A/N: New chapter, please enjoy it.
I don't really have any energy left to write a note, since I'm imprisoned sick and dying in my bed. Seriously, I hate flu, I can't do anything. So, I only apologize for long break. Please, leave a word when you are done.
Gene wore a smug expression as they drove to the forest the next day. He was in an excellent mood, though the same couldn't be said for his travelling companion. Cat looked as though she were about to kill someone.
"How are you feeling this fine morning?" Well, Gene was both a sadist and a masochist, so he didn't care much to be intimidated by her glare.
His smile widened.
"You know, there are some painkillers in my bag if you want them."
Cat could feel a vein throbbing angrily on her forehead.
"And there's water in the backseat."
"Will you shut up?!" She finally shouted. He had been going on and on about it since she woke up. "Anyway, the guys told me a story about the ghost."
"And you can remember it? I must say I'm impressed."
It took all of her self-control not to kill him on the spot. She cleared her throat irritably.
"They said that it's the ghost of a little girl who died in an accident here a few years ago. They weren't able to find her body, but since the car was situated near the lake they suspected that it fell into the river during the crash. Since then the ghost shows itself every few weeks, taking away the lives of travelling couples because she wants her parents back. According to them today is the day the next accident will happen."
Gene furrowed his brows in thought.
"How do they know this?"
"Because the moon was red."
There was a moment of silence.
"Yeah, that makes sense."
Mai spent nearly the entire night in the base. She had been watching the monitors, however with nothing happening on any of them she eventually succumbed to sleep again. When she woke the next day she was greatly surprised to find herself lying on the couch inside the base. She had no idea as to how she got there, but she wasn't going to complain.
Lost in her own thoughts she missed the way Lin glanced at Naru from time to time, the teen only deeming to scowl in response.
Once everyone had woken and had breakfast the door of their base burst open, admitting a woman with bright pink hair who waltzed inside, smiling cheerfully.
"Hello, did you miss me terribly?" She sang enthusiastically.
"And there goes my peace of mind." Naru murmured under his breath; only Mai heard him, as she was the one sitting closest to him.
She had to hold back her laughter. Madoka glanced at her, and before she knew it the girl was swept into the crushing embrace of the older woman.
"Mai, I hope this idiotic student of mine hasn't been torturing you too much? I'll deal with him later, I promise." She said, causing Naru to glare daggers at her back.
"H-hi Madoka-san." Mai answered shakily, smiling in an embarrassed fashion.
The woman looked around the room, observing and taking note of every member of SPR.
"And where is Gene?" She asked, looking at Naru and releasing Mai from her hold.
Naru took a sip of his tea before answering.
"He and Hyuga-san are currently taking care of another case." He answered slowly.
Madoka furrowed her brows. She would have preferred for Gene to be in this particular case, but she didn't comment. Lin caught a glimpse of her expression and she shook her head, silently promising to explain it to him and Naru later on.
"So how are things going?" She asked.
Before anyone could answer, Naru's phone rang. He looked oddly surprised upon seeing the caller ID and put the conversation on speaker.
Mai heard Cat's voice emanating from the phone.
"We've got a little problem here."
"If it's about your hangover I won't be able to help."
"It's not!" Mai almost giggled at the indignation in her voice. "Anyway, Gene seems to have turned into some sort of zombie."
Naru blinked, trying to understand what she meant. Finally it dawned on him.
"Is he staring at one thing with an expressionless face while not responding to anything?" He asked, trying to remember what happened the last time his brother had been in that state.
"Yes. Oh wait, he moved."
"Go after him. He won't be paying attention to his surroundings, since he is either having a vision or is holding a conversation with the spirit." He explained. It was rare for his brother to lapse into a submissive state during his visions since he had long ago learned to control it, but it still happened from time to time. "Call me when he wakes up."
"Roger that... Don't walk straight into the lake, moron!" Was the last thing they heard before the girl ended the call.
Mai glanced at Naru who looked notably worried for a moment before pulling himself together and turning to address his subordinates.
"Takigawa, Mai, go and check the temperature in the rooms. Matsuzaki-san, Hara-san, John-san, go to the library, Yomu-san said that there are some journals there that you can look at." He ordered and they all moved to their respective jobs.
"I had hoped that you would send Bou-san and Ayako-san to work the other case." Madoka said when they were left alone.
"Why? Gene and Hyuga are capable of holding their own there." Nary said, putting down his notebook.
"I don't doubt their abilities, but they will be more needed here." She informed him and leaned against the back of the couch. "And I wanted to have a chat with your newest employee."
Naru turned an interested look on her.
