-Midmorning at the police station-
"You're sure about this?" Asami queried as the two of them sat out on the police station's roof and pondered over a map of the neighborhood.
"They should have been back for me by now," Kaorin worried. "It's been weeks."
Although Asami still didn't believe that Kaorin had friends that were still alive, she wasn't about to pass up the opportunity for adventure. "It's actually been about a month since I found you," she recalled.
Asami's comment did little to put Kaorin at ease. "They went here," Kaorin explained as she pointed. "We have to figure out how to get there… without going by here," she continued as she moved her finger to where the library was.
"There's rubble all around here, too. And we can't get near any subways, either," Asami agreed as she pointed at several points on the map. "We'd have to circle around… and go north around the library and swing back south… here," she suggested as she traced the theoretical route. "It's a big detour. It'll add a day, maybe two depending on how interesting things get," the blonde asserted with a rather large smile. "It promises to be fun!"
"No," Kaorin denied. "We can't risk going around that way."
"Why not?" Asami pouted.
"It… we just can't," she asserted.
Asami growled as she stared at the map. "All this planning is stupid anyway. Let's just wing it!"
"No, we need a plan," Kaorin retorted. "If we get lost… distracted. We need to have a plan."
"Well why don't we split the library and this subway station by cutting through here?" Asami offered as she pointed to the middle of a block. "We don't have a vehicle anymore. We don't have to stick to the streets."
"But… the smaller bugs," Kaorin protested. "There's rubble all around there, too. We might run into a dead end."
"Bugs're easy to kill so long as you don't attract attention from a nest," Asami argued. "And there ain't a whole lot that can completely block the path of a person. We don't even have the scooter anymore, remember? We just gotta lug what we can carry and hopefully it won't stop us from getting through the rubble."
"I told you that you couldn't recharge the scooter's battery that way," Kaorin scolded Asami.
"How was I supposed to know it'd catch on fire and explode?"
"I told you that was what would happen! You said, 'Cool!' and did it anyway!" Kaorin snapped.
"It was pretty cool, wasn't it?"
Kaorin half-sighed, half-growled. "There has to be another way. It's too risky."
"Risky is fun," Asami argued. "This way we'll get there and only have to worry about finding one shelter, too. Unless it rains or something."
"There really isn't another option is there?"
"Don't worry! Bugs're my specialty!" Asami boasted. "I'm invincible."
"All right, I guess we can pack up and head out tomorrow," Kaorin conceded.
"Why wait? I always have my exploring stuff ready to go," Asami whined. "It won't take twenty minutes to pack up everything else. It's not even ten in the morning, and either way we gotta stay the night somewhere."
Kaorin bit her lip. "You're not going to let me off the hook, are you?"
"Like I'd let you say no just 'cause you're scared!"
"Let's hurry up and pack," Kaorin urged as she grabbed the map and headed for the stairwell.
Asami laughed as she followed after Kaorin. "You've made a lot of progress, Kaori!" she praised. "It used to take me a lot of work just to get you out of the cell. Now I've finally convinced you to go exploring! It'll be tons of fun, you'll see!"
"I'm only going because my friends are there," Kaorin claimed.
"It doesn't matter! You'll see how fun exploring is and then we'll be doing it all the time!" Asami predicted. "It'll be great!"
"Let's just get this over with."
-A couple of hours later-
The unlikely duo stopped a few blocks shy of the infamous library. "I think this is about where we are supposed to cut through a few blocks," Kaorin suggested as she stopped in her tracks. She turned around and dug into the large bag of luggage she'd been dragging behind her to retrieve the map.
As Kaorin sprawled the map out and studied it Asami dove into her own supplies to retrieve a bag of jerky. "We got so lucky at that convenience store!" Asami exclaimed as she tore the bag open and sunk her teeth into the tough meat.
"Stay focused," Kaorin scolded as she studied the map.
"Ish is heigh," Asami pointed as she ferociously gnawed on the jerky. "Hon eeda hap er at."
"Just because you're right doesn't mean we don't need a map," Kaorin complained as she put the map away. She then lit cigarette before offering the pack to Asami. "If we're going through those alleys we'll need to be prepared. Quit eating and let's get this over with."
