Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 11)
"When did that happen?" Naru asked, once the girls had finished recounting the supposed 'psychic attack' on Kuroda-san.
"Just now." She said.
"Let's replay the video." Naru said deciding to check up on it, even though it didn't look like there was any physical evidence on her person to back up her claim. As far as he could tell, there wasn't a hair out of place on her head. "Where were you?"
"The second floor hallway." Kuroda replied. Naru immediately began typing on the keyboard, entering the command to rewind until it reached about the time when Kuroda should have entered the building.
They watched as Kuroda stepped through the front door and carefully closed it behind her before proceeding up the stairs.
"Right there!" Mai exclaimed, pointing to one of the monitors in the top row when Kuroda walked out of range of the first camera and reappeared on the next at the top of the stairs.
"Huh?" Hitomi said dumbly, blinking in confusion, when the screen suddenly blinked the moment Kuroda set foot in the hallway. For several minutes, the only thing they could see was static. When it cleared again, Kuroda was no longer in the hallway, meaning she must have already made her way to the base…
"What's that! Is it broken?" Mai asked, alarmed.
"I touched nothing." Hitomi said, quickly proclaiming her innocence, as she raised her hands and took a step back. Mai sweat-dropped. She wished she had thought of doing that… She was still well within arm's reach of Naru. Fortunately, Naru didn't blame them, nor did he seem particularly upset.
"Everything is operating as it should be, and the camera shouldn't be broken." He informed them, thinking out loud. "This is very interesting."
"What is?" Mai asked curiously.
"When spirits appear, equipment often stops working properly." Naru explained.
"You mean, like when a fully charged battery will suddenly run out of juice?" Hitomi asked. "I've heard that ghostly activity can supposedly drain nearby power sources, sometimes…" She remembered seeing that happening multiple times on the ghost hunt TV show she used to watch.
"Yes, something like that..." Naru said thoughtfully. "I wonder if this was caused by a spirit, or EM interference, or…"
'Or…?' Hitomi wondered, curious about what it was that he wouldn't say out loud.
"You mentioned it said something. What did it sound like?" He asked, turning back to face Kuroda.
"It was a hoarse voice… but I believe it was female." Kuroda said slowly, thinking it over.
"But Masako said there was no spirit." Mai pointed out.
"Right." Hiromi agreed, nodding. "This building's pretty old, so maybe the wiring in the walls has gone bad… there could be a faulty connection leaking EMF waves… Can't that make people feel sick or hallucinate if exposed to it for too long."
"It takes a much longer period of exposure to bring about hallucinations than the few minutes it took Kuroda-san to pass through the hall." Naru pointed out.
"I wonder if she really is psychic." Kuroda said dubiously. Hitomi sighed. Not this again…
"It is normal for a female medium to have a bad day once in a while." Naru stated calmly. "I thought I could rely on her talent… or, let's say there really is a spirit here. Perhaps you and the spirit here are on the same wavelength."
"That may be why…" Kuroda said thoughtfully, finally brightening up a little.
'If that really is so, then, is all of this our fault…?' Mai wondered, worried that Kuroda had also been right about how she and her friends had been attracting spirits with their ghost stories.
"Mai…?" Hitomi said, frowning slightly with concern, when she noticed the younger girl's sudden uneasiness.
"What's up, guys? Anything happen since…" The bou-san started to greet them as he entered the room, but his train of thought completely derailed upon noticing Hitomi's strange choice of clothing for the day. "… And what are you supposed to be? Some kind of inugami?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Abe no Seimei. Can't you tell?" Hitomi retorted, raising her own eyebrow back at him. She was starting to get tired of people asking about it. "That's right. I see your sarcasm and raise you some sass, Bou-san." Takigawa smirked.
"Abe no Seimei, huh? Well, I guess I can vaguely see that… He was supposedly part kitsune, at least, according to legend…" He replied thoughtfully. It was actually pretty amusing, seeing her in that ridiculous cosplay. "What's the occasion, are you going to exorcise the jibakurei for us?"
"Maybe, if there is one." Hitomi replied smartly, crossing her arms.
"Well, you're gonna have to get in line, because I saw Ayako on my way over here, and you're not the only one who's made a costume change." Bou-san quipped, motioning towards the stairs. It could be worth checking out.
"Wow, she even brought the principal and vice-principal to watch." Hitomi remarked. They had all decided to come downstairs and watch after hearing Bou-san's news about the miko's decision to attempt an exorcism of her own. "She must be pretty confident."
"Hello, again." The principal greeted everyone. "Ah, Matsumoto-kun. I see you went to class today. Very good. I trust Sasaki-sensei informed all of you that your test scores will definitely be handed out tomorrow morning?"
"Yes, sir. He made sure to tell us first thing." Hitomi said, smiling wryly as she sweat-dropped. Was that really all he had to say after seeing what she was wearing…? Well, he was probably just used to it by now. He had given up trying to stop her classes shenanigans a long time ago. As long as no one got hurt and the school didn't get sued, he didn't really seem to care…
"I take it this happens often?" Naru asked Hitomi as the principal left to join the vice-principal and have a brief word with Ayako before she began her ceremony. The man hadn't seemed even the slightest bit fazed by her odd costume…
"Often. Very often." Hitomi replied, sighing as she hung her head, a little embarrassed.
