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.
If you asked the students of Holmes Detective Academy to describe Sherlock Shellinford, their descriptions would not be flattering. She acts before she thinks, her head is always in the clouds and her knowledge on detective history and standard deduction techniques is close to none. No one wanted to approach her, knowing that others in her family had been much better detectives than she was shaping up to be. I used to be like that as well, until that day one year ago.
I was standing in front of the Sherlock Holmes statue on campus, spacing out and looking at the clouds. The entrance ceremony had been the day before. The student body was large, and the campus reflected that. We'd been told our exams would be personalized to our abilities, but there could be surprises if the teachers felt like it. I wanted to get to know the campus for when that day came, and had gotten sidetracked in the process. There was so much to see.
Something hit me on the back of the head. I looked at the concrete and saw a magnifying glass with cat ears and a bow. The glass was covered in dirt, so I washed it off and called out across the campus, looking for the owner. I found her in the bushes. Her large ribbon was sticking out from the foliage like a rabbit's ears. I pulled on the ribbon and revealed the person attached to it. She was nervous, but shaking excitedly.
"Is this yours?" I asked, holding up the magnifying glass with my other hand.
"Yes! Thank you!" she said. "This is my lucky item."
"What's so lucky about it?" I asked.
"It makes the small things really really big, so you can notice things you never did before!" said the girl with the ribbon, waving her hands above her head.
"What if something looks scarier up close?" I asked.
"Things are only scary if you're unprepared," she said. "Oh, gotta go! Mr. Kobayashi's calling. Bye bye!"
She charged off without asking who I was. I wonder if she remembered me at all. When classes began, I found out that she was one of the candidates for Milky Holmes. Everyone else wondered why, but I could tell from my brief conversation that she was someone who could look at this world in a way no one else did. I wanted to become her partner before graduation. At first, she was too high ranked in the school for it to be worth it. Then she was a laughingstock, and it wouldn't be worth it then. I kept waiting for that day.
The Scotland Yard was Holmes' Academy's newspaper, printing stories from around the world related to detectives and thieves, Toys and technology. Mori Arty had picked up a copy of the paper that morning and brought it up to the attic where Milky Holmes was lounging around. It was a quiet afternoon on the last day of the school week, when the only concern in the world was figuring out when the school baths would be open.
"Sherlock and friends, look!" said Mori.
"Friends? What, we're not important?" asked Nero.
"I'm helping you get your Toys back," said Mori, pulling puppy dog eyes on the four.
"Mori, it's okay. I'm used to being in jail. Perhaps things will turn out better this time," said Sherlock.
"I would like to look at the arts section, please," said Hercule, pulling the thin section of paper away from the others.
A multitude of stories lined the front page. The headline was an interview with Natsuki Shirafuji. She had stories to tell about a professional detective named Mary, and a detective in training named Sonia, both of whom had created some charming anecdotes. The rest of the paper would not be as kind.
"Are Yuzurizaki's Toys Demonic? Secret Connections Unveiled!" read Nero. "Hey!" She pressed on.
Noted detective and part time food critic Yako Katsuragi has offhandedly mentioned her old partner, 'Nero', in her interviews. There were rumors that her partner was a demon, but such facts were never able to be proven. Could she be talking about Nero Yuzurizaki, member of Milky Holmes? As Yako and Nero are known for their voracious appetite, they would have reason to be friendly with each other. If this is true, is the source of Yuzurizaki's toys a demon? Further research is underway.
"Katsuragi does sound like a really cool person, but I've never met her," Nero said, "I thought a detective school would have better standards than a tabloid."
"A tabloid does have some degree of truth to it," said Mori.
"Then show me where the truth is," said Nero, pouting.
"They've posted another one of Daidouji's articles," said Hercule, her face a deep red as always, "It looks like she'll be hosting the Marlowe Hunt." The Marlowe Hunt was a school-wide puzzle hunt that complemented the school festival. Classes combined their strengths to create a puzzle that none of the other classes could solve, as long as the answer was plausible. It drew in students from other detective schools, turning it into a community event. The event was a week away, and tension around the school was high.
"What about you, Cordelia?" asked Mori.
"The Hyuuga family is proud to support Toys research..." said Cordelia, "Wait," she pointed to a picture in the school life section, "Who's that beauty?"
The picture showed a girl with pink hair cut like a Japanese princess. She was dressed like a college slacker, but carried a professional smile on her face. Cordelia showed the picture to Sherlock, who was pouring food into Kamaboko's dish. Sherlock ignored the photo and grabbed her deerstalker cap from her drawer. She walked out of the room, dressed for the day in her Milky Holmes outfit.
"I'm going to go see Watson. I'll be back by lunch!" she said, waving goodbye to the others.
"I thought she'd be more interested," said Cordelia, reading the picture's caption, "Mycroft Shellinford has done it again."
If you asked the students of Holmes Academy to describe Mycroft Shellinford, their descriptions would be flattering. She had a bust that could rival Henriette's and an air of maturity that made her loved by the student body. Her grades were high, and she was a member of the Diogenes Club, a prototype of Milky Holmes. She had been working as a private detective for some time now, and with the Marlowe Hunt approaching, it was time for her to return to her alma mater.
She was carrying her luggage with her when she approached the gates of Holmes Academy. The air of the early winter months blew some stray leaves past her face. She took her first step on campus, heading towards the dormitory. It had been a full semester since she heard anything from Sherlock. All she could hope for was that her sister was doing well. Last she heard, Sherlock had a private bedroom. If she didn't mind her older sister sleeping there like the old days, that would make this a splendid visit.
Mycroft opened the door and walked into the dormitory. Students were still in class, leaving the dorms empty and silent. Every footstep Mycroft took could be heard bouncing off the wooden floorboards. She found the pink door that led to her sister's room, but the door was locked. Henriette passed by the first floor rooms shortly after. There was a ring of keys around her waist.
"Excuse me, are you the landlady?" asked Mycroft politely.
