"I promised I wouldn't let you do anything stupid on your own," Miyata hissed, trailing along helplessly after Tamamori. Every few yards he looked over his shoulder in the direction of their training headquarters, even though it had been out of sight for at least fifteen minutes. "Let's just go back! They probably haven't even noticed we're gone."
"No," Tamamori snapped, marching forward with the same determined pace, eyes fixed ahead. "I'm not going back until I prove I'm right."
"But it's getting dark," Miyata pointed out. He hated sounding like he was whining, but it wasn't like they'd had a good time in the run-down movie theater catching the first ghost. If there was another spirit in the place like Tamamori was insisting, every minute past sundown would make it more powerful. "Be reasonable," he tried coaxing instead. "What are the odds that if there were something else, both Fujigaya and Yokoo would miss it? They both said the place was cleared."
"Then there's nothing to be afraid of, is there?!" Tamamori looked over his shoulder with a glare that Miyata felt was much sharper than he deserved. "You don't believe me either! Get lost already, go home!"
"I'm not leaving you, you know that," Miyata soothed, and reducing the problem to that simple equation firmed up his own resolve. Of course he wouldn't leave Tamamori by himself, especially not when he might be in danger, and so that was that.
The old movie theater had been dusty and somewhat depressing in the slanting afternoon light, but in the gathering dark it was gothic with its worn gilding and torn velvet drapery, its shadows deeper and vaguely malevolent. The breeze from them opening the door made the curtains rustle like whispers, as if disgruntled by Tamamori and Miyata's intrusion on their privacy. The air still smelled vaguely of sulfur from Kitayama's trap flares, and Miyata edged uneasily around the scorch mark on the floor from Senga's mis-aimed phosphorous bomb.
At first, nothing happened except the two of them stirring up dust, and Miyata's panic ebbed down to a manageable level. Privately he thought that Fujigaya and Yokoo certainly had enough experience to know whether or not a ghost was still in a building, but he knew better than to argue with Tamamori's assertion that he had felt something else, something after Kitayama had bottled the poltergeist that had been twisting the heavy curtains into shapes meant to grab and smother them. Tamamori would have to admit to himself that there was nothing here because he was stubborn as hell and would just dig his heels in deeper if anyone fought him on it, even Miyata.
"Uuuugh," Tamamori huffed in frustration when they made it down in front of the screen. "This is where it was, but it's not here anymore. But there's something…" Tamamori frowned, kicking at the base of the curtain and making it sway, revealing the ragged set of long parallel slashes left from Fujigaya cutting Yokoo free. Miyata opened his mouth, just about to gently suggest they go back again, when Tamamori suddenly looked up, over Miyata's head, eyes narrowed. "There."
"Wh—" Miyata's question was cut off by the unmistakable sound of a projector whirring, and suddenly light shot onto the screen, dazzling both of them. Miyata fumbled his iron chain out, struggling to blink the spots out of his eyes. He could hear the whiz of Tamamori's cubes through the air; lacking a clear target, Tamamori was surrounding the two of them with a kind of moving bubble made by the passes of the cubes as close as he could draw them without risking hitting them. Both of them were so focused on the projectionist's booth, that it was only by chance Miyata turned to Tamamori and saw that the threat was behind them, coming from the screen. For a split second he froze, his blood turning to ice in his veins when he saw the screen distending like a pair of hands, reaching for Tamamori's throat.
Operating on instinct, Miyata dove for Tamamori and tackled him to the ground, hissing in pain as one of the ghostly hands raked over his shoulder. Cubes scattered in all directions, and dimly Miyata heard Tamamori snarl and snap them back to him. Miyata's arm was already going numb as they rolled apart, but he gritted his teeth and forced his hand to grip his chain more tightly as he struggled to his feet. Snapping it like a whip, Miyata drove back two, then three parts of the screen stretching back into the clawed shaped, flatting them out, but the screen was too big and amorphous to make a satisfying target. On the next snap, Miyata's fingers lost their grip and the chain smacked against the screen and slithered to the floor in a heap, out of easy reach.
A clawed hand gripped his already injured shoulder and Miyata realized his mistake, too focused on driving the things away from Tamamori he'd edged in far enough that his back was effectively to the screen too. Things sharp like talon points dug into his shoulder, shredding through his jacket and now the numbness was spreading from his shoulder and arm into his chest, Miyata dropping to his knees in the effort of trying to wrench away. If it reached as far as his heart, it would stop, and Miyata struggled desperately to get away.
"Leave him alone!" Miyata heard Tamamori scream, the sound rippling to his ears as if underwater, black creeping in at the edges of his vision. Miyata felt the sharp edge of a cube cut along his cheek, but the thin, sharp pain gave him a moment of clarity, enough to throw himself forward to slip out of his jacket and leave the thing busy shredding the leather for a few precious seconds.
