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Artificial Anxiety

Chapter Text

It was a bright, sunny day in Beika, Tokyo. At Teitan High School, the second year students just finished their last period of the day, physical education. Which meant that the girls changing room was filled with all kinds of chatter and gossip. Among the other, Ran Mouri had no ear for them though. Normally, she wasn't a girl that flat-out refused to participate in such talks (otherwise her friendship with Sonoko would've been nearly impossible), but today, for no reason in particular, her mind was busy with remember the past months with her childhood friend and, since these past months, her boyfriend.

It all happened back at their not-date date at Tropical Land. And at a time Ran didn't expect anything to happen anymore. After Shinichi talked about Sherlock Holmes almost all evening, a pretty nasty murder case interrupted their quote unquote date. Shinichi solved it in his usual smart (and very cool, if you asked Ran) style, but after that, the atmosphere between was kind of heavy, especially since the case affected Ran emotionally way more than him. While she was crying, Shinichi spotted one of the suspicious man that was on the roller coaster with them and went off after him. "Shinichi, wait!" Ran shouted while trying to run after him, but her shoelace broke and tears blurred her vision. She had a feeling that she would never see him again and thus a nasty cold feeling spread through her whole body.


She looked up from the ground and wiped the tears out of her eyes and sure enough: before her stood Shinichi, with a look of worry in his eyes like Ran had only seen once in them, although she couldn't quite recall when. Suddenly, she remembered that she was the one that called out to him and her mind was hastily trying to come up with something to say. "I-I...uhm, Shinichi, I just...uhm..." was the best her brain could come up with. 'Nice going, Ran.' She mentally scolded herself. 'Now Shinichi'll think you've gone insane over something that's every day's business for him.'

To her surprise, Shinichi's look just began to soften a bit and he went over to her. "You know, maybe I...maybe I should just walk you home like I always do." Ran could've sworn that she saw a little blush and insecurity in his face.

"Yeah, that would be good..." Ran responded. So they ended up going back to her father's detective agency, in amicable silence, as both were seemingly contemplating important emotional matters. 'I can't believe Shinichi refrained from going after a case. Just for me? He has never done that in the past. And then the way he looked at me, he was definitely blushing. I thought I was just imagining things when I saw a blush on his face in the aquarium, but this time there is no way I'm mistaken. Could he actually...?'

Ran was taken out of her thoughts when they stopped in front of her home. " we are..." Shinichi stuttered.

"Yeah...anyway...thank you...for taking care of me instead of going after a potential case. I know that probably wasn't easy for you."

"Yeah, well, sometimes you have to have your priorities straight. And taking my childhood friend home was definitely more important."

"Your childhood friend, huh? Just friends..." Ran looked to the ground, while Shinichi started to fidget nervously.

"Uh, no, R-Ran...that's not what I meant..."

"You know..." Ran interrupted him. "I...I maybe said at Tropical Land that I was just kidding, but...what I said afterwards, that I really looked forward to going there with you, I wasn't kidding...and maybe..." Ran started to whisper. "Maybe I wasn't kidding in the first place..." She was still observing the ground like it was the most interesting thing in the world.

"Maybe, maybe..." She heard Shinichi say. "You asked me how I could be a great detective if I fall for such a simple, probably the reason why logic fails me when it comes to you is..." Shinichi stepped closer. "...because it is the same for is because when I see a couple like in Tropical Land...I can't help but to imagine..." Shinichi fell silent all of a sudden, unsure of his words.

"Imagine what?" Ran pressed.

"..." Shinichi hesitated, before he continued with a single word. ""

Ran and Shinichi looked away from each other; this conversation wasn't exactly easy, but it was too late to turn back now. From this point, they basically kept saying their names in different tones while getting closer and they almost kissed. Almost, because they were interrupted when Ran's father came crashing down from his Detective Agency. Thankfully, he was too excited to notice their closeness, because of the case of an abducted ten year old. Shinichi and Ran knew that entrusting Kogoro with such a matter wouldn't end well, so they followed him; and it turned out that a first kiss with the feeling of happiness and accomplishment after saving a little girl from a dangerous criminal wasn't the worst thing in the world.

In conclusion, that was the day their friendship advanced to the next stage. For outsiders everything seemed to be the same, some didn't even notice it. But for them, everything was different. Many everyday things they did before suddenly had a completely new meaning to them, while other things stayed completely the same (making them realize that their classmate where partially right when they always said that the two of them were doing really couple...ish stuff already). Ran also started to stay at the Kudo mansion more often. At first just when she or both of them fell asleep on the couch in the living room, then later on purpose with Ran staying in one of the many guest rooms; in fact, the one guest room she was always staying in was more of her own room by now, she even had some clothes stored there. They'd be studying at his place again today; that this all went to the great displeasure of her father (after he actually figured out what was going on; it took him way longer than it should have) bothered Ran at first, but after some talks with her mother and Shinichi, she decided that her father had to endure that his daughter would have a relationship with a boy sooner or later and that he, like every father, had to learn how to deal with it.

Ran stopped to think about her own relationship and listened to the other girls conversations around her to hear about their relationships. After all, she had the only normal relationship among the people close to her. Her parents marriage was kinda on hold, Sonoko and Makoto were separated by distance rather than emotional burden and Heiji and Kazuha were still in the friendship phase, although Kazuha clearly felt more for him, considering the jealousy she displayed during Shinichi's and Ran's visit to Osaka - thinking back to that first meeting still made her feel embarrassed, but she did understand where Kazuha was coming from. That didn't make it less embarrassing though.

In the corner of the girls locker room where Ran and Sonoko changed, there also were Kamiko, Maiko, Motoka and Hikaru having a conversation, with the topic changing to their boyfriends just as Ran decided to listen in. "So, Hikaru-chan, how are things going with your boyfriend?" Sonoko asked the other girl.

Said girl tried to suppress an embarrassed giggle. "Oh, you know, we've just gone out twice. I still can't really believe he asked me out. And he even held my hand after we went to the cinema!"

Ran gave Hikaru a warm smile; that girl was extremely shy and her now boyfriend also wasn't a very outgoing person, so it was good to hear that they found someone they could be comfortable around.

Sonoko turned to Maiko. "And what about you, Maiko-chan?"

Said girl rested her head on her right hand and sighed "Hmph, he's been ogling some younger student last week, so it's cooled down a bit between us at the moment. What about your boyfriend, Sonoko-chan?"

Sonoko waved her off with a slightly annoyed look on her face "Eh, not much better, the 'prince of kicks' is very busy with his training. I don't mind that he pursues his passion, but currently we don't talk very much and the distance isn't helping either."

"You should consider yourself lucky, Sonoko. Many girls wanted to be with Kyogoku-san." Ran interjected.
Sonoko looked at her best friend with a bit of confusion "Really? How do you figure?"

"Well, he gave an interview to the Karate Weekly magazine recently, where he mentioned that he has a girlfriend now. The online reactions by his fangirls expected and pretty mean. I thought you always read the articles about him?" Ran told her.

"I can't follow all of these karate magazines. Let's see..." Sonoko grabbed her smartphone from her bag and looked through the online comments. "Oh, damn. They're pretty nasty. I love it!"

Ran was more skeptical. " it?"

"Sure, they're all jealous of me and they can't do anything about it. It's glorious!" Sonoko turned her head from her phone to Ran and raised her eyebrows with a teasing look. "I thought you would understand, since your relationship with Shinichi upset a lot of fangirls as well."

Ran blushed; actually being in a relationship with and doing most of the stuff Sonoko teased them about didn't make Sonoko's teasing any less effective. Meanwhile, Motoka was still digesting the information she just received. "Wait. Ran-chan is actually together with Shinichi-kun now?" That question just earned her some raised eyebrows. "Really? Nobody told me? Come on, I thought that I wasn't the only single here and now I learn I am?" Motoka threw her arms up in an overly dramatic manner. "I need to find a new boyfriend..."

Maiko sighed again. "You can have mine if you want. Although, you're probably too old for his taste, just like me..."
Sonoko smiled at the girls dry remark, but turned the attention back to Ran after that "So Ran, how's it going with dear Shinichi-kun?"

"Ah, I have nothing to complain about, really..." Ran tried to quickly shut down Sonoko's attempts of putting her in the spotlight of this conversation, but the look on Sonoko's face told Ran that her best friend still had something to tell the other girls.

"It's perfect between you two, huh? I wonder how far you've gone after ten years of secret loving?"

Ran's blush got even more intense. "Sonoko! I-I...I mean...what are you even talking about...?!"

Sonoko was just getting started. "Really now? Well, I think you're not telling us the truth. And I even have evidence!" Now Sonoko had the attention of the whole group, except for Kamiko, who had been confusingly quiet recently.

"What kind of evidence do you have, Sonoko-chan?" The other girls asked.

"Well, a couple of days ago, I wanted to talk to Ran about something for the next day of school. It was already pretty late, but usually Ran is still awake because of her father. So, I called her cell phone, but she didn't have it on. Naturally, I just called her home directly, maybe her battery was simply dead. Turns out, that wasn't the case..." Sonoko took a break for the dramatic effect, meticulously folding her hands on her lap. "Because the one who took the call was Ran's father. That old man told, no, he almost whined to me, that his daughter was staying over at that detective brat's house for the night. Again. Apparently, she does that so often that he doesn't even remember the last time they had dinner together."

It may have seemed like Sonoko was being really mean to Ran, but the truth was that this was already the friendship version. If Sonoko wanted to denounce Ran, she would've told the other girls how drunk Kogoro probably was and how Ran had to play home keeper for him, since he wouldn't be able manage his life otherwise. These were things that stayed between Ran and her closer friends, a principle that Sonoko didn't breach with her words.

As to why Sonoko was spreading out the details of Ran's relationship, Ran figured that she simply didn't tell her friend enough. Usually, when it came to relationship related stuff, Ran and Sonoko conversed in private about that, but Ran had been very quiet about her relationship with Shinichi, not only to Sonoko, but pretty much everyone. Ran wasn't ashamed of their relationship, not at all: she didn't deny anything when asked about it, they kissed and sometimes showed affection even in public places, but she just didn't want to actively talk about it, almost as if telling anybody too much about it would ruin the magic.

'I should've seen this coming.' Ran thought to herself. 'If Sonoko doesn't get her information from the source, then she will pry elsewhere and I doubt she got anything from Shinichi. Clever as always, making this the topic of a girl forum is probably the best move to find out more. At the very least it will make me tell her more in private. Ah, Sonoko, still the master of high school gossip.' Ran smiled, but only for a short moment; she was still in the girls locker room cross-examination.

"So, Ran, tell us." Sonoko continued. "What do you and Shinichi-kun typically do on one of your many nights together? Doing homework?" Sonoko raised on of her fingers to her chin, while the other girls giggled, safe for Kamiko, as that suggestion seemed like most outlandish thing in the world.

"Eating together?" Sonoko said.
"Warmer..." The others girls said.
"Cuddling on the couch?"
"Doing something...naughty?"

Ran shook her head. "Sonoko, Sonoko...truly you haven't lost your touch for drama. It's good to know that our school play is under good care with you." She said, hoping that evading the question would get the other girls off of her.

"Sounds like you're evading the question, Ran." Sonoko said. Damnit. "Come on, you can tell us..."

"W-what?" Ran stuttered.

"If you did something naughty." Maiko said.
"Something more than kissing." Motoka continued.
"Something like-..." Sonoko wanted to continue, but she was interrupted.

"They want to know if you had sex with him." Kamiko suddenly said, her first words in this conversation. Her words made all of the other girls blush and look elsewhere; it seemed like Kamiko's bluntness had struck a nerve. "So? Did you?"

"Did I what?" Ran replied in plain wonder.

"Dear lord, wake up! Did you have sex with Shinichi Kudo?!" Kamiko insisted. Her usual no nonsense attitude and lack of patience were especially showing today.

"Wha...well no...but that's not...I mean, it's not...that doesn't mean...I mean..." Ran stuttered again, the bluntness of the other girl confusing her. It's not like she hadn't thought about that, she was a teenager after all, hormones were most definitely happening, but being asked upfront about it like this wasn't something Ran was comfortable with.

Kamiko sighed. "So, that's a no."

Ran shyly nodded. "Yes, it's a no..." She whispered.

"I suspected as much." Kamiko smirked and put her bag aside, sliding her slender form closer to Ran. She was quite attractive, with long, curly, black hair and a body that made the boys in their classes drool (certain mystery freaks excluded of course); Ran was about on par with her in terms of beauty, while Sonoko was close, but still a step below Ran and Kamiko. Motoka, Maiko and Hikaru weren't too shabby either, but no comparison to the other three. "Don't tell me you haven't thought about it. You're both attractive, you're both seventeen, nothing is standing in your way."

"Well, it's not like it hasn't crossed my mind..." Ran said even more quiet than before, but Kamiko still heard her.

She wrapped an arm around Ran's shoulder, pulling her closer. "Good, that's good. Now, there is something you should know before you do that though..." She said in a condescending voice.

Sonoko raised an eyebrow at the girl who embracing her best friend, almost like a snake. "Hey, hey, what's with the tone? It's not like you're the authority on this topic."

"Silence!" Kamiko hissed at Sonoko. "This is a conversation for women and not girls like you, Sonoko-chan."

"We...we're all the same age here..." Sonoko said, baffled how Kamiko spoke with her all of a sudden.

"Yes, we are." Kamiko nodded. "But the number that determines your age does not determine your maturity. No, that is determined by other things. Sexual activity being one of them. And I have more experience than you with that."

"You did..." Sonoko mumbled.

"Yes, with my boyfriend, Ikema." Kamiko smirked, feeling superior for a reason that only she understood. "So, I'm more of the authority, as you called it, than you. Remind me again, what was the last status with your boyfriend? A shy kiss when you said goodbye to him at the airport?"
Sonoko blushed at the memory and looked away; she never expected the other girl to turn that story against her. Kamiko smirked.

"Hey, you shouldn't talk to Sonoko like that." Ran said, trying to get a bit of distance between her and Kamiko.

"Nevermind her." Kamiko continued. "We were talking about you and Kudo-kun having sex. First thing you've gotta know, it will change everything about your relationship. Kudo-kun will begin to be more possessive, physically and emotionally. The brain of a man is genetically programmed to see their sexual partner as their property; it's a leftover from the beginning of mankind, where that kind of behavior was in order to protect their heritage. Over the centuries, where humanity became civilized, this whole behavior changed its meaning, with the property aspect only becoming less culturally accepted in recent decades. But they can't fight against their genes, so that will always still happen, but in different forms. And brace yourself, the experience will hurt. Even a martial artist like you will have a rough time."

Ran wasn't sure what to make of Kamiko's words. However, the other girls bar Sonoko were listening to her like she was a prophet. "It's...that bad...?" Motoka shyly asked.

"Yes!" Kamiko exclaimed. "It will hurt a lot, it'll be a ravaging experience. But only the first time, it gets better. Eventually. But don't expect him to care about your feelings or about your pain, they will only be distractions for him."

"I don't know..." Ran said. "...if what you're describing can really be applied to people in general...maybe Ikema-kun is like that..." Not hard to imagine for Ran, Kamiko's boyfriend Ikema was a brute from what she could tell. "...but Shinichi and Ikema-kun are not alike."

