"Where... am I?" Mai took in her surroundings, the blackness somewhat familiar, and yet, unfamiliar at the same time. Small spirit orbs floated about lazily, but there seemed to be a haze obscuring their usual brightness, making the astral plain sadder than she was used to. There was no Eugene to tell her what was going on, even as the faint beeping noise grew steadily louder.
"He marked you..."
The sudden voice startled the brunette and she spun around, her PK raising in defence when she noticed it was a frail looking woman whose alabaster skin seemed to glow in the dimness. Long blonde hair seemed to float from the woman's head as she stepped closer, drawing Mai into her azure eyes.
"Marked... me? Who?"
"That's why the beast found you. The man of Nightmares caused this." The woman spoke as if Mai knew what she meant and a growing pain was overtaking the brunette, "He has touched us both. But only you can stop him. I didn't mean to make him into it. But he'll only go when its destroyed."
"Man of nightmares? Who is- No! He's gone!" The sudden realisation dawned so harshly on her that the world around her spun. It couldn't be true.
"Akumu... You must destroy his link to this world! Please!" The woman seemed to be growing brighter as the beeping seemed to become painfully loud in Mai's ears. Or was she just going back to sleep again?
"How? How do I get rid of him?" Mai yelled, feeling her hold on the astral plain slipping.
"Follow the fear..." With a gentle wave, the woman let out a small laugh, "Do not worry. I will be with you till the end..."
And just before darkness consumed Mai once more, she saw Eugene, standing just behind the young spirit woman, a determined look on his face.
'Beep... Beep... Beep'
The loud beeping brought Mai out of the darkness of unconsciousness, feeling the aches from being asleep invade her mind and made her groan out loud.
"Hey, I think she's waking up!" The sudden voice was deep, but warm, making her assume it was Monk. "Mai. Come on Mai. Wake up."
A gentle prod on her shoulder had her stirring more and she struggled to open her eyes, the light blindingly painful. With a moan, she covered her eyes with her arm, feeling the needles in the other and not risking any movement with it. "H-how long..."
She tried to ask, opening her eyes with more success this time. It was a head of red hair that first caught her attention as Ayako came to her side with a cup of water. Monk helped the brunette sit up in bed, careful not to jostle her IV's and helped her drink, letting Ayako answer the young woman's question.
"You've been out for nearly two days." The worry in the doctors voice made Mai blink, shocked at what the woman had just said.
"Two days! How?" The brunette asked, her muscles protesting as she moved forward suddenly, "That's not possible."
"But it is Mai." The new voice drew the trio's attention to the door and the saw Masako step into the room, John and Yasuhara right behind her, "And I suspect it has something to do with your spirit friend."
"Spirit friend..." Mai whispered, leaning back on her pillows. She suddenly felt a lot older than she was, worry and fatigue weighing heavily on her mind.
"Mai? Is something wrong?" Monk asked, ushering the two in the doorway to come in.
"Akumu... He's not gone..." The words were heavy and Monk and Ayako shared a look of concern.
"You mean, that spirit that had attacked us when Naru and Lin first came back?" Ayako wondered aloud, remembering the chaos that had ensued and the clean-up that took place afterwards. A solemn nod from Mai was the only confirmation Monk needed.
"Well then how do we get rid of him? For good this time?" He was angry, beyond angry. The thing that had haunted Mai's memories, while having brought out her true potential as a psychic, was still around.
"All she said was to follow the fear." Mai recalled, picturing the courage the woman had held on her face despite the fear Mai knew she must have been feeling inside, "I don't know everything. I don't even know her name. But this man she was with was abusive, and she made some kind of alter after he abused her. Something must have happened. Something terrible. Because even when I killed him in life... there was something... terrible about him. Something so evil, so vile..."
"Can you tell us Mai?" A new voice once again interrupted, only this time, it was someone they never expected to see in the hospital room, no less holding white roses.
"Naru?" She asked, her mouth falling open as he stepped forward and handed the bouquet to her.
"Can you tell us, what happened that night? I understand Akito asked us to wait, but if we are to help, we need to know what happened."
With a sigh, Mai nodded, her eyes distant as she recalled the memory.
"It was dark. And I was heading home. At the time, I worked in the café under SPR's office. So the trip wasn't any different to when I was in school. But this night felt different..."
