They stepped off on the first floor into hell. Yuki couldn't honestly remember if he'd walked past so many bodies that morning, many of them not recognizably human. They were able to discern from the howls and curses as they picked their way towards the door that another hospital had turned out many of the victims of the earthquake due to an outbreak of some contagious infection.
It was unreal. Upstairs, Yuki had thought it was horrible to watch Shuichi and Mika, neither with any severe physical injury, when here were women crying, their faces half burned off, and men missing arms and legs.
The nurse who'd been frightened off by Mika earlier was wrapping a heavy bandage around a young boy's chest. God knows what he'd been doing in that part of the city. Her face was set, not hard, but there was no sympathy in it. There was nothing.
That's how Yuki felt. In the face of such unimaginable carnage, it was easier to just shut down. Because if he didn't, in every face he'd see Shuichi, Mika, Tohma...so many people...
"Oh, my God!" Tatsuha was no longer standing by him, but kneeling on the floor beside...
"Jesus." Yuki swore under his breath, moving closer to his brother. He barely recognized the man lying on a sheet on the floor. It was hard to distinguish where the blood stopped and his hair began, but it was that unusual coloring that made him identifiable.
"Hiroshi! Hiro, can you hear me? Where's a doctor?" Tatsuha was frantic. There weren't any to spare, but one of the interns turned their way.
"Don't touch him," he snapped as Tatsuha continued to try to wake up the guitarist, who made no response. "He was one of the transfers from the other hospital. He won't last the night."
Yuki didn't even react to how tactlessly he made his prophecy. Tatsuha didn't seem to hear him. People moved all around him, and he stood over Shuichi's best friend and his little brother and didn't feel anything but the cold feeling spreading out of his stomach.
"He's not breathing!" Tatsuha turned to him wildly, having complete faith that Yuki would know what to do. He had no idea.
"Shit." The intern had left his other makeshift treatment station and rushed to Hiro, despite his prediction that Hiro was a lost cause.
He shoved Tatsuha aside roughly. He was all business. "I've got no pulse." If he'd been in an emergency room that wasn't packed with dozens of other people that had no pulses, he might have gotten a response. He might have gotten a team of trained professionals who'd have worked to revive Hiro. Who knows if it would have even made a difference.
He didn't give up, though. For more than five minutes, what felt like an hour, he alternated chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation. It was another intern who pulled him off, whispering soothingly that they had to save the ones they could.
"He can be saved!" Tatsuha cried. "You didn't do enough!"
"I don't want to have to ask you to leave. We've got enough to deal with here," said the second intern. Yuki could tell that he knew the numbness well, too.
"Come on, Tatsuha." Yuki ushered his brother away. He didn't fight, he just cried silently and let himself be pushed along.
The first intern looked at Yuki. "I- I shouldn't have said- I didn't want- I tried. I tried to save him." Yuki nodded. He couldn't have known he'd be right. He'd probably kill himself over it, too. But there was nothing Yuki could for him.
"What was his name?"
There was a tremor of recognition as the intern bent to write the name on Hiro's arm in black permanent marker, as if to say, "No one will ever not know who this man was."
And Yuki couldn't stop thinking that no one would ever know who that man could have been.
When they got out of the hospital, he was shivering.
Where ever a tragedy occurs, there are people who are willing to take advantage of it for their own purposes. But until he saw it, Yuki would have never imagined the swarm of vultures that had been sent by every national tabloid, and a few foreign ones as well. They'd crowded in the hospital parking lot like hungry dogs. It was a nightmare.
"I'm standing here outside the hospital where Shuichi Shindou, the lead singer Bad Luck, is reportedly in critical condition after yesterday's devastating quake brought NG's Tokyo recording studio to the ground. Among the casualties was Tohma Seguchi, NG's president and the keyboard virtuoso of Nittle Grasper. He is survived by Mika Seguchi, his expecting wife, also rumored to be hospitalized here due to extreme stress."
The reporter's words had a conspiratorial air, as if she were telling her audience big, juicy secrets. Just hearing her talk about Shuichi and Mika made Yuki want to break something- maybe the camera, for starters.
But he pulled Tatsuha to his chest and bowed his own head as they skirted around the group. The last thing either of them needed right now was publicity. He refused to feed the machine with news of Hiro's death.
There were a few calls for their attention as they made their way to the car, but it wasn't until a reporter recognize the vehicle as Yuki's and raised the alarm that they had trouble.
