I don't like putting these up here but I feel obligated. This chapter has a song incorporated into it. It is "Hero of War" by Rise Against. I obviously do not own this. I recommend listening to it to get the full grasp of how Ryker is feeling during this time. Next chapter will explain even further.
The sun was retreating over the horizon as Ryker and Saeko finished rummaging through the grocery store a few blocks from the house they were staying in. The majority of the perishables were already rotting from the heat of the day; the electricity had been out for days in this neighborhood it seemed. What was left did not do much for their morale as most of the worthwhile stock had been pillaged already by other survivors. This was the third store they had gone to and each one seemed to have less than the others.
Saeko wanted to ask him about what happened before but knew now was not the time and it was certainly not the place. 'Is it even my business? I mean I could argue that my well-being could be jeopardized but that would crush him and it's not even why I want to know. I want to know because I care.' She shook her head vigorously causing her loose pony-tail to release and sending her indigo hair askew. Looking out through the strands in front of her eyes she caught Ryker flash a smile in her direction before making his way out of the store. The simple gesture was enough to get her heart racing but before she could consider the thought she heard a scream; this time one of a girl near her age. "Oh shit."
As she hurried out of the store her fears were confirmed seeing Ryker sprinting down the street, the bags on the sidewalk by the door. With a growl of frustration Saeko dropped her bags and ran after him gripping her katana tightly. 'Does he really have to do this?!'
Turning down a corner she saw Ryker running towards a large gathering of people. Ready to call out for him to wait she nearly choked as she realized that the 'people' gathered were not of the living variety. 'He's going to get himself killed! Idiot!' She made a move to run after him but failed to notice a soccer ball rolling out from an alley. Looking down at the last moment Saeko pulled her foot back to not step on it but instead slipped on an oil spot and went down hard. Growling in anger at her carelessness she had only a moment to duck as a pair of rotting arms swiped at her. 'Where the hell did they come from?' There was a group of ten or so ambling towards her from the alley and Ryker had already plunged into the crowd down the road.
"You better be alive when I get to you Ryker Belmont so I can kill you myself!"
Ryker bolted down the road towards the cluster of 'them' and pulled a knife from his belt to hold in the hand not carrying his M9. He knew it was foolish to run to aid someone else. He knew it was a sort of world where people would die and there was nothing he could do about it. However as both a man and especially as a soldier, former or not, he had an obligation to help someone in distress. And admit it or not, the female variety was still considered precious to him and he was not willing to sacrifice them so easily.
As he barreled through the first row of 'them' he came to his feet beside a young girl, maybe fifteen or sixteen. She wore a simple too-short white skirt and a blue blouse that, while less revealing, was still a size too small. 'Kids.' He thought with a shake of his head. Kicking back two that got close he grabbed the girl's arm and pulled her out of the small opening he had created and pushed her back against the fence that was beside them. There was simply no way to run through them all without risking being bitten. He had to fight but his worry for her was distracting.
His knife found its mark twice, dropping two while a hard strike with the pistol grip felled another one but their numbers were incredible. How had she managed to attract so many so quickly? Even the gunfire earlier had done nothing compared to this. Movement to his left caused him to spin in the direction; too late. The girl had panicked and tried to run through a too small opening and was now struggling against two men who appeared to have been workers at a local retail store by their dress. Throwing his knife into the head of one he spun at the other and drove his fist into the creature's jaw sending it staggering. As he knelt down to grab the girl she suddenly let out a gut-wrenching scream and the sound of tearing flesh sounded in his ears. Turning toward her feet he saw one of the men he had knocked down was not out of the fight just yet and had bitten her calf savagely. Within moments she had convulsed and come to a stop. As her fingers twitched to new 'life' her eyes snapped open with a blank stare.
Something inside of Ryker snapped. Time stopped and everything around him evaporated away. He was no longer in a city of Japan, he was back in the desert. Back in Afghanistan. In his arms was not the body of some teenage he had never met, but the one woman he had allowed into his heart after years of solitude.
