A family secret revealed. Things are about to take a turn for the worst! (Fanfiction: GH)
Hi there, my name is Taniyama Mai. Months ago, I used to be a normal 16-year old teenager. Well, that was before I met Shibuya Kazuya of Shibuya Psychic Research. He's my boss, a 17-year old paranormal researcher/ghost hunter. I've been through a lot of things ever since I started working as one of his assistants. I've been targeted by ghosts and on one occasion by a demon. I've also developed some ESP powers like clairvoyance, out of body experience and prophetic dreams. Lastly, we cant forget about the everyday annoyance...
Yes, there he goes again. My narcissistic but drop dead gorgeous boss, Naru, who is addicted to the tea I make.
Nothing ever changes around here, and I like it that way. SPR is a place I call home and we're one big happy family. Ayako (miko) is like the mother, Bou-san (ex-monk) as the father, Lin-san (onmyouji) as the uncle, Madoka (Naru's ghost hunting teacher) as the aunt, Yasuhara (researcher) and John (priest) as the cousins and then there's me, Naru and Masako (medium) as the siblings.
Who am I kidding? Me, Naru and Masako as siblings?! More like a love triangle... Or not. I bet those two always go out on dates. So there's really no love for me.
My musings are stopped as I hear the door to Naru's office open. He stands there, with an almost adorable, impatient look adorning his face. I have only one thought at the moment... "Uh oh!"
A long dark hallway with no end in sight, not a single ray of light, no sound; all the windows were closed and yet bone-chilling cold air was blowing from behind her. Her actions were repeated, her face pale and tired; run, pant, look back and the whole process would start again.
"Haa... Haa..." What do I do, they're coming? She was feeling weary, anytime soon she knew her legs would already give up on her. How long she had been running, she could no longer remember...
Run. Pant. Look back. Ru--- An ear-splitting scream reverberated, breaking the silence that once covered the moonless night. Someone. Anyone. Help me... were her last thoughts.
"Aaaaaaaahhh!!" Mai woke up with sweat on her face and neck, her breathing hard and her heart racing. The same dream has been bothering her for three days. She had yet to tell anyone about it, but now she was thinking she should.
She freed herself from the suffocating blanket, sat up on her bed seemingly contemplating on what she should do next. Then, with the slightest hesitation, she stood shakily on her feet and decided it would probably do her good if she washed her face and cool herself down.
Every time, why? I only remember bits and pieces of the dream but it always makes me feel so scared. Almost as if some sort of danger is lurking, waiting for a chance to get me...
She looked at her reflection in the old mirror, she looked so haggard and the bags under her eyes were starting to show. She could already hear what Ayako would say to her, "Mai! What happened to you? You have to tell me, or else..."
She went out of the bathroom and made her way to the kitchen. I need something to drink... She didn't even notice how dry her throat was until she was gulping down the liquid. She consumed about three and a half glasses of water and next, felt hunger set in. But she wasn't in the mood for cooking. She glanced at the clock on the wall near her refrigerator and was surprised to know it was only half past seven in the morning. It was a Saturday and work would start around ten. She had plenty of time to just chill out and bore herself to death. Of course, there was always the option of going back to sleep. But she was sure the dreams, if you could call them that, were going to come back and haunt her. So, she thought it would be better to just stay up and do nothing. Maybe she could try jogging outside... and so she did.
In the long run, she ended up falling asleep again around nine. She lied there on the small couch in a very awkward position that would most definitely make her neck hurt like hell once she wakes up. But luckily, she had a dreamless sleep...
"Lin, is Mai not in yet?" Naru asked his assitant for the nth time and anyone would notice he was growing impatient. Not that he had a lot of those patience thing-y to begin with.
Just as soon as the question rolled off of his mouth, a dishevelled Mai opened the door in haste, muttering a series of curses.
"Ahem. Don't you have anything to say?" He asked.
Mai abruptly stopped her grumbling and looked almost scared. He is so mad at me right now. Suddenly, the ground and her shoes seemed like the most interesting things in the room. She was guilty, it was the third time she has been this late. Before, being thirty minutes late was forgivable. Even their 'unfeeling' boss could let that pass. But for three days straight now, she had been two hours late. It wouldn't be a surprise if smoke or fire came out of Naru's ears and nose already.
"Do you not know what to say? Well then, how about starting with giving me an explanation?" His voice still sounded calm, but he was a little worried and he only didn't want to show it. The bags under her eyes, her uncharacteristically sheepish behavior and the slight shaking of her hands were very clear indications that whatever her reasons were, they definitely weren't trivial.
She remained quiet and this time, even began biting her lips close. Her eyes were starting to water and her face was gradually losing its color.
Takigawa Houshou, also known as Bou-san has just arrived. He happily pushed the door open and was about to say his pleasant greetings to everyone in the room when all of a sudden, an angel fell in his arms. Nice timing though, at least Mai didn't hit the cold, hard floor.
Darkness surrounded her battered body as an unimaginable fear found its way into her thoughts. Something warm and wet was covering her aching feet which were tired from all of that running. It felt so good as it seeped between her toes… but what was it? In the depths of the shadows surrounding her, she could finally make out something.
Eyes… it was eyes. Yellow, hate filled eyes. Gritting her teeth to keep from screaming, she backed away as far as possible. What the hell is that… This is different from the usual dreams… Suddenly, the whole room became lit with an eerie green glow. Before her, where the eyes had once been, was a green pentagram etched into an old wooden wall. A thud and crack sent Mai flying backwards with a scream. In the middle of the pentagram there was now a long, jagged cut… almost as if something were trying to beat its way through from the other side. This is too realistic. Wait… what’s that coming out of the crack?
Blood. It was blood. Warm red blood was pouring in from the other side. Somehow, Mai was now able to guess what she’s been standing in this whole time.
With one last scream, Mai was brought back to her safe reality.
“Mai? Mai, are you okay?” Someone was calling her name… such a soothing voice.
“MAI, wake up!” Pain cascaded along her face as the sound of a slap echoed through the room. She bolted up, ready to let the wretched person have it.
Ugh, I should’ve known it was her. She glared at Hara Masako, her rival in love.
“You didn’t have to wake me up like that…” With eyes tearing up, she rubbed her swollen cheek.
“Well, it was the only way you seemed to respond. You can ask Naru and the others if you don’t believe me,” Masako purred with a smug smile.
Since Naru’s face was covered in a mask of indifference (as usual), the only person she could look to was Bou-san. Apparently… she’d fallen on him when she’d blacked out, because he was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, holding Mai up. Heat flooded her face, adding a little color to her haggard face. With a goofy grin, Bou-san just shrugged while retying his bleached hair. That’s a ‘retired’ monk for you… long hair, bleached, and all…
Seeing Naru’s expectant expression, Mai jumped to her feet, ready to blurt out any and all apologies she could think up. “Naru, I’m so-” he cut her off by holding up a hand.
