She was dreaming again. She knew she was as there was no possible way that one second she was walking through a nicely furnished corridor, bright white walls reflecting the light form the multitude of large window on open doorways, to a dark, dank and cold hallway made of stones and metal bars.
Twisting around at the sound of scrapping, she faced a dark wall... Or what she thought was a dark wall. In the dim light, she could faintly make out the shape of long bars running vertically up from the ground, imbedding themselves in the ceiling. Realising that the bars led to a cell, she moved cautiously toward the door which she knew from experience, was to the left of the cage-like room.
Once she got close enough, a pale, bloody hand shot out from the darkness, clawing at the air as she jumped back. Gasping at the sight, she watched as it curled back into the room before shooting out from between the bars again, the limb strained against the metal to get her. This time when it retreated however, the being withdrew its arm completely.
"Hello?" She called to the person in the cell, not completely sure why she did so. It took only a few seconds to get a response.
The person in the cell rammed their body into the bars of the cell, the door rattling loudly as it let out an unearthly scream, its hollowed eyes gazing at her shivering form.
She had seen plenty of dead bodies; the worst she had seen was Urado from her time back when she was younger on one of SPR's last cases. But this was completely different and struck fear into every fibre of her being. The person... the thing, behind the bars was paler than snow and while most of its flesh clung to the bones of the body, other pieces hung loosely from their original places, swinging in the air as it breathed out a haggard breathe. She gagged at the smell of rot and decay that filled her nostrils and was tempted to turn away from the thing glaring at her, but her senses told her not to... that if she did, the worst would happen.
It continued to hiss at her as she raised her hand to cover her mouth and nose, a futile attempt to stop the grotesque scent from fogging her senses any more than it already had. Her eyes watered from the fumes that came off the body as it attempted to reach her again... that was, until it retreated into the confines of its blackened cell.
Her senses were assaulted by the sudden silence. The disturbing sight and horrible smell vanishing as quickly as it had come. Breathing a sigh of relieve, she yelped as a bright red light started flashing off to her side, further down the corridor before a blaring siren screeched through the empty hallway. It was then that she gagged, the smell of rot once again filling her nose and making her eyes burn. Squinting, she tried to make out the source of the alarm when she realised the smell was twice as strong as before... and that was when she felt it. The dark, ominous presence that had once been glaring at her from behind the cell was now standing directly behind her.
Slowly, she turned to face the creature, the sadistic grin on its face causing her eyes to widen before it lunged at her.
The next thing she knew, a pain filled shriek filled the air, overpowering the noise of the alarm. That was when she realised...
She was the one that was screaming...
Naru jolted from his sleep by Mai's yelling, the sound chilled him to the core.
"Mai! Mai!" He called her, shaking her shoulder when he noticed a red liquid seep out of a new cut on her arm. 'When did she get that?' "Mai!"
The brunette's face contorted in a look that was far too similar to that of pain and he started to panic. He couldn't wake the women from her slumber and more cuts were appearing in her body at an increasingly rapid rate. She let out another pain filled scream before snapping into an upright position, narrowly missing his head.
"Mai?" He tried again and succeeded in gaining her attention. He flinched slightly as she turned to him, her eyes red and puffy as tears streamed down her pink cheeks.
"Na-Naru?" She gasped, trying to regain her breath before reaching out and tenderly touching his chest. Feeling his heart beat steady under her hand, she quickly grabbed him around the shoulders and hugged him to her tightly, his arms circling her in an act of comfort. "It... It was so horrible Naru. It was so real... I haven't dreamed like that for so long..."
He pushed her away slightly and questioned her on her dream, his face shifting from one of curiosity to disgust and anger as she told him the details, her tears falling faster and more steadily by the time she finished. Again, she hugged him and he held her until her breathing returned to a normal pace and her tears had stopped flowing. She sat up, blushing slightly when she realised that she had somehow managed to move into his lap, and wiped her face with her hands before sighing. She jumped off him and smiled as she stretched.
"Are you alright now Mai?" He asked, the concern in his voice stunning the brunette girl only momentarily. It occurred to him that the previous cuts had vanished from her porcelain skin, as if it hadn't been Mai's experience at all in the dream.
