The boy, no more than seven or eight years of age by appearance, skidded around the corner into the dark, grimy alleyway, his red sneakers slapping noisily on the pavement.
There on the ground lay a man, thin-faced, balding, wearing slacks, a button-down shirt, and a white labcoat...which was presently heavily stained with blood. The boy stumbled to a halt next to the man, eyes wide as he surveyed the carnage.
The man's torso had been ripped open, and much of his small intestine lay in a grotesque halo around him. Amazingly, he was still alive, but his shallow, reedy breathing and the unfocused, ashen look of his face indicated he would be dead in a matter of moments.
All things considered, that was perhaps for the best.
He looked up at the boy and coughed wetly, spewing blood on the pavement. "Didn't...get it," he rasped.
"Don't try to talk!" the boy exclaimed. "Just...be still."
The man shook his head, trying to reach up with a sticky, gore-soaked hand. His arm gave a violent twitch and he fell against his shoulder, lapsing into a coughing fit which sent more red-black blood flying. "P..pocket," he gurgled. "In...cig...pack." He tried to focus his severely dilated eyes on the only other figure in the alley. "Im...portant," he continued, each wheezy breath causing a fresh trickle of blood to ooze from his mouth. "Don't...let...have..."
The boy, his overlarge glasses flecked with the blood coughed up by the dying man, reached over and closed the wide, glazed eyes. Grim-faced, he reached into the dead man's coat pocket and removed a slightly crushed pack of cigarettes whose top was torn completely open. Frowning, he peeled back the foil, seeing only a completely untouched, unsmoked pack of cigarettes.
And yet...why was it open? Why was it torn all the way open, for that matter?
Brow furrowed, the boy removed one of the cigarettes...and discovered it was only a butt, the smokeable tobacco cut completely off. Frown deepening, he turned the pack upside down and tapped it out into his palm.
Nineteen more truncated butts toppled out, spilling onto the ground beside the gruesome corpse. Behind them, three objects fell into the boy's palm:
A slip of paper with a number, a coin locker key...
...and an odd-looking ring.
* * * * *
Edogawa Conan stood at the mouth of the alley, waiting as the police arrived. The overweight chief inspector, Megure, nodded to the boy as he approached. "You say you found a body in the alley?" he asked.
Conan nodded. "I heard a noise, so I went to look, and..." He paused. "I gotta warn you, Megure-keibu...it's pretty nasty."
Megure frowned at the warning, then peered into the alley. He paled. "Gods..."
The coroner's team moved in, and several exclamations of disgust emerged, as well as the sounds of no fewer than two stomachs being purged. The inspector's face tightened. "What kind of..." He shook his head, then focused his gaze on Conan. "Did you...see anything? Did the victim say—" He paused. "No, I don't suppose he could have..."
Conan hesitated, then nodded. "He was already dead when I found him."
Megure sighed. "Alright. I...don't really think we need to keep you for a statement. You'd...you'd better go on home. Do you want someone to drive you?"
The boy shook his head. "I'll be okay."
Five blocks from the scene, he fished around in his pocket and removed a pale blue handkerchief which was stained with flecks of dark, dried blood. Frowning at it, he stuffed it back in his pocket, deciding to burn it when he reached Agasa-hakase's house.
He wasn't certain why—and it went against every detective instinct he had—but he had a feeling it would not be wise to give any sign he'd spoken to the victim before he died.
* * * * *
"Ah, Shinichi! I was just thinking about you," Agasa Hiroshi called jovially as the small detective walked through his front door. "I just had an idea for an inv—"
"It'll have to wait, Hakase," Conan replied, and the tightness in his eyes told the portly old inventor that the boy was deep in thought.
"Something happen?" Agasa asked, shifting his bulk onto a barstool.
Conan nodded, climbing onto one across from him, and fished a crumpled cigarette pack out of his pocket. "You never saw this," he cautioned.
Agasa frowned. "Oi, Shinichi, what—"
The shrunken detective tipped the contents of the cigarette pack out onto the bar, and the scientist blinked. Conan had carefully collected every single truncated butt that had originally been in the pack and replaced them, as well as the key, paper, and ring, before he'd called the police. His detective training was screaming at him that he had violated a crime scene and removed evidence that should have been handed to the police, but...
...an even deeper instinct told him that there was something very important here, something that he owed the victim as a dying request.
