The hallways aboard the ship were dark, dank and dripping with water. Mai stayed close to Naru as the team made their way towards the dining hall of the ship. After having cleaned off and calling the rest of the team to the ship with the equipment, Shojo offered to make them dinner while they all discussed the case. Ranka took the lead, making her way, albeit hesitantly, down the countless corridors with only dim lights guiding her as SPR followed behind her.
Mai stayed close to Naru, her hand itching to grab his jacket sleeve but forcing herself to follow their client. They passed room after room as they went, each worse than the other and each sending chills down Mai's spine.
Furniture was overturned, water-logged and broken. Dead flowers lay scattered on the ground by over turned stands and the original lights from when the ship was functioning hung limply from the ceiling that dripping eerily with the access water from above. What scared Mai the most however... was that there was no water above them...
"We're here." Ranka's voice broke through the brunette's thoughts and Mai looked forward to see the woman holding open a set of double doors. Walking in, the team took in the room.
A stage took up the space at the opposite side of the room with a single door marked 'Kitchen', stood beside it. Tables and chairs lay over-turned on the water logged carpet. Each step someone took causing water to rise out of the stiff material and cause a squelching sound. A chandelier, once hanging from the intricately designed ceiling was broken on the ground in the middle of the room with glass still scattered around its general area. Only a few couches looked new and a table with clean seats stood out in their place by the kitchen door. The bright, new surfaces of the furniture standing out in stark contrast to the peeling wallpaper behind the dining set.
"You're just in time." Shojo's voice called out, his fear of being alone in the ship vanishing from his voice once he set a serving dish down on the table. "Dinner is served. Please, take a seat everyone."
The team complied almost instantly, mouths watering at the wonderful smell coming from the food. Naru, Mai, Lin and Yasu sat on one side of the table with Monk, Ayako, John and Masako sat opposite them. When Ranka and Shojo brought out the rest of the meal, they sat at opposite ends of the table, facing each other before nodding.
"Now... About the ship..." Ranka started, filling her plate with food at everyone helped themselves. They all paused however when she had started to talk and quietly settled themselves to listen to the story of the haunted cruiser.
"You see, my wife and I have always dreamed of turning the village into a tourist attraction again. The surrounding forest and fishing industry made it the ideal place for people to just... get away. But since the towns shops started closing down and the younger inhabitants left for the city, the port became abandoned." Shojo told them, taking a sip of his drink before swallowing thickly. "I wanted to start an inn. In the hopes that my hometown would prosper again."
"Your hometown?" Mai asked, shivering as she quickly scanned the room.
"Yes. Kage is our hometown. We met because our fathers worked together on one of the many shipping fleets that came into port." Ranka explained before her husband continued.
"One day, we were walking on the shore not far from here. We couldn't decide where we wanted to build; in the village, or the port where all the business would occur once people started coming again."
"It was then..." Ranka whispered, "That we saw the ship..."
"Let me guess. It came out of the mist with no captain and when no one claimed it from the police, you bought it?" Monk joked, choking on his rice when both Ranka and Shojo nodded.
"We thought, why not use a ship as an inn? I mean, really, this down was built on the shipping industry and it would be symbolic of what the village represents... Or hopefully will represent in the near future." Shojo told them, barely restraining the excitement that still played through his dream of owning his own inn.
"But?" Masako queried, eyes glinting as she waited for a response. Like everyone was.
"But... Strange things started happening. Things... Things that weren't normal..." Ranka told them, voice quivering as she suppressed what the team could only suspect were frightening memories.
"Like what happened to me?" Mai asked them, hand subconsciously reaching to touch her throat and Naru met her eyes. Chocolate orbs showed how grateful she was to him and his own icy depths reflected his own gratitude for his quick thinking.
"No. It's never been so bad before. We've heard voices when no one else should be around. The lights in here would flicker for no reason and even in the middle of the day, the halls would go a dark as pitch. Even our torches couldn't help us."
