Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 3)
"If you've got something to say, then say it." Naru stated crisply, pausing his own note taking to look up at his assistant.
"I was just thinking… Do you know who she reminds me of…?" Lin asked calmly, unfazed by the younger boy's dark mood.
"Don't say it." Naru said sternly, furrowing his brow in irritation, as he avoided the older man's gaze. He didn't want to think about how much Hitomi reminded him of…
"Pardon the intrusion~" Hitomi sang softly as she slid open the door and rejoined them, having finally finished turning in all the forms and paperwork for Lin. "Ara? Am I interrupting something…?" She asked, tilting her head slightly in confusion, when she detected the tension in the room. Was it her imagination, or was Shibuya-san in a bad mood…?
"No." Naru said with a definite finality, slamming the door shut on that particular conversation before it could even begin.
'Well, that answers that question…' She thought, sweat-dropping. He was definitely in a bad mood... "Did I do something to upset you, Shibuya-san?" She asked, furrowing her brow slightly. There was something about the look in his eyes that made her feel concerned for him… It was barely there, almost as intangible as a ghost, but she could sense there was something… almost sorrowful(?) about the moody teen.
"It's nothing. I simply do not appreciate being treated like a child." Naru replied coolly.
Hitomi blinked. Really? That's what he was upset about? That 'Onee-san' thing had happened hours ago. There had to be more to it than that, but since Naru was exuding such an intense 'don't ask' aura, she decided to file any other questions on the matter away for later, like when he was in a better mood to talk, if that ever happened.
"Shibuya-san…" Hitomi said, sighing, as she shook her head. "I was just trying to add some levity to the situation, but… FYI, you are a kid—so am I, for that matter." She added quickly when he opened his mouth to protest. She was only a year older than him, after all. "There's nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. No one can do everything all by themselves. That's why the kanji for 'person' is two brush strokes supporting each other… or, at least, that's what my grandpa says…" She continued, trailing off when she realized she was starting to ramble and enter lecture mode. "… Yeah, I'll just shut up now." Hitomi said, avoiding his gaze, as she glanced around the room, sweat-dropping. She could feel him silently judging her, but she didn't have to worry about that for very long, because suddenly her watch started to beep.
BE-BEEP. BE-BEEP. BE-BEEP. BE—
Hitomi silenced the annoying alarm and looked at the time. Her eyes widened in shock.
"Oh, crap! Sorry, guys, but I've gotta go!" She said as she quickly gathered up her things. "I can't believe I almost forgot that I have to go take the Todai exam today—!!" She rambled anxiously as she flew out the door. It had taken awhile before the doctors finally patched poor Lin up and settled him into a room, but until now Hitomi hadn't quite realized just how long…!
Naru and Lin almost jumped, a little startled, when Hitomi suddenly slammed her hand against the doorframe as a break and she spun back around to face them.
"—Ah!" She shouted, pointing at Naru. "Don't worry, Shibuya-san! This shouldn't take too long, so I'll be able to take you back to school in about… two to three hours, tops! Ciao~!" She added gravely, as though swearing some kind of sacred oath, before giving them a little wave and taking off like a bat out of hell again.
"… That has got to be the strangest girl I have ever met." Naru stated bluntly after a moment of silence, once the sound of her frantic footsteps had faded off into distance, and were soon replaced by the mundane background noises usually associated with a hospital. Lin really couldn't dispute that, but this latest little display of 'uniqueness' on Matsumoto Hitomi's part did remind him of something rather important that he had neglected to tell Naru the other day…
"Perhaps, but then again the natural talent that girl seems to possess isn't exactly common place, either…" Lin said thoughtfully. He had originally wanted to look into the matter a little more on his own before letting Naru in on his suspicions, but since he wasn't going to be with him for a couple of days, that meant Naru would be left on his own in a potentially haunted and dilapidated building… Although Lin was reluctant to put so much trust in a Japanese girl they barely even knew, she just might be able to offer some form of protection for his charge until the doctors released him…
Naru perked up slightly at such a cryptic choice of words and turned to face Lin, giving the older man his full attention. He suspected his assistant was about to tell him something that could have the potential to be rather interesting, judging by the expression in his eyes.
[Later That Day…]
"Wah, sorry about that, Shibuya-san~!" Hitomi said, smiling wryly, as she rubbed the back of her neck. "It took a little longer than I thought… one of the questions threw me off for a bit, but I'm pretty sure I managed to get it in the end."
"It's fine. Just do us both a favor keep your hands on the wheel." Naru deadpanned as he watched her reflection in the passenger's side window of the SPR van. She had still managed to return well within her self-imposed time limit to pick him up so they could bring the van and all of the equipment in it back to the school… Although, Naru still found it hard to believe that the space-cadet in the driver's seat could possess such a rare ability as the one Lin had described to him.
