Chapter 1: Introduction
I suck at drawing. At least, I tried my best with the cover.
Time: 4:32 pm
Location: An airplane due to Tokyo, Japan
Countdown before disaster: 29 days, 8 hours, and 28 minutes
The intercom crackled to life and the pilot's voice was heard throughout the long passenger compartment of the economy class.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you."
A finger scrolled at the illuminated screen of a phone. A headline typed in bold, imposing font announced the following: Top Contender of the Season Left, Reasons Unknown. A swipe below and another article appeared. A some-sort of a recap of an old news dated a little more than a year ago: The Disappearance of the Phantom Detective: A Year Since. A still-ongoing news followed soon after: Bombing Group Still At Large: Investigations Ongoing. There was a pause in movement before the finger exasperatedly scrolled past the news article, not even bothering to catch a glimpse of the content. A few more popped. All less interesting as the previous ones.
A tap or two on the shoulder from her companion and the phone was turned off and stuffed away. In a full ten minutes, the plane veered to the side and circled above Haneda Airport as it waited its turn on the runway. A landing clearance was announced and the plane finally touched the ground.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tokyo Haneda Airport...."
"I'm telling you, Inspector." A man of 37 years gestured at the corpse hanging by the railing of the balcony. "This is a suicide case."
The confident statement earned a groan from the seventeen-year-old-turned-seven detective. Since they stepped foot on the place and inspected the crime scene, the famous sleeping detective kept on insisting that a suicide, not a murder, that took place. Of course, the evidences Conan found beg to differ. It is a murder case, and a malicious one at that. The motives were still unclear but the signs of desperate struggle on the victim and the condition on the room told him more than enough. The victim did not stabbed himself repeatedly but was stabbed multiple times in a fit of hatred. He did not hung himself out of the fact that his attempts failed for an immediate death but rather, was hung as a final applause of madness and an attempt to mislead the police. Conan took each individual in the room and with the final pieces in place, the truth shall be revealed once again.
"Geez." Ran complained as she and her two male companions walked up the flight of stairs toward the Mouri residence. "That was brutal, don't you think? The victim had done wrong but that kind of death was too much."
A hop and a skip. A small figure stood by the older girl as she searched for the keys. "Megure-keibu said that the killer might have a mental disorder. They're going to send him to some psychiatrists for tests."
"But wouldn't that be a valid excuse for the court?"
"Stop worrying about that." Kogoro said impatiently. "Either way, the police will have their eyes on him from now on. Just open the damn door. I'm missing my Yoko time."
The door clicked open and the three stepped inside. The man of the house immediately occupied the couch and switched the television on for his much-awaited program. Ran dropped her bag on the table and gave her father a disapproving look.
"Mou, Otou-san. We just came home, and from a horrible murder case at that. At least, help with washing the dishes that we left. Okaa-san will never come home if you continue with that attitude."
A loud Tch! and a series of vehement protests escaped the sleeping detective as he reluctantly clambered up from the couch and into the kitchen. Conan watched as Ran trailed her father to continue with her light scolding. Tired but not sleepy, he walked to the windows and slid them open. The telltale of night breeze blew into the room. Conan pulled out his phone, Shinichi's phone, and scrolled through his conversation log with Ran. He read through them to pass time, taking a bit longer on his favorite messages just after their Kyoto school trip. A smile flickered on his lips. He might even be grinning wide.
He (Shinichi) and Ran are couple. An official couple.
Damn! He's one lucky guy.
The thought was brief but enough to send his heart fluttering in his chest. Soon, father and daughter emerged from the kitchen, still bantering about the couple. Conan slid Shinichi's phone back to his pocket and doned his saccharine seven year old voice to ask when is dinner time when he glimpsed upon a moving taxi. Past the slightly tinted window of the vehicle, a figure sat silently at the back. For the brief moment their eyes met, a mirror image and ghost of the past stared back at him.
The classroom was too lively than the usual. Ran knew even before closing the door behind her that something was about to happen. Being best friends with a mystery maniac can be helpful at times. Sonoko, one of her closest friend, confirmed her suspicion as soon as she walked to her seat.
"Ran! Have you already heard?"
Ran placed her bag on the wooden desk and pulled her chair with one hand. "About what?"
"We're having a transfer student!" Sonoko exclaimed excitedly.
Huh? Now that's weird. Ran thought as she took her seat. "But isn't already middle of the school year?"
"Well, yeah." Sonoko drawled. "But you know, I heard that our new classmate is from the overseas. From Europe, no less!"
She grinned. "I hope it's a guy. I bet he's hot if he's a foreigner. If he needs his Japanese straight, I'm the right girl for the job." She winked.
"What? Just saying."
The door opened and their teacher walked in. Their classmates clambered to their seats eagerly; too eager for Ran's taste. She swore she heard some guys at the back betting on whether it's a cute girl or a hot one, not even considering that the transfer student might be a guy. Speaking of a guy, she glanced wistfully at Shinichi's empty seat, wondering what the detective maniac is up to right now. She resisted the urge to text him as the teacher finally called out to the class. Sera too, is not present, having to check on something. Probably a case. Detectives...
"Alright, settle down. As you already know, and I will not pretend how fast gossip spread quickly in this school, we have a new transfer student." She turned to the door and shifted into accented English. "Please come in."
The door opened a bit more and a female figure stepped inside. They watched her with varying degrees of curiosity as she stood beside the teacher at front and faced them. The moment she registered to them, their male classmates suddenly jumped back into life of extreme enthusiasm.
"W-Woah! She's cute!"
"Forget the other single girls here! I'm going for that one!"
"In your dreams! I'm going to get her first!"
"Miss! Tell us your name!"
"And your phone number too!"
Some of their other female classmates casted glares at the love-crazed boys, which was miraculously ineffective at the moment. Sonoko was muttering something within the line, Stupid idiots! That's just another girl. Ran, on the other hand, couldn't help but look at their new classmate. She will give the girl credit; she's really beautiful. The shape of her face was perfectly defined and the features were something only models would have. Her long ponytail was black and curled at the ends down to her waist. The cowlick at the front was perfectly arranged and the tuff at the back of her head stood distinctively. The lashes surrounding her blue eyes were long and her skin was fair with light hint of natural pink. If anything, Ran might start feeling jealous but there was something eerily familiar about the girl in front of them and she couldn't help but get drawn to it. That is, until...
"BE QUIET, YOU BRATS!"
That happened. The boys immediately scampered and shrunk on their seats under the burning gaze of Sensei. Making sure no one will be causing any more unnecessary commotion, Sensei turned back to the transfer student and once again returning back to English.
"Sorry about that. They tend to get out of hand at times." She looked pointedly at the boys. "Why don't you introduce yourself?"
They all moved forward, waiting expectantly for the girl to speak. Someone whispered along the lines, Sexy English, or something. Ran didn't take much notice. She was focused just like the rest on the girl.
"Good Morning!" Her voice was gentle and a bit polite at the side. Her English accent was perfect too, just as expected. "My name is Kudou Riichi. I'm from the England in Europe."
Then, she smiled and the language barrier become nonexistent. "Though I've been raised there, I know my Japanese well so, there's no need to worry about communication." She bowed. "Nice to meet you all.
There were long seconds of stunned silence. The fact that the supposed foreign girl was able to speak Japanese like a native was a shock. Even Sensei seemed thrown out of the realization. It stretched for a couple of seconds before Sonoko abruptly stood up, the legs of the chair scraping the floor and hands hitting on the desk.
"DID YOU JUST SAY KUDOU?"
Then, chaos ensued.
"Kudou? As in like, Kudou Kudou?"
"Are you related to Kudou Shinichi?"
"That couldn't be! Damn that, Kudou! Keeping a hot girl like her a secret."
"O-Oi! Don't make any conclusions just yet."
"Gah! Truth! We need the truth!"
Ran should give the girl her due. The girl took the barrage of questions patiently and the students that started to gather at front.
"Hai." She answered, faltering none. "I'm related to Kudou Shinichi."
Thank her classmates for not bursting there and there but rather, continued listening to her.
"Actually, he's my twin, though younger by a minute." She nodded to herself. "Please take care of me." She bowed down.
With chaos hanging on thin thread, Sensei took immediate charge albeit, still processing. It seemed she was not briefed about the transfer student's background. She hastily thanked and welcomed her before directing her to the seat just behind Shinichi's. The girl, Kudou Riichi, bowed politely and walked toward her seat with all eyes trailing after her. The discussion quickly started after she has settled down and continued throughout the day. The spring of tension was tightly coiled that Ran knew it will only take a little matter of time before it spring out. She too, has questions. A lot of them. She never knew that Shinichi has a sister, a older twin sister at that. He never mentioned it nor did she has heard it slip from his parents' tongues. Why would Shinichi hide such important fact, a member of his family too? Why didn't she see her even once? Why did she live in England and not in Japan? Does she know anything about Shinichi's whereabouts and the case he's working on for a long time now? Does Shinichi even know that his sister is here?
So many questions yet no answers. She glanced at Riichi-san over her shoulder. She was listening intently at the discussion while taking notes on her notebook. She's almost identical to Shinichi, appearance wise, except for the fact she's a girl. If he were a guy, Ran probably wouldn't able to distinguish one from the other. Scratch that, she would, by their ego. Riichi-san seemed more polite and gentle than the arrogant detective idiot. It would do Shinichi good if Riichi-san rubs on him.
Riichi-san's left hand and pen stopped their flight over the paper. Left-handed. Not right. Shinichi's right-handed. Ran realized she caught her staring at her longer than she was supposed to. She felt shrinking away but instead, Riichi-san simply smiled. It was a pleasant and warm like hot chocolate during the winter. Ran felt herself returning the smile before catching glimpse of the and focusing back to the lessons at hand.
Just an hour left...
Original character name etymology:
Ri- meaning reason or logic
-ichi meaning one
Chapter 3: File #2
Akai Shuichi, currently disguised as Okiya Subaru, was more or less surprised to see a girl, whose resemblance is striking to Kudou Shinichi, waiting patiently by the gate of the Kudou' s mansion yesterday. Before she could even finish her question as to whether the Kudou's are around, the door of the house bursted open and Kudou Yukiko practically sprang open the gate with more glee than he has seen of her. The girl faired worse as the mistress of the house embraced her too tightly for breathable manner.
"Rii-chan! You're finally home! After all these years!"
"O-Okaa-san! You're...killing me!"
Yukiko broke the death embrace as quickly as she did and apologized profusely, switching to a doting mother persona in a manner of milliseconds. She guided her into the house while Subaru decidedly to take care of hauling her luggage into the house. The house echoed of the lively voice of Yukiko as she continued to shower the girl with every compliment a mother could give.
"Look at you! You've grown so much!" Yukiko said, going in full circle around her.
"The last time we've seen each other, you're just this tall." She placed her palm downward, just a few centimeters below the top of her head.
"Okaa-san," The girl was rather amused of the energetic woman in front of her. "We saw each other like a week ago. It's not like I would change that little span of time."
"I'm just worried." Yukiko said as she pulled her to another hug. "Rii-chan's already a grown-up, just like Shin-chan! I'm starting to feel old!"
The girl simply heaved a sigh. Yukiko finally let her go and clapped her hands excitedly. "Anyway, Rii-chan. I'd like you to meet someone."
She gestured at the other resident of the house who was waiting politely with the girl's luggage. "Meet Okiya Subaru. He's an engineering student and is staying here in the house free of charge. You see, Rii-chan," Her expression took a sorrowful turn. "the boarding house he's staying in burned down so, we decided to take him in."
Then, a conspiring wink. "He's a good cook, if you're gonna ask, taught by yours truly, and good-looking too."
The girl raised an eyebrow and looked at the man. Yukiko then, placed her hands on her shoulders and introduced her excitedly. "Subaru-kun, I would like to introduce my daughter, Kudou Riichi. She's Shin-chan older twin sister. "
She then, proceeded to rub her cheek against the girl's. "Aren't they both kawaii?"
The girl, Riichi, bowed politely. "Nice to meet you, Okiya-san."
Subaru returned the bow. "I as well, but call me by my first name."
For a briefest of moments, the girl gave him a critical look. Then, it quickly vanished into a pleasant smile. "If you say so, Subaru-san."
Ran gazed at the rows of colorful buildings and lush green trees that make up the view at the rooftop. The noonday sun beat down but the cool winds make it bearable. Two voices remained heard over the winds whistling past her ears. One was upbeat and animated, while the other polite yet friendly.
"I can't believe it! That Shinichi has a sister!" Sonoko exclaimed, more annoyed that surprised. "He didn't even told his best friend and girlfriend!"
Ran's cheeks were flushed. The bento on her lap now forgotten suddenly. Sonoko was right. For all the years she's known Shinichi, he didn't breathe a word about having a sister. Surely, there must be no reason to hide the subject, especially the subject about family? Then, why?
"It's a bit complicated..." Riichi answered.
The new girl insisted Ran and Sonoko to call her by her first name without any honorifics. Before that, as soon as the bell rang, Ran purposely strode in front of Riichi's seat and invited her to join her and Sonoko for lunch. She knew that at any second, her classmates (special mention for the boys) will pounced at her with a waterfall-worth of questions. She decided to spare her of the ordeal and get to know the sister of her boyfriend. Not that she have any ulterior motives.
"Let me guess." Sonoko waved her chopticks. "Some wicked grandparent taking you away because they did not approve your parents' marriage?"
Riichi chuckled. "Close." She said. "My maternal grandmother thought that Shinichi and I were not receiving proper parenting due to the nature of Otou-san's work and that Okaa-san cannot handle taking care of both of us with Otou-san's frequent travels."
"They still did travel a lot." Ran frowned at her bento. "Shinichi's always left at the house alone."
"Seems like it." Riichi poked an ebi tempura in her bento. "My maternal grandmother decided to take matters on her own hands. Of course, my parents cannot have that. In the end, they have to compromise to send one of us away with her, lest the issue will reach court."
Sonoko winced. "That's kind of harsh."
Riichi hummed. "Well, it isn't that bad. They're allowed to visit at times, though Obaa-san was quite strict of them. We even fly here at least once a year to visit. Obaa-san is proud of her heritage, though only a few of those trips were I able to visit my parents and Shinichi."
"I guess you're right that isn't that bad but-"
"-why did any of them mentioned about me?"
Ran nodded grimly.
"Honestly, I don't know." Riichi admitted. "It just happened. Ten years ago. The visits become less and less until there is none. I didn't even receive any calls, though gifts still reached the front door. I was young back then. Seven years old exactly. But I know something changed with Obaa-san but I couldn't understand it because I was too young."
Riichi took a bit of her tempura before settling down for an answer. "Obaa-san passed away three years ago. I was taken under the supervision of one her closest friends in the country. Well, at least until I am deemed capable of supporting myself."
She simply shrugged. "I suppose that's why I'm here."
"Eh? You're already working?"
"Hai." She nodded. "Not those formal jobs adults usually have. I'm still a minor. The ones I take care little about age legality."
"Sugoi, Riichi." Ran exclaimed. "What jobs do you take on?"
Riichi chuckled, holding a tempura in between chopsticks like a prize. "Nothing special. Just earns enough to go by. Sometimes, Otou-san and Okaa-san send money on my way for emergency purposes. I barely touch them though."
"About you and Shinichi," A wide grin started to spread across Riichi's lips. "how did it started?"
"I mean...I'm Shinichi's big sister." Riichi reasoned out. "Don't you think I deserve to know the history between my little brother and my future sister-in-law?"
"F-Future sister-in-law?" Ran was blushing tomato red now. "That's a bit ahead, isn't Riichi-san?"
"Ne, no honorifics, right?" Riichi insisted. "Come on, tell me!"
"Yeah, Ran!" Sonoko grinned teasingly as she nudged the karate captain. "Tell her!"
Ran plopped down on the sofa with a sigh. She looked exhausted. Conan thought as he peered from the magazine he's reading before Ran arrived home. His eyes flickered to her bag. Doesn't seemed she came from practice. Did something happen?
He perked up at the call of his pseudo name.
"Did Shinichi ever mentioned having a sibling to you?"
He froze, stared at her with wide eyes. What? His train of thought stopped when Ran continued speaking.
"You see, there's a new transfer student in my class." She said, still unmoving from her position. "It's a girl, and not just any girl. She's Shinichi's twin sister."
There was short pause. "Shinichi never mentioned having any sister."
The magazine slipped from his grip as he stared at physically-older girl. Then, that girl I saw yesterday... A loud slam startled Ran, only to find that a magazine lying on the ground, the door swinging slightly, and her charge gone.
