I'm not going to cry anymore
January 15th Day 1
Soft little globes of light floated around her as she awoke.
“I haven’t had a dream like this since Naru left to take Gene home…” she said out loud to the black space. Soft footfalls could be heard behind her.
“Mai,” a voice called. Startled Mai turned around to meet a handsome smiling face with dancing blue eyes.
“Gene?” She asked confused. He’s supposed to have been put to rest what’s going on? she thought as she looked at the boy’s spirit.
“Is that all you can say to me after a year of not seeing me?” he asked smirking at her dazed look.
“Why are you here? I thought you were put to rest? Am I here to be shown something?” questions spilled from her mouth like water, “Is Naru…..” her mouth clamped shut. I will not ask about that Narcissistic-Tea-Addicted-Jerk of an ex-boss of mine. She thought. Gene’s eyes saddened for a moment at the mention of his brother. Does she only care about him? he thought sadly.
“I’m here to see you,” he responded smiling. Mai’s face was painted red as a blush covered her face. “And to show you something…” he said slowly, “and you’re not gonna like it.” Before she could ask a question she was standing in a kitchen looking out the window.
Where am I? Gene? Where did you go? she thought. Her body moved on it’s own accord as she heard someone call a name.
“Suzuki!” yelled the voice with venom. The woman’s body stiffened at the voice. “No not again…” she said as she turned and headed towards the back door. A group of men were walking quickly towards her. She ran heading for the woods. One man yelled and pointed at her and they all sprinted after her. Someone yanked on her hair she was wheeled around to see her captor. His gray eyes were pierced into hers. “NO!” She screamed. “What did I do? Why do you keep doing this??” a large fist collided with her jaw. Mai felt the pain and screamed with the women in her head. Please stop this! Gene! Help me! Mai pleaded as she was kicked in the stomach repeatedly by the men. Blood spilled from her lips and were soaked up by the thirsty ground. Voices were yelling but she could no longer hear them as darkness began to cloud her vision, “You’ll all be sorry someday” the woman said with her last breath looking up into the forest as the darkness consumed her.
“Naru!!!!!!!” Mai shouted as she shot out of bed. Her eyes stung with tears that would never fall I said I wouldn’t cry anymore she thought as she brought he knees to her chest which still throbbed from the beating she had just endured in her dream state. Maybe just this once she thought as the tears cascaded down her cheeks. Naru where are you?
It was a frigid day. Just like the day before and the day after that. As frigid as it was it was still beautiful. Mai Taniyama was making her way to her part time job admiring the white that winter had brushed onto the landscape. Is it weird that I find trees that look dead beautiful?
Mai walked down the familiar street of Shibuya and headed towards her old deserted work. She had come every day since Naru and Lin had left for England. It had been over a year. Her hands fingered the two keys around her neck. The one that her mother had given to her before her death; the one to their old house; the one she had given Masako Hara during the Urado case; her good luck charm. The second key was the key Naru had told her to keep; the key to her past life; the key to the Shibuya Psychic Research office; the key to her heart. Her hand clenched around the two keys, their jagged teeth biting into her hand. She walked up the stairs to the second floor to the door which still had SPR painted on it. She sighed as she reached the door and inserted the key, but she stopped.
Are those voices I hear? Who’s in there? she thought as she grabbed a hold of the handle and took a deep breath before pushing the door open. She froze in the entrance and dropped her keys and her bag.
“Lin put up the shelves I think I heard something at the door—” Naru said without feeling as he stepped out of his office with a file in his hand, he lifted his head to see who was at the door. Blue eyes met brown and for a fraction of a second Mai could have sworn she saw surprise in the eyes until the clouded over again with indifference.
“You’re back,” she said.
“Yes I can see that Mai, did you slip further into the depth of dumb while I was away?” He said looking back at the file he was holding. Mai’s eyes flared with anger.
“I’ll have you know I’m top of my class now, Naru,” she said crossing her arms, Naru looked at her passively and smirked.
“Mai, while you’re here,” he said cooly, “Tea.”
Mai scowled as he uttered the last word. All he’s ever cared about is his damn tea she thought as she marched into the small kitchen passed him.
“It’s good to see you, Mai,” he said as he continued past her. Mai stopped and looked at him and her eyes softened. She smiled softly as she placed the kettle she kept there on the stove after filling it with water. She pulled out the tea from the cupboard and leaned against the edge of the table. At least he’s still the same old Naru. she thought as she saw Lin peek his head into the kitchen. She smiled brightly at him.
“ Hey Lin!” she beamed up at him. “How are you?”
“I thought I heard your voice Mai,” he said as his eyes softened as he looked at the petite girl who had scolded him for hating the Japanese for purely hatreds sake. “I’m doing well, Mai, has he already set you to work before he even rehired you?”
“She was never fired, SPR was just on a little hiatus,” said a cool voice from behind Lin.
“Who said that I’d still work for you, maybe I have another job,” Mai huffed. Naru’s eyes looked astonished for a second as if he hadn’t thought of the possibility.
“Fine. I think I can find another suitable assistant if you are unavailable,” He said with a shrug. Lin gave him a wary sideways glance.
“Naru! You already know I’d come back to work for you, you insensitive narcissistic jerk,” Mai said as the kettle whistled. She turned around and began to prepare the tea, once she turned around she handed both Naru and Lin a cup.
“Good because we already have a case
“What?!” Mai shouted, “You’ve been back all of…” she looked at Lin expectantly.
“13 hours,” Lin filled in.
“13 hours and you already have a new case? Why can’t you just relax and catch up with old friends like a NORMAL person instead of a tea-addicted-workaholic!” Mai shouted, not out of anger, but out of exasperation. Couldn’t he just take a day off?
“Mai, call the others, inform them that we have a case and that they need to be here tomorrow morning at 7am.” Naru turned around on his heel leaving Mai to fume in the kitchen with Lin.
“They may have something better to do you know Naru! You’re not the most important person in the world!” she shouted at his back.
“But I am the best looking,” he said before closing his office door with a soft click.
Lin looked at Mai with a sideways glance. She’s the same of ever he thought with an inward smile, even with her hair longer and with a more feminine physique, Mai is still Mai…and Naru is still Naru.
Mai had grown her hair out since they had left; she had let it grow mostly because she couldn’t bring herself to get a haircut with her current paycheck. She had looked everywhere for a good new job that paid as much as the paranormal researchers assistant, but had ended up with a night job at a local grocery store. She sighed as Lin left without a word, and walked over to her old desk with the phone. Might as well get this over with. She started to dial the familiar numbers of her old team. She felt a smile creep onto her face as a boisterous voice answered the phone.
“Hello, Mai? Are you staying at the old office again? That can’t be healthy for you, you should caught your losses Jou-san”
“For your information Monk,” Mai began, “I am calling to tell you that he’s back—“
“WHAT?! You serious?! Naru’s actually back!?” Mai extended her hand as far from her ear as possible for fear of going deaf.
“Yes, Monk-san, now be here at 7am tomorrow we have a case,” Mai said with slight irritation.
“New case? Wha—“
“7am.” Mai said as she swiftly hung up the phone and began dialing the next number.
Meanwhile in his office Naru heard the quick exchange. Since when is Mai that tactful and short with Takigawa? Did I really miss that much? Naru absent mindedly ran a hand through his black locks. She never did answer the question…Naru thought back to the last time he had seen Mai and the rest of the SPR regulars.
“That last day….
“You know, I like you,” She said softly.
Something came out of his mouth but he couldn’t remember; he couldn’t believe she had just said that she liked him…
“I didn’t mean like that…you’re so slow. I meant I like you in a very special way.” she was pressed against a tree. Naru stared at her blankly he hoped, his heart was beating at a million miles, when reality crashed down on him and his heart abruptly stopped in pain.
“Me? Or Gene?” he could feel that his eyes had softened, hoping for a “You, Naru,” but he knew it wouldn’t come. She started to tear up, yelling that she didn’t know, that he had always saved her. He Naru thought bitterly, as in Gene, I always saved you too, Mai. Every time I heard you scream I was on my feet running. Did you not even notice?
Mai then suddenly stopped crying and apologized to Naru. She didn’t know they were twins. She didn’t know who she liked, she thought it was Naru but she couldn’t be sure, she had always assumed. Naru turned his head, he didn’t want her to see he was hurt; he didn’t want her to feel guilty.
“You’ll probably meet him again someday,” he said not daring to look at her…
“Mai…” Naru whispered as a head peeked into his office. He quickly snapped his head up and cleared his head of the past.
“Geeze, Naru are you sure your clairvoyance doesn’t allow you to see what’s going to happen next?” Mai said folding her arms.
“Don’t be stupid, I heard you talking outside,” he said quickly. Mai looked at him quizzically. I swear I just saw a flash of sadness in his eyes… “Naru…you ok?”
Naru’s chest slowly tightened. Did she notice me reminiscing? “Everything’s fine, Mai, now did you need something or are you just going to stand there and waste more of my time?” he said coldly trying to hide whatever emotion she had gotten a glimpse of.
“You don’t need to be rude!” she glared at him before saying, “I called everyone, they should be here by 7am. I’m leaving, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Naru nodded and bent his head back down as he heard her sigh and leave the room with a “Good night, Naru.”
Naru raised his eyes to the closed door as he heard Mai say goodbye to Lin and rush out the front door.
“Good night, Mai.”
January 16th Day 2
Naru glared at the doors of the office, his arms tightly crossed in front of his chest. Where is that stupid girl? A man with light brown hair tied back in a loose pony tail lounged on the couch, next to a woman dressed in a yellow skirt and matching top. Across from her a young man with bright blue eyes and bleach blonde hair, beside him a boy with gleaming glasses and a look of mischief and then a girl with short black hair and a kimono. The SPR family was back together. Almost.
The door burst open and frigid hair blew into the office. Mai stood there with pink cheeks, wild hair and snow covered boots. Her brown eyes brightening as she saw everyone. Naru blinked. I’d forgotten how nice her eyes were, he thought as he growled at her.
“You’re 10 minutes late, Mai, I see your lack of punctuality hasn’t changed.”
“Naru, I’m sorry, I was on my way when I remembered I had forgotten my books for the work I’ll be missing at school, so I had to go back,” she said to him quickly as Monk ran up and gave her a bear hug.
“MAI!!!” He shouted squeezing her. “I’ve missed you! Why do you never return my calls!”
“You’re…suffocating…me…” she gasped as a purse flew at the monks head.
“Idiot, let her go before you squeeze her to death,” the women in yellow yelled.
“Ow! That hurt Ayako!” Monk said as he rubbed his head letting go of Mai. Mai ran up to her and gave her a hug. “Thanks, Ayako.” she said. Mai turned to the rest of the group as the boy with the glasses came up to her and said slyly “Mai-chan what is this? You haven’t called me in weeks and you don’t even give me a hug? Is that any way to treat your boyfriend?” His smile beamed down at her as she stomped her foot. “You’re not my boyfriend Yasuhara, and to both you and Monk-san I no longer have a cell phone…” she said trailing off and glancing off to the side, where the Blonde man was standing. “John! It’s soo good to see you! How was Australia?”
“It was grand, mate,” he said adorning her with a brilliant smile. Naru looked at the group coolly.
“Perhaps, if we are done we could get a move on,” the girl in the kimono said.
“Oh come on Masako! We were just greeting each other!” Mai said.
“Ms. Hara is correct, we need to go. And if we’re late because of you,” he said glaring at Mai, “I’m docking your pay.”
Mai scowled as she headed out the door and into the SPRs van with Masako, Naru and Lin. While the rest piled into Monks car.
“Where are we going anyway?” Mai said as she looked out onto the highway.
“Into the mountains, to a small village called Yamada, we’re going to investigate a small cottage at the edge of the woods. Reports of an apparition or a young woman appearing at the edge of the woods screaming, men being found in the woods beaten to death and a women humming in the cottage.”
“Oh,” was all Mai said as she yawned and pressed her head against the window closing her eyes. She had been up all night doing homework after work and she was exhausted. Soon she was sound asleep.
Naru sighed inwardly at the girl sleeping against the window. He was frustrated. When Yasuhara had claimed Mai to being his girlfriend, Naru had frozen. She’d never date an insufferable flirt like him, right? Why do I care? It’s her damn life… he looked back at the girl through the review mirror. Mai…
Mai woke up in a forested area.
“Where am I? Wasn’t I just in the car?” Mai said. She turned around to see a stunning face.
“Hello, Mai,” Gene said smiling.
“Hey Gene what’s up?” she said stepping closer to him.
“You need to be careful on this case,” Gene said, “the spirits here are restless and angry.”
“What’d you mean? Am I going to be targeted again?”She said confused.
“Mai…when are you not targeted?” Gene said teasingly, “You’re a spirit magnet. You have a giant bulls eye on your back that says ‘Sensitive Medium Come and Get It.’”
“Gee thanks Gene that makes me feel so much better,” she said rolling her eyes and crossing her arms. Suddenly she was somewhere else. “Gene?? Gene?? Where did you go??” She said looked frantically for him but didn’t see him. Instead she saw a little girl running into a clearing just ahead of her. She walked cautiously toward the girl.
“Suzuki! Get back here, we’re not done with you yet!” yelled a boy about 7 or 8 around the same age as the girl.
“Please, stop Junya.” She cried as she tripped and the boy and 3 other boys came into view. The girl’s clothes were tattered and her eye was turning black and blue. Her lip was split and blood dripped down her chin. The head boy reached down an offered her his hand. Suzuki looked at it warily before accepting it. As soon as he had hoisted her up he yanked her forward slamming her stomach into his knee.
“Stop it!” shouted Mai to no avail as she watched the young girl be beaten.
“No!” Mai jerked forward in her seat. She looked around the van and saw no one around she held her chest as she felt shivers go down her spine. “What was that all about?” she said out loud.
“What was what all about?” came a cool voice from the door. “You’re supposed to be helping unload the van and setting up. Not sleeping.” Naru said with his arms crossed.
“Well it’s not my fault no one woke me up,” she said with irritation.
“I thought perhaps you would have a dream about the case,” he said flatly, “but that still doesn’t excuse you for sleeping while the others are actually working. Now get out and help. When we’re done you’re telling me about your dream.” He turned abruptly away when a hand caught his wrist, his breathe hitched.
“Naru,” Mai gulped, “Gene’s still in my dreams.” Naru turned around narrowing his eyes.
“That’s not possible, Mai,” Naru said, “Gene was put to rest. Maybe you’re just dreaming about me and are getting us mixed up ag—“
“I know the difference between you and Gene! I’m telling you, Gene is in my dreams and allowing me to see visions.” Naru blinked at her sudden outburst. Did she really know the difference between Gene and I? “I guess Gene still wants to compete with me beyond the grave,” Naru said absent mindedly.
“Compete for what?” Mai said tilting her head to the side slightly with her eyebrows scrunched.
“Forget I said anything get moving,” Naru said turning again forgetting Mai still had a firm grip on his wrist, “are you going to sit there and hold onto me all day like some scared little kid or are you actually going to do your job.” He said between clenched teeth. He needed to get away from Mai. He was angry with his brother. How could you try to steal her from me AGAIN?! Wait…again…where’d that come from? Mai still hadn’t let go of his wrist. He yanked it out of her hold and quickly walked away. “Idiot,” he muttered, he didn’t know if it was directed at Mai or his twin brother, but he kept walking even when he heard Mai close the car door, running to catch up.
“Naru! Wait!” she called.
Naru and Mai entered the cottage one after another. The front room was adorned with traditional Japanese furniture and had cherry blossom paintings placed around the room. Naru turned right into the base room. It was small but it would do. There was only two other rooms in the in the building which was the bathroom and a small kitchen. Everyone would be sleeping in the front room together. Naru sighed. It wasn’t ideal, but it would do. Inside the base Naru met with the client Riku Kato. This was her cottage left to her by her great grandmother. The apparitions didn’t bother her so much, but when the killings started, she got scared.
“Thank you so much for coming.” she bowed.
“Could you tell me about your experiences here?” Naru said in an indifferent tone earning him a glare from Mai for his incivility. “Mai, tea” he said without turning toward her. He heard her huff and mutter something about him being narcissistic insensitive jerk as she stormed off. Naru turned to the women in front of him and stared at her coolly. She fidgeted under his gaze.
“Well….it started off with some noises, someone cleaning dishes, a woman humming creaking noises…” she began looking off towards the fall wall, “then I started seeing a woman in the kitchen, she always looks scared, as if she’s seeing someone coming after her, it’s starting to make me paranoid, I keep feeling like I’m being watched…like someone’s coming after me.” She stopped and glanced at the door. Naru sat their silently as Lin’s fingers danced over his keyboard taking down the account verbatim.
Meanwhile, Mai was rummaging through the kitchen looking for a tray and extra tea cups. She finally found one on the top shelf and was trying to reach it when a voice came behind her.
“Let me help you, Mai” came Monk’s voice. Mai turned around and smiled up at him. He gently reached above her and grabbed the tray. “What’s going on with you, Mai? I haven’t heard from you in ages and now you’re soo…not Mai,” he said sheepishly.
Mai laughed, “I just haven’t had the time, money’s tight and I have to work and study,” she shrugged. “I’m ok though Monk, I’m stronger than I was before, I’m no longer that naïve little kid you knew last year,” She smiled at him.
“But I loved that naïve little kid! She was fun!” Monk, Mai looked offended.
“I’m still fun I’ll have you know,” she said haughtily she stuck her tongue out at him, “I’m still me, Monk, just a little more…quiet,” she said looking out the window above the sink.
“Mai are you having financial issues again?” He said seriously. Mai fidgeted.
“Well you see…Naru needs his tea,” She said evasively, grabbing the tray and rushing out the door.
“Mai!” Monk yelled, grabbing her arm.
“Monk, please don’t tell anyone, I’m barely making payments on my place right now, but everything is fine,” She said quickly looking up at him with pleading eyes.
“Fine, but I’m buying you a new phone.”
“Monk, no!” She said not realizing they had made it back to base and everyone was looking at them. Mai froze and looked at everyone sheepishly. “Tea delivery service!” She chirped as she set down the tray a distributed the tea. Naru glared at her as she handed him his. He cleared his throat “Go on, Ms. Kato.”
“Well umm yes…” Kato looked down into her tea, “the boys in the village who go into the forest never come out. I stumbled upon a boy who had been beaten to death about a month ago…I heard a woman cackle when I found him saying, ‘I told you you’d regret it,’” the woman started to shake. Mai went over to her and patted her back and made cooing noises.
“Is there anything else?” Naru said coldly. Mai shot him a glance that said “Don’t be a heartless jerk about it.” He ignored her look and pressed on “was that the only death?”
