A/N: Well, this is it. The last one.
I have to say that over these last few months I truly believe I've improved in my writing, so I have to thoroughly thank you all.
Small recommendation/dare here: Once you finish, I challenge you to go off to Youtube or somewhere else with music and look up 'You'll Be In My Heart' by Phil Collins. Really listen to the lyrics…and see if you can't see what I'm relating that song to in this last bit of writing. The challenge? …don't cry or say 'aw'! :P
I hope you enjoy, I hope you enjoyed, and most of all…I hope you enjoy possible returns to the AWA universe in the uncertain future. ;3
The Word After
Being a Sunday after the big week of events, there was ample time for things to get back to normal. Along with the memory wipe of most of the residents in the city - and the world - Hoshi's spell had also repaired some of the most noticeable damage around the areas they'd fought in. Moving around in his actual home, Shinichi was gradually disposing of Okiya's belongings. Shinichi himself may have remembered what happened to the poor sap, but since that occurred during the forgotten week, he had to do his part to erase any sign of the man.
Although he did a very good job of erasing the evidence of the brief occupant, even going so far as to prepare an excuse as to where he'd gone in advance, something else of importance - if not greater importance - happened to slip his mind. Having just finished stuffing away a few of the books Okiya had owned into his own library, Shinichi was climbing down those very shelves when a phone began to ring. It wasn't the house phone or his cell phone - well, Shinichi's cell phone: it was "Conan's".
At that moment, Shinichi didn't realize his error. Due to his gradual pace in noticing, he already had the phone ready to answer in his hands when his eyes practically burst from their sockets in recollection. Staring wide-eyed at the phone, one lone thought trembled on his lips, "…C-Conan…isn't…at the agency."
During the week, an excuse had been made where the 'little guy' had gone, but now that that was all a vague fog to those not protected by Hattori or reminded of the events…Edogawa Conan was now missing. Scrambling around desperately, Shinichi subconsciously became more and more anxious as the rings went on. Most of his prior work to clean the place up was destroyed as he rummaged around for the one point of interest on his mind at that moment. 'Where is that bowtie?'
Practically diving for the red item on the floor, Shinichi answered immediately (as soon as he was sure the setting was right, of course.) "Y-Yes…?"
"Conan-kun…where are you?" It was Ran, which was both good news and bad news. Good, because the spell was working: her confusion was obvious, there was no reason as to why the boy was gone to her. Bad, because the spell was working: her confusion was obvious, there was no reason as to why the boy was gone to her. Unfortunately, there was no reason to the 'boy' himself why he was 'gone'. To make matters worse, there were certain…limitations he had to apply to his lie.
Haibara still wasn't positive on the success of the antidote, so she had suggested keeping up the 'Edogawa Conan' persona for at least a few weeks while she 'observed' him for any possible symptoms of the poison returning. Though he'd been able to think of a wonderful excuse for Okiya's disappearance he had absolutely squat when it came to 'Conan'.
Desperate for anything believable, he ended up babbling, "I-I'm at my parents' house again…" A bit overused, but it was all he had at the moment.
"Again?" She was doubtful, but it wasn't completely because of 'Conan's' repetitive visits, Shinichi could tell. Voicing his guess, she asked, "…just when did you leave? …you left a note…about a week ago, I remember that much. But that said you'd be back soon. And the last few days…I just can't recall much."
With some suspicion creeping in with her confusion, Shinichi decided that staying on the topic of the previous week was a bad idea. Hoping for a miracle, he attempted a different lie, "D-Don't you remember, Ran-neechan? …I-I left on Tuesday."
"Y-Yeah." Ran sounded as if she was considering the idea, so Shinichi kept winging it. "…Although, I don't think I spoke to you directly…I think I told Ojiisan."
Present at the news of the memory wipe, Kogoro would've been a better bet to leave the lies to. …That is, if he actually had avoided the spell. Surprising them, he had waved off the option of being protected from it by simply saying, "If I only learnt of this stuff during this week, maybe that's a sign that I shouldn't have. Though, I'm quite the detective so you'll all have to be careful not to give me clues or I'll figure it out again."
Doubting that a bit, Shinichi wasn't shocked at all when, after a pause, Ran spoke once more, "…dad says he doesn't remember. …though, he was probably drunk at the time…"
At her groan, Shinichi let out a little chuckle, "…That's Ojiisan for you."
Laughing a bit herself, Ran then asked, "…do you know when you'll be back?"
It would've been a hard question usually, but at that point the difficulty had risen immensely. If the antidote was a success, 'Edogawa Conan' would never come back. However, if the poison's effects surfaced once more, there would be no way of knowing when. Along with that, Kudo Shinichi's disappearance would have to be explained yet again, possibly forever if he'd built immunity to the drugs that could return him to normal.
Contemplating the answer to her question, Shinichi had left Ran hanging on the edge of a long pause. Sounding a tad worried, she muttered, "Conan-kun? …are you still there?"
"I'm not sure," he replied, then quickly rephrased, "W-When I'm coming back, that is. My parents are really starting to cling to me…and they keep saying that I'm away from home so much. I-I might be able to convince them to let me go back, but I'm not too sure."
"Oh, that's fine." There was a bit of disappointment in her voice, but also a small lull of understanding, "…just phone me again when you've got things sorted out."
"I will, Ran-neechan." It was strange, but regret crept into his own heart, regardless of the fact that he would see Ran again despite if he was Conan or not. A small sorrow came with the word, "…goodbye."
When Ran responded in kind, he pressed the 'END' button, thus ending the call. Though the call was finished and he no longer needed to hold the phone in hand, he continued to do so as he stared at its features. Nearly identical to his original phone, he'd bought the spare specifically for keeping up his separate persona. On it were the numbers of those close to his other identity: the agency, Ran, those who had known his secret and the Detective Boys.
Houseki had disappeared and was most definitely not going to reinstate her position as the leader of the Organization, but for the sake of caution Shinichi's role as Conan was to be kept a secret. Much like magic, the stereotypical thought was that, if known, his days as Conan could only lead to things becoming worse. He wasn't completely convinced of the idea, but Shinichi was already so used to lying about it that it was pretty much second nature at that point.
Hearing yet another ring, he instinctively picked up the phone in his hands. However, his ear was greeted by only the dial tone as the ring kept going. Recognizing the ring to differentiate from either of his own phones, he pouted slightly as he walked over to a small end table. Picking up the receiver, he mumbled, "…Hello?"
"…Shinichi?" Yet again, it was Ran. "Wow…you really are home!" From happiness to annoyance, she then blurted out, "Why didn't you call? You know how worried I've been!"
Having just avoided her possible wrath the last time, Shinichi couldn't help but crease his brow in his own irritation. Noticing an opening to turn the situation around, he lied, "…I did! Geez…don't you remember? I phoned on Friday!"
"You did?" repeating the same phrase she had muttered after his lie prior, she then grumbled, "…man…I can't remember anything today…"
Feeling a bit bad, Shinichi then consoled her, "…it's not like it really matters."
"I…guess not." Shaking off her confusion, Ran was then cheerful within a few seconds, "Since you're finally back in town, do you want to do something today? I heard there's going to be an event at the park near the western mall at around noon."
Surprised by the fact that he was actually hearing the news for the first time, Shinichi paused. He would've anyway with the answer he had. Regretting letting her down, he reluctantly responded, "Sorry, I can't. …I have something else to do today."
The cheer in her voice instantly dropped, her voice a little shrivel of what it was. "Oh…o-okay." Sarcasm helped to boost her spirits slightly. "Just as long as that 'something else to do' isn't running off to a case overseas for who knows how long again."
"Heh…alright." Unsure if he could keep his word, he hesitated before stating, "…I promise."
"…I'll be seeing you some other time then." With a bit of sadness hidden in her voice, she then hung up.
It had been a bit painful for Shinichi to do that to her, but he'd already made a vow to himself a while ago. Near the climax of the eventful week, an interesting turn had spurred the idea. Swearing that if they succeeded he would go through with the plan, even Ran wasn't going to interfere with his blueprint. With a few more preparations to make, he picked up his cell and dialled a familiar number.
Matching with the number, its owner mumbled from the other end. Grinning as it did, Shinichi stated, "…It's me. I need your help with something. We can meet at Akako-chan's mansion…I assume you know where it is by now?" Shinichi chortled at the response, "Heheh, okay, okay, you're capable, I know. I'll fill you in when we're there. Akako-chan may have a part in this herself. …see you in a half-hour or so." After the simple statement, he hung up.
Still in need of his phone, he didn't put it away. Pressing a few more numbers, these ones differed slightly from the ones he'd just pressed. Counting the rings, he smiled when the familiar click of the recipient picking up on their end arose. It wasn't who he wanted, however, so he had to directly request by name that he was looking to speak to.
"…Kaito! The phone's for you!"
His mother's cry echoed up and through the halls to his room. Merely staring around his room in search of his father, who had once again disappeared from sight, Kaito easily heard the message. In no real rush, he trotted down the stairs at a turtle's pace. With some way to go, his mother didn't appear too pleased with him when he finally made it into her line of sight.
Holding out the receiver to him, she said nothing on his delay. Instead, she remarked, "…It's Shinichi-kun."
Broken from his daze with curiosity as to why the detective was phoning him, Kaito answered with genuine interest, "…what's up?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure." Raising the mystery with this remark, Kaito's attention continued to latch onto Kudo's words. "…Akako-chan has something planned. She told me to phone you and tell you to head over to her mansion in around an hour."
Suspicious of the possibility of a lie, Kaito questioned, "Why wouldn't she phone me herself?"
With a laugh, Kudo replied quietly - almost as if afraid the witch were there behind him, "I asked her that myself, but she didn't answer. …I don't blame her though…you know how she is with technology."
Recalling a few instances that testified to this reason, Kaito couldn't help but chuckle a bit himself. "…Hah, touché."
"Anyway," Kudo went on, "I suppose we'll find out what she's up to at around noon. If you'll excuse me," a low growl, almost inaudible, made its way through the phone. Kudo paused, then stuttered, "…I-I…need some breakfast."
His own stomach complaining at the mention of food, Kaito himself stammered, "S-Same here. …bye."
If he had to be completely honest with someone, Kaito would've admitted that he didn't know which way the path through the forest was anymore. A majority of the time he needed to go to Koizumi's she was by his side - or someone else who could fly there instead. Though he didn't quite enjoy the recollection of nearly being tree food, he wasn't all that worried. Dents in the snow - footsteps - helped lead him in the right direction.
Making his way to the familiar clearing, he smiled as he looked up at the mansion. Beyond it, the sky was a pleasant blue - normal once again. Too long had the dome above been littered with blue streams and a large red crack. Kaito still couldn't believe everything had happened in a week. He thought that a week was both too short and too long than what it felt like. It surprised him that not once had they went back to this locale - it was practically their base of operations.
From their small group on the steps, Koizumi was the first to notice Kaito's approach. Waving and smiling in an uncharacteristic manner, her voice matched her cheery demeanour as Kaito got within hearing range. "Kuroba-kun~ Glad to see you've finally arrived!"
"Finally?" curving his lip in Kudo's direction, Kaito huffed, "…well, Kudo here told me to come in an hour or so…as far as I can tell, it's been an hour or so."
Back to her usual self, Koizumi herself frowned, "…geez, I know. …You know…for the prankster you are, you sure suck at taking a joke."
Grinning in a mocking way, Kaito remarked sarcastically, "Ah, there's the Koizumi-chan we all know and love!" Glancing at the other who was there, Kaito then commented, "So what exactly did you call us here for? …are you trying to create a harem of guys or something?" At her piercing glare, he instantly folded, "I-I'm just kidding!" Silently, he added in his mind, 'You already managed that a while ago…'
Frown still plastered on her face, Koizumi puffed, "Moving on, there isn't any business per se…in fact, it's more of a celebration." Finally smiling once more, but in a non-awkward way, Koizumi stated, "Since I've already told these two…I'm assuming you've heard of the event at the park today, Kuroba-kun?"
"Event at the park?" Not sounding familiar, he muttered, "No…but I'm surprised there's something like that happening so soon after last week. They must've planned it a long time ago." Pausing, he tried once more to try and recall such an event. Hoping for some sort of hint, he asked, "…what park are we talking about here?"
