Toys, miracle blossoms flowering in the hearts of the chosen. Some bloom into pure flowers, others, into poisonous ones. It is the age of great detectives. These two flowers wage war to see if the great detectives or the phantom thieves are the most beautiful.
My name is Akiko Watson, and I am a second year student at Holmes Detective Academy. That I shall be relaying such events to you is strange, because I played no direct part in them, at first. Shortly before winter break, a new student transferred into our class. She carries a sketchbook with her, and has her hair in loops, along with a set of antennae on her ears. Her name was Mori Arty, and she was a strange figure. She was eager to learn and spoke highly of her seniors, those who she had been chosen to room with in the highest attic. The ones whose names have been tarnished, but their spirits haven't.
I speak, of course, of Milky Holmes. Trained under Opera Kobyashi, who has yet to return to our school, they are simultaneously the greatest detectives our school has produced and the laziest clique on campus. Hercule Barton, with the Toys of tri-ascension, super strength, writes poetry, but can't express herself much beyond that. Cordelia Glauca, with the Toys of hyper sensitivity, a cultured lady who has a love of flowers; she does not speak of much else. Nero Yuzurizaki, with the Toys of direct hacking, a tomboy with a large appetite and a favorite hat; her detective skills are better than her social ones.
Then there is her. Sherlock Shellinford, with the Toys of psychokinesis. She is the granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes himself, but made it into the school on her own merits, despite being related to its founder. How she made it in is anyone's guess. She's scatterbrained, a bit of a show off, and her best friend is Kamaboko, a cat who she trusts as much as any human. Yet, she's brilliant, able to solve cases by accident, even when people tell her she can't. From here, she was beautiful.
I wished to become her assistant, but for now, I remained one of the crowd. A new semester was beginning, and Mori Arty was joining her classes for the first time. She had yet to get a uniform in her size, and so remained in the one from a detective academy up north, the name of which she did not mention. She also had not mentioned her Toys to the school, despite it being required of all students to have their Toys tested before entry. Her transfer had been so sudden the school did not have time.
This case began just before dawn, at the end of the first week of the new semester. The statue of Sherlock Holmes was sparkling in the morning sunlight, which streamed in through the attic windows. Milky Holmes, the four of them, slept in one bed, alternating their positions. In a sleeping bag nearby, Mori rested beside them with Kamaboko. The first rays of sunlight danced across Sherlock's face, opening her eyes. She righted herself and looked around the room.
"What a beautiful day!" she said.
Kamaboko walked across the windowsill and laid down. Sherlock petted his fur. He let out a meow. "Good morning to you too," said Sherlock.
She looked over at the bed. Cordelia's arms were outstretched, and a spot of drool rolled down her cheek. She was muttering something about a flower garden. Hercule, her face flushed bright red as always, was nestled up comfortably. The same as any other morning. Mori awoke from her sleeping bag beside the bed, and walked over to Sherlock. She was about a head shorter than Sherlock, who herself was the shortest of Milky Holmes.
"Good morning, Sherlock!" said Mori. "Do you want to go to breakfast with me?"
"We should wait until the others are up first," said Sherlock.
"I've got just the thing," said Mori.
Mori produced a candy bar from nowhere. She pulled open the plastic wrapping, revealing the crunchy, sugary stick, exposing it to the morning air. She walked over to Nero, who was lying on the bed with her mouth open. Mori put the open end of the candy bar into Nero's mouth. Nero chomped down on it, and Mori quickly moved her hand out of the way. Nero rolled over, a sudden burst of energy spreading through her body. She rolled over Hercule in the process, startling her awake. Nero landed on top of Cordelia, who embraced her tightly. Nero opened her eyes and blinked before consuming the rest of the candy bar, spitting the plastic wrap onto the floor. Hercule, her body not completely out of her dream yet, activated her Toys by accident and, with a forceful kick, sent Cordelia and Nero flying across the bed and into the wall, where they both landed on the floor.
"Mori!" she said, looking up from the floor, "How many more of those do you have?"
"That's yours, Nero. And it's the last one."
"Such a beautiful flower garden..." said Cordelia.
Hercule peeked over the side of the bed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Mr. Nijuuri said that our Toys can sometimes activate while we're sleeping, especially since our bodies are still developing."
"Very smart, Hercule. You must be the only one who paid attention in class," said Mori.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Nero.
"It's okay, Elly," said Cordelia, righting herself, and then checking the Cordelia-shaped imprint in the wall, "I remember the first time I had a Toys dream. I was watering the flowers in the garden when all of a sudden my super senses activated, and when I woke up..."
"The longer you talk about your dreams, the more we're missing breakfast!" Nero said, "Useless Cordelia."
"You're the one who's useless," said Cordelia.
"Mori, you don't hate us for this? We're useless seniors," said Sherlock.
"I love you all," said Mori, smiling.
Within due time, Milky Holmes were in their school uniforms, rushing down the stairs of the student dorms. Mori lagged behind them. She stopped to look up at the rooftop, swearing she just heard the sound of footsteps. It was rumored that the Phantom Thief Empire, the most notorious band of scoundrels in the Yokohama area, had been spying on our academy. According to Henriette Mystere, our student council president, these rumors had no basis in truth.
"Lady Arsene!" shouted Kai Nijuuri, "For what reason have you called beautiful me to your quarters this afternoon?"
"Keep it down. There could still be students outside," said Souseki Ishinagare, the school janitor.
"There are students in here," said a third voice below them, which belonged to Jiro Nezu, a student in our class. Jiro had been called away to the student council president's office for reasons that he refused to elaborate on.
Henriette reached into her desk and pulled out a black domino mask. She slid it over her eyes, and her eyes changed. They went from being calm and placid to devilish and crafty. Nijuuri, Ishinagare and Nezu got down on one knee before her without her even saying a word. Students in the halls outside casually walked past, ignoring that the room had suddenly become much more dimly lit.
