Author's note: Well, yeah, I'm being suicidal again – so what? A muse came and cursed me into doing this – and it'll probably kill me in the process, so send flowers on my grave, people. I'll try and finish this first, though, and agonise later. Nah, seriously, just think about Kazuha and Heiji as Elizabeth and Mr Darcy – that's damn addictive.
Warning: OCC-ness of character may, and probably will, occur. That's justifiable enough. I'll try and make the main characters as close to their original tempers as possible, but there will unavoidably be some changes to fit the story.
Disclaimer: I own nothing at all. The whole idea for this is the sole property of two masterminds – the cast is Aoyama-sama's, and the plot is Jane Austen's. I'm merely meddling the two, and getting fanfiction. (Careful – some of the lines hereafter will be entirely Austen's, among the most famous in the book, without any – or else very little – interference from me, and that only to fit my case. Those you recognise are hers, those you don't may or may not be mine. Depends on whether you've already read the book and have a photographic memory.)
A question of Pride and…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Is it also a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a small fortune, must be in want of a husband. However little known the feelings of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters – especially when said daughters, and their cousins, are as clever as pretty, and their father is a cheap, unlucky detective, drinker, smoker, and hurried to get rid of any excessive expense. (1)
"Do you know," Mouri Kogoro consequently asked his lawyer of a wife one morning, "that the Eto House is let at last?" (2)
Mouri Eri, who was buried half-deep in heaps of paper, uttered a groan which might and might not be an encouragement, and didn't lift u her eyes to him. By no means discouraged, Mouri leant over the doorframe and went on steadily,
"It's been rented two days ago to a young man from town. A single young man." No reaction. "He must not be older than twenty-five." An eyebrow twitched annoyingly on his face upon his receiving no other approbation or mark of interest than a vague nod. "They say he must have at least four or five thousand a year."
Eri frowned at the sheet of paper she was reading through, scanned it one last time, appended her signature on the right corner of it, and placed it on a pile of likewise signed or refused forms. "What's his name?"
She lifted her eyes to her husband. "Oh? A fellow detective, isn't he?"
Mouri looked a bit annoyed. "Hardly," said he, with an air of compassed dignity. "A mere kid of twenty-five. Nothing yet to compare with me." He then proceeded to check his clothes for the minutest sparkle of dust, and look very satisfied with himself.
"A kid who has solved a great deal of cases already," Eri remarked, nodding at a newspaper on a corner of the table, where the picture of a handsome young man spread in front page, massively headlined in black.
"Sheer luck," Mouri cut in curtly. "He isn't half as talented as me," ("Of course not," his wife muttered,) 'but I daresay he'll be good enough for the girls. He'll do very well for Ran I think. Yes, he'll be very pleased with Ran. She's the eldest, after all, and the prettiest."
"Yes, of course," Eri said absently, thought not paying much attention.
"I shall go and visit him as soon as he is settled – the Koizumis intend to go as well, I know, though they have but one daughter, and much enough money for her to live as a maiden all her life. Ran is much prettier than she is, however. I would be very disappointed in the man if he fell in love with Akako-chan instead of Ran. Ran," he called as his two daughters passed by the office's door on their way outside, "I depend upon you for being nice to Kudo Shinichi-san, when he's come – you know he's likely to have four or five thousand a year – that should provide you well. And when you are married, Kazuha may go and live half the year with you. You will not be far; the Eto house is only five miles away; and it will be a great relief to your parents."
"A great relief to our parents' purse," murmured Kazuha in her sister's ear, "for during this same half-year he will surely manage to send Aoko away, too, or to marry her well, if he can."
Ran smiled, but silenced her, and seeing that they were no longer wanted in their parents' office, the girls went on quietly their way on to the garden. It was a grand, well-managed place, whose tall hedges and twisted turns had provided them with many a hiding place when children, during endless hide-and-seek parties; and now, at respectively twenty-three and twenty, when they wished to escape their father's claws – claims.
His last announcement they already know about; in fact, only their mother, who hardly left her office all day for reasons of overwork, could ignore it. It had been for the last two days the newest and only topic of conversation in the small neighbouring village of Beika, which they often visited, for they had an uncle there, and it was only half an hour's walk away. The news of the Eto house being rented at last was heightened by its being Kudo Shinichi who took it; Kudo Shinichi, who at twenty-five was already a renowned detective wherever he went, and admired by many girls in the neighbourhood – although, of course (everybody said) they didn't hold a chance when Mouri Ran could meet him before; for she was considered as the prettiest, the gentlest, the kindest of girls twenty miles round.
Kazuha too was thought a beauty, but she felt everything too strongly, and consequently expressed her opinion too directly, without giving to the situation the reflection which her sister took pains in having before expressing any judgement. Their three years' difference were no factor, and their mutual tempers were now determined: where Ran was mild and compassionate, Kazuha was ardent and decided; and when their impressions diverged, it wasn't by any difference of judgement, but of opinion and apprehension.
