Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Aoko should have been used to it.
Aoko should have been used to eerily quiet that greets her when she opens the front door, the coldness that wraps around her when she, yet again, eats dinner alone on a table that feels way to big for her alone to fill in, and the tired whispers of goodnight that has been never reciprocated since that day long ago her Dad decided to join the Second Division.
Maybe that was why she told Hakuba, no, that she was busy for the evening and therefore didn't have time to go along with him and watch him, finally, catch KID. But merely it was an excused to get away from his piercing eyes. She has seen it enough on her Dad when he once again believed to have outsmarted Kid, only to have the latter prove him that, indeed, he has not.
Though, as she thought of it, that gaze seemed strange on Hakuba's face, so out of place, as he proposed for her to help him again and again. He was persistent, that was for sure. But the idea of standing out among police officers like a sore thumb, holding up a banner and cheering for a detective- even if the detective was a fellow classmate and good friend- to bring the phantom thief behind bars, when it should've been her father carrying out that particular task years ago. It didn't seem right.
But he was quick to tell her she has gotten it wrong.
And how wrong . . .
"I have meant for you to assist me, not support me."
" Oh? That so?" She tilted her head. "How? I don't think I can be of much help to you."
He chuckled, a hand dipped into his bag and pulled out a thick file. He placed it on the table and she let her eyes rack over the neatly stapled mass of paper. "That's the all the data I've gathered about Kid so far. Go on, do look through," He slightly pushed it over to her. "Tell me if you recognise some or more aspects."
Aoko shoved down the uneasy feeling rippling in her stomach, and opened up a random page, flipping through. "I won't find much. Kaito isn't Kid if that's what you're asking."
This subject has arisen more often lately. Why would anybody even come close to suspect, Kaito- stupid, idiotic, perverted Kaito- to be a magician, intelligent and evil enough to steal and give her father hard time. If anything- Scratch all that- she thought, stomach sinking- it might be because of exactly that.
Her hand brushed each piece for a split of second, before grabbing the next, barely allowing her eyes to rest on a whole paragraph until a hand grabbed hers, stilling her movements.
" You're not even reading." He sounded amused, a brow delicately rising to hide behind his bangs. "I assume based on your reaction, you have currently your own doubts."
She shook her head, knowing it was already too late to deny when his eyes glinted. "I was looking at the numbers. I don't feel like reading."
" There aren't any numbers." Aoko blushed bright, and fumbled over her words much to her chagrin as he started to laugh. The colour still hasn't disappeared from her cheeks by the time Hakuba rose from his seat, all packed up and ready to go, when he stretched his hand out her. " Become my partner."
The words came from easy. Light. As if it had no repercussion, and she found herself already shaking her head. The hand dropped but his voice lingered. "Let's together unravel this mystery that Kuroba Kaito is." And with that he left the little Café near their school, but not before giving her his card to call him if she had changed her mind.
"Partner, eh?" She mumbled placing the dishes into the sink, listening to the soft clangs that broke throught the eerily quiet as a familiar cold crawled up to her.
Unravel the unwavering truth that deceives this world . . .
If Aoko didn't know better she'd think Kaito was like a ghost. Invading her life in a moment with teasing smiles and boisterous movements, only to vanish in the next. Come to think of it, since summer started she spend less time gazing into his deep eyes and even their usual banter died out into the occasional thrown insult here and there. Kaito looks more worn out too, she thought as she peeked a look at him behind her book. The swollen lidds were very discernable whilst he laid his head on the table, eyes closed.
"Why don't you just ask him?" Keiko sat on a chair in front of her table, chopstick raised, holding on some cooked grain of rice. "You're his childhood friend, aren't you supposed to be close to him? You've been distant lately."
"I have been?" Aoko's eyes widened, "Since when?"
"I don't know, last week?" She grabbed a bottle of water, motioning with her other hand for Aoko to shut her gapping mouth. "If my memory serves me right, then it was around after your little outing with Hakuba-kun."
"Outing?" She squeaked, "H-how do you know about that?"
Keiko grinned. "How do you expect us not to know? Someone was getting in between our married couple- of course we'll know."
Aoko blanched. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. They weren't supposed to know.
She rose from her seat abruptly, the sound of a distinctive clatter drummed into her ears but she paid no heed.
"Aoko? what's wrong?"
The card Hakuba gave her felt suddenly so heavy in her pocket, and his voice rung so clearly in her head.
Become my partner,
A hand clutched her forearm, pulling her arm hard enough for to stumble over her own feet, crashing into a chest.
"Ahoko! What's up with you?" Aoko barely heard the insult, too mesmerized by the worry in his eyes, their close proximity and the stillness surrounding her. But-
"Let's together unravel this mystery that Kuroba Kaito is."
It seemed as though that she is only now, as she has Kaito so close to her and holding her so tight, she registered the words.
"Let's together unravel this mystery that Kuroba Kaito is."
She pushed off him and dashed towards the nearest exist, leaving wide eyes and gapping mouths behind her, running along the hall as she threw the card into the bin with a bit more vengeance than she should feel.
Kaito isn't Kid. He can't be.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
"You'll . . . you'll always tell me if something's wrong, right?"
Truth that unravels in these hands. . .
"You'll . . . you'll always tell me if something's wrong, right?" Aoko's tightened her hands on the strap of her bag, knuckles turning white as she bit her bottom lip. She could hear the footsteps halted behind her. Rustling on the pebbles as he took another step back to look at her face. Kaito's eyes felt heavy on her. She gulped.
"What made you say that?" His tone was light, slightly inquisitive, but most of all still guarded. His face was guarded.
"We've been . . . different." The evening breeze brushed between. Streaks of dark crimson and faint yellow crossed the sky behind him. They stood like that for far longer than a lingering moment, but the reply finally came.
"We've been busy."
You've been, she thought as he started to walk again. His strikes were quicker than before, and for a second she wondered if she made him feel uncomfortable or at least upset him but quickly cascaded it. Kaito doesn't get upset like that.
At least some things stayed the same. . .
"You always do that." She said, catching up to him. "Never answering my questions."
"That's because they're stupid- in fact you are." He snorted, "Running out of the classroom like that."
"You're still upset about that?" Aoko threw him exasperated glance. All pervious tenseness slowly ebbing away and she remembered that's how they're supposed to be. Carefree, happy, and enjoying each other company. Though she'll never say the latter out loud.
"You know," he begun lowly and her eyes widen, had she been wrong? She whipped her head towards him. His tone was dark, heavy, something it shouldn't be. And in a flash, pictures of swollen eyelids, sluggish shoulders and a memory of a drowsy morning voice, Kaito picked up on some time ago. Her eyes widened to the point they could've fall out from their socket. Weren't they getting better? As if he heard thoughts, he continued, a vein twitching on his temple. "You've never told me what that bastard wanted that evening."
She blinked. All thoughts that whirled and rambled in her mind havoc seconds ago disappeared, leaving a deep vent as she stared at him. Quiet unabashed. And then blinked again. "What?"
"Last week, you know, when you went to that café. . ." He trailed off, his left hand massaging his neck, looking away from her blatant stare. "What happened?"
His gaze lowered to her again, and it was her turn to redirect her eyes. "Oh that," she waved her hand as she scrunched up her face. "He thinks you're KID, but we both know that's not true."
Aoko waited for a reply, feet crunching below the gravels and sand. Upfront, she could see the first strand of greenery. The way to home never seemed this long before. The wind blew to her face, swaying strands of hair into her eyes as she turned, remembering, and pressed forward. "You're not, right?"
"About that," the words were spoken soft- whisper like- and Aoko's heart throbbed. His fringe covered half of his face as his footsteps came to a complete stop. Was this the moment? Was he going to tell her that he is-? Aoko felt her lunch spiral upwards, pushing up against her oesophagus. She shook her head, stumbling backwards, incline to press her hand over her ears. She didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to hear it- "I'm way cooler than him." He said nodding to himself, arms crossed. "Both of them, in fact."
Wait, what? She glared at him, at least tried to. The motion felt strange on her face that still was in a half frown. There was laughter right beside her and she jumped. When had he gotten so close? She felt so jumbled, topsy-turvy, that she didn't hear what he said. His mouth moved, but somehow her brain didn't make any connections. She must've stood there dumbly, rooted on the spot like that, for his hand tugged hers. She glanced up, glimpsing a cheeky smile twist on his lips as he pulled her in steps with him. Hands warm and face shining, Aoko felt like the breath got knocked out from her. They're alright after all, she thought then, smiling, they really were alright.
A daredevil shadow dances in glory . . .
Aoko felt invincible during the recent days. Like nothing could stop her. Even the surprise test her maths teacher flung at her that morning felt zilch. All those formulas and equations took the form of ants she easily stomped on. Keiko was certain it has something to do with Kaito, but Aoko knows that wasn't true, partially anyways.
She shifted the books she carried towards her neighbouring classroom. Keiko was adamant to have a study session over lunchtime along with the other girls for some history assessment, or she said. Aoko wasn't really paying attention. Her mind was occupied with discerning this strange warmness in her chest, each time she thinks of Kaito.
Maybe I should visit a doctor. . .
Her books toppled over as she ran into somebody. "Hey, watch it!" She grunted, quickly picking them up, not sparing the other a single glance.
"My mistake." A familiar voice hummed, bending low to help her gather them and yet asked anyway. "Need a hand?" She rolled her eyes but thanked him nonetheless. Kindness should never be ignored after all, no matter where it came from.
"Well, you've never contacted me," he begun as she turned to leave. "I think, it's fine to assume, you're rejecting."
"Haha, about that," Aoko turned sheepishly, a blush adorning her cheeks. Thinking of ways to explain without mentioning the card that fell victim to one of her angry fits. "I just don't believe in your theory." She opted at last.
"It's not that far-fetched if you think about it. . ." Aoko already tuned off, staring out of the window. It was the same thing every time, she was growing bored. He knows magic tricks, arrives exhausted to school after a heist, and-
"What?" She whipped her head back at him, snapping out from her reverie.
"I said," he started off slow, almost mocking, and Aoko would have frowned if it wasn't for the dread that was piling up in her stomach. "His physical attributes coincides with the data I've collected based on a streak of hair that lay on the ground after a heist." She opened her mouth to protest but the quickly beat her to it. "No, you weren't attending with him- not that time." She bit her lip as he shut her off again. "I've checked. His presence wasn't registered. It was a closed off building, he shouldn't have been there."
"He's an avid fan," it was faint, weak, but she still tired. Even after Hakuba's brow begun to furrow. "Might wanted to see KID up close." She shrugged, more like a helpless gesture, and Hakuba shook his head but she continued anyway. "Whatever the reason, he's not. I would know."
He breathed out a deep breath. "You're in denial and we both know it." She sunk her head at that, because- well, it's true- Kaito never objected the notion of it every time she brought it up.
But, he never consented it either.
Head still bowed, she walked passed him. Steps measured in tiny portions. The books never felt heavier in her arms as she continued on her way. A familiar cold sensation embraced her. The cold snuck further in her inside, diminishing the previous warmness her heart relished, estranging it.
Strange, we're not even at home. . .
Tell me the secret you're hiding. . .
"Aoko, you alright?"
Aoko gazed up, pen quivering between her lips as she hovered over her book. "What makes you think that, Keiko?"
"Well your spirit damped." Her brows furrowed, "Did something happen on your way here?"
How awfully perceptive, Aoko thought with a wary grin but soon found herself shaking her head. "Nope, nothing at all."
Keiko regarded her for a few second hard, roaming her face for details before muttering under her breath, "Liar." She dropped the matter after that, though. Aoko send another quick cheery grin at the other girls that regarded her with interest and concern.
Keiko nudged her, jokingly. "Stop that. You're so Kaito-like, it's strange."
Aoko breathed out a laugh. "Don't compare me with that freak."
"But you like him, though." Aya-chan said, wide eyes and smiling, and Aoko spluttered out a loud, no, they giggled on. She huffed, returned to her book while the others resumed talking, welcoming the break.
"I don't understand why, he's so cool!"
"A real prince charming!"
Aoko had to gag at that which earned her a few glares. Still chuckling, she gazed at everyone's faces. So weirdly starry eyed as they speak of him, she had to laugh. It was only Kaito they were talking about. What was the big deal?
"I wish he had more free time, though!"
Aoko perked up at that, looked straight at Aya-chan as she asked, brows furrowed, "What do you mean?"
She blushed and slightly ducked her head to avoid the blatant stare Aoko shot her with. "I mean- well- every time he gets invited to some outing he rejects. I just thought that- well- he's busy. Very busy."
"We all came up with it." Hanako- san spoke up, after the following silence. "He even rejected Akako Koizumi more than once. If she doesn't stand a chance how do we."
The conversation ended after that. One by one, they picked their books up again and buried their noses in them. Faintly, she heard pens scribbling down on notepads and the likes, as she traced the rim of her books, quiet absent-minded. Keiko nudged her a few more times, urging her to concentrate and study, but stopped after Aoko didn't- couldn't- do it for more than ten seconds. Aoko was sure Keiko would interrogate her later.
Needless to say, Aoko failed the test. Keiko also rounded her around a corner after school, just like she suspected.
"Aoko, really, what's going on with you?"
"I've told you; nothing at all."
The grip on Aoko's hand slacked and Keiko leaned again a wall, rolling her eyes. "You've been saying that, yes. But why do you then look like," Keiko moved her hands as if she's defining something. "Like- like-this!" At Aoko's confused gaze, she elaborated. "You've been on high spirit for a couple of days, all cheery and jovial, and today? You're acting all dead."
"Corpse like." Keiko amend, crossing her arms. "It happened twice today. Don't act like you don't know."
Aoko sighed, conceding, and leaned in for a hug which Keiko willingly gave. "It started last week. You know with that thing you call 'outing'. . ."
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Magic against Magic!
"What's the meaning of this?!" Nakamori bellowed, storming into the room, slamming his hands on the desk of his direct superior, formalities momentarily forgotten. He pointed a practiced finger at a newspaper he pressured a subordinate, standing a few safety metres away from him, to hold. Jirokichi Suzuki's face printed in large, and fingers that formed a peace sign, covering half his chin and half his cheek, grinned back at him. "Does he like to be robbed?!"
"Now, now, Nakamori-san," Chaki raised his hands, trying to calm him down, but was firmly ignored as the other turned and snatched the paper of his underling who immediately seized the opportunity to retreat, all shaky and sweating. But Nakamori chose to ignore that too. Instead fully concentrated on wrenching that damn face of Suzuki in between his hands, muttering strings of "old geezer," and "having too much free time," and Chaki was sure heard something like "going senile," But that couldn't be true. That would've been crude.
Nonetheless, Chaki mutely watched his junior wreck himself until he was winded- a panting mess- and only then proceeded to talk to him, motioning him to settle down before him.
"As the police, it doesn't concern us how he likes to handle his property." Chaki interlinked his hands, in front of his nose, sending a hard stare at Nakamori, who gulped but held a steady gaze.
"Matter is we need to protect it with our lives, if he have to."
Though it never came to that, and Chaki hoped it never will. There was a beat of sweat sliding down Nakamori's temple, and Chaki held a grin, knowing the next words will upset him. "Although that means, we have to protect him, too." He felt his mouth curve. "With our lives, that's it." And sure enough, Nakamori gurgled out a strangled "God forbid!" and Chaki laughed, melting away the tenseness that lurked its way in.
"Besides, this makes your work easier, no?" He smiled all wide but there was still a sharp edge that sat Nakamori on toes, his shoulders straighten the tiniest bit, Chaki could see. "He's luring KID out for you. It saves your pride a little."
Nakamori brows furrowed and his mouth twitched. From the corner of his eyes, Chaki could see his fists clenching. "All this time it was Kid selecting the pace." He continued anyway. "Coming and going as he pleases. Making us look like a laughing stock." His smile was now piercing, not at all friendly anymore. Nakamori shifted in his seat as Chaki pressed forward, "I wonder, whose fault it is?"
Nakamori froze, bruised pride and anger seemingly forgotten. And then, before Chaki could feel an ounce of sympathy for him, Nakamori sighed, energy seeming to leave him.
Chaki was indeed harsh to him, that he knew. After all Nakamori was doing his best- although at times it simply wasn't enough. He kneaded his forehead with his knuckles, already feeling a headache coming forth. Any day Kid run around free, meant for him hour-long lectures, and submitted documents as to why Kid wasn't convicted yet. He snorted. A if it was that easy, but-
If you don't catch him soon, Nakamori-san, I can't guarantee your position as a police officer anymore.
"My apologies, Chaki-Keishi," Nakamori sighed, ruffling his hair, speaking as though he heard the chief's fleeting thought. "But I don't seem to outwit him at all."
"That," Chaki said equally troubled, "I have noticed." And when Nakamori chose to stay quiet, Chaki rubbed his neck, already knowing he was going to regret the following words but steeled his voice as much as he put up the air of indifference around him and said, "Nakamori-san, you failed to imprison Kid several times, yes?"
Nakamori nodded, face straight but his fists clenched again. "That's true."
"And you're aware, you're treading on a thin line," he continued without a beat and regarded his junior hard. "That, I could fire you for incompetence in a heartbeat."
"Yes, I know."
"Then, don't disappoint me."
"I won't, Keishi." and this time Chaki saw that Nakamori's eyes were alight and blazing, and he breathed out, relieved. Glad that the news fuelled him instead of crushed him further. "Not this time."
He spoke of so much conviction, Chaki was sure he heard "Not with this much on stake" follow, but he was wrong. Nakamori was already up and storming down the hall with new found determination and- probably- cackling like a madman, as he was surely, by now, muttering a range of plans under his breath.
Hopefully, they will work too, Chaki thought veering in his chair to gaze out of the window.
He couldn't afford to lose skilful men, no matter how maniacal they were.
A daredevil shadow dances in glory . . .
Aoko shot Keiko a disbelieving look. "You're out of your mind."
“It will work! I gave thought to it.” Keiko reassured, laying on Aoko’s bed on her stomach, folding her arms on the open paged magazine, she been flipping through. “This way you can figure everything out yourself without playing into Hakuba’s hands. You’ll get to see Kid yourself. You can judge him for yourself, if he’s Kid or not. And besides,” Keiko rose a brow at her. “The heist is in two days. You don’t have much choice.”
Aoko was already shaking her head vehemently, burying her nose deeper into her workbook as if trying to hide from Keiko's (alarming) sparkling eyes. "You're method is way too crazy. They always are."
"How's so?" She smiled, quick and wicked, and Aoko's warning bells were ringing louder than ever before. "The last time I had such a brilliant idea, it got me an awesome date and dessert for free."
"And I got convicted for theft. . ." She started to mutter under her breath and Keiko butted in again.
"I didn't know he didn't pay." She adjusted her glasses, closing the magazine. "Who told you to stay there anyway? You should have left when we did. They wouldn't have caught you on footage, then."
Aoko shot her a hateful glare. "You know I wanted that Strawberry Jumbo ice cream."
Keiko laughed, breathing out a "They let you go later, though!" followed by a wheezed "Why are you still mad?", but Aoko ignored her, and turned back to her homework. Not so much as mad as Keiko thought but more amused at Keiko's vile habit to choke herself to death with her own laughter. Keiko's words still echoed in her ears. Her idea was absurd and improbable, not to mention the consequences were unfathomable. She wondered why did she even bothered to listen and-
. . .Are we going to jail if we're caught?
"No, but your Dad might loath me for putting his precious angel in danger." Came Keiko's direct reply and Aoko blinked, somewhat confused, somewhat suspicious, and then, snorted.
"What? It's not my fault you're obvious. For someone hanging out with Kaito as much as you do, you sure aren't adapting his pokerface." Keiko wrinkled her nose, continuing. "Although you've been gaining some other stuff from him."
Aoko frowned, protest thick on her tongue, about to spring out too when-
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
Keiko grabbed her phone from the nightstand, peering at the ID before tossing it Aoko, giggling, and Aoko noted with a thump that Keiko's eyes were glittery again. She took the call, waiting a few moments and then, sure enough, Kaito spoke first.
"I won't be able to come tomorrow."
Words spoken tentative and heavy. Low and hoarse. And Aoko could feel herself already resigning.
Could already identify the regret seeping in her. Her words, though, were slow and drawn out in full bloom. So contrasting him.
"Don't wait for me."
The call ended. Just like that. And Keiko was already on her feet. Eyes big and worried, and Aoko couldn't help wishing that they should sparkle again. That the atmosphere should be light and happy, not anxious and gloomy. It was only Kaito after all. He was always jumping to places, doing things on his own. Always leaving these gasps, she was bumping into. Especially, when she was trailing him, trying to catch up to him.
It's not like I expected anything else.
He's going to continue evolving, even if it means leaving her behind. He always had a mind of his own. A mind that stopped at nothing. Even if it ended up burning him. Or her. Or anyone for that matter. She gazed up at Keiko, resolve brimming in her eyes, blistering and scorching.
"You plan," she forced out, quenching the troubled feelings rousing in her stomach. "Tell me your plan again."
"Oh, alright." It was Keiko's turn to blink at the sudden mood change. "Why though? I thought you were against it."
Aoko's gaze lingered on the window for a moment, meeting swirls of dark blue and twists of purple along with the fading sun.
"Let's just say I can't fill his gaps anymore."
. . . But I don't want him to leave either.
. . . Show me the world you're hiding.
Ginzō sat in his office, pen tapping against the doodled sheet that lay on his desk. For the life of him he couldn't conjure a plan impermeable enough. It seemed like all his ideas weren't as . . . secure. Kid definitely could come up with something to avert it, and then counterattack with his nonsensical hogwash magic. Ginzō tossed his pen down and stretched his aching muscles above his head, gazing at the frozen clock, lost in thought.
"Keibu!" The door swung open, revealing one of his many men saluting, just like Ginzō wanted.
Back straight, facing forward with a firm expression- unyielding and brave. Ginzō nodded to himself, that's how the police was supposed to be. "We received Kid's message. He accepted the challenge!"
"What else did you expect?" He murmured, taking the notice his subordinate reached out to him.
He read through it, mulled it over, and scribbled again on his sheet again, barely noticing the other still standing there, fidgeting. "Umm, Keibu?"
"Yes?" He asked mindlessly.
"Chaki-Keishi wants to know, if you have a plan set."
At that he looked up, brows creasing. "Did he tell you why?"
"Well, he said if you are having trouble," his subordinate began slowly, managing not to fumble over his words, and his tentativeness led Ginzō brows to sank further.
He isn't going to say what I think he is, is he?
Ginzō regarded him hard, a dangerous grin growing on his face, while the other practically now damped the floor with his dripping sweat.
"There is always Hakuba-kun to rely on. Chaki-Keishi said he'll be atte-"
The officer tried to finish but ended up squeaking at the flaring fire radiating behind his superior's back, all flashing and raging. He pressed the back of his hand against his mouth to supress another high pitched sound when Ginzō levelled an, glowing demonical, eye on him.
"Ah, is that so?" Ginzō rose from his seat, spouting the words with a dark edge that had the younger backing towards the door, cowering. Ginzō's eyes fell back on the notice, stashing it away in his pocket and headed to the door, opening it. A gust of air blew on his face and Ginzō gazed at the other, who somehow managed to end up at the other side of his office, near the window. He blinked and then gave the other an odd looked at which the officer choked on but Ginzō ignored that, waving his hands and mumbling a low, unimpressed, "You're dismissed."
Slightly wondering, why the majority of his subjects acted so strange around him.
He decided scratching the back of his head, and left the room, strolled down the end of the hall, through the doors, into the lobby, out the double doors, aimlessly walking around until his feet met familiar gravel and sand along with the occasional mud he sidestepped. When he saw the first streak of red above the glowing yellow and twirls of orange, he decided to head home.
As his feet guided him through the various streets and turns, a distant glimpse of a bright yellow glow from Aoko's window finally met his wandering eyes. He smiled momentarily before frowning.
Someone ahead of him, presumably male, stood close to the walls, staring at the same direction he did seconds prior. A nerve twitched on Ginzō's temple, his hands closing into fists.
Who had the guts to peep at my daughter?!
The man crooked his head slightly, a mesh of brown hair, illuminated by the streetlights, came to his view along with shining sea blue eyes, and Ginzō's eyes squinted.
Is that Kaito-kun?
His eyes widened. Was he seeing things? Ginzō rubbed his eyes, blinked, and looked again. The sight hasn't changed. It was indeed Kaito.
He closed his eyes, mentally prepared himself, straightened his tie, and walked as professional as he could. Ginzō made extra sure that his eyes were sharper than usual. Hs voice more menacing than usual. He clasped Kaito on the shoulder, ignoring the way the boy flinched beneath his hand, and said with a strained measured voice, "I never took you for that type."
"Nakamori-Keibu!" Kaito jumped, not expecting him to be so close to him, and then raised a delicate brow as he let out a confused. "What do you mean?"
"You might be a family friend but such dirty acts don't go unpunished, especially when it happened to be my own daughter." My inner police just won't allow that.
"Nakamori-Keibu, what are you talking about?"
"I honestly expected more from you," he said clutching Kaito's forearm, getting out his handcuffs. "But even the good ones seem to turn out to be scams."
"He- hey! Wait a moment!" Kaito flailed, twisted and pulled his arm away from Ginzō's appearing hawk-like clutch, but soon enough -a click!- resounded and Kaito screeched as manly as he could- which actually wasn't that much. "What's this for?!"
"As if you didn't know already." The Inspector snorted, throwing him a heated gaze over his shoulder, "I will fill a Case File on this. But I must say you're devious, a real trickster." At Kaito's puzzled expression he elaborated. "If I haven't seen you on action today myself, I would've never believed you're a peep."
After a few more thoughts on the matter and the resurfacing memory of who actually the victim was, Ginzō gurgled and whirled his head from left to right. Remembering, all those days he left those two on their own devices alone at home.
How many times had Kaito peeked at her like that? What kind of Dad had he bee- no- that was in the past now. It was, what kind of Dad will he be, if Ginzō leaves matters as they stood. Nodding to himself, he pulled the chains, dragging Kaito along with him who still resisted with his feet.
"I haven't done anything!"
"Tell that your solicitor, in fact, tell them you peeped at my daughter too."
Kaito's jaw hit the floor, pokerface momentarily forgotten. "Whaaat?!"
"No need to deny, kid. I have already seen your real face."
"You're misunderstanding! Keibu I-!" Another not so many squeak fell from his lips as Ginzō pointed his gun at his face, his face awfully close to Kaito's as he spit out, "Save it." And pulled the chain again but ended up pulling the air.
Ginzō turned, seeing Kaito standing steps behind him, rubbing and twisting his wrists and his eyes widened. He strode forward, grabbed Kaito's hands and examined them from all sides.
"How'd you do that?"
"Huh?" Ginzō's eyes roamed his face. Kaito must've noticed how serious he looked, for he answered again, more serious too. "That is something I cannot tell you."
The Inspector scrubbed his chin, mumbling before him and Kaito took the opportunity to drag his hands back. "Work with me."
"Work with me." Ginzō repeated. His eyes looked so earnest, as he stepped in front of the younger. "Maybe with you we can finally capture Kid. You're from the same coin as him, after all."
But, of course. How could he overlook such an important detail? Kid would never expect to compete with his somebody of his own kind. Especially not somebody as advanced as Kaito in magic. Aoko said he was the best, after all.
"Weren't you about to arrest me?"
"I will if you don't accept." Ginzō's grinned and Kaito blanched. "Be thankful. If it had been anyone else I wouldn't mind reporting it. See it as your chance to redeem yourself." There was a short silence which Ginzō quickly filled. "I won't tell Aoko either."
Kaito's brows furrowed. "I never peeped."
But, Ginzō already clasped his hands together, excitement lingering in his eyes and muttering something were suspicious like "magic against magic!" but nobody could be sure.
"Suzuki's holding an exhibition in two days, I expect you to be there to check it out tomorrow."
"Alright," Kaito breathed out, surrendering to his fate when his eyes suddenly snapped open. "Wait- tomorrow?!"
"What, you got something else planned?" Ginzō threw him a glance over his shoulder, halting his footsteps.
"Well, yeah I have."
Ginzō sighed, racked a hand through his hair, and then turned, facing Kaito again. "My job is on the line, you know. They will fire me if I fail." He didn't know what compelled him to confine into a teenager, but it felt strangely good to let his troubled thoughts out. Or maybe it was only because he was speaking to Kaito. "I can't fail this. I hope you know that."
Ginzō left after that, crossed the final metres separating him from his house. When he opened his front door, Ginzō risked a glance over his shoulder and sure enough, Kaito was still rooted to the same spot he left him earlier in. He felt sort of bad, but Kaito could always ignore his words.
They weren't his troubles after all. He only hope Kaito knew that, too.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
“Jii-chan, where are you?”
Thanks for those Kudos. They don't seem much but they mean a lot to me.
Truth that unravels in these hands. . .
Kaito pulled the hem of his shirt up. Although they were quiet reaching the peak of summer, the weather still shifted randomly. It was unpredictable. He rubbed his arms as he neared the back entrance of the Blue Parrot. He fumbled the key out of his pockets and hurriedly unlocked the door. Thoughts of drinking hot chocolate warmed his inside as he stepped in. The room was dimly lit. Rows of clean wineglasses sat on the counter and the smell of alcoholic beverages were still thick in the air. Kaito scrunched his nose, distastefully. How anyone could drink that stuff was beyond him.
“Jii-chan,” he hummed, voice low, yet seemed too loud behind the stillness of the room. He stepped deeper inside, looking over the chairs and tables to get a glimpse of the person that failed to receive him. “Jii-chan,” He tried again, gazing around. “Where are you?” No answer. Kaito frowned and inspected the whole room. Nothing. The room was absolutely empty of anybody other than him.
Strange. . . Even though I told him I would come.
He scratched the back of his head before a bulb switched on above his head. Kaito his phone out, dialled his number, and closed his eyes to hear the slightest sound. He waited. Waited. Waited. Waited. Wait-
His eyes opened in a flash, ears detecting something faint. He stared at a smudge on the counter, concentrating on his ears and-
There was it again, a faint beep. Kaito grinned, following the sound. He climbed over the counter, careful not the hit the glass, and opened a dark door he never saw before. He blinked but went in anyway, phone still clutched tight in his hand. He followed the sound that led him to a dark hall that ended with a small spiral staircase.
“Jii-chan? Are you up there?”
Kaito’s voice echoed, but there was still no reply. His brows drew down, stuffing his phone into his pocket, he jumped up the stairs, taking to at a time. As he skipped the last one, the brown haired saw another door. Without thinking he pushed the handle down. The door creaked open and Kaito pushed his shoulders up. Suppressing the urge to recoil with goose bumps. That door is in a desperate need of an oiling, he thought, walking further in and stumbled on a pair of something Kaito couldn’t really see. The lights were still off. He just hoped it wasn’t rats or the likes of fish. He stopped a shudder.
Kaito, stay rational. Why would here- where’s no water and no kitchen be (a dead) fish?
He prompt himself to continuing walking when-
What was that?
Kaito perked up, listening in. Willing for that sound to come again, and sure enough there it was. Faint, barely there, like a whisper but loud enough for him to hear and discern. It was doubtless the dull sound of someone snoring. He followed the chocked sound that directed him to what he thought was a living room. The before unclear outlines, he could now distinguish and differentiate in the dark assured him that. He strode closer into the room, where he saw a lump on the sofa, veiled in a blanket. Kaito reached out and shook it.
“Jii-chan,” he hummed again, amused at the revelation. “Jii-chan is that you?”
The bulge shifted as Kaito continued to quake it, murmuring the elders name now and then. A muffled sound resonated beneath the cover and Kaito held a snicker when Jii’s face finally peaked out, dishevelled and disordered. He mumbled a drowsy “Kaito?” A string of apologies stuttering from him forth as he quickly gazed around. Probably in search of him, Kaito thought, staring at his frantic assistant. The younger sighed, shook his head and looked for Jii’s glasses he immediately found lolling on the table and gave it to him while muttering a fake, exasperated, “I’m here, Jii-chan.”
“Ah! Botchama, what brought you here?” Jii began after they settled down. Lights now on and quilts packed away. Handing Kaito his much craved hot brew, he immediately sipped from. “You never told me on the phone.”
“Stuff happened. Weird stuff.” Jii was always quiet when Kaito threw his baggage on him. Listening, advising and soothing him now and then but mostly listened. So, naturally Kaito was surprised when Jii started subtly accusing him of it all being his own fault after he was done summing all those occurrences up. Of course, Jii didn’t say it out loud, but the blatant stare he gave Kaito spoke volumes. “Don’t stare at me like that.”
Jii calmly drank from his coffee, muttering a simple, “I told you so.” Kaito groaned.
There we go, again.
“Your risky ways of heisting, pulling the inspector and his men into a wild goose chase after another. Completely smashing and outsmarting them with your magic tricks. Repeatedly.” Jii sighed heavy with remorse. “Why couldn’t you be more subtle? Quick and swift instead of flashy?”
Kaito narrowed his eyes on him. To him, it sounded more like Jii was saying, “If you asked me, you were asking for it.”
“That’s just how Kid is,” he replied, crossing his arms. “Enjoying the thrill.”
“Toichi-sama wasn’t like that. In fact, he was-”
Kaito grumbled before opting for a loud, “Get to the point already,” to cut his assistant off.
“Oh, so you noticed?”
The younger snorted, “Why else would you lecture me?”
Jii laughed and sipped his half empty coffee, somewhat pondering, then spoke up. “I was thinking, maybe you could try something new for once. Something a little safer,” At Kaito’s annoyed glare, the assistant raised his hand as if to say let me finish and Kaito rolled his eyes, propping his cheek on his fist. “The way I see things, the police won’t even suspect a thing.”
“Hakuba will be there. And maybe even that sly kiddie detective.” Kaito mentions, gazing up the ceiling. “I doubt it.”
“I didn’t forget.” Said Jii, smile fading. “There’s also the chance that it might get hazardous.” At that Kaito perked up, looking at Jii stern expression with curious eyes. “You must not get distracted.”
“C’mon, Jii-chan, tell me already. What’s this idea about?”
“Well, you see. . .” Jii started uneasily broaching the topic. “You and Aoko are more distant nowadays, and the way you’re walking around,” he pointed at Kaito’s swollen eyelids and his sickly pallor that resulted from his more frequent rip-offs. “She must be suspecting you’re really occupied with something.”
“Who wouldn’t, Watson?” Kaito dead-panned, and then- almost unexpectedly- his eyes flashed, cheeks warming up. “Just what are you implying, anyway!?”
“Let me finish!” He coughed, holding a fist a little away from his lips. “Fact is, she might be planning something.”
The reply came immediately. “Impossible.”
“What if she were to come to the gem’s exhibition,” Jii continued on a roll, completely ignoring Kaito and his fast retorts.
“Along with somebody more- shall I say- experienced?”
“What are you suggesting Jii-chan? That she’ll go with Hakuba?”
It was ridiculous. The whole notion of it. There was no way in hell Aoko would waltz with that detective to his heist. Even the picture of them interlinking their arms and smiling at each other in accomplishment, whilst he was being handcuffed at the back, dragged away in to a police car by Nakamori seemed- Kaito’s eyes widened and he gasped, chocking on the chocolate that set his throat on fire as he zoomed closer into the picture his mind created- It seemed completely real! Too real. Maybe, there was really something going on, and-
They did meet up in that café. . .
No, no, no. Don’t think of it. Kaito drove his fingers through his hair, scrunching and crushing it as he whirled his head from left to right. Don’t think of it. Don’t think of it. Don’t think of it. Don’t think of it. Don’t think of it-
“But we can exploit exactly that.” Kaito looked up. Seeing Jii’s eyes alight almost blazing, and breathed out, nursing his throat. “Some are thinking you’re Kid. And others think you’ll catch Kid.” At Kaito’s now confused gaze, he elaborated. His smile sharp and wicked, and Kaito’s lips mirrored it after Jii was done saying, “But Kaitou Kid can’t be at the same place Kaito Kuroba is. Especially not when they’re after each other.”
“The ultimate situation to find out whether I am Kid or not.” Kaito concluded. His grin spreading. He could already feel the thrill and danger well up inside him. “That’s awesome, Jii-chan. Why didn’t I come up with that?”
“Well for one, you weren’t thinking. Usually, you always look at matters after a good night’s rest.” Jii offered, placing his empty mug on the table. “Besides, it’s still dangerous. The slightest slip up and-“
“I know, I know. I’ll be careful.” Kaito waved his hand, turning his cheek somewhat away from the glowing light. A little excited that this might be the right patch to save their friendship. “You seemed to forget, that I will handle the security. I’ll turn it into my favour, so don’t worry.”
“Then we’ll have start preparing tomorrow morning.” Jii stretched his arms, hearing his muscles and then gave Kaito a sly side way glance. “Have you told Aoko-san already?”
“Oh, about that,” Kaito set his own mug down, gazing at Jii with a glint in his eyes. “I need to ask you something. . .”
You don’t know the compromise, the fake shadow.
Keiko woke up with the sweet aroma of food lingering in the air. She glanced at digital clock on the table. It four hours earlier than she usually woke up. Curiously, she grabbed her glasses and advanced towards the kitchen where the scent originated from. Popping her head inside the kitchen, she saw her best friend roaming through cupboards, sizzling pans on the stove along with boiling pots. Keiko gave the display an odd look before sighing. It was always the same thing. She rubbed her temple, already feeling a migraine coming up.
“Aoko, what are you doing?” Her voice soft, just above a whisper. Keiko moved to shut the stove off, ignoring Aoko’s loud protest and took her hand, guiding her to a chair she pulled back for her and commanded Aoko to have a seat.
“I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’ll do breakfast instead.” Aoko shrugged, shifting in her seat. Not quite meeting her eyes at which Keiko rose a brow at.
You’re not a very good liar.
“What were you thinking?”
“I- nothing, I just-“
Keiko rolled her eyes exasperated but tried again. “What were you thinking?”
“Aoko, tell me the truth. What were you thinking?” Keiko wasn’t sure whether she looked intimidating standing in her pyjama like that, with a hand placed on her hip and her head tilted closer to Aoko, somewhat staring down at her. Or if it was particularly her glare that caused Aoko to shift more in her seat, fidgeting and wringing her oversized shirt with her fingers. Either way she was glad, for Aoko was finally spilling the beans, although it was a rather an inaudible “Phone call.” That brushed past her lips.
“The one from yesterday? From Kaito-kun?” When Aoko nodded, Keiko pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to remain calm. “What did he say?”
Aoko looked up, her blue eyes slightly wet and Keiko took a step closer, kneeling in front of her and placed her palms on her knees. Her voice was more pressing too. “What did he say?”
But Aoko gazed away. “I told you yesterday.”
“No, you didn’t. I’d remember.” Aoko ducked her head, probably feeling guilty but Keiko could care less.
It’s not like she tells me everything.
And that was fine. There were more urging matters to deal with, like finding out what was bothering Aoko so much to be waking up three o’clock in the morning.
“Well, Kaito said he won’t be coming and that I shouldn’t wait for him.”
“Wait for him for breakfast?” Aoko bobbed her head and Keiko’s brows furrowed. “Then why don’t you just have lunch with him instead?”
Aoko shook her head. “You don’t understand.”
Keiko’s brow creased more when Aoko raised her index finger and started to count all the meals with her hand and shook her head again, whispering that Kaito won’t come to any of them. In fact, he even wouldn’t come to school on that particular day. Before Aoko could even rumble on, Keiko halted her, hurling her hands upwards and let out a repeated “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!”
“I understand he won’t come to school today. That’s reasonable. That’s fine.” Keiko breathed out, remembering the drop in temperature during the days recently and held on the last piece of sanity she had. “But where on earth did you get that other stuff from?”
“Well, it’s Kaito. He doesn’t say matters out loud but hints at it.” Her tone grew quiet and Keiko strained her ears to catch the last words. “I won’t see him at all, today.”
“Alright. Fine.” Keiko squeezed her eye shut, suppressing an eye roll. “But why the cooking?”
Aoko cheeks redden. “W-well, I was thinking that maybe I could bring him some food? At least then, I might see him.”
Keiko slapped her forehead, breathing deeply through her nose. “Go to bed. Now.” Aoko bat her lashes, sapphire eyes wide and round as they trail down at Keiko's hand that was pulling her up to her feet. “It's too early in the morning to deal with this.” Aoko yelped when Keiko firmly pushed her into her bedroom, closing the door on her. “Goodnight!”
As the door clinked shut, Keiko leaned against the door frame, tipping her head against the cold metal as she sighed, heavily. A smile sneaking on her lips, nonetheless. She walked back to the guest room and threw herself at the soft covers, welcoming the dreams sleep lulled her with.
Aoko sighed for the fifteen time that afternoon and rubbed her eyes. She has been tossing and turning in her bed until the rise of dawn when she decided to get up. Sneaking into the kitchen to finish off- as quietly as she could- breakfast. It earned her in turn her complete lectures of 'the natural human cycle of sleep' and 'the importance of resting' by Keiko. Aoko rolled her eyes and propped her cheek in her hand. As if she didn't know already.
But, she has been happy though. That was for sure. After all, her Dad stopped by her bedroom door and wished her goodnight after so long. Aoko smiled, relishing the memory and the warm, cosy feeling bubbling in her chest before a her lips tugged south. Remembering, how he couldn't maintain eye contact with her during breakfast. Mumbling strings of “Poor soul”, “Too naive” and “Having an outlaw for . . .” something Aoko couldn't quite catch but she didn't need to. The gaze Keiko gave her spoke for itself. He was certainty feeling guilty about something. For what though? As far as she could tell he hasn't done anything.
Aoko shrugged, redirecting her gaze at the teacher standing at the front. A middle aged women with black rimmed glasses perched on her nose. Her sharp eyes flickered around the class now and then, randomly calling out names of classmates that were to read out loud.
Aoko listened to some baritone voice of somebody she couldn't place a face to. Brows knitting, she sent flashes of peeks in every possible direction with the hope of catching a glimpse of him. Unsuccessfully. He just wouldn't pop up behind the faces of others. Aoko sighed into her book and placed it down. Her gaze wandering to the window again but strayed to the seat next to hers instead.
Keiko's brows shot up during registration, shooting Aoko a fleeting look when their homeroom teacher announced Kaito's absence for the day and which Aoko returned with a blatant look that screamed, “I told you so.”
Yet, she wasn’t feeling satisfied at all. Aoko sighed again, banging her head against the desk.
Just what was wrong with me?
She turned away from Kaito’s seat, bolstered her chin against the cool surface of her desk and gazed at the open paged book that slouched centimetres away from her nose, catching swirls of deep, thick amethyst locks. Slick and smooth as they hung over the chair almost long enough to swipe the floor with the tip of her loose curls.
Akako’s hair is really beautiful, Aoko decided then, still starring at too pretty mane, and drew a hand through her own shock of brown hair.
Mine, is nothing compare to hers.
Aoko breathed out, puffing away slacks of brown chestnut hair that hovered over her eyes and slumped into her seat. She turned her head a little, flicking a sapphire coloured eye back at Kaito’s seat, sort of reminiscing.
He even rejected Akako Koizumi more than once.
“Kaito, you’re stupid.” She muttered under her breath, “So stupid.”
But that was to be expected, she thought, sitting up straight and pulled her book towards her chest as the teacher threw a flighty glance at her direction but picked a girl positioned in the last row instead. Kaito might be stupid at times but yet knows when to settle for perfection. He always did after all. Always wanting the best. Which kept Aoko wondering why they were friends still.
She was a klutz and makes a complete fool out of herself at times- something Kaito definitely wasn’t striving for. So, why did Kaito keep knocking on her door- kept coming for more? He didn’t need to. In fact, he could leave at any time. Aoko wouldn’t hold it against him if he did. All those cracks between them were only getting bigger, anyway. Penetrating their friendship and possibly breaking it. The distance between them was more apparent too, now.
Students of other classes confronted her about it. Questioning and probing her as to what happened to them. As to why she let it happened to them. As if Aoko had the power to fix it- to fill those ever widening holes, no matter how much she tries to plug it and just kept getting bigger- and she once had. A long time ago, that’s it.
She had been watching his unreachable shadow for probably years now. But never had it been so uncontrollable- unmanageable. Although, they were always there. And it was ruining Aoko and Kaito- at least that was what the others said. But Aoko could care less. As long as Kaito was holding on to their crashing friendship, she would too. Though-
I wonder when it happened.
When our differences became too great to ignore anymore.
Besides, wasn’t Akako-chan the name of perfection? If he declined her, a shining beauty, then what was he aiming for? What did he want? Aoko sank her head as her heart beat picked up, eyes widening. Was it possible that he wasn’t aiming for perfection? Had Aoko gotten it wrong after all? Was that why he still bothered to spend time with her? Maybe-
Aoko shook her head, hurling the thoughts tout of her mind. She shouldn’t get her hopes up. This- whatever they had right now- was enough. It was fine.
Dropping her head against the surface of her desk, Aoko closed her eyes. In the distant, she heard the bell ringing. The lesson was over but Aoko didn’t raise her head. Instead she sighed and grabbed her bag and strolled out of the door, back hunched and head still sunken.
“What’s with that long face,” Keiko greeted her with glittery eyes and sharp smiles, near the gate. “You should be excited.” When Aoko didn’t replied but bit her lip instead, Keiko interlinked their arms and smiled extra cherry. Probably for the both of them, Aoko thought. “Come on, tomorrow's the big day!”
For you maybe, Aoko knew Keiko's crazy plan was barely conceived to aid Aoko's emotional turmoil and suspicion but more to satiate Keiko's 'secret' fan-girling side. After all, who wouldn't want to see Kid in action? Aoko definitely not but- she send a quick contemplative look at Keiko's glowing face- she would absolutely fight tooth and nail for it. Aoko sighed for the umpteenth time that day.
I just hope it won't get bloody.
“Let's get this over with.” Keiko yelped when Aoko dragged her along with her. Footsteps measured in ample steps as they crossed the distance towards Aoko's house. “We need to prepare, right?” Aoko threw Keiko a sideways glance, “Then, let’s start now”.
I want this done quickly.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Pretending to be unwell. . .
Kaito stared entrance of the Keishichō. The building never looked more towering than now as he stood before it. Taking in a deep breath, Kaito adjusted the mouthpiece Jii gave him for drastic measurement. For example:
Pretending to be unwell.
He opened the front doors, instantly meeting his rival's environment. Metres ahead of him, officers of all ranks were lining up for elevators at one corner, leaning in to converse about mundane occurrences or a case, now and then. While others took the stairs, briefcase raised as they strode upwards in solitude, bypassing others or ramming into them but not without calling a swift apology over their shoulders. And there were some workers, buzzing left and right to deliver some papers or case fills, if not the occasional coffee. All in all, exactly what Kaito expected.
With slouched shoulders, he sauntered to the reception area of the police Headquarters and prepared himself for the worst. From what he could tell, the lady whose name was- he squinted the insignia pinned to her blouse but the characters were too long for him to discern, either that or he was standing too far to be able to read it, Kaito was sure it was the latter- something, sat behind the desk looking as though she was out for his head. But that was to be suspected he thought, gazing at her dark primed hair and harsh knitted brows. He was out of place after all.
“Excuse me?” Kaito begun, nearing her but still made sure to stand several steps away from the desk. He adjusted his voice to near hoarse and yet husky enough to be heard over the rustling papers and the distant lulling beep from the photocopier. “Nakamori-Keibu asked for my presence-“
“Kuroba Kaito?” The lady chimed, brows shooting upwards. All traces of animosity cascaded away as she sized him up and down. Eyes flicking at him from all direction and Kaito shifted his feet from side to side to at least avert some of her laser beam like eyes. “The elite weapon? You?” She breathed out. Seemingly done scrutinising him and Kaito frowned.
What was up with that lady?
“I'm sorry. Nakamori-san must be waiting for you. We'll go right away.” She bolted from her seat. Snatched loose papers lolling on her desk and tucked them into a binder she fished out from the drawers beneath her. The lady- whose name was Tachibana, Kaito disovered, peeking at her identification card once more- turned her head towards another other women at the far endof the room. She was leaning against a wall, chatting with collegues she was having coffeee with, if the thick smell of grained and roosted coffee beans was anything to go by.
“Tanaka-san!” Kaito jumped when the Tachibana raised her voice and waved a hand at her. “He's here!”
The women- Tanaka- perked up, lifting her head above the others. “The elite- like weapon?” Kaito dropped a sweat when rest of the room stared at him. Muffled voices and whispers roused up, but Tanaka's voice blared on top of it all with a blasting “Where?” Her dark hair bobbed, flaring around as she gazed around the room and landed on Kaito for a split of a second but continued on her search until Tachibana pointed a pen at Kaito. Her sparkling eyes dimmed as her eyes flashed back at him, unimpressed. Kaito huffed and crossed his arms. He might not know what the deal was, but it was sort of unflattering as much as it was scathing and it annoyed him. Greatly.
“Look-” he started but discontinued after noticing at Tanaka's intense stare and gulped. Swallowing down the uneasiness that well inside him as her eyes remaining seconds too long on his mouth-guard.
“You don't mean that kid? He's the secret baton? That sicky?”
“Ahem!” Tachibana coughed, her eyes glinting dangerously and Tanaka squeaked out an apology, bowing low in Kaito's direction and he took a step back in response. “Yes, now go on your post. You're covering for me, if you haven't forgotten.” Tachibana tucked the pen behind her ear, holding the binder under her arm as she strode forwards. “Kuroba-san, follow me. We're behind schedule.”
Kaito send a last lingering look at Tanaka before catching up to her.
Policewomen sure are strange.
But so was Nakamori and he was man. Kaito shrugged, opting that all police-people associated with Nakamori must have a least one weird trait.
Tachibana dragged him down varieties of white washed walls, escalators and hallways. Giving him information here and there as they walked through the maze until they finally reached a double door at the end of the hallway they turned in. Kaito bowed slightly, shuffled on the scruffy floor and coughed now and then which earned him pitiful glances from Tachibana. Kaito hid a grin, pride and satisfaction swelled warm in his chest. His plan was working, For, Tachibana patted his shoulders whispering a low, “Don't strain yourself too much.” and “Be sure to take it easy with those blokes.” before opening one of the doors and announced his arrival.
