The fourth floor corridor was darker than Mai had ever imagined it could be and debris made it all the more difficult to navigate through the old apartment passages. Her torch shone through half destroyed walls, reflecting off boarded up windows and old, plastic covered furniture. Her walkie talkie was held tight in her other hand, conscious of the static that buzzed through the signal.
"Mai!" Monk's voice filled the room as he rushed in and hugged the young woman, forcing her to drop the case files she had been reading through to return the embrace.
"What did you say Monk?" Ayako walked into the room, based in the restaurant staff lounge, and pulled a man in after her before she let him go to rush to the brunette woman. "Mai! My goodness. I haven't heard from you. Are you ignoring my calls? I tried to get in touch but-"
"No Ayako. I've just been… caught up." They could all hear the sad tone Mai had taken, but chose to ignore it when the new individual made themselves known. The brunette police officer steeled herself quickly and approached the young man who seemed to cower away from her.
"What's your name?" She started immediately, forcing Naru off the couch he had been occupying and seating the young teen in his spot before sitting beside him. She pulled out a pen and note pad from her jacket and waited for him to answer.
"My name is Nick. Nicholas. I'm an exchange student. Please, am I going to get in trouble?" His voice wavered as he looked at her, his eyes wide with fear. She gave him a reassuring smile as she jotted things down before straightening.
"No, you aren't in trouble. But we do need your help. For a start, who was the person you were with?" She tried to ignore the way the SPR team looked at her performing her other job. The Mai that worked on paranormal investigations was nothing compared to her police work. And she was aware of that fact.
"I was with the person I'm staying here in Japan with. For the exchange program. His name is Yazu. Yazu Nari. We didn't mean for anuthing to happen. But we were dared to come in here. And then he just… He just left. And he didn't come back! Oh man! What if he got hurt? It would all be my fault!" Nick started freaking out, his breath becoming faster until Mai laid a hand on his shoulder and forced him to focus on her.
"Now, there is no need to panic. I'm a police officer, Detective Mai Taniyama. I'm here to get your friend back. Now, just give me your details so I can contact you later and I'll have one of the others escort you out."
He gave her an appreciative smile as she stood and walked over to where Lin sat at his laptop at the other side of the room, a small portable printer piling up with ink filled pages.
"Taniyama. The information you requested has been compiled for you. John is working on the witness information for you and Miss Hara is working with Yasuhara to get us the history of the building. They should be here shortly." Lin handed her a pile of paper without looking, his other hand still typing away.
"Thank you Lin."
They all turned as they heard the door close to see Monk standing by the door. "I let the kid out. He seemed pretty freaked out though. You sure it was okay to let him leave Mai?"
"He would have only gotten in our way. He's too close to the missing person, and his panic could cost us valuable time to find him." They all went quiet and found places to sit while they waited for Yasuhara and Masako to come back. Which wasn't long. Less than half an hour later, everyone was sitting around the makeshift table in front of Mai as she shuffled through the information, taking notes as she went.
"As it was, the lower levels of the building, mainly the ground floor and the basement were remodelled into a restaurant and bar, providing near twenty-four hour service," Yasu started, looking at a small spiral notebook in his hand while Naru, Lin and Mai took their own notes, "It wasn't long until they remodelled the first floor into a inn style lodge for patrons. Our client, the current owner of the building, tried to keep renovating the higher levels… But they were always met by impassable obstacles; workers being injured when nothing as there, some went missing from the work sight without a clue as to why or how, safety equipment would go missing… And the suicides…"
Everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath as they waited for him to continue, but it was only when Ayako threw her shoe at his head, which missed, that he continued.
"Many workers that attempted to work on the fourth floor reported the sound of shuffling as they moved around the rooms, then a foul smell as the days went on. Then they would say they would see figure by the end of the first week of work, describing them as 'oddly shaped and disfigured, inhuman.' It would go on for another week, until… All those that lodged reports would throw themselves from the roof, screaming that something was chasing them…"
There seemed to be a chill in the air as they stared at Yasu, blinking at how he always seemed to make a case summary very atmospheric.
"Well… That's great." Ayako grumbled, brushing her manicured nails through her red hair.
