Fandom: Detective Conan/Magic Kaitou
Theme: #9—when all hope are lost
Pairing: Kuroba Kaito/Nakamori Aoko
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Gosho Aoyama. I do not own them. I merely borrow them, drop them in a blender, hit puree, and watch them dance. Yes, dance, my pretties…ahem.
Summary: Some things are not meant to be found. Ever.
“Dammit,” Kaitou Kid cursed under his breath after a particularly rough landing. The flight hadn’t exactly been planned, though—a few well-aimed gunshots had been enough to send him flying over the cliff’s edge, even though it was starting to rain. He remembered that they’d forecast a twenty percent chance of a storm, and it figured that this time the odds would tip against him. He’d been very lucky to have spotted this cave—it was a perfect place to hide and wait it out.
But that didn’t make his back any less sore.
All in all, the whole situation could have been better…but it could also have been a whole lot worse. He had developed a philosophy long ago of being grateful for small blessings and favors.
His impromptu landing spot was providing him with both shelter and cover from prying eyes. He sincerely doubted that anyone would find him down here—police or otherwise—so it seemed that this really was a great place to wait out the storm before heading home to a well-deserved bed.
Producing a small flashlight from his pocket, he look a look around his temporary shelter. What he’d initially thought to be merely an indentation in the cliff face was actually a very well-developed cave, reach a lot farther back then he’d believed at first glance. There was a tunnel at the back that seemed to stretch on and on into the darkness.
He stood at the mouth of that tunnel for a long moment, debating. Finally, he stepped back and shook his head. Any number of dangerous things could be waiting in there. Best to just stay put. So he took a seat on a decent-sized rock near the mouth of the cave and stared out into the raging storm, waiting with some patience for it to dissipate.
He did like storms, with rain and thunder and lightning. This one just had really bad timing.
But as he sat, he almost felt as though the darkness behind him was…well, watching him, for lack of a better way to put it. Unseen eyes seemed to peer from the darkness, focusing on his back. Kid tried to ignore it, but it continued to press and claw at him. It was so unnerving…
And then he heard it.
Or he thought he did.
Either way, he whipped around and stared into shadows his flashlight couldn’t penetrate.
Was that…a voice? A moan?
He didn’t move, didn’t breathe. He just…listened.
But he heard nothing more.
Aoko first noticed that something was wrong with Kaito one morning, four days after the last Kid heist, when they met for their usual morning walk to school. He looked frightfully worn, with dark circles under his eyes. His ‘good morning’ was more of an unintelligible mumble. He looked like he had been run completely ragged.
“Kaito?” she asked after a minute or three of one-sided conversation. “Are you okay?”
“Tired,” he muttered.
Well, duh, Aoko thought. But instead she said, “I noticed. Why are you so worn out?”
Now Aoko wanted to scream. But she reined in her temper. Normally she would be chewing him out for being so vague, but something about the way he looked and the way he was acting…it had her more worried than she would have usually been. “Kaito?” she asked softly. “Why aren’t you sleeping? Is something wrong? Something bothering you?”
She was looking right at him, making it impossible for her to miss the way he flinched at her last question about something bothering him. And that cinched it: something was seriously wrong with Kaito. But despite her prodding and questioning, he refused to tell her anything. Still, she noticed that he seemed to keep glancing back over his shoulder, as though he thought there was someone following him.
It didn’t get any better when they got to school, either. Kaito was still solemnly quiet, with none of his usual antics and mischief. He sat quietly through all of their classes, spending most of his time staring out the window while his eyelids fluttered violently in his attempts to keep them open.
It was unnerving to the point that one of their teachers actually asked Aoko if Kaito was sick.
She had to shake her head—no, she told them. He just hasn’t been sleeping well for the last few days. No, I don’t know why. I’ll make sure he takes a nap later. It’ll be all right. It’s Kaito, after all. He always bounces back from these weird little funks.
Still, even as she said it, she glanced at him and wondered…
She cornered him on the roof during the lunch-hour. He had gotten up there before her and was already dozing off with his head against the fence. She stood and watched, trying to decide if she should wake him up to eat and talk, or let him catch a power-nap to get him through the afternoon.
She was just figuring that she would let him sleep when he jolted upright, eyes wide and blinking. Even from as far away as she was, she could see that his hands were shaking violently. He looked…
Aoko crossed the roof in record time and grabbed both of his hands, feeling them tremble even with the confines of her own hands. He stared at her with wide eyes as she dropped to her knees in front of him. “Kaito,” she began, then frowned when he shook his head. “Kaito, look at me.” She said it in a voice that allowed for no arguments or disobedience.
He did, and now she could really see the weariness and fear there. It was unlike anything she’d ever witnessed from him in over a decade of friendship. He was usually so calm and controlled and together. But right now, his masks had fallen away to show real terror and real exhaustion.