"I talked with your father. We have reason to believe that the contrahere lapidiem is somehow connected to either this house or the person or ghost causing the disappearances. Even if Mai's powers are strong enough to sense it when in close proximity she won't know what to focus on. Gene is more experienced than her when it comes to this sort of thing. I also heard that it was thanks to Hyuga-san's powers that you managed to destroy the one you encountered previously?" Naru nodded, but he was sure that she didn't really need the confirmation.
"Why didn't you say something earlier?" Naru asked, starting to get annoyed.
He remembered how close they were to losing Mai last time and how dangerous these things were. If he had known what they were to be facing, he would...
"You would have declined the case," Madoka answered, watching him carefully, "And you are the only team strong enough to deal with the demons."
"So you purposely decided to put us in danger?" He asked, glaring at his old teacher.
"You put yourself in danger all the time. If I had thought you would be unable to deal with it I wouldn't have brought it up."
Her reassurances did little to calm him down. Lin stared at him when the cup on the table began to shake.
"Do you know how close we were to losing Mai during the last case that involved the stone? That she was almost murdered due to someone's desire? That her heart stopped beating for a moment when she was pulled into the dream in hospital? Or that Hyuga was in a coma and there was a genuine possibility that she wouldn't wake up? Gene and I would have ended up being killed and dismembered if we hadn't figured everything out in time." He glared at her with cold eyes; he didn't raise his voice, but there was no need to.
"Naru, go outside." Lin stopped him and cold eyes fixed on him. "Don't come back until you are calm."
Naru was about to say something, but stood up rapidly and exited the room without looking back.
"He always was more inclined to listen to you." Madoka commented when the doors closed.
"But he is right, you know?" Lin turned his attention to her.
The woman sighed tiredly.
"I know, but we have thoroughly checked everything with Martin and Luella. Since you have already experienced something like this there is a high chance that you would be able to put an end to it before anything worse happens. If and when it becomes too much for you to handle you leave. Shizune already knows that."
Lin merely watched her for a moment. Both sides had reasonable points, so he was going to stay out of it.
"You said that you wanted to have a talk with Hyuga-san." He said after a moment.
Madoka jumped in surprise.
"Oh, yeah. I was really interested in her powers, so I did some research in the Institute after Naru asked me, but the data is either really well hidden or there simply isn't much of it. I want to inquire about it, because the sources I did find weren't exactly... reliable."
"The stupid jerk, making us do this again." Mai mumbled as she and Takigawa travelled to the last room.
"Now Mai, it's not nice to talk like that about your boss." The monk reprimanded lightly in a laughing tone.
It was the largest room, the one that seemed like a ball room. She turned around, looking at everything. There were a few paintings on the walls, but one in particular caught her attention. She walked over to it.
"What are you looking at?" Takigawa asked, going after her.
Mai stopped near a family portrait.
"I've seen this exact same portrait in the corridor; the only difference is the family it portrays."
The family shown consisted of the parents and three daughters, but there still seemed to be something wrong with it.
"Well maybe it's some sort of tradition, you know? They saw saw a portrait like that, found it to their liking and had one commissioned for themselves." Takigawa explained, seeing nothing unusual or of great interest.
"Yeah, maybe you're right..." Mai said, however she wasn't completely convinced.
Near the Lake
"What the hell were you thinking?! You could have drowned! You could have caught hypothermia by now!"
Gene would have smiled in amusement at seeing Cat so frustrated if he wasn't so damn cold.
The last thing he remembered was getting out of the car and then - he was standing in the freezing lake.
"But we found the body." He pointed out through his chattering teeth. The paramedics had covered him in blankets, but it was still too cold.
Cat only glared at him, her green eyes flashing. As soon as Gene was out of the water she had called the police to take care of the body, a priest to take care of prayers, and an ambulance to take care of her idiotic partner.
She had been really scared, especially upon catching a glimpse of his terrified and yet sad face while he was staring at the water. Before she could even get over to him the moron had already jumped into the lake. At least she was fast enough to help him get out.
"Idiot, come here." she said.
Gene was surprised when she suddenly hugged him. He was about to ask her if she was feeling alright, but when he felt warmth surging back into his body he relaxed and hugged her back, knowing that she was only trying to warm him up.
He wasn't disappointed at all.
The delusion was somewhat hereditary in his family.
Mai watched the monitors that she was seated in front of once again. When she came back to the base with Bou-san she could feel the tense atmosphere in the room. She looked from one person to another, but none would meet her gaze.
She sighed tiredly, trying to see anything on the monitors. She was about to give up when something caught her eye.
"Lin-san. There is movement on monitor 4." She said and the Chinese man opened the feed on his laptop.
She was right. There was a shadow of a person clearing shown on the wall, yet there was no-one in the room.