"What is it you need of us, Lady Arsene?" asked Ishinagare.
"There's a treasure I've set my sights on," said Arsene, pulling out a dusty book, "a set of tarot cards that are rumored to hold the Toys of the greatest detectives prior to Holmes Academy being established. They used to reside at the Kuroki Detective Agency in Arcana City, but have since been donated to the people of Yokohama for research. Anyone who owns them could take over the city overnight."
"Milky Holmes is without their toys, meaning it will be one-two-three EASY!" said Twenty.
"Not all of them are without Toys," said Ishinagare, "You did approve that transfer student, Lady Arsene?"
"Why aren't you asking me? I've been sitting across from her!" said Nezu.
"Mori Arty," said Arsene, licking her lips, "She intrigues me. I want to see what her Toys are too. It adds an element of unpredictability to the game. Makes things a little more fun."
"So when are the tarot cards coming in?" asked Rat.
"Tomorrow," said Arsene, "Then the game begins."
The three departed from the student council room and returned to class. Nezu sat down two seats across from me, and Mr. Nijuuri took his place at the desk. He instantly threw off his shirt, leaving on only his tie and pants, and danced about the classroom, lecturing us on a set of tarot cards. We hadn't even been covering this chapter of detective history.
"It is very important to your student council president that you learn this!" exclaimed Mr. Nijuuri.
"Your nipples are hard," said Nezu under his breath.
Under the guidance of Rei Kamitsu, himself mysteriously vanished in the course of the past year, the Yokohama Police had assembled a squadron specifically to track down the ever growing threat of phantom thieves. They were led by Kokoro Akechi, a self-proclaimed beautiful genius who had graduated from Harvard at 13 and had an IQ that was unmeasurable. This was because Kokoro kept changing the measurements. Assisting her were Tsugiko Zenigata, an Edo girl, martial artist Hirano Hasegawa and tech wizard Saku Tooyama. For all their proclamations about wanting to capture thieves, G4's activities largely consisted of paperwork.
On that same day, G4 was lounging around their office when they got a call from the mayor of Yokohama. Kokoro was the first to pick up the phone. She stood on top of her desk while she talked. "Hello, Mr. Mayor. Why yes, this is the beautiful Kokoro Akechi you're speaking to. Anything you need us for?"
The information about the cards being shipped to the Yokohama Church was relayed. Kokoro slammed the phone down.
"I don't want to see any of you screwing up out there! G4 may have failed to save Henriette, but we're not going to let useless Sherlock and her merry friends take credit this time. It is our duty to protect this city!" said Kokoro.
"The reason everything was screwed up last time was your fault," said Tsugiko.
"These cards are pretty high priority. If we used the Doala family's security, they would be in very good hands. Kokoro, do you think you could call Irene again and arrange something for us?" said Hirano.
"I'm not going back there!" said Kokoro, stepping down.
"How could Sherlock not get involved? Anything Toys-related is of much greater interest to Milky Holmes than it is to us," said Saku.
"I'll make sure that she doesn't!" said Kokoro. "With my IQ of 130 billion, what does she have that I don't?"
"Perspective," answered Saku.
Kokoro reached towards the drawer near her desk and pulled out a golden mask, probably from some ancient civilization. Kamitsu would never know that the people at the Yokohama Museum hadn't actually given it to her. Even if they did, why would she want to give it back?
The chime rang, and lunchtime arrived for Holmes Academy. The five girls of Milky Holmes took a seat at one of the tables in the dining hall, just across from where I sat. Ever since winter break ended, Henriette had exercised her power as student council president to let the girls eat among the regular students once more. To see these girls, the ones called the best and the worst, within range of me was a humanizing experience.
"I'll take as much as you've got of whatever you've got," said Nero to Mr. Ishinagare, who was also the school's chef.
"Nero, we shouldn't be greedy," said Sherlock, waving her hands about.
"I'm not being greedy. I just need a lot more of this average food to feel full," said Nero.
"You're so silly, Nero," said Mori.
There were whisperings among my table. Lila Brown and Victoria Trevor, my closest friends, were extremely curious about this Mori person. We tried not to draw the attention of Milky Holmes. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Hercule. With her puppy dog eyes and deep red blush, I couldn't help but feel obligated to respond.
"Are we causing too much trouble?" she said.
Across from her, Cordelia was indulging in the delights of actual food again, her Toys randomly activating and overloading her taste buds. She had spun out into a fit of ecstasy, and was now embracing Sherlock incredibly tight. Mori was smiling and laughing, treating it like a stage show.
"Oh, no, it's... amusing," I replied.
"Hey, Ishinagare, some more food over here!" shouted Jiro Nezu from the corner of the dining hall.
"What happened to the food I already gave you?" asked Ishinagare.
"Look under the table," he said.
Nero was underneath the table, chewing on a large baguette, and stuffing whatever other food she could find into her hat. Nero gulped down the rest of the bread and stood up from beneath the table, knocking Nezu off his chair. She grabbed his napkin and wiped the food off her lips, thanking Ishinagare for the meal.
"Who said you could eat my food?" said Nezu angrily.
"All I've had for the past three months is potatoes. For today, it's all I can eat," Nero said, "you probably would've burned your plate into charcoal."
"Nero, let's get back to our seat. You can talk with Nezu later," said Sherlock.
"I wasn't talking with him, I was eating," Nero replied.
As Nero returned to the table, I got a closer look at her wrists. She had two springy pieces of metal bent into wristbands that could be removed at any moment to interface with technology. Of all the members of Milky Holmes, Nero's Toys were the least documented by the Academy. Many of the devices that were integral to her powers had been invented only recently, meaning much of her potential was unknown even to herself. I'd always wanted to ask if that was why she was so aloof.
"Geez, Nero, we're back among the general students, no reason to bring us down again," said Cordelia.
"We have until April to get our Toys back," said Sherlock.
"It was all over the news, Sherlock," said Mori, inching her chair closer to Sherlock, "your Toys returned as you were falling to your death. So the solution is obvious. You just need to be put in a death defying situation again."