"Yep," She sang, walking forward to the large glass wall and pulling the curtain aside and letting in the bright morning sunshine. "Thanks for... well, letting me hug you and stuff. It's a nice change."
Her admission made his eyes widen before he coughed, standing from the red sofa and running a hand through his hair. It had been a week since the SPR had gotten rid of Haruki and now that all evidence of the crime scene had been dealt with, Mai had convinced him to start renovations on the office. Due to those renovations, SPR hadn't been able to open for business, officially anyway. They had been taking calls and reading e-mails about potential cases, some even went as far as to find out Mai's address so that their case could be heard in person.
"Do you think it could have to do with the new case?" He asked. One of the few people that had come to the condo was an elderly woman in her late sixties, begging them to come take a look at her boarding school where odd things had been happening.
"Naru! Could you get that?" Mai yelled from the stove after a series of rapid knocks sounded from the apartment door. Now, normally she would have called for Lin, but he was currently out of the country visiting his mother to celebrate his birthday. Sure, it was a few days late, but Mai had convinced him that it was 'better late than never,' before she had solemnly added that he should spend as much time with her as possible, because she could be gone in seconds.
Sighing, Naru closed his book and set it on the coffee table before heading to the door, opening it before staggering backwards. An elderly lady with long, knotted hair clung to his black shirt (go figure), as she cried and wailed about ghosts and missing students. After a few seconds of utter cluelessness, Mai had come from the kitchen and placed a hand on the women's shoulder and calmed her down enough to get her to sit on the sofa to drink some tea. This earned her a glare as it was his tea that was offered, but she didn't care.
"My name is Mikoto Ayaki. I'm the principle and head mistress of Miamoto Arts College. For the past year or so, things have been occurring to which we can't find any answer to." Mikoto sighed, leaning back in the seat before shaking her head. The sudden confession made both Naru and Mai blink at the women at the bluntness of her comment.
"What kinds of things to you mean Ms Ayaki?" Mai asked, taking a seat next to the women after giving Naru some fresh tea after assuring him that she would not take it from him.
"Strange things... Students have gone missing, things will get thrown when there is no one around or they will be thrown at a person with such strength that several students have suffered from broken bones and concussions. People will see strange shadows or hear knocks and bags in the middle of the night. A few students have claimed that they've been touched or pushed, but when they tried to see the cause, there is nothing there."
"Have you experienced any of these anomalies yourself?" Naru asked, taking a sip of his tea as he finished taking his notes, where he got the book from, Mai would never know.
"Yes, I have actually..." Mikoto started, hesitating before letting out a shaky breath. "My room is in the corridor adjacent to that of the hallway that leads to the guest rooms for visiting teachers or parents. The west tower. Sometimes, in the beginning of these strange happenings, many of the faculty, including myself, believed that the banging sounds were due to misbehaving students, so some of us took it upon ourselves to put a stop to it. So one night, the sounds were exceptionally loud, so I grabbed my torch and slipped into the hallway were the sounds were loudest. But the second I stepped foot into the corridor, a horrible, frightening scream was all I could hear and then I passed out. All I remember after that is feeling cold."
Naru and Mai shared a knowing look before asking for more details, occasionally comforting the women before Naru finally spoke up.
"We'll be there in two days around midday. Please have one large room for our base and two bedrooms." He told to women standing and leading her to the door after Mai took down specific details.
"I... I think so. Do we have any information about the schools past?" She asked, walking to the kitchen and placing two plates on the island before making tea for our beloved narcissist.
"Only a little. We can have Lin do some research tomorrow...Which reminds me, I have to collect him from the airport..." His explanation was accompanied by the sound of turning pages, "The school was opened in 1976, it started out as a normal high school but it was too far for many students to travel so it was turned into a boarding school. After the arts department excelled, it was changed into an arts college. That's about all we have. As for the incidents reports, as well as written records from students both missing and who have had experiences; they have to be looked at. The Police files should have been forwarded to your department, so you'll have to look at those too."
Mai blinked, it was so odd to have Naru acting like the boss again, only, now he was much nicer than when she was a teenager.
"Oh. Ok. Well then you can drop me off at the station on your way to get Lin. But... Why is he coming back so soon?" She asked taking a bit of her foot. He gave her an amused look before answering her question.
