Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our Courage, Chapter Five (part d)

At the same time, Yamato had finally swum up to an ocean-side park.
A group of out-of-season surfers, perhaps the same age as him, carried their boards while chatting cheerfully. Looking at their happy figures, Yamato took off the guard’s uniform and tossed it in a garbage can.
He’d somehow made it ashore. Now all he had to do was buy some medicine and get  it back to Kiichi in Makuhara.
Looking cautiously around him, he started to leave the park. He saw a water fountain, and opened the faucet with trembling hands. The water gushed out - water, fresh water. He gulped it down as though lost in a dream.
In Makuhara, they were desperately fighting over “the water of life” that was flowing freely here. He wanted to carry it all back there. For everyone waiting, Kiichi, Takeru, Yuuri, Mori, even the guys he didn’t like, Ryuu, he wanted to let them all drink until they were sick of it.
Looking up at the sky sadly, he started out to look for a drugstore once more.
There it was!
Finally spotting a store, Yamato started to run over to it. But a military jeep passed on the other side of the street, and in a panic he ducked into cover.
The headquarters had learned about his escape, it seemed - perhaps they had already informed the drug store.
Changing his plan of action, Yamato headed for a nearby house. He pressed the doorbell, and a middle-aged housewife opened the door. She looked at his strange appearance dubiously.
“I’m sorry for asking this out of the blue, but do you have any medicine you might be able to spare?”
Trying to put her at ease, he put all his effort into giving a smile. But the woman kept staring at him.
“A friend of mine was hurt during training. If you’ve bandages or antiseptic... I can pay you.”
Her expression was still uncertain, the woman disappeared inside. Yamato strained his neck to peek inside. There was a TV in the living room, and a comedy program was on. The laughter swelled at an average joke - he’d moved from the time he would watch TV as though it were complicated.
Then, he saw through the window that the woman was fleeing out the back door.
Was it possible, the Special Forces already had a grip here, even in a normal family’s house?!
In Shibazaki’s office, he was still pacing with no sign of calming down.
“At a nearby house?”
The guard answered in subdued voice. “She contacted us by phone right away.”
“He didn’t tell her anything about Makuhara?”
“That’s right. He ran away when the guards arrived.”
Shibazaki bellowed at him abruptly, “The dangers of contact the escapee must be avoided!”
“Yes, sir!
“First of all, go to the house that informed us immediately. If you see him, kill him!”
The guard left in a panic. Shibazaki picked up a microphone, flipped the switch, and holding a memo pad in the other hand began to read slowly.
“Everyone in Makuhara.”
His voice echoed from the speakers inside the city. When the unexpected broadcast began, the children raised their faces and listened.
“It is unfortunate that today, I have been informed one of your number escaped. I regret that this person did not comprehend his situation. Those who are close to him, please come forward immediately. It is not only against us, but against all of you that this act of betrayal has occurred. Please believe in me. Please take care to avoid foolish acts like this in the future.”
Shibazaki took a breath before continuing in a firm tone. “Until the boy is captured, the food delivery will be put on hold.”
As the broadcast ended, a terrible plundering began in the square. If there was no delivery, the only thing left was trying to survive. They all realized that instinctively.
Yuuri stood on the beach alone. She looked at the city on the other shore.
Somewhere over there, was Yamato...
Rain had started falling in the afternoon. But she didn’t move to get out of it, just kept standing staring out over the ocean.
Suddenly, there was an umbrella over her head. Turning quickly, she saw Takeru.
“You’ll catch cold.”
“I was just about to go back.”
“Doesn’t look like it, with that expression.”
“Shut up,” she said, and stole his umbrella.
He called after in a bright voice, as though he could see into her heart, “He’ll be fine, Yamato.”
"Makoto and the others have been saying so, over and over. Until he comes back we have no food.”
“You make a face like you want to say something about that, but don’t worry. Makoto and Akira actually did a good thing.”
“A good thing?”
“They found some sake somewhere and brought it to me, so I was able to sterilize Kiichi’s wound.”
“Huh,” Yuuri said, surprised.
Takeru, looking out to the other shore beside her, said, “Well, Yamato said he’d be back before nightfall today. Promised he’d be in time for breakfast tomorrow.”
“You don’t doubt him at all, do you.” Yuuri said.
“Like, maybe he won’t come back, or something,” she said with difficulty.
But Takeru just showed her a wide grin. “Because he’s our leader.
The rain continued to fall. Along with the cold, Yamato had started to shiver. It seemed like night would fall soon, and he hadn’t even gotten his hands on any medicine yet...
The whole area seemed to be surrounded with the Special Forces. In the middle of it, determined to get the medicine, Yamato left his hiding place.
There was a drugstore in front of his eyes. Pulling his knife out, he approached the white-coated clerk.
“You've probably heard from the police about what to do if you saw me, right?"
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t play dumb.”
“...Are you going to kill me?” the clerk asked, terrified, and Yamato replied in a harsh voice.
“I really don’t want to. But I have to get some medicine.”
