Once upon a time, before everything began, it would have been a treat to get a week away from parents. Away from chores, constant nagging and endless embarrassment. To get away from the support… the love… the closeness.

I can't believe how unbelievably stupid I've been. I moped my way through high school, hating practically everything, and lost sight of what is most important. I didn't even realise family was important.

It's a lot harder to take things for granted these days.

Part of me dreads finding my family. Another part of me looks forward to it more than anything else. I have no guarantee that they're alive, if they're unhurt, or even if they're still sane. I'm not sure what I'll do if I do find them.

I just need closure from all this madness.

H.O.T.D. Season 2: Human or DEAD

Act 6: Elementary School of the DEAD

No one had spoken for the last hour, save when Takashi would give a quick command if they turned into the path of the dead.

Takashi felt… clean. Like he had finally been able to wash away the grime and suppressed fear that had dictated his life for over a week. Only a week… yet sometimes he felt as if this was all his life had ever been.

Their one night of respite had done the group a world of good. Not only had they all been able to wash with warm water for the first time in days – and indeed the first time since the outbreak for Alice – they had all felt just a little more normal than they had since it all began.

Even when they had stayed at Shizuka's friend's house (they had since learned her name was Rika), not everyone had slept, and there had been a quick rescue mission which had not been exactly restful for Takashi. Last night everyone had slept. A fact that annoyed him. He had been planning to keep a watch out, but after feeling so warm and having a full stomach, he had fallen asleep with his friends in the lounge, all sprawled in whichever position they found most comfortable. Even Alice had come down sometime during the night to curl up next to Shizuka, with Zeke a little hot ball of fur at her side.

And for some reason, this walk through the city did not feel as hard as the others had. Takashi was alert. His senses felt heightened from his good rest, and he moved more fluidly than he had before. After his experiences, he had learned how to move without making noise, and had grown miles more aware of his surroundings then he had even been.

Saeko's was watching his back as he checked the next street, unknown to him. Her tender smile hid the turbulent desires beneath.

As he spotted the Humvee, Takashi stopped. After a brief check, he confirmed the area was clear and cautioned everyone forward. The vehicle sat in the asphalt parking area outside of the park itself. The green grass sparkled with last night's rain as the weak morning light glinted off it.

The group moved forward quickly and slid into the Humvee in the same arrangement from earlier. As Hirano shut the passenger door behind him, and Takashi confirmed that he and Rei were seated on the roof, Shizuka calmly keyed the engine into life and took off. The nurse knew the area they were heading into better than the area they were leaving, and was aware of her destination.

It took maybe 10 minutes to pass Takashi's house, and from there, another 40 until they were to stop.

Plenty of time to get some answers, Rei thought to herself.

"Takashi," she said, getting the leader's attention. Rei felt her heartbeat speed up as his chocolate eyes fixed on her amber ones. How had she been so stupid to give him up?

"Nani?" He asked her. He knew what she was going to say, Rei could feel it. She'd never realised how perceptive he could be. Maybe it was she who was the unperceptive one.

"Have you thought about what I said? At Saya's house?" Rei asked, forcing herself to maintain eye contact.

Takashi blinked and looked away.


"What?" She urged him. "What is it?"

"Things are hectic right now. I haven't been thinking about that much." He admitted, still not meeting her eyes.

"Why not? You've had three days since then. I thought you'd be happy…" She couldn't help but feel hurt. She'd completely thrown herself at him three days ago, and had finally thought that there would be a happy ending. Even Saeko's mysterious appearance hadn't dampened her hopes, despite the fact Rei was very suspicious that something had happened between Saeko and Takashi whilst they were alone.

Once they were finally safe with her parents, they could be together without any drama or interruption. After so many years, Takashi and Rei would finally be happy.

"It's not like that," Takashi assured her.

"I am happy. I was happy. There's just been so much to deal with that my mind's been overloaded. I've been trying to keep everyone safe, Rei." His tone turned almost pleading as Rei's expression didn't change.

Does that mean you aren't happy anymore, Takashi? Or are you just confused? Rei thought bitterly. You're supposed to say 'was' then'are'.

"Takashi…" She laid a hand on his leg, gripping his knee gently.

"What I said back then… I was being serious. I don't think I could go on without you. If you were to move on to someone else…" Rei stopped and drew in a breath.

"I said that I would still need you if you fell in love with another girl. And I meant that!" She said quickly, trying not to raise her voice lest the others hear them.

Takashi looked puzzled. "What do you mean? Where is this suddenly coming from?" He asked warily, suspicious of her answer.

