“Hideaki!” Sayuri’s scream rang through the house as she raced up the stairs. Turning onto the upstairs landing she stopped and called out again: “Hideaki!” There was another smashing sound from the room to the right and Sayuri ran into it.
Mai reached the top of the stairs in time to hear Hideaki’s cry of pain from behind the door to her left. “Arakaki-san!” She called, but couldn’t see the woman. Turning to the room before her, Mai readied herself to chant before bursting through the door.
As soon as she entered, Mai could see Hideaki in the corner of the room trying to get away from the dark entity pulling him by his arm to the window.
“Nau-Maku-San-Manda-Bazara-Dankan!” She chanted before moving to make the Nine Cuts. “Rin-Pyou-Tou-Sha-Kai-Jin-Retsu-Zai-Zen!”
As she finished, the spirit writhed and dropped Hideaki before it turned towards her. Despite not being able to see any details before, Mai could now make out Nagai’s bulging ochre eyes glaring at her.
Mai was about to begin chanting again when she heard John’s voice call through the room. “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
Keeping her eyes locked with the spirit, Mai shifted to allow John better access to the spirit.
His prayer continued. “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Through Him, all things were made. Without Him, nothing was made.”
Mai could hear the swish of water and felt the dampness as John used Holy Water. Nagai’s shadow flinched with every drop of water that fell on him.
“In Him was life. And that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness. The darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. In principio.”
Upon those final words Nagai’s spirit disappeared. Near silence filled the room, only broken by small sobs coming from Hideaki. Mai moved to the boy, trying to see what harm had happened. She winced at the red marks on his arms, some of the edges already starting to turn dark with bruises. There were several small cuts on his arms and face as well.
“Hideaki!” Sayuri burst into the room. At the sight of her son she crumpled against the wall in tears. Sobbing, the distraught woman moved towards her son as he turned his head.
“Kaa-san.” he whimpered.
Absently, Mai watched John turn to Ayako, Naru, and Lin in the hallway. “Ayako-san,” he got the attention of the horrified miko. “Please get your med kit. Hideaki-kun needs to be looked at.”
She nodded before rushing down the stairs. Seeing that there was no longer present danger, Lin moved to return to base. “I’ll check the tapes. Hopefully we can get more details from them.”
“Lin,” Naru stopped him. “Contact Arakaki-san and let him know what has happened.”
John agreed. “His family needs his support right now.”
Lin nodded before continuing down the stairs.
John and Naru turned into the room again. Mai turned to watch the same scene they did: Hideaki clinging to his mother. John moved towards the pair to help move them to a different room, assuring them that Nobuyuki was being called and should be home soon.
While John was busy with mother and son, Naru moved over to Mai.
“Once everyone is back in base, I want you to go over what happened.” He said.
Mai nodded. Her eyes followed the Arakaki’s out of the room.
“Mai.” His softer tone got her attention. She felt her cheeks flush at the small but sincere smile he gave her. “You did well.”
Mai’s eyes widened at the unexpected, and rarely received, praise. They maintained eye contact until they heard Ayako coming up the stairs.
“Naru-” Mai cut herself off. What? What could now possibly be the right time to say? He raised his eyebrow at her and she shook her head. “Don’t worry. I’ll help Ayako-san with Hideaki-kun.”
She then smiled in a way that made Naru’s eyes narrow. “You’ll have to get your own tea.”
Before Naru could open his mouth, Mai stepped around him to direct Ayako to the room the family was now in. She smirked as she felt Naru’s unimpressed look dig into her back before she heard his footsteps on the stairs.
Ayako treated Hideaki’s injuries and gave the boy sitting on the bed some pain medication. Mai had managed to get Hideaki smiling by telling funny stories about some of the cases they’d worked on.
“And so, because we all needed to pretend to be couples, Ayako-san and John-kun went on a ‘date’ together,” she said.
Hideaki let out a giggle at that. “But onee-san, she’s really tall and John-nii-san is short.”
Ayako snorted. “We got enough comments about the pairing then, thank you.”
Mai rolled her eyes. At least he didn’t call you old.
“Hideaki!” Nobuyuki hurried into the room. “Sayuri. Thank goodness you’re both ok.” He moved to his family on the bed, embracing them both. Ayako and Mai shared a look before excusing themselves from the room.
On the way to base Ayako couldn’t help but praise Mai for her quick thinking. “You’ve gotten better at using the Fudo Myo-O and the Nine Cuts. It was good that you turned Nagai-san’s attention away from Hideaki-kun. Given the force of the bruising and pulling on his arm, any more damage and he would have needed a hospital visit.”
Mai winced at that news. Entering base, Mai found herself engulfed in Bou-san’s arms.
“Jou-chan!” He swung her a little. “I heard! You did so well!”
Mai gasped for a breath, awkwardly patting Bou-san on the back. Suddenly, he let her go jumping a little and clutching his knee.
