Living and the dead

Chapter 28

Naru stared at Mai who placed a cup of tea in front of him. His gaze shifted on the table where two different teas are served. Narrowing his eyes a bit, Naru took the black tea and sip a little.

It tastes the same.

"So Mai, how is your stay in Naru's house?" Bou-san inquired. "Is he giving you a hard time?"

"No, not at all!" She shook her head. "But occasionally he scolds me."

"It is your fault for wandering about without telling me where you're going." Naru interposed.

"Well I'm sorry for thinking that you might already know where I was since I'm always in the garden." Mai said, annoyance in her voice. "You even get mad at me just by standing in the balcony!"

"You keep spacing out every time. And I'm kind enough not to leave a wandering idiot in the balcony if she has the proneness to fall because of her idiocy." He sips his tea and gave Mai an insulting grin.

"You know, you should stop smiling like that. It's creepy."

"How sweet. A lover's quarrel?" Madoka asked, grinning widely.

Naru throw a pointed glare at her. "That was nothing like a lover's quarrel. Don't just say random things out of your imagination."

'Kazuya-kun is surprisingly talkative today.' Ruri observed. Ever since she met Kazuya, her impression of him was someone who wouldn't talk when it's not necessary. Aside from that, he's not in his usual stoic and serious self now.

Is it because Taniyama Mai is here that Kazuya-kun looks more alive? Why? She rolled her fist while giving Mai a glowering look. What was so special about her? What could Kazuya have seen in her that Ruri doesn't have?

"Mai-chan, Is it true that there's some dangerous creature after you?" Ruri asked. "What is it looks like?"

Mai nodded. "It's a demon. I only saw it once but it's not that bad looking unlike what we had imagined. That demon might have a pretty face on the outside but what he does is ruthless."

Ruri tilts her head a little. "I see ... if it's after you, then it will follow you here. Does that mean: this office is now ... ... unsafe?"

"Umina Ruri-san." Naru called the girl with his cold voice. He gave the girl a stare that might have come from the ice king.

Ruri stiffened. It wasn't because Kazuya's cold voice and stare. It's how he called her name. It sounds like she's someone who wasn't even there.

"Y-Yes?"

"Up until now I'm ignoring your presence to avoid being callous, however it seems that you put a different meaning about it." Naru said.

"What do you mean?" Ruri's lips quivered as the question left his lips.

"Your over staying in my office is causing displeasure." He said frankly. "This is not a place that someone like you should be in and someone who is not invited should know how to restrain their mouth and just leave."

"But I'm here to help!" Ruri's voice came out shaky, although she's holding herself not to burst, the tears started to form in her eyes. How can he be so cold? Does he not care about her feelings even a little?

"Helping someone and expecting something in return, you're doing business and not kindness. My apologies but I don't have the time to deal with you."

"Naru..." Mai called him. Naru looked at her and saw the worry in her eyes. In her current state of course this is the first time she will see his cold and indifferent countenance.

But why does showing Mai his cold side makes him uncomfortable? He doesn't have showing it to her in the past so why now?

He cleared his throat a little and spoke, ignoring the uncomfortable feeling inside of him. "I can tell that you are infatuated with me. Do you think 'Helping' will change anything? I can appreciate 'help' when I know how those people worked hard just to make everything easier for the people they are helping. If that's what you call 'helping then it's meaningless."

"Why are you treating me this way?" Ruri cannot hold back anymore. Her tears rolled down and she made a light sobbing noise. "I am doing everything I can just to make you look at me. Is my effort nothing to you? You don't even talk to me! I'm doing all of these because I really like you!"

Naru sighed. This again. He's already tired of this like and like back business. "Can you stop doing bothersome things like that? If you want to play pretend then take it somewhere else. I don't even remember asking for your help to begin with."

Every one of them didn't say a thing when Ruri grabbed her bag and stomp her feet out of the office while crying. They don't have any idea how to console her nor is there a need to.

"Naru you're being mean." Mai said.

"Then do you want me to be polite after she said bothersome things to you?"

Mai's brows shot up. How did he know?

"Don't misunderstand." Naru said. "I value professionalism. Having Umina Ruri here is one thing that can threaten this company's privacy."

