This fic alternates between first and third points of view. I know, I know, it's a terrible way of writing but the story just refused to work any other way. I'm sorry, alright? If you can't stand it, don't read it but I've redone it three times fiddling with the POVs and I can't get it to work otherwise. Also I can't stand to redo it yet AGAIN so there you go. The person speaking in first person is Suoh, everything else is in third person.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, they are all copyright to CLAMP, and I am not making any money off them, so please don't sue me. Or send Sei-chan after me.
_You'll Be In My Heart_
Come stop your crying, it will be alright
Just take my hand, and hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don't you cry
For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm
This bond between us can't be broken
I will be here, don't you cry
Cause you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forevermore
You'll be in my heart, no matter what they say
You'll be here in my heart always.
- Phil Collins (movie version)
I breathe deeply in, savouring the scents of summer in the morning sun. I can distinguish some familiar plants in the general aroma which surrounds me. Roses, which always make me relax, wisteria, which make me dream, and apple. This last makes me smile up at the trees around me, in which the cicadas croak in their terrible cacophony.
The apple part is a little strange since there aren't any apple trees around, but it actually makes me feel better, as it has its own meaning. It means that my Kaichou is with me. Nokoru Imonoyama-Kaichou, with his clear blue eyes, his ready smile, and his golden hair - lightly scented with apple from the shampoo he uses regularly. I direct my smile at him as we walk together down the street.
"Phew!" He says, fanning himself gently. "It's so nice to get outside, don't you think Suoh?"
You could have been outside a lot earlier if you had just done that paperwork yesterday like I told you Kaichou, I consider reminding him. But why spoil the moment?
"Yes," I agree. "It's a pity Ijyuin isn't here to enjoy the sun."
"If Ijyuin _were_ here we wouldn't have to walk all this way to get the ice blocks we want," Nokoru says with a grin.
I can't help but smile. "You'd probably want to come anyway. Ever since you found out that the man at the park was selling them again you've been insatiable. May I remind you what happened the _last_ two times you've gotten them here?"
Nokoru just smiles at me, and I repress a sigh. Once Nokoru has set on a course of action, there is nothing anyone can do to alter it. You'd think that the kiddie park a couple of blocks from the campus would be safe, but twice now Kaichou's been kidnapped from it.
So now I'm coming along to make sure there isn't a _third_ time. And to partake of an ice block myself, I'll admit to having a bit of a craving. I allow my face to resume my normal expression. It's a pity the place is just a bit too far from campus for me to duck out and get them whenever we want, but they would melt before I got back, even at my speed.
As we walk into the park I notice a car stopping just outside it. Absently I note the make and licence plate. While I give the area a quick, quiet sweep with my eyes, Nokoru goes ahead and buys two ice blocks, and then heads for the seats nearby.
After passing me an ice block, Nokoru neatly opens the wrapping on his and licks the ice block. I watched him with fascination. He's such a sensualist sometimes, and it can be contagious. I feel happy just _watching_ his eyes widen slightly and then lid as his face settles into an expression of bliss. Inspired, I unwrap and lick my own ice block and feel my own face following suit.
We finish our ice blocks in near silence, concentrating on the taste, and catching all the drips. Finally finishing, we both throw our wrappers into the rubbish bin. Mine lands dead centre. Nokoru's, of course, misses by roughly two and a half feet. With a wry grin he gets up to chase after it and deposit it neatly into the bin. Grinning, I stand up and stretch, before following after him.
"Time to get back Kaichou," I remind my leader, knowing that Nokoru is not above stalling or worse tricks to avoid going back to work. "We still have the paperwork for the Summer Festival to process."
He sighs but nods agreement. As we start to walk back I notice that the car is still there. We pass it and keep going, Nokoru chattering gleefully about his plans and asking for my opinion on the colour scheme for the hall.
Halfway down the street I get a strange feeling down my spine and turn around. Nokoru also turns to see what I am looking at but is a second too late to see what's happening and therefore stop me stepping in front of him as the arrow streaks towards us.
"What is it Suoh?"
I look down at the arrow shaft poking out from my chest. What odd designs. And the fletching isn't right either. Strange, I always thought there would be more pain...
"What is it Suoh?" Nokoru asked as his friend turned and stepped behind him in one movement. There was a sickening thud and Suoh swayed on his feet. Down the road there was the sound of a car door slamming, and then a motor starting.
"Suoh?" Nokoru put one hand on his shoulder. Suoh seemed to be staring down at something. Nokoru followed his gaze to the spreading blood which was staining his shirt. Comprehension was slow to dawn.
"Suoh!" Nokoru screamed as the other boy crumpled slowly and gracefully to his knees. "Hold on Suoh! I'll get help!" He knelt and caught Suoh as he swayed backwards. "Hold on, it'll be alright!" *This can't be happening. Nonononononono...*
Suoh smiled gently at him and closed his eyes.
At the hospital a small boy huddled into himself on a chair. Doctors and nurses passing by gave him sympathetic looks and let him be. It was always hard when a friend was hurt. Nearby, a policeman stood guard on an operating room door.
Nokoru's head came up. "Doctor, is he going to be alright?" he demanded.
Doctor Hiraga stared down at the strange boy who had burst into his life three hours previously. "The news is not good," he said gently. "Although the arrow missed his heart..."
"Of course it did," Nokoru interrupted. "It was aimed at MINE! Suoh was facing the other way so it hit the wrong side."
"Yes... yes..." the Doctor faltered for a minute. "But it still hit him, and with enough force and in the right place to do some serious damage. We've done as best we could, but the patient..."
"His name is Suoh," Nokoru interrupted again.
"Yes, but Suoh slipped into a coma about halfway through the surgery." The Doctor continued. "Now, that's not all bad. He could come out in an hour, or a week..."