"I need you. Now. Forget about everyone else, this is about us." She said huskily, shuffling over so she was pressed against his side.

A blush rose to Takashi's cheeks that made Rei smirk victoriously.

"You can't hide what you want from me," she laughed, and leant up and kissed him.

Takashi's eyes widened with shock, but Rei had shut her own eyes and didn't see him. This is what she had tried to start that day back in the mansion, but it had hurt to move back then. Now, she could do as she pleased.

Rei released him and leaned back with a smile. Takashi blinked and shook his head as if her were awakening from a daze.

"Do you have any idea how long I've wanted you to do that?" He muttered, probably not intending for her to hear.

Rei giggled, and pressed into him again.

"I know exactly how long – it's as long as I've wanted to do it."

Takashi's head whipped up and his arm was around her waist in a flash, pulling Rei to his chest. She gasped with surprise, but snuggled into him contentedly. He pulled her back, intending to kiss her. He leant in, and bent down, as Rei's amber eyes stared into his own.

The amber turned blue. Takashi blinked. A different girl was looking into his eyes – not the one that was in his embrace.

Takashi gently pushed Rei back and scooted further away from her on the Humvee's roof. He felt a sudden wave of paranoia overtake him, and he quickly checked the roof to make sure no one was up there with them. Funny… he had felt certain that a boy their own age with grey hair and green eyes had been there just moments ago…

"What's wrong?" Rei asked, hurt.

"Sorry," Takashi said distractedly.

"Just… can we wait till we're not on the roof of a moving vehicle?" he asked with a weak smile.

Rei didn't seem to notice his wariness. She giggled lightly, and relaxed.


The rest of the trip passed in silence.

Takashi felt strangely numb. And surprisingly guilty. Guilt hadn't stopped him from kissing Rei three days ago, less than 24 hours after he had done the same to Saeko at the shrine. Guilt hadn't stopped him from wanting Rei in the days post-outbreak. But it was stopping him now.

A minute ago, he had wanted Rei when she was in his arms. Then he had wanted someone else. Someone with blue eyes. He just wasn't sure who it was.

Takashi's stomach felt like it was tightening, and nausea rolled through his gut. What if someone else from the group had seen them? He wouldn't be able to look any of them in the eye.

This was the third time he and Rei had kissed. Once at Rika's house, once at the Takagi mansion, and now once more on the way to his mother's elementary school. But he'd also kissed Saeko at the shrine, and imagined he'd… that he'd…

Takashi immediately started thinking about zombies, and felt the straining between his legs settle down. He sighed to himself, wondering how everything could be such a mess.

I've loved Rei longer, so why do I feel like I'm cheating on Saeko?

Or is it-?!

There was a sudden cry from inside, and the Humvee swerved, nearly knocking Takashi off. The vehicle jolted painfully, and Takashi was actually bounced into the air, clear of the vehicle. He landed hard on his back with a gasp, but grit his teeth and forced himself back up.

"What's going on?!" Rei yelled. Takashi quickly turned back and saw a body on the ground, fast receding into the distance. The monster's grey flesh was covered in black blood and its body had a great trench in it from where it had been run over by the Humvee.

Shizuka spun the wheel left, and Takashi only just grabbed a hold of Rei to stop her slipping off. They turned into a side street, speeding down the road as Takashi got his bearings. He leant down into the Humvee, idly noting that Saya had been thrown onto the ground on top of Miyuki, and that Shizuka's face was flushed with surprise.

"What happened?" He asked swiftly.

"One of Them was lying right there on the road. It was the same colour as the asphalt… I didn't see it until we were right on top of it!" Shizuka was panting as if she had run a marathon, but gulped as she tried to calm down.

"There were more ahead of us, so I took a detour." The nurse explained as her breathing returned to normal.

"I can see more," Saeko declared from the backseat. From his position on the roof, Takashi looked back the way they had come. He made an angry noise as he saw a small group of Them shamble across to follow them down the street. Rei called out to him, and he turned back to the front. There were more of Them ahead. He quickly counted four of Them – easy enough to run down, but he didn't want a repeat of the wire blockade incident.

Well, it wouldn't be so bad…

Takashi shook his head violently to rid himself of his perverse thoughts. He groaned aloud. Now was definitely not the time.

"Rei, get down and wait!" he cried out. Rei threw herself down, and pressed herself into the roof. Takashi quickly swung himself down into the Humvee, barely avoiding the girls in the back.

"Shizuka-sensei!" He cried out.


