Pandora's Box

Chapter Four - The Four Leaf Clover

The biggest public city in Fa’Diel, the mystic city Geo, was home to a castle-like structure owned by a Medusa-like woman named Kristie, named the Palace of Arts. Along with it, another landmark famous in Geo was the Magic Academy run by the headmaster Mephinse, and taught by various magic users. There was also an outdoor fruit juice parlor that was famous among the students, and a jewelry store run by the famous jeweler Kuroba Kaito himself.

After getting held back for some time in Polpota, Heiji and Shinichi finally arrived at Geo, where they would try to find some more clues on the whereabouts of Crimson, the mystical red gem they were after. Somewhere along the way, they had changed the purpose of their trip to include looking for stranded Jumis as well, and try to protect them from the Phantom Thief Kid.

“It’s already late,” Heiji said as he looked up at the evening sky. It was still reddish from the sunray, but he knew the sun would set in no more than half an hour. “I’ll go check in the inn. Do you want to go visit that Kuroba guy?”

“Aren’t you coming?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. He still didn’t know Kaito well, and he was always awkward when with someone he didn’t know well. That was why everywhere he went, there must be either Shinku or Heiji to keep him company.

“It’s a date, Shin,” Heiji said teasingly. “I don’t want to be a third wheel.”

“But—“

“Plus, it’s a good time to try to make you less antisocial, no?” Heiji asked as he smiled, patting Shinichi’s head lightly. “What would you do when we’re not there to be with you? You have to get through somehow, don’t you?”

“I suppose,” Shinichi agreed doubtfully. “But we’ll be going to the cafe at the inn then. Don’t forget to give me the key to our room later.”

“Of course,” Heiji agreed. “Now off you go. Don’t forget to thank him for the pendant as well, yes?”

“I’m not a kid,” Shinichi protested, but Heiji pointedly ignored it and walked off to the inn, which was to the left, while Shinichi walked to the right, to the jewelry store. Unlike usual jewelry stores, it looked fairly simple from the outside, and there were display windows, so potential customers had to get inside to see the collection of accessories that were for sale. He approached the store and knocked on it when he saw the sign read ‘closed’.

“Yes? Who is—oh, it’s you,” Kaito said as he opened the oak door. “Do you want to come in first? I’m just finishing up my latest work,” he added, motioning at the workbench at the very back, behind a row of display cases. There were many jewelries, but unlike accessories stores, there was only one of each type, although Kaito made it again when one was bought to keep the collection complete.

“Sure,” Shinichi agreed. “I’d like to look at your other works as well. Maybe watch you work too. I’ve always wanted to know how a jeweler works.”

“Come on in then,” Kaito said with a grin, stepping aside to let Shinichi walk in before closing the door behind him. The room was brightly lit, but not overly bright. The slightly yellowish glow of the neon lamps made the jewels shine brighter, and a classical music was playing from a gramophone at the back. “I like to keep the atmosphere calm,” was Kaito’s explanation for the music. “Customers tend to look around more thoughtfully when they hear this kind of music, and the probability of them buying something increases.”

Kaito settled back in his workbench while Shinichi looked around, but then was soon joined by him. He was working on a flower-shaped hair pin, adorned with sapphires and aquamarines. It was almost palm-sized, and the clip was big. There was a small hole under the flower ornament, and Kaito said it was for the Cancun bird’s tail feather. He would go back to Gato to get some, and Shinichi said they were heading back to Gato as well.

“Come closer,” Kaito said as he held the hairpin up and inspected it, before humming in approval. When Shinichi was close enough, he brushed back Shinichi’s bangs and slipped it behind his left ear. He then slipped the hairpin on, and looked appreciatively at it. “It’s nice.”

Shinichi gaped. He was at a loss of words; he didn’t know what to say in such situation. True, he was a bit of an antisocial and it had made him not the best conversationalist ever, but it wasn’t everyday that you meet an eccentric jeweler who fell in love with your eyes and insisted on making you something that would match them.

Not to mention that that something was an incredibly girly hair ornament that looked better worn to a wedding party rather than to a battlefield.

