Don't read beyond this or the story if you don't want any spoilers beyond the Anime.
Extra Sum: Takes place two years later after Naru returns to Japan after finding his brother's body. Mai is in her junior year (17) and Naru's 19. (Mai's senior year because high schools in Japan have only three years.)
Disclaimer: I'm just a 16 year-old fangirl with too much time on her hands
Hey did you hear?
About the girl who was killed in the library.
Eh! Who was it?
You know, the one that was going out with Saito-kun.
That poor girl. Her family had to suffer death as well.
It's rumored that you can see her spirit still there.
A girl was pushed down the exact same way down the stairs, and no one else had been with her.
Chapter 1: A Letter
Saturday: 6:37 AM
Reaching blindly Taniyama Mai rolled to her side, her hand patting the cold wooden floor until the buzzing alarm stopped. She drew her hand back underneath her covers for warmth. Sleeping on a futon was cold, especially with no heating systems.
With a groan she sat up and began drawing her long brown curls back into a high ponytail. She'd let it grow some the last few months, finding how long hair had suited Ayako nicely. Rubbing sleep from her eyes Mai enthusiastically reached above her head and stretched loudly. The start of a new day.
The old apartment was far from luxurious, but austere and just enough for one high school girl. The extra money Mai had been able to earn from her unique part time job at SPR hadn't gone to waste from useless items, but well kept in her account. As she folded up the futon and sheets, with one hand Mai slid open a window.
There was a light breeze that morning, one that was welcoming with the promise of another warm day. Well that's fine, Mai thought rubbing her eyes. It'll just put me in a better mood.
Quickly she threw in some toast into the toaster and began to wash and dress up for the day: a jean skirt and white button up shirt. She looked at herself in the mirror this way and that.
Beep Beep Beep
"Oh no!" It was 7:25 already, the warning bell. If she didn't hurry, she'd be late. Washing her face and applying lotion and sunscreen, Mai quickly reached for the slightly uncooked and cold toast and sped out the door. As she raced down the stairs, Mai slowed a bit and bit down on her meager breakfast.
The office was a farther distance away that she'd moved into a new apartment over a year ago, 65 meters farther to be exact. Small things like those were constantly occurring and Mai couldn't help but wonder what would happen in the future. When she'd have to end work with the Miko-priestess, American exorcist, brotherly monk, competitive medium and narcissist boss. Actually, the first four of the list had already left. Gone to live their lives and tend to personal matters.
Since the SPR group had formed and Mai had become a part-time worker there, two years had passed.
She was running late and she knew so without having to consult a watch.
Why had she decided to wear a skirt that day? With jeans or capris, it would have made the running deal a whole lot easier. Mai sighed as she bit her lip in thought. A cell phone would have come in handy at times like these, and she had had to give Ayako back the one she'd been borrowing months ago. Mai knew she didn't have enough change on her.
Man if I could just…
Then she stopped in her tracks at the sight of a familiar face. Talk about great relief.
"Michiru!" Mai called out happily to one of her closest friends at school. She waved widely in the air, a gesture that would've embarrassed anyone it was aimed at.
Michiru quickly stepped into the streets and smiled. "Mai! Going off to work?"
Mai nodded. She gasped a bit for air while fanning her face "What you up to so early on a Saturday?" .
"Oh, shopping." Then Michiru slumped with a shake of her head. "It's 8 AM, not the crack of dawn."
"I guess so." Mai eyed the bag hanging from Michiru's arm. "Sorry to ask for a favor so suddenly, but can I use your cell? I'm kind of running late…"
Michiru put a free hand inside her purse and pulled out her phone, disapproval written on her face. "You should be more responsible you know."
"Ah! Thank you!" Mai quickly grabbed and slid it open without answering to her friend's advice.
"Nani, you're just exited to see my cell."
Her friend smiled as her fingers dialed the office number from muscle memory. The phone rang twice before the other line picked up without a sound. Mai stiffened up her stance despite the fact that he couldn't see her. "Naru?"
"Mai. Where are you?"
She could practically see her boss's annoyed stance. "Ahh, well you see, funny story –"
"You're late." Listening carefully, however, Mai noticed that his voice sounded distracted, not even cross. She raised an eyebrow.
"Just to call to assure you that I'm not in any trouble. I'm just running a bit late. Anything happen?"
He didn't answer, instead: "I've had to answer two phone calls myself."