“No…Other boys have been found, one of them was my nephew. All of them beaten to death, like someone had taken a lead pipe and…” she broke into sobs. Mai looked down at her apologetically. “We’ll figure it out, don’t worry,” she said with a soft smile.
“Alright Mai, set up mics and cameras in the kitchen and main room, it’ll make living quarters tight but we’ll deal with it. Takigawa, John go set up a camera by the edge of the forest, use extreme caution, this spirit only seems to attack men, perhaps we won’t have any injuries this time around,” he said glaring at Mai. She shot him a dirty look. It’s not my fault ghosts like me. “Ms. Hara, Ms. Matsuzaki do a walk through see if you can sense anything.”
The team came back after a couple of hours a met in the front room; trying to figure out the best sleeping arrangements.
“I am not sleeping on the floor,” Ayako stated, “I wasn’t made to sleep on floors.”
“You’re free to leave, Ms. Matsuzaki,” Naru said without looking up from the case file. “Lin and I will sleep in the base since we’re the only ones who ever stay up and watch the monitors, the rest of you will have to share the floor in here.”
“Naru why can’t we just go to a hotel!” Ayako shouted desperate.
“In this small of a town? Come on Ayako,” Monk said.
“Come on, Ayako, it’ll be like a sleep over!” Mai chimed.
“For once I agree with Ms. Matsuzaki, I won’t be sleeping on the floor either.” Masako said.
“Then leave,” Naru said walking out of the room. “Mai come with me we need to talk about your dream.” Mai groaned but followed the black clothed teen into the base; leaving John to try and calm down the rest of the group. Lin was already sitting down with his lap top waiting for Mai to start speaking. If he ever loses this job he can always get one as a court reporter. Mai thought as she sat down.
Naru just looked at her expectantly, she stared at him, “Speak,” was all he said. Mai began to tell him about both her dreams she had had. When she finished Mai said, “Oh and Gene said that I’m going to be targeted, like always.” she said nonchalantly. Naru inwardly groaned.
“I highly doubt that it seems to only be going after males. All 4 of the killings were male, their ages varied but they were all males. You definitely do not fit that bill,” Naru stated.
“Perhaps there’s a different connection than them all being male, Naru,” Mai snipped back, “you of all people know it’s NEVER that straight forward.”
“Fine, go get Yasuhara and have him look in the village’s history and look for the names you heard.” Mai got up and walked to the door as Masako came in. She looked pale, as she stumbled in. “Masako is everything alright??” Mai said her voice dripping with concern. Masako stumbled her way to Naru before collapsing on his arm. “The spirit…she’s angry, angry at those men,” Naru shot Mai an “I told you so” look. Naru quickly placed Masako in a chair untangling himself from the mediums hold. “She’s so very angry Naru, she’s angry at them, she wants them to pay, she wants revenge,” Mai rolled her eyes as she went to find Yasuhara.
“Yasu, I need you to do some research,” she said slowly.
“You do? Or Naru does?” He slinked up to her slyly.
“I do, Naru will think it’s a waste of time now since Masako confirmed what he thought. Can you please research anyone who’s lived in this village with the name Suzuki and Junya?”
“Those are really common names Mai, do you have a last name?” Yasuhara said placing his hand on his chin.
“Suzuki lived here, Junya close by I think,” she said, Yasuhara still looked doubtful, “oh come on now don’t tell me the king of research can’t do this, one little thing. Have you lost your touch?” Mai said teasingly.
“Of course not! I can find anything!” He said thumping his chest, “but you have to give me a kiss and then I’ll do it.” He smiled widely as her face painted red.
“Y-Yasu,” She said shakily.
“Are you sexually harassing my daughter again?” Monk stepped in and Mai let go of a breathe she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Of course not, I would never harass my precious little Mai,” Yasuhara said throwing and arm around her.
“If you find what I need then I’ll think about giving you you’re payment,” Mai said as Monk yanked her out of Yasaharu’s reach. Monk gave him a dirty look. “What’s going on with you two? You’re not allowed to sleep anywhere near Mai!” Mai sighed and walked over to her bag. It was getting late, Ayako and Masako had finally settled on switching the couch every night until the end of the case. She pulled out a jacket and said “I’m going for a walk,” the others didn’t even look up as she opened the door outside.
The area was covered in a white blanket of snow. Mai walked over to where the cameras were set up around the edge of the forest. Mai looked up in the night sky. “Wow you can see all the stars!” She looked up at the stars and started looking for constellations when she heard a rustle behind her. “Hello?” No one answered. She shrugged it off thinking it was the wind or a wild animal.
“Mai what are you doing out here?” Naru said coming up behind her. She turned and smiled at him. The light of the moon lighting her face and making her eyes shine. “I needed to get away from everything for a while, I’m not like you who just ignores everything and everyone.”
“I don’t ignore everything and everyone Mai,” Naru stated flatly. Does she really think I’m that much of a jerk?
Mai ignored him. “You know the stars are really pretty,” Mai shivered.
“Idiot, you should have brought a warmer jacket,” Naru condescended.
“It wasn’t the cold…” Naru looked at Mai carefully and saw her stiff as a board, “I can feel someone touching my back…” Mai was abruptly flung back. Her hands grabbing at an unknown attacker who was yanking her back by her hair; her mouth opened letting out a terrified scream.
“Mai!” Naru shouted as he reached for her as she disappeared into the forest. “MAI!!” he shouted frantically before running into the forest after her, not hearing the shouts of the rest of the group.
January 16th Day 2
Naru was running through the forest looking for Mai as his mind reeled. You idiot scientist! She told you she was going to be targeted. She told you there was a different connection! You just couldn’t even fathom that she could be right could you! He though t as he heard shouts behind him. He stopped running when a hand grabbed his shoulder and jerked him back.
“Noll! What the hell were you thinking?” Lin shouted forcing Naru to face him. “You even said that the spirit was targeting men, what would possess you to run into the forest like that?” Lin was angry with Naru. He didn’t understand what was going on. He had heard a shout and then Naru running into the forest. Wait…Where’s Mai?
“Something took her,” Naru said averting his gaze as the rest of the group caught up. Lin looked down at him in surprise.
“What’s you mean something took her?” Lin said coolly. The rest of the group stopped when they heard Lin pronounce his last statement.
“SOMETHING TOOK MAI?!” Monk yelled. Naru stuck his hands in his pockets. “Why are we standing here? We should go find her!” Monk said trying to make it passed Naru. Naru stopped him, a firm hand gripping his forearm. “Kazuya let me go,” Monk growled.
“We need to go back to the base and gather more information so we aren’t looking blindly,” Naru said without lifting his eyes to meet the other man’s.
“We should be looking for her now! You were chasing after them which way did they go! Do you even care at all about her?!” Monk was shaking with anger. Naru snapped his eyes towards Monk’s.
“Of course I care about her!” He snapped without thinking about what he said. He let go of the man’s arm and briskly started walking back towards the cottage, “Never doubt that I care about her,” he muttered. Lin followed Naru quickly without waiting for the rest of the group who stood there dumbfounded.
“He is her employer,” Masako said evenly, trying to convince herself that Naru had not meant anything deeper, “He’s responsible for her, it would be bad if something happened to her.” John looked at Masako with a sideways glance, “It would be bad if something happened to her…” Masako said as tears rolled down her cheeks. John reached over and patted her on the back.
“We’ll get her back,” he said, “we always do. Now let’s get back and help Naru with his research.” The rest of the group were struck dumb and only nodded, slowly making their way back to the cottage.
When they arrived they saw Naru frantically looking through his case file and previous research.
“Yasuhara, research the names Suzuki and Junya in this area,” he said quickly, tyring to remember what Mai had told him.
"Perhaps there's a different connection than them all being male, Naru," Mai snipped back, "you of all people know it's NEVER that straight forward."
“I already did boss,” Yasuhara said, “Mai asked me to do it for her as a favor.”
“What? Why did she do that?”
“She wanted to prove you wrong.” Yasuhara said coolly. “This is your fault Naru. She told you what Gene said, she told you she was going to be targeted. If something happens to her…” Yasuhara was angrier than anyone had ever seen. Naru flinched at his words. It is my fault…Don’t you dare die Mai.
“What did you find?” Naru said calmly, “is there a different connection?”
Yasu shot him a death glare. “Maybe, Junya was the name of the head of the villages son about 150 years ago. He and his group of friends, liked to pick on a girl named Suzuki. I went over to one of his families who let me see his old dairy. He says,
‘I found that dirty little girl near my house again. Her filthiness contaminating everything she touched. Me and the boys went to go teach her a lesson, we chased her into the woods, until we reached a clearing. We beat her until she couldn’t move anymore and all we heard were little whimpers. She’s pathetic. As we walked back Yamamoto, Koichi and Santo, laughed at her pitifulness. That trash needs to be taught a lesson.’
Suzuki apparently was half Chinese,” Yasuhara paused and looked at Lin who had gone rigid, he already hated the Japanese, But I would never want Mai hurt, Lin thought as Yasuhara continued, “and the rest of the village hated her. She was beaten often but not often enough that teachers who came from another village noticed. She died when she was 25 after one of the beating in the middle of the forest.” Yasuhara stopped and looked at Naru who was processing, “Oh and one more thing, Junya’s surname was Taniyama.” Naru’s eyes flew forward, slightly widening.
“Give me those notes,” Naru reached out a hand as Yasuhara handed them to him.
“The surname’s of all of the victims match to one of Suzuki’s tormentors,” Yasuhara said, “The fact that they are all boys was a coincidence.”
Naru was silent. His hands were shaking as his mind churned the information. The ghost was after the descendants, not the boys of the village. So where would the ghost go? Where would she take her victims? “Where were all the bodies found?” Naru said still glancing over the research.
“There’s no one place that they were found each were scattered in no feasible pattern but looking at it,” Lin said as he brought out a map with Xs showing where each body was found.
“Yasuhara do you still have that dairy?” Naru said examining the map. Yasuhara ascended and handed him the tattered journal. He flipped through it looking for a connection. He stopped at every page that mentioned a beating to Suzuki. He glanced at the map. “The diary is rough at best but each place he describes is on the map, is one place that the boys beat up Suzuki,” Naru said glancing at the book and then back at the notes. “2 of the boys were found by the cliff, which was where Santo took the lead in the beatings…each boy was Santos descendant. 1 boy was found by a creek…that was where Yamamoto took the lead, the boy was a descendant….1 was found by a pond that’s where Koichi took the lead, again the boy is a descendant.” Naru gazed at the map, “Lin pull up all of the unexplained deaths in the lasts 150 years.” Naru scanned the list and the map, each one correlated with another.
“I know where she is,” Naru said grabbing his jacket and racing out the door
Mai awoke in a clearing. Her head pounded and she reached a hand up to the back of her head to feel something sticky. She raised her hand in front of her face. Blood she thought. She looked around her periphery. She was in the clearing in the woods she had seen in her dreams. This is where that poor girl got beat up by those nasty boys she thought. She lifted herself up onto her feet and staggered. She fell back down. She saw a hand of a florescent light come into her line of sight. She looked up.
“Suzuki,” Mai said. The woman stood there without smiling her hand still offered. Mai took it gratefully. As she was hoisted up she was yanked into the woman’s knee.
“It doesn’t feel so good now does it Junya?” the woman whispered. Mai’s eyes where clenched shut in pain, she began to cough and she could feel the blood escape her lips as she coughed.
“I’m not Junya,” Mai said confused, “My name is Mai, Mai Taniyama.” When the ghost heard Mai’s name she threw her away from her. Mai landed against a tree. Her head snapped back and hit the tree with a smack. She groaned.
“Taniyama, Junya TANIYAMA.” Mai’s eyes widened. Taniyama? His last name was Taniyama? I knew my family had come from this area but I didn’t know it was HIM. “You murdered me! You beat me! You tortured me! You tortured me!!” She shouted making her way towards Mai. Mai sat there terrified. Help me! Someone…Monk, John, Ayako, Masako, Yasu….Somebody help me! Naru!!!!!!! Mai was frantically saying in her head. Her mouth just wouldn’t work as the ghost came upon her. Her vocal chords finally worked as she let out a terrible scream, as she felt hitting her with something resembling a pipe or a bat, she couldn’t see it though. “NARU!!!!!!!!!!” she wailed as she passed out from the pain.
White spheres floated around her as she woke up. She felt strong arms envelope her.
“Shhhh Mai it’s ok shhhh…” he said as he ran his hand through her hair careful not to run over the open wounds.
“Am I…Am I…” She could feel the tears welling in her eyes. I promised I wouldn’t cry anymore she growled at herself mentally. She forced herself to say the last word, “Dead?”
“No, Mai you’re still alive…Suzuki has been waiting for a very long time for a Taniyama to come to these woods…” He said slowly and affectionately. He felt Mai relax into his grip. “Mai, she’s going to draw this out as long as possible. It’s going to hurt, she’ll beat you until you pass out and then stop and wait for you to wake up, so she can start again. Your ancestor did some terrible things to that woman.” How can someone so evil be the ancestor of sweet and innocent Mai? She couldn’t hurt a fly…he thought as he saw Mai in his arms. She looked up at him. Even in her astral projection she looked pretty awful. Her face was black and blue, her left I closed shut by the swelling. Her lip was split and dry blood clung underneath her nostrils. She probably had at least a few broken ribs. Her arms where riddled with lacerations and bruises. “I’m so sorry, Mai. I thought that idiot scientist would have figured out the connection before this happened, I’m…I’m so sorry,” Gene’s eyes began to tear up as sobs wracked through his body. His eyes opened wide when he felt someone wiping away his tears.
“Hey, it’s not your fault. It’s Junya’s, it’s intolerance’s and hate’s fault. I would never blame you, Gene.” She said confidently. And then she smiled. She was bruised and beaten down pretty bad, but her smile was still warm and beautiful, “Now smile for me before I wake up, I can feel my mind starting to pull on me already,”
“Mai…I…” he couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.
“Just smile…” Mai said as she disappeared. Gene looked at his empty lap. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He clenched his fists.
“I can’t when someone I love is in so much pain…and I can’t do anything…”
Mai woke up groggily. She shivered. She cried out in pain every time she shivered. She looked down at the blood stained snow. Mai groaned. She lifted up her head and looked at the tormented woman in front of her. Her soul had been turned black, this wasn’t her fault. This wasn’t what she wanted.
“Suzuki, please…listen to me…” Mai pleaded as the woman walked up to her, “you don’t have to do this.” Mai felt a slap across her face.
“Do you even know what you put me through? What your family put me through? I’m just delivering justice.” she spat grabbing Mai by the hair pulling her head back.
“How does this make you any better than him?” She whispered. The ghosts grip loosened slightly, her eyes became full of sorrow as if realizing what she was doing. “You’re better than him, Suzuki, your better than all of them, why are you stooping to their level?” the woman screamed and threw Mai away from her. Mai fell against the snow on her side. She tried to lift herself to a sitting position but couldn’t. She felt something kicking her to lay on her back and a blunt object pressing down on her chest. She screamed, her broken ribs moving and rotating in her body.
“What do you know!?!?!” the woman screamed, “You’re just as bad as him, you carry his blood, you carry apart of him with you.”
“But I also carry apart of another family,” Mai gasped for air as she felt her lung collapse she coughed frantically her body convulsing, she turned her head to her said and spat the blood from her lungs on to the ground and gasped for air. “You can stop this…I’m going to die anyway…you’ve fulfilled your revenge, your vendetta is compl—“ Mai coughed again and gulped as much air as possible her head was getting light, “complete. You’ve gotten several other children from the other 3 boys’ families. You can rest in peace knowing that they suffered…that I suffered.” The ghost grabbed Mai’s hair dragging her up. “Just let go, Suzuki…” The woman’s grip loosened and she dropped Mai. She looked at the bleeding girl on the ground in front of her and then back to her hands. She sobbed and fell to the ground and whispered “Thank you.” A warm light engulfed the woman and disappeared. Mai smiled her eyes shutting as a mangled voice cried out her name.
Naru and the rest of the group had witnessed the ending moments of the scene. Naru was ready to unleash his PK to destroy that spirit which had dropped Mai. He saw Mai’s lips move. He was sprinting as fast as he could towards the girl. Mai, hang on. I’m coming! He almost stopped in place when he saw the spirit be cleansed. He shook his head and broke through the tree line.
“MAI!!” He shouted. The rest of the group was right behind him. He reached Mai and saw the extent of the damage, but he saw a small smile on Mai’s face. He grabbed her wrist. She’s so cold. She’s lost so much blood on top of the weather… he thought as he held his breath. Come on, Mai show me that you’re alive… Ayako had reached them by then her ear pressed against Mai’s chest.
“MONK! My purse now!” She shouted. Monk grabbed the purse the woman had been carrying. Dear lord she does carry bricks in here he thought. She rummaged through it looking for something. Suddenly she pulled a long syringe out of her purse. She quickly threw away the plunger and stabbed the needle straight into Mai’s chest.
“Ayako what are you doi—“ Naru began when he heard a gasp of air. He felt Mai’s heart beat slowly beneath his fingers. He let go of his breathe. “Lin call an ambulance we got to get her out of here now!” Monk shouted. Naru hoisted the girl up into his arms and started to sprint back to the cottage. She’s not safe yet…She’s still in critical condition…
“Naru…” escaped Mai’s lips as he carried her.
“Gene,” Mai said as she woke up in the astral plane.
“Mai, you’re amazing did you know that?” Gene said smiling down at her. Not many people could have cleansed the spirit; it was so close to becoming too dark. He thought. Mai rubbed the back of her head.
“ I couldn’t just leave her to rot with spite,” She said, “she had a lot terrible things happen to her, I at least could do this one thing for her, even after what my ancestor did…she deserved at least this much.” Mai had turned away from Gene and looked at something far away.
“Mai…” She turned to him he smiled lightly, “When did you become so mature?” He said ruffling her hair.
“Hey! Stop that!” She said sticking her tongue out. Gene laughed more. At least she’s still more of a kid than anything. He thought.
“You should wake up, Mai,” Gene finally said after sitting with Mai for a little while.
“Tired of me already I see,” she said teasingly.
“No, I could never get tired of you, Mai,” he smiled as she blushed, “but he’s waiting for you.”
“Wake up, Mai…”
Naru was sitting in the white room impatiently. Everyone had left for the day and the nurses had just left. He cautiously touched Mai’s hand and leaned over her to look her full in the face. Her bruises were almost all gone, her eye was still tinted black, but for the most part she looked as if nothing had happened. Her ribs would take awhile to heal but she would survive. Ayako’s quick thinking with the collapsed lung had saved her life.