“There’s no need, Mai. I understand something’s wrong, but you’ll need to tell me about it later. I need to brief you and the others in on our next case. Everyone else is waiting in the next room. If you’re feeling well enough, please come join us.” At this, he detached himself from the small corner wall and strode through the door, closing it behind him. The others followed, with Bou-san looking back once more. His expression seemed worried.
“It’s okay, don’t worry, Bou-san! I’m okay. Thank you for breaking my fall.” Mai smiled shakily. She was still not fully recovered, but there was no way she’d miss the meeting. She had to work her best, after all. Perhaps the dream was nothing to worry about? I can't help but feel that somethings wrong. Please God, let the dreams be nothing but my tired brain's hallucinations. Don't let it be like the other cases... She exited the room quickly, wondering what their next mission would be like and what terror would come from it.
“Matsuzaki-san, where is Brown-san?” Naru asked the team’s miko, Ayako, who was lounging on the couch.
She rolled her eyes, “How should I know? He should be here any second though. I called him up right before I headed over here.” She flipped her long black hair over one shoulder. When a door quietly closed in the next hall over, she smiled. “See? That’s him. I told you he wouldn’t be long.”
The door opened and in stepped John Brown, a nineteen year old exorcist, believe it or not. “Sorry I’m late, everyone.” He bowed, his smile apologetic. “I ran into some poor soul who’d lost their way and had to give them a hand.”
Mai wasn’t sure if he meant a literal soul… better not to find out.
“Now that you are all here…” Naru said with a glance at Mai and Brown-san, “I’d like to share the details of the case with you all. Lin-san, if you’d please?” He motioned for Lin, his assistant, to come join them.
"Naru. Everyone. I'd like all of you to meet our client for this case, Sugawara Aimi." Lin said and behind him a pale, frail-looking girl emerged. She had straight, long hair that flows to her waist, her eyes were big and as black as darkness, matched with long lashes like that of a beautiful porcelain doll, her fingers were slim and she was maybe an inch or two smaller than Mai. She clutched Lin's shirt and gave them all a hesitant, shy smile.
"Is she Lin-san's daughter or something?" Bou-san whispered to the just as curious miko.
"I don't know. It's possible. But their surnames are clearly different." Ayako answered back in a barely audible voice.
"Duh! Maybe he was once married and got a divorce or some---"
"Takigawa-san, I would really appreciate it if you would refrain from making up my life story like that." A stern voice, obviously Lin's said from behind him. What the?! How did he come here so fast?! He laughed awkwardly, scratching the back of his head and muttered his apologies. In the background, the rest were trying to hold their laughter. Except Naru, of course. He'd never laugh at something so trivial.
"Enough with this nonsense. Sugawara-san is the daughter of Lin's friend. Now can we continue with the real issue here?" Naru said in his cold voice, shutting everyone up. Normally, people would either get scared or hate him when he starts acting like this but they were surprised when Aimi suddenly run to him and proceeded to grab on to his shirt too pulling Lin along.
"Help me. They're going to come and get me..." She said, her voice quivering and her eyes filled with fear. Masako and Mai didn't even have time to react negatively out of jealousy.
"That's exactly what we're here to do, Sugawara-san. If you'd tell us about everything from the very beginning." Naru replied in a matter of fact manner. This doesn't seem to faze the girl at all though. She seems to trust him.
"Thank you." She whispered shyly.
"Let's all take a seat then, so we'd get comfortable while hearing Aimi's story." Lin suggested, leading everyone away from the entrance and towards the lounge.
"I'm Sugawara Aimi. You can all call me, Ai. I... came from a weird family. I never knew about the secrets my mother's family has before, when my dad was still alive. But on the night of the joint celebration of my sixteenth birthday and my half-sisters' eighteenth birthday, something unusual happened..." She trailed off, her lips pressing tightly and her hands fidgeting. She looked up for the first time ever since she started her story and looked straight into Naru's eyes. For a matter of minutes, but what seemed like eternity for the two, they stopped and Naru's eyes grew wide with disbelief.
"H-how? How did you...?" They did say there was a first time for everything but knowing this never prepared everyone at seeing Naru speechless. It was just so... un-Naru like!
"I, along with my two sisters have been swallowed up by a green light, a pair of scary, yellow eyes staring at us... and a wall where a pentagram has been drawn were shown to us. By whom? We didn't know and I don't want to know. After that, I started getting dizzy, everywhere I look, everything looked as red as blood. Fatima started itching and red spots appeared all over her body. Teresa on the other hand... s-she... she..." Aimi burst out crying, not able to finish her sentence. Lin held her in a protective embrace, trying to soothe her. Naru cleared his throat which earned him everyone's attention except the two's, and with unwavering seriousness in his voice explained what he saw through the vision Aimi showed him.
"Teresa, her sister and Fatima's twin, started coughing up blood. Not only that, every part of her body; her eyes, nose, ears... wherever blood could flow out did just that. She's in the hospital right now. She still hasn't regained consciousness."
The room was filled with an unbreakable silence. Everyone just stood there, looking shocked and horrified. Whatever was going on with this family, there was no doubt it was endangering the lives of the children.
Mai thought back to her dream, recalling the blood gushing from the broken wall. The green lights, and the vision of the yellow eyes… all held an uncanny resemblance to Aimi’s story. Had she seen the events that had already occurred through her dreams, or was this something worse that would happen in the future?
Ayako’s lips pursed and her brow became furrowed. “This sounds really serious, Naru. Are you sure it’s not too dangerous? I mean… blood pouring out of someone… that could be fatal.” She tapped her foot against the floor, as if attempting to calm herself.
Naru turned his steely gaze towards her, “It’s a job we’ve already promised to do, and we must do it quickly. The other jobs were dangerous as well, but if you feel that this one is too dangerous for you… then just leave. We can do it without you.” He glanced around the room and strode out the door.
At this, Lin gently reached for Aimi’s hand and pulled her through the door as well. It was up to the team to decide what to do.
Everyone agreed to take on the task, but Mai could see the concern etched on all of their faces. Heck, I’m scared too… but we’ve got to help that girl. Who knows what could happen next if we don’t do this?
They’d decided to meet at the Sugawara residence the next day. When all had arrived, including Naru and Lin, they began unpacking the sensitive equipment which aided them so much. Mai was rather excited, she’d never seen a house so big. The Sugawara residence almost seemed like a castle… though, a rather Gothic one. Strange ornaments were littered about the outside of the home and found several strange symbols etched into the ground at odd locations.
