"Naru… are you sure it's a good idea to plant a hypnotic suggestion?" I turned off the flashing lamp, satisfied that it was working properly, and assembled it back into its case.
"Is there another method you prefer?" Naru glanced over his files once more, scribbling a note on the corner of the page.
"No… but well… aren't most of the participants confirmed psychics? Like, what if I accidentally move the chair?"
Naru flashed me an 'I can't believe you are such an idiot' look. "You don't have PK."
"That's not the point."
He sighed. "I would assume that the other psychics would have been trained enough to prevent such 'accidents'." A small smirk rose to his lips. "It would be amusing if there was an accident, though."
"Naru, you're acting like Gene."
I received a whack on the head for my observation. "Set up at the principal's office and get the chair. I'll go call everyone else involved."
I saluted him, still hugging the case in one arm. "Yes, boss~"
I turned to the voices. "Keiko, Michiru, how are you?"
"We are fine. We should be asking you that." Keiko grabbed my hand. "I heard from Kuroda-san that you collapsed due to the spirits. Is that true?"
In a way…? I nodded.
Michiru grabbed my other hand. "Are you ok? Should you still be walking around?"
"I am fine. I didn't even get a scratch. I just fell asleep for a bit." I laughed sheepishly. "Kuroda-san told you?"
"Well… Kuroda-san told everyone that a girl our age collapsed. We just figured it was you because it couldn't have been anyone else." Keiko explained.
"We were about to call you to check if you were alright but then we noticed you walk by." Michiru continued.
"Oh… Thank you for the concern." I smiled. Kuroda told everyone? …oh joy. "I need to head off. I'll call you soon."
"Stay safe. Bye."
To mock me for our previous conversation (about me accidentally moving the chair with my nonexistent PK), Naru made me participate in the hypnotic suggestion as a recipient. I glared at him as he smugly gestured me to the empty chair between Kuroda and John. Huffing silently, I sat down, noticing Masako the next seat over. How did Naru manage to drag Masako here?
"Now everyone involved with this case is in the room." Naru pulled the curtains and turned on the lamp. "Please focus on the light." He paused, checking that everyone did what he instructed. "Sync your breathing to the light."
I stared at the flashing lamp, ignoring Naru's instructions while suppressing a yawn. I've been through this so many times already… Stupid narcissistic jerk.
The sudden flood of light refocused my attention back to the room. I stretched, watching as Naru placed a hand on the chair. "Thank you for your time."
Everyone else filed out of the room quietly, all slowly waking up from the experiment. Naru followed them out after they left, presumably for the van. I yawned and packed the lamp back into its case.
"Excuse me." I glanced up at the principal and nodded for him to continue. "How is your investigation going?"
I smiled. "Rest assured, we are almost done. If all goes well, we will wrap up tomorrow."
"That's good… Thank you very much for your efforts." The principal dipped his head.
"No, no, please thank us when you are done." I flailed, unsure what to do. This was not included in my Japanese etiquette lessons. "I need to get back to work. Please wait for the good news." Bowing, I quickly walked out of the room. Aaah… that was so embarrassing.
"Naruuu." I ran over to him, still embarrassed. He evidently did not hear me, too focused on the audio he was listening through headphones. Sighing, I slipped behind him to put the lamp into the van. He grabbed my head as I crawled out. "Naru?"
"…" Naru slowly ran his fingers through my hair, feeling my scalp with an unreadable expression on his face.
Confused, I looked around him and at the laptop. It was playing the audio and footage from yesterday. Ah. "Naru, I'm fine. They were overreacting."
He ignored me and pulled away, satisfied that there were no injuries on my head. "Be more careful. You only have a limited amount of brain cells to kill."
"I'll try, jerk." I stuck my tongue at him and hopped out of the van. "Where are we setting up?"
Naru grabbed some cord. "2nd-floor laboratory. Nice to know that you were sleeping through the experiment."
