Chapter Twenty-Two

WARNING!!! Strong language used here. Read at your own risk. 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two
Every one of Them in the area homed in on Shizuka’s exclamation.

“Hurry up!” Takashi urged as she fumbled for the right key.

“We aren’t going to make it,” Saeko said calmly, walking out into the oncoming group.

Whack. Whack. Whack-whack.

“Damn,” Khota whispered. Saeko had just taken out four of Them without a pause. He never tired of seeing her move.

“That’s my girl,” he said to no one in particular.

Takashi and Saya had moved out alongside Saeko and added their own strikes to the steady stream of walkers. Behind them Shizuka finally managed to get the door open.

“Got it!” she called.

“Miss Shizuka, please shut up, and then go inside,” Khota told her calmly. He looked at Hisashi and Rei.

“You two going to help them, or what?” he asked. Hisashi went straight into it, with Rei following grudgingly only after shooting Khota a withering look. He flipped her a bird as her back was turned, then moved.

There were three of these walking. . .things, behind them, and he quickly dispatched them with his pistol. Behind him, Saeko and the others were taking down all comers, but they kept coming. Sooner or later someone would make a slip and that would be it.

“There it is,” he found what he was looking for. He turned to call to the others, hoping that Saya was right. Hell, she was a genius, right?

“Get ready to disengage!” he called, and then pulled the fire alarm.

Lights began to flash and alarms sound all over the facility. Almost instantly the. . .the, Them, who were stalking the group of friends, (and two enemies; frenemies?), stopped in confusion as the noise seemed to be coming from everywhere. Saeko suddenly froze, holding her arms up to stop the others.

When one of Them came within two feet of her, Khota raised his pistol, but she shook her head and he waited. He promised himself if it looked like she was going to be-

The thing moved on, trying to find the source of noise. Saeko motioned to the others for quiet, and then shooed them in the direction of the teacher’s lounge. Three minutes later all of them were inside, the door blocked to prevent any of Them from accidentally opening it.

“What the hell is going on?” Morita wanted to know. “Anyone?”

“Try the television,” Saya said. When no one moved she stomped to the desk before the television and found the remote. Turning the wall mounted screen on, they were met with a scary scene.

It wasn’t just Fujimi. It was everywhere.

They, were everywhere.

Everyone watched in silent horror as police tried to use their pistols to take Them down, only to join their ranks an little later, bitten themselves when their tactics failed them.

“Head shots, man,” Khota shook his head, speaking softly. “Head shots.”

“Shh,” Saeko leaned her head on his shoulder, grateful for his presence.

“We need to find our families,” Takashi said finally. “But we have to get out of here first. And that’s going to take some doing. Hisashi, where is the bus at right now? Do you know?”

“Look outside,” he pointed. “Should be right outside the auditorium.” Takashi looked and could see the cruiser sitting there. He could also see a yard full of Them.

“Well, of course,” he sighed. “Okay, having the key will help. How’s that coming sensei?”

“Eh?” Shizuka perked up. “Oh, I found the spare set,” he held the keys up. “We can go.”

“They are everywhere out there,” Takashi said. “We’ll have to have a plan, and we will have to stick to it, if we’re going to get the hell out of here. And I really want out of here,” he added.

“Me too,” Khota nodded.

“Okay. Now is probably the best time to run since the alarms will confuse them. First though, let’s take a minute and look through here for anything we can find that might help us out, whether it’s now or later.”

Khota found another mop and removed the handle. He started to offer it to Morita, but he was already loaded with medical supplies, so kept it himself. Saeko saw him and smiled.

“Very domestic, my love,” she told him quietly.

“I could always do housework in my underwear, I guess,” he winked and she laughed a little.

“Seriously?” Rei snapped at them. “You’re laughing? Right now?”

“Rather than cry, or curse, or perhaps lash out at someone?” Saeko replied calmly. “Yes, I’m laughing. My boyfriend said something funny, and I laughed. Don’t let it concern you, Miyamoto-san.”

“You could be helping!” Rei snapped.

“I am,” Khota held up the mop handle. “See?”

“Rei, what the hell?” Hisashi said quietly. “Stop that. We’ve all got to work together here.”

“He almost seems like a good guy,” Khota whispered in Saeko’s ear, his breath sending shivers down her spine.

