When I was fifteen years old, I had the strangest of experiences. Perhaps you did too, at one time or another.
Did you ever wake up crying in the middle of the night? It might've felt silly in afterthought, that a person could get so worked up over a dream. But in that dream, you remembered: a person who you totally forgot about. A person who, at one time, was very dear to you. A person who, logically speaking, you could not have ever known. A person who doesn't even exist, surely.
But in those minutes when you were with them, in the netherworld, you felt happy. You were with a friend, and you readily spoke with that person as though you'd always known him or her. From childhood, perhaps. Maybe you two grew up together. Maybe you even married that person, and spent many happy years together in that capacity. You were perhaps vaguely aware during the experience that, until very recently, you'd forgotten that such a person existed. How could that be? But it didn't matter: now you were reunited with that person, and your foggy memory from a few minutes ago could be excused.
But then you woke up, and you realized that it was all a dream. You would never see that person again. And that was enough to make your eyes well up, without you willing them to. Maybe you got over it quickly, and troubled your mind about other things. Real things of real importance, you tell yourself, but if only for one moment you understood the depth of what you had lost in waking up.
The vast majority of people, within a day after waking up from a dream, they'd just stop caring, or even forget such a dream entirely. That's what sets me apart from everyone else: I never did. Waking up left a void inside of me, and time wouldn't fill it. I vowed to myself: one day I'll return to that other world.
And if I can't do that, then I'll simply bring that world here. Yes, I will do just that, or die trying.
"Oh! Is this really it?"
Conan shook the package.
"What is it?" Nancy asked.
Instead of answering, Conan went inside. He went straight to the kitchen and grabbed a sharp knife.
He used it to open the package. He took the contents out.
"A book?" Nancy said. "Whoa. And it's in English too. I don't feel like working my brain right now. What's it called?"
"The War of the Worlds," Conan said. "Written by H.G. Wells near the end of the 19th century, at a time when Great Britain feared it might one day be invaded by the Germans, at a time when there was a lot of hype about life on mars. It was even thought that the martians had built canals on the red planet."
"Um, okay, I guess it's good to see you reading something that isn't about criminals and detectives. But why in English?"
"Eh. You lose a lot in translation. Also, I want to brush up on the language," Conan said. "You ever worry that if you spend too long as a child you'll forget everything you learned as an adult?"
Nancy shrugged. "Haven't really thought about it. But, I mean, most people stop learning new things once they reach a certain age anyway, and forget most of what they learned in college, so I don't think it's a big deal. Even if I do forget, I'll just have to learn it all over again in high school and whatnot, right?"
There was a pause.
"We didn't check to see if they were home first, did we?" Conan asked.
"It's fine," Nancy said. "Dad said he'll be eating lunch with a client, and mom's scheduled to give a lecture at Tohto University School of Law in about...twenty minutes."
"So I guess that means we've got the house to ourselves for the next hour or two. No better time for me to crank some music up and enjoy my book."
Nancy sighed. "Man, this sucks. I can't be on social media, or call my old friends. And the guys are all busy with something today...er, what was it all again?"
"Genta and Shiro are practicing boxing, Mitsuhiko's busy running for class president, Ayumi and that new guy she's friends with are sifting through random people's garbage for whatever reason, and Haibara's getting ready for tonight."
"The Parent-Teachers Conference, you mean?"
Conan nodded. "If you'll recall, she's missed a looooooot of school days over the past year. Granted, most of it's because of me, but it's not like any of her teachers know that. So she and the Professor have to attend tonight."
"Kind of silly, really. Any day now she could just take a test and go straight to college, if she wanted to."
"If she wanted to get caught by the man in black and die, you mean."
"You know what I mean."
"Not really. To blend in among elementary school students, you have to act like one, and that means showing up to class and pretending like you don't know any of the material. To maintain that facade, Haibara and the Professor have to pretend that her absences so far pose a serious problem for her education."
"Well, next time you have to go investigate something as Shinichi during the school day I guess I could be the one who supposedly plays hooky," Nancy said.
"No way! Your parents would chew you out big time for that one. Since the Professor's in on the loop, Haibara won't suffer any consequences for doing so. Thus, she's the best person for the job.
"Speaking of the devil," Conan continued, "it's been about a week since all that business with Triskelion and Peniwaisu. By extension, it's been a week since Haibara came back."
"Oh yeah," Nancy said. "Did you ever ask her about Mezcal?"
"No," Conan said. "I haven't had a good chance to bring it up."
"Good chance? Can't you just call her or text her?"
"No, because that'd be breaking the norms of this series. Once I become suspicious of somebody's identity, or wonder if they know something important that I don't, I have to sit on my hands for the next 100 to 300 episodes before asking them about it."
"Did you really just break the 4th wall?" Nancy said.
"Who cares? It's not even the real thing. Just a fanfic written by some college student guy who still lives with his parents."
"Hmm, never really thought about it that way," Nancy said.
"I'm definitely gonna ask her about it tomorrow," Conan vowed.
