Ghost Hunt belongs to Fuyumi Ono. I am just playing with her characters.


Echoes: A Ghost Hunt fan fiction

Chapter Six: Promise

Ayako's laughter had a slight hysterical edge, so it wasn't the most comfortable thing to listen to. She didn't quite lose it, but it was close for a moment. I guess after all the stress she just needed to vent. While my comment was funny because it was true, I was not tempted to laugh. I doubted I could laugh without it turning into the crazy laughter I had dreaded earlier. Besides, the person who was the brunt of the joke was most definitely not enjoying it.

I really wanted to ask Naru why he had let Lin-san use his blood. My boss was obviously pissed off from the teasing though, so I didn't get the chance. I knew there was no way he would answer me when he was in such a bad mood. His reaction made me wonder if the choice hadn't been entirely voluntary. It hadn't been my choice either, but that didn't stop me from feeling vaguely guilty about it.

Great. He's probably going to take it out on me...

What did it mean that we were blood bonded? Even the odd stolen memories—Aiko's memories—couldn't tell me what it meant exactly. I hoped Naru hadn't been made a candidate because of my poorly hidden crush on him. Gah. If that was the case, no wonder he was angry. He hated being forced to do anything, and he had made it quite clear that he didn't return my feelings last summer...

Ayako looked like she was just waiting for me to say something else she could tease him about. Naru must have been especially obnoxious for her to be so merciless. Ayako often argued with him, but it wasn't normal for her to be quite so vindictive. Even if he probably deserved it, I decided there was no way I was going to add to the teasing—chances were good he would hold a grudge if I picked on him now. Naru hid it well, but I could tell he was almost as tired and stressed out as me. Reluctantly I decided to save my questions for later—when no one else was around to tease either of us.

Our discussion didn't last much longer anyway because everyone was tired. I had technically been "asleep" for most of the night, but astral travel, and being attacked and then possessed, plus whatever lingering affects were still there from the medicine I was given at the hospital soon had me yawning and unable to coherently talk. I really didn't expect to fall sleep easily—not for the next hundred years or so—but somehow I must have. Or I passed out again. I really don't know which it was, or if it was a mixture of both. At any rate my memories of that night—morning?—are hazy after this point. The next thing I was aware of was a faint beeping noise.

It was irritating and insistent and consequently not easily ignored. I sleepily rolled over on my side thinking such an annoying noise had to be my alarm clock. Crap. Was it already time for school? I was still so tired... The movement caused me to put my weight on my left arm and the sudden pain quickly had me rolling onto my back. I winced and blinked my eyes open to see a rectangle of bright light slanting across the ceiling. That made me realize I wasn't at home because my room didn't have a window on that wall. Where...? Oh. I supposed I must still be in Naru's house, but why was it so bright? Was it already afternoon? A glance to my right at the clock on the table showed that it was one forty-five p.m. Damn. I felt embarrassed for sleeping so late, but at the same time I almost wished I hadn't woken up.

I closed my eyes again in a lame attempt to shut out reality. Wouldn't it have been nice if all the crap that had happened to me had only been a bad dream? Too bad that wasn't the way of it. My memories—even the vague ones—from the night before weren't comforting at all. I had somehow managed to get some rest without dreams, but none of the problems facing me had been solved. I was still being stalked by some creepy clown spirit that could apparently attack me whenever it wanted to. Oh yeah, there was also that possession thing that everyone had avoided telling me about. Just pondering what could have happened that was so bad no one wanted to talk about it made my stomach feel queasy.

I was sorely tempted to just pull the covers over my head and retreat back into sleep. That would be one way to avoid having to deal with the mess my life had become. Except I knew it was unlikely that sleep would remain a haven. My dreams always tended to be more and with my luck I'd probably run into the clown or that crazy schoolgirl again. I couldn't help sighing unhappily at the realization. No matter what I chose, I was pretty much screwed. Hiding would not help; all it would accomplish would be to make me look like a coward.

