Living and the dead

Chapter 14

"So, how was it going over there?" Gene greeted.

The spirit inside the barrier looked at him, startled. "Oh, it's you." He said, sighing in relief when he recognized the man wearing all black clothes. "Gene, yes?"

Gene nod. "And if memory is served, you're name is Kurogane Chou am I correct?"

Chou smiled. "I'm glad you remember." He said. "Can you see the barrier from that side?"

"Yes." Gene answered and touched the water-like barrier. "It's beautiful and captivating. I'm sure that it was made by a powerful onmyouji."

"Beautiful indeed, but one must not fool by its beauty outside. Because once you get inside, you can never go back." Chou said. "This barrier's purpose was to lure spirits and trap them. You know, my brother was once a very promising onmyouji." He smiled bitterly. "But this world broke him. The sadness and pain corrupted his mind, he couldn't take it all. And before he knew it, his soul already became twisted."

Gene sighed. "I know it's hard for you to see your brother like that." He said and smiled gently at him. "You just need to hang in there Chou, everything will be alright."

He smiled back. "I'm really glad to have met that girl." He said. "She looks inspiring everyday and I'm happy to see her smile, despite of being locked up in that cold room."

'That's Mai. Always smiling whatever her circumstances is' Gene thought.

"By the way, how is she?" He asked.

Chou's eyes sadden. "That girl..." He started. "My brother succeeded to hurt her the other day. I was really mad at that time but I can't do anything."

Gene's eyes widened. What Chou said made him utterly worried. If Kagiri managed to hurt Mai, it means that he's gradually gaining power and it's only a matter of time before he could do it again.

"I almost had the urged to hurt my brother but I can't do it in front of her." He sighed. "Maybe that's the reason why I decided to do a foolish resolve."

Gene gives him an inquiring look.

"I have decided to. . .help her escape." He said.

"What? But Chou-"

Chou cut Gene's protest. "There are two choices, both very sad. What will you prefer if you were in my shoes?" He asked. "If I keep her here, there are plenty of ghost that is capable of protecting her. However, it might break her. Although they are protecting her, they can't help themselves to show her what they felt before they died."

His eyes sadden. Gene was aware of that and he can do nothing about it.

"Gene, I know you know my brother is slowly receiving power from that creature. We can't tell exactly for how long we can keep her safe. However, if I help her escape, Kagiri would surely search for her. . .and kill her outside."

"I understand what you mean." Gene said, giving Chou an understanding look. "Then, if it's okay with you... ...would you like to have my little cooperation?"

The other spirit inclined his head a little. "You will help me?"

He nodded. "I knew someone who can protect her outside. And he's more than willing to risk his life just to keep her safe."

Chou frowned. "Risk his life? Who?"

"My little brother."

Bou-san's eyes widened while Yasuhara was surprised. Even Lin stiffened when he heard what Naru said.

"Why an onmyouji?" Hirota-san asked.

"We had talk about this before." Naru started. "Like what Bou-san had said, an onmyou-practitioner wasn't the only one who can control a spirit. There's a chance, a miko and a monk can do that too, but since they were not trained to do such things, the succession rate of controlling a spirit is rather low. To be precise it is impossible to order a spirit familiar to possess a person. Furthermore, familiars are only spirits contracted to protect their masters and being spirits of animals or other nature spirits, they are in the range of nature's law. Thus, interfering in any humans is highly forbidden. That is why it was more or less an act of a shikigami controlled by an onmyouji."

"I see..." Bou-san utter in comprehension.

Naru looked at him. "An onmyouji is someone who can summon a ghost or spirit that he has captured and have the power to control them. Those spirits were called shikigami." He explained. "There's so many way to summon a ghost or spirit. One of them is to give something that they wanted. Now, the one that summons a shikigami can order them around as they pleased."

Hirota nodded. "Meaning that whoever this person is, he ordered that ghost to possess the victim's body?"