"Doesn't matter." Kamiko made a waving motion with her hand. "It's the same for every man. Think about the couples you know and you'll see that this is the case for every last one of them." Ran actually wanted to think about that, but Kamiko continued before she could do so. "Kudo-kun might be nice now, but that'll change. Soon after, he'll see you as a doll that is supposed to look nice at his side, so don't forget to smile." Kamiko released Ran from her arms. "But don't hesitate much more now. If you keep him waiting for too long, his brain will see you as a frigid, old hag and he'll ditch you. Doesn't matter what kind of cheesy crap he wrote you on a White Day card or whatever. His instincts will tell him to ditch you, so you give him what he desires."

"It wasn't cheesy..." Ran mumbled and stood up. The only desire she currently felt was to get away from Kamiko. "I better get going. See you all tomorrow."

Chapter Text

Ran made her way towards the exit of the locker room, with Sonoko catching up to her quickly. After a moment of silence, Sonoko asked: "And? What did he write? On his White Day card I mean."

"Nothing special, really, but it wasn't cheesy either. It was something you'd expect from Shinichi." Ran said. She was sick with a bad cold at the time, barely able to speak, so Shinichi's gift was a large package of white cough drop candy, with a card that read To hopefully make you feel better and get well soon. I miss your voice. -Shinichi; Ran inwardly chuckled, writing that last sentence probably hadn't been easy for him. Knowing that made Ran even more happy that he actually wrote it down though.

"Way to avoid the question...again..." Sonoko mumbled, but she didn't press the issue. It seems like she was busy with thoughts of her own.

Upon leaving the locker room, Ran and Sonoko almost bumped into Kamiko's boyfriend, Ikema, who was standing really close to the door of the locker room. "Don't you think you're waiting a bit too close to the door, Ikema-kun?" Sonoko asked. "People might mistake you for a pervert trying to peep."

"None of your business." Ikema huffed, as Kamiko also came through the door. Sonoko and Ran moved along. However, they looked back over their shoulders when they heard dog like licking sounds, only to see Kamiko and Ikema engaged in a bizarre kiss, which involved his tongue sliding over her face a couple times between lip contact. They hurried away from that sight.

Contrary to Ikema, Shinichi didn't wait obnoxiously close to the girls locker room, but rather outside, sitting on a waist-high wall along the way from the locker room building to the school gate. He was casually reading a book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, when he spotted the two girls and got up.

Their way home was mostly filled with unimportant chit-chat, with hardly any of Sonoko's trademark teases; she was confusingly silent in general, even when they parted ways. At least it was a bit confusing for Shinichi, Ran had a pretty good guess at what kept Sonoko's mind occupied. "Sonoko was weird today...did something happen in your locker room? She wasn't like this earlier..." Shinichi asked.

"Maybe..." Ran said. "Locker rooms can start pretty weird conversations sometimes..."

"it will change everything about your relationship"

Ran shook her head as Kamiko's words suddenly came back to her mind. "Say, Shinichi..." Ran started. Maybe hearing some sort of story from the other side would set her mind straight. "Ikema-kun, has he talked about his girlfriend recently?"

Shinichi nodded. "Uhh...Kamiko-chan, right? I think he has, but he's always full of boasting and hyperbole when he tells stories, so I don't really pay attention to what he says anymore, but I think recently it has been all about his girlfriend." He looked at Ran as they were walking. "Why?"

"Ah, just curious, Kamiko-chan seems more...happy recently, so maybe something good happened between them." Ran shrugged while she lied to Shinichi.

"I see." Shinichi sighed. "Well, I'd tell you more details, but Ikema is just too tiresome to listen to. Plus, there is another topic in that locker room that interests me more right now..."

"Don't worry about it, it's not important." Ran hastily said, before he could continue. "Kudo-kun might be nice now, but that'll change." Ran shook her head again. She was frustrated that the words of her classmate came back to her mind; she didn't want to think about it now.

Once Ran and Shinichi arrived at the Kudo mansion, they worked on their homework and learned for the upcoming math exam. After that, Ran made dinner for them.

"What are you thinking about? A new case?" Ran asked while they ate. Shinichi had seemed like he was thinking about a case even when they were studying and now during dinner too.

"Kind of..." Shinichi answered. "It's about what I mentioned earlier, about what topic interests me more in the locker room. Recently, some of the boys in our grade behave strangely around women."

"Huh?" Ran wondered. "What do you mean by that?"

"They get totally nervous around them, downright anxious even and I don't mean just girls of the same age, no, even our teachers and some even with their mothers. I've seen some of the guys, who were drooling over Jodie-sensei and had that dumb smile all over their face when she gets a bit flirty, flinch away from her when she simply touched their shoulders." Shinichi explained. "But I can't figure out the reason for it, that's why I keep thinking about it. They obviously deny any of that and won't talk about it, no matter how subtle or unsubtle I'll ask them about it. I don't know, I feel like something weird is going on..."

"That's sounds quite curious indeed..." Ran said. She hadn't noticed that explicit behavior from her male classmates, but she remembered wondering why some guys were less willing to help Jodie-sensei with stuff, something she got tons of volunteers for previously. 'Like Shinichi said, that's something weird...' Ran thought to herself. They finished eating and watched a bit of TV. Ran decided to stay over the night again and the two of them kissed when they about to go to sleep. It didn't seem like anything more than that would happen.

Ten minutes later, the two of them were making out, stumbling backwards into Shinichi's room, passion and hormones dictating their movement. Entering the room, they eventually got to his bed; tripping when they reached the edge of it, Ran fell backwards on the bed, with Shinichi arching over her, still locked in a kiss. Their lips parted and Shinichi asked: "Ran, do you want to..."

"Yes..." Ran whispered, starting to undo his green tie. Shinichi smiled and removed hers. "It will hurt a lot, it'll be a ravaging experience." Ran closed her eyes. 'Get out of my thoughts, Kamiko!' She shouted in her mind.

"Ran? Is something wrong?" She heard him ask. Ran opened her eyes again and saw some worry on his face, so she flashed him a smile and shook her head.

"No, everything's fine." She said and started to unbutton his shirt. The worry vanished from his face and he mirrored her movements again, opening up her shirt until her bra was visible, a sight that made him blush quite a bit, despite the fact that they had making out for a good amount of time now. He just was cute like that. Shinichi leaned down again to resume the kissing.

"But don't expect him to care about your feelings or about your pain, they will only be distractions for him."
"it will change everything"
"he'll see you as a doll that is supposed to look nice at his side"

'No, that's not Shinichi, that's not him at all!' Ran thought, still feeling the taste of his lips. 'But...what if...what if she is actually right? What if Shinichi turns into someone like Ikema? That would never happen...or could it?' While they were still kissing, Shinichi started to unbutton the rest of her shirt.

"will change everything"
"ravaging experience"
"he will stop to care"
"change everything"

Ran grabbed Shinichi's hands, which were still busy with unbuttoning. "Huh?" He wondered out loud.

"Shinichi..." Ran said, opening her eyes a tiny bit. "Maybe...we shouldn't..."

"Oh...I see..." Shinichi said, an undefined emotion in his voice. Disappointment? Swallowed anger? Sadness? Ran couldn't tell either way.

"But don't hesitate much more now. If you keep him waiting for too long, his brain will see you as a frigid, old hag and he'll ditch you."

Ran closed her eyes again as she heard the words of the damned Kamiko in her mind again. Why did that girl leave such an impression on her? Was it because of the conviction in Kamiko's voice, that spoke of an experience Ran herself lacked? Ran felt incredibly stupid right this second. She had just bluntly and out of nowhere rejected an intimate moment with Shinichi, the one person she actually wanted to be intimate with, just because of the words of a girl which wasn't even really her friend, unlike Sonoko. As she still had her eyes closed, Ran only felt and heard how Shinichi got up from the bed (and subsequently her) and stepped away from it.

"I think we have a problem, Ran..." She heard Shinichi say.

'Oh god, what does he mean? What will he say? Is he...angry...sad...? Damnit, why I can't construe his emotions?' Ran thought.

After another moment of silence, Shinichi spoke again. "I can't tell which tie is yours and which is mine I'm afraid..."

"Huh?" Ran opened her eyes and jolted up from his bed; Shinichi was standing in the middle of the room, where they had thrown the green ties that was part of their school uniform. He held one tie in each of his hand, looking back and forth between them. Ran walked closer to him, taking note of his upper body which was even more exposed than hers; seems like she had been more eager and thus faster in unbuttoning his shirt, a fact that made her blush even more in addition to the blush she had from everything that had happened just now.

Shinichi was still busy looking at the ties. "Hm, I can't figure it out..."

Ran went ahead and grabbed the tie from his left hand. "This one is mine."

"How do you know?" Shinichi asked.

"I just know, okay?"

"" He wondered. "They are literally identical..."

"Then it doesn't matter anyway, right?!" Ran snapped.

Shinichi held his hands up defensively. "Alright, alright, I get it."

They stared at each other for another moment, before they realized again in what kind of an awkward situation they were. Shinichi looked all over the room, while Ran looked at the ground before she said: "Well, I think I'll go to sleep now..."

"Yeah..." Shinichi mumbled. "That's probably for the best..."

Ran gave Shinichi a kiss on cheek and headed for the door. "Good night, Shinichi." She said while exiting his room.

"Night..." Shinichi almost whispered.

When Ran closed the door of the guest room/her room behind her, she let herself fall back against it and slid to the ground, barely holding back a few tears. She mentally scolded herself again for being so stupid and for ruining the situation, unsure what Shinichi would think of her now. Although...after thinking for a while, his reaction wasn't what she expected and he didn't show any emotion that she speculated. No, his reaction showed...content? Was it that he didn't care or was he fine with her reaction? Ran stood up and almost opened the door again, but ultimately, she refrained. Coming to his room now would only make matters worse; tomorrow was a new day. A new day where they could talk about what happened, because a talk was most necessary. Quickly, Ran discarded her shirt, skirt and socks, put on one of her pyjamas that were stored in the closet of the guest room/her room and crawled under the blankets of the bed. Thoughts about the discussion with Kamiko and about what happened in Shinichi's room kept her mind from resting, but soon enough, Ran was asleep.

Ran sat in her hotel room of the Izu Princess Hotel. The lights were off despite it already being late evening and tears were flowing down her face. The Night Baron who committed murder had been able to parry her karate kick. Only one of the suspects had that ability; thus, her idol, the man who inspired her to start practicing martial arts, was most likely the culprit and Ran hadn't told the police or Shinichi yet. Instead, she was sitting in her room, unable to make a decision on what to do next.

She heard two knocks. Ran looked over to the doo, but didn't make an effort to answer it. After another moment of silence, the door opened and Shinichi stepped into the room.

"You know, even though there is a murder investigation going on, there are better ways to spend your evening than crying in the darkness of your room." Shinichi said, as he closed the door behind him.

Ran wiped away some of her tears, even though he told her years ago that if she wanted to cry, she should simply do so. "I already told you earlier when you tested that trick to lock a room from the outside: I just yawned and that made my eyes tear up."

Instead of mentioning how shallow that excuse sounded, Shinichi simply sat down on the bed beside her. Ran bit her lip. " figured it out, right? That the Night Baron who attacked us in the elevator could only have been...Maeda-san..." Ran deduced, to which Shinichi nodded. "Is he the culprit, Shinichi?"

Shinichi sighed. "It's seems very likely at this point, yes..." He answered and looked to the ground.

Ran sobbed another time, trying to hold back further tears. "What would you do, Shinichi? If you knew the culprit, like if it was Professor Agasa or me? Would you tell?"

"Yes, I would tell." Shinichi responded. "Whether it would be the Professor or you, I'd face you and confront you." Shinichi turned to Ran, raised his and pointed directly at her face. "'The culprit is you!'...or something like that." He lowered his arm again.

Ran pouted a bit. "That would be quite a serious situation...and you would try to look cool?!"

"Trying to look cool..." Shinichi chuckled and shook his head. ", I'd be lucky if I'd still able to stand upright. Because before I would confront you or anyone I'd call my friend like that, I would tried everything to prove your innocence, I wouldn't give up until I did. And after that, if there were no doubts about your guilt, then, and only then, would I confront you, even if it would break my heart..."

'Shinichi...' Ran thought and blushed. 'All right!' She stood up and clenched her fist, before slightly bowing down to give Shinichi a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you..." She said and left the room.

Ran opened her eyes. It was a dream, but not completely, she dreamt of a memory. Hard to believe it already had been a couple of months since the murder case surrounding the Night Baron happened in Izu. She rubbed her eyes and smiled. 'I was in quite a desperate situation back then, huh? Almost paralyzed by the fear that my karate idol had killed a person and unsure if I could do the right thing...thankfully, Shinichi was there for me in that moment, his words made me search the whole hotel until I was able to confirm Maeda-san's alibi, which was a key factor in figuring out the true culprit...' Ran thought. ' the end, he was always there for me when I needed him...yet, a single conversation with a classmate made me fear that he would change...Kudo-kun will change, as Kamiko-chan put it...but that couldn't happen because of such a thing...or could it? I need to talk to Shinichi about what happened, I need to explain my doubts, thoughts and feelings! It won't be good for either of us if I just leave it hanging in the air between us.'

Yawning a little bit (not enough to make her eyes tear up), Ran grabbed her alarm clock to see what time it was. She let out a small giggle: she had woken up exactly one minute before the time the alarm was set to.

Roughly an hour later, Ran and Shinichi were already dressed for school in the kitchen, sitting at the table and drinking coffee; they still had time before they had to leave, which Ran saw as a good opportunity to talk about last night. She set down her cup and looked at Shinichi. "Shinichi...we should talk about what happened in your room..." Ran started.

Shinichi looked at her, set down his cup and nodded. "Yeah, we probably should..."

Ran hesitated for another moment, but then decided she should just tell him about the doubts that creeped up in her mind thanks to the talk with Kamiko. "So, yesterday at school, I had..." She started, when Shinichi's phone started to ring.

"Sorry, sorry, let me just turn this off..." Shinichi hastily said, pulling out the phone from his pocket. He looked at the display before declining the call, his eyes widening upon the sight. "'s my mother..."

"Yukiko-san really has a sense for timing, doesn't she?" Ran couldn't but to giggle. "Go ahead, take the call, you haven't spoken to her in a while. It's not like we can escape from having our conversation anyways..."

Shinichi flashed an apologetic smile before answering his phone. "Hey, Mom, this is not really a good, I didn't mean...come on, you know that's not true...okay, okay, calm down, I'm, it's fine, really, it's fine..."

In the end, Shinichi didn't manage to keep the phone call with his mother short, but Ran expected as much. Yukiko Kudo was not somebody you put the down on easily. He only managed to end the call when they really needed to leave the house to be at their school in time; Ran was right, they couldn't escape talking about last night, but they had to schedule for after the school (because really, no amount of privacy they could find in their school would be enough privacy to discuss such a matter).

When they finished putting on their shoes, Shinichi held Ran back from leaving. "Hey..." Shinichi said shyly. ", as far as I'm concerned...I mean...there is problem between us, is there?"

Ran hesitated for a moment to process his words, before smiling at him. "No, there's no problem, it's just...I hesitated last night because of a confusing conversation I had and it's got nothing to do with you really...I mean, argh, it's complicated you know...but...ah screw it..." Ran gently grabbed his tie and pulled Shinichi down for a kiss. "When words fail us, we need to resort to actions..." She said when their lips parted. Ran straightened his tie again. "There is no problem between us, we just need to have a conversation before doing...that thing...alright?"

Shinichi nodded, so Ran grabbed his hand and the two hurried out of the Kudo mansion to make it to school in time.

