Kudo Shinichi had been no stranger to murders, thievery, abuse, violence. And the like. Right or wrong, he had climbed each furious rung to apprentice International Police member.
So it stood to reason that shrunken Kudo Shinichi, legally now Edogawa Conan, was no stranger to dead bodies.
"Step over it, Ayumi-chan," he said, voice soft, cautious to not spook the young girl. "We're going to get the local inspector to take a look, and then we'll move on. Okay? Don't think about it too much."
The little girl (who really isn't little, she eclipses him by at least seven centimeters and it's annoying), nods, clutches the offered vine of her starter. She won't stop shaking, she can't, rather. But it's much quieter than her friends, one of whom was vomiting up his particularly rich breakfast all over a den of thankfully pleasant weedle. The ones outside of Viridian Forest were always polite at least, he knew that.
"Conan-kun is, is that," stammers their third companion, lanky and shifting his heels. "Is that really a-a-"
"A corpse, yeah," Conan finishes. He takes off his glasses to rub his eyes, guilt and shame and fury all at once building up behind his eyelids. "Looks like…" He narrows his eyes, searching the bloated skin and frightened face. Very few victims are ever not terrified, he's noticed, including himself. Which means this is a murder.
Heavyset man, smells of rot, heat and dried bits of miltank and pidgey with haban berry and rice grains on a palm. Hairline starting to recede, fat only starting to slump, mustache too loose on the face, probably fake. Fingers going purple. Clean clothes on the front, no bite of teeth or poison needles.
And there in the center of the chest, are three holes, small and at first glance too perfect.
Bullet Seed, the holes are just too big to be from poison sting. If by the climate the murderer had been close by, if just by the move alone, it couldn't be a person from nearby. Bellsprout are too weak to get three clean shots through a body on their own. They needed drugs, candy, or more training than you could shake a stick at.
And the pokeballs are missing. There is a belt with silver magnets and no balls. They could have rolled away, but any murderer would do their best to get rid of the creatures that could seek vengeance for their master.
Conan finishes tapping out the observations on the pokenav plus with a grimace, looking over at his companions. "Everyone okay? Genta, Mitsuhiko? Ayumi-chan?"
"Le-Let me get back to you," wheezes Genta, who is rubbing his stomach in slow, practiced circles. Envy fills Conan's small frame for an instant too long, but he swallows it and looks at the other two.
Ayumi nods again, trembling less now. "Yes, yeah, I … kind of?" Her eyes well with tears. "I'm sorry, Conan-kun."
"It's okay," he says and it's not a lie. "I saw them before I met Ran-nee-chan, it's scary, really." He levels his eyes up. "Mitsuhiko? It's all right?"
Mitsuhiko nods, face tight in the mouth. "N-No, I'm all right. It was just a surprise, really."
"I'd hope." Mitsuhiko is from a good family, an honorable family, one that was powerful. One that invited enemies. He'd probably seen as many bodies as Conan had when he had first been ten years old. Still,the fact that he's pale gives Conan a little relief.
His pointed face flushes. "More-more of a surprise that it was on Route 2, rather than some place else. Closer, you know?"
"Closer to the city," Conan agrees, putting words to text, blue eyes narrowing behind his glasses. "I didn't think of that."
Despite the heavy weight and obviousness of the dead body in the situation, Mitsuhiko manages a timid smile. He's already steadying, the sign of a true elite. This is why he's going into training anyway. Mitsuhiko is going to be a powerhouse when he hits sixteen, and hopefully still kind.
They probably wouldn't have found the body at all if it wasn't so hot. The heat had brought the flying bugs and the sensitive noses out to play. Hence why pikachu is still sniffing from by Conan's sneakered foot. Then of course Mitsuhiko's charmander had run off to see whatever it was pikachu was warily poking around at and it was all over from there.
And Conan isn't seventeen years old and capable of herding them away to some competent nurse or trauma professional, like he had been shoved towards since he was four years old. No, now he is the ten year old boy who had to keep them together long enough to keep them safe.
"Genta-kun?" Ayumi manages to say, voice struggling to come out of her throat. Agasa had said she was a sweet Viridian girl, possibly cursed by the forest. They couldn't confirm it. Those tended to hate bloodshed as a rule. Barring Lance anyway, but that was the dragon in him. "Are you okay?"
Unlike when Conan asked, Genta perks up at once at the sound of her voice. Conan has yet to fix on why exactly. "Course? I'm tough!"
You just puked.
Squirtle chitters something of the sort, Conan assumes. He can't speak pokemon particularly well, and Ayumi can only hear thoughts, but judging by the way Genta's face sours he's pretty sure that's what they heard.
For a moment, as the others relax into normal children, Conan almost thinks he can do this again, be a child again, be around a group of people and earn badges and just simply be without all the responsibilities and problems that come with it.
The second the inspector arrives, heavy set and trailed by four mightyena, a drowzee, and a woman with her arcanine, he regrets that thought, shunted to the side despite the pokenav plus with information clearly in hand and the calm he's displaying.
Resentment wells up like blood from a pulled splinter and Conan squashes it firmly in the press of his fingers to palms.
He is not respected, admired loner Kudo Shinichi with the famous researcher and actress parents. He is not known in social circles and spoken with dread and awe. He is abandoned child from Unova Edogawa Conan with a queer awareness of the world around him and an uncomfortable pair of heavy glasses.
