Everywhere was chaos. Blood splattered the walls, cadavers littered the ground, and gunshots echoed around the Black Organization's hideout every other second.
Shiho grimly smiled, expertly handling the Beretta in her hand and walking stealthily along the dark corridors, ignoring the blood flowing from a cut in her shoulder and cheek. Soon, the downfall of that wretched organization would happen. Akemi would have her revenge. Everything will return to as it was. Kudo would finally have his life back.
Probably watch as the love of her life get married with his. Probably watch as Shinichi and Ran build their own family with longing. Probably hide what she had felt for a year from someone who had always treated her as his best friend. Probably grow old and die a virgin. Probably-.
Before her thoughts could be more depressing, Shiho shook her head and frowned. She had something to do. And that was to find the blasted Kudo, who had the nerve to leave her behind just to follow the escaping form of Gin. Honestly, that guy. You'd think that a soccer ball is enough to beat the crap out of a professional criminal who's been doing illegal deeds for God know's how long. And he called her impulsive?
A loud explosion rocked the very foundations of the Organization's hideout, jarring Shiho from her thoughts. Slightly alarmed, she ran towards the direction of the sound, and found the one she'd been looking for in the ground in a messy heap – dazed, bruised and bleeding, but alive.
"Kudo-kun!" Shiho yelled, running towards the fallen detective and helping him sit up. Her annoyance at him dissolved and was replaced with worry. "Kudo...?"
"Huh?" Shinichi managed, blinking blearily at her. His vision was slightly fuzzy because of the grenade that exploded near him – courtesy of Vermouth.
Shiho's gaze hardened. "You are not dying on me, Kudo. Are you hearing me?" she demanded, roughly shaking him on the shoulders.
Shinichi, for his part, had never seen anything so beautiful. Shiho's hair looked like a bird's nest, her face covered with soot, blouse torn, cheek and shoulder cut, and she was missing a shoe.
But that was not enough to distract Shinichi from the current event. With Shiho's help, he stood up and gingerly tested his footing. Unfortunately, his right ankle was sprained, and it looked like he was not going to be walking properly anytime soon . And then he remembered something, and gravely faced Shiho. "Gin's dead."
The announcement stunned Shiho, who had to take a step back to look properly at Shinichi. He was serious - as if today was a time for jokes. "H-how?"
"Vermouth killed him. In front of me." Shinichi answered, grimacing at the memory. "I don't know why she did it. Gin was about to kill me, but then Vermouth appeared out of nowhere and wasted no time in putting a bullet through his head. Gin never knew what hit him."
"Why?" Shiho let out after a pause. "Why would she kill a fellow comrade?"
"Because Gin wanted to kill you. But Vermouth didn't want that. She wanted you for herself." Shinichi answered, looking at Shiho protectively. "And I will never let that happen. Not in a million years."
Before Shiho could let out a reply, a hysterical laugh reverberated in the destroyed room. Vermouth was holding the wall with her left hand while her right was clutching a gun, and her body was shaking with mirth. "That was so touching, Kudo. And you've got it right, yet again."
Shiho snarled, standing in front of Shinichi since he was incapacitated at the moment. "Vermouth." She said the name as if it was poison in her lips. "Why are you still here? The police would be here any minute. The explosion would have alerted them of your prescence."
Vermouth smirked, straightening up. "Oh, I just wanted to leave you a parting message, Sherry."
"And what would that be?" Shinichi asked, wary.
"Whatever happens today, I will always haunt you. Whether it be your life, your nightmares, your everything. I will never leave you alone, Shiho. I will always torment you. Always. Remember that."
A second after she finished talking, the shouts of the police officers were heard. Footsteps pounded on the threshold, and the three heard Jodie yell, "This way!"
"Well, this is my cue to leave." Vermouth said, turning around and running towards the opposite direction. "See you!"
"Wait!" Shinichi yelled, about to go after her but cursed when his ankle throbbed. "Goddamit!"