"Where are we going to find a death defying situation?" said Sherlock, placing her hand to her chin and considering the prospects of such an idea.
The sound of feedback came over the speaker. The voice of our student council president echoed through the dining hall. "Milky Holmes and Mori Arty, please report to the president's office as soon as possible. Thank you."
Whisperings once again rose amongst the students in the hall. My own group of girls was in the running to be the successor to Milky Holmes, but, despite their repeated failures, Henriette kept calling them back. They were the descendants of some of the most famous detectives to have ever lived, but at this school, almost everyone was.
Henriette had taken great care to repair her office after her rampage last December. If Milky Holmes had known that she had destroyed their image, the relations between her and them would dissolve in an instant. The four lined up in front of Henriette's desk, with Mori hanging around near Sherlock. Henriette pulled out a newspaper showing a church in Arcana City, laying it out on the table.
"Sorry about the trouble at lunch, Henriette," said Sherlock.
"I'm willing to let that slide. If you want to stay in this school, you need to get your Toys back before April. I've found a lead that may be of interest to you," she said, pointing to the tarot cards, "The ability to contain Toys within objects for the unempowered has been around for a long time, and these cards may be able to give you a hint on what it'll take to get yours back."
"Aren't they a popular target for phantom thieves?" asked Mori, drawing a rough sketch of Arsene on her notepad.
"Yes," said Henriette, her voice wavering, "that's why I want you to watch them and try to prevent the thieves from getting their hands on them. You may be Toyless, but there are still more things you can do to prove you're worthy of this Academy."
"So we're doing this tomorrow?" Nero asked.
"Elly, this is it! Our flower garden is before us once more!" said Cordelia, wrapping her arm around her friend.
"Thank you so much, Henriette," said Sherlock, shaking the student council president's arm excitedly, "We promise we won't let you down."
"I'm looking forward to it," said Henriette.
Milky Holmes left the room, but Mori once again lagged behind. She turned her head towards Henriette. In those few seconds, Henriette's eyes had changed from round and warm to thin and cunning. There was also a glint of slyness in Mori's eye. They stared at each other for a few minutes, trying to figure out what the other was thinking.
"Is there anything you need?" asked Henriette.
"Just trying to get to know you better, student council president," said Mori, "we both do have things we want to accomplish at this school."
"I want to see your Toys awaken this semester. The principal wouldn't give his approval without a reason," said Henriette.
"I can promise that when they do, it will be spectacular," replied Mori.
Milky Holmes still lacked the money for public transport, and had to walk all the way to the Yokohama church the next day. It was a familiar chapel, where Sherlock very nearly married prince Pero, only to have the engagement stopped at the last second. Sherlock still expresses her desire to be a princess, with a weird understanding of what that entails. The last time Henriette inspected their attic room, she found a cat tail that goes in one's anus, the rumors saying it recently had been used. Sherlock was able to provide no explanation.
"Sorry you had to walk, Mori," said Sherlock. "This probably wasn't what you expected from the real Milky Holmes."
"If it means I get to spend more time with my seniors, I'd walk any distance," Mori said.
"It feels nice to have someone looking up to us," Nero said.
"The mystical arts are so intriguing. Ouija boards, tarot cards, maybe even the origin of our Toys. Field experience is so much better than having Mr. Nijuuri lecture us about it," said Cordelia.
Hercule simply nodded.
They approached the hill where the church was. It was the middle of the day. No wind was blowing, but the air was cold and stung their eyes. Four female figures were standing outside the church, dressed in the uniforms of the Yokohama police. Sherlock charged ahead of the group, rushing up to greet the golden-haired one two years her junior.
"Kokoro-chan! It's been so long since I saw you," she said, giving her a big hug.
The self-proclaimed beautiful genius Kokoro Akechi glared at Sherlock. From out of nowhere, the golden mask appeared in her hand. She smacked Sherlock on the side of her head with the mask, knocking her away. "Don't call me Kokoro-chan!"
"Miss Kokoro, it's a pleasure to meet you," said Mori.
"Who's the new girl? You never told me Milky Holmes was accepting greenhorns," said Kokoro. "but I like her better than that idiot Sherlock."
"Isn't she cute?" said Sherlock, righting herself and rubbing the large bruise on her cheek.
"You can call me Mori Arty," said Mori, "You must be Tsugiko, Saku and Hirano."
"Why do you sound like a boy?" asked Saku.
"I'm all female, otherwise they wouldn't let me bunk with my beloved seniors," said Mori.
"They're letting lots of men room with women these days. Something to do with birth rates," said Hirano, swinging her lacrosse stick over her shoulder.
"Guys, the delivery's here. Our mission's starting," said Tsugiko.
Under the cover of broad daylight, a simple, unlabeled truck pulled up to the church. The driver stepped out, flashing his police badge to the gathered girls. Tsugiko flashed hers in return. The man walked around to the back of the truck and took out a small cardboard box, no larger than a game console. Hirano took the box and tucked it under her arm.
"The people from Holmes Academy labs will be here to pick it up tonight," said the deliveryman. "I want you to keep an eye on this until then. I'm glad Yokohama is in safe hands."
The truck drove off, and the two parties gathered around the box. Nero released one of her metal bracelets from her wrist, and cut through the tape sealing the box. Inside was a golden box emblazoned with a cross. It wasn't very heavy. Milky Holmes and Mori Arty were drawn to the box in a way G4 was not. For an object that could fit in the palm of one's hand, it radiated the power of Toys in a way that made the girls feel like, as long as they were in its presence, they did have their powers back.
"So, what are we going to do about watching this thing?" asked Nero. "This sounds like a boring job."
"How about we watch it in shifts?" said Cordelia.
"That's not a bad idea," said Tsugiko, "Let's draw lots for it first."
Once the lots were ready, Tsugiko held out her hand, asking for everyone but Mori to take a chance on the lot. Everyone looked around the churchyard, figuring out their partner.