Chapter 4: File #3
Conan ran, down the stairs and toward the streets. Why he didn't bother to use his skateboard? He couldn't ponder on the question. Not now. His thoughts was a jumbled mess and a bomb of emotions threatening to burst inside him. 10 years. 10 goddamn years since he last saw her. Why now? Why just now?
He raced the streets. His feet dragging him past the familiar buildings he has passed many times. The wind whistled past his ears and drowned the noisy streets and lively chattering of passersby. Everything seemed to blur around him. His destination set on one place: his home.
Conan looked up from where he was slumped. His heavy pants almost misting at the decreasing temperature. Standing by his car parked in front of his was the inventor of his gadgets, Professor Agasa.
"What are you doing here?"
Conan took a few seconds to slightly catch his breath. "Agasa-hakase," The seventeen-turned-seven detective implored. "Did you already know?"
The professor blinked at him, clearly confused about his question. "Know about what?"
Conan casted a hesitant glance at his parents' mansion. "My sister." He answered quietly. "Kudou Riichi."
"I know about her." Agasa nodded. "You told me about her a couple of times, though I know nothing about her personally."
Conan finally was able to steady his breathing. He stood upright.
"Ran told me about it. It seemed Onee-chan has started attending Teitan High School and is in the same class as me. Did you know when she arrived here in Japan?"
"No..." Agasa admitted. "Actually, I just arrived. I've been in an inventors' conference in Sapporo. Ai probably knows."
Conan gazed at the mansion. A few lights were just switched on as night approaches. Conan deduced that by this time, Subaru-san might already be preparing to cook dinner. If his father is within the house, he would be in the library working on a new novel. His mother probably be in the kitchen, helping Subaru-san. Onee-chan probably...probably what? Conan pondered how little he know of his older sister. They've been separated for a decade. Occasional visits would not be enough to know her, especially if those visits stopped eventually.
"Well, are you going in?" The professor asked.
"Huh? Who are you?"
A voice made them swivel toward its source. Standing not far away from them was a girl about the same age as Kudou Shinichi. Not only that, the eyes, the hair color, and even the cowlick and distinct tuff of hair at the back were painfully identical to Conan's original form. The very same features he has seen from the taxi just yesterday.
Yesterday? Of course! Conan wanted to smack himself. The answer's right on his hand and in his jumbled state, forgotten such simple detail. She just arrived yesterday!
"Hmmm?" Riichi studied the professor. "Could you be...Professor Agasa?"
"A-Ah!" The professor scrambled to get his bearings. "That's right!"
"I see." Riichi smiled. "Okaa-san told me about you. I'm Kudou Riichi. Shinichi's twin sister."
She bowed down politely. "It's nice to meet you."
The professor returned the bow. "It's nice to meet you too, Riichi-kun. Shinichi told me about you a few times."
"Oh?" Riichi seemed a bit surprised. "I didn't know that..."
Know that? Conan frowned. Why wouldn't he at least talk about her even a few times? It's not like he's embarrassed of her or something. If he were to be honest, he was worried sick when she was taken away and kept away like some prized possession by that old hag. Those 'visits' were not actual visits at all. More of like the timed visitations in prisons.
"And this kid?"
"A distant relative of mine." The professor answered a bit too quickly for Conan's liking. "And I suppose your mother's too."
Conan paused from his musings as his sister's attention turned to him. She lowered herself to his level and Conan quickly doned his seven-year-old façade.
"Konnichiwa! Watashi wa Edogawa Conan." He introduced, a pitch higher and sweeter than usual. "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!"
"Kawaii!" Riichi smiled. "And your name? Was it from Arthur Conan Doyle?"
"Hai!" Conan answered enthusiastically. "Otou-san is a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, that's why he named me after him."
"Well, he isn't wrong." Riichi chuckled, ruffling his hair. "You seemed to be Conan to me. Or perhaps, a Holmes."
Conan gave a bashful smile. Riichi stood up and regarded the house before turning to the professor.
"Anyway, Agase-hakase," Riichi said. "Do you know where Shinichi might be?"
Conan flinched. He forgot about that! He glanced at the professor in alarm. He subtly sent a rapid string of sign language. The professor watched him at the corner of his eye before shifting his crumbling attention back to his sister. Conan hoped he got his message right. Really, really hoped.
"Er...you see." The professor started. "Shinichi's not around for some time. Apparently, he's got caught up in a big case. But don't worry."
He assured her. "He's the Heisei Holmes. I'm sure he will be able to clear things up soon."
Conan gave him a thumbs-up. Nice save!
"And so, I heard." Riichi chuckled. "A high school detective? Must be the influence of Otou-san's novels."
The professor laughed heartily. "True. Though I think it started with Holmes."
Riichi regarded the pair. "Are you going in?"
She gestured at the mansion. "I think Okaa-san and Subaru-san are already cooking dinner. You can join us."
"Iya, daijoubu da." The professor said. "I need to escort back Conan-kun back to the Mouri's and Ai-kun might already be waiting for me in the house. You know how dangerous it is these days."
"Conan-kun's staying with Mouri's?" Riichi asked. "Who's Ai-kun?"
"Hai." Conan confirmed. "I'm living with Ran-nee-chan and OJii-san for months now. Haibara's Agasa-hakase's adopted daughter. She goes with me in the same school."
"So, her name's Haibara Ai?" Riichi said. "It's kinda cute, isn't?"
As if. Conan thought. Try saying she's cute in her face and she'll gouge your eyes out.
"I'll introduce her to you some other time, Riichi-kun." The professor said.
"That would be nice, Hakase." She lifted her right wrist and looked at her wristwatch. "Ah, I need to go in. I have some schoolwork to finish."
She unlocked the gate and pushed it open. "Are you sure you're not joining us?"
"It's fine, really." The professor answered, palms up. "Thank you for the offer, Riichi-kun, but we need to get going too. Ran-kun might be already worried of Conan-kun."
"I see. Then, I'll reserve the offer for next time." She ruffled Conan's hair. "Say hello to Ran-chan for me, okay?"
"Hai!" Conan nodded. "Ja ne, Riichi-nee-chan! Bye-bye!"
"See you then, Conan-kun." She waved at him before entering the house.
As the doors closed, Conan dropped the child façade.
"She's grown well." He murmured sullenly. "If she weren't my twin, I might not be able to recognize to her."
Conan stuck his hands inside his pockets. The shadows hiding his glasses and expression.
"Too bad Kudou Shinichi will not be able to reunite with her."
Without waiting a word from the professor, he turned and walked away. The professor could only watch the high-school detective walked away. Both of them, however, oblivious of the pair of eyes watching them.
APTX-4869. A smirk carved on their lips. How interesting.
Chapter 5: File #4
Time: 8:45 am
Location: Beika Department Store, Beika City
Countdown before disaster: 26 days, 15 hours, and 15 minutes
"Ne, ne. What do you think?" Sonoko asked as she twirled around in a dress. The light of the shop caught the polished sequins of the dress and refracted in all directions.
"Er, Sonoko-chan?" Riichi began. A bit of hesitance in her voice. "It suits you well but, don't you think it's kinda...flashy?"
Conan fought the urge to snort. Flashy? That's a kind word to describe it. She looks like a living disco ball.
"Eh? Really?" Sonoko exclaimed in surprise.
"Y-Yeah." Ran nodded.
Sonoko inspected the dress a bit more before surrendering. "You're right. I can't wear a dress like this in Kid-sama's next heist. I might blind him and he might get caught!"
"Kid?" Riichi inquired.
"Ah, Kaitou Kid." Ran replied as Sonoko snatched another dress from the rack beside her and barged in the fitting room.
"He's also known as Phantom Thief #1412. He's an internationally known jewel thief, though he's mainly based here in Japan. Just like I said, he steals jewels and occasionally some other prized things, though he returns them soon afterward. No one knows why he does that or his purpose for stealing."
The divider of the fitting room opened and Sonoko stepped out in the new dress. "Kid-sama is a handsome gentleman! No one can match up to him,"
Then, she glared at Conan. "Except that annoying brat known as Kid Killer."
Conan crossed his arms and glared back at her. Wow. Feeling the love here.
Sonoko ignored him and sighed dreamily. "I wish Kid-sama would steal me away just like he did with my heart."
Conan fought the urge to gag. If he were Kid, his initial and final reflex would be to run away from Sonoko. His thoughts were interrupted when a hand rested on his head. He looked up to see Riichi smiling upon him.
"I think it's admirable, amazing even, that Conan-kun could figure out Kaitou Kid's plans." She praised.
Conan blinked at the compliment before blushing. Riichi didn't seem to notice this as she turned her attention back to the girls. Sonoko has began to complain how long it has been since Kaitou Kid's last heist. She was about to began on her lecture about Kid's awesomeness and all of his heists when a distant scream got their attention. As if out of habit, the three ran out of the shop and to the source of the sound with Riichi following behind in confusion.
The scream was from the nearest ladies' restroom in the same floor. They found a lady of around 30's on the floor, staring at a stall in absolute horror. They peered at the cubicle and almost backpedaled at the gruesome scene before them. A decapitated corpse of a woman sat on the toilet. An axe was lying on the pool of blood beside her feet. Splatters of blood decorated the walls of the stall as well as a portion of the ceiling.
Before she could, Ran had dragged Riichi away. Before she could protest, Ran asked her to call the police. She complied, not after asking why. When Ran told her what happened, her face paled. She punched the number with trembling hands and called the police in an urgent tone. A few minutes later, the police sirens were heard and Inspector Megure and his people rushed inside the restroom. Another familiar figure rushed in soon after.
"Sera-chan!" Ran was relieved to see the female high school detective.
Sera immediately strode toward them. "How you guys holding up?"
"As fine as we can be, I suppose." Ran answered. She turned to the restroom stall now crawling with police as they searched for all evidences available.
"That bad, huh?" Sera peered between the shoulders of a couple of police.
Someone caught her eye and when she turned her full attention, she had to blinked once or twice. Her eyes alternated from the boy who was popping around and the girl standing back at the doorway of the restroom.
"Oh, her?" Ran spoke. "She's Riichi-san. Shinichi's older twin. She just arrived here in Japan from England three days ago. She's in the same class as us, by the way."
"Eh?" Sera stared at her with disbelief. "Kudou-kun has a sister? Who would have thought?"
"Right!" Sonoko chimed in. "Everyone's like gone crazy when she introduced herself. If it weren't for Ran, she might have been eaten by wolves on her first day."
Ran chuckled nervously at that. That would be bad.
"Guess she's isn't the crime scene-type like Kudou, huh?" Sera said, studying the girl who was fidgeting by the doorway.
"Seems so." Ran nodded.
"Unlike that kid over there, it'd probably be best to keep her away from the corpse." Sera gestured at the boy who just disappeared in between the legs of the police.
"Mou!" Ran exclaimed. "He always does that." After that, she marched toward the direction where Conan disappeared into.
Sera turned to Sonoko. "I should probably go back to work."
Sonoko nodded and then, Sera walked away to join the cluster of police near the crime scene.
"Got you!" Hands gripped the sides and lifted a seven-year old boy as he squawked in protest at the sudden lack of solid ground under his shoes.
"Ran-nee-chan!" Conan squirmed in her hold. "Let me go!"
"Mou, Conan-kun!" Ran scolded. "You always go by yourself whenever a case comes up. You should let the police handle it." She said as she walked toward the exit.
Conan crossed his arms and pouted. Geez. Getting manhandled like this when I'm this close to solving this case.
"Ah, Ran-chan." Riichi said as they met up just outside the restroom.
"How are you holding up, Riichi-san?" Ran asked, remembering her pale face and trembling hands after just simply hearing about what happened inside.
"I..." A pause. Riichi took a breath. "I'll be fine." She answered. "Just shaken. It's not everyday you stumble upon a..." She considered her words. "...A case."
Murder. Conan thought. She meant murder. He has to give it to her – for not quickly giving out a conclusion out of thin air. Hasty deductions tend to result to blind mistakes. Without all evidences set on their right places, it will not only compromise the victim, but also the innocent.
"Don't worry." Ran assured her. "Sera-chan is here. She's a high school detective like Shinichi. I'm sure she'll get this case cleared up in no time."
Riichi smiled, albeit forced. "That's nice to know."
"Ah, sorry to bother you , Riichi-san, but can you look after Conan-kun?" Ran asked as she shifted her hold to the boy. "He tends to go who-knows-where by himself during these cases. I'll just phone a friend for a few minutes."
"It's Riichi." Riichi chuckled. "No need for formalities, but yes, I can look after Conan-kun here."
Riichi took Conan out of Ran's hands. She slid an arm beneath his rear and legs and pulled him up until his head is at her level. She guided his arms around her neck. Conan took note of her careful and gentle handling.
"Arigato, Riichi-san." Ran thanked. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Don't trouble Riichi-san, okay Conan-kun?"
Then, she disappeared among the crowd gathered at the corner.
"Hah. It seemed she will not learn, isn't she Conan-kun?"
Conan blinked at the close proximity. At a far distance, one could only see how identical Kudou Riichi and Kudou Shinichi are. No one would notice the tiny mole hidden beneath the strands of hair on her left side temple or the longer eyelashes she have than Shinichi's. Even the more defined jaw she might have gotten from Okaa-san. Her hair, unlike Shinichi's, were curly on the ends – a product from both parents' genes.
And warm. Conan noted. Onee-chan's warm. Warm the first rays of sunlight at the beginning of spring. Her scent too, carried the combination of jasmine with hints of cinnamon and chocolate. Familiar yet faraway. Conan felt relaxed near her. It took all his willpower not to cuddle there and sleep.
Her voice called him out of his thoughts. He shifted in her hold as he readily lent his attention to her.
"This is just a hypothetical question." Riichi started. "Detectives are supposed to solve crimes, aren't they?"
Conan nodded, unsure where this is going.
"What if they solved a crime, for it to only lead to another crime? A crime where the innocent become corrupted without salvation and died by the hands of someone loved by them? Would you still call that detective a detective?"
Conan stared and listened in silence. At that moment, the ongoing case was forgotten and the police moving and speaking around them shunned out. For the first time since first seeing her usual gentle and smiling, her expression wore nothing. No happiness. No sadness. No anger, fear, nor disgust. It was nothing but a void. A feeling of foreboding crept up on his skin.
And Shinichi felt scared.
Chapter 6: File #5
The case was finally solved after half an hour. After subtly following through Conan's trail about the case and confirming the evidences found in the crime scene, Sera pointed out who the culprit was. Or culprits were. Apparently, the victim was a foreigner by the name of Lucy Williams who owned a trading firm here in Japan. The culprits were the couple, Isumo Taki and Isumo Yumi, who were her former employees in the firm. With debts piled up, the couple called their ex-boss to meet up in the mall, promising to finally pay their debts. As it turned out, Williams went to the restroom to freshen up, oblivious of the disguised Yumi following her. While hiding in the opposite stall, she slipped a prepared noose made of thin wire around the victim's neck. Before Williams could even notice, Taki drove a car from the parking lot adjacent to that side of the mall where the end of the wire was connected through a window. The force decapitated Williams, all while pulling the murder weapon away from the scene. Yumi then, proceeded to knock out a woman who happened to be there and framed her for the murder by dropping an axe bought from the hardware store earlier and inlaying the poor woman's fingerprints on the wooden handle. She then, opened the door from the inside, positioned the unconscious woman in front of the corpse, cleaned herself up before leaving the restroom as if nothing happened. Fortunately, as soon as the police turned up, all exits were blocked and people who were outside herded back inside the store. The culprits were then, arrested and the crime scene cleared up.
"Geez! What a crazy couple!" Sonoko exclaimed as the four female teenagers and one not-seven-year-old boy walked the busy streets after a fulfilling their daily minimum crime quota. "Do they have to take their ex-boss' head off like that? They could just strangle her and be done with it!"
"Sonoko!" Ran reprimanded. "No matter how they did it, it's still a crime, you know."
"You're right." Sonoko nodded. "Though really, you and Conan-kun got it bad. There isn't day you will not encounter the dead."
"Really?" Riichi looked between Conan and Ran. "Are you sure you weren't cursed by a shinigami?"
Sera bursted laughing. "Cursed? Hah! You mean, one of them is a shinigami." She then, proceeded to ruffle Conan's hair who squawked in protest. "If I know better, this boy might be one. "
Oi, oi! Conan wriggled out of her reach and patted his hair down. You're not the first person to say that to me.
"Conan-kun?" Riichi blinked at him before a dismissive smile curled on her lips. "Nah. Conan-kun's too cute to be a shinigami. He's more like a good luck charm."
She turned to Ran. "Your father started to get jobs since Conan came to your home, isn't right Ran-chan?"
Ran smiled and nodded. "Yes. If it weren't for Conan-kun, our finances would still be on the rocks. Though," She frowned. "The cases come in a daily basis. Sometimes, it just happens. Just like today."
