Chapter 2

A Light in the Darkness

Rain was pouring down steadily as if the heavens were attempting to wash away the evidence of what the previous day had wrought. The streets ran red with blood-tainted water and in some areas the flooding carried the bodies left behind into ditches leaving the streets almost clear of the carnage. The fires however seemed unaffected by the rain and continued to blaze throughout the city making the situation easy to remember.

A particularly loud crash of thunder startled Saeko awake. 'How in the world? What happened?' As she tried to sit up she winced and let out a small whimper before falling back. Something was different about everything. She felt constricted as though something was gripping right her shoulder and leg as well as a heaviness on her chest; not uncomfortably so but much heavier than her uniform top. Her back was aching from the violent collision with the train car and her chest was sore from the abrupt introduction to the dirt earlier. 'How am I still alive? Why am I mostly dry in this pouring rain, did I move?'

A shadow appeared above her and caused her to flinch, wondering if it was one of 'them' but felt immediate relief upon seeing a very alive looking man kneel down beside her. He put a finger to his lips and pointed to his left and right to let her know she needed to remain quiet or attract attention. He looked over his shoulder again, watching a few of 'them' wandering past their current spot which was simply a dry area under an overhang of broken tunnel.

As her eyes adjusted they widened in surprise; the man kneeling above her looked American. He wore black jeans with a black t-shirt that was soaked to his skin and a pair of once-white Nikes that now were coated in mud and blood. She couldn't quite make out his face due to the poor lighting but he appeared to have a 'high and tight' haircut with the sides buzzed but the hair on top a little longer.

The man placed the finger to his lips again before extending his hand to help her up. As she took it, she realized she was wearing a thick leather coat that went down beyond her knees. Standing slowly she winced and realized her injuries, while painful, at least didn't feel like fractures. When his grip tightened she followed closely while he led her between the train wreckage at a measured pace. He constantly looked over his shoulder and offered a smile which she returned, showing him that she was able to keep up.

After a few minutes of walking they came up to an abandoned building that had been boarded up and condemned long before the outbreak. As they approached it, the man stopped at a window and looked at Saeko. "It lifts out, I need to give you a boost. Is that okay?"

His voice caught her off-guard. While he had an American accent, his Japanese was nearly perfect. Nodding, she lifted her left leg, the uninjured one, and stepped into his waiting hand before pulling herself up into the window. As she looked back she couldn't help but let out a small giggle at seeing him staring the opposite direction to be sure he didn't see up her skirt. 'That's actually quite adorable at a time like this.'

Once she dropped down inside she heard him jump up and saw him pull himself through the window, dropping down beside her. Turning to the side he pressed something and a dim light filled the room as the lantern he had placed on the table reflected off of mirrors on each side that hit two more on the opposing walls. The floor was covered in multiple tarps and there was a single bedroll against the far wall with a large green duffel beside it. Each door had been barricaded with wooden boards in addition to some metal pipes that had been forced into the floors at an angle to prevent the bottom corners of the doors from being exploited. She had to admit, it was impressively fortified for such a short period of time.

Turning towards the man who'd brought her here she finally got a good look at him in the pale lighting. He was a good-looking man likely in his early twenties with the start of scruff showing that he had missed perhaps one or two days of shaving. Both his hair and eyes were a light brown and though his skin was light he had a slight summer tan. He was a little taller than her, his shoulders being at her eye level and he was athletically built but not overly so. As she looked him over she found herself drawn back to his eyes; even in such a dark situation she could feel the positive energy emitting from them and the smile that was held behind them. It was very calming in such a stressful time.

"I apologize for rushing you over here without giving explanation but there were quite a few of those things wandering nearby. I was worried for a while there I'd have to just carry you over here because they kept getting closer and you were moaning in your sleep." He frowned, his eyes showing hurt. "I did what I could for your injuries but in the conditions out there it was very limited."

Looking down, Saeko realized the jacket on her had kept her mostly dry before shrugging it off and setting it beside her. The action caused her to wince as her right shoulder flared angrily. Looking down she blinked in surprise; her right shoulder was wrapped in a tan bandage under her uniform top and her right leg also had some kind of elastic bandage just above her knee. Looking up she saw him blush and rub the back of his neck.