It's her turn to let out a heavy breath. "I won't say anything anymore since what happen looks hard on you too. But next time... try to be a little gentle."

"You don't have to tell me what to do." Naru lifted the cup and sip a little.

'If there's no one tell you what to do, you might get hurt in the future.'

Mai then cheerfully smiled to break the tension inside the office. She eyed everyone in the room who remained silent. "Honestly, I truly like this place and I really like the people here. It feels like home and I will not allow anyone to destroy the place I called home ... even if I'm not here, this place will always be my home." She said cheerfully.

"Very well said Jou-chan!" Bou-san cried cheerfully. "We're going to protect this together. And I the monk of mount kouya will do everything to protect this office! So you'll have a place you can return to."

Masako lift her sleeves to hide her smiling face. That sure is embarrassing to hear but she can't hide the fact that she's happy hearing these from her fellow colleague.

It's childish yet honest.

Ayako whacked Bou-san's head. "What's wrong with you? Suddenly saying something like that."

"What's with you suddenly doing something like that?! It hurts you make-up hag!"

Ayako whacked his head again. "Oho! A delinquent old man is speaking! Give me one good reason why I shouldn't shave your head off!"

"You know, if this is a lovers thing, please take it in the hall." Yasu suggest. "You two are loud."

"Mai, tea." Naru ordered Mai for the second time this day. The girl just looks at him with a bewildered expression.

Scowling, Mai got up onto her feet and took the now empty cup. "You still have one cup left. Aren't you going to drink that?"

"I don't drink green tea."

'Figures.' Mai thought. "Do you really plan on drinking one litter of tea a day? Geez, Naru I'm really amazed beyond belief." With large steps, Mai went back to the kitchen to prepare another cup.

Naru eyed Mai, when she's completely gone he turned to Lin. "Lin, did you notice something about the list of victims?"

"Yeah and I'm surprised as well."

The team fell in silence.

"A while ago I saw a woman who looks exactly like the mother of the first victim Amano Shizuka." Naru said. "She was visiting the grave of Nobunaga Arai."

"What did you say!?" Ayako said, appalled while the others remain speechless.

"Listen, the evidences and information sits well with each other." Yasu interposed. "If Kurogane Kyousoke killed Nobunaga's father we can conclude that the reason was his wife had a secret affair with Nobunaga. It might also be the reason why Nobunaga Arai grew up without knowing who his real mother was."

"That makes sense." Masako said. "Then Nobunaga Arai is Kurogane Kagiri's half-brother."

Lin opened his laptop and started typing.

"You know Shibuya-san, I've been thinking of this for a while and I'm seriously bothered."

Naru eyed the priest with full curiosity. "What is it?"

"No matter how strong that demon is, it's impossible for him to bring a dead back to life. It will only result to summoning another monster without a soul." John locked his knuckles. "And I believed it is not his real intention, because if it is, then a single soul is enough."

"I agree." Ayako said. "Holding a few souls is tiring enough no matter how strong your spiritual energy is. A single medium's spiritual energy is equal to four normal person, so why would he be needing a lot of them?"

"To feed the demon." Mai butt in, walking out of the kitchen holding a tray of another steaming tea. After giving Naru his tea she stood beside him. "That mansion is protected by a barrier."

"A barrier?" Ask Masako.

Mai nodded. "Yes, that barrier is forbidding any ghost to escape. They can get in but they can never come out." She explained as she slowly sat in the couch.

"How many ghosts are trapped inside that mansion?" Bou-san brought himself to ask.

"More than you can imagine." She replied. "But wisp said: at first there are almost eight hundred of-"

"Eight hundred?!" Yasu, Ayako, Bou-san and Madoka exclaimed while John's eyes widen in surprise. They couldn't believe their ears. That is just impossible! And all of them only serve as a demon food?!

Masako felt like fainting. How could a horrible person like him exist in this world? Those ghosts were also humans and killing those does not differs from killing a live one.

Naru rest a hand under his chin. "If it's like that ... then there has to be some kind of cycle."

Every one eyed Naru curiously.

"He put up a barrier to catch souls, those souls serves as the demon food, and then the demon gives him power so he can maintain the barrier. A never ending horrible cycle."

"If it was indeed like that, then isn't a normal soul enough to be a demon's food?" Ayako said. "Eight hundred souls can maintain his power for a long time."