"Give it everything you've got! I'm talking foot-to-the-floor. Let's see what this thing can do!" he grinned.

"Hirano, I want you on lookout in case we get blocked up. Rei can switch spots with you."

Kohta nodded firmly, and clambered over the center divider into the back, where it was now much too crowded. Hirano used the backseat to propel for a boost, and hoisted himself onto the roof. Takashi carefully lifted his AR-10 up to him.

Soon enough, Rei swung into the vehicle and slid into the front seat. Finally, the girls could breathe again. Takashi stood with his head and shoulders out of hatch to keep an eye out with Hirano.

From his vantage point, he could see that the number of monsters had increased to six.

"Let's go sensei!" He yelled out suddenly.

"We're off!" came the reply from inside the car. The vehicle jumped forward, and Takashi's hair was violently blown off his face.

"Brace yourself Hirano," he warned as the zombies raced up to meet them.

"Oh, I'm all over this Komuro," Hirano assured him with a grin. His scope was to his eye, although he wasn't to shoot unless completely necessary. Takashi braced himself against the frame, his eyes watering.

The buildings zoomed by in a blur, and suddenly the zombies were in front of, underneath, and behind them. The force of the impact jolted the vehicle up, and he heard a thump inside. Bodies shredded on the windscreen, and blood splattered over his cheek. Takashi wiped it away with disgust, before the vehicle began to drift towards the right at an alarming rate.

"I can't see!" Shizuka cried out.

He leant up and grimaced with disgust. A mangled torso was lying across the windscreen. With a heave of his arms, Takashi hauled himself fully onto the roof, and crawled forward. With his chest leaning over the front edge, and Hirano gripping his ankles firmly, Takashi tried to force his hands under the torso.

His hands were slick with old blood, and it was hard to get a grip. Finally, he found purchase of the body's t-shirt, and he heaved. Takashi was thrown to the side as the Humvee jumped the curb and scraped a building, before Shizuka instinctively spun the steering wheel left. Hirano lost his grip on Takashi's ankles, and he was thrown onto the bonnet.

"Komuro!" cried out Hirano.

Scrambling for a handhold, Takashi grabbed onto one of the windscreen wipers. Grunting with the effort, he hauled himself further away from the asphalt that was zooming on mere inches under his feet.

Hirano reached out a hand, and Takashi grabbed it. He twisted his body, and with a single powerful kick, sent the torso flying off the windscreen. He could see Shizuka's face through the windscreen, and Rei's wide eyes as she screamed for him to move.

With a groan, Takashi pulled himself back onto the roof as Hirano moved back to make room. Almost instantly, the Humvee's course straightened up, before slowing to a stop.

Takashi collapse on the roof as everyone piled out of the vehicle, his arms shaking.

"Come on, Komuro," Hirano said gently, a grin playing on his lips.

The leader nodded, and slid off the roof and onto the ground, where Rei rushed up to meet him.

"Takashi!" She cried out, pulling him into a tight hug. Rei opened the back door to the Humvee, and got him to sit down.

"Can you walk?" Takagi asked, with rarely showing concern on her face.

"I only had to use my arms, my legs are fine," Takashi replied.

"Well, excuse me for being worried!" Saya shot back. Saeko was busy looking through one of the bags, and soon pulled out a dark blue t-shirt.

"You can wear this, Takashi," she said with a smile as she held it out to him.

Their leader blinked with surprise, but nodded and took the shirt.

"Thank you, Saeko-san."

Takashi didn't want to rest long. They distributed as many bags as they could between them, mostly carrying spare ammunition and clothes. Takashi quickly changed his shirt, and cleaned his hands, before the group set out on foot.

As they drew nearer to the school, the group was met with more and more members of the undead.

"There must be a lot of people at the school," Takagi reasoned. "They're drawn to whatever sound is coming from the people there."

Miyuki nodded. "I noticed the same thing when I was heading to the mansion."

Takashi rounded a corner, and stopped. There, at the end of the road, was Shintoko Third Elementary. The only thing in their way was a blockade and several clustered zombies.

Saeko limped over to where Takashi stood, drawing his attention.

"We may need to approach from a different route. We can't risk drawing more of Them to this area, for the sake of our safety and everyone's inside." She reached out and grabbed his hand, which made Takashi jump with surprise.

Saeko smiled, and tilted her head to the side.

"Problem, Takashi?" She asked slyly. Takashi shook his head slowly.