"Or never." Nokoru finished. "Thank you Doctor. I know you did your best. Can I see him?" The gaze he directed at the Doctor was determined.
Nokoru looked down at Suoh's inanimate body. The slow rise and fall of his chest that was just visible beneath the hospital blankets, and the intermittent beeps from the life-support machinery all proved that he was still alive. But that was all that there was.
Nokoru stared at Suoh and willed him to open his eyes, for his breath to quicken, his heartrate to pick up, something, anything!
"Nokoru-sama?" A small voice behind him questioned.
"Nagisa-san!" Nokoru turned, sorrow temporarily held at bay. Azuya Nagisa eased into the room and moved to stand beside him. She too looked at Suoh, adding her will to Nokoru's.
"Is Takamura-san... going to be alright?" She asked timorously.
Nokoru inhaled deeply. "The doctors say he will probably live. You know how strong and healthy Suoh is. But... they don't know if... _when_ he'll wake up."
"Oh." Nagisa struggled to hold back tears. "Takamura-san!" She turned to Nokoru and he held the sobbing girl as tight as he could.
"It'll be alright," he said, his own eyes tearing up. "It'll be alright." Turning his head away he whispered, "Suoh, wherever you are, please come back to us."
Suoh watched them both and sighed. <Believe me Kaichou, I'd love to. But I seem to be locked out of my body right now!>
It has been a very strange afternoon, I think to myself as I look from Kaichou and Nagisa to my sleeping body.
First I get hit by an arrow, which doesn't hurt. Then I feel a strange sucking sensation, close my eyes, and the next thing I know I'm watching Kaichou cry over my body. Then an ambulance shows up and I have to follow it here! Normally I'd have assumed that I was, well, _dead_, were it not for the fact that my body is still very much alive and seemingly getting on very well without me! Whoever heard of a ghost who wasn't actually dead? This is all very strange.
I sigh. Sort of. I don't seem to need air in my current state but breathing is a difficult habit to give up. <Alright, one more try.> I say out loud.
Again I try to get back into my body and again I feel as though I've hit a brick wall. Why can't I get back in? There's something very wrong here.
My heart aches as I watch Kaichou try to comfort Nagisa-san.
<I'M HERE!!!> I shout as loud as I can. <I'M RIGHT HERE!!!>
No luck. They can't hear me. Or see me. And I can't get back in to my body. This is INCREDIBLY frustrating. And that damn 'binging' machine is getting on my nerves. Eventually, Kaichou manages to calm Nagisa-san down and they go out into the corridor. Hahaue and Chichuie have just shown up and Nokoru pours out apologies. He needn't bother - we are the Takamura clan, we know how these things work. After some polite reassurance my parents go in to sit with me... my body I mean. That expression on Chichuie's face doesn't look good. He doesn't deal well with this sort of thing. Hahaue simply looks proud.
Eventually, Nagisa-san goes off to wash her face and Kaichou wanders down the corridor, apparantly aimless. I elect to follow him since something tells me he needs me most right now.
Not that I can do anything if he does.
Finding an empty room he sneaks inside and shuts the door carefully behind him. Then he throws himself onto the floor and begins to cry. I sit down beside him and try to pat his back and stroke his hair but my hand just goes right through him. I can't even give him a handkerchief. I wonder if I should leave but I don't think he should be alone right now so I just sit with him. All I can do is be here. I hope it's enough.
Nokoru's body shuddered and his chest ached with the effort of repressing his cries, but the tears flowed from his eyes without slowing no matter how he tried to stop them.
"Suoh... Suoh, this is all my fault." He wept. "Please, God, you've got to wake up... you've got to... Suoh..."
If I could just TOUCH him. Something, anything. Normally I'm not really the touchy feely type but right now I just want to...
I put my arms around Nokoru and just hold them there, if I try to hug him they'll go right through him but perhaps... noone is here to see. I brush a kiss across his forehead, an act I would rather die than perform were I here in any physical aspect, but since only my psychic self appears to be present, it probably doesn't matter.
<I don't blame you Nokoru, I could never blame you.> I say out loud. <And you shouldn't blame yourself either.>
The door creaks open and I fling myself in front of Kaichou's body, hands going for my knives, prepared to defend him. It may not do any good but it's what I've always done and I'm not going to change my ways now. My eyes widen as a familiar face peers around the door.
What's _HE_ doing here?
Yudaiji Idomu eased into the room and reached out a hand to the small form on the floor. He shivered as he did so, this room was COLD.
"Nokoru?" He asked. "Nokoru? It's me, Yudaiji."
"Idomu?" Nokoru uncurled slightly and Idomu gasped at the state of the other boys face. Tears streaked down from red eyes and the lips which usually tilted upwards in anything from a charming smile to a mischevious grin were bitten and bleeding. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at school in Europe?"
"I'm on holiday this week. I heard about the attack," Idomu said, sitting down next to him. "I came as soon as the news reached me. I wanted to see if you were alright, if there was anything I could do to help."
Nokoru sniffled. "Suoh's hurt."
"I know," Idomu said. "I looked in on him."
What? Someone let HIM near my unconcious body??? That's it, I'm never using this hospital again. Their security is far too lax.
I bare my teeth at Yudaiji. <Don't think that just because you've had a change of heart, I'll trust you. I haven't forgotten how you tried to hurt Kaichou.>
Idomu shivered again. "Nokoru, this room is too cold for you to be just sitting in. Why don't you come out and sit with your friends? They're all here - Ijyuin and the two princesses."
"And don't forget Suoh, who is lying in a hospital room in a coma because of me." Nokoru said bitterly. "My best friend, my most loyal protector, and this is how I repay him. How can I go to my friends now, when the strongest of them all has been nearly killed because of me?"