"Hou shaughd eah hirsh," Asami countered before swallowing. "You haven't eaten since breakfast, right? It's lunchtime. You should eat. Keep your energy up." She then held the bag of jerky towards Kaorin. "Want some? It's awesome."
"I guess we could use a small break," Kaorin conceded as she glanced towards the ominous alleyway. "Let me finish this cigarette and we'll eat," she decided as she plodded over to nearby car and sat against it for the shade that it offered.
Asami annoyingly jumped on top of the same car to get a better view of the area. "You're not supposed to actually smoke those, you know," she scolded as she glanced about. "It's more dangerous than the bugs."
"You're the one that got me started," Kaorin spat.
"I told you not to breathe the smoke. You didn't listen to—Ah! A bug!"
Kaorin launched to her feet at the warning. "Where?" she hissed as she followed Asami's gaze in the direction of the library.
"One crawled by just now," Asami stated as she kept her eyes and ears open. "Three blocks down. I don't think it noticed us."
"What do we do?" Kaorin defaulted to Asami's judgment.
"I wanna stalk it," Asami admitted, "but that's the opposite way we need to go. Besides, aren't we taking a break?" she asked as she sat down on top of the car and started chewing on her jerky again.
"We aren't going to sit here and relax with bugs nearby!" Kaorin hissed. "We're going now! We can eat later!"
"Hinne," The blonde replied as she stashed the jerky into a pocket and pulled out her own cigarettes. After finishing her mouthful she lit a cigarette and pulled out a few flashing fireworks. "Let's go!" she boisterously announced as she leapt off of the car, grabbed her luggage, and dashed headlong into the alley. As she rushed in it became apparent that something was horribly, horribly wrong. "There ain't any bugs here!" she whined as Kaorin caught up.
"That's a good thing!" Kaorin scolded as she frantically scanned the alley walls for any signs of bugs.
The duo made it out the other side of the alley and to the street without incident. "Well that was pointless," Asami complained.
"N-no," Kaorin countered as she pulled out the map again. "We passed through the debris that was blocking the road. Now we can go down this way and continue to Toudai. No library, no subways. We're in the clear, for now."
"How boring," Asami grumbled as the two girls set back onto their path.
"We aren't doing this because it's supposed to be fun," Kaorin uselessly asserted. "I'm worried about my friends."
Asami sighed and pouted. She was convinced that Kaorin was delusional about her friends. The excitable girl was actually a little worried about what Kaorin would do once reality revealed itself to her. "It must've been nice to have a bunch of friends like that," Asami mumbled as she recalled the countless stories Kaorin had about her friends in high school.
"It was fun back when we were in school," Kaorin admitted. "…not so much after the outbreak."
"You're lucky," Asami claimed. "At least you had friends."
"You're saying that you didn't have any friends in school?" Kaorin gently prodded.
"I've never really had any friends, just family. They're all gone now."
"You've never had a friend, ever?" Kaorin puzzled.
Asami shook her head. "Everyone always hated me."
"I don't hate you," Kaorin confessed after a couple of seconds of silence. "You are my friend… right?"
Asami blushed. "A-ah, I-well I guess," she awkwardly replied.
Kaorin couldn't help but to giggle at the sight. "You're pretty cute when you're embarrassed," she teased. "Well, if you just look at your face and ignore the whole topless thing. The scars." Kaorin added as an afterthought.
"It's hot," Asami defended herself.
"I find it hard to believe that you have never had a friend, though," Kaorin steered the conversation back on track. "You can be really annoying, but I can think of a few people you'd get along with really well."
"It ain't about personality. It never is," Asami contended. "Even with a completely different personality, people still hated me just as much."
"You can't just swap personalities."
"Dying helps," the blonde asserted. "Before that I used to be really shy and quiet."
"That's… hard to believe."
Asami nodded. "My personality doesn't have anything to do with it. Everyone hates me because of the way I look."
"So long as you keep your clothes on, you're super-cute," Kaorin assured. "It seems to me that someone like that would have been really popular in school."