“Kaito…” she barely managed to say his name—what she saw alarmed her.
“Aoko…” he whispered. “It’s better not to know.”
“Please, Aoko. Just…don’t.”
“Kaito, what’s wrong?” Aoko asked—no, demanded—as her voice rose with panic.
He was sure she could see him wavering, but finally he decided to confide in his lifelong best friend. “I think…okay, I really hope you don’t think I’m crazy or anything, but…I think I’m cursed.” He jerked his head around and glanced back over his shoulder before turning back to her. “I’m being haunted.”
She stared at him blankly. “What? I…what?”
Kaito looked miserable and embarrassed and any other emotion on the gambit in between. “I found this cave a few nights ago when I was just kinda wandering around, and inside the cave I found this rock. Well, I guess you could call it a gemstone or a jewel—but anyway, long story short, I sprinted out of the cave when something weird started happening, and accidentally took it with me. I didn’t even realize I had it until I was halfway home. And ever since…” He paused again and looked to the side before shaking his head and refocusing on her. “…I’ve been seeing things. I see a person watching me, always just out of the corner of my eye. But when I turn to look, they’re not there, so I start wondering if I really saw them or not. And I’m having nightmares about this shadow following me around…” He shuddered.
Aoko didn’t say anything right away. She just…stared.
“…you think I’m crazy, don’t you?” he said after waiting a moment.
“No, I don’t,” Aoko shook her head. “I think you honestly believe there’s something there—you wouldn’t be acting this weird over nothing. But a curse? That’s a little far-fetched. I’m sure there’s some reasonable explanation for whatever it is that seems to be giving you such a hard time.” Her tone was sincere and her expression was honest; Kaito believed her when she said that she didn’t think him to have taken utter leave of his senses. But she’d said outright that she didn’t believe that he was cursed.
He stared straight ahead, looking miserable.
Aoko seemed to take pity on him. “Is there anything we can do to maybe make this go away?”
Kaito turned his head slowly to look at her. “Maybe…if I put it back?”
“There ya go!” she cheered, giving him a pat on the back. She didn’t believe in a curse, but there was no way she was just going to leave Kaito in such a state. “I’ll even go with you. And we’ll put this thing to rest. You’ll be just fine.”
“I hope so—“ Kaito jerked his head around again to look at a point beyond the fence.
But there was nothing there.
Now his nerves were jangling like mad; he turned back to face the storm and thought it over. Had he really heard that? Was it a voice, or just the wind coupling with his fertile imagination to produce a sound resembling a human voice? Or was he just going crazy? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d privately wondered such a thing…and Aoko had frequently made comments questioning his mental facilities.
He had to chuckle lightly at that thought.
Another possibility crossed his mind, and his smile faded: hat if it was a person? Perhaps there was someone down here, lost or hurt in the cave and calling for help. It was unlikely that anyone else would happen upon this place anytime soon…
Which meant that he had to check it out.
Hopping down from his perch, he took only a second to steel his nerves before he started moving slowly into the tunnel, the flashlight in his hand his only real weapon against the darkness.
He shivered internally, though, at the way it felt—like the shadows were actually twisting and bending themselves. He was no stranger to darkness and shadow—they really were a thief’s best friends—but this didn’t feel right or normal. But his curiosity was afire. So on he went, moving slowly and carefully to avoid any dangers or pitfalls.
The tunnel seemed to go on for ages. Though it curved and turned many times, it did not branch off or fork into any tributary caves. It was all just one long corridor. And furthermore, he encountered no obstacles on the floor: no pits, roots, or even misplaced rocks. The floor was exceptionally clean, which struck him as even more odd.
And it was still so dark…
Something about this place was making him very nervous.
Finally, his flashlight beam came upon a wall—a dead-end. He stopped several feet away, pondering. He had wandered the entire length of the tunnel and found nothing to account for the moan he had heard earlier. The more and more he thought about it, the more and more he was becoming convinced that he had imagined it, or that it was just the wind.
Shaking his head at his own stupidity, he turned to leave…until his flashlight beam reflected off something shiny near the floor, and he froze. After a moment, he realized that whatever it was, it wasn’t moving. Cautiously, he crept in closer in search of the shiny.
Getting back to the “scene of the crime,” as it were, was a bit tricky sans the use of a glider. They actually had to climb down to the cave, a feat that was difficult even by Kaito’s standards—and on a couple of occasions, he was sure he was going to lose Aoko. But somehow, by some miracle, they both clambered through the cave’s mouth and into the rock tunnel.
Aoko brushed herself off and took a look around as she tried to catch her breath. She was probably thinking herself mad for agreeing to this insanity. “Wow…” she gasped. “Kaito, how in the world did you find this place?”