"…No?" His question-like answer made Saeko laugh quietly, and she pulled him back, much to Rei's displeasure. The group moved around a block of land, keeping a slow pace so Saeko wouldn't hurt herself, and so they wouldn't attract any unwanted attention.

Soon enough, the group came to an impressive wall, constructed from heavy traffic barriers.

As they approached, Hirano smartly went up to one of the traffic barriers, and gave it an experimental push.

"They're heavy." He reported. "Full of water, I think."

"They wouldn't use their drinkable water for something like this…" Takagi mused. "It must be waste water, or contaminated water."

Takashi nodded thoughtfully. "They'd be good at keeping Them out – They're not smart enough to get over them all. But it wouldn't stop people."

"Those at the school are actively petitioning for other survivors to join them, if what you saw at the police station is anything to go by." Saeko pointed out.

"Yes… but if they want people to come to the school, they must have some way to confirm if they've been infected or not." Miyuki alluded quietly.

The group all nodded, having come to a similar conclusion.

"In that case, look alive people!" Takashi called out and began to clamber over the barrier. Saya actually smacked her face with the palm of her hand, and the others groaned before following their leader.

There were three rows of barriers to get across, which didn't take too long. There was another stretch of asphalt before the school fence, with absolutely nothing else between them and their destination. The asphalt had splotches of blood all over it, some human shaped, as if bodies had fallen into puddles of the stuff. They cautioned forward, unconsciously lowering their weapons in an attempt to prove that they weren't dangerous.

It was when they were about 50 meters from the fence that it happened.

There was a sudden blinding flash, which stung Takashi's eyes and messed with his vision. He adjusted just in time to see an answering flash from a window in the school, and suddenly there were a dozen police officers running from the building and lining the street in front of them.

Clad in black and blue combat gear, the officers seemingly simultaneously raised their black weapons to point straight at the newcomers.

Everyone froze, their hands instinctively shooting into the air.

"Don't take a step closer!" One of the police officers called, his reddish hair blowing in a slight breeze.

"Have any of you been bitten?"

Takashi choked on his words as he forced himself to represent the group. It would be too cruel to die like this after everything that had happened.

"No! We're alive! One of us has a sprained ankle, but we're otherwise unhurt! We're not infected!"

The officer's face relaxed only slightly.

"State your names and ages."

Takashi yelled back.

"Alice Maresato, 7 years old! Shizuka Marikawa, 27 years old! Saeko Busujima, 18 years old! Saya Takagi, Kohta Hirano, Miyuki Arakawa… Rei Miyamoto and me, Takashi Komuro, all 17 years old!" He cried back, pausing a little as he remembered that Rei would have been in the year above him, though she hadn't had her 18th birthday yet. He pointed to each member of the group as he listed them.

"Miyamoto?" The officer repeated, quieter. He turned back to the school and raised a mirror. He caught the sunlight, and he flashed it back to the school, waving it side to side three times in some kind of message.

The group slowly lowered their hands, uncertain as to what they should so. Miyuki cautiously picked up Saeko's crutches where they had fallen to the ground, and handed them back to the indigo haired teen.

Soon enough, another police officer ran out from the building, but this one was unarmed. He had jet black hair and amber eyes, and the other officers stepped out of his way as he rushed past. The officer staggered to a stop, his eyes wide and excited.

Rei froze. She took an uncertain step forward, before she broke into a full sprint, screaming and laughing with joy. She threw herself into her father's arms and began sobbing uncontrollably, as Tadashi Miyamoto clutched his daughter to his chest and laughed to finally be reunited with her.

H.O.T.D. Season 2: Human or DEAD

After a minute or so, Miyamoto senior finally pulled back from his daughter and looked up at the rest of the group. By this point the police officers had relaxed, their weapons no longer pointed at the group.

"…Takashi? Is that you? God, you look so different…"

Takashi stepped forward and greeted Rei's father.

"It's good to see you, Miyamoto-san," he bowed respectfully, knowing full well how much power the man had over the group now. Rei's dad was likely leading whichever survivors were in the school, and so it was because of him that they could evacuate. Not to mention, Takashi had met the man several times before, and was much more comfortable talking to him then he had been to Saya's parents.

He and the rest of the group covered the distance between them and the Miyamoto's, but stood back a respectful distance as Tadashi continued to clutch Rei tightly.

Tadashi fixed him with a level gaze. "Have you been taking care of my daughter?" He asked firmly.

Takashi blinked, slightly surprised by the question.

"Uh, well, I guess-"

"He has dad, right from the beginning," Rei assured her father, her eyes flicking over to Takashi momentarily before she returned to drinking in her father's face, almost as if she were re-memorizing the sight of it.