Riichi gave her a sympathetic smile. "That must be hard."
"Iie." Ran shook her head. "I've become used to them though, it is still jarring to see them. I'll probably never get used to seeing people dying or dead people near me."
Riichi regarded her with respect. "That's good." She said. "A person, detective or not, should never become apathetic to the face to death. Only if he did, will he lose his humanity. Or so, a famous detective once said in news."
"I think I heard those lines before..." Sera mumbled.
"Was it Hakuba Suguru?" Sonoko inquired. She narrowed her eyes. "Don't tell me it's that detective idiot?"
Conan glared at her. That makes twice today.
Riichi waved her hand. "Iie, it's another high school detective from the overseas. Though, I heard that Japan has a name for that detective. I think it's-"
"The Detective of the North." Sera finished.
"The Detective...of the North?"
"Yes." Sera nodded. "The Detective of the North is an elusive detective whose true identity is unknown to the general public. That person's base of operations were usually limited in Hokkaido thus, not as known as the East and the West. Not only that, the North's presence is rare here in Japan but when that high-school detective is present, piled-up cases were solved in a jiffy."
"Really?" Sonoko asked. "That person must be real good. Maybe be even better than Shinichi."
Conan decided to ignore that comment. He had heard about the said detective for only one occasion. "Ne, Sera-onee-chan? Is there anything about what the Detective of the North looks like?"
"Hmmm..." Sera thought for a moment. "There are a lot of rumors actually. Some say he's a man. Some say she's woman. Others claimed they saw a teenager around our age while they are some who said that the detective was older, approaching his or her middle age, which does not make sense since the North is supposed to be a high school detective."
"They say that the North is always in disguise whenever he or she appeared in cases." Riichi added. "It's always a different disguise. Not two disguises were used more than once."
"Ehhh! How mysterious." Sonoko said. "If anyone would to see that person's true face, it will be international news."
"True." Riichi nodded. "But lately, the Detective of the North has been silent."
"Why?" Conan asked, suddenly intrigued.
"No one knows." Riichi admitted as she fished her phone out of her purse. "It's been a year. Look."
She showed the screen where an article was in view: The Disappearance of the Phantom Detective: A Year Since. The four crowd around to get a better look.
"There are lots of speculations. Some say that North left the detective world- retired so to speak. Some say that his or her enemies found about detective's true identity and has to lay low. Some say it's a case the detective shouldn't have gotten himself or herself tangled with it. Or-"
"Or North died." Conan mumbled quietly. The sunlight glaring from his glasses. "It's a probable reason."
"True." Sera eyed the kid carefully. "A detective's job is dangerous. We make enemies, whether we realized it or not."
Shinichi... The day in the Tropical Land flashed in Ran's mind and how Shinichi promised to return yet failed to do so for some time, how he suddenly appear and disappear on the face of the Earth, and the case he's taking painstakingly long to solve.
Ran was unaware of the pair of eyes watching her with disguised regret. She almost jumped when a hand clapped on her shoulder.
"Maa, maa. Enough with the gloomy atmosphere." Sera said. Her tone suddenly upbeat and cheery. "Let's leave it there and get on with it."
"You're right." Ran smiled softly. "I'm sure it will be fine."
Riichi watched the exchange carefully at the corner of her eye. Her phone buzzed with soft BEEP! and a notification popped up. She tapped on it and an English message appeared onscreen in angry, capital letters.
WHERE ARE YOU?
Riichi internally winced. She forgot about her job! Her manager might be already pulling out her hair and plotting whatever demonic punishment she could come up. If she wants to live another day, she needs to get to the venue fast!
"Ah, gome!" Riichi apologized quickly. "I have to go now. My manager's gonna kill me if I stayed another second late."
"Is it one of the jobs you have, Riichi-san?" Ran asked. "Do want us to come?"
"Iya, daijoubu da." Riichi waved the question dismissively. "I'll be fine, as long as my manager won't have my head today."
She adjusted her sling purse. "I'll see you guys tomorrow at school then."
Riichi waved at them before sprinting toward the nearest bus station in the area. Before she could get past halfway, her phone buzzed again. She gingerly unlocked it, preparing herself for another capitalized message, when an unknown number popped on the screen. Her finger hovered above the screen for a second before tapping on it. On the street, a black car stopped just beside her.
Get in. We need to talk.
She glared at the car, past the heavily tinted windows, and didn't move a muscle. Her phone buzzed again on her hand. She barely even glanced at message as it popped out.
Be nice. It will not take long.
She pinched the bridge of her nose. Of all places. After making sure that no one familiar has seen her, she opened the back door and slipped inside. She slammed the door closed without a care and crossed her arms, glaring daggers at the driver.
"This better be good, Sensei."
"Of course, it is...Joker."
Chapter 7: File #6
"Riichi-san, have you already decided which club you'll join?"
Riichi looked up from the pile of club flyers on her desk. The moment she arrived in class, club representatives began crowding around her and handing out flyers. Each flyer was well-done and more colorful than the last. She worried that her eyes might hurt even before she could reach the last.
"Not yet." Riichi admitted as she tucked a flyer with the ones she has already finished scrutinizing. "There are a lot of choices. Some more appealing than the others."
"It's not mandatory." Ran said as she handed another flyer to her from the pile. "Shinichi's not in one right now, though he helps the soccer club from time to time."
Riichi surveyed the two flyers on her hands. "It's fine. I think it will be a good distraction between school, work, and the occasional craziness from everyday life."
With a teasing grin, she flipped the flyer on her left hand. "Quite tempting, I must say, especially with an endorsement like this."
Ran's ears turned red. The flyer on Riichi's hand was of the karate club featuring her in a karate stance. The editing was well-done and the words concise and selling. She has to give to her club members. They really put great effort on this one. But isn't being put up as the central piece a bit too much?
Riichi flipped the paper again and scrutinized it. After a few seconds, she gave a satisfied smile and tucked the flyer inside a manila folder. "Possible choices." Riichi offered. "They're few but we'll see..."
Ran mumbled a 'thank you' before picking up the folder and opening it. There were about just five club flyers inside including the flyer for the karate club. She flipped through them. There's the archery club, foreign languages, volleyball, and fencing.
"Do you know how to fence, Riichi-san?"
"One of Obaa-san's ideas." Riichi answered. She blinked at the photography club flyer as if considering it but decided to pile it with the rejected ones. "Something about embodying the past and a lady learning to fight for herself."
"Then, you know martial arts?"
"Well, yes. Another of Obaa-san's ideas." Riichi handed her a flyer. This time it's from the journalism club. Ran tucked it inside the folder.
"The first I trained for was judo then, taekwondo. She didn't stop from there. She had me learn other fighting arts as well. Basically, it become mixed martial arts within a matter of years. I'm still in progress for muay thai."
Riichi could swear she could see Ran's eyes twinkling.
"N-Not really. I only practice it for self-defense." Riichi murmured. "It just proved that Obaa-san gotten a bit...paranoid. She has been like that the years leading up to her passing. She would often fill my schedule up to the brim everyday. If it weren't for Hikari-san, I might be..." She trailed off. There were a few seconds of thick silence.
"S-So, who's Hikari-san?" Ran didn't want to push further. It seemed to be a sore subject for Shinichi's sister yet she didn't know what topic to pick for a change. Out of desperation, she blurted out the last notable thing she heard.
"Ah, Hikari-san?" Riichi beamed. "She's my manager. Her full name's Hikari Aikana. She's in charge in managing my schedule every month. She might come as cold at first, but she really cares about me and the crew."
Ran let out a sigh of relief. She was grateful for the change of the atmosphere.
"Crew?" More importantly, where did she hear that name?
"Ah..." Riichi looked down in sheepish manner. "It's...it's kind of complicated."
Ran raised her palms in a placating manner. "Don't worry. I won't pry."
Riichi seemed relieved at that yet she fidgeted on her seat. "Thank you."
There were a few seconds of uneasy silence before the bell rang. Riichi arranged and tucked the papers inside the drawer of her desk for later reading. Ran handed the folder back before returning to her seat. The day passed by with them exchanging little words. By the time Ran started to work on her homework later that night, she noticed an out-of-place tan envelope inside her school bag. She opened it and pulled out a few colorful strips of paper and a simple folded paper from inside. She spread the paper and the words written on black ink came into view: See you in next Sunday :). On her other hand was a bunch of VIP tickets for the debut of an international singer in Japan.
If people were to ask what their impression of Riichi, that would be sweet and gentle. Probably poised too. Despite the years surrounded by English nobility and trained to be a 'proper lady', Riichi was not feeling for the task right now. She hated that kind of itch that you cannot scratch; the ones where there is someone watching your every move. Ever since yesterday, that itch would bother her. Not that she can do something about it. Her 'stalker' is a persistent one. She glared accusingly at the flap of black hidden among the trees. Oh for the love of God! Go stalk someone else!
Good thing, the house was crawling of distractions, namely the residents. Her mother's voice called out to her from below and she happily peeled herself from the window of her room. Her sandals tapped on the wooden stairs as she descended down toward the kitchen.
Yukiko and Subaru has already finished cooking and setting up the table. Riichi took up to herself to call her ever-busy novelist father from the library. As she slid inside the room, she noticed the piles of paperwork in his desk.
"Drafts?" She asked as she walked toward his desk.
Three stacks of paper were set aside in a vertical row at the left edge of the desk. Opposite of it were a couple of folders with labels each: a case serial number, date, and a title of the supposed author she remembered well.
Her father looked up from the he's writing on and smiled at his daughter.
"Yes." He patted the folders enthusiastically. "The Northern Detective's cases were fascinating. Authentic firsthand records were hard to acquire but I managed to convince the Hokkaidan head inspector to give me some copies."
Riichi quirked an accusing eyebrow at that. "Is that why my father was not around to greet her daughter on her return to home?"
Yusaku chuckled nervously. "Ah ha ha...sorry Riichi. I will make it up to you next time."
Riichi tapped the wooden surface impatiently. "Otou-san..." She started. "Knowing you as the world's greatest mystery writer, searching for a detective's case records was more than just looking for inspiration for your new novels. Did you get caught up into something again? Does this have anything to do with Shinichi?"
Yusaku decided to back out that moment. He has seen that kind of expression from her daughter before – back when, she was planning to kick her opponent's ego down a hundred pegs in a karate tournament after her opponent made the greatest mistake of her life after insulting one of his newly published book. He could exactly see Yukiko's resemblance on her back then. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose. That, and the fact she's a good observer of details which proved to be useful for her as an athlete.
Yusaku raised his palms in a placating manner. "Maa, maa. No need to get worked up, Riichi. It's just a simple investigation, that's all."
He reassured her. "A friend of mine working with the London police asked me for a favor. Nothing big that's all. He just asked me to see if I could figure out the whereabouts of a missing detective."
"Let me guess," Riichi placed a hand on her hip. "The Detective of the North?"
"Well, yes." Yusaku beamed at her. "That's what that person is called here in Japan. In England, however, and probably the majority of the world call him or her as the Phantom Detective."
He grinned widely and waved his hands excitedly. "It was quite fitting though. A detective of thousand faces and mysterious methods that only a select few can scratch the surface. That's the Phantom Detective for you."
Riichi gave him an unimpressed look. "And? What about it?"
"Have you heard about the recent international bombings? Those started at the same time as the world lost its link with the Phantom Detective. The London police thought that these two events may be connected."
He clasped his hands in a thinking pose. "There are many hypotheses. Some good, some bad, yet all of them are possible. But perhaps..." He trailed off.
Riichi waited for him to speak more but he seemed to be deep in thought. She decided to interrupt. "And this investigation...does it have anything to do with Shinichi?"
Yusaku blinked out from his thoughts and stared at her daughter for a second or two before waving it off nonchalantly. "Oh, your brother just off chasing some unfinished cases. You know how detectives could be."
"Yusaku! Riichi!" Yukiko's voice sounded from the kitchen. "Dinner's set up. Subaru-kun and I cooked it. Don't let it get cold."
Yusaku stood up from his seat. "Your mother's calling for us." He walked up to her side and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "We'll talk about this later."
Yusaku smiled at her comfortingly before proceeding ahead to the kitchen. Riichi simply watched him go with eyes narrowed and pursed lips. She looked down at the folders under her hand. The labels looking back at her in imposing black print. Without further ado, she reached for her pocket and pulled out her phone. Her eyes flitting to the black-clad figure watching from the other side of the window.
"Sensei, I got new information..."
Chapter 8: File #7
Time: 3:48 pm
Location: Block 22, District 22, Beika Town, Beika City
Countdown before disaster: 24 days, 8 hours, and 12 minutes
"Well?" Ai goaded further, waiting for the shrunken detective to get his words straight.
"I need the antidote." He said. "If my sister were to not see Kudou Shinichi anytime soon, she might get suspicious."
Ai crossed her arms. "Kudou-kun," She gave him a hard look. "You and I both know that the more frequent you consume the temporary antidote, the less effective it would be."
"I know." Conan removed his fake glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "But Otou-san and Okaa-san insisted that I appear to Onee-chan as Kudou Shinichi at least once. She's been prodding them for answers about my whereabouts since arriving."
He made sound of annoyance. "Taku, she's more troublesome than Ran."
The shrunken chemist regarded him critically. "If I give you the antidote, what would happen after that? Would you lie about being called for a case and run away just like always?"
Conan growled at that. "Do I have a choice?"
"Hmph. That's true."
From the floor above, the door opened in a flourish. Two sets of footsteps thumped on the ground; one lighter than the other. Conan and Ai proceeded upstairs and peeked as lively voices raised in volume.
"You shouldn't have, Riichi-kun!" The hakase's voice sounded thankful nonetheless. He was carrying a few paper bags at his arms. Conan could see a leafy vegetable poking out from the top. Agasa-hakase must have just returned from his grocery shopping.
"I don't mind, hakase." A female voice replied. Plastic rustled as a bunch of plastic bags were placed on the counter. From where he stand, he could make out the familiar cowlick and tuft at the back of her head.
"If I were to let you then, you might take all day!" She said jokingly.
The professor laughed good-naturedly. "At least, leave the rest to me."
His sister chuckled. "Alright, alright. You win Professor."
There was a collective laughter as the two sets of footsteps parted near their hiding place. The door closed and opened again as more bags were brought in. Ai nudged past Conan as the professor dropped the last bag and wiped his brow. Conan trailed behind with much reluctance.
Ai made her presence known. "Hakase."
"Ah, Ai-kun." Agasa said, looking down at his 'adopted daughter'. "Good timing. I bought the ingredients from your list. You can start cooking what you planned for dinner."
"Thank you, hakase." Ai nodded and peered to the kitchen. Her voice now a whisper. "Was that the elder Kudou?"
"Ah, yes. Riichi-kun helped me bringing the groceries inside." He scratched the back of his neck with a sheepish smile. "She might have saw me struggling on her way home."
There was brief clatter of metal in the kitchen and running water pouring at high speed. Riichi peered from behind the stash of pans and untouched groceries.
"Was that Ai-chan?" She asked as she turned the faucet knob off and walked out of the kitchen in an apron now covering the front of her Teitan High School uniform.
Her hair was now tied into a high ponytail and her hands cradled a bowl of freshly washed strawberries. Her eyes brightened at the sight of the two not-elementary kids beside the professor.
"And Conan-kun too." She smiled and kneeled down to their level. "What a pleasant surprise."
"Hello, Kudou-san." Ai greeted coolly.
"Hello, Riichi-nee-chan!" Conan chirped, tuning back to his childish voice. "I'm just visiting Agasa-hakase."
"Do you visit here often, Conan-kun?" Riichi asked.
"Yup! Agasa-hakase makes cool inventions." He said. "Sometimes, he let us see them with the rest of the Shounen Tantei."
"It's a detective group Conan-kun and Ai-kun are in." The professor explained. "Their friends occasionally come here to play."
"That sounds fun." She said to the professor. "Maybe you should let me see your inventions at work, hakase."
"Of course!" The professor was a tad too moved. He was visibly flustered by her statement. "I will be glad to, Riichi-kun."
Conan's right eye twitched. Don't get your hopes up, Onee-chan.
"Ah, before I forget," Riichi stood up and cradled the bowl with hand. With her other hand, she rummaged in her pocket and pulled out a tan envelope. She offered it to the professor.
"I received some tickets for the premier night of a lights show near Beika Park. Bring Conan-kun and Ai-chan's friends along. There's enough tickets for everyone."
"You're so kind, Riichi-kun." The professor said as he gratefully accepted the envelope. "I'm sure the kids will love it."
"It's nothing really." She said. "I often receive things like this, but I usually never come. It's kind of lonely coming by myself, ne?"
