Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 8)
"So, America or England?" Hitomi asked abruptly once Naru had finished locking up, and they had begun making their way to the hospital, taking him by surprise.
"What are you talking about?" Naru asked calmly as he turned to face her, completely stoic, despite how taken aback he had initially been by her unexpected question. It seemed he wasn't the only one who had been planning to get answers during their walk to the hospital together.
"Oh. Was I wrong? I could have sworn you were a fellow transplant…" Hitomi said, frowning slightly in disappointment and scratching her head. "It's just that some of your idiosyncrasies remind me of me when I first moved to Japan. It took me awhile to adjust to language and customs after growing up in an English-speaking country like America." She explained, smiling wryly.
'Transplant…?' Naru thought, almost sweat-dropping at her odd use of the word. Well, it did make sense, in its own odd way. "What idiosyncrasies?" He asked curiously, taking this new information into account. If Hitomi originally grew up in America, then it would actually explain quite a lot about some of her own atypical behavior… or maybe she was just strange. Naru suspected it was most likely a combination of both.
"Well, for one thing, I noticed you wrote all of your notes in English, and that's not something most native Japanese people would do. I mean, I guess maybe you might if you didn't want just anyone to be able to read them, but I used to do the same when I first started school here, because it was still much easier for me to take notes quickly using my first language. My father' was originally from here, so he taught me how to speak a little Japanese, but I didn't learn how to read or write it until I came to live here ten years ago." She explained, shrugging. "Also, you didn't recognize an extremely common Japanese saying, and you seemed unaware of the age difference required to have a driver's license for a large van like that. While I'm not so sure about England, I do know for a fact that you only have to be at least 15 or 16 in order to get a learner's permit that allows you to drive with an adult in the car. However, even if you are 17 and have a full license, it doesn't work that way in Japan. There's a special license for each category of different sized vehicle, and the needed for that van requires you to be at least 18 before you can even apply for the license. Even a first-year like Mai knows that much."
"Hnh. It seems I underestimated you, Matsumoto-san." Naru complimented her, smirking slightly. Her reasoning skills were sound, but it made him wonder if she had spotted this so easily simply because of her own history, or if it was something anyone with half a brain might notice. If the latter was the case, then Naru couldn't help but be concerned… He was going to have to work on fixing the things she had just mentioned.
"Thanks." She said, smiling brightly, playing it cool. O be honest, even she was having a hard time not being affected by this kid's good looks, especially when he smirked like that… But then something occurred to her. 'Wait… is that a nice way of saying he thought I was stupid…?' It didn't seem like the Shibuya-san she knew to hand out a compliment like that…
"To be honest, I'm surprised you figured it out so quickly." Naru admitted, deciding to switch over to English since that particular cat was already out of the bag. He was also somewhat surprised at himself for admitting to it so quickly. He should have tried to dissuade her suspicions, not confirm them.
'So he did think I was a bit thick in the head…' Hitomi thought, slightly chagrined. Oh, well. At least hearing him speak a full sentence in English answered her question about his origins. He was definitely English. It was kind of unfair for him to be so smart and attractive and then to have a sexy British accent on top of it all… "Never underestimate my ability to find stuff out, Mr. Shibuya." She replied, smirking. "Not only are you looking at a girl who read too much of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work, but my woman's intuition is topnotch!"
"Really, is that so?" Naru said thoughtfully. Perhaps he should put that to the test once he was finished with the principle's case. "So, you believe in something as intangible as intuition, yet you don't believe in ghosts?" He asked, attempting to turn the conversation around and shift the topic away from himself. After all, he had initially agreed to walk with her to get information, not give it away.
"I never said I didn't." Hitomi replied easily. "I do believe ghosts can exist in this world… but I sincerely doubt there are any in that old school building." Naru raised an eyebrow. She had just spoken with such conviction, that it almost sounded as if she knew something.
"Is that what your intuition tells you?" He asked. Hitomi shook her head.
"No, but… I feel like if there was one, I would have seen it." She replied a bit hesitantly, looking down. It was then that she noticed the arrow she had shot earlier was sticking out one of the side pockets of his laptop case. "Oh, that reminds me… You never did tell me why you wanted to film me this afternoon." Naru's eyes narrowed slightly with suspicion. There was something she wasn't telling him, but it didn't seem wise to push her at the moment, especially since she had just uncovered one his own secrets.
"I was testing a theory." He stated simply. He wanted to examine the data he collected on her more closely before voicing his and Lin's suspicions about her possibly having some form of PK, the odds of which, were extremely high. She may even be worth doing a study on…
"What theory? What did you find?" Hitomi asked curiously, wondering what could possibly be so interesting about her archery that it would be worth filming to a paranormal investigator.
"… I'll let you know more when I do, but for now…" Naru said, pausing as he turned back to face her. "I have a favor to ask of you."
"You want me to shoot another arrow?" Hitomi guessed, quirking an eyebrow.