The beeping was still going on at odd intervals and it wasn't coming from the clock. Did I even want to know what was causing it? The sound had a tinny electronic quality that my mind kept connecting to the image of a bomb slowly counting down. I smiled at the thought because it was so very unlikely. Ghosts did not bother with explosives as far as I knew.

I slowly sat up and was relieved to find I actually felt better. I was tired and my arm still hurt, but the weird dizziness and disorientation were gone. The room looked disconcertingly normal considering the odd...dream?...attack that had occurred there last night. However the décor had been changed while I slept. The white walls now had wards painted directly on them and I wondered when that had happened. Presumably the paint was more effective than the paper charms had been. The neat designs actually looked more decorative than anything else but I recognized them for what they were. Another change was the person sitting in the light blue chair in the corner.

Her gleaming black hair was cut so it fell in a perfectly precise line across her jaw, and she was looking intently at something she held in her hands. I couldn't immediately see her face, but I recognized her anyway. She was curled up in the chair with her feet resting against one arm while she leaned against the other—which was pretty impressive considering she was wearing a tight formal kimono.

Hara Masako is a very famous T.V. Medium. She is beautiful and knows it, and she has the superior attitude one might expect a celebrity to have. Masako sees spirits as if they were real people, and she can also channel them through her own body so they can communicate with others. She is widely acknowledged as the best Spirit Channeler in Japan. Her talents aren't perfect, particularly when it comes to spirits that move around, but she has proved to be useful on several cases. Naru hires her on a contract basis to see if spirits are really haunting a place. On very rare occasions she also performs her version of an exorcism.

Masako is my age—almost exactly—but she has the poise of a much older person. No teenage awkwardness ever seems to plague her. She usually dresses in kimonos and they emphasize how pretty and tiny she is. I think she chooses traditional dress to make herself seem more 'otherworldly' for her T.V. image, but she insists she just prefers kimonos over Western clothes. Her eyes are enormous and tend to be varying shades of gray. They contrast nicely with her pale skin and jet black hair to make her resemble a doll. You know, one of those really expensive hand painted dolls that end up in museums because normal people can't afford them.

I try to be friendly to her, but sometimes it's hard. Masako has a way of pissing me off and making me call her 'that Masako'. She also has a crush on Naru and will try anything to get his attention. Okay, maybe not anything, but she does tend to throw herself into his arms at every opportunity. I'm a bit jealous of her boldness, which probably colors my impressions of her. Underneath all the surface pettiness she is a good person though, and I know I can rely on her.

I was very surprised to find her sitting in "my" room. Wasn't she supposed to be out of town on a media tour or something?

"M-Masako?"

Instead of answering, she held up one hand and then went back to fiddling with whatever she was holding. I wondered if she was texting someone. The thing she was holding was pink and vaguely cellphone shaped. There were more beeping sounds and I realized they were being caused by whatever she was doing. Finally she smiled down at her hands just as a particularly loud sequence of beeps occurred that slowly turned into a song.

"Got you bastard...ha!" she muttered fiercely under her breath.

I blinked and wondered if I'd really heard her say that. The very prim Medium never cursed. What in the world was she doing? Masako pushed a button and then closed the rectangular thing she was holding. It looked suspiciously like a Nintendo DS.

"Sorry Mai, I have been trying to beat that boss for a while," she said as she finally looked at me.

"Boss?"

Was she actually playing a video game? Masako played video games? No way. My face must have shown how surprised I felt, because Masako suddenly looked annoyed.

"Watching you sleep is very dull. Of course I brought something along to hold my interest. What did you expect me to do to pass the time, ikebana?"

"Emm...well..."

Ehehehe

Embarrassingly enough, that was pretty much what I had expected. Masako often seemed to be a person from the past—with her kimonos and 'I'm-so-mysterious' attitude—so I tended to be surprised when she did anything like a "normal" teenager. The traditional floral arrangements that ikebana entailed just seemed like something she would be into—more so than video games anyway.

"Hn. You really should have more common sense," she snapped scornfully.

"Why are you here?" I said in attempt to change the subject. Even though I felt better, I didn't feel like fighting with her.

