Mai sat at her desk, as she had every day for the past week since the team had abandoned the case. Disbelief was what remained after the situation. Then anger over being the reason Naru had been injured, thus encouraging him to abandon the case… and then: Denial. For a whole day she had pestered him; to stop joking around and to take the team back to base. So much so, she not only got a response, but she also lost her partner. SPR and the special police division no longer had any connection of partnership to her. Even after the big fight she had put up in the beginning to make sure the partnership never went ahead, she now felt lost without it. Not even the offer to house sit again could get her out of her self-hating slump.
A dull thud echoed through her ears and she lazily looked down, her head lolling in the palm of her hand through her ears and she lazily looked down, her head lolling to the side as it rest on her hand. Her chocolate eyes landed on a steaming cup of coffee, the dark liquid swirling in the confines of the ceramic. The cause of its appearance still held it in place, the pale hand slowly pushing it towards her. The cup had landed directly on top of her last case file with the SPR team, something had held her back from filing it away. It was only when her slow train of thought concluded what had happened that she realised just how close Akito, the one responsible for drawing her from her daze, was.
"Akito! What are you doing here?" She flinched backwards, subconsciously throwing the pen that had been in her hand. The pair ignored the distant 'hey' that rang out as the found its victim and stared at each other instead. Akito broke first.
"You've been stuck in a rut for far too long Mai. You have to get your mind off it." His gaze was soft, but also unquestionable, snuffing out any fighting spirit she may have had left.
A sigh left the brunette's lips and she leaned back, roughly combing her fingers through her thick hair and tearing through any knots she found.
"Well, what can I do? I tried so hard to keep him years ago, only to have it thrown back in my face. Then he shows up, out of the blue and becomes my partner and he goes and does it all over again!"
-Earlier that week-
Unbridled guilt riddled her chocolate eyes as she caught sight of the white bandages that peeked out from under his dark shirt. It pooled in her stomach like a tonne of bricks, the very knowledge that it was her fault he was injured made her sick. She had pulled the trigger… And now she couldn't even bare to look at him, shame denying her the privilege as she clutched the case file in her trembling hands; angry, red letters stamped over the cover 'ABANDONED'.
The letters blurred together and an angry grunt left her lips.
"Mai?" The very person of her guilt came to a stop in front of her, a crate held in his strong hands despite his injury, "It's not your fault."
Her head snapped up, eyes wide at his calm tone. She couldn't help but gape at him, her mouth working without sound as her head reeled. Her guilt quickly turned to rage and she shot up from her seat, not caring about the way that case file scattered across the ground. Tears brimmed in her brown eyes and she glared at him with everything she could muster, "Not my fault? Naru! You should hate me! Hell! I want you to. If I hadn't been possessed-"
"But you were, Mai. Which was, is, dangerous. For all of us." He told her, staring back at her, "Which is exactly why we're leaving."
"No!" She yelled, stepping back so fast she fell back into her seat, "We never leave a case unfinished. Why now?"
"Because it's too dangerous. You, on this case, are dangerous Mai. You are a liability and until further notice, SPR and the Paranormal Department will no longer work together." His voice was cold, but his eyes showed how conflicted he was. But he held his ground and stuck by his decision.
"What? Naru. Why? You can't just decide that by yourself."
"I can. And I have. Police Chief Ryo, upon hearing of the… circumstances of my decision, agreed and has removed you from the contract and has found a suitable replacement to maintain the terms of the negotiations."
Akito looked at the young brunette with sympathy in his eyes , his hand gently left the cup. He resisted the urge to comfort her, hating the fact that this was something was something she had to sort out by herself. Even the Police Chief wasn't going to try interfere with.
"Look, just don't stay here again. You know what'll happen." He watched the recognition spark through her eyes and an idea popped into his head. "In fact, why not come to dinner tonight. While Suzuki and myself. My mother was going to join us but something came up, so we have a free seat. You interested?"
Mai felt the automatic refusal bubble in her chest but she repressed it, instead, lifting her head and letting a small smile flitter across her pale face, "That would be nice."
"I'll see you at the small restaurant at the Crossing then, yeah. Seven. Don't be late Mai!" Akito rubbed her hair affectionately before turning around and walking away, throwing a wave over his shoulder before he was out of sight. It hadn't made things better, but to Mai, it was a start.
She packed her things and grabbed her coffee, making her way home to prepare for the night. She hadn't realised she only had an hour to be ready. Not that it took her long, but she had a feeling something was going to flip her night on its head. And she wanted to be ready.
Dinner had been a quiet affair and within the hour Mai was back in her apartment and lying on the couch. She felt a mental tug and quietly cursed, allowing herself to be pulled back into her mind. Before long, she was fast asleep and walking the astral plain.
