I'm not not writing the other one I posted the prologue to since that one's outline has been written out to ~day 4 so far (day 3 of the investigation along with various scene snippets) and I've already written out half? more? of the first chapter. However, this one butted in this morning. >.>
I honestly don't know how much I'll continue with this one. It's not quite AU, but the central concept is very hazy because it's hazy in the books. The brain's only processed a few chapters for this, when it could either branch into "uh oh" land, or it could branch into "investigation" land which is why I'm not sure if it'll continue. Will have spoilers; takes place ~1 month after Akumu ga Sumu Ie.
Late November in Tokyo. The wind begins taking a harsher bite to it as the city settles in for the approaching winter months. And while Japan's winters wouldn't generally be considered harsh by any stretch, the high humidity in the air gives the air a bone-chilling quality to it. However, despite the rest of the city pulling out the kerosene stoves and starting to run the heaters excessively, there was one office in Shibuya ward where the office temperature was nailed at a chilly 18C--much to the utter disgust of the girl who had to work out in the chilly reception area.
'You know, it's one thing if they want to freeze themselves to death in their private offices, but forcing the rest of us to freeze too...' Mai thought pathetically to herself as she shivered slightly in the cool office. After working for almost two years in that office, you'd think she'd be used to the cool office, especially when you consider that the temperature didn't vary one iota. Eighteen degrees in the summer (how do they manage to get the office that cold in the summer heat?!) and eighteen degrees in the winter (at least there's some heating running here...).
Mai shivered slightly once more when she heard a slight metallic clink beneath her. Glancing down at the floor, she saw that her keys had fallen from her pocket as they glinted dully on the carpeting. Bending down to scoop up the keys, she froze slightly as she grasped her good-luck charm. The key her mom had taken after her dad died and they left their old home. She could barely remember that time any more, it was so long ago... and she'd been so young at that time, too.
However, as she stared at the key, the image of her mother's face at that time came back to her as though it were only yesterday. The lines in her face; the exhaustion and the mourning. Had she really looked so tired and bleak? Mai herself could barely remember, but she must have looked that way. Why else would that image come to her mind?
Mai thought back through her memories about her mom. 'Time definitely has a tendency to dim images,' she thought ruefully at the fuzzy images in her mind. There was no question she knew what her mom looked like, but the images that came to her mind were fuzzy around the edges now. She couldn't think of sharp scenes or situations readily. But even with the fuzziness, her memories were almost all of her mom's smiling face.
Shaking her head slightly, Mai decided to try and break the melancholy the memories threatened to wake within her and stood up to go to the kitchenette. And though it was still a little early, it would soon be time for the morning coffee break. Mai decided on a nice slightly astringent Darjeeling tea for the morning. She hoped it would cut through the mood that was threatening to come down on her.
One week later, a somewhat tired looking Mai was busy taking tea to her boss Shibuya Kazuya in his office. This morning's tea was a heartier Assam to go with the sudden chill that had come across the city in the past few days. After a short knock, Mai opened the heavy door to her boss' domain and quietly approached his desk. Naru didn't even look up at her entrance and continued reading the book before him.
"I'll leave your tea for you here," Mai said quietly setting the cup down on one side of Naru's desk.
There was no response, no glance, no nod, nothing. But seeing how this was how he always was, Mai was quite used to it after all this time. And unlike when she'd first started, when she'd pause in his office waiting for a response, now, she turned to leave immediately. However, as her mind was turning to the work waiting for her on her desk, she suddenly remembered a question that had been bothering her for the past few days. She turned to look at her boss for a moment. "Hey, can I ask you something?"
"Ignoramus." Naru's response was both immediate and insulting, but he still didn't look up.
"Y'know, I haven't even said anything yet..." Mai sighed slightly. She knew he hated being interrupted, but still. "When you do psychometry and... what did you call it? synch with the person, is it always like that dream in the Urado case where you actually go through the experience yourself?"
Naru looked up from his book a little surprised at Mai's question. "That's right." He looked at her, but Mai's face was turned away from him as she held the door looking at the floor.
"Okay, thanks," she said as she left his office closing the door softly behind her.
Naru stared at the closed door. He'd long since decided against trying to determine where Mai's sudden questions came from. As much as she seemed to be like any other typical teenage girl, every now and again, she would always surprise him with some strange comment or question. However, even he'd noticed that she was acting a little strange during the past week. After a long pause, he returned his gaze back to his book.
"Ah! Good morning, Taniyama-san!" Yasuhara said as he came into the office. Mai had just closed the door to Naru's office when Yasuhara came in through the front door. He was a little later than usual in arriving as he'd needed to see some of his fellow classmates from university before coming in to work today.
