I do not own Ghost Hunt
Chapter 14 - Men
I hadn't taken two steps behind the shrine when all of my surroundings disappeared and I was walking through an unending whiteness. This wasn't the usual place I projected to.
"Gene?" I whispered, looking around.
"Mai—she won't—…—sends them away."
It's not safe. I will protect you.
I spun around, trying to stay calm.
"Hello? Are you there?
"Please, I know you are trying to help. I came—now just talk to me."
"What do you want to know?"
I gasped and spun around to see her standing about ten meters from me. A shock ran through me but she seemed to wait patiently for me to collect myself.
"You-you're…" I stuttered
"Yamada Emiko," she stated, not at all surprised by my inability to articulate. I swallowed hard.
Get it together, Mai, this isn't the first ghost you've spoken with.
But in all honesty, she truly was. Most ghosts who had an awareness of their condition were not very interested in conversation.
"You were—were a priestess here?" I asked
Slowly she nodded. A vision of men beating me, ripping my kimono up to expose my legs—whiteness. The images were gone as quickly as they had come. I realized I was looking to the left of my feet.
"Forgive me, it is hard not to share those experiences with someone as sensitive as you are," she murmured. Her tone was deep, almost unfeminine for such a small woman, and it sounded like her throat was sore from screaming.
"I'm sorry that happened to you," I breathed, the emotions still in my throat.
"What is done, is done. We cannot change the past," she responded, waving her hand dismissively. I looked at her, my vision seeming to clear.
"The girl—the one I saw being beaten—where is she?" I asked. The woman paused, seeming to size me up as she chewed on her already busted lip.
"She is safe."
The way the whiteness rippled almost felt like a warning. This was touchy territory.
"She's also really hurt. I need to get her to a hospital."
"She is safe," the woman repeated and this time her voice rung through the expanse that we were standing in. I took an involuntary step back.
Carefully, I breathed in deeply to steady myself.
"Safe from what?" I asked carefully, but the answer was already in my mind.
Ms. Yamada's face darkened, her eyes blackening. With her beaten body, she looked terrifying.
"Men," she growled.
I took another breath, my instincts setting of warning bells in my head.
"That's why you sent him away isn't it? The man who came looking for her—you possessed him and made him go away."
Naru, his disheveled form appearing in the doorway half awake, crossed my mind. The woman didn't need to nod.
"Did you—did you do that with the man that attacked the girl?"
Again a nod. As if imitating her, I nodded as well.
"You saved her and now you are protecting her. You've done really well, but she's not in danger anymore. I need to get her to a doctor."
"No!" snapped the priestess. A wave of fury split through the room, shaking me to my very core. "SHE'S SAFE!"
Ms. Yamada's voice roared through the space. I stared at her in fear as darkness grew from her and spread. Her presence had become so heavy and her hair whip about her in some unseen wind.
I had to stay calm if I didn't want to lose control of this completely. I grabbed my shirt right at my chest, fisting it in my hand.
"She is safe. I'm not going to change that. You have to believe me!"
The wind skated over my skin now, chilling me to the bone. Stay calm, Mai, stay calm.
"Not all men are bad!" I practically screamed over the deafening buzzing that had risen from nowhere.
"NOT BAD?! NOT BAD?! Look what they do!" she shrieked, throwing her broken hand angrily towards her midriff.
"That was just a few!" I cried. "Listen…"
Yamada cast her hand angrily at me and a wind seemed to pass through me, constricting around my lungs. I coughed and bent double.
"Stop," I wheezed.
A tear fell from my eye as I was acutely aware of this being what Naru was worried about. And as his name passed through my mind, images followed. Naru holding me as I fell asleep, his fingers interlacing with my own, his hand brushing hair from my eyes, his lips molding into my own.
The wind in my body let go and I gasped at the air around me. As I opened my eyes, I noticed that same light from before emanating from my chest. I looked up to see the priestess wide eyed.
"Stay away," she hissed, but with the light pulsing from my chest I felt oddly calm. Slowly I walked forward, reaching for her. She didn't retreat—in fact she now seemed almost captivated by the light. The darkness in her eyes dissipated as I came closer. Finally I was standing just a mere step away. She looked at me in awe.