"I wasn't sleeping." I protested, picking up the chair. I turned around at the sound of footsteps. "John? You're still here?"
John smiled. "Yes. Let me help out as well."
"Thanks, could you grab that camera?"
"So you are going to wrap up the case soon?" John asked, moving the camera as per my instructions.
"That's good John. Yeah. We are going to leave tomorrow if everything works out." I walked around to check the view from the camera. The chair was in the center of the screen, upright surrounded by a circle of tape on the floor.
"Could we remain in contact?"
Both Naru and I turned to him. "In contact?" I repeated.
John nodded. "I arrived in Japan a week ago with no particular destination in mind. I would be very happy to remain friends and perhaps assist in your exorcism business."
I wanted to give him our address and number however I knew that it was not my choice to make. Naru's safety and happiness was a much higher priority than my new friend's. Biting my lip slightly, I turned to Naru, only to find him not there. I swiveled my head back in time to see Naru hand John a piece of paper.
"Shibuya Psychic Research…?" John mumbled. He looked up with a smile. "Thank you, mate." Ripping out a page in his memo, John scribbled his phone number on it and handed it to Naru.
Naru nodded, pocketing the number. He gestured John and I out of the room and pointed to the boards. "Seal the windows and door then write your names all over the boards." He left for the van without a second word.
John rubbed his head sheepishly. "Shall we get started, Mai-san?"
I looked away from the direction Naru headed. "… Yeah."
I nodded, taking a seat beside Naru at the back of the van. "John went back."
Naru grunted from his laptop.
"… Um… is it alright?" I asked nervously. Naru looked at me, confused, urging me to clarify myself. "Is it alright for us to continue meeting with John, an exorcist?"
"Didn't you want friends?" I thought I heard Naru mutter.
I blinked. "What?"
He narrowed his eyes in slight irritation. "Is there a problem with being acquainted with Father Brown?"
"Well… what if he finds out who you are?"
"It's not a secret, who I am."
"But if people find out you'll have to run from all of those cameras, reporters and everything and-"
"Mai." Naru cut me off. "Don't worry so much. There are always risks, even without one or two closer acquaintances." He paused. "Unless, of course, you would prefer that I live as a hermit."
"I thought you were a hermit."
Naru hit me on the head. "I do not recall ever being a hermit."
"You don't?" I stared at him like he grew another head. "Are you sure? I mean, even Gene agrees with me." I gestured the darkened glass of the van, where Gene had replaced Naru's reflection and was currently laughing his head off.
Naru looked like he was 2 seconds away from breaking the window. "Useless medium. Shut up." Gene nodded, still laughing, as he slowly faded away and let Naru's reflection return. "And no, clumsy esper, I was never a hermit. I spent time in the library to conduct research and time in the lab to perform experiments. If anything, that witch is the very definition of a hermit."
I fumed, not happy that my friend was insulted. "She is not a hermit! She just likes to practice her circles and curses in peace."
Naru shrugged, refocusing on his laptop. "Father Brown is someone beneficial to have as an associate." He turned his laptop so I could see the screen. "His exorcism powers are exceptional."
I stared at the screen. "Naru, how did you get this information?"
Naru wore a very smug look. "Ways."
"… Through Britain's SPR?" I furrowed my eyebrows, reading the information on John carefully. That was a lot of information.
Naru narrowed his eyes. "Through my own connections." He specified, wanting to spell out clearly to me that he did not ask our parents for help.
"Isn't this invasion of privacy?" I asked, amazed that it even contained John's travel routes for the last 5 years, down to the amount of time he stayed in each location. "Naru, stalking is a bit much…"
"Coming from a person who can enter the dreams and memories of others?"
"Since when am I wrong?" Naru gloated, glancing at his watch. "Let's go to the hospital, Mai. It's time to pick up Lin."
"LINNNN" I pounced at Lin, only to have Naru grab the back of my collar before I succeeded.