The professor frowned, briefly glancing at Conan-kun. "But will it be okay? You should enjoy these with your family."
Riichi waved it off with a smile. "It's fine, Professor. Otou-san and Okaa-san already made plans for a short outing. Shinichi, well...he," Her smile tightened into a thin smile. "I suppose we have to plan things out for later when he returns."
Conan looked down on the floor. He couldn't bear to look at her right now. Goddamit! I'm here! If only I didn't shrink-! He knew, knew more than anyone, that he needs to hide, to lie, to protect everyone important to him. And his sister is one of them.
Ai watched him quietly, if not sympathetically. She heaved a sigh. Sometimes, she wondered which is harder: finding and making the permanent antidote or dealing with Kudou's life problems? She tapped on Conan's shoulder, leaning to his ear as to not be heard by their guest.
"Just one." She whispered. "I will give you one antidote to settle things with her, do you understand?"
If the sun was any dimmer, the surprise and happiness in the shrunken detective's face would practically light the whole house out.
"Shhh! Keep it down! She's still here, remember?" Ai scolded, glancing warily at his sister who was still busy conversing with the professor. "Plan out when you will see her so I can prepare it in advance." She said. "And try not to be seen too much in public, understood?"
Conan grinned and saluted giddily. "Ryoukai!"
Ai rolled her eyes but smiled nonetheless. He's really like a kid. She decided to tune back in to the conversation of the two physically adults.
"...don't worry." Riichi was saying. "I will be coming with you. The producer is a friend of mine. It would be rude if I don't come."
"That's a relief." The professor said, looking up from inspecting one of the tickets. "I worry we might get lost. It seemed to be a private event."
"Well, it's the premier night, after all. It's to be expected that the security will be high and strict. After that, the event will lasts for only three nights for the public."
"We're lucky to be able to go. Arigatou, Riichi-kun."
"I told you, Agasa-hakase. It's nothing." Riichi smiled.
"I'll see you and the kids at Saturday. But before that," She hefted the bowl of fresh produce on both hands and winked at Ai. "A promise is a promise. I will bake Ai-chan something she will like."
It tasted too good to be real. Conan has to admit. His sister has cooking skills blessed by the gods. Though not his favorite, the strawberry cake was something a five-star gourmet chef can whip up. He wouldn't be surprised though; he has heard bits and pieces about the ludicrous training that the old hag had his sister gone through just be presentable to people. He couldn't imagine how she manage to survive such absurdity for ten years. If he were in her position, he would have gone crazy. But it seemed all those years paid her back well.
Conan decided to stop by a payphone before going back to the Mouri's. He placed the wrapped box filled with a few slices of Onee-chan's strawberry cake by his feet and adjusted the dials behind his bowtie voice changer. He dialed the number the professor gave to him and waited for the other line to pick.
One. Two. Three rings.
The receiver picked up and the voice asked in a questioning Hello?
Conan took a deep breath. His nerves were near to fraying. "Onee-chan, it's me, Shinichi. I heard from Otou-san and Okaa-san that you finally come back from England a few days ago."
There was a faint clattering that Conan deduced was a pen. She might be in progress of doing her homework.
"Shinichi?" Her voice was barely a whisper. "What..? How did you get my number?"
Conan chuckled. "I'm a detective, remember? Things like that are a piece of cake to me."
He glanced at the wrapped box by his feet with amusement of his own joke.
"Oh..." There was silence. "I thought...you were too busy to even call."
"Ah..." Conan pondered on how to approach this. He spoke carefully. "That's true. It's been hectic lately." He lied. Hectic because I'm already stuck in my seven-year old body for more than half a year now.
"But hey, I didn't call you for that. Actually," He paused. "Actually, I was thinking of making it up to you. Maybe go somewhere?" He offered. "I could be your tour guide. I know a lot of places."
There was a soft breath of relief. "Of course...that would be nice."
Conan beamed. "It's a plan, then! Let's meet on Sunday, 8:00 am at the station. Don't be late."
A chuckle. "Baka! As if!"
"I'll see you then. Good night, Onee-chan!"
"Good night, Shinichi."
After phoning Ran next for the usual casual conversation, Conan emerged from the phone booth with a wide grin and went back to the Mouri's with happy skips on his steps and a box filled with slices of strawberry cake at hand.
Chapter 9: File #8
Footsteps thumped in an erratic rhythm as a figure stumbled and crawled on its way. It looked behind its back once or twice; one hand gripping his sides and dripping with blood. Just a little more! It urged itself. His other hand gripping tightly on two objects tightly as if its life depended on it.
A silent gunshot pierced him from behind. Blood spraying out from its front. It stumbled and crumbled on the concrete, crying profanities as its eyes searched for one of the objects it dropped from the assault. Its fingers curled around the other object as heavy footsteps mocked him.
The figure cried out in pain as a heavy boot stomped on his clenched fist. His bones cracking and creaking and skin turning red, yet he refused to let go.
The hard object began to hurt on his hand. He hiccupped pitifully as he looked at the glass piece barely enclosed in his hand now colored red.
Another gunshot and the hand lay limp. The looming man stared down at the corpse with disgust as he pried the glass piece from its hand. He growled and threw the object on the ground.
With a click of the trigger, the object shattered in a hundred shards.
The game is not yet over.
When Conan and the Shounen Tantei rang the bell of the Kudo mansion, it was Riichi who answered. She emerged at the doorway in a simple blue shirt, black jeans, a pair of brown boots and an overcoat of the same color. Her hair was braided down and tied with a blue ribbon. She called and waved to the other residents of the house before jogging to greet them at the gate.
The ride in Agasa's beetle car was smooth, if not uncomfortable due to the addition of one passenger. Conan has to sit on Riichi's lap at the front at her own suggestion. He didn't mind though, she is warm. He might be equipped with a jacket but the extra heat made it better. Not only that, he gets to talk with her more than he has since they were kids. Actual kids. He enjoyed listening to her soft voice and hearty laughter as the Shounen Tantei bombarded her with questions throughout the ride.
They arrived an hour later near to farther section of Beika Park. A dozen or more cars were parked. Most were of luxurious models. People were already gathered at the entrance where a few security guards stood by waiting for the go signal. They have to wait by the car so as the kids to not be lost in the sea of legs. Conan looked, peering at the faces of the people gathered by the entrance. There are familiar faces he recognized in television. Singers, actors, even reporters...and was that Okino Yoko? Conan almost bumped into Riichi in his surprise. Riichi gently caught him by his back and asked if he is alright. He nodded a hasty yes and returned back to observing the crowd. He glanced ever briefly at his sister, wondering what exactly is her relationship with the event host to manage securing tickets for a premier night filled with celebrities from the country.
BGM: Prituri Se Planinata by Stellamara (NiT GriT Remix)
The moment the gates opened, the crowd surged forward in enthusiasm. Professor Agasa and Riichi herded the eager kids inside, keeping a watchful eye as to not lose one of them. The inside was dark; only the outline of trees, buildings, and life-sized figurines can be seen under the moonless night. It was eerily quiet too, with only the occasional honks of vehicles at a distance. Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta pressed close to the female teenager who reassured them that it is a part of the show. No sooner than a second, a voice spoke from the darkness. Ayumi yelped in surprise, clutching tightly on the hem of Riichi's coat. The teenager chuckled softly and lifted the girl into her arms while smiling in assurance.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the night full of dancing art. A world given life by the maestro of lights himself. Tuck in your jackets and open your eyes as we dance together with spirits of the Borealis in their Wonderland!"
The first few notes of the haunting background music began to play as white lights began to flicker slowly on the trees like fireflies. There was a rustling sound effect as dancers in white illuminated dresses peeked in between trees as if like spirits checking them from their own homes. The music began building up, becoming more modern, as the dancers stepped out of their hiding places and flitted around the audience. A loud collective gasp of awe rippled through the crowd as the lights flared up and changed into multitude of colors. The kids clapped giddily, eyes bright with fascination. The lights changed in colors and the dancers beckoned for the audience to follow as they moved down the rocky path to the next exhibit.
Ayumi tugged gently at the teenager to follow quickly as Mitsuhiko and Genta went ahead to see from the front of the crowd. Riichi placed Ayumi down who pulled Ai and Conan toward the direction Mitsuhiko and Genta have run off to. The professor simply chuckled in amusement as the teenager gave a shrug and accompanied him for the rest of the show.
"Did you see how the lights turned on to make pictures? It was amazing!"
"How about when that lake lit up and mermaids splashed around? It's beautiful!"
"The fireworks are the best! They even made pictures of polar bears and penguins!"
Riichi watched the kids talked enthusiastically about the show as they rested outside a café by the edge of the event area. The professor looked quite happy, seeing that even Conan and Ai were talking earnestly, if not excitedly, about the performance. The table was filled with a basket of chosen pastries and seven different drinks of choosing. Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta settled for some fruit drinks while the three went for iced coffee. Riichi decided to stick with hot chocolate for tonight.
"Riichi-nee-san, thank you for inviting us!" Ayumi said, cradling her fruit drink as she addressed the older girl.
"You're welcome." Riichi smiled. "If someone invited me again, I will bring you guys with me."
"Hontou ni?" Mitsuhiko asked, eyes shining with excitement.
"Yaaayyy!" The three cheered.
Riichi giggled at that. She glanced at the other two kids, who in contrast do not show the same energy as Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta, yet were smiling pleasantly all the same. Even the professor seemed glad. She took a sip of her hot chocolate, letting the warm settle comfortably at her tummy.
"I knew I would recognize that melodious voice anywhere."
They all turned to see a man of his fifties walking toward them in a proud and elegant gait. His black and white tuxedo were little of wrinkles and his ash-gray hair slicked back. His red bowtie accented his outfit well. He tapped his cane gently against the concrete and smiled pleasingly at the young lady in front of him.
"Only one nightingale held such beautiful voice." He spoke in English as he took her free hand and kissed the top of it. "And the name of that nightingale is none other than Kudou Riichi."
Riichi chuckled. Her voice slipping to English in response to the man. "Still the same as always. It's been a while, Mr. Ciel."
"A year and a half to be exact, my dear." He explained. "My tours haven't exactly been kind to my good friends."
"Yet you still continue to do so, anyways." Riichi smiled. "The smiles, Mr. Ciel?"
"The smiles indeed, Ms. Kudou." He agreed. "Seeing the smiles of people as they watch my works come to life is what keeps me going."
He turned to the children looking at them with confusion (except Conan and Haibara, Agasa in some). "And pray tell, who might be your company tonight?"
"They're kids from this city where I'm living at the present." She said and patted Conan's head who blinked at her. "This is Conan, a distant relative of my mother. Beside him is Ai. That is Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta. Professor Agasa is their usual guardian." She nodded at the direction of the professor who gave a nervous wave.
Riichi smoothly switched back to Japanese. "Minna-san," She called their attention and gestured at the man. "This is Mr. Ciel. The maestro of tonight's excellent performance."
"Wow!" The three kids gasped in amazement. "He's cooler than the statue at the end of show."
That earned them a hearty chuckle. "Well, color me flattered!"
"What did he say?" Genta whispered to the older girl.
"Gome, Mr. Ciel can only understand Japanese." Riichi explained. "He can't speak the language."
She returned her attention to the man. "Thank you for inviting us to witness another of your masterpieces. More so that the kids get to enjoy themselves."
"My friends are more valuable than any art combined." Mr. Ciel said. "And I still have to pay my debt to you. You helped me more than a few times."
Riichi waved it off good-naturedly. "I only did what is right, Mr. Ciel."
"I see..." He smiled thinly. His eyes flickered warily at her companions. "If your companions wouldn't mind," He spoke slowly. "I would like a word with the lady."
Riichi's eyes narrowed at the man, but opted for a smile meant to be reassuring. "It won't take long." She promised to them. "Just some business talk, right?"
Mr. Ciel nodded at the pointed look the young woman was subtly giving him. The Shounen Tantei nodded with a loud We don't mind! with Genta following in a Bring back some eel if they have any! Conan watched as his sister stood up and followed the man; her smile fading as she turned her back at them.
Chapter 10: File #9
The moment the man and his sister were out of earshot, Conan announced that he will go to the restroom. Ai watched him disappear right at the corner, knowing full well what the shrunken detective was up to. Conan rounded the corner and traced the path they had taken on the way to the café. He, more or less, memorized the area after Riichi passed him a map as they looked for a place to eat and rest. He ducked past the trees and away from the crowd as he searched for any sign of Mr. Ciel or Riichi. He spotted them crossing a wooden bridge toward a more isolated part of the park. He weaved past the trees, carefully taking note of his surroundings and the pair ahead of him. He followed...
What? Conan looked around. He emerged into a more public part of the park. He recognized the fountain where he and the Shounen Tantei hung out whenever they visit the park. Right now, it was only him. The pair he was following a moment ago seemingly disappeared into thin air. He activated his glasses and looked around for any sign of the man or his sister. Where did they go? Did he miss them taking a turn? The glasses managed to pick up only a scuttling rat behind a trash bin and bird landing back to its nest to rest.
He switched his glasses off and shoved his hands inside his pockets. His mind working in questions bothering him prior stepping foot into the place. What was that about? What are they going to talk about? Without a doubt it's a private matter. But why this far? His eyebrows creased as he surveyed his surroundings. His eyes flickered to the trees and waited for any movement. None. Conan frowned.
Conan wheeled around sharply. One hand ready on his tranquilizer wristwatch. He was about to click on lifting the target glass when he recognized the person who called her out.
"What are you doing here?" Riichi asked.
Conan blinked once, twice, and looked at the trees where he came from before confirming that the person in front of him was indeed his sister. She was carrying a plastic bag on hand and a small, brown box on the other.
"Are you okay?" Riichi frowned in concern. "You looked like as if you saw a ghost."
Close. Conan thought. Probably. He set aside the thought and took in a sheepish grin. "I was looking for the toilet." He answered. "I got lost."
She raised an eyebrow. "That far?"
Shimatta! Conan panicked. For some reason, he finds it hard to think quickly under her stare. He fidgeted, trying hard to look embarrassed and scared rather than panicked.
"I...I didn't know the place." He stammered. "I thought...maybe..." He looked to her and tried his best teary-eyed expression.
"Are you mad, Riichi-nee-chan?"
Riichi looked a bit taken a back. "Of course not! I'm just..." She sighed, collecting herself. "Just worried. What would we do if something were to happen to you, Conan-kun?"
Conan looked down. "I'm sorry..." He sniffed.
Riichi kneeled down and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his incoming tears.
"Don't cry. I'm not mad." She assured him. "Just don't wander off by yourself again, okay?"
He nodded and sniffed a bit before smiling. Riichi ruffled his hair before standing up.
"Let's go back. The eel's not going wait for Genta." She said jokingly as she slipped the plastic bag to her other arm and took his hand.
Conan recognized the smell, but his attention shifted to the inconspicuous box tucked safely at her arm.
"Riichi-nee-san," He called as they retraced their steps back to the café. "What's with the box?"
"Oh, this?" She inclined her head to the box. "It's from a friend of mine overseas. They asked Mr. Ciel to give it to me before he flew here in Japan."
Conan continued his investigation. "What's inside?"
"It's a memento." She answered quietly. Her eyes have a faraway look from them. "From a friend who was no longer with us."
"Oh..." Conan's shoulders sagged. He wanted to ask what happened but he felt it will not bode well with her. He decided not to press for now. He looked ahead, absentmindedly watching people mill around and the artistic lights still dancing among the trees.
"You shouldn't worry about it." He heard her saying. "You're still a kid. Leave these things to adults, okay?"
He nodded half-heartedly without looking at her. Adults, huh? How frustrating.
By the time they met up with others outside the café, the pastry basket was almost empty. Riichi presented a 'secret' eel dish to Genta who excitedly wolfed the food in seconds. She also bought some candies for the others before they met up with Mr. Ciel by the entrance to say goodbye. He told them that they are welcome to visit again within the duration of the event. He assured that they will be exclusively free of charge. Professor Agasa dropped the three kids home before driving to his house where they parted ways. Conan called Ran through Conan's phone and told her he will be staying the night in the professor's house.
"...Hai, Ran-nee-chan!" Conan chirped on the phone. "Good night!"
The call ended and Conan slipped to the basement where Ai was working with the antidote. The shrunken chemist was among racks of test tubes and beakers filled with different colored chemicals. A pungent odor wafted in the lab. Conan carefully made his way to the girl.
"Is it done yet?" He asked, hands tucked in his pockets.
"Almost." Ai answered without looking at him.
He eyed the chemicals warily. "Are you making a new version?"
"Yes." Ai poured a chemical to a test tube. "You'll be using the new one tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe you'll turn into a frog, instead of Kudou Shinichi."
