Disclaimer: I do not own either series or any of the characters and places described within this work. All of the characters, places, and storylines belong to their respective creators, and I gain nothing from the creation or distribution of this crossover story, save a certain value of entertainment. Oh, and writing practice. :p

Author Notes: Happy Birthday, Naoto! I posted a chapter on Shinichi's birthday last year, this year you get a chapter on Naoto's birthday! (Ok, that wasn't the original plan, but still...) This is the lead-up to the next kidnapping, and I'm having trouble building the Shadow for our next victim. Please join me in my Discord chat "A Place in the Mist" (invite code: f6ZFNnh) if you'd like to help me.

For those following the notes, eye surgery went very well and my vision is nearly back to normal. Which frustrates me because it took all of 3 weeks to be back to normal after open-heart surgery, and I'm still not totally back to normal some 6 weeks or so after a much less invasive surgery. Guess part of it is that kids (I was 4 for the heart surgery) bounce back faster. Still, other than getting overstimulated in the grocery store (it hurts if I roll my eye around too much) and occasionally having trouble reading subs on the TV from all the way across the room (solution: sit a little closer, silly) I'm good.


20: Bank Robber

~*~ Mouri Ran ~*~

"Tadaima!" Ran and Conan-kun both called out as they walked back into Amagiya Friday night. It was dark out by now, since it had gotten rather late on their way from the Dojima house. Narukami-senpai had been a little loathe to let them walk home alone, until Ran had reminded him that it would be quiet and she was quite capable of taking out anyone stupid enough to try attacking them. Dojima-keiji's report of a bank robber had clearly disturbed him. According to the police, the robber had been foiled, but it was still the type of news one didn't expect to hear in such a quiet little town. Ran smiled, remembering the way Naoto-kun had reacted to Narukami-senpai's insistence on taking her home. They'd still been arguing when Ran and Conan-kun left, but had apparently eventually compromised by taking the scooter—Ran had heard it leaving the street as they rounded the corner.

"Okaeri!" Yukiko-senpai greeted happily from behind the counter.

"Ran-chan! Conan-kun! Okaeri!" Kazuha-chan bounced up from the chair she'd been sitting in, not quite clapping her hands in excitement. "Heiji's awake! He went ta take a bath… keeps insistin' he's fine. Honestly, he's been asleep since he got back on Tuesday, and now he wakes up and says he's fine? Could barely stay awake ta eat last night after I brought 'im food… and then this afternoon just after Yukiko-san got home he woke up an' says he's totally fine."

"But I woke up fine when I recovered… can I go find Heiji-niichan?" Conan-kun asked, busily kicking off his shoes and dumping his bag in the corner. "I promise I'll make sure he's really alright, and I already finished all my homework."

"That's great," Ran smiled as she set her bag down more carefully next to Conan-kun's and took her shoes off at a much slower pace. "No running, Conan-kun! I know you want to check on Hattori-kun but if you run around in sock feet, you'll fall."

"I'll be fine!"

"He'll be in the open-air bath," Yukiko-senpai volunteered. "It's open for guys at the moment."

"Prolly a good idea if ya go in with him," Kazuha-chan said, shrugging. "I dunno if I really think he's recovered yet, but he wuz insistin' he's fine… Promise me you'll make sure he doesn' fall asleep inna bath, okay?"

"I promise, Kazuha-neechan!" Conan-kun assured her, grinning. Then he took off down the hallway without waiting for any of them to say more, just short of running.

Ran frowned, not exactly pleased at how closely he was sticking to the letter of what she'd said. Clearly he's very eager to talk to Hattori-kun. Or perhaps he's just had enough of girls for the moment? No, he was with Narukami-senpai all afternoon, not listening to us. Once he'd disappeared around the corner, she returned her attention to the other girls. "Conan-kun's right, Hattori-kun probably is alright now. He stayed awake long enough to finish eating last night, right?"

"Yeah…" Kazuha-chan didn't sound as confident. She frowned at the hallway leading to the onsen. "Th' aho spent half the afternoon insistin' he's totally fine, after he spent all mornin' an' half the afternoon sleepin'… on top o' sleepin' fer the last three days…"

"He's barely been out for seventy-two hours," Yukiko-senpai argued. "That particular cold usually hits people a lot harder."

"You didn't get to see the way Conan-kun dragged me around Okina City right after he woke up," Ran added. "Granted we started the day by having coffee with Narukami-senpai and Naoto-kun, but even that doesn't explain how much energy he had. I guess he'd just slept too much."

"Oh, right, you mentioned somethin' about that… only I didn't get a chance ta ask anythin' more about it, ya were tired when ya got home. An' then th' next day Heiji went missin'… and came back sick…"

Ran smiled, deciding to tease her friend a little in an effort to cheer the other girl up again. "Hattori-kun is a grown man, he's perfectly capable of taking care of himself." She had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing at Kazuha-chan's reaction.

"Grown man? Are you kidding?" Kazuha-chan demanded. "Heiji's a teenage boy! One who apparently doesn't know when ta come in outta the rain sometimes! He's always going off by himself, gettin' inta all sortsa weird scrapes an' cases…"

Ran cut her rant off by putting a hand over her mouth. "I'm right here, you don't have to yell. Want to take your frustration out on ping-pong balls?"

"That'd be more productive than yelling in the front lobby," Yukiko-senpai observed dryly. She was smiling, though, so Ran knew she wasn't actually mad at them. "Can I play the winner? Not much point in sitting here and my homework's already done. Did you get the chance to finish yours yet, Ran-chan?"

"Oh, right, school," Kazuha-chan groaned. "I forgot yer actually at school here. It feels weird ta be away from school fer so long… how'd ya end up attendin' here again?"

"Yes, we worked on homework while we were waiting for Dojima-keiji to get home," Ran told Yukiko-senpai. "I'm here on a temporary transfer, Kazuha-chan. We can probably figure one out for you and Hattori-kun if you like."

"Just hope you don't wind up in the same class as Ran-chan." Yukiko-senpai shuddered visibly, probably remembering her own half-a-year in Kashiwagi's homeroom. "Kashiwagi-sensei hates our group… Nao-chan and Rise-chan in particular, but none of us are on her good side."

"It prolly isn't personal." She glanced between the two girls. "Right?"

"No, it definitely is. You'll understand if you spend a day or two in classes with her," Ran insisted. "C'mon, let's go play ping-pong. Or at least do something… is Otousan back yet?"

"Nope." Yukiko-senpai moved something that hit the desk with a bang—probably stacking up schoolbooks. "And I'm done waiting for him. Got a text from Rise-chan about ten minutes ago saying that the adults said something about going drinking. She's miffed 'cause it means she has to walk home, in the dark…"

"And there was an attempted robbery at the bank," Ran mentioned, worried. "Is she going to be okay? Narukami-senpai wouldn't let Naoto-kun walk home by herself…"

"A bank robbery? Why wasn't it on the news?"

"'Cause it happened at about quarter ta five?" Kazuha-chan suggested. "Th' idiot's in custody, though, so it won't matter. An' they did mention it on th' news, but ya were on the phone. I hafta go down ta the TV station tommara afternoon fer an interview. I wuz gonna ask if we c'n borrow th' Inn's bike ta get there…"

"Were you at the bank when it got robbed?" Yukiko-senpai asked, staring at Kazuha-chan in obvious shock. "I remember you said you were going there this afternoon, but you got back before the six o'clock news started…"

"You were the one who nailed the guy!" Ran guessed, also staring at Kazuha-chan. "Dojima-keiji said he'd been caught before he could actually start making demands, because one of the customers recognized that his gun was fake and pinned him."

"Really? You pinned a bank robber?" Yukiko-senpai sounded very impressed now, her eyes shining with something that looked like delight.

