DISCLAIMER: I don't own Detective (Meitantei) Conan. All worship Gosho. I'm just warping them temporarily.

There are a ton of Conan fics that deal with The Beginning of the End. Well here's my version; the more the merrier. First Conan fic, multiparter, and to be honest I don't know how good this first part is. I definitely struggled with the writing style and language for this part; the others will be less... misty. Let me know if it doesn't work.

Accurate only up to volume 35, and from there my imagination fills in the blanks. References to volume ten, some spoilers if you're quick enough to catch them. The translations for my references are directly taken from rp's translations; visit her site at http://www.engray.com/randommanga/. Get her scanlations; they're some of the best out there.

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Veritas

File 1: Game Start



He runs as fast as he can with the legs and breath of a child, stopping only at the tall fence of plastic wire. Unhesitatingly he pushes his small hands against the fence and the wire creaks and yields to form a hole big enough for a small and skinny form. He squeezes through, drops to the ground to listen for a moment, and takes off running again.

He runs with purpose, knowing exactly where to go. And soon his vision finds what he had been expecting to see. He pauses, several feet away, his fist clutching a wrinkled slip of paper.

She leans patiently against the concrete wall, relaxed, her hands tucked into the pockets of her black coat, watching him without surprise. The silence lingers heavily between them, interrupted only by the occasional creaks of the metal roller coaster above them as it settles down for the night.

The words etched into the metal read, The Tropical Land Mystery Coaster.

"Let us play a little game."

Eyes slant at him, casual and dangerous. She observes him. "What is it that detective Kudo used to say before he disappeared? Like a mantra or a catchphrase. A slogan." Her tone is lazy. "I can never remember."

And now he knows as fact that she knows about him and is afraid. But he will never show his fear. He stares up at her, cursing his height, and says clearly, "There is only one truth."

I will finish you. I will end all of your games and your deceit. I will win.

"Is that it?" She looks amused and he hates her for it. "One truth..." She laughs quietly and mirthlessly. "What is truth but merely what society deems to be right? Society's line between right and wrong has blurred. How can there be only one truth?"

She does not wait for him to answer. "For there to be truth, there must be lies. Lies are necessary to truth. They go hand in hand, side by side. Truth. True. If a liar believes his words to be true, is it not truth? His own truth?"

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He knows every word she utters is deceptive, and with that knowledge he fights the confusion she brings. Think. He knows it's wrong and does not know why.

"No." He speaks suddenly, aware of his limitations, as she leans against the wall. "Truth and lies are not the same." His voice is the weak one of a seven-year-old. Think. "People create lies to hide what is true. But the truth is always there to be found, unchanging. There is only one truth."

"Ah, cool kid, that's a lovely thought. I expected no less of you. But tell me, who decides what is true and what is false?" The corners of her mouth turn up, but not enough to be called a smile. "People do. People create truth." Her expression is cold, remembering. The moonlight glints off the lenses of the glasses he knows she doesn't need.

But he doesn't need them either, and the weight of them is heavy on his face.

"People are flawed, selfish, cruel," she continues. "Truth is honesty, clarity. There is no one truth. Each person has his own truth, his own lie to exist within.

"What lies are you living, Conan Edogawa?"

"You should know." He answers with steel in his tone and bitterness creeps into his voice, though he tries to stop it. Don't reveal your weak points. "You caused them."

The smile widens. "Really." She stands straighter.

He no longer tries to hold back the threat in his tone. "You're one of them. One of the Black Organization. You've killed people." He pauses. "And I'm going to stop you."

All cards are on the table; why pretend any longer?

The eyes narrow for a fraction of a second, then she is smiling in mock- geniality once again. "So you'll try," she says, cheerful. "Yes, do try. Your sweet angel will want to help you, I expect."

His anger mounts despite himself. "Leave Ran out of it."

"Oh, that's right, I remember now. She doesn't know about your strange secret, does she, cool guy?" she says swiftly. "Lies come in many forms. More than one truth, more than one lie."

You are a liar.

"If you hurt her --" He struggles to steady his heartbeat, to remember that he is now ten years younger, that she is more than twice his size.