“Come on, Mai, you need to wake up,” He said to her. His mask had slipped and his face was showing genuine concern for the girl. “Mai, please you need to wake up. The other’s are scared…I’m scared. Wake up, Mai,” He squeezed Mai’s hand a little trying to get a response out of her. He sighed and sat back down, his hand still clasping hers.
She stirred. Her eyes fluttered open and she groaned. Oh god I hurt all over she thought. Naru jumped to his feet and leaned over her.
“Mai?” he said tentatively.
“Naru…” she said. Naru had quickly dropped her hand as soon as her eyes had opened.
“You idiot, you’ve been out for the last 2 weeks,” he said with a little more feeling then he would normal have, but it was still cool.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to get beat up by a ghost,” she mumbled averting her gaze. Why is my hand warm? Had Naru….no this is Naru we’re talking about she thought.
Naru sighed and looked up towards the clock. “I need to apologize…” Naru said almost inaudibly. Mai’s eyes snapped towards his face, An apology? she thought. “I should have listened to you when you told me that you were going to be targeted and that there was another connection. It was reckless and stupid of me.” He said without looking at her, “I’ll go get the nurse…and call the others they’ll be anxious to see you.” Mai watched him make his way to the door.
“Accepted,” she said to him. He turned toward her with slightly widening eyes.
“What?” He asked oblivious.
“Apology accepted, you idiot scientist,” she smiled at him. She could see a slight small curve on his lips and his shoulders slightly relax as he walked out of her room. Her smile widened.
March 10th Day 1
Things had almost gone back to normal at SPR and Mai was as happy as ever, her ribs still hurt her, but her bruises were gone and her stiffness was also gone. When Monk and Yasuhara had come to see her when she woke up they had almost burst into tears out of happiness. Both watched her warily and offered to help her with her work. Naru wasn’t angry at the extra noise it seemed even though he glared and Monk and Yasuhara every time he saw them.
The weather was starting to get warmer and everyone could feel springs breathe in the air. Mai was running late to work. As she walked into the room she was answered with an angry “And where have you been?” from her boss.
“Ahh sorry Naru my teacher wanted to talk to me about something,” she said laughing uneasily.
“What would your teacher want to talk to you about? How stupid you are, idiot.” he said exasperated. Why was I so anxious? She’s only 5 minutes late… He thought. He sighed. “Mai, tea” he said before she could retort.
“I’ll have you know, I’m top of my class Naru, I’m much smarter than you take me for,” she said with a hmph and walked into the kitchen.
“Prove it, I’ll believe it when I see some intelligence on a case,” he said. He heard the door open.
“Is the Shibuya Psychic Research?” a man in his mid-fifties asked.
“Yes, how can I help you?” Naru asked waiting for the obvious response. 3…2…1…
“I’d like to speak to your boss,” the man said.
“You are talking to the boss, my name is Kazuya Shibuya, how may I assist you today?” Naru ignored the man’s look of disbelief and grabbed a notebook and sat down on the couch gesturing to the seat in front of him.
“I’ve come from Inuyama Castle…” the man began.
March 10th Day 1
Mai laid on bed and looked up at her ceiling. She couldn’t deny that she was excited about the new case. Her mind reeled over what the man had said.
“I’ve come from Inuyama Castle. I’m the curator there. There have been some incidents…That we would like to address with you…” He said glancing at the young man in front. Naru sat quietly as he waited to hear more information until his assistant chimed in.
“Inuyama Castle? One of the 12 castles still around from before the Edo period, argued to be the oldest one? Built in 1440 and overlooks the Kiso River?” Mai’s eyes were starry eyed. Naru glanced over her in somewhat astonishment. Mai actually knows something about the place? What happened to dim witted Mai who couldn’t even tell you when the Edo period was? He thought. He glanced back over to the curator, who was smiling and nodding his head.
“Yes, Mai, I would have thought that obvious, there are only 12 castles and only one has this particular name.” Naru said coldly, glaring at her even though he was impressed that she had actually known something.
“I just wanted to make sure, Naru! I did a project on it last term and fell in love with the place—“
Naru caught her off quickly before she could go into one of her long winded speeches about things that she liked. “Mai, Tea.” She snapped her mouth shut and huffed as she turned on her heal to the kitchen.
“It’s nice to hear that someone still cares for the old place,” the man across from Naru said, “but…given the last few weeks, we’re not sure if it should stay the national treasure it is…” Naru glanced up from his notes.
“Mr.—“ Naru waited for him to fill in the gap, “Yoshida,” the man supplied.
“Mr. Yoshida, could you please explain what’s been happening?” the man looked crest fallen. Mai returned and handed him a cup of tea which he gladly took before she briskly handed Naru his and retreated to a seat at the far side of the couch to his left. She smiled reassuringly at the man. He sipped his tea.
“There have been a lot of violent incidents that have occurred. Mostly it’s workers who work of restoration. They have been pushed down stairs, invisible hands have strangled them leaving distinct bruises, people have said they’ve seen soldiers running around the outside…” he paused, staring into the cup, “And then they’ve been pushed off of the top floor, so far everyone has survived but they all say they remember someone screaming at them about bringing the fall of the castle, before they toppled over.”
Naru glanced at Mai. She was in deep thought, as if processing some type of epiphany. Mai was indeed thinking hard about what she had heard, but focusing on the smaller events trying to think of a possible explanation. Her mind knew she knew an inkling about what was going on but she couldn’t find the switch in her brain to illuminate the information.
“We’ll take the case. We’ll be there tomorrow, please prepare 3 rooms; 2 for sleeping and one that we can use as a base.” Naru said standing from his seat. Mr. Yoshida’s face looked relieved as he stood and bowed. “That should be fine.” Naru nodded, “Leave the information with my assistant,” he said as he stalked off to his office and silently closed the door…
Mai smiled to herself as she recalled the day’s events. As she drifted off to sleep she chastised herself for staying up so late.
March 11th Day 2
Naru growled lowly as he waited for his assistant to arrive. She was already 5 minutes late.
“Can’t someone call her,” he ground out. Honestly, does she even own a bloody alarm clock?
“Mai doesn’t have a phone,” Monk said, “She doesn’t have a home phone either, she had to make the choice between a phone or internet and she chose internet so that she could still do homework at home.” Naru glanced at Takigawa. The monk looked like he was frustrated. Naru snorted.
“What when I left she couldn’t find a new job?” he said annoyed. He really didn’t mean for it to come out as cold as it had, or as sarcastic. He was actually concerned that the girl had had financial issues, but he’d be damned if he let the others know.
“She got two actually,” Matsuzaki said rising from her feet and glaring at the boy, “She had two jobs, she never slept, and she studied her ass off,” her voice was low and angry. Naru was taken back when he looked at the Miko. “You have no idea who she is anymore, Naru, don’t think that you do,” She said as she turned around and walked into the kitchen. Naru’s face stayed placid as he looked at the group who were all staring at him with more than a little contempt. The door swung open.
“I’m so sorry!!” She shouted as her chest heaved. She had actually woken up on time but had been looking for her research notes on Inuyama Castle and lost track of time as she looked them over. All of them looked kind of angry and Naru looked…guilty? His eyes met hers and flashed back to indifference.
“Let’s go,” he barked, walking out to the van. Mai looked confused. Aren’t I going to get the punctuality lecture? A box flying at her torso snapped her out of her trance.
“As promised,” Monk said grinning at her and ruffling her hair. He walked out of the building quickly before she could yell at him. That girl does not take help without a fight, he said as he walked to his car.
Mai looked down to see a new phone box. “MONK!!” she shouted in frustration, but he was already gone. She walked out of the building to see his car was already gone and Naru standing by the van with an annoyed look. She sighed grabbing her bags and headed to the car. Naru glared at her as she slid into the seat in between Lin and himself. He glanced at her hands to see a phone box. His chest tightened as he thought about how he had left her in less than acceptable means.
“Mai,” he said as they made their way onto the highway, she glanced up at him, “You could have asked for help if you weren’t making enough money.” Her eyes hardened as he glanced at him.
“I can take care of myself,” she said briskly, “I don’t like it when people care about me.” Her voice hinted to a deeper meaning as Naru’s mind flashed to when she confessed.
“I just told you I don’t like it when people care about me.”
He looked down at her. “That was a lie, Mai,” he said looking out the window. “You of all people like it when people care about you; you craved a family for too long to not want it.” His voice was low.
“Is this more self-identification, Naru?” she asked looking at him carefully. His eyes flicked towards her. He didn’t say anything but his mind said Yes.
Once Mai had figured out her new phone (which Monk had conveniently charged fully) Mai began to put numbers into her phone.
Let’s see office, Michiru, Monk, Ayako, John, Lin, Masako….Her hand began to type in Naru’s name when she remembered she didn’t have his number memorized…she had never had it in the first place. She glanced toward the young man. He was reading some file in a black folder, per usual. She glanced back at her phone and then looked back at her boss. Should I ask him for his number? He practically lives at the office, I can always reach him there…
“Hand me your phone,” the boy said calmly holding out his hand for it, his eyes never left the page. You dolt, I’d give you my phone number I’m not that heartless. Is it so hard to think that maybe I actually care for you? Mai blinked and smiled softly, handing him her phone. Their hands slightly touched each other and her heart went into overdrive.
It was just a graze of the figure tips, why did I have that response? She groaned mentally, I really need to stop watching Jane Austen adaptations from the BBC…
Naru quickly typed in his number and handed the phone back to her. He had been watching her the entire time as she had her inner battle with herself. Her emotions played on her face as plain as day; she had been embarrassed and then annoyed with herself and now she was feeling better. He smirked slightly. Even if she’s changed Mai is still Mai…his body relaxed at the thought. He watched her as she slipped her hand into her bag for her Mp3 player. She slipped the head phones in her ears as music started playing. He glanced at the music she was listening to.
“You’re listening to a Welsh band?” He said out loud. She glanced at him.
“They’re British, just cause you people from England feel like bashing on the Welsh doesn’t mean they aren’t apart of the UK.” She said looking out the window.
“I wasn’t bashing the Welsh. I was just surprised their music made it all the way out here. Sure the LPs are popular in the UK and in Europe, I wouldn’t think they had come all the way to Japan.” He watched as Mai’s eyes widened slightly, “Yes, Mai I do listen to music other than classical,” he watched her as she choked slightly and looked at him in horror.
If that bastard can read minds and hasn’t told anyone, he’s dead. She thought.
“I can’t read minds, Mai, stop being stupid,” He said as the car stopped, “Oh by the way we’re here. Get to work.” He said as he opened the door.
Mai rushed outside and marveled. The castle was magnificent. Sitting just south of the Kiso River to watch for enemy soldiers, the castle stood majestically tall. Her eyes took in the scenery, the sakura trees, the stone garden. She was entranced.
Naru watched as the girl all but drooled at the “castle.” This is a castle? This is nothing compared to European castles. I wonder how she’d react if she saw Chateaux de Chillion in Switzerland? He began to chuckle at the thought without realizing it until the girl he was pondering’s head snapped toward him. He was almost…smiling? Mai caught a glimpse of Gene in Naru at that moment and she smiled widely. Naru noticed he had her attention and smirked. “Unload the van, Mai,” he said slightly less coolly than usual, only Lin would have noticed the subtle shift in his intonation. He turned to the others as they began to head their way, “You too,” he barked harshly. He turned in the gravel to enter Inuyama Castle.
Naru had finished his second interview with the client when everything was unpacked and ready to be set up. The shelves were set up in the base room, with Mai setting up the monitors. He told everyone else to set up in the areas with activity—the main bed chambers, the balcony, the grand stair case and the back sitting room were all places of high activity. He told Lin to go take room temperatures with Masako and Ayako as they went through a walk through. Lin looked up in surprise at him, when he heard the order. But as he looked at Naru’s face he saw that Naru was just focusing on Mai. The Chinese man smirked. She does have that effect on people. Making even the coldest hearts melt with her personality. He thought as he walked out the door with the other two women, leaving the other two alone.
Mai was still listening to her Mp3 player and didn’t notice as everyone but her and the black clad teen were left in base. A song switched on that made her think back to the car ride. He said the LPs not LostProphets…He must like them. She thought. Her lips turned up into a smile as she thought that Mr. Stuck-up-tea-addicted-narcissistic-brit had something in common with her. She turned around to find just him in the room looking at her carefully. Her face broke into a blush as she took out her head phones.
“What?” she said defensively. Naru just looked at her. He had been thinking that he would try a little experiment.
“Mai, did you set up the router so that everything on our computers would be encrypted?” He spoke in English. Mai didn’t skip a beat.
“Of course I did what type of assistant do you think I am?” she said back haughtily.
“One that speaks English and doesn’t tell her boss that she knew another language,” He said looking at her carefully. So she could understand English.
“I speak 3 languages thank you very much. You never asked if I could speak another language; I didn’t think it important.” She said impishly.
“Perhaps you can’t speak it and can only understand it, I have yet to hear you utter a single English word.” He said looking for something to get a rise out of her. It seemed to do the trick.
“I can speak English just fine, Oliver, I should just defenestrate your narcissistic butt right now.” She said angrily. She was happy when she saw him flinch at his real name and as his eyes widened when she used the word defenestrate. He recovered quickly.
“As if you could lift me to actually throw me out a window, you’re not that strong Mai.” He turned away from her as she turned redder, he picked up a walkie talkie, “Takigawa are you ready to set the angles?”
“There you are, we’ve been trying to get ahold of you for a couple of minutes, what’s going on you and Lin having a lovers quarrel? “ Monk teased.
“Lin’s not here, it’s just Mai and me,” He said blandly. He could see Takigawa cough on some imaginary substance and try not to lose his temper.
“What’d you do to Mai, Naru,” he said coldly.
“Move the camera lens 45 degrees to your left,” Naru said ignoring the question, “your other left Takigawa.”
Takigawa scowled. How dare his boss tease him like this; his paternal instincts were kicking in to go beat the living day lights out of the teen. What exactly had they been doing down there? John looked sympathetically at the Monk as he saw the conflict swim on his face.
“Let’s just get this done quickly, mate.” He said looking at the long haired blonde. “You can check on her sooner then,” Monk nodded with a grim look on his face.
In the base Naru was barking directions to shift the lenses, 25 degrees left, 30 degrees right, this and that, blah and blah. He didn’t notice when Mai fell limply on the tatami mat, slipping into unconsciousness.
Mai found herself in the castle stair way. The walls were in deep green instead of the blue she knew them to be. So I’m dreaming again…What would this put us at? The reign of Ikeda Tsuneoki? So around..1584…or is it just after his reign and it’s Katō Yasukage or Takeda Kiyotoshi reign? She thought s she heard footfalls behind her. She looked over to see a smiling Gene. She beamed up at him.
“So what’s going on? When are we? Give me the 411, Gene,” she said playfully as she looked up at him. He laughed softly. He missed this Mai, he missed her jovial self. He looked down at her and his heart twanged.
“First off, tell my brother that he’s a moron and should listen to his older brother more often. I can’t believe he let you get hurt.” He glanced down at her ribs. “He doesn’t deserve you…” he muttered in disgust. Mai looked up at him and smiled.
“It’s not like that’s gonna happen, Gene, you know as well as I that Naru, only sees me as an employee.” Her voice was sad but she kept smiling. Gene looked at her taken back, “Mai you don’t really think—“ Gene was cut off as he saw a women in a traditional servants dress descend the stairs. Mai’s eyes turned towards her. He watched as a feudal lord came up behind her a caressed her thighs. The woman froze. Mai couldn’t see the man’s face. She felt a twang of pity as she saw the woman thrown against the wall and sexually assaulted. Gene looked at Mai to see her shaking with sobs, but no tears fell from her brown eyes. The scene melted away and Gene faced her.
“Mai…” he said softly, his hands reached for her face his thumbs brushing away invisible tears, “it’s ok to cry…” he said as he disappeared into nothingness.
“—I, Mai, Mai, MAI!” Naru gently shook the girl trying to wake her up. How could you not notice her collapse you stupid idiot? Can’t you protect her from anything? He brandished himself. He watched as deep pools of brown look up at him. He visibly relaxed. “Mai…” he whispered leaning his head down instinctively. Mai stiffened.
“N-Naru, w-what are you doing?” She asked as her heart leapt into her throat. Naru noticed her reaction and moved away. Idoit…what are you doing? Could she really still have feelings for you? Did she ever have feelings for you? he thought.
“Mai, what did you dream?” he said looking at his hands trying to regain his composure but finding it difficult to. He quickly stood and turned away from her, making sure she couldn’t see his inner turmoil. He heard Mai’s breathe hitch. He could hear the rest of the team filing in to see her on the floor.
“I saw a woman get raped.”
“What do you mean you saw a woman get raped?” Ayako said.
“It was on the stair case….someone on was raped by the feudal lord. I couldn’t make out the year of when it happened but…” Mai hopped up and grabbed her backpack taking out a binder filled with research, “if I had to guess I’d say around 1584 based on the decorations I saw.” She flipped through her notes and nodded quietly. She didn’t notice Naru looking over her shoulder.
“Maybe you should do research more often,” said Naru next to her ear. He didn’t notice her shiver when his breathe hit her ear. He reached around and grabbed the notes from her hands.
“N-Naru! Hey! Give those back!!” She said swiftly turning around and bumping into his chest. He looked down at her with a raised eyebrow, “You could have asked if you wanted to see them,”
“You should have told me you had research with you,” he shot back hotly. She hasn’t moved away….has she not realized how close we are? At that moment Mai jumped back red in the face. Naru smirked and looked down at the notes. He barely registered Yasuhara come up behind Mai.
“What’s this? Are you trying to steal my job Mai-chan,” he cooed as his hands rested on her shoulders, “You still owe me that kiss remember?” she jumped away from him, clutching her ribs which still ached.
“Y-Yasu, I thought you were messing around!” She yelled. Naru’s eyes flickered to the boy’s face shooting daggers at the boy. You can’t have her, his mind growled, his face still looked complacent. He looked at Mai whose eyes had fallen on him.
“You know it’s rude to stare, Mai, no matter how good looking the person you are looking at is,” he smirked as he watched her fists ball up next to her hips.
“I wasn’t going to tell you this but your brothers pissed off at you right now, he said you didn’t deserve me, whatever that’s supposed to mean.” She said fuming. Naru’s eyes slightly widened at the words that fell from her mouth, “He sounded pretty disgusted with you all together.” She said with glaring eyes. She turned on her heal and walked out the door leaving a gaping Monk and a livid Masako.
“Way to go, Mai!” Monk shouted fist pumping his arm. Ayako looked at him rolling her eyes. Yasuhara was watching Naru’s face, he could see the control slipping.
