She opened the door. Elena was waiting.
"By all means, step inside and have a seat," Elena welcomed.
She did so. Elena took a sip of coffee.
"I want you to pick someone else for this assignment," Masumi said.
"Oh? And would this be because of yesterday's incident?"
Masumi was a bit surprised by this.
"Yes, your brother told me all about it. So that boy discovered the truth about you, no?"
Masumi shook her head. "Apparently he only knows half the story."
"And that would be the half about you having the XY chromosome?" Elena guessed.
"If he knew the other half, do you think it would change his opinion any?"
"I'm not sure about that," Masumi said. "I'm not even sure that he'd believe me."
"So you haven't tried explaining it?" Elena asked.
"Is it perhaps because you don't feel like it makes a difference?"
Masumi was silent. And then...
"No, it doesn't. I'm a boy."
"A pity. I always figured you might one day make a good wife for Satoshi."
Masumi blushed. "Y-you really think so?"
But then she composed herself. "In any case, it doesn't matter, because Kudo also knows that I'm Ran's assigned guardian."
"So there's some kind of rule I don't know about saying he can't be allowed to know who that person is?" Elena said.
"I think you're being too hasty. Take the week to think about it, and then get back to me with your final decision. If you still want out, then I'll find somebody else."
The hallways of Teitan Primary were filled with kids heading to class.
As Haibara was walking, Conan approached her.
"Hey, we need to talk," Conan said.
She shrugged. "Okay."
They took a corner, where they were alone.
"Something's going to happen today," Conan said. "It's going to really surprise you. I need you to not overreact or give any indication of fear or discomfort. I already told Ran, and she understood."
"You say that, but I can't give any guarantees unless you tell me what it is first," Haibara said.
"We don't have time for me to explain," Conan said. "Class is about to start. But I can tell you that it'll be alright if you continue to act like a normal child."
"Hold on, is this related to the Men in...?"
But before she could finish, Conan started running to class. She sighed and followed after him.
Conan and Haibara walked into the classroom to find a crowd of kids gathered around Ayumi.
"Ah, Conan! Haibara-san!" Mitsuhiko said. "Ayumi-chan was showing us a cool toy she got!"
Conan took a look at the mess on Ayumi's desk. "It just looks like wet clay to me."
"Oh, is that Wonder Putty?" Haibara asked.
"Wonder...Putty?" Conan asked.
Ayumi nodded excitedly. "You know how with modeling clay it's soft at first but then it turns hard and you can't do anything else with it? Wonder Putty turns soft again if you just apply water."
Conan nodded. Then he turned to Haibara. "How'd you know what it was?"
"Remember how a few days ago I slept over at Ayumi-chan's house?" Haibara said. "We were watching TV and they kept advertising that darned toy every other commercial."
"Yeah, and after that all I could think about was Wonder Putty," Ayumi said. "So yesterday I went with my mom to Toys R We and bought some."
"Toys R We?" Genta repeated.
"Hey, Kobayashi-sensei's here!"
All the students promptly returned to their seats.
With her was a young child, approximately the same age as the average student there at Teitan Primary.
Sumiko Kobayashi wrote the name on the board:
"Students, say hello to Shiro. Shiro, say hello to your classmates."
Shiro looked out over the crowd of children, a blank soulless expression in his eyes.
(Cup of Trembling by B'z)
(Each fresh breath of life is a fresh chance to start anew! In today's case, a toy store held at gunpoint! A new student at Teitan...with a terrifying secret! Perceiving the one and only truth! With the body of a child but the mind of an adult, my name is...DETECTIVE CONAN!)