Masako's gray eyes narrowed and then she turned her head away sharply. Apparently she was determined to be mad.

"Naru called me yesterday. He seems to think you need protection from some sort of evil spirit." Her tone plainly indicated that she didn't believe it was true. "I'm surprised you got him to swallow such an idiotic story," she added spitefully. "Evil clowns...that is beyond stupid even for you."

Whatever...

Other than rolling my eyes, I ignored her and carefully got out of bed. I was tempted to comment that pretending such a thing in order to get Naru's attention was more along the lines of something she would pull, but I didn't. She was probably just jealous that I was staying in his house.

This time the floor stayed steady under my feet and that was reassuring. I didn't like feeling sick and helpless. The events of yesterday seemed to cling to me and I felt dirty. I could still feel the touch of the clown's hands on my skin and it caused an awful crawling sensation like ants or something were on me. I knew it was psychological, but that did not stop me from wanting to get the clown's taint off. Hopefully a shower would help.

"I'm going to wash up," I said and started towards the door.

Masako sighed and gracefully managed to uncurl herself from the chair. Her eyes focused on my neck and she frowned. Great...that probably meant I had even more bruises than I remembered. I was surprised when she picked up a battered suitcase that had been sitting next to her chair. I recognized it as the one I kept in my bedroom closet.

"Ayako packed you some clothes," she said and led the way into the bathroom.

Well that answered my question as to who had picked my Hello Kitty pajamas instead of the more grown up looking ones I usually wore on cases. I hoped Ayako had at least picked out decent clothes for me to wear.

I paused in the doorway because the bathroom had also been changed. Warded charm papers now adorned every wall—it even looked like elaborate metal charms were inside the shower stall. I sort of stopped and stared when I noticed those. Why? Why was Naru going to such lengths to redecorate his house for me? I also wondered if every room was going to be like this. Gah. Was such a thing really necessary?

Masako actually seemed to understand some of what I was feeling. She patted me on the arm as she set the suitcase down. "Lin-san though it was better to over-ward everything than to leave any holes for the spirit to enter."

"Ehh...but..." I stopped because I had no idea what I wanted to say. Sure it was probably better to be safe than sorry, but this was too much.

At least I wouldn't have to worry about being attacked like some girl in a cliched horror movie. There was no way the clown was getting through all those wards. Masako helped me take off my top. Her help was necessary because my left arm hurt too much to move easily. She looked disturbed when she saw all the bruises and I could tell she was worried. It was very odd to see Masako worried about me. I declined further assistance because I did not think it was necessary. I was hurt, sure, but not an invalid.

"I'm not helpless."

"Ah. Of course not," Masako replied. "We are waiting a meeting on you, so don't take too long," she added as she left the room and shut the door.

I stared at the door for a moment before turning the lock. It was unlikely that anyone would try and walk in on me, but that was no reason to leave myself open to embarrassment. I wanted at least a little time to myself to assess the damage. It was still hard to believe that this time yesterday I had been fine with no odd scariness in my life.

My left arm was swollen and even more hand prints had appeared, but these were more shades of purple-ish gray than black—I supposed they were secondary bruises. No wonder Masako had looked upset. My knees were bruised and scabbed over, but otherwise healing well. There were new dark purple hand prints around my neck. Seeing those marks reflected in the mirror made me pause and stare for a moment. I remembered the icy feel of the clown's hands as they closed around my neck and shivered. Obviously there had been some sort of a real element to that dream attack. I still looked too pale and slightly shocked. The dark smudges were fainter, but still visible under my eyes. After all the "fun" of the previous twenty-four hours, I actually did resemble a ghost. Lovely.

I decided not to think about it and tried to focus only on getting clean. The hot water helped clear my head and actually eased the ache in my left arm. I let it pound down on me until it started to cool off. The wards in the shower were actually charm necklaces that had been hung up. I felt better seeing that they weren't a permanent addition.

