Fanfic masterlist here.
Bloom and Scatter
Chapter 7: Lost & Found
Characters, Pairings: Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin
Summary: Rin returns to Japan to look for his mother and sister. What he finds, instead, is Makoto.
Notes: Originally posted on AO3.
[ 1: Homecoming ]
[ 2: THe Fog ]
[ 3: Masks ]
[ 4: They Live ]
[ 5: The Truth ]
[ 6: Making Plans ]
[ 7: Lost & Found ]
[ 8: The Payoff ]
[ 9: Hopeless ]
[ 10: The Waiting Game ]
Rin woke up, breath caught in his throat. As the images from his dream slipped away – cold hands, white-pupiled eyes, half-rotted face – he relaxed against the worn futon and closed his eyes, taking in a few slow breaths and rolling onto his side. It had been a while since he last had that dream, the one with the funeral procession marching along the coast and his father’s corpse reanimating on the bier, and he wondered if it was because he had talked about his father to Makoto, or because he was so close to Iwatobi.
A quick glance at his watch revealed that it was still relatively early in the day. Rin stretched briefly, feeling his bones crack into place, and let out a sigh as he sat up. That had been a good post-run nap. Earlier in the morning, he and Makoto had done a good circuit through the university grounds for all the things they needed. In the back of his mind, he thought it was a shame that they’d have to leave such a well-fortified place behind. Tottori University had farmland and all sorts of equipment. A small town could thrive here if they utilised all their resources well. Then again, Nakagawa Akiko was right; a life left for dead was no life at all.
“Oh, you’re up. Want some food?”
Makoto appeared around the corner, a bowl in hand. Rin grunted, accepting the reheated leftover vegetable stew and wordlessly shovelling it into his mouth. Makoto was chattering on about their preparations and Rin merely made noncommittal noises here and there as he ate.
“I was wondering about our route. I mean, I know we’ve already planned it, but…”
Rin gestured vaguely at Makoto to go on.
“What are the odds we can double back to the hospital?”
Rin’s hand stilled halfway to his mouth. He placed the spoon down into the bowl and turned to look at Makoto indecipherably.
Makoto shifted uncomfortably, eyes darting away briefly before they met Rin’s once again.
“What… What are the odds we can double back to the hospital?”
“Makoto,” Rin began, a scowl twisting his lips, “Do you remember where we were before we came to Tottori U?”
“… the hospital. But—”
“And do you remember why we had to leave the hospital in the first place?” Rin didn’t even let Makoto attempt to answer, “Zombies. We left the hospital because there was an entire hoard of zombies on our heels! We even had to jump from the roof, do you remember that? And you’re saying you want to go back? What for? We’ve got all the supplies we need here in Tottori U, and then some! So unless you’ve got a really good excuse – and I mean ‘there’s a fully fuelled helicopter there that I know how to pilot!’ kind of really good – there is no way in hell we are turning around to explore a zombie-infested hospital.”
Makoto opened and closed his mouth, trying and failing to articulate his words as he gestured nervously with his hands. Rin just glared at him expectantly.
“—I think there’s someone there.”
“Someone I know. I think… I think he might be alive.”
“If he was while we were there, he sure ain’t alive now,” Rin narrowed his eyes, “And how do you know this?”
Makoto hesitated, “I… read it. In Nakagawa’s journal.” When Rin didn’t say anything, Makoto took this as the signal to continue, “She wrote about a student from Iwatobi who was doing supply runs for a commune holed up in the school. He’d collect food from the university and medicine from the hospital – the hospital had been occupied back then, just like here. In return, they’d get him to courier all sorts of things, from books to information.”
“So? The last entry in her journal was almost a month ago. What makes you think he’s even in the hospital anymore? Last I checked, there was nobody there.”
“Well, yes, but,” Makoto fumbled, “I mean, he might have left something behind. We were only in the wards, we didn’t really explore the rest of the hospital, did we?”
Rin’s expression was that of disbelief, “You want to go back in hopes of finding traces of your friend?”
Makoto shrugged at him helplessly.
“No way. Absolutely not.”