Kaito chuckled at Shinichi’s dumbstruck expression. “You don’t like it?” he asked, tracing the lines of the flower petals. “Maybe I should’ve gotten you an earring instead. You have cute ears.”

“Uh... are we still going to have coffee?” Shinichi asked the first thing that came to his mind and Kaito chuckled again. “We could always meet up again tomorrow if you want.”

“Are you staying at the inn?” Kaito asked as he took the hairpin back and Shinichi visibly relaxed, sighing in relief. “What are you looking so relieved for? I’ll give it back to you once I’ve put the feathers on.”

“Huh? But wouldn’t it be better for a rich lady to buy it instead?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. “Such beautiful headdress isn’t suited for battle.”

“So aren’t you, Kudou-chan,” Kaito said softly. “You carry a sword around, but your hands aren’t badly calloused. You’ve been practicing, but it’s been a while since you last used it. Tell me, why do you have that sword?”

“Hattori gave it to me,” Shinichi said. “Said it was for self-defense. I appreciate it, really. It’s a beautiful sword. However, whenever possible, he doesn’t let me fight.”

“I wouldn’t too, if I were him,” Kaito said easily, placing the unfinished hairpin back on his workbench. “Right. Let’s go to the inn’s cafe then. I heard that teapot creature makes good tea.”

“Teapot creature?” Shinichi asked in surprise, his eyes widening as he imagined what kind of creature it was. “Whoa, Fa’Diel is really filled with strange creatures, isn’t it? First the walking fish, now talking teapot. I just hope it doesn’t brew tea inside itself.”

Kaito winced slightly, but then burst out laughing at the joke. “Well, you should travel more then. Have you ever seen Sproutlings or Flowerlings?”

“Oh, yes. The flower shop owner in Polpota is a male Flowerling,” Shinichi said as he remembered the short, small man with a flower collar around his neck. “I haven’t seen a Sproutling yet, though, or a female Flowerling, for that matter. But I’ve seen the Shadoles, the keeper of the Underworld.”

“Where do you come from?” Kaito asked suddenly. “I thought you came from Domina. There are plenty of Sproutlings there,” he said. “You’re not from Gato, Polpota, or Geo either. Are you from Lumina?”

“We’ve lived in a forest for a long while,” Shinichi said quickly. “We travel a lot, so we don’t settle down in a specific town, I suppose. Our current house was a gift from Gaeus the Earth. He was the one to suggest we live in seclusion.”

“Gaeus the Earth? The Wisdom living at a dead end in Luon Highway?” Kaito asked as he lifted an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you’re so well acquainted with the Wisdoms.”

“They were kind to us,” Shinichi said with a shrug. “And they like to help us out. I suppose it’s in their nature or part of being a Wisdom, but lately not many seek them because they were too afraid to hear the truth. Pokiehl in particular had become an extremely nomadic Wisdom and it’s a pain looking for him.”

“The story teller, eh?” Kaito asked as he snorted. “I’d like to meet him one day, if I could. Maybe he could clear some things up for me.”

“Kuroba-san...”

“In any case, let’s head to the cafe now before it’s closed,” Kaito suggested, and Shinichi could only nod in agreement. He put away his tools into a drawer, then locked the store up before going to the building right beside it—the inn. There were students inside, talking to each other about their assignments or what they would be doing over the weekend, but it wasn’t crowded, luckily. No one dared to speak loudly, for fear they would disturb the other patrons, as if they were in a library, so the cafe was also a favorite for studious mages to learn.

When they walked inside, Shinichi immediately noticed Heiji sitting at the corner, talking to a young girl with shoulder length dark brown hair. She was wearing a simple white hairband, and was chatting animatedly with him, laughing at whatever he was telling her before she remembered where she was and toned it down.

He thought of walking over to them, but didn’t. He figured it would be rude to Kaito since he was the one who asked the other man out. He looked to his left, and to his horror, there really was a teapot creature behind the desk, showing the menu to Kaito. He accepted the other menu handed to him while still staring at the jumping teapot, but figured it was rude as well and quickly browsed his menu book.

