A.N: Due to the difficulty I am having with this chapter, I have decided to post it in parts. Sorry about the long wait.
Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK or MHA.
MHA Timeline: This is set after the provisional hero license exams but before the internships.
Additional Note: I know that Tsukauchi's quirk is lie detecting, but I don't know exactly how it's supposed to work, so I made my own assumptions.
16: Quirky New Friends
(World 16: My Hero Academia)
It was a bomb.
There was a timer on it. The bright, red numbers on that face were counting down.
Still slightly disoriented from the jump between worlds, Shinichi stared at the contraption in front of him, wondering if it was real. After all, considering his experiences, hallucinating a bomb was perfectly reasonable—although he might have expected a body, if he had ever given the matter any thought. But it was still there when his thoughts focused, and the numbers were still counting down.
At that point, some people might have panicked—very reasonably so, all considered. Then that person might freeze up or run screaming from the room, inadvertently causing a panic depending on who he or she ran into outside this—whatever place this was. A more level-headed person, on the other hand, would realize that the smart thing to do was to find the nearest phone and call the police.
Shinichi would have been in this last group except for two reasons. One, there was only two and a half minutes left on that timer. And two, he had seen this type of bomb before.
And so, instead of going to search for the police, which would undoubtedly take longer than necessary considering his unfamiliarity with this place and any system of law enforcement or public safety organization they might have, Shinichi hurried to kneel before the bomb and began disarming it himself. It was just lucky all around that it was a very simple bomb.
With all his attention focused on not setting the thing off while he disarmed then dismantled it, he didn't notice the door behind him opening.
He did notice the sound of a gun being cocked. He froze. The noise was followed by a firm, male voice.
"Hands in the air and step away from the bomb."
Shinichi obeyed without hesitation. Then, with both his hands still upraised, he watched as two uniformed men came further into the room. One kept his gun trained on Shinichi while the other moved to examine the bomb. The next few minutes passed in a tense silence.
Then the officer by the bomb straightened and turned to Shinichi with a rather thoughtful look on his face. He didn't speak immediately. He just stood there and looked Shinichi up and down, assessing. Finally, he spoke.
"Did you do this?" He gestured at the bomb.
"Do what?" Shinichi asked because the question could mean two things, and answering the wrong question could easily land him in prison.
"Were you the one who disarmed the bomb?"
Shinichi nodded. The two officers traded looks. It seemed to Shinichi like neither was quite sure what to make of this situation. He couldn't blame them. He'd be pretty confused too in their shoes.
"We'll need you to come with us," the officer with the gun said. His weapon never wavered, although Shinichi was relieved to see that he had flipped the safety back on. At least it seemed they were willing to talk. That was always a good sign.
So Shinichi nodded, doing his best to look harmless and ordinary. "I understand."
The boy was…strange, thought Detective Tsukauchi. He was a teenager, basically a child, but he conducted himself with the poise and manners that one would expect from someone older. Someone used to the workings of law enforcement. He had no objections to being questioned, answered clearly when spoken to, and did not show any inclination to get angry when suggestions of his involvement were put to him. That meant he had expected them to be suspicious, which could mean that he really was involved with the planting of the bomb or that he was a logical person who had already realized that the situation all but demanded that the police consider him a suspect.
"There has to be something wrong with him," the other officer in the observation room said, frowning. "His ID is fake. And, so far, we haven't been able to find him in any government databases."
"His fingerprints came up clean though," Tsukauchi observed, skimming quickly over what information they had unearthed through their research again. It wasn't much.
The boy had a cell phone, but it was not from any brand or model in the world. It turned on and had a number, but it wasn't part of any network. None of the numbers registered in the kid's address book belonged to the names he had them listed under, and the phone itself couldn't call or receive calls from anyone they had tried to use it to contact. The little device had its own manufacturing number, but that was no help either. It was like some phone fanatic had designed and developed their own working toy phone that could mimic all of a phone's appearance and functions without being a real phone. And that was just plain confusing.
The detective decided to label the object a prototype from a mystery inventor and leave it at that—for now. There were more than enough strange objects in the boy's possession to ponder.
For instance, the boy had money. Japanese money, mostly, but also some in assorted other currencies, some known, some not, and all of which had to be counterfeits or simply fictitious. Even the boy's clothes were, though not unusual, labeled with the names of brands that no one in the station had ever heard of.
But it was more than likely true that it was this boy who had disarmed the bomb that could have blown up a quarter of the shopping center and injured hundreds of civilians had the police not already evacuated the premises (which brought up another question).
That told Tsukauchi that the boy was worth giving the benefit of the doubt. But there was simply too much that was suspicious for them to just let the boy go without further investigations.
The officer in the interrogation room rose and came out, looking equal parts impressed and disturbed. "I…think maybe you should go talk to him Tsukauchi. I mean, you'll know if what he's saying is true. That'll make this less weird faster."
"I'm not so sure about that," the detective replied with a light laugh. But he rose and entered the interrogation room where he took the seat across the table from the boy.