"Whenever I'd go to a new school everyone would ask me where I'm from or compliment me on my mastery of Japanese. No matter how much I told them that I was Japanese they wouldn't believe me. Just because I look different. After a while everyone would always come to hate me. They'd always call me a foreigner and a liar. But… I'm Japanese. I really am."
"What is your heritage?" Kaorin gingerly asked. "You have to have some sort of foreigner as an ancestor, right?"
"That-that doesn't matter! I'm Japanese!" Asami vehemently defended herself. "I was born here! I've lived here my whole life! It's not fair… just because of how I look. What else am I supposed to be?" she lamented before angrily grabbing a handful of her golden hair and bringing it in front of her face as she fought back tears. "Stupid hair… stupid eyes…"
"It's not like it matters anymore," Kaorin offered. "We're all just survivors now, right?"
"That's not the point!" Asami hotly countered. "I'm Japanese!"
"I never said you weren't," Kaorin backed down as she realized that she needed to choose her words more carefully. "A-anyway, pretty much anyone and everyone that bullied you is dead now, right? You get the last laugh. You're Japanese. They are citizens of the other world."
Asami pouted. "I guess you're right. But I never got to prove that I was right and rub it in their faces."
"I don't envy anyone that gets on your bad side."
"Especially now that I have a gun and no laws to say it's not okay to blow off body parts!"
-Later that afternoon near the library-
"All right, it looks like we're clear," Chihiro announced as she peered out of the bus's gun port for any remaining insects. "Anyone see any more bugs?"
"Nothing but corpses," Yomi announced.
"None here, either," Kagura sounded off.
"They're all dead," Osaka confirmed.
"I don't see any, either," Hiro called out as he stood in the driver's seat to see out the windshield.
"Okay, let's hope everything goes according to plan," Chihiro prayed as she slammed her gun port shut.
"Maybe we should wait for the sun to be on our side to do this," Yomi hesitated as she kept her eyes locked on the library before reluctantly shutting her gun port.
"That'll set us back a day," Chihiro refuted as she moved to the center of the bus and climbed the ladder there. "We're doing this now," she asserted as she opened the trapdoor to the roof and climbed out. Her footsteps sounded for a few seconds on the roof before she stuck her head back through the trapdoor. "It's all clear! Pass 'em up!"
"Right," Kagura acknowledged as she grabbed a nearby crate. The crate was loaded down with several capped bottles that clanged with each little movement Kagura made.
Chihiro, Kagura, and Yomi worked together to hoist two such crates up onto the bus's roof. After getting the boxes up to the roof, they carried one to each end of the bus and set them down next to a new addition to the bus. Fixtures made of scrap metal and wood were bolted down to the armored bus's roof. Surgical tubing and leather were attached to the fixtures to make large, bulky slingshots.
"Okay, Osaka and I will man this slingshot," Chihiro announced from her position at the rear of the bus. "Kagura, you and Yomi take care of the one at the front. Hiro, you just keep an eye for any bugs that might show up."
"Right," the group collectively replied.
Chihiro plucked a bottle from the crate and turned it to reveal a storm match taped to the bottle. "Remember, after you light the match, you need to keep the flame away from the other bottles and try not to burn the tubing on the slingshots," she announced as she passed the bottle over to Osaka and circled around the slingshot. "Don't light it until you're ready… to release," she grunted as she pulled the slingshot back. "Be sure to aim for the windows."
Osaka gingerly placed the bottle into the sling and lit the match, prompting Chihiro to release it. The bottle sailed through the air before crashing to the street a few meters short of the library. The moment the bottle shattered, a fireball erupted as the fuel inside the bottle ignited. "Go!" Chihiro barked. "We need to torch that building so we can go get Kaorin!"
Yomi and Kagura followed suit and began launching firebombs at the library. While the first few shots missed their mark entirely, the two groups managed to hone in their attacks and strike at the library's walls. The burning fuel and impact caused many of the smaller bugs to storm out of the building in a panic. They hissed and screeched at the searing flames and choking smoke, completely unaware of the bus even as more petrol bombs rained down.