"Of this dormitory. Don't try to enter that room. It's been unused for a while now, and will be for a while longer," said Henriette.
"Did something happen with Sheryl?" said Mycroft, "Is my dear little sister okay?"
"She and her friends were reassigned to the attic until further notice," said Henriette.
"Thank you, landlady," said Mycroft, extending her hand. Henriette, taken aback by being called "landlady", grabbed Mycroft's hand, redirecting it onto her chest in the process. "Boyoyon~"
"You can take your hands off now," said Henriette.
Mycroft and Henriette said their goodbyes. The older detective grabbed her bags once again and walked up the creaky wooden steps towards the attic room. She knocked on the door. The sounds of conversation, chaotic and overlapping, could be heard within. The door swung open. Nero walked down the steps, carrying the newspaper in hand. She adjusted her cap and started running down the steps.
"I'm gonna give that newspaper club a piece of my mind," she said.
Taking small steps, Mycroft entered the room and saw Mori, Cordelia and Hercule sitting on the bed, trying to figure out what to do.
"Excuse me, is there a Sherlock Shellinford here?" Mycroft asked.
"Sheryl left a few minutes ago," said Hercule quietly.
Cordelia's eyes had become filled with flowers. She waltzed over to Mycroft, keeping herself within smelling distance, and stared at her. "You're that famous detective," said Cordelia, "Can you sign this, please?" Cordelia pulled out her drawing of her flower garden and a crayon, holding it up to Mycroft's face. Mycroft hastily scribbled something on the paper and started walking down the steps again.
"I really need to go find Sheryl, but I'll meet you girls again later," she said.
"Then I'm going with you," said Cordelia, who had changed into her Milky Holmes outfit while Mycroft's back was turned.
Hercule, alone on the bed, called out in a voice louder than usual. "What about the Marlowe Hunt?"
The Phantom Thief Empire was having another meeting on top of a high building. Another treasure was within their grasp. Arsene had not explained to her followers why she had given up the tarot cards, instead telling them to focus on heists ahead instead of lamenting one lost. There were plenty of objects in this city that had the power of Toys, and one of those objects had recently been developed.
An accident at a photo studio had created a film that removed all but one emotion from a person. As Toys are focused through the eyes first, anything the camera's eye captures becomes devoid of color. It had been named the noir film. If Arsene had her way, it would be hers.
"Then we can use it during the Marlowe Hunt," she said, "Milky Holmes will never see it coming."
"What advantage do we have in sabotaging the school festival?" asked Stone River.
"The only thing the Hunt needs is beautiful me and beautiful you," said Twenty, gesturing to the hug pillow of himself. "The team of me and me can take on the world!"
"The prize for the Marlowe Hunt is juicy this year," Arsene said, "It used to belong to the Diogenes Club. There are all sorts of rumors on what it might be. A way to restore Toys? A map to an even greater treasure? It's the element of the unknown working for and against us."
Rat, juggling some unlit bombs, spoke up. "You're the student council president. If you want that prize so badly, just swipe it. Nobody's going to question you looking at it."
Arsene took off her mask, revealing the calm, friendly eyes of Henriette Mystere. "Henriette would have to win it fairly. Arsene has no restrictions on what she can do," she put her mask back on, "There's something I would like you three to do for me, though."
"Anything you ask, Lady Arsene!" said Twenty, assuming that was stripping.
"Try to keep that girl Mori Arty out of this. By any means necessary," she said with a scowl.
Shortly afterward, the manager of the building walked onto the rooftop, wondering who was scheming so loud up here. The Three Cards and Arsene jumped to another rooftop, leaving the scent of perfume and gunpowder and a sweaty young man behind.
Victoria Scott and I were sitting in the empty classroom overlooking the courtyard. The Yokohama Irregulars were less of a club than an extension of the student council, acting to keep the morals of the school in check. Henriette had been suggesting we find one more member before the semester was up, but nobody had joined. Until this day, when Sherlock was running across the courtyard, out of breath and about to trip over her own two feet. We opened the window and called out to her.
"Shellinford!" I shouted, "It's the second floor."
"I'll be right there!" Sherlock called back.
Sherlock entered our room and set her hat down on the table, letting her large ribbon spring up from beneath her hat. She looked around the room. Newspaper clippings, photographs, tape recorders, a small stack of notebooks and a computer had been set up. Sherlock picked up one of the notebooks at random, opening it to reveal a picture of Nurse Lestrade and a boy in the third year. The notebook slammed shut.
"What sort of book is this?" Sherlock asked.
"We're an information network," said Victoria. "We don't solve cases ourselves, but there are many cases that wouldn't have been solved without us."
"Unfortunately, it means we can't participate in the Marlowe Hunt," I said, "We already know what all the classes have planned."
Sherlock pulled out her magnifying glass and held it up to her eye. "How much do you know about Toys?"
"Not all Toys are as cool as yours," I said.
"This is the best I can do," said Victoria. "Light Toys."
Sparks flew into Victoria's yellow eyes. Her white hair, tied up into a ball on the back of her head, began to glow with an otherworldly light. A tiny pinpoint of light appeared on the tip of her finger, similar to Nezu's fire Toys. She held her finger underneath the shelf, revealing a collection of paper clips and discarded erasers hiding within.
"That's really cool," said Sherlock, "I wish I could show you mine..."
"You don't even need to say anything," I said, "You want us to help you get your Toys back for real."
"Yes, that's it," Sherlock said, "Milky Holmes will pay you back as soon as we have anything worth paying back."
"Yes, yes, we know," said Victoria, pulling up files on the computer, "You're not supposed to have part time jobs, but after you were expelled last semester, you gave it your best shot. And failed. Rather badly." Sherlock's face was sinking into further states of unhappiness with every word.
"You can stop now," I said.
"The Marlowe Hunt!" said Sherlock, regaining her composure, reacting to the news far later than usual, "Elly was talking about that! I gotta go. Tell Henriette I said hi," she ran out the door.
