Disclaimer: All Ghost Hunt/Akuryou characters belong to Ono Fuyumi.

Author's Note: I'm trying to refrain from leaking spoilers, so I'm sorry if some of the content is inconsistent or unexplained. It's really hard keeping this just to the anime with thoughts from the novel swarming my head. Apologies ahead of time for the change in writing style, my mind just need to focus slaps cheeks.

Chapter 3: Hot and Cold

"Please, the police have given up on this case. I feel that he's still around but my instincts tell me that my brother is dead. I haven't heard from him and the police couldn't track him down; I fear for the worst. I won't be able to be at peace until his body is found. You're psychic researchers; can't you find his body?" The current client of SPR looked at the young boss in front of him, eyes pleading.

"Mr. Higurashi, we are psychic researchers, but this is something more suitable for the police," Naru explained with his normal emotionless face.

"But he was my older twin! He visits the dreams of a relative of mine, but all she tells me is that he has not moved on!" Mr. Higurashi pushed himself up, leaning forward in desperation to get the manager of SPR to accept his proposal.

'Naru's so heartless; he just won't take any case if nothing interests him,' Mai thought silently, a frown on her face.

"We'll take this case," Naru said bluntly, looking as stoic as ever.

"Eh?" The three men in the room turned to face Mai. "Ehehehe, sorry. Don't mind me," Mai laughed nervously under the glare of Naru. Naru continued to asked more questions about the case as Lin typed the conversation on his laptop.

When Mr. Higurashi got up to leave, Mai cleaned up the teacups and headed toward the kitchenette. 'I wonder why Naru took the case. I'm glad he took the case, but he normally doesn't take a case that does not have lives at risk.' The college student turned on the water and observed the way the water ran in a white column. Instead of washing the teacups, Mai slowly reached out towards the running water and stuck her hand underneath the warming stream, feeling oddly comforted. Slowly, her eyes began to droop, 'It's so warm, so comforting. Just like…the…feather…'

"Mai!"

Startled, Mai spun around and found herself facing her friend. "Aki! What are you doing here?"

Aki sighed, "Mai, you were spacing out again. What do you mean what am I doing here? Class just ended. Let's go grab Kari and eat lunch." Aki took off, running towards a brunette who was waving at the two girls.

"Aki! Wait up!" Mai ran after her friend and just as she was about to reach them, she tripped.

'Eh?' Mai's eyes widened as she began to fall in slow motion. She reached out to grab Kari's outstretched hand, only to find her friend replaced by a feather upon contact.
The background swirled with the familiar darkness of her dream dimension and a strange cold swept over her. Mai felt a burning sensation in her hand right before she hit the floor.

"Mai!"

Mai's eyes flashed open and violently pushed her upper body up, taking a big gasp of air, as if coming out of a nightmare. An arm shot out and grabbed her burning hand and cool, steady eyes gazed into her own.

"Mai, snap out of it."

Mai's breathing slowed down and her eyes shrunk back to normal from their previous startled state. "Naru?" Mai shivered, suddenly feeling too weak to say anything else. She dropped her head and collapsed on the floor, attempting to curl up in order to seek warmth, missing the rare concerned glance her boss sent her. "I don't feel good. Can I go home?"

Naru felt her forehead with his free hand, the other occupied with her hand. "You have a fever. Running your hand under hot water won't warm you up." He frowned when he failed to get a retort from his female employee. In a very un-Naru-like fashion, he lifted Mai's head and placed it on his lap.

Lin appeared in the kitchen carrying a first aid kit and turned off the still running water before squatting down next to Naru and Mai. He gave Naru a questioning glance before turning his attention to Mai's hand. "She has a fever. We'll take her home since it's almost five." Lin nodded in response. Expertly, he slathered cooling gel on the reddened flesh before wrapping it in bandages. He mentally noted the sign of affection Naru unknowingly displayed while worrying about Mai's state of health.

"Prepare to leave, I'll give her a fever reducer" Naru directed when Lin tucked in the end of the bandage. "Mai, can you get up?" Naru gently shook his employee. Mai simply curled up tighter in response. Naru stood up and carried Mai over to the couch and laid her there before heading back to the kitchen for the pills and a glass of water.

Lin came out of his office and locked his door before heading towards Naru and taking the pills and water from his hands. Wordlessly, Naru gave up the items and entered his office.

"Miss Taniyama, I need you to swallow these pills," Lin helped the now flushed Mai up and eased the pills into her mouth. Mai groaned before taking a few sips of water and curling back into the couch.

"Lin, get her into the car, I'll take the laptop and files and lock up after I look at a few things. It won't be long," Naru directed.

"Naru!" Lin's protest was halted when he saw Mai's body tremble. "Mai, can you get up?" Once again, Mai did not reply. The tall Chinese man picked up the young woman bridal-styled. 'Naru should be the one carrying her,' he thought as he wriggled the door open.

For the first time of the day, Mai did not dream of the feather but was trapped in the cold and suffocating vacuum of nothingness.

…to be continued.

Reviews would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.

-Lady Light