After all, the man HAD asked him to protect it, in a sense.
"What in the world is this all about?" Agasa asked, poking at one of the butts.
"No fingerprints!" Conan hissed. "It's bad enough I lifted this from a crime scene as it is."
The inventor's eyes widened. "From a—SHINICHI! Of all people to do something so—"
"Look. When I found the guy, someone had cut him open and spilled his guts all over an alley. He was just barely still alive; he told me to take this pack out of his pocket, and not to let...someone have it. I'm guessing he meant whoever killed him." Conan frowned at the contents, picking up the slip of paper with a tissue. "This is the number to whatever coin locker this key goes to. The ring...I don't know what to make of."
Agasa examined the ring, carefully handling it with a tissue as Conan had done. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it. It was a dull, cheap-looking greenish ring, probably made of plastic, with an odd symbol on top. "This symbol..."
Conan shrugged. "It looks like hangeul...my Korean is a little rusty, so I couldn't read it without a dictionary. I'm guessing it wouldn't have been in the pack unless it was important, but..." He shook his head. "First priority is to figure out what train station and what locker this key goes to. Whatever's in that locker, combined with the ring, will be the clue I need to figure out what's going on here."
* * * * *
As it was already late in the evening, and it was Saturday, Conan had called Ran and informed her he'd be staying the night at Agasa's house. He and the inventor agreed it would be best to begin searching the train stations first thing in the morning.
Sunday dawned bright and clear, and Conan, Haibara Ai, and Agasa piled into the scientist's old Beetle and headed for the main Beika station. Conan searched the lockers, frowned as none matching the number were missing keys, and boarded a train, Haibara in tow. Agasa opted to stay and wait for them to return.
They spent most of the morning searching for the locker that matched the key; they finally found it at the third stop in Haido City. A package completely wrapped in several brown paper bags waited within the locker. Without bothering to open it, Conan stuffed it into the sports bag he carried, where he'd also hidden the ring and the cigarette pack.
They rode the train back to the station, where they found a disgruntled Agasa. His mood improved at the news that they'd succeeded in their mission, and the three returned to the scientist's house.
* * * * *
When they returned to the scientist's house, Conan opened the sports bag and took out the package, carefully removing each paper bag and setting it to the side, where Haibara, already wearing latex gloves, folded them.
The object within was...unremarkable, yet unusual all the same.
"It's a lantern," Haibara observed.
"A particularly old-looking one, too," Agasa agreed, frowning. "Look, it's tarnished...it's turned all green."
Conan shook his head, dragging a bare finger along the top of the lantern. "This isn't tarnish or anything like that," he disagreed. "This is the natural colouration of this lant..." He trailed off, then fished the cigarette pack out of his bag, not bothering with gloves or tissues, and dumped the ring out into his palm. He studied the ring, then the lantern. "THAT'S what the symbol on the ring is," he announced. "It's not writing or a code, it's this lantern."
"There's a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the lantern," Haibara suddenly announced.
Conan tipped the lantern over and found that, indeed, a yellow piece of paper was taped to the bottom. Carefully removing it, he unfolded it and studied it. "There's a lot of English writing, and a translation...lots of scratching out and eraser marks, it's really messy..."
"What does it say?" Agasa prompted.
"It's some kind of poem or something. It's a little kiddy-sounding."
"Well, it's a good thing you're a kid, then," Haibara quipped.
Conan shot her a nasty glance. "Maybe you want to read it?"
Haibara shook her head. "I wouldn't deprive you of the honour, Kudou-kun."
The boy snorted, then read the words on the paper aloud. The lantern on the table suddenly lit up, a blinding flash casting a green wash over everything in the room for a moment. Agasa nearly toppled over, and Conan let out a shout of surprise.
When they were able to see again, the lantern had dimmed itself to a dull viridian glow.
"What the hell was THAT all about?" Conan asked, eyes wide.
Agasa blinked. "Shinichi...that ring...it looks different somehow."
Conan glanced at him, and turned the ring over in his palm. "What? ...you're right!"
The ring, which had been dull and cheap-looking before, now glistened with a metallic emerald lustre. The backing of the lantern symbol on top shone like sterling silver.
The three stared at the ring, lost in thought.
"Something very, VERY strange is going on here," Conan proclaimed.
"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock," Haibara muttered, rolling her eyes.
"Shinichi...do you mind if I study this lantern?" Agasa asked.
