Living and the dead

Chapter 7

"We need a bait." Oliver said. "We need someone to act as a medium."

"But Noll! Madoka is just a ghost researcher and hunter! She can't see and talk to ghosts! Aside from that, she's your mentor."

Oliver glared at Lin. "It does not matter if she didn't have any abilities, Lin. What we need now is a person who would act as a medium. They have Mai and surely enough they already know Matsuzaki-san is a miko. Hara-san is off the target. Do you have any one in mind that could pretend as a medium to lure them out? If you have any alternative plans, would you be so kind to provide us with a few details?"

Lin froze, glaring back at Oliver. But after a while he looked away and sighed. Sometimes he really hated the fact that Oliver was smart. He could easily look through a person, making it easy for him to point out their weaknesses and faults. Left with no other choice, Lin took out his phone and dialed Madoka's number.

"Yasuhara, I want you to look for any information about the victims before and after their disappearance."

"Yes, boss! I'll do my best!" Yasuhara saluted and strode towards the exit. "Later, guys!" He said, closing the door.

"Takigawa-san, Matsuzaki-san, and Father Brown." The three of them straightened and looked at him with their full attention. "Please prepare yourself. The three of you will be guarding Madoka secretly. It would be best if no one recognizes any of you to avoid any mischief. Hara-san, Lin, and I will be going to Ibara Sachi's house. Her spirit might still be lingering inside her house. We'll try to communicate with her."

Almost all of them nodded in understanding, except obviously for Nakai and Hirota, who didn't get any demands from Naru.

"What about us?" Nakai asked with anticipation.

Naru smirked. "The last time I checked, you're not my employees Hirota-san, Nakai-san and I'm not your boss."

A blush crept onto the prosecutor's face while Saki just tilted her head and smiled. Naru's authoritative aura carried him away. For a minute there, the inspector thought that he was his real boss. Unlike his current boss, Naru gave orders with concrete certainty like he already knew what is going to happen.

"But since your assistance would be essential to solve this case, Hirota-san, Nakai-san, the two of you will visit the victim's family and friends. There has to be at least one person who managed to get her or his memories back."

"Yes." He said, scowling at Naru. He gathered all of the papers and put it back in his suitcase. "I'll e-mail you the soft copies of these documents later."

"We're going now. Good luck to all of us!" Nakai waved her hands before stepping outside the office.

"Lin, prepare everything that we need to use for channeling Ibara's spirit. We will leave once all is set." Naru commanded, walking back to his office.

"I'm glad that Naru-bou is prioritizing Mai's case. I never thought he could be this aggressive." Bou-san said, currently inspecting a brown leather jacket hung neatly on the wall of the store they were at.

The moment they got out of the office, Ayako, the shop-a-holic woman, pulled him and John in a nearby department store. She demanded that they had to buy stuffs they could use to hide their identity. But he doubted the miko just wanted to go shopping.

"I agree." John affirmed. "I was surprised when he asked Hirota-san's help to find Mai-chan, seems like he's really scared of what's going to happen if this incident continues further."

"Can't blame him. His dead twin brother was also a medium and he didn't get a chance to save him from getting killed. I'm sure, he doesn't want Mai to suffer the same fate." The red-haired miko said before tossing a black dress at Monk. He glared at the miko, but she just turned her back at him.

"Why do you need a dress? Are you planning to disguise as a harlot?" Monk teased. Ayako slap the back of his head using her purse.

"Stupid monk! Disguising needs more than one clothes to use. It's a matter of life and death! If one of us got discovered, I don't know how to deal with Naru's wrath!"

"Even if you disguised yourself, nothing will change."

"What did you say?! Don't push it, you stupid monk! If I had a gun right now, I would have shot you!" Ayako shouted. Her face was red from anger. John decided to speak to stop them from their argument.

"Shibuya-san might be a stiff person on the outside, but he definitely cares about his friends." He said then took a black fedora hat on a shelf. He tried it on and looked at the mirror beside him. He adjusted it a little and smiled. "But I think his feelings for Mai-san is far more than a friend."

In just a snap, Ayako and Takigawa are already in front of him.

'Me and my big mouth.' John thought.

He knew what they're going to ask and it wasn't like he was going to keep the answer from them.

"What do you mean by 'His feelings for Mai is far more than a friend?' Do you know something, John?" The miko was the one to ask, and Takigawa just raised his brow at him.

"Earlier...when we are searching for the thing that blocked Shibuya-san's psychometry, I was about to go in the kitchen when I saw him standing at the living room and holding Mai's picture. I thought he was just trying to read it, but when I saw his face...his face was full of emotion of sadness and longing. I was really surprised back there."