I was also happy to see that Ayako had thoughtfully packed me several long sleeved T-shirts. I wouldn't look fashionable, but I would be comfortable and the worst of the bruises would be covered. I put on a pair of jeans instead of a skirt because my knees were all scabby. The shirt I chose was a soft gray color which fit my mood. It was one I usually only wore to jog in because it was so baggy. The bagginess made it easier to get on though considering my left arm was practically immobile. I'm not even going to comment on how difficult it was to fasten my bra—ouch is an understatement—but there was no way I was going to run around without one either. I probably should have sucked it up and called Masako for help rather than dealing with it myself, but I didn't want to. Especially not after declaring that I wasn't helpless so she would leave.

All in all, I felt more like my normal self when I left the bathroom. I didn't bother putting on shoes and the carpet was soft under my feet. There wasn't a brush among the things Ayako packed for me, so my wet hair was just sort of finger combed—fortunately it was short enough that it wasn't a complete tangled mess. I looked less like a ghost with my arm covered. When I made a face at my reflection, I looked more like me than a disaster victim. That was a definite improvement.

"My" room was empty when I checked it, though someone had made the bed. I set my suitcase down near the door and wandered back down the hallway. The walls of the hallway were still plain and not warded. The doors along it were still closed, and I saw no reason to randomly try opening them. The sounds of quiet conversation drifted from the room with the giant window. I peeked in and was again struck by the view—it really was wonderful even in daylight.

Masako was sitting on the black couch and sipping a cup of what was probably tea. She was talking to a young foreign man with short blond hair and brilliant blue eyes. His green and white striped polo shirt was worn with khakis and gave him a preppy look. He was flipping through some sort of large hard bound book and frowning at whatever she was saying, but he broke into a smile that lit up his face when he noticed me standing in the doorway.

John Brown is probably one of the kindest people I know. He is very helpful and a good person to talk to. He is always willing to give advice if you ask him. John is a Catholic Priest and he works in an orphanage run by the Church. He is from Australia and speaks fluent—if slightly odd—Japanese. (It is not every day you meet a foreigner who speaks Kansai-ben.)

He is an official exorcist for the Church and it is as an exorcist that he sometimes works for S.P.R. John is young to have such a high official rank—he is only twenty-one years old. He was already an exorcist when I met him three years ago, which means he was ordained while still a teenager. I don't know a lot about the Catholic Church, but I know enough to understand how rare that is. John is humble and never acknowledges that his own accomplishments are a bit remarkable. Instead he acts a bit shy and unsure of himself in social situations. This is in sharp contrast to the competence he displays when working in his official capacity.

I'm not sure why John takes time out from his other duties to help Naru hunt ghosts. I guess it's maybe because he is interested in the paranormal. John easily knows as much as Bou-san when it comes to famous psychics and such—though he seems to lack the monk's fanboy trait.

"Mai-san, it's good to see you," he said and stood up.

"John." I managed a small, but sincere smile. Normally I would have grinned in welcome, but the stress had worn me down.

It had been a month or so since he had helped us on a case. Too bad I only got to see him now under such bad circumstances. I really didn't like seeing the concerned expression in his eyes. Was everyone going to look at me like that?

"Sorry," he said awkwardly and looked embarrassed. "I didn't mean to stare. The bruises are just..."

My right hand unconsciously went up to my neck in a belated attempt to cover them. Why hadn't Ayako thought to pack me some turtleneck sweaters? They were in the same drawer as most of my long sleeved T-shirts and the extra coverage would be nice. It might be a little uncomfortable to wear a sweater in midsummer but... I abruptly realized how silly I was acting. Nothing was going to hide the fact that I'd been hurt from my friends; it was stupid to try and pretend otherwise. I shook my head and made myself smile again. "Don't worry about it."

Masako sniffed from her place on the couch. "You took so long that the meeting was postponed until after lunch."

"Eh...really? Sorry about that," I said to them both.

The thought of food made my stomach growl audibly and I laughed feeling embarrassed. It wasn't my fault though. I hadn't eaten anything since lunch at school the day before—so of course I was hungry now.

