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Illusion

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Though Aoko told herself to stop, he was still on her mind.

Kid.

It was hard to not think about him. She saw why there were girls crazy over him. After all, he was showman, a ladies man. He entertained, lived for the stage, for an audience. He had those classy, suave lines he delivered…

                And…okay, it was hard to admit that he wasn’t a bit good looking.

                The Sun Halo heist.

 She remembered his labored breathing when he’d went to work on those locks in that underground basement they’d been trapped. She remembered the dark crimson blood staining the crispness of his snow-white suit. She remembered how she’d had to help him to stand, and how soon after he’d collapsed to the floor.

                This is the person who’s the cause of all of Dad’s troubles, she’d thought.

                And yet, she couldn’t help but worry.

                He’d saved her life, after all.

                And the other factor too…

                There was how much he reminded her of Kaito.

                Back then…she thought. I was trying to deny it. But though he does too, I just can’t throw away my suspicions. What if he…

                “What’s with that weak grip?”  Kaito had said when she’d climbed onto the back of his motorcycle. That “weak grip”…she felt as if it had been a sign of worry for him.

                Kid had been stabbed by glass, after all. And Kaito had said that only three days since the incident.

                And yet…She’d also done it in hopes that her suspicions weren’t true. What if Kaito was Kid? Her best friend since childhood, the one who’d been there for her every day…

                And yet somehow, it all made sense.

                They both performed magic tricks. Both were masters at their craft. They looked uncannily alike. Even their arrogant, overconfident personalities were right in the same area.

It can’t be…right?

~~

It was the middle of January or so, and for some reason, Aoko had decided that she wanted to stick around to watch his latest heist to steal the “Aphrodite’s Soul”, a gorgeous ocean blue aquamarine with an intricate cut.

                When her father asked about her sudden change in attitude, she’d shrugged and said that didn’t know, she just felt like it.

                Why am I looking forward to this so much? She thought to herself. I hate Kid. He constantly makes fun of the police…Dad is constantly pushed to his limits while Kid just laughs and runs!

                Unfortunately, she found that she had to go to the restroom a two minutes before the heist was supposed to occur.

                It was five minutes later when she’d washed her hands and left when she glanced at her watch. The heist had only been going on for around three minutes or so. She wondered if the thief had escaped with the gem yet or not.

                The elegant hallways of the manor they were in all looked the same, so she found herself glancing around, wondering which way she’d come from.

                Then, all of a sudden, he appeared.

                He came running from around the corner, a swift blur of white that she would’ve missed if she wasn’t standing in the hallway glancing in both directions. It was in a split second that she saw his startled face as he tried to slow down and move around her. He’d been glancing behind him the entire time before he’d faced her, perhaps to see if the police were still chasing after him. She tried to move out of the way the same time and direction he did, and they collided into each other.

                “Gah!” she cried as she collapsed to the ground. “Geez, what’re you doing?”

                He had stood up already, and for the briefest of moments, his face had morphed into one of panic. Then it was gone, as quickly as a ripple in a pool of water. He’d quickly recomposed himself, and offered her his hand.

                “I do so apologize, Miss Aoko. Are you alright?” His face was one of concern. He seemed alright, he seemed to have recovered from his injury. Even if he hadn’t, it didn’t show. Aoko almost wished she could have the energy he seemed to have 24/7.

                Aoko found herself blushing. She could feel the faint blush spreading across her cheeks. “Y-Yes…” she said.

Gosh, what is wrong with me? Why am I so embarrassed around him?

It was strange, the way she felt about him.

                I guess I’m a hypocrite of my own word…to declare out loud that I hate him, and now I’ve suddenly…

 Maybe it was because he’d saved her. Maybe it was because he reminded her of Kaito.

She just didn’t know.

                She stood and brushed herself off. With that, he smiled briefly and gave her a tip of his hat. “Until we meet again, then.”

Then he ran off, and Aoko stood there against the wall, the sounds of the police running after him drowned out by her conflicted thoughts.

His smile…it was one that was so familiar and yet so far away.

~~

(A Week Later)

                Of course Kaito was being an idiot again. When was he never one?