"Yes, yes. So, what now, Shibuya-san?" Hitomi asked, glancing briefly at the stoic boy out the corner of her eye while he continued to feign disinterest in her, even though she could tell he was watching her reflection's every move, as if studying it for something. "I can help out a bit since you're going to be shorthanded for awhile, but first I have to go sort out a few things with my archery club kohai. You see, before I knew the principal was going to volunteer me to help you guys, I had already agreed to lead practice in place of the captain, because a lot of the exams for the colleges she wants to go to are set to take place around practice time. I have to find someone responsible enough to leave in charge so they won't just slack off and end up ruining their chances at the tournament being held in a few weeks." Naru glanced at her.
"All right, but only if you let me film you while you shoot and arrow." He agreed, suppressing a smirk. This might be a good opportunity to confirm what Lin had told him.
"Um… Okay, I guess?" Hitomi said, raising an eyebrow slightly at his odd request. Why would he be interested in filming her shoot? She really didn't see why a paranormal researcher like him would be interested in high school archery, especially when he had seemed so impatient to get back to the old school building and work… Why would he suddenly propose something that would just delay him even further?
"So… just curious, but why do you want to film me?" Hitomi asked as she finished pulling her hair back into a ponytail so it wouldn't get in her eyes while drawing her bow. Even though she wasn't planning on staying too long at the archery range once she had her kohai sorted out, Naru had insisted she don her practice uniform and go through her normal routine, because he wanted to recreate the circumstances that had resulted in the energy Lin sensed around her fired arrow as closely as possible. This should help ensure the accuracy this little experiment's results.
"Never mind that. Just focus on your archery." Naru instructed her as he finished adjusting the settings on the thermal camera. If she really was gathering and focusing any kind of spiritual or psychic energy in her bow and arrow, it should show up on the camera and record the fluctuations in energy in a manner similar to how the energy from a poltergeist might. "All right. Pretend the camera isn't even here. It's just a normal day at practice." Naru said, pressing the 'record' button, before signaling for her to begin. Hitomi still seemed a bit skeptical about the whole thing, but she nodded in understanding and turned to face her target. The air around them became still and silent, like the calm before a storm. Gone was the goofy and playful girl he had spoken to only moments ago. An aura of patient determination and controlled serenity had settled over Matsumoto Hitomi. She was serious. With the grace and skill expected of someone who had spent years perfecting their art, she performed the motions necessary to enter the proper stance required to regulate her breathing as she moved into position to draw her bow, just as she had done countless times before. Hitomi calmly drew her bow back, taking aim, as she focused on the target with her good eye. She could hear the beat of her own heart as she held her position, inhaling a calm, steady breath as she hardened her resolve.
'Hit the mark.' Hitomi silently willed the arrow as she exhaled and let it fly. Though it was over in a matter of seconds, to Hitomi's trained eye, it may as well have been in slow motion. She watched calmly as her arrow curved slightly around the edge of the bow before straightening out and soaring swiftly through the air towards the target, counting the vibrations still dancing their way through her bow from when the taught string had snapped back to propel the arrow forward.
Hitomi took a deep breath and exhaled as a smile dawned upon her face once again, accompanied by the look of deep satisfaction and success. She had hit the bull's-eye.
"Aaah~! That felt good~!" Hitomi sighed happily, grinning, as she stretched. She always felt so much better after she shooting arrows at the club, like a whole ball of pent-up stress just flew away along with the arrow. "Hm? Is something wrong, Shibuya-san?" Hitomi asked when she noticed Naru was still staring at his camera, as though slightly stunned.
"Oh, no. I was just a little surprised that you could hit a bull's-eye while wearing an eye-patch. I had assumed it would inhibit your depth perception." Naru said calmly, quickly recovering his wits, as he saved the data and switched the camera off. Honestly, she had managed to surprise him, but not for the reason just given. Lin had definitely been right about this girl. From what he had seen on the thermal images captured by the camera, it seemed Hitomi could not only channel her own energy into an arrow, but also energy from the air around her. In those moments of deep concentration shortly before she had released the arrow, something rather incredible had happened. As the arrow in her hand grew warmer, with the heat and energy spreading from her fingertips at the tail-end all the way to the tip of the arrowhead, the air around Hitomi had been steadily growing colder, indicating that she had instinctively drawn energy from her environment to supplement her own. Whether said arrow truly was capable of 'eliminating evil' remained to be seen, but for now, Naru could now be certain of one thing.
Matsumoto Hitomi had potential.