I have never written stories about Hakuba before. This is sort of a warm-up for a multi-chaptered story I plan on making in which he plays a major part. Comments & feedbacks are warmly welcomed, especially from Hakuba writers. Special thanks to Astarael00 and dagronrat (from livejournal ) for their beta work, and to Icka!M.Chif's information page for its character statistics. Hakuba's guardian ( Shiori-san) was my personal interpretation of the 'granny' character featured briefly in Magic Kaito's latest file.
Character: Hakuba (mainly), his guardian, and Kaito.
Word count: 4115
Summary: There were times for truth, you reasoned, but that was not your goal in solving cases, in piecing clues together and putting away criminals. Perhaps what people needed was closure; an end to a torturous cycle. When you were able to give it, you would.
Being a foreigner, you decided, was the kind of feeling that everyone claimed to understand, but only few did. You stood under the shelter of a terrace restaurant, struggling to open your umbrella and watching, with a fascination that never ceased even as it aged, Londoners pacing along sidewalks in their tall boots and high-heeled shoes, trying to catch the underground train or attempting, furiously, to hail a cab. Their skin was pink, flushed by cold weather. Puffs of white air emerged from their half-opened mouths like smoke from tiny chimneys.
Some things never change, Shiori-san remarked. You felt a tender weight of sadness as you responded to her typically dry observation, delivered with a combination of a flat tone and lack of facial expression that well disguised her softer heart, with a polite smile and a barely visible nod. This was the kind of conversation you were most comfortable with; where silence disguised meanings shared through history, rendering them invisible, and words were treated like precious currency; to be dispensed with cautious wisdom.
You supposed it was one of many little habits she had passed along to you; a lesson from her generation where excessive displays of emotion were considered scandalous, humiliating. A generation obsessed, first and foremost, with little details; the proper angle of crossed feet and the correct way to rest one's curled fingers along the handle of a teacup. Every motion was a silent poetry. She had always reflected such values from her first arrival in Hakuba's household, more than forty years ago. Like you, she was biracial; born of a Japanese father and a European—in her case, German mother. She spent long periods of her life investigating both cultures, absorbing them to the bone; driven both by passion and a yearning for singular identity. Because of this, she stated, she was able to see the threads bridging the tension and superficial contrast between the two cultures. In fact, in her blood, they were never at odds: emotions were concealed, and etiquette looked upon not merely as a rule, but a deeply integral part of living.
She had insisted that you understand and accept the complexity that your mixed race and largely unorthodox upbringing would inevitably cause. You, who were snatched from the roots of early childhood in Japan, too young to feel a true longing for a land which had scarcely left an impression on your memory. You, who had to relearn everything in a world without familiarity; trying to adjust to the idea of being, permanently, a stranger.
You remembered tasting your first canned tomato soup, Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate, and scalding hot coffee sold in plain white Styrofoam cups from a nearby coffee shop.
You let him drink coffee?
It would only have been a matter time before he begged to taste yours, madam…
You used to marvel at your mother's natural poise and elegance; her radiant, effortless beauty as she charmed everyone in sight. Once, you interpreted her large absence in your early life as a manifestation of her resentment towards the idea of having children, of having little burdens that slowed her down. Eventually, as you grew, the cause of her distance became clear as water; it was fear that held her back from guiding your fingers to recognize patterns and textures, to whisper lullabies or assist you in putting together alphabet blocks. It was absurd, unfathomable. She, who had the power to command the attention of all the guests in a banquet with a shadow of her smile, with the words she left dangling from her lips, who had never encountered any difficulty in weakening your father's stubborn resolve, was intimidated by her lack of maternal instinct. She had no idea how to win your respect, love, and attention. You were undecipherable to her.