"I've seen Sempai's cosplay during school events before, but this…" Mai said sympathetically, smiling wryly as she sweat-dropped. At least during the other times, the rest of Hitomi's class had been dressed up too, but here and now she was the only one… It took guts to walk around out in the open like that…
"Okay, pay attention." Ayako said, signaling that she was ready to begin. She smiled confidently as she stepped up to the Shinto altar that she had set up beforehand. "I'll exorcise it immediately."
"I wonder if she's really able… I guess I may as well check it out." Bou-san said thoughtfully. "What about you?" He asked Naru.
"I've never seen a Shinto-style exorcism. I guess I'll check it out too." Naru decided after thinking it over. It might be worth seeing, from a cultural standpoint, if nothing else.
"Yeah, this'll be my first time seeing one in person." Hitomi agreed. She had seen one once before, but that was in a movie, so who knew how accurate that had been... She noticed Kuroda was glaring at the miko, practically scowling with disapproval and dislike, before the anti-social girl turned on her heel and left, heading back to the base alone.
They all watched as the Miko began to wave her harai-gushi to and fro while solemnly chanting her own distinct version of a norito.
"What's this?' Mai asked curiously. "What is she saying?"
"Be quiet. You're Japanese and you don't even know about norito?" Naru chided her.
"Norito?" Hitomi asked. She had never heard it called that before. Weren't Shinto purifications normally referred to as Harai?
"They're like Shinto incantations." Bou-san explained.
"I see…" Hitomi said, sweat-dropping. That much had been kind of obvious… She had been hoping for a deeper explanation, but decided to just let it go for now and pay more attention the ritual.
"Huh…" Mai hummed, also glancing back at the Miko. They watched the rest of the elegant ritual in silence.
'Well, I'll say this much for her… Matsuzaki-san's status as a miko may be suspicious, but she has style.' Hitomi thought, somewhat impressed with the older woman's concentration and level of showmanship. It didn't really feel like much else was happening, though… Eventually, the self-styled miko completed the norito prayer and waved her paper wand one last time.
"There will be nothing to worry about now." She declared confidently, turning to face the principal and vice-principal, who had been standing behind her for the whole duration of the ritual. Both men let out a sigh of relief.
"My, how very impressive!" The vice-principal praised her.
"The expression 'divine' fits most perfectly." The principal added.
"Shall we all go out for drinks to celebrate tonight?" The vice-principal asked her.
"After I've banished spirits from a place, I spend the night there, so I make sure everything is okay." Ayako told him, politely excusing herself.
"I see. You are indeed a pro. Well then, how about lunch somewhere?" The principal suggested.
"Huaa…" Bou-san yawned. "She's finally done." Mai, and Hitomi also yawned unable to help themselves after seeing him do it, and they began stretching as they all walked away together, with the calm and stoic Naru in the lead.
Everyone in the room paused when they heard the ominous sound, their eyes widening as cracks began to spread through the glass windowpanes on the door before the miko and the older men.
"Get down!" Hitomi shouted urgently at them just as the glass shattered with an almost explosive force, showering them with a rain of dangerously sharp shards of glass.
"Ahhh!" The miko shrieked, ducking, as the older men cried out in surprise, unable to react as quickly. Ayako was able to shield her head and face with her arms, but the two men were not so lucky.
"Principal!" Hitomi exclaimed anxiously, rushing over to the injured man. Both he and the vice-principal were lying on the floor near the stunned miko.
"Hey, are you okay?" Bou-san yelled as he ran over to help. Ayako and the vice-principal looked relatively unharmed, but the principal wasn't moving. It looked like he had hit the ground pretty hard when he fell.
"The principal's bleeding, and I think he hit his head!" Hitomi exclaimed.
"Ah, him too!" Bou-san said as he checked the vice-principal. Ayako seemed shaken, but other than that, she had been lucky enough to come out virtually unscathed. "Are you okay!? Can you stand?"
"Y-Yes… I think so…" The vice-principal said a little shakily.
"Mai!" Hitomi said urgently, snapping the stunned and appalled girl back to the real world. "Go get the school nurse!"
"Y-Yeah!" Mai shouted, bracing herself, and heading for the door.
"Ah. Ibaragi-sensei isn't in today…" The vice-principal said regretfully, stopping Mai in her tracks. Of all the times for no one to be in the infirmary…!
"I'll get an ambulance, then!" Hitomi declared determinedly, pulling out her cellphone and dialing 119. "Hello? Yes, there's been an accident at my school. It's a medical emergency. Two men have been injured by broken glass, and one of them is unconscious and looks like he'll need stitches." She paused as the person on the other end of the line spoke. "Yes. Please do." She said seriously, nodding her head. "The address is…"
"Ah! What happened!? Did someone get hurt?" John asked when he arrived at the old building just in time to see Naru, Takigawa, and Mai standing outside while they watched the ambulance drive off to bring the principal to the hospital. "Where is Hitomi-san?"