Nakamori sprang from his seats about to receive him when he stopped dead on his tracks. The curve of his mouth sank and his gaze wandered around his face, staring visibly hard at his mouthpiece and at his swollen eye lids. Fidgeting, Kaito watched Nakamori mumble and eventually sighing. Deeply.
“You shouldn't have come. Go back and rest.”
Before Kaito could spew his well practicedspeech as to why Nakamori should let him assist him in his current condition. The other policemen spoke up.
“Is that the one you told me of? Your super surprise weapon?” His brows drew down as he continued. “He doesn't look all too promising now, does he?”
“No. Not anymore, Chaki-Keishi.” Nakamori rubbed his neck, shoulders slumping the tiniest bit as he said,“Although, I did hope he'll be the break through.”
“I can still help, Keibu.” Kaito spoke up still standing near the entrance. “After all we won't do anything that requires tremendous strength, right? I will be okay.”
“I'm not sure. You might get worse.”
“But the kid still seems eager enough to give a hand. Tell me, why is that?” Chaki's eyes fell on him, icy and frigid and yet so hard, Kaito suppressed a shudder and smile instead, carelessly and easy. The outline discernible underneath the fabric of his mouth cover and slightly singsonged his answered but made sure to reinforce the conviction and acuteness as he spoke. Chaki listened quietly as he rumbled on and on, using small gestures every now and then.
In all honesty, Kaito himself didn't know what came out of his mouth. All he knew was to bring out his Kid loving side, play the card of a good family friend and ultimately speak of his personal gain from it all. The thrill of meeting and competing to a 'professional' magician and hey, he might get to be bold printed on the newspaper this time and might appear on the news. Not that he cared much, but Kaito needs to act his age sometimes, even if it was only acting on his part.
Though, he hadn't expected for them both to be staring at him as though he was- well, alien like. It was after all normal for a teenager to gush at their hero or heroine at times.
. . . right?
Kaito didn't know anymore when neither of them moved. Their eyes were a little wide and their mouth opened just a bit to see a strip of pink lurking between their teeth. If anything they were surprised and astounded. But what about though? Kaito frowned before he remembered and coughed somewhat sheepishly, momentarily forgetting his other act and engaged himself into a self made coughing fit, waking the policeman out of their stupor as his body recoiled and shook. Nakamori held out a bottle of water which Kaito took and drank as if he just came from a desert straight from Northern Africa and breathed out a feeble “Thanks.”
”He's pretty motivated for it.” Chaki-Keishi begun, swivelling his chair to face Nakamori. “As long as he doesn't push himself too much, I don't see why can't help you.”
But, Nakamori still sent and unsure gaze at Kaito. His brows were furrowed and his fingers grazed his chin. From the looks of it Kaito was sure his efforts were for nought. He hung his head a little and sighed, exaggeratedly loud but that did it. For Nakamori sighed too, a little less audibly and scratched his head, something he had been doing a lot more lately. He'll grow bold if he keeps this up, Kaito thought, touching his own hair crown.
I'll need to stop doing that, too.
“Alright then,” Nakamori stood up, pushed his chair back and saluted, nudging Kaito to do the same. “You're one of us, now.” He told him as they walked back through the maze to the front doors. They also stumbled onto Tachibana. She congratulated him by handing him a newly made identification card. It was his own, even if it was temporary.
“Get used to it.” Was all Nakamori said but that was enough. Kaito knew he was handling fire by agreeing to this fiasco and now apparently got his hands burned. His stomach lurched slightly for guilt as he gazed down at his insignia. After all, he was deceiving them. They gave him nothing but kindness although they were mad around the edges but-
Hold on a minute, Kaito thought touching his stomach, he was just hungry.
He snickered to himself. Maybe he should step by Aoko's later. . . He quickly discarded that thought. Kaito told her he'd be absent for the day, coming over as a liar was one of the things he didn't want at all, (which is sort of strange considering he was a trickster).
Guess, I'll stop by the convenience store later.
Kaito looked out of the window as Nakamori was filling him in with information with eyes poised on the windscreen. Mostly materials he already knew. Instead, he concentrated on the passing scenery in his view as they drove up to their agreed 'showdown' building and focused on the matters at hand.
There's a lot he needs to do, after all.
“Baaya, don't worry.” Saguru said with a slight smile, opening the car door and stepped out onto the grey pavement. “I will be fine, you'll see.”
“Hmm, just don't get yourself hurt.” she said swirling the key, roaring the motor alive before poking her head through the halfopened window, shouting a hurried goodbye at his retreating back before driving away. Saguru nodded at the receding car andadjusted his penny coloured collar, hugging his coat closer to him aswalkedover to the large glass made double doors of Suzuki's gallery.
Inside, he was instantly met by display cases lined up near the walls adjacent to another row filled with varieties of burnished jewels and gems, leading up to the middle where other cases were positioned in snake like circles, twirling and twisting in one way into another and yet never touching the middle where a single case stood and in its interior, piled upon ample cushion, was the Mother Of Pearl's Necklace.
Saguru blinked and then smiled. That's different.
He stepped further in, looking away from the glass covers and noted his surroundings, gazing at the many valuable stones whose names he didn't know.
Saguru jumped at the sudden sound. Gazing upwards where it emerged from. Near the railings stood a familiar figure, hunching over. Rubbing his nose with a forefinger as he apologised to inspector Nakamori.
Now, now, if that isn't school skipper Kuroba-kun.
Kaito turned slightly, his side profile in full view and Saguru felt bad for his previous thought. Kaito looked awful. His eyelids were sloppy almost completely drooping over his orbs and his cheeks were flushed, shaded the deepest crimson he'd ever seen on anybody's face, much less expected it to appear on Kaito's deathly pale one.
What was he doing here as ill as he was?
And then, almost unnecessarily another thought popped in which Saguru immediately discarded.
I wonder if he can even breathe through that cloth.
Saguru shook his head. It shouldn't be- biologically- be possible to look that aguish. “Kuroba-kun! you're feeling all right?”
“Hakuba!” Kaito bolted around, feet tripping over his own and- Saguru shut his eyes, gazed away-
“Kaito-kun!” Nakamori quickly helped him up, pulling him away from the railing he fell onto and leaned him against the wall. Kaito was breathing hard, even from downstairs Saguru could see, and abnormally fast, too. Just what kind of bug did he actually catch? For a moment Saguru though whether it was contagious, after all he did wear that mouthpiece.
With a nod of his head, Saguru decided to stay away from him just in case. Precautionary measurements, he told himself, there's no harm in that.
Maybe Kaito could bring more harm than Saguru could ever managed. He coughed though, held a fist near his mouth and lowered his eyes, trying to regain his lost vigour before the russet haired stretched his arm out, hand gesturing at the cases as he said, “Was this your doing?”
“That was mine.” Footsteps echoed behind him and came to a complete stop. Saguru turned, meeting the grinning face of Suzuki who gazed around them as though he was speaking in public, about to present his newest assets to whole Japan. “A great idea, don't you think? With this design, all eyes will be directed at the Mother Of Pearl's Necklace- tomorrow's main attraction. Quiet a feast, hmm?”
“A win-win situation, I see.” Saguru smiled and glanced at Kaito, fast and fleeting. “I'm sure you know, why.”
“Don't know what you're talking about. For I know, this layout could obstruct your objectives.” Kaito voice cut in. Easy. Light. With an air of indifference and Saguru smirked, noticing that Kaito was now standing up, clutching onto the railing and threw- what Saguru presumed was- an irritated look at him. But he couldn't say for sure, Kaito's reddish cheeks took the menace away (if there was any at all, that's it). “Having too many eyes on the scene might be a disturbance. After all, a gathering is an easy gateway.”
“That's true.” Nakamori tipped his head towards Kaito. “But, Kaitou Kid won't perform without an audience in most cases. We have to permit some leniency to get him working with us.”
“Especially when the audience's keeping an eye on the target.” Saguru supplied, relishing in the idea of lecturing him. Although Saguru was certain Kaito was aware of everything already. “He'll have trouble stealing it.”
“Not necessarily. Distracting an audience is easier than you may think. In fact the larger it is, the easier it will be.” Kaito glanced at Saguru from the corner of his eyes, but held the stern gaze of Suzuki for the most part. “You shouldn't give him anything to work with. But this is good, too. This something we could work with.“
“You sound like your have a steadfast plan.” Nakamori quickly caught on, patting his chest for a pen and fished out his notepad. “What do you suggest we do, Kaito?”
Saguru's brows shot up at the gesture and only now connected the dots.
Kaito's helping the police?
Of course, how could he not have noticed. Kaito was here. Kaito. However ill as he was, Kaito was still Kid. So, Kid was here, too. Stirring everything into place for his heist and Nakamori was helping him along with it. Unknowingly, as well. Saguru wanted swat his forehead but refrained himself from doing so. It wouldn't go well with his Self-Image. Instead, he breathed out sharply from his nose and sensibly pieced it together.
(Kaito = Kid) * (helping + police) + (unaware + Nakamori) * (No + Aoko) = Not good. At all.
Saguru looked back at Kaito- who was rubbing his red nose with his forefinger- with furrowed brows. Why washe doing this? The way Saguru saw it was too risky. Stimulating the Task Force while preparing a heist corresponding to it- simultaneously no less- was in his opinion suicidal.
Is Kuroba-kun throwing in the towel? Is he giving himself up for the police?
No, Saguru thought grimly, shaking his. He's ridiculing us. Entirely underestimating us or overvaluing his own abilities. But why? Has the disease messed up with Kaito's head? Is he even thinking straight?
His gaze on him hardened. From the way, Kaito has behaved up to now, there's no doubt in his mind that Kaito's mental health wasn't affected in anyway. His speaking abilities seemed to be fine, too.
Too normal to be true, in fact. There was no cheekiness. No annoyance. No arrogance that usually came along with Kaito. Or-
Saguru shook his head.I'm reading too deep in to this. Kuroba-kun might have only resorted to a different approach. There's no need to overreact. Saguru breathed out, long and deep. Just focus like you always do. This might get interesting, after all.
“-see, it's not plan per se,” He saw Kaito shook the his head and concentrated back on the conversation. Seemingly Saguru hasn't missed much. “More like a hunch. An idea, if you'd like.”
“Go on,” Saguru urged, a smile loitering on his lips. Keen on figuring Kaito out.
The brunette scrunched his nose and then sniffed, suppressing another sneeze from the looks of it, “It's really simple. Magicians prepare themselves for their demonstrations, whether its by coming here as a civilian or sending somebody else. It's safe to assume that they know their stage like the back of their hand. But what if,” he halted, stretching the last consonant as he glanced at Nakamori, breathing out faintly, “They one day came ill prepared?”
Saguru snorted, if that will ever happen. As long as Kaito was here giving ideas, Kid will always know what will hit him. He'll probably know how too avert it, too.
“You mean to exploit this situation? But how?” Nakamori gazed around. What he was looking for though, Saguru honestly did not know. But he gave him a hand anyway. Laying out a path for Nakamori to work through as he said:
“You're thinking of using the audience to your advantage.” Saguru smirked. “Cunning but risky. It lowers the general security and promotes disorder among your men.”
“But, Kid won't suspect anything like it!” Nakamori grinned and pumped a fist into his hand. “Brilliant!”
“Did you listen to any words I said?” Saguru raised a brow. “It's not safe at all. In the contrary-”
”I'll set up necessary requirements!” The elder bellowed, eyes fiery and blazing as he cackled to himself. ”Tomorrow will be the end of Kaitou Kid!”
Saguru's eyebrows twitched, but he stops himself from frowning. Keep your cool, Saguru. Those fools don't understand. Just try again. He cleared his throat and turned back to Nakamori who was nearing his standpoint and idled wondered when he descended the stairs when he said:
“Nakamori-Keibu, letting your men mingle with the audience will lead to confusion-”
“Ah, Suzuki! Tomorrow. . .-!”
Unbelievingly, Saguru stared at the Inspector. Eyes trailing after him as he engaged into a conversation with the owner. Had Nakamori forgotten who they were handling with? Dressing up some police officers will certainly be not enough to fool Kid. With this unsophisticated plan, the probability of catching Kid
was near is zero.
Saguru rubbed his temple. How did even a person, as careless and ludicrous as Nakamori, made it this far?
“It's not the only thing Nakamori-Keibu will use.” Kaito voiced then, climbing down the stairs sideways with both hands clutching onto the railing. “Just look at him. He's bursting with new ideas.”
Saguru casted a glance at the Inspector again, whose back was now straight, brows wrinkled the tiniest bit as he inclined his head towards Suzuki, speaking in hushed whispers.
“Besides,” he turned back to Kaito who was now smiling slow, secretive behind his mouth piece, walking towards him. “That's not all he's going to use. You'll be surprise tomorrow.”
The russet haired was starting to get ill feelings. “What else have you told him?”
He waited for Kaito's smile to crook sharp and wicked, grinning evilly at him as he foretold his heinous schemes.
But nothing like that happened.
Instead, Kaito turned away, folded his arms behind his head and rose his nose into the air. “Nothing.” -
“You don't expect me to believe that.”
Kaito shrugged. “Believe what you want.”
“And I believe you're Kid.” Saguru crossed his arms and tipped his head at him, smirking. “Whatever you're planning, I won't let you get away.”
“You freak. I told you I'm not Ki-i-i-ICHOO!” Kaito sniffed, holding a finger under his nose and turned away. Saguru stepped back too and reached into his pockets when an -ACHOO- resounded again. “S'cuse me.” Kaito faced him again with brows twitching at Saguru in annoyance. “Why you holding that handkerchief for?”
“Protection and prevention.” Saguru said through the fabric and added hastily. “Don't take it personally, Kuroba-kun. I like to stay healthy, that's all.”
“If that's so, I'll make sure to get all that goo on you-”
They turned their heads at Nakamori who waved a hand at his classmate, beckoning him towards him as he held up the entrance door. “Come, we're leaving.”
Saguru's eyes trailed after Kaito's retreating back, waiting for him to trudge out the doors and disappear out of sight before he turned towards Suzuki who smiled back at him, slow and vicious.
“I hope everything is going according to plan.” Suzuki said, gesturing Saguru to follow him. Getting right down to business. “It would be a shame to let my efforts go to waste.”
“About that,” Saguru started. “There's something I've been meaning to tell you.”
“I'm planning on handling the security myself.”
“Ah, it's about that bozo, am I right? That newbie that came under Nakamori's wing. I knew he seemed fishy.”
“Oh, you did?” Saguru smiled, fully amused. “Then do tell me, what's off about him?”
“For one, his talk was too fluid. He also didn't appear to be nervous or fidgety like his men were. But,” Suzuki turned to him, holding his chin between his thumb and index finger as he mulled, “What strikes me most about him is that he seems completely unfazed. Giving ideas here and there as though he doesn't feel any gravity, you know? As though his words are weightless.”
“He doesn't feel any responsibility, you mean to say?” Saguru tipped his head towards him. “It's not uncommon for some-”
“No,” Suzuki stepped closer to him, speaking low. “I mean, he speaks with some kind of strange assurance. That bozo is a hundred percent sure his plan won't fail. For a fledgling it is pretty suspicious.”
Saguru took it all in, lead his head closer to Suzuki, flicking his head upwards, maintain eye contact the whole time as he said, slightly grinning, “Think he's Kid?”
Suzuki doubled at that, grabbed his stomach and fell forward, tears brimming at the corners of his eyes as he laughed. Saguru could detect strings of “No, never”, “That kid?” and “impossible!”
But that was enough.
The russet haired sighed and straightened. “Let just proceed, shall we?”
But he was only met with more laughter.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
"The bait is set. We're ready to go."
Your budding memories tangled with the inevitable thorns.
"Young Master," Nose raised high in the air, Baaya sniffed. Long, slender fingers tapping against the soft rubber of the steering wheel, her half lidded eye moved towards the end of its socket, glancing out the window into the moonlit street where Hakuba hovered, just a the corner way from the passenger's seat. His straight back leaned against the car's door as he gazed upward, swirls of dark blue with grey clouds swam in front of his vision whilst he laughed soft and quiet into his phone, strings of words escaped his lips then, buzzing through the evening air into Baaya's ear. "Would you hurry up?"
Hakuba held his hand up and turned towards the opposite direction, stepping away from the road onto the leaf covered sidewalk, fresh polished shoes crunching beneath lushly jaded leaves on muddy ground.
Baaya sighed, shook her head the bit and turned the radio on, heavy voices droning in the enclosed space and with a swift flick of her finger she shut it back off, noticing with mild surprise, the crooked angle of her rear-view mirrors. With furrowed brows she readjusted them and pushed a loose strands away from forehead under her hat as she stared at her reflection, sinking back into her seat.
Baaya huffed, immensely glad at hearing the familiar click of the passenger door. "Took you long enough."
Hakuba chuckled and pulled his seatbelt on. "I needed to verify the arrangement for today. It's a bit different than we planned. But," He grinned quick and sharp. "Nothing I can't handle."
Baaya hummed and finally swirled her keys, the motor roared, vibrating against her legs whilst she drove passed traffic lights and road signs, eyes mainly kept on the road ahead when she asked, "Did she agree to your plans, as well?"
Hakuba's smile was tiny, barely there at the corners. "No. Not yet, but she will soon."
"Oh?" Baaya rose a brow, meeting his eyes for split for a second. "You so sound sure."
"I don't need to spend more time on that, really. As long as I focus on Kaitou Kid, Aoko-san will always be indirectly involved. It's like catching two birds with one stone."
Baaya's brow rose higher. "And this means?"
"Aoko-san plays a vital part, yes, but is momentarily not my highest priority." He laughed quietly, the small smile gaining on length as it drew against the tips of his lips, gazing at the glowing scenery from the side window, bright lights illuminating the shadows of the night. "I'll meet her at the heist anyway."
Baaya blinked before stealing a glance at him. "And you know that because-?"
Hakuba smirked. "I've heard her best friend say it, and-" He smiled slow and secretive, swallowing the rest of the sentence behind his scheming façade. It was a matter of time after all. A matter of time until this will be finished. Once and for all.
"I see." Was all Baaya said, not rising her voice again during the drive.
Where did I put it? Conan looked around the room, dismantled his futon again, peeking under scattered books across the floor, pushed his nose deep against the carpet as he squinted through the little gap below his closet. Just where did I put it?
Shifty fingers rummaged through numerous drawers, fiddling with clothes and fuddling with his bags. At last, he rubbed his neck, shoulders sagging over an air of futility as he glanced at the room once more. Guess, I'll just need to go without my badge.
He flinched, shrill voices piercing his eardrums and hampering his head for the nth time. Conan drove his fingers through his hair as he sighed into the quietness of the room before shouting a hurried reply and got up, tiny feet padding on the hard wooden floor. He stretched his arm wide out to reach the door handle, half-heartedly noticing the increasing volume of their screams.
"Conan-kuuun!" He heard Ayumi shout, but thankfully not as louder as before. "Hurry up! We can't wait."
"Yeah!" Mitsuhiko agreed, and Conan suppress a vision of him pumping a fist up high among the other two. "We don't have time forever!"
"What if," Genta took in an exaggeratedly loud, deep breath before shouting from the top of his lungs: "Sonoko-neechan suddenly changes her mind?!"
"YEAH!" Mitsuhiko and Ayumi screamed together, roaring an echo of: "WHAT IF SHE SUDDENLY CHANGES HER MIND?!"
"I'm definitely going to change my mind, if you don't stop barking any time now." Sonoko chimed in, brows twitching as she leaned against the blue painted door frame, muttering under her breath. "I can't believe I'm actually doing this."
"But it's really kind of you," Ran said, zipping her jacket close. "Inviting us all with you, I mean."
"I remember inviting you with me, not them." Sonoko sighed and abruptly lowered her head, slowly intertwining her fingers over her chest with tears brimming at the corners of their socket as she acted out a dramatic scene, saying: "How is Kid supposed to notice me, now? He'll mistake me for a wretched babysitter. Tell me Ran, how am I going to attract him with my charming beauty when he won't even look at my direction?"
"You're exaggerating." Ran smiled and pulled her hair out from her jacket, before putting her hands on her hips. "Besides, don't you have Makoto-san?"
"I would've had him, if he'd ever bothered to call. . ."
Ran frowned before trailing off. "Are starting on this again-"
"Yes, yes, I'm coming!" Conan shouted back, opening up the door and faced his enraged mob of friends and walked straight pass them to grab his jacket from the couch, apologies already dripping from his lips.
"You were taking so long." The trio gushed, voice full of unsuppressed excitement and anticipation as they rumbled on and on, brightening up and waving their hands with starry expressions of what was yet to come.
Ran smiled at the scene, somewhat ignoring Sonoko and her melodramatic speech about growing old without having tasted a sip of sweet love.
"Don't worry Sonoko." Ran said at last, after waiting for Sonoko to finish her moaning. "I'm sure you won't have to buy a house full of cats to replace a lover."
"That's easy for you to say," Sonoko sniffed and held the door open for the kids to walk out. "You have already guaranteed your position of as wife- Oh,I mean, his wife."
Ran pushed her out the door. "I told you not to start on this again!"
The door close behind them with a loud thud. Seconds ticked by before Mori peeped his head over his desk. Once he was convinced the coast was clear- that nobody would come back to take up a some random forgotten object- he dived for the remote control laying on the table and fumbled with the buttons before switching his favourite show on, silently praying he made it miraculously on time.
His brows twitched when he saw the credit scrolled up and sighed with heavy shoulders dropping down whilst he flopped down on his chair, aimlessly he flipped through the various channels. Flipping, flipping, flipping until- Aha! He grinned, sharp and cunning. Something worthy of watch.
Mori hummed, and leaned back on his chair. Listening to newsflash which in fact turned out to be the usual. His brows sank further. There was a missing cat, some people died, a rise in traffic, new type of fashion-blah, blah, blah, blah. Annoyed, Mori threw the remote control down and crossed his arms. This, wasn't how he imagined his free day to be like.
He was fiddling with his lighter when the narrator's voice lowered several vocal ranges. The previous person was replaced by a much older man who went on and on about a sudden frequency of heist across Japan and- what was that? Mori's brows rose. It was not done by Kid?
He turned up the volume and straightened up. He listened to the baritone voice in deep concentration, depicting that the man described by the narrator called himself 'Snake'. Apparently, a witness heard him call himself that during a pick off. Mori canted his head. He must be an amateur.
The detective squinted his eyes at the picture they put on screen- his next target, they named it. Mori crossed his arms and closed his eyes, feeling a familiar ripple driving through the back of his head. He was sure to have seen that picture before, but where?
He rubbed his chin with his thumb and pointer finger, vaguely wondering when he has gotten so forgetful when- Aha! He snapped his fingers. Kid planned to steal the same item today. He nodded his head in approved appraisal for himself when the narrator agreed with his thoughts.
They'll be competing. Mori thought then, about who is the better thief between the two. He laughed. Happy about his smart deduction. Why else would they steal the same item on the same day?
He chuckled before he turned off the television and stretched. Too bad I'm not into this stuff. He snickered. The police would've caught him long ago, if I had been on the case.
"Not everybody can have my brilliance. Ha Ha Ha!" He laughed then, brash and boisterous until a light bulb shone above his head and he grinned, crookedly. "Maybe I should help them a little..."
Unravel the unwavering truth that deceives this world. . .
"Aoko, we will be fine." Keiko rolled her hazel eyes when they stoppedon the sidewalk again. "How many times do I said that until you'll believe me?"
"Until my heart stops beating so loud." Aoko sighed and kneeled beside her bag, near stones and debris. "I'm just checking whether we have everything we need."
"You have been 'checking' every minute since we left your house."
Sapphire orbs rolled in perfect motion in their socket, chestnut coloured hair fell forwards, cascaded passed her face onto her slender shoulders. Aoko rummaged through her bag, mumbling under her breath, "My collapsible baton...the stunt gun...torches..."
"Really, we haven't even reach the tube stationyet. Aoko, I still see your house from here." She pointed at the towering apartment buildings that hovered above the trees and walls of newly build houses. A bit annoyed that her friend was ignoring her. "Aoko!"
"...Some old handcuffs...the good old pepper spray...oh, and your Taser..."
"Are you even listening to me?" Keiko placed her hands on her hips, bowed down to her. "Hey, AOKO!"
"...Water...some biscuits and- hey! I wasn't finished!" Aoko reached out for her bag, Keiko held away with both hands.
"No, you've been ignoring me. Why should I do you a favour for?" Keiko perched the glasses back on that Aoko flew askew with her still reaching hands. Keiko stepped away and turned her back towards Aoko as she closed the backpack.
"Don't exaggerated, Keiko. This was only my second time. Besides," Aoko gave her a pointed a stare. "We only just left my house."
"This could even be you fiftieth. I don't care." She threw her hands up, bag flopping to the floor with a crash as Aoko failed to catch. "I just don't want to be late for the heist. What if it's startsnow?"
Aoko threw her a look, placed the bag on her shoulder and stood up. "It's starts in an hour. We've plenty of time."
"And what if-"
Aoko blew strands of loose hair away from her face. "We have plenty of time. Calm down."
"Just know if anything goes wrong, I'll blame you." Keiko muttered and walked away, with an annoyed Aoko right behind her.
"Be my guest."
"What's up with you anyway?" Keiko asked, rounding the corner, almost crashing against another pedestrian before crossing the road. Artificial light illuminated the side of Keiko's face before a red glow striped over them from a passing car. "You've been on edge since yesterday. Are you scared?"
"Not really." Aoko squinted through the powered headlights, seizing Keiko's loose sleeve with her forefinger and thumb as she subtly guided her friend away from sidewalk. "This way is quicker."
"Are you sure?" Keiko's eyes wandered off, staring at the grease and reeking sacks strewn across the empty walkway, noticing with a shudder the eerie silence surrounding them, sighting dark strained walls and marshy ground along with it. "I don't think that's a good idea."
Aoko hummed carelessly and walked in. Keiko looked around once more before deciding to catch up to her best friend. "I swear if something happens-"
Aoko laughed then, bright and loud with pink scattered across her cheeks. Keiko jumped before blinking at her in wonder, still not used to Aoko's sudden mood swings. Keiko waited until the laughter muffle to some extent before asking what was wrong with her.
"You worry too much." Was all Aoko with unhidden happiness. Keiko gave her an uneasily stare, not liking at all the way Aoko's eyes seemed to shine brighter.
"See that?" Aoko suddenly pointed out. Keiko squinted her eyes through the dark, seeing vague figures moving, no- Keiko squinted harder- they were dancing, far off the end veiled by the evening fog. Keiko adjusted her glasses and turned to Aoko for clarification.
Aoko's smile widen. "They're shadow dancers. Their gym is right over there. You can see them from the window."
Keiko gazed at her confused, before a sign of understanding cross her features. "Ah, Kaito-kun showed you, didn't he?"
"Last Christmas." Aoko breathed out, still clearly in remembrance and Keiko smiled, interlinked their arms and whispered out a quiet: "Tell me about it" that set Aoko avalanching emotions free and occupied them in the meantime.
Keiko just hoped it was enough to distract her.
Kaito looked around the room one more time. The dancing people on the top floor, swaying in the light of the chandelier above them, sliver rays adorning them as they turned and twirled in rhythm to the music fluttering from wall to wall, room to room. Kaito's eyes lingered at the rich champagne rowed at the corner of the room, there were under-aged drinks and water were shoved at the far end, adjacent to the buffet casted at side in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows- his planned escape route.
He walked down the stairs into the foyer of the second floor where the lounge was, dimmed of smoke and burning tar. The brunette scrunched his nose and opened up several windows.
"Don't like the smell, kid?" Kaito turned around, meeting an older man sitting on a couch right underneath the shadows, hunched over his chair with a cigar in his mouth and an empty flask of alcohol in grasp. "You'll get used to it. Just stick 'round long enough."
"I think I'll pass." Kaito was about to go, eyes lidded in boredom and hands stuffed in his pocket, when a body blocked the door, manicured fingers held onto to three wineglasses and a bottle of something in the other as she leaned down. Flocks of long maroon strands fell over, brushing her skin as the woman sized him up.
"A bit young, but you will do." Her lips curled, glancing at the other men. "You agree?"
The man at the corner snorted. "Just gimme my drink."
The lady tasked, wading a slender finger at him. "You drank too much already. This is for the guests."
Kaito rose an unbelievable brow. "You're working here?"
The lady looked at him for a moment and then laughed, hazel eyes twinkling from direct artificial light. "No no no, I'm," She leaned forward, whispering in his ear 'undercover' before leaning back and saying out loud. "That's right! I'm an entertainer."
Kaito caught on and stepped back from the door, letting her walked further in to the room and close the door behind her as she exchanged sharp looks with the other man.
"We're clean. No camera, devices or anything." The men stood up and threw the bottle in the bin, perfectly sober much to Kaito's surprise. "I've checked."
The woman nodded and turned to the younger abruptly, her smile widening with each word that passed her lips. "You're the elite weapon aren't you? Tanaka-chan told me much about you. Though, I didn't believe her when she said you were kid, but- look at you!" She started turning Kaito from all side, despite the glasses in her hands, inspecting him from all sides despite his protests.
"Stop it. That's embarrassing even for me." The man scratched his messy blond hair, sharply cut. "The name's Hondo by the way, and that's Reika. We'll be working together."
"New orders?" Kaito stared at them. "From who?"
"Headquarters. Chaki-Keishi was concerned. Apparently, you didn't seemed to be on your best condition." He pointed at the dark circles beneath Kaito's eyes. "Do you even sleep, kid?"
The brunette's eye twitched, ignoring his remark. "It's Kaito."
"Kid." The man emphasised with a shrug and a pointed smirk the brunette wanted to punch out. "You're a kid. At least ten years younger than me, too."
Kaito grumbled, turned around, ready to walk out the door and put everything that happened in the last five-minutes behind closed doors forever, when the steady sound of clinking shoes and chinking glass reverberated inside the room. The woman sat the items at a table and rummaged though her handbag, fishing out a thin file from it. "Don't mind this fool. Rather, I hope you're aware of the current situation."
Kaito's eyes landed on her, unimpressed. "Current situation?"
"Yes," She tossed her hair back and sat down, crossing her legs as she flipped through the sheets. "We'll be dealing with multiples offenders tonight." Kaito's eyes sharpened on her, not missing at all how her eyes held a dicey glow for a second. "I assume you're keeping up with the news?"
Kaito shrugged. "Somewhat."
"Good. Then I'm sure you heard about this man." She held out an A4 size portrait of a man. Scruffy looking, Kaito noted, with untrimmed beard and old fashioned hat, familiar at that even.
"Who's that?" He asked anyway, already knowing the answer.
"We don't know for sure yet, but according to a witness his name is 'Snake'."
"A witness?" Kaito rose a brow, a bit sceptical. "What witness?"
Reika folded the paper, tucking it back into the wallet. "No need to know that, boy. Fact is, he'll be here tonight, probably not alone." She hesitated before declaring, "He might be working with Kid."
Kaito snorted. "Kid works alone."
"I wouldn't be so sure." Hondo folded his arms, cigar still loitering on tips of his lips as he glanced at Reika as if to dare her. "It's common knowledge Kaito has got an accomplice. So, why couldn't it be this 'Snake'?"
Quiz question, Kaito recognized and hid a smirked, folded his arms above his head, wandered off to the couch and flopped down. "They are going for the same objects. It would be stupid otherwise."
The blond smiled. "See?" He turned towards a frowning Reika. "Even this kid thinks so."
"It might be a diversion- something to trick fools like you." She huffed at Hondo's and Kaito's raised brows before exclaiming rather loudly. "They might have other goals in mind-!"
"Goals like what?" Hondo challenged. "Killing Suzuki?"
"That was an example." Reika spit out, slamming the file shut. "The point I made was that money might be involved. Many change under the influence of money, after all. Kaitou Kid may be no different."
Hondo snorted and put his sunglasses on, levelling a stare at her. "Lady, you got proof?"
Reika rose a brow. "Do you got proof?"
"Don't need proof. My deductions are merely hypothetical."
"Well, mine are then too." She flipped her hair back and smirked.
He stared at her for sometime, before glancing at Kaito. "You're with me, aren't you?"
The brunette shrugged. "Only if you stop calling me kid."
"But Kaito sounds like Kaitou. People will get the wrong idea."
"So does kid."
"Then I'll call you 'Boy'. How about that?"
"That's it!" They turned around to face Reika. "We can use that!"
Hondo crossed his arms. "No, we can not."
"We can." Reika gushed, excitement bubbling from her voice. "Boy can play the decoy-"
"He's a kid and ill at that." The man in shades shook his head. "He must not get involved too much."
"He belongs to the police force."
"Why you're so scared?" The woman gave him a pointed look with furrowed brows. "You never used to be. In fact-"
"I don't want him to die." Hondo cut in, standing in the centre of the room with a presence that got Kaito shivering, yet Reika pressed on, seemingly unaffected by Hondo's dark vibe.
"We'll protect him."
"From a gunshot?" He laughed incredulous. "How're you going to manage that?"
"Listen. I'm not sacrificing this guy," He pointed at Kaito as he spoke with such clarity. "To elicit some fool that is going to show his face up, anyway."
"Actually," Kaito grinned widely. "This might not be such a bad idea."
"Do you even know what you're talking about?" Hondo's eyes landed on him, somehow managing to burn Kaito's skin. The younger shifted on the couch, forcing himself to stay calm as the Hondo spoke up again. "This isn't some game anymore."
Kaito rolled his eyes, internally churning his queasiness into fine powder as he dismissed the elder with an intense glare. "If this is really important as you say, shouldn't you then come out clean, then?"
There was a surprised silence before Reika's laughter filled it in. "You sure are interesting, Boy. Tell me, what makes you say that?"
"You're undercover, aren't you?" Kaito drawled, silently adding, a bad one at that, in his mind before concentrating on the present again. "And you don't belong to the second division either. So, who're you're working for? It can't be the police."
"Sharp little boy, sharp, I must say." Reika clapped nearing him in little graceful strike before was Kaito caught in a blur of movement. He dodged, barely escaping the heel of her shoe. Her lips curled up again. "He has good reflexes, probably is flexible too. Do you want me to test him further?" She glanced back at her companion.
"No, he already met the success criteria." Kaito gazed back at Hondo, seeing the other male scribbling away on some paper. "I'll forward it on to Chaki-Keishi."
Kaito frowned at the exchanged and raised himself from the floor, adrenaline still rushing through him as he eyed the lady. "I'll take I was right, then."
"Yes, you were, Boy." Reika smiled. "We're the reinforcement, if things go wrong."
Kaito made a face, masking the uneasy ripple in his stomach. "Only two people? No offence but I don't think you'll be enough."
"Four." Hondo lowered his shades, staring him right in the eye. "We're four. But you're included if I were to like you proposition. So," He crushed the cigarette's bud inside an ashtray and eyed the younger standing across the room. "What's your plan?"
"Well," Kaito stepped closer, shuffling his hands inside his pockets again and smirked. "That depends on the amount of resources you have available." When Hondo motioned for him to continue, Kaito grinned, the lines easily made out from the fabric. "I draw that 'Snake' guy out for you. If," The last consonant wavers in the air, breathed out faint and feeble from Kaito's lips for a second or two before he resumed much more determined, "He chooses to shoot me down, it's certain that they aren't partners in crime."
"How?" Reika whispered, eyes glittering with something Kaito couldn't recognised. "How you're going to manage that?"
"Easy," Kaito's grin widened and ignored the way Hondo's disapproving glare burned his skin, summoning a dove with a quick flick of his wrist. "By playing the decoy, of course."
Truth that unravels in these hands. . .
"Boss, are you sure he'll be coming?" Snake glanced up from the rotten magazine he picked from the lobby and stared at one of his henchman- number 237, Snake noted. He was hidden behind the window, dark curtains veiling his body as he squinting through the binocular. "There are only eight policemen. Two on each side. Isn't that suspicious?"
"Nah," Snake made a vague motion of his hand and threw the magazine onto the table. "They might have resorted to a different approach. Say, is the roof open?"
"Somehow, yes, it's unguarded." 237 gazed back at Snake. "It's definitely a trap."
"Perhaps they installed video cameras up there. Something that doesn't require them to be there." 264 agreed hunched next to the door, gun raised as he glanced at them, quick and fleeting. "We shouldn't be going there."
"So you're planning on running away?" Swirls of bright red glowed through the dark as trails of smoke emitted from the cigar's bud held between Snake fingers. "Like a coward?"
"I'm merely suggesting we break in from somewhere else." 264 said, a beat of sweat gliding down the side of his face when he heard the familiar click of a gun, coal eyes turned towards the end of their socket, meeting a dim glow, bright red in the hands of Snake. His Ruger SR9, 264 realised.
"Oh, and where exactly?" The Boss said, pointing his gun at him.
264 swallowed before opening his mouth to say: "We could use the back entrance. Invading in after causing an uproar in the front half of floor one and the back of floor three."
"And the second floor?"
"Leave out, Sir. That's where most of them will be hiding from us."
Snake mulled it over, toying with his gun. "You mean to say, that Kid will be in the front of floor three during the explosion? Why is that?"
264 could feel 237 boring holes in his shoulder as if to warn him. The former breathed out, calmed his nervousness and focused. "He'll becoming from the roof. He likes the danger after all."
"And then, he'll be distracted from the explosions too- giving us a perfect opening." 264 breathed out relieved this time at Snake's words, before holding his breath again. "But, that's merely hypothetical. What if he chose to come from the front entrance? Even if he was to be distract by the explosion, it'll only last a moment. Surely, Kid will be exploiting the situation for himself."
"We have five to eight seconds to take him out." 237 said then, perching the binocular on his nose again. "Depending on his reaction time."
"We need to steal the Mother Of Pearls too. I give us ten minutes for that. Any more and we face the danger of getting arrested." He clicked the safety switch back on. "No more than twenty. Notify the others, 226."
"Yes, sir." 264 carefully opened the door for his work-fellow to walk out before closing the door, before glancing back at his Boss for a moment before resuming to guard the entrance of their Suite.
Snake leaned back and swivelled his chair to face the window, damping the pane with his smoke. This will be your last heist, Kid. He cackled. Enjoy.
"Security Cameras?" Nakamori shouted out to his fellow men buzzing around, setting up the final touches of their work. Nakamori beamed with pride. This was going to be it. Their final showdown. Final dispute. Final Face-off. Nakamori grinned. Today, I will finally win.
"Ready!" The voice barely reached his ears and with the corner of Nakamori's eyes he saw the speaker fumble with wires and ligaments, back against a board whilst his fingers connected the cables in quick succession and finally flipped the switch on, surveillance cameras flicking on all around him.
Nakamori grunted in approval and turned to the man behind him, ordering to tick the box before they left the room, wandered through the halls and inspected the next rooms. "Have the guests are arrived?" he asked mindlessly, closing the door of an empty room.
"Will be arriving shortly." The subordinate behind him answered, already ticking the box. "Check."
Nakamori nodded, folding his arms across his chest as he asked the next question. "Is everyone on position, then?"
"Point A and B are covered. C and D run into a problem." Another policemen announced as he halted in his step, facing Nakamori with heavy boxes propped nether his arms. Under Nakamori raised a brow, the young man quickly let out, "Some greenhorns took their badges with them. The officers in charge confiscated them, but don't know where to place them. They having a vote right now."
Nakamori spluttered incoherently before bursting out and ordering the younger with an ear splitting cry to tell those idiots to give the badges to him, of course.
A few steps behind the subordinate hid a smile. "Sorting out arising problems?" With the clipboard at hand, he ticked the next box. "Check."
Keiko blinked again, still not believing her eyes and waited awhile before blinking again. The image hasn't change much. "Are you sure this is the place?" She glanced at Aoko who silently nodded. "But, why is this place so unguarded? I didn't expect this."
Keiko was not satisfied at all, having spent the last 48 hours thinking on ways to smuggle her way inside, knocking out lolling police officers to go into inaccessible hallways, rooms, places, and even sacrificed sleep to unleash her excitement on her pillows and duvets. She groaned into her hands.
This is not what I wanted.
Besides her Aoko was still nodding with an unreadable expression on her face, seemingly unaware of Keiko's deflated expectation and sullen visage. "Dad told me, he'll try a different approach- that this was it. That he'll catch Kid, but-" She shook her head, quick and swift as if to shake the matter off her. "Whatever. I'm sure he has a plan. He is prepared, he always is."
"Aoko," Keiko tried again, motioning to the long queue in front of the entrance. "Should we try the usual?"
Aoko titled her head in both direction as if to weigh her options before grinning quick and sharp. "No. Different. I don't want my Dad to know I'm here. We need something other than the Bring-Dad-Food-Parade."
Keiko hummed, pressing herself to the wall and tried to suppress the urge of hopping up and down of like some excited fool. "So, how are we going to get in?"
Aoko canted her head. "I thought you had a plan."
"I do." Keiko grinned, eyes glittering behind her lenses as she kissed ordinariness goodbye. She opened up the rucksack and pulled out a stunt gun and her Taser C2, waving them in the air as her grin widened. "We're going in from the back."
"That's not going to work. Dad set up cameras. He's going to see us." Aoko frowned. "Maybe we could disguise ourselves as police." Aoko sighed as she saw the horrified expression on Keiko's face. "All right. Okay. Tell me why not."
Keiko pointed towards the gallery. "Are you seeing the police anywhere? We'll be standing out if we do that. We can't afford that."
Aoko's brows furrowed more. "Then, how are we going in?"
"We'll force our way in. Hold this." She pressed the stunt gun into her hand and stood up from the ground, peeking over the corner where the people stood lined up in front of the entrance. "Don't lose it, alright? Keep it on you."
Aoko stuffed it into her pocket. "I have a bad feeling about this. What if things go wrong?"
Keiko laughed, dived into her pouch and held up a blue print in triumph. "Won't happened. I came prepared."
Aoko looked on amazed. "Where did you get that from?"
"Secret~" Keiko winked, giggling a bit before pointed at the red marked circle on the print. "We can sneak in from here. It's an underground tunnel from the previous construction. Do you still remember the old museum? The gallery was build on it a few years back."
"But how do you expect us to go all the way there when we're here?" Aoko pointed at their location that was around twelfth centimetre away from their destination on the printed paper.
Keiko gave her a look. "How do you think?" When Aoko continued to look bewildered Keiko hit her with the blue print. "We sneak in there, of course. How else?"
Aoko gave her uneasy look. "I don't know about this. Maybe we should stop. Yeah," She tried to smile. "Let's just go home."
"After having come this far?" Keiko rose a brow at Aoko's sheepish turning expression. "Noway. Come on. Let's get going. The fun is only starting."
The gallery hasn't changed much. The cases still stood on the same place Suzuki moved them to daisy prior as were the jewels displayed. Saguru hummed soft and quiet and rubbed his aching nose. You didn't need to pull that hard, Saguru thought mindlessly and stole a glance at the officer escorting him.
"I'm sorry, but this are the procedures." The officer said then as though he'd heard Saguru's thought. "Our means to ensure that Kid doesn't mingle with the crowds."
The russet haired huffed and crossed his arms. Doesn't bother to tell the other that Kid has already entered. "And? Has he been sighted yet?"
"No, not yet. But we're on the look out either way." The officer grinned, excitement lingering in his voice as he continued. "With the plan we're having Kid is bound to get overwhelmed at some point. He won't expect any of this."
"I expect you to do your best job then." Saguru's voice remained neutral, if not airy. Still sore on the matter. The officer sent him an odd look but stayed quiet until they reached the control room where Nakamori immediately ambushed him and ranted the tonight's plan in such a way it left Saguru speechless for several seconds. Out of shock? Maybe.
"Bullet proof, won't you say." Nakamori grinned, completely unaware of Saguru dazed expression. "To think that Kaito-kun came up with it, you sure are impressed, aren't you?"
"Not so much," Saguru said, finally coming out of his stupor and brushed his fingers through his hair. A gesture he rarely did. "It's risky. Too risky. I don't agree with any of this."
We falling right into his trap. He wants to say. This is exactly what he wants. Let's change plans. But Saguru knew nobody would listen to him, so he sighed instead. It's up to me now to righten this mess.
A hand slapped his shoulder then, light and jolly, strangely alien. He turned and met the warm eyes of Nakamori staring at him with a hint of expertise in them. "You're too tense, Hakuba-kun. Have a little faith, will you? If things do happen to go wrong, we'll improvise it. Why do you think the police is there for?"
If Saguru was worried before he was anxious now. This was wrong, so very wrong in so many levels. Nakamori was supposed to be wild and goofy, not calm and professional. Dread piled his stomach. Just what was happening with everybody?
Stay calm. He reminded himself and breathed out slow and drawn out. I need to stay calm.
"Say, Nakamori," Saguru begun once he regained his usual demeanour. "How are you're differentiate your men from the citizens though? Have thought of that?" Saguru hoped he did.
A subordinate with a clipboard tucked under his arm stepped forward, holding up one of those handy talky devices he'd always seen on the police. "We'll be using our radios through the night to communicate."
Saguru nodded a bit relieved, glad that there was still sanity left in them, that they didn't lost their minds completely. "I'll be looking around, then."
Nakamori nodded and then motioned for his subordinate to step closer, from the corner of Saguru's eyes he saw Nakamori pointing at the clipboard. "How many boxes were not ticked?"
The door closed behind he before he could hear a reply, and after a moment Saguru was entirely sure that it didn't matter. He'll be taking care of things from now on, anyway.
"Wow! look at that!" Ayumi pressed her nose closer to the glass pane, gazing at the burnished emblem of the Rubin ring. "It's so pretty!"
"This one is prettier!" Mitsuhiko shouted, pointed at a necklace two rows behind Ayumi and still plain in sight, Emerald, Conan recognised then, with a jaded silver design.
"This one is the prettiest." Genta blared over them all. "Just look at that. Isn't that awesome?"
"What is?" The two other elementary students perked up and rushed forward towards Genta with bright fascination. Conan yawned and looked around, peeking through a glass case after another as he wandered aimlessly.
"Aren't we early?" He asked then, canting his head towards Sonoko. "Almost nobody is here."
Sonoko gazed down, shifting her eyes momentarily away from the deep citrine brooch surprised before it melted away and a haughty look took over. "We're right on time. The others are being searched at the entrance before they're permitted to enter. See," She pointed at the door. "Some are already coming inside. You're lucky you came with me-" Conan tuned her out as his eyes wandered at the clients and customers that came in and toured around the main hall or walked upstairs. "Brat, are you even listening to me?"
Conan eyes snapped back to her face, noticing her knitted brows and laughed quiet and sheepishly, but thanked her nonetheless for her time. Once he was out of imminent danger he resumed his window shopping with little joy.
"Conan!" He turned and saw Ayumi waving at him frantically. "Come and see! You wont believe this!"
"Won't believe what?" He mumbled jogging towards the corner she disappeared to and found the trio huddled in a corner. He walked closer, sort of confused and mystified as to what they were staring at until glimpses of flutters of white feathers peeked between the gap of their bodies.
"It's a bird!" Genta shouted then, chest puffed out and arms crossed. "And I found it."
"A pigeon." Ayumi rectified, still in awe and reached out to touch it, pouting when the dove wavered away, distancing itself from her.
"A dove, you mean. A Java Dove." Mitsuhiko looked on, tugging Ayumi's hands away as she tried to reach for it again. "Don't. You'll scare it."
"I wonder what it's doing here." Genta neared it squatted down centimetres away from it. "Hey, did you came to watch the exhibition as well?" The dove gazed at him for a split of a second before looking away, ruffling its feather. Genta turned to his friends. "I don't think its vary talkative."
"Or maybe it just doesn't like you." Ayumi pondered before advancing forwards and stretched our a finger. "You want to hop on? I can give you a tour."
"It's an animal. It doesn't talk." Conan drawled, a bit amused at their childishness and crouched down next to Genta. "I wonder where his owner is."
"Right here." A muffled voice spoke up, Conan turned and met familiar misty, blue eyes, tousled hair, flushed cheek and a white face mask, but Conan was sure he'd never met him. "I'm glad you found Alva. I almost thought I'd lost him."
The dove, Alva, looked up as though he recognized the voice. The children watched stunned as it started to bat its wings and hopped off the ground towards the said owner, barely flying five centimetres high. "C'mere, my boy. That's right. That's good." The newcomer soothed, crouching low and stretching his arm out for the dove to rest on. "He's only about three weeks old. Barley got the hang of moving his wings." The teen explained then, patting the dove's head and grinned at the still staring kids. "I'm glad you've found him."
"That's your bird?" Genta asked sceptical and inspected the man's face. "You don't really seem able to take care of him."
Ayumi turned to him, horrified. "Genta, you don't say stuff like that."
"Yeah, apologise Genta." Mitsuhiko agreed. "That was really rude."
Genta shrugged. "He doesn't seem well- just look at his face. Didn't your mother let you stay in bed? Mine always let me when I'm ill."
The man raised an amused brow before he rose and wished his dove farewell. Their eyes widened when the dove disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"How did you do that?" Ayumi gushed, eyes bright.
The man grinned, sharp and quick. "A magician never reveals his tricks."
The colour of Mitsuhiko's face drained away as he stammered. "C-could y-you be- K-K-Kaitou-?"
"Kaitou Kid!"Genta shouted and pointed his trembling finger at him. "I found Kaito Kid!"
The elder chuckled and shook his head. "I'm just a wannabe magician." He grinned easily. "Nowhere near Kid's level. Though, I wish I'd be."
"Oh?" Conan looked at him, sharply. "You don't appear to be an amateur, though."
"What can I say? I had practice." He stuffed his hands in his pockets, grin not faltering in the least.
"You seem confident, too." Conan added then, suspicion evident in his voice that only made the male's grin widened further under the fabric.
"I am." There was a slight pause before he spoke up again. "How about I show you how confident I really am?" He fished out a deck of cards from his pockets, mixing and meshing it before spreading it evenly out in his hands in front of Conan. "Pick one." Conan gave him a sceptical look and the other combine the cards again before handing it over. "You can do it yourself too if you don't trust me."
The younger took the cards and mixed it himself before picking up a card and memorising it. "And now?" He asked voice full of boredom.
"Put it back in and mesh it again, if you want to."