Masako had raised one sleeve of her pale pink kimono so it covered her mouth, but her eyes showed she was laughing at me. I expected some sort of tart comment from her—no doubt she would use the opportunity to point out my low upbringing or lack of manners or such. Before she could say anything, John diffused the impending argument.

"I'm hungry too," he admitted. "Besides Matsuzaki-san just started cooking. There is no point in discussing anything until after she is done." He paused and laughed nervously. "We are also waiting for Shibuya-san to return."

There was more than one thing odd about what he had just said, but my mind seized on the last part.

"Naru? Where did he go?"

I was thinking how weird it was for all of us to be hanging out in his house while he wasn't there. Naru is a privacy freak—I am still not allowed inside his personal office unless he is in there. Why in the world had he agreed to let everyone stay unsupervised while he ran off somewhere?

"He went out to investigate something soon after I arrived," Masako said with a faint frown.

"I believe Yasuhara-san called him," John added.

"Oh," was my brilliant answer. Apparently a whole lot of stuff had happened while I slept. I knew that Naru trusted John though, so maybe it wasn't so weird that he had left. No doubt he intended for John and Lin-san to keep the rest of us in line.

A crash from the direction of the kitchen reminded me of the other thing John had mentioned. "Er...did you say that Ayako was cooking?"

Both Masako and John nodded with nearly identical looks of trepidation on their faces. "I tried to talk her out of it, but that woman wouldn't listen," Masako added.

"Ehh..." I shared their unease. Not because Ayako was a bad cook—she often cooked for us—but because she was using Naru's kitchen to do it in. No matter how I tried, I couldn't imagine him being okay with that.

There was another loud clatter from the vicinity of the kitchen. Oh hell. What was Ayako doing in there?

Masako stood up with an alarmed look on her face. "We should make sure she isn't breaking things," the Medium commented.

I nodded in agreement. Knowing Naru, whatever he had by way of cookware would be expensive and top quality. While Ayako probably could afford to replace such things, it would be best to avoid that necessity. Naru had freaked out the one time I had accidentally broken a tray of teacups at the office. I didn't really want to see his reaction if something happened in his home.

Masako led the way to the kitchen. I felt a bit like an idiot for trailing after the bossy girl, but John was also following so we were idiots together. He caught my eye and shrugged as if to say, 'what else can we do?' I rolled my eyes in reply and then had to stop suddenly in order to avoid bumping into Masako. For some reason she was standing motionless right in the middle of the kitchen doorway.

I glared at the back of her head and was about to say something rude when the occupants of the kitchen captured my attention. Ayako was standing in front of the stove. She had her long red hair tied back in a tail and was dressed in a short dark purple skirt with a matching sleeveless top. A plain white apron protected her clothes. Bou-san was standing next to her. Today the monk was wearing a black T-shirt with his usual jeans. One of his hands was reaching towards whatever she was cooking while he leaned in and appeared to be whispering something in her ear. I couldn't hear what he said, but it apparently made her angry. Or they were just continuing their never ending argument.

"Stop that, you idiot. Do you want it to burn?!"

"Tch. You act like I don't know how to cook, woman."

"I don't know that you know how to cook." Ayako smacked his hand away and raised the spatula she was holding in a threatening manner. Bou-san grinned at her as if he was used to such treatment.

"The last time you set off the smoke alarms, remember? I am still trying to get smoke stains off the wallpaper..."

Ayako's voice trailed off and her eyes widened as she noticed us standing in the doorway. It was interesting to see her of all people blush. Bou-san turned to see what she was looking at and suddenly looked flustered. I wondered why in the world they were reacting that way.

"Uh...hi," the monk said with an awkward grin. He took a casual step away from Ayako who had turned back to the stove and seemed very intent on the food she was preparing. "How long have you all been standing there?"

Masako raised one eyebrow at him. "Why are you so nervous?" she asked bluntly and walked past to sit down at the table in the alcove.

"Eh?...I have no idea what you are talking abou—" Bou-san's words cut off when Ayako abruptly smacked him in the side.

