Living and the dead

Chapter 27

In the vague ray of lights from the dark sky that cuts through the branches of trees, Mai traveled the road leading to a deeper part of a cemetery.

She doesn't know where this force wants to bring her, yet despite the mystified feeling inside her, somewhere in her mind she knew that this place was not foreign to her.

She'd been here before.

Was it in her dreams? Or did she come here for a cherry blossom flower viewing? She's with her ... friends? Mai took a step forward and saw a tomb. On top of it was a vase with withered flowers, melted candles and ashes from incense.

Mai stood with a confused expression on her face. Why did that ghost bring her here? Will he tell her something important?

A light patting of heels on the ground reached her ears. She wheeled and saw a woman in his mid-forties carrying a bouquet of tulips and a bag of oranges. The color of her light brown hair shines despite the shady lights but her dark green dress compromised with the gloomy look on her face.

She stopped three feet away from her. A look of surprised on her face, if she's not expecting anyone to come around the area at that certain time; Mai was also not anticipating this sudden meeting.

"Ar-Are you a friend of my son?"

Having asked with such question, Mai didn't know what to say. She's not sure if she knows the person on that tomb but one thing is certain: she needed answers.


The expression of her face softened. She gave her a small smile. "I see, I didn't know that there's still someone who visits him." She sighed. "What do I know about him anyway? I'm nothing but a useless mother."

'Mother?' Mai gazed at the name engraved at the tomb. 'So, she's the mother of this Nobunaga Arai?' But why? How did that happen?

This woman is without a doubt the woman from her dreams ... the one she saw with the young Kurogane Kagiri.

"Kagiri's brother?" She said absentmindedly.

The tulips made a small thud sound when it fell from the woman's arms. One of the oranges rolled in Mai's feet. Her eyes were bulging like it was about to come out. She's shocked. no she's petrified.

"H-How did y-you know about that?" She asked, voice trembling. "D-Did Arai-kun told you?" The woman shook her head in bafflement seemingly don't know what to say. "No, that's impossible! He doesn't know he has a brother! Tell me! How did you know!?"

The woman crossed the gap between them, grip her shoulders and shake her rather harshly. "How did you know!?" Her face has gone pale and she looks like she was about to faint anytime now.

"Let her go!" Naru shouted from behind. He immediately got to where Mai is and stood in front of her. "What do you think you're doing to her?" He asked the woman.

She stepped back, clutched her own hands and trembled. "I, I was just asking her a question."

"Is that how you asked a question? It seems to me that you're harassing her."

"N-No I ... I-"

Naru's eyes narrowed. He threw a quick glance at the tomb beside the woman then back to the woman's face. He can see how scared she was. He almost scoffs. Seems Mai got herself in another trouble.

Mai almost stumbled when Shibuya pulled her wrist. She didn't resist because Shibuya looks like he will snap if she did something again.

She looked back and saw the woman picking up the flowers. Beside her was the ghost of the boy who called her here, he was standing still, just looking at her with a sad face.

'Thank you for coming here.' He said. 'I was waiting for you Mai.'

'He knows me?'

Lively. That's the suitable word to explain the atmosphere inside the SPR office. All of the members are present and having a cheerful chat over a cup of Mai made tea that Naru eagerly hide inside the refrigerator.

Since Mai is coming back, Madoka insisted serving the tea in order to tease the young lad. She wanted to see how Noll will react.

Her eyes found the young woman seated at the end of the other couch. Ruri was more exquisite today, making her the only one who seems to be out of place inside their office and she knew why. Mai is going to be here after all and she's all armed for battle.

'Woman in love is dangerous indeed.' Madoka thought.

"What's taking them so long?" Takigawa asked, glancing at the door.

Madoka turned to him and smiled. "Naru called. They'll be here soon."

"Is Mai still calling Naru Shibuya?" Masako inquired.

"Yeah." She said. "And he's not pleased about it. Mai only called Naru Shibuya when she's pissed or making fun of him."

"Then Naru must have felt like Mai is always making fun of him." Ayako said.

Ruri had enough of waiting and the group's annoying topic about Mai and Kazuya is getting in her nerves. "Where does Mai stay? Is she staying at some kind of a safe house?"

"Safe house?" Madoka put a finger under her chin. "Hmmm...yeah, I think we can call Naru's house a safe house."

Ruri's eyes widen in shock. "She's staying with Shibuya-kun?"

"Yes, she is. Naru was the one who decided on it. And we all think that it's for the best. Besides, he wanted to make sure that Mai is safe." Madoka explained with a smile.

Ruri squeezed the hem of her skirt. Strong amount of jealousy flooded her heart and it's painful. She wanted to get angry, not at Kazuya but on Mai.

Why does she have to come back? Why didn't she just vanish forever?

They heard a loud thud outside. After that came Naru's voice. "Idiot. Who told you to run off just as you pleased?"

"But he was there! Didn't you see him?" Mai exclaimed. Her voice full of panic.

"Don't mind them. Ignore them if you can and please, don't let your mind wander. It's too small to be out by itself."

A moment of silence.

"Hey! Are you saying that I'm stupid?" Mai demanded.

