May – Friday – Late Morning
“There now. You don’t look half bad.” Ayako stepped away from her pseudo daughter, her fingers lingering only briefly in the brunette’s hair, “Thanks to Masako that is. You’ll blend right in.”
Mai couldn’t bring herself to come up with a comeback, in awe at what she saw in her reflection. Pale blue swathed her lithe form, the obi a soft brown and the obi-jime* a deep navy that held it all together. The entire ensemble was finished by the kanzashi** of stars the glittered in her hair, a gift from Masako years prior.
“I don’t believe it. Mai actually looks like a woman for once.” It was the tone in which the sentence was delivered that had Mai snapping out of her trance and she shot her friend a smile through the mirror, watching as the young Medium approached, her old colourful kimono once again making an appearance.
“You’re one to talk. You haven’t worn that thing in years.” The brunette spun around, “This all feels so strange, don’t you think?”
“Well other than Naru actually taking a case at a ryokan, allowing us free use of the facilities with limited duties, is strange, then sure. Now let’s go. The boys are waiting.” Ayako herded the pair from the room, ushering them to hurry among the few guests that lingered in the hallway.
The trio made their way to base, a meeting room that the ryoken had offered. The only stipulation was that no guest was to see the equipment inside.
“Well, well, lookie here. My Mai is all grown up.” Monk sniffled from his place in the doorway to base, his fingers wiping at his eyes before scooping Ayako into a bear hug, “When did we let her get so big Ayako?”
“Oh get off you big oaf. Honestly.” Despite her huff the red head smiled, her expression softening at the way Mai reddened, “But no. I don’t know when she grew up either.”
“As charming as this is, we have work to do.” Naru called from within the room and the group quickly made their way inside, “Though the compliments aren’t without merit.”
His words took a moment to settle in the Mai’s head. The sound of china hitting wood echoing loudly through the room moments later and she had only a second to see a very miffed Charlotte stomping through the base, her movement stiff in her yukata while she struggled to gather paperwork.
“Yes, well as you said Oliver, there’s a lot to get done and I think some people need to start pulling their weight.” Her voice cracked with a faint cough and Masako sighed, her hand covering her mouth.
“Yes, and if you were aware Charlotte-san, we are about to go on a walk-through of the location and then we will be making our way to the hot springs for a soak. Anything required within base is up to you. Or has your job title changed in the last week?” Masako smiled behind her sleeve, her silver eyes holding a hint of mischief, “Now then. Father Brown. Mai. Shall we take our leave?”
Silently, Mai and John followed the Medium from base, the former barely having a chance to stash a notepad and pen in her sleeve before she left the room.
“Masako! That was amazing!” Mai hissed into her friend’s ear, biting her tongue to resist the ear to squeal with glee. The look on Charlotte’s face had been one of pure rage, one that would surely give Oliver a headache she was glad not to be dealing with.
“I agree. Though I don’t usually agree with that kind of teasing…” John’s grin was all they needed to see that he felt justice had been served.
“Yes. Well as far as I’m concerned, we’re on par with Davis-san, or at least, you are Mai. She must learn her place quickly if she is to continue working with us all.” Masako huffed, sniffing daintily.
Mai could only giggle in response, recalling just how they had gotten the case in the first place.
“Oliver-san. I told you. I won’t do the same role as before.” Mai huffed, blowing the hair out of her face. Her slouched, cross armed posture cemented her stance, reminding the dark haired CEO of just how stubborn his ex-assistant could be.
“Mai…” He sighed when she sent him a glare, his casual use of her name an obvious sore point, “Mai-san. As I said, from the events of the last case regarding the obvious information presented to us the other day, giving you that position would be an insult to you and a waste a resources to us.” He clasped his hands under his chin, his gaze ever calculating.
“So what do you suggest then? Because as long as-“ The breaking of glass resounded through the office and she saw a visible vein twitch in his forehead, “As long as there are certain… irritations around, I don’t know what I can do for you.”
“You could start by reading this.” Oliver grabbed a stack of paper from under a pile of case notes, a small smirk pulling at his lips as he saw the curiosity in her expression, “Then tell me where you think we stand.”
Quietly, Mai sat forward, gingerly taking the offered pages and allowing her eyes to scan over their contents. Her eyes bulged at the salary figures, her gaze darting to her ex and potentially new boss.
“Lead Investigator? But… You’re…”
“Yes. You would work alongside me. In fact, you would assist me with leading the team during investigations. You have their respect. That’s useful. You also know how they work on a more… intimate level. As you’ve shown, you know just how to use that to your advantage. On days there are no investigations, aside from your own reports and investigations, you will be training.”
“Training?” Mai squeaked, “I’ve already trained. Monk helped. And we went to Mt Kouya…”
“And yet you nearly destroyed the homeless shelter trying to remove yourself from that demons’ grasp. And you allow your emotions to get the better of you and cause damage when you forget yourself.” His words were sharp and he regretted the way they made her flinch but she nodded none-the-less. Something that put his heart at ease, “In any case, now that you are staying with Lin and myself, it is more that you will be exercising with us.”
Mai hummed, tapping a finger to her chin while she looked through the rest of the contract, “That doesn’t seem too bad. But what is this research clause? I already thought that was part of the work.”
