There was a rumor that if you told ghost stories, the spirits will arise from curiosity. While these spirits were usually hidden from the naked eye, it was possible to trick them into appearing. One such method was to alternately tell ghost stories in the dark, turning off our flashlights after we were finished and counting the number of people in the room afterward.
I switched off my flashlight after I was finished my story. Keiko and I turned to the final person. Michiru nodded before beginning. "This is a story about the old school building."
"The building behind this one?" I whispered.
"Yes. The building was supposed to be demolished after this new one was built but they were forced to stop half way because of…" Michiru paused for dramatic effect. "A curse. The curse caused a student's death, a teacher's suicide and the death of a child."
A curse? Well, that's interesting…
"When they tried to demolish the west side, the roof fell through the second floor, killing everyone on the first floor." She continued. "Then they tried to take down the gym, but tragedy struck. A driver lost control of his truck and killed some students on the volleyball court. And once… my upperclassman walked by the building late at night and saw… a bright figure pressed against the window, staring right down at her!" The flashlight abruptly turned off. I jumped slightly at the sudden darkness. A bright figure by the window?
"…Let's start…" Keiko began. "1."
"2." I continued.
"3." Michiru nervously finished.
Michiru and Keiko screamed. "KYAAAA THE GHOST IS HERE!"
As for me… I groaned silently as the lights were turned on. "…Naru…"
"Sorry for interrupting." Naru flashed one of the most forced smiles I've ever seen. "Mai, I was looking for you. It's getting quite late and you didn't pick up your cell."
I blinked. 'Didn't pick up my cell' my ass, you narcissistic jerk. You didn't even call me.
"Oh, you're a friend of Mai's?" Keiko and Michiru walked closer to Naru, blushing madly. I sighed inwardly. Great, Naru's ego increases by 2 points. Meanwhile, Naru was trying to keep reign on his two newest fans. "What's your name?"
"Shibuya." He narrowed his eyes at my direction, in a silent order to get these girls out of here. Right now.
I smiled at my two new friends. "Well… I think Na-Shibuya is right. It's getting quite late. We should head home soon. I had fun, Keiko and Michiru. Thanks."
They each grabbed my hand. "We had fun as well, Mai. Let's hang out again… oh, let's exchange numbers."
I pulled out my cell, glaring at Naru once before happily giving my new friends my number. I was right, he didn't call me. Idiot scientist.
Waving at me one last time (and blushing madly at Naru), Keiko and Michiru ran out of the room, presumably to return home. I waved back until they were out of sight. "What was that for?"
The narcissist sent me an 'are you stupid?' look.
I glared back, glancing at my cell. "I said I would be back at 10. It's only 9:05."
"You were wasting your time regardless. Why not spend the extra 55 minutes doing something productive?"
"I was not wasting my time! I learnt something about that building." I defended.
Naru responded by giving me a 'so you are stupid' look. "So what was it that you learnt that wasn't part of the files I showed you?"
"A student apparently saw a bright figure by the window… a-and the school is cursed!"
"And?" Naru rested his chin on his hand. "What do you think? Is the information a rumor or is true?"
"…" I sheepishly scratched my head. "Ahaha…"
"Exactly. In the first place, a curse is a ridiculous idea." He pulled out the file of the old school building, scanning the summary. "It doesn't fit the criteria of a curse. You should know that." He flipped the page. "And the apparition does not correspond with any of the other data we have. Since you did not respond to it either, there is only one conclusion we can draw." Naru gave me a very smug look, closing the folder with a slam. "You were wasting your time."
"But but but… it was fun…" I looked up at Naru with the most pleading look I could muster, with complete puppy dog eyes and droopy ears. "Naru, can I meet them tomorrow? Please?"
Naru was not impressed. "Time is money."
"Quiet, idiot scientist. I want a friend for a change. You know, one that isn't some type of dark mysterious character and I don't know, hangs out with me, and isn't…" I trailed off. I was not in the mood to broach that subject.
I looked up. "Eh?"
There was a sigh. "You can meet with your new friends tomorrow. Return before we start the investigation."