"Since you have obviously not noticed, allow me to direct your attention to Lin's crutches." Naru smirked. "Though, by all means, continue, if you wish to send Lin back to the hospital."
"Jerk." I freed myself from Naru's grasp and turned apologetically to Lin. "Lin… sorry."
Lin gave a slight sigh and used his free hand to pat my head. Slowly, he limped to the car. "How's the case?"
"Due to some interference, it took longer than expected. However, we will wrap up tomorrow." Naru crossed his arms. "The cause is a land subsidence and an untrained human poltergeist." He grumbled, entering the back of the car after me.
"We just need to confirm it with the hypnotic suggestion… ah!" Lin glanced at the rear-view mirror as Naru turned to me. "…Naru… um… Kuroda-san told everyone that there were spirits…"
Naru gave a look of indifference. "And?"
"Well… are you going to tell the principal it was caused by the drying of underground water systems?"
"Yes." Naru narrowed his eyes as he studied my expression closely. "Or do you prefer I tell him that there were spirits from a WWII hospital."
"You want me to be unprofessional and lie for the sake of supporting the ego of one individual you hardly even know."
"…" I nodded once more, this time keeping my head low.
Naru sighed. "Mai, it was Kuroda's fault for getting into such a situation in the first place. Even if you save her this time it does not mean that the incident will never repeat again. And I do not believe that she is close enough to you for you to continue to clean up after her future mistakes."
I looked up at him. "Kuroda-san is not that type of person. She… she won't cause any trouble in the future."
The doubt was very prevalent in Naru's eyes. I looked at my lap. It was obvious what his decision was...
"Fine." I jerked my head up in surprise. Naru sighed and shook his head. "I'll indulge you just this once." He narrowed his eyes. "Don't expect me to do this again."
That was more than enough. I crawled over on the seat and hugged him, overjoyed. "Thank you, Naru."
There was another sigh as Naru placed a hand over my head, blocking my view of his face. "Sit down properly."
"Why are we here again?" Ayako paused. "I meant, why is she here again?"
I glanced at Kuroda for half a second before looking away. "… Kuroda-san insisted on coming so she could find out what yesterday was all about." Which worked in our favor, as we didn't need to waste time and energy searching for her.
"Aren't we all curious?" Takigawa asked, turning to Naru. "Hopefully you won't embarrass yourself this time."
Naru did not even dignify the statement with a glance, instead gesturing John and me to the boards. "Please check if anything has been damaged or altered."
"They are perfect, mate." I nodded in agreement, stepping away to give space for Lin.
"Good." Naru grabbed the crowbar against the wall and mercilessly destroyed our work. … I'm sorry Naru… I stressed you out too much.
Once he completed his board massacre, Naru slid the door open, with the rest of us peering around him from behind. The chair, which was once upright in the middle of the room, was now toppled over against the wall.
"Shibuya-san, the chair moved." John glanced around the room, checking if there were any other differences in the room but found none.
Naru walked over to the camera and rewound the footage, absolutely pleased. He was not even trying to hid the smirk on his face, overjoyed that we could finally wrap the case up and go home. Pressing the play button, he stepped back to clear the view of the camera screen. Everyone watched the chair tremor then violently throw itself at the wall.
"That is definitely a poltergeist." Ayako declared, looking at Naru expecting an argument from him.
"Correct." Naru's smirk grew as he checked the thermal camera.
"Well… then shouldn't we exorcise it?" Takigawa furrowed his eyebrows, confused at Naru's reaction.
Naru looked at us. "Half of all poltergeist cases are caused by humans."
"Humans?" Takigawa repeated.
"Psychics. Particularly those who have PK without their knowledge." Naru walked over to the chair and picked it up. "Usually, people who have untrained PK are either children or young women." He paused and looked at Masako, Kuroda and I. "The ones that fit the criteria of an accidental poltergeist are Mai, Hara-san and Kuroda-san. Mai does not have PK and Hara-san has also demonstrated that she doesn't have it as either."
