“What’s the matter?” Eiji voiced as the two teenagers walked up to the distressed woman.
Instead of simply answering however, the lady looked on between the two quizzically.
“What are… two teenagers doing here?”
“Psychic detectives at your service—OW!”
Right as Naomi was about to say something utterly outrageous, Eiji chopped her right on the head.
“Psy… what? This isn’t the time for kids like you to be out on the streets…”
“This isn’t the time for you to be picky about who answers your distress call either, ma’am.” Eiji straightened up as he retorted.
“You’re right…” The lady realized as much, as she nodded with a sigh, “I’m a caretaker on the orphanage across the street, and I just realized one of the kids is missing…”
“A… kid? What does that have to do with spectr— Ooow…”
Another chop across the head for Naomi, and another critical hit landed by Eiji.
“Missing, you say?”
“Yes… His name is Makoto, and he usually sneaks out at night. But he can’t keep getting away with it. I’m worried something might happen to him on the streets…” The woman pressed her palms together amidst her agony.
Without breaking face, Eiji pressed on with his questions “Any clue where he might be going?”
“I can’t know for certain, but the house where he used to live might be a start.”
“The house where Makoto-kun lived? Is it abandoned?” Naomi questioned too, probably deciding it was best to stop messing around.
“Yes… it caught fire not too long ago. That’s where he lost his mother, and was admitted to the orphanage shortly after…” The woman sighed at the memory, “Poor Makoto…”
“Lost his mother, huh…”
Probably realizing what that meant for an exorcist such as himself, Eiji mulled over those words.
“Got it, we’ll search for the kid.” The young man ultimately nodded.
The lady furrowed her brows slightly “You will?”
“Of course!” Naomi nodded in response, probably forgetting all about the fact she wasn’t invited in the first place.
“But you’re high school students, and it’s too late for—“
“Where’s the house located?” Eiji asked once again, since time was a-wasting.
With an exasperated sigh, the lady finally resigned herself to her fate, “It’s on XX Street, a few ways from the park.”
“Got it, thanks.” Eiji nodded and turned on his heel.
Naomi too of course, rushed at his side not a second too late, “Hey, senpai, wait up!”
And with another sigh, the woman retreated back into the orphanage. She couldn’t afford to leave the kids unsupervised any longer after all.
“We’re off to that house, right senpai?” Naomi said, trotting her way as Eiji’s tail.
“Who said you’re coming with?” The young man responded without sparing her a glance.
“Well I’m here now, right? What harm can it do?”
“A lot.” Eiji shot back, as he halted in front of his bike.
“But I’ve dealt with specters before… haven’t I? And I can see them too…” Naomi reasoned.
“Running away doesn’t count as dealing with them.”
“Yes, but you’re really strong, senpai! You can just whoosh and bang and—“
“That doesn’t change the fact you’ll be dead weight to me, now does it?”
“Urgh…” Naomi cowered back as if she were shot by an imaginary sniper. “I won’t be… I promise!”
“You’re not cut out for this. You don’t want to get involved with specters.” Eiji voiced, his tone suddenly turning stern.
“I’m not afraid of them, if that’s what you’re suggesting…” Naomi nodded vigorously, probably trying to convince both Eiji and herself.
The girl’s efforts of convincing him though, caused Eiji to sigh. She had just escaped a curse, and had lost a friend to a specter not too long ago… So why was she so fixated on the matter?
With a brief pause in between them, Eiji contemplated silently. It probably wasn’t the gentlemanly thing to do, but he probably didn’t have any other choice.
“Fine then. Hop on.” Eiji waved for her to get up on his motorcycle, causing the girl’s face to light up like a lone street lamp in the dark.
“REALLY? LIKE REALLY REALLY?!”
“Just get on already.”
“Here…” Eiji said, handing over his helmet to the girl riding shotgun.
“But what about you, senpai?” She questioned slightly baffled.
“You either accept it, or get down. Your choice.” He said, and drew back the throttle. Soon the two of them were heading straight for the abandoned home.
Eiji had thought long and hard about the matter, and had arrived on a single conclusion. He was to let her see for herself. The horror of a specter. The grief it brought.