"I called him-." She was about to start yelling at him, when she choked on a bit of food she had taken from the bowl of fruits next to her. "For one thing Mai, don't die on me and two, the second I said we were going on an SPR case, he wouldn't listen to me when I said we would be fine. So, it was his choice, not mine."
Again, Naru surprised her by actually explaining himself and then she nearly fainted when he came up to her and put the frying pan on the stove.
"Would you like eggs or pancakes this morning?" He asked her and that was what did her in. The next thing she knew, she was being held by two warm arms and she stared into the deep azure eyes of her teenage crush. Another small blush adorned her cheeks before she laughed, her hand coming to rest on her forehead as if testing her body temperature.
"I swear I'm sick, otherwise you're actually the real Naru, your being nice and... and," She took a moment to think and he raised an eyebrow when your eyes widened and she shot upright, pushing away from him and grabbing the counter top. "Oh god! You've brought the apocalypse!"
He chuckled at her as he rolled his eyes, turning to the fridge and pulling out an instant pancake mix Mai had made the previous day. Eyeing it warily as if wondering it was good, he quickly shrugged before mumbling something about food poisoning and slaves.
After that the, the morning was relatively quiet and before Mai realised, she was standing outside the police station watching Naru drive off to get Lin. Shaking her head a small smile spread across her face, she turned on her heels and marched into the building, waving to other officers or familiar people that are always being arrested for one reason or other.
On her desk was a pile of manila folders. Sighing, she slipped out of her jacket and sat down, sorting the files while her computer booted up. Once she was done separating the witness reports, missing persons files and police records, she pulled out a new note book, almost like how Naru had an endless supply of them in her teenage years, and started taking notes.
By the time she was halfway through the eye-witness reports, a light thud made her look away from the research to a cup of coffee. Following the retreating arm, she saw Akito smiling down at her with an odd twinkle in his green eyes. Taking a seat in front of her desk, which was ironically placing him behind his own work desk, he took a sip from his own warm beverage.
"Can I help you Akito?" She asked him, picking up another folder and flicking through it before jotting some notes down. All she heard was Akito chuckle before, leaning over and grabbing her note book.
"I've never seen you work this hard Mai. Well, this hard while actually enjoying it anyway." He joked, ducking under the hit she aimed at his head before she swiped her book back from him.
"Shut up!" She yelled, a tinge of pink dusting her cheeks before a thought crossed her mind. "How's Susuki? It must have been nice spending a whole week with her."
"It was nice, until she got random cravings and yelled at me to do stuff. Man, am I beat after that. I swear, I fear her more than any criminal we've gone after. She's got good aim." He scoffed, absently rubbing his shoulder, "Remind me to hide the dinner wear and lock away any and all things that could be used as a projectile."
It took all of three seconds for the two of them to start laughing, Mai opting to try quiet her giggles with her hand while Akito didn't care. If anyone has encountered a pregnant woman, they'd understand. Struggling to take a sip of the coffee Akito had brought heras she laughed.
"What's going on here?"
Turning to one of the main offices, they spotted Ryo standing in his doorway, a curious look on his face and a smile showing through his eyes.
"Susuki's abusive." Was all Mai managed to get through her laughter until she took a breather, struggling to speak with the random giggles that she couldn't hold back. "Now he's scared of her."
"I'm not scared of her! That woman's dangerous!" The man defended, avoiding eye contact.
"Sure Akito. Anyway, do you have everything you need Mai?" Ryo asked, walking towards the desk in which the brunette sat behind.
"Yea. There's so much and I've only gone through the witness reports. This'll take forever." Mai moaned, dropping her head to the desk. "And there's so much information, I think it would have been easier to solve a murder."
Ryo quirked an eyebrow at Mai as if she had said the simplest thing in the world. She looked at him quizzically before lifting her head to look at Akito. The dark haired male had a similar look to that of the Chief's and she just narrowed her eyes.
"Mind filling me in?" She asked, her frustration leaking heavily into her voice. Sighing, Akito stood from his desk.
"Really Mai? You could treat it like an investigation." Akito told her. When he saw she still wasn't getting the picture, he walked towards a whiteboard against the wall while Ryo picked up the files she had already gone through before heading to join Akito.