“What... is the condition?”
“A cut on his leg, and he’s got a high fever.”
“A doctor would...”
“If I could take him to a doctor, I wouldn’t have to do this.”
With a nod, the clerk lined up bandages, antiseptics, and various bottles on the counter. “These are painkillers, and these will reduce the fever. They should be taken on an empty stomach.”
Yamato’s expression grew grim at the clerk’s words.
“After that, make sure he gets proper nutrition, and keep the wound clean until it heals.”
“And what about the human who can’t do that?” Yamato’s anger had no focus.
The clerk was dumbstruck, not understanding what he was saying.
“Having nutrition... keeping clean... what about the humans who don’t have that option!” Yamato shouted, and the clerk looked at him tearfully. Yamato came back to himself, and met his eyes sadly.
“...Sorry.” With that small apology, he put the money on the counter. Clutching the medicine like it was precious, he went back out into the rain. A second later, he was lit up by glaring headlights.
“There he is!”
The guards wasted no time in talking, but as one turned their guns towards Yamato. Along with the deafening sound of gunfire, the bullets hitting the asphalt sent up sparks.
Missed by a hair’s breadth, Yamato fled for a nearby woods. Stopping the jeep, the guards jumped out carrying flashlights and entered the forest after him.
Yamato desperately ran though the pouring rain. Suddenly, the ground gave out beneath his feet, and in a flash he tumbled down into darkness.
He came to realizing that he’d fallen down a steep bank, and he groaned with a terrible pain. When he fell, the knife had gotten stabbed into his own leg. Gritting his teeth, he pulled it out. He gathered his precious package again, and started walking with difficulty. But his body had grown cold as ice, and already he could feel nothing but the pain of his wound.
“Yamato’s late.”
In the gym, they’d gathered around the still feverish Kiichi. It was dark inside, and the rain was still falling.
“Do you think it’s possible he got caught? I mean, he said he’d be back before nightfall.”
“He’s coming. He’ll be back soon.”
But everyone’s worry was only increased as the rain seemed to get even harder outside.
“Is there a chance... that he ran away?” Makoto muttered, and Takeru snapped at him.
“Don’t say stupid things like that.”
“But if you’d gotten outside, what would you do?”
“What do you mean?” Takeru asked, and Makoto shook his head at him.
“I mean, would you actually come back here?”
“I definitely would. Plus, he has to bring medicine for Kiichi, right?”
“Maybe that’s what he thought at first. But once he’s out, he’s free. He can eat whatever he likes, go wherever he wants - he could go back to his own house. Along the way he might change his mind.”
“Yamato’s not that kind of person!” Mori said. Biting his lip as hard as he could stand, he stared at a point in space.
“That’s right. He can be a bit of an idiot sometimes, but he wouldn’t do something dirty like that,” Takeru said.
“...He might not come back.”
They all looked over their shoulders as one. Kiichi had opened his eyes at some point, and with pain showing on his face was looking up at the ceiling.
“Yamato... might not come back. If it was me out there, I would probably run away. Yamato might also...”
“How can you seriously say something like that?” Takeru said, as though he couldn’t believe it. But Kiichi continued to speak.
“If it was the rest of you, what would you do? Honestly.”
No one answered, but kept fixedly silent.
“Would anyone actually come back to a place like this? If he does try, the guards outside will shoot him on sight. Would you come back in the face of danger like that? Even to save your friends here?”
“Be quiet!” Takeru yelled. There was a slight tremble in his voice.
“Do you understand why he left? He went for your sake, right? I get why you’re talking like that, but you have to believe in him. If you don’t, he’d look like a pathetic moron.”
At Takeru’s words, Kiichi’s eyes fell as though he’d lost all strength. Takeru stood angrily.
“I'd hit you if you weren't already hurt."
“I want to believe it,” Kiichi said, on the verge of tears. “But to be able to say that he’d come back to a place like this for my sake... I can’t say that! Don’t come back - I’d feel better if I could say it straight to him. If he gets a chance to run away, no one could blame him for it.”
Kiichi’s thoughts again seemed to be what everyone there was thinking.
That’s right... no one would be able to blame Yamato... and yet...
“If there’s a chance in a million that he does, do you think he’d forget about you? About us? You think he’d be able to live like that, forgetting everything that’s happened here?” Takeru spat out the words, and  everyone raised their heads startled.
“I don’t want to sound melodramatic,  but I believe he’s our comrade. So have a little more trust.”
In the gym that seemed surrounded by water, the sound of the falling rain was the only thing that could be heard. The boys sat on their knees and waited for time to pass.
Yamato was still out in the rain, and had finally used up the last of his strength. In spite of his determination to keep going, he could barely take one step after another.
Just then, a bicycle came by. An older policeman was riding it.
It stopped just after it passed him. The officer was holding a handgun, and he stood before Yamato’s hiding place.
“Don’t move!”
Yamato shook his head violently.
Don’t touch me, whatever you do don’t touch me...

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