He said son, have you seen the world?
What would you say if I said that you could?
Just carry this gun, you'll even get paid.
I said "That sounds pretty good."
Jumping to his feet, Ryker slammed the bottom of his foot into the sternum of the nearest creature. The blow caving in the ribcage and sending it and a few behind it careening to the ground in a jumble of flailing limbs.
Black leather boots spit-shined so bright
They cut off my hair but it looks alright.
We marched and we sang. We all became friends.
As we learned how to fight.
Something grabbed his shoulder. Without hesitation he twisted and raised the pistol before firing a shot point-blank into the open mouth of the former grocery clerk. Ducking to the side a hard blow from his pistol felled another one.
A hero of war. Yeah that's what I'll be.
And when I come home, they'll be damn proud of me.
I'll carry this flag, to the grave if I must.
Because it's the flag that I love, and a flag that I trust.
Stooping down he grabbed a pipe that had been discarded at some point. It was only a half-meter in length but it felt sturdy and, with a hard swing to the head of the nearest woman in business attire, proved to be. Ryker's eyes were ablaze seeing the faces of the men from another country, not the undead abominations before him. His body moved on pure instinct.
I kicked in the door. I yelled my commands.
The children they cried but I got my man.
We took him away a bag over his face
From his family and his friends.
He had broken through the wall of 'them' that separated him from Saeko and now made his way towards her. She was holding her own but their numbers were impressive. Ryker snarled and launched into one that was coming up from behind her.
They took off his clothes. They pissed in his hands
I told them to stop but then I joined in.
We beat him with guns and batons not just once
But again and again.
Saeko ducked a swipe and beheaded another creature with a combination of exhilaration and distress flooding her. She had seen Ryker coming towards her and the look in his eyes was far from reality. She was truly worried for him now.
Ryker on the other hand had only one thing on his mind; killing everyone near them.
A hero of war. Yeah that's what I'll be.
And when I come home, they'll be damn proud of me.
I'll carry this flag to the grave if I must.
Because it's a flag that I love and a flag that I trust.
Three shots rang out as Ryker sent three more of 'them' to the afterlife for good. A hard strike landed on his back sending him tumbling forward. Using the momentum of his landing he rolled to his feet and spun in time to nearly decapitate an elderly male wearing a sweater vest and khakis.
She walked, through bullets and haze.
I asked her to stop. I begged her to stay.
But she pressed on so I lifted my gun
And I fired away.
His back was on fire from the blow but his mind was so far away it was barely registering. The horde numbers had dwindled but still the pressed, katana and pipe making short work of any that got too close.
And the shells jumped through the smoke.
And into the sand the blood now had soaked.
She collapsed, with a flag in her hand.
A flag white as snow.
Saeko stopped and watched in amazement as Ryker continued to move from creature to creature like a man possessed. He had not slowed down nor did he show signs of tiring. As soon as the pipe connected with a skull he spun in search of another, sometimes striking out the knees then dropping down to finish them off.
A hero of war. Is that what they see?
Just medals and scars. So damn proud of me.
And I brought home that flag. Now it gathers dust.
But it's the flag that I love. It's the only flag that I trust.
Ryker spun suddenly after the last one had fallen and leveled his M9 on Saeko causing her breath to catch. "Ryker it's me! It's Saeko!" Tears filled her eyes. Was he really so lost that he was going to shoot her?
A gunshot followed by a hollow click sounded as the magazine expended its final round. Hearing a body collapse behind her she turned and gasped; it was the girl he had been trying to save. She had crawled over and managed to stand up right behind Saeko. Looking over to Ryker's eyes she saw how hollow they looked and rushed over to embrace him tightly as his own tears fell into her hair.
He said son have you seen the world?
What would you say if I said that you could?
A few hours had passed since the madness in the street and Saeko had, with great difficulty, not pressed Ryker about the events that had occurred. To say she was worried about him was an understatement and the fact he had not spoken a single word since then did nothing to alleviate it. Since they had gotten back she had taken out what groceries they had acquired and organized them under the table after replacing the battery on the lantern.