Tadashi nodded thoughtfully, before he gently pulled away and strode over to take Takashi by the hand.

"You have my deepest thanks, Takashi-kun." Miyamoto-senior shook his hand firmly, and Takashi nodded in return.

Tadashi turned his gaze to the rest of the survivors, half-noting the slightly bitter look on Saya's face.

"You should all come inside – everyone will be happy to see you."

Shizuka thanked him humbly, casting her eyes to the ground with a faint blush. Saya noticed, and elbowed her in the side with a sly grin, which nearly knocked the buxom nurse over.

Takashi moved closer to Rei's dad, and asked in a low voice: "Is… is my mum here?"

He noticed Tadashi's eyes flicker over to the left, and a shadow pass over his face. But before Takashi could despair, the man grinned. That was more than enough of an answer for Takashi.

He stilled, suddenly over-come with the realization that he would see him mother again. After all this time, he hadn't realised how hard it would be to say hello.

Saeko limped past him, beckoning him forward. As they neared the doors – which had been bolted down and secured with the best measures available to the school – Saeko paused.

Her eyes flickered to the left. Her face paled and her eyes widened.

"My God…" Miyuki whispered.

Takashi turned to the left, and felt his gorge rise.

Rows upon rows of little multi-colored bundles lined the school's oval, stretching behind the building and out of their field of vision. The bundles were white, blue, red and green. Some of them were covered in floral patterns, other with random geometrical shapes. Some of the bundles were tablecloths, some curtains, others linen and carpet. They looked as if they had been completely soaked through from last night's rain. Almost none of the bundles were bigger than Alice.

Hundreds of little children lay dead on the Shinktoko Third Elementary school oval, all wrapped in whatever material could be spared.

Behind them, Shizuka quickly turned Alice away so she couldn't see the rows of children's bodies, faceless and unknown in the mid-morning sun.

Those little people would be cold and clammy, wet and slimy to the touch after the rain, and the decomposition process would be sped up. It wouldn't take long until the bodies began to reek as mold and decay set in.

Those poor children… Shizuka despaired to herself, clapping a hand over her mouth to prevent herself from throwing up.

This time Tadashi didn't spare the dead children a glance as he explained the situation to them.

"It happened so quickly – according to reports, the school was quickly overrun by the infected. As you could see… many people were killed, including the majority of the staff. As far as elementary school's go, this is one of the largest in Japan." Tadashi filled them in.

"Statistically speaking, there would be roughly 300 – 320 elementary students per school," Saya thought aloud. "So how many students went to the school?"

"It was around 600," Takashi said sullenly, nearly overwhelmed by the thought of all those dead children.

"That's twice the size of a typical school!" Saya exclaimed. The rest of the group also had expressions of surprise mixed with disgust on their faces.

Tadashi nodded solemnly. "And because the population was so dense, those monsters took over quickly. There was nowhere for them to run after they got inside the building."

As he spoke, the group stepped into the building's canteen.

"If you want to know more about what happened, you'd be better off asking someone who was there, Takashi-kun." Tadashi said with a weary smile, pulling Rei back into his arms.

Takashi looked at the man with a quizzical look, before he heard a voice.


Takashi froze. He looked up slowly, and made a choked noise in the back of his throat.

There, standing on a step, was a woman with chocolate brown eyes. She wore her hair in a spikily cut fringe, and the rest of her heavily layered brown hair extended halfway down her back. She had quite tanned skin. She was quite young for a mother, maybe in her late 30's. Her eyes filled with tears and her cheeks flushed.

"Hi, mum." Takashi said weakly. Azumi Komuro laughed and ran towards her son with open arms. He stepped forward to meet her, and was nearly bowled over as she threw himself into his arms.

Azumi showered her sons face with kisses, and Takashi didn't have a trace of embarrassment within him. He hugged her tighter, somehow surprised at how much shorter she was than him. Takashi was only just about 6 feet tall, but his mum only came up to his shoulder. He hugged her closer, resting his head on her shoulder and buried his face against her neck.

"I've missed you," he whispered to her, his voice betraying his relief and fear. Azumi drew back and reached up a hand to his face, cupping his cheek lightly.

"God knows I've been worried about you. You look so old!" Azumi laughed again, but it sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

"It's only just been over a week mum," Takashi smiled, albeit grimly.

Azumi felt her heart clench as her son tried to reassure her. Her little boy, already so very grown up.

