Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost Hunt. Manga 12 would be out in English.
A/N: Look, I updated again! I'm really happy about it:)
Chapter 39 – Surprise Visits
"Soooo... what am I going to carry?" Mai asked shakily, as she and Naru walked upstairs to retrieve luggage.
"Nothing," Naru replied calmly. "You're obviously still unsteady from the exorcism – I doubt you'll have the strength or focus to get anything safely to the van." As Mai scoffed, her former boss' eyes locked onto the visible bruising along her upper arms. "You're also injured," he added without thinking.
Cue internal cringe – did that sound too solicitous? Rather than excoriate Mai over her carelessness in the workplace (as was his wont), Naru was undisguisedly excusing her from work and expressing open concern.
Meanwhile, Mai dubiously examined her arms. The right one looked worse – that had been the arm she'd landed on when she and Naru crashed onto the hallway floor during Charles' first attack. "I've worked through worse," Mai noted judiciously. "There was actually this one time –"
"SPR has no intention of repeating the mistakes of your fledgling management days, Mai," Naru said silkily. There, that sounded both normal and likely to set Mai off.
"Wha – you jerk of a narcissist!"
Naru smirked victoriously. "Am I to infer that you consider jerks and narcissists to be separate entities? I've always thought you simply switched one out for the other."
"Don't change the subject!"
"Elaborating on the nature of English synonyms you introduced into conversation is not changing the subject," Naru replied evenly. Subject successfully changed.
"It is, too!" Mai argued. Suddenly, she flipped around to glare directly into Naru's eyes. "I don't know, Naru," Mai shook her head mockingly, lips curved into a disturbingly cunning smirk.
Naru wasn't sure whether to be more nervous about the smirking or that Mai was no longer watching where she was going.
"Are you sure you have the strength and focus to handle all those suitcases by yourself?" Mai asked slyly.
"Are you sure you have the coordination to walk backwards so close to a stairway?" Naru countered smoothly.
Mai's eyes widened and she turned on her heel to face... at least ten feet of hallway between herself and the stairs. "Naaaa-ru," she growled, turning just in time to see the door to the boys' bedroom shut in her face.
On the other side of the door, Naru huffed in amusement as Mai's wordless shriek of annoyance was punctuated by angrily stamping feet.
Oliver Davis was intensely gratified to realize that those feelings for Mai would not always inhibit him from interacting normally with her.
After all, his internal reconfiguration and accidental sleep-over were enough to be going on with.
"Martin," Madoka began, "I'm thinking of outlining the proper methods for locating a spirit during my next lecture." She handed a lesson plan over to her boss.
Naru raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't you have covered that before going into jourei exorcism procedures?" he asked condescendingly.
"Of course not, Nosy Nolly," Madoka retorted. "You've got to lead with something exciting to reel them in! The set-up procedures come in later."
"That sounds irresponsible," Naru observed, flipping a page in the case file he was perusing.
"Ugh, this is why you're not an instructor," Madoka grumbled. "No sense for student interest."
"I'm not an instructor because I'm far too busy with research," Naru argued. "My current project requires my full attention."
"I''m sure it does," Madoka agreed slyly. Noll's current project was a paper on Mai's latent ESP. "I sometimes focus on Mai-chan, too."
Naru glared carving knives into Madoka. "Are you composing a thesis I'm unaware of?" he asked tightly.
"Hoarding your research subject to yourself, tsk tsk," Madoka grinned. "No - I meant I sometimes focus on Mai-chan in class."
"What do you mean?" Naru queried. "You focus on her abilities in class?" That didn't sound right - Mai was determined to keep a low psychic profile at Cambridge. She had even asked Naru to give her a pseudonym in his paper.
"No, no - I use Mai-chan and Yasu to demonstrate investigative techniques!" Madoka crowed.
As if that were so much better. Naru could only imagine the indignity Mai suffered - Madoka had tried once, and only once, to use him to demonstrate something in class. His flat refusal - and the ensuing argument - had prompted Martin to ban them both from Cambridge for a week.
"Including Yasuhara I understand," Naru noted. Madoka and Yasuhara together on 'stage' would entertain even him. "But Mai can't possibly want to participate in that nonsense."
Madoka was about to snap back - and then had a Fantastic Idea. "Well," she began, keeping her voice deliberately casual. "I'm trying to break Mai-chan of her stage fright. She's going to wind up in the public eye eventually, so it's better that she learn to deal with adverse audience reactions now." There's the hook, there's the line...
"Adverse reactions?" Naru responded immediately.
And sinker, Madoka thought evilly. "It's Cambridge, Noll," she said dismissively. "There are always going to be people who disagree with you. Some just do it more frequently and nastily than others."
Naru's lips thinned. "I suppose," he agreed, trying to stare Madoka into continuing.
"And the worst of them is that Todd fellow - and he sits in the front row, so he's in our faces all the time," his mentor waved an airy hand. "It'll be good for Mai-chan in the end. Maybe she'll even have him in hand by the Christmas hols."
