Notes:

Randi Prize- James Randi, a noted illusionist, has offered a one million US dollar reward to anyone who can demonstrate under controlled laboratory conditions any extrasensory, psychic, or other kind of supernatural ability. In our world no attempt to collect the prize has passed the preliminary tests. This prize also exists in the ParaNormal universe, and likewise remains unclaimed.

Yobisute – A special type of address in which no honorific is used. This is typically used among lifelong friends, lovers, or a parent talking to a child. It is very intimate and an immediate sign of a long-lasting and close relationship.

Data 6: Takigi-Sensei

~Akasaka Ai~

"Aha," Takigi-sensei said, clearly amused. "So this is the one you found, Mamoto?"

I fidgeted a little in my seat, eyeing the 1-F classroom door. "My name is Akasaka Ai. I'm in your 11 o'clock class. Um... Takigi-sensei, I don't-"

Takigi-sensei smiled warmly and insisted, "Please, call me Kanako. If you're a psychic, we'll need to be much closer with one another." Kanako-sensei had a thin face and almond-shaped glasses which did not entirely hide the lines of worry around her eyes. She was unusually pale, and combined with the too-large grey trenchcoat she wore this gave her the look of a television detective from a black-and-white movie. Her black hair was tied close to her head, adding to her androgynous charm.

"Kanako-sensei, I don't understand this thing about psychic powers, really. I mean, Mamoto-sempai explained a bit to me but I think he skipped a few things. Like, he said they're an 'evolution' or something, but..."

She nodded. "It's technically correct, though evolution doesn't work the way that phrasing suggests. It's more like... psychic abilities were always present in humanity in some way or another. Useful abilities eventually spread throughout the entire population of homo sapiens and we now think of them as common; empathy, instinct, ambition, and the like. In recent times they've become a bit more dramatic and varied. I suspect some environmental factor, but research is difficult. To make it simpler, psychic abilities provided a distinct advantage in the ancient past so psychic-powered individuals bred everyone without them out of existence. Now that potential is being refined into something else, giving some people what we now call 'psychic abilities'. Your 'aura-sight', as you call it, is one such example. We're still not sure if it's actually related to genetics, but that hypothesis has worked so far."

She knew the concepts better than she was expressing them; new psychics must not fall into her lap often. Should I be proud of that? I got the feeling I was special for having this power, but it's hard to be proud of something you've always been able to do without any real effort. It's like someone praising you for being able to add in your head: yeah, I can do that, so? "Okay, psychic abilities are special things that not everybody can do, and the powers people have can be different. That much is easy to follow. That leads to my next question: how did that guy disappear when Mamoto-sempai touched him? If I'm following things right, he couldn't have used an ability to escape because Mamoto-sempai's would have canceled it out."

"Correct," Kanako-sensei said. "The most obvious explanation is that he was created by a psychic ability, and when Mamoto-kun touched him the ability- that is, the boy himself- was negated."

Now that was worthy of surprise! "Creating whole new people... Psychic abilities can even do things like that?"

"Apparently."

That pindrop you heard was my opinion of her hitting the floor. So much for authority. "What, you don't know? I thought you were supposed to be the expert on this stuff?"

"He and I are the closest things to experts there are," she responded, pointing at Mamoto-sempai with the 'he'. She pointedly ignored the disdain in my voice. "Psychic abilities have not been exhaustively or comprehensively studied in anything approaching laboratory conditions, and in fact do not officially exist. It may only be a matter of time until a psychic with more ambition than sense tries to claim the Randi prize, but until that day comes all study of psychics is underground. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, knows what psychic abilities are or are not capable of... though one quickly learns not to doubt anything."

I heard somewhere, something about a guy with one eye surrounded by blind men, but I couldn't remember the phrasing. Sempai looked to Kanako-sensei and explained, "I brought her here because I wasn't sure what else to do."

She pinched her chin, eyes trained to the side. "It's likely that I can't teach her how to use her ability better than she already does. However... an alternate perspective may give her a better idea of what she is actually capable of."

I was grateful she was trying to say it without insulting me, but it was making her intent too vague. "Kanako-sensei, do you mean I might be misunderstanding what my ability does?"

She blinked; she had not expected me to grasp her meaning so easily. "That is it, exactly. One psychic heard 'whispers', words no one said. It took some time for her to realize what she had was the gift of telepathy." Mamoto-sempai flinched and looked away. Kanako-sensei continued, oblivious, "Likewise your ability may be something more complicated and powerful than you know. I want to do a quick test, if you don't mind." She sat down in an office chair and pointed at herself. "Read my aura. Right now. As deep as you can. I want to see what you are capable of."