It was the beginning of a week that felt as if it would last until April.
Nero kicked down the door to the newspaper club's office. The article was crunched between her fingers, rendering it nearly unreadable. She slammed her hand down on the president's desk, demanding to see the person in charge. The president, an average looking young man, looked up at Nero confusedly.
"Which one of your lousy reporters wrote this?" Nero said, trying to flatten out the article again.
"It was printed in the editorials, so any differences in opinion are subject to the reader," said the president. "Perhaps you should speak with the person who turned it in."
The article had been written by one Sven Motomoto. Nero's first thought upon meeting her was that she looked like a short-haired Elly who had exchanged her blush for a poker face. Sven turned around, her expression unchanging, and pulled out a pen from behind her. She autographed Nero's crinkled newsprint, and then went right back to working.
"Don't ignore me!" Nero said, "Do you even recognize the face of the person you've hurt?"
"I said it was a rumor. Rumors have to be taken with a grain of salt. It's not the readers' fault if I made them think your voracious appetite came from demons," said Sven.
"Yes it is," Nero said, "Where did you meet this Detective Katsuragi?"
"She's in town for the Marlowe Hunt," said Sven, "The kind of food you once were able to eat every day will be served to the spectators. Of course she's going to show up. The chief wants me to keep working, so get out of my sight."
Nero snapped off one of her wristbands. She inserted it into the side of the computer, and waited for her Toys to activate. They did not. There was a slight electrical feedback that turned Nero's hair into an afro, popping her favorite hat off her head. Nero bent down to grab her hat, and looked up to see Sven laughing at her.
"If I win in the Marlowe Hunt, you print something more accurate," said Nero.
"A bet. Sounds like fun," said Sven, "If I win, you'll have to admit to the school that you are a demon. I might even make you dress like one."
"It's on," Nero said.
Nero's afro sparked like a large red light bulb.
Sherlock returned to the dormitory. She used what little money she had to pick up a drink from the vending machine and set off to return to her room. She was partway up the steps when she saw a face very similar to hers, older by seven years. Sherlock tried to look away, sneaking around the unexpected guest by not saying anything, or even making eye contact. Her hand brushed Mycroft's breast, and Mycroft called out to her sister.
"Sheryl?" Mycroft said, "It's been so long."
"Oh, hi, sis," said Sherlock, trying to act surprised, "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see my dearest little sister win the Marlowe Hunt," said Mycroft. "Have your Toys improved?"
There's the rub. Milky Holmes had lost their Toys (again) after falling from the upper atmosphere, and the only time Sherlock had regained her Toys in recent memory involved her being arrested. Neither of those would make Mycroft think highly of her. Sherlock recalled the last class she had taken with Mr. Nijuuri (undercover investigation) and applied the lessons she had learned in the most direct way possible. Making it up on the spot.
"They've improved so much that they can't be measured. The last case Milky Holmes took ended with me opening every door in a hallway at the same time, exposing the culprit in the act! Henriette's had her eye on me," she said confidently.
Mycroft smiled widely. "That's wonderful. Once you graduate, you may even be able to become my partner. You're making the Shellinford family proud."
Sherlock continued trying to sneak up the stairs. At the top of the stairwell leading to the attic, she saw Cordelia. The detective in blue grabbed onto the railing and leaped down the steps, tackling Mycroft from above. She started nuzzling head head against Mycroft's chest, taking in the scent of her body. Cordelia looked up and saw Sherlock.
"You didn't tell me you were related to one of the greatest detectives in the city," Cordelia said.
"Sis and I go about it sort of differently," said Sherlock.
"Your friends are very interesting people," said Mycroft. "I know Cordelia, and Elly and Mori, and..."
Nero walked into the dormitory. Her hair was still several times too large for her hat. She tried to suppress it as she walked past her friends and Mycroft. "Hi, Sheryl. Hi, Sheryl's sister," she said.
"Are you Nero, the one with the demonic Toys?" asked Mycroft.
"You believed that?" Nero said, "After all we've done for this city, they still don't trust us? This is all Katsuragi's fault anyway. If that stupid interview hadn't got me involved in this..."
"Milky Holmes is full of such interesting people," said Mycroft.
At the top of the steps, Hercule and Mori were looking over the edge. Hercule wasn't saying anything, but that same flash of slyness appeared in Mori's eyes. She had the Toys of teleportation, applied both to objects and herself. Her frame may have been small, but it was her mental power that allowed her to move things into place without her moving a muscle. If there was a flower blooming in her heart, it was a Venus flytrap.
Scarlet Study Labs had been attacked. A bomb that turned out to be a dud had been planted outside the front entrance, followed by several of the locks being broken open with playing cards. A window had been carved out by a katana, clearing the way for the head of the operation. Arsene and the Three Cards stood on top of the Labs with their prize, the noir film, in tow. It was a small canister containing a roll of the pitch black photo material, which means Arsene had decided to store it in her cleavage.
The Yokohama Police Department had dispatched Genius 4 on the case right away. Their police car had parked itself outside the labs. Tsugiko and Hirano were standing with their weapons at the ready, Saku was monitoring the area on her laptop and Kokoro was shouting into a megaphone while standing on a discarded mandarin box, bringing her up to height with the rest of her squad mates.
"Arsene! That's as far as you go!" Kokoro's voice projected over the streets, "The beautiful genius Kokoro Akechi will arrest you for your crimes!"
"Kokoro-chan, I can grant you your every desire," said Arsene.
"Don't call me Kokoro-chan!" said Kokoro, shouting loud enough that she didn't even need the megaphone.
Miles away, Sherlock sneezed.
"What makes you think we'd give into you?" asked Tsugiko.
"Illusion Toys," said Arsene, kissing the air.
