Authors note: Last chapter!!!! I'm not sure how this turned out, I hope everyone enjoyed my first fanfic. Thank you to all of you who reviewed and supported me through this, thanks to those of you who didn't review but read it all the same, silent support XD.
On a side note, I have lost track of how long this case has been, I think its over a week, the last day thing was right I think. Sorry guys.
Sorry for not adding more NaruXMai stuff, I really had no idea had to start on romantic stuff when I first started and its a bit late now.
Anyhoo enough rambling, cya around.
. . . I've failed . . . I'm sorry . . .
She shut her eyes as tight as she could, curling into herself as much as possible while still standing, and braced herself for whatever Ikeyama had planned.
Miki-san . . . I've failed you too . . .
Her ears felt as if they were splitting from pressure or sound, in her state they were one and the same.
She didn't care, she wanted to get this terrible thing over with, there was nothing she could do to prevent in so why not just race through it?
Dammit!!! You stupid devil . . . spirit . . . Oni . . . whatever the hell you are just kill me already!!!
A soft voice sounded gently in her ears, she had never heard the person speak before, yet knew her completely. As soon as she spoke, she knew who it was.
"Mai-san! Hurry, get out of here!"
Shocked, her eyes snapped open to make sure she wasn't hallucinating, though her eyes could be deceiving her. They had to be, this didn't make sense.
The shadow was warping, folding in on itself, before a brighter light, tinged purple. It was a young woman with hair that was so tangled and disorganized it looked like it hadn't been brushed in many years. Since . . . she had died.
She was still wearing the tattered tunic and torn pants, which clung to her frame so tightly, it was hard to distinguish between cloth and skin. The same outfit she had worn on the night of her death.
"Miki . . .san . . ?"
"Mai-san! Please run! I can't hold him!"
Her form shrank back from Ikeyama's rapidly recovering figure, before Mai's astonished eyes, Miki screamed in agony as Ikeyama did . . . something, thrusting his hands through her ghostly body and tearing at her image which started to dissolve like soaked tissue paper.
Masako appeared by her side and grabbed her arm, hauling her out of the way, allowing Bou-san and the other exorcists to move in. Simultaneously they cast their individual chants and spells, forming a finely woven net that could barely be seen, looking no stronger than spiders silk.
The web shrank, closing around Ikeyama and Miki, the shadowy figure let out another of his hideous howls as the pale red threads came into contact with him.
Bou-san ignored his shrieks, making complicated gestures with his fingers, wrists, and arms, flicking through positions so fast Mai could barely see. He made a final sign and yelled out a single syllable, pulling with his hands. Mai could see sweat forming on his brow from where she stood; Ikeyama, who's piercing screams felt like they would split her head in two, distracted her, forcing her to look at him.
The net was drawn backwards, and Miki melted away from her grapple with Ikeyama's shadowy physique.
His wrists bound by the whisper thin threads, he threw back his head, black teeth bared in a grimace of extreme pain, struggling as hard as he could. He was launching his body in all directions like a captured shark.
"Mai! This is no time to stare! We have to go!"
The psychic medium dragged Mai as hard as she could, Mai did her best to run while desperately looking over her shoulder at the struggling psychics, and most of all, at the demonic entity they were trying to contain.
Eventually she was forced to look away, but not before she saw first John, then Lin thrown backwards by an unknown strike from Ikeyama. Her gut clenched with worry as she was hauled out of sight.
She startled when someone else appeared beside her, she never thought she would seriously see Naru running for something; he kept pace with her and Masako embarrassingly easily.
"Wait, where are we going?"
"Where do you think?" Naru replied shortly, his voice only slightly affected from the distance.
Mai scowled; Masako saving her the trouble of rephrasing the question.
"The place in your dream Mai!"
Mai gulped slightly, recalling the dark, damp place Miki had been dragged down to die, she didn't want to go there, she really didn't, she might die again, in the same manner. The tide could rise while they were down there . . . they could be lost to a place where no one could save them.
She felt someone loop their arms around her shoulders, but how was that possible? They were running so fast . . .
Turning, she met pale silver eyes, she shivered slightly, but they were free of malice, the empty sorrow still stained their depths. But there was no hostility, no hatred, just eternal sorrow.
"Miki-san? . . . . what are you . . ? . . . I thought . . . "
A tiny smile lit the eyes with something that resembled warmth, and the clear, familiar voice from before rang in her mind.
You're breaking the seal for me . . . I'm so sorry for frightening you . . .