"You know," Conan begun as he divided the deck in half and merged them together again. "This is a pretty old trick."
The man laughed. "Not for too long." He said taking the pack of cards off the younger and crushed it in his left hands completely, hiding it from view with his clenched fingers. His right index fingers tapped the back of fist three times before he opened up his hand again. Conan's eyes widened as he stared at the empty hand until he noted that it was raining cards all around him, descending like the lightest snowflake until it came to rest on the red carpet near his feet. Behind him, the trio gasped, oh-ed and ah-ed as they watched.
"Is this your card?" The man asked then, picking up a random card from the floor and held it up for him to see. Conan nodded, still trying to comprehend what how he managed to pull that off. With the flick of the man's fingers, the cards puffed away, disappearing from the floor to nowhere and for a second Conan wondered where exactly they disappeared off to.
"Are you sure you're not Kid?" Genta asked then, still astonished. "You may look weak but that just now was really awesome."
"Who are you really, mister?" Ayumi asked then. "You can't be some nobody."
"Me?" The elder turned to them, grinning slow and secretive. "I told you didn't I? I'm just a wannabe magician."
Conan snorted and muttered under his breath. By the time he gazed up, the man was already gone.
"He's so Kaito Kid. There's no-one else who could do that." He heard Ayumi say then with glinting eyes. Conan hid a smile as he saw them huddled on the floor again, almost as though they were discussing a secret.
"He's so young too." Genta supplied, smiling wide and boisterous. "Most magician on TV's are always so old and half as good."
"Hm," Mitsuhiko seemed conflicted. "But he looked so ill, shouldn't Kid be on his top condition today? After all he's planning to steal the Mother of Pearls. He might only be a wannabe magician, just as he said."
"This might be want he wants you to think." Genta huffed before gesturing widely with his hands. "It's a disguise to fool the police. Nobody will notice it's him."
"Yes," Ayumi stepped forwards and raised her finger. "He's so sneaky just like Kid."
"But we have already noticed him." Mitsuhiko protested. "I'm sure most people in here did too- his magic was that impressive."
Genta and Ayumi shared a glance before Genta spoke up. "What you're getting on about?"
Before Mitsuhiko could frustrate himself with his explanations, Conan took over, explaining rather smoothly. "Kid never brings attention to himself before his performance, the guy did though."
Ayumi mulled it over before saying that it doesn't made sense. Conan agreed. After all nobody would be foolish enough to expose their secret identity in public in front of so many people.
"I don't think he's Kid either." Conan said at last. But something wasn't right. He could feel it in his gut. Nonetheless Conan shrugged. "He might be hired to please the crowd. You know, to pump them up before the actual show begins."
The trio gave him a doubting look but ended up shrugging too. Conan didn't blame them, he could hardly believe his explanation himself.
But I'm going to find out, though. Conan thought, looking at the crowd where most likely the conjurer vanish into. The truth, that's it.
"Maybe we should keep an eye on him." Genta suggests then.
"Imagine we actually caught Kid before anyone else?" Ayumi squealed at the thought. "We'll be the best."
"The detective boys are on the move." Mitsuhiko agreed and held both of his hands high fiving the other two, completely ignoring Conan protests and objections as they ran off to the distant to fulfil their mission. Conan sighed and rubbed his temple. It's always the same thing.
"You don't even know where he is!" Was all Conan said as he sprinted after them as fast as he could. Somebody had to keep an eye on them, after all.
A daredevil shadow dances in glory. . .
Metres away, Kaito watched amused at the little kids running off and grinned. "The bait is set. We're ready to go."
"Already?" The voice on the other line seemed unsure. "I haven't been able to get a hold on her yet."
"Don't worry, Jii-chan. We can always prolong stage two." Kaito threw in easily, already punching in numbers on his other phone. "I hope you know what to do."
"Of course, I do. But-"
"Stop it Jii-chan. We'll be fine." Jii-chan hummed and Kaito took it as positive and moved to end the call, fingers hovering over the red button for a moment before held it up to his ear again. "Jii-chan?" Kaito waited, listening to the soft rustles and electrostatics. "I'm counting on you." He said anyway, knowing the other won't hear him anymore but a part of him still hoped the latter did.
He stuffed the phone in his pocket and walked up the stairs, listening to the steady beeps from his other phone. Kaito frowned. Why won't she pick up?
He quickly typed a message to Aoko and pushed the weird feelings in his chest away. I hope she doesn't do anything stupid. He bit the inside of his cheeks before shaking his head rather widely. There was no time to worry. He needed to concentrate. He glanced back, seeing the kids running nearer his whereabouts and quickly jumped up the final steps.
I can't let myself be found by them yet.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Kaito grinned far too easily. "I know. I know."
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Murmurs of pitter pattern clattered against the window pane, sparks of lightning flashed in between fluttering curtains, illuminating the creamy walls and flabby tables where Kaito hovered over, arms pressing down the counter, glittering blue eyes smiling at him in childish excitement. "Do you remember what I asked you about yesterday?"
"Of course, Bocchama." Jii slid a bottle of pills across the counter. "But, do remember not to-"
"-exceed the limit." Kaito rolled his eyes, stuffing the bottle into his jacket, smile still loitering around the corners his lips."You've told me, already. I know. You worry too much."
Kaito shook his head defiantly. "You worry too much."
Shoulders sagging, Jii sighed. "Alright. But do not forget- two is the limit."
Kaito grinned far too easily. "I know. I know."
Jii's lips drew down, hoping Kaito really did.
Differences Between Us
Magic Kaitou 1412/ Detective Conan
"This. Is. Disgusting." Aoko grimaced and tightened the grip on her nose, sapphire orbs gazing at the burnished walls and ash driven pathways. "Why didn't you warn me? I could have bought myself a gas mask."
"Hell if I knew," Keiko gasped out, face green from the burning smell. "I'd never come here in first place." Keiko shuddered but then stopped, sharpening her ears. "What was that?"
"You can't scare me." Aoko mumbled and yet squinted through the dark, raising the torch a bit higher as she repeatedly gazed behind her back. Keiko laughed and suddenly cold fingers crept up her back slow and steady, Aoko shrieked.
"Kidding!" Keiko's laughed right into her ear, Aoko couldn't help but push her away.
"Not funny." Aoko grunted a bit upset and brought her torch closer to her chest until scruffy hairs met bright light and Aoko shrieked again, scaring Keiko out of her wits. Keiko whirled her head in all direction, shocked and alert at the same time. Nothing happened though and she breathed out. "Don't scare me like that."
Keiko turned towards Aoko noticing the way sapphire eyes were transfixed on the floor. "Aoko?"
Keiko stepped closer and saw her friend rise her torch with trembling hands again. Keiko frowned moved towards her until scratchy hairs curled around her ankle. Keiko whimpered and glanced down with all the courage she could muster as she squinted through the dark until she pointed her torchlight on her leg and-
Keiko screeched. Loud and shrill. Eyes bulging to the size of coconuts as she hurled her leg back and fro.
Aoko jumped, awaking from her stupor and turned her head towards her friend, whispering: "Keiko? Are you trying to scare me again?"
Aoko neared her, loosed the grip on her torch enough to enlighten a section of the cellar, she never wanted to see. Aoko screamed and scurried away, howling and crying and Keiko could already feel the tears stinging in her eyes too but for some strange reason still turned her head towards the direction Aoko last stared at and whimpered. Oh, please no.
The wall was aligned with huge, fat rats blinking straight back at her, fangs bared and feral as they pounced forwards seconds later but ultimately too late. Keiko was already far away, hot on Aoko's heels, freaked out and by now openly screaming in her highest vocal range.
This wasn't what I had in mind. Keiko scream inside her mind as she ran further away from death's door. This isn't what I had in mind at all.
They neared the end of the tunnel, roars of high pitch squeaks echoed around them. Keiko flung herself at the ladder, climbing up and pushing against the trapdoor with all her might. "It won't open!" Keiko grunted and banged against the door again. "It's stuck!"
"What do you mean is stuck?" Aoko squeezed herself next Keiko, almost pushing her away from the ladder if it hadn't been for Keiko's vice grip on the rusty metal. Aoko thrust upward with her entire weight, both hands pressed against the old wood and pushed with every ounce of strength she could muster.
"You'll fall!" Keiko reached out and grabbed the back of her shirt, when Aoko climbed higher up the ladder and curled her body as though to use it as spring as she stretched outwards, mental hinges rattling above her. Keiko watched with strange fascination as Aoko pressed most of her weight onto her arms in pure desperation. Keiko moved up then too, helping Aoko by adding additional strength until the hatch finally creaked open. They scrambled out, crashing against the floor mat and hastily shut the trap door, hinges chinking beneath them.
"I'll never do this again!" Aoko moaned, sprawling on the floor and catching her breath.
Keiko hummed and looked around the strange room, furniture covered in dusty blankets as though it was once inhabited. "Do you think somebody used to live in here?"
"Don't know. Don't care. Let's just get going." Aoko got up from the floor and turned the handle. Keiko silently prayed it wasn't locked and- click- it opened. She breathed out relieved. Rays of light flitted through and Aoko opened the door wider, eyes still adjusting to the change in light. "Seems like our mission starts now." Was all Aoko muttered as she saw the mass of people gathered from the end of the hall.
"Before," Keiko spoke up, holding Aoko's sleeve and pulled her right back. "Let's hit the bathroom first. We can't go like that." Keiko pointed at their ash patched face and dusted clothes, messy hair tangled with visible webs.
Aoko made a face and ruffled her hair, frowning at the dirtied dust that floated about. "Alright. Let's go quick."
Show me the world you're hiding.
Jeez, I only looked away for a moment. Conan looked around the hall once more, moving passed long stretched legs, side stepping the pointy tip of heels, and squeezing body, as though the grown ups around made a traffic of their own. Conan ran passed another set of gigantic walking legs, half-heartedly wondering when exactly the place filled up with so many people. Half annoyed; half tired he sauntered up the stairs. A small portion of his heart hoped his friends decided to take a break in the room Suzuki prepared beforehand, according to an employee it was situated somewhere in the second floor. Conan bit the inside of his cheek, trying his best to bottle up his building annoyance. They weren't there either. He closed the door behind him and shuffled down the steps. If only he had his badge with them, he could have contacted them a long time ago. He sighed, hopping down the last step, slightly thinking of asking Ran whether she'd seen them somewhere.
Conan gazed up, catching from the corner of his eyes a stout figure he quickly came to recognise as Nakamori with shoulders more tense then usual; they had a particular tightness Conan didn't see all too often. In fact, his eyes narrowed at the nervous fidgets inside Nakamori's blazer pocket, was he uneasy? Conan looked around once more, noticing the light atmosphere in the air, a lingering excitement policemen don't often emit during a heist. Conan could smell the whispers of promise and prods of rising excitation. He frowned.
Is tonight meant to be a special occasion? Conan heard nothing of that sort. He thought this was a heist like any other.
"Nakamori-Keibu," Conan ran up to him, smiling with radiance only children could put on. "Is something special going to happen tonight?"
"Yes, indeed, it is. I'm surprised you noticed." Nakamori leaned down to him, smiling albeit small at the corners. "Today is the day Kaito Kid will finally be imprisoned."
"Wow, really?" Conan's eyes widened. "How are you going to do that?"
"That'll be a surprise." Nakamori-Keibu's eyes glinted then. "But Conan-kun, did you know I've gotten a secret ally? I have you seen him already?"
Conan shook his head, no. "Who is he? Do I know him?"
"No, I don't think you've met him before but you'll recognise him straight away once you lay your eyes on him. He stands out from the rest, you know?"
"There are so many people. I don't think I'll be able to find him." Conan tried to negotiated, "Can't you give me another hint?"
Nakamori placed a hand under his chin as though to mull it over. "Alright, another hint." He turned to Conan again. "But this is all I'm going to say; a mouth mask." he gestured towards the bottom of his face as though to cover it. "I wish you good luck finding him."
Conan was still frowning by the Nakamori's back disappeared among the crowd. He was wearing a mouth mask? He couldn't be ill, could he? Maybe he caught a common cold. Has he seen a person like that? Conan thought deeply until-
"He doesn't seem well- just look at his face."
Genta's voice suddenly pooped in Conan's head, igniting a familiar ripple in the back of his head.
Didn't your mother let you stay in bed? Mine always lets me when I am ill."
He concentrated harder until he finally remembered flashes of misty blue eyes, tousled hair, flushed cheeks and the steady murmur of a muffled voice. Conan's eyes snapped opened. That wanna be magician! Conan turned, ready search the whole building when shocks of auburn met his eyes.
"Having a good time now, Edogawa-kun?"
"Haibara?" Conan looked surprised. "What are you doing here? I thought wouldn't come."
"I thought so too. Hakase had a bad stomach this morning but seems to be doing well now. For some reason he was really concerned for your well beings." When Conan rose a brow, Haibara elaborated, lowering her voice several notes. "Kid isn't the only one who'll be appearing tonight."
Conan's face blanched. "You mean the black-"
"No, no," Haibara was already shaking her head and Conan breathed out relieved, gazing at Haibara now expectantly, silently wondering what it was that concerned her to this extent. She hesitated for a moment. "It's a man named Snake. Apparently is after the same jewel."
Conan gave her a dead stare. "So? I will catch both of them, then."
"Are you actually an idiot?" Haibara gave him a disbelieving stare before pulling him closer to her, hissing in his ear, "Do you know the amount of suspicious people I have seen so far? The amount of people I have seen mumbling into their hands?"
"You're exaggerating." Conan waved her off, about to walk away when Haibara pulled him back.
"I'm not. Not every thief is as gentlemanly as Kid. There are some who would hurt even little kids as long as they get what they want."
"Are you speaking for your own safety?" Conan teased, fully amused now.
"Kudo-kun, this no laughing matter. We're in danger. Where are the others anyway?" She asked, looking around. "Don't tell me you lost them."
"Oh, they-" Conan's eyes widened before he abruptly gazed back Haibara. "What did you say? people mumbling into their hands?"
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Yes. Probably phoning this 'Snake' and updating him about the situation. Why?"
He ignored her question. "When was that?"
"Awhile ago? Maybe ten or fifteen minutes. It took me a while to find you since you didn't have your badge with- hey! Where you going?" Haibara shouted, running after him. Conan paid no heed. If it really had been ten minutes then Snake's accomplices probably have already long since spread across the scene. Maybe some of them were already inside when that 'wannabe' magician demonstrated his show. Conan gritted his teeth and ran faster, dodging coming legs with perfect precision.
"Edogawa-kun! What's the matter with you!" Haibara shouted somewhere behind him and Conan came to an immediate stop and waited for Haibara to catch up to him.
"The matter? If they are as dangerous as you said. They have already sighted his target." Conan explained before pressing urgently, "Have you seen the cars falling out of nowhere?"
"Yeah, I did. Right when I came in." She puffed out, leaning forwards, hands on knees. "Wasn't it Kid's doing? People said it was."
"No, it wasn't." Conan shook his head, fist clenching by his side. "The person responsible works with Nakamori, although he might be Kid." After all Conan wasn't going to rule out that probability yet. "But that's not the point. It's highly likely Snake thinks he is."
Haibara's eyes widened. "You mean-?"
Conan nodded and started running again. "We're not the ones in danger." he announced then, feeling Haibara's eyes on his back. "It's because he is."
That supposed wannabe magician.
The door of the cubicle shut closed with a silent click. Kaito waited for a moment before he flopped down the cover and sat on it, feeling the cold from the material through hi trousers and shifted. The bottle in his hand felt warm as he uncapped the lid, tiny red-yellow striped capsules falling onto his palm and he poured them back, one by one until only one remained. The last one. Kaito noted, staring at the mirror fastened on the back of the door.
The effects wore off, a strange paleness remained though. Clammy fingers ran over his face, gliding over the thin layer of glistening sweat on his forehead, the slight blueness spreading over his cheeks until he pushed his damped bangs up, slicking strands of hair over his over his head to get a closer look on his face. He leaned forwards and inspected each line and colour on his face, frowning at the rising purple beneath his eyes and redness on his eyelids. Had he always looked like this? Kaito sank back into his seat, strands of chestnut hair falling over his puffed eyes one by one as he stared at the pill in his hand.
Too think they could produce so much harm. . .
What devilish little tricksters, perhaps more so than him. No wonder Jii-chan was so worried about using them. Kaito sighed, eyelids sinking lower over his orbs and his shoulders dropped, weariness washing over him as he fluttered his lashes close for a moment, enjoying the temporal quiet, just until he had to face the bustling world again.
"Kuroba-san?" An unfamiliar voice called, small steps echoed around the toilet before coming to a halt on the opposite side from Kaito's location. "Are you in here?"
"Who's it?" Kaito called, suspicion carefully interlaced as he sharpened his ears.
"Itsuki Asuka- Junsa-buchō." The sergeant replied so clear and loud, Kaito could already imagining him standing there, saluting. "I've been looking for you for sometime. Nakamori-Keibu wishes for you to get into you position immediately. And also if you don't mind I've been meaning to ask you something..." Itsuki trailed off. His voice that had been ear-splitting awhile ago thinned to an unrecognisable murmur. Kaito rubbed his face and sighed. There goes my break. . .
"Sorry could you repeat that?" Kaito asked, driving his fingers through his hair as he stashed the bottle inside his jacket pocket. "You've been meaning to ask me what?"
"Well, it's about this rumour. . .a little thing I've heard among the crowd."
Kaito's brow rose, somewhat surprised; somewhat amused. "A rumour?"
"Yeah. I mean, you are the guy who made the cards rain down, were you not?"
Kaito smiled and flushed the toilet just for the sake of it. "Oh? I didn't notice it stirred this much attention. Did you enjoy it?"
"Well, yes but that's not what I wanted to speak to you about."
"What is it then?" Kaito stepped out from the cubicle, finding his conversation partner checking himself out in front of the mirror. So unlike police. Kaito hid a smile. They were really blending in well with the crowd. Kaito walked over and opened up the tap, washing his hands to disguise the last minutes he spent here. "I mean, what was so pressing to speak to a guy that was taking a dump?"
Itsuki choke on his own spit and flushed bright embarrassed but still tried his best to apologies for the inconvenience. He just couldn't find a better opportunity. Kaito laughed hoarse and quiet, snickering all the while he inspected the sergeant closer. Itsuki didn't look much older than him. Kaito guessed him to be around his early twenties.
"I just wanted to warn you." Itsuki finally expressed, seemingly having regained his composure and spoke in such a way, Kaito felt as though Itsuki might have wanted to utter these words for a while now. "Many people out there believe you're Kaitou Kid in disguise. Even some of the Police Force do, despite their trust in Nakamori-Keibu."
"Oh, so you mean you don't?" Kaito canted his head towards him as he turned off the water, a questioning tilt in his voice. Itsuki stopped brushing his auburn hair with his fingers and gazed away from the mirror, looking at Kaito head on with eyes with such blazing eyes Kaito wondered whether he said something wrong.
"There's no way somebody like you would be Kid." Itsuki placed his snapback on again, and gazed at the mirror for the final time. "You're both too different."
Kaito's brow rose. That's a first.
"You're like a walking firework that attracts too much attention whilst Kid is a glowing light waiting to burst into flames. Besides," Itsuki smiled, patting Kaito's shoulder as he walked passed him towards the door. "You look like you can't barely stand."
Kaito only gave a sarcastic laugh back as the door closed shut and he sighed. He was meeting all sort of people nowadays. With the flick of his wrist the pill appeared in his hand again and Kaito hesitated, still remember how his inside burned at his first intake, as though scorching flames crawling up his oesophagus, chocking and fastening up his airways as he felt way too hot to be considered normal, almost as if somebody turned up his self regulating temperature to several degrees higher with a snap of a quick finger. Remembered the light-headedness, the prodding dizziness, blurred images taken in by unfocused eyes, gasps from piercing pain as though needles penetrate his bare skin and wedge itself into his flesh, twirling and zigzagging throughout as he muffled his cries behind his hand.
Kaito breathed out, slowly to calm his nerve and swallowed the pill in one go. To his luck the pain was momentary but didn't seem to have reduced the slightest for it still got him sinking into his knees and clutching his chest fervently, trembling and convulsing beneath the threshold of his arms and gasped for air like a fish out of water. Black dotes swam in front of his vision and for a moment Kaito wondered if this was the end; if this was it. But that couldn't be true. He didn't exceed the limit. This was only his second pill. Kaito muffled and another groan as he turned over, slightly wondering when he came to lay on the floor and curled himself up tight, fastening a his grip on his shirt and wheezed as his organs felt as though they were squeezed and squished inside him.
Kaito could still hear the pounding of his heart even when the pain diminished bit by bit until he was numb all over. Kaito gripped the washbasin tight with both hands as he wobbled on to his two feet, hovering over the sink for support as he glimpsed at the mirror in front of him. He looked worst than before. Kaito would've smiled if he could. He staggered his way to the door despite his dizziness and leaned against it to calm himself. Jii-chan could've warned him for those side-effects.
Kaito groaned as wave of nausea hit him and stumbled out of the toilet, bracing himself against the wall whilst he crossed the hallways and squeezed himself through the packed corridors, weaving passed worried eyes, prodding questions to his well-being and a rather persistent old married couple that tried their best to convince him that calling an ambulance right here and right now would be the best option for him before Kaito ends up collapsing somewhere on the verge of death. How Kaito managed to persuade them at the end, he for his life not remember. It was blur of interwoven images in which he kept saying he was okay and hoped he'd really be.
He pushed the last double doors open and stepped into the main hall, right below the banister he could see Nakamori speaking into those walkie talkie things the police secretly used amongst the guests and customers. Kaito feebly grinned behind his mouth mask, and sidestepped the oncoming people, readying himself to hold onto the railing and climb down the first step when a foreign hand thrusted him forwards, completely throwing him off balance, overwhelming his head with another rush of induced dizziness and nausea as he toppled over, catching glimpses of ochre brown staircase, rows of bright shining chandelier, deep crimson carpets, and swirls of blue, fading yellow and blaring green before Nakamori's face popped in front of him, wide eyed and frustrated as he mouthed something Kaito couldn't hear. Kaito blinked repeatedly, trying to get out of this daze as someone took the liberty to wave a hand over his unfocused eyes. He pushed the hands off prying people away and sat up despite their efforts to push him back down. A pair of slender arms wrapped around him were especially reluctant and continued to clinch on him until he forced them away.
"Let go." He spoke out loud, still not hearing a word much less his own voice. Nakamori was speaking again but Kaito rubbed a hand over his eyes and blinked again, the blockade in his ears slowly broke until he could hear distant voices that steadily grew louder into something he identified as day to day volume of sound.
"Kaito-kun, can you hear me? Are you alright?" Nakamori's asked worriedly, eyes hooked on Kaito's face as though he was searching his answers there.
"I'm fine. I'm fine." He mumbled and glanced back, up the staircase for the offender. Kaito was sure he had been pushed down. He had touched the back of his head and flinched. It hurt. Nakamori pressed hand a hand on his shoulder as he turned around to face Suzuki and asked whether he had a spare room for him to lie down. Kaito blinked and turned around him, since when were there so many people gathered around him?
"Kaito, you. . ." A voiced breathed right into his ear so full of emotion his heart twisted painfully in his chest. Kaito didn't even need to turn to his side to figure out whom it belong to and truthfully speaking Kaito didn't think he wanted to at that moment. The usual warmth was gone from her voice, replaced by melancholic quietness that almost never appeared in their years of friendship. That alone made him push his queries aside and slowly turn, blue eyes fastening on brown locks that shadowed over her own pair of sapphire eyes, sitting farther away than he initially imagined with loose arms folded in her lap, hands clutching on to the fabric of her shirt as they trembled. Kaito's heart sank.
What have I done now?
Jii hanged up for the nth time and snapped his phone shut, gazing at the watch wrapped around his wrist. Worry gnarled in his stomach. Only ten minutes left. Just what was Oku-sama doing? Jii frowned and stuffed his hands inside his pockets, looking around him once more. She should have been here already. His fingers tightened on his phone, about to call her again when his own phone rang. He flipped it open without a second thought and stared at the caller's ID. He breathed out relieved, clutching the receiver close to him, "Oku-sama? Where are you? It's almost time." He glanced behind him for any on lookers as he mumbled. "Won't you make it?"
"I will. I will!" She laughed. "Don't worry about me. I'll be there soon."
Jii-chan stared dismayed at the screen. The call ended as swift as it came. He sighed and punched in a message to Kaito. At least he'll be assured to know that Phase Two will be done on time after all.
Oku-sama is Chikage by the way. Just thought I should clarify it before you get confused by the next couple of chapters.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Kaito could have died.
It's like the crowding winds are gathering,
rushing toward the far-off waves ahead,
Going past the peaks of the waves racing toward him.
Aoko ruffled her hair, scrutinising her chestnut hair under furrowed brows as she pushed higher on her toes, leaning closer to the mirror until she finally smiled and jumped back. "I'm finish!" she shouted, head canted towards the cubicle Keiko locked herself in.
"I'm about too!" the toilet flushed and Keiko stepped out, looking rather worried. "I can't find my handkerchief."
"Maybe, you dropped it somewhere." Aoko pulled out her own, dangling it between her fingers whilst Keiko was busy scrubbing her hands. "You can use mine."
Keiko smiled, opened her mouth to say something but halted when the door banged opened.
"I'll tell you, Boy is a machine!" a woman came in laughing, her maroon coloured hair standing out behind the white wash walls and grey tiled floor as her hands moved lively, head turned back towards the refined lady walking besides her. "You should've seen him. He's got reflexes like a ninja!"
"That's hard to believe, Reika," the other mused, brows knitted. "When I saw Kuroba-san the other day he looked disturbingly ill."
Aoko's eyes flashed, heart slamming against her ribcage. Does she mean Kaito? A moment passed and Aoko shook her head vigorously. What were the chances? Many people could have that surname. Aoko tried to calm her beating heart, telling herself it doesn't refer to Kaito necessarily, that she was only overreacting. She breathed out heavily, attempting to tune out the two talking woman without success.
"You're exaggerating, Tachibana," the woman called Reika waved a hand as if to pass Tachibana's comment back and gaze into the mirror, standing next to Aoko. "He looked as though he had a fever at best. Nothing too worrying."
Aoko averted her gaze, stealing a quick glance at Keiko and grinned. Her hands looked as though they were wrestling the oozing water from the tap. She laughed quietly. Ever the hygienic freak.
"Haven't I seen you before?" Aoko glanced up, finding a pair of hazel eyes gazing at her through tick lashes. Reika hummed to herself before announcing more convinced, "I think I did. You definitely seem familiar," she turned to the woman standing next to her. "She does, doesn't she?"
Tachibana adjusted her hair, glaring at Reika from the corner of her eye. "You can't keep quiet about anything, can you?"
Reika waved it off, pressing once more. "She does, doesn't she? We have seen her somewhere- at some time before, have we not?"
Tachibana rolled her eyes and strode towards Aoko with quick measured steps. Bewildered Aoko gazed at the insignia Tachibana held out. "Excuse her for putting you in such discomfort. We work alongside your father. We must have seen you at one point with him."
"Work with my father?" Aoko frowned as she glanced at their attire. Both were dressed in the uniform of Suzuki's employees. Aoko's frown deepened. Shouldn't they be dressed as police?
Reika laughed, eyes twinkling as she pointed at herself. "We're in disguise. It's part of our ultimate plan to catch the criminals once and for-"
"Reika!" Tachibana yanked her arm, glaring at her with such intent Aoko took a step back. "We're not supposed to leak any necessary informations. What if they can hear?"
Reika brushed her off, waving manicured fingers through the air again. "The toilets are secured- Hondo told me. Besides, it's the Inspector's own daughter. Who would mind?"
"Reika," Tachibana warned but slowly released her grip on her arm.
"I won't tell any necessary information. No matter how good that Snake or Kid is, they wouldn't know what to do with it. It's practically useless," the hand Reika initially held up as a sign of oath took on the form of her usual, dismissive wave, "so don't worry." she turned back to Aoko, smiling brightly as she said, "We have a secret weapon, you know? We call him Boy."
"Could it be this Kuroba-san you mentioned earlier," a voice asked behind Aoko. She turned, finding Keiko staring sharply at them as she dried her hands and stepped forwards.
"Why, yes," Reika blinked, "could it be you know him?"
Aoko stilled as she took a quick glimpse at Keiko's glittering eyes and held her breath. Already anticipating what will come next based on the light curl of Keiko's lips. "That depends whether his name is Kuroba Kaito."
Tachibana's eyes widened slightly before narrowing down on Reika. The maroon haired coughed into her hand sheepishly. "Who could have known?" she tried to smile under Tachibana heavy stare.
So, Kaito is ill, Aoko gazed away, fingers clenching into a tight fist, and didn't even bother to tell me about it.
A slender hand fell onto her shoulders. Aoko looked up, staring deep into hazel eyes.
"Don't worry. He's a smart man." Reika reassured, squeezing her shoulder. "I'm sure Kuroba-san can take care of himself."
Aoko could only nod when Reika turned and continued to gaze at the mirror brushing through her hair. Turning, Aoko glanced at Keiko who was already walking up to the door and caught up to her.
"That was strange." Keiko mulled as they walked along the corridor. "I didn't know Kaito-kun knew people from the police force."
"Neither did I." Aoko replied airily, brows still furrowed. "But why is he helping my Dad when he's ill, though? Shouldn't he be resting instead?"
"What do you expect? Kaito-kun could never sit still for too long. I thought you knew by now." Keiko muttered before holding up Aoko's handkerchief. "Thanks by the way."
"No problem." Aoko stashed it away whilst Keiko opened up the double doors, walking into the main hall, squinting at the person strolling in front of them meters away. Aoko's eyes rose. "Isn't that Kaito?"
Keiko squinted through the distance, "Where?"
"There. He's about to step down-" her words hanged in the air as she saw a person reach out, stepping out of the crowd gathered near the banister and thrusted Kaito forward with a single shove, pushing him off the stairs.
A shrill scream.
Aoko vaguely registered it as she stood rooted in her spot. Legs stiffened and trembling with a sudden cold she never felt to this intensity before. A raft blew between her legs, two little heads were running past her. Keiko disappeared next to her too whilst Aoko was still overwhelmed. Masses of people rushed by, running towards the staircase, gazing and pointing and shouting. Aoko wanted to cover her ears. To drone out those voice and leave forever.
Pictures bombarded her mind, filling it with images she never wanted to see. Never wanted to imagine. She could see him clear in her mind's eye. Sprawled on the stairs, motionlessly, eyes unnaturally wide open with a neck twisted at an angle that has her breakfast pushing up against her gullet. Aoko held a hand in front of her mouth, squeezing her eyes shut.
I don't want to-
She walked back until her back hit a wall she slowly slid down, a familiar cold creeping all the way up to her bellybutton.
I don't want to see it.
He breathing increased and suddenly she felt too hot, too stuffy, too sick. Stumbling onto her feet, she looked for the nearest exist. Wanting to go away as soon as possible. To leave the room and never come back again. To forgot this ever happened. To convince herself that it hasn't happened. That Kaito was fine. That he didn't fall. That it was a trick of the light. A joke of her imagination. An illusion. Orperhaps it was a mistake on her account. Mistook him for someone else. Misjudged the situation. Anything.
Yet her legs carried her forwards, stepping passed numerous people, staggering onwards until her hands clasped the railing, risking a glimpse southward- there,where he lay.
Her Dad sat in front of him, shouting at him from the top of his lungs. Aoko could hear his voice loud and clear, yet didn't hear a word he said as her eyes fastened on Kaito. Motionlessly Kaito.
She brushed a strand away from his unfocused eyes. Not knowing how or when she crossed the distance between them- when she has gotten so close, but couldn't particularly care at the moment. His eyes were trembling in its place and Aoko couldn't help but wave her hand in front of them. "Kaito," her voice quivered low and raspy, "Hey, Kaito."
Only a twitch of a hand.
Aoko's eyes widened when Kaito's eyes fluttered, hesitantly blinking before fully coming out from his stupor. He tried get up and Aoko's heart lunched up to her throat. Nakamori reacted almost immediately, trying his best to push Kaito back down despite the latter struggling against it. Aoko helped him too, hands still shaking as they fasted on Kaito. "Lay back down," soft and quiet the words flew out of her mouth- so unlike her, "just for a little while, Kaito, lay down-"
Kaito shrugged her off too, hissing at her to let him go and Aoko complied, retracted her hands as though he burned her and kept it by her side. Slowly gazing down on her laps as tears stung her eyes, slowly coming to realise what actually occurred during the last few minutes.
She clenched the fabric of her shirt.
Kaito could have died.
"Watch it!" Conan's child like voice screeched, holding out his hand out as if to stop the next several seconds from happening. No success. The wannabe Magician fell, but not as far as initially planned. His little shriek surprised the man enough to lose the most of the force he surged into his hand, driving the victim partway to doom. Yet, his shout-out caused also enough attention to the offender's surroundings to snap and Conan cursed himself for that.
His brows drew down. The man ran, bumping into the people that were still frozen in place. Unable to move or even notice the wrongdoer running passed them. Conan forced down his annoyance and pushed his legs faster, dodging the ever-widening legs that suddenly begun to move again. Rushing diagonally from him towards the scene somewhere behind him. He glanced back. Haibara was still running behind him, lips parted and breathing quietly with faint red tinges on her cheeks. Conan contemplated telling her to turn back- to find the others or even to take a short break from running. It was going to be a long chase. He had the man still in his view but given that the offender had still power in him judging on the frantic jabs of his elbows, Conan wasn't sure whether Haibara would be able to keep up. He turned around, about to speak up his thoughts when-
It was a woman's voice, coming from somewhere near him. Conan snapped his head back and squinted his eyes, still having the perpetrator in the corner of his eyes whilst he gazed around until a girl around Ran's age appeared between two rather tall people that were joining in the crowd's stream. Her twintails sliced through the air as she accelerated, glittering eyes glowered behind round lenses. Conan pushed down too, sprinting faster. Not wanting her to overtake him. Damn, it was his job to convict those criminals.
The man rounded the corner and Conan unmistakeably heard the crack of a pistol. Dread filled his stomach as he turned the corner too. Stopping dead in his track. Behind him Haibara gasped. With furrowed brows he walked closer to the corpse and felt for a pulse. It was faint, barely there for seconds until it diminished into nothing. His hand fell back to his side. Glancing around him, Conan discovered red splotches on the back of the man's head as well as a tiny hole where the bullet lodged in and a pool of similar colour streaming from it.
Conan turned around and saw the twintails' woman standing some feet away him, back facing him as she looked up at something he couldn't see. He stepped out from the narrow hallway next to the woman and gazed up, eyes widening at what he saw. On the banister leading up to the third floor near the railing stood a man, gun still raised, grinning crookedly through his untrimmed beard. Several men stood behind him with beige coats wrapped around them. They slowly dispersed into the dark that shadowed over the third floor. Conan gritted his teeth at his powerlessness. Even from below, Conan recognised the promise of malice glinting in those charcoal eyes of his. A man like him would definitely stop at nothing. And with this child-like body Conan now had, he definitely stood no chance. It was in moments like this he wished to have his original size the most.
"It's them." Haibara pointed then out, directly looking at him. "Those weird people from before that I was telling you about. The ones mumbling into their hands- It's them."
His eyes wandered towards the banister, a strange feeling bubbling in his chest. Quick footsteps resounded behind him and judging by the numerous echoes, Conan was sure there were many people coming his way. He sighed and rubbed his head, glancing at the corpse again.
"Cooonaaan-kuuun!" Ayumi's high pitched voice shouted with Mitsuhiko and Genta hot on her heels.
"What happened?" Mitsuhiko shouted, curiosity laced in his tone. "We heard the sound of a gun!"
They stopped in front of him and as if on cue glanced behind, spotting the corpse laying on the ground and immediately shouted, jabbing fingers in the air and pointing rather exaggeratedly at the corpse as they threw questions here and there. Conan rolled his eyes, a smile tugging on his lips nonetheless as he tried his best to explain. Now, if they'd only listen to him. . .
Conan turned his head, poking his head over the wall towards the corridor where the twintails' woman still stood, head canted behind her, seemingly awakening from her stupor. "Hakuba-kun," she blinked and looked around her, gazing into the narrow hallway where Conan stood and screamed. Her vocals echoing through the walls as she fell to her knees and scrambled away from the corpse. The excited blabber from the detective boys died out as they turned surprised. Hakuba jogged towards her, catching the younger's blue eyes with his own dark puce like coloured eyes when he turned 'Momoi-san' away from the crime scene after blocking her view of the dead man.
"What happened?" Hakuba asked, tipping his head at the corpse as he pulled the girl up to her feet. "Do you know?"
"H-he was shot." Momoi-san answered and faced the wall with her face pale as snow, with a hand covering her mouth. "He was-"
"What's going on?!" Nakamori howled from the end of the hall, running with such speed it shouldn't be possible with his age. Two people followed close behind him. Conan squinted his eyes. Was that a waitress and a steward?
"A murder," Hakuba mumbled, gazing back at the dead body.
"Hah? A murder?" Nakamori scowled, pressing his face closer to Hakuba as dark vibes rose off him. The blond motioned towards the narrower hallway and Nakamori glanced in, rubbing a hand over his face and mumbled who-knows what into his hand as he glared at them- all of them. "Just what on earth happened here?" he turned his head at Momoi-san and surprised Conan noticed that his glare lost its sharpness for a moment. "Keiko-san, explain."
"Well," she rubbed her eyes under her lenses before readjusting her glasses, letting out a wavering, prolonged breath, "that's the guy who pushed Kaito-kun off the stairs. I followed him along with these two." she motioned towards him and Haibara, acknowledging the corpse with quick flick of her hand yet still not dared looking at it. "That was it until I heard a shot. He was shot by some weird guys up in the third floor."
Kaito-kun? Conan's eyes widened and glanced at Nakamori and Hakuba, noticing how indifferent they were. Haven't they heard?
Hakuba's eyes narrowed. "Weird guys?"
"There were many of them." Conan voiced out then, pushing all thoughts regarding the victim to the side and concentrated on the here and now, stretching out his arms at either side as though to show the quantity. "With beige coat and strange hats! They were at the third floor and all armed too!"
"All armed?" Nakamori's brows rose before they furrowed as he glanced up the stairs. "Up there?"
"It's probably Snake's man." The waitress spoke up, placing a hand on her hips. "The witness spoke about having seen him with a large group of people. What were the descriptions again?" She rose a brow at the steward who glowered at her through his shades.
"Can't you remember anything, Tanaka? He has an untrimmed horseshoe moustache, a dark over coat and an equally dark fedora," he pulled out his phone, displaying on the screen a photographed sketch of a man with similar traits. The colour of Momoi's face drained as her eyes fell on the screen.
"It's him." Conan voiced out for her. "That's the guy we've seen."
"Is that true?" The man glanced at her through his sunglasses. "Is it him?"
She nodded, glancing uneasily up the stairs. A hand fell on her shoulder then. Momoi glanced up to see Tanaka smiling softly at her. "We'll take care of this. Don't worry, okay? Just make sure to stay away from the third floor, and to be safe the second as well."
It took a moment for Conan's head to snap at her face, wide eyed with mouth wide opened. From the corner of his eyes he saw Hakuba in similar state.
"Eh?!" The words fell out of him like running water as Conan pointed a finger at her. "You're a policewoman?!" Disbelieve was thick in his voice as he exchanged a look with Hakuba who looked now way more composed than he was. Could it be he knew?
"Ah, yes- no. I mean no! I am not." She coughed into her hands smiling weirdly and the steward behind her snorted, mumbling out:"You already ruined it- they've heard. There's no point in covering up now. You'll only look suspicious."
She whirled her head at him. "It's because of you! They wouldn't have known if you hadn't said anything now."
"It's because of your bad acting," he drawled, getting out his identification card from his pocket and flashed it around for them to see.
"Should you be showing your cards to us?" Conan asked. "If you're undercover, isn't that a bad thing?"
"You wouldn't say anything, would you?" he shrugged, looking at each person around him pointedly as if to memorise their faces. "Besides, if somebody else were to know, I'll know who'll it be from." Conan took a step back from the dangerous glint emanating from his eyes. "And I will act accordingly."
"We'll take of this matter." Tanaka clapped her hands, breaking the tense moment and caught everyone's attention, waving her hands as though to shoo them away. "You can leave this to us."
"Don't forget to call the first division." Nakamori glared at them before walking off, shouting over his shoulder, "I don't want to deal with the tanuki's shouts like last time."
"With whose shouts?" Tanaka called after but received no response. She raised her brows at the steward in disguise, who merely frowned at her as he dialled a number on his phone before pressing the device close to his ear.
"Whose? Whose? Whose?" She stressed the vowel, shaking the other man's arms until he mumbled an annoyed:"Inspector Megure's, whose else?" before shrugging her off and walking away from her, starting to speaking on his phone. Conan turned his attention away from them and turned around, belatedly noticing that the others have left. The detective boys seemed to have disappeared again and so had Hakuba as well as Momoi-san. Conan scratched his head before sighing, moving towards the corpse again and scrutinised it. Looking at the crumpled sleeves and fresh dirt on the sole of the offender's shoes and the closely shut eyes on his perspired skin. Did he know he will be shot? Was he bracing himself? Probably. Conan was sure the offender slash victim knew the consequences of having failed to achieve one's given job. So was death his punishment?
"Child, what are doing?" Tanaka's voice blared right into his ears. He yelped when two arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him up, carrying him away from the corpse. "As interesting as it is, you shouldn't be looking at a dead person like that. You'll get nightmares. Trust me, I would know!"
Conan snorted. Yeah, right. But ran away the moment she let him down. Right now, there was nothing he could do anyway. Not when he knew who the culprit was. And how many they were.
"What did you want to talk about Keiko?" Saguru asked, massaging his wrist that hurt from Keiko's vice grip. She dragged him all the way to the end of the second floor without letting him regain his footing. He was wading all over the place. Saguru rubbed the corner of his mouth with his sleeve before striving it over his lips. How embarrassing.
"What's going on?" She hissed with eyes blazing so bright Saguru was sure her initial shock of seeing a corpse completely subsided. "Who's this 'Snake'? Why is Kaito-kun helping the police? Why was he pushed down? Who are those people and why are you so unaffected by everything!?"
"I'm a detective." Saguru drawled, faintly amused. "I'm used to this kind of thing."
Keiko held up a hand as though to stop him, "Let me re-clarify. Why are you not surprised that Kaito-kun was hurt?"
"I'm not?" Saguru rose a brow and smiled somewhat at the corners. "I can't remember saying anything of that sort."
"You don't appear to be." she stressed, eyes glowering brighter. "Why?"
Saguru canted his head, slightly wondering when this turned out to be an interrogation, nonetheless he shrugged in a careless manner. "Kuroba-kun had it coming. It would've hit him sooner or later anyway. In all honesty, he should've been glad that all he got was a little shove down the stairs and not the barrel of a gun at his head."
He was meant to die. A tiny voice echoed somewhere in the back of his head. Kuroba-kun was supposed to die.
Keiko's eyes widened but before she could utter a word, Saguru spoke further, each words streaming from his lips made her eyes open a little wider until the light in her eyes completely diminished. "You're asking why I'm not surprised? Truthfully speaking, nobody would be if they'd knew little Kuroba-kun chose to make himself a target by playing the decoy. It was a foolish idea- I told him so. But what can you say to a man who refuses to listen? There wasn't much for me to do but watch in anguished anticipation."
They wanted to get rid of him.
"He was playing the decoy?" Keiko breathed out, brows now furrowing. "Decoy for who-" Her eyes widened. "Was it for that person? That snake?" Saguru nodded and Keiko's mouth opened in silent understanding. "B-but why was he pushed down? Even if he played the bait there was no need to harm him, right? He never did anything extremely bad. He never used, even when his action pushed the boundaries at times- we never once wished him harm, much less to die. So, how can anyone else?"
For him disappear forever.
Saguru's lips pressed into a thin line. "Have you not seen?"
"Kuroba-kun's magic show at the beginning." Keiko shook her head and Saguru elaborated, "His magic trick directed attention to him- too much, in fact. People suspected him of being Kid. Now that he's injured some are even questioning whether they'll be a heist tonight."
And you let them, Saguru.
You've let them.
I did not. Kuroba-kun had it coming. I warned him and he chose not to listen.
Saguru clenched his fist inside his pocket, face still calm on the anterior with his smile still soft at the corners. Kuroba was a fool. A very fool. Just what was he thinking? Was he not aware of the consequences? Was he not told? Kuroba should've known it'll come to this. He should have.
Or did I expect too much of him? Should I have been more direct? More forceful? Should I have made them pay more attention to me? Force Nakamori-Keibu to listen? To change his plans? Should I have gone out of my way and-
You should have stopped him.
Saguru breathed out from his nose. The sound inaudibly as Keiko's voice rose, speaking up once after a prolonged silence.
"Kaito-kun is not Kid."
"I never suggested such a thing. I said- some do," he stared at her face, contemplating whether to tell her next lines but continued anyway. It's highly likely she'll be informing Aoko on all this. It will benefit him too if Keiko starts to doubt Kuroba too. "Have you seen Kuroba-kun's face lately? Someone looking like him couldn't possibly hold a heist." Saguru's voice was unnaturally soothing, "And considering his hurt from the fall, it'll his best alibi, no? That is to say, only if someone can confirm Kuroba-kun's whereabouts at all times. If Kaitou Kid were to appear as usual whilst Kuroba-kun is plain sight, any suspicion will be casted away immediately. It will be erased until someone can prove it otherwise." Until I can prove it otherwise.
"And that someone will be you?" Keiko rose a brow, hitting right on the mark.
How can you call yourself a detective. . .
"I just find it peculiar." His smile sharpened as he slightly shrugged his shoulders. "Kuroba-kun's magic rivals Kid- at least that what has been going around the crowd. He has been taking care of the security system from Nakamori as well. He even went as far as to establish a rather unfitting rules of conduct and a dressing code that lowered our chances of catching Kid near to nil, I might add." Saguru mumbled, finding himself still sore on the matter. "However, you should be aware by now that if anything were to runs smoothly- too smooth- for Kid tonight, it will undoubtedly be reflected of Kuroba-kun's contribution. Yet, there's also the slight chance that Kuroba-kun secretly planned for it to work out this way. What if we were to entertain the idea that he arranged for someone else to partake in his stead as Kid? But only if he were to be Kaitou Kid, that's it," he quickly added when Keiko's eyes were funny again- too glittery and way too bright for Hakuba's liking. "The person replacing may have face difficulties and in the worst case might be arrested."
"What are you trying to say?" Keiko's face distorted in such a way, Saguru was sure her brain suffered from overload from too much information. Maybe he should slow down a bit. "I mean what are you trying to say Kuroba-kun is doing?"
"I don't know yet. All I know for certain is that the only thing on Kuroba-kun's mind right now is to proof his innocence at all cost, as twisted as it may sounds." Saguru stuffed his hands into his pocket and gave her a sharp glance. "But from what I can tell, it'll be a conflicting battle, perhaps a long drawn out one in which either side tries too hard." He shrugged at last, smile still there with eyes glimmering. "It all depends how good the replacement is Kuroba-kun picked out."
"And what if there is no replacement?" Keiko pressed with a strange urge to her words. "What if Kaito-kunis not Kid at all?"
"Then the odd will be on our favours. Kid will be caught today and Nakamori-Keibu will be on a high horse for the rest of his life," he chuckled, drove his fingers for his bangs. "Based on what I've seen so far though, the only way for Kid to escape is due a break in system. Specifically, the system Kuroba-kun established."
"And then? If the system breaks, what happens then?" Keiko bit her lips and gazed at him through narrowed calculating eyes.
"Then," Saguru smiled. "We'll have my system to back it up."
I will not only catch Kid then. But expose you as well, Kuroba Kaito.
"But is it really necessary?" Keiko straightened up, twintails swinging as she raised her chin and to Hakuba's dismay her eyes were glowing again. "Why having Kaito-kun be checked upon this way?" Her brows furrowed. "He's hurt and not well at all. It's not fair on him."
"Oh?" Hakuba rose a brow at that. "What a surprise. To think that Momoi Keiko of all people would be taken with Kuroba-kun. Who could have known?" He chuckled. "What will Aoko-san think, I wonder?"
"I'm not!" Keiko almost screamed, cheeks spread wide crimson. "How can you even assume that I-I- would be taken with-?!"She made a sound from the back of her throat that Hakuba could only peg as pure distaste. " not. I'd never!" Hakuba chuckled until Keiko glared at him. "And you shouldn't either."
"I'm sorry?" Saguru gazed at her with his brow raised even higher. "I think I misheard."
"No, you did not." Keiko stepped closer. "I might not be around much but I notice things. And I'm telling you to stop. Leave Aoko alone."
Saguru's brows furrowed. "I believe I'm not following."
"Cut the act. I know what you're planning. Aoko told me." Keiko looked around sharply before, lowering her tone. "You've been wanting her to believe Kaito-kun is Kid."
"Is that wrong?" Saguru tilted his head. "She is hanging out with apotentialcriminal. I'm warning her. Somebody has to at least." He gave her a pointed look.
"If that really were so, she's better off remaining oblivious." Keiko huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, scowling at him with (still) glowering eyes. "Thanks to you she's all over the place. A girl like Aoko runs by her feelings, not her thoughts. Don't make her think of stuff she has no explanations for."
A raised brow. "No explanation for?"
You don't know the compromise, the fake shadow.
Keiko waved a hand in dismissal but kept insisting, "She oughtn't to know. You shouldn't have told her at all."
"Cruel, is what I think." Saguru retorted. "The truth is something you shouldn't be blinded from. It's within her rights."
"Her rights from what?" Keiko challenged. "Kaito-kun is not Kid. There's no way he is."
"Why can't he be?" Saguru threw right back at her, smirking when she couldn't come up with an answer. Saguru knew that Kuroba was the only logical explanation. They were more pros for him than cons and that could only lead to one thing.
"Because he is just not!" Keiko still insisted at last and the blond rolled his eyes in perfect precision. "Anyhow! The point is leave Aoko alone. Stop mentioning Kid around here. She's getting paranoid. I mean just look what you have caused!" She spread her arms out as if his deed stood right in front of him and in a way it was.