"Because he is an idiot," the red haired woman muttered under her breath. "There is a fresh pot of tea if you want some, Mai," she said in a more normal tone and pointed out the teapot.

"Umm...okay."

Bou-san opened a cabinet and pulled out a mug, which he then handed to me. I smiled in thanks. It felt a bit weird to be pouring myself a cup of tea in Naru's kitchen using his cups. Come to think of it, wasn't it weird that Bou-san knew where the cups were kept? Gah. Had they gone through all of Naru's cabinets as soon as he left, or had he told them where things were?

"Are you feeling better, Mai?"

The monk's question broke me out of my worried musing. "Mm," I said with a nod. My arm still hurt quite a bit, but I saw no reason to complain about it. I did feel better and, more importantly, surrounded by my eccentric coworkers I also felt safe. Well safe until the 'big boss' arrived and saw what we were doing in his kitchen. "Hey, is it okay to be doing this?"

Bou-san leaned his back against the counter next to me and sighed. "Well, I'm sure Naru will get over it...eventually."

"Ehhh..." I did not share his confidence.

Ayako was still cooking, but she was also listening to our conversation. "It will do him good to eat a decent meal," she snapped. "All he had in his refrigerator was half of a pizza. No wonder he is so skinny living on junk food and ramen. It's not healthy. I had to go to the store and buy groceries just to make something edible!"

She finished her rant with an angry glare as if daring us to contradict her. Masako and John were both silent, as was Bou-san. I felt a tad embarrassed because sometimes I lived on ramen, so I didn't feel like it was fair to judge Naru for doing the same.

"Maybe he just doesn't like to cook?" I said in sort of a lame defense.

Ayako frowned at me and then shrugged. "I'm not making a mess," she said. "I will wash the dishes later. I do like to cook so it's all good."

Whatever she was cooking smelled delicious. I couldn't help but hope the price of the dinner would be worth it.

Masako chose that moment to speak up. "So cooking is what they call that these days," she said slyly. I had no idea what she meant, but I could tell from the way her eyes gleamed over her kimono sleeve that she was teasing someone. "Do they teach that technique in culinary school?"

Ayako's cheeks flushed and she set a pan down on the stove with a loud clang. "You know, I really don't think your opinion was asked for Hara-san."

"It's a free service, Matsuzaki-san."

"Oh?"

Oh great, I thought. Ayako and Masako were shooting unfriendly looking glares at each other. It looked like a cat fight was imminent. There was no way this was going to end well.

Bou-san seemed to agree with me. "John, come help me distract them," he said to the blond priest. "Mai, you go out in the other room and head Naru off."

"What?"

He ignored my question and gently pushed me out the kitchen door. The last thing I saw before the door swung shut was John being dragged towards the table by Bou-san.

"...Huh." I couldn't help voicing my astonishment. Another loud crash came from the kitchen and I winced. Did I even want to know what was going on in there?

Someone sighed close to my ear and I jumped, spilling tea across my right hand. Fortunately it had cooled so it didn't burn me. I almost dropped the cup though, and would have except the person standing behind me grabbed it.

"I didn't mean to startle you. Is your hand all right?"

Speak of the devil...

"Umm...yeah," I said and laughed. I hate that I laugh when I'm nervous, but it isn't something I can control. Having Naru just suddenly appear like that while Ayako and company were wreaking havoc in his kitchen definitely made me nervous.

"Really?" he said and raised one eyebrow. "Why did Bou-san just push you out of the kitchen?"

Ehehehehe...oh hell.

I looked in his dark blue eyes and my mind embarrassingly went blank. "Uh...I'm supposed to distract you," I blurted out. "Because...Ayako is...umm...cooking." I felt my cheeks heat up as I realized what I had just said. Somehow I didn't think complete honesty was what Bou-san had in mind when he told me to 'head Naru off'.

Naru rarely looks surprised. He did when I said that though, and his eyes narrowed as he frowned at the closed kitchen door. I expected him to go through the door and—maybe not yell—but at least to express his displeasure with the situation. Instead he sighed again and then turned back towards me.