Naru leaned against the table without pausing, preventing any sudden outbursts. "Aside from that, people usually subconsciously cause poltergeist incidences when they have strong feelings about something, such as the desire of obtaining attention. Through a simple series of elimination, it is obvious who the poltergeist is."
Glancing down, I found my fists clenched. Naru was being much to blunt right now. I took a deep breath. Trust the narcissistic jerk, Mai, trust the idiot scientist.
"So it was you?!" Ayako turned violently towards Kuroda. "You sent us on a wild goose chase, injured people and made a huge fuss?"
Kuroda shrunk into herself, no doubt feeling guilty.
"No. It was the land subsidence as I stated before." Naru cut in, stalling Ayako's rage. "Everything after my declaration that we were going to wrap the case up the first time was caused by her."
"Then how do you explain me getting trapped in that room and the missing footage?" Ayako pressed further. "Land subsidence surely did not cause that."
Naru sighed. "Kuroda-san erased the footage before Mai and I entered the base. This was what locked you in." He placed a nail in Ayako's hand.
She gave the nail a death glare. "You..."
"It was just a prank. You were giving her a hard time prior." Naru sighed and looked at me. "I plan to tell the principal that there were many spirits from a WWII hospital here but we all exorcised them. However, since the spirits have damaged most of the structure, the building is due to collapse on its own soon. Is that alright?"
I nodded with a smile. Everyone else shrugged, finding it too troublesome go against Naru's challenging look to argue back.
"Hmm... So Naru is quite the gentlemen." Ayako purred, walking closer to him. "Do you have a girlfriend? I can satisfy your every need."
Naru scoffed. "I will have to turn down the offer." He smirked. "I much prefer spending time with a mirror."
I collapsed onto the floor with laughter. That's it. I will have to add a huge body mirror to Naru's office. Gene would be so pleased.
An irritated Naru hit my head with a knuckle. "Stop laughing and get back to work. We're going home."
"Y-yes, boss." I managed to reply between giggles.
I slid the camera case in my arms to the floor of the van and turned to Kuroda. "Did you forget anything, Kuroda-san?"
"Ah no... I just wanted to apologize for causing so much trouble to you and Shibuya-san..." She smiled at me. "And thank you."
"No problem, I was just doing my job." I scratched my face sheepishly. "You should be thanking Naru instead."
"I couldn't find Shibuya-san." Kuroda explained. "Please pass the message to him as well. Farewell."
"Sure, bye." I wave as Kuroda walked to school for class. When she was finally completely out of sight, I turned around and stared at the school building. Naru was still somewhere in the building checking things over.
I crawled in the van and looked through the window. Lin was inside the van sorting through Naru's notes in deep concentration. Which meant that he wouldn't notice me anytime soon.
Smiling, I curled myself up in the corner of the van in a comfortable position before closing my eyes. A gentle light radiated from my body before my consciousness separated to an astral projection.
Gene was sitting cross from my body in the van waiting for me, having guessed my intentions. "Gene~" I leapt at him.
"Hey." Gene caught me with open arms. "Taking a break? Naru won't be happy."
"I'm done." I protested, gesturing the boxes. "The other stuff is all put away as well. I deserve a break." I dragged Gene to the old building. "Where's Naru?"
Gene laughed and guided me through the building. "Over there." I floated beside Naru, watching him contemplate, staring at the floor.
"How long has he been here?" I paused. "No fair, he was spacing out while I was working!"
"I think Naru is calculating when the building will collapse." Gene looked around and floated to a wall. "It should be soon, considering how life has almost completely left."
I nodded in agreement. Since my sensing ability was very selective, I had never realized how empty this place was until I finally entered the astral plane. All of the spirits that were able to hold a form had already left, leaving small specters of light floating around. "Gene..."
"... Is Naru ticklish?"
Gene floated beside me, holding his chin in his hand. We both pondered the question for a while. None of us had actually tried tickling Naru before. "... I am not ticklish so I would assume he isn't either." He patted me on the head. "Are you going to chart unmarked territory?"
