Banchou of the Dead

Midnight with the Dead and You

Chapter 7: Midnight with the Dead and You

A dog was a man's best friend; or so the saying went. It might not be completely true under normal circumstances as some dogs tend to be loud and destructive, but with a good trainer, any dog could be a faithful companion that might just save a life. In a post undead-apocalypse world, having a dog was a double edged sword. In one hand, they could sniff out any of Them that might be missed; but they also barked which may alert Them in the process.

Which was why both Komuro Takashi and Hirano Kouta were testing (playing) with the groups new pet/ mascot, Zeke the dog. His white coat and black ears reminded Takashi of a certain famous cartoon dog, Sn**py.

"Certainly does look like him, doesn't he?" the bespectacled boy commented. "But I wouldn't recommend naming him that."

"Yeah. It's a bad idea. Any better names you can think of?"

"Zeke comes to mind."

"Zeke?"

"Yeah, that's what the Americans called the Type Zero fighter jets."

"Not bad. You got quite a naming sense, Hirano."

"Thanks, I just came up with it on the fly. Let's test our new member's skills, shall we?"

They knelt down and looked at the dog, thinking of common orders given to pets and came up with a generic one.

"Hand." Takashi called out.

Zeke dutifully raised its right foreleg and put it on his outstretched right palm.

"That looks fun. Let me try." Kouta said. "Now the other one."

Again, the pup raised his foreleg, the left one this time and put it on Kouta's left palm.

"Together now." The boys nodded and before they got to play around more with Zeke, they both got hit on their noggin'.

"What the hell are you two doing?" Saya asked menacingly. To add insult to the injury, the puppy now had both its forepaws on the boys' hands, as if it was trying to console them.

The ladies had finished changing and were wearing fresh clothes they borrowed (took) from Marikawa-sensei's house. Even though the clothes were designed for adults, none of the high school girls looked out of place wearing them.

"What? Got a problem?" Rei asked haughtily. She was sure she had a reaction from Takashi.

"Nah, you look good." He replied. "By the way, do you know how to use that thing?"

He pointed at her chosen weapon, the SR-25 with a bayonet attachment. Despite being a policeman's daughter, she had never used any sort of firearms before, so for safety's sake, she also strapped the makeshift spear to her back. Just in case she needed it.

"It's fine. I can get Hirano to teach me, or I can just use it like a spear, like I just did."

"We're going over with the Humvee. You guys check if it's safe!" Saya commanded.

While Kouta happily saluted with a shout of "Yes, Ma'am!", Takashi was looking around to see if there was anything around them before they went over the bank. It would be real dumb if they were too focused on getting to the main road and got ambushed from the back. Seeing an empty glass bottle on the bank, he picked it up and swung it a few times before he threw it over to the paved road.

The thrown bottle made a loud, crisp sounding 'crash'. He figured if They came out because of that sound, then they weren't safe anyway. He waited for a few moments and took a peek. There might not be any of Them, but hostile humans could be laying out an ambush for them. After making sure there were no immediate threats, both of them climbed over and signaled Shizuka to climb up the slope.

Xxxx

"So, where are we going?" Shizuka asked. She got some directions every now and then, but she still didn't know where they were going.

"My house. It's the closest from here. We might get some suppllies for the rest of our trip." Saya answered. She was calmly sitting on the passenger seat while looking at a map and marking it.

"We should be able to see it once we passed that." She pointed at a short brick underpass where a number of Them unfortunately roamed.

The pink haired girl cursed under her breath, it seemed like nothing could go smoothly these days. It was either this problem or that and the existence of these things that were not yet named increased her anger to the breaking point.

"Dammit… Sensei! Ram them!"

"Eh? Huh?"

"Run them over!"

"Aaahh! I don't what'll happen, okay?!" The blond nurse stepped on the gas pedal and ran over through most of Them, though some persistent or lucky ones were not even hit by the speeding vehicle.

The passengers in the back opened their doors to maximize the area of impact, sending more of Them flying or hurtling to the ground. It was unfortunate that in her haste to get home, Saya forgot that tires need traction and the spilled blood and torn tissue continue to reduce the traction until at one point, they lost control.

"Sensei, we're moving too fast!"

"The break won't work!"

"Step on the clutch first!"