Naru's eyes narrowed. Madoka's 'throw people into the deep end and they'll swim' mentality didn't work for everyone. Mai would do better with an example to follow.
Madoka watched Noll deliberate from under her eyelashes. "Or maybe by next week," she said brightly. "Martin, are we agreed on the lesson plan?"
Her boss signed off on her plans and handed them over. "Of course," he replied. "I'm sure the students will be glad of a change of subject after last lecture's seance debacle."
Madoka rejoiced at Martin's unintentional assist as Noll's jaw tightened in resolve. "Yes, I'm sure they will," she replied smugly.
Mai's pocket buzzed an instant before her cell phone played the beginning of the 'Hallelujah Chorus.' She hurried to extricate it from her jeans.
"That's the holiday spirit, Taniyama," Martin said with a grin.
The song stopped an instant before Mai swiped the screen. She took a second to glare exasperatedly at her phone before answering Martin. "Well, it's actually the ringtone for my friend John-kun. That's one of his favorite songs – he even taught me the words while we were trapped in an outhouse!"
"In an outhouse?" Luella asked, aghast.
"Yeah, it was a weird case," Mai nodded. "And that wasn't even the strangest thing that happened."
"Mai got lost in the woods again on that case!" Yasuhara jumped in, watching Naru's back stiffen up out of the corner of his eye.
"How is that strange?" Mai shot back. "I end up in the woods all the time!"
Naru gritted his teeth.
"That's true, Mai-chan, don't know what I was thinking." Yasuhara winked at a grinning Madoka. "Anyway, the ghosts were a few kids who'd died of a flu epidemic about a hundred years ago," he informed their audience, "Who decided the best way to continue their childhood was to screw with anyone who came to their house. Everybody on the case was pranked at least once – and one of us wound up out in the snow."
"They possessed me while I was sleeping," Mai muttered.
"In... an outhouse?" Luella repeated.
"No, that happened before I got possessed," the young psychic replied brightly. "I sensed a spirit outside, so John-kun and I went to investigate. We traced it to this really old outhouse and figured that might be the spirit's stomping grounds. But the minute we were both inside, the door slammed shut and wouldn't open."
"And of course they ran out there without telling anyone, so we assumed the two of them were still eating a snack in the kitchen." Yasuhara shook his head in mock displeasure. "It was an hour before we realized they were gone."
Naru rolled his eyes. He'd have realized it in much less time.
"Well, we hadn't sensed anything that whole day, so John-kun and I figured we had to act fast," Mai reasoned. "But we were being led into a trap."
"Which should have been completely obvious," Naru observed dryly. "One of you should have gone in, while the other waited outside."
"Well, that was my plan, Narcissist!" Mai retorted.
Oliver raised an imperial eyebrow.
"I sensed it, so I went inside." Mai explained mutinously. "But I caught my foot on a cracked floor board and fell. John-kun heard me scream, and ran in after me."
"Which is probably what would have happened if you'd been there instead, Noll." Madoka smacked her former pupil's arm with a bright pink folder. "So lay off." Madoka knew that Noll was just concerned - but he really needed to find a nicer way to express that to Mai.
Especially now that Noll is aware of his feelings, Madoka thought to herself. She caught Noll's eye and winked mischievously.
"I would have informed someone of my whereabouts before charging out of the house," Naru argued, spearing his mentor with Blue Laser Beams of Doom.
"Oh, really?" Lin interrupted calmly, not looking up from his computer. "Like the time you wandered out to an abandoned well without telling me? Or the time you didn't tell me about a ghost following you home?"
The entire room stared in amazement at Lin's unexpected outpouring of annoyance. Mai bit her lip to stay silent, hoping he'd keep going.
He did. "Or the time you ran to the nurse's office without saying anything, only to wind up leaping into a room with a falling ceiling?" Lin continued remorselessly. "Or all of those times when you were younger, and wandered off to investigate whatever you wanted - regardless of orders? I'm very sure I wasn't informed before any of the late-night, unsupervised PK drills, either."
"I don't think I've ever heard Lin-san talk this much," Yasuhara whispered reverently. "I didn't think he could talk this much."
Luella and Martin exchanged secret smiles.
Mai beamed a disturbingly Madoka-esque smile at Naru, clearly enjoying his surprise castigation.
Oliver turned his cold eyes to Lin, but his long-suffering assistant just glared right back.
And then the 'Hallelujah Chorus' shattered the silence.
"Damn it!" Mai whispered furiously, stabbing at the answer icon with the nearest finger.
Lin chuckled softly.
"John-kun," Mai said severely, "This better be important. You just interrupted the best thing that's happened all week."
Madoka sat down in Lin's lap and they chuckled together.
Naru exhaled an irritated breath and mourned the loss of his assistant's sanity.
"Oh, Mai-chan, I'm sorry to have interrupted something so important," John apologized sincerely. "You aren't on a date with Naru right now, are you?"
"WHAT? No!" Mai cried.
Just close enough to hear, Yasuhara burst out laughing. "Oh, if only!" he yelled toward the phone.