Chapter Text

On their way to school, they met up with Sonoko as usual. Today was actually a really nice summer day, not a single cloud in the sky and a warm temperature that didn't make one feel like Tokyo had turned into a gigantic frying pan. The whole Teitan High School hoped it would stay like this until their summer festival was over, so it would be a great success. Of course, the school play would be an integral part of that, but Sonoko didn't seem pressured even with her role as head organizer of said play. After greeting each other, Sonoko quickly changed the topic to her relationship with Makoto, because she apparently had an extensive phone call with him yesterday. Shinichi would've made a few snarky comments at Sonoko, but ever since Shinichi and Ran actually got together and since Sonoko had met Makoto, the two of them had a silent agreement to keep the snarking at each other, in regards to relationships at least, limited.

One street corner before they went into sight of the Teitan High School, Shinichi and Ran stopped holding hands, which significantly lowered the amount of teasing they received from the rest of their classmates. The first few lessons of the day went over pretty fast, the students and even the teachers were enchanted by an uplifting mood.

During the break, Ran, who was on her way to the girls bathroom, spotted Kamiko and Ikema on the hallway. The boy had an arm wrapped around Kamiko and was talking to some other boys that Ran didn't really know.

"Hey, hey, Ikema-kun, still can't believe you got yourself a pretty thing like that." One of the boys jeered.

Ikema huffed. "Well, your lack of trust in my abilities as a girl magnet may be forgiven if you start to appreciate me properly now. Not many people can score a chick like Kamiko, isn't that right?"

Kamiko faked a smile - Ran could tell that she did, but it went over the head of the boys - and nodded. "Right..." She said. Ikema gave her a dirty smile in response and placed a wet smooch on her cheek. His saliva ran down her face and the way Ikema had her in his grip, she couldn't move her arms to wipe it away. Ran felt a bit sick watching this.

The boys jeered for a bit longer, when Kamiko wiggled a bit in his grip to get the attention of her 'boyfriend'. "Hey, Ikema, honey, can you let go of me? I need to go to the bathroom..." This sentence only furthered the amusement of the boys around her.

"Sweetie, we're in the middle of a conversation here," Ikema answered, "you can go later. Just hold it in."

"No, I...I can't...I really need to go to the bathroom..." Kamiko insisted with a blush on her face.

"Too bad, it's really impolite to just walk away from people like, you know?" Ikema said with a sadistic smile. "Either you hold it in or you let it go, but you'll stay right here, got it?"

"Got it..." Kamiko said.

Ran had enough, she couldn't just stand around and watch this any longer. With clenched fists, she walked towards the group of boys and Kamiko. "Ikema-kun!" Ran exclaimed.

Ikema looked at her. "You again? Is it about standing too close to the girls locker room door? I already told you and your friend, it's none of your business..."

"No, that's not it!" Ran interrupted him. "What do you think you're doing with your girlfriend?"

"Again, that's none of your business!" Ikema hissed at Ran.

"You can't just keep her here, she asked you to let her go to the bathroom. I can't believe she even has to ask for that...what kind of person are you!?" Ran almost yelled at this point.

"Listen, I don't let myself get talked to like that...!" Ikema barked and clenched his fists as well. Observing his movements, Ran got ready to defend herself from an incoming punch of his, when he suddenly relaxed his body again, as he looked past Ran now instead of looking at her. Ran looked over her shoulder to see where he was actually looking now; standing at the end of the hallway was Jodie-sensei, who observed the situation critically from a distance. Ran guessed that she was out of hearing range, otherwise she would've probably put Ikema in his place by now. However, Ikema couldn't just attack Ran now. She remembered that he already got in some other trouble with a teacher recently, so Ikema needed to lay low for a while. He released Kamiko from his grip and pushed her slightly towards Ran. "Here, do whatever you girls do in the bathroom." He jeered and walked off, his still snickering entourage following him.

Ran grabbed Kamiko's arm and pulled her into the girls bathroom nearby. She took a tissue from her pocket and offered it to Kamiko. The girl gave her a short smile, but shook her head. "No, thank you, I got one myself." She said to Ran and indeed pulled a tissue out of her own pocket, wiping off Ikema's saliva from her cheek with it. "It wasn't necessary to do that, really." Kamiko continued. The tone in her voice indicated that it wasn't some kind of shy thank you, no, for some reason Kamiko seemed unhappy with Ran getting her out of that situation.

"Of course it was necessary! He can't just treat you like this..." Ran said.

Kamiko shook her head again. "You're really too naive..." She said, before remembering that she really had to use the toilet, so she hurried into a stall. Now Ran also remembered that she had on her way to the bathroom herself when she came upon Kamiko and Ikema, so she did the same.

Shortly after, Kamiko and Ran washed their hands. "Phew..." Kamiko said. "That was really close..."

Ran turned to the girl. "See? It was necessary...aside from his general behavior..."

"No, it wasn't!" Kamiko said sharply. "That's normal behavior, nothing less. No need to make a big deal out of it."

"No need to make a big deal out of it...?" Ran repeated. "Are you listening to yourself? He almost caused you wet yourself in front of his friends!"

"Oh please, it's just a bit of teasing from his part, he would've let go of me on his own." Kamiko looked down at her hands before turning back to Ran. "And even if he didn't, it wouldn't have been that bad, that's what we pay the janitors for, right? Well, at least that partially what the school pays them for..."

"..." Ran didn't know what to say. She couldn't really believe what she had just heard.

"Anyway, did you do it?" Kamiko asked.

"Huh?" Ran wondered. "Did I do what?"

"Come on, be a bit more sharp." Kamiko sighed. "Did you have sex with Kudo-kun yesterday?"

"Ahh, that..." Ran felt more stupid than yesterday that she rejected Shinichi because the words of this girl had crept into her mind. Kamiko seemed even less of someone who's advice one should listen to. "No, I did not."

"Too bad. Well, it didn't seem like he ditched you yet, so you should take the next chance you get no matter what!" Kamiko lectured.

"If I have...", Ran blushed, " Shinichi...does that make me obliged to endure such a treatment from him too? Because I somehow feel like it doesn't...not that Shinichi would ever do such a terrible thing...and I don't think that having sex with him would make him do something like that!" She said with conviction.

"Terrible thing...? You're really making this bigger than it needs to be." Kamiko shrugged. "Take my word for it, he will behave similar after you've done it with him. And he'll ditch you, if you don't give him what he wants. And he wants it, trust me."

Not a false assumption by her, not at all, they both wanted it to be precise, but that wasn't the point here. "Kamiko-chan, Shinichi is not like Ikema-kun..."

"It doesn't matter!" Kamiko snapped. "Didn't you listen to me?! He's a boy just like Ikema, they will become alike eventually, even if you don't fuck with him. But if you want to stick with him, you have to make sure that you get it on, or else...ah, forget it! If you don't want to face reality, then don't! Just don't come running to once you've realized that I've been right all this time!" Kamiko hastily dried her hands and stormed off, running into Sonoko on her way out. "Out of my way!" She barked and shoved Sonoko aside.

Sonoko was caught off-guard by that, but managed not to fall to the ground. After staring at the door Kamiko had just left through, she went over to Ran. " Kamiko-chan okay?" Sonoko asked.

Still looking at the door, Ran frowned. "I...I don't know..."

Meanwhile, Shinichi was also washing his hands, but in the boys bathroom of course. His mind was still concerned with the weird behavior of some of his fellow male classmates. Unfortunately, all of his subtle and less subtle attempts at getting information from them proved futile in the end. Every guy whom he had observed expressing that kind of weird behavior avoided questions and used empty phrases to get him off their backs. But their silence just reinforced his suspicions. Something weird was going and he would be the one to find out what it was.

"Yo, Kudo-kun!" He heard a familiar voice from behind say. Shinichi slightly turned his head to see friends of his, namely Masahito and some other fellows from the soccer team, approach him to also wash their hands.

"Hey, what's up guys?" Shinichi replied.

"Heard you got yourself and your girlfriend a dedication in the new Samonji novel. How did our great detective manage to achieve that?" Masahito asked with a grin.

"Well..." Shinichi said, with a similar grin on his face. The case surrounding the mystery writer Nintaro Shinmei hadn't been that long ago, but his daughter Kaori had already published the next novel in the series. The dedication had been her way of thanking Shinichi and Ran; hopefully these guys wouldn't read the novel too far or otherwise they would notice that Shinichi and Ran actually had a short cameo in it. Nevertheless, his audience wanted a tale from their great detective and Shinichi was ready to deliver. "Well, you see, it all started when Nintaro Shinmei went missin-..."

"KUDO!" An angry voice interrupted Shinichi. The boys turned around to see a very angry Ikema.

Shinichi frowned. "Hey, Ikema-kun...what's up?" The greeting sounded a lot more cold than the one toward his soccer mates. He wondered what that brute could want from him now.

"What's up, what's up..." Ikema mocked Shinichi's voice. "Your girlfriend's up, that's what's up."

"What about her?" Shinichi narrowed his eyes. What did Ran have to do with this?

"Your damn tomboy chick made me look stupid in front of the teachers and my lackeys, that about her! Just because she thinks that I can't treat my girlfriend the way I see fit." Ikema barked.

Shinichi slightly tilted his head. Ran had asked yesterday if Ikema mentioned Kamiko before, because she seemed happier than usual. He didn't see a connection between her happiness and the fact that her boyfriend is Ikema at the moment though. "Alright. So what?" Shinichi also didn't know what exactly Ikema wanted from him now.

"This what!" Ikema continued to reply by repeating Shinichi's questions and threw a punch at him. Even though he was taken by surprise, Shinichi dodged the punch without any effort. After all, he was able to dodge Ran's karate kicks, so this amateur punch had nothing on him. With Shinichi evading, Ikema's punch only hit the sink. He yelped in pain, held his hand and glared at Shinichi. "You bastard..." He growled.

Before Shinichi could reply anything, his soccer mates gathered around him, all of them forming a front against Ikema. "What's your deal man?!" Masahito yelled. Nodding and agreement from the others. "You jerk and your fellowship cause nothing but trouble; not hard to believe you mistreated your girlfriend again, it's sickening! Can't one day go by without you making an ass out of yourself?!"

" is not over!" Ikema growled and fled out of the bathroom. Shinichi, Masahito and the others shook their heads in disapproval.

Shortly after, Shinichi entered their classroom and went over to Ran's desk, where she was busy reading in her mathbook for the upcoming lesson. "Hey, got a minute?" Shinichi asked.

Ran looked up from her book and gave him a smile. "Sure, go ahead."

"Just wanting to keep you informed that I had a little...argument with Ikema-kun in the bathroom." Shinichi started; Ran's eyes widened already. "He seemed pretty angry about you making him look stupid because of his girlfriend. Anyway, he tried to attack me..."

Now Ran gasped and covered her mouth with one hand in shock. "He attacked you?!"

He made a calming gesture with his hands. "He tried to attack me, tried. Ikema-kun threw a punch at me, but I evaded it and when some of my friends from the soccer club came to my side he fled the scene." As Shinichi concluded his recalling of the incident, he crouched down in front of her desk, came closer and talked a little more quiet. "Now, I'd be interested in hearing what exactly you supposedly did. You asked me about Ikema-kun yesterday because Kamiko-chan seemed happy that in some connected?"

Shifting slightly in her seat, Ran raised one hand to her forehead and sighed again. "Yeah...partially. It's actually a bit more complicated. You see..." Ran wanted to go on, but their teacher entered the class at this moment. Shinichi also noticed and sighed. "I'll explain after school, okay, Shinichi?"

He nodded and returned to his seat. Their teacher began to let students solve equations; since their math exams were right around the corner, the time for teaching them stuff was over. The students needed to be able to confidently solve the various mathematical problems their teacher gave them, or the exams were going to be a nightmare for them. Unfortunately for the students, it looked like a nightmare right now. Many students weren't able to fulfill the expectations of their teacher, making him more and more angry. After another bad answer, he lost his temper. "Okay, that's enough! Clearly, many of you haven't learned enough or maybe the damage that staring on a smartphone screen all day does to the human brain has been severely underestimated so far. In any way, you will all fail if you don't learn this stuff and I have done my part, I've taught you the methods, now you have to know them by heart and you have to learn to apply them. Otherwise you're doomed, academically speaking." Their math teacher inhaled deeply. "Alright. Kudo! Mouri!" He exclaimed, which made Shinichi and Ran sit even straighter in their seats. "You're among my best students in this class, will you please solve these next problems on the board for everyone to see? And please don't mess this up, you're my last hope here." He said, holding a piece of chalk in each of his hands.

Shinichi and Ran got up from their seats and took the chalk. 'Thanks for the low expectations, Sensei...' Shinichi thought, as the two of them began to scribble on the board. Luckily for them, they both managed to solve the exersise pretty easily.

Their teacher nodded with satisfaction. "Good, good. I hope everyone took notice how easy it can be if you know the methods. Hm, funnily you two used the exact same method in the same way. Well, I guess there aren't that many different methods in the books..."

"No, Sensei, that's because they learn this stuff together like a married couple!" One student yelled. A bit of laughter ensued.

Their teacher was confused. "A high school marriage? But Kudo-kun, you aren't old enough for that yet, are you?" Now the class couldn't hold themselves anymore and everyone started to burst out laughing. Shinichi and Ran tried to endure this whole procedure in blushing silence, which was pretty hard. "What...did I miss a joke or..." Their teacher was confused, before he got angry again. "EVERYONE, A BIT MORE DISCIPLINE PLEASE!" He screamed, silencing the laughter immediately. "I'm always in for some fun, but this is an academic institution, so I demand a bit of respect for the education." He turned to Shinichi and Ran. "You two may sit down now."

"Yes, Sensei..." They said in unison and headed for their seats.

As Shinichi went past the door to their classroom, it opened, revealing a student carrying a big stack of books, bigger than himself even. "Sensei, I've got the books you wanted!" The student said and wanted to enter the room, but he tripped. "Ahh..." He exclaimed as his huge tower of books fell forward, right in the direction of Shinichi. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get away in time and one of these heavy books hit him on the head. Shinichi held his head and fell down to the floor.

"Oh god, Shinichi!" He heard Ran cry out and saw her towering over him, before she crouched down. 'They are white...' Shinichi calmly thought from his point of view (it was more of a forensic fact finding than a perverted remark), as his vision started to blur.

"Shinichi, are you okay? Shinichi?!"

Chapter Text

Shinichi squinted his eyes. This would most definitely be the worst headache he ever had. What kind of idiot runs around with such a big stack of books anyway?!

"Shinichi? Are you okay? Shinichi?! Don't faint..." Ran still called out to him; Shinichi could also feel her slightly shaking his side.

He opened his eyes again. His vision was a bit blurry, but it got better already. "I'm fine, I'm fine, I won't faint, I promise." Shinichi assured Ran.

"Oh god, Kudo-kun, I'm so, so, so sorry, I cannot say enough how terribly sorry I am!" The student who carried the books said over and over again. Now Shinichi recognized the voice and even through his blurry vision, he had a pretty good idea who it was. The guy had recently transferred to their school, a fellow called Eisuke Hondou. Shinichi should've known that it was him; shortly after he arrived here, he already made a name for himself as the clumsiest student ever.

"Hondou-kun, please...just stop talking, okay? That would help a lot..." Shinichi growled, still holding his head.

"Yes, Hondou, that would be a really good idea." Their teacher added, making Eisuke cover his mouth with both of his hands. "Now, Kudo, let's try standing up, okay?"