"I pinned an idiot who'd come in and waved a capgun around," Kazuha-chan deadpanned. "It's not all that impressive. There're a lotta idiots around. Everybody else was scared 'cause they couldn't tell th' gun wuz fake, that's all."

"I'll make sure the bike's available for you tomorrow," Yukiko-senpai promised enthusiastically. "You have your license?"

"No, but Heiji's had his for more than a year, an' I ride on th' back of his bike all the time. I figure since he's awake an' insistin' he's fine, he c'n drive me out ta the interview. He knows where th' station is from his own interview last week anyway."

"That sounds like a good plan," Ran agreed. "So… ping-pong?"

"Alright, let's go play."


~*~ Shirogane Naoto ~*~

Naoto was rather relieved when the school day came to an end. Saturday was a short day, but they'd had English class and Kondo-sensei had annoyed her again. He's a perfectly good gym teacher. For about the tenth time since Ran-san had joined their class, Naoto was grateful for her presence and her backup. One more time that Kondo-sensei had been unable to kick her out of class because someone agreed with her.

"I'm rather glad that's over," Ran-san muttered as the three girls entered the hallway together. "Why won't he listen when we tell him the word is correct and just used differently?"

"Because Kondo-sensei cannot stand being told that he is wrong," Naoto observed dryly. "He is quite convinced that he's qualified to teach English…"

"Even though it's really obvious that he's not." The comment was all the more reassuring for the fact that it came from Rise-san, who wasn't good at English in the slightest.

"Kondo-sensei tick ya off again?" Tatsumi-kun asked as he joined them. Naoto simply nodded.

"Well, the day is over now. Time to go meet up with everyone at Junes and explain Shadows and Personae to Hattori," Ran-san reminded them.

"Which you think will be immensely difficult." Naoto couldn't really blame her for presuming that the task would be a daunting one. Detectives tended to be rather down-to-earth, and the whole idea of Shadows and Personae and going through the telly screen would have been completely absurd if she hadn't done it herself and seen that these things were real.

Ran-san shrugged. "I know detectives. Then again, Shinichi talked to him last night while Yukiko-senpai and I played ping-pong with Kazuha-chan."

"Ugh, don't remind me about last night… the adults all went out drinking, and I had to walk home by myself, in the dark…" Rise-san complained as the three girls picked up their things and headed out into the hallway.

"At least you didn't have to argue about going home by yourself," Naoto grumbled, thinking of how Yu had insisted on taking her home last night. She'd at least gotten the concession of him taking the bike, mostly by arguing that he'd be in just as much danger walking back by himself, but still… it stung sometimes, being reminded that she was female, and thus most people would assume she was 'easy prey'.

"Yu-senpai almost wouldn't let us go on our own," Ran-san remarked. She'd eventually been able to convince Yu that she'd be fine. Ran-san, after all, was nidan in karate, and 'Conan-kun' had a few tricks up his sleeves. "But you ended up getting to ride with him… I wish I could ride like that. I've been sorta tempted to look into getting a motorcycle license myself, but I'd really rather try and talk Shinichi into getting one so I could ride on the back… like Kazuha-chan gets to do all the time."

Romantic? Clearly that's what she means, but… well, I suppose in a certain sense it is, since you have to hold on. But… at the same time… I'm just glad it was dark out so there weren't many people who would see… even if anyone did spot us we'd be at least a little hard to recognize in the dark and with the helmets on. "Are you sure you're Japanese?" Naoto asked. "Perhaps you've had too much American influence."

Ran-san turned bright red. "No! I'm Japanese!"

"Of course you're Japanese," Satonaka-san agreed as the third-years joined them on the staircase. "Why is that a question?"

"Nao-chan's just being a prude," Rise-san assured her. "Apparently Senpai gave her a ride home last night and she was embarrassed about being on the back of Senpai's bike… but Ran-chan thought it sounded romantic."

Hanamura-senpai elbowed Yu in the ribs. "Lucky."

"It totally does sound romantic," Amagi-senpai insisted, smiling at the younger girls.

"You didn't have any trouble getting home safely, did you, Rise-san?" Ran-san asked

"Huh? I'm fine, yeah," Rise-san sounded confused. "Why would there have been a problem with getting home?"

"You did not hear about the attempted robbery, then," Naoto guessed. "That was why Senpai did not want me walking alone." Yu nodded in quiet agreement with this, but Hanamura-senpai and Satonaka-senpai looked confused.

"Attempted robbery?" Tatsumi-kun sounded confused. "Last night? Where?"

"The bank in the Shopping District," Ran-san explained quickly.

"What's this about a robber?" Hanamura-senpai asked.

"Oh, I forgot about that," Amagi-senpai remarked. "Apparently there was a crazy guy with a fake gun at the bank when Toyama-san went there, and she pinned him so the police could arrest him."

"Izzat why there were three police cars in th' Shopping District about dinnertime?" Tatsumi-kun asked.

"He had a gun?" Rise-san sounded scared now.

"Not a real one, Dojima-san said," Naoto broke in immediately, not wanting to deal with Rise-san deciding to have hysterics. She's a drama queen, yes, but she doesn't do 'fit of hysterics' like a British aristocrat. No one does 'having the hysterics' like British aristocracy.

"Kazuha-chan insisted that it was a toy and he was an idiot," Ran-san's tone was reassuring. "She pinned him and got someone else to call the cops. Kazuha-chan has an interview scheduled with the TV station today, she was going to have Hattori-kun drop her off at the station."

"I know Ojiisan said the robber had been caught with the assistance of a civilian," Yu added, "but he didn't say who it was… or how they caught the guy."

"Kazuha-chan has Aikido training, and since her father is second-in-command of the Osaka police, she knows exactly what a real gun looks like," Ran-san elaborated.

"Yeah, she explained all that when Ran-san mentioned the robbery," Amagi-senpai added.

"Wait, your friend was at the bank when it got robbed and you're not worried?" Rise-san sounded like she was rather worried. Odd, considering that as far as Naoto knew, Rise-san had never met the Osakan girl in question.

"Kazuha-chan didn't seem particularly upset by it." Ran-san shrugged. "She was more miffed about Hattori insisting that he was fine the minute he woke up. I dragged her off to play ping-pong while Conan-kun talked to Hattori-kun."

"I hope he at least thought to give Hattori-kun a basic briefing," Amagi-senpai added, nodding along with Ran-san's explanation. "Otherwise this meeting could get confusing."

"It's a lot easier to believe something that you've actually seen in action," Naoto assured them as the group reached the bottom of the stairs. "I doubt it will be overly stressful, however I would not like to keep him waiting overlong."

"Hattori-kun promised he'd drop Kazuha-chan off for her TV interview," Ran-san insisted. "He won't be particularly early… they were going to borrow the Amagiya's scooter so that he could drop Kazuha-chan off and still make it to our meeting on time."

"Yeah, I think he said he'd be leaving around the time school let out?" Amagi-senpai added. "So he'll probably get to Junes right around the same time we do… unless we decide to take our time with changing shoes or something."

"Did anyone send someone to pick up Conan-kun?" Ran-san asked. Everyone shook their heads.

"Sorry… should I have told Kumakichi to go get him?" Hanamura-senpai asked.

"I am quite certain that the boy will be fine. It is not a lesson day, so I doubt Nanako-chan would try to drag him anywhere."

"Apparently Nanako-chan reminds him of his classmate Ayumi-chan," Yu remarked. "Let's change quickly and get going." The group immediately broke up, everyone hurrying to their own lockers.