One of the glass bottles scored a direct hit on one of the insects. It shattered on impact with the insect's exoskeleton, drenching the monster in burning fuel. The beast roared as it ran about in a futile attempt to flee the inferno. It instinctively tried to retreat into the library, but as it approached the threshold it was met with a brutal assault from its own kin. The insects showed a surprising amount of cognition as they slew the burning bug to prevent it from spreading the flames into the nest.
"We need to hit the windows!" Chihiro hissed after witnessing the insect get ripped apart. "This is all for naught if we can't destroy the nest!"
"I know that!" Yomi shot back in a hushed tone, not wanting to give the panicked bugs a reason to target the bus. It took several launches to hone in on the sweet spot, but Yomi managed to land the first direct hit as a petrol bomb sailed through one of the second story windows.
"Good hit!" Chihiro praised. "See if you can hit different windows. We need to make sure that nest burns."
In spite of their efforts, the two groups failed to send another firebomb through a window before they ran out. Having used up all of the petrol bombs, the women retreated back into the bus to observe the situation from a more secure position. "It's definitely on fire," Yomi commented as the group observed flames rising out of the window she had landed a firebomb in.
"Look at all that smoke," Kagura marveled. "It's really driving them out." True to Kagura's word, the number of insects fleeing the building had exploded, even if most of the insects were reluctant to go very far from their burning home.
"I wanted them to all die," Chihiro complained. "But I guess this is enough. So long as we can go get Kaorin in the morning."
"What's the difference?" Yomi enquired.
"If they all burned to death then we would have a way to easily clear Tokyo of those damned monsters," Chihiro explained. "If they scamper off to live another day then it's going to be hell trying to get rid of them."
Yomi sighed. "I guess that would've been the better scenario."
"Wow! Look at that!" Kagura exclaimed as all at once the bugs started to stampede away from the burning library.
"Abandon ship, huh?" Chihiro noted as she watched the insects move en masse across the street and into the shade provided by the buildings there.
"They're carryin' something," Osaka noted.
"Huh?" the rest of the group voiced their confusion as they tried to see through the surging insects in the dwindling light.
"It's eggs!" Hiro exclaimed.
-At about that time-
"We need to stop and find shelter before it gets too dark," Kaorin urged as the sky began to turn shades yellow, orange, and red.
"I guess," Asami agreed as she ran towards a nearby truck and clambered her way to the top of it. "What kind of place you wanna stay at?" she asked as she stood on her toes and scanned the area.
"Whatever is most secure," Kaorin predictably requested.
"You're so boring," Asami complained before she pointed down the street. "It looks like that house is all boarded up. It might be good."
"Let's check it out," Kaorin affirmed as she set out in the direction Asami had indicated.
Sure enough, the unlikely duo happened upon a modestly sized house that had all of its windows boarded up. It also sported a rather sturdy-looking front door. The odds of it being occupied by any people seemed farfetched considering that vines and weeds seemed to be wrapping up the building in a deliberate attempt to crush the structure. That didn't stop Asami from marching up to the door and fervently pounding on it. "Anybody home?" Asami called out as loud as she could as the small blonde continued to harass the door. "Open up!"
"D-don't do that!" Kaorin hissed as she glanced about for any unwelcome guests Asami's noise may have attracted.
"It's abandoned," Asami relented after spitefully kicking the door a couple of times. "Let's make ourselves at home, shall we?" she suggested with a wide grin as she lit a flashlight attached to her gun. "Ready?"
Kaorin inched over next to Asami as she turned on her own light. "O-okay."
"Let's go!" Asami announced as tried the handle, only to discover it locked. After uselessly pushing and pulling on the heavy door for a few moments Asami went back to kicking it. "Open! Up! Damn! You!" she grunted as she emphasized each word with a kick to the door.
"It's no use. Let's just find another place," Kaorin urged as she switched off her flashlight. "We don't have any time to waste."