“So, what do you want?” Kaito asked as he flipped through the menu book. He then turned to the teapot and said, “I’ll have a pot of chrysanthemum and rose tea, and a slice of orange mousse cake.”

“I’ll have a cup of cafe latte,” Shinichi said quickly when the teapot turned to look at him, then returned the menu book to it. They chose a seat at one of the corners as well, and had just settled down when Kaito suddenly spoke up.

“Are you jealous?” Kaito asked as he stared out of the window beside them, playing with the paper napkin idly. Shinichi blinked and looked up at him questioningly, so he looked back and smiled. “I saw your friend there with a girl I’ve never seen before. Are you jealous?”

“No. Should I be?” Shinichi asked. “I’m sure it’s not just a random girl, anyway. He doesn’t do that.”

“I see,” Kaito mumbled. “You sure trust your boyfriend a lot.”

“Who?” Shinichi asked as he stared blankly at Kaito. “No, Hattori is not my boyfriend. He’s an older brother figure,” he said. “Although, everyone keeps mistaking it.”

“Eh, I wouldn’t wonder why, what with how you two act around each other,” Kaito said as he glanced at Heiji who was still talking to the brunette girl. His eyes took a sad, wistful note for a brief second before he turned back to look at Shinichi, grinning widely. “So that means you’re not taken yet?”

“I don’t want to answer that,” Shinichi muttered as he rubbed his forehead, feeling the oncoming headache.

Kaito laughed. “Alright then, let’s move to another topic. Tell me about yourself, Kudou-chan. Why are you traveling? Do you have a sibling? Things like that.”

“I have a little sister,” Shinichi said. “She’s my twin sister, and people mistake us a lot back when we were younger. She grew her hair out ever since then. She’s a bright, cheerful girl who dreams of one day seeing everything Fa’Diel has to offer, even the Mana Sanctuary if she could.”

“Where is she?” Kaito asked, tilting his head slightly to the side. “If she wishes to see Fa’Diel, why isn’t she traveling with you?”

At that time, Teapo came with their orders and wished them to enjoy their food before jumping back to behind the counter. Kaito poured himself a cup of tea from the teapot while Shinichi pulled his mug of coffee closer to himself, staring at the froth shaped like a leaf on top intently.

“She’s ill,” Shinichi said softly. “I heard Crimson could cure all illnes, so I thought that maybe she could recover if I could find it. This is why I have to find it; because I have always been so useless.”

Kaito stared at him intently, as if urging him to continue, and he did. “My sister and Hattori... they’re always the ones protecting me. I practiced swordsmanship to protect myself and her, but in the end, it’s me that ends up being protected. I hate myself sometimes.”

“Kudou-chan,” Kaito started softly, staring at the transparent petals of chrysanthemum that floated on his tea. “Everyone has a reason to fight. If his is to protect you, then let him protect you. If hers is to do so, then let her do so,” he said. “What is it that drives you forward to keep fighting even when you wish to back down?”

“I want to fight for myself and for them,” Shinichi said, still staring at the leaf-shaped froth on his coffee. “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. I don’t want to make anyone else sacrifice themselves for me.”

“That’s a noble reason, Kudou-chan,” Kaito said with a smile. “I... there is this girl I like. She is terminally ill as well,” he started and Shinichi looked at him in surprise. “Every time I go to gather materials, I’m looking for something that might be able to cure her as well. Currently, I think I’m almost there, but...”

“Why are you doing this, Kuroba-san?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. “Why are you being so nice to me and not to that girl? You should’ve given this pendant to her, as well as the hair pin. I... you’re the one who’s taken after all.”

Kaito looked at Shinichi, and grinned. Shinichi swore that he could see relief in his eyes that they had moved to a lighter topic, and he smiled in relief as well.

“Is that jealousy I hear, Kudou-chan?” Kaito asked as he leaned forward slightly.

“No,” Shinichi protested, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I just thought it’s unfair to treat someone else nicer than the person you like.”

“But I like you,” Kaito said easily. “Then that’s no problem, is it?”

“Girls don’t like people who don’t like them whole-heartedly,” Shinichi remarked.