"Hi, I'm Detective Tsukauchi," he said, smiling. "I know you've already been questioned several times by a lot of people, but I want to make sure we have everything straight. Is that all right with you?"
The boy nodded, ever patient.
"All right then. I would like you to start at the beginning. So, you said your name is Kudo Shinichi."
"Why were you at the shopping center?"
"I was dragged there by a friend."
"I see." It sounded like a half truth, the detective noted, jotting it down in his notebook.
"Did you hear the evacuation order?"
"Who was the friend you were with?"
"His name is Kuroba Kaito."
"When and where did you part company with him?"
"Shortly before I found the bomb. I…had to go to the bathroom. I don't know where he went after that."
"So you're saying you were in the bathroom when everyone was evacuated."
The police officer's eyes narrowed. The boy was lying.
"Why did you go to the storage area after getting out of the bathroom?"
"I just took a wrong turn," Shinichi hazarded. "Today was my first time going to that shopping center."
Oddly enough, the detective noted, that had been the truth.
"What did you think when you saw the bomb?"
"I thought it might be a prank, but then I realized it was real. So I disarmed it."
"Why didn't you call the police first?"
"It would have taken too long."
"Where did you learn to disarm bombs like that?"
"From reading books and from my neighbor. He's an inventor, and, when I was little, he used to blow up his house almost every day. After a while, you pick stuff up for self defense. I also knew a lot of police growing up. My father writes crime novels, and he knows a lot of people in law enforcement."
There was a pause as both sides studied the other's face.
"Tell me, Kudo Shinichi-kun, have you had experiences with real bombs before? Outside of your neighbor's inventions."
Shinichi hesitated a moment then sighed. "Yes. I'm a detective where I come from. I've worked a few cases that involved bombs."
That was true.
"Where exactly are you from?"
Also true. The police detective frowned, going back to that packet of non-information they had dug up about the boy. His fellow policeman had been incorrect. Being able to tell which bits of the boy's answers were true and which were lies was making the teen more confusing rather than less.
Shinichi sighed. There was no window and no clock in the interrogation room, but he didn't need either to know that he had already been here for hours. He could check his watch if he wanted an exact count, but there wasn't any point. He would like to know what time it was though. Unfortunately, his watch was still set to the time of a different universe.
He drummed his fingers idly on the table in front of him. The last of his long string of interrogators had left the room some minutes ago, presumably to discuss him with the other officers, leaving Shinichi to stew in the dead silence of the tiny room. He couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking. He could imagine how suspicious he must seem.
The thought made him wince.
From their perspective, he must look like a fugitive at best. At worst… Well, at least they seemed to believe that he wasn't the bomber.
He cast his gaze around the room, wondering where Kishiro had gone. The Spirit Beast had hidden in his pocket as a tiny mouse during the journey from the shopping center to the police station. Shinichi had noticed him slipping away just before the teen detective was led into the interrogation room. Maybe the Spirit Beast would go find Kaito.
If worse came to worst, Kaito could always break him out of prison. Shinichi almost laughed out loud at that thought. The thief would never let him live it down if things came to that. Though maybe Kaito had jinxed them when he'd suggested they'd be arrested for counterfeiting. Shinichi had seen how closely those officers who'd taken his wallet and other personal belongings away had studied the bills he'd had on him—bills he hadn't touched since the day of that fateful KID heist. He was just glad they hadn't decided to examine his watch or belt. Any conclusion they drew from his possession of sleeping dart watches and ball shooting belts couldn't be good.
The door opened, dragging Shinichi's attention back to the present. Detective Tsukauchi walked in again, notebook still in hand, frowning. He shut the door behind him, looked at the blank wall behind which Shinichi was sure the people in the observation room were all watching then sat down again and leveled Shinichi with the most serious stare he had seen on a police officer's face in a long time.
"First of all, I would like to assure you that we know you did not plant that bomb."
Relieved, Shinichi nodded.
"Also, we are grateful for the help you provided in disarming that bomb."
Shinichi nodded again, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"However, what you did was very dangerous. Also, though you may not be aware of this, some of the objects in your possession are illegal."
Shinichi tried not to wince but said nothing.
"We will need to speak with your parents."
He'd expected that.
"They're…not here," Shinichi said slowly.
Tsukauchi considered this for a moment before asking carefully, "Do you mean they've passed away?"
"No. They're just not here," Shinichi hedged.
"Who is your guardian then?"
"I'm eighteen. I don't need a guardian."
"Where are you staying?"
Shinichi opened his mouth then shut it again. "With my friend," he settled for after some thought. "I'm staying with Kaito."
"The friend you went to the shopping center with."
"And your address is?"
Shinichi started to speak then stopped. What could he say? He didn't have an address, and a false one would be easy to uncover. And that would only make him look even more suspicious to these people. At the same time, staying silent was also misleading. He wished Kaito was here. The magician and his silver tongue would no doubt have been able to come up with a believable story that wouldn't land them in prison.
