Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 2)
"Wow~! Is that really one of Matsumoto-sempai's arrows, Risa-chan~?" A giggling school girl asked rather loudly as she and her friend, who was clutching a broken practice arrow in her hand, as they cut across the lawn only a short distance away from him.
"Yeah, isn't it awesome~! Since it went into the target too deep, they had to break it to get it out, so Hitomi-sama said I could have it~!" Risa-chan replied, grinning proudly. She was obviously a big fan of a certain archery club member. Because of her 'exotic' looks and outgoing personality, Hitomi was actually quite popular, though she wasn't really aware of this since most of her fans worshiped her from afar... It was probably for the best since it would just freak her out knowing she had a whole army's worth of borderline stalkers watching her every move at school. "Just look at it~! Who would have though such a delicate beauty could draw one of those huge bows with enough strength to pierce one of those thick targets so deeply!" Risa continued to gush enthusiastically, eyes shining with admiration, as she held the arrow above their heads in exaltation.
"!" Lin's eyes widened slightly in surprise. Not only because of how strange the girls in this school were, but because the arrow in her hands had a faint aura of energy still clinging to it… Could it be that, despite her reluctance to acknowledge the existence of ghosts, Matsumoto Hitomi possessed the natural talent to use a skill as rare and legendary as a genuine 'Evil-Destroying Arrow'?
[Meanwhile, Inside The Main School Building…]
Unfortunately, to Naru's chagrin, Hitomi had been right when she predicted there wouldn't be anyone to help him at the newspaper club, because with none of the third years there to keep them in line, the few remaining underclassmen had apparently decided to cancel their meeting and go home early. And, to top it all off, now it was raining, which meant Matsumoto Hitomi would probably be heading home soon as well if they canceled her archery practice… Oh well, he would just have to make her get the articles for him tomorrow.
"—Nooo!" He heard two girls scream from within the AV classroom just ahead of him. Perhaps this wouldn't end up being a complete waste of time, after all…
"Don't use such scary voice, Mai!" Michiru scolded her as she and Keiko let go of each other, trying to calm down after their little scare. Mai was too good at this sometimes…
"Sorry, sorry!" Mai said, laughing. Telling ghost stories with her friends after school was one of her favorite pastimes, and the windowless AV classroom was perfect for when you needed to create a dark and spooky atmosphere during the day. Now that Mai had told her story and switched off her flashlight, the only light left was Michiru's. "It's your turn, Michiru." Mai reminded her friend cheerfully.
"… Okay… then I'll you the story about the old school building." Michiru said a little hesitantly. She was still feeling a little nervous after the hearing the last horror story.
"The old one? You mean that wooden building that's half falling apart?" Keiko asked. Michiru nodded.
"It's not just falling apart, though." She explained, getting serious. This was a true story, after all. "The building was supposed to have been destroyed, but they had to stop the demolition process half-way through… because of a curse. There were frequent fires and accidents… a student's death… a teacher's suicide… a child's dead body…" Mai and Keiko swallowed nervously as Michiru continued. "When they tried to demolish the west wall, the roof fell through the second floor, and everyone on the first floor was killed… forcing them to stop the construction work. When the new school building was built, they tried to completely demolish the old building again… but many of the workers became sick or got in accidents. Equipment would break down too… Last year they tried to restart when the gymnasium was being built, but they had to stop in the middle because… the same kind of incidents started happening again. A driver lost control of his truck, and it ran over some students that were on the volleyball court… And what's more, I heard from one of our sempai that one night, as she was passing by the old school… She looked up and saw a ghostly face staring down at her through the window…!!"
"!" Mai gasped, startled. Now that was just plain creepy!
"… I'm turning it off now." Michiru warned them, and they all stared at her light nervously, waiting for it to go out and plunge them into darkness so they could begin the head count.
"… One…" Michiru started after a moment of heavy silence. A bead of cold, nervous sweat rolled down her face.
