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Dangerous Souls

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Hi everyone! Those of you who don't know me I'm Kikifan21 and up until now I've only posted stories on Fanfiction.net. Well I've decided to change that and move some to other platforms. This story in particular is my longest one yet and has been in the works since 2011.

Considering this is the 10th anniversary I've decided to give it a little fine tuning and edit out the typos and reword a couple things before I post it here. For the most part the story will be the same and you will also get to see how my writing style has changed over the course of the decade.

That being said, I still have a soft spot for Fanfiction.net and I will post new chapters on that site first. Though, it will take a while for this site to be fully caught up on this story. A more revised version of the chapter will be posted here at a later date from the initial posting.

From this point on I will be posting in clusters until I have transferred over all of the chapters. These clusters will consist of the arcs that separate the cases much like in the anime.

Ghost Hunt is one of my favorite anime of all time and almost a comfort anime for me. I loved it so much I wanted it to keep going so I created this series. All I ask is that you please be kind and give an honest review. I hope you enjoy what is to come! :)

Chapter Text

Chapter 1-A Reluctant Case

Just another ordinary day at Shibuya Psychic Research, SPR for short. Things had been pretty quiet since they returned from the Yoshimi case. After several members of the team ended up in the hospital, with their ring leader in critical condition, the break was much appreciated. Even if it had only been for about two weeks since Naru was discharged. Lin was in his office typing away as Mai was making Naru tea in their office kitchenette. The others hadn't bothered to stop by for a visit since their discharge, though Mai couldn't really blame them. The kettle whistled and our favorite brunette filled the teapot with leaves and the hot water, when there was a knock at the door.

Albeit a little confused, considering the front door was never usually locked during office hours, Mai headed for the lobby to see what was going on. Just as she was about to grab the door, a middle-aged woman with black hair cut just above her shoulders, opened it. Her eyes held bags beneath them and the way she was fidgeting with her purse strap only served to prove her anxiety and lack of sleep. "Um...hello, I hear you help with hauntings? My name is Sakura Kimura," she said, closing the door behind her.

Naru appeared from his office and headed for the sitting area. Mai ran to the kitchenette to grab an extra mug. "Yes, yes we do," Naru replied, gesturing her to sit down. "Tell me, what's been going on?"

Summoned by the mentioning of a potential case, Lin emerged from his office, laptop in hand. He took his place in one of the plush chairs of the living area and readied himself for notes. Mai followed in with a tray of steaming mugs.

"Well, I guess our house is over two hundred years old, with a history of some traumatic deaths," Sakura began, switching from fidgeting with her purse strap to the edge of her skirt. "When my husband I moved in, we noticed very small things, like a door opening on its own, and possibly a child giggling. We thought that it was a spirit, but dismissed it, because it wasn't causing us any harm. However, my grandmother refused to enter the house and didn't want me to stay there when I became pregnant with my oldest."

Mai handed the woman a mug of tea. She accepted, grateful for something to hold. "After she died, I went into labor and when I brought my daughter home, the incidents were getting a little more frightening. Knocking sounds, doors opening and closing at the same time, things like that, but we weren't worried about it. No harm was being done to us.

Naru took a few notes as the woman spoke. "However, within the past week things have escalated, in fact today is the nineteenth anniversary of when we bought the house. It's the same doors opening and closing, lights turning on and off, children giggling, but what's scared me the most is whenever I'm doing the dishes at night, I look out into the backyard and by a bush, I see a human figure staring up at my daughter's window. Please! Tell me you can help!" Sakura placed the tea down on the coffee table and bowed deeply in her seat.

The young manager tapped his pen on his notebook, obviously uninterested in the woman's story.

"If the haunting hasn't really bothered you, it doesn't seem like you need help. How old are you children?" Naru replied.

"My oldest just turned eighteen, my son is ten and my youngest daughter is five." Sakura's head popped up in disbelief.

"I see, the poltergeist activity is probably being cause by your oldest daughter. It's quite common with teenage girls. As for the figure staring up to the bedroom from the backyard, I suggest you call the police. They'll give you more help than I can."

"But...oh....thank you anyway," Sakura said, getting up and walking away.

When the door closed, Mai turned to Naru and started shouting. "What the hell, Naru! She was just trying to help her kids! You could've at least given her better advice!" Mai argued.

"From what she's told me, it's a small haunting that won't pose a threat to the family. As for the figure in the yard, it's probably just a pervert that the police can handle, not much more I can do."

"What? Ugh! I can't believe you!" Mai began, but suddenly a teenage girl's voice could be heard outside the door.

"So you just left? That's it, I'm gonna talk to him!" the voice said, suddenly the door opened up and a girl about eighteen years old walked in.

"How dare you deny my mother's claim!" she cried out. She was just a bit taller than Mai with long brown hair and bright blue eyes. Despite the heat of the July afternoon, she was dressed in long pants and a long sleeved jacket.

"From what information she gave me there wasn't much more I could do. If you'll excuse me," Naru replied, giving her cold eyes.

"What if I know a reason why you would want to take this case. You know how my mother said my great-grandmother refused to go into our house and hated my mother living there while she was pregnant with me?" the girl offered, crossing her arms.

"Unless you have physical evidence of a malevolent haunting, then there is nothing more to discuss." The girl wasn't about to back down yet.

"What if I told you that she was a famous novelist, she wrote books about paranormal phenomena? She was also the famous psychic-" she tried to say, but was interrupted by the bell at the door. In came Monk waltzing in with his eyebrow raised.

"Hey, Naru, there's a lady outside, she looked pretty worried, is there another case? Oh I'm sorry, looks like I'm interrupting something," Monk said, realizing Kiko was there.

"No, you're not, she was just leaving. We don't have another case," Naru said, standing up and starting to walk away.

"Wait, I wasn't done, Kazuya-san!" Kiko argued. "I was named after my great-grandmother, the famous psychic, Kiko Nakagawa!"

Naru stopped short. An icy glare was held in his eyes as he turned back. "What did you say?"

"Look, like Mai over there, I'm a psychic. But, I don't know any warding magic like Takigawa-san. I'm sure you've heard of my great-grandmother, after all, I see a few of her novels over by that desk," Kiko replied.

"Whoa! Naru, that was pretty freaky, you sure you don't want to take on her claim?" Monk commented, watching the spectacle.

How did she know my name? Mai thought, staring at the girl before her.

"Sit down," Naru said, sitting back to his original seat. Mai ran to the kitchenette to get another mug of tea. "Tell me, is there anything that your mother may have been leaving out?"

"Most likely, especially since I have inherited my grandmother's psychic powers, and this is believed because just moments after her death my mother went into labor. It was known that I had gained her abilities when I was around ten years old. I was even penalized at my old high school for believing in such things, but you don't want to hear my life's story do you?" She thanked Mai for her tea and took a sip.

"Anyway, my father left for a two week business trip about a week ago, that's when the activity started getting more severe, whatever this thing is, it's going after me," she explained, then rolled up her sleeve, revealing a marking of an S and an A in Calligraphy, but smashed together, almost unable to make out the letters. "I awoke at three o'clock on the dot, to a burning sensation on that spot. It was so powerful that I practically leaped out of my bed screaming. This isn't the only one either."

She then rolled up her other sleeve and her pant legs, revealing more of the markings. "As you can see, this was no accident nor was it meaningless. I also have a feeling that I'm gonna get another one of these sometime this week, not sure what day though. So, any other reasons why you'd want to deny my claim I would like to hear it, not to mention that I will not stay at my house alone nor will I let my mother nor siblings alone there. So, what do you say?" Kiko added, folding her arms across her chest.

"Fine, we'll take your case, we'll be at the site tomorrow morning," Naru said, almost reluctantly.

Wow, who would've thought that Naru would actually accept the job. I wonder if this girl has any dirt on Naru, too, Mai thought.

"I'll be waiting, how many investigators will you be bringing?" Kiko asked, before leaving.

"A total of four, myself, Mr. Takigawa, Mai, and my assistant Lin, however, if I see it necessary, I will have some more experts come. Is that alright with you?" he answered.

Why is he being so polite? He's never acted like this before, he even made a little girl cry last year! What does she have that I don't! Mai thought, having her own little tantrum in her head.

"Perfect, see you guys tomorrow, I'll give you a tour then!" Kiko said, walking out the door with a smile.

"Say, Naru, it seemed that you were reluctant to accept this case, why did you?" Monk said, a suspecting smirk gracing his features as he folded him arms.

"Kiko Nakagawa, I do have some of her books, she seemed like a very intelligent woman, Not to mention how famous of a psychic she was, if you were to compare her popularity to someone alive right now, it would have to be Oliver Davis. Besides, this case is somewhat personal, my family knew the Nakagawas very well, so it may be interesting. Any more questions?" Naru replied, though he seemed uninterested in any other inquiries as he marched back to his office

"Wait, as famous as Oliver Davis! Then this case may be interesting!" Monk replied excitedly.

And that's how yet another case gets its start, Mai thought, smiling and laughing to herself as Monk continued to fangirl.

***

The next day, Naru, Lin, Mai and Monk were at the Kimura residence, ready for the new investigation. The house was quite large and not styled like the traditional Japanese house, as least, not on the outside. It looked to be three stories high and had decks leading from every other window on the second and third floors.

It was an oddly cool day in July, with Mai almost regretting wearing her shorts and T-shirt. They all walked to the front door, while Monk rang the bell. Kiko answered, her outfit of choice revealed more of the marks on her forearms and calves. "Morning!" she said, cheerfully flashing the peace sign.

She sounded just like Yasuhara, for a second. Maybe, nah, there's no way! Mai thought, as everyone went into the house.

"Lin, I want you to talk to Kimura-san, see if there may be anything else she left out when she talked to us. Kiko will show us around," Naru ordered, his voice still emotionless.

Lin gave a brief nod before going in search of the matriarch of the house.

"Alright, now, here's the kitchen, my mother has seen the figure outside that window," Kiko explained, pointing to the window by the sink. "Now, here's the living room, my sister, Sakurako, has said things like 'a man's here' also 'he's scaring me' and 'why won't he go away?'"

"Have you ever felt this 'man's' presence here?" Naru interrupted.

"Yes, I have. I haven't seen him, but I have felt his presence," she replied, suddenly she was on the couch, her eyes glazed over.

"Kiko!" Monk exclaimed, as Mai walked over to Kiko. The world became fuzzy for the brunette, the scene before her fading away as she felt the faint feeling of falling.

She was not surrounded by the comforting purple glow of her psychic dreams this time. No. This world was nothing but dark black with an ominous red glow. A man could be heard laughing, his voice booming yet somewhat distant, as though he were also simply watching the spectacle.

One by one silhouettes of the SPR gang along with the four present members of the Kimura family popped up, only to be brutally killed. Mai felt the blood splatter onto her clothes, heard the sickening sound of it spraying onto the walls.

Screams. Bloodcurdling screams overwhelmed the young investigator as she tried to figure out who the screams belonged to, but knew the answer was more than one person.

The scene ended with a dozen bodies piled up, a single silhouette of the laughing madman towered above the corpses. Chills were sent down Mai's spine as she heard the voice finally utter intelligible words.

"Someone must pay for the crimes of the past!"

"Mai! Mai!"

Mai blinked a few times watching as the scene morphed back to the living room. The faces of her boss and friend held rare concern as she reach up and touched the dampness of her cheeks. "Wha-what?"

She turned in confusion, only to see Kiko give a guilty look. "I'm sorry you had to see that Mai," she said.

"Huh?" Mai said, under her breath in a daze.

"I'm sorry, you shouldn't have come. The evil spirit within this house is even angrier than before. Now, not only does he want to kill me, but all of you. He believes you will be in his way, I'm so sorry," Kiko apologized, bowing.

"We've dealt with these things before," Naru said in a surprisingly reassuring way.

"So, you'll stay?" she asked.

"Of course, we can't just sit back and watch if your life is on the line!" Monk replied.

"Yeah, after seeing that we can't let you go through this alone," Mai added, smiling.

"Thank you," Kiko whispered.

"Now that that's settled, is there somewhere we could set up our Base?" Naru asked, returning his attention to the case.

"Hmm....how about the den?" Kiko said aloud, leading everyone to a nearly empty room.

"This will do. Mai, you and Kiko let Lin know we're setting up," Naru ordered, the two girls nodded.

"On it!" Mai replied as they left the room.

***

Mai and Kiko were walking throughout the main hallway, trying to find Sakura and Lin. "Where do you think they are?" Mai asked Kiko.

"I don't know, my mom usually talks to her guests in the living room, but we were just in there. Maybe in here?" Kiko replied, walking into the playroom.

In there, Lin and Sakura were talking and laughing, as Sakurako played with her stuffed animals. Wait, Lin laughing?

Was Lin, laughing just now? Mai thought, as Kiko opened the door wide enough to let them know they were there.

"Sorry, were we interrupting something?" Kiko asked, smiling.

"Oh, not at all, is something wrong?" Sakura replied, standing up, placing her cup of tea on the coffee table.

"Nothing, Naru just wanted us to let Lin know that we were setting up Base," Mai explained.

"Right, I better help them," Lin replied, standing up and heading downstairs.

"I should go, too," Mai smiled.

"Please, let me help," Kiko insisted, as the two left the room.

***

After Base was set up, the team was settled there, discussing whether the others needed to be called. "What type of spirit do you believe is here?" Kiko asked, as she and the members of SPR stood by the monitors.

"It's almost too early to tell," Naru replied.

"It could be a poltergeist, but there hasn't been too much movement," Monk added reluctantly.

"Do you think we should contact John? You know, in case this thing tries to possess us?" Mai wondered.

"Yeah, and maybe Masako can see the spirits clearer."

"Masako? Masako Hara? The famous medium?" Kiko cocked her head in intrigue. Mai whipped hers around in shock.

"Wait, why you didn't know that? And back at the office you knew I was a psychic?" Mai asked.

"Yeah, my psychic abilities are weird," she explained, making a face. "I can know someone's past and name and qualities when I see them in person, when I hear their name, but not see them it doesn't work. I know it sounds weird, but the only thing I actually know about you guys is that other than you four, there are four more people who help with your investigations."

"Oh," Mai replied.

The crash of the front door opening could be heard. "Mom! I'm home from soccer practice!" a boy yelled, then he walked into the den. "Hey, Kiko, do you have that weird stuff that I-" he stopped short seeing people he has never seen before. His eyes glazed over with immediate distrust. "Kiko, who are these people?" he asked.

"Satoshi, these are the members of SPR they're here to help with our ghost problem," Kiko explained.

"What ghosts! I told you there is nothing going on in this house!" Satoshi yelled, running away.

"Satoshi! Come back!" Kiko raced after him as their mother came to the room.

"What just happened?" Sakura asked.

"That was my younger brother, Satoshi," Kiko said, stopping at the door. She threw her head back with a groan. "Sorry, Mom, I think Satoshi may still be brainwashed from our old school. He ran off when I told him about SPR."

"Oh great, I'll try to knock some sense into him. I swear that boy is worse than his father," Sakura muttered, walking down the hall. "Kiko! Watch Sakurako for me!"

"Sure mom!" she yelled back, picking her sister up. "So, what's the game plan?"

"I want Mai and Monk to go around taking the temperature of each room, Lin, you were able to find a floor plan of the house, correct?" Naru ordered, as he leaned against the wall.

"Yes, Mrs. Kimura was able to give me a copy, I've already put it on our computer," he replied, with a quick glance from his laptop.

"What about the other investigators?" Kiko asked.

"More people?" Sakurako asked, a little frightened.

"Don't worry, Saku-chan, these people are here to help and though one or two may look scary doesn't mean they are," she comforted, stroking her sister's hair.

"Yeah, Naru may look mean and scary but once you get used to him, he's not so bad," Mai chimed in, earning a glare from Naru and a chuckle from Monk.

"As long as Sakurako is here, we may as well ask her a few things," Naru suggested, well, more like ordered.

"Naru, remember, she's five," Mai answered shaking her head, earning her another glare.

"I'll act as a translator," Monk sighed, as everyone walked over to a table and chairs.

Sakurako sat on Kiko's lap, Monk sat next to them, Lin at one end of the table and Naru sitting across from his clients. Normally, Naru would have liked to have Kiko leave the room, so Sakurako wouldn't feel she had to hide anything from her sister. However, with the little girl's refusal to leave her sister's side, as well as Mai's complaints to the idea, Sakurako stayed with her sister.

Then with a slightly peeved Naru, did the questioning begin. "Sakurako, when did the spirit start bothering you?" he asked. Sakurako, being five, understood not much more than her name, looked at Monk.

"He means, the thing that scares you, when did it start scaring you? When did you first see it?" Monk translated.

"The ghost?" she asked, her voice small and hesitant. Monk and Naru nodded. "I don't know, as far as I can remember."

"What exactly happened to you when the ghost appeared?" Naru asked.

Once again Sakurako just stared. "Did the ghost do anything to you?" Monk translated, the girl nodded. "What did he do?"

"I've seen him and he would talk to me. Say how he was going to get something called rebend, I think," she replied, this time it was Naru and Lin who stared.

"Rebend?" Monk repeated, clueless as to what she meant.

"Does she mean revenge?" Mai suggested, Sakurako's face lit up.

"That's it!" she said, excitedly.

"Has the ghost done anything else?" Naru asked impatiently.

The girl nodded. "After he tells me he will get revenge, when just me and Mommy are home he will hold a glass above her head until I cry for him to stop!" Tears gathered in her eyes as she finished.

Kiko rubbed her back, trying to sooth her. "It's okay, Saku-chan, everyone here will make sure he won't frighten you again," she said, comfortingly.

"She's right, Sakurako-chan," Monk said, smiling.

"Is that all the ghost has done?" Naru asked, trying to keep the question simple.

At this, Salkurako fell silent, just what Naru was afraid of, she was refraining from telling her sister. "Sakurako, I need you to tell me what you're hiding," Naru ordered, the child looked surprised.

"Naru! That's a little harsh, she's five!" Mai argued, the tension in the air grew.

Naru sighed before continuing. "You don't want your sister to know what else the ghost has done to you, correct?" he said, the child before him was amazed at his ability to read minds. "If you would like, I could have her leave."

"No!" she exclaimed, surprising everyone.

"Saku-chan," Kiko started, turning her sister to face her. "I need you to tell him what happened."

"Sakurako, we'll make sure the ghost won't harm you again," Mai assured he.

"He-he would tell me about how he was going to get back at Granny Kiko. He wants onee-chan to go inane and commit supicide," Sakurako explained, frantically closing her eyes and balling her hands into fists.

"Supicide?" Mai asked aloud, as Lin turned away from his typing.

"She means suicide," he replied, going back to the non-stop typing.

"I know that, it's just hard to see where she got the P from."

"Is that all he has done, Saku-chan?" Kiko asked.

"He does things when I tell people about him," she added, wishing to not go any further.

"What sort of things?" Naru asked.

Monk looked at the girl, knowing that she had had enough. "Naru, she just told us about the entity, if we wait, he'll show himself," Monk suggested. "Besides maybe this guy does different things every time."

Sakurako nodded, lowering her head into Kiko's chest. "And let harm come to a five year old?" Naru questioned, glaring at Monk.

"Naru!" Mai exclaimed. "Can't you see she doesn't want to talk anymore! She's had enough!"

"She's right, Naru," Lin argued. "And since she nodded about the ghost doing different things, we don't know what to look for anyway. Have Sakurako go with Takigawa and Taniyama when they do the temperature readings."

"That sounds good, what do you say Saku-chan?" Kiko asked. "Wanna spend some time with Monk and Mai?"

The girl hesitated a second before slowly nodding.

"Alright!" Monk exclaimed, standing up. "How about you show us around, Sakurako? Mai and I are bad with directions and could get lost easily."

"Monk! I'm not that bad!" Mai argued.

"Yes, you are," Monk, Naru, and Lin all replied together, causing the brown-eyed girl to blush and their blue-eyed hostess to laugh.

"Okay, Saku-chan, be good with Mai and Monk, I'll help Mom with lunch," Kiko gently ordered.

"Okay," she replied, hopping from her sister's lap and held onto Mai's hand.

***

"There's something strange about this case," Monk stated, taking the temperature as Sakurako clung onto Mai.

"You mean how this one is similar to the one with that doll, Minnie?" Mai asked, stroking the girl's hair.

"Well, that and how Mrs. Kimura wasn't able to convince Naru but Kiko was. Isn't that a little odd?"

"True, but it's not the first time something like this has happened. Remember Yasuhara was the one who convinced Naru to take on the case."

"Yeah, but that was a school, and the principal asked, but was turned down by Naru and if it weren't for the petition Yasuhara started I don't think Naru would've taken the case."

After Monk wrote down the some numbers, they walked into the next room. "So, Sakurako, what room are we in now?" Mai asked.

"This is Satoshi's room, he forgot to clean it," she replied, not letting go of Mai.

"I bet you'll scold him for that later," Mai laughed. "Am I right?"

Sakurako, nodded as Monk took the temperature. "It's a few degrees colder in here than the other rooms," he noted aloud.

"Do you think that could be the cause of Satoshi's behavior?" Mai asked.

"Could be, but it's too early to tell just yet," Monk replied.

***

After they finished taking the temperature they had lunch and met up in their base. "So, all the rooms are about 19 degrees, excluding Satoshi's room, the living room, and the kitchen which were a few degrees colder and then Kiko's room was the same temperature as the house. Very strange," Naru summarized, his index finger and thumb on his chin.

"What's strange?" Kiko inquired.

"Normally, in places with activity, the more active rooms have lower temperatures," Monk explained.

"Right, the spirits apparently take the energy around them making the air colder," Kiko replied. "And my room should be colder with the marks I've been getting."

"That's right," Naru confirmed.

"So, what do you think we're dealing with?" Mai asked.

"The entity has been quiet since this morning, so it's either gathering energy and we should expect the worst or it used too much energy and is recuperating," Naru mumbled. "Takigawa, are you up for an exorcism tonight?"

"Sure, but Naru, why tonight? We don't know what type of entity this is," Monk answered.

"Whatever this thing is, it isn't ready to take us on, we need to get rid of it while it can't put up a fight," Lin explained, not once did he stop his typing.

"Makes sense to me, what will you guys do afterwards?" Kiko asked.

"I'd like to stay the night, there is a chance of the exorcism failing," Naru replied, looking at one of his black folders.

"Are you doubting my abilities?" Monk teased.

"No more than if you were Miss Matsuzaki," Naru replied, causing Monk's mouth to drop and Mai to giggle.

"So once you're done with the exorcism, I'll stop getting these marks?" Kiko questioned, gesturing to her arm.

Mai nodded, "and possibly go away like with our last case right?"

"Anything's possible," Monk answered, "but you should stop receiving them. I'm gonna go prepare. Whatever gave you two that vision, isn't going to give in easily."

With that, Monk left the room "I better go see how Satoshi is, I think he ate his lunch in his room," Kiko announced, leaving as well.

Once again, Mai was left alone with the two most anti-social people in the world with nothing to do. "Why were there twelve people in the vision?" Naru mumbled, causing Mai to realize something.

"Right now, there's only eight people in the house, how did this thing know about the others?" Mai wondered.

"Kimura-san had no clue of the rest of our team, she thought it was just us four," Lin replied, continuing to type. "I personally didn't tell her how many there were."

"Kiko was the only one who knew," Mai whispered, her eyes widening. "Wait! You don't think this is caused her, do you?"

"It's possible, however, I've been taking that into consideration since I found out the ages of the children. Just to make sure, after the exorcism we'll do the test," Naru replied flipping through his file. "However if things don't turn out the way I plan, I'll need you to call the others and gather information."

Mai sighed and fell back into the couch. There he goes again, maybe there's a therapist or maybe a rehab center for workaholics, Mai wondered silently.

"Mai, tea," the overused order broke the room's silence, as well as a groan from a certain brunette.

***

After dinner, Monk performed the exorcism, whatever was hiding there did not go down without a fight. Lights flickered, the walls shook, banging came from the ceiling, yet it all ceased at once, the temperature was normal for every room. Naru knew there was something in the house causing Sakurako to fear, however was skeptical about the vision Kiko and Mai saw. If Sakura didn't know how many people were in their team, and Sakurako and Satoshi didn't know about the team's arrival, how would the entity know?

Kiko was the only one of the family who knew. There were two possibilities, Kiko's psychic abilities were adding to the paranormal activity. Or, the entity was able to travel. If it was the later, the team had their work cut out for them. Although, Naru, being the workaholic he is, felt the need to test his first theory, just to be sure.

Naru had Mai gather the mother, Kiko, the five year old, and a reluctant Satoshi, into the study on the third floor. Using the light, Naru hypnotized the group telling them the table lamp would move. After locking the room from the inside, the only thing left was to wait.

Sakurako had fallen asleep on her mother's lap and Satoshi was half asleep on the couch. "It's time for these two to go to bed," Sakura announced.

"I don't think Satoshi's going to get up," Kiko giggled.

His mother held on to her youngest while trying to shake him awake. "Satoshi," she said sweetly, "Satoshi-kun, time for bed."

"No," he whined, rolling over.

"Here," Monk offered, picking him up.

"Thank you," Sakura replied, as they headed upstairs.

"It's getting late, I'm gonna turn in, unless there's anything else you'd like me to do," Kiko said, standing up.

"There's nothing for you to do," Naru replied coldly, turning in his seat.

"What he means, is that we can handle things for the night, get some sleep," Mai translated, smiling.

"All right, don't stay up too late," Kiko warned, leaving.

"Do you have to be so cold to her, she just wanted to help," Mai scolded her boss.

Her boss was silent, ignoring her? Maybe...

"If you're not going to answer me, then I may as well just turn in," she huffed.

"Before you go, change the tapes in the kitchen and Kiko's room," Naru ordered, pointing to some tapes next to the wall of monitors.

Mai changed the tapes and headed for the guest room, a few doors from Kiko's.

***

She was exhausted, as soon as she hit the bed she was asleep. The familiar scent of her pillow filled her nostrils and she was comfortable.

Well, except for a stinging sensation on her left shoulder. It turned into burning, then a feeling like something was carving into her skin. Becoming so severe she awoke with a scream.

Naru and Monk burst through the door to see Kiko sitting up gritting her teeth, holding onto the back of her shoulder. Mai turned the light on as she, Monk, Naru, Lin, and Sakura hurried to the girl.

"Earlier than usual," Kiko noted, removing her hand to look. Her eyes grew wide. "There's never been blood before."

Sakura sat on her daughter's bed and took a look. "This one's the worst yet," she commented, moving the strap of her tank top.

"Mai, call the others," Naru ordered.

"Naru, it's the middle of the night," Mai argued.

"Call them and have them do research on the property," Naru ordered, his tone as serious as when they were at the Minami Mansion. "Takigawa, go with her."

"Right," Monk said, pushing Mai out of the room.

It appears that this case is far more sinister than we thought, Mai thought looking back at Naru. Naru is more jumpy than usual.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2-Old Friend

July day 2 9:00 AM

Mai and Monk split the number of people to call. Mai called Yasuhara and Ayako, while Monk called Masako and John. Needless to say, no one was happy with being woken up at one thirty in the morning, but they all agreed to head over later that morning.

Now, Sakura had Satoshi dropped off at soccer practice, and was with Sakurako at a play date. Naru and Lin were reviewing evidence, while Monk and Mai were hanging out with Kiko in the living room.

"How's your shoulder, Kiko?" Mai asked as Kiko brought in some tea.

"It stings a little, but nothing too bad," she replied.

"Well, we have one answer to our vast amount of questions," Monk mumbled.

"Which would be?" Kiko asked, sitting down in the chair across from Mai.

"That none of the activity in the house is cause by living beings," he replied.

"Right, teenage girls undergoing stress can create poltergeist activity," she answered.

"It's not that we wanted to think you were the cause, it's just in the vision there were twelve people, you were the only one who knew about the eight of us," Mai added.

"I see, how do you know it wasn't a human?"

"That light Naru had you watch last night," Monk started, sipping his tea, "was used to hypnotize you, we locked the room up and the lamp we left never moved."

"Wow," Kiko sighed, slouching in her chair. "You guys sure are thorough."

"It was Naru's idea," Mai finished.

Kiko sat up. "Someone's here," she said, walking towards the door, her guests awestruck. "Calm down, I just saw a car pull up, I'm not that freaky with my powers."

She opened the front door revealing Ayako and Masako. "Wow, so you weren't lying about Masako being on your team," Kiko joked, gesturing the two inside.

"There really is a foul presence, blood thirsty," Masako commented.

"You must be Kiko," Ayako said, smiling. "I'm Ayako Matsuzaki, priestess."

"Pleasure to meet you," Kiko smiled, before Monk cut in.

"Aren't you a little old to be a priestess?" he called, walking into the hall with Mai.

A loud thump and cry of pain were heard. "Not again," Mai sighed.

"How can something so small be so painful!" Monk whined, as Ayako's purse swung, dangling from her hand.

"What about a brick?" she asked.

"Oh, there's plenty of them in your head!"

As the two continued their squabbling, Kiko leaned into Mai. "So they always do this?"

"You get used to it," Mai sighed.

"Okay then, why don't we go into the living room," Kiko offered, as she and her teenaged guests left the quarreling adults.

"So, what's it like being a medium? Weren't you scared at first?" Kiko handed Masako her tea.

"I didn't understand that the spirits I was seeing were deceased souls, so I was more confused than afraid," Masako replied, accepting the cup.

"Just a question, Kiko?" Mai asked.

"Yes?"

"How do you know so much about the paranormal?"

"Oh." The young hostess smiled. "My great-grandmother wrote many books before she died. I own a copy of nearly every one, as well as some Oliver Davis novels. Here, I'll go get them." With that, before any protest could be made, Kiko was out of the room and the doorbell rang.

"I got it!" Monk called.

"Looks like John and Yasuhara are here," Masako commented and Mai sighed.

"Meaning that we're going to get to work soon."

John and Yasuhara walked into the room. "Long time, no see, Mai," Yasuhara said with a wave.

"Hey guys."

"How've you been?" John asked, sitting on the couch next to Mai.

"I'm okay, but this case is getting strange, the oldest daughter, Ki-" Before the girl could finish the hostess walked into the room.

"Okay, so I've brought a couple of them, there's more in the back if you're interested." She only saw Masako, but her instincts made her turn just enough to see her new guests. The books in her arms dropped instantly. "Y-Yasu?"

"Kiko?" Confusion fell upon the room as Yasuhara knelt down to help pick up the books.

"You two know each other?" Monk wondered aloud.

"Actually, yes, we-" Before an explanation could be given, Sakura and the rest of her children walked in.

"Kiko! Did the others get here safely?" she called, seeing Yasuhara. "Yasuhara! It really has been a while! How've you been?"

"Um, hi Mrs. Kimura, I'm doing well, how about you?" Yasuhara extended his other hand, helping Kiko up.

"Great!"

Lin walked in, stopping all conversations. "Naru wants us at base," he said, turning to leave.

Mai let out another sigh. "They're such workaholics."

***

"Last night, when Kiko gained a new mark, there was activity in the playroom," Naru explained, pointing to one of the screens. "I made sure Sakurako didn't go inside."

Lin fast forwarded the tape during the time Kiko was attacked, everyone was in her room when blood appeared on the wall. "Plus erit immolatus," John read aloud.

"What?" Mai's response.

"It's Latin," Masako answered.

"That's right," John added.

"What does it mean?" Monk scratched his head.

"'More than one shall be sacrificed,'" Kiko answered, earning several pairs of eyes on her.

"She's correct," John smiled.

"When did you learn Latin?" Yasuhara inquired.

"My new school offered a Latin course and I got into it," she answered. Naru turned in his seat, not amused.

"No one is to be alone in this house, is that clear?" he said, the faintest hint of irritations in his eyes.

"Yes, sir."

"I want Miss Hara and Miss Matsuzaki to go around the house and exorcise whatever you find." Naru turned toward John. "John, I want you to stay with Mrs. Kimura and Sakurako, we believe the ghost will go after them next. Stay with them even when they leave the house, we don't know the full potential of this spirit yet." He turned to the last few members of his team. "I want you three to do further research on the property take Kiko with you."

A single nod in unison came before everyone split up.

***

"I thought you already researched the property, Yasuhara!" Monk complained in the study on the third floor.

"I tried, however, the records at the library were destroyed," Yasuhara explained. "The librarian said the current owner actually had copies."

"Yeah, my dad wanted copies to see if there was any truth my great-grandmother's words. He never really got around to it." Kiko pulled out the files.

"As interesting as the house's history may be, I'm more interested about your history together," Monk said, addressing Kiko and Yasuhara. "Did you guys used to date?"

"What?" Kiko replied, raising a brow.

"Monk, don't you think you could've asked that, I don't know, more subtly?" Mai shook her head.

"It's fine, Mai," Yasuhara interjected. "No, Monk, we never dated."

That's odd, normally he brings up something about his "eternal love" for Monk, Mai wondered. This case is getting stranger and stranger.

"I used to got to Ryokuryou high school, but I left last summer," Kiko explained.

"So you went there, too, did you keep your abilities a secret?" Monk inquired, as Kiko handed him some files.

"I got this vibe to not say anything about it," she handed files to everyone, "but I can't stop my visions, when I knew someone would get hurt, I warned them."

"I'm sure the school board was thrilled," Mai sighed, remembering the case at that school.

"Needless to say, once Sakauchi came, the teachers became stricter. It came to the point where I had to leave the school," Kiko continued, turning to Yasuhara. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you, Yasu, or anyone for that matter. My mom didn't want this following me around."

"It's fine, I suspected as such."

"So that's why you were both surprised to see each other," Monk concluded.

Mai sighed. "That story was way more interesting than researching."

"What's with all the sighing, Mai?" Yashara asked.

"Huh?" Her head snapped up. "I don't know, have I been sighing a lot?"

"Yes." A response in unison, causing the two older teens to look at each other.

"Did you have a dream or something, Mai?" Monk question.

"I don't know," was her reply, shaking her head. "I think I did, but I can't remember."

"Mai, if your memory starts going now, Naru's gonna fire you."

"Shut up, Monk!" Mai argued. "Naru's gonna fire all of us if we don't start researching."

"Actually, Mai, you're the only one he can fire." Mai's confused eyes were on Yasuhara and his retort.

"What?"

"Monk and I don't get paid by Naru and this is Kiko's house, he can't exactly fire her."

"Ugh!" Mai cried out, slouching into her chair.

***

"What did you find out?" Naru asked at Base.

"Another house stood here but burned to the ground one hundred years ago," Kiko started.

"The owner mysteriously disappeared during that time, no remains were found of him," Monk added.

"The building we're standing in now, was originally built about twenty years later," Mai continued.

"Additions weren't made until the last forty years, however the past owners of the property are a different story," Yasuhara added. "There have been a total of fifty different owners since this place was built after the fire. All of which either died on the property or went missing."

"Yet, none of the deaths or missings were publicized," Monk continued, flipping through pages. "Fearing that no one would buy the property."

"The last owner, Koji Yamada, was longest living owner aside from Kiko's family. He refused to go in the house after finding out its history and lived with family members," Mai added.

"According to his sister's testimony, during the investigation of Koji's death," Kiko continued searching her pile for something specific. "She claimed, 'he said he was going to grab some belongings, since he decided to live with me until he sold the house. He didn't come home that night, I thought he stayed there. After he didn't come home for another day I called the police.' I think you know what happened from there."

"I see, Hara-san, Matsuzaki-san, did you find anything?" Naru asked, looking in his black file.

"I attempted to cleanse several rooms, including the playroom, Kiko's room, Satoshi's room, and the kitchen," Ayako started.

"The entity simply leaves the room," Masako finished.

"How many spirits do you think we're dealing with?" Masako turned to Yasuhara.

"I sense two spirits in the house, they're hiding though. I can only sense the presence of a man and a woman, I can't tell which is the one giving Kiki those markings."

"Monk, I want you and Mai to fill John in on the history, as well as change the tapes in these rooms," Naru ordered, handing them a list. "Miss Hara, I would like you to see Satoshi, find out if anything may be possessing him, take Miss Matsuzaki with you." He glanced at Kiko and Yasuhara. "I want you two to clean up that writing in the playroom."

"Sounds good!" Kiko agreed standing up.

After Mai and Monk had finished, Naru sent Monk to guard Kiko and Yasuhara, leaving Mai alone for the others to check in with. Normal enough, Lin and his younger charge were somewhere reviewing evidence, Mai once again felt a sleepy sensation take over her. She cursed herself as she lost the battle.

***

She awoke lying in blackness. Slowly sitting up, the setting changed. "Naru!" she shouted, standing. "Hey! Naru!"

Mai now stood in a meadowy area, it was the middle of the night, stars twinkled above her. "Naru! Where are you!" she yelled, seeing the dream manifestation of her boss. "There you are!"

As she ran up to him, he placed a finger to his lips. Understanding, she silenced herself as they turned. They revealed a large cliff with an even larger lake below it.

"Watch," Dream Naru said, looking at the top of the cliff. A woman was up there, her arms tied and weights on her legs.

"Oh my God," Mai exhaled quickly, seeing a man appear behind the woman.

The man held a pipe and knocked the woman out. Mai stood there and watched helplessly, wishing she could do something. The woman simply tumbled down into the watery depths.

Involuntarily, tears fell from Mai eyes, as Dream Naru pulled her into a hug. Apologizing even as his voice faded away.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3-Watery Grave

July Day 3 8:00 A.M,

"Gah!" she cried as she rolled off her bed hitting the floor.

Looking at the bed next to her, she saw it was unmade and empty. What happened? she silently wondered.

Standing up, she remembered falling asleep waiting at base, then her dream. How did she end up in her room? How long had she slept?

After changing her clothes, Mai headed to base, not surprisingly, she found her boss and co-assistant there. "You overslept, I need tea," Naru ordered, amazed as his employee disobeyed him.

She wasn't sure why she didn't go get his tea, something told her this needed to be done first. She sat at the table across from her insomniac boss. "Naru, I had a dream," she said, gaining his attention.

He motioned Lin to record what she said, as he gestured her to continue. After she explained, he sat there deep in thought.

"I know it was one of the murders that happened, but there was something off about it," Mai added after a moment.

"Such as?"

"His eyes. They were empty, like he was being controlled."

Naru sat in his thinking pose for a while, before he spoke. "Mai, tea."

Some things never change.

***

After giving Naru his tea, Mai sat in the kitchen eating breakfast with the others. She finished explaining her dream as Sakura took her youngest out of the room. "So, one of the murders involve possession," Monk said.

"Maybe a lot of them involved possession," John suggested, putting his dish in the sink.

"That would explain why so many have died," added Yasuhara.

"But, Masako, you said you only sensed two spirits," Ayaka pointed out, the medium nodded.

"Don't forget, Monk tried to exorcise the place before you got here," Kiko replied.

"Well, it's nice to see that I'm not the only one to have failed an exorcism," Ayako mocked.

"As I recall, you only had one that was successful," Monk scoffed.

"In any case, if there was anything possessing Satoshi, it's gone now," Masako said before a fight could commence.

"What if it was just one spirit possessing the murderers?" John offered.

"That would explain why he wants Kiko to die," Monk added.

"But he only killed the owners up to this point," Yasuhara said. "Wouldn't it make more sense to go after Kiko's parents?"

"What Sakurako told us a couple days ago would make sense," Mai replied. "She said the spirit was angry with their great-grandmother."

"What was the original owner's name?" Ayako asked.

"From what we found, no documents said his name," Yasuhara answered.

"But that lake and cliff you mentioned, when we got here I didn't see anything like that," Monk said, as Kiko's head popped up.

"Did the lake have a border of grass or of sand?" she asked.

"Mai, I think you may have done it again," Monk grinned.

"Actually, there were patches of both mainly sand and then grass around the cliff," Mai explained, Monk's face dropped.

"And the moment is lost," Yasuhara commented.

"It's okay, Mai," John said, comfortingly.

"No, no, sorry," Kiko started. "I know exactly what you're talking about, it's behind the backyard."

"Really?" Masako asked.

"I can take you there if you want."

***

That led the members of SPR and Kiko at the top of the cliff from Mai's dream, Naru was even present. "Miss Hara, do you feel anything?"

"I feel no spirits, but this place just gives off the presence of tragedy," the medium replied through her kimono sleeve.

"Despite Mai's dream, the view is gorgeous," Ayako commented, looking at the forest beyond the bay.

"We're really high up." Mai's voice shook.

"Mai, is this were your dream took place?" Naru asked, she nodded.

Mai walked toward the edge.

"The woman was standing right here."

She took another step. "Mai! No!"

Mai was pushed back as Kiko fell. Mai grabbed her hand as she hung off the edge. "Mai! Kiko!" Monk made a move to rush over to them, but a black clad arm stopped him.

"Don't, the edge is unstable, any extra weight and it could collapse."

"You okay, Mai?" Kiko asked, slowly trying to get back up.

"I'm fine, you're the one dangling from a cliff."

Masako's eyes widened as well as Kiko's. "Naru," she whispered.

There's someone behind me, Mai thought fearfully. That just wasn't possible.

She felt a hand on her back. "Don't move," Kiko ordered.

The hair on the back of Mai's neck stood up as she screamed. The two went tumbling down the cliff.

"Mai! Kiko!" came the cried of the team. Monk was in the middle of removing his shoes when two figures ran past him.

***

Mai's body fell into the water with a splash. Opening her eyes she couldn't see Kiko. She was running out of air and it was hard to see, she started to swim up when something grabbed her leg.

She let out a bubble of air in surprise as she was pulled down deeper. Struggle as she may, there was no escape as the air left her lungs.

I can't die here. She stopped moving, her lungs burning, muscles aching from lack of oxygen.

She continued to be dragged down by the entity, her vision becoming blurry. This can't be the end.

A dark figure came into view. Monk? Whatever was holding onto Mai let go as the figure smoothly eased the two back to the surface.

Mai started coughing and spat out the lake's water. "Are you okay, Mai?" her savior asked.

She knew the voice.

It always found a way of making her heart skip a beat.

Spinning her head to see the origin of the voice, did not do much good to the headache she gained. She gripped her head mid blush. "C'mon."

Naru helped Mai swim to the shore. The rest of the team had run down the hill to the shore to find Yasuhara and Kiko sopping wet and Naru and Mai heading for land. What caught Monk's attention was Kiko on the sand and Yasuhara bent over her, their lips pressed together.

"Well, if they haven't started dating yet, this may be a bit much," he smiled, Mai and Ayako instantly knew something was wrong.

"You idiot!" Ayako hit him with her purse.

"Do you carry that thing everywhere!"

"Kiko's not breathing!" Ayako ran to the two as Yasuhara continued CPR and Mai and Naru made it to shore.

Yasuhara was in the middle of pressing on her chest when Kiko started coughing and spitting up water. "Thank God," John exhaled crossing himself.

"Kiko, are you okay?" Yasuhara asked, helping her sit up before she collapsed in his arms.

Ayako checked her pulse. "She'll be fine, we need to get you guys out of these wet clothes."

Yasuahra lifted Kiko off the bay as they walked inside.

***

"How is she?" Monk asked as Sakura walked out of Kiko's room.

"She's asleep right now, when they fell I think she hit her head and passed out before she hit the water," she explained. "She'll be up and around in a few hours."

"What a relief," John crossed himself again.

"As for you, Mai, take it easy, you'll be a little sore for a while."

"Okay."

"It's a little late for lunch, would you mind if we had an early dinner?"

"Whatever works for you," Ayako smiled.

"Okay, it should be ready by four." With that, Sakura left.

"So, what now?" Yasuhara asked.

"I guess we check in with Naru at Base, let him know Kiko's okay," Monk offered. "John, you should stay with Sakura and the kids. Ayako, you and Mai should stay with Kiko, okay?"

"Right." They dispersed.

***

Naru sat at Base gazing at his file, what was going on? So many unanswered questions. What caused the fire one hundred years ago? What does the entity have against Kiko Nakagawa? Why did the entity kill the owners until now? And why did it not only attack Kiko on the cliff, but Mai? He could put a few things together but he needed more information about the fire.

That was when his silence was disturbed once again.

The group walked in to see Naru in another set of black on black clothes. Where does he get them all? "Naru? Mrs. Kimura said Kiko was going to be fine, what do we do next?"

Naru turned in his chair to face them. "Where's Mai?"

"I had her and Ayako stay with Kiko and John is with the rest of the family."

"I see," Naru paused, placing his hand on his chin, thinking. "There are many unanswered questions, that I plan to solve tonight." He turned to Masako. "Miss Hara, would you be up for a séance tonight?"

***

"Morning, Kiko," Ayako smiled as Kiko slowly opened her eyes.

"What time is it?" she asked, sitting up almost too fast.

"Careful, and it's three thirty, your mom is making dinner and Mai is getting tea."

"Oh."

Mai entered the room with a steaming cup, Monk came in just after her. "How're you doing, Kiko?"

She took a sip of her tea. "Just a headache, other than that I feel fine. What does Naru want us to do now?"

"You? Nothing, just rest. I just thought I should let you guys know that Masako's gonna hold a séance after dinner."

"After what happened today? That thing nearly killed both Mai and Kiko! Does he want Masako to die as well!"

"Ayako, please, not so loud," Kiko grimaced.

"Sorry."

"I'm going to get my things ready in case things turn for the worse." Monk left grumbling something about being tired and how Ayako's purse gave him a headache.

"So, exactly what happened?"

"You don't remember?" Mai asked. The girl thought for a moment.

"I remember sensing a spirit behind you, falling and hitting my head on a rock. Other than that, everything's a blur."

"After you both fell, Naru and Yasuhara jumped in after you. You must've breathed in water because when Yasuhara carried you out, you weren't breathing."

"By the time Naru and I made it out, Yasuhara was giving you CPR-"

Kiko's face reddened instantly. "C. P. R." she tried to shake the feeling off.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That blush." Ayako gained a wicked grin.

"Kiko, is that true? Mai's eyes widened.

"Is what true?" Kiko shook her head.

"I knew it!" Ayako gasped. "The moment he and John got here I had my suspicions."

"Suspicions about what?"

"You like Yasuhara!" the two smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4-Connections

July Day 3 3:50 P.M.

"You like Yasuhara!" The shouting made Kiko pale slightly.

"And I bet he likes her back!" Mai smiled.

"Why else would he not hesitate to rescue her?"

Kiko started laughing. "Don't try to deny it, kid, it's written all over your face."

She gave a sigh. "That's not why I'm laughing or why I blushed."

"Tell us, oh wise one."

"Truth is, the CPR incident was probably the first time I had been kissed."

"Really?" Mai replied, plopping herself on the floor.

"Well, at least since I was Satoshi's age. As for Yasu, I did have a crush on him but-"

"I knew it!"

"But I knew right away he didn't feel the same."

"How come?"

"I wanted to know why someone as popular as him didn't have a girlfriend. So, I did a little research-"

"You stalked him."

"Thank you, Ayako. Anyway, after a while I began to think that he was gay, or at least that's what all the girls thought. Then one day I asked him."

"If he was gay?"

"No, Mai, why he didn't have a girlfriend."

"And?"

"He said there was no one at school who was really his type."

"Or he was too shy to tell you."

"I don't think so. Yasu's never really shy; the idea that he's gay would be more likely."

"I don't know, love has some pretty strange ways."

"Yeah, like you and Monk!"

"In his dreams!"

"Now that I knew," Kiko laughed.

"Let's not forget you and Naru!"

"Shut up, Ayako!"

Knock. Knock.

"Come in!" Kiko called, as her brother walked in.

"Satoshi-kun?" Mai's mouth dropped slightly.

"Mom said dinner's ready, if you're up for it," he said sheepishly.

"Thanks, Satoshi," Kiko smiled, getting up.

"Kiko, you shouldn't be moving," Ayako protested.

"I'm fine, I'm hungry, and if you think something like this is gonna stop me from witnessing a séance, you're dead wrong," she grinned.

"Sorry, Ayako, she may be even more stubborn than Naru."

***

After dinner, the nine of them met in one of the storage rooms on the third floor. A Japanese styled table with nine mats was set up. Naru had Monk keep the rest of the family in the living room covered with charms and a protective spell. As long as they didn't leave the room, they should be safe.

"Are you sure you wanna be here for this?" Monk asked.

"Are you kidding?" Kiko smiled. "Miss possibly my only chance to witness a séance first hand? I don't think so."

"Yup, more stubborn than Naru," Mai whispered.

"Only more polite and cheerful about it," Ayako added.

Masako was at the head of the table. Lin, Kiko, Monk, and Yasuhara from the right of her, and Naru, Mai, Ayako, and John at her left. Two candles were placed on the table. "Are you ready, Miss Hara?" Naru asked.

"Yes." With that, Masako's head dropped and their night vision camera started rolling.

"Who are you?" Naru asked confidently.

"In my time, we were taught to respect our elders and introduce ourselves," Masako growled, a smirk appearing on her face.

"Are you the one who gave Kiko those marks?"

"Cocky, aren't you?"

"Are you the owner of the house that burned down?"

"That wasn't my fault!" Masako screamed.

"What is your name?" Naru remained completely unfazed.

"I refuse to give my name to a cocky bastard like you!" Masako started thrashing about.

"Are S and A your initials?"

"You're one smartass bastard!"

"Nakagawa Kiko was only five years old at the time of the fire, why do you want revenge?"

"She's the reason I'm still here!" Masako yelled, leaning toward Naru. "Her great-granddaughter is the only way to get back at her! They're one in the same!"

"Were you the one who pushed her and my assistant of the cliff?"

"Ha! Your assistant got in my way! If you hadn't bothered to jump in, I could've ridden us both of us of two annoyances!" Masako glanced at Kiko then at her hands. "This body has annoyed you all once or twice, surely you won't miss her."

Masako lifted her hands and began choking herself. "Monk! Lin! Restrain her!" Naru ordered, they quickly obliged. "John!"

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..." John started as Masako writhed in pain.

"That can't stop me!" She broke free and pounced toward Kiko, who jumped back as Monk and Lin got a hold of her again. She began chanting something.

"John, hurry!" Naru ordered.

John continued his prayer as Naru turned to Yasuhara. "Get the girls out of here! Now!"

"Right!" Yasuhara put his hand on Kiko's shoulder guiding her out. Ayako took Mai and followed.

"In principio," John finished as a black mist came out of Masako's mouth. She passed out immediately after.

The mist began to glow a blue tint, forming a dragon like shape that stared at Naru. "I tried to do you a favor. You will pay!" it growled soaring towards him.

Mai's mind just flashed back to their last case, it ended badly. She couldn't let that happen again, if that ghost knew how to control his PK, they would all be dead. "Naru!"

Naru stood still, ready to take on whatever this thing was, only barely registering Mai's cry. The spirit was racing toward him when something knocked him out of the way. Turning around only confirmed his theory and worried him even more.

Mai had pushed Naru out of the way; the spirit ran into her, throwing her against the wall. It went through her much like what happened to Naru. Cries of shock, pain, and concern were heard as Mai slumped down to the floor with a moan. Everyone ran to her, blood was seeping out of the right side of her waist. The ghost laughed. "I wasn't aiming for her, but that made things more interesting!"

"Monk!" Naru shouted.

"Nau maku san man dabazara dan kan!"

The ghost went away, leaving Mai bleeding on the floor, Masako passed out, and the rest of the team worried. "I'll get Mrs. Kimura!" John rushed out of the room as Ayako tried to stop the bleeding.

"This isn't good," she muttered as Yasuhara removed his shirt to help stop the flow of blood.

***

"Where do you think you're going!" Ayako shouted.

"There's a piece of information we're missing. I intend to find it," Naru stated coldly.

"Aren't you going to at least wait until you find out she's okay? Or give your thanks to Sakura! We're goddamn lucky she's a doctor!"

"Ayako, please, shh," a soft voice cut in.

"Sakura! I'm sorry!" Ayako quickly bowed. "How is she?"

"She'll be fine, it looked worse than it was," Sakura smiled. "But she's in a lot of pain; I gave her something for it. If she sleeps until noon tomorrow she'll be up and around tomorrow afternoon if she takes it easy."

"Thank you," Ayako said gratefully, as Naru nodded and left. "And he means 'thank you.' he's such an ass!"

"The strong silent type," Sakura grinned. "Much like Satoshi."

She left after that, then the everlasting question arose. "What so we do now?" the priest managed to ask, still in his bloodstained robes. Mai's blood.

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say Lin's leaving with Naru." Yasuhara folded his arms.

"As much as I agree with Ayako and want to hit him, he was right about one thing," Monk stood up and began to pace.

"What would that be?" Masako leaned forward in her chair.

"No one is to be alone in this house," Monk finished. "Masako, Ayako, try to stay together." he turned to John and Yasuhara. "John, stay with the rest of the family, to make things safer, I think you should all camp out in the living room. Mai is in no condition to be moved and Kiko's already in there looking after her, Yasuhara and I will camp out in there."

"That sounds good," the priest sighed.

"Masako, before you and Ayako go to bed, I want you to check Mai, make sure she's not possessed like Naru was last case," Monk asked. She nodded walking into the room. "After that, I think should call it a night, agreed?"

"Agreed." Masako walked back out.

"Well?"

"I don't sense anything," she smiled. "There's nothing possessing her."

"That's a relief."

"Okay guys, get some sleep. We'll figure out what to do in the morning."

***

She found herself holding someone's hand; the pain in her side had vanished as she looked up to her companion. "What are they doing to that man, Daddy?" Mai asked, confused as to why she called this man her father.

"He's crazy, Kiko-chan," was his reply.

"Why?"

"He believes his wife is trying to talk to him," he paused. "His wife died a long time ago."

"So? Maybe it was a spooky ghosty!"

"That does not excuse his actions; he's been taking women to use as dummies trying to talk to his wife."

"I don't understand."

"Its fine, you're young, you don't need to understand just yet."

"Okay."

The scene changed, a mob was surrounding a man who was by the cliff. Mai stood next to Naru watching. "I'm innocent!" the man cried out.

"Naru, what's going on?" Mai asked, he didn't answer. A five year old girl who looked like a combination of Kiko and Sakurako walked by, stopping to stare at the scene.

"Kiko Nakagawa?"

"Kiko, is this the man you saw?" the man Mai referred to as her father asked.

"He-he grabbed Miss Haruka! She's in his house!" the poor girl was terrified.

"That's a lie! I never touched her!"

"Nakagawa! We found something!" a man shouted from where a small cottage stood.

Naru tried to turn Mai's head away, but it was too late. She saw the horrific sight.

"Haruka?" someone gasped. They were looking at the corpse of a young woman, no older than twenty, her face torn off.

"This was what she was wearing when she disappeared..." an angry voice trailed off. Haruka's father?

The man by the cliff stared intently at Kiko. "You! It's your fault!" he screamed.

"Yakumo! Use the torch!" someone shouted, the cottage burst into flames.

"No! My home!"

"You're not worthy of a home!" Kiko's father shouted.

"You're daughter will die by my hand!"

"Yakumo! Take Kiko away from here!"

Kiko was picked up by a young man, no older than Yasuhara or John. "Kiko Nakagawa will die!" A shout came.

The young Kiko watched in as much awe as Mai as one of the villagers used a piece of metal to hit the back of the man's head. He tumbled down into the water as Kiko's eyes widened and the vision faded.

In the blackness, Mai heard a woman's voice. "Shichiro!"

"Naru, why does that sound familiar?"

Naru smiled. "I'm sure you heard that a couple of nights ago in your dream."

Mai shook her head, she thought she had a dream. Before the one about the murder, but she couldn't place it.

Naru placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's fine if you don't remember, you're only human," he said comfortingly.

Why can't Naru act this understanding in real life? Mai wondered.

"Because I'm just an idiot scientist."

Mai blushed at that. He can hear my thoughts!

"Not always, just remember, I'm your guide. I need to know your questions even if you don't tell me."

"Shichiro!"

"Shichiro?" Mai wondered aloud. "Nee, Naru, is that the female spirit Masako sensed earlier? And Shichiro is the man?"

Naru half shook his head, half nodded. "The man in the house is Shichiro, you just witnessed his death," Naru explained. "The woman calling out is just a memory, a residual haunting."

"Residual haunting?"

"It's a ghost that's like a tape player. It repeats the same thing over and over again at the same time and place. She's no threat."

"Is she the woman Masako sensed?"

Naru shook his head. "No, this woman was exorcised during Monk's exorcism."

"Then why is she in my dream?"

"She is part of the reason the man stays here. She's calling out to him."

It started to click. The pieces began to fit together. "Hey, Naru, who is the woman spirit? And why is she hiding?"

Naru smiled. "You're starting to figure it out."

Mai suddenly felt pain in her side, bringing her to her knees. Naru knelt beside her.

"You're starting to wake up."

"Naru, it hurts," Mai whimpered.

But Naru was already fading away. The darkness fading into a soft orangey glow. Pain in her right side made her want to sleep again. Where she could talk to Naru and gain more information.

"He hasn't come back, huh?"

That sounds like Monk.

"No, and there's been no activity since the séance."

Masako?

"I don't know what will make me angrier, him dragging his ass back here as indifferent as always, or him staying out for another day!"

Another day? What is Ayako going on about?

"The entity is probably gathering his strength, what about that other spirit you sensed, Masako?"

Was that Yasuhara? He sounds so tired.

"She's been hiding, she wants to help us, but doesn't know how."

"All the family members have charms, right Ayako?"

Monk sounds even more exhausted.

"That's right, Sakura also said lunch would be ready by one."

Okay, I really don't care about where I am, but when I am!

"If Naru doesn't come back today, what are you going to do?"

The voice was soft and so close to Mai. Why is Kiko speaking so softly? Oh. Right. They all think I'm asleep.

"I'm not sure, I would like to get you, your family, and Mai out of here so we can exorcise the spirit, but we don't know if this thing will follow you."

"It was angry with Naru, but didn't follow him," Masako tried.

"But he's not this thing's target, Kiko is," Yasuhara pointed out.

"He's really not going to stop until I'm dead," Kiko sighed, though she didn't seem fearful.

"Or until we can exorcise it. We're not gonna let you die, Kiko," Ayako scolded.

"Calm down," Kiko laughed a little. "With you guys, I don't fear for my life, besides I think our friend is waking up."

Mai tried opening her eyes, somehow, the simple movement sent pain down her whole body. Wincing slightly, she smiled to everyone.

"Morning, Mai," Monk called softly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5-Hell Released

July Day 4 12:00 P.M.

"What day is it?" was her first question, not even bothering to attempt to sit up. If opening her eyes could cause her pain, what would that do! "What happened?"

"You don't remember?" Kiko asked, Mai shook her head grimacing in response. "Ayako, could you and Masako go get my mother?"

"Sure." The two left in a second.

"I just remember the séance, Masako was possessed and tried to choke herself. John was able to drive the entity out and then-" Before Mai could finish, she was about to sit up in her realization. Kiko held her down.

"Don't! Don't sit up!" she said, gently pressing Mai's shoulders to the bed.

"What is it, Mai?" Yasuhara and Monk walked over to her side.

"Naru! Is he okay?" Mai asked worriedly.

"Somehow, I knew she would ask that," Kiko smiled.

"He left last night after Sakura treated you, he hasn't come back yet," Monk explained.

"If you ask me, I think he was just pissed that you ruined his mojo by pushing him out of the way."

"Yasu!" Kiko threw a pillow at him.

"He'll be back, won't he?" Mai whimpered.

"He said he needed a piece of info and went to find it," Yasuhara explained.

"He probably should've just waited," Monk smirked.

"Why's that?"

"Mai, you had a dream, didn't you?" Mai nodded.

"I get it." Kiko smiled.

"How are you feeling, Mai?" Sakura asked walking into the room.

Sakura ushered everyone out of the room except Ayako and Kiko. After looking Mai over, redressing her wound, and a painkiller later, Sakura left and the group was reunited. "Well?" Monk asked, leaning against the doorframe.

"She said I'll just be sore for a while, the wound's closed up and if I don't strain myself I can get up whenever I want." Mai was now in a sitting position, pillows placed between her and the headboard.

"At least there's good news for a change," Yasuhara commented.

"What about your dream?" Ayako asked, crossing her legs.

Mai explained the visions from her dream, conveniently leaving Dream Naru out of it. Everyone listened intently, reeling in the details of events leading to the fire. The reasoning behind the hate concentrated in the house.

"So, the woman crying out for this Shichiro guy is the other spirit in the house?" Ayako relayed, as Monk shook his head.

"Weren't you listening!" A purse was thrown. "Seriously! What do you keep in there!"

"The woman in Mai's dream is just a memory, she sounds far too young to be the woman I sensed," Masako commented behind her kimono sleeve.

"At least we know the story behind the fire," Monk added, rubbing his head.

"Which reminds me," Yasuhara pulled out a strip of paper. "I had asked a couple of girls from Rokuryou to help with the research of the house. I forgot to call them and tell them that the documents were already here. However, one of them, Yori, called me this morning and gave me some interesting information."

"Well, are you going to just leave us hanging?" Ayako was getting annoyed.

"Her great-grandmother lived in this area when she was a child. Her father was one of the police officers that helped the mob in Mai's dream."

"How do you know that?"

"I don't, I really just know that Yori's great-great-grandfather was a police officer and was involved with the mysterious fire."

"Understood, go on."

"Apparently, whenever the topic came up, so did the name Atarashi S."

"Could it be Shichiro Atarashi?" Masako gasped.

"S.A. that would explain who's been giving me these marks, he's claiming me." Kiko traced one of the markings that were on her wrist.

"Hey, what if this thing can't travel unless he marked someone. He needs to be attached."

Eyes widened at Mai's theory.

"That would explain how he knew how many of us there are." Monk pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking.

"It also means Kiko's not safe anywhere," Yasuhara added grimly.

"Way to lighten the mood."

"It's fine, Ayako, I suspected such anyway." Kiko crossed her arms in slight exasperation.

"This thing, Shichiro, has been dormant for more than twelve hours. Monk, you think he'll become more violent?" Yasuhara leaned against the wall.

"That's a definite possibility."

"In other words, we need to exorcise him, before anyone else gets hurt."

"We could probably get my family and Mai out of here, Shichiro can't leave unless I do," Kiko sighed.

"But isn't Mai marked?" Masako asked.

"Not necessarily, she did get cut, but she didn't gain any markings like Kiko has. She still has a chance to get out."

"Ayako, I'm right here," Mai complained, crossing her arms. "And I'm not leaving, not until this case is solved."

"Idiotic and stubborn, I see," an icy voice rang through the room.

The emotion of the room turned cold as everyone stared at the indifferent young man they know and love yet hate. "N-Naru?" Mai gasped softly. Fire rose in Ayako's eyes.

"What the hell is wrong with you!" Ayako shouted, marching straight up to Naru. "You're such an idiot! Look what you've done!"

Ayako pulled up her sleeves revealing the same markings Kiko had, with blood trickling down them. "Lin, restrain her. Monk and Yasuhara, get John."

They obeyed, Monk stayed with the family while Yasuhara came back with John. "Kiko, Miss Hara, help Mai get out of here, and wait outside with Yasuhara," Naru ordered, as Kiko helped Mai stand.

From outside, the group could hear John's prayer and Ayako struggle. What was really shocking them was Sakurako standing right next to them. "My refrection talked to me!" she exclaimed, hugging Kiko's leg.

"Saku-chan? What are you talking about?" Kiko asked, stroking the girl's hair.

Naru walked back out with Lin. "John was able to drive out the spirit, when it tried to attack him, my shiki managed to injure him," Lin explained.

"How's Ayako?" Kiko asked.

"She's asleep, what's Sakurako doing here?" Naru questioned coldly, turning toward her.

"She said that her reflection spoke to her," Mai replied.

"Yasuhara, Miss Hara, stay with John and Miss Matsuzaki. Kiko, Mai, and Sakurako, come with me."

Everyone went where they were told. Naru led the group back into base, checking his notes as Sakurako told her story. "My refrection talked to me," she repeated, Naru started to get annoyed.

"What did it say?"

"She said to get out, someone was going to die!" she explained frantically.

"Do you know who?"

"I-I think she said it that-" before she could finished, they heard a scream.

"John!" It was Masako screaming. The group ran back to the bedroom.

"Hang in there, John!" Yasuhara shouted. John was dangling out the window. Lin ran over to help Yasuhara pull in John by his leg.

"What happened?" It was fairly obvious that Naru was not a happy bunny.

"It was Shichiro," Masako gasped.

"Shichiro?" Naru repeated.

"As much as I would love to delve into the very small chance that we all knew something before Naru did, I think John should explain what happened, then Mai should explain her dream," Yasuhara suggested.

"Father Brown, what happened?" Lin asked.

"It was a little warm, so I opened up a window. When I went to lean against it, Masako gasped and something pushed me out," John explained, after a few breaths.

Naru nodded, then turned to Mai. He placed his hands on her shoulders and made her sit down on the chair behind her. "You had a dream?"

Mai quickly described the dream, once again leaving out the details of her boss's appearance. Naru placed his hand under his chin in thought. "That gives us the first name. I could only find information on Atarashi S."

"You couldn't find his first name?"

Naru shook his head, then sighed. "We will settle this tonight. I want the family, Hara-san, Yasuhara and Mai to stay out of the house for the night."

"What about Kiko and Ayako?" Yasuhara questioned.

"They've been marked by Shichiro, I'm sure you already came up with the possibility that he will follow anyone who has his mark. Not to mention, he's after Kiko. Even if he couldn't leave the property, if Kiko evacuated, it would be nearly impossible to get him to appear."

"Nee-san?" Sakurako was becoming frightened, as she tightened her grip on her sister's leg.

"I'll be just fine, Saku-chan. The man you've seen won't bother you much longer, I promise," she replied reassuringly.

There was a grumble coming from the bed. Everyone turned to see Ayako sit up groggily. "What happened? Naru? When did you come back?" She was much calmer.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Naru replied.

She thought for a moment. "We...we were talking about how Mai wasn't marked, then...then nothing."

"I think Shichiro was really just heightening her emotions," John explained. "He didn't have too much control over her. She was already annoyed with you, so his influence was really all that was needed."

"I see..." Naru caught his chin in his hand once again, thinking.

Suddenly a scream filled the air. "Takigawa! Satoshi-kun!"

"Mom!" Kiko exclaimed, running out of the room. Mai instantly followed.

"Kiko! Mai! Wait!" Yasuhara exclaimed, running after them.

"Miss Hara, Miss Matsuzaki, stay here with Sakurako," Naru ordered, looking at Lin and John, who instantly followed him as he ran out of the room.

Sakura Kimura was in the living room, on her sees in shock as she saw Monk unconscious on the ground. She gathered her composure and rushed to his side as the group ran in. "What happened, Mom?" Kiko asked, helping her.

"I-I don't know, I-I mean, I'm not sure," she stuttered. "I had noticed that Sakurako wasn't with us, we waited a little bit to see if she had just gone to the bathroom or something. When we went to go look for her, Mr. Takigawa was lifted in the air and thrown to the ground! And I don't know where Satoshi is!"

The rest of the group ran in as Sakura explained what happened. Monk opened his eyes not too long after, then complained of a headache. Sighs of relief were given in return.

"We need to find Satoshi!" Kiko demanded, standing up to search the house. Naru stopped her.

"You're Shichiro's target, everyone in here, besides Lin and myself, will stay here. We'll search the house," Naru argued.

"Just the two of you? We'll find him faster if more of us search," Kiko protested.

"Kiko's right!" Mai agreed.

"Takigawa is currently recovering, leaving really only John and Lin with abilities to protect others for the time being. A large search party is not an option."

"Naru!"

"But-"

"You said so yourself, you knew no warding magic," Naru countered, catching the girl off guard. "You have no way to protect yourself, stay here."

He and Lin left, with an angry and exasperated Kiko in their wake. "Well, he's in a harsh mood today," Yasuhara commented.

"It's just like it always is," Kiko whispered, it was barely audible. Mai had to make out what she said.

What does she mean? Mai wondered, as Kiko stood up.

"Kiko, where are you going?" John asked, about to go after her.

"The kitchen is right there, I figured making tea may be the only way I can calm down," she replied, quickly walking into the kitchen.

John made a move to follow, but Yasuhara grabbed his arm. "Let her go, she needs to calm down." John nodded.

It wasn't long until everyone could hear the teakettle whistling. Mai decided to give Kiko a hand, it had been ten minutes, surely, she had calmed down by now. She walked in to see Kiko staring in front of her the sight was a little relieving but soon horrifying.

"Satoshi-kun?" Mai found herself asking.

There he stood, one hand grasping the doorframe, a drop on blood trickling down his lip. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you, Kiko," he huffed painfully. "There really is a ghost here."

At that moment, Satoshi collapsed forward, causing Kiko to cry out. Mai screamed when she saw the knife sticking out of the ten-year-old boy's back. "Satoshi!" she screamed.

Naru came running as soon as Mai's cry filled the air. "Mai!" he yelled, seeing her standing in the hallway.

A sudden pain in Mai's side came, causing her to collapse as well. It's too soon for the painkillers to wear off, Mai thought, grasping her sighed, barely registering Naru's calls.

"Mai! Mai! What's wrong!" he cried out, too afraid to touch her.

"It hurts," she whimpered.

Naru made a daring move; he lifted up the side of her shirt to reveal the bandages. His findings were disturbing. Blood had seeped through the bandages, instead of a line, or some scratches, his fear had become reality.

In blood on the bandages, in beautiful calligraphy, were the initials S.A.

Mai had been claimed.

Chapter Text

July Day 4 3:30 P.M.

"Take this with you just in case," Naru offered, handing Sakura a piece of paper.

"What's this?" she replied, lifting Sakurako into the ambulance.

"It's a charm, I'll explain on the way." Masako sat down next to Sakura.

The ambulance left with most of the family in it. The excitement from earlier had left much of the team handicapped. Ayako's arms were bandaged. John was still a little woozy from being hung upside down out the window. Monk had a bump on his head, nothing serious though. The paramedics wanted to bring Mai to the hospital, but after Naru and Lin spoke with them, they settled with bandaging her up.

"Yasuhara-san," Naru started, turning toward him. "I want you to meet up with them at the hospital."

"No can do." He lifted up his left hand.

"So, you've been marked as well, I see," Naru noted, seeing the bandages. He turned to Ayako. "Are the charms in place?"

"I blocked off the second and third floors to the spirit as well as the kitchen."

"I can guarantee you Shichiro's gonna be pissed." Monk crossed his arms. "The girls and Yasuhara should stay out here."

"Even if Shichiro is trapped inside he won't show himself," came the cold reply.

"He's after Kiko, if she doesn't show neither will he," Lin finished.

"What are we going to do?" the priest asked, bible in hand.

"Takigawa, Father Brown, are you ready?" The two nodded. "We should expect the worst, I want everyone else to stay together."

"Right."

They walked inside the home, everyone aside from John and Monk were huddled with Lin ready to call out his shiki. Things were surprisingly calm, as if Shichiro knew this would be his final and only chance to gain his revenge. The exorcists looked to their young manager for orders. Naru simply nodded and the exorcism began.

A laugh filled the air, crazed and menacing, shaking the whole house. It caused everyone to take a protective stance. "Fools!" it cried out, laughing harder. "You think a little something like this can stop me? Pathetic!"

"Naru! The temperature's dropping!" Mai shouted, seeing her breath.

"And you! You're annoying! An obnoxious little bitch like you was allowed to survive that fall, but I wasn't! There truly is no God!" Naru took a step back holding an arm out to protect Mai. "However, as much as I would enjoy seeing your death, there is someone else I need to deal with first."

"Yasu!" Kiko shrieked as Yasuhara was lifted into the air by the collar.

He was thrown across the room, narrowly missing John and hitting the wall. Kiko ran to him before Lin could pull her back. "That was fun, who shall I play with next?"

Why isn't this working? Monk thought, while continuing his mantra.

"How about the priestess? How are your arms healing?" the demonic voice echoed through the air as Ayako suddenly cried out.

"Ayako!" Mai cried out lifting two fingers, while rushing to her. "Rin, pyou, tou, shah, kai, jin, retsu, zai, zen!"

"Annoying, obnoxious, and feisty, I don't like that at all."

The bandages around Ayako's arms were drenched in blood. Mai was constantly trying to help her. "Time for you to shut up!" Shichro screamed. A sudden pain in Mai's side made her scream and fall to the ground.

"Mai! Ayako! No!" Kiko yelled, helping Yasuhara sit up.

"How does it feel? Seeing the people you've just become close to suddenly dying at your feet?" he laughed, a gust of wind sent Monk and John flying into the wall. Lin was about to call his shiki when he was thrown as well. "There's nothing you can do about it either!"

Naru was helping Mai when she was lifted and thrown into him and they both hit the wall. "Mai!" Naru shouted, as Mai slumped over in pain.

"You're next!" Shichiro laughed suddenly materializing.

"No! You're next!" Kiko retorted, standing. But it wasn't Kiko, well, it was and it wasn't. "You're done terrorizing my granddaughter and her family!"

"You decided to show yourself. I was wondering when you would decide to intervene," Shichiro laughed. "Now I can get rid of you and your reincarnation."

"Just you try." She held up two fingers. "Rin, pyou, tou, shah, kai, jin, retsu, zai, zen!"

Shichiro stopped moving. "He's temporarily paralyzed, but not for long," Kiko explained, turning to everyone. "The past few days have weakened him, he can be exorcised, but I need your help."

"Nakagawa, Kiko?" Monk found himself asking.

"Listen to her!" Naru ordered.

"We don't have much time, I need everyone who is currently able to perform some spell to do it!" she ordered.

Mai slowly sat up, despite the protests from her boss and made a seal with her hands. "Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" she chanted painfully.

"In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God..." John joined in, standing up.

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan sendamakaro shata sowayata un tarata, kan man. Naumaku san manda bodaran, on boron," Monk added.

"Rin, pyou, tou, shah, kai, jin, retsu, zai, zen," Ayako chanted.

"You're words have no affect on me!" Shichiro screamed, finally able to move.

Kiko began chanting in an unknown language as Lin called out his shiki. Shichiro screamed at the contact of Lin's shiki and John's holy water. Mai began to chant the nine cuts as Lin chanted his own. "Rin, pyou, tou, shah, kai, jin, retsu, zen, gyou!"

"No! Kiko must die!" Shichiro shrieked rushing toward her.

Some of the chanting stopped to shriek her name, but Kiko stood her ground, she didn't stop her chanting. Shichiro stopped directly in front of her. "Nakagawa or Kimura you still have my mark!" The spirit raised his hand causing Ayako and Mai to yell in pain.

"Don't stop! He's weakening!" Kiko shouted. Blood was running down her arms. The initials began glowing. "The pain will be over soon!"

Lin whistled for his shiki once again, Kiko glanced at John and Monk, still chanting. They understood. It would take everything they had, but this battle would end tonight. Right here. Right now.

"All together!" Monk yelled. Everyone began their incantations at once.

The jumble of different religious methods, as well as unknown methods, filled the air, in what was almost perfect harmony. We're in synch! But how? Is this Kiko's doing? Mai thought finishing her Seal of the Immovable One, then started the Nine Cuts.

In a single moment, everyone finished their incantations, Kiko raised her left arm, the blood dripping off and the markings disappearing except for the one barely seen under her short sleeved shirt. Her eyes softened slightly. "Noriko is waiting for you," she said sweetly, catching the spirit unguarded as everything happened.

"Zen!"

"In principio."

"Gyou!"

"Kan!"

Holy water, shiki, Monk's talisman, and the Nine Cuts all hit Atarashi Shichiro at once, his final retaliation was a scream as his soul finally came to realization. She was on the other side. Waiting. "I'm sorry," were the man's final words as he began to glow a goldish color and faded away.