Gene…has every right to be angry with me…I’m already angry enough at myself, but disgusted and saying I didn’t deserve her…I don’t deserve her do I? I can’t do anything to protect her…
Naru’s hands clenched for a split second as his mind went over what he knew. He was confused, there didn’t seem to be anyone specifically targeted. What does a woman being raped have anything to do with anything? Wait…Mai’s alone.
“Someone go find Mai. She’s still injured and for whatever reason she’s the one who always gets in trouble alone.” He didn’t look up from her research, her messy scrawl slapped onto the papers. He turned to Lin. “Look over these see if you see a connection.” He said as he placed himself in front of his black notebook. He started to scribble down things that he knew; trying to find a connection. He looked up to see the group still standing there looking at him in awe. He saw John slip out the door quietly in pursuit of Mai, his heart slowed down when he thought that someone would bring her back to the base soon. The rest of the team walked up to him with their files and gave him their clip boards so that the data could be imputed. He looked down at the sheets, but he didn’t really see them. His mind reeled. Gene...can't you show her something useful? None of this makes any sense!! He snapped his notebook closed and started looking at the notes Lin was finished with.
"She said 1584...What happened here in 1584?" Naru said out loud to no one in particular.
"You mean you don't know?" Ayako asked incredulously. "There's something that you don't know???"
"I may be of Japanese descent but I am still English Ms. Matsuzaki. I'm sure none of you know anything about European history."
"Well...There were what 3...4 rulers...2 proxy and 2 legitimate ones?? Yasu help me out here," Monk said as he took out his pony tail running a hand through his hair.
"But Monky bear you were doing so well!" Yasu said in a sickeningly sweet voice. Monk shot him a "not cool man, not cool" look. "He's right there were 4 rulers. 2 were proxy that would be...Takeda Kiyotoshi and Katō Yasukage. Kiyotoshi was in power much longer than Yasukage. The other two were Nakagawa Sadanari at the very end of his rule and Ikeda Tsuneoki who gained control after the Battle of Anegawa in 1570. He died in May of 1584."
"Ok but what does any of this have to do with a woman getting raped?" Naru said calmly, his hand clutching his chin.
Meanwhile Mai was walking angrily through the castle. John was hot on her heals and wary that she was not in the best of moods.
"Mai! Mai!" he shouted finally catching up to her. She whipped around to see John panting out of breathe in front of her. She let out a sigh.
"Oh, John it's you...sorry you came to see if I was alright..." She glanced to her side. She had walked all the way to the top floor and was standing near the balcony. She walked out toward it. "I lost my temper again. I wish he wouldn't get to me so easily. Maybe then he'd actually respect me."
"Mai, Naru respects you, he cares for you too," John said as he moved next to her, "You know that's true don't you?" Mai looked at him confounded. Naru? Care? For me? Pshh fat chance.
"Well anyways we should head--John? What’s the matter?" Mai's eyes widened as she watched John's back go rigid. He looked at her with fearful eyes, he was trying to keep his breathe even, but he could feel something just behind him.
"Mai...t-there's--" He was cut off with a violent shove. He toppled over the railing.
The rest of the team was up and running when they heard Mai's scream. They saw her bolting down the stairs toward the front door; they followed suit.
"John! John! JOHN!" Mai shouted as she reached the unconscious blonde on the group. "Ayako!! He fell from up there!" She pointed to the balcony which was a good 100ft off the ground. Ayako rushed to the young man’s side.
"Mai, what happened?" She said as she began to examine her patient, "Monk call the ambulance, now." he didn't need to be told twice.
"We were talking and we were about to go back and he went rigid and I asked what wrong and then BAM!" she was flustered, scared and hysterical. She made hand motions as she tried to make sense of what had just happened, if it hadn't been such a dire situation it might have been cute.
"Mai, I need you to calm down," Naru said calmly.
"Calm down! What do you mean CALM DOWN! HE JUST FELL A BAJILLION FEET!" Her eyes were wide and pleading. Naru came up to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Mai, you need to calm down now," he said softly. Mai's body began to tremble and she could feel herself start to cry, No...I will not cry! She growled in her head. She took a deep breath closing her eyes. Naru watched her slightly perplexed. He could see her eyes start to water and he knew that the water works were coming...but then she just stopped. Her eyes fluttered open to reveal deep pools of brown showing depths of sadness he'd only seen once before. When you made her that sad..... He said to himself.
"No...but I'll stop being hysterical."
"Mai?" came a think Australian accented voice. Mai wipped around to see John's eyes open. "You're ok? Nothing bad happened to you?" Mai smiled at him. Of course he'd ask me if I was ok...He's too sweet for his own good.
"I'm fine John, what about you? Are you ok?" Mai asked in soft English the rest of the team's (except Naru's and Lin's naturally) eyes opened wide as she spoke.
"Why are you speaking in English Mai?" John said as his eyebrows furrowed. Ayako was still looking him over.
"John...you're speaking English..." She said softly. John looked more confused.
"He has a pretty bad concussion. It may be too taxing on him to speak in Japanese right now." Ayako said as the EMTs arrived. They rushed forward taking John on a gurney as Ayako quickly spoke to them about what she had found out.
“Ms. Hara, go with John. You speak English well enough to be able to translate don't you?" Naru said coolly.
"But why can't Mai go? Her English is just as fine!" Masako seethed. She did not want to leave Mai alone with him.
"Ms. Hara go, now," Naru said as he coldly turned away, Masako reluctantly got into the back of the ambulance. As they drove off Mai began to feel woozy.
"Jou-san, you ok?" Monk said as he eyed her warily.
“I-I...” she began as she started fall forwards, Naru reached out and grabbed her before she fell on the gravel. He sighed inwardly as he hefted her up into his arms and walked back towards the castle. He shot a look behind him as he said, “Get inside so you can do something useful.” When he looked back he could see Masako’s face in the ambulance window scowling at Mai.
When they reached base Naru had set Mai down on the floor with a cushion under her head. He watched her as he tried to gather more information. After coming up with nothing, he placed his head in his hands and growled. What the hell is going on here? he thought.
Mai was in a dark place. There were no floating lights or a smiling Gene, just pitch black. She sat cross legged on what she assumed was some type of ground though she couldn’t feel it. She waited. And waited. And waited. Hours seemed to pass as she waited for SOMETHING; ANYTHING to happen.
Naru looked down at his watch and then back at the girl on the floor. She’s been out for a good 3 hours...she should have woken up by now, whether it’s a vision or she just swooned. Naru looked at Ayako who was also looking at the girl frowning.
“She shouldn’t be out this long,” she said as she walked toward the girl. She placed a hand on Mai’s forehead and gasped. “She’s ice cold.” Naru stood up and walked over to where Mai was. It wasn’t just Mai it was everything around her as well, he looked at Lin who started typing on the computer erratically as if he were distracted, but in a hurry.
“Gene? Hello? Is anyone here?” Mai said. She’d been there for what seemed like forever. She began to feel nervous. Something should be happening...Why isn’t anything happening??? She sighed as she stood from her seat and began to walk aimlessly around, unsure if she was even moving. She heard footsteps; she turned towards them and fell as she bumped into something hard. Owww... she hissed silently. She reached out to feel what she had hit to find nothing. Her eyebrows scrunched in confusion. What’s going on?
Naru began to pace. It had been over 5 hours since Mai had blacked out. If Monk and Ayako didn’t know better they’d think he was nervous. Lin did know better though. He could see the worry etched into Naru’s seemingly emotionless eyes. The Chinese man sighed and pushed back his chair standing up.
“Noll, go to bed. You need to rest, you all do,” he said glancing at Monk and Ayako who were fighting to stay awake, “I will stay with, Mai and watch her.” he placed a hand on Naru’s shoulder. “I will come and get you if she wakes up,” he whispered inaudibly. Naru glared and then finally conceded with a slight slumping of his shoulders. Monk and Ayako had agreed almost immediately, Naru followed them out of the room he stopped at the door with his hand on the door frame.
“If you don’t wake me up as soon as she does, Lin...” he stopped himself and turned his head to glare at the Chinese man. Lin nodded; Naru’s message was understood well enough. He watched as the young man retreated into the dark hallway towards his bed.
Mai fell to the ground exhausted. She had been trying to find something worth her while as she walked around the black place. They must be getting worried...I’ve probably been out awhile now...she thought as she ran her hands through her hair. “ARG!!!!!!!!!!” she howled. She didn’t understand what was going on.
“H-hello?” sounded a quiet voice. Mai’s eyes sought the source of the voice, only to find blackness.
“Hello? Can you hear me? My name is Mai Taniyama.” She said calmly. Her heart was beating in her throat though.
“Why are you here? You shouldn’t be here!” the voice called becoming louder. Mai could feel someone’s breath on her cheek.
“Can you tell me where I am? I need to get back to my friends,” Mai asked. The voice hesitated. “Can you tell me? Where am I?”
The voice was silent. Mai sighed and began to get up.
“You are nowhere.”
“What do you mean I am nowhere?” Mai said.
“You are nowhere, no place, no time, nonexistent,” the voice responded quietly, “you are nowhere.”
“But I’m still alive aren’t I? I still have a physically form. I can still feel my body on the outside…” Mai said, her eyes closed and she took a deep breath trying to keep herself from freaking out. Ok, Mai, Ok…Take a deep breath—relax. You’re not dead. You must believe that. What do I know about this…Astral projection…I do this when I get my visions which are post cognitive, I stay on the Astral plane during those periods of time where I see my visions. What would happen if something prohibited me from Astrally projecting but I continued the process? Would I end up in a limbo? In a nonexistent place? The pieces began to fall into place. Mai believed she understood what had happened, she just didn’t know how to get back.
“Well…”She began, “What’s your name? Who were you?” She asked. Might as be productive.
“My name is…was Megumi Yoshida“ the voice said.
When Naru woke up he placed a hand over his face. He groaned as he lifted himself out of bed. Lin hadn’t woken him up last night, which meant if Lin didn’t want to die, Mai had yet to wake up. Naru held onto the hope that perhaps his guardian had decided to not wake Naru because he was worried for his health, that Mai was awake—with tea. He walked into base to see Lin looking tiredly at the young woman in question. She still wasn’t awake. Now piled with blankets over her to try and keep her body warm. Naru could feel a pit in his stomach, an ominous feeling, a feeling of absolute dread. What is she doesn’t wake up? What if I can’t solve this case without her…I know I can’t solve this case without her…she’s the only one who may have an inkling of the connection. Gene wake her up, god damn it! He thought. Lin could see the emotions subtly form on Naru’s face. No one else was around so he’d let his mask fall. He’d show that he cared for Mai.
“Naru,” Lin used Mai’s nickname for him as a warning that he heard the others coming, “her body is still functioning, she’s alive, but her spirit is lost, she’s not on the astral plane. I think she’s in Limbo.”
“Can she get out of Limbo?” Takigawa’s voice resonated through the room. “Can she get back?” His voice was sad and desperate. Lin shook his head. “I don’t know, I’ve never seen anyone get out of Limbo before, nor have I heard of it. We may have to face the facts and realize…”
“Lin, tell me about the footage from last night.” Naru said swiftly walking towards the monitors he didn’t want to hear. He didn’t want his hope to be ripped from his gut. Lin looked at him. His eyes saying what he had been cut off from saying: Mai’s lost. Let’s take up our losses and leave.
Takigawa and Ayako stood in the doorway. Ayako had silent streams of tears flowing down her cheeks, Takigawa stared at Lin with malice.
“Don’t give up on, Mai, Lin,” he said, “She’ll come back to us, she always does.” Lin sighed and turned in defeat.
“Last night there were a couple of apparitions as well as voices arguing about what was for the good of the palace…”
Mai looked for the voice. Yoshida…That’s the curator’s last name…is there a connection? “Where were you from?” Mai asked.
“Inuyama Castle, I was a servant girl there when Ikeda was in command.” Mai began to see a figure materialize before her.
“Tell me about the castle, when did you stop working there?”
“After Ikeda died I was dismissed. I was…with child…” The woman fully materialized in front of Mai a soft glow surrounding her, “I was with his child,” the woman whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Mai came up to her and gingerly touched her shoulder. “It’s ok,” Mai cooed. The woman sobbed as Mai consoled her.
“It’s not…Takeda Kiyotoshi…killed him…and got rid of me because I was carrying his child who would be the next in line, even though it was illegitimate…he was so angry with Ikeda…” a scene melted into being before Mai’s eyes. She watched as a man screamed at the feudal lord. His words were muted, but she could hear the one she presumed was Takeda Kiyotoshi says “you’ve tainted the blood line with dirty blood by raping that woman, the one that’s with your child; you’ve brought the fall this castle!” The scene melted as soon as it had come and was replaced with a new scene, one with Takeda Kiyotoshi pouring a substance into someone’s tea, Ikeda’s tea. The woman Mai was now holding sobbed even harder as she looked at Ikeda’s face as he fell to the ground, his tea spilling across the floor, and his heart stopping.
Naru sat down at the computer furiously typing as he tried to find a way to solve this case and to bring Mai back—mostly to bring Mai back, but no one would have known that. The rest of the team could feel Mai’s absence. Masako had come back later that day with a dazed looking John. John was shocked to hear that Mai was incapacitated once again. Masako was unfazed.
“But she was fine when they took me away!” John said as he looked at Mai’s unconscious figure. He felt a pang of guilt for not being there even though he had been flung off a 100ft balcony.
“It’s not like we need her,” Masako said, “all she does is get in the way and get in danger, it’ll be much easier for everyone with her out of the way.” Masako was still upset about watching Naru carry Mai into the castle like a new bride. She could feel heated glares from everyone except for the boy in question who was trying not to show his emotions for the brunette in question. He didn’t need the others knowing he had developed feelings toward the girl—feelings that confused and frustrated him, but feelings none the less. Masako took his silence as a sign that he had agreed with her. She smiled inwardly until he saw him turn around.
“Ms. Hara,” Naru began colder than usual, “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from estimating anyone on my teams worth. Mai is valued on this team; she has helped solve more cases than you have.” His mind had thought of more things to say to her, but he refrained. He thought that telling her her insipid prattle made him want to rip off his own ears off and that her Kimono made her look like one of those people who can’t get out of the past would have passed the line. Instead he kept a steady icy glaze on her as his words sunk in. Masako who looked as if she had seen her own death, gazed at him with bewildered eyes and paled skin. She covered her mouth with her sleeve to hide whatever emotion was playing at her lips and said “Of course, Naru, please do not think that I do not feel keenly that our friend is not here…” her voice was soft, “ I was merely implying that it’ll be easier to watch her and make sure she doesn’t get hurt—“
“Safe from physical danger perhaps, spiritual even mental she is nowhere near safe,” Naru cut her off. He watched as Masako’s eyes became heavy with sadness.
Mai…come back…I don’t want you to be hurt in anyway. I didn’t know things were this bad… Masako thought. She turned away from Naru and walked out the door she was followed by John who stopped her with his hand just outside the door.
“Hey,” his voice was soft—caring, “she’s gonna be ok. She’ll come back to us and you’ll be able to fight with her again soon. She’s one of your close friends isn’t she? Don’t worry about what you said, you didn’t know.” John blinked as Masako spun around and gripped onto him as she cried into his chest.
“I didn’t know!” she sobbed, “I just want her to be alright and for Naru…” she gulped some air as she tried to continue, “and Naru to think that I know that Mai is important and that I care about her too.” She was more hurt to think that Naru thought Mai was nothing to her that she was just someone in her way to get to him, she cared for Mai. Mai was her friend, her best friend.
John was uncomfortable as Masako continued to cry into his chest, he wasn’t used to this type of physical contact. He felt like he should push her away, but at the same time he couldn’t bring himself too. He couldn’t push Masako away and console her from a distance even though his station demanded that he do so, as a priest he couldn’t become attached to anyone in such an intimate way. Oh heavenly father, who art in heaven, please forgive me, for I have sinned… he began in his head as he moved his hands to hold Masako in a consoling embrace.
At base Naru was looking for an explanation for everything. He went over his notes for the umpteenth time. I have to be missing something...wait... His eyes stopped at the last few words in his note book. Mr. Yoshida is a new to his position here, workers say that things hadn’t started until he had shown up and they had started renovations on the balcony. Naru looked at the words wondering how he hadn’t realized what they were implying before. It’s because you were too focused on Mai, you can’t help her unless you figure this out, Naru glanced at the girl with soft eyes. How he wished that her eyes would open and look at him with their dark pools of chocolate. Snap out of it! It’s time to focus! his mind shouted at him. He shook his head and turned toward Lin who was still in deep thought.
“Lin,” Naru said complacently, breaking Lin’s concentration from his screen, “Yoshida...it has something to do with Yoshida.” Naru said without explanation. Lin nodded and began to type on his laptop vigorously. Everyone else was talking to the staff trying to gather information.
“Naru, it appears that his family has been connected to this castle since 1833 until his great-great grandmother was dismissed in 1854. Her name was Megumi Yoshida.” Lin watched Naru as he processed the information.
“Go find, Mr. Yoshida, he and I need to have a little chat."
Mai was sitting with the woman from the past as she tried to figure out what was keeping her in Limbo. The woman was telling her about her life in the palace. Normally, Mai would have been fascinated and absorbed in the conversation, but she needed to get back to her friends. They’ve probably already solved the case and I am sitting on a cot in the hospital again. She thought. The woman had stopped talking and was looking at her.
“You want to leave, don’t you,” she said softly, “you want to leave me.”
“Oh no, no, no,” Mai said waiving her hands frantically, “I just…Yes I want to leave this place, but I want you to come with me so that you can move on.” She rubbed the back of her head and smiled sheepishly. Megumi looked at Mai. She nodded her head as she began to speak again.
“Perhaps…you should discuss what you are thinking out loud…That helps me sometimes…” The woman said looking off into the blackness.
“Well…alright,” Mai said, “This is what I know…I am astrally projecting, meaning that my spirit left my body and is now on the spiritual plane. But something went wrong and I ended up in the in between space; something had to force my body into this state…I know that the ghost in the castle is that the ghost of Takeda Kiyotoshi and is the one in the castle who is causing problems. Or at least I believe it’s him, and he’s causing trouble because of a distant relative of yours. I know that there’s some type of grudge or overall bad feelings between your family and Takeda…”
Gene was sitting in the astral space wondering where Mai could be. He had called her there a long time ago…He was starting to get worried. He reached for Mai’s spirit but could only vaguely feel her, he could feel her body, but her spirit was fuzzy.
“Was she diverged from her path? Where could she be? I should be able to find her…unless…” Gene’s eyes widened, “Unless she’s stuck in the in between space—Limbo…I need to talk to Noll…Now.” Gene began to feel for Noll’s mind but was unable to find it, instead he found the blonde priests. Sorry, man, but I got to talk to Noll. Gene’ spirit slipped into John’s body.
