Behind Closed Doors
File 7: Snow Joke
"Mai," Setou smiled apologetically, "Sorry about earlier."
The brunette knew at this point that it would be easy for Setou to pass on. He was by far the most understanding spirit that she had ever faced. Now that she thought about it, had another spirit ever apologized to her like this? Not that she could think of.
"You have every right to be upset," Mai said sadly, her hand finding his shoulder and giving it a quick, comforting squeeze. "If the person who did this to you was your best friend; even if he wasn't. Truth be told, we don't really know the reality of what happened. But it was unfair to you either way."
Setou nodded grimly, covering his eyes with a trembling hand. "There was so much more that I wanted to do. Why did it have to be me? I wanted to have children, wanted to watch them mature, and grow old with my wife. There was so much more…"
Because the world is corrupt. Because there are people who believe that murder is justifiable. Because there would always be people in the world like that. Unfortunately those people weren't always brought to justice, much like this case.
But the world was also beautiful, Mai remembered. The faces of her smiling teammates came to mind, as well as all of the beautiful memories she has managed to make with them. She wouldn't trade that for anything else in the world.
Taking a deep breath, Mai wiped away at her own tears. She held his crying figure at arms length, the cloth of his shirt feeling so real for some reason. "The tragedy of it now is that you're still the only one suffering. And you don't deserve that at all."
"I don't," the spirit agreed, looking down into the abyss below their feet.
"But you can have peace," Mai assured happily, "Eternal happiness."
Setou looked up sheepishly. "I can really still have that?"
"Of course you can!" Mai laughed. "I know it will be hard, but the only way to pass on is to let go. Just let go of everything – everything that you could've had or should've had in your lifetime. None of it really matters any more."
The man was silent for a moment. His eyes bored into Mai's for a good while, assessing her words. The spirit nodded, his back straightening. He was beginning to come around. "I can't go back any more. All of that is gone now. I have to move forwards."
Mai smiled, her heart still somewhat heavy. Setou would've made an amazing husband, its only too bad his life had been so limited.
Setou smiled down at her gently. "You remind me so much of her," he said sadly, cupping her cheek.
"Your wife?" Mai inquired, tears stinging at the corners of her eyes.
"Akemi was her name," he said, "and it suits you just as it suited her."
Mai flushed bright red and she looked away in embarrassment. Akemi meant bright and beautiful. If that wasn't one of the most classic compliments Mai had ever been given, she didn't know what was. "T-Thank you…"
Setou leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek before slowly turning a golden color. Mai knew this was it. "I don't think I ever would've been able to pass on if it weren't for you, Mai. Thank you for everything."
Those were the last words he said before he transformed into a pure bundle of light. It was so bright that Mai had to close her eyes for a moment. Tears, a mix of sad and happy, trailed down the brunette's cheeks.
Setou was finally going to get the happiness that he deserved and Mai couldn't have been more thankful.
Mai regained consciousness, but her eyes remained closed. She could feel that her face was wet and knew that she had been crying in her state of astral projection.
"It seems that Setou-san's spirit has dissipated," Masako said gently somewhere across the room, probably to Naru. "Mai has succeeded."
"Yeah, he's gone," the brunette confirmed, sniffing before sitting up groggily. "He went peacefully."
Opening her eyes as small as a slit, Mai recognized that an object was being held in front of her face. A tissue, to be more exact. She looked up to see the huge Miyamoto offering the material to wipe her face with and smiled. This man seemed so different than the sort of guy that would kill his best friend. Luckily he took after his mother, Mai thought and almost laughed. The thought of a woman growing to the same size as the man in front of her seemed nearly impossible.
Mai thanked him for the tissue and went about making herself at least look somewhat presentable.
"Naru, I think we're done here."
Conveniently enough, the van arrived early the next morning toting an exhausted looking Lin as well as an equally fatigued Ayako and Bou-san in the back seat.
As it turns out, they had faired just fine during the storm. Lin managed to find the monk and priestess stopped on the side of the road, hitched their car to the van, and stopped at a nearby inn where they stayed until the roads were safe enough to drive on. The phone lines had still been down at the time, so it was nearly impossible for them to get in contact with cabin and let them know that they were okay.
And did Mai mention how many hours it took to shovel themselves out of the cabin? It was a nightmare (not that she had to do any of the work).
Bou-san's car was still unresponsive after the whole incident, which was why they were currently stopping at an auto-repair shop trying to assess the damage that had been done to the unfortunate vehicle. It was probably just time for the poor guy to buy a new car, Mai thought sympathetically. That car was like Bou-san's baby.
Lin pulled the van into the nearly empty lot and parked arbitrarily across from the store's entrance. Mai was the first out of the car, glad to have finally touched land after a good four-hour drive.
"Land!" She exclaimed gratefully, stretching her limbs. It wasn't a particularly bad drive. In fact, Mai usually craved for Ayako and Bou-san's noisy presences during uncomfortably quiet rides with Naru and Lin. This case, however, had been particularly stressful for some reason, and all Mai wanted was a quick nap in the backseat. Her plans were all ruined due to the fact that she was forced to sit with the bickering couple that proceeded to argue the whole way home despite several scathing remarks from Naru.
Mai was relieved when they had finally arrived back in Tokyo.
Bou-san hopped out of the van after the brunette, inspecting the old workshop wearily. The building was merely a shabby garage attached to a small office, just big enough for a desk and a sitting area. The parking lot had been so empty, they almost thought that it was closed, but the hours on the door concluded that the shop was still open for another hour. It wasn't the nicest auto repair in Japan, but it would have to do.
The garage part of the building was open, allowing the team to take a look inside. Not seeing anyone to speak to, Bou-san called out. "Hello, is anybody here?"
