MG: Hey everyone! I'm super excited about this one because Challenge Accepted is a multi-chapter story that I'm writing in collaboration with Shara Raizel. Shara is here on as well as on AO3. She's going to be the one posting Challenge Accepted on AO3, in case you're looking for CA there too. Say hi, Shara.
SR: Hello! We've both been so excited about writing this fic together and couldn't wait to post if for you guys.
MG: We both want to give a great big "thank you!" to Crimson Amarone for inviting us both to the Poirot Cafe Forum. This story wouldn't be here without that lovely invitation.
SR: We met on the forum and found that we had similar shipping interests and having read a lot of MG's fics, I was excited about working together with her on this project.
MG: Likewise, Shara! We really hope you all have as much fun reading this as we had writing it :)
We do not own Magic Kaito or Detective Conan. Those belong to the wonderful and brilliant Gosho Aoyama.
Kaito hit the release button for the hang glider's harness and stayed on his stomach for a minute, letting the cape settle over top of him as he lay on the roof. Nice. It wasn't raining under here. He would have cancelled the heist and spared Nakamori and the task force the misery of a chase in the storm, but the Crocodile's Revenge was only going to be in Japan for another few days. Kaito's research on the emerald had uncovered some interesting folklore. Not enough that he expected snipers to show up – and they hadn't – but enough to make it onto Kaito's list. He'd check the gem against the moon tomorrow night when the heavy clouds were gone.
It was starting to dig into his chest, though. Kaito rolled over onto his back and reached into the front of his jacket, shifting to avoid the hang glider's cross bar in the process. He pulled out the crown and let it rest on his ribcage so that the green jewel set into the front was visible. There were smaller fake jewels on either side of the center gem, exquisite etching designs on the silver crown itself and – was that a piece of paper sticking up?
Intrigued, Kaito turned the crown around and found a folded up sheet of computer paper taped to the back of the heist target. Is it catalogue information from the museum? A photo of the previous owner? An explicative-laden letter from Nakamori-keibu saying that he'll get me next time? Kaito grinned at that, imagining the inspector sitting down to write that indignant message and then throwing out a dozen copies because he'd pressed the pen down so hard it went through the paper. Gloves still on, Kaito lifted the tape up from the crown and opened the sheet.
A mixture of printed Romanized letters stared back at him, incomprehensible. Kaito frowned. It couldn't be a mistake. The crown had gotten so much attention that a prank note couldn't have been overlooked. A code, then?
A clap of thunder reminded him of where he was. Kaito tucked away the heist target and the note back into his jacket and debated whether to just break into whatever building he had landed on or try to fly among the lightning-streaked clouds. Mmm… The building it was. Kaito disguised himself as a security guard and took the elevator down to the bottom floor. He rode back to Ekoda with a bus full of people coming home from the Kid heist, and he resisted the urge to whip out the note and decipher it even though he was in public.
Actually, reading it in a public setting might be a better idea, Kaito thought. If there's a tracer in the paper, I really don't want to take it back to the house. He ended up getting off the bus a dozen stops early and changed into a police officer disguise. Kaito quietly picked the lock on the local library doors and hid the note between pages 13 and 14 of Hate Him but Love Him, A Novel in the romance aisle. It was a horribly written book with an even worse premise that had hardly ever been checked out of the Ekoda library since its initial release. It was the safest place Kaito could think of to leave it in public. After a quick trip 'round to Jii-chan's to pick up some equipment, Kaito returned to the library and broke in again. He checked that there was no tracer in the paper with his tools, but decided it wouldn't hurt to be careful and took the message and the book to one of the deserted reading corners, settling into a comfy chair.
The code didn't fit any substitution trick he tried. Then he thought the key was that the letters were in a variety of font sizes, but that resulted in nothing after he grouped those together and couldn't form any real words out of them. Some of the simpler codes he'd learned as a child reading adventure books didn't produce anything coherent either. After two hours, he set the letter on the desk under the lamp, rubbing his eyes. Then he snatched it up again and squinted at the paper as something unusual jumped out. In limited light, all of the characters looked like they were in a uniform black, but under a bright light, there were some slight differences between them. Some of the letters were lighter than others, almost like the printer had been running out of ink. There were varying levels of dark gray, though, more than could be accounted for by a faulty printing device. He grouped them by shade on scrap paper – giving him ten clusters – and started again.