Shinichi nodded slowly, so Ran and their teacher helped him get up from the floor and made him stood upright. He tried to walk over to a wall, so he could lean against it; however, as soon as he moved, his legs felt weak, so he almost fell over. Luckily for Shinichi, Ran caught him in time and helped him keep his balance. "Are you sure you are alright, Shinichi?" Ran worriedly asked.

"Yeah, I'm's just that I can't really see straight and I feel a bit dizzy..." Shinichi mumbled.

Their teacher clicked his tongue. "It's no good, head injuries like this can be very dangerous, so it's best to visit the infirmary now. The school nurse will know what to do."

"I-I-I can take him to the infirmary, Sensei!" Eisuke exclaimed. "I wanna help!"

"You helped enough already!" Their teacher hissed. "Make yourself useful and pick up all of the books that you dropped. Mouri, you'll be able to get him to the infirmary, yes?"

Ran nodded. "Yes, Sensei!" Carefully, Shinichi and Ran left the classroom, while Eisuke crawled around the ground picking up books. Shinichi recovered a bit on their way to the infirmary, he was able to walk a lot steadier now, but he still felt dizzy. Opening the door to the infirmary, they noticed that Doctor Araide wasn't there today. That happened a lot recently, starting shortly after Shinichi solved the case surrounding the death of Doctor Araide's father (also known as the case where Shinichi thought that Ran and Araide had some romantic interest in each other, when in reality Ran just wanted to borrow a sweater to knit an identical one for Shinichi - he kept that alternative case title to himself though), the school had to hire an additional nurse. Kurara-sensei was a good nurse, at least judging from what Ran heard from other girls, but her looks were questionable. She almost looked like a stereotypical nurse from an eroge manga and was an even bigger drooling subject among most of the boys than Jodie-sensei.

"Kudo-kun, Mouri-chan!" Kurara-sensei greeted the two. "I hope you aren't both sick?"

"No, Sensei, it's about Shinichi. He got struck on the head with a heavy book and now he's dizzy and has a headache." Ran hastily explained. "Out math teacher told me to take him here, because he couldn't really walk straight yet."

"That got better already, but you forgot the blurry vision." Shinichi added.

"Nevertheless, you should lie down first, Kudo-kun. Let's get him on the bed over there, Mouri-chan." Kurara-sensei instructed. After Shinichi was resting on said bed, the nurse began her examination.

"Araide-sensei isn't here again? That's like...the third day in row, right?" Ran wondered.

"Yes, that sounds about right." Kurara-sensei replied. "Doctor Araide needs time for himself apparently. My money is on the death of his father having a bigger impact on him than everybody thought. He's been acting like a stranger recently...I guess everybody mourns differently. Anyway, Kudo-kun got struck in head with a book you say? So he was assaulted?"

"No, no, it was an unfortunate accident." Ran explained. "You see, Eisuke-kun came into the classroom with a large stack of books..."

"Eisuke-kun?" Kurara-sensei interjected. "Eisuke Aizawa or Eisuke Hondou?"

"What...? Uhm, it was Eisuke Hondou..." Ran replied.

"I see. No further explanations necessary." Kurara-sensei said with a sigh. "That boy...first he got himself sent here all the time and now other students as well...only a few months at this school and already a bigger medical record than many other students in all of their time here..." She finished examining Shinichi and grabbed some pills from a cabinet. "Alright, Kudo-kun, you don't have a concussion or any other severe head trauma. You should be fine with a bit of rest and maybe you should take it a bit easy the next few days. Here, some pills against the headache, that will make the initial resting a bit more bearable."

Kurara-sensei handed Shinichi the pills and a glass of water, so he could swallow them more easily. After he did so, Shinichi could already feel the pain lessening, although he was sure that it was simply the initial placebo effect. Whether or not he was right with that didn't interest him now though, since less of his headache was good. "What now? Should I head home?" He asked.

"Hmm..." Kurara-sensei wrote something down on a clipboard. "Yes, eventually. I don't think you should participate in classes anymore today...but heading home now is a bit too early with your condition. Tell you what, you rest here until the next two lessons are over and then you should be fine to head home. Mouri-chan, would you be so kind to bring his school bag here after the next two lessons?"

Ran nodded. "Sure, I can do that!"

"Good, that's good." Kurara-sensei. "You can go back to class now, Mouri-chan, there is nothing more for you to do. Your boyfriend needs some rest now." The nurse added a wink that made Ran blush.

"S-sure..." Ran said and gently stroked Shinichi's hand once. "I'll see you later, okay?"

"Yeah...later..." Shinichi replied slowly. He felt good and was already beginning to doze. He still heard Ran closing the door behind her when she left and was asleep.

Shinichi opened his eyes. He felt that he had a fever in addition to the headache. Also, he wasn't in the infirmary anymore, it was the bedroom of a mansion and Ran was sitting at his side. When she noticed that he had woken up, Ran smiled at him. "Shinichi, really...running over a burning bridge like irresponsible..." She kindly chided him.

He tried to return the smile. "I do what I can..." He said, noticing his throat was really dry. "But listen, Ran...the guy who organized this meeting...he was found dead..."

Ran nodded. "I know..."

"You do...we have to get away from here..." Shinichi started, but she didn't let him finish.

"We...or rather have bigger problems right now..." Ran explained.

", I think a murdered host and a secluded villa in the snowy mountains are our biggest problems right now..." Shinichi said and tried to stand up, but he was unable to. Both of his feet were tied to the bed with restraints. "What the hell...?!"

Ran came closer to the bed now. "Shinichi, listen to me! You need to wake up! Right now!"

"What...?" Shinichi narrowed his eyes. "Wake up...? What do you mean...?" As he said that, he felt his right arm being tied up with restraints as well, but it wasn't Ran who was doing that, no, there was no person there who tied him. It was like a ghost was moving his body. "I don't understand..."

"Shinichi, wake up!" Ran repeated, as he felt his other arm being tied up. She took a deep breath. "WAKE UP!"

Shinichi threw his eyes open. His headache was almost completely gone, but that didn't interest him right. He stared on the rather exposed chest of Kurara-sensei, which she almost shoved into his face as she arched over him. Following her body upwards, he saw her putting on restraints on his left hand. He tried to pull his arm away, but it was already too late.

"Kudo-kun, recovered pretty fast..." Kurara-sensei said. She brought herself into a proper position again, standing beside the bed in the infirmary. Shinichi tried to get out of the restraints, but his efforts didn't appear to be fruitful at all. "Don't bother. You won't get out of these, no one did."

"Sensei..." Shinichi muttered. "What is the meaning of this? Why did you tie me up?!"

Kurara clicked her tongue. "Tsk, question at a time, Kudo-kun." She climbed on the bed, spreading her legs slightly to be able to sit on her knees, hovering over his legs. "There is a reason for this, don't worry. It's not a medical condition though..."

"What...? What are you talking about?" Shinichi insisted, trying to wiggle off the restrains on his arms, but it had no effect at all. Kurara lowered her upper body toward his and took off his tie and started to unbutton his shirt. "Wh-what are you doing?!"

Kurara smiled. "I'm going to have myself some fun. Hold still, it won't hurt." She opened the last button and exposed his chest as much as it was possible with his blazer still on. Kurara went over his abdomen with her hands, sliding them all the way up to his throat. Shinichi shivered and stirred, as her hands were very cold. The fact that he was pinned down by her and tied up with restraints didn't make him any more comfortable. "Nicely toned body. It shows that you play soccer."

"I quit the team when I graduated from middle school." Shinichi growled.

"Really? That's too bad, you'd have an even better body now if you didn't quit. No matter, this will do nicely." Kurara lowered herself further and went over his body again, this time with her tongue. She started at his belly button and slid it all the way up to his nipples, in a straight line and leaving a trail of saliva behind. Shinichi tossed and shook his body again, what she was doing felt really gross. "You taste...wonderful..." She concluded after taking his tongue off his chest.

"Help! Anybody, I need help!" Shinichi screamed. He panicked a bit and saw no other way.

Ran looked up from her math book, taking a look around the class. Weird, she could've sworn she heard somebody call for help, someone familiar, but no one else seemed to react in any way.

Sonoko nudged her in the side. "Hey, Ran, is something the matter?" She whispered to not attract the attention of their math teacher. "You're looking around like something's wrong."

"Did you just hear somebody call for help?" Ran inquired, also whispering.

"No, I didn't..." A smug grin formed on Sonoko's lips. "Are you sure it wasn't your subconscious imaging the poor, sick Shinichi-kun calling for your aid with a despair only his girlfriend could ease?"

"S-shut up..." Ran whispered with a slight smile of her own and a blush, before she went back to reading in her book.

"Your attempts are futile, Kudo-kun..." Kurara shook her head. "In this part of the school building, nobody will hear your screams for help at this time of the day, I'm deeply sorry. But I am no amateur."

Shinichi narrowed his eyes at her. "No amateur, huh...? You said earlier that no one got out of these restraints...this isn't first time you're doing something like this, is it?" He asked, switching to detective mode.

"Really smart, I have to, this isn't the first time, as a matter of fact, I have already developed a solid routine at this point." Kurara curled up another smile. "Although nobody else woke up so early from the sleep pills I gave you."

"Sleep pills...? I see..." Shinichi focused on the school nurse again. "What exactly are you doing though...tying students just for fun...?"

Now she let out a giggle. "No...tying up boys is just the first step. You and me, both of us are in for some exquisite...amusement." Kurara grabbed his belt with both of her hands, slightly sliding her fingertips into his pants.

"You don't mean..."

"Yes." Her eyes lit up. "Exactly that. You should be happy, many boys spend their entire time thinking about doing naughty things while being tied up, but almost all of them never act on such fantasies. You however, will experience it while being fully awake the whole time. That's a first for me since I started here, I have to admit that much. There's a first time for everything I guess."

Shinichi's eyes widened. "So you're drugging students who are here alone and then you amuse yourself with them? That's a crime! Why would you do such a thing?! And if you have a routine, why has nobody called the police on you?"

She chuckled again. "If you're creating a file about this, Meitantei-san, then you can write...wish fulfillment when it comes to my motive. I just really, really like this. I'm sorry if you can't understand that. Nobody called the police, because these poor boys, virgins or not, don't know what to do. Usually, they wake up in the middle of it, still dizzy from the sleeping pills, unable to move, but yet still, they feel so much pleasure, much more than ever felt before and when it is over, the have this doe-eyed look on their faces, they are scared and hurting. Then I comfort them, tell them that they are special and then they go back to their classes. The method works, they all love me and resent other women. That's why nobody called the police."

"No..." Shinichi mumbled. He thought to the boys acting strange, flinching away from female teachers and some from their mothers. "No, they don't love you! You traumatize them, they cannot stand other women, because their touch reminds them of you, reminds them of you hurting them, emotionally and probably even physically!" Shinichi hissed.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk...", Kurara shook her head, " it what you want; I'd say it's up for interpretation."

"Up for interpretation? Sounds like your making up an excuse for yourself." Shinichi through his gritted teeth. "Wait...if you're telling me your method now...what are going to do with me then?"

She shrugged. "Dunno...maybe I'll knock you out after our little amusement and then later claim that it was all a dream. Testimony against testimony, that won't get far..."

'No, that won't work. These restraints are so tight, they'll leave marks on my wrists and ankles...' Shinichi thought to himself, but thinking about the aftermath wasn't helping him now. He wasn't ready to let her so called amusement just happen to him. Not like this and not when he really wanted...Ran...

"Enough talk." Kurara declared. "Time to get down to business." She said and started to work on his belt.

Shinichi shook his entire body, but it was useless. The restraints were tight and she effectively pinned him, so Shinichi resorted to the only thing he could do. "Help, anybody, help!"

Kurara shook her head again. "Told you, it won't work..."

"Ran, help me! Ran!"

Chapter Text

"Help, anybody, help!"

Ran raised her head again. She could've sworn she heard someone call for help. And not just someone, this time she was relatively sure that it was Shinichi's voice. Which was enough to make her look around again, even though she risked getting teased by Sonoko again. Again, nobody seemed to notice, nobody reacted. But Ran was sure she heard Shinichi scream for help. If that was true, she needed to help him, but she wasn't sure if she didn't imagine things...

"Ran, help me! Ran!"

There it was again! And he even called her name. Now Ran was certain that she didn't imagine things, even though nobody else reacted yet again.

"Sensei? Can I go to the toilet?" Ran asked and raised her hand.

"Hmm...?" Her teacher turned around. "Sure, Mouri, feel free. You don't need this lesson as much as your classmates anyway."

Ran slightly bowed and hurried out of the room. She needed to get to the infirmary as quickly as possible. Running through the empty hallways, as all the other students were in class, she reached the infirmary in record time. Ran wanted to open the door, but it was locked. She banged on the door. "Kurara-sensei?! Is everything alright?"

"Mouri-chan?! Y-yes, everything is-..." Kurara-sensei started, but she was cut off.

"Ran! Help, she tied me up and-...mmphf..." Ran heard Shinichi scream, but his voice was suddenly muffled by something.

That was all it took for Ran. She used her karate to kick down the door. What she saw in the room shocked her for a second. Shinichi was tied to the bed with medical restraints, his shirt was open, exposing his chest and his pants were pulled down, exposing his boxer shorts. He also had an towel stuffed in his mouth. Oh, and also, perhaps the most important thing, Kurara-sensei was sitting on him, who was stunned by Ran's sudden entrance.

Shinichi used this opportunity to spit out the towel. "Ran, help, she's insane!"

Ran stepped toward the bed. "Get away from him!" She growled.

Kurara-sensei climbed off him and moved backwards. "No, no, no, Mouri-chan, this is not what it looks like." Ran continued to get closer to the bed, while the nurse moved toward her desk. They both got to their targets at the same time; Ran and Kurara stared at each other for a moment before Kurara lunged towards Ran. Behind her back, she had grabbed a syringe from her desk and was now using that as a weapon against Ran. An useless effort, as Ran's reflexes were far too sharp for Kurara to compete with; Ran easily blocked the syringe strike, knocking the medical equipment turned weapon out of Kurara's hand at the same time and sent her sleeping with a single, swift karate kick. Kurara was out cold.

"A-Amazing..." Shinichi muttered, before his mind went back to him being tied up. "Ran! Help get off these restraints, please." Ran turned back to him and hastily worked on getting the restraints off. After he was free, Shinichi quickly redressed himself, except he didn't bother to put his tie back on. "Thanks, Ran. Talk about a last second save."

"What...what was she even trying to do...?" Ran asked. "It looked like she was about to...well..."

Shinichi grimly nodded. "Yes, it was what it looked like. And I'm apparently not the first one. She amused herself with several other boys already. Remember how I told you about some boys behaving strangely anxious around women?" He asked, to which Ran simply nodded. "It's connected. She described similar behaviours from the boys she amused herself with. Kurara, she...she traumatized them, you understand?"

Ran gasped and covered her mouth in shock. "It couldn't be...that's horrible! Shinichi, we have to get some teachers!"

"Agreed. We have to make sure that this was her last attempt ever." Shinichi said.

