motorbike.” Sera replied.
“Huh… How reckless.”
“If she hadn’t been with us, I would’ve jumped. I was prepared to jump but she told me to keep the bike steady.”
“Sounds like her.”
“But what I don’t understand… is the promise she spoke about. It couldn’t have been just the one we both made to Ran-chan…” The tomboy mused.
Conan looked away. He knew very well about Tsukiko’s promise to Akai about protecting Sera. But this was a bit too much… She could’ve died…
“I called Okiya-san.” Shugo spoke up then. “He is worried but said he will visit later, once Tsubaki-baa and I have visited.”
“I see. Did he say anything else?” The bespectacled boy asked.
“No. Should he have?” The oldest of the trio arched an eyebrow.
“Well, just making sure. Has anyone else been told?”
“I think that police officer from Haido Hotel called his cousin.” Sera began. “And Ran-chan and Sonoko-chan too…”
“Miyoshi-chan is working now, isn’t she? If Miyoshi-keiji managed to surprise her with the information, I can bet the rest of Café Poirot staff knows too.” Shugo sighed. “And I bet Tsubaki-baa told Ayanokoji-keibu before leaving.”
Ran and Sonoko had arrived too. Mai couldn’t come because it was rush time at Poirot. Namida had been eating at the café when the call came so she’d heard the news too, but had decided to visit together with Mai.
“Ara… have you been here the entire time since the accident?” A new voice greeted them. The teens looked up and Shugo shot from his seat. The rest followed him a bit more sedate pace.
“Tsubaki-baa! You’re early.”
“Miyoshi-keiji appeared at the Asakusa station and gave me a ride.” The woman smiled. She had her steel-gray hair on a bun and she was dressed in plum colored kimono. “My name is Kagemiya Tsubaki. I’m glad to see, Hoshi-chan has so many good friends that worry about her.”
“Kagemiya… Tsubaki-sama…” Sonoko blinked.
“Then the girl we met in Kyoto months ago…” Ran realized. Tsubaki smiled.
“Hoshi-chan was very glad to meet you all back then. And as Tsukiko, I’m sure she liked to get to know you properly, even if she didn’t remember the previous meeting at first.”
“Kagemiya-san? Have you visited Tsukiko-neechan yet?” Conan asked.
“Yes, I have. Tsukiko-chan is asleep for the moment. The surgery was successful.” Tsubaki nodded. “She is in the room 406. You may visit her but please let her sleep.”
“Thank you very much, Kagemiya-san.” Sera bowed.
“Thank you!” The rest of the group echoed. Then Shugo’s attention was caught by the black jacket folded on Tsubaki’s arm.
“Ano… Tsubaki-baa, what is that jacket?” The hacker asked.
“Hm? It’s Tsukasa-kun’s old jacket. I need to wash it and repair it before Tsukiko-chan can use it again.”
“Ano, do you need help with it?” Ran offered.
“Oh, no need. This isn’t the first time I’ve fixed this jacket. But I do am glad this time the wearer didn’t die… This is a protector’s jacket, to be worn when you protect someone you really care aboubt.” Tsubaki explained. Then looking at the guilty faces of Conan and Sera and the stricken look on Ran’s, and smiled. “Oh, don’t make that sort of faces. Tsukasa-kun protected our family. Tsukiko-chan protected her friends. It was her own choice. And is shows her strength of will that she pulled through.”
Shugo left soon after seeing his sister alive and sleeping, probably to talk with Tsubaki a bit more. Sera checked in too but then said she had to return to the hotel. Ran, Sonoko and Conan remained in the room, arranging things and worrying.
“Conan-kun…” Ran approached the boy and crouched down in front of him. “We’ll make sure to look after Tsukiko-chan.”
The boy nodded and looked at the sleeping figure on the bed.
“Don’t worry, she’ll be fine. The doctor said her injuries aren’t life-threatening. I’ll let you know as soon as she wakes up, okay?”
He nodded again and tried to smile this time. “Then see you tomorrow.” And he left.
“Still, I’m glad nothing worse happened.” Sonoko stated. “If Tsukiko-chan and Sera-san hadn’t been there for the brat, he’d have been in danger…”
“She risked her life to protect Conan-kun…” Ran said. “And if Tsukiko-chan hadn’t been there, it would’ve been Sera-san…”
“They really put their lives on the line. Remember what Sera-san said before?”