Bou-san noticed Mai’s interest in the symbols. “Those are spells of protection, wiccan incantations. They’re to guard the house from evil… Doesn’t seem like it works, does it?” He grinned, winking. His next few words were a little more serious, “Seems like Naru forgot to mention this family comes from a long line of witches. See? This symbol here is rather old… you almost can’t read it.”
Mai studied the one Bou-san was pointing to. The shape seemed oddly familiar, but then again she couldn’t make out the entire thing. I wonder why it feels like I’ve seen it before…
“Mai, everyone, come inside. Aimi’s parents would like to speak to us,” Naru called from the top of the front porches steps.
They proceeded into the house and, from there, into the living room. Masako had made herself at home and was busy preparing some tea. While they gathered around a table, Aimi’s parents spread out some papers.
“These are the blue prints of the house. We thought it might help a little in your investigation. As for the current situation, it’s getting drastically worse. After Aimi came home yesterday, she changed. She began to act really strange and locked herself up in her room. Her eyes… well…” Aimi’s father suddenly stopped talking when a sob came from the other side of the room. Everyone turned their eyes towards the entrance way to the hall and there was Aimi.
“They’re yellow…” Mai gasped. Aimi’s eyes had turned completely yellow. There was no white or black, except for where her pupils were. The pupils, though visible, were slits - like cat eyes. Aimi suddenly started muttering curses; she was almost incomprehensible with a deep, unnatural sound emitting from her throat. Her small body swayed to the side, and she leaned against the wall. It was as if she were trying to stop herself from doing something, or as if she was in pain. With short, jagged nails, she clawed at the wall.
“Brown-san…” Naru said cautiously to the exorcist, whose eyes had widened at the sight of Aimi.
Aimi continued to drag her nails down the wall… little bits and pieces of nail cracked off.
“She’s possessed,” Brown-san confirmed. “I can’t do an exorcism right now though, I haven’t prepared for it… Matsuzaki-san, please do what you can for now. Maybe you can handle the thing that’s possessed her.”
Blood began to seep from beneath the brutalized nails, which were now practically eaten away. The cursing stopped momentarily and Aimi's normal voice spoke, "P-please, help me... s-someone, help me..." After this, she seemed unable to build up enough strength to speak anymore.
Ayako grimaced, looking a little unsure. Slowly, she got to her feet, inching her way towards Aimi’s turned back. When she was within two feet of her, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Takigawa, help me bring her outside in their garden. I felt the presence of some very useful tree spirits there when we entered their grounds."
Everything's going too fast. We just arrived and this happens... So horrible. Mai thought. Aimi's mother had fainted after seeing the blood gushing out of her daughter's hands because of clawing the wall. Her stepfather was very worried as well, not only about Aimi but also his wife.
"Mai, we need to hurry and set up the equipment. John, Yasuhara, can you help her with the heavier ones? Lin and I have business to attend to." Naru said, giving out his orders, urgency evident in his voice. Even he seemed shaken up by what has happened, considering they just arrived and only a few minutes had past when the incident occured.
"Yes, we understand. Let's go, Mai-chan, John." Yasuhara said pushing the two towards the door.
Ayako and Bou-san went outside, to the garden and set down Aimi near the largest tree there. Lin-san had put her to sleep awhile ago using one of his techniques.
"I'll use only this tree for this exorcism. I might need the others when things go bad so I better save them for later use."
Ayako said calmly.
"Don't screw up, okay?" Takigawa said in a teasing manner.
"Shut up, just stand there and watch." She retorted, clearly annoyed. She glanced toward the limp form of the poor girl and sighed. Then, she took a deep breath and closed here eyes.
"I humbly ask for your aid. Descend upon this unholy place and make it pure. Exorcise this demon as you have so many before. Listen both peacefully and calmly, and speak the Kannon's chant onto our sacred place." She started chanting and a light fog appeared.
The air around her is being purified... She may appear useless most of the time but at times like this, she's really good. Bou-san couldn't help but think as he stared at the miko before him. She looked almost like an ange--- What am I thinking?! Stupid thoughts!
"Our plane is a vast, violent tundra. Gods from all places gather here. Rin! Pyou! Tou! Sha! Kai! Chin! Retsu! Zai! Zhen!" She opened her eyes and smiled triumphantly. I think I just called a big shot tree spirit. There standing before her was a white spirit that looks like an old man with long hair and beard, wearing celestial robes. He went inside the bell and the air became clear.
She took the twig where the bell was tied to and went over to Aimi. She held it up to her head and with a quick swing, the sound of the bell echoed, Aimi opened her yellow eyes filled with hate.
"You foolish humans don't stand a chance! Even if you take care of me now, there are more who will come for this girl, for the other two! We will prevail and find our rightful heiress!" The voice sounded deep, scary, a male voice almost growling. It certainly wasn't Aimi's. Ayako repeated her actions and with one finally swish, the bell rang and the evil spirit disappeared.
She returned the twig to where it was before, clapped her hands as if saying a short prayer of thanks and the bell untied and slipped on its own.
"Good work, Ayako." Takigawa said, patting her on the shoulder.
"Thank you. Now, let's bring her back inside. I'm sure her parents are very worried." She replied.
Takigawa nodded and carried Aimi to the house. Ayako was following behind, walking slowly, taking her time. There's something wrong here. Everything's so... She pulled up the sleeves of her robes a little and saw a long gash of wound starting from her wrist extending to her elbow. Her eyes widened as blood started flowing out of it and then, she felt light-headed. Are they going to come for us too?
After Ayako’s wound was treated and Aimi was brought to her room to rest, the others began their investigation.
“Mai, did you, John, and Yasuhara finish setting up the equipment?” Naru asked with a steady gaze. He no longer seemed worried; his normal icy mask had slipped back into place.
“Yes. Everything’s ready…” Mai’s voice quivered, but she wouldn’t give into her fear. “It seems we’ve already caught something on camera while you were away.”
“Lin and I will check it later. There’s something more important that everyone needs to see.” He stood and motioned for everyone to follow. Masako was tending to the parents and would be attempting to talk to the spirits, so she wouldn’t be joining them and since Ayako was injured, Brown-san and Yasuhara would stay with her while the others left the house.
“So, where are we going to?” Bou-san asked while scratching his chin. He couldn’t help but look every which way to make sure nothing was about to come after them.
