The Sweet Taste of Death: Chapter 1
"Ugh," Mai waddled carefully up the stairs wishing that she hadn't volunteered to haul in the equipment.
John looked over, concern written all over his 19 year old face. Placing his box full of thermometers and cameras down, he stretched for a while on the stairs. "Mai-chan, you shouldn't have taken the biggest thing it the van first. Would you like some help?"
Mai resentfully struggled up another step closer to John. "Well, someone's got to do it, right? I figured we should do the big stuff first. But Lin-san or Naru should be down here helping us, anyway."
The priest smiled picking his box back up. Mai was determined to show her strength to SPR. She was always the one getting in trouble. Ah, well, you know what they say, right? Another day, another case, or…not really.
"You should get something smaller when you go back to the van again, okay?" John recommended.
Mai smiled and nodded at his retreating form go up the stairs. She thought it was cute that her friends were always worried for her, but with Naru's irascible temper, she also thought it was better to set the equipment up fast rather than to be in his line of fire.
Mai grunted as she shifted her weight onto the last step while attempting to pull the box off of the one before.
"Whew!" she sighed in relief. Now all she would have to do is slide it down the hallway and into the base, the fifth door down.
Hell, she didn't even know why Naru accepted a base on the second floor. He just wanted her to suffer, didn't he? Mai silently wondered what the other doors were for.
'Probably our rooms…' she thought to herself. Since there were four doors that meant, as always, that they'd be paired in two's with one left over, who was always John.
"Mm," she groaned again, finally sliding the box of monitors into the base where Takigawa and John were trying to figure out how to work some new machinery.
"Oh! Mai, need some help?" Takigawa smiled, taking the box from her and picking it up with ease.
"How'd you do that?" Mai exclaimed, exasperated. She rubbed her shoulders, slumping into what was to be her boss's chair.
He laughed, unpacking the monitors. "I'm a man, Mai. That's why they leave John and me to do all of the work."
'I don't see any men here.' Mai frowned. "What about me? I'm a man now?"
Takigawa snorted obnoxiously. "Naru just probably doesn't want you to get in his way. Who knows, you'll probably get attacked by ghosts while they get the tour of the house, with that bad luck of yours."
"Well, excuse me for being an easy target!"
John laughed nervously warning Mai not to push too far back in the chair.
The priest looked at the clock on the wall. "We should probably go finish unpacking the stuff before Shibuya-san comes back and gets upset."
Mai smiled, literally jumping out of the room. "I'll get the tea!"
Mai and John
"So, any details on the case? I didn't hear anything from Naru; he just got right to work and sent us to take the temperatures," Mai yawned, cracking her back as she stretched.
John laughed. "Unfortunately not, Mai-san."
It had all started on December 9th, when a girl around Mai's age had come to the office asking to speak privately with Shibuya-san. After that, Naru had locked himself in his little room with his laptop, and refused to talk to anyone, leaving them in the dark.
Mai was frustrated.
"Okay, room number one," she said, opening the first door to her right. "Good thing Naru gave us some blueprints of the house. We'd be lost without them. This house is surprisingly huge, like a haunted mansion…"
"Hai," John hastily agreed.
Taking out the thermometer, the girl sighed. "26 °C," she murmured under her breath, marking it down on her clipboard.
She felt sorry for the poor priest having to stand and wait for her by the door, just in case anything went wrong. It wasn't her fault she was always in so much trouble, though. She couldn't help it if ghosts were attracted to her. Did she smell or something?
"On to the next," John smiled, closing the door behind them.
"Sorry, John," she said, leading the way. "You must be so bored, having to escort me around the house."
"No, no! Not at all!"
A small laugh escaped Mai's lips. "That's what you say."
"Mai-chan, watch ou–"
Umiko was thrown back onto the hallway's old rug, her golden hair framing her pained heart-shaped face.
John stood beside Mai and their client, Umiko Takuro. "I'm sorry. I tried to warn you…" he hung his head.
"That's okay, you two," Umiko said, pulling herself from off of the dusty floor. "It's not like I'm going to fire you for bumping into me. Besides, I was day dreaming, it's my fault."
Mai groaned standing up as well. "Nah, I was day dreaming! We're both at fault."
"So," the curious client started, glancing at the clipboard, "what are you writing down?"