"How can you . . . ? Akiro-san told me . . . "
The eyes hardened slightly, but seeing Mai wince, Miki softened her expression as well as she could.
I am well aware of my unstable state . . . however I am rational for the moment, and will remain so unless Ikeyama makes a move, there is nothing to fear Mai-chan
Masako could see Miki too; she let go of Mai and leapt backwards, pausing in running, hands in front of her mouth with a horrified expression on her face.
Mai grabbed her hand and towed her along; Masako didn't take her eyes of Miki, who was walking beside the amber-eyed girl, somehow keeping up without running, her feet brushing the floorboards, making no sound.
"She's on our side!"
Mai turned back to Miki, who looked down at her obligingly, her face expressionless.
"I'm sorry, but could you wait at . . . the place you showed me . . . ?"
The pale figure nodded, wild silver hair caressing the air as she drifted ahead of them, disappearing through one of the walls. Masako seemed to visibly relax once she was out of sight.
"Ah Naru? You do know where to go right?"
He didn't answer, just shot her an incredulous look, she grimaced, but it had been a stupid question.
They tore around a bend, the hallway was shadowy, there was little light, but Naru headed towards a fireplace that had been painted white and decorated with vases of pink roses, but had obviously been there for a long time.
His fingers brushed along numerous indents in the side, finally searching inside the back, resounding with a sharp echo against the back panel.
He pried it away, revealing a hatchway identical to the one in her dream, but dusty and scratched, the hinges squealed in protest as he pulled hard at a small handle, the iron shedding crimson flakes that could be rust or blood, or a mix of both. Either way, whether it was the colour or the sound, it made her shudder.
A gaping hole had been torn in the pure white wall, yawning into solid blackness, shadows seemed to leap and reach towards them.
Without hesitating, Naru ducked into the hollow, the darkness swallowing him in an instant.
"Naru!" Mai cried, not able to stop herself.
"Don't panic, there's more room on the other side" His voice sounded from just a few steps inside.
Steeling herself, she plunged herself into the open void, Masako following, one hand holding onto her arm and the other holding her kimono sleeve in front of her face, as if to ward off the anonymous evil undoubtedly lurking at the bottom.
A slant of light penetrated the dark; Naru had turned on a torch, shining off slick rock walls that ran with moisture. Steps led down into nothingness.
In silence, they began their descent, Mai tried not to shiver as water ran down her spine. The space seemed thick, the rocky walls pressing down on her the air seemed to clog her throat and her lungs ached with the strain.
It was most likely because the air was thin down here, but she couldn't help feeling that there was more to it than that.
Suddenly, a blinding white pain pierced her skull, she stopped, crying out, clutching at her aching head. Images flashed through her mind, ones that made her heart race in terror, emotions coursed through her veins like mercury, heavy and cold.
"Mai? What's wrong?" Masako looked on in concern as Mai held her head as if in great pain, cringing at her cries.
Naru stopped, looking over his shoulder, also alerted by her screams.
Finally, the horrendous reel of images and feelings stopped, everything gradually faded into soft darkness, which she slowly realized was the shadows of the tunnel.
Gasping and sighing in relief, she straightened, rubbing her arms to try and warm herself.
"Sorry Naru, I . . . I saw it again . . . "
He didn't say anything, nor question her any further, Mai was a bit concerned, just as she opened her mouth to speak again he interrupted her, but he wasn't speaking to her, it seemed he was thinking aloud.
"Residual memories . . . perhaps"
"What the name suggests" Masako answered for him, having recovered from her initial shock, Kimono sleeve back in place, "Spirits leave behind memories in the places where they have the strongest ties to, isn't that right Naru?" She smirked prettily at him, eyes closed. Odd that she would have the nerve to do that right now.
"Yes that's right"
He didn't say anything else, but turned around and continued down the damp tunnel, the two girls followed, Masako asking Mai if she was alright, obviously still a little unnerved.
The tunnel seemed to stretch on forever, Mai kept straining her eyes to try and find a light at the end, and there was nothing, just endless dark.
She bumped into Naru when he had finally stopped; he was almost invisible in his dark clothing. She peered around him to see why they had stopped.
They had arrived.
Without knowing it, she had passed through a kind of stone doorway, the rough walls expanded to form a small chamber; the stairs were crudely hewn from the living rock. She could see almost nothing, but she could hear water slapping wetly at the stone, slithering into every corner, running down cracks. It spilled from splits in the roof above them, soaking her to the skin, pouring over rocks.