"What I caused?" Saguru's eyes narrowed as far as he knew he hadn't done much.
"Look what you compelled me to do." Keiko rubbed her face with her open palm. "I had to drag Aoko all the way her to ease her conscience, that you're only messing with her, that Kaito-kun is indeed Kaito-kun and does not have some kind of double persona.That everything is really alright!"
"Nothing is alright." Saguru stated and leaned against a wall. "You should really stop throwing dust into her eyes. It will drive her away from you."
"As if she isn't already." Her reply was so quiet Saguru was sure to overhear it if he hadn't paid attention. "Anyway, this is not what I came here for-"
"Why is so hard to accept the concept that Kuroba-kun could be the Phantom Thief. It makes rather sense."
"Oh, really?" The sarcasm was heavy in her voice as place her hands on her hips and gave him a deadpanned look.
"I assumed Aoko to have told you about my little DNA tester." When Keiko shook her head with furrowed brows and distrustful eyes, Saguru sighed. No wonder she was so resistant in her idea that Kaito was innocent. "I ran a genetic scan on a strand of hair I believed to be Kid's once. I compared the results to a database of all teenagers in Tokyo and guess what I found," Keiko wetted her lips as she gazed around the room, looked at everything but him. "Kuroba-kun was first on my list of possible Kaitou Kids."
"Technology can't be trusted. It must be a random error."
"I ran more than once. Trust me even I couldn't believe it." Saguru smirked. "Yet, the possibility for there being an error is decimated. The data speaks the truth."
"How can you know? Maybe there was mistake in the build-up, you know?" Keiko shrugged. "This can't be true."
"And why is that?" Saguru pushed off the wall and crossed his arms over his chest as he stood in front of her.
"For all I know you could be lying." Her brows twitched slightly. "Besides it's Kaito-kun we talk about. Kaito-kun. He doesn't fit the bill."
Saguru smiled. "He does. He's right on the money. I'll unveil the truth he's hiding from us. You'll see."
"I'd rather not." Keiko gave him a pointed look and turned to leave. "From what I'm seeing, you're squinting at minor places in hopes to see the world."
He shrugged and watched her walk steps away from him before speaking up again with an uncertain eyes. "Are you sure you're alright with this?"
She halt in her steps, seconds ticked by before she slowly turned around. "What?" Keiko scrunched her face in counterfeited confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Throwing yourself in the middle position like that."
"What other choice do I have?" Keiko waved a hand before she continued to walk, rounding the corner, her words echoing through the hall. "Those two will never get anything done if I don't interfere once in a while."
"Just don't let them storm over you." Saguru muttered as he turned around as well, stuffing his hands inside his pockets, as he walked towards the opposite direction. "It won't do you any good at all."
"What do you think?" Tanaka glanced at him once they were alone. "Was it really their work?"
"I can't be sure. As far as I know the witness claimed that Snake's ring was rash and brutal. But this piece of work looks rather too neat." Hondo mumbled, crouching near the corpse. "I expected it to be messier. It should've been, in fact." He canted his head back at her, light reflecting of his dark lenses. "Are you sure this witness saw the real thing?"
"Don't know. Tachibana questioned her." Tanaka shrugged her shoulders carelessly before levelling an intense stare at him. "Don't you believe her?"
"I can't be sure. Things don't add up. Although, the witness did seem to get Snake's face right- it was recognisable."
"Of course it was.I drew it." Tanaka blew her bangs away from her eyes before giving him an exasperated glance. "What's with you? You've been so grumpy lately. If you don't want to be here, then go. We're not forcing you to stay. Reika told me you've been looking forward to that mission with Hideki-san anyway. I'm sure wild car chases, deathly explosions and criminal hunting is far more amusing to you than catching a mere phantom thief but-"
"I know. I know. Jeez, will you stop? You've been going on and on about this since the day I came," he drove his hands over his hair and stood up, stuffing his hands in his pockets, he gazed up, eyes fixed at the minuscule camera planted at the end of the hall. "I'll be checking out the footage. Maybe I caught something on film."
"Will you let me finished?" Tanaka threw her hands up before huffing out, "You're always listening to Reika, so why won't you listen to me? The witness-"
"I know," he waved her off and glared, silently daring her to mention the details of that day. Hondo didn't want to hear it. Cared not to hear it. And with that he marched forward, swiftly and determinedly, drowning her voice out beneath the rippling statics in his ear, the familiar ringing that reminded him every night of that fact. Of that horrible, horrible, fact he tried to forget. Tried to shut out.
Your budding memories tangled with the inevitable thorns.
Hondo was about to step passed her when Tanaka's eyes narrowed down to slits and within a second she stood right before him, blocking his way with her whole body, arms wide spread out in either side, her finger tips almost touching the adjacent walls in the narrow hall way. "How do you know?" she spit out, and from that alone Hondo deduced that she was on high alert. He can't fool her now, he noticed. He needs to play his cards right and sooth her. He needed to bring her back to the lawn of ignorance he dragged in many before. He couldn't have her in any other state.
"Why else would I be here?" Hondo shot right back and kept his voice as cold as always, eyes glinting dangerously as he moved forward, slightly trying to break her defences down with his sheer presence but as it seems he misjudged Tanaka's stubborn nature. She followed all his advances suit, not backing down the least and guarded the path as though with her life. He breathed out sharply from his nose. Damn her. Seems like he had no other choice but to confront her directly. "I know about it, okay?" he said at last, and tried to keep the pictures roaming rampage in his mind at bay. Ignore it, he told himself, just ignore it. "It's about the witness Reika saw crashing down several days ago, isn't it? I've been told."
"By whom? Reika kept it a secret until recently. Hell, I was even told until this morning so don't tell me you knew because you couldn't have. Unless," Tanaka spoke slowly, now glaring at full blast,"you've been there when it happened."
"Or, perhaps she has lied to you."
"She did not. Reika swore on her life she told nobody but me. So how can you know?"
"You're logic is faulty." Hondo crossed his arms, his fingers, hidden from view, gripped the fabric of his shirtsleeve peeking through his waistcoat tightly, and barely kept himself from gritting his teeth as he remembered his best friend's stricken face clad in darkness, his usually ready hands trembled with uncontrollable spasms, feebly breathing out, "Michi."
Hondo shook his determinedly head, his glare hardening on her. "Why would I voluntarily have been with that cuckoo?" he challenged, raising his chin as he looked down at her. "I've got a life on my own- and I don't make it a habit to stalk people, if you think that."
"Oh, is that so?" Tanaka smiled so shady it was near corrupt. "Then why did I see you hiding behind a bookshelf days ago, when she was out reading in the library?"
"For a mission. And you know which one it was," he spit out, silently cursing at Reika for making him take up the drab quest, or as she liked to call it; the quest to stalk a stalker. Her excessive tears she liked to put on whenever she asked for a 'heartfelt' favour, were only a manipulative tool for her to control others. Unlike many others, Hondo knew that behind the performed stupidity lay the grounds for a shrewd mind- another person he needed to look out for.
"Do I?" Tanaka canted her head to the side, squinting her eyes in thought and Hondo could almost hear her brain working. Search the memory in her mind as she may, she'd never find it. Hondo was close to tell her that he had was a lie. That it was something he said to get her off his back, but held it inside him instead. It didn't matter after all.
"You should." Was all he said instead and he pushed forwards, breaking through her defences and stepped passed her yet stopping midway when Tanaka's voice carried through the air again.
"But you were there that day, were you not?" Tanaka gave him a pointed look but made no move to stop him. "That's how you know. You've seen the witness falling from the sky, too."
He stopped and slowly turned to her, a brow raised in question. "What makes you say that?"
"I don't know." Tanaka said, shrugging. "It's just hard to see you focused on trivial cases such as these. That is, unless something horrible is going to happened, after all you like the thrill of doom."
Hondo gave her a lingering look before resuming his walk. "I don't know what you're talking about." Tanaka huffed behind him, probably was rolling her eyes again too as he stepped farther away from her and stuffed his hands in side his pockets again, feeling the cool metal of his gun.
A trivial case, huh? Hondo snorted, tightening his grip on it. If only she knew he was out for revenge.
"I hope you had a good look." Snake crocked his head at them. "That's going to happen to any of you who decides to brick shit next time. Carry out orders the way I told you. If I get more half-ass stuff, you'll end up like your colleague over there. And if it were to happen again, I will be the one shooting you dead," he tightened his grip on his Ruger SR9 holstered underneath his mantle and glared at henchman number 237. "And I guarantee you it won't be as neat as yours."
Number237 straightened up. "My apologies, sir, but I couldn't have you direct attention to our fallen comrade. More people would have noticed if several shots rang through the air instead of one."
Snake's eyes narrowed. "Are you selling me that people won't come rushing when they hear one shot?"
"Psychologically speaking yes." 232 steeped forwards, saving the other's skin. "The first shot can often times be pegged off as one's imagination but the second, however, brings forth doubt, and we can't have that. I'm sure 237 was taking that under account."
"I'm already aware of that or why else did you think I didn't kill him for disobedience." Snake glared hard at him. "Next time you're a dead man, 237. And you too 232 for interfering."
They nodded. "Yes, sir."
Snake waved them off. "Dismissed."
The shuffled out, breathing out in slight relief as they left the thick tension behind.
"What are we going to do?" 264 spoke up as he closed the door behind them. "Now that they know we're here won't they be calling the police to get us?"
"They need back up first." 232 closed his book and pushed his glasses up. "No police officer is stupid enough to advanced without sufficient forces. It would be indeed a foolish move."
"Not all people move like pieces on a chessboard, 232," henchmen number 240 crossed his arms. "We need to take unpredictability into account as well. What if they had their forces mobilised nearby? After all they had information on us due to that girl you chose to date."
"Michi?"232 grinned. "I have taken care of her, haven't I?"
264 brows rose. "You killed her? I thought-" he glanced back at 237, "weren't you the one who was chosen to snipe her?"
"I was about to but then I saw 232 behind her." 237 snickered before slapping the said guy on the back. "That merciless guy, here, made her jump from the window with mere words. You should have seen her face: Terror-stricken," he laughed out loud. "It was priceless."
"How did you manage that?" 240 rose amazed, catching up to them. "I pegged you for a sissy."
"How do you think?" 232 rose a brow, adjusting his glasses again. "Give a mouse an option between suffocating slowly and being blown up alive. Naturally, they will try to find an escape route of their own. Stupidly hoping to scrape by death along the way. Too bad it didn't work out for her. Poor girl forgot she lived on the thirteenth floor."
"Must've been desperate to live on."
"Or to get away from you." 237 added, still laughing along with 240. Behind them 264 slowed down.
"But was it necessary?" 264 muttered, eyes casted on the floor, brows knitted together. "For her to die, I mean."
237 gave him a look full of warning. "Watch what you say. That girl bailed us out and even served witness to the police. She had it coming."
"If she hadn't snoop, she'd be alive like all those other girls under my belt." 232 sighed. "Shame, I'd say. She was a real beauty."
"You'll find another one, man." 240 wrapped an arm around him. "And whilst you do, hand me over the brunette you acquired recently. I'm sure I can show her a good time."
"I would rather die than do that." he threw his arm off his shoulders. "Besides, she'd ran away the moment she'd see your face."
"Agree." 237 smirked. "You not really the handsomest guy around."
"Whaddya mean?" 240 pulled out a mirror from his pocket and inspected his face. "I'm some good looking chap. Even my mum says so."
"Your mum is blind, if I recall correctly." 232 rose a perfect brow. "No offence but how can you trust her judgement?"
The chatter slowly faded away as 264 silently walked off to the opposite direction, moving back towards the room they deemed Snake's office. He knocked three times before stepping in.
"What is it?" Snake's gruff voice reverberated through the room and 264 breathed in deep before speaking up.
"I'm wondering whether we could start off our operation sooner than initially planned."
"Why is that?" Snake swivelled his chair back to face him, bud's end of his cigar alight.
"Although I've been told by the others that no action will be undertaken by them until sufficient forces arrive, I need to say that launching our objective sooner will be more beneficial for us."
"It's based on a hunch, sir." 264 swallowed. "It's difficult to explain."
"I'm all ears."
264 closed his eyes, recalling and then answered honestly. "When I was patrolling the building some time ago, I came across interesting people. The kid killer was among them and so was the members of the third division. I don't know the quantity exactly, but I have seen the guy in shades- Hondo was his name I believe, and with them around I thought it'd be easier for us."
Snake's eyes narrowed. "What are you proposing? That we get it done and flee?"
"No. I meant that they will take the pressure off on us. The police tends to focus more than Kid than anyone else, leaving us more room to walk. Certainly, we can vantage those points."
"Go on," Snake ground his cigar against the inside of the ash tray on the table.
"It might be a foolish idea, but if we start earlier than planned it might not only throw off Kid but perhaps the police as well. After all, the police coordinate their defence and attack based on Kid's actions. If he is flustered, so might they," he took a deep breath. "I therefore took the liability to change the locations of the bombs."
"I anticipated you might do." Snake crossed his arms. "Where did you place them? I assume they are in more lethal positions now."
"Not necessarily." 264 pulled out a blue print from his pocket and spread it out on the table. "Instead of only bombing up the front of floor one and back of floor three, I placed bombs on every entryway except the fire stairs on the second floor. Whilst the police will distracted to evacuate the civilians and busy to save their own lives, Kid will be heading to the gem-"
"What makes you think he won't run off too?"
"He will want to get the Mother Of Pearl's Necklace before us. Directly heading into our trap. I placed explosives near the doors on the first floor, he won't be able to open them back up again. And even if he manages to get to the second floor, he won't be able to use the fire exist as well. Once the gem is removed from the case, the bombs under the staircase and on the roof will activate, leaving him nowhere to escape. The building will collapse and squish him to death."
"You missed on important factor." Snake's glared, hands twitching for his Ruger SR9. "What if the gem were to be Pandora. Your plan leaves no space for us to check."
"I had the same concern, at least until I came up with an idea." 264 eyes darkened. "It's risky so I'm not sure whom to chose, perhaps you can aid me with the selection. It's needs to be some one quick with a good sense of judgement and wide shooting range as well as with no fear of rats."
Snake's grin sharpened. "Tell me more."
"I found an underground passage on the back of floor one. Whilst we're busy blowing up the place someone could rush over and grab the necklace before Kid does."
"The uproar will surely take around five to ten minutes. But the run back and forth can last up to twenty and that's without disturbances. I'm not sure whether it's doable-"
"Look at how much free time you have. . ." Snake's lips curved into a smirk."I don't give you enough work."
"I have done it at night, sir."
Snake held his hand up, silently shushing him. "I like your idea. Say, are there any stairs in that passage?"
"Yes. A ladder to climb down within this building and a small stair case outside. If you don't mind me asking, why?"
"What does it look like?" Snake rose a brow. "I personally volunteer. Have you thought about using a vehicle to cross over? It's more efficient."
264 scrunched up his face in thought. "I don't think a car will fit, sir."
Snake's brows switched. "Bring me a bike. A motorbike."
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
I've rewritten Aoko's scene at the end and changed a couple of things, I'll be using it in the later chapters so I erased it here. The reason being? It complicated the plot so much that it became too convoluted for my brain. In fact, it did crashed a couple of times trying to handle . . .A-anyway, Conan won't be working to catch Kid for Aoko. Why? because shit happens. . .(excuse my language but I got no other word for that).
And one more question, are you okay with waiting until all the chapters for the heist are done, or read a chapter every two weeks or. . .every month, possibly?
And one more question, are you okay with waiting until all the chapters for the heist are done, or read a chapter every two weeks or. . .every month, possibly?
Please let me know. I'm starting to feel bad about this. It's been only a week since this month started and I've got already more than a hundred views, not to mention the amount of people continuing to read this story. It might not be much for some of you, but for me it's enough to wreck me with guilt (for some strange reason).
But please excuse my selfishness, and bear with me. I'm working on this. I really am.
I was told that Aoko’s interaction with her father was off in chapter 9 and the purpose of her attending the heist was as clear as I thought it was. Moreover, I tried to explain as well the reason why she tried to avoid seeing her father in the heist—hence, the secretive nature of their arrival. I
I re-wrote bits and pieces of the first part of chapter 9 and Keiko’s first dialogue in chapter 3.
I hope it’s much more clearer now!
If there’s anything else, that confused you or is unclear, please don’t hesitate to tell me. I’ll do my best to amend it! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Even if I try to scatter doubt in the blue winds,
I was unable to carry the burden with this small chest.
Kaito blinked at her when she raised her head to look at him but held her gaze away from him. "What's wrong?"
He stretched his arm to shake her shoulder but Aoko stood up and moved away, turned to her father who just finished instructing two newly arriving police officers, clad in usual uniform than the rest of them.
Nakamori squeezed his shoulders and stood up, glanced first at Aoko and then the crowd before he moved towards her, lay a hand on her shoulder and stared into her eyes. "I'll leave him to your care. I'll do my best to catch Kid this time, so don't worry."
Aoko glanced away and bit her lips as she quietly nodded, not having it in her to tell him that she didn't come this time to watch him and cheer for him but to satisfy her own curiosity and to dispel the suffocating doubts that plagued her mind.
That Kaito wasn't Kid.
The crowd gathered around him moments prior were chased away by Nakamori's loud shouts and pointing fingers, whilst Kaito was helped up by the two newcomers glaring coldly at him as they grabbed either side of his arms like a criminal ready to be taken into custody.
"I can go by myself." Kaito tried to wring out of their grasp. His body still hurt from his fall and their grip of steel was making it worse.
"Hold still," Aoko pinched his cheek from where she walked behind him. "You're making their job harder. You shouldn't complain."
Kaito opened his mouth to protest but one glance at Aoko's glare silenced him. At least until they reached the spare room where the officers thrusted a First Aid Kit into his hands and disappeared out the door with a mumbled goodbye of something Kaito couldn't catch and neither particular cared. He threw himself on the couch, head pounding painfully and muscles aching. Kaito sighed, enjoying the quiet once again until it was broken by soft rustles and metal clucking. He lifted his head when a cold breezed brushed passed his legs, staring down at Aoko's frowning face, "You're bleeding."
Kaito's gaze travelled at his bare leg and wondered when Aoko pulled his trouser up and how he didn't notice the dark stain on it, much less the pain. He gave her a questioning look and Aoko huffed, annoyed and very much upset about something Kaito couldn't figure out.
He watched her quietly, trialling the slow and soft motions of her fingers as she cleaned his wound and pressed the gauze harder than necessary- Kaito was sure she'd done it on purpose and complained rightfully so against her brutal handling which she returned by giving him an earful. Kaito was starting to regret of having opened his mouth in the first place as the whole fiasco only made his headache worse.
"You're such a baby," Aoko rolled her eyes as she swatted the band aid on him, ignoring the way Kaito cried out and clutched his leg in protest. "Do you have any other injuries?"
Kaito gave her a lingering suspicious stare before he inspected the rest of his body. Aside from minor scrapes and bruises there wasn't much else to work on. "Nothing major to worry on."
Aoko nodded and busied herself, stuffing the equipments back inside the box and placed it besides her on the carpet. Kaito's eyes flickered down on her. A strange silence elapsed between them as Aoko tried her best to evade his gaze. That was what he thought until she raised her head, looking him straight in the eye before standing off the floor. "You should sleep for a while. You look like you need it."
Kaito shook his head. "There are some stuff I still need to do."
"In your condition?"Aoko rose a sceptical brow and threw a cushion at him rather forceful. "Don't kid yourself and take a break."
"Are you mad?" Kaito asked, catching it. He waited for a reply that never came. Aoko was too busy gazing at the many pictures hanging on the wall. "Aoko, are you mad at me?"
"No, I'm happy." Aoko's eyes flung at him, hot and blazing as she canted her head back towards his direction. "I'm so happy, you got shoved down the stairs by some freak and I was so awfully glad to see you laying on the staircase. I'm just so happy that you don't even care about it at all."
"I do care about it." Kaito replied, still not entirely sure what the problem was. He expected to be attacked to be at some point. Reika and Hondo warned that something like this might happen. Though, Kaito was surprised they'd do it so soon at the beginning. There were still ten minutes left until his prescribed time.
"No, you don't. You're too careless." Aoko rushed on, now towering over him, cheeks flushed with apparent anger. Kaito shrank back. "What were you thinking helping my dad like that? You're going to contaminate the whole building. You should've stayed in bed."
"No, I won't." Kaito pointed at his mouth mask. "I've thought things through."
"Not enough." Aoko placed her hands on her hips and she leaned forwards. "Kaito, do you even bother to think about anyone else beside you're stupid desires?"
"What's your problem?" Kaito snapped, annoyance building up under his skin. "Shouldn't you be glad that I'm helping your Dad?"
"I am but that's not the point!" Aoko shouted loud and unrestrained. "You could have told me!"
"What would have been the point?" Kaito shouted right back. Headache be damned he wouldn't stand for this. "I'll do what I want anyway. Telling you wouldn't have changed a thing."
"But at least I'd know, Kaito! I wouldn't have to worry about you so much."
"There's no need to worry. I'm fine!"
"No, you're not!" Aoko screeched and Kaito clutched his head. "A normal person doesn't walk around like this! And whatever you're doing is not helping you either. You've been like this for months and you keep getting worst!"
"Maybe because I am like that!" Kaito shouted exasperatedly. "How many times am I supposed to tell that I'm fine until you'll believe me?"
"You're not though!"
"I SHOULD KNOW BETTER!" Kaito shouted. "IF I SAY I'M FINE I MEAN- I AM FINE!"
"YOU'RE FACE IS NOT NATURAL!" Aoko shrieked right back, voice high and shrill he's never heard before. "WHY WON'T YOU JUST ADMIT YOU'RE NOT OKAY!"
"BUT I AM!" Kaito breathed out sharply, shutting his eyes from the pulsating throb in his head, pressed his hands over his ears, droning out the rest until he felt a pair of hands on his wrist, tugging his hands down and pushing him back to sit on the couch.
"See? You're not." Aoko kneeled, roaming through the First Aid Kit, pulling out a pack of painkillers and threw it to him along with a water bottle from her own bag. "Why will you never listen to me?"
"I don't understand why you're so emotional about this." Kaito murmured and handed her the bottle back, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. "I just fell."
"You almost died." Aoko pointed out and Kaito didn't know whether it was the weight of her words or her voice itself that got his hair stand on end.
"What?" he cleared his throat, whipping his head back to face her. "Aoko you thought that-" Kaito shook his head, face scrunched up in vague disbelief. "Why would I die from that?"
"It can happen," she forced out, gazing away, slightly shrugging. "People die from that, too."
"As if I would ever die from that," he tried to laugh, "Come on Aoko, it's me. My head is harder than that."
"How am I supposed to know what you'll die from?" she whispered and rose her head, glowing sapphire eyes boring holes into him. "We can die from practically anything."
"So what do you want me to do?" he asked, brows furrowing slightly. "As far as I know it's something that we have to accept."
"I know. But I can't help it. It has always been like that." Aoko's voice quieted down and looked straight at him, and only now Kaito saw the wetness in her eyes, the red tinges on her nose and the glowing crimson swimming in the whiteness of her eyes. Kaito forced his lips shut and looked away, swallowing his oncoming words back down as his blue orbs moved towards the end of its sockets, peeking back at the rapid rising of her chest, tightly clenched fists, trembling shoulders and lowered head that had her bangs cover her eyes and forehead as she bit her bottom lip, mumbling, "Sometimes I just feel like I'm losing sight of you."
So quiet. Slow. Suffocated. Kaito just wanted to cover his ears again. Her voice echoed between them in constant turmoil and Kaito's only wish was to hide away from the dead heaviness coming of her words. But he could never ignore her nor the unsteady sound of her voice. So he forced himself to listen, to hold his breath and wait for her to finish, fingers clenching tight whilst her voice wavered through the air. "And today I realised it wasn't just a feeling- it was a fact. You're slipping right through my fingers." She looked up with eyes so glassy. "And I don't want that anymore."
Kaito's hands fisted by his side. Not liking at all the way her breathed hitched between each word as though she was moments away from tears and Kaito prayed she wasn't. He didn't want to handle this. Not now. "Aoko," Kaito breathed out long and drawn, rubbing his neck as his feet shuffled two steps forwards, body facing her as his mouth opened up again but she only shook her head, head still sunken as her voice carried through the air again, thick with such sharpness it pricked Kaito's skin.
"I know that you're uncontainable, Kaito. A wild boomerang that's out for destruction- that seeks some invisible excitement that can by no means satisfy you. And I don't mind it. It's just-" she swallowed and gazed away. Somehow Kaito got the feeling that she had those thoughts in her head for awhile now. His brows drew down. How long has she been thinking like this? His lips parted once more- about to let out strings of soothing words and reassurement when Aoko's voice ruled over his again, gaining more firmness despite the suffocation that clung to her voice, that still tucked her breath away. "You're getting farther and farther away. And I can't keep up. You always leave those holes and cracks I'm constantly toppling over and ithurts, Kaito. I-" she fluttered shut, blinking away the tears that brimmed in her eyes. "I can't keep doing this. I can't hold on forever."
Kaito stared. Astounded. Surprised. So out of his element. What was he supposed to say? What was there to say? He rubbed a hand over his face as he gazed at Aoko whose head was yet again lowered, shoulders sagging from a weight that was undeniably too heavy for her to carry. Kaito sighed as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Aoko, you idiot," he wanted to say. "Stop using your head and open up your eyes. You don't need to chase afterme. I'm right here."
But that wouldn't have been true. Aoko stood there- only metres away from him. He could cross the distance in four big steps in a matter of seconds. So why did it seem as though she was much farther? Like millions of miles away or as though stretching eternities were placed between them. For a moment Kaito wondered whether Aoko felt this distance everyday.
"You can go." Kaito looked up. Aoko turned away from him, walking with measured steps towards the door, a foreign tone interlaced in her voice that Kaito has never heard before. His airways constricted. "There's something you have to do, right? You seem to be okay. I won't stop you. You're free to go."
"But-" Kaito glanced at her uneasily. She has completely quiet down. So different from her usual flamboyance and boisterous ways.
"You can go," she repeated once more softly, hands holding onto the door knob. "I won't keep you anymore."
Kaito stomach dropped. Suddenly he got the notion she wasn't talking about the little errand he had to do anymore. This was something else. Something with a meaning he still didn't know about. "Do you want me to go?" Kaito's eyes roamed around her, looking for signs that might help him figure out what she was thinking about. But she only shrugged.
"You do whatever you want. Telling you what I want doesn't change a thing." Aoko glanced at him from the corner of her eyes, using his own words against her and he felt bad. So bad.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
The door opened and after a moment she fluttered out, door closing behind her with a silent click and Kaito was still rooted to his spot when his heart pumped with unexplainable anxiety. Somehow he felt like Aoko was going to walk away from his life- leave him in the wake of his dust whilst she moved onto the horizon- whilst he still wallowed in the depth of the past. In his Dad's past.
Kaito could barely feel his leg as he staggered towards the door. Time seems to have slowed down as the sound of a ticking clock rang inside his ear, thoughts loosely forming themselves as he opens the door and with clammy hands, heart beating way too hard and too loud to be considered normal. He cleared his throat and shouted out her name, about to force his legs into a sprint to catch up to her when- he blinked. The knot in his heart loosened up and a light smile grazed his lips. She was there. Near the end of the hall. Still in reach. Still in plain sight.
"What do you want?" she turned slightly, still not meeting his eyes but Kaito didn't mind. Sort of relieved at the fact she hasn't disappeared, that he was able to find her before she could've gotten away. He walked up to her, the sound of footsteps cushioned by the velvet carpet beneath him.
"You don't need to keep up with me." Kaito voiced out once he was close enough, trying his best to keep the widening holes to small burst. "I never asked you to." Aoko's shoulder's stiffened and before she could storm off, he grabbed her arm as captive and was glad she didn't retract. "I never expected you to," he breathed out, moving Aoko to face him, raising her chin up and stared at her deep in the eye. "You never needed to," he shook his head, "There was never a point in doing so."
Aoko swatted his hand away from her chin, glaring heatedly at him as she repeated with vague disbelief, "There was nopoint?"
"You're only tiring yourself out." Kaito shrugged, smiling a tad bit ruefully. "Don't force yourself to catch something out of your reach- it's unhealthy."
"So you want me to let you drift away?" the expression on Aoko's face changed completely. Was it dread? Fear? Shock? Anger?
Kaito didn't know anymore but he knew his stomach twinged painfully when he said: "I'm a free bird. Let me fly wherever I want to."
The colour on her face drained away and left was a sickly pallor he never seen before anybody's face much less his own. Brown shocks of hair fell forwards, veiling her face as she lowered her head again as though he punched her. "Okay." It was whisper, maybe even fainter. Kaito strained his ears to catch her voice, slightly leaning down. "It's fine. I don't mind."
Aoko's eyes were shining brightly, way too brightly when she glanced up to him and belatedly Kaito noted they were very tear filled too. She took a step back and tried to smile despite her shaking shoulders and uneven breath. "This would've happen either way. It was a matter of time. I knew and yet-" she shut her eyes but the tears fell anyway, streaming down her cheeks the curve of her chin as she clenched her hands into a fist, knuckles turning white under the pressure. "I don't know why I let myself believe otherwise. I'm so stupid. I should have known that you would- that Kaitowould-"
His heart coiled or at least if felt so. "Aoko, what do you mean?" he stepped forwards but Aoko retreated, kept a distance, dodging all advance from him to reach out to her whilst her shoulder violently shook as she curled into herself. Kaito frowned but let his arm fall to his side, feeling completely helpless as he watched on. She turned away, bangs still hovering over her eyes and leaving him no chance to figure her out.
"I won't bother you anymore," she forced out, staggering away from him but Kaito pulled her back and to his surprise Aoko didn't wring out of his grip.
"Explain." Kaito racked his eyes all over her. "I don't understand."
"Don't mind it."
"Aoko," he tightened his grip on her arm. "Tell me."
"You're a bird- fly wherever you want to. I don't care- just go." Aoko gave him a sharp glare with her red puffed eyes.
It took a moment to register her words but when it clicked, Kaito shoulder's slumped. "Do you really believe that?" he swallowed, "Do really you believe that I don't care whether we're friends or not?". . .whether you're here with meor not?
She didn't response but Kaito felt her tense up. So she did.
"Even a bird needs a nest to return to, Aoko," he murmured, arms tentatively circling around her, "And I got mine right here."
"But is it enough?" she mumbled, pushing away from him and glaring right at him."Will it be really enough?"
"As long as you stop tripping and hurting yourself, yeah I guess," he roamed his eyes over Aoko's puffed face, the red rimmed eyes, the smudges of tears across her face and the quantity of snot she held back with her constant sniffing. "You'll be enough. Don't worry about anything anymore." Kaito placed her head back on his shoulder, fingers caressing her flowing mane. "I'll fix this."
She raised her head back up. "But-"
"Trust me," he mumbled against her hair, breathing in the faint strawberries emanating from her hair. "I will make this alright."
He felt her nodding, breath still shuddering and shaking against his jacket, hiccuping into it, head sinking deeper into the crook of his neck as her hands tighten around him. "Alright."
"It will be alright. You'll see."
I'll believe in the hand stretched out to me.
"Why is it that Conan always in the middle of the action?" Genta mumbled with arms folded behind his head, kicking the red carpet as though it was dirt.
"It's not necessarily a good thing." Haibara gave him a stern look. "Those guys have seen him, wouldn't you think it's better for you, who they not know of?"
"Yeah!" Mitsuhiko looked up as though he came to realise something important. "Now, that they know Conan has seen them, they might be planning to hush him."
Genta drove his thumb across his throat with sound effects that got Ayumi screaming: "I don't want Conan-kun to die!"
"Then, let's save him!" Mitsuhiko pumped up his fist, about to ran away with the other two when Haibara yanked him back.
"Nobody will die. If they intended to shoot us down, they would have done so the moment they saw Conan and I," her eyes fluttered shut before she rose a brow, "What did you plan on doing anyway? They had a gun if you haven't noticed. What good would you be against it?"
"Well," Mitsuhiko looked down, averting his gaze from her to his friends, "Perhaps we could find out who the person was that shot the victim lying on the floor, then?"
Genta nodded. "We're the detective boys after all!"
Ayumi frowned, slightly canting her head to the side. "But don't we know that already?"
"We do?" the two boys stared at each other in united confusion.
"Yes." Haibara did her best not to roll her eyes. "It was them. The ones we just spoke of."
"The ones that saw you and Conan?" Genta asked surprised. "But why would they kill one of their own?"
Haibara regarded them through calculating eyes, weighing the merits of telling them until coming to a conclusion at last. "Did you noticed anything happening on your way here?"
"Ah, I know!" Ayumi brightened up. "I saw a lady feeding her cat!"
Genta looked confused with his brows furrowed deeply. "What's so special about that?"
"It's because I saw a sign near the entrance that meant: no animals allowed." Ayumi looked at Haibara. "Isn't that what you meant?"
"Sorry." Haibara shook her head. "That wasn't what I had in mind. Do you have any other ideas?" Mitsuhiko shook his head and so did Genta, both looking equally clueless. Haibara sighed. "Haven't you listened to their conversation just now? They mention something about someone falling. . ."
"Ah!" Mitsuhiko cried out, raising finger. "I remember they said somebody fell for the stairs."
"That's right. He was pushed down." Haibara gazed back where they came from. "One of Snake's man was told do so but apparently didn't do to a very good job."
"So, they shot him because of that." Ayumi look down, frowning slightly before she brightened up. "Maybe we should check upon the victim- you know the one who fell!"
"Why should we do that Ayu- ow!" Genta howled in pain, clutching his foot and hopping on the spot. "Why did you do that for, Mitsuhiko?!"
"If Ayumi-chan says she wants to do something, she wants to do it!" the brunette gave him a pointed look, whispering at him, "Don't question her motives. She's not a suspect. Ayumi-chan deserves better."
"This reminds me," Ayumi spoke up, turning to Haibara. "Didn't the lady Momoi-san call the poor guy 'Kaito-kun'?"
"Did she?" Genta's eyebrows rose as he thought, tracking back into his mind. "I can't even remember."
"She did." Mitsuhiko's eyes roamed across his notepad. "I've made notes. It's was one of the things I have placed a question mark on. I wonder whether she knows him."
"Perhaps, it's the guy over there." Haibara motioned her head towards the corridor in front of them and the trio tried to squint through one of the opened doors to where he stood.
Genta ran closer before pointing a finger at the distant figure whose back was turned at them, looking rather shocked. "Eh!?" Genta's eyes popped out, "Isn't that the guy we have met before? The one with the bird Alva?"
"Dove." Mitsuhiko immediately corrected. "It was a Java dove. But yes, that's the one. I wonder what he's doing there. What do you think Ayumi-chan?"
"I think he is with someone." Ayumi squinted her eyes, stretching her head out further to get a proper look, "I'm sure it's a woman."
"Really?" Mitsuhiko mirrored her action. Behind them, Haibara closed her eyes, breathing deeply in through her nose and out from her mouth, relaxing her shoulder in attempt to calm herself.
"Now, let's go before he sees us. I don't want to be pegged as a stalker." Haibara spoke up, about to walk away but stopped when she noticed they weren't following her but were rather sneaking closer to the wanna be magician. "What are you doing?" she whispered-like- yelled when she followed them, hiding with them behind a closed door and peeking through the opened door next to it.
"We lost track of him last time." Mitsuhiko answered. "It's only natural we resume where we left off from."
"You trailed him before? Does Edogawa-kun know?"
"Yep!" this time Ayumi answered, crocking her head back at Haibara and smiled cheekily. "Though he lost us after awhile."
"We're suspecting him to be Kid." Genta supplied too, narrowing his eyes on the target. "He showed us some cool magic trick last time that left no room for doubt. I could bet servings of braised eel and rice on this."
Haibara blinked, not quite sure what to think of this. "Are you talking about the trick that Edogawa-kun told me of? That he made cards rain down?"
"Yeah." Mitsuhiko nodded, eyes still trained on the figures in front of him before his eyes widened. "The target is moving."
"It was a woman!" Ayumi pointed out as their suspect stepped back, releasing a girl from his arm and placed a hand on her back as guided her away. "And she's been crying, too."
"Maybe he made her cry." Genta tched and narrowed his eyes on him. "What a meanie. I expected better from him."
"Perhaps his sickness got to his head." Mitsuhiko thought out loud. "I mean, he was so kind when we met him. What could possibly have happened to him?"
"Or perhaps he is showing his true colours." Genta narrowed his eyes further. "I could smell he was fishy from the start. How can someone so good at magic think lowly of himself? I don't know about you, but that guy doesn't strike to me as modest at all."
"He doesn't?" Mitsuhiko's brows drew down. "I thought he was pretty modest."
"No, no. He's not," he shook his head before raising a finger, leaning in as though Genta was telling Mitsuhiko a secret. "If he were modest he would've done a small magic show instead of such a big one. He is a show off. Definitely." Genta nodded to himself, arms crossed over his chest, seemingly happy of his 'flawless' deduction.
"No. I don't think so. He might have had other reasons. I mean, his magic attracted attention to him, didn't it? Maybe, he had done it on purpose."
"Why would he?" Ayumi titled her head to the side. "He must have known it could be dangerous. Why would he put himself in such a position?"
"I don't know but why don't we find out?" Haibara suggested and pointed at the wanna be magician that was slowly walking off the opposite direction, still trying to calm the girl beside him. "I could use some fun. And by the looks of it you guys are already too deep involved in this, aren't you?"
"Yeah," the trio pumped their fist into the air, whisper-like-shouting: "The detective boys are on the move!"
Trouble welled in the pits of Nakamori's stomach, despite his awareness on the fact that his job was to concentrate on solely Kid capture, wasn't it the reason why he pushed the murder on his collegues who had a better expertise on the matter? After all with his recent transfer to the Second Division, his skills to track criminal down has considerably dampen due the lack of use. However, he is aware that this situation was the gateway to catch both criminals as well as clear up a murder, especially when the murderers were identified too. The best course of action would be to established a battle arena. Away from the civilians to reduce the possibilities of subjecting them to harm, which in turn conflicts with Kid's demand of having an audience. But even Kid wouldn't moan for that when the lives of people may be at stake? Yet even more so, who was Nakamori to inflict such bases? What evidence was available for him to stuff up his assumption that civilian were to be harmed? That it would turn out the be dangerous? What were those assumptions even based upon?
My instinct, Nakamori realised with clenched fits. This is bound to get dangerous. I can feel it! Yet, this was not enough proof to persuade Suzuki to end this exhibition, not when he spent much preparation and money to open it up in the first place, and yet despite all this it is necessary to organise a plan to evacuate them without causing too much disturbance…
A light bulb shone above Nakamori's head, perhaps the civilian don't need to be evacuated at all. But of course not, instead he should focus on getting them away by themselves!
With new found rigour Nakamori issued orders through his radio. Precautionary measurements, he thinks to himself, just to be save.
It was one of those rare days Nakamori engaged himself in making up a little rumour.
Your budding memories tangled with the inevitable thorns.
Pitch black. The darkest shade. A low murmur, somewhere admits the welling darkness, raising volume slowly, slowly. Hondo's eyes squinted through the dark, stepping further in Hideki's office, straining his ear, waiting, waiting-
A passing thought. Penetrating silence. A halting breath. Hondo marched further in, eyes adjusting to the dark, "Hideki," he called, "Hideki."
Glimpses of fleeting shadows. Silent footsteps. Staggering breaths.
Hondo sighed. " I know you're here."
The door slammed shut.
"Did you know?" a quiet murmur, almost a low growl. "Did you?"
"What are you talking about?" Hondo turned to look at him, fingers anxiously gripping and clenching in his pocket, "Know about what?"
"Michi," was all he said with a breath too shallow and fingers too ready.
Hondo answered not, looked straight at him instead.
"Don't lie to me," Hideki neared him, feet dragging along the carpet, fists trembling near his sides, breath shaking and far too uneven, "Hondo….did you?"
He looked away and swallowed deep.
Took a deep breath and clenched his fists.
"So what if I did?"
The look on Hideki's face was etched deep into his memory.
Hondo groaned as the memories flooded his mind. Practiced fingers flitted from the rim of his shades to his closed lidded eyes, massaging slowly whilst he breathed out deep and slowly, cursing his mental picture to death, to not attack him like this again- at least not when he was doing this.
Concentrated eyes strained on the screen whilst the hard sound of tapped keys lulled through the small room. Hondo blinked once, twice and squinted his eyes, winding back and forth, cameras flicking with images here and there as he speeded through it until- there, he smirked, found it.
He played it forward and zoomed it, trailing after the figures- first two girls, one of which Hondo vaguely recognised as Nakamori-Keibu's daughter crawling out of the passage before someone else appeared on the screen. One of his targets. He gazed at time displayed ad the bottom corner before resetting the other screens roughly at the same time and voilà- he fished out a self constructed print out of the exhibition hall. With quick fingers he marked the spots the figure on the screen lingered seconds too long. Got you. A satisfied smirk bloomed on Hondo's lips as he threw the pencil down and deleted each video by pushing a single button. Game over. He leaned back in his chair, stuffing the paper into his pocket before shutting each of them down.
He'll make them all pay.
"Are you done yet?" the door opened from behind him, flocks of maroon hair peeked through, framing hazel eyes that were gazing straight at him.
"Yeah," he swirled his chair to face her completely, watching her frown at him as she came closer, closing the door behind her. "But what are you doing here? You shouldn't be wandering around."
"I don't need you to tell me that." she shot him a look, gazing flicking at the blank screens, "I was just wondering what you were up to."
"Nothing. Now go back. I don't need you here."
"You're always so mean," she dismissed his retort with flick of a hand, easily sliding into the seat next to him, hazel eyes locking on his as though they looked right through him. "Sometimes I feel as though you're forgetting that I'm here to help."
Reika adjusted herself in her seat, propping her chin onto her folded arms resting on top of the chair as she stared long at him. Hondo frowned slowly, a strange idea formed at the back of him mind but he dismissed it. Reika couldn't have known about his plans. And even if she did, Reika wasn't the type to stretch her hand out in help for it, rather she'd try to stop him. With all her might. It was against her moral code after all.
"Only when you become a bother," he mumbled back and glared coldly at her. "Just do what you're told for once."
"But I haven't been given an order." Reika rolled her eyes and slowly stood up, already foreseeing a new order.
"Tell Tanaka to get ready then. The police will be coming soon." Hondo watched her walking out the door but not without mumbling something under her breath that he couldn't quiet catch. Probably a complain.
The door opened again and he half expected Reika to march in in refusal but was slightly surprised to see someone form the forensic team stood in the doorway, a handful of pictures and a plastic bag in his gloved hand. "I thought you'd like to see these."
The quiet, lulling wind that brew since the first rays of sunlight shone above the skyscrapers, was rushing now, whipping and lashing at the surrounding people. Megure stepped out of the police car parked near the exhibition hall, hand clutching tight on his hat until he walked inside the building. A shuddering breath escaping his lips before he looked around and saw a hand waving frantically at him, beckoning him. It was a waitress, perhaps one of the witnesses who have seen the murder directly happening. Megure walked towards her with his colleagues right behind him, and all the while Megure's brows furrowed deeper as fasted on the waitress's face, staring minutes longer with the recurring notion that she was vaguely similar. Has he met her before? Before he could divulge into the matter, Takagi raised an unashamed finger and squeaked out in pure recognition. Satō rose an eyebrow at him and crooked her head to the direction she believed him to be staring at him before frowning slightly, a tad bit confused that Megure could all too understand, after all it was only a waitress he was pointing at, not necessarily something frightening that was able to stir up such a reaction.
"What's the matter?" Megure heard her asked and listened in too, quite curious, and leaned his head slightly towards them, catching whiffs of vocalised mumblings and whispers when it suddenly hushed, and Megure had to roll his eyes at the couple secrecy. So it had nothing to do with the case, after all.
Coughing short into his hand to regain the air of professionalism and authority, Megure tipped his head at the waitress and asked her to lead the way when he noticed that she wasn't quite looking at him. Indeed, she was looking right behind him, at something she found personally amusing if anything from the widening smile on her lips was something to go by, and as if Megure had spoken the truth, the waitress tipped her head to the side to gain a better access at the view in front of her that were moments ago obstructed from Megure's head. He was in the way, Megure realised with sinking brows and as if to tip the matter off the waitress gave a sudden laughed.
"Excuse me-" Megure intended to dive straight into the matter, to apologised for his straightforwardness in passing and get the investigation rolling. There was simply not time to be staring at people and laughing at their expense. It was a pursuit to be done in one's own free time.
The sudden shout alerted Megure in more ways than one. Even from a far, Megure was able to recognise his former colleague running towards him or rather fighting with transcendent effort to pass through the stream of people walking against him towards the exist. And indeed, it brought a quiet comical picture in itself, Megure thought as he gave the waitress and apologetic look for his previous thoughts. And yet, somewhere in the back of him mind Megure slightly wondered why those people were leaving already, it was nowhere near time for closure as he far as he knew- and yet totally unnecessary, at least for now. Megure needed to filter his thoughts and purely concentrate on the investigation. He waited until the private detective came to a sudden halt in front of him, and only then proceeded to talk to him.
"Oh, Mōri -kun, how fitting for you to be here just when a murder occurred. Are you sure you're not secretly instigating them up yourself? Your constantly appearance cannot be a coincidence anymore." Megure turned him and motioned him to follow them as the waitress resumed her role as an escort and guided them to another set of silent glass doors that guided them towards the inner hall that led to the main hall where the main attraction was held but was secured off later, when it was time for it to be shown in the main event. They followed the waitress who guided them to the control room where they will be filled in the occurrences by a supposedly more reliable source than herself.
"Ha ha! It seems as though your knack for humour never truly died out. Of course, I merely here to help out." Mōri laughed uneasily at Megure's sceptical brows. "You see, I thought I'd help catch that lousy Phantom Thief. A great way to put my skills in use, wouldn't you think so? After all, Kid won't stand a chance against The Great Detective Mōri Kogorō."
"If you seem to think so," Megure shrugged, slightly wondering how far they needed to go still when he caught the sight of two familiar ladies running towards them, or specifically towards the self proclaimed 'Great Detective'. "A 'coincidence' you say," Megure mumbled and halted for them to catch up to them.
"Sonoko invited them into the exhibition as you can probably imagine- it's hosted by her Uncle after all." Mōri explained and Megure nodded absent mindedly. So, I can expect the whole gang to be present.
"What happened here!?" Ran inquired almost immediately once they were in range.
"A murder. The details have not been told yet, but as afar as we know the culprit has been identified." Megure clarified as they started walking again at brisk speed to catch up with with the others walking many meters in front of them until they came to stop by a door, waiting for them to catch up before they could walk inside together. That was until Tanaka stretched a hand out to block Ran and Sonoko from entering.
"Only authorised personnel," she said and shook her head but was quick to change her minds after a few weak words from Mōri, which necessarily would not have had an effect were it not supported by Megure's own.
"If it's like this," she smiled and entered, escaping the wrath emanating from Sonoko and her raised fist.
"Come on, come on," Ran ushered her friend inside just as the waitress loudly announced their arrival to death ears as the steward's eyes were still trained on the screen before him. Megure had to rub him eyes and blinked several times but his eyes were not deceiving him. "I thought the room only permitted entry for authorised personnel?"
"Of course!" The waitress gave him a strange look before her eyes widened in realisation. She wiped her head back at the steward who was already rolling his eyes and he took his shades off, dark blond shaggy hair fell over his bright glowing amber eyes, as he inspected Megure with critical eyes.
"I'm surprised you didn't recognised us, Megure-Keibu,"
"Hondo..." Megure's eyes instinctively narrowed before fastening onto the waitress, who was now smiling sheepishly. "Then you must be that crazy air-head, who has more abstract notions in her head than my previous colleague ever had." Megure said, sneaking a glanced at Mōri, who look perplexing back at him, muttering in thought, "Did you ever had a colleague like that?"
Megure sighed internally and shook his head in a rather sadden fashion. Leave to Mōri to not realise the joke was on him. Even Ran, who Megure was able to see from the corner of his eyes, hid her face beneath her hands, telling Sonoko off for her cheeky remarks.
"You're mistaken." The waitress was now frowning at Megure, who snapped his attention back at her. She stepped forward, a hand placed on her hip as she pushed her chest forward as though the motion raised her level of seriousness, or perhaps authority? Megure could only definitely discern from this movement that it lacked any sort of menace. "I'm-"
"Tanaka-san!" Hondo's voice was sharply, "Have you informed Reika and Tachibana, already?"
"What?" The waitress blinked confused and shook his head, her eyes bore a unique mixture of reluctance uncertainty that Megure wasn't able to dismissed easily. How weird. "Of course not, I thought-"
"Do it now," Hondo interrupted her, "and tell them to not leave their post, regardless of what happens. Especially Reika, for some reason that woman likes to wander off." Tanaka nodded mutely and fished her phone from her pocket before leaving the room but not before giving Hondo a glare that spoke murderous intent. Megure broke a sweat, so she wasn't as harmless as he originally thought. "He deserved it," he heard Sonoko mumble rather loudly, "What a prig,". As a matter of duty Megure gave a stern look at her direction, silently telling her to behave which she not entirely understood as she glared right back at him in full, but thankfully Ran did and tried to veer her friend's disapproval down.
"So, about the murder..." Satō started and walked further into the room, notepad open and ready to be scribbled on. Hondo glanced at her from the corner from his eyes and nodded. He walked over to the desk where the pictures lay which the forensic police took of the crime site.
"That's the victim," Hondo swiped a picture forward with his pointer finger. "Estimated to be roughly in his thirties. His identity still unknown, though. The only belongings he had on him are these-" he steered their attention to the other half of the table where a plastic wrapped two-way radio lay, a gun, a second pair of gloves, a pack of tissues- all in all nothing too unusual in Megure's opinion, nonetheless he listened to Hondo further. "But what's striking me the most was this little thing he had-" he held up a plastic bag containing a stunt gun.
Satō frowned. "Yes, I agree, it would be strange for a victim to have such a weapon, but this victim is a member of Snake's group, isn't he? Wouldn't you expect him then to carry something like that with him?"