Shiori-san was not oblivious to it, you knew, but she had wisely kept her silence, aware that it was something you should gradually comprehend and forgive yourself. Likewise, although she gave you a map along with a travel guide for tourists in London obsessed with Madam Tussaud and the Buckingham Palace, she had resisted the temptation to simply walk you along and introduce the names of streets, alleys, buildings; shops, barbers, restaurants. There were times when, tailing you discreetly just a few meters behind, she would let you believe that you, eight years old, alone and soaked from head to toe by the endless pouring of rain, had been truly and completely lost. She chuckled as you revisited the moment, muttering something about absorbing fears and the thrill of discovery.
She had begun as your childhood guardian, then became a dependable assistant and confidante, going so far as to sort out sensitive information of cases you handled in London. You were astonished by the delicate threads that formed and transformed relationships; the very subtle way it they crept into one's heart and softened it, like rain breathing life into dry patches of earth. Although you had never been emotionally dependant on anyone, you couldn't ignore a gentle pang of sadness that arose upon learning about her impending move to India. Her daughter and in-law had decided to relocate to find fresh air and a change of scenery….as if they were in short supply here, she wondered aloud. If Shiori-san had been allowed to choose, you knew she would have stayed here in a heartbeat; she recognized the country more than the patterns on her own palms. However, she was aware of her age and the simple fact that she had no other relative to take care of her when she was unable to do so herself anymore; and taking those inconvenient facts into consideration she had made her decision. Treating her to a simple lunch at the small café where she had had her first meal as an immigrant, and acting as good company on her last day in London were, you considered, pretty small gestures compared to what she had done for you.
Rain, rain, go away…
It was a little shocking to hear the children's rhyme coming from her lips; her impassive tone rendering the familiar tune into an eerie chant. She never sang unless she was feeling a terrible bout of anxiety, so much that she forgot to lock her emotions under pursed lips and a sharp, scolding glare.
Come again another day…
You could barely hear your own voice, drowned as it was by the sound of chattering over oval tables. Nevertheless, you noticed a few curious stares from onlookers who eyed you both with amusement, probably thinking, what an odd couple, although you could easily pass as her grandson.
She tapped the sole of her flat shoes impatiently against the pavement. All the cabs were occupied; and she had been living in the city long enough to know that booking a cab by phone at this hour would be impossible. She would have been greeted by a busy tone or, alternatively, a polite instruction to wait as they filled the silence with instrumental music. She was never a huge of fan of rainy weather. It makes everything messy, she had complained once.
That was one of few points where your opinions differed. There was something oddly soothing about the soft patter of rain on the rooftop as you lay awake at night. It almost felt like a lullaby. You liked the nonchalant way it troubled all people indiscriminately. Passengers on a car had to open their windows and expose themselves to freezing wind and the constant noise of traffic; the drivers had to struggle to see past foggy windowpane and ignore the distraction provided by the constant back and forth movement of wipers. Sometimes they were jammed too, prompting the cars to pull over at a roadside, where curses were muttered with passion. Pedestrians without umbrellas were soaked from head to toe; their expensive linens and wool sweaters reduced to a second skin. Even those sporting umbrellas and parasols had to toe the road carefully, lest they wind up with wet socks, smelly shoes, and brown splashes of water from the puddles staining the edge of their trousers and jeans.
When you were a child, you believed that rain had a mythical power to liberate. From the kitchen's windows, you saw your neighbors, a young married couple from Scandinavia, as they ran barefooted out of their house, chasing each other across the lawn, their faces contorted with giggles. When the husband caught his wife, he wrapped his arms around her and soon they danced, feverishly, the soles of their feet encrusted with wet, brown shade of earth and paper-cut shreds of grass.
I want to play in the rain too, you demanded. Responding to this, Shiori-san had stopped the motion of filling empty cups with tea and sugar cubes, observed the view with a vaguely distant gaze, and simply stated, you will get wet.
It occurred to you that she had never said no, nor stopped you from rushing out of the house, still in your pajamas, disregarding her warning. That night, you ended up with pneumonia, although the fever had decreased the morning after. You recalled waking up to your mother's gently worried expression; the back of her hand cold against your forehead.