"Good morning, Yasuhara-san!" Mai responded with a smile. "Did you want to have some tea or maybe something else? I was just about to make myself something before starting with today's work."
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you make it coffee this morning? The others in my group are a bit slow on this project..." he said with a slight wry smile.
Mai laughed lightly. "In other words, they're keeping you up late at night because they're not understanding exactly what needs to be done, so you're feeling less than your usual sharp self." Mai said deciphering both the smile and the request. Yasuhara tended to drink tea in the office like everyone else most of the time. However there were times when he preferred to have coffee.
"Hmmm... yes, well, it wouldn't do to be at less than top performance. Who knows what Shibuya-san would say if he should figure that out. Worse still, what if I need to get him to agree to something in this state? He's already difficult to manage at the best of times, you know?"
"......Yasuhara-san... you're not, maybe, planning anything... are you?" Mai asked suspiciously. While she knew Yasuhara was a good guy, she also knew that of all the regulars and irregulars at the office, he was probably the most crafty.
"Oh course not~, Taniyama-san. What a thing to say! I'm just saying "if that should happen". Ahahahah." Yasuhara smiled readily with his glasses glinting suspiciously.
Mai looked at him oddly. "You know, I can never entirely tell when you're being serious or not..."
A few hours later, after finishing the work that had been set out for them, Yasuhara and Mai were sitting on the couches in the reception area with Mai's books spread about on the table. Yasuhara was helping Mai with her homework as he often did, acting like a personal tutor for her. Mai realised she'd made a mistake in her work and went through her pencil case for an eraser. However, when she couldn't find it, she quickly remembered she'd lent it to Michiru while they were doing their homework at school the other day and she realised Michiru must have accidentally taken it with her.
Seeing Mai searching through her pencil case, Yasuhara grasped the situation and pulled out an eraser from his own pencil case, handing it to Mai to use rather than have her go back to her desk and get one from there. "Here," he said with a smile.
Mai smiled in response saying a brief, "thank you" as she took the eraser. The eraser was a bit unusual; it was blue and in the shape of an anime character. "......Yasuhara-san, you didn't steal this, but you did something to get it, didn't you?" Mai said after a long pause.
Yasuhara looked at her a bit surprised at her comment. "My, Taniyama-san, what are you saying? I wouldn't steal anything. And I didn't..." Yasuhara paused as he looked at the eraser. It wasn't the usual eraser he used, but one that had been dwelling at the bottom of his pencil case for some time. "Come to think of it, I got this from an upperclassman in high school. That was a long time ago..." he said remembering where the eraser had come from and how he'd gotten it. Yasuhara had claimed it as a trophy from one of the third year students when he'd first started high school. The incident happened before he'd gained the nickname Echigoya, so not only was it a fairly long time ago, Yasuhara himself had almost forgotten the entire incident.
Yasuhara looked at Mai curiously. "How did you know I did something to get it?" he asked.
Mai looked up at his question in surprise. "Ah, um, no, it's nothing. It... it just didn't seem like the type of eraser you'd use," she said.
Yasuhara looked at her for a long moment before smiling easily. "That's true. I wouldn't normally buy anything quite like this," he agreed readily. "Taniyama-san, how about taking a quick break now? We can continue going through your homework after clearing our heads a little."
Mai looked a little relieved at his suggestion. "Okay, in that case, I'll go make tea," she said quickly putting away her pencil, setting her books to one side, and clearing off the table. She didn't notice Yasuhara staring after her as she quickly went into the office kitchenette.
Once inside and with the door safely closed behind her, she sagged slightly against the wall trying to regain her composure. Something wasn't normal. She knew that. But she wasn't sure what was wrong. She kept seeing things. Little things. But they were so minor, and inconsistent, that she wasn't sure what she was seeing.
She'd been feeling a lot more nostalgic for the past several days, remembering things associated with certain items in her apartment, but it hadn't seemed all that important. And it wasn't as though she were seeing things like the dream Gene had shown her when the office had gone to Suwa in order to investigate the Miyama mansion. But......
Mai stared at her hand. A moment earlier, when she took the eraser Yasuhara handed her...... Shaking her head sharply, she turned her attention back to the task at hand. Tea. Simple and routine; after scanning the teas, she reached for the Assam and made enough tea for everyone.
When she came out of the kitchenette, she paused briefly, mildly surprised to see Naru sitting in the chair at the head of the table in the reception area reading his book rather than still being squirreled away in his office. She quickly served everyone tea before sitting down on the couch where she'd been working on her homework earlier.
"Come to think of it, where's Lin-san today?" Mai asked Naru, remembering she hadn't see Lin at all since arriving. "Is he in the records room?"
Naru glanced at her briefly before returning to his book, "He had some things to take care of today, so he isn't here."
