~I'm just a step away~
~I'm just a breath away~
~Losin' my faith today~
~Fallin' off the edge today~
Naru burst through the tent flaps and froze as he watched the brunette disappear into the darkness of the hospital. Cursing, he was about to go after her when a firm hand held him in place. Expecting it to be Lin, he glanced at the ground before turning his head to demand that the person let go when he stopped dead.
Monk stood in the place Naru had expected Lin to be while the Omnioji was standing by his computer, face twisted into one of concern and panic.
"Takigawa? Why-", Naru started, only to be shocked when the blonde tightened his hand on his shoulder. The older males muscles remained taunt as he fought his own urges to run into the haunted building himself.
"I want to go after her too. But Mai is a very capable woman now Naru. For now, we have to focus on getting Masako back safely." Lin told the dark haired male.
Panic danced in Naru's eyes at the prospect of leaving Mai with all the evil within the condemned hospital, but he saw the truth in his words and swallowed an angry retort of defiance. Straightening his jacket he brushed Monk's hand off his shoulder and retrieved his folder from the ground- having thrown it when Mai's intentions had become clear to him.
"Lin. Pull up a schematic of the hospital and the surrounding area. Ayako, Takigawa. I want the both of you to get as much information on the hospital as possible." Naru ordered and watched as Lin handed the couple some paper, pens and a spare laptop.
Sighing, Naru raked his hand through his hair before sitting in the lounge chair Mai had been sitting in earlier, her jacket draped haphazardly over its surface. Casting a quick look to make sure that everyone was doing their assigned task and not paying him any attention, he discretely grabbed the sleeve of the woollen jacket and placed it in his lap.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and focused on the young brunette that had thrown away her safety and chucked caution to the wind all for her possessed friend.
The interior of the hospital was worse than the outside. Old stretchers lay askew in the hallway, fabric torn and decaying. Paint chipped, charred and peeled off the wall and gently fell to the floor every few seconds that she stood there. The sleeve of her turtleneck held tightly over her mouth as she picked her way carefully through the debris covered floor, trying her best not to choke on the foul stench of the place.
Dodging around a light and a set of wires that hung from the ceiling, she cursed as she stopped in the middle of the second hallway that looked the same as the first and the lobby. Multiple corridors and stairways led off into different directions around her and only her training in the force kept her from panicking.
"Ok, Masako. Where are you?" Mai asked, closing her eyes. Concentrating, she felt the sheer amount of spirits that hung around the broken building; most were the poor souls being kept in the place by the more malicious ghouls that lurked in the dark corners of the hospital.
The floor under her feet shook and she felt a dark spirit rush though the corridor below her, which she could only assume was a part of the underground tunnel system the hospital staff had used to get around faster. Following it with her mind, she felt the being stop before a sharp pain filled her head and she forced herself to swallow a cry as her knees made contact with the ground, her jeans serving as only mild protection from the uneven ground.
Cursing, she forced the pain away and stood on shaky legs. Squinting into the darkness of the hallway in front of her, Mai gasped, choking on the stench of the air that rushed into her lungs.
"Wait! Masako!" The brunette yelled, dashing down the broken hallway as fast as her feet would carry her. Turning down countless corridors and weaving through multiple stairwells, she watched as Masako came to a dead end...
Or what seemed to be a dead end...
The dark haired medium pushed open a set of off-white double doors that had weathered away from use a blended with the wall it was set in. Stopping outside them, Mai put her hands on her knees and took deep breathes in a vain effort to calm her pounding heart. It was hard to tell the time from inside the hospital, but from what she could tell from the boarded window was that the sun was now hanging low in the sky and dusk was quickly approaching. Gulping, she turned to look through the cracked window on the door before her and tried to catch a peek of Masako from within the dark room.
The room beyond was darker than the corridor, the broken windows being only slightly more boarded up that the ones in the hallway. Wires hung from the ceiling, catching what light they could as it cast eerie shadows across the ground. An overturned examination table lay on the floor with dark blotches of what she could only presume as blood staining it and the surrounding tile floor, once white paint peeled into dark, brown chips clumped and crisp with dust from the walls.
"Masako?" Mai called out cautiously, squinting in a futile attempt to look for her friend. Placing her hand on the door, her eyes widened and a sharp gasp left her throat as she tried to pull her arm away before her mind grew hazy with sleep. "No... not... here..."
