The living quarters provided to me are rather generous. A very spacious room, modestly decorated in contrast to the design of the public areas of the manor. I suppose I arrived before the servants could bring my bags. The light show I performed downstairs likely slowed them down, and based on the words of Doctor Maladar, they might not have thought I would be staying long.
I set my bag on the table and lay my cane across it. I take off my coat and hang it on a chair. While I didn’t use much energy destroying the spirits downstairs, it’s best I’m completely prepared for whatever comes my way. A quick meditation and I should be ready to continue. I sit cross-legged on the ground, focusing one restoring my energy. As I do, I try to piece together the situation here.
It’s odd. I’m not aware of a haunting that involved the summoning of demonic spirits. The destruction of the foundation by carving words into the ground is also unlike a ghost. It would be more in line with a full demon, and based on the depth and groove, a high caliber one at that. However the telegraph didn’t mention anyone being injured. Had a demon been summoned, there would have been a massacre.
The report did mention a spectral figure, which lines right up with a ghost. Perhaps this one is different. Stronger. Perhaps this is something new entirely.
“There we go!” I hop up to my feet and stretch. I should be back to full strength.
I turn and notice figures by my door.
“Oh! We’re so sorry, Master Branner! We should have knocked!” Two young maids stood just outside my room, bowing as they apologized. They’re nearly tripping over each other.
“We didn’t realize you were in here already.”
“No worries, young ladies. It is all right. You may come in.”
“Thank you, Master Branner.” After the event downstairs, I’m sure they’re just curious about my abilities.
“Now, what can I do for you?” I ask politely.
“Well, since you’re here sir, we were wondering-“
“About my abilities? Why it’s very simple.” I lean against a nearby table as I speak.
“Through academic research and anthropological journeys, I ascertain the methods people have used over the years to defend themselves against supernatural creatures. In many cases, I find relics used for such purpose.”
I pull the talisman from my bag on the table next to me, holding it up for the young ladies to see.
“Specifically, the talisman I used downstairs was created by the shenwu, Chinese wizards, and used to ward off demons. By focusing spirit energy through it, they found the stone produced a ray of light that heavily damaged demonic creatures. I personally studied it and found the beam could be adjusted for various offenses or even defensive action.”
The young ladies are silent after my explanation. My prowess surely stunned them into silence.
“Um, sir? We were just wondering where you wanted your luggage?”
She motions for two burly servants to bring in my bags.
I straighten up and clear my throat.
“Right. Uh, just put them anywhere. Possibly by the bed. I-uh, I must be going.”
I grab my coat and cane, putting the talisman in my pocket and quickly leave the room.
The second story hall twisted turned like a labyrinth. So many rooms in this manor, how would one keep it straight in their head? I try to remember the directions the doctor gave me to his personal study, but near get lost.
Once I’m close to where I would think he tried to guide me, I just start opening doors and peering inside. I couldn’t imagine what a man could even use all these rooms for.
“Mister Branner. Please do come in.” The doctor beckons from behind his desk. I suppose this is the right room.
“Oh of course. Took me a little to find you. And please, just call me Branner.”
He is in the middle of writing some missive or perhaps his own notes? I wouldn’t take him for the journaling type, but to be fair he is difficult to predict. Another servant, a rather stocky looking fellow, stands at the ready by his desk, patient for any commands.
“Take a seat.” I’m sure he didn’t mean it as an order, but his presence doesn’t leave much room for argument. I sit.
“Would you like some tea?” he offers.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” I reply.
The doctor waves at his servant who quickly exits the room, presumably to fetch the tea.
I may have presented myself as an expert in supernatural phenomena, which I most assuredly am, but this is the first time I’ve taken a case with so much time to prepare. My normal affairs are much more sudden. In the moment, it is easy to take charge and have people explain what is going on, but here? It requires discussion. It requires tact. And I’ve never been quite good at either.
Across from me, the doctor has stopped writing and stares with his piercing gaze. It feels as if he sees right through me, deep into my person. Could he?
“Mister Branner, how many incidents involving ghosts have you… settled?”
Oh lord. I don’t think I’ve ever had to count before.
“Several, at least. Though very rarely are two the same.”
His stare seems to intensify, though his face doesn’t change.
He takes the papers he was working on and stacks them up, placing them in a drawer.
“What do you make of the ghost that is here?”
That is a tricky question to answer, if I can.
“I’m unsure. I need more information before I can draw any conclusions.”
I completely expect to feel that cool anger from him I’ve come to expect, but instead, there is a knock at the door. The servant has returned.
Never in my life have I been so excited for tea.