"But no one calls this early. It was just Lin-san and Madoka wasn't it? Trying to fool me…"
There was a sigh. "You've grown some nerve over the years."
Mai pretended to be amazed. "More than I had before? I don't know how you handle it."
"Thanks to Yasuhara being here 24/7."
That made her laugh and the small build up of tension disappeared like that. Mai silently smiled. Somehow after her awkward confession, things seemed to have turned out for the better between them. Naru hadn't transformed into a kind and open person, but neither was he the cold Naru before leaving Japan.
"You have 15 minutes."
"Kay." She sang. Mai slid shut the phone and slipped it back into Michiru's purse for her. "Thanks. See you, then."
Michiru nodded with a knowing look on her face. "You've sure gotten friendly with Naru-chan haven't you?"
With only a faint blush on her cheeks, Mai ran off once more. She could make to the office in 10. She waved behind her back at Michiru who walked off in the opposite direction towards a cute new coffee shop.
Yep, just another typical day.
June 2nd – 1 month later
Everyone around was smiling from the warmth of the ripening weeks of summer. They were all wearing tank tops and shorts and skirts. Most of the talk going around had to do with finishing the school year and going to the beach or traveling abroad.
Mai was just returning to the SPR office from the super market. The packets of tea in the office had fallen short and she had decided to run the small errand as a chance to get outside. The brunette smiled to herself as a group of young kids ran past, shouting and laughing. She loved everything about this season – the sultry summer days and skyscrapers over the heat gaze.
Once the SPR building she was returning to was in sight, Mai's face automatically fell into a pout. Everyone else was out here enjoying the great weather, and she would be stuck in a room filing papers with Yasuhara for another few hours. Stuck with the most unplayful people she knew.
But she still let out an exclamation of happiness as she was met with cool wind inside the building. "I love the hot, but it can get so stifling."
In opening the door to the lounge, she ran into a figure coming out. She bumped into his chest and quickly stepped away with a blush. "Y-Yasuhara-kun! Ah, I'm sorry."
"No, that was my bad." The young man smiled brightly. "Did you get the tea?"
Mai nodded and raised the plastic bag with a giggle. "Enough to last a few weeks I think…hope."
"Good, cause I think the boss is showing symptoms of tea withdrawal." Yasuhara straightened up his posture, slightly narrowed his eyes, and look at Mai sideways in a very Naru-like way. "He's giving death glares at everything."
She pretended to flinch. "Nope, that's the usual." Mai laughed and made her way to the door again. "Well I'd better get back. Yasuhara-kun, did you finish already?"
"Mm-mm. Actually, I have to leave early today for some boring college stuff. I must leave you for today." He meekly gave out a smile of an apology. "Next term starts in two months again so I have to prepare."
"I see. Well have an iced drink for the heat out, it's peach flavored." Reaching into the plastic bag, she handed him a soda.
"Ah thanks a ton. Well I'll see you tomorrow!"
Great. Now that her companion was gone, she'd be alone while filing. What seemed like a week of boredom would actually be an hour at SPR. It was a good chance to be with Naru, but the young man tended to read a lot during his time in the office. If she tried to start conversations, it would only turn out to be a one-sided one. Asking questions and answering them herself. She'd tried it once, thinking that he had been listening only to be asked to 'please stop babbling.'
Walking into Naru's office Mai opened the door and then immediately groaned at the sight of her boss.
"Naru! What do you think you're wearing? You make me feel all stuffy." She waved a hand in front of her face to cool her still warm forehead. Seriously, a jacket in the summer. And a black one at that.
All he did was give his employee a glance of indifference. "You're heated up because you just came in and started yelling. We have air-conditioning you know."
"You still shouldn't be dressed like that." She pouted.
"Just get me some tea. Then restart the filing that was left unfinished from the other day. You're a few cabinets behind."
She nearly giggled, but thought against it. The look he was giving her wasn't amused. "Fine. Lin-san, tea?"
"No thank you, Taniyama-san."
As she placed the cup on Naru's desk (he gave a nod) and walked to check out possible new cases, Mai couldn't help but think that although everyone was separated now, some things didn't change after all.
Click on, click off. On, off, on, off. Tap, tap, tap.
When a deep cough emitted from the neighboring office, Naru immediately stopped fingering his pen and laid it on his desk with a sigh. Mai had given it to him for Christmas after the case at the church two years ago. It was sleek and black that didn't seem to run out of ink, just like Mai's daily smiles.