"I see sometimes you're not quick in the uptake."

"Not because sometimes I'm not quick in the uptake means I'm stupid! Hmp!" She crossed her arms and stick out her tongue. "Since your highness is so smart, would you mind opening the door for this dumb one? I might injure myself out of my stupidity."

"I didn't say you're stupid." Naru said coolly as he held the doorknob and open the door.

Both of them walked inside without breaking each other's stare.

"You're not saying it but you're completely implying that I'm stupid!" She glared at Shibuya. "You started calling me idiot the moment we got inside the van."

Naru did it purposely to mask his anxiety. That's also his punishment on Mai for forgetting him a while ago. He wanted to remind her how idiot she was for making him worry like that.

"I should have known!" She said. "Light travels faster than sound. You look perfect until you speak."

"And you think I'm handsome." Naru stated.

"Of course! Other than being cold, stoic, sharp tongue and over bearing you are handsome."

Almost everyone in the room snicker. That's to be expected in Mai. She never hides the fact that Naru is handsome.

"You have a nice taste even though you're an idiot." Naru said. "Then you're not the type of idiot that I dislike."

Mai's jaw dropped in awe. Geez! This guy is so full of himself! A complete narcissist! She wouldn't be surprise if one day Shibuya will demand his reflection to come out of the mirror.

Speaking of mirror, she saw herself standing above a street clock inside of a dream. She was looking back at herself with those sad eyes and dejected expression. She seems to be telling her something but she doesn't understand any of it.

Is there some message behind that dream? Or was it really a dream?

"Idiot!" Shibuya's voice pulled her thoughts back. "I told you not to wander."

Her brow furrow. "Stop calling me an idiot! I have a name!" She snapped back.

"A name is simply the means by which a person prefers to identify himself. There is no value to be had in the concept of a name."

"I won't fall for that! I won't be fooled by your seemingly smart lecture which completely missed the point!"

Naru sighed. "Forget it. I gave you a name so that I can identify you easily. Moreover I find your old name unfitting."

Even if he say that, Mai is not willing to setback. "If that's how you're going to be, then two can play that game! A nick name! I'll give you a nick name! From now on I'll call you mr. Bundle of nerves!"

"Oh, a nickname as ugly as that is not surprising especially coming from you." He gave Mai his fake bright smile. "Thinking something like that must be tiring. You should rest, idiot."

She rolled her and took a step. She was then greeted by a smiling man with glasses. "Welcome to Shibuya Psychic Research, Mai-chan. The name's Osamu Yasuhara, always at your service." He extended his hand, Mai took it and beam at the young man.

"I'm Takigawa Hoshou, but you can call me Bou-san." A tall man introduced himself, suddenly standing beside Osamu-san. "I'm a former monk in mount Kouya."

Mai stared at the tall man. She was sure that this is the first time she have seen him yet at the back of her mind he seems familiar. No, not only him but everyone and every single thing in this place.

She's not completely forgotten about it. But something is keeping her from remembering, it was as if a wide cloth is covering her entire memories. She probably remember this place, she even drop by during her sleep. Mai can only remember this place in her dreams. She didn't forget. Right ... She just can't find any clues to help her retrieve the memories.

Nothing could possibly trigger her memories. If she tried she could certainly remember it, however she lack the opportunity to do so.

But she can still try, right?

"Ne, have we met somewhere before?" She asked.

The man's eyes widened. His expression tells he was completely surprise. "Do you remember me?"

'Do you remember me? He said.' So it means, they somehow knew each other, isn't it?

She shook her head. "No, but you are kind of familiar."

Yeah, she knew. She knows the feeling was far more than a single familiarity. She knew them well and they knew her in return. No one says a single word. If it's because they are waiting for her or they were just being concerned, Mai couldn't tell. But she could tell one thing is for certain: She's connected to them.

"Never mind." She told Bou-san.

Bou-san grins. "Maybe we are siblings in our past life or maybe I am your father."

"It would be really creepy if he is indeed your father in your past life." Ayako spoke, Mai's attention diverted to her. "Imagine, a father like that? Your life is doomed."

"I'll throw your words right back at you!"

"I'm capable enough to be a mother." Ayako said.

"Oh yeah?" The monk said with a raised brow. "Says someone who only cared for her fingernails and make-up."

Mai watched as the two banter without minding everyone around them. They were like two great childhood friends.

'Seems like they haven't change at all.' She frown. 'Why did I think of that?'

When Shibuya-san told her that he would take her to his office, she got a little nervous. Shibuya does look kind even though he's always cold and emotionless. However she had no idea if his colleagues are kind enough to help her.

'But it appears, there's nothing to worry about' She thought and smiled.

"Are you feeling uncomfortable?" A blond guy with smiling blue eyes asked her. "Don't mind them. They're always like that."

"Yeah." She replied.

He smiled. "Please don't hold back. If you have something to say, you can tell us. I'm John Brown, an exorcist."

"You're an exorcist? Then you can exorcise demons?"

"If it's a demon holding a great amount of power, then I'm not certain if I'll be able to."

Well, that's understandable.

