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The Lady in The Lake

Chapter Text

Mai was the most comfortable she had ever been in her entire life. She was wrapped up in a thick comforter against the chilly morning air. Her hair still felt a little damp from the shower she had taken the night before thus she still felt clean and fresh. She could feel the weight of Rocco's head on her leg where he sat sprawled across the couch next to her. And she was laying atop something warm and very much alive and she did not need to guess who it was. His arm was resting across her back, over her shoulders, and his voice vibrated in his chest beneath her ear. That must have been what had woken her. She had been enjoying her first dreamless sleep in what felt like years, and in truth it probably had been, when his soft voice had pulled her from the blackness. She was loath to leave it but she could not ignore him.

"We'll leave tomorrow if you think that is best," Naru said in a low tone and shifted. He was reaching for the morning paper, which Lin had brought him as soon as he had noticed him regain consciousness, that he had rested on the arm of the couch while he spoke to his father.

"I do," Martin answered from the other couch while he nursed a cup of coffee. "Sam wants to show you all his appreciation and I am sure your team would like a rest before they return home, give them the day to do as they want," he added suggestively and shrugged. They had been through a lot and saw the case through and for that the man was grateful and quite honestly impressed.

Naru hummed and shuffled the paper open with both hands, pulling his arm away from Mai for a second to fold it back into a manageable position, before dropping his arm back across her shoulders. He had yet to get himself a cup of tea, he did not want to wake Mai, and he dared not ask Lin to prepare him a cup. The man was furiously typing away at his laptop in an effort to finish up the case report as quickly as possible while everything was fresh in his mind. Plus, the one time he had asked Lin to make him a cup of tea, rather than it be bland or horribly bitter, he had dumped so much sugar in it he feared he would have gone into diabetic shock had he actually finished the whole thing. He had a feeling the man had done it on purpose but he made no comment and simply refrained from ever asking him again.

Despite that he was not as irritable as he thought he would have been. That's not to say he was not in a foul mood. On the contrary, he was internally berating himself and stressing all the mistakes he had made the night prior while he put on a pleasant front for his father. He was certain the man knew he was troubled but was holding himself back from attempting to comfort him as he knew it would only anger him. He just could not bring himself to feel the amount of rage he normally would in a similar situation. He would usually lock himself away or remove himself from the group to think it all over, but as Mai was still asleep he dared not move, and was forced to push back the dark and brooding thoughts for his own sanity.

Mai on the other hand, was thoroughly embarrassed by the situation as her sleep muddled mind gained more clarity, and she struggled not to blush. Naru was having a completely normal conversation with his father while she slept on him. She wanted nothing more, in that moment, then to fall back asleep and pretend none of it was so. Unfortunately she could not do that and so settled for the appearance of sleep while she kept her breathing low and even and tried to enjoy the warmth she still felt.

"Your mother is probably downstairs reserving a table for everyone, I am sure they are all hungry," Martin mumbled through a yawn and rubbed at his face tiredly.

"I have no doubt," Naru responded absently while his eyes skimmed the paper.

"Don't get hung up on that article, the news reporter only took the opinions of the guest and staff, he did not speak with Sam who would have set it all straight," Martin instructed as he stood and straightened his button up shirt. He still held his mug of coffee in his hand while he stared down at his son with a quirked brow.

"I am aware," he drawled but his eyes did not rise to meet his father's.

Martin snorted but smiled down at him before taking his leave and heading down to the restaurant to join Luella.

There were a few moments of silence while Naru continued to read the paper and Mai pretended to be asleep before he sighed, "You can get up now."

Mai immediately straightened and pulled herself into a sitting position with crimson cheeks and shoulders tense, "Sorry!" she exclaimed and ignored Rocco as he too was forced to move. She should have known he would have called her on it, really, it was no surprise. Yet she still found herself embarrassed and wishing she had moved when she first woke but the thought of greeting Martin had terrified her. She weighed the two in her head and decided she would take Naru's comments and the embarrassment they caused over Martin any day.

Naru pulled his legs out from behind her and stood in one graceful movement, "You should get dressed, I am sure your hungry," he said as he flipped through the paper while moving across the room.