"John-kuuuun!" Mai groaned, following Madoka's example and whacking Yasu with a case file. She walked away for good measure. "No, that's definitely not... never mind. What's going on?"
"I just wanted to tell you that I'll be coming up there in a couple of weeks!" John replied happily.
"AAAAHHHH! Really?" Mai screamed, clutching her phone in excitement.
Madoka stared at the suddenly ecstatic psychic. "Ah... what just happened?"
Yasuhara scrutinized his best friend thoughtfully. "We-ell, either our last clients paid a year's worth of rent... or John-kun is coming for a visit."
"Are you coming with Ayako?" Mai asked eagerly. "For Christmas?!"
"I guess it's the latter," Luella whispered dryly.
"Ai! John-kun, that's great! I'm so happy you're coming, I've missed you!"
Unbeknownst to Naru, four pairs of eyes swung in his direction to watch his reaction to Mai's words.
Martin (the only one not raptly watching Naru's fingers twitching on his files) considered this an unexpected boon. An exorcist! This was going to be quite the holiday season!
"But Jo-oohn, why would you stay with the priests when you can stay with us?" Mai asked, perplexed. Then she rolled her eyes. "There's nothing wrong with sleeping in an apartment with women! You do it all the time on cases!"
"Nothing wrong the way John-kun does it, anyway," Yasuhara noted slyly.
Mai shot him a look over her shoulder. "Should I start locking my door, Yasu?"
"I wasn't thinking about you and Ayako!" Yasuhara waved a dismissive hand. "You guys aren't any fun." Although Mai and Naru sharing an apartment might be fun... grinning, Yasuhara pulled a certain picture up on his phone.
Mai ignored her best friend. "Anyway, John-kun, you should just stay with... hold on, really?! That's so cool! Never mind staying with us, you have to stay there! Can we come visit you? I haven't been there yet!"
Madoka threw a pillow at Mai, trying to get her to about-face.
It worked. Where? Madoka mouthed to the enthusiastic girl.
"John-kun's been invited to Westminster Cathedral for Christmas!" Mai gushed. "He's going to stay at the Clergy House there – and we can go visit him, and see stuff that they don't show you on the tours!" Her voice was very high by the end of her explanation.
"Evidently we should take Taniyama sightseeing more often," Martin noted, eyes twinkling. "I haven't seen her so excited since I first requested her assistance on a case."
"That's because Professor Davis missed this," Yasuhara stage-whispered, tossing his phone to Madoka. "Mai-chan had to have been excited when she woke up in Naru's arms."
"What?!" Luella hissed in astonishment.
"Noll carried Mai-chan to bed during the Banderson case... and they wound up asleep together on the floor!" Madoka elucidated dramatically. "It was positively swoon-worthy."
"Wha – are you sure you didn't imagine this?" Luella demanded. Madoka's exploits into Fairyland were well-known to the Davis family.
"Madoka sent pictures to my cell!" Yasuhara replied, pointing at the phone. "Wanna see?"
"Of course!" Naru's mother practically tore the phone away from Madoka - and gaped at the sight on the screen.
"It was awesome," Madoka said, face lost in memory. "I should have told you about it that very night, Luella, I can't believe I forgot!" Madoka pursed her lips. "Though I suppose I was suffering from a head injury..."
Luella was too absorbed in the picture to even notice that Madoka was talking. There was Oliver, asleep on the floor with an equally unconscious Mai in his lap. Noll's face was blank in the photo, of course – he was asleep (Luella reckoned he looked more peaceful than usual, but that was likely simply wishful thinking).
Look at his hands, her psychology training instructed. Her adopted son had developed the ability to wipe his face of sentiment before she and Martin had even met him – but sometimes Luella felt like Noll just pushed those hidden emotions to his hands. She always looked there to get a proper read on him.
One of Noll's hands held one of Mai's – even in sleep, their fingers remained firmly interlaced. Luella grinned childishly. Noll's other hand was actually tangled in Mai's hair! Luella wondered whether it was to hold her in his lap - or perhaps because Noll couldn't keep himself from soothing Mai in her sleep. Either way, tears stung Luella's eyes.
Yasuhara leaned over and flipped to the next picture, and Luella could suddenly see more of Mai. This photo was taken lower to the ground... and directly in front of the sleeping couple. Luella could see the blankets cocooned around Mai, as well as Noll's ramrod straight legs on the floor in front of them. "Didn't you say that they were 'wrapped up together on the floor?'" Luella asked quietly, as she smilingly noticed the way Mai's hand gripped Noll's pant leg even in sleep.
"Well, yeah," Madoka whispered back. "But we didn't get to see that."
Luella raised her head at Madoka's mournful tone - only to then raise an eyebrow at the sneaky grin spreading across her friend's face.
"Luckily, Mai-chan let it slip when I was interrogating her." Madoka's smile was all teeth.
"Apparently they woke up lying next to each other, snuggled under the blankets!" Yasuhara burst out gleefully.
Luella couldn't help grinning widely in return. "Could you perhaps... forward these to my mobile?" she asked.