"Do you have any specific locations for us?" Naru's question caused the couple to stop and think before Shojo answered them, counting off locations on his fingers.
"Well, for starters, there's the Captain's cabin. If you look in the mirror or drink the whiskey on his dresser you'll see or hear him. I was stupid enough to try some of the alcohol. Ranka was the one to look into the mirror." His wife nodded in response before adding to his list.
"There's also a cabin not too far down the corridor from here were I've seen a little girl. I've seen her twice in there and once on deck. Also, the engine room has this... bad feeling to it. As well as the navigations room."
"Did the little girl have long red hair and a blue dress?" Mai questioned them, eyes wide in recognition.
"Why... yes. I think she was English." The older woman told her, startled that another knew what the ghost looked like.
"Mai?" Naru drew the brunette's attention by placing his hand on her shoulder. "What exactly happened while we were separated?"
Mai sighed, before closing her eyes, taking comfort in Naru's gesture before retelling her encounter on deck.
"Well, I followed you guys up the gangplank and then I saw..." Mai retold her encounter with as much detail as she could, pausing only to catch her breath or steel her nerves while she mentally relived the ordeal. By the time she was finished, her eyes were glazed and she was shivering despite the fact that Naru had wrapped his arm over her shoulders.
"And that's when I got to you?" His question was only answered by a stiff nod from the woman in his arms before he turned to look at Shojo. "Do you know any of the history of the ship? Anything that may help us determine what kind of spirits we're dealing with?"
"I think the police said it was an English cruise ship. One of the engineers that checked it out said that it had crossed the Atlantic a number of times but it never made a return trip to... where ever it was supposed to go. One of the officers did point out something strange though..." The silence that greeted Shojo urged him on and he sighed before his answer drew a gasp from everyone. "Because it made no other stop at a port, the police thought that the people on the ship died. The only problem was... they found no bodies."
The team looked at one another before they each felt a chill go down their spine and Mai stiffened visibly in Naru's arms. His grip tightened as his keen eyes looked around the room, his head turning in every direction.
"There is a malevolent presence with us." Masako said, her voice echoing through the cavernous room.
Mai quickly shot up from her seat, Naru following as his arm was still wrapped around her. He sent her an inquisitive glance when she turned to look at the stage. The sky light let in streams of moonlight that acted as a natural spot light. A dark shadow stood under the natural lighting, its red eyes menacing as it stared them down. Its figure blurred as it shifted between the realm of the living and the dead, the creature finding it hard to find solidity in the room until the temperature started to drop.
Blood seeped up through the carpet and screams filled the air. Mai wasn't sure whether they were from the team or not but all she knew was that it chilled her to her core.
The lights flickered in unison with the crescendo of the screams. Glaring at the demon on the stage, Naru let his arm slip to Mai's hand before he stepped towards the creature, ignoring the frantic tug the brunette gave to his arm.
"What do you want?" Naru yelled, blinking in surprise when all the noise suddenly stopped. The demon disappeared in a cloud of black smoke before appearing before the young man. Mai physically recoiled from it the second it opened its mouth. Air hissed through its cavernous mouth before it exhaled with an equally raspy answer.
"I want my ship back... And I will get it back..." Its breathe was putrid, filled with the smell of rot and death, "But I'm going to need a crew..."
Dread pulled in Mai's stomach as she watched the demons red, beady eyes pass over everyone in the room. Risking a glance, she saw Monk and John standing behind her, protecting Ayako, Yasu, Masako and their clients, Shojo and Ranka. Lin stood behind them, hands posed at his mouth in case he needed his shiki. Turning back to look at the demon, she gasp before coughing. The monster stood in front of her, the shock of its sudden movement causing her to inhale the stench of its breathe.
"I require a crew! And I've picked you!" It cackled madly as the team gasped (minus Naru and Lin). The screams started again as he disappeared, the blood evaporating until there were only puddles of red liquid staining the carpet...