“While you all were playing around, Lin-san and I were checking around the outer walls. I concluded that there must be some sort of powerful object nearby linked to these happenings, but we found something different instead.” Naru led them to an old abandoned shed, which had been concealed by the forest behind the house. “Careful, the roof is unstable.” He cautiously opened the door, then stepped inside. When everyone was inside, Lin lit a match. It was much too dark to see without one, because there wasn’t a single window inside, nor was much light making its way through the trees above.
The shed was empty. “Uhm, what is it exactly that we’re supposed to see…?” Mai asked. Had Naru brought them all the way here for nothing?
Bou-san answered for Naru, “It’s not something a normal person could see. It’s something you feel, I think. There’s something really slimy about this place. So much hate… fear…” He slowly walked around on the wooden floor boards which were rotting away. As he stepped to the left of the entranceway, the sound of splitting wood was the only warning before Bou-san’s right leg sunk into the ground beneath the shed. “What the… it’s hollow?”
Before Lin or Naru even had the chance to help him out, Mai heard something which set her heart racing, and not in a good way. Thinking she’d been mistaken, she lowered her body to the floor cautiously. With some hesitation, she put her ear next to the wooden boards while Naru and Lin struggled to free Bou-san’s leg. The sound was real. “Uhm, guys…” They ignored her. “Guys… there’s something down-” a terrifying thump silenced them all, followed by the sound of nails raking their way down the boards. “Naru, Lin, get him out now!” Mai screamed, her eyes darting towards the door which was now shut. Why is it shut? Why? We left it open when we came in.
Bou-san gritted his teeth and dragged himself out of the hole with Naru and Lin’s help; he was frantic. Who knows what that thing beneath the floorboards would have done if it had reached his leg. When he reached the door, Mai was struggling to open it.
“Lin, take care of the door. Mai, move!” Naru commanded. On the other side of the room, another board broke, then another, and another. Something sharp was jutting from beneath the boards, as if trying to grab whatever had disturbed it from above.
A chilling, feminine voice emitted from below, masked with age, “It.. is time… give… her to… me.”
Lin shoved himself against the door.
“ Give… her… to.. me.”
Unsuccessful, he stood further back, bracing himself.
“I must… have… her… power…”
He moved forward and sent a flying kick at the door; it cracked open.
“She’s… mine… stop… meddling… vile humans….”
Just as the roof started to collapse, Lin, Naru and Bou-san managed to run outside. But Mai, who was the last to try and get through the door, could not move one of her legs. She looked down, thinking she’d happened to snag it on a board or something, but the sight proved to be far more terrifying. A sickly, green hand covered in wrinkles was latched onto her ankle. Long, jagged nails dug into her skin, causing rivers of blood to trickle down her foot. With wide, horrified eyes, she reached for Naru through the gap in the door. He was saying something, but she couldn’t understand what. It was as if all time had stopped for her… she couldn’t hear a thing. Darkness was closing in around her, obscuring her vision. With one last, failing effort, she grabbed a hold of something in front of her… and then saw nothing.
Back at the house, Brown-san, Ayako, and Yasuhara were drinking tea with Masako and Aimi’s parents.
With sternness, Masako began to question the parents, “When did all of this start happening?”
Aimi’s mother seemed a little uneasy, “About three weeks ago. Ever since Aimi turned sixteen, strange things have been happening. It was just small things at first, like things missing or moving, or someone writing messages and such on the walls… but then it just got worse. Fatima came down with something terrible. Her body’s covered in red splotches that won’t go away no matter what we or the doctors try. And Teresa… Teresa…”
Brown-san cut in, “It’s all right, Ma’am. We know about it, there’s no need for you to say anymore.” He then turned to Aimi’s stepfather, “When we were coming in, we all noticed the wiccan symbols around the house. Could you tell us something about them?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know much about them. But my wife might…” Aimi’s stepfather looked over at his wife. His eyes were filled with worry.
"Mai! Mai! Open your eyes!"
What happened? Oh! Yeah... There was someone pulling me...
No! No, I don't want to see! I'm dead, I must be! So much hatred... Too much pain... It's unbearable, I can feel it. They're coming, not just for supposed-to-be heiress but for everyone. Naru... Naru...
"Mai! Wake up! I'm here!" He was very worried. He knew what had happened just before she lost consciousness and was transported to the dream world. Her small, frail body was shivering... her skin looked so pale, the color way lighter than the last time he saw her. She's shocked. Scared to death. He thought of ways to make her open her eyes. He needed to tell her desperately what he found out... but not in this state. I should let her calm down adn regain her composure on her own. She'll be fine. Mai is strong.
Just as he had expected, after a few moments she raised her face and slowly opened her eyes. Light brown met blue and Mai recognized instantly where she was. I'm safe. Dream Naru is here... It's okay, right?
"Naru!" She stood up and hugged him tight, still shaking a little. "I was so scared! Did I die?" She asked, even though she was afraid to know the answer.
"No, Mai. You're still alive. We weren't able to save you... but something underneath the surface seems to be protecting you as well. I don't know what it is just yet, but one thing I do know is that it doesn't plan on hurting you." He said, loosening his hold on her and looking straight int her eyes.
"D-did you find out about a-anything regarding the case then?" She asked, trying to sound hopeful.
"Of course. That's why I called you... Although, you wouldn't be able to tell them about this if you're down there where they can't find you. So, I'm still thinking about how we're going to let them know about the information I have."
"What kind of information?"
"Instead of telling you, how about I show it to you?" He said with a smile on his face and the darkness before them disappeared as they were transported to the past.
Mai and Dream Naru ended up inside a forest. She thought at first that Naru must have made a mistake because no one was there. But after a few minutes, a light flickered deeper within. Naru beckoned her to follow quietly in his steps. Witches have very strong magic and even if they're just spirits travelling through a dream from the future right now, the women might still feel their presence or even see them.
The light they were seeing seemed so close and yet they seemed to have been walking towards it for quite some time now but still not reaching their destination. Mai was just about to complain about it, when Naru suddenly stopped. He grab hold of Mai's left hand, which made her face turn a deep shade of red and pulled her to his side.
Mai and Naru peaked through the low branches of trees and saw three women standing face to face. One was carrying the lamp, her long hair as dark as a moonless night and her gaze piercing both of her companions in silent command; it was obvious she was their leader. The other two were both wearing somber, worried faces.
"What are we to do now, Lady Caterina? They have tainted the very foundation of our beliefs, our sisterhood!"
"They will hunt us down and burn us at stake for the faults of those people."
"Silence! My clan has lead the sisterhood for hundreds of years now. The clan's legacy shall not perish due to the lies they spread. Tell our sisters, a meeting will be held during the first full moon before harvest at the Covenant's Nest. We will lay down our plans to strengthen our rule over this fortress!" Her dark eyes glittered, the fire's dance reflected in them. With a confident smile, she moved her right hand to show them the sign of her power passed down every fifth generation to their clan alone. The two, like many others who have born witness to the legendary symbol were in awe and bowed in compliance to thieir Lady's demands.