"You're right," she answered with a nervous laugh and placed a hand over her growling stomach. She was starving. While Naru walked over to Lin she stood and hurried into the girls room to pull on the cleanest article of clothing she could find. It happened to be the olive green dress she had worn their first night there. She could not deny the lightness she felt now that the case was over, Prudence had been cleansed, and she felt the light dress suited her mood perfectly. While she went about fixing her hair she wondered over the events of the past week with surprise, she could not believe that she had managed what she had, and she was still thinking about it even as she stepped back into base and set about feeding Rocco.

She noticed that the base had been empty only when Naru returned in a fresh set of black clothes. He was still straightening his shirt collar when he entered and scanned the room before his eyes landed on her, crouched over the food bowl while Rocco ate, watching him absently while she thought.

"You should work on that," he stated while he moved over to the table where Lin's laptop and all of his notes rested.

Mai blinked and looked at him in confusion, "What?" she asked curiously.

Naru did not grace her with an answer as he shuffled the loose papers into a folder and set it neatly over Lin's laptop. She scowled at him but pushed herself to her feet and brushed out the skirt of her dress irritably before heading for the door. The thought of breakfast was far to great for her to ignore.

"Mai," he called over his shoulder without moving to look at her, "How did you summon her?"

Mai paused at the door, hand resting on the knob, and stared at his back in thought. "I don't know," she answered truthfully, "I think I went to heaven."

Naru whipped around to stare at her like she had just bestowed him with the whereabouts to the holy grail and simultaneously informed him that she quit. He was looking at her in a whole new light, or rather, a light that he had refused to look at her in until he was absolutely forced to. He had likened her to a director just the other day and he was wondering just how close to the truth he had been in that adrenaline infused moment. Perhaps it was not a director that Mai was like but rather a god. How could a human voluntarily travel to the afterlife and bring back the closest thing to a true angle and still continue to exist on a normal plain? In that moment he was certain of one thing. If he ever wanted to complete his research then he would need her by his side.

He lifted a hand to his head and carded it through his hair in a gesture of bewilderment that Mai had never before seen him perform. She widened her eyes for a second before she took a step towards him hesitantly. But in a flash it was gone, replaced by his usual stoic demeanor, and he walked towards her calmly.

"Let's get breakfast," he stated simply and stepped around her to open the door. He held it open for her while she blinked at him in bemusement before she stepped through and he followed.

Rocco was left to his own devices in the room.

The walk down to the dining room was a quiet one, though it was a bit tense, but Mai was content with that. Naru's mind was never still. It was something she had come to learn over time. No matter how quiet he was, how active or commanding he was, his mind was always churning over some thought or concept. A theory. His was like the ocean, calm on the surface but raging with currents beneath, and his rage was frightening and merciless. Many a time Mai had found herself being tossed about the raging waves of his anger and frustration, of his plans of action, and so she relished in the relative calm now. But there was a storm brewing, she knew it, because there was no way he was satisfied with his or her actions on the case and he would be brooding over them for days to come. Regardless of the upcoming tempest she was certain that, despite his cold and stoic demeanor, he had a kind side. Because with every raging ocean came a sunny beach filled with laughter and wonder. She had caught glimpses of it over the years, and maybe it was a quiet beach, a lonely one, filled with only two sets of identical footprints for the longest time, but it was a beach nonetheless. And that everything worthwhile.

Mai glanced over at Naru from the corner of her eye and smiled, clasping her hands behind her back as they walked, and turned to look out the windows displaying the sunny park. It was such a nice day. It was like the universe itself had realized what they had down and gifted them a day of peace.

"Hey Naru," she called curiously as they walked and turned her head to look at him curiously.

Naru returned her look with a quirked brow, quietly waiting for her to continue.

"We should have a pool party," she stated simply.

Naru turned his eyes forward without comment. Mai had just silently compared his mind to an ocean but the man himself was beginning to loath the water. It had taken his brother from him, held him captive for a year beneath its depths while they searched, and it had nearly taken Mai too. Yes, he was beginning to hate the water, but he was not a man who would allow such feelings to hinder him. So when Mai presented her idea the momentary flicker of irritation did not even register in his mind before he sighed. "You have all of today to do as you wish," he stated simply as they entered the foyer.

Mai scowled at him and, just as he passed her to enter the open door of the dinning hall, she stuck her tongue out at him and followed.