Conan shrugged. "Just be careful, it might be dangerous." He glanced down at the ring in his palm, then frowned. "I think I'm going to hang onto this thing, though. I...just have a feeling, like it's safer with me. Haibara, do you have any yarn?"
The shrunken chemist raised an eyebrow, but nodded, and wandered off to her bedroom. A moment later, she returned with a roll of plum-coloured yarn and a pair of scissors. A moment's work later, and the ring was tucked under Conan's shirt, hanging from a long piece of yarn tied around his neck.
"I don't know what's going on here," Conan said, rubbing his chin, "but I have a feeling we've gotten caught up in something very, very big."
"Like we weren't already?" Haibara commented.
Beneath Conan's shirt, the ring twinkled silently to itself.
* * * * *
Monday morning began as was typical: breakfast, morning ablutions, and the walk to school, parting with Ran halfway to meet up with the Shounen Tanteidan.
The cool metallic weight resting against Conan's chest, however, was new.
He'd spent half the night wondering about the ring, the lantern, the man who had been murdered, and what potentially dangerous secrets it might involve.
The victim was, by all appearances, a scientist. And the lantern had emitted a strange green light. Was it some kind of new energy source? Or perhaps the ring itself...some type of new radioactive isotope?
That particular thought made him ill at ease, since he was wearing it directly next to his heart...
Still, he hadn't woken up balding or with radiation burns or mutating into some sort of horrible monster (he grimaced at that last thought; he REALLY needed to stop watching those stupid tokusatsu shows with the kids), so for the moment, it seemed the ring itself was safe to keep in his possession.
And he definitely felt safer with it than without it, though he was hard-pressed to say precisely WHY.
Conan was drawn from his reverie by Ayumi's call and curious, concerned glance. He smiled, rubbing the back of his head. "Gomen, gomen...just thinking about something."
Ayumi sighed, rolling her eyes. "Mou...you're ALWAYS thinkin' about something, Conan-kun. You think too much." She giggled. "But that's one of the things I like best about you!"
"Eh...heheh..." Conan sweatdropped, noticing the surly looks Genta and Mitsuhiko were aiming his way. Like it's my fault she decided to have a crush on me and not them...yareyare...
Habara fell into step beside him. "Hakase can't tell anything about the lantern," she whispered softly. "After you left last night, it didn't do anything, and it's just been sitting there, looking like an old piece of junk."
Conan nodded. "I think it has to be in close proximity to the other thing to be...unusual."
Haibara shrugged. "That looks to be the case. Do you have any ideas?"
"None I feel like sharing," the boy said, shaking his head. "For all I know, it's from outer space or something."
Haibara smirked at him. "I expect that kind of nonsense from Hakase, not from you, Kudou-kun."
Conan blew at his bangs in irritation. "Barou. You don't think I'm serious about that, do you?"
Haibara shrugged. "Sometimes it's hard to tell with you. We'd better hurry up...Kobayashi-sensei gets unpleasant if we're late."
* * * * *
Conan was not having a particularly pleasant day.
In the first place, he had a major mystery to puzzle over. Normally, this would have him excited, but when he had no concrete clues and no idea of what was going on, it was simply frustrating.
It also made it much more difficult to pretend to concentrate on the mundane natterings of the teacher as she covered subjects he had outgrown a decade ago.
To make matters worse, Kobayashi-sensei was apparently dealing with PMS or something, as she was a lot grouchier than usual, and Conan half-expected to have a stapler thrown at him if he had to force himself to pretend to pay attention instead of focusing on what was REALLY important just one more time.
All things considered, it was probably a blessing when, at just past one in the afternoon, an explosion rocked the school building, and the blare of the fire alarm sent the entire class into a frenzy.
Conan jolted upright in his seat, eyes wide. "What the—?"
"That sounded really scary," Ayumi commented, wringing the hem of her shirt.
"Think we should check it out, Conan?" Genta asked.
The bespectacled boy shot him a stern glare. "Barou! The fire alarm means the building is dangerous. We're going to do what everyone else is doing and exit, now."
* * * * *
The evacuation of the building had quickly escalated into a nightmare in its own right.
After fleeing the building, the class had been scattered far and wide by something exploding in their midst, showering them with dirt and debris. Conan had let out a swear word that shocked Ayumi and impressed the other two boys in the group; Haibara and Kobayashi-sensei had shot him a dirty look, but were soon distracted by another explosion.
