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Illusion

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Though Aoko told herself to stop, he was still on her mind.

Kid.

It was hard to not think about him. She saw why there were girls crazy over him. After all, he was showman, a ladies man. He entertained, lived for the stage, for an audience. He had those classy, suave lines he delivered…

                And…okay, it was hard to admit that he wasn’t a bit good looking.

                The Sun Halo heist.

 She remembered his labored breathing when he’d went to work on those locks in that underground basement they’d been trapped. She remembered the dark crimson blood staining the crispness of his snow-white suit. She remembered how she’d had to help him to stand, and how soon after he’d collapsed to the floor.

                This is the person who’s the cause of all of Dad’s troubles, she’d thought.

                And yet, she couldn’t help but worry.

                He’d saved her life, after all.

                And the other factor too…

                There was how much he reminded her of Kaito.

                Back then…she thought. I was trying to deny it. But though he does too, I just can’t throw away my suspicions. What if he…

                “What’s with that weak grip?”  Kaito had said when she’d climbed onto the back of his motorcycle. That “weak grip”…she felt as if it had been a sign of worry for him.

                Kid had been stabbed by glass, after all. And Kaito had said that only three days since the incident.

                And yet…She’d also done it in hopes that her suspicions weren’t true. What if Kaito was Kid? Her best friend since childhood, the one who’d been there for her every day…

                And yet somehow, it all made sense.

                They both performed magic tricks. Both were masters at their craft. They looked uncannily alike. Even their arrogant, overconfident personalities were right in the same area.

It can’t be…right?

~~

It was the middle of January or so, and for some reason, Aoko had decided that she wanted to stick around to watch his latest heist to steal the “Aphrodite’s Soul”, a gorgeous ocean blue aquamarine with an intricate cut.

                When her father asked about her sudden change in attitude, she’d shrugged and said that didn’t know, she just felt like it.

                Why am I looking forward to this so much? She thought to herself. I hate Kid. He constantly makes fun of the police…Dad is constantly pushed to his limits while Kid just laughs and runs!

                Unfortunately, she found that she had to go to the restroom a two minutes before the heist was supposed to occur.

                It was five minutes later when she’d washed her hands and left when she glanced at her watch. The heist had only been going on for around three minutes or so. She wondered if the thief had escaped with the gem yet or not.

                The elegant hallways of the manor they were in all looked the same, so she found herself glancing around, wondering which way she’d come from.

                Then, all of a sudden, he appeared.

                He came running from around the corner, a swift blur of white that she would’ve missed if she wasn’t standing in the hallway glancing in both directions. It was in a split second that she saw his startled face as he tried to slow down and move around her. He’d been glancing behind him the entire time before he’d faced her, perhaps to see if the police were still chasing after him. She tried to move out of the way the same time and direction he did, and they collided into each other.

                “Gah!” she cried as she collapsed to the ground. “Geez, what’re you doing?”

                He had stood up already, and for the briefest of moments, his face had morphed into one of panic. Then it was gone, as quickly as a ripple in a pool of water. He’d quickly recomposed himself, and offered her his hand.

                “I do so apologize, Miss Aoko. Are you alright?” His face was one of concern. He seemed alright, he seemed to have recovered from his injury. Even if he hadn’t, it didn’t show. Aoko almost wished she could have the energy he seemed to have 24/7.

                Aoko found herself blushing. She could feel the faint blush spreading across her cheeks. “Y-Yes…” she said.

Gosh, what is wrong with me? Why am I so embarrassed around him?

It was strange, the way she felt about him.

                I guess I’m a hypocrite of my own word…to declare out loud that I hate him, and now I’ve suddenly…

 Maybe it was because he’d saved her. Maybe it was because he reminded her of Kaito.

She just didn’t know.

                She stood and brushed herself off. With that, he smiled briefly and gave her a tip of his hat. “Until we meet again, then.”

Then he ran off, and Aoko stood there against the wall, the sounds of the police running after him drowned out by her conflicted thoughts.

His smile…it was one that was so familiar and yet so far away.

~~

(A Week Later)

                Of course Kaito was being an idiot again. When was he never one?

                Today during their break she was scrolling through the news on her phone when Kaito suddenly reached over her shoulder and plucked it out of her grasp.

                “Hey! Kaito!”

                “Ooh…Kaito Kid, huh? Since when are you interested in Kaito Kid? I thought you hated him!”

                “I-I do!” she found herself stammering. “I was merely reading about his last heist!”

                “Is that really? You’ve always been on the side of the police, even when other thieves have challenged him, and now you’re reading about how Kid managed to get away, and you’re blushing!”

                “S-Shut up!” She snatched it back from him and shoved it into her pocket. “What does it matter if I’m more interested in one heist than another? In terms of the jewels he’s been after before, this one happens to be my favorite!” Gosh, she was making a fool of herself. So much for excuses.

                “That so? A gem named after the goddess of love?” He gave her a playful grin. Gosh, he could be so infuriating at times. She glared at him, Kaito’s grin reflected back at her.

                “It’s just a coincidence, Bakaito!” she said while standing up and punching him in the arm.

                “Ow,” he said, though he didn’t sound like he was in pain. “So, did you go to the heist?”

                “Y-Yeah…”

                “Hmm…” Kaito thought for a brief moment. Suddenly, his smile brightened. “Here.” He snapped his fingers, and then Aoko looked down and saw a gorgeous red rose gently caressed between her hands.

