Truth, Trust and Promises

A Meitantei Conan fic by Orla


Disclaimer: I lay no claim to the characters; they all belong to Gosho Aoyama-sama! ^^

Continuity note:

Considering recent events in the Conan storyline, I'd just like to point out that while my story is canon (well, attempts to be ^^) up until the end of the bomber storyline at the beginning of volume 37 after that it's all my imagination and probably bears no relation to what is going to happen! ^^

Author's notes:

Although I try to use as little Japanese as possible, I have kept the honorific endings such as '-san', '-kun' and '-neechan' in Japanese as there is no real English equivalent. '-kun' is used for boys and sometimes for girls (when addressed by their elders), 'Ran-neechan' can be translated as 'big sister Ran' (the male equivalent is '-niichan') and Heiji often refers to or calls Ran 'Neechan' even though he is the same age as her, it's just a more casual mode of address. Heiji also uses the Osaka dialect and the version of '-san' there is pronounced'-han'. I will also use some Japanese terms for items, which are unique to Japan, which makes the English translations a little clumsy.

Words between the brackets <...> are in English.


Part Four


"Stop wriggling, you little bitch!" Koichi yelled, grabbing a fistful of Ran's hair and jerking her head back violently.

"Aaah!" Ran let out a little scream, but she didn't cease her struggles, rather she increased them and flung out a fist. Koichi
yelped and released his hold on her hair to cup his jaw. Ran grinned despite the pain from her bruised scalp. She hadn't stopped fighting since they had flung her in the car and although the confines of the car's backseat hampered her a little, she was still able to utilize her upper body to inflict the most damage possible. She was determined to make life hell for these men, banking on what Heiji had told her earlier. If they needed her to trap Shinichi, then they weren't going to kill her and that gave her an extra boost of courage.

The other man, Tadashi, swore and pressed the muzzle of his gun against Ran's cheek and she froze. Perhaps Heiji's theory had been wrong.

"Stay still or you'll be getting a second mouth!" he hissed.

Ran's heart hammered in her chest; feeling like it was going to burst through her skin. Her eyes slid to the side, squinting for a look at the gun and what she saw made her smile slightly. Shinichi had told her enough about guns that she could tell with most when the safety was on; and the gun Tadashi had pressed to her head was in no danger of going off.

"Don't be an idiot, Tadashi," the man in the driver's seat said, glancing in the rear-view mirror. "We've got orders and besides, we'd really attract attention driving around with a dead girl!"

"As opposed - fuck! - to one - ow! - thrashing around like a - ouch! - maniac?" Tadashi ducked to avoid another of Ran's punches. "Do guns mean nothing to you, gi... ARGH! She fucking bit me!"

"Yuck..." Ran spluttered at the taste of Tadashi's hand.

"Can't we just _bruise_ her?" Koichi growled, snatching Ran's arm and twisting it behind her.

"You know the rules," the driver said sternly. "Now, keep her still... we're coming up to an intersection."

Ran cried out it pain and Koichi smiled. "Just what you deserve! Now sit tight, like a good little girl."

"No way!" she panted and wrenched her arm out of his grasp by using a technique her father had taught her years ago. Before either man could react, Ran threw out a double punch, hitting both men in the stomach. As Koichi and Tadashi wheezed, Ran thrust herself forward, clambering through the gap between the front seats.

"What the fuck...?" the driver stared at her wildly as she crouched on the front passenger seat.

Ran threw a fast punch at him, aiming for his jaw, but he recovered and caught her fist with one hand. "Not so fast, kid," he
smirked. "Unlike those slobs in the back, I'm a first kyu and I won't hesitate to knock you unconscious with one hand!"

There was a sharp click in Ran's ear and she turned slightly to see Koichi and Tadashi leveling their guns at her, safeties off now, revenge gleaming in their eyes.

"So we can bruise her," Tadashi grinned.

Ran drew back, glancing from the driver to the men in the back. "Oh..." her head drooped and she withdrew her fist. The driver laughed nastily.