"SCATTER!" Kobayashi-sensei cried, and the class did just that, fleeing in every direction from whatever was happening.
Behind them, the east wing of the elementary school burned.
The source of the carnage let out a riotous cackle, drawing gazed upwards—and inspiring many cries of surprise and shrieks of terror.
Haibara and Conan peered out at the carnage from their hiding place in the fourth-graders' flowerbeds. "It's like one of the kids' stupid tokusatsu shows come to life," Conan commented, dry disbelief in his voice.
"Why would an alien—or whatever that is—attack an elementary school?" Haibara wondered.
For that was the best way to describe what was happening. The...THING...that had orchestrated this disaster was humanoid, though it would never be mistaken for a human being.
It was roughly two metres tall, clad in a form-fitting deep purple bodysuit over which it wore a mottled reddish-brown segmented crystalline armour which covered its upper torso, thighs, shins, and shoulders. Glossy red bracers of a similar material adorned its arms, and a highly polished, gleaming brown crystal helmet encased its head. Its face, which was left exposed, bore a leathery greenish-black complexion, with broad, bulldog-like jowls, a flat, narrow nose, and bloodshot orange eyes ringed by some sort of silvery-grey metallic dust. In one hand, it held a long, jagged-edged sabre made of yellow crystal; in the other, it held what looked, for all intents and purposes, like an antique flintlock pistol—but whatever it was firing out of that gun was anything but primitive.
It also happened to be hovering three metres off the ground with no visible means of propulsion.
"Well, I think it's safe to say this solves the murder of that man in the alley," Conan said flatly.
Haibara's head snapped up sharply. "Kudou-kun. You don't suppose..."
Conan nodded grimly, his hand clutched protectively around the ring concealed beneath his shirt. "Yeah. It's after this thing."
"Maybe if you..." Haibara paused, then shook her head. "No...it doesn't work that way on television, and I know it doesn't work that way in the Organisation, so there's almost no chance it'd work in this situation."
Conan snorted. "Like I'd give anyone who attacks defenceless children what he—it—whatever—wants in the first place."
"BEARER OF THE RING, HEAR ME!" the creature bellowed as a shot from its pistol just missed the retreating heels of a sixth-grader. "SURRENDER YOURSELF, THE RING, AND YOUR BATTERY TO ME, JASPERA, IF YOU WISH TO AVOID THE DEATHS OF THESE EARTH LARVAE!"
"God, this IS right out of some stupid kiddie show," Conan groaned, burying his face in his hands.
"It said 'ring' and 'battery'," Haibara noted. "That...lantern, do you suppose...?"
"Un," Conan said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Ever since I read that note attached to it, I've felt..." He paused. "I don't know, but..."
A shrill scream drew their attention back to the schoolyard. The alien—Jaspera—had seized up a small form, who was struggling in his grasp. Conan's eyes widened. "Ayumi-chan!"
"Kudou-kun, wait...!" It was no use; Conan had already leapt from the cover of the flowers and charged across the yard, adjusting his power kick shoes and inflating the soccer ball concealed in his belt buckle as he ran. With a yell, he kicked the ball at the creature's arm with his full might...
The ball ricocheted off the crystalline bracer the alien wore. Jaspera blinked, then glanced down along the ball's trajectory. "Who dares...?" He floated closer to the small, defiant form who was glaring furiously up at him. "That was extremely unwise, Earth larva."
Conan's scowl intensified. "Look, let Ayumi-chan go and leave us alone, okay? We're just kids...it's really low to pick on kids!"
The alien stared incredulously at him...then laughed. "My dear larva...THAT IS ENTIRELY THE POINT!" He hovered nearer the ground, leaning forward to peer more closely at Conan, his deathgrip on Ayumi not wavering. "I am Jaspera, destined to rule the commerce lanes between the star systems. The only obstacle to my rule is..." He frowned, peering more closely at Conan. Then, a most unpleasant grin split his face. "Well, well. What have you there, larva?"
Conan took a step backward. "Wh—what?" Oh crap, can he tell...?
Jaspera hovered even closer, aiming his pistol at Ayumi's head. "Alright then, how's this...you know what I came here for, because you've got it. It's of absolutely no value to a larva from a backwater planet such as yourself. Give it to me, and your little friend here lives. Savvy?"