                “H-How did you…?!”

                “Come on, Aoko, you should know better! I’m never going to reveal my secrets.” He bowed dramatically. “You’ve seemed a little down since the heist, so I thought this might cheer you up from whatever’s going on in your head.”

                “T-Thanks…” she said. Gosh, she couldn’t help but feel embarrassed around Kaito as well. He was so charming, and always made her smile.

                Later that day after school as they walked home together, Kaito then posed that question.

                “Are you going to Kid’s next heist tonight?”

                “Uh…” she said, a little taken aback from the suddenness of the inquiry. “Yeah, why?”

                “No reason,” he said. He turned his head away briefly. “What’d he say he was gonna steal tonight? The Sapphire Heart?”

                “Yeah, I read that it was found somewhere in the Hudson Bay off of Canada,” Aoko said. “According to my dad, that old man Suzuki rented it for close to one billion yen!”

                Kaito whistled appreciatively. “Geez, one billion yen? One thing’s for sure, that dude sure is determined…”

                “I know right? Dad told me…” she stopped.

                He could be him.

                “Hm? What’s wrong? What’d your dad say?”

                “I-It’s nothing…” Aoko coughed. “Aoko was just thinking about something else, that’s all!” She’d been about to tell him about some of the extensive measures he and the police were going to.

                It was painful. She was desperately trying to convince herself that it couldn’t be the case. That it was solely just coincidence. Just a coincidence that Kaito and Kid looked, acted, even spoke the same. A mere coincidence, that her best friend and the world’s most famous thief shared the same physique, breathing, scent, gestures, and even smile.

                Kaito didn’t look convinced. But he nodded and turned his gaze to back in front of him.

                They continued the walk back home in a growing silence.

~~

                Kaito didn’t know why he was nervous at the thought of his upcoming heist.

                He’d finished his preparations, right? He’d obtained the blueprints, marked them up with every possible entrance and exit and memorized them, and he’d visited the mueseum where the heist was going to be numerous times to get a feel for the aesthetics so he could find his way around. He’d listened to audio recordings of the possible people to disguise as in case if his first plan went south, and practiced speaking and acting like them.

                He just didn’t know what kind of plans the police had. But that was okay. He was very good at thinking ahead and improvising.

                Usually he was aware of the police’s so-called clever plans to capture him, but Jii had gotten sick last week and couldn’t help. With Kaito’s own preparations for the heist, homework, and other daily stuff, this time he hadn’t gotten around to learning about the police’s plans.

                Yes, if he didn’t get the plans, usually Aoko would somehow tell him about them mid-conversation.

                Aoko…

                There’d been something off about her today. Based on her turn of phrase and the context of their conversation, he could guess that she’d been just about to tell him what Inspector Nakamori’s ideas for arresting him were. Then she’d stopped, the look on her face going to hesitant and nervous.

                It’s nothing, she’d said.

I was just thinking about something else, she’d said.

Yeah, right.

Kaito knew she was hiding something. He could tell in the way her expression had changed, the way she’d just suddenly seemed lost in thought.

Could she suspect my true identity? And to think that I’d proved it to her during our date…

It gave him goosebumps.

Could it be because I’d bumped into her when I stole the “Aphrodite’s Soul”? Or from when we were trapped together during the Sun Halo heist?

He stared up at the wall at his dad’s poster. The smiling face of Toichi Kuroba stood there, encouraging, always there.

“Dad…” Maybe it was silly to talk to a poster, but this was the closest he felt to his dad, of course, besides Kaito having taken up his mantle. “Has anyone ever suspected your identity before? I think…Aoko knows. And for some reason, I feel nervous about tonight. What do you suggest I do?”

No answer.

Of course he knew it was just a poster. They couldn’t talk. But…he’d never liked talking about his father’s death aloud. He had an image to keep up. He was Kaito Kuroba, class clown, magician extraordinaire. But if he had the time alone, he was determined not to forget. Even if it was to a mere poster, a simple image that could easily be thrown away, he still wanted to stay connected to his greatest role model in the world.

He tried to shake away his worry.

She’ll be at the heist. If she finds out…

He shook his head. Now was not the time to doubt. He had a show to put on. No matter what happened, he’d try his best to be ready.

I promised that I’d find Pandora, for Dad’s sake. No matter what the cost.

So he stood up from his chair and made his way to the secret door. He pushed it open and made his way down the steps, trying not to feel like it’d be the last time he’d stand in his room with no regrets.

~~

Aoko simply sat in her room and waited. She was going to be leaving in about half an hour to head to the museum for the heist, and she needed time to think.

He’s hiding something. That was one fact she couldn’t deny.

The way he’d turned his head away when he asked her about Kid’s heist was something that had caught her attention.

Ah…I’m overthinking this…She needed some air. She stepped out onto her balcony connected to her room and sighed, trying to relax.

From her view, she could see directly into Kaito’s room. He always left the curtains open except for when he went to sleep, and now she saw something strange.

She could see Kaito stand up and make his way over to the wall. He pushed something resting on its surface, and then something swiveled open, revealing a doorway.

Aoko could feel her eyes widening. She tried to control her breathing as she watched her childhood friend enter without a sign of hesitation.

That was the only other piece of proof she’d needed.

She couldn’t deny it any longer.

No matter how much it pained her, she had to try and face the truth. She felt tears forming and quickly brushed them away.