“Damn it, woman!” He growled at Ayako. “Watch where you’re swinging that thing.”
Ayako sniffed, setting the offending med kit down by the wall. “If you’d have let Mai-chan breath, I wouldn't have needed to make you let go.”
To avoid the oncoming squabble, Mai moved away from the pair to the rest of the group. Yasu grinned at her while handing her soba.
“You’d better eat.” He said. “Between the adrenaline and the spiritual energy you used, I’m surprised you’re still standing.”
Mai smiled as she sank into a chair. Eating her food, she chatted about the car ride to town with Yasu while the rest of the team finished their dinner. It wasn’t long before Naru gained their combined attention.
“Given that not everyone was present during the attack, I would like for us to share what happened.” He then looked to Mai. “Starting with Mai. You were the first on the scene. What happened?”
She swallowed her final mouthful of soba and started to explain.
“I was in the kitchen with Arakaki-san. We chatted before I started to make tea. I didn’t get far though. There was something wrong. I had just thought I needed to find Hideaki-kun when there was a smashing sound upstairs.”
She drank some water and continued. “Arakaki-san knew. As soon as we heard the sound she was running up the stairs screaming for Hideaki. I almost tripped over some boxes in the hall, so by the time I got to the top of the stairs, she was already in one of the rooms.”
John nodded his head. “I heard something smash and her scream. I don’t know about the others, but I wasn’t sure if the smashing sound was just something dropped. I was in the front room when I heard the scream. I’d started moving towards the stairs when she screamed again.”
Ayako let out a huff. “I was in base with Naru and Lin.” She said. “Until we heard the scream I didn’t think there was anything to indicate something was happening. I certainly didn’t hear anything smash.”
How? Mai wasn’t sure how the base couldn't have heard the sound. There was a camera in the room she found Hideaki in. How was it that nothing was noticed through the cameras?
Before Mai could ask, Naru spoke. “What happened when you reached the top of the stairs?”
Mai blinked and focused on the question. “I couldn’t see Arakaki-san.” She said. “I heard Hideaki-kun cry out in pain. I called out to Arakaki-san but didn't wait for her to respond. I went to Hideaki-kun.”
Mai struggled to explain what she saw next, the memory made her stomach turn. “I saw Hideaki-kun. He was being dragged by his arm towards the window. He kept struggling to get away.”
She took a deep breath. “I used the Fudo Myo-O, then the Nine Cuts. Nagai-san dropped him and turned to me.”
“You’re sure it was Nagai-san?” Lin asked.
Mai shuddered. “I could see his eyes.”
“What happened next?” Naru prompted.
“I was preparing to chant again when I heard John-san’s prayer.” She looked at the priest with a smile. “I shifted to the side so he could access Nagai-san better, but still have enough room to chant if I needed it.”
Naru nodded. Ignoring Bou-san in the background exclaiming his pride at Mai’s thinking, he turned to John. When John’s view collaborated with Mai’s, the group turned to planning what to do next.
“We need to make sure Nagai-san is gone.” Bou-san said. “What about the other spirits here? Hideaki-kun has mentioned his ‘friends’ but I haven't noticed any spiritual activity other than Nagai-san.”
Mai had noticed that too. She had a feeling she knew why only Nagai-san was noticed, and barely at that.
“What if,” Mai began, “what if we don’t notice the spirits, or Nagai-san well, because we’re adults?”
The team turned to look at her. Mai could see they were confused.
“Explain.” Naru said.
Shifting in her seat, Mai tried to explain her thoughts. “We know that Nagai-san didn’t like adults. His records from the hospital say as much. In my dreams, the focus has always been on a young boy and an abusive adult.”
In a flash insight she continued with a distant look. “His father beat his mother to death, and beat him as well, before burying her in the garden. After his father was incarcerated, he moved to this property and, eventually, relived his past. Only this time, he was his father. He buried the boys behind the trees. Who’s willing to bet his mother’s body was recovered somewhere similar in their garden?”
She shared a look with Yasu and he moved to his laptop to check.
“What does that have you do with adults not being able to see the spirits?” Ayako asked.
“I think,” Mai said, “that Nagai-san spent so much time and energy trying not to be noticed by adults. That this was a holdover from his childhood. His victims tried to hide from him too. I think that in death, the need to hide from adults has been so engrained that we can’t notice them because of it.”
Naru had a thoughtful look on his face. “It would explain why only Hideaki-san is able to interact with them. However, he said that the spirits of his friends would watch when he played games with his parents. Why would they do that if they avoided adults?”
“Probably because they all missed their own parents.” Bou-san rebutted. “The common theme is the boys wanting their okaa-san. Watching a healthy family interaction was likely something they missed.”
“A question I have though,” said Mai. “Why did the smashing lead Arakaki-san away from Hideaki-kun? In the past the noises have always been to protect him.”
There was a pause as the group thought this over. Then Naru spoke. “We need to talk to Hideaki-san.”