"Thank you for coming on such short notice."
The team watched as a young couple walked towards the train as the team pulled equipment from the once dark storage coach.
"Well, when you informed us of the situation, we realised we had to come as soon as possible." Naru told them, his voice dripping with false kindness as he walked to them and started talking to them about the case.
"Oh geez. It's kinda sad how people fall for it every time." Mai chided, eyes rolling as she grabbed a box from Monk and placed it down.
The small station was perfect for the equally small village and the platform was at just the right height so even Masako could help. At first, the team had been shocked when she offered her assistance, when she made a comment regarding Mai's flu and how un-useful she was at the present time.
A few minutes passed before all the equipment was ready to be set up so the team sat around, joking and, in Yasu's case, annoying each other before Naru came back.
"Lin. Mai. Let's go. We're going to check out the ship. Everyone else, stay here and stay in radio contact. Activity isn't restricted to the boat." Naru smirked at them before he walked towards the row of trees behind the station.
Lin sighed before grabbing torches for himself, Naru and Mai before beckoning said woman to follow. She did so only after laughing at Ayako as she threatened Monk of the consequences of him leaving her alone.
Following after the dark haired men, Mai made her way into the small forest, the sun slowly setting. To her, the day had flown by and it disturbed her when she didn't hear the characteristic song of the woodland insects and birds. She heard a twig snap behind her and she swung around, eyes squinting as she saw something move behind a tree. It had been too fast for her to see but it made her skin crawl none the less.
"Mai! Hurry up!"
The voice yelled right in her ear and she emitted a small squeak of surprise before turning to face Naru. His smirk was ever present on his face before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of the trees. They ended up on a pier with a small beach off in the distance of the bay. Wood was rotten and worn, creaking ominously under their feet as they joined Lin and the clients at the ramp leading to their destination – A boat.
Large in size, the boat looked to have been about four levels with the fifth having the captains quarters and viewing deck.
"I assume this is the boat that you purchased?" Naru asked, still not letting go off Mai's arm.
"Yes. I'm afraid we don't know much about it. But we do know that there were no bodies found or even any evidence to how a cruise ship ended up here. But after the police finished with it, they said if we wanted it, we could buy it." The woman said, dark hair pulled back in a tight bun as her, what Mai could only presume was her husband, held her.
"What do you mean, no bodies? Why would they look for bodies?" Mai asked, eyes narrowed as she pulled her arm back and crossed her arms, ignoring the look of irritation Naru sent her way. Why he looked that way, she didn't know.
"Well, if the ship would have capsized, it would have sunk so the internal damage couldn't be explained." The husband spoke up, "By the way, my name's Shojo, this is my wife Ranka. I don't believe we've been introduced."
Mai gazed at the pair before nodding, introducing herself before holding her chin in her hand. "What kind of internal damage are you talking about?"
They were about to answer when Naru walked away, Lin following. Shojo just let out a nervous chuckle before nodding his head, telling Mai to follow them.
Mai sighed, shaking her head at her bosses straight forward behaviour as Naru and Lin disappeared over the gangplank in front of her. She warily looked over the edge of the wharf and into the dark waters below before swallowing thickly. It had been a while since she had been by open water and it wasn't that she had an aversion to water, more of an aversion to boats on water. While she didn't mind swimming pool and lakes, she still preferred her feet on dry land.
Grasping the railing of the gangplank, she made her way up the shaking walkway, the rusty contraption shaking with every step and threatening to break under her. She breathed a sigh of relief when she got to the deck and closed her eyes- Only to bite back a scream when she opened them again.
A little girl stood before her and Mai placed a hand over her racing heart.
"Gosh! You scared me."
The little girl made no sign that she had heard Mai speak as she stood in front of the older woman, her long, red hair matted and hanging in clumps down her back. Eyes blank, like two frozen chips of ice.
Mai swallowed nervously, examining the little girl before her. She didn't look Japanese and the red hair made her look like she had just stepped out of a western movie set from the forties. The blue dress the little girl wore matched her thick white stockings and black Mary-janes.
"Uh... I guess you don't speak Japanese?" Mai tried to say, her English heavy with her accent.
Still, the little girl said nothing and it was then that Mai noticed how cold it had gotten. Sure, it was winter, but the weather change couldn't have been that sudden. The sun was still up... if barely.
Opening her mouth to speak, she stopped when the little girl raised her hand and pointed to her left, body staying firmly in place.
Puzzled, Mai turned her head to look, frowning in confusion when she saw nothing but empty space. Turning back to the child, Mai readied herself to speak when she noticed the red-head was gone. Shocked, and slightly unnerved, Mai turned back in the direction the little girl had pointed...