Wiping the sweat from her brow, Kiko turned to the others. "Arigato, all of you," she said sincerely, bowing.

"No, thank you," Monk found himself saying.

"My time in this world is coming to an end, I can't stay much longer," she started then looked at Ayako and Mai. "I'll use the last of my energy to relieve you of Shichiro's mark, however, any injury you have received that were not his initials can only be healed with time. Even Kiko herself isn't entirely free of this mess."

"Thank you, but shouldn't you use the last of your energy to talk to Kiko or Sakura?" Ayako's arms had stopped bleeding.

She smiled, then looked up. "I'm afraid my time will be up by the time she awakes, and my granddaughter isn't exactly close by."

"We couldn't risk them becoming harmed more than they already were!" Mai burst out, instantly covering her mouth.

Kiko laughed. "It's perfectly fine, I understand, I would have done the exact same thing." Kiko smiled, knowing she was nearly finished. "Please tell my granddaughter and her family how terribly sorry I am. I brought this upon them, whether it was or was not intentional, I caused this. Also, please tell Kiko when she wakes up I'm sorry I couldn't remove all of her marks, but I was able to give her a mark that will benefit her in the future. Tell Satoshi to keep an open mind, there are so many things he'll never be able to understand if he doesn't see different sides. And please, tell Sakurako I'm sorry for scaring her, I just needed her to pass on a message."

"You have our word," the priest smiled, grasping his closed Bible.

"Thank you, may you all keep an open mind about your life, I've seen too much of the opposite all these years. I wish you luck in helping other people like my family. We all sincerely thank you," Kiko said, bowing one more time. The next thing the group knew was that Kiko was hunched over, grasping her left shoulder.

"Kiko!" came a couple gasps. The girl fell over with Yasuhara to catch her.

Ayako ran over to the girl, checking her pulse. She looked back at the group with a sigh. "Don't worry, she's fine, just a little drained."

"That's good." Everyone agreed.

And that's how another case is ended, Mai thought, noticing that the screaming pain in her side had dulled to a slight pulse. She glanced at the members of her team. But I still wonder...

***

July Day 5 11:30 P.M.

"We cannot thank you enough, my husband will be happy to know that the activity is over," Sakura thanked, bowing to Naru as everyone else was putting back the equipment.

Naru simply nodded and went to help put away some of the screens. Kiko ran and helped Mai when she was about to drop hers. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks, Kiko." Mai finally grabbed a hold of the equipment and went back into the house with Kiko in tow. "Hey, Kiko, something's been bothering me ever since we looked up the house's history."

"Huh? Shoot," came the reply, the girl genuinely confused.

Mai thought for a moment trying to recall the day Naru decided to accept the case. "When your mother came in, she said that your house was two hundred years old, but when we looked into the history this building was only built until about eighty years ago."

"I see."

"So, why did you lie?"

"I didn't lie, and neither did my mother, we had no clue when this house was built. However, we knew that we needed help, and that usually houses that were older tend to have more hauntings, so we thought that if we said we had an older house, then we would be more likely to get help."

"Hmmm...that makes sense." The two grabbed the last of the screens and the Den was now empty again. "That's the last of it."

Walking back to the car, another question popped into Mai's little head. "Your great-grandmother mentioned about removing your marks, she said that she couldn't remove them all. What exactly happened?"

"If you look on my left shoulder, same spot where I woke up with it bleeding, there is a K and an N written the, much like the S and A. Only I feel comforted by it, not uneasy like I had been."

"Oh I see it! It looks pretty, actually." The two began to laugh.

They walked back out to the car with everyone out there waiting. With the equipment all pack the only thing left was their bags. "Hey, Mai, want a ride? We'll be heading by your place," John offered. Mai looked to her boss who nodded.

"Sure." John took her bag and put it in the trunk of his car. She walked over to Naru. "Nee, Naru, something's been bothering me."

"Yes?" he replied, placing his bag into the van.

"When Sakurako came running telling us her reflection talked to her..."

"What about it?"

"Who was it?" She looked sincerely confused, her head cocking to one side.

"Nakagawa Kiko explained that one. As well did you," was his reply, causing her eyebrows to raise.

"Huh?" His assistant has become even more confused.

"Dummy," he muttered, turning to her with his arms crossed. "You even said so yourself, Nakagawa Kiko looked similar to Sakurako as a child."

Mai's mouth made an instinctive "o" shape, before she could remark on that she realized his first comment. "Don't call me that!"

Her boss simply smirked and walked away, patting her head as he left. "Jerk," she said under her breath, making her way over to the others who were saying their goodbyes to Kiko.

"I'm not gonna lie, I'll miss all of you," the young hostess smiled, as Monk patted her head.

"We'll miss you, too. Take care of yourself kiddo," he smiled back as the priestess handed the girl a piece of paper.

"Here's my number, call me if you need anything."

"Thanks!"

"Hold on! She should have my number, too!"

"Don't forget me!"

"I'm not going to be left out."

"Dog pile on Kiko!"

"Okay!" Kiko shouted, handing the group the paper so they could jot down their numbers. "Are you guys finished yet?"

"One sec...done!" Mai shouted practically throwing the paper in the girl's face. Everyone laughed.

"Okay, then, here." Kiko handed the six of them little slips of paper. "I thought it was only right if you all had my number as well."

"If you are all finished, I believe it is time we leave and stop bothering this family," an icy line came into the fun, some pouts were given in return.

"I guess it is time we left," Ayako sighed, heading to her car with Masako in tow. "Oi! Old Man! Aren't I your ride!"

"I'm coming you Old Hag!" Monk called back as the two began to bicker.

"Don't you have a license?"

"Yeah, but I don't drive."

"Why?"

The two continued to bicker leaving the remaining members of the team watching. John went to go start up the car and Mai hugged Kiko one more time, before heading to the car. "Well, I never thought that asking a ghost hunting team to come to my house would lead you here," Kiko teased, looking up to her friend.

"I never thought this job would bring me here." The two simply laughed.

Mai leaned forward in the car to honk the horn. "Yasuhara-san! C'mon!"

"Well, looks like you have to go," Kiko smiled. "Don't worry, at least this time we still have contact with each other. I'm sure we'll meet up sometime."

"I'm gonna hold you to that. We have over a year of catching up to do." With that, Yasuhara left for John's car and Kiko waved the rest of SPR off.

I'm gonna miss her, and her family, Mai thought, waving back to Kiko in the car. But I knew this would happen eventually.

The ride back to Mai's apartment was full of explanations about the case. Why did Shichiro choose to scare Sakurako with threats toward her family? One, she looked very similar to Nakagawa Kiko when she was her age, and two, if he was able to scare Sakurako then the whole family would become afraid of what he might do. When Kiko was possessed by her grandmother, she mentioned Noriko, who was she? Noriko was Shichiro's deceased wife, the woman shouting his name in Mai's dream. And why did Shichiro hold such a grudge? Kiko ratted him out with her psychic abilities, the townspeople all thought she simply witnessed him kidnap those women.

Satisfied with the answers given about the case, Mai still had one more thing on her mind, as John pulled up to her apartment. "Hey, Yasuhara?"

"Yeah?"

"Yesterday, when Naru told you to meet up with Masako and the family at the hospital, you told him you were marked by Shichiro."

"Yes?"

"You were never really marked, were you?" This statement raised eyebrows, as she opened the door and was about to grab her bag.

"How do you-?" John was even more surprised than Yasuhara.

"Hold on a sec." Mai grabbed her bag out of the trunk and walked back to Yasuhara's window. "When Ayako and I were attacked, yesterday, he reopened the wounds he gave us. After the exorcism was over, your bandages didn't have any blood on them."

"Naru needs to give you more credit," Yasuhara smiled, as Mai realized what she had just done. She smiled said her goodbyes and rushed into her apartment.

Once inside Mai couldn't help but give a little squeal of surprise and happiness, then thought about it one more time. Could it be true?

I figured something out before Naru?

Chapter Text

Chapter 1-Little Soul

A little boy with deep, emerald green eyes and jet black hair suddenly showed up in front of her. He looked a little scared, of what, Mai wasn't sure. "Are you okay?" Mai asked, kneeling to his level.

The boy gasped and began to run away. Was he afraid of Mai? Why? "Hey! Wait!"

"Mai!"

August Day 1 2:30 P.M.

Mai was instantly snapped awake by her boss's call. She snapped her head off of her desk hoping to only be given an order for tea and not some demoralizing speech about her sleeping habits. "I do not pay you to sleep at your desk, don't you have work to do?" Okay, so maybe it was a demoralizing speech.

"I already finished all the paperwork from our last case, organized the bills and reorganized the tea cupboard. I have no work to do."

"Then come to me, I'll give you more work." His icy indifference seemed to cling in the air as he dropped a folder onto Mai's desk. "Call the others, tell them to meet up here by four o'clock. Have Yasuhara do research on the property, if he needs to, tell him to come tomorrow and give him the address."

"A new case, huh? All right, I'll get on it," Mai sighed, as her boss left back to his office.

"Mai..."

Mai looked up from her phone before she dialed. "Yes?"

"When you're done making the calls, tea..."

Mai sweat dropped as her boss's office door closed. "Jerk." she mumbled as she called Monk.

***

"So, where are we going anyway?" Everyone was gathered outside in the parking lot in front of the SPR office.

"Mai, didn't you explain to her where the case is at?" Mai shook her head with a sigh.

"I knew she'd refuse to come if I told her."

"Very smart move, though had you told her we'd never have to deal with this Old Hag on th-" Monk's words were cut off with a purse to the head.

"So where are we going? Abandoned jail? Hospital? Another high school? Or maybe a-"

"It's a summer camp..." Mai's voice trailed off as they eagerly awaited Ayako's response.

"A summer camp? Why didn't you just say so?" Everyone's jaw-dropped. "We're staying in a nearby hotel, right?"

Everyone started laughing as the two workaholics themselves suddenly materialized. "If you are all done goofing off, I believe we have a case to get to," his indifferently annoyed voice pierce the air, automatically making the air ten degrees colder.

You know, I can definitely believe Naru was causing poltergeists as a kid. He literally just changed the temperature! Mai thought as she climbed into the van between her boss and co-assistant.

She had no clue how long it would take to get to the camp, or what she was going to do to pass the time. Naru wouldn't let her play with the radio, and neither of them would talk. What to do? What to do?

***

The little boy she had a dream of earlier appeared again. Well, at least now she knew how she was going to pass the time. There was some horror on his face, Mai knelt down to his level. "What's wrong? Are you okay?" she asked, offering her hand to the boy.

"Don't come!" the boy shouted.

"What?" Mai's head cocked to the side.

"You'll be next!"

The boy ran away again, this time Mai followed. "Hold on a minute! Maybe I can help!" Mai called out.

"You're not safe! Go back while you still can!" the boy shouted, heading towards a brightly lit door.

The boy ran through the opening and Mai followed, beyond the bright light was a log cabin. It was early morning, the sun just starting to rise, Mai could make out two figures in the window. She walked over to hear what was going on. "What do you mean Emi isn't here!" a man's voice scolded, trying very hard not to be too loud.

"I'm sorry, sir, I woke up this morning and she was just...gone..." a younger woman's voice replied, frantically.

"Miss?" the boy materialized behind Mai again.

"Who are you?"

"Leave, you're not safe!" the boy urged. Mai could tell he didn't want to be there at that time, he kept looking around.

"Maybe there's something I can do," Mai replied, trying to be comforting.

"No! Just leave!"

That was when Mai felt the Earth shake.

"Do you ever sleep when you're home?" Mai heard Naru ask as she fell onto his seat while he got out of the car.

Mai let out a small shriek as she hit the cushion. "As I recall, my sleeping has helped us on a few cases," Mai grumbled, earning a slight smirk as her boss walked away.

Something occurred to Mai at that moment. She had fallen on to his seat. Why? A blush crept up into her cheeks as realization occurred. She had fallen asleep on Naru!

On any normal occasion, she would have screamed, but today she had work to be done. Seeing that the rest of the team was waiting for her, Mai rushed out and headed with the group into a cabin.

***

"Welcome, and thank you all for coming in at such short notice," an older man said, bowing as everyone else bowed and sat down in the office. "I am Tamotsu Samurakami this is my wife, Hisako. Together we run this camp."

His voice... Mai thought remembering her dream. He was the man in my dream.

"I am Kazuya Shibuya, we spoke over the phone," Naru introduced as usual.

"The rumors of your young age, is true, I am glad to see that today's youth has been able to so successful," Hisako replied with a smile.

"Excuse me, but could you please give us an idea of what's been happening?" Monk asked.

"Yes," Tamotsu sighed, leaning forward on his desk. "We opened this camp about seven years ago, everything was fine until things started happening about four years after we opened this place."

"You see, on the final day of camp three years ago, a young boy, Dai, was picked up by his parents. He didn't live too far from here, so his parents thought it was fine that when he realized he left something around here. He could take a few friends and walk through the woods to get here," Hisako continued.

"However, Dai went missing. His friends were able to find what he had left, it was a medallion his father had given him, outside the cabin he stayed in. A search party was made and we eventually..."

"We found poor Dai's body in the river about a week later."

"This place was under investigation, but it was deemed that his death was an accident. That Dai fell down the hill, breaking his neck in the process, and rolled into the river."

"As expected, we did have fewer children attend that next year, but nothing strange ever happened after that..."

"Until now," the camp owner breathed a long sigh. "Last year, two more children went missing, two girls, Chouko and Emi. They were found about two weeks later, in similar situations as Dai."

Emi?

"They were found with broken necks and had apparently been lost deep in the woods, they had splinters and tree bark all over them. However, what was more interesting, was the fact that they had both been acting differently just before they went missing."

"Acting differently? How so?" The priestess crossed her legs.

"Both girls were very outgoing individuals, but just before they disappeared, they had become very reserved...much like Dai..." The wife sighed in remembrance.

"So you believe that Dai is possessing the kids in order for them to relive his death?" John inquired.

"Right, and this year we've had three children go missing, two boys and a girl. Many of the parents have pulled their children out, however the rest of the children have parents who are overseas for business and have nowhere else to go."

"We don't want the children to worry about the disappearances, so..."

"You told them they went home early, right?" Ayako finished for Hisako.

"That's right, please! We just want to know if this is really cause by Dai and if it is, for him to be able to rest in peace!" Hisako burst out, bowing. "Please..."

Mai looked at the woman with kind eyes. "Don't worry, we're going to figure this out," she said sternly believing every word.

"Because the campers don't know we'll be investigating, we need to work discreetly and undercover, am I right, Mr. Samurakami?" Naru interrupted, wishing to get one with the case. (As well as he was going through some Mai's tea withdrawal.)

"That's right," Tamotsu replied, pulling out a file. "All of you will be playing the role of camp counselors, with the exception of Mr. Kojo and Mr. Yasuhara, who I believe is coming tomorrow, right?"

"That's correct."

"Those two will be playing the roles of journalists, working on a story about summer camps, which will explain why there will be cameras set up. We also have a spare cabin where you can run your base from, with plenty of sockets, like you requested."

"If you don't mind, we'd like to start setting up now," Naru bowed, as the door opened.

"Riku! Perfect timing," Hisako exclaimed, turning back to the group. "This is our son Riku, he'll show you to the space we set up for you, as well as where you will be staying."

"Sure, Mom," the young man replied. He was no older that seventeen or eighteen, short dark brown hair and dark blue eyes.

"Be sure to finish setting up quickly, we need to make the announcement during supper," Hisako added as the group headed out the door.

"So you guys are the ghost hunters?" Riku asked, heading towards a cabin by the Mess Hall.

"You could call us that, and you're Riku Samurakami?" Monk replied, as Riku opened the door.

"That's right, I'm one of the head counselors, if you guys need any help with anything you can come to me or Miyuko, she's another head counselor." Riku turned on a light, revealing several chairs and long tables spread out the room. "Here is where you can set up, it's about 5:30 now, dinner is at 6:00, so try to finish setting up before then, my parents want to announce you to the campers so they know who you are." He turned to walk out. "The boys' cabins are on the left side of the Mess Hall and the girls' are on the right."

He showed the guys to their cabin within running distance of the Mess Hall and Base, then brought the girls over to their side. "Here is your cabin," he said, knocking on the door. "It's Riku, can I come in?"

"Come on in!" a cheerful voice responded.

The door opened and a girl with shoulder length red hair, tied in a ponytail and brown eyes was revealed. She jumped down from the top of one of the bunks. "Hi, I'm Miyuko, you guys must be with the ghost hunting team, right?" she greeted, Mai's eyes widened slightly.

Her voice, she was in my dream, too, Mai's mind wondered as the conversation continued.

"Pretty much, you're a counselor, right?" Ayako replied as they all walked in.

"I'll leave you girls alone, remember try to be at the Mess Hall by 6." Riku walked away as the girls placed their things by each bunk.

"Yeah, I'm a counselor, so did Mr. Samurakami give you guys different names or am I allowed to call you your real names?"

"Mr. Samurakami and Naru never mentioned anything of that sort," Masako replied through her kimono sleeve.

"Speaking of Naru, he's gonna be pissed if we don't get to work soon." Mai dropped her bag on the bottom bunk of a bed and headed out the door. "Coming?"

"Looks like we'll find out at dinner, I need to make sure all the girls aren't messing around in their cabins, see you later!" Miyuko ran out the door, waving at the girls.

"You okay, Mai? You seem a little jumpy," the priestess asked, placing a hand on the brunette's shoulder.

"I'm fine, I just had a dream on the way here."

"And you didn't tell Naru?"

"I had no time." The three began to walk over to the cabin where the boys were setting up.

"You better tell Naru, I don't think he'll be very happy when he finds out that you didn't tell him immediately."

"Thanks, Masako, like I didn't know that already."

"I'm just trying to help you."

"Well, I don't need it!"

"Okay, cool it you two," Ayako chided, moving in between them as a barrier. "Naru's not going to be pleased with either of you if you keep acting like this."

"Acting like what? I believe it was Mai who was acting unladylike," Masako retorted smugly.

"Do I have to remind you that even if you say you're more of a lady than me, Naru still likes my tea better!" Mai crossed her arms, pleased with herself.

"This is going to be a long case," Ayako said under her breath. Why do they both have to be PMSing?

***

"We'll set up the cameras after dinner, for now we need to make our entrance to the children," Naru explained, leaning against the wall.

"Hey, Naru?" Mai called from her chair. Her boss nodded. "I forgot to tell you, but before we got here I had a dream."

"One of those dreams?" Mai nodded. "Go on."

Mai explained her dream everything from the boy, to the mention of Emi's disappearance in Tamotsu and Miyuko's conversation, back to the boy's warning. "Did the boy mention his name?" John asked after Mai had finished.

"I don't think so, at least I don't remember him telling me."

Naru stood straight and headed for the door. "At any rate, Mai's dream doesn't tell us much that we don't already know, and we're late for dinner."

The group left to meet the children they had to play babysitter for, each feeling as though they were missing something. But what?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2-Flashlight

August Day 1 6:20 P.M.

The Mess Hall was full of kids ranging from ages seven to twelve, along with several young men and women who were presumably the other counselors, around the ages of sixteen to twenty-six. Tamotsu stood on a small stage at one end as his wife rang a small bell, catching the children's attention. Tamotsu cleared his throat as the children quieted down. "Good evening, children. How are all of you doing today?" he greeted with a smile.

The children all returned his greeting positively as Monk leaned over to Mai. "If this isn't even 'most' of the children they had earlier in the season, I wonder how they managed with only a few counselors," Monk whispered, Mai nodded in agreement.

"That's great, it seems you are all enjoying yourselves," the older man replied, turning to his newest staff members. "We happen to have a few counselors who are visiting for the next few days, please, make them feel welcome."

The group stepped forward as Tamotsu said each of their names. "We have Houshou Takigawa, Mai Taniyama, Ayako Matsuzaki, John Brown, Kazuya Shibuya, and a special treat, for those of you who have seen her show we have Masako Hara!"

The children stared in awe at their new guests, unsure if they really had seen the real thing. "I'm sure you're all wondering why Miss Hara is here, she offered to help her friend, Lin Kojo, with an article he's writing about haunted camps. If anyone has any good scary stories about this camp I'm sure they will listen."

The more Mai thought about it, the more it made sense. Naru was obviously going to want to question some of the children of their experiences, but the children were to remain as clueless as possible. This was the perfect compromise, maybe Masako was good for something.

"And as tradition when we get a new staff member there will be a bonfire tonight, hope to see you all there!" Tamotsu finished, leaving the stage and showing the group to the table with the other counselors.

"So, no fake names I take it?" Miyuko greeted them, scooting over motioning Mai to sit next to her.

"Nope." Mai sat down. "I never thought we would really need them."

"After supper, we need to set up before the bonfire. I believe that as counselors we are to attend," Naru stated coldly.

"So you're the one in charge," a young man, probably around twenty-one, had said. He smirked before continuing. "At your age, impressive."

***

"Mai, I need you to position a camera outside one of the boys' cabin door," Naru ordered, as Mai picked up the equipment. "When you're done with that, I need tea."

Mai sighed, mumbling something about her workaholic, tea-obsessed, employer, while she marched out of Base.

It was eerily quiet by the cabin. The kids were either still at the Mess Hall or were gathering in front of the bonfire. With the sun setting, the only thing Mai wanted to do, was set up the camera and get away from there as fast as he could. "Miss Mai?"

The voice made her jump. She turned around to find two boys behind her. "Huh? Oh!" she responded, breathing a sigh of relief. "Sorry, you two just startled me. Can I help you?"

"Why are you putting that camera outside our door?" one of them asked.

Mai finished putting the camera in place as she tried to come up with an excuse. "Well, you see the reporter that came with Hara Masako asked me to help set up cameras around the camp so that if they caught anything paranormal they could put it on their website," she lied, straightening herself.

"We're going to be on a website?" the other boy exclaimed in delight, as the other looked with suspicion.

"No we're not, she's lying," he retorted bitterly, Mai knelt down to his level. He had to be about eight or nine.

"What's your name? And what makes you think I'm lying?" she asked, cocking her head.

"I just know! Don't treat me like an idiot!" The boy stomped off.

"Nori! Wait up!" the other boy shouted, rushing after him.

She stood back up watching the two boys race off. "That was odd..."

***

She carried a steaming cup of tea back to Base, deep in thought. She didn't even mind that her boss never thanked her for her services, surprising her co-workers. "Mai? Are you okay?" Monk asked, breaking her trance.

"Huh? Yeah, I'm fine," she replied, turning to the group. "Isn't it almost time for the bonfire? Aren't the 'counselors' supposed to get there first?"

Everyone looked at each other, unsure of what to think. Finally, Monk sighed standing up. "You win this time, girlie..." He headed for the door, messing with Mai's hair as he walked by, making her pout.

"Hey!" she shouted, racing after him. Everyone else followed them.

***

"Alright! Seven to nine year olds! AKA cabins 3, 14, 18, 22, and 11! Time for you guys to hit the hay!" Tamotsu called out, ordering the grumbling children back to their cabins. "Counselors Miyuko, Ayako, Arata, Michi, and Yuu, cabin check!"

"I guess that's my cue?" The priestess stood up and followed her redhaired roommate to the cabins.

"Wow, that's about thirty kids!" Mai whispered in awe, as Riku came to sit next to her.

"Yeah, the seven to nine year kids are just a little under half the kids we have here, the rest are ten to twelve."

"What happens now?" Mai asked him, as Riku roasted a marshmallow.

"Camp tradition," one of the counselors replied, the boy from dinner to be exact. He held a flashlight to his face. "Ghost stories! Would you like to do the honors. Mai?"

What was his name? I swear he told me it at supper... Mai thought frantically. "Thanks, Daisuke, but I couldn't-"

"Oh come on, Mai! Go for it!" Monk chided, as Daisuke handed her the flashlight.

One of the female counselors quieted the children down so they could pay attention. Mai knew exactly which story to tell. She had the perfect voice for it. "You see, a friend of mine was in the bathroom at school. Rumors had gone around about how the last stall had been cursed, she didn't believe it. Curses don't exist, right?" Mai started, shining the flashlight around at the children. They shook their heads, listening intently.

"She was just about to leave the stall when a voice whispered in her ear, 'would you like a red coat?'" Her voice had gone two octaves lower and she spoke slowly, adding emphasis. The counselors returned silently, wanting to hear the tale.

"Terrified, she didn't even answer and ran out of there. She alerted the principal and though he didn't believe her, asked the local police officers to check it out, thinking it was some sort of prank from the seniors. A man and a woman were sent over. The woman had the man wait outside, stating she could handle this. He did just that."

Mai's voice got quieter, gathering the group's attention, even that of her boss. "It took a while, but the policewoman stayed in the last stall until finally, 'Would you like to wear a red coat?' The woman was startled, but certainly there was a speaker somewhere. She stood her ground. 'Sure! Give it to me! Red's my favorite color!' she mocked.

"The bathroom and hallway were silent until a bloodcurdling shriek filled the air! The woman's partner rushed into the bathroom and opened the stall. The woman's entire front side was covered in blood, as though she were wearing a red coat," Mai finished, pointing the flashlight on her face and adding the last sentence one word at a time. A couple of the girls screamed, while the boys laughed at them.

"Sorry, was that too scary?" Mai jumped, hoping that she hadn't scarred the children for life.

"No, no," Daisuke laughed, as Mai handed him the flashlight. "Those girls scream at every story."

"You sure? 'Cause I had no idea Mai could tell such a tale." Monk crossed his arms then chuckled.

"Watch." Daisuke cleared his throat then began. "This is a true story. In fact it happened just before camp season started. It was late and I was alone in my apartment, I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Something was off and I knew it, too." Every word he said, drew in his audience expecting a ghost or something. "I looked in the fridge and realized...I was out of ham!"

And on cue, the two girls screamed again and Mai laughed this time, relieved she hadn't taken it too far. "My turn." A boy's voice rang out, reaching for the flashlight.

"Sure thing, Ichirou." He was handed the flashlight.

"Unlike the ghost of the Red Mantel, or the stupid joke of a story we just heard, this ghost is real...I saw it with my own eyes." Ichirou began, his tone all too serious. "Surely you all heard the legend of the boy who went missing and died several years ago, right?"

Everyone nodded, with the exception of a few.

"That's no legend, it's a fact. I saw the boy just a few nights ago." His eyes widened, continuing. "I was coming back from the bathroom and outside my cabin a boy a little shorter than me, with black hair and green eyes he told me to be careful. Something bad was going to happen...then he disappeared."

Mai's eyes widened, something her boss sitting next to her noted. "I saw him too!" one girl exclaimed.

"So did I! I thought I was seeing things!" another boy added.

"Hara-san! Do you see anything!" a girl shouted.

"Well...I...uh..."

"Okay, that's enough," Monk chided.

"Maybe someone else should tell a story," John offered, smiling.

"That's sounds good, how about Asami?" Tamotsu added, looking at an eleven year old girl with brown hair and violet eyes.

"Okay, well, this story is called 'Humans can lick, too....'"

***

Mai stared at the ceiling, somehow able to get the top bunk before Ayako did, something about Ayako falling out of bed. Aside from the three SPR members staying in the cabin, there were three others, what were their names? Miyuko, Nami, and Setsuko, that's it. All of them asleep, leaving Mai to deal with her never-ending list of thoughts.

With everything running through her mind at a lightning fast pace, she wondered how she would fall asleep. Her dreams. The case. The boy from earlier. The rumors going through the camp. And Dai. Everything seemed to fall into place, but at the same time, it didn't.

She was standing in a pitch-black area, her body glowing. Foxfires began floating up and the area began to gain a purple tint and the dream version of her employer walked toward her. "Naru..."

"It's not safe here." His voice was stern and his look was concerned. It was in that moment Mai even wonder if she was dreaming. Dream Naru was so much like the real Naru at this moment.

"That's what the boy said, Naru, what's going on?" Mai demanded. "I can't exactly leave without a legitimate reason."

Dream Naru shook his head. He didn't have long and couldn't simply explain to her how dire the situation was. He really only knew one thing, if she stayed something would happen.

"Mai, there's more to this than it seems. The longer you stay here, the more you're putting yourself at risk."

"What can I do to make sure I stay out of risk and still stay?" Mai challenged. This wasn't like Dream Naru, you'd think the two switched places.

But before Dream Naru could answer, he faded away. The young by from earlier taking his place.

Mai knelt down to his level again. "Who are you?" she asked with a smile.

"You should have listened to that guy!" The boy's green eyes were wide with concern. "You're not safe!"

"You're going to have to tell me more than that. What about your name?" Mai retorted, cocking her head.

"I can't tell you!"

"Yes, you can."

"No, I can't!"

"Why not?"

"Because-"

"Mai! Get your butt up! If I can't sleep in, neither can you!" A pillow met Mai's face with little mercy.

August Day 2 7:02 A.M.

She nearly jumped off the bed, flailing arms coming close to ripping Ayako's face off. She grumbled once the remnants of sleep started to fade. "What time is it anyway?"

"About seven," Miyuko cheerfully replied, offering a cup of coffee to the girl.

Mai jumped down and gratefully took the cup. "Thanks, how are you so peppy in the morning?" Mai asked, taking a gulp.

"I've been up for about an hour. Riku and I get up earlier to make sure that none of the kids have gone missing." The redhead took a gulp from her own cup. "Plus I figured you guys could use some coffee."

"Thank you," Masako said, dressed in a red and blue kimono, made of lighter material for the heat.

"Yeah, I'm still tired." Ayako took her cup while trying to detangle her nest like hair.

"How'd you three sleep?" another girl, with long brown hair and blue eyes asked. Mai remembered her name was Nami.

"Okay, I guess. You said it was seven right?" Mai said, pulling a T-shirt over her head.

"Yeah, why?" The redhead sat down on one of the bottom bunks, fixing her ponytail.

"Naru's gonna want his tea," Mai grumbling running a brush through her hair.

"Kazuya-san, right?" Setsuko, a girl about sixteen with a pixie undercut style black hair with her bangs dyed dark purple, asked. Mai nodded. "I just saw him, he was grumbling to himself about his assistant sleeps too much. And that he needs tea..."

"NARU!"

***

"The information the Samurakami family gave us was correct, according to the file Yasuhara brought," Naru noted, sipping the tea Mai brought.

"Thanks, I think..." Riku and Yasuhara replied at the same time. Then looked at each other.

"Hey! Naru! I had another dream," Mai announced, gathering everyone's attention. Naru gestured his hand and she began to explain almost everything in her dream.

As Mai finished, Naru flipped through one of the files. "I asked him, 'why not?' Then he said 'Because...'" Mai stopped. There was a long pause. Everyone, even Naru, stopped doing anything.

"Because?" Monk asked after a moment. Mai shook her head.

"Come on, Mai, what did the boy say?" the priestess asked, starting to get a little annoyed.

"I wouldn't know, you woke me up before he could finish," Mai snapped coldly. Ayako back off. "Sorry, I-"

"Mai, is this the boy you've been seeing?" Naru held a photograph of a young boy in front of Mai's face. The boy was about ten years old, short black hair, and had emerald colored eyes.

"Yeah, that's him," Mai nodded looking back up. "Who is he?"

"Just as I suspected. It seems as though Dai is inhabiting this place. Miss Hara, have you sensed anything about him?" Naru sat back down in his seat.

"He keeps hiding, I can't seem to completely read him," the girl said, through her kimono sleeve.

"Seems like this case is similar to the Kenji case back in December," Monk commented, crossing his arms and leaning back.

"What makes you say that, oh wise one?" The priestess crossed her legs.

"Because, like Kenji, Dai seems to be out of control," John answered, sympathy coating his words. "I don't think he wants to harm these children, but is unable to stop himself from repeating his death. Almost like a residual haunting. You know, like a tape player, it keeps replaying one part and one part only, without a change."

"That seems to be the most likely possibility," Masako added solemnly.

"I don't think it's Dai." Mai's small voice crept out.

"Great, it's like the Kasai case all over again," Ayako proclaimed, throwing her hands in the air in annoyance.

"As I recall, on that case was right!" Mai retorted, then settled back into her seat. "I just don't think Dai could even do something like that, even if he couldn't get over his death."

"Mai, it's like how in some cases deceased family members harm their living family even though they don't mean to. Sometimes there's no reason," Monk tried to comfort her.

"As much as Dai being the culprit is the most plausible theory, I'll still keep Mai's theory in the air, seeing as she has had some sort of accuracy in the past. For the time being, we need to investigate while keeping out cover as camp counselors," Naru ordered, standing back up. "We also need to figure out, who might possibly be the target to disappear."

"About that..." Mai's voice rang out again, everyone turning toward her.

"You seem to have all the answers today, huh? Mai-chan?" Yasuhara sang out, a sly smirk appearing on his face.

Mai ignored him. "Riku, what can you tell me about the little boy, Nori?"

Riku thought for a moment. "He's usually a very cheerful kid. The usual hyper, ten year old boy, I guess. I don't think I've heard a bad thought come from his mouth and I haven't heard any of the children complain about him. Why?"

Mai relayed the incident of the boy the day before. "Now, that does not sound like him," Riku commented.

"Didn't Hisako-san say something about the children receiving personality changes?" John offered, everyone nodded.

"Lin, the camera Mai placed in front of Cabin 13 is still up and running, correct?" Naru asked Lin, who did not stop typing throughout this conversation.

"It is."

"I checked the cabin this morning, Nori is still there," Riku added, relieved.

"I think it's safe to say, Nori has become the most likely target of Dai or whatever else may be causing the disappearances. For now, we'll just keep an eye on him, we need to keep our cover. Go. The children are almost finished breakfast," Naru finished, placing all the files back in their pile.

Something's bothering Naru, Mai mentally noted as Monk and Yasuhara nearly pushed her out the door. But what?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three-Braids

August Day 2, 9:30 A.M.

"Why is it so hot, Miss Mai?" an eight year old girl asked, as Mai braided her bluish black hair.

"Because it's summer, it's always hot during this time," Mai laughed, as the other girls were completing their arts and crafts, waiting for their turn to have their hair braided.

"But it's so hot!" the girl whined a little, then started laughing. "Can't we go swimming?"

"Aiko, you know the lake is closed this summer," Setsuko replied, braiding another girl's hair. "You're lucky Mai and I decided to braid your hair out of your face."

"Setsuko!" Aiko whined then burst out laughing.

"Ooh! Hey! Can we go exploring in the woods later! Before lunch!" a little girl with her redish brown hair tied into two braids pleaded, jumping up and down.

"I don't know, Kasumi. Setsuko?" Mai turned to her companion, who tried shaking her purple bangs out of her face.

"We're not really supposed to go too far from the camp, but you guys want to explore a little, I have an idea." Setsuko agreed, a smirk appearing on her deep red lips. "But first, finish your crafts and we'll finish braiding your hair. Tamiko, you're turn!"

***

"Okay! I talked to Head Counselor Tamotsu, and he said it was okay that you guys explored a little, but you have to follow some rules," Setsuko explained loud enough for the ten girls to hear. "First off, buddy system! Choose your partner wisely, if either Counselor Mai, or myself or anyone else finds you alone, it's kitchen work for you!" She placed her hand on a very large and very orange sign. "You can go as far as you want, but keep a look out for this sign. If you can't see it then you went way too far, blow your whistle and Mai will come to you. Understood?"

The children all nodded their heads in agreement. "Alright! Go!"

The girls scattered with their buddy in tow. Doing what little girls did with their curious minds. Using fallen branches as walking sticks. Looking at the little woodland creatures. Poking the dead ones with their walking sticks and watching the poor thing twitch. You know, the usual girl things.

"They aren't allowed to explore the woods?" Mai's eyes wandered over to her friend next to her, who merely crossed her arms.

"With the disappearances, and the fact that they've been happening more often with three children missing this year alone, Tamotsu-san doesn't want to take chances," she explained, looking at the girls playing, counting heads.

"Right, is it hard making sure the kids don't know?" the two began to walk, supervising the children.

"Of course it is, I don't want them to know just as much as I don't want them to fall victim to Dai or whatever is causing it."

"I see, were any of them in your cabin?" Mai asked, referring to the cabin Setsuko and herself were assigned to counsel.

"Technically, our cabin, and only one, Wakana. She was so sweet, too. And the reason why the lake is closed off. We don't want the other kids to well, you know..." Setsuko looked out toward the kids, not wanting to say the words that were most likely inevitable. "We're missing two. Yui and Itsuko."

A whistle was blown. The girls stopped what they were doing, rushing over to the counselors for guidance. "I'll go find them," Mai offered, trudging through the forest.

"Okay, meet us back at the orange sign!" Setsuko replied, guiding the girls over to the sign.

Mai walked through the trees, scanning the woods for any signs of the brunette and her sun bleached haired buddy. "Yui! Itsuko! If you can hear me follow the sound of my voice! Or blow your whistle!"

She turned back around, the fluorescent orange color of the sign was far behind her, just a small speck. Had she really gone the far?

Snap.

Mai whipped her head around at the sound of the twig snapping, ready to use the Nine Cuts if necessary. Her fears subsided after she saw a squirrel like rodent scurrying away. Breathing a sigh of relief she turned around only to be faced with a miniature version of herself.

If Mai weren't sure she was awake, she'd think she was dreaming, the shoulder length brown hair half of it up in pigtails, and chestnut brown eyes staring back at her. The girl couldn't have been more than eight years old, maybe nine. "Can I help you?" Mai asked, kneeling to the girl's height.

"You shouldn't be here!" she pleaded weakly, her hands balling into fists. "You could be next!"

"Now, that's the second time I heard that. I can only leave, if I know for sure what is putting me in danger," Mai replied, a soft look in her eyes. "Tell me, what's going on?"

"I can't tell you!" the girl chided, her big brown eyes becoming wider.

"Why not?" Mai cocked her head, boy was this becoming déjà vu.

"Others will be in danger!" she answered. Now that was a start.

"In danger from what?"

"I told you I can't tell you!"

The two had a stare down, though Mai hated to admit it, she was becoming somewhat like her antisocial boss. With stare downs at least. "Counselor Mai!" a young voice shouted, Mai blinked and the girl was gone.

"What?" she asked herself, looking at the ground to see if the girl had fallen or something, she found something else.

"Counselor Mai! Counselor Mai!" the two girl cried out, racing to the petite brunette.

"Yui! Itsuko!" Mai returned, standing back up.

"We found you!" one girl, her sun bleached hair tied in pigtail braids exclaimed.

"And I found this," Mai held up what she had found on the ground. "You dropped your whistle."

"Something spooked us!" the other girl defended, stomping her foot. "I had to drop it!"

Mai chuckled, "I'm not yelling at you, Itsuko. I'm just giving you back the whistle and telling you to be more careful. Come on, it's almost time for lunch."

The three girls made their way toward the orange sign, the event playing in Mai's mind as the walked with growling stomachs.

***

"Hey! Naru!" The petite brunette raced toward a very irritable workaholic.

"Yes?" he replied, outside the mess hall as the children were rushing in for lunch.

"I need to know, do you-" her question was interrupted when he turned his head as an eleven year old nearly bumped into him. And something caught her eye. "Is that a braid?"

"What?" he asked, genuinely confused, whipping his head back around.

Forcing herself to hide her smile, she continued, "Never mind, I wanted to ask you, did the files Yasuhara brought have any more pictures in it?"

He raised a brow. "Yes, the photos of Dai as well as a few others, why?"

"Well..." Mai trailed off when a little girl with purplish black hair tied up in high pigtails bounced over, no more than seven years old. The girl tugged on Naru's jacket.

Naru turned his head toward the child with disgust as she merely looked up at him with curiosity.

"You're a boy...why do you have a braid in your hair? How do you know that girl? You two look cute together. Ooh! Are you two dating? Or better yet! Are you guys married? How long have you been married? Do you have kids? How many? Or maybe you don't, but are you guys going to have a million kagillion kids and they all look like you! And you'll live in a magical castle floating in the sky with fairies and unicorns keeping you company!" she blurted out a mile a minute.

Mai and Naru's eyebrows both twitched simultaneously, of course with Naru obtaining his emotionless expression while his assistant proceeded to have her jaw hang open. He would have been tempted to tell her she'd attract flies, but was too disturbed.

"Why do you wear black? Don't you get hot? Or are you made of ice that won't melt? Ooh! I know! You're a superhero! And your power is that you don't get hot in the sun! Am I right! Am I right!" the girl continued to jump up and down excitedly.

Finally, Naru had the composure to speak. "That seems like a dumb power."

"That wasn't nice! Do you know that? Maybe you're not a nice person! Maybe you're not a superhero but a villain! And you're power is to make children cry!" This girl was saying things to Naru many only kept within the deepest corners of their minds. Mai found this hysterical.

"Why are you laughing? What did I say? Why is this man so mea-" the girl was interrupted when Riku popped up behind her.

"Makoto, are you saying things you shouldn't?" he asked as she turned around with wide curious eyes.

"Uh-uh," she shook her head, purely innocent.

Riku laughed a little, then gave a small sigh. "Go and get some lunch, you might be able to play some games with Counselor Houshou. Sound good?"

Makoto's eyes lit up tremendously, if that was even possible, as she nodded and raced into the Mess Hall for lunch. Riku laughed, then turned to two of the people his parents had hired. "Please excuse her, she's only seven. Sorry if she insulted you in any way," he apologized, bowing.

"No, no, it's fine. She's funny," Mai replied, smiling.

"Oh, Shibuya-san, I told the others about the meeting. They agreed and should be there soon," Riku reported to Naru, who was still a little out of sorts after the encounter with Makoto.

"Good."

"What meeting?" Mai asked sincerely.

"Sorry, Mai," Riku answered sheepishly. "I couldn't find you and when I saw you with Mr. Shibuya, I thought you knew."

"Oh it's-"

"That's enough dawdling, we have work to do." Naru emotionlessly walked away, heading towards Base. A pouting Mai left to stick her tongue out at him.

"Are you guys always like this?" Riku chuckled, as he and Mai began to slowly make their way to Base.

"Is Makoto always so outspoken?" Mai teased, and Riku chuckled and ruffled her hair.

"Hey, don't bring my sister into this," he replied, Mai's eyes widened.

"Makoto is your sister?"

"Yeah, why would you think otherwise?" Riku cocked his head.

"No, sorry, it's just you don't look like siblings, to me," Mai answered, sheepishly, sorry she even brought up the excited little girl.

Riku simply laughed. "Don't worry about it, I'm not surprised that you couldn't see a family resemblance. After all there is none."

"What?"

"Makoto is adopted. My parents adopted her about two years ago, but it seems like she's been with us all her life."

"Aw, that's nice," Mai smiled, silently wishing that she had a younger sibling. Then again without her parents around, she wouldn't be able to care for them.

"When did you two become so close?" Monk teased, as Mai and Riku entered Base.

"Am I the only one having flashbacks to when you guys were at my high school?" Yasuhara asked, a sly smile gracing his lips. Unconsciously, John rubbed his head remembering that case all too well.

"Yeah, only, you're not the one hitting on Mai," Monk teased, causing Yasuhara to gasp and Mai to sigh and shake her head.

"Monk! You dare accuse me of cheating on you? I've been betrayed!" Yasuhara exclaimed dramatically.

"Will you quit doing that! It really creeps me out!"

The scene caused Riku to sweat drop with disturbed relief.

Now that sounds like his old self. I wonder why we haven't heard him make that sort of comment on our last case, Mai wondered to herself.

"If you are finished making fools of yourselves, Hara-san, can you sense anything?" Naru's cold demeanor came to ruin the fun yet again.

Placing her kimono sleeve to her mouth she responded. "I sense a spirit, a young boy no older than ten, I believe he is Dai, but..."

"But what?" the priestess inquired, impatient as always.

"As I said yesterday, he keeps hiding, I can't get a read on him, but I don't sense any malicious energy from him. It's quite odd especially with the disappearances."

"But, you didn't sense anything malicious about Kenji and who knows what could have happened to Mai when she was possessed," Monk retorted, leaning back.

"Um, Masako, do you sense any other spirits?" Mai asked, taking her seat between John and Ayako.

"No, why?"

"Well..." Mai retold her encounter with the miniature version of her in the woods.

"One of the missing campers?" John offered, as Mai nodded.

"I think so."

Naru ruffled through his file, when he found what he was looking for he placed the items in Mai's lap. "Does any of these pictures match the child you encountered?" Mai looked through the photographs.

The first one was a boy, he was not Japanese in nationality, with bright blue eyes and carrot colored hair. She knew automatically this was not the girl she met in the woods and went to the next. A girl this time with jet black hair and brown eyes, not who she was looking for, but her mind continued to call this girl Emi, for whatever reason. The next picture was a boy with brown hair and cinnamon colored eyes. Moving for the next picture, was a girl with pale skin, bluish black hair and bluish violet eyes. She looked very much like a girl version of Naru, and her mind stated sternly that this was Chouko. The last picture of the pile stood out the most. "Wakana."

She held out the picture to the group who gasped at the sight, she could have been Mai's younger sister. But something shocked Riku more. "How did you know she was Wakana?" he asked, as Mai's eyes widened.

"I-I don't know..." she answered and her eyes went back to the other pictures and she held them up.

"Emi." She stated, holding up the picture of the girl with black hair and brown eyes.

"Chouko." She held up the photo of the female Naru.

"Arata." She held the picture of the brown haired and eyed boy.

"Oscar." She held up the final picture.

"That's right..." Riku was amazed.

"Mai's done it again," Yasuhara sang out.

"Oops?" Mai rubbed her head sheepishly.

"Why the oops? That was amazing!" Riku's eyes were still wide.

"Creepy, but amazing indeed," the priestess added, shrugging her shoulders.

"Miss Hara, are you sure you don't feel the presence of anything else?" Naru asked, far more inclined to the believe his assistant over the T.V. star.

"Not within the camp, in the woods I'm not sure." The medium replied with a slightly smug attitude.

The workaholic teen merely sighed and turned to the group. "Miss Hara, Miss Matsuzaki, and Yasuhara, I want you to stay here with Lin. Go over the files of research and footage we captured so far. Everyone else should return to their counseling jobs and join the children for lunch. Dismissed."

"Are we in class or something?" Riku leaned over and whispered to Mai, who giggled.

"And Mai, tea." Mai's pout made its way back out again as the group made their way to get some lunch.

With the Mess Hall in sight and Base far behind hem, Monk finally managed to ask, "Was I seeing things, or did Naru have a braid in his hair?"

"No, he had a braid in it," Mai replied nonchalantly. "You, me, and Makoto noticed it, I'm surprised he didn't take it out."

The group started dying of laughter. "Did our little Mai-chan convince Naru-chan to braid his hair?" Yasuhara teased, between fits of laughter.

"Nope, but Makoto did ask if Naru was a superhero whose power was to not get hot in summer. When he said it was a stupid power she called him a villain and his power was to make children cry." Now that had them rolling. Well, except Riku.

"Makoto-chan...did she really say those things?" Riku's embarrassment obvious in his voice.

"Yeah, but don't worry about it. It's not the first time he's heard something like that, he'll get over it," Mai consoled him.

Riku just shook his head. "I'll still talk to her, she's never had a silent thought."

"Finally! Naru gets told what he needs to hear!" Monk and Yasuhara were still roaring with laughter, unable to contain themselves.

After lunch about thirty of the children were in a very large open area about to play kickball. If the seven year olds would stop using John like a merry-go-round. "I-I-I can't see!" the priest cried as the children let go of his arms and giggled with delight as he twirled around with dizziness finally overcame up and he fell to the ground.

"John! Are you okay?" Nami exclaimed rushing over to him, as Monk laughed.

"I'm fine!" John replied his world still spinning.

Mai stood a small sweat drop appearing on her forehead. The teams had already been picked and the would have already started if John hadn't been used as a personal playground.

A whistle was blown. "Okay guys!" Daisuke called, holding the red rubber ball out of the reach of tiny hands. "Makoto's team will be kicking first, get in line! I'm the Ref!"

The children obeyed and Makoto urged Mai to be on her team as well as play. She waited her turn, looking around to see the other campers in their own stations. Including Naru, who was letting a little girl braid his hair. There is no way in hell I'm gonna let him live this down! Mai thought evilly. All those times making tea at his beck and call with not so much as a thank you was finally going to pay off.

"Mai-san! You're turn!" a little boy exclaimed, snapping her out of her plotting.

"Kay!"

***

"Is this the end?" Mai found herself asking. There was a pain in her chest and all of her muscles were sore.

"Don't worry, it won't be much longer. The pain will end soon," the same voice that had been warning Mai came.

"Dai?" Mai questioned, as suddenly the pain dulled.

"Hopefully you'll be the first to move on." Dai said weakly, as Mai's dream faded out and she was standing in front of Naru.

"Are you going to help me figure out what that was?" Mai asked, cocking her head with a smile.

Naru smiled that smile she had only seen him give once. And only once. "You're a big girl, I think you can figure it out."

"Naru, what's going on? Everyone wants to believe Dai is the culprit, but I just can't..." Mai's eyebrows furrowed with confusion. Naru's face turned serious.

"Mai, listen carefully, don't tell anyone about this dream, the vision you just had," Naru ordered sternly, his eyes serious.

"Why not? I can trust them, right?" Mai retorted, crossing her arms.

"Tell Naru when you awake about the vision and him and Lin alone. No one else. Tell him you don't feel right if the others knew about this."

"But, Naru, why?"

"I can't explain now, it's time for me to go. I'll see you in your next dream." Naru smiled as he faded away and the light of day burned through the brunette's eyelids.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4-Understanding

August Day 3, 6:30 A.M.

"Mai? Mai!" a whisper awoke the petite brunette from her puzzling dream, as well as the sun and the force of some sort of shaking.

Groggily, Mai sat up and rubbed her eyes, recognizing the voice. "Setsuko? What's going on?" she asked, her eyes barely open, she glance at the clock. "It's 6:30."

It was only then did she see the tears threatening to spill over her roommate's eyes. "It's Wakana!" she whispered, her voice cracking. "Her body's been found!"

***

It took less than five minutes for Mai to be dressed and the two to run to the river, where many of the counselors and a few members of SPR were gathered. Mai found her boss talking with a man in police uniform. "Naru!" Mai ran up to him.

"And that's all you know?" Naru asked the man, ignoring his employee.

"That's right, Mr. Shibuya, there is no indication of any foul play, but if our autopsy analysis unit uncovers anything, we'll let you know." The man bowed and repeated the speech to Tamotsu.

"Mai." He finally turned to her.

"Naru, what happened?" Mai asked, seeing the crowd at the river's edge.

"Wakana!" Setsuko gasped, racing through the crowd to the small area blocked off by police tape.

"Setsuko, you have to stay back," a young man probably around nineteen said, grabbing her shoulder.

Naru waited a moment before even attempting to explain the situation to Mai. "Ever since Oscar went missing this summer, Tamotsu has had members of the police force, whom he is close to, come in and secretly patrol the woods. If they found any signs of the children, they were to report immediately to him, including when their bodies were found by the river. This morning, the most recent child to vanish, Wakana, washed up. The rest of our team and counselors are running the camp in case the children wake up. This is to be kept as quiet as possible."

Mai's eyes were wide with sympathy, she could only nod to her boss as she walked toward the small crowd and the body of the little girl. Ignoring the protests of her tea addicted boss, she edged herself toward the police tape. She gasped.

There she was. The girl that looked like a miniature Mai, lay on the ground, eyes glazed over, a few sticks protruding through her pink shirt, rings of blood surrounding them. The girl's neck twisted in an ungodly position. Mai felt tears pricking her eyes, wanting release. "Riku, take Mai and Setsuko back to the camp. They've seen more than anyone should," Tamotsu taped his son's shoulder. He nodded and tried leading the two girls away.

Setsuko didn't move.

"Setsuko, come on," the nineteen year old boy from before urged, putting an arm around her shoulder, leading her away.

***

Setsuko had been given orders to stay in the main cabin with Hisako until she had calmed down, while Mai was sent to kitchen duty with the boy who helped Riku get Setsuko out of the scene. After breakfast was finished, Mai was washing dishes while the boy had been drying them, the perfect time for her to remember his name and do a little investigating of her own. "Arata-san, you have the same name as one of the boys who went missing this summer," she blurted out of the blue.

"Huh? Yeah, it's a little creepy, especially since he was in my kids' cabin. What about you? You look like an older version of Wakana-chan," he replied, swiftly putting away some of the pots.

"That is creepy, especially in my line of work. It's even creepier that the first body I've seen is a mirror image of me when I was her age," she added the last part softy, rinsing the plates.

"Wow, with everything you guys do, you've never found a dead body?"

"We've found dead bodies but the guys usually move us away because they're usually grotesque. And one time we found one on one of our cameras, but that doesn't really count. Plus they were never the bodies of children," Mai ranted, carefully washing each knife.

"Damn, and how old are you?" he teased, receiving a small smile from the girl.

"Seventeen," she chuckled, looking back at the knife, seeing her reflection. It reminded her. "Setsuko seemed really upset about Wakana."

"She and Wakana were pretty close. Setsuko doesn't have any siblings close by, she's the youngest and her older brother and sister are in college. I knew Setsuko from school and when we met Wakana for the first time this year it was scary how they looked alike. Not as much as you do, but before Setsuko had long brown hair, which is probably why the two became so close. Setsuko will never admit it out loud but Wakana was definitely her favorite camper. She somehow stayed strong when she first disappeared. Maybe she fooled herself into believing that maybe it was all a dream or that Wakana really had just gotten lost or whatever..."

The two had finished the dishes leaving Mai to think of one thing and one thing only. Whatever's going on here, it's not right. Something is just plain off...

***

"Hey, Naru, Lin told me you were in here, I brought you some te-" Mai had opened the door to their temporary Base only to find Naru in there. Standing there in his black pants and...

A white undershirt...

Needless to say Mai blushed. She had never seen that much skin on him before!

"Close your mouth, Mai, you'll attract flies," he said coolly, making her blood boil.

"I-I brought you tea." She placed the cup on the table next to her boss's files. She couldn't help but stare. "Um...Naru...Why are you changing your shirt in Base?"

"Riku decided it was a good idea to let the children have a water balloon fight...I was the prime target..." he finished, buttoning the last buttons on his shirt. "What do you want?"

Mai's shock and want to laugh, instantly changed to slight rage and annoyance. "Well, I came because I thought you wanted some tea, and I thought you might have wanted to hear about the dream I had last night. But maybe you'd rather try to figure out this case without even the slightest hint that my dreams have given you in the past! Maybe I should just go back to my job as a counselor instead of wasting my time!" She headed for the door.

"You had a dream?" he questioned, sitting down, and motioning her to sit in the chair across from him. "What happened?"

Mai sighed and relayed the events in her dream. Conveniently leaving out Dream Naru and just saying she heard herself telling her not to tell anyone but Naru about this dream. Leaving the young man to put on his thinking pose as she finished. "What do you think, Naru?"

It was about a moment and a half before he spoke. "I'm thinking either Dai or another one of the children's spirits is trying to contact you." He stood up. "Trying to tell you that you were right, there is something else at work here." He picked up one of his files.

Did Naru just admit that I was right about something? Is the world ending!

"I also think that if you have anymore encounters or dreams you should report them to me in private." he finished, Mai couldn't help but think how controlling he could be.

"But why Naru? I understand not telling anyone about my dreams but other encounters? Is that really necessary?" Mai argued, crossing her legs.

"It is quite possible that you may become a target of whatever is causing the phenomena around here. You wouldn't want us to find you like how we found Wakana this morning, would you?"

Now that was harsh, especially with the uncanny resemblance the two shared. A chill raced up her spine as she let out a long slow breath, causing her boss to feel that maybe he had been a little too harsh. "Go."

The brunette's head popped back u, noticing tears had unwillingly made their way to her eyes, she quickly wiped them away. "What?"

"You're supposed to play a camp counselor, go do your job." With a slight smirk on his face he left, leaving Mai very confused.

***

After the lunchtime rush had commenced, the day left Mai with scrap booking with the ten year olds and Nami and another counselor a boy around twenty years old with bleached hair. "Why do we have to scrapbook?" Nori asked annoyed. The older counselor ruffled his hair.

"Nori, no need to be difficult, scrap booking can be fun if you make it fun," the twenty year old man teased.

"Yeah? How?" Nori kept up his defiance.

"Like this!" Makoto suddenly appeared, using a rolled up piece of paper as a telescope, and marched straight up to Nori. "Peek-a-boo!"

"Makoto! That's stupid!"

"You're not nice, Nori. Do you know that? Or maybe you're just in a bad mood and don't realize you're not nice. Or maybe that man with the power to make kids cry has rubbed off on you! Or maybe you were never nice in the first place! Maybe you're a mean mean mean boy and will always be like that! Or maybe-"

"Makoto!" Nami warned.

The little seven year old took a star shaped sticker and stuck it right in the middle of Nori's forehead. "May the villain's powers be gone!" she moved her fingers in a wiggly fashion, trying to conjure up some sort of spell.

"Makoto, you're so weird!" Nori stood up and walked away.

"Nori!" Nami called out.

"Nori! Wait up! I need to know if the villain's powers have left you!" Makoto raced after the boy, leaving Mai to sweat drop.

"Is Makoto always like this?" she asked, helping one of the kids glue a picture.

"She's a very hyperactive seven year old, we've all just gotten used to it. Orochu, toss me a water," Nami replied as the twenty year old threw a water bottle in her direction.

"What I want to know is what's up with Nori, he's been in a mood lately," Orochu added, looking at one of the kids. "Avaron, any ideas?"

The little brown haired and green eyed girl looked up and shook her head. "PMS? My sister has that sometimes and has mood swings."

The counselors looked at each other and laughed.

"What's so funny?" the girl asked genuinely, her big green eyes confused and embarrassed.

"You are," Orochu replied, as the laughter slowly died down.

"Guys don't get PMS," Mai explained, not wanting to have to explain that topic.

"Well, they can," Nami added, with a sly smile on her face.

"Nami, we can't get into that here!" Mai's face was red with embarrassment and shock.

"I'm not talking about that! I'm talking about P-Oed Male Syndrome." Her face held a triumphant smile.

The three of them laughed along with a few of the campers whom had older siblings and understood this type of logic.

***

"Should we get Nori? Or Makoto?" Nami asked after a while.

"I'll go look for them," Mai offered, standing up as the children finished their scrapbooks.

Now where could they be? she wondered as she searched the bathrooms to no avail.

They have to be around here somewhere...

***

"Aw! Nori-kun is no fun!" the little girl with purplish black hair in two pigtails pouted, walking away from one of the boys' cabins. "I just wanted to make sure Mr. Meany's powers were gone!"

She walked around with her arms crossed against her chest, very annoyed. The area seemed far quieter than usual. Had she been more like the other girls she would have been freaked out by the ten year old boy with black hair and emerald colored eyes...

"Who are you? I've never seen you around here before? Are you new to the camp?" Makoto asked at the speed of sound, like any other quick talking girl.

The boy had a scared look on his face and opened his mouth to speak-

"Why are you scared? There's nothing to be scared of here? My big brother protects us! You're kinda cute! Wanna sit next to me at dinner tonight? Or maybe at lunch? How old are you? Nine? Ten? Eleven? Twelve? Wow! You're older than me!" Makoto continued to ramble on going into some rant about how unicorns we made from butterflies and pixie dust and whatnot. Continuing with her encounter with Naru the day before.

She noticed the boy point behind her, in the midst of her ramble she turned her head quickly to see Mai and the several people she had recruited in her hunt. "Mr. Meany! I was just telling that boy about you!" she exclaimed, hopping over to Naru. "Setsuko-san! I haven't seen you all day! Where have you been!"

The older girl smiled and patted Makoto's head. "I've been around, you just haven't looked hard enough," she concluded, looking over to the space the little girl had been ranting to. "Who did you say this boy was that you were talking to?"

"Oh! Midori-kun!" She excitedly turned around only to frown at the empty space. "Where did he go? Midori-kun! It's okay! Mr. Meany isn't that scary! I'll protect you!"

"Mr. Meany?" Mai and Naru questioned at the same time.

"He looked scared. I told him you weren't that scary, Mr. Meany, but you still scared him off! You really do have the power to make children cry!" Makoto concluded with slight disbelief.

Naru knelt down to her level. "If I have the power to make children cry, then how come you're not crying? You're a child right?" Naru inquired a slight smirk on his face.

"I'm not a normal kid. That's why!" Makoto retorted, skipping and humming on her merry way. "Maybe Midori-kun will still sit with me at dinner! Then he can tell me his real name so I don't have to call him the color of his eyes!"

The little girl had her way of making the others around her have their eyebrows twitch. It was only when the girl was a long ways away did anyone of the four have the composure to speak. "Did she see Dai?" Miyuko asked, scratching her head.

"I think she did," Mai concluded, slowly nodding her head. She turned to her boss. "Naru, this case is really confusing."

Naru simply nodded and headed for Base, leaving the three girls standing there. "It is."

Again, the three waited until Naru had completely left before being able to say a word. "Naru just admitted that he was confused! What the heck is going on here!" Mai gasped, rubbing her head. After the day's event, she had gained a migraine, as well as no idea as to what this case revolved around.

"Have you two gotten together yet?" Setsuko asked, placing her hands on her hips.

"WHAT!"

"You know? Dated? Boyfriend girlfriend style? Gone out? Need anymore explanation?" the redhead teased with a laugh.

"O-of course not! Why would I want to go out with someone like him!" Mai huffed with a blush creeping its way to her cheeks.

Setsuko and Miyuko laughed, then sighed. "Never mind," the redhead laughed, as the two walked towards the Mess Hall. "You coming?"

"Yeah!" Mai raced after them.

***

"Mai? Are you okay? You don't look well," John asked, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder at Base. Dinner had finished not too long ago and the group was trying to come up with answers.

The petite brunette snapped her head up, grimacing slightly at the pulse in her temple. "I'm fine, John, just a headache," she assured him, rubbing her temple.

"Are you sure? You look a little pale," Monk agreed with John, as the Priestess placed her hand on the girl's forehead.

"You don't feel too warm, it may be either a slight fever or you're a little overheated," she concluded. "Either way, I think you should go to bed."

"I'm not gonna be able to sleep with this migraine," Mai groaned, clutching her head.

"My mom has ibuprofen in the office if you want some," Riku offered, Mai just nodded painfully. "Come on, I'll walk you over there."

"Okay..." She stood up and allowed the young man to escort her to the only source of pain relief she could think of.

"I think it's kind of cute," Yasuhara commented after the two had left the cabin. Everyone stared at him. "What? It was bound to happen eventually."

Mai sat in a comfy chair in the office cabin as Riku rushed to grab the painkiller and some water. She recalled how dizziness had nearly overcame her several times on the walk there, in which Riku had to steady her tiny frame. After a minute he came in with two pills, a glass on water and a little cookie.

Mai gratefully took the pills and water, but stared at the cookie. "Sometimes, those pills can upset your stomach, usually if you eat a cookie or something, it helps," he explained with a smile.

"Arigato," she replied, taking a bite. With her head pounding like it was she had no encouragement to eat dinner.

"Okay, let's get you back to your cabin so you can sleep this of." He offered her his hand and she took it.

They walked slowly as the pulsing in Mai's head started to die down ever so slightly. "So I hear you convinced the kids to throw a water balloon fight on Naru this morning," she started, a slight smirk appearing as she remembered the conversation.

"convinced the kids?" he asked, sincerely, then shook his head. "No, actually your boss suggested the water balloon fight and then Makoto convinced the other kids to peg them at him. The only thing I did was fill up the water balloons."

Mai's eyebrow raised. Could that really have been what happened? What was up with Naru recently? Him letting a little girl braid his hair? And now him suggesting a water balloon fight? The world must be ending.

"That doesn't sound like Naru," Mai commented as they reached her cabin.

"How so?"

"Well, Naru's never been one to, well, entertain children. Actually in the past he tries to stay away from them."

Riku just laughed. "What's so funny?"

"I think you need to give your boss more credit," he replied, smiling. "Now, go get some sleep. I think you're gonna want some energy if you're going to confront him about his behavior with children."

Mai nodded confused, but entered her cabin nonetheless. She changed and fell asleep in her bunk before her head hit the pillow. The headache draining all of her energy.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5-Visions

Once again, Mai stood before the little boy with black hair and green eyes. Dai. "I told you, you had to leave!" he said with a frown on his face.

This was definitely alarming. "Dai, I told you before, you need to tell me why I have to leave otherwise I can't," Mai said flatly, kneeling to his level.

"I can't tell you!" he cried out, he was obviously very upset on the matter. Mai could see tears in his eyes.

"Dai, I know you're not the one behind the disappearing children, though many want to believe that is the case. But in order to clear you're name, I need you to tell me why I must leave."

"If I tell you then you'll end up like the others!" This time tears came streaming down the young boy's face.

"Shh, calm down," Mai cooed, stroking the boy's hair. Realization suddenly occurring to her. "You've been trying to warn me without telling me. If you tell me the exacts then I will surly go missing. Is that right?"

Dai nodded, wiping away tears.

"What about Makoto? Or Nori? Are they in danger?" Mai pressed, eyes serious.

"I never spoke with Nori-kun, he should be okay, and Makoto-chan..."

"What did you tell Makoto?" Fear began to build in the pit of her stomach.

"I didn't have the chance to tell her anything! She wouldn't shut up! Then you appeared!"

Mai began to laugh, causing the boy's eyebrow to raise. "Sorry, so Makoto shouldn't be in danger, right? She knows nothing about you?"

"Only what I look like and for now she's calling me Midori. Can you tell her to stop that?" Dai pouted a little. After all, like any ten year old boy, he didn't like being called a girl's name.

But before Mai could respond, Dai faded away, Naru appearing in his place. Mai felt sudden relief. "Naru, what is going on around here? Nothing makes sense!" Mai complained, standing back up.

"Be careful."

"You've told me that time and time again, but why? Why do I need to be careful?" Mai inquired, folding her arms.

"You've had a tendency to attract danger in the past, why is now any different?" Dream Naru teased.

"Hey!...Okay fine, it's true. But what is going on around here? If Dai isn't the one causing the disappearances, then what is?"

Dream Naru sighed. "I don't understand it either. However this case truly brings out that saying, 'Things aren't always what they seem.'"

"Naru, I'm so confused!"

Dream Naru just smiled. "Well, then-"

"Mai! You need to wake up right now!" Someone whispered concern, while Mai's world began to shake.

***

August Day 4, 6:17 A.M.

Mai jumped. "Who? What? Where's the fire?" Mai said groggily, looking down to see Ayako and Nami below her.

"Don't be ridiculous, Mai! There's no fire! Get dressed, there's an emergency counselor meeting," Ayako responded, quickly going to her things and dressing herself.

"Counselor meeting?" Mai scratched her head in wonder.

"Another child has gone missing," Nami answered, running a brush through her hair.

"What!" Mai nearly fell out of her bed at the news. "Who?"

"Makoto..."

***

"As you all know, Makoto was the sixth child to go missing here since Dai's death," Naru stated in front of the crowd of counselors in their makeshift Base. "Obviously the campers are not to know what happened. The story you will tell them, if they ask, is Makoto became sick over the night and is staying in her parents' cabin. Because it hasn't been more than eight hours since she went missing, there is a chance that she will be found. The police officers on the ground are searching, if we find her, the case will most likely solve itself. Until then, however, we won't know what has taken her."

Mai sat there, completely jaw dropped. Her eyes held some distance in them, only vaguely taking in her boss's explanations and orders. One thing continued to go through her mind. Makoto.

Why her? Why her of all people? Sure she was hyper and slightly annoying, but she was a sweet kid. Didn't Dai say that she should be safe? Then why! These thoughts and more raced through her mind as she glanced across the room, seeing the one who took this the hardest.

Riku.

His normally cheerful face was glazed over in disbelief. He's so close to her, no wonder he's taking this so hard.

"Take as much caution as possible, try not to be alone or allow the children to roam around alone." Naru finished as Tamotsu stood up.

"Thank you, Shibuya-san, if anyone finds anything that might help us find my daughter, please alert Shibuya-san and myself immediately. And be careful," he said, grief coating his features. "For now, pretend like nothing has happened and go wake the campers."

At that point, everyone stood up, lost in thought. Even Mai forgot about her dream and left with the rest of them. Makoto's fate the only thing swimming through her mind.

***

A few of the male counselors, including Monk and Naru, had volunteered to help with the search for Makoto. Unbeknownst to Mai, each day the counselors would trade off positions, searching the days for the missing campers. She now sat in the cabin she and Setsuko were in charge of, sitting next to what was once Wakana's bed.

The girls were all playing Apples to Apples, laughing at the random cards chosen for the adjectives. Mai was lost in thought staring at the pouring rain outside their window. "Mai!"

Jolted from her mindset, the brunette snapped her head back around in surprise. "Huh?" She saw Aiko holding a red card in front her of her face.

"Did you put this card down?" Mai looked at the card.

"'Camping," she read aloud. "Yep, that's me."

"It's your turn silly! You won that round!" The little girl giggled, handing her the green card Mai won and a new green card from the pile.

"Hey, Mai? Where is Makoto? She normally comes in and plays with us when it rains," Kasumi asked, while choosing the card in her hand that she thought was best.

She should've seen this coming. She should've reacted quicker. "She got sick during the night. She's in her parents' cabin resting, she'll be fine," Setsuko thankfully replied. Mai let out the breath she hadn't realized that she had been holding.

"Aw, can we make a card for her?" Yui asked. A young woman around twenty-two with dark brown almost black long hair, turned to her.

"Sure, I bet she'd like that," she answered without missing a beat.

How can they be so calm about this? Mai thought, her mind racing for answers. I guess maybe they just became used to this ever since Emi went missing last year. Even with this job I don't think I could ever get used to this sort of thing.

"I got paper!" one girl from another cabin exclaimed pulling out paper from her bag.

"Fuji, why do you have paper in your bag?" Itsuko asked, cocking her head to the side.

"I like to draw..."

"I gots crayons!" Aiko added, racing to grab her secret stash under her bed.

"Okay, everyone grab a piece of paper and start making a letter to Makoto. Mai-san and I will bring them to her after lunch," Setsuko manage to explain, while the kids obeyed.

Today's going to be a long day...

***

The rain had let up once the lunch rush had began. Depression seemed to follow Mai, sure on past cases adults have gone missing and dies, but it was an entirely different feeling when a child goes missing or dies. She soon found herself standing at the door to Base.

She was about to turn the knob but it was already in that process. The door opened revealing Naru and what appeared to be green finger pain under his chin. "Yes?"

Mai shook her head, shaking away her thoughts. "Naru, something happened in my dream last night," she stated. He glanced around them and allowed her to enter.

She sat down in one of the chairs, explaining her conversation with Dai. When she finished, the two were silent for a few minutes.

It felt like eternity. Both were lost in thought, Mai kept thinking about all her dreams. They all had to be connected somehow. But how?

"Naru?" she dared to interrupt his train of thought. He nodded, allowing her to finish. "Did they ever give you a time of death from yesterday?"

"I was told anywhere between one and four in the morning, yesterday." he answered quickly, Mai's eyes widened.

"Naru, I saw her two days ago. Before she died..." Sudden realization hit her like a ton of bricks. "Did...did I...see her death? Or was her death? Or..."

"It is quite possible that your dream was of Wakana's death. It's not the first time you've had a vision like that."

"No, Naru. This one's different. The timeframe where she died, was around when she died in my dream. And I saw her spirit before her death could have even taken place!"

The petite brunette's eyes were wide, anxiety shooting up and down her spine. What on earth was happening?

"It is also possible for Wakana's spirit to have left her body while she was asleep, but still alive. She may have been trying to warn you of what has taken her."

"Naru, there is something really off about this place. Nothing is making sense." Mai gave a sigh, her headache from the night before returning.

"Be careful..." This caught her slightly off guard. His tone wasn't mocking, nor angry, nor annoyed, nor demanding. It was...pleading?

"What?" Now her head really began to hurt.

"If Dai has really tried to explain what happened to him and the other children, and whom he has told all disappeared, there is a very good chance you could be next..." his voice was more of a calm worry.

"Naru, I figured that out on my own believe it or not. What I want to know is why you're telling me things I already know," she replied irritably, grasping her head. Her boss's eyebrow raised.

"Are you okay?" he asked, another shocker. Literally, so much attention in less than ten minutes. Was the world ending?

"Yeah, it's just a headache." Naru didn't simply buy this.

"Go to Tamotsu's cabin and get some ibuprofen, then go to your cabin and lie down."

"Quit bossing me around," Mai mumbled as she obeyed, swaying as she walked.

Hisako gladly gave her the medicine, despite the cheerful expression on her face, she was truly hurt that her daughter had gone missing. You could see it in her eyes.

Mai made it back to her cabin, climbing up to her bunk just staring at the ceiling. She closed her eyes, hoping sleep would cure the pain. She opened her eyes again and looked at the clock.

Damn, I wasn't even asleep! I got her three minutes ago! she thought to herself as she rolled over.

Ten more minutes of futile attempts to sleep, her headache had dulled significantly. She had plenty of time before dinner was to start, and didn't want to entertain the children which would only bring about her migraine. She gathered some clothes and her toiletry bag and headed for the showers.

***

Her dreams kept plaguing her, even as she stood there, with hot water beating on her skin, rinsing away the dirt. Did she really feel Wakana dying? What was causing Dai to be so afraid? What was happening at this camp?

Images of Wakana's body flashed before her eyes. Tears formed in the brunette's eyes. She could have saved her, right? Then more images flashed before her eyes.

Dai.

Emi.

Chouko.

Oscar.

Arata.

All of them. Dead. In almost the exact same spot by the river. Bodies contorted into ungodly forms. Then the worst image she could think of.

Makoto.

There was much more blood in this vision. Her neck broken and limbs bent in ways impossible for even a contortionist. She saw Riku sobbing by her body, Tamotsu and Hisako not too far away.

A new vision.

Herself.

Her body hanging by a noose on a tree branch. A sinister laugh cackling in the background.

With a gasp, Mai awoke from her vision, tears running rivers down her cheeks. What was that?

Mai made it a point to finish and get out of there as soon as possible, drying off and changing in record time. She raced out of the shower area, running into John on her way to the cabin. "Sorry, John," she apologized, straightening herself.

"It's alright, Mai. How are you feeling? You didn't look well last night," he asked sincerely.

"I feel fine," she lied, that vision truly shook her up. After all, she had never seen the bodies of Dai and the other children, why would she know what their dead bodies looked like?

"That's good," he replied, with a smile. Even though she was shaken up, John has always had a way of calming her down. Or anyone for that matter. Maybe it was because of his gentle nature?

"Counselor Mai?"

The two young adults looked down to see Itsuko and Nori standing there. Stern looks on their faces. "Oh, what's up guys?" Mai smiled.

Itsuko looked around, making sure no one would overhear them. "We know you're not really counselors," she whispered.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6-Hair

August Day 4, 5:15 P.M.

"Itsuko, Nori, can you tell Naru, what you told John and I?" Mai asked the children politely, as they sat in folding chairs in SPR's current base.

"We know you're not really counselors," Itsuko repeated, looking back at the boy next to her.

"And we also know that Makoto isn't really sick, and that Wakana and the other kids didn't go home early," Nori added.

"And what makes you say that?" Naru responded, glancing at his black notebook.

"Because I was awake when Oscar went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And Itsuko-chan was awake when Wakana went missing!" Nori explained, causing Naru to look away from his notebook.

"I see," Naru sighed, closing the book. "You two witnessed the disappearances, but stayed silent, because the other children didn't notice. But when Itsuko witnessed Wakana's disappearance, she came to you, because you are someone she can trust. You're her older brother."