Naoto changed her school shoes for her street shoes as fast as she could manage, glad she hadn't gotten a top locker. Ran-san managed the top locker just fine, but Naoto was rather significantly shorter than her Tokyoite friend. It did not take long for the group to reconvene at the doors.

"Let's go," Naoto suggested, surprised that no one else had said it yet. She led the way through the doors and out the school gates. Everyone sort of broke into smaller groups as they spread out so as not to block the path. Yu quickly caught up with Naoto.

"You're not still mad at me about last night, are you?" he asked, careful to keep his voice quiet enough that none of the others strung out behind them would hear.

Naoto risked one quick glance back, just to make absolutely sure none of the others had heard, and noted that oddly they were the only boy-and-girl pair. Directly behind Naoto and Yu were Ran-san and Rise-san, then the third-year girls, with the boys pulling up the rear. Naoto could just hear the discussion that Ran-san and Rise-san were having, apparently about the attempted bank robbery. Turning back to her boyfriend again, Naoto sighed. "I guess not. I do understand… it is simply that I am unused to being treated as… delicate."

"It isn't that I don't believe in your abilities," Yu hastened to assure her, "it's simply that I want to protect you. Shinchi-kun was grumping about that last night too; the down side to having a strong girlfriend is that you don't get to play protector much."

Naoto frowned. "And you want to do that?"

Yu gave her a somewhat sheepish grin. "All guys want to protect those who are important to them."

"Is that why you gave up so quickly on the argument with Ran-san? She's not important enough to you for you to want to protect her?"

"Not the same way you are."

"Did you know Rise-san walked home alone last night?"

"No… is she alright?"

"She's fine, just miffed at the adults for going out drinking without remembering that she has farther to go to get home."

"She probably could have called someone if she was really upset about it." Yu shrugged the whole issue off. "I didn't mean to upset you… with the bike, I mean… it really did seem like the best compromise."

"Which it was," Naoto allowed. "I just… the public closeness can be a little embarrassing. Although apparently Ran-san doesn't think so."

"Said something about wishing Shinichi-kun had his license, did she?"

"How'd you guess?"

"Shinichi-kun may have muttered something about thinking that he ought to get such a license…"

"Tell him it's a good idea, then. Or is it not very useful in Tokyo?"

"That I'm not sure of, since I don't actually have a bike in Tokyo. There's no way my father would allow it; not something that would give me so much freedom."

"Ran-san does not seem to think the lack of it impairs her freedom."

"Oh, it doesn't. Tokyo's pretty easy to get around in, once you get used to the crowded subways and sidewalks… and once you learn your way around the place. If you don't know exactly how to get where you're going, or at least how to find a koban where you can ask for more specific directions, it's very easy to get lost. I've done that a few times, going into areas of the city I'm not as familiar with."

"Inaba was hard to get around in at first," Naoto reminisced. "I got lost a couple times, when I first arrived last May."

"But here you can stop anyone and ask for directions. In Tokyo most people are far too busy to help a random stranger figure out what street they're on."

"And yet a motorbike would be too much freedom."

"I've told you before that my father is rather restrictive."

"You have mentioned that. You've never really explained it, though."

"I don't know how to explain it. He just… I guess he sees me as an extension of himself or something. I'm not allowed to do what I want… not allowed to stay at home alone, even just for a weekend while my parents are away. Any time Otousan is away on business, Okaasan is either required to stay at home with me or to assign me somewhere else to stay. I got lucky last year when she sent me here."

"Because Dojima-san let you go out on your own. Because as much as the end of the year was torture, you were still allowed to stay on your own, without oppressive rules hanging over your head."

"Otousan would never have let me stay out late, or work anywhere part-time, or choose my own activities with the same level of freedom that Ojiisan gave me."

"Though there's really not a great deal to do here in Inaba."

"Even the freedom to do nothing is still freedom I haven't had," Yu pointed out. "Otousan still doesn't know I have a girlfriend…"

"You sound as though that bothers you… or as though you are afraid it will upset me. I do understand about secrets, you know."

"That's not it," Yu sighed, tucking his hands into his pockets and staring up at the sky as if the clear blue above them would give him some sort of answer that he was lacking. "It's more… Otousan has chosen someone that he wants me to marry."

"What?" Naoto stopped in her tracks, which attracted the immediate attention of the rest of the group.

"Is something wrong?" Ran-san asked.

"Nao-chan?"

"Did you two have a fight?" Amagi-senpai sounded worried.

"I doubt it, they never fight," Satonaka-senpai remarked.

Yu frowned, reaching out to grab Naoto's wrist and propel her forward again. "It's nothing," he assured the team. "I just said something Naoto wasn't expecting." This was true, and everyone seemed to take that at face value, but Naoto was still rather startled by the excuse, and by the fact that he was practically dragging her had to scramble to take two steps to match his longer strides.

"Yu!" she protested when she realised he wasn't aware that he was dragging her. Or that it attracted even more concerned attention from their friends. What…? Why is he so upset? Is he mad at me for being startled? But he's never said anything remotely to that effect before…

He stopped. "Sorry… wasn't thinking… not something I want to explain to the others, really… even Ran-san doesn't know that part. At least, I don't think she does?" He'd dropped her wrist and reverted to walking at her pace, though now his left hand was resting on her back, as though he were guiding her.

Naoto looked at the road ahead of them, very aware of the heat of his hand on her low back and trying not to blush over the possessive way he handled her. "Why would Ran-san know?"

"Suzuki is Ran-san's best friend."

"And that's who your father wants you to marry? This… Suzuki?"

"Suzuki Sonoko," Yu elaborated, his tone flat. "Fortune Arcana. She's a second-year at Teitan High, in class 2-A with Ran-san. Those two have known each other since nursery school. I've only really known them since middle school. When Suzuki started middle school, Otousan and her mother decided to match us up. It was obvious from the start that it wasn't going to work; back then neither of us had anyone we were interested in, but one meeting told us we weren't meant for one another. Unfortunately it's been a lot harder to convince our respective parents of that."

"Yet your mother seems more willing to give you some level of freedom," Naoto prompted, certain that she needed to hear the whole issue out. Maybe she could help, maybe not, but explaining it to her would ease Yu's burden.

"Okaasan wants to let me choose my own path," Yu sighed. "Unfortunately she can't really overrule Otousan. Not directly, at any rate. I've told her about you, and she's supportive… but… I still have to deal with Otousan, and Okaasan can't really help with that. She tries, like with getting me out here… but there's only so much she can actually manage."

"Working against him covertly to allow you as much freedom as possible without alerting him," Naoto guessed. "That… has to be rough." I've always been allowed the freedom to chose my path. I chose to follow in the footsteps of my forefathers. I chose to become a detective. I hide behind a veneer of masculinity, but that too is my own choice. Yu… has not had that choice. Now I see what he meant about being unsure that the path he wants to take will be open to him. "What does your father want you to do?"

"Father is a fairly high-ranked employee of the Suzuki Zaibatsu," Yu explained, glancing over his shoulder to make sure they were far enough ahead of the others that no one else would hear. Clearly this was something he wasn't ready to share with the team. "He mostly wants me to follow his footsteps—study business in college and join the Suzuki Zaibatsu. Actually, it seems more like he wants to make me the President's successor. That's why he's been trying to push me at Suzuki."

"She's the heiress of the Suzuki Zaibatsu, due to be the next president. If you married her, the position would possibly go to you instead… and if it did not you'd be very highly ranked indeed." Naoto frowned. Yu doesn't like dealing with business stuff. He isn't manager material. I've seen him trying to help Hanamura-senpai with things at Junes, but while Hanamura-senpai is good with all the bits and pieces of management, Yu isn't. He's a lot better with kids, and would make a much better teacher. Yet he's being pushed into a job that would make him miserable, and pushed at a girl he doesn't care for… "I don't get the impression that you dislike this 'Suzuki' girl…?"