On the same day, Kurara was arrested by the police. After Shinichi and Ran told the teachers everything, they still had some doubt, but after Shinichi spoke to students, who showed the weird behaviour he had noticed before, they also confessed what Kurara had done to them. As soon as some of them broke their silence, every single one of them joined in. It seemed like all it took for everyone to forget their fear, was a single brave one. Kurara smiled and waved at Shinichi as she was taken away. Nobody but Ran noticed that he slightly flinched under the gaze of the nurse. All of her victims were offered psychological therapy, which all of them but Shinichi accepted. He wasn't traumatized since she didn't complete the act, he argued. Since that therapy was voluntary, nobody could stop him from declining. He was right, he wasn't traumatized from the events like the other boys were, but Ran saw and felt that he wasn't completely fine either.

In the next few days, Shinichi was pretty wrapped up in assisting the police with sorting this case out, helping the other boys make it through their testimonies, so Ran didn't find quite the right timing for something they had planned to do: talk about what happened in Shinichi's bedroom, the day before the incident with Kurara. She also wanted to talk to someone else: her mother, Eri. However, the famous lawyer was gone on a long business trip and wasn't contactable right now. Even if she were, Ran didn't want to have such a conversation over the phone. She thought back to the other intimate talks she had with her mother and in retrospect, face to face was the only way.

So, Ran had to turn to the only other woman in her life, that came close to being a second mother. Good thing: that woman was available for a personal talk. Bad thing: she was also the mother of Ran's partner, which would make things a bit awkward. Still better than not talking to anyone for at least two more weeks.

Yukiko Kudo had returned to Japan immediately after she heard what happened at her son's school. He didn't show it, but Ran knew that he was happy about that; deep down inside of his feelings, he was. On one afternoon, when Shinichi was out running some sort of errand, Yukiko and Ran were busy with washing some dishes. "Uhm...Yukiko-san..." Ran started.

"Yes...?" Yukiko said without looking up from the dishes. "Something the matter, Ran-chan?"

"Y-yeah, there is something I wanted to talk about..." Ran continued.

Yukiko gave her a warm smile. "Don't be shy, you know you can talk to me about anything."

"Well, I wanted to talk about..." Ran hesitated for a moment, but her determination was stronger. ""

That made Yukiko halt all of her movements. "Let's sit down for a moment, shall we?" Ran only nodded as the two of them sat down at the kitchen table. "Sooo..." Yukiko started. "You and Shin-chan... no, I should stick to Shinichi for this one... did you two already... ?"

"N-no... " Ran stuttered.

"Oh... "

"But almost... " Ran continued.

"Ohhhhh... " Yukiko thought for a second. She asked Ran, if she shouldn't rather have this conversation with Eri, so Ran explained to her, why that wasn't possible at the moment and her reasons to talk to Yukiko now. "I see... so, why didn't you two do it then?"

"Well, you see... there is this girl at my school and she told me and a couple of other girls how horrible the first time is; she made it out to be terrifying, life-changingly bad and stuff." Ran explained. "And the day she told that just happened to be the same day on which we almost did... that... in the evening, but with what she told me... "

"You got cold feet, huh? Well, words can have great effect on the mind... so, now you are worried because you backed out and worried because you don't know whether or not she said was true?" Yukiko concluded.

"Yes." Ran nodded again. "And some talks are needed to get these things out of the way."

"Alright. So, tell you me what this girl... Kamiko was her name, right? Anyway, tell me what kind of stuff she spouted and I'll tell you how much of it was accurate." Yukiko said.

Two hours later, Ran and Yukiko were done talking and Ran was feeling much better. The former actress had to suppress some laughter during the retelling of Kamiko's advices and sometime she couldn't help herself. She also shook her head a lot of times and Yukiko seemed really glad that she could correct Ran's imaginations, because they were based on some really misinformed advice from a girl who lived, as Yukiko agreed, in a pretty abusive relationship.

Ran would've also talked to Shinichi on the same day, but Kogoro demanded some attention from his daughter, since Ran had spent even more time with Shinichi ever since the incident at their school. 'No matter,' Ran told herself. 'Tomorrow after school will be fine. And maybe I should talk to Kamiko again; I have to tell her that her relationship is really not good for her...'

In the first break between lessons at Teitan High on the next day, Ran slightly sighed. This day already felt like a drag and it was far from over. She wanted to seek out Kamiko and talk to her (it still wasn't an option to talk to Shinichi about the stuff she wanted to talk about at school), but before Ran could do so, Sonoko came over to her desk.

"Hey, Ran. Got a minute?" Her best friend started.

"Actually... nevermind, go ahead, Sonoko, what's on your mind?" Ran answered.

"I've got a problem. The actress who was supposed to play the lead role in our school play next week has fallen ill. And her replacement too and now we have no Princess Heart anymore." Sonoko made some dramatic gestures with her hand. "We can't have a play without the female lead."

"That really sounds like the trouble." Ran said, when it made click in her head. "Wait, don't tell you want me to replace her?!"

Sonoko clapped her hands together for a pleading gesture. "Please... ?"

Ran was a bit shocked. "But, Sonoko, the play is next week. How am I supposed to learn all the text in that time? And then you'd need to adjust the costume of the princess for me and we'd have to rehearse everything in this short amount of time... ?"

"Please, Ran! We'd have to do the other things with any replacement, but you also really like to act. We both know you didn't get the role only because you were sick on the day when roles were distributed. And Shinichi-kun's famous actress mother is currently in town, she surely has time to help her future daughter-in-law with learning the text for a school play?" Sonoko continued to beg.

"Well, sure, she could help me I guess... but I still don't know if... " Ran argued and Sonoko started to give her a puppy eye look. "... fine, I'll do it... " Ran sighed.

"Yes, I knew I could count on you, Ran! Here...", Sonoko took a script from her bag and handed it to Ran. "You should probably start reading right now, we're really short on time."

"You don't say... " Ran mumbled. "Which are the most important scenes? Just wanna get some oversight... " She said, flipping through some pages. Sonoko proceeded to show her some of the key scenes that Princess Heart had (there was certainly no lack of those). Ran read through one in the middle when her eyes widened. "W-wait... ?! A kiss scene between Princess Heart and the Black Knight?!"

"Yes, it's a romance play. Of course there is a kiss scene." Sonoko explained. "Is that a problem?"

"Well... I don't know if I can do that now that I'm in a relationship... " Ran said.

"Aw, come on, it's all just an act though." Sonoko raised her hand to her chin. "Hm... but still, the kiss will be a real one and a deep one at that... since it needs to convey the emotions between the princess and the knight properly, so no scotch tape or anything... true enough, it was easier with having the actors be in a relationship, but since the actor had to be replaced because of the recent incident and the actress is sick it can't be helped I guess..."

"W-w-what...?! A real kiss?! A deep one?! Sonoko, I can't do that, not in the current situation... " Ran pleaded in panic.

"Please, Ran, you can't leave me hanging like this." Sonoko was back to begging and pleading. "I just need you to help me, our I can't realized my the play of my dreams! I will do anything for you... well, I'd already do almost anything for you as you're my best friend... but if you do this, you can cross out the almost in that sentence. Anything! Please, please, please, Ran!"

Ran was overwhelmed by the pleas of her best friend. "Fine, fine, I'll do it... "

"Great!" Sonoko clapped her hands together. "Alright, I'll the others and you can continue to read through the script. And don't worry about Shinichi-kun, he'll understand that it is just for the art of acting... and if he doesn't, well, a little bit of jealousy will make sure he doesn't get too lazy as your boyfriend!"

Ran looked after her friend leaving the classroom without saying another word. She didn't have a good feeling about this.

The roof of the school was almost completely empty when Ran entered it. Shinichi was currently enjoying some fresh air up here, holding an open book in his hand, although he was currently busy talking to Eisuke. Ran knew that she needed to talk to him about her new role in the school play; he was there at the reading of the script, while Ran was sick and didn't get the role and proper knowledge of the scenes. He would know the kiss scene, while Ran simply didn't when she accepted. Okay, she knew when she accepted again, but that was not the point. But really, how bad could it be in the end? Shinichi would surely understand, he grew up as the son of an actress; he'll know that it's all just an act.

"Hondou-kun, I can only repeat myself." Ran could hear Shinichi say. "I'll gladly help you find a missing person, but you've got to tell me at least some information. Just borrowing my luck, as you put it, by accompanying me to some cases won't do it, you know?"

"I know, I know, but I want to find more info first... anyway, maybe I'll talk to you later." Eisuke said and left the roof.

"If he doesn't want to tell me yet, why did he bring it up at all at this point...?" Ran could hear Shinichi say to himself.

"Hey, Shinichi." Ran said, after she went over to him.

Shinichi gave her a smile. "Ah, hey. Was your home and the agency still habitable or did Kogoro-san turn it into a quarantine zone by now?"

"No, it's fine... I didn't faint immediately when I entered at least... " Ran giggled, before she got more serious again. "But if you're so worried about my father, maybe I should spend less time at your house then... "

"Oi oi, that's not what I meant..." Shinichi sighed. "Anyway, something on your mind? You look concerned and if it's not about your father, then what is it about?"

"Well, it's just... " Ran hesitated for a moment, but she reminded herself that Shinichi would find out anyway, so it's better if he heard it from her. "Sonoko asked me to play the lead role in our school play as a replacement and now I have to learn all the text in one week."

"The lead actress... ? You'll be the new Princess Heart then? That's great, isn't it? You like acting and you were feeling a little bit sad when you missed the role distribution, right?" Shinichi concluded.

"Yeah, but there's just so few time left... wait, you don't have a problem with this?" Ran wondered. She had expected many reactions, but a happy reaction wasn't one of them.

"Sure, why would I? The time is really a bit short, but you can do it. Don't worry about embarrassing yourself on stage or something, you'll be fine." Shinichi said and continued to read.

He was happy for her, supportive and he also didn't seem to care too much. Something felt wrong to Ran. Why would this be his reaction? Because of the recent incidents? That's probably not it... because... because of that night? Could that be it...? Yukiko said that something like this would be unlikely... but not impossible, right? So, Shinichi doesn't feel even a little bit jealous that she would have to perform a real kiss with another man in front of the whole school? Is he taking her for granted? Or does he actually not care...?

"Ran? Are you really alright?" Shinichi sounded concerned.

"No. I'm fine. Thanks." Ran said briefly and walked away back to the classroom.

Shinichi slightly tilted his head, as he looked after her. "Did...did I say something wrong...?"

Chapter Text

In the next few days, Ran was quite busy with learning the text for the play and preparing for the play in general, with much help from Yukiko of course, who was delighted to help Ran. Unfortunately, Ran didn't have much time to talk to Shinichi because of that, not to speak of having that talk. Besides, Ran was still a bit grumpy after his reaction on the roof, but only a little bit. She never held grudges for a longer time; after the play was done, she would have to start another attempt, if he didn't do it first, but Ran had a feeling that he didn't want to avoid the topic, but rather that the timing was never quite right. So, they both lived alongside each other, in their usual fashion, with the important topic on hold until further notice.

However, the upcoming kiss live on stage, in front of so many people she knew, including her boyfriend and her father, still made Ran nervous, regardless of whether or not Shinichi cared about it. Although it still irked her that he didn't.

"I still don't know what to make of his reaction..." Ran said to Yukiko during break in their text practice. "I should've questioned him further on the roof..."

"You could still talk to him..." Yukiko replied. "I mean, this issue will come up outside of your control, so, while talking what happened between you two on that night is maybe not the best idea right now, I feel that avoiding the talk about the kiss scene at the moment, could create more problems than it may avoid..."

"I don't know...I'm worried that I also might create more problems... maybe he'll take it the wrong way and gets angry when he really wasn't before..."

Yukiko gently squeezed her shoulder. "Hey, we should continue... it's no use to concern yourself so much right now." Ran nodded and the two of them continued.

Faster than Ran would've liked, the day of the play arrived. Teitan High was busting with visitors, who were here to see the various attractions that the students organised for their school festival. And the play of Ran's class drew quite a bit of attention; the seats in the audience were rapidly filling, even though there was still quite a bit of time before the play actually began. It seemed like nobody wanted to miss it.

Ran peeked around the curtain into the already big amount of spectators. "T-there are really a lot of people here... are there really so many interested in our play...?" She asked.

"Sure, why shouldn't they be interested?" Sonoko grinned. "They probably heard that our lead actress is one of the most gorgeous girls in school and everyone wants to get a look." She added with a wink.

"S-Sonoko! Stop saying such things, I'm nervous enough already!" Ran hissed at her best friend, who continued to shamelessly grin at her.

"Hey, Ran-chan!" The two of them heard a female voice from behind them. Ran and Sonoko turned around to see Kazuha approaching them, with Heiji in tow.

"Kazuha-chan, Hattori-kun!" Ran exclaimed. "It's so great that you two were able to come, even on such short notice."

"Of course! How could we stay away, especially after ya specifically invited us?" Kazuha smiled. "After all, when will we be able to see you on a stage like this again?"

"Next year, aho." Heiji sighed. "Summer festivals are annual events, ya know?"

Kazuha slapped his arm. "Yer the aho, who knows if they'll do another play next year and if Ran-chan will be the lead actress there too, she's replacing the actress who was supposed to be lead this year after all. Did ya forget that?"

"Details, details... " Heiji burrowed his hands in his pockets and looked around, as if he was searching for someone.

"My, my... " Sonoko clicked her tongue. "The fabled detective of the west seems quite nonchalant. At least he's handsome... "

"What?!" Kazuha exclaimed in shock, while Heiji didn't even listen because he was still looking around the place.

"Don't listen to Sonoko, Kazuha-chan." Ran tried to calm her friend from Osaka. "Sonoko is just saying these things because she has a dark-skinned boyfriend who is currently in Europe... "

"You know, Ran, if I take a photo with that Hattori-kun and send it to Makoto, do you think he'll be jealous enough to come home a bit earlier...?" Sonoko wondered.

"S-Sonoko, stop saying weird things!" Ran yelled at her friend. "Don't worry, Kazuha-chan, she's just kidding; right, Sonoko?!"

The glare on Ran's face convinced Sonoko to stop. "Yeah, yeah, I'm just joking, hahaha!"

Heiji sighed. "I don't wanna interrupt yer incredibly witty conversation, but has any of ya seen Kudo around?"

"Heiji!" Kazuha chided her friend. "Don't tell me the only reason yer came here is to hang out with Kudo-kun again!"

Before Heiji could answer, Sonoko quickly answered Heiji's question, so the two wouldn't start to argue again. "Kudo-kun went off to the teacher's room; we need him to communicate some short notice changes in our organisation to the staff, I guess he's still busy running errands for that. But don't worry, Ran... " Sonoko turned to her best friend. "I'm sure he won't miss your big performance!"

Ran pouted. "Who cares about that?", she huffed. That earned her the confused looks of her three friends.

Just as Kazuha and Sonoko both had already opened their mouth to question Ran about what she just said, two adults came around the corner of the backstage area. "Yes, no need to care about that third-rate detective!" Kogoro exclaimed. He had arrived accompanied by Yukiko, who he of course still knew from his own time at Teitan High, when the two of them and Eri were all classmates here.

"Third-rate detective...? Watch your mouth, Kogoro-kun, he's still my son. And he outsmarts you six ways to Sunday..." Yukiko chided her old friend, including a pinch on his arm.

"Ow, ow, stop that..." Kogoro looked apologetic. "Yuki-chan is right of course, haha ... Anyway, Ran, good luck for your performance. We'll have to get back to our seats now."

Kogoro left the backstage area, Kazuha and Heiji following him. Yukiko wished Ran luck again and assured her that the practice the two of them had prepared Ran for everything. Ran hoped so; she went over some lines with Dr. Araide again before Sonoko hurried both of them into their respective changing rooms to put on the costumes.

