Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 4)
Mai sighed as the final bell rang and began packing her bag, not wasting any time.
"Oh, hey. Mai, are you going home?" Michiru asked, surprised, as she and Keiko strolled over to their friend's desk. Why would Mai be in such a hurry to leave today, of all days? "What about our plans with Shibuya-sempai? Don't you want to stay?"
"Nope. Not really." Mai said frankly. In fact, she'd rather not see him again after what had transpired earlier that morning…
"No way! I can't believe you!" Keiko exclaimed, shocked. "Don't you want to see his beautiful smile again!?"
Mai sighed again. Why couldn't her friends see that there was something fishy about that guy…?
"Ne, do you really think he'll come?" Keiko asked Michiru excitedly. "He sure did scare us good yesterday~!"
"Yeah, I really though he was a spirit!" Michiru said, smiling wryly and blushing a little as the two of them laughed together, deciding not to let Mai's reluctance to join the fun dampen their moods. "Hey, where should we meet today? It's not as spooky in here."
"Yeah, it won't be as scary if the room's not dark." Keiko agreed. "Should we meet in the audio-visual classroom again?"
"Excuse me…" A somewhat annoyed-sounding voice spoke up, interrupting their conversation. The three friends looked up to see a rather cross-looking girl, who had braided pigtails and glasses, standing just a couple desks away.
"Oh, Kuroda-san. We were just leaving…" Keiko said, smiling slightly out of politeness, as she tried to excuse herself and her friends so they could get out of there.
"I heard you guys. What were you talking about?" Kuroda asked a little abruptly. Mai and Michiru exchanged a glance. Had she seriously been eavesdropping on them…?
"We're gonna tell ghost stories again today, that's what." Mai stated bluntly, wondering why Kuroda thought it was any of her business.
"Hey!" Michiru shouted indignantly as she flinched in shock, wondering what on earth had possessed Mai to tell her such a thing. What if Kuroda-san ended up wanting to come with them? It would spoil the whole mood if they had to share their date with Shibuya-sempai with her!
"Ghost stories!?" Kuroda exclaimed incredulously, as if they had just told her Pluto wasn't really a planet.
"Hn?" Mai said as they all looked up to see who had just knocked on classroom 1-F's door.
"Taniyama-san, are you in here?" Naru asked as he slid the door open. Once he finished saving the data he had collected on Hitomi and put his camera and the retrieved arrow away safely in the SPR van, he had decided to track down this morning's troublemaker so that he could (as the odd third-year had so aptly phrased it) make Taniyama Mai 'an offer she couldn't refuse', while Hitomi was taking care of her business with the archery club.
"Aah…" Mai said, grimacing a little as she started, sweat-dropping. Yeah, of course it would be him—the person she least wanted to see right now…!
"Kyaa~! It's Shibuya-sampai~!" Michiru and Keiko squealed with delight, ecstatic to see the handsome boy in black again.
"What grade are you in? What are you doing here?" Kuroda asked rather bossily.
"I'm here to meet with these girls." Naru replied calmly.
"A meeting? To tell ghost stories?" Kuroda asked nervously, raising her voice slightly.
"Yes, and…" Naru started to add, but Kuroda suddenly turned and rounded on Mai and the others, surprising the girls.
"I told you to stop that nonsense! No wonder I've been having a bad headache all day." She shouted self-righteously at the three girls, who stared at her like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
'Huh?' They all thought, sweat-dropping. Seriously, what was this girl's damage? She had only just found out about it a few seconds ago! What did she by mean ' I told you to stop'—She never said any such thing, not until just now!
"I'm very psychic, so when spirits gather I get a horrible headache. I've been having one all day, so there must be spirits nearby." Kuroda continued a bit more calmly as she furrowed her brow in irritation and, presumably, pain, while holding a hand to her head.
"Yeah… so?" Mai asked, not seeing her point. What did that have to do with them?
"Don't you know what you're doing? When you tell each other ghost stories, low-level spirits gather around." Kuroda stated as if it should have been obvious. "When low-level spirits gather, that summons stronger spirits at a much higher level. When that happens, it'll be too late. That's why you shouldn't be telling ghost stories for fun. I would expect you to know better, Sempai. I'll exorcise for you just in case." She finished loftily, turning back to face Naru.
"I think you're just imagining all of this." Naru told her, touching a hand to his chin as though he had been seriously considering her words, but really Naru was picking up too many of the same signs and signals that usually indicated a person was simply acting out to get attention. She was trying way too hard, in his opinion.
"This is why I don't like dealing with non-psychic people." Kuroda huffed defiantly, refusing to back down. She hated it whenever people tried to make it sound as if she was just some head case…!
"Then, tell me… If you're really psychic, do you feel anything from the old building?" Naru asked, deciding to give her a chance to prove herself. After all, he and Lin hadn't realized Hitomi possessed any psychic abilities either until Lin saw her used arrow the other day.
"The old building?" Kuroda asked, perking up slightly, though she still seemed a bit wary of him. "Oh, definitely. I believe it's haunted by the spirits of old war victims."
"War victims? Which war?" Naru asked, for clarification.
"World War II, of course. I'm sure there used to be a hospital there. I've seen the spirits of nurses and patients with bandages." Kuroda stated confidently.
"Really? I didn't know there was a hospital there during World War II. I've heard that the school has been there since before the war. Could it have been a medical school, perhaps?" Naru said coolly, crossing his arms.
"!" Kuroda said, clearly taken aback by what he had just said, as her cheeks began to flush from embarrassment. "I… I don't know anything about that!" She snapped defensively. "I just know I saw them! But those who aren't psychic like me wouldn't understand!"