The monk and the miko glanced at each other, both thinking the same way.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I guess he already realized his feelings for Mai." Ayako said.

"We all know that Jou-chan never let go of her feelings for Naru-bou, even after two years had pass. It's a shame that when he was ready to return her feelings, fate decided to interfere." Takigawa clenched his fist. "What did Jou-chan do to the gods for her to suffer like this?"

"Calm down, Takigawa-san." John said, smiling. "Everything happens for a reason. I'm sure, whatever the gods are planning, it will be the best for the both of them."

"Damn it! I can't wait to get a hold of that b*** who did this! I'll make sure to bury him alive! He will get a taste of a miko's rage!" Ayako punched her open palm and grinned wickedly.

"An old hag who's mad as a wrongly shot hog." Takigawa mumbled.

"What did you say, you stupid monk?!"

John sweat dropped. 'There they go again.'

Ibara Sachi's apartment was small and could only accommodate two people. Compared to Mai's room, it was a bit shabby. Things are scattered everywhere, making the small place a lot messier.

"I didn't touch anything in here since her death." The land lady said. "I am waiting for her family to clean up her things. They'll probably be here after the burial. Are you sure you can talk to her and convince her to move on? I don't want my apartment to be haunted."

Oliver turned to the lady and gave her his fake smile. "Don't worry, my team consists of a medium and an onmyouji. If we can't convince Ibara-san to move on, we will conduct an exorcism."

The three of them pretended as professional ghost detectives and their specialty was place cleansing, making sure that the place was ghost and haunting free. The land lady had easily believed them. It seemed she was holding to a belief that if someone died wrongly in a place, they would haunt it forever. It was true, in a sense, but not all ghosts want to stay in the living world. Some of them want to fulfill their funeral rights or unfinished business before crossing. But most of them are stuck and didn't know how to crossover.

"Really?" The land lady glanced at Lin and Masako. "Then, I'll leave it to you. If you have anything you need, just call me downstairs."

They bowed at the land lady, and she bowed back and exited the apartment. When she was gone, Lin skillfully moved and prepared the small table at the center of the room. He took out a night vision camera with a tripod and fixed it facing the table. Naru lit up a candle and placed it at the center of the table.

"Do you sense anything, Hara-san?" He asked.

"She's here and confused."

"Then let's begin."

They sat on the tatami mat surrounding the table. They held each other's hand, forming a small circle. Masako closed her eyes and felt her surroundings. She was looking for a gateway that would connect her to Ibara Sachi's spirit. After a short while, she felt an energy coming from the left side window. That was her signal. She was here.

"Ibara Sachi-san, we came to speak to you. Please be kind and hear our request. We want to help you, if you have anything to say, we want to hear it." She said with a soft voice.

Even though the doors and windows were closed, a faint blow of wind could be felt inside the room, producing faint rustling sounds coming from newspapers. Masako shifted uncomfortably. Tough she could feel Ibara's presence, she wasn't responding. She was about to speak again when she felt something cold was starting to embrace her and slowly entering her body.

Oliver watched her silently. Hara-san's head droop for a moment, and after a few seconds she lifted it again.

"Ibara Sachi-san?" He asked.

"Yes." She replied using Hara-san's voice.

"I know that you're lost and confused. Do you know that you're already dead?"

She became frantic. Her expression changed from calm to scared. "Y-Yeah. I-I don't know what happened! I lost consciousness and when I woke up, I am face to face with my hanging body! I don't even know where I was!" Masako's closed eyes began to pour hot tears. "I swear! I didn't do it! And please tell me where I am now!"

Gust of wind suddenly blew and things started to shake. Naru looked at Lin. The Chinese man nodded and alerted his shiki.

"Calm down, Ibara-san. We won't hurt you." Oliver said in his most low and composed tone. "We are here to help you. Just calm down and tell us what happened."

She looked skeptic but chose to tell her story nonetheless. "I just got out from work and on the way back to my apartment. When I reached my apartment's building, I saw a luxury car, the type of car that's being used by rich people in the upper-class society. It was parked in front of our building. It's unusual to see that kind of car in our neighborhood so I was a bit surprised. I thought someone was having a visitor. I shrugged it off and continue walking up to the third floor, then..." She hung her words, slowly recalling what had happened that night. "Then I saw a man. He was standing in front of Mai-chan's apartment. I thought he was her friend, but at that time, I saw him picking her door lock. It dawned to me that he was someone dangerous."

Her eyes squeezed hot tears again. "I'm sorry, Mai-chan! I got scared! I called her to warn her, but she wasn't picking up! The man took about thirty minutes inside Mai's room, and when he got out, h-he was holding Mai and she was unconscious!"