"Noll." Lin called him in a firm voice. "I found it. Like what you had said, there's indeed a connection and it's not a simple one."

"What have you found?" He asked as he straightened in his sit.

"All twenty two girls were members of an independent psychic professional organization and research group led only by a single founder." He typed again and the screen flashed another data. "Shinrei Reibai Sosshiki or Psychic Medium Organization PMO. Founded eleven years ago by a single person name ... Amano Midori. Also the accident of her husband, I'm sure that it's no coincidence it is most likely a move from Kagiri."

The whole place fell in deep silence. Everyone was noting the information they puzzled out. Looks like everything was only centered in one aim and the target was none other than Amano Midori.

Lin looked up from his laptop. "I also found something important about these whole situations and I would like everyone to know what this is." He looked at Naru. "Will you let me disclose this information?"

"Go ahead." Naru said as he took the cup of steaming tea.

"The visit in Kurogane Kagiri's office gave us another mystery to solve."

"And that is?" Madoka asked.

"We found out that Kagiri is already dead."

A frown made its way Bou-san and Yasuhara's face. The others are shocked and Lin already expected the reaction. Lin was shocked as well when he learned the method Kagiri was using to extend his life. He didn't know that in this kind of generation there's still someone who can perform this dangerous ritual just for the sake of another dangerous deed.

"But how's that possible?" Ayako asked. "We can see that he's still alive. Don't tell me that it was someone fake?"

"No, he may look like a living person to many of you but the truth is his life is only thread thin. It will snap but Kurogane Kagiri is doing something to delay the inevitable by performing a ritual."

All of them remained silent, anxiously waiting for Lin to spill everything.

"This ritual is too risky and I'm amazed that someone managed to succeed performing it." Lin sighed. "Is there someone familiar with the Taizan Fukun ritual?"

Masako spoke. "I know that but I'm not really familiar with it. If I remember correctly it is the ritual used by Abe no Seimei to save a monk."

"That's the one. Even now, Onmyoudo prohibits magic concerning souls, and of course, the spiritual disaster brought around-People shouldn't interfere with other's souls, because it is already out of the living territory. And Taizan Fukun is one of the taboo rituals in Onmyoudo. It is said to be a ritual that can summon a dead back to life. Taizan Fukun was a deity of onmyoudo-the lord of death. Regarded as the god who managed human's life and death? The alarming thing is: Kurogane is using this ritual not to bring back something dead but to avoid death itself."

"But how?" Yasu asked.

"We can call Taizan Fukun a death god and death god's job is to make sure that the soul will reach its destination. The only thing Kurogane can do to stop Taizan Fukun from taking his life is to deceive it. He's diverting Taizan Fukun's attention to another person using a charm. A prayer addressed to Taizan Fukun written in Chinese. It means that another person will be made as a substitute for the one who's dying and offered his life to Taizan Fukun. That's where those mediums were used for, because offering a person with low spiritual energy isn't enough."

"Then he's keeping himself alive for the sake of his revenge." Mai stated, gradually turning sad. That person was already lost and he doesn't want to be saved yet there are things that still bother her. "Why kill so many people instead of killing his mother? If all of these was to take everything away from her then what's left? What will he do next?"

"That's what we have to find out." Naru said. "If he has more than one goal and one is already executed then he will move to another. He will use you for that matter."

"But Mai, how did you know that the demon eats those souls?" Madoka asked, still can't believe what she had heard. "Did he tell you?"

"Kurogane Kagiri? No, he rarely comes to the mansion, but his brother pays me a visit almost every day. He tells me about his brother and the happenings outside the room since I'm locked up." She said with a wide grin. "Sometimes, there are few ghosts who drop by. They tell me different stories concerning their life."

"You can see and talk to them?"

"Sometimes I can see them but most of the time they're just in their wisp form. They talk to me using telepathy but I can only understand a few of what was saying. It's up to me how to connect the sentences." She giggled. "It was like talking with some elementary kids."

"Living with a mansion full of ghost, you probably felt a little ounce of fright." Yasu said as he aligned his glasses.

"They're not scary at all. In fact they were nice, though some of them are snobbish. I just hate it when they are trying to show me how they died."

Naru's hand trailed from lifting his tea and frown. "What do you mean Mai?"