The light from Naru's torch reflected off black pools, the stairs led down into the water, she couldn't fathom its depth, would she sink if she stepped off the narrow ledge? Would the black water swallow her? Would she ever resurface?
She felt Naru move forward, she unconsciously followed, trembling slightly; she knew what was down here, but where was it?
There was a loud splash as Naru stepped of the platform into the dark water; her heart stuttered, he sank to his knees, but no further. Mai exhaled in relief.
"There appears to be a flat bottom, but be careful not to move too hastily, it may not be consistent"
Moving into the water, the three of them spread out across the small cavern, searching for writing or markings on the walls that make up a spell of binding or restraint.
The water was deceptive, the floor was flat, but at times the shadows from the rocks made you expect a hole or rise, only to stumble when you misjudge a distance.
Due to this, Mai became more and more nervous, her heart felt like it was ready to burst, she knew something was about to happen, the waiting was enough to drive someone mad with terror.
She ran her fingers along one wall, the hard stone hurting her fingers; it was ancient and cold as steel, numbing her hands very quickly.
Her fingers touched something different, rounder, a chain.
She followed it downwards and met smooth bone.
Mai leapt backwards, hand clamped over her mouth to hold back hysterical screams that bubbled in her throat.
"Mai?" She turned around, Naru was standing behind her, looking down into her frightened eyes.
"I . . . I've . . . found her . . . "
Shakily, she pointed at the wall she had just been exploring, as she looked, rocks became chipped bone, still forming the shape of a small human. Without a doubt, it was Miki.
Her remains were slumped sadly, head bowed, scraps of clothing still clung to her thin skeleton, flesh and hair long since worn away. From her corpse radiated unbearable sorrow, desperation and despair.
Mai's eyes stung with sympathetic tears, she felt ashamed, for being afraid of this person, who was in need of help, her soul twisted by pain.
Her heart leapt into her throat when she felt a whisper behind her, whirling around, she looked into Miki's silver eyes once more.
I'm sorry for startling you
She looked back to the skeleton, how it . . . no her, was bound cruelly to the wall, the ropes tight around the bone, even though there was no muscle or skin anymore.
With new eyes, she noticed the scars that marked Miki's wrists, where the rope had torn her flesh to the bone.
"I'm so sorry . . . "
Mai-chan, it was a long time ago, you can't change the past.
She reached out her ghostly hands, brushing her skeleton with a sad smile on her face, her eyes seemed to fill with silvery tears, they rolled down her cheeks, pale imitations of raindrops that vanished before they hit the water, their light not seen in the dark surface.
"But still . . . "
There will be time for this later, I'll show you where the seal is
They watched as the departed girl frowned, tracing her faint fingers over the rock walls, brushing against her bones once more, but not stopping, finally she traced faint letters, drawing back.
She looked to Naru, nodding slightly.
"Mai, you can start now"
"Um . . . how do I start . . . I mean-"
She was cut off when Naru took both her hands, pressed them to the stone gently and held them there.
He ignored her surprise, "Call to the spirits beyond the rock, they will try to break free, help them"
Pushing away her shock Mai closed her eyes, trying her best to project her thoughts beyond the thick stone.
It didn't take long.
Howls and moans of agony ripped through her body, they echoed in her mind, vibrating down her spine. She trembled slightly, but forced her mind to ask the voices to try to break free.
Immediately she felt something beyond the stone, a pulsating, she battered at the barrier with her mind; she could feel the seal binding the spirits, immobilizing them.
She called out to the souls, encouraging them, and then finally, she moved to the last stage, talking to one of the spirits.
Bring me to you. I will help you . . .
Immediately, the dead spirit pulled her out of her body, through the wall, into the spiritual plane beyond.
Mai opened her eyes to see nothing but darkness, purple light twisted in the inky depths, the colour of deep bruises.
The wisps hurt her hands, sending aches down her arms when she reached out to touch them; she pulled her hands back with a small sound of pain.
She turned herself around, with great effort; it was like moving through thick syrup, it reminded her of the dark water in her dream with Lin.
The barrier was easy to see, of the same nature as the surface of a bubble, silvery.
Sanskrit characters crawled across its surface in twisting line, snakelike, moving around the whole thing.
Concentrating hard, she pushed against the surface, it was sticky, and she had to pull herself back.
She backed up to get some distance and rammed herself against the wall, again and again.
The Kuji was next, she slashed the lines through the air and pushed her spirit out, the wall flexed and bounced under the pressure, but did not break.
Her fingers went numb and sore as she tore at it with her bare hands, resorting to biting it with her teeth, nothing seemed to work.