Yasuhara snorted. "I'll do it right now! Maybe I'll even make you a few copies as a Christmas present," he joked. "Good thing I bought that color ink the other day."
"Yes, we'd want to capture every shade of peaceful happiness in their faces," Madoka agreed.
Luella's eyes automatically looked up her son, as if that peaceful happiness would still be present if she looked hard enough. It wasn't, of course – but Luella could see that Noll was flicking his gaze to Mai's excited face far too often to actually be concentrating on that case file. She could also tell the moment Noll twigged that she was watching him – he turned a page in the folder. Luella hid a grin and followed his furtive gaze to Mai.
"We'll see you soon, John-kun! Make sure to give the kids at the church shelter an extra hug for me before you go!" Mai was practically vibrating with joy.
Whereas Noll is practically dripping with sulk, Luella observed. She rose from her chair and headed for the kitchen (to mark the upcoming visit on her calendar). As she passed Noll, Luella leaned down to whisper into his ear. "Don't worry, darling," she offered, squeezing his shoulder supportively. "I'm sure Mai has never slept in his lap."
Her son's head whipped up, eyes widened in complete shock.
"Maybe next time you can manage a kiss, hm?" Luella smiled beatifically and waltzed into the hall.
Mai groaned as her alarm sounded on Thursday morning. She soooooo did not want to go to class today.
Thursdays tended to be the low point of her week. Wednesdays were always very long for Mai – a full day of classes, then testing, then dinner out with the SPR gang to re-cap testing results and any case issues. Mai and Yasu rarely made it back to the apartment before eleven.
And though she quite enjoyed her classes, the constant barrage of high-level English vocabulary was especially troublesome on Thursdays. Mai's training-hangover seemed to affect her brain's ability to deal with less familiar words. Thank goodness Yasuhara sat next to her in every class. When Mai got lost, she would poke Yasu and he'd translate for her.
And luckily, Professor Davis' classes were surprisingly computer-aided. Mai would have pegged him for the old-fashioned lecture-only type (she knew he preferred Naru and Madoka to write up all case files by hand), but the main points and case studies for all lectures were loaded onto the class website. Mai could go back and study anything she missed, as well as look up terms that confused her. (Mai suspected that the website was managed by one of his graduate students – Martin himself still had trouble with programming his own thermal cameras).
"In conclusion," Mai muttered groggily, "Thursdays suck."
School had been rough lately, in general. Mai had missed an entire week's worth of classes during the Banderson case. Catching up in her second language was difficult on its own – but using Yasuhara's thorough-but-distracting notes was harder still. As promised, Yasu had written everything down... but also included tons of silly drawings, anecdotes about random topics, and a mini-thesis concerning which vegetable each of their classmates reminded him of.
Mai smiled as she remembered studying that page in front of Naru. He asked Mai what it was about Cambridge's instruction on the paranormal that could be so laughable - and started in on Yasu the moment he understood what Mai was reading.
Madoka then started in on Naru for being too serious... and informed Yasu that Judith was really more of a cucumber than a potato.
However, Mai thought with an inward groan, it wasn't really the classroom language barrier or Mai's exhaustion that made her dread class THIS Thursday.
Today was a Madoka Lecture Day.
Once in a while, Dr. Madoka Mori – ghost hunter extraordinaire and pretty much Martin's favorite student ever – did guest lectures about the fieldwork side of parapsychology.
For Mai, it was simultaneously super-fun and super-annoying.
Super-fun because Madoka was obviously livelier than Professor Davis, and did her best to make lessons fun and exciting. As an added bonus, Mai was very experienced with parapsychological field research and had no trouble understanding anything Madoka talked about.
Super-annoying because Madoka often assigned Yasu and Mai as her 'helpers' during the lectures. So Mai had to stand up in front of everyone and help demonstrate the use of thermographic cameras, floor-plan mapping, camera placement, etc.
During her last lecture, Madoka actually had Mai participate in a fake séance and play the part of the 'angry spirit' in a jourei exorcism demonstration. It was mortifying – Mai had summoned every ounce of Masako-chan's personality she could muster to make it through.
Thankfully, Madoka never asked Mai to use her abilities in front of the class (Professor Davis liked to keep such exhibitions for special occasions like paranormal conventions and grant-funding conferences). And as far as Mai was concerned, the longer her psychic identity stayed a secret, the better. She and Yasu were already the subject of mixed feelings in class.
The fact that the transfer students obviously knew Madoka sort of rankled with their classmates. Professor Davis (more used to university power-politics) was careful about not showing too much favor to his Japanese students – and never mentioned that Mai and Yasuhara spent lots of time at his home.
Madoka, on the other hand, made no bones about the fact that she was close to Mai and Yasu. Thanks to her forthrightness and in-jokes, the other students knew that the Japanese transfers had both worked with Madoka before coming to England.
This had caused much whispering in the seats.
But last session (immediately following the fake séance, because that wasn't bad enough already), Madoka unhelpfully insinuated that Mai was involved with Naru's new academic work. This was true, of course – Mai was the primary focus of Naru's in-progress paper on the use and development of instinctual ESP. The submission of Naru's research proposal immediately became Big News at Cambridge, and was constantly discussed by students and instructors alike.