Hondo looked at her for a moment as though he was measuring her worth, might Megure added as he turned to look at Takagi's gaping mouth with furrowed brows. A smirk curled on Hondo's lips. "I'm glad you're informed to that extent. Saves me time to skip on the details. Are you then aware of the causal nature of his death, too?"
"He was shot." Satō answered, glancing sharply on the picture he initially put forward.
"A clean shot, wouldn't you think? And? Any thoughts regarding that matter?" his smirk gained on length, giving Megure's crew a rather pointing look that gave a thin air of layered satisfaction that Megure was able to sniff through in seconds. In a strange sense to him it appeared as though Hondo was dangling vital information in front of their eyes that he was not quite ready to give and watched rather amusingly at them struggling to reach for it.
"Not necessarily." Satō shook her head and glanced back at her collegues who were also motioning their heads negatively. "Would you fill us in?"
"That's why I am here," Hondo stepped forward and tipped a finger at the picture, specifically at the spot where the blood started to gush out of the victims head. "Snake has a brutal nature that was often picked upon. With that in mind it is clear that this is not the work from himself per se, but rather from one of his henchman with an excellent aim, and why? To end matters quickly. It's safe to assume that they didn't want to stir too much attention on the matter, nor on themselves- and personally I get the notion that this is far from over. In fact, it may only be a clumsy start on their plans that they may wanted to righten."
"A clumsy start?" Takagi and Ran echoed, both expressions were equally matched with raised brows.
Hondo nodded and motioned to the stunt gun again he placed on the table. "Why did you think he needed that for? It's not exactly something you just carry in your pocket for no particular reason."
"He wanted to use it on someone," Megure followed up and looked at Hondo sceptically, "But on whom exactly? I have a feeling you haven't told us everything yet."
"Of course not." Hondo closed his eyes briefly and slowly filled them in the gasps. Megure listened attentively as he recounted the most likely reason for his death which in turn erupted a short winded discussion of the importance of having a workplace free from possible threatening hazard that this Kuroba person was, as well as the incredulity of the involvement of not only a teenager in Nakamori's workplace but also Hondo's team
that Chaki-Keishi felt the need to include. This act alone showed Megure how close Nakamori was to be expelled from the Second Division since his direct superior ensure for him to have such additional help. Well, if he ever were to be discharged Nakamori could always revert back to his post in the First Division, Megure easily dismissed, knowing that that never will be the case. Nakamori was too stubborn to even lose his current position in the first place.
But returning to the matters at hand, Megure still had trouble believing that a gang as dangerous as Snake's was out to harm a still considerable child with a some years of experience in magic, although Hondo stressed that he was still green behind the ears and nothing like the real Kid- if they ever happened to think that only because his forename was in a visual perspective of rōmaji lettering very similar. Megure supported the view by giving a long side glance at Mōri as well as the two laddies at the back who wore rather astounding expression on their faces at hearing that Kaitou Kid may has a potential rival. Megure noticed with a sinking feeling that Sonoko could barely hold herself off from flipping the phone in her hand open and send this new found revelation to the world. Thank goodness Satō was able to persuade her otherwise.
Yet, this did not mean Megure was fully content with the situation, in all honesty he was still baffled as to what benefits the involvement of teenager was supposedly bring to the capture of Kid (mind, Kudou was an exception). It's not like sharp mindedness alone is enough for that and neither quiet was hard-shipped determination- else Nakamori-Keibu would have succeeded long ago. Whether having a like-mindedness individual to bridge the gap between the world's most sought thief and the police was fairly sceptical with countless reasons, but Megure was open mindedly enough to look at the development they would make in their investigation, regardless of how slim it may be.
Personally, Megure always thought that the tightest security imaginable would do the trick to catch him and fairly easily at that, but surely was he mistaken. It must be harder than that, after all the thief has been chased after for complete eighteen years. The number alone makes one forget, or at least question, the mortality of the person behind the mask. Sometimes Megure wondered whether he was a human at all. Before Megure could ponder more his thoughts were distracted by the loud sound of the door when Tanaka stepped in again and gave the man clad in steward clothes a curt nod which indicated that his order were received. For a second Megure noticed that the tiny order she has been giving took up some time, and in the next he noticed she has been missing most of the explanation….
Megure shook his head to get rid of the silly idea. It was most likely she was already informed of all the theories and possible explanations beforehand. She couldn't have been purposely left in the dark. Concentrating back on the matter, Megure looked around. Beside his investigation team and themselves, there was no one else present. Megure felt his eye twitch. "So, where is everyone involved?"
"They disappeared before I could do anything." Tanaka voiced in with an exasperated glance with an unsaid implication that her authority has been overlooked upon due the clothing she has been forced to wear, and snapped a quick finger in annoyance at the situation itself as her eyes fastened on Megure. "Just like that, can you believe it?"
"You were supposed to secure the scene! I don't know how many times I've got to tell you that." Megure patience was running thin as he lay hand over his eyes and massage them. It was always the same matter with them, messing up the crime scene before he arrived and give him in turn those poor excuses. Sometimes Megure couldn't help but speculate whether they were messing the scene up for their own personal gain, as irrational as it sounds. With flaring anger he motions towards the door, ordering for them to get them in his sternest voice.
"That would be quiet unreasonable." Hondo drawled and pointed towards the screens hanging walls, "We have all people involved on footage. There's no need to chase them up like wild dogs."
"Exactly!" Tanaka moved to rewind the film material enough for them to observe the occurrences in chronological sequence as well as the different aspects of the same scene. It hadn't even been five minutes in when they recognised out loud the little heads running passed the people and the majority of the accumulating group afterwards near the corps, but what didn't make sense was why Snake would risk to unveil their whereabouts? Surely he would know that they would be ambushed the moment their backup would arrive. The more he thought about it the more it seemed like a trap. He couldn't help but have a bad feeling about this.
"Alright," he sighed, massaging the bridge of his nose, "I guess we could proceed by questioning the witnesses themselves. Perhaps they caught something we have yet to see."
Disclaimer: All onwership goes to Gosho Aoyama. I'm just a regular wannabe borrowing his characters to mess the up a bit :)
Please Read and Review.
Not Read and Run.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
All the necessary preparations are done.
There he was there.
The wannabe magician.
Right in front of them.
Ai was sure her three friends were thinking; there is no way we will fail once more. Lose him once. This time for sure he'll stay in our line of sight.
Such innocence. Ai had to give them that.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The thief turned. One look for him and-
They hid. Held their breaths. Flatted as much as possible against the wall and peeked around the corner. The target was moving again. Carefree. So light. Ai was sure they thought that their target didn't see them. Hasn't noticed them at all. Such sweet innocence.
Mitsuhiko gave the sign. Follow.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The wannabe magician stopped. Motioned his head to the side, peeking, peeking, peeking, blue eyes slowly moving towards the end of their sockets before fully turning around.
Like the swiftness of a cat; like the quickness of a leopard; like the clumsiness of a duck, they hid. It could be said it was their own work of art. The ninja like movements of the Detective Boys. Their style of shadowing, certainly unique to them, had certain flaws and Ai had no desire to witness any further- participate any further in.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
They were just too obvious. Ai slapped a hand over her eyes for the nth time. How could it be that none of them have noticed the wide smile on target's lips? The way he more often than not purposely gazes behind, gazes at them. His hesitant steps, lingering presence, aimless walking that just screamed of his knowledge. He knew. It was written over all his gestures. Thick printed. In bold. A declaration. Open fire. An agreement in which he clearly stated; Alright, okay, let's have some fun. I'll play with you.
Ai didn't know exactly what her friends were seeing but certainly the fact that he had them totally figured out went over their heads, and perhaps Ai wasn't quite ready to tell them that as they pulled her over, dragging her to hide behind large, loose leaves from pots, gazing at the target with sparks in their eyes, fists raised and pumped up through the air in muted encouragement for another. The sight alone was ridiculous enough to pull a smile from her, bathing her with her own wistfulness.
How long has it been since I played like that?
It was a second at most she allowed herself to reminisce her past. About her life as Shiho. But then- as soon as the last nanosecond ticked by- it was over, and she was back to being Ai, the child whose future wasn't dangled before her eyes, whose past wasn't printed on large files, whose future was still undetermined.
A second chance, Hakase has called it once, why won't you have fun?
A silent smile sneaked passed her defences, tugged the corners of lips down, down casted eyes gazing at her friends tapping forwards again and she followed walking with measured steps towards the table they were crawling under.
Is this what it means to be a child?
"Ai-chan!" Ayumi called, voice still lowered barely above a whisper, holding the tablecloth up. Behind her, Mitsuhiko and Genta were waiting expectantly, wide eyes fastened on her with such childish innocence, Ai couldn't help but lower down, smiling as bright as she could and yet not bright enough to match theirs.
"This is our chance!" Genta suddenly shouted, crawling out, his little legs hitting hard against the red carpeted floor, sprinting off, way too loud, too noisy, and the others ran after him, smiling bright with sparkling eyes that spoke of vivid excitement.
If that's so. . .
. . .then I might never be a child.
The thought occurred to her often than enough to know it spoke the truth. It was an act after all. A little façade. Something she constructed with her own pair of hands. It wasn't real- regardless of what Kudo-kun says. The things she feels, the things she things thinks, surely they were not meant to be.
The day she'll disappear- murdered by accident, killed at the end of a gun- by something that organisation will come up with one way or another the moment they lay hands on her. Well, that is if they catch her, her mind reminded her once more. And yet Ai knew too that running away for the rest of her life sounds more reasonable than Kudo-kun suggesting that he'll bring the organisation down by himself.
What fools, they were. Running around, trying to avoid inevitable consequences that will zoom them in sooner or later anyway, regardless how many twists and turns they run into, regardless of where they were heading off to, regardless how close they were to the finishing line. At the end it all comes down to be nothing but heaps of ashes, castles built on sand.
Nothing of this matters.
Ai sighed, kneading her forehead as they came to a halt and peeked around a corner. I don't know, she wanted to shout. To ban those thoughts from bubbling up again. To fastened a lid on them to bottle them up forever.
There was no need to remind her. She didn't fit here. She didn't belong here. She was not supposed to be here. She knew it. Knew it like the amount of times she tried to escape their grasp. Their hold on her. The amount of times she tried to abandon her friends were countable with her fingers and yet here she was—unable to set herself free, unable to untangle herself from the web they tied her in with, kept her close with and slowly made her one of their own—and yet despite this—despite all of this—
Is it okay for me to be here?
A part of her said; yes, of course. And yet the reasonable side—the side she has always relied on—argued how she could with the way things are, with the way she was. . . .
Before she knew she fell behind, her feet slowing down so much until she was left staring at their backs running off to the distance. And it took only a picture, a mental picture of a brown haired boy with blue eyes behind glasses to remind her to snap out of it. Ridiculous, she thought, snorting at herself, pulling herself of those thoughts and was about to sprint off after them when her stomach flipped.
"….a game of life and death."
Like a silent whisper it brushed passed her. So close to her ear. Fleeting, lingering, brewing troubled feelings within her, falling like cold showers over her shoulders as long forgotten words popping up in her brain, deep stored images flashing like red headlights. Ai remembered curled lips, long blond hair, ice cold blue eyes burning with hatred. Ai shuddered, counted to ten before turning around, following the voice to its owner, repeating over and over that she couldn't be here, her presence was nowhere to be felt, which meant—which meant that—
"Calm down," she muttered to herself, breathing deep in and looked around, all too aware of the thundering footsteps around her, so near, so close. And her first instinct was to run. Just in case of—of what? something will happen? Don't make me laugh!
Ai reached a hand up, lowered her bangs over her eyes for some sort of disguise. Futile. A waste of time. She knew and yet—
With a slight shook of her hands, Ai looked around, caught too people in her vicinity, their thrown out glares, hesitated looks of passer-bys that came by too often. Stared too often. Gazed here and there but never at her. It was strange. Weird. Ai's heart thumped loudly in her chest.
"Why won't you play it?" the voice spoke again, and Ai thought of trickling water from a tap, tubes clicking together, labs light's flickering on, curly lips, long blond hair, ice cold blue eyes burning with hatred, fingernails tapping across the table, glaring at her, whispering…
It's a game of life and death.
Ai whirled around, staring at dark hair, shrewd brown eyes hidden behind round glasses, smirking too wide at the male fellow standing besides her- a women nothing like the blond in her memory. "Oh, I see. So, it's like that. The big man is scared, hmm? I wouldn't be surprised. Taichi got scared too after playing five minutes in."
"Don't compare me with that chicken," the man mumbled, turning around and Ai could see the spikes of auburn hair peeking under his snapback, strands falling over narrowed eyes, "Nothing you'd say will convince me to play that video game."
"Oh," Ai breathed out and her shoulders slumped down, a sense of calmness washing over her senses, and she threw a hand over her face, felt stupid all over, what was she expecting anyway? Vermouth coming out of nowhere? That she will corner her? Threaten her?
"Get real," she muttered, gazing away, noticing with rising alarm that her friends where nowhere in sight, with a shuddering gasp Ai took off, wheeling around to catch up to them when a hand grabbed hers, halting her movements and pulling her back.
"What's wrong little girl? Are you lost?" the man was squatting down in front of her now, brown eyes fastening on her face, squinting, seemingly trying to look passed the many strands covering her face into her eyes, brows furrowed in light concern that set Haibara's alarm bells to ring loudly.
"I'm fine," the words came easy to her as she tried to wring her arm out of his surprising hard grip. He wasn't going to let go, she noticed, heart sinking to the pits of her stomach and yet his grip didn't hurt at all. It was gentle. Ai's eyes narrowed, even more conscious than before. She knew this type of men. Those that pretended to be nice and secretly are waiting for the perfect chance to strike mercilessly from the back. Her elder sister encountered enough of those men to warn her about it. She needed to get away. Now.
"Don't be scared. I won't harm you," the man murmured, lowering his voice to sound much softer as though to sooth her but she wasn't going to fall for it.
"I'm fine," she stressed once more, glaring hard. "So let go."
"I will, I will. But before tell me, are you really okay? You seem like you're not."
Ai snorted, pressed her lips into a firm line, suppressing all urges to push a finger to his chest and stab him repeatedly under the pretext to snub at him full of spite, because what did he know? Her cheeks puffed up before she knew it, reddening in the rise of anger until it deflated. Calm down, she thought, clenching her fists tightly and breathing out silently, just calm down.
She gazed up from the floor, done glaring holes at the red carpet and saw the man's lids flutter shut for a moment, features drawing in as though he was deep in thought, mulling an idea over that seemed partially unreasonable. She recognised that look, caught herself wearing it more often than not.
"What's going on?" the dark haired lady frowned from where she stood, hands perched on her hips, leaning in close but never stepped a foot forward. "What are you two whispering about, Itsuki?"
He sneaked a peek back at the woman before leaning in, holding a hand near his lips, mumbling close to Ai's ear, "Would you feel better if I told you that I'm an undercover police officer? I'm Itsuki Asuka. Junsa-buchō. Keep it a secret, okay? Just between the two of us."
Ai rose a sceptical brow, still gazing at him through suspicious eyes, defences still on and highly guarded even when he let go of her.
"Itsuki!" the lady pushed her glasses back, glaring with something akin to the intensity of the sun as she stomped over to them with such force Ai wouldn't be surprised if the ends of her heels bore holes into the ground. "What are you planning?"
"Now, now. Naomi-san, don't get mad," he held his hands up, his sheepish grin widening in hopes to be spared from her wrath. "There's nothing wrong with helping others," he stole a quick glance at Ai. "Right?"
Naomi whirled her head, her hair whipped like a lash as her eyes came to rest at Ai as though she saw her for the first time. A smile broke out on her face, seemingly as bright as the sun but Ai could pick out the foulness hidden behind the slim wrinkles induced from her smile and those from her crinkling eyes. She adjusted her glasses, squatted down next Itsuki, anger seemingly evaporated or that was what Haibara thought until she saw a hand sneaking up to Itsuki's arm, pinching the exposed skin from his rolled up sleeves and left a sore redness behind that Naomi justified with a more than just scary smile.Bear with it, it seems to say with a sharp glare.
Ai couldn't say she was surprised when Itsuki bit his lips but otherwise didn't make the slightest sound, a sole nod from him and the matter was put to the side for the time being. Ai could only secretly wish him luck to somehow manage to sedate her later.
"I'm Kurosawa Naomi." she stretched her hand with that sweet smile still present that reminded Ai of rotten apples and long expired loaf of bread. "Nice to meet you."
Ai kept silent but stared at her with cold eyes until Itsuki thrusted forward and seized the matter at hand again. "So, are you lost? Were you looking for someone?"
"I'm looking for my friends." Ai spoke slowly, levelling an eye on him before stepping back. "I've the general idea where they are so don't bother helping me out."
"Mean much, I see. Strange for a young girl like you," he laughed as though used being bombarded by harsh words and adjusted his snapback, fingers driving through his bright auburn hair. "Mind if I tag along? Just to make sure you'll be fine."
"I am fine," came her curt reply but Itsuki was already holding up his hands.
"Whoa, relax. I'm just making sure."
"Itsuki, she said she was fine. She doesn't need you babysitting her." Naomi stressed but her words went completely over the man's head as he rose up with an expectant smile, waiting for Ai to lead the way.
"Whatever," she muttered and walked off but kept a close eye on Itsuki. A distant of five steps was in between them, never breached by either of them and Ai was glad he could read into the situation. Glad that he kept his distance. But it was the lady that pushed Ai's nerves on edge.
Ai caught her more often than not exchanging glances and nods with almost every person passing by. Ai brows furrowed, finding with increasing anxiety that too many eyes were in their vicinity and glanced in their direction. Too close. Throwing glares, hesitant looks. People walked by too often. Stared too often. Gazing here and there and kept their eyes at them. But what troubled her most was Naomi's smile that she found to be a little to wide. A little too sharp. Especially when the light reflected off her glasses.
She noticed Itsuki's lingering glance at her too. Ai returned his gaze with a blatant stare of her own. But Itsuki turned away, directed his gaze forwards, a small smile on his face. Ai narrowed her eyes at him. Couldn't help but feel that she was right. That, they couldn't be trusted. Her eyes glided back to Naomi, who was probably his accomplice in some shady business. . .
But hold on a moment, didn't he say was an undercover police officer?
Ai glanced around with increasing worry when she found another man leaning against the wall with a newspaper raised up to his face, his eyes following them as they stepped passed. Ai canted her head back, looking at Naomi who looked back at the man, her sharp grin suddenly widened for a second. Alarmed Ai looked back at Itsuki but he only gazed straight ahead but Ai could see that his jaw was set tight.
That's it, she decided and walked faster to round the next corner as quick as possible. She would be a fool to bring them anywhere near her friends. Rather she'd go to the main hall and stay near Hakase or even Ran-san.
"I'm surprised. I didn't expect you to notice. Much less to understand." Itsuki spoke quietly, tearing her out of her thoughts, a slanted smile on his lips and a knowing tint sneaking into the depth of his dark eyes, rubbing off all previous connoted amusement. And belated Ai noticed that Itsuki walked right beside her. Tensing up, she threw a murderous glance at him.
"Don't get so scared," he whispered, placing a hand on her slender shoulder, ignoring the daggers Ai shot him with in return. "They're nothing to worry about. Just act normally. They won't harm you."
"What are you guys whispering about?" Naomi threw in, her loud voice echoing. Loud enough for anyone to hear with her eyes narrowing suspiciously at them, and Ai caught quick whiffs of peaches and wild berries when she started to walk beside her again. Too close, Ai noticed. Way too close.
Ai froze and slowly turned around, only to feel burn on her lower back. She gasped silently, thrown off by the blackness growing in her eyes. Her body slumped down, hitting the floor, laying next to the fallen body from Itsuki. From the corner of her eyes she saw Noami's sharp grin widen with every second.
The bright candle lights, artificial bursts from colours splashed dim lights on lower regions, uneven ground toppling feet twirled on, fluttering and squeezing from side to side, room to room, dancing to the diverse folds of overlapping music, hidden rhymes overplayed by the silent rhythm droning past Kaito's ears. A grin donned his lips. Just like expected the room was full. Yet, he risks to glance behind, I'm still being watched.
With a slight chuckle and a lopsided smile, he shrugged his shoulder, knowing wholeheartedly that the four little heads trailing somewhere behind him won't get far with their investigation, staring at him from under the tablecloth won't earn them much proof for his hidden agenda, nor would it uncover anything that he kept under wraps the entire day. Placing his hands in his pockets, Kaito sauntered in, roaming passed dancing pairs and sneaked a glanced at the kids following closely behind him with an easy grin, laughing quietly when they gasped loudly, their cheeks flushing red at being discovered.
He raised a hand, motioning them to follow him before he marched in further, dodging with tactful grace the many people, veering deeper into the crowd, mixing in further until- there- he laughed. Gone. The kids were nowhere in sight. Snickering he waited, his blue eyes flickering back and forth in anticipation.
F rom which direction would they be coming from? Would they ambush? Would they attack?
He waited and waited a minute too long.
He looked around. Nothing?
Nothing at all.
Kaito's brows furrowed. His eyes narrowed. Then widened.
Was this really it?
Have they given up?
He turned his head in all possible direction but the mini detectives were gone. Disappeared. Vanished. Kaito rubbed his eyes. Has he really lost them this quickly? Just like that? Was it even possible? Without even trying?
"How disappointing." Kaito muttered under his breath. He'd hope for a little fun before the Heist begun but that idea was thrown out of his mind since they were like that. Not nearly as dangerous as the boy in glasses. No, they were completely harmless. Sour and half annoyed, Kaito strolled back, detouring the way to his post when his phone beeped.
A message from Jii-chan.
All the necessary preparations are done.
His eyes glided over the screen word for word, flipping his mood over in a matter of nanoseconds. Then he snickered beneath his breath, I'll be starting now.
The young magician jumped almost out of his skin when Nakamori's booming voice suddenly hollered for him, echoing across halls and various rooms, right into the sensitive spot in his ear.
"Coming!" He shouted back, not sure whether his voice was able to carry as far nor as loud as his superior. With easy steps he detoured just in case the children were in hiding near his vicinity, perhaps a part of him still hoped they haven't given up. With an ever present grin and a light shrug, he walked through the flood of people streaming passed him, down to the lower floor where he noticed most of them were moving towards the exist, and for a short moment he wondered whether something has happened. With little though he stepped down the stairs with more ease than he initially thought. His muscles felt lighter, the drowsiness seemed to have disappeared too. He drove his fingers over his face, glad he could still feel the swellings. Seems like the effects haven't worn off completely.
I need to get this done quickly.
Kaito walked down to the main hall in moderate speed despite the frequent energy sprouts his muscles seemed to gain, trying his best to maintain his ill act whilst adjusting to the physiological changes. He stepped into the hall, gazing around in the lookout for Nakamori that seemed to have disappeared, walking further in, looking more until he found him crowded by police officers.
How interesting. Kaito adjusted his mouth piece, breathed deep in and strolled towards them, catching the eyes of Nakamori's which then suddenly widened, and then, almost out of nowhere- but Kaito was sure he should have expected that- pointed a finger at him, quite surprised those surrounding him turned then too, looking straight at Kaito with their hawk like eyes as though inspecting something seemingly delicious to be preyed on. But Kaito just hoped it was only his imagination acting up. There's noway that could be true, right? Kaito was sure of it.
"What's going on?" he asked out loud as best as he could as he adjusted his voice near hoarse once he was in reach and was surprised to be attacked by Nakamori's hands. "Ow," he whine quietly once the officer was done painfully pulling one of his cheeks.
"Sorry. Standard procedure. It seems like you're indeed Kaito-kun. Although..." Nakamori's eyes furrowed, gazing deep into Kaito's face, abnormally close. "It's seems like you're on your way to good health. Your normal tan is starting to show under all that bluish-redness."
"Oh is that so?" Kaito looked relieved, reaching up to touch his face again, still feeling the swells, making a small mental note to look in a mirror.
If the effects vanishes too quickly it might seem odd to be healthy too soon. I might need to construct a mask for myself.
"As you might have guessed, these police officers are here to take statements. It seems that the man that shoved you over a while ago has been murdered." Nakamori begun, motioning a hand towards his colleagues from the police force.
"I would like to ask you some questions." Megure-Keibu stepped forward, "Would you be so kind and follow me?"
He didn't give Kaito a chance to response as he turned to leave, seemingly expecting the latter to follow. With a slight shrug and annoyed sigh, Kaito trailed after him, stuffed his hands into his pockets, lightly swaying in his walk whilst he was at it.
Maintain it, he kept repeating in his head, maintain the ill act.
One slight mistake and that's it.
The whole thing will be over.
"Ai-chan!" Ayumi looked around wide eyed and worried, noticing her friends' keen eyes from her friends, along with her own, were flaring around. The target they were observing moments ago left their minds completely. They whirled their heads back and forth, left and right, looking in every possible direction and presumably came to the same conclusion; she was gone. Away. Not here at all.
"Haibara-san!" Mitsuhiko called out and cupped his hands around his mouth, "Haibara-san, where are you?"
"Can you hear me?" Ayumi called out then too, running back to the end of the hall, gazing left and right but not tracks where in sight that lead to her. "Ai-chan! where are you?"
"Have you gone missing? Are we playing hide and seek?" Genta shouted, a thick frown perched between his brow. "We'll play later! Promise! Come out now!"
"We won't be angry at you for leaving!" amended Mitsuhiko, helplessly looking around, "I promise we'll be kind!"
"We'll forgive you, Ai-chan!"
With another desperate cry, they waited in silence. Ears turned on for some kind of answer. A sign that depicted Ai's well being. But they receive nothing. Only deathly silence.
"Do you...do you think," Ayumi started with tears brimming in her eyes. "She left us?"
"She wouldn't do this to us." Mitsuhiko whirled his head quickly as though to get rid of the mere thought until he suddenly halted. ". . .right?"
"Guys, maybe we're just thinking about this too much." They looked at Genta that was staring back at them with wide eyes as he raised an intelligent finger. "What if Haibara-san was just hungry and went off to grab some food? If we look at the food stands we might find her."
Ayumi and Mitsuhiko stared at him.
"Maybe it's just you that's hungry. . ." Mitsuhiko mumbled as a low growl broke the silence and Genta threw in a sheepish grin as he rubbed his stomach. But Mitsuhiko ignored it, suddenly smiled himself. "I know!"
Two pair of eyes looked back at him, first in wonder then with bubbling excitement when Mitsuhiko raised his badge. "We'll contact her!"
"Huuuurraaaay!" they shouted out in happiness, at last finding a solution to get back their missing friend.
"You're so smart, Mitsuhiko-kun!" Ayumi cried out running to stand by his side. Just like Genta, who was walking towards them, muttering under his breath, "I could have come up with this idea too. . ."
But nonetheless they huddled together. Eyes directed at the badge Mitsuhiko held in his hands. Swallowing hard, they glanced at another before performing and united nod.
Mitsuhiko begun and turned his device on. "Haibara-san, Haibara-san. Are you there? Can you hear me?" uneasily he glanced at the others as only statics met him back. But Ayumi urged him on with a resolute nod and firm eyes. "Tell us your where you are, please."
"We'll come find you!" Genta suddenly cried out, steering the badge towards his face. "If you're in danger we'll come save you!"
"Ai-chan, are you hurt? If you're in trouble the Detective Boys will always-"
"Rescue you!" they raised their fists and hollered a war-cry, before bursting out in laughter until it slowly receded into faint giggles and completely stilled until dread settled in at last.
"Why is Ai-chan not answering back?"
Genta crossed his arms and looked up in thought. "Did she not get the joke?"
"What if something really happened to her?" Mitsuhiko had a look of horror that Ai-chan matched too well with her own.
"We have to find her. In the name of the Detective Boys!" they shouted and ran down the hall together with stomping feet until they halted and looked at each other with the same stricken expressions.
"But how will we know were she is?!" they cried out altogether and felt even more distressed with the lack of answer.
"We need to be calm." Mitsuhiko told them then. "We're are detectives. We can find a missing person-"
"Haibara-san is missing?!" Genta cut off in panic, but Mitsuhiko raised his hands and tried to calm them, feeling empowered by the lack of control.
"We are detectives. We can find her." Mitsuhiko repeated and felt as though each word calmed himself down further. "We'll simply retrace her steps. Okay? When was the last time we saw her?"
"When we were chasing after Kid over there." Ayumi spoke, pointing somewhere behind her. "She has been behind me the entire time."
"Then let's go there and find her." Mitsuhiko pumped up a fist, and the others followed.
Perhaps I was being carried by a soft love….
I noticed when I lost the small warmth.
Aoko strolled into the main hall with slumped shoulders and steps too heavy to be carried in a constant pace since her vague goodbye with Kaito. It was a collection of snippets that Aoko had difficulty piecing together. She remembered the painful striking of her heart when he was breaths away from her, blinding her senses with a certain light-headedness he was able to easily induce from her, not to mention the sudden sensitivity of his touches, so light and gentle as he embraced her within his arms, placed her head on his broad shoulder and the electrifying static she immediately felt rippling down to her lower back, spreading throughout her body the moment she felt his fingers tangled through her hair, brushing through it with a steady rhythm, with light caresses she wasn't sure he was able to give. She thought of it as a subtle hint for care and yet a dubious hint of affection that couldn't be trusted. It was fickle chance. An erratic outcome that she didn't see coming.
It won't happen again, she thought to herself with the increasing knowledge that for a moment their distinguishing line of friendship blurred. They created a smudge that momentary undefined them, and Aoko was too sure Kaito didn't know about it. He was too careless to look at the minor details. He must've overlooked it. That's why when Kaito unwrapped himself from her, Aoko denied herself to have felt anything, denied the inexplicable pang of yearning of a heart that simply felt too much.
"Don't mingle away from the crowd, your poor sense of direction will bring you trouble otherwise." she remembered him saying with that carefree voice of his and teasing nature as he led her down the corridor with wide steps and hand holding hers with the secret promise to never let go that Aoko wanted to believe in despite her doubts. The whole matter emitted a thick air of futility. Kaito was so far away. She has not only realised it but experienced it first hand.
Aoko now knew with certainty that she was lagging behind- somewhere in the far away distance that made the probability of her ever catching up to him near zero. A futile goal. She couldn't keep up with him. No, she didn't need to keep up with him, she thought bitterly. The idea didn't sit well with her despite the depth of honesty it contained, but she resigned to it. Silently waiting for the day he'll be so far away she lost all sort of connection to him, perhaps the day he'll walk out of her life forever is in near vicinity. Aoko couldn't help but smile sadly. She didn't want it to end.
Aoko raised her eyes off the floor, eyes wandering around her field of vision before Keiko popped up from behind her, catching glimpses of glowing eyes narrow behind thin glasses, and Aoko looked away.
"Did something happen?" Keiko continued asking as she steps closer to her, brows furrowing deeper at Aoko's sullen expression. "Did Kaito—"
Aoko was already shaking her head, muttering again and again, "Nothing, nothing," under her breath with shoulders slumping further down, as though the very act was wearing her down further. "It's just me, you know? It's always just me that's wrong."
"What do you mean?" her brows furrowed deeper in the gist to catch the flimsy sentences from Aoko and arrange them in such away to make up the full story that Aoko wasn't quiet ready to give. At least not yet. It it seemed that Keiko seemed to have realised as she started to shake her head to rid herself of her previous notion and glanced at Aoko again with playful exasperation, seemingly trying another approach. "You have to speak in simpler terms for to understand," she says, "else what would be the point in telling at all?"
"There's nothing to understand." Aoko said and slid down the nearest wall, feeling a familiar cold crawling up again, circling around her calves and mid tights all the way up to her stomach where it squeezed tightly. "I'm just complicating the matter….like always."
"Did he say that?" Keiko tried again, the smile slowly slipping off her face at Aoko's vague answers that only confused her more in her wake of jumbled explanations.
"No, of course he didn't." Aoko turned to face her with furrowed brows, blinking away the wetness in her eyes. "But I know he meant it."
"I don't understand."
Aoko placed her head on top of her knees and pulled her legs closer to her chest, hiding her face within it before she shook her head.
Keiko sighed loudly, seated herself next to her and draped an arm over her, gently rocking from side to side in their awkward seating position, muttering, "I don't get it. I don't get any of it," whilst she calmed the light trembles beneath her arm that emanated from Aoko's shoulders.
"So what did he tell you?" Keiko tried asking but Aoko didn't answer, her lips were sealed shut firmly despite the accumulating salty water of her tears curving into her lips and the tight grip on her legs that was already reddening due the pressure from her contracting fingers silently warned Keiko not to push it, not to ask, to not remind her at all. Keiko quieted down and Aoko hoped the message reached her when she started to relax into her her embrace until Keiko spoke up again, keeping Aoko on her toes.
"Just so you know, next time I won't let go so easily." Keiko voiced out half annoyed, but Aoko knew she was trying to keep the anger out from her voice.
Sorry, she mouthed into the tiny folds of her thin sweater, knowing to have upset Keiko in numerous occasions during the last couple of months for not telling anything- for keeping secrets even though Keiko didn't keep any. I'm sorry, she wanted to say, I'm really sorry, but that wasn't possible now. Aoko didn't want to apologise. At least not yet. Apologising meant explaining her behaviour but wasn't the cause of her behaviour the very thing she wanted to hide from? She didn't want to admit. Didn't want to say that the void between Keiko and her was due her crashing friendship with Kaito. Because of Aoko's own selfishness that screams to not let it become reality. To hide it. To deny. To say it was not true. That it was all in her head. That she was misreading the situation. That her intuition was misdirected.
"I'll make you say it." Keiko's voice suddenly boomed loud and clear to her and Aoko raised her head slightly. "I'll make you say all of it," Keiko nudged her slightly as though asking whether she was listening but Aoko didn't move, held her breath instead. I don't want to say it. "And you can cry as much as you want, but I'll wring it out of you. Forcefully, if I have to. Remember that." There was a short silence before Aoko could feel her nudging her again, "You hear me?"
"Yes," she mumbled out and hugged herself tighter, but apparently her response was not coherent enough as Keiko leaned closer and asked, "What was that?"
"Yes. I said, yes." Aoko lifted her head, brining her flushed face into view, with equally red tinges on her nose and deep shaded eyes that matched all too well with the smudges of tears across her face. "I heard you."
Keiko smiled triumphantly grabbed the bag Aoko placed next to her and searched for a pack of tissues she easily found, "Here," she threw it to her, "Wipe your face. You don't want your father to see you like this, who knows what he might do in his rage. His precious angel was hurt, after all."
Keiko smiled when her comment brought a positive reaction out of her that Aoko could all too understand as she laughed quietly. "Did I really need cheering up that bad?"
"Yup! Especially when you misery caught other people's attention." Keiko grinned and looked at a particular direction that Aoko tried to follow as she leaned forward but quickly found out that she didn't need to. Said person stood right in front of her. It was little boy with glasses, asking about her wellbeing with such a cute smile, Aoko couldn't help but mirror it when she replied that she was fine. The boy's smile was really contagious she found.
"You're the little boy I have seen a while ago, right?" Keiko voiced in and ignored Aoko's confused expression. "Are you alright with running around like this? I mean, after what we've seen. . ."
Before Aoko could ask what she was on about, the boy broke out laughing, "Oh, that's nothing. When you hang around Kogoro-no-ojisan sightings like that become normal. I don't mind them anymore!"
"Poor you, what a sad childhood he must give you." Keiko frowned when the boy's expression turned sheepish.
"Well it's okay! I actually came here because I heard you talking about Kaitou Kid!" the boy smiled and looked at Aoko. "Say, Miss, do you know him?"
"Kaitou Kid?" Aoko echoed confused for a moment until a frown slipped into her features. Why would Ibe talking about Kid?
"You called someone 'Kaitou' just now, didn't you?" he tilted his head confused, blinking slowly at her.
"Yeah," Aoko swallowed and pushed her legs closer to her as though she was cold. "But it's not what you think. His name is written in a different Kanji—he's not Kid. Just a stupid childhood friend I have."
"Oh, is that so?" the boy crossed his arms and tilted his head, seemingly deep in thought. "Say, can he do magic too?"
"Well, yeah." Aoko answered and shifted, pulling her legs even closer as her eyes slightly narrowed. Silently wondering why people felt the need to force suspicion on Kaito just because of his name and hobby. It's not like it mattered anyway. It didn't prove anything. "But that's only because his father was a famous magician. It's just something you expect, to be honest." Aoko tried her best to sound casual. It wasn't like it was a big deal anyway. After all it's as they say; like father like son, right?
"Really? How cool!" the boy grinned wide and folded his arms behind his head, slightly tilting his head to the side, looking at something behind her. Aoko turned and followed his gaze. "I think I might've met him. Well, if it's that guy over there then I definitely did."
Aoko's heart skipped a beat and seconds later it was slamming against her ribcage in full speed. "What? But why?" the words came out in a rush as she moved her head to get a better look of him. Aoko really tried to make sense of the situation as best as she could but it was difficult when it was Kaito being dragged away. Her eyes trailed trailed after him until they disappeared into the crowd.
Why is the police taking him away?
The boy's voice was quiet as he looked on. "Seems like they think he's Kid too."
Aoko whirled her head towards him and stared a little too long at his little smirk, wondering what exactly he knew. She pushed away from the wall and squatted in front of him, trying best to convince him as much she was herself. "I just told you he's not. He's working with the police. They just must be discussing something really important right now."
Aoko looked back where they disappeared to and nodded firmly. That must be it. It couldn't be anything else. She held back the urge to get up and rush towards him, demanding for answers he couldn't- no, wouldn't- give anyway. Aoko bit her lips and glanced down, banned the thoughts away from her mind and suppressed the uneasiness and doubt welling up in her chest. She couldn't give in to them. Not when he asked her to trust him.
Aoko breathed out deeply and glanced around, noticing a familiar figure up ahead. It was Hakuba, and he was speaking to someone. Whom exactly, Aoko couldn't quite catch, but in a matter of seconds, as though Hakuba felt her lingering gaze, he turned to stare at her. Out of reflex Aoko ducked her head, strands of hair falling over her eyes, heart beating in the alarming rate with the notion that she has been caught.
From what though? Aoko knew she didn't do anything wrong. Her fingers clutched her hem of her shirt tightly and leaned back against the wall. A fleeting thought crossed her mind.
You're doubting Kaito.
Her breathed halted in her throat and hadn't it been for Keiko's sudden nudge on her shoulder, Aoko was sure she would have suffocated.
"Are you sure you're alright?" she asked worriedly. Aoko ignored the concerned look on Keiko and slid back down on the floor as though the sudden realisation was too heavy to shoulder.
"Don't get me wrong." Aoko heard herself mutter, ignoring the confused look the boy gave her and buried her face into her hands. "Kaito is full of ideas—full of holes. Much less his mental integrity—his idiocy his cutting him short of intelligence. Someone like him is incapable of being Kid. Someone like him cannot be Kid."
"Yes." Keiko was quick to answer. "We know that-"
"Isn't it weird? For you to continuously say that. . ." the boy spoke up, eerily quiet as though all the previous happiness was blown away by a vacuum. The boy glanced up with sharp eyes. "It's almost as if you're not believing your own words."
Aoko's head whipped back at him. Wide eyed.
You think he's Kid.
She swallowed and opened her mouth in an attempt to say something. To refute him. To laugh at him. To shoo the comment away. But nothing came out. The words stilled in her throat. And she looked down at her clenching hands.
The silence roaming through her mind gave her no answer. She glanced up, staring at the boy in front of her whose sharp gaze sent chills down her spine. And she found herself smiling weakly, "Does it really look like that?"
"No, of course not!" Keiko pushed her glasses up before placing a hand on her hip. "We both know Kaito isn't Kid. How can a guy like that even be close to being Kid?"
"But Keiko-" Aoko started with an argument thick on her lips that she was ready to present when a rather loud voice over ruled their conversation. Keiko's expression matched Aoko's when they turned around to see the commotion, which turned out to be a woman trying to persuade her friends into staying longer. "Kid hasn't come yet!" she shouted at her retreating friends and jogged after them, gesturing widely in her wake.
"Why do we need to leave?"Another woman said to her male companion, shaking his arm rather widely as he calmly stepped passed them towards the exit. Aoko heard him faintly muttering,"Because he won't come. The heist was set up by a fake Kid. You know, the one who fell from the stairs and was taken away by the police? The real Kid would never be caught this easily. . .
Aoko blinked and looked around, her ears catching drifts of similar conversation.
"There's no way he'll come!" A girl argued with crossed arms and stared daggers at her group of friends, consistently insisting, "He'll come! Kid-sama is not a liar!"
"But that wasn't him though!"
"What's going on?" Aoko whispered more to herself but Keiko shrugged, observed that so many were leaving already. Aoko nodded, about to point out the absurdity of the situation but held herself back at last. She was in no position to argue that those people were ridiculous to believe that Kaito was Kid when she was starting to doubt as well. She turned to look at Keiko who was staring at something behind her. Frowning Aoko turned around and saw two police officers walking towards them. Their eyes fastened firm on Keiko.
Aoko's heart sank when she turned to look at Keiko, who swallowed audibly.
"Keiko?" Aoko's voice shook. "What did you do?"
"Something you don't quite need to know yet," she whispered with a firm squeeze on her arm. "I'll tell you later about it, okay?"
"What do you mean?" Aoko's brows furrowed, but Keiko was already standing up with an easy grin on her lips.
"You're Momoi-san, am I right?" the policewomen said once they were close. "We have some question regarding the murder, if you don't mind."
Aoko looked quickly between them, eyes widening as she whipped her head towards Keiko until her eyes widened and Aoko drove her hands over face and pushed her bangs up, muttered an apology over lips that went over deaf ears.
I was too focused on Kaito. I didn't even notice that Keiko witnessed a murder—
If that was possible Aoko's eyes widened further.
Aoko's hair whipped like a lash. She turned towards the position she last saw Keiko at, noticing in increasing alarm that she was gone. In fact, the police officers were disappeared too. Even the little boy. . . .
Now I begin to see…. the depth of your feelings.
Aoko was sitting all alone on the floor in a mass of strangers—half of which were escaping the room and passed her by as though she was non-existent.
A laugh fell from her lips, soft and quiet with an after taste of sheer bitterness as she smiled to herself in her misery. I'm all alone.
And like always, a familiar cold crept up, reaching all the way to her neck, holding firm with its grip and freezing the parts it seized, but Aoko didn't mind and closed her eyes instead, vaguely wondering, how long it would take to freeze her whole.
Delight bubbled in Ran's stomach as she gripped the doorknob hard and burst the door open, only to find a small sized room with covered paintings. Her face fell, with slumped shoulders she turned around, faced the corridor with its many doors. Ran sighed and looked around, decided to walk along the corridor and turn right this time, as she wondered how exactly a walk to and from the toilet could become such a maze when a staircase came into view, its design similar to that of the main hall rather than the rusty bars she came across when she first started her search.
But her hopes plummeted the moment she arrived at the lower floor. It was almost clad in darkness hadn't it been for the small lanterns hanging on the side of the wall. She sighed and turned, about to climb the stairs back up when she heard a noise. She listened in, recognised the sound to be hushed voices. Ran moved to follow the noise, hoped whoever it was would be kind enough to give her the direction to the main hall. It had been a while since she left. Sonoko was probably worried sick already.
She sighed and wondered why she hasn't asked her friend along whilst she listened to the whispers that rose in volume with each step she took. She didn't recognise the smooth voice from the man, nor that from the woman, but the more Ran heard, the more she grew confused.
"You have given it to him then?"
"No. But I hired someone to do it."
A strange curiosity came over her and Ran stood still, continued to listen as though the last seconds were a trick of her imagination that needed verification, but those voices were still there, conversing as idly as though they were chatting about the weather when they were in fact plotting someone's death. Ran swallowed, kept still even as her heart hammered inside her chest and cold shudders fell over her shoulders. Carefully, Ran peeked around a corner only to see two women and an elder man conversing with each other.
"If things go as planned, we won't see that rich geezer anymore. And of course, the police would be blamed, if not Nakamori-Keibu directly."
One of the women said, and Ran narrowed her eyes in concentration, tried her best to memorise the white blouse she wore, the dark primed hair rolled up in a tight bun, her pencil skirt, the heels and the glasses. But that was all she could see. Would it even be useful?
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. The man moved with his crane, his widening grin sent chills over Ran's shoulder. "Excellent. I trust you on that, my dear."
Ran bit her lips. In this kind of situation. . .
. . . .What would you do Shin'ichi?
Ran closed her eyes for a moment, washed all uncertainty away before she rose, determined to ask for direction and whatever the cost, see their faces, if not gain an accurate description of them.
A name would be good too for identification. . .
Ran took a deep breath and braced herself, stepped out only to find herself held back by a white gloved hand. She was gently pulled back before she knew it and before she could speak, she was taken away with a ready smile, blinding and full of promise, and the dimly dark of the hallway receded into a sparkling blur of white and stars that swam before her eyes.
"Throwing yourself into a lions is a dangerous thing to do, mademoiselle. Why don't you dream of taking a simple walk under the moonlight with me, instead?"
I would like to thank Akrim for pointing out areas of development and proof reading this chapter, much like all the previous ones. You're really a great help!
"Can you find her?" Genta called from around a corner.
"No," Ayumi shook her head as she spied behind the plant's large leaves. "She's not here either."
"Neither here." Mitsuhiko said as he stepped out from the door. "Is this really where we saw her last?"
"I'm sure." Ayumi bit her lips and looked around the corridor, at the walls, the velvet carpet, the pots of leaves and desks with leaflets standing all around. "Here's no sign of her. What will we do?"
"We'll find her somehow. I'm sure—" Mitsuhiko yelped, startled from a crashing noise behind him. Surprised, the detective boys turned around, meeting a sheepish expression from a passersby, his clipboard dropped onto the floor, sheets with check boxes, redly ticked was scattered around.
"Sorry to have startled you. But I was surprise to see you, children, wandering around," the man said, gathering the loose sheets, the trio were helping pick up. He glanced at them. "Let me guess, you here to see Kid, aren't you?"
"Not see, catch!" Genta corrected almost immediately. "We're the Detective Boys. We'll catch any thief as bad as Kid."
The man looked up, brows shot up high before he threw his head back. "Ha ha! So, it's like that, I see!" the man picked his clipboard up, righting numerous sheets into a neat pile and tucked them under metal hinge. He turned and straightened his back, "Then, I guess you won't break out crying like the others when I'll tell you that Kid has been caught already."
"WHAT?" Genta's eyes opened wider than should be possible, "How can that be?!"
"Ha Ha! I knew you'll react like that," the man grinned, his eyes crinkled wide as he stood up with his clipboard under his arm. "But it is true. Nakamori-Keibu clarified it himself, and people are getting ready to leave. You, guys, should get moving too. The heist is over."
"B-but. . .already?" Mitsuhiko tried to think but his mind was casted in total blackness. "It's hasn't even started yet."
"Seems like he wasn't on his best condition today," the man rubbed his neck. "Must be a total let down for you. Sorry. But look at the bright side, one less criminal to worry about!"
Genta stared at the man long and hard before coming to a conclusion and accused him of lying. The man looked at him in surprised for a second at most until his lips were twitching again, almost breaking into a grin. "Now, why would you think that?"
"There's no way Kid would be caught already!"
"He's right. He hasn't been caught for like—what twenty years?Why would he be caught now?" Mitsuhiko frowned. "This doesn't make sense."
The man gave them a challenging look before he narrowed his eyes on them. "Are you accusing Nakamori-Keibu to be lying?"
"Well, not exactly," Mitsuhiko answered uneasily, glancing towards his friends who had a similar expression on their faces. "Maybe there was some sort of miscommunication?"
The man shook his head. "He said it to me directly. It was an order to spread it around. Kid has been caught."
"Why would Nakamori-Keibu tell this to you!" Genta cried out at last, pointing at him. "You're not even an officer!"
Wordlessly, the man drove a hand to his pocket until something like realisation flashed in his widening eyes, and his cheeks coloured. "I, erm, heard him say it."
"Yeah, right." Genta snorted and crossed his arms, glaring at him.
The man crouched down and spoke as convincing as he could. "I speak the truth. I have heard him say it."
When the Detective Boys still looked uncertain, he tried again. "Haven't you seen the exit? People are leaving every second. Why would they leave if Kid was still coming? That's the thing though, he isn't."
The Detective Boys looked at another and nodded. Mitsuhiko turned to the man. "Why are you telling us this?"
"Are you Kid and fed up with us trailing you all this time? Have you decided to lie to get rid of us?" Ayumi asked, placing her hands on her hips, furrowing her brows at him.
"What? No, of course not. Where did you get this idea from?" the man shook his head almost immediately, laughing under his breath. "I'm known as Taichi, a passer-by that's just worried about a bunch of kids. Look here."
Taichi walked to the nearest window and motioned towards the pane. The Detective Boys climbed on to the tables and looked out of the window onto the crowded street. More and more people were walking out of the gallery and queuing for taxis or rushing into the car park across the road under the light drizzling rain.
"See this?" Taichi spoke again, now looking at the troubled faces from the trio. "What if your carers are wanting to leave too? Don't you think they are looking for you right now?"
"Well, they could be but," Ayumi looked to her friends and bit her lower lip before looking back to Taichi. "We're looking for our friend right now, so I don't think they would leave any time soon."
"Yeah!" Mitsuhiko turned to him. "Our group is incomplete, so we definitely aren't leaving."
"Well, well, if it's like that then, here." Taichi rummaged through his pockets until he got a small white card out which he stretched out for Ayumi to take. "If you find you need any help searching just give me a call. But I still think it's best if you'd go to the main hall to find her. She got probably told the same thing and is waiting for you there."
"Thank you," Mitsuhiko said, watching him leave with a small wave at them. "We might just do that."
"A strange fellow," Genta muttered, crossing his arms behind his head as he watched Taichi walk away and glanced at Ayumi's wide eyes.
"Huh? what's wrong?" Genta looked down towards the card. His mouth opened.