                Today during their break she was scrolling through the news on her phone when Kaito suddenly reached over her shoulder and plucked it out of her grasp.

                “Hey! Kaito!”

                “Ooh…Kaito Kid, huh? Since when are you interested in Kaito Kid? I thought you hated him!”

                “I-I do!” she found herself stammering. “I was merely reading about his last heist!”

                “Is that really? You’ve always been on the side of the police, even when other thieves have challenged him, and now you’re reading about how Kid managed to get away, and you’re blushing!”

                “S-Shut up!” She snatched it back from him and shoved it into her pocket. “What does it matter if I’m more interested in one heist than another? In terms of the jewels he’s been after before, this one happens to be my favorite!” Gosh, she was making a fool of herself. So much for excuses.

                “That so? A gem named after the goddess of love?” He gave her a playful grin. Gosh, he could be so infuriating at times. She glared at him, Kaito’s grin reflected back at her.

                “It’s just a coincidence, Bakaito!” she said while standing up and punching him in the arm.

                “Ow,” he said, though he didn’t sound like he was in pain. “So, did you go to the heist?”

                “Y-Yeah…”

                “Hmm…” Kaito thought for a brief moment. Suddenly, his smile brightened. “Here.” He snapped his fingers, and then Aoko looked down and saw a gorgeous red rose gently caressed between her hands.

                “H-How did you…?!”

                “Come on, Aoko, you should know better! I’m never going to reveal my secrets.” He bowed dramatically. “You’ve seemed a little down since the heist, so I thought this might cheer you up from whatever’s going on in your head.”

                “T-Thanks…” she said. Gosh, she couldn’t help but feel embarrassed around Kaito as well. He was so charming, and always made her smile.

                Later that day after school as they walked home together, Kaito then posed that question.

                “Are you going to Kid’s next heist tonight?”

                “Uh…” she said, a little taken aback from the suddenness of the inquiry. “Yeah, why?”

                “No reason,” he said. He turned his head away briefly. “What’d he say he was gonna steal tonight? The Sapphire Heart?”

                “Yeah, I read that it was found somewhere in the Hudson Bay off of Canada,” Aoko said. “According to my dad, that old man Suzuki rented it for close to one billion yen!”

                Kaito whistled appreciatively. “Geez, one billion yen? One thing’s for sure, that dude sure is determined…”

                “I know right? Dad told me…” she stopped.

                He could be him.

                “Hm? What’s wrong? What’d your dad say?”

                “I-It’s nothing…” Aoko coughed. “Aoko was just thinking about something else, that’s all!” She’d been about to tell him about some of the extensive measures he and the police were going to.

                It was painful. She was desperately trying to convince herself that it couldn’t be the case. That it was solely just coincidence. Just a coincidence that Kaito and Kid looked, acted, even spoke the same. A mere coincidence, that her best friend and the world’s most famous thief shared the same physique, breathing, scent, gestures, and even smile.

                Kaito didn’t look convinced. But he nodded and turned his gaze to back in front of him.

                They continued the walk back home in a growing silence.

~~

                Kaito didn’t know why he was nervous at the thought of his upcoming heist.

                He’d finished his preparations, right? He’d obtained the blueprints, marked them up with every possible entrance and exit and memorized them, and he’d visited the mueseum where the heist was going to be numerous times to get a feel for the aesthetics so he could find his way around. He’d listened to audio recordings of the possible people to disguise as in case if his first plan went south, and practiced speaking and acting like them.

                He just didn’t know what kind of plans the police had. But that was okay. He was very good at thinking ahead and improvising.

                Usually he was aware of the police’s so-called clever plans to capture him, but Jii had gotten sick last week and couldn’t help. With Kaito’s own preparations for the heist, homework, and other daily stuff, this time he hadn’t gotten around to learning about the police’s plans.

                Yes, if he didn’t get the plans, usually Aoko would somehow tell him about them mid-conversation.

                Aoko…

                There’d been something off about her today. Based on her turn of phrase and the context of their conversation, he could guess that she’d been just about to tell him what Inspector Nakamori’s ideas for arresting him were. Then she’d stopped, the look on her face going to hesitant and nervous.

