Living and the dead

Chapter 24

Mist.

The whole place was covered in mist; nothing is clear in her sight. All she could make out were shadows looming, just out of the corner of her eyes. Mai stopped, bare feet barely concealed on the muddy soil, noting the uncanny silence, creepy presence and heavy feeling around her.

Where was she again? This is another foreign place and uneasiness corresponds from the growing tension in her body. She has a not so good feeling about this.

Mai stepped back when the color of the whole place became red, she spun about, something she wished she never did because in doing so, her face almost hit another face. It was as if time stopped. She was frozen in her spot as she stared shock at the terrifying view before her. A few centimeters from her is a girl. Eyes empty as nothingness, thick blue veins visible in her pale white skin that is starting to get stained due to black tears streaming from her void eyes. Hair was rippled in dark thick waves then that's when she realized the girl wasn't alone.

There are more of them behind her, smiling at her with their void mouth. They are staring at her, as if she was a new object plummeted from another world. Their gazes are heavy that moments later she concede and closed her eyes.

'Help. . .'

'Help. . .'

'Help. . .'

'Help. . .' A voice inside her head said.


"Ojou-sama. . ." A soft sweet voice of a girl called to Mai.

The sound of her voice was low and calming leaving a pleasant feeling that after a while, her lips pulled in a small smile.

"Ojou-sama ... please open your eyes." The voice said.

She did what she told her. She opened her eyes slowly. A light blinded her almost immediately, but after a while of nonstop blinking, her eyes finally adjusted to her new surroundings.

Mai found herself seated on a wooden floor of an ancient Japanese house overlooking at the garden with so many different flowers. There's a wind chime hanged near the shoji door and every time the wind blew it create a tiny sound.

She looked up. The sky overhead was clear and blue. Few clouds are floating freely with no complete shape. The breeze of the wind was calming and she didn't stop herself from breathing in.

'Where am I?' Not long ago, she was in a creepy and dark place. But now everything changes as if that dream never existed.

"Ojou-sama"

Mai turn around and saw a girl with long black locks wearing a white night gown. A bright smile pasted in her face.

"I apologized for calling you here so suddenly." She said then slowly bow her head. "But I'm glad I pulled you out from that nightmare."

Mai tilt her head. Confuse is written all over her face.

"My name is Ichikawa Yumeno." She said. "I don't know if you already knew this but I'm the one giving you flowers every day. Chou-kun always delivers it for me."

Her eyes widened when she realized what she have said. She once asked Chou about the flower on her pillow every time she woke up and she still remembers what he had said.

'Flower. . name. .wasurenagusa...came from a friend...you will meet her outside.'

"You are... ...Chou's friend?"

Smiling, she nodded and sat beside her. "We've been friends for a long time." Yumeno said. "I was there when Kagiri brought you in the mansion. I saw the whole thing."

Mai's eyes sadden. "So, your dead too?"

Yumeno let out a soft laugh. "Um...yes." She said eyeing the small butterfly flying in the garden. "It happened a long time ago. My body was weak and I've gone in and out of the hospital. I'm just in my room most of the time, waiting for hours to past and not looking forward to tomorrow."

Mai sighed. She understands that feeling.

Yumeno place her hands on her lap. "Every day was so painful that one day ... I already forgot what it means to live. I just simply want everything to end." She bit her lower lip before speaking. "That's why when I died ... I became so happy and relieved. I plan to go where the dead should reside but after seeing them..."

She fell in a daze when she grasps what she's trying to say.

"You... also want to help them, don't you?" She said, talking about the ghosts trapped in that barrier.

A pause. "It was so hard for me, seeing them in pain." She said. "I want to help them but...I don't know what to do."

"You're asking for my help." Mai stated.

Yumeno nodded. "I know what I'm asking for is too much. But I couldn't think of any other way. I'm powerless and scared."

...Silence filled the whole place...