Mitsuhiko, now curious, walked over and peeked over Ayumi's shoulder, staring at the card she held between her fingers. Mitsuhiko raised his head slowly, turned his head towards his friends, sharing a similar expression of disbelief and surprise across their faces. It was silent for a while until Ayumi dared to raise her voice to break the silence but even then her voice was not higher than a small whisper.
"That number there," she swallowed and glanced back towards her friends, "Isn't that from the police?"
She was met with deathly silence. Ayumi turned around, fully, raising the card higher but the piece of paper faltered in her hands when a figure came running from the corner. Like a whirlwind long, dark hair swept by, but when they settled at last, and a familiar pair of blue eyes peeked between her tousled bangs, it didn't take a second for the Detective Boys to recognise the person in front of them.
Ran bent forward, leaned on her knees to catch her breath but her voice was loud and clear, full of urgency when she said, "How do I get to the main hall?"
The Detective Boys only pointed.
". . . ., isn't that right, Sonoko-san?"
Sonoko did her best to smile and nod, looking fully attentive whilst her eyes wandered towards the door more than she could count. What took Ran so long? It had been more than ten minutes already since she left. Sonoko couldn't help but be worried. Should I have gone along with her? She sighed and turned to look at the door again.
". . .wouldn't mind wearing this ring?" the man smiled and leaned towards her, showing an emerald ring that didn't quite suit Sonoko's taste. She tried to stop her nose from wrinkling in distaste and glanced back at man she knew to be one of her father's business associates. "I made it specifically for you. This would be a promising arrangement for you and my son."
"If you think so," Sonoko mumbled, not really listening, looking at the door again until the man started to laugh under his breath and several giggles followed. Frowning Sonoko glanced back at her father's associates that gathered around her and found them all looking amused. Sonoko tilted her head. Did I miss something?
She opened her mouth to ask when heavy footsteps and shouts rumbled from the door. She glanced back only to see a bunch of kids storming inside the main hall. Her best friend was still nowhere to be seen. At least she thought so until she saw a familiar figure crouch next to a fallen someone that looked quite a bit like Genta. Sonoko was sure, not many had his figure.
But, was that person. . . .?
"I bet my son would be happy to have a bride like you," the man continued, his voice too smooth as he spoke each word carefully, his eyes twinkling.
Sonoko canted her head back. From where she stood she could only catch glimpses. But maybe it was really Ran sitting next to him. Sonoko nodded absent-mindedly, her eyes still trained at those two near the door. There was another one rushing towards them. Was that Mitsuhiko? Now Sonoko was completely sure. She smiled bright and turned back towards the little group standing close to her, finding that they were laughing more than they did before.
"Let's have a toast," her father's associate raised his drink and the others followed. Sonoko reluctantly raised hers. "Hereby I welcome Suzuki Sonoko to the Family."
"Yes, that's. . .pardon!?" her eyes widened, and she quickly retracted her arm. "Surely, that's only a jest."
"It wouldn't have been if you paid attention," he laughed and Sonoko cheeks burned as she looked at her shoes. But her father's associate continued, "My, my, I did expect of you to snap out of it sooner, my dear."
"My apologies," Sonoko hid her sheepish smile behind the glass as she sipped from her drink, "You see, I'm worried about my friend. She has been gone for too long."
"So, why don't you go and have a look for her?" an older man joined in, and Sonoko turned and saw her Uncle standing behind her. "It's not your place to entertain all these guests of mine in the first place. I can see it bores you."
"You don't have to put it like that." Sonoko crossed her arms and turned away, trying her best to ignore the rising redness on her cheeks. But the others only laughed along with her Uncle. Honestly, what was even funny about that? Sonoko only glared as the waiter came by and gave Suzuki a drink, who was already cracking up at other humourless jokes.
Sonoko sighed and turned on her heels to march down to meet her personal invitees when she noted that they were gone. Her brows rose high. Before she had the chance to look, her Uncle suddenly yelped. Sonoko whirled around at the sound of crashing glass and found Ran positioned in one of her stances. She saw Ran lower hand and glanced down at the shattered glass on the floor. The Detective Boys stood by Ran's side wide eyed, completely in shock and Sonoko glanced back to the broken glass. Based on their reaction she guessed Ran broke it, but before Sonoko had the chance to ask why, her Uncle already threw an offending glare at her best friend.
"What's the big idea?" he scoffed and flicked a wrist at the nearest waiter to clean the mess up. "I know you're Sonoko's friend but that doesn't excuse you giving others heart attacks like this. What was this even for?"
Ran was still catching her breath and Sonoko heard her muttering under her breath strings of "Thank goodness." and "I made it in time." and "He is still fine." Sonoko walked closer and placed a hand on Ran's shoulder. "You alright there?"
"Aren't you supposed to be asking me that?" her Uncle threw in and gave them both a look that Sonoko all too willingly returned.
"You're in danger."
They both turned to look at Ran, surprised. "What?"
"How can this be—?"
"—surely this is a mistake—"
"—lacking manners to be causing such a scene—"
"My friend doesn't lie!" Sonoko threw in sharply and glared at them, cutting off any other accusation about to drip from the business associates' before turning to Ran. "Where have you been all this time?"
"Doesn't matter right now!" Ran replied quickly and glanced around. "Where's my Dad? I need to tell him this. . ."
"Tell me first!" Suzuki pushed forwards. "Who has the nerve to go out for my head?"
"Suzuki-san, you don't honestly believe this nonsense—"
"In fact, her imagination must be running wild—"
Sonoko's brows twitched and she flex her fingers into a fist as anger rose in her. The nerve to accuse her friend like that. Sonoko a had a wild lashing ready on her lips when the Detective Boys rushed to stand in front of Ran as though guarding her from the harsh criticisms they strewed in her way. Only then, when Sonoko swiped her glance back to Ran, she noticed the surprised and hurt look in her friend's eyes.
Sonoko turned to narrow her eyes at them in compensation when she realised their attention was still taken up by the mini-detectives, too busy scoffing at the Detective Boys and their childish lecture.
"How can you say that!" Genta pointed an offending finger. "Ran-nēchan wouldn't lie about something like that!"
"Yeah! How can you imply she's lying? Even when Ran-onēsan was running so fast to save Suzuki-san!"
"That's right. You should be ashamed." Mitsuhiko added with a firm nod, his arms crossed over his chest. "She saved a life! For all we know that glass could have been poisoned."
"Why should it be poisoned?" they cried out confused. Even Suzuki looked surprised. Much less Sonoko who blinked at them for seconds before she coughed and put her irritated glare on and crossed her arms.
"Are you doubting the judgement of the daughter of the famous detective?" Sonoko saw something flicker in the business associates' eyes and she smirked. "Thought so."
Suzuki quickly composed himself and threw Sonoko a look. "Of course not. I'm sure we can clear this misconception up in a much calmer manner."
"In any case, I need to speak to my Dad." Ran said quickly, rubbing her temple. "He's far more capable handling this situation than I am."
"Will do." Suzuki closed his eyes for a moment, pinched the bridge of his nose before ordering someone to fetch Mori-san from the control room.
Sonoko grinned and placed a comforting hand on Ran's shoulder as she steered her away from the crowd. This is my chance! "Now, now. Let's be serious, shall we?"
Ran stopped to blink at her before her face turned a little annoyed. "I am serious. This is serious. There are these guys after your uncle, Sonoko. Who knows when they will—"
"C'mon now. After rising this much attention, you should know by now that you can trust me a little." Sonoko's grin widened and she let out a loose laugh. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice? Or is that part of your plan, hmm?"
Ran frowned and reached up to put Sonoko's hand down from her shoulder, turning to face her. "What plan? I'm trying to prevent a crime here. You should know that by now."
"Oh please," Sonoko waved her off. "You can drop the act. You should have realised by now that your secret is fine with me."
"What secret?" Ran finally snapped and placed her hands on her hips, gazing at Sonoko challenging. "Do you think I'm doing this for show? That I'm only pulling this off as a joke?"
"Of course not." Sonoko snorted before a slow smile stretched on her face as she glanced at Ran a little slyly with just the right amount of coyness in her that should ring Ran's alarm bells loudly. "But I do think that startling the crowd with a fake threat to my Uncle is a little petty, although it still has your originality." Sonoko smiled widely. "Just what I expected from you - a master thief."
"You may have fooled the others easily. But you can't flee from me." Sonoko shook her head lightly at the thought to be underestimated and sent her supposed friend a cheeky grin. "I have seen through you. . .Kaitou Kid-sama!"
Sonoko laughed, delighted. "Impressed, aren't you? But I won't fall for your tricks anymore. It took me a while to figure it out. But, you know, Ran takes in deep breaths before she acts. Not to mention that her eyebrow twitches when she's mad." She grinned and dropped her voice to a whisper. "Get it right next time, will you?"
She watched Ran resigned as her lips pulled back into a little smirk. "Impressing alright, mademoiselle. I take you'd like to see your friend or at least...desire to aid me?" Ran winked back, "Secretly, of course."
Sonoko could barely contain her squeal when Ran's- no- Kid's hands slipped into hers, and she fought down a shiver from the touch of his cool hands and she breathed out a feeble, "I'd love to."
Kid only smiled.
The weariness coated on her eyelids wore off. Like lead they slowly opened, coming face to face with total darkness masking her whereabouts. Ai raised her head, blinked the fogginess inside her head away as she reconstructed the recent events under a throbbing headache until she ended up sighing, giving up the will to question her bad luck anymore.
A muffled groaned trembled past her taped lips once she tried to move. Her hands suffered of pins and needles and her back ached against the carpeted floor. How long had she been lying there, knocked out cold in the middle of nowhere?
Ai glanced around and caught shallow movements. Her senses sharpened, she squinted at the dark until a sensation of brushed her hand, cold and oddly metallic, she suppressed a gasp and drew back even as a hand grabbed her shoulder and pushed her closer.
"If you keep on moving like that I'll end up cutting more than just the rope."
The voice was eerily familiar and at the same time astoundingly irritating. It was none other than the cause of her troubles- that Junsa-buchō, Asuka Itsuki. Ai frowned but bit back the mounting sharp words that boiled at the tip of her tongue. His callous fingers were carefully unravelling the ropes bounding her wrists.
Ai massaged her hands before she painfully pulled the tape away from her lips and opened her mouth to tell that policeman a piece of her mind for dragging her into this mess when his gentle voice rose through the quiet.
"Sorry 'bout this. Didn't mean to get you involved," his hands carefully searched for her ankle as his fingers trailed down the length of her leg and tugged on the ropes. Ai fiddled with her wristwatch, switched the flash-light on and caught the gleaming edge of a pocket knife held within the grasp of his fingers as he cut the rope wrapped around her legs. His eyes lax despite the mild frown furrowing his eyes brows. "Really. Never thought they'd attack me with a kid around."
"Save the apologies," Ai turned away as she suppressed an eye roll even though her annoyance lay thick on her tongue. "Just tell me what I've gotten myself into already."
Itsuki leaned back, sat comfortably against the wall as he slowly shook his head. "Difficult to say. I'm not entirely sure myself."
"You don't expect me to believe that, do you?" Ai's look was unflinchingly hard and uncompromising enough for Itsuki to blow the air out of his cheeks. He drove his quick fingers through his hair, adjusted his skewed snapback before he faced her.
"Although I do have some speculations, I don't want to casually point fingers and falsely accuse my people. Since whatever I say is only an—"
"—unverified assumption. Talk without hard evidence. In other words, plain nonsense," Ai rolled her eyes despite the twitch at her eyebrow as she remembered a detective freak with glasses and a fake name. "But still, I have the right to know."
"Well yeah, 'course you do. But it might be best for you to remain oblivious towards this. For the sake of police's…credibility." Itsuki gazed away. "This whole ordeal is making us lose face, you know. It would be bad for Japan's future generation to mistrust the police system for something trivial as this."
"This triviality knocked me out cold and locked me in here with you. This incident alone serves me the right to mistrust the police," Ai snorted, gave him a deadpan look, gazing at him unflinchingly. "Honestly, if you didn't want the public to know about the internal conflicts within the police then innocent citizens shouldn't have been involved in the first place."
Itsuki's mouth drew into a taunt line. His gaze hardened on her, perfectly serious, hadn't it been for the awry twitch of his lips. "You sound surprisingly mature for your age. Almost like a miniature adult. It gives me the creeps."
Sarcastic laughter sprang out of Ai's mouth, and she glared at him, threw an annoyed look in his direction as she crossed her arms in front of his chest. "Quit changing topics already."
"I'm not," a pair of knowing eyes fastened on her with a smile rolling chills over her. "I think it's correct to assume that you understood what was going on back there—with Naomi and all."
"It wasn't difficult to figure out given how suspicious all of you were acting." Ai muttered and raised her wristwatch, momentarily blinding him as she stood up, towering over him with a hand on her hip. "Now spill."
Itsuki sighed and leaned back, thumped his head against the wall as his shoulder slumped. "Have you ever heard of police rivalry?" He turned his head and gave Ai a tired smile. "I'm not talking about two stubborn officers constantly competing with another. But a fierce competition between officers for promotion."
"I've heard a thing or two about it. There was a newspaper couple of years ago commentating on the selective selection of officers chosen for promotion. If I remember correctly, it correlated the detrimental effects of their psychological health and. . . ." Ai trailed off and coughed as she looked away from the look on Itsuki's face. His brows were raised high and his mouth dropped open as he stared at her in wonderment.
"Of course, that's only what I heard people say back then. I don't know much about it," she tried to amend to no avail. Itsuki tuned her out as he started whistling under his breath and ruffled her hair.
"You really are something. Goodness, I didn't know that children are so remarkable these days. Makes me feel like an old geezer already." He laughed, his eyes crinkled fully amused and Ai held in her irritation at her own carelessness and only waved a hand for him to continue, even as she glared daggers at the hand still messing up her hair.
Itsuki's laughter morphed into an amused smile but his eyes retained the solemnity of the situation as he glanced away and stared at the darkened room. "As you probably know, not every officer continuously rises through the ranks. Maybe once to every five to ten years. It varies but it's tough nonetheless."
"And that's the problem?" her brows drew down as she looked at him, sceptically. "Jealousy and resentment towards their colleagues for something silly as that?"
"It seems ridiculous until it happens," the pools inside his eyes darkened. "So far I've only heard about it. And yesterday I even laughed about it. It's hard to believe that only moments ago I've seen the real deal."
"Is that why you're locked you up here?" Ai frowned. "Because you have seena squabble?"
"Not a squabble. Underhand tactics and sabotages aren't even close to describe what's going on today." Itsuki glanced at her and a sense of foreboding rouse inside Ai. His jaw was set tight and his face hardened. "Without a doubt, this might easily be the worst day of my life."
The cold didn't freeze her.
Aoko opened her eyes, momentarily blinded by the bright chandelier and its golden rays spanning across the hall, golden like the gem and bright like the sun, washing the grip of that familiar cold away as it relinquished its grip on her neck and defrosted the parts it seized.
She didn't freeze.
Aoko moved to stand up, noticed Hakuba and his golden mob nearing her with an easy smile, but she could see the knowing glint in his eyes and the assured way he walked towards her, as though he knew her treacherous thoughts from before—
"You're in denial and we both know it."
She froze, felt the frantic jabs of her heart that screamed otherwise and the blankness of her head that swept by like an invisible mist. She swallowed, took a couple of steps back and wondered whether it was okay to dash away—to avoid him—to not talk to him. Because Kaito wasn't—
You think he's Kid.
Aoko bit her lip, listened to the silence roaming through her mind and the memories lurking at the back of her mind, but they were there—all those half hearted words she has spoken, all those she has listened to, all those she has pushed away and ignored, all those vague answers Kaito threw at her and. . .all those Hakuba had spoken to her like a light that reached out to her from the darkness cladded ingorence that Kaito shrouded her inside.
"Let's together unreval this mystery that Koruba Kaito is."
Aoko swallowed, silently watched the detective coming to stand in front of her, the glint inside his eyes brighter than the golden rays she had seen before, brighter than this ignorance she was still held within.
"Have you made up your mind now?"
The answer came to her. She had denied it, closed her eyes from it, pushed it away and screamed whenever it came close to her. And now—
". . .you're not believing your own words."
"It's not too late," he smiled and stretched his hand out as though she would take it.
And take she did—clasped his hand with both hands and stared into his eyes, hope glimmering inside the shade of her saphhire eyes as well as the doubt that plagued her ever since her first conversation with him. But at the same time—
Aoko swallowed the rising lump inside her throat, blinked her eyes to dispell the mist inside her head as the words trembled past her lips, "Can you give me once last chance?" she squeezed his hands and forced her conviction with each passing word. "And if I'm wrong one more time then. . .then I'll believe you."
He stared at her with facinated eyes as though he couldn't believe her an her stubborn mind. "Look Aoko, don't you think you've suffered enough?"
"I have suffered enough." Aoko pushed her hair out of her eyes as she stared right back. "I have had enough. I'm sick of being hurt and decieved."
The detective narrowed his eyes, staring at her almost uncompherendingly as his mind failed to follow up with this conversation. "Then why are you still denying it?"
"He thinks you're Kid, but we both know that's not true. . . . .You're not, right?"
"About that. . . ."
"Because I still haven't gotten my answers." She let go of his hand, tentatively, and swallowed, not entirely sure what was coming out of her mind when she only felt the rising panic of her heart, springing almost out of her chest. "He still hasn't answered my question."
Hakuba rose a brow and his unvoiced question wrenched her aching heart, but she refused to falter against his knowing eyes and his self-assured smile.
"This is his final chance to answer." Aoko held his gaze, clearing the mist inside her mind with a definite shake of her head. "And if he lies—if he turns out to be Kid then—then I'm done with him and I'll accept it."
Hakuba's expression didn't change.
Aoko fisted her hands at her side and determnination glinting inside her eyes. "If he turns out to be Kid, then I'll also help you catch him."
"I assume, you're aware of waht you're saying. Catching him means—"
Aoko didn't need a warning. She was fully aware what she was doing. These answer always came easily to her, always at the background of her mind, even as she had denied it—closed her eyes from it, pushed it away and screamed whenever it came close to her.
But never once had she battled with it. Never saw eye to eye with it. Never reasoned with it. Never accepted it. And now—
"I'll make this alright."
Aoko took a deep breath and nodded, didn't see the half-heared smirk and the sympathetic eyes from Hakuba when she turned around to catch her answers with her own pair of hands, and ran past the people to where Kaito was, convinced that she can prove it once and for all.
Whether he was Kid or not—a liar or not—her friend or not—she'll prove it to Hakuba, and to that mini detective, and everbody else who were convinced that Kaito was a lying thief. She'll prove it to all of them. Even to herself.
That Kaito was nothing but her best friend.
I'll believe in the hand stretched out to me.
Aoko sprinted down the hall, looked left and right, searching for a ready smile and blue mischievous twinkling eyes that she could pick out from a crowd of a thousand, and this time she wouldn't lose him—wouldn't trip—wouldn't fall—and most of all she wouldn't let him go until she was truly assured of his identity.
It didn't matter if she had to stick to him like glue, shadow him like a stalker, or scream at him like she had a couple of screws loose because she will tell him, and he wouldn't be able to avoid her. He cannot lie to her. Cannot throw dust into her eyes and smile it off with a shrug because if she were to see him disguise as Kid—if she were to fall asleep—then she will know.
But if he lets me stick by his side—
If Kid comes and he's still by my side—
Then I know he's not.
Then I know he cannot be!
Unless he couldn't prove her otherwise he was Kid to her. A lying thief and the worst criminal she will ever lay her eyes on.
And she will tell him so.
This time she wouldn't let him hide from her.
The time when we'll meet next, I'll untangle this thread.
Edogawa Conan smelled the unease and tension swirling in the air. It was almost tangible, shrouding the police officers with its tight constraint, invisibly pulling their harshly knitted eyebrows deeper, sagging the corners of their lips down down down until their age quadrupled under the harsh lines of wrinkles folding across their faces and Conan knew something was off. Incredibly off.
By just once glance, Conan knew that the tension sprouting off the officers were beyond the effects of a crime scene- beyond that of a heist. But from something beyond his knowledge. Something he wasn't quite aware about.
Conan followed them closely. Carefully. Always a couple of steps behind. But under Satō's continuous look over her shoulder, it appeared to be increasingly difficult. He frowned at her sharp sense, re-emerging from the shadow, momentarily glad that they were walking through a rather dimly lit hallway.
If only she could be as dense as Kogoro-no-ojisa.
When Satō re-fixed her sharp eyes to the front again, Conan waited a few seconds before he tiptoed after them, slowly sneaking closer until the floor under his feet suddenly disappeared and he found himself held up by a pair of hands.
"Aren't you a sneaky boy~"
A lady cooed right behind his ear. Conan was held up high by unknown hands that shook him like some prized doll for everyone to stare at. One of Conan's brows twitched, marked with blunt annoyance as he laughed sheepishly at the varied expressions that ranged from surprised to annoyance with a firm amount of disapproval written across their features. Well, except the wannabe magician at the back. He was busy snickering.
Conan suppressed a glare and turned to face his capturer instead. She was as tall as Ran and had a mass of loose maroon hair, grinning albeit too wide for Conan's comfort. He immediately stepped back the moment she descended him to the ground.
"Gaki! Just what are you doing here?" Mōri was on him in a matter of seconds, picking him up by the collar of his shirt. "How many times do I have to tell you that this isn't a playground for you to mess with!"
Conan snorted, couldn't detain his increasing annoyance, his quaking brows drew further down into an obvious frown that he directed at the maroon-haired that was now happily showing him a peace-sign.
What on earth. . .?
His attention was stolen by Satō's flighty but secret wink as she showed him her palm, fingers forming an 'o' with her thumb and forefinger. Conan recognised the sign almost immediately.
'Don't worry, I got you.'
He flashed a grin, making sure to look a tad bit sheepish when Satō begun to dissuade them from removing Conan with carefully chosen words to tip the surface of their ambivalence into a unanimous agreement to keep him. But Megure-Keibu's face remained hard and unaffected by Satō's advances and he shook his head firmly. Her face fell, and a sheepish smile blossomed on her face when her superior's disapproval was directed at her too.
"We cannot have children at every crime scene we investigate."
Satō lowered her head in disappointment, conceding, but not before giving Takagi a firm nudge and a demanding glare, pointing her head at Megure-Keibu challengingly. Conan didn't like to think his fate rested on Takagi's zero persuasion skills. He was already now stammering at the mere insinuation from Satō's hard stare.
The maroon haired stifled a laugh but clapped her hands like an adult would do to a bunch of pre-schoolers, getting their attention but also their contemptuous stares—even from Conan. "Now, now. There's no need to stir up a ruckus. The little boy can join us. He'll need to be questioned anyway. It's sooner than initially planned but nothing we can't handle."
Mōri grumbled but let him down anyway. Conan immediately took it as an opportunity to run away from him and stand next to a happy Satō and a relieved Takagi, all the while glancing at the maroon haired curiously, wondering who she was to enforce her will on others. He glanced at Megure-Keibu. He was sighing and muttering a string of words under his breath that Conan couldn't make out, but the senior appeared just as unhappy about the situation as Mōri felt, though Conan was sure due to different reasons.
During their walk to who-knows-where, Satō took the liberty to explain what was currently happening. Conan was already aware that they were gathering witnesses to question them. The fact alone that the Detective Boys weren't here meant that they planned to question the kids later, preferably after the heist.
Conan could also guess that they initially wanted to spend the time to thoroughly interrogating the wannabe magician. Conan honestly didn't think he was lying to that girl when he said they might suspect him too. The fact alone that Snake felt the need to eliminate him meant that the criminal considered the magician a threat. But something Satō mentioned stumped him. He turned to ask her, gently intercepting her informed speech, "Why is everyone sent to the main hall?"
As far as Conan knew the room would be overpopulated, providing Kid the perfect gateway to disguise as anyone. But Satō looked rather confused at the question—that was, until something flashed in her eyes. She laughed, her eyes twinkling amusedly at him.
"Of course, you wouldn't know. I heard that the task-force are planning to apprehend both Kid and Snake. That's why as a safety precaution, they are going to safely evacuate the citizens as soon as possible to avoid any potential casualties."
"You speak as if it's going to get dangerous." Conan murmured quietly to himself and was surprised that the maroon haired heard him.
"It will get dangerous." Reika corrected. "Our sources confirmed that Snake is prone to pull his guns. It'll place the citizens in jeopardy if we were to detain them inside the gallery. That's why we're secretly evacuating them with false rumours. It would be a hassle otherwise."
"Spreading rumours?" Satō asked with her eyebrows rose high, falling in step with the maroon haired, who only bore a secretive smile. But it didn't last. After seconds of goading nods thrown at her direction she was already indulging their desires, fatting them up with answers that even Takagi was craving for and when Conan looked around, Mōri and Megure's attention was completely taken away by her too.
Conan couldn't help but wonder whether she intended that. But the thought didn't stay long when she nodded and begun to speak again. "Yes, rumours. From what I've heard they're saying that Kid has been caught."
Conan rose his brows at the revelation and he whipped his head to stare back at the wannabe magician who looked just as confused as him, much like everybody else in the hallway.
And then sudden laughter barked from behind them.
Behind them stood a man Conan didn't recognise. But if he had to compare his facial features to anything then it would be definitely a rat.
The man chuckled and neared them, "To be telling lies like this Reika. We both know that these are not rumours but actual facts. Kid has been apprehended. He's right here, in fact. Although, I do wonder how Nakamori-Keibu didn't manage to catch this toothpick sooner."
His narrowed eyes swiped away from them and fell on the wannabe magician, who surprisingly didn't return the stare. If anything, he was openly ignoring the elder, stuffing his hands inside his pockets and sauntering up and down the corridor, taking in the paintings hanging on the beige walls as though he had an appreciation for art.
The elder snarled at the disrespect and wrinkled his nose distastefully, seemingly about to reprimand the other when his attention was taken up by the maroon-haired. Sharply she intercepted him, her previous happy smile reduced to nothing but a tight taunt line. "You've got it wrong. That's not it. You're suspecting a member of our force. Kid has yet to be apprehended."
The elder ignored her with a flick of his hand. His crane clicked across the ground as he moved. He had a hand on his chin as he seized the teenager up and down. "Now, I do believe that the rumours about Kid were always exaggerated. How can a sickly and skinny guy like him even be considered to be as a national threat?
The wannabe magician snorted and turned, opened up his mouth to retort but the voice of the maroon haired ruled strongly over his as she stressed with a voice ebbing of frustration that Kid was a thief, not a nationalthreat. Conan glanced at her, seeing absolute anger and hatred brewing inside the depth of her eyes.
"Reika, dear, is that how you should be speaking to your superior?"
Reika gritted her teeth but kept a straight face. Conan stepped back, fully aware that those two were incompatible and secretly he was glad that Satō understood too. The female police officer placed a firm hand on the Reika's shoulder and steered her away from him. But that wasn't necessary. The elder bypassed Reika as though she was non-existent.
Something in Reika's eyes flashed violently but she held her tongue and glared with such ferocity Conan took another step back. The elder noticed and barked a laugh, stared at Reika and her angry eyes until the harsh lines of his smile oozed with such rotten smugness. His eyes creased with dark complacency as he clicked his tongue at her before he turned, acknowledging Conan's presence for the first time with nothing other than a wrinkled his nose as though he saw nothing but a mere bug. Conan scowled.
"Who's that brat? Under whose authority is he here?"
Conan's eyes narrowed at him but before he could say anything, Reika picked him up, cradling him against her chest as she spat. "This boy is with me—won't you apologise to him?"
"And why should I? In fact, shouldn't you be apologising to him in advance? Knowing you, you'd put that brat in danger." The man gave her a look, snorting when Reika's face darkened. "What's with that expression, my dear? Don't tell me you're not planning to misuse the poor brat for one of your wicked plans just like you used your poor good-natured friend—who was it again? Michi? Oh, yes, yes, I think was our dear Michiko. I wonder what she thinks of you, now, in heaven."
He was smirking now, sneering at Reika what looked like a slithery snake in Conan's opinion. "If my memory serves me right, your manipulative streaks and cold mindedness did never any good. It's best if you kept yourself at arm-length of this investigation from now on before you make any other mistakes." He moved his hand as though he was shooing a persistent fly away. "Now, off you go. You're dismissed."
The grip on him tightened. Conan shifted and glanced at her, surprised to notice that her face was completely apathetic and calm despite having this man—this superior of hers—consecutively hitting there where it definitely hurt.
From a behind them a throat cleared.
"Is that how you should be talking to my co-worker, Nezumi-Keibu-ho?"
Conan turned to see a man in shades dressed in a steward attire. His arms were crossed over his chest and his words were dripping of ice and cold showers as he steadily neared them.
Conan wondered whether he was the same as Reika. A weirdly disguised police officer.
"Hondo-san," the elder acknowledged his presence with a nod before his glaring eyes fixed back on Reika. "I wonder how pests like her could even be considered a co-worker. Should she not have been purged from the force the moment she opened her mouth? Air-heads like her aren't needed in this area of expertise and professionalism." Nezumi-Keibu-ho shook his head and wrinkled his nose at her. "Dear, remind me yet again of the manner you were assigned with a badge? If I remember correctly, it was a sign of gratitude for your favours, was it not? Mind going back to that particular profession?"
Conan wheezed for breath. Pain stung through his abdomen as Reika's arms tightened around him. Almost like a death-grip. He wiggled and caught glimpses of her hardened face. Her cheeks were flush with contained anger. But her narrowed eyes were hollow as though nothing, but an empty vacuum remained in her eyes.
"I have resigned that particular profession a long time ago. Information gathering isn't exactly my field of enjoyment." Her voice was surprisingly calm and smooth. But Conan felt her arms clenching deeper into his flesh. He wiggled but his struggles went by unnoticed. Sometimes he really hated his height and strength.
"Enjoyment, you say?" the elder scoffed and fixed a glare at her. "As I believed someone like you cannot exactly fathom the level of importance the police force is. You're underestimating—"
"For someone, who came late to an official investigation you sure bark a lot. I wonder, whether it is not you who's underestimating our profession." Hondo muttered as he strode passed with a gaze fixed ahead and his fingers stuffed inside his pocket. "Anyhow, we should be starting the investigation and not teeter about these useless matters."
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Nezumi-Keibu-ho was already hot on his heels, snarling at disrespect and spewing out complaints regarding the manner of Hondo's conduct and its consequences it would entail.
But at least he was far away from Reika.
She breathed out, softly muttering stings at curses at Hondo and his careless attitude. Her arms loosened up but still tight enough to firmly detain him. But that wasn't what perked his interest. Conan frowned and turned to look at her, surprised that she isn't censoring her swears in front of a child. But he was also glad that her stoic face was slowly softening up.
The pain ebbed away, and quietly Conan whispered. "Shouldn't you be grateful instead?" at least I am.
Reika lowered her head, blinking at him as she tilted her head to the side. "Why should I be? That dimwit was so close to getting another promotion—this guilt will follow me for the rest of my life."
"But you can't speak to a superior in such a way. Especially not during working hours." Megure muttered sternly, gazing at the back of Nezumi-Keibu-ho's back. "But I'm not surprised Hondo dared. He had always been different since that incident regarding his friend. I'm sure, he won't mind its consequences."
Satō and Takagi only shared a look before Satō spoke, "We were under the impression he was always like that."
"He was, but never to such an extent." Reika answered slowly and adjusted her grip on Conan, steadily walking to catch up with the rest of them. "He used to laugh and smile but now he only frowns, grunts and glares. It's uncomfortable, really, but understandable. Not everybody has their best friend supported by a life machine."
Silence clung on them like second skin for a full minute before, Reika cleared her throat. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it awkward." She tried to smile and tried to lift the mood as they walked through the corridor.
But although she sounded sincere, Conan could hear the dissonance reverberating between each word and the cries of missing parts that didn't create the entire picture. But even as the silence droned on and the footsteps ceased in front of a door Hondo opened to let the wannabe magician and police officers in, Conan could do nothing but frown as the wooden doors clunked shut.
Reika put him down at last, still flashing him a smile as she flopped to the ground, sitting on the red carpet strewn across the corridor in a not-so-feminine-way. Conan watched curiously as she slipped off her heels and threw them next to her, rubbing and massaging her feet with quick fingers as she groaned, muttering strings of words about the intensity of the pain and her refusal to wear them ever again.
Conan dropped a sweat but smiled kindly as he stepped back. He turned and threw a sharp glance at the door. He could hear the faint echoes of mumbles but nothing else.
"You can't listen in, you know? If they catch you I'd get an earful again." Reika suddenly spoke up, sending him a contemplative glance before she patted the space next to her. Her hand reached up and she pushed her hair back, a black bud was perched inside her ear. "If you really want to hear so badly, I can lend you an earpiece if you'd like."
Conan stood rooted in his spot, giving her sceptical glance. "You would?"
She laughed, tugged on the cord and offered to him with a beaming smile. "Of course, come here. I have done my homework. You're Kid-Killer and adamant as much as Nakamori-Keibu to get Kid behind bars. That's why I want you to listen," she stretched her arm out farther, dangling it in front of Conan's uncertain eyes. "I want you to understand that you've got the wrong guy. Kuroba-kun isn't Kid. He's just some kid playing the decoy for us."
"Are you supposed to be telling me this?" Conan asked, stepping closer, stealing a glance at her outstretched hand before his gaze landed at her discarded heels. "You're not exactly following protocol. You're risking your job. You will get in trouble by the bad man again."
Reika only threw her head back and her locks rolled down her lower back, along with the rakish laughter that danced on her tongue. She looked at him, joyfully as though she was having fun, as though she wholeheartedly enjoyed the joke he has supposedly cracked. Conan stepped back, stared at the lady through impassive eyes as her eyes crinkled into indistinct narrow slits, even as her full lips stretched into a wide, friendly smile.
"Of course not. My actions are always authorised, regardless what happens. You know, like they say 'All is fair in love and war' it's the same for justice—at least my kind of justice. But it doesn't matter right now. Not when nothing goes according to plan. If you haven't realised it yet, Kid Killer, at this point we're all just improvising, throwing sand everywhere in hope to build a castle." She was dangling the cord now, like a pendulum it swung before Conan's eyes. "Well, little boy? Are you going to take it or not?"
Conan took his eyes of the swinging ear piece and flashed a look at the door. It was awfully quiet now. But if she spoke the truth, those officers would probably inquire about the circumstances of the wannabe magician's fall. Nothing Conan didn't know already. In fact, doesn't Conan know more than them already? He had seen the perpetrator getting shot, hadn't he?
Slowly, he shook his head. He moved to sit next to her and noticed she has still not slipped her heels on. His brows furrowed as his eyes caught glimpses of scars peeking through her black pantyhose before he directed his eyes to her face. "Is the condition of this Hideki-san affecting you too? Are you out of it as much as Hondo-san is?"
Reika's eyes fixed on him. Conan tried not to flinch under her blank stare as he met her gaze head on. He had already characterised Reika as a very open person. She could rumble away about sensitive matters people would clam their mouth tightly shut or gaze away from. But perhaps, he has misjudged that?
I hope I didn't hit a nerve.
Conan opened his mouth to apologise and change topics when he was interrupted by Reika's loud sigh. He glanced at her and found that her jaw has lost its tenseness, her shoulders relaxed, and her head leaned against the wall, but she was still looking at him. Her eyes were twinkling with such strange brightness, Conan didn't know what to think.
"You got me there, boy. You're right. I am affected. But not by Hideki. I wasn't particularly close to himbut his fiancée, Michi—you know, that Michiko that rat-face was referring to? That's the one. She was a member of the police department as well. That's how I know her. We were partners until. . .you know."
"Oh," Conan muttered and wondered whether it was her death that was affecting Reika to such an extent that she was dislodging information so carelessly. "Did she recently. . .?"
"Hmm? Oh no. She died three months ago. Suicide, they said, falling down a building cannot be anything but," she wrinkled her nose in distaste as her brows twitched into a frown. "They haven't even found a single motive yet, but the authorities don't particularly care about these things as long as they can stamp a case close."
She shook her head and shifted, reeled in her legs to sit cross legged on the red carpeted floor, and pressed her hand in front of her eyes. Conan remained quiet, even as she started to laugh quietly to herself with no joy bouncing off each echo of her words. But there was a glint in her eyes, and Conan knew she was looking at something far away, at something Conan was sure he couldn't see.
Slowly she raised her look off the floor, placidly smiling at Conan as she raised her hand, ruffling through his short hair. "Adults can be such deranged, wild creatures. I hope you won't ever grow up to be one of them."
Conan could only nod.
Reika smiled and withdrew her hand, turning around to face the end of the hallway when thundering footsteps bounced off the walls. Another waitress rounded the corner. Even from afar Conan could see the massive scowl perched on her face as she stared daggers at the ground. Her mouth moved as though she was grumbling colourful curses under her breath.
Wasn't that. . .?
Conan flinched when Reika's voice boomed across the hall as she hollered the waitress' name, scampering up to her feet, still covered by nothing but nylon, she ran forward with worry etched on her face, grabbing onto Tanaka's arms as she asked, "What happened?"
"Will you believe that idiot? What on earth is he taking me for?" Tanaka groaned as her eyes flashed with other bursts of anger. She pressed her hand on her forehand and glaredwith an intensity that rivalled the sun.
"First, he orders me to make rounds with Taichi. Then, he sends Naomi to tell me I should be here, taking testimonies. And then has the nerve to get Tachibana to tell me I should be up there, on the second floor with Taichi making rounds! Is Hondo planning to make me mad? Is he doing this intentionally to get back at me? Just because I've told him a piece of my mind!?" Tanaka snarled, drilled her heel on the ground and Reika held her hands up to placate her, as though she didn't want her words to erupt the next explosion of Tanaka's anger.
"I don't know what happened between you two, but Hondo has changed his mind not long ago. He wants you to be stationed at the first floor, main hall, watching out for conspicuous activity and the likes. Now that the majority are leaving, there are chances that Snake could reveal some cards he has hidden up his sleeve." Reika informed her with a lowered voice and Conan was amazed at the elaborateness of her lie. But he was even more amazed at the different shades of irritation marking Tanaka's face as she gnashed her teeth.
"Why didn't he say this to me? He only sends others to fetch me! How dare he flaunt his superiority over me? I'm as qualified as he is! There's absolutely no need to have me walk around this building like a circus-clown! What was the superintendent thinking to have himguide this operation? Why wasn't—"
Reika clasped a firm hand over her rumbling mouth and gave her pointed look. "Tanaka, I know you're angry, but you cannot rant—not during working-hours and especially not when your team leader is in a position to overhear your very complains. You know what will happen if he decides to file a report on you. He's mad enough at you as it is, so don't go adding injury to the insult."
Tanaka pried her hand away. The anger was now carefully subdued behind the depth of her narrowed eyes, but she was still grumbling when she corrected Reika. "It's adding insult to the injury. Besides, I don't care about that anymore. Just tell him this," she raised a finger, glaring heatedly. "If he wants to be childish about this, fine, but I will be too. He should prepare himself. As best as he can. I'm not letting him trample over me and my pride."
Pointedly, she wheeled on her heels and turned away, ready to march down the hall when she halted and turned back, her eyes flashed sharply at Conan. "Speaking to Reika almost made me forget about you. You're the kid from before, aren't you? I don't really care whether you love playing detective and chasing Kaitou Kid around but you're still a brat that's intervening with our work. Shouldn't you be playing with your friends instead? Like all normal kids do?"
Well, sorry for being abnormal. Conan's eyebrows twitched in mild annoyance. Although, he has already come to terms with his outward appearance, it still sent jabs to his already bruised pride.
"Don't worry about him. Hondo ordered me to babysit him. He's next to be interviewed after our Boy."
"I see. Don't cause too much trouble then." Tanaka nodded at Conan before her gaze swiped towards the pair of heels laying carelessly on the ground. With furrowed eyebrows, she gazed at the pantyhose that covered Reika's feet and after a moment Tanaka snorted. "I won't ask but be sure to wear them. You don't want anyone else to see you like this."
"Sure, I will. As soon as my feet stop hurting." Reika flashed her quick grin and Tanaka only rolled her eyes, seemingly ready to leave when something crossed over Reika's expression. "Wait, where did you say Tachibana went again? After she told you to come here?"
"I don't know?" Tanaka looked back questioningly, probably wondering whether she ever uttered something regarding to Tachibana's location. "Why?"
"Because it was her job to listen to the testimonies with Hondo. I just wonder where she went." She spoke slowly, almost thoughtful if it hadn't been for that poise lodged in her voice and the sharp glittered in her eyes. "I haven't seen her for a while, you see."
Something flickered in Tanaka's eyes and she turned on her heels and shrugged exaggeratedly. "Who knows? Maybe she has misheard or gotten confused as I was just now. Things like that happens, I guess."
"I guess. But do tell her to come here if you happen to see her." Reika uttered through hawk-like eyes as she watched Tanaka walking away until she rounded the corner where she came from.
Conan waited in silence, wondering whether he should call out on all the lies that Reika spouted in less a minute. At last he decided to let the matter drop. "Instead of waiting here, wouldn't it more productive to look for your colleague?"
"There's no point. I doubt Tachibana will participate in today's scheme. She won't be appearing any time now." Conan only gazed at her perplexed as Reika's lips twitched into a rueful smile, the twinkle in her eyes dimmed. "But I hope she does, so I can falsify my suspicion."
Conan opened his mouth to call her on it, hoping to get an answer when thundering footsteps echoed once more through the hallway. Conan looked back. A frantic man ran and wrung the door open to the make-shift examination room and barged inside. Conan only managed to grab snippets of 'attack' and 'Suzuki' but it was enough for him to puzzle the pieces together.
In a matter of seconds chairs clattered and Mōri and Nakamori-Keibu were already madly dashing out of the door room and racing toward the main hall with strings of curses muttered under their breaths.
"So, it begins." Reika laughed quietly as she moved to walk inside the room but not before giving him a glance. "You should go to the main hall, too. Stay there as well. I would hate it if you happen to get hurt amidst the chaos and the confusion."
Conan nodded but stayed rooted at his spot as he peeked through the opened the door. His eyes lingered at the wannabe magician. His easy-going smile and carefree eyes were out of place under the hard scrutiny of Megure-Keibu's eyes and Nezumi-Keibu-ho's hard expression. His entire posture was relaxed despite the tension that filled the room.
Conan's alarm clock rung loudly inside his head. Quickly, he moved to follow her. She noticed and raised her brows at him before she smiled and opened the door wide enough for him to enter as quietly as he could.
Something inside Conan told him that it wasn't starting just yet.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Whether it was the lulling aroma of baked sweets and fresh iced cakes that stranded Hiroshi Agasa right in front of the buffet, or his nose that followed the heavenly scent emanating from the pastries scattered across the table on the whims of his hungry stomach that begged to inhale the goods on demand, didn't exactly matter. It wasn't his delightful all you can eat in restaurants that he spent a large quantity of his youthful days in but it was enough to cause his stomach to rumble in an uproar.
He knew he ate lunch already. A healthy meal constructed by his dietitian and personal calories supervisor, Ai-kun, but even then it was a far cry from his earlier meal consumptions and portions he ate before Ai-kun barged into his eating habits and planned his meals. He sighed and eyed the vegetable bars and vegetarian cuisine grudgingly, ready to kiss all sweetness he laid eyes upon this evening goodbye, knowing wholeheartedly that Ai-kun would appear any moment and steer him away from the sweet pastries- from this heavenly paradise.
The more he stared, the more he silently assured himself that one piece wouldn't cause him harm. That, one piece of cake wouldn't ruin his dietary habit. One piece of cake couldn't rouse him to binge. He had self-control. He was in his early fifties, for goodness' sake. One piece of cake would surely do nothing.
Nothing at all.
With a determined nod, Agasa moved forward and served himself a piece of cake.
And then another.
And then another.
And then another-
Lost in the tastiness of the baked goods, Agasa hummed in trance, losing count as he craved sweets one after the other and stuffed himself happy. From the corner of his eyes he saw Genta stumbling away from pair of legs that strode passed him with his own plate of heavenly baked cakes.
Genta sat himself next to him munching loudly and moaning and humming around the spoonful of sweetness that he stuffed in his mouth like Agasa did moments prior, but the elder found himself not particular caring as he turned to his own cakes, filling his mouth with another helping and sighing contentedly. What a paradise.
Until Mitsuhiko came storming with a huge frown of disapproval.
"Genta!" he slammed his hands on the table, leaning forward as he stood on his toes, glaring across the table at Genta and his food. Agasa saw Mitsuhiko gnash his teeth when Genta narrowed his eyes and pushed his plate closer to himself in response.
"I ain't sharing my food."
The brunette shook his head unbelievably, "You were supposed to go looking for Haibara-san, not stuffing your face."
"I was hungry!" he retorted back, now circling his arms around his plate as though he feared it would be taken away from him. "My mind won't work with an empty stomach!"
Before Mitsuhiko could open his mouth to argue back, another head peeked from behind him, looking left and right, searching for something Agasa had yet to spot. The worry etched on Ayumi's face quadrupled and she stressed each word that passed her lips when she gazed at her two friends. "You haven't found her yet?"
"No, I couldn't find her." Mitsuhiko shook her head and deflated a little in disappointment when he saw Genta shake his butter cream smeared face too, negatively.
"Even Conan doesn't seem to be here. Ran-nēchan and Sonoko-nēchan disappeared too."
Agasa glanced at them mildly curious but ended up shrugging their conversation off like their many other child-like talks they usually had among another, as he turned his attention back to his cake when he remembered seeing Ran and Sonoko leaving the main hall building. Where to? He couldn't fathom but he guessed it was teenaged related things and their inability to sit still and enjoy the atmosphere. Children, Agasa thought and chewed his cake, what he wouldn't give to relive his younger years.
"I don't know what kind of mess poked your curiosity this time," Agasa started slowly and wiped his face, urging Genta to do the same by pointing at the handkerchief lying at the boy's side, "But there seemed to have happened a murder. The police came by to take testimonies. I think, Conan-kun followed them. And if you worried about Ran-kun and Sonoko-san, I have seen them leaving the site a while ago."
"Have you seen Ai-chan too?" Ayumi asks quickly with hopeful eyes.
"No, I thought she was with you." Agasa frowned, looking a little confused as he lowered his handkerchief and glanced around, taking in her absence within the group. "The last time I saw her was when she ran off looking for you the moment we came in."
The Detective boys shared a worried glance.
"She was with us until she disappeared." Mitsuhiko started slowly, "But if she is not with us and neither with Conan, nor with you, Hakase, then Haibara-san. . . ."
". . . .must be alone somewhere." Ayumi finished, looking a little troubled. "Maybe she got in trouble or something?"
Agasa pushed down the rising uneasiness brewing in him and waved a dismissive hand. "I wouldn't worry too much. She's old enough to take care of herself."
"What are you talking about? she's only seven and a girl no less." Genta frowned with lips pursed around the spoon before he heaped himself another spoonful of cake. "This is serious stuff, Hakase. We need to do something."
Agasa lowered the spoon and sighed. "Hey, Conan-kun wasn't too worried about her disappearance. Maybe he knows where she went off to. . . . .did you try asking him?"
"But Conan wasn't there when she left." Mitsuhiko replied, "We tried contacting her too but she didn't pick up."
"Try again then," was all Agasa said when he raised his spoon again, continuing to munch on his cake. "And then again. Then then again—"
Mitsuhiko sighed but pulled his badge out nonetheless, and not long after they picked up the soft sound of statics. But no response. Mitsuhiko was about to hang up when the static receded and rustles perked up before a voice came through the speaker, quiet and out of breath.
The momentary silence exploded into bursts of thick laced happiness and worried inquires of the state of her well-being and her current whereabouts. The auburn haired rolled her eyes, although a small endeared smile twitched on her lips. "Really, you shouldn't have worried. Of course, I'm—"
"—you're friend's fine." Itsuki spoke after he grabbed the badge out of Ai's hands, even as the younger was glaring daggers at him. "She's with me right now, a police officer. We're leaving this building as of now. I'm sure you were told the same, yes?"
"Yeah, we were but. . ."
Ai snatched her badge from Itsuki, tried her best to dispel the unease festering on Mitsuhiko's voice, "I'll see you guys outside, alright?"
"Oh. . .sure. We'll see you, Haibara-san!"
"You can tell us why you left, later!"
"We'll be waiting for you, Ai-chan!"
Their voices droned out under the statics until the drumming silence expanded across the darkened room and ticked off Ai the longer she had to stare at the other's ready smile and crinkling eyes which of spoke mischief compared to the murderous glint inside her eyes.
"What was the big idea? I was speaking to them—"
"Weren't you about to tell them that you're here? Locked in here with me?" he shook his head. "It's best you don't involve them. You'll meet them after the heist, anyway. They won't keep us here for long."
Ai snatched back her badge and gave him sceptical look. "And why exactly don't they want you at the heist? Aren't you part of their force?"
"Don't you know what to day is?" he eyed her, wholeheartedly knowing that she wouldn't have a clue and still dared to grin at the revelation she showed with her furrowing brows.
"Won't you tell me?" she asked at last, rolling her eyes at his widening grin.
"Well, you could say that today is something like a. . .contest between Nakamori-Keibu and that new officer from Kyoto that looks like a rat." Itsuki pulled his snapback down and his hair fell over his hard and callous eyes, and Ai barely held back her urge to scoff at the blatant lie. "Remember Naomi and all those from before? She's my partner but also Nezumi-Keibu-ho's avid supporter. Naturally, she can't trust me today."
"And they are all against that Nakamori-Keibu?" she asked, mildly entertaining him, knowing he was keeping bigger secrets to himself, but for now she played along as she tried to remember what he told her before about those underhand tactics and sabotages.
"Yeah, they're fed up with his incompetency, I guess, since he has been chasing after Kid for such a long time. There's even talk that he might be fired," he snorted and looked at her with exasperated eyes. "It's not Nakamori-Keibu's fault that Kid is so. ..awesome. That poor chap is trying as best as he can already. At least he's able to recover all the stolen items from time to time."
Ai rolled her eyes and gave him a look. "So, you're an unofficial member of Nakamori's team? Figures, actually. Now I see why they wanted you out. Having a member of the opposite team as well as a Kid fan within a task force isn't exactly the best combination."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Ai only turned away and ignored him, dialled the next number on her badge when she remembered that her detective freak of a friend hadn't his badge with her. She sighed and pressed a hand against her temple.