Kokoro's head felt much lighter than before. She could see herself reflected in the windows of the lab. She looked older and cuter and respectable. The Kokoro reflected in Kokoro's eyes was taller and bustier than the rest of Genius 4, and the badge of the police chief was pinned to her uniform. She struck poses that caused Genius 4 to not really react. This was something Kokoro always did, but now she was doing it with a passion that made her completely lose track of the world around her.
"Before they get away," said Hirano.
Tsugiko pulled out several small coins from her pocket, flicking them into the sky at the Three Cards. Stone River repelled most of them, while the rest flew through the air to hit Twenty. Other than making a few dents in his top hat, it was though he barely noticed being hit. Rat launched one more bomb in front of the labs. It exploded into a smokescreen. When the cloud cleared, the Phantom Thief Empire had vanished. Kokoro was still looking in the mirror, forcing Hirano to grab her with her lacrosse stick and drag her away.
"They'll be back," said Saku, briefly taking her lollipop out of her mouth.
A few days had passed since Mycroft arrived on campus. Today, she was going to be speaking in our Toys class, in order to demonstrate some of the more advanced techniques to the new trainees. Cordelia had her eyes on the front of the classroom, while Sherlock was trying to talk to Mori instead. Mycroft sat down on a chair beside the desk and looked up at the students, smiling. Cheers from students male and female roared through the classroom in a wave of noise.
"Psychokinesis has run in the Shellinford family for generations," said Mycroft, "Like with any training, it's best to start with smaller objects."
She stepped back and closed her eyes. A faint pink aura surrounded her body. Mycroft opened her eyes. Sparks began to fly across her iris, and with a flick of her finger, two sticks of chalk rose off the chalkboard and into the air. She set them back down with the same gentle force, leaving the chalk untouched.
"With enough training, even the heaviest of objects are rendered weightless," she said, focusing on the wooden desk. The heavy desk lifted off the ground, hovering a few centimeters in the air. The sound of the supplies rattling within could be heard. Mycroft retained her smile, but the weight of the object was starting to get to her. She quickly lowered it down, sending a large thud and a shock wave of air across the classroom.
"Miss Mycroft, is there anything else you can do with psychokinesis?" asked a boy in the front row.
"If you focus the energy back in on yourself, and then outward, it creates a small force field," said Mycroft, demonstrating as her powers pushed back the entire front row of desks. "You can also focus it into a beam, but that requires heavier concentration."
Cordelia raised her hand. "Miss Mycroft, try out your powers on me!"
"I was only asked to use it on objects. Using it on another student might..." Mycroft said uncertainly.
"Do it!" said Cordelia.
Mycroft stared directly at Cordelia. It felt as if a warm hand was wrapping itself around her abdomen and lifting her into the air. Cordelia saw the world before her eyes momentarily rose colored, coupled with the sensation of hovering above her desk. Mycroft placed her down some seconds later. Beads of sweat were starting to form on her forehead. She took a seat once more and took a sip of tea, waiting for Mr. Nijuuri to return to the class. Sherlock hadn't said a word.
"Your older sister's pretty good," said Nero.
"Nero, you shouldn't have said that," said Hercule.
"Sherlock, there must be something you're not telling us," said Mori, "If you can't tell your friends, who can you tell?"
Cordelia would say something on the subject of relationships between sisters, but her mind was so full of Mycroft, who had tutored Opera Kobayashi himself, that she had long since slipped away into the flower garden of her mind. Sherlock turned to the others and spoke in a whispered voice.
"Mycroft and I were separated by seven years, yet she's always felt more like a friend than a sister. Her Toys awakened when she was twelve, when most kids' do. Mine appeared at the same time. Mycroft was about to go to high school where she could control her powers better, whereas I was encouraged to play with my friends. I didn't really know what was going on. She was the oldest daughter, so it was important her Toys be developed first. I looked up to my sister, but she was so busy I never got a chance to see her.
"It was when I was getting ready to attend this school that mom and dad started telling me how many things had been prepared for me. They said I didn't have to take the entrance exam if I didn't want to, and that there was a spot in Mycroft's club open for me. I was used to being treated like any other girl, and rejected the offer. So I applied for the school myself, trying to not stand in her shadow, but when her name started showing up on trophies, I had to look to things she had never done. Then I saw her on the news. They said she's finished every case she's taken up. If she did all this stuff for me, then how come she's never mentioned me?
"I need to get at least one case right and get my Toys back. Not just for Henriette, but for Mycroft. I don't want to stand in her shadow, but I don't want to be ignored either. She's too good to be my big sister," said Sherlock.
"So you want to succeed and you want Mycroft to not succeed," said Mori.
"I never said that," said Sherlock.
"If you want her to have time for you, all we need to do is knock her down a peg," said Mori, "You can use my Toys if you want. I can teleport things into place, and make her look silly."
"Really, I didn't say anything like that," Sherlock said.
"It'll all be harmless fun. The kind of thing sisters would do to each other," said Mori.
"Okay," said Sherlock.
"I'm glad you like the idea," said Mori.
"HEY!" shouted Mr. Nijuuri, who had entered the classroom while this clandestine conversation was going on, "You're not looking at beautiful me and my beautiful lessons! Let my body teach you what it means to be a phantom thie- great detective! I said great detective."
Mori took out her sketchpad and pen, looking to Nijuuri like she was taking notes on his lecture. She started passing notes back and forth with Sherlock on ideas for pranks. Hercule would have liked to lift up the desks and swipe the sketchpad before things got worse, but her physical strength far exceeded her confidence.
That night, Sherlock stopped by my dorm room. Victoria was there with me, sharing a cup of tea and discussing classes. Our roles as Irregulars had been cast aside for the night, or so we thought. I was uncertain of how to respond when Sherlock, her large ribbon brushing up against the door frame, walked into my room. This was something I had always dreamed would happen, but when it actually did, the feeling was more confusion than elation.
"How far back do your records go?" asked Sherlock.
"Day one," said Victoria.
"Do you have anything juicy about Mycroft Shellinford?" asked Sherlock.
