File One Hundred and Thirty-Eight: Not Anymore
Her phone wouldn't stop ringing, blearing against the silence and demanding a response she sadly couldn't provide. It had not been her choice, nor was it a deliberate expression of disdain for the caller ─ whose identity she could sort of predict without even needing to look at her device, safely tucked in her pocket.
Ai's fingers stretched forward, further than what they normally could, reaching for the ladder truss. But no matter how hard she tried, they wouldn't even graze the metal coldness, leaving the girl to grit her teeth, fighting to balance herself atop the edge of the rail she had climbed on.
The memory of her friends' smiling faces from inside a gondola in the Ferris wheel, which she had caught a glimpse of minutes before getting up there, was probably the only thing moving her forward. She had to get them away from here, for that they were in a ridiculous amount of danger that they remained oblivious to.
Maybe for the eleventh time today, the ringing died down. She promised herself that she would answer next time, provided that she managed to get herself in a slightly safer, stable place for it. But for now, she had to hurry.
I have a bad feeling, the thought rang in her head, not for the first time today. I'll get those guys away from here.
And then, I'll deal with that idiot. Before it's too late.
Which, she should have known, was better said than done. All it had taken was lifting her head, and a glimpse of a figure of a woman standing somewhere above her, her beautiful white hair pulled back by a strong breeze. The woman gracefully jumped down, and naturally, Ai found herself backing away completely out of instinct ─ neglecting the fact that there was nothing but a couple hundred feet tall fall awaiting her there.
By all means, she should have died back there. Should have succumbed to gravity and given out her last breath before she had the chance to scream, mentally smiling at the irony of actually passing away on her birthday. Though, then she would probably have to remind herself that it wasn't all that rare, that people died on their birthday fairly more often than expected, then amaze herself at the wonders of finally being somewhat normal at the very end of her days.
None of that actually happened.
Her head jerked back up, and was thus bewildered to see a pair of mismatched eyes fixated on her, glimmering with something akin to determination. She was holding onto her wrist, refusing to let her fall but, despite the heroic nature of those actions, Ai found herself frowning.
"What?" she snapped. "Are you going to take me to them?"
"Them?" Curaçao echoed. "Do you mean the Organization?"
Of course, her memories had returned. That look she now held on her face, sharper than what it had been before, had already told her that much.
"Are you… Sherry?" Curaçao suddenly realized. "That who betrayed the Organization."
Ai failed to respond, too busy narrowing her eyes at the potential danger that had presented herself in front of her. Not only a danger to herself, which was given, but for everything and everyone she had came to know and love.
In retrospect, falling to her death might have been better.
Curaçao's grip on her tightened, and Ai knew it was time. Time for everything to end.
But all the woman said was, "Let's escape from here." Bamboozled, the girl found herself blinking, too dumbly for the situation at hand. "It's not safe here."
That much, she knew. For the wrong reasons, apparently.
"What do you mean?" She frowned further if possible. "If it's a bad joke, stop it-"
"Gin is coming." As per usual, her breathing hitched and stopped just at the mere mention of that one name. "You know what that means, right?"
Again, Ai knew that much, too. She did not need to be told about it twice or required any explanation. Gin himself represented Death – if his name was dropped, things were bound to go wrong at some point.
Yet, that did not explain everything. Several questions remained, stumbling with one another within her head, shoving each other in hopes to be the one freed to the real world.
But only one of them won out at the end. "Why me?"
"I don't know," replied Curaçao, honest, for what might as well be the first time in her life. "I don't know why I helped you."
For a fleeting moment, Ai caught her eyes drifting away from her face, as if contemplating something far off her reach, or her own sight. Within that brief moment, however, something had changed. Her eyes had softened, and her once sorrowful face lit up with the glow of a distant memory that only she could see.
"But I'm Curaçao, who can take on any color," she declared. "I feel better about myself now than I did before. That's all."
With that, she effortlessly pulled the little girl back, gently settling her on the ground. Her hand lingered on her shoulders, a soft smile caressing her lips at the blatant display of bewilderment Ai wasn't able to conceal.
"Let's go, Sherry-chan," said Curaçao, and began to walk again.
Waking up from her stupor, Ai took a step forward.
"Wait!" she yelled, causing the woman to turn again in confusion. "My friends-!"
And then, she was able to see the widening of those different colored eyes, horror shaping her every feature as she came to learn the situation from her.
First, there was darkness ─ a deep and all-encompassing darkness that seemed to go on forever. Back and forth, Conan allowed his gaze to flicker, twirling around, stumbling on his own feet, desperately searching for anything that could tell him where he was, something that could be seen, but all he was met with was a black void, empty and cold.
But then, there was light. A faint glow, growing stronger with each second that passed by, had him looking up, and to his surprise, he found a single star, chasing the shadows away. He found himself losing on its alluring brilliance, but despite everything, a frown crawled up in his features.
That's Polaris, he thought, dipping his head forward. Then, what's left is…
His ears caught up with a sound, not unlike that of wings, flapping as their owner took flight and soared the sky. As in on cue, a sudden gust of wind suddenly tossed his hair around, gently caressed his cheek, reminding Conan of feathers ─ raven black feathers, for some reason. His mind apparently found that fitting somehow.