The sun shone in through the large windows and threw bright swathes of light across the several tables placed within the hall. It fell across the staff and the few remaining guests, mostly those who had come for the concert, and left everyone feeling optimistic about the day. It was one of those rare mornings that left a person feeling grateful just to feel their lungs pull in air and that anything was possible that day. Mai paused to take a deep breath, pulling in the smells of fresh coffee and breakfast foods, and smiled. She could see that their usual table was filled with the other members of SPR and they were already cheerful and bantering like usual. The table was laden with food and hot drinks and decorated with bright cheerful flowers. It felt like a spring morning, not winter, Mai thought in amusement. She had a feeling that it had something to do with Sam the manger and his supposed gratitude towards them. He seemed like the type to perform such acts.

Mai hurried over to the table and took her usual place between Ayako and Masako. "Good morning," she greeted as she got comfortable in her seat and stretched.

"Morning," everyone greeted in response.

"We were just discussing what object everyone was," Yasu explained with a grin.

"Object?" Mai questioned in bemusement as she unrolled her napkin and set it over her lap.

"Yeah, like, we decided Masako was a fan," Monk jumped in to explain while swirling the remainder of his coffee around in its mug.

"Oh," Mai laughed, "What about you, Monk?" she replied with a grin.

"I'm a shield," he answered proudly and downed the rest of his drink.

"Hmmm," Mai hummed while she lifted a finger to her chin in thought, "I can see that." She glanced about the table, noting that everyone was present, even Madoka, and set to pondering on what everyone else was. It was an interesting train of thought. "Ayako should be a bow and arrow," she offered and glanced at the woman to her left who was now wearing a thoughtful expression.

"Ancient?" Monk stated and received a smack for his efforts.

"No," Mai laughed, "Because she is a strong person and a priestess. It's just what came to mind . . ."

"Lin is the sword then," John said thoughtfully. "He is pretty useful in a fight."

They all looked to Lin, who was seated between Madoka and Naru, but he seemed to be ignoring them as usual. Though Madoka was smiling into her hand and bumped shoulders with the man playfully.

"Yasu is a dog," Monk threw out the thought and shrugged. "He's just so energetic and playful all the time, like a puppy, I can't picture him as anything else."

"That ruins the whole 'Object' thing," Mai countered as she scanned the menu in her hands.

"So?" Monk shrugged again.

"So we have a fan, a sword and shield, and bow and arrow, a dog . . . what else?" John said thoughtfully.

"If it can be more than an object I would say John is faith then, because he is always so optimistic and goodhearted," Mai jumped to explain and smiled at the priest who returned her expression with a bashful nod. His cheeks were slightly pink.

"Naru is a really bad ass set of armor," Monk continued with a chuckle. "He holds us all together and keeps us in line. Not to mention he is pretty strong on his own but I would consider him our last line of defense."

"That does kind of make sense," Ayako mumbled thoughtfully. She pushed a piece of egg around on her plate absently while her mind worked to sort through the images they had just created. "But what does that make Mai?" she added and turned to look at the younger woman seated beside her with a raised brow.

"She's our little warrior of course," Monk explained proudly. "Naru may be the one calling the shots but I think we all know who it is that really solves the cases and challenges us," he continued on and ignored the way Mai's face was morphing into a tomato and the weird spluttering noises she was making.

"She's our warrior angle," Yasuhara said and sighed dreamily while staring at Mai with a mock look of enchantment.

Mai scowled at him for making her feel so awkward and looked away while the others laughed.

"I thought Mai was a red panda?" John countered curiously.

"She is our warrior angle red panda," Yasuhara corrected himself but did not remove the enchanted look on his face and even went so far as to sigh dreamily.

"Setting the image aside, that sounds like a really crappy band name," Monk muttered into his forkfull of egg.

"You're a crappy band name . . ." Mai muttered but not loud enough for Monk to hear as she snatched a piece of buttered toast from a plate full of it sitting in the middle of the table for all to eat.

"As interesting as this conversation has been I have a serious proposition for Mai."

Everyone turned to the front of the table where Martin sat, hands clasped together and resting under his chin thoughtfully, he was staring at Mai pointedly and the girl had never felt so singled out in her entire life. Her whole team had just labeled her as their warrior, essentially their mascot, and now he was going to demand her to come with him to England. It was obvious that was what he wanted but she knew she could not accept. Not only did the man frighten her, through no intention of his own she was sure, she would be leaving her home and family if she did. As someone who had never really known what it was like to have a whole and happy family she simply could not imagine leaving the one she had just gained.