“Don’t worry! I’ll make sure to protect Conan-kun. Not to mention, there’s no bullet that can shoot through Conan-kun’s heart right now. Or your heart either, of course!”
“And what Tsukiko-chan said to that, too…”
“Me too! I might not be able to stop detectives from investigating but I can try my damnest to keep them safe. Okay?”
“That reminds me, she said there’s no bullet that can shoot through your heart either, Ran…”
“I can’t forgive that sniper.” Ran clenched her fists in anger. “For putting Conan-kun and Tsukiko-chan and Sera-san through all this… I’ll never forgive him!”
“…Nee, Ran, was that bouquet here when we came in?” Sonoko pointed at the flowers on the side table.
“Oh, you’re right… Was someone else just here?” Ran picked up the flowers. It was a very colorful bouquet, fully of pink and violet flowers.
“Who’s it from?”
“I can’t tell… But look, Sonoko, they’re really beautiful.”
“So they are! Let’s put them on her windowsill.”
“Yeah. I’ll go and ask for a vase.”
The door of the Kudou house opened and closed behind the current resident. Okiya Subaru made his way to the library where he knew his guest to be at. Kagemiya Tsubaki was serenely sitting on one of the couches and sewing the bullet holes in Tsukiko’s jacket shut.
“Thank you for visiting her, Okiya-san.” Tsubaki spoke without looking up from her task.
“She has been like a little sister for me… And I’ve become acquainted with her… Shadow as well. Of course I’ll worry.” The man replied. The old woman hummed absently. A silence fell and Subaru went to the desk to pick up one of his books. With the woman in the house, he couldn’t keep an eye on the brown-haired girl in the neighboring house, like he usually did.
“You remind me of someone…” Tsubaki peered at him. Subaru froze, turning around slowly and arching an eyebrow. “The manner you move… The words you choose… You’re just like Tsubasa-chan’s friend from America.”
“America? I’m afraid I’ve never been there.” Subaru lied smoothly. Tsubaki just hummed absently, not really paying attention to the reply.
“He was Japanese through and through but they met when Tsubasa-chan was in America. I met him only once… After Daiki-kun was born but before Hoshi-chan was conceived. They were very close friends and I greatly disapproved it since they both were married at the time. When Hoshi-chan was born I demanded Tsubasa-chan to have paternity test made, just in case. I worried for nothing, thankfully but considering that on the year in between Tsubasa-chan hadn’t seen Lucas-san much…” Tsubaki sighed. “My apologies, I shouldn’t be airing my family’s dirty laundry like this… Even a mere reminder of that man just makes me lose my patience.”
“Why so? I do understand that allegations for infidelity are severe blow for family reputation but…” Subaru frowned.
“Because that man dragged Tsubasa-chan into investigating something that cost her life. Between the births of my grandchildren, Tsubasa-chan was doing unofficial investigation with him in America. In the aftermath, she admitted almost getting killed. I know she never left the case alone, even when losing contact with her friend. Kagemiya have the bad habit of chasing the truth and Tsubasa-chan chased hers so much that she left her children behind, dragged Tsukasa-kun and Lucas-san into it too and eventually died. And I know it happened while she was meeting with that man…”
Subaru’s thoughts wandered to the conversation Tsukiko and Shugo had had in this very room when finally reuniting.
“When you called one of my phones as Hibiki, you said that this case was the reason Hoshi… I came to Tokyo.” Tsukiko pointed out. “But why I would have? From what I see from this and what people would have told Tsubaki-baachan, this was simply a manslaughter not a murder.”
“… I don’t know.” Shugo admitted. “I called Hoshi afterwards but she was already on her way to here. Whomever told her anything else, must have been there. Yamato knows something additional since he removed Tsubasa’s calendar from the rental car before the cops were called but he has refused to tell me anything yet and I haven’t found where he has hidden the calendar either. Personally, I haven’t seen Tsubasa for ten years. Maybe you will discover from your memory something more…”
Subaru mulled over the facts that the woman ranted out. Kagemiya Tsubasa’s death was what had brought Tsukiko to Tokyo. Shugo had implied that it was the organization’s work. So the entire family was involved in digging out truths… Case between Shugo and Tsukiko’s births… They were eighteen and sixteen respectively so it was seventeen years ago… A case in America… the man already married… similar mannerisms…
“Say, what was the man’s name?”
“Tsubasa-chan always insisted calling him Tom-san and on the same breath said he was practically like family.”
“What’s with the ‘Tsu’-starting names? They are quite prominent at parts.”