The consistent tapping and clicking had become unconscious activities when he was sitting alone, reading. It drove Lin nuts.
The past few months had been frustrating, because no cases worth looking into had come up. Sure there had been a few with pesky spirits, but not too dangerous or challenging. Soon it had had them realizing how dependent they had been of the medium, monk, miko and priest.
Mai's powers had begun to develop in strength and reliance, though. She was becoming more like an 'animal' everyday. It was funny what effect that saying had on her. Bou-san had quite often laughed. Naru couldn't understand why thoughts of the past made him a bit lonely.
He took a sip of tea from the cup Mai had left behind. She was currently still piling papers and alphabetizing/recycling them. Naru looked back down to the stacks on his own desk. On one of them was the house address of Madoka. He reached for it first, almost even hoping that she had written a plea for him to take on a case. Instead to his annoyance, she had written a letter insisting that he close the office for a while and take a break. He threw that one in the bottom drawer, along with the other useless letters. He didn't have time to take breaks nor did he need one.
The other stack was a typed letter. It had been printed out on an expensive type of looking paper with a creamy color. At the top, it read:
Naru reached over to pick it up and began reading. He knew the school to be a co-ed school for students with low budgets, but something about the name had rung a bell.
He heard the shuffling of papers. His assistant's voice came out muffled through the door. "Did you call Naru?"
"After this year, what school did you say you'd start attending?"
"It's a few miles out of the city called Suzuki Academic, why do you need to know?"
Ah, that was right, she'd mentioned it before. It peeked his interest the slightest bit. The young man sipped his tea again and read on.
"Ne, answer me!"
He would look into it.
"Everyone! Don't forget that finals are in three week. Highest scores from any grade level will get to organize the end of the year festival so do your best and don't get lazy!"
"Yes, sensei." The class chorused in unison.
"Sensei? What will be the theme for the festival?"
"May we divide into specialized stands?"
As the discussion continued, Mai inwardly sighed. Sounded like it would be more work to her rather than a privilege. Michiru and Keiko, sitting on either side of her, leaned in. "Hey," Michiru whispered, "How about we meet in the classroom after school today and tell ghost stories like we used to? It'll probably be our last chance as seniors."
Keiko brightened up immediately. "But why not in the A/V like before?"
"The old one is going to be in use." Mai answered. "This room will work fine. I'm exited!"
The three giggled and felt like freshmen girls again.
"Hey you three!"
"Yes!" All three sat up in their seats with nervous smiles.
Their teacher scowled while shaking a ruler. "You may be seniors, but give the final exams your best! Study if you have time to mutter nonsense."
Without having to catch each other's eyes, the three girls nodded without shame. "We'll study as soon as we arrive home."
It turned out that because of Mai's work schedule, Keiko's piano lessons and Michiru's dance class and homework, the only day available would be the upcoming Friday. A whole four days to wait. When Mai had thought that the day couldn't get any worse, it started to rain. It was a sudden summer shower where it would randomly start, and eventually stop. But this one continued on until Mai had reached the office, drenching every part of her where she hadn't been able to shield with her school backpack. Sighing, she walked in while shaking her hands and clothes. Naru wouldn't like her having the water droplets wetting the floor, but she really didn't care at the moment.
All Mai wanted was some hot tea. Walking into the lounge area, cheerful sunlight spilled in from a nearby window. It taunted her and acted as if it hadn't ever rained at all. Mai set down her dripping backpack at her feet and reached up to take out a mug.
"Ugh." Talk about bad timing.
She stopped in the middle of pouring the hot water and turned to Naru's office door. She wiped her water-slick hair from her eyes. The CEO sign was the only thing facing her. She sighed with relief; her boss was still inside.
"I need you to make a few phone calls."
Mai poked her head into his office with a blank face. It was he who usually made the calls. She didn't touch the desk phone or computer. "Are you that busy?"
"No. Just thought that you'd like to do it."
He was thinking what? Mai took a sip of her green tea and flinched when the numbing warmth burnt her tongue. "To who?"
"A few friends."
"…Eh?" Mai scratched her cheeks a bit with confusion. Sticking her head into his office, the young girl glanced at her boss sitting at his desk. Then seeing the look in Naru's eyes, she smiled and sipped her tea. "Ahh…Really? I've been wondering when this would happen."