"Two…" Keiko continued as sweat also rolled down her cheek.
"Three…" Mai said as a cold bead of sweat dropped from her chin.
"Four." Deep, mysterious voice echoed through the pitch-black room.
"Eeeeh!? Kyaaaaaaaaaah! NOOOO!! A ghost! It's heeere!!" The three girls screamed as they began to panic and scramble around the dark room, as though trying to escape from whatever had answered them. Unfortunately for Mai, Keiko had latched onto her as if she were her human security blanket, and she was squeezing her so tightly, that Mai was beginning to have trouble breathing. Fortunately, someone turned the classroom's lights back on before Mai became a ghost herself. Keiko's grip on Mai loosened, allowing her choking friend a much needed, sweet breathe of fresh air, while she and Michiru glanced curiously over at the person who had just flipped the switch for them, hoping they hadn't just been caught by a teacher…
"W-Were you the one who just said 'four'…?" Michiru asked the handsome boy who was standing in the doorway with his hand on the light switch.
"Yes… is something wrong?" Naru replied calmly, wondering why these girls were staring at him as if they had just seen a ghost. Upon hearing his response, all three girls suddenly relaxed completely, slumping back into their chairs, clearly exhausted from the emotional trauma he had just unintentionally put them through.
"Oh… I was so scared, I couldn't even move!" Keiko exclaimed as she finally released her hold on Mai completely. Mai sweat-dropped. If that was the case, them how had Keiko managed to get her in a choke-hold like that…? Still, Mai let out a sigh of relief as she massaged her sore neck.
"Excuse me. It was so dark, I didn't think anyone was in here, but then I heard your voices and couldn't help myself." Naru said smoothly, putting on a smile as he stepped further into the room, giving them a better view of his gorgeous face. Keiko and Michiru blushed, instantly charmed by the handsome boy dressed all in black.
"It's okay, no worries~!" Keiko exclaimed as she and Michiru jumped up and practically ran over to him, relieved and elated that they had been lucky enough to be found by such a hot guy instead of a teacher. "Are you a transfer student?"
"Sort of." Naru said nonchalantly, being purposefully vague. Sometimes people were more willing to talk if they didn't realize they were under investigation.
"What year are you?" Michiru asked excitedly.
"I'll turn seventeen this year." He replied, smiling politely at the two of them.
'Huh? Wouldn't you usually just say you're a second-year?' May thought, suspicious of how vague and cryptic all his answers sounded. She mentally sighed as she glanced at her friends. They were practically drooling. Just because he was a little cute, didn't mean they had to get so excited… Okay, maybe he was more than a little cute… maybe very cute… but Mai still couldn't help but feel something as though was off about this guy…
"Then, you're one year ahead of us, huh?" Keiko said, blushing, as she smiled dreamily at him. She certainly wouldn't mind dating an older guy this handsome…
"We were telling ghost stories~" Michiru chimed in.
"Oh, really? Would you mind if I joined you?" Naru asked politely. From what he had heard of the last story, these girls might be able to tell him more about the third-year student from the rumor Matsumoto had mentioned earlier.
"Of course not, please do~!" Michiru said eagerly as she quickly pulled a chair over for him. "By the way, what's your name?"
"Shibuya." Naru replied simply.
"So, Shibuya-sempai, do you like ghost stories, too?" Keiko asked curiously.
"… Sure." Naru said, flashing them another smile. Let's go with that.
"Kyaaa~" The two girls squealed with delight, melting at the sight of such a brilliant and dreamy smile.
'Hnn!' Mai thought, snapping to attention as something finally clicked into place for her. She had a feeling she knew what was wrong with him now… "Um, Shibuya-san, or whatever." Mai addressed him as she finally came closer to join the others, causing him to glance up at her. Naru glanced up at her, somewhat surprised to see how wary this third girl seemed to be, since she was still keeping a safe distance between them, unlike her friends, who both looked like they wanted to jump him…
"Yes?" Naru asked, smiling at Mai as he maintained his polite façade.