Mai glanced at Yasuhara; he couldn't help smiling wryly at the curt response either. Naru's presence in the reception area made things a little more uncomfortable when it came to light chatter, but since they were taking a break... Yasuhara quickly changed the subject to a recently released movie that most of his group-mates had been chattering about when they'd been working on their project. With all that talk about that movie, it was little wonder the actual project hadn't progressed much, but Yasuhara figured he could use that subject to his advantage here instead.
As he'd hoped, Mai quickly jumped on that topic and the two started chatting animatedly about what they'd heard about it. Neither Mai nor Yasuhara had seen the movie yet as most of their free time was spent working at the office and it was usually too late to catch a movie after work. Since Mai was facing Yasuhara who was seated on the opposite couch across from her, she didn't notice as Naru shot a surreptitious glance at her. Yasuhara, who'd been the one to ask Naru to join them in the reception area for tea in the first place, however, didn't miss that glance. He'd been surprised at how readily Naru agreed to having tea out in the reception area rather than remaining in his own private office, but seeing Naru's quick glance at Mai, he wondered if his boss didn't sense or know something as well.
This past week, every now and again, Mai seemed to freeze unnaturally. Mostly it was very minor, like what had happened moments earlier with Yasuhara's eraser. However, just like with that eraser, she'd occasionally say or ask something a little unusual about the item, which would cause the owner a moment's pause. And while it wasn't constant, these strange comments and pauses were frequent enough that Yasuhara noticed. And as he glanced once more at his boss, he realised that his boss must've noticed something as well. 'If he hadn't...'
Turning his attention back to Mai and the movie, when Mai said that she also wanted to go see that movie, Yasuhara suggested that the two of them go one weekend to catch it. The movie was very popular and had only recently opened, so they could always catch a late-night showing and stay out at a karaoke bar overnight if they ended up missing the last train. Mai laughed at the suggestion readily agreeing, when Naru's voice interrupted them.
"You realise Bou-san will have a fit when he finds out," he said looking at Mai oddly.
"Hm? Why? ...Ah--" Mai paused as she realised what she was agreeing to. Mai was still seventeen, so for her to stay out all night even with Yasuhara-san...
"My, Shibuya-san~, how would Takigawa-san find out if neither of us told him?" Yasuhara said smiling winningly.
"I have no intention of interfering in either your or Mai's personal lives. However, do you honestly think Mai will be able to keep something like this from him? Not to mention, she's likely to say something to either Matsuzaki-san or Hara-san, so it's pretty much guaranteed that he'll hear about this. And when he does, he'll have a fit, here, in this office. I'd rather avoid having any such disturbance occur here," Naru said coldly.
"......I won't tell him or the others." Mai said a bit sullen.
Naru looked at her steadily at that statement and raised an eyebrow slightly. "Your tone of voice doesn't exactly inspire the greatest of confidence, Taniyama-san."
"Ignore him, Taniyama-san. If Takigawa-san finds out, he finds out. We'll deal with it then. But how about it, did you want to go this weekend, say on Saturday? I'm pretty sure it's showing at **** theatre at 9:30PM, so we should be able to catch it and make it home without trouble. And if Shibuya-san suddenly finds other things that need to be done that day, that theatre's been advertising special all-night showings on Fridays and Saturdays so we can even catch it at 2AM if work drags on that long," Yasuhara-san said easily.
"Really?!" Mai looked at Yasuhara with a hint of hope in her eyes. She rarely got out to see movies since she spent so most of her free time either doing schoolwork or working at the office. "In that case..." Mai rummaged around looking for her pencil case to jot down the date and time, but she couldn't find it. She knew she'd left it with her books so it should be around somewhere...
Suddenly, something blue appeared before her, and focussing on it, she realised it was a pen. Naru had an inscrutable expression as he held out the pen he'd taken from his jacket pocket for her. Hesitating slightly, Mai looked between the pen and Naru both before finally taking it and jotting down the information in the back of her notebook. She handed it back to Naru with a short thank you.
Naru took the pen back and as he put it back in his jacket pocket saying, "Mai, tea. In my office."
"Okay~" she replied quickly getting up to clean up the tea cups and go to the kitchenette again. "Would you also like some more tea, Yasuhara-san?" she asked before disappearing into the other room.
"Ah, yes please," he said.
The two stared at the kitchenette door for a moment, after Mai disappeared inside. As Yasuhara turned to return Mai's pencil case back to where the rest of her belongings were, Naru's hand reached past him and he did it himself instead. Then, without another word, Naru silently went back to his office...
And hopefully typing out that much will have gotten the bug out of the system so I can get to work on things once again. >.> In any case, back to laundry. *sigh*