I let out a sigh of relief as I sat down on our guest sofa. Mashita is every bit of the slave driver I imagined him to be. No, it's probably worse now that he's my direct superior. Even though I'm busy, he never fails to order me to make him more coffee. Do I already have a mountain of my paperwork? Oh, thanks Mashita. I definitely want to help you with yours and leave mine to rot on my desk.
Although, he does take the majority of the cases. I can't blame him for not being able to do paperwork when he's off investigating. If he would just let me help him in the field, both of us would benefit. We work so well when we're about to die but when it comes to everything else... I wonder why we can't have the same natural connection.
After I sealed Mary away, my life started to rot away until slowly there would be no meaning to it besides destroying that cursed doll. I didn't reconnect with anyone from my past and with no one besides Moe and Daemon visiting I became a recluse. Banshee on occasion would come over to scavenge for food but does that count as human contact?
Then Mashita barged in one day with a few... choice words for me. He recruited me into his private investigator business and I've never looked back since.
Maybe it's for the best. I'm not exactly comfortable enough to offer help and ignore his threats every time I do. It's not hard to imagine him screaming at me to kill myself after I tell him I'm worried about his health.
I look over at Mashita's desk and where he should be sitting right now. Instead, I'm watching over the office by myself while he's off doing fieldwork. Honestly, he could have just done it from here. He didn't need to interview a possible witness in person when it's just for basic information. I don't understand how he thinks. We already have so many cases and he keeps taking them in without stopping. He's going to collapse one day with the rate he's going at.
Would I be able to help him when that day comes? …
Good job me, I made myself feel worse somehow. Maybe I should distract myself. I pick up the tv remote and turn on a random channel on our old television.
A news anchor blankly stares at me from the screen. Her expression is unreadable but the slight frown belies her efforts to suppress what she felt. It seems like the news just started for the day.
"Today at noon, horror strikes in K high school. A third-year student was found decapitated and strung from the roof of the high school. This will make it the second time this year that a murder takes place in this area. Earlier this month another strung up victim was found in the fish markets near the school. Police think that..."
The rest of what the anchor says is lost to me. "K high school..."
That's the high school Moe goes to. Oh god. Panic starts to rise in me. No, I need to calm down. She said that the victim was a third-year student. Moe is still a second-year so she wasn't the one that was killed. What if the news got it wrong though? I was announced dead when I was only in a coma. If it was a mistake in information... Ugh, Moe!
I scramble to my phone and flip it open with excessive force. Two numbers into typing her phone number, my phone starts ringing that familiar tune. Love & Hero's Counterattack cheerfully plays as the screen flashes to show who's calling. Moe's name appears and the tension in my body slightly leaves.
"Moe, I saw the news! Are you ok? Where are you right now?" I immediately ask after answering the call.
"YASHIKI!" Moe screams over the phone.
"Moe, what's wrong?!"
"It'll take too long to explain over the phone. Please, come to my school! I'll be waiting near the gates so don't mind the police blocking it!"
What is happening on her end? If the police are blocking the gates, I doubt Moe will be able to convince them to let me in. Still, if she needs me then I need to be there for her. I scribble down a note for Mashita in case he comes back but hopefully, it won't be needed. I don't exactly want to get yelled at for leaving the office alone during open hours.
Once I'm outside the school, I can't help but be in awe. There is an actual barricade surrounding the gates of the school. It's only been a few hours since the death and the police have already set up a perimeter. Then there's Moe. The tiny girl is screaming at a fully geared police officer two heads taller than her like the spitfire she is. Her courage amazes me every time... or is it lack of awareness? Well, it doesn't seem like she's winning though.
"I am telling you that my friend is coming and you need to let him inside! He is going to be here any minute so open up the gate!" Moe yells at the officer as if he wasn't holding a baton.
The police officer sighs with the force of a man carrying the burdens of the world. He raises his arms for a second as if he wanted to manhandle Moe back to her class but instead rubs his temples. I can't help thinking he's very relatable at the moment.
"Miss, you should head back into your class where your classmates are. We can't let anyone inside just because a citizen wants us to. Please understand," the police officer tries to placate her.
"Ugh! You are the one that doesn't understand! Look, we're on the same side. My friend is a private investigator and he can find out why J-ka was killed. He can help us if you just let him in," Moe flashes a winning smile.
