Mahiko, age 11, was feeling pretty good about himself. It was the second time since he'd started the game five days ago, but he'd just beaten a monster. A Water Imp, level 6. Considering that he was level 5, that wasn't bad at all.
Of course, now his HP bar was nearly depleted. He'd expended his last item in the last battle. Fortunately, there was a car lot up ahead. As of two days ago it was a local base for his team; provided somebody had been paying the tribute, it should've still been so when he got there. He could chill there for a while and replenish his health, and then go home. He was unlikely to be attacked by an enemy player. As long as he didn't come across any kids his age, or teenagers, he knew he was probably safe.
He crossed the street at the designated place. All he had to do was proceed about a three hundred feet and then turn right at another crosswalk, then head straight until he hit the library. While he was there, he could be seated and do some studying for the coming science quiz. Science was his weak point. But then again, some of his friends would likely be there. Did he really want to spend that time doing-
His phone alarm went off.
Rats! he thought.
It was a Black Geist, level 10. He knew he wasn't near strong enough to fight that thing off, or in good enough health. All it'd take was one clean hit. And from what he'd heard, some higher level monsters could penetrate buildings. His only recourse, then, was to outrun it.
And as soon as he turned around, another Black Geist of the same level was coming at him. He was pinned down, and they'd be upon him in a matter of seconds.
There was only one more place he could go:
He ran into the busy street, hoping to cross it and esca-
And with that, Mahiko became one of five children in that month alone to be killed by a motor vehicle on that particular street of Beika, Tokyo.
(Shameless by CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE)
Whoo girl you're as cool as ice
Deal me another full deck o' lies
Dontcha dare break yer poker face
Empty my heart's vault at record pace
(Not all that glitters is gold! A pearly white smile can mask a heart as black as coal! A friend goes missing, sparking a crisis that uncovers a monstrous conspiracy! Perceiving the one and only truth! With the body of a child but the mind of an adult, my name is DETECTIVE CONAN!)
And so we find ourselves at this crossroad again
Per my count, you've lied to me five times tonight
You've woven a tale that'd leave J.R.R. Tolkien speechless
A carefully constructed narrative flimsier than a house of cards
I don't know if I should let you walk away
I don't know if you're worth the trouble
But what I care enough to demand an answer to
"What did I have that you wanted for your own?"
You shameless thing, a web of deceit left in your wake
Antithetical to the driving force that binds people together
A thick veil of mist shrouds the true you that you can't let slip
In the name of all that's true, I'll deconstruct you piece by piece!
The past few days had been a dizzying whirlwind for Conan. He had received a warning from Bourbon about a member of the Organization about whom almost nothing was known save his/her codename, Mezcal; subsequently, he investigated Teitan's new PE teacher, Kanehiko Torishima. Two days afterwards, he was forced to go clothes shopping with Eri, and in the process he got caught up in yet another case. Yesterday, he investigated another member of the school faculty, Iroha Namiki, the new school nurse, this time on suspicion of possession of marijuana.
In that time...no, even before then, something had been going on with Ayumi. He hadn't noticed; he was too busy, and she wasn't exactly the most chatty person. Even when Ayumi didn't show up for school yesterday, he brushed it aside as her being sick, or something. He didn't consider the matter something that couldn't wait. But today, it became something that Conan could no longer afford to ignore.
It started when Conan woke up this morning, to the sound of his phone. He looked at his phone.
It was Mitsuhiko.
He answered: "I swear, you'd better have some good reason for calling me at 5:05 in the morning."
"I'm sorry, Conan, but this can't wait!" Mitsuhiko said.
"Why do you sound so serious?" Conan asked, sitting up in bed.
"Yesterday, me and Genta went to Ayumi-chan's house after school, but she wasn't there!" Mitsuhiko asked. "And her parents said they didn't know where she was either!"
"Yeah? Maybe she was playing hookie or something."
"Ayumi-chan? Skip school? No way! She's a model student!" Mitsuhiko said. "So just now, I woke up early and visited Ayumi-chan's house, to see if she'd come home yet. She hasn't! She's still missing!"
Conan got out of bed and stood up. "Where are you now?"
"Waiting at Haido Park."