"That's right, sir," Nori nodded, as his sister moved closer to him.

"Tell me, what happened when Oscar went missing?"

Nori took a deep breath as he remembered the night. "It was late, really late, probably like two in the morning, something woke me up. I turned to see Oscar putting on his sneakers. He told me to go back to sleep, he was just going to the bathroom. I believed him, but I couldn't go back to sleep, when I finally did, I saw Riku-san packing up Oscar's things. After that, I was told that he went home early, that he was homesick. Oscar wasn't homesick. I know he wasn't."

"The same thing happened to me with Wakana! She was never homesick, she loved camp! And I know that Mai saw her in the forest a couple days ago..." Itsuko added, sudden realization coming to her. She remained silent.

"How did you know we weren't counselors?" Naru asked calmly. Nori seeing his sister silenced, answered for her.

"I saw Mai setting up a camera outside my cabin, it didn't make sense if she were a real counselor even if Masako Hara was here, too," he explained.

"I see," Naru turned back to his black notebook, taking a few notes. Without looking back up he continued, "you may go, not a word of what you have said here is to be mentioned in front of the other campers."

"We know, sir." John lead the two out, as Mai's last encounter flashed in her head.

"Something wrong, Mai?" Naru asked nonchalantly.

"Well, uh..." she nearly began to explain the vision she just had in the shower, but remembered Naru's warning and the fact that John was there.

"Did you see another spirit?" Naru pressed, catching John's attention, and gesture him to come over.

Obviously it was fine if John was the only one listening, so Mai took a deep breath. "Yes, before John and I bumped into Ituko and Nori, I was in the shower room and..."

She explained the visions with such clear description, tears began to form in her eyes. John offered a comforting hand on her shoulder as she finished with the sinister laugh she heard. "And after that, I ran into John and those two kids ran into us," Mai finished wiping her tears away.

Naru assumed his thinking pose. So much t think about. Wakana's body showing up the day before. Makoto's encounter with Dai. Mai's dream with Dai. Mai's visions. Itsuko and Nori both knowing the truth. Where was the link?

"Something is either trying to warn you or scare you away," he concluded after a moment.

"Like whatever is causing the disappearances?" John asked, offering a tissue to Mai.

"Or one of the children trying to warn her what will happen if she stays." Mai tooked the tissue gratefully.

"If you think I'm going to leave, you obviously have learned nothing of me in the last year I've worked for you," Mai said, defiantly.

"I was merely going to tell you to be more careful, if we're dealing with a powerful spirit, even sending you away will be of no use. You know far too much. And you're still of some use to me," Naru retorted with his narcissistic attitude. A smirk lightly appeared on his face and he saw his employee's reaction.

"Well, I'm glad there's at least a good reason you keep me around," Mai answered, her eyes narrowed into slits. Naru turned in his seat glancing at his notebook, smirking playfully.

"Get some rest, Mai, you haven't been feeling well," he said simply, going to the monitors.

The tiny brunette was shocked yet again, she stared at her boss as he reviewed some of the footage from earlier that day. "Father Brown, go with her."

"O-okay?" Mai could only mutter as she and the Australian priest walked straight out of the cabin.

"Mai? Are you okay, you look like you've seen a ghost?" John asked innocently, suddenly realizing the irony of his words. "Sorry, wrong choice of words." he apologized sheepishly.

Mai laughed. "It's fine, it's just, nothing is making sense with this camp. What do you think?"

"I don't get it either, this isn't something innocent like back in December with Kenji. There's something dark going on," John commented.

"Do you think it's a spirit? Or more like that monster, Urado?"

"I'm not sure, Masako doesn't seem to sense anything more than children, but it could be like the Urado case."

A bell rang and children scurried past the two investigators, racing to be first in line for dinner. "Let's get some dinner, maybe we can think of something."

***

"Hey, Masako, can I speak with you for a sec?" Mai asked politely, as the two excused themselves from the table.

"What is it, Mai?" the porcelain doll-like girl asked, after Mai had lead the two out of the Mess Hall and closer to Base.

"Have you sensed anything here?" Mai asked, hoping for any leads.

"Just the spirits of the children, why?" she answered through her kimono sleeve.

"Is it possible for there to be something like Urado around here, and you to not notice it?"

She shook her head. "Impossible. I couldn't sense Urado too well, because of the other spirits he trapped in that mansion. Out here in the open, surely I would be able to sense something."

"Are you sure? It couldn't just be hiding and you missed it?"

"Are you doubting my abilities?" Masako retorted with a huff.

"No, I'm just trying to-"

"I've had enough, you've wasted enough of my time," he retorted coldly behind her kimono sleeve.

"I'm just trying to make sense of everything!" Mai nearly shouted. Realizing how loud she unwillingly had gotten, looked around before continuing. "Things aren't the way it should be. There are too many questions without answers. I was hoping you could give me some."

"I just did."

"Excuse me?"

"Try using your brain without hurting yourself and you might figure it out." She walked back to the Mass Hall to finish her dinner.

"She sounded just like Naru," Mai commented shaking her head and returning to dinner.

***

I need to find it! If I don't, Dad will kill me! Mai thought to herself as she was walking along the edge of the hill, leading down to the river.

Wait. What was she looking for and why? She looked down to see she had a yellow T-shirt, army green Bermuda shorts, and converse sneakers. Her hands were slightly plumper and less feminine. She was certainly not herself in this dream, not with the black bangs in front of her eyes and hair shorter than she was used to. She continued searching the hillside for something.

She turned around to see someone run up and push her. She tumbled down into the river, her neck snapping in the process. She was only able to catch a glimpse of her assailant. One things stood out. Long brown hair.

Everything changed into a glowing black background she had become accustomed to since she began working for her tea-aholic boss. Sure enough he appeared before her, wiping away her tears she had no idea she shed. "Naru?" she barely muttered.

"I'm sorry you had to see that, Mai," he replied sympathetically.

"That was how Dai died, right? It was no accident." More tears pricked at the girl's eyes.

"That's correct."

"He was trying to tell me that nothing was an accident..."

The scene morphed into a new scenario, Mai was standing by the river. She looked over at her reflection and noticed she was much younger, though looked very much like herself. Wearing a pink T-shirt. "Wakana..."

Fear filled the pit of her stomach as she began to run up the hill. I need to get out of here! she thought, running. She'll catch me!

She felt herself being body slammed to the ground, several stick having been turned upward shoved themselves into her chest. Immense pain screaming through her body.

"Is this the end?" she found herself asking again.

"Don't worry, it won't be much longer. The pain will end soon," Dai's voice rang through her ears as the pain dulled.

Her body went completely numb as she felt herself being rolled over and down the hill. Once again she only had a flash of her attacker, but there was something peculiar.

She could see hair. She only knew it was hair because it was at the right part of the body and it was something she couldn't forget. It had an odd glow to it. What color was it? Purple?

"Mai, wake up." A soft voice cut in.

***

August Day 5, 6:30 A.M.

Mai opened her eyes, to see Ayako with a very sympathetic look on her face. "Ayako..."

"You were having some dream," she said softly, it was only then did the girl realize the tears in her eyes.

"Yeah..." she mumbled wiping the tears away.

"Was it one of those dreams?" she asked. Mai looked around the room. "You're the last one up, Masako and the others went around checking cabins and helping Naru and the other counselors. Do you want to talk about it?"

Mai was shaking, it had been a while since a dream had done that to her. "It...it was Dai. His death...brown hair..." she mumbled, the priestess cocking a brow. "Sorry, Ayako, but I think I better tell Naru."

"Alright," the priestess answered, turning to the door. "I'm going to see if Hisako needs any help with breakfast."

Mai was left alone to get dressed. Fearing that maybe she should have just said nothing. Was she in more danger now that Ayako knew part of her dream?

***

Breakfast was completed in silence, well, silence for the counselors' table. Too much was on everyone's mind Afterwards, Mai headed for Base, perhaps Naru could make sense of everything. This case was confusing, but Naru has always been a step ahead before, maybe he'll share his secret now.

"It's just as I thought, Dai was murdered," Naru sighed, his hand under his chin in thought.

"Did you figure the case out already?" Mai wondered aloud.

"Not quite, there is still the chance he was murdered by a spirit."

"Naru, I'm not an idiot! And I know the laughing in my vision was a woman. So either there is some woman out there hiding these children in some cabin and then-"

"No, there's no cabin that's been used recently. The other counselors and I checked them, no sign of Makoto, either."

"Then care to explain your thoughts on this case?" Mai asked smugly, crossing her arms.

"You don't think a spirit is causing the disappearances?" Naru asked instead. Mai huffed.

"I thought one was, but Masako hasn't sensed any and I don't know what to think!" she griped, shaking her head. There was that headache again.

"Another headache?"

Mai nodded slowly, gripping her head. Before her boss could retort, she stood up. "I know the drill..."

"Be careful, Mai..."

***

"Mai! I never get to see you around here!" Yasuhara exclaimed when Mai walked over to him and the group of campers he was watching.

"Yeah, I've been thrown in every other direction," Mai laughed, helping him set things up for some kickball.

Yasuhara looked around, none of the children would hear his next words. "How's Riku?" he whispered.

Mai thought for a moment, the question catching her off guard. "I don't know, I haven't talked to him since he walked me back to my cabin a couple nights ago. Is he with the search party?"

He nodded. "I think so. Wow, and just when things were going so well..."

"Huh?"

"Never mind," the boy laughed, turning to the kids. "Okay! Choose who you want on your team, Mai or me!"

***

The headache receding, Mai headed for base with a steaming cup. Sure they were at a haunted camp, that didn't change the fact that Naru was a tea-aholic and was probably having withdrawal symptoms that moment. She knock on the door and entered.

"Naru, I brought you some tea," she said, relieved yet disappointed that this time her boss wasn't simply in an undershirt behind the door.

He turned around from the monitors and took the cup with an acknowledging nod. Mai turned to leave but was interrupted yet again. "Mai, camera four's battery seems to have died. I need you to change it."

With a huff, Mai obeyed, grabbing what she needed from the table storming off grumbling obscenities. She never noticed the playful smirk that dances across her charge's lips, nor the one that danced on that of her co assistant.

***

Camera four was on a path toward the back of the females' cabins. Our favorite petite little brunette found it within minutes of her order, of course of all times her migraine returned. What the heck? She wondered to herself, walking over to the dreaded piece of equipment.

She made her way behind the camera only to break out in a cold sweat on this humid summer day. Her head pounding almost as loud as her heart. She held her breath.

There was something missing on the camera, the detachable battery. What? That's impossible! It's not like the battery just falls off all the time! She thought worriedly.

Mai knew that the battery was not something that just fell off on its own. She knew from experience how much effort it takes to pry it off. She's seen Monk and Yasuhara struggle several times.

She scanned her surroundings, her headache pulsing in her temples. No one was around. She didn't even hear the children playing not too far from where she stood. Something wasn't right. Hairs on the back of her neck stood up as a shiver ran up her spine.

Her headache growing stronger by the second, she was offered somewhat bittersweet relief.

As a hard surface collided with her head and she fell to the ground.

The world around her submerging in darkness...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7-Purple Hair?

August Day 5, 1:38 P.M.

The campers were still enjoying their lunch, laughing and talking and loving each other's company. Meanwhile, Naru had the SPR team assembled, along with a grim looking Riku, in their Base. The majority of the group was present, missing two key members. They sat patiently, awaiting their chance to give their input on the happenings, only to have Monk finally show.

"Hey, sorry guys, but I was trying to see if Mai got left behind with activity cleaning or something," he declared, taking a seat. Unbeknownst to them, their boss's eyes widened, only for a second.

"Is she in the kitchen? Maybe she decided to make all of us tea," John offered, Masako seemed a little less than pleased by the comment.

"I was just in there, I didn't see her," Riku replied, you could see the exhaustion on his face.

"I checked in there before I came, no said they haven't seen her so I assumed she just headed here," Monk concluded, crossing his arms.

"No, I haven't seen her since this morning." The priestess shook her head.

"As I, I was surprised she didn't topple out of that bed the way she was tossing." Masako's smug kimono sleeve in its usual position.

"I saw her not too long before lunch, but after that she said she was going to get something to drink. Did she go back to her cabin? She's been having a lot of headaches," Yasuhara suggested.

Monk shook his head. "I checked there too, I knocked. No answer. The door was unlocked. I opened it and no one was inside..."

Naru stood up. "Lin. Camera four."

Everyone stopped their speculations, and simply watched. The wall of monitors easily seen by everyone in the room. Lin pointed to one on the second row. "Same as we found it this morning. Naru?"

Before anyone had time to react, with gritted teeth, the man in black dashed out of the cabin. Not a sound was made as the group stared in shock.

Monk was the first to regain his thought process. "Lin! What just happened?"

The tall Chinese man stood up. "Naru sent Mai to change the battery in Camera four," he explained, closing his laptop. "That was over an hour ago..."

***

By the time the group had run out to the whereabouts of Camera four, Naru was already there, investigating. "Find anything?" Monk questioned, as the narcissist motioned for him to kneel down.

"This is the battery pack Mai took, the other one isn't here," he commented, picking the little black box up.

"How do you know?" Yasuhara cut in. "Couldn't that just be the older battery and Mai realized she lost the other one and went looking for it?"

"That's a little far fetched, don't you think?" Ayako raised a brow.

Naru, feeling no need to reply with words, placed the battery pack on the camera and turned it on. A miniature battery appeared on the screen. Full. "Does that answer your question?"

"Um, guys..." John began, his tone worried.

"You're gonna want to see this," Riku added. The group walked the few paces behind them to where the two had been crouched down.

"This isn't good," Monk shook his head.

"It can't be..." Masako gasped.

"Is that...?" Ayako stepped a little closer.

"Blood." Lin said simply.

Within the middle of the group, on the dirt, lay droplets on crimson. Naru just exhaled.

"It's just a few drops. If that is her blood, she wouldn't die from losing that much." He stood back up.

"But, there hasn't been any blood left from the other victims. Why Mai?" John asked aloud.

"There also hasn't been any disappearances in the day." Ayako noted.

"But why?" Riku added, as Yasuhara's eyes widened.

"Because Mai knows something she shouldn't know..."

***

Back at base, the group sat, trying to figure out what was happening. Also, what did Naru figure out that always took the rest of the team much longer?

"Has anyone else been toying with the possibility that the cause may be human, not spirit?" Monk asked after a moment.

"What makes you say that?" Riku asked, astonished.

"Masako, you haven't felt anything malicious, as far as spirits go. Have you?"

She shook her head, and a memory came to her. "Mai asked me the same sort of question yesterday."

"Do you think she came to the same conclusion? That's why she has disappeared?" The priestess cocked her head.

"It's quite possible, but we don't have any idea who could be the culprit. Though I am fairly sure our dear Riku is guilty," Yasuhara added.

"Please tell me none of you think I would kidnap my own sister? My parents already have enough to deal with, their son being a criminal, would just..." the boy sighed.

"Yasuhara! The kid already has enough stress!" Ayako scolded. "Don't worry none of us think you did it."

"Still, we have no leads," the medium stated, getting everyone on track.

"Well, I know Mai had a dream last night," Ayako replied.

"Did she explain it to you?" Monk asked.

"No, well, not really she kept mumbling, about Dai and his death. Then she said something about brown hair."

"That limit's the lists of suspects," Monk retorted sarcastically.

"What was that!" THUNK!

"Hey!"

"As entertaining as it is to watch you two bicker like an old married couple, can we get back to the topic at hand?" Yasuhara suggested, earning him a couple of glares.

"WE'RE NOT A MARRIED COUPLE!"

"Anyway, we have no witnesses to the disappearances," Masako interrupted.

"Actually, we sort of have two," John confessed sheepishly.

"When were you planning to tell us!" Monk exclaimed, smacking his head.

"Who are the witnesses? Maybe they forgot to tell you something," Riku offered, hoping to find some sort of lead.

"Come to think of it, Itsuko barely talked," John answered, causing the workaholic to turn back to the group.

"Father Brown, find Nori and Itsuko, take Riku with you. Bring them here, I have a couple more questions." The two nodded and left the room.

***

"We already talked to you! What more do you want!" Nori huffed, turning away in his seat.

"Was there anything else that happened the nights Oscar and Wakana went missing?" Naru asked, ignoring the protests of the boy.

"I already told you what I know!" Nori refused to look at his interrogator.

"Are you sure?"

"Where's Miss Mai?" Itsuko asked.

"Did either of them meet anyone outside the cabin?" Yasuhara tried. Itsuko's eyes widened.

"She's gone, isn't she?"

"Nori, Itsuko, please if there's anything you may have forgotten to say, it could be helpful," Riku tried softly.

"No!" Itsuko cried out, her head in her hands.

"Itsuko? What's wrong?"

"It is true! They're all dead and Miss Mai's next! All because we told her!" she continued to cry.

"Mai, isn't going to die," Naru stated strongly, bending over to look at the girl. "And neither is Makoto, but if we are going to find them, you need to tell me what you're hiding."

Itsuko was still crying, Monk and Riku trying to calm her down. Nori looked at his younger sister with sympathetic eyes. "Wakana..." the little girl began her voice still shaking and quiet.

Everyone took a step back, allowing the girl some space. "She walked out of the cabin, having to use the bathroom, I guess. I could hear her talking to someone..."

"Who was she talking to?" Naru inquired quietly, not wanting to scare the child into not telling him what he wanted.

Gasps were heard around the room, when they heard the next statement.

***

Naru had allowed the children to return to their camp activities, or in Itsuko's case return to her cabin and take a nap. The group was still in shock with what they had just learned. "Setsuko? Setsuko? I can't believe it," Riku mumbled, his eyes wide.

"Or the fact that Nori confirmed he had the same experience with Oscar," John added, shaking his head.

"But I thought you said Mai had a dream about a girl with brown hair. Well, old hag?" Monk asked, earning a smack on the head.

"Had you not been a sarcastic little twit, I would have finished!" Ayako huffed, crossing her arms. She took a deep breath before continuing. "I was going to say, Setsuko made sense, because while Mai was still asleep she kept mumbling two words." She held up a finger for each word. "Purple. Hair." Ayako crossed her arms. "She also admitted to having brown hair before she dyed it."

"And there we have Setsuko's purple bangs," Yasuhara confirmed. "There is a lot of things against Setsuko's innocence here."

***

Ayako and Masako nonchalantly made their way back to their cabin. After making sure it was empty, Masako closed the door and stood by it, making sure no one came in. "So, Naru has us doing his dirty work," Ayako huffed, walking towards Setsuko's things.

"We are the only girls on the team, besides, I don't think Setsuko would want a twenty-six year old Monk going through her bras and panties," Masako scoffed, the priestess wanting to hit the little narcissistic medium.

"What does he want us to find? A confession note lying with her socks?" she griped, going through the duffle bag. She gasped. "Masako, no one's coming right?"

"That's right."

"Then come here, you need to see this. It's not good."

***

"Hey, Tamotsu said he wanted to see me?" Setsuko declared, running into the office of her boss. No one was in there, she walked to the room next to it. A table with two chairs was set up. One chair occupied by a young man in black.

He motioned her to sit.

"What's going on?" she asked cautiously walking toward the chair. She noticed the other members of SPR and Riku standing around the room. She mentally counted heads. "Where's Mai?"

"Sit." Naru ordered calmly. She obeyed.

"What's this all about?"

"Where were you the night of Oscar and Wakana's disappearances?" Naru questioned without a second thought.

"What? What are you implying?" Setsuko was shocked.

"Where were you the night of Oscar and Wakana's disappearances?" he repeated, a little more forcefully.

"Fine. I was asleep in my cabin."

"We have witness reports stating otherwise." Her eyes widened, lighting up.

"Witnesses? You mean, someone knows who took them? You mean we can put this to rest? Who? Who's the culprit?"

"According to our witnesses," Naru stated ignoring her comments. "When Oscar and Wakana got up to go to the restroom, they met one of their counselors on the way. They claim it was you."

"Yeah, I did see them those nights. But I was on my way to the restroom myself."

"So you deny having any part in their kidnapping?"

"Is that what you think?" she was truly shocked. "You think took them, stored them in the woods somewhere, and then killed them?"

"We have testimonies leading towards that theory. We also have other evidence." Naru turned back to the others behind him. Ayako and Yasuhara placed several objects on the table. A ribbon. A baseball. A teddy bear. A blue slipper. And a keychain.

"Do any of these objects look familiar?" Naru inquired, as Setsuko's eyes traveled over the objects.

She picked up the ribbon. "Wakana used to wear two of these in her hair. She would always ask me to put the in. And the teddy bear looks like something I saw Makoto holding one day. Why are you showing me these things?"

"These were object found in your luggage."

"You went through my bags?"

"I didn't."

"Wait, these things were in my bags? Since when? They weren't in there this morning when I woke up!" she exclaimed.

"Or so you claim..."

"Why would I keep these if I was the one to murder them?" she challenged, surely he couldn't counter it.

"Some killers like to keep trophies of their deeds. After we heard you were the last to see two of the abductees, it made more sense that we found this in your belongings."

"But, why would I kidnap them? I loved Wakana! She was the little sister I never had!" She turned to Riku. "Riku! Why would I take your sister? She was so sweet! A little annoying sometimes but I don't think anyone could have the heart to hurt her! You don't think I did it, do you?"

Riku sighed. "I don't want to believe it, but it seems that you're the one behind the disappearances..."

"I was framed!" She pounded her fist into the table.

"Prove it!" Monk challenged, Setsuko took a breath.

"The disappearances began last year with Emi and Chouko-san, right?"

"That is correct." Naru replied.

"And I am sixteen years old, I assume you have looked in my file. After all it is lying under your hands right now."

"That is also correct."

"In order to be a camper here, you must be between the ages of seven and twelve. In order to be a counselor here, you must be at least sixteen. This is my first year being at this camp and being a counselor."

"What if she lives nearby? You know, like Dai did?" The priestess tried, sure enough she was not wrong.

"My address should be in that file. I can assure you I don't live within twenty miles of this campsite."

A playful smirk graced the workaholic's face, as his employees and client stared in shock. He stood up and headed for the door. "Congratulations, you just proved your innocence."

***

"Are you sure, Mai said 'purple hair?'" Yasuhara asked back at base.

"Yes! She said the words purple and hair! I swear she did!" Ayako exclaimed exasperated.

"Don't feel bad, Ayako, you've been wrong before-"

THUNK!

"Hey!"

"Old man, don't say those things without thinking your going to get hurt!"

"What if Mai did say purple hair?" John asked aloud.

"John, explain please," Yasuhara asked.

"What if she only thought she saw purple? And t was something else?"

Everyone's eyes widened.

***

Everything was black, and yet, her head kept spinning. Slowly she sat up to see a ten year old boy with black hair and emerald green eyes standing there, looking sad. "Dai?" she asked aloud.

"I warned you to leave! But you wouldn't and now you were taken, too!" he stomped his foot, tears threatening to pour out.

"I probably should have listened to you. I should have figured out that the culprit was a counselor at the camp. Sorry, Dai," Mai apologized sheepishly.

"It's all my fault!" Dai began to cry, falling to his knees. Mai comforted him.

"It's not, Dai, I should have been more careful. Is Makoto still, you know?"

Dai nodded. "Yeah, she's alive. But I don't know how long you both have left."

Mai let out a breath of relief. "That's fine, but Dai, I need you're help. You don't want to see another child die like you did, right? You don't want Makoto to die?"

"Yeah," he hiccupped.

"I need you to go back to the camp and find the team I came here with, they can help. But they don't know where we are. Go. Now!"

"O-okay!" he straightened up and disappeared, Naru appearing in his place.

"You've gotten yourself into more trouble," he sighed.

"Don't I always?" Mai teased, then became serious. "Naru, I know this is really dangerous. But I need to help Makoto, where is she?"

"You'll find out soon...." Naru faded away.

***

August Day 5 9:26 P.M.

Mai awoke to her head pounding, and darkness surrounding her. Wherever she was, it was cool and damp. Underground? Maybe.

Her wrists were tied together with rope, but there was soft thick cloth between her skin and the rope. Very smart. That limits the amount of markings from the rope, she thought, pulling down the cloth gag in her mouth.

Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and she looked around. It appeared to be an old cellar, and on the other side was a little girl. Makoto.

Luckily, Mai's feet hadn't been tied and she raced to the side of Riku's sister. "Makoto?" she asked, pulling off the cloth gag.

"Mai?" she asked weakly, even in the short time she had been missing, she looked thinner. But could have just been the lack of light. "Did you bring Mr. Meany with you?"

Mai managed to smiled. "No, he's not with me, but he should be coming real soon." She untied the girls arms with some difficulty, her own arms being tied. "Makoto, who did this? Who brought you here?"

"It was-" she never finished. She had no need.

At that moment the cellar door at the ceiling opened the glow from a lantern illuminating the silhouette of their captor. It was at that moment Mai realized the hair she saw in her dream wasn't purple at all.

It was red...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8-Red Hair

August Day 5 9:34 P.M.

Red hair...

"You little bitch!" their captor cried, racing into the cellar. She ran up to Mai, slapping her across the face. "I could have gotten away with this! I was gonna stop once you got rid of that pest Dai! But you just had to come ruin everything!"

Mai gave a small cry as she fell back. She briefly remembered the day she met the counselor. She was so nice and helpful. Even in Mai's dream she had seemed worried about the disappearance of Emi. How could she have been able to pull off such an act?

It didn't matter right now. What mattered was staying alive long enough for her narcissistic boss to find her before she ended up like Dai. Their captor was having an internal conflict with herself. "I just don't know which of you I should take care of first!" she growled, pacing.

Mai sighed. "Miyuko, you can stop. You can let us go and things won't be as harsh," she lied. Nothing was that simple.

"Oh no. I don't think so! You have to pay for doing this to me!" she exclaimed. A wicked grin appeared on the redhead's face. She gripped Makoto's hair sharply, who gave a weak cry. "Perhaps, if you watch Riku's beloved sister die, then you-"

It was on mere impulse that Mai cried out. "No! Take me!" She softened her voice and whimpered, "Leave Makoto alone, you're angry with me. So take me."

An evil smirk was Miyuko's response. She threw Makoto back to the ground and grabbed the rope restraining Mai's arms. "Then come with me! And no funny business!" Mai could only nod.

Miyuko pulled her captive toward the cellar door, the little seven year old trying to stop them. "Mai! No!" she whimpered, looking up with big eyes. "You're supposed to get married to Mr. Meany..."

Mai looked at her sympathetically, while Miyuko merely kicked her back. "Shut up brat!"

"Don't worry, Makoto," Mai said confidently. "I'll be fine, we'll get out of this. I promise."

That seemed to calm the girl down long enough for Miyuko to drag Mai out of there and lock the cellar door. She grabbed her captive's bonds and dragged her along, extinguishing the lamp. "How noble, lying to a little girl!" she mocked as Mai tried to figure any way to get out of this.

"I had to keep her calm, give her a chance to live longer," Mai replied, racking her brain for any way to stall for time. There had to be something she could do. Something. Anything...

"Why are you doing this?"

***

About thirty minutes earlier...

"No one has seen Mai since before lunch and Miyuko's been missing since dinner," Riku explained, walking back into base. "Yasuhara and I just searched around the camp."

"I think it's safe to say Miyuko is our culprit," Monk sighed, crossing his arms.

"It's weird, I never would have taken her to be the serial killer type," the priestess commented.

"Unfortunately, these days you can't simply see these things just by looking at someone. Some of the most infamous killers seemed normal upon first glance," the priest added.

"I still don't see it, Miyuko was always so kind," Riku rambled, trying to make sense of it all. "She seemed so worried about the missing campers, at some points she even joined the search..."

"To throw the search party in the wrong direction..." Yasuhara concluded.

"What do you think, Naru-boy? Got any ideas you're not sharing?" Monk called over his shoulder where a thinking narcissist sat.

"I think we should be using our energy by not wasting time and finding Mai and Makoto and apprehending Miyuko..." he stated coldly.

"Good plan, but where do we begin? Miyuko spent her entire life loving nearby and has a far more understanding of the land, we haven't even been here a week," Monk retorted.

"As much as I want to find my sister and Mai, I have to agree with Takigawa, we have no leads. We're almost as clueless as before we knew it was one of the counselors!" Riku complained, his head in his hands.

"Okay, you guys need to cheer up! And quit being so negative!" Ayako exclaimed, gathering everyone's attention. "If we are ever going to find them, we need a more positive attitude. Not as much gloom and doom. We can figure this out, there must be a lead somewhere..."

"Since when was this old hag so optimistic?" THU-wait?

Ayako stopped herself mid-hit. "Fighting won't find them faster. Now focus you old man!"

"Why you-"

"Dai..." the medium gasped, eyes wide.

Everyone silenced themselves and faced her as she doubled over in her seat. "Masako?" a few gasps came. She snapped her head upright, in panic.

She rushed over to Naru gripping his shirt. "Please! You must come with me!" she exclaimed, tugging the sleeve.

"Masako? What's gotten into you?" Riku stood up, but Naru held up his hand.

"Dai..."

***

"Why are you doing this? Why did you push Dai in the first place? Why are you keeping this up?" Mai asked bravely.

Miyuko snapped around at her. "You want to know why I killed Dai?" she spat, then began to laugh. "Fine I'll tell you..."

She brought Mai to a tree stump forcing her to sit. "When I was younger I loved playing in these woods, it was where I could escape. But because the camp had to be built, my wandering areas had been limited. So I just amused myself by watching T.V. when one of my favorite places was no longer reachable to me. The river. I was watching some show that was explaining how and why people kill, and a very similar situation came up. A girl, fourteen, no older than I was at the time, had had someone intrude on her territory. A new boy who wanted to join her friends, she couldn't have that. So she offered to hang out with him and lead him to an 'accidental' death of falling down a hill, breaking his neck and rolling into a nearby river. She got away with it for a long time, no one wanted to believe a child could be a killer."

Mai gasped, hoping the story might last longer, allowing her friends to find her.

"So when I found Dai wandering on the edge of the hill, it was the perfect chance I had to teach the camp a lesson. It worked a little, the river had been blocked off and it remained my territory. When I became sixteen I was able to become a counselor at the camp and be able to explore just like before. What I didn't count on was that stupid ghost to remain here! You see, Dai was the true cause to those campers' deaths! If he had just kept his see-through mouth shut, they'd still be alive!"

It occurred to Mai. "When you began your job as a counselor, Dai tried to warn the other kids. They knew what you were and became a little distant, you figured out Dai told them and you kidnapped them," she summed up. Miyuko spun around to her.

"You're very bright, your dumbass of a boss should have given you more credit."

Mai still continued. "And then you took Makoto because she had talked with Dai. You thought he told her what you did, but he didn't!"

"What did you say!" She grabbed Mai's collar.

"Dai never said a word to Makoto! She knew nothing!" Miyuko's fists clenched.

"What the hell gives you that idea?"

"Because, Dai told me! He didn't want me to go missing so he kept what you've done a secret!" Mai exclaimed, somewhat hoping her voice would catch in the air and her friends would find her.

"That lousy son of a-" She dropped her captive and fixed the latex gloves she was wearing. "You know, I don't think an accidental death is worthy of a nosy bitch like you! How about a suicide?" Miyuko pulled out a knife.

That was it. Her time was up. She couldn't stall any longer. Her friends couldn't make it. She was going to die here.

Unless...

A daring and risky move, but it worked to some extent. With her legs having never been bound, she kicked her captor, knocking her back a few feet. Dazed.

Taking the time she was given, she raced away from the scene and away from where Makoto was being kept. With Miyuko so enraged, she wouldn't go after the little girl. She was hellbent on killing Mai.

The time given was limited. Mai knew that. But even if the measly seconds were all her friends needed, it was worth it.

She raced through the wooded area, the moon her only source of light, trying her best not to trip over roots, and hoping she was heading towards camp. It was for nothing. A root snagged her shoe, she fell, her pursuer hot on her heels.

"Told you, you couldn't get away!" Miyuko exclaimed jumping onto her, when Mai tried to scramble away.

Her hope was dim compared to the shine of the knife. Her time had completely ran out. There was nothing more she could do but accept her fate as the knife made its way towards her neck...

"Mai!" The voice caught both girls off guard. They gasped as a lamp shined at them and Miyuko stood up, pulling Mai with her.

"Naru!" Mai shouted. Miyuko placed the knife at her neck, the cold blade nearly piercing her skin.

"Not another step, Ghost Hunter!" she cried out, Naru motioned for everyone to stay where they were. "One move and the girl dies!"

Mai whimpered, any sudden movement she made could take her life. "Hold on, Mai!" Monk called, as Miyuko carefully took a step back.

"You can't do a thing! Anything you try, and the knife will go slicing through her neck!" Miyuko cackled, Mai felt the knife lightly break the skin covering her neck, a small trickle of blood pouring out. Nothing dangerous, but still scary. A possessed Masako was trying to process the situation.

Her eyes darted around. "What's that famous girl up to?" Miyuko said, suspiciously. Her body became tense as Masako took a step forward. "What the!"

Her hand with the knife lightened and moved away from Mai's neck, dropping the knife. The arm encasing her captive loosened and Mai was able to break free, running into her boss's arms. "B-but how!" Miyuko cried out, as Masako looked at her.

"Miyuko, it's over. You've killed too many, and now you've been caught. Give up!" she explained, as faint images of the deceased children appeared, holding Miyuko down.

At first, the sociopath was surprised, then her eyes hardened, with sick intent. "Dai..." she growled.

Masako turned around to the group. "We can't hold her down much longer, you're going to have to restrain her."

Naru looked back at his tall assistant, handing him the rope that had been tied around Mai's wrists. "Lin."

He nodded, quickly restraining the mentally insane girl. "Takigawa, you and Lin will escort Miyuko back to camp."

"Sure," Monk answered, helping Lin guide the girl.

"Mai, are you okay?" Naru's eyes were concerned, they reminded Mai of the Naru she always sees in her dreams. She nodded, suddenly seeing Riku.

"That's good. Um..Mai?" he began, without a moment to continue, Mai realized something very important.

"Makoto!" she gasped, wide eyed.

"Is she-"

"Follow me!" With that Mai raced through the woods, the moon and lamp guiding her way.

Mai really hadn't run that far from the cellar, despite it being covered with dirt and leaves they found it fairly easily. John and Riku broke through the door to find a sobbing Makoto.

She looked up. "Makoto!" Riku exclaimed, her eyes lit up and they raced to each other's arms.

"Riku!" Makoto cried, holding him tight.

"I'm so glad you're alright," Riku replied, smiles grew on the majority of SPR's faces.

"Nice work, Mai," Yasuhara grinned, patting Mai's head. She winced once he hit a tender spot.

Of course Naru noticed this. "Mr. Samurakami should have the police and paramedics at the campsite for Makoto. You should get yourself checked, too."

"Naru, I'm fine! If I was able to think clearly enough to buy time for you guys to catch her, I highly doubt I have a concussion," Mai retorted, hand on her hip. Naru simply turned to exit the cellar.

"You should get yourself checked."

Mai pouted, not seeing the playful smirk that graced her boss's face every so often. Crossing her arms, she huffed, her friends chuckling a little.

***

The glowing black background. It had become her second home ever since she began working for SPR. She walked around a little, the boy with green eyes appeared once again, possibly for the last time. She smiled at him. "Dai, I never had the chance to thank you for saving my life. Thank you," she said, bowing.

He smiled back. "Actually, I should be thanking you."

Mai raised a brow. "How come? You not only saved my life, but Makoto's as well. Not to mention the other children who could have been killed by Miyuko."

"The other kids and I just helped, but you were the one who convinced me to trust your friends. And because of it, we can now rest peacefully. Thank you." They boy bowed back, as the other children appeared behind him.

"Oh! By the way, tell your boss to lighten up, it took me forever to get him to have fun with the campers," Dai said, as they all began glowing.

"You got Naru to come up with the water balloon fight?"

"Not exactly, he was already thinking about it. I just got him to say it out loud," he laughed, Mai began cracking up.

"I'll be sure you tell him," Mai promised, she waved as the glowing figures faded away. A sense of peace remaining in their wake. Mai found herself laughing a little.

"What's so funny?"

***

August Day 6, 7:00 A.M.

Mai awoke, seeing Ayako next to her. "Good morning," she said sitting up.

"Well? What was so funny?" the priestess asked impatiently.

Mai jumped off the top bunk and chuckled. "It was just something Dai told me. Don't worry it's just something irrelevant."

"Okay, fine, but start packing, Naru wants to leave after breakfast."

***

While packing, everything from the night before came back to Mai. Miyuko was arrested under charges of kidnapping and murder of minors and was sent to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center where she would most likely end up in a mental institution. Makoto was suffering from dehydration and slight mental trauma, but otherwise she would recover. Mai also checked out fine, no concussion, just some scratches and a couple bruises. Nothing that wouldn't heal.

Naru had also taken the liberty to keep as much of this case out of the media as possible. Hopefully, helping the business of the Samurakami's who plan to keep the camp running. Everything seemed to have its own ending, the Samurakami's also plan to have a memorial built for the six campers that died. Everything seemed right.

So when the last of the equipment was packed in the van and breakfast had been completed, why did it seem like they were forgetting something?

A question with its own answer appeared behind the SPR gang, as the large amount of children and counselors gathered behind them.

"You guys have to go so soon?" Setsuko started, giving Mai a hug.

"Yeah, we gotta get back home, see if anyone else may need our help," Mai answered, a sad smile appearing.

"If I'm ever in Tokyo I'll be sure to stop by," Setsuko promised.

"Great!"

Mai felt a tug on her shirt, she looked down to see Itsuko and Nori. "Makoto's going to be okay?" Itsuko asked.

"Of course, she'll be back here running around soon." The little girl's face lit up.

"Mai, come on we need to get going," John told her, heading for his own car.

"Coming!" Mai called back, turning back to see Riku, "Sorry, Riku, I have to go," she said, he gave her a hug.

"Thanks, Mai, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have found Makoto," he told her.

"Thank Dai, he was the one who helped you guys find me," she replied, breaking the hug and running for the car. "Goodbye everyone!"

Mai waved to everyone as the SPR van drive back to the highway.

Another case is solved. She though with a smile, remembering something she had to say. Grabbing Naru's attention for just a second she said, "By the way, Naru, Dai said you need to lighten up, and he thought the water balloon fight you thought of was a great idea..."

Naru's eyes widen only a fraction and went back to normal within a second. Mai just giggled. Things are definitely back to normal. 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 1- Appearances

September Day Before Case... 6:30 P.M.

The summer break over and school making its way back into Mai's life, she found herself not only overloaded with paperwork, but her own homework. Couldn't her teachers give her a break? Luckily, Naru had some sympathy, and didn't add more paperwork when she finished what he had already given her, but let her complete her schoolwork.

Stuck at her desk on a not particularly nice day, with dark cloud threatening to pour a waterfall onto the Japanese citizens below, the bell attached to the front door jingled. A middle-aged woman walked in. "Yes, may I help you?" Mai asked, standing to meet the woman not much taller than she.

"Yes, I hear you exterminate ghosts?" she asked, removing the hood from her jacket. She must have been worried for the rain as well, it was only a matter of time before it just poured.

"Yes, ma'am, do you have an appointment?" Mai replied cheerfully, offering the woman a seat on the sofa.

"Yes, I made one for 6:30, I'm sorry if I'm late," she said humbly.

Mai shook her head. "It's no trouble, and you're not late at all. Give me a moment and I'll let my boss know that you've arrived and make you some tea."

"That would be lovely, dear."

Mai walked over to the closed door that lead to the cave her tea addict of a boss dwelled. She knocked on it cautiously. "Naru!" she called softly. "You're 6:30 appointment is here."

Before she could say anything else, the door opened, Mai almost began knock on her boss's chest! Red from the slight embarrassment, she took a step back. "Want me to tell Lin?" she asked.

He only nodded, walking towards the living area of the office. Lin, having overheard the conversation followed him with his laptop. Leaving Mai to make tea, and eavesdrop on their possible case.

"Mrs. Gensai, explain what your family has experienced," Naru ordered coolly, as the teakettle whistled.

"Every since my late husband and I moved into our house we've experienced activity, but nothing as serious as now. My husband died two years ago, so it's just been myself and my daughter. The activity escalated to the point where we have heard voices, laughter, and I was pushed down our staircase! Furniture has been turned over, things have gone missing, I have even been attacked in my sleep!" the woman explained rapidly, fear present in her eyes, as Mai placed a cup of tea in front of her.

"How old is your daughter?" Naru asked, nonchalantly, Mai knew exactly where this was going. It was just like the case they had back in July.

"She's sixteen, what does that have to do with anything?" the woman replied, taking a sip of her tea, hoping to calm down.

"It's very common with teenage girls undergoing stress to unknowingly create paranormal phenomena. Has she experienced things as well?"

"She's told me of feeling she is watched, but nothing more. She's says it hasn't bothered her, but that's a lie!" she exclaimed worriedly.

"How so?"

"One night, I was awoken by shuffling coming from my daughter's room. Fearing someone I had broken in, I snuck into her room and no one was in there, aside from Jinru, my daughter. However, she was floating a few feet from her bed! Still asleep! I ask you, is that common!" she yelled at him, his eyes widening for a fraction of a second.

"Levitation..." he responded, it wasn't a question, it was a fact.

"Yes, it was as if something or someone were holding her. Please! I beg of you! Help us!" The woman broke down into sobs, Mai reached a hand out to the woman's shoulder, attempting to comfort her. Sending glares to her contemplating boss.

"We'll take your case, we shall require three rooms, two for sleeping and one to use as our base, leave your address with my assistant and we should arrive tomorrow at one," Naru stated, standing up. The woman's face fell.

"I-I'm afraid we only have one spare bedroom and you could use the den for your base, forgive me..."

Naru looked from Lin to Mai. "Mai, call the others and make reservations at a nearby hotel. We'll be at your residence at one tomorrow, Mrs. Gensai." With that, the anti-social workaholic retreated to his lair, his taller Chinese companion did the same, leaving Mai to show the distressed woman out.

"Oh, I'm sorry, my house is simply too small and-" the woman rambled only to be stopped by the seventeen year old in front of her.

"Mrs. Gensai, it's no trouble, I'm sure that some of us will take turns staying the night in your house. We're going to help you and your daughter, regardless of there not being that much room. I promise you that," Mai smiled, as the woman wrote her address down.

"Please, call me Nishi, and thank you..."

"Mai. Mai Taniyama."

Nishi smiled, as Mai opened the door for her. "Well, thank you, Mai. You're such a sweet girl."

"Thank you," Mai smiled back as Nishi left the office.

She seems nice, Mai noted to herself as she went back to finishing her homework.

***

September Day 1 12:30 P.M.

The next day, Mai had notified her school of her absence, to which they agreed to have her homework collected and sent to her when she returned. Now she stood outside the SPR headquarters waiting for everyone to show up. Masako and Yasuhara would not be able to make it that day but promised to come the next day with research done on the house. They were just waiting for John and the bickering monk and priestess.

I hope John's not the one driving, Mai thought to herself leaning against the van, waiting. Sure enough she saw the priest's black sedan driving its way up to the parking lot. Poor John...

"Nice going old man! You broke John!" Ayako hollered, getting out of the sedan, as John wobbled over to Mai.

"Me! You're the one who screamed in his ear old hag!" Monk yelled back.

THUNK!

"What the hell do you keep in there!"

"Watch your language! Damn it!"

"You didn't!"

The two continued to bicker as Mai steadiest the woozy priest. The little brunette tried to figure out a way to make the trip lighter on the Australian priest, despite the fact that the house wasn't even half an hour away.

"Seeing as you are all here and we need to head to our client before the next hour, I suggest you act like adults and stop your squabbling," Naru remarked coldly, the two 'adults' crossed their arms and huffed.

"He/She started it..." they grumbled, as Mai raised her hand.

"Um, Naru?"

"What is it, Mai?" Mai brought her hand down and tried to figure out if this was even a good idea.

"Is it okay if I go in John's car?" she asked innocently, he only sighed.

"If you must." With that he got into the van and the four social members of SPR climbed into John's car.

"Shotgun!" Mai exclaimed, beating Ayako to the front seat by a second.

"No fair!"

"Old hag, just get in the car!" Monk exclaimed, tired of the priestess's whining.

John could only whimper slightly as he got into the driver's seat. Mai smiled sympathetically at him. "Don't worry, John, it only takes about twenty minutes to get to the house."

John smiled weakly. "Thanks, Mai."

***

"Thank you so much for coming so quickly!" Nishi exclaimed, greeting the bunch with a gracious bow.

Seeing that her antisocial boss was not planning on replying anytime soon, Mai took over. "It's no trouble at all," she smiled, bowing as well. "We brought some of our friends who will be able to help, Houshou Takigawa, Ayako Matsuzak, and John Brown."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," the older woman bowed again.

"Greetings aside, if you would show us to where we may set up our base," Naru interrupted coldly.

"Of course, right this way," Nishi replied, walking toward her small two story house.

Monk elbowed Mai's shoulder. "Hey, did you forget to make Naru tea this morning or something?" he whispered as they walked into the house.

"No, he practically drank the whole pot before we left, he probably has to pee or something," Mai brushed off, shaking her head.

"Or he's pissed you didn't sit in the van with him..." the monk teased, ruffling her hair.

Mai practically snorted. "Yeah right, no need to play with my emotions, Monk!" she whispered back.

"Here's the den, there are outlets everywhere and I've taken the liberty of bringing out extension cords and plug-in multiple outlets, for your disposal. My daughter is currently at school, however she will be home in a couple of hours, but please don't bother her, she has a very important exam coming up and needs to study," Nishi explained, gesturing to the room filled with a table and a couch and some chairs. "If you need anything, feel free to ask me."

She left the room, leaving the group to do as they pleased. "Matsuzaki-san, you and Mai will do a sweep of the house and take temperature readings. The rest of us will set up the equipment," Naru ordered and the group split up after Mai grabbed the thermometer.

She and Ayako wandered throughout the small house, nothing seemed unusual temperature wise, so why not a little friendly conversation? "What the hell did you do to Naru?" Ayako wondered aloud after checking the temperature.

"What?" Mai questioned, shocked by the priestess's outburst.

"Naru. He's in more of a pissy mood than usual, and he'd normally rather have me do this on my own so you can carry in the equipment. And you said you gave him his tea, so it can't be withdrawal..."

"PMS?" Mai unknowingly threw out there, remembering a similar conversation on their last case.

"Pissed off male syndrome?" Ayako surprisingly responded, leaving the little brunette jaw dropped. "What? You're not the first person to come up with that."

The two just started laughing. Ever since Mai began her work alongside this self-proclaimed priestess, she couldn't remember a time where they really hung out and laughed, in other words...girl time. Actually since taking up her job at SPR she really had missed out on girl time with her friends, with her workaholic boss having her at the office all the time, on her days off she really just tries to catch up on sleep.

She made a mental note that at the next chance she was invited somewhere by her friends, she was going to take that day off of work. Hey, she deserved it. "So what do you think about the house?" Ayako asked, breaking the girl from her reverie.

"Huh?" Mai replied, shaking her head. "What do you mean?"

"Well, usually Masako makes some sort of snooty remark about how she can sense spirits and whatnot-"

"And you miss that?"

"No, I want another person's point of view."

"Since when?"

"Don't start acting like that old monk again," Ayako crossed her arms as Mai wrote down the temperature of the master bedroom.

"Okay, but I don't really know how to sense spirits..." Mai replied with a sigh.

"You have far more psychic ability than Masako. You've had more visions and have been of more help, well, in my opinion. Sometimes I think you might end up being the strongest psychic out of all of us," the priestess rambled, then stopped long enough to sigh.

"Really?"

"Look, don't worry about sensing a spirit, just feel the environment around you. How do you feel in it?" Ayako tried, making Mai sit down on the bed.

Mai tried to protest, but knowing it would be futile, she sighed, and closed her eyes. Everything around her felt- "Warm." she blurted, eyes still closed. "It feels warm and inviting..." Mai seemed to relax in the moment, opening her eyes in realization. "The exact opposite of what Nishi told us."

"That's what I was thinking, what do you think it means?"

Mai pondered for a moment, fairly certain she might say something Naru-like. "I think it means we don't know the whole story..." She really needs a day off.

"You might be right, c'mon we still have a few more rooms to check out," the priestess suggested, heading for the door.

"Okay."

***

The front door opened and a pair of footsteps patted into the home, startling the priest who just happened to be setting up a camera at the bottom of the stairs looking up. He and the girl who walked in made eye contact and shared a cry of surprise. "Oh, sorry, you must be Jinru, I'm John," John apologized, she still appeared to be frightened.

"I-it's fine. F-forgive me, I-I have homework to do. T-thank you for coming to help our family!" she rushed, bowing and racing up the stairs.

John looked up at her trail with sympathy in his eyes. "Poor girl, she's terribly shy," he noted under his breath, heading for Base for Naru to give him more work.

Given another two cameras, John was ordered to set them up in the kitchen and in Jinru's room. "Hey, John, need any help?" Mai offered, seeing him set it up in the kitchen.

"I just have to set up one more camera, but I'd enjoy the company," John smiled, and the two headed upstairs.

"Nee, John?" Mai asked aloud as they were walking through the hallway. Her companion turned his head toward her. "Did you feel a difference in the air not too long ago? Like compared to when we came here?"

John thought for a moment before he answered. "Now that you mention it," he began, knocking on the door in front of them. "Jinru-san, could we come in?"

"Y-yes!" she called back, opening the door. Jinru was almost as tall as John with brown hair tied in a ponytail, and light green eyes. "C-can I help you?"

"Uh, if it would be alright with you, could we possibly put a camera in your room? Your mother reported activity happening in here at night," Mai explained sweetly, the girl could only nod.

"If-if mother said it was fine, then, okay," she replied, returning to the pile of homework on her desk.

Something isn't right. But what? Mai wondered, helping John setup the camera.

I have a bad feeling...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2-Lullaby

The same glowing blackness surrounded her once again. Another dream? she wondered to herself, searching for the one person who could confirm her suspicions.

But he wasn't there. It seemed like with each case Dream Naru was appearing less and less, and her visions becoming more and more vague, nothing as clear like when they were at the mansion with Urado, or cases before that. It was as though Dream Naru wanted Mai to figure things out for herself.

He wasn't coming this night. Nothing was. No visions. No images. No one telling her to get out. Nothing. She was just standing in the black background, not even a foxfire to keep her company. Then she heard it!

Two voices singing.

It sounded like a man and a little girl. What were the lyrics they were singing?

She couldn't quite make out the lyrics but the melody was sweet and would certainly get stuck in her head the following morning. However those lyrics just seemed so close and so warm, she was surprised she couldn't really hear them.

The melody just seemed so happy and carefree and she wanted to remain in that moment for as long as possible. Memories of her mother and father popping into her head as she felt safe and comfortable. Did she really have to wake up?

***

September Day 2, 8:00 A.M.

"Mai! Get up!" a certain cranky priestess ordered, shaking the girl slightly.

"Huh?" Mai woke up groggily rubbing her eyes. "What time is it?"

"About eight." The priestess continued to get herself ready for the day. "I need coffee..."

"I could go for a cup, too," Mai mumbled gathering her clothes to change into.

"John and Monk said they'd wait for us downstairs."

"Okay."

Lin and Naru had spent the night at the Gensai residence, hoping to capture any activity. By the time the four had gotten there, Jinru was up in her room studying, despite it being her day off from school and Yasuhara called stating he was nearly finished with research and would be picking Masako up shortly. For the time being, the rest of the group was going through evidence and possible ideas, as Nishi ran off to run a few errands.

"What do you guys think is going on here?" Monk asked the girls and John while Naru and Lin were over by the monitors.

"I don't know what to think," Mai responded, placing her head in her hands. "Nishi-san told us about a vicious spirit that has physically harmed her, but I feel perfectly safe here!"

"Yes, this house isn't like other places we've investigated," John added with a shrug. "And judging by those two I don't think we caught anything yet either."

"The only thing we really should be wary of, is her claim of Jinru levitating. But judging by them I don't think they found anything like tha-" Ayako began as Lin's eye's widened.

"Naru, take a look at this," Lin said out of nowhere. Naru leaned over and the rest of his team migrated over.

On the screen was showing Jinru's room, according to the time stamp it was about three in the morning. Not much seemed to happen, she just rolled over. "What are we looking-" Ayako demanded, but was shushed by Monk and John.

A mist made its way into the room, finding Jinru within moments. It surrounded the sleeping girl, wrapping around her shoulders and where her knees were under the blanket. Slowly, her body began to rise, as if someone were holding her. Mai found herself swaying side to side unaware of the rest of the team's eyes on her.

"Mai? Are you okay?" Ayako asked her as she continued to sway.

"Mai, Earth to Mai?" Monk called, waving a hand in front of her face, but she was too focused on the paused video.

"Is she possessed?" John found himself asking.

Naru stood up and looked into her glazed eyes, he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Mai?" he asked just as her eyes closed and she passed out and into her boss's arms.

"Mai!"

***

Nothing. There was nothing around her, just like her dream from before. A melody came again, same as before, only it sounded so sad. Not warm and inviting. She felt like she wanted to cry.

Words slowly came into her head, but she forgot them easily. They just couldn't stick. Hearing her name being called, she tried to follow the familiar voice, but her mind and body wouldn't move. She couldn't form any words. It was like she was paralyzed.

The melody seemed to stick in her head as she simply floated there, unable to do a thing. So helpless. So dependent for something to stop this. So...weak. Yeah, that's how she felt. Too weak to stop this sadness. Too weak to get over it herself. Too weak to stand back up. It was a horrible feeling, she just wanted wake up from this feeling.

The voices singing became louder and sadder, as if they were almost crying. It was so jumbled the words slipped her memory yet again as she fought off this never ending feeling. She felt her struggles seem to give as she could finally squirm. She had to get out! Someone help her!

***

September Day 2, 1:00 P.M.

"Mai. Mai. Are you going to wake up or what?" a certain monk's voice rang through the air just before the little brunette shot from her spot on the couch. "Easy there."

Mai was gasping for breath, finally registering the others in the room. Monk being the closest to her, she latched onto him first, wanting to cry but the tears just wouldn't come. She held him tight, her hands shaking as she gripped him. "Hey, you okay?" he asked concernedly, wrapping his larger arms around her and stroking her hair.

Mai didn't move from her spot, clinging to Monk as though her life depended on it, hoping that feeling of sadness and dread would just disappear. It wouldn't and that melody just came into her head again.

"What is she singing?" a familiar voice questioned from across the room. Yasuhara and Masako must have come when she was still asleep.

"I...I was singing?" Mai asked finally snapping out of her trance. She saw the whole SPR group standing around her, a mystified Naru making his way to sit on the ottoman across from the confused girl.

"Mai, did you have a dream?" Mai nodded, letting go of Monk and facing her boss.

"Yeah, I had one last night two, they were almost exactly the same..." she went into a description of her dream.

"Do you remember the words to that song?" Ayako asked, sitting next to her. "You were humming that same melody before you passed out."

"I was?" Mai was bewildered, she didn't remember humming at all! When the majority of the team nodded their heads, she could only sigh. "I don't remember the words, each time I hear them, I can't grasp them. Whoever was singing was so sad."

"Lin, play the audio from last night," Naru ordered as his assistant did so.

Everyone listened as the audio came to the part where Jinru was levitating. "What is that?" John asked, as everyone heard the sound of a man singing, the words becoming muffled in the speakers.

"He sounds so sad..." Masako commented as Mai began to sway side to side again, closing her eyes.

"Smile, though your heart is aching," she sang softly with the melody that played. "Smile, even though it's breaking, When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by..."

"Mai?" John took a step forward but Lin held a hand out.

"Shh!" Lin ordered, as they turned their attention back to Mai.

"Smile, through your tears and sorrows. Smile, and maybe tomorrow you'll see the sun come shining through, if you just smile." She finished, opening her eyes again. "What?"

"You just sang the song you were humming before," Monk answered, his eyes wide. "I thought you said you didn't know the words?"

Mai looked at him confused. "I sang? Really? I have no clue! And the words to that song are just something I can't remember," she shook her head, the last minute a complete blur.

"Mai, tell me, what was the last thing you remember?" Naru asked, cutting off anyone else who wished to give their input.

She raised a brow. "What do you mean? You had Lin play the audio from last night, then you guys were complaining that I was singing."

"I don't think we were complaining just merely stating a fact," Yasuhara retorted.

"Anyway," Naru interrupted after a moment, standing up. "From what Miss Hara told us when she arrived, we have one spirit present in this house. And by Yasuhara's research..."

Naru motioned for the college student to continue. "From what I found out about this house, only one person actually died on the property, the former owners moved out once they found a larger building. The man who died was Tsuyoshi Gensai, husband to Nishi Gensai, and father to Jinru Gensai. He died two years ago of a heart attack."

"Well, now we at least know who is haunting this place and the possible reason for the levitation, but why the lullaby? And what reason does he have to stay here?" Monk wondered aloud.

"Weren't you the one who said something about loved ones sticking around?" Mai pointed out.

"Well, Mai-"

"Miss Hara, Miss Matsuzaki, I want you to do another sweep of the house and take down temperature readings. Mai, I want you and Father Brown to-"

Gurglurgurop.

"Sorry, I didn't have much breakfast or any lunch," Mai smiled, sheepishly scratching her head.

"Mai, I want you and Father brown to go and get something to eat. Monk and Yasuhara, I need you to change the tapes in the cameras," Naru finished.

"Got it!" everyone agreed, gathering whatever equipment they needed and heading for whatever job the must perform.

***

"Mai! You're awake! How are you feeling?" Nishi asked, as the priest and tiny brunette walked into the small kitchen.

"I'm fine, Nishi," Mai confirmed with a small laughed. "It was nothing serious."

"You must be starving!" Nishi exclaimed, rushing to prepare something for the girl. "I'll fix you up something right away!"

"Thanks so much, Nishi," Mai bowed and took a seat at the table.

"I'll make something for you, too, Father Brown!"

"That's not necessary-" he tried to protest, but it was futile. This woman had made up her mind.

"Give me a couple minutes and you two will have some food."

Within five minutes, John and Mai found themselves eating sandwiches. Nishi excused herself, explaining that she had a few more errands to run and took her daughter with her. Monk and Yasuhara came to join them.

"So, what made you pass out earlier?" Monk asked, sitting next to Mai.

She swallowed the bite she had been chewing and turned to him. "I don't know," she began, shaking her head. "When the video showed Jinru being lifted, that lullaby came into my head, and the next thing I knew, I was out."

"That is odd," John commented, taking a sip of his water.

"Speaking of odd and Jinru, what do you guys think of her?" Monk asked, leaning back. "Like, what's your impression of her?"

"She's extremely shy," Mai replied, taking another bite.

"More like terrified," John added.

"Yeah, she's shyer than Kiko," Yasuhara commented, causing his friends to stare.

"Kiko? As in Kiko Kimura? Shy? Now, I don't buy that for a minute! She practically forced Naru to take that case at her house," Monk laughed, raising a brow at the younger boy.

"It's true, Her first year of high school, my second, we were in a majority of the same clubs, but she never really said a word. In fact it was only just before she left Rokuryou that we actually spoke to one another. She was very reserved, but Jinru is even worse," Yasuhara explained.

"But, that's being reserved, there's a difference from being shy," Monk pointed out. "And I still don't believe you!"

"Wait. What's the difference?" Mai asked, holding her hands up to stop the monk from continuing.

"People who are shy are just that, shy. However, people who are reserved like to take in their surroundings before jumping in, sort of like some animals," John explained, as Mai nodded.

"Okay, but what's making Jinru so shy?"

"Think about it, Mai," Monk cut in, stealing the last little bit of her sandwich. "Her father died two years ago, it's probably still on her mind."

"I guess..." Mai responded looking down.

"Not to get really personal, or anything," Yasuhara began. "But, don't you remember what it was like after your father died?"

Mai looked back up, trying to remember. "Not really, I was really young when he died and I don't remember him much. But my mom, yeah I remember that perfectly."

"Just remember what that was like, it's probably harder for her. Her father being in her life until right before she starts high school. It's a little nerve-racking to even think about it."

Sighing, Mai remembered exactly that. She knew exactly what Jinru was going through, even though she still had a mother, Mai knew the pain of losing a parent. It wasn't something you simply got over. It lives with you day in and day out. It all depends on how you deal with it, and that's how she ended up the person she was. And for Jinru, it may take longer for her to be able to be as open as she had once been, to be able to accept what happened, and to get on with her life, like her father would want. So be it.

"Yeah," Mai could only say, feeling a consoling hand grip her shoulder lightly. She looked at the blonde foreign boy and smiled. "Thanks, John."

***

With time to kill, why not wander around the house? Mai had that idea as she wandered around upstairs, killing time while settling that natural curiosity she had, seemed like a good idea. The house seemed calm and peaceful and welcoming, a pleasant change compared to the utter despair she felt not too long ago, but why the sudden change? It wasn't as though this spirit had crossed over already, but why did she feel so safe and secure?

"Mai?" Snapping out of her reverie, she turned to see the snobbish medium walking towards her.

"Oh, hey, Masako," she replied.

"I thought that was you walking around," Masako commented, placing a kimono sleeve at her mouth.

"Yeah, so what do you think of this house?" Mai asked, trying to make conversation.

"It's odd, When both Jinru and Nishi-san were here, there was a somewhat threatening presence, like anger almost. When it was just Jinru, that presence wasn't really there, just a feeling of regret. And now that they are both gone, the house seems so welcoming. It's very odd, indeed," she explained, looking from corner to corner of the hallway.

"Wow," Mai gasped, she had never seen the medium so confused. However, before she could respond about her intake of the house, something caught her eye. "I thought I closed that door?"

"Excuse me?"

"A couple doors behind you, I was just in there, I could have sworn I closed the door," Mai explained, her head cocked to one side in confusion.

Masako turned to see the now opened door to Jinru's room. "Come to think of it, I just walked by and it was closed..."

Curious, Mai marched herself up to the sixteen year old's room. "Hey, did someone just open this-" she stopped mid sentence. The room was empty. The lamp was turned on.

"What is it?" Masako ran up, noticing the empty room. "Did Monk change the battery just now or something?"

"I don't think so, we would've heard footsteps, and I don't think he would be able to just go back downstairs without saying hi or something."

Out of nowhere, the lamp began to flicker, causing the girls to gasp. Come on, Mai, there are many logical explanations for something like this, she told herself, remembering the lesson she had from Naru about how not everything is paranormal. Faulty wiring.

It continued to flicker.

The bulb isn't screwed in all the way.

The flickering became more erratic.

The bulb is going out.

The flickering stopped and the lamp was lit once again.

The plug may have been a little loose.

With a small sigh of relief uttered by both girls, Mai went to turn the lamp off and exit the room. Out in the hallway, Masako stopped walking. She just gasped and looked down the hall in fear. Mai looked that way to see nothing, and turned back to see Masako shaking. "Masako? What's wrong?"

The lights in the hallway began to flicker. "So sad..."

Something was not right. As the air got colder, Mai got the feeling that there wasn't a logical explanation for the flickering. She grabbed Masako's hand and forced her to rush down the stairs, had they stayed any longer, who knows what would've happened.

"What's gotten into you two?" the priestess asked, as the two ran down the stairs and into Base out of breath.

"Something spook you?" Yasuhara asked.

"Door opened...Jinru's lamp...temperature drop..." Mai panted.

"Okay, calm down," Monk chided, sitting both girls on the couch. "Take a deep breath."

Naru casually walked over to the two and sat on the ottoman. "What happened?" he asked after the girls had calmed down a little.

"We were upstairs," Masako began, turning to Naru. "And Mai said she saw Jinru's door open-"

"I didn't see it open, I just remember closing it and when I looked back it was open again-"

"We walked in there and-"

"The lamp started flickering-"

"We turned it off-"

"I turned it off-"

"And went into the hallway, then the lights started flickering-"

"And the temperature dropped-"

"And the spirit was there, he was so sad-"

"Something was gonna happen so I grabbed Masako and ran out!" By the time they finished explaining, they were out of breath once again.

Naru stood up, assuming his thinking pose, trying to come up with his next move. John came into the room with tea for everyone, Mai took the cup grateful that for once she wasn't in charge of making tea. "Mai and I will be spending the night here," Naru declared.

Mai nearly choked, almost spitting out her tea. What!

"You sure that's a good idea, Naru? I mean we all know how she's a magnet for danger," Monk asked, sitting down in one of the available chairs.

"She is still in the room," Mai mumbled bitterly. Why did people have to talk about her like she wasn't there?

Naru turned to her. "You said so yourself, your dreams were more vague while you spent the night at the hotel, and when you had the dream this morning it was a little clearer. If you spend the night, you may have a more vivid dream," he explained.

"That does make sense," Mai confirmed with a sigh.

"Mai, you can't be serious," Ayako argued, standing up.

"If I have a more vivid dream, it might help us on solving the case. If it's Tsuyoshi Gensai who's haunting this place, we have to find out what's keeping him here. And I think it has something to do with that lullaby," Mai retorted, standing her ground. "I think Naru's right."

"And probably one of the few times she'll ever admit it," a very soft mumble came from the Chinese man typing.

"What was that, Lin?" Yasuhara inquired turing back to him.

"Nothing..."

"After supper, I would like John to drive Mai to the hotel to gather her things and bring her back. Mai, you will stay in the guest bedroom upstairs, I'll stay in base, any objections?" Naru explained, returning to the wall of monitors.

"Who would've thought Naru was enough of a gentleman to offer to sleep on the couch," Ayako noted softly, turning to the monk next to her. "Would you do that?"

"For you? Hell no, you old ha-"

THUNK!

"Do you ever put that thing down!"

The two continued to argue, leaving everyone else with sweat drops on their heads.

***

Everything felt cold and lonely, even the purple glow of the black background wasn't comforting to her. Once again her friend didn't seem to be showing up, but the melody from before always seemed to find her.

Smile, though your heart is aching...

So that's what those lyrics were! She could finally remember the song just as her long time no see friend appeared. "Mai, wake up!" he ordered, startling the girl.

"Naru, it's not that easy for me to just wake up, it's like I have no control," she retorted, her eyes curious. "Why does this place seem so warm and inviting one second but sinister the next? And why the lullaby?"

"Mai, I can't explain everything right now, but you need to wake up, I can't protect you here."

Mai's eyes widened. He can't protect me from my dream? Or from the spirit? "What do you mean?"

"Something will happen if you don't wake up and it's-" He never had the chance to finish. He disappeared before he could even try.

"Naru!" Mai exclaimed, suddenly pain just shot through her body.

Burns. Aches. Feelings of being physically hit. Over and over again until she just...

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3- Pain

September Day 3, 3:21 A.M.

For a workaholic, like the manager of SPR, it truly wasn't uncommon for him to fall asleep at around two in the morning while still doing work in his day clothes. In fact, it was a common occurrence, and without his Chinese assistant chiding him to get some rest, it was something to be expected.

Asleep with his head in his arms on the table in front of the monitors, Naru still had an uneasy feeling. Just as he was calming down even further into a deep sleep the feeling became a reality.

"AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH! STOP IT! STOP!" the scream filled the air, causing the workaholic teenager to actually fall out of his chair.

"Mai!" he heard his clients exclaim.

He silently cursed himself for falling asleep and raced up the stairs. In the guest bedroom, Jinru and Nishi were hovering over the girl as she continued to scream and thrash about.

"Mai! You're going to wake the neighbors!" Nishi exclaimed trying to shake the girl awake.

Naru, acting purely on instinct, pushed past his client and leaned over the thrashing girl. "Mai!" he shouted, shaking her. "Mai!"

She just continued to thrash, he had to resort to only one option. He hit her, not hard, but enough to snap her out of the nightmare. What else could he have done?

The screaming and thrashing ceased as tears welled in the girl's eyes. She shot up and wrapped her arms around a fairly muscular torso, tears spilling over. "M-Mai?" Naru heard Jinru mumble.

Comforting. Something that was never this young man's forte. Didn't Madoka attempt to give him a lesson about this? He really should have paid attention.

He stroked her hair as she cried into his chest, why couldn't Monk be there? He'd know what to do. No. Where the hell did that idea come from? He had to calm her down. He wrapped his arms around her back and she visibly winced.

She winced.

Not of surprise.

But of pain.

"Ow..." she whimpered, gripping his shirt tighter.

He barely even applied any pressure. "Mai, I'm going to need you to turn around," he ordered softly. "I need to see your back."

Mai was shocked by his request, but nevertheless, she complied turning around. Carefully and cautiously, Naru slowly lifted up her shirt, what he saw caused his eyes to widen slightly.

"The hell?" Nishi gasped as she and her daughter covered their mouths.

"M-my God!" Jinru added, trying to look away.

"What?" Mai was scared, what did her dream do to her?

"Mai, what happened in your dream?" Naru asked as Mai shuddered.

"I'll get the first aid kit, Jinru, make some tea." The two ran out of the room, as Mai could only imagine what was on her back.

"Naru, what's on my back?" she dared to ask, as Naru pulled out his cell phone.

"Whatever happened in your dream took a physical toll on you," he replied, turning the camera function on. "Do you want to see what happened?"

She nodded, hearing his phone make a clicking sound. Once the phone was brought to her eyes she gasped. A large purple bruise was already forming on the majority of her back and the memory of her dream came rushing back.

"What happened in your dream?" he asked again, this was unlike him, he seemed kinder than his normal self. His eyes were filled with an emotion Mai had never seen before she couldn't put her finger on it. Regret? Sympathy? Maybe.

"I'm not too sure," she replied, holding her own arms, trying to remember. "It was so cold, so dark, so sad. Everything was black and I heard that lullaby again. Then something was telling me I was in danger and I needed to wake up immediately. I couldn't and the next thing I knew, pain shot through my back, my stomach, arms, legs. Like someone was burning and hitting me."

The memory coming back only made her limbs feel heavy and sore. She let out a breath, tensing as she did so. Everything hurt. "You said your arms..." he said, mainly to himself as Nishi came running back in with the kit.

Reluctantly, Mai allowed her boss to gently push up her sleeve. More bruises were present as well as scratches and what appeared to be cigarette burns. Another gasp could be heard as Naru took another picture. Knowing just what her employer was doing, Mai lifted up her pant leg. More bruises, but no scratches or burns. He took another picture.

"You also mentioned your stomach," Naru stated, Mai just sighed and reluctantly lifting the front of her top. "I see..."

Upon first glance, Mai could see the bruise on her back bleeding onto her side, more scratches and cigarette burns. Naru took another picture and showed her, she gasped.

Written on her stomach in kanji, "Stop!" several times. In her surprise she gasped the word branded over her stomach. "Stop...everywhere...stop..." she mumbled, shaking her head. She remembered that word all to well. It was in her dream, be it in her voice or another's, did it really matter?

She suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Something was not right. Some sort of scent seemed to appear out of nowhere. There was a pressure on her chest and a feeling of nausea rising in her. The room felt like it was spinning, not fast, but a slow, tormenting spin. "Mai?"

She barely heard her employer's voice as she felt herself sway a little. She had had it. The room was suffocating and she was not going to last much longer. The scent made her mind spin. What was it?

Alcohol. But where was it coming from? She couldn't tell, as if it suddenly walked into the room, but...no. It was far too strong for her to have just come into the room and she was the only one to be affected by it. It was as though the scent was coming from her-

She couldn't stand it anymore. She rushed out of there, unaware of her pushing past the woman in front of her, as well as the young teen who nearly spilled the tea she had been carrying.

"M-Mai?" Jinru gasped, watching the petite girl rush into the nearest bathroom.

Naru stood and took the steaming cup from the girl's hands. He turned to the woman whom had requested his services. "I can take things from here, you two should go back to bed," he ordered, dismissing the women.

"Are you sure?" Nishi pressed, after a moment of realizing the stoic young man was not going to answer her, she complied, pushing her daughter out as well.

***

The bathroom had been very welcoming. Well, as welcoming as a room painted white with abnormally bright lights that gave you an instant headache could be. She didn't care. She simply found herself leaning over the toilet emptying whatever contents remained for the supper earlier.

She flushed the toilet once she was done and rinsed her mouth out before she proceeded to brush her teeth again. Simply to get rid of the taste. She rinsed her mouth out again, afterwards taking a drink of water, hoping to calm her splitting headache.

And just like that, the smell of alcohol disappeared. Though the feeling of dread still sat at the pit of her empty stomach, an uneasiness filled the back of her mind. It was more than sadness in this house. It was...

Despair...

What really happened in this house? she wondered, exhaling.

Shaking her head, she left the bathroom and into a dimmer lighted setting, much to the agreement of her pounding head. "You alright?"

She jumped in surprise at the voice. It was very rare for her employer to show much concern, or any emotion for that matter. She looked up at him with tired eyes and nodded, still visibly shaken. "I think so," she replied, seeing the cup of tea in his hands. She took it gratefully. "Thanks."

"We should tend to those marks," he stated in a calm but orderly tone.

"Okay..."

***

September Day 3, 9:07 A.M.

"Where is she! Is she okay?" Ayako exclaimed, frantically running into the small building to find Naru sitting at Base and sipping tea while reviewing evidence.

"Miss Matsuzaki, it may be wise to refrain from your outbursts at this time. There is still a possibility that others are still sleeping," Naru remarked coldly, barely even turning in her direction.

"Easy for you to say! Why didn't you call me as soon as this happened!" The priestess was enraged to say the least and yet the stoic teenager simply turned around, looking at the woman as though she were a child who had gone into a tantrum and he was not going to give in to her wants.

"It was the middle of the night," Naru explained as the rest of his team came in. "Our clients did not need to lose more sleep than they already have. I sent them to bed and dressed the scratches on Mai, if you are so concerned, she is asleep in the guest bedroom, check if you wish."

Ayako merely huffed and feel into the couch with her arms crossed, her mouth in a stern frown. Monk took his seat next to her while everyone else took their own seats. "What exactly happened?" Monk's voice sounded rational enough, despite everyone knowing his concern over the girl.

One look at his Chinese assistant, and Lin handed Naru his laptop. He plugged in his phone and within moments he began to explain what happened. "At around 3:30 A.M. this morning, Mai had some sort of nightmarish vision that caused her to thrash and scream, similar to the case with Urado. Once she finally came to we found these..."

Naru turned the laptop to face everyone, who instantly moved in closer in horror. "Holy-" Monk stopped himself, remembering there was a priest in the room.

"Oh my..." John crossed himself upon the sight.

"That must've been one hell of a dream..." Yasuhara noted as Naru flipped to the next picture.

"It makes no sense..." A gasp came from the medium as the final picture came up.

"Stop?" the monk and priestess noted together, looking at each other.

"After she had calmed down, Mai fell back asleep and remains that way in the room upstairs," Naru explained, handing the laptop back to Lin. "As you might think, she was startled by the impressions on her skin. Because of the shock, she might not wake up for another couple of hours, let her rest."

...

"Did Naru just..." Monk whispered to the priestess next to him.

"Allow Mai to sleep, without complaining?" she finished as Yasuhara leaned in as well.

"Quick! Are there zombies outside!" he whispered frantically, looking for a window.

"It's not the apocalypse, Yasuhara-san," Lin called to the boy shocking everyone. "I can assure you that."

***

Stiff and sore, Mai awoke to the sound of a certain priestess yelling at her employer. Or maybe it was at Monk. Who cares?

Seeing as there was no point in rolling over, especially since it would be too painful, she sat up, faintly remembering the events of earlier that morning. Glancing at the clock she figured she may as well get dressed. Naru would be wanting his tea right about now.