"You'll kill her, me, and everyone else here as soon as you have it, and we both know it," Conan spat.
Jaspera raised an eyebrow—or at least, made a facial gesture approximating that. "Are all Earth larva this cynical, or are you a special case?"
"Let's just say I recognise your type. I know scum when I see it."
The alien laughed. "I like your spirit! And you're right. I'm going to kill everyone whether you cooperate or not. So, if you don't mind..." He cocked his pistol, and Ayumi closed her eyes, tears streaming down to the ground...
"Actually, I do mind." And what happened next...well, even Holmes would have been stunned.
* * * * *
From her vantage point, this is what Haibara Ai saw:
The alien, Jaspera, and Conan bantered back and forth with one another, with Ayumi held at gunpoint all the while. The alien cocked his pistol, Ayumi braced herself for her impending death...
...and a...wall—a green WALL—sprang up between Ayumi's temple and the muzzle of the gun, causing the shot to ricochet and shatter a window on the third floor of the building. The wall warped and twisted, wrapping itself around Jaspera's wrist tightly. He let out a grunt of surprise and pain, and Ayumi dropped to the ground. Conan shouted at her to run, and the green wall followed her, wrapping into a convex bubble.
Jaspera's eyes narrowed in fury at Conan, and with a snarl of rage, he lashed out with a booted foot, sending the boy flying. Conan crashed through a window on the first floor. Startled, Haibara leapt to her feet and dashed for the nearest entrance, mentally calculating which specific room Conan had been knocked into.
As she arrived at the open door and skidded into the room, she noticed several overturned, broken desks, with a small, still form buried amid them. "KUDOU-KUN!" she screamed, charging into the room and pushing desks aside to reach the fallen detective.
Conan sat up, rubbing his head and swearing. Haibara froze, staring at him. "Kudou-kun..." she repeated, voice laced with surprise and apprehension.
"Haibara?" he asked. He took in her shellshocked expression, then looked down at himself.
He didn't appear to be injured—but his attire had changed.
His white button-down shirt had become a black T-shirt. His sneakers had turned a deep emerald green, as had his shorts and jacket; the lenses of his glasses were tinted pale green, reminiscent of night-vision goggles. The ring still hung around his neck, but now it was worn openly, and lay against his shirt, the chest of which sported, only partially hidden by his open jacket, a bold green design identical to the one on the ring.
Conan gaped at himself, then at Haibara. "Haibara...what's going on?" he asked.
"How am I supposed to know?" the chemist retorted, taking a step back.
The ring began to glow softly, drawing their attention. Conan cupped it in his hand, staring at it in wonder. Then, he raised his gaze to stare coldly out the shattered window through which he had been thrown, at the alien wreaking havoc on the schoolyard.
Slowly, Conan stood, pushing aside the debris of desks and brushing crushed glass from his person. Then, deliberately, he yanked the ring from around his neck, pulled out the string it was threaded on, and slipped it onto his right hand.
"Right," he said, fire and steel in his voice. "Round two."
* * * * *
The crystal-armoured menace reeled as a green ball rocketed into his midsection, sending him flying. He crashed into the boundary wall of the school, making a sizeable hole. As he pulled himself out of the rubble, he glared hatefully at the small form which stood, wreathed in a viridian nimbus, glaring hatefully at him from behind lime-tinted glasses.
"Well," Jaspera grunted. "Looks like you figured out how to use the Ring."
"I'm starting to get the idea," Conan replied. Another green energy ball formed on the ground before him; he braced it with his foot, then drew back for a kick.
Jaspera rose to his feet as the ball flew forth; he slashed with his sword, effortlessly parting the glowing sphere. He then aimed his pistol at the boy and fired; Conan hissed as a shard of yellow crystal grazed his arm, drawing a thin line of blood.
The alien grinned nastily. "Didn't think I didn't come prepared to fight a Green Lantern, did you now, larva?" He advanced menacingly, sword raised in a ready position. "Yellow and green make dead heroes."
Conan bit off a curse, then rolled across the lawn, dodging the sudden charge of the alien. Jaspera laughed maniacally as he fired shot after shot of yellow crystal at the green-clad boy; two more grazed him, none actually penetrating, but the burning pain of the near misses was enough to spur the detective into frantic motion, skittering on all fours across the ground like an animal.
Conan suddenly turned, grinning, and aimed the ring at the ground. It flared as another shot rang out...