"Shellinford, Shellinford," Victoria said, placing her finger to her chin, "So you're Mycroft's little sister?"
"Yes," said Sherlock and I at the same time.
Victoria opened up her laptop and began typing in passwords, sending her further and further into the school's private internet, where data on students from years back was saved. Some of it was basic information, the kind found on any registration form, and the rest the sort of knowledge our group had been formed for. For an honors student like Mycroft, this meant several pages of information. Victoria turned the screen towards Sherlock.
"So what do you need this for?" I asked, "She's your sister. You probably know things not even we do."
"It's for Mori," said Sherlock.
"When's that payment coming?" asked Victoria.
"If I win the Marlowe Hunt, I promise I'll pay you more than I owe," said Sherlock.
That was all we needed to hear. Sherlock may not have been the brightest student on campus, but she was true to her word. She spent the next hours looking over the information with us, until the moon was shining brightly in the night sky. She thanked us for the information and sneaked back to the attic. It was past curfew, and if Henriette caught her, she would be in trouble. Henriette did not appear that night, but the atmosphere of tension around the dorms was more than enough for Sherlock to proceed with caution.
Tomorrow was the Marlowe Hunt. The campus was ablaze with school spirit as students were being divided into their teams based on their class. A panel of judges made of the smartest detectives in the city had been selected by Henriette. The classes had submitted their puzzles, but did not know in what context they would be used. Two students were uninterested in what the Hunt had in store. They hung out on the rooftop of the school, looking at the ground below with a mischievous stare.
"Are you sure about this?" Sherlock asked.
"I used to do these kinds of things all the time back at my old school," said Mori. "Here she comes now."
The first prank was going to involve an unintended updraft leading to an upskirt. There were pictures of Mycroft wearing lacy underwear in the school files. No one knew who she had purchased it for. Mori had brought a large cooling fan onto the roof, planning to teleport it onto the school grounds when Mycroft walked by, exposing her unmentionables. Right on cue, Mycroft walked across the courtyard to the library.
In front of the library, Nero was holding her wristbands in her hands, focusing as hard as she could. She was standing near the circuit breaker, hoping to regain control of her Toys before the big day. Mori's eyes lit up, and the fan disappeared from the rooftop, leaving only superheated air in its place. It reappeared on the ground, where Nero jammed her wristband into it. Her Toys briefly activated, lasting for less than one second. The fan began blowing in the other direction, sending a cool breeze beneath Nero's legs. Nero, not having the body for it, had never worn a skirt in her life.
"That's pretty comfortable," Nero said, looking down, "When did this get here?"
"Want to try something else?" asked Mori.
The second secret involved Mycroft being afraid of washtubs after an incident in the dorms. Mori and Sherlock were sitting on the roof of the dorms, waiting for Mycroft to pass by so a significantly sized basin could be dropped on her head. Hercule was sitting on a bench outside the building, reading another of Daidouji's articles on the mysteries of the world. Mycroft opened the door, calling out to Sherlock once again. The washtub jiggled above the doorway. Kamaboko, enjoying the sunlight himself, walked past. Mycroft went over to pet him, leaving the basin in its state between falling and landing.
Hercule got up from reading her article and went to place the paper back on the table. The washtub fell off the top of the door, and hit her instead. A red bump appeared where the basin had struck. She rubbed her head and looked around for who had put it there, finding no one. Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief, while Mori's eyes narrowed in frustration.
"We're going to try this one more time," she said.
The last piece of information went beyond hearsay and into hard evidence. The Irregulars had an embarrassing photo of Mycroft and Opera Kobayashi that made it look like they were more than teacher and student. The actual circumstances of the picture were lost to all but Mycroft, who only vaguely recalled when the picture was taken. Mori, holding the picture between her fingers, transported it into Mycroft's old desk. The elder sister had spent her days exploring the campus and reminiscing, so she would come across her seat eventually. The bell rang, and class began.
"Take out your textbooks!" said Mr. Nijuuri.
Mycroft's old desk, Sherlock had failed to realize, was Cordelia's current desk. Mycroft had gone to help with the Marlowe Hunt at the moment. The only person who saw the picture in that desk was Cordelia. A small trickle of blood began running down her nose. Two of her favorite people in the world enjoying each other's company. The only thing that would make this picture better was if she was in it. The desk slammed shut on Cordelia's hands by mistake.
"Sorry, Mori," said Sherlock.
"It's okay. There will be a way to get her tomorrow," said Mori.
Nero was leaning close to the walls, trying to listen in on the class next door. Sven was there, probably laughing about how Nero was going to lose the bet. Sherlock had become wrapped up with the Irregulars and Mori. Cordelia was in her flower garden once again. Hercule looked out the window at the fields of the campus. "When will Milky Holmes come back?" she thought.
Henriette Mystere had strong clout on campus, and nowhere was this better emphasized than with the Empty House, a small mansion constructed for sleuthing practice. This was where the Marlowe Hunt would be held. A wooden stage had been constructed by the entrance. Henriette and the judges were there. The students had been divided into six color coded teams, represented by the headbands they were wearing with their gym uniforms.
Milky Holmes had been split. Victoria and I noticed that Sherlock and Mori were on the scarlet team. Archie Fortune, a girl from the first year with a love of milk, were on the mustard team. Arthur Wealden, an outgoing second year girl, had been put on the green team with a shaky Hercule. Jackie Harakawa had been chosen as Cordelia's partner on the peacock team. The distance between them on the field was great.
"It's her," said Hercule, smiling, "She's beautiful."
Mayura Daidouji, the guest emcee, walked up onto the stage and grabbed the microphone. From over here, she looked a lot like the Shellinford sisters. "Welcome, everyone! I'm glad Henriette invited me out here, because we're going to have a lot of fun! Hidden in the rooms in this house are clues that you can get by solving the puzzles. When you have all the clues, you can figure out who died. Mycroft, Yako, myself and the members of Genius 4 will be at various stations to assist you. There's a lot of mysterious mysteries waiting!"