Naru's mood instantly blackened. The light conversation had allowed him to forget the previous night and to think on less heavy topics while he set about preparing his own cup of tea. His father had never been one capable of reading the mood of a situation, neither was he for that matter, but even he had to have realized now was not a good time to pester the woman with such topics. They had just solved one of their most difficult cases to date, nearly died in the process, and had just woken up the next day in hopes of enjoying some rest and relaxation. Mai deserved some rest and relaxation. But Martin wanted to laden her mind with heavy offers and proposals. Frustration welled up within him and he set his cup of tea down on the table forcefully. It was not a loud noise but the impact had been enough to shake the bright and cheerful flowers in their glass vases.

And the temperature of the room dropped.

"Martin," Luella snapped and the room, which had fallen quiet as soon as the cold began to seep in, had become deathly silent. "Shame on you. Leave the poor girl alone. She has Noll and Lin looking after her. Bringing her to England would benefit no one but you in this moment," she scolded from the seat next to him, across from Naru, and wore an expression if disbelief.

And just like that the cold receded from the room and the silence was lifted, to be replaced by quiet talk, and those at the table shared nervous glances.

Martin sighed in defeat, "I know, I know," he muttered and waved the woman off. "But you cannot deny what she might bring to the table if we were to research her abilities. What could be learned . . ." he trailed off with a sigh but knew it was a losing battle. Luella had not allowed him to work with Noll and Gene either. She did not want those she loved treated like science experiments even though those that they worked with were treated with respect.

Mai fiddled with her napkin nervously and recalled the look of astonishment that Naru had worn just a handful of minutes ago. Even he had been surprised by her claim and he was the most difficult person in the world to throw off balance. She pulled on a strand of hair while they continued to talk and looked down at her other hand. Was her ability really so great? She could not recall every reading of anyone doing what she had done. Perhaps in fairytales yes, but not in reality. She had stepped over the boundaries of life and death, well, more like danced over them with a laugh. Because SPR blurred the line of life and death on the daily but she had done something all together different. She had traveled to the next life, seen what it was like, and saw what it did to the souls that passed over. What they all would one day become. The thought stopped her dead. Who exactly was she sitting at the table with? Catherine had become the embodiment of nature. She had been a deer, or something like it, with her angular features and antlers. What would those at the table look like once they had passed on? She found herself playing a similar game to the one they had been partaking in not moments before. Masako would be a fox, she was certain, the woman was far to intelligent for her own good sometimes and the features would look good on her. Monk would be a crow, he was observant and wise, and the color black seemed to suit him. Ayako would be a tiger or some other kind of wild cat. She had a temper about her and pride. Yasuhara would be a canine of some sort. He was far too playful not to be. John was a dove. Lin would be a dragon, he was stoic and intelligent and fierce when it came down to it. But she could not, for the life of her, figure out what Naru would be.

In that moment every human took on a whole new light in her eyes and she felt that she was sitting at a table of gods and goddesses. She was dining in their court before they journied on and it was such a strange concept that she felt weird. It would be nice to learn more about it. To discover what happened after death. Where did the souls go after they had changed? What did they do? Would a medium have the ability to travel back after they had passed on? Maybe that was where gods and goddesses came from. Every being humans had ever worshiped had once been humans who had moved on the become something new. Something more.

"We could always work together," Mai spoke up after a moment of silence, "We can keep detailed documents with everything we learn and we can visit . . ." she offered.

Martin lifted his eyes to her again, a look of compliant contemplation on his face, and nodded. "We might be able to work something out like that, schedules would need to be arranged, but it could work."

Mai smiled at him as peace was restored to the table.

Naru remained silent and sipped his tea.

While the day progressed Mai's mind was occupied with her theories and revelations. She felt a bit removed from reality. It had been a mind boggling thought tantamount to a paradigm shift. And she had trouble shaking herself out of it even when she had found herself dressed in a bathing suit and sitting at the edge of the pool, swirling her feet in the water, while the rest of the team swam about or sat in the sunlight streaming in through the windows.

"Quit spacing out Mai!"

Mai looked over to Monk, who was standing waist deep in the pull wearing an annoyed scowl, she grinned back at him in return.

"This was your idea so have fun already!" he shouted.

Mai opened her mouth to respond but she felt a push from behind and suddenly found herself plunging into the water. The cold splash to the face was what she had needed to snap back into reality. She opened her eyes, adjusting to the blur of the water, and glanced around the pool. It had once been filled with blood but now the water was clear and brisk, reflecting the light and throwing it across the blue tile beneath, and made Mai feel as if she were in a strange new world. Curiously she lifted a hand to her nose and spun about to look directly up. She could make out the windows and ceiling of the room through the distortion before she could take it no longer and surfaced for air. She would have thought she would have been afraid of the water after nearly drowning, but she felt none.