Standing up, she realized how painful the effects of her dream had been. It seemed as though her daily life was becoming more and more dangerous with each and every case the team took on.

She undressed herself and got a glimpse of the damage in the nearby mirror. Sure, most of the scratches and burns had been covered up thanks to Naru and some bandages and ointment, but there was nothing that could be done about the bruises. She silently thanked whatever greater being that may have existed that her school was no longer wearing their Spring/Summer uniforms. She would be able to hide them easier until they healed.

She still couldn't get rid of the feeling that dream had given her. Such uneasiness. Mai tried to shake it off as she re-dressed herself in a pair of jeans and a long sleeved top. After brushing her hair, she headed for Base, where her friends continued to talk and she could eavesdrop.

Traveling down the stairs she heard something just sounded odd. "It's not the apocalypse, Yasuhara-san, I can assure you that."

"Do I want to know what you guys were talking about?" she asked, startling everyone in the room. Literally everyone. Even the two antisocial men were surprised.

"Mai!" Monk leaped from his seat to give the girl a big bear hug. She squirmed in his grasp.

"Ow...Monk...that hurts..." she gasped, feeling the strength of his arms along the bruises on her own.

"Sorry!" he exclaimed, immediately letting her go and-

THUNK!

"Idiot!"

"I said sorry!"

"That's not gonna make up for it!"

The two continued to squabble as the tiny brunette snuck away from them to sit in a chair between John and Yasuhara. After Naru cleared his throat the room became silent again. He turned to Mai. "I think you better relay your dream and the events from last night to everyone."

"Naru, I thought you already told them."

"It was your dream, not mine."

With a sigh of annoyance, she began to explain her dream. "It was dark and cold and lonely, and that lullaby began to play. It was so sad, then something was telling me to wake up, I wasn't safe in the dream. But I couldn't. My body wouldn't wake up and then I felt pain, burning and hitting my body, my arms, legs, stomach, back..."

"What was telling you to wake up?" the priest asked.

"I...I'm not sure," she lied. Now was not the time to be explaining how she has dreams of her boss, especially with said boss in the room. "But once Naru woke me up, we found those bruises I'm sure he showed you already." She stopped for a moment, remembering the events all too well. "Stop..." her voice was quiet as the marks appeared in her mind.

"It's okay, Mai," Monk comforted, placing a hand on top of her head. "You can stop."

Wrong choice of words...

"After we saw the burns and bruises, something happened," Mai blurted, catching her employer's attention. He leaned in, curious. "I suddenly felt really dizzy, like the room was spinning. Not fast like a top, but slow, like I was turning, scanning the room. Then I felt sick to my stomach and there was this overwhelming smell..."

Mai swallowed the lump in her throat, she was getting dizzy just thinking out it. "You okay?" she heard someone ask, unable to remember who it was, unable to care about it at all.

"It smelled like alcohol..." she continued, closing her eyes, praying for the dizziness to go away. "The weirdest part was that it smelled like it was coming from me, like I had been drinking for hours. After that, I couldn't handle it anymore and ran out of the room."

The room was silent as Naru assumed his thinking pose. Monk and Ayako had returned to their spots on the couch and for once remained silent. No jokes or teasing, just thinking. Naru returned to his black booklet, going over whatever the hell he kept in there. "There's one person we haven't been able to get any information from," he said finally, closing the book and looking at the group before him. "Jinru."

"Her mom said not to disturb her," Ayako retorted, looking out into the hallway in case the woman was eavesdropping.

"She left to run a couple errands, she's not here at the moment," Naru countered, turning toward the monitors, noting that Jinru was in her room.

"That reminds me," Monk blurted, turning to the college student nearby. "How is Kiko? I haven't heard from her since we were at her place."

"What the hell does Jinru have to do with Kiko!" Ayako exclaimed.

THUNK!

"Was that really necessary!" Monk chided, rubbing his head. "you could have just asked without the violence!"

Before the priestess could retort, the priest jumped in. "Yesterday, we had been talking about Jinru's shyness and Kiko came up."

"Yeah, Yasuhara said she's shy!" Monk exclaimed.

"Kiko? No way," Ayako scoffed, leaning back.

"Hey, it took forever for me to get her to talk to me," Yasuhara defended.

"Anybody else notice how we just skipped Monk's question?" Eyes turned to the petite brunette in realization.

"As an answer to your question, Monk, yes, Kiko and I had lunch last week," Yasuhara replied with a laugh.

"Lunch, huh?" Monk got a very fun suspicious look in his eyes, his tone of voice matching. "As in lunch date?" The girls in the room either rolled their eyes or shuddered at the movement of his eyebrows, wondering how on earth people found that "seductive."

"Why Monk!" the college boy exclaimed in horror, shock and betrayer coating his features. "How dare you accuse me of cheating on you! I thought we had something special!" He leaped over to the older monk.

"Gah! You gotta stop that! It freaks me out!" he ordered, trying to fight off Yasuhara and his attempts to hug him or whatever he wished to do at that moment.

Completely unfazed by the goofiness of the team in front of him, the workaholic spoke as though nothing was happening. "Mai, I want you to interview Jinru," he ordered, holding out a pen and notepad.

"M-me?" she squeaked.

"Hey! You sounded just like her!" Monk declared, ruffling the girl's hair.

"Because of her current situation and the understanding that you have over the matter, she may be more comfortable with speaking to you," Naru explained, waiting for his short assistant to take the objects in his hand.

"I don't know-"

"Give it a shot, Mai," John cheered, giving her a smile. "It's worth a try, right?"

***

That's how she ended up standing outside the sixteen year old's room, trying to figure out what to say. All the while, hearing her friends downstairs ask if she was in the room yet, she knew they were looking at the monitors and knew she didn't have much time. Well, here goes everything.

Knock. Knock.

"C-come in!" she heard a voice say weakly. No turning back now.

Mai opened the door to find Jinru sitting at her desk a couple text books and papers around her. "Hi, Jinru," she greeted with a smile, walking in. "Would you mind if I asked you a few questions? It won't take long."

Jinru thought for a moment before turning her chair to the girl. "F-forgive me, M-Mai-san, I would. B-but I'm not really comfortable talking about this..."

"Please, Jinru?"

"Dad..." Mai heard her whisper.

With a sigh, Mai walked over and sat on the bed. "I know what you're going through, believe me," she said, a sad smile appeared on her face. "I lost my father when I was very young, and my mother died when I was in middle school."

Shocked, the girl across the room didn't know what to say. "I-I'm so sorry..." she managed to spit out.

"You sure you don't want to answer a couple questions? Even from someone who knows what you're going through? It could help finish this case faster," Mai tried, her big brown eyes trying to win the girl over.

Feeling the atmosphere change into something that was warm and safe, Jinru walked over and sat on the bed as well. "W-what do you wish t-to ask?" she stuttered.

"Have you had any experiences in this house? We have noted all the experiences your mother has had, but none of yours."

Jinru thought for a moment. "M-my mother believes there's something malicious here, b-but I feel fine. She's been pushed and sh-shoved, I've never experienced a-any of th-that."

"You are aware that your mother claims she witnessed you levitating in your sleep correct?" Mai inquired, conveniently not mentioning the little fact that they caught that on video.

"Y-yes, she told me, i-in fact, b-before she thought it w-was some sort of-n-never mind," Jinru said, shaking her head. "W-when sh-she asked i-if I dreamt of anything, I had n-no nightmares that night, I-I felt safe."

"I see..."

***

While Mai had gone to interview Jinru, Naru had ordered Masako to do another walkthrough of the house. The atmosphere was calm and reassuring, comforting even. There was indeed a male spirit, and she was fairly certain it was Tsuyoshi, but why he seemed to be having mood swings, she could not confirm.

In the guest bedroom, she could hear Mai and Jinru talking, for they were in the room next door, then the atmosphere turned thick and heavy. The door opened.

She could hear Nishi's voice greeting the rest of the team downstairs, and by the sound of the two girls talking next door, they hadn't heard.

They also didn't seem to hear the footsteps coming up the stairs.

Masako held her breath, knowing somewhere inside that if Nishi found Mai disturbing Jinru's studies, something would happen. The medium let out her breath once she heard the woman walk into the master bedroom down the hall. She may not have been on the best terms with the brunette, but she had a feeling she had to get her out of there and down in base as soon as possible.

Calmly, she walked out of the room, the master bedroom door was closed. Guessing Nishi would be in there a while, she crossed over toward the girl's bedroom. Passing the stairway she stopped short.

There air became cold.

She felt...

She screamed as pain suddenly hit her...

***

"So, you think your dad is still in this house?" Mai asked, as their conversation seemed to go on and Jinru became more comfortable with the investigator.

"I-I believe my f-father is with me. A-almost like a guardian angel." A smile graced Jinru's face as she spoke, the first time Mai had ever seen one on her.

"Okay, what about-"

A high pitched scream filled the air, jolting the two girls. "Masako!" Mai exclaimed as Jinru stood and ran for the door. "Wait! You don't know what-"

She never finished.

When Mai reached out to stop Jinru, she grabbed onto the girl's left arm. Jinru winced upon the contact. Mai looked down at her own arm and realized something.

There was a reason why her dream had harmed her...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4- Smile

September Day 3, 10:46 A.M.

Masako had just been loaded into an ambulance, John hopping in the back to keep her company. She had fallen down the stairs a little while before, of course that's what was on our favorite brown eyed girl's mind right now.

Mai sat in base thinking about what happened in the sixteen year old's bedroom after they heard Masako scream. It was burned into her memory...

A high pitched scream filled the air, jolting the two girls. "Masako!" Mai exclaimed as Jinru stood and ran for the door. "Wait! You don't know what-"

She never finished.

When Mai reached out to stop Jinru, she grabbed onto the girl's left arm. Jinru winced upon the contact. Mai looked down at her own arm and realized something.

There was a reason why her dream had harmed her... "Jinru..."

The girl recoiled, snapping her arm out of Mai's grasp. Her eyes wide. She shook her head, "F-forget it." She raced out of there with Mai following her.

She never had the chance to talk to the girl after that. Everything happened too fast. She vaguely heard her boss order everyone to do some sort of task after they had watched the video of the camera upstairs. It went dead just before Masako tumbled down the stairs, and the camera at the bottom of the steps only showed her fall to the floor as it was faced toward another room. They had no leads.

"Mai..." her name was being called, she barely heard it. She knew something she probably shouldn't, then again, that happened all the time, and she needed to tell Naru but something told her she had to leave the house. "Mai!"

"Huh!" Mai jumped as her employer snapped her out of her reverie.

"Tea."

That does it. She couldn't keep it down any longer, she had to say something! Screw the tea! Something had to be done! Why was she suddenly feeling bold?

"Naru," she said quietly, standing at his side.

"I told you to get tea..." He did not once look away from his black book. Mai boldly placed her hand in the middle of the page and pushed the book down. "Mai," he warned, obviously annoyed until he saw the look in her eyes.

"I need to speak with you," she said, hearing footsteps from all around them. "Outside."

Naru looked at her, but obeyed anyway. For all he knew, she could be possessed, or the spirit of Tsuyoshi was swaying her decisions. Once they were outside the house, Mai continued to lead him out by the van, looking back at the house constantly. Finally she stopped.

"What is it, Mai?" Naru asked, crossing his arms.

Mai took a deep breath and leaned up against the van's door. "There's a reason why I got these bruises last night," she began, subconsciously grabbing her arm.

"I understand that much," Naru remarked coldly, causing the girl to shoot a glare at him. "Do you know why you received these wounds?"

This was a change. Naru was pressing her for answers. Normally it was the other way around, but this time she wanted answers as well, and she was not going to let him in on her theory until she filed in the blanks. Hey, after working for this guy for over a year, it's time for a little payback. "Naru, I got sick last night."

She knew she wasn't making much sense but she had to admit that it was fun watching him try to figure things out with such vague phrases. Was she doing this on purpose? "I remember, Mai, you ran to the restroom."

This really was fun! He was getting annoyed with her, sure, and was practically calling her stupid, yeah. However, there was something very important that he was missing and she was the who had the key. "Didn't you smell it?" Despite the fun she knew she had to give in.

"Smell what?" Naru was certainly one impatient boy.

"It was so strong and sickening..." Mai continued, mainly to herself, but her boss listened anyway. He was finally getting somewhere with her. "It was as though I had just taken a bath in a tub of sake."

"The alcohol?" the man in black replied, wondering why she was bringing up something that he already new.

Mai simply nodded taking a deep breath. "Yeah. It was such a sickening scent, it made my eyes water and my stomach churn. The next thing I knew I was in the bathroom. I smelled it again when Masako fell."

"And your wounds?" Naru interjected, shifting his weight.

"Huh?" Mai replied, cocking her head.

"You wanted me to come out here to discuss the wounds you received last night."

"Oh, right." The brunette sheepishly scratched her head before continuing. "When you asked me to interview Jinru, she said she hadn't had any experiences and she said she could feel her father with her, like he was her guardian angel or something. She felt safe."

"Go on." At some point he and the petite brown eyed girl had switched places, as she began to pace a little.

"If she felt safe here, why would I have been given these bruises and scratches and burns?" Mai asked him with big eyes.

"I was hoping you would answer that." There goes that irritated look in his eyes.

"It was a message, Naru," Mai explained, as though realization were hitting her as well. "When Masako fell down the stairs, Jinru raced out to see what happened. I grabbed her arm before she reached the door, she flinched."

This caused her workaholic of a boss to raise his eyebrows. Though only for a moment. "She flinched?" he repeated, leaning against the van.

His assistant proceeded to pull up the sleeve on her left arm, pointing to one painful looking purple and black bruise. "I grabbed her arm right where this bruise would be!" Her eyes were stern, she was not going to let him simply walk away from her discovery. "She said she didn't have any paranormal experiences and that she felt safe meaning-"

"They're hiding something."

***

Nishi had left not too long ago once again, saying she had to pick up dry cleaning. Jinru was once again in her room. And the rest of SPR were at base awaiting their next order as Naru hung up the phone. He turned to Monk and Ayako. "I want you two to do another temperature sweep of the house," Naru ordered, then turned to the two younger members of their team. "Mai, Yasuhara, come with me."

The two teens followed the teenage workaholic upstairs to Jinru's room, as the monk and priestess obeyed their own orders. Naru knocked on the door and Jinru opened it with a slightly terrified look on her face. "Y-yes?"

"Miss Gensai, could we have a word with you?" Naru asked with virtually no emotion as always.

"I-I already a-answered your questions," Jinru replied, taking a step back.

"Just a few follow-up questions, Jinru," Yasuhara defended with a smile. "Please? It won't take very long and afterwards we won't bother you again."

"I-I don't know..."

"Please, Jinru," Mai pleaded with understanding eyes.

The girl only sighed. "F-fine."

"Come with us," Naru ordered and started down the stairs, the other teens following in tow.

Mai had already prepared the tea and was pouring it into cups as the others, excluding the medium, monk, priest, and priestess, were sitting at base. Lin was now paying attention while typing away on his computer. Mai placed cups in front of everyone sat next to her employer as he began his own interrogation. "When did your father pass away?" he began, catching the girl off guard.

"T-two years ago," she stuttered, regaining some composure.

"What was he like before he died?"

What on earth? "H-he was kind a-and gentle. H-he was my father," Jinru could only respond, just what was he trying to prove?

"How often did your father drink?" The girl's eyes widened as the only sound in the room was the constant taping of Lin's laptop.

"W-what? M-my father r-rarely drank! W-when he was a-alive, we h-had no a-alcohol in the house." Jinru was shocked from all of this.

"Was he ever abusive to either you or your mother? Verbally or physically?" Naru continued, the gears in his head turning.

Jinru shook her head. "W-where on earth w-would get that idea?" Somewhere deep inside anger started to rise. "No, m-my father never l-laid a hand on m-me. A-and h-he never said anything awful u-unless it-it was to the T.V."

Making a mental note in his head, which seemed to confirm his suspicions. "Mai, roll up your left sleeve," he ordered, the brunette obeyed. A few bandages had been placed on her burns, but the bruise was plain as day.

At this point, Monk and Ayako had finished their sweep and had quietly returned to base. "Miss Gensai, I would like you to roll up your left sleeve as well..."

The air seemed to thicken as the girl tensed, hesitating. Her eyes were wide and her breathing quickened and became shallow. "Miss Gensai?" She barely heard the boy as she began to panic.

Reluctantly, Jinru pulled up her sleeve causing a gasp from several members of the group.

Underneath the fabric, several scars and scratches, and a large healing purple and green bruise. They were all placed in the exact spots as Mai's own arm, there were no coincidences here.

Mai's injuries were a message indeed. But what story were they telling exactly?

"I see," Naru's usual emotionless voice cut into the silence. "I take it the scratches and other wounds Mai had received last night was not the first time you witnessed them?"

Jinru could only nod, tears welling in her eyes. "B-but how?" an awestruck priestess questioned with a small gasp, her eyes wide.

"One last question, Miss Gensai," Naru began, completely unfazed, as though he had expected this from the beginning. Before he could continue he noticed his petite assistant sway side to side.

"Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it's breaking, When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by..." Her eyes were dazed as her quiet voice sang the notes, the younger teen's eyes just grew wide.

"D-Dad?" The tears were really threatening to spill now.

"Miss Gensai, pay attention, I need you to answer," Naru ordered, as Mai's singing ceased but her face was still dazed. "In the past, has your mother ever been out as much as she has since we arrived?"

Clenching her fists, she painfully remembered the song Mai had been singing. "N-no, not n-nearly as often a-as she has th-the past f-few days..." her voice trailed off as she heard the brunette hum and felt the need to join her.

"Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it's breaking, When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by," the two began to sing, the taller girl's stutter going away. "Smile, through your tears and sorrows. Smile, and maybe tomorrow you'll see the sun come shining through, if you just smile. Just give me a smile..."

"Daddy..." That was it for the girl, the tears finally came out. Of happiness and sadness, even she didn't know. Meanwhile, a certain bobbed haired girl swayed once more before collapsing only for her boss to catch her.

"I understand," Naru breathed as the girl regained her consciousness. Under normal circumstances she probably would have shouted and scrambled away, but she felt drained and her injuries were beginning to burn. "I think I have everything figured out."

It was at that moment the front door opened, footsteps trailed into Base revealing Nishi with a plastic bag with a dress on a hanger. "Jinru? I-I thought you had to do your homework?" she asked, then seeing Mai trying to steady herself again from her boss's grip. "Oh, Mr. Shibuya, did you find anything? Is the investigation going well?"

The black clad teen simply opened his little black booklet. "My investigators and I believe we figured out the source of the haunting as well as why it persists," he stated.

"So you can stop it?" Nishi's eyes lit up as she hoped her nights filled with terror would finally come to an end.

"You see, it's not something we can do." Naru's unreadable expression always made his comments sound either harsh or plain confusing.

"When did we figure this out?" Monk could be heard whispering to the priestess next to him only to receive an elbow in the ribs.

"I-I'm afraid I do not follow..." the older woman hesitated, placing her belongings on an unoccupied chair.

And thus began Naru's explanation of the entire case. "Your husband, Tsuyoshi Gensai, died just a couple of years ago, until then you held a happy and loving family," he began turning pages in his book. "Jinru was a very outgoing girl until this stress occurred, causing her to become closed up and shy. Afterwards paranormal activity slowly escaladed, which could have been caused by none other than your daughter whom was going through such a stressful time. However," Naru paused looking at the woman. "You also claimed you had been attacked and pushed down the stairs when you were here alone, which could not have been caused by your daughter. There was another cause.

"Then my team and I arrive and catch evidence of your claim to have seen your daughter levitate. Then Mai had a dream that caused her to awake with bruises, scratches, and burns, she ended up having to run to the restroom due to a strong smell of alcohol that only she could smell." He flipped the page. "According to evidence we gathered, and the information we researched, the only plausible spirit that could be the one to escalate the haunting would be your late husband. Tsuyoshi Gensai."

"But, that's impossible," Nishi gasped, feeling her legs go numb. "My husband would never hurt me or my daughter or Mai!"

"You didn't let me finish, Mrs. Gensai," Naru interjected, his investigators knew better than to interrupt him. "According to the fact that your husband was the only one to die in the house and on the property for that matter, it was assumed he was the one inhabiting this place. There are cases in which deceased family members haunt their living relatives and become violent, however that takes time, much more time than the two years your husband had passed away. There would have to be another cause to the violence you described and Mai experienced. There being no record of your husband as the aggressive sort, only made our job tougher. We had to find other clues."

"Then what is here?"

Naru took a sip of his tea before continuing. "I was wondering that myself, until Mai said something to me that sparked my curiosity." He flipped another page. "The injuries she gained last night were message, once she said that, several ideas came to mind. But the question remained, 'if those marks are a message, what are they trying to say?'" Naru closed his book and folded his hands on the table. "Then I received a call and everything came together."

The air was still as they awaited the boy in black to respond. His face was stern as he brought his folded hands up to rest his arms on his elbows and place his chin on his hands.

"You pushed Miss Hara down the stairs."

Gasps were heard around the room. Jinru kept her head down as her mother felt rage building in her.

"How dare you accuse me of such a thing!" the woman shrieked, her fists tightening. "I would never do something like that! Where did you even come up with that idea!"

Naru closed his eyes and remained calm. "The call I received was from Father Brown, Miss Hara is doing fine and awoke not long ago. She said you were the one who pushed her, putting all the pieces together."

"How! What makes you think I was the one to push her!"

He opened his eyes and looked at the woman. "Ever since we arrived, you had a peculiar way of going about things," Naru began, his blue eyes serious. "We only had your accounts to go by, making our job difficult because of your warning that your daughter was busy with homework and to not disturb her. So we stayed away from your daughter, respecting your wishes and trying to figure this case out with the information on hand. You also claimed that she hadn't experienced anything, when I asked to interview her, she confirmed your claim. However that doesn't explain the bruises and scars on her arm." Naru's eyes narrowed accusingly at the woman. "In the exact same places as on Mai's."

"You showed him those!" Nishi gasped, looking at her daughter who refused to answer. "I-I thought you didn't want anyone to know?"

She remained silent.

"That was when my suspicions were confirmed." Naru continued. "What happened to Mai last night was indeed a message, a message telling us that your daughter had gone through the same thing, possibly more." Naru motioned for Lin to hand him a folder, it was black of course. "When we arrived you had a tendency of leaving the house, quite often as well. Your daughter, who was once an outgoing girl according to her teachers' comments, became shy and afraid of nearly everyone. Your late husband who was a gentle man. The violence started somewhere." He concluded as the others listened with interest. "You began to drink after your husband's passing. The cause of all this is you, Mrs. Gensai."

Mai shakily raised her hand. "Naru, you lost me..." she said.

"Don't you smell it, Mai?" he asked, not even attempting to look at her. "I thought you would certainly be the first to notice."

She huffed, but took a sniff and she smelled it. Just like the night before. Just like when Masako fell. It was hard to ignore.

Alcohol.

The workaholic teenager kept his gaze at the woman. "When Tsuyoshi passed, you resorted to drinking to drown out your pain, leading to you becoming violent and probably giving Jinru similar bruises as she has now. That was when the activity started back up in the house. Then you came to my office and I decided to take your case, you explained that your daughter was busy and we shouldn't bother her, however she was only busy because you told her she needed to be. Neither of you wanted anyone to find out, so when Mai awoke with the same injuries you were worried that someone would catch on." He paused taking in a breath and pulling out another page from the folder. "But you were worried about that the entire time weren't you? You would go out and get a drink and try to make some time to sober up, claiming you had to run errands.

"After the incident last night, you knew whoever was haunting this house was trying to reveal what you had done. Miss Hara being a medium, could channel that spirit and the truth would have been revealed. You turned off the camera and pushed her down the stairs in order to keep your secret hidden." He looked back to the woman before him. "What you weren't expecting was that the spirit wasn't trying to contact Miss Hara but someone who would understand your daughter better than anyone in this room. The spirit who resides here knows what you've done and wants you to stop. This spirit here is none other than your husband. He may or may not have attacked you as you claimed, seeing as we have caught no evidence of that happening while we were here, but Tsuyoshi would only do something like that as a warning. To show you the pain you made Jinru go through."

Naru's eyes seemed to soften as he watched the woman's knees wobble slightly and her face blanch. "'Smile, though your heart is aching,'" was all he needed to say for the woman to completely break down. "Tsuyoshi would sing that song to calm Jinru down as a child, maybe you should have tried to live by that after his death."

Nishi's knees had given in, everything she tried to hide had been revealed, her own daughter even began to cry. "I-it was just so hard!" the woman practically wailed. "I wasn't even he when he had that heart attack! Jinru was! And she didn't know what to do!"

"You blamed yourself, then turned it onto Jinru. Something so natural yet so horrible," Ayako commented closing her eyes.

"It's my fault..." Jinru whimpered, her head in her hands.

In the room filled with sobs, a certain brunette noticed something was missing. But what? John and Masako are at the hospital, and we're all here. Something just seems wrong, Mai wondered, scanning the faces in the room. The air seems heavy, but there also a bunch of emotion, don't spirits feed off of emotion?

Her questions were answered as she looked to her right and noticed Lin had stopped typing. So that's what was missing...

He stood up and placed a hand on the crying teen's shoulder, she picked her head up. "L-Lin?" Her eyes widened to his next move.

The room was shocked, aside from the crying woman who was nearby the door. Lin had leaned down and pressed his lips to the girl's forehead. "I'm proud of you," he said simply with a smile. He straightened and walked over the weeping older woman. He kneeled next to her. "Nishi-chan?" She lifted her head only slightly, then continued to cry. "Nishi-chan, I'm not angry."

"What on Earth?" Mai breathed out, only to have her employer place a hand up to silence her.

"I-it can't be," Nishi gasped, looking back at Lin. "Ts-Tsuyoshi?"

Lin nodded and smiled. "That's right," he extended his hand to lift her up, "it's me."

She accepted his hand and stood next to the tall man. "I-I...I'm so sorry!"

Lin pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, his eyes soft. "No, I'm sorry for leaving you both, but you guys are strong and I'll always be looking after you." He hugged her and she hugged back, more tears threatening to spill over. She didn't see that she was hugging one of the men she had just met, but she saw her husband. The kind and gentle soul he's always had. The soft smile on his face. The optimism in his voice.

"Tsuyoshi," she exhaled, gripping him tighter. "I'm so sorry."

"I know," Lin said, stroking her hair. "I know you aren't one to drink, and certainly not someone to resort to her fists rather than her mind. I know you're sorry for everything and I'm sorry for being unable to communicate until now. I had no power." He stepped back and looked down at her. "Please, know this, I still love you and Jinru and I always will. But please, don't do anything to harm each other again, it hurts me to think I cause all this."

"You didn't cause this, it's my fault, I should have been home-" Nishi tried to explain, but was cut off by lips pressed to her own.

"Didn't see this one coming," Yasuhara whispered to Monk as the two continued their embrace.

"Me neither, we probably shouldn't tell Madoka," he whispered back earning a "Shh!" from the priestess next to him.

The two broke apart after a minute and look into each other's eyes. "Don't go," Nishi pleaded, tearing forming in her eyes. Lin smiled sadly and motioned for Jinru to come to them.

She rushed over and Lin pulled her into a hug. "I'm so proud of you for being strong," he told her. He pulled Nishi in as well and held them close. "I have to go, but we'll meet again one day."

"D-Daddy," Jinru whimpered, not wanting to let go. "I love you."

"I love you, too. Both of you." Lin broke free of their combine grips and placed a gentle kiss on both of their foreheads. "But my time is almost up, just know I'll always be looking out for you."

The two nodded, fresh tears gliding down their cheeks, as Lin walked over to Mai who had then stood up. "Uh, Tsuyoshi?" she managed to spit out looking up at a smiling Lin,

"Mai, thank you," he said, giving a low deep bow to the shorter girl. "And forgive me for hurting you last night, but you were the only one who would understand. Thank you so much for understanding my message and helping my family."

"You're welcome," Mai bowed back. "But it was really you who helped your family."

"Not without your help, I'm glad that you remembered the lullaby that was in your dreams. It has a message I hope you can live by," Lin replied, turning to everyone else. "Thank you, everyone, now it's time for me to go. I'm sure we'll meet again someday, I just hope that day is a long, long time from now."

Lin closed his eyes as the mother and daughter held each other for support, they felt the air in the room lighten as the tall Chinese man collapsed to the floor. The two girls following suit more tears streaming their faces. "I'm so sorry, Jinru! I promise I won't do anything like that again!" Nishi cried as she hugged her daughter.

"I-I forgive you, M-Mom."

Ayako had gotten out of her seat to take Lin's pulse and make sure he was alive. "He's fine," she said after a few seconds. "I think he'll wake up soon."

Naru closed the folder and stood up. "Seeing as the case is solved and Tsuyoshi has crossed over, I see no point in harassing this family any further," he said, looking to the group. "We'll start dismantling Base and leave for the hotel to pack our things once Lin awakes. Yasuhara, I want you to call John and let him know."

"Aye-aye, Big Boss!" Yasuhara saluted, and raced out of the room leaving a confused Naru and a sweat-dropped Mai.

Naru turned to her. "Do you have something to do with that?"

Mai just shook her head with a sigh. "You don't wanna know."

***

Within an hour the team had packed all their gear and loaded it up in the van. A dazed Lin had awoken as well, desperately requesting aspirin for his migraine. "Nice work, Lin," Monk teased handing the man a glass of water and two tablets.

"What are you talking about, Takigawa?" he inquired annoyed.

"He's just talking about your make-out session with Nishi, it was so forward for someone like you, Lin," Ayako explained trying to contain her laughter.

Lin just pinched the bridge of his nose after he swallowed the pills. "Do I really need to remind you that that wasn't me?"

Ayako simply huffed and sat back in the living room of the small house. "You know, it was much more fun when Masako was possessed," the priestess pouted crossing her legs.

"You were also trying to trick her into thinking that she was all over Naru," Lin retorted bitterly. It seemed that it took more than ten seconds for aspirin to take effect, much to his annoyance.

"Yeah, but this time we weren't joking. You really were making out with Nishi," Monk added a smirk on his face.

"Madoka won't be happy when she hears this," Yasuhara sang as he entered the room.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Oh come on, we all know it's no secret that you and Madoka fancy each other," Yasuhara continued, shaking his head.

"Where did you get that idea?" The Chinese man raised his brow.

"Come now, Lin, I've seen the way you two look at each other," Ayako practically purred causing him to pinch the bridge of his nose again.

"You met her once," Lin defended.

"Denial, that's where every girl is gonna get you," Monk teased patting him on the back.

"I never thought we'd get him to admit it!" Yasuhara wondered aloud.

"Now I know how Miss Taniyama feels..." Lin grumbled, standing up.

"What was that?" Monk called out as the tall man began to leave the room.

"Nothing," he replied, stopping at the door. "But if you must know, I am in no way, shape, or form in any romantic relationship at this time."

He left after that, leaving one question remaining. "Did we just get some sort of confession?" the priestess asked, the men in the room just shrugged their shoulders.

***

"I cannot thank you enough!" Nishi exclaimed, bowing.

"It was our pleasure, Nishi," Mai replied bowing as well.

"Thank you, Mai," Jinru thanked, bowing to Mai. Mai bowed back and realized something.

"You didn't stutter that time," she said. Smiling, the girl only laughed.

"I-I, still stutter a little, b-but," she explained. "It's not as bad anymore."

"That's good." Mai smiled and looked to her boss.

"We should leave now, tell the others." He walked over to the van, leaving Mai to glare at him.

"Forgive him, he's just..." she tried to think of a polite word to describe her boss. None came to mind. "Like that..."

"It's fine, thank you so much and I hope you have a safe journey home."

Mai gave to two one last smile before racing into the house to gather the rest of their crew. Happy to see a happy ending yet somewhat sad that another case had to end so soon.

***

Masako checked out fine but needed to stay the night so the doctors could be sure, Ayako drove John's car to the hospital to pick him up and they headed to gather their things and check out of the hotel. Then they all began the trip home. And for Mai, the trip to missed homework.

Mai's apartment was empty as usual, not long after she arrived her trusted neighbor came over to give her the homework her friends had dropped off. She thanked the older woman and rubbed her head. She felt gross and the shower was calling out to her.

She stepped into the tiny bathroom removing her clothing and several of the bandages on her body and immediately stepped to the steamy shower. However it was only when she reached for the soap did she realize something.

The burns and scratches were gone! And the bruises were disappearing!

"But I just got these this morning..." she wondered aloud, her eyes wide.

Then she remembered Tsuyoshi. Of course! He may have done this to her but just as a message.

"He just wanted me to know what happened, not be forced to heal from it like Jinru."

She was indeed grateful, especially since she had gym the next day and wouldn't want to explain how she had gotten such abusive wounds!

Chapter Text

Chapter 1- Tea

September Day 1, 7:55 A.M.

September was coming to an end and Mai could already feel her room becoming colder with the change of seasons. Her blanket was nice and warm she didn't want to get up. She merely rolled over into a more comfortable position. Only to face the clock.

And scream.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" she exclaimed sprinting out of her bed, toward her dresser. "No! No, no, no, no!"

Scrambling to put on her clothes while simultaneously making sure she had everything she needed, anxiety rose in the pit of her stomach.

"Why! Why today of all days!" She frantically grabbed her things and running out the door.

***

"Mai's late, again," a certain priestess noted, leaning against a certain college student's car. "As usual." She turned to said college student. "You know, you didn't have to drive us, I could've given you a ride."

"It's fine, Ayako," he smiled. "Naru said it was probably better if I drove."

"Mai's still not here yet?" Monk asked, walking out from the office. "She's late even for her."

"Some just don't have the capability of being punctual..." Masako commented from behind her kimono sleeve.

"What'd you say? Sorry I didn't hear you," Monk replied, raising a brow.

"Nothing at all."

"Wait!" a cry came out of nowhere. The group turned their heads, confirming their suspicions.

"Who wants to bet she overslept?" Yasuhara offered with a chuckle.

"There's no bet, you know that's why she's late," the priestess scoffed as the petite brunette raced up.

"Sorry...pant...I'm...pant...late..." she panted, trying to catch her breath. "I overslept."

"Called it!" The priestess and college student high fived each other with smirks on their faces.

"Did you guys really take bets?" A sweat drop appeared on Mai's forehead.

"Don't worry about them, Girlie." Monk ruffled the girl's hair. "You should probably be worried about Naru, you know how he is when yo-"

"You're late." The cold, ruthless voice rang throughout the parking lot. The hairs on the back of Mai's neck stood up as she turned to see her not so happy employer.

"Er, sorry," she bowed, another sweat drop appearing on her forehead as she straightened up. "I overslept."

"I pay you to work and be on time, not to sleep." He turned to head toward the van where Lin was finishing loading the equipment.

"As I recall, my sleeping has solved several cases..." she grumbled, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes.

"Excuse me?"

Mai perked up with the fakest smile she had ever given. "Nothing, Naru!" she exclaimed, trying her best to look sweet and innocent.

"I'm glad I don't have to sit between them on this trip," Monk whispered to the priestess and college student beside him.

"So am I, considering the traffic is going to be brutal, I don't know how those two will manage an already five hour drive," Ayako muttered back.

"I forgot this was going to take five hours," Yasuhara said thoughtfully. "Say, Ayako, you up for driving after we reach a rest stop." A cheeky ginned plastered over his face.

"Now you decide to take my offer..."

***

September Day 1, 3:45 P.M.

"Thank you for coming such a long way," a man around his mid to late thirties said, bowing. "I understand how the traffic must have been a nightmare."

"It's no trouble at all," Yasuhara bowed in return. "After hearing about your situation over the phone, we knew we had to come quickly."

"I take it you're Mr. Shibuya?" the man asked the college boy.

"Yes, I believe we spoke over the phone, Mr. Ishikawa."

"The rumors of your age are true, it's very admirable of you at such a young age to be running such a successful business," the man smiled in approval, then gesture to the young woman by his side. "Please, call me Ryouta. This is my wife, Akahana."

"Pleasure to meet you both," Yasuhara bowed. "These are my acquaintances whom I have done many cases with, Ayako Matsuzaki, Houshou Takigawa, and Masako Hara." He gestured to the people behind him, each bowing at the call of their name. "And these are my assistants, Lin Kojo, Mai Taniyama, and Narumi Kazuo."

"Nice to meet you all, why don't you come in and we can talk in a more private location," Akahana suggested, placing a hand on her swollen belly. "I can also show you to your rooms and give you a tour of the property."

The group agreed, walking into the massively gorgeous hotel. All trying their best to not show their fatigue after the seven and a half hour drive to the woodsy area just outside of Kyoto. The ride should have only taken about five hours, but with two rest stops (thanks to Mai and Monk respectively) and quite a bit of traffic, their arrival was delayed.

Naru had been hearing much about the paranormal activity going on at the Suiren Yadoya (Water Lily Inn) for a while now. The activity had even been reported on the news several times. With danger becoming ever greater, this business needed help, and Naru needed a body double.

"As I explained to Mr. Shibuya on the phone, my wife and I are fairly new to the hotel business," Ryouta began, as the group sat in the mess of papers that appeared to be his office.

"What Ryouta means, is that we have both worked in hotels in the past, but we're new to owning a hotel," Akahana defined, carrying a large tray filled with tea and cups. Seeing the large amount of items, Mai immediately raced to help the pregnant woman. "Thank you." She smiled.

"We met when we were both hired at this specific hotel by the previous owners, things were fairly creepy back then, however..." The man took a cup from his wife.

"It wasn't until after we married two years ago and we ended up buying this place from the former owners, did we realize how severe things were," Akahana finished, taking a seat with the help of Mai. "Thank you again."

"Can you explain to us what sort of experiences you have had here?" Yasuhara asked, as Lin sat laptop ready at one side of the room.

"A feeling of uneasiness and things that go bump in the night are common in almost every building, but that's not why we called you here," the woman explained, taking a sip of her tea.

"Even when we first started working here, things had been going missing, of course we figured the items were simply misplaced," Ryouta added. "That was, of course, after we found many of the objects in rooms that had been closed off for years."

"Then things had begun to escalate, especially once the man staying in room 534 committed suicide," Akahana added with a sigh.

"Committed suicide?" Monk repeated.

"That's right, he left this note in his room where he slit his throat." Ryouta handed Yasuhara the folded paper.

"'The devils drove me to do this! You're all next!'" Yasuhara read aloud. "Had he been making claims of spirits, or as he put it, demons, roaming around the hotel?"

Akahana shook her head and looked to her husband. "No, he hadn't," her husband replied with a sigh. "Not too long after that several of the staff members had been acting strange."

"I assumed they were just overworked and had them take a day or two off, but..." the woman added, then shook her head. "Many of them were too afraid to return and quit. Those who stayed seemed even more exhausted when they came back."

"I decided to look into the idea that this place may be haunted and came across some disturbing things." The man looked worriedly at his wife. "Nothing about the property itself, but about how spirits will tend to target women and children, especially women who are pregnant."

"Ryouta, I told you, I'm fine," Akahana grumbled, closing her eyes. "It was nothing."

"We have to tell them," he argued, then turned back to the group of people he hired. "Just a few days ago, I was walking through the hallway of the fifth floor and found one of our doormen trying to strangle my wife."

"Ryouta," the woman warned. "I told you I'm fine."

"Show them you're neck!" Ryouta snapped, then softened his face. "Akahana, I'm worried for your safety."

"Fine." Hesitantly, the young woman pulled down the turtleneck she had been wearing, revealing the purple and black bruise around her neck. "The doctor said I was all right and it should heal within a couple weeks."

"Did the doorman have anything against you? Perhaps jealousy was a factor." Naru's cold voice interrupted.

The woman just shook her head. "He was so ashamed at what he had done when we told him. He had no recollection of the event."

"Maybe he had that multiple personality disorder?" Monk threw in.

"Unless multiple personality disorder also changes someone's dark brown eyes to fire engine red, I highly doubt it," Akahana dismissed with a shake of her head. "He had to quit fearing he had gone crazy."

"As you can see, I'm terrified for everyone's safety. Especially Akahana, but she refuses to leave until this matter can be settled." He sent the woman next to him a worried glare.

"You've known me for a while now, you know I simply can't just walk away from something like this."

He ignored his wife's comment. "Our business used to be thriving, but once several of our guests claimed to be pushed down the stairs by some unseen force, virtually no one will come."

"I can assure you, Ryouta," Yasuhara stood looking at 'his' clients with kind eyes. "We shall do everything in our power to help you."

"Thank you." Ryouta stood and bowed as well.

"I'll show you to your rooms and where you can set up your equipment." Akahana stood as well, with the help of her husband.

"That would be great," Yasuhara smiled.

***

"Miss Matsuzaki, Miss Hara, do a walk through of the building and report to me anything you find," Naru ordered after they had set up Base.

"Right," the two replied, heading off.

"Monk, Yasuhara, set up cameras in these rooms." He handed the two a list of rooms. "Take temperature readings as well."

"On it, Boss," Yasuhara unknowingly replied, only to be elbowed by Monk. "I mean, Narumi."

"And Mai..."

"Yes!" Mai exclaimed eagerly.

"Tea." Cue Mai's pouty face.

***

It probably would have been smart had Mai found out where the kitchen was before they set up Base. Naru didn't even give her a map or directions! He was going to pissed at her directionally challenged-ness, but she had more important things to worry about. Such as how when she went down stairs from the third floor she ended up on the fifth?

"534?" she read allowed the numbers on the hotel room door. "But I went down not up?"

Then it clicked. An uneasiness settled in the pit of her stomach. Added to the fatigue of rushing out the door and spending a seven hour drive in silence, she knew this couldn't be good.

"That's where the guest committed suicide," Mai whispered to herself.

The air grew thick and heavy. Her breathing became ragged and uneven. They became little puffs of see-through white as the temperature dropped.

She was frozen. Her heart began to beat rapidly, but she couldn't move. No matter how much her judgment was telling her to.

The cold, icy weight of a hand rested on her shoulder. She held her breath. Help me...

She ran. Her feet finally obeying her commands, she raced down the hall and away from whatever she had experienced.

That voice! It was in my head! She exclaimed in her mind. Someone had been pleading for help, but inside her head?

So engrossed in her internal debate she didn't see the six foot man standing right in front of her.

They collided.

"Holy crap, Mai! What are you running from?" the ever lovable monk exclaimed, having been thrown to the ground from impact.

"Naru told me to get him tea and-"

"There's a kitchen on the fifth floor?" Yasuhara cut in, reaching his hands to help them up.

"That's just it!" Mai exclaimed. "I don't know how, but when I went down the stairs, I went up!"

"Wait, you got freaked out, because you went the wrong way and thought Naru would get mad at you?" Monk concluded, crossing his arms.

"Where did you get that!" Mai raised a brow. "No, I got freaked out because when I realized I was on the fifth floor, the air grew cold and I heard a voice."

"What kind of voice?" Yasuhara asked.

"It was in my head."

"Mai..." Monk said slowly. "You've lost it."

"No I haven't!" she argued, stomping her foot much like a child. "It was a man's voice! It said 'Help me' in my head!"

"So you didn't hear it with your ears?" the college student confirmed.

"Right. I heard it in my head."

"Mai, I think you need a nap." Monk ruffled her hair.

"No, I need to make Naru his tea."

"Mai, you're subject jumping."

"Do you need help finding the kitchen?"

The new female voice made the three of them jump.

"A-Akahana!" Mai stuttered seeing the woman appear around the corner.

"Sorry, I was just speaking with one of the maids and overheard something about tea," the woman explained. "I'd be happy to show you to the kitchen."

"Thanks, that would be great," Mai accepted, following the woman down the hall.

"This place can play tricks on you, I kept getting lost my first month of working here," the woman assured Mai after a while.

"Thanks," she smiled back, unconsciously looking down at the woman's belly. "May I ask, when are you due?"

Akahana laughed a little at the girl's nervousness. "I'm entering week thirty-four, if things go well this little guy won't be born for another month."

"So it's a boy?"

"That's right," she smiled as they entered the non-busy part of the kitchen. "So how are you your boyfriend doing?"

Mai choked on her own spit. "Excuse me?"

"You and Kazuo-san, I saw the way you both would look at each other. I assumed you two were dating." Akahana pulled out the kettle.

Mai chuckled a little bit. "Sorry, Akahana," she set the kettle with water to boil, "but Naru and I are not dating."

"So you came up with pet names for fun?" she teased.

"Huh?"

"His name is Narumi, right? You called him Naru." Mai just started laughing.

"I nicknamed him Naru, because when I first met him, he was such a narcissistic jerk. He's Naru the Narcissist!" Mai explained.

Akahana just laughed. "Kind of reminds me of how I met Ryouta."

"He doesn't seem like a narcissist," Mai commented.

"He was when I first met him, but I changed him, I guess." The teakettle began to whistle. "And he was a bit of a jerk, thinking he was all high and mighty since he was working the front desk while I had to work in housekeeping. He thought he could order me around, making me get him tea and other random jobs."

Mai's jaw almost dropped. Sounds like my job now.

"One day, he made me get him tea and it wasn't one he liked and ordered me to get another type," Akahana continued, as Mai put the tea leaves into the pot and poured the hot water. "I took his cup, and said 'Certainly.' Before I left for the kitchen, I dumped what was left of the tea on his head with a huge smile on my face."

"What possessed you to do that?" Mai asked in wonder.

"He pissed me off, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't have a temper all my life. Nevertheless, I went of the kitchen and made another pot of tea. When I came back and place the cup of the desk, the next thing I knew he kissed me. And that's how this and this happened!" Akahana laughed as she pointed to her wedding ring and belly.

Mai couldn't help but laugh as well. "At least it turned out well!"

"Yeah, I just wish he wouldn't worry so much over me. I mean I'm pregnant, not helpless!"

"I think it's more of the part where you were almost strangled, he's worried about." Mai raised a brow.

"That's just when he went overkill, when he first found out I was pregnant he tried to protect me from a ladybeetle..." Her face was straight. "The diamond on my ring was bigger than it."

"I can honestly sympathize with you," Mai sighed, as she poured the tea into a cup. "I'm a bit of a magnet for ghosts and danger, so the guys end up taking ridiculous precautions."

"Gets annoying, right?"

"You can say that again."

The woman laughed. "We'll just have to get through this together." She looked at the clock. "Dinner will be served soon. Sorry, Mai, I have a few things to do, but I'll see you at supper right?"

"Right." Mai smiled as she and Akahana parted ways.

Steaming cup in her hand, Mai headed from the staircase to the hallway of the third floor. Just a right and a left and she'd be at Base.

But she never made it to base.

The corner was only about a few meters away.

And everything happened too fast.

She stopped short.

The air grew cold.

Her breath was visible.

The tea in her hand became hotter despite the chilling air.

The world went black as she felt an unpleasant heat fall upon her arms.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2- Blood

It was dark.

That was it.

It was just dark.

Not the comfortable purple glowing darkness.

Just pitch-black fog.

Images flashed before her. Like nothing she had ever seen. But she couldn't quite register them.

If anyone asked her to describe them or draw them, they would only be given a blank paper. They just wouldn't stick to her memory. They moved through too fast.

Where was Naru? He normally would have appeared by now. She was so cold, yet her arms were burning.

More images flashed across her eyes. She wasn't sure what exactly they were, but she new one thing. They weren't good.

The images were moving too fast. It was giving her a migraine. She felt something cool on her forehead. She had to wake up. Something bad was going to happen if she stayed there in the darkness.

Last time she had this sort of feeling...well, she didn't want to think of what had happened that day.

"Mai."

***

September Day 1, 9:57 P.M.

"Mai."

Mai opened her eyes at the sound of her employer's and friends' voices. She felt something cool and wet on her forehead. Assuming it was a damp cloth, she reached up to grab it, only to see several bandages on her hand and wrist.

The was when she noticed her friends surrounding her. "Where am I?" she asked, though she knew the answer to that question.

She was at Base, lying down on the couch. Monk and Ayako were leaning on the back of it, Masako was sitting in a chair across from her, Yasuhara sat in a chair leaning over the arm of the couch, Lin was at his usual spot typing away, and Naru was sitting on the couch, right by her side.

"Better question," she corrected. "What happened?"

"We were hoping you could tell us," Ayako replied, crossing her arms.

"Yeah, while we were all out doing what Naru asked us to, he apparently found you passed out in the hallway," Monk explained.

"Just how hot did you make Naru's tea?" Yasuhara questioned, causing the girl to raise a brow.

"Huh?"

"When I found you, the tea was spilled on the floor and your hands were covered in burns," Naru evaluated.

She looked at her hands again. That explained a lot.

"I don't know, as hot as I normally make it?"

"That doesn't explain the second degree burns," Masako commented.

"Do you remember anything from before you passed out?" Yasuhara pressed as Ayako replaced the damp cloth with another.

Mai closed her eyes as she thought about when she was heading for Base. "I was almost here, just a couple turns to go, when the air got cold, I could see my breath and the teacup in my hands seemed to get hotter. The next thing I knew, I was here."

"Did you have any dreams?" Naru inquired, still sitting next to her.

Mai shook her head. "No," she lied. Even if she told them about what she saw, she couldn't tell them much.

Knock. Knock.

Yasuhara stood up to answer the door. "Akahana, good evening," he greeted.

"Good evening, Mr. Shibuya," Akahana replied, bowing her head slightly. "How is Mai doing?"

"She just woke up, would you like to see her?"

"Sure." Yasuhara let the woman in. She smiled at the girl. "You gave us a bit of a scare."

"Sorry about that," Mai smiled back sheepishly.

"I'd stay longer, but it's pretty late, I just thought I'd bring up some food in case you were hungry." Akahana placed a tray on the coffee table. "Feel better and get some rest."

"Thanks." With that, the soon-to-be mother left.

"Out of curiosity, anyone else think that Akahana may have had something to do with Mai's little incident?" our favorite priestess suggested.

"Only if she has PK powers," Mai countered. "Masako, did you sense anything when you and Ayako were walking?"

She pulled her kimono sleeve to her mouth, a gesture she had picked up even before she joined the team. "I sense many spirits, they're hiding from something. Most of them seem to be fairly harmless."

"Well, that doesn't help us much," Ayako huffed, standing up.

"Say, Mai, earlier you mentioned something about hearing a voice in your head," Monk pointed out.

"Are you trying to say we should put her in a mental hospital?" Ayako countered.

"Where the hell did you get that from?"

"You said-"

"No, I didn't! If anything you're the one we sho-"

THUNK!

"Damn it!"

"Anyway!" Mai shouted over the two bickering adults.

The two silenced themselves. "Voice in your head?" Naru repeated, causing heads to turn to him. Since when did he repeat things?

"Yeah, I was trying to find the kitchen and ended up on the fifth floor, right by that room where that man killed himself," Mai explained, trying to sit up with Naru pushing her back down gently when she winced. Stating something about her needing more rest or something. "Then the air went cold and I couldn't move. I heard something ask for help, but I didn't hear it with my ears."

"Lin, was there any audio by room 534?" Naru probed the man who sat by the wall of monitors.

"I'm listening to it right now," he replied after a few clicks of the mouse. He shook his head. "No, nothing. I hear Mai walk by, but after that you just hear her running."

Naru stood up and walked over to his assistant. "Boost the background audio and cancel out Mai's voice," he ordered, then placed the headphones on his head.

...

"That's odd..." he said after a moment. "You're sure you heard a voice?"

This time, she was able to sit up without being forced to lie back down. "Or it was my imagination, but seeing my history with spirits, which do you think is more plausible."

Assuming his thinking pose, Naru remained silent for a moment.

"So, what now?" Yasuhara questioned, taking his seat again next to Mai.

"I don't know, you're technically the boss." Ayako raised a brow.

"Oh right. I forgot!"

"This is going to be a long case..." Monk grumbled.

"Mai, can you walk?" Naru interrupted after a moment.

She nodded with a roll of her eyes. "My hands are injured not my legs."

He stood up and headed toward the door. "I need a word with Ryouta, Mai, you should eat something, then Miss Hara and Miss Matsuzaki-san will escort you to your room and we'll continue in the morning."

And he just left.

"You know, for wanting Yasuhara to be his stand-in, he's still taking a lot of charge." Monk crossed his arms.

"That's Naru for you," Masako commented softly.

***

Normally, pain was supposed to wear you out. Especially a headache. However, after the painkillers Ayako had given her, and her headache had subsided, she was still lying awake. Maybe it was because of her three hour nap.

No matter how much she tossed and turned, she could not get comfortable enough to fall asleep. She glanced to the bed next to her where both the priestess and medium were sound asleep.

Not wanting to accidentally harm Mai's hands in her sleep, Ayako practically forced Masako to let Mai have the bed to herself. The medium was not pleased, but once Ayako mentioned what Naru might have said about this argument, she stopped.

Envy burned inside her as she could not manage to close her eyes for more than a few seconds. She tried just about everything.

Deep breathing. Only made her more agitated.

Counting sheep. Only made her hate math even more.

Playing a song in her head. Only made her aggravated when she forgot the words.

Replaying her day. Only made her blush when she relived the conversation with Akahana.

Clenching muscles and releasing them to relieve tension. Only made her realize that her hands were still bandaged up.

In the end, nothing worked.

She quietly got up and made her way toward the door. Perhaps a little walk would calm her down. Random thoughts about the hotel swarmed her mind, until she came across a door she simply had to open.

"Is there a reason why you're up so late?" The ominously cold voice pierced the silence as she realized where she was.

"I could ask you the same question," she retorted with a glare.

"Glaring at me won't give you your answer."

She let out a huff as she crossed her arms. "Well, let's see, I was asleep for over three hours, practically just woke up, and despite how tired I am, I can't sleep." Mai walked over to the wall of monitors where her boss was working. "How about you?"

"I'm being productive, unlike some of my employees."

Mai bit her lip to keep her outburst at bay. She exhaled and put on a sly smile. "You're right, Naru, currently, I'm not being productive. For me to be of any use to you I would need to be asleep!" she commented harshly.

Out of nowhere, Naru swiveled around in his chair, holding a cup. "You're exhausted. Drink this," he ordered, but not in his usual menacing way. He was calmer and gentler.

Surprised, Mai took the cup and slowly drank the still warm tea. After a breath, the tea seemed to have calmed her down.

"Lie down on the couch and try to rest." With that the black clad boy went back to work.

Shocked once again, Mai could only obey. Why did she let him have this power over her? And yet, she was somewhat thankful, she was starting to feel tired and could possibly fall asleep again. So many contradictions, it was far too late to go into depth with each and every one of them.

She simply flopped onto the couch and fell, not into sleep, but a rest that she could almost sense everything going on.

It was silent. Mai's eyes were closed but she could still sense everything around her, but it was all disappearing slowly. She had been to lazy and forgetful to grab a blanket, but she wasn't able to get up. Despite the chill she slowly felt herself drifting to sleep.

At one point she felt herself engulfed in something soft and grew warm. The light that had been her only reminder that she was somewhat awake, had gone out and her body grew heavy. With a deep breath, she was asleep.

***

September Day 2, 8:09 A.M.

Her sleep had been dreamless. Or at least, that was what she believed. If she had a real dream, either of little or major importance, she had no recollection of it. The blanket was so warm, much like the day before, she wanted to roll over and sleep a little longer. She had almost achieved her goal when-

BAM!

"Naru! Mai's missing! We woke up and she was gone!" The shriek would have awoken any of the guests that had decided to stay. Mai buried her face under the blanket.

"Miss Matsuzaki, lower your voice, there are those who are still sleeping," a callous order came from the wall of monitors. "Such as Mai."

"I told you she would be alright," Masako scoffed, behind her kimono sleeve.

The priestess's eyes narrowed as she muttered, "As I recall, you were saying that with her gone-"

"I believe Naru asked you to keep it down," Masako interrupted smugly.

"Why you-" Ayako was held back by strong arms.

"Ayako, you're being worse than Mai!" Monk scolded, holding back the thrashing woman.

"What do you mean by worse than me?" All heads turned to the girl who sat up on the couch.

"Look who's up," Yasuhara commented, standing behind the couch looking down at her.

"Were you watching me while I slept?"

"No, I was watching Ayako freak out while you slept," he grinned cheekily.

Shaking her head she looked to the struggling monk. "What time is it?"

"A little after eight," the college student behind her answered. "Couldn't sleep last night?"

She shook her head. "Uh-uh, I was tired but I just couldn't sleep."

Knock. Knock.

Yasuhara straightened himself and quickly opened the door. "Ryouta? Is everything alright?" he asked, seeing the man in the hall.

"Yes, everything is fine," Ryouta assured him. "Your assistant, Mr. Kazuo, explained to me last night that you wished to do the interviews with the staff today. I came to ask if it would be alright if the interviews were after breakfast."

"Yes, that will be fine, we'll be down for breakfast in just a few minutes," the college student replied respectfully.

"Thank you, Mr. Shibuya." The man left.

"Okay, all in favor of going down to get breakfast..."

"Aye!" The usual group responded with arms high.

"Let's go!" Yasuhara exclaimed opening the door again.

"Wait!" Mai opposed standing up, and gesturing to herself. "I'm still in my PJ's."

"Right," the college student put on a thinking pose, similar to that of Naru's. "You go get changed and we'll meet you down there."

"Alright." She headed for the door, like everyone else. Only to hear a order come from Naru whom was still at the monitors.

"Miss Matsuzaki, go with her." He gained yet another glare from his petite assistant.

"Naru, I'll be fine." she argued calmly.

"The bandages on your hands say otherwise."

"Why not just keep me in here in a straitjacket? Under your supervision 24/7?" Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. "That way, you know for sure that I can't possibly get hurt, because you never do!"

"Mai-"

"Oh wait, that's right, you have gotten hurt before! And when you did you were in worse condition than I have ever been in since I took this job! Maybe you should worry more about yourself!" She was breathing heavily now. What just came over her?

Naru hid his clenched fist as he turned back to the monitors. "Miss Matsuzaki, escort Mai to your room then go down for breakfast."

The room was silent for a moment. Mai was about to retort only to have an arm rest on her shoulder and hear a feminine voice reply, "Sure thing." Everyone left in silence.

The door to the girls' room had just closed when Ayako spun around with wide eyes. "What was that just now!" she exclaimed as Mai just shrugged.

"I-I don't know..." she replied, unable to make much sense of it. "Him saying I needed an escort, I don't know, made me feel helpless..." She gathered some clothes and headed for the bathroom. "I guess something in me snapped, I don't think I slept very well..."

"Well, that was one hell of a performance. I think you even got to Naru this time," Ayako commented, leaning against the wall next to the bathroom. "Though, I think you went a little overboard, bringing up the time he had to go to the hospital."

"I couldn't control it, it just slipped out."

"Well, if this tension keeps building...this is going to be a very long case." Mai came out dressed in jeans and a red sweater. "Cute top."

"Thanks, my friend gave it to me for my birthday." The two headed into the hallway, Mai felt like her heart had fallen to the pit of her stomach.

They walked in silence until she couldn't take it anymore. "Maybe I should apologize..."

Ayako stopped short and raised a brow. "Couldn't you have said that when we were right by Base?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips. "Instead of right by the dining hall?"

Mai just sighed. "It just popped into my head."

The priestess shook her head. "You decide what you want, just do it after breakfast, he might be in a much better mood if you bring him tea."

***

Once again Mai held the steaming cup in her hand, much like the night before, making her way toward Base. It was odd, she noticed, there wasn't that anxious feeling she had when she walked down the hall before. The air didn't grow cold. She didn't stop. She felt...

Peaceful.

Within seconds she was right by the door which possibly lead to her impending doom. With a breath she opened the door to find her antisocial employer going through his black notebook. Just what on Earth did he always write in there?

Mai cautiously walked over to him. He didn't acknowledge her. Great. He really is angry with me... she thought as she approached.

She placed the clay cup on the table next to her boss. "Naru?" She waited for some sort of response...he didn't even touch the tea!

"Naru, listen." she began, taking his silence as a signal to continue. "I'm sorry for shouting at you earlier. I really don't know what came over me." He was still silent. Was he even breathing? She looked at his chest and noticed the rhythmic rising and falling. Yeah, he's alive. "And, I'm sorry for bringing up the Yoshimi case, and how you were hospitalized. It was wrong of me to do so...." She gave a low bow hoping for him to speak. Say something. Order her to get back to work. Anything!

Nothing.

"Naru?" She stood back up and looked at him. "Naru, are you oka-"

The chair swiveled around with inhuman speed and she realized that whom she was talking to, wore the body of her boss. But did not wear his face.

Her eyes widened at the sight and she sucked in a breath and stepped back. The gruesome face of a demon was plaster in her employer's head, decaying pale and peeling flesh as blood leaked out of its eyes. The glowing red orbs bore into her very soul as a twisted smile grew on its decaying features.

"Do you believe in God, Missy?" it asked her, its voice cracking with low deep tones and high pitchy ones.

She couldn't answer. The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up as it cackled in her face.

"I'd give up whatever faith you have, little girl, this is what your 'God' will do to you!" Its face morphed as it's skull caved into itself and its eyes melted into bloody white goo that dripped down its twistedly smirking face.

A scream was rising in her throat but died in there. She couldn't break it free. She wanted to run, but couldn't move. All she could do was stand there in shock.

"Mai."

Mai blinked and there in the place of the demonic face was that of her very own, narcissist of an employer. Silently she breathed a sigh of relief as he looked at her quizzically.

"Sorry," she scratched her head sheepishly as she apologized. "What did you say just now?"

"I said 'I accept your apology, though there was no need for you to do so.' Then you just stared at me. I was wondering when a fly would rush into your mouth." He raised a brow. "Just what were you staring at?"

Mai just shook her head. "It was nothing," she lied. "I-I was just thinking of a scary movie I watched recently and one of the scarier parts popped into my head."

"Mai."

"Yeah?"

"..."

"..."

Naru simply sighed, understanding that he was not going to get anymore out of her at this point in time. "Tell, Yasuhara to return here and ask Ryouta to gather the employees and any remaining guest whom have had experiences on the property."

"Aye-aye!" She marched off happy that he didn't pry any further.

***

Seeing as she hadn't been given another order for tea, Mai figured it was the perfect time to explore the hotel. It been almost abandoned by guests, although if any of them had seen the same images she had seen, she understood why.

She may have not been a medium like Masako, but she could tell one thing...there was something sinister living in the rooms of this hotel. However something entirely different was on her mind.

"Naru, forgave me..." she noted aloud. Who could blame her? She had been working with this narcissist for over a year and there was only maybe two times where he apologized to her, and even less where he accepted an apology. She couldn't explain him if she tried.

"Help!" A cry came from around the corner of the fifth floor.

"What-" Mai barely had any time to react as a maid came running at her.

"Please! Please! You have to help me!" she exclaimed grabbing the brunette's shoulders and arms.

"Miss, what's wrong?" Mai tried to stay calm, looking into the terrified woman's eyes.

"Help me!" she exclaimed, as Mai only just noticed the blood dripping down the woman's cheek. "You have to save me!"

Her head turned, looking side to side at breakneck speed. Mai nearly screamed.

A chef's knife had been sticking out of the back of the woman's skull.

Mai looked down to see that the woman no longer had any legs and there was just a pool of blood beneath her. The ghostly woman just shrieked, pointing to the door next to them.

The brunette turned her head and saw what she hoped she wouldn't...

534...

Something grabbed her leg as the door opened and Mai was finally able to let out her scream...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3- Suicide

September Day 2, 11:17 A.M.

"Thank you again for your time," Yasuhara said, escorting the elderly doorman out of Base. The man nodded and was out within seconds. "That's the last of them. What now?"

"Hey, has anyone seen Mai? She disappeared after breakfast," Monk asked, walking into with Ayako and Masako behind him.

"She went to give Naru tea, and that was the last time I saw her," the priestess answered, crossing her arms.

"Well, after that, she gave me a message from Naru. So, I guess I was the last to see her," the college student noted. "If we were on one of those crime scene shows, I'd be the prime suspect."

"Either way, that was almost two hours ago. She's probably in some sort of danger with whatever this spirit is!" Ayako said, her face sour.

"Way to be optimistic..." Monk commented with a sweat drop.

THUNK!

"I'm pretty sure I can report you to the authorities for abuse," Monk grumbled, rubbing the growing bump on his head.

"It's not abuse if you like it."

"When the hell did I say I liked you bonking me on the head every chance you get!"

"Well, you're always asking for it!"

"No I'm-"

"Anyway!" Yasuhara raised his voice for a moment, ceasing the argument. "Lin, have your Shiki alerted you of any spirit activity?"

The Chinese man shook his head. "I haven't set up my Shiki around the hotel yet, I was unsure if they were needed."

"Fair enough, how about you, Masako? Have you sensed anything?"

The medium held her kimono sleeve to her mouth as she always did. "I sense many spirits, they are all roaming the property, but they are all so frightened. I sense something malicious here as well, but it's trying to hide its presence, I can't read anything from it..."

"That's helpful and not so helpful at the same time," the college student pointed out cheerily. "Naru, any ideas?"

The true black clad boss, who had completely ignored his oblivious partners, at some point had stalked off to the wall of monitors. He clicked and typed away, taking special care to observe each area thoroughly. "Well, looks like she's not near any cameras. What now?" Monk said, letting out a breath. "She's always getting into some kind of trouble."

"She can't be in too much trouble, we didn't hear her shrieking," Masako added, a slight haughty tone to her voice.

"Well, we didn't hear her shriek when she was taken captive by a sociopathic teenager and dragged into the woods," Ayako added grimly. "It is quite possible that she was knocked out before she could scream."

"What a perfect way to lighten the mood, Ayako," the college boy remarked with a grin. "And what is our Naru doing?"

"It's the footage from around the last time anyone saw Mai," Naru explained as all eyes went to the monitors.

Their eyes traced Mai's moves from when she left Base after delivering Naru his tea, to speaking to Ryouta, and wandering the halls. She suddenly stopped. Her expression was filled with shock and surprise as she appeared to be speaking with an invisible person. The sleeves of her sweater crumpled slightly at her shoulders, as though someone had grabbed them. She took a step back, her face becoming pale, just as the door to room 534 opened and Mai was dragged in by her leg. The thing anyone saw before the door close was her attempt to scream...

"534!" a few of them exclaimed as they all sprinted out the door.

***

She was engulfed by the foreboding darkness again, it surrounded her. Was she standing? Floating? Sinking? Falling? She didn't know anymore. She only knew that she felt uneasy. She didn't like this place and Naru was nowhere to be found. Wasn't he supposed to guide her or something? So much for that idea.

The air around her felt heavy and ominous, it was hard for her to breathe. The visions came again. She could somewhat see them this time. The images wouldn't quite stick with her memory, but she saw one thing.

Blood.

A lot of blood.

Shaking her head, she tried to rid herself of these images. Perhaps try to get a different vision. Something. Anything. Anything to change the gruesome illusions. Her eyes closed as she shook her head harder. When she opened them again she was somewhere else.

It was one of the hotel rooms, that was for sure. She sat in some sort of armchair, by the window. Curious, she stood up to investigate the room. Judging by the moonlight coming from outside it would have to be close to midnight.

There's no way it's that late, right? she thought to herself. She walked over to the dresser, a piece of paper lay on top of it. It's a letter...

She picked it up and read some of it. It's not finished... she noted, looking at the date and nearly jumped. This letter is from seventy years ago!

Footsteps sounded outside the main door. She scurried over to the far corner of the room, praying she wouldn't be noticed.

A man stumbled into the room, obviously drunk, tripping his way over to the dresser. He looked at the letter and crumpled it up, tossing it into the bottom drawer. He took another piece of paper and began writing. His eyes were in a daze as he stood in front of the mirror, completely oblivious to the girl in the corner, as he slit his throat with a knife he pulled out of his pocket.

She stood in shock as the vision morphed into a different time. The same room. The same time of day. Different man walking in. She took mental notes of the events, hoping to find a pattern.

The illusion morphed many times. Each time containing a gruesome death, with various differences. The concept was the same, someone would commit suicide in that room. The deaths varied. Slit throats. Slit writs. Stabs through the chest and abdomen. Hanging. Overdose. One man even swallowed sleeping pills and fell asleep in the bathroom in a tub of water. One thing was the same with each and every casualty. October 2 nd .

Somewhere, in every vision, the date October 2 nd  was evident on either a calendar or a letter or even a watch. With each death, the passing seemed to be in a drunken state, but this last vision, seemed to not follow the pattern.

The man walked into the room on October 2 nd  one year ago, as stated by the day planner on the nightstand next to where she stood. His eyes were not glazed over. He was not stumbling. He was not drunk. Yet she knew he would die. He had to. It followed the pattern and it was nearing midnight. Yet nothing would happen.

The man's body suddenly stiffened and he struggled in vain attempts to move. She immediately felt a shift in the air, it was colder and heavier, making her heart race. The man's arm was forcefully moved to grab a pen and paper. He swore every word one could think of in that moment as his arm, with a mind of its own began to write.

He attempted to cry out for help, but his screams were swallowed by some unseen force. He began to panic as something invisible opened the top dresser drawer. A Swiss army knife floated up and opened, moving towards the man's throat. His last attempt to scream was in vain as it was silenced by one quick slice.

Chills ran up and down her body as she watched. Something really did drive him to it... she wondered to herself as a sinister laugh filled the air and she found the world around her melting into oblivion. She could feel a single tear fall down her cheek.

***

September Day 2, 11:28 A.M.

Mai awoke sitting in the same chair she had originally been in during her dream. She quickly surveyed the room. So this is room 534, she wondered silently. Looks just like any other room here...

The carpet was definitely new, there was no way anyone would have been able to get rid of the dark crimson stains in the off-white carpet. Other than that, just simple things in the room had upgraded since the first vision from seventy years before. The sheets. The mattress. The bed frame. Though the dresser remained the same.

Maybe... Mai mentally slapped herself and shook her head at the idiotic idea she had come up with. There's no way that letter would still be here. Surely the police or even just housekeeping would have found it and just tossed it in the trash, right?

Curiosity getting the better of her, she slowly walked to the dresser. It can't hurt to just double check, right?

Time seemed to slow down as she reached for the handle, pulling it open with a slight creek from age. As she expected, it was empty. Then she noticed something...

What's that?

Jammed in the top corner of the drawer. Paper.

No way.

Gingerly, Mai wedged the crumpled up paper out.

It can't be!

As carefully as she could, she opened the paper to reveal writing. It was a letter.

Her heart racing, she looked in the corner to find the date...

It was from seventy years ago.

It was the same letter.

"That's just impossible..." she gasped, her hands shaking slightly. Her head snapped toward the door as she heard shuffling. Bracing herself for possibly anything, she stood back up, ready to run. The doorknob made and attempt to turn.

"Damn! It's locked!" she heard a voice curse.

"Should we tear it down?" another voice asked.

"What choice do we have?" the first voice retorted. Mai heard footsteps retreating and then running full force.

BANG!

"Damn it!" the shout came. Mai could practically see Monk rubbing his shoulder. "Lin! Naru! Give me a hand!"

Just then the door opened. Everyone's eyes turned to the priestess at the doorway.

"You turned the knob the wrong way, you idiot," she said, shaking her head.

"Oh, you're going to call me the idiot? Well you're-"

"Well, I'm just happy to see Mai is okay!" Yasuhara shouted above the argument.

"Mai!" the two exclaimed.

"Hey, guys," she could only say. What else could she say?

"Hey. Hey? Hey!" Ayako exclaimed, rushing toward the girl. "You go missing for over two hours and all you can say is 'Hey?'!"

Mai gave a sheepish smile. "Sorry, I was dragged in here and ended up passing out."

"Mai, what do you have in your hand?" Yasuhara asked as everyone crowded into the room.

She looked down at the letter. "This is-"

"We should get out of this room and discuss this at Base," Naru stated. Maybe it was supposed to be a suggestion? Who knows?

***

Everyone agreed to finish the conversation at Base. Once Mai finished relaying her dream and explaining how she ended up in that room, Naru studied the letter. "I don't know how that thing survived all these years, but I found it right where the man put it in my dream," she finished, leaning back in to the couch. "I know you're going to say I'm stating the obvious, but whether the Ishikawas know this or not, that suicide they had last year wasn't the only one in this hotel's history, nor do I really think they were suicides. I don't think I even saw half of them in that vision."

"You're right about something," he stated monotonously, not taking his eyes off of the letter. "You're stating the obvious."

Mai's mouth dropped and her eyes widened. "Close your mouth, Mai, you'll attract flies." She obeyed and then proceeded to stick her tongue out. "It is very impolite and immature to stick one's tongue out at another."

She settled for staring daggers at him. "Glaring will also do you no good." Man, did she want to beat the crap out of him.

"Well, things are taking an interesting turn," the college student commented, crossing his arms. "We have a malevolent spirit, who is most likely the cause of numerous suicides, as well as the attack on Akahana Ishikawa and our very own Mai. And I think this thing's only just getting started."

"Whatever this thing is, it's definitely out for blood," the priestess added, crossing her legs. "I'm beginning to think this thing is tapping into your dreams, Mai, trying to scare you."

"Or it's another spirit trapped here that is trying to warn us, you know, like Dai did a couple cases ago," Monk offered.

"Such as that maid Mai said she saw earlier," the medium said, behind her kimono sleeve.

"True, it's also possible that some of these claims are the other spirits trying to warn the Ishikawas, the staff and even the guests," Ayako agreed.

"Other claims? You guys finished the interviews?" Mai asked.

"Yep." The college student pulled out some of the notes he took. "We have claims of basic little haunting things, you know, such as lamps going out right after the bulb was changed, voices, knocks, the room left a mess a few seconds after a maid cleaned it. Things like that."

"Almost like those residual haunting things that John explained a couple cases ago?"

"Almost," Monk agreed. "Residual hauntings are more like-"

"As John mentioned before, residual hauntings are like a tape player, replaying one thing and one thing only, they are spirits that are trapped and attached to something and have no recollection of dying or that the world around them is changing. Claims such as the lamps turning off, the knocking and even the voices could be residual hauntings as they seem to occur around the same time over and over," Masako explained, turning to the young man in black who sat by the monitors. "Am I right, Naru?"

"You are correct, Miss Hara," he responded emotionlessly.

"Meanwhile, we also have claims of being pushed down the stairs, feeling as though they couldn't move or control their body out of nowhere, some claiming to see a maid fitting the description Mai had witnessed, memory loss, and we can't forget Akahana nearly being strangled," Yasuhara continued.

"Most of the ones Yasuhara just mentioned, such as the bodily contact and the room left a mess just after it had been cleaned," Ayako explained, hoping Mai would be able to keep up with the information. "Those are better known as intelligent hauntings, they may or may not know they are deceased, but they do realize that the area around them is changing and can try to communicate with the living. However-"

"The more violent attacks in this case, seem to come from something that is known as a demonic entity," Naru interrupted, setting the letter down. "Some also call them demons, however they are also fallen souls, an example of one of these 'fallen souls' would be Urado, or the demigod we faced. In this case I just think we have a sour soul, similar to the Kimura case."

"You mean Shichiro?" Mai asked.

"Precisely." He stood and walked up to the wall of monitors. After studying them for a moment, his team behind him silent as they were unaware of what to do next, he turned around. "Miss Hara, Miss Matsuzaki, go through the hotel once again, but do not attempt to exorcise anything you find. If you need to protect yourself, do it quickly and leave the area immediately." Naru turned to the rest of his team. "Mai and Yasuhara, I want you to go around and take temperature readings, Monk go with them." Then he looked at Mai directly. "After you're done with that, Mai..."

"Yes?" she pressed, fighting the urge to raise a brow.

"Tea."

"Egotistical, conceited, self-absorbed, narcissistic, idiot scientist..." she grumbled, marching out.