"Oh, you remember. It was where Kudo-kun here first became my apprentice…and when you were first duped by a hologram." Koizumi had tried to hide her taunt, but she'd failed miserably.
"…wonderful." The thought of a celebratory event didn't bring out his sarcasm, it was Koizumi's remark that did. Out of any comebacks he could use against her, Kaito instead spoke to the one beside Kudo. "…so if this is a celebration for successfully taking down Lucifer…why is Smithy the only other one here?"
Hattori was annoyed, but not as much as Kaito had hoped he would be. "Oi, oi…what is it with that name anyway? You're the third one now…"
"It's because it's my creation, Smithy-kun~ Anything I create is beautiful and amazing~" Putting on an exaggerated air, Koizumi spun on the spot. After inflating her point beyond reason with asinine gestures, she then finished bluntly, "That and it's catchy."
Smiling in the same fashion as the other two males, Kaito couldn't help but point out, "…oh sure, answer Smithy's question and not mine! …it breaks my heart, Koizumi-chan!" He couldn't help but exaggerate the point. Much the same as Smithy, acting ridiculous after Koizumi was 'catchy'. Reaching his own conclusion before she answered, he guessed, "Are you going to tell them to meet us there? …or did you do that already?"
Gaping, Koizumi lost any sign of her happiness. "Ah! Oh no, I knew I forgot something!" Pondering for a second, she then grinned in that oh-so-wicked way. Luckily for Kaito, she was looking over her shoulder at the other two. Judging by their expressions, they both knew they were in for something. "Well! This fits in perfectly with my plans! …I was arranging for you two to stay back for that special lesson I told you about before you could come to the event, but…I suppose you can do that after you phone everyone else and invite them to the park~"
"What?" in unison at first, Kudo then took over as they each took a breath after the word. "…But what you told us to do could take hours!"
"You'd better get started then, huh?" Smirking at their groans at first, a rare bit of sympathy then crept into her voice. "…It's not like I'm doing this out of spite, you know. You haven't had an actual lesson in quite sometime." After a pause and a stare at the two's expressions, she actually gave in, "…fine. Skip the lesson. …but you do have to phone everyone - both of you - do you hear me?"
After an enthusiastic nod, Hattori then remarked jokingly, "…but just t' get this straight…we phone everyone once…not twice: ya know, not both of us phonin' them once?"
Humouring him, Koizumi stepped up to him and elbowed him playfully. "Ha-ha - I know very well you know what I mean." Taking him off guard by doing this, Koizumi then quickly zapped up the wand and gave him a whap to the cheek. "…you also know that's the only real entertainment you can provide me."
Walking past him as he took a step back to avoid the wand, Koizumi looked back at Kaito after she'd trotted a few steps away. "Aren't you coming, Kuroba-kun? …or do you want to stay here and help them phone the others?"
Considering the task as more of a chore than anything, Kaito turned his back on the other two with an anxious chuckle. As he did so, some footsteps quickly ran up behind him. About to turn to see who it was, he got his answer when a remark came from Hattori. "I guess we'll just stay here."
The remark was odd on its own, but the emphasis on the words 'stay here' was even stranger. Though curious, Kaito just brushed it off as Hattori trying to mess with his mind or something for leaving them behind to do all of the work of phoning the others. He didn't really care at that point: after the hectic week, things had slowed down too much for his liking and he was actually a bit down in the dumps.
An 'event' meant to be a celebration could be just the thing to cheer him up.
There were lively people everywhere. Children of all ages, their parents, teenagers and even some college students. From a snow sculpture contest to cotton candy to a magic show, there were all sorts of things to do in the park. Staring at a map of all of the attractions, Kaito commented mentally, '…I guess this park is bigger than I thought…' Then, '…how they managed to set all this up in a matter of one day is beyond me.'
Contemplating magic as an answer for his wonder, his thoughts were interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. Turning, he was then facing Koizumi's large grin. Placing some blue cotton candy on his nose, she giggled before tearing some off to eat. "This substance is amazing. So fluffy and light…yet can get sticky. …and it tastes so sweet~"
Wiping off his nose as he ate the piece of candy himself, he couldn't hold back a small smile. Had she really not eaten - or for that matter, heard of - cotton candy before? Whatever the case was, her reaction certainly was amusing…as long as she wasn't sticking anymore to his face.
Losing his smile, he stared up at the sky. Somewhere, his father could be flying, looking down at him. But he wouldn't know where to look. It was another occasion where a repetitive thought crossed his mind, '…what I wouldn't do…for Hattori's abilities…'
"…Do you want some?" Possibly noticing his depressed feelings, Koizumi generously held out her blue fluff. Not about to let her kind side show, she covered up the offer with a joke, "…other than the stuff you had on your nose, that is."
Comparable to Koizumi's kindness, Kaito was convinced that he wouldn't let his gloom show. Wondering how much he should take, Kaito stared at the blue fluff. Suddenly tempted by the remembrance of how sweet it had actually been and the fact that he hadn't actually eaten anything when Kudo had hung up, his mischievous side kicked in. Instead of sticking out his hand to take some, he jutted his head forward and took a bite directly. Retracting, he said with a blue highlighted grin, "Thanks~"
"Hey!" Frowning at him, she then sighed. "Fine, here: you have this one. …I'll just buy another one." A bit surprised by her actions, Kaito was then reassured it was still Koizumi when she stuck out her hand and finished, "…with your money."
Handing over the necessary amount to purchase another one of the treats, Kaito promised he would wait there for her return. Looking up at the clouds, he went into thought again. Rather than think of his father, he sidetracked to wondering when the others would arrive. Coming across an interesting point, he made a deduction. Thinking of it, he laughed, 'They'll either have to dig out a phonebook…or Hakuba isn't going to be coming.'
Hearing some footsteps behind him, Kaito sprouted an impish plan in the back of his mind. It might've resulted in a burning wand mark, but he was always true to the saying 'give them a taste of their own medicine'. Of course in this case, it was more 'give them a taste of their own cotton candy'. Pushing his candy forward, he made sure to make contact with the face, but at the same time not completely covering the victim's skin in the fluff. Grinning and stifling a laugh, he couldn't keep his eyes open in fear of letting loose at the expression that would await him. That and he had learned on the Furui Islands that Koizumi was prone to sticking things in his eyes - painfully.
However, the remark that came after the joke didn't coincide with Koizumi in any way. The attitude in which it was said, the words themselves - the voice: a man's voice. "…well, I suppose that's what I get for sneaking up on you."
Recognizing the voice, Kaito's eyes shot open. His gaze directed downward, he gradually began to scan the figure from the bottom up. When he finally reached the head, a plastic cone and blue candy joined the snow that littered the ground.
Smiling widely, the white teeth parted as the blue substance was lifted from his cheeks and placed in his mouth. Seeming to enjoy himself, a frown only surfaced when he reached the whiskers above his cheeks. "…though I admit it would've been strange to not have my moustache…it's a bit of a nuisance in this situation."
Feeling as if he was imagining the scenario, Kaito couldn't managed a single word. When he did try to speak, it only came out as random vowels and consonants that never amounted to anything. Moving about awkwardly as well, he finally managed a useful movement when he extended his arm and poked the man before him. Assured that the one ahead of him was definitely physical, he finally let a word escape from his lips.
"…too shocked for words, I see." Not once had Toichi interrupted his son's shocked silence. Instead, he had merely smiled down at Kaito with that tranquil air: befitting of a professional magician. Hands in his pockets, he let out a quiet, but consuming laugh. It brought back memories of Kaito's younger days, back when Toichi had still been alive. Nostalgia in his own eyes, Kaito could've sworn Toichi was about to remark about 'how much taller' he'd gotten, but instead the elder magician blinked and paused. Almost as if unsure, he hesitated before finally questioning, "…are you…crying…?"
Blinking himself, it was only then that Kaito took notice of the bit of moisture gathering in his eye sockets. Embarrassment rising as one tear escaped, he swiftly stuttered excuse after excuse, "I-I, no! I m-mean-it's not like, well-I just-uhm, something's i-in my-But uh-" Staring at the ground, he then decided on, "I-I-I-I-I dropped…my c-cotton candy!"
"O-Oh, of course." Most likely not meaning to give the impression he had, Toichi stammered himself, "…W-Why don't we go get some more? …I've got some change on me…besides, this is the first time in a while that I've been hungry, and I'm afraid the amount that you…so generously gave me isn't quite enough to quench my cravings."
A bit dazed by his father's sudden appearance, Kaito stumbled along behind him. Gazing continuously at the palpable figure ahead of him, Kaito had no room for thought on the event. The only thing running through his mind was, '…is this real?'
Nearly running into another in the line for the cotton candy, Kaito's attention was finally diverted from his resurrected parent. Glancing around the little stand, he noticed that Koizumi wasn't there. She must've headed back to where he'd promised to wait. Unfortunately for her, he was in no hurry to go back there. Especially since Toichi was buying and he had just asked Kaito a question.
"What would you recommend? …back from when I actually ate this stuff there were never this many flavours." Reading off the sign, he listed, "Orange, marshmallow, blueberry, watermelon…what happened to the good old 'original'?"
"…it was moved to the top left of the list." Smirking, Kaito pointed at the sign, "…and typed out in bright blue and pink letters, no less."
Indeed, following Kaito's index finger, a path ran straight to the words 'Try our original recipe! The same taste you love, but with a Beika secret twist!' Laughing awkwardly, Toichi merely mumbled, "Oh." Wanting to avoid any further awkwardness, he went back to his first question. "Wh-What do you suggest I try?"
Unsure himself of what he wanted, Kaito decided to make a game out of the choice. "How about this: we close our eyes for a few seconds, then…bam! We open them and whatever we see first is what we get!"
"Hah, excellent 'choice'." Complying with the idea, Toichi shut his eyes. Following his father's example, Kaito did the same. As he did, he had to wonder which flavour Koizumi had picked when she'd picked up her second one.
…Evidently, it was cherry.
Leaning against one of the many trees that were abundant in that park, Akako smiled beyond the heads of the strangers in her sight. Focusing on the two she recognized, she couldn't help but let her mouth curve upward. "…that Kudo-kun…I'll never understand him." Observing Kuroba laughing beside his father as the latter made a face of dissatisfaction, Akako then mumbled to herself, "…though I suppose I can see what his motivation for doing this was. …I've never seen Kuroba-kun so happy before."
"…me neither." Coming from below, Haibara's sudden remark caught Akako off guard. Snow cone in her hand, she smirked up at the taller girl, "Of course, I haven't known him as long as you have. …do you always talk to yourself like that, or is the cotton candy affecting your brain?"
"Sh-Shut up." With no comeback, it was the best Akako could manage. "A-Anyway…I'm guessing the guys managed to phone you and convince you to come here?"
Nodding, Haibara took another lick of her snack before replying in full. "Yes, from the way they sounded, I think I was the last they phoned. …Anyway, there's something I'm wondering about." Looking back, she lost track of her target. Finally finding them, she motioned toward the father and son, happily chatting amongst themselves. "…how exactly is Toichi-san back?"
"That is quite the mystery." Approaching with Yukiko at his side, Yuusaku glanced over his shoulder. "I doubt you revived him."
"Yes, that's unlikely. Especially after everything we've been through…I doubt you'd try a dark spell like that." Lowering her voice, Yukiko whispered, "We don't want to chance Lucifer ever coming back here."
Understanding what the former actress was referring to, Akako nodded seriously. What exactly Houseki had done to the demon had been a mystery for a while. Vermouth, however, had been kind enough to give a minor explanation. Apparently, much like Hoshi's ward arrows, Houseki had affixed one of the projectiles with multiple teleportation circles set for the Youkai-Oni. Combining the power of all the symbols and Lucifer's immense power, he was immediately sent back once they were activated.
"…It's nice to see such a happy father-son relationship." Smiling at the two off in the distance, Yukiko was quick to apply the topic to her own son and husband. "…speaking of which, where is Shin-chan? Smithy-kun said that he was at your house with him, but I didn't hear a peep out of him…and it doesn't seem like they're here yet." Puffing her cheeks, she crossed her arms, "Yuu-chan and Shin-chan haven't had a fun time for years! This is the perfect chance!"