Masako had calmed down and had just then turned away from John. She sighed. “Thank you, John.”
“Ummm…Excuse me…but could you tell me where Noll is?” John’s voice called, his Japanese lacking his Kansai/Australian accent. Masako whipped around to see John, but with another spirit in him, one that looked like Naru.
“What are you doing here, shouldn’t you have moved on?” Masako said slightly annoyed. How dare Gene possess John.
“Long story…now please tell me where Noll is I don’t want to be here any longer than I need to be…” his eyes darted around looking for his twin. His eyes landed on Lin’s retreating figure.
“Lin! Where’s Noll?” He shouted; Lin turned around at the sudden call of his name he turned to see John looking at him with desperate eyes.
“John?” Lin eyebrow rose as he saw Masako’s head shake. He could see an annoyed look on her face, “then…who?”
“Gene,” Masako and John said in unison. Struck dumb Lin pointed to the door behind him. Gene nodded as he moved towards the door, Oh man…this feels weird…I don’t remember legs being so heavy. When he entered the room he saw his brother’s figure standing over a pile of blankets. He watched as his brother sighed.
“You know…you could just tell her,” John said. Naru turned around at the sudden intrusion. He could see Lin outside the door looking at the John with awe struck eyes. Naru’s gaze landed on John’s face, “She doesn’t think you care about her at all, Noll.”
“John?” Naru implored. The blonde shook his head and smiled—his smile. “Gene?” Naru said softly.
“Bingo, now we need to talk, but first,” he walked over to Naru and pulled him into a hug, “It’s good to see you.” Naru stood awkwardly in the hug.
“You too,” he said stiffly.
“But…” John roughly pushed Naru away from him and threw a punch at his jaw, “you let her get hurt and I’m still pissed at you.”
Naru clutched his sore jaw and glared up at his brother. Ok…I deserved that, but who would have thought John could hit that hard?
“Now…What. Exactly. Happened.” John’s voice was staccato.
“After John fell from the balcony and was taken to the hospital, Mai passed out and then after a few hours we started to worry since you do not usually keep her on the astral plane for very long,” Lin said evenly, “It was then that we noticed that she, herself, and everything surrounding her was ice cold, thus the blankets.” By this time Naru had composed himself and was no longer holding his swelling jaw.
“She hasn’t so much as stirred since she fell unconscious, Lin believes that she’s in Limbo,” Naru paused and looked at Lin, “—and that we should cut our losses and leave.”
John turned and glared at Lin. “If you left her to stay in the in between space, Lin, so help me,” John growled. Gene could feel John’s spirit pressing against his.
“Looks like this guy wants his body back…” he said slowly taking a deep breath so that he could focus his energy, “But you should know Limbo is escapable; if you can find the source that is holding Mai there, you may be able to release her. I can vaguely feel her spirit still which means she isn’t,” he turned and glared at Lin and Ayako and Monk came up behind him. “Lost.”
“What’s with John?” Ayako whispered to Masako.
“That isn’t John,” she ground out, “That’s Eugene Davis.”
“WHAT?!?!” Monk and Ayako shouted. They turned to see Gene leaning closely to Naru and whispering something right before he fell to the ground unconscious.
“John!” Masako shouted as she rushed forward and brushed his hair from his forehead, “John! You ok? John!” She lightly shook him as she placed him on her lap. His eye’s fluttered open.
“Masako? What,” he started to lift himself up only to be pressed down again by the petite girl in the Kimono, “happened?” His eyes searched hers.
“My brother took the liberty of possessing your body to tell us some information,” Naru said turning back to the monitors.
“Naru, what happened to your face?” Yasuhara said as he walked into the room with a hand full of notes. Masako stifled giggles.
“John, while possessed, clocked him square in the jaw,” Masako laughed. John’s face turned a bright red.
“Naru, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, Mate,” John said in hurried English.
“Don’t mention it,” Naru said coldly, not facing the blonde. He knew John hadn’t been the one to hit him, but he could barely fight off the urge to hit him back.
“Ah man! I miss everything that’s good!” Yasuhara whined as he handed Naru the research notes.
“Lin! I thought I told you to retrieve the curator,” Naru barked. He was annoyed at his presumptuous brother, he was annoyed with this case and most of all he was annoyed with himself. The rest of the team eyed him warily knowing that it was going to be one of those cases. Lin retreated from the scene quickly hiding his grin, knowing that Gene had said something to make Naru more irritable. Just like old times Lin thought as he walked down the hallway.
Even though Naru was relieved to know that Mai could be and would be returned to them, he was still angry at his brother’s last words to him.
Gene had leaned close and whispered to Naru one more thing, “If you let her get hurt again, Noll,” he hissed, “I will never forgive you, don’t forget that I love her too and I WILL take her away from you if you let her get hurt again.”
“Just you try.” Naru growled as he looked down at the notes Yasuhara had handed him, before he had begun to interrogate the rest of the team about what had happened. “Just you try, Gene, you’ll never take her away from me. I won’t lose to you anymore.”
Gene stared out into the darkness. “Don’t think that it was an empty threat, Noll, just because she will never love me like she loves you, doesn’t mean I can’t keep her from you. I won’t let her get hurt because of you anymore.” He watched as the spirits floated around him. He sighed.
Mai, come back.
Mai was done explaining to Megumi everything that she knew. She was surprised at how much she did know. Megumi stared at her sadly.
“Could you...”she stopped and then turned to face another direction, “could you tell me about your friends?”
“Oh,” Mai said slowly, “well there’s Monk, Ayako, Masako, John, Lin, Yasuhara and Naru.” She took a deep breath, “Monk is basically like my fake dad and Ayako is my fake mom, both of mine passed away when I was young you see...Masako is like my sister and best friend, even though we are in lo—even though we like the same guy. John is like my sweet older brother and Yasuhara is my mischievous older brother. Lin is kind of like the score keeper of everything that goes on within out little family, but he really does care even if he’s a little standoff-ish...kinda like that one uncle everyone has, the one whose always in the corner keeping an eye on everything?—and then...—”Mai looked down at her hands, her voice softened, “and then there’s Naru.” She laughed slightly, “Naru the Narcissist. I named him that after knowing him for a few hours. He’s so full of himself, I guess he has a reason to be, he is a genius and amazingly handsome and, and...Never mind, Naru is just Naru. He yells at me for his tea every 5 seconds, it’s like the only thing he cares about, but then...” her voice lowered even more, “there are times when you can see something in his eyes...like he’s sad or something. And he shows that he cares for you in the most awkward ways. But he cares for all of us. I really do believe that.”
“You really care for that boy,” Megumi whispered.
“I care for all of them,” she said looking sideways.
“But you care for him in a different way than all the others, you like him in a special way.” Megumi was facing Mai now. Mai laughed as she turned to look at Megumi full in the face.
“You know I said the same thing to him once, do you know what he said? ‘I don’t like it when people care about me.’” Mai said, “and then when I clarified saying that I LIKE LIKED him he asked me a question that I hadn’t bothered to ask myself...He asked me if I liked him or if I liked his dead twin brother who is my spirit guide.” Mai looked at Megumi and smiled, “But now I know the difference between the two and I know that it was always, Naru, I didn’t fall for the sweetness. I fell for the wit, the quirks, the narcissism. I fell for Naru, not Gene.” Mai’s smile was sad, but she had said it to someone, finally, finally someone knew.
“What’s the difference between them?” Megumi asked.
“Oh, well, Gene is sweet and easy going. He uses normal everyday speech and even will use slang. Naru won’t, he’s very prim and proper.” Mai said as she straitened her back and acted prim and proper. “Gene’s eyes are softer; they are a lighter cerulean then Naru’s. Naru’s are a deep, dark cerulean. You could lose yourself in his eyes. Naru always tells the truth, Gene is truthful but he won’t tell you everything. Naru isn’t quick with a smile, but he’ll do something to take your mind off things. He makes you feel better in the strangest ways, mostly by making you want to spite him. Gene is content with who you are, which is good but he doesn’t push you to better yourself. Naru, he challenges you; makes you want to be a better person, not just in ghost hunting but in everything. He wants you to be everything you can be, even though it seems it’s just to benefit him he’s doing it for you I think. He’s not that Narcissistic. Well...maybe, but I’d like to think not.”
“Mai...I’m so sorry,” Megumi said as sobs convulsed through her body. “I’m so sorry.”
Naru sat across from the curator who fidgeted under his gaze.
“Why is my personal family history important?” he said uneasily.
“Because it would have made it easier to progress through this case and my assistant wouldn’t be in semi-permanent spiritual comma.” Naru’s voice was cold. If I had known then I would have known the significance to Mai’s dream his mind growled.
“How was I supposed to know that? It’s not like this is a very common occurrence, ghosts and what not.”
“Can you tell me what your relative’s relation was to the castle?” Naru said impatiently.
“She was a servant and then was dismissed after...” his voice trailed off.
“After?” Naru prompted testily. Can this man test my patience any further?
The man sighed in resignation, “It’s an old story in my family that Megumi had a relationship with Ikeda and had a child with him.” The curator looked off to the side.
“She was actually raped.” Naru stated bluntly. He could see Mai turning to him and glaring at him, her eyes scolding him for being a heartless jerk, but Mai wasn’t there. Mai was in the other room in a spiritual comma because of the man in front of him. He didn’t have any more mercy for the man. The man’s face looked stunned.
“How would you know that?” He said a grim line settling on his face.
“I have my sources,” Naru said, “however that doesn’t answer why she was dismissed.”
“Because she was pregnant...” Masako said slowly. The curator nodded grimly.
“She was pregnant. And Takeda Kiyotoshi had come in to power. I would imagine he wouldn’t let anyone be able to take the thrown away from him.” Naru sat in thought as he calculated silently.
“How did Ikeda die?”
“We aren’t entirely sure, it’s believed he was pushed from the balcony and because of his old age he died from the fall.”
“Who pushed him?”
“No one knows.” Monk said. “It’s one of those old history mysteries’s we all speculate at when we’re in school. Kinda like Jack the Ripper.” Naru looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “What?”
“You actually know something about European history.” Naru stated with a blank stare even though he was mildly impressed.
“Hey! May I remind you that it was me who uncovered your hidden identity?” Monk ground out. Naru sent him a deathly glare; Yoshida was still in the room.
“Hidden identity?” The man questioned.
“We had a mystery dinner, a couple of weeks ago.” Ayako said quickly, “Naru was our murder.” Naru glared at Ayako and Yasuhara who was stifling a snicker.
“Monk,” Naru said as he stood, “get ready for an exorcism, I want this over with today.” Naru left the room. Will exorcizing the ghost bring Mai back or is it something else? Naru stood in the base doorway looking at the pile of unmoving blankets. Or is there something else we're missing?
“Why are you sorry, Megumi? Don’t cry everything’s alright.” Mai held onto the woman as she sobbed.
“I was so lonely, so lonely,” she sobbed, “I just wanted someone to talk to...I didn’t think it would actually work...”
“Megumi...are you saying you brought me here?” Mai asked slowly. The woman began to cry harder. Mai tried to soothe her even though she was trying to figure out what that meant for her. If Megumi brought me here...then she also must be keeping me here somehow... “Megumi...why didn’t you cross over?”
“I couldn’t. He’d be waiting. I didn’t want to see him ever again.” She spat.
“Megumi...he can’t hurt you anymore. He won’t be there if you don’t want him to be.” Mai said assuredly, “Just let go. Everything will be alright.” Megumi began to calm down and she looked at Mai.
“Thank you, Mai,” and with that Megumi Yoshida crossed over emitting a warm light that engulfed Mai. After a moment, darkness settled back around Mai.
Monk stood in his robes by the balcony. He began his exorcism. The air grew cold and mist swirled, but all things considered the exorcism went smoothly. Naru had been watching Monk perform the exorcism. When it appeared that it was successful he had turned to Mai; looking for a sign that she would awaken. He waited. They all did. As soon as the exorcism was done they all came to the base to wait for the same thing: Mai’s eyes to open.
Gene sat quietly as he waited; waited for a glimpse of Mai. His chest tightened every time he reached for her and ended up with nothing. He would have to calm himself every time he failed. He was beginning to feel panic grip his body as he had failed once more. He inhaled a deep breath and tried again. He felt for Mai’s spirit. He found her. His breathe quickened as he reached out to where she was. He entered a black realm. He looked around until his eyes settled on the soft glow of Mai’s spirit.
“Now what?” She asked no one in particular.
“Now we get you back to everyone else.” Gene said as he stepped closer to her. Mai turned around quickly and jumped to her feet as she saw Gene walking towards her.
“Gene!” She yelled happily as she threw her arms around him, “You don’t know how happy I am to see you!” She didn’t see a blush run across Gene’s face as she embraced him. Trying to compose himself Gene cleared his throat.
“Ready to go home?” He said when she let go of him.
“Yeah.” He grabbed Mai’s hand and led her away into the darkness. Somewhere along the way Mai felt a tug on her. “Gene...” She said as they came to a stop.
“You’re on the astral plane now, you won’t get lost again.” He said ruffling her hair. “We were all really worried about you, Mai.” His voice and eyes were soft.
“I’m sorry...I didn’t...” she began as she felt another tug, this time much harder.
“Go back, Mai. We’ll talk later.” He said beaming down at her. She flashed him a smile as she faded away. “I’m just glad your back, Mai.”
Naru was pacing back and forth in the base. It had been two days since the case had finished and Mai still hadn’t woken up. He had missed something. All of the spiritual activity had ended but Mai was still stuck in Limbo. He stopped pacing and dropped down next to her.
“What did I miss, Mai? Why are you still in a comma? Wake up, Mai.” He said to her as he leaned over her looking her full in the face. “I need you here.” He continued to hover over her. He wasn’t worried about anyone coming in and observing him because they were all breaking down camp. They had used the excuse that they were making sure there was no more spirits to be exorcised, but he couldn’t stay here any longer under that pretence. There were no more spirits and their presence was now hindering the work that needed to be done around the castle. Naru was mostly worried about leaving because of Mai. If Mai’s spirit didn’t find its way back now it was probable that it never would if they moved her. Naru leaned closer to Mai taking in her image.
“Mai, if you can hear me, wake up. You need to wake up. Please just open your eyes.” His voice began to sound desperate. He could feel his control on his emotions slipping. Why is it you’re the only one who can do this to me? Why do you make me feel so much? He sighed and closed his eyes. As his closed, Mai’s began to flutter open. Her breathing changed. Naru’s eyes snapped open as he watched Mai’s brown eyes look up at him. She watched as his mouth turned upward in a smile, one that reached his eyes; a genuine, real smile.
Mai sat motionless on the couch. She’d finished her work as well as her homework. She was lying back against the couch, listening for some type of noise to entertain her. All she could hear was the dull monotonous ticking of her watch. She lifted her wrist and glanced at her watch. Still another hour until I can leave… She sighed. All she really wanted to do was curl up in her bed and watch some senseless zombie movie so that her mind would stop thinking about when she had woken up from her spiritual coma a few weeks back. She was tired of running over the events and still not understanding exactly what had happened.
Naru’s eyes snapped open as he watched Mai’s brown eyes look up at him. She watched as his mouth turned upward in a smile, one that reached his eyes; a genuine, real smile.
“Mai—” Naru breathed. Mai still wasn’t fully awake as she mumbled.
“Naru…Why am I so cold?” She asked as shivered. She stretched her body from under the blankets. Oh god I’m so stiff. She thought as she stole another glance at Naru who was still staring at her intently, he had moved closer to her when he saw her shiver. “What?”
“How did you get out? What was keeping you there? The case has been over for two days. Why didn’t you wake up?” His voice was shaking and slightly hysteric.
“Ikeda wasn’t keeping me there, it was…” Mai’s voice trailed off as she fought off the tears that threatened to spill. “It was the woman I saw get raped…Megumi.” She took a deep breath as she shut her eyes to stop them from watering. She took another breathe as she opened them and continued, “Gene’s the one that brought me back. He found me sitting in the dark and led me back here.” Naru’s breathing stopped as he heard Mai’s voice soften when she said Gene’s name.
“Gene saved you again?” He said slowly, for him, his voice was dripping with emotion, but to the untrained ear he sounded just slightly less indifferent.
“Ya, he brought me back…” she said as she fished her hand out from under the covers and placed cold finger tips on Naru’s face. “What’s wrong?” she asked as she gingerly stroked Naru’s face.
“It’s always Gene isn’t it? It was always Gene.” He said as he allowed her fingers to touch him.
“What? I don’t understand what you’re talking about Naru…”She said as she tried to sit up but ended up falling back down on her back.
“Do you know what it’s like to be compared to your older DEAD twin brother? Do you know what it’s like to know that he’s trying to take away the only other person you’ve ever cared about more than just—“He stopped talking. Mai looked at him bewildered.
“Naru, I don’t understand, Gene’s just my friend, he’s just—well Gene,” Mai’s eye searched Naru’s eyes for some type of understanding; that Gene wasn’t who she loved, that he was never who she loved.
“MAI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”A thunderous voice boomed. “You’re awake!! Jou-san!!!” Monk tumbled into the room as the rest of the team began to rush into the room. Mai sat up looking up at the team as they all tried to get into the base first. She glanced side ways to see Naru had slinked away to the far end of the room. She frowned a little. What’s going through his head? She thought. Her thoughts were dragged back to the reality when a pile of people collapsed through the door. She laughed as Yasuhara and Monk tried to make it to Mai first.
She watched as a blush spread across John’s face as he realized that he had been the cushion for Masako’s fall.
“Oh, John! Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you did I?” She said as she sprang up from the pile.
“I-I’m fine, Masako,” he said shakily.
Mai’s eyes were dragged back to in front of her as Ayako kneeled in front of her and embraced her.
“You are NOT allowed to do that again. Scaring us like that!”Ayako said as she held onto Mai. Mai raised her arms gingerly and wrapped them around the other woman.
“Ayako! I was supposed to give Mai a hug first,” Monk said as he and Yasuhara reached them. Mai giggled.
“What happened to ladies first?” Ayako shot back as Mai was ripped from her embrace and into Monk’s crushing bear hug. He swung her up and around and put her back on her feet, only to have Yasuhara quickly attach himself to her.
“I don’t think you should be allowed to sleep anymore, Mai, nothing but trouble comes from it,” he teased as he let go of her and looked her square in the face. “You need to be more careful.” Yasuhara said with a rare seriousness. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “I can’t have my bride to be comatose!” he chirped as Monk ripped him away from Mai.