...and a thin green sheet of light scooped into the earth in front of him, peeling a thick layer of the ground up to form a shield which blocked Jaspera's shot.
The alien snorted. "You DO learn quickly, whelp."
"It's a talent," Conan replied. He made another gesture, and the uprooted earth shot toward Jaspera, sending him flying.
A long moment passed in relative silence. Haibara ran up, breathing heavily. "Kudou-kun!" she called. "Are you alright?"
Conan stood gingerly, nodding and brushing himself off. "Un. But we need to hurry and get everyone away from the campus, just in case—"
The air suddenly shimmered, and a dome of cerulean energy encased the school, causing several kids who were making a break for it to bounce off and land harshly on the ground.
* * * * *
The alien growled as he stalked across the field. His armour had multiple hairline fractures, his pistol was lost, and more importantly, he was PISSED.
"Now look here, larva," he snarled as he approached Conan and Haibara. "That REALLY wasn't very nice."
"Neither is attacking innocent, helpless children," Conan retorted.
Jaspera grinned nastily. "Ah, but I'm not a nice guy. And to show you just how not-nice I can be..."
He tapped a protrusion on his left bracer. A gleaming spherical object shimmered into view above the schoolyard, nearly at the centre of the energy dome. "One word from me, and my little toy up there starts flash-frying everything human inside the dome."
Conan glared at him. "Bastard," he spat.
"Oh, come on now, it's obvious what you have to do to stop it." Jaspera leered at him. "There need only be one human death here today—yours."
"You won't keep your word," Conan replied. "Like I said, I know your type."
"Fool larva," the alien replied, eyes narrowed, "I've no NEED to kill these pitiful creatures. Nor any particular desire to. They're no threat to me. Your species barely knows how to find its own moon! All I want is the bloody Ring, and the Battery, and you dead."
"If you don't want to kill 'pitiful creatures', why kill me? I'm no threat to you either without this," Conan said, gesturing to the ring.
"Ah, that's where you'd be wrong," Jaspera retorted, smirking. "I've been in my particular vocation longer than most of your species live, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that if you get rid of the Ring, but not the Ringbearer, sooner or later they'll come back, and they'll have the blasted thing back or another one to take its place, and it's the same old song and dance all over again. No, I've learned the best way to deal with a Green Lantern is to put them in a situation like this, then kill them good and dead."
Conan growled. "You're the lowest...absolutely unforgiveable..."
The alien kicked him across the grounds.
"Kudou-kun!" Haibara gasped, but moved clear of the alien as he stalked toward the fallen detective. The boy sat up, adjusting his glasses, rubbing at his bruised jaw, glaring hatefully at his assailant.
"So, whelp. What's it to be? Do you sacrifice yourself to save all these innocent larva, or do we have ourselves a great big barbecue?"
Conan spat out a curse...then knelt low, pressing his forehead against the ground. "You win," he hissed. "I surrender."
Haibara's eyes widened. "Kudou-kun..."
"If you'll really let them all live and leave this planet the hell alone, then...I surrender."
"Now THERE'S a SMART lad," the alien said, pressing the edge of his sulfur-hued sword to the beaten detective's neck.
Haibara felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes. "No..."
* * * * *
Across town, Mouri Ran suddenly gasped in shock, clutching her hands to her heart.
Jodie Saintemillion, in the middle of a lecture on irregular English verbs, paused, frowning. "Mouri-san? Is something wrong?"
Ran blinked, then shook her head slowly. "N-no...sumimasen, Jodie-sensei. I just...had a sudden bad feeling, it's...nothing."
Something unreadable flashed in the teacher's eyes for a moment, then she nodded. "Alright then...continuing..."
Ran was no longer paying attention. Shinichi...something bad's happened to you, I just know it...!
* * * * *
Jaspera laughed cruelly as he stared down at the helpless child, pinned beneath his blade, head bowed in submission. "Any last words before I lop off your head and take that pretty ring, larva?"
The boy raised his eyes...and smirked. "As a matter of fact...yeah. In brightest day..."
Jaspera's eyes widened.
"In blackest night..."
"No evil shall escape my sight..."
"L-look, don't...don't do anything rash, now..."
"Let those who worship evil's might..."
Conan's eyes were hard and his face defiant as he shouted the final words:
"BEWARE MY POWER...GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT!"
And the world around them was lost in an explosion of emerald fire.
