Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 12)
They all watched as the image being replayed on the monitor's screen cut to static and snow when Kuroda was supposedly attacked by the spirit.
"So, now what?" Bou-san wondered aloud. "Ah… Masako-chan, what would you say?" He asked, glancing at the famous psychic. She looked a little uneasy after seeing the footage.
"I say she's just paranoid." Masako replied coolly, not backing down.
"Why don't you admit it now!? There are evil spirits here!" Kuroda shouted, bristling at how the other girl kept trying to dismiss her.
"I will go look around once more." Masako said as she turned and headed for the door.
"Why won't you just admit that you made a mistake?" Ayako asked her. Masako paused briefly in the open doorway.
"There are no spirits in this building." She stated quietly, before continuing on her way.
"Looks like she's in a state of shock." John observed sympathetically.
"Of course. A psychic is a psychic because she can see spirits that an ordinary person can't." Naru stated sensibly. "If you mess that up, you will no longer be considered a psychic."
'Oh, he's sticking up for her, isn't he? Could it be that Naru is a sucker for a pretty face?' Mai wondered. Maybe that was why he seemed to be acting nicer to Hitomi-sempai…
"Shibuya-san must be a sucker for a pretty face." Kuroda said out loud, nearly giving poor Mai a heart attack. "He's switching over to her side."
'Wow, that scared me… for a moment I thought I might have accidentally blurted that out…' Mai thought, sweat-dropping.
"I know her profession, and her talents are highly regarded," Naru replied calmly, "So I am only offering her the proper respect."
"Then I suggest you also show a little more respect to me as well." Ayako told him, crossing her arms.
"What part of you should I have respect for?" Naru retorted coolly.
"What did you just say!?" Ayako shouted incredulously, vein throbbing on her forehead.
Matsuzaki blushed slightly in embarrassment when she flinched at the sudden sound. They all glanced up at the ceiling. It sounded like the noise had come from above.
PISHH. PAKN. PAKN.
"Rapping sounds?" Bou-san asked, furrowing his brow slightly. Had the spirit finally decided to show itself again?
"You mean, the sound they say a ghost makes when it appears!?" Mai asked nervously, flinching.
They all whipped their heads around to stare at the chalkboard, shocked when huge cracks suddenly began to form in it, as if something invisible had smashed into it.
"Aaaaaah!" A shrill scream echoed through the building.
"—Hara-san!" They heard another familiar voice cry out. Mai spun around in time to see Hitomi sprint past the windows outside the classroom they were in, running towards the east end of the building. She had only just returned from the hospital.
"Hara-san has fallen from the classroom on the second floor!" John announced urgently after glancing at the monitors.
"Eh!?" Mai shouted in surprise and concern.
"Let's go." Naru said urgently, striding out of the room. Hopefully it wouldn't be anything too serious…
"Don't worry, Hara-san. An ambulance is on the way." Hitomi reassured the injured psychic as the others came running up.
"How is she?" Bou-san asked.
"I think she might have a concussion… and she landed on her back, so I don't think we should try to move her." Hitomi replied, frowning with concern.
"I agree." Naru said. If she had sustained a back injury, they might end up damaging her spine if they moved her the wrong way… It would be better for Hara-san's sake if they waited and let the professionals handle that.
Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive since the hospital was so close.
"Is she going to be okay?" Mai asked one of the paramedics as they wheeled a gurney over to lift Masako onto.
"She'll be fine. From what I can see, she's only temporarily stunned, but she might have a concussion, so she'll have to come with us. Hara-san is very lucky." He informed them as they escorted their patient over to the ambulance. They all let out a sigh of relief, glad to hear she probably would be okay after a visit to the hospital.
"Geez, scaring us for nothing…" Ayako mumbled as she stalked back into the building, feeling a bit embarrassed after getting worked up over what had turned out to be nothing. Bou-san and John followed after being reassured that their help was not needed.
"Shibuya-san…" Masako called out to Naru weakly, beckoning him over so she could tell him something.
"Mai, go keep an eye on the base." Naru told her. "Hitomi, you stay here." There was something he wanted to ask her once Masako had been taken care of.
"It was just an accident." Masako told Naru as he and Hitomi approached her gurney. The paramedics paused before loading her into the back of the ambulance so she could finish talking. "There are no spirits here."
"Yes, we know." Hitomi said, smiling kindly at her. "Do you want someone to come with you to the hospital, Hara-san?" Masako smiled back slightly, able to see that Hitomi was being genuine even in her somewhat dazed state.
"No. I'll be fine." Masako told her. "… Thank you."
"Hitomi… is there a reason why you are so certain this building is not haunted?" Naru asked as they watched the ambulance drive off with Masako.
"… Like what?" Hitomi asked calmly. "You almost make it sound like you suspect me of being a medium or something." She said, laughing a little awkwardly. "I've told you before, the only thing dangerous about this building is how structurally unstable it's becoming. Plus, we haven't been able to pick up anything with the cameras or mikes… unless something happened while I was gone?" She asked curiously.
"Yes, but you can look at the footage later when review all of the data again. For now, there's something else I want you to look into for me." He replied, furrowing his brow slightly. He could tell she was dodging the question, but he would get the answer out of her sooner or later. However, he could tell Hitomi was the type to stubbornly clam up if you pushed her too hard, so later might be better…
"I just got back, and you're already trying to get rid of me, huh?" Hitomi asked with a wry smile.