Several Hours Later
"... Aw man, English is bloody murder," Conan said, putting the book down.
"How far into it are you?" Nancy asked.
"Only 60 pages," Conan said, a slight whiny tone in his voice.
"Wow. It's really that bad?"
"It's like I'm just staring at ink on a page most the time."
"Was the experience worth five hours of your time?"
"No. That was horrible. It was five hours of my life I'll never get back. I think I would've rather sat in on a ten year olds' piano recital or something."
Eri opened the door. "Conan-k...is that a book in English?"
"Uh, yeah, it's War of the Worlds," Conan said.
"...You can read that?"
There was an awkward pause.
"Um, is there something you need us to do?" Conan asked.
"Um...ah! Right! Your friend's here waiting for you outside the door. It's Mitsuhiko-kun."
That's weird, Conan thought as he walked to the other end of the apartment. You'd think he'd be too busy for...
He opened the door and:
"Conan! Please, I need your help with something."
As Mitsuhiko and a random other boy who was with him bowed politely, Conan knew he was about to be dragged into yet another misadventure.
(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! At Teitan Elementary after hours, the parents and teachers meet once a year! Haibara has to be there, but she gets more than she bargained for! 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 Green Witness! Part One!
"Ooh! Ooh! Jackpot!"
He threw the dirty boots out. Ayumi used the trash claw grabber to put them in the bag.
"Alright, does it look about full?" Yasuda asked.
"Yeah. You want me to tie it?"
"Yeah. We got any more bags left?"
"Um...no, I think that's all we got."
Shigeo Yasuda climbed out of the dumpster.
He looked at the five bags. "Hmm, looks like we did good today."
He grabbed four, she grabbed one.
"What's the time?"
She told him.
"Dang it, we'd better make this fast. I hafta be up there soon."
"But aren't they having that thing with the parents today?" Ayumi asked.
"Yeah, so I guess they can just be extra careful walking in the hallways."
Working and Middle-Class parents began to pack into the building through the one double door. Some of them were accompanied by their children.
Kobayashi-sensei and the Principal greeted them and directed towards the cafeteria.
"Um, hey there," Kobayashi said to Haibara and the Professor as they walked by.
In total, about 80 to 100 parents showed up.
Dr. Agasa was walking towards Torishima-sensei, when:
"Ah! You must be the Professor."
Dr. Agasa shook the fat lady's hand. "And you must be the school nurse. Conan-kun told me all about you."
"About my...*ahem* garden?"
"Yes, and be rest assured it doesn't bother me."
He then turned to face...
"Nope, I'm his twin brother, Misato."
"So, um, you're a teacher here?"
"Nah. I'm just part of the school board. I've been trying to get my alma mater to lend some equipment for Teitan's science lab. You know, once it comes in we'll need somebody to come teach basic chemistry in the science lab. How about it, Professor? Would you maybe consider volunteering to do that?"
"Oh? Um, w-well... "
Ai-kun would be better suited for that, honestly, he thought.
"Um, by the way, you said you're not a teacher here? So how do you know about me?"
"Umm, I-I read about you in the news, or course!" Misato said with a nervous chuckle. "Your portable electronic can opener is legendary."
"But...that didn't sell well at all, I don't think?" Dr. Agasa said.
"Aww, don't be so modest! Oh, if you'll excuse me I need to go talk with the Principal."
In the thick and thin of the crowd, Haibara sat down at a table next to 6 other kids.
"So, what'd you do?" a boy her (supposed) age asked.
"I'm here because I've been sleeping through classes," he said.
"Um, well, I've been playing hoo-
Almost a conditioned response by this point, her heart rate doubled. Her head shot left and right frantically, and her thinking became muddled.
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
Instead of answering, she got up and ran for the door.
If I can just make it to the exit, she thought...
That Person was coming. He/She was running after her.
That Person was an adult; even if they had less stamina, they had longer legs.
That Person caught up with her, and stood before her.
There was a lump in her throat.
"...Do you remember me?"
She didn't answer.
"Well, I guess that's a trick question anyhow. If you didn't, you wouldn't have run. Am I wrong, Sherry?"
Her lip quivering, she let out a barely audible response:
"What are you going to do to me?"
Without looking away from their face, she reached her hand into her pocket. As she began to pull it out, That Person grabbed her hand and yanked it upwards.
He/She snatched the phone from her hand. He/She looked at the screen.
Haibara took this chance to run the other way. That Person tossed the phone over his/her shoulder and ran after her.
That Person grabbed her, picked her up, and slammed her against one of the lockers.
"What do you WANT with me?!" she demanded, exasperated.
He/She sighed. "We need to talk."
"It all started yesterday," the boy said. "I brought a 1989 collector's edition Kamen Yaiba trading card to school. I'd gotten it for cheap the day before at a yard sale, and I was looking to show it off to my classmates. When I got home, I realized it gone!"
"And so today you asked Mitsuhiko to help you find it," Conan guessed.
"Y-yeah. I promised him my vote if he'd help me. We spent about an hour looking around after class let out, until some teacher scolded us and made us go home."