“I’ve always said his earlier actions were unlike him,” Saeko nodded. “He is normally an honorable man. Why he chose to behave as he did, I cannot say.”

“All right,” Takashi said a minute later. “That’s it. Everyone take at least one bottle of water if you have pockets. Guys, take one for you and your lady.”

“Put us two apiece in my pack,” Khota told Saeko, who nodded and moved to collect the ordered water. Takashi moved to Khota’s side.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I think the world has gone to hell in a hand bag,” Khota replied honestly. “It’s crazy. I don’t know of anything like this, man. There’s no gas or chemical that I’ve heard of that causes this.”

“So what is it?” Takashi wondered.

“Hell if I know,” Khota admitted, slipping his pack off so Saeko could add the water to it.

“I also got one extra each for Takashi and Saya,” she told him quietly.

“Good idea,” he nodded, slipping the pack back on. He couldn’t tell the weight was there. Good.

“Everyone ready?” Takashi asked, scanning the room. Morita had found a machete and had it stuck in his belt. Khota had another broom handle, sans any kind of point. They all had some water.

And they had the keys to the bus.

“Bus is locked, Takashi,” Hisashi warned. “We need someone to get there first and open it. That way we aren’t all standing around it.”

“Good idea,” Takashi mused. “Volunteers, anyone?” he looked around.

“It was my idea,” Hisashi shrugged. “I’ll do it.”

“What?” Rei’s head snapped around. “No you won’t!”

“Someone has to,” Hisashi shrugged. “Might as well be me. Sensei?” he asked, holding out his hand. She dropped the keys in his hand, smiling.

“You’re a good boy, Hisashi Igou,” she said softly. Suddenly he smiled. Smiled like he hadn’t since. . .since he’d started dating Rei Miyamoto.

“Thank you, sensei,” he bowed. “I sincerely appreciate that.” He looked at Takashi.

“Count to thirty and follow me?”

“Works,” Takashi nodded. “Good luck man.”

“Thanks,” Hisashi nodded, and moved to the door.

“I’ll go with you,” Rei said, moving to the door with him.

“No,” he shook his head. “I’m better off on my own. Come with the others.” He opened the door, peeked down the hall, and was out and gone in a flash. Khota eased the door shut and stood by it.

“If anything happens to him,” Rei turned to Takashi.

“You’ll do what?” Saya asked, moving to block her, bokken along her leg. “Can you at least give Hisashi credit for stepping up? All you do is bitch and whine, Miyamoto. Grow the fuck up. Look around us!”

“Easy, Honey Badger,” Takashi murmured gently as he put a hand on Saya’s shoulder. She reached up to grab it, holding it tight.

“Whatever,” she growled.

“And that’s thirty,” Takashi sighed. “Saeko leads. I’ve got left, Saya right, Khota back up. Rei, take the rear, sensei, Morita and Hitomi in the center. Let’s move.”

Khota looked both ways and was out, waving the others past him. Saeko moved down the hall, bokken ready, with Takashi falling in on her right, Saya on her left. Next came Shizuka, Morita and Hitomi, and finally a sulking Rei. Khota thought about telling her to get a life, but thought better of it at the last second. Considering the circumstances and all, it was probably moot, anyway.

He moved quickly back to his own spot, behind Saeko. She glanced over her shoulder to see him there and immediately felt better.

“Wait,” Saya called gently. “Look,” she pointed. Five students, trapped on an outdoor stairwell. Walkers above and below, but couldn’t find them.

“We’ll help them,” Saeko said, pointing to herself and Khota. “You all get to the bus.”

“Be careful,” Saya replied softly as she moved up to take point beside Takashi.

Saeko moved away, walking with determination as Khota followed, almost stalking now. Takashi felt a chill as he watched those two, realizing that putting them together might not have been the best plan.

Well, except for today. Today it was a hell of a plan.

He motioned the others on.

HSOTD

Hisashi had gotten to the bus and got the key into the lock when he felt a stinging on his lower leg. Looking down, he saw what he’d feared he would. One of Them, teeth sunk into his flesh. He used his spear to kill the thing, almost tossing it away afterward but holding on to it for someone else to use.

He wouldn’t need it.

HSOTD

Khota used the broom handle to simply push the walkers out of the way as Saeko moved through them without pause. Quiet as death, the two of them made their way up the stairs to find three terrified first year girls and two boys. She made a shushing gesture as soon as they saw her.