"Are you stupid? You'll catch a cold that way!" Conan said. "I'm coming as fast as I can. Wait for me inside a warm building. You got your Detective Boys' badge on hand?"
"Hold on to that, and I'll come to you. Over and out."
He hung up.
Then somebody threw a shirt and pants at him.
"Get dressed so we can go quickly," Nancy said, reaching into the closet to find herself something.
"How much of that did you overhear?" Conan asked.
"Enough. Ayumi-chan's missing, right?"
Conan nodded. "Since yesterday."
Conan took the shirt and pants and headed for the bathroom.
Three minutes later, he walked out, having also brushed his teeth and fixed his hair.
He went back to his room and waited impatiently for Nancy to unlock the door.
"Oi, how long can it take you to change clothes?"
She opened it. "Let's go."
"Alright, just gimme a minute to put my shoes on."
Eri stood a few feet away, a stern look on her face.
"Mom, we've got no time to argue about this!" Nancy said. "Ayumi-chan's missing!"
Eri was taken back by the news. "Since when?"
"Since yesterday, when she didn't show up for school," Conan said. "She may've been gone since even before then."
"...I see. And what were you going to do about it?" Eri asked.
"We were going to meet with Mitsuhiko to plan our next move," Conan said.
Eri sighed. "I will say: that girl, Ayumi-chan, is lucky to have friends like you guys. Alright. Go, but be careful, and make sure to be back before tonight."
As they were leaving, Eri had the most peculiar thought:
Did Nancy just call me mom?
Conan, Nancy, Mitsuhiko, Genta, Dr. Agasa, and...Shiro met up inside the mall entrance.
"What are you doing here?" Conan asked suspiciously.
"Isn't it obvious?" Shiro retorted. "Ayumi-chan's missing, and I'm gonna help find her."
Nancy coughed loudly to get everyone's attention. "Now that we're all here..."
"Have you tried her Detective Boys badge?" the Professor asked.
"Yeah, yesterday and a few minutes ago," Conan said. "Wherever she went, she didn't take it with her. It's still at her house."
"Uh, has anyone just tried calling her?" Genta asked.
"I did two days ago, yesterday, and today," Mitsuhiko said.
"Wait, two days ago?" Shiro asked. "I thought she went missing yesterday."
"Uh, no, according to Ayumi-chan's parents she went missing sometime after school two days ago," Mitsuhiko said. "She went straight home after school, and then about an hour and a half later she went somewhere and then never came home."
"Did she tell them where she was headed?" Nancy asked.
"Uh, I forgot to ask them that," Mitsuhiko said, a bit sheepishly.
"Then her house is the first place we should pay a visit to," Conan said.
They knocked on the door.
Ayumi's father answered it. He stepped aside and let them in without saying a word.
"How f***ing dare you!" they could hear Ayumi's mother saying. "My daughter's gone missing and you think I'm to blame?"
"It's just a precaution," Megure said. "You oughtn't take offense at us doing a little looking."
Ayumi's mother and the Inspector were standing in the kitchen. It was then that they noticed Ayumi's friends and the creepy old guy who always hung out with them.
"If you kids want to take a look around, be my guest," she said , exasperated.
"Uh, no, we just had a question," Mitsuhiko said.
"Did Ayumi-chan say where she was going when she last left the house?" Shiro asked.
"No, but she was probably headed to the library," Ayumi's mother said. "She'd been going there a lot lately."
They all knew where to go next.
"What?! Ayumi-chan's missing?"
Shiho laid out her hand. "Gimme. Now."
"Are you sure about this?" Atsushi asked.
"How can you even ask that?" Shiho said. "If my friend's in trouble, that takes precedence over a scenic tour of Shikoku, even if it's with you guys for the first time in a decade. Look, we can try this again sometime in the future, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we had. But right now, I couldn't enjoy myself here if I tried."
Elena reached into her pocket and took out a pill. She handed it to her daughter. "Alright. Go do it in the bathroom, and I'll get you a change of clothes."
She looked at her husband. "Looks like our vacation got cut short."
He shrugged. "Vacations are overrated."
"Thanks for understanding," Shiho said, hugging them both. "I'll miss you both."
She turned to Satoshi. "Another time, little bro."