Birds chirping in a tree nearby, wind were gently blowing and the sky was ever so gentle looking so peaceful in its blue sky color. At that, she wonders if she saw a sky like this before. That familiar feeling of looking up at the blue sky while she's beside someone. Someone she knew perhaps? Or someone from her lost memory.

If she could only go back to that place with that person... ...but who is that person?

"I promised myself." Mai turned to Yumeno with a smile. "I promised myself that I will do everything to help them, that's why you don't need to ask me Yumeno-chan. I will help them." Her fist rolled into a fist. "That's for sure."

The girl's eyes crinkled when she beam. "Thank you, thank you very much!"

The sky reflected in Mai's brown eyes once again when she looked up. 'That's for sure.' she thought to herself.

Mai snuggled and bury her head in her pillow. It was warm, not too soft, not too hard and giving her a perfect comfort.

Her brow furrow when the pillow snuggled back. That's strange...she hug it and it hugged her back.

She sighed. Seem like she's only half awake. Mai lifted the blanket unto her neck and decided that she will just sleep the afternoon away. She felt really tired and sore at the same time. A rest would be a big help to forget the lingering pain inside her body.

A sound of door opening got her attention. Wait. Her room's door never sounded like that. It was always a loud metal to metal sound. This was different. It was slow and has a creaking sound, like the one who's opening the door was scared of disturbing whoever was resting.

Light tapping feet on the floor is what she heard next, then comes the closing of the door. Inching away from her warm pillow, her eyes shot open. The first thing that came into view is the white ceiling.

Mai turned to her right and saw a window covered with white curtains, probably five or more steps from where she is. There's a mini book shelf on the right side of the window and a small Japanese cabinet. On top of it is a round mirror.

Her head moved a little turning to look what's in front of her. A grey curtain concealed half of a sliding door leading to the balcony. There's also a telescope facing upward, obviously to watch stars at night. All walls were painted in white with grey linings at the bottom that goes well with grey carpet. There's a mini table at the side and on top of it, two hour glass was neatly placed along with three elaborately design throw pillows. Another small lamp and a miniature of big ben.

"Where... ...am I?"

She budge again and turned to her left side only to make her jaw drop right away from utter shock.

'Definitely dreaming!' She said to herself.

Because there is no way she would end up in this room together with a sleeping man beside her! That's not even possible in real life! Or her brain cracked perhaps and gave this kind of hallucinations? That is to say ... she's finally getting insane.

Mai stared wide eye at the man sleeping beside her. She can hear his shallow breathing and see his chest's calm movement. She could tell that he's wearing a set of pajama despite the blanket covering his body.

Her eyes shifted on his face. He was soundly asleep. Few strands of his midnight black hair fell on his face hiding his other eye, preventing her from seeing his whole face.

A sudden urge to brush away the strands in his face arouse out of nowhere. It must be her curiosity kicking in. The urge came very strong that moments later, she found herself lifting her hand to stroke away his hair from his face.

She froze, entirely mesmerized. His pale white skin looks as if he's a dream himself. Midnight black hair that made his face glow a little.

'What is this?' Mai asked herself. 'What is this feeling?'

Single tear fell from her eyes. Passing through her nose bridge and rolled down on her other cheek. She's not feeling scared nor frightened but there's a feeling that made her that way.

She wanted to hold him close yet she's afraid that if she did, he would vanish right before she could hold him even.

Mai wanted to say many things to him, wanted to ask him anything, wanted to talk to him. It's there... ...right inside her chest. The feeling of longing, the feeling of missing someone she wanted to see so badly.

She knew him ... he was the man from that time. The one she rescued from falling off the cliff. The one she vaguely remembers and the one that nearly forgotten. She thought that she would never see him again.

She's thankful ... ... very thankful. She never wanted to forget him. That's why she never let go even though that dream was slowly fading. She did her best to remind herself of him, doing such things as visiting the cliff every night and seeking for him in every place she would visit.