Tsukauchi sighed. "Okay, listen Kudo-kun. We do not mean you any harm, but you need to understand that these are difficult times. To ensure the security of our society, we need you to be honest with us."
Shinichi sighed. There was nothing for it but to tell the truth, he decided. Being thought a crazy person would at least be preferable to being thought a counterfeiter.
"Detective Tsukauchi," he said, meeting the man's gaze head on. "Can you promise you'll hear me out to the end before you make any decisions?"
The officer blinked. "Of course. That goes without saying."
So Shinichi told him everything.
The first thing Kaito had seen when he had opened his eyes was a man on fire in the park. He might have been alarmed by this if not for the fact that the man was laughing even while his entire body blazed. And he was advancing on a woman with a young child, grinning manically.
"Come on," the burning man was saying—no, cackling. Definitely cackling. "Let's just have some fun. You said you liked fiery relationships, did you not? Well, honey, here I am."
At this point, Kaito was wondering if someone was filming a bad movie. Even so, he was about to lend the poor woman a hand when someone else gave her a hand first. Literally.
A gigantic hand descended from above and snatched the burning man right off the ground with two fingers before promptly hurling him into the middle of the park's large lake. The man went up in a hissing tower of steam, and that was that.
Then the giant of a women who had captured the burning man dusted her hands off and stood. She rose up and up and up as she unbent, and soon she was standing higher than the skyscrapers, all massive expanses of tight, blue and white fabric that left very little to the imagination.
Kaito had to stare. Was this a giant? They hadn't seen any real giants yet in their travels. Who would have thought that his first sight of a giant would be so…dramatic?
Then the police sirens were wailing, and everyone around him was cheering.
The giant woman struck a pose. Cameras flashed.
Nodding and smiling at whoever turned his way, Kaito came to the conclusion that street magic would probably not be the way to go this time. So instead, when the commotion died down and everyone returned to enjoying the park, he put on a bird show.
Once he had some spending money, he would go find Shinichi.
"You can't be serious!" Officer Inaba blurted out, staring at Tsukauchi like he thought the older man had lost his mind. He wasn't the only one either. All the other police officers seated in the small conference room had similar looks of incredulity stamped across their faces. "You really believe that story?"
Tsukauchi nodded, though he couldn't blame his colleagues for their reactions. "The boy's not lying."
"Then obviously he's crazy," one of the other officers replied to murmurs of agreement.
"Think about it," Tsukauchi said patiently. "It would explain his belongings."
Since the officers seated around the table were the same ones who had been examining Kudo Shinichi's belongings and trying to figure out where they'd come from to no avail, they had to grudgingly admit yes, the boy's impossible story would explain the money, the phone, and the brands of his clothes.
They would like to point out that a counterfeiting outfit would also explain the same things.
"You've all spoken to him," the detective pressed. "Did he strike you as delusional?"
"Well, no," Inaba admitted to nods from the others. "But you can be rational but believe crazy things."
One of the other officers let out a snort of laughter at that which he quickly turned into a cough. "I will admit he struck me as a very level headed kid. If he believes he came from another world, he must have his reasons. But I'd take the story with a grain of salt. Maybe someone's planted that story in his head so he believes it, but they're actually using him as part of some scheme."
As the other officers began to argue about what kinds of schemes a villain who could manipulate a person's mind into believing they'd come from another world might be planning, Tsukauchi sighed. Unlike his colleagues, he had no doubt that the story Shinichi had told him was true. It wasn't easy to believe, but the boy was clearly a rational, thinking person. And he had helped defuse a bomb at the risk of being caught in the blast himself. That said something about his character. In any case, Tsukauchi believed him, but he didn't know what he was supposed to do with the boy now.
Shinichi had memorized every speck on the interrogation room walls and ceiling by the time the door next opened. Having half expected another new officer with another slew of questions—probably aimed at his sanity this time as opposed to his history, he was pleasantly surprised to find that it was Tsukauchi back again. The older detective had struck him as a reliable sort, and he had listened to Shinichi's entire tale and believed him. That part still had Shinichi a little befuddled.
"I know you're not lying," the man had said—not like he was making an assessment of Shinichi's character and likelihood to lie but like he simply knew for a fact that Shinichi had told him the truth. Whatever the man's reasons though, Shinichi was grateful.
Now, Tsukauchi sat down across from him and cleared his throat. "First, I want you to know that I will do whatever I can to help you," he said gravely. "But you've arrived at a delicate time. And while I know that you are not lying to us, my colleagues have some concerns."
Shinichi nodded. "I understand." In their shoes, he would probably feel the same way.
"In lieu of that, we have a proposition for you."
"What is it?"
"As you will be needing both a place to stay and a source of income and, according to you, you have considerable experience with police work, we are willing to offer you a temporary position with our department provided that you pass a few exams and undergo a psychiatric evaluation with our staff psychologist."