Tears filled his eyes once more. "I thought, after I met Suoh, that for once it would be safe to have a friend. He's a Takamura bodyguard, and it seemed that noone could get past him. Even YOU had trouble with his skills."
"I equalled him at archery," Idomu said, offended.
"And how long did you have to train to achieve that for one moment?" Nokoru demanded.
Idomu winced. "Eight months."
I can't help it. I smirk.
"I trusted him, because I knew that he would never fail, never fail me. And now because of that trust I had in him he's... he's..." Nokoru curled up again and Idomu moved closer, holding the other boy in an unconcious echo of the way that Suoh had tried earlier.
"Nokoru..." Idomu stroked the boys golden hair. "I know... believe me I know. The Yudaiji Zaibatsu may not be as big as the Imonoyama, and my brain may not be wanted by NASA... but it is wanted by lots of other people, and noone knows better than I what it is like to be alone."
Nokoru sobbed again. "He said he'd be with me always. To protect me, always. And now because of that he's... he's..."
"He isn't gone yet," Idomu reminded him. "He's still here. I'm sure he'll come back from wherever he's gone to be by your side once more."
<Don't insult me Idomu, I'd never leave Kaichou. Never!>
I'm enraged. How dare he presume that I'd leave Kaichou? In life and in death I will _always_ be at his side.
After some more words and holding, Yudaiji finally convinces Nokoru to move somewhere warmer and friendlier. I trail after the two of them, resentful of Yudaiji's presence. I should be the one looking after Kaichou. Of course, it's partially because of me that he's so upset but really, he shouldn't be. Doesn't he know that I would consider it the greatest of all honours to give my life for his.
I sigh. This is all raising questions that hadn't occured to me before. If it's going to make him THIS unhappy if I die protecting him, how am I going to be able to keep both of us safe? I can't bodyguard _myself_ as well as him. Oh well, it's not as if I wander around _looking_ for opportunities to die for Nokoru. Maybe if I'm just a bit more careful than usual. No, that won't work. I can't worry about my own personal safety if I'm to keep Nokoru safe, but his wellbeing will be affected if I get hurt and...
Wonderful, I'm developing a ghostly headache. And I bet there aren't any ghost painkillers either. I hate this.
"Nokoru-sama!" Nagisa ran towards the boy. "There you are, we were getting worried." She gestured behind her, to where Ijyuin Akira and Ohkawa Utako were sitting, having just arrived.
"You shouldn't wander off Kaichou," Akira came up behind her. "The person who tried to kill you once may try again."
Nokoru stared in horror at Akira. "You're right... I shouldn't be here, I'm endangering you all!"
"What?" Akira looked confused as Nokoru spun to leave, only to find his path blocked up Utako, who glared up at him.
"Nokoru-sama, are you blaming yourself for this tragedy?" She demanded.
"Uh... well I..."
"Yes, he is," Idomu interrupted.
Utako poked one finger into Nokoru's chest. "This. Is. Not. Your. Fault." She said, emphasising each word with another jab of her finger. "Nor is it Suoh's. This whole thing is ENTIRELY the fault of the madman who fired that arrow at you and don't you forget it!"
I'm grinning. It's so nice to be able to come out and actually say the things I normally bite back. Oh the freedom... If this invisible thing continues for much longer I'm going to lose all of my self-control.
"Nokoru-san, do you _really_ think Suoh would want you to blame yourself for this?" Nagisa stepped forward, a steely glint in her eye. "He would want you to be safe, and seeing you like this would upset him."
<Thank you Nagisa-chan! I knew I could rely on you.>
Nokoru stared at the little girl, who took his hand and stroked it gently. "Poor Nokoru-sama, he is so worried about Takamura-san that he has quite gone out of his mind." She sighed heavily. "Nokoru-sama should go and rest, while the rest of us go and track down the evil person who has done this terrible thing."
Utako stifled a giggle as a shock visibly coursed through Nokoru.
"Nagisa-chan, you cannot mean that _you_ are going to..." Nokoru choked.
"Am I not also a member of your Detectives?" Nagisa turned huge eyes on Nokoru. "It is my solemn duty to find the person who did this and bring them to justice."
"But you can't, I mean, not alone..." Nokoru looked around. "Akira and Utako..."
"Are needed here in case Takamura-san wakes up. He will want friendly faces around him if he does." Nagisa finished smoothly.
"The police..." Nokoru tried again. "Wait, where has the police guard gone?"
The policeman from earlier had vanished, instead a young man in a suit stood in the doorway, watching the group.
"Um, Takamura-sama said that the Takamura Clan would ensure Takamura-senpai's personal safety while he recovered." Akira spoke up. The young man grinned at them all and then resumed his silent watch.
"You have given the police the details of the attack, I am sure they will do their best." Nagisa's tone of voice had become quite sharp. "However, _we_ are Takamura-san's loved ones. It is OUR duty to find the perpetrator of this crime. As the only detective not required for other tasks, I shall do my best to achieve this goal."
Idomu cleared his throat. "I was only a member for a very short time, but I wish to offer my services in your quest Nagisa-chan."
"Thank you _Yudaiji-san_," Nagisa emphasised Idomu's family name meaningfully. "I'm sure you can make yourself useful somehow."
"Ah, thank you for allowing me to participate Azuya-san," Idomu responded, blushing slightly at Nagisa's correction of his uninvited informality.
During this exchange Nokoru had been thinking frantically. He couldn't allow Nagisa to get involved. If she got hurt it would destroy Suoh, and really, he had the perfect bait for the attacker. His eyes glowed as a plan of action presented itself.
"Nagisa-chan, I thank you for your planning," he said. "But I don't think you should get involved in this - it wouldn't be appropriate..."
Nagisa smiled angelically at Nokoru. "Nokoru-sama, if it is not appropriate for any one person not to be involved – it is YOU!" She replied. "I am not the target, neither was Takamura-san. Were he here, he would not permit you to involve yourself at all in this."