The whole scene filled her with a strange emptiness.

~~

Kaito was ready.

Despite his anxiety, he was well prepared and ready for this heist.

Usually his plans never strayed far from their path, so as long as something completely farfetched didn’t happen, he’d be ready for anything.

And he was going to be taking it a bit easier tonight, which he was perfectly okay with. He could see everything perfectly working in his head.

So he sat on the roof and waited for the heist to start.

All the while, he thought about Aoko.

If she knows…then what? He didn’t have a back up plan for that. If she’d found out…

No.

I can’t forget my poker face.

He checked his watch. 45 seconds until show time.

He carefully made his way over to the section of the roof above the exhibit with the jewel. He took out binoculars and looked in, taking a quick glance of the scene so he could mark the best escape route.

From his line of sight, Kaito could see a total of around 125 guards in the room. He zoomed in further and saw a set of four guards surrounding some kind of glass case…Ah, he got it now.

He got the quickest glance at the Sapphire Heart, which was sealed in a plastic container, surrounded by a glass like case that was embedded in the ground. So even if he jumped in and ran to get it, it’d be hard to get out. Most likely that was what the inspector had been planning. Maybe Kaito would be able to somehow break open the case and grab the container with the jewel, but with the numerous guards surrounding it and positioned throughout the room, it wouldn’t be hard for them to quickly grab him. As long as he could get the gem and run, his plan would still work.

He checked his watch again. 10 seconds. Okay…

Now, what to do…

In a flash of inspiration, he pulled out his card gun. As quietly as he could, he opened one of the glass panels of the roof. He dropped three smoke bombs into the room, listening in satisfaction to the guards coughing, Inspector Nakamori barking orders, and the general shouts of surprise. He aimed his card gun and fired eight of them simultaneously in the direction of the glass case. Then he slipped on his police disguise and leaped gracefully into the room, doing a forward roll as he grabbed the plastic container from the cracked case, opened it, took the sapphire, and emerged unharmed from the crowd of guards surrounding it.

He was pretty proud of himself. He’d always been a quick thinker, but this one had been extremely last second. Back before the Red Tear heist, he’d kept testing his cards with different types of materials, until he’d managed to enforce some of them to be strong enough to break glass. He’d simply aimed at the top of the case where each side and corner should’ve been. And if they didn’t land exactly there, that’d have been okay—as long as they’d hit the case.

He slipped the sapphire into his pocket, imitating the other officers’ coughing fits until it cleared. In the midst of this, he quickly threw one of his cards towards the spot. Then pretending to act surprised, he made his way over to the shattered case and called, “I-Inspector!”

“What is it?!”

“T-The gem is gone!”

WHAT?!” Nakamori shoved his way through the crowd of his officers and looked to where Kaito was pointing.

“I-Impossible…” the officers around them murmured.

“BLOCK EVERY DOOR AND GET OFFICERS ON THE ROOF!” Nakmori shouted. “LET NO ONE LEAVE THIS ROOM WITHOUT GETTING CHECKED! GET MEN TO SEARCH THE WHOLE MUESEUM!”

“Right!” the group said in unison.

Perfect! Kaito thought. Now all I need to do is wait for the right moment…

He watched as Nakamori turned on his walkie-talkie. “Control room, do you copy? Do you see any sign of him anywhere in the building?”

“N-No, Inspector! We don’t see him in any of the footage! He’s vanished!”

WHAT?! That’s impossible!”

“Maybe that means he’s somewhere in the room with you!”

“Yes, that’s right!” Nakamori stomped his foot once, causing the surrounding officers to jump in surprise.

“Alright, I’ll be checking each and every one of your faces! You!” he said, pointing to Kaito.

“Y-Yes, sir?”

Okay…is he going to try and pinch my face, or will he…

“Go and let the other officers that I’ll be checking their faces in a minute!”

“Y-Yes sir!”

You really haven’t learned, have you Inspector Nakamori? You should really check your observation skills…

He made his way over the exit, calling to the other officers that the Inspector would be checking their faces momentarily.

He waited until the Inspector made his way over to where he was standing, listening to the pained groans of the officers as Inspector Nakamori had pinched and pulled their faces.

After the Inspector had painstakingly pulled on Kaito’s face, Kaito listened on in smug satisfaction to the man’s cries of shock.

“That’s impossible! No one has even left this room! Where has he gone?!” The other members of the police whispered among themselves cautiously.

Alright…time to get on with the show.

So Kaito laughed. The other officers stared at him in shock.

“I’m afraid you’ve underestimated me yet again, dear Inspector!” He whipped off his disguise to reveal his crisp white suit, listening to the many gasps of the officers.

“K-Kaito Kid?!”

“That’s right!” He called out in a singsong voice. He pulled out his phone and pressed a button, listening to the cord he’d prepared pull him up to the upper level walkway

“I have indeed taken the Sapphire Heart!” He tipped his hat. “Have a nice day!” He shoved open the doors leading him to the upper level of the museum. Back inside the exhibit, he heard the Inspector barking orders.

He listened to the ding of the elevator as officers poured out and began racing towards him. He glanced to his side as he saw some officers who’d took the risk of climbing up the cord he’d left behind.

He grinned. There was nothing like the thrill of a heist.

~~

Keiko Momoi desperately pushed through the crowds, trying to find Inspector Nakamori. She finally located him in the first hallway of the second floor. Keiko guessed that he’d either just gotten back from an unsuccessful chase, or he was waiting for status reports on if anyone had captured Kid.

