Living and the dead

Chapter 1

Everyday was the same for Taniyama Mai. School, part time work and twice a week she meets up with the irregulars of SPR. Sometimes when he's not busy, Takigawa Houshou the SPR resident monk or Bou-san for short teaches Mai something about exorcisms and some warding spells.

While Matsuzaki Ayako the priestess showed her how to draw and make charms that she could use whenever she's in an uncompromising situation with the paranormal. The priestess also helps her in her studies. Since Ayako is like a mother to her, she's the one Mai could turn to whenever she's having difficulties in some subject.

Hara Masako is still doing her work as a celebrity medium and Mai admit that she's a fan of hers. It's not like she can't talk to spirits but every time she watched Masako on TV, she couldn't help admiring the medium for her calm and cool personality.

Yasuhara didn't agree with her though. She remembered one time when she's having lunch with Yasu and they happened to talk about Masako. According to him Masako wasn't that calm and collective. She could also be a total brat sometimes.

She just smiled at him and teased him how he noticed the girl. He just chastised her using his old customs and obsolete conducts. John Brown was still the same. Always helping father Todou in the orphanage.

Naru and Lin go back to England for some private matters after their last case in Nagano Prefecture. After two months they came back and re-established the SPR. Naru made her a part time investigator and Yasuhara as a part time researcher.

She's now a freshman in TODAI and taking up Medicinal course. Why medicine? Well, she wanted to help people in need. If she's able to help ghost of dead people, then why not also help the living people? Bou-san finds it amusing while Ayako was all out supportive like a mother.

_ _ _Tuesday

February 5_ _ _

Shibuya, Dougenzaka.

Mai rode the escalator and went up to the second floor of the building. On the second floor three tenants were occupying the rest of the units. An Orthodontist, a somewhat shady planning company and an interior design shop.

Mai halted in front of a painted wooden framed door. The upper half has a glass pane that was carrying the office's logo. Shibuya Sikikku Risechii or Shibuya Psychic Research. A company which specializes in investigating and researching paranormal phenomena.

She sighed. Never in her life did she imagine that she will work in this kind of company as a paranormal investigator. Let's say, she doesn't have any talent for something like this . . . Well, that's what she thought.

Hardly gripping the door knob, Mai slowly opened the door and peer inside. When she didn't see any people in the receiving area, she tiptoed and silently moved inside. She was almost at her desk when she heard Naru from his office.

"Mai! You're late, thirty six minutes and Forty five seconds."

She grimaced. To hell with Naru being a real life counting machine!

"Tea, now!" She heard him say.

"Can I poison your tea?" She asked.

"If you want to lose your good paying part time job, go ahead." He answered from inside.

"Right." She said ironically. After putting her bag on her desk she went to the kitchen and made Naru his tea. After that she delivered it to her boss. She found him silently sitting on his reclining chair while reading a file. She placed the tea on his table and looked at her boss.

Naru seems to felt her gaze. "What is it Mai?" He asked, not even looking up.

"I was just thinking-" She started but cut off by him.

"You were?" He said.

Mai brows twitched. "What? I actually think and stuff you know! You're not the only one with brain!" She said, slowly getting pissed.

"Yeah, too bad you don't do it often." He teased.

What the heck is wrong with this guy? She just stayed there to ask him something but here he was, deliberately teasing her.

"At least I don't over work my brain resulting of being grumpy!" She answered not noticing how hard her voice came out.

"The more reason to call you an idiot." He said bluntly.

"Oh yeah? I thought intelligent people don't talk to stupid people?"

"There is such a thing?" Naru asked with plain curiosity leaving Mai speechless.

"... ...None." She said with a small voice.

"Read a book Mai, It would do something about your lack of knowledge."

"I'm not an idiot!" She yelled.

"You're not." Naru said finally looking up at her. "Then let us hear what you were thinking."

"I heard from Lin that you're going on a trip next week. Are you going to close SPR for a while?" She asked.

Lin informed her that Naru needs to attend a conference in England and he will be gone for three weeks. Madoka wouldn't make it this time so she wondered if they're going to close the office while they're on a trip.