While Yuusaku muttered, "Don't you think there might be a reason behind that, Yuki?" Akako searched for the right words to reply to Yukiko's statement. Unable to locate them, it was quite a relief when someone else commented for her.
"I'm afraid that won't happen as long as Kuroba over there an' Toichi are hittin' it off."
Turning to yet another newcomer, Yukiko chirped, "Oh, Smithy-kun! What do you mean?" Searching around him, she then remarked, "…where is Shin-chan? …wasn't he with you?"
Though curious herself just exactly where Kudo had disappeared to, Akako knew she wouldn't be able to see him, even if Hattori told her exactly where he was. Her eyes attracted to something else, she couldn't help but mention it - with a snicker, no less. "Is that…a teddy bear?"
Regarding the plush secured by the Osakan's left arm, it brought out a small flush in his cheeks. "…y-yeah. I…won it at one o' the games they have around here. I wasn't really tryin' t' win anythin' but they said I had t' get a prize so…" Running out of excuses it seemed, he held out the bear. "Here. …I don't want it anyway."
From a taunting stare to wide, embarrassed eyes, Akako stared at the offering. It was the usual light brown that most stereotypical teddies were. With perfectly rounded ears and the adorable black beads - just the right size - for eyes, its stare seemed to practically beg her: 'hug me'. A little bowtie, much like Kudo's, she was surprised how much it reminded her of him. It was even almost the same size. Not about to reveal her weakness to cute things, she snatched the bear with a few words to cover up her actual feelings, "F-Fine, if you don't like it that much. I don't blame you though, Smithy-kun - a grown man like you with a teddy bear? …that would just be awkward."
"…It's not exactly somethin' grown women carry around either." Mocking her with a grin, he then changed the topic when he noticed Yukiko's pout. "Oh…as for where Kudo is…" He tilted his head in the direction where Toichi and Kuroba had last been spotted by the group. "…if you're lookin' for him, I'd say it'd be best t' ask Toichi-san over there."
"Toichi?" Peering over Hattori's shoulder, Yukiko wore a puzzled expression. "…but why would Toichi know and not you Smithy-kun?"
"It's because…we won't be able to find Shinichi anywhere as long as Toichi is here." Yuusaku stated. "…isn't that right?"
Bringing out a little squeak from Yukiko, the observation caused Haibara to grin as she caught on. "I see…it's just like when Kudo-kun was inside of me, or how Hoshi was inside of Kuroba-kun."
"Right." Hattori smiled. "Before we phoned all of ya, Kudo put on some slightly bigger clothin' then used that higher levelled deception spell that turned out so horribly before with that rebound…"
"Rebound?" Hearing this news for the first time, Akako leaned forward suspiciously, "…what are you talking about, Smithy-kun? …what rebound?"
"U-Uh, y'know! When…when his soul was almost annihilated?" Not believing him in the least, Akako vowed to get the truth out of him later since he continued before she could intervene. "A-Anyway, once he took on Toichi-san's appearance, his ghost - who I'd held back when Kuroba was leavin' with Koizumi-chan - went inside o' him."
"That is quite the plan." Yukiko said. "…whose was it, anyway?"
"It was all Kudo-kun." Recalling the explanation he'd given to her on her doorstep, she smiled in the same fashion she had after he'd finished. "I was kind of surprised…I would've never thought that Kudo-kun would do something like that. I mean, it definitely seems like him…but the idea to let Kuroba-kun and Toichi-san have a day together after all these years…it would've never crossed my mind."
"…but it must be awkward." Nearly finished her snow cone, Haibara licked her lips. "I mean…for Kudo-kun, that is. He'll have nothing to do all day if he plans to let Toichi-san control his body for the day."
"…on the contrary."
Out of nowhere, Kudo's voice suddenly radiated from an unknown source. Scanning around the area with everyone else, Akako desperately glanced around for the missing body. Even going so far as to check behind the tree - and up in its branches - she ended her search at Hattori. His mouth curved in an unnatural fashion and his eyes squinting, Akako could tell he was holding back a laugh. …but why?
Although he only looked at her for a brief moment, she was able to track his stare back to her arms. Looking down at the bear, she wondered if she had accidentally gotten some cotton candy on the teddy when out of the blue-
"Yo~!" Arm and head rising on their own, the small gesture nearly gave her a heart attack. Dropping the toy and squirming a few steps back, she wasn't the only one eying the bear with wide eyes. Gradually getting up, its stare was unwavering and - although it had no mouth to do so with - it spoke again…in Kudo's voice. "…geez, you'd better be glad I'm made of cotton right now otherwise that could've broken a bone or something."
"Wh…What the hell!" Akako couldn't help it: what else do you say to a talking bear? …a talking bear with the voice and attitude of someone you know, no less. Coming across the name of that someone, Akako decided to try it out, "…K…Kudo-kun?"
"Yep, in the flesh!" he paused and looked down at his new appearance. No flesh anywhere. "…okay, maybe that's not the best thing to say at this point, but you know what I mean."
Staring in bafflement on her own, Haibara then lost her puzzlement as a joke came to her, "…so what are you? …a Kudo Care Bear?"
Kudo replied with a blunt arrogance in his voice, "Care Bear stare…I would if I could."
"E-Enough with the joking…Kudo-kun, why are you inside of a teddy bear?" A bit creeped out by the fact that he had no mouth to speak with and his face remained emotionless, she looked away from him. Instead, she focused on finding the Kurobas once more. "…shouldn't you be in your body…you know, with Toichi-san?"
"Well, that was one option," he crossed his plush arms, "but Smithy here – along with myself – thought that might be a bit awkward. So…when Toichi-san made it successfully into my body, he got me out." Jutting his thumb towards the Soul Smith, who had yet another calling him by the nickname, Kudo then stated, "We wanted to come to the event, too…and not to mention we had to lead Toichi here since we weren't sure if he remembered the way through the forest or not. Since we found out it was a bit awkward for other people to see me – I was actually slightly transparent – we decided I needed something…to inhabit."
"…so you got a teddy bear." Her amusement couldn't be hidden – Haibara snickered.
"W-Well…we tried waitin' for a cat t' be run over or somethin'…but that didn't work out too well." Scratching his head, Hattori then pointed to some of the attractions off to the side: specifically stands with games set up and prizes to be won. "…after we made it inside, I suggested winnin' a toy or somethin' t' be a makeshift body."
"…so you got a teddy bear." Akako repeated, her own laugh barely stifled.
A bit embarrassed it seemed, Hattori spat out an excuse, "I-It was that or a duck!"
At the thought of Kudo waddling about in the body of a stuffed duck, Akako couldn't help but chuckle. It was bad enough that he was inside of an adorable bear at the moment, a duck would've been worse. Hattori had definitely made the better of choice of two evils. Not amused by their thoughts on the situation, Kudo was even more distraught when Akako began to pick him up again.
"O-Oi! What are you doing?"
"I could say the same to you." Watching his legs move about, she frowned, "You're supposed to be a toy, Kudo-kun, you can't be so energetic!" receiving no hints from his expression – since he had none – Akako went by her instinct what his reaction was and responded, "You wouldn't have been doing anything today even if you were still in your body so…
"Today's lesson: patience~!"
Hearing the groan that came from the bear in her arms, she smirked. He had missed his original lesson that day anyway, why not make the best of it and teach a different one? Recalling another one of her students, she took complete advantage of the situation. Pointing at Hattori, she winked, "…and your lesson Smithy-kun: escorting~!"
Judging by his reaction, Hattori only had the slightest inkling of an idea as to what she was referring to. Not exactly in the mood for explaining yet again, Akako was relieved when Yuusaku explained for her – in the form of a deduction. "I believe what she means is that you'll have to plan out an effective route through the park that will take Akako-chan, you…and Shinichi, I suppose…through all of the attractions, Smithy-kun."
Appalled by the news, it was only after a moment of grumbling that Hattori's head shot up. "…h-hey wait! …You…you all are gonna start callin' me 'Smithy'…aren't ya?"
Taunting him, Yuusaku and Kudo chimed together, "…just for today~"
"I wasn't planning to," Haibara said, tossing her empty cone into a nearby trashcan, "but it's an interesting concept, Smithy-kun."
Laughing a bit as Hattori's shoulders dropped, Akako thought with a smile, '…I've created a monster.'
Feeling as if her way of bugging the Osakan was being partially stolen from her, Akako grabbed him by the wrist. Dragging him away a bit, she looked back and waved, "You guys go ahead and enjoy! We can meet up again once these two are done their-"
"A-a-A-kA-a-Ko-O-o, I do-O-n'T rem-E-e-Emb-E-er thi-I-is be-E-i-I-ing pa-Art of th-E-e lesso-On!" Realizing she was waving the bear about, she quickly stopped. Looking with a slight worry along with everyone else, she was relieved when he finished, "…th-thank you…"
"S-Sorry." Making a promise to herself that'd she'd be careful not to wave Kudo about in such a manner again she waited for Hattori to get a move on. Confused at first, he then sighed when he got the message and – although reluctantly – began leading her through the attractions.
"…Score!" Landing a ball in the 50 point hole after rolling it down the ramp, Kaito took a little jump into the air. Right before making an extravagant bow in front of his father, that is.
Straightening once more, Kaito motioned for Toichi to try it himself. Finishing his humouring clap, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a few coins. Handing them to the one attending the game, he took one of the balls, handing the rest to Kaito. It went a bit too far to the right, landing in the 20 point circle. No doubt feeling a bit of competition towards his son, he lost his grin and focused on the target ahead.
40 points. Kaito had gotten 100 points with three balls. If Toichi got the middle target, he'd win. Concentrating, he got ready, swung his arm and-
"Mom got married to some other guy!"
Not even contacting the ramp, the ball ricocheted off one of the wooden barriers around the different sections of the targets. Then bouncing off the plastic that protected possible projectiles like the current ball, it finally landed in a hole.
Contrasting opinions were then blurted out by the father and son.
Kaito had always considered his own luck crazy, but his father landing that ball in the 50 point hole after such a shock… '…maybe mom is Lady Luck…It would explain why she took dad's side in this competition.'
After disappearing for a moment, the girl who'd watched the display came back. Wondering what she was doing - since Toichi hadn't won a prize, as far as Kaito could tell - he watched her curiously. Giving his father an awkward smile, she held out her hand.
"…the force you threw it with…gave it a dent." Pointing to the impression on the blue surface of the ball, she then giggled. "I suppose you can keep this as a keepsake of that amazing shot."
"Th-Thank you." Taking the ball with a little embarrassment, Toichi bowed slightly, "…I'm…I'm sorry."
"No need to worry, they're just cheap little things anyway!" Grinning at the taller man with white teeth, the girl then went back to her duties.
Worried a bit that if such an event were to happen again they would have to pay some fee, Kaito suggested they go do something else. Their options were quite limited, however, as the two of them enjoyed checking out things they hadn't seen yet and - being almost sunset - they'd already seen a majority of the attractions around the park. Noticing a hill that had been hidden by some of the taller trees, Kaito saw that the plaza on the top of it was void of people. Telling this to Toichi, Kaito ran off.
His pace slower than usual to make sure he didn't leave his father behind (or slip), Kaito wasn't too surprised when his father passed him. What did surprise him was the sudden snowball to the face. Soft and mostly slush, the only thing that was actually close to pain was the prick of cold to his skin. Wiping away the melting ice from his face, he was met with Toichi's toothy smirk. He was trying so hard to keep back a laugh, Kaito could tell. Bending down himself, Kaito snickered, "You won't be laughing for long."
"Is that so?" Throwing another snowball, this time Toichi missed. However, he did succeed in halting Kaito's progress of making his own projectiles.
Having rolled out of the way, Kaito's back wound up facing Toichi. Sticking out an accusing finger, Kaito complained, "Hey! How's that fair, I didn't even get a chance to make-Agh!" Ducking out of the way of another white ball, Kaito puffed his cheeks.