Above all, I'm afraid of you seeing me like this
The youthful vigor sapped from my bones
Too afraid to proceed, too afraid to turn back
A wretch, recoiling from my own shadow
Wallowing in self-pity like a pig wallowing in its crap
I can't check my phone, lest you might try to call
I can't live at home, lest you might try to visit
All I have left is the clothes on my back and
That dreaded bottle, whose contents I dare not drink
Oh I'm going nowhere, a pinwheel spinning in circles
This Cup of Trembling I now raise to my lips and swallow
So I may face the demons haunting my restless nights
I can't show my face to you until I can call myself a man
Until I've walked a full moon carrying my cross
The Toy Store Hostage Crisis! Part One!
Shiro looked out over the crowd of children, a blank soulless expression in his eyes.
He had light brown hair and a fairly athletic build for a kid his age.
"Man, there's sure been a lot of new kids join our class in this past year," Mitsuhiko whispered to a classmate.
Genta looked at Haibara, who was sitting right next to him.
"Hey, Haibara-san, something wrong?" he asked. "You look like you seen a ghost or something."
"Genta?" Kobayashi-sensei said. "Were you saying something?"
"N-no ma'am," Genta said sheepishly.
"Shiro, say hello to your classmates."
"Shiro's family recently moved to Tokyo from Okinawa Prefecture, so I expect everyone this school's body to welcome him and to include him in its activities."
"...May I take my seat now?" Shiro asked.
He walked to the very back of the class and took a seat at the left corner.
"Okay, so...where were we...? Oh yes, photosynthesis..."
As Kobayashi-sensei lectured on plant science, Haibara could feel her heart racing.
What the h*ll was he thinking? she thought. Bringing that person here...is he stupid or something? Is he totally unaware of the mortal danger that he's inviting to this school, and all of its students, all of these unsuspecting children? It isn't like him to demonstrate such horrible judgment. Is it...is it because of what he was ordered to do then...? Is this his way of atoning?...You're terribly selfish, Kudo-kun. And I share no responsibility if this comes crashing down on all of our heads.
Her body stopped shaking. She breathed calmly, turned her head to face Shiro, and smiled at him. Then she faced the teacher and pretended to pay attention to the lecture that she had already heard a decade ago.
School let out. It had to have been the longest school day of Haibara's life, but at last it was over. She hoped now that this boy would go home and part ways with them all, if only until tomorrow.
She and Conan walked side by side, a little bit ahead of the Detective Boys, who were talking excitedly about something.
"...Aren't you going to say something?" Conan asked. "After what you saw today?"
"No. I have nothing to say to you."
Then she walked faster and went on ahead of him, when...
Haibara stopped dead in her tracks. After Conan and the Detective Boys caught up, so did they.
"Jodie-sensei?" Ayumi said.
Indeed: Jodie Starling, former English teacher and current FBI agent, was talking to Nancy. Shiro was standing nearby.
"Ah-le-le?" Conan asked. "Jodie-sensei, what are you doing here?"
"Ah, Conan-kun!" Jodie said. "Nancy-kun was just asking permission to take Shiro-kun shopping."
"Wait a minute," Mitsuhiko said. "Hey Shiro, you're acquainted with Jodie-sensei?"
"Yeah," Jodie said. "I'm a friend of his parents, and he lives a good distance from this school, so I volunteered to drive him here and back on school days."
She glared at Shiro.
"Y-yeah, that's right," Shiro said nervously. "S-so, uh, can I, auntie Jodie? Pretty please?"
"Nancy, what's up?" Conan asked.
"I figured that we should do our best as a class to welcome Shiro-kun," Nancy said. "Ayumi-chan, you mentioned buying that clay stuff at Toys R We, right?"
Ayumi nodded. "Ah, so you want to bring Shiro-kun there? I'd like to come too! Just let me call my parents real fast!"
"Hold on," Jodie said. "Conan-kun, do you agree to keep a close eye on Shiro?"
Conan nodded. "I'll go with them. You can count on me."
"In that case, let's all go!" Mitsuhiko said.
"Not me. I'm out."
Haibara began to walk away, but Nancy grabbed her by the arm.
She looked Haibara in the eye, though as to say "You need to come with us."