"No, she's nice enough. The real problem is that neither of us actually want to run the Suzuki Zaibatsu. She's stuck with it, because her older sister is marrying into another Zaibatsu—I forgot which, though. That being stuck is what makes Suzuki Fortune Arcana instead of Empress like Mitsuru-san."

"So your father is pushing you to marry her, but neither of you see each other that way, and her parents are also pushing at her…"

"Just her mother. Her father is a lot more reasonable, likes her boyfriend well enough."

"Her boyfriend?" Naoto tried not to find it reassuring to hear that this girl was interested in someone else, and therefore most definitely not competition for Yu, but… well, it was hard to believe that Yu was interested in a socially awkward tomboy like Naoto.

"A karate star by the name of Kyogoku Makoto," Yu explained. "I've never met him, but Suzuki talks about him a lot. Apparently he first saw her at some competition Ran-san was in, and admired the way she was so ardently supporting her best friend. Suzuki and Ran-san have a friendship that's sort of like Amagi and Satonaka."

Naoto nodded, not entirely sure she believed the comparison, but understanding what he meant by it. "But her mother does not approve of this karate boy, and would rather see her with you."

"Which is really annoying, because Suzuki is not my type at all… she isn't dumb, but… well…" he trailed off, apparently unable to come up with the right descriptives.

"So you've spent the last three or four years trying to dodge various attempts to set you up with this girl."

"Something like that. Since we both have the same opinion on the whole mess—we can totally be friends but we're not right for one another—it doesn't tend to get awkward. Ayako-san helps where she can, but since she's six or seven years older than us, there's not really a whole lot she can do because she isn't around as much."

"Ayako-san?"

"Suzuki's older sister."

"So you have some assistance, but not much."

"Suzuki has managed to keep me from getting dragged along to KID heists—she takes Ran-san to those. I can usually dodge anything Ran-san is attending, because apparently Ran-san is someone both of Suzuki's parents approve of as a friend."

"That… has to be rather confusing. I cannot imagine having to deal with older family members choosing who I am permitted to befriend, or required to at least pretend to date."

"Okaasan hates that Otousan does that to me, but she doesn't have enough pull anywhere to get me out of the mess. I get the impression that she'd like to kick him out of our lives, but she's not sure that she'd be able to manage it legally."

"He'd probably have access to better lawyers, and it sounds like he'd be likely to focus on getting control of you first. She'd be able to get away, but only by giving up on you."

"Which she's promised she won't do."

"You've discussed this?" Naoto was rather surprised. That doesn't seem like something an adult would willingly discuss with a child—even a teenager.

"Last year, before I left for Inaba. I was initially pretty upset, because it meant leaving everything I knew to go stay with someone I didn't remember ever meeting before. Okaasan explained that it was the best way to give me some level of freedom. Ojiisan wouldn't be as controlling as Otousan, she promised. She told me she'd rather leave me in her brother's care than under the wing of someone Otousan picked out. I still wasn't too happy about it when I first arrived here… but by the time May rolled around I was starting to understand what Okaasan had given me."

"Freedom to find out who you were—are."

"Exactly. And I was able to make friends without anyone trying to tell me who should or should not be my friend."

"And now you've learned a lot. About who you want to be, about what independence means…"

"About life in general and who I want to share it with," he smiled down at her, and Naoto felt her face heating up again. She quickly looked down, finding it easier to look at his chest. One of the buttons on his jacket was loose.

"You should fix your button," Naoto observed distractedly.

"Huh? My button?"

"This one," Naoto poked it. "It's loose, if you don't fix it you might lose it. Unfortunately that is not something I can assist with…" Naoto was not good with a needle. Last time she'd tried to repair a loose button, she'd simply made a mess and stabbed herself numerous times. In the end, she had handed the item to Tatsumi-kun with the request that he correct the issue for her. He'd been perfectly happy to do so, and it had taken him less time to fix the problem entirely than it had for Naoto to thread the bloody needle in the first place.

Yu looked down and spotted the button, his free hand coming up to feel it. "Oh, you're right. Maybe I can ask Ran-san or Kanji to fix it during the meeting."

"I wish I could help with that. I really should learn some more feminine skills."

"I can fix it when I get home, too… I just don't have a sewing kit with me."

"It isn't that I have a problem with you asking for more useful assistance," Naoto assured him, "it's simply that I probably ought to be capable of something as simple as fixing a loose button."

The sound of a motor could be heard just above the noise of the rushing river as they entered the Samagawa Flood Plain. Naoto's attention was caught very quickly by the little boy racing toward them on a skateboard that was going much too fast to be kick-powered.

"Hey!" Conan-kun yelled, stopping the skateboard a couple metres in front of Yu and Naoto. "Ready for the team meeting?"

"Conan-kun!" Ran-san called out from behind them, hurrying ahead to meet the little boy who wasn't actually a small child at all. "How was your day at school?"

"Boring," the teenager trapped in a child's body complained. "What about you?"

"Naoto-kun and I had another argument with Kondo-sensei. I'm glad today's over. Did you see Hattori-kun?"

"No, I came straight from school hoping I'd run into you."

"I'm sure Hattori will meet us at Junes," Yu interrupted. "Let's pick up the pace, guys, don't want to leave him wondering where we are." Yet he pulled Naoto close with the hand that had still been on her back this whole time, and was now wrapped around her waist. Despite his insistence that they hurry, he held Naoto in place and let the others walk past them. Now Ran-san and Kudou were in the lead, Rise-san coming up on Kudou's other side to put the boy between the two girls, while the others maintained their positions from before.

"What was that for?" Naoto asked as they set out again, a good metre and a half behind Hanamura-senpai and Tatsumi-kun now.

"I want to walk with you. Is that a problem?"

"No… but we were walking together before, too. Why are we now in the back?"

"I want a few extra minutes alone."

Naoto couldn't exactly fault him for this; she cherished the bits of time that she got alone with Yu. However, this still didn't quite seem to explain why he'd pulled them to the back of the group. The others would probably hold the lift for them once the group reached Junes, so it wasn't like they'd really get much more time alone out of it. Still, she could tell she wasn't going to get more of an explanation from him, so she just shrugged and accepted that it wasn't going to make much sense. Yu was like that sometimes.

"Do you have plans tomorrow?" Yu asked, his tone carefully nonchalant.

Naoto looked up at him curiously. Sunday. Last week we went to the aquarium, though that trip got slightly delayed because Kudou woke up and Yu promised Ran-san that we'd go over things with them. We still went, if a little later in the day than originally planned. It was… fun. A bit embarrassing being out in public and so close… but fun. Is he suggesting we do that again? Or… perhaps something similar? I… certainly would not mind that, though perhaps something a little less public this time… "Nothing that I know of at the moment. Although depending on what happens today, that might change."

"I doubt we're going to learn anything today that we can act on tomorrow. If we do, well, we'll deal with it."

"And it isn't due to rain tonight." Marie-san's weather report yesterday said we should have clear skies all weekend, but Monday night will be wet.

"That too…"

No, I'm not going to make this easy on you. If you have a question, you're going to have to ask it yourself. Consider it revenge for cornering me by the closet last week. "I suspect the rumours will be settled on the girl who stopped the bank robber last night, though."

"Half the team hadn't even heard about that," Yu countered.

Naoto shook her head. "Ran-san mentioned that Toyama-san was to be interviewed at the TV station this afternoon. They'll air that interview on the evening news, which will be backed by the rumours I know are already flying around town. The incident occurred in the middle of the shopping district just before five in the evening."

"And Ojiisan mentioned that there were more police there than strictly necessary."