“I said, no!” Rin snapped, reeling himself in when he saw Makoto wince, “What are the odds we’re doubling back to the hospital? Well, what are the odds a journal entry dated to a month ago will be accurate when we get to an abandoned building swarming with zombies? What are the odds your friend hasn’t legged it when the zombies arrived? Look, I know you care about your friends, and if this journal entry were at most a week ago, I would have been a little more willing. Reluctant, but willing. Going back to the hospital is going to be a waste of time. We’re going to finish packing up, and then we’re heading out.”
Makoto didn’t say anything and eventually dropped his gaze to the floor. Rin felt a little bad.
“Look,” he began, more gently, “Look, it sounds like your friend’s sharp as a tack. A runner freely given supplies from the hospital and university in exchange for his transportation services? All the way out here in Tottori when he’s based back in Iwatobi? That’s some serious survival instinct right there. He sounds like a guy who’d be alive, even now. The hospital’s no place for anyone to be, not for him, least of all for us. If you really want to see him that badly, we should go to Iwatobi, right? That’s where he’ll be.”
After a few moments of silence, he finally heard Makoto sigh. “You’re… you’re right, Rin.”
“’Course I’m right. I’m not a fan of getting us dead,” Rin said kindly, clapping Makoto on the shoulder, “Come on, get packing.”
Rin should have seen it coming.
Makoto, that obedient after arguing with Rin for a week?
He should have seen it coming a mile away.
Rin’s handgun was tucked in the back of Makoto’s jeans and the nailbat was sticking out of his sack by the handle. Rin had found himself a harness and strapped his shotgun to the side of his backpack, machete swinging in its sheath as they made their way down the street, following the route they had predetermined with pit stops at ATMs and convenience stores, just in case. Money may not have much value in a desolate zombie wasteland, but they would certainly come in useful for what came after. Rin wondered if it was wisdom or folly to plan so far ahead, but he knew who he was – he needed a next step to plan for. At best, he managed to shove handfuls of larger yen denominations into the side pocket of his bag; money still lost out against water and food and ammunition.
There were forests and mountains between Tottori and Iwatobi. Considering that both cities were coastal, it seemed almost like a no-brainer to grab a boat from the port and cross over to the next district, but according to Makoto, the military still patrolled the waters, even beyond the DMZs. Rin couldn’t argue; his plane had come in from the south and had nearly been shot out of the sky. Even if they walked along the coast, once they reached Iwato Port, there was Mount Shichi. The mountain wasn’t especially big, but it was a steep coast with no beach. They’d still have to climb the mountain pass. There was the option of swimming, if it was just around the mountain, but there was the issue of gunpowder and their perishable supplies. Makoto said their gasmask filters wouldn’t last if submerged. They would have to tough up and leg it all the way, but on the bright side, once they crossed the mountain, not only would they be in Iwami district, they would be in Iwatobi city proper.
There was a sound of something loud and metallic falling heavily to the ground, followed by a throaty growl. Makoto and Rin immediately darted to the side and ducked behind a crumbling wall.
“What was that?” Makoto whispered shakily as Rin peeked around half-exposed bricks to case out the area. The fog wasn’t as thick here as it had been in Iwatobi, especially with all the mountains containing it on the other side, but enough had leaked through that it made things slightly out of focus.
“Is it feral? Zombie?”
“Make no mistake, it’s zombie,” Rin muttered, “A small hoard, in fact.”
If he could see Makoto’s face, he would put good money on it turning a whiter shade of pale.
“Thirty, maybe. If we could distract them somehow, we could make a break for it…”
“We could try to go around.”
“Might lose ground if we do that, though. Plus, who knows how many zombies there are further inland? At least here we know exactly how many we’re dealing with.”
Makoto conceded the point with a single nod. Rin could see his Adam’s apple bob nervously with a swallow.
“Okay,” Rin said, pulling his shotgun loose as silently as possible, “I’ll make a distraction.”
There was a howl, shrill and sharp, followed by a deep, guttural choking. Rin felt the hairs on his skin stand on their ends.
“What the hell was that?” He whispered, re-gripping the shotgun.
“Oh no,” Makoto’s breath caught fearfully, “It’s the screecher.”
“What the hell is the screecher?”
“Heightened senses. Incredible strength. Really, really loud. Lures zombies to its location.”
“Fuck, what the hell is going on here? You have special zombies?”
“Remember when I told you about the effects of the fog on zombies?”
“Yeah, they turn aggressive and rip themselves apart.”