But then, they took the shape of long, slender fingers coming to settle onto his face. Completely out of instinct, the boy's hand rose, curling around it as if he didn't want it to let go as he lifted his head again.
Just like Polaris, more stars came out to play, the shape being one that Conan recognized as Big Dipper. They cast their light over the figure in front of him, or rather, the weak, yet tender smile that was dedicated to him, and only him. Conan's grip tightened, his mouth opened with the clear intention of saying anything, yet it had been like he possessed no voice at all.
The stars pulsated as one once, and then flickered. Just as they began to fade, the hand on his cheek began to slip; his heart skipped a beat, both of his far too small hands clutching his with all the strength they could muster. Eyes that pricked with tears went fully open, as if that would amount to anything at all.
As they finally died down and his surroundings faded to black, he felt his hand finally slipping away from him. But even then, just before his reality crumbled into pieces, Conan noticed something, standing somewhere in the distance.
Surrounded by the darkness of a moonless night, Conan saw a vivid red tower before his surroundings faded in a deep shade of scarlet.
And then, with a sharp gasp, everything flicked away from existence.
Conan found himself blinking, slightly disoriented, unable to explain what had just happened to him, why he was suddenly lying down on the ground, a strange, dull pain spreading throughout his back. But it proved to be hard, if not impossible, when all he had was a head that pulsated with each beat of his wildly pounding heart.
A particular odor he could only associate with debris and destruction lingered in his nose, tiny fragments of glass digging painfully against his skin. Briefly, the boy wondered which kind of predicament he had gotten himself into this time, yet sadly, his mind refused to cooperate.
So, he only had his senses and limited deduction abilities to rely on, he supposed. He had the faintest of memories of riding a Ferris wheel at some point, but evidently, he was not in one any longer. If that was the case, where had it gone?
A few tired blinks later, he spotted the gondola, smashed beyond repair and rendered useless. Tucked in between the structure of what he assumed to be the Ferris wheel, long, bended, metal bars keeping it from falling over him.
Oh, I see, he dazedly realized. The window was completely shattered from what he could see from his spot. They dropped the gondola while we were inside.
Talk about bad luck, lamented Conan. Where did the others go, anyway? They should-
His thoughts skidded to a halt, a flicker of realization crossing his face. There was something else beyond that he had failed to sense before, but now he felt, with astounding clarity, cushioning the back of his head.
That much had his eyes opening slightly wider, but the realization of a certain warm weight on his stomach prompted his head to finally turn to his side, cheek pressing itself to someone else's arm.
Under his head, and resting comfortably over his belly were hands. In front of his gaze, however, was a face, smoothed out and vacant of any expression. Eyelids gently closed over, eyelashes brushing lightly against his cheeks, making no sign of fluttering open.
Haltingly, Conan sat up, taking on the few cuts and bruises that covered his arms. An extended hand and panicked expression made it to his mind unprompted ─ his last memory before blacking out. Did he shield me from the fall? wondered the boy, frowning to himself.
Irritation filled his chest, bubbled past his throat in the form of a groan. Of course he did, that idiot, he thought as he sat on his knees, moving closer to check him over.
Hadn't he told him not to overdo it? Several times, in fact, and the result hardly changed at all. He sighed to himself, running a hand through his brother's hair in search of any injuries. He would have to talk with him again, decided the boy ─ it wasn't fair. Why was it always like it? Conan could certainly take care of himself. There was no need for him to keep protecting him all the time-
Conan froze suddenly, and only snapped out of it after another heartbeat when he, ever so slowly, retired his hand from his brother's scalp. His breathing hitched to a stop at the sight of the red hue that his fingertips had acquired.
Even though his lungs had long forgotten what their job was, the boy's body jerked back into action, carefully, if haltingly, moving his head to have a better view, once tucked against the floor and concealed from his notice.
He didn't fight the sharp gasp that overtook him, eyes gradually opening until they were at full capacity, as if to take in all the sight that met him.
Tracing down his temple, smudged all across the side of his face and falling over his eyelid, the young boy saw that one color he had long learned to hate. Conan saw red ─ that deep, scarlet red inherent to blood.
Oh, God, no.
Panic seized his chest and spread through his limbs like a jolt of electricity, overriding any conscious thought or command of his nervous system as a whole. His throat felt scratchy, but he partially had a notion of even having used his voice at all, and his hands were on the move again, fingers clinging to his shirt like hooks.
Yet none of it mattered. All he could focus on was the head that lolled uselessly from side to side as he desperately tried to shake him awake, the eyes that wouldn't open no matter what.
Until they did. Just a cautious peek at first, accompanied by that scrunched face that only spoke of discomfort and pain, until they opened fully, fixated on the boy that had suddenly gone rigid with shock, his hands still clasped into little fists on his clothes.
Eventually, he deflated with a sigh, all but collapsing into a heap over him, not to move again. Surprised and concerned in equal quantities, the teenager shot into a sitting position.
Until he realized that the boy was absolutely conscious, just unwilling to move his face from where it had landed on his chest. A hesitant hand came to set itself in between his shoulder blades, taking into the slightly quivering feel underneath.
Despite himself, a faint smile rose on his face. "I'm sorry for scaring you," he said.