Unfortunately, the smile fails and the police officer once again tells her no. Moe screams in frustration. That's my cue to step in before she attacks him.
"Excuse me," I announce my arrival.
Their attention turns to me instantaneously. A bright smile spreads across Moe's face before she bounds over towards me. The officer tried to stop her from crossing the barrier without any success. He follows Moe and crosses as well.
"Yashiki, you made it! I have so much to tell you. Just give me a sec and I'll get this guy to let you right in!" Moe cheerfully tells me.
The officer took that as his cue to step closer to me. "I'm sorry sir, but I really can't let you inside. The lead detective has issued a total lockdown on the school until further notice."
"No, I completely understand. Do you mind if I talk to her for a while? I won't enter the school but we have something important we need to discuss," I try to compromise.
"Wait, aren't you Masamune Kujou?" The police officer asks with wide eyes.
"Uh, yes that's right," I hesitantly answer him. Even with my memories back, I still have a hard time responding to that name. Until I can forgive my past self I don't think I ever will.
"Please wait here Mr. Kujou. I'll ask the lead if we can make an exception for you."
"A-are you sure?"
"Yashiki!" Moe harshly whispers. She makes a cutting motion across her neck.
In response, I shrug at her with wide eyes.
"Of course, it would be my honour to help such a generous donor of the police station," he explains before heading into the school. Another officer comes in to replace him.
Oh, that's right. It was around the beginning of last month that I donated but with work keeping me busy, I forgot. Moe huffs at the new officer. Honestly, it feels like the other officer never left. That's just how similar they look.
With a confused tone, Moe asks me, "what does he mean by donations?"
"Ah, once I got access to my bank accounts again Mashita had me donate a large sum to the police department. He said it'll help later on if we have a bit of power over the police. I guess it came in handy faster than we expected," I whisper to her. It doesn't seem like the officer watching us heard me. Small blessings are really something.
"Oh, I see. Isn't that kind of weird though. Mashita is your boss but he shouldn't control your finance."
"T-that's!" I can't tell her the truth. I'm too scared to tell Mashita no. Especially when he's right. It'll just give him more fuel to mock me when my mistake makes itself known. "Anyways, Moe you said you needed to tell me something right?"
"Yeah, I do! Yashiki I think the killer of J-ko is a spirit!" Moe announces.
"A spirit. Moe are you sure about this?" I ask.
It's not as if I doubt her. Moe knows her stuff and has decent research to back it up but... I really don't want another potentially deadly case. Red Riding Hood was the last spirit I had to exorcise and I'd like to keep it that way.
"I. Am. Sure! Listen to this rumour going around the school!"
[Scared girl: Hey, don’t go to school today! Haven’t you heard about that dead girl they found on the track field?! It was so creepy the way she died too. Her head was chopped off and her neck was twisted like a screw. Then there were the pics placed next to her decapitated head…
Skeptical girl: I don't remember that happening. Are you sure something like this happened at our school?
Scared girl: No, I am being serious! You were sick that day and only our class saw it! We couldn't tell anyone though because the teachers told us we'd get in trouble if we did.
Skeptical girl: How convenient. The day I'm not in class is the day something that exciting happens. You shouldn't spread false rumours like that.
Scared girl: AHHH! I'm telling you the truth! There's proof somewhere out there. Five pictures were found and they all show how this fucked up looking ghost in our school uniform crept up behind the girl and offed her!!! You don't have to believe me j-just stay away from school until it goes the hell away! That ghost is going to end up killing us all!]
"That's how it goes. So, what do you think? Doesn't it sound like what happened today? Not only that but the death at the fish market... IT HAS TO BE A SPIRIT!" Moe screams with joy.
"Moe! Try to keep it down!" I can feel some of the police officers watching. Ugh, this is hard to endure. "You're right that it does sound familiar but the rumour talked about a girl dying in a different area from the two confirmed deaths."
"I thought that too! That's why I looked into it. I found proof of the school trying to cover up the death of the girl in the rumours! It's awesome! Uh, not that the school is doing such a terrible thing but that the rumours are real," Moe nervously chuckles.
