Living and the dead

Chapter 6

People can say there is a balance, a logic that everything happens for a reason... Yeah right. However, the reality is far less designed. When someone dies, it's over, but if someone can cheat death then it is something that can ruin the balance.

The world is cruel and random. Nonetheless, when you think about it, chaos is naturally beautiful.

For someone like him, who cheated death numerous times, this cruel and random world decided to render him void, error. That's why a chaotic world was formed, ushering him in a world full of negative emotions and cruel, horrifying experiences he never knew.

This world, however, didn't try to eliminate him in its own way. But instead it let him experience the death of others for a thousand times; he already lost count. Throwing him in different worlds just to let him go through different deaths.

This cruel, logical, random world also gave him a gift. Ten years ago, his right eye started to see the present whereas his other eye could predict the outcome.

Hilarious and seem impossible, isn't it? One could say that it's a gift from someone almighty, but he thinks otherwise. He could only call this ability a curse.

If one can predict the outcome, then excitement and anticipation doesn't exist. There's nothing left, but a dull and bleak scene you already saw a thousand times and you grew tired of seeing it. You would only live a life that has already been prepared and no matter what you do, there's no chance to alter it.

Boredom is indeed boring.

The man averted his gaze from the wide glass wall overlooking at the scenery of many buildings and establishments. He wheeled and narrowed his eyes to his assistant standing beside his office table who was giving him an expressionless look.

Why did he stick himself with this man anyway? He was nothing, but a plain looking guy in his late twenties wearing plain business suit and goes by the name of Yamaguchi Akira, or Yamaki for short.

Well, what did he expect from someone with a remarkable competency? He's smart, efficient but nowhere near loyal as that.

He knew it, but he still kept him for his own gain. Somehow, it's a bit interesting for him to at least ignore what he knows. He wondered what he would do.

"Yamaki." He called out to him. The man straightened as he responded.

"Yes, President?"

His lips pulled into a loop-sided grin. "To be honest, I'm amazed of your work." He said and turned to the glass wall once again, pointing his gaze down at the busy street of Minato-city. "How did you manage to fix their schedule to go according to my plans?"

Yamaki's black eyes shifted on the left side. Why was he asking this now? It had been four weeks since he carried out his job and he didn't hear anything from him back then, let alone praise him. "I merely meddled with their schedules just like you had wanted me to do."

He scoffed. "And you managed to do it in a short time. Where would I be without you?" He fell in silence for a while, watching the cars run back and forth absent-mindedly. "But you know, Yamaki, even if I carefully plan out my wishes, there's always someone that comes along and messes up the plan I carefully made."

"Is that a bad thing, President?" Yamaki asked in full curiosity.

"No... Not at all. Honestly it's more interesting that way." At this, his assistant frowned. Finally, an expression decided to show in his face. "I don't like easy success, and wouldn't it be more fun if there's an obstacle? A very unpredictable one at that."

"Do you know who is it?"

"No. I don't think so."

That's right. He doesn't know who it is.

That girl could sense danger whenever it approaches her. Certainly he miscalculated something.

"I must've missed something." He said to himself.

Even so, there cannot be an exception. Although he succeeded getting her, the undeniable feeling of uneasiness lingered and never left him. He grinned widely as the excitement rushed in his veins. Yes, he missed something, and it has something to do with that girl.

That girl, whom he can't lay a finger even if he wants to. That girl, whom he can't see in every outcome of his plan.

He remembered his conversation with an old woman residing at the darkest part of the alley in this city. A fortune teller that goes by the name of 'Tonerre'. Yamaki was the one who told him about her. At first he didn't believe that this fortune teller is real, but he changed his mind after their conversation.

"Would you like to give it a try?" The fortune teller had asked. Her thin body seemed to be in a great condition despite her old age. She was wearing all black clothes and wore a black see through veil to keep her face hidden. Bracelet charms dangled on both of her wrist, while necklaces with big stones hung on her thin neck.

A crystal ball was silently place above a table covered in velvet cloth.

"You're Tonerre?" He asked back, giving her a skeptic look. He didn't come to this place to get swindled. "What is an old woman like you doing in this kind of place?"

"Tonerre, huh?" She said in a almost whisper voice. "They don't call me Tonerre now. That name sunk together with my age. I am just a normal fortune teller."