"I assure you I only exposed you long enough to wrap your wounds before covering you and wrapping my jacket around you. Your shoulder will be a little sore for a day or two but there's no real tissue damage. I just wanted some pressure on it with the ace wrap. Your leg had a scrape so I wrapped it simply to prevent it from becoming infected."

Seeing that he was telling the truth about his care, Saeko smiled at him and bowed her head slightly. "Thank you so much for tending to my wounds." The final moments of her consciousness after the fall flashed in her mind causing her to suddenly straighten. "What happened after I fell?"

"I heard the commotion at the top of the overpass but was too far to do anything. When I saw you fall I ran over as quickly as I could. I was worried you were already dead from the fall but I could not risk letting someone die if I could help. Especially not by becoming one of those creatures." He sighed looked over his shoulder. "I carried you over under the shelter after dispatching the few that were near you and treated what injuries I could. Shortly after I finished up, you awoke and here we are now."

Saeko felt a blush of her own creep to her cheeks. He had risked his life to save her without even knowing if she had survived the fall. "You are truly brave to have risked your life for me not even knowing if I was alive and you are very kind to have treated my wounds." She studied his face, causing him to shift uncomfortably. He was very handsome and his eyes showed a great deal of experience despite his young appearance. "You are too young to be a doctor I would think."

He nodded and looked away. "I am nowhere near such a thing, Anyhow I should probably introduce myself." He chuckled and shook his head before bowing slightly. "My name is Ryker and I am very pleased to meet you despite our situation."

Still impressed by this foreigner's ability to speak the language so well, Saeko couldn't help but smile at his too-deep bow; he was certainly older than she was by a few years. Bowing in return, Saeko introduced herself as well. "My name is Saeko Busujima, Ryker-san. It is a pleasure to have met you as well."

Resting a hand on his hip he looked at her with a disarming smile. "Well Busujima-san, I would think tha-"

"Please call me Saeko. You did save my life after all."

Nodding, Ryker continued. "Saeko-san, you should get some real sleep. The sun will be up in a few hours. I'm assuming you have family to look for?"

Shaking her head, Saeko looked at the bedroll. "I don't and the bedroll is plenty big enough to fit us both." Walking over she knelt beside it and looked over her shoulder, smiling at his blush and nervousness. "Just keep your hands to yourself."

Ryker's face reddened considerably and he shook his head with a smile; she was definitely a strange girl. "Will do Saeko-san." With that he turned off the light and carefully made his way to the bedroll. As he pulled his soaked shirt off and set it beside him, he heard Saeko doing the same and felt his neck heat up with a blush. Shaking his head as if to throw such thoughts from it, Ryker leaned back and rested his head on an arm, quietly pushing the pillow over to Saeko's side to offer her some measure of comfort.

Saeko noticed this small gesture and smiled to herself in the dark as she turned her back to Ryker. 'What a strange world to be in where a man from another country risks his life for someone and seems to wish for nothing in return. He seems quite dug in here and yet he made mention of me looking for family.' She looked over her shoulder after her eyes adjusted and saw Ryker was on his back, looking up at the ceiling in deep thought. 'He seems to be both honorable and brave. I hope he truly is what he seems.'

As she closed her eyes sleep came almost immediately, the physical and mental toll taken in the past hours having added up and the comfortable bed made it all too easy to slip away into a deep slumber. The world outside of their little hide-out was chaos but for just a few hours both were able to rest without thinking about any of it; their only thoughts were on what to think of the other and what tomorrow would bring.

Author's Note

I'm a stickler for the details I know. I am really trying to make this story FEEL as real as possible. HOTD is not a typical "fantasy" type story that magic and super powers exist so I will be doing what I can to give realism a good fight in this, despite the whole zombie aspect. I really would appreciate R&R because it tells me what I can do better! Am I too descriptive? Not descriptive enough? As I stated last chapter, Saeko is a tough write so I'm kind of winging it. Even after watching the anime over and over her personality is so abstract at times. She can be deadly serious or playful and flirty or just adorable. I hope to capture all of this! I know, not a lot of action (read: none) in this chapter but I promise, there will be PLENTY as we continue. I'm just trying to set the stage for everyone! Hopefully soon my AN's will be so much shorter!

PandaTrueno86: Yes! I'm giving it a shot. I got my HOTD copy and I LOVE the story. I have a LOT of it mentally done, just gotta fill in the blanks. I appreciate you following along though! Keep me posted on how you feel about it!