She looked at him over her shoulder and smirked. "That would be a breakthrough in my research."
Conan crossed his arms and scowled. "Very funny."
"Heh." Ai turned back to her work. "Get some sleep, Kudou-kun. The new antidote will be done by the time you wake up."
Conan walked out of the basement and peered through a window in the living room. The room beside his was lit. The peach curtains swaying gently against the night breeze.
Conan heaved a tired sigh. Another person to lie to.
Chapter 11: File #10
True to her word, Ai has finished the new antidote by the time Conan woke up in the morning. She gave it to him with the usual reminders before retiring to her room to sleep. Soon after eating breakfast, he went straight to the bathroom to wash up and take the antidote. The effect was immediate and he has to grit his teeth in the effort not to scream from the pain. The ordeal was over within seconds and later, Kudou Shinichi emerged from Professor Agasa's house.
The professor agreed to drive him to a men's clothing store in the city. Shinichi, having seen his reserve clothes, decided to shop for a new set. He knew that he cannot get inside their house without being noticed by her sister, even if he asked their parents to get him clothes from his room. Besides, it's the first time he will see her sister as himself. Might as well go all out.
At the end, he settled for a light blue, long, sleeveless cardigan vest over a white tank top with a blue fabric draping out in the front. He wore grey jeans and the black sneakers with blue accents that were actually the same as the kick enhancing shoes that he wore as Conan. Professor created them a few days ago for him to use in case something comes up while he is Shinichi.
Shinichi bade the professor goodbye at the train station and chose a spot near a pillar to easily spot and be spotted by her sister. He glanced at his tranquilizer watch. It's almost time. He took a deep breath as he tried to ignore how nervous he is. It's just your sister. He chided himself. Pretend that you haven't met her yet like Conan did. Just act norm-
He almost jumped three inches in the air as a familiar voice suddenly shouted his name. He turned and saw her sister running up to him. For some coincidence, she was wearing a white and black dress under a dark blue, long, sleeveless cardigan vest, black leggings, and brown boots. It was almost the same as the color palette he was wearing right now.
Before he could react, a bone-crushing hug enveloped him.
"Baka! Baka! Baka!" Riichi yelled as she embraced him. "Shinichi, baka! Your sister came home a week ago and you didn't even try to show your face!"
"I hate you..." She mumbled against the crook of his neck. "You're the worst..."
Shinichi smiled softly and wrapped his arms around her. He wasn't easily the sappiest person but still... "Sorry..." He whispered against her hair. It smelled like jasmine and lavender. "And I love you, Onee-chan."
Riichi let go of him, only to punch him on the gut. Shinichi reeled back in pain as he clutched his poor stomach.
"Kuso! That hurts!" Shinichi coughed. "What was that for? Owww!"
"That's for being the most annoying brother ever!"
Shinichi has the gall to smirk teasingly. "Not...the worst?"
"Shut it, detective dork!" Riichi huffed angrily. "That's the easiest you can get from me."
Shinichi winced and looked at her in disbelief. "Seriously? You hit harder than Ran, and she's the karate club captain at the school."
Riichi wagged her finger at him with a smirk of satisfaction. "Years of mixed martial arts. This sister of yours is not your ordinary damsel-in-distress."
Scary. He gulped. Try not to cross her, Shinichi. Ever.
Riichi helped him up as the intercom crackled and announced that the next train will be arriving within a few minutes. After making sure her sister has not destroyed any of his internal organs, they bought their tickets and rode toward their first destination.
First in line of the itinerary Shinichi has prepared for their tour, the Tokyo Sky Tree loomed before them in all of its glory. Riichi gazed at the tower in awe, admitting she only managed to get a glimpse of the tower's exterior on her way home. Shinichi was pleased with that and started her with a rundown of the history of the landmark. They rode the elevator up to the observatory with Riichi listening interactively with her twin brother's lecture.
The elevator's doors opened after a PING! and the twins emerged to the observatory. The floor has yet to be filled with many visitors in the earliest hours of its opening time. Riichi giddily ran toward the glass walls and pointed excitedly at the shrunken city.
"It's nowhere as high as Burj Khalifa in Dubai," Riichi said. "But the view is pretty great!"
Shinichi chuckled. "You should come and see the tower at night." He suggested. He remembered how fascinated she was as they watched the light show last night. "I'm sure you'll love it."
"Then, let's go together someday."
Shinichi looked surprised at first before smiling fondly at that. "Of course."
He turned and patted one of the binoculars. "Here. Try looking through them."
Riichi walked beside him and peered through the binoculars. She gasped at amazement and gushed at some places she was familiar with. Shinichi pointed her to places he knows and gave a brief rundown of each.
At noon, he led her to Cucina Eigo for lunch. It was Riichi who placed their order and struggled less in pronouncing the names of the Italian dishes. Shinichi was not surprised to learn her to be multilingual but the fact she has learned to speak ten languages including Japanese and English was impressive.
"Diplomacy." Riichi said as she tried to answer his question of why. She made a show of rolling her eyes and gesturing exaggeratedly. "For all I know, Obaa-san might be trying to find me some marriage prospects."
Shinichi snorted at that. "Ridiculous."
"See?" Riichi exclaimed. "That's what I told people too, but nooooo. They didn't believe me."
"Guess not everyone's on the same page as you."
"Well," Riichi raised an eyebrow at him. "Not's everyone's a Shinichi."
He grinned smugly. "Of course."
They both laughed at that before they were politely hushed by a waiter.
After their meal, Shinichi decided to regal her sister about the solved mystery that happened in Cucina Eigo which happened when he was Conan. Of course, he omitted the bit of him being a seven-year-old but instead, covered it up as something Conan would tell him whenever they have a chance to talk over phone. His decision of putting the story aside until they're done eating was a good call on his part. He remembered how pale she was when Ran simply told her what happened days ago in the department store. Thankfully, Riichi didn't get spook as much and was intently listening to his story. By the time he finished his story, they already arrived to their next destination.
"Ne, ne, Shinichi!" Riichi called out, waving at him. "Look here! Smile!"
Shinichi forced a smile as he stood next to one of the mascots of the park. Their was a soft CLICK! as her phone captured the photo. Shinichi mumbled a thank you to the man inside the stuffy suit before jogging toward her sister. Riichi was browsing through her gallery. A frown clearly on her face.
"Well?" Shinichi asked. Concern obvious in his tone. "Was it bad?"
"Ah...that's..." Riichi faltered, refusing to meet his eyes. She locked her phone and slid it back to her purse. She finally looked at him and smiled, albeit forced. "Let's get something to eat before going home. I'm starving."
They chose a small café near the Ferris wheel. When Shinichi asked what she wanted, Riichi simply told him to order the same as his and went outside to take a table. After trying to deduce what she might want, he settled for a jumbo parfait for them to share. After all, no girl can resist something sweet. Or so, he thought. When he went out with their order, he caught her watching the crowd absentmindedly. The minutes ticked by and few words were spoken by either. The parfait was reduced no more than an eighth with Shinichi eating more than his sister. He decided to broach the subject.
"Onee-chan, are you okay? Did something happen?"
He knew that it was something to do with the last photo she has last taken of him. Did she remember something she didn't want to? Or did she notice his similarities to Conan was keeping quiet about it? Could it be she figured it out that he and Conan are one and the same? Shinichi's fingers tapped the table, anxious about her answer.
"Shinichi..." She began then, hesitated before shaking her head. "No. It's nothing."
"I say otherwise." Shinichi insisted. "You seemed troubled. As a detective, I can see that."
Riichi looked at him dubiously. "It's just that you...you seemed sad."
Shinichi blinked a couple of times. Sad?
Riichi continued. "Ever since we arrived here in Tropical Land, something seemed to be weighing you down. What is it?"
Ah...there's the crux of the matter. Shinichi, of course, knew why. This was the place where he was forced to swallow a potent poison that was supposed to kill him and instead, shrank him back to his six-year-old self with mind and memories intact. He knew beforehand that stepping back to this place will only dampen his energy. He knew that...but then, why? Why did he insist on going back to this place, with his sister no less? Was it because...in the inside, he really wanted to tell the truth to someone at his will? Someone he could trust and perhaps, someone he could at least, cry and scream all his frustrations out? He has a lot of people who already know of his true identity – all trustworthy without question. But still, he has no one to confide every pent-up emotions he has built up over the months since Conan came to existence. Maybe...perhaps that might be.
He tightened his jaw as she called his name. He tried to look at those pleading eyes; but in the end, his eyes ended up looking down with his weaknesses.
"What is bothering you?"
He swallowed, tried to speak but failed. One. He said to himself. Just one lie. He gathered up his courage once again to look at her on the eyes and speak –
-when a scream rang out at the distance.
Chapter 12: File #11
Shinichi was off on his feet as soon as the scream registered to his ears. He was vaguely aware of his sister running after him as he ran to the direction of the scream. A crowd has gathered at the perimeter of the teacup ride. Some were pointing at a specific spot at the ride while a few were on their phones, talking frantically on what he assumed to be police and medics. Nervous tension was high and Shinichi picked up on it. He already got a general idea of what happened.
He pushed past the crowd until he was pressed against the metal fences. His eyes widened as he looked at where many were pointing. Sitting alone on one of the teacups was a man of thirties. He was near the metal gate of the teacup with his head lolling on the side and eyes and mouth opened. Shinichi was about to dash inside when a voice called him.
Shinichi stood frozen as he remembered that his sister followed him. He was about to stop her when she stopped abruptly at his side and gasped at the death in front of her in horror. He grabbed her shoulders as she went pale and stiff.
"Onee-chan. Look at me." He demanded. "Look at me!"
Riichi forced herself to meet his eyes. "Shin-"
Shinichi pulled her into a tight embrace. "It will be fine." He murmured. "You'll be fine. I'll uncover the criminal. I promise."
He hoped he was doing right. He forced down the guilt of needing to be the one comforted a while ago and focused on calming his sister. She needs it more than him right now.
Soon, the police arrived into the scene with Inspector Megure at front. Takagi-keiji was accompanying him on the case. Shinichi promised Riichi to return as soon as he can and left her back to the café away from the crime scene. He bought a black fedora hat on his way before meeting up with the police.
"Megure-keibu!" He called out as he slowed his sprint to a stop.
The inspector lighted up to see the high school detective. "Ah, Kudou-kun!"
Shinichi tried to catch his breath. "I heard a scream." He panted. "What happened?"
The inspector turned to the teacup where a few police was inspecting the corpse. "A man named Hada Asao was killed during the ride is in operation. From our preliminary investigation, he was strangled to death. Likely by someone who was with him on the same teacup."
"However," Takagi continued as he flipped through his notebook. "According to some of witnesses waiting at the line, he was sitting alone before, during, and after the ride. The only ones who got near the body after death were the ride operator, his wife, and two other persons on the ride with him at the same time."
"Have you gotten their alibis?" Shinichi asked.
Takagi nodded and gestured to a man and a woman being herded by the police. Both of them has brown complexion and seemed to be tourists on vacation.
"The two people with him on the ride were the couple Mr. Jun Reyes and Mrs. Maritza Reyes. Ages 35 and 34, respectively. They're tourists from the Philippines who came here for vacation. According to them, they were on their own teacup just next to the victim's. They didn't notice anything strange until the end of the ride. They thought the victim was sleeping and approached to wake him up, making them the first to realize he has died."
He then pointed to a man in uniform being interrogated by the entrance of the ride.
"Next is the ride operator whose name is Gima Atsuto. 43 years old. He was at the controls during the time; only approached the victim to check on his seat belt before the ride and when Mrs. Reyes screamed."
"Lastly, Mrs. Hada Rin," He nodded at a woman crying and being held away from the police from the crime scene. "Age 38 and wife of the victim, came running after she heard a scream. She said she was with her children waiting for the Ferris wheel. She told her husband to join the line for the teacup ride, so that the children will immediately get to ride after the Ferris wheel."
Shinichi let his eyes lingered on each suspect before asking his next question. "And the murder weapon?"
Megure-keibu lifted a Ziploc with a label on it. Inside was a plastic, nylon string about a few meters long. "We found this strung inside his necktie. The necktie itself was pulled in to strangle the victim. It was cut so, we're still looking for the missing half. The fingerprints too, will coming in later."
"I see." Shinichi nodded. He then, walked past the two and into the inside. The policemen made way for him as he approached the crime scene. Megure and Takagi followed him close from behind.
Shinichi pulled out a white handkerchief from his pocket and began his investigation. He rummaged through his pockets and pulled a wallet, a receipt from a store he and his family have eaten to, and a few identifications. The body was still warm and the strangle line on his neck were fresh. He set the items beside the corpse and shifted his gaze to the necktie. He loosened the necktie around the dead man's neck and took it off him.
Strange. He thought as he traced where the nylon string was supposed to go through. Why wear a business suit in this place?
He walked out of the teacup and went behind the corpse. "Megure-keibu, at what direction did the rope end?"
"What direction...?" The inspector pondered for a moment before pointing. "That way."
Shinichi's eyes followed the direction the inspector was pointing at. Nearest to the direction he was pointing at was the controls for the ride. He narrowed his eyes and looked around for an answer to how?
He looked up, squinting for any sign of the half of the string attached to the metal beams on the ceiling. None.
He placed a hand on his chin and ran all possible scenarios in his mind. If the string was simply laid out on the floor, wouldn't it be noticed by someone beforehand? Unless, the killer planned to used the nearest teacups as some kind of lever. Even so, with the string stretched out like that, someone else might get hit by the string and notice it, given the angle.
The only way to go was to have the string go through the ceiling then, cut and pull it away after the murder. But why leave a part of the murder weapon?
He turned his attention back to the necktie on his hand and the corpse slumped on the teacup. More importantly, how did the killer attach the string without the victim noticing? Was the necktie a gift or...?
Shinichi blinked at the necktie on his hand. There was a small hole at the base of envelope, like some sort of niche. He looked at it closer. A smile crept up on his lips. I see. So, that's how it is.
He carefully returned the necktie back to the corpse's neck and made sure to position it as before. "I'll have a word from each suspect. It won't take long." He told Megure and Takagi who nodded in response.
He approached the foreign couple first. They were skeptical of him at first, but were cooperative. Mrs. Maritza Reyes was still shaken after discovering the corpse but tried her best to give her account of the crime. They have given him the same alibi as the inspector initially told him.
"...Then, we noticed him not moving at all." Mr. Reyes was telling him in English. "We thought he fell asleep so, I decided to wake him up."
"So, you're the one who suggested to wake him up?"
"Yes." The man nodded in confirmation.
"Did you notice anything strange from the time you went in the ride up to the moment you discovered the corpse?"
The man looked thoughtful before shaking his head. "No, except for the fact that someone could sleep through this kind of ride."
He thanked them and went to speak to the next suspect. The ride operator was clearly anything but happy to get involve in a murder.
"I'm telling ya, kid!" The man said angrily. His voice thick with Kansai accent. "I got nothin' to do with this. I'm just operatin' like I always do fer years!"
"But did you notice anything strange?" Shinichi insisted.
"Strange?" The man snorted. "If there is anythin' strange here, that would be youngin's dabbling with adult work and callin' themselves detectives!"
It took all of Shinichi's patience not to kick the guy on the shin there and now. Thankfully, Takagi-keiji noticed the conflict and swiftly intervened. He herded the man away toward a spot where more policemen were congregated. Shinichi mouthed a thank you, whom Takagi returned with a thumbs-up, before meeting with the last suspect.
Hada Rin was sitting to a bench near the end of the waiting line where a few policemen stood guard. She was still crying. Her eyes and nose were puffy red as she fought off the onslaught of tears with a handkerchief.
Shinichi approached her and spoke with much gentleness he could muster. "Mrs. Hada, my name is Kudou Shinichi. A high school detective. I would like to have a bit of your time to answer a few questions."
She hiccupped. "O-Of course..."
"Alright." Shinichi nodded. "You said that you sent your husband off to reserve your children a spot to the waiting line in this ride. Did you notice anything strange by then? Has he told you anything?"
"I..." She sniffled. "No. Anata was quite excited to bring me here. We've been planning to go here for weeks now. He does not have anyone who have a grudge on him as far as I know." She wailed. "Oh...Asao! Why?"
Shinichi narrowed his eyes. Something does not add up here.
Shinichi paused his thoughts as a policeman ran up toward the inspector. It seemed they discovered another evidence. He inched closer to the fence, just enough to hear the conversation.
"What is it?"
"We found the other half of the murder weapon!" The policeman reported. "It's near the controls."
"What?" The inspector exclaimed. "Then, that means-!"
"The culprit is none other than the ride operator, Gima Atsuto!"