"Oh, hell no!" Asami refused. "It's on!" She then leaped away from the door and grabbed her heirloom shotgun from her luggage in exchange for the rifle she had obtained from the warehouse. A few slugs easily mangled the door's lock. "How's that?" the blonde shouted before kicking the door again. This time the door came open… barely. A chain prevented the door from opening more than a crack. "Grah!" Asami grunted in frustration as she fired her shotgun recklessly until the chain broke and the door swung open. Quickly swapping weapons again, Asami charged into the darkened interior without even taking the time to turn on the rifle's flashlight.
"W-wait!" Kaorin pleaded as she struggled to switch her light back on. By the time Kaorin was ready to enter, Asami had completely vanished. Where did she go? Kaorin panicked as she tentatively shone her light inside. "A-Asami?" she tried to shout, but the words came out in just over a whisper. Summoning her courage, Kaorin cautiously stepped into the building. "Asami, where are you?"
"It's all clear!" Asami's voice rang out from deep within the structure. "Get our stuff and close the door!"
Kaorin breathed a sigh of relief as she slowly turned back to the door. Pulling the door open to leave, Kaorin stopped dead in her tracks. A bug was skulking around on the street. It was attracted by Asami's ruckus, no doubt. Kaorin held her breath and raised her firearm. Just as she was about to squeeze off a round, the sounds of nearby gunshots rang out. Startled, Kaorin instantly ducked back into the house. She cautiously peered around the doorway as she tried to catch her breath and steady her heart.
"I got it!" Asami voice triumphantly boasted.
Kaorin chanced a peed outside to spy the corpse of the bug. It was just Asami she realized as she cautiously took a step out of the building. "You scared me to death!" Kaorin yelled, not sure where Asami was.
"You'd better not be a zombie!" Asami retorted as she finally appeared to give Kaorin a hand with bringing in the supplies.
"Wrong apocalypse," Kaorin grumbled as the duo worked together to get everything inside. "More importantly, what do we do about this?" she asked as she grabbed the door. Asami's unjustified rancor had reduced what was left of the doorknob and locks to gnarled and useless hunks of metal. "We can't stay here if we can't seal this up."
"It's not a problem," Asami dismissed. "We can just put something heavy in the way. Like a fridge!"
"Do-do you really think that's enough?"
"Probably," Asami offhandedly remarked as she set her weapon down in exchange for a battery powered lantern from one of the bags. "Let's find the kitchen first."
Kaorin hesitated. "Find? I thought you said the house was all clear?"
"There isn't any light shining in so there ain't any holes big enough for bugs to get through," Asami sagaciously observed. "And if there were any in here they'd have tried to bust down the door with all that noise I made."
"Back before everything went to shit, I was never really the best at anything. Not anymore! Ain't a soul alive that knows how to hunt and kill bugs better than me!" Asami boasted. "I also know a few tricks to manipulate 'em, too," she added as they found the kitchen. Asami made a bee line for the cupboards. "Find some cleaners. Bleach, ammonia, drain cleaner. The smellier and deadlier the better."
After gathering the requested chemicals, Asami led Kaorin back to the front door. "When it comes to bugs, there are only three senses you gotta look out for; sight, smell, and sound. They've got killer eyesight, but their hearing really sucks. You have to really make a ruckus to get their attention, so you don't have to worry about noise too much," Asami explained as she carried a jug of bleach to the end of the walkway where the giant bug's carcass was while Kaorin hung back at the entryway. "They've got pretty good smell, even if they do smell with these," she elaborated as she kicked one of the dead bug's antennae. "So if you want to hide, just just need to stay out of sight and cover your scent. If you do that they won't bother you at all, even if you're a little noisy." Asami then proceeded to demonstrate by liberally splashing the caustic liquid in front of her as she shuffled backwards towards the house. "I'm not sure if it masks our smell or if they just really hate the smell of this shit, but either way they'll leave us alone all night."
Kaorin quickly adopted an angry expression. "Then why didn't we do this at the police station?"
"Eh?" Asami raised an eyebrow as she carelessly discarded the jug and started back to the doorstep for more cleaners. "That's stupid. The bars worked just fine at keeping the crawlies at bay."
"That's besides the point!" Kaorin asserted. "It's terrifying! We could have been safer!"