Not for the first time he wishes that he was Kudo Shinichi again, just for the respect alone. Just for the acknowledgement, the reminder that he is a person, not a burden.
That's what the trainer journey is for, Conan tells himself, taking careful breaths out of range of the smell so he doesn't start hacking up his own rice. I need the anonymity. Or the men in black could come and finish me off, finish off Ran.
That was what made this necessary. But it didn't take the sting away.
It hadn't been like this before. Just… just a month or two ago - had it really been six weeks? Had it? - he had been Kudo Shinichi, solving another case, something likely irreparable. A branch of Silph had lost an important document and the carrier was murdered and he'd of course had to figure out why. It was the bare bones of the business, but it was his job and he had been proud of it.
At seventeen how could he not have been he was a gods damned marvel and knew it. Everyone knew it, no one let him forget it.
But everyone, it seemed, had let him be forgotten.
There had been a deal, of course always a deal in this dastardly kind of bunk. And he had seen it after a date with Ran to celebrate her new status. And there had been a weight on his head, sharp and heavy and pointed. The world had blurred. Something- something else and then- then pain. Melting pain, heavy pain and blackness.
A lot of blackness.
But that doesn't explain the holes in his memory, the pain whenever he thinks too hard about that darkness- He was probably unconscious but that didn't mean anything, did it?
Conan lifts his head from where he had been resting it at his knees. He'd had no pokeball to bounce about all over, the skill gained from soccer and stuck for weeks on end with two broken arms, so he'd settled for looking hollowed out and pathetic, moved more by the murder when no one was looking.
Ayumi's wide eyes bore into his own, blue against blue and it wakes him up from his moping. "I'm okay," he says, managing a wry smile. "Just… Ran-nee-chan's going to be upset. I'm not ready for that."
Ayumi's eyes go wide with sympathy at the mention of not only Edogawa Conan's sponsor and guardian, but their sponsor and guardian. With anyone else, sponsoring children on their trainer journeys was just for the money, the fame, the prestige. The glory of adding to the ACE ranks, the veterans, the soldiers for the front line. The Great War that had sucked up the world thousands of years ago, forcing skirmish after skirmish even in the early youth of Shinichi's parents. In fact, the most recent skirmish had been what sent him to Agasa's in the first place. That was the excellent lie.
But it was the sponsorship that had sent him out the door. Sponsored by Mouri Ran, new member of the Elite Four and daughter of the once champion Kisaki Eri and current gym leader Mouri Kogoro, it would be easy to say she was sponsoring four kids for the money. But Kudo Shinichi had grown up with her. She did nothing just for the money.
That said, she is still an enormous mother hen. And she would hear about this and do… something. He doesn't know what.
Hopefully it won't be stopping their journey. He needs this. He needs to bring Shinichi back to her.
"She, she should be fine," Ayumi says. "We, we didn't get hurt and we got the police instead of just-"
"Instead of sticking our noses in." Conan grins and Ayumi has the grace to blush. "Just cause the professor gave us communicators doesn't mean we're real pros ya know?"
"Y-yeah…" the second the man had given the kids his new communicator prototype to test before submitting to a company, the kids had gotten it into their heads to try and catch their first Pokemon in an alleyway. And nearly gotten mugged in the process.
If it wasn't for the Kudo family Absol, the kids probably would have died. A sobering thought.
"We could be eventually though," Ayumi says, eyes going round. "Imagine us being the next elite four!"
Conan tilts his head. "I thought you wanted to make the first inter region trainer's union?"
"I can always do both, Conan-kun." She pouts at him with good humor.
"If anyone could, it's you," he agrees. She had been the one with the highest scores in care and survival of the three of them when he'd plopped himself into the situation and outclassed them all in what really was cheating if he thought about it too hard. But he's not. He's thinking about the way her face flushes so easily at him one minute and returns to normal the next. "But it's a tough road."
Though it's not as tough as Genta's who doesn't know what he wants yet, even though you need at least one idea at ten and some plan by the time your journey ends for the sponsors to like you. To have something beyond going home. But they don't know that. They're ten years old and middle class, born after the last war to the tunes of never again, not with us. Of the paved roads and paved over craters. The pledge of allegiance for Kanto is stifled with peace for them, but Conan had to remember not to speak of "the unbending flame that scorches their earth and snatches their water" every morning at the bell.
Ayumi pumps her fists together, like Leaf did as a joke once on screen to tease Blue over his camera flexing. "I'll be fine, Conan-kun, just watch me!"
Kudo Shinichi would have heard that, taken a swig of Unovan tequila (a horrible vice but at sixteen his father had said it was fine for him to have at least one every year), and patted her on the head, telling her to pick one out loud and decide later when the road's made her hit her knees properly.
Edogawa Conan only smiles and tells her he will and lets Agatha rise from her spot as his side. The pikachu on her back chirps from its cheeks.
"Do you still want to go to the forest today?"
Ayumi swallows, and he knows she's thinking of the bloated dead scent that the muggy summer was hanging on to. Then she squares her shoulders and nods.
"Yeah," she says. "Let's do it. I wanna see some wild bulbasaur."
Conan smiles again, a little wider, a little more meaningful, and Kudo Shinichi chafes at the thought of that dark hell swallowing him up again. But he nods and goes along.
He had promised Agasa he would keep them safe, which meant him being safe.
Watson's cheeks spark once more, as if he too understands. Conan wouldn't doubt it for a second.