The clouds blocked out the moonlight, blocked out the warmth of the early Autumn night. And yet, despite this and the late night having driven people home, she couldn't help but take the alleyway home, a short cut she hardly ever took, but one that she only used when she wanted to get home quickly. Despite her gut telling her tonight wasn't the night to trust the darkness, she was feeling too lonely to notice. It had been months since she'd spoken to anyone from the days of SPR, before everything went south for them. Since Naru and Lin had left, they had all gone off on their own accord. She had heard rumours that Masako was now filming in a hit show in London. And that Monk and Ayako had been special guests on the show a number of times, as well as John, though his work at the church kept his air time to a minimum. She would try watch it when she could. But time seemed to slip through her fingers like sand.
Depression was something that Mai had never let affect her, but lately, it was getting hard. She had put anything to do with psychic powers to rest, learning to hard way that if she used them while she was in a negative mood, that she would regret it.
She strode down the familiar darkness, head down as she thought; avoiding the familiar window she would usual stare out as she waited for the long anticipated thank you that she would never get. But when she bumped into something that she knew shouldn't have been in her way, she stumbled back, an apology dying on her lips as she looked up.
He wasn't took big, though he was tall; but his aura was evil, tainted even. It made the hairs on the back of her neck raise up and she couldn't help herself as she fell into a defensive stance. He stared down at her with eyes that almost showed his insanity, hollow and almost glowing in the darkness.
"My, my... Little girls should know better than to walk in the dark. Bad things happen in the dark." His voice was hoarse and his chuckle made her feel ill. No one had ever made her feel so scared before, except when she was near Urado. And Urado wasn't exactly human. Without answering him, she turned to go back the other way, towards the main street and the light, all while cursing under her breath about not listening to her instincts. But her plans of escape were foiled when a heavy hand landed on her shoulder, pulling her back so harshly she let out a small scream.
The next second went by in a blur as she was picked up and slammed against the grimy wall of the alley, her head slamming hard against the brickwork and making small spot dance in front of her eyes. A foul smell invaded her nose and made her gag, obviously offending her captor as he shook her, each movement making her skull connect with the wall again and again.
She could feel the pain throbbing through her brain, her panic dissipating into numbness, a cold reassurance taking over her as she seemed to fade... Blackness encroached on her vision, focusing her on the man and his irate whispers.
"This is what you wanted? I give you souls? You set me free? Then I give you souls. Yes, it works!" It was pure insanity in his voice.
Something inside her snapped, anger dominating everything she had tried so hard to control. Her arm shot up, grabbing hold of his face in her palm. She felt like she was on fire, her mind no longer thinking for itself as power coursed a path through her veins, setting a course of fire through her body. Light seemed to radiate from within and she saw only white. It felt like gravity was no longer an opposing force, her muscle light and relaxed.
There was no longer any panic or fear, anger or hate, worry or loneliness. There was simply nothing. She didn't hear the horrifying scream that tore from the man's throat; the very sound that had caused those in the surrounding buildings to call the police. She didn't feel her knee's slam into the ground or the blood that splattered all over her skin and clothes, the warmth of the red liquid seeping into her body. Everything felt surreal, like, her body was there, but her mind wasn't.
It was only when a blinding light hit her that she lifted her head, watching shadows draw closer. A man held a gun that glistened in the light, which if she focused enough, could make out was coming from a set of car headlights. He spoke to her, but it was like a whisper, nothing penetrated her ears until arms wrapped around her, something heavy on her shoulders as she was lifted from the ground, a warmth, safe and secure, engulfed her and let her fall into a comfortable sleep.
"And that's how Akito found me. Akumu's blood... It's what must have tied me to him. He was possessed, insane and rampant, doing only what the demon told him to do." Mai shivered at the memory and pulled the blanket close to herself, looking away from the team.
"Mai..." Ayako's voice broke the brunette from more haunting memories and she turned to look at the Doctor, only to get a face full of red hair. The sound of crying came from the red headed woman and Mai didn't even have time to respond to obvious her distress when Monk wrapped his arms over the two women. Ayako held on tightly as Monk rested his head atop Mai's, his figure tense as he spoke.
"Mai... We're so sorry. But not even sorry can make up for what we did to you. We knew you had no one else and yet… we cast you aside so easily. Please, can you ever forgive us?" His voice cracked as he spoke, the top of the brunette's hair getting wet and Mai instantly knew that, he too, was crying. She couldn't stop her own tears as they pooled and fell, her arms reaching up to grab onto both Monk and Ayako.