"Ah, we're taking down the temperatures of the rooms Shibuya-san assigned us! They say that when a spirit is present, the temperature drops." John commented.
Umiko nodded. "Interesting. I take it you must really like your jobs?"
"Why?" Mai questioned.
"Well, no normal person would go and hunt down ghosts unless you were really interested, right? I mean, to tell the truth, I'm kind of scared. I never thought that our problem was so serious that we'd have to call in an investigation team."
All was silent for a moment. "Takuro-san, if you don't mind, would you tell us your problem? We don't know anything that's going on, so it would be nice to have some closure," the priest smiled comfortingly.
"Well, in that case," she said twisting her hands in her skirt. It was pretty obvious she didn't want to talk about it, but what must be done, must be done. She led them to a sitting room where they could 'rest from their work,' she said.
Umiko started off her story relentlessly. "It began a few months ago, I'd say about three, when things started to disappear. At first I thought it was just a robbery. We called the police who finally agreed to come and guard the house. They reported that all of the entrances were protected and that we shouldn't worry."
"And we didn't…the stuff started showing up again, so we didn't worry as much as before…I knew it was definitely something having to do with the paranormal, but I paid it no mind…Until one day I…I witnessed my desk chair roll all the way across the room!"
Both Mai and John tensed at the awkward silence that followed. She went on, "I thought that there might be something going on, so I started looking into the possibility of getting an exorcism. After that, everything just stopped."
Mai made a confused face.
"That was one month ago, but it recently started happening again. This time…it's more violent. Instead of just moving, things are being thrown, and late at night I'll hear rapping sounds at my door."
"I've also heard heavy breathing and my name being called from in the kitchen, but then I realize that I'm home alone," she said burying her head in her hands. "I'm so sick of it!"
Mai and John exchanged glances of worry. The priest returned his soft gaze towards their client as he rubbed a soothing hand up and down her back. "There, there. Shibuya-san will definitely find out what's going on."
Umiko looked up, covering her tear stained cheeks. "Yeah. I just…I need some water."
Mai nodded for her partner to go on and take Umiko to the kitchen for a drink. He mouthed an apology and they went on their way.
She laughed to herself, moving on to record the temperature of the next room. "I'm so lonely~" she began singing sadly.
Today was going to be a long day.
"I'm back!" Mai shouted cheerfully as she entered the base.
Masako glared at her from the couch across the room. "You should refrain from yelling otherwise you may lose your voice and won't be able to scream for help when you really need it."
Ayako, who sat farther away from the medium, covered her mouth to stifle her laughter.
"Ha-ha, very funny," Mai replied sarcastically. She hated it when Masako actually made sense…which was always.
"Where's John?" Ayako curiously said as she scanned the room, recovering. "I thought he was supposed to be with you?"
"Oh, he went with Umiko-san to get some water. We asked her to tell us about the things that were happening around the house and she got kind of upset, so I told him to go with her," she replied walking over to sit down.
The miko stood up objectively. "Stupid, you could have been attacked!" she yelled, slamming her hands onto the coffee table in front of her.
Masako sat silent in the corner, her kimono sleeve placed over her mouth. "The miko is right…The spirit here is an intelligent one. It knows what its doing."
"But in broad daylight?" Mai countered.
"It's happened before, Ma–"
"Uh," Mai decided to change the subject matter, "Where's Bou-san?"
"Oh!" Ayako also realized the monk was no where in sight. "I never noticed…"
Mai smirked to herself. Ayako had such a one track mind. That was when she noticed how Masako looked slightly pale as she stood slowly from her position on the couch. "He left a few minutes ago to set up some things, cameras. Naru says that once he's done we can start with the exorcisms," she said softly.
"Masako…?" Mai furrowed her brows. Figuring something was wrong, she moved beside Masako, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Excuse me, I need some fresh air," the medium ignored them as she strutted past, her elegant kimono swaying with every movement her body made.
Ayako looked around the room. "We could just open a window or something–" but before she could speak her full sentence, Mai had bolted from the room after her.
Meanwhile, a bemused Ayako struggled with the matter, wondering if Naru deserved a phone call. 'What are they doing? Something's wrong. M–Maybe I should tell Naru? Nah, they're together so it's okay, right? But knowing them…'
"Argh! Those girls are always putting me through so much trouble!" the miko yelled, digging for her cell and dialing the narcissistic boss's number.