Lady Caterina knows best. She will protect the sisterhood. Were both the loyal followers thoughts.
Before Naru had the chance to speak with Mai further, an outside influence disturbed their connection and within seconds Mai found herself opening her eyes again. This time, the sight wasn't something she liked at all...
A haggard, wizened old woman looked down at Mai, but this wasn’t any normal human being. No, quite the opposite. Long, stringy grey hair sprouted from the grandma’s scalp like weeds. Her skin was extremely pale and split in places. Eyes of jade, filled with wisdom, power, and hate, burned into Mai. And her hands… they were the same as the hand that had grabbed onto Mai’s ankle. If only I had been quicker… But why hasn’t she killed me yet?
A growl emitted from the old woman’s throat. It echoed across stone cavern that they had fallen into. Is she cackling? Indeed, it was a cackle. Blood was running down the being’s hands; it was Mai’s blood. Well, that explains why my legs feel numb right now. I don’t dare check to see how badly they’re injured. Mai scooted away from the woman as much as possible, until her back was crushed against some jagged rocks and wood.
“At least… I caught… you.” The granny cackled again. It was such a terrible sound that it sent Mai’s heart racing. “Don’t worry… I won’t… kill… you… yet.”
“Then what do you want with me?” Mai croaked. Her throat was unbearably dry.
“I want… you… to bring… me… her. I have… waited… so long… for a new heir… of such… power… to arrive.”
“How could I help you with that, when I’m stuck here?”
“She… will… come. She… wants… to protect… you. That is why… you… are still… alive. She saved… you.” The old woman’s brow furrowed and her mouth twisted in distaste. “Humans… are such… a waste. They… are filth. Filthy… humans…” Her eyes turned from green to yellow and fangs began to protrude from beneath her thin, wrinkled lips. “Vile… creatures…”
Mai’s eyes widened as the being came closer. Clawed hands stretched towards her face. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, a single claw touched the middle of her forehead. Searing pain caused Mai to cry out, the nail was carving something on her temple. What’s this… I can’t see… why can’t I see? Red… my vision is full of red… blood? Mai passed out.
Aimi’s mother looked panic stricken. Her eyes were frantically darting about the room, as if searching for a way out of the conversation. Sweat began to drip down her brow and her lips were trembling.
“I… only know a little about them. They were made by my ancestors. You see… only… only every 5th generation is a new witch chosen to inherit the clan’s powers… so I don’t know that much. But my mother told me the symbols are the sign of our Goddess’ protection. However, the marks have since been fading since Lady…” she stopped speaking, her mouth left agape. “I mean… I mean since she had stopped the passing of powers. She, our previous leader, had done something terrible… that’s all I know.” She fisted her hands in her lap, and bit down on her lower lip.
Brown-san looked at the mother with pity, but he could now determine that the problem was deeper than he thought. If a Goddess’s powers were connected to this in any way, then they were in great danger. Not to mention one of the wiccan leaders disrupting the transfer… that could definitely have something to do with the problem. If I remember correctly… there was something in the history books about the witches and the church…
Masako went around the back of the house to look for the others. They had yet to return, and she was getting worried about Naru. In her hurry, she tripped on her kimono and fell next to one of the large cherry blossom trees. When she put her hand on the tree to stand up, she felt something warm and sticky clinging to her hand. Slowly, she brought her hand out into the light, and gasped. Her hand was covered in blood. In fact, the tree’s trunk was almost totally covered in the stuff.
She noticed a trail on the ground and continued to follow it… until she found a form lying on the ground. Oh no, please don’t let it be Naru! Quickly, she knelt down and turned the unconscious person over. It was Mai’s bloody face that greeted her.
A scream for help could be heard by all.
Naru, Bou-san, and Lin heard Masako’s scream and rushed towards that direction. They were all still shocked by the previous events. Naru had tried to grab a hold of Mai’s hand, but he’d failed as the creature pulled her down into the depths of the earth. There had been no way they could have saved her, yet still Naru blamed himself. If only I had gone through last… if only I had grabbed a hold of her quicker. She would still be alive then…
When they arrived at the scene, Naru caught sight of the back of Mai’s head. She’s safe! He walked over to Masako, not noticing her wide and horrified eyes. Without any hesitance, Naru turned Mai’s face towards his and couldn’t help but gasp.
Carved into Mai’s forehead was the same strange symbol they’d seen on the way into the house and surrounding the symbol was a bloody pentagram.
Everyone had come to the meeting place as promised. But what awaited them in their sanctuary was something unexpected and dishearteningly unbelievable. Right before their very eyes, Lady Caterina stood over an unconscious body, bounded by thick ropes. She was Meia, second in power to their famed leader. Her already pale complexion looked even worse than before, red splotches appeared all over her limp form and bloody pentagrams were carved right in the middle of her forehead, her wrists and two more on her feet. Five, their sisterhood's number, the points of their star... the Goddess' numerical symbol.
"Lady Caterina! What is the meaning of this?!" one among her followers shouted, as they all watched in horror what their trusted leader had done.
"She will be an offering, for the greater good of our powerful organization. She did put up a fight. She was a fool. She wouldn't even cooperate for something that would benefit us all!" As these venomous words came out of her mouth, she slowly turned to her sisters. Her eyes were yellow, her lips in a wicked smile no one has ever seen her wear and in her left hand they saw a dagger, blood dripping from it.
"L-Lady Caterina, s-s-stop this m-madness at once!" another voice, shaky and scared shouted.
"It is of no use, Helena. She is no longer our respected leader. I can see it in her eyes, she is slowly losing the light of her soul." Agusta, the eldest of them all said gravely.
"But how can that be? That can only happen if she had made a forbidden pact with a different Goddess!"
"Does this mean, Lady Caterina has betrayed us all?!"
"No! This can't be!"
"Lady Caterina even killed Meia!"
"Perhaps, she was also the one who brought the evil in our reign!"
"She should have been the sacrifice!"
"Yes! Lady Caterina should be banished!"
"No! We should do what she did to Meia!"
Everyone was screaming, shouting about their hatred and disapproval of their once beloved leader. Within all this commotion, Caterina simply stood where she was, still holding the bloody dagger, not moving even an inch. But her eyes were as focused and sharp as they always were... Agusta felt a shiver run down her spine as their eyes met. She is going to kill us all. I must do something, anything...