I nod. <True, very true.>
Nokoru cleared his throat. "Uhhh... well... That’s why I can't put anyone else at risk!"
"Why Nokoru-sama," Nagisa radiated innocence, "how could you avoid it? Unless you were planning to shake us off and tackle this all alone, using yourself as bait... but I just KNOW you would NEVER do such a reckless, FOOLISH thing. Correct?"
Nokoru flushed slightly.
I laugh out loud. <Nagisa-san, you’re wonderful!>
"So you see Nokoru-sama," Nagisa summed up. "Really, it is YOU who should not take part in this investigation, especially since as there is no lady involved, you will not be particularly... um..."
"You're a klutz Nokoru-san," Idomu filled in. "We are coming."
"BOTH of us," Nagisa agreed. "First, we should get a full explanation of what happened, and then examine the clues. Let us begin back at the Campus. After you Nokoru-sama."
Nokoru led the way out of the room, Nagisa and Idomu behind him, leaving Akira and Utako behind to watch over Suoh and giggle.
"You're very sneaky, Nagisa-ch... san," Idomu commented, falling into step beside her.
Nagisa simply smiled at him. "Please don't be so familiar with me Yudaiji-san," she said, a hint of steel entering her voice. "Part of the reason I insisted upon being included was to keep an eye on YOU. I know Takamura-san would not let someone with your history close to Nokoru-sama until you had proven yourself. In his absence, I will protect Nokoru-sama." She accelerated until she was walking alongside Nokoru.
Idomu watched her go. "Takamura, you're a lucky man."
<I couldn't agree with you more.>
Once back in the familiar Council Rooms on Clamp Campus, Nokoru started to feel better and in more control of the situation.
"Now Nokoru-sama, you must explain to us what exactly happened when you went out on your walk." Nagisa had a pen and paper ready. "Yudaiji-san, would you please try and find out what you can about the arrow which hurt Taka... about the weapon." She sniffed briefly and then became all business once more.
Idomu started typing into the computers as Nokoru closed his eyes and related the happenings of the afternoon.
"... and then Suoh turned around, he must have heard something, and stepped in front of me. I turned just in time to catch him as he fell." Nokoru finished.
"And you did not hear anything?" Nagisa questioned.
"No... I, that is... hmmm..." Nokoru pondered. "There was something. Something... I'd forgotten it at the time... the sound of a car driving away in a hurry." He slammed his fist into the table. "It must have been driven by the assassin!"
"Excellent!" Nagisa crowed.
"Not excellent," Nokoru cursed silently. "I should have remembered it sooner, so that I could have told the police."
"Nokoru-sama was in shock. It was not unexpected that you would forget to mention some things so soon after such an incident," Nagisa said disapprovingly. "You must stop blaming yourself Nokoru-sama. Now," she flipped through her notes. "Earlier you mentioned walking past a parked car to enter the park. Do you think this could have been the car?"
"It would make sense," Nokoru said. "We weren't that great a distance from the park when the attempt was made. And since it was an arrow rather than a bullet, it must have been made from a stationary position. You wouldn't have been able to have a drive-by shooting from a bow, unless it were a crossbow..."
"Wrong type of arrow," Idomu announced. "I have accessed the police database and it has pictures of it. Such an arrow could not have been fired from a crossbow, it is made for a longbow."
Nagisa and Nokoru scrambled to examine the pictures on Idomu's screen.
"Um... 'accessed the police database'?" Nokoru muttered to Idomu.
"We won't get in trouble if we don't get caught," Idomu replied. "You see the length of the shaft, and the fletching? This had to have been fired from a traditional Japanese bow. So it could not have been fired from a car, and anyone walking off with a bow afterwards would have been noticed. And since no weapon was recovered at the site, it would seem that this car driver is our most likely suspect."
"What are all of these strange writings and marks all over the arrow?" Nagisa asked, hugging herself for warmth and comfort. "They look... ugly."
They certainly do. I squint at the images and then realise that I am standing half _in_ Nagisa-san. Blushing, I back away from her.
<My apologies Nagisa-san, I wasn't paying attention.>
I know she can't hear me, but it was totally improper of me to have done that. I will have to be more careful not to step into her or other people. Just because I am invisible and insubstantial does not mean I should forget my manners.
"Working," Idomu tapped in a few more commands and the image on the screen split in two. "I am running the designs through the CLAMP Campus main computer database. Hmmm... I have a match!" A few more taps brought the image and entry into the foreground of the screen.
"Curse arrow?" Nagisa said in confusion. "What is that?"
"According to the computer, it was an old form of magic, last used during the Warring States period," Idomu read. "Apparently it was believed that upon being killed with a curse arrow a person's spirit would be sheered away from their body and held imprisoned in this world. They would be unable to pass on from this life and be doomed to wander the world throughout eternity as ghosts, or spirits."
"How horrible," Nagisa shuddered. "It's lucky that Takamura-san was not killed by such an evil thing."
I stare at the computer in shock. Cursed? Doomed to wander the world throughout eternity as a ghost? This doesn't sound good at _all_.
<What if you didn't die?> I ask. I have a horrible feeling that I know the answer already as I wave my insubstantial hands through the computer screen, willing the information to come up. <Is there any way to break the curse?>
Idomu shivered briefly, shut down the window and turned to face Nokoru. "So it seems that this car is the key to unravelling the identity of the attacker. Can you remember anything about it Nokoru-san?"
I sigh. <I can. I memorised it. It was a blue Toyota, licence plate IM879.>
"A blue Toyota, licence plate IM879," Nokoru said.
I blink. Just like Kaichou to remember it so easily!
Idomu turned back to the computer and began typing once more. "Calling up the vehicle database, running the plate..."
