We should have gone the other way…
Is what Ayumi thinks as she stands amongst her classmates and longtime friends Genta and Mitsuhiko in what looks like an abandoned living room. She can see an old TV (she has seen something similar in her mother’s old photographs from long before Ayumi was born), a brown loveseat and a matching armchair which seem like they’ve been worn by years of use, and recently torn by a knife (she can’t tell what kind), and the same can be said for the walls (she can see the wallpapers peeling off), plus the smell of dust (and something else) in the atmosphere is strong. This room looks like it hasn’t been released into the sun or fresh air for long, but now she has to stop observing the room in detail because her mind is too occupied by fear for her and the boys’ safety.
They had only meant to check out what looked to them like an abandoned and therefore haunted building after seeing it in passing in their exploration of the road opposite where they were meant to take after school hours. Conan had decided to go to Agasa-hakase’s house with Haibara to discuss something important (all secretive again). The kids wanted to go as well, but being children they had decided to explore their town without telling Conan and Haibara. After wandering around the abandoned building they found a closed door leading downstairs and because they were curious and excited at the thought of a treasure, so there they went. It was poorly lit but the thought of shining gold gave them courage to continue forward regardless. But what treasure they found was in fact a person. A young lady, in fact, trapped in what looks like a dungeon they saw in action games. From what they could see in the poorly-lit area, she had long brown hair down to her hips, though disheveled from what they could only guess have not been treated properly in days, same with her clothes. She wore dark undervest under red loose off-shoulder long-sleeve shirt and knee-length denim trousers, only they were torn and dirty here and there, and her feet were bare, no hint of shoes anywhere.
She was standing with her arms high, hanging a few feet off the ground by the chains holding her wrists to the ceiling. They could see red wounds under the chains, mostly through iron rubbings and the gravity. But that didn’t end there. She was bloodied, metaphorically and literally. She had blood trailing down her head, mouth, arms and legs, plus many bruises even on her cheek, and her lips were torn. Basically, it looked like she was tortured. The children were scared for her. For a moment they thought she was dead, but she suddenly moved her head and looked at them through bloodied eyes and they gasped. Her sky-blue eyes looked lifeless, as if she had been through everything life has thrown at her but it became too much so she had given up on everything. However, the moment her eyes shifted to their direction sky-blue orbs became determined, as though despite all the abuse she had suffered, she still had the will to live. When they actually shifted into focused though, her eyes widened and her mouth opened in a ‘o’ shape. As the kids were about to ask if she was okay, she quickly shook her head and started to open and close her mouth, but no voice came out, only a wheeze. Her mouth seemed to be repeating in a certain pattern, after a second the kids were able to discern the words: ‘Run, run, run away now’.
They didn’t know why she reacted like that, but that moment footsteps sounded through the air, they immediately went to hide behind a pillar in the far corner before the footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs and went directly to the female’s prison. The unknown person said nothing for a moment, then...
“So you still won’t tell me anything. Oh well, too bad. You know, we don’t need you anymore. Words from above has given me an order to get rid of you, so I will. It’s a shame, though. If you had said something they would have been merciful enough to give you a more peaceful end… But this is for the best, I suppose. This way, you may become the fire creature you love so much. See you in hell.”
Heavy footsteps retreated upstairs. From hearing the words the unknown person just said, Mitsuhiko guessed they might set the place on fire, and judging the new scent that waved through the air, he was apparently right. The kids immediately ran upstairs, only stopping for a moment to glance at the lady but she still exclaimed silently RunRunRUNAWAYNOW! so they went, while apologising to her in their head.
Now here they are in the living room. It is currently nighttime but it is full moon tonight, giving the room moonlight that is bright enough to see clearly, added by something even brighter and orange-red which is getting closer and closer. If this were any ordinary night Ayumi would normally have taken her time to look outside her bedroom window (or the window of wherever she’s sleeping over at any time) and stare at the full moon. She could almost hear the moon singing merrily to her, as if it is happy to finally get the recognition it so wanted for a long time. Her mother knows Ayumi loves full moon watching so she sometimes allows Ayumi a few minutes past bedtime in order to admire the beauty of the moonlight a little longer, and more often than not she falls asleep to the soft radiance and the soothing melody it bestows upon her.
Tonight however, it seems to draw in the colour of flames that is currently blazing hot in front of them, turning the moon crimson while enhancing its frenzy upon the children. The crimson moon is as beautiful as it is terrifying in its own right. The smoke trapped by the roof is getting lower and they know it is dangerous to breathe it in so they head to the only available window but the locker is rusty and therefore stuck, plus they are too short to get onto the shelf anyways. There is another small and open window which lets the smoke out but it is too high to the ceiling. The little would-be detectives try to stay calm (remembering Conan’s instructions in case of situations like this) but it is getting impossible not to; they are only children. They need to find a way to get out now.
Or we should have called Takagi-keiji the moment we saw that lady!