The uninterested grunt on the other line indicated he was somewhat listening. Ayako took a sharp breath inward. "Mai and Masako ran off and I have no clue where they are."
"Masako? Masako! Hang in there! I'm going to get Naru," Mai practically yelled, her grip on the medium's shoulder tightening. Tears were streaming down her ashen cheeks as she stood up to run for help, but Masako caught her sleeve in a weak grip.
The wind blew gently against them and the autumn leaves fell, making small piles on the ground.
"Don't," she threatened, her words muffled by the hand she put over her mouth, turning away as she began coughing up more blood.
Mai shuddered, dropping to her knees. "Masako, stop it! Stop! I'll get Naru for you and we'll take you to a hospital!" she cried, shaking her friend wildly.
"I'm fine, Mai. Stop screaming!"
"You're coughing up blood, Masako! That's not normal, something could be seriously wrong if we don't get you to a hospital soon." Mai didn't know what to do. This was usually the time when the medium went in search of Naru so that she could have the chance to faint on him. Now she didn't even want to see him? Something was most definitely wrong.
"I…" Masako started, almost choking on her own tears, "I don't want Naru to see me like this…"
"I understand you don't want to look bad in front of him, but pleas–"
"No you don't! You don't understand my feelings for him! You could never feel what I feel!" Masako lashed back quickly, slapping her hands away.
Mai's expression was filled with confusion and anger, but above all, pain. Her brows furrowed. Maybe she didn't know how Masako felt, but she knew that if they didn't help her right now she might not be alive long enough to even ask Naru out on a date at the rate she was spitting up blood.
And then Mai snapped.
"Do you think I care what you feel for that stupid, narcissistic boss? I don't care! I…don't…care!" More tears ran down her already swollen cheeks. She hoisted the black-haired teen onto her shoulder bringing her arm around Masako's waist, and stood up.
A pained gasp escaped her lips and she winced, glaring at Mai, who ignored it. Without a second thought, she started walking slowly back towards the direction of the house.
Mai kept walking, refusing to yield. She had no idea where she was going, but she'd find her way out somehow, Mai reassured herself.
Who would've thought they had a freaking forest in their backyard?
'They should really fence off this place, or something. Some people have bad senses of direction, you know!' Mai cursed at whoever's idea it was to start a trend of having jungles as gardens.
Masako still struggled in the girl's grip. "Put me down, you…" her voice trailed off as she finally fainted, giving into fatigue. Mai sighed, struggling even more now to hold up her friend's weight. She knew Masako wasn't this heavy. If only the woman would stop wearing those sweltering kimonos and put some normal clothes on for once…
"Now you've gotten your kimono all bloody…" Mai commented.
When she finally emerged from the forest, Mai saw Naru and Lin burst out of the back door, almost in panic. 'Perfect timing.'
"Lin-san, Naru!" she yelled, a feeling of relief washing over her.
"Mai," her boss breathed out, a frustrated look quickly spread across his usual pale face.
He looked down at Masako, signaling Lin to take her. "What happened?" he asked as they both watched the lanky Chinese man carry the bloody-sleeved girl inside.
Mai wiped her red face, checking to see if there were any more tears. "Uhm…I…it's really hard to explain…" she laughed nervously, turning away.
Naru frowned, grabbing her by the crook of her arm so she couldn't run. "Mai," he demanded, his beautiful blue orbs staring straight into her brown ones.
So she told him everything, or almost everything, anyway. But she decided to leave out the part about them fighting.
Naru sighed, putting a hand to his forehead as if he had a bad headache.
"So, were you worried about Masako?" the brown haired assistant asked dejectedly. That seemed to be the only logic behind the reason why he looked so scared coming out of that house…
"What?" Naru looked at her with a frown plastered onto his handsome face.
"I mean, you looked like you were really worried about her back when I saw you rush out of the house…?"
Naru closed his eyes and turned back into the back entrance of the house. "Masako is an important asset to SPR." He walked inside, leaving the door open for his assistant.
"Tea," he said and left without another word.
Mai leaned against the door frame. "An important part, eh? I wish I was important…"
Okay, I've decided to do this cool new thing where you write the story (I mean the whole story) and then post, say, one chapter every Friday or so. Neat, right?
So anyhow, I figured it was perfect since today is New Year's Eve, even thought its kind of late for Christmas…Oh, well.
Hope you like it!