"I wasn't scared," came the reply, muffled by his clothes. "But don't do that again."
"What, protecting you?" asked Shinichi, raising an eyebrow. "I'm your brother."
Conan raised his head and settled him with the plainest look possible. Though Shinichi could sense some animosity on it.
"Sorry, but I don't make the rules," joked Shinichi. "I'm legally obliged to it."
"Under which jurisdiction?"
"Oh, okay. Then, under your jurisdiction, what would charges look like for an eight-year-old child committing fratricide?"
"For starters, I think that knowing what fratricide means should legally disqualify you as a child."
Conan shook his head. Even if there was a way to reply to that, he wouldn't have had the chance either way.
A metallic squeak crossed his ears, completely erasing the slightly amused smirk that had crawled up into his features. His eyes continued fixated on his brother's, and both sets started to widen in perfect synchrony, before they both slid over to the source of the sound to realize, much to their shared horror, that the gondola lost its balance, sliding with a horrible screeching noise, threatening to crush them to death.
Conan jumped onto his feet almost instantly, running off at full speed away from its way, and surely Shinichi did not need to be told twice to do the same.
Against what he would have expected, or what he would have considered rational behavior, his little brother skidded to a halt. Confused and exasperated, Shinichi twirled back around, ready to scream to him ─ because what was he doing?! Did he have a death wish or something? ─ but suddenly, everything made perfect sense.
With no regard for the massive gondola above his head, promising a slow, agonizing death, Conan crouched over a certain figure that Shinichi had not noticed before, sprawled onto the concrete. A focused frown drew itself onto the little boy's features, throwing the fallen man's arm around his neck, his face scrunching as he struggled to drag him away from danger.
Cursing lightly under his breath, the teenage detective darted towards them.
By the time it finally crashed, their legs had already given up, watching as debris rose with a deafening sound. Ragged breaths wracked their form from where they sat, a still unconscious PSB agent lying in between them.
That was close, was everything that Shinichi could think about, though he could infer his little brother could completely relate. Not enough, his mind complemented immediately, taking the rather noticeable pounding of his heart against his ribcage as the ultimate evidence for it ─ he hoped that he would relate a bit more, or at least, be considerate enough not to give him a cardiac arrest for all his stupid stunts. There was so much his heart could take as it was.
A hand went to press against his temple, wondering if his little brother was also to be blamed for his exponentially growing headache, or the concussion he had definitely gotten himself.
So, all in all, he thought he couldn't be blamed if he scowled right as the boy raised back onto his feet. "What now?" he asked, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
Conan didn't even look at him, mostly interested in his surroundings rather than himself. "We should be half-way from the top," he informed him. "It's dangerous here. Take him to level ground."
'Him', of course, meant to the unconscious man they had risked their lives to save. Shinichi raised an eyebrow at the outrageous request ─ if that could be considered a request, in any case.
"What about you?" he asked, his frown deepening.
Not that it seemed to have any effect on him. "For all intents and purposes, I'm only a child. Yes, even in your jurisdiction." Conan shrugged. "You can't expect me to carry him all the way down-"
"You know this isn't what I'm talking about."
He averted his gaze even further after catching his figure by the corner of his eye, standing back onto his feet to face him fully, and grant him with that one look he couldn't afford to meet yet. Though his silence alone was loud enough, communicating everything without needing to open his mouth.
"Akai-san should be here," muttered Conan, fists clenching and unclenching repeatedly. "He can protect me if things go south."
The lack of response hardly surprised him at all. In fact, any other kind of reaction would have taken him off guard, so he wasn't sure what he had been expecting at all. It was clear he did not agree to it, that he did not like it one bit.
The boy's eyes flickered over to his older brother, finding themselves caught by the red trail framing the side of his face. He bit his lower lip, averting his gaze just as swiftly as it had fallen onto him.
"You'll get in the way," he said, his voice perpetually calm despite everything. "And you possibly have quite the concussion there."
Shinichi stiffened at that, but Conan forced himself to ignore it.
"I'm going to help, whether you like it or not," continued Conan, his features hardening with a deep carved, determined frown. "Even if you went to chase after me, you'll only make things worse. Just so you know."
For a beat, everything went silent. Since the boy refused to look at his brother again, it made it hard to draw conclusions, to deduce how those words had settled with him. Even though he had quite a good idea of it.
"You know to hit where it stings, huh?" Shinichi replied after a while, a hint of an indecipherable feeling in his tone ─ amusement or frustration, it could be any of them, actually.
Just in case, the boy remained frozen in silence, unbudging from his spot. Soon enough, a sigh reached Conan's ears, followed by a dejected, "I'll drop him off somewhere." It had the boy blinking, confusion filling every corner of his face and soul alike. "But I'll return real quick."
Before long, the meaning of his words dawned on Conan's mind, a bright smile sparking into life as they finally did. "Not if I finish with this before you get the chance to," he said, a trace of a teasing tone decorating his voice.
Shinichi rolled his eyes, crouching over the PSB agent. With some effort, he heaved him up, settling him in a more comfortable position to be carried over to safety. He didn't try to glance over at his little brother again, taking a few careful steps away from where the real fight was taking place.