When she opened her eyes above water she found that everyone was laughing and she grinned. Yes, she had missed these moments in the year of Naru's absence. Speaking of which, where was he? She spun about in the water and her eyes landed on the figure in black sitting on a pool chair, book open in his hand, while Rocco sat at his side gnawing on a toy.

Mai rolled her eyes and turned to find Luella, striding in through the entrance wearing a one piece bathing suit under a wrap, and met hers with a look of disbelief. Naru was not even going to swim with them. He hadn't even bothered to change. She was unsure if he actually owned a bathing suit but the fact that he was even there was strange. He could have just as easily stayed back at base and continued to read through his notes but he had decided to sit in the pool room while the others had a good time.

Luella quirked a brow and glanced over at her son before walking up to the edge of the pool where Mai swam, "Noll, will you come here for a moment?" she called back over her shoulder.

Mai looked at her strangely before latching onto the pool edge with her hands to watch as Naru sighed and set his book down on the chair and pushing himself to his feet. Once he had reached the pool edge Luella rested a hand on his shoulder with a smile. "I know you didn't want to talk about it earlier but I wanted to tell you that your father and I are going to purchase a house near Tokyo. We figured it would be a good idea if there was going to be a lot of traveling for us and it would be easier than staying in a hotel. You should use it while we are in England."

"That's all well and good, Mum, but is there a reason you had to call me over to tell me this?" Naru asked coldly and crossed his arms, adopting a look of frustrated disappointment Mai often found herself the cause of.

"I wanted Mai to hear it as well, she can stay there whenever she wants too, there is plenty of space," Luella explained with a smile.

Mai blushed, surely she wasn't suggesting they live together? Naru must have had similar thoughts because he shot her a strange look and scowled. Luella only laughed and shuffled through the bag hanging from her shoulder for a moment before she pulled out a brightly colored rubber ball.

"And I wanted to try out this new toy I found for Rocco," she squeezed the ball and it let out such a high pitched squeal as air was pulled in through the small opening on the side.

Naru's eyes flitted between the ball and Luella's face in irritation before a thought occurred to him and he turned to look back over his shoulder. Not quick enough though, as the excited ball of energy that was Rocco came barreling into him, mouth open and tongue lulling out, and sent both himself and Naru over the lip of the pool and into the water. The splash was magnificent, practically reaching the lowest chandelier, and reach Monk on the other side of the pool.

The silence that fell across the room was deafening.

Rocco came to the surface with a happy bark and paddled about in search of some sort foot hold while Mai absently reached out for him, waiting for the moment when Naru would resurface and treat them all with an extremely cold shoulder.

But it was not the case.

Naru broke through the surface and brushed his hair back out of his face before turning to stare up at his mother with a scowl, "You owe me a new set of clothes," he stated simply. No doubt the chlorine would turn his attire to a strange shade of brown and he would have to throw them away. His shoes would survive if he set them out in the sun to dry.

"It would seem I do," Luella observed with a chuckled and stepped back as Naru swam to the edge and lifted himself out of the pool, clothes clinging to his figure, and sighed.

It was Lin, sitting at a table with Madoka, who laughed first. He had worked with Naru for years, dealt with is attitude and fits of rage and wounded pride more times than he could count, and could not deny the bit of satisfaction he felt upon watching the man's own mother trick him into the pool.

Soon laughter was abound and even Masako could be hear giggling into her hand from where she sat in the sunlight wearing a light dress.

"It just so happens I have something you could wear right here," Luella continued while she shuffled through her bag and pulled out a pair of black swimming trunks.

Naru simply stared at her with a blank face.

"Aw, come on Naru-bou," Monk voiced from the pool pleadingly. "Have some fun for once."

"At least sit in the hot tub," Mai encouraged.

Naru sighed and held out a hand for the trunks.

And that was how they all found themselves seated within the large hot tub as the sun set, laughing and sharing stories of what had happened in the past year. It was a tight fit but they managed. Though Monk and Ayako chose to sit on the bench while the woman worked a comb through her wet hair. Yasuhara was telling the story about the time he and Mai had been lured to a possible haunted house by a friend who just wanted a chance to make a move on Mai. It had all ended in a disaster because Mai had accidentally pushed him down the stairs when a coat had fallen out of a closet when she opened the door. He had been uninjured, besides his pride, and had stormed off in a fuss while she and Yasuhara watched him go bemusedly.