"Which will certainly set tongues wagging. By this time tomorrow everyone in Inaba will be talking about the girl who stopped the 'armed' bank robber."

"Which makes her the next target."

"If this case continues on as the one from last year did, then yes, Toyama-san is most likely the next target. It should not be difficult to ask everyone to keep an eye out for her, though. We have three people staying in the same place as her who are part of the team. Four if Hattori agrees to join us, and I have little doubt that he will."

"If the pattern keeps up the way it has been, she'll be on TV tonight and tomorrow, then on the Midnight Channel on Monday night," Yu mused. "We probably have until Tuesday before anything more is likely to happen with the case."

Naoto nodded in agreement, still waiting for Yu to get around to what he'd meant to ask her. She refused to take the initiative for him.

"And you're being deliberately obtuse," now Yu sounded grumpy, and Naoto looked back up at him, her face carefully blank.

"Am I? Why would I do that?"

"Alright, what did I do?"

Naoto didn't really have a ready answer for that, so she simply looked at him, raising one eyebrow as she did. He'd figure out what she wanted… or he wouldn't. It didn't actually matter either way.

"Is this about not letting you walk by yourself last night?"

"I do understand that you were worried."

"So it's not about last night. Naoto, if you don't tell me when I do something you don't like, how am I supposed to know not to do it again?"

"There are things I am trying to learn to like," Naoto explained, looking away. Like your tactile tendencies. Which I do like… it's just a little embarrassing here. If we were in another country, it would not bother me so much. It's rather odd the way you sometimes remind me of Uncle Arthur… sometimes I wonder if Yu would fit in better in England. "It isn't always that you've done something I dislike… only…"

"Is this about last week at Ojiisan's house?"

"You cornered me."

"I didn't mean to upset you…" he sounded contrite, which wasn't actually what she'd wanted.

"I… that's not…" Naoto looked up, her face falling as she realized he really did think he'd messed up. She sighed. "It was more that you did that when Nanako-chan was right there, not even three metres away… I am working on accepting your tactile tendencies… I even enjoy them, in the right circumstances." Naoto could feel her face heating again and knew she must be turning bright red. It wasn't so much admitting these things aloud to him, it was the fact that they were still in public, with friends not two metres from them. She snuck a quick glance at the others, but no one seemed to have noticed their discussion. Hanamura-senpai and Tatsumi-kun were talking loudly about something… Naoto wasn't quite sure what, as she could only catch bits of what they said—barely enough to tell that it wasn't something she'd find important.

Suddenly the warmth of Yu's hand against her lower back, which she'd been starting to get used to, was gone. "I'm pushing too fast again, aren't I?" he asked, sounding a little dejected.

"Th-that's not it!" Naoto tried to insist, looking back up at him again, and stopping in place. Don't let go now! I was just starting to like it! Somehow, she had to fix this before they got to Junes. If that meant letting the others get well ahead of them, so be it. Yu froze in place next to her.

"Naoto…"

"It's not… I just…" Naoto swallowed, trying to figure out how to word the whole explanation. How do I explain something I'm not even really sure of myself? "I… I don't mind. It's just… out in public… I've cut myself off for so long, afraid that my disguise would crumble the minute someone touched me… I'm still trying to work through that, trying to learn to be more feminine…"

"And I don't want to push you into anything you're not ready for." Yu raked a hand through his hair, briefly messing up the neat silver strands. As soon as his hand dropped back to his side, his hair slid back into the proper place again, though. "You need to tell me if I'm pushing too fast."

"But I need that push, too."

"The last thing I want is for you to be uncomfortable, Naoto."

"You're not the one making me uncomfortable, Yu. I am. I need to learn to be more feminine, or rather to accept myself as feminine. I know that I am too much of a prude sometimes."

"And I need to learn to control my impulses more," Yu muttered, looking down at his feet.

"That isn't what I meant!"

"But it's the truth. Maybe if we weren't out in public…?"

"It… it is easier to simply accept things when I know I don't have to worry what someone else will think," Naoto admitted reluctantly.

"Will you spend the day with me tomorrow? We can do something simple, something not out in public. Maybe last week at the aquarium was a little too public… you were stiff and kept looking around to make sure no one was really watching us. Perhaps a day in would be easier to handle."

"Perhaps it would."

"I'll pick you up at nine again, then? We can go fishing, or stay at your house and do something… I think Nanako-chan will be home, so my place wouldn't really be private…"

"Why don't we watch a movie or something tomorrow? Have a quiet day in, just the two of us?"

Yu smiled now. "That sounds good. So I'll see you tomorrow at nine."

"Yes. We'd probably better go catch up with the others now, though."

"Right, we still have the team meeting to get through." Yu grabbed her hand, squeezing it once before letting go and setting off down the road again, carefully matching his pace to Naoto's shorter stride.

"Hopefully they haven't noticed that we fell behind…" Naoto picked up her own pace a little, knowing that they would need to catch up or face questions from the rest of the group.

Fortunately, it didn't take long to catch up, and it seemed as though the rest of the group hadn't noticed their absence. Hanamuara-senpai and Tatsumi-kun were still talking loudly, though Naoto thought they might have changed topics. She couldn't be certain, though, since she'd never quite figured out what the topic was to begin with. Apparently Amagi-senpai had found their discussion funny, which is what had slowed the group down—she was having a laughing fit,leaning against walls or fences only to push off and stumble to the next support on the other side of the narrow street.

"Yukiko-senpai, it's really not all that funny," Ran-san scolded gently as Yu and Naoto returned to their prior place about a metre and a half behind the loud boys.

"B-but it is!" Amagi-senpai argued back, catching herself on the wall of the building nearest Ran-san. "I-I mean, they're fi-fighting about… about a TV show for k-kids!"

"Technically we're all still kids," Conan-kun pointed out in a very flat tone. "And that's barely even an argument. You should hear some of the stuff I get stuck listening to when the other kids go off about Kamen Yaiba."

"Come on, guys," Rise-san wheedled. "We need to get to Junes and meet up with the Osaka boy."

"And Kuma-kun. Come on, Yukiko, pull it back together so we can walk a little faster." Satonaka-senpai planted herself directly in her best friend's stumbling path and glared at the other girl.

"Hattori-kun is going to be waiting for us and wondering if we've stood him up," Ran-san warned.

"Yeah, you got a point," Hanamura-senpai agreed, breaking off whatever the discussion had been with Tatsumi-kun, who seemed completely unfazed by the sudden change of topic.

"If he hasta drop somebody else off elsewhere, we have a little time," Tatsumi-kun pointed out, "but that's no reason to blow it on standin' around laughing."

"Let's get going," Naoto suggested, gesturing for the rest of the group to pick up the pace again. Amagi-senpai got her laughter under control pretty quickly, now that the argument she'd found so amusing had stopped, and the group resumed walking. As they rounded the corner and came up to the doors of Junes, Naoto spotted Amagi-senpai's bike coming around the opposite corner.

"Hattori!" Conan-kun yelled, waving.

Naoto was momentarily confused, until she remembered that the bike Amagi-senpai usually rode technically belonged to the Amagiya, and not to Amagi-senpai personally. She had, however, probably been the one to authorize letting Hattori borrow the bike for this trip.

"We may as well wait for him to park and come in," Naoto suggested quietly to Yu. "The lift will end up crowded, but that way we won't have to wait for it to cycle an extra time."


"Kuma has been waiting for you, kuma!" the hyperactive part-time mascot yelled as the group piled back off the lift at the Junes food court. "Kuma got drinks for everyone, kuma. Everything is waiting on the table, kuma!"

"Thanks, Kumakichi," Hanamura-senpai said, walking over and slinging an arm over the shorter blond's shoulders to turn him around. "Let's go sit down so we can get this meeting started, okay?"