“Tsu…tomu?” The pink-haired man breathed in shock. Tsubaki looked up.
“Possibly. He never outright introduced himself.” The woman cut the string she’d been using and folded the jacket neatly before standing up. “Thank you for the company, Okiya-san. I’ll call myself a taxi.”
“You’re quite welcome.” It was hard to keep his tone neutral after these few revelations but years of practice helped immensely. Subaru got on his feet to see the woman to the door.
“I suppose I don’t really need to say this but… Despite you giving me a bad taste in my mouth due this… resemblance, I’m inclined to trust you. If only because Tsukiko-chan trusts you and she has the true Kagemiya instincts to do so.”
“With the way you say instincts, I suppose the Midorikawa have something like it too.”
“Hmm… maybe. I do know that both my sister and I frequently had an ominous feeling right before something directly or indirectly related to us went wrong. Oyasumi nasai, Okiya-san.”
“Oyasumi nasai, Kagemiya-san.”
The door opened and closed when the woman left and Subaru let out a sigh of relief. And conveniently, right then he got an e-mail from Black. Something else to focus on for now…
Tsukiko blinked at the ceiling. Smell of antiseptic, beeping of the machines, the drip on her arm… Hospital. Again. She sighed. This was getting annoying.
“Ah, Tsukiko-chan!” Someone was immediately on her side. The image was a bit blurry but the shape of her hair was unmistakable.
“R-Ran…-san?” The younger girl rasped before coughing. Her throat was so dry.
“Wait a moment, I give you some water. And lift the upper end of the bed a bit.” There was whirr from somewhere under her when the bed tilted and brought Tsukiko slowly to semi-sitting position.
“Ookini…” Tsukiko whispered when Ran helped her drink. She still felt lethargic and didn’t feel like she’d be able to lift her arms yet.
“Should I inform others that you are awake?”
“Sure…” Maybe by the time people decided to visit, Tsukiko would be less tired and more alert.
“Huh? Conan-kun, you’re here all by yourself?” Ran asked the boy.
“Yeah, everyone else is coming by car. And Mai-neechan is stuck in the morning shift of Poirot so she, Namida-neechan and Amuro-no-niichan come later.” Conan replied. “But Sera-no-neechan is already on her way.”
“Sou… I was just about to go to the shop downstairs, want to come with me?”
“Nah, I’ll wait here.”
“Okay, let’s go, Sonoko!”
“Right! Tsukiko-chan, we’re heading out for a bit.” Sonoko told the younger girl.
“Sure. See ya.” Tsukiko replied and then waited until the two girls were gone and Conan in the view before speaking up again. “Ohayo-san, Kudou. Good to see you alright.” She smiled.
“Ohayo, Okiya. Thank you for saving me.” The boy smiled back though it was a bit sad smile. Sad but relieved.
“I was keeping my promises. The one to Ran-san and the other one to Akai-san.”
“Why… Why are you so concerned about that promise?”
“Because I already once failed to keep it. At the Mystery Train… if it had been any other member of the organization to capture Sera-san, she would’ve died since she identified the scarface as ‘Shuu-nii’. Just being associated with a traitor would’ve led to her death.” Tsukiko shook her head before looking resolutely forward. “So I won’t fail again. I care way too much about her and everyone else to let her be killed.”
“Moreover, if Sera-san had jumped, there would’ve been no guarantee that I would’ve gotten her motorbike in control and safely stopped.” Well, Kage probably would’ve but back then there had been a radio silence on their part…
“By the way, what have you and Sera-san figured out?”
“Your hint about master and student fighting to death helped.” Conan began explaining. “And according to Sera-san, the sniper was using a laser sight to target me and Murphy-san. On that vein, we figured out why Hunter faked a shootout instead of committing a suicide which would’ve closed the police investigation and made Waltz-san and Murphy-san relax their guard even more… It was a final test for the killer, making him a true cold-blooded sniper.”
“I see… So all the sniping ranges and methods were the graduating exams so to say…” Tsukiko mused.
“Yes. The first sniping was the maximum range for an MK11. The second was a moving target at night. And the third sniping was to check that no emotions could ever change his mind. Hunter was making his killer into the ultimate sniper, right up until his death.”
“So the sniper is either Scott Green or Kevin Yoshino.” Tsukiko concluded from the names mentioned in the first debriefing.
“Green was spotted in Kansai but Waltz-san has disappeared.”