This was probably her first and last walk with a person like Eiji. A person linked with death. An exorcist.
His job wasn’t for the faint-hearted, and a girl as pure as her was sure to be tainted by all that lurked around the corner of the night streets. So Eiji had provided her with an out. A trial period.
She would see it for herself, and then quietly withdraw.
A reality check. That was Eiji’s plan.
The destination the two were looking for turned out to be even more close by than they initially thought, as Eiji stopped his bike just outside a rundown house and Naomi quickly jumped off. Like the lady had explained, they just had to take a turn right across from the area’s park to come across it.
With that being said though, the building was indeed quite small, and the fire made it look even worse than some of the older buildings right around Eiji’s neighborhood. It did indeed look like the accident had rendered the home completely unusable.
Stepping over a few debris though, the self-proclaimed fearless psychic, Naomi, marched on without a single care in the world.
“Oye…” Eiji sighed at her carelessness, and followed behind her.
“Is there really someone in there?” The girl narrowed her eyes at the entrance of the house, where no doubt a door once stood. The exterior walls carried black markings, and the windows were pitch dark from the smoke that probably wafted from within.
Just by a single glance though, it was quite evident the interior looked even worse for wear. Pieces of rubble lined Eiji’s field of view as he tried to peek in further. All he could see was a vast pitch black color, and it certainly wasn’t due to the lack of illumination.
“There’s no way somebody is in here…” Eiji shook his head and looked away. How could a kid be sitting in there around so much dust and residue of ash?
Yet Naomi, despite herself, had ventured through the threshold of the house, and called out in disbelief. “Senpai, there’s actually a kid in here!”
“You have to be kidding me…” The young man turned over towards the building once more, making his way inside.
The interior really was in a much worse condition, that could not be denied even from up close. There were countless dark spots all over the walls, pieces of debris and ash littered the wrecked floor, and the sole structural point that was left standing was a simple, bare concrete staircase leading further up.
Amidst all that however, at the corner of the room, laid a young boy hugging its knees close to its chest.
This had to be Makoto.
“Hey, uhm… little one? What are you doing here?” Naomi said as she softly approached, as if to appease the young kid.
Despite her delicate tone though, the boy just withdrew its gaze from the girl, completely ignoring her altogether.
Not one to approach gently or with any kind of restraint, Eiji stepped up next “Oye, are you Makoto?”
“Hey senpai maybe you should try to be gentler!” Right as Naomi was whispering her advice to her upperclassman, this time the boy spoke up.
“What do you want?” He asked, his voice probably even more apathetic than his stare.
“How come he replied to you and not me…?”
While Naomi grumbled lowly, Eiji took a further step inside.
“Why are you here?”
With a glance mixed with pain and anger, the boy shot back “This is my home.”
That definitely was Makoto.
“Hm….” The young man stayed silent for a while, inspecting the space around him. Although it certainly was abandoned there was a certain aura about it. Something clinging to the surface. Something thick. Like a scent. The scent of a specter.
Eiji roamed about the room in contemplation, as he traced his finger in what seemed like a circular motion along one of the dusty walls.
“Meh, anything around?” Eiji called out to his Shikigami in a low voice.
“Eiji-dono! There is certainly a specter around the area, yet Meh can’t quite figure out where! This increasing malevolence is certainly proving troublesome at times like these…”
“Don’t mind that. Any idea if it’s nearby?”
“Meh believes so, yes.”
Before Eiji could reply, the kid sitting by this peculiar exchange interrupted the two. To him though it must have looked more like Eiji rumbling to himself.
“What is it?” Naomi replied, edging closer to the curious Makoto.
As the kid raised its head though, it very clearly pointed at something rather peculiar. “What is that talking eye-ball doing here…?”
Indeed, very clear. Makoto was pointing at none other than Meh, the Shikigami.
Even so, Naomi just smiled in response. “Oh, that’s just Meh the Shikigami.”
A brief moment of silence ensued.
How could Makoto see Meh, was all the three of them seemed to wonder simultaneously.
“Uhm, senpai…” The teenage girl smiled wryly upon the realization.