“Well, this one didn’t.”
Before they could say anything more, there was the sound of tearing metal and a large shadow loomed over them. In a split second, they yelled at each other to run, and rolled away just as a ripped car door slammed down and lodged itself into the ground where both Rin and Makoto had just been sitting. A quick glance back revealed that the screecher and the rest of the hoard had already zeroed in on their location.
“Fuck!” Rin yelled, making a break for it, Makoto hot on his heels.
“I see Sendai River up ahead! We’ll run across the bridge and lose them!”
“Lose them?! Are you out of your—”
Rin stumbled as he felt something grab at his ankles. He swore, blindly kicking backwards and half-crawling, half-running until he was back on both feet. The zombies weren’t particularly fast, but they didn’t run out of stamina the way humans did. They were closing in on them. Rin looked around wildly, hoping there was something he could use to throw off the hoard, but all he could see was potential shrapnel. He cursed again, gunning down zombies as he lunged ahead. If only they had explosives…
“Rin!” Makoto was already far ahead, curse his long legs, and standing on top of a delivery van. He had his gun out but wasn’t shooting. “Hurry up!”
“Do I look like I’m taking a stroll to you?!” Rin lost his footing and fell with a yelp, quickly rolling sideways onto his back. He grabbed for his handgun instinctively but came up empty, letting loose a string of angry cursing as he quite literally kicked out the legs from under an approaching zombie. He fumbled for the shotgun a foot or so away, crawling backwards as best as he could when the deafening sound of gunfire came in a volley by his right ear. Makoto was aiming at a loose propane tank on the concrete bridge.
Without thinking twice, Rin managed to grab his shotgun and aimed carefully. He fired off the first shot and the burn and tingle of the recoil lingered heavily in his hands and ears. Damned thing wouldn’t blow. He reloaded, firing off a quick shot at a pair of zombies closing in on him, briefly appreciating the giant hole it ripped through their insides, and tried again.
The second attempt was a bust but Makoto somehow managed to blow off the top of the tank and it exploded in a blaze of glory, fire and smoke and flying metal everywhere, taking a leaking car with it and doubling the boom. His ears were ringing but he scrambled onto his feet when he realised the entire bridge was beginning to crumble, its structural integrity blown to hell. He saw Makoto jumping down the van from the corner of his eye and they made a leeway for the opposite bank.
The screecher let out an angry squeal as it propelled itself forwards, charging on all fours, sprinting across the bridge as it began to fall to pieces in its wake. Its limbs were thin and gangly and it moved like an animal, slobbering and spitting all over itself. Rin saw an upturned car up ahead and quickly formulated a plan.
“Makoto! Back up against the car and shoot!”
“Just do it!”
Makoto turned round and threw himself backwards, landing on his ass and leaning back against the hood of the car, both hands outstretched as the gun shook in his grip.
“I—” Makoto’s hand were shaking so hard, “I—”
“Shoot the fucking thing!”
BANG! Makoto let out a shot, but it missed the screecher and it continued to charge ahead. Rin finally caught up to Makoto and disappeared behind the car.
“Keep shooting, you idiot!” His shout was muffled.
BANG! Makoto shot again, but his aim was off, “Rin,” he called out, chest seizing with anticipation as the screecher got closer. BANG! It missed because he couldn’t keep his hands steady. Rin wasn’t responding. “Rin!” He took in a breath, tried to remember everything Rin ever told him about firing a gun, ignoring the slight tremble and doing his best to aim before he squeezed the trigger again.
He was out of bullets.
“Rin!” Makoto yelled, throwing his hands up and covering his head.
BANG! Reload. BANG! Reload. BANG! Reload.
Makoto hesitated briefly before he looked up. The screecher was right in front of him, body gaping with large holes. It let out an anguished gasp, long and jarring, before it lashed out and lunged against the car Makoto was leaning up against. The force of the impact sent it flying backwards, and it rolled right up into the bus that Rin had climbed up atop. Rin let out an aborted shout, thrown off completely against the other side of the mountain of rubble that had been supporting the bus. When he finally stopped rolling at the foot of the heap, he let out a groan. Aside from some minor cuts and bruises, he wasn’t dead.
“Rin!” The sound of running feet. He heard stones and pieces of concrete skittering as Makoto climbed up on top of the heap, “Rin, are you okay?”