He hadn’t thought of a totally plausible excuse yet, even though he had known the question would come sooner or later. So he thought fast and replied, “I was lurking, as Mom describes it, and there was a storm, and I was looking for someplace to wait it out, and I found this place.” He had once heard it said that the best lie a person could tell was the truth—just not all of it. It still seemed awfully flimsy, though…
But she seemed to accept it. “So this is where you found…whatever it is that supposedly cursed you?” Something in her tone reflected her continued disbelief at the idea of a curse somehow having been laid on her best friend’s head.
Kaito nodded. “I’m going to put it back. Do you want to wait come with me, or would you rather wait out here?” He privately hoped she would stay out here, but it really was her choice, and he was quite sure that he already knew her answer.
“I’m going with you,” she said firmly, confirming his guess. “I want to see this for myself.” She didn’t believe him—there was no doubt about that. She wanted to see the curse with her own eyes, which wasn’t necessarily unheard of. But at the same time, he had no intentions whatsoever of actually letting her find out the whole of it for herself.
Still, he shrugged and nodded and began moving into the tunnel. The flashlight in his hand was their only weapon against the shadows. It wasn’t much, but it was infinitely better than nothing. And Aoko’s reactions to their setting told him that he wasn’t dreaming about the darkness feeling so heavy and clawing—she felt it too, judging by the way she stayed so close to him and kept one hand loosely wrapped around his arm. But she didn’t say anything. She was scared, but she wasn’t about to tell him, especially not after her blatant disbelief of his story. Instead, she just followed him without a word and stayed close.
In short order, they reached the end of the tunnel. The parchment was still on the floor, Kaito noted, bearing a warning to the curious—a warning he himself had not heeded, however inadvertent his theft had been. And now he too was cursed, as the writer of that letter had been.
“It should be here,” he murmured, searching the darkness with his flashlight beam until the tiny stone altar came into view. “There. That’s where it was.”
“Weird…” Aoko muttered, and he was inclined to agree.
He withdrew the fiery red gem from his pocket and held it up. “Okay…time to end this nightmare.” While Aoko looked on nervously, he crouched and replaced the jewel on the flat stone. He straightened quickly. “Let’s get out of here—I don’t like this place.”
Aoko didn’t need to be told twice, and they all but sprinted from the tunnel. The climb up and out seemed to take much less time than the climb down and in, even though it probably should have been the other way around. But in a surprisingly short amount of time, they were crawling back up onto solid ground. But already, Kaito seemed a lot happier. It all seemed lighter somehow.
It wasn’t until later that evening that Kaito swore he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It looked like a person, almost—or like a person’s shadow. But when he turned his head, it had vanished.
He stared at the spot where he had seen the form, eyes wide in horror. They’d returned the stone to its proper place—he didn’t have it anymore. The curse should have been lifted! He shouldn’t be seeing those beings anymore!
There were even more of them now—he could see two of them and feel the presence of more, always scooting just beyond his peripheral vision. They were taunting him mercilessly, as though telling him that he would never be rid of them.
He was finally understanding that sad fact.
And so Kaito sat and stared straight ahead as the shadow-figures danced around the very edges of his vision, feeling himself start to slide down that slope towards despair and madness.
What he found was a small gemstone nestled into the rocks. It was a crimson red, and polished to an immaculate smoothness, and almost seemed to glow under his flashlight’s scrutiny. But it wasn’t just dropped there—the rocks were arranged very carefully around and under it; it was actually sitting on top of a deceptively-elaborate arrangement of stones topped by a very large, flat rock.
Like an altar, almost.
Now totally intrigued (and quite curious as to why such an apparently valuable stone had just been left here like this), he gingerly crept closer…but paused when something rustled against his foot. A glance down proved it to be a piece of paper, and if the yellow color was a genuine indication, it was a very old piece of paper. When he picked it up and looked at it, he was proven right. There was writing on it in very faded kanji, though most of it was still legible.
And he read…
What you have stumbled upon is a horror. Flee
before you find yourself rightly and truly cursed…
As I am.
There seemed to be a name at the bottom in lieu of a conclusion to the bizarre letter, but it was too faded to read. And that was all there was.
Bewildered and no little apprehensive, he dropped the parchment and watched as it fluttered to the ground at his feet. He stared at it as though he thought it might somehow attack him. What was it talking about, anyway? What had he stumbled upon that was such a horror? There was nothing here except…
Kid turned his flashlight beam on the glowing red stone once again. It looked innocent enough, just sitting there amidst the plain stones…or did it? He honestly couldn’t decide. And he had learned through experience that appearances could be very, very deceiving.