Slowly she regained control of the car, getting enough traction to slow down and move away from a traffic light in the middle of the road. But they were not out of danger yet; someone had installed a razor wire trap between two streetlights. Shizuka slammed on the brakes and banked to the left, trying in desperation to evade the sharp barricade.

The four wheel drive skidded to a stop mere inches away and found to their horror that the noise had attracted more of Them, making their initial assault fruitless. With no way out and no help seen anywhere, they decided to fight back. The Humvee and razor wire to their back, the close range combatants got off and prepared their weapons, while the sole ranged support climbed to the roof for a better vantage point. It was time to put the dead in undead.

Xxxx

"Shall we continue our contest from earlier?" Saeko asked calmly. Her bokken was held firmly in her right hand and she looked positively relaxed.

"Let's start a new one." Takashi replied. He was itching to get a win on her.

"Hey, you're not the only ones here you know." Rei protested.

"Fine then, you want to join in on the competition?"

"This is not a game!"

"No, but if you don't start lightening up, you won't survive for long." The elder girl commented.

"Yeah, stress is very bad for the body and soul." The man commented.

"But They are people!"

"Were." The delinquent couple retorted. "Were people."

"And in this kill or be killed world, shouldn't it be obvious which one to do?"

The distance between the assault squad and the horde of Them shortened as they talked. Now it was ideal to start the competition.

As if following a cue, Saeko and Takashi shot forwards like a professional sprinter. Their weapons in hand and murder in their mind.

Xxxx

Takashi's first kill had its head cut off by a slash so fast, the head was still attached to the body. He followed with a high kick that launched the head like a kicked soccer ball to another one of Them. While Their movement lagged by the flying projectile, he stabbed Them in Their gaping mouth and ripped the blade to the side, silencing another one of Them.

His right machete drew the next blood with a strong upwards stab, piercing through the jaw all the way to the brains. With practiced ease, he pulled the weapon out and continued the onslaught. Takashi's left blade slapped away a grasping arm followed by a low kick to Their leg that broke Their femur with a bone crunching snap. Their balance broke and They stumbled to the ground. Once Their knee hit the ground, he was quick to end Their un-life with a single downward beheading chop.

Saeko started her assault; putting power to her left leg, she lunged and swung the oak bokken down with a perfect textbook men strike. The blow crushed Their head concave and Their body thrown straight to the ground. She turned around in a spin using the balls of her foot as the axis and struck again, smacking another head in the temple and sending them flying in the process. She switched to a side stance and took one step forwards, then using the boost swung the weapon diagonally upwards, smashing Their head in the side of the skull. Seeing another one of Them, she used the pommel of her bokken to land a heavy strike to Their forehead and They crumpled down like a puppet whose strings were cut.

"How many did you get?" Takashi asked.

"Four… Five at the moment." She replied as her blunt weapon hit another one of Them.

"Huh… same here." He commented.

From the sidelines, Rei watched the two mow Them down with unbelievable ease. Had she been in a normal world, she would be concerned, if not straight out terrified by the ease with which they dispatch the undead. However, in a world filled with the undead, the only thing crossing her mind was how close they were with each other… and it burned her with jealousy.

The orange haired girl steeled her resolve and slung her rifle, then tightened the sling to make sure it didn't fly around and charged in with her spear. Her first kill was done with an upward thrust to the jaw. Her running start increased her power and with it broke the base of the skull and destroyed the brain. She continued with a low sweep using the butt of her spear, breaking Their balance and then switched her grip before she stabbed Their head. Without breaking pace, she swung the blunt end of her spear to another one of Them and thrust backwards to another head of Them. She pulled out her spear and cut upwards, then released a powerful one handed stab to Their head.

Any one of Them that got close would get Their heads destroyed one way or another, while the others that got just a bit too close would get shot. It seemed like the perfect defense formation, but they did not account for the appearance of even more of Them.

Xxxx

"Well now, this is a bust." Takashi commented.

"How can you be so calm? We're facing deadly threats here. One hit and it's game over." Rei countered.

"But it's the same for Them, right?" he retreated nearer to the Humvee and sheathed his left machete. Even though he was used to fighting, the numbers now was unreal. Maybe it was time to use his new toy?