He picked on the sound of Conan's feet tapping the floor as he hurried his way right into it, and allowed his eyelids to drift close ─ regretting, with every corner of his being, even agreeing to this madness.
Though he was aware, no matter how blunt, how reckless and crazy, the boy had been on the right. Not even Shinichi could stop him.
All there was left was to trust Akai to keep him safe.
And Furuya-san, his mind added on its own. He's there, too.
He shook his head firmly, annoyance crossing his face. So what? he thought. Then wondered if there was actually something wrong with his head, for him to be arguing too candidly with himself.
Conan's voice made him stop, glancing over his shoulder to where he now stood, far too quietly. Even though his mouth was sealed shut, the detective noticed, his eyes remained wide open ─ glimmering in a strange sort of way that Shinichi had trouble recognizing. As if he wanted to say something, but felt it incredibly hard to find the right words to utter.
Regardless, Shinichi waited patiently.
"It… It'll be different this time, right?" Conan finally said, his voice rising higher, louder than it had been the entire day. At his sides, his fists clenched, and took a step forward, instinctively. "Tonight… Nobody dies tonight!"
As the words resounded in the air, making their way back to him, Shinichi finally realized it. That strange sort of way his eyes glimmered wasn't all that familiar at all, but had become rather rare as years passed by.
Like a child longing for a toy he desired so badly, Conan maintained a stubborn, if pleading, gaze fixated on him ─ expectant of his actions, somewhat hopeful for the only thing he wanted to hear today, from his older brother's lips.
Shinichi managed a smile.
"We'll make sure of that."
Confusion rippled through the crowd, spreading like wildfire through the murmurs and whispers, filling what would be otherwise a quiet, nevertheless tense, atmosphere. People exchanged worried glances, parents kept their frightened children close, their features etched with perplexity.
There was a sense of unease settling over the air, straightened by the shadows that had abruptly emerged out of seemingly nowhere, that not even Inspector Megure, or his men, were able to get rid of.
Even though they were the authority ─ no matter what those people from the PSB said. They had a right, no, a need, to know the entirety of the situation in order to keep everyone safe, as their job dictated.
Megure knew he wasn't the only one in that mindset, as he could see everything clear as day, despite the lack of light ─ from the hardening of Sato's features, to Takagi's far too evident worry. He understood their feelings, better than anyone.
But for now, all they could do was to try to keep the people away from whatever danger was coming.
There was that voice, however, that made him flinch more out of instinct than anything else. A sigh clung to his throat, threatening to crawl back into the world as per usual, but he kept it in.
Of course, thought Megure. If there's a case, no matter how big or small, that guy is bound to show up at some point.
"That's a relief… I finally found you!"
So, he wasn't even a little surprised when he spotted a familiar mustache, and an awkward grin that went together with it. "Mouri-kun?" he half-asked, half-sighed. Behind Mouri, Megure noted, was Chiba, looking more ashamed and nervous than he had ever seen him, and that was quite a lot.
"I see you have a big case in your hands." Puffing out his chest, the detective gave him his signature cocky grin. As per usual, that had Megure's gaze dulling, too. "But that's okay! Now that the Great Detective Mouri Kogoro is here!"
Even the muttering and nervous whispering seemed to have faded away somewhere in the background, letting a deep, lengthy silence reign in the ambience.
"So, uh, what's the case?"
Megure wordlessly turned his attention away from Kogoro to eye Chiba. "Why did you bring this guy here?"
Again, the inspector sighed. Of course Mouri would just follow him and butt in their case, what had he been expecting?
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Mouri-kun," he began, turning around. "Come here for a second."
And thus, he led him away, averting his eyes from the curious glances his men shoot him in return. Mouri was different though, smiling to himself as he followed the inspector.
Once they were alone, though, it shifted from something so ridiculously goofy to something more serious and focused. Mouri was a true wonder, mused Megure. A wonder with good instincts, even though it wasn't easy to see at first sight.
"Now that we are alone," began Mouri, nodding his head. "Please tell me everything, Inspector Megure."
"I didn't pull aside to tell you about the case," said Megure. "I pulled you aside to let you know I'm not telling you a thing."
Mouri was confused, that much was obvious from his expression alone. He had always been like that, so easy to read that it physically hurt.
Or so Megure used to believe.
"What's with that face? I'm the police, you're a civilian," replied Megure, a hint of tension palpable in his voice. "So it will be best if you step back and let us work."
"So now you're the police," replied the man, a cold snort escaping him. "You didn't say that back when we-"
"Back when we were investigating together?" Megure completed for him. Mouri flinched. "What were we investigating, anyway? Do you remember, Mouri-kun?"
Having said that, the inspector stood there, perfectly silent, narrowing his eyes at the man who used to be his partner a long while ago ─ expectant, waiting for an answer he knew he wasn't going to get.
Predictably, Mouri's lips remained sealed shut.
"There was a time when thought relied on me." Thus, Megure took it upon himself to keep the conversation going. "A time when you were certain there was something. An imminent danger just around the corner, lurking in darkness."
Though they remained closed, Megure could certainly notice his lips pressing against each other in a thin line.
"A danger you were sure Conan-kun was in," said Megure, his voice rising just barely above the whisper it had been before. "We had leads. We were making progress."