Bou-san answered. "It's very likely. When someone is being possessed by a spirit or a demon, their minds become non functional." He explained. "They will start to behave according to the ghost or the demon's wishes."

Masako spoke. "But spirits can't easily possess a living body." She said.

"I know." Naru said. "That's why If my assumption is correct, the gun's purpose was not to kill. . .but to make an opening."

Probably Ibara Sachi has ten percent more spiritual strength than that ghost. And she's not the only one. Mai's spiritual strength is also high that the culprit needed to use a different method just to get her.

"Once the person displays any weakness, the spirit can possibly enter." Masako said. "That's why they used a gun to weaken her."

Half of them nodded.

"Aside from that, the alley is dark." Madoka added. "That makes her surroundings even more favorable for possession."

"Fright, confusion, anxiety and fear." Ayako said. "That destabilizes her mind and weakened her spiritual strength. The opportunity they're waiting for."

"How about the other victims and the victim's family?" John asked.

Naru looked at John and cross his arms. "According to the data sent by Hirota-san, there were evidences proving Amano Shizuka was alive before she had gone missing." He said. "It made me confused at first. Why is her case the only one that has some evidences? But I now know what happened."

"The perpetrator used the baku to avoid repeating the same mistake." Hirota finished Naru's explanation.

Naru smiled at the prosecutor. "I'm glad that you're doing your work properly." Naru said. "After all, no matter how brilliant the mind is, if there isn't a chance to exercise it, it will still rust."

'What a lovely comment loaded with deride.' Hirota thought.

"The person behind this uses two methods. As an onmyouji, he commanded his shiki to possess someone, and his other method is... ...memory manipulation." Naru went on. "Because the baku cannot influence a person's mind it is up to them to find another way." Honestly, he was a little impressed. The perpetrator made sure that everything was flawless until they find the right time to show their faults and even use it in their advantage. A perfect yet defective plan.

"That figures." Yasu said. He then fixed his glasses. "By that, he manipulates the memory of his victims to cover himself."

"Certainly." Naru agreed.

"But why kill Ibara-san instead of hypnotizing her?" Ayako quetioned.

"It is most likely that the suspect was in a disadvantage position to use hypnotism at that time, hence resolving to the other method." Was Naru's answer.

"Ah! Before I forgot." Yasuhara get his bag and took out an blue enveloped. "Boss, I want to show you this." He handed it to Naru. His boss took it and opened it.

"Another suicide case." He stated, reading the file's contents.

"Yes, Nakai-san asked me to investigate that boy's case." Yasu said. "And I think I hit a jackpot. That boy was Taniyama-san's classmate."

Everyone fell into a deep silence and stared at Yasuhara who suddenly became conscious. Since his information is concerning Mai, he was already expecting their reactions. Yet, it's still quite daunting when a group of people was expecting something useful from you. Especially when all of them are professionals. Well, it's not that he is not a professional himself. Hirota-san once told him that his skills in researching had surpassed the human database of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office.

"By this, do you want to tell us that Ibara Sachi was not the only one who's linked to Mai's case." Naru concluded.

Ruri frowned. Shibuya called Taniyama in her first name... could it be that. . .what's going on between those two?

"Right." Yasu nodded. "And his name is Nobunaga Arai, a medicine student at TODAI and Taniyama-san's classmate."

"Wait." Hirota interupt. "I think I've heard that name before. . .where. . .ah! Yes, the student who killed himself in his own father's grave."

"That's him." Yasu confirmed. "That Nobunaga Arai was found dead in Aoyama cemetery six days before Taniyama-san's abduction. I went to his house and got a chance to interview his mother. I could say that I've gathered interesting data about Nobunaga Arai."

"Tell us about it." Ayako said, flipping her red hair to the back.

Yasu's glasses glinted as he fixed it. "Name: Nobunaga Arai, age: eighteen years old, took medicinal course in TODAI until he was found dead in the cemetery last February. This Arai-kun only got back to the boxing club before his death so his mother never suspected that something like that to happen. But his mother told me something about him, she confided that she's not Arai-kun's biological mother."