There was a moment of silence before Bou-san called out again. Ayako scoffed, looking around the messy shop. "Don't waste your breath, Houshou. I don't think we'll find anything here."
The monk sighed in frustration. "We're already here! Might as well look around and find someone."
Mai hummed softly as she wondered around the garage, ignoring the couple's bickering. There wasn't much to see, just a bunch of strange tools and car parts lying on the ground haphazardly.
Mai stood frozen after her eyes caught sight of a car in the back of the shop covered by a black tarp. Her heart suddenly went into overdrive, causing the brunette to take a minute to catch her breath.
She made her way over to the car slowly, almost approaching it as if it were some strange, wild animal, drowning out Ayako and Bou-san in the background. Everything else faded away as reached for the tarp. What on earth was this strange reaction for? It was as if her body was expecting her to find something horrifying underneath.
A hand landed on top of her own when she finally grabbed onto the black tarp. Mai gasped, turning around to run straight into her employer's broad chest. "Naru!"
"What trouble are you getting yourself into now?" the narcissist inquired condescendingly, shooting her an icy glare.
"Oh! I-I just," Mai stammered guiltily. She was sure Naru would simply tell her to mind her own business. "I just felt like this car was really suspicious for some reason. Don't you feel it?"
Naru's eyebrows creased and a frown, much different from his usual, graced his lips. "Suspicious? You were just randomly drawn to this car?"
Mai blushed, realizing his hand was still holding onto her own. "Ah, yeah. Just my weird intuition, I guess." She laughed nervously, drawing her hands behind her back and leaving Naru's hovering over the tarp.
"You're intuition is usually right, Mai," he said in a dangerously serious tone, grabbing the thick material where Mai's hand previously occupied.
"Wait!" Mai grabbed her employer's wrist, keeping him from pulling away the material to see what was underneath. A surge a fear passed through the girl's body and she shivered violently. "For some reason I'm really scared."
Naru frowned again, this time even more so. "Mai, do you usually get intense feelings like this?"
The brunette blinked in confusion before shrugging. "From time to time, yeah. But mostly on cases and stuff. Why?"
"These intense feelings or urges that you call your 'intuition' have the potential to get you into a lot of trouble, especially since you can't seem to control yourself when I'm not around," Naru explained, glaring at his assistant when she opened her mouth to argue. Although he was right, sometimes she just forgot the world around her and did reckless things. "Have these urges ever been…overwhelming?"
Mai blushed, not wanting to admit that he was right. She merely huffed and crossed her arms in an irritated fashion. "Not telling!"
"Ugh, fine!" The brunette caved with little persuasion, raising her hands in defeat. "Yes, sometimes it's a little…overwhelming. Why are you asking me this now?"
Clearly distraught over this information, Naru became lost in thought. "I will make you a charm that can ease the intensity of emotions and feelings that you tend pick up. That should be able to help."
"But they come in handy!" Mai argued.
"It won't completely get rid of them, Mai," Naru said exasperatedly, "The intensity of what you feel will simply be lessened. It might even lessen the signals that you seem to exude…"
"Signals?" Mai cocked her head in confusion. "What signals?"
The boy sighed. "The reason you're such a magnet for trouble is because you radiate this sort of light to other spirits. And they cling to that light because they believe it will help them pass on."
"Ohhhh," Mai breathed out, nodding her head slowly. Naru wasn't completely sure if she actually understood what he was talking about, but it was good enough for now. "So if I had been wearing the kind of charm you're talking about right now, I wouldn't have been drawn to this car?"
"You would've noticed the feelings of being drawn to it, but it wouldn't have completely taken over your senses as you seemed to let it do."
"I didn't 'let' it take over my senses!" Mai argued, her cheeks visibly reddening at his comment. As if she were some child who didn't know the difference between right and wrong. "It just sort of happens! I don't know how."
Naru rolled his eyes, finally focusing back onto the black tarp. "So what else do you get from this car?"
"I-I don't know!" The brunette exclaimed, mentally cursing him for putting her on the spot. But then other feelings began coming to her all at once. "Fear, anger, thrill, guilt…"
"Ready to see what's underneath?" Naru inquired with a raised eyebrow, tugging on the tarp for emphasis. Mai looked sick at the notion, but he was just as anxious to see what await them beneath the mysterious black tarp.
The brunette grabbed onto his sleeve for support, but remained focused mainly on Naru's hand. "As ready as I'll ever be."
Naru glanced quickly from her to the car, calmly sliding the tarp off.
And what he saw gave him such a shock, it literally knocked the wind out of him. He could feel his whole body tense at just the sight. It was a 1990 Acura NSX, the exact car that had killed his brother. It was even painted that obnoxious candy apple red that made Naru queasy at the sight.
Mai, who was paying more attention to the car than to her employer's reaction, simply frowned. She didn't understand. She had seen it happen once, but Naru had lived it over and over again. He knew it was the car that killed his brother, and one touch could give him the proof he needed.
Mai gasped at his side, her eyes as wide as saucers as her arm fell from his. "Oh my god, Naru." Had she finally connected the dots? It was faster than Naru had expected, actually.
He didn't know what to do or how to react in this situation. Was this his chance to find the person who murdered his brother in cold blood? He reached forward. He had to know for sure.
"No!" Mai exclaimed, pulling him away from the vehicle before he could make contact. "Don't do that to yourself, Naru!"
The look he gave her was unanticipated. Fear and hurt glossed over his ocean blue eyes, attempting to tell Mai how much this meant to him. "I have to know."
Reluctantly, Mai released his arm. "You deserve to know," she replied.
Without another word, Naru nodded.
This was it.
So what do you guys think? Where is this going to go? Will Naru finally know of his brother's murderer? If so, how will he deal with it? NEXT TIME!
Haha, I hope you guys liked the chapter!