The girl felt like she was sinking into the deepest pit of the ocean. Little by little her body was submerging deep down in a place where no one could reach.
Her memories played like a film before her, and whenever she tried to reach for the fragments, they flew away. Everything that was left in her was slowly forgotten. And in a matter of time she would become a mindless, voiceless creature. Just a pile of blood and flesh.
'I'm sorry, I arrived late...I'm very sorry, Mai.' A male voice echoed in the whole place. It was gentle and caring, but she could feel how worried this voice was.
'Who is Mai?'
'I promise...I'll protect your memories...I'll protect you.'
'Me? I wonder...I wonder what's happened to me? Me?...I..I?'
'I don't know...I really don't know...'
'I want to sleep...'
Saturday _ _ _
_ _ _ The next day
"Hmmm..." Yasuhara hummed, peeking at the office window of SPR. "Where is she?" He asked himself.
Mai was nowhere in the office, he was sure about that. The door was locked, and there was no sign that someone was inside.
He checked his watch. It was already 4:45 late afternoon, and Mai's class ended three hours ago, so she should be here by now.
He got his phone out and dialed her number. Tapping his feet, he waited for her to pick up. Mai was always late, yes, but she never got this late. Moreover she had the keys so she knew well of what her responsibility was.
"She's not picking up." Yasu said to himself. He became worried so he decided to call everyone in the SPR while walking outside the building.
Three weeks later _ _ _
_ _ _ March 7
A woman's voice could be heard echoing inside New Tokyo International Airport-NARITA. He could barely understand what the woman was saying as his attention was fixed on the tall, black-haired man standing along with the crowd in the waiting area of the passenger terminal.
"How was the flight?" The man asked when he got near him.
"I'm still alive." He gave him his suitcase. "Just do something about the jet lag later."
"Alright, let's go."
"Is everything fixed?"
The man nodded and started walking. "All is fixed. I have done everything you ordered fit to your liking."
Lin flew back to Japan earlier than him to make sure everything was alright. He was still a bit worried, but it seemed that everything was fine.
...Or so he thought.
They both walked towards the exit, ignoring and not giving a damn at how most of the woman gazed at them.
Even though he was tired, Oliver didn't try to sleep inside the car. He just eyed the window looking at the scenery and people along the way. It had been three weeks, but it only felt like yesterday for him. Nothing really changed except for himself and his feelings for a certain person, namely Mai.
He missed everything about the sweet, loving, loud girl and found himself thinking of her every now and then. Just like now. He wondered if she's alright. Leaving SPR in her hands was also his way of training her. There was always a time where he needed to travel, and it wouldn't good if he was going to close his office every time he went on a trip.
His mind drifted back on the past. He sighed and reclined his back in his seat.
Me or Gene?
Oliver shook the pain inside his chest and closed his eyes for a moment. He should be happy for the both of them, Mai and Gene was both precious to him, and he couldn't afford to see them hurting because of him.
He sighed upon recalling his dream about Mai. Even though he couldn't remember it very well, he felt as if he were being attacked by an unpleasant sensation whenever the scene of Mai saying goodbye played in his mind. It felt so real.
"I think you might want to see something." He heard Lin say before opening the small compartment and fishing out a small envelope, which he could only presume to be a letter. "I found it in your desk earlier. I opened it, thinking it was something important, and learned that it came from Taniyama-san."
He raised a brow and took the letter from Lin. "Did you read it?"
"Only a few lines."
Oliver slowly opened the letter and read it.
Happy Valentine's Day! I don't know if this letter would reach you, but it doesn't hurt to try, right? If someone is reading this, and you're not Naru, just avert your eyes and throw this away! It's not important!
He smirked. That explained the 'Only a few lines' from Lin. He resumed reading the letter.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. The time when you asked me whom I liked. At first I got reeeeaallly confused, but later on I realized who I really like.
It's you, Naru.
You...The narcissistic, tea loving jerk who I met. You may have doubts on what I'm saying, but believe me, Naru. It's not Gene. Yes, Gene always smiles at me the way you do not. It was warm and comforting to be honest, but you know what? It didn't give me the feeling I felt when the first time you showed me your real smile after the case in Yasu's school. It really made my heart beat faster. And remember our last case? When I had done an exorcism without knowing it; that 'Good job Mai' it was like a whisper in the wind, Naru, but it made me really happy.
You may be a cold, stoic and narcissistic person outside but you're caring and comforting on the inside. Most people failed to notice that, but I did, and I'm so happy to see that side of you.
I don't want you to think that you are just a replacement of my feelings for Gene. I like him in a different way. I saw him as the best friend I never have. I'm not going to push myself on to you, because I don't want to make you feel bad in some way. Is that okay? Is it okay if I still like you?
'Like I could do something about that, idiot.' He thought.
I guess this letter is eating up your time. Sorry about that. Then again, thank you, thank you for making me realize this wonderful feeling. We might not feel the same way for each other, but I'm lucky to have a feeling like this.
So that how it goes...Bye, Naru! Take care of yourself in England! And say hi to Lin for me!
P.S. Stop being grumpy all the time and smile a little if you don't want to get bald!
Oliver didn't budge for a moment, and Lin was skillfully observing his charge beside him. He didn't know what was written in that letter, but something told him that it was something his charge would be glad of and he was right. Because after staying in England for three weeks, this is the first time he saw a glint of something in his eyes.
"Childish." He said and smiled a bit.
That made the Chinese man smile.
Oliver looked at the building where his office was located. Nothing had changed except for the newly furnished coffee shop. He remembered the wall painted in dark green and brown, but now it has the touch of light colors. Same amount of people gather there to eat though.
