Stasis: The state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces.
File II: Wonder & Malice
Part III: White Rabbit
Location: Lockbridge Psychiatric Hospital, London, England (UK) . . .
Date: August, Day II . . .
Time: 8:00 a.m. . . .
Oliver Davis observed the building's structural floor-plan with no spark of development as he analysed the areas in which Mai had been dragged yesterday afternoon.
From Mai's dream, only more questions arose and fewer answers were made clear. Not to say that the case was stalled, but it was intriguing. How thick did the mystery deepen? A ghost with an identical description of Alice, but whose personality was duplicitous, a missing patient, Mai being dragged the hall, along with other cases of such activity, and the fact that both Mai and himself had been declared characters.
What did it mean?
Why did this haunting happen so abruptly? If Alice had never been a problem more than a few weeks ago… Where was the catalyst? If Alicia Gardener had been the first one to see Alice, was it merely coincidence they had similar appearances? He hardly believed in coincidences. Not in his line of work. Leave one piece of the mystery alone and the entire explanation can become misconstrued later on. Better to check than to leave it alone.
Solving conundrums was his specialty, but without the proper research and evidence and even he was left without a clue. A basis of fact was the sole method of determining a solution. And within a few minutes, Yasu and Madoka would be arriving with news on their individual research projects.
Yesterday morning, he'd sent Madoka off to search for details on their missing patient's family after a receiving the paperwork to allow the team access into Lockbridge's inner workings. He'd also gotten approval for Yasu to leaf through hospital archives for any information relevant to the case. That'd been yesterday afternoon. But due to several annoying inconveniences throughout the course of the evening, their team meeting had been stalled to the following morning.
Sparing a glance at the clock, he mentally counted down the seconds before his team's entry. Such calculations were of simple means. Their patterns had become predictable two years ago, and he doubted it had changed since.
"Ugh, you know, I doubt I'll ever get used to a regular English-styled breakfast," Takigawa groaned, the door to Base opening as a trail of members followed in his wake. "Give me my Japanese food back!"
Mai came in a second later, smiling and laughing. Somehow the image interested him. Peaked his senses. As if her presence made a difference. But why? How? Ever since she'd arrived in England, he'd had a strange sensation emerge in his stomach whenever he saw her. Again questions rose in the air. Even this morning, something in him had shifted.
Perhaps Mai herself and not the bond would be another conundrum in his life to decipher.
"I have to say I agree," Mai admitted. "But it's still really good!"
"True…," Takigawa amended.
"Ah, Naru!" Mai redirected, prancing up to his side. "Hey! Did you even eat breakfast other than the tea I made four hours ago?" A frown of discontent marred her lips, as if prepared to fully berate him if he hadn't.
"I ate," he said simply. Then added, "But I hardly see how that's any concern of yours."
A spark of hurt and indignation flittered across the bond. Perhaps that'd been the wrong thing to say.
"Not my concern?" she repeated slowly, as if echoing it to herself. "Of course it's my concern, Naru! You're my partner!"
Somehow he found that wasn't what he'd wanted her to say. His chest twisted. Why?
"Be that as it may," he found himself saying, "I'm a grown adult, Mai. The last thing you need to be concerned about his my health. I believe we covered that this morning."
"And I believe we covered my response to that as well." A solidary brow rose in the air, daring him to deny it.
Naru pursed his lips. Mai had made her point clear months ago whilst in the midst of perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs that the parapsychological community had ever experienced. While they'd stood amongst the future. What deviousness. Declaring her feelings for him while set amongst a place of unforetold peril. He was still identifying the details of the experience for his newest thesis. Nevertheless, the scientific portion of that event was hardly of relevance for their current state of affairs.
Truth be told, he was still reeling with the revelation that Mai loved him.
What an indescribable notion. Another conundrum in his life to dissect. Although he understood the science and anatomy of it, the emotional, mental aspects continued to elude him. It had only been in those final moments spent in the future had the concept-solely driven by the bond's interference and effects-become relatively conceivable.
Not only that.
But loved him. Not Gene.
No. Apparently, it had never been Gene.
It had been Naru all along.
And why did that… Make him… Appeased? Was that what he felt? Appeasement… No…
"Earth to Naru~!" Mai sang merrily, waving a hand in front of his face. "Earth to the Narcissist~! Helloooo~"
Naru blinked, effectively torn from his thoughts. He frowned. "Stop that." But Mai was grinning, again keeping him from progressing in his work, or really, any form of professionalism.
Why? he thought in a hiss.
"As much as I love for your character to develop in this exceedingly slow-paced love story, I'm afraid we have a case to finish first, Big Boss." Now that, that halted whatever confusing thoughts misconstrued his intellect.
So he faced his research assistant and former mentor from the head of the room, and inexpressibly queried, "What do you have?"
Yasu smiled, and it was that smile. The one that meant he knew more than he was letting on, before gesturing to Madoka. "Ladies first."