In what concerned Kudo Shinichi, it wasn't their opinion of the man, but of his reaction when faced with Ran, which differed. Kazuha was as convinced as everybody else that the new occupant would be bewitched by her sister's charms, and though she didn't go quite as far, as some already did, as to suppose them in love with each other when they had not yet met, she promised herself a lot of amusement in watching the two of them when they'd come to be better acquainted.
His character she knew a little by what she'd read about him in different newspapers and articles, and though herself thought it wanted temper, she also considered it would fit and complete her sister's perfectly. Till his arrival, which should, according to most reports, occur around Michaelmas, she could only content herself with such considerations; but as his taking possession should coincide with the first ball of the season in the assembly room, she should then be at leisure to observe their behaviour in all the comparative intimacy and easiness of a ballroom.
She had reached that point of her reasoning when they were met along the lane by Aoko – their cousin, and of the three the youngest. Her father Nakamori Ginzo was a respected and estimable police officer in an advantageous unit – he was in charge of the pursuit of the infamous Kaito Kid – whose daughter, due to the considerable amount of time he spent travelling after the thief and to the early and unexpected blow of his wife's death when Aoko was barely five, he'd preferred to confide to his sister's care and attention, instead of placing her within the hands of a governess.
All three girls grew up together, in education, in reputation, and in manner alike, without any favouritism for the sister, or disdain for the cousin; to the point that newly acquaintances, struck by Aoko and Ran's resemblance (there was a great likeness in the features of each, and from afar they could easily be mistaken for one another), often thought them the sisters, and Kazuha, whose green eyes and brown hair differentiated, their cousin.
As for the news – since they discussed it over while walking back to the house – Aoko agreed that Ran was the best choice Kudo Shinichi could make – in fact, the best choice that any man could make, instead of addressing their occasional compliments to fiery, impertinent girls such a Kazuha or herself, she added with a grin. "But the reason for such indifference from her, towards such an interesting matter as a new, handsome arrival in the country," Kazuha remarked, "was that she had no worry to have in that part, for she had chosen her husband at age five."
This made Aoko blush and turn pale several times round, and she replied that it was not the case and they were merely childhood friends, but Kazuha teased mercilessly on 'till they had entered the house.
Kudo Shinichi took possession of the Eto house by Michaelmas; and Mouri Kogoro was among the earliest of those who waited on him. The visit was returned in due form, and they sat together about ten minutes in the office. The guest had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much, but he only saw the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the opportunity of ascertaining from an upper window that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.
The intelligence they later received was highly satisfactory – enough, at least, to wait for the day of the ball. Their father was all too ready to forgive the better detective skills of the man he already considered as his son-in-law, for his income rose to at least five thousands a year, and Kudo-san was as young, as handsome, as agreeable, as the girls prompted their father to describe him. The information they shared later on Beika added to his fame, for it was said that not only did he intend to attend the ball in the assembly rooms, but also to bring a party of his own, of friends and relations he'd gone back to Tokyo to fetch.
The girls in the neighbourhood dreaded that ladies among that party should have better and earlier claims on the young man, and Kazuha herself, though optimistic by nature, started to fear that Ran's attractions on him should melt even before they had begun to operate. All those fears were however discharged on his entering the ballroom with a party which, including himself, enlarged to no wider than three, and, excluding him, consisted in his own sister and another young man friend of the family.
Kudo Shinichi was a handsome, agreeable man, whose open, cheerful manners and enthusiasm to make acquaintances soon acquired him the respect and esteem of the whole assembly. His face showed no diffidence but intelligence and sagacity, as might expected from a renowned detective such as him, who could judge without partiality but without coldness; and he soon rose up in Kazuha's good opinion by standing to dance with her sister, which proved that, on top of all those merits, he had sense and good taste.
His sister was a frailer, fairer woman, dressed at the best of the fashion, but whose manners and composure were not engaging. She bestowed a smile on Ran, and hoped that 'they would soon become very good friends', with a friendly twist to her voice, and no regard at all for the rest of the family, to whom Kudo-san was being introduced.
His friend was soon known to be a Hattori Heiji, to whom the admiration created by his face, tall person, noble mien, must be excited by the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year, and a large estate in Osaka; but after the first introducing part of the evening, his popularity rapidly declined upon his refusing to be introduced to any young lady in order to dance he was declared as proud, as disagreeable and as forbidding, as he had been said to be handsome, unassuming, and in general of amiable composure.