"But all of a sudden, you weren't interested anymore. You just up and dropped the case without telling me anything." Megure's face twisted with an emotion akin to anger, to which Mouri could do nothing but to step back. "So, until you tell me what's going on, you're getting nothing from me."
Regardless of his words, or the intensity with which they had been professed, Mouri failed to respond. He was vaguely aware of the crowd roaring as one all of a sudden, the noise raising barely above his filter level. There was commotion, a figure staggered closer to him, urgency pushing them further.
However, nothing of it actually sunk in Megure's one-track mind. As it was now, all he could pay attention to was the foolish, troublesome detective in front of him.
The figure stopped right beside him. "Inspector Megure-"
"Not now, Takagi-kun."
Not when he had finally cornered this guy. Everything else could certainly wait, even though Takagi surely didn't think so, insisting, "But, Inspector-"
"Inspector Megure." A female voice joined in, firm enough to get him to glance over at Sato, his attention now drawn from Mouri to her. "They're shooting the Ferris wheel down as we speak!"
His eyes flew open in shock, and certainly he wouldn't have believed her, hadn't he been capable of seeing the spark of every shot, momentarily chasing the shadows away. From behind the curtain of dirt and rubble, Megure barely made the outline of a colossal helicopter surrounding the site.
Stepping back, the man contemplated the horrifying scene he had somehow managed to overlook for a few seconds.
Even through his shock, however, he caught a gasp coming from behind. "Ran," came out as a mutter, too, soft enough to be missed somewhere amongst the chaos.
Megure heard it, "Mouri-kun!" yet it barely accomplished anything. By the time he had turned around, the detective had vanished into the night in order to save his little girl, the light of his life.
Though he could understand it, Megure could not help but click his tongue.
It was kind of tempting to blame Conan for everything.
For real, it was his fault that she was there right now, head tucked in between her hands as she ran beside the woman who she once considered her soon-to-be murderer, doing her absolute best to outspeed the bullets that relentlessly chased after them, seeking cover of any kind.
She could have been relaxing at home right now, reading the novel that mystery freak had once recommended, a purring Irene warming her lap. Or she could be down in her basement, savoring a cup of tea as she whipped out yet another antidote that was bound to fail anyway, but served as a baby step closer to success.
But of course not. Of course the idiot had to rush head-first into a sure death, had the nerve to pull out that smile ─ that freaking smile ─ and profess those words that he had struck her with a long time ago. Stupid detective and his stupid infectious courage.
Granted, even though it was him who she blamed for getting into this, it was their fault that she delved even further. Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko ─ she was definitely having a talk with everyone once they were out of this.
Didn't they want to throw a mind-blowing, surprise birthday party? She naturally knew about their plans. She wasn't deaf, and they hadn't been particularly discreet about it either ─ as much as they believed themselves to be. This is the best one I have ever had.
A bullet wheezed right past her, missing her eye by an inch.
It is truly a marvelous day.
A sharp ripping sound snapped Ai out of her thoughts. Curaçao was standing up, allowing the girl to see that she had torn a portion of her skirt apart, with the intent of better movement, or so she assumed.
The woman had a determined gaze painted on her features. Her heart sank in realization.
"Their target is me."
Having long predicted those words made them no easier to digest. "Don't tell me…" she said, suddenly out of breath. "Are you going to act as a decoy?" She did not wait for her answer, jumping to her feet. "Don't go! You'll be killed!"
However, she knew. She had seen that kind of resolve before, in so many people that she had lost count, so she was aware of how much of a lost case it was. No matter what she did, Ai was aware that she couldn't keep her from turning away from her, stepping into the front ─ the tip of her feet peeking out into the abyss beneath.
But just before jumping out, and disappearing from her sight, maybe forever, the woman's lips parted, and whispered into the wind.
"There are more of us." She turned to peer over her shoulder, and Ai was able to see the shadows had dispelled, dissolving upon the light that brimmed from her eyes. "Please save them, Sherry-chan."
"Haibara Ai," instinct brought forward her answer, rolling from her tongue before she could help it. "I'm not Sherry any longer."
The woman accepted her words with a nod, and yet another warm, sincere smile. In a blink of an eye, she was gone, leaping from one place to the other so quickly that her eyes barely caught with her movements.
So, she stalled, for a moment more than necessary. Her face scrunched into a frown, nodding to herself ─ it wasn't the time to be idling around. She needed to find everyone.
Just before leaving, however, she impulsively rushed forward, coming to a stop at the very same spot the woman had been before, and took a deep breath.
Against her better judgment, or everything she considered rational behavior, she cupped the sides of her mouth, and took a deep breath.
"You aren't Curaçao either!" she screamed into the void, her face flushing at the effort. "Not anymore!"
And hoped against hope that her words had somehow found their way to her.
While it had been within Conan's expectations for things to go awry so quickly, he had not really anticipated that they would break havoc immediately after parting ways with his older brother. He had overestimated himself, clearly, as he had believed he could, at least, get to Akai before things turned out like this. He had hoped, too, that Shinichi could have made it all the way down by that time.
But those people waited for no one, certainly not for him or his childish desires. And now, as he huddled against a corner to shield himself from the rapid firing of a helicopter, Conan had to fight the haunting sense of déjà vu that had crawled up his back, wrapping his neck like a snake eager to smother him.