Even as she said Who cares about that? in regards to Shinichi, she actually did care whether or not he would watch. She had hoped he would come to see her before the play began, just maybe so he could wish her luck and do something about her worries or anything. Ran hoped for that, but Shinichi didn't come. Even as the narrator began the opening speech of the play, Ran, at the side of the stage, waiting for he big entry, looked around the backstage area in search for him. Maybe the errands took longer than expected and he couldn't make until now and he could maybe lean against a wall by the back of the room, wave to her and give her one his confident smiles, to make her like everything would fine, but none of that happened. Many people were currently with Ran in backstage area, including Sonoko who was busy directing everyone, currently reminding Ran of the procedure that would follow the speech, but Shinichi wasn't one of them.

Thankfully, everything still went great. Ran remembered every line and her acting was spot on, at least that's what Sonoko and the others told her between scenes. What would follow now though, was the inevitable kiss scene. She wasn't feeling too well at this moment. Ran saw the play happen before her eyes and saw herself playing her part, but she was a bit out of it and her acting came from her inner autopilot. She was rescued from hostile soldiers, that had attacked her carriage, by the Black Knight. It was only a small action scene, nothing spectacular, but Dr. Araide was playing his part really well. Still, she was about to kiss him. She had to do it and everyone was watching. Panic started to well up in Ran, panic she had suppressed until now.

In the audience, Kogoro, Yukiko, Heiji and Kazuha were watching the play, all sitting next to each other.

Kogoro was beaming at this point. "Ah, this is it, this is it!" He whispered to the other three. "This is the kiss scene!"

Kazuha looked at him with a disgruntled look. "Spoilers! How do ya even know that?!"

"I read the script Ran had at home, I wanted to check out if the play was actually worth attending and when I read this kiss scene, I knew that it would be!" Kogoro grinned.

"I don't think ya should be this happy about that..." Heiji said. "Usually ya hate anyone getting intimate with Neechan... what's different now...?"

Kogoro whipped out the flyer of the play. "Because I read this!" He flipped the flyer open and started to read from the cast page: "Starring... Dr. Tomoaki Araide as Black Knight... this is perfect. As kiss from the handsome Dr. Araide and maybe Ran will forget Shinichi-kun and take him instead, a successful doctor. I offered him her hand once already, but she refused and he wasn't too comfortable either, but after this ... this could really turn the tide in that matter!"

Kazuha gasped. "That is why ya're happy?! Because it could throw a wrench into the relationship of Shinichi-kun and Ran-chan?! That's low, that's like really, really low... where is Shinichi-kun anyway, shouldn't he be in the audience?" Kazuha looked around, but she couldn't make him out in this darkness.

Heiji and Yukiko grimly observed the play. 'Shin-chan...' Yukiko thought. 'I hope you talked to Ran-chan about this... she was so worried...'

'Kudo...' Heiji thought. 'What the hell, Kudo? Where are ya? Why are ya letting this happen?!'

All the while, Princess Heart was rescued by the Black Knight, dressed in black clothes, a black cape and a helmet covering almost the entirety of Dr. Araide's face, except for the mouth. With the enemy soldiers gone, only the two them remained on stage. It was Ran's turn to address him. "Oh, stranger... I...I..." Not good, she was starting to stutter. Ran knew the text, but somehow... she couldn't say! Something inside her resisted proceeding with the play... out of fear what would happen next? "I...", she tried again, but words failed her. It all went so well until now, but... she just couldn't do it.

Just as Ran wanted to nervously glance around to see if anyone had noticed her hesitation, the Black Knight came forward and hugged her. This wasn't in the script, she was supposed to talk now. Why was he breaking the script? Because of her hesitation? To make her feel better? Her instincts took over and Ran hugged him back and... the embrace felt good. It felt great, to be precise. In this moment, she felt happy and safe in the arms of Dr. Araide. If his goal was to make her feel better, he certainly succeeded with that. Somehow, his embrace made all of her worries go away, all her doubts about Shinichi and the people watching were gone. But... why did Dr. Araide make her feel this way? Could it be...? Did she... actually feel something for him? This thought confused and scared Ran, as the embrace between the two of them ended. She looked behind him into the backstage area. The other students organizing the play, shielded by the curtain from the eyes of the audience, were mostly confused, when Sonoko emerged from them and held up a sign for Ran, reading Just keep going!, in addition to her usual smug grin and a thumbs up.

Ran was back on autopilot. "Oh, honorable Black Knight! Are you the man I made a promise with so many years ago? If you are indeed that person from my childhood, grant me a kiss, to prove who you really are!"

Dr. Araide as the Black Knight came closer, still remaining silent and wrapped his arms around her. Ran rested her hands on his chest in response and also came closer to his face. But... but this was not what she wanted... she didn't want to kiss Dr. Araide in front of everyone and Shinichi... but... she somehow didn't feel like resisting. She didn't want it, but somehow she did want to do it. Kissing the Black Knight... which meant kissing Dr. Araide felt right to Ran. Before she could think about what this feeling meant, Princess Heart and the Black Knight kissed.

And kissing the Black Knight felt great to Ran.

After what felt like an eternity, Princess Heart and the Black Knight parted. Their kiss, their real kiss, their deep kiss, their kiss that made Ran felt like she was in heaven right now, was over. Everyone was silent, holding their breaths, waiting for the intense scene to continue. Ran was looking like a deer caught in the headlights. She didn't expect to feel like this after kissing Dr. Araide, but she did. It felt just as good as kissing Shinichi... maybe even better? Could it really be... that she had fallen for the doctor?

Dr. Araide smiled and opened his mouth to say his next line, when suddenly...


A scream went throught the entire theater, coming from the front row. The Black Knight immediately went in front of Ran, shielding her with his body and his cape, protectively raising one arm. Even though the room was still completely dark, they could see it from the stage: in front row, someone had collapsed.

"Hey! Is he alright?! What happened?!"
"He just collapsed!"
"He's not breathing, oh god, he's not breathing...!"

These were just some of the screams Ran could really understand, as almost everyone was talking over each other, as the complete silence of the crowd turned into an overload of noise.

Chapter Text

45 minutes later, it was a lot more quiet. The man in the front row had died, so the police had to get all of the people away from the crime scene. Only Teitan students remained in the hall, but far away from the stage, on the other side of the room, behind the tape. Alongside the police officers securing the crime scene, the coroner inspecting the body and forensics securing any possible evidence, were three witnesses from the audience, Ran and Dr. Araide, because they were onstage and thus witnesses at the time of the death, Kogoro, Yukiko, Heiji and Kazuha, because they were also close to the victim and could provide help in the investigation.

Now Inspector Megure arrived on the crime scene; he immediately went over to Detective Takagi, who arrived shortly before him, to inform himself about the general situation.

"So, the victim is Kouhei Kamata, a 27 year old doctor at the Beika General Hospital, is that correct?" Megure asked Takagi, who nodded accordingly.

"According to our three primary witnesses, he suddenly collapsed during the play, without any visible reason. But you see, the play was already commencing at that point, so naturally the room was completely dark and the attention of the audience was focused on the stage." Takagi explained.

"I see." Megure looked through his notes. "Time of death?"

"Well..." Takagi scratched the back of his head. "We couldn't really determine that yet. As is common courtesy for plays these days, the members of the audience all turned their cell phones off and since it was still dark, nobody could really look on their watches; not that anybody had thought about checking the time, as quite a panic ensued after the victim died. So, all we can do is guess at this point."

Megure clicked his tongue. "I understand. Rather unfortunate circumstances, but I guess the culprit factored that into his plan." He looked over to the coroner. "Were you able to determine the cause of death yet?"

The coroner looked up from his clipboard. "Yes, Inspector. It was probably..."

"Potassium Cyanide." A male voice interrupted the coroner. "The victim most likely drank Potassium Cyanide and died from that."

"Ehhh?" Megure and Takagi exclaimed in unison and looked over to the dark-skinned person who just said that.
"Ha-...Hattori-kun?" Megure said when he recognized the high school detective from Osaka. "What are you doing here? And how did you determine the cause of death? Don't tell me you examined the body before the coroner arrived...!?"

Heiji shook his head. "No, Inspector, I didn't need to, ya can tell by simply looking at the body. Ya see, when a person dies, they usually lose the oxygen in their blood, which makes their lips and fingernails turn purple." Heiji pointed at the corpse. "But as ya can see, the lips and fingernails of the victim turned pink instead, which strongly suggests he died from Potassium Cyanide. This particular poison interferes with the electron transmissions in the body, which usually causes the color of the lips and fingernails to brighten. If almond traces can be found in the mouth of the victim, then there can be no doubt about it."

"So? Did you find traces of almond?" Megure asked the coroner.

"Yes, we did." The coroner replied. "Everything is as this boy has just explained."

Takagi smiled. "As expected of Hattori-kun!"

"Still, you didn't answer my question about why you are here." Megure continued.

Before Heiji could answer, Ran stepped forward. "Inspector Megure, I think I can tell you the approximate time of death."

"R-Ran-kun?!" Megure exclaimed, not having noticed the girl before.

"You see, the play started at 2 pm." Ran explained. "So, the death has occurred roughly around 2:40 pm. The play had reached its romantic climax, which in the rehearsals always happened after about 40 minutes. The play proceeded without any major incidents or delays, so the time should be fairly accurate." She turned to the Black Knight standing beside her. "Isn't that right, Araide-sensei?"

Dr. Araide as the Black Knight simply nodded to her question and gave an affirmative grunt. Looking at him, Ran blushed a little bit. She was still feeling good about their kiss, even though a murder had just occurred.

"Ah, I see!" Takagi exclaimed happily. "Teitan High School is the high school that Ran-san attends. Judging from the dress you're wearing, you participate in the play as an actress, right? That must be why Hattori-kun is here, to watch one his friends perform!"

"Yes, that's right." Ran nodded and blushed even more as Takagi pointed out what she was currently still wearing (there had been no good timing for Ran and Dr. Araide to get out of their costumes).

"Tsk, we should've noticed right away that all the students here are wearing the same uniform that Ran-kun usually wears..." Megure sighed. "Wait...does that mean that your father..."

"That's right!" Kogoro exclaimed from behind Megure, who immediately turned around to see Yukiko and Kogoro, who was just putting his blazer back on. "Of course, I'm here too! I couldn't miss my daughter playing the lead role in a play like this now, could I?"

'Weren't you specifically reading the script to determine whether or not it was worth attending the play? Seems like the possibility of missing Ran-chan's performance was existent in your mind...' Yukiko thought to herself.

"Mouri-kun and Yukiko-san!" Megure exclaimed. "Ahh, but that also means that this is also the high school of Kudo-kun! With him around, surely this case will be solved in no time...!"

"I'm sorry to disappoint you." Yukiko said and shook her head. "Shinichi had to run errands before the play began and from what we could tell, he wasn't in audience when the murder happened. And well, he isn't around now either; with practically the whole school knowing about this case by now, he should already be here and eager to solve this case though; but he isn't, so he probably went home."

Megure sighed. "And here I was hoping for some Kudo-kun, but instead I only get some Mouri-kun, what a letdown... at least I still got Hattori-kun around..."

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean, letdown...?" Kogoro questioned with an indignant look on his face.

"Ahh, just a joke, old friend, just a little joke..." Megure said with an apologetic smile.

'But ... would Shin-chan really go home like this ... he wouldn't just abandon Ran-chan because of a play, would he...?' Yukiko thought.

Megure and Takagi continued the investigation, interrogating the suspects about where everyone was, the order and process of ordering the drinks, since they suspected the culprit poisoning the victim through his drink. After the student selling the drinks told them about how she rejected the marriage proposal of the victim, Kogoro threw in the possibility of suicide, so Takagi and three of the witnesses/suspects went outside to check the car of the victim.

"Suicide..." Heiji mumbled while they were outside. "No, that's not it. The strange lines spoken, the cups, the unused gum syrup and milk ... but who could the culprit b-" Heiji noticed the Black Knight smugly grinning and looking him. "What's up? Ya got something on yer mind?" The Black Knight shook his head and went off to where the drinks were sold. Heiji slightly tilted his head. "What's with this Araide guy, acting so strange? If it wouldn't have been impossible for him to commit the crime, he might fall into suspicion if he acts like that..."

Shortly after that, Takagi returned. "Inspector Megure!"

Megure and Kogoro turned around. "Ah, Takagi, did you find anything?"

"Yes." Takagi held up an evidence bag with a little bottle in it. "We found this in the glove compartment of the car; we believe that this bottle indeed contains Potassium Cyanide."

The Inspector grimly nodded. "Good, give it to the analysts. Still, from all the evidence, testimonies and general circumstances, we can conclude that this case is indeed a suicide."

"Wai-..." Heiji wanted to say, but he was interrupted.

"Wait, Inspector Megure!" The Black Knight exclaimed, drawing the attention of everybody to him.

Ran gasped. 'This voice...'

"This case is not a suicide. No, in front of this elevated stage, Kamata-san's incurable habit was used against him, to take away his life. At least, if my deduction is in fact...", the lips of the Black Knight curled up to a confident smile. "...the truth!"

"Eh ... you are ... the doctor of this school, Araide-san?" Megure asked, still in surprise over the sudden interruption of the Black Knight.

'No, he's not Araide-sensei...' Ran thought.

"No, I'm not Araide-sensei." The Black Knight said while removing his helmet. "The good doctor wasn't able to perform today, so he was replaced by me..." The helmet was off, revealing the person behind the cloak of the Black Knight. "...Shinichi Kudo!"

"EHHHH?!" Megure, Kogoro, Takagi, Heiji, Kazuha and Yukiko exclaimed, while Ran was just staring at him with her mouth slightly open and a blush on her face.

'It ... it was Shinichi this whole time...?' Ran thought to herself. 'I didn't kiss Araide-sensei, I kissed Shinichi in front of the whole school ... I see ... all these feelings, it wasn't because I fell for Araide-sensei all of a sudden, it was because of my love for Shinichi ... I felt it ... even through the costume...'

"K-Kudo-kun...?" Megure stuttered. "How ... why are you in that costume ... you took Araide-san's role...?"

Shinichi nodded. "That's right. Araide-sensei passed out shortly before the play began. As it turned out, he was already the replacement for another student, who refused to take part in the play after the recent incident here at our school ... and I just happened to be the only guy in the backstage area who wasn't needed for the production of the play, so Sonoko spontaneously recruited me to play that part." Shinichi went over to his mother. "And well, although I'm usually more often in positions where skills taught by my father come in handy, I'm still the son of the famous and skilled actress Yukiko Fujimine as well, so this task wasn't too daunting for me." He said and gave his mother a cheeky smile.

Yukiko smiled as well, but also raised an eyebrow. "Oi oi ... even though you're my son, I bet my Shin-chan was still sweating bullets before going on stage to kiss Ran-chan in front of the entire school..." She whispered to him, inaudible for everyone except him.

Busted. "Hahh... shush now, Mom..." He mumbled, sounding like he did when he was caught staying up late reading books again when he was six years old; his big words simply couldn't deceive his own mother. Shinichi turned away from his mother and addressed the group of people looking at him. "Anyway, I believe my acting skills are no longer needed, but rather my detective skills. And as a detective, I can assure you, this case is solved!" Shinichi went over to Heiji. "Hattori, do you have a 10 yen coin with you? I would use my own money, but this costume has no pockets for change."