When the ball reached its full height, the number of ladies was such, that the gentlemen were scarce, and Kazuha, although happy to consider her sister happily engaged to dance with Kudo Shinichi and her cousin as happily settled at the other end of the set, and obliged with the conversation of Koizumi Akako, who was the family's most intimate friend, was forced to sit for two dances. This did not however bother her as much as it would have on some other occasion, for they were seated not far-away from the place where Hattori Heiji was standing, looking about leisurely, with an impenetrable air that spoke neither of particular enjoyment nor of particular bore; and Kazuha was curious to make out how much a young man, rich and handsome, aged no more than five and twenty, could find so little amusement in ballroom.
Some minutes' observation, however, were not very profitable, for amidst a constantly moving neighbourhood he had not shifted ten inches to the side. Shinichi-san's sister, Sonoko-san, once joined him and had a talk; but upon her being asked to dance by Akako's father, and as in spite of her evident dislike for the scheme the gentleman made no move forwards to present her as already engaged to him, she was driven away. Hattori-san was left to gazing in an absorbed way to his glass of wine and looking idle until his friend joined him and said genially,
"Come on, Hattori, enjoy yourself a little! You have not moved a finger for half an hour. Here are reunited the finest gentlemen and the prettiest girls in the county – you must at least dance once."
"With whom? Your sister is already engaged, and you are standing with the only handsome girl in the room."
Shinichi-san looked back at Ran, who was speaking with Akako, and her sister was glad to see and hear admiration on his face and voice as he said, "Yes – she's beautiful, isn't she? But you see she's talking to her sister, who is very pretty and very agreeable, from what I've heard of. You should like her as partner, Hattori."
Kazuha smiled and nodded at Ran's and Akako's words, but her mind was set on a totally different object, and she was all ears for the answer, which came after the necessary pause for him to glance at her profile.
"She is tolerable, I suppose," (this said in the coldest of voices) "but not handsome enough to tempt me, if she is slighted as she is by other men. You'd better return to your partner, Kudo, and enjoy her smiles; you are wasting your time with me."
This left Kazuha in a complex mix of spirits. On one part the dislike created by his visible contempt for the whole company was heightened by the personal injury directed to herself; on the other the story suddenly appeared to her as deserving a good laugh, and once Ran was taken back to the dance floor by Shinichi-san, she told it with great enjoyment to Akako – and rapidly both were laughing so loud, since Kazuha decorated it with many details of how she imagined his face to look like at the time, that his attention couldn't help being directed towards them, with a frowning, quizzical expression. Kazuha caught his eye, and bowed her head with an arch smile, and then turned away.
She was thrown in his path again in the course of the evening, as he was talking to Koizumi-san – or, rather, Koizumi-san was talking to him – and she moved near them in order to join Aoko on the other side of the room; Akako's father, who was of a genteel, beaming nature, caught her elbow and addressed her with,
"Kazuha-chan, why are you not dancing? –Hattori-san, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure, when so much beauty is before you."
Hattori-san looked awkward, but as Koizumi-san took Kazuha's hand and prepared to give it to him, she instantly withdrew it, and with strained composure replied, "Indeed, Sir, I have not the least intention of dancing at present. I did not move this way in order to beg for a partner."
Hattori-san, with more politeness than complacence, requested the honour of her hand and of half an hour of her time, but they were at this point interrupted by one of the finest young men in the room, to whom Kazuha had engaged two dances on the day before, and who now came forward to claim them. With an arch apology, she went away with him, but as she turned back to glance at Hattori-san as they took their place in the set, she thought he perhaps looked less disappointed than she had expected him to.
The rest of the evening was agreeable to all. Both Akako and Kazuha were asked to dance by Shinichi-san, and the latter had the pleasure to find him as intelligent and sensible as she had hoped. He was clever, and didn't boast around about his detective successes, as she was used to hearing her own father do, though they were much poorer than the younger man's. He was very much liked by the assembled party when they all broke off, and not at all like his friend.
He was a disagreeable, proud sort of man, and his estate in Osaka and ten thousand a year were only factors to accentuate his vanity, no more matters of admiration. How they could bear each other, and appear on such friendly terms, was a mystery until the theory was advanced, the Kudo-san had probably met with many characters of that hardening, or worse (if that could be, put in Mouri, who hadn't appreciated the injury made to his daughter), and therefore knew how to handle him.
All in all, the acquaintance made was satisfactory – in one character there was much to praise, in the other much to abuse, and that was more than enough to occupy Mouri's mah-jongg with friends, or the girls' chatting sessions.
Koizumi Akako was the single daughter of a very wealthy man (3), and her house being situated barely two miles from the Mouri's, was naturally predisposed to become intimate with the girls from a young age. She was closest to Aoko, but hher turn of mind resembled Kazuha's and she was generally said to be as pretty as Ran, though in a different, more mature-looking way – she was older than them three. At twenty-five, she was not married, but this didn't seem to indispose her very much, since her father could provide her after his death with means to live in an easy way until she died. Far from resenting Shinichi-san's partiality for Ran, which was soon obvious to anyone knowing them, she advised Kazuha to give her sister some encouragement.