I'm surrounded by incompetent fools these days.
It didn't take long for the self-proclaimed detective genius, Mōri Kogorō and Inspector Nakamori to find Suzuki unharmed. The glass shards scattered across the carpet were already collected by the forensic team to determine whether it contained poison, or whether the rumoured murder attempt on Suzuki's life was only false speculation.
That was all good and well but—
"But where exactly is my daughter?" the worry wouldn't stop gnawing his stomach since Mōri had arrived. He was told his daughter would clear up the details as she had felt the need to specifically inform her own father—and renowned detective, let's not forget—before she mysteriously disappeared.
Witness statements, specifically that of Hakase Agasa reported to have seen her leave the room but for the life of him Mōri couldn't fathom why, except that she might have been threatened by culprit to remain silent—or worse, kidnapped.
"Let's not jump to any false conclusions. The entire thing might have been nothing but a false call." Nakamori held his hand up and looked around. "Since Suzuki's granddaughter went along with her, this situation might not be as serious as it seems, wouldn't they have stayed here otherwise?"
The majority nodded in agreement, relieved to dismiss it as nothing but bad bluff, yet the detective knew that his daughter would never perform such an ill-mannered prank, even as the tension lightened with the boisterous laughter from Suzuki, haling once more drinks from a waiter.
The Inspector shook his head. He was on duty, and Mōri used the same excuse. As long as his daughter didn't return to the scene, it was his duty to find her with his brilliant detective abilities through will or by force.
Mōri sighed, turned around only to see a sickening purple pallor on Suzuki. His glass dropped, stained the carpet whilst he clutched his neck, rasped out shallow breaths and fell onto his knees. He had barely comprehended the sight when the doors banged open, and a group of paramedics rushed in, laid him down on a stretcher and tightened the straps around the motionless body of Suzuki whilst they enquired certain information regarding Suzuki's well-being that only a handful of the surrounding associates could answer with their gaze still fixed unbelievably at the unconscious figure, even as he was pushed away towards the waiting ambulance outside.
Mōri couldn't really follow their movements as he roused from his stupor and his eyes finally left from the doors. The forensic team were already opening their bags and reading their equipment to preserve a fraction of the substance within the glass along with the possible number of fingerprints. But even as Mōri saw them working on the scene, his experienced mind knew a single thing that seemingly hadn't escape Nakamori either, whose eyes increasingly narrowed at the scene.
Mōri had yet to find out.
Exhausted, Kōnosuke stretched his limps, and not even the usual satisfying pop! could alleviate the strain of his shoulders. Sighing, his gaze wandered toward the cause of his sudden strain—laying flat against the lush grass of the backyard slept Suzuki's granddaughter along with the daughter of the sleeping detective.
How Chikage came across both of them in a matter of minutes was beyond him. Whilst, every cell of his brain argued that it couldn't have been coincidental, Kōnosuke knew since long ago that trouble always gravitated towards the Kuroba family, intentionally or not. This case was seemingly no different, and as a counter-effect, it had made sneaking them out particularly difficult.
Especially, because of that ridiculous dress-code Kaito proposed to Nakamori. It hardly allowed Kōnosuke to differentiate the nonchalant glances of passers-by from the sceptical gazes of hawk-eyed officers. Without their navy-garments, each and everyone looked the same to him. it was almost like trying to pick a needle from a haystack. Completely impossible.
The heist was increasingly becoming a double-edge sword, and Kōnosuke was slowly but surely starting to feel the effects of it. He could only hope that its sharp edge wouldn't be thrusted at Chikage. He wasn't entirely convinced whether she could replace Kid without a couple of mishaps. Whilst she was rightly accredited and feared as her alter-ego, the Phantom Lady had continuously operated within the shadows. Yet this was a heist—a masqueraded performance relying on showmanship—and not a case of simple thievery.
Kōnosuke sighed and gazed up at the twinkling stars glistering at the night sky. He could only believe that she was best equipped for this role, even as his worries continue to pile up.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
It was quiet and yet his heart never hammered so loudly in his ears.
Hondo pulled out his semi-automatic gun from his hoister and switched the safety off. Slowly nearing the staircase towards the third floor. There, where they were hiding, wrapped around their beige coats and old-fashioned hats.
He tightened his grip on his Eagle, carefully trod down the hallway as his instinct carried him, honed through numerous stakeouts and years of experience. He ignored the rapid beating of his heart and focused on the treacherous silence that droned through his ears.
From a distant a door quietly opened.
Hondo slipped away behind the corner and raised his Eagle, felt his finger curl around the trigger.
One breath was all he allowed before he pulled.
Even with his silencer, the reverberating sound of a thrusting bullet was unmistakable. It was deafening loud.
The figure stopped, almost as if in wonder before his knees weakened and he dropped like sunken sack of potato thrown in the middle of the ocean. But the reddening pigment blood staining his beige tailored coat left a taste of satisfaction snooze in his stomach.
It was his first.
But not his last.
Hondo held his gun close to his chest as he moved away, retreated back into the shadows and searched for a favourable spot of attack and defend. Outnumbered enough as he was, blindingly attacking from an open spot was down-right ludicrous.
He was here as the reaper of souls. Harbinger of death. And not some clown committing a suicide act.
This is my time of vengeance.
Hondo readied the next rounds of magazines. A couple of more idiots were heading his way, laughing as they joked, wiping tears from their eyes as their shoulders shook with each breath—
Their last, he corrected, as one of them dropped down, a hole drilled between his brows. The other looked around alarmed, whilst the last still fixed his eyes at his fallen comrade, uncomprehendingly, as though he expected the other to get up and brush the entire farce off like a bad played joke.
What a fool, as if the dead could rise to their feet.
Hondo aimed straight at him and watched him drop.
The last one had his gun out, pointing in any direction as he backed away like some cornered animal. Hondo shook his head and fired. It didn't hit his forehead like the rest but met straight with his chest.
Hondo watched him wheeze and grapple for breath before his movements stilled and blank eyes stared at him.
He looked away and stepped past the bodies, nowhere near satisfied. He had to increase the body count—condemn as many as possible or he would never be able stare into Hideki's eyes again. For fleeting moment Hondo felt a curtain of shame descend on him before he shook it off with the tightening grip on his Eagle.
He'll finish what his friend started, even if it meant abandoning his police badge and betraying the policies drilled into him during his academy years.
Hondo swore to become the avenger that his friend never managed to be.
Even if it promised death.
On the third floor, Snake smoothed out his moustache as he shoved the detonator inside his pocket and grabbed his gun off the table. His grin, dark and ferocious as he crept out of the room and down the hallway with his numbered henchman close to his heels.
"Get them ready. We're starting now."
Kaito leaned back on his chair and stared at Megure-Keibu with the same tenacity and sternness the other glared at him. The young always gave as good as he got and that also meant answering futile questions with unripe replies. Asking him why Kaito was here? Reasonable. Why he had been attacked? Easy. Why he could perform magic? Sure. But associating him with Kid and suspecting him of being his sidekick was entirely another matter—no matter how true it sounded.
As far as Kaito knew there wasn't even evidence, only their own speculation no matter how wide the smirk of that rat-face went nor how gleefully he played with the handcuffs. Kaito glared at him before he glanced back at the sighing Megure-Keibu, who finally waved his hand to dismiss him.
"We've insufficient evidence. It's futile to detain him any longer, don't you agree?" Megure-Keibu glanced at the other.
"Certainly." Nezumi-Keibu-ho's face hardened but his eyes never left Kaito's even as he said, "You may leave."
Kaito jumped up from his chair, didn't want to waste another second inside this stifling room when his fell on the mini-detective. The boy's face was troubled as he glanced across the room. Kaito neared him. "Is something wrong?"
His voice startled Conan out of his stupor, but the younger boy smiled sheepishly. "I'm just looking for the red-haired lady. She came here with me but—" he looked across the room once more, his brows knitted on his face. "I can't find her. The other one seems to be gone too."
He was right. Aside from those Megure-Keibu and Nezumi-Keibu-ho, who have interrogated him, there were also two other Inspectors, who have recently come from Keiko's questioning. But Hondo and Reika were gone.
Kaito pushed his sleeve up and looked at the time.
Only a minute left.
"Maybe they wanted to see Kid in action," Kaito mumbled as he glanced at the boy in glasses. "Hey. . .don't you want to see him too?"
Conan snorted and stared him in the eye, even as a smirk formed on his little lips. "Aren't I seeing him right now?"
Kaito snorted right back and ruffled his head. "If I were, I'd be on standby by now, don't you think?"
The little boy didn't answer but his sharp blue eyes seemed to stare right through him, and Kaito smiled, counted down the last twenty seconds when—
The lights turned off.
Kaito looked as surprised as the boy and the Inspectors until he remembered who exactly his mother was—someone who didn't stick to plans and had her own way of doing this. It was a tiny difference between them, but one that might be the deciding factor whether he'd be exposed or not. It was also one that Kaito had taken into account when he asked his mother to replace him.
It didn't matter how sharp the gaze of the mini-detective or Hakuba's were, nor did it matter how convinced they were as long as they didn't manage to catch the Phantom Lady. Even as they were all running to the main hall when the lights flickered back on.
Kaito knew it would be difficult to foil his plans.
My resolution is firm, and even if the road ahead is far—
I'll continue to the future I painted.
The lights exploded.
Fragments of blaring yellow and glowing red burst across the floors, stained the burgundy carpets and alarmed the guests as the shadows reached across the room and engulfed it in darkness. Their shrieks of displeasure and surprise rung right into the sensitive spot of his ear, but Nakamori Ginzō was prepared for this—prepared since the moment he stepped the first foot out of his bed and slipped his uniform on. This was the moment he waited for.
This was his battle.
Nakamori whirled around and raised his arm to ready his men for definite charge when a distressed call rumbled from his radio.
"The emergency lights won't turn on! Someone has tampered with the system!"
"What?" Nakamori clenched his teeth, with all the luck he had recently he should have anticipated blunders such as this. Tampered, he said, as though his men were careless enough to let an enemy enter the threshold of all technical devices of this over-designed gallery that reclaimed more its previous shape of an antiquated museum than its current title. Rather than underestimating the stealth and strength of the task force, it was more their general carelessness that allowed them to misperceive mistakes. It was nothing more than a botched job.
At least that was what he thought until the lights flickered back on, and that scoundrel of a greenhorn detective had the gall to smirk at him with his notebook carefully placed in his hand.
"One should at least keep the basic in mind, don't you think?" Hakuba said, holstering his mini-sized laptop under his arm, as he glanced around with light frown on his face, looking for a thief Nakamori too had yet to spot. "If not your chance of catching might as well plummet to zero—"
"Right, of course."
Nakamori blinked, stared at Hakuba's self-satisfied face as he listened to the grumbling tone of a voice that was without a shadow of a doubt identical to his own. Problem was, Nakamori hadn't even opened his mouth—his eyes grew wide in recognition regarding the steps of this particular event. . .er. . .impersonation.
Nakamori gritted his teeth as he balled his hand into a fist. That thief had the nerve to muck around when his heist has already begun. His narrowed eyes roamed through the main hall, in search of a white cape and top hat that wouldn't appear in front of his eyes—
Nakamori's eyes almost popped from his eyes, as rapid questions formed in his mind that begun with a when and ended in a how—inside the laminated glass case, perched on top was a velvet cushion, bearing not the Mother of Pearls but a single piece of paper.
A cheeky Kid note.
"How anti-climactic," Hakuba shook his head with a simple smile on his face. "Really disappointing considering how much care I have taken to create the perfect anti-Kid trap."
A second passed and the smugness returned on his face as fast as a high-strung voltage. "Question is only whether he run away in fear of my brilliance. . .or temporarily retreated for a counter-attack."
"We are not in a battle zone. He obviously ran away with his tail between his legs." Nakamori retorted light-heartedly even as doubts crossed his mind whilst he issued out commands with his radio, marking out the beginning of his final plan of search, capture and apprehend, retreating to his traditional (and predictable) handling of a Kid heist, as he ignored Hakuba's sighs and the series of buttons the teenager pressed on the notebook.
"You can cool down for a second. The doors are locked, and the windows blocked." He closed it, brushed the hair out of his eyes as he gave the inspector a tired look. "As long as Kid can't destroy alloyed steel bars, he cannot escape."
"You mean as long as I'm here, Kid cannot escape."
Hakuba only rolled his eyes and directed his eyes on the glass case. Not a single dent was in sight on the carpet, nor was the case itself skewed. From the way it looked, he could only presume that it was left untouched. But then—
He shook his head and neared it, looked at the contours and searched for traces of movements. Kid had only at most a minute to remove the gem, it increased the likelihood of mishaps and mistakes.
He trailed his gloved finger along the glass and smirked. The laminated layer had a split, only millimetre deep and hardly visible in his eyes yet indisputably noticeable under the sensitive touch of his sensitive fingertips. It formed a small circle, wide enough to fit a hand inside.
Hakuba stood up and looked around the room, saw Nakamori shouting obscenities into his radio and noticed the excited gushes tossed around the room by invitees pointing their fingers at the emptied glass, and the overbearing sound of snapshots.
If his theory was correct then Kid was still near, disguised perhaps, but still in near enough to expose him.
If only I knew where exactly. . .
Hakuba glanced around once more when he noticed foams of smoke crawling towards him, spanning across the room like powdered dust and misted the sight before his eyes. But he could still make out the faint outlines of a tailored coat and a readied smile shadowed by the rim of his hat, and like an uncoordinated crescendo the crowd broke out into unbearable squeals and screeches that could only shame the excited gushes moments prior.
Hakuba clenched the golden watch in his hand. Not only had Kid the nerve to treat his thieving as some kind of public performance but also has the shameless audacity to arrive late to his own heist.
The fluttering white cape morphed out of the smoke and descended onto the railing of the first floor.
Hakuba opened his mouth to call on him hadn't it been for Kid's widening eyes and pale pallor that continued to blanch. And if he had looked behind, he would have seen the clouds of darkened smoke and sparks of fire that only evoked panicked and hysteric screams as shattered glass rode the current and sliced through the air. Instead the detective chose to think and didn't even notice the approaching shock wave until it blasted him off his feet and robbed his vision.
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Instead of the expected drops from the sprinkler system monstrous streams of water leaked from the ceiling and sloshed onto the fire. Like a flood roused from the sea, powered the sheer velocity of a storm, the smoke swashed inside the room and enveloped the floors and seized the walls before its grip clutched her throat, robbed her breath and blinded her eyes.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Keiko wheezed as she staggered, drenched from head to toe as she reached out, and grabbed him. Her fingers still hurt from her fall, but she gritted through her teeth and slug his arm over her head, holstering him up despite his weight dragging her down. He was taller than her, heavier, and she could already feel the abrasions forming on her body as she moved one leg after the other, blearily blinking as she wiped the wind-swept sand away from her eyes and stole a glance at his darken mob of hair as she shifted his weight on her shoulder.
"You're going to be fine," she croaked, her throat as rough as sandpaper. "You're going to be fine, you hear me?"
He didn't respond.
His silence only intensified the dread festering inside her heart.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Keiko shook her head and willed herself to focus as she followed the booming voice of the Inspector. Never once had she been this grateful—grateful that Nakamori had been blessed with such loud vocal chords that guided her out of this forsaken hell, away from this mass confusion like a light reaching from an abyss casted in darkness—like a lighthouse within a raging storm.
She staggered forward, blinking, and took deep breaths, stopped herself from hyperventilating as she passed the crumbling debris scattered on the carpet and she tried her best not to look at the stretched arms peeking underneath the shattered chandelier—
Keiko swallowed the bile creeping up in her throat and tried her best to ignore the smell of burned flesh and the sound of muffled cries and scared whimpers even as her heart clenched. She tightened arm around her unconscious classmate and squeezed her eyes shut and hurried her steps.
His weight was pressing on her, weakening her knees and pulling her down. Keiko heard the splash before the red pigmented puddle soaked up her socks. Her shoulders shook but Keiko held the snot inside her nose even as the tears burst from her eyes and streamed down the curve of her face.
Her pants were wet, her hair sticky and her shirt stained with a colour so red it matched the crimson carpets on the floor. She pressed her hands against her face, about to take in deep breaths and clam her nerves when she felt a strange warm sensation ooze between her fingers.
Her eyes flashed open. She stared at the blood coating her fingers and dripping down the length of her trousers before her eyes fixed at Hakuba's matted hair, his blond-brownish streaked in crimson and the same liquid trickled down the side of his face.
She held him tighter and staggered back onto her two feet. His weight pressed down on her, but she moved on, pushed one leg after the other, with the silent conviction that burned inside her heart.
You're going to be fine.
I'll save you as many times as it takes;
I'll never waver in my resolve
Bleary and half-confused, Aoko noticed that stubby, burgundy threads were poking her skin and itching the underside of her nose. She breathed in the smell of old age and musk as the fog misting in her mind cleared. Whilst, the blur slowly disappeared from her eyes, her environment still remained unknown to her, blotched in darkness. Slowly, Aoko lifted her head and hissed at the sudden stroke of pain, and whimpering she looked around, realising that the surrounding darkness wasn't caused by a damaging impact on her eyesight but by the lack of lightening.
She touched the back of her head, drove her fingers through her hair and messaged carefully her scalp before she squinted her eyes and closely inspected her finger tips, but other than the natural residue of oil sticking on her fingers, she only found a small bump at the side of her head.
I must have tripped somehow. . .
Carefully, Aoko pushed herself up, her entire body seemed to somehow hurt, much more than expected from a little bump to the ground, even her legs wobbled under her weight, and she stumbled forward, stepped on the shards of cracked lightbulbs as she fumbled to switch on the flashlight she struggled to pull from her rucksack.
She glanced around the corridor, wondered where she could find her annoying trickster when a certain sound stopped her dead in her tracks.
Aoko held her breath and—there again—it sounded awfully like a bang, but she couldn't believe that. Kid had a no-kill policy, and neither her father nor the Task-Force would ever shoot irresponsibly when unarmed guests were inhabiting an area.
It must be my imagination.
Aoko willed her troubled thoughts away and walked deeper into the darkened corridor, angling her flashlight at every spot and corner she passed through, with every step her gnawing suspicion that the weird sound came frightfully closer increased. Aoko switched off the light and pressed her back flat against the wall, frantic footsteps were drumming inside her ears, she crouched down and hid behind a decorative pot of plants, listening silently to the frustrated shouts and angered curses bouncing across the walls until they disappeared.
Sighing relieved, Aoko stood up and glanced around, carefully navigating through the corridor without the guiding light of her flashlight until she rounded the corner and somehow landed at the end of a corridor. She followed the leading staircase towards the upper floor level, wondering where exactly the police has taken Kaito when she stopped to check each door. She heard a rustle behind her and her heart froze at the sudden sound. She peeked behind her back but found nothing but glaring darkness, and she wondered how long it took the Task-Force to switch on the emergency lightening. She didn't feel comfortable wandering inside a place filled with a group of thieves, especially when they could possibly be loitering in her vicinity.
Aoko took a deep breath and clamed herself, it was too late to turn back. All the high-ranking police officers should be somewhere around here. She only had to find them before any of these thieves of Snake found her. It sounded simple enough, and yet she couldn't stop herself from shaking. Aoko bit her lips and reasoned it would be safer to stay somewhere until the lights flicker back on and commence her search only then.
Without further ado, Aoko opened one of the doors and quietly closed it behind her. Although the museum was recently refurbished, only the ground floor was actively utilised as a gallery. The remaining rooms seemed to represent storage rooms for the time being.
Aoko hummed and switched on her flashlight as she inspected the room. She lifted a dusted hem of a white blanket that covered a painting and marvelled at the colours and the precision of each brushstroke before she moved towards the next item. Her eyes caught a music box on a drawer, right next to a bed, and Aoko stopped and blinked, but no, her eyes had not failed her. She looked around the room, once again, it only dawned at her now that it was renovated as a bedroom, and for a moment Aoko wondered whether Suzuki had been planning to renovate the gallery inside a hostel before he halted the entire process when Kid suddenly dropped a notice for his thievery.
Aoko rolled her eyes at the absurdity when something caught her eyes near the window. Near the wide pavilion windows, brushed up against the wall, leaned a familiar wide object she had seen plenty of times gliding through the night. Gingerly, she neared it and touched the soft fabric with her fingertips, barely believing what she was seeing.
Held between her fingers was nothing other than Kid's hang glider attached to a dummy. Aoko fingered the strings as she pieced together that it was probably bound by a mechanism that opens up the window and pushes the dummy outside to ride the air currents. Nevertheless, she could tell it was either only a distraction for the police—or an acknowledgment which proved that the thief was currently hiding amongst them, and she could only hope it was the former.
Aoko pursed her lips and glared at the dummy.
Its tousled hair resembled Kaito's.
Even if it's an answer that deceives the whole world,
I'll put out my hand and say, "Trust me"
Itsuki Asuka's head snapped towards the door, completely alarmed and Ai wondered whether he knew what was happening outside these walls. She watched him silently, his shoulders were particularly rigid and his hand clammy, twitching against the fabric of his trouser.
"What's going on?" she asked despite already having her own speculations.
"Don't worry. They should be getting us out any moment now. . ." his voice trailed off, absentmindedly. His eyes fastened on the door as it would miraculously open. Ai sighed and glanced around the darkened room. She didn't think this place would blow up anytime soon but if it should—
Itsuki's sudden gasp snapped Ai out of her thoughts. The doorknob began to rattle and a moment later it burst open, and Ai caught a whiff of peaches and wild berries when Naomi stood at the entrance, completely out of breath with her glasses askew on her nose which she quickly adjusted.
"The contest is on hold! Itsuki, we need to start the evacuation as soon as possible!"
He bounced on his feet, moving out of Ai's peripheral vision before she felt an arm wrap around her waist and the floor disappear beneath her.
"What are you waiting for? Let's go!"
Even if I'll make an enemy of the entire world. . .
This was supposed to be his retribution. His revenge.
Hondo gritted his teeth, his fingers dug deeply in his upper arm, bathing inside the sprouting blood of his wound as his grip slackened on his Eagle. The sudden vibrations echoing on the walls had distracted him enough for his enemy to land a couple of ill-aimed shots at him.
Beads of sweat glistered on his forehead when the other smirked at him from his position on the ground, his teeth smeared in blood as he struggled to keep his gun pointed at Hondo until a deafening sound reverberated across the walls.
Hondo watched the other's reach for the darkening spot of his shirt with widening eyes whilst his mouth moved as if he were gasping for air before he crumbled on the floor.
Alarmed, Hondo stared at the criminal. His body lay now unresponsive on the ground. He looked around until his eyes fastened on the person standing behind the corpse. She was smiling, pushing back a long, dark strand behind her ear. Her eyes were as cold blooded as his own.
"What do you think you're doing?" as shallow as his breath was, the confusion lingering inside his voice carried through. Reika didn't answer him as she stepped closer and inspected his wound with sceptical eyes before she breathed out relieved.
"Oh, it's just a graze."
"Answer my question," he ordered, pulling away and tightening the grip on his Eagle with a thousand thoughts flashing in his mind, each attempting to conjure possible explanation for her sudden appearance and yet arriving at none. He hadn't slipped up. She should have known unless—
In a flash, he pointed his gun at her, his finger on the trigger. Reika stared at him long and hard, her piercing stare boring holes into his own and her lips twitched into a smile. "Can't you tell?"
He considered for a moment before he lowered his Eagle, staring sceptically at her. "Since when did we share the same objective?"
Her eyes glinted, and her lips curved into a knowing smile. "Since the very beginning, of course."
Hondo regarded her for a full minute. His eyes were yet untrusting and hard, but for now he decided to cooperate. "If we want to make any progress here, then we need to find Snake as soon as possible."
Reika smiled at his changed in attitude and nodded. "This gallery is quite a maze. It would be better if we got them to tell us where their boss is currently hiding—hey, are you alright?" she glanced worriedly at his increasingly pale face, but Hondo only nodded, his face grimacing slightly.
"Of course, I am. Don't ask unnecessary questions."
Reika seized him up for a full minute but nothing seemed to be amiss when Hondo straightened his back and switched the grip on his favourite Eagle and strolled past her to resume his agenda. She bit her lips for a moment yet followed nonetheless. "Well, if you say so. But just remember when it comes down to it, you can leave it to me."
Hondo only snorted, and she rolled her eyes, completely oblivious towards the droplets of blood staining on the crimson carpet beneath the sole of his shoes.
The time when we'll meet next, we'll untangle this thread
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
In this moment, Keiko only focused on Nakamori; his shouted commands rung louder than the blaring alarms. Her gaze zeroed on the dimmed green icon of the emergency exit. Hakuba's weight was heavy upon her shoulders. She didn't try to look at his face again. The pale complexion of his skin was still fresh in her mind, and heart wrenched inside her chest and robbed her breath at the thought of it.
Keiko couldn't breathe—couldn't get the air flowing through her lungs until a hand suddenly slapped her back.
The young woman coughed, heaved, and shivers rolled down her lower back, and Keiko vaguely remembered her as the short-tempered woman from the crime scene. Gently, she rubbed her back in mute concern until her eyes lingered at her unconscious friend.
"Here, let me help you out."
She placed Hakuba's arm over her shoulder and carried half-his weight. Keiko cleared the lump in throat and tried not to think about how his limp arm dangled at the side.
"Don't be worried. We have the situation under control."
"Do you?" Keiko's voice cracked, raw with fear and terror and she swallowed, tasted the alkalic taste of bile swamping her oesophagus as she looked at the woman with furrowed brows. Her gaze slowly zoomed around the darkened hall, taking in the million pieces of shattered glass and wailing cries as they walked past a floating body or two laying unresponsive at the ground. "Are you sure?"
"Of course, we do. We anticipated a situation like this and took appropriate measurements beforehand. I'm only sorry for the few we couldn't save."
Keiko cleared her throat and didn't bother to reply. It didn't seem like there were a few causalities—especially when she had carried one in her arms—but by all means she wanted to hope—wanted to believe, but she wasn't blind.
Keiko could see the debris cracking from the ceiling, and her throat still burned from the boiling smoke that had fogged the room moments prior. It was chaos, and almost downright madness. The odds of coming out of here alive was increasingly diminishing.
Keiko blinked back the tears, and her trembling legs moved another step towards the green icon glowing dimly meters in front of her.
She could recognise the turf of Nakamori's hair. It seemed that he was pointing at the exist with his index finger, urgently ordering the others to leave the premises before the ground below them disappeared under the rapid fire of another explosion.
Keiko swallowed and tightened her grip on Hakuba, the weight of his body suddenly never felt heavier on her as she moved closer into the Inspector's field of vision until his onyx eyes suddenly landed on her, and she felt a splash of relief dawning on her before his eyes suddenly widened, and like a boulder, Hakuba weighted down on her shoulder. The sheer look of worry on Nakamori's face was indescribable as he yelled for the nearest emergency team to send in a stretcher for him to be treated outside.
Wordlessly, Keiko handed her classmate over and tried quench her worry since they were qualified to provide medical aide. Silently, she watched them carefully strapping his injured body to the stretcher, when Nakamori placed a hand on her shoulder. "Why isn't Aoko with you?"
"I got separated from her," she answered, slightly surprised. "Isn't she outside?"
"So far I haven't seen her." His gaze was a mixture of confusion and worry as his eyes quickly swiped the places once more. His eyes rested on her with such seriousness, Keiko felt dread and she swallowed repeatedly to get rid of the dryness of her mouth as she tried not think of the unresponsive bodies lying listlessly on the ground.
"You wouldn't think—"
Keiko nodded, still troubled as she gazed around before her eyes landed on the father of her best friend. "I'll check if she's outside."
He glanced at her gratefully. "Please do that."
Keiko nodded and hastily stumbled out of the emergency door, from the distance she heard the desperate yelling of the Inspector, louder than before.
Even if I must carry more anxiety and doubt—
I'll continue on. . .
There was a certain urgency in Kuroba Kaito's step as he ran down the dark corridor. It took him every ounce of self-control to stop himself from bolting down the corridor. That explosion was definitely not his own doing, and mostly like not the cause of his mother. But, from the range of destruction, Kaito was relieved to notice that the type of explosive used weren't as severe and deadly as a C-4. It was mostly likely intending to shake him up as a warning.
Snake and his men were coming for him—coming for Kid.
Kaito ran a little faster, wondering whether he had given his mother enough head-ups when the officer in front of him tripped. Kaito's reached out with another thought and caught Takagi by the arm before he crashed on the floor.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he mumbled as he searched around the shadows gnawing at his feet for the cause of his stumble and found it quite behind him. It seemed to have moved at the collision at his foot, and Kaito squinted his eyes to get a closer look at it whilst Takagi bended his knees to inspect it.
"What are you doing? Hurry up!" Satō shouted, frowning as she stood well ahead of them.
Kaito's shoulders convulsed at the sudden yelp from the Inspector, and he glared back only to have his eyes widening at the sight in front of him.
Takagi's mouth trembled, almost like a broken recorder as his shoulders trembled. Kaito frowned and redirected his eyes at the object of the Inspector's intention.
His mouth drop opened.
The junction of the corridor which lead to another hallway was the entrance of a bloodbath, scattered with a body count far greater than the number of fingers at his left hand, and smeared with a colour so bright Kaito could see it stain on the carpet.
He swallowed, locked every concerned thought toward his mother at the back of his mind when he recognised the fabric of a beige coat under the flowing red. His hand reached out to grab Takagi by the upper arm, tightening his grip when he didn't move. "C'mon, we need to leave."
"But this is—"
"I know." Kaito wetted his lips as he stared at the wet floor, not wanting to spare another glance at them as his right hand clenched into a fist. "But we don't have time. In a moment, it could be us found on the floor by someone else."
Takagi's face visibly blanched and he tried to regain his bearing before he stood up, exhaling deeply. "That's right. We can investigate this at a later date."
Kaito nodded and glanced back, Satō still impatiently waiting for them, gesturing for them to hurry up. Takagi inhaled and exhaled one more time before he muttered a quick "Thank you" and patted his back before he ran toward Satō. Kaito would have been running right next to him had he not caught a glimpse of a glinting-something hitting the floor at the moment of impact.
Kaito briefly glanced at the ground, solely driven by curiosity when he saw a small metal glinting at the dim lightening of the corridor. He fingers picked it up and his heart dropped once his mind comprehended what it was.
As far as Kaito remembered there was only one person who touched his back with such an intention.
Kaito swallowed the lump from his throat and without a second thought he slipped away, his feet carrying down another direction, far away from the officers and the slaughter as he ran deeper into the spiderweb Snake concocted for him.
I'll never run away: I'm not scared at all. . .
Reika had noticed that the distance they covered was increasingly reducing. She spared a glance at Hondo; beads of sweat were rolling down the length of his face, his tanned skin was slowly but surely assuming a yellowish pallor and the distance between each of his steps were gradually decreasing in width. She bit her lips as he eyes roamed over his stature. He didn't seem to be visibly hurt.
"You don't seem well. Just take a break and leave this to me—"
"Are you nuts?" irritated amber eyes fastened on her and Hondo shook his head, disbelievingly. "I won't stop. Not until I need to finish this."
Reika clicked her tongue and opened her mouth for another sharp retort when she caught a glimpse of Hondo's right hand clutching the side of his left abdomen. She moved closer to inspect the wound, but he backed away in response, stumbling a little. Her brows furrowed and yet Hondo stressed that it was nothing he couldn't handle.
"Do as you wish," she conceded at last, still concerned. "But just so you know, I won't take responsibility for this."
"That's fine by me." Hondo only grunted as leaned on the wall for support, his lips twitching into an ironic smile. "But I'm quite surprised that you won't even thoughI'm reduced to a state like this."
Reika stared at him for a moment, but no, she couldn't understand what he meant. "Why are you talking about?"
There was short humourless laugh coming from him. His glinting amber eyes set on her, and she felt the chills rolling down her back. "Isn't it natural for a predator to hunt on an injured prey?"
The words died on her tongue and yet she forced the words out of her mouth as her fingers rubbed against the fabric of her skirt. "I don't understand what you mean."
"You can stop the clueless act," he pushed off the wall, and Reika noticed that he hid a gun under the sleeve of his right hand. She chewed the inside of her cheek at the realisation that she had been fooled. He had feigned the spot of his injury. He must have been hurt somewhere else—yet hurt nonetheless. It must be quite serious for him to suddenly assume the persona of a cornered mouse at the hand of a hungry cat.
He clicked off the safety and held her at gun point with a shaky hand. "We have a mole among our team, and I have every right to believe that it is you." Beads of sweat trickled down the side of his forehead and yet his voice remained as firm as she had always known. She pushed her maroon locks over her shoulder and pinned him with a stern glare of her own.
"And on what grounds are you accusing me?"
"Aside from the Inspectors of the first division, it is only us two who were informed about the layout of the building and the nature of our plan. So, tell me how Snake and his men managed to get into the building without inside help?"
"Good point." She smiled and ignored the way her unnerved emotion flared inside her as she rolled a strand around her finger. "But could I not accuse of the same thing? Do you have any evidence?"
"How else was Michi's cover blown without Snake having an informant?"
"Now it seems that you're blindly accusing me."
"Why else would you have been at the same place where she died?"
"Accusations," she repeated, swallowing the lump from her throat. He was straight up ignoring her. Her eyes flickered at the gun. She could tell that he had every intention to shoot her. His idea of finishing the entire farce seemed to be by getting rid of the mole instead of Snake. His injury must be very grave for him to act upon such desperation. Reika wetted her lips and tried again to dissuade him. "She called me. Besides, you were there yourself."
"Then tell me, why are you here? Is your presence here not an indicator that you're attempting to get rid of me as well?" Hondo's face hardened, and his finger flexed on the trigger. Reika held her breath at the proximity between the noose of his gun and her chest, as she swiped her sweaty hands on her skirt.
"No, that's not true. I was worried, that's all."
"And why should I believe that?" his finger flexed again and this time Reika shut her eyes. The shot fired even before she could open her mouth to scream. Her eyes flew open in time to see Hondo's body crumpling to the floor, his eyes were unbelievably wide and his mouth open for a silent scream.
Slowly, Reika turned around, enough to catch of a glimpse of a pair of glasses glinting in the dark and perfectly placed bun and a familiar gun in the near distance.
"Because it was me, dummy."
Up ahead, what is it, what is it you're looking at?
What is it you're staring at?
Reika could barely believe her eyes, sprawled on the ground lay Hondo, motionless, and her widened eyes locked with the other person nearing her from afar. "Why did you—"
"Don't act too surprised. You already knew this would happen." Tachibana adjusted her glasses as she took in the scene with knitted brows, slowly emerging from the shadows with her torch light flickering on the walls. "But really, you should have taken care of him before he made such a mess. How am I going to explain this mess?"
"Don't you mean how you're going to explain this!?" her voice becoming increasingly high-pitched as it shook, bouncing off the walls and wavering into the distance between them as her eyes lingered at her Hondo, disbelievingly.
"What do you mean? He was a thorn in our eye. He had been interfering enough with our plans, already."
Plans? Reika's hands trembled in pure anger and she had no recollection as to when she pulled the gun out of her holster and aimed it at her. "What are you saying? You shot at my partner!"
"Partner?" Tachibana turned around and flashed the torch at her for the first time, quite surprised at whom she was seeing. "Reika? What are you doing here? Where is Tanaka?"
"What are you doing here!"
"Helping you, of course." Tachibana cleared her throat and smiled, a little shaken. "Hondo would have shot you otherwise. Hadn't his action warranted such a reaction from me? Tell me, are you alright? Darling, please put the gun down."
"Are you kidding me?"
"No, of course not. I only tried to save your life. He had obviously gone mad by accusing you like this."
"He wouldn't have made it out of here anyway." The light of the torch landed on Hondo's lower abdomen, his white shirt was stained with blood, and she could see a stained hole around loose threads of his pants. "Even if he had managed to miraculously survive and get out of here, he would have been sentenced to prison for a lifetime considering how many he had killed tonight. By all means, I have shown him mercy by ending his life now."
"Anyway," Tachibana fixed her glasses. "Would you lower your gun? even if you shoot me, this situation won't end well for you. The surveillance footage is possibly still functioning. As things stand, my action fell under protection. But what will yours stand for? You are defending your would-be killer and threatening your saviour."
Reika tightened her grip and flexed her finger on her the trigger. "Who else besides Tanaka is working with you?"
"Put the gun away and I might consider telling you," she smiled, sharp and cunning. "I'm sure you know that your only choice is to become my ally or my murderer, so which one will you choose?"
Reika stared at her hard before she slowly lowered her gun yet held up her guard.
"Good choice. Now that we're accomplices this isn't needed anymore." Tachibana neared her and took the gun of her, her sharp smile widened. "To complete a job, it doesn't particularly matter which side to aid. I only did what was needed."
"And what kind of job caused you to do this?"
"This?" Tachibana asked, rising an eyebrow. "I was asked to caused multiple reasons for Nakamori-Keibu to get fired since Nezumi-Keibu-ho is eying his seat recently."
"Just because of that you hurt Hondo?"
"No, just because of that I needed to arrange the entire farce about a contest. The entire dress code Kuroba created burst my plans into flames, I had to divert the attention of the officers somehow. It was such a pain; can you believe that?"
Reika pressed her lips together tightly, her teeth were slowly but surely gnawing away the skin inside her cheek. She needed to regain her control. "So, I take it that Nezumi-Keibu-ho is your sponsor? How much did he offer to pay for you to betray all of us?"
"Betray? Oh no, darling, you must have misunderstood me. I never betrayed any of you." Tachibana said as her smile dimmed. "I was never on your side."
"What?" it took a moment for it to sink in. If she wasn't an agent for the police then she must be part of Snake's group—that, or something else entirely. But then—"Why are you helping Nezumi-Keibu? Where will helping him lead you?"
"To a new era, of course. Kid's reign will end to day and the police should represent that." Tachibana lips twitched into a smile and her hand toyed with the confiscated gun. "Of course, that includes you as well."
Meetings and partings continue to repeat. . .
Despite the hours of his academy days well-spent in practice, never did Nakamori Ginzō fathom even once that his long-awaited moment which he anticipated with such inflated excitement could possibly burst into these final moments of inconceivable terror and horror.
Although, most of the visitors were ushered away beforehand, the causality rate still seemed high as he looked around the dishevelled room. The most pivotal factor seemed to be the blast, its force instigated the crash of the chandelier which shattered glass harmed multiple people, whom Ginzo couldn't count with his mere eyesight alone, and from amongst them might lay his own daughter.
He squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled silently before he glanced at the broken frames of stained paintings. His eyes wandered between the scorched wooden railings and flooded carpet as he searched but there seemed to be no one else living among the lifeless bodies. He closed his eyes for a silent prayer before his legs marched towards the door, he could only rely now on the rescue team and arson investigation team. It was their field of expertise, after all.
And yet their support didn't alleviate the hopelessness Ginzō felt.
He clenched his teeth and turned his back at the disaster behind him as he strode forward. This was a complete catastrophe. In his specialised field, he had lost the gem in a matter of seconds after Kid's appearance. His daughter's childhood became injured under his supervision. Countless fellow officers and civilians have died in his vicinity, and now his own daughter was missing in this chaos.
He could only hope that cases were fire-resistant.
Ginzō squeezed his eyes shut. It was clear enough that he had failed as a father, but if he fails as a defender of justice then what had all his efforts and sacrifices amounted during the recent years?
The Inspector opened his eyes and walked towards the emergency exist with heavy legs as his heart squeezed into his chest. For twenty years he had built his future on ambition, made sacrifices and cared little for his daughter due to the nature of his job, and now it came crumbling around him, like handful of floating dust, and now Ginzō couldn't help but wondered whether it all had been worth it.
He could always get a new job—but a daughter?
He sighed and stared at the cracked ceiling and closed his eyes briefly.
Dear God in heaven, if you really exist, please save my daughter.
She is the only thing I can't lose.
Ginzō sighed and spared a single glance at the ruined gallery, really hoping that Keiko would find her outside—when he saw a fluttering cloth of white that he had desperately chased after for almost a decade from the corner of his eyes.
It was tattered—torn beyond recognition and stained with a bleeding colour that resembles the deep shade of red dishevelled across the thief's face. The visage he had only caught glimpses during his most desperate times was coloured by a multitude of shades, blotched with pigmentation of a second skin, scorched with flames, and completely mismatched with the wick of brunette hair, blown by the sudden blast of wind.
Nothing could have prepared Ginzō for such a revelation.
Behind the irksome cheeky attitude that irritated him for years—
Under the disguise of his sworn enemy of twenty years—
Under the hat of that rotten thief—
Behind Kid's monocle was the face of a woman.
A woman, he knew.
Nakamori Ginzō stared at the familiar face of his once neighbour and wondered when exactly the first cracks on his deceptively good life appeared for it to shattered into million pieces now.
Where did the truth I was aiming for vanished to?
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Conan ran as fast as his tiny legs carried him, the thoughts raced a thousand miles an hour, particularly for the wellbeing of his friends, his newly formed family and most importantly—Ran.
He hoped that she was well—unharmed by the condition of this crumbling building and uprising mayhem. Conan yelped as he stumbled, the torch light of his wrist wasn't bright enough to illuminate the entire hallway, and yet he surged forward, his mind whirling with thoughts of who—who had the audacity to blow up an establishment filled with innumerable amount of precious lives, and why—for what possible reason.
He had already ruled out the possibility of Kid arranging such chaos, the only explosive he was known to use were smoke bombs, and they were considerably harmless compared this catastrophic—
"Ow!" Conan muttered as his nose hit the ground. Up ahead, Megure-Keibu stopped in his track, his gaze falling on the little boy, and without a moment of hesitation he charged back to pick him up, tucking Conan under his arm as he carried him, steps behind Nezumi-Keibu who shouted at them to hurry.
Conan frowned at the speed of the old man, his cane barely touching the ground as he powered through the darkened corridor without the poor light of the boy's watch as if the layout of this building was engrained behind his eyelids.
Almost automatically Conan's head shot up at Megure-Keibu. His expression was tight, full of concern as his gaze steadily glanced back. Conan followed his gaze, behind him he could see nothing but a vast of hollowness instead of the troubled expression of his favourite officers, even the cheeky expression of the wannabe magician was nowhere to be found.
"We can't afford to stop here!" Megure's grip on him tightened as his face hardened. "Satō and Takagi are reliable officers. They will find their way out. I'm sure."
Conan nodded, his eyes lingered at the darkened corridor behind him before his gaze wandered at Nezumi-Keibu-ho, somehow the entire situation didn't make as much sense as it should. For a someone, who had recently remained anonymous, Snake was increasingly becoming notorious—not to mention that his adopted persona assumed the personality of blood thirsty killer rather than a thief.
Conan exhaled from his nose and flipped every single detail he had noticed during the event over his head until his eyes shifted from the ground onto the green icon of the emergency exist shining brightly at the end of the corridor. Conan's face automatically lit up and a flood of relief cruised through him until he noticed flashes of orange fielding inside his vision.
Conan recognised the uniform. The rescue team must have commenced with the search of injured persons inside this vast, crumbling building. His eyes strayed toward the stretcher carried out of the main hall towards the exit. Conan's eyes lingered for a moment on the stained white fabric peeking out from the elastic restrains binding the injured body. His brows furrowed.
Slowly, Megure-Keibu released Conan onto the ground before he wiped the beads of sweat glistening on his forehead with handkerchief, walking toward the figure standing on the side of the manoeuvring workers.
Nakamori didn't notice Megure-Keibu's approach. His gaze was pointedly fixated at stretcher slowly disappearing from sight until the inspector of the first division grabbed him by the shoulder. Bewildered, Nakamori turned around as his eyes fastened on Megure-Keibu, whose brows continued to furrow.
"Is something the matter?"
At the question Nakamori's eyes immediately wandered toward the exit. "Well, yes." Suddenly his brows knitted together harshly, almost in disbelieve. His uneasy eyes settled on Megure-Keibu, whose stern expression remained unchanged.
"What is it?"
"It seems that. . .Kid's identity has been finally revealed."
"What?" Megure snapped and his eyes narrowed distrustfully, almost automatically his hand reached out to pinch Nakamori's cheek tightly and instead of grasping a peeled mask, the inspector's cheeks reddened. Megure-Keibu's eyes widened. "Is that the truth? that's great news!"
Nakamori only nodded and Conan couldn't help but noticed that he seemed strangely dejected than overjoyed, and he wasn't far off the mark when inspector muttered quietly under his breath, "I can't seem to think so."
Conan stared at the inspector, slowly examining him as he asked, "Did something happen?"
Their heads turned towards him, and Nakamori's lips twitched into a thin smile and yet the young boy could see the hurt and tiredness settling on every crease of his face.
"Conan-kun," Nakamori suddenly called, his gaze held the faint glow of embers instead of the fiery glare he usually adopted. He sounded so abnormally subdued, Conan could hardly believe it was Nakamori speaking in front of him. It was almost as if his vigour and previous excitement dissipated into thin air.
Conan gazed at him sceptically. "Yes?"
"Try to live an honest life. . .with a purpose."
Stuffing his hand into his pocket, Nakamori walked away, leaving a dumbfounded Conan in his wake. Slowly, Conan turned around until Megure-Keibu grabbed him by his hand and marched towards the exit.
"Come on, let's go."
Droplets of sweat trickled down the side of Reika's tremble, her eyes glued on her favourite handgun clenched between Tachibana's hand, its long nose pointed at her.
"I seem to remember that you fuddled my plans as well." Her lips twitched into a cruel smile as her index finger gently tapped the trigger. "It might not be such a bad idea. This place will burn to pieces either way. What will a burned piece of tape do?"
Reika wetted her lips as she steadily gazed at her former colleague before her eyes shifted toward her fallen comrade, crumbled on the ground. Her voice resonated in the air before she could think otherwise. "Then go ahead."
Tachibana's brow shot up, quite surprised, and Reika prodded forward as she tilted her head and smirked, tried her best to feel as confident as she appeared.
"Taken aback?" she asked, raising a brow, deliberate and cunning. "I thought it's natural for a predator to hunt its injured prey? I'm merely prepared for what's to come—"
The sudden burst of laughter from Tachibana startled her enough for her to halt in her steps. The smile curling onto her lips was too sharp for Reika's liking and she rubbed her palms against the fabric of her skirt, overcome with a sudden swell of nervousness she hadn't experienced for long time.
Slowly, Tachibana shook her head once her laughter dissipated. "You could have fooled me for a moment. You must be quite stricken to bluff like this—"
"Aren't these words directed at yourself?" her tongue suddenly felt thick and heavy inside her mouth, almost as rough as sandpaper as she swallowed. "Did you honestly believe that I would aligned my beliefs with yours?"
"Of course not. I merely coerced you to agree. My primary intent was to unarm you. I don't have a need for you any longer—"
"Then what are you waiting for? Shoot already." She said, laying all her cards bare and risked revealing the only conclusion, she arrived at since Tachibana's appearance. "You won't do it—not until you can guarantee with absolute certainty that these surveillance cameras aren't working."
The face of her former colleague bristled, her eyebrows knitted harshly, and Reika figured she guessed right. Her gaze wandered at the ceiling, relieved that they were inside its field of vision, before her eyes searched out Hondo, silently expressing her gratitude for his meticulous work in arranging them in such position, before Tachibana's voice pulled her out of her thoughts.
"I guess, you caught me. I'm not entirely sure whether the footage survives the next explosion. I much rather liked you to attack me out of desperation, so I could land in another self-defence than play with the possibility of being charged with murder," she lowered her gun and shrugged casually, her hand reaching behind her head to adjust the top of her bun as she turned her back towards and walked down the corridor.
Reika watched sceptically as she hesitated, feeling more and more likely a fly caught in a web with a spider slowly nearing her, its fangs ready to devour her whole. Longingly, her gaze wandered toward Hondo, his Eagle trapped under his body. She stole a glance at the person walking ahead of her, before she quickly squatted down and noiselessly swiped the gun from underneath his arm.
She threw a lingering look at him before she followed her former colleague. The gun burned in her hand and her finger curled around the trigger. Her temperature rose and her hand sweated, taking in a deep breath, her gaze wandered upwards, feeling the weight of a thousand eyes on her, and she wondered how exactly Hondo was able to pull the trigger so flawlessly.
Reika briefly shut her eyes, tried to remember the layout of the building as they followed along the length of the corridor.
She had to get out of here somehow.
Kaito could barely see in front of him as he sprinted down the corridor, whilst he thought about the transmitter he crushed under his foot not too long ago. For some time, his mind was whirling with suspicion and half-baked theories, yet none of them remotely explained how Snake possibly knew his identity, so Kaito figured that he probably didn't.
His little show must have provoked enough suspicion for Snake to have kept an eye on him. But with the appearance of Kid, he couldn't help but wonder whether the suspicion had abated or intensified.
In his mind there was only one way to find out.
Hastily, Kaito jumped up the stairs and reached for his phone. So far, he hadn't received any notifications from Jii-chan since the black-out and from one look at his unlocked screen, it seemed to remain so. Kaito blew the air from his cheeks whilst he contemplated the odds of setting his dummy free. Vehemently, he shook his head as his finger punched the number of Jii-chan's newly acquired disposable phone, yet he was only directed toward voicemail. Exhaling deeply, Kaito drove his fingers over his hair. He had no clue whether the gem was stolen—whether his mom escaped—whether the entire heist was a success.
Kaito could only sigh in relieve when his phone vibrated in his hand. Quickly, he swiped to unlock his phone and pressed onto the message.
"Worst case scenario."
Kaito's heart sunk as he pressed the call button again. This time Jii-chan answered, his voice barely above a whisper. He must be surrounded by people. Kaito wetted his lips and asked the question that had been on his mind since he found himself suddenly surrounded by the officers. "What happened?"
"I-I'm not entirely sure but. . ."
"But what?" he stressed, nerves on edge. Jii-chan never sounded so uneasy before.