"She went with the ambulance, but she wasn't the one who was injured." Naru informed him calmly. Since the vice-principal's wounds weren't that serious, he had elected to stay behind and watch over the school while the principal received treatment for his more serious wounds. He had asked Hitomi to accompany the principal to the hospital in his place, since he knew they could rely on her in such a situation. "Let's get back to the base. We'll explain on the way up."
[Meanwhile, in the base…]
"'There will be nothing to worry about now', huh?" Kuroda asked the miko mockingly. "You didn't properly eliminate the spirits. The school principal even got hurt because of you."
"Hnn!" Ayako said, gritting her teeth in irritation. She wanted to retort, but she couldn't deny what she had witnessed with her own eyes.
"That was an accident." Masako stated calmly.
"That's right." Ayako agreed, relieved to have some backup. "I know I got rid of them…"
"I'm not saying you were not successful at exorcising them, but that there were never any spirits here to begin with." Masako clarified.
"There are too!" Kuroda retorted angrily.
"Could it have been a coincidence?" John asked as he and the others entered the room.
"Maybe there really is something here. Something that's too strong for a miko-san to handle?"
"If so, there ought to have been more readings on my equipment." Naru said.
'A-ah,' Mai sighed internally as she stared up at the monitors, 'if only I had some spiritual sensitivity. If I'm the one who summoned the one who summoned the spirits here, then I want to be the one to do something about them…' What if Kuroda was right about how their ghost stories had attracted spirits to the school? "Huh…?" Mai said, perking up, when she noticed something odd. "That classroom didn't have a chair in the middle of it, did it?" Mai asked Naru, pointing to the screen.
"That's the classroom on the eastern edge of the 2nd floor." Naru said, glancing at the screen.
"Nn. Yesterday, when I set up the camera in there, it wasn't there. I'm sure of it. I'd remember." Mai said insistently.
"Did anyone go inside that classroom today?" Naru asked, turning to the address the others.
"No…?" Bou-san replied, glancing at John. He didn't touch it, and There was no way it could be the priest, since he had just gotten there.
"Me, either." Naru replied, turning back to his equipment so he could rewind the footage and see what really happened.
"—Why don't we go have lunch somewhere?" The principal's voice sounded from the speakers as the recorded footage began to replay. The could hear the sound of the glass breaking and the miko's scream. And then, something startling happened.
CLATTER. SCRAPE. SCRAAAPE.
"Ah!" Mai gasped when the chair began to wobble and move on its own, slowly sliding shakily across the room. It even turned around as went!
"What's happening?" Mai asked Naru nervously. Did she really just see what she thinks she did…?
"…" Naru said as he continued to stare at the screen, trying to consider all of the possibilities. His thoughts were interrupted when Kuroda spoke up.
"Couldn't it be a poltergeist?" She stated more than asked.
"Poltergaisto?" Mai asked confusedly, unfamiliar with the foreign word.
"I believe it means 'noisy ghost' in German." Kuroda said knowingly, adjusting her glasses. "These spirits move things around, make noises, and so on. Isn't that right, Shibuya-san?"
"That's absolutely correct. But I don't think this was a poltergeist." Naru responded. "Objects that are moved by a poltergeist should feel warm to the touch, but it doesn't seem like this chair has gone up in temperature. That would be very unusual."
"Maybe not, but going by Tisane's conditions…" John said. "Is there any other evidence that would let us categorize it as a poltergeist?"
"?" Kuroda said, looking slightly taken aback, like she didn't quite recognize the name.
"Tisane?" Mai asked.
"E. Tisane. He was a French police officer who classified poltergeisting." Naru explained patiently. "Shaking objects, explosions, opening and closing doors, making noises, knocking, and so on… a total of nine categories in all." He continued on to explain for the less informed in the room. "If we apply them here to the phenomena that have occurred in this school, we have a door closing and locking by itself, a moving object… even if we include the broken glass, that only gives us three of those conditions." And you generally needed to fulfill at least seven out of the nine for a phenomena like this to be considered a legitimate poltergeist… "I think we lack enough evidence to assume that it is a poltergeist." He concluded.
"Well, what about when Kuroda-san got attacked?" Mai suggested. Wasn't that bizarre enough?
"Yeah, what about that!?" Kuroda demanded indignantly. When were they going to mention that to the others? Was Shibuya-san just going to ignore that fact!?
"She did?" Ayako asked, eyes widening. "Why didn't anyone tell me that!?" Ayako demanded, chagrined. That kind of thing would have been nice to know before she had tried her purification ritual! Naru sent Mai a sharp glare of disapproval. She just had to open her big mouth…
'Uh… What is he glaring at!?' Mai wondered nervously, taken aback. What was his problem!? 'Hurry up and come back, Hitomi-sempai…!' She thought, not sure how much longer she could handle a disgruntled Naru on her own.