“And is this experience talking?” Kaito asked, grinning when Shinichi slowly shook his head no. “Don’t worry, Kudou-chan. This and that are two different kind of likes. But as to who I like-like, it’s still a secret.”

“Should I be worried?” Shinichi lifted an eyebrow as he lifted his mug to his lips, sipping slowly and watching in disappointment as the leaf disappeared. He figured he’d have to do it sooner or later anyway, and he preferred to do it while his coffee was still actually warm enough to enjoy.

“Maybe,” Kaito replied ambiguously and started cutting up his cake with the spork provided. “Do you want to try some?”

“No thank you, I don’t quite like orange,” Shinichi said as he waved his hand dismissively, then continued on sipping his latte. They sat in silence afterwards until they both have finished their share of food and drinks. Kaito had insisted that he would pay for the both of them, and learning from past experiences with Heiji, Shinichi simply let him do so.

“It was nice meeting you again, Kuroba-san,” Shinichi said as he walked Kaito back to the jewelry store. “Thank you again for treating me to coffee. And for listening to me speak nonsense.”

“It’s hardly nonsense, Kudou-chan,” Kaito said, grinning at Shinichi. “You made me realize something as well, so it’s a win-win situation, right?”

“I suppose,” Shinichi agreed. “Are you going somewhere in the near future?”

“My, my, are you so eager to meet me again?” Kaito asked teasingly. “No, I’ll be here for a couple of days. Some orders I have to finish for Kristie, the owner of Palace of Arts. Then I’ll head off to Gato. What about you?”

“Most probably will be staying here for a few days,” Shinichi said. “We’re going to the Magic Academy’s library for more information on Crimson. I wish you luck in finding that thing that might help your girl.”

Kaito chuckled at the choice of words. “Same to you too, Kudou-chan, same to you too,” he said, a small smile on his lips. “May you find what you’re looking for.”

“Can we see each other again tomorrow?” Shinichi asked hesitantly. “I want to see you work. I didn’t quite get a good look earlier. That is, if you’re not busy, and I have time.”

“Sure,” Kaito said, his smile widening. “Come by any time. You are most welcome inside. I’ll even take you to the Palace of Arts if you happen to be around at the time.”

“Really?” Shinichi asked hopefully. He had seen the buildng earlier and it was awesome. He knew only a rich person could live in a place such as that, and he was very curious as to what the interior looked like. “We’ll try to be around then. I’m sure Hattori would like to see the inside as well.”

“Then come when you have time,” Kaito said. “Alright, you better head back to the inn now, it’s already late. Good night Kudou-chan.”

“Good night, Kuroba-san,” Shinichi greeted back as he bowed slightly at the taller man. “See you tomorrow.”

Kaito waved at him and walked inside his store. Once the door was closed, Shinichi walked back to the inn and found Heiji waiting by the staircase, and the brunette girl was nowhere to be seen. He quickly walked over, and they walked up the stairs together, Heiji in front while Shinichi following closely behind.

“How was your date?” Heiji asked as he stopped in front of a room and took out a key from his pocket to unlock the door. Once opened, he stepped aside to let Shinichi walk in, then followed inside and locked the door behind him.

“I wouldn’t call it a date,” Shinichi said. “But it was good. I feel a lot better now, at least.”

Heiji nodded approvingly. “What else?”

“Who was that girl you were talking to?” Shinichi asked back. “Is she a student at the Magic Academy?”

“Better. A Jumi,” Heiji said. “She’s the only Jumi student left in the Magic Academy. Said that there used to be four of them, all with blue-green colored cores and they were called the Lucky Clover by Nunuzac who took them in.”

“Nunuzac? That wizard who got trapped in a magic circle?” Shinichi asked disbelievingly. “So he’s a teacher here now. No wonder. What else did she say? Why is she the only one left? Did Kid already get to them?”

“I don’t know the full story yet, and it appeared that she doesn’t know as well,” Heiji replied. “One of them was the Turqoise Guardian, apparently. She said the Jade Guardian and the Tourmaline Guardian got their cores taken by humans, and that she got a feeling that their cores had somehow ended up in Geo. She wanted us to help look for them.”

