O-bon: Japanese Buddist Festival, otherwise known as 'Feast/Festival of the Dead'. The souls of the dead ancestors return home for 3 days and prayers are said for anyone who has died in the past year. Fires and red lanterns are lit to guide the spirits here and back again.
Depending on if you're using the lunar or solar calendar, it's held for a week between July and August.
Celebrations are held in a vacant block, temple or square of each town. A temporary wooden town is built for it, where a taiko drummer plays. Dancing is held until dawn. It's one of the more significant festivals, and spent with family.
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by Icka! M. Chif
i'm on the outside
i'm looking in
i can see through you
see your true colours
('outside' by Staind)

There are 2 main kinds of people in this world.

Law-abiding, and non law-abiding.

There are 2 other kinds of people in this world too.

Human, and non human.

As long as the latter remain law abiding, I don't have a problem with them. If someone else wants to deal with them, that's their business, not mine.

Mine deals with the non human, non law-abiding.

Such as Kid the Phantom Thief.

The police are after him for the theft of multiple miscellaneous jewels, paintings and other odd assorted objects. Including a baseball.

Why a baseball? I have no clue. It may be the Kid's way of playing with us, just to make us wonder why in the world he stole a baseball. Lord knows that it's worked, if that is the case.

The problem is that the Kid isn't always the Kid. The Kid is sometimes a high school student too. And I've got a sneaky suspicion who. He's a student in my class.

Kuroba Kaito.

Resident class clown, magician, honour student, and best friend of one Nakamori Aoko.

Now Aoko is human. One hundred percent, completely and utterly human. She just also happens to be a bit on the special side too.

Just like most people can't see a giant yurei head when it's staring them in the face, most people can't see the glow that burns around her like a flame. Heck, I doubt even Kuroba can see it, but even he's drawn to it, just like I am.

And that is why I keep a close eye on her. Especially when it comes to Kuroba Kaito.

Which is why I happened to 'casually' over hear a conversation between the two of them. A conversation where Kuroba invited Aoko to join him and some family members from -his father's side- to the O-bon festival this weekend. Emphasis on 'father's side' for some reason.

To my shock and dismay, she readily agreed.

The O-bon festival is traditionally spent with family. The insinuation that Aoko is close enough to be considered part of Kuroba's family is not one I care to entertain. The fact that she also agreed to joining him without consulting her father first is another fact I do not wish to think about.

That my friends, is what we consider a warning signal.

Which is why I've been following them. Much to both my relief and dismay, Kuroba has been conducting himself the entire time with behaviour I never would have expected to see due to his usual attitude in class.

In layman's terms, he's behaving himself. Aoko hasn't hit him. Not even once.

It's been rather disappointing, actually.

The family that Kuroba wanted Aoko to meet was equally disappointing at first glance. A young girl, our age, dressed in formal clothing and holding the hand of a serious looking young boy in glasses. Which was most likely her younger brother.

I was less than impressed. Aoko, on the other hand, seemed to be thrilled to meet them. The two girls immediately started chattering with each other like old friends, leaving the boys to roll their eyes and mutely follow along.

It wasn't until I noticed how Kuroba reacted to his little 'cousin' that I started to be suspicious of anything. For one thing, when most people talk to a little kid, their attitude shifts, usually becoming more child-like themselves. Kuroba didn't, his body language spoke of the small boy as an equal. The boy's body language was similar, stiffer and more formal than most kids act, treating Kuroba as an equal as well, instead of an elder.

Except for when Aoko turned to include him in the conversation. Suddenly the attitude pulled an about face, and he was a normal kid again. Until she turned back around. The other girl didn't seem to find anything odd about this at all. In fact, she reacted to the boy the same way Kuroba did.

It was most unsettling.

When the festival got crowed, full of dancing people and red lanterns, the group moved away from the tower in the middle of the square towards the hillsides. It was too early to start heading home, in fact the bonodori dancing would most last until very early in the morning.

The small group shifted as they walked, Aoko and Kuroba leading again, with the other girl and the small boy following, the girl holding the boy's hand. But even that struck me as odd. It looked more like they were enjoying just being close to each other than the fact that the boy was about to run off or disappear.

Again, suspicious behaviour.

I followed them thru some forested trails, to a clearing far away from the revelries. They sat down and started talking amongst themselves. Small topics such as foods, movies, their favourite songs and what's happening in the latest manga series.

Boring. They've been at this for 7 minutes and 23 seconds, precisely.

There once was a story about a boy who was far more clever and smart than most wise men. So one day a general decided to test the boy by showing him a scroll with a picture of a tiger on it and asking the boy if he could catch the tiger for him. The boy replied yes, he could, and then requested a long and sturdy rope.

The rope was brought to him and so he stood in front of the scroll, the rope in one hand and waited.

