Warning: parts of this story may contain spoilers for the manga, novel or anime.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost Hunt and I am not profiting from this fanfiction. Any resemblance of this fanfiction to other works or people are purely coincidental.
This is the third part of the series, Vesta's Bonds. The first and second one can be found if you click on my username. Mirror contains spoilers for the previous two segments of my story.
Vesta's Bonds 1oIII: Mirror
Chapter 1 With this beginning
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who's the fairest of them all?
Come to look and we shall see
If you end up being dead like me
That was the first thing Mai heard when she walked into the room.
Endless laughter; some of the voices were of children, some of males, some of females, but all in all, they were laughing. All of them.
Mai trailed through the hallway, walking slowly through the unfamiliar setting. She was in the perfect renaissance home; cream walls, wooden tinting, and a deep, red carpet that was clearly maintained regularly. There were doors literally everywhere and little numbers had been carved into the wood of them too. Mai looked a little further and saw that in a nearby window, it showed snow falling outside. Mai frowned. There shouldn't have been any snow since it was Early Spring already, so wherever she was, it was probably pretty far from home.
Mai kept going, her feet moving as though it had a mind of its own. Mai walked and walked and eventually, she reached the staircases and descended. When she got to the bottom floor, her body automatically moved towards the mirror encased into the wall by the formal room, just like it had every other night.
Mai didn't need to look around to know that the house was empty; other than herself, the only other life form was the people in the mirror.
There were three children in there, their reflection moving but no sign of life was around at all. The first time Mai had seen them, she had thought that the mirror was actually a door. As usual, they were all of them sitting by the doll house that contained small little dolls. Mai frowned and she knelt down to their level. She looked further into the mirror, and then the closest little girl to her looked up and smiled.
The closest child to her looked up, clearly seeing Mai outside the mirror as wasly as Mai saw her.
"Come play with us, Mai."
The child reached out to Mai, and her fingers actually slipped through the layer of the mirror, only to stop in front of Mai's face. Something seemed to stop the child's fingers from moving forward, just as it had the nights before.
"Come, Mai. Come and play."
Mai shot up in her bed, gasping.
The brightness of the sun caused her to flinch slightly and Mai ignored it, her eyes habitually scanning the room now in case she had another unwanted guest. To her relief, the room was completely empty and Mai let out a relieved sigh. She'd been having the same dream for almost a week now, as soon as she'd gotten back from the case as Karakura High School. Every night, she'd walk through that same corridor; end up at that same mirror, only to wake up seconds later.
To say that the dream was starting to bother her definitely was not a lie. Mai shook her head. Sleep was scarce for her already, and whenever she did manage to doze off for a little while, something like this happened. And to make matters worse, she'd always get to work—
Work. Mai's eyes skimmed quickly to the alarm set by her bedside table.
She was going to be late again.
Mai bolted into the office and almost killed herself as she tripped on the third step getting into the office.
Lin-san, who seemed to be opening the door at the time, caught her before she fell back. Mai didn't stop to panic over her fall after the senior assistant had caught her and quickly moved into the office while hastily thanking him.
Mai felt like dying by the time she'd sunk down at her desk. Somehow, she'd managed only to be fifteen minutes late. Unfortunately, she'd probably need about half an hour to regain her breath.
And of course Naru had to call out to her now. Mai stood up, ignoring her protesting muscles, and moved towards the kitchen. She was pulling the pot out of the cupboard when she felt someone standing there with her.
Naru stood at the doorway. "That's the third time this week, Mai."
Mai nodded, moving quickly through the kitchen to arrange the tea. Just as she'd suspected, they hadn't touched anything in there, and the water need to be boiled. He just stood against the doorframe, watching her.
"I know, I know," she said, "and I'm really sorry."
"Wake up earlier then if you're sorry," Naru told her.
Just getting to sleep lately had been a problem for her, but Mai nodded absently, now shifting some of the tea into the pot. Despite what had happened, Mai couldn't help but find his presence here disconcerting. It was unusual for him to seek her out in the kitchen, even if she had been continuously late during the past week.
Then, she realised that his eyes were on her arm.
Mai's eye widened in alarm and she realised that she'd worn a shorter sleeved shirt today in her rush. Of course the edge of the burn would be showing, and she (being a coward) hadn't told him about the small gift Mimisaki Raidon, an acquaintance of Mai's cousin, had left her when they'd met about a week and a half back. Naru had been there too, but because he'd been in such a bad mood, Mai hadn't quite had the courage to tell him about the tattoo. Besides, it had been her problem, so she hadn't wanted to bother him about it.