Shinichi blinked. "That…sounds perfect, actually. I don't mind the evaluation. I understand what I said must sound really outrageous."
For some reason, this made the police officer smile. "Perhaps not as much as you might think. Anyhow, I take it that you agree to the proposal."
"Yes, I do."
"Then there is some paperwork we have to go through. Please, follow me. We'll be more comfortable in my office, and I'm sure you could use a change of scenery."
Shinichi was not particularly surprised that the locals wanted him to undergo the psychiatric evaluation before they proceeded to anything else. He strongly suspected that quite a lot of the officers still secretly believed that he was crazy. In all honesty, he wasn't sure why Tsukauchi seemed so certain that he was not, although he decided he would just be grateful.
The police department's staff psychologist was, however, apparently a very busy woman. Her calendar was booked solid. It turned out there had been a recent spike in criminal activity, and the growing social unrest was causing a lot of stress for everyone in a civil service position. Still, once she had been briefed on Shinichi's case, she had agreed to squeeze him into her busy schedule.
And so Shinichi had been installed in the psychologist's waiting room under the eyes of the woman's pink-haired secretary and instructed not to do anything—especially not anything that would involve leaving said room—until the woman called him in. Tsukauchi then left to get back to work with a promise to return for Shinichi in the evening. So Shinichi found himself with nothing to do but kick his heels and watch the hands on the waiting room clock snail their way around the clock face.
He wondered idly whether Kishiro had found Kaito yet or if the Spirit Beast was still scurrying around the police station, scheming. Considering who it belonged to, he wouldn't be at all surprised if it was the latter. Though the animal was probably smart enough to realize that fetching its master would be the more helpful of its options. Still, Shinichi kind of missed his company. He just hoped that Kaito hadn't landed too far away.
Movement at the desk drew his attention from the clock to the girl with the pink hair that may or may not be natural. Her rather flamboyant clothes, sparkly pink earrings, pink nail polish and pink lipstick suggested that she might very well be the sort who would dye her hair the color of Sakura blossoms, but, after all the naturally unnatural hair he'd seen over the past months, he knew better than to make that assumption.
The young woman rose from her chair, picked up her bag—pink again, unsurprisingly—and flashed him a quick smile. "I'm going to run out and grab some lunch. I know you can't leave, so I'll bring you something. Sandwiches all right?"
Startled but grateful, Shinichi smiled. "That would be great. Thank you. I'm, uh, afraid I don't have any money though."
The girl waved him away and headed for the door. "Don't worry about it. They're just sandwiches." She disappeared out through the waiting room door then popped right back in again. "You aren't allergic to anything, are you?"
And she was gone.
Bemused, Shinichi settled back into his seat. He had had too much on his mind to worry about things like being hungry, so he was a little surprised to discover that he was ravenous. But it wasn't food now on his mind but the simple joy of meeting a nice stranger. And this station… He'd heard that there was a lot going on, even if no one had felt the need to explain any of what that was to him, yet here, inside, this police station felt strangely like home.
The officers had been diligent, dutiful, and thorough but respectful and kind in so far as their jobs would allow. It was the atmosphere, he decided as he watched a pair of officers pass by the open waiting room door, discussing something about rounding up some good sweepers to go over a recent crime scene.
For a brief, fleeting moment, he felt like he was at home at the precinct, waiting to speak to Takagi or Satou-keiji.
That sense of familiarity helped him relax as the bubbly pink haired girl returned with two wrapped sandwiches and, instead of handing him one and returning to her desk, sat down beside him.
"It's a roast turkey sandwich with spicy mustard, pepperjack cheese, spinach, arugula, and a bunch of onions. This one's got tomatoes. This one doesn't. Which do you want?"
"Either is fine."
"Good. Then I'll take the one without the tomatoes. Hate that stuff. It's always sour and makes everything more wet than it has to be."
The two sandwiches were unwrapped, and the detective and the psychologist's assistant settled in to eat.
It was a very good sandwich, Shinichi had to admit. Although he suspected that the fact that he was extremely hungry may have helped.
"Hey, so what exactly are you in for anyway?" the girl asked between bites. "I mean, you're too young to be a cop, but they wouldn't have left you here unsupervised if you were a suspect. I'm Lorana by the way. I didn't catch your name."
The girl certainly was direct, Shinichi thought. He could appreciate that.
"Kudo Shinichi. And the police want me to undergo an evaluation before they hire me for a temporary position."
"Huh." Lorana blinked. "That's new. What kind of position is it?"
"I haven't been told yet."
Lorana wrinkled her nose. "You agreed to taking on a temp job without even knowing what it is?"
Shinichi shrugged. He was in no position to be choosy. If he ended up spending the duration of their stay in this world filing papers, well, it would still beat being sent to prison or a mental hospital.
"My friend and I just arrived in the city, so we're both looking for work and accommodations. I was at the mall earlier during the bomb threat and helped out a bit, so—"
"Oh! You're the civilian who disarmed the bomb!" Lorana exclaimed, cutting him off. "Mickey told me about that. He's my boyfriend. You met him. He was at the mall. He was real impressed with how well you handled yourself. Guess that explains why they'd be looking at hiring you."