"Sit tight and be sweet, little angel," he eased the car forward.

"I'm a shodan," Ran raised her head.

"Eh?"

"Kiyaaaa!!" Ran's fists were a blur. The driver was knocked against the window so hard that his head cracked the glass. As his hands left the wheel, the car swerved, throwing Tadashi and Koichi off-balance and causing Ran to crack her head against the dashboard. Loud shots deafened her, one or both of the guns had gone off, and she sat up groggily, not entirely sure that this had been one of her best ideas.

"Bitch!" the driver braked abruptly and then lunged for her, blood streaming across his face. She screamed and backed away, hands scrabbling frantically for the lock and door handle. Just as his hands grabbed her collar, Ran opened the car door. He tried to pull her back as she thrust herself forward with all her strength. The thin cloth of her shirt ripped suddenly and Ran fell forward, banging and scraping knees, arms and elbows as she crashed onto the road. Pain surged through her and she let out an involuntary sobbing gasp, but then she heard the car doors opening and pushed all her discomfort aside, scrambling to her feet.

Several cars were screeching to a halt, worried faces peered at her and car horns blared. Ran staggered slightly, momentarily
disorientated, but she heard the furious curses behind her and fled. She dodged between cars, ignoring the queries yelled out to her, concentrating only on putting as much distance as possible between her and her abductors. She stumbled onto the traffic island and glanced behind her. Her breath caught when she saw Koichi and the others running towards her, guns in hand. All the onlookers screamed in fear and ducked down or ran back into their cars. Ran looked around wildly, searching for the best escape route.

"RAN!" a familiar engine roared up to her and Heiji slowed down just enough so that she could hop on the back. As soon as she had looped her arms around his waist, he accelerated and the motorbike roared down the road, zooming past the intersection.

Heiji kept up the break-neck pace, hurtling them down the highway. Ran was forced to close her eyes and press her head against his back. Without a helmet the wind stung her eyes and little pieces of dirt (and worse) hit her face painfully. However, not being able to see made Heiji's driving even more terrifying, she was acutely aware of every swerve and turn. After what seemed like ages, he slowed down and Ran cautiously raised her head to look around. Heiji had turned off the highway and was taking her down an almost empty road that ran beside a wide river.

"Where are we going?" she yelled in his ear.

"That bridge," he said and she saw a wide railway bridge up ahead.

"Why?"

"To clean up!" Heiji stopped the bike underneath the bridge.

Ran got off and stumbled back as various different points of her body screamed in pain. "Ah... ow... ow..." she looked down and saw there were large rips in the knees of her jeans and the skin was grazed and bloody. "Ugh..." she checked the rest of her and realized that only the sleeves of her shirt were left and a lace trimmed camisole was the only thing keeping her upper body decent; and even that was looking worse for wear.

"And you haven't even seen your face yet," Heiji said, he handed her a small hand mirror. "Hope you don't mind me rooting through your bag, but I figured you'd have one of these."

"My bag?" Ran glanced at the bike as she took the hand mirror. Her backpack was slung across the front. "You remembered to bring it?"

"You dropped it by the bike when they grabbed you, all I had to do was grab it and go."

"Thanks," Ran smiled and held the mirror up to her face. "Oh my God!"

Heiji grinned slightly. "I figured that'd be your reaction," he pulled out a water bottle and a large handkerchief, the type many men used to dab at their sweaty faces during summer. "Still, it's easy to remove."

Ran didn't answer, she was too absorbed in the horror of her reflection. Blood covered the lower half of her face, a legacy from the nosebleed that had occurred when she had been shoved in the car, and the rest of her face was filthy. Finally, her hair was a tangled mess, bits stuck out at every angle and it was coated with dust. "No wonder people were staring at me... I look like a..."

"Fright?" Heiji held out the dampened handkerchief. Ran glared at him and swiped the cloth. "I didn't need you to tell me!" she grumbled and wiped her face.

He laughed. "Maybe not, but I'd hate to see the other guys!"