He rolled forward, into Tamamori like Kitayama had taught them, so that the two of them were shoulder to shoulder, Miyata shoving himself back to his feet by pressing mostly against Tamamori. When he wobbled, Tamamori grabbed his numb arm and yanked it across his own shoulders, half holding him up.
"Go," Miyata panted. He couldn't run, but Tamamori could probably make out if Miyata kept the thing busy, might be able to escape. "Hurry, get out!"
"yessss," the curtains whisper rustled, barely words but more a feeling like fingers brushing the back of their necks. "get out get out get out get out get out"
"SHUT UP!" Tamamori roared at them, or at Miyata, or both. He was still goading at the screen thing with the cubes, trying to force it to coagulate into a shape they could actually fight, but the heavy fabric of the movie screen resisted even their sharp edges, bouncing them off as quickly as Tamamori could whirl them at it. "STOP BEING SO ANNOYING!"
Miyata laughed breathlessly in spite of everything, at Tamamori being pink-cheeked and furious not that they were probably going to die from their own stupidity, but because the ghost was being too annoying. Tamamori had been right, though, that there was a second spirit here, so in his mind he was probably satisfied with just that no matter what happened to them.
Miyata fumbled with numbed fingers at the flares tied to his belt, wondering if movie screens were flammable and if setting that thing on fire would make everything worse. Could it even get worse? Everything swam in front of Miyata's eyes, squinting in the light from the booth, and for some reason it clicked, finally.
"The booth, the booth," Miyata slurred, tongue heavy, pawing at Tamamori's shoulder for attention. "S'not down here, s'just a thing, the thing's up there, controlling, s'like a movie—"
"Shit," Tamamori hissed, comprehension dawning on his face, and that was the last of Miyata's strength. He sagged to his knees despite Tamamori's grip, skin prickling with cold sweat, half-numb from spirit shock.
Just before he lost consciousness, Miyata saw the door burst open and Kitayama tear inside like he was the king of hell on a tear, and the last thing Miyata felt was relief.
When he came to, Kitayama and Tamamori were both hovering over him, Tamamori's face white and Kitayama's expression thunderous. Miyata couldn't move and felt numb on his left side and cold all over, only able to take shallow breaths. Dimly he realized that Kitayama had wrapped his iron chain around his arm and up over his shoulder, keeping the spirit shock from spreading any further than it already had.
"Did you…" Miyata tried to ask, but his head was pounding and he could barely think of words, much less make a sentence. "Thing?"
"Caught it," Kitayama said tersely, glancing to the side. Miyata couldn't move his head, which seemed to be in Tamamori's lap, but cutting his eyes to the side he could see the blue-tinted jar with it's lid firmly snapped on by the metal clamps. It was vibrating hard enough to almost rattle, the thing inside a swirling, angry mass. Even looking at made Miyata's headache worse, and he had to look away. "Don't move, don't talk. Are you actually the worst fucking shield ever trained?"
Miyata just blinked, because Kitayama had told him not to talk. His voice was tight with anger and worry, and Miyata was sorry he was the cause of that, but not that sorry since Tamamori seemed in basically okay shape.
"You've got one job, ONE, you utter moron," Kitayama went on ranting. "And it's to keep THIS moron from doing shit EXACTLY LIKE THIS."
Miyata was fine being lectured, but Tamamori wasn't having it. "I was right, though. Gaya didn't believe me, but there was another ghost! I felt it, but you didn't believe me. You all think I'm some moron, but I knew."
"You would have been just as right in the morning, with a much better chance of Miyacchi not dying, which," Kitayama looked Tamamori in the eye, "is still a possibility. Happy now? Glad you're right?"
Miyata winced; Kitayama wasn't usually so harsh with Tamamori, not like Fujigaya and Yokoo were. Tamamori had dropped his eyes, jaw set in a hard line, and Miyata wanted intensely to hug him except he still couldn't move anything.
"My fault," Miyata said, voice basically a wheeze. "Could've stopped. Gone back to tell. M'his shield. Wouldn't leave."
"What did I just say about talking?" Kitayama demanded in exasperation. He seemed like there were more things he wanted to say to them, but Kitayama shook his head, jaw clenched tightly. Their wasn't much else to say since they were both right; two junior team members had no business going out without at least one more experienced member even if their training was all but complete, and no shield would ever leave their receptor, especially not a pair who'd been together as long as Miyata had been with Tamamori. Setting aside the fact that Tamamori was actually supposed to be a kinetic, but then again ever since Yokoo had woke up from his brush with death with half of Iida's reception…well, things were always a bit of a jumble with them.
They waited in silence for the thirty minutes it took the others to show up, Totsuka to judge whether Miyata could be moved at all and Tsukada to help with the heavy lifting, Miyata fading in and out of consciousness. It felt like the longest half hour of his life.
Next up is doctoggy!