"But how much have you grown?" She asked him. Takashi's eyes widened at the question, before his expression settled into a fond smile.

His mum may have only been two or three years older than he was when she had him, but she had always been wise beyond her years. Unfailingly, if he had had a problem that he went to her with, Azumi would always provide an answer that would make Takashi consider the deeper meaning of what he was dealing with. He knew his mother had been worried about him prior to the outbreak. He had stopped coming to her with problems, and his grades had begun slipping dangerously low. Azumi had thought it was a result of his father going overseas, but she had begun to suspect something else soon enough. What though, she wasn't sure.

"Way more than I should have," he finally answered. Azumi's smile faltered, but she hugged her son tight again

"I love you."

"I love you too mum."

After a long moment, they pulled apart. Azumi peeked around her son's shoulder to see the rest of the group behind a little way back. The really busty blonde woman had picked up the little girl who had her arms around the blonde's neck. The girl was too big to be held like that really, but the woman didn't seem to mind.

Behind them was a shorter, chubbier boy with chin length hair next to Saya Takagi. Azumi hadn't seen her in years, but it was wonderful to see her alive and well. To the left of them were two girls, one with indigo hair, and one with red. The purple-haired one was supporting her weight with crutches, and conversing quietly with the red head. Azumi inadvertently caught the purple heads blue eye, and the girl dipped her head in imitation of a bow. Azumi nodded back with a smile.

Azumi openly grinned to see that Rei and Tadashi had been reunited. She was a close friend of Tadashi's, and Azumi had spent a large amount of time will the police officer, helping him strategize, clean up and prepare for evacuation.

"Who are your friends, Takashi?" She asked with a grin, and he turned back to his friends with a dazed expression, as if waking from sleep.

Takashi cleared his head with a quick shake, and introduced everyone to his mother. Everyone bowed lightly to her, and Azumi returned the favor.

"Thank you all for taking care of my son," Azumi thanked them fervently.

"Well actually, Komuro-san, he's been taking care of us." Hirano grinned.

"We made him our leader," Saya explained smugly. "He's been making a lot of decisions to keep us safe."

Azumi blinked, and turned back to her son quizzically. Takashi's sheepish smile sent a wave of pride crashing through her, and she felt as if she may burst into tears again.

He's such a good kid, Azumi thought to herself. Scratch that… he's grown up. Takashi is a man now.

She smiled again, but it wavered as a thought occurred to her.

Where is Hisashi? Takashi never had a closer friend…

Takashi's happy expression fell as he watched his mother think. Azumi suddenly turned back to the group, her eyes fixing on Miyuki. She turned back to her son again.

"…Hisashi?" She asked quietly, so the others wouldn't hear her. Takashi lowered his gaze and shook his head. Azumi wanted to scoop her son up in a hug again, but held herself back. She would have time to help him now that they were reunited. And that Miyuki… surely she was Hisashi's step-sister, the one she had heard about but had never actually met. God knows how they had met up, but she didn't want to start a chain reaction of mental breakdowns by being too nosey.

"Come on," Azumi addressed the group. "I'll show you where you can store your gear and bunk up. Everyone's been helping out, even the kids after school, so we'll find you something to do to prepare for the evacuation."

Takashi was glad. He wanted to do his part to help – here, it was recognised that every pair of helping hands was needed. But still…

"What do you mean 'school'?" Hirano asked curiously as they began walking, leaving Rei with her father.

"We still run lessons for the kids. They… they're from a range of year levels. The youngest is six, and the eldest is twelve. We've got one class of thirty."

Azumi's voice cracked as she revealed how many students had survived. Takagi frowned.

"How many staff members are left?" She asked, brusquely, as was her nature.

"Two others, and myself." Azumi replied shortly.

The genius quickly ran the numbers in her head.

Thirty three survivors in a school of 600. That means 5.5% of the people here survived. It was a grim realization.

If she translated that percentage of survivors to the population of Fujimi High School, which had had roughly 1500 students and staff, then it could be reasoned that 273 people had survived. Discounting members from their group, and, as she thought about it, Shido's group, that was 260 other survivors from Fujimi.

Saya felt sick in the pit of her stomach. There was no way that many people had survived the carnage at Fujimi. The people at Shintoko Third Elementary had been lucky. Saya wondered if there were students still holed up at the high school, quickly going crazy as they hid and wasted away. She felt her gorge rise, and she stumbled.

Suddenly, there was a hand around her waist. Saya looked up with clouded hazel eyes, straight into Kohta's face.