"Can we start with introductions?" Hattori asked. "I sorta missed a lot of what happened last week…"

"You weren't with us last week," Ran-san reminded him, her tone somewhat teasing. "We only pulled you out on Tuesday."

"But you were pretty out of it," Rise-san agreed with him. "So yeah, introductions sound like a good place to start. Actually… who do you remember?"

"Kudou and Neechan, obviously, 'cause I've known 'em a lot longer," Hattori answered as the group reached the table where Kuma-kun had set out drinks for everyone.

"Whose tab did you put the drinks on?" Hanamura-senpai demanded as the group started picking chairs.

"How rude!" the boy protested. "Kuma bought the drinks with cash, kuma! Just like anybody would!"

Naoto rolled her eyes and chose a seat next to Ran-san. Yu sat down beside her, with Rise-san on the other side of him. "Thank you for getting drinks, Kuma-kun. Shall we get started?"

"Hattori-kun, how much do you remember of Tuesday?" Yu asked.

"Not a whole lot," Hattori admitted reluctantly. "I was pretty wiped. It was pourin' rain an' Kazuha yelled at me fer bein' soaked when I got back…"

"I dunno why she expected any different," Conan-kun commented. "I was soaked when I got back, and I did warn her you were coming home on a motorcycle."

"We were all soaked when we got home," Ran-san pointed out. "I think Kazuha-chan was probably just worried about Hattori-kun because he'd been missing for the better part of a day."

"You're th' one who brought me home," Hattori-kun said, gesturing at Hanamura-senpai. "It was… Hanamura, right?"

"Right. Hanamura Yosuke, Yasogami High class 3-2."

"You've known Conan-kun and Ran-san since before you came here, and I met you last Friday," Amagi-senpai remarked, "so I'm going to guess that you remember me."

"Manager-neechan," Hattori agreed, nodding. Amagi-senpai frowned, clearly not pleased at being addressed in such a way.

"Everybody's 'neechan' to you," Conan-kun grumped. Ran-san giggled at this, but most of the others just looked confused. Hattori didn't bother responding.

"You weren't there on the other side." Hattori gestured at Rise-san.

"No, I had filming. But I joined you guys back here. I'm Kujikawa Rise, Yasogami High class 2-2." Then she stood up to pose. "Rise-chiisu!"

"Rise-san is an idol," Ran-san explained when Hattori gave the other girl a confused look. "She's playing the starring role in the drama they're filming here."

Hattori nodded and turned his attention to Yu. "I'm guessin' yer the leader? I seem ta remember you yellin' instructions durin' the fight."

Yu nodded. "Narukami Yu. Here in Inaba, I'm in the same class as Yosuke, but I'm actually from Tokyo. I've known Ran-san and Shinichi-kun since middle school."

"Which is why ya kept callin' him 'Yu-senpai'," Hattori muttered. The comment was clearly directed at Conan-kun. "How many o' the others did you an' Neechan already know?"

"Narukami-senpai is the only member of the Investigation Team we knew before we arrived in Inaba," Ran-san answered. "But we met Rise-san, Tatsumi-kun, and Yukiko-senpai before this whole case actually started."

"Tatsumi is…?"

"Me," Tatsumi-kun declared, drawing Hattori's attention. "Tatsumi Kanji, Yasogami High class 2-1. Rise and I both live in the Shopping District, so ya wouldn't've seen us before the case caught ya."

"Unless he did a lot of exploring, he probably wouldn't have run into any of us before the case, Kanji-kun," Satonaka-senpai pointed out. "I'm Satonaka Chie, third year class two at Yasogami High… just like all of the third-years in our group."

"You were sayin' something about nightingale floors," Hattori recalled. "But I was stuck in a teahouse."

"A teahouse that was in a garden accessed by climbing to the roof of a traditional castle," Naoto pointed out. When Hattori gave her a very confused look, she explained, "Sometimes the TV World does not make proper sense."

"Th' whole idea of goin' inta the TV sounds absurd," Hattori said, his tone a little grumpy. "If I hadn't actually done it, I don't think I'd believe ya."

"I would not have believed it without experiencing it either. Yet, 'when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'. The case last year taught me that the line between impossible and improbable isn't quite where I had thought it was."

"Ah, great, another Holmes nut," Hattori groaned. Conan-kun glared at him.

"You must agree that it is a rather fitting line," Naoto argued. "Especially for this particular case. And you were aware of Kudou's… condition, prior to encountering this case, were you not?"

"Yeah. I sorta figured it out after he knocked me out the second time we met," Hattori explained.

"What?"

"He woke up when Occhan hit him," Conan-kun said. "For that particular case, Hattori made a better presenting detective than occhan did."

"Except ya can't do my accent right."

"And you can't speak standard Japanese."

"Enough," Naoto and Ran-san scolded simultaneously. The two detectives obediently shut up.

"I doubt the details of a case you solved months ago will be relevant to the current situation," Naoto continued, though she made a mental note to ask about it later. "We need to focus our efforts on the case in front of us, rather than reminiscing about past cases."

"You must be Shirogane," Hattori observed. "Kudou mentioned ya last night… Mostly just that yer a detective like Sera. I guess I see what he meant about ya bein' more of a tomboy, though."

"Nao-chan's definitely the most tomboyish girl I know," Rise-san agreed. She didn't even seem to notice it when Naoto glared at her. "But then again, I don't know very many tomboyish girls."

"Naoto-kun can be feminine when she wants to," Satonaka-senpai argued. "I mean, she's a better cook than the rest of us girls… except maybe Ran-chan."

"I'm pretty sure I mentioned that Ran-san is teaching Naoto-kun to cook," Amagi-senpai muttered darkly. She sounded jealous, though Naoto was fairly certain that Ran-san would've been perfectly happy to teach Amagi-senpai as well, if the older girl had simply asked. Perhaps the idea of making such a request simply had not occurred to Amagi-senpai as of yet.

"Kuma is Kuma, kuma!" the blond boy chirped, drawing everyone's attention. "Kuma was there on the other side, but Kuma was wearing Kuma's bear suit… Kuma took that off when Kuma's shift ended and doesn't want to put it back on right now."

"Bright blue bear head with huge eyes, and a bright red-an'-white suit, right?" Hattori asked. "Yeah, I remember ya."

"Now that we have completed introductions, perhaps we could review the case?" Naoto suggested.

"Kudou sorta brought me up ta speed about th' Personae and Shadows 'n stuff," Hattori hedged.

"Tell us what you remember of Monday afternoon," Naoto instructed, knowing that would be far more useful to the team as a whole. If Kudou has already given him the basic rundown, then the rest of that can be left for later. As can the question of his joining the team. If the incidents do not continue, then it does not matter if he joins us or not, though I do think it would be helpful to have yet another detective working on this case. Still… we need more clues. So far, we have absolutely nothing, except that the Midnight Channel is back. Someone is throwing people into the TV again, and we need to find out who and stop them.

"Monday? Not when ya pulled me out?"

"No. I want to know what you remember of your kidnapping."

"Not a whole lot… mosta the week is kinda just a big blur."

"Anything might be a clue. Where is the last place you remember being prior to waking in the teahouse, and what were you doing there?"

"Th' river. I went ta go get Kudou from school 'cause I hadn't had a chance ta talk ta him yet."

"But you've been sharing a room since Shinichi woke up last Saturday," Ran-san argued.

"A room neither of us spent much time in," Conan-kun reminded her. Apparently he was going to let her use of his real name slide, probably because there was almost no one on the roof at all, despite the lovely weather.