And naturally, several of her very intelligent Cambridge classmates had made the necessary mental leaps and figured out that Mai personally knew Dr. Oliver Davis.
Since that day, Mai had been the object of many jealous glances. Judith – the same Naru super-fangirl who had annoyed Mai into poltergeisting (and apparently resembled either a potato or a cucumber) – regularly glared at the young psychic so resentfully that Mai could almost feel her flesh melting.
Bang! Bang! "Come on, Mai-chan!" Yasuhara yelled from the other side of the bedroom door.
Mai groaned and slid further under the covers. Maybe if she talked it over with Madoka before class started, Mai could avoid being outed any further... though the instinctual feeling of dread tumbling like a rock in her stomach suggested otherwise.
Bangbangbang! "We've got to get moving! Don't want to be late for Madoka's lecture!"
Reluctantly, Mai rolled out of bed. She clumsily grabbed a robe and slumped into the living room, locking eyes with a way-too-excited Yasuhara. "But I do want to be late," she moaned pitifully. "Maybe then Madoka will forget I'm there."
Grumbling all the way, Mai made it to Cambridge. When she and Yasu took their usual seats in the middle-back of Martin's lecture hall, Mai proceeded to make herself as small as possible in her seat.
"Do you really think that's going to work?" Yasuhara asked amusedly. "The woman hunts invisible things for a living; there's no way she won't be able to locate you."
"You never know," Mai whispered. "Someone tall could sit in front of me."
"Aww, don't be a spoilsport, Mai-chan!" Yasu grinned. "Madoka's lessons are the best! I get to fake-flirt with her all day, make the whole class jealous... and watch you cringe with humiliation!"
"You're awful," Mai huffed. "You're just lucky you didn't have to do the séance."
"Are you kidding? I would love to be in a fake séance!"
"Ugh, you would."
"Damn straight. I would do a much better job than you did, too. I'd be all dramatic and crazy – besides, it would be the perfect excuse to strangle Roger Todd!"
Mai giggled unwillingly. Roger was definitely the most annoying person in their classes. He even outranked Judith. Not only did Roger suck up to Martin at every opportunity – he was obnoxiously stuck-up.
Roger's nasty behavior actually bothered Mai more than did Naru's narcissism. Naru (not that Mai made a habit of telling him) was pretty amazing. He was also extremely, irritatingly aware of it - but at least Naru could back up his high opinion of himself. Roger was nowhere near as intelligent or successful (or handsome) as Naru, yet still considered himself better than everyone.
Mai and Yasuhara rolled their eyes in tandem whenever Roger went on a tangent in class – and Mai was pretty sure Martin tried not to smile when he caught them at it. She was also pretty sure that several of her classmates felt the same way. Andrea and Sandy-Hair definitely did. Even Judith sighed testily during Roger's long speeches about his incredible conclusions concerning that day's topic.
She must have said some of this out loud, because Yasuhara snorted beside her.
"Yes, we are all united in our hatred for Roger, Mai-chan," he affirmed. Then he grinned. "You also really should learn Sandy-Hair's name – eventually, he's probably going to work for SPR and introducing Big Boss to the cute boy you know from school as 'Sandy-Hair' is not going to produce the reaction I want."
"Hold on, what?" Mai asked, distracted. "You think Sandy-Hair is cute?"
"Ugh, never mind," Yasu groaned.
Mai's bewilderment lasted only a moment, as her attention was drawn by the arrival of Martin and Madoka. They deposited some items on a table next to the lectern before stepping back out of the room. Among the normal equipment, Mai spotted a couple of unfamiliar silver rods. They were L-shaped, bent at ninety-degree angles.
"What are those?" Mai asked Yasuhara quietly.
"Dowsing rods," he answered. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was unexpectedly cut off.
"I would have thought that someone so familiar with ghost hunting would recognize a dowsing rod, Taniyama," A voice sneered from behind her.
Ugh. Mai rolled her eyes and turned to face Roger Todd. "Can I help you with something?" she asked with a politeness she didn't feel.
"Just wondering again why Miss Mori shows you so much favor," Todd replied, his eyes sweeping Mai's body and giving her a look that clearly said he found her wanting.
Mai narrowed her eyes.
"As I was saying," Yasuhara butted in quickly, "Dowsing rods are used to locate ghosts by people who don't have psychic powers. We've never used them, though, since we have you and Masako-chan." He threw Todd a blinding smile.
Todd's lip curled. "Are you saying that Taniyama is psychic?"
Mai's jaw fell slack in horror. And she was worried about Madoka's big mouth...
Yasuhara blanched, realizing that he had just revealed exactly what Mai really, really didn't want all of Cambridge to know. He thought fast. "No," he said slowly, as if Roger were an idiot who had just said the dumbest thing possible. "I meant that we have always used our awesome equipment to find the ghosts. You don't need dowsing rods if you can master our computer location programs."