There were times when an enemy is far more powerful than you and it's not bad to admit that you can't defeat it. From that she could tell that John is the honest and too kind type of person.

When Ayako whacked monk's head using her purse, a giggle slip out her mouth. She's happy beyond belief. It felt like coming home after a long painful journey.

John stepped between Ayako and Bou-san, trying to calm the two with his words but the exorcist ended up as a shield when Bou-san pulled him. Poor John got whacked on his right shoulder.

A pink haired lady made her way and pulled her hands. She has a pleasant aura and expression on her face making her smiled back.

"How delightful to see you at last! We've been hearing so many things about you from Naru."

She looks at her curiously. "Naru?"

"It's Kazuya's nickname." The lady said.

A memory flashed in her mind. She saw herself talking to the wisp.

'Naru... ...I met...Naru's brother.'

The man in the cliff and the wisp's friend's brother was Naru? The person who gave her a name and the person who rescued her was also Naru.

Was it coincidence? It was as though his whole presence is swirling over her despite him being not there. But wait ... if wisp met Naru's brother... ...then could it be that he has a dead brother?

"Naru ..." This name tastes sweet in her tongue, like she's used to saying that name every day. "So, you're Naru."

Naru on the other hand just stared blankly at Mai. Although delighted at Mai calling his name, he couldn't show it in his face.

This happiness is making him tad agitated. It's not wrong to feel happiness for a while, yet he can't really enjoy it. For some reason it felt wrong, there's no room for that blissful sensation. Especially when Mai's life is in danger.

Although he said he will do everything to save her, Naru is living with fear that one day she will be gone for good.

"Mai." That Naru called her.

She abruptly turned to him. "Yes?"


"... Yes?"

Naru gives her a cold look. "Have you gone deaf on me now? I said tea. Make me some tea."

Oh yeah, right. She almost forgot how addicted to tea this young master is. He even ordered her to make a lot of them when she visited this office in her dreams. Mai stood up, went to the kitchen and started preparing tea for all of them.

Just when she's about to reach for the tea cups, the beautiful girl she saw a while ago grabbed them making her hands stopped midair.

She wheeled and faced her.

"I'll make the tea for Kazu-kun." She smiled sweetly but Mai can feel that there's something behind that smile. "He doesn't like it when someone spoil the taste of his beloved tea."

'I'm not thinking of spoiling his tea' she thought silently and glanced at the box the girl was holding. 'Oh my. That won't do.'

Shib-Naru-chan has an abnormally high self-pride and she trust, it's also the same in his tea. She could only think of him of someone special. Person? Probably not. A frightening beautiful demonic vampire is more suitable description for him. Since he's like that, black tea will probably match his taste.

Strange. How could she think of that at that moment?

With that in mind, Mai once again reached for the tea cups and prepare a black tea.

Another strange thing...

She remembers doing this kind of thing like she's already used to it.

"Don't think that everyone is happy to see you." The girl said, still smiling yet the glint of disdain in her eyes is clearly visible. "Kazu-kun is helping you because it's his job. Don't misunderstand his job for kindness."

It seems that this girl don't like her very much. Mai wonder why? It's a mystery. "I know." She said. "Whether it's because of pity, kindness or his job ... . .. I'm still thankful that he's helping me."

"Kazu-kun was right. You're nothing but an idiot!" The girl hissed and glared at her. "You know what they are after is something dangerous. Relying on him, don't you think you're just involving him in a much more complicated situation? Do you really plan on dragging them down with you?"

Mai stopped stirring the tea and looked down. "I know ... that very well. You don't have to tell me."

Their enemy is a demon. A powerful one at that. That's why no matter how powerful Naru's team is, if they lose even once ... everything will be over. Not just their chances to finish all of these but also their life.

She already thought of the possibilities and neither of them was good. Their chances of getting not only hurt but also die is high. As she pondered about that earlier, her hopes is beginning to get clouded, she can't helped but to be terrified.

"Everyone is nice. Somehow I felt that I'm connected to them at some point." She smiled bitterly. "I know Naru is also important to you. But you know in just a small time I spent with him, he became an important person to me."

Ruri's eyes narrowed.

"Say, there are two things that are really important to you, do you think choosing only one out of your own pride is something you should do? Although I want to keep them both the way is too hard. I might end up losing my own life." Mai sighed. She continues. "I also have something I need to protect ... ... however, if protecting those important to me means putting someone's life in danger, then it's better if I do it alone."

She has so many reasons to fight. To move forward she has to settle it herself or else everything will vanish.

"Glad you said that." Ruri picked up the tray and walk out of the kitchenette.

Mai heave a sigh. How foolish of her to seek help and put someone's life in danger. She could only think of one possible way to end this all. It might not turn out well in the end but she still have to strive hard to fulfill her promise.

Well, even if she die somewhere, there probably won't be anybody that really cares. For a person without memories let alone a name, her existence is nothing to the world. She's someone who should cease to exist , besides no matter where she is there is nowhere to run.

Her hands were shaking as she carries the tray with a cup of steaming tea. This is the last. "Maybe It's better if I dwell with this alone."

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