Mai opened her eyes, noticing the hallway was brighter and cleaner than it was before. Panic lit a fire inside her gut as she spun around, facing the busy corridor behind her.
Haunted hospital plus astral projection equalled a very dangerous situation. One that Mai for once did not want to be in.
Bright lights shone from the ceiling within their metal cages, refracting easily off the white walls and tiled floor. People walked past her, old kimono's separating the patients from the staff with colour alone.
But the staff to Mai... She shuddered as one walked through her and past the double doors. The nurses seemed skeletal, faces' thin and almost transparent. So transparent in fact that Mai could easily make out the outline of their teeth and facial bones.
It was then that she heard it as the door swung closed.
The screaming and crying from the room beyond.
Turning around to face the off-white doors, Mai tenderly peeked through the wired glass and gazed curiously into the once dark hospital room. Her eyes widened when she saw a young girl with long black hair strapped down to the table that had earlier been over-turned. The girl tugged furiously at her restraints, tears streaming down her face.
Off to one side of the room around a small metal trolley were a group of nurses and a doctor. The women wore bright white kimono's white the man wore a traditional doctors jacket, masks and gloves already covering the appropriate areas. Just as the nurses turned towards the restrained girl, a white clock flew off the wall, almost hitting two of the employees.
"Now, now Midoriko." The doctor cooed, stepping over to her as her fight to be free renewed with burning vigour. "This won't take long at all. After this, you'll be as good as new."
A twisted smile formed on his face as he smoothed down the child's hair, ignoring the gagging sound she made as she tried to put distance between the two. Mai's stomach twisted as she watched, forcing herself to focus on the nurse putting the clock back on the wall. The date made her eyes widen and snap back to the young girl strapped to the cold examination table.
October 3oth, 23:58
"No way... If she died now... This is not good." Mai whispered, only to gasp when she heard a quiet whimper from the young girl. Looking back, she winced as the doctor brought his hand down on the girl shoulder, and stepped in Mai's line of vision. All the brunette could see was a once blue kimono turn crimson. The young girls scream filled Mai's ears and she clamped her hands over them, striving to block out the horrible sound. Physically unable to turn away, Mai closed her eyes as the girls' body tensed before falling limp, all tension leaving her muscles the same time as the screaming stopped.
The sudden silence made Mai's ears ring and it took her longer than she wanted to, to gain her bearing. But once she looked up, she let out a sharp gasp and backed away from the door. The hallway was once again dark and decrepit but it held a sinister malevolence to it now that it made Mai want to run and never look back.
Lightning flashed through the boarded up windows and it was then that Mai realised that she was no longer dreaming. The evil in the place was literally right behind the door and she could feel the temperature dropping at a rapid rate.
The last thing she saw before everything went black was the Doctor walking through the doors and towards her, silver scalpel simmering in red liquid.
The group made their way through the hospital entrance just as the sun started to dip below the horizon. They gagged almost instantly upon entry as the smell filled their senses and Monk was the first to point it out.
"That's so gross!" The blonde pulled the sleeve of his jacket over his hand and placed it on his mouth to try stop the stench from making him sick, Ayako followed his lead while Naru and Lin just winced and moved forward.
"Which way Naru?" Lin asked, his voice tense as he recalled just how Naru found out where Mai was.
The dark haired man in question clutched Mai's jacket in his hands as he looked around.
"This way." Was all he said before bolting down the corridor, not caring whether the other kept up or not.
~Earlier that day~
"Hey Naru!" Ayako called, putting down the phone and lifting the notes she and Monk had made.
"What did you find?" Naru asked, head snapping up as he quickly made his way over to the pair, not caring of he lost his cool or not. He needed to find Mai and the sooner the better. Taking the pieces of paper that were held out to him, Monk started talking.
"The hospital also had a mental asylum on the grounds. But most of it burnt down. There are some that say it was a freak accident but others say they saw a little girl walk out of the flames and disappear. The room that it started in was barely touched but the rest of the west wing was practically destroyed."
"That's not all." Ayako continued, crossing her arms over her chest as she stood up. "It happened on October 31st, exactly. The fire just lit up the place and it was gone even faster. The little girl that people described was a young girl by the name of Madoriko Hikowaru, a patient of the asylum. Her father was the chief of the hospital, his wife was the head nurse and they were famous for their treatments but the patients that left had horrible stories of patients that would scream and cry during surgeries he conducted. Patients that survived the fire said that she was scheduled to have a surgery that night. Her father was to conduct it with his wife and some of the staff."