Full of confidence and a competitive pride, Toichi threw a snowball continuously up and down in his hand. Eyes closed, his voice took a partial lecture tone. "All is fair in love and war son. …and this is both."
"If that's the case," Darting straight for his father, Kaito grinned, "tackles must be fair game!"
Just barely missing his target, Kaito got enough satisfaction from his father's surprised yelp. Determined, he declared, "Until I get you you're not getting me with a single snowb-" a bit of the flakes flew onto his face from the small, cold bomb that had just hit his chest. Pausing, he decided to rephrase his statement, "…from this point on."
Seeing that his father was bent down attempting to go against Kaito's statement, he ran forward with an intense speed. Fast enough to make Toichi worry about being run over, it brought the elder magician to his feet. Around the same speed, Kaito took his advantage when Toichi hadn't looked back for a while. Stopping, he was about to look back and no doubt shout some mocking comment when - finally - Toichi received a well-aimed ball at his own face.
"Ha! Serves you right for taking your eyes off me!" Almost not abiding by his own advice, Kaito only just realized Toichi was rolling some snow into his hands as he laughed. Sure to yell ahead of time to warn the older man of his approach, Kaito was able to prevent his old man from making another snowball.
Prey of the chase yet again, Toichi made sure not to make the same mistake this time. Running up the stairs of the hill with Kaito not too far behind, he never seemed to run out of energy. Especially the energy to give one of those typical parent speeches, "Careful on these stairs Kaito: they're slippery."
Kaito groaned, "Geez, I know dad." Opposing his next statement, he stuck out his tongue, "I'm not a kid, you know!"
Not about to let the chance escape, Toichi taunted, "…sorry, it's hard to tell sometimes." His own gaze directed off the path ahead, Toichi certainly wasn't being careful - quickly proven as he lost his own footing and fell face first into a pile of snow.
Somehow instinctively knowing he wasn't hurt in any way, Kaito couldn't help but laugh out loud at his father's clumsiness. Sides hurting, partly because of running so far and partly because of his uncontrollable laughter, Kaito had to stop in his run. After a few moments, a new chortle was added to his own. Toichi was laughing with him.
Never before had he been so happy, never before had his sides hurt so much from laughter - and for both those reasons, never had he cried so freely. Out of happiness, out of mirth, the tears kept gathering in the corners of his eyes. Only able to occasionally wipe them away, a few even escaped down his cheeks.
While Kaito was finally gaining some control over his emotions, Toichi still lay, sprawled on the ground laughing. Smiling down at him with a small chuckle still stuck in his throat, both his smile and laugh vanished as he noticed the growing orange-red tinge on the snow. Climbing a few steps, his eyes were then level with the floor of the plaza. Putting his wonder aside why no one else was there, Kaito shouted down at Toichi, "Come on! …Hurry or we'll miss it!"
Finally making it to the top, Kaito immediately headed for the railing with the best view of the park - and the sunset. Looking toward the ground, Kaito vowed to keep his eyes closed until-
"…amazing." Toichi muttered in awe behind him. Opening his eyes, Kaito verily had to agree.
The skies a simple dull blue rounding off to a goldish orange, any clouds present in the air were darkened to an intense degree. But no threat whatsoever came from their grey-black shapes. Shadows cast far upon the snow were only outweighed by the sun's glowing reflection off the flakes. In tribute to the original branching light, sparkles were scattered all about the ground. Snow was the blank canvas, and nature had painted a masterpiece. It was the perfect image to accompany the perfect memory.
…the perfect memory that occurred just before a dreaded question.
Forever imprinting the scene before him and the feelings he had beforehand into his mind, Kaito took a deep breath. He knew - deep down - that the time with his father wouldn't last. Kaito wasn't even sure how he had acquired the time at all. Setting that question aside, he prioritized on what he needed to know. It was the perfect opportunity: he didn't want Hattori to be the one to tell him the answer. He wanted to hear it in his father's own voice - from his father's own mouth.
"…why did you become the Kaitou Kid?"
From beside him, Kaito heard an intake of breath. There was hesitation there, Kaito could hear it. Unable to look at him at first, Kaito finally gathered his courage and turned. Serious in expression, he summarized the question in one word, "…why?"
Much like Kaito, Toichi couldn't seem to look his son in the eye. Instead, he stared off at the setting sun. "That is a very good question…one I wondered myself for a time."
A bit taken aback by the answer, Kaito couldn't help but stammer, "Y-You don't mean to say-"
"Every person has a unique way of approaching their goals, Kaito. Mine…was to provide entertainment to the people." Acknowledgement of his decision shone through clearly in his voice as he went on. "People make mistakes. It's hereditary. What separates one from another is the ability to realize those mistakes…and to fix them.
"Kaito, I…" he attempted to look him in the eye, but diverted his gaze to the ground as he failed. "…there's no way to prove it, but…I want you to know…
"All those years ago, around the time I passed away, I finally realized my mistake." He paused, regret filling his voice. "It wasn't in the execution, it wasn't the result…it was the consequence. By stealing valuable jewels, by breaking the law, I risked my imprisonment. I knew this, and I wasn't afraid for my well-being, but it took me a long…far too long a time to realize that it wasn't my burden to carry if I were arrested. It wouldn't have been the Kaitou Kid that was taken away, it wouldn't have been Kuroba Toichi…it would've been your careless father. Leaving…to never raise you correctly."
It was hard for Kaito to listen without cutting in, but at the same time it was easy: the words were caught in his mouth. To the point of practically choking on them, he dared not to open his mouth. Instead, he only stared at his father as he continued his confession.
"…Heh, I…guess in the end, worrying about that wasn't necessary. Prison never caught up to me." An empty chuckle came from his father, but Kaito couldn't relate at all to the laugh. How could he even smile at the thought of his death? It confused him to no end. "Kaito, there's always been one thing I've wanted to tell you…directly. I don't know if there'll ever be a chance again, so I'll say it now.
"Back then, before I died, I had made plans to retire from my thief days. The eight year tape I prepared…that was partly because I worried about being killed and partly…because I wasn't sure if I could tell you myself of my true identity if I had happened to live and you found that secret room." Crossing his arms, Toichi smiled faintly at the dimming sun. "…I suppose…I'm a coward at heart."
"No." Muttering the small simple word was easy, but the ones to follow weren't easy in the slightest. "I…I'm the coward. …I…could never admit it…but…searching for those jewels - no, stealing them…I never…never even thought about my reasons or goals. I was trying to find who killed you…but for what? …revenge? …I never knew…not once. But now…I see it was just…
Hearing his name was the last straw he could take. That and making eye contact with Toichi. True to his word to Hoshi, he narrowed the distance between him and his father. Arms squeezing his back, Kaito pressed his face into Toichi's jacket. Making an excuse, he babbled, "I…I never…never did…t-tackle you…"
Toichi didn't say a word. But he understood. Placing his hand on Kaito's head, he softly ruffled his hair, much like he had when Kaito had been merely a boy - injured while playing. And, much the same as that boy from years and years ago, Kaito sobbed openly into his father's arms.
Silently, they had each crept up to the top of the plaza. Camera in her hand, Akako had planned to take a surprise picture of the two as a memento of that day. However, she - along with Yuusaku, Yukiko, Haibara, Hattori, Kudo and Hakuba (who had eventually came on his own accord) - dared not interrupt the scene before them. Different from her usual self, Akako even knew she would never bring up the moment as a point of attack. If it was bringing tears to her own eyes, she wouldn't dare mention it to Kuroba afterwards.
Tears. Horrified, she wiped them from her cheeks as fast as possible as if it would save her from the legend. Her fear was relieved as a voice penetrated her thoughts - Kudo's voice from the bear, 'Don't worry…that tear thing is just a lie. …at least, according to Houseki.'
Recalling a few times that others had cried, Akako's fear dissipated: her fear of losing her magic, that is. Fear of becoming soft was coming on in full waves at that point. Though, looking at Kuroba's mask broken then by emotion, she didn't care as much. To be soft, to be kind…it wasn't such a bad thing.
Despite the fact that none of them made a single noise, Kuroba then looked up at them with glittering eyes. They weren't glittering for long, however, as they widened at the sight of the group. Breaking away from his father, he turned his back to them and began sniffling as he tried to wipe away his tears. Stepping forward by instinct, Akako poked him on the shoulder. Giving him a rare sincere smile, she held out the bear in her hands - completely forgetting the situation behind it. Obviously needing it, he took it - but not without a small huff signifying that he was 'only taking it because she offered it'. She held back a laugh as she noticed his red cheeks - and it wasn't the lighting that was creating the effect, the tinge was natural.
Not wanting to have the topic of his weeping being brought up, it was Kuroba who spoke first, "S-So…w-why are you all here?"
Willing to go along with Kuroba's topic, Akako explained, "Well, since Toichi-san's appearance today was a gift courtesy of Kudo-kun, I thought that I could donate my own kindness by taking a picture of you two for you to keep."
"A…picture?" Narrowing his eyes, Kuroba looked at her from the corner of them. "…its not going to suck our souls out or something, will it?"
"O-Of course not!" a bit offended by the accusation, Akako pouted.
"I have t' say…I wouldn't be too surprised, Koizumi-chan." Hattori commented from behind. "With all the weird artefacts ya have, it wouldn't be too odd t' find a camera that stole souls."
"It's a just a regular, everyday, digital camera!" Extending her arm to hold the camera straight in front of Hattori's face, she glared at him. He was silenced.
Haibara, however, wasn't. "Digital? …are you sure you know how to work it?"
'Being soft makes you weak.' Akako twitched. 'Being soft makes people pick on you.'
"Aw, come on. Give Akako-chan a break." Sticking up for her out of the blue, Akako half-expected Toichi to turn around and tease her as well. Surprisingly, he didn't. "…you wonder why she taunts you so much, Kaito…whenever she is nice, you taunt her."
Although seeing his father's point, Kuroba still seemed a bit against the idea. However, it wasn't due to the fact he had risen before. According to him, "I'm…not exactly good with pictures."
Contrasting from his son, Toichi smiled widely. Locking his arm around Kuroba's neck, he gave him a small noogie. "Come on, Kaito - let's see those pearly whites!"
"Fa-ther!" Making a face that more resembled an embarrassed child than an angry one, Kuroba finally slid free from his father's grasp. Trying to regain his composure, he stuttered, "O-Okay…b-but only one!"
"Sure, sure!" Waving off Kuroba's words, Akako wouldn't have been surprised if Toichi playfully forced Kuroba into taking many more pictures than intended.
Careful to abide by Hattori's previous instructions on how to work the contraption in her hands, she couldn't help but smile herself when the screen lit up and came in to focus – just as it had when she was being taught in its use. Aiming and adjusting so that both of the males were visible in the shot, she then zoomed in. With the sunset a nice background (which the possible blinding light was perfectly blocked by the figures in the shot) and each of the Kurobas centered nicely in the frame, Akako felt a small bit of pride and…something else, as she shouted, "Say…Smithy-kun!"
Hiding their laughs behind their smiles, the two were both caught in the film with two bright happy grins. To the side, the others were smiling as well – oddly enough, one 'Smithy' himself was the only one lacking a genuine smirk. His was more of an 'oh-why-me' type of smile. Tempted to take a picture of the Osakan with that face, she didn't get the chance as he ran over to her.
Apparently he'd forgotten how to tell her how to view the picture once it was taken. Beginning to point a few things out, he stopped as Akako lightly brushed away his hand. Puffing her cheeks, she muttered, "I…can figure it out on my own, thank you very much."
However, a few minutes of unsuccessful tinkering protested against that statement. Until – right before Hattori was going to forcibly help her – she trilled, "Look, look! I found it!"
Playing the role of 'stick in the mud' quite well, Hattori commented with a sarcastic clap, "…an' the crowd goes wild!"
Frowning, Akako then smiled as a comeback came to her. With a small, malicious laugh accompanying the statement, she said, "…do you want me to break the camera over your head, Smithy-kun~?" At a time she might've meant it, but right then she didn't.
That didn't stop a bit of fear from creeping into the Soul Smith's voice, "I-I was just kiddin'…"
Having been dealing with Hattori, Akako hadn't yet had the chance to look at the photo herself. Recalling this point as the others gradually peered over her shoulders at the screen, she herself – along with Hattori, who had walked over – took in the picture. Much the same as everyone else, they smiled.