"Such a gentleman, Yasu," his former mentor appraised slyly. Their fake flirting always induced the desire to roll his eyes. The two never ceased to be suspicious in both their actions and motives, as if constantly hatching underhanded schemes beneath everyone's noses. He knew to be wary of them both.
Then the two researchers settled down to business.
"I'm sure you were all wondering why I wasn't here yesterday," Madoka began, "but that was because Noll neglected to inform you that he'd sent me off to London's local archives to locate the family of our missing patient." She sent him an unimpressed glower, to which he duly ignored. "You see, there aren't actual family members that the hospital has on record, nor any relatives to contact. Anyway, the patient's name is Peter Balts, a Latvian-Englishman, I suppose you can say. His family moved here several generations ago and their main occupation was in a local workshop for clocks. In essence, they were clockworkers. His family was small to begin with, but after a string of events, every last member of his family died. They all died of natural and explainable causes, but Peter himself was diagnosed with an extreme case of Bipolar disorder when he was sixteen. More specifically, the issue was his aggression and as such, was arrested four years ago for assault.
"Having been at Lockbridge for several years now, the severity of his condition has decreased and he's apparently become, for lack of a better word, nice. Normal, almost. That's when Alice appeared, and everything became much worse. To go around the complex terminology, I'll just say that exhibited signs of lessening sanity, and became rather odd. Between abrupt flashes of unexpected aggression, being locked in the ward for the more violent patients, muttering incoherently about Alice and time and clocks and Wonderland, he became a whole other person. Then three weeks ago, he disappeared without a trace. There was no evidence of tampering with his room or any signs of departure. To say the least, it's a perfect disappearance. In this regard, I'd like to entertain the idea that perhaps what we're dealing with is similar to Urado."
At the mention of Urado, there was no trickle of fear down the bond, rather there was only contemplation and intensity. Hmm...
"If that's the case, then I still don't think Alice is our main issue here," Mai said, specifically addressing Naru, but there was a crease in her brows that voiced minor fringes of doubt.
"Intuition?" he questioned.
She hesitated. "I… I-I… I'm not sure. It's kind of mixed up at the moment, but if you think about the strangeness of my dream and what Alicia Gardener experienced, it makes some sense."
"Wait!" Ayako said. "You had a dream, Mai?"
His partner then presumed to explain her dream from last night. How she'd taken on the perspective of who she assumed was Alice, and that Alice herself confirmed Naru was the fictionalized Knave of Spades.
When she was done, he distastefully tested, "And you don't remember this girl's exact thoughts, Mai?" They'd gone over this earlier in the morning, but he wanted to reiterate. Finite details were the tailends of future prospects and the more information the better.
She tapped her chin in thought, gaze absently following the angles of the walls. "Oh, yeah!" she burst, startling the majority of their team with her sudden outburst. Naru went unperturbed. "She was thinking along the lines of, 'I know how this is going to end. I know how I'm going to die. I've seen it.' Then she thought, 'I should be considered a miracle, instead I'm thought to be a curse...' It was strange," Mai added as afterthought. "And it wasn't like she was guessing that she was going to live there for the rest of her life, but it's like she was certain of her death and how exactly she was going to die…"
A cord struck deep in Naru's mind, a sonorous clang of massive proportions. Eyes widening, he stalled completely, frozen in the revelation.
"She was a precognitive psychic," Naru murmured.
But does it mean anything? If the girl from Mai's dream was our spirit, then could her being psychic lead her to her demise? Lead to her demise…Suddenly a mass of questions spilled as the answers collided and possibilities arose. Could her being psychic be the cause or reason behind her death? As if she'd been killed because of it… Does this go beyond one spirit? No evidence has been found to prove as much, but the possibility is open. We don't have the whole story.
"Naru, you're a genius!" Mai exclaimed, but he was too caught up in his thoughts to notice the compliment, let alone elaborate on his intelligence as he snapped back to Yasu.
"Did any of your research pertain to this?"
Their secondary researcher grinned at the mention. "You're in luck, Big Boss. In that dirty old basement full of half-written archives and undusted shelves, I actually managed to find several people who could possibly be our spirit. The people I found were under your conditions: from post-1865 and were under twenty. Unfortunately I was unable to locate pictures of these patients, but their ages and diagnoses were documented in relative detail. In total, we have a compilation of ten names, but one in particular stands out. The name Alysse Wild sound interesting to you all? And now that you mentioned Mai's dream, Alysse Wild's file states she was brought to Lockbridge in 1867 due to her parent's decision, because she was said to have strange 'visions' where she'd black out and wake up hours later muttering incomprehensibly for some time before returning to a normal state of awareness."
Alysse Wild then...
"Does her file say when she died?" Mai asked, to which Yasu shook his head.
"The notes on her treatment stopped abruptly in May of 1868, but there isn't any documentation of her death or any type of release papers. It's as if she dropped off the face of the Earth."
"Well, that's certainly suspicious," Miss Matsuzaki mentioned snidely.
Miss Hara added in, "If you consider the time-period and lack of proactive mental health facilities like we have today, it's not too hard to believe, but given the facts of the case, it's possible that something went wrong."