Make subgroups based on font size. Rearrange letters to make English words. Put words in order from lightest to darkest fonts, biggest to smallest letters. Add spaces and punctuation where necessary and get:
You are invited to a private tea party at ten pm this Thursday on top of the Mizushima Engineering building. It is high enough that you can arrive and depart by hang glider if you so choose. I will provide appetizers and tea, but you are welcome to bring your own if you do not trust me. Again, this is a private party, so no police will be present. I hope to see you there.
The invitation was unsigned, but Kaito didn't need a signature to know who'd sent a message coded in English requesting a tea party. Hakuba Saguru. The High School detective had given an especially enthusiastic chase tonight, Kaito remembered. He'd disabled traps, dodged razor cards, and ran like nothing else mattered. Now he was inviting the phantom thief he'd sworn to capture to a private get-together.
The next morning in class, Kaito's mind was still running the same circles it had been repeating the whole night. He didn't need to rearrange any letters to know that "trap" was written all over this. The chance to meet with Hakuba, as Kid, without a heist – well, it certainly appealed to his curiosity, as it was meant to. However, Kaito was not stupid enough to overlook the very obvious possibility that this was just the next ploy in a long line of attempts to catch the Kid. Kaito could very well show up to the Mizushima building and find the place surrounded by police cars and helicopters. Things worked out better when Kaito was the one picking the location. He could plan escape routes and know which ducts connected to which rooms and set up tricks beforehand. Now, however, the building could be monitored, and even in disguises he could be photographed and tracked. There was no jewel to be gained from this, no promise of Pandora. Really, there wasn't any reason Kaito should go.
Some little part about this whole thing niggled at him, though. It was the lack of signature. If Hakuba were writing this under orders from Nakamori, he wouldn't feel the need to omit his name. However, if the note was genuine, then Hakuba was using Kid's own powers of deduction to keep himself anonymous, should anyone else discover and decode the invitation. There was very little chance that Kid wouldn't guess the sender if he deciphered the code, but the detective could easily deny to law enforcement that he'd written it. This faux anonymity, the idea that Hakuba might be hiding this from the other officers, could suggest that the offer was real.
Or was Hakuba just trying to make him think that? This was why he didn't normally hang out with detectives. The possibility of using reverse psychology or reverse-reverse psychology was always there. Hakuba was clever, despite his track record where Kid was concerned. How was he supposed to tell if Hakuba was being serious or not? It could really go either way.
Kaito stole a look over at Hakuba a few desks down. The detective was calm and unruffled, paying attention to the teacher as she explained the homework assignment. Okay, he thought, let's assume for just a moment that the note is genuine. What does Hakuba want? There was something fascinating about such a morally upright individual summoning a thief for tea and dessert. Kaito's sheer, unbridled curiosity was the only reason he hadn't immediately vetoed the whole idea. He couldn't even develop any decent theories about the purpose of their meeting. Maybe… nope, literally nothing was coming to him. And it was driving him mad. Kaito needed so badly to know that he just wanted to drag the detective off to the men's room and pick his brain apart until the blond couldn't use it anymore. Was that weird? It sounded kind of sadistic when put in those terms, which wasn't how he'd meant it at all.
No, but seriously. What did Hakuba want with a thief, besides the obvious? Well~, a persistent voice in his head reminded him for the 30th time, the only way you'll ever find out is at 10pm on Thursday. If he skipped the tea party, it was unlikely that he would receive another invitation. And then he'd never know. Real or fake, Hakuba wouldn't discuss the invitation with anyone (plausible deniability and all that). Especially not with Kaito unless he confessed to being Kaitou Kid himself –which was NOT happening. The only way Kaito was going know what Hakuba wanted was to actually accept the invitation and go to the half-Brit's tea party.
Finally, Kaito managed a few theories better than the ones that involved aliens and robots. Maybe Hakuba wants to quiz me about my civilian identity. Kaito had no problem knocking Hakuba out with sleeping gas if that were the case. Well, maybe he's planning to confess his undying love for the Kid. Heh, no. Stuffy detective. Maybe Hakuba needs help with something and can't go to the police. Ooh. Kaito knew that feeling all too well. Shit. What if I don't go and he needs help? He's an annoyance, sure, but I don't want to see him dead. He didn't hate the detective; just disliked that he was Hakuba's current target. Guess I have to go, then.