"Shibuya-san?" An old man approached Oliver, stopping him from ascending the second floor. He looked at the man and recognized him. Otani Takuma, the owner of the coffee shop. "It is you! I thought it was just someone who looks like you. When did you get back?"
"Yesterday." He replied. Otani just nodded.
"I always see your assistant around here. Sometimes she eats at my cafe, but recently she stopped coming. Do you know what happened?"
He shook his head. The old man's eyes widened just a fraction, seemingly surprised that he didn't know what happened.
"Three girls were looking for her the other day. They were asking me if I happened to saw Mai-chan around here, but unfortunately I didn't. They said that she's been missing for almost three weeks now." He said.
Oliver frowned. 'Missing?'
The old man's face became worried. "I wonder what happened. I wanted to help them searched for Mai-chan, but this old man always has so much work to do. I hope they'll find her soon."
Naru bowed his head to excuse himself from the old man and continued climbing the stairs. Upon reaching the second level, he strode towards the SPR office and opened the door with so much force it caused the bell to chime loudly.
Lin stopped from returning a book on the shelf and gave Oliver a questioning look. "What happened, Noll?"
"Those idiots didn't tell me anything about this." He muttered furiously under his breath. Lin froze. He knew that voice. Oliver only used it whenever a situation got to its worst, and by the looks of his charge, he figured that it had something to do with Taniyama.
"They're on their way." He said referring to the team.
Naru's mind thought endlessly. What happened? Where did she go? Is she alright? Perhaps she's not missing and the old man got it all wrong. She's just somewhere and... What was she doing?! She was just lost that's all, and she'll be back...eventually. That idiot escaped danger for so many times before he knew whatever she gotten herself into this time, she'd survive it.
But Naru had a doubt that whatever happened to Mai this time wasn't simple. He pressed his chest, where an intense, strange sensation was attacking him. He felt 'uneasy'—no, uneasy is an understatement. It was a deeply somber sensation. Just like back then.
The bell chimed and Takigawa walked in. Behind him was Ayako along with Masako and John.
"Thank God you're here!" Bou-san exclaimed. "Naru-bou..."
He motioned for them to take a seat. They followed his silent instructions and sat down on the couch. The usual bantering of the monk and the priestess couldn't be heard and he figured they're all upset because of what happened to Mai. He wanted to smirk, despite the situation, they weren't the only ones who was upset. Truth be told, he was a little disappointed in them.
He grabbed his black notebook and start writing something in it. "Mai is missing for almost what? Neither of you informed me of what happened."
Everyone stared at Naru with blank amazement. How the hell did he know that Mai is missing? Hell! He just got back yesterday! Given that all of them were searching for Mai, the thought of calling Naru merely crossed their minds. Aside from that, they knew how busy he was.
"I can stand here all day." Naru said sarcastically.
"Exactly twenty days now." Hara Masako answered.
"No one knew your contact number in England, even your e-mail address." Ayako said. "So we...decided to tell you once you got back, but it seems that there's no need for that now."
That's not it. Maybe they thought it wasn't necessary to tell him because he didn't care at all. But he cares, more than anyone else.
"What happened?" Oliver demanded.
"Her last e-mail was twenty one days ago. Yasuhara was the one who told us that Mai didn't open the office, and he couldn't reach her via phone. We decided to visit her house just in time to see her classmates standing at her doorstep. They said that Mai skipped school and they were worried so they drop by." Takigawa explained.
"It's unusual for Mai to skip classes, so I thought something bad had happened. We kept banging her door and then her neighbor came out. She said that no one was home. That was when we decided to look for her, but we couldn't find her anywhere." The miko added. "We already filed a report to the police station, but there is still no sign of her."
The door burst open revealing a disheveled Yasuhara. He walked toward the couch and dropped his tired body, seeking for comfort. He was dead tired, and he felt like any minute now his legs would give in.
"Did you find anything Yasuhara-san?" John asked before standing up to get Yasu a glass of water. He looked really exhausted.
Yasuhara nodded and aligned his glasses. "Here it is!" He opened the envelope he was holding and took out the papers. "So, this is what I found from the Tokyo police department. Taniyama Mai was reported missing twenty four hours after her disappearance on Friday night. But the night when she disappeared, someone reported a kidnapping and the victim was of the same person."
The monk's eyes widened and he struggled to swallow. "Kidnapping?"
"Yes." Yasuhara confirmed. "The witness was named Ibara Sachi, one of Taniyama's neighbors. But it says here she moved out Saturday morning the next day. For me...that's rather suspicious." He flipped a page then aligned his glasses.
"What did the witness say?" Naru asked, not looking up from his notebook.
Yasuhara went on. "According to Ibara Sachi's report, she saw a man standing in front of Taniyama's doorstep and doing what she thought like picking the door lock. She knew Taniyama was home at that time so she suspected that, that man was up to no good. He got in and after thirty minutes he got out holding the unconscious Taniyama. That confirmed her suspicion. After they left, Ibara Sachi ran to the nearest police station and reported what had happened. The police conduct some investigation, but with the absence of Ibara Sachi, there are no leads and Taniyama's case is left hanging."
"Those bastards!" Takigawa said, clenching his fist. "They didn't tell us about Ibara Sachi's report. They said she was only a passerby who saw Mai before she disappeared! Damn police man!"
"That's the reason why we're doing this." Yasuhara said. "The police won't give us any detailed information. That's a standard procedure... But I have bad news for you guys."
"What is it, Shounen?" Monk asked. He really was starting to get nervous. If he has a heart ailment, perhaps he would already be having his trip to the hospital.
"Guys, Ibara Sachi is...dead."