Miki-san! Help me! I'm trapped!
I am here Mai-chan
Ghostly fingers linked with hers, solid now, and cool as rainwater.
Miki overlapped her soul with Mai's; it felt strange, having another presence in the same space as her.
As one, they pushed at the barrier, as one they raised their fingers to perform the Kuji, as one they saw the barrier bend and break, the characters stopping in their motions, a heartbeat passed, then the seal shattered like glass.
In an instant, she was back beside Naru, in her own body.
The shock of what she had just achieved caused her legs to fail her and she stumbled as she moved away from the wall. Naru caught her arm before she hit the water; he let go as soon as she was steady.
Mai looked around her, and her mouth fell open.
Spirits were phasing through the wall where the seal had been, disappearing, vanishing one by one, and leaving the hotel.
They were all as haggard and torn as Miki, some very young, of no more than three years old; others could have been over seventy. All had a tired and worn expression of relief on their faces. The children smiled at her as they clung to their mothers, laughing amongst themselves.
Miki waited anxiously, peering among the hundreds for the one she wanted to see.
Suddenly she screamed as a dark shadow leaped at her, smashing her to the cave wall, it ripped at her form with clawed hands, matted dark hair whirled and torn clothes flailed.
"Ikeyama!" Naru shouted. He had broken free!
A knot tightened in Mai's stomach, what had he done to the others?
The demon's mouth opened, a ragged white hole, he snarled and hit at Miki.
Like two frayed scarves they tangled together, twisting above the surface of the dark water, each one fighting to gain the upper hand. Mai had never thought spirits could feel pain, but Miki's agonized screams told her otherwise.
Ikeyama raised a hand and struck Miki hard across the face, she faltered for a second and he swept at Mai.
Miki wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, she flung herself at the shadow, dragging him back, and still he kept coming.
Mai chanted the incantation Lin had taught her, willing herself not to run.
"Saraba arata sadanei . . . sarabakyara kishougyarei . . ."
It appeared to work, he howled and raised his arms to protect his face, but it only seemed to enrage him more.
When he came at her again, Mai knew she wouldn't be able to muster the strength to try another time.
Then Naru was shielding her, arms flung wide, his entire being glowing a pure white.
He hurled a sphere of gold light at Ikeyama, it exploded and drove him back, but he still wouldn't give up, he was a spirit, Naru's PK worked best on solid objects.
But it was far more effective than Mai's spells, the black clad teen tried again, building a solid shield around him, Mai and Masako. From there he attacked as best he could.
Mai could see what it was costing him, she continued her chants, Masako murmured prayers of her own, and Miki fought him physically as none of them could.
They were desperate, each side was holding their ground, neither could win, then Naru's strength ebbed and he collapsed, Mai caught him, but he was too heavy for her and they both fell into the dark water.
It was so cold! What body heat she had left was snatched away in an instant, this water had not seen the sun for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and, to her horror, it was rising.
She spat out what had gotten into her mouth and tried to keep her bosses head clear of the water.
Miki had lost hold of Ikeyama again; he was attacking a small spirit of a child as it tried to escape. Before her horrified eyes, he screamed and vanished. Ikeyama didn't even bat an eyelid, trying to attack another before Miki caught hold of him again.
Naru stirred in her hold, thankfully his heart hadn't stopped, and he tried to stand, but ended up sitting in the water, holding his head.
"Naru! Miki's dying!"
Her attacks were growing weaker and weaker, her reactions were not as sharp, and she appeared to be giving up. Ikeyama tore at her with his teeth and nails, now like claws.
A figure grabbed Ikeyama by the collar and hurled him against the wall, preventing his movement for the moment.
Miki looked up, her eyes widened, and she smiled grimly.
The figure grinned back, "Sorry, I see you've come to yourself at last"
Miki scowled, "It was hardly my fault Akiro"
He offered a hand to her, and pulled her from the ground.
They turned to Ikeyama, who was picking himself up; they rose in unison, facing each other across a wide expanse of black water.
They raced towards each other.
Mai didn't see the collision, didn't hear it, she was blinded by black light, if such a thing were possible. It exploded across her vision, she could feel she was still there with Naru, but she couldn't see, her eyes burned.
Eventually, it faded to grey and allowed her to see.
Ikeyama was gone, so were all the spirits.
In the middle of the black lake, Miki was crouched on its surface, and Akiro was bending over her, she stood and embraced him.
They stood like that for a few moments, before turning to her and Naru.