"No, but I would appreciate it if you would refrain from revealing my true origin to anyone else… Unless, you haven't told anyone yet, have you?" He asked seriously. He really hoped she hadn't told Mai.
"No. I mean, no, I haven't told anyone… but why keep it a secret?" She asked curiously.
"… It would simply make my situation easier if as few people knew about it as possible." He replied cryptically. She already knew too much. He didn't want to drop anymore bread crumbs that might lead her to discovering more about his situation than she already had.
"… Okay…?" Hitomi said, furrowing her brow and tilting her head slightly in confusion. He knew how suspicious that sounded, right? So he was from England—big deal! She was from America. 'Who cares if he's a… Ah…' Hitomi thought, coming to a realization. Actually, a lot of people might care. Since Japan was such a homogenous country even now, foreigners still weren't something the average Japanese person was used to seeing, and she had learned they tend to view 'outsiders' with suspicion. She had actually been teased a lot about her blond hair by the other kids when she first moved there, and it had taken over five years before she stopped being 'the new kid from America'. Yeah, she knew firsthand how annoying that could be… though it still felt like she might be missing something… But everyone had their secrets, things they'd rather not talk about… even her. "Okay." Hitomi agreed more firmly this time. "I guess I can keep your secret." She said, smiling, as she held out her hand to shake on it.
"I appreciate it." Naru replied solemnly as he accepted her hand and shook it. He just hoped she would remember to keep her promise.
"You were right about her." Naru informed Lin as he entered the older man's room at the hospital.
"… I assume you are referring to Matsumoto Hitomi?" Lin asked calmly. It was nice to see that Naru had managed to return in one piece.
"Yes, and she is also much sharper than I gave her credit for." Naru replied, nodding.
"Most people are." Lin stated dryly. Just because he was a genius, it didn't mean everyone else was an idiot. Naru had the bad habit of forgetting that sometimes, due to the IQ gap between him and the rest of the population.
"Most people can't figure out where we are really from within less than forty-eight hours of meeting us." Naru retorted.
"…'We'? You mean, she knows about… How?" Lin asked gravely, furrowing his brow. It was one thing to recognize that he himself was Chinese, but how could she have figured Naru out? There was no way Naru would ever have told her…
"She recognized a fellow 'transplant'." Naru replied, shrugging. "She used to live in America when she was younger."
"What a remarkable coincidence…" Lin remarked, sweat-dropping. "Do you think we can trust her?"
"That remains to be seen. She has promised not to tell anyone, and she doesn't strike me as the type to break a promise, at least, not intentionally…" Naru said thoughtfully.
"How much does she know?" Lin asked, concerned.
"Just that I've come from England." Naru replied. "It seemed like she wanted to ask more, but had enough manners to refrain from doing so." Lin relaxed slightly, feeling somewhat relieved to hear that. If that was all she knew, then things weren't so bad. "Still, I believe she's worth keeping an eye on. You should take a look at this." Naru told him, getting back to their original topic, as he pulled out his laptop and opened the file for the film of Hitomi shooting an arrow. "Then tell me what you think."
"Yo~!" Hitomi greeted Naru cheerfully as she walked into the base and waved hello. "What's on our to-do list for today, boss?" She asked curiously.
"I thought I said you didn't have to meet me here until after school." Naru said, glancing up at her from his open laptop. He was half tempted to tell her about his theories on the special ability he had witnessed yesterday, but he and Kin had agreed they should wait to break the news until after they didn't need her help with this case, just in case their little revelation might scare her off. People weren't always thrilled to discover they were psychic.
"Oh, come on. You're not actually going to make me go to class, are you?" She pouted. "It's basically just one long study period for our exams, since we're on a shortened schedule anyway."
"I see, so you want to fail." He commented dryly.
"No. I just don't need to study anymore, because I've already finished taking all of the exams I'm going to take." Hitomi retorted, smiling brightly. "I'm just waiting to hear the results."
"In that case… feel free to start reviewing the audio tapes we recorded yesterday." Naru told her, deciding he might as well put her to work if she was just going to skip class regardless. "I want you to listen for anything that sounds out of the ordinary."
"Like disembodied voices and rapping sounds?" Hitomi asked, smiling wryly.
[Later, that afternoon…]
"Whaaaat!?" Keiko shouted incredulously.
"Then Shibuya-san isn't a transfer student!?" Michiru asked, shocked.
"No, no. That was just a lie." Mai replied, waving it off.
"Hey, Taniyama-san." Kuroda spoke up suddenly, calling herself to their attention.
'Oops…' Mai thought, sweat-dropping. Here comes trouble…
"So, is he a psychic?" Kuroda asked. "I heard he came here to do research on the old school building."
"He says he's not a psychic… He's a 'ghost hunter'." Mai replied, wondering if it was okay to tell her. Then again, maybe Kuroda-san might end up annoying Naru a little for her. That would be nice.
"A ghost hunter?" Kuroda asked skeptically.