"…well, I have ta say Koizumi-chan," there was no sarcasm in Hattori's voice, "for your first time usin' a camera, ya take one hell of a picture."
"Yes, it's so nice~!" A huge, catlike grin on her face, Yukiko then suggested, "Why don't we all get in a picture? It can be like a…commemorative of defeating Lucifer and saving the world~!"
'…even though no one but us will ever know that.' Akako commented mentally. Despite her sarcasm, however, she wasn't appalled by the idea. None of them were - not even Kuroba who had previously stated that he was 'bad with pictures'…to that point Akako then thought, '…wait, what about all those newspapers at his heists…?'
Shaking the thought from her head, a new question came to mind. Worthy of more than just her consideration, she stated it to the rest of them, "…how…are we all going to get in the shot?" Seeing a few reactions, she then quickly added, "I-I know there's a timer! …but…there isn't really anything to place the camera on…even if we placed it on the railing the one operating the camera would have to jump over the fence and get into the right position. …that wouldn't be fun."
"How about this:" Hakuba spoke up, "I've brought my pocket watch…we can use that to start the picture, then just before the camera goes off, I'll stop time and find my position."
"That'll work~!" Quite eager to take the picture it seemed, Yukiko answered swiftly.
Before anyone else could get a word in, she began arranging them into position as Hakuba readied the camera. Positioned at the side behind Haibara, Akako watched as everyone else was moved about. She had to wonder where Hakuba would end up going: he wasn't predictable like Kuroba who - though he claimed to be bad with pictures - would've sprawled out with his arms wide in front so no one else could be seen. Hakuba however…
"Looks like Yukiko-san's leavin' a space specifically for Hakuba." Hattori commented, apparently situated right beside her. Narrowing his eyes and smiling faintly, he joked, "…I wonder what Hakuba will make us say? …certainly not 'Smithy-kun'."
Coming across a vague memory, Akako replied, "…maybe 'British scones'?"
Instead of the laugh or chuckle Akako expected to get out of him, he groaned. Questioning if it was really that bad, it was actually Haibara who answered her. "…don't even mention that speech."
With a slightly disgusted face, Hattori muttered, "…I never thought anyone could possibly talk about scones for so freakin' long…"
Curious but at the same time a bit afraid, Akako wondered just how long the speech had been. She obviously knew what it was about: scones. …of the British variety. If she didn't ask him of the food-based lecture, she would definitely ask him about what had happened beyond the door. He and Kuroba had sworn not to tell, but she knew that with enough…'persuading' they might change their minds.
"Look this way if you will." Beckoning with his hand as Akako and the rest of them turned, Hakuba was ready beyond the railing. Watch in one hand, his other was placed on the button of the camera. Scanning over the group briefly, he paused before smiling with a slight mischief. "Say…
Lucky for Hakuba, the laughs only began after the flash. Hearing such a comment from him, of all people…some, such as Kaito, couldn't take it. Stifling his laugh as best he could, Kaito could only manage, "S-So…he does have a sense of humour!"
"Y-You were right, Smithy-kun!" Koizumi held her sides, winking at the Soul Smith since she couldn't keep both eyes open. "…he didn't say 'kun'!"
Hattori opened his mouth, but instead of words, the sound of bells wavered from the distance. Chiming seven times, a small voice then followed from a nearby intercom. "Thank you for attending this festivity today. We of the Suzuki Corporation thank you heartily and wish you a safe journey home. The attractions will now be closed. Good night."
"…we'll be at the eastern gate." Koizumi stated suddenly. Detouring to pick up the camera from the railing, she was actually at the end of the line as they headed down the stairs, leaving Toichi and Kaito alone once more. Before her torso was blocked by the plaza, she smiled at him. "…take your time."
'…so this is it.' Kaito's spirits slightly dropped. 'Dad'll be gone again when we leave this park.' In an attempt to cheer himself up, he kidded, '…too bad I can't live here.'
"Kaito." From behind him, Toichi called his name. Aiming to catch his attention this way, he did furthermore when - as he came into Kaito's sight - he saw him bowing. "…I'm sorry."
"…you don't need to apologize. …I barely have any merit to forgive your mistakes." Looking up at the darkening sky when his father straightened to avoid eye contact, Kaito's voice became distant, "They say… 'to err is human, to forgive…is divine'. I believe there's some truth to that saying.
"…But only some." Believing in his coming words with all of his heart, Kaito's anxiety was washed away as his morals came through his statements, "…people are nowhere near gods or deities…or anything of the sort. But at the same time…we're the closest mankind will ever be to the 'ones above'. They have intelligence; humans have intelligence. They are one in their own; humans are one in their own. They know everything about you; humans…know everything about themselves. Thus…if they can forgive…humans can too.
"…but humans can only forgive themselves." He lowered his head, and finally stared into his father's eyes. "For those who are different by realizing their mistakes…people are further divided into those who try to atone for what they've done. And even more separated…are those who work to atone until they know they've fixed their wrong."
"Kaito…" He only said his name, but Kaito could tell that Toichi saw right through him. That he knew what he was planning. Kaito didn't mind. It was his decision and he was adamant. Toichi must've known this as well, as he didn't say another word.
"We should probably get going." Sorrow creeping into his heart as he turned away, a sudden recollection was the only thing that stopped him in his tracks. Making a decision as he turned around, he smiled faintly as he held out the teddy bear to Toichi. "…you'll be heading back with Koizumi-chan I assume.
"…you should give this to her for me." Letting the bear dangle, he added, "…I may never see her again."
Silent, Toichi only took the toy after a long, long pause. Even as he held it, he didn't speak. When he finally did, the words were unexpected. "If that's the case, let's make a trade."
In wonder of what his father could possibly mean, Kaito got his answer as Toichi's arm extended. Laying in his palm was only one small item.
The blue ball with the dent.
"Returning to the afterlife…I'll have no need of this." Placing the ball into Kaito's palm himself as his son was speechless, Toichi smiled, "…Maybe it'll bring you even more luck then you've had before."
Pulling away, Toichi began walking away with the bear in tow. Just as he reached the steps, Kaito's voice stopped him.
"I knew!" Shouting at first to get his attention, Kaito lowered his volume when Toichi looked his way. "All of the years you were gone…I knew you were watching over me. I always did."
"Well then," Toichi's smile was bittersweet. His poker face had lost a bit of its authenticity. "I hope you continue to know…that I'm just beyond your shoulder. Always."
With that his father turned and descended the stairs. Now alone, Kaito remained on the plaza for another few minutes. In solitude, he watched the last seconds of the sun. Unlike Toichi, he would see the sun there the next day. However, he would see the ball. Staring down at the small blue sphere, he smiled.
"…I can only hope…" he threw the ball into the air, catching it with his other hand. "…that they at least let me keep this.
"…oh thank all that is good!" Running toward Toichi as he came into view, Koizumi snatched Kudo from his grasp. Looking at him with a relieved look, she sighed, "…I was worried Kuroba-kun might've thrown you away."
Watching from a distance, Heiji deduced by his expression that Toichi hadn't learned that Kudo was in the bear. Thinking back on everything that had happened, they hadn't ever gotten around to telling either of the Kurobas about that odd predicament. If it weren't for the reason Kudo had been given to Kuroba for that short while, Heiji would've definitely brought up the information as a taunt. Listening and observing Koizumi's actions with the bear, Heiji wondered if Toichi would ever know. Kudo seemed determined not to move or talk.
Choosing to relieve Kudo of some of the stress of his goal, Heiji suggested, "Why don't we get this over with now? As far as I know, we'll all have ta separate here anyway."
Nodding, Toichi agreed. "Yes. That would be the most efficient option at this point." There was something in voice that was distracted. Heiji couldn't think of any cause for it, though, so he set the suspicion aside.
Taking the bear from Koizumi, Heiji concentrated his magic to his right palm. Holding the toy out in front of him, he drew back his arm. Then, swiftly, he hit the teddy square in the face with a quick force. Coming out head first, Kudo's soul flew a small distance. Much bigger than the actual bear, now that he was his teenage self, it was a bit odd to see such a taller figure emerge from the toy.
Straightening in the air, Kudo had his hand on his face. Lowering his head before he pulled away his hand, his teeth clenched. Barely a foot away from Heiji, he yelled, "Did you have to hit me in the face?"
Flinching, Heiji took a step back. Clearing his throat as he tried to seem aloof, he mumbled, "T-That doesn't matter now. Ya should get back in your body now." Beckoning his hand toward Toichi, Heiji waited for a few moments. When he felt he was being ignored, he turned to see Kudo - still close, still irritated. Loosing the fake mask, he brought his palms together and squeaked, "…please?"
Though not saying anything, Kudo complied. Floating toward Toichi, there was only a minor pause before he went inside his body. Similar to the process with the bear, this time Heiji was more careful in removing the soul. Separating Toichi from Kudo carefully, he brushed his palms together as a sign of a job well done. Seeing Kudo as himself in the flesh once more as he cancelled the spell, it was only then that a question occurred to Heiji.
Eyes widening a bit at the question, Kudo answered, "He's still at the plaza. I…assume he's thinking some things over. We should let him be." Walking out the gate while Toichi flew off toward said plaza, Kudo signalled for the rest of them to follow. "Come on…let's go get some well-deserved rest."
Having packed on Friday, Heiji's bags were ready and waiting Saturday morning. Rummaging through his belongings on account of Kazuha's advice to, Heiji counted over everything to make sure it was all there. After everything that had happened, he was finally returning home. Since realizing he was a Soul Smith, he hadn't been home…for good reasons. Not only would his parents chew him out, so would his teachers. Even if it was their program that sent him to Beika City, he hadn't exactly been the best student at Teitan High.
But he knew the day would eventually come, it was only a matter of time. The day he'd moved into Agasa's, he was very aware that his stay was only temporary. However, when Kazuha had approached him as he was on the couch and told him that the train to take them both home was coming on Saturday, a small part of him crumbled. As of that day, he still hadn't told anyone about his departure. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't because of any unsure feelings or not wanting to break the news…
It was because he simply kept forgetting. Walking in to check on his inventory, Kazuha then made it apparent that she had forgotten, too. About to put away her phone, she let out a small gasp of realization. Dialling a number, after a hello she stated, "Ran-chan! I…I'm sorry to be telling you this so close to the train's departure but…" There was some mumbles from the other side. "…Yes, me and Heiji are going back to Osaka. …no, I'd love to stay, believe me. …but my time is just about up and…well, Heiji had no reason to be here in the first place."
'That's what you think.' Recalling many times that he had gotten Kudo or the others out of messes with his abilities, he smiled with a hidden pride. As if conjured by the memory, he then came across a familiar suit.
"…when did you get that suit anyway?" Finished her call with Ran, Kazuha peered over Heiji's shoulder at the clothing. "…Irene-chan said that she found that lying out when she came here." Cringing at the memory, Heiji was lucky that Kazuha was distracted by her deduction to notice. "…you must've bought it here."
As he tucked away the suit deep into his suitcase, Kazuha went about phoning Suzuki. Moseying through the rest of his things, he eventually reached his own cell phone. Spinning it in his hands in a daze, he mumbled, "…who t' call?"
"Who indeed!" Kazuha blurted out from the door. "The train'll be leaving soon! You'll have to phone everyone quickly if you want them to make it to the station!"
Fumbling for Koizumi's number in his mind, he suggested to Kazuha, "Why don't we stop by Kudo's an' just take him with us t' the station? I can save a call that way."
Stopping in her run, Kazuha was almost mowed over by Heiji. Only just barely halting himself, Heiji was about to rant at her when she shouted at him instead, "Are you dense? Kudo-kun hasn't been home for the last two days! …he left again!"
Drawing only one conclusion from that information, Heiji didn't get the chance to check if it was right. Checking her watch, Kazuha ran out of the door in a frenzy, not answering any questions. Unfortunately for Heiji, there was a station not too far from Agasa's - he'd have to wait until the ride home before he could question her.