"Eh ... ..." Her expression became worried and she restrained herself from responding. She shouldn't have gone too far. Though it's not a secret, Mai felt uncomfortable sharing that experience with someone. Also, it brings back painful and terrifying memories of dying and being killed.

"Mai, even you should be aware that I'm not very patient." Naru said, voice hard. "I'm asking you a question."

"-Well ..." She sighed in defeat, seems like he won't let this slide rather easily. "Time and again they showed me how they died using my dreams."

"They don't just show it, do they?" Naru guessed. "They let you experience their death in your dreams, am I correct?"

Mai silently look away as she bit her lower lip. "Something like that ..." She said in a small voice, suddenly feeling nervous.

A loud clank sounded when Naru put back his cup on the saucer. He is angry, she can feel it. Now she wondered if she said something wrong.

"You didn't tell me a single thing about this." Naru said with a mixture of coldness and anger in his voice. "Let me revert back to what I've said earlier Mai. I'm pleased to hear you say something to me but what I want to know is what you're not telling."

"I don't think it's necessary." She said, gradually getting annoyed.

"I'm an investigator, be it big or small information is still information. You're an idiot for hiding something like that to me."

Mai glared at him. Even though he has a point, isn't it too much to call her an idiot just for that? It's not like she cares but somehow she's offended. "Well, I apologize if I find that kind of information uncomfortable to share with." She utters a 'hmp' and looked away.

"Noll." Naru turned to Lin. The Chinese man is giving him a look telling him not to push this matter anymore.

Mai clenched her hand and she decided that she hates Naru a little. He didn't know that telling him her nightmares would only result in relieving the painful memories of getting killed and dying every time. As of now the last thing she wanted to see is the look of pity and sympathy in their faces. She doesn't need any of them!

"Again Mai, if you have any information to disclose don't try to hide it. We need everything we can use to finish this case at the earliest." Naru didn't finish his tea and decided to go back into his office. He needed space to calm himself.

He's not mad at Mai, but what she told them aggravate him. He knew those ghost just wanted to share what they had been through on someone they thought could help. But they didn't even thought of the suffering that someone might feel after experiencing death so many times.

He ... he didn't even know that she suffered so much inside that mansion. So much that just by the thought of it makes him completely hurt.

He couldn't protect her ...

He couldn't protect her ...

He couldn't protect her ...

He couldn't protect what's most important to him.

Although he already knew what they are up against is a powerful demon and an onmyouji, Naru couldn't help thinking of crushing them both in his hands. 'If I protected you that time, maybe this tragedy would not have begun.' But it's too late for that now. Nothing will come from empty regrets, thus he decided to settle this once and for all!


BAM! Hirota and Saki flinched at the loud sound of knuckles hitting the wooden desk. He glanced at their prosecutor in charge Kurahashi-san and sighed inwardly. Judging the man's look which resembles a tanuki that ate a thing called fatigued, he must be in a ragged edge.

That's comprehensible since it's been three days after they put Kurogane Kagiri in confinement, yet he hasn't said a single thing about the accusation and keeps on blabbing nonsense which caused Kurahashi's ultimate frustration. He was tough that even a detective from Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department beat a hasty retreat after talking to him for only once.

"Justice isn't something that you can just proclaim because you locked up the culprit." Kurahashi said with a low raspy voice, probably containing his anger. "He's indeed the man behind all those crimes, there's no doubt about that! But how are we supposed to prove it if we don't have any evidences? Huh? Tell me!"

Hirota cringed. Kurahashi is right. Yes they arrested Kurogane Kagiri and the investigation has been carried out, yet they didn't find any evidences that will prove him as the suspect. The searched team who raided his office, mansion and other private properties failed, saying they didn't find anything suspicious. The man was indeed smart, seeing right through them.

"But there's a survivor!" Saki said, hand clenched in a tight fist.

The tanuki let out a mocking smile. "And that victim has her memories wipe out am I correct? Putting an amnesiac girl in the court is also a way of saying I should resign!"

'Maybe you should really resign' Hirota said in his mind.