He crossed his arms. "So, are you a stray now? Hiding in a rotten hole like a rat in a sewer."

"Oya, don't look down on me, kid." She said, not seemingly offended. "You don't have the right to do so."

A smirk formed in his lips. This is truly amusing for him. "Kid? ...Well, it's true that our different in age does, in fact, make me a kid."

The woman stiffened and narrowed her eyes. "Your inconsiderate speech and attitude hurt my feelings. Haven't you ever learned not to talk about a woman's age like that?" She looked straight at him. "Regardless, I don't have anything to say towards a murderer like you."

His eyes sharpened and his body turned alert. "Heh, how do you know of something like that?"

"Your aura says it all." She said, placing both elbows on the table. "But it appears that your number one target has yet to be haunted? Are you planning to kill me first before kidnapping that girl?"

He crossed his arms once again, smiling at Tonerre, who suddenly froze in her seat. "Fine then, it seems like you're a genuine. A real fortune teller, huh? But at least I now understand the mindset of those with abilities like me."

"Your ability is nothing but a curse. Do you seriously believe that it will save you from your fated fate?"

"How about you? Still longing for something that can change your life?"

"You don't understand a thing about me. If you want to argue that's completely fine by me. Let me start by telling you something, about the person you are whole-heartedly devoted to."

He gave her a murderous glare before turning his back, his steps was heavy as he started walking away. He didn't want to hear what she's going to say. He already knew that very well.

"You're surprisingly uptight." He heard her say. "I'm just playing with you. Allow me to give you a little advice..."

Turning his head a little, he said. "Save your breath. That is not what I came here for. I'm just a little curious about you. I can take care of this matter myself."

The woman chuckled. "Time has changed in the past ten years. I don't mean to offend you, but in the past ten years, you have changed."

"No need to state the obvious. I'm no longer a child anymore."

"Ah," She smiled. "About the girl, be more cautious around her or you'll end up dead before you complete your goal."

"I'm aware of that." He then continued walking out of that place.

"President?" Yamaki called him, shattering his train of thoughts. The old woman gave him a warning that was not needed. Why would you need something that came a little too late anyway?

"Let's see..." He uttered in a pondering voice. "It's about time for them to move." He turned to his assistant. "Now is the time for the end to begin."

Naru was lost in his own train of thoughts the whole time they traveled back to the SPR office. His mind was supposed to be calm and free from any disturbances—for him to be able to think clearly—but when the thought of Mai being in danger and missing kept entering his mind, he was lost.

The trip in her apartment didn't help a lot. The only clue they have was that her kidnapper was a highly knowledgeable person in the paranormal. The fact that he figured out that Mai might have a friend that uses psychometry surprised Oliver. But he was certain, sooner or later, he would figure out everything about this matter. The man might be smart, but he knew somewhere, there's a hint left uncovered.

"We didn't get any leads and Naru-bou's psychometry was blocked, moreover a Baku showed up! Is there anything that could lead us to that bastard?" Bou-san said dropping his tired body on the couch.

"This is just a hunch." Masako said looking at Naru. "Do you think that Ibara Sachi's death was somehow connected in Mai's abduction?"

"I am not certain." He leaned on the couch and crossed his legs. "It's hard to say, especially when we don't know the reason of her suicide."

The bell chimed and a black-haired man wearing a dark blue suit and holding a suitcase walked in. Behind him was a woman with shoulder length hair. Her pink colored lipstick complemented her fair skin and her pencil cut skirt and white long sleeve looks sexy.

"Hirota-san!" Yasuhara greeted. "Come in, have a seat."

The woman smiled at him. "This is my second time here and I'm still wondering why the place doesn't look venerable." She said. She's been here before, when her friend Agawa Midori was having a problem in their new bought house. They had hidden intention back then and that is to prove if Shibuya Kazuya is a con man.

"Let me introduce ourselves again." The man said. "I'm Hirota Seigi and this is my contemporary and colleague, Nakai Saki." He then bowed and sat on the couch.

"For a denier like Hirota-san to be here..." The monk shook his head in amazement. "Wonders will never cease."

"That's all in the past." Hirota said smiling at the monk. "Sometimes, one must become open minded to accept so many things and when there's a limit to the law, then all I have to do is to call for reinforcement. Also, Naru and Mai proved that ghost do exist and no reason to hide my own experience in Agawa's house. "

"Speaking of which, where's Mai?" Nakai asked.