"So has there been anyone coming in this morning?" Mai asked, hasty to change the subject. Naru tore his eyes from her arm and turned to look up at her, his gesture reminding her very much of a lord intimidating an inferior.
"Not yet," Naru said. "But we do have an appointment booked in about half an hour. You should be there too."
Mai frowned, now confused. He'd never invited her to a meeting with a client before. What suddenly invoked this behaviour?
He looked towards the main office slightly before shifting his gaze back to her. Mai watched him, as usual, oblivious of what he was thinking.
"The meeting was set up by your cousin."
Mai felt her heart sink for the second time that morning.
A meeting. Set up by Ayami with Naru.
"Ayami didn't tell me she was in Japan," Mai said blankly.
"It's a webcam meeting," Naru said. He didn't seem at all happy about the meeting, which pegged Mai as to why he bothered accepting it in the first place. Normally, when he disliked something, he'd just not heed to it.
She didn't ask him though and instead handed him the tray of tea and cup. Naru took it from her and left her on her own.
Half an hour itched by as Mai sat by her desk, patiently waiting. Normally, she'd have paperwork to file or cleaning to do, but all of that had been done yesterday already so now she just sat at her desk catching dust. She would have taken a stab at her homework, but with Ayami's call coming up, she couldn't concentrate enough to do it.
Normally, a case wouldn't have worried her so much, but because it was Ayami, Mai found herself gratuitously fretting. Considering how their last case had gone with Ayami, Mai didn't think she was overreacting at all. Ayami was probably capable of doing the case herself; why did she call Naru at all?
Mai was tempted to call her cousin herself and ask Ayami why she was meeting with Naru when Lin-san finally called her into Naru's office for the meeting.
Mai trod into the room slowly, almost warily, and she took her spot on Naru's left. Lin-san moved back to his desk and started typing away on his keyboard again. Mai looked up at the monitor to see that the network was established and the window expanded to full screen. Immediately, Mai was greeted by the sight of her cousin's face.
It had been about a month since Mai had seen her cousin face to face, and even before that, they'd only had about a week's reunion. The sight of the girl now smiling warmed Mai considerably. Domjouji Ayami was a blue-blooded psychic who was head of one of the most powerful psychic families in the world. Literally the epitome of physical perfection, the only difference Mai noted in Ayami now, in contrast to her a month ago, was her physical attire, which while still elegant, was suited more for summer dress.
"You called?" Naru asked coolly. He, of course, wasted no time on pleasantries.
"Clearly I did," Ayami responded unperturbedly. She looked up slightly, probably at Mai's face, and cast a friendly smile. "I didn't know that you worked today, Mai. I thought you said you got the day off."
Mai nodded slowly. So this was why Ayami had suddenly asked her about her shifts in her last email. "Naru called me in."
Ayami nodded too, this time, with a slightly amused smile itching on her face.
"Of course he would," Ayami replied. "He probably wants to show you how morally repressed I really am. But back to business, Shibuya Kazuya."
Her cousin's eyes snapped back to her employer and Mai frowned. Was it her, or did every time Ayami mention Naru's name, she seemed to lace it with sarcasm?
"--signs of poltergeist presences. Lights flickering on and off; mysterious accidents; the usual, really. I haven't been there personally, so I can't vouch for anything, but if you have Hara Masako take a look at the resort, I'm sure she'll tell you what's up."
Naru didn't even look up.
"I'm not interested."
Ayami's smile widened and Mai could see her evident satisfaction. Oh boy. This wasn't going to go well at all.
"Come now, the case is more than interesting. This building has only been built for about a year; the owners are rather young, apparently, and this is their first business. They have not made any enemies, they are law abiding citizens, and they actually worked hard for what they have, unlike most of us blessed youngsters who have had everything handed to us on a silver platter. You wouldn't want their business to go to shambles just because you held a little grudge against me, right?"
"Then why don't you do it?" Naru responded dejectedly.
"Because if I were to tend to every case that was sent my way, I would have no time to eat and sleep," Ayami drawled patiently. "Besides, they weren't willing to pay my price, and I did feel a little sorry for them, so I sent them your way instead. So what do you say, Shibuya-san? Did I get you this time?"
"Don't be so hasty in declining my offer. Not many people get requests from me, Naru-chan, and I can assure you, you will be quite satisfied with what comes out afterwards. Besides their paycheck, I too will offer something that you desire."
Now, Naru did look up, but Mai could tell that he wasn't moved. "Domjouji-san, what could you possibly offer me—"
"I can help you find your brother."
Mai was horrified.
"How did you know?" Mai spluttered. She hadn't told anyone about Gene – not Ayami or even Bou-san. It had taken Mai over two years to learn of it; how on Earth did Ayami know just a week after Mai did?