"You have placed her in a very compromising position," she muses. "If she really had no connection to the Organization, she would be safe. But your lie, the lie she is only vaguely aware of, has put her in danger."

"She doesn't know anything," he says quietly.

"We must not let our imaginations wander." She punctuates each word carefully. "The Black Organization only removes those who stand in its way."

"Then everyone stands in your way. Everyone who knows about you dies." He is both general and specific, emotional and clinical. "You manipulate and control people, then kill them when they're no longer useful." His unchildlike expression tightened. "They can kill you too, can't they."

She chooses not to answer. "You have choices. Live your lie and keep her safe. Follow your principles and sentence her to death."

He is silent, clutching more tightly the now-balled slip of paper.

"But there is always another choice."

He is sullen. "And what if I don't want to hear it?"

She laughs again, seemingly pleased with his disobedience. "Oh, you know it already. Whether I say it or not, you've thought of it."

"And what have I thought of?" he replies roughly, impatiently.

She gazes at him, incongruous. "You can disappear."

For a moment, the park is still.

"You can disappear," she repeats, "and be happy. With your morals and your principles and your truth, you can disappear and keep them whole."

He pushes his sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose, a learned habit. "Thanks for being concerned about my welfare," he comments sardonically, "but I'm not going anywhere."

I hate you.

"Leaving or knowing nothing would be the only ways to save yourself and the ones you care for." She is unconsciously condescending, the raven's warning of imminent demise. "The latter was blundered. The former" and she smiles almost majestically "-- is a preferable solution. You keep your precious beliefs in justice and honesty. She keeps her life."

It is his turn to smile. "You're offering me a peace settlement? I didn't know the Organization was into diplomacy."

"Use your brain, young detective. I'm giving you one irretrievable chance to quit before you lose. I suggest you take it."

His smile becomes a frown. "Stop playing games. This isn't a game."

"Are you sure about that?" The stare is too piercing. "You and I both enjoy this mental sparring. There is a certain thrill about putting your wits to the test, of seeing how far and how high you can go before you fall, finding whether there is anyone who is your equal. This is the real reason why you call yourself a detective."

He hesitates, then shakes his head vehemently. "I do like the challenge," he admits grudgingly. " But not at the expense of people's lives."

"How noble. But there would be no challenge without risk; no game without the threat of losing. Who plays a game in which everyone wins?"

She is triumphant, but echoing in the back of his mind he hears a genuine friend: 'It was my loss through and through this time!... Good job, Kudo, your reasoning was one better than mine...'

And he intones, reciting words spoken long ago, "There is no win or lose, no higher or lower. There is always.... only one truth." His frown deepens. "Truth is not a game for you to warp as you please. People's lives are not toys to throw away when you're done playing with them."

"Are we back to the mythical idea of truth?" She is unsurprised, although disappointed, and she reaches into her black coat. He visibly tenses. "You're obviously not as quick to learn as I had hoped."

She holds up her hand. Between her fingers is a small, cream-colored pill. "Does this look familiar?"

"APTX-4869," he said dully.

"Wrong," she replies. "This is the newest development of the Organization -- the antidote to that aforementioned drug. Your traitorous scientist has yet to formulate it. Of course," she adds, "it's not finalized yet. This is a test product; it will last for only seven days from the moment of consumption. APTX-4869 was not meant to be reversed."

"I know," he says dryly. He gazes at the tiny round pill clutched in her fingers, his breathing unsteady. The cure --? "And why are you showing me this?" he asks, ignoring the bait about Haibara. "To mock me again?"

Like a magician revealing a hidden card, she reveals a small vial in her palm, and carefully drops the lone pill into the clear vial. "It's not fair to play with an obvious advantage." She seals the vial's clasp and throws it carelessly to him; he blinks and catches it by reflex, dropping the note to clutch the vial gingerly.

The note flutters to the ground, and it reads, 'Find the truth where you lost it.' The note rests on the ground for a brief moment before being taken up by the air again, to disappear forever.

"Seven days," she says quietly. "Can the Great Detective win in seven days? My mind versus yours, my resources versus your own. My truth against yours. Winner takes all.

"The game starts now."



~ End File 1 ~



Began: June 3, 2002

Completed: June 16, 2002