All these liquid regulations are ridiculous, she complained bitterly, placing her Eau De Toilette in the clasp of your hand. Give it to your lady friend, she suggested knowingly. You opened your mouth to protest, but her glare quickly discouraged you from saying anything. You didn't want to make a scene, especially not in an international airport packed with tourists and armed security personnel.
Her confusion was natural, you considered. Unlike you she wasn't a frequent traveler, and had yet to catch on to the latest updates of the seemingly endless list of flight regulations.It's for security purposes, you assured her. She raised her brows in a manner that suggested she wasn't the slightest bit convinced.
She scanned the endless rows of luxurious airplanes from panoramic windows and turned around, studying the coffee-shops and duty-free perfume stores, where people lingered over fancy displays with typical shoppers' fascination. You couldn't help but worry for her; she looked so lost and confused, despite her brave declaration that nothing was to be feared. She had weathered more difficult situations. They just made things complicated to confuse the little people, she reasoned.
You recognized her struggle; her need to put up a brave face. When you returned to Japan a year ago, having taken interest in a puzzling homicide case your father was investigating, you were frustrated by your lack of memories; everything was strange; even the most beautiful sceneries and ordinary objects seemed to possess a sinister edge that only you could see. Passing an old shrine, or an old bicycle shop, you were tickled by a hint of recognition, of an experience left unrecorded; but you could never retrace the broken path. It was like trying to rebuild an old drawing you had erased, or watercolor smudges that once held a shape. Your Japanese was never good enough to pass as a local's; sometimes it was too formal, crippled by awkwardness. There were times, in the beginning, when you couldn't even find the right word at all until a shopkeeper, or a waiter, or someone next in a queue, chimed in with an English equivalent of it, trying to be helpful. It was simply embarrassing.
Unlike in England, you had no one to navigate the world with. The isolation quietly ate at you. Still, you resolved to cope on your own. It's not wise to show weakness in another man's land, Shiori-san had warned you before. You spent your days pretending, with a mask of arrogance, that you weren't threatened by the unfamiliar details, by your own strangeness in their eyes. Even while buying a carton of milk at a convenience store, you would pick one without hesitation, as if you actually knew which brand was to be trusted.
Kuroba must have known the feeling, you reflected, that of a foreigner trying to make sense of his new world--the one he had inherited as matter of fate. You knew this from the millisecond he took, a brief hesitation, just before he began his show, on a pedestal or the ledge of a skyscraper's rooftop. You knew this from the fear that crossed his face, one blink of a moment, where he let his mask drop. You knew this from his slightly oversized tuxedo, with sleeves that extended past his wrists; the way he moved in it as he willed every crease and fold in the cloth to become his own. Isn't it your job to find out? You remembered his slight pause just before he tossed the challenge with almost convincing bravado.
You hadn't been present when Kaitou Kid made his first reappearance after an eight-year-long absence, but during your own quiet moments you were able to imagine how it went; the sharp intake of breath he took before he dove—muttering a quick prayer, perhaps—and the first laughter, nervous, hysterical, and unmistakably joyful, as the mechanical wings opened and flew upwards; carrying him against the weight of gravity.
The gift, a small pocketbook of prayers, was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Even the idea of giving a farewell gift seemed superfluous and strange, considering the lack of sentimentality in her character and yours. While sharing a detention, however, Kuroba had coaxed the reason of the announced temporary travel to London out of you and had, in that imperceptible way of his, suggested that she would perhaps be too proud to carry a reminder of her past life to a new one, although she would definitely need something to assure her of a possible return, if she wished to.
You remembered sitting at black granite staircases in front of a small chapel as she took her prayers for about thirty minutes each morning. The faint sound of the choir, you recalled vaguely, sounded like a soft goodbye. Despite not knowing the song's title, its melody came to you, scattered and disjointed, as you shook her hand in the formal way she had always preferred. You let the book fall into her carry-on discreetly as you spoke the last formalities; phone numbers she could always call in case of trouble, reminders to check her passport and traveling documents and to spare enough cash in rupees for the taxi.
