Thanks to all my wonderful reviewers and readers! You're all incredibly awesome and incredibly patient!

"You're going on a trip? Where, exactly? And why?" Ron gave Harry a somewhat dumbfounded look after Harry called the other man into his office to explain that he was going to be out of the office for the foreseeable future. Ron shook his head in mild disbelief, realizing that this was why the weekly Auror departmental meeting had so suddenly been cancelled; he also knew that there had to be an incredibly important reason for the trip. "And I'm sure you called me in here for more than just a goodbye?"

"I'm going to Japan, actually- I'm leaving later tonight. I've already explained to Ginny that I'm having to leave on an emergency trip." Harry gave his old friend a serious look as he held up a copy of the note that the Ministry had received. "And yes, I called you in here because I'd like you to come with me and help out if you can, Ron. Mr. Shacklebolt has already approved the trip for both of us, and all the Portkey travel arrangements are already in place. Officially, we're going on a diplomatic trip to compare our countries' magical policies and procedures with one another, but off the record...well, maybe it's best if I just show you. Take a look at this note." Harry waved the note Kingsley had given him around with a bit of a deliberate dramatic flourish, glancing over at it pointedly.

As with Harry when he'd seen it, the Death Eater symbol was what caught Ron's eye almost immediately as his eyes passed over at the plea for assistance. "Is that what I think that is?" His face mixed shock and horror as he quickly stepped up to the very edge of Harry's desk so he could examine the page more closely, taking in the details of the plea for aid. Ron's eyes narrowed as he glared right back at the skull and snake before looking over at Harry, eyes full of worry and determination. "That thing could never lead to anything even remotely alright..."

Harry nodded grimly. "That's exactly why we're going over there. Japan specifically asked for help from us because they recognized the Death Eater symbol, as you probably read in their letter." He folded the note up neatly and tucked it into a drawer. "Of course, we need to be as quiet as possible about the real reason for our trip. I know I don't have to tell you what kind of panic would start in the Wizarding world if word got out that the Death Eaters seem to be trying to revive."

"No kidding," replied Ron with a nod of his head as he looked up to the ceiling thoughtfully. "I'll talk to Hermione real quick, but I sure can't see her saying no to this." He cast an angry, hairy eyeball in the general direction of where Harry had secreted the note, then returned his gaze to the Head Auror. "What time would we be leaving tonight, then?"

"As soon as we can get packed, get back here and Portkey to Japan. There's already a magical incident containment meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at the Center for Magical Monitoring- basically, Japan's equivalent of our Ministry of Magic. They're going to give us a lot more information about what's happening, and also hopefully a few places to start investigating over there." Harry tapped the top of his desk twice, near the drawer where he'd placed the note. "I don't like this at all. We need to nip what the Death Eaters are planning in the bud, whatever it may be."

Ron frowned a bit before taking a seat in one of the chairs in front of Harry's desk. "What do you think stirred the nest after all this time?" He ran a hand through his hair. "They've been awfully quiet for the past few years. Kind of strange that they're suddenly popping out of the woodwork like this."

"That's a big part of what we have to puzzle out while we're there." Harry then remembered the conversation he'd had with Kingsley earlier and decided to fill Ron in. "Mr. Shacklebolt thinks they might be looking into some ways to try and resurrect Voldemort, actually."

"Say what?" half-yelled Ron in surprise as he sat bolt upright in his chair. He gave Harry his 'Explain, please?' look as he continued to sit rigidly in his chair, Harry having now gained his full attention.

"Yeah, you heard me," began Harry with a somber nod. "He was explaining to me earlier that there's a witch in Japan who's probably the last so-called 'black witch.' I'll explain more about that to you on the way there, but long story short, she might know how to summon Lucifer, and the Death Eaters may be looking at exploiting that ability to try and bring Voldemort back."

"Are you kidding me?" Ron sounded in total disbelief. He then stood up before his serious face suddenly broke out in a wide grin. "I'll probably have to hold Hermione back from booking a flight to Japan herself once she hears about this. She'd also boot my rear clear into next month if I didn't go and help you with whatever this is, you know that as well as I do." He then stretched a little, nodding his head as he seemed to be thinking things over in his mind. "I'll go home and tell her what's going on real quick, then start packing." Ron offered Harry a goodbye wave as he threw a pinch of Floo powder from a pouch in his jacket into the fireplace, stepping in as soon as he uttered his address after the flame's color changed.

Alright. Now that that's taken care of, I'll let Mr. Shacklebolt know that Ron's very likely coming with me. I suppose I should also ask him more about who exactly we're going to meet in Japan while I'm at it, too. Probably wouldn't be the best idea to go into the meeting tomorrow totally blind about who's who over there... He pressed his intercom button, hoping to catch his secretary at her desk. "Anne? Could you please check and see if Mr. Shacklebolt has left for the day already? I need to speak with him quickly if he hasn't yet."