Nokoru coughed. "'Vehicle database'?"
"Don't complain about it Nokoru-sama," Nagisa said sharply. "What are they going to do, shoot curse arrows at us?"
The two men stared at her and she blushed. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm just worried..."
Nokoru looked away. "Me too," he said. "Why don't we call Akira and Utako-chan at the hospital and see how Suoh's doing while Idomu, er, 'runs the plate'."
Nagisa nodded and the pair went over to the phone.
I wander over behind them. I'm slightly curious myself as to how my body is holding up without me. The look on Nokoru's face is answer enough.
"No change," he tells Nagisa, and her small face falls. If only there were some way I could tell them I was here! If only there were something I could do! If only it were possible for me to give Idomu a really hard kick to get him to hurry up. What if this maniac tries this on Nokoru again? He'd be stuck here too. Admittedly, at least we'd be together again, but I don't look forward to spending eternity as a ghostly presence. At least if I were a _proper_ ghost I could manifest or something.
"I have a match!" Idomu announced. "Bringing up the details now."
Nokoru and Nagisa hurriedly said farewell to Utako and Akira and hung up, before racing over to the computer once more.
"Licence plate IM879... it's a company car, registered to..." Idomu blinked. "The Sunny Karaoke Company? Owned by... the Imonoyama Zaibatsu????!!!!"
"WHAT????!!!!" Nokoru shrieked. "Let me see that!" He quickly read the information. "How could this be? Was the vehicle stolen perhaps?"
"Checking... no. Registered to employee Kirisawa Gohei." Idomu turned to regard Nokoru. "Ring any bells?"
"Not a one," Nokoru was genuinely at a loss. "I've never even SUNG karaoke."
"A disgruntled employee perhaps?" Idomu typed some more. "I'll check him up in the Imonoyama Employees Database. I don't even have to hack that one since you have access. Working. Working."
A photograph appeared on the screen. Nokoru stared at it. "I've never seen this man before in my life." He said.
"Are you sure? Think carefully." Nagisa pressed.
"I have thought Nagisa-chan, and the more I look at him the more certain I am that we have never met. Was he disciplined recently? Dismissed perhaps?" Nokoru looked at Idomu, who was scrolling through the information.
"No, in fact according to this he was a model employee. Always on time, never missed a shift, rose through the ranks in quite a normal fashion. He was in line for a promotion... oh."
"WHAT?" Nagisa and Nokoru demanded.
Idomu hesitated. "There are no records of pay for the last few weeks, when I checked up on that he came up as 'Deceased'."
"Oh," said Nokoru.
"What? What? I don't understand." Nagisa looked from one to the other.
Nokoru hesitated. "When an Imonoyama employee dies, their cause of death will be listed in the database along with the notation 'Deceased'. 'Deceased, heart attack', 'Deceased, car accident', that sort of thing."
"But this just has 'Deceased'," Nagisa said.
"That notation is only used when the person in question has committed suicide," Nokoru said gently.
"Oh," said Nagisa slowly. "He killed himself then?"
"Yes, about two months ago," Idomu said.
There was a moment of silence.
"What... what happened to his car afterwards?" Nagisa asked eventually.
"In accordance with Imonoyama Zaibatsu practice, health insurance and other benefits are continued for the families of deceased employees for as long as they need them, no matter how they died." Idomu said. "If he had any family... aha. The car remained in possession of Kirisawa's wife, Mieko."
A photograph of a rather pretty woman filled the screen.
"Mieko-san has no drivers licence, so the car is of no use to her, but with her bereavement so recent she probably hasn't gotten around to asking that the car be picked up by Kirisawa's manager." Idomu sighed. "It's probably been stolen from wherever it was last parked and she hasn't noticed. A dead end."
Nokoru sighed, depression once more settling upon him. "Still we had better check up on it, we may be able to find out when the car was stolen, perhaps even get a description. Is Kirisawa-san's phone number listed?"
Idomu recited it out to him and Nokoru went to dial.
"This is awful, I really thought we were getting somewhere," Nagisa said. "Now what can we do?"
"Nothing, except wait for this person to make another move," said Idomu. "If this lead does not pan out, we will simply have to wait until another attack is made on Nokoru's life."
Nagisa was horrified. "That's no good! What if they succeed this time? I won't let Su... Takamura-san's sacrifice be in vain!" Her eyes filled with tears.
"He's not dead yet," Idomu said gently. "Don't give up on him Nagisa-san."
"Azuya-san!" Nagisa burst into tears. "You have to call me Azuya-san! You... you... you jerk!" She turned away and put her face in her hands, sobbing frantically.
"Azuya-san. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Idomu swore silently. "I didn't mean to upset you. Please don't cry. I think if you cry any longer Takamura will awaken like a zombie and come after me for doing this to you!" He sneezed. "Your anger is freezing me like ice," he added jokingly, trying to cheer Nagisa up.
Nagisa sobbed a few more times and then glared at Idomu. "You're right, Takamura-san is NOT dead yet, so you'd best behave or when he wakes up I'll tell him how you were so familiar with me and he will... will..."
"Drop me off the top of the Tokyo Tower?" Idomu suggested. "Tar and feather me? I know, he'll make me do all of Nokoru's paperwork and stand over me the whole time with that terribly stern expression on his face!"
Nagisa went into hysterical giggles at this mental image.
"That's better!" Idomu said. "He'd be glad to see you this way. I know he'd be upset if he knew he was the cause of your tears."
"I was crying because of you, you rude person," Nagisa said, once she had her breath back. "Suoh would never make me cry. Never!" A smile broke over her face.
I stop breathing down Idomu's neck and swinging my fists at him in the hopes that one of them will become solid for long enough to make him pay for his insolence.