Shiho, despite being severely shaken by Vermouth's threats, snapped. "Stay here. I'll go after her."
"Are you crazy?" Shinichi shouted. "Do you have a death wish?"
"Says the one who went after Gin with nothing but soccer ball." Shiho sniffed. "Just stay, Kudo. You can't run around with that ankle."
And before he could say or do anything else, Shiho ran after Vermouth's trail. Shiho vaguely heard Shinichi shout her name again and again, but ignored it in favor of reaching Vermouth faster. For a few minutes, the two played a game of hide-and-seek, and Vermouth couldn't outrun Shiho due to the fact that her footfalls were loud enough for Shiho to hear them. But soon enough, Shiho had Vermouth cornered. The gun the older woman was holding was apparently empty of bullets, since she threw it away during the duration of their chase.
"Give up." Shiho glared, pointing her gun. "You have nowhere to run now."
"Then kill me." Vermouth said, raising her arms in an inviting gesture. "Kill me so that I can't get away. Kill me, Sherry."
"I'm sorry, but you're just now worth it." Shiho sneered.
Vermouth laughed, and the sound brought shivers down Shiho's spine. "You'll regret that decision, Sherry." Slowly, Vermouth drew something from her pocket.
"What's that?" Shiho asked, panic slowly creeping in her voice, but by then it was too late.
The room erupted into a firestorm.
Flames blossomed on the floor Vermouth was standing, making a division between the two women. Vermouth had no way out, Shiho could see, but with a sinking realization, she was too. The fire had already blocked her entrance in such a short time, since the room was made entirely out of wood.
The smoke made it hard to breathe, and Shiho started to choke. When she looked at Vermouth, she saw that the other woman was unaffected, looking at her with no expression – even when the flames were starting to devour her.
"Remember, Sherry. I will always torment you. You have my word."
And that was the last thing Shiho heard and saw as she succumbed to darkness.
Shiho gasped, sitting upright in her bed. For a second, she thought that she was back at the Organization's headquarters, being roasted alive. Her eyes frantically searched her surroundings, and then relaxed when she saw that she was safe. For now.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Shiho collapsed on her bed but sat up again when she found out that she was drenched in her own sweat. Grimacing, she stood up and changed. When she looked at the clock in her nightstand, she saw that it was about five in the morning, then went to her new apartment's kitchen to pour herself a glass of water.
Shiho hypothesized that the dream of her past was brought by another one of Vermouth's calls. After Emihara had given her a tour around Beika – which was entirely useless, since Shiho's memory was still clear and she remembered Beika's streets like the back of her hand – she dropped her in her new apartment. It was a small place - with just one bedroom, kitchen, living room and a bathroom, but still, it suited Shiho's taste. It was also convenient, since her apartment was two blocks away from the school.
When Emihara was finally gone, Shiho started to get settled. She was in the middle of putting her clothes in the small walk-in closet when the phone rang. Thinking that it was the school, she picked it up carelessly then froze when a voice greeted her.
"How are you liking it back here in Beika, Sherry?
It took Shiho a few moments to calm down. She breathed in and out, then answered while she shut the curtains on the windows. "Vermouth" she hissed.
Vermouth gave a tutting noise over the phone. "Now that's not a good way to greet an old friend, Shiho. I'm hurt."
"You're supposed to be dead. I saw you burn, Vermouth. With my own two eyes! How come you're alive?" Shiho asked, furrowing her eyebrows. "The police announced you dead. I saw a corpse for God's sake's."
Vermouth chuckled. "I believed I told you that ten years ago, Sherry. 'Whatever happens today, I will always haunt you. Whether it be your life, your nightmares, your everything. I will never leave you alone, Shiho. I will always torment you. Always.' Does that ring a bell?"
"Why me?" Shiho choked, gripping the phone tightly with both hands. "What did I ever do to you to? Why are you so intent on making my life hell? Why are you bringing the ones I care about on something they never had anything to do? Why?" she yelled in the end.