The two of them noticed how the team became worried, except for Naru and Lin, who remained indifferent.

"She's missing." Masako answered. "It's been three weeks and we're still searching for her."

"What?!" Nakai and Hirota duet together. Nakai asked what happened but Naru interrupted.

"About the case you've mentioned earlier, please disclose it with detailed information." Naru said, placing his hands on his lap.

Hirota smirked. "You always made me feel like you're my boss."

"Yeah? He always made me feel like he's my father." Monk added. Earning a cold glare from Naru and a whack from Ayako. "Ouch! What was that for?"

"It's not even funny, you stupid monk!" Ayako yelled.

"I'm just saying what Naru-bou made me feel! Is that bad?" Another whack from the miko. "Hey! Stop it, you old hag!"

"Who are you calling a hag? Do you want a trip to the afterlife?" She said, pulling Monk's pony-tailed hair.

"Maa..calm down, you two," John said, trying to calm the monk and priestess.

"Am I seeing a lover's spat?" Nakai asked but no one answered.

"If any of you don't want to take this seriously, you may leave." Oliver said with a cold and dangerous tone. "Mai is missing, and we have to find her before she falls in more serious danger."

All of them became quiet when the temperature inside the office suddenly dropped. Hirota and Nakai shivered, wondering why it was suddenly cold. Ah, the heater must be broken.

"Now, Hirota-san, are you going to tell us the case, or do I have to dismiss my team now?"

Hirota swallowed hard and nodded. He opened his suitcase and took out some papers. "This case is something you don't hear every day. Since the police has many cases to solve in their list, their last priority are the missing person's cases." He laid the papers on the table for the team to see.

"We, from the Zero Group, received a case from Direct Information Unit." Nakai said, eyeing the group.

Ayako raised a brow. "Zero Group?"

"Yes," Nakai answered and sighed inwardly. Does she have to explain all of these again and again? "The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office Special Investigation Department has three units. First is the Intellectual Crime Unit. This unit investigates electoral irregularities, corruption, business embezzlement etc. They're the popular ones. Second is the Financial and Business Affairs Unit. They're in charge of tax evasions and economical cases. Last is the Direct Information Unit that holds relatively small scope affairs within the accusation and complaint cases. Inside this last unit, a small group was formed, and that is the Zero Group." She explained.

"The Zero Group consists of four people." Hirota continued. "One public prosecutor in charge and an examination official, along with two prosecution officials. That's me and Nakai."

"So, what does this group do?" Takigawa asked.

"Because the police only arrest and bang up living creature. They have an unwritten rule that any mysterious phenomena and paranormal cases was not their concern." Says Nakai. "But since the paranormal phenomena in this country is seemingly active, some higher officers decided to form a group that will handle cases that they thought to be related to paranormal and other mysterious phenomena. Psychic related incidence and curses." Nakai explained

"More like a place to throw some incomprehensible cases from the upper department." Hirota said with an annoyed voice.

"You should be grateful, Hirota-kun!" Nakai patted his shoulder. "You solved the cases they failed to solve."

Hirota rolled his eyes and gazed at Shibuya. "The prosecutor in charge handed us this case last week. Oddly enough, this case was already passed down to many Inspectors and Investigators in the Special Investigation Department but neither solved the case."

"And what may I ask is the incidence of this case that connects to the paranormal?" Naru asked, reaching the piece of paper in front of him.

"Well, you see, this case is running for almost three years now. There are many reported cases of missing people all over Tokyo, but this one is strange." Hirota told him.

"By strange you mean?" Naru asked.

"The occurence started three years ago and the first missing person to be reported was Amano Shizuka. She a medium by profession, and like you, she leads a small team that investigates paranormal occurrences. Before she had gone missing, her team was investigating a haunted inn in Saitama. According to Amano Shizuka's mother, when her daughter's team came back from Saitama, Shizuka-san was already missing and when she asked her colleagues where she was, they only had one answer: Shizuka died in a car accident four years ago together with her father." Hirota explained. "The police assumed that her mother was insane and suffering from depression of losing her husband and only child. So, they closed the case without investigating any further." The prosecutor took one of the paper and gave it to Shibuya.