After a few seconds' hesitation, Haibara sighed. "I guess I'm coming too."
Jodie gave Shiro one last dirty look and then she got into the car and drove off.
Inside Beika Mall was Toys R We, a very large toy store that had been open for 14 years.
Shinichi and Ran knew the owner, 59 year old Shunya Koshino, fairly well. Nine years ago the two of them showed up in his store hand in hand looking to buy a sleek new bicycle. It was quite expensive though. Even when they pooled their money together they didn't have enough to buy it. Coincidentally, Mr. Koshino had fired his janitor for repeatedly swearing in front of customers so when he saw that disappointed look on Shinichi's and Ran's faces he struck a deal with them: if they showed up in the afternoon every day for two weeks to sweep and mop his store, he would give them the bicycle for free. They kept at it for the two week duration and earned that glorious prize. They ended up returning it several days later because it was too big for then to ride.
Shiro walked inside the toy store and looked up at the ceiling. He looked awe-struck.
Mitsuhiko saw Shiro looking up. "It's pretty big, isn't it?"
It isn't just that, Haibara thought. It's that, to his perspective, a store like this would've seemed a lot smaller just a few days ago.
"So what are we gonna get here?" Genta asked.
"I'm not really interested in that clay stuff your friend Ayumi was talking about," Shiro said. "There's really just one thing I want here. And that's..."
Suddenly, there was a crash. Masumi Sera was lying on the floor, next to a fallen rack.
"Huh, what's Sera-no-neesan doing here?!" Mitsuhiko asked.
Tailing us, no doubt, Conan thought.
Masumi stood up and chuckled nervously. "Hi there. I was just..."
"Ah! Did you come here to buy Wonder Putty too?" Ayumi asked.
"Wonder what? Uh, no, my friend's birthday is coming up, so I came here to buy him a present. He's like a giant nerd and he's totally into board games and stuff like that."
I can't decide on whether I should get him Sattlers of Catan, Monchkins, or Zumbie Dice, she thought.
Masumi could hardly avoid the incredibly hostile glare on Conan's face. "Uh, okay, I was just about to leave, so..."
The monitor beeped consistently and steadily. The subject's heart rate was stable.
"...It's been a whole day," he said.
"Does this mean it works? At long last?"
"...Yeah. We've done it, Boss. We've finally transplanted an Altar Organ into an anatomically modern human. I would like to run a few more tests, but at the same time it looks like now we can move on to Phase Three. And with it, we now have the means to put our half of The Plan into motion."
"Speaking of which, has that person's status been determined yet?" Yoko Okino asked.
"No. It should only prove a matter of time though," Mezcal said. "We should receive the signal soon enough."
A man wearing a ski mask fired a shot at the ceiling. The sound rippled through every corner of the toy store.
A second assailant pointed his gun at the sleazy cashier guy with a tattoo. "You, close shop now! No one comes in here and nobody leaves!"
Mitsuhiko was about to run for the exit but Shiro grabbed him by the shoulder and shook his head. "Don't do it. Do you want to live or not?"
The cashier came out from behind the counter and did as he was told. He locked up the entrance and then went around to the back to lock that side too.
Then he was about to go back behind the counter when...
"Hold it. We know there's a panic button back there."
"EVERYBODY, LISTEN UP!" a third guy, who was quite burly, said. "Head to the center of the store! If anybody tries to run we won't hesitate to shoot!"
The approximately seventeen innocent customers in the store at that time along with six employees headed to the center of the store.
"Alright, now, sit down!"
Everyone sat down.
Conan looked around. As far as he could see, there were seven assailants in total. One of them was holding...
A spray bottle?
Ayumi startled sniffling. "I wanna leave."
Crap, Conan thought. If she starts crying, then...
Haibara put her hand on Ayumi's shoulder. "Ayumi-chan, right now it's important that you be strong and not cry. You should save your tears for when we're..."
"Quiet, you! No talking!"
