Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK.


The Show Goes On

47: Dust and Mirrors

Their first steps into the carnival tent were like the first steps into a vast, dark cavern. The darkness ahead was so thick that they couldn't make out even a hint of what might lay before them. The air was still and dry and smelled of age and dust.

Stopping a few dozen paces past the entrance, Hattori cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, "Kazuha!"

His cry rang out into the darkness only to be swallowed almost instantly by the stillness. There was no echo and no response.

"Congratulations," Kaito said sarcastically. "Now everyone knows we're here. Good job."

Hattori scowled. "Finding Kazuha's more important. Besides, this place is deserted. It's all dust and nothing else." As though to prove him wrong, he walked smack into something cold and very solid. He let out an involuntary curse and stumbled back a step, rubbing at his chin and straining his eyes for a glimpse of what he'd run into.

Either his eyes were adjusting to the gloom or there was now a faint light in the room because he could see that he was standing in front of a large, full-length mirror. Its surface was belled outward, but, strangely enough, his reflection remained as it should be, completely undistorted by the curvatures in the glass.

Akiyama screamed.

Heiji whirled around, light saber already drawn and blazing in his hand, but he saw only his friends behind him. All three of them were gaping at him. Even Kuroba was slack-jawed, and that wasn't something he'd ever seen. Where was that legendary Kaitou KID Poker Face?

"What is it?" he demanded when the others only continued to stare.

Kaito regained his composure first and donned a rather wry grin. "Look down, Tantei-han. You really got to watch those calories."

"What?" More confused than ever, Heiji looked down—and screamed. His body had swelled up like a balloon in the middle while his legs had shriveled up to almost nothing. "The hell?!" he screeched, rearing backward in his shock and ending up overbalancing his new bulk. There was a thump and a scratchy crunching of straw. Then Heiji was lying flat on the ground, staring up at the invisible ceiling and feeling rather normal again. A glance down revealed that yes, his midriff was no longer swollen. His legs too had returned to normal.

"What was that about?" he wondered out loud before the thought struck him, and he looked again towards the belled out mirror. "It's the mirror! It's one of those funhouse mirrors that change the way you look. Er, I mean, that change the way your reflections look."

"Except these do it the first way," Shinichi concluded, wandering up to a neighboring mirror. Suddenly, his entire body stretched up super thin. Abruptly faced with a ground that was twice as far away as he remembered and limbs like thin, stretched out noodles, he wavered, stumbled, and fell. The moment he was no longer within the mirror's direct line of sight, his body returned to normal.

"Now that's what I call a trick mirror," Kaito applauded, grinning. "They're kind of cool." He stepped into a circle of mirrors, and suddenly there were six of him.

"God help us," Heiji groaned. "I think I'm going to have nightmares."

None of the Kaitos paid him any attention though as they had spotted Shinichi. One of them reached out and grabbed the puppy detective before he could flee and dragged him into the circle of mirrors too. In the blink of an eye, the circle had become very full indeed, and every Kaito had his own Shinichi to spin into a dip and kiss. The detectives came up blushing and spluttering while the magicians laughed.

Thoroughly creped out, Hattori tore his gaze from the lot of them to find Akiyama standing frozen before yet another mirror. Scooting out of the sights of the belled out mirror, Hattori got back to his feet and headed for the skeleton magician.

"Yo, Akiyama-san, you all right over there?"

The skeleton didn't turn. Instead, he asked in a voice that quavered somewhere between awe, hope, and trepidation. "Have…have I changed?"

"Uh…" Hattori looked the bony frame over from skull to toes and back again. "I don't think so…?" Which was odd, he supposed, since the man was standing before one of the funhouse mirrors. Although from his angle, Hattori couldn't tell what exactly was supposed to be different about this particular mirror. Now beyond curious, he lengthened his stride and moved to stand just behind the skeleton and looked into the mirror over his shoulder blade.

His own face looked back from over the shoulder of a young man he had never seen before.

"What—" he started to say just as Akiyama let out a mournful sigh. The stranger in the mirror sighed at the exact same time.

"Oh how I've missed you," the skeleton lamented as he looked down at his own bony hands then back up at the man in the mirror—who now also had his hands up.

Understanding clicked, and Hattori looked again between man and skeleton and back again with a certain wonder of his own. "Hey Akiyama-san, is that what you really look like? Back home, I mean."

"Indeed it is," the skeleton said. "You know, I used to worry about how I thought I might be going gray, and me only in my twenties. But now, well… That kind of thing really doesn't seem to matter anymore, does it? If I could walk through this mirror and be home right now, I'd be happy to go bald."

Heiji's gaze moved to the shiny, polished dome of Akiyama's skull. "Right… Anyway, I think it's time we get moving. This place is fun and all, but Kazuha's still waiting."

"I suppose you are right." The skeleton magician gave his old self another longing look before turning away and squaring his shoulders. "Um, so…where should we go next?"

"Well, we started back over…" Heiji started to say then stopped. He knew that they hadn't gone very far into the tent, and the triangular mouth of the pavilion should still have been clear behind them, but instead, there was only darkness. It was as though they were standing in nothingness defined only by the existence of the randomly placed funhouse mirrors and their own feet.

"This place is shifting," Shinichi exclaimed as he finally managed to escape the Kaitos and scramble out of the duplication ring. With only one Shinichi now in residence, Kaito felt it made more sense to trim himself down to one as well and left the ring of mirrors to join his beloved and the others at the center of the floor.