"Please Mai!" Ayako pleaded, her shoulders shaking with the shear sadness that engulfed her. "We don't want to make you feel unwanted. You're like our daughter."
Mai was shocked, having always thought, in her own mind, that they were like her parents, but never did she think they felt that strongly for her in return. "There's nothing to forgive. You never did anything wrong."
There was only silence within the room after that. No one having the words to break up the hugging trio on the bed. Even though there was a demon out for Mai's blood.
"Ok, so how do we get rid of this thing?" Monk asked, pacing around base while the kettle boiled in the corner.
Mai had been discharged later that day, with a clean bill of health, and she had instantly insisted on coming back. Now everyone, minus Masako who had filming to do, was sitting in base, waiting to hear from Naru. But what shocked them was when he stood from his chair and walked to Mai, who sat on the couch next to her parental figures and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"This case, is something only Mai has the real knowledge of. She will be the one guiding us." Naru smiled faintly, something only Mai caught out of the corner of her eye. It was crooked, showing only a small portion of his pearly teeth, but it made her heart skip a beat, seeing him show something almost akin to pride, as he handed control of the case to her.
"Well... Um..." She stuttered, as much as she was happy and flattered that Naru had handed the case over to her, she was still confused as to what actually had to be done. "Well, I know there's a shrine that she made, that turned Akumu into the demon's puppet, and since I killed him, I can only assume he himself has become a demon. In any case, that means he's bound here; To that alter. So we have to destroy it. But the only clue I have on finding it is 'follow the fear.'"
Ayako brushed her hair out of her face, eyebrows furrowed as she thought, "So, I'm assuming the spirit possessing you will be the one to trigger the fear. And fire would be the best way to get rid of the spirit. But that would be arsine. We'd get in trouble." The legal side was the only thing holding them back from charging up there.
"But Mai is a police officer. With the Chief of Police as a close friend and boss. Right Mai?" Monk asked, looking at the brunette from the other side of the couch.
Mai hummed as she thought, "Yeah. I could call Akito and Ryo, and they can organise the emergency services. Yasu, you can't be in with us during the burning. I'll probably have you down with Ryo." Before he could protest, she continued, "It would be too dangerous without you having any spiritual powers and you'll just be a hindrance for those that do."
She was suddenly hit with a sudden sense of deja-vu as she recalled what Naru had said to her when he terminated their partnership, it must have shown on her face as Yasuhara gave her a comforting smile from the other couch opposite her, "No, that's okay Mai. I understand. I don't want to put any of you in more danger than necessary. I can inform Akito about what's been going on. They should understand what calls for such drastic measures." The friendly twinkle in the young man's eye instantly made Mai's guilt dissipate and she returned his smile.
"I should stay out of this too." Ayako said suddenly, drawing shocked looks from everyone, which she countered with her own all-knowing look, "If you haven't forgotten, most demons harbor servants. I should stay outside with the emergency crews to protect them. As long as I have the trees in the street, I should have enough extra power to keep up a barrier while you guys finish upstairs."
"Then I will assist you. Though I will make two of my Shiki remain with you Mai." Lin added, turning away from the inactive television screens, the camera's picking up no activity. Again, another shocking decision was made, "I knew there would be no way to convince you to remain outside the danger zone Naru, yet too many of us upstairs would not only make it cramped, but also more dangerous for everyone. It's only smart that I at least send some Shiki with you if I am not to be there in person. They will listen to you. So there's even less reason for me to be there."
"So, is there anyone else that doesn't want to be part of the main plan?" Mai asked, worried and also relieved that she would risk everyone on the team for her own cause. Receiving only shakes of the others heads she nodded, "Ok then. Naru, Monk, John. You're all with me then. Yasuhara. Can I get you to call Ryo for me. Tell him it's an emergency."
"Leave it to me boss!" Yasu cheered, pulling out his mobile.
"Ok. Ayako. I need you to set up an emergency point downstairs. We still have a kid missing and there's a chance we could inhale smoke. We'll need to deal with that as quickly as possible." Ayako nodded.
"I'll call my parents and have them send out here with an ambulance. Shouldn't be more than an hour before we're set up." She told them just as he pulled out her own phone and joined Yasu in the corner to make her call.
"Then I guess we wait. You ready Mai?" Naru asked, staring down at the brunette, admiring how much she had changed. It made him regret messing things up again.