Chapter 13: File #12
"The culprit was none other than the ride operator, Gima Atsuto!"
They all turned to the ride operator as the policeman made a bold declaration. Atsuto looked shocked before his expression morphed into anger and disbelief. He marched away from where Takagi herded him to and advanced toward the policeman.
"Lies!" He seethed. "I killed no man! Ya worthless piece of-"
Some of the policemen tackled him down from behind. They all pinned him down as one cuffed him.
"Let go of me!" Atsuto bellowed as he struggled against the mound of policemen on his back. "I've been framed!"
Megure was not at all impressed by the man's stunt. He looked pissed that he badmouthed his people.
"Take him to prison." He ordered Takagi. "Make sure to put him where I won't see his face."
The two turned as Shinichi jumped over the fences and jogged toward them.
Shinichi regarded the direction of the ride operator. "That man is not the culprit."
"What?" The inspector's widened in surprise. "But one of my men found the other half of murder weapon by the controls and the evidences-"
"Were planted." Shinichi finished his statement. "It is as he said. He was framed for the murder. In fact, I don't think that Hada-san died because of strangulation."
He didn't let Takagi finished. Shinichi knew he has to act fast or the evidences will go out of the window. He hadn't figured how exactly Hada Asao died, but he has a speculation and he already knew who the killer is. The clues were vague at first and all pointed to the ride director, but he was sure that Gima Atsuto was not the killer. He has to take a gamble and back the real culprit into a corner where he or she inadvertently admits the crime. That, or he has to wait for a miracle.
"Look here." He gestured at the corpse. "Didn't you find it strange that Hada-san would wear a business suit in a place like this? The culprit has planned this murder ahead of time and arranged so that he would be wearing this type of clothes."
He hooked his finger around the necktie. "If you look closely, there's another hole in his necktie. That's where the culprit hid the other end of the string. If that person would stuff all of that string from one hole, it would get tangled up."
He regarded the half of the string inside the Ziploc carried by the inspector. "No, the culprit needed to quickly set the trap as that person knew that there's little time to frame someone."
"So, the string and the necktie were all just to mislead the police?"
"Yes." Shinichi nodded and looked up to the ceiling. "If Gima-san is the culprit, it would be more sensible to make the thread run through the beams. If he left them lying around on the ground, someone is bound to notice, especially with the angle the string will form when stretched."
"Naruhodo!" Takagi said as he planted a fist on his palm. "The string will likely hit someone during the ride, making it too obvious that Gima-san is the culprit."
Shinichi was pleased. "Correct."
"Then, how? How was Hada-san killed?" Megure asked.
Shinichi tipped the rim of his fedora hat. "If my guess is correct, Mr. Hada was already dying by the time he went in the ride. He was likely poisoned by someone he was with before - someone who managed to make him wear the necktie and is close to him."
He turned around and acknowledged the culprit. "Isn't that right, Hada Rin-san?"
A wave of gasps rose from the spectating crowd. All eyes turned to the victim's wife who was sitting on the bench with eyes wide from the high school detective's deduction.
She stood up from her seat. "W-What are you saying? I didn't kill my husband!" She sobbed. "Why would I do that? That does not make any sense!
The woman whirled around to find a female teenager standing just behind her. Shinichi was stiff on where he was standing. What is she doing here? Didn't I told her to stay put in the café?
"You killed him because of jealousy, isn't?" Riichi said. Her voice betraying none of her emotions. "You thought he was cheating on you; that's why you killed him when he denied it."
"How...?" The woman looked shocked. "How could you possibly know that?"
"So, you're admitting to your crime, yes?"
"W-What? No! You don't have any proof!"
Riichi lifted her phone where the last picture she captured of Shinichi was displayed. She made an opening gesture with her thumb and index picture and the picture zoomed to a couple at the background. The woman stepped back in recognition of the couple.
"You decided to confront him one last time by the Ferris wheel." Riichi continued. "When he denied it again, you set your plan into motion. Instead of poison, you gave him a fatal overdose of his prescribed medicine. Fortunately for you, the medicine came in a powdered form and that your husband barely has his sense of taste."
She nodded at her purse. "The medicine should be in your bag and most likely, the prescription that goes along with it. Considering why he didn't suspect you, there must be a time stamp given by his doctor."
The woman went rigid from where she was standing. Shinichi was surprised and remembered back when he caught her looking at crowd absentmindedly while she waited outside the café near the Ferris wheel. Could it be that she was actually observing and listening to people and that he has mistaken it for brooding? Beside him, Inspector Megure was squinting at Riichi as recognition slowly lit in his eyes. He must have remembered her from the bathroom murder in Beika Department store. Takagi, on the other hand, looked back and forth between Shinichi and Riichi in bewilderment.
"Who is that, Kudou-kun?" The police detective whispered to the high school detective. "She looked like your doppelganger."
Shinichi resisted the urge to snort. Believe me, I have more than enough doppelgangers to drive me insane.
"She's Kudou Riichi, my twin sister."
"What?" Takagi choked. Even Inspector Megure seemed astonished by this revelation.
That's expected. Shinichi thought. Ran suggested we left as soon as the culprit was arrested. She was really concerned about Onee-chan. They didn't have time to get acquainted.
"Yeah..." Shinichi scratched the back of his head as he smiled sheepishly. "Long story."
Riichi continued as she regarded the corpse slumped on the teacup. "You sent him off to reserve a spot for you. When it was your turn, you didn't appear and let him ride alone to his death. The alibi you cooked up was a fake. You didn't have any children with you. Even if you had, wouldn't you run here with your children or worry more about them now that they lost their father?"
The woman clenched her fists. "What...What would you know? You're just a meddling kid! He wanted to have a child and I cannot provide that to him."
She hugged her sides as she trembled and fell on her knees. "I love him! I love him so much that I was afraid he might leave me because I cannot give the one thing he wanted! You can't possibly understand! You're just a kid!"
Riichi stared at her with an apathetic look. "Right. I don't understand simply because I don't want to understand. A mind of a criminal. I don't want to relate to that...never."
Soon after, the Tokyo police escorted Hada Rin to prison and cleared the crime scene. The ride will be closed for days, weeks or even months, depending on how long the veil of the murder will loom over the 'supposed to be' cheerful ride. Takagi offered the twins a ride home but Shinichi has to politely turn him down after noticing his sister walking away from crime scene on her own after the victim's wife admitted to the crime. He ran after her as he pushed past the dispersing crowd.
"Onee-chan!" He called out but the older twin didn't slow down a bit. "Ah, sumimasen. Oi! Onee-chan! Machinasai!"
He was basically sprinting right now to keep up with her. He managed to grab hold of her arm and pulled her to an abrupt stop.
"Chotto matte yo!" He tried to catch his breath. "What was that about, Onee-chan? You can't just leave by yourself! It's dangerous."
Riichi didn't look at him. "..Hanasu."
"I said let go of me!"
Shinichi stumbled back as she tore her arm away from him. He looked at her in disbelief as she cradled her arm with a teary glare.
"What's with you all of the sudden?" He demanded angrily.
"Me?" Riichi glowered at him. "Shouldn't you be asking yourself that? You two-faced lying idiot!"
"Nan datto?" Shinichi exclaimed. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
"Oh, really?" She stomped forward. "Lying to people, deceiving people, do you think I could easily be fooled, Shinichi? I am your sister, for God's sake!"
"Yeah?" Shinichi accused. "How about you? What's with that deduction show a while ago? Do you think I am the only one with secrets here?"
"We're talking about you here, baka!" Riichi snapped. "Don't you dare turn the tables at me here! I know what you've been keeping from people. That you-" She pointed her finger on his chest. "and that eyeglasses-wearing kid are one and the same!"
"B-Barou!" Shinichi glanced nervously at their surroundings. Fortunately, they were in a more isolated part of the park. "What are you saying? How could I be that chibi? Stop spouting nonsense, Onee-chan! You're sounding like Ran."
"Save your excuses for someone else who would believe, Shinichi!" She growled. "Did you think I wouldn't notice? How Otou-san and Okaa-san would act around you when Conan is around? How they seemed fine and sure even if you're chasing cases and not going home? Don't get me started with Agasa-hakase and Ai. I know something's up with the three of you."
"Conan's a part of the family. He's a distant relative of Okaa-san, remember? You know how Okaa-san would be around kids." Shinichi reasoned out.
Shinichi was starting to feel like a cornered animal; his instincts screaming to run yet his body remained planted on the ground and his mouth moving with his desperate lies. "And Agasa-hakase and Ai? That's self-explanatory, isn't? Conan usually spends his time in Agasa-hakase's, that's why they're that close."
"Shinichi..." She shook her head and met his eyes. She could see how the wall he built for months now crumbling on the weight of her words.
"How long are you going to keep this charade going? How many more should you lie to until it becomes the truth? Answer me, Shinichi. How long?"
"I don't know!" He shouted as he raised his arms in exasperation. "I don't know and I'm sick and tired of not knowing! Sick and tired of being stuck in this condition with only a temporary antidote to rely on! I'm sick and tired of people looking down on me just because I am kid when I am not! And I..."
Shinichi trailed and stopped as he noticed the change on her sister's expression – triumph, relief, grief, and betrayal. It was too late when he realized his mistake.
"So, I was right..." Riichi murmured as she stepped back. "Conan and you...you're one and the same..."
"N-No...that's not! I-"
She shook her head. "Don't even try, Shinichi. I knew...I knew since I first met Conan. You..." She ran a troubled hand through her locks. She let out a bitter laugh. "Ha...damn it..."
"You must be mistaken..."
"You don't sound convinced, detective."
His jaw tightened. He couldn't look her in the eyes. Everything seemed surreal. He managed to trick people so many times than he could count. He would even go all out just so Ran wouldn't find out about his identity. Then, why? Why could he do the same with his other half? Where did he fail? What did he overlook? Was he that desperate to find someone he would willing share his burden with?
A sad smile graced her lips. "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable-
"-must be the truth." Shinichi finished. He knew there was no way to convince her out of it. He removed his hat and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. He felt like laughing madly and crying at the same time. He didn't feel the tears trickling down on his cheeks.
Riichi lifted her hands and cupped his cheeks, wiping the tears with her thumbs. "Look at me, Shinichi."
Riichi tiptoed and pressed her forehead on his. "You are not Atlas to carry the burden of the world by yourself. Otou-san and Okaa-san are here. Agasa-hakase, bless his heart, is here. Ran-chan is here. Your friends are here, and most especially, I am here. You don't need to do everything by yourself."
She pulled him into an embrace. Shinichi buried his head at the crook of her neck as he tried to muffle his sobs. His hands gripped tightly on her clothes, as if it was his lifeline.
"You've been protecting them." She whispered as she rubbed small circles on his back. "But who protects you? At least, let me do that honor. Let me be the one to protect you...Shinichi."
Chapter 14: File #13
Time: 6:24 am
Location: Minato Hotel, Minato City, Tokyo
Countdown before disaster: 19 days, 17 hours, and 36 minutes
“Ohayou, minna-san! Did you have a good start today? Then, you're in luck! Today's weather is sunny with only ten percent chance of raining. We recommend…”
Shinichi groaned as he buried deep into the blankets. The pillows were fluffy under his head and the bed comfortable and smelled of flowery detergent soap. He could have slept more when he suddenly felt feverish and his chest began to tighten.
“GACK!” He clutched at his shirt as an aching pain erupted in his chest. He clawed out of the sheets as smoke seeped from his skin and his bones were forcibly compressed. The ordeal was over within seconds and Conan sat on the bed with an unamused expression.
Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with his sleeves, he looked around and almost panicked when he realized he was not in the Mouri's. A door opened and clicked shut and footsteps rounded the corner. A familiar face peered at him from the edge of the wall and smiled.
“Oh, you're finally awake.”
“Onee-chan…?” He blinked in confusion until it came flooding back at him. The tour. Tokyo Bell Tower. Cucina Eigo. Tropical Land. A murder. Their argument. His identity.
Riichi dropped a few paper bags on the bed across his and raised an eyebrow at him. “What? Still asleep, sleepyhead? Or did you bump your head on the wall or something?”
Conan scowled at her which Riichi only laughed at. He pushed blankets off and hopped off the bed. The news was still ongoing on the television.
“…man found dead yesterday near Tokiwa Hotel in Tottori Prefecture. He has multiple bruises and two bullet shots on the chest and the head. The investigators were still looking into…”
Riichi rummaged through the paper bags and pulled out its contents. “I brought in clothes for both us since we got nothing when we checked in. I already spoke with the front desk that we'll be leaving by noon.”
Conan surveyed the things being laid down on the empty bed. Normally he would be embarrassed to be sleeping beside his sister on the same bed, but both of them knew he needed the comfort after his breakdown. His sister went as far as to hum songs for him until he finally fell asleep. Ever since becoming Conan, he never felt as safe as he did last night. It reminded him back when they share a bed when they were kids. They would tell stories of their adventures during the day until they fell asleep. Shinichi usually recounted Sherlock Holmes to his sister while she sang songs he couldn't properly sing. He’d missed all of that. It was nice to be able to do that despite their age.
He was about to check the clothes she picked for him when she swatted his hand away playfully.
“You get to see it when you're going to wear it.”
Conan frowned at that. He didn't like the playful tone on her voice nor the mischievous glint in her eyes. She has planned something, that's for sure!
“Don't give me that look, young man.” She said sternly. “Go take a bath. Our breakfast will be here soon.”
“Onee-chan,” He said with a dark edge on his tone. “I swear if you-“
Riichi raised her phone and waved it like a victory flag. “What?” She smirked smugly. “Do you want Ran-chan to see the cute side of her detective dork boyfriend?”
Conan swore under his breath. Someday, he will get his hands on her phone and delete all the embarrassing photos she has stolen from him yesterday. Then, he will burn her phone.
“Get going, love bunny.” Riichi giggled.
Conan fetched a towel from the closet and marched toward the bathroom. He slammed his head on the wall. Damn you, Onee-chan!
Riichi went straight to the bathroom with too-happy skips in her steps as soon as he finished. It took him a moment as to what monstrosity was waiting for him when it finally registered to him. He wanted to strangle her right now. What does she think of him? An actual seven-year-old?
He tried finding his discarded clothes - Shinichi's clothes – but for some reason, they seemingly disappeared into thin air. She must have hidden them while he was in the bath. He shouldn't have handed them to her! Without any other options left, he resigned himself to his inevitable fate.
He looked at his reflection on the mirror one more time. For the most part, the clothes were decent and fit him comfortably. The white dress shirt under a grey vest and a pair of dark slacks were not bad, though he preferred wearing his kick-enhancing shoes rather than a pair of ordinary brown, leather ones. Scratch that, it was not ordinary and not cheap either. It was branded and he wondered how Riichi managed to conjure the designer shoes within an hour. The only part that ticked him off was the black, hooded tailcoat. At the bottom back was a white fluffy tail and on the top of the hood, white rabbit ears protrude out. There were two rope-like extensions that can be used to make the ears moved. As if he will touch that!
He could complain all he wants but he was bothered more as to why she has to choose this of all things. Thankfully, she allowed him to wear his red voice-changing bowtie to complement the dark colors of the rest of his clothes. If she didn't, he would throw a Hollywood-worthy tantrum right there and now.
His phone buzzed atop the bed at an incoming message. He picked it up and unlocked it. It was Haibara. She was asking where he is now and if the antidote wore off already. He decided not to beat around the bush and texted her back that he's with his sister right now and yes, the antidote wore off half an hour ago and his sister already know beforehand. He expected the angry reply to come in next but assured her it will be fine. Haibara didn't return his message and Conan decided to put dealing with the shrunken chemist for later.
Conan slipped his phone in the one of the vest's inside pockets just as his sister emerged from the bathroom. He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at her as a grin crept up on her lips.
“You planned for this, didn't you?”
She stuck her tongue out at him and flaunted in front of the mirror. She was wearing a white dress with a grey vest above, and black leggings. She picked up a larger version of his hooded tailcoat and a pair of brown, laced boots by the bed. Instead of a red bowtie, she was wearing a red necktie.
“As much as I hate to say this, Onee-chan,” Conan said. “But you know your way in fashion.”
She chuckled as she wagged her finger. “You'll know soon why, but for now,” She picked her phone and held it up on eye-level. “Smile, Conan-pon!”
Conan barely managed to recover from his initial shock before pouncing at her. She managed to dodge him easily and picked him up by the scruff of his tailcoat.
“Mou, Shinichi!” She scolded. “Don't dirty the clothes. That's customized.”
Conan glared at her. “Oh, hell no! You've been picking on me since yesterday.”