Ran smiled grimly. "I hope I never _have_ to see them again!"

It took a few minutes, but Ran managed to make herself presentable with the cloth and a small comb. She also removed the remains of her shirt and covered her camisole with a light lavender cardigan that she had stuffed into her backpack earlier. Heiji, turning out to be more prepared than most boys of her acquaintance, pulled out some band aids and helped her clean and patch up the worst of her scrapes. Then they sat down, sharing a small, rather squished, box of pocky.

Ran traced circles in the dirt with her feet and sighed. "I've been thinking..."

"Oh... dangerous."

"Ha ha. Hattori-kun, I... I know you're going to disagree, but..." Ran drew in a deep breath before plunging on. "I think I should go back to Tokyo."

Heiji nearly choked on his pocky. "Are you nuts?" he demanded. "Kudo wants you to keep away, to be safe..."

"But I'm NOT safe!" Ran cried, turning to face him fists clenched. "And the people with me aren't safe! I might as well be in
Tokyo. At least I could be with him," she sobbed the last word and tears began to spill down her cheeks. "I'm going, Hattori-kun and I'll walk if necessary, but I refuse to run around like a scared rabbit!"

Heiji stared at Ran in consternation as her tears flooded down in earnest. He looked away, rubbing the back of his neck while she curled into a ball and cried, letting go of all the fear, anger and tension that had built up within her.

"Okay," he said quietly and she swallowed her sobs, looking up at him.

"Really?"

"Yeah..." he sighed. "You're kinda right, neechan... there's not much point running around in circles. But I go on record that I still think Tokyo is going to be just as dangerous. For one thing we'll all be together and that'll save them dividing resources. But it might work out... so I'll take a chance."

Ran sniffed and wiped her eyes. "Thanks, Hattori-kun."

"Yeah, yeah," he got to his feet, brushing the dirt off his jeans. "But it's gonna take a while to get there... plus we need to
get some petrol. We'll stop overnight in Nagoya, okay?"

Ran nodded. "Sure!" she smiled. "And we can call your Dad and Shinichi later on, just so they know we're okay."

"Mmm..." Heiji frowned. "But I'm going to hold off tell Dad where we are... he might be being watched and if he runs off to Tokyo then _they_ are gonna know what we're doing. It's better to keep them guessing right now. If they think we're still dashing around this area then they'll concentrate the search here and that might give us an advantage."

"Absolutely," Ran started to put on her helmet, but paused. "By the way, Hattori-kun... you should call Kazuha-chan too. She must be worried."

Heiji flushed slightly and jammed on his helmet to hide his face from Ran's gaze. "I doubt it," he said and got on the bike. "She'll only be mad because I missed her stupid picnic."

But even as he spoke, Heiji knew his words to be lies. Kazuha's face floated in his mind and he touched the omamori beneath his shirt. *Stay safe, you idiot.*

***

"I don't get it... I just don't! Why? What is she doing? And what happened to make her scream like that?" Kazuha stared at the
unresponsive mobile phone in her hands. "I thought Tokyo would hold the answers," - she murmured to herself, looking blankly at her bedroom wall - "but if Heiji's in danger here... maybe I can do something? Except I don't know where he OR Ran-chan are."

She let out a grunt of frustration. Kazuha wasn't the type of person who enjoyed being left behind; she wanted to be out there,
wherever 'there' was, and doing _something_. Tossing Ran's phone from one hand to the other, she got up off her bed and began to pace. "Why hasn't Heiji gone to the police headquarters if he and Ran are in trouble?" she asked herself. "Perhaps they are... no! No... I know he wouldn't... I know she wouldn't... After all, if she's so loyal to... ah! Him, he'd know... right?"

Flinging herself back down on the bed, Kazuha turned on Ran's phone. "Let's see... no pin number... good. Ummm... speed dial numbers... and what a surprise, Kudo-kun's is number one. I hope you're not too mad at me for doing this, Ran-chan, but I have to know."

The phone rang, twice, and then a breathless voice answered. "Ran? Finally! Idiot! I've been waiting for ages!"