“I see,” Shinichi mumbled. “When is she free? She’s a student, so she can’t just walk around the city on school days, right?”

“Right,” Heiji confirmed. “The day after tomorrow, she’s free. She wants us to meet her downstairs at the cafe. The name’s Suzuki Sonoko, the Emerald Guardian. They were stranded here and only the Turqoise Guardian was taken by a Knight, that was, Hakuba. The other three remained in Geo under supervision of Nunuzac.”

“Then how did they get their cores stolen?” Shinichi asked as he frowned. “They can’t probably steal their cores right here in Geo, while Nunuzac is watching.”

“It seems they were out on a trip without telling Nunuzac,” Heiji said. “Or something along that line. The girl was left behind and the next thing she knew, they weren’t coming back. She doesn’t know the full story herself, so I don’t think we’ll ever get to know it either. Unless, we can see them in the Underworld, which I strongly doubt.”

“We’re going to Kuroba-san’s store tomorrow then,” Shinichi said. “He’s going to deliver some orders to the Palace of Arts tomorrow, and asked if we’d like to come along to see what it’s like on the inside.”

“Alright, we’ll go,” Heiji agreed. “We have nothing to do anyway, right? After doing some research in the library, we’ll head to the jewelry store.”

Shinichi nodded in agreement, and they took turns taking a shower before going to sleep, preparing for another long day.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

“Wow, the ceiling is so high,” Shinichi commented as he looked up at the chandelier hanging so high up from the ceiling. “It’s really a palace, isn’t it?”

“I see you’ve brought some companions along, Kuroba-san,” Kristie said as she watched Shinichi and Heiji stare at the paintings collection she had. “I don’t mind it as long as they appreciate art.”

“Of course they do,” Kaito said simply as he took out a small, black box from his pocket. “Here is the pair of pearl earrings you ordered. Feel free to check for any imperfections if you want.”

Kristie took the box and opened it, before quickly closing it again and handing it to his butler of some sorts, the creature that looked somewhat like a Cocker puppy, Sotherbee. “Put it in my drawer.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sotherbee said as he walked off to Kristie’s bedroom, leaving the four be.

“So, I will arrange for the payment to arrive at your store by tomorrow,” Kristie said. “I haven’t prepared the money yet, but I will. And about the brooch I ordered, is it done yet?”

“I’ll come back here tomorrow to deliver it then,” Kaito said. “You can give me the payment directly, no need to send it to my store. I only need to add some finishing touches to the brooch and it’s done.”

“Of course,” Kristie said as she nodded approvingly. “Well, feel free to browse around in the gallery room. I’ll be in my office if you need me for anything.”

“Lady Kristie, can we come back here tomorrow?” Shinichi asked suddenly and Heiji shot him a questioning look. “I don’t think I can see everything just in one day, so I thought I should come back here.”

“Sure,” Kristie agreed. “Just tell Sotherbee that I gave you the permission to look around in the gallery room. He’ll let you pass.”

“Thank you,” Shinichi said gratefully as he bowed at her and watched her walk out of the room. Kaito excused himself to go back to his store first since he needed to finish the brooch Kristie ordered before the next day, and thought that the two wanted to spend more time looking around inside.

“Why did you ask that?” Heiji asked curiously. “I didn’t know you like paintings.”

“Well, I do enjoy beautiful pictures,” Shinichi said with a shrug. “I was just thinking that it might be possible that the Jumi cores have ended up here, so it’s better to ask permission to enter beforehand.”

“You’re being smart for once,” Heiji teased. “So, are we heading towards the library now? We still need to see if they have any information on Crimson.”

“Sure,” Shinichi agreed, and they exited the Palace of Arts, then to the Magic Academy that they didn’t get to visit earlier because they had both slept in and rushed to Kaito’s store so they didn’t miss their chance to visit the palace. The academy was a huge structure, rivaling the Palace of Arts itself. To the left of the entrance hall was the headmaster’s room, and to the right was the library. Going straight would lead them to another hallway with classrooms.