She embraced him, and as she did, she whispered in his ear:
"And best of luck with Masumi."
Satoshi was visibly blushing as Shiho ran off to use the bathroom.
"Hmm, what did she say to you?" Atsushi asked.
"N-nothing," he responded bashfully.
"Evidently, Ayumi-chan was unable to find her."
One of the six teenagers gathered around the library's coffee/reading table sighed. "We'll have to look into finding ourselves another spymaster then. Until she gets back."
"But whoever it is will have to build the connections with our informants from scratch."
"Um, excuse me."
A boy in glasses, with his friends and an obese elderly man behind him, was looking at them intently. "You mentioned Ayumi-chan? Ayumi Yoshida?"
One of them nodded. "You her school friends?"
"Yeah," Conan said. "Do you know where she is?"
"No, none of us have seen her since two days ago," one of them said.
"So she did come here after leaving her house," Shiro said.
"So, um, after she was here two days ago, do you know where she went she left this library?" Dr. Agasa asked.
"No, she didn't say," one of them said. "But, she was asking about Maria-chan. If you're Ayumi-chan's classmates, then you know who we're talking about?"
"Maria Higashio?" Nancy asked.
"Yeah. She was the one who introduced Ayumi-chan to the game," one of them said. "But Maria-chan also went missing, sometime before Ayumi-chan came to the library that day. So Ayumi-chan was asking about her, so I suggested that she ask Peniwaisu where she was."
"Peniwaisu?" they all repeated.
"Yeah, he's the game creator and mod," one of them said.
"Come to think of it, I haven't seen Maria around lately," Genta said.
"Yeah, we'll have to remember to go look for her too, after we find Ayumi-chan," Mitsuhiko said.
Peniwaisu, Agasa thought. Surely not...
"So you have no idea where she might be?" Conan asked them.
"No," one of them said. "I hope she's alright."
"It's a shame something like this would happen, right after she had that accident," one of them said.
"Huh? Accident?" Nancy said.
"What, she didn't tell you guys? The day before she last came here she was trying to climb a stack of logs to scan an emblem whenever it came tumbling down. She could've died, from what I heard."
"Hey, where did this happen at?" Conan pressed.
"It was at the-
At last, they came to the lumber yard where Ayumi's accident supposedly took place.
"Well, we're about to trespass on private property," Conan said. "Anybody who wants to turn back should do so now."
"Baka, we all want to find her as much as you do," Shiro said.
And with that, Shiro scaled the fence.
They followed after him, and they all landed safely on the other side (except for the Professor, who was too big to make the climb).
"Spread out," Conan said. "If any of you find anything, give us a shout."
And so they split up.
Nothing here but logs, Genta thought as he searched the far corner.
Suddenly, a man came from behind, grabbed him, and slung the boy over his shoulder like a sack of flour.
"AH! WHAT'RE YOU DOING LEMME GO!" Genta said.
Instead, the man ran for the fence. He began to scale it, which he accomplished effortlessly in spite of Genta's added weight.
Conan and his friends came running just fast enough to see the man make off with Genta in tow.
From outside the fenced in yard, Dr. Agasa began to run after them, but after about ten seconds of running he was out of breath and had to stop.
The man ran towards a nearby abandoned building. And of course Conan, Nancy, Shiro and Mitsuhiko scaled the fence to pursue Genta's apparent kidnapper.
The back door to the building was unlocked and cracked open. They pushed it wide open and stepped inside.
The building had no lights on. It would've been pitch black if not for several windows.
"There he is!" Mitsuhiko pointed out.
The man stood on the staircase.
And with that, the man ran up. Conan and friends ran up as well.
"You're not getting away," Conan muttered.
The man ran inside a room and slammed the door behind him.
Conan went up to the door and kicked it open.
"You're here!" Ayumi said.
Genta was seated on the next to Ayumi, a confused look on his face as Ayumi stood and ran to her friends. Genta's kidnapper did nothing to stop Ayumi from doing so.
"I'm confused," Conan said.
"You're not the only one," Dr. Agasa said.
Ayumi bowed politely. "We are very, very sorry that this was necessary. But we need you to listen to us, because if you don't, more people are going to die."