"What are you waiting for?" The general asked.

"I'm waiting for you to chase it out of the scroll." The boy replied. "How do you expect me to catch it of you don't get it out of the scroll first?"

I'm beginning to feel the same way. How am I supposed to catch Kuroba as the Kid if he doesn't show his true colours?

There's a lull in the conversation as Kuroba suddenly folds his hands and concentrates. I can feel the presence of a barrier going up and scramble to stay inside of it. Fortunately, they don't seem to notice my presence as I get closer.

"There." Kuroba looks pleased with himself. "The Kekkei is up, no one will be able to see us now. If you two would like to relax, now is the time."

"Thank you." There's a sudden blast of cold in the hot summer air as the girl suddenly sparkles with frost crystals. "This summer air was stifling me."

"Just like having our own personal outdoor air conditioner." The small boy pipes up, grinning. She shoots him an irritated look.

Aoko seems surprised, but not at all alarmed by this revelation. "Yuki no Onna." The other girl explains with a smile.

Ice maiden. That would explain the cold.

"Aren't you going to too?" She asked Kuroba, vaguely gesturing.

He gives a shy smile, like he wasn't sure, and then blurs a bit. It only lasts a couple of seconds, but then he has a pair of white fox ears on the top of his head, and what looks like a tail beside him. Once again, Aoko doesn't seem surprised in the least. If nothing else, she looks happy about it.

Damn. That means she already knows he's a youko.

"We still have a few minutes." The boy comments, checking his watch. "If she's going to play with your ears, now's the time."

I'm amused to see both Aoko and Kuroba blush at the comment, even as they stammer and protest.

I'm not so amused to see Kuroba lay down next to her, his head resting against her leg, but not quite in her lap. She looks delighted and begins stroking his ears. He looks like he'd be purring from the way his tail is twitching back and forth like a cat's. The other girl and the boy just look amused and whisper softly to themselves.

You'd think a group of youkai would have something better to do than just sit around and bask in each other's company. But that's just me.

Minutes pass. 4 minutes and 32 seconds to be exact. Boring. Long enough for the moon to rise and the trees start to shimmer a bit with the frost.

Then the boy starts to move, pulling a small briezer and incense out of his yukata sleeves, setting up a small fire between the circle of friends. I sigh, slightly disgusted with this whole venture. If all they're going to do is light a fire to welcome their family spirits, then I've wasted my time.

Or so I think until the boy suddenly grows a large set of wings. They look like bat wings, darker than night and more sinister than fright. For the first time, I'm scared.

I can handle spirits and all matter of youkai and bakemono. But this boy... feels like death himself. It's like I'm laying in my own grave.

The boy hands his glasses to the other girl, then closes his eyes and concentrates on the fire, which is burning a friendly warm yellow. That changes suddenly as the fire flickers, sparks, and then begins to glow an un-earthly purple. The same colour purple that dances over the boy and his wings.

The boy shifts as well, suddenly growing taller, as tall as Kuroba. He looks like Kuroba too, although more sharp-eyed and intelligent than the wild haired youko. The Yuki no Onna smiles, tears freezing in the corners of her eyes as she rises.

"Shin'ichi." She whispers, rising to embrace him in a fierce hug. He returns it, equally possessive as his wings wrap around them. Kuroba and Aoko advert their eyes to give them some privacy.

Now I recognise him as well. Shin'ichi Kudo, the teenage detective from Beika City. Also known for coming the closest to actually un-masking the Kid and his schemes, even though he prefers to solve murders.

Shin'ichi steps back from the hug, taking the girl's hand, one wing still wrapped protectively around her. She moves away from him slightly, giving him room, but doesn't take her hand away. I don't know what the story is between those two, but they obviously care about each other. A lot.

He closes his eyes, muttering something softly. In response, the fire burns higher and shadows begin to take shape in the light.

And there's a man standing in the flames.

Kuroba straightens and sits up, evidently unable to believe his eyes. Aoko looks wide-eyed in surprise as well. "Tousan!"

The similarities between Kuroba and the apparition are too obvious to ignore. And the fact that the spectre was dressed as the Kaitou Kid. A much older Phantom Thief.

Kuroba's father.

"Kaito!" The spirit looks ecstatic to see his son, and the girl that is leaning so close to him. "Aoko!"

Aoko looks like she's in shock. "How... how is this possible?"

Shin'ichi laughs, wrapping his arms around the girl again. "It's O-bon!" He cheers, as if that explains it all.

The girl in his arms gives him an irritated, if amused look. The 2 of them act like a newly married couple, even if he was a small boy just a few minutes ago. "Shin'ichi is a Shinigami, Aoko-chan." She explains, clarifying things. "He sees dead people. Among other things."