"Uh... sure, I've got one or two, but what do ya need a-..." Heiji said, a bit confused, but then he looked past Shinichi at the suspects, who. "Ah, I see what ya've got in mind. Here ya go." He said and gave him a 10 yen coin.

"S-Shinichi...?" Ran, who stood beside Heiji and Kazuha, whispered.

Shinichi took one step from Heiji and towards her, leaned closer to her ear and whispered: "We should talk about this later, but let me solve this case first."
Ran answered with a solemn nod and a small smile.

'It's better this way.' Shinichi thought. 'I can't tell anyone else how I really got to play this part...'

Earlier, before the play, as Ran was busy getting into her costume:

Shinichi was walking through the backstage area, making his way to Ran's changing room.

"Hey, Shinichi-kun!" Shinichi came to a halt, turned around and looked straight at Sonoko, who called out to him. "Is everything taken care of?"

"Yep, all done." Shinichi confirmed. "The staff is informed and all other errands have been dealt with as well. All that's left for me to do is wish Ran luck for her performance and then I can sit down in the audience and try to enjoy the play."

Just as he wanted to get going again, Sonoko threw him an intriguing grin. "Huh, so you're really planning on doing that? I was wondering whether or not you would, considering that you and Ran seemed to have a little argument..."

Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "Argument? I don't think we were having one... well, Ran behaved a little strange after she told me about her replacing the lead actress, but I didn't know why and I still don't really know..."

"Well, you probably reacted very coldly when she told you about it, considering the kiss scene and all." Sonoko explained.

"K...Ki-" Shinichi completely froze all of a sudden. "Kiss scene?! The play has a kiss scene ... and Ran is playing that part?!"

His sudden outburst surprised Sonoko. "Y-Yeah ... here, take a look at the script." She handed him the copy that she carried with her. "But ... you were there at the reading, as opposed to Ran who was sick on that day, where we discussed that scene in particular. So, this shouldn't really surprise you, should it?"

Shinichi flipped through the pages of the script. "No ... I mean, yes, I was there ... but I wasn't aware until now."
He started to read the important part, the kiss scene. 'Damnit,' Shinichi thought to himself. 'I was there at the reading, it's true, but at the time Dad had just sent me the newest draft for his next Night Baron novel, so I was reading that rather than the script of the play; and because I was so immersed in the writings of Dad and because the play didn't really interest, I didn't pay any attention to what was said in class...' Shinichi finished reading, eyes widening. 'Oh no ... Ran thought that I knew about the kiss scene ... that's why she reacted so weird, because she thought I didn't care that she would kiss another guy on stage in front of the whole school...'

Sonoko took the script from his hands. "Well, you're aware now. I thought you might get a little jealous, but that certainly didn't work out like I imagined. Anyway, you don't have to worry, just because Ran will have this little, extremely romantic scene with Araide-sensei, doesn't mean she lose interest in you." Sonoko winked (Shinichi wasn't sure how to interpret that wink). "I have to go back and make some last preparations; Ran is getting changed in Room D, so if you still want to wish her luck, go ahead." She said and left Shinichi standing there.

"A romantic kiss scene between Ran and Araide-sensei..." Shinichi mumbled, while nervously fidgeting with the wristwatch that Professor Agasa recently gave him as a gift. "... I have to stop this!"

"So, Kudo-kun," Megure said, "if this wasn't a suicide, who is the murderer then? And how did the culprit do it? Care to explain your deduction to us?"

Shinichi flipped the coin up. "Don't worry, Inspector Megure, I won't leave out any detail," he said and caught the coin in midair, before expertly solving the case in his usual style.

Chapter Text

"Alright, take her away," Inspector Megure said, after Shinichi solved the case and the culprit confessed. "Kudo-kun, you truly didn't disappoint! Do you want to come and face the press with us?"

"I'm sorry, Inspector," Shinichi said and shook his head. "I have something else to take care of right now...", he added with a side-glance to Ran.

"Ahh, I get it," Megure and patted Shinichi strongly on the back three times. "I heard what your role during the play was. Truly like father, like son. Anyway, see you around," Megure said and left Shinichi standing there.

"..." Shinichi shivered inwardly. "I don't think I want to imagine that..."

"I need to imagine that, because Yu-chan never did something that bold with me like you did with Ran-chan," Yukiko explained. "But that should give us some good inspirations for the future..."

"Now I know for sure that I don't want imagine that..." Shinichi said dryly. "Thanks, Mom ... anyway, I'll get out of this costume now. See you later."

Shinichi went backstage and was greeted by many of his fellow students who were congratulating him both on his performance in the play (rather odd, considering he did almost nothing) and on how he solved the case (the usual stuff). He smiled his way through the compliments, before hurrying to his change room; not that he didn't enjoy their praise, but right now, he had his mind on other things. Quickly discarding the costume of the Black Knight, he got back into his street clothes and left his room, going to Room D, where Ran was changing. Shinichi knocked on the door. "Ran, it's me. Can I come in?"

"Come in," came the simple reply from inside her room. Shinichi opened the door just a tiny bit and slipped through it and quickly closed it behind him. Like him, Ran was already back in her usual clothes; considering that she had a great head start when it came to changing out of costume, it must've been a rather complicated procedure. "So ... this all happened..."

"Yeah..." Shinichi grabbed himself a chair and sat down besides Ran. "First of all, well ... I-I didn't know about the kiss scene before today."

"What...?" Ran asked. "But ... you were at the reading...?"

"Yes, but well, my father sent me the new draft of his next book, so I was busy reading that instead of the script I was supposed to read," Shinichi explained. "So yeah, on the roof last week, I had no idea."

"Oh!" Ran gasped and covered her mouth with one hand. "That's why you ... and I assumed ... oh god, why didn't I just say...?"

"Yeah, me too, I should've said something, seek a clearing talk or something, but, you know..."

"The timing was never quite right, was it?" Ran completed his sentence, to which Shinichi nodded in confirmation. "I know that feeling, it was the same for me too..."

"Yeah, so, about Araide-sensei ... after I learned about the kiss scene, I may have overreacted kinda ..." Shinichi and took out a wristwatch from his pocket. "See, this is a watch Professor Agasa made recently, as a concept for a potential costumer, but the deal fell through, so he gave me the prototype as a gift. If you click here," Shinichi pushed a little button on the watch, making the lid pop up and form a crosshair, "you can fire a little tranquilizer dart."

"Shinichi! Don't tell me you used that thing on Araide-sensei...?!"

"Yeah, well, I did..." Shinichi scratched the back of his head. "But don't worry, it's completely harmless, no side effects and you're back standing after roughly fifteen minutes. It was probably wrong, but ... I just, I couldn't just let that happen, I didn't want him to kiss you...!"

Both of them blushed. "I didn't want to do it either ... but Sonoko had already made me agree before I read the script and she kinda guilt-tripped me into it afterwards ... and well, I almost couldn't continue the play after you chased off the bandits, but then ... then you hugged me and I just felt ... I felt safe and I was so confused because I didn't know why Araide-sensei could make me feel this way ... but it was you, all along. Even though I didn't have a clue, I could feel that it was you, I just ... I could feel you, but I didn't know how to interpret that feeling..." Ran explained.

Shinichi took her hand and gently squeezed it. "So ... that kiss, huh?"

"Yeah ... that happened ... in front of the entire school..." Ran mumbled.

"Right ... that's gonna stick for a while ... but it was good, right...?"

"Yeah, I mean ... it felt like heaven for me, so yeah ... I'd say it was good..."

"Yeah..." Shinichi said and leaned towards Ran. "... I wonder if that feeling is ... reproducible..."

"Well..." Ran said and also leaned in closer. "... we won't find out if we don't try..."

A short knock on the door made them quickly lean back to a normal sitting position, before they heard a quick "Hey, you two, I'm coming in!" and Yukiko Kudo entered the dressing room. "I hope I'm not disturbing you with anything."

"No, Mom, whatever gave you that idea..." Shinichi grumbled.

"Right. You can get right back to it, but I have to say goodbye to you two first," Yukiko said. "I didn't want to rush it like I have to do now, but getting tangled up with this nasty murder case took pretty long, so now I have to hurry a bit to catch my plane. Ran-chan..." Yukiko hugged Ran and whispered the next words into her ear. "...don't worry. Just listen to your heart and everything will go well." Ran blushed, when the two of them parted, and Yukiko hugged Shinichi next, whispering into his ear now. "Shinichi, continue to care for her feelings. And don't forget to use protection." Yukiko winked.

"M-Mom...!" Shinichi exclaimed, while Yukiko went back to the door. "Wait, how did you know I was in here when you knocked?"

"Oh, just a little deduction of mine. I mean, why would there be a crowd in front of Ran-chan's dressing room, if she was alone in here?" Yukiko explained and left the room.

"A crowd...?" Ran wondered.

"Don't tell me..." Shinichi said and the two of rushed out of the room, finding Sonoko, Kazuha, Heiji, Kogoro and a sizeable number of Teitan students staring at Ran's dressing room from across the hallway. "What do we have here, the peanut gallery..."

"H-hey Ran ... Shinichi-kun..." Sonoko said. "What's up?"

"Sonoko...! All of you, just what the heck, is there no privacy at this school anymore?!" Ran exclaimed. "And you, Hattori-kun, you were the last one I expected here!"

Heiji defensively raised his hands. "Hey hey, don't think ill of me, I'm just here because Kazuha forced me and to make sure this aho doesn't go too far."

Shinichi spotted something on the doorframe. "Really, Hattori ... hey, Ran, look at this. There is a tape recorder stuck to the door of your room. Heh, what a coincidence, the words Property of the Osaka Police HQ are written on here, almost as if the son of the chief called in a favor with the requisition department to use this for his personal detective work. And look here, a sticker of Hattori's favorite baseball team, another funny coincidence."

"Really? Let me see," Ran said and Shinichi handed her the device. Heiji was sweating bullets by now.

"Considering we didn't hear any commotion outside, I guess our acquaintances here thought it was better to have Hattori sneak up on the door and put the recorder there, so they could maybe listen in afterwards to everything they couldn't hear from their observation spot over there," Shinichi deduced. "Recording conversations from a befriended couple ... how ruthless can one be...?"

"Yeah, really amoral, isn't it?" Ran said and slowly crushed the recorder in her fist. Pieces of it fell down to the floor, until Ran dropped the whole pathetic remains of the device as well. She looked at the scared onlookers, who's faces were white as sheets. Ran took a deep breath and screamed: "GET LOST, ALL OF YOU!"

Their crowd dispersed faster than light. Only Yukiko was in the hallway with Shinichi and Ran now. "Ah, this takes me back. When I was just the young newcomer actress Yukiko Fujimine who starred in the film adaption of the young, newcomer writer Yusaku Kudo ... the press was all over us when we started to date."

"Oh, really? I would love to hear some anecdotes about that," Ran said. "Every time I asked my parents about these kind of stories, they eventually turn it into talking about another nasty thing that happened between them..."

"Yeah, really exciting..." Shinichi sighed.

Yukiko nudged her son with her arm. "Don't roll your eyes, Shin-chan, these are the kind of anecdotes you two will tell your children one day."


Yukiko giggled. "Now you remind me even more of myself and Yusaku when we were younger ... come on you two, you can blush later. Let's get out of here, I've got a plane to catch."

The three of them left the backstage area. On their out, they ran into Dr. Araide and Sonoko, who sheepishly hid herself from Ran's gaze behind the doctor.

"Araide-sensei, are you feeling alright?" Ran asked with a side glance to Shinichi.

"Yes, Ran-san, I'm just fine. I must've been so excited that I actually forgot to drink and/or eat enough ... silly, considering I'm a doctor, but well, stage fright is a natural thing. Don't worry about, I feel perfectly fine now," Araide replied.

"But it's so sad..." Sonoko said, still slightly behind the doctor. "First our school gets shaken up by this nasty scandal with Kurara-sensei, then our summer festival is hit by a downpour of rain and then, as if that wasn't enough, a murder case ruins our play."

"There's nothing we can do about this," Araide said. "All we can do is to keep our smile and try our best the next time."

"I guess you are right..." Sonoko said.

Heiji and Kazuha approached the group, as they also had to get to the airport, to catch their plane back to Osaka. Shinichi and Ran went along with them, to see them off alongside Yukiko. Araide observed the five of them leaving the premise of the school, twirling around the dissolving needle of the tranquilizer wristwatch in his fingers. 'Yukiko, Yukiko ... to think your son would resort to such naughty methods to secure himself a role...' Vermouth thought with a smile behind the mask of Dr. Araide. 'Cool Guy and Angel, it's been a while, but it seems like they are happy ... good for them.'

Two hours later, when Yukiko was on her plane to Los Angeles, and Heiji and Kazuha were on their plane to Osaka, Shinichi and Ran were already back at the Kudo mansion, done with eating dinner and washing the dishes. It was already late, but thankfully the school suspended the lessons for the next day due to the case. So, there was no reason to delay the talk any further. The two of them were sitting on Shinichi's bed.

"So," Shinichi started, "you talked to my mother. About that evening."

"Yeah," Ran answered. "I would've talked to my own mother, but she wasn't available. But there was a good reason for that."

"I'm listening," he said.

"..." Ran nervously bit her lip. "It's ... it's about Kamiko-chan and Ikema-kun. On that day, I got into some kind of girl locker room hot seat ... anyway, the gist of it is, that Kamiko-chan began to tell me all this stuff about how ones first time is literally the most awful thing in the whole wide world and well ... that kind of got stuck in my head for some weird reason ... and that's why, well ... why I bailed that night..."

"I see," Shinichi said. "Well, I mean, if you weren't feeling like you were ready ... for any reason ... then you shouldn't force yourself to it ... although I wouldn't compare myself to Ikema-kun..."

"No! No, no, no, that's not it!" Ran exclaimed. "You're not like him, in any way and ... and I was kicking myself after I went over to the guest room, because ... because there is not another person that I would like to spend a night with except for you, because ... because ... ah, screw it!" Ran leaned over to Shinichi and kissed him; he was initially surprised, but then he kissed her back. Their kiss didn't take as long as it did on the stage, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. "I love you, you know that ... and if you maybe felt that my rejection was supposed to indicate anything else..."

"Ran!" Shinichi exclaimed and grabbed her by the shoulders. "I wouldn't jump to that conclusion, just because you weren't ready for something like that yet ... I mean, I was nervous and I had no weird girl tell how terrible it would be ... oh, sorry..." Shinichi hastily removed his hands from her shoulders, "... I didn't mean to be ... you know..."

"No," Ran said, grabbed his arms and put his hands where they were. "It's fine. Her words are not scaring me anymore, not after I talked to Yukiko-san and not after today ... I felt secure in your arm and even though I didn't know it was you, I felt more confident and ... well, just, I don't think there is any person in the world that I trust more than you," Ran continued and put her arms around his neck, pulling Shinichi closer so that their foreheads touched. "...Shinichi, I want you."

"I want you too," he replied and moved in closer for another kiss, but Ran continued to talk before he could do so.

"But," Ran said, "are you feeling alright too? I mean, after all what happened with Kurara-sensei ... I know, you're not traumatized like the other boys, but ... you shouldn't force yourself to anything either, so, if you have any inward fears or something, that would okay for me..."

Shinichi raised one finger over her lips, silencing her. "No. Not with you," he said and kissed her again.