Except it has already happened, and besides they have more important things to occupy their mind right now. Ayumi is only glad they managed to call Conan-kun using the detective badge before the fire started, and was assured in the thought that Conan would definitely come to save them. She has not seen the culprit who had set the small building on fire, their footsteps were scary enough. Thankfully Conan made it a point to teach the children how to be silent whenever necessary after a few incidents where even the slightest sound alarmed anyone to their attention, therefore the culprit hadn’t discovered them. The kids and the lady are trapped, they have no choice but to wait - they can only believe in Conan. Please hurry, Conan-kun!
“Ayumi, Genta, Mitsuhiko! Can you hear me? Respond now!” As if in response to their plea, a masculine voice suddenly sounds through the air. The children look down at their detective badge - it is not Conan or Haibara and they were told to not talk to strangers without the two but they are too focused on getting to safety, so they would take the help they could get.
“Yes, we hear you! Please help us, the fire is getting close!” Mitsuhiko answers for the three.
“Tell me, where are you at the moment?” the man’s voice sounds breathy, as if he’s run all day.
“In the living room, just by the window! But it’s stuck, it’s impossible to open with just our strength!”
“Then you three step to the side quickly, just hold on!”
The children immediately comply, stepping to the left side of the window. Suddenly it is smashed inward by what looks like a soccer ball. A shadow comes into view and a hand comes out of the window.
“Guys! Hold onto my hand, I’ll get you outside!”
They step to just across the window and see a young man obstructed by the moonlight, but they immediately recognise him.
“Shinichi-oniisan!” Ayumi blurts out.
Indeed, it is Kudou Shinichi standing onto the window sill, with one hand holding on the frames, and another holding out to them. He seems to be wearing casual clothes, with a blue striped short-sleeve shirt, a pair of denim pants and a sports shoes which is similar to Conan’s favourite ones. However, he seems to be sweating a lot, his breathing heavy. They could also see a blue-green jumper rolled horizontally on the sill.
“It’s okay, I’ve taken out the broken glass on the bottom and my jumper is covering the remains so nothing would scratch you. Now come on, just take my hand!”
That seems to spur them out of their trance-like stance and they allow Ayumi to take Shinichi’s hand first, him pulling up and propelling her to the other side. Once she lands safely on the ground outside he holds his hand out again and Mitsuhiko is next. Then finally Genta though Shinichi has to hold onto his armpits to get him out safely.
Once all of them are safely outside the building and no longer on the threat of breathing in the fire smoke, Shinichi turn to them and kneel to be at the same level.
“Are you okay, guys? You didn’t breathe in any smoke, did you?”
Mitsuhiko takes the lead, “No, we didn’t! Conan-kun taught us what to do in a situation like this, so we’re okay!” Then in a small voice he continues, “We’re sorry, Shinichi-san. We were in that situation in the first place. We should have gone home instead of exploring…”
Shinichi cuts him off, “Don’t be sorry. You wouldn’t have known that the fire happened by accident. I’ve called Takagi-keiji on the way here, so he and the ambulance should be here shortly. I’m just glad you’re safe…”
Suddenly the kids remembered something crucial, as they were too occupied with worrying about their own lives. Ayumi exclaims, “Shinichi-oniisan! That fire wasn’t an accident, someone started it!”
Blue eyes suddenly focuses on her and turns to Genta when he proclaims, “That’s right! Someone wanted to get rid of that young lady in the basement!”
Mitsuhiko takes over, “That lady was trapped in a dungeon! I don’t think she can get out because some chains are restraining her wrists a few feet up to the ceiling! Please, save her!”
Determination takes over Shinichi’s eyes and he stands up after receiving directions to the basement from the kids and in return, instructs them to get to the gate where Hakase and Haibara are, and then runs to the broken window (ignoring the calls to his name), jumps over it to the other side. On the way to the basement he spots in the corner of his eye a stool and a large bolt cutter in the kitchen and thanks to every kami he can think of that he does not have to waste time looking for something he can use and goes to retrieve them before sprinting to the door leading to the basement. Once he gets there he actually sees the lady the kids were talking about, but they had forgotten about the barrier separating himself and the lady. He clicks his teeth, rummaging in his pocket for the swiss army knife (Agasa-hakase has taken it apart and recreated so that it included other useful tools, for situations like this), takes it out and pick locks the door until it unlocks before dashing to the lady, palming her cheeks so as to try to wake her up.
There is a brief second until she opens her sky-blue eyes and Shinichi stills in shock. He actually recognises this person, he could never forget her. They had met about eight months ago, and this female was one who he was looking for all this time, ever since his brief epiphany nearly three weeks previous. He could not find this person, no matter how hard he searched. It was like she disappeared off the surface of the earth the day she went out on her usual grocery shopping exactly a month ago. The one who left an impression on him on that certain incident, whose words were ingrained deep into his mind he could not forget them, even in his sleep. The one and only Chinen Aina , an outstanding deaf individual who had a keen talent in observational skills, and in the back of his mind, one he wouldn’t have minded having as a partner. One who was now awake and staring bewildering at him. Just for this one moment, Shinichi smiles softly.
She doesn’t answer, and that’s fine , he thinks. She shouldn’t be speaking in her condition at this moment. And he knows, he has taken in all the injuries she had endured and he is so furious someone had tortured her and she must have screamed to the point her vocal cords is sore or possibly damaged, resulting in laryngitis . And it is dark enough to be unable to read his own lips (and besides, she might not have enough energy to concentrate) but not too dark that she can’t see his hands, so he signs.