Riichi giggled. “Why not? It's been years since we last saw each other.” She adjusted her hold into a hug and rubbed her cheeks on his. “And besides, Conan-kun is sooo cute! The cheeks, especially!”
“Gah! Put me down! I'm not cute!”
Riichi chuckled as she let go of the not-seven-year-old detective. Conan sulked at the corner as the doorbell rang and Riichi answered. Geez. Being manhandled like that. How annoying.
Riichi appeared later with a metal cart filled with food and a cheery tone in her voice. “Breakfast!”
“Yeah. Yeah. No need to be too happy about it.” Conan said as he joined her sister by the cart and picked his morsel for the morning.
Checking out of the hotel took a bit longer than Conan anticipated. Of course, he had admitted inside the hotel as the seventeen-year-old Kudou Shinichi, only to go out as the seven-year-old Edogawa Conan. His sister seemed to expect this and dealt with the front desk. They checked on the surveillance cameras and the records, only to find them all showing Edogawa Conan. In the end, they apologized to them with Riichi telling the manager to look after the health of the employees.
Conan opted to ask her about that when they were already inside a taxi. Riichi gave him a mischievous grin and put a finger on her lips.
“It's a secret, Conan-kun~” She singsong.
Conan gave her a stern look. “You do know that’s a crime, right?”
“What? Gonna arrest me, detective?” She teased. “It's a necessary evil after all. What do you think will happen if they find out you're-“
Conan cut her off. “Alright! Alright. I get it. Geez! You're gonna be the death of me, Onee-chan.”
“That’s Riichi-nee-chan for you, Conan-kun.”
“I swear you're like Okaa-san right now.”
“Meh.” Riichi shrugged. “Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.”
Conan gave her an unamused look and pulled out his phone. He almost forgot to text Ran where he is right now. He had missed elementary class today. Not that he wants to complain, since it is without a doubt hanging out with his sister is better than going through stuff he already knows. After riffling through Conan's phone, he checked Shinichi's. Twenty-five missed calls, twenty-two text messages, and fifteen emails greeted him and it was all from Ran. Apparently, she heard from their parents that Riichi was going out with Shinichi for a tour yesterday. She was asking where he is now and when she will get to see him.
Conan paused for a moment, contemplating how he should approach the situation. Should he call her? What would he say to her?
Riichi noticed his internal struggle and gave a sigh. “Call her, baka.” She told him. “She's worried about you. And besides,” She inclined her head to the window. “We're almost there.”
Chapter 15: File #14
Conan looked up at the imposing high-rise building in front of them. Its one-way glass exterior glittered against the sunlight. Flowering trees and trimmed hedges decorated the front. The name of the building stood proud in front in huge, steel letters. Broadcasting vehicles lined the parking space with a few luxurious cars in between. People strolled around. Some carrying sheets of paper or heavy equipment.
“Yup.” Was all the answer he got before falling behind his sister as she started walking to the doors. The automatic doors slid open to receive them and a loud, annoyed voice greeted them in the inside.
“About time!” A woman in her thirties marched toward them. She wore a formal business attire with her dark hair arranged in an elegant updo. She looked displeased at their entrance. “You're late, Kudou. How many times have I told you to come early? We have less than a week to prepare!”
Riichi raised her palms in a placating manner. “Maa, maa. I got caught up into something, that's why.”
The woman clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Again? You always find trouble one way or another.”
“Can't do something about that.” Riichi chuckled. “Though, it was trouble who found me this time.” She gave a knowing glance at Conan.
Oi. Oi. Conan returned her look. Don't pass the blame to me.
The woman gave a tired sigh. “Never mind this.” She gestured at the elevator. “Go get fixed up. We're starting the rehearsal within twenty minutes.”
Riichi gave her a mock salute. “Ryokai!”
The woman shook her head in annoyance before walking off without another word.
“Who was that?” Conan asked, watching the woman as she walked away.
“That's Hikari Aikana” Riichi answered. “She's my manager.”
Riichi nodded. “She manages my schedule for the month. Well, those related to my career anyway. Other than that, it's up to me.” Riichi took Conan's hand. “Come on! I'll introduced you to the rest of the crew.”
They rode the elevator toward the seventh floor of the high-rise building. She led him through the hallway and toward a door with a nameplate ALICE! on it. She opened the door and they stepped inside. The place was more like a condominium than a simple room. A wall of one-way windows overlooks the courtyard of the building. At the adjacent wall to the right, three doors made of mahogany lined up. At the opposite wall were two bookshelves, a cabinet filled of trophies, and framed pictures. Four indoor plants in porcelain vases occupied the four corners of the room. At the center, a large sofa set encircled a round coffee table made of glass and wood. A modern chandelier of geometric shapes hung above.
“Good afternoon!” Riichi greeted in English. “Sorry for making you wait!”
The four people lounging on the sofa turned and beamed at them. The twins joined them by the sofa as the four people crowded them.
“Welcome back, Lady Riichi.” A man around his early twenties stood up and bowed slightly. Coming from his accent, Conan deduced he was British. His blond hair was slicked back and his white suit was impeccable. He appraised her outfit. “You donned that outfit well. As expected of our star.”
Riichi slipped in a British accent. “That coming from you, good sir, is high praise.”
“Of course.” The man seemed pleased. “As one in charge of your clothes and makeup, I must make sure you dress the best in every part.”
“Pfft! Forget the outfit for a moment, Leo.” A girl about their age - Riichi's age – jumped onto Conan and scooped up the boy. “This kid is sooo cute!”
Conan squawked in surprise of the sudden assault and struggled against the tight embrace of the girl. He looked desperately at Riichi with a pleading Help me! Can't breathe! Gonna die!
“Riichi! Who's this cute kid?”
“His name is Edogawa Conan.” Riichi took pity at him and pried him off the girl's arms, but not after giving an amused grin. Conan, on the other hand, was not. “He's a distant relative of my mother.”
“Eh, really?” The girl seemed in awe. Her brown curls bouncing together with her unmistakable energy as a sugar-high kid during school hours. “It seemed being cute runs through the family.”
“Give the boy some slack, Corrine.” A dark-skinned, muscular guy around his late twenties spoke up. There was a pleasant twinkle in his eyes as he watched them. “You almost squeezed him to death.”
The girl, Corrine, pouted defiantly. “I did not!”
The woman beside her looked up from her tablet with a stoic face. “You're noisy.” Then, returned back to fiddling with the gadget.
“Sorry, Kira.” Riichi apologized. The woman, Kira, waved it off without looking at her. She then, addressed Conan on her arms. “Anyway, let me introduce them.” She gestured at the British man. “This is Sir Leo. A noble from England and the one responsible for my clothes and make-up. For some reason, he preferred not having his last name known to the world.”
Conan eyed the man with interest. He slipped into English. “Why?”
Leo sipped from his tea which Conan assumed to be Earl Grey. “Fashion is dog-eats-dog world, little boy. Only those with the most brilliant minds survive. I’d rather have my privacy intact than having foes with knives at my neck, thank you very much.”
“That's what he said.” Riichi whispered to Conan in Japanese. She then, turned to the energetic girl. She was about to speak when the girl beat her to it.
“Hello! My name's Corrine! I am the one in charge with the lights and sounds.” She made an exploding gesture with her hands. “Basically, special effects. Nice to meet you, Conan! Sorry for squeezing you a bit. Do you even understand English?”
A bit? Conan's eye twitched. I felt like being compressed into a slice of cheese.
“Conan was educated in America before going here in Japan. He's quite fluent with the language, right Conan-kun?”
“Yup!” Conan chirped as kept in touch with his saccharine seven-year-old act. Corrine’s eyes beamed as she cooed how cute and smart he is. Honestly, Conan just want to be away from the not-mentally-seventeen-year-old teenager.
“The big guy's Horran. He's our equipment technician.” Riichi then, leaned closer to Conan's ear and whispered, shifting to Japanese again. “He may look like that but he has the most girl power among us.”
Conan quirked an eyebrow at that. The dark-skinned man gave a friendly wave. He spoke in a heavy-accented English that Conan was not familiar with. “If something comes up, you can call your good man for help.” He gave Riichi a stern look that reminded him a lot of a mother. “And don't believe everything that your big sister Riichi will say.”
“See? I told you.” Riichi smirked. “Team mom.”
She needed inclined her head to the woman who was still typing on her tablet with lightning fingers. “That's Kira. She's our trigger-happy advance agent. Want to know where the shop that sells the best takoyaki in the area? Kira got you covered. She's in charge of finding the best venues and vacation spots every time were on the go. She usually works hand in hand with our finance manager, Akita.”
Kira simply peered at Conan from her tablet before returning to her work. Riichi shrugged and looked around. “Speaking of Akita, where is he?”
“Kit's at the venue with brother dear.” Corrine answered. She gestured exaggeratedly with her hand as if it will explain everything. “You know, stuff the finance manager and secretary usually do - those boring office things.”
“As much as I love you, Corrine.” Riichi said as she placed one hand on her hips, making sure not to compromise her ‘distant cousin’s' comfort. “Their jobs are still vital for our operations. If Connie were to get wind of-“
“Awwww! Don't be like that, Riichi.” Corrine pleaded as she put up her puppy dog's eyes. “You know, what my brother will do. He will strip me of my Netflix's rights for a year!”
Conan narrowed his eyes. Maybe you deserve it. He has not forgiven her of the squeezing fiasco a while ago.
“I’ll try not to let it slip.”
“Eh? Try? But-“
“Anyway!” Riichi interrupted a little bit cheerfully in Conan's opinion. “Hikari-san said we'll be on a roll by twenty.” She nodded at the direction of the British. “Sir Leo, if you may work your magic.”
Leo waved it off and gestured dramatically at her. “That outfit is an A-list. I approve!”
Riichi chuckled. “Seems I got a Sir Leo-certified. Shall we go see the main studio, Conan-kun?”
Humongous. That's one word Conan would describe the central part of the building. The ceiling of main studio was as high as more than fifty feet with beams and ropes crisscrossing overhead. Spotlights of different colors were affixed as they swiveled and lighted up in a synchronized pattern. Heavy-duty cameras stood at all directions. All capturing the best angles of the performers on stage. The stage was wide, capable of holding more than twenty persons on it. Green curtains dressed the walls as actors flitted on the stage as the camera continued rolling. Music and sounds boomed from large speakers. Conan winced as they passed near one.
“Those guys are almost finished.” Riichi shouted against the noise. “It'll be our turn next.”
Conan covered his ears as he yelled. “What exactly are we doing here, Onee-chan?”
Riichi grinned at him. For a moment, it seemed predatory – like a wolf who has spotted his first kill for the day. “Figure it out yourself, detective.”
Chapter 16: File #15
I'm way late in the publishing schedule. This story should be already at Chapter 18 by now. Sorry about that.
After almost ten minutes, the filming ended and the crew wrapped things up. Riichi's manager walked into the studio with her crew at her heels. Aikana need not to issue orders as the crew immediately dispersed and worked methodically. Horran worked on the sound system while Corrine stood close with her tablet at hand as she tested the sounds through her earphones. Kira was discussing with the manager about the venue while Leo was left at the room they came from to work on the clothes. Riichi joined Horran as the technician carted an amplifier inside and a black case that was shaped like a guitar. While they set things up, Conan watched from the sidelines. He sat down on a bench located not far from where Horran, Corrine, and Riichi were working on.
Figure it out, she said. Conan's eye twitched. But it is too obvious that it seemed to be an insult.
Riichi has climbed on the stage and flicked open the black case. She pulled out blue electric guitar and slung the strap over her shoulder. Horran handed her a plug connected to the amplifier before returning to his station. Using a pick, she strummed a few chords in as Horran listened and adjusted the knobs on the sound control system. After few more chords, Riichi gave a thumbs-up to the technician and moved on to check on the microphone.
“Sound check. Sound check.” Riichi called out. “Is this thing on?”
Horran raised an okay sign and signaled for Corrine. The teenager plugged in her tablet and began shifting through their instrumental recordings. Aikana moved toward the front of the stage with her arms crossed over her chest.
“Let's begin with a practice song.” The manager said.
Corrine gave a toothy grin before raising three fingers on her hand to Riichi. Riichi nodded and turned to Conan. She gave him a cheeky grin.
Damn you, Ran. Conan scowled. Do you have to tell her that I can't sing?
The instrumental music started. Conan noticed it lacked the sounds of an electric guitar, which were supplied by Riichi herself. She strummed and began to hum and soon, sing. The practice song is an English one that Conan was not familiar with. It was slow but neither solemn nor upbeat. It lasted for a minute and so, before Aikana gave a clear sign and Corrine switched it up to main event.
Riichi raised her arm and grinned mischievously. As her hand descended, the pick connected to the metallic strings and the sound reverberated throughout the studio. Conan gripped the sides of his perch and the sound vibrated throughout the metallic frame of the bench. Then, Riichi began plucking and Corrinne followed through with the recorded instrumental.
BGM: No pain, No game by Nano
Conan half-expected that the song would be in English, considering that his twin lived in England most of her life. It was a bit surprising but expected that she will adapt a song in Japanese. What surprised him the most was her voice. From the way she usually speaks, he expected that when she sings, it would come out sweet and well, cute. But her voice came out strong and powerful - it entranced Conan. He could feel the lyrics and music reverberate through his bones but her voice has the most impact of all. It targeted not his mind nor his heart, but his soul. He has heard of other well-known singers but her sister was a different league.
No, it's ALICE! Conan remembered the sign plastered on the door of the room where he met the crew. The person on that stage is not just my sister. She is ALICE!
There may be a twinge of jealousy but Conan is more at awe than anything. As the first song ended and the next started, Conan couldn't help wonder what is running through in her mind when she composed and directed these songs. For some reason, he could sense the sadness and regret embedded deep in the songs. It was like as if she has dedicated it for someone. Someone who was no longer.
Conan got a creeping feeling as he remembered what she asked of him days ago in Beika Department Store and two days ago when she found him looking for her and the maestro of lights.
“Detective are supposed to solve crimes, aren't they?”
“Would you still call that detective a detective?"
"From a friend who was no longer with us."
Conan watched her solemnly. What are you hiding, Onee-chan?
“Well? Did you enjoy?”
Conan looked up from his slice of blueberry cheesecake as his sister looked expectantly at him. The rehearsal lasted for almost two hours and a half. The manager shooed them away midway of wrapping up. Riichi protested at first but immediately backed down as Aikana gave her that look, as her sister would call it. She has no choice but leave it to the crew to clean things up before the next performers comes in. Right now, they were in the dining hall and filling up their stomachs with the food from the buffet table. Riichi made a mad dash toward the dessert table with Conan blinking in confusion before snorting in the subtle humor of the scenario.
Conan put down his fork as he pretended to ponder on the question. “Okay, I suppose?”
Riichi raised an eyebrow. “Okay?” She was not looking amused.
Conan tried to keep himself from snickering. An eye for an eye, Onee-chan. “Yeah…it's good but not good enough. You know,” He gestured in an exaggerated manner. “Amateur good enough.”
“Very funny, Shinichi.” Riichi huffed as she crossed her arms. “Fine then! Expect wearing clothes like that for the rest of your life. I will even bribe Ran if I have to.”
“Oi, oi! I was just kidding.” Conan exclaimed. “Can't your brother get his payback? You've been bullying me since yesterday.”
“It's not bullying.” Riichi protested. “It's called doting.”
Conan felt miffed. “There's a difference, you know.” He said as he picked up his fork and took a piece of his dessert. He shoved it to his mouth with an air of defiance.
“Awwww. Don't be like that, Shinichi.” Riichi said as she poked his cheek. “Let your Onee-chan shower you with her endless love and care. I will even help you with your singing.”
Now, that got his attention. Part of him wanted no part of his sister's scheme. Meanwhile, the other part wanted desperately to get rid of his embarrassing weakness. If he were to get rid of that stupid weakness of his, imagine how Ran and Sonoko will react. Then, the resisting part: No! You mustn't. There's a catch! There's always a catch. Guess which won.
“I hope you’re not messing with me about that.” Conan warned. “If you are, expect a soccer ball sailing toward you every time we see each other.”
Riichi grinned at that. She was having fun watching him have an internal struggle. Shinichi, no matter how brilliant you may be as a detective, you are still a human – a human that have simple tendencies. “Of course not! Why would I want to embarrass my little brother?”
Conan tugged at the rabbit ears as he gave her a pointed look. “Barou! You already did.”
“Nah.” Riichi waved it off. “I just highlighted your cuteness as Conan.”
“For the last time, I'm not cute!”
After finishing their little snack, the two waved goodbye to the crew. Conan has to hide behind Riichi to get away from being manhandled by the hyperactive Corrine. Horran gave him his work cellphone number and e-mail address which Conan reluctantly saved in Conan's phone. Riichi jokingly told him to call the older guy in case he needs someone to wash his underwear. Horran simply shook his head while muttering kids these days while Conan kicked her at the leg to shut her up.