Kaito had known, since the beginning of this self-argument, that he was going to go. It was only a matter of conning his logical side into thinking this was a good idea. After all, kaitou never did what was good for them, and Kaito's inquisitive streak ran miles wide.
When Thursday night finally rolled around, Saguru was a mixture of nervousness and anticipation. He'd been covertly observing Kuroba's actions over the last two days. The prankster magician's usual cheerful masks had been in place, but Saguru had seen the tenseness that sometimes crept into the other teen's shoulders when his guard relaxed. Kuroba had been nervous and had had his eyes on Saguru when he'd thought the detective wasn't looking.
Saguru couldn't help but feel a little smug. Kuroba should have had no reason to be nervous unless he really was Kid and had received the note attached to the most recent heist target. It wasn't definitive proof, but Kuroba certainly hadn't been his usual boisterous and annoying self the day before when he, as "Kid's biggest fan," should have been celebrating Kid's latest victory. It would appear that Saguru had unnerved the thief with his invitation to tea. Heh. But the kaitou needn't fear. Saguru had no intention of going back on his word in the note. Tonight there were clear skies, unlike the night of Kid's heist, and besides the occasional routine patrol car, there wasn't a police presence in the vicinity. It was the perfect weather for Kid to use his hang glider too, and no signs that this could be a trap. Saguru had chosen this particular location because it was as accessible and escapable for Kid and he had prepared things to at least provide some sense that this wasn't going to be a trap.
Saguru cast a critical eye over the set up on the roof. The Mizushima Engineering building was the tallest building in Ekoda's industrial zone and had a rather nice rooftop lounge for its CEOs and executive employees to use on breaks and for casual social gatherings. The faux-grass lawn and potted trees created the illusion of a calm oasis in the sky while overlooking the lights of the neighboring shopping center a few blocks over. The elegant white patio furniture set seemed to glow in the light of the full moon. Saguru had painstakingly set out a well-distributed amount of lanterns to illuminate their meeting place as well as to provide enough shadows so that Kid could at least relax without having to worry about his identity behind the hat and monocle being revealed (even though Saguru was 98.9 percent sure that Kuroba Kaito was in fact the Kaitou Kid). He'd also taken care to provide a number of appetizers as promised, both English and Japanese, making sure that none of the sushi samples had fish in it, knowing of Kuroba's ichthyophobia from Nakamori Aoko. A pot of water was kept on a hot plate well away from anything that would catch fire.
After altering the arrangement of the plates holding biscuits, cookies, and cakes, Saguru took a seat and snapped open his pocket watch.
It was almost time.
Saguru was tempted to cast his gaze up at the skies, but knew that if Kid thought that this was a trap, the thief would be more cautious than usual. This meeting went against the Kid's usual routine, and was a complete role reversal in many respects. Kid was the one that was supposed to leave behind riddle notices for the police and detectives to solve and face off with them in a battle of wits over a jewel at a location of the thief's choosing. Now the tables had been turned and it was one of Kid's detectives challenging him with a coded note and destination. The irony was not lost on Saguru, but he felt that it was rather poetic in a way. What better way to call out the Kid than with a notice of his own? Saguru's lips twitched minutely as he wondered how long it had taken Kid to figure out the solution to crack his note?
Kid was choosing to be late. With a put upon sigh, Saguru poured himself a cup of hot water from the pot and selected a packet of Earl Grey tea, letting the pouches' herbs absorb into the warm liquid. When he felt that the tea was well mixed, he took a sip, eyes closing in pleasure and appreciation for the warmth of the brew and the blend of flavors on his palate, even if the hot water burned in his mouth a bit.
When he opened his eyes Kid was lounging in the chair across from him. Saguru wasn't surprised. He knew that Kid had been waiting for an opening. The thief was all about flair and making an entrance and his were either ostentatious to the point of absurdity, or so low profile that no one noticed his presence until he was right in front of the intended target.
"Good evening," Saguru greeted, setting his cup down on its saucer.