'Just as I thought…! That's a fake smile!' Mai thought, clenching her fist. She could tell by the look in his eyes that it wasn't from the heart. 'He's not really smiling, just faking it… that means… He must be scheming something!!' She decided, furrowing her brow slightly. "Um, What are you doing in here, anyway?" Mai asked out loud.
"I had some errands to run." Naru replied.
"Well then, why don't you get to it, because we're leaving now." Mai said rather bluntly. She didn't know what he was planning, but she wasn't going to let her little circle of friends get dragged into it.
"Eeeh!?" Keiko and Michiru gasped, appalled that Mai would even suggest such they miss out on a golden opportunity to get to know such a hot upperclassman.
"Mai! Please ignore her, Sempai. What errands do you need done? We'd be happy to help you." Michiru told him as she and Keiko smiled sweetly at him, completely ignoring Mai.
"You guys…" Mai said, sweat-dropping. Sometimes she wondered about her friends…
"That's alright. Instead, would you let me join in the next time you tell ghost stories together?" Naru said, giving them another charming smile.
"Sure~! How about tomorrow, after school?" Keiko suggested happily, glad Mai's rudeness had scared him away.
"That's fine. Where?" Naru asked. Hopefully doing this would help him gather more info on the school's situation.
"In our classroom~! It's 1–F!" Michiru said, grinning. She and Keiko began chatting excitedly together as they parted ways with their handsome and mysterious new sempai. Neither of them noticed the furtive glance Mai stole over her shoulder as they left, reluctant to take her eyes off of the boy in black, still suspicious of his motives…
[The Next Morning,Thursday]
"Aaah… What a beautiful day~!" Mai said, smiling, as she stretched. The sky was blue, a gentle breeze was blowing, and all the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. "I was right to come to school early~ I have all these beautiful cherry blossoms to myself!"
Mai stopped when the old school building came into view, remembering all the creepy things Michiru had said about it just the other day…
"…" Mai said, smiling a little nervously, before deciding to take a risk and get closer to the supposedly haunted building. It should be fine as long as she didn't go inside, right?
'Now that I look at it, it feels like the rumors could be true, after all…' Mai thought, sweat-dropping. It certainly looked like the kind of place you'd expect to find a ghost or two… Mai leaned in closer to peek through one of the dirty windowpane on one of the front doors, curious about the inside as well. 'Huh… What is that? A TV camera?" Mai thought, surprised to see such a professional and expensive-looking video camera set up on a tripod in the middle of the floor. What was something like that doing in run-down place like this? But then again, it was really dark in there… maybe she was mistaken?
Mai glanced around nervously as she slowly opened the door and cautiously entered the creepy building. Sure enough, closer inspection of the object she had spied through the window confirmed her suspicions.
"Yep, that's what it is, alright. But why would it be in a place like this?" She wondered out loud. "Did someone leave it behind? No, that can't be right…" Still, she should probably turn it in to the school's office, just in case.
"Who's there!?" A deep voice shouted suddenly, startling Mai so badly that she actually jumped.
"!?" Mai yelped as she backed into one of the old shelves behind her with a little too much force. "I-I'm sorry, I was just, um…" Mai stuttered, feeling a little flustered and embarrassed for being so jumpy. She didn't even notice the shelf she had bumped into had started to sway until she felt it pushing against her back. "Huh—No way!?" Mai shouted, shocked.
It almost felt as though everything happened in slow motion, yet, at the same time, it had also happened so fast that Mai barely even had time to register the fact that in the instant the shelf began to fall on her, the man who had shouted at her just moments before had somehow managed to close the distance between them and push her out of the way, saving her.
However, the man and the camera weren't so lucky…
The camera had been completely totaled by one of the other shelves, and the man was laying on the floor.