"You've done so much," I muttered, and this time my own voice resonated through the whiteness. "You deserve peace. There is a better place for you—a place where you don't have to be afraid anymore."
She looked me in my eyes, tears forming in her own. I realized she was a full head taller than I was and up close her face was bruised and splattered with what looked like blood. I felt my own heart soften and the light grew even larger.
"Don't be afraid anymore," I whispered. She closed her eyes as my hand reached out for her cheek. Just as I expect to feel the skin beneath my palm, everything went black.
I had enough consciousness to realize I was sprawled on a hard surface. Was that dirt? The air was musty and stank with a mixture of blood and foulness I couldn't recognize.
My head felt numb and it was like the small part of me that was aware was trapped deep inside the darkness. I did manage a very small groan, and as the air passed across my lips my mind seemed to gain some traction in the darkness.
Where was I?
It took me a moment to remember my vision. Had she moved on?
I groaned again and this time I manage to wiggle some of my fingers and toes. Finally my eyes fluttered and opened.
I could hear yelling, but couldn't quite discern it. Slowly, I moved my arms and legs—testing. Everything seemed to work okay—no broken bones that I could feel.
I rolled myself onto all fours slowly. That's when the smell hit me full force—urine, feces, blood, and dirt.
I leaned to my right and emptied my stomach. Coughing, I backed away from the vomit which was adding its own smell to the mix. The stench was so bad I could taste it. I took shallow breaths through my mouth as I fumbled for my phone in my pocket.
I was still barely aware of the voices in the background.
As I flipped open the main screen, the light caught the end of a foot. Slowly, I followed the line of the broken leg to the woman's face. It was her.
I scrambled to her side as best I could in the small space, adrenaline pushing away the dizzying smell.
She looked dead. Her face, nearly unrecognizable with the bruises and swelling, was sunken. Blood stained her clothes and her leg was clearly not the only thing broken. I reached out to feel for a pulse, and as I touched her neck she released a moan that was barely louder than a whisper.
She was alive.
Suddenly the full force of the world slapped me upside my head and the voices were crystal clear and loud.
"Naru," I croaked and cleared my throat. "NARU!"
"MAI?" he barked again.
"NARU, I'M HERE! We're here!"
"Mai! Keep making noise! We'll find you."
I looked around with the light, trying to ignore the stomach turning scene.
The hole we were in was very small, hardly three meters in length and no more than a meter in width. I looked up and saw wood. With my other hand, I made a fist and began to beat on the old planks. Dust and dirt fell around me and I shut my eyes and looked down quickly, not managing to keep all of it out of my eyes.
I stopped banging to wipe the offending particles from beneath my lids.
"MAI!?" He sounded closer and more worried than I had heard him recently.
"I'm here!" I called out again, reaching up with my eyes still closed to rap against the wood again.
There was a creaking noise and the wood I was using as a sounding board disappeared. I squinted up and immense relief washed over me.
Naru was kneeling in what must have been the shrine, his eyes wild as they looked into my own.
Without another thought he dropped the door open and reached down, grasping me under my arms and pulling me up and into his embrace. He leaned back, resting me in his lap and pressing my head between his neck and his palm.
Managing to peak around his fingers, I saw the detectives dropping into the hole as Lin hurried to fetch the paramedics.
"Mai, are you okay?" Naru asked, his voice seeming strained compared to his usual calm. I nodded, pressing my face back into the crook of his neck.
"I am," I whispered.
"Did the spirit…?"
"No, Naru, she didn't hurt me," I whispered, not feeling at all guilty about my half-truth. Honestly, Ms. Yamada had not hurt me for more than a moment. I didn't feel the details of her cleansing were necessary.
"I'm sorry," I whispered as he lifted me out of the back door of the shrine so as not to be in the paramedics' way.
"You should be," he huffed, but his tone held no real hint of anger. I glanced up at his face which was smooth now, his emotions tucked safely away again. "It'll be your fault if I have wrinkles with all the trouble you cause me."
With my eyes shut and head resting against his shoulder, I indelicately snorted.
"Narcissist," I whispered happily. I could feel the smirk on his face.
So I'm sorry this sequence is taking a while (of course they all take a while I suppose) but I've been fighting writer's block on it. Hopefully later arcs won't be so hard.