They spent the rest of their day in the library until it was closed, browsing the books and even asking the librarians. However, they still had no luck, as none of the books spoke of a mystical gem with healing properties. They walked out of the academy disappointed, and decided that maybe they really should ask the Wisdoms if they knew something.

“Well, we’ve done what we can today,” Heiji said with a small smile. “Let’s go to sleep for today. We have a quite long day tomorrow, I suppose.”

Shinichi simply nodded in agreement, and they turned in for the night.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

The next day after breakfast, Shinichi and Heiji were walking out of the inn when Sonoko was about to walk in. They stopped and stepped aside to let the other patrons pass through the doorway, and greeted each other.

“Hello, Kudou-san,” Sonoko greeted as she looked at Shinichi. “Hattori-san told me a lot of things about you. It’s nice to meet you, my name is Suzuki Sonoko.”

“I hope they’re good things,” Shinichi said jokingly as he smiled at the girl. “Now then Suzuki-san, do you have any suspicions as to where their cores might be?”

“Well, I had the jewel store, the inn, and the Palace of Arts in mind,” Sonoko said. “I heard rumors that the jewelry store sells Jumi cores, as well as the fact that Teapo is a collector of cores. Kristie, on the other hand, might not know that what she bought is a Jumi core. She believes that Jumi cores bring good luck, so if she does have one, it won’t be hard to get it from her,” she explained. “So where should we look first?”

“The jewelry store?” Shinichi asked in surprise. “I don’t think Kaito does that. I saw his collection yesterday, and none of them has a Jumi core in it.”

“Well, he could always sell them to collectors without having to put them up on display,” Sonoko said with a shrug. “But if you insist that he has nothing to do with it, then we should just look at the inn and the Palace of Arts then.”

“I’m not insisting, I’m just saying,” Shinichi protested as he huffed. He looked at the closed off jewelry store and sighed. He had to admit that it was a bit shady, but Kaito had said it was so that no one could steal by breaking the window, and he had left it at that. “So, how do you suggest we get it to talk?”

“It’s not that hard,” Sonoko said. “I’ll walk around to see if I can sense their cores, and once we find it, we’ll ask it from her nicely. Teapo may seem eccentric and hard-headed at times, but she has a kind heart. If I tell her why I’m looking for their cores, I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Shinichi had looked skeptical at the overly simple plan, and was very shocked when it actually worked. Teapo had shouted at them for trying to take her gem away, but after Sonoko explained that it was the core of her best friend who got taken without her knowing and then sold off to collectors, she relented and handed it over to her.

“This is the Jade core, belonging to my friend Ran,” Sonoko said as she inspected the core. “There doesn’t seem to be any scratch or nicks. Must’ve been taken out without a fight. The other one is Tourmaline, belonging to Kazuha. If what you say is correct, then Akako’s Turqoise is already taken by Kid.”

“So the next one is in the Palace of Arts,” Shinichi said. “Come on then. We should ask Kristie if she has ever bought something like this.”

The three walked to the Palace of Arts, and after telling Sotherbee they were granted permission to look around in the gallery area, they went inside. Kristie was in the gallery as well, inspecting her paintings collection and considering what else to add to it when they approached her.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Shinichi spoke up and Kristie turned to look at him. “We have a suspicion that someone has sold you a Jumi core without you knowing. Have you ever seen something like this?” he asked as he held up the Jade core. “It’s a different shade of green, but still green.”

“Oh, is that a Jumi core?” Kristie asked. “Well, I have one, but I put it in the basement because I don’t have space for it. If it’s a Jumi core, then you can take it.”

“Of course. Thank you very much,” Shinichi said as the three bowed at her and walked down to the basement, where many statues and other decorative pieces were stored. Although it was a storeroom, the works of art were still well-kept, as there was no dust covering it at all.

“There it is,” Sonoko said as she took the Tourmaline core from amongst other orbs put together in a box. She then put the two cores in a satchel she carried. “Alright, at least now I can feel calm, knowing that they aren’t in stranger’s hands anymore.”