I was very tempted to just tickle him right now since I had the perfect opportunity, however... "... I fear my life."
Gene agreed. "Which was why no one has ever tried before."
"Maybe I could convince Lin to try. It's hard to injure Lin after all."
"Yes, that seems to be the best option." Gene hid a smirk under his smile. "I'll 'convince' him to try."
I laughed. "Thanks." I opened my palm as a specter flew past, watching it vanish once it rested on my hand.
"Mai? Is something wrong?" I turned to Gene, realizing that I had been frowning.
"No..." I closed my palm and shook my head. "It just feels very... empty here." I looked up, watching the specters float off. "Almost huh..." Following a specter with my eyes, I spun around.
"Wait! Mai-" Gene face palmed as I crashed into the desk. He floated towards me. "Are you alright?"
I slowly nodded, picking myself up from the floor.
Both Gene and I froze. We forgot that Naru was here...
Naru sighed. "What are you doing? Get back to work."
"I'm done!" I protested, raising my fist to knock and tap 'D-O-N-E' in Morse code on the table.
I was given another sigh, this one sounding much more exasperated than the last. "Mai, wake up. We're going home." Naru walked out of the room.
I thanked the delivery man as he exited SPR. What a kind man; he even helped me put it in Naru's office.
"Good morning, Mai-san."
I turned. "John! Good morning. You sure wake up early in the morning, it's still 7."
John laughed, following me into the building. "Mai-san wakes up early as well."
"Nah, Lin's much earlier. He wakes up at 4. Would you like some tea?"
"I wanted to show you this." John slid a newspaper in front of me and traded it for the tea.
I picked it up, reading the headlines. "The building collapsed..."
John sipped his tea. "There was no one injured, thank heavens."
I read the article very carefully, making sure that SPR or Naru was not mentioned anywhere. We had asked the principal to remain silent about us and spirits in general. It seems that the principal kept his end of the deal. I stood up. "Excuse me, John."
He nodded with a smile. I left the lounge area for Lin's office and knocked on his door twice.
Lin opened his door and let me in.
"John brought this." I handed the paper to Lin. "I don't see any issues with it."
"I see." Lin placed the paper on his desk so he could double check it later. "What were you doing earlier?" He asked, referring to the racket the delivery man and I made in Naru's office.
I beamed. "Come see."
Lin let me drag him into Naru's office, noticing the huge mirror at first glance. I could see him struggle to not openly gape. "..."
Dragging him in front of the mirror, I gestured the latches on the side. "It's a cabinet~ The mirrors can be slid open to reveal the shelves and everything. Isn't this perfect for Naru? It took me forever to get this."
"... When did you start searching?" Lin opened it and examined the well-made interior. "This is custom made."
I nodded. "Of course, Naru's too 'high-classed' for mass-produced objects. I ordered the cabinet a month ago but then I decided to add mirrors on the front a week ago so it arrived a bit later."
"Naru loves mirrors so of course, his office needs some huge mirrors."
Lin blinked. "I meant... why did you get Naru a cabinet? Your birthday was the one that just passed."
I shook my head. "This is my birthday present from Mother, Father and everyone else in Britain."
"... Then why is it in Naru's office?"
"So Naru can put files in here easier."
Lin was not able to comprehend my logic. "Isn't it more of a present for Naru then?"
"Nope. It's for me. If Naru has more places to organize his stuff better, then it would be much easier for me to find whatever he wants when he asks me to."
"... I... see." Lin gave up. "It is a very well made cabinet. I'm sure... both you and Naru will appreciate it."
"Of course~ I'll call Britain tonight." I happily skipped out the room.
Lin stared at the cabinet once more before closing it and heading to his office.
I was chatting with John about Christian exorcisms when the front bell rang. Masako stepped in before I reached the door. I inwardly sweat dropped, already knowing what to expect. "Good morning, Hara-san."