"Wrong as in died," Takigawa stated ominously, the group falling into a hush.
Naru crossed his arms amid the silence. "The questions now are how she died, and why she's still here." And if there isn't any mention of a split-personality anywhere in her file, why does her personality change? Earlier... Mai said that the White Rabbit would appear soon. What does that mean? What's the reasoning behind dragging people down halls? Is there meaning in it?
"Well, if you consider the timeperiod," John mused, "it's possible she was mistreated during her time here. And given the facts of Mai's dream, it seems highly probable."
Yasu repositioned his glasses. "While dragging people down halls is rather harmful and most certainly rude, Alice doesn't seem to have directly hurt anyone though. It's more like she's using scare tactics."
"As if to warn people?" Mai asked, incredulous. "The one Alicia Gardener saw and the one from my dream were nice enough, but the other one? She's dragging people down halls out of her own twisted amusement. She even said she'd come back for me."
"Then there's Peter Balts, who also disappeared rather abruptly," Miss Hara reiterated quietly.
Takigawa intercepted, "Yeah, what's with that? I mean it's not rare for disappearances to occur when it comes to a haunting, but where's the connection to Alice? Is there a certain demographic he falls into for him to have gone missing? Everything seems kinda random right now."
There was only one demographic that would make sense at the moment, but until proven was pointless to mention.
"A possession is plausible, or maybe even physical immobilization," Mai speculated, shrugging her shoulders. "He could've wandered off all on his own like in the Urado case and been taken by whatever else haunts these halls. Like Masako and I stated before, something else is here, hiding in the background. I get the feeling that Alice is only the beginning of a much darker story…"
"Whatever the fact is, won't hinder us from finding it," Naru declared with his ever-monotonous dispassion. "In the meantime, we need to get back to work. The rest of you may walk around the hospital to try and locate our entity in the areas which've had the most significant drop or rise in temperature in the last twelve hours. Use whatever method you see fit to employ, but make sure none of you are ever alone. Madoka, Yasu, I want you two to do in depth research of the Lockbridge staff and peers as well as Alysse Wild's personal history from birth to the timing of her disappearance. Mai and Lin, you're with me. We're going to speak with Director Morgenstern."
After receiving permission from Dr. Morgenstern, Mai, Naru, and Lin were sent to see a patient whose sudden, current obsession with Alice and Wonderland was far from healthy. His abrupt change had also transpired within the course of a twenty-four hour time period. Apparently, his name was Cedric Quill, and up until their arrival, had been on the road to release and was mostly recovered from a case of severe depression. What was more, was that he was locked inside a padded room. With a strait jacket. To say that Mai was unaffected would be a lie.
What could possibly go wrong?
Already her instincts burned with unsuppressed anxiety as they waited to enter the room. Luckily, a doctor and a series of guards were going to be inside with them when they interviewed the client.
"This is as far as we'll be requiring your services," Naru stated tonelessly. Okay, maybe not…
He was addressing the small crowd of hospital workers and security at their back. When they tried to argue that it was against hospital policy, Naru added, "Director Morgenstern has allowed me full access to the building, which includes its staff and patients when deemed necessary to the investigation. You are to act under my rules and regulations as directed by your superior. If any of you have a problem with that, you may speak with Director Morgenstern. Also, when speaking with a client, their experiences are to be documented under a strict series of protocol divulged only under strict privacy, unless stated otherwise by the client. It is just the same as when they are your client. Strict privacy."
Mai smiled wryly at the chagrined staff, hoping to appease them with an apologetic smile for her partner's less than cordial means of explaining his agenda. But really, she understood where Naru was coming from. She just wished he'd say it with a little less of a deadpan and a little more amicably.
She doubted that was ever going to happen.
"Lin, stand watch outside. Mai and myself will interview Mr. Quill." Basically, he wanted Lin to man the door in case someone got any funny ideas. How quaint.
"Be careful," Lin quietly advised. Naru walked inside, but Mai managed a smile and a nod. With the pervasive dread sitting in the bottom of her stomach, they'd definitely have to be. Surely Naru felt it, too?
Then again, Naru was nothing if not excessively careful. Minute impulses were usually sparked by testing or proking his pride, and neither of those issues had come up yet, so they should be clear to continue like in previous cases.
"Umm, Naru," she tried again, tugging him to her before the door shut behind them. "I don't think this is going to go well…"
He turned slightly, and Mai realized he was closer than she thought. She forced her nerves to remain calm. "I know," he said, "but that's also what I'm hoping for."
Mai's eyes widened. What was that supposed to mean? But before she could voice another word, Naru stepped forward and the outside world was lost entirely and the door slammed to a close behind her.
A chilling burst of laughter crawled along the concave of her back. Cedric Quill. The patient couldn't be more than thirty, with scraggly black hair dyed a deep blue at the ends with slices of neon green in between. But it was his eyes that were truly fantastic, gleaming a bright, bloodshot blue.