"Ya were avoidin' me," Hattori accused. Conan-kun shrugged, not even trying to argue the matter. "Although… even th' room might not've been a good place ta talk. Neechan or Kazuha could'a overheard somethin' if we weren't extra careful, and bein' extra careful would've been suspicious."

"I would have understood," Ran-san said, "but you didn't know that. You've been keeping this whole mess from me for a long time."

Hattori shrugged uncomfortably, clearly not liking what Ran-san had said but unable to disagree. "Anyway, I was gonna go pick th' kid up from school an' talk on the walk back ta the Inn. I needed a chance ta talk ta Kudou as Kudou. Only… I never made it all the way ta the school."

"And I wouldn't have been there anyway, because Nanako-san dragged me off to Junes right after class." Conan-kun's comment seemed to confuse about half the group.

"Apparently Nanako-chan likes having a younger kid around for her cooking lessons," Yu explained, "even though Conan-kun ends up spending the afternoon doing homework with me in the living room, not helping the girls cook."

"I also fergot ta get directions… figured I'd find someone out that way an' ask which way th' school was or somethin'… or just wait fer school kids ta pass by and backtrack from where they were comin' from."

"So you remember reaching the Samagawa Flood Plain," Naoto prompted.

"Yeah… after that it starts ta get a little fuzzy. I think there mighta been chloroform involved in things getting fuzzy… or fog… I'm not sure, sorry."

"Drugged fog?" Rise-san suggested.

"That would require a great deal of the drug for little return, especially in an outdoor area where it might affect other people besides the target," Naoto said dryly.

"Mighta got foggy an' then someone came up behind me wi' a rag fulla chloroform."

Naoto nodded. "That seems more likely, except that there was no fog when we passed through."

"Fog machine in the river again?" Conan-kun asked. "That was apparently what happened when whoever it was took me."

"Do we have any clues about who it might have been?" Ran-san asked, sounding rather concerned. "Even just as simple as are we looking for a man or a woman?"

"Prolly a guy. Easy enough fur just about anybody ta grab th' kid, but I'm taller an' I have training in fightin' techniques."

"Caught without a 'blade' you're not as good as Ran or Toyama," Kudou pointed out.

"I c'n do more'n kick a soccer ball at an attacker," Hattori fired back, glaring at the smaller detective.

"Boys," Naoto warned. Both of them gave her a guilty look. "I think it is safe to say that our culprit is probably male, based on how easily this person apparently overwhelmed Hattori. Other than that… I don't think we have any evidence that would lead us to a particular suspect yet."

"What do we have that ties these two incidents together?" Yu asked. "We've had a theory to work from pretty early in the past…"

"Kanji's kidnapping told us it wasn't specifically women, though," Hanamura-senpai remarked.

"But they were still all connected to Amagiya and the first incident… sorta…" Satonaka-senpai added.

"Except that Rise-san's kidnapping told us that wasn't it at all," Amagi-senpai said, her tone cautious.

"Last year's case?" Ran-san asked.

Naoto noted that the three newest members were watching the discussion with interest and confusion. "Yes, last year's case. I believe that by the time I joined you already had a working knowledge that whoever was on telly would be thrown in."

"Yeah," Rise-san agreed, "that was about as far as we'd gotten. But you worked that out on your own without half the clues we'd found."

"And then decided to make yourself bait," Yu grumped. He was clearly still upset with her over that, even though she'd explained her reasoning numerous times, and they'd gotten her out with plenty of time to spare.

"I had no other way of proving that the case was not over," Naoto reminded him. "That does seem to be the carryover, though. Whoever is on telly is thrown in. Conan-kun ended up on telly after he rescued Rise-san from the accident."

"Accident?" Hattori had missed that, of course, since it had occurred a week before he arrived. "Oh, right. Kudou mentioned a car accident in th' Shopping District the day ya got here." Ran-san nodded.

"I think they installed the new post-box last Friday," Rise-san added.

"Which was the day that Hattori arrived," Conan-kun pointed out. "And then there was some kind of case that you solved?"

"It wuz minor," Hattori waved the whole thing off. "I dunno why everybody wuz so excited about it. But yeah, that's what landed me on… wait…"

"Kazuha-chan is probably going to be the next target," Ran-san said, not waiting for Hattori to finish his thought. "We need to keep an eye on her."

"Knowing the target doesn't necessarily help us prevent anything, though," Hanamura-senpai pointed out. "We've known who the target was since Amagi was kidnapped last year. The only thing it helps with is that we know when the person has vanished…"

"We didn't know anything about the target when that Kubo kid got put in," Tatsumi-kun argued. "But knowin' Rise was the target didn't help… we just caught a peeping Tom. An' we all knew Naoto was gonna be the target because she told us that…"

"Yet none of us figured out that Nanako-chan was the target until the night she was kidnapped," Naoto said. "Perhaps her kidnapping could have been prevented if we had known ahead of time… if I could have reached her a little faster…"

"But we can't change the past, only move forward," Yu reminded them all, his voice both gentle and hard. "This kidnapper is using a different M.O. for the actual kidnappings."

"Very different," Naoto agreed. "This time our victims were taken from a public place in broad daylight. It is unlikely that a vehicle was used, at least for the immediate grab. He may be making attacks of opportunity this time, instead of creating his opening."

"Which may mean that keeping an eye on the target will be more useful," Amagi-senpai suggested.

"Or it might not," Ran-san countered. "How did he take Hattori-kun? Conan-kun is easy enough to pick up, and most people wouldn't notice overmuch if someone was carrying a sleeping child."

"Not if it's an adult carryin' the kid, at least," Tatsumi-kun interrupted. "I'd get noticed, carryin' a sleepin' kid."

"That's because everyone knows you don't have younger siblings, Kanji-kun," Rise-san scolded.

"This is a small town. Most people know the others in the area… Hattori is rather obviously an outsider," Naoto mused, "so anyone who saw something that related to him would probably remember it."

"Maybe if we asked around again?" Ran-san suggested.

"I don't remember there bein' anybody around when I went ta the river-place," Hattori said, shaking his head. "Looked pretty empty."

"Does anyone remember it being foggy near the river on Monday afternoon?" Naoto asked. Everyone shook their heads. "Which means he didn't have enough of a fog cover to hide in—there's no way he could have created the fog cover and then had it burn off fast enough for no one to notice it. Fog would have started tongues wagging."

"Especially after the panic last December," Yu added.

"I vote we table the discussion of how the kidnapper got us," Conan-kun suggested. "We don't have enough evidence. There's probably chloroform involved, but beyond that and the fact that the suspect is almost certainly male, we don't have the evidence to support any conclusions."

Naoto nodded in agreement, as did several of the others.

"I wish I could give ya more," Hattori said. "But unfortunately I don' remember much. Musta had a lotta chloroform on the cloth, and had ta be pretty quiet."

"There's a chance that entering the TV might mess with your head," Ran volunteered. "I remember feeling pretty fuzzy after facing my Shadow, but I mostly went in of my own volition, so I think that mitigated the effects."

"That's a good point," Naoto agreed. "I remember very little of my own kidnapping, even though I knew it was coming. Part of that was the chloroform, but it is entirely possible that the TV world interferes with memory."

"It's a place within the collective unconscious," Yu remarked. This drew several confused and a few incredulous stares. "That's why it's affected by rumors. Yes, I realize that doesn't make sense."

"But it does, kuma! That's what that place is!" Kuma-kun insisted. "It's made of everyone's thoughts, that's why the Shadows live there, kuma."

"And why we can use our Personae there, but not in the real world," Yu said. "I realize it doesn't follow normal logic."

"It isn't as though we have any other reasonable explanation for the existence of the TV world," Naoto shrugged. "We don't really need to understand the nature of the place in order to use it. Let's stick to what we do understand."