"Looks like it's you and me," said Hirano, pointing to Hercule.
"I'll try my best," she replied.
"Oh. I'm with the flower head," said Saku, sucking on her lollipop.
"I won't let you down, Kobayashi!" said Cordelia.
"Who are you shouting at?" said Saku in a deadpan tone.
"Lookin' forward to working with you, Nero," said Tsugiko.
Nero looked upwards and pouted. Tsugiko's tie was hanging between her breasts. Nero had to deal with that enough around Henriette, she didn't want to have her boyish figure contrasted against another feminine beauty. She looked over to the side to see Sherlock, throwing off her deerstalker cap, hugging Kokoro with glee.
"We're together, Kokoro-chan! Milky Holmes and G4, joining forces! This is incredible," she said.
"I'll stay with you, Sherlock," said Mori. "I want to see you do some detective work."
"Sherlock, you idiot. If I'm going to work with you, there's one thing you have to remember," she said, revealing the mask from within her jacket, "Don't. Call me. Kokoro-chan!"
Kokoro hit Sherlock once again, sending her flying into Mori. Mori caught Sherlock by her arms, and pushed her up to help her recover from the blow. Sherlock, as always, brushed the smack off as nothing.
"Anyone got something to write with?" said Tsugiko.
Mori produced her sketchpad and pen, presenting them to Tsugiko. She scribbled something down, and ripped off the sheet, pinning it to the wall outside the church. "The lab guys won't be getting here until 2100 hours, so we'll change off in two hour shifts until then. Nobody's going to touch those cards. Not us, nor the Phantom Thief Empire. Let's go!"
Cordelia and Saku were working the first shift, while everyone else went into town. It was a very long two hours. Saku spent most of her time on her computer, working on files for G4 and searching for low-priced framboise to quench her thirst. Her headphones cut her off further from Cordelia's own delusions.
Cordelia had become fascinated by the church's flower bed. She took in the scents and the feel of the flower petals. The feeling she got from these flowers was at the average level for a human, which for Cordelia was very underwhelming. Her sense of imagination had not been diluted. She took in the scent of the flower, launching into a vivid, crayon-colored daydream, the contents of which Saku could only hazard a guess. Cordelia's face turned bright red and a spot of drool rolled down her cheek.
"Go, Cordelia. Show them why you're their senior. My paradise beckons!" she sung.
"Keep it down," Saku said.
The time for the next shift came, as Cordelia and Saku parted from the church and let Nero and Tsugiko take over. They took their seats and kept the box of cards near.
"This isn't what I wanted to be doing," Nero said.
"Being a detective or a cop means having downtime," Tsugiko said, "It's our job to react, not act. Here, I got this for us."
Tsugiko took out two convenience store lunches, handing one off to Nero. It wasn't as good as the meals served by the Academy, but for Tsugiko, it was a typical meal. She had also brought a bag of taiyaki for later. Nero got her chopsticks ready and began eating a little bit of everything. She turned to Tsugiko, a satisfied smile on her face. Now that G4's voice of reason had reached Nero's stomach, she tried to strike up a conversation.
"You guys are pretty amazing. I don't know if you realize it, but you live a pretty exciting life for being so young. One of these days, I'd love to chase after Arsene myself. She'd probably show me some wild illusion, which would only reinforce my will to get her. Any idea why she's so interested in you guys?" asked Tsugiko.
"I never really thought about that," Nero said.
"We haven't gotten much of a chance to talk, but if there's anyone we'd love to have around the office, you're our top pick," said Tsugiko, swallowing the plum in the middle of her lunch.
"I could be G4's partner?" said Nero. "Wait, no, no. I'm part of Milky Holmes, I can't do that."
"The amount of information in the database and the places we have to go can only be broken into so much with Project G4's technology. That's your domain. If you ever get your Toys back, see about giving us a call," said Tsugiko.
Nero stopped eating her lunch. It was the first time she could think of that did not require food for her to feel full. She spent the rest of the time concentrating, trying to get her Toys back by testing out her wristbands on the church's circuit breaker. This did not go as well as she had hoped. Lunchtime and the second shift ended, and Kokoro, Sherlock and Mori gathered around the box of cards.
"So, who's the person that's coming to pick these up?" asked Sherlock.
"She's about our age," Kokoro said, "It's classified, but the only info I have is that she's named Shirafuji."
"Have any of you done tarot readings before?" asked Mori.
"They're only a pack of cards," said Kokoro.
"Read mine!" said Sherlock excitedly.
Mori stood at the opposite end of the table from Sherlock and Kokoro, the deck of twenty two to her side. Three cards were laid out face down before Sherlock. The first was turned up, revealing the zero card.
"The Fool," said Mori. "It represents someone simple, naive, idiotic, getting through life without having any idea what they're doing."
"Maybe these cards are worth something," said Kokoro with a smirk.
The second card was overturned, revealing a wheel with elemental symbols and the letters "R-O-T-A" written in the spokes. It was the tenth card in the deck.
"Knocking at the door of your heart the whole time. Who is it?" said Mori.
"Who is it?" repeated Sherlock.
"The Wheel of Fortune begins to turn," said Mori, "It represents changes."
"Do those changes have anything to do with a boy named Taro? The only boy Milky Holmes has been seen with is Nezu, and he's not exactly the romantic type," said Kokoro.
"Moving on," said Mori.
The final card was overturned, revealing the twentieth card. The bells of the church began ringing, signifying the change in the hour. Sherlock looked down at the last card in amazement.
"Judgment. This card represents a final decision being cast. Wasn't that fun, Sherlock?" said Mori.
"The pictures were really pretty," said Sherlock.
Mori collected the cards and placed them back inside their protective case. The warm feeling Sherlock had been receiving from them faded. She and Kokoro went to their watch posts. Mori laid her head down on the table and started napping. The antenna on her head bobbed up and down in the wind.