Not exactly accurate, Shinichi thought, but it was close enough to the truth that he didn't feel too guilty about not correcting her.
"Will your friend be coming in too?" she asked with what appeared to be real interest.
The idea of Kaito coming in for a psychiatric evaluation had Shinichi hard pressed not to laugh out loud. "I doubt it. I sort of lost track of him in the commotion. I was actually wondering if any of the officers might have seen him. I don't suppose Mickey-san mentioned finding any other unusual people at the mall?"
"He didn't say. Sorry. You must be worried." The girl looked sympathetic. "He did confirm there were no casualties though."
"That's good. I guess he must have gone somewhere else," Shinichi added more to himself than to Lorana. It had been a slim hope anyway that Kaito had landed in the same area. After all, if he had, he would surely have made himself known by now.
"If you have his number, I could call him for you," Lorana offered.
"I would if I could. But we don't have local phones. Don't worry about it," he added at the concerned look on her face. "I'm sure he's fine. And he'll turn up sooner rather than later. He's kind of a show-off."
"Ah, that sort." Lorana nodded sagely. "What's his quirk?"
"His…quirk?" Shinichi repeated, confused. As far as he was concerned, Kaito was nothing but quirk. There was nothing normal about him.
Lorana didn't appear to notice his confusion as she continued. "If you tell me about it, I could ask Mickey to keep an eye out."
"Are you asking me if I can describe any unique features he has that you could use to identify him?" Shinichi asked.
For some reason, this perfectly reasonable question got him an incredulous look and a laugh.
"No, silly. I was asking you if there are any signs we can look out for that would mean your friend is using his quirk. I mean, you did just say he likes to show off. So his quirk's got to be something showy, right? I figured looking for that would be easier than trying to find someone based on just a description. With everything that's been going on, people have been calling in to report every weird and flashy thing they see, so chances are high your friend could come up."
Shinichi took in this slew of information and considered it as Lorana went on to relay some of the crazier stuff that she had heard had been called in like a girl wailing on her perv of a boss with her hair for daring to pat her backside in the office.
"Her quirk gives her real powerful hair," Lorana explained. "So she balled them into fists and just went at the guy. Not that you can blame her. Men like that need to be taken down a peg or two. But the police still had to bring her in. The sleaze is filing charges for assault, but it won't hold. Not when everyone at the office saw him coming onto her and not listening when she told him to back off."
The more stories Lorana told, the more certain Shinichi became that this world, similar as it had first appeared to his own on the surface (bomb included), was anything but normal. And apparently all those posters of people in costumes he had seen at the mall had not been advertisements for movies or games like he had first assumed but celebrity endorsements and news bulletins. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised. He had seen far stranger things by this point. Still, he couldn't help but think of all those live superhero performances the kids had dragged him to and shake his head in bemused wonder. Wouldn't it be something if every world any author had ever dreamed up existed somewhere out there?
Grinning, Kaito swept into a deep bow to the enthusiastic applause of nearly everyone at the park. There was nothing like an adoring audience to brighten up the day. All that was missing was one Kudo Shinichi. But Kaito would be remedying that particular matter shortly.
He stowed away his props and newly accumulated funds. As he was finishing, a little girl came running up to him, beaming brightly.
"I like how happy your birds are," she told him with the enthusiastic earnestness that came so easily to the young. "They really love you."
It was kind of a strange compliment, Kaito thought, but he smiled anyway, crouching down so that he was at eye level with the child. "Thank you. I love them very much too."
"They know," she assured him. "Will you come back?"
"I don't know yet," he said honestly.
"I hope you do. I'd like to see your show again with Dad. He's coming home tomorrow. He loves birds too. He talks to them. But he really wishes he could fly like Mom."
Kaito didn't often find himself at a loss for words, but this was one of those times. Of course, he'd already seen for himself that this world was…unusual, but he wasn't sure if that meant he was supposed to take everything the child said at face value. And even if he did, it was difficult to determine what an appropriate response would be considering his utter lack of knowledge of this world's social etiquette.
In the end, he settled for promising her that he would try to come back to the park again in the next few days to put on another bird show.
"Then I'll see you again," the girl concluded, pleased. "Dad's going to be home for a whole week this time. And he promised he'd bring me and Mom to the park every day for a picnic as long as it doesn't rain. I really love picnics. Mom's calling. I have to go now. Bye!"
And the girl ran off, still giggling and flapping her arms out by her sides like she was pretending they were wings.
Kaito watched her go feeling bemused and perhaps a little enlightened. So this was another world where magic was commonplace, only here, magic seemed to be of the odd superpower variety. Perhaps a genetic deviation in the evolution of the species.
Well, whatever the case, his job was to find his detective, track down their translocater, and move on.