"What? No, 'it's just an earth bound spirit'." Monk joked, grunting when the red heads giant hand bag connected solidly with the side of his head.
Static whirled through the radio before it crackled, causing her to pause mid-step. Something thudded behind her and she spun, shining her torch over the rubbish that littered the whole floor. Electrical tools and boxes of supplies lay scattered around her feet as she tried to retrace her steps without tripping, cursing under her breath when her foot tangled in some wire. Taking a quick look around, Mai ducked down and lowered her torch, disentangling to electrical equipment from her boot clad foot. She stopped however when she heard what sounded like a sigh.
It made the hairs on the back of her neck rise and she could feel the adrenaline start pumping through her veins. The sound of something being pushed and dragged made it to her ears and fear build in her stomach, fear that she hadn't felt in years. It was like her soul was being held in place even as she freed her foot from its trappings. Everything in her mind told her to move, especially when the smell of rot filled her nostrils, but her brain felt as if it were slowing, dragging her conscious down into the abyss of nothingness…
She opened her eyes to darkness, the feeling of weightlessness taking a familiar pull on her mind and she tried to focus on where she had to be. Gravity shifted slightly and she felt herself right on instinct, touching the floor of what looked to be an old fashioned apartment. Spirit orbs flew past lazily, bobbing around her as if to observe before floating away on an invisible breeze.
"You stupid woman!" The shout drew Mai's attention and the brunette made her way through the empty rooms, coming to stand in what looked to be a living room, with the door wide open and a young woman lying on the ground, a large, burly man standing over her. "What were you thinking?"
"I… I" The woman stuttered, eyes downcast as she tried to fight her fear and stare up at him. "I just wanted to help you!"
"You arrogant woman! You showed me up! How the hell am I supposed to go back there now?" His face was red with rage as he struck the woman with enough force to make her roll onto her back, her lip bleeding from the hit and her eyes swelling shut in seconds.
"We needed the money and you weren't having any luck. Our baby-"
"You're baby you slut! I told you I want nothing with children. You should work and make money. Leave me be!"
With another hit, he stormed out, slamming the door as he went. The woman curled up on herself, hugging her stomach tightly as she sobbed.
"It's okay baby. You'll be fine. Only a few more weeks and we can leave this place. We can leave this horrible man to the fate he deserves." The woman suddenly stopped, silence dominating the room before she started to cackle manically, her whole back arching backwards before she shot up and off the floor, tearing at floorboard in the corner of the room. Pieces of carpet and small ornaments went flying across the room and Mai ducked, even though they couldn't hurt her.
Within seconds and practiced ease, the woman had lifted a small alter from the hole in the ground she had made and started chanting. Mai's eyes widened when she recognised the mantra, she tried to move closer when a hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned to see the warm eyes of those so similar to the ones she wished could look at her the same way.
"… Not now Mai. You have to get up."
With a nod, Mai closed her eyes and willed herself awake, the feeling of snapping back to her body taking hold almost instantly.
She gasped as she shot up, her head colliding with something solid that sent her back to the ground. She groaned as she grabbed her forehead in pain, grumbling about 'stupid rubbish' and 'annoying visions' when she heard a sigh that answered her pained words.
"Really Mai? That's the thanks I get after I come looking for you?" The familiar, irritated voice echoed in her ears and Mai gasped, looking into the darkness to see Naru kneeling next to her, rubbing his chin with his free hand while the other held a torch.
"N-Naru? What are you doing here?" She reprimanded herself mentally for losing her professional manner, but her vision and discovery were at the forefront of her mind. "I mean, I'm perfectly fine."
"Says the woman that's been unconscious for nearly two hours now." His sarcasm wasn't lost on her and she huffed, grabbing her own torch and crossing her arms.
"Well sorry Mr I'm so perfect. It's not like I can control the length of the visions. And anyway, I have some information regarding the case-" She was going to continued when the sound of heavy footsteps sounded through the room and the smell of decay filled the air. Mai's eyes went wide and she subconsciously lent off the floor and into Naru's body, seeking the protection of another person as fear embed its way into her mind. She knew what was there with them. And she had no desire to meet it face to face…