A/N: Hey folks! Here it is! The beginning of The Importance of Crayons! Welcome back to my returning readers and welcome to those who are new.

Yasss. I am so excited about this fan fiction and can't wait to get even more into it. It probably will not be updated as quickly as my previous story, Business Better Left Unfinished, but it will be for a good reason. This is going to be much more involved and require research into some of the field I am going to delve. I want it to be accurate, as well as captivating. Don't worry though! I promise that does not mean it will take an eternity in between postings! I decided that I will publish a new chapter when I finish the chapter directly after it so I always have motivation and a stockpile to fall back on. Which means that yes, chapter one is also finished! Now onto chapter two. :)

I encourage you to take the time to read the bolded bits below. It has a lot of information that I feel is important. That being said,

I truly hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimers:
1.)
I first and foremost do not own Ghost Hunt.

2.)This fan fiction is going to be laced with some heavier themes and concepts (references to drinking, insinuations of things sexual in nature, etc.). What I have now has touches of adult themes, but I do not believe it warrants an M rating as it is really rather mild. However, some of the themes may go beyond a T rating as the story progresses, so it may eventually shift to M.

3.) This takes place in the future after the end of volume 12. It will not be following the cannon sequel. I just want everyone to know that! It's pertinent to the plot. Also, I feel it is worth noting that I absolutely acknowledge that the Mai-Gene-Naru debacle is not anywhere near as controversial as it is in a few of my fics. I choose to take it in that direction though because that's what works best for the story. The wonderful beauty of fan fiction! Naru's 'rejection' is not going to be a focal point of this fic though. It's merely a passing event.

4.) Because this takes place in the future, there is a chance some of what happens might appear slightly OOC at first, but that is because they have gotten older. I'm projecting how they may develop as people as the time passes, given the circumstances of the fic. I actually really like the way the characters are turning out; it feels real and believable. They will, of course, still be themselves, just with a few personality/character developments that are the result of time! (For example, I know that 17-year-old Mai [very much like my 17-year-old self] would not go out drinking, but 22-year-old adult university student Mai very well might go out for a good time [again, very much like my 22-year-old self]. Behavior and attitudes definitely can change in six years, at least a little! I am trying my best to reflect the reality of that while keeping them the good ol' characters we know and love. Also just to clarify I'm not a "wild child" myself but I occasionally like to go out and have some fun, so I do not feel like it is unreasonable to see aged characters doing that as well. I hope all of this makes sense, AH!)

5.) After much deliberation, I have decided to incorporate just a couple of OCs. I know people may have mixed feelings about OCs (I admit I can be a skeptic myself sometimes), but the ones I have play integral roles in the plot. I've fleshed the characters out thoroughly so they feel 3-dimensional and dynamic rather than cliche and flat.

And now, without further ado...


The Importance of Crayons
By: ThoseShadows
Romance, Supernatural, Drama
Rated T for some adult themes and mild language.

Prologue

The uproarious applause overwhelmed Mai Taniyama as she proceeded before the stage with her fellow graduating classmates of the University of Tokyo. The thunderous roar routed her to the core, but even so she found the energy invigorating. Pride swelled in her chest; this was her day. Four years of hard work were about to pay off, and it felt extraordinary. She took a second to gaze around at the sea of black and blue robes surrounding her. Not everyone looked as excited as she, and Mai just could not understand why. They were able to step back from the chaos and drudgery of their lives for just a moment to honor themselves and the fruits of their labor and research.

Perhaps she was just too much of a stupid nerd, she thought.

She stopped in front of her assigned chair in the procession, awaiting the cue from the chancellor to take a seat. Mai hoped it would be soon; she had been on her feet for several hours waiting for the ceremony to begin and her toes were angrily rebelling against the confinements of her slightly too-tight black flats. The last of her classmates filed into their positions, and at long last, the forthcoming alumni sat with a synchronized fwish of their robes.

Mai took advantage of the reprieve to covertly slip off her shoes. She would have plenty of time to restore feeling to her feet before the corpus of congratulatory speeches ended. Flexing her sore toes instinctively, she straightened the cap on her head and glanced around the crowd to see if she could spot her "family" among the onlookers. It did not take long before her eyes fell upon Ayako, Yasuhara, and Bou-san, whom she guessed had been trying to get her attention for some time now because Bou-san was on his feet waving wildly. She gave him a subtle wave back, appeasing him enough to sit down again.

She was glad they were there to support her. The days where so many of the former SPR Japan members could gather all at once were few and far-between. Her heart sunk a bit, weighed heavily with nostalgia from her ghost hunting days. She clasped her hands in her lap and stared at them intently, tuning out the ongoing speech.

SPR had shut down approximately six years ago at the discovery of the body of Eugene Davis, the identical twin of her friend and former boss Oliver Davis. Though, Oliver still felt like a foreign word on her tongue even after all these years. He would simply always be her narcissistic Naru to her. She knew he truly was not a narcissist but rather one of the most (secretly) selfless people she knew, but the word had since turned into an unorthodox term of endearment, losing its offensive nature.