“I know.” Was all Eiji said as he grabbed his Shikigami like a baseball pitcher, and pointed it at the kid before him, “You can see this thing?”
“Yes…” Albeit awkwardly, Makoto bopped his head.
“Then have you seen anything as weird around here? Perhaps something even weirder?”
“Weirder? Eiji-dono Meh is—“
“Yes.” Makoto’s razor sharp reply interrupted Meh’s rumbling at once.
“Where and what have you seen exactly?” Eiji asked, letting go of Meh whose flying capabilities kept afloat.
“Around the park area, there was a….” The boy gulped at the memory. “…monster.”
“A monster you say?” Naomi cocked her head at that statement. “Surely it wasn’t a dream? Maybe you ate something bad and—“
“Thank you. We’re going.” Without further questioning needed, Eiji took off at once, leaving a wide-eyed underclassman and a mysterious boy behind.
“What’s the big idea, senpai?”
“What?” Eiji inquired, lighting a cigarette and leaning against a tree just outside the park.
“What about Makoto-kun? Shouldn’t we convince him to go back?” Naomi walked in circles as she talked. Or more like prattled. “…Can we even be sure there’s a specter in the park? Maybe Makoto-kun was hallucinating or—“
“So you’re saying he fed us the wrong info?” Eiji took another drag of his cigarette.
“Yes! Wait… No. But—Ah!” Naomi shook her head, as if to shake away her doubt. After taking a moment to reconsider, her gaze landed on Eiji once more. Yet this time there was something else beneath it. Question.
“Then… why aren’t we searching for that specter, senpai?”
A rather justified question to have, surely. Soon, Eiji gave his nonchalant reply. “Because there is no specter here.”
“Eh?” Through Naomi’s expression alone, her confusion was evident.
“There is no specter here.” Eiji repeated.
“I… see?” Despite her agreement to Eiji’s statement, Naomi couldn’t help but hold some sort of doubt in her mind as she looked around. Surely, even though a couple glowing spirits roamed the park, a “monster” was very visibly nowhere to be found. Could they be sure though?
“What about those uhm… people over there?”
“How can you tell?”
“You see those all around… These are merely projections. Souls that still can’t realize they’re dead. They’re not harmful… just lost.”
“Shouldn’t you be helping them then, senpai?” Naomi cocked her head.
“I’m not a shaman… I’m an exorcist. I deal with the bad ones.”
“Oh…” The girl before him nodded, despite not being entirely sure she got all of it.
Eiji wasn’t lying though. Besides exorcists, there was another group of individuals dealing with the paranormal apparitions of the underworld. And these individuals were referred shamans. Instead of using fancy powers like their superiors, they instead rely on other tricks and techniques to deal with the less dangerous spirits.
“But how can you be sure one of them isn’t—“
“You don’t realize it, do you?” Eiji sighed, puffing out some smoke while he was at it. “And I thought you were onto something…”
“Me? Onto what?” Several question marks appeared over Naomi’s head as she asked.
“That kid fed us the wrong info on purpose. He knows where the specter is, he just didn’t want us to find it.”
“Because the face that specter is using probably belongs to the kid’s mother.”
“The face it’s using…?” Naomi looked back down the road from whence they came. Skeptical.
“Obake. A specter capable of shapeshifting and mostly of deception. It isn’t particularly strong, but it can be deadly. Realizing we were coming it probably hid, and told the kid to send us away. And why would a kid disobey the spirit of his mother, right?”
“Wow…” Naomi gulped. “How did you deduce all that, senpai?”
“I felt the presence of the specter right as we entered, and it probably felt ours too. Yet, once it disappears I can’t force it to materialize. That’s why I drew a glyph on one of the walls. When it materializes again, it won’t be able to retreat.”
“So we left, just so it will think we took the bait, while we come back and catch it red-handed…”
“Something like that.” Eiji said, drawing up the last of the cigarette’s smoke.
“You’re a genius, senpai!”
“I’m not, you’re just a green-horn.” The young man scoffed, putting out his cigarette, and walking back towards the house all in one.
“Let’s go, yo-ho!”
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