The school tried to cover up the death of a student? It must have been damaging to their reputation if the school was willing to commit a crime. Where there is one, there are also many other secrets. If the school can easily hide a death then who knows what else the school hid. Which means, someone, possibly dead, could resent the school for something. So... I let out a big sigh. We have a spirit case.
"Alright, I'm starting to think a spirit is involved too. Where did you put the evidence you collected?" I ask.
"I hid it behind a shelf in the library. That's why I need you to come with me. I accidentally pushed it too far in. Hehe, my arms are too short to get it," Moe smiles sheepishly.
"Ah." That's about all I have to say about that.
Slightly jogging, the officer that left earlier returns to us with a small smile. "Mr. Kujou, our lead detective has instructed me to allow you in but please do not touch anything near the crime scene," he says.
"Nice!" Moe whispers.
"Ah! That's great!" I say a bit louder than I needed. The officer raises an eyebrow as he helps me cross the barricade that was raised around the school. Moe easily hops over it using her youthful energy.
"Yashiki, quickly! We have to stop the spirit before another person gets killed!" Moe screams before running off to the left of the gate.
"That's so funny! Good joke, Moe! Ghosts aren't real!" I scream too while I run after her. Oh god, I can hear the officer chuckling behind me. I just hope he thought we were just joking.
"Over here! This is our old library. We don't really use it anymore besides as storage for textbooks."
"Are you sure we're allowed to go in?" I ask.
A padlock and chain are locking the door handles to the concrete library. It's separated from the rest of the school building but I could tell it was still being up kept. Still, no matter how hard the janitor tries to keep things tidy, I could tell no one comes by anymore. Visually it looks completely different from the main building and the bit of light shining through the window reveals a room of dust. Mhn? That's odd. There is a decent-sized dent in the corner of the building. It almost looks like someone swung an axe into the wall.
"Ok, I got in," Moe announces.
"Got in?" What?! In her hands are lock picking tools that she got from who knows where. A loud clang rings when the heavy padlock drops down onto the tile beneath the door. "Moe, you can't do stuff like that!"
"Why not? I mean we already broke into H elementary. This isn't that much different," she shrugs indifferently before pushing the door open.
"T-that was..." She has me there. That time I completely ignored all laws and entered the school without permission. Even if it was abandoned, that was still illegal. I-is it possible that I'm just as bad of an influence as Mashita?
With no hesitation, Moe walks right into the abandoned library. I should contemplate my existence later. For now, I need to follow her. Ah, the dust in here really is bad. It's such a shame that such wonderful books are being left here to rot. Moe calls out for me to hurry up.
She's crouching down on the second floor of the library and half of her face is almost shoved into the back of a bookshelf. Before she hurts herself, I carefully slide the shelf away from her. Moe chirps a thank you then dives right in.
"No! Yashiki, it's gone!"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm telling you my notebook is gone! W-we could have finished this right now if we had it. I know we could as long as you looked at it. I'm so sorry Yashiki!" Moe nervously yells.
That's not a good sign. A school that hides it's secret and a missing notebook that holds those secrets. I doubt the book went missing. It's just too coincidental for it to be anything but theft.
"Moe, calm down. Stuff like this can happen at any time. It's not worth our energy to stress too much about it. For now, let's go investigate the crime scene. We can find the notebook later," I say to ease her mind.
"O-okay but how are we going to get closer? I tried to take pictures earlier but they forced me to leave."
"Mhn, good point but there are still some other places we can look at. Actually, there's something about this library that I want to investigate."
I start to head out of the old library with only one thing on my mind. Moe follows along as well after standing back up again. She grabs onto my sleeve and apologies again for not delivering on what she promised. Again, I tell her not to worry about it while gently ruffling her hair.
We leave the depressing library then shut its doors once again. I don't think we'll be coming back here any time soon. It'll be left alone completely now that the one reason Moe kept coming back here is gone.
I turn my attention to the cavity marking the walls of the library. The more I look at it the more I feel like a human wasn't the one that made it. There's no proof of it being anything else but this feeling inside me. It screams at me that I need to investigate it even though there's nothing there but nature and the dent.