For all of his posturing, Roger Todd was (unfortunately) very intelligent. "Really?" he asked condescendingly. "Then why did you mention Mai's skills in the same sentence as Masako Hara? She is the most famous psychic medium in Japan."
"Wait a tick, does that mean that you two know Masako Hara?" Andrea piped up excitedly.
Mai's groan beside him matched the tenor of Yasuhara's internal teeth-gnashing.
"Yes," Yasu admitted, hoping that the class' response to that information would draw the attention away from his slip about Mai. "We work together in Japan."
"Really?!" cried several voices.
Mai sighed; at least they weren't asking about her anymore. "Really," she confirmed. "Masako-chan consults with us on cases when she has time."
"Why are you speaking in the present tense?" Sandy-Hair asked confusedly. "Aren't you staying at Cambridge?" Oddly, he looked distressed.
"Well, yes," Mai replied, unsure as to why he needed reassurance.
Yasu choked on a laugh – Mai still didn't realize her effect on guys. "We'll be staying until graduation," he elaborated. "But we plan to return to Japan afterwards – we work for a ghost-hunting outfit there."
Andrea's eyes lit up in understanding. "Where you learned all about fieldwork," she concluded. "And worked with Dr. Mori... and Masako Hara."
"Un," Mai agreed brightly in Japanese. She was mostly okay with the class knowing that – it might get them respect instead of jealous glances. "We actually all worked together on a case... it was a terrible one." Dead bodies and Urado's face swam through her mind.
"That's amazing," Sandy-Hair said almost reverently.
"As amazing as that all sounds," Roger Todd's irritating voice sounded above them, "Masako Hara is a spiritualist. She doesn't need computers to find ghosts." His eyes shifted to Mai. "It sounded like Yasuhara was claiming that Taniyama here is also a spiritualist."
I HATE that guy, Yasuhara thought to himself. He opened his mouth to lie again, but his shoots-first-asks-questions-later best friend got there first.
The nasty, disbelieving tone in Roger Todd's voice had momentarily overcame Mai's desire to stay incognito. "Wasn't that kinda obvious from Dr. Mori's comments about Na – about Oliver Davis studying my ESP for his paper?"
Everyone in the vicinity gasped. Every pair of eyes in the room turned to Mai in shock.
"What?" Mai was confused. Weren't they all there the day Madoka blabbed about that? Why else would Mai have gotten all those glares?
"Oliver Davis' new theory is about you?" Roger asked incredulously.
Mai's eyes widened. She was such an idiot sometimes! She looked helplessly at Yasu – who was biting his lip to keep from laughing. Jerk.
"Is that true?" Andrea asked quietly, "Dr. Mori just mentioned that you had helped Oliver Davis in some capacity... not that his study was about you."
Mai gulped. Baka, baka, baka! "Well..." she began.
"Taniyama," a sharp, cold voice asked from somewhere below. "Did you almost refer to Dr. Oliver Davis as Noll?"
Of course that's what Judith took away from the conversation. "Ummmmm..." Mai hesitated.
"Well?" Judith insisted. "Do you really know Oliver Davis so well that you can call him Noll?" (Mai was sure she heard a swoon somewhere.)
The young psychic had no idea what to do. She could say no, and avoid immediate trouble. But, Mai thought as Martin and Madoka finally re-entered the classroom, simply saying no was not a long-term solution.
Because Naru himself walked in behind them and looked straight at her.
"We should do something," Martin suggested softly. They had returned to the doorway just in time for Taniyama to accidentally out herself. She sat in the center of the circle of students like a deer caught in the sights of multiple guns.
"I need tea," Naru noted succinctly, walking past them into the classroom.
Martin let out a frustrated huff.
"Relax," Madoka murmured, watching Noll pick out the swiftest route up the aisle to Mai. "Noll's got this."
"Wonderful," Martin groaned. "I suppose I'll get the paper bags. Noll causes more panic attacks than exams."
"Shimatta," Mai whispered.
Roger Todd followed Mai's gaze and inhaled sharply.
Yasuhara laughed-coughed into his sleeve.
The sounds brought Mai back to Earth... and she realized she'd been staring unblinkingly at Naru. Blushing, Mai looked away with alacrity.
Her eyes landed on Judith, who hadn't yet noticed the object of her affections. Mai allowed herself a grin – she had seen Naru right away. Take that, fan-girl!
"I don't call him Noll," Mai finally said. This was true – the foreign word felt strange in her mouth.
"Of course you don't," came Naru's silky voice from right there next to them in the aisle. "Six months you worked on the L's and you still say Na-ru."
Yasuhara gave up trying not to laugh. This was turning out to be the best day of school EVER.
Mai's back was up instantly. "I can say 'L' just fine!" she snapped, glaring into Naru's smirking face. "That's not why I call you Naru! I call you Naru because I always call you that!"
Aaaaand cue uproar, Yasuhara thought evilly as the class realized that not only was Oliver Davis present, but that Mai apparently knew him very well.
Naturally, Naru ignored the situation completely. "Mai, I require your assistance."
More gasping at Dr. Oliver Davis' casual manner of address.