"Because you have a debt to pay, Sherry." Vermouth answered, taking pleasure on Shiho's frightened voice. "That's all. Oh, and good luck in your job tomorrow. You'll find a surprise there, so brace yourself. Until my next call!"
It took Shiho about an hour to pacify her raging heartbeat. Vermouth knew she was working at her former elementary school, and she knew her telephone address. That alone was enough to scare the living day-lights out of her. Now she even had a mystery to solve.
After she passed out cold from lack of oxygen, Shiho was fortunate that the police were fast enough to get her out of the burning building. Vermouth had not been so lucky. When the fire subsided, a corpse of a woman was found inside the room where the flames started. It was burned beyond recognition, the forensics team couldn't even get the dental records. Now Vermouth was back from the Underworld.
But she couldn't let Vermouth get her unprepared. Whatever surprise she was talking about, Shiho had to be ready for it. Because Shinichi's life was on the line, along with hers and the other people she cared about.
Kudo Reina just couldn't stop jumping.
Along with Mathematics, her favorite subject was English. Her daddy had been teaching it to her since she was able to talk, while her mommy taught her Japanese. Grandma Yukiko and Grandpa Yusaku also teaches her when she goes to the States for the Christmas Holidays, but she always went to her father to ask about new words.
When she found out that their English teacher had an accident and was to go abroad for treatment, Reina was devastated. One of the reasons why she still went to school was Math and English. Her girl classmates hated her since she was smarter than them and boys loathed her since she was greater at soccer than them. The other subjects bored her to death, and now English was going to be taken out too?
But then a new teacher was going to her school. She'll have English again. And her father just promised to treat her to ice cream when school ends today since it was Father's Day.
Life was good.
"Somebody's feeling happy today." Shinichi teased, tickling his daughter in her waist – where she was most ticklish, and Reina yelled hysterically.
"D-Daddy! St-stop!" Reina giggled, slapping at her father's hand. "I- I give!"
Shinichi chuckled and desisted. He was just about to stand when a white thing was shoved in his face. "Reina?"
"Happy Father's Day!" Reina shrieked, jumping to hug her father on the neck. "I made this card during art class yesterday, and you know I can't draw to save my life daddy, but I still hope you like it!"
Arranging Reina so that she was sitting on his left arm and her arms were wrapped on his neck, Shinichi took the small card and looked at the cover. It had two stick figures that were holding hands, and it obviously represented him and Reina. They were standing on a green meadow, with a sun and clouds above. Near the clouds was a stick figure with white wings.
"That's mommy." Reina whispered, pointing at the angel. "She's in heaven watching over the two of us."
Suddenly, Shinichi's eyes were burning. But since he prided himself to be a totally macho man, crying was out of the question – especially if his daugther was watching.
"It- It's beautiful, Reina. I love it." Shinichi was relieved when his voice didn't break. "Thank you."
Reina beamed when her father kissed her forehead. "You're welcome!" she chirped.
"C'mon. Let's bring you to school." Shinichi smiled, carrying his daughter to the car and drove, the entire ride filled with mindless chatter.
"Daddy! We're going to have a new teacher today!" Reina suddenly said, grinning from ear to ear. "She's teaching us English!"
Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "So they finally got a replacement for the old one?"
Reina nodded. "Yup! I'm so excited! I hope she's friendly unlike my other classmates." Her tone had grown sullen, and Shinichi frowned. He always knew that Reina had difficulty in finding friends since she was smarter than the rest of them.
"Reina..." his voice trailed off.
"It's okay!" Reina hastened to say when she saw her father's expression. "I mean, I don't need friends! I have you, daddy! And Grandpa Yusaku and Grandma Yukiko and Grandpa Kogoro and Grandma Eri and Uncle Heiji and Aunt Kazuha!" she beamed.
Shinichi sighed, and stopped the car when he saw that they were near the gate of the school. He faced his daugther. "Reina, you still need friends. When was the last time you brought a friend over at our house?"
Reina frowned. "Uh, never?"