“Waltz was most likely lured in Tokyo just like Murphy was… And Green is a decoy to divide the police attention.”
“That’s what we thought too…”
“Oi, we’ve come to visit!” Genta’s voice said from the door.
“Tch, Genta-kun, you’re being too loud…” Mitsuhiko protested.
“Ah, Conan-kun!” Ayumi greeted.
“What’s all that stuff you guys brought?” The bespectacled kid asked.
“Something really amazing!” Genta bragged.
“Hai!” Mitsuhiko agreed.
“We thought it might help cheer Tsukiko-neesan up. Right?” Ayumi smiled. The kids made their way to the room, Agasa and… Sera following them.
“Ohayo, Tsuki.” The tomboy greeted.
“Ohayo-san, Sumi-nee.” Tsukiko smiled in relief. It was so good to see her alright. Her and Conan both. “Conan-kun told me about your deductions.”
“He did? Good to hear your up to speed then.”
Ran and Sonoko arrived soon and at the side table the Detective boys were putting together their summer homework project. It was very well made.
“That’s brilliant!” Tsukiko praised the kids. “Especially the Bell Tree Tower must’ve required a lot of work.”
“You made that all by yourselves?” Sera asked them.
“It’s for our summer homework project!”
“It’s not exactly finished yet…”
“…but we wanted to show it to you!” The kids told them.
“Ookini!” Tsukiko smiled.
“It’s really great!” Sonoko agreed.
“Un, it’s very well-made.” Ran nodded.
“They may not be the same shapes as the real buildings, but they’re the same sizes and in the right places!” Mitsuhiko explained.
“Ai-chan checked all of them!” Ayumi added.
“Huh, you’ve done all that but it’s not finished yet?” Sera asked, listening to the children’s conversation.
“It looks good just like that.” Ran said.
“What’s left to do?” Sonoko asked.
“Well, to my eye… it looks a little bland…” Tsukiko mused, tilting her head. “Of course, I don’t know what the requirements for successfully completed first-grader summer homework are these days but…”
“We gotta still paint ‘em.” Genta stated.
“And Tsukiko-neesan is right. We only had a chance to take photos of the west side when we were at Bell Tree, so we don’t know what colors the rest should be.” Ayumi explained.
“We would’ve like to go up one more time before we start painting it, but well…” Mitsuhiko shrugged.
“Then why don’t we take another look?” Sonoko suggested. “It hasn’t reopened yet, but the repairs are all done, so you could have the whole tower to yourselves!”
While the children were celebrating the offer, Ran turned towards Sonoko with a frown.
“But, Sonoko, they haven’t caught the sniper yet, have they?”
“It’s fine! Do you really think he’d turn up at the same place twice? And even the TV said that it’s not actually a random killing spree after all!”
“They are right.” Sera said. “All people who’ve died, were targeted because of their connection to Hunter. The kids will be fine.”
“Huh? What is it, Conan-kun?” Ayumi asked the boy who’d approached the table with the thoughtful look on his face.
“Hey, make sure you help us paint it, you hear?” Mitsuhiko said sternly.
“What is it? Did you spot something, Conan?” Genta asked and crouched to the level to the table. “Huh? Wow, that’s interesting!”
“Huh? What is?”
“If you look at it from down here, it looks like some of the buildings we made are the same height!”
“Really?” Sera walked up to the table and sat down on the floor. Conan moved to the side where Genta was.
“Genta… Sorry, but can you show me?” Conan asked.
“Hoo… That’s right…” Sera mused.
“Especially these two buildings…”
Tsukiko smiled at the two detectives. Good to have them solve the dice code and the mystery of the locations. From the way Conan moved and Sera tilted her head and glanced at the boy, they got it.
“Ran-neechan! I’ve got to go, I forgot something!” Conan stated, getting up quickly.
“Hey! Conan-kun! Don’t you want to go to the Bell Tree?!” Ran asked the boy.
“Sera.” Tsukiko spoke up, deliberately dropping the honorific. The other girl looked up and made their way to Tsukiko while the others were distracted.
“What is it, Tsukiko?”
“Watch them for me. Conan-kun might be on the way to save Waltz but if he succeeds and the sniper’s location is at Bell Tree…” Tsukiko spoke quietly in English.
“He will target anyone else in his way…” Sera muttered.
“Yes. I’m sure FBI is already coming up with countermeasures but if the others are at Bell Tree, it’s possible a hostage situation will occur, if only to secure an escape route. And Ran-san’s karate won’t be enough against an armed and determined SEAL.”