It was as the universe conspired to replay his most terrifying memories. That of him, hugging himself, curling into a tight ball atop Tokyo Tower as he sobbed, like the small child he was. A child that had lost everything precious to him.
But it's different this time, Conan assured himself. Because nobody has died yet.
And nobody will. He had sworn upon it himself. Not tonight. His brother had promised him, and to date, he had never broken a promise.
And certainly, Conan had to keep on his word, too. He wouldn't be a casualty either, or that would make him a liar ─ a nastier liar than he already was.
A hand slid inside his pocket, curling around its contents.
He had something else he had to do tonight. He wouldn't let this hinder him from it.
Which was much better said than done. The slightest of movements earned him a rain of bullets and had him flushing against the bit of wall that had survived the catastrophe.
Thus, he kept still. Keeping himself alive was a priority, after all.
Yet, it wasn't as if he could stay there, doing nothing but to sit there waiting for them to cease fire, so he needed a plan. There had to be a way, thought Conan, for him to escape unnoticed. At least, until he could meet with Akai, so that they could whip out a plan of contingency together.
He didn't need to, however. As soon as the attack had started, it had stopped, leaving the boy blinking in space, in utter confusion. Soon, he realized that he could still hear the shooting.
They hadn't stopped the attack, they just had changed targets.
Conan tried his best not to think about it.
It was his chance, too, possibly the only one he would ever get. So, he broke off in a run, climbing through the debris and bits of broken metal, until he found him.
Across a gap in the broken flooring, Conan saw Akai. It had been a while, mused the boy, since he had seen him like that ─ out of his disguise, a rifle tucked in his grasp.
"Are you injured?" Akai asked, and Conan shook his head. "Hide. I can still hear the sound of rotors."
And Conan did, doing the best he could manage in his situation.
"Have you met with Shinichi-kun yet?" asked Akai.
"Sure did," replied the kid, a hint of annoyance sipping on his tone. "He's taking an injured man all the way to the ground level, and told me he's coming back up soon."
A frown took over his face, crouching down like he would often do while activating his shoes ─ but he didn't, as it wouldn't have done much to help in any case.
"The idiot probably got himself a concussion," the boy added. "Let's finish this before he comes back."
"Roger." Akai smirked, nodding. "The fact that they have launched a direct attack means that the bombs were successfully disarmed, so it's possible."
Conan's eyes grew wide. "There were bombs, too?"
"They planted several bombs between the axle and the wheel," replied the man. "That was probably their Plan B, in case they failed to retake their comrade…"
"So they switched to Plan C. Right away." Though simply shooting the entire thing down did not feel planned at all, if you asked Conan. "It's a good thing you were there, then, Akai-san."
Akai gave him a look he did not expect. Then it fell on him that the man mentioned that a direct attack meant the bombs were disarmed, so it couldn't have been him. Then, could it have been his brother?
No, that was unlikely. Disarming a bomb was no easy feat ─ he knew, because he had been on the other end of it a couple of times in the past, and he wasn't exactly fond of those memories. In order for Shinichi to have enough time to solve that problem and climb up the gondola searching for him in so little time, his bomb-dismantling abilities had to be supreme, borderline superhuman.
So, who was it?
Akai was frowning at the dark, almost impeccably faint outline of the helicopter. "All there's left is to figure out how to get them…"
"Is that rifle just a decoration?"
That third voice, coming from somewhere above him, truly threw him aback. Confused, and startled all the same, the young detective raised his gaze and was shocked to see a platinum blonde head peeking down at them, his face scrunched in a scowl.
"F-Furuya-san?!" he shouted, unbelieving.
Though he would later reflect on it and realize it shouldn't have been so surprising, as he had already known the PSB was involved from the very beginning. Akai had also helped him escape, so he was free to come here and involve himself in this battle. It had been obvious.
Furuya ignored him completely. He leaned forward, almost bending over the rail as he yelled, "Is there no way to fight back, FBI?!"
In doing so, Conan caught sight of a large bag he carried over his back.
"There is. However, my night vision scope has gone bad." Akai looked down at his rifle. "I can use it for this normal scope that I had in reserve, but I can't shoot down a big iron dark crow with this."
Conan's head perked up at that, his attention solely focused on Akai's explanation. He told him, and the man above ─ trembling with rage at the mere sight of the person he despised the most ─ that there was a way, if he got a good aim at the rotor.
"If we could manage to change the angle of the aircraft and still get five seconds of light around the rotor…"
Light, repeated on Conan's head, and immediately saw hands within his head. Large, shaped by minor burns and healed scars from past failed experiments. They were holding onto something, something precious, offering it to his own bewildered eyes.
Conan's hand gently settled on his belt. "I can do it," he said. "But I need to know the rough outline of the aircraft around the rotor-"
He hadn't stopped his words on purpose, they just cut off on their own, spooked by a loud explosion, followed suit by several others. The Organization had struck again, but this time, they were directing their attack to the axle of the wheel, letting those few explosives that still remained in place go off.
Not for the first time, Conan cursed in a way that Ran would definitely frown upon. He squinted his eyes, but nothing ─ he still could not tell, for the life of him, where to shoot.
"You just need to know the rough outline, right?!"