"Shit bro. You sure this is cool?" A young man asked, stumbling through the small opening of a window, his baggie pants and hoodie catching on the surrounding debris.
"Just chill. If we chicken out we'll never be able to show our faces again." The voice came from within the darkness, and it was only when his torch shone through the room that the speaker was revealed, wearing a tight jacket and skinny jeans, the skinner man turned with a grimace, wiping off some cobwebs that had gotten on his shoulder. "Besides, the only thing that could hurt you here are the damned spiders. They won't know if we looked around or not. So you can hang out in this shit hole while I'm gone. Just sit down Nic."
The one called nice, in the hoodie, turned his torch on, the weak beam bouncing off the barricaded doorway, showing the only way out was over the top of a high pile of debris. Broken toys lay around the room, showing it had been a child's room at some point, and the paint and furniture had turned a pale grey with age and a vast amount of thick dust. He glanced at his watch, the neon red colours reading 8:45. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach and he realised he was in for a long, spooky night.
"No way man. You can't leave me here Yazu." Nic tried to bargain with his friend, to not go into the unknown, but it didn't work.
"Shut up Nic. We've been over this a hundred times already. No sit down. I won't be long." And with that, the boy, Yazu, jumped onto the debris and clambered his way through the crawl space. Sitting on the ground, too afraid to follow his friend, Nic sat, his torch aimed at the dark hole, until time blurred. His eyes grew heavy and he had only started to doze off when he heard a heavy shuffling, like something was dragging itself through rubble.
Jumping off the ground, fully alert, he started to yell, "Yazu. Yo. That you? Come on man. This ain't cool no more! Yazu!"
The shuffling continued until a cloud of dust escaped the whole and a man, coughing to clear his lungs, appeared in the small opening, his blonde hair tied up and dirtied with soot.
"Sorry. I'm not Yazu. But I'm pretty sure you shouldn't have been here in the first place."
'Monk. Did you find the boy?' The blonde struggled with something for a second before pulling out a walkie-talkie.
"No. But I'm pretty sure I found his buddy."
'Bring him to base. We'll go from there.'
Mai came to with her phone ringing angrily in her ear. With a curse she bolted upright, her eyes adjusting to the light of her apartment. With a sigh, she picked up the phone.
"This is Mai."
'Mai. It's Ryo. I've got a case. I had Shina on it, but Mr Shibuya wasn't-'
"The greatest, I know. Let me guess. Missing person in a haunted building, right?"
'Yes. How did- You know what? I won't ask. Café don't the street. With the closed inn on top. You know the place. I want an update in the morning.'
"Understood. Goodnight Ryo."
Heaving herself from her seat, she glanced at the clock, the flashing numbers showing it was close to eleven. With time burning, she got changed, a warm red turtleneck and black pants made well for climbing through rubble, like she knew she'd be doing, knee high boots and tight leather jacket to guard from the cold and her laptop bag was all she needed. Already having the electronics and files needed, she holstered her gun behind her back, put her badge and phone in her pocket and grabbed a torch on her way out before slamming her apartment door shut with more force than necessary.
She stomped her way down the street, long hair billowing with the force of her steps as she raced to the café. It was small, quaint… and it reeked of an aura so foul she had to resist recoiling and she opened the doors. Workers were tidying up for the night and an elderly woman was the first to notice her and her angry disposition.
"Oh my dearie. May we help you?"
"I am Detective Mai Taniyama. I'm looking for the Paranormal research team." Recognition sparked in the kindly woman and she nodded towards a room behind her labelled 'Break Room'.
"They'd be hiding away in there. At least, two of them are. They aren't the kindest, but we've had some odd things going on, and the customers and the workers were getting spooked right away." Before she could go on further, Mai stepped up to the door.
"Thank you. That will be all I need for the moment. Have a good night."
Throwing the door open, Mai's rage from the whole week came to her full force, making her tense as her eyes fell upon the two men in black. They looked up just as she entered.
"Monk, is he-"
Naru's eyes widened before he composed himself, glaring at the brunette as she was to him. "What are you doing here Mai? You no-"
"No longer maintain a partnership under the agreed upon terms. I understand the circumstances Mr Shibuya. However, I am here on official police business and seeing as you scared Shina off, I am commanding officer. I want a copy of all the reports, history and any other data you've gathered. With a missing person, time is of the essence. We will work under my jurisdiction, not your won-ton business rules. Do we have an understanding Mr Shibuya?" Her voice was cold as she spat out her words, each dripping with venom and she took satisfaction in the shock that passed through his eyes.
Lin was the first he react, sending Naru a sharp look before standing at nodding his head, "We understand Officer Taniyama. You have our full cooperation."
With a sigh, she let herself relax slightly, "Good then. Mr Lin, run me through the current situation. When the rest of the team is back, we'll have a meeting about how to proceed with things."