“Ginchiyo, what the fuck is wrong with your aim?” Rin moaned, sitting up slowly and rubbing the back of his head where it had smacked against the asphalt, “Is it dead?”
“Yeah,” Makoto replied breathlessly, slumping, “Some death throe, huh?”
“Death throw, more like.”
Makoto chuckled at the joke and silence fell between them as they caught their breaths.
“Okay,” Rin heaved a sigh, painstakingly getting to his feet, “We’re across the river. Let’s keep moving.”
“Rin,” Makoto said, something different about his tone of voice, “I’m sorry.”
He sighed again, “Look, can’t be helped if you were scared out of your mind. Just try not to suck next time, okay?”
“No, I mean… I am sorry about that too, but…”
Rin looked up at Makoto, “’Too’?”
“I’m going back.”
Rin blinked up at him. He didn’t say anything momentarily. “What?”
“I’m… I’m heading back to the hospital.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t leave him.”
“Are you out of your goddamned mind?!” Rin yelled, “You don’t even know if he’s there!”
“But I can’t risk it!” Makoto took a step back, “I don’t want to risk not going back for him. I… I’ll meet you at the mountain pass, okay?”
“Are you fucking insane?” Rin started to scramble up the rubble heap, “We’re not separating! It’s a fucking death sentence!”
“Then you’re going to have to follow me.”
“I swear to god, I am going to beat the living shit out of you,” Rin fumed icily as he doubled his efforts, but Makoto didn’t respond, “Did you not just have to fight your way through a zombie hoard, or was that just your fucking imagination? Makoto! Answer me, you asshole!”
By the time Rin had clambered over the top, he could see Makoto a distance away, carefully leaping over the partially submerged wreckage of the bridge to head for the hospital.
“Oh my god,” Rin hissed, “I ought to leave his gangly sorry ass to the zombies.”
For all intents and purposes, Rin couldn’t actually leave Makoto behind. For one thing, the idiot still had his precious handgun. For another, he couldn’t exactly fault Makoto for being Makoto. If it weren’t for his ‘leave no man behind’ attitude, Rin would have dead long before they even holed up in Tottori. Rin could, however, continue to want to murder Makoto for being a goddamned moron with the survival instincts of a kakapo.
Although he did his best to keep his eye on the man, Makoto did eventually disappear from his line of sight because he was just faster. Their stunt on the bridge had removed most of the zombies in the area, but the screecher had lured some stragglers that Rin had to dispatch with his machete. He was bent on conserving ammo at this point; shotgun rounds were precious.
Rin cursed under his breath as he took refuge in a bicycle shed and thumbed through his map. He laid it flat on the ground and tried to orient himself, glancing around for possible landmarks. Half a building block had been reduced to rubble, and the other block was made up of shops.
“Fuck’s sake,” he dug into the bottom pocket of his backpack and pulled out his phone, switching it on and waiting for it to boot. Predictably, he had no bars out in a DMZ but at least his battery was still full. After switching on the GPS, even with the fog, his phone could pick up satellite signals. He squinted skywards, only barely able to make out the blue of a cloudless day through the smog. It took about a minute before his phone vibrated in his hand and his location had been triangulated. He placed it alongside his map, running his finger along the grid lines of the crinkled paper until he could finally make out exactly where he was. Rin hesitated to turn his phone off; although most of the buildings were still standing, he wasn’t sure how accurate the map would be after all this time. But then again, what was he going to do when he was in a real emergency and his battery was dead?
“No, just… head towards the general direction,” Rin told himself, switching his phone off and putting it back. He kept his map out and began walking towards the hospital, machete in his other hand.
This was all complete bullshit.
Rin had a decent sense of direction, and already he had to consult his freaking GPS. What the hell was Makoto thinking, running off like that? It wasn’t like this was his turf; he probably didn’t know where he was going. Not to mention all the zombies that would be laying in wait for them…
Now that he thought about it, the trek back had been… suspiciously zombie-free.
“Either we killed off more zombies than we thought, or this has all been an elaborate ruse and Makoto is actually part of a conspiracy to kill me,” Rin groaned quietly, wanting to pinch the bridge of his nose. He’d let his guard down. He was probably going to die. He was going to kill Makoto.