"Are you alright, Takagi-san?" He asked concernedly. She felt an unorthodox smile spread across her face. She straightened up (with Hirano's help) and pushed him away, albeit gently.

"For the last time, I want you to call me by my first name," she admonished, barely managing to raise her voice.

Hirano frowned, before smiling.

"C'mon Ta… Saya-san. We have to stay strong."

Saya blinked, before her cheeks mysteriously flushed red.

"Ah, I know that baka!"

She stormed ahead of him, leaving Hirano trailing in her wake.

It was at that moment that they reached the classroom. There were three children who looked to be about 6 or 7 years old chasing each other around the room. Shizuka set Alice down, and the girl peered curiously at the new children.

"Boys! Shouldn't you be in class?" Azumi reprimanded them, placing her hands on her hips.

"Iie, Koko-sensei! It's our break!" One of the boys with dark hair and big green eyes cried out.

Azumi crouched in front of them, and fixed each child with a sharp gaze.

"Is that the truth?" She asked sternly. The green-eyed child raised his hands in front of him, clenching his fists as he nodded forcefully.

"It is!"

Azumi grinned, and stood back up. "Alright then, I trust you. Can you boys go play in a different classroom, maybe in the library? These people are going to be using this room until we all leave, alright?"

The boy nodded, and was leading his friends out of the room when he stopped, and looked up at Takashi. Takashi wasn't all that familiar with kids, save having known Alice for a few days, and so he didn't do anything other than look back down at the kid and wave sheepishly.

The boy looked from Azumi to Takashi, before pointing his hand at the befuddled teenager.

"Sensei, he looks like you." The boy declared.

Azumi grinned, and patted him on the head.

"Well noticed, Mori-chan. This is my son, Takashi, whom you've heard of."

"Him?!" Mori exclaimed, his eyes widening. "But he's got a gun!" Mori's hand turned to Hirano. "Him too!"

To Saeko. "And she's got a big sword!" To Miyuki. "And she has two!"

Azumi's smile faltered. Her eyes skimmed the group as if she was only noticing the weapons they had strapped all over them for the first time.

"They're good people, Mori-chan. They carry those guns to keep themselves safe. They won't be needing them anymore." She comforted the child, but her words had the opposite effect of the group. Saeko's hand instinctively clutched her Murata blade tighter.

Saeko did not for a second think that anyone would try (let alone succeed) to take her katana away from her. But this blade was precious to her, a link to her father and a reminder of the promises she had made both to herself, Soichiro Takagi, and to Takashi. And it was folly to think that there would be no more need for it. There would be hardly a day from here on in when she didn't wield her blade. The thought made her smile.

"Go and play, Mori, but make sure you go back to your lesson! Don't forget that I am your teacher too!" Azumi declared.

"Hai, sensei!" Mori cried, before running out of the door with his friends. As they passed Alice, the girl stepped out in front of them. She brought her hand to her hair as she twisted it nervously.

"Ah, um. Could… could I play with you too?" Alice looked up with large hopeful eyes that instantly threw Mori off his game. The boy beamed, and reached out a hand.


Before Alice took it, she looked up to Kohta, silently asking permission. Hirano smiled gently, and nodded that she should go and enjoy herself. Alice hugged his leg quickly, and ran away with the boys.

After she'd gone, Azumi turned back to the group.

"You girls can take this room to sleep in tonight. You guys can either take the room adjacent, or shack up with some of the other guys. We've got another classroom free to use for lodging, in the hopes that some more survivors come to the school." Azumi explained.

"How many people have arrived?" Takashi asked his mum. There had been people that they had seen when they entered the building, but he had been way too distracted to get a feel for how many people were here.

"The majority of the police force that were on shift 'That Day' are here… although not all of them made it." Azumi paused with a frown.

"You'll need to talk to Tadashi for the exact number, but as far as I know, there are over 300 people here." She concluded.

Three hundred… Three hundred people out of all the hundreds of millions in Japan…

Of course, Tokonosu was just one city, but to think that there were only three hundred people that would be evacuated from the city was grim. It was highly unlikely that any other survivors would have the opportunity to evacuate after tomorrow afternoon.

Saya couldn't help but think of her family, and what had become of them. Her mother and father had been going to take responsibility for the water and electricity of Tokonosu, but she didn't even know if they were alive. The last time Saya had seen her parents, they had been fighting side by side, shooting and slashing at a horde of undead that had seemed endless. They could be corpses by now.

Saya was shaken out of her reverie by Takashi asking his mother a question which had been bugging all of them for the past day.