“What did I say about going near Mai!?” Monk shouted.
“Oh pookey-bear I’ll give you a kiss too if you want.” Yasu said coyly. Their argument ensued as Masako came up besides, Mai.
“I’m glad…you’re alright.” She said averting her eyes from looking directly at Mai, her mouth covered with her kimono sleeve. “I was…” She abruptly flung her arms around a surprise looked Mai. Mai returned the hug and said, “I’m fine. Thanks for worrying about me.” Mai noticed Lin outside of the door looking to the other side of the room. She turned to see Naru with a frown on his face and his arms crossed tightly across his chest. His bangs were shielding his eyes from view but Mai knew something was wrong. She let go of Masako and walked toward him.
“Naru…Wha—“She reached out a hand to touch him.
“Everyone, grab the rest of the gear we’re leaving,” he said with a bit too much venom as he brushed past Mai without even looking at her. He stalked out to the van and slammed the door. Mai could take the other car.
Mai sighed as she recalled the events. She just didn’t understand what she had done wrong. She glanced at Naru’s office. He had barely spoken two words to her since the last case. He even seldom asked for tea. She sat up and placed her head in her hands as she tried to put things together. She didn’t hear Naru’s office door softly slide open. Naru walked out of his office ignoring the girl on the couch. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Mai without feeling his heart grip with pain. As he walked to the kitchen to fetch his own tea, he sighed and leaned his head against the wall. The wall felt cool against his skin. He closed his eyes as he replayed the scene in his head.
Naru’s eyes snapped open as he watched Mai’s brown eyes look up at him. She watched as his mouth turned upward in a smile, one that reached his eyes; a genuine, real smile.
“Mai—” Naru breathed. You’re back. You came back. He thought as he looked down at her. He could feel the smile on his face; in his eyes; in his heart. He could feel the relief—the genuine happiness spreading through him. He felt his heart beat harder and his eyes stayed on the girl in front of him. He watched Mai shiver. He instinctively moved closer to her wondering if he could wrap his arms around her to make her warmer.
“What?” She asked.
“How did you get out? What was keeping you there? The case has been over for two days. Why didn’t you wake up?” His mouth and voice had formed the words. His voice was heavy with emotion. He wanted nothing more than to hold her to him and keep her close. He didn’t care that he had lost control. It felt good to show her he cared. He wanted her to know; he wanted her to realize how important she was.
“Ikeda wasn’t keeping me there, it was…” Mai’s voice trailed off as she fought off the tears that threatened to spill. “It was the woman I saw get raped…Megumi.” She took a deep breath as she shut her eyes to stop them from watering. She took another breathe as she opened them and continued, “Gene’s,” Naru’s breathing stopped as his heart clenched in his chest, “the one that brought me back. He found me sitting in the dark and led me back here.” He could hear her voice change—the softening intonation, the slight smile behind her words, he could hear it, feel it and it made his heart convulse with jealousy. GENE?! It’s always been Gene. He always got the girls he liked, but he had to take the one THAT I liked—the one that I had finally decided to open up too, the one that—his mind stopped working as words spilled from his mouth.
“Gene saved you again?”
“Ya,” Naru’s mind froze. She never liked me...it was Gene to start with...she reached up a hand to touch his face.
“It’s always Gene isn’t it? It was always Gene.” He said as he allowed her fingers to touch him, he wanted to lean into her touch, to grab her hand and hold it against his skin. But he couldn’t. He would only let her touch him so that he could remember later what her hand felt against his skin. Her fingers fluttered over his face as her eyes searched his.
“What? I don’t understand what you’re talking about Naru…”She said as she tried to sit up but ended up falling back down on her back.
“Do you know what it’s like to be compared to your older DEAD twin brother? Do you know what it’s like to know that he’s trying to take away the only other person you’ve ever cared about more than just—“He stopped talking, she didn’t need to know how he felt if she didn’t feel the same. He glanced at her to see a confused look. His heart softened slightly but he forced it to harden.
“Naru, I don’t understand, Gene’s just my friend, he’s just—well Gene,” she said. He almost let himself believe what she was saying. But how could it be me? Gene’s the one who saves her, the one that listens, the one that shows emotion, the one that she would choose...the one she did choose. He had to know if that was true. He needed to know if it was him. He needed to know if it had always been him. He needed to know who she had chosen.
“Mai—”he began but he heard a crash. He sighed inwardly knowing exactly what had caused it: the rest of his team. He stood up with one last fleeting look at Mai who was giggling at the scene in front of her. He walked to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall. He folded his arms across his chest and silently watched. He knew Gene would win. He knew that he shouldn’t have become attached. He knew that Mai would never—could never love him. His heart ached as he thought through what had just happened. He felt Lin’s eyes on him, but he refused to meet them. He watched as Yasuhara planted a kiss on Mai’s forehead. He clenched his arms tighter as his nails bit into his palm, drawing blood. His bangs shielded his eyes from view, but he knew he was glaring daggers at the boy who had touched Mai. He wanted to be that boy. The boy who could kiss and play and laugh with Mai; the boy who could be with her; the boy who she’d blush at when he showed her affection; the one that she loved. But he was her employer. Nothing more, nothing less. He felt his heart painfully beat in his chest. He saw Mai move his way and reach out to him. Orders fell from his lips as he brushed past her without a glance vowing not to care about her anymore. He stalked out of the castle and on to the drive until he reached the van and slammed the door behind him.
Mai could take the other car. She could be with the others. She could forget about him. She could get the out of his life. And he could go back to normal. He could be Kazuya Shibuya again. He could stop caring for her. He could be himself again.
Naru was startled from his thoughts when he heard Mai start moving toward the kitchen. As she walked in her eyes blinked a couple of times in surprise.
“Hey, Naru,” she said as she saw the tea pot on the stove, “I could have done that for you.” Her face was down cast. Naru shifted slightly and glanced at her. “Are you really that mad at me?” She whispered. It was Naru’s time to blink in surprise.
“Don’t be stupid. I wanted to make my own tea.” He said without skipping a beat.
“What’s with you? First you ignore me, never ask for tea and now you’re making your own? What’s wrong, Naru?” She stepped closer to him her eyes searching his face for some type of remnant of the Naru who she had woken up to see. The Naru who might have had feelings for her; the Naru who might actually have feelings. She looked at him intently as he ignored her.
“Mai, I—” He began as his cell phone began to ring; he sighed and fished it out of his pocket looking at the caller ID before answering it.
“Father, what is it?” his voice was cool and annoyed. He stood there as his father rattled off some information to him. He blinked a couple of times as the information settled in. “We’ll be there by the end of the week.” He closed the cell phone and turned toward Mai, looking at her fully for the first time in days. His heart bumped in his chest as he cursed himself inwardly.
“What’s up? Is everything ok? Is your mom ok?” Mai asked with concern.
“Perfectly.” He said coldly, “Do you have a passport?”
“Yes...I got one when....” when you left so I could go to England and drag you back... she thought. She left the spoken sentence hanging as he looked at her with a steady eye.
“Good. You’ll need it.” He said as he walked past her, “Finish the tea and call the others. Tell them I’ll be sending them an itinerary tomorrow.”
“An itinerary for what?” She asked as he followed him out of the room, “What’s going on? Is it a new case?”
“Yes and it’s in England.”
Mai fidgeted in her seat. She didn’t particularly like flying or riding in cars. She would much rather walk somewhere than sit in some metal contraption which got her there quicker. However—when you’re traversing an ocean you have to make exceptions. She leaned into her seat as she looked out the window. She sighed and looked at the rest of the group. It seemed that everyone had fallen asleep except for the Ice King himself and his right hand man. She huffed as she lifted herself up from her seat and carefully stepped over Masako’s legs as she made her way to Naru’s row. As she sat down next to him Naru’s eyebrow slightly pricked up. He remained looking at his case file.
“Sooo...what’s up?” Mai said dumbly. She didn’t know what to say to him. She didn’t know how to say: “I’m sorry for whatever I did. But could we talk about this like rational adults? Instead of this stubborn teenage bullshit?” She watched Naru as his eyes closed in what she thought was annoyance but was actually reluctance.
“I’m reading the case files,” he said between clenched teeth. He didn’t want to be near her. He could feel his heart ache whenever she was near. He didn’t want to feel. He had been numb before she had come along. He was content with numb. He was not with this...with this pressure on his chest.
“Anything new?” she asked as she leaned over him to get a closer look at the files. Just say it, you idiot, say you’re sorry she thought.
Naru took a steadying breath which would sound like irritation. He knew he’d been a jerk. He knew he had to apologize but his pride wouldn’t let him. He couldn’t let her know that he was wrong. “Child possession, violence toward parents, things disappearing, things moving on their own. The usual. I would not have taken this case if my father did not ask me too.” His voice was low, unfeeling to the untrained ear. Lin looked over at him. His eyes softened as he saw Naru’s face. He was trying to keep his cool to keep his emotions in check but he couldn’t. Not anymore. So you figured out you’re in love with her? Lin thought as he gazed at the two. Naru’s body language saying “Stay the hell away from me,” while Mai’s was open and inviting.
“Oh...” her voice trailed, “I-I’m sorry.” She said without looking at him. “I didn’t mean to upset you...I don’t actually know what I said that made you angry. So...” her voice trailed again. The brooding boy next to her stared at the pieces of paper in front of him; unmoving. He blinked. How long had he been staring at those pieces of paper he looked up to see Mai gone. She apologized and you said nothing? You were supposed to apologize. Naru’s mind flashed back to an earlier case, when he first realized Mai was a threat to thawing him.
“You murderer!!” Her voice rang in his head clear as day. Was he? What if this plan failed? Would she ever look at him again? Would she still work for him? His fists clenched as he waited for the curse to be reversed. He got the signal from Lin that everything was done. Smoothly he walked out of the room and found Mai. She looked devastated. Had she really given up on me that easily? Words were spoken and then Mai was flying down the hallway. When it was all over it had worked; the hirogata’s had taken on the damage of the curse. As he walked away from the school he heard Mai run up to him. Words tumbling from her mouth...An apology?
“What I said...I now know that—that was really cruel of me.”
“It’s because you give up on people so easily. It’s annoying. You should do something about that.” Like put more faith in me. Stop believing I’m heartless. See me for who I am. His mind froze. Isn’t that what he was avoiding? People to know who he is? To see him for who he is?
“I apologize and you throw it back in my face! You’re always like that with me.” Naru blinked. A smile tugged at his lips as he turned away.
Yes, Mai, I suppose I am.
Naru leaned back in his chair. It had been he who had been cruel this time around. Ignoring Mai for his own sake—so that he wouldn’t feel...this feeling. He turned in his chair and looked to see if Mai had fallen asleep in her chair. Her head was leaning towards Masako’s as they slept. Another smile pulled at his lips and he let it. He would smile for Mai.
They arrived in England just after 3 am. The team was groggy as they piled into 3 cabbies. Naru made sure to be in the one with Mai, so he could apologize, so she would know that he wasn’t heartless. But when Mai got in the car she turned her head to look out the window and ignored Naru. She was done with him. Done with the drama of him. I apologize and you ignore me you jerk face. Are my apologies not good for you? Was this one even weaker than the one you threw back in my face when we were at Yasu’s school? She thought angrily as she stared out the window. The pitter patter of rain drummed on the pane. Her eyes began to droop as she fell into unconsciousness.
“A dream?” Mai said as she awoke in a garden. She looked to see if Gene was there. When she saw him exit the manor house to her left. She was lying in the grass as he approached her.
“Hey there,” he said cheerfully as he plopped down next to her. “He’s being a jack ass isn’t he?” Mai looked at him and started to laugh. Of course Gene would know that Naru was being unkind to her at the moment.
“Tell me about it,” she snorted. She looked to see a little girl with blonde pig tails run to her.
“Mummy! Mummy! The bears are going to eat me! I’m Goldilocks see?” Her hands were clutching a book titled “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
“It’s just a story, Jane. Just a story.” Mai said as she sat the girl on her lap and ran her fingers through her hair. In a flash the girl was ripped from her and screaming “The bears! The bears! Mummy it hurts!”Claw marks etched into the girl’s skin as Mai watched in terror. Three bears were mauling the little girl. Three bears which appeared and vanished as quickly as they came leaving a maimed little girl in their wake—the three bears that finally caught their Goldilocks.
Mai sprung up from her seat and grabbed on to the closest living thing, this time being Naru who sat next to her in the cab. Her breath came out ragged as she stared into his shirt. Her eyes stung with tears that she willed back into her eyes. I will NOT cry in front of that jerk. But she continued to hold onto him. She felt safe. She felt Naru shift uncomfortably underneath her. She could feel his heart. Was it beating fast? She jumped back red in the face.
“S-s-sorry Naru! It was just a dream!” she said frantically waiving her hands in front of her face. She looked at his eyes. They seemed...different. Like they weren’t hollow and cool. Like he was feeling something. Sympathy? Then they turned back to normal. His mouth didn’t open but his eyes told her that they would be talking about after everything was set up.
The car stopped and Naru got out of the car and Mai followed suit. She felt the rain on her skin and in her hair. She breathed deeply and sighed. She looked up and saw an umbrella open. The wielder moved closer to stand next to her—to shield her from the rain.
“Idiot,” he said, “you came to England without an umbrella?” Mai huffed indignantly. Naru took that as a yes. He sighed in exasperation. It gives you an excuse to be closer to her. He thought. Suddenly her forgetfulness became a blessing.
“Yo Naru! Is it always raining like this?” Takigawa shouted.
“It’s England what do you think! Idiot!” A purse flew at his head as Ayako emerged from the cabbie with an umbrella. Monk just stood there rubbing his head as he got drenched by the rain.
“Come on,” Naru said as he nudged Mai forward, “the staff will get the equipment. Let’s get inside.” They made their way to the entrance when Mai froze. Naru continued walking until he was inside and shook out the umbrella he looked back to see Mai staring at the house; eyes wide with remembrance. It was the same house in her dream. It was the same garden. It was where the Three Bears mauled Goldilocks.
When Naru had finally ushered Mai in she was soaked to the bone. Monk shook off his jacket and put it over her as she shivered. She stared for a moment longer until she looked up and smiled.
“Everything’s fine,” she said in a hollow voice. “Let’s get started.” She said reaching for a box of equipment only to be stopped by Naru.
“Everything is not fine! You just went catatonic for no reason!” Monk shouted from behind her. Naru shot him a glare that said “It’s time for you to leave and let the adults take care of this.” Monk let out an annoyed breath and followed a house staff member to the room that would be base. The rest of the team filed after him giving Mai fleeting looks.
“Everything’s fine,” Mai said again. “Just fine.”
“You’re lying.” He said. “You have not been fine for a long time. Since when did you stop crying? Yes, Mai I noticed that you stopped crying.” He rolled his eyes as she looked at him wide eyed. Honestly has no one brought it up before?
“What does it matter to you anyway, Oliver,” her voice was hard. She wouldn’t talk to him if he was going to treat her like this. Like she was only important during a job; not when she was trying to fix their friendship; not when she was sitting in the car gripping his shirt scared half to death; no Naru wasn’t getting anything from her.
“Fine,” Naru said stiffly, “let’s go then.” His chest clenched as anger flooded his blood stream. Why are you being so stubborn? Can’t you be communicative just once!?
When they walked into the room, Naru noticed the couple sitting on the couch shnuddering to each other in a foreign language.
“Mais non, je ne sais pas ce qui se passé. Il a juste volé de ma main…” the woman said.
“Comment a-t-il vole hors de ta main ?” The man pressed.
“Je dis ‘JE NE SAIS PAS!!’” She yelled. Bloody brilliant they speak French. Naru cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to speak English. I don’t understand French.” The couple looked at him and blinked.
“We can speak English,” the woman said slowly with a heavy accent. Naru doubted their English was that good but he didn’t press them. He felt a hand tap him.
“What, Mai?” He said irritably.
“Naru...maybe I should stick around for the interview...” her voice was small. She knew Naru was never going to forgive her now. She just made him angrier at her.
“Go on the walk through with the others, Lin and I have the interview covered.” He tried to keep his voice even, but he knew he would snap at her soon if she didn’t leave.
“Naru, you don’t understand I can sp—“
“I said Lin and I have the interview covered Mai.” His words dripped with malice and irritation. He didn’t want to be like this. Why couldn’t she just talk to him? He was more frustrated with himself then Mai, but Mai just snapped her mouth shut and walked over to Lin.
“Mai...Are you—“ he began to say as she cut him off.
“Your computer can record the interview right?”
“Yes,” he looked at her puzzled.
“Record it.” she said as she turned away and walked out the door. Lin sighed as he opened up the recording software. Naru’s in for it now...Lin thought. He didn’t know why he was recording the interview, but when Mai asked someone to do something it was for a good reason. Except that one time she asked me to give her the key to Naru’s office for “cleaning” he chuckled softly as Naru began the interview.
“Can you tell me what’s been happening?”
“Aide-nous! Les contes de fée sont vivants. Mais nous ne pouvons pas les voir ! Monique peut les voir !” The woman spouted “I do not know how to say in English.” This is going to be a long and unproductive interview isn’t it.
When the team arrived they could feel the irritation in the room. They could see Naru glaring at a wall. The team shivered. This was even worse than when Naru didn’t have tea. They watched wide eyed as Mai crossed the threshold to where Lin sat.
“Mai! What are you doing? He’s going to kill you.” Ayako whispered fiercely. Mai ignored her as she walked up to Lin feeling Naru’s eyes narrow on her back.
“It recorded?” Mai asked. Lin nodded.
“What recorded?” Naru asked seething, “The interview? It’s useless. Stupid French, not speaking English! It’s bloody English. Even a girl as stupid as you can learn English!” Masako and John’s heads whipped in the direction of Naru their eyes narrow and unforgiving. Naru ignored them and looked at Mai who was now facing him with an air of confidence and rebellion.
“Désolé, mais cette idiote parle le français.”
Naru stared at Mai as the foreign words dropped out of her mouth. He blinked. Once. Twice. What the hell just happened? He thought. Mai was looking at him with an indifferent, almost cold look. It made Naru’s heart clench and splutter. Naru could see the rest of the crew looking intensely on the scene. Masako was still darting dirty looks at him every once and a while. Mai just stood there. Her eyes weren’t their normal brown pools. They were clouded over with anger and pain. It was John who broke the silence.
“So, Mai let’s have you listen to the interview and tell us what has been happening.” He said softly. His eyes were cast toward Mai in an apologetic glance. Mai turned and reached out a hand for Lin’s laptop, which he gave immediately without a second thought. He turned to Naru.
“We need to have a talk.” He stood up and walked past the rest of the group whose eyes were following Naru as he walked past them. He could feel them watching him as he walked down the hall and around the corner, where Lin was standing.