She never witnessed the slight widening of her employer's eyes as she left. Nor did she see her co-assistant's smirk and hear his chuckle.

***

"Just under fifteen degrees," Mai noted as she wrote down the temperature on the clipboard in her hand. "That's the last of the rooms, I think."

"What about the lobby?" Yasuhara asked raising a brow.

"And the dining hall? And the kitchen?" Monk threw in, making the girl huff.

"I meant the suites, plus I wanted to save the first floor for last seeing as Naru wanted tea and-" She stopped mid-sentence as her stomach grumbled loudly, causing the two young men in front of her to chuckle.

"Our little Mai-chan is hungry, I see," Yasuhara teased, as the girl blushed slightly.

"I haven't eaten anything since breakfast, and even then I didn't eat much," she pouted, glaring at the two.

Monk wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulders and gave her a noogie. "Well, what are we waiting for! Let's get you something to eat, girlie," he laughed as the girl playfully struggled out of his grasp.

"Get off me you dirty old monk!" she teased as they all laughed.

The three of them headed for the kitchen, checking the temperature in the last couple of rooms, while laughing and teasing along the way. Had Naru found them he probably would have scolded their childish behavior, but could he really do that? The topic wandered in Mai's mind as she walked. No way! He couldn't say anything like that if it meant blowing his cover! After all, Yasuhara is supposed to be Kazuya Shibuya! Naru can't say a thing! Mai's inner-self cheered as they reached the kitchen.

In the kitchen, Mai showed the boys where the less busy part was, just as Akahana showed her the day before. Mai quickly boiled enough water to make four cups of tea and took a bowl of fruit salad that one of the chefs offered to her.

"Damn, Mai, you've been here one day and know too much about this kitchen," Monk teased, drinking his tea while Mai finished her fruit salad.

"Akahana showed me where I could make tea without interrupting the chefs' work, something wrong with that?" she retorted, with a brow raised.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it, Mai," Yasuhara confirmed, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "After all, it's a good thing! Now, Naru will be able to get his tea faster on this case!"

Mai resisted the urge to smack her friend as she glared and stuck her tongue out at him.

"'It is impolite to stick one's tongue out at another,'" he quoted with the same monotonous expression as the man who he was pretending to be. "'Glaring will also do you no good.'"

"It's scary how well you can imitate him," Mai raised her brow again.

"Why do you think I'm here?" he smiled, and she shook her head.

"Let's just get him his tea," she sighed.

"Aye-aye, Boss!" Yasuhara chimed, earning another glare. "Old habits die hard."

Mai simply shook her head.

It's better than his everlasting love thing... Monk thought to himself, relieved that the subject never came up.

***

"As I suspected, the temperature in room 534 as well as the rest of the fifth floor, is cooler than the rest of the building, very odd," Naru noted, looking through the scribbles Mai had written. "Miss Hara, did you sense anything during your walk through?"

Masako raised up the kimono sleeve as usual. "Only what I told you before, as for the more malicious spirit, it seems it's everywhere and nowhere at once."

"Pardon?" Monk's voice cut in, with a raised brow.

"I thought it was strange myself when she told me," Ayako answered, crossing her arms. "What I think she means is that because of the potential power of this spirit and it's willingness to hide, it can spread its energy to various areas. That's all I could think of."

"And that's how it feels," the medium confirmed. "As for room 534, I sense much loneliness coming from that area. It appears to confirm Mai's dream of multiple suicides."

"Now the question is what do we do with them?" Monk concluded with a sigh.

"And why did they commit suicide?" Yasuhara added.

"And who is this malicious spirit?" Ayako chipped in.

"And what do they want with Akahana?" Mai included, causing everyone, even Naru and Lin to look at her. "Out of the current claims, the most fatal experience was when Akahana-san was nearly strangled. Obviously this thing is upset with her, but the question is-"

She was cut off by her actual boss. "Why?" he wondered aloud.

Did I figure something out before Naru again? Mai wondered to herself, noticing the change in expression as Naru contemplated this newfound information.

"Mai has a point," Ayako sighed, leaning forward. "And Ryouta is very protective, perhaps they are hiding something."

"What on Earth could they be hiding?" Monk retorted.

"I don't know, maybe something that they aren't trying to hide?"

"You just contradicted yourself!"

Thunk!

"You're crazy!" Monk groaned, rubbing his sore head. "And abusive!"

"You're the one making absurd remarks!"

"What!"

"Enough!" Mai shouted, ceasing the argument.

"Thank you, Mai," Naru said, shocking the entire group. "I believe it is time we take a different approach to this case." He turned to the medium. "Miss Hara, on the second floor, which room had fairly harmless intelligent spirits?"

She was shocked at the question. "Room 217, there were younger spirits in there, they weren't very powerful. May I ask why?"

Naru ignored her question and stood, making his way to the monitors. He studied them and quickly scribbled on the same sheet Mai had written the temperature readings. He handed the list to his female assistant. "The room numbers that are circled are where cameras need to have their tapes changed, the rooms that are underlined need to have the battery changed. Take Monk and Yasuhara with you."

Mai gave him a quizzical look, that he ignored. The boy turned to the medium and priestess in the room. "You two will stay here in Base, while Lin and I set things up. At five o'clock everyone will meet in room 217, whether the cameras have had their batteries or tapes changed or not."

The boy and his tall assistant left the room together, leaving a stunned team behind them. "Since when does he want us to watch Base?" Ayako blurted, pouting.

"I have no clue, he normally wants me to do it..." Mai mused aloud, as Yasuhara imitated Naru's thinking pose.

"That's true, perhaps he got sick of you always falling asleep..." the college boy concluded, earning a glare from the brunette and several laughs from the others.

***

"So what do you think Naru's got planned?" our favorite brunette asked her friends as they were finishing fixing the cameras.

"I have no idea," Monk replied, prying the battery off of the last camera. "But after this one we should probably head toward 217, it's almost five."

"Yeah," their misleading 'boss' agreed, handing Monk the a new battery. "Although, he can't get too angry if we're late, after all I'm the boss!"

Mai sweat dropped. "You're letting this go to your head, aren't you?"

"Of course I'm not, Mai!" he sounded sincerely shocked. "How can you ask such a thing!"

She shook her head. "Yup. Just I thought..." she mumbled to herself.

"Come again?"

"Nothing."

Monk just laughed. "That wasn't nothing," he teased, as she glared daggers at him.

"Monk! You fear that I am neglecting you!" Yasuhara exclaimed, leaping toward his "lover."

"You need to stop that! It creeps me out!" Monk shouted back, dodging the glomping.

Mai, who had been smart, had gathered up the leftover equipment and was waiting in the doorway. "You guys coming? Otherwise Naru will have a cow if he finds out you let me go out on my own," she teased with a roll of her eyes.

She began to walk out just as the two realized their predicament.

If Mai went out on her own, Naru would be angry with her.

However, he would be ten times as pissed with the two of them for letting her go out on her own.

They raced after her.

***

"I see everyone made it on time," Naru declared, making a point to look straight at his shorter assistant, who glared at him. He suppressed his smirk. "I would like to conduct a new form of investigation, we have tried things similar in the past however, nothing this simple. Nor anything so nonviolent." Another look toward his assistant. Another smirk suppressed.

He motioned everyone to gather around the bed in the middle of the small room. He placed a tape recorder down on the comforter. "We shall conduct an E.V.P. session," he finished.

"Ii, Bi, Pi?" Mai attempted to pronounce in confusion.

"E.V.P stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon in English," Naru explained, picking the recorder up and proceeded to turn it on. "They are sounds and noises that we cannot hear, but tape recorders can pick up."

"Some spirits are unable to speak loud enough for us to hear them so we can ask questions and review the tape later in order to see if there was any response," Masako explained further.

"Isn't that why we have a medium like you, Masako?" Mai bit her lip at the last moment realizing how that must have sounded, but the medium just looked somewhat saddened.

"Sometimes it is hard for even me to hear them..." she answered.

"Let's begin," Naru interrupted and pressed the record button. "Is there anyone in this room with us?" he asked, the room was silent for a moment, but before the boy could ask another question...

"AKAHANA!" several screams filled the air, causing the group to abandon their investigation and rush to the source of the cry.

Cries and pleas and grunts of struggle could be heard. Along with a few curses that Monk added under his breath as everyone raced to the dining hall. "Akahana!" Mai exclaimed, seeing the woman wrapped in her husband's arms while two male chefs attempted to keep a struggling female chef at bay. She's the one from earlier, Mai thought, recognizing the woman. Back when I went to get Naru his tea.

"Lin!" Naru commanded, holding an arm out to make sure Mai and the others stayed behind him.

Following orders, Lin quickly raced up to the thrashing woman and jabbed a finger into a pressure point on the back of her neck. Knocking her out and the knife falling out of her hands.

"Mrs. Ishikawa! Are you okay?" several of the maids and members of the SPR team pestered the woman.

"Yes, I'm fine. Just a little shaken up," she insisted with a sigh.

"Should I bind her? As a precaution, Mr. Shibuya?" Lin asked.

After a quick second Yasuhara turned around. "Yes. Please. Just to be safe."

"Naru, the knife!" Mai managed to squeak as they both knelt down by the weapon.

The priestess also noticed the crimson liquid on the blade. She immediately began fussing. "Akahana, did you get cut?"

"I-I don't know..." she answered her head shaking.

Yasuhara turned to Monk beside him and they each shared a look as they heard the mumbling of their audience. Monk clapped his hands loudly. "Attention everyone!" Monk shouted quieting everyone.

"Staff and guests please return to your business and rooms, if you have any significant information as to this incident, please report it to Mr. Ishikawa at a later time. Thank you, and we apologize for any inconvenience," Yasuhara announced to the waiting crowd.

Slowly the workers and the few remaining guests left to their business and the only ones left were SPR, the Ishikawas, and the three chefs. "Akahana, can you tell me what happened?" Yasuhara asked the woman after they had given her a chair.

She nodded, slightly shaken. "I was crossing the dining hall to get to my office, when I heard Yoshiko scream at me. She ran toward me with that knife. Then Susumu and Taiki came in and held her down," she explained, Ayako examining her arms.

"Do you have a First-Aid Kit, that I may use?" she asked Ryouta, who nodded and looked to the chefs.

"I'll get that right away, sir," one chef bowed and ran to the kitchen.

"Taiki, is there anything you would like to add to the incident?" Ryouta asked the other chef whom had remained.

"I heard Yoshiko scream and ran instantly, I found her trying to cut apart Mrs. Ishikawa," he replied. "She was insane, began speaking some language foreign to me, it took both Susumu and myself to restrain her."

"Akahana, did you notice any similarities to this attack and the attack before?" Yasuhara asked, as Susumu came in with the medical kit.

She nodded. "The eyes..." she breathed out, looking back up at him. "Her eyes were bright red as she attacked me."

"I see," the college boy sighed, looking at Naru, Monk, and Lin, everyone sharing a nod of understanding.

"Mr. Shibuya, she's waking up," Mai revealed, tapping Yasuhara on the shoulder.

She groaned as she tried to sit up. "W-what happened? Why am I tied up?"

"Yoshiko?" Monk asked her, she nodded at the sound of her name. "Do you remember anything that happened before you passed out?"

She shook her head. "Uh-uh, please, will you tell me why I'm tied up? The last thing I remember, I was in the kitchen cutting vegetables for dinner," she pleaded. One look into her golden brown eyes and you knew she was terrified. She was telling the truth.

"Sir, would you like me to call Father Brown?" Naru asked.

"Yes, ask him to research the property," Yasuhara replied.

"Of course." Naru bowed and walked out quickly.

John...Mai couldn't help but think. Only one image came to her mind and she heard that sinister voice once again.

Do you believe in God?

This is what you're 'God' will do to you!

She could see that vision's face. Bloody, the skull caving in, the blood red eyes staring at her. She couldn't shake the image out. And one thing was certain in her mind as she raced after her real boss.

If John comes, he will be in grave danger!

Chapter Text

Chapter 4-E.V.P.

September Day 3, 8:08 A.M.

With a groan our favorite sleepy brunette rolled out of her bed and headed for the bathroom. It had been a long night for her, her dream simply consisted of her conversation with her boss after the incident with Akahana, as well as gory images that always seemed to follow her.

Of course the dream itself was not what played in her little head as she brushed her teeth. It was the conversation she had the night before and the horrible feeling she gained after it.

***

It was in her realization that she raced after her employer as he went to call the young priest. "Wait! Naru!" she called as they neared Base.

"What is it, Mai?" he returned somewhat annoyed. Surprise overtook that emotion when she gripped his sleeve.

"Don't call John!" she practically begged, causing him to raise a brow.

"His expertise is required for this case," he said, removing his arm from her grasp. "We need him or else Akahana is in danger-"

"John will be in danger if he comes!" she exclaimed, pulling on his shoulder.

Annoyed once again, Naru turned around. "And just what makes you say that?"

"This thing hates God." she said, he raised his brow again.

"Mai-" he never finished as his younger assistant blurted out this incident involving the demon like being.

"Something's telling me that if John does come here, he will be in far more danger than Akahana is!" She stood firm and her eyes held a determination that her employer had seen several time before, but today it was slightly frightening.

"I'm sorry, Mai, but he needs to be called," he said with a sigh, turning away and walking toward the table of monitors that Mai hadn't realized they had migrated into Base with their argument.

She took a step back as the door closed and Naru dialed the number. Her heart sank, a feeling of dread and anxiety filled her as she found it hard to breathe. A pounding in her head matched the rhythm of the one in her chest as her legs felt weak. Felt as though they would topple over despite her light weight.

She did the only thing she could think of doing.

She ran.

****

She shook her head of the memory to discover she had gotten herself dressed and observed her blind job in the mirror. Not bad, if she did say so herself, jeans and black tank top and a blue cardigan with a belt at her waist. Perhaps she should become lost in thought every time she got dressed.

After Akahana's attack the night before, the EVP session had been abandoned and Mai had stayed in her hotel room during dinner. She walked through the hallway, passing Base after a quick glimpse, she didn't expect to see anyone in there anyway. If anyone from the team was up, they were probably down having breakfast.

She reached the dining hall to find it practically empty, not even her team was there. That's odd...she thought to herself quickly glancing at a nearby clock to make sure she wasn't early or late for breakfast. 8:21, no I didn't miss anything...

"Morning, Mai!" a cheerful voice called out through the room.

"Akahana, good morning," Mai replied, greeting the woman. "Where is everyone?"

The woman paused for a moment in thought. "Sorry, I don't know, Mr. Shibuya requested that three breakfast plates be sent up to your base. Ayako and Masako claimed they weren't that hungry and I haven't seen Mr. Takigawa this morning," she shrugged apologetically. "How about you? Are you hungry?"

Mai could feel her stomach was about to make the noise it always did when she was hungry. "Yeah," she replied with a smile.

"Good, because, so am I," she laughed and escorted the girl over to a table. Within moments, the two were served their meal by a waiter. "Thank you, Haruto."

They began to eat making conversation as they did so. "If you don't mind my asking, how's your arm?" Mai asked, motioning to the bandage wrapped around the woman's left arm.

"Oh this?" She lifted it up slightly. "It's just a scratch, it'll heal within a few days. It's a good thing I found you, I'm trying to avoid Ryouta for a little bit."

"How come?"

"Oh, he's just very jumpy and paranoid, with some reason, but it's a little overwhelming. I need to do something, I've never been someone who could sit still for too long, and his anxiety is just making me fidget!" she explained, continuing her meal.

A conversation that occurred the day before had made its way into the brunette's mind. There had to be a reason for the attacks on this woman, from what she gathered from her year and a half working with Naru and the others one thing was for certain. Everything happens for a reason, a true coincidence is very rare when you look at the facts behind an incident. And it was time she had done some investigating of her own.

"Hey, Akahana, I understand that you may not wish to go into the subject, but I would like to know, what might be your input of this haunting?" Mai asked as politely as she could think of.

"A very formal approach, not many your age would even think of addressing someone that way. Does Mr. Shibuya force you to speak like that to all your clients?" the woman teased, Mai smiled, realizing that she was referring to Yasuhara.

"You could say that," Mai chuckled. "But, really, what do you think is going on here?"

Akahana put down her fork and sighed, looking up in thought. "I don't know, I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to ghosts or things like that, but ever since I started working here the air seemed heavier, especially around me. There were even several instances where I had walked into a room and someone mentioned how the atmosphere seemed to turn. I just didn't know why..."

"Can you tell me if there is anything that might have made this spirit angry with you?"

"Made the spirit angry with me? Sorry, Mai, I don't follow," the woman raised a brow.

Mai silently regretted how much her next statement along with the others she had made her sound so much like her stoic employer. "You have been targeted by the spirit twice now, the incident last night proved that this spirit has something against you. The question is what?"

The woman's breathing hitched, but only for a moment and she returned to her breakfast. "As terrifying as that sounds, it also makes sense. I understand Ryouta's paranoia now, but what can we do? I really don't know what this thing may have against me, but maybe if I think about it, I can come up with something," she tried to smile.

Mai's eyes grew sympathetic and she placed her hand on the woman's own. "I'm sorry, Akahana, I've been hanging around Naru too much and unfortunately his slight bluntness is contagious."

Akahana smiled and place her other hand on top. "It's quite alright, Mai, it's good that you told me." She looked at their now empty plates. "Well, I believe it's time you run off to your boyfriend, you can't keep him waiting, right?"

Mai blanched slightly at the comment. "Naru and I aren't dating...." she managed to mutter as a blush crept up her cheeks.

Akahana laughed as she picked up both plates. "I know, but it's fun teasing you," she smiled and gave the girl a wink. "Let me know if that status changes, I want details."

Mai desperately fought the blush creeping up her cheeks, failing miserably as the woman chuckled as she walked back into the kitchen. Oh, whatever greater being that might be out there, please don't let Akahana start hanging out with Monk during this case, or Yasuhara for that matter, it won't end well for me...Mai silently prayed to whoever would listen. This was going to be a long case...

***

"Seeing as Mai finally decided to join us," Naru began as Mai glared daggers at her black clad employer, "it is time we get some work done."

"Idiot scientist," Mai muttered under her breath, crossing her arms.

"Yasuhara, Miss Matsuzaki, I need you two to speak with both Ryouta and Akahana. Try to see if there is any information they are not telling, anything that may have led this entity to target them-"

"There's nothing that they could think of," the brunette blurted, her sour expression still prominent on her face.

"What do you mean, Mai?" Monk raised a brow as the girl let out a breath.

"Well," she began a slightly cocky smirk appeared on her face. Hey, she did something before her employer ordered her or anyone else to, she should take some pride. "When I went down for breakfast this morning, Akahana offered to join me and I decided, 'hey, just so none of you guys could say I overslept or was slacking off or was being unproductive, why don't I try to see if there was anything she wasn't telling us.' From what I could see, if there is something this spirit has against Akahana, she has no idea what on Earth it could be."

"So, you decided to bring up a very touchy subject to a very pregnant woman who was already under major stress?" Ayako confirmed, raising a brow and crossing her arms. "That sounds very much like what Naru would do..."

Mai felt heat begin to rise in her cheeks and she fought hard to keep it at bay. She truly hated those words. Hated how much her employer was rubbing off on her. "I know this is a sensitive subject, but I assure you, I would never have pressed further if she had refused to answer," Mai added.

"Harsh, yet tactful," Masako commented from her corner.

"Did you bother to interview Ryouta?" Naru remarked coldly, Mai paled and shook her head.

"I only spoke with-"

"If you had the common sense to speak with Akahana about it, I would have expected you to speak to Ryouta as well, otherwise you have wasted our time and left more work for us to do," he explained coldly, opening his notebook.

Her jaw dropped. She felt heated anger boil in the pit of her stomach. Her fists clenched. And her mind played fantasies of her beating this man to a pulp. He really knew how to piss her off.

"Come on now, Naru-chan," Yasuhara chided. "At least she tried, and she found some informa-"

"Yasuhara and Miss Matsuzaki, I would like you to conduct the interviews and finish what Mai began," he interrupted, wishing to not hear another word of the incident. "Miss Hara, I need you to do another walkthrough of the property, Monk and Lin will accompany you. Lin, set up your Shiki in places that seem to have the most malicious presence."

"What about Mai?" Ayako asked, standing up.

"Mai and myself will stay here and monitor Base. I would like the group to meet up before lunch if possible."

Several of the room's occupants sucked in their breath, even Lin, though it had gone unnoticed. Had the said brunette been in just about any other mood, she would have complained about the dull job. No, she saw it as a possible opportunity to beat this young man within an inch of his life, without a six foot tall Monk holding her back.

"On that note, I feel we should get to our places," Yasuhara ordered, playing boss again. One by one everyone silently walked out, wishing to not be a part of the possible catastrophe about to occur.

Mai sat at the on the couch she had fallen asleep on two nights before and tried her very best to be on her best behavior. Instead of focusing on her obnoxiously egotistical, narcissistic scientist of a boss, she tried to think of the case, tried to think of anything she may have missed. Anything to keep her from strangling her employer. What was the order of events?

A man had supposedly committed suicide a year ago.

Akahana had been attacked just days before we arrived.

Something made me go upstairs instead of down on our first day.

I passed out in the hall trying to bring Naru tea as something made the tea give me burns....

She began to feel a slight burning and itching sensation on her wrists.

I began having dreams of disturbingly violent images.

When I went to apologize to Naru, I had that vision of that demon-like thing.

Then that ghostly maid appeared.

We find out that there have been suicides happening on the second of October for that last seventy years.

That letter in the drawer.

She began scratching.

We found out about all the sorts of activity.

She started scratching a little harder.

Just as we were about to have that E.V.P. session, or whatever, Akahana-

"Mai, when was the last time you changed your bandages?"

He managed to snap the girl out of her reverie, as she looked at him. "Uh..." she looked at the bandages on her hands. She couldn't remember if she had changed them the day before, they didn't bother her too much then and she forgot about them. Now, it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

Reading her mind, the boy sighed and stood up. "Come on," he ordered softly, standing up and heading for the door. Mesmerized, she followed.

The two of them headed through the hall and down the stairs. Walking across the lobby before Naru said another word. "Do you know where the least crowded part of the kitchen is?" he asked her, she nodded, seeming to have forgotten her earlier anger.

He let her lead the way as she found the kitchen with no trouble at all. Once there, he began to remove the gauze, reveal red blotchy skin and revolting bubbly white blisters, a few had popped glowing bright red along with the rest of her skin. Leading her to the sink, Naru put the faucet on cool and gently guided her hands into the rushing water.

Mai carefully watched everything he was doing, he had never been one to treat injuries, had he? Well, this was the first time she had been burned on a case, granted she had burned herself plenty of times in the office while making his tea, but those were tiny little red marks, not blisters.

Naru had approached one of the chefs in the kitchen, asking for the First Aid Kit. He quickly brought it out and he went back to work. Naru came back, washed his hands and lightly patted Mai's hands dry and tapped the counter slightly. "I need you to sit on the counter."

She looked at her hands and the two of them realized just how useless they would be in this situation. Rolling his eyes at his own stupidity, Naru lifted her up from under her arms and placed her on the counter, ignoring her blush as he went straight to the medical kit. He carefully removed the remains of dead skin from the raw broken blisters, as she winced slightly in surprise. He dressed the wounds with the burn cream and wrapped more gauze on her hands loosely before putting back the leftover materials neatly into the kit.

He returned the kit to the chef, as Mai jumped off the counter. "I was harsh and inappropriate earlier this morning," he said before walking out of the kitchen. "I apologize."

Mai was stunned as she tried to keep up with him. "Apology accepted," she called back as they reached the staircase. "Why did you say that all of a sudden?" she blurted as they began their ascent.

"Excuse me?"

"You've never been one to apologize, I believe the only other time I've heard you apologize was when we were on the Yoshimi case," she gave a slight smirk as she realized his true intent. "You need my help don't you?"

They were halfway down the hall of the third floor, when Naru stopped and smiled. "You're getting smarter and smarter everyday," he smirked.

He started to walk away and Mai narrowed her eyes. "You said the same thing at Yasuhara's school," she retorted, rushing up to him. "What do you need? It can't be tea, we were just in the kitchen and you hardly want me out of your sight."

"Our E.V.P. session yesterday," he began ignoring her comment as they walked back into Base.

"What about it? I thought we scrapped it after Akahana got hurt," she replied, taking the swivel chair next to her employer in front of the monitors.

"We didn't scrap it, we stopped it, we still have a couple minutes of audio that I would like your input on." Well, this was a surprise, seems like he actually wants her ideas now. About time.

"Okay?" she raised a brow but obediently put on the headphones and listened to the tape.

She listened quietly, hearing the explanation of E.V.P. amongst the static from the night before. "Is there anyone here with us?" she heard Naru's voice ask.

"...Akahana..." an old breathy voice whispered, Mai barely heard it, but gasped as she did.

"Turn it up," she ordered her boss, who obeyed.

"...Akahana...Ma-"

"AKAHANA!" she heard the scream and then the recording went dead.

"What did you hear?" Naru asked her, she let out the breath she didn't realize she had been holding.

She couldn't form words and just handed the headset to him. "Forward it to right after you ask your question, there's a voice," she stuttered.

He did as she said, messing with the settings, then handing the headset back to her. "Listen to it again and tell me what you hear."

She did, the audio was much clearer and her employer's voice sounded far away but the static died down a little and the whispering voice was most certainly male she concluded. "...Akahana...Ma-"

"It's saying, 'Akahana' and the last thing..." she listened to it again. "Is-is it saying my name?"

"That's what I heard," Naru confirmed, saving the evidence in a file on the laptop.

"We need to do another one of those again," Mai concluded, looking up to Naru.

"That was a given, Mai," he remarked coldly.

And just when I thought we might be on good terms...she thought bitterly as she rolled her eyes and sighed.

***

September Day 3, 2:37 P.M.

By this point of the day, the group had gathered in room 217 like the night before.

"Seeing as our session yesterday went interrupted, it's only logical that we continue now," Naru said, placing the recording device on the bed as everyone sat around or on the bed. "We will introduce ourselves with our names, so when we review we can pinpoint who is speaking. I will ask the first question, we will wait sometime and then anyone else may ask what they feel should be necessary." Everyone nodded and Naru turned on the recorder. "In room 217, Narumi..." He looked to the brunette next to him.

"Mai." she stated clearly, turning to the tall Chinese man beside her.

"Lin."

"Masako."

"Ayako."

"Takigawa."

"Kazuya," Yasuhara was the last one to give his fake name, in case anyone other than the team had to listen to the recording.

"Is there anything here with us?" Naru asked aloud, waiting several seconds before looking to his companions or any other questions.

"Can you give us all a sign of your presence? A knock perhaps?" Masako asked clearly, choosing against speaking behind her kimono sleeve as to not muffle her voice.

After a moment, Masako stiffened slightly, and not long afterward...

Knock.

Mai stifled her gasp as she and everyone else heard it clear as day.

"What is your name?" Ayako asked next.

After another moment Monk added his question. "Were you one of the men who died in 534?"

Several moments passed before Yasuhara added his two cents. "Are you afraid of something here? Knock on the wall twice for yes, once for no."

It was a long time for this reply. Everyone stared at each other in silence. "Perhaps he lef-" Ayako offered but was halted by Monk's hand.

Knock...

Knock...

Instantly, before anyone else could respond the college student took his chance. "What are you afraid of?"

"Why is Akahana Ishikawa being targeted?" Lin finally inquired after a moment, leaving only one other member to give her question.

There was one thing that had been on her mind since she and Naru were working on the recording from earlier. It was only when Naru nodded to her, reading her mind, giving her the cue to ask.

"Where you the one in here yesterday? The one who spoke into our recording?" she asked, waiting a few moments before continuing. "You were saying Akahana's name, were you also trying to say mine as well?"

It was not long after that did Naru finally say, "End of E.V.P. session," and turned off the recorder. He handed the device to his assistant. "Lin, review the tape, if you hear anything have Mai listen to it," he ordered, standing up and heading for the door. "I need to make a call."

The rest of the group remained stunned as he left. Monk turned to the most stunned girl of the room. "When did you and Naru make nice all of a sudden?" he asked her.

She shrugged shocked as well. "He apologized about his behavior this morning after he helped me change my bandages and then wanted my help with the recording from yesterday," she answered, somewhat gazing off toward the hall.

"Naru apologized? And helped you with your wounds? Is this the apocalypse or something?" the priestess teased with a smirk.

"No, it's not the apocalypse," Yasuhara said matter of factly, then point to Lin. "Lin hasn't said so anyway and he's our Naru-specialist."

Even the Chinese man managed to chuckle with everyone at the joke.

***

September Day 3, 3:03 P.M. Tokyo Library

The last couple of days had been rough on our favorite blond priest. Though there were not many Catholics, or any others belonging to another Christian religion for that matter, living in Japan, many had wished for the lovable priest to bless their homes. Even had an exorcism to perform just two days before.

What? You thought Naru was the only one to have John exorcise a possessed person? Not in the slightest! The young man having achieved his title at such an impressive age, many actually believed him to be one of the best exorcists around. Perhaps they were right.

John sat at a rather large table filled with boxes of papers and books and newspapers and just about anything he could get his hands on about the property of the hotel. He wondered how a library in Tokyo could have so much information about one specific area in Kyoto, but didn't question his luck after that. This meant that he wouldn't have to waist a seven hour drive to get to a library and then have to do this extensive amount of work. He had been there since nine that morning, knowing nothing about how long such a task could take by one's self. He wondered how Yasuhara did it.

He looked at the clock. 3:05. There was no way he would be able to finish the research and get to Kyoto by that night. He had only gotten through about half of the paperwork. He was just happy that the librarians were kind enough to allow him to use this spare room for his work. And that his ability to read Kanji had improved greatly since his arrival two years before.

The lines on a particularly old page of newspaper were starting to merge as the boy felt his phone vibrate. Thankful for the excuse, he found that it was the very man who assigned him the work in the first place. Stepping out of the room to stretch his legs, he made his way over to a corner of the library by the restrooms, where his call would not disturb anyone.

"Moshi moshi?" he said into the receiver softly.

"Father Brown, how's the research coming? Are you on your way to the hotel?" the younger man asked amongst slight static.

John let out a breath and rubbed his eyes before continuing. "Forgive me, Kazyuya, however, there is a lot of information about the property for one person to go through. I'm afraid I haven't even made a dent," he apologized with a shake of his head.

"I see," Naru exhaled into his line. "How long do you think you'll take?"

"I'm staying at the library until I finish researching. I promise I'll head over to the hotel with what information I found at some point tomorrow. I'll probably arrive tomorrow evening," John confirmed, leaning against the wall.

"All right," Naru replied. Was John imagining it, or did the young owner sound exhausted? "We'll see you tomorrow, then."

"Right, I'll see you tomorrow." He hung up the phone and rubbed his eyes again. He really didn't want to go through those newspapers again. He sighed and heard someone behind him.

"John? Is that you?" the familiar voice called, and the blond practically jumped at the statement. "Need any help?"

He turned to see someone he wasn't sure he would see again. It had been a while. "Is that you?" he said, migrating over to the person. "Wow, I haven't seen you since..."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5-"L"

A foreboding feeling washed over her again as she stood in what appeared to be Ryouta's office. Only it appeared to be outdated. The furniture in there was most certainly not the plush couches and chair she had sat in when they arrived. The desk was large and bulky with a lamp on top she was sure she had seen in a thrift store by her apartment. The chairs looked like western antiques and she saw two men in the room with her.

One was hiding behind a bookshelf in a corner of the room while the other appeared to be jerking around at every little movement. He finally noticed the man in the corner and appeared hurt.

The man who had been hiding was yelling at him, but Mai could not hear a word of it. She wondered why as the vision faded away just as the two physically began to fight.

Images once again plagued her eyes, much clearer this time. She could see images of both the men she had just witnessed dead. One stabbed in the chest, the other hanging from a noose. One thing similar in both.

October second.

More images blurred past her, she still couldn't make them out. It was bugging her. A lot. If you think of a dancer who can't get a specific move quite right, or a singer who just can't reach that high note they desire, that's how she felt. Where was the Naru in her dreams? He would normally help her. Wait, wasn't he just part of her imagination?

Mai found herself in that blackness she was all too used to being in. This was normally where she would find him. Perhaps if she kept walking he might appear and give her a hand. This case was becoming confusing and with John on the way, she was sure it was about to get much more dangerous.

She kept walking, her fears tagging along, as she spotted a glimmer of light. Naru? She thought as she continued for it. The light gradually grew and she was soon entering a brightly lit doorway...

"Naru?"

***

September Day 4, 8:30 A.M.

"Yeesh, you're dreaming about him now?" Mai heard the priestess say, as she was shaken awake.

Fighting to hide her blush, she rolled over. "I recall several times where you were calling out for Monk in your sleep," she retorted, sleepily. "Something about wanting more?"

This time it was the priestess fighting to keep her blush at bay. "I-I don't know what you're going on about, but get dressed. We're getting breakfast and then Naru wants to discuss the findings of the E.V-whatever we did yesterday."

Mai quickly dressed herself and headed for breakfast. After the silent meal she shared with an embarrassed and pissed Matsuzaki, they headed to Base to discuss their evidence.

They day before, Naru had asked Lin to have Mai listen to anything he heard, but he came back before the Chinese man could ask for her assistance and was therefore unneeded for that moment. Today, it appeared everyone was to listen to the audio.

"I'm going to play the audio we caught yesterday, if you hear anything out of sort, make a mental note of it for later," Naru explained, everyone nodded and Lin hit the "play" button.

"In room 217, Narumi..." Naru's voice was clear as day despite the slight amount of static.

"Mai."

"Lin."

"Masako."

"Ayako."

"Takigawa."

"Kazuya," At Yasuhara's alias everyone prepared to listen for the answers to questions, but to Mai, something did not feel quite right. She looked over to the medium to find she was not the only one.

"Is there anything here with us?" Came Naru's question.

A muffle only Mai, Masako, and Yasuhara heard as they looked to each other, reading their eyes.

"Can you give us all a sign of your presence? A knock perhaps?"  You could hear Masako ask just before-

Knock.

"What is your name?" Another muffle followed the priestess's question.

"Were you one of the men who died in 534?" Again another muffle, however this time only Mai and Monk heard it.

"Are you afraid of something here? Knock on the wall twice for yes, once for no."

It was silent or a bit, no muffling or anything as they awaited for the response. "Perhaps he lef-" You could hear Ayako whisper and something else.

"Help..." Did Mai really just hear that? She looked at those around her whom she knew had heard muffling earlier, but none of them seemed to acknowledge it.

Knock...

Knock...

"What are you afraid of?"

"Why is Akahana-san being targeted?" Again more muffling could be heard, this time by Ayako as well.

"Were you the one in here yesterday? The one who spoke into our recording?" Mai's voice cut in. "You were saying Akahana's name, were you also trying to say mine as well?"

"End of E.V.P. session."

"Naru, could you go back in the tape and give me a set of headphones?" Mai asked as soon as the recording was finished.

Nodding, the boy handed her the headset and started it from the beginning. So that's why something seemed off... she wondered to herself. There was shuffling going on.

"Is there any way you can boost the background audio?" she asked him, who looked to Lin for an answer.

She found that the static was a little louder but she managed to make out the shuffling and muffling she heard originally. "Help..." she heard a breathy voice plead.

"Someone's saying 'help' as we're introducing ourselves," she explained, Naru nodded as Lin typed away on his keyboard.

"Let me hear," Ayako ordered, but Mai held up her finger to her lips.

"Is there anything here with us?"

"Help..."

There was the plea. It repeated itself like one of Monk's mantras as the questions continued to be asked. Until finally-

"Were you one of the men who died in 534?"

"Yes..." the voice dragged in its breath.

"Are you afraid of something here? Knock on the wall twice for yes, once for no."

"Please...yes...help..." the voice pleaded sounding more haggard with each response.

"What are you afraid of?"

"Devil...demon...help..." Mai could only guess what her face looked like.

"Why is Akahana-san being targeted?"

"Demons..."

"Were you the one in here yesterday? The one who spoke into our recording?" Mai heard her own voice, signaling the ending of the recording. "You were saying Akahana's name, were you also trying to say mine as well?"

"Yes..." the voice answered, but continued. "Get out...save yourselves...I'm do-UHAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Mai barely felt the tears leave her eyes as she screamed, falling out of the chair at the sound of the spirit's agony. She could hear her friends try to calm her down but she was plagued by the sound and the images from her dreams becoming more clear at that moment.

She saw the men who had supposedly committed suicide, the two men from her dream the night before, the maid from two days earlier, and others facing gruesome deaths. She eventually saw her worst fears realized. All of her friends. Dead. Far more gruesome than the vision of them dying at the Kimura case. Everyone was drowning in their own pools of blood, in the middle of it all was John, the youthful priest hanging on a cross similar to the crucifixes he had shown the brunette long ago.

The images continued to flash across her eyes as she felt the itching burning sensation on her hands, she had no idea if we was crying or if she was still screaming. Perhaps Ayako had attempted to slap her awake like the Urado case, if she had, it didn't seem to work. Another image seemed to flash across her eyes...

A little girl.

She appeared to be about five years old. She wore an old fashioned pink dress with white lace and ruffles. She looked like a normal little girl, if it weren't for her fire engine red eyes. The most alarming part about her was her sinister grin and she had her palms out toward Mai.

In one, an upside down cross had been carved into it. In the other was an inverted pentagram. She may not have been a Christian, but Mai felt her stomach lurch knowing it meant something truly horrible. "Want to play a game?" the girl grinned wickedly, staring into Mai's soul. "L thinks it will be fun, we just need a body..."

"Mai! Mai!" finally she could hear her name being call out.

C'mon, legs! Move! she mentally ordered herself. If she could just move toward the voices and away from the visions she would be home free!

She was making some sort of progress. She knew she was awake, just out of her mind. No pun intended. She felt someone shaking her and heard someone's shrill shrieking. Her own? Most likely. Just a little further.

"Mai! You need to snap out of it!" She heard someone shout at her. Who could it be? The voice was definitely not Monk's or Lin's or Ayako or Masako. Maybe Naru? Nah, couldn't be.

"C'mon, Mai!" That sounded more like Ayako.

She could finally feel the tears running down her face, her screams becoming hoarse, the burning on her hands, her employer shaking her like when she had that nightmare on the case before. Her eyes had been open for probably the whole time, she blinked and her screaming had finally ceased.

She felt drained. As though she could close her eyes and possibly be either in the same vision she had been in or asleep for a whole day, or even both. Her eyelids fluttered, threatening to allow sleep to take over. "Mai, listen to me, don't fall asleep," she heard her boss order, she just wasn't sure she would be able to comply. He helped her sit up and she still struggled to stay awake.

"Sorry, Naru," she apologized sheepishly, her head bobbing in and out of consciousness.

"Takigawa, Mr. Shibuya, can you give me a hand?" she heard a slight urgentness in his voice.

Why doesn't he want me to fall asleep? she wondered and she felt herself being half lifted, half forced to walk to keep her consciousness. He called Yasuhara, Mr. Shibuya, are the Ishikawa's in here too? I must have caused quite a scare...

She fought to keep her eyes open, as she was put in a sitting position on the couch. "Mai, please stay with us," she could hear a frightened voice plead. Akahana.

What was going on? Why was she not supposed to succumb to sleep? Had something happened to her while she was having that vision? Her eyelids fluttered again, she could see Akahana and Ryouta in the far end of the room and someone with dark hair looking over her hands. Just what happened?

"Mai, stay with us, don't fall asleep," she heard Naru order, what was going on? "Miss Matsuzaki, Takigawa." Apparently a secret order had been given.

"Sorry, Naru," Mai managed to whisper as sleep finally overcame her.

***

September Day 4, 3:41 P.M.

Her sleep had been dreamless and much needed. The only thing that was really annoying her was that constant beeping right by her ear. It just kept going. Beep...

Beep...

Beep...

Beep...

Beep...

Beep...

Finally she couldn't ignore it anymore. She was waking up, much to her disappointment. She felt stiff and she opened her eyes to find herself blinded by bright lights. She whimpered and clenched them shut, turning her head and opening them at a certain priestess's voice. "You gave us a bit of a scare."

"Ayako?" Mai asked, her throat sore and voice hoarse. Carefully, Ayako grabbed a cup of water and lifted the girl's head enough so she wouldn't choke as she drank it.

"Small sips, Mai, you've been out for awhile," she ordered and the girl complied. She noticed exactly where she was. A hospital room. What one earth happened to her?

"What happened?" Mai finally asked as the priestess pressed a button to alert the medical staff of her awakening.

"I was kind of hoping you could tell me," the priestess replied, scooting her chair closer to the girl's bedside. "You listened to the audio and then you just began screaming, we tried to calm you down and I noticed your hands were heating up," she explained, pointing to the girl's hand. "Before we knew it your wrists began to bleed, we were worried about bloodloss when you were going in and out of consciousness. Then we took you here."

Mai looked at her hands, more bandages covered them and there was the pulse monitor attached to her finger. Something didn't seem right. "Where is everyone else?" she asked.

"They are-"

"Miss Taniyama, I'm glad to see that you're awake," the doctor came in with a smile. "I am Dr. Suzuki."

The man continued to check her vitals and looked at the two women with a smile. "You seem fine, think it was really just exhaustion and you didn't lose much blood from the cuts on your wrists, but I wouldn't recommend resorting to cutting yourself in the future," he reassured her. Mai gave a quizzical look to the woman next to her, who gave a guilty smile in return. "I would like you to stay overnight, so we can keep an eye on your mental state, if that is-"

"That won't be necessary, Dr. Suzuki," Mai interrupted, sounding too much like her employer to her liking. "My mental state is fine, the cuts on my wrists were just an accident." She gave the man a genuine smile with bug eyes. "I'm just very clumsy, but if it would make you feel better I can come back tomorrow for an evaluation."

Dr. Suzuki looked shocked, but shook his head. "If you are that sure of your well-being I will have a therapist come in and evaluate you, if he decides you are mentally stable you will be free to go." Slightly annoyed the doctor left leaving Ayako to chuckle.

"Maybe it's not such a bad thing that Naru's rubbing off on you," she laughed, causing the brunette to glare at her.

"Ayako, why did you tell them I cut myself?" she asked as she pressed a button to elevate her bed into a sitting position.

"Mai, in our line of work, I'm sure you've noticed how many skeptics there are in the world," she explained, crossing her legs. "If we just said that you had basically been attacked by an unseen force, we would all be taken to the loony bin." She gave the girl a soft look. "And your negotiating skills have improved tremendously, we were sure that Naru would have to bail you out or you would be spending at least a night here."

"Where is everyone?" Mai asked, remembering her unanswered question.

"They're at the hotel, I drove you with Naru in the back seat with and Lin followed behind. When Dr. Suzumi said you were in no immediate danger, Lin and Naru left and told me to call when you woke up," she explained.

"Then go call them," Mai insisted. "I'm supposed to have an evaluation anyway."

"I will call them, when that therapist guy gets here, besides, John's supposed to arrive soon," Ayako replied, leaning back.

"Soon?" Mai repeated, snapping her head back to the priestess. "How soon? What time is it? How long was I out?"

"Whoa, one question at a time," Ayako chided with a laugh, as the therapist walked. "John should be arriving within a couple of hours, it's not even four o'clock yet and you were out for more than six hours," she explained looking up at the elderly gentleman. "She's all yours, I need to make a call and I'll be back in a few."

She left and the therapist began his spew about what he was going to do. He asked questions that Mai answered correctly or truthfully. The session took about an hour and by the time he was finished asking questions, Mai was in need of some ibuprofen or something. The tedious process gave her a headache and she couldn't wait to get back to the hotel. "You seem very sane, Taniyama-san," the man said, putting down the clipboard. "So sane, that I'm curious as to why you went and cut yourself."

Mai sighed. "To be honest, sir," she began, shaking her head slightly. "If I explained to you exactly how I obtained these cuts on my wrists and the blisters on my hands and the exhaustion I faced, you wouldn't believe me a it and would send me to an insane asylum to 'protect' me or something."

The man raised a brow, but lowered it and gave a knowing smirk. "Try me."

Smirking as well, Mai answered him. There was something about this man she liked, she couldn't think of it at the time, but she liked his attitude. "Do you believe in the paranormal? Such as ghosts and demons and possessions?" she asked him, the man looked taken aback. "That's what I thought," she chuckled shaking her head again. "That's the reaction I usually get when I tell people my part-time job is to hunt such beings."

"I see, so this is a work related injury," the man concluded, scribbling something on the clipboard, ripping the paper and handing it to her.

"What is this?" she asked.

"It's your copy of your release," he answered, standing up, ready to leave. "I understand how you would tell such a tale about your injuries considering the people out there and your profession, just try to be more careful next time. My grandson is in a similar profession and faces the same type of criticism I'm sure you have faced a time or two, I wish you the best of luck."

With that, the man left leaving the girl shocked as the priestess walked in. "What? Did you flunk the evaluation?" she asked, sitting down next to her. "What did he ask?"

Shaking her head again, Mai explained the random questions she had expected to face and her answers to them. "Then, he said that I seemed too sane for wanting to cut my wrists and I explained to him that I hunt ghosts and he understood perfectly."

Ayako was shocked and had to blink a couple times before she could respond. "Mai, you shouldn't have told him that," she chided as the nurse came in to release Mai from the medical equipment.

"And why is that?" she returned, not caring about the nurse in the room.

Ayako huffed, and crossed her arms, standing up and tapping her foot. "Because, some people don't exactly approve of our profession," she explained. "Isn't Yasuhara's school enough of an example? Remember Sakauchi? You're lucky that he understood and didn't force you into an asylum."

The nurse then cut in. "Miss Taniyama, you're free to go," she explained with a smile, turning to Ayako. "We just need the both of you to sign a form at the front desk."

"Sure, thank you," Ayako said, waving the girl away. "Seriously, Mai, what were you thinking?"

She helped the teenager up out of the bed, who hadn't been changed into a hospital gown for some odd reason, and they walked out of the room. "Well, I trusted him," she said bluntly as they reached the front desk and signed the papers.

"How can you give your trust so easily?" the priestess shook her head as she finished her signature.

Mai shrugged. "I don't know, there was just something about him. Something told me that I could trust him."

Ayako sighed as they hopped into Yasuhara's car that said priestess had driven there. "Mai, you're abilities amaze me as much as they can irritate me."

Mai rolled her eyes as they hit the road on their way back to the hotel to find out if anything else was going on, since their departure.

***

"Well, if it isn't our little Mai-chan!" Yasuhara called out once the two girls made it into the lobby. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel better now, Mr. Shibuya," she lied, she would never admit it out loud, but she didn't really want to come back to the hotel. The atmosphere was different and she felt unwanted, kind of how Akahana must have felt.

"Good," he smiled then his face became serious as well as his tone. "I know you don't really want to go into the matter, but I think it would be best if you come with me to Base and explain just what made you go into that attack."

He was right. She didn't want to talk about it. But it would also be best if everyone knew what they were dealing with. "Sure," she agreed, suddenly hearing footsteps.

"Mai! Thank goodness you're all right!" Akahana exclaimed as she raced up to her.

"Yeah, sorry for the scare," Mai apologized sheepishly.

"Don't be, I should be the one sorry for this thing targeting you," she replied, then noticing Yasuhara. "Oh! Forgive me, Mr. Shibuya! You must want to ask her what happened, and I'm interrupting!"

"It's quite alright," he answered with a smile and the group parted ways.

***

"Mai, start from when you were listening to the audio," Naru ordered, as Lin was ready with his laptop to take notes.

Mai took a breath, getting comfortable in the corner of the couch where she sat. "The same voice that I heard on the recording from yesterday was pleading for help, and answering the questions, but I'm sure you already listened to them. It wasn't until the end when it began the agonizing cry did I lose it..." she continued to explain the vision she encountered in her little episode.

"Upside down cross. Inverted pentagram..." Naru repeated with his hand on his chin, like always.

"Are you sure it was carved into her palms? Not drawn on?" Monk inquired from his spot across from the girl.

Mai nodded. "I'm sure, I could see blood dripping from them."

"Naru, I'm not like liking this," Masako said sternly, turning to him. "And for once I agree with Mai, as much as John may be needed for this case, I don't think asking him to come was a good idea."

"I suppose you have a better idea then, Miss Hara?" he remarked coldly, forcing the girl to turn her eyes away and shake her head with shame.

"What does she have to do with this?" Yasuhara asked out of nowhere. Everyone turned to him. "I mean the girl in Mai's vision, everything before was actually somewhat expected given what we know about this case. But the girl?" he paused, his eyes grazing the room and his friends. "She's not expected at all, is she the cause of what's going on here?"

Mai shook her head. "I...I don't think so," she said shaking her head. "She wanted to play a game, saying that 'L' thought it would be fun. Call me crazy, but I think 'L' is the culprit."

"That makes sense," Ayako added, crossing her arms next to the brunette.

"That's because Mai is finally using her brain," Naru added coldly from his stance.

"Glad to see your faith in my mental capability," Mai grumbled under her breath.

"No need for sarcasm."

"Idiot scientist..."

Knock. Knock.

"Come in!" Yasuhara called out and a maid came in.

"Forgive me for the intrusion, however Mrs. Ishikawa requested that I summon you for dinner," she said giving a bow.

"Thank you," Yasuhara said looking at his friends. "I think we could all use some food, agreed?"

"Agreed."

They all made their way down to the dining hall, eating their meals in silence. The case was on everyone's mind. Upon first glance everything seems pretty simple. The two men at the beginning of Mai's dream earlier that day could be the ones causing the suicides and other activity unwillingly. However, that doesn't explain the little girl with the carvings in her hands. Or the ties this case seems to have with John. Or why Mai's uneasy feeling seemed to grow as she ate her dinner slowly, picking at her plate.

Her question had just been answered.

"Mr. Shibuya!" the maid from earlier cried out, racing into the hall, causing both Naru and Yasuhara to stand up.

"Miss, has something happened?" Yasuhara asked, as the young woman nearly ran into him.

"It-it's Yoshiko!" she panted, trying to calm down. "She attacked Akahana again, in Ryouta's office and...and...I just came as fast as I could!"

Instantly every member of SPR sprinted down the hall, racing for the clients' office. Each pleading that they weren't too late. They found Akahana outside standing with a maid. "Akahana!" Mai exclaimed, at her side in an instant.

"I'm fine, Ryouta and Susumu are in there trying to calm her down," she explained, pointing toward the closed door. "Go and help him."

They raced in seeing the two men struggling to keep their hold on the woman. "Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" Monk chanted as Lin quickly hit the pressure point on the back of the woman's neck.

"She was repossessed?" Ayako asked, as the woman was securely restrained and tied.

Masako simply shook her head. "No, I believe she had been possessed all this time, but the spirit had stayed dormant until now."

"What happened?" Yasuhara asked Ryouta who was trying to calm himself down.

"Just...just exactly what happened two nights ago, when Yoshiko attacked Akahana," he managed to spit out, still shocked.

"Hey, Kazuya, what time is it?" Monk asked Yasuhara, who looked to his watch.

"Just after six thirty," he responded and the monk crossed his arms.

"So John should be here soon, until then, what do we do?" Monk looked to the man pretending to be his employer who simply looked to the real employer.

"Any ideas, Naru?" he asked and Naru gave a sigh.

"We should lock Yoshiko in a room where she can't harm herself or anyone else if she somehow frees herself of those bonds," he said, crossing his arms as well.

"Just what I was thinking, none of us can perform a safe exorcism compared to John. We're just going to have to wait for him."

"I suppose she had the same glowing red eyes she had earlier and as the doorman had when he attacked Akahana?" Ayako questioned Susumu as Ryouta led the men to a room that would keep Yoshiko safe and brought her there.

"Yes," he replied, scratching his head. "Poor thing, she'd been complaining about not feeling well, I should have urged her to stay home or lie down."

"Had you done that we might not have been able to get to her in time," Masako commented.

"Well, now that the excitement is over, please, feel free to go back to your meals," Akahana urged, trying to be a good hostess.

It went without saying, but Mai had lost her appetite. And looking at the girls next to her, she was not the only one. "If you don't mind, Akahana, I think we'd better head to the lobby and wait for out friend," Mai declined politely.

"Suit yourself, just be careful," she replied, exhaustion evident in her voice. The three remaining girls left.

"This isn't good for her," the priestess declared out of the blue.

"You mean the stress of the situation, right?" Mai asked as the reached the lobby.

"Yes, it's starting to take a toll on her," the priestess concluded.

"And with her reaching her due date in a couple of weeks, it can't be good for the baby," Masako added, the priestess nodded.

"Exactly."

"She's about as stubborn as Naru, but far nicer about it," Mai included, as they reached the front desk and were about to head for the staircase. "She won't leave this place even if she's in danger."

"And that's the problem," Ayako sighed, shaking her head. "Because she stays here the spirit will continue to target her and it won't end well."

"Ayako, remember, we aren't sure if this spirit can travel," the medium chided behind her sleeve. "It's quite possible that it could attach itself to her and target her no matter where she is. It will be easier to figure this case out once John arrives."

"You won't have to wait long, here he comes," Mai said, nodding her head in the direction of the front doors.

There John bobbed his way over, a large pile of folders in his arms. Another figure, smaller than the Australian boy, bobbed its way through the doors as well. "And he's brought a friend," Ayako added with a cock of her head.

"Good to see you all again," John greeted as his companion followed, Mai's eyes widened and her jaw nearly dropped.

She could barely find the words. "It's-"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6- Possession

September Day 4, 6:33 P.M.

"It's-" Mai couldn't finish her statement as the light brown haired girl bobbed her way over with a smile.

"Mai! It's been so long!" she exclaimed, rushing over. "I'd hug you but I have all of this in my hands," she laughed gesturing to the folders and files in her arms.

The last time Mai had seen Kiko Kimura she had been forced to dress in outfits that covered just about her whole body. Now, she was wearing jeans, flats and a red dolman top with lace running across her shoulders, revealing her now mark free arms. Over two months had passed and Mai could see she looked healthier now, finally able to rest easy now that Shichiro was out of her life.

"Kiko! What are you doing here?" Mai asked honestly, bewildered at her friend's sudden appearance.

"I happened to find John at the library yesterday and offered him some help, next thing I knew I was on my way to Kyoto to help explain the history of this hotel," the girl explained as she, John, and the three other girls headed for Base.

"It's good to see you again, Kiko," Masako said politely. "How's your family?"

"Yeah, how's Satoshi doing? I know he must have had a brutal recovery," the priestess added, recalling how the boy had been stabbed.

"Everyone is fine, my dad's home and he noticed a lighter feeling in the atmosphere," Kiko continued, smiling. "Satoshi's doing fine, he has his last visit to the physical therapist next week, after that he should be back to playing sports."

"That's good, it's a shame he couldn't play soccer for the rest of summer, though," Mai stated apologetically.

Kiko shrugged. "He's more upset that he didn't believe that there was really a ghost in our house."

"How were you able to get the time off to come on this case?" Masako asked as they neared their destination.

"My school has several exams for the next few days, luckily, thanks to my counselor, I have been able to be exempt from them because I had already taken them," she explained just as Yasuhara came walking from the other direction with Ryouta in tow.

Wait! Does Kiko know that- Mai was unable to finish her thought as she had to act quickly.

"Hey Y-" Fortunately, Mai was able to jump over and whisper something in the other girl's ear. "Mr. Shibuya, I hope you don't mind, but I happened to find John at the library and offered him a hand, we figured it would be easier to explain the information we found if I tagged along as well." Kiko gave a slight bow as Yasuhara smiled back.

"Of course, Kiko," he replied. "We are happy to have an extra hand." He turned to the man next to him. "Ryouta, allow me to introduce to you a colleague of mine, John Brown, a Catholic priest, and a personal friend of mine, Kiko Kimura, a psychic."

"Nice you meet you sir," the Australian boy smiled and bowed slightly.

"It's a pleasure," Kiko added, bowing as well.

"I'm glad you're here," the man exhaled and bowed, remaining tightly wound as he turned to the priest. "Father, you will be able to help, right?" You could see the exhaustion in his eyes.

"I will do the best that I can," John replied somewhat stunned, his face became serious. "What all has happened?"

"It appears we have a demonic possession on our hands, Father Brown," Naru's cool voice cut in from the door to Base.

If it were possible, John became even more solemn. "When did this happen?" he questioned.

"Demonic possession?" Mai whispered to Kiko.

"It's when an evil spirit possesses a person," she explained.

Mai nodded and whispered back, "I thought so..."

"It happened only minutes before you came, or well-" Ayako tried to explain but the medium cut in.

"Miss Yoshiko was first possessed two days ago, but it appears that the spirit never left and she attacked Akahana just before you arrived."

"Father Brown, would it be possible for you to perform an exorcism tonight?" Yasuhara asked, the priest nodded.

"Of course, the sooner the better," he agreed as the group walked into Base. "Let me change and then explain everything that has happened."

"Ryouta, would you mind alerting Takigawa and Lin about John's arrival?" Yasuhara asked, the man nodded.

"Sure." He was gone in an instant. Naru closed the door.

"What's with that look?" the eighteen year old chided, doing her best to look innocent. She had already placed the files on the table next to the monitors.

"Why are you here?" he asked coldly, Kiko simply shrugged.

"I hope you don't mind, Naru, but I found John at the library yesterday and offered him help with reading any Kanji and due to the extensive amount of information we gathered it seemed to be a better idea if I tagged along and explained instead of just handing him my notes," she explained, then looked between the real ringleader and her friend whom had been in a dark suit. "Why is Yasu pretending to be you?"

"For publicity reasons," the college student replied, as John walked back into the room.

"Ready, John?" Ayako asked as the blond priest gripped his Bible.

"Yes, we need to do this as soon as possible," he said.

"All right, exorcise time," Kiko chimed as they headed for Yoshiko's room.

They walked down to the first floor, as the nearest and safest room to occupy the possessed woman was a storage room behind the client's office. Ryouta and Monk must have been standing guard along with Lin, when the group approached they heard voices. "Akahana! You should stay away from here!" Ryouta scolded from around the corner.

"I can't just sit around and wait! Everything that's been going on has me paranoid as it is, if I sit in some room and wait for your call to say everything is safe I think I'll go mad!" the man's wife's fiery retort came as the group edged closer.

"Fine, once the priest gets here, we will both go back to our room and you will relax and I will be with you so you won't go mad," he compromised. "However I feel that we should make plans for you to stay with your mother or your sister, in case the exorcism fails."

"Ryouta, I'm sure the priest is very skilled, there is no need for me to make that trip besides, they live in Akita, that's already a ten hour drive. If I leave to visit them I may as well stay for a week! I don't think it will take that long!" Akahana protested. "And you know my family they're tweakers, even worse than you, every little thing I do will need to be examined and talked over for an hour before I can even do it!"

"Akahana-" Ryouta stopped once he saw the group round the corner. "Mr. Shibuya, please forgive me if you heard any of that."

Feeling instantly awkward, Yasuhara shook his hands and head. "No apologies necessary, I wasn't paying attention to any of it, really," he said sheepishly and then introduced Akahana to John and Kiko.

"Thank you both for coming to help us," Akahana said, bowing slightly. "Welcome to the Suiren Yadoya."

"You're quite welcome," the two replied bowing as well.

"Please, excuse us," Ryouta said, placing an arm around his wife's shoulders. "We shall retire for the evening, with all that's happened I hope you'll understand."

"Of course," Yasuhara replied. "It is probably best that way."

"Thank you." The couple then left.

"Well, that was only slightly awkward," Kiko whispered to Mai.

"You can say that again," Mai replied as they all headed for the room.

Upon reaching the door guarded by SPR's tallest members, Monk ended up doing a double take. He immediately smacked his forehead. "Man! I knew there had to be something up with that food! Now I'm suddenly seeing Kiko standing between Mai and Shibuya-"

THUNK!

"Ouch! Damn it! What was that for!"

"You idiot! That is Kiko!" Ayako shouted at him.

"What!" Monk did another double take as he stuttered. "B-but-how!"

"Long story, I'll explain later," Kiko said quickly, knowing this wasn't the time for explanations. "It's good to see you guys again though."

"I believe it is time we let Father Brown conduct the exorcism before this spirit becomes more than we can handle," the cold voice lingered in the air and John stood in front of the door.

Everyone silenced themselves as John stood in front of them, his presence felt more like he were much older than the twenty-one year old he was.

"Before we begin, I must warn you," John began. "I haven't been here long enough to determine the spirit's power, however if it is as strong as you say, there is no telling what could happen or what it will do." His face was more serious than ever before as he continued. "It could cause the one possessed to try to scare us off with curses or even go as far as to possess someone else in the room. Be cautious and if things are as dangerous as I think they might be, I'll end the exorcism for today," he finished, glancing at everyone with a hard stare. "Is that understood?"

"Whatever you feel is best, John," Yasuhara said as the real employer nodded as well.

They walked into the room to see a lump underneath a blanket that was on the spare bed kept in the storage room. The priest nodded and Monk removed the blanket to find Yoshiko had broken free from her bonds and had contorted her body into a pretzel-like shape that Mai was sure not even the most skilled contortionist in Cirque du Soleil could pull off. John took a deep breath. "Yoshiko?" he called sweetly. "Can you relax?"

The woman's eyes rolled to the back of her head and she let out a breathy groan. Slowly her body untangled until her spine was almost straight and her arms and legs were each at one of the posts of the bed. The men in the room, minus John, each tied a limb securely down. The priest opened his Bible and began, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was...."

Yoshiko continued to let out breathy moans and groans as John continued the reading. His reading went on as the woman began thrashing against her restraints, mumbling something and growling along with it. The other girls in the room stayed back toward the door, knowing that at any moment she could break free of the rope and attack. What seemed like hours was probably only several minutes as John finally gave the last of his incantation. "In principio..." he splashed holy water on the girl as she tried to lift herself up only succeeding in arching her back and she let out a breath.

She fell back down instantly and began coughing and breathing heavily. "Yoshiko?" John asked her as she calmed down.

Tears fell from the woman's eyes and she was barely able to whisper, "H-help me..." before going back into a coughing fit.

"Miss Hara," Naru turned to said medium in the room.

"I don't sense the spirit at all, I didn't feel it leave so she could still be possessed-" she tried to explain only to hear a crackly raspy woman's voice interrupt her.

"Could? Ha! You're perceptive abilities could use some work," Yoshiko chuckled attempting to twist around in her bonds.

"Father Brown," Naru ordered and John began his blessing again as the woman laughed.

"This room is full of fucking idiots, none of you are any fun to play with!" she complained. "Maybe if I created a game you all would much more entertaining."

"Don't listen to what she's saying, she's just trying to scare us," Monk declared, his tokkosho in hand, ready for things to take a bad turn.

"Oh, aren't you smart! Considering that you fled the temple!" she laughed, spitting at him. "Such a failure they must call you and a selfish one at that!"

Monk gritted his teeth, but stayed silent. She was trying to bait him and he knew it, he also knew that it was working. "You gave up the life your family tried to give you to do what? Hunt ghosts! What a laugh!"

"She's trying to distract you Monk!" Ayako exclaimed, knowing that he must have been contemplating snapping at the possessed woman.

"You think I don't know that!" Monk snapped, knowing that he took out the slight anger he had on someone who didn't deserve it at that time, but there was no helping it now.

"And you, blondie," Yoshiko smirked, looking up at the priest. "You really think that bullshit is going to get rid of me? You know your limits and I'm fucking beyond them!"

"Limits..." Mai repeated in a whisper.

"As a Catholic priest, John can exorcise spirits and bless homes and properties, but he can't exorcise anything that doesn't fear God. As of right now, it appears that's what we're dealing with," Kiko explained and the brunette's eyes widened.

"This thing hates God..." Wasn't that what she determined? But just because it hated God didn't mean it feared it as well. There was something she needed to know. Something that would confirm her suspicions.

"What's your name!" Mai piped up, taking a step forward as several pairs of eyes turned to her. "Are you 'L?'"

Yoshiko simply cackled. "Bwahahahaha! I've gone by many names, child! 'L' is simply one of them! I've also gone by 'Queen of Demons' and 'Baby-killer' all of them true in their own way!"

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" Monk quickly began in an attempt to aid the priest.

Laughing maniacally, Yoshiko thrashed around with a sick and twisted smile on her face and rapping noises sounded around the walls. The banging shook the whole room and made the lights flickered. With John's incantations rendered useless and Monk's mantra seemed to help no one John finished his prayer, "In principio!" Nothing happened except force the spirit to cackle even more.

A vase was thrown across the room narrowly missing Ayako and shattered against the wall, forcing the group to come to only one decision. "Get out of here!" the priest ordered immediately, splashing the holy water. "Go! Now!"

Quickly and surely Yasuhara and Naru rushed the girls out of the room as Monk and John gave one final chance of an incantation and Lin managed to knock the woman out.

"In the name of Holy Jesus Christ, spare the innocent and release her from your grasp!" John shouted one last time as an ominous laughter filled the air.

They raced out of the room, while Monk used his tokkosho to seal the room.

"This spirit is beyond what I had anticipated..." Naru remarked as Lin set up his shiki to guard the possessed woman.

"Is...pant...is everyone all right?...Pant..." John asked them as he began to double over.

"Better question, are you?" Mai replied as the priestess caught him and steadied him.

"We should get back to Base, so Father Brown can rest and we can discuss the research gathered," Naru suggested-slash-ordered, no one was really sure what character he was playing at the moment.

"Good idea, Narumi," Yasuhara added and Monk and the priestess each helped steady the blond priest as they headed for Base.

Faintly, Mai could have sworn she heard a whisper behind her. "Narumi?"

Note to self: remember to explain to Kiko the whole Naru and his identity thing...Mai mentally noted as they reached the lobby.

"Really, guys, I'm fine you don't need to-" the blond tried to pull away and steady himself on his own, but nearly ran into a wall as they reached the stairs.

"You're not as fine as you think you are," Monk countered catching him.

"The exorcism took a lot out of you on top of that long drive," the medium commented from the back of the group.

"Mai, tea." Naru ordered. Normally Mai would have stuck her tongue out at the call, but seeing as he might have actually meant it as a request for John, she simply nodded and headed for the kitchen. "Kiko, go with her."

Instead of freaking out like she had done a couple days earlier, the petite brunette was happy that at least he ordered someone she could easily get along with. Upon reaching the kitchen, the girls quickly gathered enough water for the nine members of their team and set it on the stove to boil. "So what do you make of this place, Mai?" the girl inquired from the island in the middle of the least busy side of the kitchen.

"What do you mean?" she replied as the water boiled.

"C'mon, I know you have an opinion on what's going on here, so what is it?" Kiko asked, setting out the cups.

Mai thought for a moment trying to put it into words. "What I think is probably the obvious." she began, pouring the now finished tea into the cups. "That thing possessing Yoshiko is behind the majority of the activity, why?"

The girl shrugged. "I'm trying to figure out what's going on here like everyone else is." The two headed for base. "So, no other theories? Nothing that you think the others might have missed?"

Mai shook her head as they climbed the stairs. "Sorry, a lot's happened today, I can't think straight," she tried to laugh off, but there was that menacing feeling she had days ago that had returned. Now that John and Kiko had arrived the feeling was stronger than before.

"Something's bothering you," Kiko noted as they reached the third floor. "Spill."

Again the brunette shook her head. "It-it's nothing. I'm just over thinking things and getting paranoid over them," she attempted to laugh off again.

Even now, not much has happened really, no one has been hurt since John arrived, but... Mai thought as they neared Base, I can't help but feel-

Get out!

It was the same voice from when she first arrived! She stopped short, her face paled.

"Mai? What's wrong?" Kiko asked her when she noticed the sudden stop, but Mai just continued to listen.

There was something about the voice, the phrase. It didn't sound like an order. It sounded like a plea. Nothing came after that though, perhaps she merely imagin-

Get out! Go while you still can!

There was that voice again! That ominous feeling at the pit of her stomach only made her feel more uneasy as she shook her head and tried to ignore whatever else the spirit might be trying to tell her. "Yeah, I'm fine, sorry, I just spaced out I guess," she told the lighter-haired girl as they reached Base.

"If you say so..."

"Tea's arrived!" Mai tried to say cheerfully as the two walked into the room of gloomy faces of their team.

Naru took the cup of tea offered to him by his assistant, took a sip and said, "Let's begin, now that Mai won't be lost or ask idiotic questions." Mai glared at him but he didn't seem to notice.

Nor did she notice his slight smirk or amusement. Does he really need to pull that kind of crap right now? I mean we just had a failed exorcism-come to think of it I think it's the only time one of John's exorcisms really failed... Mai thought as she continued handing out cups of tea.

"Father Brown, what have you and Kiko found out about the property?" Naru continued as John accepted his cup, but only stared at it.

Finally, after a moment he shook his head and looked at the younger man before him. "With all due respect, Kazuya," he began, all his cheerfulness and innocence seemed to disappear from his expression. "I have a theory that I need to do a little more research and ask a friend of mine in Australia for his insight. It is becoming late as well."

Naru looked at the priest's eyes that gleamed a new determination that none of the SPR team had ever seen before. With a sigh he replied, "Very well, we will continue tomorrow with the history of the property. At this moment there is nothing I need any of you to do, so do what you will." He swiveled to face the wall of monitors, that showed nothing to be out of the ordinary. "If at all possible, Father Brown, I would like you to perform another exorcism tomorrow, after you have recovered."

"Of course." The young priest stood and left his untouched tea on the coffee table.

"If we're wrapping up for the night, we should probably check on the Ishikawas," Yasuhara suggested, standing as well. "Make sure they are alright after this incident."

"I'll go with you," Monk offered and they left.

The medium stood up next and turned to their guest. "Kiko, would you like me to show you to our room?" she offered.

"Thanks, that would be great," she accepted.

"I'll come, too, I'm exhausted," the priestess yawned heading for the door behind the two teenaged girls. She turned back around at the only remaining girl in the room. "Mai, aren't you coming? The doctor said we should change your bandages in the morning and at night."

Mai nodded. "I'll be right there," she said, suddenly noticing her employer gazing intently at his black notebook. As though something just wasn't fitting in the puzzle. "Go on ahead of me, there's something I need to do..."

"All right, if you say so." The priestess left and Mai walked up behind the swiveling chair her employer sat in as Lin left to probably quickly change a set of batteries in one of the cameras.

"Is something the matter, Mai?" he stated indifferently, then turned to face her. His eyes glanced at her wrapped up hands. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said with a quick shake of her head, then muttered, "everyone's been asking me that lately..."

"Then what's wrong?" He closed his notebook and placed it on the table. "It has to do with that feeling you had when you told me not to call John."

It wasn't a question. After all, how many times does Naru really need to question her? She was like an opened book. "Yeah."

"You still feel uneasy..."

"That's right..." Really he must have been a mind reader or something. "I still think John's in danger. Now that he's here-I don't know what will happen..."

"You think this spirit will target him?"

"I know it will."

Naru let out a breath. "If that's the case we'll have to warn him to be wary of himself, and as for you," he crossed his legs as place his elbows on the arms of his seat, folding his hands to rest his chin on them. "Be careful."

"Not the first time I've heard that one," Mai sighed.

"But will it be the first time you listened?"

"That was uncalled for." Mai pouted and glared at him, but he looked serious all the same.

"Mai, the spirits here have made it very clear that they have pointed you out to target. They may only be warning you, but what if their warnings become dangerous?" Mai only crossed her arms across her chest at his lecture. "Spirits are attracted to you, you need to be wary of all of them, even the most harmless ones. Try not to be alone."

Mai gave a sigh and closed her eyes. "Okay, I get it." She shifted her weight making her hip cock out. "So what? Are you going to escort me to my sleeping quarters?" she mocked as he turned back around.

"I don't think that will be necessary," he stated, his eyes glancing at a specific screen that had been blank only moments ago. Mai could see Lin positioning it and checking the wires. "You're only down the hall and Lin has decided to take certain precautions."

"So Lin was the one who decided to put a camera outside my room?" Mai questioned skeptically.

"Interpret it how you wish." Mai shook her head and headed for the door. "Mai. Tea."

With a huff, she stomped over to where John left his untouched cup and placed it on the table next to the black notebook. "Here. John didn't drink any of it."

"It's cold..." Naru complained as Mai opened the door.

"Then you can go down to the kitchen and get another cup of tea, as of right now I have no one to escort me and it would be absurd for both of us to go down into the kitchen just to make you tea, when you can go down alone." She left a flabbergasted workaholic smirking in his seat. Not that she even witnessed the smirking.

***

Darkness once again seemed to engulf her. However this time, there was the purple glow within the blackness that put her at ease. She hadn't felt comfortable in the darkness in a long time, even on their last case the dark wasn't as calming excluding the one or two instances.

Come to think of it, she hadn't seen her dreamed up version of Naru in a long time, perhaps the sudden restful blackness was a sign that she just might see him again! She had quite a few questions that he should be able to help her answer. Now just where was he?

"Mai?"

That was definitely not Naru's voice, Mai thought as she turned around to see the unexpected.

"Kiko? What are you doing in my dream?"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7- Otsune

"Kiko? What are you doing in my dream?"

The slightly taller girl just shrugged her shoulders, then her eyes widened in realization and she scratched her head sheepishly. "Heh...remember when I told you I was a psychic and that I have visions and dreams?"

"Yeah...Oh...." Mai replied as her revelation peaked.

"Well, did I also mention that my powers aren't exactly one hundred percent under control?" The shorter brunette shook her head. "Well, I have had a habit of sneaking into people's dreams...heh heh...you probably think I'm such a freak..." Kiko gave a sigh as she blushed a little.

"Have you seen my profession? I hunt ghosts for a living and have visions and dreams and other psychic abilities, I think we're both freaks." Both of them burst into laughter at the reality.

"So what happens now?" Kiko asked as they calmed down, glancing at the area around them. "You don't just stand in this place all night, do you?"

Mai sighed. "Sometimes I do, but this is usually the part when-"

"Mai," a voice called out and both girls turned to the source.

"Naru!" Mai exclaimed excitedly and rushed over to him, giving him a hug. It had been far too long since she saw him in a dream.

"But that's-" Kiko was cut off as the two continued to converse.

"It's good to see you again, Mai," the dream version of Naru replied and turned to the other girl present. "Hello, Kiko." He gave a smile that was so unlike the Kazuya Shibuya they knew.

"Hi, Naru," Kiko replied, joining the two. "I guess you're going to guide us."

"Yes, that's right," he replied as the darkness morphed into an old scene.

A little girl was playing with a handmade doll in the garden outside the hotel. Not much really looked different except that the building looked smaller. Mai recalled that there might've been additions made to the sides of the property. This must've been before they were made.

The little girl was laughing, Mai recognized her voice. "Want to play a game? L thinks it will be fun..."

Shaking her head of the memory, Mai concentrated on the scene before her. "You're so pretty Mimi-chan!" the girl complimented the doll as she danced around with it.

There was a rustling in the bushes near her. Curious she made her way over. "Hello?" she called, almost abandoning her doll, she clung only onto its arm. "Who's there?"

"Otsune-chan," an odd voice called out. It was most definitely a female voice but it was as though many women were speaking at once. High pitched voices merged with lower pitched ones creating an eerie feeling as it continued in a sing song voice. "Otsune-chan!"

"Who are you?" The little girl didn't seem afraid of the dark mist hidden within the bushes that talked to her. She gazed at the mist with curiosity; completely fooled into thinking it was harmless.

"I am called by many names, but you can call me 'L,'" the mist replied surrounding the girl in a sort of hug.

"Eru?" the girl repeated, giggling when the mist tickled her.