In the padded room, only opaque white washed the walls-a stark, marshmallowy hue, but there was a historically cruel undertone to it that set her teeth on edge. And their client was wrapped in strait jacket. It was like a present waiting to be opened.
And it was as if the scene was taken right off a movie set.
Naru positioned himself directly across from Mr. Quill, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. It was the Narcissist's signature pose, she noted vaguely. Probably by habit, she instantly positioned himself at his side.
Mr. Quill was still laughing uncontrollably, face twisted in a way that made Mai cringe.
This was the incarnate of hysteria. Had Peter Balts experienced similar symptoms before disappearing? Based off various accounts, this was precisely the case. Or at least, that was why Director Morgenstern had told them to start here. They also intended to keep Mr. Quill on full surveillance just in case he ended up disappearing, and hoped to prevent that at any cost. Or maybe attempt to follow him. For the sake of the patient, she sincerely hoped they would simply try to prevent his disappearance rather than risk another life. If it came to that, Mai would fight tooth and nail to preserve Mr. Quill's safety.
Who knew what Alice what capable of? If this was even her work, anyways.
Mr. Quill was still laughing, so Mai whispered, "What exactly are you hoping to get from this, Naru?"
Naru's stare was in line with Mr. Quill's as he said, "A reaction." Mai furrowed her brows at that statement.
The laughter stopped abruptly, leaving a lethal silence in its absence. Mai watched warily for any indication of any other reaction out of Mr. Quill, but none transpired.
"Your doctors state you're obsessed with Wonderland, but I see no indication of such an obsession," Naru mentioned after a full minute, gaze still locked with the patient. "Were they wrong?"
But Mr. Quill smiled. "Wrong, you say? I say wrong is of the mind. Wrong is the way. Wrong is the right. I see no reason of wrongness in their thoughts, for they are wrongfully right."
Mai had no idea how to interpret that.
Their client continued, "But you… The Knave of Spades, you're always right. Always. Forever. Such things speak of eternity, do they not? Like her." His head swiveled to Mai, and she faced him head on, giving no ground to that wicked smile. "The Chosen One wants to protect you. I know she does. You are the light that will save us all… But... My Queen, you will die just like all the rest. Madness will call to you. The clock ticks, but the story has already been told. The last few unwritten pages have to be read, then this will end, and you, with all your light, will be snuffed out. Time will end us all."
"Are you trying to say that with the White Queen's death, Alice will move on?" Naru asked impassively.
"If you don't know, you must recite," Mr. Quill answered enigmatically.
"This story!" Mr. Quill responded enthusiastically. "Our story! Time's story! Time is key, time is the start, but it's also the end! The White Rabbit will say you were too late, but really, that's the start of the end. Time calls to time, dear Knave."
"Then…" Naru's dark smile was knowing in its arrogance. "Who is the Timekeeper?"
Mai snapped her head to Naru. What kind of question was that?
"Everything he's said relates to Time," Naru explained indulgently, tone devoid of any inflection. "'Time will end us all.' A name, not a thing. It's obvious. It also means that Alice is not the exact cause of Peter Balt's disappearance, but whoever the Timekeeper is."
Mr. Quill grinned impishly. "Clever little knave. The Chosen One was wrongfully right about you. Very clever, indeed. Clever calls to clever, dear Knave, but I'm afraid you know too much." That same smile turned vicious. "Time never thought you'd understand so quickly. Time was unknown, but Time underestimated…"
The door to the outside world locked shut. Whoever was outside then tried in vain to open it. It was shaking on its hinges, muffled shouts coming from Lin and the staff.
Mai felt no sense of spirits in the room either, which only left one other option as to how the door became locked.
Cedric Quill was a PK wielder.
Not good at all.
"And to whom and I speaking with now?" Naru queried, blocking Mai behind him. Their own storages of PK were bouncing in their bones.
"I will be the Caterpillar," Mr. Quill replied hauntingly, crazed eyes wide and far, far too blue to be entirely human. "Usually you'd meet me after entering Wonderland, but the story's already been played out, and the White Rabbit is far too late, so here I am. But I'm afraid, this is all I can say."
With an array of clicks, Mr. Quill's strait-jacket slowly came undone. Mai gritted her teeth.
"Mai, I want you to try to form a PK barrier," Naru murmured, attention rapt in front of him.
Taken aback, Mai stared at him incredulously. "Right now?" she hissed. "I'll more than likely cause an explosion!"
"Don't fight me on this. Just do it."
"Oh, yes, you're both very peculiar, aren't you?" Mr. Quill pointed out raspily. "Peculiar and wonderful. Very, very, very wonderful. Fit for Wonderland, you are."
Naru said nothing.
"Visualize a wall." Mai outright jumped at the sudden appearance of the elder Davis twin, who'd simply materialized into a half sentient being in front of her. "Sorry," he said with a sheepish grin. "I have bad timing, don't I? Late, right?"
"I'm just glad you're here!" she admitted quietly. "Tell me how to create a barrier!"