Naru lightly scoffed as he lifted up his black folder and a creamy colored packet. "Don't talk as if you knew all along."
However, Mai squealed with delight, and then painfully let out a shout when the hot tea spilled onto her hands. "Hot! Hot…ow…"
"..." Naru didn't even look up.
"Finally it's the day. School days couldn't have possibly been slower."
"They will be on final's week. Did you hear that they'll be full school days too?"
"Mai? Must you mention this? Just concentrate on opening the lock."
The girl smiled and turned back to the window. "Yeah, Yeah." Mai jiggled this way and that, pulling on the window every few jostles.
Michiru sighed and put her hands on her hips, watching her two friends so into their sneak in plan.
Wearily she darted her eyes over her shoulder and back at Mai. "We're getting into so much trouble if we're caught, being seniors and the school's representative, you know, which would be completely ridiculous because Sosuke-san will let us in if we ask him."
Keiko shook her head and looked back. "Ah Michiru, but it's no fun if we ask nicely and are let in. We used to do it all the time when we were freshman so don't act like an honors student now."
Michiru hung her head. "But I am."
"Done!" with a wide grin, Mai lifted the window as wide as it would and climbed into the hallway. "Don't fret, we won't get caught. No one but Sosuke-san is here this late."
Her two friends crept in after her, stealthily making it down the hallway and sliding open their classroom door. Mai slightly hesitated but walked in and ran to her seat, the second column from the windows and next to last seat from the back. Michiru did likewise as Keiko slowed in her steps. "It's so creepy here at night. The desks all look lonely. It's so silent and the moonlight makes haunting shadows in the room."
Mai and Michiru hunched together with an exited squeal. "So you'll be going first?"
Keiko grinned and turned on her flashlight.
Three Days Ago
"Rin, Pyou, Tou, Sha, Kai, Jin, Retsu, Zai, Zen!"
The kuji of the 9-word warding spell echoed across the chilled hallway.
Rapping noises became louder as the number of flailing spirits was increased. The air was without a doubt growing colder. A woman and man were slammed against a wall with merciless force.
"Ahh! Stop it, you're making it worse!"
"Well I'm trying, right?" Ayako yelled back. Seriously, the monk knew about her ways of using the tree's spirits and such, he could be more considerate. She couldn't do anything here now, except distract the spirits long enough for Bou-san to complete his exorcism.
"It's you're turn!" She yelled out as she steadied herself with both hands.
Takigawa Houshou smiled, despite the growing pain in his back. "Here goes!"
Ayako watched as the monk strongly chanted his spell.
The same time Bou-san was quite efficiently getting rid of the spirits, Ayako felt the buzzing of her cell phone. Shrugging, she picked up. "Hello?"
"Not at a time like this!' Bou-san rolled his eyes. Even though the spirits were only small annoyances he could easily be rid of any day, they still needed to be exorcised.
"You're handling it fine!"
A scowl of frustration scribbled across the monk's face. "Nau-maku-san-manda, Bazara-dan-kan!"
The temperature warmed up and soon the misty sights of spirits decreased. Something about the building had been attracting weaker spirits there. It would be demolished soon, but now without any hauntings.
By the time things had settled down, Ayako ran up to him and patted him hard on the back several times. "Nice job!" she exclaimed in English with a smile. "What took so long? Losing your powers with old age?"
The monk straightened his white, button-up shirt with a sharp tug. Patches of brown were dotted in random areas; it'd been the wrong color to wear that day. "Oy, what are you so happy about? It's unnerving to see you like that." He was surprised that he didn't get hit.
Instead, the miko raised her pink phone. "Guess who I just got a call from?"
He looked at her upbeat countenance and noticed that she hadn't been this happy in…a long time since they'd become partners and parted with SPR. Could it be…The displeasure suddenly wiped off his face and was replaced with eagerness.
Ayako's smile became larger and answered in a way that confirmed the man's intuition. "Three guesses as to who, and the first two don't count."
Back with the Girls Four Days After
"You know how girls stay out late studying at cram schools and such, not having the chance to head back before it gets dark. Well one young woman was waiting for the elevators in the hallways to open so that she could get some sleep for class early next morning. The lights were dim, and pitch black if she walked down the halls far enough. It was dead quiet, past midnight.
The elevators in that building were newly designed - there was a small, narrow glass-paned section on the doors so that even when they closed, anyone could look out.