Nokoru hung up the phone and went to her, enfolding her in a big hug. "Nagisa-chan," he whispered. "It will be alright, I promise. You know that Suoh would come back from the dead for you."
"He'd come back for you too, Nokoru-sama," Nagisa whispered back.
I nod fiercely, tears running down my face. <I would. I would! In fact, I think I already _have_.>
And I'd do it again. I'll never leave your side Kaichou, nor will I ever forsake my love for you Nagisa.
After a pause, Idomu cleared his throat. "So, what did Mieko-san say?"
"It was as you thought Idomu," Nokoru replied, releasing Nagisa from his embrace but still leaving one arm around her shoulders. "She says she has not looked at the car since her husbands death, but that it should be in the shed garage out the back of their property. She said we are welcome to examine the garage for clues if we want. The car too, if it is there."
"Why would it be there if it was stolen for this criminal act?" Nagisa asked.
"It may be that it was returned in an effort to cover up the assassins' tracks." Idomu said. "If the car was stolen, used, and then returned, the assassin would not have to hide it or otherwise dispose of it. And if noone had noticed the car was gone, returning it before it was reported stolen would mean it was the perfect murder tool. One that noone would ever know was part of the act."
"However, if they _have_ returned it, they may have left something incriminating in it. It would be best for us if they have returned the car," Nokoru finished. "However, we may find something in the garage. It is quite a way out of the main city though..."
Idomu shrugged, "It would have to be for the house to have a garage." He said. "We can call for a car."
"Or we could take the Clamp School blimp," said Nokoru.
Idomu sweatdropped. "Um... perhaps we could try another mode of transportation?"
"Guilty conscience bothering you Idomu?" Nokoru asked cheerfully.
Idomu blushed. "I truly wasn't going to do anything too evil with it. And don't forget the Yudaiji Zaibatsu paid for its replacement."
"I haven't forgotten," said Nokoru. "_Too_ evil?"
Idomu blushed darker. "The... the blimp it is then!" He said nervously.
"Very well," Nokoru paused, but couldn't resist. "You _will_ let me have control of it this time, won't you Idomu?"
Nearby, Suoh did too.
"This is the place!" Nokoru announced as they walked down the road, having parked the blimp some streets away. He looked around at the neighbourhood. Most of the houses had their lights on as the daylight dimmed and faded away. Incredible that it was still the same day that the attempt on his life had been made. It seemed to have gone on forever. He checked his watch. 9 o'clock. It was fortunate that it was summer, so it was only just getting dark now.
"The house lights are not on," Nagisa said.
"Mieko-san indicated that she had some errands to run, but she said that the garage was unlocked and we were to go ahead," Nokoru replied. "It will be alright."
"Let's go then, before it gets too dark to see anything." Idomu said, leading the way.
I frown as I keep pace with Nokoru. I don't like this. It's... wrong somehow. Casting a quick look around I speed up to take point. Something... something... I look back at the group. I should stay with them... but...
I run as quick as I can, and halt at the garage door. I take a deep breath and walk through it, waiting for my eyes to accustom to the darkness inside. It seems safe enough, and my nerves tug me to go back to Kaichou to make sure he's alright. But still, something tells me to look closer. I advance and stop when the creaking open of the door brings the last of the light into the garage. The light reveals the car inside and I breathe out slowly. It seems alright. I turn as the door opens more widely, allowing Idomu inside.
"The car is here Nokoru!" He says, and runs towards it. Nokoru and Nagisa follow quickly and the door slowly swings shut. As it does, the final rays of the sun glint off something just to the side of the door and my heart jumps into my mouth.
No, oh god no. Frantically I force myself to think. There must be something I can do. Time seems to slow down as the others approach the car and run to the drivers door. I watch them in horror as they cluster around it and Idomu shivers once in the cooling air.
I run to him and stand fully in his body as he moves aside to allow Nokoru access to the car door.
Idomu shuddered as wave after wave of cold coursed through his body. Something was terribly wrong.
"Idomu, what is it?" Nokoru stepped forward and put his hand on the other boys shoulder. "What's the matter?"
Nagisa peered just past Nokoru. "Yudaiji-san?"
"C... cold!" Idomu trembled. "Soooo cooooolddd..." His teeth chattered and he doubled over. "Something's not right. GET DOWN!!!" He flung himself backwards to knock the other two down. They tumbled to the ground and there was a loud crash and tinkle of breaking glass above them as they fell. Nokoru started to his feet again and stared up at the familiarly-marked arrow that had passed through the car window instead of his head and embedded itself in the wall behind them. On the ground, Idomu gasped as the cold that had invaded his body vanished just as suddenly as it had appeared, and Nagisa cried out in fear as loud swearing erupted from the other end of the garage.
"The assassin, he's here!" Idomu scrambled to his feet and flung himself at the car, reaching in through the broken window, fingers groping for and finally locating the headlights switch. He turned it on immediately, flooding the garage with light.
Nokoru helped Nagisa to her feet and gasped as the light revealed their assailant.
Kirisawa Mieko hissed at him, lowering the bow and moving to block the door as she did so. "Brat! Wretched creature! It is because of YOUR accursed family that my Gohei is dead. I'll kill you! Kill you like you killed my Gohei!"
Idomu looked around for any other exits, but there were none. "Nokoru, watch out! I think she's gone mad."
"I'll be alright, I don't think she has any arrows left," Nokoru said, straightening carefully. "Kirisawa-san, while we are sorry for your husbands death, it was not due to anything that happened at work. Kirisawa Gohei was an excellent employee..."
"LIAR!" Mieko screamed at him. "Stay back! Demonic brat, it had to have been his job, there can be no other explanation! We had the perfect life, perfect..." Tears poured down her face. "We had everything to look forward to, and then all of a sudden he's gone. Why? WHY????"