"It's not as hard as you think, Mai," he assured her. "Just find a sense of stasis and visualize a wall in front of you."
"Uh… Okay?" She wasn't sure if she'd be capable, but she'd try. Staying alive was pretty important to her.
So as the last of Mr. Quill's straps came loose, Mai forced herself to close her eyes and maintain her center. Given her raging instincts, it was hard to do. Mai felt her PK fluctuate dangerously on the edges of her fingertips in the form of crackling sparks.
"Mai," Naru warned.
"I'm trying, okay! Just give me a second."
Keeping her eyes shut tight, she closed herself off from her current reality and placed her hands in front of her as a means of outwardly expressing her desires of a wall ahead of her. Inside her soul, latches clashed together in a form of PK stasis as she imagined a single wall conceived of pure energy.
All at once she snapped her eyes open, and it came into existence.
Sparkling, bright and thrumming with sparks of electricity. It was as translucent as a ghost-perfectly see-through. And Mai stood there, flabbergasted at the sight of it-of such tangible raw energy.
"Oh, Mai, you did it wrong!" Gene groaned at her side, snapping her back to the present. "You forgot to let Noll inside, too!"
"Huh?" It was only then she realized she'd left Naru on the other side of her barrier, completely alone with Cedric Quill.
"Mai, you idiot," Naru sighed.
Oh no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no!
"Ju-just give me a minute, okay?! I can do this!"
"Time's up!" Cedric Quill sang, those crazy eyes wide as the straight-jacket fell to the ground. "Time wants you to start your fall!"
Mai didn't like the sound of that.
"Apparently, an alternative method will be necessary," Naru muttered. "Fine. Just stay still, Mai. We'll deal with barriers later."
He had an alternative…?
Mai really didn't like the sound of that.
From behind the transparent barrier, Mai watched as Naru's hands began to glow like heavenly fire sent from the gods.
"I never liked it when he did this," Gene murmured. "Using PK to act as a taser, but on a much more powerful scale. When we were younger, the person on the receiving end usually ended up with second degree burns… Hopefully, Noll's control has gotten better." Gene didn't exactly sound convinced though, and she bit her lip.
"The Knave protects the Queen, is he?" Cedric Quill remarked, fantastically enthralled. "Time never lies, and Time never dies."
"Ghosts may be considered immortal, but they are far from infinite. This plane of existence doesn't last forever, only other realms of existence can do that, and this," Naru snapped, "isn't one of them."
What a piece of poetry, Mai thought. But it's far from the right timing, Naru!
It was then that the straightjacket was flown in Naru's direction by a gale of PK energy, but all he did was hold up a hand, the fabric literally burning in the matter of seconds. Cinders and ash were all that remained as they fluttered through the air. Mai's jaw dropped at the display of power. She hadn't seen Naru use his PK since the Cursed House case over two years ago, and it was quite a feat how he managed to control his massive stores of energy without batting an eye.
But Gene being Gene muttered, "What a showoff..." Had she been in any other situation she would've laughed, but now probably wasn't the best time.
Naru then had to fight off Mr. Quill by himself, Mai helpless to assist him.
Letting out a deranged war cry, Mr. Quill threw himself at Naru, who easily managed to evade, but the man was quicker than anyone she'd ever seen, as if assisted by some unseen force that wasn't his PK. If not a possession, what could it possibly be?
They parried blows, Naru primarily on the defensive for several moments, and Mai watched as the years of Tai Chi flowed in his every movement. The timing and precision and fluidity was portrayed in a visually spellbinding art. It was honestly quite beautiful, and she probably would've appreciated it a lot more had the situation not been so dire. Luckily for Naru, Mr. Quill couldn't utilize the extent of his PK while immersed in the fight. His movements were also impulsive, rash attempts rather than clean, concise and planned, but it was his preternatural quickness that kept Naru firmly on the defensive despite his obvious ability.
One second they were dodge and attack, dodge and attack, and another...
Slamming against the door from an unexpected kick to the chest hard enough to rattle the door-frame, Naru was left breathless as the wind departed from his lungs. Unable to help him, all Mai could do was watch on in horror. Mr. Quill advanced, pressing his hands to Naru's exposed throat.
Despite his possibly impending doom, all Naru did was grit his teeth as he struggled to breathe.
"Idiot," Naru hissed, but it was in her home language. Startled, Mai realized that solid contact was all he needed.
Latching onto Mr. Quill's wrists, he channelled a fraction of his PK and let it spark. Crackling electricity tinged in hues of violet and gold fizzled along skin, slicing and burning, and a wretched scream pierced the air. Obviously seeing an opening, Naru then slapped a hand onto the patient's chest, immediately activating another pulse of PK.
This time, as the crack of PK erupted from Naru's palms, Mr. Quill went down, body seizing as his eyes rolled back into his head, instantly knocked out. Or worse.
In the aftermath, Naru let out a panting breath. Severing the flow of PK from his hands, the bright whiteness merely reverted back to his normal smooth palms.
"Is… Is he?" Mai was amazed and horrified at the same time, but concern primarily broke out across her features. "Are you…?"