"This is a murder case as well a missing persons' case. The perfect place for your investigation skills to come in and while I'm sure you've got experience with the paranormal side, I think Kazuya would be better at it. But until then, you could easily piece together a timeline and any other connections between the victims." Ryo explained, pinning a few photos up before pulling a small rolling table over to him to place the folders.
Realisation crossed her face before she got up, notes in hand and grabbed a white board marker. Muttering under her breath about being an idiot and teenage girl, she started to write up the note. Within an hour, the whole surface was covered in photos, notes, arrows and the occasional doodle from when Akito wanted to annoy her for fun.
"I swear! You really are such a kid sometimes!" She scolded him after her drew his latest stick figure of a cat being chased by a dog through the words.
"Ease up Mai. You'll get wrinkles if you don't relax." He told her, raising the marker to her face as if to draw on her pale skin.
"Ah! No!" Squealing, she reeled away from the offending marker before picking up her own. Laughing, he lunged at her and tried to get her again, but she dodged away and uncapped the pen. A second later, Akito had a long black line running down him arm.
"Oh, you'll pay for that." He threatened, swinging the marker like a sword. Unbeknownst to them, a certain narcissist was watching them from the main doorway, his lips pulled into a small smile with Lin by his side.
It was only a few minutes later that Mai felt like she was being watched and she straightened up, narrowly avoiding Akitos' strike.
"N-Naru! How long have you been standing there?" Mai asked, capping her marking and putting it down.
"Long enough to know you were slacking off." He told her, a light tone letting her know he wasn't angry, but all the same, she replied with a bit of agitation.
"Slacking off?" She cried, pointing angrily to the board. "Are you kidding me? I spend a whole hour doing this while putting up with him! Besides, I work with you now, not for you. So there!"
She punctuated her sentence by sticking her tongue out at him, earning an chuckled from him. Deciding to look at her findings, he walked into the room and stood before her work, his eyebrows rising at the sight of the numerous doodles that crossed between and through the work at which she just pointed and glared at Akito.
"So what have you managed to find Mai?" Lin asked, placing his things down by her desk and standing beside the brunette.
"Hey Lin!" She said, smiling up at the Chinese man, "Well, there were roughly ten unique reports while the others just repeated each other. So I generalised it. There are numerous accounts of seeing 'shadow people' and the occasional odd sound or two."
"What of the unique cases?" Naru asked, his head resting in his hand as he scanned the board. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Mai cross her arms and her eyebrows meet as she thought.
"They're pretty weird actually. Two say that they were touched, nothing too aggressive but it still freaked them out. Three others were touched in such a way that they had bruises in the shape of hands. Another got a concussion after a vase in one of the classrooms was thrown at him; it happened infront of a whole group of students that had been sketching and no one knows who or what did it. Three students woke in the middle of the night to screaming or really loud knocking and when they went to go check it out, they'd be attacked. All receiving deep scratch marks all over the arms, legs and back. The last one though, Ms Ayaki's incident, is the most disturbing out of them all. Never has all those things happened at one time." She explained, taking a deep breath when she was done.
"Which means it's escalated." Naru queered, turning to look at Lin, who just nodded back.
"Would you have a computer I could use Mai?" He asked, causing the brunette in question to crane her head to look at him.
"Sure thing. You can use mine. There's some information for you to look at too." She told him, yawning before rubbing her eyes.
"How much more is there to do?" Akito asked, looking onto Mai's desk to see the stack of papers she was going through.
"The missing persons' reports, and the police files." She told him, handing the missing persons files to Naru; he quirked an eyebrow at her in response. "You don't honestly think I'm doing all the work. I've got the police reports, so I won't just be sitting back."
"Most of the time." Akito joked, running out of the room as he dodged the stapler that had been aimed at his head. Grumbling, she directed Naru to the seat in front of her desk as she grabbed an extra chair and they spent the afternoon going over notes while adding in additional information that Lin found.
All Mai could think was that having the police database made investigating way easier.
Miamoto Arts College
"Mr Shibuya! I'm so glad you came so soon." Mikoto Ayaki, the headmistress of the school, called; rushing down the front steps to greet them. Despite her smile, her eyes were frantic and her hair was in disarray. After the long drive, everyone stepped out of their respective vehicles. Monk having driven Ayako while Lin drove Naru. Mai took her own car so that the van wouldn't be crowded.