Idomu reached out and grasped Nokoru's shoulder, preventing him from going closer. "Stay back Nokoru," he said. "I don't think she's in any mood to be reasoned with."
"I have to try!" Nokoru said. "Nagisa-chan, you'd better get out of here."
"She's not going anywhere! None of you are! Kill you, I'll kill you all!" Mieko pulled some pieces of paper out of her pocket. "I've prepared for your coming, this time you won't escape! You'll be punished for what you did!" She hurled the pieces of paper. "Spirit dogs! Appear!"
In mid-air the papers blurred and shifted, and when they finally fell to the floor, it was not as paper, but as four huge dogs. They slavered at the three detectives, their saliva dripping to the floor and vanishing as soon as it landed.
"Mieko-san!" Nokoru shouted.
"KILL THEM ALL!" Mieko screamed.
"Dammit!" Idomu swore.
As the phantom dogs approached the group, Idomu and Nokoru stepped forwards to stand in front of Nagisa. The dogs growled menacingly at the group. Nokoru bit his lip.
"Run, both of you." He snapped. "Get out now. I'll hold them off."
"Nokoru, you can't even hold your _fanclub_ off," Idomu said with a grin. "We'll stay."
Nokoru started as Nagisa slipped her hand into his.
"Takamura-san is our friend too." She said, meeting his eyes. "And so are you. He would not leave you, and neither will we."
Nokoru began to tremble and was about to reply when the first dog lunged. In mid-air it snarled and then fell back, as though it had been struck by something.
Landing heavily, it shook its head and whined.
"What?" shrieked the madwoman by the door. "What are you DOING?? Kill them!"
From my position beside Nokoru, I feel a broad smile spreading across my face for the first time since this whole mess started and pull out more throwing knives. At last, _something_ I can do.
<I said I'd protect you always Kaichou.>
Nokoru and the others stared in amazement as the spirit dogs shimmered in and out of focus, whining and wailing and shuddering back from some sort of invisible attack.
"What's going on?" Nagisa asked, confused. "Why aren't they attacking?"
"Don't complain!" Idomu said.
"They look like something else is attacking _them_," said Nokoru slowly.
"How? What?" Nagisa asked. "What could hurt spirit creatures?"
One of the dogs reared up, and then howled, arching its head back, and slowly fell to the ground.
The group stared at its exposed neck, and the knife embedded within it. Both dog and weapon glowed briefly and then faded away.
"Was that..." Idomu asked slowly. "What I _think_ it was?"
Nokoru looked shocked. "Couldn't be." But a part of him hoped, and his heart leapt in joy. *Who else _could_ it be?*
I'm running out of knives, and I don't think they sell any to spirits. With a grin I launch myself forward at the remaining dogs. Behind me, I can hear Nagisa-san say my name, but for now I put that behind me. It's time to go to work.
The three watched with open mouths as one of the dogs was lifted into midair and then slammed repeatedly into the ground. Beneath the ghostly form, another form flickered.
Idomu gasped and Nagisa nearly fainted. Clinging on to Nokoru's hand she looked up and the expression on his face - triumph, joy, and a weird vengeful look - made her step back in surprise.
With that dog down and fading, the other two began to circle. Suddenly one of them crumpled to the side and the form flickered again.
I kick the dog in the side with all my strength and feel ghostly bones snap. Can ghostly bones snap? Spiritual bones? This is too confusing, I should concentrate on the battle. I continue my move forward and slam an elbow into the side of its neck, putting all my weight into it. It's not much, being insubstantial and all, but it seems to be enough.
I whip around to face the other one, but not quickly enough and its jaws close on my arm. The pain is intense, and rather surprising, but the stupid mutt has brought itself close enough that I can simply shove my last knife straight into its right eye. As it fades away I turn to face the others. They are all staring at me. I wonder.
And then Kaichou steps forward, and I wonder no longer.
The group stared as Suoh was finally made fully visible when the last dog bit into his arm. By the door, Mieko keened in fear and madness and sank to the ground. Suoh struck the dog down quickly and turned to face them all.
Nokoru stepped forward, his face alive with hope, desire, victory. "Suoh..." his voice broke. "Suoh..."
Suoh smiled at them, his form already beginning to fade. He mouthed something but no sounds came.
They can't hear me. This is so _frustrating_, and from the expressions on their faces I must be disappearing again. How... No time to think, just act.
I quickly step forward and bow to Idomu. <Thank you for helping Kaichou>, I say as I straighten. I think he got it. I turn to Nagisa-san and touch my fingers to my lips, then gently rest them on her own lips. Her eyes are brimming with tears and I know she can't feel me but she's smiling anyway, and blushing a little too.
Now Kaichou, quickly, before I fade completely. But what can I do for him? Suddenly, absurdly, I remember when we escaped from Casablanca's, that time we first became friends. Stepping up beside him, I twine my arm around his as best I can and lean my chin on his shoulder. He stares at me and I can see myself fading from the reflection in his eyes. I smile at him and mouth, <Always.>
When Suoh's body faded from sight, there was a pause, punctuated only by Mieko's sobbing. Idomu and Nagisa stared wonderingly at the place where he'd been, and then at Nokoru.
Nokoru smiled at them both through the streams of tears running down his face and, for the first time that day, flipped a fan down his sleeve and opened it. It read: True friendship.
"I think," he said carefully. "That we need to call the authorities."
Idomu blinked. "Yes... the police!"
"Actually, I was thinking of the _real_ authorities."
Nokoru stood up as the two newcomers entered the police station. Mieko had been led off by officers to the cells a few minutes earlier, and now he was alone once more but for Nagisa and Idomu. And presumably Suoh too.
"Sumeragi-sama, we're grateful you could come." he said, bowing politely.
The old woman smiled at him. "Naturally, the Sumeragi clan are more than happy to be of service to you, Imonoyama-san."