The trip back to the Mouri's was short. Ran greeted them outside Poirot Café after Conan sent a message telling her that Riichi was going to drop him off to the agency.
Kogoro came a little later from playing mahjong and did a double take when he saw Riichi. Ran introduced her to her father who was still in disbelief that in his words, “The detective brat has a sister? She seemed better than that boyfriend of yours, Ran!” Conan fought the urge to tranquilize the old man there and then.
Ran invited Riichi to dinner to which his older sister politely declined. She told her that she needs to work on the schoolwork she missed for the day. She then, waved goodbye to them but not before giving Conan a knowing wink, in which made the seventeen-turned-seven detective furrow his eyebrows in confusion. Then, everything came into clarity.
He was wearing a bunny tailcoat!
The next thing Conan knew was Ran cooing how cute he is in the outfit, snapping pictures of him, and the crippling embarrassment once the day Ran learned about him being Conan.
Chapter 17: File #16
Time: 2:34 pm
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Police Station, Minato City, Tokyo
Countdown before disaster: 17 days, 9 hours, and 26 minutes
“Hai, Megure-keibu. It happened in Osaka again. Superintendent Hattori sent an e-mail just an hour ago.”
Inspector Megure pinched the bridge of his nose as he stared at the reports spread out before him. “That would make it the fifth then.” He said as he accepted the printed copy of the e-mail the Tokyo Metropolitan Police received from the Osaka Prefecture Police headquarters.
“Yes.” Takagi nodded. “The crime scene was the same as the previous four. All victims were shot and pieces of glass and a note were found beside the corpses. According to the forensics, the glass was fragments of chess pieces.”
Megure quirked an intrigued eyebrow. “Chess pieces?”
“Pawns to be exact.” Takagi pulled out his notebook and flipped through it. “All victims were carrying the same chess pieces, except for the microchips embedded inside. We had our technical team checked on them. Apparently, the chips hold the information about the victims. Name, sex, age, birth date, everything.”
“And the note?”
“Another vague message.”
Megure folded his hands. “Have we already have a list of suspects?”
“No. Not yet.” Takagi shook his head. “The evidences we only have were the bullets found in the crime scenes. We're still tracing and narrowing down the possible owners of the gun model that matches with the bullet grooves.”
“That's little to go on.”
“Unfortunately.” Takagi agreed. “And it is more likely that the serial shooting will continue.”
“Is there any more?”
Takagi shook his head. “Superintendent Hattori have sent a few to investigate the matter. Nishimura-keibu will be on the case. Apparently, the higher-ups from the Hokkaido Prefecture Police has expressed interest about this serial case and has sent him to conduct their own investigation.”
“That's odd.” Megure said. “Did any of the previous murders happen anywhere in Hokkaido?”
Takagi consulted his notebook. “No. The first was found in Nagano, one in Shizuoka, two in Osaka, and before the last, in Tottori. The places were unrelated and played little significance on the murders.”
“I see.” Megure looked at the copy on his hand before handing it back. “Takagi, could you go to the Mouri's and see if Mouri-kun have any insights about this? I mean, helpful insights. I will pay a visit to Nishimura-keibu and see if he has any breakthrough in this case.”
Takagi nodded as he accepted the paper. “Aren't you going to call Kudou-kun? He could help with this case.”
“Kudou-kun is on a case right now from what I've heard from Ran-chan.” Megure answered as he stood up. “Though I am planning to employ Yusaku-kun's help too.”
“The world famous mystery novelist, huh?” Takagi remarked in awe. “He probably could be more help than Mouri-san when he's not sleeping.”
“The Sleeping Kogoro.” Megure mused. “It would be better if he just stays asleep. Even that twin of Kudou-kun is more reasonable than Mouri-kun when awake.”
Takagi nervously chuckled as he closed his notebook and slipped it in his inside pocket. “Well, he helped us many times. I guess we should give him some credit.”
“Hmmm.” Megure tucked in his overcoat and walked toward the door. Takagi followed him. “I'll be back by tomorrow. I’ll leave everything to you, Takagi.”
Megure nodded before parting ways. Takagi then, met up with Lieutenant Satou who joined him to the Mouri's.
“Ne, ne, Riichi-nee-san! Mite mite!”
Riichi paused from her baking and looked at the young girl who was holding a white origami folded into a shape of a swan. “Sugoi na, Ayumi-chan! Did you make it?”
“Hai!” Ayumi nodded. “Sensei taught us how to fold origamis. We'll be making lots for an art exhibit in Friday.”
Riichi looked over at the table where the three kids and two not-kids were gathered around. She chanced upon them on her way home from school and decided to join them in Professor Agasa's home after dropping her bag in the mansion.
Right now, the Shounen Tantei were folding origamis of different animals. On the table, piles of colored paper were stacked at a corner while finished origamis were set in groups on one side. She could make out the shapes of swans, butterflies, whales, and even foxes
“That sounds fun.” Riichi said as she washed and dried her hands before walking toward their workplace with Ayumi. “Are your parents coming to see it?”
“Yup!” Genta grinned, waving a half-folded paper. “It will a big, no, the biggest art exhibit in school ever!”
“Outsiders who are not parents can come too.” Mitsuhiko said. “You should come, Riichi-san.”
“Ah, gome.” Riichi flashed an apologetic smile. “I can't come.”
“Eeeehhh? Why?” Ayumi asked.
Riichi was about to answer when a certain eyeglasses-wearing boy snatched the spot.
“She’s going to have her debut concert this coming Sunday.” Conan answered as he made a final fold on his fox origami. He then, looked at his sister and turned up his most angelic seven-year-old persona. “Right, Riichi-nee-chan?”
Riichi has the trio's full attention now.
“Concert?” Mitsuhiko asked. “Are you a singer, Riichi-san?”
Riichi was not sure whether to be amused or annoyed. A payback, huh? You're not the only who got Okaa-san's gene in acting. She leaned casually on the back of the sofa and flashed her sweetest smile.
“I am, though I'm not that famous.”
Not famous, my ass. Conan thought as his sister glanced at him with a triumphant gleam. I checked the internet about ALICE! yesterday and it told me otherwise.
“Can you sing for us Riichi-nee-chan?” Genta requested.
Riichi chuckled and leaned down to gently tap on the boy's nose with her index finger. “After I finish baking those chocolate chip cookies.”
“Okay! Please make lots of cookies too.”
“Mou, Genta-kun.” Mitsuhiko chided. “Don't tire Riichi-san.”
“Gome, gome.” Genta chortled as he rubbed the back of his head.
Conan watched his sister handled the rowdy trio in a slight amusement. He perked up as one of his phones vibrated inside his pocket. He checked which one and unlocked it to check the caller. It was Shinichi's phone and apparently, an Osakan teenager called in to check on him. He hopped off the sofa and walked to one corner of the room, just out of hearing range.
“Yo, Kudou!” The Detective of the West greeted him with an enthusiastic energy that he immediately knew why he called in the first place.
Conan addressed his counterpart. “Hattori.”
“Guess what?” Heiji asked. “I got a case fer both of us! A very interesting one at that.”
Conan glanced over his shoulder as the front door swung open and Professor Agasa walked in with a grocery bag. His sister has asked the professor to buy some ingredients for the cookies and the low-sugar dessert that she planned to make for him.
“What is it?”
“Have ya heard ‘bout the latest murder in ‘ta news?”
“You mean the one in Osaka?” Conan asked. “I heard that it might be connected to the ones that happened in Nagano, Shizuoka, and Tottori.”
“Right-o!” Heiji confirmed. “And it was actually ‘ta second time in Osaka. Oyaji has already got his men on ‘ta move. Also heard he called in ‘ta Tokyo Metropolitan Police to help. Megure-keibu might already be plannin' to get Otchan for help.”
Now, that's interesting. Conan thought. If the Osaka Prefecture Police was having a difficult time solving a string of murders then, it must something well-planned.
“I'll be goin' there in Tokyo later.” Heiji informed then, paused. A voice protested at the background. Conan could make out a bit of the conversation, especially with the familiar banter. Heiji made a sound of annoyance before turning back to Conan. “Scratch that. We'll be goin' there later. Tell Onee-chan that Kazuha's comin' with me. Apparently, Onee-chan called her days ago to hang out.”
“Oi. Oi. Hattori.” Conan does not like where this is going. “You're not going to crash with us for the night, aren't you?
He swore he could imagine him grinning as if he was so clever. “Prolly. Unless ya gonna let us crash in yer mansion.”
Conan pondered about that. He couldn't let Kazuha sleep just somewhere, not especially in a city she isn't much familiar with. Ran is going to kill him. Heiji? He could. The guy can take care of himself. Other than that…he glanced at his sister. A chill went up his spine. He got a foreboding sense that the two will get along well and he didn't want to be the receiving end of their attention.
“Can't.” He answered. “Subaru-san's around. I don't want him poking around your connection with Kudou Shinichi. Also-“
“Too late fer that, Kudou!” Heiji snickered. “Kazuha already got ahold of Onee-chan. She said that it's okay to stay in the agency fer tonight.”
Conan’s eye twitched. This bastard.
“Conan-kun!” Riichi called out while carrying a plate of freshly-baked chocolate cookies and placed it down on that table. The three kids have taken the initiative to clear the table beforehand. “Come before Genta-kun eats them all.”
“I need to go. You better behave later, Hattori.”
“Who're ya? Oyaji? I can take care of myself, ahou.”
Conan snorted at that before bidding goodbye to the Osakan high school detective.
Chapter 18: File #17
Heiji and Kazuha arrived to the agency before Conan. Surprisingly, Takagi-keiji and Satou-keiji were also there and were speaking with Kogoro about the same case that Heiji brought to Conan's attention. Conan took a seat beside Ran and Kazuha while Heiji preferred to stand at the side. Both high school detectives listened eagerly to the policemen.
Takagi slid a copy of the e-mail from Superintendent Hattori on the table. Kogoro gingerly took the paper and read it. “Megure-keibu asked me to get your help in this case. Have you heard about the serial shootings recently in the news, Mouri-san?”
Kogoro nodded as he puts the paper down back to the table. “The ones that happened in the four prefectures, right? Three of them happened separately in Nagano, Shizuoka, and Tottori while the other two in Osaka. I don't understand why the police said that there wasn't any connection of the places to the murders themselves.”
“Well,” Takagi pulled out his notebook and flipped it open. “Based from our investigations, there was little to no connection between the places nor the victims themselves. Two of them were natives while three were foreigners with different backgrounds. The only things that connect them together were the shattered pawns and the notes found beside their bodies.”
“’Ta chess pieces.” Heiji answered. “The ones in ‘ta frontline at ‘ta start of the game. They were found destroyed in pieces, right?”
“Hai.” Takagi confirmed. “Most likely shot by the murderer.”
“All of them have them?” Kogoro repeated. “And they're all pawns?”
Satou nodded then, continued. “Though what we found strange about them was not the chess pieces, but the microchips found inside the pawns. Each contains the information about the victims - from their name to their hobbies.”
“Eh?” Conan asked. “Then, does that mean they were actually made for the victims?”
“That's what we thought too.” Takagi answered. “We have the technical team look into the chips. They also found some sort of a tracking system. They are still trying to trace where the information was being sent to.”
“Then, ‘ta murderer is targetin’ people who have ‘ta chess pieces.” Heiji turned to Takagi. “Have ya found any leads on ‘ta culprit?”
“No.” Satou said as she rummaged through the folder she brought with her. “But we have these.”
She took out five photographs from inside and flourished it before them on the table. All of them leaned in for a better look.
“These are pictures of the notes found within the crime scenes. We haven't decoded them yet, but we are sure it points out to the killer.”
“What are these?” Kogoro looked at each photographs with a frown. “A midnight sin. Sixteen fires. A silver thread. The master's wand. The lost sheep. These don’t make any sense!”
Conan picked up a photograph with the words A midnight sin. Below it was a figure riding a carriage that looked like a chariot. Heiji, who was holding the photograph with The master's wand with an upside-down figure, leaned and whispered. “What do ya think, Kudou?”
Conan tried to run the phrase through his mind. He tried to shuffle the letters and translate it to languages he knew. He tried to relate them to the murders. He got none. He shook his head to Heiji who gave the same frown as him before looking back at the photo on his hand. The others seemed to have the same luck.
Conan looked back at the other photographs. Aside from the ones he and Heiji were holding, the other three followed the same format. The one with the Sixteen fires has a sword and a set of scales overlapping, A silver thread has a trumpet, and lastly, The lost sheep has a lion.
“Anou,” Ran interrupted. “Is this the order you found them?”
“Hai.” Satou nodded. “These are arranged based from the murders.”
Heiji scratched his head. “First time I've seen somethin’ like this. It's like a code in a code.”
“Eh,” Kazuha elbowed Heiji and teased. “Already givin' up?”
“Ahou!” Heiji retorted. His face flushed slightly. “As if.”
“How about you, Conan-kun?” Ran regarded the seven-year old who was intently looking at the photographs. “Did you figure out something?”
Conan looked up and shook his head. “Iya, Ran-nee-chan.”
“Huh...” Ran pulled out her phone and browsed through it with a thoughtful expression. “I wonder if Shinichi would find something out. I should send him an e-mail.” She turned to the two policemen. “Is that alright?”
Takagi perked up. “Oh no! It's fine. Actually, we're trying to get every help we could get. Kudou-kun might be able to figure something out.”
I am here. Conan thought. And I don't have a slight clue what these means.
“Matte! I am here ya know.” Heiji complained. “The Detective of ‘ta West, Hattori Heiji. I could solve this case faster than Kudou.”
Conan gave him an incredulous look. You don't have any idea too, barou.
“Ah, this is difficult.” Kazuha said as she frowned. “The only thing we got was that ‘ta murderer was targetin’ those who have ‘ta chess pieces.”
“True.” Ran agreed. “If we only we could find the others.”
There were three short knocks at the door. Ran was the one to answer the door but found no one outside but a small, rectangular box on the ground. That's strange. She looked around before picking up the box. Closing the door behind her, she inspected the card attached to the box.
“Ne, Ran-nee-chan.” Conan called out as the teenager walked back to join them. “Who is it?”
“I don't know.” Ran admitted before showing them the box. “But I found this on the doorsteps. It's for you, Hattori-kun.”
“Eh? Fer me?”
Heiji looked confusingly at the box before accepting the odd delivery from her. He weighed the box on his hand and shook it cautiously. There was little sound. He read the card before lifting the lid. Something caught the light and Heiji almost dropped the box. The palpitating shock in Heiji’s face made the others jerked in tense action. Takagi, Satou, and Kogoro stood abruptly from their seats, anticipating a bomb inside. Ran and Kazuha almost jumped in surprise. Conan perched from the sofa and tried to get a look at what got the Western Detective spooked. When he saw what it is, his nails dug painfully on the fabric of the sofa.
Nestled safely inside the box was a glass chess piece.
The night breeze blew gently past the river under the famous Rainbow Bridge. Under the looming shadows of the buildings, a sleek, black car was waiting. A woman flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder with an air of impatience as her guests arrived.
“Took you long enough, Gin.”
The man regarded the woman with no care. He motioned for his stout companion for the briefcase on his hand. Vodka handed the briefcase to the woman.
“Are you sure of the information you got, Vermouth?” Gin asked as he watched the woman opened and inspected the contents of the briefcase.
“Of course.” Vermouth assured him with a confident smile. “This is Cognac we're talking about. The Organization's own phantom thief. Every information that person gets is more factual than Kaitou Kid's magic tricks.”
“Hmph.” Gin brandished his gun. “I don't trust that thief.”
“And Cognac does not trust you either.” Finally satisfied, Vermouth snapped the briefcase close and held it with her hand. “If I were you, I will try to get into that thief's good side. That person is not someone you should point your gun at.”
Gin smiled predatorily. “We'll see.”
“Oh well.” Vermouth opened her car door and threw the briefcase inside. “It seemed the dogs were running to the cliffs. What a pity.”
“Let them.” Gin said. “Dogs can easily be tamed to obedience. Give them food once and they will be following you until their death.”
“Hah. If you keep that kind of attitude, it will someday bite back at you.” Vermouth slid inside her car. “Anyway, Rum said to keep an eye on them. If things go for the worse, the Organization will have to discard them. Better load up a bunch of bullets, Gin.”
With that, Vermouth shut the door and drove away. She glanced at the side mirror - watching Gin and Vodka as the car drove farther away. As she rejoined the main roads, a smile crept up her lips.
That is, if they don't get to them first.