Mai's face was burning. She knew exactly what the students were thinking, and struggled to spit out something coherent. "Now? Class is about to start!"
Naru raised an eyebrow. "It will only take a few minutes," he intoned. "Besides," he continued, eyes glowing darkly in amusement, "You can afford to miss a lesson on dowsing rods. You've never needed them."
'Because you're a psychic worthy of my notice,' Yasuhara understood as the unspoken meaning in Naru's words.
And their shocked classmates were smart enough to get it, too. Roger Todd's mouth actually dropped open.
Mai wasn't sure whether to be upset about being confirmed as a psychic, or pleased that Naru had defended her abilities to the entire class.
She was sure, however, that she needed to escape this Uncomfortable Situation. "Fine, Naru. Lead the way."
As they walked toward the door, Madoka yelled, "Bring back tea for me, too!"
Aaaaaand cue bedlam! Yasuhara thought gleefully.
Fan-girls gasped – Taniyama was going to have tea with Dr. Davis?
Others murmured – Taniyama was very well-connected, wasn't she?
Judith squealed like a stuck pig.
Roger let out a sound like an angry horse.
Yasuhara burst into hysterical laughter.
Mai glared daggers at Naru. He was calling her out of class for tea?!
Madoka grinned as Mai's angry voice floated in from the hallway. Pulling her out of class in front of everyone... Mai was never going to live it down. Full-voiced gossiping already pervaded the classroom.
The master ghost hunter looked up and surveyed Martin's students. Some glared at the door with jealous eyes, others sat with their mouths hanging open, Yasu's least favorite suck-up Roger Todd looked like he'd just been slapped, and Yasuhara himself was struggling to stop laughing. Then he locked eyes with his partner-in-crime and promptly lost the battle. Master and student both fell about laughing until Martin tutted impatiently.
"Sorry, boss," Madoka said gaily, wiping her eyes.
"You might want to pick different volunteers today, Madoka," Martin opined in a long-suffering tone. "I believe Taniyama has had enough exposure for one day."
"Oh, I'll pick a different volunteer alright," Madoka smiled sneakily. "But only because Noll is staying for the lecture."
Martin recognized Madoka's 'scheming grin' and paled slightly. "And... what does that have to do with anything?" he asked cautiously.
"Well, he'll obviously sit with Mai-chan instead of with you, which will cause even more drama. Noll's got no sense of propriety."
Martin Davis stared at his former pupil. "I can only imagine from whom he learned such behavior."
Madoka gasped in fake shock. "Why, boss, am I meant to insinuate that you're talking about me?"
"Hn. Queen Madoka of the Land of Impropriety and the Shire of Meddling."
She grinned again before another ruckus from the seats drew their attention. Suck-Up Roger was now ranting angrily at an unrepentant Yasu.
"And her heir apparent Prince Yasuhara, also of the Shire of Meddling," Martin continued dryly.
Madoka laughed as she set up the equipment for her demonstration. "Yeah, but Yasuhara must hail from the Land of Inappropriate on one side of his family."
Martin sighed. "How is it that I end up with the strangest acquaintances?"
"I think Naru asks himself that every day," Mai stage-whispered from behind them. She handed Madoka and Martin plastic cups of tea, ignoring the low chuckle of Naru at her side. "Then again," Mai added, her eyes roving the strange equipment spread across the lecture desk, "You guys are in a rather strange profession. It probably comes with the territory."
Martin laughed jovially. Taniyama was in better spirits than he expected.
Madoka grinned to herself - Noll's eyes softened as he watched Mai and Martin interact.
"Tea officially served," Mai beamed, flouncing off to her seat.
As Mai sidestepped the still-quarreling Suck-Up Roger, Madoka decided to neutralize the threat to a more peaceful lesson. "Todd!" she called. "You seem to be rather enthusiastic today; why don't you come help me with the demonstration?"
Suck-Up Roger threw a superior glance at the visibly relieved Mai, and marched proudly down to the lecture floor. But Madoka ignored her approaching volunteer in favor of watching Noll slip into Mai and Yasu's row.
Arrogantly ignoring the stares and gapes of the class, Naru glided down the row and lowered himself into the seat next to Mai's. Yasuhara was already grinning, but Mai seemed too intent on finding a pen to notice him right away.
Naru deliberately waited until Mai took a sip of tea before speaking. "Unprepared for class?"
Mai spat tea all over her notebook in surprise. Naru found himself pleased by the bright blush on her face, but Yasuhara's laughter rendered the gist of Mai's response unintelligible.
Outwardly unaffected, Dr. Oliver Davis sipped his tea and fixed his eyes front.
Meanwhile, Madoka bit her lip to keep from giggling and exchanged a conspiratorial grin with Yasu.
Martin sighed loudly and cleared his throat.
"Got it, boss," Madoka murmured, straightening her spine. She handed Suck-Up Roger a paper sign she'd labeled 'GHOST' and told him to go stand by the door. Catching the still-furious-looking Mai's eye, Madoka winked. At least it's not you today, the master ghost hunter said with a look.