Masako glanced at me. That was the only greeting I would get in return. "Is Naru in?"
"No. Naru hasn't arrived yet." I glanced at the clock. Normally, Naru would probably head down in another hour. He was terrible in the morning, after all. However, he had not been following his routine recently so I had no clue when he would actually arrive. "Um... would you like to wait here for him?"
"I'll return." Glancing at me once more as a farewell, Masako turned around and walked out.
I weakly waved. "... See you."
"You remained acquainted with Hara-san?" John asked after I sat down again.
"Uh... I guess you can say that." I shrugged. "I don't know what happened actually. A few days ago, Hara-san came for the first time and asked for Naru. She's been coming every day ever since. Maybe Naru exchanged contact information with her or something." Though that doesn't seem like something Naru would do... Especially considering how Masako was well known in Japan.
"Hara-san stops by every day for Shibuya-san?" John repeated, surprised. "I would have thought that Hara-san did not have a lot of spare time, considering how highly she is sought for."
The front door opened once more. I walked over, blinking. "Naru? You're early again."
Naru gave me a very irritated grunt, agreeing that it was indeed way too early for him.
"You just missed Hara-san. She said she would stop by later."
I could feel Naru's growing irritation in the air. It seems like was too early for him to meet with people. "Did she say when?"
"Don't think so..." John shook his head as well in support for my claim.
Naru growled. "I'll be at home the rest of the day. We're closing early today." Naru did not even take off his jacket and instead headed straight for his office to get whatever he wanted to get.
Both John and I watched him disappear around the wall. "Naru woke up in a bad mood."
"Um... I think Hara-san caused it." John suggested. "Perhaps he doesn't want to see her today?"
"Naru doesn't like Hara-san?" I pondered about Masako. Is it because she was somewhat similar to Gene? But other than her ability, everything else was different...
"Mai." Naru suddenly appeared in front of me and dragged me into his office. "What is that?"
I blinked. "It's a cabinet." I pointed to the handles. "You can pull on here to reveal the shelves."
"Amazing, I would have never guessed." Naru deadpanned. He opened the cabinet and traced his fingers over the engravings, recognizing some figures. "It's from Britain?"
"It's my birthday present." I explained.
"I see." Naru turned and patted me on the head with a slight smile. "I'll put this to good use. Happy birthday."
I beamed back. "Thank you~" So Naru wasn't in a bad mood after all. If he was, he would have complained about the mirrors already. Then why was he irritated earlier? "Naru-"
Both of us turned to the door as the bell rang. Naru looked like he just caught himself from swearing. "Mai. Tell her I am not here." Naru walked to his window and opened it.
"Huh?" I watched as Naru slipped out the window and crept off. I've never seen Naru act this desperate before. Wait... I have. When he was being flocked by his and Gene's fans. So Masako was like a fangirl?
I walked over and closed the window just as Masako opened the door, a slightly frantic John behind her. "Naru?"
"Naru isn't here. He won't be here for the rest of the day." I walked to her. "Do you need to leave him a message?"
Masako eyed me suspiciously. "No. I will return tomorrow." She turned and walked out of SPR.
John blinked twice. "Mai-san, perhaps you should be a bit cautious around Hara-san."
"... It will probably be in your benefit to do so."
Ahaha... I realized that I can't do an Australian accent to save my life so I just... gave up. T_T" I had no intention to make Masako seem like a crazy stalker psycho. it just somehow happened. Yeah... She won't attack Mai with knives or anything. I'm still trying to follow her characterization from the manga and anime. Keyword is trying.
the next chapter starts my original arc. after that case ends, I'll do dollhouse and alternate like that for the rest of canon. probably.
I've also thought about swapping perspectives but I may or may not do that depending on how my next chapter turns out. The problem with first person is that there is only a limited view of the big picture so some stuff might come out as very confusing or not explained.
Eh, I'll just experiment and see what happens I guess.
Thank you for reading~