“I could cry for them, you know,” Shinichi spoke up. “They’re still glowing. I’m sure they will come back to life if I shed a teardrop crystal for it.”

“Really?” Sonoko asked in surprise. “I thought everyone lost their ability to cry after the War of the Faeries. How are you still able to cry?”

“After the War of the Faeries, the Jumis have become a clan filled with people of self-importance. All they could think of was their own survival, and they didn’t want to share their life with someone else. The teardrop crystal, which is a fragment of their essence of life, stopped themselves from forming, thus rendering the Jumis unable to cry.”

“Who’s there!?” Heiji shouted as he stood in front of Shinichi, his sword grasped tightly in his hands and Sonoko stood beside Shinichi, holding onto her bag tightly.

“Those whose hearts were still filled with selflessness and compassion retained their ability to cry,” the voice continued, and from the shadows, Phantom Thief Kid walked out. “But there were only two of them—the Clarius, and this Sapphire Guardian.”

“How do you know that?” Shinichi asked as he frowned, taking an unconscious step back. “If you are a Jumi as well, why are you killing fellow Jumis?”

“Everyone has their own reasons and secrets, don’t they?” Kid asked as he smiled mysteriously. “I will spare you from another mental scar this time. Sweet dreams, Jumis.”

As soon as he said that, a thin mist-like gas filled the room, and the three fell asleep under the effect of the sleeping gas.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

“Hey, Hattori, Kudou, wake up.”

Shinichi blinked his eyes open, and then some more when he saw Aoko to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He sat up and saw Heiji doing the same—giving Aoko a strange look as well.

“We received another notecard from Kid earlier today,” Aoko said with a sigh as she sat down on the stone floor of the basement room. “Said he’ll be taking the other three leaves of the clover in Geo, so we came here. When we arrived, that girl already had her core taken. We’ve contacted the locals to give her a burial, though, so don’t worry.”

“How do you know we’re here?” Heiji asked.

“The owner of the palace recognized her and said she came here with you two,” Aoko answered, taking out her notepad and flipping it open. “I came down here to check and found you sleeping. You came across Kid?”

“Yeah, he used sleeping gas on us,” Shinichi said. “So I guess this is one of the less violent thefts of his, then?”

“Yes, although it’s strange,” Aoko commented. “He usually doesn’t send a notecard if he plans on taking the gem while the victim is asleep. It’s almost as if he wants us to find you here.”

“Or he’s taking pity on Shinichi and decides to not let him see such gory sight again?” Heiji suggested. “By the way, where’s your father?”

“He’s already back at the headquarters, probably shouting at some innocent officers again,” Aoko replied with a sigh. “You know what else is strange?”

“What is it?” Shinichi asked.

“Kid said that was the last theft,” Aoko said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “I think that either he already has enough cores, or there simply aren’t any more Jumis whose cores he could steal. He knows you two are Jumis, right? But from what you said, I don’t think he’ll be taking yours.”

“That is curious, indeed,” Heiji agreed. “So you two aren’t going to chase after Kid anymore?”

“No,” Aoko said. “We’ll review the facts that we’ve gathered thus far, and if we have any lead as to who he might be, or where his base is, I’ll be sure to contact you two.”

“Thank you, Nakamori-san. That’s much appreciated,” Shinichi said. “Well, I suppose we better head out now. We’ve been here for too long.”

“Alright, I’ll be heading back to the headquarters now,” Aoko said as she stood back up. They walked upstairs together, and after bidding Kristie farewell, exited the Palace of Arts. A couple of people were busy wrapping Sonoko’s body up to prepare for her burial and Shinichi pointedly looked away. They parted ways there as the two headed back to the inn to check out and gather whatever things they had that they left at their room.

Kaito was walking out of his store with a small box in his hand when the two walked out of the inn. “Leaving already?” he asked. “I’m just about to go give this to Kristie. Where are you going now?”

“We’re heading back to Gato,” Shinichi answered. “Do you want to go together?”

“Sure,” Kaito agreed. “Just let me give this to Kristie and then we’re off. Wait for me at the main gate.”

The two agreed, and after a couple of minutes, the three set off back to the cliff town Gato.


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