I noticed how tired he looked then and couldn't help worrying. "Did you ever get any sleep at all?"

"No. There were too many things to do."

So it was my fault he looked like that.

"No it's not, idiot," he said and looked exasperated.

I frowned back at him because it was annoying when he seemed to read my thoughts. There was a muffled clang in the kitchen that caused us both to look at the door. Someone yelled.

"Good grief. What are they doing in there?" I couldn't help muttering.

"I don't even want to know," Naru said with a sigh.

He walked across the room and flopped down on the black couch in a way that showed how tired he was more clearly than the faint circles under his eyes did. I felt sort of stupid standing near the door, so I followed him. It occurred to me that this was probably a good chance to ask about the whole blood bond thing. How was I going to bring that up though?

"Mai."

"Hm?" I looked up from my close inspection of the mug I was holding. I hadn't really been seeing it while I wondered what to do.

"Sit down," Naru said without bothering to open his eyes.

The way he said it was rude—like I was some sort of naughty pet. "I'm not a dog," I grumbled, but I sat down next to him anyway.

I wanted to be mad at him, but it was hard. Naru always looked good to me, but he looked especially cute with his head resting on the back of the couch and his eyes closed. His black hair was tousled and I had to resist reaching over and brushing it out of his eyes. Why did I have to have such an unhealthy fixation with my boss? It was embarrassing.

"Well?" he said after a moment of semi awkward silence. It was semi awkward for me anyway because I belatedly realized I had been staring at him the entire time.

"Well what?"

He turned his head in my direction and opened his eyes. There was a slight glint in their blue depths that in anyone else I would have thought was amusement. "Distract me."


A.N. First I want to apologize for the extremely long delay between updates. I went through a rough patch last summer which resulted in depression and writer's block from hell. I have managed to conquer my writer's block through the virtues (and hell) of NaNoWriMo. After writing over 50,000 words in a month, I think I can manage to update this story more regularly. Hopefully there will be no more giant pauses between chapters.

You can always check my profile if you are wondering what is going on with my stories. I do keep it updated with current information under the "Story Status" section.

Thank you so much to everyone who has left me a review. I am sorry that I have not replied to all of them. It has been so long since I wrote chapter five that I can't remember who I replied to. I did read and enjoy every review though—I have them all saved—even the ones that just asked when/if I was ever going to update. It makes me happy to know that people are enjoying my story enough to comment on it.

I will try harder to keep up with any reviews in the future and send back timely replies.

Now to specific chapter six notes:

You might have noticed all the chapter titles are songs (and that I have a fondness for 80's tunes). Sometimes the meaning is a bit obscure unless you read all of the lyrics. I now have an Echoes song list up in my profile. It lists songs and artists so you can look up the lyrics if you want.

Hopefully this doesn't end too weird. This is sort of the rough draft version of chapter six. I wanted to update today so I went ahead and published it. I might go back--actually most likely I will go back and tweak a bit.

Ikebana is the Japanese Art of floral arranging. There is a lot more to it than just arranging flowers in a pretty way. I did not feel like it was necessary to go into detail though because it is just mentioned as sort of a joke.

I decided not to attempt John's odd manner of speaking. I don't understand enough Japanese to know why Kansei-ben is funny other than knowing that comedians use it. Likewise I didn't want to make him sound like he was from Texas which is what some (bad) dubs do with that accent. (I'm from Texas and I don't find it to be a particularly funny or hicky accent...probably because it's my accent.) In this story he just speaks kind of formally.

Hopefully everyone is at least semi-in character. I have spent a month with them in a slightly different GH Universe and it was difficult to get back into Echoes mode. I did try to get them right. I've never tried writing John much, and Masako has a different personality in my NaNo story. Lastly, this chapter is a bit more lighthearted than the others because poor Mai needs a break. Hopefully it wasn't dull. My intent was to add some humor into a tense situation. The action should pick up again soon. And yes, we will find out what happened regarding Mai's possession...it just did not fit in with the rest of this particular chapter.

Thanks for reading. =D