* * * * *
The children and teachers trapped within the forcefield stared in awe as their tormentor plowed into the side of the school with a resounding *CRASH*, sword skittering off into the flowerbeds. He stirred groggily, but before he could move, bands of green energy wrapped themselves tightly around his body, binding his arms.
A tall figure descended to the ground before him, wreathed in a soft viridian corona. Lean and lanky, yet well-toned, the man was clad in a black body stocking with green boots and metallic green bracers on his forearms. The high collar and shoulder area of his skintight uniform were also green, forming a triangular mantle which came to a point at his chest, where a stylised green lantern-shaped emblem was proudly emblazoned against a white background. A gleaming ring, shining with neon-green energy, adorned his black-gloved right hand. Beneath dark, messy hair, glowing green eyes glared harshly at the trapped alien, a narrow, firm jaw set in anger. "You," he snapped, "I'm giving you two choices.
"Choice one: You leave Earth and never return."
"And...choice two?" Jaspera asked.
"Choice two: I turn you over to the governments of this world...piece by piece. They'd love to get their hands on an alien specimen to play with." He aimed his ring at the extraterrestrial, and it began to glow brighter.
Jaspera paled. "Savvy," he said in a choked voice. "Right, then...if you could just undo...I'll be on my way, and keep my back to your planet."
With a nod, the slender, glowing figure made a gesture with his ring hand. The bindings vanished. Jaspera stood, offered a weak, puggish grin, muttered a shaky "Sorry about all this" to the children and teachers, then vanished.
The tall figure smirked, staring down at himself, seemingly amused by the sight of his own body. He then noticed he was drawing a rather large crowd, most of which were gaping at him in open admiration and awe.
"Cool, a real live superhero!" one kid said.
"He's better than Kamen Yaiba!" another piped up.
Kobayashi-sensei charged to the front of the crowd, adoration—on several levels—sparkling in her eyes. "Thank you SO MUCH for saving us from that horrible creature!" she gushed. "How can we ever repay you?"
The hero blinked, then smiled easily. "I'm just doing my job, ma'am," he replied in a modest tone. "And now, I have to be going..." His aura intensified, and he rose off the ground...
"Wait!" The teacher called desperately. "How can I—" She flushed. "I mean...who are you?"
He paused in the air, seeming to consider this. Then, he grinned. "I'm nobody special—just the bearer of the green lantern that shines with the light of truth and justice. Ja!" With a jaunty wave, he streaked off into the sky.
"Green...Lantern?" several of the kids below chorused.
"That's really, really corny," someone opined.
"Yeah," several others agreed.
* * * * *
"Mouri-san?" Jodie asked as she gathered her papers to leave the class. "Are you alright?"
Ran smiled. "Un. I'm really sorry about that. I don't know what...but I guess I was just imagining things."
"If you say so," the American said, smiling.
* * * * *
Agasa stared, wide-eyed, at the form which floated in through his open window. "Sh-SHINICHI?!"
Shinichi grinned at the inventor, settling gently on his booted feet as the chartreuse nimbus surrounding him shifted and dimmed. "I've solved the mystery of the lantern and the ring," he said, eyes glittering with mischief.
Agasa continued to stare at him. "You're...you're cured," he breathed.
At that precise moment, Haibara burst through the front door. "Kudou-kun!" she called. "How did you—?"
Shinichi began to glow brighter for a moment, and a brilliant jade fire spread from the crown of his head to the tips of his toes. He remained alight for a long moment...
...and when the corona of green energy faded, Conan stood in Shinichi's place, wearing the green outfit Haibara had found him in earlier. He stood for a moment, looking down at the ring, then closed his eyes. A band of viridian light ran down his body, and his clothing reverted to its earlier state, the ring giving a bright twinkle before fading back to normal. The boy nodded, as though this was expected.
"...Kudou-kun?" Haibara asked, uncertainty in her voice.
Conan glanced at them. "The ring. It's...it's power. Virtually unlimited power. I...don't know how I know, but...somehow, I..." He paused, shaking his head. "I can't explain it. I'm not even sure I really understand it." Suddenly, he grinned widely. "But this ring...it can cure me."
"Only temporarily, it looks like," Haibara pointed out.
"Aa," Conan nodded. "For now. The ring...it felt that I needed to be in my old body to win against that alien, so it changed me on its own. But I can't stay in that form permanently." He paused. "Not yet, anyway."