Following as fast as his legs could carry him, Heiji would've attempted to ask her as they ran if he didn't think his lungs would give out. It didn't help that he had to lug his huge suitcase behind him. Making it to the station, he tried to push out the question as they took a breather at the platform, but his breath didn't return completely until after the train arrived.
Worried for a while as she looked around, Kazuha lost all tension in her face when she waved. Tracking her line of sight, Heiji saw two familiar girls - each waving back. Searching around their legs, he was surprised at the lack of a figure. Though, after a few seconds…
'You'll never guess whose back.'
Despite being Kudo's original voice, the source was shorter and wore fake glasses. Unable to mutter a word, Kazuha took over for Heiji. "Oh, Conan-kun! Glad to see you're here to see us off!"
"O-Of course he's here, Kazuha!" Bending down, Heiji ruffled the 'younger boy's' hair. "He's like a brother to me!" covered 'What the hell happened?'
"It's so sad you two are leaving," was heard by others while 'Isn't it obvious? The antidote…didn't work.' rang in Heiji's mind.
Heiji was about to continue the conversation, but Kazuha interrupted. Pulling him up by the shoulder, she huffed, "I know goodbyes suck…but we're going to miss our train at this rate!"
With no argument against the fact, Heiji was dragged away against his will. On the train, they managed to find seats on the same side as the platform. Opening the window, Heiji grinned down at the girls and Kudo as Kazuha stated the obvious, "We'll be sure to visit!"
"…You can count on it." Heiji added before the engine started.
Avoiding the cliché, the friends that had come to see them off didn't follow after the train car. It was a quiet departure. Until…
At the sudden shout of his name, Heiji stuck his head out the window. Kazuha not too far behind, both of their eyes widened as they saw the owner of the voice.
Broom in hand and flapping her arm about angrily, Koizumi yelled after the fleeing train, "How dare you leave without telling me?"
With only a few seconds to say his own farewell words, Heiji said the first thing that came to mind - with sarcasm, "…I'll miss ya too!"
"What was that? Why I oughta-" for better or for worse, Heiji couldn't make out what she had said. Focusing ahead, he cradled his head in his hands and stared at the ceiling. Distant and dazed, sound around him faded out as he smiled. 'I'll be back…
"…and in the end…you didn't even get to call him 'Smithy'." Kudo taunted from below her waist once more. She had thought his voice sounded different over the phone.
"Well, I couldn't exactly say it with those girls around." Able to speak freely since 'those girls' weren't around as the two had escaped 'for a lesson', Akako crossed her arms. "…I still can't believe he didn't tell any of us that he was leaving."
"From what it sounded like, he didn't have much warning." Hands in his pockets, Kudo looked off to side. "Kind of a pity with the timing, though. I was planning on seeing if he could fix my paths so I could use magic in this form."
The question rising once more, Akako decided to take that moment to ask it, "How…or rather, when did you revert back?"
"Late Wednesday night." Frowning, he then sighed in a slightly depressing manner, "…and here I thought this time it would really last. I guess…we'll just have to search out that pill Haibara dropped."
"That may take a while." Not liking the sound of the suggested pessimistic tone in her statement, Akako added, "…but I'm sure you'll eventually find it."
Smiling up at her, Kudo's eyes then diverted to a street to the side. Looking up at the street sign to their side, he then suddenly ran off, "I need to do something! I'll go to your house as soon as I'm finished!"
Leaving no room for argument, he disappeared around a corner.
Almost out of breath due to his shrunken body, Conan felt extremely lucky. Possibly stealing some of that luck from the figure's whose back he was staring at, Conan ran up to him. Not moving at all, merely staring at the police station, the figure was easy to catch. A few steps behind the one ahead of him, Conan stopped and stated his name.
Turning with wide eyes, Kuroba's gaze was set higher than it should've been. However, as the voice that had said his name registered, his eyes lowered. After a blink, his eyes narrowed and he gave a half-hearted smile. "…the antidote didn't work?"
Shaking his head, Conan then got to the point. "Kuroba, I know what you're going to do but…think it through more. Yes, you've stolen countless jewels…but as far as I can tell you haven't spent or sold a single cent made off those gems. Surely there's another way to deal with your sin…than to turn yourself in."
"…I…don't know how you know that. …but I'll tell you something." Spinning to face the building once more, he chuckled. "I actually got here a while ago. …in fact, I've already been inside."
"What?" Conan almost couldn't believe the words coming from Kuroba's mouth. "…you don't mean-"
"They laughed at me." Loosing his air of maturity and seriousness, Kuroba swerved around. His expression could've been the very definition of 'pout'. "…They freakin' laughed at me. …I never knew turning yourself in could actually be hard."
A bit relieved by the news, Conan couldn't help but comment, "…I can't exactly blame them. You apparently pull a lot of jokes and such…they probably just thought 'I'm the Kaitou Kid' was another gag."
Straightening from his slouch, Kuroba's stern air came back. "…maybe they won't think it's a joke if I bring them one of the jewels I've stolen?"
Examining Kuroba's face after the reply, Conan remarked, "…you're really set on doing this…aren't you?"
Nodding gradually, Kuroba looked off toward the sky. "…I don't want Houseki to be the only one atoning for what she's done. If even she…the one that I, long ago now, declared my enemy…if even she can acknowledge her mistakes, then I can too."
"They'll never believe you." Only partially believing his own words, Conan turned to leave. "…even if they do, if your aim is a cell…I doubt they'd throw you in one."
Laughing, Kuroba let out one last statement before heading for the doors of the station again, "Maybe they will if I irritate them enough: confetti in the face anyone?"
Hearing the door close, Conan couldn't help but smile. 'If anything…that will make them doubt your case even more.'
Akako was dusting when he came in: dusting Buddy's face. Staring at the odd scene, Conan specifically set his eyes on the servant. Despite the feathers in his face, he was as still as a statue. Wondering if Akako had made him one with magic, that theory was lost as Conan noticed he was breathing. Left with no other deductions, he finally asked, "…what…are you doing?"
"Oh, Kudo-kun, you're back." Turning for only a split second, she quickly went back to her business. Not forgetting his question, Akako stated, "…dusting."
Watching for a few more seconds, Conan came across a different idea. "Did you tell him not to laugh or something?"
His guess gaining more accuracy by her response, he then went about asking is second question, "So…you're testing him?"
Derailing his train of thought and causing many cell casualties, Conan was silent for a long period of time before being able to stutter, "Th-Then…what are you doing?"
"I told you already Kudo-kun," just as before she looked back at him for only a second before returning to her dusting. As impassive as before, she repeated, "…dusting."
Frowning, he – although he knew there was no point – couldn't help but ask, "…why?"
"Well Kudo-kun, although I'm different from other girls – I'm better," she joked, "there are certain…feminine feelings that I can't avoid. Some girls eat ice cream, I dust."
Taking a step back, Conan put up his hands. "Heheh…Okaaay, um…too much information there, Akako-chan."
"Too much information?" Finally turning away from her dusting, she looked down at him with a furrowed brow. "…what are you talking about? I just said it like it is."
"Well, yeah, but, um…" Looking around for the right words so as not to irk her, it took a while before Conan finished, "…It just seems like an…awkward topic, is all. …considering only you can really relate here."
"You're not making any sense now, Kudo-kun." Hands on her hips, she frowned, "…surely you've felt this way before at least once."
Only thinking of one possible moment where he could've 'felt that way', Conan clenched his teeth and glared off to the side, "…Haibara…that rascal! She must've told you…"
Confused herself, Akako muttered, "…actually…you're the one who phoned me, Kudo-kun…even though Ai-chan would've made more sense, now that I think about it."
"Akako-chan…" he blinked up at her. "…I think you're mistaken. …believe me…I would've remembered that phone call."
"I…would think you would." One brow slanted downward and the other was high above her eye. It was a standard expression of puzzlement. "…after all, you made that call to me…less than an hour ago."
"What?" Befuddled beyond comprehension, Conan could practically feel the question marks flying about in his skull. Looking over the facts, he found that they all didn't add up. Deciding to start over, he questioned, "I-I'm sorry Akako-chan, I…need to know…what phone call are you talking about exactly?"
Although questioning his rationality at the moment, Akako answered his question without sarcasm hidden in her words. "…when you told me Smithy-kun was leaving…on the train. …this morning, remember?"
Against his better judgement, a question slipped out of his mouth, "Well, then what does that have to do with 'feminine feelings'?"
Opening her mouth, Akako was about to answer with the puzzled expression still on her face, but a sudden realization washed over her features. Cheeks reddening a slight degree, her eyes widened and her brows curved down with a high irritation. "AGGGH! You MORON! I didn't mean THAT!"
Duster descending upon his own face, Conan waved his arms about. Much like a cat with its head in a bag, he continued to back up, but Akako followed. Finally falling out of the reach of the feathers due to a large sneeze, Conan was able to protect himself with his arms. Coughing a bit due to the dust, he could only manage, "H-How am I supposed to-I don't even-What the hell is THAT then?"
"Girls eat chocolate when THAT happens!" Not listening to a word he was saying, she then involuntarily answered his question, "Ice cream is for depression!"
"Depression?" As if the word were a switch, the struggle between the two instantly stopped. Appearing more embarrassed than she'd been before, Akako backed off. Observing her behaviour and recalling their conversation, Conan finally connected the dots. Sitting up, he crossed his legs. Resting his elbow on his knee, he then placed his chin in his palm. With a mocking smirk, he sang, "You~ Miss~ Ha~ Torri~"
Her back to him, she twitched as he continued to carol. Shoulders rising, when she finally turned, her expression was surprisingly calm - almost happy. "If you keep talking Kudo-kun," she hit the duster violently into her palm, "my next duster will be made from your feathers."
Squeaking like a mouse facing a cobra, Conan squirmed backwards a small distance. Laughing awkwardly, he immediately changed the topic, "S-So…what's the lesson for today?"
"Lesson?" After a complete change of mood, Akako brought her finger to her chin in thought. "…I guess you have a point…we should probably start lessons up again, huh?"
'…you're the one who told Ran and Sonoko that we were going to your house for one of those lessons…' Not daring to say such a thing after her prior threat, Conan instead sat in silence, commenting to only himself.
Pondering for a while, Akako ended up only sighing. Frowning at Conan, she said, "…got any ideas?"
"Ah, well…" About to reply in the negative, a thought then occurred to him. "Oh, wait! Yes, there is something I'd be interested in learning!
At the two words, Akako lost the expression she had had earlier and replaced it with a completely blank one. Void of movement, it didn't even seem she was breathing. Only when Buddy sneezed (finally) did she snap out of her daze. Running over to her servant, she blurted out overdramatically, "He was so young!"
Not enjoying her sarcasm that much, he pouted, "What's that supposed to mean? …flying, cloning, exchanging people's souls with animals…all of that is okay…but time travel isn't? …why don't you enlighten me: why is it such a laughing matter?"
Finishing a laugh, Akako smiled down at him with cockiness. "Alright, if that's what you want. But first…why don't you enlighten me? …what exactly would you do if I taught you time travel? What time would go to? What would you change?"
"…well I don't feel like telling you now." He narrowed his eyes at her. "…you'll just laugh and point out how ludicrous it is."
"Of course I will…but that's not going to stop you from telling me. A way of learning is to learn from your mistakes, after all."
"…Fine." Reluctantly, he thought about his answer. "Well…I guess…I'd go back to that day at Tropical Land. I'd stop myself - I guess in some sort of disguise - so that I didn't get involved with Vodka's deal and never shrunk. All of that trouble avoided. …that'd be nice…"
"…oh Kudo-kun…" Akako shook her head. A look of utter disappointment was on her face.
Slightly offended, Conan shouted, "W-What's so wrong with that?"
"…everything." Completely serious, Akako then took a breath…and began her belittling. "I want you to think long and hard about everything I'm about to say…and no interrupting, you hear?
"That day at Tropical Land is when you shrunk. You just said so yourself. Here lies the first problem. Seeing that deal, you were caught snooping. Gin hit you on the back of the head and gave you the Apotoxin pill. You shrunk. Flash forward to your house. You borrowed a pair of your father's glasses. When Mouri-chan came in and questioned you about your name, you created 'Edogawa Conan'. In your new persona, you were enrolled at Teitan Elementary. There, you became friends with three…darling little children. …now here's where I'm assuming, but I'm guessing they're the ones who convinced you to enter my competition. Entering it, you won - thanks to Houseki's power and your own. This is how things stand and how they've rolled out presently.