Conan had no time to answer, as Furuya had already acted upon his words. With a small cry, the PSB agent had thrust his mysterious package into the air, with enough strength to send it flying nearby the helicopter.
And then it exploded, allowing the silhouette of what Akai had once called an iron crow to imprint himself on Conan's retinas.
He wasted no time. His eyes narrowed, the familiar faint cracking of electricity crossed his ears as he activated his shoes.
Once again, he settled a hand over his belt.
"I created this for Ai-kun." The Professor's downcast gaze appeared suddenly in his memories, glinting in a way that, even now, the boy was unable to decipher. Maybe there was a bit of frustration, maybe resignation. Conan wasn't sure. "It was supposed to be a surprise for her…"
No, that wasn't right. It was disappointment ─ he had known from the moment he had accepted the gadget. He might have been looking forward to seeing the face of that one little girl as she witnessed the beautiful show he had prepared for her. The present he had worked so hard into.
Thank you, Professor, he had said then, and he was repeating it right now. All of your work… Your feelings…
I won't let them go to waste!
And soon enough, every shadow in sight receded in fright. Light and color rose anew, painting the once darkened sky as its own canvas. The sight was one to behold, one that Conan could not bring himself to avert his eyes from.
As the shot was made, with astounding accuracy, and the helicopter swayed in the air as a result, the child could not help the tiniest of smiles to crawl to his face. It seemed like that had done the trick, and everything would go back to the way it had been supposed to go from the very beginning.
The light had yet to die down, but Conan did not mind that at all. Such a beautiful sight, thought the boy. It was hard to believe that was something that careless professor had made with his own hands.
Looks like we weren't the only ones working hard on this day…
I hope they reach her. Your feelings.
Somewhere, in a gondola far away, a group of frightened children looked up at the sky, their eyes widening, for the first time since they got themselves into this nightmare, in awe at the sight that awaited them.
A certain strawberry blonde walked just a step closer to the window, her teal eyes fixated on the rain of color that fell above their heads, her breath taken away.
At first, she wasn't sure of what had happened to her. Once again, her memories eluded her, slipping from her fingers the moment she thought she had finally seized them, scattering in the air as if it was nothing but sand, leaving everything behind.
All there was left was the distinct feeling of pain flaring through every cell of her body, an insufferable burning concentrated somewhere in her abdomen.
And darkness. How could she forget? Her one and only partner, faithful like nobody else before ─ not that she was certain that she had ever experienced something akin to betrayal. A strange feeling settling on the pit of her stomach rebelled in response, that she remained incapable of explaining.
"Curaçao, you have no color." She did remember that voice, however. It was drilled into her head, staying afloat despite the sea of confusion flooding her brain. "You only have pure black darkness."
That was about right, mused the woman, wondering how come she had failed to recall that one name that had been picked for her. She was Curaçao, an excellent agent of a criminal organization, whose soul had long lost its colors. Curaçao, just, Curaçao.
"You aren't Curaçao either!" yet, her mind screamed back, desperation audible in a voice too young to be recognized as hers. "Not anymore!"
But it was as if it had been hers. In a heartbeat, everything else had stopped at a standstill, frozen at the question that, for the first time from what she could remember, crossed her mind.
Who am I?
And then there was color. A bright blue sky extended over her, fluffy clouds lazily floating by under the sun. It warmed her cheeks up despite the chilly breeze caressing her face, stealing a single smile out of her.
Then, everything blurred away in an instant, spinning motion. Her feet, smaller than what she remembered them to be, left the ground. Strong, yet gentle, hands were lifting her up and twirling her around.
"You are my special little girl." A gentle voice resounded through, pricking at her eyes for some reason. "Painting everything in bright, beautiful colors as you walk by…"
In front of the little girl's wide eyes, she saw bright blue, sparking in a loving gaze dedicated to her, and only her. They twinkled in joy as she let out a squeal she didn't remember letting out, lips curved in a warm smile that her heart skipping a beat, a pang of nostalgia striking suddenly.
And as the woman continued to spin her around in joyous playing, Curaçao found herself pulling out the brightest grin she hadn't thought she could manage.
No, she reminded herself. I am not Curaçao.
"Never forget it, my little…"
She saw lips moving, but her voice was muted. But she didn't need to hear, because she remembered now. And she wasn't about to forget again.
Before she could even finish her thought, her sight went pure white ─ the woman's features blurring as the light became stronger, until there was nothing else left. Dazed with pain that had returned at full force, her eyes fluttered open, squinting as she waited for the world to reassert itself.
Icy blue welcomed her to reality, a strange sense of familiarity lingering until she realized the shade wasn't the same, the angle wasn't quite right, marking a disappointing, yet strong, difference between what she had seen in her dreams.
That's right, she thought, grimly. There's no way I'll see it again.
The person crouched next to her frowned, moving a little closer. "Please, don't move," he told her, his tone remarkably firm. "You're injured."
Even the faintest of chuckles sent a spike of pain throughout her body. "I'm dying, aren't I?"
"It appears that it missed your vital organs," he informed her. "You still got a chance… Provided we get you some medical help."
Not even daring to move, the woman carefully studied the person tending to her, and slowly came to the realization that he was only a teenager. Not an ordinary, unfamiliar one, either ─ she had seen him somewhere in the past, realized the woman.