"Wait, what do you mean 'died'?" Sherlock asked.
"The goal is to figure out who's responsible for the body. We haven't selected our body yet," said Mayura.
"Do you doubt the sexy genius Kokoro Akechi, with an IQ of 18 trillion?" said Kokoro, stepping up to the stage. She looked the same as she ever did. Henriette looked surprised that the Illusion Toys were still working. "I'll be the most exquisite corpse this school has ever seen."
"Congratulations, Kokoro-chan!" said Mayura.
"Don't call me Kokoro-chan," said Kokoro, throwing the golden mask into the audience behind her back, where it landed on Sherlock's forehead.
Henriette asked Mayura to step aside, and moved up to the mic. She asked everyone to stand in front of the Empty House like it was a class picture. The teams gathered into place, with the scarlet team in the front row, the plum team in the back, and smiled. Mori's eyes lit up shortly before the picture was taken. Henriette felt a small jolt in her camera. She shook it to confirm that the film was still in there, and pressed down on the button.
A wave of darkness burst out of the flashbulb, covering all present, as well as the House. The vibrant campus was replaced by shades of gray and black. The students began filing into the building as the game began, all seemingly unaware of the change. Victoria and I gave each other a look that needed no words.
The skies were overcast, blanketing the campus like a thick layer of icing. Nero Yuzurizaki and Archie had been put on the case of figuring out who killed the broad known as Kokoro. It was hard to see why anyone would want to kill her. Her IQ was higher than the Tokyo Tower, but her body was a kid's. Sven, that two-bit reporter, was working on the same case. It only figures they would end up in the bar of this dingy old place.
The bartender there looked like she'd seen a lot. A tall frame, boyish figure, the kind of person one might see in the basketball club. What the famous detective Katsuragi was doing in a dive like this was something known only to the maker. Nero and Archie took a seat at the bar. Sven eyed them from a nearby table, smirking as if she had the devil in her.
"What'll it be?" asked Yako, "You here about the murder of Kokoro Akechi?"
"I'll have a glass of milk," said Archie. Poor sap. She had no idea what she was getting into.
"I'm here to clear my name," said Nero, tipping her hat, "You give an interview to any papers? Like ones that would have to do with this school?"
"Yeah, I may have heard something about that. They said I could get all the food I wanted if I came here for the fest," said Yako.
"You mention me to any of them? I'll pay you if you won't talk," Nero reached into her hat and produced a yum-yum stick. She spoke a language that Yako could understand. Food. Life. It meant more than money; they'd sell out their friends for a meal.
"What's your name, kid?" asked Yako.
"I know of a Neuro, but never a Nero," she said.
"Sven, you conniving fox," Nero whispered.
"Now, you're both detectives, you can settle this without killing each other," said Yako, "There's a puzzle in this room. Whoever can decipher the message on the bottles will find a clue to Akechi's murder."
"Let me...set the mood," Nero said, walking over to the jukebox. She removed one of her wristsbands, not knowing if it would work. Something sparked in her green eyes. The world of the jukebox was hers. She flipped through the playlist until she found a muted trumpet that would give this drab world some life.
In the world affected by the noir film, things get screwy. Those who once had everything, have nothing. Those who have nothing, have everything. This is why most of the students were without their Toys, but Milky Holmes, always stepped on by the world, had them. As long as they stayed within the Empty House.
Mori Arty had up and vanished.
"Mori?" asked Sherlock as she wandered into the billiards hall, "Where'd you go?"
The person Sherlock had been waiting to meet was there. The dame went by the name of Mycroft. She looked like she'd played a few games before, and set up the balls. "Straight pool," said Mycroft, "You'll find the clue to Kokoro's 'murder' once you've won."
"I've only won twice, and one of those was a fluke," said Sherlock, "but I'll give it a go. Got nothing to lose."
Sherlock grabbed the stick and caressed it between her fingers like a musician does to a guitar. Then, like a different kind of musician, she swung the cue around, sending the balls flying around the table. One, two, three landed at the far end. Three had hit the felt green wall, while one and two teetered on the edge of the pockets. Nothing had been called, so even if they fell in, there wouldn't be any points for the young detective.
The six ball rested at the opposite end of the table. It was in an easy spot. With a simple flick, it could have hit any of those othre three, but the distance seemed great. Sitting in the middle of the table was the eight ball. "Clothed in black, the eight ball. It takes no side but its own," said Mycroft.
Sherlock took her first shot. The cue ball hit the six ball, causing it to bounce around the table. It rebounded into the eight ball, which bounced off a side wall and back into the six ball. None of them fell, but the six ball was now with the first three at the other end of the table. Sherlock felt a surge of electricity running through her ribbon, as if she'd eaten a feast full of fish paste. "Sis, watch me work," she said. "There's no need for me to ask the eight ball later."
Cordelia had already found a clue card among the hundred lilies in the conservatory. Hercule had dragged her away from her flower garden, kindly asking Jackie and Arthur to form their own team. The two of them approached the ballroom. It was wide, tall and ornate. It seemed out of place in a world of black and white like this. Anyone who could afford such a thing could only use it to show off. Hercule and Cordelia were in for a surprise.
Arsene and the member of the Phantom Thief Empire, their Toys intact, were on one end of the ballroom. On the other end was Mori Arty, her Toys still intact as well. She was teleporting out of the way of Stone River's eye beams, trying to get face to chest with Arsene. It was a beautiful yet savage dance.
"I know that was you," said Arsene, "What would you want with the noir film?"
"Like you should know," Mori said, "If it calls out you or Milky Holmes, I don't care. I win either way."
"For a little girl, you're quite persistent," said Twenty, "Even beautiful me is amazed."
"This barrier isn't going to go away until the game is over," said Mori.
"Don't think you can outsmart a thief," said Arsene, "Illusion Toys!"