Though her time at SPR was little more than a year, she formed some of her most meaningful memories and friendships. The group's disbandment had broken her heart, but she knew it was inevitable and did her best to cope with it. Initially, she kept in pretty close contact with the majority of the team—especially with the friends who sat in the audience cheering for her. But over time, those relationships changed, as well.

Ayako had her own formal—and very successful—career as a doctor to focus on, which consumed a great portion of her time. She still made time for Mai (for which she was very grateful), but the number of times they saw one another shifted from bi-weekly to bi-monthly at best. Between school and the hospital, life had a tendency to get in the way. Mai tried to look on the bright side, though, because that made the shopping and dinner dates together even more special because they could not take one another for granted.

Bou-san stuck around for a little while after SPR's closing, but ended up leaving a few months later to travel full-time with his rock band. When he was living in town, she, Ayako, and Yasu would get together frequently, but after he left, she was lucky to see him once every three months. Even when he was visiting, however, Ayako always seemed to be "too busy" to see him. Mai hadn't a clue what had happened between the two of them before his departure, but she did not imagine it was anything pleasant. Luckily he figured out—in his old age, Mai would jest —how to use email, eventually progressing to texting and video chat, so they were still able to communicate fairly well. Even still, she really did miss seeing him in person. He gave the best (albeit nearly asphyxiating) hugs.

Out of the entire SPR team, Mai had remained in closest contact with Yasu. They saw one another regularly, especially once Mai graduated high school and joined him at UTokyo. He had graduated a year prior to her with an undergraduate degree in law and economics with the eventual intention of going off to law school to become a practicing barrister. But, he decided first to intern at a law practice for a year or so to gain some experience before diving in head first.

She would definitely consider the two of them best friends; throughout her four years of university, he was her continuing source of motivation, humor, and sanity. He gave her a healthy balance of an academic and social life, letting her study when she needed to but dragging her out on the town to get a taste of the true "university experience," as he called it. Now age 22, she was by no means a wild child (and neither was the blasé Yasu), but the two of them had their fair share of dubious moments together as they grew older. There was a time or two where perhaps blowing off their course work to go out dancing was unwise (especially because they always guilted themselves into completing the work once they returned home at dawn—the two of them shared that neurotic moral conflict), or perhaps a few instances she'd had one drink too many…

She shook her head to dispel those memories. She did not want to think about them right now.

A year or so after Naru and Lin's departure, John returned to Australia on the request of his home parish because his posting in Japan was never meant to be permanent. Mai was sad to see her thoughtful blond friend leave after all their work together, but like the kind person John was, he often stayed in contact with SPR by mail. She thought it was sweet that he put in the extra effort when he very well could have used email. Masako, on the other hand, stopped talking to her indefinitely when she returned to filming her efficacious television show full time. They did not part on uncomfortable terms so to speak and she personally had no bad blood, but they were never exactly the closest of friends to begin with; what was there for them to continue discussing? Mai imagined her unremarkable life would sound even more dull on paper and that Masako would not take any interest in it. Her life paled in comparison to that of the celebrity lime light. Moreover, she supposed they viewed each other more like opponents than friends. The two mildly resented one another over their mutual feelings for her boss.

Naru…

Though it had faded significantly over time, the familiar niggle in her chest at the very mention of him still pestered her. Mai had not seen Naru since his exodus, just after she confessed her feelings to him in the woods by that wretched lake. He rejected her, as she suspected he would; she was already aware of her humdrum mediocrity, so one could imagine the indignity she felt after discovering the item of her fancy was a noted doctor of parapsychology. It was not the rejection that haunted her so much as the hollow words he'd left her: Me, or Gene?

He did not even give her the time to construct her answer. It was too late by the time she came up with the right words, and he already seemed convinced her affection for him was misdirected and actually meant for his laxer and physically-identical older brother.

It was never Gene.

To that very day, it was never Gene.

Perhaps at first she didn't know that for certain, but in the end she knew it was he her heart desired.

And as much as she hated a part of herself for it, she had never entirely moved on from him.

She regretted never explaining herself after the fact, but the words were buried deep now under six years of separation and personal growth.

Notwithstanding the fact that she had not seen hide nor hair of Naru for all those years, they did not part on wholly awkward terms. He never spoke of her confession; he'd locked it away in that impassioned moment and left it there. A caustic action, Mai thought, but it let them continue on as if nothing happened and that was better than never talking to him again. They had a proper, friendly good bye, and they even maintained communication for quite some time upon his return to Europe. He had surprised her with a phone call, which set a precedent for routine conversations every few weeks or so. The calls were professional in nature and somewhat stilted (as one would expect from an awkward idiot scientist), but it was almost as if there were some added stodgy unspoken tension that neither of them were willing to address.

To her displeasure, the calls became less and less frequent as he returned to his studies at Cambridge to finish his second doctoral degree, and they all but ceased when she began her own pursuit of university education. It was no one's fault (and if it was they were both equally culpable, she decided), their lives merely grew poles apart, and being an entire continent away sure did not make communication any easier. Like the nature of some relationships, they simply and gradually fell out of contact.