"SILENCE! Have you lost all your dignity?! Lady Caterina's actions were all done for the good of this sisterhood. Is this how we should repay her?!" Agusta questioned, looking everyone in the eye.
Just as she had wanted them to do, they became quiet. They bowed their heads as if in shameful repentance... Or so she thought. What happened next was something she least expected would occur.
"Lady Agusta, you are also in the side of evil!"
"We should start with her first!"
Agusta's eyes grew wide with disbelief. She had nothing to fear, she wasn't afraid of death. In the back of her mind, she thought, Dying in the hands of my sisters is better than being tortured to death by the evil being that Caterina has become. She waited for the blow, it didn't take long. The pain lasted only for a few seconds and before Agusta closed her eyes... she smiled. I forgive you all.
"Farewell, Agusta. Until the very end, you have remained most loyal to our group. So, you shall not be punished by me." Caterina whispered, as she watched Agusta's body disintegrate and mix with the damp, midnight air.
Once the gruesome task was done, the others turned back to Caterina. "It is your turn to pay for your sins!"
"I wonder which of us will truly pay and suffer..." Caterina said, snickering. "Good night..."
A blinding green light surrounded them all, after a few moments the once silent night was tainted, filled with their helpless screams.
"I've always loved red. I believe it suits all of you as well."
Naru covered his pale face with shaking hands. After they had discovered Mai’s unconscious and battered body, he had been having second thoughts about continuing the investigation. This wasn’t any ordinary spirit they were dealing with. No, it was something entirely different… something truly evil, warped, and much more powerful than usual.
For now, Mai was safe. Well, as safe as she could be. Bou-san was watching over her in a guest room. She still had not awaken. Naru needed to figure out what was doing this now or to admit defeat and retreat. His gut clenched as he remembered the sight of Mai’s bloody forehead once again.
Ayako approached Naru, her mouth set in a grim line. “Naru, I’m going to tell you this straight up. I don’t want to continue this case and I don’t think the others should either. It’s getting to be too much. Mai was almost killed! You saw that pentagram… it was sliced into her skin. Do you know how painful that had to be? I don’t want something like that to happen to me… or to any of you guys. Who knows what might happen next? Whatever it is… I don’t think the victim will survive next time.”
Naru glared at her. Why was she complaining to him as if he didn’t already know how dangerous this was… He knew from the start that this wouldn’t be easy. Wiccan powers are so unpredictable… and from what Brown-san had told him, it seemed that a former leader had tampered with their natural course. If only he could find out how to put the course back on track, then things might return to normal. “I understand, Ayako-san, and you may leave whenever you want. I won’t stop you. However, I want to try and push the case a little longer… just a little. We finally know this has something to do with the Wiccan Goddess and the flow of power. We just need to correct the power problem. I’m sure of it.”
Ayako sighed. She didn’t want to abandon them, but she didn’t want to die either. Perhaps she could stay a little longer… “Naru… I’ve been meaning to tell you about this, but I wanted to wait and see if you were going to stay first. It’s about the footage caught earlier. I took a look at it and I think you need to see it. There’s something about it, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what.”
Naru raised a brow in question, sure that nothing caught on tape could save them now. However, he complied with her request and made his way to the video monitor. He rewound the tape and clicked play.
The fuzzy screen sparked to life with a crackle. Nothing of particular interest showed on the screen. It was a normal scene, just the front yard with a few trees and statues. Everything was silent, except for the wind and some chimes clinking in the background. Then, out of the blue, a high pitched mewling emitted from the audio. A slinky black cat emerged from behind one of the statues. But then, the cat itself wasn’t something out of the ordinary, was it? That’s what Naru thought, until he saw the cat’s right flank. A symbol, much like the one’s around the house, marked the cat’s fur in a light bluish color. It was the mark of the Goddess' protection. The cat turned its gaze towards the camera, as if knowing it was being watched. Its ice blue eyes, filled with mysterious wisdom, seemed to be trying to speak to Naru through the screen. With tail twitching, it turned away from the camera and gracefully stalked towards one of the larger and older statues. It meowed loudly and rubbed against the statue, with the symbol on its body touching a smaller symbol carved into the marble. Suddenly, a blue glow emitted from the statue’s symbol and the statue slid backwards to reveal a pitch black passageway disappearing into the earth. Apparently, something had been left out of the home’s blueprints. Naru had no idea where that passageway might lead, but he did feel certain that it was the missing link to the puzzle.
“Ayako-san, tell the others, except for Bou-san, to get outside and start searching for a cat.”
“Alright, everyone needs to search in pairs. Do not go off alone. If something happens, make some sort of sound, loud enough for us to hear. I don’t want anyone getting hurt again.” Naru looked at his team. “We’re looking for a black cat with a blue symbol on its right hind leg. If you find it, come back to the house and make sure to alert the others.”
“Stop! Wait!” a voice called out from in the house just as they were about to leave. Aimi came running out of the house, looking haggard and weak. She stumbled forward and Lin caught her before she reached the floor. “I… I can help you find Midnight. I overheard you guys…” she said, gasping for breath. Her frail body shook as her eyes welled with tears. “I’ll find her.”
Lin knelt down next to her and took her face in his hands. “It’s okay, don’t strain yourself. We’ll find her.”
“No… I know I can help. I want to help. This… it’s all my… my fault anyway,” she said shamefully.
Naru looked at her with disbelief. “Your fault? How could it be your fault?”
“I read them, the books in the secret basement. I wasn’t supposed to go down there until one of us, I mean my sisters, was chosen to inherit the line. But… when I saw it open one day, I was curious. The books of our past history are down there, but there was only so much that I could understand. After I read them, blood began to pour down from the ceiling… I never went back after that. That’s when all the strange stuff began to happen. I think… I think she’s alive, still living down there somewhere, the lady mentioned in the books…”
Brown-san cut in, “Do you mean your previous leader? But how could she still be alive? Hasn’t it been decades since she was the leader?”
“Yes… but I can feel her. And I can feel our Goddess too. She speaks to me, but… it’s strange. She’s so scary… and the things she says…” Aimi shuddered. “She hates us, all of us. Well, except me, but I think that’s because of my power. I… I tried to help Mai when she got hurt. I could feel all of it happening. The Goddess seemed to want me to know.”
Naru thought about it a little while, and tried to piece all of the information together. “What if… the Goddess has been twisted by the stealing of power? Her follower pretty much tainted the line, and she was supposed to be her most loyal and true follower, since she inherited the Goddess' power.”
Masako’s brows pinched together with worry, “But, if we’re dealing with a Goddess, this could get very bad. How are we to appease her? Is there really anything we can do?”
