Ghost of a Chance

Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 5)

The sun cast an orange glow over the school grounds as it began to set. Hitomi was just about ready to go look for Shibuya-san herself, when she spotted him and Mai making their way towards the building.

"Yo!" Hitomi called out as she stopped leaning against the van so she could straighten up and go greet them. "What took you so long, Shibuya-san? I was about to send out a search party." She joked, grinning rather cheekily.

"Ah!" Mai gasped, surprised to see such a famous upperclassman in flesh. "Matsumoto-sempai!? What are you doing here—Wait, you know Shibuya-san!?" Mai asked, stunned.

"Hm? Well, I guess you could say that… The principal asked me to be his guide, so I'm lending him a hand with the investigation." Hitomi explained, glancing at Mai. "… Um, have we met before?" She asked a bit sheepishly, hoping she hadn't forgotten and hurt the younger girl's feelings.

"Eh? Ah, no, but… I've seen you from a distance, and Matsumoto-sempai's pretty famous, so…" Mai replied, also feeling a bit sheepish now for over-reacting. "… I'm Taniyama Mai, a first-year."

"Oh, okay. Well, it's nice to meet you, Taniyama-san." Hitomi said, smiling, relieved that she hadn't forgotten a kohai again. She had so many now that she was a third-year. "You can just call me 'Hitomi', if you want. Everyone else does."

"Oh, uh… then, you can call me 'Mai', Hitomi-sempai." Mai said, relieved that Hitomi didn't seem to mind her previous little outburst at all.

"You can call me 'Hitomi' too, Shibuya-san." Hitomi added, turning to address Naru.

"If you two are done here, it's time to get to work, Matsumoto-san." Naru deadpanned before continuing on his way towards the old building, completely ignoring her.

"Well, you're no fun…" Hitomi commented, sweat-dropping, as she smiled wryly. "Come on, Mai-chan. We'd better get a move on before the boss gets cranky."

'Isn't he already cranky…?' Mai thought, sweat-dropping.

"So, what exactly are we supposed to be doing?" Mai asked Hitomi as they followed after him, hoping for an explanation free of any sarcasm or disdain.

"Oh, about that… it seems the principal went to their office to hire them about a week ago, and they were finally able to come and begin their investigation yesterday." Hitomi explained. "Apparently, there's a strange rumor that the old building is cursed, and this had the principal worried, so he asked them to look into the phenomena behind the huge rash of accidents always seemed to happen whenever they tried to demolish the old building."

"Heh? Then, is that the only reason why you transferred to this school?" Mai asked Naru.

"Transfer?" Hitomi asked, blinking with confusion. That was news to her.

"Why would I transfer here to do research?" Naru asked, furrowing his brow slightly. He really was starting to wonder about this girl.

"But, yesterday you said you were a transfer student." Mai reminded him, frowning slightly.

"I may have said such nonsense… but you were talking about ghost stories, weren't you? That's why." He explained.

"I see. You might be able hear something about the school building that way." Hitomi said, hitting her palm with her hand in an 'Aha!' kind of way.

"Correct. My goal was to gather information amongst the students." Naru said. Thanks to that, he had managed to catch their story about the old building.

"So, how much of Michiru's story do you think is true?" Mai asked, correctly assuming he had heard most of the story before scaring the living daylights out of the three of them during the head count.

"What story?" Hitomi asked curiously, feeling a bit left out.

"It has to do with that rumor you mentioned yesterday involving that third-year." Naru told Hitomi as he unlocked the van and retrieved his briefcase. He may as well explain everything now, just to get it out of the way. "I know that it's true there were many people who died while the old building was in use." He added, answering Mai's question.

"Really? Wow…" Mai said, swallowing nervously. Hitomi already knew that much since she had briefly scanned the newspaper articles before handing them over to him and Lin. What really caught her attention was when Naru pulled out his notes and stared flipping through them. They were all in English.

'Wow… his grammar is perfect…' She thought, impressed. But why go through all the trouble of writing it in English? I mean, Hitomi sometimes did that, but that's because English was actually her first language, so it felt more natural and made it easier to record a string of thoughts more quickly when she was in a hurry…

Could it be that Shibuya-san also…?