"Do you know how hard it is to have a murder without a body? Unless someone can produce a body, this whole thing is nothing but ridiculous speculations." Kurahashi said between his teeth. "We may hang on the remaining victim but for how long? That man is powerful! He has money and we all know how money can manipulate justice." He eyed Hirota and Saki. "I myself don't believed in paranormal stuff, and if I'll view this in other way it's hard to believe that he's killing female mediums to acquire what he wants. He already has it all." He turned his back at them and sighed. "Do something about this. I want this finished as soon as possible."

It is also his way of dismissing them. With heavy feet, Hirota and Saki immediately made their way out of the Tanuki's office.

"I really want to punch that man!" Saki punched the air as she turned to Hirota. "So? What are you going to do now?"

Hirota's lips curled in annoyance. "He said 'Do something about this' so, it's ok to act at our own convenience."

"So?"

"I'll do the questioning myself."

Saki gaped at him. "Aren't you going to get in trouble for this later on? You already tried questioning him once and the unexplainable happens!"

That day put a mark on Hirota's life. Something he wouldn't forget in his entire living as a human.

He tried questioning him on the first day he was brought inside the interrogation room. But then, one look in his eyes he forgotten everything. He woke up slumped in the chair and Kurogane Kagiri was nowhere to be found. It is then that Saki walked in carrying a glass of water.

"Great! I really thought I'll have to splash water on your face to wake you up." He remembered Saki said as she placed the glass in front of him.

His vision was still blury and he felt like a thousand neddles was pierce in his whole body. "What happened?" He asked her, shaking his head to wake himself up.

"That's what I'd like to ask!" Saki placed a hand on her waist. She's completely confused. "We saw you on the monitor. The moment you sat on that chair, you stopped moving! I thought you died so I rushed here and found you in a trance. Kurogane was brought back to his cell immediately but you won't wake up. What the hell happen to you? Did he eat your soul?"

Hirota shook his head. The painful feeling is still there. "I, I don't know! I just stared in his eyes then I'm lost. All I can feel is this falling sensation and needles piercing to my skin." He also remembered hearing voices hovering around him.

"Tch! That man is really dangerous! It's as Shibuya says. We must not let our guard down. He will eat us alive!"

Nakai Saki snapped a finger in front of him, pulling Hirota's thought in the present time.

"Enough of day dreaming! Tell me! Are you really going to interrogate him?"

"What do you want me to do? Curled in a corner and wait for an opportunity to strike?" He said. "If there's no opportunity then we have to find one. I'm betting my job on this and I won't back down easily even if I have to face a demon." He then walked ahead, leaving Saki who's giving him an amused look.

"Agressive, huh?" She murmured to herself with a proud smile on her face.

...

Stopping before a thick metal door, Hirota Seigi prepared and calmed himself. The prosecutor in-charge had enough of Kurogane Kagiri and leaves the interogation in his hand. Well, not really, but he did say something like 'do something about this' and this is the only possible way Hirota has to find the truth. He may not be as sturdy as Shibuya Kazuya but he also has something he can do.

With a clammy hands and fake confidence, Hirota opened the door. As he enters with heavy steps, he found him seated silently across another open chair. Hirota bit his inside cheek. Though Kurogane Kagiri stays silent and annoying for days, he couldn't shake the feeling that somewhere inside that guy's mind, he is plotting something.

He let out the breath he was holding and put the folder on the table.

Kurogane Kagiri smirked as he shook his head. "Time sure flies fast. I see you're the one they sent here to question me. Are you perhaps their last card?" He said, voice latch with boredom beyond belief. "I'm getting tired of this and I don't want to see your face."

Hirota cleared his throat and glared at him. "What a coincidence, I feel the same way." He said. "Why don't you confess already so we can part ways?"

"I whole heartedly refuse."

"Then you have no choice but to endure seeing my face every day."

Kagiri chuckles and stares at Hirota who immediately got chills by that simple meeting of their eyes. It felt like his soul was being dragged inside a never ending oblivion. If this continues, he will end up like the last time.

"Nice contact lens prosecutor, it looks good on you."

'He noticed.' He sent Kagiri a piercing look. "If you have time complementing my contacts why not also confess?"

"Give some good reasons why should I do that?" He said in a tone full of mockery. "And, I'm supposed to lie more. It's no fun to pick on someone who easily confesses."

He ignored what he said. "The victim, who had been illegally detained for the past four months, accused you as the prime suspect for the crime."