My feet carry me closer without me realizing. I lightly caress the edge of the cut with my right fingers. It's so clean and well-cut. Almost as if, instead of a wild swing someone carefully cut out a triangle in the corner. That can't be though. After all, the angle could easily be made if someone was swinging downwards. Unless someone has that much time, I don't think anyone would
My fingers glide along the surface. What is this feeling? Something is looking at me. This foreboding feeling, of someone watching me. Moe forces herself in front of me. She's talking but all I can hear is a violent buzz. With a panicked expression, she tries to pry my fingers off of the cavity.
When did I start pushing my fingers onto the edge? Without knowing why I keep forcing myself onto the concrete wall. I push and push until something gives. Something always has to give that's just how it works when two forces are pitted against each other. It's just that this time my fingers lost the fight. My fingers bent backwards as if I slammed a hammer down on my finger and into the corner. Crimson red drips down the wall from where it's dug right into my fingers.
It probably cut right to the middle of each of the fingers on my left hand. So, why don't I feel any pain? I feel nothing despite the blood seeping from my fingers. I see nothing but Moe should be gripping onto my hand and the buzz... The sound just keeps growing louder and louder. It builds then a shrill bell rings inside my mind.
I blackout for a second before my eyes open to shaking scenery.
"Haah... haah... Help me... please...Someone help me!" A young lady's voice cries out in desperation. Her sobs are deafening and drown the sound of her pleas. She's running efficiently but her breath is short as if she's been running for a long time with no relief.
I can't see what's chasing her. She can't see what's chasing her. Yet we knew something was coming after us. We could tell from the way that sometimes the wind would pick up in a way that would have cut us clean in half if we didn't move. More tears run down our cheeks when the wind swings at us again. This time our hair gets caught in the attack and our once prideful ponytail is reduced to a stump.
"Agh, t-this is where I die. No, please I'm begging you. Let me live! Why? Why is this happening to me?!" We scream into the air but of course, nothing responds to our pleas. A hysteric laugh bubbles from our throat as any hope of survival starts to slip away along with the feeling in our legs.
It doesn't matter if we are the track star of K high school. None of that matters in the face of a limitless entity hunting us down. Finally, after running around for hours, our legs give up. Leaving us paralyzed and helpless against the winner of the chase. The being is above us. Our stomach twists from the feeling of tragedy. With what little strength we have left, we force ourselves to turn over onto our knees. At the same time, the entity swings down and takes off half our left hand. Pain and Despair descend upon us at once before the world turns black.
I force my eyes open and the first thing I see is Moe's hand upon mine. Shakily, I bring my left hand closer to my face. H-how is this possible? My fingers were messed up from what I remember but what I'm seeing is different. The bent angle that could be caused by a hammer is gone and the biggest cut I have is an ordinary papercut. There's barely any blood seeping out of that. Was everything I witnessed memories of the victim? So, I still can see the memories of the dead.
"Ya...shiki...Yashi...ki..." What's that voice in the back of my head? The memory should be over by now. "YASHIKI!"
"...Moe," I whisper.
"Yup, that's me. You know the girl you zoned out on and scared cause you started hurting yourself," Moe nervously jokes as she checks out the small cut across my left fingers.
"Moe, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to," I can't bring myself to finish such a meaningless apology. It won't remedy the fear I caused.
She shakes her head wildly. With how close she was, her hair hits me a few times and I force my instinct to flinch away down. Moe says, "It's fine! I really was just joking when I said you scared me! I was more worried about you than anything. What was that? You didn't respond to me at all. It was like your soul left your body."
I think I had another vision of a victim," I start before explaining to her what I saw. She's immediately invested despite the lack of detail gruesome I gave. Her face is a strange mix of excitement and dread. "So, does that mean your spiritual powers are getting stronger? I thought you said after Red Riding Hood you never got another one again."
"I know and you're right. Maybe my power only activates when a spirit is involved," my voice lacks energy as I suggest this. That just means I have another thing tying me to a life of chaos.
"Oh. Well, that's okay! You're helping out a lot of people with this power and at least you didn't get the power of being a spirit bait!" Moe cheerfully tries to lighten my mood.
"Heh, spirit bait. You're right. I shouldn't be so sad about this. There are a lot worse fates I could have ended up with," I agree with her before continuing, "Moe let's go see the track and field." It's probably just useless speculation but I have a feeling that's where we need to go.