"I want to thank you, all of you" Miki said, hugging Mai, and shaking Naru's hand. Ghostly fingers passing through his, though the gesture was understood.
Seeing the concern on Mai's face, she smiled, "Don't worry, your friends are alive, though they could be in better shape"
"It's part of our job" Naru said, standing and facing Miki squarely, "However, you have caused a great deal of trouble yourself. Your actions have cost lives"
"And no one regrets that more than I" She said, her face pained. "I will apologize to them on the other side, we should all be able to rest now"
"I hope you will Miki, despite everything, I'll miss you"
The look on Miki's face made Mai want to laugh, she was completely astonished.
"I hope you don't feel the same way about everyone who tries to kill you" She said seriously.
Mai ignored that, she had a bigger concern, "Are you sure you will be alright now? Will you be able to move on, let go of your grudge?"
Miki paused, sorrow tainting her face, "I'm not sure, I don't think I will ever be able to rest, I have been consumed by nothing but hatred for so long, what more is there to do? If I could, I would die again"
Akiro wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close, Miki didn't respond, her eyes empty and far seeing.
After a heavy pause, Miki shook her head, forcing a smile.
"You should tend to your friends, they need you"
Mai found herself standing by the stairway, looking up the way they had come.
Despite turning as soon as she could, she didn't see anything.
Miki was gone.
Outside the hospital
"Are you sure you guys are ok?"
John smiled slightly, tapping the cast on his wrist absently, "Quite alright Mai-san"
Lin said nothing, climbing into the van, he had broken a few ribs, and it seemed he was back to talking as little as possible. Mai hoped it wasn't permanent.
Bou-san had sprained his leg, Ayako had a torn ligament and Masako was covered in scratches, it was only to be expected, after a long struggle.
Naru had to spend a week in hospital to recover from the strenuous use of his PK, and Mai had been having bouts of nausea for a long time. Gradually, they were recovering, but for the time being SPR was closed.
Everyone was ready to leave the hospital, the van was loaded, Bou-san and Ayako were bickering, it was finished.
But one person was missing.
"Sorry guys, I'll be back soon"
Mai wandered through the halls and rooms of the large hospital complex, waved to Shiori as she was getting ready to leave, noting the large amount of books in her carry bag and smiling.
She exited out into a large quiet garden, huge drooping trees split by winding paths set into the centre of the area with the hospital built around it.
The gravel crunched loudly beneath her feet as she continued her search, blinking in the shade. She could hear birds singing softly on the breeze, the sighing of the leaves, and somewhere a small stream was splashing over flat rocks.
It was by this stream that she found him, on a small bridge, leaning on the railing and looking down into the clear water made green by underwater plants, watching the koi flicker through the weeds.
He turned, his cool blue gaze settling into her own, he gave her a slight nod, and turned back to the water.
She walked up to stand beside him, leaning over the edge to mimic his movements.
When she couldn't take the silence any longer, she said the question that had been bubbling in her mind for the past week.
"Is Miki going to be ok?"
It took a few moments for him to answer, his tone indicating that he was choosing his words carefully.
"I'm not sure, sometimes spirits are beyond help, and she may be in that category, but I hope not"
He hopes not? When has he ever been that uncertain?
She looked at him, he was looking over the surface of the water now, the breeze tossing his dark hair, causing it to fall over his eyes.
"You can't help everyone Mai, someday you are going to have to accept that"
Her answer came before she had time to think it through.
"I . . . I know that, but that doesn't mean I won't try!"
She stood up straight, trying to ignore the urge to bite her lip.
"I won't just stand by and let people be hurt, I'm going to try even if I know its useless! I don't care if I'm in danger, it'll hurt me more if I don't do anything"
He sighed, pulling away from the railing, closing his eyes for a moment.
"I knew you would say that"
Naru reached out a hand, and gingerly brushed a strand of Mai's hair behind her ear.
"Just be careful"
She didn't know what to say to that.
He turned and walked towards the hospital, and after a moment of silent thought, she followed.
I've actually finished this! And before Christmas! I honestly didn't think I was going to make it, I just hope I have enough time to make my Christmas cards now . . . O.O
Extra big thanks to my Beta (which, by the way, I STILL can't pronounce right, Be-at-a or something like that) First known as keywordparamore, then Music is my soulmate and now she's changed her name back to the original Keywordparamore. She's been a great help not only in giving me advice on this story, but also a great person to talk to on separate issues. Like new stories, favorite characters and completely random stuff. Thank you very much! I wouldn't have made it without you!
Please review, I hope it wasn't too rushed.