“If the previous leader is still alive… killing her should solve the problem,” Ayako offered with a hushed tone. Her hands shook slightly in fear. “I don’t think my powers can help with this one though, especially if she is beneath the earth. Aimi would have to help us. If she can sway the Goddess enough, and have her be the main focus, then maybe Brown-san can expel the leader’s spirit. I don’t think the leaders physical body is still here.”
Masako nodded in agreement. “I feel two evil spirits, not one. There’s no way that either have a physical body. It’s most likely that the previous leader’s spirit has been hanging on to the power, and thus corrupting the natural inheritance of power.”
“Great, then at least we might know what we’re dealing with.” Naru let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Brown, get prepared for an exorcism. Aimi, if you can, lead the rest of us to Midnight.”
They eventually found Midnight lounging in a tree. He stared lazily at them as they approached, then yawned and stretched out along the length of a branch.
“Midnight, come here. Here, Midnight!” Aimi called from below. Her voice sounded hoarse.
Midnight turned his icy gaze towards hers and let out a loud meow. With feline grace, he leapt from the tree and unto the ground below. With no hesitation, he ran to Aimi and jumped into her waiting arms. “Mrrow!” he yowled with pleasure as she scratched under his chin. “There you are, silly cat. I was looking all over for you.” The cat purred with satisfaction, then meowed again. “I knew you’d heard me calling. Now, can you open the passageway for us? We need to get down there.” Aimi said, as if conversing with the cat. Midnight looked up at her as if in understanding, and then rolled out of her arms and onto the ground. It then began back the way they’d came, running towards the house. They followed, and eventually arrived at the statue seen in the video. There, Brown-san was waiting for them, with cross, candle, and everything else he needed in tow.
The cat ignored Brown’s inquiring look and gently rubbed against the statue. It slid back to reveal the hidden passage. “Oh, thank you Midnight!” Aimi cooed.
They descended down the eerie, dust covered steps into the darkness. Knowing not what awaited them.
She sat there in the middle of the darkness, hugging her legs to her chest. It's so painful... She wanted to know why things turned out like this. Sure, they've been to dangerous cases before... One, were she was even targeted by a demon who wants her blood to maintain his good health. But this was different. She had never been hurt this way before. I'm carved. She marked me... What's going to happen to me now?
She couldn't wake up even when she tried to. She was sealed inside of this darkness. She felt so powerless... She hated the situation and she in the process began hating herself as well. I won't be able to wanr them, save them. She'll slaughter them all and they wouldn't be able to see it coming...
All her worries, the heavy thoughts in her head were waying her down, making her feel like she could sleep for eternity starting at that moment. Naru... everyone, please be careful. This was her last prayer, her only wish before darkness took over even within her.
Mai...? Naru didn't understand why but suddenly it seemed he heard Mai's voice inside his head, calling him... telling him to be careful. This case really is driving me crazy... They were treading their way deep underground. Wherever the eerie passageway led to, no one knew for sure, but they have to do this. Not only to save Aimi and her family, but also, most especially, Mai.
Naru has been silent for some time now. He must be very worried about Mai. Masako felt sad thinking this, but she couldn't deny her feelings either. Deep inside, she knew she never really had a chance with Naru. Along the way, even though she kept arguing and fighting with Mai over Naru, the sweet girl has also become a very dear friend to her. She wanted nothing more than to see her be well again, bouncing like the 'child' she is and showering everyone with her bright smiles. Mai, please be okay.
After walking for what seemed like hours but in actuality just thirty to forty minutes, the passageway came to a dead end. They were left puzzled by this. Was this all they came inside here for? Just when Naru was about to voice out his thoughts in yet another rude way, Midnight meowed and jumped off Aimi's arms towards the left side of the wall. She pressed her leg with the symbol to a spot on the wall and in a matter of seconds, it seemed as if the whole place would cave in.
"Don't panic. Look ahead!" Naru commanded. Just as he expected, the thick wall in front of them started sliding to the right, a new path for them to walk through. The surroundings grew darker still even with the torch in Lin's hand, as they went deeper in this unknown hell hole.
"Mai! Mai, wake up!" dream Naru was panicking inside but he has to have faith. Mai was stronger than this. She would pull through... somehow.
After shaking her a few more times, she finally lifted her head to face him. Her eyes were weary and carved on her forehead was the Wiccan symbol of the Goddess. As her head fully took in her surroundings and just who was standing right in front of her, her eyes grew wide with udnerstanding in an instant. He was relieved when she jumped off her feet and gave him a hug. She spilled all her tears in his arms and he tried to comfort her as best as he could.
"Naru, I was so scared. It was dark and I felt really hopeless... Thank you for coming to get me." She said sincerely.
"You're welcome, Mai. But this is far from over. I was only able to pull you out of your trance through her help." As he said this words, a girl emerged from the shadows behind him. Mai waited to see her face and when she did... she felt her eyes grew wider than ever.
"You..." she said weakly, shaking her head and turned to dream Naru with the question in her eyes.
"Mai, meet Lady Caterina."
"This seems odd..." Masako whispered. John who was walking beside her at that time heard her murmuring and asked her about it.
"What do you mean, Hara-san? Is there a problem?" John inquired.
Everyone around them heard the question and stopped walking. Naru was wearing an irritated but curious expression and the others were all simply hopeful that she might have remembered something that would benefit the case. Except for one person. But as soon as Masako realized it, it was already too late. Aimi was already behind all of them and she closed the wall with unbelievable strength.
"Aimi! What is the meaning of this?!" Lin exclaimed. It was surely uncharacteristic of him to lose his composure but they were in a grave situation that nobody noticed the change in his demeanor.
"I hate for things to end this way... Not! I simply cannot allow anymore interference in my plans. I'm so sorry. Well, may you all rot in there. Bye!" The voice from the other side shouted and then, they heard her footsteps walking back to where they came from.
Masako started crying. "I'm sorry. I realized too late that the other evil presence I was feeling was hiding right inside of Aimi. She... she's possessed."
"Possessed?! By who? Caterina?" Ayako questioned.
"No... By Meia..." Masako answered weakly.
Meia went back to the house in search of the mother. I must convince her to bring me to that place. Aimi's mother was the only one who knows where the real symbol of the Wiccan Goddess was inscripted thousands of years ago. This time for sure, she would free the Goddess and use the power of the sisterhood to reign supreme in the spiritual world.
But she didn't expect Mai to wake up from her spell. Mai asked Bou-san to escort Aimi's parents to safety outside the city. If possible, in the hospital where Teresa laid asleep. She has some sortof power within her too, that might protect Mr. and Mrs. Sugawara somehow.