Wow, she really didn't waste any time. I figured I would have to say something deep in order to impress her, so I skipped right past what her current emotions were and down to something more central. "Though you haven't been doing research into psychics very long on your own, you and Mamoto-sempai have known each other for a lot longer."

She smirked, "Surely you can do better than that."

"You feel it's your mission to help psychics come into their own, but you have doubts. You know you have big shoes to fill, and you don't have the talents your predecessor had. You're afraid you'll never be able to match up to him, and that you won't accomplish anything on your current path."

That sure wiped the grin off her face. Kanako-sensei took a deep breath, nodding slowly. "Continue."

"You still speak with the friends you made in high-school, but you have had difficulties and arguments with them recently. You took up smoking two years ago. You assumed I would be able to tell you everything I'm telling you now."

"Go on."

"You have a psychic ability yourself, but you don't use it. In fact, you're terrified of it. The effects are too random to use safely now, and if you ever gained full control you would hate the person you would become. Your power is something like, 'altering fate'. I also know it has something to do with the locked box you keep on top of a bookshelf at your apartment."

Mamoto-sempai shot a wide-eyed look at Kanako-sensei, who only held one hand up to stop whatever he was going to say. Kanako-san was still staring at me, her face betraying nothing. Her aura suggested none of this was terribly out of the ordinary for her, but she also had no new insights. She was taking in my words like a tape recorder, simply accepting, withholding judgement. "Is that all? Can you see any deeper?"

I swallowed. "I can, but I don't like to."

"Please do so, if it isn't dangerous for you. I realize you may not like looking so deeply into a person, but consider this an invitation to invade my privacy."

There was no danger I knew of, except maybe what she thought of me. I exhaled, letting my eye slip into focus. For a moment I had a sense of tunnel-vision; all I could see was the swirl of colors which represented Takigi... no, Miyousen Kanako. All the little joys and terrors which gave her a unique perspective on life, every joyful and traumatic event which shaped her life. If I could describe it, it was like looking at an intensely detailed painting in which every mote and scar on her psyche was laid bare. Kanako-san flinched and reared her head back. Her chair scooted back and crashed against the blackboard. One of her hands covered her eyes and the other held her trenchcoat closed. Mamoto-sempai stood, but Kanako-san held out a hand to stop him. "I'm alright," she insisted, still hiding her face. Her cheeks showed a bit of a blush. "I'm okay. But... Ai-san, whatever you did seemed to trigger some instinctual defense. When you looked at me like that it felt like I was naked. I don't think I can look you in the eye right now. Please don't be offended."

"It's okay," I insisted. "People can always tell when I do that. I got... a really good look. I know some things maybe even you don't know about yourself. That's why I don't like explaining exactly what I see. So... can I tell you what I think you need to hear instead?"

Kanako-san took a breath to steel her nerves, allowing her hand to lower. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them she was looking in my direction if not precisely at me. Her cheeks still betrayed a bit of color, and her eyes wavered. "Alright. Give me your best shot."

I licked my lips. "You have done as well as you are able, more than could have been expected of anyone. You know they would all have no regrets, and they would be proud of you. All three of them." I paused and tried to put as much sincerity into my voice as I could muster: "You are a good daughter."

Her lips quivered and for a moment she seemed to be looking very far away. She sniffled and her eyes came back into focus. Mamoto-sempai frowned, though I couldn't tell whether he was concerned for Kanako or disappointed in me. I had forgotten how difficult reading people can be when you can't see their aura.

"Well, there's definitely nothing I can teach you," Kanako-san finally admitted, wiping her eyes. "You clearly know more about your ability than I do. But how were you able to tell I had a psychic ability? Just this morning you didn't know what psychic abilities were."

"I didn't know what I was looking for before," I explained. "Or maybe it's just that I've never looked at the aura of someone with a psychic ability before. You said they're pretty rare, right?"

Mamoto-sempai scratched the back of his head. "That makes sense. Most of the time they only start showing up late in adolescence, or even after in the case of girls. There's a good chance she has never seen a psychic before."

I concluded, "Not only that, but that was pretty deep in. It's definitely not something I'd see at a glance, I'd have to concentrate a little bit even though I know what to look for now. Still... I can. Does that help at all?"

Kanako-san stood up and began pacing as she lectured, "" She stopped and asked pointedly, "You frequently become bored in class, don't you?"

Oops. Had I been caught dozing off? "I... sorta space out in actual class. Usually I'm thinking of something else. But I understand the material perfectly, and I've had top marks in class for a while." I left off that I intentionally get a few answers wrong so nobody gets the idea about me being a studious brainiac or something. Who needed the pressure of being top of the class?