Naru got up and walked out of the room, sick of my broken record responses. "We need to hurry back to the hotel, clumsy esper."
"W-wait!" I spun out of my confusion and ran after him. "Thanks."
"We are starting at 9 tomorrow. I have an errand to run, set up without me."
"Kk." Geez, Naru should take a break once in a while.
I take that back.
That narcissistic jerk. How dare he leave me with all of the equipment?! No one told me that we needed this many cameras. And where was Lin?
I stopped at the doorway, temporarily putting down the 18th piece of equipment. Oh, why did I know how many I put up you ask? Well, that's because some OCD jerk numbers every single freaking camera and mike. Actually no, scratch that, he makes me number ever piece of equipment. Taking deep breaths from exhaustion, I put a hand on the shoe rack. "Gene…" I closed my eyes. "Would you help me get revenge by scaring the hell out of your jerk of a brother?"
I could hear the distant sound of Gene's laugh as I shook my head in exasperation.
I jumped in surprise. This caused a chain reaction. The shoe racks I was leaning on toppled over as Lin dashed from the doorway and pushed me out of the way.
"Lin?" I stared, dazed. "LIN" Running over to him, I desperately pushed the shoe rack out of the way. "LINNNN DON'T DIEEE"
"…What's going on?"
I turned to the door, tears in my eyes. "NARUUUU! LIN, LIN! LIN IS DYING!"
Naru blinked. He crouched down beside Lin. "Are you dying?"
"Don't jinx me." Came the muffled groan.
I ran to Lin, hugging him with a river flowing out of my eyes. "LINNN YOU'RE ALIVE"
"Mai, calm down. Lin won't die from something like that." Naru patted me on the head. "It takes a lot more to kill him."
"I would appreciate it if you called an ambulance." Lin deadpanned, still face flat on the floor. He slowly got up with the help of Naru as I frantically dialed 119.
"A sprain." Naru reported, with the slightest hint of disappointment.
"A s-sprain?" I repeated, glancing back and forth between Naru and Lin. "Lin, you'll be ok?"
Lin sighed. "Yes, Mai, I will be ok. However, I do not think I will be able to participate in the investigation for a while."
"I-I'm sorry." I sniffled. I hurt Lin…
"Mai." Naru turned my face to his. "Don't feel sad. In fact, I'm proud of you. I've been trying to send Lin to the hospital for years."
"Jerk." I punched him in the gut. Sadly, it would have been much more satisfying if Naru actually gave a reaction.
Lin once again sighed. "Mai, I'm leaving Naru to you. Make sure he doesn't do anything reckless."
I nodded. "Ok."
"Naru, I'm done." I placed a cup of tea beside him then sat on a chair by the window, staring at the school yard. Lin…
There was a rustling sound as Naru laid down all of the information on an empty table. He glanced at me. "Mai, why don't you take a break?"
I blinked twice. Did Naru just say something that sounded suspiciously like the word 'break'?
He rolled his eyes. "Didn't you say you wanted to meet up with your new friends yesterday? School is about to end, you can 'hang out' with them for a little bit before we continue."
"Wha- r-really?" My expression lifted. "I-I'll be back soon. Thank you, Naru!" I gave him a brief hug and dashed out the room, only to poke my head back in shortly. "Naru… don't do anything stupid before I return."
He gave me an irritated look before shooing me away. "Idiot."
"Michiru! Keiko! How was school?" I met the two of them outside their classroom.
"Mai! School was just school." Michiru shrugged, evidently bored of school. "You don't go to school do you."
I shook my head. "I am… homeschooled." I explained. Well… technically I was homeschooled.
Keiko held my hand. "Do you want to tell ghost stories again? Would Shibuya-san join us?"
"Na-Shibuya is busy." I explained. "I will need to go back soon, but I would love to share ghost stories now."
"Did you say ghost stories?"
I turned to the voice. Who?
"You should stop this nonsense. Do you know how much problems you are causing me?" The girl began to rant. "I am psychic and very sensitive to spirits. I have had headaches all day. So you were the cause."
"Kuroda-san…" Keiko hesitantly stepped forward in attempts to placate this person called Kuroda.