"Tantei-san," Kid nodded, his usual coy smile flashing, but showing a lot more teeth than it normally did.
Saguru wordlessly offered Kid the pot of hot water. Kid nodded, ignoring the cup at his place setting and pulled out one of his own from some hidden pocket on his person, but allowed Saguru to pour the water for him. Kid had to have been watching from somewhere and seen that Saguru had used the same pot of water for his own tea, which he'd just drank from so, logically, the water in it couldn't be drugged. Saguru then gestured to the selection of teas, coffees and hot cocoa packets, but was not surprised when Kid brought out his own packet of a particularly rich kind of hot chocolate. Kid was being predictably cautious. Saguru hoped that the thief would be less inclined to be so suspicious at (hopefully) future meetings.
They sat in silence for a few minutes each sipping at their respective drinks.
"Well, Tantei-san?" Kid demanded softly. "Why am I here?"
"You don't have to be," Saguru shrugged. "Your coming and accepting my invitation was entirely up to you."
"Let me rephrase then," Kid scoffed. "Why did you invite me here?"
Saguru aimed a level stare at his rival, doing his best to hide his amusement. "Curiosity."
"Curiosity?" Kid repeated. "About what?"
"About you. About whether or not you were as capable of solving puzzles as you are at devising them. About whether or not you would come. If you'd stay or not. If you'd be inclined to repeat the experience and have future meetings of a similar nature."
Kid was silent, his sharp violet-blue eyes piercing as they studied Saguru intently. Saguru took another calm sip of his drink, as if he met with internationally wanted criminals for tea all the time.
"…What do you mean when you say other meetings of a similar nature? I still haven't discovered the 'nature' of this particular meeting, Tantei-san."
"I'm sure you are well aware, Kid, of how hard it is to find someone that challenges you on an intellectual level. Before I started chasing you, you were practically running circles around the police at heists, even more so nowadays." Kid inclined his head, following Saguru so far.
"When I came to Japan it was with the intension and the hope of meeting someone that would challenge my abilities as a detective. Of finding an intellectual equal as well as a rival. You are both. Since arriving in Japan, I've only met two, possibly three, others that are in the same league as myself – and I don't say that to be boastful. It is simply a fact that I have a high IQ and have been certifiably tested and been confirmed as a genius. You are obviously one of those two persons, and high school detective Hattori Heiji of Osaka is the other, but his hot-bloodedness and tendency to react before taking in the situation as a whole rather… undermines his intelligence sometimes. The possible third intellectual equal is Edogawa Conan and his exponentially growing potential as a detective. It is almost frightening how sharp that boy is for a seven year-old."
"…Still don't know why I'm here, Tantei-san. Why not meet with Hattori or Tantei-kun if you're looking for someone to converse with on an intellectual level?"
"While I'm sure our conversations would be quite engaging as fellow Holmes enthusiasts, Edogawa is still just a child. And besides the obvious distance between Tokyo and Osaka, Hattori-kun and I… have a tendency to get under each other's skin, to put things politely. Ironically, I find you to be more bearable, pranks aside that is. And you challenge me in ways neither of my fellow detectives ever could."
"And the purpose of this meeting is?" Kid asked.
"How would you feel about meeting like we are now under neutral terms and conditions that we can both agree upon."
"And do what?" Kid looked intrigued now.
"Whatever we choose to do," Saguru shrugged. "Games, puzzles, riddles, converse about current events, critique Nakamori-keibu's latest rant." That last one got a snicker out of Kid.
"Are you attempting to befriend me, Tantei-san?" Kid asked, leaning back in his seat, sprawling slightly.
"Perhaps," Saguru said, allowing a small smile.
Kid nodded, gaze assessing Saguru again as he took a sip of his cocoa. "And these terms and conditions you spoke of?" he inquired.