"Good afternoon Ms Ayaki. I'm sorry that we're late, only we had a minor... distraction." He told her while he glared pointedly at a certain Monk who was whistling innocently. "Could you show us to the rooms?"
"Oh yes. You've actually got the whole west wing to yourselves. There's a common room that leads into the bedrooms. Right this way then; there is a lift, so moving your equipment shouldn't be too hard." She smiled, watching as everyone grabbed their things before following her through the main doors.
Walking straight through the main lobby, they came to the elevator doors on the western wall and rode it to the third and last floor, not including the attic.
"This will be your base and through those doors you'll find your rooms. There is also a small kitchen through there," She pointed briefly to a small archway that was partially concealed by a curtain. "So please, set up and I will be back to give you a tour."
With that she left and Mai gazed around the room. All the drapery varied from shades of blue to white with the fireplace stone resting between pale jade and smoke quartz. In front of the fireplace were two large white sofas and two armchairs and a coffee table resting between them. Behind the seating was a dining set. The rest of the room was decorated with a bookshelf, extra tables along the walls and number of lamps and paintings.
What drew Mai's attention the most however, was the chipped paint along the fireplace. The baby blue colour of the wall flaking off to reveal worn, grey brick work. Shaking the oddity from her mind, she set about helping Lin and Naru with the equipment that had already been brought up while Monk went down to wait for John, Masako and Yasu so that they could bring up the rest of the electronics.
"You aren't nervous, are you?" Naru asked as Mai sat on one of the sofas.
"No! Maybe? Yes. I mean, there's no way I can't be nervous. I haven't seen them in years." She answered him, biting her lip before standing up. She faintly registered that Lin excused himself, as she walked slowly towards the window... and closer to the chipped paint.
Once she was close enough, she placed her hand on the wall and instantly gasped. The room temperature dropped and a sickening crack, was heard throughout the room followed by sharp scratching sounds.
"Mai! Get over here!" Naru hissed from his place in front of the monitors only to rush to her side instead as she dropped to the floor, gasping. Glancing at her face that was shadowed by her hair, he saw her eyes glaze over before she started shaking. Her head snapped up the instant his hand landed on her shoulder and she looked at him... through him; towards a dark shadow slinking out from the kitchen.
"Na-Naru!" She whispered frantically, the disturbing images that had flashed through her mind temporarily forgotten as she saw the apparition. "That thing...It's from my dream."
Turning around quickly, he fixed his sights on the disfigured ghost as it growled at them. It quickly let out an ear piercing scream before vanishing as quickly as it came. The temperature however, did not return to normal. In fact, it seemed to grow colder. The type of cold were a person felt warm within the frozen cacoon of the room.
Puzzled, Naru wrapped one arm around Mai's shivering shoulders before casting his eyes over the room. After looking around twice and deciding they were in no imminent danger, he helped Mai up. It was then that she gasped. Looking at her quizzically, he followed her gaze to the kitchen to which a shadow lurked. This shadow however, held no malice or evil intend towards them and Mai smiled warmly as the familiar name rolled off her tongue.
"Gene!" She cried, moving away from Naru and racing across the room. Standing in front of her boss' replica, she hesitantly reached out a hand. It was met by his own as she gasped again at the warm, solid feeling she received in return. "No way!"
"Gene?" Naru called tentatively, walking up to his ghostly brother. "No... It's not... It's not possible!"
"That's what I thought when I saw the spirit leave." Gene answered, a confused look passing over his face quickly as he released Mai's hand. "But I'm here, and I can't go back. Not sure why, but now I can finally do this."
Naru looked at his brother before his eyes widened, a slap sound echoing through the quite room. The force of the hit cased Naru to stagger lightly before gently touching his now red cheek. Anger flashed through his eyes and he glared at his dead brother.
"What the hell was that for?" He yelled, his arm poised to return the blow when Mai touched his shoulder. Glancing at her, she shook her head and smiled at him and he could only return it with a smirk before raising an eyebrow as his brother laughed.
"You really are an idiot scientist, Noll."