"I owed Kaito one." Kudo smiled. "We'll talk later, I can only hold this for so long." He motions towards the figure in the firelight, who looks amused by the turn of events. Before Aoko or Kuroba can protest farther, the Shinigami and the Ice Maiden retreat a little bit to give their friends some privacy to talk to the late magician.

"Nice outfit, Tousan." Kuroba grins. "But honestly, did it have to be white?"

"Only villains wear black." His father retorts, an equally bright smirk on his face. "Would have preferred chartreuse?"

Both Aoko and Kuroba blanch. I don't blame them. That is a scary thought.

I focus my attention elsewhere. I may be a detective and a sneak, but there are some things that are too private for even me to butt into.

Besides, I now I have seen with my own eyes proof that Kuroba really is the Kid. I may never be able to prove it, but for now I am content with the knowledge.

And the thought of Kuroba in handcuffs makes me smile.

Okay, so maybe it's closer to a leer.

I watch Kudo and his girlfriend for a moment. They've got the whole 'Ill-fated lovers' thing going for them. If I was sentimental, I'd say it's rather sweet to watch them hold each other close and whisper endearments to each other. Or what looks like endearments. If it's one thing I've learned from being around Aoko and Kuroba, it's that nothing is quite what it looks like when it comes to affection.

But since I'm not a sentimental fool, I'll just try not to yawn because now I'm bored.

Aoko's practically glowing as she talks to Kuroba's father. She's obviously comfortable with him as she explains what looks to be an embarrassing story on Kuroba's part to the spectre with a wide grin and expressive hand gestures. Kuroba's grinning and blushing, obviously embarrassed by the story, but enjoying it too much to say anything.

I'm rather surprised, actually. I hadn't realised that Aoko knew Kuroba's father. I don't think I've ever seen her so comfortable talking to an adult before, not even her father.

Kudo calls Kuroba's name, a note of alarm in it. He and his girl friend are backing up, looking at something moving towards them in apprehension.

I peer beyond the kekkei and curse myself for a fool. If I had been paying attention, I should have noticed it coming sooner. What ever it is has a vile feel to it, it's only purpose to destroy.

It reaches the kekkei and shatters it easily, the barrier's propose was for concealment, not defence, and begins to zoom towards the Shinigami.

I summon Watson and send my Shikijin towards the creature. Kuroba reacts as well, tossing out a handful of cards that turn into a cloud of white doves. His spirit birds and illusions cover the creature, both blinding and attacking it. The doves won't do much damage to it, they're more useful as messengers and trackers, but they do seem to slow it down a bit. Not much, but enough to give Watson a chance. The falcon dives, aiming for the cloud of white in a blur too quickly to be seen with the naked eye.

The other girl screams as she and Kudo dive towards the ground, a flash of something mixing in with the doves and Watson's attack.

Something hits the ground and the silence nearly echoes.

Watson returns to my arm, looking rather pleased with himself as the cloud of doves either dissipate or return to Kuroba. The brazier was tipped over during the attack, and Kuroba's father is gone. Aoko has a firm grip on the back of Kuroba's coat, he stepped between her and the creature when Kudo had shouted the alarm.

Somehow that makes me feel better. A little bitter, but better. At least I know he'll protect her.

The Yuki no Onna sits up, her arms wrapped around the small child that was Kudo. Kudo's eyes are furious as he looks at the shattered remains of the creature, whether he's furious at the attack or at himself for not being able to defend against it is impossible to tell.

"Is everyone alright?" Kuroba asks reaching back to wrap a protective arm around Aoko's shoulders. To my surprise, she doesn't argue the familiar treatment, and instead wraps an arm around him too, in a casual loose embrace.

"I'm fine." Aoko assures him. "Ran?"

"Fine." The Yuki no Onna assures her. "Shin'ichi?"

Kudo remains tense a second longer, then lets out a sigh, the tension easy from his small body. "Yeah. I'm fine. I'm sorry about the mess, Kaito. You didn't even get a chance to talk to your father about the men who killed him."

"Yeah." Kuroba lets out a regretful sigh of his own, staring at where the spirit of his father had been not a minute before. "Is he-?"

"He's still here." Kudo assures him, looking frustrated with himself. "I'm sorry, I can't-"

"It's alright." The thief cuts him off with an easy grin. "I got to see him again. That's all that really matters."

"WE got to see him again." Aoko corrects with a bit of a tug. "And maybe... if you're willing... we can see him next year-?" She asks shyly.

Both Kudo and his girlfriend nod, looking pleased. And the tension in the air between the two couples disappears.

"Yeah. I'd like that." Kudo agrees.