He stopped by the hotdog vendor by the park entrance and was treated to two free hotdogs by the wrinkled old man for an entertaining show (apparently he had given the old man's business a good boost by attracting so many people to the vicinity. It was always nice to know you'd been helpful). Then, with one hotdog already down the hatch and the second in hand, he turned to Aome. The little white Duel Monster perched on his shoulder ruffled her feathers and cocked her head to one side, questioning.
"I'd say finding Shinichi should be our first order of business. Who knows what kind of trouble our dear detective could get himself into in a place like this,," he said, and the Duel Monster cooed in what he would swear was agreement. "So where would you suggest we start?"
Aome flipped her wings then stretched out her neck to peer this way and that, blue eyes bright, and Kaito wondered what it was she was seeing. He supposed he would never know. It was a small thing in any case—and only one of many, many things that were still a mystery about their faithful little feathered friend. Perhaps it was the peculiar conversation he had had with that odd little girl, but he found himself wondering for the first time what Aome thought of this journey they had dragged her on.
Did she ever miss her home world? Did she realize that she would probably never return to it? Then again, they didn't even know if she had had some kind of existence before them or if she had been born right there on that night when Shinichi had accepted her card from Yami. On the other hand, she seemed happy with them and content to stay, so perhaps it didn't matter that they knew so little about her and the nature of her powers or existence.
Kaito finished off his second hotdog and procured a bottle of water while he waited for Aome to make up her mind. He just hoped her apparent indecision wasn't a sign of trouble.
Kaito was seriously debating whether to answer the "help wanted" ad in the window of the restaurant across from the park when Aome suddenly let out a high, sweet trill that made her sound more like a song bird than a dove and launched herself into the air. He pivoted quickly, one eye tracking her movement and the other checking the street for traffic as he prepared to pursue her, but then he noticed another white shape spiraling down towards them from the clear blue sky. Aome met the new arrival in the air, and the two birds circled one another, cooing in what sounded like an excited conversation. The next thing he knew, they were circling just above his head, chirping loudly. Then the new bird banked its wings and shot off up the street with Aome in hot pursuit.
Cursing under his breath, Kaito chucked his empty water bottle into a recycle bin and bolted after the departing birds.
That other bird had to be Kishiro, who should have been with Shinichi. Since Shinichi wasn't with him now, his urgent chirruping and rapid departure after just finding them strongly suggested that Shinichi might be in danger.
Kaito thought back to the burning man and the giant, and his footsteps sped up. Who knew what kind of craziness his trouble-magnet of a detective could get swept into in a world like this?
The two pseudo birds led him through bustling city streets bursting at the seams with the bright and the bizarre. Every time Kaito rounded a corner, his sharp eyes would catch a glimpse of yet another peculiarity, some small, some not, and all of which just reinforced his initial impression of this world as one fraught with the supernatural.
Here, he saw a girl with a pair of horns on her head that were clearly not a fashion statement. There, a little boy was levitating an ice cream cone so that he could enjoy the creamy treat while both his hands remained occupied with the handheld game he was playing. Men and women from children to adults, every one seemed just a little bit off whenever Kaito took a moment to study them more closely. It was often subtle, but it was there. Like that man he could have sworn just took a picture of a kid in a comic book costume racing by with a lens that appeared in the palm of his hand. The lens was gone almost before Kaito had decided that he had really seen it, but he had never been the sort to question his own senses.
Kishiro led Aome and Kaito through a small park and up behind what appeared to be a very official sort of building. There was wire fencing around the back lot, but the wing of the building that the Spirit Beast guided them towards was technically backed up right to the edge of the park. And there was a very large window in what Kaito assumed was someone's corner office—a very high level someone, most likely, as they had earned a corner office with a view of the neighboring park as opposed to the concrete parking lot.
His thoughts on what kind of office building this might be and what kind of person said office might belong to, however, fled his mind as his gaze landed on the open window and saw something that made his blood run cold.
There was Shinichi, his lovely, ever collected detective, with his head bent over something on a desk that seemed to have all his attention. Whatever he was looking at had him so enraptured that he hadn't noticed that a beast had just stepped silently up behind his chair.
Kaito saw hard, green scales and flat, reptilian eyes just before he saw that long, gator mouth open to reveal rows upon rows of sharp, pearly white teeth glistening with saliva.
The thief reacted without thinking. His Shin-chan was in danger, and Kaito would be damned before he let some alligator monster eat the boy he was pretty sure he was in love with. Granted, a small voice in the back of his mind wondered why there was an alligator beast in a building to begin with and what had his detective so preoccupied, but such questions could be left for later. Those carnivore teeth were what mattered now.
Shinichi would freely admit that he had been unprepared for his first sight of the police psychologist. Her welcoming smile had made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, and it had been only with a phenomenal effort of will that he hadn't backed away. It was perhaps some deeply ingrained animal instinct, he mused—the sense that prey had for recognizing predators. It wasn't rational, but it still made him hesitate when she stepped back and gestured for him to walk into her office.