                It’s nothing, she’d said.

I was just thinking about something else, she’d said.

Yeah, right.

Kaito knew she was hiding something. He could tell in the way her expression had changed, the way she’d just suddenly seemed lost in thought.

Could she suspect my true identity? And to think that I’d proved it to her during our date…

It gave him goosebumps.

Could it be because I’d bumped into her when I stole the “Aphrodite’s Soul”? Or from when we were trapped together during the Sun Halo heist?

He stared up at the wall at his dad’s poster. The smiling face of Toichi Kuroba stood there, encouraging, always there.

“Dad…” Maybe it was silly to talk to a poster, but this was the closest he felt to his dad, of course, besides Kaito having taken up his mantle. “Has anyone ever suspected your identity before? I think…Aoko knows. And for some reason, I feel nervous about tonight. What do you suggest I do?”

No answer.

Of course he knew it was just a poster. They couldn’t talk. But…he’d never liked talking about his father’s death aloud. He had an image to keep up. He was Kaito Kuroba, class clown, magician extraordinaire. But if he had the time alone, he was determined not to forget. Even if it was to a mere poster, a simple image that could easily be thrown away, he still wanted to stay connected to his greatest role model in the world.

He tried to shake away his worry.

She’ll be at the heist. If she finds out…

He shook his head. Now was not the time to doubt. He had a show to put on. No matter what happened, he’d try his best to be ready.

I promised that I’d find Pandora, for Dad’s sake. No matter what the cost.

So he stood up from his chair and made his way to the secret door. He pushed it open and made his way down the steps, trying not to feel like it’d be the last time he’d stand in his room with no regrets.

~~

Aoko simply sat in her room and waited. She was going to be leaving in about half an hour to head to the museum for the heist, and she needed time to think.

He’s hiding something. That was one fact she couldn’t deny.

The way he’d turned his head away when he asked her about Kid’s heist was something that had caught her attention.

Ah…I’m overthinking this…She needed some air. She stepped out onto her balcony connected to her room and sighed, trying to relax.

From her view, she could see directly into Kaito’s room. He always left the curtains open except for when he went to sleep, and now she saw something strange.

She could see Kaito stand up and make his way over to the wall. He pushed something resting on its surface, and then something swiveled open, revealing a doorway.

Aoko could feel her eyes widening. She tried to control her breathing as she watched her childhood friend enter without a sign of hesitation.

That was the only other piece of proof she’d needed.

She couldn’t deny it any longer.

No matter how much it pained her, she had to try and face the truth. She felt tears forming and quickly brushed them away.

The whole scene filled her with a strange emptiness.

~~

Kaito was ready.

Despite his anxiety, he was well prepared and ready for this heist.

Usually his plans never strayed far from their path, so as long as something completely farfetched didn’t happen, he’d be ready for anything.

And he was going to be taking it a bit easier tonight, which he was perfectly okay with. He could see everything perfectly working in his head.

So he sat on the roof and waited for the heist to start.

All the while, he thought about Aoko.

If she knows…then what? He didn’t have a back up plan for that. If she’d found out…

No.

I can’t forget my poker face.

He checked his watch. 45 seconds until show time.

He carefully made his way over to the section of the roof above the exhibit with the jewel. He took out binoculars and looked in, taking a quick glance of the scene so he could mark the best escape route.

From his line of sight, Kaito could see a total of around 125 guards in the room. He zoomed in further and saw a set of four guards surrounding some kind of glass case…Ah, he got it now.

He got the quickest glance at the Sapphire Heart, which was sealed in a plastic container, surrounded by a glass like case that was embedded in the ground. So even if he jumped in and ran to get it, it’d be hard to get out. Most likely that was what the inspector had been planning. Maybe Kaito would be able to somehow break open the case and grab the container with the jewel, but with the numerous guards surrounding it and positioned throughout the room, it wouldn’t be hard for them to quickly grab him. As long as he could get the gem and run, his plan would still work.