And he also ignored what he said. "I want a Korean barbeque for lunch."

But Hirota still went on. "According to Taniyama Mai For the past four months she was confined in a room inside your mansion. Do you admit it?"

He smirked and tilts his head a little. "No." He denied. "I did nothing of the sort. Also, prosecutor, you don't have any concrete evidence to prove such an allegation basing only on the victim's testimony which accuses me as the prime suspect."

Hirota become silent for a while. He just looked at him with contempt. He denies everything like he had never done something wrong before and it makes him sick! "Then ... ... we will do another cross-examination. Do you agree?"

He fiddled on his own hand before leaning closer. "Yes I do ... do as you please. But Taniyama Mai, where is she now?"

"I can't tell you that." He said firmly. "You make me sick!"

The man just looked at him with the same expression. Not even bothered to what he had said.

"Seeing you, I doubt you feel any remorse to what you've done. Saying something like morality and justice won't affect you anymore. Words like that and shits have no difference at all. I also doubt you have any conscience left ... ... ah! What am I saying?" He smiled at him. "You don't have any of that to begin with, because you're anything but human." His face turned serious as he spit his last words at him. He realized it not long time ago. Kurogane Kagiri might look like a human but he's not even one. The reason why he can easily tricked them and lied to them.

A sudden change of expression. From bored, Kagiri's face lift up to amusement and Hirota knew why.

"-Oya ... what a surprise ... what a surprise indeed!" Although wearing contact lenses, Hirota saw how his eyes glow bright red and from that moment on, this creature has decided to reveal what he really is. "People like you who can distinguish a demon however not easily is not uncommon. But you're good. No wonder you're in this job."

He is one second from closing his eyes. Terror clouds his consciousness and panic started to engulf him.

The demon looked at the surroundings, eyes gleaming with amusement. "it's incredible how humans grows with so much speed." He said. "With those newly invented weapons, you can easily slaughter a monster. However, no matter how strong their armor is, a human is a human. They're weak and because they're weak they move in groups and the leader who's in control of the group comes to believe that he's powerful. Forgetting that he's a human himself. When being left alone, he's nothing but a weak entity."

That is to say, Hirota is not even a leader who controls a group. So, he's weaker than the leader whose left alone. Is that what he's trying to say? It's clear he's no match to him. He can easily kill him if he wishes it yet he can't help but to be surprise at himself. The fright he had felt earlier is slowly diminishing.

His eyes flashed with anger and resentment. "You may drag me to hell for all you want but I won't forgive myself if I easily yield to the likes of you."

"Oh." Kagiri then burst out laughing. "I really admire your guts! Still naive and had no idea how this world differs from our world. We pry on humans and corrupt them! It's interesting how they face us wearing strong stance yet they came crying after they taste the punishment for what they've done. They're like children who never grow!" His laugh died down changing into a sinister grin that made Hirota shudders. "How about it prosecutor? Will you still say those words after experiencing hardships and torture a million times ferocious than what you've felt here?"

"You will take me to hell?" He asked like a child.

"Do you want me to?" He asked back. Staring at the young prosecutor. That's when he noticed something that made him step back. He didn't like what he saw. Despite knowing he's a demon he didn't see any feelings of fright nor the act of backing down. In there ... there was only determination. "I'll tell you something good Hirota Seigi-san."

'What something good?' Hirota asked himself. Ignoring the looks Kurogane Kagiri makes under the shade of his hair.

"You know how we differ from humans? It's because we demons knows right from wrong and we are perfectly straight about it. We do not lie and because we don't have something like law we are free to do whatever we want" He said. "It means no one will punish me even if I kill Taniyama Mai."

The chair stumbled down the floor when Hirota stood up in shock. Without wasting any time, he took out his phone and dialed Shibuya's number, but before the other person could pick up, a huge force suddenly pounced at him and sent him flying on the wall. He coughed in pain, pushing himself to get up again.

Slowly standing up, Kagiri walked closer towards the struggling prosecutor. "The only problem in this world's police is that they're human." He dropped his handcuff in front of Hirota and massaged his wrist. Lips slowly forming a devilish grin, "You know ... humans are the closest to demon alive but ... maybe humans are crueler than demons."

And now ... it's time to bring that girl back.

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