When the doors opened, she entered the elevator. It shortly stopped at the 5th story, where a young man - in his late twenties - entered and stood beside her.
"What level are you going up to?" He asked kindly.
"The 13th story sir." She replied.
He smiled back. "Oh, I get off at the 12th."
And so they rode up together. 6…7…8…9…10…11…12.
The elevator lightly dinged, and the doors opened. "Goodbye." He said to her.
When the doors shut, she was still able to see the man through the small window. He stood there a moment with no movement. And, he suddenly turned back with a bone-chilling grin spreading across his face. She gasped, shaking. Right before the elevator started to rise again, he whipped out a knife and started sprinting to the 13th floor."
Mai uttered the last sentence with a rush in her voice, building up the excitement and fear. The two girls shivered and let out short squeals.
"Geez, that was creepy Mai!" Michiru whined. Mai grinned with pleasure. Their ritual of story telling had all come back as vivid as it had been two years ago. After a silence in the dark, the three girls held their flashlights out in front of them so that the separate lights illuminated their faces with an eerie glow.
It was time for the countdown.
A short breath.
The girls screamed as if a ghost had materialized in front of them. They huddled together from reflex and sudden overcoming fear. Mai had to force her eyes open, but saw nor felt any other presence in the room.
"Wait a second…Keiko I can't breathe!" The arms around her loosened, but stubbornly held on.
As the sound continued on, she realized that it was the sound of pages flapping around from the wind like fluttering wings of a bird. It stopped and Mai realized that she hadn't noticed the book there before.
Michiru sighed and drew back from the huddle. Reaching over she shut the transparent pages while drawing it into her arms. "Sorry, this is mine."
As if from the unexpected temporary start it had given her, Mai was drawn to the book. There was a simple binding with no title on the front, all that decorated the cover was a deep green coloring. It was easy to grasp and full in the number of pages, thick and creamy white. Mai suddenly wanted to read it and absorb whatever writing was in it.
"Michiru, can I please see that?"
Her friend passed it on.
It was heavier than Mai had thought it would be. Everything about it was smooth and aged. But upon opening the book, she saw no words but blank, unused and seemingly new pages. She looked up for an explanation.
"Found it a week ago at an old library. I wanted to use it as a notebook or something, but I don't want to now because it has no lines. I'd mess up the nice pages." Michiru thought a while before pointing towards her friend with a tilt of a chin. "Want it Mai?"
She nodded slowly at the question. "Arigatou." She wouldn't use it for the time being, Mai never had been a writer, but she would keep it.
The girls left towards midnight after another short round of tales. They snuck out the same way they'd entered, separating at the entrance of the school in three different directions. A light drizzle began to fall, intertwined with fog, and washed away any evidence of the secret outing left behind in the earth.
11:50 PM -Same Night
Naru lightly put the phone back in its receiver and sat back in his seat, hands intertwining under his chin. His brows were lightly brought together with thoughts of the new case he'd accepted and made official on the answering machine minutes ago. It would be worth looking into and after speaking to the principal Kouji Hatori, he'd been further convinced that this would not be the simple ghost to figure out and exorcise.
He sat up with his black jacket hanging from the crook of his left arm. It was growing late and he'd have to return early the next day to start preparations. Lin had gone home half an hour ago with reluctance at Naru's suggestion.
Naru shut off the office lights and lightly shut the door behind him, and heard the start of a small night rainfall. Walking home, he stopped a moment to look up and breath in the cold night air.
The letter remained overnight on his desk, lit by the moonlight which contrasted the black letters from the glowing silver page.
To Shibuya Kazuya head of the Shibuya Physic Research,
I am the principal of Suzuki Academy where a series of certain questionable incidents have occurred the past several months. None of them seemed neither connected in any way nor focused at a particular student, but instead seem to grow worse as the weeks pass. There have been reported sightings of strange shadows and malfunctioning of equipment, lights and locks. A student has even claimed to be pushed instead of accidently fallen down the library stairs, a location at which a death had occured.
A number of deaths occurred here actually, all somewhat connected around a student who'd been the one to take her life on the staircase a couple years ago. Her name was Neya Sachiko.
In any other situation, these complaints would have been ignored or labeled as imaginations, but the reportings have been too numerous and I am starting to suspect something as well. It would be best if this was all settled before a new term begins in August. Please give my office a call if you are to accept the case.