Lin and Sachi felt Naru's grip tightened under their grasp. The furniture inside the room began to move again. However, this time it was not Sachi's doing. The girl flinched when she saw a murderous glint in Naru's eyes.

"Noll, calm down!" Lin admonished. "We won't get any answers if you let your anger consume you."

Oliver stiffened. Once again, he lost his cool. If he let his anger get into him, all of this will turn into nothing. Mai was already missing and he could't afford to put another one in risk. He needed to prioritize his colleague's safety.

"My sincere apologies, Ibara-san. It won't happen again. Please do continue on your statement."

"Y-Yes, after the man got out he put Mai-chan's unconscious body at the back seat of the luxurious car and drove off. I hurried to the nearest police station to report what happened. But I-I didn't manage to answer most of their questions. I didn't see the guy's face, nor could I remember the car's plate number due to the panic I felt. I was about to go back home when someone pulled me and brought me to a nearby alley. I was really scared; I knew I'm going to die! The last thing I could remember was an unknown person, wearing a mask, pointing a gun at me. And before I lost my consciousness, I saw another person standing behind him. H-He was pale and scary. Then when I woke up, I'm dead!"

Oliver's frown deepened. This conversation was leading them to another pool of questions, but neither one was answered. Ibara Sachi didn't see the man's face, moreover she didn't know what happened to her back in the alley. If someone pointed a gun at her, she would have died in a gunshot yet she end up being hung.

"Do you not remember moving in this place?" He questioned.

She shook her head. "Why would I do that? I just renewed my contract and moving would just empty my savings."

"What else do you remember about the pale man in the alley?"

"Somehow I thought I saw a tear in his dead eyes and his clothes were wet. Please, tell did I die? I didn't hang myself, so how?!"

"I'm sorry to say this, Ibara-san, but someone did this to you. It is hard, but you need to accept that you're already dead."

She sobbed. "Why did this happen to me? I want to know who did this! I want to avenge myself!"

"I know how it feels, but staying here would only put you in a more deep danger." Said Lin. "We will do something to put you at peace. We will search for that person and put him in his righteous place."

"You will really do that?" She asked.

Lin nodded and looked at Noll. "I won't promise you anything, Ibara-san, but I'll do everything to solve this."

She smiled. "Thank you very much."

And with that...she was gone.

The land lady gripped the handle of her broom as she looked up to where the ghost detectives was, wishing everything to be alright. She didn't expect something like suicide to happen in her building and she was worried that the price of that room might drop. Sighing, she continued weeping the yard.

"Good day." A cheerful voice greeted the landlady. She immediately spun around and greeted the person back.

"Good day." She said, scrutinizing the young man in front of her. The young man's silver hair and violet eyes made her blush. She never encountered someone as good looking as the guy who introduce himself as a ghost detective. "How can I help you?" She politely asked.

"Well, do you mind helping me with something?" The young man questioned, smiling brightly.

"No, not at all."

"Then," He reached something inside his pocket and extended it to her. "Can you please give this to your guest? I found this, and I think it belongs to them."

The land lady smiled in delight as she took the phone from him. "What a kind young man. Did you follow them just to give this back?"

He let out a chuckle. "Something like that." The young man aligned his glasses, taking a step back. "And please tell them that I say 'hi'."

As the young man vanished from her sight, the group of young detectives exited Ibara Sachi's room. She waited for the three youngsters to get down before approaching. "How was it?"

"Everything went smoothly, and you have nothing to worry about now." The doll-looking girl answered.

"Really? That's a relief. Ah! Before I forget, someone told me to give this to you." She lifted both her hands, giving them the phone. The good looking young man was the one who took it.

"Who gave you this?" He asked, looking at the phone as a frown made its way on to his face. She was about to answer his question but she suddenly couldn't think of anything to say. The land lady fidgeted, seemingly uncomfortable. Now that was something odd. She was sure someone gave it to her, but she couldn't remember who it was.

"I-I can't remember who it was."

Masako stared at the phone, her eyes widen and her kimono sleeve instantly covered half of her face to hide her worried expression. "That's Mai's phone." She said. "What's the meaning of this, Naru?"

Naru tightened his grasp on Mai's phone. Whoever it is that gave the land lady Mai's phone was clearly telling them one thing. "A direct message, we are under their watch."

In this world, there are also two types of people. The people who search for clues and the people who leave them. It's not hard to tell that the culprit was playing with them. They knew exactly where they were going, and he was certain that whoever it was, they were not far away.

'Fine.' Naru thought. 'I'll play with you then. But I'll make sure you regret this when the time comes.'

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