"So... This room was both a part of the asylum and the central building." Naru mused, silently motioning for Lin to bring him the schematics. "This is the room."
Pointing to a room on the opposite side of the hospital to where they were, it read 'Therapy room.'
"So wait." Ayako said, staring intently at the map. "If the asylum was there and her father was a doctor... But if she walked out of that fire... It had to be her spirit. She must have died in the surgery and was out for revenge."
"That does seem to be the situation and if Mai was right, the little girl, Midoriko, must still be seeking revenge against her father who must be keeping the other spirits here. There's no other logical explanation for the haunting here."
"Then we have to go in before Doctor Hikowaru does anything he was known for..." Naru said. He was bothered by the name though. Hiko meant 'prince' while 'waru' meant evil. Did the doctor live up to his name? Was he really an Evil Prince?
"This is it." Naru said, chills running up his spine as he came to stand in front of the broken double doors Mai had been standing in front of earlier.
"Hey... Naru?" Monk called quietly, his voice quivering in shock. It caught Naru off-guard as the blondes voice was always strong no matter what the situation was.
"What is it Takigawa? We can't st-" Naru started, only to stop when he turned to see Monk kneeling by a puddle of liquid. A flash of lightning lit up the hallway and made the puddle sparkle a brilliant red. It was enough to make Naru's face turn pale and drop Mai's jacket.
"How old is it?" He asked, cursing himself when his voice quivered.
"Less than twenty minutes. I'd say even less then te-" This time Takigawa was cut off, but it wasn't because of someone from the group. A scream tore through the corridor from behind them and they spun to face the therapy room. The person in pain wasn't alone and they were just beyond the door.
Monk got up and launch himself at the broken door, hoping beyond hope that for once things would be easy for them. But of course, fate had other plans and he bounced harmlessly off the dirty surface, not even a rattle sounded from the door as Monk landed with a loud thump on the uneven floor.
"Damn it!" He cursed, standing back up when another scream filled the air, but it was another voice, but it too was familiar to them.
"It has to be Hikowaru! I can feel it!" Ayako yelled, the ever dramatic thunder clap punctuating her statement as the storm grew worse.
"Naru!" Mai yelled from behind the door. A dull thud echoed through the metal and it visibly shook. "Pull the door out! Pull it towards you!"
The sound of a struggle became clear as blood seemed out from under the doorway and the second voice joined Mai's.
"Please hurry. Mai can't keep him back for long and we are both hurt." Masako called, her voice duelled with that of a young girls, however scratchy it may have been.
"You heard them! Pull!" Lin yelled. The others were momentarily shocked at his command put quickly got over it for the sake of their friends. Within a minute, the door flew open and Masako and Mai fell to the floor.
Mai's turtle neck was cut and torn, an entire sleeve missing with blood coating most of her arm. Masako's kimono was in slightly better condition but the colour was tattered and a thick line of red followed a line from shoulder to shoulder, curving just under her collar bone.
"Hurry. We've gotta get outta here!" Mai told them, getting to her knees before turning around quickly and grabbing what looked like a container of... something. Naru put his hand on her good arm and pulled her up while Lin got Masako.
"Then let's go." Naru said and they all took off down the hallway. Mai tilted the container and started to pour the liquid just as a demonic roar sounded through the building, causing any lights still attached to the building to flicker at once.
"My father is coming! My mother is very possibly already waiting for us at the entrance. We must be careful!" The possessed Masako yelled. Midoriko's fear easily showed through her voice and now that they were helping her, she didn't seem as evil as when she had first taken Masako.
"It's ok! We'll get you out of here! I promised, didn't I?" Mai asked, smiling at the ghost girl that inhabited her friends body. A sign of reassurance that said the promise would never be broken.
The rest of the trip was spent in silence, the only sound being their heavy breathing and pounding feet as they skittered across the broken floor. Once the first floor staircase was in sight, they took the stairs two at a time before they came to a screeching halt in the lobby.
The air was frigid and felt heavy with evil. The skeletal nurses Mai had seen in her vision were waiting for them as well as the doctor.
"Where do you think you're going Midoriko? You still haven't been cured and now we need to cure your friends too." He hissed, his eyes red with evil.