"You…" she mumbled. "You are…"
"Kudo Shinichi, detective." Shinichi smirked, brimming with confidence all over. "Or Singani. That's a name you're more likely to recognize."
Realization was blinking in her eyes, widening somewhat.
She breathed out, yet what left her lips right afterwards was nothing like what he had predicted. "You… You aren't Singani," she said. "Not anymore."
It had taken him off guard, truly, and didn't really snap out of his stupor until a pained groan reached his ears. She had tried to move from where she had been lying at her side, and surely, had come into the sudden realization of her situation.
Shinichi bit his lip at the sight that awaited. Blood everywhere, a metal pipe piercing her stomach, from side to side, cold and clammy skin soaked by sweat ─ it was hard to believe she would make it far.
It was hard to tell if she would make it through this, but shook the thought off his mind just as it popped up.
"And… And I'm not…" she managed, in between sharp, ragged gasps. Her fingers curled around a handful of soil, digging into her nails and leaving their mark. "I'm not Curaçao."
He nodded, solemnly. "You are not," he conceded. "Who are you?"
For a beat, she didn't move. She didn't make a single sound either ─ Shinichi's stomach clenched, under the brief belief that she had long given her last breath already.
But then, she murmured, "Ayaka."
It had been soft, but he could tell it had come from the bottom of her heart.
Thus, he smiled. "Please, hang on a little longer, Ayaka-san," he whispered back at her. "I'll get you some help."
She didn't give him an answer, and neither did the detective give her one. He raised back to his feet, standing away from the pathetic hump in the floor to take a good look around, but found nothing but a few stray vehicles, and construction materials sprawled around.
He had been half-way through his way to the ground level when he found her, curled onto herself on the cold metal platform she had landed on, looking as if she was just at Death's door. But there had been a pulse, weakly rumbling against his fingers when he went to check, and then it had become evident that leaving her there was not an option.
Maneuvering his way back with two adult people had been no easy feat, and by the time he had gotten them both away from the Ferris wheel, Shinichi was panting, his every muscle aching at the effort and his headache increasing ten fold.
He had told his brother he was coming back to him the moment he completed such an arduous task, so it was a given that he should have returned right then and there. But of course, that had been before encountering Curaçao herself, mortally wounded for motives he was not sure of yet.
Leaving her there, in plain sight, was the same as murdering her, so he decided to move her to a more secluded place and bring her some help before he could even think of returning. The construction area of the aquarium seemed like the perfect place, and it hadn't been too far away either.
So he had acted right away, hoping for the slimmest of chances that she would survive this ordeal, but as it was now, Shinichi was beginning to feel like it didn't matter anymore. Even if she had really missed her vital organs, there was a pool of blood under her, steadily growing in size as seconds passed by. That, without even considering the Organization finding her first and putting her out of her misery.
His teeth clenched. Even though he had told his brother they would work hard so this would not happen. Only minutes ago, at that.
They unclenched at the sight of light, mouth hanging open as he turned to look over to the mostly destroyed Ferris wheel. A rain of color met his bewildered sight, fireworks?
As it came to pass, a smirk blossomed back to life. I got the feeling I know where that came from, thought Shinichi. He watched as the helicopter started swaying on its flight, a bit of smoke rising to the surface as a clear indicator of what had happened.
"They did it," he whispered, both unable to believe it, and infinitely relieved. "They freaking did it."
There was a grunt, stealing his attention once more. Panic rose anew, brought forward by Ayaka, who, instead of staying put like he had told her several times earlier, struggled to get up. She managed to push herself to her elbows, but the effort left her coughing, strongly enough that Shinichi worried she would expel a lung next.
"I-It's not over…" she croaked, eyes scrunched shut because of the pain. "Gin… Gin wouldn't…"
Shinichi did not have enough time to process her words. As per her prediction, the helicopter did not leave. Too stubborn to give up, the helicopter maneuvered as well as it could, and opened fire once more, relentlessly, eager to finish the job it had once started.
If they destroy the axle, there will be trouble, thought Shinichi, incapable of processing what his own two eyes were witnessing. It will be a huge tragedy!
From the corner of his eye, the teenage detective caught a blur of white. Confused, he looked over to where the woman had once been, and to his surprise, he found no trace of her. To trace besides, of course, the pool of blood she had left behind, along a trail, that served as the only hint of what had happened to her.
Ayaka was running on nothing but pure adrenaline, and in the blink of an eye, she had dashed over to the forklift that had been left forgotten, slipping inside without a shadow of doubt.
Shinichi thought about it no further than a single second. He, too, took off running.
Hi! I'm updating a lot later than I'm used to, I know. Sorry for the wait. Things have been pretty busy for a while.
F.C. Meyer: Thank you for letting me know about those two mistakes! But, as for the thing with the handcuffs, I had some concerns about it when I was writing it but, just like you mentioned, I remembered the thing with Kazuha and Heiji and decided to just brush it off and continue like that. But then again, Haibara in canon escaped because she shrunk enough to slip past them with no trouble… Oh, well.
CherryGirl 21-6: Thank you for your concern, but everything is fine over here! Just a little busier than usual.