“Quietly,” she warned. “They move to noise. We’re leaving. Do you want to come with us?”

“Hell yes!” one of the girls hissed softly. “I’m scared to death.”

“Be very quiet and follow us,” Saeko said. “And I mean very, quiet.” All five nodded and she turned to see Khota watching behind them.

“Can we go?” she asked over his shoulder.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he nodded. Starting down the steps, he used the handle to shove walkers in every direction. Falling walkers made noise, which made the other walkers go after them. Even though they could figure their own from humans it seemed, they still ran to it to start with. He used that.

Once clear of ths stairs, their group picked up speed, but did it softly. Saeko glanced ahead to see Takashi and the others at the bus. Good.

HSOTD

Hisashi was already feeling sick as he waved people onto the bus, laying his homemade spear under the nearest seat to the front.

“C’mon, hurry,” he urged. He could see Khota and Saeko coming with others and gestured for them to come on.

“Get on board, Hisashi,” Takashi said. “Let’s be ready when they get here.”

“I’m not making this trip, Takashi,” the gray haired teen said sadly. “I was a little careless, I’m afraid,” he pointed to his bloody trouser leg.

“What?” Takashi was stunned. “No, man,” he groaned. It sort of made Hisashi feel good to hear Takashi lament for him, just a little.

“I’m really sorry, Takashi,” he said suddenly, knowing he wouldn’t get another chance. “About everything. If I could undo it, I would. I swear I would. I wronged you more than once and I’m sorry. See if you can get Rei to her parents, please. I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you can, I’d appreciate it.”

“I’ll try,” Takashi nodded. “Does she know?” he asked, glancing to where Rei was sitting impatiently in one of the seats near the front.

“Nah,” Hisashi shook his head. “I guess I better say good bye now,” he chuckled, and coughed up blood. “Don’t leave me to be one of Them, Takashi,” he begged. “I deserve it, but please don’t.”

“I won’t,” Takashi promised. “Rei!”

“What?” Rei snapped. “Hisashi, why are you still down ther-, are you hurt?” she cut herself off. “Hisashi are you all right?”

“No, I’m not,” he shook his head as he coughed. “I’m bitten, Rei. This is as far as I go.”

“No!” Rei jumped up, running toward him, but Takashi caught her, holding her back.

“Don’t come near me, Rei,” Hisahsi told her. “I’m already sick, and we don’t know how long this takes. I might bite you any minute, so stay-”

“And here we are,” Khota announced as he and Saeko reached the bus with their group.

“Hisashi, get on this bus right now!” Rei demanded as he backed away, just in case.

“What’s. . .oh. Oh shit!” Khota saw Hisashi’s pant leg. “Aw man.”

“Yeah, tha-, that’s what I said,” Hisashi tried to laugh. “I asked Takashi not to leave me like this, Hirano, but. . .it’s a lot to ask, you know? Th-thin-think you can h-h-help me out, here?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” Khota nodded.

“Then do it,” Hisashi said, closing his eyes. “Before I change. I don’t wanna be one of The-”

He stopped abruptly as Khota put a bullet in Hisashi’s brain, killing him and ending any chance that he would turn into one of Them.

NO!”

Rei struggled mightily trying to get to Hisashi, with Takashi holding her tightly to prevent it. The shot had attracted more of Them and they were headed toward the bus.

“Rei, he’s gone, dammit,” he said through gritted teeth. “Rei! I’m sorry, Rei, but. . .he’s gone!”

“Damn you! Let me go!” she screamed, still fighting. He forced her into a seat and belted her in, pointing to Morita and Hitomi to take places on either side of her.

“Keep her there,” he ordered. They nodded and sat down to try and do just that.

“Let me go!” Rei shouted again, but between them the two students managed, barely, to hold her.

“Sensei?” Takashi called, looking to where Shizuka was behind the wheel.

“I’m working on it,” she called, hands shaking. “Okay, I got-”

“Hey, there’s some others!” one of the students Khota and Saeko had picked up called out, pointing. Takashi looked to see three students he knew and two he didn’t running for the bus, pursued by a gaggle of Them.

And one teacher. His eyes narrowed as he recognized Shido. He looked at Khota and realized he had seen the same thing.

“I don’t think we need him,” Takashi said, far more calmly than he was feeling.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Khota really was calm it seemed. “I’ll do it,” he told Takashi.