The paper showed different faces of females along with the complete data written next to their respective pictures.

"We learned that it was true Amano-san lost her husband in a traffic accident, but not her daughter. Also, there had been evidences proving that Amano Shizuka was alive before she took her travel to Saitama."

"I'm guessing, you only found that out recently." Naru said, insulting the prosecutor.

"No need to deny that fact." He said, shifting his gaze back at the paper he was holding. "And after that, the second person named Fujimura Ayu, also a medium by profession, had gone missing three weeks after Amano Shizuka's disappearance. Her best friend was the one who filed the case."

"Why? Doesn't she have any family?" Yasuhara asked.

"She does. But her family doesn't seem to remember her." Nakai replied.

"What?!" Bou-san cried, his shocked apparent at his face. "Wait … Something's wrong. Why do I feel like this case you're talking about is connected to Mai's abduction? And if I think about it carefully, that Baku must be under someone's control to erase one's memories, however I don't think that it's possible to alter a person's memories using that yokai."

"A baku? You mean the yokai who eats nightmares?" Saki inquired.

"That's the one." The monk affirmed. "Although, you might not believe it, but we encountered one earlier when we visited Mai's apartment."

"...Really unbelievable." Saki said as she shook her head.

"But why does her best friend remember her?" John asked.

Hirota continued to explain. "Akazaki Rie was in France when she got an e-mail from Fujimura asking for help. It says there that she felt like she was being followed by someone. And two days after, she filed Fujimura's disappearance Akazaki Rie died in a car accident."

"Oh my god!" The miko exclaimed and covered her mouth.

"Since the family doesn't recognize her and the only person who reported her disappearance was dead, the police have no choice but to close Fujimura Ayu's case."

"How many was reported missing within these three years with the same case?" Naru questioned, still emotionless.

"Twenty-two." He sighed. "All are female mediums and neither of them was found. The last victim was Miyafuji Saeko. She's been missing since January."

Masako's eyes widened. "That many?" Suddenly she felt threatened. If all of them are female mediums, there was a possibility that someone might target her too.

"Oh dear, all of these cases are somehow like Mai's. But, Mai is not a medium. Even in our cases, she never introduces herself as one." John stated, his eyes not leaving the paper he was holding. "Does that mean, Hara-san is their original target?"

Masako gave John a worried look.

"That's not it, Hara-san was not their target." Oliver said. "Certainly, the only medium in this group is Hara-san, however there had been no sign that she's being targeted. And the explanation is in here." He put the papers back in the table. "The victims have two things in common. First, they are all female mediums and second all of them have a few members in their family. It appears that they have the ability to erase one's memory and that their abilities' capability is only limited for a few people. Since Hara Masako is a celebrity medium, many people know her and targeting her would only place them in a heap of trouble." He explained.

"It seems to be that way." Yasu said. "Some of the female mediums had only three or four members in their family."

"And Mai is an orphan, making her an easy target." Bou-san added.

"Then, what if they're using that Baku to erase the relatives' memories?" Ayako asked.

"Just like Bou-san had said, it's impossible for that yokai to alter one's memories, however there's still a possibility. And it would only mean that what we are up against is not a normal person." Naru responded. "If they indeed can manipulate a yokai, our only option is to fight them using ... what we have."

"That's what I thought too." The miko agreed.

"I can't believe this..." Hirota said, sighing. "Then it only means Taniyama Mai-san is the twenty-third victim of this occurrence."

Now Oliver is convinced that Mai's abduction is entirely planned out and Ibara Sachi's death is connected. Someone must have arranged their schedules to match their table. Nonetheless, there are still so many questions inside his head. Something like: How did they know that Mai has the abilities similar to a medium? Does that mean they have Mai under their watch for a long time? When did it start?

Oliver's eyes widen just a fraction when a thought cross his mind. His hand curled into a fist in annoyance. It probably started when Mai begun to act out of the ordinary. Plus, according to John, she felt like she's being watched.

If he had been persistent to get the answer out of her that time, would it avoid this incident?

Oliver sighed and turned to Lin. "Call Madoka, and tell her to be here the soonest time possible."

Lin stopped typing. "What are you planning, Noll?" He asked. Whatever Oliver was planning, it would surely threaten Madoka's safety. But he was sure Madoka would be more than pleased to help his charge.

"We need a bait."

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