"Until eighteen years ago, when the old building was still being used as part of the main campus… one to two people died every year." Naru began explaining once he found the page he was looking for, interrupting her train of thought. "It is also true that the roof fell in during demolition of the west wing. However… there is no evidence that any demolition workers ever died. And it's true that five people were injured, but that accident was caused by human error, not spirits."

"I see…" Mai said, sighing with relief. Hitomi nodded, seconding that emotion.

"That's good to know." She said, though the thing about one to two people dying every year was still a bit worrisome…

"Demolition was completed as planned. They demolished one third of the building, and that was all." Naru continued. "Since then… and this was six years ago… the body of a dead child was discovered in the old building. She was a seven-year-old who lived in the neighborhood. She had been kidnapped and held for ransom. The criminal was caught and arrested one month after her body was found. And it's also true that there was a teacher who committed suicide, but… he suffered from neurosis. They found the suicide note he had left behind."

"Impressive! Very good research." Mai praised him, a little impressed he could find out so much in so little time.

"This is nothing. Don't underestimate my investigative skills." Naru stated bluntly, causing the two girls to sweat-drop.

"…" Hitomi said, letting out a quiet nervous laugh as she sweat-dropped and glanced between Mai and Naru, smiling wryly. Poor Mai-chan. Shibuya-san almost seemed determined to give her a hard time…

"So, what about the 'truck that ran out of control'?" Mai asked glumly. Naru handed her the article so she could see for herself. It said 'Daytime High School Tragedy—Nine Students Hit':

A demolition truck with a full load of bricks suddenly veered off course and onto a the high school's volleyball court. The gym class was in session, and nine students were critically injured, two of them dying soon after the accident. The driver of the vehicle was found to be intoxicated and…

"True, they had to stop the work on the building because of that accident, but some also believe it was because of the rumors about the building." Naru finished for her. "But none of these events convince me that the rumors are true. People may believe that the building is ill-omened, but clearly there is an explanation for each of these incidents. My gut tells me this assignment will not reveal anything out of the ordinary." He concluded, glancing at Hitomi to let her know he agreed with her initial impression of the old building. So far, the only thing 'misfortunate' about this place was the sad state of disrepair it had fallen into over the years.

–∞–

Mai and Hitomi stared at the row of large, oblong sound microphones that had been lined up behind a makeshift fence around part of the old building, which was actually remains from the last attempt to demolish the building.

'Interesting… they look like professional boom mikes, minus the foam padding…' Hitomi observed.

"Take those microphones down and gather them up. I'll get the mike stands." Naru ordered calmly.

"Aye, aye, sir~!" Hitomi said playfully without hesitation, giving him a mock salute, before getting to work. She was already used to his brusque attitude. Mai sweat-dropped as she followed her sempai's example and got to work, albeit a bit less enthusiastically since she had been blackmailed into this…

"What do you use these mikes for?" Mai asked curiously. They were awfully big.

"I suppose microphones are generally used to collect sound." Naru deadpanned as he began collecting the mike stands.

"Pft!" Hitomi laughed, unable to stop herself in time, as she bit her lip and tried not to smile too much at poor Mai's expense.

"That's not what I meant… I know that much!" Mai retorted, blushing furiously. What was this jerk's problem!?

"It's dangerous to stay inside a haunted building that you're not familiar with. So it's important to first collect as much information as possible from outside of the building." Naru explained patiently. "For example, you can record sound from outside or set up camera's around the building."

"So… you aren't scared of being in a haunted building?" Mai asked. This was turning out to be kind of different from what she had expected… "What about you, Hitomi-sempai?"

"Not particularly." Naru replied stoically, completely unconcerned.

"I actually like this kind of thing. Isn't it interesting?" Hitomi responded cheerfully, flashing Mai a brilliant shit-eating grin. She used to be really into ghosts and stuff like this when she was younger.

Mai sweat-dropped. Shibuya-san was one thing, but Hitomi-sempai, too? How could she look so happy about this—there were practically sparkles floating in the air around her!

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