"Oh, he's left already, sir, but he did come by and leave you a few pages of notes. He said you'd need them where you were going." Harry could hear the question in Anne's tone. "He also mentioned that you'll likely be out of the office for a while, sir, both you and Mr. Weasely if Mr. Weasely could go."

I should have known Mr. Shacklebolt would be right on top of things, as usual. Harry allowed himself an appreciative nod at the man's efficiency before replying to Anne. "Yes, both Ron and I are having to leave on an unexpected diplomatic trip to Japan. Make sure the department doesn't burn down while I'm gone, eh?"

A hearty, lilting laugh came through the intercom. "Don't worry, sir. I'll make sure to keep things in line." Her amusement showed through in her voice as well. "I'll work on shuffling your meetings around first thing tomorrow. Do you know how long you'll be gone?"

"Not yet, but I'll let you know as soon as I have more of an idea." Harry then began tidying his office a little and packing away a few things for the trip as well, wondering just what he and Ron were getting themselves into. Whatever it was, though, Harry was determined to see it through to the end.

After Harry Flooed home to begin packing, he was greeted at the fireplace by a very worried-looking Ginny. "Ron's going to go with you, right? I don't like the idea of you going to Japan by yourself."

"Hopefully he is. He's going to talk to Hermione about it, but I'm sure she'll have no problem with it." Harry turned his head and gave his wife a reassuring smile as he headed upstairs to their bedroom, then grabbed a suitcase in order to begin packing. "It shouldn't be more than a couple of weeks, but there's really no way of knowing exactly how long this might take."

Ginny sighed and nodded as she began picking through thier walk-in closet, grabbing things for Harry. "Can you please tell me what's really going on, Harry? This seems way too rushed to just be a simple, ordinary diplomatic trip." She eyed him expectantly as she grabbed a few last items out of the closet and walked over to where Harry was packing things on their bed. "Usually there's only this kind of speed from the Ministry when it's an international magical incident."

I knew she'd figure out that something was up. Time to tell her... "You're right, Ginny. I wanted to wait until I was home to tell you everything, though." He looked at her very intently. "This has to stay between us, alright? This is top-level clearance kind of stuff."

She nodded, beginning to help tuck things into the suitcase. "Of course. Now out with it." Ginny gave him a playful smile to try and ease the tension in the room, though her eyes still showed worry in them.

"This is a diplomatic trip but there's more to it than that, just like you guessed. Ron and I are actually going over there because Japan appealed to the International Confederation of Wizards for assistance this morning." He packed a few more odds and ends into the suitcase before zipping it shut. "They also asked for the Ministry of Magic in particular to help."

"For the Ministry to help? With what, exactly?" Ginny couldn't hide the surprise in her face or her voice.

"A bunch of wizards and witches all over Japan vanishing without a trace over the past couple of months or so," explained Harry grimly. "And their only clue at all so far is a Dark Mark that was left on a wall."

Ginny reacted to the mention of the Dark Mark just about how Harry had expected, paling a little as her eyes widened in shock. She let out her breath slowly, closing her eyes to calm herself, before she opened her eyes and replied with a confident nod of her head. "No wonder Japan asked for help, then. That thing would be bad news anywhere it showed up."

"Exactly," replied Harry as he placed the suitcase by the bedroom door. "And Japan is the only country that's having people vanish, so whoever it is that they're after, they're in Japan."

"Harry? Are you ready yet?" Ron's faint voice suddenly came up from downstairs.

Harry walked over and opened the door, calling loudly downstairs. "Yeah. Be right down, Ron." He turned to Ginny and laughed lightly. "He must've Flooed in. I'll get in touch once we're settled over in Japan, alright?" He gave her a quick kiss and hug before grabbing his suitcase and heading downstairs.

"Hey! Have you seen my newspaper around anywhere? It should have been here over an hour ago, but it's not at the office door downstairs." Mouri Kogoro's voice filtered through Shinichi's bedroom door after a rather firm pair of knocks.

Shinichi sighed as he got up off the carpeted floor, carefully tucking the scrapbook of information that he'd been compiling away under his bed. He then opened the door with the somewhat refolded newspaper that he'd borrowed earlier in hand, careful to look sheepish as he held it out to Kogoro. Now to figure out a good reason for why I had this in my room, and quick. Shinichi settled on the most believable excuse that came into his mind. "Sorry. I was looking at the comics."

"Ask next time first before you take it, brat," grumbled Kogoro in a neutral tone as he took the offered paper. "I hadn't even gotten to look at it yet." The older man turned and headed into the living room, quietly muttering something indistinguishable under his breath.