“Inspector!” she called. She ran up to him, feet pattering on the soft carpet.

“Ah, Keiko, what are you doing here?” He looked agitated.

“I came to the heist to watch,” she gasped, out of breath. “But that’s besides the point. Have you seen Aoko anywhere?”

“Aoko? No, I haven’t. Why, has something happened to her?”

“She just ran off and I don’t know where she went. She won’t pick up her phone either!”

What?!” The inspector shoved his phone back into his pocket. His face had grown angrier, was starting to turn redder from his worry and agitation. “Tell me more.”

So Keiko told him what she’d seen and what Aoko had yelled to her as she ran off. With Kaito in her class, Keiko had been prone to expecting the unexpected, but she’d never expected to ever see Aoko running off while shouting that she needed to find Kid as soon as possible.

~~

By the time Kaito raced into the room on the top floor, he was almost out of breath from his breathless laughing as he slammed the door shut.

When the police had made it onto the second floor, he’d made a beeline for one of the storage closets, and when he’d exited, he’d let his sea of dummies run amok. He’d studied a new type of programming recently, and had designed each dummy to run in many different directions. The inspector had only sent two officers after him, and Kaito had lost them at the last possible second with a dose of sleeping gas to the face.

He decided to take a moment to rest. He felt like he hadn’t been getting enough sleep recently, so he took some deep breaths, trying to calm himself down.

A minute later he coughed and pulled the sapphire out of his pocket. He made his way towards the window, about to hold it up to the moonlight when he heard the creak of the door open and shut.

“Kid, wait. We need to talk.”

He instinctively slipped the jewel back in his pocket and whipped out his card gun, for a minute not recognizing the voice. He could feel his eyes widen in surprise, could feel the shock spreading across his face as he turned to find himself facing Aoko Nakamori.

~~

He thought he’d be ready.

He wasn’t.

He knew Aoko. She hated Kid. There could be only one reason she was here.

Keep calm. You don’t know if she knows. For all I know, she could just want to see me up close, in person. I can make it out of here. Keep your poker face…

He lowered his card gun and slowly put it back in his pocket. “Hello there, Aoko. I see you’re doing well. What brings you here tonight?”

Her breathing was slow and steady, like she was trying to keep an outburst to herself. She took two slow steps towards him. She dropped her bag to the ground and continued to move towards him.

“I…I need something from you.”

Kaito swallowed nervously. “Y-Yes? What is it?”

“I….I need a favor. Please.”

“And what would that favor be, miss?”

Was it just him, or was she blushing? Her gaze was one of sadness, almost fear.

“Is everything alright, miss? What is it that you need from me?”

She was now standing half a foot in front of him. She took a few deep breaths.

“Could you…could you please…”

“Yes?”

She whipped her head upwards so quickly that Kaito had to resist the urge to step back. Tears shined in the corners of her eyes.

Aoko…

“Please…could you please kiss me?”

~~

Kaito was not expecting that slap-in-the-face.

“E-Excuse me?” he said, wondering if he’d just heard wrong. There was no way that Aoko, the girl who’d openly expressed her hatred for Kid so any times, had just asked him for a kiss.

He tried not to blush. Maybe he…maybe he did like her a bit, but he’d never expected to hear Aoko declare those words.

“It’s what I said…please…kiss me…”

“M-May I ask why, Miss Aoko?”

“P-Please…”

Kaito definitely knew he was blushing now. He didn’t know how to respond. He’d never thought Aoko would be the one to ask for one.

Only later he would realize how much of a fool he’d been. How easily he’d let his guard down. He caved.

He breathed once, twice. Evenly. Calmly. “Alright, if that is your wish.”

He reached down and placed his hands on her shoulders. Trying to control his heartbeat, his breathing, he leaned in closer and closed his eyes. Aoko did the same.

He was about to place his lips on hers only when he realized the truth. From all the lies he’d told and the acting he’d had to do, he should’ve seen it coming. But he was too busy, too wrapped up in his own emotions.

His eyes were opened too late.

Too late to stop her, he tried to step back as Aoko grabbed his hat and monocle and threw them to the ground, staring at him with a look that shattered him.

She knew.

Chapter Text

----------

"I thought I knew the world.

I thought I knew myself.

I thought I knew my dearest friend,

but I knew nothing at all."

-Estrella DeMadrigal

----------

Her gaze was not one of anger. It was not one of shock, either.

                Her look of sadness, despair, and disappointment mixed together was one that would be burned into his soul forever.

                “A-Aoko…” He tried to speak, but the words were caught in his throat.

                Oh, how he wanted to tell her. To explain everything.

                But she was the barrier that ironically separated him from telling her the truth.

                Because how could he explain?

                Crystal tears shone in the corners of her eyes, just barely hanging onto the edge. Her eyes were rimmed with red, already submitting to her emotions.

                “I knew it…” Her voice did not peak a whisper. Her words were soft and delicate, seemingly on the edge of breaking.

                She knew. And yet why hadn’t she said anything earlier?

                “Aoko…” he tried again. “Listen…I—“

                “Stop.” She held her hand up in front of his face, almost as if pushing away.

                Almost as if she was pushing him away forever.