Do not overwork yourself, she advised at last, giving you the stern glare you knew you would miss a little, from time to time. Her glance fell to your cell phone which had continued to ring in that familiar tone which meant 'work'. You gave her an apologetic grin before checking the message. Kaitou Kid, she concluded, examining your guarded expression before quickly shaking her head. No, not him.
Nothing to worry about, you convinced her. It was your father, informing you that a series of murders had occurred in Kyoto, each similar in method and technique to those a serial killer had used a year ago. You and your father had worked together to solve the case then, putting the mad culprit behind bars. Your father suggested that the present killer was most likely a copycat. Kogoro Mouri is on the case, the message related, but your help is needed.
As Shiori-san's thin, gaunt frame disappeared in the crowd of passengers that wandered around the departure area, you considered the one good thing the separation would bring: she would have lost contact with you should the unfortunate happen. At my age, she once commented dryly, I would rather come to a wedding rather than a funeral. You can eat plentiful food without guilt.
Gazing at the endless row of tiny windows, bathed a warm shade of yellow, you wondered which among those was hers. She had requested an aisle seat, but all despite one or two at the very back had been occupied. There wasn't any other option then; Shiori-san, for some unknown reasons, had avoided sitting at the tail of the plane like a plague. She never entertained your curiosity about it, and your father had once shrugged off the mystery by simply assuming that it was only due to an extremely uncomfortable flight she had taken in her past. When she was young, no flight had been as comfortable as they were now. Your mother, meanwhile, only smiled and said that everyone in the world was allowed a private secret or two. You had taken this principle to heart. She had never been one who dispensed wisdoms and advices generously, so you took what little she gave you with absolute faith. Seeds of those little wisdoms remained even now.
Your mother had a diary she had never bothered to hide or guard against prying eyes. Instead, she kept it scattered on the table, sometimes half-opened, covered only by stacks of paper and paper-weights, fountain pens, and necklaces. Whoever was granted access to her room, your father among them, would have had many chances to peek at the pages. It should have been tempting; she was social but mysterious. However, for as long as you knew, not a single person had dared to stop at her desk, let alone touch the book's pages. The occupants of the house had always followed one unspoken rule: to look away when confronted with a scene that wasn't meant for them.
You were good at precisely that: giving people space; determining, instinctively, private territories not to be breached. It was hard to restrain the urge of your curiosity and to help someone so divorced from reality, but nevertheless you learned to watch from a distance, to let some knowledge left unsaid—to grant people time. Unlike your fellow detectives, you did not believe that truth was the always the best. You couldn't ignore the lesson of your personal experience and had no desire to be a hypocrite, given all that happened.
You had never told anyone, not even Shiori-san, about what you had accidentally witnessed one summer evening a long time ago as you were sneaking into one of many rooms in your family's house left covered in plastic sheets and cloth. You had wanted simply to hide; there were too many guests at the party who considered little boys' plump cheeks adorable.
The room was dark, except for a sliver of light from the hallway. They thought the room was empty, you supposed, as you were too afraid to make even the softest of noises. There were low murmurs accompanied with husky laughter, and the soft brush of evening dress against carpeted floor. Their faces had been obscured by a Japanese silkscreen panel, but as the couple was leaving you glimpsed the woman's face below her feather mask. It had seemed familiar.
You had shrugged it off as you returned to the hall; laughing at your Holmes-fueled imagination. You couldn't help a sharp intake of breath, however, as you bumped into your mother in the hallway. The stilettos are unbearably painful, she remarked with a sheepish smile, pointing to her leather pumps. It was strange, you recalled thinking then, that she bothered to explain such a thing to you. Her lipstick had just been reapplied, you noticed. You spotted the ivory black tube clutched in her palm.