He was spared in his imaginative conjurations of the various ways in which he would maim the boy when he turned a corner and the comforting sight of Lake Koyama came into view. Glancing to the left, he could make out the outline of the Tottori University complex. After a moment’s hesitation, Rin ducked into the sports complex.
“Makoto,” he called out, “You in here?”
He wasn’t. Rin did a quick sweep anyway before he finally decided to jog towards the hospital.
It was a good thing that Rin was cautious, because holy fuck that was a shit load of zombies.
“You idiot,” Rin muttered, scanning the car park in front of the hospital lobby, counting at least 50 zombies shambling around, “You big, lumbering moron.”
For the time being, it didn’t seem as though Makoto had been turned into one of them. Or, at least Rin couldn’t see a Makoto-shaped zombie dragging its feet amongst the hoard. In fact, the zombies didn’t seem particularly… agitated. Did Makoto not come this way?
We could try to go around, that had been Makoto’s suggestion when faced with a hoard, because of course Makoto would suggest the safe, non-confrontational method of pushing through. Rin directed his gaze towards the side of the hospital; there wasn’t much he could make out, on account of the rubble and an upturned cement lorry.
Well, only one way to find out.
As quietly as he could, he kept low, half-running, half-crouching behind the road divider until he arrived at the streets that lead back into town. He took special care to head through the small housing district in a big circle to the emergency ward located at the back of the hospital. The gate was closed, but he noticed that furniture had been pushed up against the fence to make a makeshift ladder or staircase. Miraculously, behind the mass of cement and oil that had leaked out and hardened, zombies hadn’t bothered with the back entrance. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Rin climbed the fence, still keeping quiet, and entered the emergency ward.
He had no idea what the hell he was supposed to be looking for.
The only thing Makoto had said was that they had explored the wards, but not the rest of the hospital, which was a fucking joke because the hospital was a university hospital and it was fucking huge. In fact, there was—
Why did that ring a bell?
It was just a university hospital for Tottori.
Nothing special about it.
“While you’re at it, their course brochures would be nice.”
Right… Makoto had asked for Tottori University brochures.
That really had been weird, even if Makoto was already a space case. Why would he ask for those brochures when he knew full well that a university in the DMZ would probably never be repopulated?
… The other brochures were on their different programmes – some in English, which he immediately discarded if memory of Makoto’s foreign language skills still served – and he noted with disjointed fascination that they also had a medical and engineering department. It certainly explained the dissection activity in Nakagawa Akiko’s diary…
… a medical department…
… dissection activity…
“You have got to be kidding me.”
Rin didn’t have a lot of time to ruminate over his induction because there was the sound of something heavy falling over and crashing into glass.
His immediate instinct was to get out and run in the opposite direction, but he had just arrived after all that effort. Contrary to all good sense and the lessons he had learnt from horror movies, following that sound would most likely lead him to Makoto, if not Makoto’s or his own death. He didn’t really have a lot to go on, and as much as he’d love to, he wasn’t enough of a hard ass to abandon Makoto. Not when Makoto was hell bent on not abandoning his mystery friend from Iwatobi. If he really existed. Makoto was hiding something from him and Rin would beat it out of him with relish.
“Fuck everything,” Rin unsheathed his machete; loosing his shotgun when there were more than 50 zombies outside was a bad idea waiting to happen. He inched towards surgery, keeping close to the wall, making sure he wasn’t stepping on anything that would set off anything. He realised as he passed a window that he was in a different building within the hospital complex. If memory served, he and Makoto had bolted from the roof of the main building, where the big car park was. That was probably why there weren’t any zombies in this part of the hospital. He kept his machete in front of him anyway; no way in hell was he going to lose his life because he let his guard down.
It didn’t stop the hospital from being utterly eerie.