“Everything will be okay, I will get you out of here. And I am going to cut the handcuffs. Can you try to gather your strength long enough to brace your legs?”
After a second she nods, so Shinichi proceeds to do just that. He stands up onto the stool and prepares to cut the handcuffs, slowly putting the bolt cutter through the handcuffs besides her hands so to give her time to prepare, and when he is mostly assured that she won’t sprain her ankles or something, he cuts.
It is immediate. Once her feet touches the floor she crouches so to absorb the impact before stumbling to her knees, her upper body falling forwards. Shinichi catches her before her head could meet the ground, also kneeling himself, the bolt cutter thrown to the side. She does not seem to have any more strength, her arms limp by her sides. Shit , he thinks, I should have realised this earlier! Judging by her condition, her arms have been raised for a few days - there’s barely any blood circulating through them. They could be damaged for all I know, she needs the hospital now!
He rips the bottom part of his shirt with his knife and then ties it around her head, covering her mouth so to prevent her breathing in the smoke. He then prepares to carry her in his arms bride style (no piggy backs, her arms are useless at this point), raises up from his crouch and walks hurriedly upstairs while thinking oh god she’s so light, symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration and he’s pissed she endured it for god knows how long I’m definitely gonna make sure she’s healthy but to get out of the building is his first priority. Once upstairs, he has to tread carefully to the living room through the flames steadily rising (he does not want to waste time trying to unlock what might be a locked front door, and he had ignored the fire when he initially came in), coming up to the same window. He has to be extra careful to get outside with the bundle in his arms.
He instinctively knows there’s no time so he speed walks to Hakase, far away from the burning house and apparently that was a quick thinking on his part because not long after the building explodes (due to the gas in the kitchen, he thinks) and he shields Aina with his whole body to the scattered remains. After it’s done, he looks down at her. She had gone unconscious the moment he set her free, however the handcuffs are still on her wrists, even if the chains are broken. He does not like it, she needs to be free right now . Thankfully the police and ambulance, and in essence, fire brigade have arrived while he was still in the building. One of the firemen came and, to Shinichi's relief, freed her from those damn shackles. The ambulance crew put her onto the stretcher before wheeling her to one vehicle, with Shinichi following. In the corner of his eye he notices the kids are being treated and he takes a short breath.
He hears his name being called and looks to the side, seeing Agasa-hakase coming up to him.
“Shinichi-kun! Are you alright?”
“Hakase. Yes, I’m alright, if not a little winded. Don’t worry, I didn’t take in that much smoke, so if I just breathe in the oxygen mask I’ll be just fine. I’m more worried about the kids and that person.”
Hakase glances at him, and then to one of the ambulance vehicles where she is held at.
“Who is she, Shinichi-kun?”
He hesitates, just for a moment. “That doesn’t matter right now. Getting the treatment is what she needs right now. She’s been in the basement for too long, possibly weeks. That’s no good, and she—”
A small noise attracts his attention. To be like his idol Holmes, ever since he was a kid he trained himself to detect any kind of noise, even small ones, and so he hears it. From a certain direction. He quickly goes over to the vehicle and sees one of the crew pinning down a struggling Aina. She looks so scared and oh no they shouldn’t be doing that, she’s experiencing some kind of flashback! He shoves the staff away while yelling something to him, he has no idea what he said because Aina needs him right now. And so he palms her right cheek while holding up a hand. She opens her eyes, terror and anxiety in those sky-blue eyes but they’re not what he wanted to see and so his calm and reassuring eyes connects with hers. He waits for a moment while she gathers herself while concentrating on him and her own breathing. Once he knows she is more calm he signs, knowing she doesn’t have the mindset to focus on his lips at this moment.
“It’s me, Kudo Shinichi. Do you remember me? We met a while ago.” He also knows she doesn’t have the strength to lift one of her arms to sign back, and so he is looking for recognition in her eyes and when he finds it he continues, “You are currently lying on a stretcher in an ambulance, and you aren’t in your best condition, therefore one of the guys is going to treat you so that you can get better. Is that acceptable for you?” He waits a few seconds longer and when her eyes soften he takes that as a yes. He looks up to one of the crew members. “This one had experienced a traumatic incident, so treat her as gentle as possible. Is that understood?” he instructs. The staff nods his head and goes to do just that, and just as Shinichi is about to stand up and leave he feels a tug on his shirt and looks over his shoulder. Aina is clutching at his shirt, trembling and a look of anxiety in her eyes and so he sits down beside the bed. The gesture is clear; I’m not going anywhere and she relaxes, assured in the knowledge that she is finally safe closes her eyes and her breath even, with help from an oxygen mask over her face.
With the promise to not leave, Shinichi closes his hand over hers and stays in the vehicle with her up until the hospital, and still he does not leave her side for too long until she would wake up. He is so pleased that he finally found one Chinen Aina after having searched for so long. When she gets better, they are going to have a long talk , he knows, even if he has to speak with her as Conan. He owes her that much.