"…take out your shrinking and everything falls apart. 'Edogawa Conan' never exists, thus he never meets the Detective Boys whom are the reason he enters Koizumi Akako's competition, therefore has no chance to win, become an apprentice or even know of magic's existence. Without this knowledge, he never even considers time travel…which is why the idea is simply ludicrous.
"Without shrinking, there's no possible way you'd ever be prompted to go back in time and stop your shrinking in the first place. …and it wouldn't be nice…because you'd never know it was nice, since you'd have no shrinking to compare it to."
"…that…makes sense…" Blinking, the words left Conan's mouth only after careful consideration on his part on how to say them. "…but…at the same time…it…doesn't…"
Nodding, Akako said, "Yes, time is a difficult thing to comprehend…which is exactly why we'll never, never, ever, not even if we have a gun pointed at our heads, will we ever attempt any spells revolving around time. …Imagine the rebounds!"
Cringing at the thought of the little buggers, Conan switched the topic once more, "So…how long exactly do you have to teach me, anyway?"
Looking at him first, Akako then delved into her mind for the answer. Smiling down at him once she got it, she chirped, "Well at the rate we go…
"I'd say around ten years!"
Both of them began to laugh. Was it a joke or not? …It didn't matter. With everything that had happened, neither would mind much if they had to endure ten years of the similar events one after another. The others wouldn't mind either. Soul Smiths, wizards and witches, 'time-lords', scientists who could walk through fire, ghostly thieves and their mermaid sons…none of them could truthfully admit to hating anything that had happened over the course of those long months. If anything…
…they all enjoyed it.
In Later Days…
"Ah man…Haibara-san really likes giving us a hard time, doesn't she?" Genta groaned as he stared back at his bag, full of books.
"Genta…you have no right to say that. We don't have any more homework than usual." Mitsuhiko chuckled, "You just procrastinate until its too late most of the time."
Grinning at the two boys, Ayumi piped up, "You should be glad she doesn't chew you out at our other lessons, Genta! …In fact, I think Ai-chan is being really nice to you." Elbowing the taller boy of the two, she smirked, "…she knows you're slacking off, but she doesn't say a word."
"Sh-She knows?" Sweat rolling down his cheek, Genta sighed. "Great…now I really have to get to work or my mark is going to plummet."
"Hey…maybe you could skip your after school lessons with her so you can catch up with your schoolwork." Mitsuhiko crossed his arms, "…then me and Ayumi can get extra one-on-one time since she'll have your time free!"
"…don't leave me out of the picture!" walking up from behind them, Kokoro's blue eyes glinted along with his white teeth as he grinned, "…after all, since joining the you guys ten years ago, I want all of the detective training I can get! …you all had a head start."
Reminded of their child days, each of three began reminiscing. First to comment was Mitsuhiko, "Well, technically Kokoro, you were here at the same time as us when our detective lessons started."
Taking in the information, the regular teen harpy nodded as he remembered, "Right. They only started after…well…"
"…after Ai-chan and…Shinichi-san got taller." Ayumi finished. Recalling the day, she looked off to the side. "That…was quite the surprise."
"…musing over about that day again, are you?"
Coming straight from her classroom at Teitan High, Haibara still had a few books and notepads in her bag. Slung over her shoulder, it was a designer model, fresh off the market. Not as if they expected no less from their posh elder, but the four did constantly wonder where she found the money and time to afford the item and wait in the long lines required to get it first. Around the same height as Kokoro, the only one taller than her of the bunch was Genta. However, her stubborn official air was more than enough to bring him down a peg. But in no way was she scary. Her makeup nearly flawless and her eyes a melting ice, she had a strict but friendly atmosphere about her. She was both the favourite teacher of the boys and girls.
Not about to ignore a question from her role model, Ayumi answered, "Y-Yes. I know it's been a long time…but it's still unbelievable, A-Ai-chan."
"Still stuttering when you call me that, I see." Chuckling a bit, Haibara reassured her, "I don't see why. I've already told you I don't mind."
"O-Oh, yes, I know. But…" Fumbling once more, Ayumi quickly repeated, "I-It's just unbelievable."
Amused by the small embarrassment of her pupil, another small chuckle was hidden under Haibara's words, "Is that so? …well, there's something that really is unbelievable that I'm about to tell you." Though never did they ever ignore her, the four's attention were completely focused on her words after this statement. Observing this, she vocalized her information, "Today…
"…is your first real-life case."
Cheers erupted immediately. Jumping and clapping, the celebration lasted quite a while. Only when Ayumi thought of something and brought it up did they all stop their roar, "W-Wait…do you mean…someone was murdered?"
Losing her smile, Haibara nodded, "Yes. It isn't anyone you would know, but death is still a tragic thing…which is why the police want this case to be solved." Grinning again, she looked off to the side. "I don't know how Kudo-kun convinced the authorities to let you four into the case, but…I suppose being persuading is one of his talents.
"Oh, and the case isn't all." pausing for effect, she once again waited for the dead silence that symbolized their complete attention before stating, "If you're successful and work together, Kudo-kun plans to treat you all to a meal at the Great Beika Gallery."
Always one for food, it was then Genta who spoke up, "If that's the case, what are we waiting for? Let's solve this guys!"
Each of them wearing a confident grin, they rose their arms and connected their palms at the center of their circle. Somehow perfectly simultaneous in everything, even their high-fives were flawless.
"Man…I don't know if I'll ever get used to seeing that much blood." Hands on her knees inside the limo Kudo had called up for them, Ayumi avoided eye contact with the boys.
"Me neither." To the side of Haibara, Kokoro stared up at the ceiling of the car. "…well…before it didn't bother me so much, but after I changed…the stuff just gives me a chill."
Stomach grumbling, Genta somehow managed to say something off the topic of food, "…I can't really say I was expecting blood, though. I know people bleed a lot of the time when they're murdered, but sometimes they aren't. …like when they're strangled or something."
"…you're just irked because I won our bet." Mitsuhiko commented smugly. Noticing the expressions other than Genta's, he explained, "…we had a little game going on: every lesson we'd throw in 100 yen each. The bet was when we got our first real case…if fishing wire would be involved or not." Grinning in Genta's direction, Mitsuhiko stated the obvious, "…I won."
Observing that a small scuffle could easily break out between her two friends, Ayumi brought up a question she'd been thinking of since they'd gotten into the automobile. "Ai-chan…where is Shinichi-san?"
"Yeah…" Glancing around him, Kokoro added, "He was at the crime scene, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was." Haibara answered, "But he got a call and had to attend to something else. …but don't worry, he'll be coming to dinner. You can count on it." It was then that a rare joke came from her mouth, "…after all, I'm sure as hell not paying the bill."
Though laughing with everyone else, Kokoro couldn't help but worry a bit. '…Kudo better be coming…I don't want to be a candidate for that responsibility.' Checking his pockets, which turned out to be pretty much empty, he added, '…I don't think I could be a candidate for that…'
Feeling the car stop, a few seconds passed before the driver had come around and opened the door for them. Each careful so as not to dirty their (somewhat) formal wear, they got out one at a time. Last to be out, Kokoro walked into a recollection that he had no part in. His fellow three Detective Boys were gawking at the building with happy gasps. Only noting that the lettering of it's large sign was…intriguing, he assumed the reaction was due to memory rather than something new.
Filling him in by accident, Ayumi asked Haibara, "This is the restaurant with all those fish, isn't it?" When Haibara replied positive, Ayumi went back to being in awe of the building. "Wow! I never thought I'd be able to eat here again! …It's been so long, I wonder how much it's changed?"
"Well, there's only one way to find out." Walking in front of Ayumi, Kokoro held out his arms with extravagance toward the doors and bowed, "…after you."
Sensing the guys' glares, Kokoro could tell he'd gotten a slight blush out of Ayumi. The competition for her heart had been raging for years, and - although at first it was just another game to him - over time Kokoro became just as determined as the other two to win. He'd grown to care for her and the rest of them - though he would never admit it to their faces.
Weaving their way through the maze of endless fish tanks, they finally managed to find their way to the restaurant. Sitting at the largest table there, Kokoro heard many comments about how the place hadn't changed - minus the new chandelier, apparently. Other than that, talk of the case they'd just solved began. Relieved, Kokoro joined in, finally able to relate to the topic.
Also able to join in, their top mentor came to the table. "You guys did a good job today, especially for your first real case."
Rather than his usual navy blue suit, that night he had donned a black one. Open in the front, the loose white shirt he wore underneath was revealed. Though not bothering with a tie, his hair was brushed more than normal. Some of the bangs that were usually in his eyes were now out of the way, off to the side. However, no matter how much he brushed, it seemed that one odd part of his hair would always stick up. Always wondering about it, Kokoro had eventually summed it up to be some odd rebound.
"Sh-Shinichi-san!" Stating the name of only one of three, Ayumi then attempted the other two, "U-Um…Y-Yuki-san and…you…you're…Yu…Yuu…"
"Yuusaku." Raising his hand in greeting as he seating himself beside his wife, he smiled, "…but you can just call me 'Yuu-san' I suppose." Picking up his menu, he scanned through the items. "…I wonder what our waiter will recommend?"
Looking off to the side, Kudo was silent before blinking. He then chuckled, "…I wouldn't be surprised if it was nothing."
Before anyone could question what he meant, a figure - the waiter - approached from where Kudo had been staring. Taking them off guard, they were all silent as he muttered, "…welcome to my hell, how may I serve you?"
Holding back a laugh, and failing at it, Yukiko giggled, "K-Kaito-kun? …Oh…Oh my."
Smirking at him, Haibara remarked, "…still working on repaying the debt, aren't you?"
"Well son…now I know what you meant." Chuckling, Yuusaku wasn't the only one to realize what Kudo had meant by his 'nothing' comment. On occasion, they would meet with Kuroba. He would tell them stories, show them tricks…and during a certain meeting, show them just how much he despised fish. Of course, that hadn't been his doing. Koizumi had thought it would be funny to let the Detective Boys know of his weakness. Still determined for a recommendation, however, Yuusaku still queried, "…anything worth eating here in your eyes, Kaito-kun?"
"…How would I know?" Puffing his cheeks, Kuroba tapped his pencil against his notepad irritably, "…not like I've ever eaten here." Pausing, he then blinked, "Oh, wait, there is one thing! …the garlic bread. It's the only edible thing on the menu…and thank god that its good, otherwise…all those years ago…I would've starved."
"Heh, if you say its good, it must be." Closing the menu in his hands, Yuusaku ordered, "The garlic bread then, if you will."
"Same here." Around the table, each and every one of them said the same thing.
Taking back their menus, when Kuroba had the last one, he joked before leaving, "…don't be surprised if I just bring a basket full of the stuff."
Left to chat, they didn't waste any time. Kokoro and the Detective Boys continued to speak of the case they had 'so brilliantly solved'. Talking of merely weather at first, Yukiko and Yuusaku came to a more interesting topic when a certain song came up. To their side, Kudo was laughing as he explained something about the truth of a 'fish camera' to Haibara. She laughed as well: which was odd. Something about that camera joke must've been hilarious.
Time passed by much faster than any of them would've expected - that, or Kuroba was incredibly swift. Though, he couldn't be that slow when all he brought to the table - true to his word - was merely a basket full of garlic bread.
Laughing as he took a loaf for himself, Kudo commented, "Well, the service is kind of crappy, but the humour isn't lacking. …So…" Reaching into his pocket after placing his bread on his plate, Kudo threw a bill towards Kuroba: 1000 yen.
Picking up the bill, Kuroba waved it with a faint smile, "…wow…quite a tip."
"…Just doing what I can to help your debt." Biting some of his bread, Kudo then said, "…how is that going, anyway?"
"Well…" Pausing as he picked up the offerings from Haibara and the Kudos, Kuroba leafed through the bills with gratitude before continuing, "…it's actually doing good. I only have a few hundred million left. …oh, you guys don't have to feel obliged to give me a tip." Waving the bills, he remarked, "…these are more than enough for today. …even this week."