"Then Nobunaga Arai was adopted?" Masako inquired.

"More or less." Yasu answered. "Arai-kun's father was killed by a drunk man fourteen years ago, he was only four years old back then and nobody knows who his mother was as his father raised the child on his own. Hence the child was left in his father's only sibling. So technically the mother he had known was his own aunt. The offender was already in prison but I'm still planning to delve deeper since I have a gut that there's more to it." The boy cleared his throat. "After which, I invited Taniyama-san's closed friend for an interview. And according to them, Nobunaga and Taniyama were not closed friends. However, two days before his death, Nobunaga Arai-kun requested for Taniyama to investigate his friend's friend case."

Naru raised a brow. "A friend of a friend." He stated. Why is Mai so gullible? "What's the name of Nobunaga's friend?"

"The girl named Michiru remember it." Yasuhara reached for his notebook inside his bag and leaf some pages. "Morisato Riu from the IT department, Nobunaga's closed friend. And fortunately boss, I've talked to him and he gave me very helpful information to narrow down our search." He pushed up his glasses. "The name of the person who ask Morisato was Mikoku Junko. A businessman who owns a hotel in minato-ku."

"Mikoku Junko?" Bou-san said, looking up at the ceiling. He thought about the last name. Now that was odd. Mikoku is not a usual surname in Japan. So, if someone was named Mikoku Junko that has a name in the business industry, it would be easy to remember him. "Are you sure about that shonen?"

"That's what Morisato told me." Yasu answered. "I'm sure he wasn't making that up or something. You know that my strong point is how I carry myself to make people believed what I say." He grins. "So I'm sure he's not lying."

Bou-san sweat drop.

"So, from thereafter I have searched the name on line and even dig some records in the library archives, however the name wasn't found."

"An alias?" John asked.

"I have thought of that John-san. And being the researcher that I am, I tried something that could make my search expanded. I list down all the hotels in Tokyo and I'm very thankful that I started my search in Minato-ku. I list the owners name and found someone that seems to be a little dubious." Yasuhara place his elbows above his knees and leaned a little. "Boss ordered me to find someone with suspicious earning records within the years. Apparently, there was one that captured my attention. This person, you see, put up his own hotel five years ago and managed to make a big name in Japan's business industry in a span of two years."

"I don't see how's that dubious." Ayako said. "There were so many businessmen that managed to get on top in just a short time."

Yasuhara smiled. "I know, that's not the reason why I doubt him though. Let's just say I cast him a shadow of the doubt because he has a very shady personality." He said. "Aside from the media who knew little about this person. No one knew his past or where he came from."

"Seems like he's not the type of person to brag his achievements or he was just simply hiding something." Bou-san commented.

Yasu shrugged. "We don't know. But I found a very interesting article from ten years ago and that was involving this person's name."

"What about it." Masako inquired.

"Concerning the death of five person, consisting of four taoist priest in a small temple at mount Negoro." He delivered. "The four priests were found dead inside a large room in the temple. No wounds or anything that could lead to a murder, they look like they were just sleeping. Someone says they drunk poison but the forensics didn't find any chemicals in their body."

Naru frowned. If there's no evidence then no other conclusion can be made, yet it bothers him that four person died without any trace of something that happen. It was a mystery indeed.

Yasuhara continue. "A helper once told a reporter that it's must be a god that punishes the four priest because of their sins. However the said reporter wrote it otherwise and this incident as an epidemia." He cleared his throat. "Later on after seven months a detective from a local police investigated the case again. The report was filed under the Japan's Criminal Investigation Department and the detective insisted that it's a murder case. But there's no evidence so the cased remain unclosed. However the inspector had an interesting find. He learned that the priests in that temple had adopted two teenage boys as an onmyouji in training but one of them died on that incident."