Sera glanced at the kids who were packing their homework and Ran and Sonoko who were getting ready to leave.
“Leave it to me.”
“Thank you. And you be careful too.”
Soon after they left, Tsukiko received another group of visitors.
“Why are you so reckless?!” Mai said in lieu of an actual greeting.
“…If it hadn’t been me, it would’ve been Conan-kun or Sera-san.” Tsukiko stated. “And given the way some detectives focus on the case, they tend to ignore any possible consequences to themselves.”
“Still… It was such a scare when Takuya-nii called me in the middle of shift and told me that you’d been shot.” Mai slumped into one of the chairs.
“Good to see you awake and well, Tsukiko-san.” Namida said, taking the other seat.
“I’m glad to be okay too.” Tsukiko smiled. “Sorry for scaring you.”
“Well, it’s good we got to hear right away and not through the newsfeed.” Amuro stated from where he was uncovering a plate full of…
“Sandwiches! Amuro-san’s special ones?”
“Yes, I remembered that you haven’t gotten a chance to taste them yet and I’m sure you’d appreciate them compared to hospital food.”
“I really do. Thank you very much.” Tsukiko clapped her hands together as Amuro placed the plate on the tray attached to the bed and pushed it to her. Tsukiko took the first sandwich. She was hungry. “So… any new gossip? Other than the whole sniper situation?”
“Not really. It’s good that people aren’t panicking anymore though.” Mai shrugged. “But given the way the streets remained empty today, I would’ve liked for Poirot to be closed so I could’ve visited you earlier.”
“Demo, Miyoshi-san…” Namida sweatdropped.
“Have others visited you today?” Amuro asked then, taking a seat on the other side of the bed.
“Yes. Senpais were here with the kids just before you came… Tsubaki-baasan and Subaru-nii visited yesterday when I was still unconscious but couldn’t come today.”
“Huh, why?” Mai blinked.
“Well, Tsubaki-baasan called me and informed me that she was cleaning up uncle’s house. Apparently, she needs to destress before coming to see me again… And Subaru-nii is helping Conan-kun with the case…”
“The case… Don’t tell me they are working on the sniper case still?!”
Tsukiko sighed instead of shrugging so she wouldn’t aggravate her shoulder.
“Well, if the pattern holds, tonight will be another shooting. The FBI are working on it along with the division one since all involved are American citizens and they already happened to be in the country…”
At the statement, Amuro’s face did something funny but returned to an amicable smile then.
“You’ve been working on this since the beginning then?” The man asked.
“Yes. I pretty much know what’s going on. Sera-san and Conan-kun liked to bounce ideas around and I could offer another angle to things so we discussed things and shared information a lot. Would you like to know what’s been going on? Since I’ve not signed any non-disclosure agreements, I’m free to do so.”
“Please. This has been way too confusing. And even if Takuya-nii wouldn’t have been busy with the case, I doubt he would’ve told me.” Mai grumbled. Namida giggled to her palm and nodded then.
“I’m curious too.”
“Okay, do you have a map or something similar? This might take a while…”
Tsukiko was just illustrating them how the dice and sniping locations formed a star and how Bell Tree was most likely the next sniping point when her phone on the bedside table went off. Since she had a private room and no machines attached to her, she was allowed to have a phone.
The e-mail was from Sera.
Kevin Yoshino secured. He raved
about a Silver Bullet shooting
him down. Everyone alive. Going
to fetch Conan-kun now.
“The sniper has been caught.” Tsukiko said aloud. “Case closed.”
“Thank heavens…” Mai sighed. “I dearly hope you won’t get into trouble again anytime soon.”
“I’ll try my best.”
The three remained with her a bit longer before leaving. At the door, Amuro turned to address the girl again.
“Lately you’ve left me with more questions than answers. Would it possible to sit down and talk one day again?”
“Maybe… But as a detective, shouldn’t you try to figure out things first on your own? Zero-san?” Tsukiko smiled.
“Ah, I’m just an apprentice detective.” He smiled easily. “I’m not too sure I’d get that far in my investigations… Your grandmother has blocked quite many routes to you.”
“I know. She is protective like that. Especially consider whom we’re up against.”
Now there was confusion and suspicious on his face but it was gone soon.
“Oyasumi nasai, Tsukiko-san.”
“Oyasumi nasai, Zero-san.”