"Guess all that walking did her in," said Kokoro.
"This means more time for us, Kokoro-chan," said Sherlock.
Kokoro slumped back on her chair and pulled out the golden mask. She stretched her arms and, with a single great flick, sent the mask spinning through the air like a demented discus. Sherlock felt something sting her inside her breast pocket. She placed her hand to her chest, and then felt the mask hit her right on her forehead. The impact of the mask made her forget the little jolt in her chest.
"Don't call me Kokoro-chan!" Kokoro said.
Sherlock kept an eye on the box, reflecting on her reading. She was honored to be meeting this Miss Shirafuji. People beyond the student council president were hardly ever referred to unless one was a member of certain clubs. I, being a member of the medical club, knew who this person was, but at this point in the story, Milky Holmes did not.
The sun began to set over the horizon. Mori woke up, and saw that the box of cards was safe. Hercule and Hirano could be seen coming over the hill, Hirano's lacrosse stick standing out against the orange sky. The streetlights of Yokohama lit up, and day turned to night. This was when the phantom thieves did their work, and tonight was no exception.
On the rooftop of a nearby building, Arsene was watching from the highest perch. A level below her were the Three Cards, Arsene's most trusted followers. Stone River, the swordsman with the ability to turn anyone into a statue. Twenty, the card dealing pretty boy who loves himself almost as much as he loves Arsene. Then there was Rat, the youngster with fire Toys who delights in the sound of explosions. The wind theatrically blew past them as the sun dipped further into the ground.
"So all we need to do is steal those cards," Rat said.
"Their craftsmanship is exquisite. Beautiful me could only wish to design something as lovely!" Twenty said, stripping off his jacket and tossing it onto a nearby windowsill.
"We've got a sizable amount of competition," said Stone River, "They have double the number of bodies. Then there's the strange girl."
"Are you sure this is fair, Lady Arsene?" Rat asked, igniting a fireball in the palm of his hand, "None of them appear to have Toys."
"Ideally, we're not going to fight," Arsene said, "I'm just here to steal the cards."
Arsene leaped off the building, the Three Cards close behind.
In front of the church, Hercule waved hello to Sherlock and Mori, and prepared to take her seat. Her hand touched the warm protective box. A loud voice rang out in the distance.
"Milky Holmes, it's a challenge!" said Arsene.
There was a burst of smoke in the area, a small fire having been lit. From out of the smoke walked the Three Cards. Rat was holding another one of his bombs, the fuse slowly burning. Stone River had drawn his katana. Twenty, making a flimsy excuse that it was getting hot, tossed his shirt onto the street, leaving him in only his tie, top hat, monocle and a pair of underpants that wasn't really hiding anything. Arsene jumped in front of them, landing on her knees.
"Twenty, Stone River, Rabbit! You're not taking these cards. Henriette entrusted us to keep them safe," said Sherlock.
"Rat! Why is it so hard to remember that?" said the one who was not called Rabbit, now ignoring his bomb.
Kokoro reached into her pocket and pulled out her walkie talkie. "Tsugiko, Hirano, we've got a major case back at the church. We need backup, now!"
Twenty revealed a set of playing cards from who knows where. He tossed them at Kokoro, only hitting once, and even then it was a scrape across the top of her head. She was too short for his lanky build. "Beautiful me will not allow another miss! Genius is nothing against beauty."
"Kokoro Akechi, who graduated from Harvard at 13 and has an IQ of 1.8 trillion, is as beautiful as you are. No, I'm even more beautiful," said Kokoro smugly.
"Do not insult my beauty," said Twenty, shaking his stomach near Kokoro's face.
Tsugiko pulled up in G4's police car, with Hirano, Nero and Cordelia in tow. Stone River jumped towards Hercule, but Hirano intercepted. Her lacrosse stick met with Stone River's katana, sparks flying between the two combatants. "You've gotten much better since the last time I faced you," said Stone River.
"Of course. We're prepared this time," said Hirano confidently, trying to trip up Stone River.
Tsugiko was holding down Rat by his forehead, not paying him any attention. Rat futilely ran forward. "We've got most of the thieves handled," she said.
"Fire Toys!" Rat exclaimed, propelling the bomb he'd been holding up into the air.
The bomb combusted instantly, showering shrapnel down on the churchyard. A large piece of shrapnel was aiming for Tsugiko's head. In an instant, it wasn't there. Tsugiko pushed Rat onto the street and looked around. Mori was smiling and waving. Her eyes were aglow.
"Teleportation Toys," she said, popping the rest of the shrapnel to where it was safe.
"Aw come on!" Nero said inside the police car.
Nero popped out her wristbands and tried to hack into the police car radio, seeing if she could get a line to Opera Kobayashi. Cordelia and Hercule were focusing as hard as they could, but their Toys did not return. Cordelia only became lightheaded, her eyes turning to flowers once again. Sherlock, this whole time, had been standing by the tarot box, upholding her mission to the end. Arsene walked up to her and looked her in the eyes with a mixture of curiosity and bemusement.
"We meet again, Sherlock Shellinford," she said. Arsene waved her hand about and sultrily said, "Illusion Toys."
Arsene waved her hand in the air. A feeling of lightness overcame Sherlock, and in the blink of an eye, the entire church seemed to disappear, leaving only a patch of grass in its wake. She saw Arsene sneaking towards the box out of the corner of her eye, and turned around. "Stop, Arsene!" she shouted.
It was as though a fire was surging through Sherlock's muscles. Her eyes felt hot, as if tiny sparks were dancing about inside them. Though she was a good distance away from the box, or at least it felt like that in the illusion, her grip stretched out much further. She clenched her fist and raised the box into the air. Then it hit her.
"My Toys..." Sherlock said happily, "My Toys are back!"
"That's impossible," said Arsene.
Sherlock lost concentration, and the box containing the tarot cards dropped into Arsene's cleavage. The illusion broke. Sherlock saw Arsene standing on top of the highest steeple. In her celebration, she had completely forgotten what she was supposed to be doing. The rest of Milky Holmes and Mori joined her at her side.