“I already know I need to apologize,” Naru said irritated.
“Clearly, you don’t understand.” Lin said with more than a little anger, “Clearly, you don’t understand anything about what you just did.” Naru shifted uneasily. Lin’s eyes were furious; this was a place Naru hadn’t found himself before; at the other end of Lin’s fury. “All she’s ever done since we got back is to prove that she’s worth keeping around, she solved the first case, she purified 2 spirits, when she’s not filing or making you tea, she’s studying. Do you even know what you’ve done?”
Yes…I’ve lost her.
Mai sat in the office scribbling the translations down onto a spare piece of paper. She’d become numb. Her heart couldn’t hurt any more than it did now. Maybe I am a dunce? She thought. Maybe I should just leave SPR after this case… I can’t deal with this anymore. As she finished the translations she looked up to see the rest of the team sitting and waiting silently.
“Mai…” Ayako said, “Are you ok?”
No “Yea I’m fine.” She watched Yasuhara and Monk glance at each other.
“Cut the crap, Mai,” Masako said from the other side, “you’re not a robot. And I know that you’re thinking something that isn’t true.” Mai remained silent. Her body began to shake as she sobbed without any tears. She felt Monk’s arm engulf her as she stood there shaking. She heard footsteps, she forced herself to stop. Monk didn’t let go of her.
“Mai,” his voice called, “may I speak with you?” Disengaging herself from the hug she raised her head and looked at the boy who had caused this; the boy who caused this pain.
“No.” she said as she swiftly brushed past him and out into the hallway. She saw Lin, standing down the hall looking at her with sad eyes. She continued to walk until she reached the woman’s quarters. She left the door open, knowing that someone would follow her. She heard a soft click and a face with spectacles dropped down to her level.
“I know that nothing that I say will make you feel better,” he said slowly, “but that was brilliant.” He leaned forward and gave her a hug.
“You understand French?” Mai whispered.
“Only a little.” Yasu admitted. “I can’t speak it. And I can only understand a few things, but enough to know what you said.” He smiled softly at her. Mai looked at Yasuhara with glazed eyes.
“Yasu…” she fell forward into his arms and fell into oblivion.
Soft lights enveloped her as she opened her eyes. She looked to see Gene sitting beside her. She didn’t try to smile.
“Hey.” Gene looked down at her and frowned.
“I told him. I told him not to hurt you again.”
“You can’t tell him to go against his nature,” she said bitterly, “you can’t tell him to change who he is.”
“Mai…I know you don’t believe that he cares for you…”
“Don’t say it.”
“I said don’t say it!” Mai screamed as she stood up. “Just show me what I need to see, so we can finish this case, and I can go home.”
Gene looked at her sadly. “Mai…why did you stop crying?”
“I promised myself I wouldn’t…after Naru left… I promised myself I wouldn’t cry anymore. That I would be strong. That I would be able to handle things. So that I could show Naru I wasn’t that naïve little girl he left a year ago.” She took a deep breath, “to prove to myself that I was better than I was. I guess I was wrong. I’ll never be good enough.”
“Mai, you’re wrong.” Gene said as he turned her to face him, “He is the one who will never be good enough.” His eyes shined in the dim light he looked down at Mai’s brown eyes to find them blank. His heart clenched, he couldn’t bear to see her like this. Tears streamed down his face.
“Gene…”Mai’s eyes softened and lost their blank stare as she watched him cry. “Gene, shhh, it’s ok…I’m ok” She tried to smile, but failed leaving her lips twitching in an unnatural way..
“You’re not, Mai, stop lying to me,” his voice cracked he looked down at Mai. Trembling hands placed themselves around her face and pulled her into a salty kiss. “He’ll never be good enough.”
Mai opened her eyes to darkness. Tears welled in her eyes and began to stream down her face. She cried out as more overflowed down her face. “Why’d you do that?!” she shouted, unsure if she meant Naru or Gene. She felt arms wrap around her from next to her. Masako held onto Mai as she cried. Neither of them heard the footsteps that retreated from the door. All Mai heard was the shattering pieces of her heart.
The next morning Mai didn’t come to breakfast. She intentionally avoided anyone who could see her puffy blood shot eyes. When she entered base she found it empty. She sighed with relief. She took a seat and started to stare off into space when she felt something tap her knee.
« Bonjour mademoiselle, pourquoi es-tu triste? » (Hello miss, why are you sad?) A girl no more than four asked her, « Avez-les trois ours tu te réveilles aussi ? » (Did the three bears wake you up too ?)
« Mais non, mon enfant. C’est un homme qui me rend triste. » (No my child. It’s a man who makes me sad.) Mai said softly as she stared at the little girl in front of her. She had brown hair down to her waist and eyes as wide as saucers; they looked like endless pools of blue. « Je m’appelle Mai. Et toi ? » (My name is Mai. And you are ?)
« Je suis Monique ! » (I am Monique !)
« Quel âge es-toi ? » (How old are you ?)
« Quatre ans ! Mais mon anniversaire est en trois semaines ! » (4 years old ! But my birthday is in 3 weeks !)
« Félicitation Monique. » (Congratulations Monique)
« Pourquoi es-tu triste ? » (Why are you sad ?) Mai sighed as she looked at the little girl. Should she tell this little girl about Naru? Should I tell her about how I just got my heart broken from a tea-addicted British jerk? Why not? It’s not like anyone can hear me or understand me besides her parents…
« Parce qu'il ne m'aime pas la façon dont je l'aime. » (Because he does not love me the way I love him.) The little girl’s eye grew wide as she burst into tears.
« Il est bête ! » (He’s stupid !)Mai chuckled softly.
« C’est vrai, Monique, c’est vrai. » (It’s true, Monique, it’s true) she hugged the little girl as she calmed down. She beamed up at Mai and proclaimed that they must go play now. « Pour rend toi heureux. » To make me happy? I don’t know if I can be happy anymore, Monique, I don’t think I can feel anymore…
As Mai was dragged out of the room she failed to notice the boy outside of the door, who was listening to their conversation. She failed to notice Naru—waiting to speak to her. His eyes trailed after her. He let out a sigh, as he stared after her figure.
How could you have been so stupid? he thought. I wonder if Gene will keep to his promise? How will he take her away from me? He can’t keep her in the astral plane without killing her, which he’d never do. He’s in love with her as much as I am. Naru’s heart stopped. In love? Naru sat on the edge of the chair. His hands cradled his faces as he thought. Was he in love with Mai Taniyama? Flashes of her slid across his eye lids as he replayed his memories, all of the…feelings that came with them.
I’m in love with Mai Taniyama.
Mai played in the garden with Monique. Mai could see her parents smiling as if something like this hadn’t happened in awhile. Mai remembered in the interview they had said that the fairy tales were alive, that Monique could see them but they couldn’t. Monique asked me if the three bears had woken me up too…has she seen them recently? Mai continued to smile and chattered with Monique. They were making a beautiful pâté de sable—mud pie. Mai looked up to see a Monique’s eyes grow wide.
« Quoi? Monique? Que vois-tu ? » (What ? Monique ? What do you see?)
« Le grand méchant loup ! » (The big bad wolf!) she screamed. Mai turned to see a silver wolf leering at her and Monique with red eyes. It snarled viscously as Mai stared at it in terror. She began her incantation, forming the nine cuts, but too late, she screamed as she felt sharp teeth bite into her arm. She could hear Monk spouting words, incantations as Ayako shouted for a first aid kit. A whistle from Lin’s mouth pierced the air, and only then did the wolf let go. Mai grasped her arm as she looked to see Monique standing paralyzed looking at her arm.
« Maman !!! SANG !!! MAMAN !! PAPA !! » (Mama!!! Blood!!! MAMA!! PAPA!!)
Mai heard rushed French voices and Naru’s clipped voice as she blacked out.
Naru paced the base as he glanced from Mai to the clock. Her hair was strewn around her face as she lay on the make shift bed. It had been several hours since the attack and Naru was beginning to become nervous. What if she doesn’t wake up like last time? He thought as he paced. He kneeled beside her and gingerly checked her arm’s bandages. They would need changing soon. He stood up when he heard a knock at the door. The door creaked open and John’s blond hair peaked through the door. Naru nodded toward him giving him silent consent to come in. John walked in timidly and closed the door behind him. His eyes glanced down at Mai and then when back to Naru. His eyes hardened as he took a deep breath and faced Naru fully.
“Naru, I need to speak to you.” John’s voice was steady and authoritative. Naru’s eyebrow quirked up as he looked at the young Australian priest with interest; silently giving him the go ahead to continue talking. “Your conduct towards Mai has been unacceptable.” Naru’s eyes grew wide for a second before he turned his head to look at the blank wall to the right of him. Even John is mad at me.
“Mai has never done anything to deserve our contempt, Naru. Sure she can be loud and a bit reckless but she always gets her job done and more. You should count yourself lucky to have such a loyal coworker. She always believed you were coming back. Even when we told her you weren’t she believed you would come back and start the office back up. Do you really want to push her away now?” John’s voice was firm and resonated throughout the room. When he was certain Naru had nothing to say he turned to leave the room. Before he closed the door he whispered, “If she loved you less she would have left after that first case.” Naru’s eyes flew towards the door as it clicked shut. Loved me less? You mean… his eyes looked back down at Mai. He kneeled down next to her again.
“It was never Gene,” he whispered. He leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Mai’s, “I’m sorry.” He whispered.
Mai woke up in a grey gloom. She tried to lift herself up, but as she pushed herself up with her arm she screamed in pain. Two hands gently pushed her up into a sitting position.
“Your arms pretty bad, Mai, enough that your astral projection is conveying the injury.” Gene’s voice was soft. Mai’s face blazed with red as she thought about the last time they met.
“Gene…” her voice was soft, “I’m—“
“Don’t worry about it, Mai. I’m dead. He’s not. I just had to kiss you once…before…” his eyes drifted towards a soft light that was being emitted from the right of them. “Come on, vision time.”
Gene helped Mai up as she walked towards the light. She entered the foyer of a house. She spotted a little boy reading out loud to his parents.
“Grandma what great eye’s you have!
‘All the better to see you with my dear,’ replied the wolf.”
Mai watched as the little boy read she could see apparitions forming around him. The big bad wolf with little red riding hood stood in their scene in front of the boy and his parents. He continues to read, his parents eyes grew wide with fear as the watch the big bad wolf devour little red riding hood. The boy’s voice echoed and vibrated through the halls. They watched as the huntsmen cut open the wolf’s belly and the two eaten souls pop out unscathed. When he stopped reading he smiled at his mother and father who were struck with awe.
“I can make the fairy tales come to life mama!” he chirped happily. His mother turned towards her son and nodded; glancing back at her husband whose mouth was pressed into a thin line. Abruptly the man went into the kitchen and came back with some rope.
“He’s a witch! I told you he was! And you’re the one who brought him into this life and so help me god you’ll both leave together.” Mai watched as the man tied the little boy and mother together. Their eyes wide with fear. He brought them to the town square declaring them to be witches. He watched as a priest splashed holy water on them as they were tied to a post. The little boy screamed and his mother hung her head in defeat as flames licked at her feet, tears streaming down her face as Mai sobbed silently.
“No more.” She whispered, “No more.” She felt arms wrap around her and lips pressed to her forehead.
“You’re crying again…” Gene whispered as he wiped her tears from her eyes. His eyes closed “wake up, Mai. He’s waiting for you.” As Mai disappeared, silent tears streamed down Gene’s face. He glanced at the astral plane, “And in the end this is all I’ll have left of you.” He looked down at his wet fingers and rubbed them together slowly,” just tears and memories.”
Mai opened her eyes to a dark room. She felt a hand clutching hers. She lifted her hand to inspect the hand when she heard a groan beside her.
“Mai…you shouldn’t do that…” Mai froze as she looked over to her left. She could see the outline of Naru’s face in the dark; dreaming.
“Hey, Naru,” she said breaking the silent night. He didn’t stir, “Oliver, hey, wake up.” Still, nothing. She pulled in a deep breath before shouting, “Hey NARSASSIT WAKE UP!!” Naru’s eyes snapped open as he rubbed his ears.
“Was that really necessary?” he groaned.
1…2…3… Mai thought, but the question never came; the “what’d you see Mai and how is it prudent to this case?” never came.
Naru shifted so that he was seated next to her. His hand still clutched hers as he breathed unevenly.
"How are you? Do you hurt anywhere?"
"Besides the wolf bite? My ears are ringing but that's it. Are you ok?" Naru didn't respond he just looked at their hands. Mai began to fidget. "What's with you? You haven't jumped down my throat about what my dream was about or that I got injured once again, you aren't asking for tea, you aren't gla—"
"Do you think that I am incapable of human emotions?" he said quietly.
"What? No!" Mai looked at him shocked, "It's just after I wake up you always ask the same thing. You never ask how I am. It's just… Weird…"
"Mai, you just got bit by "The Big Bad Wolf" I think that warrants me asking you how you are," he smirked, as he watched her scoff he started playing with her hand that he was still holding. He could see a blush creep onto Mai's face as he continued to look at her hand.
"So…"Mai gulped and diverted her eyes from Naru, "You like the LostProphets?" Smooth Mai Smooth….Naru smirked up at her as she turned to look at him again.
"Yes, Mai, I like the LostProphets," he looked back down at her hand and smiled, "they're my favorite band."
"Mine too." Mai said looking at him unwaveringly.
"I may have looked at you IPod when you weren't around and seen that you have all their CDs and single releases…"
"You did what? Naru! Don't go through my stuff!"
"I didn't read your dairy if that's what your worried about." He teased her gently.
"As if I care all you'd find out is that your brother kissed me," her eyes widened as she slapped both of her hands over her mouth as Naru's hand let go of her's and stared at her wide eyed.
"He...kissed…you?" he said dumbfounded.
"It didn't mean anything!" Mai said waving her hands in front of her face. Naru looked down at his now cold hand and then back at Mai. He reached a hand out towards her and cupped her cheek.
"Well…" Naru whispered, "You’ll have to tell me whose better…"
"Wha—" Mai was cut off as Naru's lips gently pressed against hers. Her eyes fluttered shut as she returned the kiss. Her heart hammering in her chest; she could feel Naru's heart against her hand as she rested it on his chest. When their lips parted Naru looked at Mai's eyes and saw them glazed over and smiling. Her smile sudden fell when she heard the screams start.
Mai reached her hands up to cover her ears, Naru's hand still clutching one of her hands. He looked at her quizzically. Did I do something wrong?Mai's eyes filled with tears as she sobbed.
"Stop… Make it stop. The voices…the screams…Qu'est-ce que tu veux avec moi?" she yelled as she curled up into a ball next to Naru. Naru reached out a shaking hand. He touched her shoulder and whispered. "Mai, there's no one here…"
Her eyes looked up at him with fear, tears streamed down her eyes. "They're screaming Naru…they burned at the stake. The little boy and his mother—they burned to death. He was just showing his parents how he could make the Fairy Tales come to life. How he could get them to play out before their eyes…" Her eyes squeezed shut as she dropped her hands. Naru looked down at them to see blood smeared across the back of his hand. He looked back at Mai and saw that her ears were dripping blood and that her tears were now dripping red rubies. "Make the screaming stop…" She whimpered rolling into a ball again.
"Mai, I need you to do the nine cuts, Mai you need to do this, MAI!" He shouted at her as he shook her. But Mai could no longer hear him her eyes shut tight and her mouth opened to let out a scream. Her hands went back to their original place over her ears. Naru ran to the door to see Takigawa running towards them.
"She's…" Naru started. But the monk just ran past him and began his chant. Soon enough Masako and John were next to Naru panting. "I can't help her…Masako can you see anything?" Masako walked into the room and began to scream, clutching her ears just as Mai had. "The boy and the woman are screaming…the boy is calling more spirits….manipulating them into shapes…Lions, Bears, Wolves, a girl in a red hood…Fairy Tales…" Masako let out another wail as she squeezed her eyes shut, "Make them stop SCREAMING!" John had begun his prayer with Monk. The energy in the room swirled when their voices united and finished at the same time and the room grew quiet. Naru ran to where Mai was laying a pool of blood by her head.
"LIN! CALL THE AMBULANCE NOW!" Naru looked at Mai and brushed her hair out of her face, he looked at the blood tear streaks down her face and held his breath.
"MATSUZAKI!" He shouted as she tended to Masako. She looked at him with wet eyes as she continued to tend to Masako's wounds. Naru looked again at Mai's face to see it drained of color and her breathing shallow.
"Mai, Mai," his voice shook as she blinked her eyes, "You need to stay awake now, ok? You're going to be ok you just need to stay awake ok?
"Naru…" She lifted her blood drenched hands to his face her palm rested on his cheek, "I'm cold…" She said as her hand dropped leaving a streak of blood on his face. He grabbed her hand and placed it back on his cheek.
"Mai keep talking to me. Tell me about school. Tell me about your friends. Tell me how much you hate me, just keep talking," His voice was soft but firm, "Mai don't close your eyes look at me."
"I've never hated you Naru…You're brother keeps trying to convince me you don't hate me but I…" she started to cough.
"Mai, I don't hate you. I could never hate you. Mai look at me. Mai!" her eyes began to droop but snap back open. "Mai I love you," he said searching her eyes. Her lips lifted into a smile, a smile that danced in her eyes. He smiled at her. She opened her mouth to say something as another fit of coughing took over her. Naru watched as blood splattered across the sheets. He lips painted red with her own blood.
"I…love…y—" and then Mai's world went black as she went into cardiac arrest.
Mai’s eye lids slid shut. She could feel he mind being pulled elsewhere; towards the astral plane. The screams hadn’t stopped. They continued to pierce her soul as she curled into herself. She felt a hand on her back as she wept. She couldn’t look at them. She knew it wasn’t him.
Naru stared at Mai as her hand went limp. Without looking away from her he shouted “Where the hell is that ambulance, Lin?!?!” Lin looked up at the young man’s contorted face. He could see the control slipping, not just on his emotions.
“Naru...you need to calm down—“
“Don’t tell me to calm down!! She’s lost too much blood and she’s unconscious!! And...and her pulse...” His fingers fumbled on her wrist as he tried to find it—any type of inkling that indicated she was still there. He didn’t find any. His eyes snapped towards the priestess doctor who wiped away tears as she tended to Ms. Hara. The monk stood in shock looking at the scene staring at Mai’s lifeless form.
“Takigawa, help me move her.” Lin said as he approached Naru and Mai. Naru’s eyes flickered towards the Chineseman. He looked down at the young woman in front of him. The lips he just kissed. The hand he just held. He looked back at the men as they knelt down and took her away from him. He felt cold, he felt helpless, he felt broken. A hand was placed on his shoulder, but he couldn’t look at the owner. He knew it wasn’t her.