"That's right." The mist began to fade as it said a few last words. "I am now your friend, but you must not tell anyone about me. I'm your guardian." The girl nodded frantically.

"Yes! I know," she said with a smile as the mist disappeared and a fairly young woman came to fetch the girl.

The scene faded leaving the two girls with Naru. "So, she wasn't as much as possessed by 'L' but under its influence?" Mai inquired, turning to Naru.

He merely shrugged. "I think you're ready to make your own conclusions without my explanations, you are getting smarter and smarter everyday."

He really sounded like the Naru from reality... Mai sighed mentally, remembering when her employer used those words simply to tick her off.

"So I guess we're going to have to wake up now?" Mai sighed, looking between her two companions. Each were someone who she hadn't seen in a long time, she wasn't ready to give up this quality time, even if they were on a dangerous case.

"Possibly," Naru added, taking a step back.

"Wait." Kiko held up a hand and nodded toward the blackness before them. "I don't think the vision was quite finished yet."

The two teenagers looked back at the direction of where the first scene had manifested and sure enough another was taking its place.

The little girl was in a nightgown, sitting on what seemed to be her bed, crying into her knees. "Daddy! Daddy!" she sobbed, her arms wrapped around her knees as she was curled up. "Why?"

"Otsune-chan." A voice called for her. "Otsune-chan."

A shiver ran down both girls' backs, a sinister feeling they both interpreted.

"'L?'" the girl called back, a slight crack in her voice. She looked in the corner of the room and found the darkened mist that she had made a friend of in the last vision.

The mist came over and hugged her, its eerie voice echoing in the room. "I'm here, now, Otsune-chan. Why don't we play a game? Those carvings in your hands would work perfectly." The little girl looked at her hands. The upside-down cross and inverted pentagram recently carved in. They were scabs on her hands. "It might cheer you up."

She shook her head. "No." she said sternly, hugging her knees again. "I just want Daddy..." Her voice was muffled from being covered, but the sadness was still there. "Why did he..."

"Oh, but this game," The mist morphed into the silhouette of a woman who kneeled on the bedspread in front of the girl, "will bring Daddy back." The figure extended a hand to the girl. "We just need a body and I can make sure you see Daddy again."

Otsune sniffed and poked her head up. "Really?" she asked, her voice breaking in a hiccup. "You can really do that?"

"Yes, I can," the figure nodded, hand still extended. "But we need to become one, in order to do it."

"But you can't leave this place..." Otsune countered, unsure of what to say,

"That means that if you really want to bring him back you can't leave as well," L confirmed. "We will be bonded for eternity, but you can have everything you want. Just so long as you don't leave." The voice seemed to take a softer turn. "What do you say? Do you want to become one with your friend? And see your father again?"

Otsune seemed to contemplate this, but before long she nodded. "Yes, I want to see Daddy." She said then placed her small hand in the mist's. "And be with my friend forever."

"You won't regret this." The mist encircled the girl, molding slowly into her body. "It might hurt at first, but remember, you will see your father again."

The girl gasped at the pressure, breathless. With her mouth open the mist shoved itself down her throat. Once the mist was gone, Ostune cried out and began convulsing, falling onto the floor with a thump, her body going into spasms.

The scene faded and the two girls were once again alone in the purple glowing blackness. "This thing's first victim?" Kiko asked, crossing her arms. "Poor thing, she didn't know what she was getting into..."

"We don't really know that well either," Mai added, but the only thing that came to her mind were to two men arguing in her last dream. Just who were those men? She wondered silently. Everything seems to tie together one moment and the next I can't tell who's connected to what or if there even is a connection. "I get the feeling she wasn't 'L's first victim."

"Other visions you had?"

Mai nodded.

"I can see that, Otsune was just the first one that 'L' could take control over," Kiko sighed, shaking her head. "I feel so bad for the girl..." The blackness began to fade. "Naru's disappeared and so has the vision, I guess we have to wake up now..."

"Yeah." A thought occurred to Mai and she immediately blushed. "Kiko!" she shouted before they both faded away. "Please! Don't tell anyone about Naru being in my dreams!"

Kiko smiled. "Don't worry, I wasn't going to anyway," she laughed and they both faded into the light.

***

September Day 5, 8:23 A.M.

"Geez, you both sleep like the dead," Ayako's annoyed voice roused the two teenaged girls from their slumber.

Mai grumbled something as she sat up while Kiko simply stretched and yawned. Groggily, Mai grabbed her bag and dragged it into the bathroom to take a shower, Otsune's convulsing body plaguing her memory.

She knew she probably shouldn't be taking a shower with her arms and hands in such a wreck, but she felt disgusting and she figured she would much rather be scolded after feeling clean rather than the sweaty grimy mess she imagined herself to be. She turned the water on and stepped into the shower, the warm water loosening the dirt on her skin.

This case seems so weird, Mai thought as she carefully scrubbed her hair with shampoo. All the deaths and this 'L,' I mean, I know they are connected and 'L' is most likely causing the deaths, but why? What has caused this 'L' thing to hold such a grudge against anyone?

She let the water fall over her face as she rinsed, turning the knob behind her to make the water a little bit hotter. The warmth felt nice. Get out...

She sucked in a breath and rubbed her eyes of the water that had accumulated. Oh great, it's happening again.

Get out while you can! Time is running out!

What are you trying to tell me? What will happen if I stay? Mai challenged, grabbing the washcloth and soap.

It's not safe here! Abandon the property and burn it to the ground! Never return! It's the curse of possession!

Curse of possesion? Mai repeated mentally, rinsing the soap off and putting on conditioner. So this is all about curses?

My time is up! I warned you! Forgive me! My warning came too late! UHAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

She hadn't been expecting that scream again, but she couldn't exactly freak out like she did the day before when she heard it. It would be awkward for her and whoever happened to come in pulling her out of the shower butt naked. No, she was not up for that.

She was surprised though, she had to go down to a knee in order to compose herself. No, I am not going to have another one of those visions while I am showering! She willed herself and stood up to finish her shower.

Knock. Knock.

"Mai! You alright in there?" Ayako called, just as Mai turned off the water.

"Yeah, I'll be out in a minute!" she called back, wrapping her hair up in a towel.

"Well, hurry up! We need to change your bandages and I want breakfast!"

"Hold your horses!"

***

Needless to say, Mai sure received a scolding for showering with her injuries, but how else was she going to get clean? She didn't care if Ayako was a doctor or not, she was not going to receive a sponge bath from her.

Breakfast seemed to go on as usual, missing the same people as always, but there was one thing that bothered the teenaged girl as she came across the table missing three people. "I figured that Naru and Lin would skip breakfast or get it earlier, but where's John?" Mai asked as she sat down across from Monk.

"Lin and Naru finished a little while ago and went back to base, as for John," Monk looked over to the impersonator Shibuya Kazuya. "I haven't seen him this morning, what about you?"

Yasuhara shrugged. "I haven't seen him since last night when he said he was going to contact his friend from Australia," he replied. "Come to think of it, I don't even think he came to bed last night."

"He hasn't even been here a whole day and we lost him," Ayako grumbled taking her seat next to Mai.

"Actually, I think I saw him in one of the rooms by Base or in Base, when we passed it," Kiko explained, sitting across from Yasuhara. "Looked like he had passed out on the couch, must've been exhausted."

"You're sure it was John?" Masako asked as a waitress placed a plate of food in front of her and the other girls.

"How many blond Australian boys have you seen in this hotel?" Kiko questioned with a shrug.

"She has a point," Yasuhara chuckled.

"Why thank you, Kazuya," she said with a wink.

***

"Now that everyone is here, Father Brown, Kiko, would you care to explain what you have found?" Naru said, after everyone had gathered at Base.

John stifled a yawn and opened up one of the files he had brought. "As far as stating the obvious goes, the suicide that happened last year was certainly not the first one to occur. Men have committed suicide in this hotel every year on October second over the last seventy years or so," John began. "The incidents were kept away from the public eye thanks to the wealth of the former owners of the property, which kept this business operational for so long."

"If that's the case, why haven't police investigated the deaths since there was a pattern?" the priestess asked , crossing her legs.

"There certainly was a pattern, however, because the date was the only pattern and the deaths continued to happen so convincingly for so long with no slipups on the part of any culprit's, police officials couldn't really come to any conclusion and simply left it alone," Kiko explained, then shrugged. "What else could they do? Arrest a ghost? No one would buy that."

"The former owners were both members of the Ueda family, Saburo purchased the property about seventy one years ago, then he passed it on to his son Chuiji about thirty years later who then sold it to the Ishikawas as he did not have any children to pass the business onto," John continued. "As far as their experiences, nothing really came across as strange until I found a comment that Chuiji had made about the business, he said, 'In this building you find that you are really never alone, it may seem comforting but it is frightening all at the same time.' Aside from that there wasn't too much to go off of and that was when Kiko came and decided to help me."

"The style of writing used in the documents was old-fashioned, even hard for me to interpret, but I managed to figure out that the problem with the property is older than I'm sure most of us had expected," Kiko began, sifting through the paperwork. "Here it is, may as well start at the beginning, longtime friends, Kaoru Ito and Yoru Tanaka, decided to open a business together at fairly young ages, Kaoru was only about twenty three while his friend was about twenty five. Several years later, after the hotel began to gain some success, Kaoru was stabbed in the chest in the building, but the police never investigated his death. Claimed it wasn't needed. About a year later, Yoru had been told by doctors that he showed signs of insanity, which soon led him to hang himself in his former office, now most likely belonging to Ryouta." Kiko took a breath as she flipped over the page. "After his death, his sister took custody of his five year old daughter, as well as she and her husband had temporary control of the hotel for a few months. It was then bought by Ueda Saburo."

"Is Chuiji still alive? Perhaps we could interview him?" Yasuhara asked as John looked to him.

"Yes, he is. I was able to get his address as well." He said with a nod.

"What about the little girl?" Masako asked from her kimono sleeve. "I understand she would be nearly eighty by now, but there is a possibility of her living today."

"Masako's right, what was her name?" Ayako agreed.

"Tanaka-" Kiko began, suddenly look to Mai who finished her sentence.

"Otsune..."

"Oh great," Monk groaned, leaning back. "What sort of dream did you have this time?"

"Well..." the two girls said in unison as they glanced at each other.

"Wait, you both had the same dream?" Yasuhara cut in as Kiko laughed nervously.

"Well, like Mai, my powers aren't exactly trained..." she scratched her head sheepishly just like she did in their dream, "....or completely under control for that matter...." She shrugged and smiled. "I have had a tendency of sneaking into people's dreams unconsciously...no pun intended."

"Dream-hopping?" Yasuhara offered.

"You could call it that, I guess," Kiko shrugged.

"If you are finished chit chatting I believe it would be more productive to have you explain your dream," Naru interrupted icily.

Taking turns, the two girls told the events of their dream, conveniently leaving out the Dream Naru, Kiko had met during it. "So, 'L' used Otsune sort of like how Shichiro used Sakurako?" Yasuhara suggested after the two had finished their tale.

"More like the Morishita case, with Ayami and Minnie," Ayako countered, then realized the obvious. "Sorry, you weren't on that case with us."

"The poor girl," Masako commented sadly, behind her sleeve. "She must have been so lonely, this spirit comes along to befriend her only to betray her and take over her body in her emotional state."

"Actually, that is what I needed to discuss with a friend last night," John cut in.

"I almost forgot about that, how late were you up, by the way?" Monk inquired, crossing his arms. "You didn't bother going to bed last night."

John ignored his friend's questions and pulled out a set of notes that were written in English. "During the exorcism last night, several things the entity said had me wondering," he began, then cleared his throat before going into his notes. "And the dream Mai and Kiko had seem to prove the theory I came up with."

The room was silent, save the constant clicking and typing from Lin's computer, waiting for the priest to continue.

"The entity showed signs of being just like any other fallen soul, denying God and trying to distract us from the exorcism, nothing really unusual for a demonic possession," he continued. "But this being mentioned going by many names and 'L,' 'Baby Killer,' and 'Queen of Demons.' I've heard those names before, rather more from Jewish folklore rather than my own Catholic upbringing. Are you all familiar with the Tale of Creation? Adam and Eve?"

"I've heard it before, when I was visiting Vatican City," Masako confirmed as several others nodded.

"Adam and Eve?" Mai contemplated for a second then snapped her fingers. "They were the first two people created on Earth, well, according to the Bible."

John nodded. "That's correct, but according to Jewish folklore there was another woman made to be Adam's wife before Eve. She was made from clay just as her male counterpart, while Eve had been made from the rib of Adam." John took a breath before continuing. "However the woman was looking for dominance in the relationship, something Adam was not willing to give. Furious the woman stormed away and God sent three angels to retrieve her, when they were unable to do so, a deal was struck. She was not to harm newborn babies or children if they wore an amulet with those three angels' names. I am paraphrasing the story but I'm sure you understand the gist of it. Later on, some began to believe she was the wife of Satan now, though I am not entirely sure."

"Lilith," Naru stated curiously.

"Now hold on!" Ayako exclaimed. "You think that demon is who is possessing Yoshiko is Lilith!"

"Well, now we know who 'L' is at least," Monk added with a breath. "Well, John? You seem to be more acquainted with what we're dealing with, how do we stop Lilith?"

John shook his head. "I highly doubt that Lilith would be one to stay in one place for so long, especially not for close to eighty years. I think we're dealing with someone else," he explained.

"But who?" Masako asked as Kiko nodded her head with the young priest.

"I see, yes, this spirit shows many similarities to Lilith," she began then shook her head. "But she was a very dominating woman and wouldn't really hide amongst the shadows like she has, or even if she did, I think she would have caused more damage. What I don't understand is why October second is such and important date or who this entity might be."

"What about this?" Yasuhara piped up, as all eyes turned to him. "If you look at this like something like Lin's shiki, is it possible that this entity is a servant of Lilith? That would explain the similarities."

"That was what I was thinking," John confirmed with a nod.

"But, wait," Mai interrupted with a shake of her head. "This entity doesn't fear God, John, how can you exorcise it?"

"Most spirits actually do fear God, it can take some time though," John answered with a breath. "It doesn't happen very often, but I have had to perform exorcisms that lasted nearly a full twenty-four hours. After the trial run last night, it seems that this is one of those cases."

"I see..." Naru concluded, in his thinking pose. "Miss Matsuzaki, Miss Hara, do another walkthrough of the property, including the garden in the back." The two nodded to their order. "Yasuhara-san, Monk, Kiko, do another temperature sweep and change any batteries or film in the cameras as you see fit." The three nodded. "Lin and myself will pay a visit to the Ueda's."

"What about Mai?" the medium asked as Mai was the only one who had not been given an order.

"Yeah, I thought you didn't want me alone in this place?" Mai had crossed her arms and raised a brow.

"Miss Matsuzaki, I trust you to make a charm for Base," Naru added finally. "Mai will stay here and monitor the footage."

Now that makes more Naru-sense, Mai thought as the group broke off to do their jobs.

"And Mai?" Naru stopped at the door after Lin and everyone else walked out.

"Yeah?"

"Try not to fall asleep this time." Mai scowled as he left.

Jerk. Mai thought as she glared at his direction.

***

He expects me not to fall asleep when I haven't slept very well the last five days. I'm so bored! Our favorite petite brunette was silently complaining as she let out a frustrated groan and smacked her head on the table.

"Ow!" she exclaimed, having hit herself too hard. "Damn it! Sometimes, I'm really as stupid as Naru claims I am."

Rubbing her forehead she looked out the window in the back of the room. It looks lovely out, Masako and Ayako are lucky they get to go out there and enjoy it, I'm stuck in here.

Little did she know it, but she was slowly drifting off to a slumber that she couldn't control.

***

It's so pretty out there, but wait... Mai thought as she stood looking out a window. I thought our window looked out toward the side of the building...not the back...wait...

Sure enough, Mai realized that she must have fallen asleep. She was about to mentally hit herself for her sleeping habits when she heard footsteps behind her.

"This view may be the only thing I will miss of this place," Mai found herself whispering as the door behind her opened.

"You're really just going to leave? Why?" Mai didn't turn around but she knew the voice for some reason. It was Yoru.

"It is my time to leave, surely you knew I wasn't going to stay long," Mai said, still looking out the window.

"But what about Otsune? She's only a few weeks old!" Yoru exclaimed as Mai walked over to the bed and picked up the suitcase. "I love you! I thought you loved me back!"

"That was foolish thinking on your part." Mai walked over to the door where Yoru stood blocking her exit.

"What about Otsune? She is your daughter! Don't you at least love her?" Yoru was obviously very upset about this woman's departure.

"Of course I feel some attachment to her, but Otsune was merely a child I did not desire," Mai said so coldly she was appalled, but the woman's whose skin she wore felt no tinge of guilt at all. "Now if you excuse me, I must take my leave."

Heartbroken, Yoru let her go. Now outside the woman's body, Mai could see Yoru rushing into a bedroom with a crib, he reached down into the crib, bringing out what had to be baby Otsune and hugged her tight. "Oh, Otsune-chan, your mother may be gone, but I promise to love you and take care of you, even if Itsuko never did," he said, his voice breaking. "We'll be together at least, that's all I could ever want..." The infant in his arms cried as he man found himself crying as well.

Mai felt a tear in her eye, shocked at the event that had unfolded before her. But one thing was bothering her as the vision faded out.

Itsuko? She wondered feeling someone shake her shoulders.

Just where have I heard that name before?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8- Why?

Itsuko? She wondered feeling someone shake her shoulders.

Just where have I heard that name before?

September Day 5, 1:17 P.M.

"I don't know where you've heard it before or what the name is that you find so familiar," a familiar voice said as Mai found herself stiffly getting out of her dreamlike state.

"Huh? Kiko?" Mai groaned as she brought her head up from the table she had fallen asleep on. "Yasuhara? Where's Monk?"

"After we finished the temperature sweep and changing batteries, Monk went to make sure John was all right," Yasuhara explained from the couch. "Like you, he went to our room to take a nap. So what name is so familiar to you?"

Mai relayed the events in her dream to her two friends, while rubbing the sleepiness from her eyes. "Itsuko? Wasn't that one of the girls from the summer camp we went to last month?" Yasuhara piped in after Mai had finished.

"No way! You guys went to a summer camp?" Kiko's eyes grew wide with surprise. "No fair! I wish I went!"

"Yeah, but there's something else to the name..." Mai replied, ignoring Kiko's outburst. "Like something recent, something that's not a coincidence."

"Did you have any other visions mentioning Itsuko?" Kiko asked, hopping to jog some sort of memory from her.

But Mai shook her head. "No, I don't think it was a vision, but I feel like I'm forgetting something." She put her finger to her chin in her unique thinking pose. "Something that should be so obvious..."

"Okay, you're sure that what you're trying to remember is from this case and not another one?" Kiko asked, crossing her legs. Mai nodded. "Then let's go over the events that happened. From the beginning of the case."

"Good idea," Yasuhara agreed as Mai took a deep breath.

"Okay, we were told about the suicide that happened last year," she began, closing her eyes, reaching for the memories. "Akahana was attacked just before we were asked to investigate. I tried to go downstairs but ended up on the fifth floor where a spirit tried to communicate with me telepathically...I think." She shook her head, moving on. "I passed out when trying to bring Naru tea and something made the tea boil over and burn my hands. I started having violent visions. I snapped at Naru and when I apologized I had a vision of a demon like thing. Then this ghost maid appeared and I was dragged into room 534. Then I had the visions of suicides and when I woke up I found that letter-"

Both hers and Yasuhara's eyes widened. "The letter!" they exclaimed racing to the table of monitors where files had been placed.

"Naru wouldn't have taken it with him when he went to interview Chuiji Ueda, would he?" Mai asked after the fourth file she looked in turned out to be a dead end.

"I don't see why, or maybe he thought that Chuiji or his dad may have seen it before, or remember the person who wrote it?" The college student remarked also coming out empty handed.

"Maybe, but now we have to wait for Naru to get back so we can make a discovery," Mai sighed, sinking into the couch with an annoyed groan. "And we were so close to knowing something before him, too..."

"Well, we do, we know that Itsuko was mentioned in that letter," Kiko tried to lighten the mood. "That's something."

"Actually, we're more of assuming that she is mentioned in the letter," Yasuhara corrected sitting in the swivel chair next to the monitors. She scowled at him.

"I was trying to make the best of the situation, but apparently that's a 'no go.'" Kiko pouted, crossing her arms.

"Thanks for trying, anyway-"

"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!" The scream interrupted all thoughts as the three of them sprang to their feet.

"That was Ayako!" Mai exclaimed, not really to anyone, more just for emphasis.

The three of them raced down the hall toward the stairs. Ayako lay before them as Masako came running down the stairs and Monk came running down the hall. "Are you okay! What happened!" the chorus of questions bombarded the young woman as she groaned, trying to push herself up.

"I'm fine, it'll take more than a fall like that to take me down," she said, pulling herself to sit on the stairs as Yasuhara and Monk helped her.

"And yet, at Mai's school a locked door was enough to get you down-"

THUNK!

"Ow!" Monk rubbed his head.

"Thank you, Kiko," Ayako said, smirking in said girl's direction.

"Just trying to be of service," she smiled with a salute.

"We should get you back to Base," Yasuhara offered, helping the woman stand.

"I'll go make tea," Masako offered, heading down the stairs.

"I'll go with you," Kiko offered, following.

"Mai, you go, too. Stay together there's safety in numbers," Monk ordered, as he and the college student helped the shaken woman down the hall.

"Right." Mai followed the other girls, only to run into Akahana carrying a tray.

"Are you all, all right?" she asked worriedly as Kiko offered to take the tray out of the woman's hands. "I heard Ayako-san scream, I had already been making tea to offer to you and as I started for the stairway I heard all the commotion."

"We're all fine Akahana," Mai said, smiling and taking the tray from Kiko's hands. "Thank you for making tea, we were just about to do that."

"Are you sure you are okay?" The woman was clearly worried, this whole ordeal was taking a large toll on her.

"We are fine, Mrs. Ishikawa," Masako confirmed with a comforting smile, even though it was forced. "You needn't worry about us."

"But-"

"Akahana, you should rest," Kiko interrupted, kindly placing a hand on the woman's shoulder. "You and your husband have been through quite a bit recently, I'll walk you to your room and you can take a nap."

"Kiko was you name, right? I can't just sit around while you are all in danger of being hurt on my husband and mine's property. I couldn't forgive myself."

"I assure you, any injuries that we sustain during our stay in your hotel are not your fault, in our line of work we have come to know that we should be ready for any kind of danger we many face, if we are injured it is our fault," Kiko explained calmly, turning the woman to face the direction of the lobby. "I'll walk you to your room and you can try to rest, but if you're still jumpy in a little bit, I would love it if you could give me a tour of that beautiful garden in the back." Slowly the girl guided the young woman towards the direction of the woman's room.

"Wait, Kiko, should you really-" Mai began but the girl turned around.

"I'll be fine, I have these." She held up a piece of paper and a beaded necklace with a cross on it.

One of Ayako's charms and a rosary she must have received from John.

She turned back around a led Akahana away.

"It is probably best we don't speak of any specific details of the case around her," Masako commented, as she and Mai headed back to Base with the tray of tea.

"Yeah, I'm not sure how she would handle the amount of deaths within the walls of this place," Mai agreed.

***

One first aid kit and six cups of tea later, the members of SPR still residing in the hotel, minus John who was still sleeping, were gathered in Base. Ayako was in the middle of sipping tea and having Kiko bandage her wrist, while everyone waited in silence for an explanation. "What exactly happened?" Monk finally asked, unable to take the silence.

Kiko finished the wrap and Ayako put down her cup. "Masako and I were upstairs, I was waiting for her to finish in the last bedroom before the stairwell so we could check out the third floor. Out of no where this maid appeared and was yelling to me something about danger and needing to get away-wait not even yelling, shrieking was more like it-"

"I didn't hear anything," Masako interrupted with a shake of her head.

"And we only heard you scream," Kiko added.

"Wait, the same sort of thing happened to Mai. Perhaps it was the same ghost maid," Monk suggested.

"I'm thinking the same thing," Ayako confirmed. "Mai you said you didn't realize she was a ghost until you saw the knife and blood on her, right?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"That was when I realized this maid was a ghost as well, the next thing I knew she was gone and something grabbed onto my leg. Then I was tumbling down the stairs and you all were fussing over me." She finished and crossed her legs. "Looks like whatever's here isn't just going to target Mai and Akahana to prove a point, it's moving on to other targets."

"But, isn't what we're dealing with possessing Yoshiko?" Yasuhara suspected, his hand on his chin a habit he seemed to have developed. "Can the spirit even leave her body with Lin's shiki around? And if so wouldn't Lin know about it?"

Monk pulled out his cell phone. "I asked Lin the same thing before he and Naru went out to interview Chuiji, if there was any movement from the spirit he would know and would've contacted me." He closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. "And he hasn't, meaning-"

"There's more than one spirit causing trouble here," Masako finished.

"There's something up with this place," Mai pointed out with a sigh. "Just when we think we might have figured things out another piece reveals itself and we're back to square one. It's like the Yoshimi case all over again only Naru isn't possessed this time."

"There better not be any more zombie attacks," Ayako groaned, leaning back. "After going around the grounds I have yet to find any suitable trees nearby for purification."

"I feel like we're missing something," Kiko pointed out, pursing her lips in thought. "Despite the research John and I did I feel like we're missing something very important."

"Do you think you might have overlooked something from before Kaoru and Yoru built this place? An article or anything?" Monk asked but she just shook her head.

"No, there was no record of anything before the hotel was built. At least not at the library in Tokyo-"

"Then perhaps you should do some research at a library in Kyoto..." the cold scoff interrupted the conversation from the doorway. Sure enough the true black clad employer was standing there with his assistant.

"Well, look who's returned," the priestess commented. "Find out anything useful?"

"Ueda-san was unable to tell us much that we do not already know," Naru replied, draping his coat on the back of his swivel chair. "Do any of you have anything to report?"

Grumble...

"Just that I think Mai-chan is hungry," Yasuhara teased looking over at said brunette.

"Heh-heh, actually that was me," Kiko scratched her head sheepishly. "Sorry, I haven't eaten since this morning. But continue sorry I can go grab a snack when we're done."

"Do you have anything to report?" Naru was becoming annoyed and it was obvious.

Grumble...

"Wow, you must really be hungry, Kiko!" Monk teased but said girl only looked confused.

"It wasn't me that time," she said with a shake of her head and the brunette next to her gave a sheepish smile.

"That was me."

"If we are ever to get anything done without interruption, I suggest everyone go downstairs and eat something before supper," Naru ordered, annoyed. "Meet back here in an hour, where we will continue without distraction."

"Right."

***

"Naru seems pretty ticked," Mai commented more to herself and to break the silence as she walked back to Base with Monk and Kiko. The others had already left by then and the monk and school girl were waiting for the petite brunette to finish her food.

"I think he was more annoyed that he and Lin's expedition to the Ueda household didn't seem to turn up much information," Kiko assured the brunette. "He seems to be a bit touchy when things don't turn out his way."

"That's Naru for you, I'll never forget our first case, when the old building at your school ended up having poltergeist activity and Naru had said it was just the building sinking into the ground," Monk commented.

"Yeah, he was so disgusted when we had to run out of the building when there was banging and glass breaking and things toppling over," Mai gave a small smirk at the memory. "It turned out that it was this girl, Kuroda, who had some psychic abilities and was causing the poltergeist." She explained to Kiko. "Naru was so angry when he thought he might have been wrong."

"Sounds like he has a bit of a temper..." a voice sounded from behind them. The group jumped nearly a foot off the ground as they turned around.

"Ryouta! It's just you," Mai gasped and laughed a little.

"I'm sorry to have frightened you," the man apologized as bowed, exhaustion was prevalent to his features.

"No, no, Ryouta, it wasn't your fault. We just weren't expecting you pop up behind us," Kiko assured him a few waves of her hands. "How's Akahana? Is she resting?"

"No, she's never really been able to sit down in her life, last I saw her, she was pacing in our bedroom." He replied, looking at his eyes, Mai could see this man was the one who really needed a nap.

"Please, tell her that, if she is up for it, I would love a tour of the gardens around four, in about an hour?" Kiko requested with a smile.

"Of course, Miss Kimura," the man replied, dismissing himself.

"We need to finish this case as soon as possible," Mai noted aloud as they started up the stairs.

"You can say that again, and just think, if they hadn't asked us to come and investigate they would have to deal with a malevolent spirit as well as a newborn," Monk agreed, folding his arms and shaking his head.

"They'd get even less sleep, I remember when Sakurako was born, I was around thirteen, she kept everyone up half the night," Kiko added. "That plus what's going on here, they would never sleep."

"And if this thing really is a follower of Lilith..." Mai trailed off. "Wasn't she also known as 'Baby Killer?'"

Kiko nodded and Monk looked grim.

"Meaning more damage is to come if we don't solve this case," Monk added as Kiko furrowed her brow.

"There's something I don't completely understand..." she mumbled, mentally scrolling through facts in her head.

"What was that?" the monk asked, raising a brow, but she just shook her head.

"Nothing, just talking to myself."

Maybe, but something certainly doesn't add up... Mai thought as they continued their journey to Base in silence.

***

"Now, hopefully we can continue without distraction." Naru was annoyed as ever, sitting in his swivel chair. "What happened in Lin and mine's absence?"

"As far as the other spirits go, things aren't that much different from when John tried to exorcise Yoshiko last night," Masako commented. "They are all terrified and are hiding."

"That didn't stop that maid or whatever from dragging me down the stairs," Ayako remarked as she bitterly explained what happened earlier.

"So the maid has returned..." Naru noted.

"Mai! The letter!" Yasuhara exclaimed excitedly. Mai had almost forgotten about that.

"Oh yeah! Naru, you didn't happen to take the letter I found a few days ago with you did you?" she asked as nicely as she could.

He pulled the piece of paper from his black notebook. "Yes, why?"

"Could I see it?" He let her take the paper as she read it aloud.

"'Dearest Natsuhi,

I regret to inform you that though I have found the hotel that your sister and her former lover had lived in, I haven't been able to locate our niece, Otsune. I know when Itsuko was on her deathbed her last wish was for us to find her daughter and raise her, but it seems that I have arrived too late. Otsune now lives with her paternal aunt and they seem to have disappeared. I have asked around but no one knows where they've gone. I will continue to search and hope to be home in-"

"In what?" Masako asked.

"I don't know, the letter stops there, but now we know who Itsuko is." Mai replied looking to the two who knew about her dream.

"And what was your vision about, this time?" Naru asked.

Once again Mai relayed her dream to everyone who listened intently. "Now, how did we miss a clue like that?" Ayako snorted, leaning back in her seat.

"We didn't have enough information to realize this was indeed a clue." Naru replied rationally. "Where is Father Brown?"

"After the meeting this morning he went to take a nap," Yasuhara explained.

"He's still asleep, he must be getting sick or something," Kiko added worriedly.

"Probably, he didn't looking exactly peaceful when I checked on him," Monk added.

"You don't think something may have possessed him like when that spirit possessed Mai on the Urado case, do you?" Yasuhara suggested.

Naru shook his head. "Not likely, however," he turned to the medium, "Miss Hara would you mind?"

"Of course not, I'll see him right now," Masako agreed, standing up.

"Monk and myself will accompany you, in the meantime, Lin go over the footage of when Miss Matsuzaki was dragged down the stairs." With that, the three members left the room.

Oh sure, Masako always gets to go with Naru like that, whenever he wants to be near me it's because I'm too much of a danger magnet to just walk down the hall by myself, Mai thought bitterly as she frowned. I'm surprised she hasn't fallen down the stairs yet like on most of our cases...

***

"Mr. Shibuya's speculation was correct," Naru declared as he and the other two walked back into Base several minutes later. "Father Brown indeed had a spirit lingering around him."

Either Ryouta or Akahana are outside, or it's one of the other guests who could potentially overhear us, Mai concluded mentally. Huh, I'm surprised there are still people at the hotel, they must leave the building really early and come back really late or something.

"The spirit was terrified and appeared to be trying to drain energy from John to try to calm itself down," Masako explained. "Once we cleansed it, John began sleeping peacefully again."

Completely ignoring the medium's explanation, Naru continued, "Because we have yet to completely identify the nature of the spirit possessing Yoshiko-"

"Actually we do, she's a servant of Lilith and has a very violent history, that seems like nature to me," Ayako corrected.

Naru's eyebrow gave an almost undetected twitch as he sighed. "You've been spending too much time with Mai, Miss Matsuzaki, we do not yet know who exactly this entity is or why they have remained on the property for so long." He ignored the glares from both women and continued. "Because we have yet to completely identify the nature of the spirit possessing Yoshiko or anything else that resides here, no one is to remain alone for even a minute. Tomorrow is the start of a new month, October to be exact, and we all know the history of October second."

No way! It's already October! Mai's head screamed at the realization.

"Miss Matsuzaki, Miss Hara stay close to each other, the closer you are to either Monk or John even better," Naru ordered, turning to his body double and their guest. "Mr. Shibuya, Kiko, stick to Monk and John and-"

"Let me guess, I am to remain at Base under your watchful eye," Mai interrupted mockingly with a pout. This was indeed becoming annoying.

"Well, if we are all finally on the same page, it looks like the plan is settled," Naru replied mocking in his own way. Ignoring yet another glare from his petite assistant.

"I take it that when John wakes up you're going to have him exorcise Yoshiko again?" Monk concluded.

"What if it doesn't work again?" the priestess piped in. "What would we do then?"

"John's exorcism will work," Naru confirmed confidently.

"What's with all the sudden confidence in our little priest?" Monk inquired skeptically. "After the trial run last night, I can see that Yoshiko isn't a very determined person so why did his exorcism fail?"

"Despite the fact that the more determined and strong willed someone who is possessed is, it is very difficult to exorcise the spirit out of them, but when the possessed has completely given in to the power of the entity it becomes nearly impossible, which is why Father brown mentioned that the next exorcism will take a long time," Naru explained, opening his black folder. "Once the exorcism commences, only Father Brown, Lin and myself will be in the room at that time. Miss Matsuzaki, I expect that you will be able to make enough charms to seal that room from the inside." The priestess simply nodded.

Naru took a sip of the teacup next to him and grimaced at the concept of its cold temperature. "In the meantime, Kiko, Shibuya, visit any nearby libraries and look for information on the property before the hotel was built. Mai, Lin and I will go over the evidence from today, Lin, did you find anything from when Miss Matsuzaki fell?"

The Chinese man just shook his head. "I'm afraid our cameras around the area went to snow just before and during the event," he explained showing everyone the footage of static and then everyone crowding around Ayako at the bottom of the stairs.

"We had a camera on the staircase and another one at the top down the hall didn't we?" Yasuhara asked, looking at the other monitors. "Did they both go to snow at the same time?"

"We had a total of three cameras in that area, because of how many had reported being pushed down the stairs. One down the hall facing the stairwell on the fourth floor, one on this floor which we just saw and another one in the stairwell on the fourth floor, all of them went to snow at the exact same moment," Lin answered, showing the three pieces of evidence simultaneously.

In the corner of one monitor there was a dark blip of a spot in the hallway at the top of the stairs, Mai did a doubletake.

What is that? She thought, squinting her eyes trying to see it clearer, but as soon as she tried, it went away. What was that? Was I the only one to see it? She scrunched up her face as she thought about it. Must have been nothing...but it's never just nothing, not with this job.

"So it's unlikely that someone erased the footage when we were all away from Base?" the young medium inquired once Lin paused the videos.

"They would have to go back to the same moment in each piece of footage, it's even more unlikely that multiple people messed with the connection of the cameras and Base at the exact same moment," he explained.

Monk nodded his head in thought before adding his two cents, "So, it looks like the idea of a human source is out of the question-"

"Excuse me, I'm not interrupting, am I?" the young woman appeared at the door.

"Not at all, Akahana, did something happen?" Yasuhara jumped right up assuming his boss-like position.

"Oh no, nothing like that I was just hoping Kiko might be free," the woman tried to laugh off her obvious unease. "I promised to give her a tour of the garden."

Yasuhara looked over the girl mentioned who nodded and smiled. "Well, would it be alright if we did our extra research after she shows me around, Kazuya?"

"That's fine, meet me in the dining area and we'll grab something to eat before heading out," Yasuhara agreed and the two left.

"It just doesn't make sense..." Mai mumbled under her breath. Why is Akahana specifically being targeted?

"What was that?" Ayako asked, squinting her eyes suspiciously.

"Don't mumble, Mai, it's very childish," Masako sniffed behind her kimono sleeve.

"Well, you're starting to sound like a certain narcissist I know, maybe you two went on one too many of those forced dates..." Mai grumbled again, making sure only the medium could hear the last part.

"It doesn't make her wrong, Mai," Naru cut in, stopping any catfights. "What's on your mind?"

The brunette gave another sigh, what was up with her? What's with all this sighing? "The theory right now is that 'L' is a follower of Lilith, right?" Once her employer as well as some of the team members nodded she continued. "And Lilith is known as the 'Baby Killer' because of the whole agreement with the three angels not to harm newborns or children or something, right?"

"What point are you trying to make?" Naru was becoming impatient again.

"Why Akahana? Why target her now?" she asked wonder in her voice. "Surely there were other guests who were pregnant in the past, and even when we arrived I saw a couple of younger children Otsune's age in my vision or younger. So why Akahana? And why now?"

"Let's not forget that you have also been targeted by this thing as well," Masako added, but Mai just shook her head.

"Masako, you and I both know that I am a danger magnet, I managed to get second degree burns from tea." She turned her attention back to everyone else. "With how long 'L' has resided here, and attacking mainly men, why wait until seventy or so years later to attack another female or child?"

***

She was standing in the woods, wearing a black cloak similar to the ones she had seen in those American fraternity initiation movies her friend made her watch. She kept her head bowed down, something was telling her not to look up yet. She could see an inverted pentagram drawn in the dirt as she stood by one of the points. Crescent moons with upside down crosses attached to them were drawn artistically around the pentagram. "It's time," she heard the man next to her declare as everyone went to their knees and chanted.

"Lilith Lamia, Lilith Lamia, maledicam terrae, maledicam terrae," everyone chanted, even Mai did.

What language is this? Mai wondered as they repeated the incantation.

Everyone continued to repeat the chant as the man next to her chanted something else. "Lilith lamia, et maledicam terrae qui ambulant per eam. Exaudiet vocem nostram! Appareant pro nobis et vindicas atque benignissimus!" he exclaimed as a black mist rose up from the center of the pentagram and their chanting became louder and the ground began to quake.

Are they raising Lilith? A shiver rain down Mai's spine as the mist morphed into a beautiful young woman, naked yet clothed by snakes. An amused chuckle erupted into the air.

"Who has dared to call upon me?" the woman said, shooting a glance directly at Mai, then one at someone on the other side of the pentagram, another one the other way and finally landed her eyes on the man who had been running the whole event. "A hefty price you must pay for my services."

I-I thought we were only dealing with a follower of Lilith, not her herself! Mai found herself completely frozen as she watched the events unfold.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9- Ritual

"A hefty price you must pay for my services." The woman flashed fanged teeth in a wicked smile. "What child have you brought for your sacrifice?"

"Mai."

October, Day 6, 7:47 A.M.

"Mai," the young brunette heard Masako call her. She groaned in loathing as she opened her eyes only to shut them again against the blinding sun. She felt a pillow being thrown on her head. "Get up, you can go back to your date with him later, until then, Naru wants to see us at base before breakfast." With that, she left for the hall.

"Yeesh, what did you do to each other?" Kiko commented, gathering her clothes from her suitcase as Mai slowly rolled up and off the bed.

"I don't know," she shrugged. "Some days we are pretty close to being friends other days we're mortal enemies."

"Like now," the older girl confirmed as Mai nodded. She walked into the bathroom and called out behind the closed door. "So were you?"

Mai raised a brow. "Was I what?"

"On a date with Naru?" Mai's face turned fifty fades of red.

"Not you too!"

***

"What were you able to find out last night?" Naru asked, turning to Yasuhara and Kiko who sat on the couch.

"Not much," Yasuhara shook his head, pulling out the small list of notes he wrote down. "Just dates when additions were made to the hotel."

"And pretty much everything we already knew, original owners of the hotel, their families. Only placing names with people we already knew, like the first man in room 534 to 'commit suicide' his same was Sora Fukui. His wife Natsuki was the sister of Itsuko Koizumi who left her lover, Yoru shortly after she gave birth to Otsune." Kiko explained, then shrugged. "We're still digging, we were only at the library for a couple hours before they closed."

"Do you have information on whether Otsune is still alive?" Naru asked, leaning back against the wall.

"She's about seventy-eight now and lives about a hour outside of Kyoto," Yasuhara smiled triumphantly, handing him a slip of paper. "Here's the address."

"Good, now-" Naru would have finished, but there was yet another interruption at the door.

"Sorry to intrude, but good morning," the blonde haired priest stepped into the room. "How long was I asleep?"

"Well, it's October now, so you slept away the rest of September," Ayako teased.

"Hey, isn't that an American song?" Monk asked then started singing very very VERY off key. "Wake me up when Sep-"

THUNK!

"Please, have mercy on my eardrums." the priestess said, annoyed.

Naru completely ignored the discrepancy between the monk and priestess. "Father Brown, will you be able to perform and exorcism today?"

"Of course," John nodded.

"Mai, Lin and myself will pay a visit to Otsune," Naru ordered, turning to his body double. "You and Kiko will go back a do more research." He turned to Ayako. "Miss Matsuzaki, I need you to make enough charms to seal the room Yoshiko is in-"

"I already made them-"

"Then make more." His voice rose slightly only to fall back to its normal tone as he turned to Monk. "Monk, I need you to prepare some sort of spell to seal the room on top of Matsuzaki's charms and Lin's shiki. We cannot have this spirit getting away when we exorcise it."

"Gotcha." Monk answered with a nod.

"What about me?" the young medium asked , having not been given orders.

"Miss Hara, you will remain at Base and monitor the footage, work with Miss Matsuzaki, John and Monk about any areas that have abnormal activity," Naru ordered, standing up. "We should go downstairs for breakfast in order to get a start on today's work. Once we return, I expect almost if not all the preparations for the exorcism to be completed. Dismissed."

"I feel like we're back in school all over again..." Monk mumbled to Ayako who actually had to resist from laughing out loud.

That's weird... Mai wondered as she followed everyone to the dining hall. Normally, Naru wants me at Base and Masako wandering the halls "feeling" spirits or something. Now it's almost reversed. Maybe now I can actually do something productive other than sleep...

***

The drive to Otsune's home wasn't absolutely horrible...just tedious and drowsing. Mai had to fight off the urge to close her eyes and fall asleep on her boss's shoulder while he read. Last time that happened it took her an hour to get the blush to go away.

Otsune lived in a small modest one story flat with a small yet lovely garden by the front door. Most of the flowers had died off with the changing of seasons, but the orange and red and yellow leaves surrounding the planted roses would have me a perfect picture for a postcard. At least, that's what Mai thought.

Naru knocked on the door several times, waiting in silence as they heard a rhythm of footsteps leading to the door. "Hello? May I help you?" The woman behind the door was very petite, Mai noticed, possibly only 144-145 centimeters if that with a slender fit build. Her hair was a medium brown with roots nearly white, tied in a low bun in the back of her head. She noticed the gloves she was wearing as well. Aside from the graying hair and knowing her actual age, Mai would have thought the woman was only in her early to mid sixties. But her oval face, the slightly larger than average eyes and the high cheek bones...Mai knew she was Otsune.

"Ms. Yukimura, I am Narumi Kazuo, my partner, Kazuya Shibuya, who is not with me at the moment are doing an investigation in which your name came up. These are our assistants, Mai Taniyama and Lin Kojou, will you let us in?" Naru practically lied and Mai watched in amazement as he showed some respect toward the old woman. Completely un-Naru-like.

"Well, I-I...I suppose you must," she shook her head of any doubts or whatever was in her mind and opened the door for them. "P-please come in, I was just making some tea."

The woman headed for the kitchen and upon instinct, Mai followed. She wasn't used to not being the one to make tea. "Would you like a hand?" Mai asked from the doorway to the kitchen.

"Oh dear!" the woman gasped as the kettle whistled. "I'm sorry, dear, you frightened me a little."

"No, I'm sorry," Mai apologized and immediately started setting up the cups as the woman readied the tea. She found her eyes scanning the kitchen, almost searching for a clue. I wonder if this is how Naru's mind works on a regular basis...scanning everything around him to find some sort of hidden clue.

"Here you are gentlemen," the woman said sweetly as she placed the cups in front of the two men in the room. "And thank you, Miss Taniyama for helping me."

"You can call me, Mai." Mai smiled back.

"What was all this about an investigation?" she quickly went straight to the point. "I'd like to know if I'm being accused of something."

"We only need to have an interview with you, Ms. Yukimura," Naru assured her as Lin opened his laptop ready to type.

"Please, call me Otsune, I've preferred it since my husband died," she requested as she took a sip of her tea.

Naru ignored her. "Ms. Yukimura, I don't suppose you remember your time spent at the Suiren Yadoya as a child?" he continued, flipping through his notebook.

"Excuse me?" Otsune's eyes widened with shock and dismay, but Mai noticed that there was something missing from her expression. "That hotel by Kyoto? I don't believe I ever stayed there."

Her voice sounds sincere... Mai noted staring hard at the woman's face, knowing something was off. But her eyes...her face...they don't look confused....

"May I ask what sort of investigation you are doing there? I heard of a suicide there about a year ago, but was there another crime committed there or something? I haven't heard anything on the news." She was changing the subject and Mai knew it. Otsune knew exactly what they were talking about and she did not want to go into it.

Naru ignored her again. "According to some research our team has done, you lived at the hotel with your father, your aunt and your aunt's family, are you sure you don't remember this?"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about." Otsune said confidently. "If you are going to continue you ask me to remember something that I simply cannot, I am going to have to ask you to leave."

"Otsune, wait!" Mai burst out, realizing something. "Why are you wearing gloves? It's not quite cold enough yet."

The old woman tensed a little. "My blood circulation is not the best, it can be in the heat of summer and my hands will still be freezing," she explained. "Why?"

"The way they are set on your hands," Mai said, thinking out loud. "They weren't all the way on and weren't set straight like someone you took the time or care of a few seconds to put them on. They looked as though you quickly pulled them on just before you let us in and when we were in the kitchen making tea was when you straightened them out. Meaning..." She paused to catch her breath and a quick glance to see if her employer was impressed. "You're trying to hide something from us and you don't want us to find out so you're pretending not to remember your childhood." She didn't see her boss smile slightly at her improvement.

"That's absurd," the woman exhaled with a shake of her head. "I have nothing to hide."

"Would you mind?" Naru coaxed. "If you really have nothing to hide, that is."

The challenged enraged the woman. "Get out." she tried to say calmly. "Get out!"

"You still have them, don't you?" Mai cut in calmly, with understanding eyes. "When you carved those images into your hands as a child they left scars that never healed, am I right?"

The woman was flabbergasted. "H-how-how do you know about them?" Otsune was breathing heavily by now.

"Good work, Mai," Naru commented with a small smirk. "Well, Ms. Yukimura, you do still not remember your childhood at the hotel?"

Now Otsune just sighed and rubbed her temples. "It's not something I like to remember," she finally said giving a curious look. "Just what are you investigating? Who do you work for?"

"We are from Shibuya Psychic Research and we are investigating the paranormal phenomena occurring at the hotel," Lin explained. "We believe you might be able to help us."

"That explains how you knew about the marks, but I honestly thought the whole psychometry thing was simply a myth, I didn't think there really were psychics or mediums or anything of the sort," Otsune was still trying to make sense of everything.

"But you also met 'L' that's not exactly something most people would believe right of the bat," Mai countered.

"I prayed that, that encounter was only a nightmare," she sighed, removing her gloves. "Prayed that the psychologists were right and that I gained these scars because of my own delusions after my father committed suicide. That 'L' was only made up in my head..."

"Perhaps you should start from the beginning," Naru suggested, pulling out a sheet from his notebook. "From when 'L' first appeared."

The old woman went on to explain just about everything they already knew. Her first encounter with 'L' in the back garden, 'L' convincing her to carve the upside down cross and inverted pentagram on her palms, showing them the scars that remained on her hands. Finally leading up to where Mai's vision of her left off. "It was the night after my father's death that 'L' said we should become 'one.' I didn't know what she meant and I still don't, but I guess you might call it possession?"

"Most possessions are not as violent as yours was, nor as painful as you recall, however this is also a special case, so expecting the unexpected is to be expected," Naru replied, beckoning the woman to continue.

"Expecting the unexpected is to be expected," huh that sounds like a tongue twister. Mai thought as she repeated the quote in her head for fun.

"After that, it were as though my mouth would speak but they weren't my words," Otsune continued. "I wasn't myself anymore and I would ask children of the hotel residents if they wanted to play some sort of game, one that needed a body..."

Just like that dream... Mai concluded to herself.

"Is that everything that happened?" Naru pressed.

"Several months after my personality change and my father's death, Suzu, my aunt, decided I needed a change of scenery. Yet I refused to leave." Otsune continued. "I thrashed out at Aunt Suzu, and it wasn't me." Tears welled up in the woman's eyes at the memory. "It wasn't until about a week after we left the hotel did I return to normal. I apologized so many times and I was sent to visit doctors and psychologists who simply concluded my attitude change to my father's death and the move was a perfect way for me to start fresh."

"And you have no clue why you might have been targeted by 'L?'" Naru asked her, flipping to another page in his notebook.

"Targeted? No, not at all." She looked shocked. "Remember I thought all of this was in my head."

"It was not, I assure you. Someone else was possessed just as you were, and more are being targeted," Naru explained. "And still you do not know why you were targeted?"

She thought for a moment but shook her head and something continued to nag Mai.

Do you believe in God? The demon's face appeared in her mind just as something clicked, when she looked at the silver chain around Otsune's neck.

"Otsune-san? In your kitchen, I noticed that you had a crucifix leaning against the wall on the counter," Mai declared, speaking up. "And that necklace you're wearing, you wouldn't happen to be hiding a cross pendent under your sweater, would you?"

Otsune smiled. "You are very observant, Mai," she said, then pulled out the pendent revealing a cross. "It was a memento of my mother, whom I've never met. According to Aunt Suzu, she left when I was still a baby, but left this and after we moved my aunt gave it to me as a good luck charm. My mother had belonged to some sort of Christian religion, I still have no clue what it was but when my friend and I visited a priest many years ago I had seen that crucifix in the room and couldn't take my eye off of it. The kind man actually gave it to me as a gift. It reminded me of who my mother might have been and I've kept it since."

Naru closed his book and stood up. "Thank you for your time, Ms. Yukimura."

"O-of course," she replied, standing up and showing them to the door. "I'm glad I could help."

Mai waved 'goodbye' to the old woman as Lin sped them away and back towards the hotel. "You're skills have improved in the last eighteen months," a stoic voice broke the silence. Mai quickly snapped her head over at her boss who was looking through his notebook. "You can conclude things without my help."

Mai couldn't help but feel warm and smile. "Thanks, Naru," she said, watching the scenery around the highway go by as they drove.

At least I have one clue to consider once we get back to the hotel.

***

The petite brunette had been dropped off at the library on the way back to the hotel, because Naru called Yasuhara and found that they needed a hand. Once Mai entered the building she immediately went to the information desk. "Yes, Miss? May we help you?" a middle aged woman with her hair tied in a low bun and glasses asked her.

"Yes, my friends are here doing research on a nearby hotel, they may have requested a private room or a larger space of some sort," Mai explained. "Sorry, they asked me to come and help out but they didn't tell me where exactly in the library they were."

"Was one of your friends a young man wearing a suit and glasses and accompanied by a young woman around your age and height?" the woman smiled and Mai quickly nodded. "They are upstairs probably towards the back, I told them they could use one of the rooms back there if needed."

"Thank you so much!" Mai quickly headed up the stairs. Now all she had to do was find the room that her friends might've taken up temporary residence.

After a few minutes of weaving around the aisles of books, Mai finally heard an agitated groan coming from the room to her left. Yup, definitely Kiko, she concluded and headed for the open door.

"There is virtually nothing on this place before the hotel!" Kiko groaned, dropping her head into her arms on the table.

"That's why I asked Naru to give us Mai to help out," Yasuhara retorted just as said girl walked in. "And here she is now."

"You asked Naru to give me to you?" Mai raised a brow. "What am I? His property?"

"Apparently so, now come on, give us a hand," Kiko ordered, pointing to a pile of articles.

"What's up with her?" Mai whispered to Yasuhara.

"She's a tad annoyed at our lack of well, any evidence before the hotel was built. It's starting to stress her out," he whispered back.

"I just despise research with a passion," said girl retorted, angrily scanning another article. "Always have, especially when it came to researching papers or any other paper I had to write."

Yasuhara chuckled a little and stood up. "I'm going to go down get some coffee, at their mini food court, anyone want anything?" he inquired.

"I'll just have tea," Mai requested, opening up a folder of articles.

"And you, Kiko? Coffee?" he teased.

"You want to rile me up more?" she teased back. "No, just an iced tea and maybe an apple if they have any or pockey or something."

"All right, I'll be right back."

It was maybe a minute before either one of the girls spoke after their friend left. "Mai, what did the maid look like?" Kiko asked out of the blue.

"Huh?" Mai jumped a little at the break of silence.

"The maid, the one that you saw before John and I came, what did she look like?" Kiko repeated as her friend thought for a second.

"She was thin, maybe around twenty-two years old, black hair brown eyes, around John's height," Mai listed as she remembered. "Thin nose, oh, and se had a chef's knife in the back of her head."

"Sticking out of the back of her head?"

"Yeah, why?" Mai raised a brow curiously.

"I was confused ever since you mentioned a maid," Kiko explained, sorting through a file. "From the research John and I conducted, we had found nothing about any females dying on the property since the hotel was built." She shrugged. "However, that doesn't mean anything. I thought that maybe another hotel stood here and the maid was from back then, but so far..."

"No girls died in the hotel?" Mai repeated, somewhat shocked.

"That's right, in fact our list of women who have been targeted or attacked by whatever is there is very small." Kiko began counting them out on her fingers. "Otsune, Akahana, you, Yoshiko, and Ayako. That's why I'm concerned, I'm hoping to at least find some history of a woman dying on the property matching your description."

"Have you tried the obituaries?"

"Checking them now, I'm currently on one from about ninety years ago. Hmm...." she paused reading the article.

"What? Who died?" Mai's head snapped over in anticipation.

"Doesn't say, but according to the side article, there were remains of what appeared to be some sort of sacrificial ritual site. Culprits were never found, but an odd pentagram and crescent moons were drawn in the dirt and there was plenty of blood left with no footprints-Mai? Are you okay?"

But Mai wasn't okay, she could only think of her dream the night before.

Do you believe in God?

"Mai?"

She vaguely heard Kiko as her world became black.

***

It was the very same spot as in her dream. The group of people surrounding the pentagram wearing hooded cloaks. The scene was going to play out until the end. "It's time," Mai heard the same man as before declare as everyone went to their knees and chanted.

"Lilith Lamia, Lilith Lamia, maledicam terrae, maledicam terrae," They chanted again, Mai still couldn't figure out what the language was.

Everyone continued to repeat the chant as the man next to her chanted something else. "Lilith lamia, et maledicam terrae qui ambulant per eam. Exaudiet vocem nostram! Appareant pro nobis et vindicas atque benignissimus!" he exclaimed as a black mist rose up from the center of the pentagram and their chanting became louder and the ground began to quake. Everything was exactly the same,

Another shiver rain down Mai's spine as the mist morphed into a beautiful young woman, naked yet clothed by snakes. An amused chuckle erupted into the air.

"Who has dared to call upon me?" the woman said, shooting a glance directly at Mai, then one at someone on the other side of the pentagram, another one that way and finally landed her eyes on the man who had been running the whole event. "A hefty price you must pay for my services." The woman flashed fanged teeth in a wicked smile. "What child have you brought for your sacrifice?"

"Lilith! Queen of Demons! Hear our cry! Fulfill our quest and avenge our kind!" the man next to Mai exclaimed and bowed, everyone else following suit.

"Come now, child, what troubles you?" the snake covered woman sounded almost sympathetic.

"God..." he growled. "Punish the followers of God!"

Lilith smiled wickedly again. "I can help you, however I need sacrifices."

"Of course," the man said, sitting back up. "Unfortunately, we have no child sacrifices per say, but hopefully these will do."

Automatically, Mai and two other hooded figures stood up, bowed and approached the snake woman. "Lilith Lamia, serviamus tibi," they all chanted in unison as they removed their hoods.

As though they had trained themselves into performing this ritual, Mai wasn't able to see the other volunteers' faces as they had quickly turn around and approached each other backward until they were all back to back to back. The one thing Mai did notice was her own hair. It was longer and jet black.

"Pity, I prefer children over virgins, however, I suppose they'll do. This shall be fun," Lilith chuckled as she snapped her fingers and Mai found she could no longer move of her own free will.

"Do with them what you will, they are here to serve you, Milady," the man bowed again.

"Tell us what you want us to do and it shall be done," Mai and the other volunteers said together.

"Apparently none of you understand the meaning of the word sacrifice!" Lilith cackled, snapping her fingers as Mai felt a burning and ripping sensation coursing through her entire body. The three of them left out blood curdling shrieks. One of the shrieks stood out.

No way, is that... Mai thought to herself but was interrupted as blood began to pool at her feet.

"Manabu! You lied to me you filthy son of bitch!" one of the volunteers shrieked, as the man before Mai simply stared at the ground.

"It had to be done."

"You bastard! You betrayed us just like they all do! You worthless piece of shit!"

Mai felt another slice of pain as the dream faded to blackness and she felt a shake on her shoulder.

***

October Day 6, 4:23 P.M.

"C'mon! Wake up before you two start screaming or something!" Mai heard Yasuhara's voice coaxing her to wake up. "C'mon, don't make me have to call Naru and explain why two of his researchers are passed out on the table!"

"What?" Mai groaned as she sluggishly sat up. "How long was I out?"

"About as long as me," Kiko commented, sitting up as well. "What time is it?"

"Almost four thirty, you guys were out for over four hours," their friend replied. "A nice way to leave all the paperwork to me."

Kiko ignored him. "Mai, that diagram! It matches the description from the article!" she exclaimed, searching her pile to find said article.

"And the blood it mentioned..." Mai continued. "It must have been from those volunteers!"

"What are you guys talking about?" Yasuhara piped in. "What was the dream? You were both starting to thrash and mumble things, I thought you were both going to start screaming or something!"

"You were a volunteer, too?" Mai asked the other girl in the room.

"Yeah," she replied, finding the article. "Here it is, 'Early this morning, October third, strange drawings of a pentagram and other symbols were found right by the farm belonging to Hiroshi Koga. Also, on top of the symbols was a massive amount of blood, enough that would surely have killed at least three or four people, however no bodies were found. When questioned about the odd findings near his property, Mr. Koga was very confused and knew just about as much as anyone else did. The police have no leads yet and it seems that this case will forever remain a mystery.'"

"So, some sort of sacrificial ritual?" Yasuhara asked, Mai nodded.

"I had a dream of it last night, as well, but Masako woke me up before it finished."

"Now we have a connection to October second! We have to tell Naru!" Kiko exclaimed.

"Wait," Mai stopped her. "Naru wanted to do the exorcism as soon as he returned to the hotel, they could be in the middle of that."

"Would it really take this long?" Yasuhara raised a brow.

"Only one way to find out, he said he only wanted John, Lin and himself in the room with Yoshiko, call Ayako. She should know if they are still trying the exorcism." Kiko suggested.

As Yasuhara did that, something was still nagging Mai. Who was the maid? She wasn't the one to drag her into room 534, and she didn't drag Ayako down the stairs, she was right in front of them. Something needed to click, why was the scream familiar?

"Any luck?" Kiko asked as Yasuhara hung up and shook his head.

"Uh-uh, they're still doing the exorcism, they've been at it since noon and whatever's possessing Yoshiko isn't letting up. No one's come out of the room since the exorcism started," he explained.

"Damn," Kiko cursed under her breath.

"What do we do now?" Mai wondered aloud.

"The only thing we can, take notes and copy whatever information is relevant and get back to the hotel and hope that they finished the exorcism," Yasuhara said, handing Mai a pen and paper.

***

"Ha! You're going to need to do better than this bullshit, dumbass!" Yoshiko laughed as John continued his prayer. "You're God made this happen to me! I'm returning the favor!" John ignored her, blessing a rosary. "Admit it! You're just a foreign bastard! You can't do a thing!"

He placed the rosary on her girl's chest and held a cross to her forehead. "What are you doing?" she asked with a cackle. "You really are fucking stupid!"

"In principio." John merely said as Yoshiko's eyes dilated and her jaw dropped.

"What the hell, you fucking prick!" she screeched thrashing about , screaming and panting trying to get the holy objects off of her. "How dare you!"

She gave one last shriek before falling limp on the mattress. John wiped sweat off his brow, while the other two men in the room seemed to relax a little. "Well? Father Brown?" Naru asked after a moment of calmness.

"I...I think it worked," he said with a long breath, relaxing his shoulders.

"Aw fuck! That hurt you asshole!" Yoshiko groaned, moving in a way for the holy objects to fall off her body. Then she looked at the young priest's face. "Nah! You're not even worth being called asshole! You look more like a pussy to me!"

Naru gave a nod and John went immediately into chanting another prayer from the Bible in his hands while splashing Holy Water on her.

"Our Father, who art in heaven-"

"Damn! You sure are a persistent little dick aren't you!" Yoshiko yelled with a laugh. "I'm going to have to punish one of your friends now."

"Leave the room and the barrier will be shattered," Lin warned and John effortlessly continued.

"Monk can handle it," Naru commented as the bound girl began growling again.

***

"They're still performing the exorcism!" Kiko exclaimed exasperatedly, as she sunk down into a chair at Base.

"Yep, it's been about five hours now, maybe more," Ayako confirmed.

"And until they're finished, the door can't be opened, otherwise the spirit could get out and hide somewhere in the hotel and attack someone," Monk added, crossing his arms. "What did you guys find out?"

Mai and Kiko explained their dream and what they found out while research. Afterwards Mai explained what she had learned when she, Naru, and Lin went to visit Otsune. "Poor woman, she must've been reliving a nightmare telling you what happened," Masako commented behind her kimono sleeve.

"Yeah, she didn't even want to try to remember, but I knew she did remember. She had to remember something, why else would she want to wear gloves to hide her scars?" Mai explained.

"Very true, once-" Yasuhara began as a familiar face appeared in the doorway.

"Sorry to interrupt, but supper is ready if anyone is interested," Akahana offered, looking a little more rested this time.

"Thank you, we'll be down in a moment," Yasuhara accepted and the woman walked out. "Who's hungry?"

Four out of the five remaining people in Base raised their hands.

Dinner it was.

On the way to the dining hall, Mai grabbed Kiko's arm to whisper into her ear. "Akahana was wearing a necklace, I couldn't see what the pendent on it was, did you?" she asked but her friend just shook her head.

"No, I'll keep an eye out during dinner," she complied, then looked at Mai. "You don't think she-"

Mai shrugged. "I don't know, but there has to be a reason," she said sternly. Kiko nodded.

"Some pieces are starting to come into place..."

***

Time was going by quickly and October second was becoming closer and closer. Time was of the essence, and Naru knew that all too well. If something wasn't done about the possession on their hands, someone would die and he was not about to let that happen. He glanced at his watch and resisted the urge to curse out loud.

8:42 P.M.

If only that annoying tapping sound Yoshiko was making would stop and he could concentrate on a new plan-wait!

Naru's eyes widened a fraction before narrowing as he focused on the rhythm of the tapping. -NA-KI-KO-MA-I- Morse Code!

"John stop her tapping! She's using Morse Code to contact another spirit!" Naru exclaimed shocking the other two in the room.

"Little smartass-bastard!" Yoshiko hissed and growled at Naru then began to cackle. "You're too late! You have two choices, continue trying to get rid of me and risk one of your beloved friends falling by my hand, or try to save them but open the barrier and set me free. It's your choice! Choose wisely you little dickboy!"

"Naru..." Lin warned as John continued the prayers.

Naru was still tense, but did not stir from his spot. The would be more danger if he allowed the spirit to roam free in the hotel, Monk would just have to handle things. He hoped that things wouldn't go too far. He hated not being able to predict something. He also hated not being able to react immediately when something happened on a case.

That was when he heard a scream. And there was nothing he could do about it.

***

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" The scream came, startling everyone who had been sitting in Base. They jumped up and raced down the hall, where Kiko had gone to grab something from her room.

"Kiko!" everyone exclaimed as they saw the girl crumpled over in the hallway. Shocking them the most was what was imbedded in the wall above her head. A chef's knife.

"I-I'm okay!" Kiko's voice came shakily, as she lifted her head, noticing the knife that would have hit her. "Eeek! That would not have been good!"

"Are you okay? What happened?" Monk asked her as he and everyone else crowded around her.

"Yeah, I'm fine. J-just a little shaken up," she replied as Monk and Yasuhara helped her to stand, only to fall back down when she put weight on her ankle. "And a twisted ankle on top of it," she winced.

"What happened?" Ayako asked, checking her ankle.

"What on Earth happened?" They heard Akahana ask as she tried running up the stairs.

We can't let her see the knife! Mai's mind reeled as she dashed to the stairwell. "Everything's fine, Akahana! But if you could send someone to get some ice? Kiko twisted her ankle!" she covered as Masako added to the distraction.

"I'll go with you, Mrs. Ishikawa," she offered, heading down the stairs.

"Okay, so what happened?" Yasuhara asked her as he and Monk offered themselves as crutches for her.

"I was coming back from our room when I heard this shrieking. 'Devil's to be born! Devil's to be born! Devil child! Devil child!' And a woman dressed in a maid's outfit came running at me. The next thing I know I hear something being thrown at me and something tripped me making me fall, then you guys showed up," she explained. "But something was off..."

"Off about what?" Ayako asked her as she held the door open at Base.

"Mai, you said the maid you saw had a knife in the-" Kiko didn't get a chance to explain.

All hell was about to break loose.

***

"You're going to have to do better than that!" the possessed girl chuckled as she moved around lazily as the priest continued. He had been at this single exorcism for over eight hours now, he couldn't stop now. "Especially if you wish to protect your sister..."

The spirit was only testing him. She had no power over anyone who was over 6000 miles away. There was just no way. Right?

"God arises; His enemies are scattered and those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so are they driven; as wax melts before the fire-" John continued only to be interrupted.

"'So the wicked perish at the presence of God, blah, blah, blah," Yoshiko mocked as she spit in the young priest's face, but he still continued. "I already told you, your God is nothing, compared to me!" She proceeded to cackle. "You pussies aren't much fun to play with! I better stop playing around so I can really show you what you're dealing with!"

At those words, the room began to shake. Banging hit the walls. The bed shook. The lights flickered. It all nearly knocked them off balance. "Keep going, John!" Naru ordered. "Don't stop!"

"God the Father commands you. God the Son commands you. God the Holy Ghost commands you. The sacred Sign of the Cross commands you," John continued, placing the rosary on the girl again and holding a crucifix to her forehead, as he splashed Holy Water on her.

Yoshiko bucked and screamed. Thrashed and screeched. Gasped and growled. Doing anything she could to relieve herself of the pain she was feeling. One last final scream caused a black mist to emerge from her mouth. A cackle rose in the air.

"In the name of Holy Jesus Christ, I banish you from this world to move on to the next!" John exclaimed splashing Holy Water at the mist.

"Foolish, priest, you never had the chance to be at my level. That water is irritating though," the mist scoffed, racing up to the blond young man and throwing him against the wall behind him. It turned to Naru and Lin. "Now if you boys will excuse me."

"Lin!" Naru commanded and the man immediately whistled.

The white light of Lin's Shiki kept the light in the room as the bulbs flickered. The mist merely grumbled in annoyance. "You're pets? You're going to have them do your dirty work? What kind of omnioji are you?"

Another whistle and the Shiki attacked, but the mist only dissipated and dodged the little entities. "Annoying little cockfuckers," it growled just before it rammed into the door with incredible force.

"Naru, the door!" John exclaimed, as he finally was able to stand up.

"It won't get out," Naru replied, unconcerned. He knew for a fact he had taken enough precautions. There was no way this thing was going to get out as long as that door remained closed. But it didn't stay closed for long.

"Don't underestimate me you little fuck!" it shrieked as the door, the charms, the barrier, and even Lin's Shiki finally gave in and the door was torn off the hinges. "The fun's only just begun!"

At that moment, Yoshiko began coughing and sputtering, trying to gain a sense of what happened and why she was tied up. Tears streamed her face and confusion filled her eyes. John immediately went to her, trying to comfort her as well as remove her bindings. Naru and Lin stormed out in search of their escaped culprit.

***

"Mai, you said the maid you saw had a knife in the-" Kiko didn't get a chance to explain.

A maid similar to the one Mai had seen on their second day of the case was there, standing just a little ways by the staircase. But the difference was, the knife was imbedded in her neck, not her head! Moments later, another maid morphed into view with a knife in her back. It was only then that Kiko could finish. "The maid I saw had a knife in her back, not her head," she said.

"There are two maids?" Monk shouted in surprise, but Mai shook her head.

"No, there are three, and the third was just released from Yoshiko's body," Mai clarified.

"The child must die! The child must die!" the maids exclaimed together. "Our sister will make sure of it."

"Child?" Ayako repeated, then dashed to the staircase, ignoring the apparitions and galloped down the stairs.

"They're going after Akahana," Yasuhara added as Monk raced behind the priestess, Mai not too far behind and Kiko limping along after them with the help of the pretend boss.

They had time, right? They could save her, right? All questions were answered in a single second.

A scream. Thudding down the stairwell. Cries of someone's name.

Akahana's limp body at the foot of the stairs. Her necklace torn off and flung a few feet from her, the silver crucifix gleaming ominously in the light.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10- Stones

October Day 6, 8:45 PM.

"No..." Mai gasped as she saw the pregnant woman lying unresponsive on the floor. "She can't..."

"Akahana!" several others exclaimed rushing or limping down the stairs as Naru and Lin raced in.

"What happened!" Naru ordered as Ayako knelt to the ground examining the poor woman.

"Akahana, Akahana, can you hear me?" the priestess called, tapping her shoulder. "Please, say something!" She took her pulse. Listened for breathing.

She's alive...thank goodness... Ayako felt herself relax slightly.

"Ayako?" the weak whisper came from the woman as she tried to turn her head.

"Don't move, everything's going to be fine," Ayako ordered with confidence, then turned to those around her. "We're going to need an ambulance."

"On it," Yasuhara pulled out his phone.

"Miss Hara, what happened?" Naru practically barked to the medium.

"I...I" she stuttered, completely baffled. "We were just going to get some ice for Kiko's ankle and then the air became cold..." She was just horrified as she continued. "It happened so fast, I didn't realize what happened until she was on the ground."

"Just before that happened," Kiko added. "I witnessed one of the ghost maids and had a knife thrown at me."

"One of?" Naru tried to confirm, when he noticed the crucifix lying on the ground. "Monk, get Father Brown immediately."

Confused the monk nodded and raced out as Ryouta dashed in. "Akahana!" he knelt down next to her. "Akahana! Good God! Are you okay? Akahana!" She gave a little bit of a smile and took his hand, despite the priestess's orders.

"It's time, Ryouta," she said with a long and somewhat painful breath. "It's time."

Yasuhara had gone out to wait for the ambulance while Naru had a word with the Australian priest when he arrived. The boy nodded and walked over to the crowd, picking up the fallen crucifix charm and kneeling before the expecting mother. "I understand that this is yours," he said with a calm smile. He placed the charm in her hand. "Would you like me to say a prayer for you and your baby?"

"Yes, please, Father," Akahana replied looking tired and in pain. John looked to the Father-to-be.

"Please, Father," Ryouta nodded as the priest began to say a prayer to St. Gerard.

"O great Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of your meek and humble Savior, and devoted child of Mother of God..." he recited, blessing the woman with Holy Water as well as the father as he went.

"H-how long do you think it will take the ambulance to get here?" Mai asked, as Kiko leaned on her for support.

"Soon." She sounded confident as she watched the fuss before them. The confidence was only an act. "I hope."

"Preserve this woman from danger and from the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child which she now carries, that it may see the light of day and receive the purifying and life-giving waters of baptism through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." John finished, placing a rosary in the woman's hands as well. He gave another smile. "You're going to be just fine, Akahana. The spirit here will no longer harm you or anyone else." John always had this innocence about him that seemed to calm even the most dire situations. Needless to say, the woman was grateful for his concerned gesture.

"Thank you, Father."

***

It took over ten minutes for the ambulance to arrive, taking the expecting parents and a concerned priestess following behind in Yasuhara's car. All stocked with protection charms and a promise to report back their status, they left for the hospital praying that whatever those maids were, didn't follow.

"Miss Hara, do you sense anything?" Naru asked her once everyone was at Base.

"They haven't left, not a single presence has left the building," Masako sighed with relief. "I don't think they realized Akahana has left-"

"They know, they just can't follow," Naru countered, interrupting her. He turned to Monk and John. "How's Yoshiko doing?"

"She's shaken up and disoriented," John replied. "She's unsure of the date and does not know who we are."

"She's resting in one of the rooms nearby, we gave her several charms and told her we'd check up on her soon," Monk added leaning back.

"My Shiki are also with her making sure this spirit doesn't try to repossess her," Lin included from his laptop.

Naru nodded his head and exhaled, facing everyone with a grave expression. "Tomorrow is October second. We have only tonight to rid the building of this spirit, now," he explained, turning to Mai. "Mai."

Naru was beckoning her to say something, but what? What could she possibly know that he or anyone else doesn't know? "Me? What about me?" Her eyes were wide with confusion.

"Your instincts on this case have proven more correct than not," he explained rationally. "Start from the beginning, everything you've noticed since we got here, your dreams and visions."

"J-just explain everything that happened over the last week?" Mai's voice still hung with confusion. "What will that do?"

"We compare it with evidence and research we've gathered and plan out just what may be 'L's next move." Naru continued, holding a hand out, gesturing her to explain everything.

"That's a lot to explain-"

"Then you better speak fast and clearly, we do no have much time," Naru finished. It was done. Naru won. Time was of the essence and Mai couldn't argue anymore.

With a sigh she explained everything she witnessed and felt throughout the case. The little voice she heard ask for help. When she passed out bringing tea and the tea ended up burning her arms. The little dream that reminded her of when she was abused in her sleep. When she went to apologize to Naru after the argument and saw the vision of the demon. The ghost maid approaching her and being dragged into room 534. Her dream of the multiple suicides and finding the letter.

The E.V.P. session. Akahana being attacked again. Fearing John would be in danger if he came. Speaking with Akahana. Listening to the E.V.P. Another E.V.P. session. The dream of what she believes are Kaoru and Yoru's deaths. Listening to the E.V.P. session and seeing the vision of Otsune as a little girl along with more deaths. Akahana being attacked again. Kiko and John arriving. Yoshiko's first exorcism. Another voice in her head as she went to get tea. Kiko and Mai having the same dream.

More voices in her head when she took a shower the next morning. Finding out the history of the hotel. Lilith. The dream of herself being Itsuko. Ayako being attacked by a maid. John sleeping for so long. The connection of the case and the letter. Realizing that there had to be a reason for Akahana to be targeted. The vision of Lilith's resurrection. Speaking with Otsune. She and Kiko sharing the vision of Lilith and the deaths of the three sacrifices. Finding the mystery from an article dated October third ninety years ago. Kiko being attacked by a maid during the exorcism. Akahana being attacked and sent to the hospital. "That was when we realized that there are actually three maids," Mai finished her long story with a few pants.