He knelt down to study it more closely. Again, it did look normal enough…
With a careful hand, he reached out and picked it up.
A gust of wind, powerful enough to knock him backwards, hit him full-force in the face. It seemed to come out of the cave wall—there was no other tunnel for it to have come roaring down. And as the wind screamed by him, tearing at his cape and clothes, he heard it again: the voice. That same moan…but it was somehow loud enough to be heard over the shrieking wind.
Enough was enough.
Poker Face shattered in the face of his most basic animal instincts of fight or flight.
And he chose flight.
When Hakuba approached her after school, Aoko already knew what he was going to ask.
“What has happened to Kuroba?”
“I don’t know—he said something about being cursed and seeing things,” she sighed. “He picked up something that he said cursed him. We went and put it back where he found it, but apparently that didn’t end it. I don’t know what’s going on with him.”
Hakuba seemed quite concerned over his rival’s questionable mental condition. “Perhaps we should go pay him a visit?” He knew that Kuroba had already left for the day—an uncharacteristic move, as he had not waited for his usual walk home with Nakamori-san. “If he’s not well, perhaps we could get him some help. He might need a doctor.”
“Would you go with me?” Aoko said, seemingly relieved. “I was thinking about talking to his mom.” She shoved her school shoes into her locker, grabbed her schoolbag and they headed out, setting an immediate course for the Kuroba residence.
They were halfway there when they spotted Kuroba Kaito, standing on the sidewalk. They stopped and watched him for a moment before Aoko swallowed hard. “Kaito?” she called.
He didn’t seem to hear her. He was standing there, looking around as though confused…and then suddenly he started running. He sprinted down the sidewalk at full speed.
Something told Aoko that she needed to follow him. “Hakuba-kun!” she called as she took off running after him. The blonde detective hesitated a moment in surprise before joining in the race.
As they gave chase, Aoko realized that Kaito’s feet barely seemed to be touching the ground. He was almost FLYING up ahead of them, putting more and more distance between them with each step he took. Beside her, Hakuba was audibly wheezing.
They whipped around a corner, and suddenly Aoko recognized where they were.
She looked up to see that she was standing in the shadow of the clock tower.
This was where she and Kaito had first met, all those years ago.
But now…Kaito was nowhere in sight.
Hakuba skidded to a stop just ahead of her. “Where is he?”
She opened her mouth to reply, but some instinct prompted her to look up…and her answer was lost as she saw Kaito jump. He was free-falling, his arms out at his sides like he was trying to fly. As he plummeted, she could see that his eyes were closed.
Strange…his mouth was closed as well. Where was that scream coming from…?
Was it Hakuba’s voice?
Was it a random witness?
Or was it her own?
For some reason, she honestly wondered if he would somehow flip down and land safely on his feet. It was Kaito, wasn’t it? He wouldn’t actually die like this—this had to be a joke. A sick, awful joke.
Until he hit the ground.
It was the most horrible sound Aoko had ever heard. And the sight…oh god…
That was going to haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life.
Hakuba let out a strangled gasp and stumbled past her, muttering something about a phone.
Aoko covered her mouth with one hand to try and fight off the screams and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her, and spun around to look away from what remained of her best friend. As she turned, she could have sworn that she saw a figure standing nearby—a dark form, standing in the shadow of the clock tower, watching the scene.
But she blinked, and it was gone.
Kaitou Kid scrambled to his feet and tore back through the tunnel, the wind hounding his every step. He didn’t stop or slow until he skidded to a halt right at the mouth of the cave. The rain had let up enough that he knew he could fly, so he jumped after only that movement’s hesitation and deployed the glider with only one thought on his mind: to get the hell out of there.
It wasn’t until later, after he’d landed some distance away, that he realized he was still clutching his flashlight in one hand…and the mysterious gemstone in the other. In his panic and his frenzied rush to get out of there, he had completely forgotten that he was still holding it. It gleamed up at him now, still seemingly so innocent.
Not sure of what to do or think, he pocketed it and headed toward the base he’d set up nearby. And in ten minutes he was on his way home, just an average guy on the street. He figured a shower, a sandwich, and several hours of undisturbed sleep would do him a world of good.
But in his dreams, all he saw was scarlet-red, and all he heard was a voice chanting one word over and over again in a never-ending mantra that foretold nothing good for him.
PS. And now for something completely different, huh? This was inspired by M.R. James’ short story, “A Warning to the Curious,” a wicked-creepy story in a lot of ways. Why yes, I did kill Kaito off in a completely unromantic, unheroic way. YAY FOR ME!! And can you believe that there are only two left? Holy crap! Best part? I already know how the next two are going to go. So hopefully it won’t take too long to get those out and put this challenge to bed.
Thanks for reading, all—hope you enjoyed it. Much love!