"Give those back!" she shouted.
"We'll meet again, Milky Holmes," said Arsene.
Arsene vanished into the night. The Three Cards departed just as quickly. The air around the church felt uncomfortable. Kokoro got on the phone and sent a message ahead to the mayor. Sherlock told the others to follow her back to the Academy. Conflicting feelings surged about in her head. She was unaware that this was only the beginning.
The next morning, Milky Holmes woke up to a windy, overcast day. Sherlock was the first up once again. She removed her nightgown and took off her bra, looking for the underwear she was going to wear today. Maybe blue and white stripes. Sherlock heard something fluttering to the ground. She looked behind her and picked up a small card with an ornate design. The Fool.
"How did this get in here?" she asked.
"Sheryl," said Nero, rubbing her eyes, "Did you steal that?"
"I didn't steal anything. I swear this was in the box yesterday. Someone must have planted it on me," she said. "I know, I'll go show Henriette! She'll believe me."
"At least get dressed first," Nero said.
Sherlock, bewildered, reached into the drawers and picked out the first pair of underwear she could find. It turned out to be Hercule's. Once Sherlock was dressed in her school uniform, she dashed out the attic door, telling Nero to explain to Mori where she had gone and why she had gone there. It was early enough that most students were still asleep. Sherlock barged in the door of the student council president's office, catching her breath.
"Good morning," Henriette said.
"I'm not a thief!" said Sherlock, placing her hands on the desk and shouting.
"What's this about you being a thief?" asked Henriette.
Sherlock, speaking at a rapid clip without taking a breath, reached into her dress and produced the card. "I found this in my underwear this morning, I'm sorry that I failed, I'm such a bad detective, if there's absolutely anything I can do to not get expelled, I won't stop doing it until you tell me too, Henriette."
Sherlock's uniform, which was hanging over her shoulder, revealed her undergarments by accident. She scrambled to fix herself.
"Why are you wearing baggy underwear?" Henriette asked. "I'll dust the card. If there's anyone's fingerprints on it besides your own, there may be a chance."
Henriette reached into her desk and produced a small vial of powder and a brush. She rubbed it over the card, and positioned her desk lamp over the evidence. Sherlock looked at Henriette hopefully. The student council president began searching through the student files, coming up on Sherlock's. After comparing the two, Henriette looked at Sherlock. Her eyes were not kind.
"There's no one's fingerprints on here but yours. You must have been wearing these clothes to smuggle it," she said, pointing her finger.
"But I got my Toys back..." Sherlock pleaded.
"Both you and the card are going to be turned over to the police for questioning. I'm calling the authorities," said Henriette, "perhaps then you can learn what it means to be a great detective."
It was as though all the color had been drained from Sherlock's body. She sat in the corner of the room until the sounds of police sirens could be heard from outside. The other members of Milky Holmes and Mori walked into the president's office just as Kokoro arrived on the scene.
"I hope you enjoy your stay in prison, stupid Sherlock," said Kokoro, slapping a pair of handcuffs around her wrists.
"Let her spend a few nights in jail. It's for her own good," said Henriette sternly.
Sherlock was carried off to the police car waiting outside the office, yelling at her friends to save her the whole time. Hercule, Nero and Cordelia reached out their hands towards Sherlock, but the pink-haired girl's hands could not stretch far. Mori stood still the whole time. "It's the rules of the school. They must be followed," she said.
I was among the students present when Shellinford was dragged across campus, resisting all the while. My eyes and hers met briefly. The light of Toys did not shine in them. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their eyes, and in her wide blue eyes, I did not see satisfaction or a desire for revenge, only sorrow and the small cry of lost passion.
Arsene had invaded Henriette's space once again. She'd summoned Ishinagare, Nijuuri and Nezu to her side as she looked at The Fool, encased in plastic wrap. The sun was kissing the horizon, and she hadn't turned off the lights in the office yet. This was not like the usual Arsene. Nezu was the first to speak.
"Lady Arsene, is something bothering you?" he asked.
"It's just... that was so unlike me," Arsene said, "I'm the greatest Phantom Thief in this city, putting people in prison isn't what I want to do. There needs to be people out there acting so Milky Holmes can have people to react to. Yet as student council president, I have to set an example for the school."
Arsene opened a trap door in the office, revealing the box of cards. She quickly counted them. Only twenty one were present in the entire deck. She, too, had failed as a thief. Bringing home part of a heist just wouldn't cut it, not for someone with her track record. "Sherlock only got her Toys back because of that card. That's teasing her and me. Sherlock Shellinford has so much potential. She doesn't need these stupid cards to fight me as an equal."
"So what are you going to do?" asked Ishinagare.
Arsene mouthed out her plan, and grabbed The Fool. She held it between her fingers, slowly removing the plastic wrap.
"Beautiful," said Nijuuri.
I raced to the attic where Milky Holmes lived. I didn't know how much time I had, but this was my chance. In order to get closer to Sherlock, I would have to get through to her friends first. I barged into the first floor of the dorms, catching Milky Holmes as they were walking up the stairs. I caught my breath. The three girls and Mori turned around to say hello. Cordelia was the first to speak.
"Have I seen you before?" she asked.
"I'm Akiko Watson, from your class," I explained.
"Now's not really the time. They just hauled Sheryl off to jail, you know," said Nero.
"Then let me help you. We're detectives, aren't we?" I said, "I know that Sheryl is innocent. There's no way she would do something that tarnishes the name of a detective."
"Sheryl does have a strong sense of justice," said Hercule.
"I was going to say because she's an idiot," I said, "We can clear her name, by tonight if we have to."
Nero walked down the steps and looked me in the eye. "Why should we work with you?"
