The wind blows mildly, bearing the scent of half winter half spring night. Sounds of rustling leaves mixed in a bit with the blowing wind making a melody of stillness and peace, kind like a lullaby.
She looks up the evening sky and shivered at the coldness of the night.
The sky was a bit unclear, stars are merely visible due to fogginess and she could only see a faint glow of yellow light underneath the cloud that covers moon.
Her eyes shifted on her surroundings. It was dark. There were lamps but neither of them generates light. Tombs are neatly aligned on both sides. Some have withered flowers and unlighted candles, while most of them have none.
The wind stopped and silenced enveloped the whole place emphasizing the emotion of sorrow, pain and loneliness.
"I'm here Otou-san..." A gentle voice echoed from somewhere.
She looks around trying to find the owner of the voice. But aside from her the place was empty.
"I got back. I'm sure you're going to be proud of me."
'Where was this coming from?' She looks again. There's no one.
"I would like to give you a gift." Another voice said. It was low and cold. One could tell it was dangerous.
Suddenly two shadows emerged from the dark five steps from where she stood. She step back watching the two shadows cautiously.
"No!" One of the shadows cried. Its voice covered with fear.
The other shadow took out something that looks like a gun and pointed it at the other one.
"This is my parting gift for you." The shadow whispered before pulling the trigger.
A loud bang echoed in the whole place, taking away the stillness of the night.
Mai jolt up breathing heavily and feeling a bit lightheaded. She could feel a sweat dripping slowly down her left cheek. What's that dream all about? Is that a warning or something? It's been a while since she had a dream like this and for her it's not good.
She sighed and glanced at her wall clock.
6:38 am and it's Tuesday . . . February 12
Her class starts at eight so she might as well get ready. She stood up stretching both arms and legs. She fold her blanket and make her bed before getting the towel and stride towards the bathroom.
She took a shower. After that she prepared her morning meal consisting of bread, butter and orange juice. When she's done consuming her breakfast she already took off.
Five days had passed since she interviewed Mikoku Junko yet the ominous feeling didn't vanish. The lingering feeling was causing her paranoia. She knew her friends noticed her sudden change of behavior. They're just waiting for her to say something.
She didn't give the case to her boss and hide the notes. The only person who knew about this was Nobunaga.
She heaved a deep sigh of sadness.
Nobunaga Arai is dead. Two days after they meet Mikoku, Nobunaga was found dead in Aoyama cemetery in Shibuya, last Friday.
Some witness said, his corpse was lying cold above his father's grave along with a bottle of muriatic acid on the grass beside his body. Police easily conclude that it was suicide which was justified by the forensic later on after the autopsy of his body. His family also a found a suicide note in Nobunaga's study table that explains his involvement with Yakuza and being a victim of bullying.
It was sad for Mai. Although Nobunaga Arai and she were not that close she knew him as a kind young man.
"How sad." Keiko said. "I mean, how could he waste his life for that?"
"Maybe he had done something wrong to those Yakuza." Chiyo said and sneak some eggrolls in Michiru's bento.
"Who gave you the permission to eat my eggrolls?"
"It's delicious!" Chiyo answered.
"Want some more?"
The two giggled while Mai just smile.
"Ne, Mai-chan. I noticed you're being quite lately. Is there a problem?" Keiko asked, worry apparent in her eyes.
"No, nothing." She answers, trying to act natural. "Say, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. I was just thinking what should I give my boss?" She said. "He's not from Japan and in western countries they didn't celebrate Valentine's Day like we do."
"Just give him chocolates Mai. You're good at doing sweets right?" Keiko said.
"E? But ... he's not fond of sweets."
Michiru giggled. "How about giving him a letter instead?" She said. "I read it from the internet. Western people often give cards and roses on Valentine's Day."
"Le-Letter? Isn't it a little bold? And what would I write?" She asked blushing.
"Confess Mai!" Chiyo said, and then burst out laughing. "You said that you liked your boss so why not confess on Valentine's Day?"
"I'll just give him chocolates!" She said blushing.
Mai sighed. She already confessed to Naru but the Jerk thought that she loves his twin! She got confused, yes. But if she loves Gene why would she wish for him to smile in real life? Why would she wish for him to be gentle like him?
Keiko let it go and join the two in their conversation about a guy in the engineering department.
She acted like listening in their conversation but the truth is her thoughts fled to Nobunaga's death again. Was her dream last night somehow connected in his death?
'Contrary to what happens on that shadow in my dream. He didn't get shot.' She thought. 'Maybe they're not connected.'
Nobunaga died lying on his father's grave. She talked to his mother last night when they visited his wake. She said it was devastating that her son committed suicide. She was telling them how devastated she was when a coach from a boxing club approached.
She remembered hearing that Nobunaga was in the boxing club but quit after two weeks of joining. Then the coach said "why did he do this after he decided to come back in the club and do training again."
That gives her a suspicion.