"Don't you know that weaker spirits gather when ghost stories are shared?" Kuroda did not back down. "Then the weaker spirits will call for stronger ones and it will lead to a disaster."
I blinked. Really? "Um… so, you're a psychic?"
Kuroda focused her attention on me. "Of course."
"Then… what do you sense in the old school building?" I asked. If she is a medium, might as well extract some information out of her.
"That building is full of spirits of victims from war." Kuroda answered with a determined look in her eyes.
"WWII obviously. That area must have been an old hospital, with all of the nurses and patient spirits wandering around."
I furrowed my eyebrows. "Oh. I thought the school had been here even before the war…" Rather than thought, I definitely knew, thanks to some narcissistic perfectionist drilling all of the information in my head before starting the case.
Kuroda glared, defensive. "Who knows? Only people with psychic powers like me can understand. Who are you anyways? Why are you in this school?" She eyed my casual clothes.
"Uh… I… I am a… 'ghost hunter'." Naru, please don't kill me, I silently prayed. "Naru and I came here to do research on the old school building at the request of the principal."
"'Ghost hunter'?" Kuroda walked closer to me as I took a small step back wearily. "Then I might be useful to you. I am a very strong psychic after all."
"I-I… will talk to Naru. He's my boss after all… Yeah." I quickly glanced at my cell phone. "I need to go… See you later, Keiko and Michiru."
They waved back. "See you, Mai."
I ran to the base. "NARU!"
The said person spared me half a glance before returning to his files.
"I just met this girl, Kuroda I think, who said she was a psychic and saw a lot of ghosts from a WWII hospital here."
"And?" Naru stacked some files together.
I blinked. "And?"
"What do you think? Are there ghosts in here?"
"…" I was silent in thought, glancing around the room. I walked to the monitors and looked them over. "… I don't sense anything…" I confessed. "But maybe it's because they are too strong for me to sense or something. It was never my strength in the first place." I pointed out.
"Regardless, the idea of this place being a hospital is bogus. As for the many ghosts your friend apparently saw, there has been no evidence of such a fact as of now. Tea."
"Maybe the spirits are still hiding?" I suggested, making him a cup of tea. "I mean, we only- I only, set up all of the equipment today after all."
"I believe we scouted the area yesterday and you came up negative as well."
"Well… maybe they need another day?" I offered, sliding the cup to Naru.
He checked his watch. "Mai, go take the temperatures. We'll wrap up for today after you are finished."
I grabbed the temperature board. "Can we visit Lin?"
"If you finish before visiting hours end." Naru watched me dash out of the room. He sighed and went back to his files. There was something not adding up. The first being my lack of reaction to anything related to this building.
I lazily swung my legs while sitting on the end of the van as Naru reviewed the data taken throughout last night. "Anything?"
Naru shook his head. "Any dreams?"
"None." I sighed. "Maybe the spirits are really shy."
"Or there aren't any at all."
I blinked. "Naru, that's ridiculous. There has to be something causing all of the unfortunate events."
I was about to reply when an unfamiliar voice rang out.
"My, what impressive equipment. You sure know how to chose your toys."
We looked up to see a red haired woman and a man with a pony tail. Naru looked them both over carefully."You are?"
"And?" Naru returned to his data, having lost interest in the two people. I sighed. If mother found out about Naru's nonexistent manners, he would be so chewed.
The man in the ponytail loudly held in a laugh. Ayako was holding in her rage. "I am a miko. The principal obviously found it unfit to leave this case to a bunch of children."
I blinked. Miko? Naru glanced up in amusement. "I was under the impression that mikos had to be pure and innocent young maidens." I stilled my head. Don't nod, Mai, it's rude to nod. The man in the ponytail was having difficulty holding in his emotions.
Ayako was growing visibly angrier. "And I am not a 'pure and innocent young maiden'?"
"Too old and too much makeup to fit the criteria." I placed a hand on Naru, worried that he might go too far. He sighed as he directed the conversation to the man. "And I believe you work separately from Matsuzaki-san."
The man nodded. "Houshou Takigawa, a monk from Mt. Kouya."