The next morning:

Sunshine fell through the window into Shinichi's room. While the streets and gardens of the neighborhood were still a bit damp from all of the rain yesterday, the skies were as blue as a dream, with no clouds to shield the capital of Japan from the light of the morning sun. Ran fluttered her eyes open. She felt great, although her body was a bit sore. Nothing she didn't know from her many karate exercises of course. Ran stretched herself a bit; she and Shinichi were snuggled quite tightly together under the blanket, with Ran resting her head on his chest and Shinichi having an arm wrapped around her body.

Ran turned her head and looked at his face; he was still asleep. She gently slipped out of Shinichi's embrace and from under the blanket and sat on the brink of his bed. Stretching herself again, this time more thoroughly, Ran enjoyed letting the morning sun shining on her naked body. Thankfully, Shinichi's room was on the first floor and there was no house from which you could look down into this room; Ran knew this of course, she cleaned that window a number of times in the past. Nevertheless, it was time to get up; looking through the pile of their clothes on the floor, Ran grabbed her panties and swiftly put them on. She also grabbed a dress shirt and put it on as well. It was too big for her, which meant it belonged to Shinichi, so she rolled up the sleeves and buttoned up the shirt enough to make it clad her body like a nightgown.

Going downstairs, she went into the kitchen and made some breakfast. The kitchen of the Kudo mansion wasn't stocked up very well, but Ran could at least whip up some toast and coffee; she also went through the fridge to find something to make the meal less bland and found some strawberries, so Ran cut those up, put everything on a tablet and went back to Shinichi's room.

Shinichi fluttered his eyes open and was greeted by a smiling Ran, who was resting on his chest and wore one of his shirts.

"Good morning, Handsome," Ran said, spiked up a piece of strawberry and held it up to his face. "Here, try this."

Shinichi bend slightly forward and snatched the fruit piece from the fork with his mouth. "Mhh, tasty," he said while munching and smiled.

"I'm glad," Ran said. She rolled off of him, so she could place the tablet in the middle of the bed while the two of them could lie on it comfortably and slid a plate, a fork and a cup of coffee closer to him. "I tried my best, but we really need to do some grocery shopping," Ran said and started to eat a piece of strawberry as well.

"Yeah," Shinichi nodded and began to eat.

"Right, in that case, why don't we also go to the cinema today?" Ran asked. "The new Detective Samonji cinematic reboot started last week, but well ... you were wrapped up in dealing with this whole Kurara mess and I was busy learning my text, so why don't we reward our efforts with a good movie?"

Shinichi grinned and emptied his mug. "And here I thought we rewarded ourself last night..."

"Shinichi!" Ran jokingly gave him a slap on the arm, while unsuccessfully trying to suppress a giggle and a smile.

"Sorry, sorry," he said, while his grin grew wider. "But we also have to study for the exams next week. They won't postpone those."

"Don't worry," Ran said and opened one of the already few closed button on her shirt, exposing pretty much everything, "we have all the time in the world today."

Chapter Text

It was a bright, sunny day in Beika, Tokyo. At Teitan High School, the second large break, and as such the last break of the day, was almost over; Ran and Sonoko were currently in the girls bathroom. While washing her hands, Ran looked over to Sonoko, who was doing something else. "Lipstick, Sonoko, really? For a schoolday?"

"I know, I know, you don't think much of that," Sonoko said, while pulling the lipstick over her lips one final time, "but today I somehow want to pretty. More pretty than usual I mean."

Ran giggled. "Don't worry, if you want, you want it. I was just curious, that's all." She dried off her hands and hummed.
Hmmm, hm hm hmm, hmmm hm, ha hm he hmm, hm hm he hmmm, he hm ha hmm...

Sonoko looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Ran ... why are you so cheery today?"

"What do you mean?" Ran asked her best friend.

"Just ... you've been even more happy and courteous today, you're almost glowing ... I think I expected you'd be a bit more affected by that nasty murder in the first row on the day before yesterday," Sonoko explained. She wiggled her eyebrows a bit. "Don't tell me you've been cheering yourself up by repeating that stage kiss with Shinichi-kun a few times yesterday. Actually, I wasn't able to reach you all day..."

"No dramatic explanation which involves my Dad this time...? Oh well," Ran said and giggled again. "Well, you're right, I spent the day with Shinichi yesterday, it was comforting. You know, all the good stuff, studying for next week, going to the cinema ... and yes, some kissing too. And well ... a bit more than that..."

"What?!" Sonoko exclaimed and grabbed Ran's arm. "What do you mean, a bit more? Don't tell me ... what Kamiko-chan was so insistent about..."

Ran looked over both of her shoulders twice; she went over to the stalls and checked each of them, but they were all empty. "I wanted to talk to you earlier, but there was no good timing," Ran said as she went back over to Sonoko. "...Yes, exactly what Kamiko-chan talked about."

"Oh. My. God." Sonoko said. "..." She slowly went over her face with her right hand, faintly touching her lips and swallowing. "I ... I actually don't quite know what to say ... I mean, how ... how was it? How do you feel? Was ... was..." Sonoko looked away from Ran, down to the floor.

Now Ran touched the arm of her friend, but more gently and offered her a warm smile. "You want to ask whether or not Kamiko-chan was right about the ... stuff she said, don't you?" Ran asked, to which Sonoko nodded while still looking to the floor. Ran started to streak Sonoko's arm. "It's okay. Her words scared me too."

"No, I mean ... ugh, I shouldn't keep denying it, you've already looked through my worries..." Sonoko rubbed her eyes. "Look ... I'm usually all in for details about anything love related, but I really don't want or feel the need to intrude your ... sex life," cue another blush, "... but you know, just answer me some quick yes and no questions, okay?"

"Sure, ask away," Ran said.

"Alright, so ... how-," Sonoko started, but then the door of the bathroom opened. It was Kamiko, who smirked as she spotted Ran and Sonoko.

"Just the two gals I've been looking for," Kamiko said, still smirking.

"Excuse me?" Sonoko replied. "Don't you have anything better to do? Like, you know, actually using the toilet? Or did your 'boyfriend' not give you permission again?"

"I don't always speak to him about these things..." Kamiko said, not so confident anymore; Sonoko's reminder about that situation last week hit where it needed to hit. "Just so you know, I went earlier, no need to concern yourself."

"Oh, but earlier you went with or without his permission?" Sonoko insisted.

"Sonoko!" Ran exclaimed. "That's enough, really. Kamiko-chan, what did you need from us?"

"You know, I've been wondering," Kamiko said. "Just two days ago, Kudo-kun had his tongue so deep in you that he probably could almost taste your stomach acid, on a stage, in front of the whole school. So, I've concluded, you've either already had sex or had victory sex afterwards. And now I'm curious which is true."

"W-well..." Ran stuttered with a blush.

"Well, why is that any of your business?" Sonoko said before Ran could continue. "You've been oddly insistent about this whole thing ever since you talked to us in the locker room."

"I've decided that day to take Ran-chan under my wings; it was necessary. She was too naive, she needed to be told about what it would be like." Kamiko explained.

"I'm right here, you know," Ran said, slightly annoyed.

"Right," Kamiko said, "so, what is the answer?"

Ran slightly raised her chin. "Yes, we did have sex two days ago. And yesterday. Multiple times."

"Are you crazy?" Kamiko gasped. "I'm surprised how you are standing; I was in so much pain after the first time, I had to rest for almost an entire day!"

"Really, that bad...?" Sonoko wondered, not as confident anymore. "It could be better for Ran since she's extremely athletic."

Kamiko raised one hand to her chin. "Yeah, that might be it..."

Ran grabbed Kamiko's shoulder. "Or maybe it could be, that it doesn't need to be incredibly uncomfortable and painful to have sex."

"Don't kid around," Kamiko said. "You're just telling that to yourself, so you can more easily accept reality."

"You should listen to yourself: don't you think that applies more to yourself than to me?" Ran replied.

"No," Kamiko said, with a waning smile.

"Really," Ran said. "Well, I can only speak from the experience that you urged me to have."

"Finally you listen to me, but only on the things you want to hear," Kamiko whined. "You need to fully embrace my words. Kudo-kun and Ikema are alike, united by their gender; thus, they have they same underlying personality. You should've listened to everything!"

"I'm sorry," Ran said, clenching her fists. She was getting slightly angry right now, especially at the comparison of Shinichi and Ikema. "I am really, deeply sorry that you've tied yourself to someone like Ikema-kun; someone, who disrespects your needs and feelings; someone, who, according to your own account, ravaged you during your first time. But Shinichi is nothing like him; he might seem cold and arrogant to people who don't know him very well, but he cares about my feelings. Especially during our night together two days ago; my first time was overall a wonderful, gentle and pleasant experience. And I'm sorry, that it was not the same for you, but please stop telling me, that I should've listened to you more carefully and that Shinichi is anything like this brutish, abusive idiot of yours. Because both of these statements of yours are false. You should've listened to yourself and realized your terrible predicament!"

Kamiko and Sonoko looked at Ran with a shocked expression, speechless for a short moment. "R-Ran..." Sonoko mumbled. Tears welled up in Kamiko's eyes.

"Kamiko-chan," Ran continued. "He's not good for you. Your emotions, your needs, your thoughts and feelings, they matter. How he treats you, ignoring all of these things, that's not right. I don't want to be mean, but please, open your eyes."

Rather than opening her eyes, Kamiko closed them; although, to be fair, it was an attempt to hold back her tears and not another try to ignore her situation. This attempt was futile, however, as Kamiko started to sob immediately, tears running down her cheeks. As Ran saw this, she pulled the girls closer into a hug; Kamiko embraced the hug and now sobbed uncontrollably on Ran's chest.

"Sonoko," Ran said, turning her head to her best friend. "Go and get us a teacher, Jodie-sensei if you can. Kamiko-chan should talk to a competent adult about all of this."

Ran and Sonoko skipped the next lesson, staying with Kamiko, giving her emotional support, while she explained some things to Jodie. They then rejoined class, where the sight of a crying Kamiko in the arms of Ran, accompanied by one of the most popular teachers of the school had sparked a vast amount of rumours going around. Ran and Sonoko denied all of it, not telling them about what happened without Kamiko's approval; however, without giving any kind of story, they couldn't help that some rumours persisted. Shinichi wasn't particularly interested; not because he hated rumours, but rather because he knew Ran would probably tell him. She mentioned Kamiko often enough during the last two days and she told him, that she wanted another clearing conversation with Kamiko.

After all classes were done, Ran and Sonoko went to the teachers room once more, so Shinichi waited outside the school building for them, sitting on a waist-high wall along the pathway, casually reading Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Diving into Poirot's investigations and deductions, time flew by, so Ran and Sonoko came out of the building faster than he expected.

"I guess this is all the result of the talk you seeked to have with her, huh?" Shinichi asked the approaching girls, while putting the book back into his bag.

"Yeah," Ran answered. "Poor thing. Thankfully, she sees a lot clearer now."

"Indeed. Thank god though, that scum Ikema treated her like shit. Bastard..." Sonoko huffed; she looked over to the school building again and saw a particular person approaching. "Speaking of the devil..."

Ran and Shinichi followed her gaze and saw Ikema storming to them; he looked pretty angry. "You! Mouri!"

"Hey, Ikema-kun," Ran greeted, "how is your day going?"

"Screw you! My girlfriend just dumped me and that's your fault!" Ikema yelled.

"My fault? How is it my fault?"

"You talked so much shit about me, that she left me; you're like a siren, singing your song about how I'm not treating her right and now you've got her completely under your spell. I hope you are happy," Ikema explained, "destroying a relationship. You must be so proud of yourself."

"I didn't expect you to know these kind of words and how to use them," Sonoko wondered.

"Sonoko, you're being rude again," Shinichi chided her without any serious intent, "but I can't say it doesn't surprise me either."

"Shut up! Both of you and especially you, Kudo!" Ikema yelled again and threw a punch in Shinichi's direction.

Just as Shinichi wanted to dodge again like he did in the bathroom last week, Ikema's fist was caught by Ran. Her lips curled up to a little, sinister smile. "Thanks ... for giving me a reason..."

"He will regret that..." Shinichi and Sonoko said at the same time.

Ran started to use her karate on Ikema.

"So, Shinichi-kun, how is your new life as a famous stage actor?" Sonoko asked.

"OH GOD, MY ARM! THIS HURTS!" Ikema screamed.

"Ah, you know, not that different actually," Shinichi answered. "Same amount of cheer, slightly different fanbase."


"I heard you got lucky in the last two days, how's that been for you?" Sonoko asked.


"So she told you, huh?" Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "Well, you know ... it's been pretty good. You should try when Makoto-san's visiting you the next time."


"Maybe ... but I don't want to rush it..." Sonoko said, blushing.

"Understandable," Shinichi replied.

Ran came back over to them, clapping her hands. Sonoko and Shinichi looked over to Ikema, who looked pretty ruffed up, but he was still able to stand, indicating that Ran had been rather merciful. Ikema pointed at the three of them. "You ... will ... regret this," he said.

Ikema turned around away from them, only to suddenly stare into the face of the English teacher Jodie Saintemillion, who grabbed him by the hand he just used to point at Shinichi, Ran and Sonoko. "Darling, you're in deep trouble now!" Jodie winked.

"W-what...?" Ikema winced at her touch, since Ran's treatment left him with only a few non-aching spots on his body.

"Yes, yes," Jodie continued her talk, "you know, dear Kamiko-chan came to us before she broke up with you and told us some details about your rather naughty exploits. The Principal would like to have a word with you." She proceeded to drag the boy back to the school building. He tried to desperately plea for mercy (again), but Jodie was deaf to them.

"You think we'll see him around again?" Sonoko asked.

Shinichi shook his head. "Nope."

Without any regret about that, the three of them made their way home, the girls informing Shinichi about what happened with Kamiko, Sonoko eventually going into a different direction, because of some family obligation she had to attend to.

"So," Shinichi said, "you talked to Sonoko about yesterday."

"Yeah. She was scared by the words of Kamiko-chan too, so it was necessary," Ran explained. "And besides, I wanted to talk about it. Did you talk to anyone about it?"

"As a matter of fact, yes, I did. My father called me in the break when were talking with Kamiko-chan. I have a feeling my mother tipped him off," Shinichi said. "Thankfully, he was approaching this topic with his mature side. Oh, and also," Shinichi cleared his throat, blushed, grabbed his phone and showed Ran a text, "I got this message from Mom."

Shin-chan, keep in mind that one should marry his lover before having a child -XO Mom

"..." Shinichi said nothing.

"..." Neither did Ran for a moment, when she just blushed and read. " least Yukiko-san isn't one of these mothers from the dramas, who always push their sons for grandchildren. Well, I guess until you're 18 and actually able to marry at least..."

Shinichi clicked his tongue. "Tsk, she will have to wait ... I didn't plan to propose before we are 20..." he mumbled.

"Ehh?!" Ran blushed. "W-what did you just...? Could you repeat that?"

Shinichi suddenly came to halt and faced the dumbfounded Ran. "I said..." He flashed her a mischievous grin. "Catch me if you can and I'll tell you," Shinichi said and ran away.

"HEY! Shinichi, wait," Ran yelled and ran after him, unable to hold back her laughter at doing something childish like chasing each other. "Hey, we're not in elementary school anymore, running away like a child will not save you from telling me!"

"No," Shinichi yelled back, still ahead of Ran with a comfortable lead, still grinning and also laughing. "But it'll give me some time."

And so the two of them ran through the neighborhood, their cheerful laughter filling the streets of Beika.

- The END -