"Umm... Kudo-kun?"

"Huh? Who's this?"

"Ummm... Kazuha, Kazuha Toyama. I'm Heiji's friend, we met at your school play.(1)"

"Kazuha? Why are you calling me on Ran's phone? Is she there? I want to talk to her!"

"No... She's not here... She dropped the phone... in Heiji's house."

"Hattori's house? But why... Why Hattori?"

"Well, that's what I'd like to know," Kazuha said. "I came to his house, everything was a mess, the living room was ripped up and there were holes in the shoji screens. And then I found Ran-chan's phone lying on the floor of Heiji's parents' bedroom."

"Shit... so they found... Where are Hattori and Ran now?"

"I don't know," Kazuha heard her voice tremble and hated herself for it. "What's going on, Kudo-kun? I need to know what kind of trouble Heiji's in now, and why Ran is with him!"

"I'm sorry," he sighed softly. "But it's not a good idea for me to tell you, Kazuha... Please, just sit tight and wait."

"Wait? But I... hey!" Kazuha cried in exasperation as the phone went dead. "How dare you hang up on me! All I wanted was... Fine then," she drew in a long, deep breath. "I WILL come to Tokyo and force you to tell me what's happening!"

***

"Shit!" Conan threw his mobile phone and the voice-changing bow tie down onto the table. They skittered across the smooth surface and would have fallen to the floor if Agasa hadn't reached out and stopped them.

"Be careful, Shinichi," he said. "I didn't make this for you to break it."

"Sorry," Conan said and sighed, rubbing his face. "She's in Osaka, or at least she was."

"She went to Heiji Hattori?"

"Yes, but I can't think why unless..." Conan sucked in his breath. "Unless she figured out that I'm Conan... and then it would
make sense because she'd put two and two together when she recalled all Hattori's little 'slips'!"

He started to pace, breathing quickly, his small face drawn into sharp, worried lines. "But even if she thought that was safe,
obviously someone else figured out where she went and attacked, but they must have got away and she dropped her phone there... does Heiji have his? And Kazuha sounded worried, something must have happened since, but what? Argh!" Conan let out a yell and punched the wall in frustration. "I hate this!"

"It's not good getting all worked up, Kudo-kun," Ai's cool voice sounded from behind him. He whirled to see her standing at the entrance to the basement where she had been closeted for the past few hours. "You can't do anything about it... yet."

He glowered at her. "That's not going to stop me worrying, Haibara."

"Oh, I never expect you to," she said with a slight smile. "But if you can calm down long enough I have some news that might be of interest to you."

His glare changed to hopeful interest as Ai approached. "I was nearly there with the temporary cure," she said. "But of course, I was working almost blind with it. However, having the actual Apotoxin has allowed me to see my mistakes and add what was missing, thanks to Professor Agasa's well-stocked lab," her smile was warmer as she looked at the elderly man, but her manner remained calm and analytical.

"I do lack the resources to run a complete test, so what I'm offering now is pure theory and there is no guarantee, nor will the strain on the body be any less. I have taken steps to counteract the stress and the tests I have been able to do indicate that this should be enough to complete the process, with maybe some additional treatments. The long term effects are..."

"Ai!" Conan shouted. "Stop giving me a scientific report! Do you have a cure or don't you?"

She looked mildly annoyed at his interruption. "I think so."

"That was fast, Ai-kun," Agasa said. "Well done!"

Ai shrugged. "As I said, I was on the right track with the previous cure... it was just a matter of finding the correct components to ensure the cells don't regress," - she held out her hand and Conan saw a small pill lying on her palm - "but to prevent your body going into shock this needs to be taken in stages. This dose will be enough to re-age you by six years... theoretically."

"How long do I have to wait for the second dose?"

"I just knew that would be your first question. I would prefer you to wait forty-eight hours..."

"What? That's impossible!"

She sighed. "But since you're so stubborn, Kudo-kun, and I have to reluctantly agree that we're short on time... I think it will be okay if you take the second dosage after twenty hours."