"Well, now that that's settled..." Kuroba rubs his hands together, grinning like the maniac I'm familiar with. "Since it is O-bon, ordinarily I'd say lets go join in the dancing. But, since Tousan is still around, and he was never one for tradition, why don't we move to a more private location and have ourselves a small party? I'll supply the entertainment if Ran-kun supplies the shaved ice!"

The girls laugh, as was intended and they gather up the brazier and the incense. The guys are on edge the entire time, constantly looking around for more attacks. The girls seem to pick up on this and what little they had is packed up in no time at all.

Kudo suddenly yawns, looking exhausted. The transformation between his larger form and the smaller must drain his resources incredibly. For a second there, he looks like a sleepy little kid.

-With bat wings.

Ran picks him up, resting his head on her shoulder, looking the part of a concerned older sister again. He muffles a protest, then is asleep. Kuroba and Aoko give her a 'aww, how cute' grin, and she blushes. Kuroba snickers, then closes his eyes for a moment and concentrates.

If I wasn't watching and aware, I would have never recognised the small group when he opens his eyes again. Whatever other faults I may find in Kuroba, I do have to give him credit for casting some damn fine illusions. Gone are their inhuman features, in their place is just another group of friends or family, heading home to put the littlest one to sleep.

Aoko and Ran smile at each other, chattering softly as they head down the trail, Aoko leading the way with sure steps. Kuroba follows, watching their backs with an amused look.

Then he turns and looks right at me, like he knew I was there the entire time. I stare back at him in shock. He just grins and winks, inviting me to join them with a friendly toss of his head.

I pause for a split second, then shake my head.

He shrugs and waves, somehow expressing 'Maybe later' and 'Thanks for your help' in that one easy motion. Then he's gone, trotting down the path to spend O-bon with the ones he cares about.

Watson makes a puzzled sound, or at least as puzzled as a sound as a falcon can make. I have to agree with him.

I rise and brush myself off, removing leaves and twigs from my clothing and hair before wandering toward the creature that Watson had killed.

It's ugly, what ever it was. Half of it is still solid and whole, the rest of it is shattered like so many pieces of fine china. Watson's attack shouldn't have shattered it as such. I pick up a stick and poke it.

The remains are frozen. During the confusion, the Yuki no Onna froze it, then Watson hit it, smashing the brittle body and killing it. Or maybe it was dead before Watson hit it, that would account for the Shinigami's sudden transformation.

What ever happened, it was an un-planned yet surprisingly well coordinated team effort. And it was most likely a good thing for whomever sent it that we did kill it. Shinikami, especially the more violent ones summoned for killing, often turned on their 'masters' when an assassination attempt failed. We did whomever it was a favour.

Not a pleasant thought.

And it had been most definitively aimed at Kudo. Or at least his larger form, there had been no sign of danger until he transformed. The Shinigami had obviously done something in the past to piss someone off. Someone powerful.

Just as Kuroba's father had done something in the past to encure the wrath of someone powerful enough to kill a full blooded youko and make it look like an accident. Also not a pleasant thought.

I pull out a plastic baggie from a pocket and wrap up a piece of the frozen corpse. Then put the sealed bag into a silk bag for protection. With a bit of luck, I might be able to track down whoever sent this.

I am a detective after all. And it's my job to catch those that break the rules.

Such as the Kaitou Kid, and those that are much, much worse than him.

Something that is much easier to do if I watch, and wait, from the outside.


Hakuba is long winded and uses big words... #^^# Still think he's a pervy kaitou fancier.

Kekkai: Barrier/Sheild.
Yukata: Summer lightweight Kimonos.
Bonodori Dances: Traditional dances that mimic picking rice, threshing wheat, digging, etc, etc,. It's to calm and please the spirits of the dead on their visit.
Shikijin/shikigami: Am onmyouji/scorcer's familiar or companion. The form and how powerful they are depends on the onmyouji.
Onmyouji/Onmyo-ji/Onmyo-Shi: Person using onmyoujitsu, a form of Taoist yin-yang magic. Examples are Subaru & Seishirou from Tokyo Babylon/X and Tsuzuki from Yami no Matsuei.
Most Onmyouji can only control one to two Shikijin at a time. Abe no Seimei, known as the most powerful Onmyouji ever was rumoured to be able to control 12 at one time.

Yes, Kaito was using playing cards as ofudas. Makes sense, ne?

The favour Shin'ichi owed Kuroba is because he hid Kaito's hat under Aoko's window in 'Midnight', thus resulting in Aoko finding out that Kuroba is the Kid. Which is a good thing/bad thing, seeing as she wasn't supposed to know.

Heh. Poor Conan. Every time he changes back to Shin'ichi in my fics, something tries to kill him!!!

Voices have decided that Shin'ichi and Kuroba are second cousins. Toichi, Kuroba's Dad and Shin'ichi's mom are cousins. So Shin'ichi and Kaito have the same Great-Grandparents.