"Here's a list of what I need." Naru told her, handing over a folded up piece of paper. "I'm going to need to keep the van here while I set up an experiment, so if you need money for transportation…"
"That's okay." She said, unfolding it and looking to see what he wrote. "One of these wells is actually near my neighborhood. I'll just go home and change first. I don't even want to think about how suspicious I would look going to all of these places while dressed like this. You should have seen the looks some people were giving me at the hospital! Besides, my cousin will probably let me borrow his van while I'm there."
"You live with your cousin?" Naru asked.
"Yeah. Our house is kind of big, so the whole family lives together." She replied carelessly, pocketing the list and pulling out her cellphone. "Can I have your number?"
"Why?" Naru asked a bit warily. Hitomi blinked.
"Uh, so we can coordinate our efforts more easily? Since I'm going to be away from the school, wouldn't it be better if I could relay my findings to you before I drive all the way back, in case you decide you want me to check something else out before I waste all that gas?" She said pointedly, raising an eyebrow. Looking at all the different things on the list, it almost felt like she was being sent on some sort of quest. Naru really knew how to use people, didn't he? "It's fine if you don't have a cellphone, but it would be more convenient for me if you did."
"… Fine." Naru agreed somewhat reluctantly, deciding she had a point.
"Sweet." Hitomi said, grinning. "By the way… what do you want all of this for, anyway?"
"You'll see." Naru replied enigmatically, smirking slightly to himself as he turned away from her and headed back inside the old school building.
"Ah, Naru!" Mai greeted her temporary boss when he returned to the base with John and Bou-san. "Where's Hitomi-sempai?" She asked, a bit disappointed when the older girl didn't appear again. Did she go to the hospital with Masako?
"I sent her on an errand." Naru replied coolly.
"Oh…" Mai said, suddenly feeling sorry for her. Dressed like that…?
"Um, the room Hara-san fell from… that's the room where the chair moved earlier, isn't it?" John asked tentatively.
"That wall was boarded up with a veneer of weak plywood to keep the elements out." Naru explained. "When Hara-san leaned on it, the veneer broke under her weight, and she fell through. Hara-san said it was an accident."
"She's just being stubborn." Ayako said determinedly, crossing her arms. "There's no denying it any longer. There are evil spirits here."
"Yep, the same ones that you failed to get rid of, which means… they're more dangerous." Takigawa stated ominously to the Miko's chagrin.
"Eh, really!?" Mai asked, taken aback.
"An unsuccessfully exorcised spirit is just like a wounded bear; they're extremely violent." He explained.
"Then, Masako's injuries are the miko-san's fault!" Mai concluded, shooting the irresponsible priestess an accusing look.
"What!?" Ayako exclaimed incredulously.
"Don't jump to conclusions." Naru scolded Mai. This was not what they needed right now. "As far as I can deduce from the video, it was a legitimate accident."
"But…! The reason why they say this place is cursed is because accidents like this keep happening over and over again, right?" Mai said anxiously. How did those objects move, anyway? That's what doesn't make sense!
"That is true," Naru said, "but there just aren't enough readings on the equipment we have set up. There aren't any temperature drops or ionic polarization, and the electrostatic charges are normal. All of the data shows completely normal values."
"Then, what about what happened to the priestess!? What was it that attacked me!?" Kuroda demanded hotly. "What erased the video, broke the glass, and moved the chair!?"
"Like I said, I'm not convinced." Naru replied calmly.
"It could be a spirit strong enough to pretend it isn't here, couldn't it?" Takigawa suggested. Naru was silent for a moment.
"What do you think, Bou-san?" He asked the monk.
"Like I said from the start, it's a jibakurei." Takigawa stated with confidence.
"And you, John?" Naru asked, turning to the young Exorcist.
"I'm not sure, but I agree that it's dangerous." He said.
"So, what do you think?" Takigawa asked Naru.
"I will reserve my opinion for now." Naru said. "I want to investigate this from a slightly different angle."
[The Matsumoto Residence]
"Hey, Bisky!" Hitomi's older cousin, Shouta greeted her with a grin the moment she walked through the door. From the look of that cosplay outfit, she had once again fallen prey to her classmates' whims. "You're home early today. Want an afterschool snack?"
"Thanks, Shou-chan, but what I really need are minions." Hitomi replied with a rueful smile. "I'm not finished yet. I still have to do all of this some time before the end of the day." She explained, holding up the list Naru had given her for him to see.
"Whoa." Shou said when he saw how long it was. "Why does he want you to look at a bunch of old wells and stuff? What does this have to do with ghost hunting? Are you trying to find Sadako?"
"You just had to go there, didn't you?" Hitomi said, wrinkling her nose slightly at the thought. Like she needed to be thinking about a homicidal well-and-video-possessing ghost while peeking into dark wells so close to sunset… "Just for that, you're coming with me."
"What? But I still have to finish refining the details on my latest doll—grandpa will kill me if I fall behind on order again!" He protested.
"Then how about this, I'll finish the doll if you'll take care of this for me." Hitomi suggested with a sigh. It'd been a long day, and she suddenly felt very tired now that she was home, so between driving and running around all over town and sitting down working on a doll in the comfort of home, she'd prefer the latter. Hitomi liked making dolls; she found it relaxing, most of the time.
"Hmm… deal." Shou said after taking a moment to think about it. "Just be careful not to let grandpa see you, or I'll never hear the end of it."
"Done." Hitomi said with a grin, heading for the workshop, while her cousin took the list and headed for his car. Naru never said she couldn't delegate.