Night had fallen and a fire truck stood outside the building, it's flood lights shining into the windows of the upper floors from below. A sense of dread had fallen on those waiting outside. Time was ticking and they were counting down the minutes until the plan went into full swing. Ayako had checked all the medical supplies so many times that the paramedics had given up trying to stop her. The fire fighters were on standby, having only been told my Akito that there was a suspected killer inside and that anything could happen.
Yasuhara had informer both him and Ryo of what was happening, and they were less than happy. Knowing that what had haunted Mai's memories was certainly less than pleasant for the pair.
They all stood at the ready, some other paranormal police officers standing guard with Ayako and Lin having been placed in charge of them by Ryo. Though the officers had protested, one stern glare from him had them in their place. Lin just kept a firm hold on the radio in his hand, waiting anxiously to hear the operation was about to start. They knew they were dealing with a demon. A strong one at that. As well as a missing person. But at least, for once, they had all the man power and services necessary to maximise safety. For everyone.
"Lin, you there?" Monk called through the radio. The omnioji lifted the device to his lips and looked up at the building, spotting the man sticking his head out the window, waving his arms.
"I hear you. Are you ready?" Lin was worried, and not just for his charge. He had grown attached to Mai, she was like a sister, and he prayed this would be the end of her suffering.
"As ready as we'll ever be. Stand by. We'll try find that kid first and then we'll get him out to you guys. Stand by." Monks side of the line went dead and those in front of the building were left to wait.
"You guys ready?" Mai asked, her black singlet and skinny jeans made her accessories stand out. Her gun rested in her thigh holster along with her torch which she hooked to her belt. She had a bandana around her throat for once they started the fire as a precaution that they couldn't get out immediately. The others were dressed similarly, even John had forgone his usual priest attire for safeties sake. His robes would have caused too much of a hazard in the tight quarters upstairs.
"Yep. I radioed Lin. They're all set up outside. We have to be in and out. Is your spirit buddy ready?" Monk wondered, watching as Mai closed her eyes and slowly nodded.
"She's scared for us. But she thinks we can do it." A flicker in the brunette's aura showed the spirits support to those that could see her and John nodded to her.
"Then let's get going. Monk, you take the lead, since it's your Tokkosho is in the upstairs door. Once that barrier goes down, the demon will most likely react. John, you bring up the rear and bless the entrance so he can't leave before his alter is destroyed." Naru instructed them, making sure Mai was in front of him before they moved out of base, their equipment having been packed up and moved out earlier on to avoid damage. John brought up the rear, leaving the door open to let the light stream in from outside.
They moved quietly, careful of the old stairs. It was Monk's chanting that broke the silence and all four of them turned on their torches once they reached the top. Monk rushed in quickly, taking in the flood lights that lit up the area. There were parts untouched by the light however and Mai was drawn to them and John blessed the doorway behind them. Naru followed the only female of the group while Monk moved through the area looking for the missing boy. The air was still, nothing disturbing it yet.
But they had a horrible sense of foreboding.
John joined Monk on the search. They could all still see each other through the broken walls and piles of rubbish, but the separation was greatly felt.
Mai closed her eyes, allowing the spirit some sense of control as she guided her through the darkness. It led them through piles of rubble and broken walls, until they came across the corner they had hidden in the night before. Between the pile of boxes and the decrepit wall was floor boards that looked broken, but not from age. Fear built in Mai's stomach and her eyes snapped open, the hairs on the back of her neck raising as she spun around.
The air grew cold and the smell of rot filled the whole floor. Heavy footsteps, faint as they were, were growing closer, dread filled them.
"Hurry Mai!" Naru called, getting on his knees and prying up the floorboards with his bare hands, splinters dug into his skin as he called on the Shiki Lin had lent him to guard their backs. It took a few seconds but Mai's hand suddenly shot into the newly made hole and pulled out a velvet bag, once crimson now a deep grey with dust. Naru gathered the wood they had pulled up into a base and they set the bag atop.
"Is that it?" He asked, worried that the demon would get to them before they were finished.
"Definitely. She's telling me it's the exact one. It should light instantly." Monk and John yelled out from a distance and Mai lit the match hearing the horrible thud from behind her just as she set the bag on fire. A horrifying bang echoed from behind them and Naru and Mai turned to see the demon, grotesque and deformed, its fanged mouth hanging open and dripping with what seemed to be blood and saliva. Its eyes were red and so familiar that Mai froze, the insanity from so long ago was staring at her.