Nokoru bowed again, and then his gaze shifted to the boy beside her. He looked about the same age as him, with huge green eyes. "And this is...?"
"Ah! This is my grandson, Sumeragi Subaru, who will be my successor." Subaru bowed to Nokoru, who returned it. Then he straightened and smiled shyly.
"Pleased to meet you," he said.
"Pleased to meet _you_," Nokoru replied. "I hope you can help us. Please, allow me to introduce Yudaiji Idomu and Azuya Nagisa."
Bows were exchanged all around and then the older woman made her way over to the evidence table where the second curse arrow was held. "So, another one of these evil things," she said. "I had read of such as these in books but had never expected to see one in this day and age."
"It turns out that Kirisawa Mieko was a scholar of the occult when she was at University," Idomu said. "Presumably that was where she learned of the curse arrows and phantom dogs."
"Shikigami," Subaru said quietly. They all turned to look at him and he blushed. "The phantom dogs were Kirisawa-san's shikigami. She is quite spiritually powerful, which explains how she was able to enact the curse and call them forth using ofuda."
"She is also quite mad, poor creature," said Sumeragi-sama. "We will ensure that her powers do not bother other people again. In the meantime, we have examined the other curse arrow held here and have also visited the hospital to view your friend." She sighed. "It is fortunate that little time has passed between the attack and our being called in. We think that we can return his spirit to his body."
Nokoru breathed out. "I'm so glad to hear that." He said softly. "Suoh is a very good friend to me. I'd do anything to get him back." Nagisa squeezed his hand.
Suddenly Subaru started laughing. They all stared at him until he noticed and then he blushed. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was just laughing at something your friend said."
"What?!" Nokoru said, startled. "Pardon?"
"Your friend, the one we saw at the hospital." Subaru gestured to a place just to the right of Nokoru. "He said, 'Anything, anything at all, unless it involves paperwork, in which case you're on your own'."
I blush crimson. <Oh damn.>
"That _did_ sound like Suoh, a little," said Nokoru. "You mean he's _still here_??!!"
<You can hear me?>
Subaru nodded. "Yes, I can hear you Takamura-san, and see you as well. What?" Everyone stared at him as he listened.
"I see, yes. He says 'Of course I'm still here Kaichou, I said I'd protect you and be by your side always'. He also says that he'd like to listen to Nagisa-san's flute again soon, and wants Ijyuin to cook his meals while he recovers if this works, because hospital food is terrible. He says he'd like apple pie please, and Yudaiji-kun, could you please make sure Kaichou doesn't slack off too much while he's recuperating."
"It _is_ Takamura-san!" Nagisa exclaimed in delight. "Where is he?"
"The same place he's always been," Subaru replied. "Right next to Imonoyama-san."
Nokoru closed his eyes and let out a long, heartfelt breath. Now he truly felt safe and at peace.
"Suoh," his voice cracked slightly. "I'm sorry I doubted you, my friend. Soon you'll be back, and we'll eat ice blocks together again!"
Subaru smiled briefly. "He just groaned, and said he doesn't think he ever wants to eat those troublesome things again!"
Nokoru grinned, and flipped open his fan. "But Suoh, we have to eat those - after all, it's summer!"
His grin grew wider, he could swear that he could HEAR Suoh groaning, and for the briefest moment thought he could see him too - face set in his familiar expression, fingers pressed against his forehead, and Nokoru's eyes filled again.
After a pause, Idomu spoke. "Well Takamura, I think you'd better take a break from Nokoru and head back to your body."
Nokoru nodded, "Yes Suoh, you must go."
Everyone looked at Subaru. "He said he's going, but he'll be back soon, one way or another."
"Of course he will," Nokoru said. "He said he would."
Idomu touched his arm. "We'd better let the Sumeragi get on with their work. Why don't we head back to the hospital?"
Nokoru nodded. "Of course... yes... we must go at once!" He paused. "Do you need anything Sumeragi-sama?"
Subaru smiled at them as his grandmother ignored them to head off into a spare room. "No, thank you. We have the arrow here, and since it still has your friends blood on it, that will be all we need to break the curse. But we must get to it at once. So please excuse us." He bowed one last time and followed after his grandmother.
"Farewell then, and thank you!" Nokoru called after them, before turning on his heel and dashing out of the station, Idomu and Nagisa close behind him.
I awake and for a moment I don't know where I am. I was heading back to the hospital and suddenly felt this tug, like I was at the end of a taut string.
I take a deep breath and wince. Ouch! My chest hurts. So does my arm where the dog bit it. I try to speak but only make gurgling noises.
"Takamura-senpai?" Akira's face comes into range. Ah, I must be back at the hospital. I guess whatever the Sumeragi did worked.
"Ah Ijyuin." My voice is so _weak_. "Could I trouble you for a cup of your delicious tea? My throat is dry."
His eyes fill up and tears spill down his cheek. "Takamura-senpai!" he cries out.
I can hear the sounds of running in the corridor and the door bursts open, revealing a panting Kaichou in the doorway. Nagisa and Idomu pile in behind him but for now he is the one who takes up all my attention.
"Suoh!" he cries. And then he stops, and smiles at me radiantly.
"Kaichou," I manage. "Did you miss me?"
And Kaichou smiles wider and laughs. "How could I?" he asks. "You were never really gone at all!"
When destiny calls you
You must be strong
I may not be with you
But you've got to hold on
They'll see in time
We'll show them together
Cause you'll be in my heart
Yes you'll be in my heart
From this day on
Now and forever more
Oh you'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You'll be in my heart
I'll be with you,
I'll be there for you always
Always and always
Just look over your shoulder
Just look over your shoulder
Just look over your shoulder
I'll be there, always.
- You'll Be In My Heart, Phil Collins (longer version).
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