                “I…I tried so hard…” Her voice seemed to get caught also. “I tried so hard to try and deny what I thought. That you were Kaito Kid.” Her breathing was slow and even, her words catching the edge of somewhere between calm and about to break. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

                “When I finally began to notice the signs, the similarities, I kept telling myself, no way, there’s no way Kaito could be Kid. For one, you’d proved it before. And besides, I…”

                “I thought I knew you.”

                “I thought, what possible reason could drive him to become a thief?”

                He remained silent. He could not bring himself to interrupt.

                “So I thought, I have to find out. I have to see the truth. And now I see it. It’s you.”

                He could do no more than watch.

                “So why?!” Her breathing came in gasps, streams of tears running down her cheeks.

                He swallowed nervously. He tried to speak, tried to force the words out, but once again found himself frozen, his lips left just the slightest bit parted. “I…”

                Why was it so hard for him to speak? It never was.

                It was such a simple explanation. It wasn’t a difficult story to understand.

                But at the same time it was.

                He’d never told anyone his story. It was one he preferred to keep to himself. 

                Maybe it was hard because he’d never liked looking back. If one focused on the past, it would distract them, it’d keep them from seeing what was right in front of them: the future.

                It was one of the few reasons that he’d so easily embraced the role of an entertainer, the class clown. He loved his father more than anyone in the world. But he if let his death keep him down all the time, kept his sight on the tragic night, it would carve a path of nothing but despair, depression, and constant reminders of the past for him in the future. Instead of focusing on the bad memories, Kaito had focused on the happy ones, the ones that hadn’t burned up. He tried not to dwell on the fact that Toichi Kuroba was gone forever…

                Maybe that was why.

                Unlocking the reason why he became a phantom thief, one that had stayed hidden in him for so long, made it painful. It was rusty, it had not been touched or thought about in a long time, save for when he came across the organization members, or one of his father’s former acquaintances.

                “Answer me, Kaito!” Aoko cried. Her expression was desperate, beginning to crack. It was too painful to stare at her. The look on her face cut him deeper than the sharpest blade ever could, leaving scars he knew he could never erase.

                Finally, he forced the words out. “M-My father…” he whispered. “He was killed.”

                “…Killed…?” Aoko’s voice suddenly grew deadly quiet.

                “Yes…” Kaito turned over his shoulder, stared out the window towards the moon, its beams gently caressing his face. “So I took on the identity of Kaito Kid so I could expose the culprits behind his death.”

                “Wait a minute!” Aoko couldn’t see the logic of it. “How would you becoming Kid lure them out? Did your Dad know the first one? Did he…” Now she saw.

                “Was he…” She let the question hang in the air. He understood the intent of her question.

                “Yes. He was the first Kid.”

                It made sense, at least. But there were still so many things that she probably didn’t know and didn’t understand.

                “So you…all this time you’ve been Kid, it’s been solely to lure the killers out?”

                He cleared his throat. “Not the whole time. I did find them, and now, it’s a race against time to find a certain gem.”

                “A…certain gem?” Her lips parted in a soft gasp. “Why did your reasons change all of a sudden? And if it was a particular one, why don’t you just wait until it appears?” The speed of her breathing began to increase again. She began to feel a rise of anger in her chest, steadily speeding up her heartbeat. “You didn’t have to steal every gem that you laid your eyes upon.” She wiped her face in a hurry, trying to express what she felt, everything she did and didn’t understand.

 He opened his mouth to respond, to explain that finding Pandora was not just a matter of waiting, sitting around and hoping that it would appear.

                Finally she felt her heart break.

                She couldn’t take it anymore.

                “What about my father?! It isn’t fair to him, or me. You’ve been lying to us for the past…what, has it been over a year now?!”

                “You’ve been toying with my father’s emotions and his job. You…”

                “You toyed with me! My emotions, my feelings, my…” Her voice trailed off steadily, hanging on a thread.

                “My heart…” A whisper.

                “My feelings for you, and for Kid...”

                Kaito wasn’t sure if he’d heard her correctly. For him, and for who?

                “For…Kid…?”

                “Yes!” she cried tearfully. “I tried so hard to deny that, too. I hated myself, f-for…”

                “Falling in love with Kid,” Kaito finished. He didn’t know what to think. His voice sounded empty and hollow, like a stranger was pulling words from his mouth.

                She looked up at him again. The normal sparkle she always carried with her in her expression was gone, replaced by grief, betrayal, sadness, despair.

                Kaito sadly wondered if who she once was was gone. If her smile had been erased and locked away.

                If that was indeed the case…

                It was me…he thought. I did this to her…

                He’d known the risks when he’d become Kid. He didn’t regret his choice, but he’d always hated having to lie to Aoko about it. Now here he was, facing the result of that guilt.

                It was a simple tug-of-war between his morals and doing the thing that people saw as right, logical.

                She was no longer crying, but the remains of the tears glistened on her cheeks and in the corners of her beautiful sapphire eyes.

                “T-To think…” her voice was so quiet that he almost missed the next heartbreaking words she said, each another stab through his heart.

                “To think that this whole time…I’ve been in love with a liar like you.”

~~

                For the next few minutes, he and Aoko sat in silence next to each other against the wall.

                The quiet was deafening.

                He wondered why it was taking so long for Inspector Nakamori and the police squadron to find them. They may’ve been sitting in a storage room on the top floor, but surely they’d searched almost every corner of the museum by now He almost wished Aoko would pick up her phone right then and there and call her father and the rest of the police up. He didn’t know why she didn’t.