"Does that mean we're trapped?" asked Akiyama, horrified.

"It's too early to start thinking that way," Shinichi replied in an attempt to reassure the unhappy skeleton. "But it does explain why Kazuha didn't come out on her own. She might be lost or stuck."

"Like we're going to be," Akiyama agreed glumly.

The others traded looks then unanimously agreed to pretend they hadn't heard him.

"So then do we just pick a random direction and go?" Heiji swiveled around to peer in every direction, searching for any kind of sign. "It all looks the same."

"Wait a moment. The first mirror we saw was the one Hattori ran into." Shinichi pointed at the aforementioned mirror. "The one I tried was next." His finger shifted to the tall, thinning mirror.

"Then I found the kaleidoscope," Kaito said, eyes narrowing in speculation. "They come one after the other. It's like they mark a path."

Akiyama perked up. "Does that mean the exit will reappear if we head away from the mirrors past the bloating one?"

Shinichi frowned. "Maybe. I think we should test it before we move on."

As a group, they moved first to stand next to the belled out mirror. Then they oriented themselves so that they couldn't see any of the other mirrors and started walking. For several dozen paces, there was only darkness. Then, just as abruptly as though a light switch had been flipped, they were just half a dozen steps from the tent mouth.

Cheered by their own success and now confident that they would be able to find their way back, they turned around once again and headed back to where the mirrors were waiting: the opening act of what they were all certain would be another peculiar show.

X

Hakuba Saguru looked up once again from where he had been reviewing all their travel notes at the young woman standing by the hotel room's large window. She was still in the same position that she had been in the last five times he'd looked, her gaze fixed on the desolate canyon town outside and the incongruously bright carnival tent at its heart. And though none of the clocks were moving, Hakuba had always had a sense for time—one he was very proud of, and so he knew that it had been an hour and a half since Ran had settled into her almost trance-like state.

It was beginning to worry him. He had always known Mouri Ran as a kind and relatively positive person. She wasn't as talkative or energetic as Aoko, whom she rather closely resembled, but she certainly wasn't the brooding sort. So the fact that she was brooding now couldn't be a good sign.

On the other hand, maybe it was only to be expected when you considered the kind of situation they were in. If they weren't careful, it would be all too easy to believe that this was all hopeless—that they were stuck here in this madhouse for good and would never see their homes or families again. Never get the chance to fulfill any dreams they had had about the future. Yes, there were definitely many things to brood about.

Still, he had to wonder if that was really what was on her mind or if it was something else.

Should he say something to her? Would it help? Or would it be better to leave her to her thoughts?

He looked back down at his notes, but the words had suddenly lost all meaning. He groaned and dropped his pen to run a hand through his hair. The tension in the air was just…stifling.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at Ran again. She hadn't moved. Making up his mind, he cleared his throat loudly.

"Mouri-san."

Ran jumped then turned around to face him. The expression in her eyes when their gazes met made him think that she had forgotten all about the fact that he had been right here in the room with her this entire time. And that realization made him feel just a little let down, but he brushed that thought away.

"You know you don't have to worry about them," he said. "Kudo can take care of himself. And so can that hothead, even if he is stuffed with straw. As for Akiyama-san and Miss Kazuha, they are perhaps the safest of all of us. Besides, Kuroba wouldn't let anything happen to them, and I doubt there's much in this world that could stop him if he wants something."

Ran's lips quirked into a rather wry smile. "I'd say that's more than likely true no matter what world Kaito-kun is in. He could probably take over the world if he wanted to."

Hakuba shuddered in horror at that thought. "Please, never suggest it to him."

Ran laughed then sobered. "I…wasn't actually worrying about them. Or, I mean, I am worried, but I…was thinking about something else."

"Would you care to talk about it?"

Ran looked away. "I…guess I was just wondering what I'm doing here."

The blond had to smile at that. "I believe we would all like to know why we are here."

Ran did not smile back. "That's not really what I meant. I just…I wish I could do more to help."

Hakuba's brows furrowed as he sat back in his seat. He took a moment to mull over what he should say. Eventually, he sighed and shook his head.

"You may not believe me," he said. "But I believe we all feel as you do."

Ran pursed her lips, clearly skeptical. "You've all done so much though. It's you guys who found out everything we actually know about this world and got everyone set up in the sanctuary. And there was what happened at the Court too."

"You were part of all that too," the blond pointed out. "We may not have been able to get everyone out of the Lodge if it had not been for you. If you have not contributed then neither have I," he added, smiling wryly. At Ran's startled protest, he shook his head. "My point is, we may not all have played a major role in every adventure we have had, but that does not mean we do not contribute. We do what we can when we realize we can do it. However, not insisting on doing something that we are unsuited for is just as important. What matters is to keep your head, observe, and think."

Ran opened her mouth then shut it again, and he could see her thinking over what he had said. Eventually, she nodded, albeit reluctantly.

"I'll try to keep that in mind," she said. Then, to his relief, she smiled and started looking like herself again. "Thank you."

Hakuba nodded, returning her smile. "You are very welcome."

TBC


A.N: On a random side note, I'll be posting a four-chapter DCMK/Harry Potter fusion after I finish the next chapter for A Curse Marked Fate. It's another one of those stories I've had lying around in parts for a long time that I've been working on finishing. It'll be KaiShin, naturally. You're welcome to check it out. Thanks for reading and take care!