Naru merely spared her a glance before bending down to check Mr. Quill's pulse. His shoulders instantly relaxed. Clearly someone hadn't been too sure, either.
"He'll be fine," he assured, voice tired yet cool. "Unconscious, perhaps, but fine."
Those wretched burns on Mr. Quill's wrists still steamed, and Mai fought to keep herself from throwing up. The skin was charred, bloodied and…
She snapped her gaze back up to her partner.
"Calm down. It's fine. Everything is fine."
For now. Good Gods. Had she forgotten how terrifying this could be? Swallowing harshly, she raked her hands through her hair. Ghosts were one thing, but PK was another. It was volatile and utterly destructive. Only when utilized correctly could it be used for good.
Eventually, she thought. Eventually, I'll learn.
"He's right, you know," Gene added in a whispered, still at her side. "Let the wall fall, angel. Things should be calm for a while now."
'Should' was the only reassurance one could get in their line of work, wasn't it?
Letting out a mirthless little laugh, she forced herself to breathe and locate her center. Closing her eyes once more, she imagined the crumbling of a great wall, piece by piece, stone by stone, until it fell into nothingness once more. With a final cut to her PK, the consistent thrumming of electricity left, only to be replaced with the sound of pounding.
Pounding... Against the door. Lin! She'd forgotten he'd been out there!
"Come along, Mai."
Naru was already at the door, opening it as a flush of doctors and staff waited for them outside and were they were greeted with relentless questions and a furious Koujo Lin. Naru mention to a worried Dr. Morgenstern that Mr. Quill should be placed under heavy sedation and sent to another hospital for the remainder of the investigation in case he also managed to disappear like Peter Balts, considering their similar circumstances involving 'Wonderland.' Naru was also minutely wincing, and if the flickering lapses of pain rendered across the bond was any indication, then clearly Naru was in far worse shape that she'd initially thought. An ache of worry churned in her gut. Naru sighed, probably sensing it.
"You used PK on him, didn't you?" Lin muttered on their way back to Base. He shot a glance at Mai. "You both look exhausted."
Odd as it was, Mai was quite tired. Her body was no longer accustomed to expelling this much PK anymore. Most of their larger experiments in the lab were done once a week, but only minimal use was expected for the rest. Usually after a particularly large experiment, she'd have to sleep for about 12 hours to recharge.
"There was no other option," Naru said, and presumed to explain the situation in the padded-room. Afterwards, he added, "Be it best to not use PK again for the remainder of the investigation. The same goes for you, Mai."
"You're really alright, right?" she asked then, speaking for the first time since they'd left Mr. Quill. "No adverse effects? No problems?" She would kill him herself if he lied to her for that. "Your… Neck…" It was bruised and probably hurt. Not to mention his back…
"Your concern has been noted, but I'm fine, Mai. I've been dealt worse."
Descending into her 'down in the dumps' phase of her PK release, Mai merely sighed, "I'm sorry, Naru. Truly. I should be able to help more than just standing by… I was useless in there, and unable to help you despite how strong I could be…" Her hands drew into fists at her sides, a familiar fire igniting in her veins. "I will learn and I will strive. I will be the partner you need, I promise you. I just… Need a bit more time to fully grow into my powers."
Those indigo orbs were their normal stoic hue, but a fraction of them softened. "I never expected the transition to be easy," he admitted. "You have much to learn, but I know you. You're too stubborn to give up."
Grinning a bit despite the exhaustion, she winked. "One of my better qualities I suppose."
"One of many," Lin murmured with a small smile, and she couldn't help but let out a laugh.
She'd been roughly escorted though Lockbridge, the threat of the needle and an effortless sleep keeping her from struggling against their hold. Consciousness was a gift in this mad house. Abysmal black frequented most of her time, until her visions burst through her unconscious state and reminded her of what she would inevitably face in the near future.
A week had gone by already.
She'd already met Maddigan Crawl, a man with little left of his own sanity, even as his exact thoughts slammed into her mind. His thoughts spoke of murder and mayhem before his sentence to Lockbridge. The memories gave her nightmares. The man had a sickening lust for blood, often scratching himself senseless just to witness the scarlett beads trickle from his wrists. She didn't want his mind probing her as much as he did.
Maybe it was his own twisted form of humor.
For whatever reason, however, he never touched her. Maddigan was known for his frequent brawls with other patients, often beating them until they bled and pleaded for mercy. He often screeched with pleasure while decorating himself red with blood.
With both theirs and his own.
Often he'd say that she was 'the one.' But 'one' for what, she had no idea. He tended to call her 'Alice' rather than 'Alysse.'
The guards practically threw her into an office. Tumbling into the opulent carpet, she felt burns scratch into her forearms and legs, the doors snapping closed behind her. Sparing a glance over her thistled golden locks, she realized she'd seen this place before.
In her visions.
A man met her in his office a minute later. She recognized him instantly.