Oliver cleared his throat at this, shifting in his seat in a rare display of discomfort, “About that. I would like, if you were to allow me…” He sighed, looking away from her, “I would like to study you Mai. You and your abilities. The way they have changes and the way they impact other sensitives around you. Takigawa told me about the way you’ve grown into your abilities. I would appreciate the chance to look into them and potential write a thesis on them for the paranormal community.”
“So typical… Always in it for the information…” His gaze shot back to her, only to see a small smile settled on her lips, “But sure. Why not? I’m already living with you guys for now. It would be stupid of me to turn down the money… And it’s something I love to do. What’s there to lose?”
His heart skipped a beat, excitement settling in his core and he rose, quickly rounding the table with a pen, ready to hand it to her when he noticed the absent look in her eyes, “Mai?” His hand settled on her shoulder, ready to call her again when she gasped, lurching forward so suddenly that he didn’t have a chance to step back before she was clinging to his shirt, her hands clenched tightly in the fabric.
“You have a case…” She whispered, her breath catching.
“Case?” Just as he was about to prod for more, Charlotte’s voice called through the door, the handle already turning before he could stop it.
“Oliver? Are you two done yet? There’s a client here. Bet it’s another sob story thou-“ She stopped instantly, noticing the position the two were in and she went red, her cheeks puffing out in anger, “I’ll tell him to go away.”
“No!” Mai sat up, half out of her seat when gravity caught up to her and Oliver had to grab her, “No… we need to speak to him. We have to.”
The way she implored him, her eyes wide and filled with fear, glistening with unshed tears, had him nodding silently at the brunette, calling after his assistant quickly.
“Charlotte. Get Lin ready and prepare tea. We’ll meet with him. Have the client notes ready for when we take the case.” Oliver didn’t question Mai’s desire to see the client waiting for them, nor did he care for the fury the seeped off Charlotte in waves. He only cared about what it was that had taken Mai so strongly that she’d fallen into a waking vision, “We can sign the papers at home Mai. Let’s go outside.”
Once calm, Mai followed Oliver out of the office, a small smile on her face at the way he held the door for her, but something called her to turn and face their client, a small voice in the back of her head, a very familiar voice that echoed in her ears as though he were right beside her.
‘Focus on them. It’ll tell you what’s going on…’
“Good morning. My name is Taniyama, Mai and this man is the CEO of SPR, Shibuya, Kazuya.” Mai bowed, allowing their guests time to gather themselves and waiting for Lin to stop typing, “Welcome to our office. What can we help you with?”
Mai allowed herself to be seated beside Oliver, her thoughts crashing together momentarily before she focused on the task at hand. The worry rolling off the couple was suffocating, tainting the room and she couldn’t help but notice the underlying rage that simmered from the woman across from her.
“Well. If you ask me it’s a load of-“
“Reiko!” The man, her husband by the look of their matching rings, called, his eyes showing his distress, “Please… We can’t keep doing this.”
“Excuse me.” Mai butted in, determined to stop the brewing argument, “I’m not sure how much you believe in sensitives Reiko-san… But when you entered our office, I had a vision. You feel angry because you wish you hadn’t been attacked. Or that your husband hadn’t been the one to instigate it all. But please, don’t allow the situation to get between you two. Now more than ever you need to be united against the spirit, otherwise it will only feed off you unrest.”
The woman, Reiko, narrowed her eyes at Mai but the brunette remained firm, her hands clasped in her lap and her posture straight. Seething, Reiko stood, her black hair tumbling over her kimono.
“You! You set this up didn’t you? You did this so I would believe! Mitsuyoshi! You’re despicable!”
The husband sputtered, his hands waving frantically in front of him to defuse the situation.
“Tsukihide-san. Now is not the time to become unsettled. Taniyama-san is a trusted sensitive. If you would at least listen to what she has to say, perhaps you would be more inclined to negotiate?” It was Lin that handled the situation best, his voice calm and soothing, the rage visibly leaving Reiko as she slumped into her seat, but the irritation was still there, just under the surface.
Shooting the tall assistant a smile, Mai stood and walked to Reiko, holding out her hand, “Reiko-san. May I take your hand?” Silence reigned in the office, everyone curious as to what she was up to and when, hesitantly, their client complied, Reiko gasped, her eyes wide.
“What are you doing?” Her face twisted, a look of awe and horror on her face.
“I thought as much. In my vision, you were in the springs. Tending to the yard at the end of the day when you saw her. You don’t remember much, because you passed out. But the spirit has formed an attachment to you…” Mai paused, looking over at Mitsuyoshi, “Would you say your wife has become angrier since you found her that night?”
Stunned, the man nodded, casting a worried glance at his wife who remained conflicted in her seat.
“I see. The spirit is strong then. Should you take our assistance, no, even if you didn’t, my mother can create a charm to protect your wife from being further influenced by the spirit. Though I can’t say when it will become more violent.”
Warmth bloomed in both Oliver and Lin, pride growing quickly in their chests as they watched Mai interact with their clients. And it seemed even the Mitsuyoshi’s were taken aback by her determination, because Reiko looked away, her cheeks flushed.
“If…” Reiko cleared her throat, allowing herself to at least turn back to the brunette and the men beside her, “If you say you can help us… then we’ll give you a chance. But there are certain conditions you have to meet…”