"I will," replied Shinichi chipperly before closing his door and letting the child's mask he was forced to wear fall off. Ugh! That guy can be so annoying sometimes...The meitantei then found his mind jumping back to why he'd taken the paper in the first place, a frown crossing his features. He quickly ducked under his bed and pulled out the small, very well hidden scrapbook of magazine and newspaper clippings that he'd been studying before Kogoro had knocked on the door. It looks like there was another of these weird vanishings last night. That makes what, at least four or five people now in the past four or five weeks? Shinichi studied his carefully compiled collection of what information he'd managed to piece together on the odd occurrences, the frown on his face deepening as he skimmed the articles that he'd already mostly memorized. Just what the heck is going on? It's almost impossible to get any real information; even the police seem to have no idea what's going on with thier own investigations.

What really worried Shinichi above all was that the kidnappings- or whatever they were- seemed to be getting more and more frequent, with shorter and shorter spans of time in between the events. He tapped a newspaper clipping on the scrapbook page he was reading, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. It seems like the classic, steadily escalating behavior of a spree killer at first glance...but why aren't they finding any bodies? Or, well, anything at all, for that matter? That was the other thing that really puzzled Shinichi- unless the police were deliberately withholding an unusual amount of evidence from the public, there seemed to be no real leads in the cases at all. Spree killers are also usually a lot more careless than this, especially after they've started escalating. Something in his gut told him that there was something different going on here than a killer, and his gut was something Shinichi had learned never to ignore.

"Conan-kun, come on out and have some breakfast before it gets cold!" Ran's cheery voice on the other side of the door caused Shinichi to smile as he tucked the scrpabook away again. He quickly slipped into his usual outfit and put on his fake glasses, checking himself in the mirror before heading out of his room.

"Thanks, Ran-neechan!" Shinichi's stomach grumbled as the scent of natto and steamed rice hit his nose. He offered Ran a bright smile before he hopped up into his usual seat, finding his bowl of natto and rice already waiting for him on the table. Shinichi dug in eagerly, discovering that he was hungrier than he'd realized.

As he was finishing his last few bites of breakfast, Shinichi felt his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. It was also his cellphone, not the one that Edogawa Conan used. I wonder who that could be... He quickly excused himself from the small kitchen and went back into his bedroom, a little curious when the caller ID revealed that it was Hattori Heiji calling. He answered, one eyebrow cocked with puzzlement because he hadn't been expecting a call. "Hey, Hattori. What's going on?"

"Ever have one of those weird dreams that ya can't quite remember after wakin' up, Kudo?" Heiji sounded angered, and also slightly out of breath as he replied.

What in the world...? "Why are you asking me that?" Now the confusion spread, covering Shinichi's entire face. "But yeah, I know what you mean. I've had those kind of dreams a time or two."

"'Cause it feels like half th' police department down here is actin' like that all the time lately," snorted the Osakan in a rather gruff reply. "They get sent t' crime scenes an' come back swearin' they've been places their cruiser's GPS systems say they never went. Thier interview notes are awful too, an' they can't remember talkin' ta half the people they've talked ta after they're done, or they only remember parts of talkin' to people." There was an irritated huff on the other line. "It's startin' to make us look real bad."

"Um." Shinichi blinked twice, not quite sure where this conversation was going. "About how long has that been going on, Hattori? That sounds really weird."

"I can tell ya exactly when it started, Kudo. Since these stupid vanishin's here began a couple months ago." Heiji let out a snort. "People poofin' like ghosts into the night, no hide or hair of 'em at all an' no signs of violence anywhere. It's been runnin' our teams ragged." When he spoke again, he then sounded a little confused. "I've talked with ya about this before, Kudo. Don't you go gettin' all weird on me too." There was was sounded like plastic crinkling. "I've had more'n enough of weird stuff lately."

Whoa...that sounds exactly like what we're dealing with here in Tokyo prefecture, almost word for word. Shinichi's eyes widened a little as the full implications began to sink in. And what is Hattori talking about? I would definitely remember him mentioning something like that to me. "No, Hattori, you definitely haven't ever talked with me about this. Believe me, I'd remember that. Although now that you mention it, we've also been having vanishings that are almost exactly like that happening here in Tokyo prefecture-"

"What d' you mean I never talked about it with you? We talked about it just th' other day!" There was more than an inkling of fear mixed in with Heiji's anger.

OK. I need to calm him down..."Hattori, you've never mentioned anything like that to me. Do you really think I could just completely forget something like that?" Shinichi made a point of keeping his voice carefully neutral as he spoke.

It took Heiji several moments to reply, and he was much calmer when he did. "I guess not. But see now, Kudo? That's exactly what's goin' on in the department. Somethin' ain't right." There was a long sigh. "I remember havin' this whole talk with ya yesterday...or at least I think I remember it. I guess it never happened." This was followed by more crinkling. "Maybe I should come up there an' get away for a's beginnin' to really weird me out, y'know?"

"That would probably be a good idea. I'll check and see if you can come up and stay a few days, alright?" Shinichi couldn't shake a sense of urgency that he needed to get his friend out of there right that very instant.