Why bloody kill himself after announcing that he's coming back? It doesn't make sense at all. Was Nobunaga murdered and the suspect did something to make it like a suicide? Even so, the police didn't find anything in his body.
She sighed. Maybe she's just thinking about it a lot. But then there's this feeling that she's being watched and that someone is out there to get her.
She wanted to tell her friends and family but she doesn't want them to worry.
After her class, Mai run straight to the office. By the time she reach the SPR it was almost four o clock and she catch Naru sitting in the receiving area, reading something inside a black ledger.
"Mai." He called her with a serious tone.
"I know, tea."
At that, Mai frown but do what she's told anyway. It seems Naru has something to tell her.
Silence filled the whole place for a while until he broke it with a rather impatient tone.
He snaps his ledger shut. "I'm not a mind reader." He said. "Don't you have something to tell me?" Crossing his arms, he asked.
E? What? Something to tell him?
"Are you listening?" Naru ask again. "How about saying something?"
"...What are you ... talking about?" She asked back, completely confused. She thought Naru would tell her something important regarding their upcoming trip, but why is he asking her now?
"Don't answer my question with another question, idiot."
"I'm asking you because I really don't get why you're asking me that!"
Naru sighed. He notices Mai's strange behavior that started two days ago. She's always spacing out, jumpy and constantly glancing at the window. It doesn't take a genius to know that something isn't right.
However by the looks of it, this idiot has no intention of telling him whatever it is that bothers her.
"Never mind. Forget I ask." He stood up and gives her a cold stare. "You should start fixing that dishonest manner of yours. Maybe I should hang you upside down for three days so some blood can finally get in that brain. Hopefully I can get a better answer after that. But since it's you, I won't get my hopes up."
"You jerk! You do realize how awful your personality is?" She snapped at him. "Unless you say something I can't understand what you're trying to say!"
He just turn his back at her. "Tea."
"I really want to poison your tea now!"
Stomping her feet, Mai stood up. "I'm serious!"
"Of course." Naru walked inside his office and shut the door leaving a fuming Mai alone. Pushing the matter is fruitless, knowing her; she won't talk.
_ _ _Friday
February 15_ _ _
"I'm so tired..." Mai dropped her body in her bed and stared at the ceiling.
It's her first day in the office without Naru's cold presence and overbearing attitude. The office became lonely and utterly quiet, making her missed Naru's admonishing. Good thing Yasuhara arrived before she has gone insane. He bought her donuts and they chatted while arranging files. It was a tiring but fun day.
"Did Naru get the letter?" She asked to no one.
She decided to write Naru a letter and made him obligatory chocolates. It was supposed to be a simple valentine letter yet she ended up pouring her feelings on that small piece of paper. Mai didn't regret it though. She wanted him to know and that seems to be the only way. She left it on his desk the night before his flight to England.
It was embarrassing to say those words, yes. But she wanted Naru to know her feelings, so as to clear the misunderstanding between her and his dead twin brother. She realized her feelings for Naru a day after he asked her if she loves Gene or him. Mai knew that even she's with Gene in the dream world and he's always there for her, at the end of the day she always wound up wanting to see the narcissistic, egoistical, stoic, and arrogant jerk.
There's also something different in the way they smile. It's so small to say the least. It's the glint in their eyes. While Gene smiles with the glint of kindness in his eyes, Naru was different. The smile he showed her consist a lot of happiness and you can see it through his eyes. One thing she could never forget in her entire life.
A knock tear her from musing. She glanced at her wall clock.
Who might that be?
Everyone in the gang always called her before dropping by, so are her friends and she's not expecting someone at this time of the night.
She combs her hair using her fingers and walk towards the door but before she could reach it, she froze.
Mai could feel it. There's a danger lurking and it didn't bode well that she's having a visitor at this time. The strong kick of her instinct made her heart clenched. She gasps and clutched her pants.
'Don't open the door you idiot!' Said someone behind her.
She quickly looked behind her back.
There's no one.
Someone knocked again, this time she heard something clicked. Her heart begun to pound really fast and she's starting to get frightened. After what it feels like hundred seconds, the door opened revealing a slightly grinning Mikoku Junko.
"M-Mikoku-s-san?" How the heck did he manage to open the damn door?!
"Oh, you're here. I thought there's no one inside and I think you left your door unlocked...Taniyama-san." He said. Grin slowly widening like a cheshire cat.
There's no way she'd left her door unlocked! So how?
"W-What are you doing here Mikoku-san?" She tried calming herself, thinking of what to do.
"Sorry for barging in without your permission. Did I scare you?"
Mai tried to nod but her head seemed glued to its place.
"My sincere apologies, Taniyama-san. It's just that your unlocked door seems to be...inviting."
"I-It's okay Mikoku-san."
"Let's drop the formalities shall we? Do call me Junko. Are you not going to invite me inside? After all I bothered myself to get here just to talk to you."
And that's what? Her fault? She wants to tell him to get lost but she's scared that he might do something bad to her.