No ill-feelings, no anger, just the ilk of life.

She wondered if he would be impressed with her now.

His imprudent tea-slave was about to graduate from UTokyo's faculty of letters with a degree in English and a concentration in psychology, and with exceptionally high marks.

The fact that he was a British parapsychologist had absolutely no influence on her choice in studies.

None at all.

At least none that he would ever find out, anyway. She'd die before she admitted to it.

She finished her degree in four years (right on schedule, thank you very much), worked a part-time job on campus in the admissions office, and even received the opportunity to study abroad in her second year for a semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States. Her English skills flourished and she soon could speak it fluently, and she now had the certification to prove it.

If someone had asked her four months ago what she was going to do after graduation, she would have had a thorough, explicit plan prepared for them that would detail her ascent to great success. She'd already compiled a bundle of job applications for translator positions all over Tokyo, enough that she could wallpaper the little picturesque house in Daikan-Yama she'd been intent on renting for months. She would get to travel the world with whatever company was lucky enough to hire her. She was very proud of herself and what she had accomplished on her own (plus of course with the help of her friends, old and new), and she was ready to take the world by storm.

Fast-forward a month and a half later, and that plan shattered into a million pieces.

One stupid decision erased all the lucidity and stability she'd corroborated for herself.

She had no idea what she was going to do.

Two and a half months ago, Yasu persuaded Mai to go with him and a small group of their friends to a controversial nightclub in the Roppongi neighborhood just inside of Minato to celebrate her impending graduation. Roppongi had a raunchy reputation world-wide, and quite frankly the idea of stepping foot in that firestorm scared her. It was a popular destination for both foreign and local 20-somethings, bursting with opportunities to drink your way into making poor decisions. But with his charm and witty logic, Yasu convinced Mai that they were young and one "wild" night in Roppongi would be fun and worth the experience, if just to say she'd been there; she was running out of aimless, carefree nights, after all.

He was going to make a great lawyer, she believed.

She accepted his reasoning and defended her ruling with the fact that she was smart, responsible, and with a group of people she knew well. Though honestly, she also got a strange rush from feeling edgy. Her moments of extreme spontaneity (unrelated to her habit of almost getting herself killed by spirits) were countable on one hand and she'd made it through those unchanged. What was just one more? What could happen, really?

The club was maddeningly loud and hot, chock-full of dancing, drunken bodies having what seemed like the time of their life. It was contagious. Mai and her friends bought a round of drinks before heading out to join the mass of gamboling people. One drink turned into two.

Three.

Four.

And that's when she met him. A strikingly tall, blond foreigner mingled his way into her circle of friends, greeting them first in poor Japanese and again in English. Mai placed the accent from somewhere in the United States. He had traces of a growing beard, giving him a faintly ragged look which was complimented by his remarkably green eyes. In sum, he was unquestionably attractive.

That stupid middle-school-crush sensation knotted Mai's stomach, which was very uncharacteristic. She'd been on a few dates with a few men the last few years, but nothing serious ever came of them. She just never felt a connection worth pursuing.

And now there she was, four drinks merry and swooning with her girlfriends over a man she met just seconds ago.

She was the only one in her present group that spoke fluent English, which caused her friends to jealously fade away, eventually leaving the two of them alone chatting wildly about a topic Mai could no longer remember. She did not remember much about him at all, really, other than that his name was Royce and he was studying abroad in Japan from the University of California. And that he bought her another drink while they continued to talk.

And then another.

She knew she should have quit, but she was so infatuated (and intoxicated) that she did not want to be rude and reject his advances. She liked him. Or the alcohol in her blood liked him. One of the two.

Not that it mattered anyway.

The next memory she could recall was how all of sudden they were in a sparsely populated side hall of the club, her head spinning and heart pounding, very willingly letting an attractive stranger kiss her feverishly and deeply. She permitted his smooth fingers to roam her body, dazing her more than she already was.

And then she was clumsily discarding her panties for him.

There was the frantic shuffling of clothes, the lifting of her skirt, and then the regrettably passionate moment they shared.

And then he was gone, leaving her in a drunken stupor whose hangover the next morning would be nothing compared to the contrition assaulting her conscious.

She'd made a mistake, and she thought she could simply leave it at that. Learn from her actions and move on. That was, until about a month later, a month and a half from graduation… The largest fruit of her blunder took root.

She had not told anyone yet; not even Yasu.

She knew she'd have to tell someone soon. Probably Ayako. Definitely not Bou-san.

She was running out of excuses for her emergent nausea and fatigue, and the reality was really beginning to set in.

She was scared and did not know what she was going to do.

She had looked forward to her graduation ceremony to distract her from what was to come and to remind her that she indeed was not entirely a fuck-up, but as the laudatory speeches came to a close and her peers cheered and applauded all around her, she could do nothing but place a hand delicately on her stomach, imagining that she could feel the heartbeat of the life that now grew inside her.