". . .the cover is blown. Oku-sama appears to be gravely injured. Kaito—wherever you are—get out of there quickly. We need to think of a counter-measurement to—"
"I know." Kaito cut in as his mind raced with possible solutions that were few and far between. His mother was dressed as Kid and most likely was in the possession of the gem. In the eyes of the public and the officers she was without a doubt a renowned thief condemned to spent years in prison as a punishment. How could he possibly save her from that?
With a sinking heart, Kaito realised that he was quickly running out of options.
"Jii-chan, get rid of the gem." His voice sounded more determined and confident than Kaito felt at the moment, and yet he reminded himself to keep up his poker face. He figured he needed to game up his showmanship to get out of this pinch. "We might need to change Kid's image into a heartless monster."
Kaito could hear Jii-chan's protest under the ensuing silence, yet what choice did they have other than risking it all?
With sweaty palms and quickening heartbeat, the call ended.
Kaito could only pray that nothing else would go wrong as he ran down the corridor.
His entire plan was disintegrating.
Kōnosuke Jii ended the call and stepped out of the shadows.
The streets were crowded by attendees, most of them injured and checked by the paramedics on site whilst the majority of the onlookers flocked around to catch glimpses of Kid around the burning building.
Kōnosuke was relieved to noticed that none of them caught sight of Oku-sama. The police intended to keep her whereabout a secret whilst she was looked over. He peered from a distance and mentally prepared himself as he strode forward. He caught the gaze of one of the officers and introduced himself. He played the card of a friend who saw someone he knew carried out on stretcher. The officer's eyes lit up regarding the prospect of identifying Kid with a name. Kōnosuke waited patiently whilst the officer exchanged a quick conversation over the radio but had not anticipated for him to suddenly reach out pull his face.
Kōnosuke endured the pain with a silent grumble under the officer's sheepish look before he mentioned him to follow along until they reached an area fully guarded with patrol cars. He felt the anticipation gathering inside his chest, his heart seemed to beat louder by the second—for a moment he feared whether they could hear it. . .
He took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves as he caught the glimpse of a couple of paramedics from afar. They had draped a long blanket over Oku-sama. The white of her garment could barely be seen. To any passers-by she would have seemed like any other injured person. Yet unbeknownst to them, Kōnosuke was not any other person. He was an accomplice and understood the situation they were currently in, and would no condition cut the last string that could bring her and Kaito toward salvation.
Kōnosuke took a deep breath once he was near. His eyes lingered on the bandage wrapped across her face and his lips unturned almost automatically. He could only hope that none of these injuries would leave any permanent marks of any shape or form.
"And? Do you recognise her?" someone from his right asked as they neared him. It was Nakamori-Keibu as Kōnosuke expected, nor any other officer who were attending the event. They were dressed in their standard uniform. He figured, they must have arrived on the scene as reinforcement. Kōnosuke averted his eyes from him and directed his attention back at the injured woman. His breath hitched, and he found he didn't need to fake the wet sob coming from him, as he stumbled forward in a pathetic way to hugged her, as he sobbed like father losing his own flesh and blood.
"Of course, I know her!" he wailed as he glanced at the officers with tears glinting inside his eyes whilst his brushed gently his hand over the spot of her right pocket before he pushed his body away from her to stare objectively over her face. "S-she was like a daughter to me!"
Kōnosuke buckled at the sight of her face and crumpled, his head buried gently on top of her shoulder whilst his hand softly glided over her chest pocket to grasp her face as he cried, openly. "So young and energetic when I first met you. . .and now this!"
"Oh, what tragedy!" the tears persisted under his muffled cries and Kōnosuke sneaked a peek to glance the officers uncomfortably looking at the ground, yet one of the paramedic seemed to bore holes into his head as if she could barely keep herself from throwing him away from the injured body, and so he leaned back, hovering over her body as his other hand slid toward her left pocket before it rested on her arm, as he cried. "What catastrophe!"
Swiftly his hand sneaked under the covers to retrieve the necklace he felt moments prior as he ignored the paramedics polite remainder that Oku-sama was not life-threatening injured, but Kōnosuke played on deaf ears as he canted his body back, his eyes streaked red whilst he admitted, quite unrelatedly, that he was the godfather of her son.
The officer nodded empathetically, albeit somewhat impatient. His foot tapped the ground restlessly as he asked. "Could you identify her for us please?"
Kōnosuke nodded and straightened his back, wiping his face with a handkerchief before he slid the gem underneath the tissue and stuffed it inside his pocket without much attention. "She was wife of my late friend and former employer, and the mother of my godson Kuroba Kaito."
"And what's her name?"
"That would be Kuroba Chikage."
The officer nodded as he wrote down the information, and from the intensity of his furrowed brows Kōnosuke was a hundred percent sure he wasn't aware of the relevancy of this, and for once he was glad it wasn't the task force taking care of Oku-sama—especially, Nakamori.
His mind would have raced with a thousand theories at this revelation.
Kōnosuke disguised his sigh into another sob when the officer placed a hand on him, and he quickly excused himself after they exchanged their contact information.
Kōnosuke desperately needed some alone time to dispose of this gem.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Keiko jogged around the evacuation site, red flashlights glowed around, brightening the frightened expressions of those around her, huddled in blankets, seated around the floor with paramedics fussing about, a stream of policemen stood around the scene, keeping gawking onlookers away, whilst she searched for a brunette hair and a pair of blue eyes among the scared faces, but her best friend seemed nowhere to be found, gnawing at her lip, Keiko searched her pockets once more, arriving yet again at the same conclusion.
Her phone was gone.
She couldn't even contact her own friend, even if she were to ask someone for a phone, she didn't know Aoko's number. There was never a need for to memorise it and now she had never felt so hopeless before. Keiko ran around, her legs already tired from carrying Hakuba, and she hoped he was alright. Everything was such a mess, Keiko's heart ached in her chest.
Among the faces around her she couldn't see a single find a pair of blues eyes.
She could only hope.
Please be safe.
Meetings and partings continue to repeat. . .
"Is everyone here?" Taichi called, flicking through the guest list before he gazed around him, some glanced up, shivering, whilst others stared blankly ahead, barely noticing his presence. He cleared his throat, speaking a little louder. "Is anyone missing?"
Unnerved, Taichi took in the lack of responses and sighed. Stupid question. They guest list included more than a hundred names, and currently he estimated that roughly half were around him, excluding the few, who required immediate surgical care at the hospital.
Next to him, Tanaka glared at him, openly criticising him but he only stared back, offering her to take the reign and do better, and she rolled her eyes and stormed away, already knowing that it was quite impossible to inform the fire brigade of the quantity of potential missing people when it was unclear how many had had lost their lives in the first place. He could only hope that the first and second line would find all of them whilst they discover and secure the fire.
Taichi rubbed the back of his neck and wondered how such a fine day could have possibly ended up in such a complete disaster.
The radio hidden inside his picket vibrated, a voice crackled underneath the static.
"We have found two girls in the backyard. They seem to be unconscious but luckily uninjured."
Perhaps it wasn't a complete disaster.
Taichi cleared his voice. "Good. Make sure to bring them here."
Ai treaded carefully, her wristwatch pointed inches above the ground, Naomi's flashlight was bright enough to illuminate the entire space, and yet Ai felt safer to have her own torch shining at their backs as she walked behind them, occasionally shining onto their hands whenever they (suspiciously) twitched.
In her opinion, something about this situation wasn't right. It didn't make sense. Why would she go as far as stun-gunning them to lock them up, if she planned to release them anyway?
Rather than it being a practical joke because of some stupid contest, it felt more sinister—a direct intention towards harm, and Ai could tell it was directed at this Junsa-buchō. Her glance lingered at Itsuki. His brows were furrowed slightly, but apart from that his face seemed completely neutral, almost trusting as though he followed Naomi without a second thought.
Thoughtfully, she wrung her bottom lips between her teeth, contemplating her options when they neared the stair case, when from far ahead two figures were heading toward them. Both women, Ai noticed when they came closer, one with glasses and the other with maroon hair. Naturally, she recognised none of them, but her two companions had, since Itsuki's shoulders stiffened and Naomi's lips curled into a sharp smile.
"Pleasure to see you two here." It was the woman with glasses who spoke, and Ai noticed the way Itsuki and the maroon haired exchanged a look,
"Yes, indeed. We were about to leave this building, weren't we?" Naomi said, motioning toward the stair case.
Itsuki nodded, his face twisting a little confused. "Since we only had a short notice, I wasn't able to memorise the building completely. But I was pretty sure the exit was straight ahead." He pointed at the direction, the two women came from, and the woman in glasses frowned.
"No. I'm pretty sure the exit is here, isn't it, Reika?"
"Well, I kind of agree with Itsuki. The nearest exit is there were we came from. If we went down the stairs, we would have to reach the main hall first before we can enter the exit. We would be wasting too much time, especially since we have a kid here." The maroon haired answered, quietly, and Ai couldn't help but frown. If woman knew that much, why would she bother coming all the way here?
"It's because we have a child, we should be taking the stairs," there was impatience clinging to her tone, almost as if the woman in glasses was keeping herself from snapping at her. "We have passed some very unsightly things that we have decided to take a detour, did we not?"
"Maybe. But—" Reika pursed her lips, as if she as purposely being difficult, and Ai had an increasing suspicion that something else was going on here—something she wasn't fully aware about, and yet she had made up her mind. She absolutely did not want to take the stairs.
"But—what?" Naomi asked, a little annoyed. "What's the problem with taking a little detour?"
"Well, for one I have feeling that they are more unsightly things downstairs. We wouldn't traumatise her would, we?" Itsuki said, glancing down at Ai. She stared back, sceptical whether they truly felt concerned for her sake, or simply were scared to advance to the lower floors. Either way, Ai had already decided that she felt unsafe with them.
She wanted to leave—now.
Her gaze lingered at Itsuki. Throughout the conversation, he had been glancing at her now and then, almost as if he feared that she would disappear from her eyesight—she felt the weight of his gaze again, lingering on her, as if he was momentarily lost studying her face. Ai glanced at him, her heart thumped inside her chest and uneasily, and the corners of his lips twitched into a small, as he slightly nodded at her, as if he followed the footwork of her thoughts, and agreed on the flimsy feeling gnawing on her chest that urged her to flee—to get as far as she could from them.
Ai didn't know what it meant, but it was enough for her to charged forward, running past them into the bleak abyss in front of her. She couldn't fathom what awaited her, but anything was better than being caught by a net spread in front of her by suspicious strangers.
Ai rounded the corner, desperately leaving all the shouts and calls for her name behind her, she could still hear the dull sound of footsteps rapidly nearing her, and she pushed herself harder, willed her legs to run faster, and yet a pair of hands still managed to sweep her off her feet.
Ai yelped and tried to struggle but the grip on her only tightened, and after a moment there was laughter ringing in her ear, uneven and quiet, hovering above the grounds on shaky and fearful. "Hurry up!"
"I'm trying!" there was a gasp coming behind him, and Ai tilted her head behind, gazing off his shoulders into the breathless face of the marron haired, falling steps behind them. Farther back, Naomi and the woman in glasses not far off behind them, there was something akin to anger and irritation across their faces, and after a moment, Ai understood that they weren't running with them, but after them.
Ai chewed on her cheeks, slightly wondering what kind of trapped awaited them downstairs, had she not run away.
There was loud gasp from Itsuki, and Ai turned around to stare at the pathway in front of her when a hand suddenly covered her eyes. "Don't look!" Ai moved her head and tried to pry his hand off, but his grip was relentless. "Stop. It's better if you don't see this. What the hell happened here, Reika?"
"I'm sorry," her voice was still so breathless, and Ai figured she was pushing herself too hard, a little bit more and she'll get side stitches. "I couldn't stop him. I don't think I could have even if I wanted to..."
"I figured as much." Itsuki breathed out, and Ai felt a little impatient as she still struggled to tear his hands from her eyes without available. "Just stay still for a while. I'll definitely get you out of here."
Ai wasn't sure whether she should trust his words, but she found that she didn't have another choice. His grip was relentless as he ran down the corridor, almost as if chased by something she didn't entirely understand.
Something she definitely did not understand.
I feel like I'm still just a kid.
Like a faint image. . .
. . .Thrown at the roadside
For Kaito, the plan was simply enough—unoriginal, perhaps, with a possible risk of failure, but it was the only thing his mind could conjure in this moment. Anything else was out of his power to undertake, especially since Hondo was particularly meticulous, bugging up the entire floors. If there was a safe place for him to disguise himself in this forsaken place, it would most likely be the ground floor. In all likelihood, previous explosion damaged the surveillance cameras, but with the influx of firefighters storming the building form the ground floors, that would hardly be a possibility for him.
Kaito had not a single doubt in his mind that Jii-chan recovered the gem. If anything, he only needed to fester a speck of doubt inside the minds of the policemen—a sort of visual illusion that Kid was still out there and not within the hands of the clinicians on site, even if it stained Kid's previous image as chivalrous and splashed a huge blot of ruthless on it. He'd gladly take it on as long as his mother represented as nothing but a victim of his of his cruel ways.
Kaito pushed down the doorknob and barge into the room.
Almost immediately, his eyes zeroed on his decoy, held up by tiny invisible strings, and his fingers dived into his pocket, fingering the hard metal of his card gun when his eyes laid on a familiar pair of blue eyes, staring at him, her eyebrows a little creased.
She was sitting on the floor with her fingers curled the piece of cloths making up his face, as though she had been playing, maybe pulling its visage, plastering her fingerprints around it, but he didn't think it mattered because right now she was staring right at him.
Slowly and completely deliberate, Aoko climbed onto her feet. Her gaze pinned on him, and he realised that there was something off about her expression, the hues of her blue eyes glazed with something he didn't recognised, something strange that didn't exactly match her usually upbeat expression.
"What are you doing here?" she asked at last, tilting to the side, her sapphire watching him listlessly standing at the doorway.
"I could ask you the same." Kaito countered without a second thought, a casual smile on his lips, light and teasing, calming the beating of his heart slamming inside his ribcage a thousand miles per hour, suddenly keenly aware of his childhood friend's presence inside his make-shift lair, and the thought dawned on him; had she hidden behind the furniture without his notice, she would have had busted him.
On this spot.
Kaito teared his eyes away from her, drinking in the dark wash walls and the flittering shadows hiding behind the sharp edges and corners of this room, dark and hollow in its midst, chased away under the glow of moonlight illuminating stature of his friend, like the radiant flame of candle, drawing his eyes at her without his intention, and he couldn't help but notice her tousled hair, her wrinkled blouse and tight jeans; its threads unravelling at her knees, stressed from cushioning her falls too many times, and his lips quirked at her clumsiness, at her cute little nose and cupid's bow, receding under the sudden twitch of her lips, stretching not quite into a warm smile, nor into a displeased frown, and his brows furrowed even before he heard her speak, somewhere between her rising intonation and faltering breaths, he knew something was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
He waited anxiously, his palms sweating as he wiped them against his jeans, waiting for her to speak, for her vocal chords to cut through the silence and cut straight at him so he could finally catch the blade of her insecurity before its sharp edge pierced through his heart at her second attempt at slicing him—
"I was waiting for Kid."
She was waiting for Kid?
His face would have put the blankest canvas to shame, the brows arched poignantly high, his lips a little opened and his blue eyes empty, devoid of any thought, almost as if his entire mind was shunned into silence at her recent admission.
And yet it was a simple statement—a voiced desire that didn't entirely need verification considering there were a horde of living bodies outside their perimeter waiting for the exact very person.
And yet it—it couldn't be true.
Never would she wait for Kid.
He knew it.
She hated him.
His brows creased at his forehead, his eyes silently scrutinising her expression. Her face gave nothing away, her lips were still stretched between a half-smile and a taunt line whilst her eyes were expectant, almost as if she was waiting for him, waiting for—what?
What was she waiting for?
A light bulb lit up, a sudden idea plopped inside his mind and Kaito gazed around for a little turf of sandy hair and an annoying smirk, feeling a little silly, but nothing else could explain this bizarre situation—nothing but an annoying detective, goading Aoko into tripping him up, and yet, Kaito was increasingly disappointed (and distressed) that he couldn't find him, because that would mean—
It meant that—
"So, uh," he croaked, swiping his hands on his jeans, as he willed every treacherous thought polluting inside his mind away. "So, I guess, Kid hasn't come yet?"
"No, he did." she shook her head, and yet her sapphire eyes were pinned on him, hard and unwavering. "He came."
"Oh?" he wetted his lips and swallowed, keenly aware that nothing added up, it was highly unlikely that his mother—even in disguise—would meet up and interact with his childhood friend under these conditions. But it was also unimaginable that said childhood friend would fetch at him such an elaborate lie.
Not at least without an ulterior motif.
Not unless she truly doubted him.
Kaito swallowed and glanced away, marvelling at the bed shoved at the other side of the room, and hope that this nightmare would suddenly disappearing after his waking eyes. He shut his eyes tight and opened them, and yet her unwavering glare was still burning holes through him.
Kaito sighed and drove a hand through his hair, deciding to play along—at least until the fog clouding his judgement dissipated into the thin air. "So? Did anything happen? Did you guys talk?"
"I'm sure you know."
He bit the inside of his cheek. Aoko was definitely onto something—something with a white cap and an old-fashioned monocle, and he breathed out quietly from his nose, as he asked, purposefully bewildered. "Do I?"
There was such a certainty behind the force of her voice, Kaito was prone to believe her—he wanted to believe her, but the tiny voice gnawing at the back of his mind reminded him that he knew otherwise—that nothing but lies sprouted from her mouth, each one painfully digging at his heart, and he hoped and prayed that his mother really did meet her—that they talked for the briefest of moments, and yet he knew that would be nothing but his own fantasy. His mother should have stayed at the ground floor, mingled as one of the guests until his timed smoke bombs exploded, instead of climbing up the stairs to meet her for a chat over tea and biscuits.
"Are you sure?" he asked, despite the certainty inside his mind that she could have never met Kid.
"Don't you remember?" she asked, her brows poignantly raised, stifled disbelief under her wavering tone.
How could he?
Kaito stared at her, completely perplexed. How on earth did he remember something he didn't see—
Didn't see, huh?
Kaito snorted and threw an annoyed look at her.
He fell right into her trap. He had forgotten how dangerous words could be—forgotten how dangerous Aoko could be with carefully chosen words.
But it was too late to regret anything.
Too late denying anything.
His hesitance already flared up red-flags. She coerced him into admitting that he had an inkling whether she had met Kid or not. Anyone else with a fully functioning brain would have straight up refuted her for not knowing anything she sprouted from the very beginning, and yet here he was, arguing and questioning whether she really had the opportunity to meet Kid. . .
Was he an utter idiot?
Kaito drove his hand through his hair as he blew the air from his cheek. He really messed up. Big time.
Close proximity with her over the years completely damaged his guard, like a sturdy shield, wearing from the inside, full of holes and cracks, easily penetrable, and he could hear the soft murmur of his father's lecture—an expression; a leading gateway to his thoughts, and eyes were the green card verifying the entry of a soul.
He squeezed his eyes shut, fully aware of what to do.
Thee was only one thing he could do at this point.
Reset the entire conversation.
With furrowed brows and the tilt of his head, Kaito asked. "Who did you meet again? The little kid?"
"I meant Kid—the thief." There was something glowing inside her eyes whilst she corrected him, and Kaito found himself swallowing at the name of his father's alter ego rolling from her tongue. He hadn't misheard. He wasn't confused. The stress hasn't run his imagination wild.
She was really tripping him up.
But then again, two could play this game.
"Oh? I wished I met him too," he sighed as he crossed his arms over his head. "When did you talk to him?"
"Just now." Briefly she glanced out of the window before she side-eyed him. "Don't be too bummed that you couldn't meet him. If I were you I couldn't meet him either."
"What do you mean?"
She shrugged and picked her bag up from the floor. "Isn't like trying to see yourself in a mirror without actually having one?"
Kaito tried hard not to narrow his eyes, and yet he did anyway with furrowed brows and pursed lips, and—there!—there was that thought again, gnawing at him and eating him up from the inside and now he knew with a hundred percent certainty that it was true.
His eyes fastened back on her face, but other than the weird glint inside her eyes, she looked like always, and he figured he needed to play his part now, standing in limelight, entering the stage as the red curtain rose, another little performance in front of a jeering crowd, wanting nothing more than watch him trip up and fall. "C'mon, don't you start too. I'm not Kid."
"Oh?" her gaze was strangely neutral, as though she was barely listening to him. "Is that so?"
"Of course, it is. If I were Kid, I wouldn't be talking to you right now." He explained, backing toward the door and motioned her to follow him, a little disappointed that he couldn't set the decoy after all, but this was alright too. "With everything that's been happening, I would have made my escape a long time ago."
"Isn't that why you're here?" her tone hardened a little and he glanced at her her, her gaze was piercing even as she followed closely behind him, her eyes flickered at the hang glider near the window. "Didn't you come here to escape with that?"
"Didn't you hear what I just said?" Kaito muttered, stuffing his hand inside his pockets as he glanced at her. "I came here to stop Kid. I thought he might come here to escape—" he stopped and glanced at her, sceptically before he moved to pinch her cheek, she yelped and swatted his hand away, but he was already sighing in relieve. "Sorry. You're acting so weird. I thought—"
"How funny," she interrupted, rubbing her cheek and glaring. "That wasn't necessary, you know? there's no way I can be Kid."
Mere hours ago, she thought the same thing about him. Kaito couldn't help but wonder what changed since then. She hadn't doubted him the last time he saw her. So, what was it that turned her against him?
Kaito bit the inside of his cheek as he countered her with a mean stare that didn't convey even half of the horrible feeling brooding inside his chest. "Questioning me isn't necessary. Did you spend too much time with Hakuba? You're starting to sound like him."
"How funny," she rolled her eyes and moved past him, brushing by the door and into of the hallway. He caught up with her and grabbed her by the shoulder, stilling her movement as he placed a hand on her forehead and frowned.
"You're repeating yourself. Are you not feeling well?"
She swatted his hand away, tried to quench the urge to laugh at him without success as she released a breathless laugh. "I'm trying to be serious here."
"Alright, alright." Kaito muttered, stuffing his hands back inside his pockets. "But seriously you're acting weird."
"Not as much as you," she muttered under her breath, and Kaito narrowed his eyes, accusingly. "Focus," she reprimanded and Kaito rolled his eyes. "Do you remember that idiot who borrowed my first mechanical pencil that Dad bought me and broke it?"
"Who?" Kaito asked, despite having vague picture in his mind as they wandered down the hall. "Do you mean that fatso?"
"He was a little chubby, short hair and always forgot to bring an erase. Do you remember?"
"How can I forget him if you keep reminding me of him?" Kaito said, a little annoyed. That fatso was such an insignificant figure in his life—someone you meet once in your life and forget by the end of the evening, and yet Aoko kept bringing him up as though the little boy's mistake was branded inside her heart with charcoaled ash.
It was for that reason, Kaito accidentally broke every mechanical pencil she had and replaced with standard pencils after he managed to persuade her to keep those. The boy's name hadn't come up for half a decade and he was quite surprised (and annoyed) that he managed to become another conversational topic between the two of them.
Now. Of all times.
"He broke one of the first present my Dad gave me. It's something I'll never forget even though I have forgiven him."
"I know that."
"It was something special and he took it away from me. It broke my heart."
"Aren't you exaggerating a little?" he tried to laugh but the tension he felt wouldn't let up.
Aoko halted on her steps as she grabbed his shoulder, her serious gaze drilled holes into his eyes. "Kaito. If you keep lying now, you'll become the next fatso in my life."
Kaito stared at her and his mouth opened for another silly joke—a distraction that diverted the situation from escalating, he had an inkling where this was going, and he absolutely no intention to go there. At all.
He swallowed and tried to smile, tried to come off as casual as usual but the keen glint inside her eyes was relentless.
She was serious.
"Kaito," she called him again, and he tried to not to flinch. "Do you know who Kid is?"
"You heard me. You said, you thought Kid would escape and come here. But how did you find this room without having anyone show you? I only found this room by sheer luck. It only makes sense to me if Kid showed you where this is, but that would mean you trailed him. But you can't do that without knowing who he is in the first place."
"That's a lot of buts you mentioned."
"Answer the question, Kaito. From all these people, how did you know who Kid was?"
"I don't know who Kid is yet, but I can tell you how I found this room." He thought back at the layout and remembered deciding on a room little hard to find, well away from officers, but he couldn't exactly tell her that—the Kaito she knew was a simple-minded guy, and in her dictionary slightly idiotic, and so he said instead. "And it has nothing to do with me checking every door of this bloody building."
The look on her face was incredulous before she shook her head and replaced it with a frown. "You don't except me to believe that."
"No matter what I say, you're not going to believe me anyway." Kaito countered. She opened her mouth to protest, but he continued. "In your mind, you're already thinking I'm Kid."
Even if I told you Kid had been apprehended today, you would only look at me and ask what I'm doing here, and no matter what I'll say, you definitely wouldn't believe me. Even if I said, I'm only here, trying to keep the police from believing my mom is really Kid.
You would definitely think I'm Kid.
And there's nothing else I can say, but "You're right."
Kaito never hated the truth as much as he did at this moment.
Aoko only stared at him, her sapphire eyes glinting with guilt and she lowered her head, wringing her lips between her teeth thoughtfully before she gazed up with uncertainty. "Does that mean you're not?"
Kaito simply stared at her—stared at her cute nose, pink cheekbones and tousled hair as she wrestled with her words.
"I hate Kid. You know, I do. He's the only person I cannot forgive. If. . .if I find out it's you then—then I don't know. I don't want to think about that. That's why promise me." Aoko said, raising her pinkie. "Promise me, you're not Kid, and it will be the end of that."
Kaito swallowed, and gently placed his hand on top of hers. "We're too old for that."
"We did it two months ago."
"We grew up a lot since then."
"Kaito," her gaze was firm and a little disappointed, as though she didn't want to acknowledge his hesitance for admittance. "It's alright. You can do this for me, can't you?"
Kaito glanced at her and hesitatingly and glanced at his own callous hand, worn by his practice of tricks he had needed more for his heists than his leisurely usage, tricks he posed as magic.
His hands were practised deceivers, guided by the strings of his body that bowed down to his will and very nature—he was a liar, a deceiver and a trickster. Even with a good reason such as his own, it wouldn't be good enough for her.
It would never be good enough for her.
As busy as her father always was at the police force, Kid had been responsible robbing most of her father's time during her childhood and even now in her teenage years. Even if her lack of a father figure was partly fault of his dad, it was now him transcending the continuation of that same phantom pain she had felt growing up.
He was a criminal in her eyes. Someone, who needed to be caught and locked up.
The same criminal, who stood before her as her best-friend.
Kaito peered at her face, hopeful and yet anxious as she kept chewing her bottom lips, and for a moment he wondered how selfish it would be to have her promise him that she would always forgive him, no matter what happens. And yet that this indirect confession would reveal it all, and Aoko was smart enough to realise that—smart enough to see straight through him.
Aoko raised her pinkie higher, desperate and demanding at the same time, and Kaito knew he had to face this dilemma without a proper solution.
He had only had a sickening feeling tumbling inside his stomach, and he knew.
Yes, he knew.
I don't want that.
And so, he answered.
"No, you're wrong. I can't."
Kaito shook his head slowly and stared at his shoes, unable to look into her eyes, into the heartbroken expression tearing her face.
"I can't do that for you."
Wide sapphire glued on his face, under his gentle grip, her hand trembled.
"Why can't you simply believe me?"
Because she doesn't trust you.
She glanced down at the carpet, her eyes dangerously glistering.
"Why do I have to proof it to you?"
Because you're a liar.
Her lips twitched, and her cute nose reddened.
"We have known each other since we were kids—"
That doesn't matter.
"Why can't you trust me?"
"I told you already. I'm not—"
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up—
Tears curved down each side of her cheeks and bright red rimmed eyes, and he recognised the hurt before the shame and humiliation. She wiped them away, and he realised once again, what an idiot he was.
A huge insensitive idiot.
And he found it was still better than being hated.
But at least with her, he wanted to remain honest. . .
Even if it's like this.
With her back turned against him, shoulders trembling, silently crying.
He was despicable.
Memories with you will continue to live quietly inside me.
It was a summer's day.
A steady influx of people strutted past her, and she watched the rolled-up sleeves of grown-ups, their hands steadily holding onto their children's. And those – whose grip eluded them – were running, their crinkling eyes shaded by the sunlight, and molten ice cream dripped from their fingers, staining their shirts and freckling the pavement in spots as they laughed, and she thought she heard the sound from everywhere, somehow around her, and yet without her.
Sighing, she looked at the clock, leaned her back against the brick wall, balanced her weight on the balls of her feet as she counted the seconds silently in her head, wishing to catch a glimpse of her father suddenly appearing within the crowed of unknown faces, running breathlessly with apologies dripping from his tongue, and she thought it'd be alright if he came now, she would grab his hand and forgive him, but there wasn't a glimpse of him, an her heart sunk in her chest.
Her gaze darted back at the face of the clock.
She glanced to her right, and caught someone staring at her, and she was a little surprised to notice he wasn't much taller than her.
"You're waiting for someone too?"
They have been younger.
Looking back, she never thought anything would have come out of it.
But behind those friendly smiles and caring eyes was someone unknown to her, unrecognisable in front of her eyes, and she can only think about the trials of magic lurking around his fingertips, the deceit inside his eyes and the lie tipping from his mouth, and she thinks all she might have seen was a smoke of illusion, the after-image of her version of him – a partial image of a creation she conceived in her mind every time she looked at him – a simple role he played, like a performer at a stage once the veil had lifted.
"Why can't I trust you?" she echoed, once the tears dried. Kaito was staring back at her, his blue eyes as still as clear and undecipherable as the day she first met him, and right now, she couldn't care - inside her chest was nothing but an empty feeling.
"Isn't it obvious?" It wasn't a question, and yet one of his brows shot up, quite disbelievingly, and yet Aoko didn't know whether it was genuine or another charade of his oblivious character, and she wondered when exactly the lines blurred between truth and falsehood. "You might not be a liar, but I cannot call you honest either, Kaito."
His lips parted, nothing came out, and so he continued to watch her. His face blank as though his mind the sounds of his thoughts stilled - stunned into silence.
"Sometimes - sometimes I can't help but wonder what you're thinking." She looked at him, her eyes red-rimmed and yet the intensity hadn't reduced. "I think, it's quite clear that no-one cannot trust someone they can't understand."
His lips moved again, but wordlessly they closed, and he averted his eyes to stare at the darkened hallway, but she can hear the gears of his mind moving, concocting lies, entire schemes to transform the ending of a tragic play into an ensuing comedy sequel, and it dawned on her she didn't want a role in it.
She drew back.
She didn't want to be caught up inside another spiderweb – didn't want to act with him at a stage, where she only was only an unaware participant he had handpicked from the crowed.
Too many times had she worn her heart on her sleeve, raised it again and again, along with her hopes and her trust, and what else has happened except that it had been squashed flat without a chance against the cold reality and the harsh truth.
All for what?
Aoko stared at the man before her. His visage as familiar as ever, the curve of his cheeks, the blueness of his eyes, the dip of his nose, the softness of his messy brown hair – everything seemed like the person her mind had spent years filing away as Kaito, and yet the man peering back at her did not seem to match it.
He wasn't Kaito.
But an illusion he made her see.
. . .Just give up,
There's nothing fragile to protect. . .
Kaito swiped his hands against his jeans, stuck for words to quell the stifling atmosphere, the silence droned against his eardrums. He swallowed, the inside of his throat felt as dry as sandpaper, and he struggled to grasp for words.
Slowly it dawned on him with a sickening feeling that there might have been nothing to say, and as soon as the thought crossed his mind, Kaito could only deal with the unavoidable conclusion that this might have been inevitable, after all. Always looming ahead of them, as though patiently awaiting their arrival after endless diversion and detours, and now, they have finally arrived at the end of their road.
This must be it.
He watched her move, stepping away from him, furthering the distance, and with another glance, she took the first step to leave, turning her back on him, and his fingers twitched to reach out, grab her by the shoulder and turn her around – because this, this couldn't be it. This wasn't what he signed up for when he first draped the cape over his shoulders – it wasn't – and yet he could do nothing but watch her silhouette disappear into the darken hallway until he thought he was seeing after-images that might have been her inside the welling darkness, and he felt something chugging away at him, gnawing at his stomach, and feeding on his heart—
There was a deafening sound.
He'd recognised it anywhere.
His heart slammed against his ribcage, blood was rushing inside his ears, rushing as though he was drowning and at the same breathing deep underwater, struggling with disbelief and denial, but there was this sound again – Pang! – and a part of him died right there at the spot, and when he rounded the corner, she saw her – sprawled on the ground, laying within a spreading pool of blood.
He barely believed his eyes as he neared her, brushing the hair away from her eyes, and her blue eyes move in their sockets, glancing at him through half-lidden eyes, her breath laboured, and it suddenly struck him that she was slowly dying. Even as he pressed his handkerchief onto her wound, the fabric soaked and dampened his fingers into the warm sticky liquid that trickled out of her body like freely flowing water.
For a moment, Kaito could barely believe she had been standing in front of him. Aoko made a noise from the back of her throat, breathing growing louder as she weakly gazes at him, her lips parted, moving.
He turned around, his eyes squinting at the figure standing at the end of the hallway, listening to the steps as the figure slowly neared them, and without another word, Kaito sneaked his hand under Aoko's legs and pulled her upper body towards his chest with his other, carefully holding onto her shoulders as he slowly pulled out his card gun, keeping an eye on the approaching figure as his other fingers curled around tiny smoke bombs.
The figure approached, a chilling laugh, and Kaito caught a silver glint in his hand, rising, and his own finger curled around his own card gun—
His shot landed first.
Kaito bit his tongue at the pain, briefly inspecting the wound on his upper arm, it barely
grazed his arm, and the fabric of his jacket dampened, trickling with a colour so dark it
rivalled the carpet. He spared a glance at Aoko, tiny droplets of sweat trickled from her face,
her once half-lidden eyes were now closed, her breathing uneven, and her face contorted – drip drip drip – his hand was bathed, and his shirt stained. His heart slammed against his chest, but he dared not imagine – did not allow his mind to roam of what would happen, if she did not make it alive. . .
(. . .and died, right there, on his arms)
He tightened her grip on her, his mind racing for—for what?
His heart slammed against his ribcage, overwhelmed by a sudden sensation of heat and avalanche of panic and nausea flooding through his senses, and he felt as though he needed to hurl – as though he needed to empty his entire guts right then and there at this spot.
He clenched his eyes shut.
Don't forget your Poker-face.
Use your brain.
Kaito took a deep breath and holstered her up in his arm. She took priority. She needed medical attention. Now.
Everything else was secondary.
He gazed at the figure slowly closing in on them, his gun glinting in dark.
"Are you surprised?" he finally asked, his free fingers brushing through his horseshoe moustache, his fedora hat worn low enough to conceal his eyes.
Kaito's jaw clenched.
Of course, who else would it be?
A twisted grin sneaked among his facial features. "You must have taken me for a fool. Did you really believe you could trick me that easily? Setting up this entire charade—yes, I have had my eyes on you right at beginning. Didn't think about that, did you, Kid?"
"I'm not—" The response was almost automatic—unconscious, perhaps, due to the multiple insinuations thrown at his face recently, and yet a single shot drove millimetres away from his left eye.
"Wasn't as simple as you thought, huh?" Snake said, tilting his head high enough to gaze at Kaito through his cold, murderous eyes. "I thought, I heard shabby trickster like prepare themselves for their little show, no?"
A shudder from his shoulder by pure realisation.
It can't be—
His heart slammed against his ribcage, and suddenly he felt too warm, too hot, and whilst he tried to breathe slowly, his lungs collapsed, his airways blocked off, and for a moment he couldn't breathe. His mind suspended as though someone had sneaked around his back and unplugged the chord that charged his entire being and electrified his mind.
Snake's grin was wide and satisfied, his rumbling laughter leaving his throat, quiet like a chilly breeze at a snowy mountain, "It's seems to be that you weren't as prepared as you thought, Kaitou Kid."
Kaito swallowed, struggling to maintain his poker-face as he rebooted, slowly realising what laid unspoken between the two of them. There was no other alternative – not other implication except that Snake had somehow figure out his identity. For what other reason would Snake have bothered to keep his eyes on him else?
But to think he would have suspected me right after I entered the Keishichō—
That didn't make sense.
There wasn't any time for that.
His gaze landed on the brunette on his arms. Right, priority.
He needed to get her out of here.
Kaito's finger curled around his tiny smoke bombs.
"I hate to disappoint but I do know my stage like the back of my hand. Seems like you've made a gross miscalculation," he said, maintaining eye contact as he let go of his tiny balls, readjusting his grip on Aoko with his other, enough to lean her against his chest without the support of his hands. ". . .mistaking me for Kid, that's it."
Kaito's lips twitched into a smile, and his finger secretly dived into his pocket, grasping his card gun as he shifted his gaze, staring behind the figure's head, "Hey, took you long enough."
Snake turned on his heels, his finger repeatedly pulling the trigger in quick seconds before his mind perceived the darkened hallway behind his back – empty without a single soul, except the little liar, now behind him and in another moment, Snake noticed the smoke flaring under his nostrils, caught up in front of his eyes like a veil concealing the retreating figures in front of him, even as he shot, repeatedly at the smoke. . .without success, they vanished into the welling veil of smoke like mirages receding from a distant eye. . .
Stuffing his Ruger into his back pocket, Snake vowed to crush him, stalking through the smoke, his dark eyes lingering somewhere ahead of him, trained at the hiding shadow fruitlessly running away from him. . .
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
"Uhm, Satō-san? I think, it's—"
"I'm pretty sure it's this way."
"We just need to turn here and then – huh?" Surprised, Satō stared at another dead-end for the fifth time in a row. "Maybe, it's a little farther than I expected?"
"No, I mean, perhaps, we should turn back?" Takagi suggested, his voice increasingly lowering into barely audible mumbles, "I saw a sign a little a while ago and I fear we've been walking in the wrong direction—"
"Of course not, Takagi!" Satō retorted, taking his doubts for the meekness in him that he still needed to knock out. She turned on her heels and tried the nearest hallway. It had to have the exit. She was confident it had been around here. . .
"Huh?" her brows shot up at the sight of another dead-end. The floor split into two seperate hallways, and Satō glanced at both, left and then right before she concluded, "Right is the way of justice, isn't it? Well then, let's go, Takagi!"
"I don't think it applies here!" he called after her, and like always, it fell on deaf ears as the dark-haired woman already tackled the next corridor.
Takagi sighed and followed despite his urge to swat this strange sense of direction guiding her out of her head and pull her toward the complete opposite direction, because, we were walking down the wrong way, for heaven sake!
"Hurry or I'll leave you behind!"
"I can't anymore!" Reika gritted out, winded and tired, suffering from side stitches. She didn't even dare glance back for fear she'd stumble over own two feet and fall flat on the ground.
"Just around this corner!" Itsuki said, between breaths, carrying the little girl under his arm like a sack of potato, and with another little push of energy they rounded the corner. . .
"See? Didn't I say it was around here?"
It was more of Satō's happiness at her accomplishment than pride to point further out in front of them, and lo and behold, the yellow door of the fire exit was right ahead of them. Takagi still could barely believe it, and he still grappled with the notion whether it was pure luck or some questionable display of fate that took pity on his desperation to get out of here.
"Yes, I guess. . ." Takagi mumbled, still staring at the door Satō was attempting to wedge open by pure force. Could it be locked? "Perhaps, we should try to find the entrance—?"
"And walk all the way back?" Satō challenged with a furrow of her brows, her hand was already grasping her gun from its holster, clicking off the safety, and shooting at the squared glass framing the door, the butt of her gun hitting against the broken glass hard enough to brittle the shards into a hole, wide enough to fit her hand inside, and Takagi was ready to let her know that it was unlikely for the door to have a lock at the other side of the door when – Chink! – it actually had.
"You were saying?" Satō said, raising a brow at him as she pushed the door open, and it was at this point, Takagi decided that Miwako Satō had either unbelievable luck, or gave brith to strange miracles wherever she went. . .
His lips twitched into a smile. "My bad."
Satō grinned back, and he opened her mouth to speak when something caught the corner of her eyes, and she froze for a moment before she grabbed her colleague by his collar, pulling him close enough to elicit a blush from him, and he plucked his lips automatically and yet he met nothing but the stale air. She whipped past him, charging forward to grab the man by his arm, and threw him over her shoulder, and at the ground, with nothing other than brute strength and the momentum of her body.
The man's grip on the girl loosened, enough for her to free herself, and it was at this point Satō's hand dived into her breast pocket, holding her ID up high as she charged the man for kidnapping. He only spluttered in pain and disbelief.
"Are you okay, Haibara-san?" Takagi asked, finally getting his bearings together, and glancing over the petite girl for any visible injuries. She glanced at him, and the shifted her gaze at Itsuki, her lips twitching as she gave him a pointed stare as though to say, Serves you right.
He snorted under the weight of the police officer, "Must be my punishment for involving you."
"Is that a confession?" Satō asked, getting out her handcuffs. "Anything you'll say will be used against you in court. Although, you do have the right to remain silent."
"You know. . ." he started, eyeing the handcuffs warily before he glanced at Ai. "This is the part, you tell her I'm not your kidnapper."
"Oh, you're not?" Ai said, raising a disbelieving brow, before she snorted, considering all that happened, he surely could be described as one. "Take him away, officers. He's a lolicon."
"What?" Itsuki couldn't believe his own ears, and the pressure on his back applied under officer's Satō's ignited wrath.
"Joking." Ai said, redirecting her sharp gaze at the end of the corridor, empty without a soul besides five of them. "But if there's anyone you need to arrest it's those two women—"
"Who?" Satō asked, furrowing her brows, as her gaze caught Takagi helping the other woman up to her feet, having collapsed out of fatigue, and beneath her Itsuki cried from the pressure.
"Ah, sorry." She smiled sheepishly, climbing onto her feet and pulling him along with her as she grabbed him by his arm.
"Nope, I'd like to hear more about this at the station. Haibara-san, would you mind accompanying me?"
"No, of course not." Ai said, her lips stretching into a smirk, gazing at the disguised officer calculatedly as though she devised the entire scheme. His gaze furrowed at her, disapprovingly. Ai gave him stringent look. "Do you have any complains?"
The usual smile on his face fell away at the sheer dread what else this little girl planned to pay him back. "For a little girl, you surprisingly hold grudges."
"So? I'm a little girl and I don't need to be reasonable." She retorted, crossing her arms, her gaze wandering toward the surprised look Satō and Takagi shared after conversing with the maroon haired, and she figured both of them figured Itsuki was an officer after all, as Takagi dived into his pocket to pull out his ID, and with clear evidences in front of them, they had to renounce his standing as a kidnapper, for the time being.
"Why didn't you say so?" Satō said, sighing as she frowned at him, even as the other only muttered that they wouldn't have believed him anyway, before he held his cuffed hands up.
"If you would be so kind?"
Sighing, Satō complied. "I still liked to hear about those women you mentioned before . . ."
"You really wanted to arrest someone today, didn't you?" Takagi mumbled under his breath, supporting the woman to take the first step to climb down the fire steps. "Since it couldn't be the culprit, you chose a stranger and now. . ."
"Did you say something Takagi?"
". . .Nothing."
Ai smiled, watching them from a distance. "He should speak up more."
"Of course, that's coming from you." Itsuki snorted, climbing down the stairs behind her.
"Quiet. I'm still not done with you," she glared at him, shutting hum up into silence, and she sighed as the cold wind wafted against her face. At last, it was over. It would be a long time before she could look at a stranger without suspecting any hidden agendas. A heist was one thing, a murder another, a combination of these two events wasn't up to her standards, neither was a bunch of crazy officers.
What did I do to deserve to deal with this?
Ai sighed and swiped her gaze over the rails, down below where the people crowded the area like colourful minuscule dots, and her ears were assaulted by the obnoxious loud cries of red flashing ambulances flooding to the scenes. She craned her neck to look at the waterfall splashing on the side of the building, engulfed in bright flames, and she wondered how she didn't notice the fire trucks in front of the building, barely visible as they were clouded by welling smoke. The gallery was a wreck, its windows somehow still intact the bared panes of glass, yet its layers of floors was sunken, barely keeping itself from collapsing, and for a moment Ai couldn't believe she got out of it without a single scratch.
Her question was met with silence, and she turned around to inspect her surroundings, she noticed she stood alone.
Aoko didn't know what caused this. . .
Tragic, they called it.
For the next subsequent months, the news streamlined these tragic events in small instalments, updating the same news headline with tiny snippets of Intel News-Reporters would somehow steal from tight-lipped officers every hour for the next twenty-four hours of every week for the next ninety-something days. Tragic, they said.
"A tragic episode caused by unforeseen circumstances."
They radio droned from Aoko's bedside table. Perched on her lap sat a dictionary. Open paged on the letter T. Headlined TR – third letter – A. Tragic(adj.) – That which causes or characterises extreme distress or sorrow.
Her fingers clenched on top of the page. It wasn't enough. Not good enough. Not truthful enough. Not anything enough. Her finger wandered down the text, guiding her eyes underneath the caption, its second subtext outlined – A. Tragic(adj.) – Relating to tragedy in a literary work.
Literary work, she thought, thinking of books and narratives, fabricated lies written in pages upon pages on paper. Literary works. They were nothing but veils of lies and deceit coating the words and fooling the mind just like dexterous fingers and tricks deceived the eyes.
He was nothing but a bunch of lies.
Was it her loneliness?
She slumped on the ground without much thought – without much awareness of what was going on – she had heard the Bang! – she had felt the ghost of a pain stinging somewhere around her lower abdomen, and somehow someone must have pulled the carpet beneath her feet. (Maybe another cheap trick from Kaito?) Her knees buckled and her nose buried into the tiny tassels of its fabric, light-headed and suddenly so heavy, she could barely register her own thoughts, and yet a pair of blue eyes stared at her, wide-open, and in retrospect there was a certainty panic glinting inside the shades of blue, desperation perhaps, but at that time she could only recognise that glimmer on his face as though he was buckling under the pressure – as though he a breath away from giving away and bursting into tears just by the sheer —by the sheer what?
No, that didn't fit.
Not that he didn't seem helpless – stuck in a state of confusion that captured that moment when you know you need to act without knowing which steps to take. That moment, you desire nothing but the ability to freeze time and stop every ounce of blood flowing through each torn tissue, getting everything under control before. . .before. . .Before what?
The afterthought carried a bitter taste on her tongue she still couldn't get rid of – it had been days (she wished, months) since that horrible moment and yet desired to wedge it somewhere in the corner of her life that belonged to a distant past – a time light years away – and somehow completely forgotten, not only by her but everyone else.
She pinched her eyes shut and forced it back open when his face flashed into her mind again.
If only she could forget. . .
Has she grown bored with the familiar cold and stillness that her house now is?
Kaito tightened his grip on Aoko, as he ran as fast as his leg could get him, and whilst he was incredibly slower than usual, with his careful attention to her injury and the addition of her weight, the influx of adrenaline was enough to make up in speed, or so he'd like to think. He truly didn't know what would have happened if that person managed to land a luck shot on him as well. . .
Another gun fire, booming across the halls and echoing inside his ears, and Kaito turned right, ran the corridor down, down, down, and down the following stairs, jumping two at a time, and almost slipping at the third. . .wait, slipping? He gritted his teeth at the trail of blood smearing across the floor.
Like this there's no-way she would make it!
Either way. . .
This might have been karma. Or the hubris of her own character that finally showed this late into the game. Her gluttonous punishment, perhaps. A punishment of sorts for having attempted to overcome her insecurities by pressuring others with vows and promise for nothing other than a piece of mind – for nothing other than granting her own wish for blindly trusting in others – to hold on, relentlessly, stubbornly, selfishly.
She slipped in and out of consciousness, the minutes – hours? – stripped past in seconds, in each brief fluttering of her lids, and yet the sight was unmistakable.
Before her – blurry in shape, and yet she recognised that blob of brown hair, like the colour of the earth and the eyes so blue it matched the summer sky, that glimmer on his face, without a hat and yet that monocle, those gloves hands, grazing her cheek, the strip of white blazer that momentarily caught her gaze as she shifted her in his arms. . .
This couldn't be.
This can't be. . .
. . .as she stood face to face with this one visage that she had come to love and associate with Kaito. . .
Her fingers had fisted on his shirt, pink, red, blue, her vision blurred, the colours smudged, and yet she saw the darkened sky, the lightening small stars, and perhaps she must be dreaming, her mind amiss and still lying shocked on the she first fell, nose buried deep into the carpet, and yet her fingers fisted on the fabric, strenuously, and yet felt between her fingers, or was this sensation felt subconsciously in dreams?
His eyes caught off guard, without a poker face, or was this another form of a concealed face? She didn't know, still grappling with the fine line of reality and illusion – could this have been another trick? An optical illusion?
. . .covered in white, hat on the floor and mouth agape. . .
Kaito's heart clenched at the state of her expression as her eyes shook in their sockets and her shoulders trembled. And that's when he realised that she could plainly see his hair and blue eyes despite his monocle. He was hit with his own momentum of shock when he heard Jii-chan chiding him in his head to be careful, and he wondered when exactly his plan started to fall apart in tatters.
His lips twitched, shifted, mouthed words – or a spell? – of things she couldn't read nor see. His image faded in front of her eyes into tiny white pixels, zigzagged achromatic lines before they darkened into black, and her mind took off - to sleep perhaps, into a strangely limbo where she was constantly revisiting, revising the this fictionalised – or real? – narrative form of her memory. . .
"I can explain," a bare whisper. . .
Aoko flipped through the dictionary perched on her lap, pages upon pages. Guile. Guild. Guil—
Ah, there it was.
Item C. Letter G. Headlined GU – third letter I – Guilt (n.) — The fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime).
She knew wouldn't get a louder confession than that.
Tragic, they called it.
"A tragic episode caused by unforeseen circumstances."
Caught between two sheets since she first woke up on an unrelentingly uncomfortable bed, Aoko could only attach it under the subheading of literary work, and any other methods to create fabrications of lies and deceit to fool the mind just like dexterous fingers and that tricks deceived the eyes.
But not anymore.
She has had enough.
She was already gone.