"Exactly." Shinichi nodded. "You never had. And that's worrying me, Reina. You can't live if you don't have someone to confide to. A best friend."
Reina pouted. "But my classmates hate me! How am I supposed to befriend them if they always avoid me?"
Shinichi ruffled her hair. "I don't know, Reina. But you can always find a way! You're smart, and friendly, and great at soccer, and –"
"Daddy!" Reina laughed, stopping her father's rant. "Alright, I'll try to find a best friend. Someone who's around my age. Can I go now? I want to meet my new teacher!"
Shinichi nodded. "Alright. Take care of yourself!" he added when Reina opened the door and nearly stumbled when she got out.
"Okay! See you later!"
"Everyone, meet Miyano Shiho!" Emihara Aisha grinned, addressing the whole staff with Shiho beside her. "She's going to teach English from now on, so let's welcome her warmly, okay?"
The other teachers gave a chorused "Hi", and Shiho nodded to acknowledge them. A guy with black hair at the back actually whistled.
"Dang, Principal Riku! Where'd you get such a hot female specimen?" he asked, but a girl with red hair beside him slapped him in the head.
"Quit your flirting!" she snapped when the guy pouted.
Aisha rolled her eyes exasperatedly. "Ignore Takada-san, he's a natural flirt. He's our Science teacher, and he's the one who substituted for my class when I was touring you in the city so he's not that hopeless. The girl near him is his fiancee, Sakura-san."
Shiho smiled a bit. "It's okay, I get that a lot."
Principal Riku – a man in his late 30's with brown hair that started to gray - laughed. "I heard about your performance from your dean Sora – he's my best friend by the way – and now I get it when he said that along with brains, you're very beautiful, Miyano-san. How come you don't have a boyfriend?"
Shiho coughed uncomfortably. Gee, maybe because I got my heart broken and I don't want that to happen again. Or maybe because a psychotic criminal is dead-set on killing me and my loved ones. "Actually, I really don't have time for romance and the likes."
"Nonsense!" Principal Riku said, patting Shiho on the shoulder. "Why, in my teenage years I thought I would never marry! But then, I met this overly gorgeous woman who-"
"Really Principal Riku. We've heard that story a thousand times, we don't want it to be a thousand and one." Aisha huffed playfully, and the staff laughed along with Shiho. "I'll be guiding Miyano-san to her advisory class, then. It's nearly time." The bell rang as soon as she said it.
At last, Shiho and Aisha started to go towards Shiho's homeroom with the former going tense. She hadn't forgotten the 'surprise' Vermouth was talking about. Was it a bomb? Or -.
"Here's your advisory class!" Aisha said, pointing to a door that was quiet. "Wow, the kids must be really excited to see you. They're unnaturally quiet."
"Well, wish me luck, I guess." Shiho said, going apprehensive by the minute.
"You'll do great." Aisha assured. "Well, I'll be going then. See you, and good luck!"
When Aisha was gone, Shiho inhaled and prepared herself for the surprise. Before she could get more nervous, she swung open the door.
A girl about seven was standing in front of her, a soccer ball under her arm. It looked like she was just about to open the door when Shiho came in. The girl was crying, stiffling her sobs to the best of her ability by biting her mouth. But that wasn't the reason why Shiho suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.
The little girl was the spitting image of Kudo Ran, with long black hair and beautiful blue eyes. And Shiho didn't have to be a genius chemist to know that she was great at soccer, judging by the was the girl was lovingly holding the soccer ball. Shiho got a glimps of the girl's ID tag, and it read 'Kudo Reina'.
Now she knew the surprise Vermouth was talking about.
Yes, I'm alive. Everyone do the Congo! Hurray!
Did everybody spot the sarcasm?
Anyway. Thank you for the reviews, it meant a lot to me. Sorry for the late update though, school's been hectic again. Did I do the cliffhanger thing alright? Cause I've been wanting to do this for ages. I hope you like it! Read & Review!
Akitsuki Akira © New Beginnings