"As far as the basic terms go, these meetings are to be of a private and confidential nature. I don't tell the police or any of my few confidants, and you don't tell any of your accomplices about these meetings or reveal any of information we may learn or share about each other. While we may be rivals, a thief and a detective, by day and at heists, at these meetings we're just two intellectuals comparing notes and matching wits. I won't try to uncover your true identity and you don't use your knockout gas or any other items in your prankster arsenal on me. Anything and everything we discuss during these meetings remains between the two of us and cannot be used against each other outside of a meeting. For instance, if I were to learn that you are allergic or have an aversion to something like, oh, say fish –" he got a narrow eyed look from Kid for that one "– then I wouldn't use that against you in a heist because that is not something I had learned outside of this meeting and I honor the agreement to keep such information classified. And the same goes for you. If you were to learn something about me, like… the fact that I like to make tea cakes or something like that, you are not allowed to make fun of me for that small personal fact during your heists and in heist notes."
"Sounds reasonable," Kid agreed, snickering. "Now about these games… I find them to be terribly cliché. You solve my riddles all the time and I had to decode your note – which I assume is going to become a trend for our meetings?"
"Correct. Each future meeting will occur after a heist. I'll leave a coded clue for you either with the heist target or somewhere on the scene in the event that I cannot hide the clue note with the heist item."
"Sounds fun. Would you perhaps reconsider the ideas of children's games like the riddles and puzzles planned for these meetings and agree to a series of challenges instead?"
Saguru cocked his head to the side and considered it. It was true that he was always solving Kid's riddles and puzzles written in heist notices and tricks at the heists themselves. "What sort of challenges?" he asked.
"We'll start out with simple ones like word and phrase games on a trial basis and see how it works and go from there," Kid grinned. "We'll have to fulfill each other's challenge by our next meeting and have proof that we completed the challenge issued to us. If one of us succeeds and completes the issued challenge by the time of our next meeting they get to ask the challenger one question and get a truthful answer in return. If someone fails to meet the conditions of their challenge, they have to undergo a penalty challenge at the next meeting."
Saguru smirked, leaning back in his seat and considered Kid's proposal. "Sounds interesting. What kind of word or phrase game are we going to try first?" he asked.
"It's a fairly simple one," Kid grinned. "I challenge you to work at least one quote from Arsene Lupin into a conversation. You need to record yourself saying it without anyone noticing as proof. Bonus points if you can work a quote in during one of your cases."
"All right," Saguru agreed, his lips pursed but head nodding, accepting the challenge. He wasn't as familiar with Maurice Leblanc's Gentleman Thief as he was with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but he did have a collection of the Lupin books somewhere in his library. Now as for a challenge for Kid… "I challenge you to use the word 'abecedarian' in your next heist notice."
"Done," Kid smirked, all confidence. Somewhere in the distance, the bell at the local clock tower that Kid had saved last year tolled the late hour. "Well, Tantei-san, I have to say that this has been a surprisingly enjoyable meeting, but it's time for all good kaitou and tantei to retire for the evening. I look forward to our next meeting, and seeing the results of our challenges. Until next time."
With a tip of his hat and a shit-eating smirk, Kid rose from his seat and disappeared behind a smoke bomb – thankfully a normal, non-knockout-gas-ridden one.
Saguru smiled with satisfaction as he rose from his seat and set about clearing away the evidence of their meeting.
SR: And that's chapter one of Challenge Accepted! Why don't we tell everybody who wrote/is writing what?
MG: I'm writing Kaito's perspective, and he wanted an even MORE complicated code than what Saguru left for him. He doesn't want me to tell you that he read that entire horrible romance novel because he needed to see if anyone would ever check the book out, in case he wanted to hide things inside the pages. He was miserable, poor kaitou. He doesn't know what "abecedarian" means, so he's in for a surprise next chapter!
SR: And obviously I'm writing Hakuba (I'm sure to those who've read any of my other DC/MK works before find this to be a big surprise, right?) He's being particularly devious right now and I know he's anticipating to see how Kid fulfills his word challenge. That was kind of fun to come up with. At first, MG and I were going to have Kid and Hakuba testing each other's wits with riddles and puzzle challenges, but I felt that it had been done before like in Icka M Chif (mischif)'s Shades of Grey series (which is totally where I found my inspiration for wanting to do this fic). So one evening I was tired after attending classes and came up with the crazy idea that Kid and Hakuba decided to challenge each other to a series of dares instead.
MG: Thanks for reading :) Please leave a review - every bit of feedback is helpful!
SR: We hope that you enjoyed and are looking forward to Chapter 2! Feel free to suggest any kinds of challenges you'd like to see out two boys go through! Until next time then!