Conan sighed. "Okay. First off, did you show off the cards in every class you had?"
"And what was your last class that day?" Nancy asked.
"Well, um...oh yeah. It was hand practice."
"You sit in the back of the classroom then, right?" Conan said.
"Huh? How'd you know that?" the kid asked.
"Your lips have calluses," Conan said. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you'd recently taken up playing the trombone. It's a powerful instrument, of low pitch, so the teacher would probably make you sit in the back, so that he could better hear the higher pitch woodwind instruments."
"That's amazing!" Mitsuhiko said.
"But yeah, we went there and searched," the kid said. "And we even searched my desk, and the floor surrounding it. The card wasn't there."
"Hey, wait a minute," Conan said. "The band at Teitan is still being taught by Nagatoshi-sensei, right? Wasn't he really strict? An old-fashioned, non-nonsense kind of guy?"
"Was?" Mitsuhiko and the kid repeated, confused.
"Conan, you've never had any classes with him before, right?" Mitsuhiko asked. "So how would you know what he's like?"
That guy was psychotic, Conan recalled with a deadpan look. When I played a wrong note he'd trample on the sheet music and scream at me, and break a drumstick or two for good measure. My mom petitioned the school to have him fired, and when that failed she made me quit band and taught me piano herself at home.
"Oh, um, I heard from Ran-neechan that he was teaching band ten years ago," he lied with a nervous chuckle. "So, anyways, you'd be in trouble if he caught you goofing off right before class, right?"
"Yeah," the kid said. "Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure when I was showing them the card Nagatoshi-sensei hadn't arrived yet."
"So what if he suddenly arrived while you were showing the card to the guy next to you?" Conan asked. "What if, without looking conspicuous, such as by bending over, you had to find some way to hide the card? What would you do?"
There was a pause, and then:
"OH! I know now! I stuck it under the desk, onto that wad of chewing gum! Thanks!"
The kid turned to go when-
"Hold on. The parent-teachers conference is happening right now," Conan said. "If we tag along with you, we can explain why you're there, and perhaps keep you out of trouble."
The kid nodded. "Okay!"
Mitsuhiko turned to Nancy. "You should come with us."
She shrugged. "Cool. Not like there's anything else to do right now."
Haibara returned to the cafeteria.
The Professor ran up to her. "There you are. I've been looking all over for you. Hmm? What happened to your phone?"
"I dropped it earlier," Haibara said. "I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings and it happened just like that."
"I see. Anyways, Kobayashi-sensei would like to talk to you about something."
He went to hold her hand. Startled, hers recoiled from his.
"Huh? Ai-kun, is something the matter?" Dr. Agasa asked.
She stared down at her feet. "...No, everything's fine. Let's go."He
Taking a side entrance inside the school, they snuck around to the music room.
Mitsuhiko tried the door. He shook his head as to indicate "It's no use."
"Give me a boost," Conan said. "I'm gonna peek inside."W
With their assistance, he managed to peer into the small rectangular window on the door.
When he saw it, he fell backwards, onto the floor.
"Are you alright?" Nancy asked, helping him up.
"What'd you see in there?" Nancy asked.
"A red stain on the carpet," Conan said. "It was fairly large too. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that..."
He turned to the kid. "Alright, you go on home now. If your card's in there, we'll retrieve it, and hand it back to you tomorrow."
The kid nodded, and walked away.
"What, do you think somebody was...?" Nancy asked.
Conan nodded. "I know technically we're not supposed to be here, but we need to find an adult."
"Ehh? What are you three doing here?"
It was Yasuda, who'd just turned a corner, wet mop in hand.
"Ah, Yasuda-san!" Conan said. "We need you to unlock this door for us. Hurry, it's important!"
Without entirely comprehending the situation, Yasuda nodded and went to find somebody with a key.
A few minutes later, he and another member of the school faculty were unlocking the door to the music room.
They opened it. Mitsuhiko ran inside, and:
His scream resounded across the school, and soon other adults came running.
In that room a man, Keitaro Nagatoshi, age 55, lay dead, several stab wounds on his body.
(Hoshi Monogatari by Egoist)
I know you've taken this from my cold dead fingertips
I wrote this to tell you what I never had the nerve to say
Because I know that right now, you're punishing yourself
Because you of all people deserve to know the whole story
Once I was only a child, but I was old enough to understand
Something important was missing, though I didn't know what
I wandered in the dark, calling to the crowd, "Excuse me, sirs!"
"Somebody, anybody, please, tell me what I'm doing wrong!"
Finally, on the starry night of Tanabata, I looked out my window
And said, "Kami-sama, if you could let me have a friend, just one.
One who's true and faithful, and funny, but most of all spirited.
This one thing I ask, and I'll never ask for anything ever again."
And then I met you, and in what seemed like an eternity I had
The chance to know you, and for the first time I was really happy
It never ended, you see, that initial bliss: it grew, as we grew closer
Thank you, my one and dearest friend, for teaching me how to love
Next Conan's Hint: Eraser