When he had recovered from fog exposure, he had come to in a brightly lit room, with little time to think about his surroundings as he focused on getting better, getting a mask, and getting the hell out of there. Now, though…
Rin began to recognise tell tale signs of settlement; it was just like Tottori University. There were barricades, boarded up windows, graffiti…
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OUT ̵s̸o͢uth̷ lef͞t for d͠ęd̶ ͠ ͝ g͝ o ҉ NO ͘RT͏H̷ ƸӜƷ
… Man, there was a lot of graffiti. Clothes, papers, cans, syringes, rotting food, all sorts of things were just strewn about. Upturned tables and carts. A wheelchair on its side. The light overhead was flickering, plunging the entire hallway in near darkness before lighting it up again. That’s right, the hospital had electricity… Of course, if it had been occupied by humans not too long ago…
It was getting so dark. He knew the sun was starting to set, but it didn’t account for the incredible darkness… right, the windows were boarded up. Rin could feel the sweat trickling down the back of his neck, drenching his clothes. It was getting hard to breathe. It felt like there was no escape, like the walls that loomed ahead were closing in on him. He was just nervous. It was too quiet and claustrophobia was setting in. He just needed to calm down.
At the end of the corridor was a fire escape. The door hung ajar.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Rin swallowed the lump in his throat, “This is so fucking scary.”
He inhaled slowly, counting back from three, and carefully edged towards the door. The fire escape was dimly lit, a bulb had probably burnt out. There was no one inside. Rin forced himself to take step after step despite the tremor in his hands and the sunken feeling twisting his gut. It was like being unable to see his hand before his eyes or where his feet were stepping, even though he knew damn well that he could. Rin had never walked up a flight of stairs so slowly in his life.
On the next floor, the door was hanging open. Rin tightened his grip on his machete, holding it with both hands, and pushed forward.
He stepped through the corridor, scanning his surroundings. There was a row of doors that led to… offices? Consultation rooms? Most of them were open. Rin passed by one and a cursory look revealed that it was empty, but had been completely ransacked. The same was true of most of the rooms he peered into. At the end of the passage was a doorway that led to a foyer that linked other corridors together, with a main staircase leading up and down, and two lifts. He lowered his hands, stepping over a trampled gurney to the nurse’s station, checking the counters for anything useful. There were some bottles of prescription medicine and a stack of gasmask filters, but it was mostly paperwork. He couldn’t help the small quirk of the lips when he realised one of the nurse’s had been doing her homework under a patient report.
“He must have come and gone,” Rin said as he approached the model skeleton hanging on the wall, beside some medical posters and hospital notices. He poked the skeleton in the jaw, listening to the clack, clack, clack of the enamel bones clicking against each other as the body swayed and dangled in place.
Rin spun round, machete out. Something was definitely on this floor.
He strained his ears, heard something that was undeniably… scraping. Images rushed through his mind, of zombies clawing at a door. He touched the butt of his shotgun and considered several possibilities. He approached, slowly but steadily, wincing as he felt glass crunch underfoot and hoping that whatever it was wouldn’t detect him. Rin pressed his back against the wall, taking a deep breath, and slowly peering around the corner.
Rin sheathed his machete and deftly pulled out his shotgun. He stepped into the open and reloaded, loudly.
Makoto let out an honest-to-goodness squeak as he jumped up three feet in the air and dislodged the crowbar from where he had been attempting to break a chained door, holding it unsteadily in front of him. When he saw it was Rin, he hesitated.
“I see that you aren’t sure whether you should be pleased or afraid to see me,” Rin began pleasantly, tilting his shotgun up and back so it leaned against his shoulder as he stalked towards Makoto as menacingly as he could, “That is the correct response.”
“I-I can explain.”
“Oh, no doubt about that. You can start with that damned stunt you just pulled. How could you have left me behind?”
Makoto couldn’t respond and hung his head, “I… I have no excuses for that.”
“Wrong,” Rin said sharply, “You’re going to tell me exactly why you did just that. And why you lied to me.”
Makoto’s head snapped up, “I didn’t lie to you, the journals really did say that he came here.”
“Yeah? Mind telling me why you’d artfully omitted the part about zombie experimentation in the Tottori medical department?”
Makoto fell silent briefly. He answered, in a softer voice, “I… didn’t think that was as relevant.”
“You mean ‘attractive’, right? It’s not as attractive as a story about your stranded friend, who we just have to save. God damn it, Makoto, this was exactly why I didn’t want to come back here in the first place! We knew there was a hoard here, and thanks to this entire fuck up, we know for a fact that they’re probably here because they were fucking created here or something!”
“But I wasn’t lying,” Makoto insisted, “Nakagawa said that even after the hospital was deserted, he insisted on coming back here. There was something here that was important.”