You drew yourself away from your parents for years after; it wasn't a hard task. You never pursued the truth either; preferring instead to stay in a state of stagnant wondering. At least, the guilt that you bore was a private one; you did not have to see heartbreak and accusations flung across quiet halls. For years, you sought comfort in distancing yourself; using your study as an excuse before discovering the truly absorbing distraction that later became your calling: cases.
Then, sometime during the grey autumns of your third year in secondary high, came the months where they resolved to tell you nothing, but you knew every detail anyway. The sleeping pills, phone calls that lasted until four A.M, the eye bags under your parents' eyes. The corruption scandal had left your father in shock and severe clinical depression. Your mother flew to Japan to take care of him. Still, when she shed her tears, you wondered whom she was crying for—until one night, unable to sleep, you had wandered to the pavilion and saw, under the pale glow of moonlight that fell across their faces, your mother caressing your father. Just as you'd done years ago, you turned your heels and left without notifying them of your presence. Without her, your father declared softly once, he would never have managed to crawl back into light, even after his name was cleared.
It never took away your guilt, nor justified your silence. But whenever your detective companions began to speak about truth as if it was a matter of life and death, the moment replayed itself in your head; soothing you from the sting of their words. There were times for truth, you reasoned, but that wasn't your goal in solving cases, in piecing clues together and putting away criminals. Perhaps what people needed was closure; an end to a torturous cycle. When you were able to give it, you would.
You thought about Kuroba, about the child who cried on his father's dead body. As you observed a plane circling the glistening wet runway in stubborn, aimless persistence, you felt dwarfed by the things you had just begun to understand.
The gate opened, revealing a pale grey sky and the fresh, cold air of winter that burrowed under your clothes. You thought about putting on your overcoat, to resist the discomfort in the same manner as others did. There wasn't much consideration put into it; to you the act was almost a routine.
From the corner of your eyes, you sighted an Asian couple and their little boy. He wore a cowboy hat and vest, along with corduroy pants about a size too big. The mother wore a simple tunic obviously tailored for people living in tropical countries. They were not too wealthy, you supposed, or well-prepared for the trip. The father was kneeling down; struggling to retrieve the jackets stuffed inside one of the locked suitcases. You noticed a tinge of impatience in the way they moved and talked with each other, but more than that you were tenderly drawn to their eyes, which were sparkling with wide-eyed bewilderment and curiosity, and the amusement in their laughter when, apparently, they realized they had all forgotten the combination numbers.
You could have offered your coat but you knew, in a way a mother recognized another expecting woman out of a shared experience, they would have politely refused. You decided not to wear yours, anyway. It wasn't about solidarity, you thought, eyeing the little boy that for some reason reminded you of yourself. When you first arrived in London, you had embraced the chilling weather and white frost as something nearly magical. You were six then. While spending your first winter holiday here, you had swallowed a fistful of snow, determined to taste its flavor in your mouth, and had to be rushed to the hospital the very same day. You were too young and excited to realize that Japan had winter, too.
Welcome to London, the cheery cab driver greeted you, obviously assuming from your vague Asian features that you must have been a tourist. For a second it occurred to you to correct him, but eventually you decided it wasn't necessary. In front of your cab, the family was still occupied with the task of fitting the cab's trunk with their bags and suitcases, moving quickly to avoid curses and honks.
You looked at the wide, open roads and brick buildings painted with neutral colors, at the bloodless sky and winter coats, worn by pedestrians, which seemed to have been produced from the same factory. It was such a contrast to Tokyo, you observed, where a flamingo-colored giant octopus in the town's shopping district wouldn't have appeared out of place. You had long outgrown the culture shock of a traveler, but a part of you longed to regain some of that feeling, silly as it might be.
First time here? the driver asked with clearly pronounced English, suppressing his Cockney accent for your benefit.
You rolled down the window, fondly welcoming the cold mist. The little grin on your face, you supposed, was enough of an answer.