He looked at his watch. "Eleven o'clock tomorrow morning... that should be okay."

"I remind you that this is ALL theory," Ai protested. "I can't guarantee the results! This could kill you..."

"And so could the Black Organization!" Conan snapped. "Haibara, there's not allot of choice! I'll take the risk."

"Fine," she retorted. "But you might want to put on some different clothes on... or you'll split those."

Five minutes later, Conan stood in his junior high school soccer uniform with Ai and Agasa looking on. He swallowed the pill; helped by the glass of watered-down vodka Ai had said would increase the effectiveness of the antidote. Conan smiled wryly, setting down the glass. "A cure that requires you to drink alcohol... this would be popular with Mouri-ojisan!"

Soon the pain began to rip through his body and all levity vanished in an instant. Familiar sensations assaulted him... It felt like a
furnace was roaring beneath his skin, melting his bones. He collapsed to his knees, clutching at his chest, trying to stop his heart from hammering its way out of his skin. Groans of pain turned into screams of agony as the boy known as Conan was reshaped, bones and skin shifting, steam rising from his body.

Then, much sooner than he had anticipated, the pain was gone. Shinichi grunted in surprise and opened his eyes. Gasping he
staggered to his feet and stood, swaying slightly, blinking at his audience. Ai seemed smaller, but not... _that_ small, and he was still not looking Agasa in the eyes, but there had been some significant shift in height. He looked down and saw that his soccer
uniform wasn't looking so baggy anymore and the ground was higher up than usual.

"Ah... it worked..."

Ai bit her lip. "Yes... it did."

"You don't look that enthused," Shinichi said. He turned and looked at the mirror on the far wall. "Oh. Oh I see."

The Shinichi Kudo he saw in the mirror wasn't quite his true age of seventeen yet, but from what he could tell only three years stood between him and that goal.

"I told you that this was only theory," Ai said sternly. "That the results might not be what we expected."

He inhaled deeply and then let the breath out slowly before speaking. "It's okay, Haibara. So stage one advanced me a little more than expected, that's not entirely bad, right? Perhaps you can work on stage two and..."

"It's not that simple!" she cried. "Whatever I do... the second stage MIGHT take you to seventeen, but then again, you could go past that and end up two or more years older!"

"Maybe you should stay like this, Shinichi," Agasa spoke up. "It's only three years difference..."

Ai shook her head. "No... he'll regress if he doesn't take the second dose... I think..."

Shinichi turned away from the mirror. "It doesn't matter," he said sharply. "Whatever happens... happens and I'll deal with it IF the situation arises. Right now there are other things to think about and one of them is finding out what's happened to Ran and Hattori."

"Would Mouri-san know?" Agasa suggested and Shinichi frowned.

"Unless Heizo Hattori knows too and has called him, then I doubt it," his frown deepened. "I just hope the stupid old man listened to me and called Detective Takagi."

***

"Thank you so much for meeting with me, Mouri-san," Jodie smiled brilliantly at the detective. "I know you must be so busy... being such a famous detective."

Kogorou preened slightly. "Of course I am, but I'm always prepared to put aside time for my daughter."

"<How admirable!>" Jodie sighed in admiration. "Ran is lucky to have such a father!"

Rocks could have been bounced off Kogorou's air of self-importance. He shot Jodie what he considered a seductive smile and sat down on the couch beside her. "And she's lucky to have a teacher who looks out for her welfare."

Jodie bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself laughing at his leer. "Well, I've been a little worried about Ran for a while... she
seems to get very distracted lately."

Kogorou shifted slightly closer to her. "I'm sure it's nothing important... she has a karate tournament coming up soon, perhaps
that's it. Jodie-san, why don't we..."

"Karate tournament? Wow!" Jodie clasped her hands together. "How very, very exciting! She must be practicing hard! Where is she?"

"Yes, she's... where? Oh, er... at Izu with her friend, Sonoko Suzuki," Kogorou moved his hand towards Jodie's, but ended up falling over as Jodie leapt to her feet.