"You're not getting any of us. We're taking Midoriko and there's nothing you can do about it!" Mai yelled, stepping in front of the cowering body the girl was using and pushing her further behind her. Throwing the container, clear liquid flew everywhere and somehow splattered over the ghosts instead of going right through them.
"What? What is this? You wench! People like you shouldn't exist!" The head nurse screeched, stepping up to her husband. "The child I bore life to should have been killed the instant she drew breath!"
"So much for intelligent spirits. Hey, Naru?" Monk asked, gaining the young mans attention. "Wanna do the honours?"
With a nod of his head, Naru reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter, smirking when the spirits took a step back.
"What do you think you're doing boy? Do you honestly think that will hurt us?" Doctor Hikowaru asked, laughing before he was cut off.
"Yes actually, I do. If it wasn't for Mai fusing the surgical disinfectant with her powers, I may not have been able to. But it seems you're out of luck." Naru explained, flicking the lighter and a flame came to life as he bent down.
"No!" The wife and nurses rushed forward in an attempt to stop him, but they were too late. Monk started chanting along with Ayako to hold them back and by the time the fire hit the psychically altered liquid and it lit up like gun powder. A line of flames trailed back they way they came while the phantoms before the group screeched.
"Burn in hell!" Mai screamed, pushing past them carefully.
They burnt quickly but in their panic, they set the surrounding area on fire too. The SPR team struggled to get past the frantic ghosts before the smoke got to thick and they ran all the way down the driveway before they stopped.
Monk and Ayako dropped to the wet ground panting as Lin lent against the brick fence that once held a sign saying the hospitals name. But even that was lost as the heat from the fire made the last of the paint peel and fall away.
The decrepit hospital lit up like a Christmas tree as the flames licked the top of old roof before it caved in. A look of awe passed over Masako's face before her skin shimmered a pale green and Midoriko separated from the pale medium.
"It's over..." She whispered before a giggled burst through her lips. It took only a few seconds for Mai and Masako to join her before the three of them were laughing heartily. "Thank you... Thank you so much!"
"I... We promised we'd get you out. Your nightmare's over." Masako told the young girl who's smile turned into a grin and her hair turned sleek and clean, the knots disappearing as her kimono mended itself.
"Yes it is. I assume you want answers too?" Midoriko asked Naru.
"Yes. Those were your parents." He asked and she nodded.
"They thought you needed help and put you in the hospital?" Another nod.
"All this happened because you had ESP?"
"If that's what you call it then yes." The young girl answered, her glow brightening to a pale lime green.
"If you're a freak then so are we." Mai joked, the others laughed too before Midoriko sighed warmly and moved towards Masako, her feet padding through the air before she hugged the young medium.
"I'm sorry for the trouble but you were the only one that could help me. You were the only one I could inhabit. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have been able to show Mai my story..." Midoriko said, sadness filling her now sweet, childish voice as she went to hug Mai. "And thank you Mai, for actually listening. I'm sorry for the trouble."
After that, she moved back from the group and turned to face the burning hospital just as the roof caved in, sending ambers flying into the now clear night sky.
"Thank you all again. I'll never forget what you've done for me. Goodbye."
With that, Midoriko lit up with a florescent green glow, just like her namesake and vanished into a better afterlife.
"That never gets old." Ayako mused, causing Monk to chuckle softly before he swung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close as they watched the stars. The silence was only broken when Naru stepped towards Mai and grabbed her bloody arm.
"May I ask how you two got hurt?" He asked, the answer was obvious but he wanted details and the fact that he didn't know was eating at him.
"I had a vision after Masako ran into the Therapy room. I watched Hikowaru kill Midoriko and when I woke up, he was there. I tried to run but he slashed my arm." Naru nodded, it easily explained the puddle of blood they found. "After that he dragged me into the room and when Masako tried to reach me, he attacked her. When we heard you outside, we tried to escape. That's about it."
The questions would have kept coming but the sound of distant sirens filled the night as emergency crews grew closer and Naru gingerly let go of Mai's arm so that he could place his hand on her lower back and gently guided her back to the tent.
It was only after Masako and Mai had gotten bandaged and the equipment was packed away that Mai asked Naru a certain question he had been dreading.
"Hey Naru? Where's my jacket?"
~I need a hero~
~A hero's gonna save me just in time~