"Not at all. Yasuhara will be accompanying you here while we're gone. Since you are an investigator, you can do a written request and I will review it when we get back."

"-I see." She said sighing. She really thought that they will close it. Three weeks is a long time and she didn't know where to spend her free time if ever they close the office.

Naru watched Mai carefully. She seems relieved. He knows what she was thinking, the reason why he wouldn't close the office. His presence is imperative in the conference that's why he has to go.

"Is that all?" He asked her.

Mai nodded. "That's all."

"Mai, I'm going to leave the office in your hands for a while that's why don't do unnecessary things while we're gone."

"I understand..."

_ _ _Wednesday

February six _ _ _

"Mai-san! Do you have something to do after class?" Her classmate Nobunaga Arai asked.

"She already has a boyfriend so get lost Nobu-Nobu!" Keiko said while glaring at Nobunaga. Of course it was a lie.

"And who told you that you can call her by her first name? Ha? Nobunaga?" Michiru added.

"Cho-Chotto! I'm not asking her out!" He said waving a hand.

"Then what is it?" Keiko asked still glaring at him.

The poor guy just scratched the back of his head while searching for the right words to say. "Well you see, my friend's friend is searching for a paranormal investigator. Then my friend asked me if I know someone. I remember you Taniyama-san. Didn't you work for a psychic research?"

"Y-Yeah, but my boss is going on a trip. And I'm the one who'll manage the office when they're gone. For the time being we're just allowing written request."

"I see, so I'm guessing that you're still conducting investigations in paranormal cases?"

"We do, but doing an actual investigation is currently on hold."

"And a friend's friend is kind a suspicious Nobu-nobu, are you planning something on Mai-chan?" Keiko crossed her arms.

"I-iie! That's not true! I'm not planning anything." He said smiling sheepishly "Honestly, I don't know much about Riu's friend that's why I'm calling him a friend's friend. We're not even close and I only saw him once."

Michiru raised a brow.

"How about just hearing my friend's friend case and decide on it when your boss gets back?"

Mai thought about it for a moment. Naru and Lin are going on a trip. While Ayako is in some conference in Kyoto and Bou-san is having his meditation on the mountains. She can write down the interview and the outline of the case and give it to them later so they could decide what to do with it.

"When can I meet your friend's friend?"

Nobunaga smiled cheerfully. "After school. There's this cafe not far from here, we can meet him there."

"Then after school it is." She said smiling back.

"Thank you Taniyama-san!"

Mai look around at the cafe they're in. It was small yet cozy. The walls were painted in brown with a cream lining and a light brown borders, reminding her of a chocolate cake and frappuccino. There're only seven tables with four wooden chairs each. Every table has a white vase filled with flowers and a tissue holder. You can see the counter along with the glass shelf displaying different variation of sweets ten meters away from where they're seated.

"How the hell did I miss this cafe?" She asked Nobunaga.

"Don't worry. This is a newly open cafe. They launched the grand opening last week. You're not the only one who's out of the loop. Only few people knew this cafe exists."

The door chimed signaling that there's a newly arrived customer. Her attention flew to the door and her eyes met the new customers gaze. That simple gaze brought shiver down her spine. Her instinct kicked in notifying her of the danger coming.

"Oh! There he is! Mikoku-san, here!" Nobunaga said waving his hand on the newly arrived person.

The man looked at them before walking towards their table. Mai noticed how handsome this man was. He looks like he is in his mid-twenties, He has a silver hair so she wonder if he's a mixed blood. Although he's wearing thick eyeglasses, she could see his dark violet eyes along with a thick lashes and double eyelids. His hands are covered with a pair of black rubber gloves. She wondered if he's afraid of dirt. He's wearing a light brown shirt under a black suit and a pair of black slacks and black shoes. He's tall, more like Bou-san.

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting. There's an urgent matter that in need of my assistance earlier."

"It's okay." Nobunaga said. "We've just arrived."

It's intriguing!