                It seemed like forever that they sat there, too afraid to speak to one another. It felt so long to Kaito that he almost forgot that he was on a heist.

                So he took the Sapphire Heart from his pocket, about to stand up.

                “Kaito?” Aoko asked quietly. “What are you doing?”

                “You know how I usually return each gem if it’s not the one I’m looking for?”

                “Y-Yeah. Why?”

                “Well, to answer your question from earlier, I have to steal as many gems that come my way, because to see if it’s the one I’m looking for, I just need to hold it up to the moon.”

                “T-The moon?” Aoko said, standing up next to him. “What would the moon even do?”

                “Well, if this is the one I’m searching for, then you’ll know when you see it.”

                Aoko merely nodded.

                He was just about to hold it up when he found himself stopping. He turned back to face her.

                “Aoko…”

                “…What?”

                “…How did you know where I was when you tracked me down to here?”

                “…” Aoko stared down at her feet. “I was waiting for Keiko outside of the bathroom when you rushed past me without a glance. When she came back out, I went in the direction you had gone, following the trail you’d left behind.”

                “Trail?”

                “The footprint indents in the carpet, a few playing cards that must’ve fallen out of your pocket, and the knocked out guards sleeping against the wall.”

                “I see…” Neither said anything else.

                Kaito turned back to the window. He turned the jewel over and over in his palm, trying to control his breathing.

                “It’s show time,” he whispered to himself.

                He raised it up in front of his face, waiting.

                The wait was agonizing, the silence deafening. Each breath he took unnerved him.

                He counted to one. Two. Three.

                Nothing.

                He sighed in exhaustion. “I guess this one isn’t it either…”

                Whoosh.

                He turned his gaze back to the gem. It should’ve been impossible, but could the noise have come from…?

                Suddenly, the ocean-blue sapphire began to glow with radiant light. He covered his eyes, crying out in surprise, trying to not let himself get blinded. He was vaguely aware of Aoko doing the same next to him while crying out, “W-What?! What is this?!”

                As he continued to shield his eyes, the light that shone through the cracks in his fingers suddenly changed from azure to crimson.

                Could it be…?

                The minute the light went away, he ripped his palm away from his face and stared at the Sapphire Heart.

                It looked exactly the same, except for the gleaming, scarlet, crystalline shape resting peacefully inside.

                The only sound in the room was the soft gasp that escaped his lips.

                He’d found it.

                “I…I found it…” were the only words that escaped his lips.

                “‘Found it’? That’s the one you’re looking for?” Aoko clutched his shoulder nervously, as if afraid the stone would come to life and attack her.

                “Yes…” Nothing else could describe the amazement, the joy, the relief he felt at that moment. He wanted to break down, simply cry for the sake of having found it, and cry for the memory of his father.

                “W-What…What is it?” Aoko whispered pensively.

                “Pandora…” he whispered. “The gem of life…“

                “‘The gem of life’?” she said. “W-What does it do?”

                “It’s said to grant eternal life to whoever drinks it’s tears,” he said, still in awe. He continued to stare up at it, entranced by its beauty.

                “Why did you need this one?”

                He blinked the tears of joy away. “They were searching for this gem. I swore I’d find it before them. I have to destroy it. I have to—“

Bang.

                Suddenly he found himself staring on in a stunned daze as the Sapphire Heart flew out of his hands and landed on the ground with a soft clunk. He heard a cry of pain, and then Kaito found himself collapsing as well, staring, shocked, in pain, at the blood streaming like river rapids from his right palm.

                “K-Kaito!” Aoko cried. She bent at his side, desperate, in shock. “A-Are you okay? What happened?!”

                “What happened…” said a new voice from the darkness. “Is that he is about to give us the gem of life, Pandora.”

                “W-What?! Who are you?” Aoko cried. She glanced up, looking around wildly for the voice.

                Unfortunately, Kaito knew.

                “S-Snake…” he gasped. The pain made it hard to focus.

                The man stepped out from behind a suspended curtain at the other end of the room. He grinned evilly.

                “Good evening, Kaito Kid,” Snake said. “No…Kaito Kuroba.”

                Kaito’s eyes widended in shock.

                They know.

“Now if you’ll please hand over Pandora without a fight...” A group of men appeared from behind him, grinning, aiming their guns at them. Snake pointed his at Kaito’s face. “Otherwise we’re going to have to get our hands dirty.”

~~

                A floor below, Inspector Nakamori was exhausting himself from screaming into his walkie-talkie so much.

                He didn’t know why he was so worried. It wasn’t like something had happened. Maybe it was just because he had a bad premonition…something was wrong. He was worried. He needed to find out. If something had happened…Nakamori had a bad feeling that something was about to happen to Kid. And if Aoko had followed him…No, he couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to Aoko.

                “Do you see her anywhere?!” He shouted to the guards running the security room. “She should still be in the building if she’s found Kid!”

                “N-No, Inspector! The cameras are all down, and it’s going to take some time to fix them!”

                “WHAT?! They were working during the heist, weren’t they?”

                “Y-Yes, but we turned away for a minute, and then all of the screens had gone black!”

                “Well, get them up and working as soon as possible! What if Aoko is in danger?! What if she’s found Kid?! We need to find them as soon as possible!”

                “Y-Yes sir!”

                Nakamori turned back to Keiko, who was biting her thumbnail nervously. “Keiko! Didn’t you try to follow her? Are you absolutely certain that you don’t know where she is?”