Meanwhile, Mai was hurrying towards the passageway. She was able to go out from the back door in the kitchen just as Meia entered the house. She must moved quickly and save the others. Being buried deep underground was not a good thing, she knew first hand and she wouldn't want her friends to suffer the lack of air.
Naru perked up and so did Lin. "Ssh. Someone's coming." Naru whispered. It was strange that they could hear the steps even though thickness of the wall was about half a meter. But there was no time to ponder such unimportant thoughts.
"Matsuzaki-san, Brown-kun, prepare yourselves to attack along side me if ever it is Meia again." Lin ordered.
"Yes. But we need to lessen the damage because it is still Aimi-san's body." John said kindly.
The footsteps stopped right in front of the wall. And to everyone's surprise they heard the voice of the person they least expected to come for them.
"Everyone, it's me, Mai! Are you okay?" their bright 'cheerleader' seemed up and about already. But they wondered where Bou-san was...
In a matter of seconds, the wall opened once more and Mai was standing there at the other side, out of breath probably from running... but also from using the powers Caterina lent her.
"She's possessed... But wait," Masako said as she went closer to Mai and touched her hand.
"...Lady Caterina?" the medium asked, unsure.
Mai smiled but differently this time. It was more like a mother's smile for her children. Mature. Calm. Yet the underlying worry still slightly visible.
"I'll explain later. Right now, we have to get back to the house. Meia probably realized by now that we tricked her." It was again Mai. She seemed to have control over her body whenever she doesn't use Caterina's power. Everything was so confusing but they have to wait for now.
"That good for nothing witch! Aaaaahh!!" Meia's scream could be heard even from the outside. Her dark aura covered the whole house as she started her chants.
"Caterina!!" She shouted, looking only at Mai as she slowly walked outside.
"Meia, beloved sister. Stop this. It is over now. You should not awaken our Mistress anymore." Caterina pleaded.
"You... You are not my sister! You're a traitor! You promised me your cooperation but in the end you killed me!"
Caterina cried silently, the guilt within to overwhelming to ignore. Even though she did it only to stop her sister's madness, it was still unforgivable. After all, they were not 'siblings' only under the Goddess' reign, but also by blood.
"This time, it is not I who will be slain but you!" Meia shouted as she charged forward to her sister, to Mai.
And as the last, lone tear fell from Caterina's repentant eyes... a blinding light surrounded Meia, thousands of souls eating her spirit slowly. "I'm sorry... Meia."
"It's finally over..." Mai murmured before she fell on her knees and fainted.
"Our lady has successfully killed Meia that night, I was a witness to this. But I knew it was the right thing to do. Meia has joined the side of darkness in order to gain the power stronger than her half-sister, Caterina has. But such a thing is forbidden. The clan should always be lead by the eldest daughter. We, our lady and I thought that with Meia's death her soul would be purified and free from the devil's hands. But we were proven wrong. I watched as the days passed by excruciatingly slow and the changes started showing. Lady Caterina was losing herself... That is why, dying in the hands of my sisters is better than being tortured to death by the evil being that Caterina has become."
"I found this at Aimi's room, under her pillow. It is the last entry from Agusta's diary. She foresaw her death and their clan's downfall even before it could happen... But she was powerless to stop any of it though she tried." Mai explained.
"So, you mean to tell us, that all along this Caterina person wasn't the villain but this Meia person who was jealous of her powers and wanted to exceed her?" Bou-san asked.
"Takigawa-san, I believe that was what Mai said just now. Please, refrain from asking pointless questions." Naru said, icily. The monk shut his mouth and murmured his insults to the young ghost hunter to himself.
"What was that spell, magic, voodoo whatever you used in the end to defeat Meia, Mai?" Ayako asked. Everyone in the room was curious to hear the answer to that as well.
"It wasn't me who used that. It was Caterina. After I asked Bou-san to lead Aimi's parents to safety, I went to Aimi's room, got the page from the diary under her pillow and I was about to go out when I noticed something glowing at the back of her full-length mirror. I moved the mirror, found the 'original' Wiccan carving... Caterina took over to read the chants and spells inscripted within the circle and that's what she used to banish Meia." Mai replied.
"Wow! You know, this feels like we didn't do anything at all and you did it all yourself!" Bou-san exclaimed, grinning afterwards.
"Oh, stop it. You're making me blush. If it weren't for everyone we wouldn't come this far anyway. it just so happened that I was the one possessed by Caterina. It could have been anybody if you guys were here too." Mai said, even though in truth she was the only candidate for possession because dream Naru was the only one who could lead Caterina's soul to them.
"But I was here too that time, remember?" Bou-san said.
"Well, she probably like to possess girls only." Mai said, laughing awkwardly. It was so obvious she was lying.
"Let's wrap this up and make our official report to the Sugawara household. I'm sure they want to get this over with, the sooner the better." Naru said, all business-like again.
Epilogue: Things were back to normal, or as normal as they could be. With the case being solved, everyone went back to their usual lives. Naru was as cold and pessimistic as always, Lin as uncaring and mysterious as he’d been since Mai and he had met, and Mai… well, she was lonely. She missed dream Naru, but even more so, she missed the real Naru himself. If only he would open up to her. But still, his keeping to himself was part of his charm. Mai smiled a little, thinking about all of the events that had transpired. She knew he cared for her in some way, though maybe not the way she wished.
She’d heard from Aimi recently; they’d kept in touch after the case had closed. Apparently, Aimi had inherited the Goddess’s powers, just as she was supposed to. Her sisters, though powerful in their own right, hadn’t wished to succeed the line anyway. The horrors that had happened just because of that power were too much for them to bear; there was no way they wished to possess such a terrible and consuming power which could go wrong at any time. Mai knew that things would be okay though, since Aimi seemed to be able to control the powers with ease. Not to mention she had her familiar, Midnight, to guide and care for her. No, Mai didn’t think that another event like Meia and Caterina’s would happen again. And if something fishy did start to occur once again, Lin would no doubt be on top of it. Mai had learned from Aimi that she and Lin had been childhood friends, and that Lin’s brother was Aimi’s betrothed. No wonder Lin had cared about her so much, she wasn’t just the daughter of his friend… she was actually his friend herself and was going to be related to him soon as well!
From what Mai had heard from the others, Bou-san was back to his “monkly” duties and Ayako had gone back home. Masako would come around the office sometimes, but only to tease Mai and flirt with Naru. Brown-san had gone back to the church, since they needed him there. He was usually so busy that it was hard to keep in touch with him.
Mai wondered if she too should find something in life besides this form of work, but she just couldn’t drag herself away from Naru and the others. She belonged here, with them, with her family. And there was no way she could ever forget all that she had gone through with them.
This was her home.