But then Lorana had given him a pat on the shoulder and a gentle push forward along with an encouraging, "I know she looks scary, but Tachibana-sensei is the nicest person I know. She won't bite—unless you give her a reason to."
Shinichi was not entirely reassured, but he had come too far through far too much to be balked here by a…an unusual psychologist. The…woman was a professional. And she worked with police. That probably meant she didn't eat people.
Somewhat more reassured, he'd entered the office and tried not to make it too obvious that he was keeping out of claw's reach.
The psychologist didn't seem to mind. He suspected she saw that sort of behavior a lot.
Instead, she sat him down at a table opposite her and began asking him questions. Occasionally, she would share an anecdote or two of her own, and slowly, gradually, he found himself relaxing. It helped when she poured them each a cup of tea. Alligators, it seemed, appeared far less threatening when they were drinking tea.
So they had talked and talked, and Shinichi found himself sharing the story of his incredible travels with the woman almost before he'd really considered doing so. But perhaps that was her aim. The more he spoke of the places and people's they had met and the more he described them and their worlds, the more the alligator doctor seemed, dare he say, satisfied—insofar as an alligator face could show satisfaction at any rate.
Eventually, she had pronounced him acceptably stable and relatively sane. She had then presented him with a contract to sign.
The contract was simple if a bit surprising. It named Kudo Shinichi as a temporary consultant for the police under the direct supervision of Detective Tsukauchi. He was being required to study and pass a test on local law enforcement procedures and practices. After that, however, he could be called on to assist with solving local cases that the police felt could benefit from his experience, but his main responsibility was going to be student education. What kind of student education, however, was not specified—perhaps because his prospective employers had yet to make up their minds on what exactly they wanted from him or what they thought he might be qualified to teach.
Vague as parts of it were, however, Shinichi found nothing objectionable in the contract. Not, he thought with wry amusement, that he was in any position to be choosy.
He picked up the pen lying beside the contract.
"Shinichi! Duck!" a voice he knew all too well cried out.
Shinichi, whose reactions had been honed by numerous hazardous adventures, reacted on automatic and ducked. But his mind was also racing. The main thought screaming in his head was that there was no way that Kaito could know what was really going on here. That meant that Kaito had seen him with what, for all intents and purposes, would look like a monster with a maw full of sharp teeth and drawn his conclusions from that.
Realizing this and the likely trajectory of any actions Kaito might take based on the aforementioned image, Shinichi turned as he ducked out of his chair and threw himself into the alligator woman, knocking her to the ground just as a bolt of electricity cracked through the space where her head would have been had she stayed upright.
That was when all hell broke loose.
The psychologist, though very well-armored under her professional suit by her hard, green scales, had been unprepared for the sudden tackle and, quite understandably, cried out as she fell. The cry of surprise ended in another of pain as the back of her head hit the floor, narrowly missing the edge of the chair she had just risen from. At the same time, the lightning struck the wall and exploded, showering them with bits of plaster. The electricity splintered and arched wildly about the room, smashing the lights in the ceiling. Sparks blossomed and showered down amidst shards of glass. An instant later, alarms began to blare.
The resulting cacophony was deafening.
Ears ringing and half blinded by the lightning, Shinichi scrambled to get back on his feet. He felt a hand grab his arm. Then there was an arm under his knees, and the next thing he knew, he was being scooped up. He flailed.
"Kaito! Stop!" he exclaimed just as the magician hissed at him to, "Stop struggling! It's me."
Of course, that was when the office door burst open, and several police officers came charging in. The man in the lead tripped over Tachibana-sensei and fell forward with a yell. He flung out his arms in an attempt to grab something to steady himself with but caught only air. He did, however, manage to crash into Kaito on the way down. The magician, already off balance as he tried to manage his armful of struggling detective, toppled over as well.
The remaining two officers might have avoided the mess, but there was a trill and a shriek, and suddenly the two were being dive-bombed by a pair of angry, winged things, one of which seemed to grow and shrink by turns to make everything all the more confusing. One of the two threw an arm over his head and ran back out of the office. His less fortunate companion dove to the floor and accidentally pricked himself on one of the alligator psychologist's clawed hands. He yelped and rolled away into one of the overturned chairs.
Amidst the shrilling alarms, the yelling, the flailing, and the frantic beating of wings, Shinichi wondered what power of the multiverse had decreed that nothing in his life could ever be simple.
"Stop!" he shouted at the top of his voice as he finally managed to untangle himself from Kaito and the two other officers who had landed on him. Kaito was back on his feet too, but he seemed to have finally realized that there had been a mistake and was staying quiet, though he hovered by Shinichi's shoulder, still very much prepared to act if he deemed them in danger. "Stop! Aome! Kishiro! Stop!"
"Lorana," the alligator psychologist called out into the waiting room, trusting that her assistant would be there. "Please go turn off the alarms and tell everyone to calm down."
The pink-haired girl peered into the room, glanced quickly over the mess, then met the psychologist's eyes. Apparently seeing what she needed to see in those reptilian irises, she nodded and disappeared back out into the station proper.