"Not really," Asami argued as she started dumping more chemicals on the walk. "After all, there were no doors in that police station. Even if they weren't able to follow a scent they might just wander in."
"Didn't you just say that they don't like the smell?" Kaorin pressed.
"I don't know," Asami dodged. "All I know is that if I do this the bugs usually leave me alone no matter where I decide to spend the night."
Kaorin sighed in resignation as she sat down on the stoop. "So why didn't we do it at the police station?"
"That place was huge! And you gotta spread this crap out every day. It seemed like a lot of trouble when the bars worked just as well."
"So what's plan B?" Kaorin halfheartedly queried.
"If this doesn't work, what will we do?" Kaorin elaborated.
"This'll work. Don't worry," Asami assured.
"If it doesn't?" Kaorin persisted.
Asami shrugged. "We'll play it by ear. After all, isn't it more fun when you don't know the script?"
"I'd rather be safe!" Kaorin regained her fire as she stood.
"I told you: this'll work," Asami repeated herself as she reached the stoop. "Now move, I gotta soak this and we're done."
Kaorin disdainfully retreated back into the house. "I'm coming up with a plan B."
"If you do, don't tell me what is," Asami requested. "You might spoil the ending for me."
A couple of hours later the duo remained undisturbed even as the nightly cacophony of bug legs clattering and echoing screeches grew to an uncomfortable din. "It's really loud," Kaorin complained as she sat on an old mattress the duo had dragged into the kitchen.
"We must be pretty close to a nest," Asami surmised as she dug through the barren cabinets for the hundredth time in the vain hope of finding something she had missed.
"Don't tell me that," Kaorin whimpered.
"If they haven't found us by now, then they ain't gonna," Asami assured. "Like I said; they suck at hearing. They're making a lot of noise, too. So we can make all the noise we want and nobody will bother us," she finished in a seductive manner.
"I refuse," Kaorin preemptively shot Asami down.
Asami pouted. "Why? Ain't I cute?"
"Kid or not, you really look like one," Kaorin pointed out the obvious. "You might be small and cute, but you're covered in scars. That's not cute at all. Neither is your attitude."
"Scars're awesome!" Asami proclaimed. "And what's attitude gotta do with sex? It's just fun."
Asami grinned. "I get it," she teased. "Kaori's embarrassed because she's a virgin!"
"I'm not a virgin!" Kaorin viscerally snapped back.
"Eh? And you don't like it?" Asami queried as she adopted a puzzled look. "That guy must've sucked in the sack."
"Drop it," Kaorin dodged as she fumbled through her pocket, retrieved a cigarette, and brought it to her lips. As Kaorin lit it Asami abandoned her scurrying about and sat across from Kaorin. The tiny blonde crossed her arms over her bare chest and tilted her head from side to side. "What are you doing?" Kaorin pressed after taking a drag.
"I'm trying to come up with a way to 'drop it,' but still keep talking about it," Asami unabashedly admitted.
"I mean it," Kaorin warned. "Just drop it."
"Fine," Asami grunted. "So what do you wanna talk about?"
"I just…" Kaorin started before sighing. "Just let me finish this cigarette and let's go to bed. All I want is to see everyone again."
Asami hung her head as she felt a pang of guilt. "Hey… I didn't wanna bring this up—I should have brought it up sooner," she uncharacteristically fumbled as she scratched the back of her head and avoided eye contact. "What'll you do if there nobody there? Have you prepared yourself for something like that? I mean, you said it yourself that they should have come for you a long time ago, right?"
"They will be there!" Kaorin vehemently asserted.
"What if they aren't?" Asami persisted.
Kaorin was silent a moment as she glared at Asami through the darkness. "Then I'll look elsewhere. If they aren't there then I'll look everywhere," she seriously claimed.
"Well, I'll follow ya to the ends of the earth," the blonde stated her support. "That's where I draw the line, though."
"You won't follow me to hell?" Kaorin asked half-jokingly. "It seems like that would be your cup of tea."
"Ah… hell might be fun," Asami played along. "Killing monsters is getting a little old. Maybe demons and devils'll give me a good challenge."
"The minions of hell will take one look at you and run away."