"Mai!" Naru yelled, pulling her out of the way as a long, rusted chain slammed down just where she had been. It crashed into the fire and sent the bag flying, but it kept burning. The smell of rot was joined by burning flesh and they knew it was working, but the fire was spreading rapidly and the pair rushed away from the demon and the line of smoke they had created. They met John and Monk in the middle of the room, an unconscious boy in their arms.
"We have to go!" John yelled, adjusting his hold on the teenagers they had found. Mai was about the reply when the Akumu charged at them, forcing them all apart. The fire was quickly taking to the demons body, but was also leaving a trail alight behind him. Effectively separating Monk and John from Naru and Mai.
"Mai!" Monk yelled, about to try cross the flames when the brunette responded.
"We're fine! Just go! Get him out of here! We'll follow as soon as we can!" She yelled, just as a plume of flames licked up from the ground and forced Mai to duck, "Just go!"
Monk wanted to protest, but John tugged on his arm while supporting the teen in his arms, "We need to go, mate! We'll be no help to them now!" Over the roar of the fire that was quickly engulfing the floor they were on, John tried to sway him. And sway he did. The floor shifted under the weakening structure and thudding demon and he was forced to follow the priest out the door. The pair raced outside, coughing from the smoke that had taken hold of the stairwell.
"Where's Mai? Where's Naru?" Ayako yelled, rushing up to them as they paramedics took the boy. Monk just cast a worried glance to the building and she had her answer.
"Naru! Duck!" Mai shoved the CEO out of the way as the chain whipped out, slamming into her stomach and sending her flying into a wall. The impact was brutal, chipping the plaster wall and making it crumble.
"Mai!" He yelled, weaving under debris while trying to avoid the smoke. He came to kneel by the young woman who heaved as she tried to regain her breathing, the pain that racked her body almost numbing. Naru looked up in time to the chain coming right at them and he whistled, the Shiki coming forward to create a barrier. The Shiki strained under the assault, the flaming demon thinking he had the pair cornered and without escape.
"It's no good Naru. I think I broke something." She wheezed as she prodded her ribs, allowing Naru to lifted her to her feet, "What do we do now?"
Naru shook his head, the situation grim. The entire floor was nearly entirely engulfed by flames and the demon was slowly weakening the Shiki's. They wouldn't hold up much longer. He looked around, feeling Mai pulling him down as she tried to curl in with the pain. He caught sight of her gun and remembered something vital.
"Mai?" He asked, drawing her attention, "Your gun? Can you still charge it with spiritual power?" His question baffled her but she nodded none the less, coughing as the smoke thickened, "I need you to charge it with enough spiritual power to break that wall!"
He pointed to the wall were the flood lights were casting a haze through the smoke, creating a clear target between the windows. "But then what?" She yelled, grabbing her gun.
"Do you trust me?" His sudden turn of question made her blink but she still nodded.
"Always..." Her whisper was quiet, airy even, but he smiled at her anyway.
"Then break that wall. And then we run. Don't stop. And don't look back. Ok?" She nodded again and raised her gun, pouring her spiritual energy into the bullet resting in the chamber, but her hand shook with pain. She gasped when Naru used his free arm to help steady her aim and she didn't think twice.
She pulled the trigger. A thick blue ball, almost the size of a marble quickly grew to triple the size and slammed into the brickwork, charged with so much power that the wall simply disintegrated.
They dropped the gun and ran, dodging the chain that flew after them. It shattered furniture and sent flaming splinters flying, the wood chips cutting into their skin and clothing. The heavy footsteps of the demon made the ground groan and give way in sections. But before the pair knew it they were at the edge and they stopped, one quick glance showed them there was no other choice. To the horror of those below, they jumped.
Mai curled into Naru's embrace, trusting in him with her very soul as she felt his PK rose up to the surface. Like a bright light, it surrounded them, hot and fierce, it felt like it had its own essence. Its own desire to protect. It cocooned them. Shielded them. Mai felt her own powers rise to the surface of their own accord, cooling the heat and calming it, doubling its strength and making them feel secure.
In that split second, where their powers touched, where they caressed each other, they were truly one, protecting each other as if it were destined.
They hit the ground, the barrier breaking suddenly and dropping them to the concrete, both in each other's arms. They looked at each other, a smile on each of their faces. They did it. But it wasn't the end. No. They had so much more to learn. And with the past behind them, they could start anew. So much more to discover.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Vehyn FyreWrite a Review