“Mai...open your eyes...Mai, you can’t give up yet. Mai, Mai, MAI!!” the hand roughly shook her as bloodied tears slipped from her eyes as she whimpered.
“Just make them stop...” her voice came out weak, Gene could see her body wrack with tremors of pain and grief. “MAKE THEM STOP!!!” she screamed. Gene looked at her with anguished eyes. He could feel his composure slipping. How could he watch when she was in so much pain?
“Mai, please look at me...” he pleaded. He needed to see her eyes. He wished he hadn’t asked. Blood soaked eyes snapped towards his face as they dipped rubies.
“Gene....make them stop please...”
How he wished he could, how he wished he could stop this pain this anguish, this fear. But he couldn’t.
John watched has chaos broke out in front of him. He watched as Mai screamed and bled. She writhed and moaned until she stopped moving. Hs eyes snapped to Ms. Hara who was going through a similar phenomena. He watched her writhe in pain and his heart ached. His eyes began to flood with tears as he watched her. Ayako tended to her meticulously as best she could but tears splashed onto Masako’s face. He watched helplessly.
“Masako...It’s going to be all right,” but even he didn’t believe that. He didn’t know what to do...the only thing he could do could make it worse. He watched as Monk and Lin took away Mai’s limp body. Was she dead? He looked to see Naru sitting in the same place looking at his hands. John wrenched himself away from Masako, from the person who made his heart ache. He placed a hand on Naru’s shoulder.
“Perform an exorcism.”
“I said perform an exorcism, NOW, Father Brown.” Naru never looked up at him but he began to tremble. “Do it now before I wipe out EVERY SPIRIT in this world.” John stood up and prepared himself. He took a deep breath as he began his prayer. He could feel the holy water drip across his hand as he spoke. He could hear the fear, the pain the spirits were in. He could feel her eyes on him, streaming bloody tears and pleading him to stop. But he couldn’t. He suddenly heard another prayer join his. Monk had started to chant beside John in hope to aid the exorcism. Soon enough both Lin and the Miko joined them. Between the prayers and whistles and screams the house went silent and all that could be heard was ragged breathing and whimpers. John opened his eyes to see blood streaming from everyone’s eyes except Naru’s. He lifted his hand to the streams that had been flowing from his eyes to see that he was the same.
“That was...” Ayako started before she collapsed. Monk had barely gotten to her before she hit the ground.
“Ayako? Hey Ayako wake up! Ayako?!” He said as he shook her. Distant sirens approached the house and Naru ran out the door to meet them.
Mai sat on the ground as Gene paced around her. He kept glancing at her as he tried to collect his thoughts. How could screams cause so much damage?
“Mai...” She looked up at him. The streams of blood from her eyes had stopped and had begun to dry on her cheeks. He knelt down beside her and rubbed the racked rubies from her cheeks. “You’ll be fine. They’ll get you to the hospital soon.” Gene didn’t know if he believed it himself. He’d watched and seen how much blood she’s lost.
“He said he loved me.” Gene looked at Mai startled. Her eyes were cast down at her hands.
“He...said...oh...” Gene let go of her face and began to stand, but two hands grabbed his hand a pulled him back down.
“Please,” she said searching his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Mai, this isn’t something...”
“I know, I know,” her voice began to grow soft, “Je sais.”(I know) Her eyes snapped open.
“Mai...why are you...?”
“Je ne sais pas! Quoi ??” (I don’t know! What?) Mai’s hands moved to her mouth and moved her jaw. “Gene je ne peux pas parler le japonais!” (Gene I can’t speak Japanese!)
“Mai…What are you??”
“Gene!!” And then Mai disappeared—leaving Gene alone with blood caked finger tips.
“Left with only tears…” He said as a tear splashed by his feet.
Naru waited outside of surgery for hours; pacing back and forth. They had lost Mai’s heart beat twice on the way over to the hospital. Naru could feel that he was barely holding on to his powers but he remained, he had to, he needed to see that she was alright. Lin watched him carefully; waiting for some type of sign that he couldn’t handle it anymore. When a nurse finally came out she spoke with Lin first.
“She’s awake and asking...for something or someone...but—“
“She seems to only be speaking in French.”
“She what?!” Naru hissed as he drew nearer, “She’s only speaking in French? How can that be possible?”
“She keeps asking for Naru? I don’t know any French so I don’t know if that’s a person or a thing...”
“Can I see her?” he asked suddenly calm.
Naru walked into the white room without seeing anything until he saw Mai’s form. He rushed passed the nurse and clasped Mai’s hand.
“Naru...Je ne comprends pas...Je ne peux pas parler le japonais ou anglais...” (Naru….I don’t understand…I can’t speak Japanese or English) Mai looked at him with bewildered eyes. “J’essaye mais…C’est impossible.” (I try but…it’s impossible)
“Mai? Why are you speaking in French you know I can’t understand French”
“JE SAIS PAS!!!” (I DON’T KNOW!!)
“Ok that I understood...You mean to say this is random? You can’t speak in any other language?”
“But you can understand me?”
“Oui” Naru ran his hands through his hair. He looked back at Mai and sighed.
“I’m glad you’re alright.” Mai looked at him and smiled. She could see relief flood over his face, it was the first time he let her see him, the real him.
“Monique?” Mai’s eyes conveyed her concern. Naru looked at her for a moment and shook his head.
“Of course you’re worried about the little girl...I don’t know if anything happened to her,”
“Monique is unconscious in the other room she also experienced the screaming,” Lin said as he walked in with Monk. Monk ran forward and smothered Mai.
“We thought you were dead!” Mai patted his head and said “Je vais bien, Moine.” (I’m fine, Monk) Monk looked at Naru with a quizzical look, “Why’s she speaking French?” Naru shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. “Mai, why are you speaking French?”
“Parce que je ne peux pas parler d’autre langue, maintenant” (Because I can’t speak any other language, now) Naru looked at the monk and then back at Mai and sighed.
“Perhaps I should just find a translat—“ at that moment the door flew open to two bewildered parents.
“Monique…elle ne peux pas parler le français!” (Monique…she can’t speak French!!) Shouted her father.
“Mama !! Papa !! What are you doing ? Why did you run away!!” Monk peered out the door to find the young girl tripping over her hospital gown. “I just wanted to show you my trick!”
“Tour?” (Trick?) Mai asked as the little girl walked in. Naru looked back at Mai to see her face had fallen and a silent tear slide down her cheek. “C’est le fils. Il a possédé Monique...il est le cause des apparitions.” (It’s the boy. He has possessed Monique…he is the cause of the haunting.) Monique’s parents looked bewildered as they looked from Mai to Monique.
“Possédé ?” (Possessed ?) Mai nodded solemnly. If only he knew French! Exasperated Naru ruffled his hair and stared at the young French girl who had entered the room. I’m learning French when we get home.
“Who would you like to see next? Mother goose? Baba Yaga? Otesanek?”
Lin’s eyes opened wide as the last name fell from the girl’s mouth. He looked at Naru and silently told him they would need to run. Monk leaned toward Naru “Otesanek?”
“It’s a Czech fairy tale…Baiscally…a wooden monster baby comes and eats everything and everyone.”
“What did she mean by saying she’d show us?”
“I’m sure we’ll only disappoint her by asking her nothing about it,” Naru replied sourly, “What do you mean show us?” The girl’s smile widened as she looked at Naru with maniacal eyes.
“I mean show you…” She said as she began to recite the tale of Otesanek from the end.
“I don’t see any—” It was at that moment that a gluttonous monster appeared in front of Monique’s parents.
“And Otesanek ate his mother and father when they could not give him his food…” the little girl laughed in glee, “That’s for burning me, daddy, and that’s for not protecting me mommy,” Lin looked at Naru and then back at the wooden glutton that was closing in on him. With a loud whistle Lin’s shiki attacked the wooden would be baby. It screamed in pain and the girl whipped around to face Lin. “You’ll regret that!!!!” She bellowed. She pointed her finger towards Lin and the spirit Otesanek whirled on Lin.
“NON!!!!!!” Shouted Mai as she watched the horror unfold in front of her eyes.
Lin had been swallowed whole by a Czech fairy tale monster.
Mai sat in the hospital bed trying to regain her composure. Tears spilled down her eyes as she took a deep breath. She stared at the Czech fairy tale monster and then looked back at Naru. She watched as nonemotions played on his face. Stoic and indifferent Naru took a step forward. Mai watched as energy shimmered around him as he took a deep breath.
« Je comprends pourquoi tu fait cela. Mais tu n’as pas a la faire. » (I understand why you doing this, But you do not have to do it.) Mai said slowly as the tears stopped flowing abruptly. « Arretes maitenant. » (Stop now)
“Oooooh I’m so scared of the little girl in the bed who can’t even speak her own native tongue,” the little girl cackled. “Besides my little Otik isn’t done eating yet.” Naru stepped forward infront of Mai and the monster, Mai could see his PK energy pulsing, she grabbed his hand trying to dissuade him from doing anything, He needs to stay calm. If he uses his powers he could kill Lin and the creature. Otesanek...think Mai think! You know this story...Otesanek eats his parents and then most of the village and then....An old woman kills him with a hoe and everyone jumps out of his belly. We need a hoe!! NARU!!
« Naru! Tu as besoin d'une houe. » (Naru you need a hoe) We just need to get out of this alive right now. Keep her from doing anymore damage…
"Mai, I need you to be quiet!" Naru snapped
« Naru! Tu as besoin d’une HOUE!! C’est le même mot à anglais! » (Naru ! You need a HOE !! It’s the same word in English ! ) She shouted. Naru turned towards her and yelled "I DON’T SPEAK FRENCH I DON’T KNOW WHAT HOUE MEA—oh…” He looked at the little girl as she began to cackle and coldly smiled.
“I suppose that you find this funny?” Naru said coolly. The possessed girl’s eyes gleamed. Naru’s PK flared. The little girl’s eyes widened. Mai’s face began to grow pale. Naru, don’t use your PK don’t do it! Naru glanced at Mai and flashed her a reassuring smile.
“Ooo you’re gonna be fun aren’t you? Look at all that flowy stuff around you!” She bounced up and down in glee.
“ I wouldn’t say that…” Naru closed his eyes and focused his energy into his hand, “I’d say that I’m going to be a problem!” He said as he shut a small blast of PK at the monster. “Takigawa, Ms. Matsuzaki, Father Brown, Ms. Hara, do what you do best!” As the little girl glared at Naru for hurting her fairy tale, Monk began his chant.
« NE LE TUE PAS! » (Don’t kill it) Otesanek turned towards Naru and screeched as it stomped towards him. Naru ran out the door as John slid in front of the wooden puppet. He splashed holy water on the monster as he began his prayer. Mai began to squirm and yank at tubing as she watched things unfold. Naru ran for the door and down the hall. He heard the howl of the wooden monster as he ran. He could feel his body failing. He could feel his heart beat slowing. You just need to make it to the van, just make it to the van. Naru turned to see the little girl glaring at him.
“Eat him.” She commanded Otesanek. But the monster couldn’t get past the 3 exorcists and the medium. Mai yanked out an IV and alarms began to scream in her ears. She faintly heard running footsteps coming towards the door. Her eyes went wide. We can’t have civilians in here!! What did I just do?? The door opened to a slightly to a winded nurse.
“Ms. Tamiyama is everything al—AHHHHHH” her screams echoed in the room as Otesanek whirled on the new comer. She backed away from the door and yelled “Evacuate!” The 3 exorcists pushed the nurse down the hall. Ayako turned and hissed “get out of here NOW” The nurse slowly nodded as she watched the wooden monster lumber towards her.
Mai began to stand. Her legs wobbled and she growled at them. Everyone needs me! You will work! She willed herself to stand tall and the little girl turned to look at her. Her eyes filled with slight amusement.
“Oh ho! Little Japanese girl’s come out to play?” she chided, “Otesanek! Let’s play with this little girl...” Mai’s eyes opened in horror as the monster turned towards her, knocking all of her friends to the ground. Naru you need to hurry!
At the van Naru was fighting off unconsciousness as he whipped open the van doors. He looked around throwing things out as they came into view. “Where’s the DAMN HOE!” he shouted in frustration. He turned at looked at all the other cars around looking to see if there were any trucks that could help him. His eyes narrowed on a rusty red pickup truck with tools sticking out in the back. He rushed over there and rummaged through the backs contents until he found his prize. Grasping the hoe firmly he ran back towards the hospital. Pounding up the stairs and down the halls until he reached Mai’s room, he came to a halt as he saw the monster holding Mai. His heart jumped to his throat. “MAIIII!!!” he shouted.
Mai remained calm as the monster squeezed her. Her eyes brimmed with tears, resigned to this fate. She moved her head towards the little girl and softly spoke, « Je te pordonne » as the words left her lips she heard it: “MAIIII!!!” His voice felt like one last parting gift. The monster turned towards Naru, whipping Mai with him. Naru stood there with his hands clutching the hoe.
“You will not be eating her,” Naru gritted out. He looked at the 3 exorcists who had been knocked away. They all looked at him and he motioned his head towards the little girl. Once he did this they needed to exorcise the little girl, get the spirit out of her. There was no saving this spirit. “You will not be eating the girl I love.” He raised the hoe and ran forward smashing the hoe into the monster’s belly. A loud crack reverberated throughout the room. And Mai fell to the ground roughly as the monster evaporated leaving a pile of bodies behind. Mai crawled to them to see if they were breathing.
« Lin? » She asked, « Ou-est toi ? » she found his arm and pulled him towards her. Her hands combed through his hair as she listened for breathing. Slowly scrunching up his face her peered up at the girl and smiled.
“So it seems you’re o—“ Lin was cut off as they heard the girl screaming. Furious she moved towards Naru who was now on his knees panting. Mai abruptly stood up and rushed towards the little girl throwing her arms around her.
« C'était un truc assez cool » (that was a cool trick) She said into her ear, « Je pense que tu as un incroyable cadeau » (I think you have an incredible gift) The little girl looked at Mai, eyes brimming with tears, « Je te pordonne, Jean-Pierre » ( I forgive you Jean-Pierre) and kissed his cheek. She didn’t know how she learned the boy’s name it had never been spoken, but the little boy started to leave Moniques body.
« Merci, Maman » he said as a flash of bright light filled the room and the spirit dissipated.
“Well that was unexpected,” Monk said as he started to get up off the ground. Mai smiled at him and rushed over towards Naru.
“Naru! Naru! Are you awake! Naru! Can you hear me?!” Mai said as she gently touched his arm. Naru looked up his face pale, he smiled a real smile the one that reached his eyes.
“You’re back to normal again…” he said as she slid her palm across his face.
“Of course I am, Naru you need to stay awake now,” she said as his face began to droop. “Naru you can’t fall asleep, do you hear me? We’re in a hospital we can get someone to help you!”
“I’m really glad….you’re ok Mai…” Naru said faintly he looked up at her to see her silently crying, he lifted up a hand and brushed them away, “Don’t cry, Mai… I love your smile… I love you…” he said as his eyes fell shut and Mai began to shake him.
“Naru! Naru! You can’t leave me!” She turned towards the rest of the group who were all standing together, Masako’s face was buried in John’s shirt with his arms wrapped around her in comfort. Monk’s arm held onto Ayako while her face was hidden in his shoulder, and Lin just stood there with sad eyes. Mai turned back to Naru and placed a kiss on his lips and held on to his frame as she rocked back and forth
Mai stood at a grave silently as she placed down flowers and whispered inaudibly to the grave. She fingered the letters on the grave silently as tears dripped down her face. A breeze gently kissed her face as she knelt in front of the grave. Mai could her footsteps behind her, they would tell her it was time to go, but she didn’t know if she could. She owed so much to this person, who lay in this grave. Her hands brushed away her tears and she smiled at the tomb stone. The sun shined brightly as she began to stand.
“Mai,” a voice behind her called, and she turned to see a young man dressed all in black, his stoic face was broken in a small smile, “come on, Mai, we’ll miss our plane…” Mai sighed and stood from the grave.
“Good-bye, Jean-Peirre, Rest in peace.” She murmured and turned towards the boy, “It’s not my fault I have a heart, Naru, unlike you, I owe Jean-Pierre a lot.” Naru snorted.
“Like what? Hospitalizing you, making you cry, taking away your language…” he stopped when he heard Mai stop. He looked at her as her frame trembled.
“He gave me you,” She said as she began to walk again when Naru stopped her. His arms wrapped around her and held her tightly. He lifted her head towards him and placed a kiss soundly on her lips.
“And he gave me you,” he whispered on to her lips as they moved again towards the van where everyone waited for them, “But he almost killed you, TWICE, I might add I’m not going to forgive that brat for that.” Mai playfully slapped his arm.
“He almost killed you too and I forgave him,” she said sticking out her tongue.
“That’s just your stupidity showing again.” He said as he opened up the door. Mai glared at him.
“Naru! I am not stup—“ She was cut off but his mouth pushing against hers. She pushed him away and humphed as she went into the car. Naru chuckled softly as he climbed in after him. Lin looked at the two of them bicker with each other as they began to pull away.
“So Naru, when’s the next case?” Monk asked as they drew closer to the airport. Naru glanced at him and said.
“Not for awhile, I’m going on vacation, we’re just dropping you off at the airport,” he said smugly, Mai turned towards him and began to grow red with anger when he silenced her, “Your coming to, Mai, what did you think I’d let you go once I had you?” Mai’s eyes softened but she still pouted at him.
“Wait… You’re taking time off?” Ayako said dumbfounded. Naru rolled his eyes. Didn’t I just say that? I’m not justifying that with an answer. Everyone stared at him for a long while before he cleared his throat.
“Your plane is leaving to 10 minutes,” with that everyone rushed out of the car with their luggage quickly said good bye to Lin and Mai before they dashed towards the terminal.
“Where are we going?” Mai asked.
“Oh you’ll see,” Naru said as he nodded towards Lin who just huffed as he pulled out of the airport.
Mai watched the scenery pass by as she shivered, she looked out the window and swore she saw Gene sadly smile and wave at her. She waved back at him knowing he was saying good-bye.
Gene watched the van pass as he sighed, “There she goes… I’ll see you later, Mai, and Naru I won’t hesitate to hurt you if you hurt her.” He disappeared in a whisp as the couple drove on.
Mai sighed and looked shyly at Naru. She smiled softly as it dawned on her. “Naru! What am I going to do about school???” Naru just turned towards her and rolled his eyes and went back to staring out the window smiling to himself. “NARU!”