"The principal mentioned that he's upset because the spirits in the old building are preventing him from demolishing it. Why don't you exorcise the spirits for him with your 'psychic power'?" Naru suggested with a rather patronizing tone. This girl really had no idea who she was dealing with.
Mai sighed. These two were getting out of control. Shibyua-'sempai' had even started to drop his 'nice guy' act…
"Excuse me…" Keiko said a bit hesitantly, before their argument could continue. "Shibuya-sempai, can I cancel this evening?"
"Me, too. I don't really feel like telling ghost stories anymore." Michiru added. What if they really did end up summoning some kind of ghost? The thought sent chills down both girls' spines.
"No problem. We'll do it some other time." Naru told them, adopting his nice guy façade once more, as he turned to leave.
"Hmph, whatever!" Kuroda huffed, still a little pink with embarrassment from having been tripped up by him earlier. Good riddance!
"Oh." Naru said, pausing in the doorway. "Taniyama-san…" He said, glancing back purposefully at Mai, who tensed slightly with apprehension, hoping this situation wasn't going where she thought it was…
"Might I have a moment?" Naru asked in a polite tone, as though she had a choice. Mai really wanted to say no, but she could tell by the look in his eyes, that that wasn't an option.
'I guess he won't take no for an answer…' Mai thought as somewhat comic trails of tears began streaming down her face. "S-Sure…" She reluctantly submitted while her friends expressed envy over her situation in the background. If only they knew…
"Is she one of your classmates?" Naru asked Mai once they had walked a short distance down the hall, away from the classroom.
"Yeah, but… I've never really spoken to her before today. She seems a bit weird…" Mai replied honestly. She didn't like talking badly about people behind their backs, but Kuroda-san really had been a little… you know…
"I wonder if she's really psychic…" Naru said a bit absently, thinking aloud.
"That's what she says, so maybe she is." Mai said, shrugging. "By the way, um… how is that man from this morning?"
"Ah, yes. I wanted to speak to you about that, too. He sprained his left leg pretty badly and won't be able to stand up on his own for awhile." Naru said, glancing at her.
"Eh!" Mai gasped, reeling back in shock. No way! "Oh no… I-I'm terribly sorry…" She apologized, feeling a little guilty. That poor man… "So, Shibuya-san… how do you know him?"
"Assistant." Naru stated simply.
"Assistant? You mean, you help him with his work, Shibuya-san?" Mai asked curiously.
"The opposite." He corrected her, stopping, so he could turn around and face her properly. "I'm the boss, and he's my assistant." Mai just stared at him, stunned.
'Whaaaaa—!?' She exclaimed inside her mind. Wasn't he only 17…!?
"So, now… I have a problem, because my assistant is too injured to work. I believe you have an obligation here, Taniyama-san." Naru stated coolly. The fact that Hitomi had already volunteered to help him was inconsequential. Since Lin usually did the work of ten people, there was simply no way a single high school girl could make up the difference.
"W-Wait a minute! I happen to be a victim, too—!" Mai tried to protest, but Naru wasn't having it.
"He got hurt… what happened to you?" Naru asked sardonically, knowing that the worst that could've happened to Mai because of the incident was probably being marked tardy.
Mai sweat-dropped and bit her lip as she avoided his gaze. He had a pretty good point, there…
"And you broke the camera, too. He was only trying to stop you from touching the camera. As a result, this is what happened." Naru added, putting the final nail in her coffin. Mai closed her eyes and raised her hands to cover her face. She couldn't believe how badly she had managed to screw things up this time… the whole incident was such a tragedy…! She really did have no excuse…
"By the way, um… how much was it?" Mai asked, bracing herself.
"Probably more than you have." Naru stated bluntly.
"You mean, um…" She asked hesitantly, hoping he just meant more than she had in her wallet, and not in her bank account.
"You couldn't reimburse me. Which means, there is only one course you can take." He finished for her. Yes, he had meant her bank account.
Mai flinched as she tried to calculate how long it would take to pay off such a huge debt. Just how many large orders of fries was she going to have sling in order to make this happen…!?
"I want you to be my substitute assistant." Naru said, surprising her. Maybe he wasn't as much of a demon as Mai thought, because she had been expecting him to insist she pay him back in full…
"Y-Your assistant? Shibuya-san, you want me to help you with your work?" Mai asked, feeling a bit apprehensive. She was relieved he wasn't insisting she pay him back such a huge amount of money, but…
"Isn't that what it sounded like?" Naru asked rhetorically. The look in his eyes clearly expressed that he was having doubts about her intelligence.
Mai sweat-dropped. She really didn't like this guy…
"So, what is your work?" She asked.
"Ghost Hunting." He replied in English.
"Huh?" Mai asked, raising a hand and holding it beside her ear, thinking she must have misheard.
"The direct translation would be 'ghost exterminator', I suppose. I'm from the Shibuya Psychic Research center, which was hired by the principal to investigate the old school building.
"What's a 'saikiku risachi' center?" Mai asked.
"Aren't you taking English classes? Your pronunciation is terrible." Naru told her bluntly, causing her to sweat-drop and wonder why he felt the need to be so mean to her. Despite his stoic façade, Naru was actually a little frustrated that he had to stop and explain something so simple to her. He hadn't had this problem with Hitomi. She had just nodded in understanding and taken everything in stride. "'Psychic' as in 'shinrei' (spiritual). 'Research' as in 'chousa' (investigation). In other words, it's a spiritual phenomenon investigative bureau." He explained, turning back to face her, so he could look Mai directly in the eye so she could see how serious he was. "And I am its manager."