"Which is, what, exactly?" Conan-kun countered. "I don't think we actually have anything useful."

"No evidence," Heiji nodded. "I'm in fer the remainder of the investigation, though. If ya'll have me."

There was a general chorus of noise to the effect of "welcome to the team" in response to that. Yu clapped Hattori on the shoulder as the clamour died down. "Good. Picking up what your Persona can do should be relatively easy, and someone can fill you in on how things work if you need anything."

After that, the 'meeting' devolved into a study session as everyone pulled out homework. Ran-san handed Kuma-kun 500 yen and sent him to buy a kanji workbook, telling him he could keep the change if he finished the workbook without interrupting anyone else. Naoto was fairly certain that had been the key to this study session going far better than any other attempt that included the entire group.


While she wouldn't necessarily ask to visit on off days, Naoto rather enjoyed spending time at the Dojima house. Especially while Yu was present as well, though it was nice even if she and Nanako-chan were the only ones there. Her own apartment could get rather lonely, so she hadn't argued at all when Yu asked her to go home with him after the meeting-turned-study-session broke up.

Nanako-chan had been excited when they turned up with Junes bags full of groceries, and Dojima-san actually seemed pleased to find Naoto's shoes in the genkan again when he returned home. "Hey, everybody's here," he'd said while the three kids were shouting "Okaeri" from the kitchen.

Now they sat around the low table in the living room with dinner in front of them and the TV on. "Itadakimasu!" all four said in unison, ignoring the weather report in favor of food.

The news moved on to a new segment, introducing a 'special guest' for an interview relating to an 'incident' the prior day. "Is this about that bank robber?" Nanako-chan asked as the group's attention actually focused on the telly for a moment.

"Most likely," Dojima-san observed. "Not much else happened yesterday."

"Not that would matter to the news, at any rate," Yu added. Naoto nodded, her mouth full, as the ponytailed girl she'd seen arguing with Hattori just over a week ago walked onto the telly screen.

"Wow, she pinned the bank robber?" Nanako-chan sounded very impressed. She was nearly bouncing in her seat.

"She's apparently had a lot of training," Dojima-san remarked, probably trying to calm the little girl.

"Weren't you scared? He had a gun!" the female reporter asked on the telly as Naoto returned her attention to it.

"Why would I be scared o' an idiot with a toy?" Toyama-san replied. "I could tell th' gun wasn' real. Th' chamber wasn' big enough for an actual bullet."

"You know enough about guns to recognize something like that?" the male newscaster sounded startled.

Toyama-san shrugged. "Otouchan's rank is keishi-cho. He's Osaka's keijibucho. Hattori-ojiisan is the Chief of Osaka's police force. I've seen guns up close. Enough ta know how big a bullet is."

That seemed to be the gist of it, though it took the newscasters a little longer to simply accept that it really was so easy. Well, easy for Toyama-san. I suppose Ran-san would have found it just as easy, though I don't think I know many others who would have been able to pull off such a feat.

"She really pinned him just like that?" Nanako-chan was still all bouncy with excitement. "Can I meet her?"

"Possibly," Yu answered the second question as Naoto started in on the first.

"Ran-san says that Toyama-san has a lot of training in Aikido, which focuses heavily on pressure points and throws." Very effective on human opponents. Not so much on anything that isn't human.

"Is it hard?"

"What?" Dojima-san asked a little warily. "Fighting? It takes a lot of time to train well enough to be that good. Might be useful, but I think you have a full schedule of lessons already."

"You'd have to either give up some of your lessons or give up your weekend," Yu told Nanako-chan gently.

The little girl calmed down and shook her head. "Maybe later then. When I'm better at cooking, maybe we can cut back lessons to just the weekend and I'll have three days free that I can do other lessons."


~*~ Japanese used in this chapter ~*~

Tadaima: approx. "I'm home", usually said on returning to one's own household.

-kun: form of address, polite/casual. Usually used within a peer group or for someone of a lower status. Tends to be masculine.

-senpai: upperclassman. Used as a form of polite address.

-keiji: form of address for a police officer of unknown rank or of any rank below 'keibu' (Inspector)

Okaeri: approx. "Welcome home", a generally automatic response to 'tadaima'

-chan: form of address, polite/casual. Usually used within a peer group or for someone of a lower status. Tends to be feminine.

-san: form of address, polite to polite/casual. Used with anyone one doesn't know well, regardless of status. Roughly equivalent to English Mr./Ms.

-niichan: 'big brother', term can be used for a young man one does not know well. Conan-kun uses this for people like Shinichi and Heiji.

Neechan: 'big sister', term can be used for a young woman one does not know well. This is how Hattori tends to address Ran.

onsen: hot spring, usually natural. Rarely used for a man-made spring.

Aho: insult in Kansai dialect, roughly equivalent to anything from 'dummy' to 'moron' in English, depending on the speaker's tone.

-sensei: teacher, though also used occasionally for doctors or lawyers. Literal translation is "one who goes before".

Otousan: father/Dad

Nidan: second-rank black belt.

Ojisan: uncle, polite variant. Also used for a middle-aged man whose name one does not know. (Though in this case Yu is referring to his mother's younger brother.)

Aikido: a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Often translated as "the way of unifying life energy" or "the way of harmonious spirit". (Wikipedia) Focuses on the use of joint locks, pressure points, and grab-and throw. This makes it very effective against human opponents and less so against a nonhuman assailant (e.g. a Shadow). Also trains practitioners in the use of certain weapons, such as bokken (wooden sword), spear, and jo (short staff).

Genkan: entryway where one changes outdoor shoes for indoor, usually consists of a small space about a half-step below the level of the primary flooring, bordered by a shoe cupboard. In a school, there are shoe lockers in place of the cupboard one would find in a private residence.

Koban: police box. Not the TARDIS, more like the security office or mini-police station at a mall. Effectively a manned post for a 'beat cop'.

Okaasan: mother/Mom

Zaibatsu: a large Japanese business conglomerate.

Kuma: 'bear'. In the dub, "Kuma" is called "Teddie" and his characteristic speech pattern is switched for a ton of 'un-bear-able' puns. For the original Japanese, he uses his name to refer to himself (rather than a form of 'I') which is considered childish and cute. I have kept this because it's easier to write and feels like it flows better.

Rise-chiisu: an idol catch-phrase Rise commonly uses, goes along with a photo pose as though she is saying "cheese" for the camera.

occhan: Uncle/old man, familiar, casual. (can be slightly rude)

Yen: Japanese unit of currency. I usually work with the rough 'rule of thumb' that 100 yen is about 1 US dollar.

Kanji: Japanese name for the originally Chinese symbols which can represent an entire concept or idea within a single character. These have been relatively popular in the West in recent years (at least in the area where I live) as decorations.

Itadakimasu: approximately the Japanese version of saying grace, this is "thank you for this meal" and this one word thanks every person or spirit that had anything to do with the preparation of the food, from whoever cooked the meal back to Amaterasu (sun-goddess) giving the plants energy to grow, and everywhere in between.

Keishi-cho: 'Commissioner'

Keijibucho: Deputy chief of the prefectural department.

Places:

Amagiya: ryokan (traditional hot-springs inn) in Inaba, owned by the Amagi family for several generations.

Okina City: fictional city near Inaba which the characters occasionally visit over the course of events in Persona 4. Mostly for shopping and the movie theater.

Junes: fictional department store featured in Persona 4.

Yasogami High: School the Investigation Team attends in Inaba. Conan-kun is attending Yasogami Elementary.

Teitan: name of several schools in Beika-cho, here specifically in reference to Teitan High. Conan-kun attends Teitan Elementary. There are also Teitan Middle School and Teitan College.