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Funny How Things Change

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“Why?” Ayako asked as she frowned at Naru. “He’s just been through a trauma Naru. He needs to rest!”

“He is the only one who is able to see the spiritual happenings in this house,” Naru deadpanned.

Ayako’s frown adapted to a scowl. Naru’s answer reminded Mai of her earlier question. “Did the cameras catch anything?”

At his unimpressed look she turned to Lin. “Surely the cameras caught something?”

Lin grimaced. As she followed his gesture to look over the computers, he pulled up the feeds from the upstairs cameras.

Mai gaped. There was nothing. The feeds only showed empty rooms. Why isn’t Hideaki-kun showing up? She looked to Lin in disbelief.

“How?” She asked.

Lin’s mouth pinched. “The feeds were interfered with. When you look over the frames, they repeat. The temperatures dropped but since the visual didn’t show any changes it was only a mild concern.”

Mai’s eyes narrowed. “The temperature dropped?”

Lin nodded. “In the room you found Hideaki-san in.”

“What about the room Arakaki-san ran too? The one she heard smashing from,” Mai asked.

Lin paused before looking over the computer feeds and sighing. He gave a pained look to Mai. So, it dropped there too. Why did the noise lead away from Hideaki-kun?

Turning to Naru, she made an unimpressed face. “You’re right. We need to talk to Hideaki-kun.”

 

Talking to Hideaki turned out to be easier said than done.

“No,” Nobuyuki said. “No, you can’t talk to him. In fact, I don’t want you to talk to him or Sayuri. Your coming here was to stop these things, not make them worse!” His angry red face was almost pushed against Mai’s as he yelled.

“Arakaki-san,” Mai tried to reason with the distraught father. Her hands were palms out in front of her as she tried to gain some space.

“No!”

“Arakaki-san,” Naru’s icy voice cut through the air. “This would have happened even without our being here.”

Nobuyuki twisted to face Naru; his face, already red, took on a deeper shade.

“Did our being here move forward the attack on Hideaki-san? Possibly,” Naru spoke before the man could rage at him.

“However, we are able to put a stop to this. We will remove the threat and make sure Hideaki-san is safe. To do that, we need to speak with Hideaki-san.” All of this Naru said with a cold voice. His eyes locked in a glare with Nobuyuki.

“Nobuyuki,” Sayuri’s voice came from the stairway. Mai saw that neither Nobuyuki or Naru had ceased their glares at the other and turned to watch Sayuri descend the last few steps.

The woman walked to her husband with a determined look on her face.

“Nobuyuki,” She repeated, voice firm. “Let them do their job.”

At this, Nobuyuki whipped his head to his wife. “What?!” The anger on his face became disbelief. “You can’t be serious!”

“I am.” Tilting up her chin, Sayuri’s gaze was serious. “They have done more to help Hideaki than either of us. If it weren't for Taniyama-san and Brown-san our son could have died.”

With that, she turned her attention to Mai and Naru. “That being said, I would prefer to be present when you speak with Hideaki.”

“Of course,” Mai agreed.

“Can we speak with him now?” Naru asked at the same time.

Nobuyuki started to interrupt, but became silent with the angry look his wife threw him.

“Yes,” Sayuri said, “we will meet you in the front room.” She then moved back up the stairs, her footsteps were heard as she climbed. Nobuyuki, almost vibrating with frustration, gave a huff before stomping out of the house.

After a moment of silence Naru looked at Mai. “Tea.”

Excuse me?” Mai narrowed her eyes in irritation.

Naru sighed. “This is likely going to be a difficult conversation. Tea would be good for settling everyone’s nerves.”

Oh. Mai blinked. That sounded almost like Naru… cared. She shook her head. Of course he cared. The previous cases they’d worked on had shown that.

With a subdued nod, Mai moved into the kitchen. Naru watched her as she moved about. Realising he hadn't left, she asked if anything was wrong. He looked at her with a blank expression and opened his mouth. Mai waited for him to speak, but he shook his head before entering base.

Oh-kay. Mai sent a confused look at his back before continuing her task.

 

In the time it took Mai to prepare enough tea for the team and the Arakaki family, everyone had moved into the front room. Setting down the teacups onto a low table, Mai took a seat between Naru and Yasu.  Across from her, on the couch, were the Arakaki’s. Hideaki sat tucked between his parents. Looking at the scowl on Nobuyuki’s face, Mai wasn’t sure how easy this conversation was going to be, even with Sayuri’s support.

Lost in these thoughts, she startled when Naru began to speak.

“Hideaki-san. Please tell us what happened this afternoon.”

The boy looked uncomfortable at the question. Biting his lip, he looked at his mother, who nodded.

“The Bad Man doesn’t like having you here,” Hideaki said in a quiet voice. “He watches a lot, but doesnt like grown ups. He heard me when I said my friends get kaa-san or tou-san when He tries to hurt me. He wasn’t happy.”

Mai felt Naru’s posture, already proper, become even more so. He’s figured something out.

“When I was upstairs, I saw one of my friends go into the back room. We don’t usually play there because of all the boxes.”

“Hideaki-kun,” Mai interjected, “That was the room you saw The Bad Man and had us point the camera to the corner. Is The Bad Man in that room a lot?”

Hideaki slumped into himself. “The Bad Man likes that room because the window looks over the garden.”

He looked at Mai with tears in his eyes. “But I saw Taro-kun go in there! I didn’t think The Bad Man would be in there if Taro-kun was going there! I didn’t think He’d be there.” The boy broke down sobbing.

The SPR team watched awkwardly as Sayuri pulled him into her arms and tried to quiet his cries. Nobuyuki glared at the team before comforting his son.