"To those who know her well, like we do," she said, "it is obvious that she is in a way to be very much in love with him, but he has known her no more than a fortnight, and may think his feelings not returned – at least, not with equal passion."
Kazuha was silent for a moment – she studied her sister's composure as she danced with Shinichi-san. Her laugh was rising fresh and clear, without embarrassment of any kind; and her gaze onto him was very tender. If he didn't see love in every one of her gestures, he was a fool – which they both knew he wasn't. She thought so, and said so. Akako smiled, and after a few moments set off on another track.
"I understand that Ran and Sonoko-san have become very good friends."
"Oh, yes–" Kazuha pulled a face, "not that I rejoice in that friendship, anyway. She is about as disagreeable and snobbish as her brother is open and unaffected. She swamps Ran with speeches of affection, but I don't think she'd at all like the idea of having her for a sister-in-law. I heard your father asking her yesterday when she thought should the happy event take place, and she looked at him as though she thought he had gone mad."
"I hope she will not contradict Shinichi-san's intention in that matter."
"I don't think so. I do not suppose he values his sister's opinion very much, being cleverer than she – and, besides, what argument could she oppose him, if he wanted to marry Ran?"
"But he does value the opinion of the gentleman here," said Akako, with a sly nod at Hattori-san, who was standing a few feet away in a leisurely manner. "Do you think he could object to the match? He does not seem to approve of it."
"I do not think he does – but then," Kazuha added, looking again at Ran and Shinichi who were retiring from the floor and speaking low to each other, "I do not imagine that anyone seeing them as they are now could doubt the pending ending to such a relationship as theirs. And even Hattori-san wouldn't dare intervene in the happiness of such a friend of his. He isn't such an ahou."
The idea made them laugh very much.
Kazuha's determined dislike for Hattori Heiji did not wear off over time or over further meetings. In fact, closer acquaintance did accustom her to the general contempt in which he seemed to hold everybody out of his own party, but didn't fade out its effects. To the injury first made to herself, was added those to her family – he was old with her mother, spiteful with her father, merely polite with Aoko (whom he must see as a wild-haired tomboy, hardly worth his notice); and from all of that she considered his cordiality towards Ran, as a simple sacrifice to his friend's feelings, though Kazuha was certain he didn't approve of them, nor of the match in general.
Ran's prospects, however, were placed in rather a happy perspective. Everything was going on charmingly – their inclination towards each other was evident, to the point that every day in Beika was expected to break in news of their engagement; and Ran was never so talkative, as when she confided in Aoko and Kazuha how much she liked him. As for her friendship with his sister, however little Kazuha liked the idea of it, it was necessarily an advantage to Ran, for Sonoko-san couldn't very well shout away from her bother a woman to whom she claimed the day before to be as close as a sister.
Besides, as Aoko remarked one evening they were coming back from a dinner at their Hakase's, she might consider that the matrimonial atmosphere of an engagement within her own family circle could very well encourage other propositions hitherto unavowed from quarters she expected much from. Although Hattori-san demonstrated to her about as much affection as he would to a lampshade, her hopes were of the fiercest kind.
Within the Mouri household, Ran's happiness was considered in different ways. Eri refused to interest herself in it as long as nothing material – an engagement ring might do very well – came out of it, and therefore showed no less cordiality towards Hattori Heiji than towards his friend, but Kogoro considered the matter as settled already, attended Shinichi-san with obsequious civility every time he visited them; and never failed to leave him and Ran alone in some room for a few minutes. Ran was more embarrassed than the contrary on such occasions, and most times Aoko and Kazuha were careful to come back as soon as they could manage. Fives weeks had thus passed away, and nothing positively serious had occurred, but Ran's love story seemed well-tracked, and very likely, despite what resistance could be forced on one side, to meet the happiest, most agreeable end of all.
(1) I'm making Kogoro a money-obsessed detective 'cause he isn't earning much of it so he's trying to save penny after penny – and of course, the sooner he gets rid of the girls, the more he's saving. That's the reason why he's determined to marry them the soonest possible…
(2) I took this name somewhere in the manga – guess where. If you can find it out, I'll try and make the update faster, 'kay? It's not that difficult.
(3) I didn't know anything of Akako's parents, so I cut out the mother and made up a father, even if he's not a bit like her – I like to think that this Akako is gentler than the one we know – and she definitely not a witch (so far) – but she's still very sharp in a way. You'll read more about her later.
I just hope you enjoyed reading this – I certainly enjoyed myself writing it - and wish you'll want to read the sequel. If I want to go through the whole book? 'Course I do! You may want to read it again – or read it, if you've never read it before, because you're really missing something.
See you in a few days – I don't know when, sadly. Homework and exams are slave-driving me – sure you know how this feels.