"With the long hair?" Naru finished his reassessment of the people in front of him, still deeming them as unimportant.
"Deviant." Ayako coughed.
"I'm taking a short break ok?" Takigawa defended. "Anyways, you guys can just leave it to the professionals. The principal called me in because he figured that you kids were scamming him with your fine looking office. It's obvious that you do not have enough experience to handle this."
"I see." Naru typed something down on his laptop, blandly displaying his lack of interest in anything they were saying.
I sweat dropped. "…Na-naru…" Please don't be so rude…
"The principal is too worked up over this simple problem, hiring so many people." Ayako flipped her hair.
"I agree. All he needed was me." Takigawa gave us a smug look.
"I wonder about that." Ayako mirrored the expression.
…I have a feeling that this will be a long day… I glanced over at Naru, who was wrapping up his run through.
"So, what are your names?"
"Shibuya Kazuya." Naru cut me off, shoving the laptop onto my lap. I sighed at his rudeness before glancing down. No significant signs of activity but there were some minor movements from doors and loose boards. I looked up at Naru, ignoring the argument between the miko and the monk in the background. "Um… maybe the spirits are testing waters?"
Naru was about to reply, probably to say how stupid my suggestion was, when he was interrupted by the arrival of Kuroda.
"You must be the ghost hunters!" Kuroda gave an exaggerated sigh of relief as she approached us.
"…Naru… this is the girl I was talking about." I whispered. Naru looked at her carefully.
"Thank goodness." Kuroda was saying. "I've been having so many headaches due to the spirits of this building."
"Headaches?" Naru repeated.
"Yes. You see, I have strong psychic powers and the spirits-"
"You just want attention." Ayako roughly cut her off. "You aren't even a psychic, just a liar."
"Wait." I shoved the laptop back to Naru and ran between the two women. "You don't need to talk to her like that. She's just trying to help."
"There are many ways to help but this is not one of them." Ayako responded, shrugging slightly. "All this girl wants is for people to revere her."
I opened my mouth to argue back but froze with a shudder. Naru narrowed his eyes at my reaction.
"I will curse you." Kuroda threatened, menacingly. "You will regret this." She turned and walked away.
"Mai." I glanced over at Naru, still shivering slightly. "Let's go."
I nodded, slowly walking back to him. "Ok, Naru."
"Naru?" Takigawa asked. "I thought he was Shibuya Kazuya. Where did Naru come from?"
Crap. I blinked three times, looking back and forth between Naru and the ground. "Naru… it… it comes from 'Narcissist'. You know, like, this guy loves himself too much and stares at the mirror a lot so I call him Naru for narcissist and… yeah." I rapidly patted Naru on the arm as he gave me a very annoyed look.
"And I don't believe I caught your name." Takigawa looked me over. "You're his assistant?"
I nodded. "Yes. I am Taniyama Mai. Please call me Mai."
"Shouldn't you kids be in school?" Ayako asked, curious.
"Ah well… we were homeschooled so it's not much of a problem…" I explained. I looked around Ayako as I noticed some people in the distance. "Is that the principal?"
The other three turned to where I was looking. The principal walked over with a blonde in tow.
"Good morning. I brought some more help." The principal gestured the blonde. "This is Brown John."
"G'day mate." John gave a perfect bow. "Brown John's the name. I hail from down under."
I held my mouth as Ayako and Takigawa were having a laughing fit at the side. That accent does not match with his face at all.
Naru was holding in his amusement quite well. "And you are?"
"Exorcist mate." John smiled as the two laughing adults froze.
"I believe that in Catholicism, you have to be a priest or higher to be an exorcist." Naru looked him over more carefully, glancing at his silver cross. "You seem to be very young even to be a priest."
"You are very knowledgeable, mate. I am a priest; just turned 19 last month."
19?! Wow. He sure doesn't look older than Naru. Then again, Naru does not look 17.
Naru glared at me as if he read my thoughts.
John followed us into the base, eager to cooperate, while Takigawa and Ayako set off on their own.
"So Shibuya-san is the president of his ghost hunting business?"