“Thanks, man,” Takashi nodded.

“Yup.” Khota stepped off the bus, waiting.

He saw Shido kick a fallen student in the face, leaving him behind, and felt his blood boil. He didn’t let it show, however, instead waving the running students onto the bus. He saw one guy named Tsunoda, a bully from years past, and marked him as one to watch but didn’t stop him from getting on. Then, it was just Shido.

“That’s far enough, Shido!” Takashi called from the door, and Shido actually stopped.

“Komuro? What do you mean?” he demanded. “Step aside!”

“Nope,” Takashi shook his head. “We’re full up, sensei. You’ll have to catch the next bus.”

“The nex- there won’t be a next bus, now move aside!” Shido screeched, which just made his position worse. “I’m a teacher!”

“You’re a rat bastard,” Takashi snarled. “If you think I’m letting you on the same bus as Rei Miyamoto, let alone my girlfriend, you’re as crazy as you are crooked. But, I do want you to have a parting gift, you low-life son of a bitch. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘knee-capped’?” He turned to his stone faced friend.

“If you please.”

Without a word or any sign of emotion Khota raised his arm and shot Shido through both knees. The teacher screamed as he fell to the ground, holding his ruined joints.

“You s-s-shot me!” he yelled, though everyone could plainly see that.

“You noticed, eh?” Khota stepped into the door. “You’re smarter than I thought. I saw what you did, you bastard,” he finally let his anger show. “You killed that kid,” he pointed back to the fallen student. “He trusted you to help him and you killed him.”

“So you killed me, is that it?” Shido cried out. “How does it feel to be a killer, Hirano?”

“It’s not a new experience,” Khota replied coldly. “You aren’t the first trash I’ve carried out. Probably won’t be the last. Now, if you start crawling, and stay really quiet, you might make it. Who knows. I’d hurry, though,” he added.

“You can’t leave me!” Shido shouted, ignoring the advise.

“Lay there and watch us.” Khota closed the door and nodded to Takashi.

“Sensei!” Takashi called. “Anytime now!”

“You shot the teacher!” Tsunoda yelled from the back of the bus. “You can’t do that!”

“I just did, as you yourself pointed out,” Khota told him calmly. “And I can shoot your ass too, if you don’t sit down and shut the fuck up. Wanna see?” he asked.

Tsunoda sat.

“Easy, my love,” Saeko laid a hand on his shoulder. He reached back with his free hand and squeezed.

“I’m good,” he promised her. “Are you all right?” he asked, even as Shido screamed once, then was cut off abruptly as They got him.

“I am scared, but unharmed,” she nodded. “I do not understand what’s happening,” she admitted.

“Me either,” Khota agreed. “I know it’s crazy. And that we’re still alive. You father still in England?” he asked.

“Yes,” she nodded. “He will be all right, I am sure,” she shrugged. “I worry about your parents.”

“My mom is in Paris for a show,” Khota sighed. “Great place, Paris, unless there’s trouble. I doubt she’ll make it. Dad’s in Geneva. Better place, but. . .he’s not very grounded. Neither of them are. I doubt they’ll see the threat until it’s too late.”

“I’m sorry, my love,” Saeko almost whispered.

“As long as I’ve got you, it’s okay,” he smiled gently. “You’re really all that matters in the world.”

She didn’t know what to say so settled for laying her head on his shoulder and letting his arm wrap around hers. The bus was moving now.

“The gate’s closed!” Shizuka yelled. “And there’s so many of Them!”

“Run ‘em down!” Saya ordered, standing beside her. “They aren’t people anymore.”

“Ram the gate, sensei,” Takashi ordered. “The school is overrun anyway. It won’t matter.”

“They’re not people any more,” Shizuka said to herself as she floored the bus. “They’re not people any more.” She repeated every time she hit one until they rammed the gate.

The bus careened dangerously but she managed to correct it and keep them on the road.

“Where to now, Takashi?” she asked, eyes glued to the road.

“We need to cross Onbetsu bridge to get to Saya’s house,” he said after thinking for a minute. “Do we really have a full tank of gas?” he asked.

“Yes,” she checked. “We’re full.”

“So we can take an alternate route if we have to,” Takashi murmured.

“I need to make a stop first,” Khota said from behind him. “Won’t take a minute. Well, two,” he amended. “Turn left at the light, Miss Shizuka,” he told the nurse.