"Because we all came to this school for the same purpose. We've learned the same things, lived and laughed through the same school days, all to create our own brilliant future. You're my seniors. I admire you. Even if you're hopeless and Toyless, I still admire you, because you keep on fighting. You're a team, and that means all of you need to be together, doing your best. I know we can do it," I said.
Cordelia placed her hand on mine. "For Sheryl!"
Hercule did the same. "Watson..."
Nero, though she had been listening with a disinterested look on her face, placed her hand on top of mine as well. I felt the cold sting of her metal wristbands. "It's better than doing nothing."
Mori, halfway up the stairs, turned around. The antenna on her headband bobbled up and down. "The chances of you succeeding are pretty low. Isn't this a risk?" she said.
"No risk, no reward," I said, "Which one of you knows the way to the police station?"
The room fell silent. Milky Holmes exchanged awkward glances at each other. Mori began scribbling something on her sketchpad.
Sherlock sat alone in the custody suite, looking out through the windows at the night sky.
"Don't think because you have your Toys back you can escape, idiot," said Kokoro, running her hands along the bars of the cell, "We've got strong protective measures in place."
"Kokoro-chan, behind you!" exclaimed Sherlock.
Kokoro heard voices off to the side. People were entering the police station, seeking help from Genius 4 with something important. Kokoro smirked and ran through the jail, but at the last second, turned around and threw the golden mask at Sherlock, letting it slide through the bars and smack her in the face.
"Don't call me Kokoro-chan!"
The door closed, leaving Sherlock alone in the silence. She propped up the golden mask on the bench, and backed away. From the opposite end of the jail cell, Sherlock clenched her hand into a fist, and closed her eyes. Every nerve in her body became tense, a wave of heat surging through her skin. Her overlarge ribbon began to twitch. The mask had not moved an inch.
Her body unwound itself, and she felt a sharp sensation between her legs. "I need to let out..." Sherlock said.
There was a small explosion behind Sherlock. She ducked, her ribbon falling over her ears. The blast propelled the mask into the air. It landed on Sherlock's face, covering everything but her eyes. She turned away to see a large hole in the wall. The phantom thief Arsene stood before her, looking seductive even as the rubble fell onto her body.
"Come with me," she whispered.
"You're Arsene!" said Sherlock, her voice muffled.
"Yes, but there is honor even among thieves. You're supposed to be the one putting me in jail. For things I actually did. Without you, my life would be boring," said Arsene. "Let's go."
Arsene cast her Illusion Toys on the wall, making it appear that the wall was whole and Sherlock was still inside. The two masked women charged into the night, racing across the rooftops. Sherlock looked down at the city streets. It was a sea of steel and electricity, but full of people down below.
As she jumped, the bystanders cast their glance to the sky, wondering who the girl in the golden mask was. Sherlock kept running while looking sideways, her attention focused on the citizens below, and slammed her face into a water tower beam. The mask cracked in two. Sherlock regained her sense of balance and stood up, noticing three more figures on the rooftop.
"What is the reason for this, Lady Arsene?" asked Stone River.
"Are you saying that LITTLE GIRL is more beautiful than me? Her underwear doesn't even fit!" said Twenty, revealing that his did.
"How do you know that?" asked Sherlock.
"It ends here, detective," said Rat.
Arsene reached into her cleavage and produced The Fool. She tossed it over to Sherlock. "This thing only gives you a fraction of your true strength, but even that is impressive," said Arsene, "your real Toys will return someday. For tonight..."
Sherlock scrambled to catch The Fool. She felt the card's power flow through her body, and, assisted by Arsene's Illusion Toys, there happened something unreal.
A katana appeared in Sherlock's hand, and she was now in her nightgown. She was standing on a rock in the center of space, fish paste swirling around her. She stabbed the sword into one. Pink blobs of the fishy snack began to drip onto her face. "The light of innocence that blooms in the heart, the power to seek truth, break the chains of destiny! Guide me now!" A wave of pink washed over Sherlock, transforming her into her Milky Holmes outfit, which was somehow not wet. "Sacrid! Milky Pink has arrived!"
Sherlock brandished the sword, pointing it at the Three Cards. Stone River groped around his waist, finding his favorite weapon gone. Sherlock knew at that moment where the sword had come from, and that she had no idea how to use a sword. It was time to return to her grandfather's training.
"Baritsu! Psy-cho-ki-nesis!" shouted Sherlock, striking a fancy pose and launching the sword off at the Three Cards like a bullet. The katana chased them across the rooftops until it implanted itself in a billboard, at which point it was well out of Sherlock's range. Sherlock faced Arsene and gave her a thankful smile.
"Who are you?" Kokoro asked of me.
"Akiko Watson. I would like access to your video files. I can prove that Sheryl is innocent," I said.
"We don't usually allow people to look at those," said Saku.
"Are you familiar with Opera Kobayashi?" asked Cordelia.
"Yes, but is that really a reason...?" asked Hirano.
"Ah, I know," said Tsugiko, "Nero, come this way. The rest of you come with. I'll tell the chief that this is a test of Nero's Toys."
"Nero doesn't have her T-" Hercule started, before Cordelia forced her hand over her mouth.
We walked into the room where videos from all over town were playing across the screens. Saku put down her laptop and, sucking on her lollipop the whole time, sorted through the files until she came across the church camera from last night. The picture was grainy and not capturing the best angle of its subjects. After fast forwarding through the tarot card reading, we saw Sherlock be hit in the face with the golden mask.
"Wait, back up," I said, "Why does she grab her chest before the mask hits?"
"Chest pain?" asked Tsugiko.
"She doesn't have a chest," said Mori, smiling.
"Sheryl found the card in her bra, and there's nobody else in the video until the Phantom Thief Empire shows up, so..." Nero said.
"Your ignorance is as remarkable as your knowledge," I said, "Have you forgotten what Mr. Nijuuri lectured us on? Those cards are a shining example of Toys being embedded into objects. Shellinford didn't actually get her Toys back. Someone was teasing her with the prospect."
"Yeah, that idiot doesn't seem like the type to want to get her Toys back unfairly," said Kokoro. "She's too simple for that."