"H-Hey! Are you okay!?" Mai asked anxiously as she jumped up to help him. The man groaned but didn't move. 'Oh no, what should I do? Somebody…'
"What happened?" Naru demanded as he stepped into the old building. Why was Lin lying on the floor, surrounded by all those fallen shelves… and what was a student doing here?
'It's that guy from yesterday…?' Mai thought, vaguely wondering what he was doing in a place like this.
"Lin, what happened?" Naru asked again when Mai didn't respond, kneeling down to check on the older man. Mai's eyes widened when a drop of Lin's blood hit the floor as Naru helped him sit up. "You're a bit cut up. Can you stand?"
"Yes." Lin replied calmly, despite the pain he was in.
"U-Um, I'm really sorry!" Mai said quickly, suddenly regaining her ability to speak. "I suddenly heard him call out to me, so I…"
"I don't need an explanation. Do you know is there's a hospital nearby?" Naru asked calmly, taking charge of the situation.
"Yeah. There's one right by the school's front entrance…" Mai started to explain as she reached out to try to help Lin. "—!?" She said, startled when he slapped her hand aside.
"No thank you. I do not need your help." Lin stated coldly, glaring at her.
"Huh…!?" Mai gasped softly, stunned. She'd never been glared at so harshly by anyone before…
"You're the girl I met yesterday, right?" Naru asked Mai as he helped Lin to his feet. "What's your name?"
"Taniyama… Mai…" Mai said a little hesitantly, holding the hand Lin had slapped away a little gingerly. That had kind of stung, in more ways than one…
"Well then, Taniyama-san, out of the kindness of my heart, I must tell you that the school bell sounded just a moment ago." Naru informed her.
"Eh?" Mai said dumbly, taking a moment to register that last remark. "Y-You're kidding!! I'm tardy!?" She shouted incredulously, immediately hightailing it out of there, leaving Naru and Lin in her dust, as she raced toward her classroom at mach speed. 'Aw, man! What's wrong with those guys? That building really is cursed!' Mai shouted internally as she passed by a certain third-year without a second thought.
Hitomi blinked, glancing between the fleeing Mai and old school building the flustered underclassman had just come out of.
'Did something happen…?' Hitomi wondered as she began to make her way towards the old building, curious. She had been on her way to pay the two ghost hunters a visit anyway, since she figured she could use helping them as an excuse to get out of English class. Her question soon answered itself when she saw Naru emerge from the building next, supporting and injured and limping Lin. The cut on his face was bleeding, but it wasn't too bad considering face and head wounds naturally bleed more than others to begin with. It probably wasn't as bad as it looked, but still…
"Um, I don't know what's going on, but there's a hospital near the school gate… I can drive you there if you want?" She suggested helpfully, wincing sympathetically, as she watched Naru help Lin limp over to the car. Despite Lin's stoic expression, she could his ankle must hurt pretty bad.
"That won't be necessary." Naru told her as he helped Lin into the passenger seat. Even for him, supporting the weight of a grown man Lin's height that far would be difficult to do over a distance of so many yards. "I'll drive."
"…" Hitomi said as she stared at him, deadpanning. "Uh, Shibuya-san… correct me if I'm wrong, but you're under 18, right?" She asked as Naru started to open the driver's door.
"I'm 17. Your point?" He asked curtly. He was beginning to get a little impatient. The sooner they got Lin to the hospital, the better.
"So, you know it's illegal for you drive that van without a proper license, right? You know, the kind you have to be at least 18 years-old to get…" She continued pointedly, causing Naru to freeze in his tracks.
Damn. He had forgotten about that…
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you tried to drive without a license, Shibuya-san. Just move over and let 'Onee-san' handle this one, okay?" Hitomi said, giving him a wry, sympathetic smile. This guy was definitely the type who tried to take on too much on his own, but she could sympathize with how worried he must be for his older assistant, even though he probably wouldn't admit it…