"Hello, my dear, I am Dr. Chessie, one of the main doctors here in Lockbridge. I'm here to help you." His grin was large, with big crooked teeth. She hated it. Loathed it. It wasn't real. When he really grinned, it was enough to chill her bones.
It was so much worse.
He wasn't her killer. But he would make damn sure she couldn't escape.
"Has anyone ever told you that you have the same appearance as Alice in Wonderland?" Dr. Chessie asked with that same grin, perhaps attempting to lighten the mood. Somehow she viewed this as a threat.
She knewit was some form of threat.
"So I've been told," she answered bitingly, finding the strength to fight back as she launched to her feet. "But Alice isn't real. I'mreal." She was real. She was human. She was alive.
"Ah, dauntless wrath is what you're feeling, eh? How quaint." From her visions she knew he could feel her emotions without asking or dissecting her expressions. Nor was it due to his knowledge as a doctor.
And for that, he would die like the rest of them.
She may go down like she expected, but she wasn't some simpering whip of a girl that would break under their gruesome pleasures.
She wasn't some toy for them to fondle and mess with. She wasn't curious. She wasn't elegant. She wasn't fake.
She was real.
She wasn't crazy.
She would fight.
"My name is Alysee Wild," she snarled, "and I will be your worst nightmare come alive."
August, Day III
Thunder cracked, and Mai awoke with a start. Her head narrowly collided with boards of the upper-bunk in the girls residencial room Ayako, Masako, and Mai stayed in. Thankfully she stopped herself before a full on collision occurred. Well, at least she could save herself from at least a bit of pain. Letting out a breath, she immediately checked her phone, learning that she'd once again woken up at an ungodly hour, and this time, in the middle of a thunderstorm.
She doubted even Naru would be awake right now.
Following their encounter with Mr. Quill what was now yesterday morning, Mai had once again fallen asleep in Base almost seconds after arriving. Absently she wondered who brought her back this time, but quickly found that she simply didn't care.
"Noll's up, angel. I think his back is preventing him from sleeping."
Once again, the elder Davis twin had appeared out of nowhere. Wryly she realized she'd gotten used to his random appearances and equally random disappearances.
"In Base, I'm guessing?" she whispered. Sluggishly she rubbed her eyes, flicking away the crust coated there.
"Roger that, Chief."
Smiling tiredly, she sneakily crossed the darkened corridor separating Base from her room, and scampered quickly to the door. The only sound to be heard was that consistent strain of rain and thunder as it shattered down upon the windows outside.
"Years with ghosts and still a little darkness creeps you out." Gene smirked in a way that was identical to his brother, and she found herself glaring daggers at him for it. But he only laughed before once again reverting back to the shadows of the hallway.
A sharp shiver sliced down her spine at the sight, and several spirits walked through the walls, coming and going into existence. Lost, Masako had said. It seemed appropriate. Nevertheless, Mai snatched at the doorknob leading to Base, threw it open, and closed the door within a matter of two seconds.
Mai absolutely hated this place. Despite the seemingly harmless ghost lurking the halls, a foul presence still stained the very air within Lockbridge. Dismal and utterly demented, it reeked of blood and rot.
Base, however, was devoid of the stench due to some very serious warding magic and charms Ayako created on their first day. It was the only area of solace, really.
Already her senses relaxed as the familiar aura settled into her system.
Unlike usual, the Narcissist wasn't planted in a chair watching the monitors, but halted in the middle of Base with a cup of steaming tea in his hands. He was also decked out in striped blue pajamas, similar to the ones he'd worn during the Urado case. For one normally adorned in all-encompassing black, the lighter tones brought out the sheer darkness of his eyes and hair.
And for another thing, he looked positively adorable. Handsome, of course, but undeniably adorable as well.
Mai smiled fondly. "Someday I'm going to have to force you to wear yellow for a whole day."
He gave her a look that merely said, 'You're an idiot.' And she laughed unabashedly at the idea of him in his normal formal attire, but in all yellow. Pants and shoes included.
What a picture.
She was totally going to tell Luella about this idea.
Snickering, she waltzed up to him, but remembering what Gene told her upon waking, her smile dropped. Her previous amusement was immediately washed away with concern, especially as Naru's tiredness echoed across the bond in sleepy waves along with the fringe pains of his aching body.
"Let me make you some tea," she said quietly.
The sole lightsource Naru had given the room was in the small kitchenette closest to the door, the yellow bulb raw and dull in hue. It placed more shadows upon the rest of the room, leaving the corners only visible in black shreds and blurry outlines. And contrary to what she expected, Naru sat himself at the small table nearest her, shoulders oddly slumped forward as he leaned into his cup. Frowning, she made light work of her partner's favorite tea, the kettle already hot from Naru's previous batch and set to work. She finished quicker than expected.
Seated across from him, Mai poured him another cup. Naru had never been particularly fond of his own recipe, anyway, and she always knew exactly how he liked it. Hense why she'd once been dubbed Naru's 'Tea Queen.' The memory was tinged with both annoyance and sweetness, but it wasn't something she necessarily wanted to resurrect from the grave.