Only to chock back a horrified scream.
Before her, the previously empty deck was awash with a sea of blood. It coated the wooden panels on the floor and seemed to ooze from the walls themselves. The air reeked of death and decay as it weighed heavily on her already frail body as the blood level rose higher. It stained her jeans red as it continued to rise and it, in addition to her fever, made her dizzy.
Mai stumbled back against the wall of the cabin and shrieked, blood soaking through her jacket as her feet and lower calf became fully submerged in the thick, red liquid.
Screams rang through the air making Mai cringe, pain filled voices penetrating her skull and making her clamp her hands over her ears in a vain attempt to stop the tortured sound.
"Stop it!" She yelled, cringing as she tried and failed to close her eyes from the scene before her continued to transform.
Bubbles started to appear in different areas of the bloody pool before hundreds of faces, each twisted, surfaced. Wide-eyed and mouths open, the screams intensified to the point that tears had started to drip down Mai's face as she watched on, horrified at the sight as bile rose in her throat.
"Help us!" They cried in gurgled unison. The screams continued after their words, rising in pitch as Mai shrank back against the noise. Whimpering, she screamed when a head appeared at her feet.
She stood, frozen and unable to tear her eyes away, as she watched the face of the little girl from earlier bob up and down in the bloody pool. The girls eyes rolled in their sockets until they rested on Mai's horrified form.
"Help us before he gets you too..."
The cryptic message sent chills down the brunette's spine before it, too, started shrieking. Mai jumped as her tears ran faster down her cheeks as she looked up. She felt her heart stop and throat constrict at the sight at the opposite end of the deck.
A menacing shadow, hunched as it sat in the pool of blood, watched her with four glowing red eyes. It stared with what she believed to be hunger and savage pleasure at her fear before it disappeared.
Her mind buzzed as she vaguely heard her name being called. She felt her knees give out and the hit the deck with a sickening splash. Her heart hammered in her chest in time with the pounding footfalls that drew closer to her, tears still clinging to her lashes as she looked up instinctively.
A 'Twang' sound, much like that of a metal string being plucked, echoed in her ears before she caught sight of a thin metal rope cut through the air.
She had no time to gasp, let alone scream as it neared the delicate flesh of her throat...
Naru and Lin had wondered into the first corridor they saw once they were on the ship, not waiting for Shojo or his wife.
"So, they said they had apparitions or people walking through this wallway." Naru told his caretaker, looking down at a set of blue-prints he had pulled out of his note book. "Lin. Mark this spot."
"There you are!" Ranka called, panting as she stopping infront of them.
"That brunette, Mai, who came with you..." She gasped, straightening only when Naru grabbed her shoulders. "She's gone."
"What do you mean gone?" The menacing tone in Naru's voice caused Ranka's eyes to widen and Lin had to forcefully pull Naru away from her before she continued.
"We came up the gangplank together and when we turned around she was gone! My husband's looking around the other side of the deck but-!"
She was cut off by a scream that chilled them all to the marrow of their bones.
A distant yell, familiar to the young boss and the Omnioji accompanied to pained screams and they bolted down the corridor, trying their hardest to reach the front of the ships' deck as fast as possible. Taking a sharp turn, Naru skidded out the door and yelled as loudly as he could when he saw Mai drop to her knees.
He heard a twang and his gut dropped. Ignoring or not noticing the blood, Naru dove for Mai and they fell into the thick liquid as the thin wire hit the metal wall with a resounding snap.
When he was sure it was safe, Naru lifted up onto his elbows as gazed at Mai as she shook. Her eyes were blank and unseeing as he sat up and pulled her into his lap. Blood coated them and just as he looked up, the liquid rushed off the deck, falling through the deck boards, through the gaps in the wall and down the gangplank. The mess left behind dripped eerily as Lin, Shojo and Ranka looked around.
Shojo held his wife close, both looking equally nauseated by the sight they had just witnessed while Lin looked indifferent. But Naru knew the older male was disturbed by the sickening scene. Gently, Naru lifted Mai's head so that he could look into her eyes.
"Mai." He called gently, wiping away the tears that continued to leak from her eyes. "It's alright now Mai. We're... I'm here now."
The next second Naru found himself hugging the young woman in his lap. Her body was shaking, loud sobs leaving her throat. He couldn't help but look at the top of her head with wide eyes.
This was Mai, the young woman who had changed so much from the girl she had been five years ago. The strong, independent woman he had gotten used to. Whatever had happened before he got to her must have been horrible to leave her in the state she was in currently and he swore to get to the bottom of it.