"Wait, if there were five people who have died on that incident" Madoka said, her brows knitted. "how come the reporters only wrote four?"

Yasuhara sighed. "The boy didn't die in the room. He was found in a forest. His heart was stabbed, that's why some concluded he's not connected on the case but here's the thing, on the night of that incident, someone saw a person carrying an unconscious body leaving the temple's premises."

"And the name of the boy who died?" Naru impatiently asked.

"Kurogane Chou, seventeen years old and practicing onmyoudou at that small temple."

Naru frowned and inclined his head a little.

"And I believed that he was this person's big brother." Yasuhara place the three pictures he was holding on the table. "Those were his only picture I found on the internet."

The team scrutinize the three pictures. All of them were stolen shots of a person with a handsome face and silver hair. He's wearing glasses that made his features more appealing. One look at the guy you would know that he's not someone to mess up with.

"What's his name?" Bou-san asked.

"Kurogane Kagiri." Yasuhara answered.

John decided to speak up "If he's the younger brother of Kurogane Chou, and also an onmyou-practitioner that makes more sense that the perpetrator is an onmyouji."

"Right!" Yasu said smiling widely.

"But. . .we are still not sure if he was the one behind all of this." Hirota chimed in.

"Indeed." Naru agreed. "That's why we have to investigate him further." He smirked.

Takigawa saw it and raised a brow. "Can't accept that there's someone handsome like you Naru-chan?" He asked the narcissist.

He just looked at the monk. "I'm not interested in some pointless rivalry."

Takigawa gave him a long glance. "Then what are you smirking for?"

"A fair opponent." He said with a suspicious looking smile on his face.

"Opponent, huh?" Takigawa said, a smile forming in his lips. "Now I feel sorry for the guy."

"And why is that?" Ayako asked, suspicious to the monk's sudden smile.

"Naru-bou will surely trample him heavily, and loving the sight of this Kurogane Kagiri bowing prostrate before him as a compensation for what he have done to his beloved tea and his beloved assistant." Bou-san said eyeing the stoic boy with a teasing smile.

Masako cleared her throat and looked away.

Ayako and Yasuhara snicker, John blushed. Of course there's no need to hide it anymore! When they found him near the cliff he was unconscious. They brought him back to the house and Lin put him on the sofa so he can rest. They were about to go back in their room when Naru the great Narcissist utter some words.

All of them were surprised back there. Naru was calling Mai's name and saying how idiot she was for opening the damn door! After that he says the word 'Warm' and became silent again.

When he woke up that morning, they pretended like it was never happen.

"How romantic Noll!" Madoka chimed, her eyes glimmering in happiness. "You're planning to save Mai-chan from that evil manipulating black cloud! I'll tell your mother about this!" Madoka fished out her phone and dial. After a while her enthusiastic voice can be heard once again. "Hello." She said in english. "Luella! Noll is playing knight in dull black clothes! And he's going to rescue Mai!" And she went on and on and on.

The team eyed Naru who just sit there like nothing was happening. His expression remained passive but his smirked was no longer visible.

However, Lin was curious. His charged didn't look annoyed or exasperated. He was just... ...him.

'What's going on inside his head?' He asked himself.

"Ahm... ...Naru-bou, I'm just joking when I said that." Bou-san said in a small voice. Seeing no change from his boss quite unnerve the monk. Perhaps he crossed the line?

"Do you really?" Naru said, giving the monk a hard look. "I was not aware of that." He then shifted his gaze at everyone. "This meeting is dismiss. I'll call you again if I need some assistance. For now I'll plan for our next move. Everyone may leave now." Naru stood up and walked back to his office. Lin followed suit and closed the door of Naru's office

When the two of them were already inside he decided to ask his charge. "Are you mad?"

Oliver raised a brow. "What?"

"About what Takigawa-san said."

"Why would I? Did he say something wrong?"

The Chinese man sighed and give his charge a small smile. 'So he finally admits it' he thought.

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