The windows of the ballroom began to close. The sounds of other doors swinging on their hinges could be heard from within the mansion. Hercule grabbed Cordelia. Her Toys activated, rendering her senior much lighter in her grip than she should have been. Hercule dashed through the hallway, trying to warn the others that Arsene was in the mansion.
Nobody paid any mind to this, thinking it was more of Milky Holmes' nonsense. Except for Nero. She had solved the numbers puzzle of the bar, winning a clue card and getting Sven to admit her mistake. She joined Hercule. The group of three saw Sherlock playing billiards, and ran into the room as another door slammed shut. Sherlock turned around in time to see her friends run in, out of breath. She set her pool cue down and asked what was going on.
The sounds of students, tapping at the doors like so many birds on a wire could be heard. No one had expected this to turn into a closed circle. The idea of Arsene being behind all this started sounding reasonable.
"I saw Mori and Arsene fighting in the ballroom," said Hercule.
"Mori must have been fighting to defend us!" said Cordelia, "Aren't we glad to have her as a friend?"
"How can you talk about friendship after all you've been doing?" said Hercule, fed up with it all, "Nero, that was only a newspaper article. You saved the city, how can you not be a hero? Cordelia, your admiration is turning into mania. Sheryl, have I been a bad friend for not saying anything until now?" She slapped Nero and Cordelia. Cordelia woke up from her flower garden fantasy, while Nero seemed annoyed.
"You're not a bad friend," said Sherlock, clutching her clue card in her teeth, "We need to save the others."
"We can't do it if we can't leave the room," said Nero.
"It'll be okay," said Sherlock.
She had friends on the outside.
"President Wiggins, we've got location," I said, speaking into the walkie talkie.
"The key is on the corpse," said Wiggins, a stifled but distinctly female voice on the other end.
I looked at Victoria. Kokoro had been lying down on the entrance to the cellar this whole time, wrapped up in her beauty, reflected in the chandelier. The heavy sphere of darkness surrounded the Empty House still. Any chance of Milky Holmes seeing an object so small with lighting so insufficient was unlikely. I turned to Victoria.
"She really owes us for this," Victoria said. Her eyes lit up, and a ray of light traced itself from her hair down to the tip of her finger. She focused it like a laser pointer through the nearest available window, hoping to reach the hallway where Kokoro lay. "Light Toys!"
Victoria's face didn't show any sign of strain, but no matter how long one has been using their Toys, it can only be kept up for so long. Wiggins radioed me once again. "Why are you putting your trust in this Shellinford girl? She's an idiot." If I knew Sherlock, she was looking around the room for anything that could be used to break out. She didn't know the meaning of giving up.
"Of course she is," I said, "That's her greatest strength."
For Cordelia, everything existed in a heightened state of contrast. When she didn't have her Toys, everything blended together, making the world feel very dry. In this grayscale world, something stood out in the darkness. It was a bright gold, and weaved itself through the house like a thread.
"I sense something," said Cordelia, her Toys running at full power. She leaned down to peek through the billiard room's keyhole. "but I can't see it from this distance."
Sherlock reached behind her back and revealed her cat-eared magnifying glass. The rest of Milky Holmes didn't have theirs. They only brought them along on a case, and even then Nero tended to forget. "You can use it, Cordelia. Even people with Toys need a boost," she said. "That tiny thing will seem much bigger."
"Thanks, Sheryl," said Cordelia. She placed the magnifying glass in front of the keyhole. Her vision, able to see farther and clearer, even in the darkness, focused in on Kokoro. A gold key was hanging out of her pocket, a grandmaster key that could unlock any room in the Empty House. "We need to get that key."
Mycroft tapped Cordelia on the shoulder. "Let your senior handle this one." Mycroft checked the keyhole herself, and then held out her hand. She opened her eyes widely, moving her hands to grab the key from a distance. She felt a spark in her eyes, but the energy quickly faded. Something inside of her felt empty. Mycroft stood still. "My Toys... they're not working," she said.
"Elly and Nero and Cordelia's do work," said Sherlock, "maybe mine do."
"Sheryl, this is kind of complicated," said Hercule, "the size of the key and the lock require precision."
"I don't know much about precision, but I know a lot about sticking things in tight spaces," said Sherlock.
Kokoro would store a key of any sort higher up on her body. Anything to make her seem older. Sherlock thought about the key, and within a moment she felt the relative size and weight of the object in her hand. She yanked her arm back, sending the key flying across the vacant hallway like a hummingbird. The key stuck itself into the lock, and Sherlock twisted her hand slightly to the left, turning the key. The door opened up, freeing Milky Holmes from their dimly lit, smoky-smelling cage. Victoria ceased using her Toys.
They didn't make it very far into the hallway before being confronted by Arsene. She stood in the doorway. Rat was poking his head up from beneath the cellar, Twenty was leaning over the edge of the stairs, and Stone River was balancing himself on a chandelier. Arsene held the envelope containing the game's solution in her hand.
"You have your Toys back. Wonderful, Milky Holmes," said Arsene, following her statement with a wicked laugh. "Let's fight."
Twenty slid down the banister, throwing off his jacket in the process. Rat jumped out of the cellar, stepping on Kokoro's stomach in the process. Kokoro, sensitive in that area, gave off a stifled laughter. Stone River landed on the ground, drawing his katana in mid flight. Rat's flame burned bright red against the black and white scenery.
"It's our business to know what other people don't know," said Sherlock, holding out her magnifying glass.
"Making the world more beautiful, so people can love each other," said Cordelia, running her hand past the flowers in her hair.
"We have no talents. It's genius or nothing," said Nero, popping off her wristband.
"Understand this, we mean to arrive at the truth," said Hercule, standing resolutely.
"Milky Holmes is here!" said the four, striking a pose at the same time.