How come a good looking guy such as him can be a dangerous person? But then again, one must not judge a person by their appearance. She remember Minnie the doll, it looks cute but was made in to a vessel by some evil spirit.

Mikoku sat beside Nobunaga and across Mai.

Mai couldn't ignore the nagging feeling inside her chest. It was like if she stays a little longer with this man, she's not far from vanishing.

"Is there something wrong Taniyama-san? You look pale." Nobunaga asked earning her a look from Kokujin.

"I-It's nothing. Kind a hot in here don't you think? Um...shall we start?"

Mikoku nodded.

She reached for her notepad and pen "I'm Taniyama Mai. An investigator, I'll be hearing out your case. So..."

"My name is Mikoku Junko."

Mai paused. 'What a weird name for a guy' she thought.

"Hai, Mikoku Junko-san can you please tell me some information regarding this matter."

He fixed his glasses and bore his dark violet eyes on her. "I'm managing a hotel in Minato proper and a two hectares land of strawberry field in Sapporo Hokaido, but I'm staying in Tokyo due to business matters. I own this mansion near the outskirts of Tokyo and something is happening for a while now. I believed it's paranormal enough to convince you to do a preliminary investigation."

"Can you please elaborate what's happening in your mansion? We need more specific information before considering a case."

"Yes of course." Mikoku leaned on the table and looked closer at Mai. In a low tone he said. "Some of my maids will disappear within a day and the next day they would show with rope marks on their wrist, legs and neck but they didn't have any recollection of what happened on their disappearance."

"That's sounds bad." Nobunaga remarked.

"Yeah, also, some of them would say that they feel like they're being watched and every one of them said that they saw a bloody hands waving outside the window."

"Do these occurrences hurt someone in your house hold?"

"One of my assistants got possessed and jumped from the roof of the mansion. Fortunately some tree catches his body before landing on the concrete floor. He was injured for six weeks."

Nobunaga gasp and gave Mikoku a sympathetic look, the latter didn't see it though as his eyes were fixed on Mai.

"There's a rumor that my mansion is somewhat connected in some kind of underground tunnel, it is said to be a hideout of some cult performing dark rituals." He added.

"... ...I see, are there people who frequently gives you a visit?"

"Aside from my two assistants I rarely get a visitor." Mikoku answered.

"Since you're managing a hotel and a wide strawberry field, it's clear that you're a business man. Do you think someone has a grudge on you and doing this?"

"I have thought of that. I already request an investigation from the police yet they failed to know what's happening, in addition to that one of the police man experienced the same thing."

It's that bad? But why this Mikoku doesn't look like he's bothered by the occurrences at all? Mai couldn't see a hint of worry in his eyes like some of their past clients had whenever they have a case. The way he explained things was also weird. It's like stating something out from a book.

She's so not going to take this case! No! Not without the help of Naru's brain and Lin's shiki! Mai knew that this case will be dangerous for each of them. Not that she didn't trust Ayako or Bou-san and John's capability, but her instinct told her that there's something far more worse than what he was stating. So as long as she could she wants to keep her family safe.

"Was that enough to suffice the information to look attentively into my case?" He asked.

Mai gave him a small smile. "I can see the situation is bad and in need of investigation. I'll forward this information to my boss. He will decide if he's going to take the case or not. So please be kind and wait for our call."

He straightened and gives her a dangerous smile. "I'll be waiting...Taniyama Mai-san."

Mai sighed after they see Mikoku Junko off. At last she can breathe freely again! That guy gives a stiffed and dangerous aura around him making it difficult to breath.

"I don't mean to say this Mai-san but..."

"What is it Nobunaga-san?"

Nobunaga scratch his lower nose using his index finger. "I think I don't like that Mikoku Junko. There's something in the way he looks at you."

She nearly gasps. So he did notice!

"It's not something like 'Like'. It's something much deeper, as if he found what he's looking for and wanted to have it or possessed it."

She laugh half heartedly. "Don't say something like that. Maybe that's really how he looks at people."

Nobunaga shook his head. "There's something more Taniyama and I feel it."

She looked away and falls in to a deep daze.

'Yeah...I feel it too.' She thought.

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