"Ever since you started seeing the auras, yes?" I couldn't remember clearly, but maybe she was right. My grades had a serious uptick right around that same time. "Your ability goes far beyond seeing auras... I believe you describe them as 'auras' only because you don't have the capacity to explain them in any other way. The way you can read them instinctually is further evidence. Your ability isn't seeing auras, but something much more fundamental. Let me explain it this way... some people can pick up new ideas and concepts very easily. Their brains can digest and incorporate new information quickly. Ai-san, your ability is something like that. I believe your power is 'to understand'; you can quickly grasp the meaning of even arcane concepts and non-intuitive disciplines. When it comes to people, you see this as an 'aura' which tells you about them... their virtues and flaws, their secrets and fears, and every aspect of themselves. That's how you've done so well in class with no apparent effort, why you are so accepting of 'psychic abilities', and how you've developed such an insight into human behavior that other girls look to you for advice. That being the case... I need to ask for your help."

Uh oh, that didn't sound good. I winced, "Look, I'm a busy girl. This isn't going to be too much trouble, is it?"

"I won't ask you to do anything difficult. I just need you to tell me what you know, and keep an eye out. I don't like what you and Mamoto have told me about what attacked you... if he had not been there, things could have been very bad. There is a high probability a psychic was the cause... they may have evil motives, or their powers could have run amok. I'm not sure which would be worse, but we need to track down the psychic responsible before it becomes a major incident. I will not impose on you, but if you see anything similar to that boy I need you to report it to me immediately. You may not know this because you were in grade school at the time, but in 2001 there was another rogue psychic on the streets of Tokyo. He was responsible for several deaths of young women... to this day, only a small group of psychics know the truth about those incidents."

Wow... only five years ago, huh? But did something like that really happpen? I guess I didn't pay enough attention at the time. That incident, though, was probably what got Kanako-san involved with psychics. I wondered if there were any other psychics in school we didn't know about. "That sounds fine... I don't like getting too deeply involved in things, but I can't really let creeps like that have free reign." I told them everything about the fake Katamino-kun; his strange mannerisms, the empty aura, and the real Katamino-kun was in class today and didn't seem to recognize me at all. However well I could 'understand' things, I wasn't the detective-type so I wasn't sure what was relevant. Hopefully they could put the pieces together. "I'll give you two my cell phone number, so if there's anything more about this psychic you can let me know right away."

"Good idea," Mamoto-sempai said, pulling out his own cell phone. We swapped numbers and he closed his phone with a flick of the wrist. "If you see another guy like that, with an empty aura, don't hesitate to give me a call. And Takigi-sensei, let's not tell the others about this just yet. Most of them don't live in Tokyo anymore, and I'd like to get a better idea of what we're up against before we call them all in."

A sour look crossed her face with those words. I remembered she addressed him with yobisute earlier, but it seemed like the close sentiment was not returned. Or was he intentionally putting distance between them? "Alright, Mamoto. I won't tell them to get down here, but I will put them on notice. It's only fair to give them warning they might be needed."

Mamoto-sempai shrugged his shoulders. "Guess that's the best I can ask for. Anyway, it's getting late and there's a few things I want to check out before I go home. Don't forget I've got practice tommorow, so if we're going to meet after school it will have to be fast. Good meeting you, Akasaka-san. Hope we didn't scare you too much." He smiled as he tossed his sports jersey over his shoulder and walked out.

I was about to follow him when Kanako-san stopped me. "Ai-san, before you go, I'd like to ask you something." She went right into that request before waiting for me to accept or reject: "That isn't the only thing you wanted to say to me, is it?"

I shook my head. "No. But I thought if I said the other thing you'd get mad."

"Try me."

I licked my lips before telling her, "I know it's hard, but you need to let it go. The grief and anger is killing you. She's gone. You're not going to get revenge. You're never going to get better closure than you already have."

She slowly nodded without changing her expression. Her aura took on darker and redder hues. She said stiffly, "You're right. I would have gotten mad." She directed me toward the door by motioning with her head without taking her eyes off me. "Go home."

I didn't need to be told twice.

Author's Note: Kanako, of course, is another minor character from ParaNormal. Lots of stuff happened to her, some of which is relevant to Second Story and will be explained in the main story when it becomes relevant. Her psychic ability is not one of them. For those who have not read that story or just forgot, Kanako's psychic ability revolves around her tarot cards. Rather than predicting the future, her cards 'create fate' by forcing her predictions to come true. Even putting aside the morality issues of overwriting free will, its essentially random nature makes her power too unwieldy to use safely.