Mai nodded... and then noticed that her glove was wet because she'd forgotten about the tea all over her notebook. Panic appeared to set in and Mai made to wipe it off with her shirt – but Noll's hand caught her arm. Without a word, Noll removed the damp notebook, placed it under Mai's seat, pulled a fresh black notebook from his briefcase, and set it on Mai's desk.
It all seemed like one smooth motion – Madoka was rather impressed. Mai obviously was, as well; she turned furiously red and started hyperventilating. Naru smirked. Someone swooned.
The audible swooning seemed to annoy Mai into recovery, and she turned to hiss furiously at Noll.
Madoka grinned a bit before picking up a dowsing rod and starting in earnest. She could almost feel Martin's impatience burning a hole in her temple.
"Now, a dowsing rod in an important tool for non-psychic investigators..." she finally began.
"Naru!" Mai whispered urgently. His eyes slid in her direction. "What are you doing?" She spoke Japanese to keep any interaction between them as anonymous as possible.
"Obviously, I'm listening to Madoka's lecture," Naru replied in his you're-clearly-an-idiot tone.
Mai felt a momentary burst of nostalgia at hearing Naru speak the language he used when they'd first met. Then she heard the whispers behind her and remembered her current plight.
"Ugh, narcissist! I mean WHY are you sitting with US?" Mai slid down in her seat and looked from side to side as if expecting enemy fire.
"Well, who else would I sit with?" Naru asked flatly.
Mai honestly couldn't tell if he was being serious. "You're a visiting graduate, shouldn't you be lurking in the back corner or something?"
"I don't lurk..."
"You lurk all the time!"
"If I may finish, Mai." Naru's eyes were distinctly amused. He was screwing with her! "I don't lurk in the corner like some shiftless hanger-on. I usually sit with my father in the front row when I attend Madoka's lectures. This is the first time I've actually sat all the way back here." His tone was patronizing.
And of course it set Mai off. "Are you implying that you're giving Yasu and I some sort of special treat by sitting with us?"
"Please leave me out of this, Mai-chan," Yasu murmured out of the corner of his mouth. "I'm just nonchalantly minding my own business over here."
"Traitor," Mai hissed.
"Are you sure it's not a special treat?" Naru asked, his smuggest smirk sliding across his face. "You look rather flushed at the moment..."
"With anger!" Mai shot back, kicking Yasu under the desks. "Do you know how much drama I'm going to have to deal with because you decided to sit with me? Your fan-girls will be hounding me for WEEKS. And everybody's going to want to know all about how I know you!"
"I'm pretty sure Madoka made that clear a few moments ago," Naru replied. "She just confirmed that we all worked together in Japan."
"What?" Mai squeaked.
"You should be paying more attention," Naru continued. "Of course, you'd have to focus quite hard to learn anything from way back here. You should really sit farther forward, Mai. After all, your animalistic ESP instincts tend to limit your attention span... the closer you are, the longer my father's voice may keep you enthralled."
Yasu bit his lip to keep silent. Aaaaand cue Mai losing her shit.
Mai didn't disappoint. "Why you... condescending... unbelievable, sanctimonious, jerk-faced NARCISSIST!"
"Those are bigger words than I'd imagine you use on a regular basis," Naru intoned. "Even if Japanese is your native language."
Yasuhara shrank in his seat as if the desk would protect him from Mai's wrath. "Ah, Mai-chan – be careful. Bad enough that you've been rumbled as a psychic and as Big Boss' acquaintance." He studied her suddenly-less-wet glove. "I think a PK-MT poltergeist would probably cause a ruckus that even Madoka couldn't control."
Unable to counter this logic, Mai closed her eyes and counted to ten. She clenched her (definitely heating) fists, and let the soft feel of her gloves calm her down - at least both were dry now. As she leveled out, the young psychic glared hard at a smug Naru. "For your information, Narcissist, I actually know quite a lot of words. I can write them in kanji, too, which is more than I can say for YOU." Mai reveled internally at Naru's telling eye-twitch of annoyance. "And of course I know THOSE words; they're next to your picture in the dictionary."
Yasu reckoned he was getting pretty good at disguising laughter as coughing.
Naru raised an eyebrow, but didn't speak. Mai grinned victoriously as he turned away to look at Madoka and Roger.
"You must think quite a lot of me to memorize my entry in the dictionary, Mai." Naru's face was blank, but Mai could hear the smirk in his voice. He cast a deep blue stare in Mai's direction, effectively hypnotizing her. "Hn."
Mai blushed hard and fast, torn between wanting to kiss her tormentor and wanting to punch him in his condescending face.
Instead, she focused hard on Madoka – who was aiming the dowsing rods in the direction of a less-than-thrilled Roger Todd. Mai shook her head at the 'GHOST' sign hanging around his neck. "At least I'm not the guinea pig today," the teen psychic noted with a sigh.
"That's the spirit, Mai-chan," Yasuhara replied.
A/N: I did it, I did it! I've been working on it for a freaking month but it's up:D I figured it was time for some lighthearted-ness after all the case drama... besides, there were requests for an SPR Japan Irregular visit!