A quick moved from him made Mai flinched and before she could move away from him, his hand swiftly grabbed hers. Then his eyes slowly open.

Mai stared at him in bewilderment, his deep blue eyes looking back at her, eyes that bear profound knowledge. It was as though a gift from stars. She couldn't help but feel that she's already ... somewhere she should be. Somewhere near ... home.

"What are you doing?" He asked in a low, whisper tone.

A cold wind blew through the window, making her shiver.

"I... ...uh. . ." She was startled. She couldn't think of anything to say other than that, he's so close! She can even smell his scent.

Oh gosh holy geez! What the ... she was caught red handed.

The next thing he did made Mai's heart hammering in her chest. The man pressed his forehead into hers and close his eyes. He was so close that their lips almost touch! Again ... OH GOSH HOLY GEEZ!

"Good." He muttered. "Your fever has gone down."

Fever? Gosh...she felt like she's having flu! Her face felt so hot!

He lean away and sat on the bed. Then he reached the tray placed on the bedside table and surveyed the food. "It will be hard at first since you only drank liquid for days. Nonetheless, it's imperative for you to eat."

Mai didn't move. Still contemplating weather she'd run away or ask question first. He does not seem dangerous or someone who will do pointless things. However, it's too early for her to trust him.

With a fake confidence and face still flustered she decided to ask him a question.

"Ano...thank you for worrying about me but. . .who are you?" She asked, trying to prevent her voice from shaking.

...Silence...

Ok, seems like it's wrong to ask.

"Shibuya Kazuya." She heard him say.

Mai frowned. She then pinched her own cheek. That's when she noticed the bandage in her right arm. She quickly peered under the blanket. Strange...her usual clothes when she's dreaming were the same clothes she puts on when she sleeps. Except now her clothes were replaced with a large shirt and dark blue pajama.

"I'm not dreaming, am I?" She voiced out. And Shibuya answer her question with a not so nice reply.

"That only occurs to you now?" Said Shibuya. "You woke up ahead of me and you still think that you're dreaming? I am amazed."

That ticked her off. "Anyone who woke up in an unfamiliar room has an excuse to think that way." She said with an annoyed tone. "Especially if they can't recall what's happened before they ended up somewhere."

"Excuse suited for someone decided to drink the night out."

Mai sighed exasperatedly. "You know, if you knew where I came from you wouldn't say that." She said.

"Don't worry, I was just saying out loud what ninety percent of people would actually say after hearing what you have said."

"I didn't got drunk!" She barks at him.

Naru get off of the bed after placing the tray of food back in the bedside table. It's already nine thirty in the morning according to his digital clock. He slept more than enough.

After he brought Mai in his house, leaving her side became hard for him. And to add to his worries, the girl had a high fever for two days. Her body was shaking with cold and he resolved on the only effective idea he had in mind. He tucked her beside him for days.

Lin knew what he was doing and he told him not to tell anyone. The Chinese man just shrugged and let him do what he wants.

"Since you can answer me like that, I'll take it that you're feeling better now." He said.

Mai thought for a while. Her body is aching and sore. A few pain here and there, it felt as though her legs was still glued to the bed. Nevertheless, she felt fine compared to the pain she felt after being plunged into the cliff. She's alive. She's breathing and feeling human.

...Wait...

Then that only mean one thing.

Oh god...

"I did it..." She mumbles. "I escape!" She pulled herself into a seated position and turn to Shibuya. "Where am I? What happened that night? And ... who exactly are you?"

Mai try to move and Shibuya catches her. She's off balance and suddenly unable to breath, seeing spots everywhere and feeling weak.

Shibuya stared at her for a while. "Idiot! That's what happens when you got up after lying for a long time." He sighed. "There's no need to answer your questions right away. You need to start slowly, you should eat something."

"But-"

He cuts her off. "I'll explain everything to you later. For now, you have to rest more and gather your strength." He said while slowly helping her to lie down.