“What? What the fuck could be so important that your friend came back to a fucking zombie-infestation?”
“I…” Makoto hung his head again, “I don’t know.”
Rin couldn’t believe his ears, “You don’t know.”
“She only mentions it once, and her writing was illegible. But if it’s that important…”
Rin squatted, squeezing his eyes shut, breathing in slowly and exhaling in a sigh.
“Fuck it. Just… fuck it. We’re already here. Fucking may as well do the whole fucking shebang.”
“I’m sorry,” Makoto said quietly.
“You’re not sorry. You’re not that sorry, you smug piece of shit. Now break down that fucking door so we can see if your friend is zombie food and whatever the fuck he may have been looking for so we can get the fuck out of here.”
Makoto murmured another apology before he returned to his task. There was a loud crack! and the sound of chains clashing against each other as a handful of heavy links spilled to the tiled floor. Rin looked up as Makoto set down the crowbar and, with all his strength, pulled the heavy doors open.
He stood wordlessly, hands hanging useless by his sides as he stepped into the surgical ward.
It smelled terrible. Even through his gas mask, he could sense how overwhelming the stench of rotting flesh was.
The walls were dark, crusted with something flaky, like rust, but also like congealed blood. It looked like it had been smeared, handprints visible in the dim light. The ground was covered in blackened body parts, hands and feet and intestines trailing from one torso to another like some sort of morbid pentagram. There was an operation theatre in the centre of the room, surrounded with medical equipment that Rin didn’t care to mention, because on the operating table was a body. And that body was most definitely human.
Rin approached, sickened and fascinated all at once. The body was that of a teenaged boy, small and well-built. He’d been cut open along the chest and stomach, some of his organs removed. One of his lungs had a long slit in them. Rin looked at his face. It was surreal how serene his expression was. Unthinkingly, he touched his hair, stroking lightly. Poor kid.
His fingers touched something soft.
“Holy fuck,” Rin jumped back as the boy’s hair fell away, revealing… his brain. “Oh god, this is sick. How can anyone stand this shit?”
Rin suddenly remembered something. He whipped around. Makoto had stumbled back against the wall, a hand clamped over the mouthpiece of his gasmask. Rin rushed to his side, purposely blocking out as much as he could of the room.
“Hey, hey buddy, are you okay?”
“Oh god, is that—Is that him? Is that—”
“I don’t know,” Rin said calmly, “Was your friend short? Silver hair? Beauty mark by the eye?”
Makoto raised his head up, “… No, no, he’s tall. Black hair. Glasses”
“It’s just a kid,” Rin said, hand on Makoto’s shoulder, squeezing firmly, “It’s some poor kid. Your friend’s not here.” Rin didn’t care to mention the body parts on the floor.
“I… I can’t…”
“Shh, it’s okay,” Rin said, “You should wait outside. Do you want me to sit with you?”
“Yes,” Makoto grabbed Rin’s hand, “Please.”
Rin led Makoto outside and they sat up against the wall. Makoto made to take off his gasmask – he felt suffocated, he said – but Rin convinced him to keep it on. The smell would be a hundred times worse. Makoto obediently kept it on, hugging his knees and trying to breathe. Rin kept a hand on his back, patting and stroking gently. Once it seemed as though Makoto had mostly calmed down, Rin stood.
“Let me case the place, all right? One of us should, and I think it’s best if I do it.”
“Yes,” Makoto replied weakly, “I’m sorry. Thank you.”
“Focus on breathing,” Rin said, “Just call me if you need me.”
The second time in the room was just as terrible as the first time had been, but at least he was mentally prepared for it. Rin steeled himself, avoiding the various bodies and aiming for the desks around the sides of the room. It was mostly surgical equipment, but there were a handful of papers filled with illegible doctor’s cursive. He came to a bureau and tried the drawers, and everything opened save one. It had a lock, but no key, and Rin didn’t believe in search quests, so he simply returned to Makoto to retrieve the crowbar and pried that drawer open.
There was a folder inside with a CD, a USB drive and a logbook. It seemed important enough that he immediately tucked it under his arm. There was also a handgun with a box of ammo, some protein bars, and a note.
It read: I gave it to the Runner. This is everything else. Good luck.
He took everything out and passed it wordlessly to Makoto. He didn’t comment as the note shook in Makoto’s hands.