Her cousin rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, Mai. Psychic, remember? You and I share a link through bloodlines, and I did see the boy that was not Shibuya Kazuya through Caecilia's eyes when you were taken away by the ghosts of the Shinsengumi. Besides," Ayami added, her eyes snapping to Naru's face now. "When a person like you, Shibuya-san, comes all the way to Japan and stays here for that long, it tends to raise a few questions among lesser beings. Naturally, they investigate, and then someone like me comes along and they cannot wait to spill."
Naru didn't look impressed but Mai could tell from the slight change in his expression that he was considering her offer. "If my psychometry has failed, what makes you think you could find him?"
What on Earth was psychometry?
"I'm an apparent witch, remember? I can cast spells and hunt people down. And I have the resources to track literally anybody." She nodded upwards slightly, and Mai knew that that was in regards to her. "How do you think I found Mai so easily?"
"By summoning a goddess?" Mai suggested. Even she didn't agree on Naru playing Ayami's games. It was far, far too dangerous.
Ayami rolled her eyes. "I can be a little more original than that," she told her. "Besides, I didn't know your name or face, but I do know Eugene's. No gods or goddesses will be summoned for this case, I assure you."
Somewhere along the way, Lin-san had moved to stand alongside them.
"Naru," Lin-san said. He seemed wary if Ayami, and Mai couldn't blame him. The last time they'd been involved in a case with her, she'd summoned a goddess into their midst and expected them to send her back. No one had been hurt (except Ayami herself), but Mai swore that she was never going to set foot into Mimisaki Raidon's manor ever again. Especially when their meeting just a week ago had not gone well at all.
Naru didn't respond to the senior assistant's presence, and Lin-san tried again. "Come now, Naru. Be reasonable. You know what this girl is like."
"Did Lin Koujo actually just open his mouth, in regards to anything? I shall see that as a compliment, even if it was expressed as a junction towards my character." Ayami pressed her palm above her left chest, clearly holding it to her heart as she almost rolled her eyes. "I promise you, however, that I have nothing to do with the supernatural presence in the resort. I have not omitted any information in regards to the case from you, nor have I done any scheming behind your backs."
"Why don't you do it yourself then?" Mai asked. She had already seen her cousin perform an all out exorcism by reading a Latin passage straight from the top of her head. If Ayami told Mai she couldn't do it, it was clearly a lie. Mai might love her cousin and know that she wouldn't harm her, but she also knew the games Ayami liked to play.
"That's because I don't deal with spirits, and when I do, I don't normally exorcise them: I destroy them and they're sent them straight to hell. And besides, your employer wants to know where Gene is, doesn't he? I'm here to offer a clean, painless solution."
"Why don't you just tell him where Gene is?" Mai asked Ayami. The other girl shrugged.
"I don't like him, that's why."
Even Mai could see how unreasonable the response was. "Ayami—"
"It's the way of the Caecilius Clan, Mai. We need exchanges for anything when giving anyone something else. I am sure Shibuya-san knows this too, seeing as I have noted this I.P address nosing around websites that link to the files of the Five."
Mai fell silent. She would be lying if she said she understood the ways of the Caecilius Clan.
"On that note, wish Osamu a happy birthday for me, would you," Ayami added, turning to Mai. "I got him a small gift so I hope he likes it. It'll probably arrive on his doorsteps in a few hours. I sent some people ahead of me so that they could prepare our living arrangements at Arai Mountain."
Mai blinked. "Living arrangements?" she repeated. Then, it dawned to her. "You're coming here?"
Her cousin's smile widened. "I am at the airport at the moment. I will probably get to where you are in about twenty-four hours. We will arrive at the scene of the case around the same time, I believe."
Mai's eyes widened in alarm. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Ayami's presence – in reality, a part of her was actually looking forward to her cousin coming – but Ayami and the rest of SPR hadn't been in the same room since the case at the Mimisaki Manor. Bou-san couldn't even mention Ayami's name without growling.
And they were going to be involved in case together now?
08.10.2008: A pretty tame start to this segment in comparison to the others. To be honest, the next chapter hasn't even finished yet. It is still over 3000 words though. So yeah, hope you guys liked the start ;)
Many thanks to: Ariana Taniyama, miss koneko, Moons-chan, Aoi Faith, Angelic Kitsune, canadianviolet (Unfortunately, you did get Raidon's and Ayami's relationship wrong again.But yes, I probably shouldn't have given him any more hints. LOL I really haven't planned to get Mai a familiar), lurkmoar, ONIX-21, Lady Light, SimplyChristine, Gabryell-P, killbethy, Dreamer-MRAF, Ayjah, sinmay, reckless rage, and syNemYoa,