The two not-birds circled the office a few times before grudgingly settling down: Aome on Shinichi's shoulder and Kishiro on Kaito's. The latter was still watching the alligator woman and her compatriots through narrowed, hawk's eyes, perhaps an outward reflection of Kaito's wariness. Aome, however, seemed to have truly calmed down and was now happily pressing her feathered side into the crook of Shinichi's neck. The warm, soft and slightly ticklish presence made Shinichi smile despite the awkwardness of the current situation.
"Now," Tachibana-sensei said in a clear, loud, and, above all, calm voice as she clambered to her feet and straightened out her clothes. "I believe there has been a misunderstanding. You, young man, I take it you're the friend that Shinichi-kun said he came to this world with?"
Standing just behind Shinichi with one hand on the smaller boy's shoulder and both eyes trained on the range of unfamiliar and potentially dangerous strangers arrayed before them, Kaito nodded, Poker Face firmly in place. "I am. And I believe I may have…jumped to conclusions. But when I saw you leaning over Shinichi…"
The alligator woman smiled, showing off her many shiny and very sharp teeth. "I understand. It is a misunderstanding I encounter often, unfortunately. But rest assured, I mean your friend—and you—no harm."
"She's a police psychologist," Shinichi explained quickly. "We just finished a consultation, and I was just going over my work contract with them."
Kaito blinked. "I think perhaps you should start from the beginning."
"I agree," said the alligator woman. "But perhaps we should do so in another room. This one…" She glanced around at the plaster bits on the floor, the shattered lights, and the overturned chairs. "Will need a little straightening up before it will be fit for guests."
Kaito glanced from the mess to the very well-mannered alligator and back again then scratched the back of his head. "Er, sorry. I can help you clean it up."
"That won't be necessary," she said in a serene voice that he thought didn't suit her reptilian face at all but did suit the calm understanding in her eyes. "But I thank you for the thought. Now please come with me. The conference room next door should be empty at this hour. I will call Detective Tsukauchi and have him meet us there."
A few minutes later, the two travelers found themselves comfortably ensconced in a small conference room. They had been supplied with more tea then left alone as Tachibana-sensei left to fetch Tsukauchi (although Shinichi suspected that she was also purposefully providing them with some time to get each other caught up on current events).
Kaito turned to him the moment the conference room door closed, one eyebrow raised. "Well?"
As though to punctuate the query, Kishiro hopped off Kaito's shoulder and landed on the table as a snow white cat. Once there, he stretched luxuriantly then sat down and added his brilliant, yellow stare to Kaito's.
Shinichi sighed and picked up his cup, wishing it was coffee. "It's a long story."
"Then you'd better get started."
The detective cast about for a moment, trying to decide where to start before deciding to begin with the bomb. By the time he had finished his story, the magician had relaxed and begun to look amused.
"It just figures you'd land next to a ticking bomb," Kaito observed, shaking his head in mock dismay. "Though it occurs to me your ill fortune is often to everyone else's good fortune."
The detective's brows wrinkled at that. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Kaito gave him a condescending look like one he might give to a slow-witted child. "Well, the bomb didn't explode, obviously. It certainly makes a person wonder, doesn't it?"
Shinichi rolled his eyes. "What I wonder is what you thought you were going to accomplish, coming in guns blazing like that. What happened to your no violence policy? You could have seriously injured Tachibana-sensei."
Kaito winced and looked away. "Sorry. That was my mistake. It just looked like she was about to attack you. Those teeth! And those jaws! She'd have taken your whole head off in one chomp. I didn't think I had the time for second guesses. But I admit that I shouldn't have put so much power behind the attack. I…should have considered that she might not have meant any harm."
Shinichi looked down into his tea, earlier irritation and embarrassment melting away into an odd mixture of concern and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on that was warm and fluffy and maybe a little disorienting.
"It's getting far too easy to see danger everywhere," he said more to himself than to Kaito, but the magician sighed, expression settling into a grimness that was unsettling on his face.
"It is," he said. "I'll work on it. Anyway, so what's this thing you said about them giving you a teaching job? I thought this was the police station. You going to be training police officers? Teaching deductive reasoning or whatnot?"
"I don't know," Shinichi admitted. "They want me to study up on local procedures though, so maybe they want me to teach that."
"Seems like a weird task to give some kid they just found, even if he does know how to disarm a bomb. Shouldn't police schools already have trained teachers for these sorts of things?"
"That we do," said a new voice as the conference door opened. "But Kudo-kun will not be working at our police academy. He will, all circumstances permitting, be assisting us with a special, two-week course we have been asked to put together for the hero course students of UA High."
Kaito raised an eyebrow and Shinichi blinked. "…Hero course?"
A.N: Unfortunately, I'm still having trouble with this chapter on top of being rather busy, so it will be a while before the rest is posted. I hope you enjoyed the introduction though, and I wish you all a happy New Year!