"With Suzuki-san? Really? With the tournament coming up?"

"Er... yes," Kogorou scrambled to his feet, smoothing back his hair. "She left me a note."

"Oh... I see," Jodie turned away from him and he didn't see the frown that flickered across her features. "Has she called you?"

"No," Kogorou inched forward. "Perhaps we could continue this somewhere a little more comfortable?"

"How about Shinichi Kudo?"

"Kudo?" Kogorou was really confused now. "I don't even know where that little bastard is, let alone whether he's called Ran!"

"Little... oh!" Jodie turned back to face him, smiling. "Where is little Conan? I wanted to say hi! He is so cute!"

"He's with Prof..." The shrill ringing of the telephone cut off Kogorou. With a grunt of irritation he stalked over to his desk and
picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

"Prof? <Professor?>" Jodie mused. "<The old man on the bus? Hmmm... Possible...>(2)"

"WHAT?"

Jodie jumped slightly at Kogorou's yell and looked over at him. The foolishness was gone, Kogorou's whole body was tense and there was an expression of worried anger on his face. "What was she doing there?" he demanded. "No, I thought she was in Izu... Yes... I see... thank you, Hattori-san."

Jodie's eyes narrowed behind her glasses and her expression became even more thoughtful, but when Kogorou put the phone down and turned to her, all he saw was a face full of worried confusion.

"I'm sorry, Jodie-san, but I have to cut short our talk," he said grimly. "That was Heizo Hattori, Ran's in Osaka and may be in
trouble."

"Oh no!" Jodie gasped. "Are you going there?"

"No... Hattori-san seems to think she might be on her way back here with his son, Heiji. So I'm going to see Inspector Megure," Kogorou paused in the act of pulling on his jacket. "Strange... Kudo told me to talk to Takagi about some files, I wonder..."

"Please let me come!" Jodie pleaded. "I'm so worried about Ran!"

"I don't..."

"Oh, please!" Jodie's eyes glittered; her body leaned towards his, hands clasped to her chest. Her voice throbbed with emotion. "I am very fond of her! She is such an angel... I would be most unhappy if anything happened and I hadn't done all I could to help!"

Kogorou crumbled under the visual and verbal assault. "Uh... very well," he waved her out of the door and locked up. "Come on."

"Oh thank you!" she gushed as he past by and started down the stairs. "Thank you so much," her mouth quirked into a mocking smile behind his back.

"<You fool,>" Vermouth murmured.

***

Toyama wearily pushed open his front door. It had been a long day, much too long and he didn't think tomorrow was going to be any better. Heiji Hattori and Ran Mouri were still missing, all leads were dry and forensics had yet to come forward with anything of use. Heizo believed they were going to Tokyo; Heiji was last seen speeding past an intersection after picking up the Mouri girl. The reports from that sighting were very disturbing. According to all the eyewitnesses, Ran had bolted from a still moving car, her face covered in blood and her clothing torn. The description of her abductors matched no known criminal, but they were apparently well-dressed and carrying guns. What made things even more disturbing was the fear officers had reported on the faces of known yakuza contacts when they were asked questions about these men.

"At least Kazuha's out of this mess," he sighed. He was surprised she hadn't come to meet him already, questions bubbling on her lips. "Kazuha?"

The lack of response sent a chill down his spine and he bolted up the stairs to his daughter's bedroom. "Kazuha!"

He flicked on the light and swept his eyes around the neat room. There was nothing to indicate that anything was wrong, except the little piece of paper lying on the bedspread. Dread welling within him, Toyama picked it up and read the brief note.

"Dad, I'm sorry, but I can't sit here and wait. I'll be careful and call you when I get to my destination. Please don't worry too much about me. I love you."

***

1. Volume 26
2. Bus Jack case, volume 29 - Agasa was with Conan, Ai & the Detective Boys.

1st kyu = brown belt
shodan = first level black belt - as far as I know it's never said
what level Ran is, but I'd imagine she's pretty high.


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