Naru simply nodded then turned to their guest investigator. "And what happened when you were attacked?"

"A different ghost maid approached me, the knife was in her back," Kiko explained, her ankle elevated on a spare folding chair next to her. "She was shouting 'Devil's to be born' and things like that. I tried to run, but something grabbed my ankle and pulled me down. When I looked up a knife had been thrown at me."

He went into his thinking pose. "Then Miss Matsuzaki said she saw another maid with a knife in the back of her neck, screaming, then something dragged her down the stairs," he added, gears in his head turning. "So the maids are the culprits. Having been betrayed when they tried to raise Lilith, you said they spoke some other language?" He looked to Mai.

"Yeah, I couldn't place it, but it went something like," Mai explained, thinking back to the dream. "'Lilith Lamia, Lilith Lamia, maredicam terrai' or something."

"'Lilith Lamia, Lilith Lamia, maledicam terrae, maledicam terrae,' was what the people around the pentagram chanted," Kiko continued for her. "Then, 'Lilith lamia, et maledicam terrae qui ambulant per eam. Exaudiet vocem nostram! Appareant pro nobis et vindicas atque benignissimus!' One man had chanted. It's Latin."

"'Vampire Lilith, Vampire Lilith, curse the ground, curse the ground," John translated. "Vampire Lilith, curse the ground and those who walk on it. Hear our cry. Appear to us and-'"

"'Avenge our kind'" he and Kiko finished together.

"So they were angry with someone," Monk interjected. "Why go to so much trouble?"

"God." Mai gasped.

"What?"

"They were angry with God, and followers of God," Mai kept shaking her head. "Otsune's mother was a Christian and so is Akahana..."

"And in many Christian religions the religion of the mother passes onto their child," John confirmed.

"Why such hatred?" Yasuhara wondered aloud.

"Back around that time there was still quite a bit of animosity towards Christianity, not nearly to the point of killing them, but during the State Shinto period they were prosecuted," Monk cleared up.

"That's correct, the group performing the ritual probably felt that their land was being taken over and wanted an enemy of the Christians to seek their revenge," Naru added.

"Manabu..." exhaled the petite brunette. "He was the ringleader of the ritual. He betrayed those girls and let Lilith kill them for his own revenge."

"That would explain why they targeted men, for their own revenge," Lin added from his little corner.

"But why the flip between revenge on Manabu and targeting Otsune?" Masako interfered.

"Those girls were sacrificed to Lilith, so they must've believed that by targeting Otsune and Akahana they were fulfilling Lilith's wishes." Monk explained.

"But why this spot? Why this area?" Kiko commented assuming a thinking pose very similar to our favorite narcissist. "What would cause such a hatred to summon Lilith?"

"Wait! That reminds me!" Yasuhara quickly pulled out a crumpled up article from his pocket. "I found this at the library, dated just a few days before the article about the pentagram. Apparently a church was supposed to be built on that area, so maybe..."

"That's enough of a motive for that time frame," Naru concluded. "It's been nearly a century since the ritual but the only way to perform a successful exorcism is to find where the ritual took place. Have you found any information on that?"

The researchers shook their heads. "Unfortunately, no, the landmarks of the time are different from now. The hotel wasn't even thought of yet and a lot of the farmland has been abandoned or used to build this hotel," the college student explained.

"The library's closed by now so we can't go back and search we'd have to wait until tomorrow," Kiko added.

"There's no time for that, this needs to end tonight," John argued calmly.

"What do you suppose we do? I'm pretty sure out of all the information we have, we have pretty much nothing to figure out where they summoned Lilith," Monk retorted.

"So, either we wait until tomorrow to find more information or...." the medium paused as all heads turned to the short haired brunette. Her eyes widened.

"Oh no, I don't think so!" she exclaimed, waving her hands in front of her face. "I can't force myself into having visions! And even if I could there's no way to tell if I have one about where the ritual took place, it'd probably just be something caused by the maids in order to freak me out!"

"She's right, we don't know if the maids are controlling her visions or if they will try to now that we have announced that plan," Lin agreed from his computer. "If they do try to control her dreams, who knows what they could do mentally."

"Thank you, Lin!" Mai sighed, crossing her arms.

"So we're left with only one option," Naru decided.

"We wait until morning for the library to open?" Kiko suggested.

"We pull in all the history of the house that we have gathered, analyze it the best we can and hope we come to some conclusions," he explained standing up. "I would like to speak with Yoshiko. Monk, Lin, come with me."

With that the narcissistic boss, the monk and the assistant left the room, leaving the remaining five members to rummage through what they had. "Figures he'd leave all the work to us," the petite brunette pouted, crossing her arms. "Only to complain about how we apparently did a horrible job."

"That appears to be the pattern," Yasuhara commented.

"Really? He can be that bad?" Kiko's eyes widened.

"Well, you've been on two cases with us, so you should know how he feels Mai is so incompetent," Masako added as John brought over the box of files.

"Why I outta!" Mai stood up, rolling up her sleeve.

"Calm down," John chided, handing out folders to everyone. "Everyone's a little tense since this is our sixth day on this case and tomorrow is October second. We know the history of the hotel on that date so everyone's on edge, Naru included. The best thing we can do try our best to figure out where those people summoned Lilith."

"John's right," Kiko added. "And since we don't know who or when or if someone will be forced to commit suicide, we need to end this case immediately, hopefully before the clock strikes midnight."

"Why then?" Mai asked.

"Think about it, those maids know we're onto them now, before they would wait until nearly midnight to attack but now, they could try to attack at any moment," Masako answered, then glancing at the clock on the table full of monitors. "It's already past ten thirty, we don't have much time."

"Just look at what they did to Akahana, she wasn't due for what? Another month?" added Yasuhara.

Mai looked down at her folder, a feeling of helplessness and anger and frustration grew in the pit of her stomach. It had been over an hour and a half since the young woman was wheeled away on a gurney to an ambulance and to a hospital and they had yet to hear anything from the priestess who followed behind them. Needless to say, the brunette was getting worried.

How long can the childbirth process take? She wondered silently to herself, trying to recall the health classes she had taken the year before on this sort of topic. Can't some women be in labor for hours until the doctor just decides to do a C-section? The topic was still far out of reach in her mind and she continued to worry. She hoped that neither Akahana nor the baby received any damage during that fall.

If only Ayako would call them with some sort of news, even if it were just a two-minute conversation to say that Akahana was still in labor.

***

"So, they're about to give her the epidural? How long until you think she'll give birth?" Monk asked into his cellular device. "There weren't any complications, right? They think they both will be alright?"

After a few "uh-huhs" and a promise to call when there was any more news, Monk hung up his phone. "Well?" Naru asked, as the monk dropped the phone into his pocket.

"Nothing seems to be wrong, but they only just gave her the epidural, we won't have any real news for most likely another few hours," Monk explained.

Naru exhaled and walked into the hotel room where Yoshiko was resting. "Nothing that we can control, the only thing we can do here is our job and I intend to do it."

"Yoshiko-san?"

***

October Day 6, 11:15 P.M.

Forty-five minutes until October 2nd.

After beginning her third folder, Kiko began to think this was hopeless. She slammed the folder shut and stood up with a little difficulty. "What's wrong, Kiko?" Yasuhara asked her, glancing up from his file.

"I need a quick break, use the restroom and splash my face with some water or something," she explained, stretching her arms. "I'll be right back."

"Is that a good idea? Going alone?" the boy hesitated, standing up. "I'll go with you; you're ankle probably still hurts from earlier."

"No, it's fine, it barely hurts, now." She still favored her other leg.

"You're favoring your other leg," the boy countered.

"You're acting like Naru does about Mai, would you feel better if she comes with me?" she offered, grasping Mai's arm and pulling her up.

Mai felt as though she were watching a past argument she had had with Naru, only it was Kiko and Yasuhara. "But-"

"Look, I understand you don't want either of us alone, not with what's happening, but I'd rather not have a guy hovering around outside the bathroom door while I pee." The college boy sat back down.

"Have fun." He went back to his folder.

"C'mon, Mai." Kiko pulled Mai out the door, heading for their room to use their bathroom.

That was weird... Mai wondered to herself. I've never seen Yasuhara act like that before; then again I don't really blame him, not with what just happened. Wait-why did we pass our room?

Sure enough Kiko was leading her past their room and around the other rooms until they came to the back stairwell. Quickly but somewhat unsteadily, Kiko lead her down the stairs. Was she possessed or something?

"Kiko?" Mai whispered, trying to tug her arm back or stop her, whichever would work.

Neither did, and now she was being lead to the back door towards the garden. "Kiko! Please don't tell me you're possessed!" Mai pleaded the girl as they finally stopped at the garden, both panting a little.

"I'm not possessed," Kiko stated, taking a step further into the garden.

"I thought you had to go to the bathroom?" Mai's head tilted to one side as she followed their guest investigator.

"Sorry, I just needed to get some fresh air and that was the only excuse I could come up with to get out of doing that work," she explained.

"So, we're just going to leave everyone else to do it?" Something didn't sound right; Kiko didn't seem like someone who would sneak out to get out of doing some work. Hell, she even offered to help John with his!

"Yes-no-wait! Just hear me out," Kiko sighed, putting her hand to her temple as though her head hurt. "Going through everything we researched isn't going to tell us where the ritual took place. We'd have better luck if we found a historian tomorrow morning to speak with us. And looking at words was beginning to give a headache."

Mai sighed and crossed her arms, knowing exactly what she was talking about, but what other choice did they have? Naru ordered them to go through the files one more time, what more could they find that they already didn't know? "I see what you mean, but we have to-" she paused, gears turning in her head, pieces connecting, notches clicking. It was there.

"We have to what?" The brunette's companion raised a brow, becoming a little concerned. "What's wrong, Mai?"

"I-it's here," she stuttered her eyes moving rapidly over the area before her.

The garden was an odd shape, a circle of hedges surrounded it, there were several openings around it where stones were placed to mark entrances. The flowers were starting to wither, but she could tell that they grew in an odd pattern. A gazebo was placed in the middle, its entrance pointing toward the building of the hotel. The same spot where the hedging stopped and no rock was placed because the wall of the hotel was block the entrance. Looking up Mai counted the floors until she came to the one that had the most meaning.

"Room 534..."

***

"Yoshiko?" Monk called as said woman curled herself tighter into her sheets. "Yoshiko, my friend here would like to talk to you about what happened."

"N-no...g-go away!" she retorted, you could see her shivering under the covers.

"Please, Yoshiko, he can help, that's why we're here," Monk tried to coax the woman. "We're here to get rid of the thing that hurt you."

"But you can't!" Despair cried from her voice. "There's no way anyone can stop it! It's too powerful!"

"Yoshiro, what is the last date you remember?" Naru jumped right in, his patience having been spent.

She refused to answer.

"The less you tell me, the more unlikely we'll be able to stop this thing from attacking you again," he shot coldly, unnerving the poor woman.

"S-September 23!" She huddled deeper into the blanket.

"What did you see during the last few days?" Naru asked her as Lin continued to type.

She still didn't want to answer.

"You're even more difficult than my assistant," Naru muttered.

"Yet her difficultness has saved her life and helped us on several cases," Lin remarked, leaving the monk baffled.

"Somehow I feel like a third wheel," the monk mumbled to himself.

***

October Day 6, 11:45 P.M.

Fifteen minutes until October second.

"Thanks for the update, Ayako," Yasuhara said, hanging up his phone.

"How's Akahana?" Masako asked.

"So far, no complications, they gave her the epidural a little while ago, but there's still time before the baby's born and anything could happen," Yasuhara explained.

"What time is it?" John asked.

"Quarter of midnight, why?" Yasuhara replied after glancing at his phone.

"Kiko and Mai haven't returned."

"Figures they would leave us to do their work!" Masako sniffed behind her kimono sleeve.

"I'll go look for them," the priest offered.

"Should you really go alone?" Masako interrupted.

"I'd be better off than if one of you goes alone or stay here alone," John smiled. "I'll be right back."

"If you say so," Yasuhara replied.

"This is a horror movie waiting to happen..." Masako commented under her breath.

"Huh? What did you say?"

"I said, Mai is probably goofing off again."

***

"It makes sense," Kiko commented examining the garden. "The spots where the stones are where the people performing the ritual were standing and the way the flowers grow is similar to the pentagram. No wonder..."

"No wonder, what?" Mai asked her.

"When Akahana gave me the tour of the garden yesterday, she mentioned the designers and the gardeners were having a tough time planting and designing because certain areas in the ground wouldn't grow anything no matter what they did so they had to keep the same design from when it was first made," she explained.

"So in the bare spots they just placed the rocks as like a pathway?" Mai found herself taking a step on the stone at one of the multiple entrances.

"Yup and there was a big bare spot were the gazebo is, Akahana told me that she had originally wanted a Momo tree in its spot, but the area wouldn't grow grass or even weeds, so she settled for another style for the gazebo." Kiko found herself wandering inside the garden as well.

"If this is the area where the ritual took place then..." The brunette took a step into the entrance of the gazebo and turned to face the hotel. Her mind flashed black to her vision. She could see Manabu in front of her in his hooded cloak and still feel the ghost of the pain those girls must have experienced. With a blink she as back in the gazebo looking at the window five stories up. "So, that's why only men were killed in that room. It's on top of where Manabu stood."

"But why the fifth floor? Why not any of the other floors?" Kiko inquired, studying the hotel from the gazebo. "It's not like only women were reserving rooms on the other floors."

"I don't know..." She leaned against the wall of the gazebo letting out a deep exhale. The October chill was starting to come in now and she wished she had brought her jacket along with her. The nippy air around her was having a bit of a hibernation affect on her; sleepiness began to drowse her body and mind. The exhaustion from the day's events weren't helping her stay awake either, but she knew she couldn't fall asleep. She was not in the right place, nor was it the right time. They had only precious minutes until possibly one of the guys was going to die.

That fact caused a dull throb in her head, a small feeling of helplessness gathered in her stomach. October second was nearly there, meaning someone was going to have to die, right? That's what always seems to happen on this date there. Mai sighed again trying to rid her tired mind of such horrible thoughts.

"What time is it?" she asked with a quick shake of her head.

"Not a clue, but surely it's nearly midnight," Kiko replied.

"Naru's not going to be happy."

"Why?"

"If we need to perform the exorcism out here in the garden the maids have free reign all over the place. They can use anything out here...we're in trouble," she explained, looking around seeing a shed most likely full of gardening tools. This could very well be the most violent exorcism yet.

"Right, if it were inside, we could trap them in a room."

"I have a bad feeling about this." Shivers went up both the girls' spines.

"So do I, Mai." The chill in the air deepened. "So do I."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11- Hell

"Find anything, Yasuhara?" Masako called after closing the Nth folder.

"Nope, I don't think s-wait." He noticed a folder on the floor near the door. "Where did this one come from?"

"Maybe John and Kiko brought it with them when they came?" she offered.

"Let's see," he opened the folder and his eyes grew wide. "I don't think so, neither of them mentioned this information when they arrived and we didn't find this at the library."

"Then-" the medium paused and they looked at each other.

"Where did it come from?" they said in unison.

***

"Naru, it's nearly midnight," Lin said, after over an hour of questioning and virtually no progress. "We have no more time."

Naru cursed under his breath, before kneeling by Yoshiko's bedside. "Yoshiko, you remember how a man committed suicide last year?" The woman nodded under the covers. "That will happen again in that very same room unless you tell me what you saw the last few days."

She still refused to answer.

"Someone will die, possibly more than one person. Mrs. Ishikawa was already rushed to the hospital a few hours ago. Did you want her to be the one to die tonight?" Naru sort of fibbed, He knew only men had committed suicide and if anyone were to be in danger it would most likely be either John or Monk, but he needed answers.

"No! Not Akahana!" the woman wailed.

"Yoshiko, please, what did you see? Anything at all, the tiniest detail can help us, but we need you," Monk coaxed her.

It was silent for a minute, Lin's typing had ceased, it seemed breathing did as well. "I...I was trapped..."

"Go on," Monk helped.

"Fire, it felt like I was burning...and-and there were bars but I could jump out of them if I wanted, but I couldn't...and flowers...and a weird star thing....and the hotel...and flowers..." The woman was so tightly wound inside the blankets it was a wonder that she could breathe.

"Thank you," Naru said, standing up. "Monk put a barrier around the room to keep Yoshiko safe."

"You figured it out?" the monk raised a brow.

"She said flowers," he replied.

In unison the men the room figured it out, "The garden."

***

October Day 6, 11:49 P.M.

Eleven minutes until October second.

"What does it say?" the medium asked gliding over to the college boy, peering over his shoulder.

"It's just an article that was published recently about the history of the hotel. The church that had been planned to be built was built, but before the plans for the hotel came into action, a mysterious fire burned the church to the ground," he explained.

"Well, both Mai and Kiko said that in their vision they felt they were lit on fire," Masako commented. "But, what is really all that interesting about that fire? Aside from the animosity between religions the church is barely connected to the case."

"You didn't let me finish, this is a recently published article only within the last ten years or so, where the fire originated from is most likely in the same area where-"

"Where the garden is, we know," Naru remarked as he stormed into the room.

"You got her to talk?" Yasuhara asked as Lin and Monk filed in as well.

"Barely," Monk replied, "but we were able to figure out a possible area where the ritual might've taken place."

"The garden?" the medium asked, the monk nodded.

"That's the only thing we could figure out from what she told us," Monk elaborated. "She mentioned flowers and bars that kept her inside but she could jump out and there is a large gazebo outside in the garden so..."

"Where's Mai?" Naru interrupted.

"Kiko said she needed to use the restroom and brought Mai with her a while ago, John went to go look for them, why?" Before anyone could answer or even process his question, Naru raced out. A flashback from their case at the summer camp.

"What was that about?" Monk questioned only to see Lin jump for the door as well.

"The camera by the garden is no longer functional and there is no sign of Kiko or Mai anywhere else," he explained briefly as he ran out with three others trailing behind him.

***

"Mai, I think our curiosity has gotten the better of us once again," Kiko said.

"What do you mean? And what do you mean again?" Mai raised a brow.

"We're in a haunted hotel where a ritual to summon a very powerful dark entity had taken place many years ago, right on top of where the garden now stands and here we are in the middle of it." She leaned against the side of the gazebo.

"Something's wrong," Mai shook her head and crossed her arms.

"That we would do something as stupid as walk right into a danger zone? Nah, we've done that before, remember the cliff behind my house? You know how that en-"

"No. Nothing's happening. Listen." Both girls quieted themselves.

It was silent. Not the ominous silence that they usually hear right before something happens. A calm silence with nothing building in the atmosphere. It was nice.

But not what they had intended on.

"Something should be happening, in theory this should be a hotspot for activity," Kiko concluded.

"Exactly, if this is where the activity is originating from, then shouldn't we be ducking for cover, or yelling help, or-"

"Running away? Yeah, that's usually what happens..." Kiko's voice trailed off, as she leaned against the railing for a little seat. "I'm surprised Naru hasn't come after us ye-"

"Naru!" the brunette exclaimed and raced toward the hotel. "We need to tell Naru where the-ah!" Before she could even get out of the gazebo some sort of electric force field bounced her back with sparks flying.

"Mai!" Kiko knelt next to the girl as her body spasmed a few more times from the aftershocks. "Mai, are you okay?"

"Mai! Kiko!" a familiar narcissist's voice called through the air. Kiko could see their friends rushing outside to find them.

"Don't come any closer!" she warned, taking out her earring. "There's some electric barrier around the gazebo!" She threw her earring and caused sparks and shocks to fly about. "Mai already ran into trouble with them!"

"Are you guys okay!" Yasuhara yelled.

"I'm fine, but Mai's-" Said girl began to sit back up.

"I'm fine! Shocked would be an understatement though!" she shouted back, struggling to get up.

"Mai, quit it! You were just electrocuted! Your arms!" Kiko scolded noticing the scorched bandages and blood. "We need to get you help!"

"We have other things to worry about," Mai chided, ignoring the numbness in her arms. "I think one of the maids is returning."

Sure enough right outside the gazebo, a black mist began to mold itself into the shape of a woman. "You lot have been even more of a thorn in my side than that pregnant girl, trying to be all noble, 'I can't leave! This is my business too!' What a shitload!" the woman cackled, becoming more and more visible. "You'd think she'd have learned her place by now! Oh well! By the end of the night she'll be dead and so will a few more! I'll teach you to meddle with us!"

The figure raised her arm and strands of electricity rose from the ground around the gazebo, visibly trapping the girls. "Try to break out of that and you'll get more than some more burns on your arms, Sweet Mai!" The mist warned as she cackled.

This isn't good...the thought rang through everyone's minds. Then a whistle sounded.

Two Shiki burst into the area hell-bent on taking down the electric barrier. The mist only laughed. "Ha! That won't be enough to get rid of it! You stupid ass!"

"Takigawa!" Lin ordered.

"Saraba motteri biyari saraba ta taraku!" Monk chanted as Lin whistled again calling all of his Shiki to attack the figure.

"You little pests! Ah!" misty figure exclaimed as the Shiki hit her. Screams arose from the black mist as bolts of lightning shot through the sky. "This isn't the end you little cockshits!"

She disappeared and the electric currant surrounding the gazebo died down. Just to be safe, Kiko threw her other earring and it just went out the doorway. "Looks safe," she commented, as Mai stood back up.

"I just feel bad about your earring," the brunette said.

"I have another pair just like them at home, I'm more worried about you. First hot water burns, now electrical burns, there's gotta be major damage now."

"Are you guys all right?" the question came from three of the four men rushing over.

"Idiot..." Naru mumbled under his breath after taking Mai's hands to inspect the damage. "You should have been more careful."

"Like that would've done anything..." she grumbled coldly back at him. She looked around at her friends. Something was off.

Then it hit her.

"Naru, that light shouldn't be on," she said, looking up at room 534. "Monk and I were just in there to change the battery in the camera."

It was much too late at night for any of the living maids to be making their rounds. "Lin, what time is it?"

"11:59...midnight..." he replied and Mai saw it. A shadow dance across the curtains of the upstairs window.

October, Day 7, 12:00 A.M.

October second.

They were out of time. Someone was already in there and could be dead at any moment. Where was John?

Mai ripped her arms from the light grip of her boss and ran into the building, hearing her friends call after her. It had to be John, right? Who else could it be? Many of the guests had left the hotel after the last few days; virtually no one was there.

Thoughts raced through her head as she charged up the stairs. Please, no! Don't let it be too late! Her mind screamed as she began to run out of breath. It wasn't going to stop her. She wouldn't even look at her arms to see everything that she had been through in that week. Seeing it would make the pain real, right now the adrenaline in her numbed it.

There it is!

Room 534. The door was opened. An out-of-breath-Mai stormed into the room. "John!" she shouted. No one was there.

"No..." she whispered, knowing that she definitely saw something in the window just a minute ago. The door shut slowly behind her. A shiver ran down her spine as the room began to grow colder.

She tried to move her legs, to turn around, to do something, anything. They wouldn't budge. "W-what?" she gasped, hearing laughter in the room. "Who's there!"

It was a stupid question and Mai knew it, however her question was answered in more ways than one. John stepped out from the bathroom, his eyes glazed over. "John!" Mai called to him, no response. "What's wron-"

Her arm moved of its own accord, making her turn her body toward the dresser, her legs followed afterward. "How fitting..." the creepy voice that spoke to Otsune as a young girl chuckled.

Mai struggled with the invisible grip on her; she couldn't so much as shake her head, let alone move her body on her own. Horrible thoughts swam through her brain as she imagined what would come next. It was October second now and there were two people in that room...

"No..." Mai try as she might, couldn't rein back control of her body. With shaky and forced hands she opened up a drawer and pulled out a knife. "No! Why!"

"It seems fitting that you pay for meddling! How does it feel to know that you will be killing your own friend!" the voice's high and low pitches hurt her ears as she was forced to take a step toward the young priest.

"I won't!"

"You don't have a choice!"

Bam! Bam!

"Mai!" called the familiar voice of her employer. "Mai! Open this door!"

"Get in here! Hurry!" was all she could scream as she made one step at a time toward John in his trance-like state. "Stop it! Stop it!"

"Someone's gotta die tonight, why not add a little twist?" Mai's hand holding the blade rose in the air as she took another step. Tears began to well in her eyes.

"Please! Don't make me do this!" One more step. One quick swing. One hypnotized priest. In only a matter of seconds one friend would be dead and the other would have blood on their hands. "No!"

Cackling sounded as bangs rapped on the door, threatening to break it down. "Monk! Do something!" the order shouted from an uncommonly worried Naru, as Mai could practically see her brother-like friend forming the seal of the immovable one.

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" Within moments the door burst open, just as the tears began to leave the poor brunette's eyes as her arm moved down in one swift motion.

"No! Stop!" she cried, the dazed look on the Australian priest's eyes fading away. It was too late! Mai couldn't stop herself and now John was going to die.

She felt an arm quickly wrap around her waist and another hand grab her arm, stopping the knife. A calm yet stern voice said softly in her ear. "Put the knife down, Mai."

A few tears immediately became a river as she still struggled in her boss's grasp. "I can't!" she sobbed, trying to break free. "They won't let me!"

"Lin," Naru ordered as the priest shook his head.

"How did I end up here?" the boy asked as the Chinese man took the knife from the girl's hand.

Ma couldn't believe it. She had come so close to killing one of her friends. One of her family! The innocent priest, the one who never said one bad thing about anyone. And she nearly killed him. If Lin hadn't grabbed the knife from her...

"I-I'm sorry, John!" she sobbed as she finally gained control of her body. Naru let her go and she immediately hugged the priest. "Please forgive me!"

"I-uh-" The priest was baffled just what all happened? He couldn't remember anything, that last thing he could think of was going through the history of the hotel again. "It's okay, Mai." He gave a questioning look to the man in black before him.

"You don't remember anything that happened just now?" Naru asked him. John shook his head while Mai still sobbed her apologies.

"Little meddling shitbrains!" exclaimed the creepy voice. "You just couldn't let the curse be complete! May as well just kill all of you!"

"Yasuhara, do you still have the extra bottle of Holy Water I gave you?" John asked, calmly and gently prying Mai off of him.

How is he so calm? She wondered. I nearly killed him! And he just said it was okay? If Naru hadn't-

It was then that a very inappropriate blush grew in her cheeks. Now was not the time to blush about things like that. What's wrong with me?

"And your Bible," Yasuhara answered, handing the priest his things.

"Well, John..." Naru asked him, allowing someone else to take the reins. "What do you need?"

"We need to block off this room and the rest of the hotel, the only way to exorcise these spirits properly is to do it over the spot where they died," he explained, opening the book in his hands. "Monk, I'll need you to help me draw them outside, Lin, once we've led them outside would your Shiki be able to seal the hotel?"

"I'll do what I can," Lin replied.

"Of course," Monk added and John began to read.

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was..." he began, reciting the prayer he always said.

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan..." Monk chanted.

"Rin pyou tou shah kai jin retsu zen gyou!" Lin added as Mai also chanted her mantra.

"Miss Hara, what do you sense?" Naru asked as he and the others took a step back.

"Why not ask us yourself you little smartass!" the eerie voice screeched as knocking and rapping sounds echoed on the walls.

"They're angry, they don't want to leave..." Masako explained and Kiko nodded.

"Well, if I had the ability to cause this much terror and have been able to do it for the last ninety years, I'm not too sure I'd leave either," she shrugged her shoulders.

"Ugh! Leave us alone!" the voice screeched. "You little pests have done enough damage!"

"Oh the irony," Kiko commented.

"More like hilarity," Yasuhara replied.

"You don't belong here! This is not your home! It never was your home!" John shouted in a stern tone. "This building is now a place guarded by the Lord and you will no longer terrorize those who enter! You run this place no longer!"

With one large shriek and several bangs and raps on the walls, the light flickered and turned off completely. After several moments they came on and the air was still. "Miss Hara." Naru impatient voice broke the silence.

"The garden," she replied, pointing out to the window.

"Let's go!" Naru ordered racing out the door with everyone.

Lin sealed the hotel once they ran out. Moaning groaned in the air as eerie shivers flew down the investigators' spines. "You meddling cockfucks!" a scream rose in the air as screeching emanated from the forest-like area behind the garden.

"Reminds me of that dinosaur snoring at that zombie house," Yasuhara commented.

"It's no dinosaur," Monk chided, as demons began to appear.

Demons of all shapes and sizes emerged from the shadows. Tall. Short. Small. Large. Seductive. Hideous. Red. Blue. Black. Then she saw it. Another Naru. An evil grin on his face.

"That's him!" Mai gasped as the demon headed towards her.

"Monk! John!" Naru ordered pushing Mai behind him.

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" Monk chanted with no real effect.

"Rin pyou tou shah kai jin retsu zai zen!" Mai cried out as she watched the duplicate Naru's face melt just like in her vision.

"Do you still believe?" it's voice screeched like nails on a chalkboard. "I warned you nothing good would happen!"

D-do those maids control all those demons! Mai's mind panicked as she looked left and right to see they were surrounded. They're trying to lead us into the garden...it might be a trap, but it might be our only chance!

"Monk! John! Perform the exorcism inside of the garden!" Mai exclaimed.

"Don't! It's most likely a trap!" Naru countered immediately.

"It's also our best bet to perform the exorcism successfully!" Talk about role reversal, normally Mai was scolding Naru for wanting the team to do something dangerous, no the other way around. Damn! He was rubbing off on her!

"It's too dangerous! Just accept it, Mai!" Masako scolded coldly.

"But she's right!" John opposed. "It's where everything began from, it's where we need to end it."

Defeated, Naru shook his head and closed his eyes. "Do what you will," he said. "I can't stop you."

That's a lie, Mai knew. He just can't admit that I was right for once.

"Look out!" Lin called as one of the demons lunged at Mai and Naru. Naru moved Mai even more so behind him with said girl yelling at him to get out of the way.

"Rin pyou tou shah kai jin retsu zai zen!" a girl's voice exclaimed as the demon shrieked and disintegrated.

"Thanks, Kiko!" Mai said, gratefully, as the blonde priest turned to the monk.

"We need to end this now," he declared and the monk nodded.

"I know," Monk replied as they headed for the garden chanting their prayers and mantras.

"The maids summoned all these demons?" Yasuhara gasped as the group began to huddle together as the demons began to surround them.

"It would appear so," the medium shook as she held her hands together and began to chant her protection spell.

"No, they can't all be demons, could they? Even weak ones have some power!" Mai protested seeing the ashes of the demon that had lunged at her.

"She's right," Naru agreed.

Lin nodded. "The nine cuts chanted by a novice would not have been able to destroy even a low grade demon."

"So what are they?" Mai wondered aloud.

No one knew how to answer that? Were they Shiki? Demons? Illusions?

It didn't matter now, what was important was ending this. "There's something else here, aside from these demons and the maids," Masako said, jolting herself from her chants. "It's over by the hotel at the edge of the garden."

"No way..." Mai and Kiko whispered.

Meanwhile John had finished his prayer and Monk was still chanting. "This is not your home!" the priest shouted, he was determined to get rid of the beings. Nothing would stop him from bringing peace to the hotel. "You don't belong here! Your lives were taken from you many years ago, but haunting this place over a grudge will not bring you happiness or closure!"

"John is trying to convince them to move on?" Mai wondered aloud.

"No, not exactly," Kiko commented.

"In many Catholic house blessings, if there is a presence of a demonic entity the priest will have the members of the family join hands and demand the spirit to leave their house," Naru explained. "There are many reports of the success of that strategy."

"And because Ryouta and Akahana are at the hospital, John's going to do that himself?" Yasuhara concluded.

"It appears so," Masako confirmed as Naru nodded slightly.

"The one who has done you wrong is no longer of this world! Go to the light and give up your hate and rage and the Lord will have mercy on your soul!" John continued.

"You're wrong!" said the three misty figures growing in the center of the garden. "Our hate will never burn out! He must pay!" The forest around the hotel was suddenly ablaze with fire.

"Manabu is dead! He died years ago! There is no longer a church on this ground! You have no reason to stay!" Mai shrieked as she rushed to the garden.

"Mai! Get back here!" Naru ordered, but since when has Mai ever obeyed in such a dire situation?

"You little slut, what the fuck would you know?" the mists hollered at the brunette as she got closer.

"I know your pain! I felt it!" she shouted, breaking Monk from his chanting in order to hold the girl back from getting closer to the misty figures. "You were mercilessly killed and betrayed by a man you trusted! But he's gone now! You must move on!"

The mists simply laughed and materialized into the maids but in the black cloaks Mai and Kiko saw in their vision. "You foolish human, Manabu never left the ritual!"

"W-what?" Mai's eyes were wide.

"The moment we died we placed a curse on him," one maid began, an evil grin on her face.

"Our spirits became servants of Lilith and we were granted the ability to gain our revenge right on the spot! We attacked him," the second maid laughed.

"But we only managed to seal him into the ground," the third continued. "Now we gain our revenge on the anniversary of our deaths by killing men."

"There's only one way to truly move on," the second added. "We need him..." She pointed to John then at the hotel, here Manabu had once stood.

"Manabu, come out, your fate is decided," John said solemnly. "You betrayed three women whom had put their trust in you, you managed to seal your spirit into the ground where you stood as you were killed. Now you must face the consequences, there's nowhere to hide."

"Come on out, Manabu!" the maids shouted in unison. "Time to play!"

Mai's arm lifted up and she began to do to the Nine Cuts. "R-rin, pyou t–tou sh-shah kai jin restu zai zen..." she stuttered, as her arm moved in the order of each cut.

What was that? She wondered. I didn't move my arm. I didn't mean to say that!

"Nau maku san manda bazara dan kan!" Monk exclaimed confused. "What?"

A hooded figure molded up from the ground. "You bastards!" it growled. "I had hid for ninety years!"

It's him! Mai's mind raced. It's Manabu!

"Because of your sins and your reluctance to repent, you've cost many their lives," John began, his eyes held a serious disgust that no one knew the gentle young man could harbor. "Judgment day is here."

"Ready, ladies?" one maid giggled.

"At long last," said another.

"We can finally rest in Hell with our sisters!" the third shrieked as they leaped at the hooded figure.

"No! Get off of me!" Manabu cried as the women dragged him toward the center of the garden.

The center began to open up to the fiery pits of what must have been Hell, growing larger and larger, threatening to swallow the three team members standing there. "Get back!" John ordered as he leapt back away from the pit.

"C'mon, Mai!" Monk grabbed said girl's wrist and tugged.

We're not going to make it! Mai noticed the edge of the portal coming closer and closer, tripping her feet.

"Almost ther-ah!" she shrieked as her feet fell out from under her and she dangling over a world of fire hearing moans and screams and other sounds of agony.

"Mai!" Luckily Monk had kept his grip on her and the portal had stopped growing.

He couldn't pull her up. Something had grabbed onto her, she couldn't help but shriek as she felt the talon fingers around her ankle. "Naru!" she could hear Lin scold beyond her own screams.

"Rin pyou tou shah kai jin retsu zai zen!" Tears of terror were in her eyes as her own Nine Cuts sent the demon back to the fiery depths and a certain knight in black armor showed up next to the monk.

"Grab my hand!" he ordered and she obeyed. Together the men were able to pull Mai out just as the portal started to close.

"You bitches!" Manabu screamed as he was dragged. "You wanted to serve Lilith!"

"You didn't tell us it would take our lives!" they shrieked at him. "You're ours now, forevermore!"

Laughter filled the air as the four spirits were all thrown into the pit and the portal closed. The flames in the forest around them disappeared as though they never existed, and the demons surrounding them disintegrated and white souls floated up from their ashes.

"They were the spirits of the men who passed away for their revenge," Masako concluded as the heaviness in the air lifted.

"And they were controlled by the maids for their own gain," Kiko added as they headed for the crumpled up Mai.

"Are you okay?" Mai heard her boss's voice, but it sounded far away, muffled over her beating heart.

"Y-yeah..." she stuttered, realizing she was still crying.

"Miss Hara, there are no more spirits present, correct?" Naru asked, his attention focused on his assistant's arms.

"Correct, they have all been able to move on."

"Get some sleep, we'll pack up in the morning," he ordered. "Lin and I will take Mai to the hospital now, you will meet up with us there in the morning."

"N-Naru, I-I'm fine," Mai protested, he just lifted her arms to show her what happened that night.

"No, you're not."

 

Chapter Text

October Day 7, 7:46 A.M.

"You're very lucky, Miss Taniyama," said the doctor after he finished wrapping up Mai's arms. "There doesn't appear to be any nerve damage, or any damage to your internal organs, which is a miracle in itself, but I'm afraid there will be scarring from these burns."

"That's fine," she sighed. She was exhausted. They didn't even reach the hospital until about one thirty in the morning then they had to wait a couple of hours in order for a nurse to even put them in a room. Mai couldn't help but fall asleep on her employer's shoulder, she was so tired even when she woke up she couldn't find the energy to be embarrassed! Once they were finally helped, Naru stayed in her room with her while Lin went to find Ayako. "So, what now? What do I need to do once I get back to Tokyo?"

"Well, I wouldn't recommend any heavy lifting, or using any lotions or perfumes on your arms until they have completely healed," he explained, washing his hands. "I'm going to prescribe you a cream to help the healing process and another to help limit the scarring. Use the burn cream twice a day, once in the morning and then at night before you go to bed, use the scar cream once a day at night before you go to bed. See if a family member can help you-"

"She lives alone," Naru interrupted.

"I see, then I'd recommend finding a friend or someone close by that you trust to help you. As for work, what are your duties?" the doctor continued.

"I-"

"No need to worry about that, she'll be put on desk duty until her arms have healed," Naru answered, ignoring Mai who just sighed with fatigue.

"Forgive me, but who are you again?" asked the doctor quizzically, as he raised a brow. "I don't seem to remember your name."

"Kazuya Shibuya, president of Shibuya Psychic Research, Mai's employer," Naru replied.

So much for the secret identity, Mai's eyes rolled as she thought about how her boss must have been tired as well if he forgot to keep his secret.

"Very well, as for schooling, no gym classes for a while and when do you plan to return to Tokyo?" the doctor continued.

"We leave tomorrow," Naru answered.

"Miss Taniyama, please give me the name of your usual doctor, I will contact him of your injury and what I've prescribed, I would like you to visit him in three days," he ordered, grabbing a pen and paper. "And then make an appointment each week just to ensure that there was no nerve damage, the name Miss Taniyama?"

"Wataru Imai, Tokyo clinic," she answered.

"Thank you, I'll contact him right away." He scribbled something on another piece of paper. "I'll get your prescription sent out as well, it should be ready later this afternoon and ready for pickup at the drug store by the hotel you are staying at."

"Thank you, Dr. Ozaki," Mai said as the doctor walked out.

"Thank you," Naru added as well. Mai's mind was not functional enough to question why her boss bothered showing gratitude. She had other things on her mind.

She couldn't help but think about the night before. She nearly killed John. A demon tried pulling her into a portal. She could still feel the spirits' grasp on her hours afterwards. The taloned hand gripped on her ankle. John's confused face as he came to from the trance and she nearly stabbed him. The world of fire and creatures only imaginable in nightmares. The feeling of dangling right over that world and almost being pulled right in it. That demon from her vision days ago. She felt hollow for some reason, it also didn't help that it was only now that she could feel the burns in her arms. She wanted to be alone, but at the same time she did not. Mai... To be honest she didn't really know what she wanted. Mai...

"Mai." The voice broke her from her reverie.

"Huh?" her head snapped back in response.

"I asked if you were alright..." That was when she realized a few tears had escaped.

"Yeah, I'm fine." She quickly brushed away her tears; there was no reason to cry.

"No, you're not," he answered, repeating what he had said several hours ago.

"Well, if you already know what I'm feeling or how I'm doing, why do you even ask?" Mai huffed about to cross her arms but thought better of it as she stared at the bandages. Naru couldn't help but stare as well.

He turned his head away and stared at the door waiting for the doctor to enter. "When we get back, you can take a few days off." Now that got her attention.

"What? But Naru, I can't just abandon my job," she protested. Sure she was usually given a day off once a week so long as they were not on a case, but multiple right after a case and neither one of them were being hospitalized during that time?

"I'm not firing you," he chided annoyed. "You need rest, your arms need rest, and you also have a week's worth of school work to catch up on."

"I can do all that at the office, and the paperwork that needs to be done since we're done the case-"

"I can do the paperwork and I don't expect to see you at the office for another three or four days," he confirmed. "End of discussion."

"You always end the discussion..." she pouted as the doctor came back in.

"Miss Taniyama, I spoke with your doctor and have scheduled you an appointment three days from now after school, please call him to confirm the appointment either tonight or when you get home tomorrow," the man said, handing the girl a receipt to pick up her prescription. "The pharmacy near the hotel you're staying at will have your prescription ready this afternoon. I also understand that you were in here just a few days ago, for self harm?"

Damn... Mai silently cursed, she should've expected that she probably wouldn't be able to get out of staying the night at the hospital. Then again, Naru was there, perhaps he would be able to get her out of it.

"Just as I said to your psychologist before, I am perfectly fine," Mai nearly growled, she was beginning to get aggravated that she would have to lie to a doctor on how she achieved her injuries. And just by how the doctor was looking at Naru he was sure to suspect an abusive relationship at some point. Not like he would ever really do that, though, the only times he's ever really touched her was to save her life or protect her from danger. However, the doctor didn't know that.

"Yes, however, I think it would be wise to have you spend the night for observation-" Mai couldn't contain her groan and nearly flopped over on the hospital bed.

"That won't be necessary, Dr. Ozaki," Naru interrupted. "She's hardly had a wink of sleep all night and would like to leave as soon as possible."

"I'm afraid I can't simply let her go, this is her second visit in a single week for separate injuries," Dr. Ozaki retorted, despite the younger man's intimidating glare. "Right now she is under my care and will be spending the night for observation."

Mai groaned again, but softer this time. She knew she doesn't usually act like this, then again it had been a while since she pulled an all-nighter like that. She was even about to get on her knees and beg for the doctor to release her, when there was a knock at the door.

"Forgive me, am I interrupting?" An elderly doctor opened the door, Mai recognized him immediately, but what was his name!

"Not at all, Dr. Enomoto," Dr. Ozaki replied, turning to face their guest. "How can I help you?"

"I was just ordered to do a psychological evaluation of a Mai Taniyama?" Enomoto explained looking at his clipboard for said girl's name.

"I'm afraid, I will have to tell you to come another time, Miss Taniyama will be spending the night for observation," rebutted Ozaki, standing firm on his order.

"That doesn't mean I can't do my own evaluation on her, if I find her mentally stable enough to leave then she may, seeing as you have no physical reason to keep her here," the elder argued politely. "You do have no reason to keep her overnight, aside from her mentality, correct?"

Defeated the other doctor headed for the door. "Do as you wish Enomoto..." the man huffed and left the room.

"Glad to see you're doing well, Miss Taniyama," Enomoto smiled and took a seat in a rolling swivel chair.

"You too, Dr. Enomoto," Mai smile back, glad to see the face of her last psychologist and glad that he was willing to get her out of spending a night again.

The elderly doctor turned to the confused young man sitting right by him. "I'm sorry, young man, however to respect Miss Taniyama's privacy, I will have to ask you to leave for a few minutes," he asked, ignoring the boy's glare.

Letting out a breath, Naru stood up. "I'll be right outside," he said, walking out. It was almost in the tone of a threat, but he left the room, closing the door behind him.

"Another work related injury?" the man raised a rise as he spoke, chuckling to himself. "You must be a magnet for danger, Miss Taniyama."

"You can say that again," she sighed, leaning back. "Are you going to give me the whole evaluation process or let me out for good behavior?" she teased.

"I won't give you the whole procedure, but I do have to pretend to do my job," Enomoto teased. "Was that your boss?"

"You're the first one to ask and actually be right..." Mai almost laughed because it was true.

"Many paranormal researchers are lead by the younger generation, however even he seems to be young to run such a production," he continued, checking off certain things off his clipboard.

"Yeah, it gets hard when no one will take us seriously, even though he automatically tackles each case with a skeptic's perspective, finding natural scientific causes for quote-on-quote 'hauntings.' That fact that he's only a year or so older than me doesn't really impress the skeptics," Mai drabbled, as she swung her legs over the side of the bed much like a child.

"My grandson faces the same troubles, he's not much older than your boss, actually." With that, the man had finished most of the paperwork to release her, but he still needed to do some of his job. "Now, time to actually do my job, has anything traumatic happened to you in the last few days?"

"Depends on what you would call traumatic," she muttered, looking towards the window.

"Something is on your mind," the therapist concluded. "Would you like to talk about it?" The elderly man's voice was gentle as he pressed on.

Of course Mai wasn't really up to explaining the ordeal she went through only the night before. Yet it still haunted her mind, maybe Naru was right, she needed a few days off.

Seeing her hesitation, Enomoto scribbled something on a piece of paper. "You don't have to tell me, or anyone for that matter, I won't force you," he stated, handing her the piece of paper. "However, if you ever need someone to talk to that might understand better than even those you work with, call my grandson, Hozumi," he advised, checking off something on the clipboard. "He was pulled into that field when he was only fifteen and has seen just about everything you could imagine from a nightmare. If you ever need someone to just listen and tell you that you're not being irrational, call him. He's a bit like me, he has helped several of his friends and just other people who were suffering from past experiences with the paranormal."

"Thank you..." She didn't know what to say as she received the paper. It wasn't like she was going to actually use it, but...just the thought of it comforted her just a little bit.

***

"There you are!" exclaimed the shrill voice of a certain priestess we all find annoying, but love at the same time.

"What is it, Miss Matsuzaki?" Naru replied annoyed. He had a headache from staying up so late, dealing with idiot doctors also didn't help much either.

"Where's Mai?" she immediately asked.

Naru nodded his head toward the door next to him. The priestess immediately understood. "What did you need?"

"Just wanted to let you know I called the rest of the gang at the hotel, Lin is explaining to the Ishikawas that their hotel is rid of spirits and no more harm will come to them, oh, and Akahana gave birth to a healthy baby boy," she explained.

Naru just nodded, letting out a quiet breath. He was secretly relieved. Sure he has had to deal with death before on cases, of adults and children, but to have the deaths of a mother and her unborn child, now that was a tad unnerving.

Ayako's face turned grim. "She almost didn't make it, you know..." Way to kill the mood... "The way she fell nearly broke her neck and cracked several ribs, the baby's cord was wrapped around his neck, both of them almost didn't make it..."

Naru just ran a hand through his hair. No one would want to hear news like that, even the ever cold Naru the Narcissist. "So how is she doing?" Ayako asked, nodding in the direction of the closed door.

"It will take a while for her arms to heal, however there doesn't appear to be any nerve damage and more importantly it doesn't appear that the electric shock damaged her internal organs. She's receiving a psychological examination right now," he explained, as he leaned against the wall.

"They didn't want to keep her over night?" The priestess was shocked.

"They did, but-" before he finished, the door opened and out stepped the therapist.

"Alrighty, you just need her next of kin to sign her out at the front desk and she is free to go," the man said, giving a slight bow to the woman in front of him. "Pleasure to see you again."

"Pleasure..." she replied, fitting the pieces into place. She muttered under her breath so only Naru could hear, "You're rubbing off on her."

Mai simply hopped out of bed and walked over to her friends. "How's Akahana?" she asked worriedly.

The priestess smiled. "She and her baby are doing just fine, he was born healthy and she is now resting," she explained. "Everyone else will be arriving shortly."

A big smile grew on the young girl's face. "Thank goodness!" she gasped, relieved.

"Would you like to see them?" the priestess gave a warm smile as she saw the grin on the younger girl's face.

"Yes!" she exclaimed, her peppy cherry attitude once again returning.

"C'mon then," Ayako replied, leading the way.

***

"If you guys hadn't woken us up, I'm sure I would've slept until three," Kiko teased as she downed her second cup of coffee in the car.

"I thought you said coffee would just rile you up," Yasuhara teased as he drove the group to the hospital.

"At that point I had been under stress, now I'm pretty much okay since the spirits are gone." She took another long gulp. "I couldn't sleep last night either, what about you guys? How're John and Monk doing back there, Masako?"

"Actually, John and Masako fell asleep," Monk replied. "I don't think any of us really slept well, either."

"John was up when he took the call from Ayako, I didn't fall asleep until nearly three," Yasuhara commented as he made a turn.

"Masako was asleep before me, that was around maybe threeish? I didn't fall asleep until close to four." Kiko stretched.

"Well, after what happened last night, who really would be able to go right to sleep?" Monk asked as they reached a red light. They all looked at each other.

"Mai." They agreed in unison.

***

October Day 7, 8:53 A.M.

Knock. Knock.

"Come in!" a cheerful voice called from inside the room. Ayako opened the door and they were greeted with two very happy parents and a snoozing baby boy and a Lin sitting by the door.

"Mai! I'm so glad to see you're all right," Akahana said with a smile.

"Thanks, Akahana," Mai replied with a smile and the young woman motioned her to go over.

"Would you like to hold him?" she asked and Mai could only nod as she was handed the baby.

The little boy was very tiny, as Mai had never held a newborn before. His face as all red and his eyes so puffy he couldn't open them. She had heard many of her friends and other girls in her class call babies cute except when they were just born, seeing them as red little aliens until they were about a week or so old. However, Mai couldn't help but see beauty in the young child. She didn't understand what her friends were talking about.

"D-did, you decide on a name?" Mai blurted out, still focused on the baby in her arms.

"We did," Ryouta replied, he was much calmer now, relieved that their horrific adventure was over.

"We already decided that Ryouta would choose to name him after his grandfather, Daisuke, but I would choose his Christian name for when he is baptized," Akahana answered.

"Have you decided yet?" Mai asked, the woman nodded.

"I wasn't sure at first, but I am now," she replied, looking at her husband who was slightly confused.

"What did you choose?" The new mother was about to answer when there was a knock at the door. The priestess opened it.

"Sorry we're late," Monk apologized as Ayako let them in. "We had to wake up a couple of us from the car."

Mai handed the mother back her baby. "That's fine, you haven't missed much," the new mother teased, then motioned the group over. "Come over, he's waking up."

"Reminds me of when my mother had Sakurako when I was thirteen," Kiko chuckled, brushing a finger against the boy's cheek.

"What a beautiful baby," Masako commented and the monk next to her agreed.

"How is Yoshiko doing?" Ryouta asked.

"She should be all right," Monk answered.

"By the time we left the hotel, Susumu was giving her breakfast," John added.

"Unfortunately, you may have lost another employee," Yasuhara apologized, but the couple just sighed.

"As long as she's okay," Akahana replied. "I'll talk to her when I go back to the hotel, if she really would like to quit I'll help her find another job."

"That's very kind of you," Mai answered, tilting her head slightly.

"I can't be angry with her, because of something like this, if I were her I'd want to quit as well." The woman shook her head. "I'm just glad no one was killed."

Especially you, Mai couldn't help but think. Then again she herself could have been killed as well.

"Have you decided on a name?" the medium asked. The mother nodded again.

"Yep," Ryouta answered. "We'll be naming him after my grandfather, Daisuke, but Akahana chose his Christian name for when he is baptized."

The little boy was being passed around to the group. "What name have you chosen?" Yasuhara asked.

"Jonasan," Akahana replied, just as her newborn had been passed to the priest.

"Jonathan?" he was baffled. They practically named their son after a priest they barely knew. What could he have done to accept such an honor?

"I hadn't been sure on his Christian name until Daisuke was born, Jonasan seems like the perfect name," Akahana smiled.

"B-but, what have I done to deserve such an honor?" the exhausted priest asked, still completely amazed.

"You've done more than you think." The woman smiled.

"I only said some prayers," said a modest John.

"Prayers that saved our business and mine and my son's lives," she countered.

"Mrs. Ishikawa-"

"Father Brown," Akahana interrupted, motioning him to come closer as he still held her baby. "I should be dead."

"Mrs. Ishikawa-" The blonde's eyes were wide as well were most of the occupants in the room.

"Please, let me finish." The room quieted, beckoning her to continue. "That fall I took should have broken my neck, I said prayers in my head to protect myself." Even the infant was silent. "After the fall, my water broke and I instantly knew something was wrong. This little guys wasn't due for another few weeks. You said a prayer to protect Daisuke and myself from harm, I don't believe that you only said words. I also don't believe that we should be alive right now. I was lucky enough to just have a few cracked ribs, Daisuke was nearly strangled by his umbilical cord."

"You shouldn't be thanking me," John still chided. "You should be thanking God."

"We are," the mother argued. She gave another smile. "But it was your prayer he answered."

"We're very grateful to all of you," the husband finally piped in. "This has been a very stressful time and if it weren't for you, we'd have to go back to those evil spirits. Thank you." The man bowed deeply.

"It was our pleasure, we're very happy we were of help," Yasuhara answered, assuming his role of President of SPR and bowed as well. "If it is not too much to ask, may I have a word with you outside?"

"Of course." The two walked out the door, both aiming to return shortly.

The priest was still baffled by what he had heard. "Thank you, Mrs. Ishikawa." He bowed his head quickly.

"No, thank you, all of you." The mother gave a slight bow of her head. "If there is anyway we could thank you-"

"It was our pleasure, Akahana," Mai answered with a smile. "I think we're all happy everything's over."

***

"There's something that has been bothering me," Yasuhara commented, once the door to the hospital room was closed.

"Mr. Shibuya?"

"Late last night, while you and Akahana were here, several of us were going over the history of the property when we came across another file, one we hadn't recognized nor took notes on it," he explained.

"Is that so? Are you sure it wasn't a file Father Brown had brought with him and overlooked it?" the new father asked, generally confused.

"Sir, if I may be blunt," Yasuhara continued, the young man had hardly gotten any sleep and wasn't up for word games. "Inside the file was an article about a church burning to the ground decades ago." The man shifted his position. "What I'm asking is, did you secretly place the article with our research?"

The man sighed. It had been a long night and he hadn't received any sleep. May as well come clean. "Yes. You got me," he confessed. "That was actually one of the articles I came across when I was searching for information about the property, however, I couldn't have Akahana see it, I didn't want to put her under anymore stress. I wanted her to rest in our room so I could have a private meeting with you to give you the article, but as you can see that never happened."

"I see, it makes sense now," the college student exhaled, then gave a smile. "Thank you for telling me. It had been bugging me all night!" The boy laughed. "That was all I wanted to ask you, also if it wouldn't be too much trouble, would it be all right if we spent another night, my team was unable to receive a good night's sleep and I'd rather not risk everyone's safety driving home."

"Of course!" the father agreed. "I insist! Thank you for everything!"

***

"So, what are you all planning to do next?" Akahana asked as her husband was still outside.

"If it is of no inconvenience to you, we will be staying another night and returning to Tokyo in the morning," Naru answered from his corner as Monk tried to hand him the baby.

"Good, I was going to say, you all deserve a day of rest before returning," the mother replied.

"Go on, Naru-boy!" Monk chided, passing the black clad teen the infant. "He's awake and really wants to see you."

"No..." The usual response.

"Too bad!" The monk handed him the child and Naru had no choice but to hold him. He looked out of place, his scowl, his black clothes, the stare he gave the child that would make one think he were holding a three-headed alien. The father and Yasuhara entered again just as the infant began to cry and everyone laughed.

"Naru! You've managed to make another child cry!" Mai teased, taking the infant out of her grateful boss's hands. "Don't worry, he might seem scary but it's all an act!" She cooed, lightly bouncing the infant who almost immediately quieted down. Everyone laughed harder.

"Mai's a natural with children," Kiko commented to the priestess next to her.

"Ha! Yeah! Naru better shape up before they begin to have little ones," the priestess laughed back, quietly.

"Naru's always been better with older children..." the two heard Lin add, making them jump.

Feeling very accomplished, Mai stuck her tongue out at her employer, who, slightly embarrassed though will never admit it, turned the other way. Mai gave a witty laughed as she handed the baby to Masako.

It's times like these where I love these cases. She thought to herself. There's no more danger and we can all laugh and goof off and enjoy ourselves. We tease each other like a family. Just like the Ishikawa family will do a lot more as their family gets bigger. But with a job like this, fun can come with a price, the horror we face we must live with day after day. I never really thought about it, and when I did I began to think I would never be able to endure it, but now with everyone, I think it won't be as bad, just so long as there are more of these moments. I couldn't ask for anything else.

"I think it's time we allow the new parents some time to rest and enjoy their child to themselves," Yasuhara decided with a clap of his hands.

"Thank you," Ryouta said, as they began to leave the room.

"Glad we were able to help," came comments of the sort as the group left.

"I hope to see you all at the baptism!" Akahana called just as the priest was about exit. He turned around and smiled.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 1-Stress

October Day 1, 2:48 P.M.

It had been about a two-hour drive from Shibuya into the Ibaraki Prefecture where the nursing home had been built. Thankful for the short drive compared to earlier that month, the group hopped out of their respective vehicles to greet their client and receive a tour of the property. "Thank you all so much for coming so quickly!" a middle aged woman bowed, then searched the group with her eyes. "I'm sorry, but I was under the impression Madoka would be arriving with you as well."

"Please, forgive her," said a familiar girl with light brown hair and blue eyes, she had dressed in a blouse and pencil skirt in order to introduce the group. "I'm Akiko Mori, Madoka's younger sister, something came up and she was unable to make it, so she sent me instead."

"Oh my! I hope everything is alright!" the woman gasped, but the girl just waved her hand with a dismissive laugh.

"Yes, yes, everything is fine she ended up having to revisit a past client, but she knew she promised she would help with the investigation, so she sent me in her place," she explained, then gestured to the group behind her. "Now, I assume my sister has told you about this magnificent team she referred you to." She motioned to the boy clad in black behind her. "This is the ringleader of the team, Kazuya Shibuya, and on either side of him are his two main assistants, Lin Kojou and Mai Taniyama."

"Pleasure to meet you," Mai said warmly with a bow.

"And you as well, sweetheart," the woman bowed back.

"Then we have several other respectable spiritualists who give their assistance as well, Father Brown, Houshou Takigawa, Ayako Matsuzaki, and Osamu Yasuhara," the young woman introduced everyone who bowed respectively. "Unfortunately the renowned medium, Masako Hara was unable to make it as well on this trip, her director asked her to go in for a shoot."

"That's quite all right, I'm just glad so many of you were able to come in such short notice!" the woman exclaimed, gesturing to the young man next to her. "This is my nephew, Shouta, he will be giving you a tour as well as helping you set up your equipment in any way he can, right Shouta?"

"Sure, Aunt Chiyoko," the boy replied, giving a smile toward a certain brunette in the group.

Huh, this is just like back in April when Yasuhara first impersonated Naru, Mai wondered to herself as Shouta gave a quick smile at her. She tried to ignore it. There was a reason why Naru didn't just have me impersonate Madoka's sister, what was it again?

***

A few days ago...7:13 P.M.

"Hello!" sang a cheerful voice as the bell attached to the SPR front door jingled. "Naru! Mai! Lin! Anyone here!"

Mai was somewhat startled and dropped the can of tea leaves in the kitchenette to greet their visitor. "Madoka!" Mai's eyes lit up as she saw the young auburn haired woman grinned at the high schooler.

"Mai! It's great to see you again!" The two gave each other a big hug as they began chatting to catch up. "I trust the last six months have been eventful!"

"Yeah!" Mai nodded, leading her friend into the kitchen where she finished Naru's tea. "We've had a lot go on since the case you had Naru do back in April."

"Was it really back in April? Geez! It's nearly November! I meant to come back much, much sooner!" Madoka exclaimed smacking herself in the head. "Forgive me for that, Mai, and for the fact my visit today will be brief. I've been unbearably busy the last couple of months. Good grief, girl! What happened to your arms!"

Mai looked down and realized she was still a bandaged up mummy like earlier in the month. Granted, most of the burns had finally began to heal she was really just relying on the anti-scar cream to limit the scarring. "Our last case was pretty brutal," she explained, pouring the tea into a cup and placing it on a tray. The image of the underworld she had nearly been dragged down into flashed into her mind, but she brushed it away quickly.

"Naru better have given you a vacation after it!" Madoka cried crossing her arms. "If not then I'll have to have a talk with him!" Mai only laughed.

"Don't worry!" she giggled, waving her hand dismissively. "I had close to a week off of work after that case. Naru wouldn't even let me come in to pick up my jacket that I had left here! Instead he had Lin drive over to my apartment to return it."

Madoka couldn't help but laugh as she followed the small girl towards the offices. "Naru is in, I presume?" she asked, changing the subject.

"He is, do you have a new case for us?"

"Oh, it's pretty likely, if he doesn't accept I don't know what I'll do!" They reached the office door.

"I'm sure he will, if you bring it up, if I were to suggest a case, he'd turn it down in a heartbeat!"

"I'll have to have a talk with him, then." The two giggled as Mai knocked on the door.

"Naru! You have a guest!" Mai called as she opened the door. She and their guest walked in and Mai placed the cup on her employer's desk. He took a sip and grimaced.

"It's cold," he complained then turned to the woman who had taught him everything he knew about ghost hunting. "What brings you here?"

"You know, purposefully using your psychic abilities to cool down the tea so Mai can make you another cup is cruel," she scolded, then took a seat in front of the desk. "However, I have a case you might be interested in."

Mai found herself feeling ignored but listened to the potential case. A nursing home run by a friend of Madoka's had some strange things happening. Many of the occupants were terrified to go to sleep after supposedly hearing about psychotic beings attacking several people in their sleep. And every one of those who claimed they were attacked had died within two days.

"The staff have had experiences as well, seeing shadows, things being misplaced, and one occupant believes an 'angel of death' comes to her at night and tells her when her friends are going to die!" Madoka finished as she crossed her legs. Naru folded his hands and rest his chin on them. "Will you take the case? Chiyoko doesn't think she can last there much longer before whatever is terrifying everyone will come after her and her family!"

"I supposed you'll wish to take part in the case as well," Naru sighed as he sipped the cold tea anyway.

"Actually, I cannot make it," she said, shocking the two in front of her. "What's worse is I already told her that you would take the case and I would be there for it as well, however, a former client of mine needs to meet with me during the next few days, meaning I'll be going back to England-"

"You've done cases in England?" Mai's eyes widened with wonder.

"Yes, I've actually traveled quite a bit for investigations, but Chiyoko needs help now and so does my former client, so I'll need you to find someone to portray my younger sister, Akiko," Madoka explained.

"You have a younger sister?" Mai was in awe at this new revelation.

"Mai can pretend to be her," Naru decided, opening a new black folder.

"Sorry, I kind of already explained everyone in the group, including Mai, she won't believe Mai is Akiko. You'll need to find someone else around the same age," she shot the idea down with a sigh. "Me and my big mouth, at the time I had thought I would be accompanying you, but..."

"We'll figure this out somehow, worst case scenario we investigate without someone pretending to be your sister," Naru concluded turning to his assistant next to him. "Call the others, tell them to prepare to leave in three days."

"Naru, you need to find someone to be my sister, otherwise, Chiyoko won't trust you or at least feel comfortable with you investigating her business," Madoka argued, refusing to leave until the matter was settled.

"What about Kiko?" Mai suggested. "She's about the right age and I believe she said she would be able to get some time off from school soon."

"Kiko?" Madoka repeated, as her eyes lit up. "Sounds wonderful! Give her a call!"

"Mai takes orders from me, Madoka," Naru retorted, taking another sip of the cold tea. "Mai, call Kiko as well and when you're done the phones calls, make me more tea."

"I'm on it, I'm on it," Mai sighed as she left the room only vaguely hearing Madoka's scolding voice behind her.

"She's not your slave! Try to treat her with at least a little respect!"

***

October Day 1, 2:56 P.M.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Mai sighed as Shouta led them to room they would be using as base.

"I hope this room will work for you," he said, walking everyone into the large room. Several tables and chairs had been set up nearby some sockets; two couches were also placed in there along with a coffee table.

"Perfect, thank you, Shouta," Kiko said with a smile as she turned to the man in charge behind her. "Well, Mr. Shibuya? What would you like our next move to be?"

Naru's eyes scanned the room and the people in it. "Miss Matsuzaki and Mai will do a sweep of the property, mark down any room where you feel a presence or any room with a large difference in temperature," he ordered, then turned to the young man who had escorted them. "I'll need to speak with anyone who has had an experience, gather them here if you can. If anyone is unable to leave their rooms or get here, please show Akiko and Yasuhara to their rooms and they will interview them. Everyone else will unload the equipment."

Everyone nodded, but Mai raised her hand like the student that she is. "Yes, Mai?" Naru's voice was impatient.

"What if the witnesses come and everyone's still loading in the equipment?" she asked, her boss looked at her, not with annoyance but curiosity.

After a moment he turned to the young man. "Anyone who wishes to speak with us about their experiences may do so at four o'clock." With that he left the room towards the van.

"Nice one, Mai," Monk commented, patting the girl on her head. "Well, you heard the man, Ayako and Mai you go do the sweep, we'll bring in the equipment and Shouta think you could show Akiko around and make note of who might need to be interviewed in their rooms?"

"Sure thing," he agreed. "Let's check Ume, I'm pretty sure she's still bedridden..."

"Sounds good," she replied. "Let me just grab a pen and pape-choo!" She sneezed and blew her nose on the tissue John gave her.

"God bless you," he said.

"Thanks," she replied with a smile. "Now, let's get going!"

The two left the room momentarily leaving the rest of the group to get to business.

***

"So, what supposedly happens at this place?" the priestess asked as Mai wrote down the temperature.

"Eerie feelings, feeling like you're being followed, things going missing, occupants being attacked by psychotic beings in their sleep then dying two days later, an angel of death, the same basic stuff we deal with all the time," Mai answered without missing a beat, causing the priestess to raise a brow. "What?"

"Since when have you been so cynical?" Ayako asked picking up the thermometer. Mai's face looked confused and innocent.

"What do you mean? I'm not cynical," she replied as they walked toward the next room.

"You were just now..." Ayako's eyes held a glint of worry. Once she set up the thermometer in the next room, she put a hand on Mai's shoulder. "Did something happen, Mai? Or does this have to do with our last case?"

Mai just raised a brow. "I don't know what you're talking about. Or why you think what happened last case would affect me somehow, but we have a job to do and I don't feel like getting yelled at when it's only three thirty."

Ayako was curious at the usually bright and chipper Mai Taniyama's newfound sour attitude, but let it go. Something was on her mind but right now was not the time to pry. Instead she followed the girl into the next room after having taken down the temperature. "Okay, then," she started; deciding that perhaps try to sense what might have been in the room with them might be a good idea. "What do you think of this place then?"

"Why are you asking me?" she replied, Ayako shook her head.

"Don't even try to pull that, you and I both know how with the last few cases your thoughts have been crucial. And now that we've acknowledged it several times, it's about time you've gotten used to it."

"So, I was right a couple of times and I have dreams of events from the past, doesn't mean I'm any different than I was when Naru hired me last year." She was rambling now, but hey it had been a long week at school and she was tired. As much as she loved cases she wasn't ready for another week of sleepless nights, the pile of homework that awaited her, and ghosts after her. Why did they go after her anyway?

"Is that what this is about?" Ayako had Mai put down her clipboard and sat her down on the bed in the abandoned room. "Mai, it's been over a year since I met you and I can tell you that in that time you have grown and matured and despite all the darkness we go through you always find a reason to smile. You found out you had latent psychic powers and guess what? They've grown as well, your visions are becoming clearer you were even able to communicate with Dai in your dreams! You are different now Mai, but that doesn't make it a bad thing."

Mai gave a sigh. Everything Ayako said, she already knew. She also knew that all of that was spot on. "And I know you already know all of this, so why don't you really tell me what's going on?" the priestess's voice broke her from her reverie.

"I don't know." It was partly a lie, she'll admit. But she didn't feel like explaining her lack of sleep over the last couple of weeks after their last case. It wasn't like she was having nightmares about it either; in fact she had been having a dreamless sleep, but only four hours worth. "I'm sorry, Ayako, things have been a bit stressful lately with school and I'm just in a bad mood from it all. I'm fine, really, thank you, though."

Mai hoped that would end the conversation. Ayako knew that this was a bunch of crap, but figured she could get to the bottom of this later. "It's okay, if you need to talk you can come to me anytime."

"Thanks, Ayako." Mai smiled; even she knew that it was half-hearted. Something was bothering her, but she wasn't entirely sure herself what the cause was.

"Sure thing, Now let's finish this up and head back to Base, I'm sure Naru's going through some tea-withdrawal by now," Ayako laughed.

"Probably," Mai laughed as well.

***

"Thank you for your time," Naru said dismissing the last staff member who wanted to give his story. Shortly afterwards Kiko, Yasuhara and Shouta walked in. "What have you found out?"

Yasuhara flipped through the pages on his notepad. "Mainly, just reports of things being moved, however a few believed that they were pushed as they were walking to their rooms just last week. Also, one woman, Takara Yuina claims that she was visited last night by what she describes as the 'Angel of Death,'" he explained.

"She described the angel as a shadowy figure with a very soft voice, telling her that the next person to be attacked was occupant Fukuoka Hayate, who claims he was attacked in his sleep just last night, meaning if the pattern is the same with the last three victims we have until tomorrow to figure this out," Kiko finished, taking a seat next to Mai on the couch. "What about the staff? What have they experienced?"

"Shadows, voices, the feeling of being watched, and items being misplaced. The basics of any normal haunting, and then a couple of the nurses said they were pushed near the stairs. But the Angel thing is what interests me," Monk answered, as the guest in the room cleared his throat. "Sorry, Shouta, what's up?"

"My aunt wanted me to let you know that dinner will be ready by six, since she forgot to tell you when you arrived," he said. "Also, is there anything I can do to help you guys?"

Naru looked through the notepad Yasuhara had handed to him, taking mental notes on where most of the activity seemed to be occurring. Lin handed him a clipboard and he went to Monk. "Set up cameras and microphones in all of these rooms, in the rooms that are circled place a thermal imaging camera in them," he ordered, then faced two other members of the team. "Take Yasuhara and Miss Matsuzaki with you." He turned to their new helper and incognito guest. "See if you can obtain permission from Ms. Takara and Mr. Fukuoka to place equipment in their rooms. If so, set up a camera and microphone as well as a thermal imager in each of their rooms and a camera and microphone in the west stairwell. Mai and Father Brown will go with you."

"Sounds good," Kiko replied, locking arms with Mai and stood up. "Let's go!"

***

"So, how're your arms doing, Mai?" Kiko asked, she really would have asked during the drive or even before they left, but they had to help pack up the van and she rode with Yasuhara and the others, while Mai took her usual position between Lin and Naru in the van. "Not in as much pain as earlier, I hope."

"Yeah, I have actual use of my arms and hands now," Mai laughed then looked at the bandages. "The blisters are mostly gone and the scabs are healing well, I really just need to keep putting on the anti-scarring stuff my doctor gave me and then I should be almost back to normal."

"If you don't mind my asking," Shouta interjected with curiosity. "But, what happened to your arms in the first place?"

Mai gave a bit of a sigh, raised her head up and walked just a little faster then before. "It was nothing, just an accident that happened on our last case earlier this month," she answered. "Nothing that won't heal in another two weeks or so."

"I'd hardly call it nothing," John argued quietly, but still caught the ear of the young client.

"Here we are!" Kiko exclaimed. "Hayate Fukuoka's room. Mr. Fukuoka! May we come in?"

"Yeah sure," they heard the old man's voice say and entered the room. The man turned off the T.V. and slowly wobbled over to greet his guests. "Shouta, Akiko, was there something else you needed? I thought I answered all your questions."

"We only have a request this time," Kiko smiled. "With your permission, the lead investigator would like to place some equipment in your room to monitor you and to make sure you do not have another attack."

"What for? Please excuse my stubbornness, however, I do like my privacy. Is this really necessary?"

"Mr. Fukuoka, please, you know what has happened to the tenants who had the experiences that you did. It is very likely you could have the same outcome," Shouta persisted.

"Oh, poppycock! How do I know that it isn't just one of the nurses who are causing this? You're better off keeping an eye on them!" the man argued.

Mai noticed his change of behavior and made a note to tell Naru about it later, but right now she needed to get Hayate to allow them to set up their equipment. "Mr. Fukuoka, I understand that you want your privacy, however, all we want is to stop what is causing the strange occurrences here. Whether they are caused by the paranormal or if it is like you just said that a human might be causing them, we want to stop it," Mai debated. "Please, any irrelevant footage captured will be thrown away immediately."

Fine that last part was a lie, but Naru and Lin did throw away a lot of the footage caught once a case was closed. And cases like the Minnie doll that moved on camera they would save that footage, once Mai asked why, Naru just said it was for educational purposes. When she further questioned what he meant, he sent her to get tea.

"What kind of equipment will you be setting up?" the man started to give in.

"One camera, one microphone, and a device that records the temperature of the room," Mai answered.

"And none of what you record will be used for anything without my consent?" Hayate questioned.

"That's right," Mai answered, trying her best to look as nice as possible. It seemed just a little harder to do that today, she couldn't figure out why.

"Fine, do what you will, but I better not see my hairy back plastered all over some billboard!" He waddled into the bathroom connected to his room as John and Shouta quickly set up the equipment.

"Thank you, Mr. Fukuoka!" Shouta called as everyone dismissed themselves from the room.

"I can't be the only one to notice his change of behavior," John commented as they walked down the hall toward Yuina Takara's room.

"No, you weren't," Mai confirmed. "Kiko, how was he when you interviewed him?"

"He was very friendly and frightened by what he went through last night. Just like how he was when we first walked in, then his mood just flipped," she replied perplexed. "It's the strangest thing." Kiko stumbled slightly in her heels and bumped into Mai.

"Are you okay?" came the response from the group.

"I'm fine, just lost my footing," she laughed it off.

"Shouta, how does Mr. Fukuoka usually act?" Mai asked the young man with them.

"Just as Akiko said, he is normally very friendly, and treats just about everyone like they are his grandkids. For him to blow up like that is unheard of," he replied. "Think it has anything to do with the attack last night?"

"It could be possible that whatever attacked him last night possessed him," John offered, shifting both the camera and thermal imager into an easier position to hold. "Even still, his mood change was very spontaneous. Perhaps the sign of a mental disorder?"

"Like schizophrenia? Or Multiple personalities?" Mai's head tilted to the right.

"Or even something more common like bipolar disorder," John responded as they reached Yuina Takara's room.

"Impossible, we would have noticed something like that a while ago," Shouta argued.

"Ms. Takara! May we come in!" Kiko called opening the door.

"Come in!" called the sweet old woman's voice.

"Somehow, I don't think we'll have any trouble with her," Mai muttered as they continued their job.

***

"Dinner's ready," Shouta told everyone at Base when all the equipment had been setup.

"Sweet! I'm starving!" Monk cheered jumping up off the couch.

The priestess's stomach growled. "I haven't had much of a lunch," she commented, eagerly standing up and heading out the door. Even Naru and Lin followed as everyone filed out. Except Kiko.

"Kiko? Are you coming?" Mai called at the door, seeing the girl staring at the monitors.

Kiko swayed to the right but caught herself as she turned around. "Nah, oddly enough, I'm not very h-huungr-a-choo!" She sneezed again and grabbed her forehead as if to relieve pressure. "Hungry."

"Are you sick or something?" Mai began to get a little worried as she noticed how pale her friend was. Was she like that all day? "Do you want me to get Ayako? Or take you to our room?"