The other two stared at him. "ALIEN?" Agasa asked, eyes wide. "What are you—"
"The ring...felt?" Haibara asked sceptically, an eyebrow raised. "Kudou-kun...it's a ring. An inanimate object."
"I KNOW THAT!" Conan shouted. "I know! But...it's..." He shook his head. "It's hard to explain it. Something inside the ring is...aware. I really don't understand it myself, but...I know, don't ask how, that once I get this ring's secrets figured out and really know how to handle it, I may be able to change myself back into Kudou Shinichi for good." He paused, and glanced at Haibara. "I can change you too. Once I figure it out, I can fix both of us."
"I'll pass on that, until I know for sure what we're dealing with here," Haibara replied, arms folded.
"Just WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, you two?!" Agasa thundered.
The shrunken teens jumped, then glanced at one another. "Good grief, how do we BEGIN to explain this?" Conan asked.
Haibara rolled her eyes. "Don't look at me, I'm not the one with the magic superhero ring and the green tights."
The bespectacled boy snorted. "You realise this superhero just saved your life."
"Superhero...?" Agasa asked, blinking rapidly.
"Kudou-kun here just turned into something right out of a Sunday morning kids' show," Haibara explained, "and fought this OTHER something from a Sunday morning kids' show that was about to kill all the children at school."
Agasa gasped. "K-kill...children?"
"He was after this ring," Conan replied. He smirked. "He got a bit more of it than I think he could handle."
"You shouldn't make jokes about it, Kudou-kun," Haibara retorted, frowning. "He nearly killed you. It's lucky he was stupid, or you'd already be dead."
Conan shrugged. "Hey, give me a break, it's my first day as a superhero. I'll get better at it." Then, a predatory gleam entered his eyes as he glanced down at the ring. "Gin...Vodka...the next time we meet..."
The ring glittered, as though agreeing with his sentiment.
* * * * *
"Mouri Detective Agency."
"SHINICHI! Are you—how are you?"
//I'm good. I have good news.//
//Aa. I just had a major break in the case. If things go the way I think they will, I might be coming home soon.//
"...are you serious this time? Shinichi, I—"
//I'm serious this time. For real. I promise. And I'm really looking forward to seeing you again, Ran.//
"...right. Just...come home, baka."
//Soon, I promise. Ja ne.//
* * * * *
The news media had been told that a gas main exploded at the school. Ran fussed over the scratches and bruises Conan had, but he waved her off. He ate a quick supper, then excused himself to bed early, claiming he was tired from all the excitement. Ran didn't argue the point, and thus Conan was able to lay in silence in the bedroom he usually shared with Mouri Kogoro, arms folded behind his head, the ring tucked securely in his pajama top.
Sleep would be a long time in coming for the diminuitive detective, as his mind was awhirl with new possibilities, new mysteries, and a whole new set of worries.
He knew now, for a fact, that there was a whole universe of life out there—and a lot of it was going to be very interested in his newly acquired fashion accessory.
And he also knew that, once he got the hang of using his newfound powers, he could finally put an end to the demons that had hounded his heels for seemingly endless months.
But above all else, he knew that now he had the power—really had the power—to protect the person he loved most in the world from anything that would dare to harm her.
He finally drifted off to sleep an hour past sunset, the sounds of evening in the city his lullaby, his dreams filled with the colour green.
* * * * *
As the night deepened and the city fell into slumber, a formless entity hovered silently over a bed, observing the sleeping form that lay within.
The entity had observed the new Ringbearer with glee and anticipation. The entity and the Ringbearer were alike in a way; avatars of equal yet opposite halves of a whole. Once upon a time, it might have been their destiny to battle side by side.
The entity yearned for a chance to test itself against the new Ringbearer. It had been far, far too long since it had faced a worthy adversary, and this new Green Lantern showed...promise.
Which brought it to the sleeping human it currently hovered over. The entity possessed no physical form; its existence required it to assume a host, a vessel for its power.
The girl below had a strong connection to the Ringbearer. From outward appearances, she was an unremarkable, innocent young human. However...
There was a dark seed within her. A core of fear, doubt, uncertainty, anger, and sadness...emotions that could be used to subvert a pure spirit. The entity would use that seed to influence and, ultimately, control the girl.
The young human slept on peacefully through the night, unaware of the soft violet aura which wrapped itself around her body...