The Phantom Thief Empire could only stand dumbfounded. Rat was the first to respond. He reached under his hat and took out a bomb, setting the fuse alight with his finger. He threw it at Milky Holmes. Cordelia dodged out of the way, letting it rebound off the stairway. The bomb rolled about on the chandelier, heading back towards the thieves. Stone River held his katana like a bat, swinging the bomb at them yet again.
"I won't let you take Kokoro-chan's death in vain!" shouted Sherlock.
"I'm not dead!" said Kokoro, waking up, "and don't call me Kokoro-chan!"
Kokoro threw the golden mask overhead, sending both the mask and the bomb at Twenty's crotch. Twenty flamboyantly leaped into the air and thrust his crotch out, launching the bomb towards one of the support pillars. Hercule and Sherlock nodded at each other. Hercule grabbed the bomb and tossed it up into the stairwell. Sherlock created a force field with her psychic powers and contained the explosion. She felt the superheat of the explosive on her hands, and began frantically blowing on them.
"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb," said Nero.
Mori, hearing the explosion, teleported behind a support pillar to watch the events. She feared that she might be caught with her antenna bouncing around, but the clash of thieves and detectives was so loud that no one even knew she was there, except for Cordelia.
"Sheryl, you've been in this situation before, haven't you?" asked Mycroft.
"Why did I tell her that?" Sherlock thought.
"She lost her Toys on that rainy night. There's no way she'd ever get a chance to be a hero," said Arsene.
"That's not true," said Sherlock, clenching her fist, "I may not be able to fit every key to every lock, but if there's no locks, nothing holding me back... I can still win!"
Just as controlling larger objects with psychokinesis required more concentration, so did controlling multiple objects. Sherlock had never done something like this before, but if she was going to become the little sister Mycroft was so happy to see, she was going to have to turn that lie into reality. She felt the cold, rounded metal of the locks in her hand. The combined weight made her muscles hurt. Sherlock let out a large yell and, with a single thrust, sent every lock flying out of the doors. The doors swung open, and the students poured into the hallway.
"Can you stand against all of us, Arsene?" asked Mycroft.
"We're not gonna let you invade our school," said Sherlock.
The Phantom Thief Empire knew that being in jail would not be a good way to spread their rule, and promptly exited the front door. Before she left, Arsene faced the detectives and offered a warning. "Just because a flower blooms somewhere else, does not mean it isn't pure. Adieu!"
Milky Holmes pooled their clue cards and raced outside of the Empty House. The sphere of darkness shrunk in size until it vanished out of existence. The four girls approached Mayura and revealed the answer to the case. "Detective Kokoro was murdered in the kitchen, with the candlestick, by Mr. Nijuuri!" said Sherlock.
Mayura opened the envelope containing the answer. "That's correct. Milky Holmes wins the Marlowe Hunt!" The crowd, mostly confused, gave a slow round of applause. Mr. Nijuuri, Nezu and Ishinagare reappeared in the crowd, crawling across the ground. Genius 4 walked out of the Empty House. Henriette, adjusting her hair and pulling up her dress, walked out from behind the house and took to the stage.
"For winning the Marlowe Hunt, Milky Holmes' prize is this envelope from the Diogenes Club," said Henriette.
Victoria and I heard the students whispering among themselves. Nobody knew what was in that envelope. Security on it had been so tight the student council had prevented itself from figuring out the contents. Sherlock untwisted the tie and revealed the contents. It was a handwritten letter, along with a picture of Mycroft, and the rest of the Club, posing in front of the Holmes statue.
"Detectives of the Future,
"We, the members of the Diogenes Club, congratulate you on finding this letter. You've probably been through a lot. You're going to go through a lot more. That doesn't mean it's going to be bad, though. Being a detective is all about making this crazy world make sense, not just for yourself, but for others. The greatest Toys you can have are a noble spirit and a clear head. The Diogenes Club might have already dissolved by the time you read this, but the Holmes Academy you see today would not have been the same without us. Perhaps you can make it even better.
"Mycroft Shellinford and Friends."
"What a rip," said Nero.
"I went to all that trouble for that?" Henriette thought to herself.
"Mycroft, you're so amazing!" said Cordelia, hugging Hercule, "Elly, celebrate with me!"
Sherlock turned to her older sister. "Sis, I'm so sorry. You weren't able to stop them and now your perfect record is tarnished even thought you did all this for me..."
"It's okay, Sheryl. I wanted to fail," said Mycroft, smiling.
"You wanted to?" asked Sherlock, her ribbon twitching.
"Everyone's been praising me for so long that they think I'm going to solve everything without trying. It's taxing. I've been running on fumes for so many of my last cases that they're all starting to blend together. Sometimes I just want to sit back and read a book or drink some tea, and not try to solve another hoax. If I failed once, people might realize that I'm human and can't do everything, especially not alone. You're lucky, Sheryl. You're passionate, you have friends, you keep trying no matter how many setbacks. You're the one in the family with talent, not me," she said.
"Sis," said Sherlock, embracing her sister tightly.
"Aw, that's sweet," said Tsugiko from her chair.
"That girl could even replace me one day," said Saku.
The Illusion that had been put on Kokoro finally wore off. She checked herself in a nearby mirror, and realized she was still a short 13-year old girl. "Why did you make me the corpse?" asked Kokoro.
"You volunteered," said Mayura, rubbing Kokoro's head, "You're so cute."
"Cut that out!" said Kokoro.
"I think there's something sticking out of the envelope," said Yako, eating the yum yum stick Nero had offered her earlier.
Hidden in a fold behind the envelope was another prize. It was a small key, one that bore no logo. "I found that on one of our earlier cases. I have no idea what it opens, but that is a mystery for the next generation," said Mycroft.
"Maybe this is a way to get our Toys back!" Nero said.
Out in the crowd, Mori Arty's eyes widened. She didn't say anything, but merely smirked. She felt Arsene's eyes on her back, and quickly ceased. As the students departed, Milky Holmes examined the key in greater detail. It was rusted and the bow was bent, but it looked functional.
I had a feeling Milky Holmes would be requiring our services again.