"So, what's the difference?" Michiru asked. Weren't they like the same thing?
"Don't know." Mai said, shrugging. She vaguely remembered Hitomi-sempai explaining it to her yesterday, but she couldn't remember any of it at the moment. "Ah, that's right. Hitomi-sempai is working with us, too. She said the principal asked her to help out."
'Eh!? Hitomi-sempai, too!?" Keiko shouted.
"She's a very pretty sempai…" Michiru said, sighing. She doubted any of them would stand a chance against her…
"Wait, why would the principal ask Hitomi-sempai to do it? Aren't the third-years busy with their college exams?" Keiko asked dubiously.
"Oh, yeah! If any third-year was going to do it, you'd think it would be the student council president, since he's supposed to be the school's representative." Michiru said thoughtfully.
"That's true… but Hitomi-sempai didn't seem to be worried about any of that at all…" Mai agreed, suddenly realizing how odd it was. "I'll try asking her about it when I see her today."
"Ooh! Can you get me her autograph?" Michiru asked excitedly.
"Eh? Ah, um… yeah, sure… I guess?" Mai agreed hesitantly, a little taken aback by her friend's request. She hadn't realized Michiru was one of Hitomi-sempai's fans…
"…" Kuroda said as she watched the three friends chatter away as if she wasn't even there. Were they trying to ignore her? "Taniyama-san." She said a little louder this time to get their attention back. "Can you introduce me to him?"
"Huh?" Mai asked, nearly falling out of her chair. She was stunned. Was Kuroda serious? Did she know what she was getting into, trying to get involved with that jerk!?
"You know I'm psychic, right? Maybe I can help him." Kuroda suggested hopefully. Mai sweat-dropped.
"Um, I don't think you should get involved with him. He doesn't like to deal with amateurs." She said reasonably, trying to warn her.
"I'm no amateur myself!" Kuroda snapped. If Shibuya-san didn't mind having two amateurs like Taniyama-san and Matsumoto-sempai around, then a real psychic should be a welcome addition…!
Mai's eyes widened slightly. Whoa.
"But Naru-chan is a professional. He even has an office." Mai tried to explain.
"Hey, Mai, why do you call him 'Naru-chan'!?" Keiko demanded, suddenly suspicious that Mai was cheating and getting ahead of her and Michiru on the flirting front.
"Huh… Oh, it's because he's an extreme narcissist. So, 'Naru-chan', for short." Mai explained, smiling wryly as she sweat-dropped. "He's also not a very nice person."
"Yes. He's cute, but he has a sharp tongue." Hitomi commented sagely as she nodded her head, causing them all to whip their heads around so the could see her. She had plopped herself down at the desk behind Mai and was very casually resting her head on her hands, as though she had been there the whole time. "You have an awesome naming-sense, by the way. I wish I had come with 'Naru-chan'. It's ingenious." She added, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"… Eh? H-Hitomi-sempai!? H-How long have you been there!?" Mai shouted incredulously as she and her friends blushed, suddenly feeling incredibly embarrassed.
"Oh, nice reaction there, Mai-chan~!" Hitomi applauded her, smiling sweetly as she clapped. "Don't worry, I haven't been here long. I just thought I'd wait and see how long it took you to notice me. I came to pick you up and make sure you didn't escape on your own." Mai sweat-dropped. Well, she had to admit, she had considered it once or twice since discovering his true character…
"Haha… see? Even Sempai agrees with me." Mai said, laughing feebly. She hoped Sempai wouldn't mention what she had just heard to Naru… "So if you don't act all serious, he won't be nice to you…" Mai continued as she turned to address Kuroda, trailing off when she realized the other girl had already treated back to her own desk, across the room, without even saying anything. Awkward…
"She's always been like that." Keiko remarked. "Ever since middle school, she's been known for being a weirdo."
"Ah, was Kuroda-san in the same class track as you, Keiko?" Mai asked.
"Yeah. She's always going on about how she has spiritual sensitivity and stuff." Keiko said, nodding.
"Hmm…" Mai and Hitomi hummed thoughtfully as they glanced back at Kuroda. So this had been going on for awhile, now…
"Hey, you don't think she's fallen in love with Shibuya-san at first sight, do you?" Michiru asked Keiko.
"No way! Stop it!" Keiko laughed.
"Must be tough, if she's really psychic." Hitomi said quietly, just barely loud enough for Mai to hear.
"Huh?" Mai asked, looking back at her sempai, confused. 'Was it just me, or did Hitomi-sempai sound a little sad just now…?' She wondered.
"Oh, well. Let's go, Mai. Naru-chan awaits us~" Hitomi said cheerfully, winking playfully, acting as though everything were just peachy-keen.
"Yeah, okay…" Mai agreed hesitantly, pausing to glance back at Kuroda one last time before following her out of the classroom. 'Hmm… I can't quite figure her out. I'd probably be better off not getting involved with her…" Mai thought.