The sun was long gone now and the clear sky allowed the full moon to offer its illumination over the desolate streets. Saeko had been staring out the window for nearly half an hour just trying to figure out the events of the day. She had accepted the craziness of the dead rising up to feast on the living and that the world would never be the same but for some reason the frailty in a man she had so much respect for was unsettling to her. There was no question that his motivation was heavily honor driven and as much as she wanted to fault him for it she would be a fool to do so. Without his chivalrous act to rescue her those few nights ago she would be one of those things out there.
With a sigh she started to turn around when a hand on her lower back made her halt with a jump. Looking over her shoulder she saw Ryker's soft brown eyes gazing down into hers, the warmth that got her through the day having returned to them. "Ry-kun…"
Rather than speaking Ryker wrapped both arms around her and pulled into a tight embrace. Before she could speak again he whispered into her hair just loud enough for her to hear him. "Tomorrow I will explain everything to you. If you wish to leave me afterwards I would not hold it against you. Just know that I never wish to see you go Saeko-chan."
"I'd never leav-"
He interrupted her, his voice gentle but it carried a hint of fear. "Don't say anything until I explain everything to you Saeko-chan. It's about a rather dark time of my life. For right now though would you mind coming to bed? I don't know that I could sleep without you beside me tonight."
Nodding her understanding and turning off the lantern, Saeko walked over to the bedroll with him and stripped off her shirt but left her shorts on. She had hoped to find some clothes while out today but it seemed not meant to be. She unhooked her bra and set it atop the shirt; she definitely needed a new one of those and something to match for panties. She had been forced to go today without any and she was thankful Ryker's shorts came with liners similar to swimming trunks.
Ryker wrapped his arms around her as she moved up against him, resting with her face in his chest. No matter how their day went it seemed as though his embrace could shed her fears and insecurities. Together they drifted off into a restless but thankfully dreamless sleep.
Takashi smiled up at the ceiling as Rei snuggled against his side. The day had been mostly uneventful aside from the house crew's hurrying around and preparing for a big move. After being told to stay out of the way the day before Takashi did just that; he no longer offered to help the people moving boxes and simply spent time with his friends in the guest room. During this down time he had come to realize that he and Rei needed to get back on track. It was the end of the world after all, what better reason to try and make it work?
Smiling over at the young girl, he lifted his head to respond. "Yes Alice-chan?"
She was looking out the window. "Do you think Busujima-san is alright?"
Frowning, Takashi looked back at the ceiling. "I'm sure she is Alice-chan. She was the toughest of us in the group. If anyone could survive out there it would be her. With luck we'll run into her when we leave this place in the next few days."
Kohta lifted his head from a pillow on the floor. "We certainly will! Especially if she was smart enough to drop that kendo training sword and grab some firepower!"
Takashi rolled his eyes. "Not everyone can be a crack-shot Hirano. We go with what we are comfortable with. Saeko is fine."
A pinch made him yelp. "Saeko this, Saeko that. You do realize I'm here with you now right?"
Smiling at Rei he nodded and leaned back looking up at the ceiling. "I know Rei and I am thankful you're getting better." At her contented sigh he closed his eyes. Tomorrow was the last day they were intending to remain at Saya's place; they still had family to locate.
Little taste of the Takashi crew to keep you up to date on what's going on. So, overall, how was it? Interesting? Boring? Too much, too little? Reviews inspire much writing. Sorry for the last delay but I was tasked out to a mission by the Pakistan border for a few days. Kinda ate into my writing time :P
If you have questions, if you feel something is being forgotten, SPEAK UP! If you're too shy to comment, PM me. I'll respond to 100% of any responses I get. Constructive criticism builds stories.
Hope I added some depth to Ryker, more than before. Don't worry, more to come. Next chapter might be obscenely long, just a warning.