                “I-I tried, but by the time I thought I’d caught up with her, she was gone, and I didn’t know which direction she’d gone in…I even tried to call her, but she wouldn’t pick up.”

                “Dang it. Where’s Hakuba? He said he’d be here by now!”

                As if on cue, Nakamori turned around to find the British blond-haired detective running up to them.

                “Hakuba! Where the heck have you been?!”

                “My apologies,” the detective said breathlessly. “I was running late because my car wouldn’t start—I assumed it was Kid’s doing. I would’ve called, but my phone was dead. What’s the situation here?”

                “Well, the security cameras are out, Kid has disappeared, and Aoko has as well! I have a bad feeling about this…”

                “Well, why did Aoko-san go missing? I’d assume she was either with you or Keiko-san.”

                “Well, Aoko told me that she had to find Kid-sama,” Keiko said. “Then she ran off, and by the time I thought I’d caught up with her, she was gone.”

                Nakamori tried to control his breathing. He took a deep breath. Then two.

                “It’s okay,” Hakuba said. “We’ll find her, don’t worry. We just need to—“

                That was when they heard it.

                Bang.

                “W-What the--?!” Nakamori glanced around, looking for the sound, Keiko and Hakuba doing the same, their eyes wide with shock. He tried to place the sound, remembering it coming from above.

                Then he heard the voices.

                A cry of pain, then a thump. Next, a muffled, far away sounding female voice.

                The cry of pain had been from someone young. And male.

                Kid and Aoko! He realized.

                “T-That sounded like—“

                “Aoko and Kid!” Hakuba finished.

                Together, they raced for the elevator, praying that they weren’t going to be too late.

~~

                For the next few minutes, everything was dotted with black. The throbbing of his hand made it hard to focus, the pain a virus that was spreading. He could barely move his fingers before a jolt of pain would shoot up through his arm. The scent of copper filled his nose, the blood streaming from his hand an evil, dark crimson, flowing in slow, thick tendrils.

                And he was powerless.

                Next to him, he could feel Aoko trembling as she tried to help him sit up.

                Time itself seemed frozen.

                He desperately wanted to scream, shoot them with his card gun, anything to stop them from getting Pandora. It simply sat there unguarded in the middle of the floor, vulnerable.

                Snake walked over to it, each step a hammer pounding the final nail into place, each movement another shot fired into Kaito’s already injured figure.

                No…he tried to think through the pain. I can’t…

                I can’t…let them get it…

                Then he heard the laughter.

                Snake was laughing in triumph, the still-glowing gem sitting in his palm. Its shine did not seem as bright, as if afraid.

                “W-Who are you people?” Aoko cried. “Why are you doing this?”

                Snake turned, the evil light still lingering in his gaze. His oval shaped face and pointed nose had always reminded Kaito of a sickly vulture. Now he was the triumphant hawk who’d snatched his prey.

                “Well, you see little miss…” Snake approached them carefully, as if afraid Kaito would still do something, even injured. “Your friend here has been a thorn in our sides for the past year-and-a-half. He was constantly getting the better of us. And yet, I was stupid enough to believe that Toichi Kuroba had somehow come back from the dead. Now I see.” He pointed his gun at Kaito’s chest. “It’s so nice to see a son taking up his father’s mantle.”

                “…” Kaito’s breathing was heavy and labored as tried to blink the tears out of his eyes. He didn’t know if it was from the pain or from the jog of the memory.

                He had to think. He had to figure out some kind of plan. He supposed if he was able to get up, he might be able to grab Aoko and run, but then Snake and his men might hurt the museum goers or the police. That only left trying to knock them out to get the better of them. He had to get Pandora. He had to—

                Crud, the pain’s getting worse…

                He tried to think of a plan, one that would mean both he and Aoko getting out alive, as well as getting to take Snake down and destroy Pandora. Usually he was quick on his feet. This time, however, the depths of his brain were void of ideas. The situation wasn’t promising.

                So he attempted a laugh. It was small, merely a light chuckle, but it was enough.

                “I don’t see how you could be laughing, Kaito Kid,” Snake said. “When your situation is hopeless.”

                “Oh, really?” Kaito ventured. “And just what exactly do you have in store for me?”

                “Hmph. As arrogant as always.”

                Thwack. The kick to his stomach caught him by surprise as he fell backwards, gasping in pain.

                “K-Kaito!” Aoko cried. She helped him sit up, then moved herself in front of him. She held out her arms as if to shield him. “Stop it!” she cried.

                “A-Aoko…” he hissed from the pain. “What’re you—“

                “Our boss wanted to invite Kid to witness his victory,” Snake declared. “But we can’t exactly have him able to fight back.”

                The pain ate at him, so much so that he nearly missed it when Aoko cried out. Snake had evidently slapped her across the face, sending her towards the wall.

                “A-Aoko!” he cried, wheezing in pain. He needed to get to her. He had to. He had to—

                Kaito then felt himself being lifted up, Snake grabbing him by the front of his shirt. Kaito winced as he was slammed up against the wall, dust from the impact falling onto his shoulders and hair. He glanced past Snake’s shoulder and saw some of a man coming up behind him with rope.

                Kaito tried to rack his brain for something, anything. He could try to whip out his card gun, tucked safely inside his jacket, but most likely Snake would do something before he could fire it. Besides, he only had one good hand, it wouldn’t do any good to get a bullet through it.