"Then someone must have planted it on her. We have to look at this scene from other angles," said Cordelia.
"How many kinds of video lenses do you have?" I asked.
"Plenty," said Saku.
We slowed down the video. We sped up the video. We played the video in reverse. Infrared vision, night vision, ultraviolet, none of them giving an answer. It couldn't have been super speed, and the user wasn't invisible, though both of those Toys are known to exist in this world. Nero was starting to nod off in the corner, dreaming about something fried and tasty. Saku revealed that there was one option we hadn't tried yet.
"Toys do emit a faint electrical wave when they're used, but in order to access that kind of lens, we need high level authorization, like the chief or Kamitsu."
"I'm not gonna wait for this. I'll..." Nero yawned, "I'll hack into it myself."
She popped off her wristband and inserted it into the dashboard. It was becoming tough for her to focus, but, just before her eyes closed and her hat slipped off her head, the spark of Toys momentarily appeared in her eyes. Numbers flashed on the screen at an unreadable rate, before the computer declared access granted. The video played before us one more time.
"Er...Yuzurizaki..." I said.
"Sleep Toys," said Cordelia, "I can only imagine what was going through Nero's mind that could be so naughty."
I saw something on the video. Sherlock stood outside the church, smiling, while Mori rested on the table near the box of cards. Her small figure, on the video, momentarily became surrounded by a purple aura, which faded as Sherlock grabbed her chest. I turned around and looked at Milky Holmes, my face full of confidence.
"What did Shellinford's grandfather say?" I said, "'When you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains..."
"'...however improbable, must be the truth'," finished the three.
"The culprit is in the room with us. Mori Arty!" I said, "So you have teleportation Toys, and, while sleeping, your mind must have sent one of the cards onto Shellinford by mistake."
"I'm sorry," said Mori, "I'm still a young girl. I haven't grown into my powers yet."
"Don't fool us like that again," said Cordelia, "We're friends, and you're part of our flower garden too."
"Looks like that idiot is innocent," said Kokoro, resigning herself to defeat, "Let's get her outta here..."
Sherlock was not in her custody suite. Milky Holmes knew that if there was any place she would be going, it was the school. Who had been watching Kamaboko this whole time?
Sherlock and Arsene made it back to Holmes Academy, approaching the student council office. By this point, Sherlock's Sacrid had worn off, leaving her back in her school uniform. When they were near the window, Sherlock turned around to thank Arsene for all her help, only Arsene was no longer there. Sherlock returned the card to Arsene's desk and went back to her room in the attic, where she was sleeping peacefully when her roommates arrived with me.
The next morning, Milky Holmes returned to Henriette's office with Mori and myself. I was carrying a video tape showing definite proof that Sherlock had not stolen the card. The door opened. We saw Arsene sitting at her desk, hard at work as always.
"Henriette, I know I was supposed to be in jail, but..." said Sherlock.
"She's not guilty," I said, "this tape should give you all the proof."
Henriette watched the video interestedly. She stood up and gave Sherlock a stern look. Then extended her arms out and pulled the pink haired detective close to her body, covering Sherlock's face with her breasts. "I'm sorry. I should've trusted you more. After all, you care more about this school than anyone."
"Henriette, you're the best," said Sherlock, her warm breath flowing into Henriette's cleavage. "But I still lost the cards."
"About that," said Henriette, pulling Sherlock away and opening a compartment in her desk, "the cards are safe here. I recovered them from Arsene."
"Wow, you're amazing! You could take on the entire Phantom Thief Empire by yourself," said Nero.
There came a knock at the door.
Ishinagare, Nijuuri and Nezu, one on the top of the other, collapsed into the room, exhausted. Their clothes were shabby and their faces covered in dirt. They'd clearly run a long way here. It was unlike any of them to be late for school.
"What happened to you, Nezu?" asked Nero.
"It's a long story..." said Nezu, "I'm never climbing another billboard again."
Then there was a second knock at the door. A woman in her early 20s, with long blonde hair, in a white dress, walked in. One of her teeth stuck out the side of her mouth like a fang. She had a graceful presence. We could tell she had been a detective too. "Is there a Henriette Mystere here?" she asked.
"Yes," Henriette said.
"I am Natsuki Shirafuji. I believe you have the tarot cards," she said.
Henriette handed over the box to Natsuki. She placed the box in her bag and smiled at the rest of us as she walked away. With that, we could tell the mission was complete. That brief period of time where Miss Shirafuji had been in our presence was an inspiration to all of us. She was the kind of detective we could become. We closed the door behind us, trying to catch one last glimpse of Shirafuji. Mori, however, stayed behind.
"You know," Henriette said, "Dream Toys are influenced by one's subconscious desires."
"Correct, Miss President," said Mori.
"You may look like a flower of purity," said Henriette, "but if you try to poison Milky Holmes again, you may find I'm not a friend."
"Ah, but I'm their junior. Why should they trust their enemy?" said Mori, "I look forward to when we meet again... Arsene."
The bridge to our classrooms, overlooking the water, was peaceful this time of day. I walked with Milky Holmes, feeling a cut above a regular student. My group, dubbed the Yokohama Irregulars, was nowhere near their level, in Toys or determination, but on this day, that didn't matter. To see Sherlock walking with her friends, singing a song and feeling confident that she would, some day, get her Toys back again.
"My dorm is in the opposite direction," I said, "Hope I see you guys again."
"We can't thank you enough," said Cordelia.
"You're a better student than we are," said Hercule.
"I hope I'm not asking too much, but if you guys are in trouble again, perhaps you could call on me?" I asked, "We are in the same class."
Sherlock broke from the group and shook my hand. She had forgotten to thank me for clearing her criminal record, but I didn't need a formal thanks. Seeing her happy was proof enough. That was the breaking point, the day when my future looked wider and brighter than ever before.
Sherlock told me, "Elementary, my dear Watson."