As the hostage takers went around confiscating everyone's cell phones, Conan looked around again, this time at the shelves. He noticed that they were in the board game section. That gave him an idea.
"Hey, mister, I'm bored," he whined.
"No talking, brat!"
"Hey, hey, I just realized we're in a toy store, right?" Conan said.
"I said, SHUT UP!"
"But I'm bored," Conan whined. "If you'll just let us play with something here, I promise we'll be quiet."
One hijacker talked it over with another for a few seconds. And then...
"All right. The children are allowed to play quietly."
Conan got up and grabbed a game off a shelf.
"Hey, Conan, what's that?" Mitsuhiko asked.
The game was titled Hyper Scrabble. It was a variant of the game which included symbols like numbers, apostrophes, periods, exclamation marks, question marks, etc.
Conan sat down and calmly spilled out all the pieces onto the floor.
"How can you play games in a time like this?" Genta asked.
Ignoring his obese comrade, Conan found enough tiles to piece together the following:
L 4 7 -
The middle left L was rotated 180 degrees clockwise. The bottom left L was rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise. The middle top F was rotated counterclockwise 90 degrees. The middle 4 was rotated 180 degrees clockwise. The top right T was rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise.
Then, right next to this Conan pieced together another weird string of digits and symbols:
/ ? \
The question mark was rotated 180 degrees.
Nancy looked at what Conan was doing. She started at it with a blank look on her face, as did Genta.
Shiro then looked at it, stared at it for a few seconds, and smiled.
He sat down and began piecing together weird combinations alongside Conan.
"Great, we're all being held hostage and Conan's playing with English letters," Mitsuhiko said.
Ayumi's whimpering was getting louder.
"Somebody shut that child up!" one of the hostage takers said.
Haibara got up angrily. "She can't help it if she's scared! It's your fault for putting her in this situation!"
The man grinned. "Somebody forgot to teach you respect, kid. I'll be happy to oblige."
He moved towards her.
Suddenly Masumi stood up and incapacitated the man with a kick to the groin. She grabbed his gun and made a run for it, presumably to attempt some kind of Rambo-style takeout of all the gunmen.
But then suddenly two men emerged from a corner and pointed their guns at her. She stopped dead in her tracks.
Thinking Masumi was a teenage boy, one of them hit her with the butt of his rifle. She fell to the ground and the two men began pummeling her while she was down.
Haibara angrily ran to Masumi's defense, biting one of the assailants in the leg.
In response, one of them punched Haibara square in the face, sending her flying two feet and knocking her out.
"Haibara-san!" Mitsuhiko cried out.
"Hey! What's going on?"
The man with the spray, presumably the leader of the group, came into sight.
The two men stopped what they were doing. "This boy's causing us serious trouble! And so's that girl!"
"Put them in a corner somewhere and tie them up. Sheesh."
One man grabbed Masumi and another simply picked up Haibara's unconscious body.
Conan looked on for a moment but then resumed playing with Scrabble pieces.
"A-Ai-chan," Ayumi whimpered.
"Conan-kun, why aren't you doing something?" Mitsuhiko pleaded. "You usually know what to do in times like this."
No answer. Instead, Conan started playing faster, like a man possessed.
(Spirit by Rina Aiuchi)
There are only two kinds of people in this complex world
Those who'll fight for what's precious and everyone else
Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering why this is
Is it perhaps that we believe all hope is already lost?
It takes a lot less effort to tap out and forfeit the prize
Hang our heads in shame and defeat, a prisoner of war
Too many voices have cried out "Awaken, thou that sleepest!"
What we need is soothing balm so these bones may stir again
Come, you and me, together let's put on a show for the ages
Hurry, the curtain rises, the epic drama begins to unfold!
Oh you graceful swan, dancing in the middle of the downpour
All the world's your stage, and every eye is fixed on you
You've got heart, and nobody can ever take that away from you
Give them what they came for, the indomitable human spirit!