"But Kaito-san, we want to!" Holding out her own bill to the male, Ayumi smiled. "You're always so funny and nice to us…we want to help you with your debt!"
"Yeah!" flapping their own bills in the air, the males' smiles suggested that no wasn't an answer.
Though realizing he would be broke, Kokoro pulled out his own bill. "…with… 'only a few hundred million left' you'll need all the help you can get."
"…Thanks. …all of you." Losing the irritation that had been present throughout his entire service, Kuroba actually walked off with a smile on his face.
Curious as the rest of them, Haibara questioned through bites of her bread, "So…what are you two doing back in town?"
"Surely you know, Ai-chan." Chewing some of her loaf, Yukiko then tore off a piece to eat after replying, "…tomorrow, Wednesday June 3rd, is Shin-chan's last lesson with Akako-chan."
A bit crestfallen by the information, Genta picked out, "…wait…we have school tomorrow!"
"Yeah, that's right!" Mitsuhiko added. "You'll wait for us, won't you?"
"Don't worry you guys." Waving his hand as if their disappointment could be brushed away, Kudo stated, "…It's not even really a lesson. …in fact, my last one probably would've been more accurate to say was my last one. This one is just basically a graduation. A little scroll and a hat, or something. Nothing interesting."
Evidently, Shinichi had lied to the kids. He couldn't tell them the truth though, they would've skipped school if they knew. That wouldn't be good. Though Haibara technically was to attend the last 'lesson', she could actually get a substitute for her. The kids…couldn't.
Walking through the forest that had forever been imprinted in his mind by that point, Shinichi smiled around at his surroundings. How many times had he traversed that path? How many trees had he spoken to? …How many had he actually learnt their names? Each of the numbers was too high for him to recall.
Promising Haibara, his parents, Hakuba and any others coming that he and Akako wouldn't start before they got there, Shinichi was heading out earlier merely to have a private talk with her first. It wasn't anything secretive, but he would be embarrassed thanking her for everything she'd done for him in front of the others. It was going to be embarrassing enough in front of her.
Reaching the clearing, he stopped to take in the view for - possibly - the last time. Green grass and summer trees, it was really a beautiful place. Even the house, which had been slightly creepy, seemed to smile in the sunlight. Only three bodies broke through the scene, two of which Shinichi wasn't expecting: Hattori Heiji…and a cat.
Approaching with his brow raised, it rose further when he saw Hattori's odd behaviour. Sitting in an awkward position, he was licking the backside of his hand. Coming across a conclusion, Shinichi stared at Akako's huge grin for a long minute before mumbling, "…you didn't…"
Her smile only grew more, "Well, I didn't have a chicken."
"Akako-chan!" Slightly horrified, Shinichi picked up the cat. Holding it in front of her, he stared at her with a scolding air, "…turn him back."
"Aw~ You're no fun Kudo-kun!" Pouting, she quickly smiled as she said, "…how about after your final lesson?"
Knowing full well that trying to change someone else's spell was a bad idea, Shinichi sighed. Turning the cat - or rather Hattori - so that it/he was facing him, Shinichi muttered, "…well, I've done what I could."
"…why are you talking to that cat, Kudo-kun?" Arriving much earlier than expected, Haibara gave him a questioning look. "…Is your final lesson on how to speak to cats?"
"No," Frowning at Akako to the side, he began, "this cat is-"
"Yo, Ai-chan!" Standing straight, Hattori waved chummily at Haibara. Normal as ever, he grinned, "I haven't seen ya in a while!"
Speechless, Shinichi continuously switched his view from the cat to Hattori in confusion. Haibara was added to the mix when she once again questioned, "…so why are you talking to that cat, Kudo-kun?"
Shrugging, Hattori answered for him, "…I guess Kudo's a little nervous, what with this bein' the last lesson he'll ever have. Some people relieve stress differently, but…" He looked at Shinichi then grinned toothily, "…t' each their own, I suppose."
"…you suck." Placing the cat on the ground, Shinichi crossed his arms as he straightened. Glaring at Hattori and Akako in the corner of his eye, both of which were both smiling widely with immense amusement, he grumbled, "…you both suck, you know that?"
"Oh, Kudo-kun, make up your mind!" Kidding with him, Akako placed her hand partially in front on her mouth, "…do you want Smithy-kun to be a cat…or not?"
Noticing that Hattori was stifling a laugh of his own, Shinichi joked, "…well, now that you've mentioned it…that first option seems entertaining. …and I could easily arrange for it to happen."
"H-Hey!" Putting up his hands in defence, Hattori pointed toward Akako, "It was her idea! …why am I always the butt monkey?"
"…if you ask me, I think I've been through worse." coming from the forest, Kuroba was kicking around a ball as he strolled along. Eventually catching the blue sphere, he then placed his other hand over the ball. Closing his eyes, he separated his palms after a few seconds. With a poof, a small banner appeared between his hands. It read: I'm half-fish, the thing I hate most. #1 Butt Monkey.
Letting out a small chortle at the display, Akako remarked, "You should put that on your door at home, Kuroba-kun."
"Pft, yeah. I'll do that when Hakuba says the words 'Hattori plays better than his stickman self.'"
"…thank you kindly for reminding me, Kuroba." Silent as ever, Hakuba practically morphed into the clearing from behind them. Smirking at Hattori, he stated, "…we need to have another rematch. Have you practiced at all?"
"W-Why would I? …not like beatin' you in chess is all that important." Hattori huffed.
"True," Hakuba agreed, "but being beat by your stickman counterpart…It may not be important, but I can only assume its embarrassing."
"Sh-Shut up." Completely and utterly desperate for a topic change, Hattori randomly pointed out, "Oh, hey look! Kudos parents are comin'!"
Indeed they were - they were the last to arrive, in fact. About to start as they had promised, Shinichi and Akako were halted when Yukiko suddenly spoke up.
"Before you do this, do you think it'd be alright to see how this sounds?" Wondering what 'this' meant, Shinichi didn't get an answer as his mother then simply asked, "…you have a piano, right Akako-chan?" After Akako's nod, Yukiko said, "Lead me to it then, will you? …this won't take long."
B A B A B D B
A G A G A C A
D D C D C D F D
C C Bb C Bb C D C
E E D E D E G E
E D C D C D F D
F# F# E F# F# A F#
E D E D E G E
Treble clef. 3-4 scale.
D E D C D C
B D C B C B
Only one hand needed on the piano.
B A B A B D B
B A G A G A C A
D D C D C D F D
C Bb A Bb A Bb D Bb
E D E D E G E
E D C D C D F D
F# F# E F# E F# F# A F#
E E D E D E G E
A simple song. A child's song.
F# E D E D
C E D C D C
E D C D C
B D C B C B
The tone then gets darker, the scale is lower. But still treble.
Eb Db Eb Db Eb F# Eb
C# B C# B C# C# E C#
E D E D E G E
D C D C D F# D
Eb Db Eb Db Eb F# Eb
C# C# B C# B C# C# E C#
E D E D E E G E
E D C D C D F D
Returning to the higher notes, the climax approaches.
A D D D D C D C
G B B B A B A
B E E E E D E D
A A D D D D C D C
There's only one cycle where they simply listen. Once its finished, it starts again. But this time, they sing. A syllable each note.
"Falling snow its been too long~
"Your arrival makes this song~
"I wait for you day after day~
"So I can smile and laugh and play~
"You may not last but you're so sweet~
"Your playful joyous frozen treat~
"I slip and slide and sled and skate~
"Winter time is oh so great~"
Continuously, despite the warm weather outside, they were all trapped by the simple innocence of the song. A small cool feeling overcoming them as they sang, they warded off the summer heat by singing ever more.
After a good dozen repeats of the lyrics, they finally stopped. Requesting for a copy of the song, Akako smiled when Yukiko nodded immediately. Thinking of the acquaintances they'd made during that week, Akako wondered aloud, "…I wonder how Houseki is doing right now…"
"Probably good." Surprising them by speaking up, Hattori smiled. "This might be a bit shockin' but…I spoke t' her recently."
"…you did?" Amazed as the rest of them, Shinichi questioned, "…so…what did you talk to her about?"
"I don't remember specifically but…I do know that she was lookin' for me so that I could show 'er how t' see spirits herself…ya know, that trick I showed you guys a while back." As they nodded in recollection, he went on, "After I did that, outta curiosity, I asked her what she'd been doin'…an' ya won't believe what she's been up ta.
"…ya know that sudden buffet that those starvin' kids in Africa got before?" Seeing the questions that arose in their expressions, Hattori nodded, "…her. Those miraculously saved from bombs in several wars? …her. Schools built for those who can't normally afford education, orphans being led back to the orphanage that they've ran from…all sorts o' things."
"She's been busy." Yuusaku commented, a smile on his face, much like the rest of them.
"Speaking of business…" Akako headed for the door. "Kudo-kun, why don't we finally get started? …Smithy-kun can be the judge."
Right behind her, Hattori joked, "So, I call off the fight when one of ya dies?"
While Akako laughed and teased Hattori back, the rest followed them out. Shinichi was at the end of the line. Catching his eye before he closed the door, he picked up a bear from the nearby table. Though it was wearing a costume similar to that of Kid Kaitou, it looked quite familiar. Called out by Akako, he had no chance to further examine it.
Going further than the rest, Shinichi stood in the middle of the clearing, Akako across from him. Shade had traversed over the ground, a cloud was protecting them from the harsh rays of the sun. Each getting into position, they stared each other in the eyes. They were both ready for the final lesson: for the pupil to beat the teacher in a fight.
Standing on the front step, Hattori paused before raising his arm. "…when I reach zero, you'll begin. Got it?" They both nodded. "Alright!
Prepared to dart forward the second that the 'o' left Hattori's lips, both Shinichi and Akako partially faltered when nothing came. Assuming that he was withholding the number as a joke, they glared at him. But when they saw his expression, they knew it wasn't a joke that had caught the number in his throat - it was the sight above them. Glancing at the others, Shinichi and Akako soon found they were the only two not facing skyward. Wondering what was going on, they both tilted their heads back.
Immediately, they understood the shock that had displayed itself over the features of the others. Against the laws of nature, against the high temperature, against any normalcy whatsoever…
…snow fell from above.
According to Hattori, the white flakes weren't the only point of interest. Though still above the ground, his gaze had lowered and a genuine smile - not an amazed one - laced his face. "…looks like the man himself is here."
Swerving to follow his gaze, Shinichi couldn't help but smile as well. It grew even more when - as Hattori had shown him and the others - he rose the ability of his sight. Beside the figure in the sky he'd seen first, partially transparent, Hoshi Volley floated above, waving much like Houseki Pandora beside him.
The spell hadn't been used on everyone in the world, and some who it had been used on had broken through. Gathering once more as the magic had been dispelled or not needed, Hoshi's soul must've formed once more. Finding him, Houseki - able to see him now - would most definitely not be separated from him ever again. Both of them would continue to help those around the world, even if only one of them could be seen.
"I wish you all luck and good fortune in the future!" Houseki shouted down at them. "…and to all of you…I owe an immense thanks!"
With these words, she looked into Hoshi's eyes for a moment before the two of them flew off into the distance.
(June 3rd, 2020)
BUH BUH BUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Some news down here: For those of you who liked this story would anyone be interested in reading more about Houseki and Hoshi's past? …more specifically a past where they actually turn out happy? …that, or a Sandwich Sequel?
…By Sandwich Sequel, I mean…would anyone be interested in reading the adventures and such that occurred between the 'In Later Days' part and ten years later? …it'd basically be like how DC is now. No real timeline, just stories about what they did in the mean time.
You have plenty of time to think about it: I probably won't be on FF for…a good few months. :P
For those of you who took my advice/dare, I suggest listening to other Disney songs and relating to AWA. Disney is sappy like me, so a lot of them can relate. *cough* Love Will Find A Way from Lion King 2 anyone? *cough*
Oh yes, for those looking for more AWA sooner than a few months, there's always my deviantart account. I have the same username and I'll probably be putting up some art there. So...yeah.
One last thing…
THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.