“Seriously?” Takashi looked at his friend.

“How many times today are you going to ask me that?” Khota was exasperated. “I’ve got a storage locker near here I need to raid. Trust me, you want me to do this,” he added.

“All right,” Takashi nodded. “Follow his directions, Miss Shizuka,” he told her.

“Okay,” she nodded, subdued. She hadn’t really panicked until she’d gotten behind the wheel of the bus. Now, however, things were catching up to her. The only thing keeping her from full fledged panic was that so many of her students were depending on her.

She made the turn, then followed Khota’s directions to a self-storage place another block down. It was strangely deserted, Takashi thought.

“Stop here,” Khota ordered. “Keep us here,” he told Saeko, who merely nodded, looking back at where Tsunoda was glowering. “With me?” Khota looked at Takashi.

“Sure, it’s just the end of the world,” Takashi sighed, then grinned. “Why not?”

Saya pulled Takashi into a brief kiss then pushed him on his way. Khota pulled a street map from his vest and pushed it into her hands.

“Might help, but don’t lose it,” he told her. She nodded, unfolding it even as the two left.

“This way,” Khota ordered, leading Takashi away at a run.

“Why are we stopping here?” Tsunoda demanded once they were gone.

“We need to get some chips and soda for the picnic,” Saya told him, never looking up. “Now shut up!”

“Don’t you talk to me like that you little-” he was coming up the aisle toward her but stopped as he came nose to point with Saeko’s bokken.

“Sit. Down.” the raven haired sword mistress said softly. “Or get off. I don’t care which. Actually, I’d prefer you get off, but will allow you to sit back down. Your choice.”

He wanted to argue, but everyone knew who she was, and while he might pretend to be tough, Tsunoda really was just a bully. And he knew she would kick his ass and then throw him off the bus. Coward that he was, he returned to his seat, seething.

“Jackass,” Saya muttered, examining the map. “Anyone listening to the news on their phone?” she asked.

“I am,” one girl said, holding up an iPhone. “Why?”

“Are they giving any useful information?” Saya asked.

“Just to stay inside and avoid sick people,” the girl admitted. “Which is so very helpful,” she added drily.

“Yeah,” Saya almost laughed. “Have they said anything about traffic?”

“The bridges are starting to close because of traffic,” the girl nodded. “And the by-way has a number of accidents reported that are slowing traffic, but it’s supposed to still be open for now.”

“Thanks,” Saya nodded. “We may have to find alternate transportation across the river,” she told Saeko softly. “If all the bridges are blocked, we’ll need a boat.”

HSOTD

“What are we here for again?” Takashi asked.

“This,” Khota replied, stopping at a door. He worked the combination lock in seconds and then slid the door open.

“Holy Shit!” Takashi exclaimed.

“Watch the hall,” Khota ordered, moving into the closet sized storage. He worked quickly and efficiently, stuffing two backpacks with things he thought they might need or he might want later. He added some more ammunition for his pistol and then picked up a rifle case, opened it and tossed something Takashi couldn’t make out inside, then closed it again. Taking one last look around, he nodded and stepped back out, closing and locking the door behind him.

“Where did you get all this stuff?” Takashi asked him.

“Most of it came from America,” Khota told him. “I’ll explain later, though. Let’s get the hell out of here. The longer we take getting across the river, the harder it will be.”

“Right.”

HSOTD

“How long are we going to wait?” one student asked.

“Until they return,” Saeko said simply.

“And if they don’t?” another asked, not quite challenging.

“They will,” she said firmly.

“How can you be so sure?” the first one almost demanded.

“Because I kno-”

“Look!” someone called, and everyone turned to see Khota and Takashi running for the bus.

“-know them,” Saeko smiled. Secretly she was relieved, however. She glanced at Rei Miyamoto, who had fallen silent before they had crashed the gate and was not simply staring at the floor at. . .nothing, hugging herself. Saeko knew that if anything happened to Khota, she would be worse. While not friends with Miyamoto, she bore the girl no ill will, and felt sympathy for her loss.

Takashi and Khota stormed back onto the bus, the former waiting to close the door behind them.

“Back the way we came, Sensei,” Saya ordered at once. “Left at the light to put us back on track. We’re heading for Onbetsu to see if it’s still open.”

“Right!” Shizuka snapped out of her trance and put the bus in gear. Soon, they were moving again.