"Mum, after the outbreak did you ever go back home?" Takashi asked earnestly. Azumi frowned.

"No. I stayed here and took care of the children before helping with the cleanup and rehabilitation effort. I knew it wouldn't be any safer in the residential area, so I didn't bother. Why…?"

Takashi paused.

"We went home, looking for you. The place was a mess. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the kitchen, and the car was gone." He explained.

Azumi shook her head. "I never went back to the house. My guess is that someone busted in there looking for food."

Saya nodded looking thoughtful.

"All the non-perishable food was gone. But don't forget, Komuro, there was a note from Miyamoto-san in the master bedroom," she said.

"A note from Tadashi?" Azumi enquired.

"Hai," replied Takashi. "It was on your wardrobe."

"But… that doesn't make any sense." Azumi looked genuinely confused.

"Tadashi never went to the house."

The group stilled. "What do you mean?" Takashi choked.

"After he and the other police officers left the station, they came straight to the school to look for survivors and to facilitate the evacuation. Tadashi would have definitely told me if he checked our house." Azumi looked worried, almost ill at the thought of someone pretending to be the police officer.

The group exchanged looks with each other, shocked.

"Then…" Saeko spoke up.

"Who left the note from Miyamoto-san?"

Act 6: Elementary School of the DEAD

Hello there, the angel from my nightmare
The shadow in the background of the morgue
The unsuspecting victim of darkness in the valley
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want

Where you can always find me
And we'll have Halloween on Christmas
And in the night we'll wish this never ends
We'll wish this never ends

Where are you and I'm so sorry
I cannot sleep I cannot dream tonight
I need somebody and always
This sick strange darkness

Comes creeping on so haunting every time
And as I stared I counted
The Webs from all the spiders
Catching things and eating their insides

Like indecision to call you
and hear your voice of treason
Will you come home and stop the pain tonight
Stop this pain tonight

Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (I miss you miss you)
Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (I miss you miss you)

Takashi and Azumi strode quickly down the school hall, wasting no time. They had to confirm if Tadashi had gone to their house and left a note to the group or not.

As Takashi and his mum entered the canteen, it was apparent that it was empty.

They turned quickly, and Azumi suggested they try the principal's office, which was where head organization had been taken up. Tadashi spent most of his time in that room these days.

He wasn't there either.

As two men walked past, carrying a large fold out gazebo between them, Azumi asked if they knew where Tadashi was.

"The policeman? He and his daughter went to his room. I'm glad they found each other," replied the first man with a grin. The second didn't look so chipper.

"I'm pretty sure he was going to tell her the news." He said grimly.

A shadow fell over Azumi's face as she thanked the two of them, before taking off at an even greater pace than before.

"What news?" Takashi asked. Azumi said nothing.

"Mum, what news?" He repeated, his voice rising.

"That's not for me to tell you." She said brusquely.

They were soon at the door to yet another classroom, but inside they could hear someone crying. It was a heartbreaking sound, decidedly female, and shaking as if the girl was having trouble breathing.

Azumi hung back.

"It would be best if we waited- Takashi!"

Her son didn't wait. With dread in the pit of his stomach, he pushed the door open. Rei was sobbing broken-heartedly as her father fought to keep back his tears. He was clutching his daughter so tightly that it looked like it must hurt.

Rei looked up with blurry red eyes as Takashi stepped into the room. Her mouth quivered, and she tore away from her father and threw herself into his shocked arms.

"T-T-Takashi! My mum… she's dead!

Hi guys.

Thanks a bunch to The Queen of Water, Guest, kactaplb and Guest NO.2 for reviewing. And to everyone who has faved/followed the story as well! 18 Favs and 25 alerts! Please review and tell me WHY – I really want to know! You guys are great :D

To Guest: Thank you very much, I hope you like this chapter too!

To Guest NO.2: Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad you gave this story a chance even though it contains OC's. I try my best to update as quickly as I can, and I'll get to work on the next chapter ASAP.

I'm trying to get all the names right, now I'm dealing with a Takashi, Takagi and Tadashi! Please tell me if I screw the names up somewhere, lol.

The Meaning of the Names: Azumi Komuro

Takashi's mother's name was never disclosed in the canon. As such, I created a name for her for the purpose of this story. So, Azumi is not an OC – she just has an OC name I guess you could say.

Azumi = Safe residence. I chose Azumi because I wanted to associate a mother with safety and comfort, and a safe residence is what the group found in this chapter.

(I changed the summary, for reasons)

Please review!

NEXT: ACT 7: DEAD Teachings