It was a fun story and Mai found herself laughing at the memory when she happened to glance up at Naru to her left and paused. He was watching her as they talked and laughed, wearing a curious expression, one she could not ever recall seeing him wear. It was a funny little half smirk, not his usual derisive one, nor was it an amused smile bestowed upon her for something she had said that he found amusing. But a small little smirk, as if he had won the game, and it made her blush.

He had looked away, attention drawn by Lin who had called his name, before she could fully register it. But she had seen it and she in turn watched him as he spoke with his assistant. What had that look meant? She recalled the day prior when they had kissed on the very bench Monk and Ayako now sat on and wondered if that had been an action of love or if Naru had simply done it to distract her while he went about returning her to her room and figuratively placing her under house arrest. Did they have something between them? He was so mysterious and intelligent that she could rarely tell what he was thinking, only what he was feeling, and it frustrated her.

He was a wolf. She decided with clarity and smirked. A loner and stoic but with a surprisingly kind and warm side if one were to stick around long enough. She guessed the only way she would ever find out how he truly felt about her was if she stuck around.

Mom, if you were here now, what in the world would you think of this man? she wondered while her eyes lifted to the large windows across from them and stared out at the darkening sky. The stars were just beginning to peek down at them from their places among the dark expanse. Just like the spirits on the astral plain. It made her feel warm and safe.

She heard a chuckle. Light and warm. And she glanced about the group wondering who it had belonged to but she found that no one in that moment was talking. They had all fallen silent and were simply enjoying each other's presence. And she was suddenly hit with such powerful nostalgia that her eyes burned with the threat of tears while her heart soared because she recognized that laughter. She would know it anywhere. And she could not fight the smile that was pulling at her lips. It was wonderful, knowing where exactly her mother was and what it was she had become, and it calmed her aching heart. A heart that had been aching for far too long.

Beneath the water her hand slid over to Naru's and she intertwined their fingers as gently as she could. He squeezed her fingers back and glanced down at her curiously but did not pull his hand away, curious as to why her eyes had misted over and she wore such a strange combination of sadness and joy on her face. Nostalgia was not an emotion he was familiar with and so he did not recognize it when he saw it but he could understand that something had moved her emotionally and so he offered his support in the only way he could - by holding her hand in his. Letting her know that he wasn't going anywhere and if the others noticed then he did not care.

For that, Mai was grateful.

"Why don't we start our own tv show?" Yasuhara spoke up thoughtfully from across the hot tub. "There's enough drama and action for everyone and we would make so much money . . ."

"Because, you idiot, if we did that all Naru's research would be seen as a scam," Monk drawled, causing the others to laugh and Yasuhara to frown.

"I'm just saying . . ." Yasuhara lamely defended and crossed his arms.

Mai laughed, though her hand never left Naru's, and watched as Monk nudged the back of Yasuhara's head with his foot and John sighed in defeat. Masako had closed her eyes with a smirk and lifted a hand to her mouth. Ayako had rolled her eyes and Lin had snorted. Luella and Madoka had chuckled and shaken their heads from where they sat between Lin and Naru. And Martin had just arrived to join them.

Everything felt right. The only one missing was Gene, but Mai was certain it was him reflected in the water in front of Naru, judging by the smirk he wore.

And she felt truly at home for the first time in a very long while.

Neither Naru or Lin informed Mai that day that all the footage from the night previous, recorded by Lin himself, had been practically useless up until the point of Catherine's appearance. Though Lin had dropped the camera at that point it had still fallen in such a way that it caught sight of the woman just as she entered the room and recorded the conversation afterwards. The moment Catherine had arrived the camera had started working at full capacity with no interruptions.

They did not tell her that day but it would be mentioned later down the road when they had finally returned to Japan and things had fallen back into the old routine. They did not tell her but Mai already knew. Just as she knew that it had been her mother who visited her the night she drowned, who wished her good night, and later laughed at her silent question. Just as she knew it had been Naru who had given her Gene back. And where it was Prudence's body was located. Just as she knew it was Naru calling her on the phone all those days ago to offer her her old job back.

She just knew.

And she smiled.