He checked his watch again. 10 seconds. Okay…

Now, what to do…

In a flash of inspiration, he pulled out his card gun. As quietly as he could, he opened one of the glass panels of the roof. He dropped three smoke bombs into the room, listening in satisfaction to the guards coughing, Inspector Nakamori barking orders, and the general shouts of surprise. He aimed his card gun and fired eight of them simultaneously in the direction of the glass case. Then he slipped on his police disguise and leaped gracefully into the room, doing a forward roll as he grabbed the plastic container from the cracked case, opened it, took the sapphire, and emerged unharmed from the crowd of guards surrounding it.

He was pretty proud of himself. He’d always been a quick thinker, but this one had been extremely last second. Back before the Red Tear heist, he’d kept testing his cards with different types of materials, until he’d managed to enforce some of them to be strong enough to break glass. He’d simply aimed at the top of the case where each side and corner should’ve been. And if they didn’t land exactly there, that’d have been okay—as long as they’d hit the case.

He slipped the sapphire into his pocket, imitating the other officers’ coughing fits until it cleared. In the midst of this, he quickly threw one of his cards towards the spot. Then pretending to act surprised, he made his way over to the shattered case and called, “I-Inspector!”

“What is it?!”

“T-The gem is gone!”

WHAT?!” Nakamori shoved his way through the crowd of his officers and looked to where Kaito was pointing.

“I-Impossible…” the officers around them murmured.

“BLOCK EVERY DOOR AND GET OFFICERS ON THE ROOF!” Nakmori shouted. “LET NO ONE LEAVE THIS ROOM WITHOUT GETTING CHECKED! GET MEN TO SEARCH THE WHOLE MUESEUM!”

“Right!” the group said in unison.

Perfect! Kaito thought. Now all I need to do is wait for the right moment…

He watched as Nakamori turned on his walkie-talkie. “Control room, do you copy? Do you see any sign of him anywhere in the building?”

“N-No, Inspector! We don’t see him in any of the footage! He’s vanished!”

WHAT?! That’s impossible!”

“Maybe that means he’s somewhere in the room with you!”

“Yes, that’s right!” Nakamori stomped his foot once, causing the surrounding officers to jump in surprise.

“Alright, I’ll be checking each and every one of your faces! You!” he said, pointing to Kaito.

“Y-Yes, sir?”

Okay…is he going to try and pinch my face, or will he…

“Go and let the other officers that I’ll be checking their faces in a minute!”

“Y-Yes sir!”

You really haven’t learned, have you Inspector Nakamori? You should really check your observation skills…

He made his way over the exit, calling to the other officers that the Inspector would be checking their faces momentarily.

He waited until the Inspector made his way over to where he was standing, listening to the pained groans of the officers as Inspector Nakamori had pinched and pulled their faces.

After the Inspector had painstakingly pulled on Kaito’s face, Kaito listened on in smug satisfaction to the man’s cries of shock.

“That’s impossible! No one has even left this room! Where has he gone?!” The other members of the police whispered among themselves cautiously.

Alright…time to get on with the show.

So Kaito laughed. The other officers stared at him in shock.

“I’m afraid you’ve underestimated me yet again, dear Inspector!” He whipped off his disguise to reveal his crisp white suit, listening to the many gasps of the officers.

“K-Kaito Kid?!”

“That’s right!” He called out in a singsong voice. He pulled out his phone and pressed a button, listening to the cord he’d prepared pull him up to the upper level walkway

“I have indeed taken the Sapphire Heart!” He tipped his hat. “Have a nice day!” He shoved open the doors leading him to the upper level of the museum. Back inside the exhibit, he heard the Inspector barking orders.

He listened to the ding of the elevator as officers poured out and began racing towards him. He glanced to his side as he saw some officers who’d took the risk of climbing up the cord he’d left behind.

He grinned. There was nothing like the thrill of a heist.

~~

Keiko Momoi desperately pushed through the crowds, trying to find Inspector Nakamori. She finally located him in the first hallway of the second floor. Keiko guessed that he’d either just gotten back from an unsuccessful chase, or he was waiting for status reports on if anyone had captured Kid.

“Inspector!” she called. She ran up to him, feet pattering on the soft carpet.