I nodded. "Lin and I assist him. Lin… I hurt him yesterday…"
"I'm sure it was an accident." John patted me on the shoulder. "You are too kind to injure him in any other way."
"Thank you…" I sighed. "You are very nice, Brown-san."
John blushed in embarrassment. "Just call me John."
I glanced up as Naru shoved a set of tapes into my hands. "Quit wasting time."
"Kk." I rolled my eyes. Everything I do seems like a waste of time to Naru. Turning around, I passed by the screens. "…GHOST!"
Naru was at my side in a second. He sighed in exasperation. "That's not a ghost, Mai." He turned to the door, as the girl from the screen entered our base. "The principal must really want to get rid of this place if he called you as well."
I glanced around Naru. "You know her?"
"Hara Masako. Spirit medium. She's famous around here."
"Oh…" I looked at her once more. Masako seemed very interested in Naru. Somehow, I am not surprised at all. "So, she's like Gene?" I whispered.
"You can't compare anyone to that useless medium." Naru mumbled back. "But, to answer your question, yes."
"Have-" Masako began but was cut off by a loud scream. Everyone ran out of the room to the source.
"That was Matsuzaki-san's voice, right?" John asked.
I bit my lip nervously. "I think so…"
"OPEN THIS DOOR" Ayako was pounding rapidly on the door.
Naru tugged on the door but it refused to move.
"HEY, STAND BACK, AYAKO, I'M KICKING THIS DOOR DOWN." Takigawa called.
"DON'T ADDRESS ME SO CASUALLY." Ayako screamed as the door came down in front of her.
"It is an earth-bound spirit." Ayako declared.
"It's the building that's haunted." Takigawa countered.
"There are no spirits." Was Masako's answer.
"What do you think, Father Brown?" Naru asked, playing with a nail. Why was he even playing with a nail? That's so dangerous.
"I am not sure." John chose the safest answer.
Ayako stood up. "This is a waste of my time. I'll just perform an exoecism on this place tomorrow. Problem solved." She walked out of the room.
"There is no need to exorcise a place with no spirits." Masako held the sleeve of her kimono over her mouth as she walked over to Naru. "I've been wondering, have we met before?"
"This is our first meeting." Naru did not spare Masako a second glance as he once again shoved the tapes into my arms. "Mai, let's go."
"K…" I walked out of the room. "Naru? You're coming with me?"
"There's something I need to check…" He glanced over at me. "You don't feel anything?"
I shook my head. "But… what do you think trapped Matsuzaki-san behind that door?"
"You're still going on about that?" I sighed, as I exchanged one of the camera tapes. "If everything was run by coincidences, we wouldn't have a job."
Naru ignored my statement. "What do you think about the psychic?"
I looked up. "Which one? Kuroda-san? Hara-san?"
"For Hara-san… I don't think she is much like Gene actually." I thought back. "Like she is a bit similar, but different."
Naru rolled his eyes at my wonderful analysis. "Splendid vocabulary." He sarcastically replied. "What about the other one?"
"Ah… well… for Kuroda-san… I don't feel anything much about her."
"But she scared you."
I blinked. "Oh, when she was cursing Matsuzaki-san? Yeah…" I shuddered in memory. "I didn't feel so good at that time… Naru… do you think she actually cursed Matsuzaki-san?"
"You should know enough about curses to be able to answer the question on your own." Naru coolly stated, walking around the room and staring out the window at his reflection.
"Idiot scientist." I muttered, exchanging the tapes.
Suddenly, Naru stepped backward in surprise at his reflection making a goofy face at him. "Useless medium." He growled. "What are you doing?"
Gene smiled and slowly mouthed the words 'Revenge for Mai' at Naru. I ran over to the reflection and beamed. "Gene! Thank you~"
The reflection laughed as he gestured over to his fuming twin. Naru glared at both of us as we failed to hold in our laughter. Gene waved at us when he calmed down and vanished, replacing himself with Naru's reflection. "You clumsy esper, if you had time to talk to the useless medium you should have asked him about this building instead."
I held both of my hands up. "I haven't dreamt yet, I swear. It was just a little request I prayed aloud. Nothing big…"
Naru was not amused at the slightest. "Get back to work."