"Takigawa, John-san, Hara-san." Naru began, but the two men had already left.
Takigawa and John were going to perform their exorcisms there and Masako would tell them if the ghost was gone or not.
"Are you sure Hara-san?" Naru asked, tapping his pen on the cover of his book.
"Yes. There was absolutely no spiritual presence." She answered, her sleeve covering her mouth.
Naru frowned while Mai watched the girl in confusion. Something was definitely wrong, they had all seen the shadow on the wall.
"Mai." She looked up at him upon hearing her name. "Call Gene and Hyuga-san, ask them when they will be back." He ordered, before exiting the room.
The girl nodded, pulling out her phone.
She was in the closet, shivering fearfully. It was dark inside and the bad people were in the house. Her mommy had hidden her inside and forbidden her to leave, but she wanted to. She knew something bad was going to happen and she just wanted to go and hug her mommy and daddy.
But she knew that mommy would be angry if she left her hiding place.
She heard screams and angry shouts, so she covered her ears and closed her eyes, praying that it would all end soon.
Gene and Cat
It was past midnight as Cat and Gene began driving to the address Mai had given them. They had waited to see if the ghost would appear again, but when everything remained normal and Gene didn't lapse into a zombie-like state again they decided that it would be safe to close the case.
Cat looked through the side window before breaking the silence.
"Was the death of the girl terrifying?" She asked and Gene flicked his gaze to her for a moment.
"No, it was quick. She didn't really feel anything." He answered, slightly confused by her question. "Why did you ask?"
"You looked terrified when you were staring at the lake." She answered, watching him closely.
There it was again. That sad look on her face that she was unaccustomed to. For a moment she wondered if he would even respond.
"Remember when I told you I died once?" He asked and she nodded.
Back then she had assumed he was joking.
"You see, a few years ago I was a victim of a hit and run. I fell into a river and if it wasn't for the fisherman there I would have drowned. Even so, I experience clinical death and was in a coma for the better part of two years. Everyone thought I was dead; that was why Noll came to Japan." He explained briefly, not really wanting to go into any detail. "Since then I haven't exactly been very... fond... of water."
Cat watched him for a moment. He didn't look at her, instead keeping his gaze fixed on the road. He was often forced to explain this to people who knew him and who had been affected by his disappearance and he hated the pity they showed him. He had, however, learned to mask it well.
"... you are more like a zombie than I thought."
He almost crashed the car into a tree.
"Idiot, look out!"
Even with her ears covered she could hear the loud bangs and the sound of something hitting the ground. There was a strange smell in the air. It only served to terrify her further.
After some time she removed her hands from her ears. There was only silence.
So she opened her eyes.
Through the crack in the closet door she could see her mother...
...who lay in a pool of blood, lifeless eyes staring directly at her daughter.
"Mommy!" Mai shot up in her bed, screaming bloody murder.
Cat, who had been trying to move about as quietly as possible, almost jumped out of her skin, and she could swear that her heart momentarily stopped beating.
Masako and Ayako woke with a start, looking around in confusion.
One look at Mai's face told them all they needed to know. Ayako quickly climbed out of her bed and ran over to comfort the crying girl, whereas Masako simply observed disinterestedly.
The red-headed woman looked at Cat and she nodded before exiting the room to fetch Naru.
"It's okay Mai, don't cry." She muttered soothingly, running her hand over her hair and kissing the younger girl's head. "We're right here."
It wasn't the first time she had had to comfort Mai after a vision.
Mai cried for the girl in the vision; for her pain, fear and loss. She could relate to it somehow, she knew what the girl felt.
When Naru and the rest of the guys arrived with Cat and Masoka in tow she was slowly calming down. Takigawa sat next to her on the other side of the bed and put his hand on her back in a silent show of support.
There was a moment of silence as everyone gave the girl a moment to collect herself. Naru shot Madoka an angry look, as it saying 'are you happy now?'
John, who had the misfortune of standing between them, almost shrank back in fear of the anger radiating from Naru.
"Mai, are you alright?" Ayako asked, and the girl nodded her head, before lifting it from the woman's shoulder.
"You had another dream." Naru stated rather than asked, but Mai nodded anyway. "Do you want to tell us about it now or wait until morning?"
Several of the occupants of the room stared at him in surprise, but no-one commented.
"Now, I don't want to have to remember it again later on." She answered quietly, moving away from the woman's side and sitting straighter. She promised herself that she would be strong.
So she told them, shivering slightly when she remembered the feelings that had suffocated her in the dream. Naru's frown deepened upon seeing her face. He knew that she was remembering her own past after the loss of her parents.
He wondered to himself just how much Mai would get hurt before the case was over.