"Eiri Yuki! Can we have a word?" Yuki slammed his door and checked to make Tatsuha was in before he gunned it in reverse, almost running over one of the pursuing reporters.
"Yuki-sama-" They were already out of the parking lot.
Yuki eased his foot off the accelerator as the hospital disappeared in the rearview mirror and cast a sideways glance at his brother. Tatsuha was staring out the windshield, but it was plain that he didn't see anything that they were passing.
"Yuki...Yuki, can we go see Ayaka?"
"Now?" He asked it gently. All Tatsuha did was look back in reply, pleading without saying a word. He wanted her to hear the news from someone she knew, someone who'd been there, rather than in some sleazy news report.
"Yeah, we'll go see her. Where's she staying?" She'd gotten a place in the city a few months ago to spend more time with Hiro. Their relationship moved slow, but had been steadily intensifying. Now it was over.
Tatsuha directed him in a monotone. Of all the members of the NG crowd, Hiro had been who he was closest to. He'd been able to laugh with him, to talk with him about music, bikes, and women. Hiro had always talked about Ayaka. Tatsuha wanted her to know that.
They pulled up in front of her apartment building and walked up. Yuki had never been over. It was nice. He wondered how many timed Hiro had visited. Tatsuha was the one to knock.
"Ayaka, it's Tatsuha and Eiri. Can we come in?" She opened the door immediately. She had probably been waiting for someone to come with news.
"Did they find him?" Her eyes were bloodshot and she hadn't changed since the night before.
They walked past her into the apartment, neither of them saying anything yet. There were blankets on the couch and chair in the living room. From somewhere far back in his mind, Yuki recalled her leaving the hospital.
"Is the kid still here?"
"Fujisaki left last night." Her voice and hands were shaking. "Eiri- where is he? You have to tell me!" She grasped his shirt, trying to wring the answer from the fabric. "Please tell me."
"He's at the hospital," Tatsuha told her. She rounded on him, her streaming eyes shining with hope. He had to kill that hope. "They transferred him in last night and he- and he-" His own eyes filled with tears. He'd never hear Hiro play again. They'd never grab fries and shakes when they had the same day off. And Ayaka...
"Hiro died this morning, Ayaka." Tatsuha didn't know if he'd said it or if Yuki had. The words didn't seem like they belonged in anyone's mouth.
Ayaka swayed a little before her knees buckled. Yuki carried her to the couch. She pulled her knees and arms to her chest. The tears were silent. For a long time, no one said anything.
"He...he always loved you, Ayaka." Tatsuha couldn't think of anything to say but that. "He-"
She stood suddenly, turning away from them both. "Thank you for coming all the way here to tell me in person. I appreciate it. Now I need to be alone. Please show yourselves out."
"Ayaka-" Tatsuha reached out to stop her from walking away, but Yuki caught him.
"You know how to reach us, Ayaka. We're very sorry." Yuki knew what it was like to want to be alone. After Kitazawa's, he'd spent years alone inside himself. And then Shuichi came along...
"Let's go, Tatsuha." His brother looked back regretfully at the Ayaka's closed bedroom door, but left as asked.
In the lobby they ran into a camera crew entering the building.
"She's in 4C," one of them said, double checking a scrap of paper in his hand. "Usimi or something."
Tatsuha looked disgusted, but Yuki stopped to talk to them.
"What's the story, boys?" Yuki could be downright scary when he wanted to, and these guys were getting the full force of his power.
"E-Erie Yuki-sama? Were you-" His eyes widened in realization of something Yuki didn't want to know about.
"If you value your jobs and your health, you'll leave Miss Usami alone." The nodded their heads furiously as Yuki cracked his knuckles. They were out of the lobby before Yuki and Tatsuha were.
"She'd be grateful for that," Tatsuha said as they climbed into the car. They waited for the van to pull out before leaving.
"Scavengers" was all Yuki muttered when he stepped on the gas. In reality, his action would help anyone. He knew how the system worked. Reporters could do more damage than any natural disaster.
And sure enough, the headline in the next morning's tabloid was, "Romance Novelist Turns Charm on Mystery Man and Distraught Lover of Dead Guitarist" with a subhead that included the finer points of his relationship with Shuichi, still reportedly in critical condition. The accompanying photos were of Yuki and Tatsuha in the hospital parking lot, and Yuki climbing into his car outside of Ayaka's apartment (with Tatsuha's side of the car conveniently cut form the photo). It was the only reason he had to be thankful that Shuichi was still in a coma.
Someone, somewhere, thought enough damage hadn't been done already.