But Kiko just shook her head. "No, no, you guys go eat, I'll just lie down on the couch for a while," she insisted, taking a step. Her head spun and she fought to keep her balance. Mai was by her side in an instant. "Thanks, but I'm fine."

"What's taking you guys so long?" Monk asked in the doorway where the entire team seemed to have gathered with impatience.

"Go down without me, I'm not very hungry," Kiko insisted.

"She's not feeling well," Mai added, turning to Ayako. "Ayako, can you help me get her to our room?"

"I'm fine, just got a little dizzy." Kiko gave a sheepish shrug.

Ayako rushed over and placed her hand on the girl's forehead. "You're burning up!" she gasped as Kiko's face began to flush.

"I'm fine, I'll just lie down on the couch," she offered, not wanting to be a burden.

"I don't think so," Ayako ordered, helping her move toward the door. "You are going to sleep in an actual bed."

"John, would you mind going down and eating now?" Naru asked the priest who just blinked. "When you're done, come back up and stay in Kiko's room."

"Naru, that's unnecessary, I can sleep on my own and you all can eat and continue the investiga-"

"Mai is already spirit and danger magnet, to have another member of this team ill without the strength to defend themselves from an entity would hinder the investigation," Naru interrupted and turned to the priest again. "Father Brown?"

"O-of course." John was a tad startled, but went to the dining room with Shouta in tow.

"Fine, you win, just...just stop spinning the room, please?"

***

Downstairs in the dining hall, all we accounted for except John and Kiko, the latter having taken some Benadryl from Ayako to help her fall asleep and some Motrin for her headache, the former reading a book he had brought with him at her bedside. The table was quiet, save for the soft clatter of forks hitting the plates of their western style supper.

"Help me!" Mai's forked dropped and her eyes widened. "It's not my fault! I didn't mean to! Please! You have to help me!"

That sounded like a kid! Mai noted to herself, but quickly noticed the eyes staring at her.

"You okay, Mai?" Yasuhara asked, breaking her from her reverie.

"Yeah, my fork just slipped." She continued her meal, knowing that her friends knew her all too well. They would hold off on the explanation for now, but once they were in Base the interrogation would begin.

Naru stood and turned to leave. "Mai, when you're finished, bring tea," he ordered heading off.

"Sure," she shrugged the grumbled. "I'm not your slave, a 'please' would be nice."

"Did you say something?" Naru didn't even bother turning around, he knew he caught his assistant off guard.

"Nothing," she replied, suppressing the blush that threatened to creep into her cheeks. "Nothing of importance."

"Miss Matsuzaki, accompany her when you're finished." Then he left.

"I don't need a babysitter..." Mai muttered under breath.

"No, but I'm fairly certain you don't know your way around their kitchen," Monk teased, ruffling her hair.

"Fine, you got me there," she replied, sticking her tongue out at him.

"Well, maybe he just doesn't want another incident to happen like last case?" Ayako offered, taking a sip of her water.

"See, Mai, he does care!" Yasuhara teased as Lin excused himself.

"Ha ha." Mai rolled her eyes as she finished her plate. "I should probably go make his majesty's tea."

"Here, I'll go with you, in case you need help finding the kettle," Shouta offered standing up.

"Shouta, that's a good idea," Ayako agreed, standing up herself. "I want to check in on John and Kiko."

"Alright," Mai nodded, standing up and taking the priestess's plate. "I guess we'll see you up in Base?"

"Yup," Monk and Yasuhara answered, finishing their meal. Mai and Shouta headed off to the kitchen.

"So, your boss doesn't like you walking around on your own?" Shouta began, trying to make some sort of conversation when they reached the kitchen. "Sounds a little controlling, don't you think?"

"Pretty much," Mai sighed, then laughed after she thought about it for a second. It was annoying, but the whole ordeal made sense. "I can't blame him too much though, I'm a bit of a danger magnet, especially when it comes to haunted buildings."

"And because you were injured on your last case?" Mai turned on the stove after placing the kettle on it.

"I guess, come to think of it, I don't think there was a case we went on that didn't involve me getting injured in some way." Her face scrunched up in thought.

"How many cases have you gone on?" Shouta grabbed two jars of tea leaves. "Does he like Mint? Or Green?"

"He prefers Green," Mai answered, pulling out several cups from the cabinet. "And this is my thirteenth case with the team."

"Wow, how long have you been ghost hunting?" He placed a teapot between the cups and the jar of tea leaves.

"Over eighteen months, I think," Mai stopped and contemplated it. "Yeah, because Naru tricked me into working for him April of my freshman year."

"Tricked you?"

"I may have accidently broken one of his cameras and caused Lin to be injured when they were investigating a haunting at my school," Mai said, sheepishly scratched her head. "Naru came up to me and said that I could work in order to pay for the camera."

"Not seeing how he tricked you." Shouta raised a brow.

"The camera was insured, he just needed someone to fill in for Lin." Mai pouted and Shouta burst into laughter.

"Man, you must have been pissed when you found out!" he laughed and she stuck her tongue out at him.

"Of course I was! I wanted to beat him to a pulp!" she confirmed then laughed herself. "I have to admit though, I was pretty stupid for falling for it."

"Well, you were what? Fifteen at the time? I probably would have fallen for it too," Shouta assured her.

"At least I'm not alone," she laughed as the kettle whistled.

"So, Mr. Shibuya is your boss, right?"

"That's right."

"Why do you call him 'Naru?'" Mai closed the lid on the teapot and let the tea stoop.

"Just a nickname I came up for him when he annoyed me, it caught on," she shrugged, leaning against the counter. "Not meaning to jump topics or be a workaholic like Naru, but what kind of activity have you experienced here?"

He leaned against the counter next to her. "Well, let's see, I just seem to lose things more easily here than if I were at school, or a friend's house or my Dad's house. Footsteps in the middle of the night. Whispers and voices. The sort of thing that you see on those ghost reality T.V. shows." He shrugged, crossing his arms. "Although, there was one thing that stood out from mine and others' experiences."

"And what would that be?" Mai couldn't help but feel a little chill run down her spine.

"I've been hearing this-" He didn't finish. The temperature dropped significantly in a matter of seconds and the lights began to flicker. "What the hell?"

Rapping sounds were banging on the walls and ceiling, shaking the room. The hanging pots and pans began to fall. Mai could see her breath and feel the heat radiating off of the teapot behind her. "Move back!" she ordered over the noise of the room, pushing the young man back away from the counter.

"Help me!"

It's that voice again! Mai concluded, getting ready to perform one of her chants.

"Please! Help me! It's not my fault!" the voice wailed, judging by the light red glow beneath the teapot, Mai guessed that she only had maybe a minute to at least repel the spirit before she or Shouta were injured.

"Nau maku san man dabazara dan kan!" she repeated two more times and changed positions. "Rin! Pyou! Tou! Shah! Kai! Jin! Retsu! Zai! Zen!"

"Help!" the voice shrieked one final time before the activity ceased and the lights flickered back on.

"That." Shouta managed to exhaled. His face blanched in the last minute. Mai gave him a quizzical look. "I've been hearing that."

Chapter Text

Chapter 2-Over You?

October Day 1, 7:23 P.M.

"You've been hearing that voice?" Mai asked once the room had settled down.

"And those bangs, but not at this extent," he responded just as Monk, Yasuhara, Lin, and Naru raced in.

"Are you guys okay?" Monk inquired immediately.

"Yeah, we're fine, but I don't think the tea will be," Mai sighed, pulling the kettle to the sink. "I'll make another batch-"

"That won't be necessary," Naru answered, stopping the girl mid-motion.

Naru doesn't want tea! Mai's mind raced. What the hell is going on?

"Where is Miss Matsuzaki?" he continued, looking to Monk for an answer.

"She wanted to check on John and Kiko, so Shouta here said he would accompany Mai," he answered.

"What happened?" Naru asked Mai.

"Shouta and I were talking, then when we were waiting for the tea to steep, the lights were flickering and the room started to shake," Mai began, Shouta finishing her sentence.

"Then this voice started yelling for help," Shouta continued. "Then Mai said some chant and the banging and the voice stopped. And you guys rushed in after that."

"Huh, so you repelled a spirit?" Yasuhara commented as Monk bear hugged the girl.

"You're growing up so fast!" the monk exclaimed.

"Get off me Monk!" Mai squirmed, but the man only hugged tighter. "I can't breathe!" He finally let go.

"Sorry, but I'm proud!" Monk's face beamed with pride for her.

"Everyone, back to Base, Monk, I want another camera in the kitchen," Naru ordered, heading out.

"Is he always like that?" Shouta whispered to Mai.

"No," she shrugged, following her employer. "He's usually ordering me for tea on top of this attitude."

***

"How's Kiko?" Mai asked once everyone, minus Kiko and John, gathered in Base.

"Sleeping," Ayako answered. "She took the Benadryl, put in her earbuds and was out by the time her head hit the pillow, John told me. She hasn't woken up since."

"Shouta, would it be possible to have another room set up for Miss Matsuzaki and Mai to stay in, seeing our situation?" Naru asked, not turning away from his folder.

"Yeah, of course," he nodded standing up. "I'll go have it prepared."

"Miss Matsuzaki, perform another walkthrough of the building, take Monk with you, and Yasuhara, you and Lin set up a camera in the kitchen," Naru ordered and everybody obeyed, leaving Mai alone with her boss.

"So, what do you want me to do?" Mai asked as her boss took a seat in the chair across from the couch where she sat.

"Why were you alone?" Naru asked cryptically, taking Mai off guard.

"I-I wasn't alone, Naru, Shouta was with me, remember?" Mai caught herself as she raised a brow.

"I asked, Miss Matsuzaki to accompany you."

"She wanted to check up on Kiko, you know, who could really need her? And Shouta offered to help me find my way around." Mai shrugged. "What's gotten you so uppity lately?"

"Mai, on numerous occasions, when we were on a case you have been the target of multiple spirits, particularly when you were alone-"

"You've brought up that point on every case since the Yoshimi case, and might I add that I was harmed the least on that case. What's your problem?" Mai crossed her arms and resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"We already have one member of this team weakened, I don't need you going off on your own when danger seems to have a habit of following you-"

"Let's see, the incident in the kitchen happened in the presence of Shouta, and then on the last case where I received third degree burns happened when I was with Kiko, not every time I'm alone does something happen to me," Mai argued, becoming annoyed.

"Your arms are still not entirely healed." Now he was just making up excuses.

"Naru, they pretty much are, a lot of the scabbing is gone and really the bandages are just protecting the new skin. I'm fine, besides the spirit here can't be too powerful, I managed to repel it with the warding magic that Monk taught me." She closed her eyes with a sigh to prevent herself from rolling them. "Not sure if you've noticed, but I'm not the same high school girl you hired last year."

Naru closed his eyes, stood up and headed for the monitors. Funny, he would normally mock her stupidity by now. "If you are insinuating that you are not a stupid as you were when I hired you, you are sadly mistaken." There it was. Cue Mai's grumpy pouty face.

"Nice to know you think so highly of me..." she muttered under her breath. As much as she was used to it, his insults still hurt her. Why did she even like him again?

"Tea."

That snapped her from her reverie.

"I thought you didn't want me out on my own," she huffed, neither one were facing the other.

"Would you rather I give you paperwork as though we were at the office?" She was out the door in seconds, never seeing that amused smirk on his face as she left.

***

"I fold," said the elderly man at one of the card tables in the living area. Next to him sat an elderly woman, then Monk, then Ayako, all in the middle of an intense game of poker. Yasuhara was giving some of the other elders the play-by-play mimicking the type of voice of an American baseball announcer.

"Raise 1,000 yen," the elderly woman said, tossing the money to the middle of the pile.

"Yeah, I fold, I'm not wasting that much on a poker game tonight," Ayako said, placing her cards on the table facedown.

"I'll match the 1,000 yen and raise it to another 1,000 yen!" Monk challenged.

"Are you guys really gambling here?" Mai asked as she walked in.

"And it's Mai Taniyama! Latent psychic and paranormal investigator!" Yasuhara exclaimed, using a remote of some kind as a microphone. "She is a second year high schooler, works part-time at SPR to support herself, and has built quite the resume for the paranormal field. Perhaps she can use her psychic powers to determine who will win this match!"

"Yasuhara, why are you talking like that?" she asked, and Monk shushed her.

"I'll match that, young man," the elderly woman said with a smirk. "Should I raise or let you keep some sort of dignity before you run off crying?"

"Ooh! This is going to be interesting, but no offense Granny, there's no way you can win." The monk tossed in another 1,000 yen. "But for the heck of it."

She threw in another 1,000 yen and held a little stare down. "You're trying to swindle her out of her money," Mai noted with a shake of her head.

"For once, I think Monk might just win," Ayako said, peeking at his cards.

"Call," the elderly woman said and the Monk had a devilish smirk as he placed down his cards.

"Straight, in all spades!" Monk exclaimed, crossing his arms with confidence. The elderly woman gave a sad face and suck back in her chair.

"Oh, that's too bad, look's like I lost..." she pouted. "I may as well fold, but then again." She put down each card one at a time. Royal Flush. Hearts.

"Shit!" Monk cursed as he slammed his head on the table.

"No way!" Ayako cried out in amazement.

"Amazing! Uzuki just defeated Monk with a Royal Flush! Takigawa played well but his Buddhist prayers only managed to give him a Straight in Spades, but it looks like the retired poker master still has some tricks up her sleeve and it brought her the gold!" Yasuhara rapidly spewed out.

"You're not making any sense," Mai mumbled.

"Hey! Uzuki! How does it feel to be back in the ring?" Yasuhara pointed the remote at the woman.

"This is poker, not wrestling..." the priestess rolled her eyes.

"Well, Yasuhara, I may have retired, but that does not mean I am out of practice," Uzuki laughed rounding up her winnings.

The old man laughed. "I should have warned ya, Takigawa, Uzuki is a shark when it comes to gambling," he laughed, leaning back in his chair.

"Come on, Chuugo! It's been fairly boring around here, when we get visitors like these guys I need a little fun!" Uzuki argued, hitting the man lightly on the shoulder.

"Man, this is just for your sick entertainment!" Monk moaned, his face buried in his arms on the table.

The elderly couple just laughed. "Well, we do have a sick sense of humor!" the woman laughed, looking at the man. "Must be how we managed to keep this marriage for sixty-four years."

"I beg to differ!" the man hollered. "My sense of humor is perfectly normal! Everyone else's is just weird!"

Everyone laughed.

"And besides it's been sixty-five years," Chuugo smiled, looking at his wife.

"No! It can be the twenty-eighth already!" the woman chided, wide-eyed. "Everyday is the same at this place."

"Happy Anniversary, Uzuki!" Chuugo gave her an envelope.

"Good grief! You should have said something earlier! I thought today was the twenty-seventh!" She gratefully accepted the card, then reached into her purse on her chair and pulled out an envelope and a small box of chocolate. "It's not much, but Happy Anniversary."

"Oh, you know my love of chocolate!" he smiled.

"Go ahead, open it!" she encouraged, completely ignoring their audience.

He opened the envelope and read the card inside. A cheeky grin grew on his face. "You mean it?"

"Forever and always," she smiled back.

"Open yours."

She did and read the card and something fell into her lap. She lifted the chain to see a bracelet with a charm and her eyes grew wide. "Where did you find this?"

"It took a while but I managed to find it when Jungo was showing me how to use the computer. Someone was selling it and it looked exactly like the one you lost several years ago. I knew you would love it," he smiled, putting it on her wrist.

"It's exactly like the one you gave me on our first anniversary." Uzuki was in awe as she stared at it. "Oh thank you, Chuugo!"

The couple shared a kiss and the priestess smiled. "That, my friend, is true love," she said under her breath as she looked at the man next to her who was still sulking about losing his money.

THUNK!

"Ow!"

"Shut up! You're ruining their moment!" Ayako scolded, crossing her arms. The couple only laughed.

"Sorry about that, we were in the moment," Uzuki laughed.

"Well, now, what next, another round of poker? Or will we play some blackjack?" Chuugo offered, shuffling the cards.

"No thanks, I'm all out of cash!" Monk declined, earning another hit from Ayako. "Seriously! This is abuse!"

"You keep asking for it!"

"Just think, one day they'll be just like Chuugo and Uzuki," Yasuhara laughed to Mai, earning glares from the bickering couple.

"Yasuhara!"

"I was joking!" The college boy cowered in fear.

"No you weren't," Mai corrected, behind the flames of the monk and priestess's wrath. "Why are you guys hanging out here anyway?"

"Naru said there was nothing we could do, but wait, so we decided to come in here and hang out," Monk replied.

"So, what did Naru say to you when we left?" Ayako asked, turning to face the brunette.

"He just wasn't happy that Shouta was the one to show me around," Mai shrugged, taking a seat next to Yasuhara.

"Never would have taken Naru to be the jealous type," Monk commented.

"Even the Big Boss has feelings," Yasuhara added. Mai just raised a brow.

"What the heck are you guys talking about?" the brunette asked, earning sighs of disappointment from her peers.

"Oh, don't worry, Shouta is a very nice boy!" Uzuki promised with a laugh.

"I don't know, that's what you said about Benika's first husband, I knew he was nothing but trouble," Chuugo argued.

"I also said that when they were only dating, I knew there was something wrong when he asked her to marry him without our consent after they had only dated three months," she chided with a little pout. "But, Mai is certainly not looking for marriage just yet, are you, Mai?"

A blush grew to her cheeks as her eyes grew wide. "N-no! I'm only seventeen!" She waved her arms in a declining sort of way.

"Well, I was married at the age of nineteen," Uzuki replied, shocking the girl further. She only laughed. "Don't look so afraid! You don't have to marry until you're ready!"

"There's no way she's getting married before me," Ayako scoffed.

"Yeah right, you don't even have a boyfriend and Mai's closer to having one than you!" Monk teased, preparing for a thunk on the head that never came.

"As a matter of fact, I do have a boyfriend." The priestess leaned back and examined her nails.

"No way!" Mai exclaimed, jaw-dropped.

"It's true." She smiled.

"I don't believe you! How long have you been dating?" Monk retorted, earning a betrayed look from Yasuhara.

"Monk! You're jealous, aren't you! I thought we had something special!" Yasuhara cried out, faking a sad expression.

"Will you quit it! You know how that freaks me out!"

"Since when am I having girl talk with these two?" Ayako asked Mai who only shrugged. "If you must know, we've been seeing each other for almost three months."

"That goes all the way back to the summer camp case-no way!" Mai replied, the answer clicking.

"No way, what?" the boys asked.

"It's Daisuke! Isn't it!" Mai exclaimed. "But he's younger than you!"

"Actually he's a month older than me, he just looks young," Ayako replied nonchalantly. "Turns out he lives just outside of Tokyo, and we had a nice time together at the camp, it was no surprise that he asked me out for dinner the day after we left."

"Ayako, don't tell me you slept with him on the case!" Mai groaned somewhat appalled.

"LALALALALALALALALALA! WE DON'T NEED TO HEAR THIS!" Monk cried out, covering Yasuhara's ears.

"Monk! You do care!" Yasuhara exclaimed.

"Ew! Why would I perform such an act where children were playing!" the priestess argued, then gave a more disgusted face. "And more importantly, why would I do that outdoors?"

I can't believe this is the conversation we are having... Mai's mind wondered as she noticed the elderly couple trying their best not to laugh anymore at the group's antics. This is going to be a long case.

***

October Day 2, 2:36 A.M.

"No!" Mai cried as she shot up from her bed. Her body shook as she was covered in a cold sweat; her breath came in rapid short huffs as she tried to calm herself down.

"Mai? What's wrong?" Ayako was at her side in an instant. She smoothed the frightened girl's hair and pulled her in for a hug. "Was it one of those dreams?"

"I...I don't know..." Mai replied, feeling a tear fall down her cheek.

"What happened in it?" the priestess asked, knowing that unlike the Urado case, Mai didn't wake up the entire team or the entire building with her cry.

"I don't know."

"What do you mean?"

"I can't remember, but I don't think it had anything to do with the case. I think it was just a nightmare," she explained, calming down a bit.

"Are you sure?" The girl nodded. "All right, but let's go down into the kitchen and make some tea, I don't know about you, but I don't think I can go straight to sleep now."

"Okay." She followed the woman downstairs into the kitchen. Looks like no one had been woken up.

In less than ten minutes green tea was made and the two young women were seated in the dining hall. "So, you're really going out with Daisuke?" Mai asked while they enjoyed their tea. It was nice that for once she didn't have to make it.

"Yep, is it really that hard to believe?" she smirked as she stirred in some sugar.

"A little, but then again, I hardly saw you on that case," Mai replied truthfully, taking a sip. "Though, it explains why you weren't complaining even more about us investigating outside."

"I was usually partnered up with him when it came to camp activities, I actually had a good time. You know, despite the humidity and lack of air conditioning." She downed another gulp.

"I'm happy for you," Mai gave a weak smile. Of course Ayako would manage to have a boyfriend. She was pretty and pretty down to Earth. She might seem a little naggy and annoying, but sometimes it can be amusing, Monk seems to enjoy it.

"You need to go on a date." The words stunned the small chestnut eyed girl.

"Huh?" She nearly choked on her tea.

"You keep saying that school and work are stressing you out, why don't you go out on your day off and hang with friends or accept a date from whichever boy has been crushing on you in math class or whatever," the priestess offered nonchalantly. "Even after last case when you had your little break from work you still didn't go out and have fun, right? You need a sense of normalcy when you have a job as dark as this. You need to hang out with your own friends and live at least part of the life of a teenage girl."

"Easier said than done," Mai shrugged, taking another sip.

"Never said it would be easy, but it does make the job easier when you realize that despite all the horrifying things we face, all the bad people and spirits we discover, there are still good ones left in the world." She finished her cup. "We all have to do it."

"Even Naru?" Mai asked skeptically.

"No, I feel like ghost hunting might be his way of seeing the good in the bad," Ayako replied with a sigh.

"What do you mean?" Mai cocked her head.

"What I mean is, I think has reasons for being a ghost hunter, and not because he's good at it or because he can use Qigong with his psychic abilities. I think that maybe ghost hunting is like his way of going out with friends. It takes his mind off of things," the priestess explained.

"What kind of things?" Mai asked in her naivety, sipping the last of her tea.

"I don't know, Mai, that's more of his business," Ayako decided, taking a deep breath. She was sounding so wise. Since when did this headstrong nagging priestess say things like this?

"Wow, Ayako, I never thought of any of those things, what made you think like that?" Mai wondered aloud as she stifled a yawn.

"You're not the only one who has changed over the last year, Mai." She smiled and stood up. "Come on, you're tired and so am I."

***

October Day 2, 7:46 A.M.

"Kiko is still asleep?" Naru inquired once the other two female investigators entered Base that morning.

"Yeah, she needs it, I wouldn't disturb her," Ayako replied, taking a seat next to Monk while Mai took one between Yasuhara and Shouta. She had used makeup to cover the dark circles under her eyes, but still managed to look as though she never woke up at two in the morning.

"I see, John?" Naru turned to the priest who immediately knew what was to be asked of him. "Would you mind-"

"Of course," John agreed before Naru could finish his request.

"Good, if I need you for anything else I'll send Takigawa or Miss Matsuzaki," Naru replied, turning to everyone else. "Mr. Fukuoka was neither attacked last night, nor did he pass away. That does not mean he will not be attacked later today or tonight. Our time is limited. Yasuhara, I need you to do research on the property, anything you find make note of it-"

"I'll go with you!" Mai offered. She remembered that voice from the day before all too clearly, she needed to know if it really was a child spirit here and why did she die so young?

"No," Naru rejected. "Takigawa will go with him, Mai, you Miss Matsuzaki and Shouta will visit the residents and see if anyone else as had experiences as well as take down temperature readings."

"Of course he would give us a boatload of work because he is jealous of the client," Ayako mumbled to Monk who snickered.

"Would you care to share, Miss Matsuzaki?" Naru called and a sweat drop appeared on Mai's forehead.

Geez...it's like I never took off from school...Mai thought with a quiet sigh. What's got him in such a bad mood?

"It was nothing," Ayako quickly covered, causing Monk to chuckle.

"Fine, once everyone has had breakfast, return to your duties." He turned back to the wall of monitors.

Everyone stood up and left the narcissist swearing the room temperature had changed. After finishing breakfast, Yasuhara and Monk were about to leave for the library, when Mai stopped them. "Wait," she said, grabbing Yasuhara's arm lightly.

"What is it, Mai?" he asked, causing Monk to turn as well.

"When you do research, would you mind digging into something for me?" Her brown eyes held a confidence that she probably never knew about.

"Sure thing, what do you need?" Monk asked.

"I need you to find out if any children died on the property, specifically any young girls." Her words shocked the older investigators.

"Okay, but why?" the college student asked.

"That spirit yesterday, it was screaming for help, it sounded like child or probably girl around middle school age," Mai explained, causing the men to look at each other.

"Mai, did you bother telling Naru any of this?" the monk asked, crossing his arms.

"You're kidding right?" Her eyes narrowed a little. "He's been in one of his moods lately, after the fight we had yesterday, I never had the chance to tell him. It's part of the reason why I wanted to go and research."

"You're a piece of work, Mai," Monk sighed, shaking his head.

"Yeah, but don't worry, couples fight all the time!" Yasuhara pointed out cheerfully. "Monk and I have them all the time!" A blush began to creep up the girl's face as a feature of uneasiness was shown on the monk's.

"Will you leave me out of this!"

"Besides, why would Naru want to date me?" Mai shrugged as she turned around to leave.

"Jeez, girlie, you can't just leave after saying that." The monk's hand was on her shoulder.

"It's fine, Monk, you have a job to do and so do I, besides, I think I might be over Naru," Mai said, walking away before she could be stopped. She was out of sight in a second.

"What's up with her?" Yasuhara asked hands in his pockets.

"I don't know, but I don't think the week off she had from work was enough time for her," Monk added. "I also don't think now is the time to get to the bottom of it."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Mediums

October Day 2, 12:30 P.M.

"No one seems to have been attacked, and Yuina hasn't seen the 'Angel of Death' in over twenty-four hours," Mai noted on her clipboard.

"Yeah, and none of the employees experienced anything either," Shouta added crossing his arms as they stood in the kitchen.

"And the temperature seems the same as yesterday in pretty much every room," Ayako concluded. "Except for Base, but I don't think that that really has anything to do with the spirit."

"How come?" the boy wondered aloud.

"A number of things," Mai pointed out. "The window was open in there, it had been empty for a while, the heat might not have gotten to the room yet-"

"Actually, I was thinking that Naru was in one of his moods," Ayako shrugged.

"What would that do?" Shouta asked.

"When Naru was younger he used to cause poltergeists, because of his spirit energy, now sometimes when he's in a bad mood the temperature changes in the room he's in," Mai explained casually.

"Poltergeists? Like the movie?" Shouta asked a smirk on his face. "Zeiru hiiru!" he mimicked in heavily accented English.

Mai and Ayako laughed. "Sort of."

"So what now?" the boy asked.

"Off to Base and see what else Naru wants us to do?" Ayako suggested.

"Better bring a sweater," Mai mumbled making the priestess laugh.

***

The group walked into Base, Mai first, only to stop halfway through the door causing a pileup behind her. "Hey, Mai! Why'd you stop-oh," Ayako scolded, realizing what caused the girl to stop short.

"Huh? What's going o-" Shouta didn't finish as Ayako raced in to the very reason for the traffic jam.

"Kiko! What are you doing up!" the priestess scolded, feeling the forehead of the formerly ill girl.

"I'm fine, Ayako!" she laughed, removing the woman's hand from her head. "I woke up about two hours ago, ate some breakfast and after taking a shower, I felt good as new!"

"Well, alright, just don't overexert yourself," Ayako agreed reluctantly.

"If you all are done chit chatting, I assume you have come because you finished your task," Naru's cold remark, silencing the group.

"Yup, only Base was colder, all the other rooms were around the same temp as yesterday," Mai replied, handing her boss the clipboard.

"I see," he took it, glanced at the writing and handed it to Lin. "And no one was attacked last night or reported any happenings?"

"Nope, everything was quiet last night," Mai replied.

Naru was silent in thought as he turned back to the monitors. "What time is it?" he asked suddenly.

"About 12:35," Shouta answered glancing at his watch.

"Batteries need to be changed in these rooms," he handed a list to Ayako," once you're finished with that, get some lunch and I will give your more work to do."

John grabbed a bag full of charged batteries and the group left for the hall. "Okay, let's divide this up evenly that way it'll get done faster," the priestess suggested, folding and ripping the paper in half and handing one to Mai. "Shouta, why don't you go with Mai and then Kiko and John are with me?"

"Sounds good," he agreed, as John handed him several batteries that he'd need.

***

"So, is he always like that?" Shouta asked as they walked down the hall toward camera four. "I know I asked last night, but he seems very..."

"Arrogant? Narcissistic? Idiotic?" Mai offered, crossing her arms.

"I was going to say cold, but sure, by the way why do you call him 'Naru?' You never really elaborated on that."

Mai couldn't help but laugh. "I gave him that name last year, when he hired me because I accidentally broke a camera, turns out he had it insured and just wanted free help out of me, you know, I told you last night." She pouted as she remembered the arrogant way he had replied when she asked him if it were true. "Anyway, he just had this narcissistic attitude and I ended up calling him Naru, Naru the Narcissist!"

Shouta laughed when she had finished her story. "Sounds like it must have been some case."

"It was, but I learned a lot during it. Like how hauntings could be caused by people, and not hoaxes either. That's what happened on the case at my school, another girl, Kuroda, was claiming to be a psychic and that the place was haunted by many spirits. Turns out a lot of the activity was caused by her subconscious, because she was under stress," Mai chatted, as they reached the camera. "I'll do the thermal and you get the camera, kay?"

"Sure thing," he replied. "That's crazy, though, I never thought that someone's mind could cause a haunting."

"I never really thought about it that way either, until I got this job that is," she replied with a frown. "Hey, is there another thermal battery in there? The one I have seems to be dead too."

"Um...I think so, this it?" He handed her a battery.

"Yeah, thanks." She replaced the battery again. "There we go, fully charged!"

"Same here," Shouta smiled back, turning back to the camera and frowned. "Hey, it said fully charged a second ago!"

Mai stepped next to him and looked at the camera. "Here," she offered, handing him another battery. "The same thing happened to me, maybe the batteries are just going, I'll let Naru know." Just to be sure she checked the thermal again. "Crap. You're kidding me, right?"

"Battery died again?" Shouta asked.

"Ten percent left," she mumbled in reply, probing her mind for answers. "There's some theory that spirits can steal energy from things like batteries and lights."

"You really think that's true?" Shouta raised a brow.

"Never really thought about it, until a few cases ago I went to change a battery and my flashlight randomly went out and then I was attacked by some spirits," she shrugged. "Once, it happens, twice coincidence, thrice..."

The two took a step back and watched the thermal camera, waiting for the battery to drain just like the other two. Nothing happened after two minute. "Well, I guess the batteries really must be going," Shouta commented with a shrug.

"Help me..."

Mai's head whipped around to where she thought she heard that voice. "What's wron-"

"Sh!" She pressed a finger to her lips as her brows furrowed and knotted. "Did you hear that?"

"Here what?" Mai pressed her finger to her lips again and they listened.

"I beg you...help me..." Shouta's eyes widened.

"That."

"Please..."

"Mai, the battery..." The two stared in amazement as they watched the little battery icon drain down to nothing.

Low Battery.

Low Battery.

Shutting Down.

"What's wrong?" Mai asked out loud. "Why do you need help?"

"It's all my fault...but it's not..."

"We can help you, but you have to tell us what's wrong," Mai told the voice. "You can tell me."

"I'm sorry!"

Silence.

"Mai, the batteries!" Shouta was kneeling next to the camera. "The camera is now half full."

"So is the thermal," Mai noted, as a shiver ran down her spine. "I didn't think they could give the energy back..."

"Well, either way, we have three more rooms to change batteries in and we only have two batteries that we know are fully charged," the boy pointed out, grabbing the dead ones. "We need to stop back in Base and pick up a few more."

"You're right," Mai agreed and they headed for Base again. Naru better not yell at us for not having another team member with us...

***

"So, why do I feel like I missed a lot while I was asleep?" Kiko asked as she handed John a new battery.

"You did,"Ayako replied with a shrug. "Monk lost a lot of money in a poker game, Shouta and Mai were attacked, Naru was jealous, Mai woke me up at two this morning and apparently she told Monk and Yasuhara that she's over her crush on Naru."

"Wow, I really did miss a lot," Kiko answered in awe. "Poor Naru, if he heard that?"

"Naru likes Mai?" John finally gave his two cents.

"Of course he does, John!" Ayako exclaimed. "They are a canon couple!"

Their guest investigator raised a brow. "You've gone on a bit of an anime binge haven't you?"

The priestess shrugged. "I had a few days off from my day job, I needed to pass the time."

"Which one?"

"Psychic Detective Yakumo."

"Interesting, I watched that back in August, what did you think of it?"

"Haruka and Yakumo are definitely canon, and I really wanted to kill-"

"Guys!" John exclaimed silencing the conversation.

"What!" The girls shouted back, surprising the young priest. "Sorry, John!"

"That's okay, guys," he laughed off. "I was trying to tell you that this was the last room. We can go get lunch now."

"Great, I'm starving!" The priestess cried, marching toward the dining hall.

"Anyway, you saw the resemblance between Haruka and Yakumo to Naru and Mai? I found that hysterical!" Kiko continued to chat with the priestess.

***

"Sorry, about that, Naru," Mai apologized, handing the bag of equipment to Shouta. "We'll finish this in a sec."

"That's fine," he replied, as the two began to leave. "Mai, I need a word with you."

"I'll be outside," Shouta smiled and closed the door.

"What's up, Naru?" Mai asked, with her arms crossed.

"Just, understand that there are audio recorders everywhere and everything you say, I can hear." A blush threatened to creep up her cheeks, but she managed to keep it at bay.

"Sure," she shrugged, leaving the room.

"What did he say?" Shouta asked once the door was closed and they were halfway down the hall.

"Pretty much that he can hear everything we say and to watch our mouths," she shrugged.

"Sounds like a real charmer..." Shouta sweat dropped.

Mai just laughed as they headed off to finish their job.

***

"Look who finally decided to get some lunch," Kiko teased as the teens made their way to the dining hall.

"You can blame the spirit here, and Naru," Mai replied, taking a seat next to John, Shouta taking the one next to her.

"What happened?" the priest asked as one of the workers took the two's order.

"We were changing batteries," Shouta began as he explained everything that happened that made them late. "Then when we went to get a few more batteries..." He decided to let Mai finish the story.

"Naru basically told me that we need to watch our mouths because he literally has eyes and ears everywhere." The brunette's eyes rolled and the priestess laughed.

"I really did miss a lot," Kiko said, raising a brow. "Are Yasu and Monk out doing research?"

"Yup, because Naru wouldn't let me go," the brunette replied, making the other teen girl sweat drop.

"This is going to be a long case," she mumbled and John nodded in agreement.

"What was that?" The priestess inquired.

"Nothing!" She waved her hand and continued to eat her sandwich.

***

"Where's Lin?" the petite brunette, currently going through some sort of personality change, piped up, as the group walked in. The never-ending click-clack of the Chinese man's fingers to the keyboard was MIA.

"Running an errand," Naru replied, standing up. "Are Monk and Yasuhara still at the library?"

The priestess nodded and flipped her hair back. "Yeah, I don't think they'll be back until-"

"All right, we're back!" Monk called, waltzing in with a Yasuhara behind him.

"We would have been here sooner, but we grabbed some lunch on the way," the college student smiled, seeing their guest investigator. "Kiko, you're awake! Feeling better?"

"Much, thanks Yasu," she smiled back.

"What did you find out?" Naru's cold voice broke the reunion.

"Quite a bit, actually," Yasuhara answered, taking a seat on the couch next to his friend. "And, Mai, you were right."

Mai's eyes widened slightly as eyes turned to her. "Mai..." Naru warned in an annoyed tone. "Care to explain."

Mai just gave a sigh and crossed her arms. "I would have told you last night if you hadn't scolded me," she remarked bitterly. "The voice Shouta and I heard last night sounded like a child, specifically a little girl. We also heard it again when we went to change the battery in camera six just a little while ago. So, before Monk and Yasuhara left I asked them to look into it."

"Anyway," Yasuhara continued, looking through his notes. "Before Shouta's aunt bought the property to build a nursing home, this place as originally a hospital."

"Well, that explains why there might be spirits here," the priestess shrugged. "It's not exactly uncommon for people to die in a hospital. If it were tragic enough, I could see why a young spirit might linger."

"You didn't let me finish," the college student interrupted. "It was originally a psychiatric hospital about thirty years ago."

The atmosphere turned grim as all attention centered on the men who were explaining the history of the ground they stood on. "That's right, before the place closed down due to lack of funding from the private organization that owned them and the mass of repairs that needed to be done, there were many reports of patients being beaten. Electroshock therapy was reportedly a common treatment for patients, as well as many testimonies of forced abortions amongst the female patients," Monk continued, scrolling through the notes he had with him.

"And there were children in this institution?" John asked, flabbergasted.

"Yeah, according to the records of patients, the majority of the children entered were girls in their mid teens," the college boy answered.

"There were boys as well, but far more girls," Monk continued. "The institution was packed overcapacity, with minimum nurses and doctors working, many of the patients were sedated twenty-four-seven."

"Most of the symptoms of the younger patients seemed correlated to anxiety disorders, depression and a few cases of schizophrenia, however many of the symptoms recorded with the certain ages were more than likely misdiagnosed."

"Then there was the case of the youngest patient, Mai Kagome, she was only nine years old when she was thrown into the place. Nurses claimed that even sedated she struggled. Her diagnosis was schizophrenia, due to hallucinations and claims of visions. She was treated with electroshock therapy as well as other torturous treatments. Apparently when she was sedated, she would put up a fight and have to be strapped to her bed. Like the other patients, she was allowed no contact with the outside world."

"According to her file that we managed to find at the library, I guess when the place closed down the information was donated or something, she must have been malnourished, she was there for three years and grew only three centimeters in that time. She died during one of her shock treatments," Yasuhara finished, Mai felt sick to her stomach.

"The poor girl," Kiko said through her hand that was over her mouth. "She must have been terrified.

"Schizophrenia is not something that would be diagnosed to nine year old!" Ayako exclaimed angrily.

"This was forty years ago, Ayako," Kiko replied, trying to calm the woman down.

"Even so! That knowledge has been around for much longer! Whoever was running this place were a bunch of sick bastards!" The priestess could hardly contain herself as she stood up.

"Hey! Hey!" Monk stood up as well. "I know because your parents are doctors you're taking this personally, but you know yourself that the psychiatric hospitals in this country haven't exactly upgraded much in the last few hundred years." Ayako was still fuming.

"I need some air." She stormed out.

"I wasn't expecting her to storm out like that," Yasuhara said, after a moment of silence.

"Can't say I blame her, and because of that, I'd appreciate it if you kept this information from my aunt, I don't think she would be able to handle it on top of what's happened so far," Shouta requested.

Mai was oddly silent. She was only twelve or so when she died. She was imprisoned at the age of nine isolated and alone. Just like when Mom died...

"Mai? Is something wrong?" she vaguely heard the kind priest ask. She slowly turned her head, slowly waking up.

"No, I'm fine," she gave a weak smile. She never had to try so hard to smile before. No matter how sad she was.

"So, what now?" Kiko asked.

Naru had assumed his thinking pose some time ago. He finally looked up, his face stoic as ever. "We need to reevaluate these attacks. Kiko, Yasuhara, and Shouta will revisit Mr. Fukuoka and find out exactly what happened when he was attacked. John, Monk, and Mai will revisit Ms. Takara and get a description of the 'Angel of Death' she saw. Take notes of everything they say, if Takara mentions any of the other occupants that may in danger according to the entity, then visit them as well. Check on Miss Matsuzaki when she has calmed down." He opened his black notebook. "Yasuhara, Monk, your research."

"Oh, sure." They handed their notes to the young leader.

"I'll have Lin look at these when he gets back and we'll plan our next move later on," he said, dismissing the group. "There's something I need to look into." He was out of the room in seconds.

"We better get to work," Monk said as everyone stood up.

"Back to Fukuoka's, hopefully he won't have a problem like yesterday," Shouta said, grabbing the notepad from the table. "He really doesn't normally act like that."

"Act like what? What happened?" the college boy asked as they began to head out.

"I guess with everything yesterday, we never got to explain that," Kiko commented, crossing her arms. "When we went to set up cameras in his room, he went through this weird personality change." She shrugged her shoulders. "It was almost as though he were posse-a-a-choo!"

The screech of her sneeze startled the room. "I knew you should have stayed in bed," the priest commented with a sympathetic smile on his face. "You're not better, yet."

"It was just a sneeze, I'm fin-a-choo!" The poor girl sneezed again, her voice beginning to sound nasally. "It's just the dust."

Mai took a step and felt the older girl's forehead. "Uh-uh, yup, that explains why you have a fever," she gave a knowing smile. "You should go back to bed."

"No, guys I'm fine," she argued. "I'll just take a little more of the Motrin and pseudoephed, and I'll be just-"

"That explains why you were back to normal for a few hours," said the client's nephew said with a playful smile.

"Okay, kiddo, back to bed," Monk smiled as he ordered, then turned to the priest. "Mind keeping her company like yesterday?"

"Sure, I don't mind," the priest agreed.

"No!" the sick girl argued, confused eyes turning to her. "I'm fine, really, besides, it's not fair to John. He wasted yesterday by watching me sleep." She paused realized how what she said could have been taken. "Which is not as creepy as I just made it sound, Naru ordered him to. I'll just take some more of the medicine and I'll be fine." Monk gave her that older brother/father look. "Okay, I'll go to my room, but John shouldn't have to waste his time by sitting in my room bored out of his min-" Fingers snapped. "What?"

"Shouta," Yasuhara called, giving a look, the other boy somehow understood and ran out briefly. Yasuhara placed his hands on Kiko's shoulders, gently pushing her backwards toward the couch. Once there he made her sit down.

"Yasu, what are you doing?" she wondered as the client ran back in with a pillow and a blanket.

"Last night after dinner, Ayako made a few charms to put in Base. You can rest in here protected, I'm sure Lin is on his way back, so you won't be alone very long and all he ever really does is sit in here," he explained with a cheeky grin. "Now you can rest and not force poor John into the utter boredom of watching you sleep."

"Thanks, Yasu," she gave a half smirk. "But are you guys sure you don't need my help?"

"I'll go with Yasuhara and Shouta here," Monk offered. "John, Mai? You guys will be okay on your own, right?"

"Of course," John replied and Mai nodded.

"It's settled, then," Monk folded his arms and grinned. "Kiko will rest here, the rest of us will go do what Naru asked us to, I'll check on Ayako in a bit and then we'll meet back here for further orders."

"Aye aye, Captain!" Yasuhara saluted. In a flash everyone was gone and Kiko was left in the room alone.

She lied down and pulled the blanket over herself. Only now did exhaustion finally come over her and she fell asleep.

***

"Miss Takara, sorry to bother you, but we were wondering-" Mai tried to begin, but the kind old woman interrupted her.

"Oh, it's no trouble at all, have a cookie!" she smiled warmly. "And please, you can call me Yuina."

Both the young priest and petite brunette took a cookie. "Yuina, we were wondering if you could describe this 'Angel of Death' you've seen," John asked.

"Oh, she was a young girl by the looks of her," the woman began, a solemn look in her eyes. "She looked terrified, warning me that a few of my friends were going to die and to warn them."

"And what did she look like?" the priest urged as something caught Mai's eye.

"She was very tiny, my granddaughter is ten years old and 120 centimeters and this girl looked shorter," she continued. "She has this dark brown hair and it was cut in this messy sort of-"

"Did it look as though someone grabbed her hair and just cut it?" Mai asked, her eyes focus behind the woman.

"Why, yes, it did. She also had-"

"Big golden brown eyes?"

"Yes," the woman cocked her head. "How did you know?" She noticed Mai looking behind her. She turned around as well. "Looks as though we have a visitor."

"What? What are you two seeing?" John asked clueless.

"Looks as though we have another medium in the room," Yuina smiled at Mai's perplexed face.

***

The area was black with a purplish glow. A sight Kiko had seen before on her last case when she and Mai had the same dream. However, this time, she knew that she was not about to see a vision.

She decided to walk a little, glad that at least in her dreams she didn't feel as congested as she did awake. There was no dizziness as she took a step and her head felt as though a weight had been lifted. Needless to say, she was thankful for the temporary relief.

Finally she stopped walking as a figure came into view. She hadn't had the chance to speak to him for a while and was glad he pulled her into this world to speak to him.

"Glad you made it, Kiko," the figure said, and a sad yet happy smile flashed across her face. She had missed him so much.

"Gene..."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4-Proof

"Gene..." The girl couldn't help herself; she ran and gave the smiling boy a hug. "I've missed you so much! We all have!"

"I know, I'm sorry we couldn't talk last time," Gene replied hugging his friend back.

"I wasn't expecting you to go undercover as Noll," she replied. She knew she was only hugging his spirit, but he looked real. Smelled real. Sounded real. Felt real. But he wasn't real.

"I don't think Mai would be able to handle that knowledge." He chuckled the same way he had when they were just children.

"What are you doing here, Gene?" she asked reluctantly.

"Come with me." He took her hand and led her toward a lit doorway.

***

"Looks like you can see spirits as clearly as I can," the old woman smiled at Mai's perplexed face. "Can you hear them, too? I can only hear her when she tells me who will die next."

"I didn't mean to..." the ghostly girl's voice rang, but it seemed only Mai could hear her.

"Didn't mean to do what?" she asked, the young priest only getting more and more confused.

"What?" The old woman pressed a finger to her lips, silencing the young man,

"She's making contact, if you're too loud you might scare the child away."

Mai stood up and slowly walked over to the frightened spirit. "You need to tell me what's wrong. What didn't you mean to do?"

The ghost shook her head and hugged herself. "It's not my fault but it is!"

"I can help you, but you have to tell me what's going on," Mai told her, beginning to get annoyed.

"Leave me alone!" She disappeared and a shriek sounded in the room. Loud enough that even John could hear it.

"What on earth?" the priest's perplexed face said it all.

"It's like I'm dealing with Dai all over again," Mai sighed.

"That's right, Dai wouldn't tell you what was going on at the camp," John remembered.

"The poor girl looked terrified," Yuina commented.

"AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" A scream echoed through the halls catching the group off guard. The two investigators shot up and ran out the door.

"Sorry Yuina!" Mai called back in her wake.

The two raced down the hallway, to the stairs where Monk, Shouta, and Yasuhara already were. "What happened!" they exclaimed together upon reaching them.

"We're trying to figure that out ourselves," Yasuhara replied.

"Ruriko, what happened?" Shouta asked the nurse who was struggling to sit up on the ground.

"I-I don't know," she stuttered. Monk helped her sit up. "I-I-I was just going to give Mr. Fukuoka his medication, th-then I-I-I felt s-someone push me down the stairs!"

"Where's the medication you gave him?" Yasuhara asked as Monk searched the stairwell.

"Found it!" Monk called, picking up the tray and the medical equipment. "Good thing the needles flew the other way."

"You're not cut are you?" Shouta asked as the nurse surveyed her arms.

She shook her head. Her arms shaking. "I-I don't think so."

"Come on," the young man offered, helping her stand up. "I'll let Aunt Chiyoko know that you fell and drive you home, she'll understand."

The nurse nodded as she stood up and leaned against the young man, shaking as he walked her down the hall.

"Meet us in Base when you get back!" Monk called to the young man.

"Sure thing!" Shouta and the trembling nurse were all the way down the hall and out of sight in a few seconds.

"Why would she do that?" Mai wondered out loud, causing the boys to raise their brows.

"Who did what, Mai?" Monk asked, breaking the girl from her reverie.

"Mai Kagome, why would she try to hurt Ruriko?" she explained.

"Try to remember the type of place this building used to be," Yasuhara tried. "When a nurse came into her room when she was awake probably meant some sort of electro-treatment."

Mai shook her head that the thought. "I don't think so, she said she didn't mean to..."

"Well, with our last several cases there has been a theme of multiple entities, perhaps that's the same situation we're dealing with here," John offered. Mai shook her head again.

"I don't think that's the case either," Mai replied. Monk couldn't help but notice her behavior. She was not the same girl he met a year and a half ago. She had grown up quite a bit in that time frame, with the ever-growing darker cases they took on, it seemed she was growing too fast.

"What makes you say that?" he asked.

"I saw her." She just shrugged.

"Who did you see?" The college boy became intrigued.

"Mai Kagome, she was in Yuina's room," Mai shrugged again. "Yuina could see her too, she was the 'Angel of Death' she had been seeing."

"John," Yasuhara warned, half-teasingly. "You could have mentioned that you guys had that experience just a little while ago. It would probably be the first time you have seen a spirit without it trying to attack someone-"

"But I didn't see her," the priest shook his head.

This caught the boys' attention. "Wait, only you and Yuina saw her?" Yasuhara inquired.

"Yeah," Mai confirmed. "Yuina said something about another medium being in the room..."

"Wait, how do you know it was her?"

Mai shrugged. "I just know."

"Okay, Yasuhara, go with John and Mai and talk to Yuina again, find out what she meant and if she is a medium like Masako. She could help us a lot on this case," Monk said, heading a different way.

"What are you going to do?" Mai asked.

"I'm going to check on Ayako and make sure she hasn't destroyed the garden with her rage."

***

"Go away, Monk," the priestess snapped annoyed. "I'm fine."

"I'm a guy and even I know that you don't really mean that," he replied, closing the back door and taking a seat next to her on the bench in the garden. "Now, talk."

"There's nothing to talk about," she replied. "I let my emotions get the better of me, over something that happened in the past that I can't change. A stupid reason."

"Not really," he answered with a smile. "I know you feel really bad for Mai Kagome, but the best thing you can do is help her spirit rest in peace."

"We don't even know if she is the one residing in this place," Ayako sighed, seeming o have calmed down.

"I don't know, our little Mai-chan seems pretty confident that she is here and that she saw her," he chided, looking up at the blue sky. Not a cloud in sight. "She's grown a lot now, can you believe that she thinks she's over her crush on Naru?"

Ayako chuckled and shook her head. "She's just taking a break, you know, 'can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.' That's what happens when she asks for advice from me at three in the morning."

"And who is she with?" The monk raised a brow.

"Well, there's a number of boys who have had their eye on her just from cases alone," Ayako smiled. "She's just been too blind by her crush with Naru to see it."

"There we go."

"'There we go' what?"

"That Ayako smirk that you hid for the last couple hours," Monk smiled.

"Fine, you caught me," she chuckled having finally calmed down. "Have to love the fact that just the topic of Mai can make someone smile."

"It's true, she's usually the most positive out of all of us, even Yasuhara."

"You're lover?" Ayako teased, earning a shiver and grimace from the monk.

"Half of the time I can't tell if he's really kidding around." Ayako just laughed at the scared man.

"I'm sure he really is just joking with you," Ayako smiled.

"Ready?" Asked Monk.

"For?"

"To get back to work before Naru has a cow? We're understaffed again since Kiko's fever came back."

"She's sick again?" Ayako immediately stood up. "But she felt fine earlier."

"That was thanks to the fever reducer she took this morning," Monk smirked. "She's sneaky and doesn't like to be dead weight, sort of like Mai."

"And in a way more stubborn."

***

"No way!" Kiko exclaimed at the sight before her. "Just like when I would visit you and Noll in England."

The purple and black scenery had morphed into a beautiful star filled night sky, just above a grassy field in front of a glistening lake. The moon above them was full and bright and lit up the area around them. Gene had walked closer to the bank and sat down motioning the awestruck girl to sit next to him.

Slowly she made her way over to him, lying back in the soft grass, stargazing. Just like when they were children. A soft breeze cooled her skin a little, but only a little. A breeze she remembered very well, it meant that summer was nearly over and that she was to return to Japan again with her father. And leave two of her best friends for another year. It was the last night she spent with Gene and Noll, before everything fell into chaos.

"It's just like the last time I saw you..." Her voice was barely a whisper as she turned her head to see the stargazing boy. He somehow could still look up in the sky in wonder, no matter his age, six, ten, fourteen, dead. The childlike glint in his eyes never dimmed. "It's been four years, what took you so long?"

"I'm not sure, for some reason I'm attached to Noll, I couldn't visit you until he actually came into contact with you," he explained, and apologetic smile on his face.

"Nice try, you had the perfect chance to speak with me during the case at my house." The smirk on her face hadn't changed at all since the last time he saw her, she wasn't going to fall for some lamebrain excuse.

"I know, I was half worried that you might blow my cover with Mai," Gene shrugged, earning a laugh out of his friend.

"You could have warned me earlier," she teased.

"I couldn't reach you."

***

October Day 2, 4:00 P.M.

"So, Yuina is a medium?" the priestess was surprised when she met up with the rest of the group at Base.

"That's right, she said she could see spirits since she was a little girl," Mai answered, looking over to the sleeping girl in the room. "Should we talk somewhere else? So we don't wake her?"

"Nah," Yasuhara answered. "She's been out for over an hour now, she's not going to wake up anytime soon."

"And since when are you an expert on Kiko's sleeping habits?" Monk eyed the college student.

"Now that's a story for another day," he replied, continuing the conversation about Yuina. "She can't hear spirits as well as she can see them. She claimed the girl was the 'Angel of Death' to make the story sound more plausible. She said it was easier than explaining to everyone her history of ghost sightings."

"So, Mai was able to make better contact with the spirit than Yuina," John pointed out. "Would that mean her psychic powers have evolved or something?"

"I'm right here, John," Mai sweatdropped.

"Sorry."

"What it means is that Yuina might not be as much of a help as I had originally thought," Monk admitted, assuming a thinking pose very similar to the narcissist himself. "Okay, what do we know?"

"Mai is very confident that the spirit residing here is Mai Kagome, and I have to say I don't disagree," Ayako answered.

"This building was a former psychiatric hospital," John added.

"Kagome has tried to make contact with me several times now," Mai added as well. "Twice when I was with Shouta."

"Maybe that's because you share the same first name," the college student proposed.

"I don't think that's the case, Yasuhara..." The sweat drop appeared again.

"Something has attacked and caused several occupants to die suddenly," the priestess continued.

"Actually having spoken with Mr. Fukuoka again, something occurred to me," Yasuhara interrupted. "He said that he awoke feeling as though someone were choking him and holding him down. He was unable to move as he put it. He also said that he was attacked before but not as severely, he was just unable to move or speak. Perhaps that there is actually a logical solution-"

"Sleep paralysis." The black clad employer had finally made his appearance.

"Naru, when did you get back?" Mai's voice raised an octave.

"Mai, there is an investigator asleep in the room. You of all people should know to keep your voice down," he scolded, taking his seat next to the monitors.

Mai pouted and glared at her boss. How the hell did she end up with him as an employer? "So, Kiko falls asleep in Base, it's perfectly fine. I fall asleep in Base, it's laziness and you threaten to cut my pay?"

"Kiko is ill, you were not." He dismissed the glares she gave him. "Mr. Fukuoka's attack is possibly sleep paralysis, that is what you were going to say, Yasuhara?"

"Uh yeah," the boy was caught off guard. "Unfortunately, we really only have his account to go off of, but Fukuoka's experience is practically identical to sleep paralysis. It was just a thought."

"A logical thought," Naru commented. "It could possibly explain why he has yet to die, while the other victims died within two days. However, our presence could also be the reason."

"Okay, so let's day it was sleep paralysis," Ayako began. "How does that get us any closer to solving this case?"

"If the spirit residing here is Mai Kagome, simply exorcising her won't be enough," Naru declared, opening up his little booklet. "We need to find out what is keeping her here and why is she terrorizing the tenants."

"I don't think she means to scare them..." Mai mumbled, looking at the floor.

"And what makes you say that?" She didn't know the narcissist could hear her.

"She keeps telling me that it's not her fault, that she doesn't mean to..." Mai shook her head. "Something just doesn't feel right."

"Until we have any substantial evidence we can only assume what we know," Naru replied. "And what we know is that the research points to Mai Kagome residing in the building and the most likely culprit of the attacks."

"You're not even going to take my idea into consideration?"

"Give me substantial evidence and I will." He turned back to the monitors.

"You know I've been right in the past and those times were on just pure instinct, this time I made contact with said spirit, and you refuse to believe me!" She tried her best to keep her voice down but failing.

"Ever thought that perhaps the spirit is trying to trick you? Into feeling sorry for it? I would think after our last case you would have thought about that, but I guess not. So, until we have more evidence I can't give you idea any more thought." Mai's jaw dropped. "If you are going to throw a tantrum, leave the room. Your childish antics could wake up Kiko and would just be a hindrance to our investigation."

Mai clenched her fists and bit her lip, her healing hands argued against the action, but the pain was a welcomed distraction.

"As of right now there is nothing more to do, so you may go about your business elsewhere." Everybody quietly made their way out of the room after Naru's cold order. Swiftly, Monk dragged an occupied Mai with him.

***

"Gene, what were you doing that night?" They had laid under the stars for a while in silence, each remembering their days as children doing the exact same thing. She remembered the letter she had received from Madoka. "You were supposed to go home earlier, but you stayed, why?"

"Well, I was walking home because it was a nice night, I remembered you telling me about a lake near your house. I passed one and thought I'd take a look to see if I found you," he smiled fondly. Tears gathered in her eyes.

"Oh God! Gene! Don't tell me that!" she exclaimed, covering her face. "If I was the cause for your death, I don't want to know!"

"Kiko, look at me." She wiped away her tears to see her friend above her face. "If there's anyone who's at fault for my death, it's me and my stupidity."

"Why haven't you moved on?" she asked suddenly.

"My body was never given a proper burial, why else?" he replied as he cocked his head,

"Why don't you just tell Noll where you are?"

"I'm attached to him, but our connection was severed when I died, besides, Noll is a stubborn ass who won't feel satisfied if he found my body because he was told where to look."

"So, he's going to search all of Japan? It's been two years and he's still not even close!"

"It's what he wants, once he finds it I should move on." The smile on his face was hiding something.

"No..." Kiko shook her head.

Gene raised a brow. "What?"

"Something tells me you aren't sticking around because of that." They both sat up. "What happens when Noll finds your body and you still haven't moved on?" His look of shock was evident on his face. "Face it, Gene, you're stuck here and you have no idea why you can't move on."

***

October Day 2, 6:00 P.M.

At dinner, Mai barely touched her food. Hunger was the last thing on her mind; it was the last thing she felt. She merely used her fork to push around the meatballs since the cook decided on Italian for dinner that night. She'll admit that she was still pissed at her employer for embarrassing her just an hour or so earlier, but she was a little angrier at herself for getting so emotional about it. She thought she was over her crush; Naru was rarely ever kind to her, granted he had his moments, but he would always call her stupid and force her to make him tea. Sure, he gave her a very well-paying job, but why was she even chasing after her employer anyway? It was inappropriate and Ayako had a point, perhaps it was time for a change. But did he really have to completely dismiss her ideas on the case?

"Mai?" the call from the priest next to her broke her from her reverie. "Are you not feeling well, too?"

John, the kind priest who worries about everyone else before himself, she should have known either he or Monk would have inquired about her health. Though, she knew Monk already knew what was troubling her.

"I'm fine, John, just not feeling that hungry," she replied in a tired voice. All she wanted to do was run to the room she was staying in and curl into a ball. Away from ghosts. Away from everyone. Away from Naru.

She could see out of the corner of her eye the concerned glances Shouta sent her from the seat to her right. He had only just gotten back when dinner was served, Mai knew he would probably ask either Monk or Yasuhara what happened. Her mood was even more depressed after the confrontation with Naru.

She remembered the conversation with the Monk just after the group was dismissed from Base.

***

"That! That asshole!" Mai cursed once Monk brought her into her room. "What the hell is wrong with him!"

Startled having never heard Mai curse before, Monk made her sit down on the bed. "Okay, okay, try to calm down," he chided. Why is it that he was the one comforting hysterical women that day?

"How can I calm down! There was never a time where he just dismissed my idea like that! Normally it sparks something in his mind that eventually solves the case! Why is he completely ignoring me!" Tears were in her eyes, yet she didn't even really understand why they were there.

"I know you're upset, but Naru might have a point," he told her truthfully.

"Why are you taking his side!"

"I'm not taking anyone's side, but we do have less people on this case since Masako is doing her show and Kiko is sick, and since only Naru seems to know where Lin is that makes our team even smaller. We need to work with what we know and I don't doubt that you've seen someone looking like Kagome, I don't doubt that she spoke with you, I don't know if she told you the truth though. Until we have some sort of proof she is here, Naru's not going to take your claim seriously."

Mai let out a frustrated groan and threw her head in her hands.

"That doesn't mean there isn't any proof to be found, you just have to find it." Monk gave and assuring smile, but Mai was still not in the mood.

"Thanks, Monk, but would you mind just leaving me alone for a bit?" she asked through her hands. Monk could only oblige.

"Sure, I'll come get you when dinner is ready."

***

Mai continued to play with her food as everyone else sat in silence, not knowing what to talk about. Finally, Mai had had enough. "I have a headache, guys, I think I'm going to go to bed early," she excused herself standing up.

"It's only six," Ayako argued, giving her an odd look.

"I know, but it's been a long day, and I'm really tired all of a sudden," she insisted, heading off in the direction of the bedrooms.

"Okay, do you need any help changing your bandages?"

"No, I'll be fine," she answered just before she was out of sight.

"Poor thing," Ayako commented once she was gone.

***

The night sky was fading and they both knew their time was up. Kiko would be waking up soon and the next time she saw Gene she would probably have to refer to him as Naru. They both stood up as the stars and sky faded to the purplish black glow from earlier. She could feel herself waking up.

"Looks like we're out of time," Gene smiled sadly. Tears pricked Kiko's eyes.

"Don't wait so long next time, okay?" she told him, her voice threatening to break.

"I won't." He brought her in for a hug.

"I miss you so much," she whispered. "Don't go..."

"I've missed you too," was all he said as they held each other tighter. He felt real. But he wasn't. Tears fell from her eyes as a white light destroyed the black around them.

***

October Day 2, 6:41 P.M.

Click, clack, click, click, click, clack, clack, click, click, clack, click. Kiko slowly opened her eyes to the sound of rapid fingers over a keyboard, Lin had returned. A few more tears escaped her eyes as she went to dry them. "Lin?" she called earning a grunt of a response. "Is anyone else in Base right now?"

"No," he replied, still concentrated on his typing.

"Not even Noll?"

"Not even Noll."

"I spoke with Gene." The statement caught the Chinese man off guard and he ceased his typing.

"Gene died two years ago, Kiko," he said slowly as if to reassure himself.

"His spirit isn't at rest," she replied. "He's doing well though," she continued, smiling. "He doesn't want anyone to feel at fault for his death, saying it was his own stupidity that landed him there."

"That idiot," Lin muttered shaking his head. "That sounds just like him."

"He misses everyone," she added, then thought for a second. "Lin, why is he still here? Why isn't he at rest?"

"The most likely conclusion would be when we find his body and give him a proper burial his spirit should be at peace," Lin explained, returning to his typing.

"You're not sure of that at all, are you?"

With a sigh, the Chinese man stopped his typing once more. "No, I'm not, but why else would his soul linger?"

"I don't know, but I don't think finding his body is going to be the reason why his spirit moves on..."

Lin returned to his typing. "How are you feeling?" he asked, wishing to change the subject.

"A little congested, but otherwise, fine," she replied, fiddling with loose strands in the blanket on top of her. "Neither you, nor Noll came to visit us when you came to Japan. Why?"

"It wasn't my decision," Lin answered.

"My dad was actually out of town to visit Martin and Luella when you guys came to get rid of Shichiro," she mentioned.

"I know, Madoka called me when Luella told her that your father was there and Noll never told her that we were doing a case at your house."

"Thank you, by the way," Kiko smiled. "If you guys hadn't come when you did, I don't know what would have happened."

"It's our job," he returned.

"Why did Noll refuse it in the first place?"

"Probably to bug Mai a little, and because you could have blown his cover," he replied.

"Noll needs to give everyone more credit, I do my research before I jump into these things, my mom was the only one who knew who you guys really were. I hear you had a nice conversation with her back then."

"It was nice, I had only met your mother once before, when she was pregnant with your sister. Despite her situation she was very friendly." Lin commented.

"You know, I think this is the longest conversation we've ever had," Kiko giggled, earning a chuckle from Lin.

***

October Day 3, 1:21 A.M.

"Gah!" Mai gasped as she sat up. Her heart was racing, her body was shaking, her breath came in short gasps. She looked to her right to see if she had woken up her roommate.

Nope. Ayako was dead asleep. Never stirred. Only her moving chest confirmed that she was alive. Mai looked at the clock next to her. Why was she waking up at these ungodly hours?

Knowing there was no way she would be getting any sleep any time soon, she got up quietly and headed out of the room. She figured she could walk around the building to settle herself down.

Why couldn't she remember anything about these dreams? She's been having them so often lately you would think she could remember them in detail. But that was not the case. She knew they terrified her. She knew they were enough to keep her from sleeping. But she didn't know what exactly happened in those dreams that made her so frightened. Wait. She did remember one thing.

Growling. Growling like that of a beast. That was it. That was all she could remember. It wasn't just the growling that freaked her out, it was the whole dream. But what happened in her dream?

"What are you doing up?" the voice scared her out of her reverie. When her eyes finally focused she realized that she had wandered into the kitchen and the voice that had startled her belonged to their client's nephew.

"I could ask the same of you," she replied, the boy smiled, covered the teakettle and tapped the stool by the island.

"Sit, I made enough for two cups," he offered pulling out a second cup.

"Thanks," she accepted, taking the seat.

"As for why I'm up," he continued, pouring the tea into the two cups. "I had left my window open and a gust of wind knocked a branch into the frame and woke me up." He sat down on the stool next to her and chuckled. "It scared me and I woke up. I knew I wasn't going to fall asleep soon so I figure I'd make some tea. Looks like I'm not the only one who could use it."

"Thanks, Shouta," she said taking a sip. "I'm up because I had a nightmare."

"Want to talk about it? Sometimes when you tell someone about it, it helps," he offered, Mai let out a giggle.

"No, it's fine. To be perfectly honest, I don't even remember what happened during it." They both took another sip. "It's been happening a lot lately."

"The bad dream? Or the forgetting what happened during it?"

"Both." Mai let out a sigh and looked at her steaming cup.

"What's wrong?" he asked, cocking his head.

"What?" her head perked up and she shook it like mad. "Nothing's wrong! I'm perfectly fine."

Shouta gave her that 'nice try' look. "Come on, Mai, I haven't known you very long, but I can tell when you're trying to hide something. What's up?" Mai still refused to answer. "It's about what happened earlier with your boss, isn't it?"

Mai sighed and nodded. "Yeah, and it's stupid of me to still get worked up over something so petty, I know," she answered shaking her head. "I'm just sick of him treating me like an idiot! Yeah, I know I wasn't exactly his smartest employee when he hired me last year. Hell, I'm still not the smartest, but I'm not stupid either!"

"I know you're not, and I know you're probably right about what's going on here," Shouta answered, earning a confused look from Mai.

"Really? After his logical argument you really think I'm the right one?" Mai raised a brow. "Sorry, but I think Naru might be right about this, he usually is."

"Well, I think he's wrong, and you're going to have to prove that you're right," Shouta said confidently.

"Prove I'm right?"

"That's what Monk told you earlier, wasn't it?" Mai nodded. "And I'm pretty sure he said Naru said the exact same thing."

Mai's eyes widened. She was wallowing in her own self-pity so much she completely ignored what Monk was trying to explain to her. She face palmed. "I'm an idiot."

Shouta laughed. "No, you just weren't in the mood to hear it. Now you can think clearly." He took another sip. "I believe Monk and Yasuhara are going back to the library tomorrow."

"Thanks, Shouta," Mai said, finishing her cup and giving a yawn. "I'm feeling better now." She stood back up. "I'm going to see if I can get any more sleep before tomorrow."

"Good, rest up, because Naru's been having me make him tea because you haven't been in the mood. Then he doesn't drink it and asks for another cup."

Mai just laughed.

***

She felt groggy as her eyes opened to an off-white ceiling. She knew she was not going to like what would happen next. Whenever she was awake, she would only feel pain. She couldn't move her arms or legs, not that she really tried. She's known for a while now that her movement would forever be limited. The door opened and she cringed in wait. "No..." she whimpered as she saw the nurse come into the room.

"Doctor, she's awake, should we ready her for treatment?" the nurse said to the doctor behind her. Mai looked in horror at these characters.

Ayako! No! Don't make me go! Mai's mind screamed.

"Yes, she might put up another fight, I'll help you restrain her on the gurney," it was Monk who offered the assistance.

Mai could only whimper as her mind screamed obscenities for them to stop. Leather straps secured her tightly to the gurney and she was rolled into the hall. She could hear the cries of the patients who were awake and saw several nurses and doctors as she was wheeled away. "That's her, her case is so severe she fights as though she were a grown man!" she heard one nurse whisper to another.

"I hear the treatment has been vigorous and there have still been little results," another said, she recognized the voice as Kiko.

"Until she responds to the treatment, we'll have to keep her sedated and restrained, she's too dangerous," she heard Yasuhara comment.

"She's able to throw people even in her sleep," she could have sworn it was Lin who spoke.

"Here we are, Miss Kagome" Ayako said cheerfully as she and Monk released the restraints. "We're just going to put you in that chair over there for your daily treatment."

"No..." Mai whimpered again, it was all she could do.

Mai was lifted and strapped and wired into a chair. After being checked again by Monk and Ayako they turned to the other man in the room. "Everything is all set, Doctor," Monk said, earning a nod from the other doctor.

"Good, Miss Kagome, we're going to go through your treatment. Because nothing has worked so far we are giving you a higher dosage. Forgive us if you become uncomfortable." That was definitely Naru. He flipped a switch as Mai's eyes widened.

Comfort was the least of her worries. She would have been fine with just uncomfortable. Despite having slept for such a long time, when the electric current raced through her body she didn't even have the energy to scream. The pain was excruciating! As though she were being cooked from the inside! It was worse than when she had been electrocuted on their last case.

She could only throw her head back in a silent scream, unable to move or breathe. She found herself cursing the people doing this to her. She could have sworn she heard Ayako scream, just before the current was shut down. Her body still convulsed with the remaining current inside her.

"Still no response and she tried to attack again," she vaguely heard Monk comment again.

"One more round, Miss Kagome," she heard Naru say.

Oh God no! Her mind screamed as the switch was pulled again. Mai threw her head back once more.

***

October Day 3, 9:02 A.M.

"No!" Mai gasped as she sat up again. Her body shook uncontrollably. Her chest heaved and she felt a slight pain as though she had been electrocuted. Just like last case. And just like her dream.

She kept shaking as she looked at the clock. How did she sleep so late? She tried to get up and walk only to find herself on her knees. Her legs felt like jelly. Once she managed to keep her balance she slowly and shakily made her way to the attached bathroom. She closed the door and stabled herself using the sink. Looking in the mirror she found herself much paler than usual, luckily the black under her eyes were less prominent probably from receiving more than thirteen hours of sleep even if it was interrupted.

She splashed water on her face and changed, dressing the remaining burns from the last case in the process. She noticed rug burns on her wrists and ankles. Just like how she had been restrained in her dream. Luckily her bandages and clothing covered the marks and she wobbly made her way into Base.

"Look who's up!" Yasuhara teased, greeting her. He was the only one there, Naru must have told him to look after the place.

"Morning, Yasuhara," she replied shakily taking a seat on the couch.

"Sleep well?" he asked noticing her struggle. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, I think I just slept so long my legs forgot how to cooperate." She waved his concern away. "As for sleeping well, that's one way to put it."

"Nightmares?" the college boy cocked his head.

"No, no dreams at all actually," she lied. She wasn't about to relive it right now. "Where is everyone?"

"Well, Naru and Lin went to check on Mr. Fukuoka-"

"Why Mr. Fukuoka?" it was her turn to cock her head.

"Right, you weren't at breakfast," he replied. "He never came down either, and when Naru checked the camera for his room he found that the battery had died."

"Is he okay?" she asked concernedly. Yasuhara just shrugged,

"I don't know, the camera has yet to reconnect and Naru just told me to wait here." He stopped when they heard someone pull up to the building outside. They raced to the window to see an ambulance.

"Mr. Fukuoka!" they both gasped racing out of the room. They ran up the stairs just before the paramedics needed to use them. They found Shouta trying to keep his distraught aunt on her feet in the hall.

Yasuhara held Mai back to allow the paramedics access to the elderly man's room. After a quick interrogation Fukuoka's limp body was on the stretcher and the paramedics had rushed him down the stairs, out the door and into the ambulance. They medics insisted that Chiyoko come as well, who insisted that she could not just leave, left anyway in the SPR van with Lin driving. He offered to drive her along with Fukuoka's current nurse.

"Mr. Fukuoka was the next victim according to Ms. Takara. Who is supposedly the next to die according to her?" Naru asked once everyone else was assembled in Base, minus Kiko and John, who had taken the same place they had the day before.

"Uzuki Akiyama," Monk replied quietly.

"We'll need to put a camera in her room," Naru commented. "There is more about the history of this place we do not know, Yasuhara, Monk, after lunch go back to the library and do more research. Before lunch, in order to prevent from a similar situation we had earlier, I need everyone to change all of the batteries in all of the equipment. Take note of the temperatures as well. After lunch, I want Miss Matsuzaki, Shouta and Mai to interview Yuina one more time see if there is anyone else that might be in danger as well as obtain permission to place the equipment from Mr. Fukuoka's room into Mrs. Akiyama's room," he ordered giving one look and everyone broke off to their duties.

***

"Kiko still isn't feeling well?" Mai asked as she walked through the first floor with Yasuhara.

"That's right, you've been asleep the whole time," he remembered as he knelt down to change of the camera. "Shortly after you went to bed last night, Kiko woke up had some dinner then went back to bed herself. Come eight this morning she still wasn't awake and Naru insisted that John keep an eye on her."

"Geez, he can be an overprotective workaholic..." she muttered back. Then she saw Monk coming to meet them. "Hey, Monk."

"Hey, you guys almost done? I already took care of the third floor," he asked.

"Yeah, we just have one more camera in the stairwell, then we're done and we can have lunch," Yasuhara replied.

"That reminds me," Mai said, stopping the boys. "Mind if I come with you to the library?"

"What for?" Yasuhara asked. "Two of us should be enough."

"Besides, Naru told you to stay here and work with Shouta and Ayako," Monk refused, with his arms crossed.

"Monk, you told me last night I need to give Naru proof in order for him to listen to me," she argued calmly. "What better way than for me to actually go and do the research myself!"

"What about what Naru told you to do?" Yasuhara returned.

"Ayako and Shouta can handle it themselves, besides I have a few ideas that I need to look into."

"Naru's not going to be happy..." Both men grumbled together.

"Forget Naru! The top priority here is to solve this case as quickly as possible! If what I'm thinking is right, we could have this case closed tomorrow!" she argued, not caring that Naru might hear every word of this.

"Mai..."

"Look, yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity, now I'm determined to prove that I'm right and that for once Naru is wrong! And until he listens to me, we might have more casualties," she added the last part quietly.

"I say we let her come," Yasuhara finally agreed. "Since she has some ideas we might actually get somewhere today."

"Alright," Monk reluctantly agreed, causing an excited Mai to jump. He plopped his hand on her head to settle her down. "Since when did you learn to debate?"

She shrugged. "You just have to know what to say to get people on your side."