Taro-kun. Mai leaned into Yasu and asked, “Did Nagai-san’s hospital records keep track of the names he would say he was talking with?”

Yasu blinked at her surprised. “I don’t know. I’d have to have another look. You think Nagai-san continued ‘conversations’ with his victims? That Taro-kun is one of them?”

“I think,” Mai said, “it’s not beyond possibility that Nagai-san relived his interactions with his victims. He was already reliving his childhood. Without boys to fill any roles, his mind just… stood in.”

Yasu’s brow creased in thought. Humming quietly he promised to look into the files again. Refocusing on the room, Mai blushed when she realised she was the centre of the team’s attention.

Naru’s gaze bore into her face. Her blush deepened when she realised this. Before her head burst into flames, John broke the silence.

“Hideaki-kun, did you see Taro-san when you went into the room?”

Hideaki, who had calmed down considerably, sniffled before answering. “Yes. Taro-kun wanted to show me something. He was starting to tell me about it when The Bad Man showed up.”

Sayuri rubbed his back as his breathing started to hitch again resulting in hiccups.

“The Bad Man,” Hideaki managed to voice between hiccups, “he started yelling at us.” Mai moved from her seat to pass him a cup of tea. With a tremulous smile he accepted it and took a sip. When he tried to speak, Mai shushed him and told him that he should finish his tea first.

As Hideaki sipped slowly at his tea, trying to get rid of the hiccups, Mai took the opportunity to pass out tea to everyone in the room. Smiling in response to Sayuri’s thanks, Mai was surprised with Naru’s foresight. Tea really was needed for this conversation.

Instead of returning to her seat, Mai knelt close to Hideaki. As he finished his tea, Mai took his cup and placed it on the table. Taking his small hands in hers, Mai tried to project an aura of strength and comfort to the boy.

“What did The Bad Man say?” she asked.

Taking a deep breath and gripping her hands, he answered. “I didn’t hear it all. I was scared. But I heard him yelling something about being ungrateful and naughty.”

Mai squeezed his hands slightly and rubbed her thumbs across his fingers before asking, “What happened to Taro-kun?”

“He tried to stand between me and The Bad Man.” Hideaki squeezed her hands so hard Mai almost flinched. However, Hideaki was looking into her eyes and Mai didn’t want to break that connection.

“The Bad Man pushed him. And turned to me. He hit me.” Hideaki took another deep breath. “He hit me a lot. Taro-kun tried to distract him but it didn't work. Then he disappeared.”

Mai could hear the sharp breaths around her, but she didn't let her focus shift from the boy in front of her.

“Hideaki-kun,” Bou-san said, “what happened after Taro-kun disappeared?”

Hideaki flicked his eyes towards the blond before looking at his lap. Mai could see him chewing on his lip, and decided to speak.

“Did he say anything about going to the garden?” she asked.

Hideaki’s head shot up and he looked at her with startled eyes.

“Yes.” Hideaki’s voice was quiet, but clear. “He said if I was going to be such a naughty boy, that he was going to put me in the garden with all the other brats.” Hideaki’s voice became increasingly hysterical. “He said that since I couldn’t be grateful for what he’d given me I didn’t deserve anything.”

“That’s why he was pulling you to the window when I came into the room.” Mai expanded. Her no-nonsense tone eased Hideaki’s panic somewhat. “Walls and floors don’t always matter to spirits. So he was going to drag you to the garden even though you were on the upper story.”

Hideaki nodded. Sayuri, who had been gripping her husband’s hand throughout this part of the conversation and struggling not to make any dismayed sound, lost her battle to be quiet. With an exclamation of anguish, she once again pulled Hideaki to her. Nobuyuki’s face was pale as he realised just how much danger his son had been in.

As Mai looked back at the SPR team her intuition once again kicked in. “Taro-kun likely made the smashing sound from the other room because he couldn’t stay in the room Hideaki was in. It was effective. We were there quickly.”

“So now we just need to know if Nagai-san is exorcised,” John said. “There’s no point in doing another one if he’s already removed.”

At this Hideaki wriggled away from his parents. With a frown on his face, he looked at John very seriously. “He’s still here.”

At the surprised looks he received, he peeked over his shoulder. Turning back he explained. “I saw Him before. He didn’t come near me because I was with kaa-san and tou-san. But He was watching us before.”

Mai shared a horrified look with Ayako before Naru spoke. “Now that we have confirmed that Nagai-san is still here, we know to move forward with an exorcism.”

He and Lin shared a look before the tall man spoke. “I would prefer to do that when everyone is rested.” At the Arakaki parent’s objections he explained why.

“For Nagai-san to remain after John-san’s exorcism earlier, he must be strong. By completing the exorcism when we are at our full power, there will be no mistakes due to tiredness and more power behind the exorcism.”

“While we could attempt an exorcism tonight, it is getting late and everyone is tired. A failed exorcism might enrage Nagai-san to attack again. Regardless of who is present,” Bou-san furthered the explanation to the Arakaki family.

“That being said, since Nagai-san avoids you both,” Ayako said to Sayuri and Nobuyuki, “it would be wise to have Hideaki-san sleep in your room tonight.”

“Absolutely.” Nobuyuki said. He stood from the sofa and bowed to the SPR team. “Thank you for what you have done. And what you are going to do.”

Mai’s eyes widened. After his earlier behaviour this was a dramatic change. With his thanks given, Nobuyuki gathered his son and moved upstairs.

Sayuri, who looked shaken by the day’s events, wished the team a good night’s rest and asked if they needed anything. At the team’s negative response she also bowed and returned to her family upstairs.