"Y-Yes, come in." She let him in. "Do you want something t-to drink?"
'No Mai! Get away!'
"Juice is fine. Get yourself something to drink too. You seem nervous."
She nodded and went to the kitchen. After five minutes she came back with a tray of juice and cookies.
"Sorry for the wait, please help yourself." Mai put the tray in front of his unwanted guest and sit across him. "So what brings you here Mikoku-san?"
Her eyes searched for her mobile phone and she spotted it beside the TV. The led light is blinking notifying her of a missed call. How is she supposed to get that without earning a suspicion from Mikoku? She didn't know what he's capable of, that's why she needs to escape right away!
"Aah...stubborn are we not? I like that. Before anything else..."
Suddenly a running water can be heard from the bathroom. Frowning, she looks at her loo's direction. What is it this time?
"You might want to turn that off." He suggested.
She stood up and walk towards her bathroom. The faucet is open, how's that possible? 'Did the ghost do it?'
'Get away from him Mai!' There's that voice again.
'How?' She thought. There's only one door and it will be impossible to reach it without Mikoku noticing her. She looked at the bathroom window, it's too narrow for her to fit in. 'Do you want me to play dead?'
'You're going to end up dead if you don't run away!'
'Then help me, whoever you are!'
After closing the tap she got out of the bathroom hoping that her friendly unknown ghost would help her escape Mikoku. She sat back to her seat slowly releasing the breath she was holding.
"Is everything all right?" He asked.
"Y-Yeah, I think the faucet is broken." She said reaching for her juice. "What were you saying again?"
"It's been a week since we last talked so I'm making a follow up on my request. Is your boss going to take my case or not? I need a clear answer Mai." He demanded fixing his gaze at Mai.
"I...That...I-It's.." Damn! Why stammer now?
He smirked. "You didn't give them my case, isn't that right Mai-chan? I figured you'll do just that."
"No! I mean, my b-boss is still on a trip and he will review your request the moment he gets back." She drinks the orange juice to lessen her nervousness.
"Did someone ever tell you that you are bad at lying Mai?" He chuckle. "Anyway, it's not like it matters. Do you want to know a little secret?"
Mai tried to talk but there's no voice coming out.
"That case is actually a hoax... to lure some petty mediums inside a trap. But you know? I knew you weren't a petty medium. You sense me did you not? That's why you didn't pass the case to your boss. I'll give you credit for that. Fortunately you piqued my interest. You seem special and you're the one that I've been looking for."
Mai's heart began to beat slower and she can't explain what's happening. Her vision starts to whirl and she felt like she's drunk.
"Wha...what's h-happen-ning? What did...wha-"
"Don't worry. I didn't put some liquor in your juice so you're not drunk."
Her fingers are becoming numb causing her to drop the glass. She barely heard the sound of the glass when it shattered on the floor.
"I put some anesthetic medicine instead." He said. "Little by little you're becoming paralyzed. Soon enough your hands will be weak and lose its strength to hold anything..." He stood up and put both gloved hands inside his pocket.
Even her knees started to tremble beneath her pants, she tried to stand but she couldn't. Cold fear rushed through her veins making her mind to black out.
"And then it will become hard for you to even step a foot. It'll get harder to breath, don't worry you're not going to die, just paralyzed." Mikoku slowly walk towards her. It's like he is doing some countdown before she met her demise. "Then your tongue will become paralyzed. You can't even scream."
"W-Wha...d-do...wan-nt f-from m-me?" She tried to grab something but failed to do so. Her body is not cooperating.
"Want from you? I don't want anything from you. I want you, you! Taniyama Mai. Do you understand?" He laugh maniacally. "Isn't it sweet? I'm like a prince searching for a princess and now that I found the one. I'll take you back to the kingdom of pain and sorrow! You'll love it there Mai!" He leaned close to her ear and whispers. "You will end everything for me. Don't worry I won't kill you … not yet."
"N-Na...r-ruu." She whimpers, letting her tears flow freely from her eyes.
"Who's Naru?" Mikoku's face became serious. His eyes full of danger and malice. "Tch! I guess I have to do something about that little memory of yours before you pass out on me." Mikoku cupped her face and force her to look into his eyes.
She felt her stomach churned as his violet eyes bore into hers. Pure fear swept through her body. It felt as if something tearing through her flesh and pulling her into the depths of ocean. The more she struggle the more she shrink.
"Look here little Mai, look at me." He said. "Look into my eyes and let go…" He said using a hypnotic voice. "Good..."
'Mai! Snap out of it!'
She wanted to roll her eyes. Stupid ghost! How is she supposed to snap if her body is paralyzed? She can't even look away! His violet eyes mesmerizing her and she's slowly getting compelled.
"Now, I want you to forget everything ... forget everything about your life, forget your memories, forget everyone you know and forget who you are."
Mai closed her eyes and let the dark enveloped her.
'Help! Someone please help her! Help! Anyone! Please...'