Shibuya turned his back towards her after he made sure that she's already comfortable. He took three steps before stopping. "And one more thing, don't let anyone know that I slept beside you. Keep it a secret." Then he continued exiting the room.

What the heck happened? ... A storm just left and it cause a big wrecked in her mind.

Why does she felt like this has happen before? Well, never mind. On to the more important matter. If she succeeded escaping that night, perhaps Shibuya was the one who found her. If that's the case...

She sighed. Now what? Where she should go from here? She can't just do everything recklessly or else, that person might find her and kill her.

...

Gone eating everything on the tray, Mai chooses to wander around the room. It's been one hour since Shibuya left and she's beginning to feel stiff. She wants to take a walk.

She walk toward the door and held the doorknob. Thankfully it's not lock. Mai peered outside before completely going out. She walked a short hall before reaching the end of the stair.

She peered again. She could see the half of the large living room. There's still no one down there.

'Does he live alone?' She shook her head. 'Nah...I heard footsteps earlier and I'm sure it's not him.'

Clutching the hem of her shirt Mai goes down with a light step. Upon reaching the first floor, she sees now how beautiful this house is.

The living room in front of her was full of expensive furniture. Four white sofa with no armrest. Each has five black throw pillows with white dragon embroidery. Medium size glass center table and a home theatre entertainment set. On the right side is the dining room. Everything in the interior was elaborately design and she expected no less on the exterior.

Shibuya was probably not an average person.

"Sugoi..." She mumbled to herself while admiring the not so large chandelier above.

Heaving a sigh, she headed toward the door just pass the living room. This house does suit Shibuya that for a moment she felt as though she's out of place. Even if there's a comfortable feeling when she's beside Shibuya, Mai can't help but think that she belongs nowhere in this place. Like she is someone that which does not exist.

Mai reached the garden and she didn't regret going outside. Although the garden was a little simple, for the first time after so many bleak days inside that cell, she felt marvelously free.

Tears welled in her eyes, as she step in the middle of the garden. She crouches down and felt the soft weeds on the ground. It's so vivid, green and solid.

"What are you doing here?" Came a voice behind her back.

Embarrassed that someone might catch her crying, Mai quickly wiped her tears. Turned around and smiled at the person which is Shibuya Kazuya. "I'm... ...I'm just taking a walk." She said. "Am I not allowed outside?"

"It's not that..." Shibuya said then took a deep breath. "It's ok to walk around the house but ... Don't go to a place where I can't see you."

'Say what?' Mai ask herself.

That scared Naru. He just took a bath and when he came back to the room, Mai wasn't there anymore. Naru hate to admit it but his mind became disarray that he go running outside the house after he thought that she might have left or someone took her.

He just came into his senses when he saw the gate was still locked.

"Let's talk inside." He suggested.

"Can't we talk here? I've enough of concrete walls and high ceilings." She said.

Without hesitations, Naru sat beside Mai, one leg stretched on the ground and the other bend near his chest. His face remains emotionless while eyeing the plants in front of him.

"I want answers to my questions." Mai said. She doesn't want to be lulled in a false kind of security. If she decided that Shibuya Kazuya isn't worthy of her trust, she would escape right away. It doesn't matter if she'll become a stray, Mai wanted to be far from danger.

She has to take care of herself until she fulfilled her promise.

"No one will harm you here." Shibuya seems to sense her hesitation. "I won't tell you to trust me because I know you won't. For now."

For now? Just how much confidence does he have that she would trust him?

"You will trust me, eventually." He said to her.

Her eyes narrowed. "How can you know for certain that I will trust you?"

"Because..." Shibuya put a hand inside his pocket, after a while he showed her a small round object made out of nickel that she could only call a coin. "I'm the one who gave you the name Mai."

Her gaze immediately locked on Shibuya's face. "Coin...san?"

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