"How was the rest of the day?" she asked amid the quiet. Lightning lit up the room in brief flashes from the windows, the sound of rain having filled their previous silence.
"Miss Hara is now under the impression she's become a target after 'Alice' told her to 'be wary,' as she is the 'Duchess.' She also explained that Alice does not have the 'foul presence' you and her spoke of," Naru answered. "We'll probably go through a few exorcisms in the morning."
So Masako had become a target, too? How peculiar... First her and Naru, now Masako? How did they play into all of the madness going about Lockbridge?
"And Mr. Quill?"
"Sent to another hospital for the remainder of the investigation."
"I see…" She wanted to ask how Naru was doing with his back, but already knowing the response he'd give her, she bit her tongue and refrained from asking.
"You slept for 16 hours straight," Naru said a minute later, his annoyance clear.
Thunder rumbled, and a shot of lightning tore at the darkness contorting half of his face.
She groaned, "I know... I'm not exactly happy about it, either. Here I'd been hoping to at least be of some use, but no, I manage to sleep away an entire day."
"I expect you gleaned some information from it." Naru was far from happy, and she outwardly winced.
"Yeah, well, I can now confirm that 'Alice' is indeed Alysse Wild, but the vision I had was only a week into her stay here, or so her thoughts were. The story is only just beginning to reveal itself, but I did get a few other interesting things from it."
So she told him everything she knew, which sadly, wasn't much. But Naru, being Naru, picked up on things quicker than anyone.
"You're saying that Maddigan Crawl was supposedly feeding her memories?" he questioned, and Mai nodded. "If that's true, then the only way that's possible is if he was a telepath."
"A mind-reader, yeah, that's what I was thinking, too. But what's the relevance of him also being in my vision? And what about Dr. Chessie? He can't be the one who killed her if Alysse Wild is so certain he was merely an accomplice or something of the sort. What's the point of him being there?"
"You said that Alysse Wild knew he could understand or feel her emotions, and if that's also true, then that would mean that Dr. Chessie was possibly an empath: a reader of emotions."
"Um, yeah, I did say that, didn't I? But what's the relevance?"
Naru raised an arrogant brow. "You really can be an idiot, Mai."
The woman in question pursued her lips and made to retort, but a sudden catastrophic sense of dread plummeted to the bottom of her gut before she could react properly.
Naru actually flinched, the bond catapulting her emotions into his mind.
Terror clawed its way up her veins, and bile rose in her throat. Her intuition rang like a pulsating gong in her head.
Something had just gone terribly wrong.
On instinct, Mai was immediately on her feet. Eyes wide and knowing, she simply whispered, "Late."
Then she was out the door, Naru chasing after her a second later. "Mai!"
But she barely heard her partner, even as she raced down the barren, flashing halls of Lockbridge Psychiatric Hospital, footsteps narrowly echoing along the floor at her feet. All around, ghosts floated and nightmares came alive in the dark, while thunder rumbled and rain slaughtered, but Mai Taniyama was in a place she could only understand as instinct. It was a place where outside forces were merely an afterthought.
"Mai!" she heard, but it was in the back of her conscious thought, barely telegabel amid the raging dread and intuition flooding her senses.
Bursting through the back doors of the hospital, she was assaulted by the vicious rain and wind of the storm. Thunder roared in her ears, and her bare feet were matted with grass and mud as she ran through the back-courtyard.
It was only as she met a positively horrid sight, did Mai halt in her tracks. Steps away from a ripped off doorway leading to a blackened underground passageway, lied the distorted mangled body of who she knew, instinctively, was Peter Balts.
As she fell to her knees, she didn't even notice Naru's arrival, slathered with rainwater and breathing heavily at her back.
But amid the shock and rain and gasping horror, Mai hauntingly whispered, "The White Rabbit has arrived."
"Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall,
And if you go chasing rabbits,
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call,
And call Alice, when she was just small."
-Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit
THANK YOU FOR OVER 305 FOLLOWS, 225 FAVS, AND 150 REVIEWS! YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!
And we have found our White Rabbit~! It's a terrible way to locate the 'rabbit hole' but it needed to be done. Besides, I needed a little more horror in here. The mystery thickens! The case is now about halfway though, I believe.
Also! While there was a lot of MaiXNaru in this chapter, I think I'll start having more character conversations among everyone now. This chapter went on longer than I expected, and some parts will simply have to wait until next time.
I sincerely apologize for the lateness of this chapter, considering I promised it about say, 9 months ago? But things happen, and It's been crazy for me since my senior year of high school started. Add in my relentless desire to write my own personal novels, I find myself lacking motivation to the extreme… Again, I apologize profusely, especially since this has been over 60% complete since October… But either way, I am officially back! The next chapter will be out in maybe a week or two!
If you wish to read my own personal novels, check me out on Fictionpress which is also under the name "Cassandra Royal"
Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I read all of them, I assure you, but I will mainly respond to questions if you have them. Please review! They're what drive a writer, you know! Have a lovely day!