“Ah, Keiko, what are you doing here?” He looked agitated.

“I came to the heist to watch,” she gasped, out of breath. “But that’s besides the point. Have you seen Aoko anywhere?”

“Aoko? No, I haven’t. Why, has something happened to her?”

“She just ran off and I don’t know where she went. She won’t pick up her phone either!”

What?!” The inspector shoved his phone back into his pocket. His face had grown angrier, was starting to turn redder from his worry and agitation. “Tell me more.”

So Keiko told him what she’d seen and what Aoko had yelled to her as she ran off. With Kaito in her class, Keiko had been prone to expecting the unexpected, but she’d never expected to ever see Aoko running off while shouting that she needed to find Kid as soon as possible.

~~

By the time Kaito raced into the room on the top floor, he was almost out of breath from his breathless laughing as he slammed the door shut.

When the police had made it onto the second floor, he’d made a beeline for one of the storage closets, and when he’d exited, he’d let his sea of dummies run amok. He’d studied a new type of programming recently, and had designed each dummy to run in many different directions. The inspector had only sent two officers after him, and Kaito had lost them at the last possible second with a dose of sleeping gas to the face.

He decided to take a moment to rest. He felt like he hadn’t been getting enough sleep recently, so he took some deep breaths, trying to calm himself down.

A minute later he coughed and pulled the sapphire out of his pocket. He made his way towards the window, about to hold it up to the moonlight when he heard the creak of the door open and shut.

“Kid, wait. We need to talk.”

He instinctively slipped the jewel back in his pocket and whipped out his card gun, for a minute not recognizing the voice. He could feel his eyes widen in surprise, could feel the shock spreading across his face as he turned to find himself facing Aoko Nakamori.

~~

He thought he’d be ready.

He wasn’t.

He knew Aoko. She hated Kid. There could be only one reason she was here.

Keep calm. You don’t know if she knows. For all I know, she could just want to see me up close, in person. I can make it out of here. Keep your poker face…

He lowered his card gun and slowly put it back in his pocket. “Hello there, Aoko. I see you’re doing well. What brings you here tonight?”

Her breathing was slow and steady, like she was trying to keep an outburst to herself. She took two slow steps towards him. She dropped her bag to the ground and continued to move towards him.

“I…I need something from you.”

Kaito swallowed nervously. “Y-Yes? What is it?”

“I….I need a favor. Please.”

“And what would that favor be, miss?”

Was it just him, or was she blushing? Her gaze was one of sadness, almost fear.

“Is everything alright, miss? What is it that you need from me?”

She was now standing half a foot in front of him. She took a few deep breaths.

“Could you…could you please…”

“Yes?”

She whipped her head upwards so quickly that Kaito had to resist the urge to step back. Tears shined in the corners of her eyes.

Aoko…

“Please…could you please kiss me?”

~~

Kaito was not expecting that slap-in-the-face.

“E-Excuse me?” he said, wondering if he’d just heard wrong. There was no way that Aoko, the girl who’d openly expressed her hatred for Kid so any times, had just asked him for a kiss.

He tried not to blush. Maybe he…maybe he did like her a bit, but he’d never expected to hear Aoko declare those words.

“It’s what I said…please…kiss me…”

“M-May I ask why, Miss Aoko?”

“P-Please…”

Kaito definitely knew he was blushing now. He didn’t know how to respond. He’d never thought Aoko would be the one to ask for one.

Only later he would realize how much of a fool he’d been. How easily he’d let his guard down. He caved.

He breathed once, twice. Evenly. Calmly. “Alright, if that is your wish.”

He reached down and placed his hands on her shoulders. Trying to control his heartbeat, his breathing, he leaned in closer and closed his eyes. Aoko did the same.

He was about to place his lips on hers only when he realized the truth. From all the lies he’d told and the acting he’d had to do, he should’ve seen it coming. But he was too busy, too wrapped up in his own emotions.

His eyes were opened too late.

Too late to stop her, he tried to step back as Aoko grabbed his hat and monocle and threw them to the ground, staring at him with a look that shattered him.

She knew.