                So he’d have to improvise. Kaito Kid was all about performing the unexpected.

                He desperately trained his eyes to different spots around the room. It seemed to be a large storage room, decently large, boxes stacked in corners, random curtains being hung up from the ceiling. Not much to work with, especially with an injured hand, but he needed to find something.

                Before his mind could get to work, he felt himself thrown to the floor. He gasped, inhaled sharply as he crashed to the floor, landing on his bad arm. Snake and the rest of his men raced towards him, rope in hand, ready to tie him up. He didn’t know why they needed so much, but he supposed it was in case some got knocked out by him, or if he managed to escape the bonds.

                The men circled around him, grinning evilly.

                If I could just take them down…But he knew it wouldn’t be that easy. They’d most likely shoot him before he could do anything…Maybe if they could get close to him…

                Snake and two other men bent down to tie him up. He’d have to act now, before his hands were tied up. Kaito wasn’t a martial arts expert like the mei-tantei’s girlfriend, but he at least knew the basics of self-defense.

                As the men brought him into a sitting position, Kaito reeled his arm back, punching Snake in the face as hard as he could with his good hand. The man staggered backwards. The henchmen all turned to their leader instinctively, and Kaito saw his opening. He grabbed his card gun and fired at one of the men, startling him and knocking him over.

                He immediately brought his attention to Snake. He had to get Pandora. He had to. He was so close. Everything he’d been through, everything he’d given up—

                It wouldn’t be easy. He was one against around twelve men, all armed with guns, and he was a shot thief who couldn’t even briefly bend his wrist without wanting to scream in agony. Plus, he had to make sure Aoko didn’t get hurt. If he hadn’t been shot, he probably could’ve pulled it all off, but here he was.

                Darn. His one rule for all his heists was that no one got hurt on his account. He should’ve just ran when Aoko had appeared. They would’ve followed him. She wouldn’t have had to have gotten involved.

                What he wouldn’t have given to his father beside him.

                So how to pull it off, all the while with an injured hand?

It was time for one of his favorite areas of magic. Sleight of hand.

                It was the underdog tour de force of any performance. The act of changing something in an instant was sometimes the best thing you could show someone up close—and it could, in certain situations, leave the greatest impact. The only difficult part of the trick would be performing it and making it convincing to your audience. The sleight of hand. Whether you were changing the playing card with a snap or making it disappear, the sleight of hand was always the true magic, the up close, instantaneous shock that came out of thin air.

                So Kaito faked trying to charge at the man and stumbled over, quickly pulling Pandora out of the man’s pocket as he fell to the ground. He cursed as he accidentally fell on his injured hand.

                “Hmph. Losing your grit, are you, Kid?” Snake took a step towards him, only to stop when he saw Kaito gasping and struggling to sit up, holding Pandora as well as the gun Kaito had also snatched away from his belt.

                “I-I’m only going to say this once…” he said.

                He wanted to so badly to look to Aoko, to assure her it’d be alright. So for a split second he let his eyes lock with hers. Her beautiful, entrancing sapphire eyes, her messy, unkempt brown hair, the slight parting of shock of her lips, the faint redness of her cheek where she’d been slapped. Every second counted. If he was going to die, then all he needed was her image one last time…

                No.

                He would make it back. He’d find her.

                And if he had to go behind bars when this was all over, then so be it. If he could just hear her voice, see her smile one last time before he went away…

                “I’m going to give you a choice,” he hissed, surprised by the ferocity in his voice. “And you’re going to choose or—“

                Snake had the nerve to laugh. Insane, maniac laughter escaped his lips like a tremor. “Or what? You’re in no condition to fight us all by yourself, and you know it. As long as we’re armed and that girl is still here, you’re not exactly in a position to make threats now, are you?”

                “You’re going to choose,” he hissed once more. “Don’t think that Pandora is the only thing I can destroy.” He felt anger rising from within him, from some unknown source. These were his father’s murderers. Here they were, standing right in front of him. They’d taken everything away—his father, his innocence, his family life…

                Slowly and without hesitation he raised the gun.

                Maybe Snake and his men had the advantage in numbers and guns, but even they hadn’t expected him to raise the weapon.

                And that was just it. Snake and the organization, the pint-sized detective, annoying Hakuba, Nakamori, and the rest of the police all knew what he was capable of. They knew and they prepared and planned and struck when they thought it was best. But for all preparation they could do, they could never lay a finger on him.

                No matter how prepared they were, they still always underestimated him.

                He tried to ignore Aoko’s gasps of his name.

                “K-Kaito…Kaito…don’t…”

                He’d found Pandora and these criminals. Everything he’d lost and bled for was because this was where his destiny had led him. He ignored the hot tears running down his cheeks, ignored reality, ignored himself.

                “KAITO!”

                Instinctively, he, Snake, and his men all turned back to stare at her.

                For the briefest second he looked back at her. He could see the message she was trying to portray, the whole picture she was trying to get him to see.

                “Don’t. ”

                “Don’t do this,” she whispered tearfully.

                “A-Aoko…” her name died on his lips.

                Finally, Snake snapped out of it.

                “Now!” he shouted to his men. “Take him down!”

                Kaito turned back to them, ready to defend himself. He raised the gun and fired.

 

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"When you lose someone who is a part of who you are, time will heal the wound, but no amount of time can erase the scar."

-Unknown

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