He unslung the shotgun and aimed at Their neck; he figured the sprayed buckshot should hit Them in the head or neck. If he could hit many of Them, then all the better. He pulled the trigger and let loose a veritable wall of lead, shredding two of Their heads at the same time.

"Nice." He said in a daze. He often heard of the destructiveness of a shotgun, but never realized it was quite like this. Then he realized that cocking the gun with one hand was going to be ridiculously difficult and reluctantly sheathed his other machete.

"Head's up!" Saeko warned. She had killed yet another one of Them and successfully regrouped with the rest of the team.

"Any ideas, Takagi-san?" Kouta asked. The number of Them was increasing like crazy and he was about to run out of bullets. He felt that for every one he shot dead, two or three more took its place. Aaah, if only he had a minigun or a heavy machine gun.

"You guys, stay here, don't make a noise and try to climb over the wire." Takashi said. He fired his shotgun again, taking three of Them in the process. With a path somewhat cleared, he moved forward.

"Takashi, what the hell are you doing?!" Saya shouted.

"Hurry and get to your house, I'll hold Them off!"

"We. We'll hold Them off." Saeko corrected as she advanced together with her lover.

"Hey, take this with you!" Kouta said. He threw a handgun, the holster and a pair of magazines towards her.

"I'm…. I got it. Thank you."

Xxxx

"Hey, over here!" the delinquent yelled. He fired a round to another one of Them. Using Their sensitivity to sound, he aimed to lure Them away from the rest of the group.

"Over here!" his companion yelled out. With diversion as her main objective, she hit a streetlight with a loud 'clang'.

One by one, They shambled over to them, Their wide unseeing eyes followed their movements slowly. Every few seconds, loud noises were made; by shotgun fire, by hitting or grating whatever surface they could, or by handgun fire.

Saeko pointed to a less crowded street leading to a residential district through a flight of stairs. They both nodded and made loud noises along the way, but the horde of Them seemed to have lost interest despite the ruckus and turned Their attention towards the rest of the team. And their luring plan had backfired as the noise drew in more of Them from all over the neighborhood.

Xxxx

"They're back again, with company this time." Kouta commented. "Alice, do you think you can climb over the wire?"

"Kouta-chan?"

"Don't worry about us, ok? Take Zeke with you and go to a safe place."

"No!"

"We're going to be fine. Really."

"No you won't! You had the same look as my dad when he died. I want to stay with you, and Takashi-onii-chan, and the nee-chans forever. So don't leave me!"

Just when all hope seemed lost, rescue came in a…. high pressure water cannon?

"Hurry! Get the ladders!" A muffled voice commanded.

A group of people dressed in firefighter clothes came from behind the wire trap and set up ladders while the others widened the gaps in the wire trap so they could pass through.

"Something tells me you're not from the fire department." Saya said.

"Of course not." The leader of the group said. She took off her helmet and revealed glistening violet hair and a mature, beautiful face. "But it is expected for a mother to help her daughter and her friends in crisis, correct?"

"Mama!" the pink haired girl called out. She embraced her and felt all her worries melt away, well most of it anyway.

Her eyes widened as she remembered her childhood friend and comrade who were trying to lure Them away.

"Takashi, we'll wait for you at my house, so be sure to get there, okay?" she yelled out.

Xxxx

"That was a very close call." Saeko commented.

"Yeah, even though they were saved, I was still scared as all hell." Takashi replied. They were both running to a nearby motorcycle shop that Takashi had frequented, evading Them as much as they could and killing what couldn't.

"That was quite a vigorous send off."

"Yeah."

"And she called you by your first name too."

He started sweating at this point and tried to play dumb. "Did she? I… I didn't notice."

"She did. I never knew you two were that close."

"Ehh… Well, we were childhood friends, so… maybe her old habit…. A… Hey, look! We're here." He pointed at a pristine motorcycle shop that for some reason was relatively untouched.

Xxxx

"So, which one are we getting?" Saeko asked. The collection they had was impressive for a family owned business. Scooters, train bikes, trail bikes, choppers, ATVs from many brands were in there. Anything that wasn't in the shop could be ordered for a small additional fee. However, with the owner gone and the global supply chain basically ground to a halt, they had to make due with whatever was in there.

"An ATV might be a good idea."

"What about the fuel?"

"They keep a gas can or two. Besides, there's still this." Takashi took out a bottle full of yellowish liquid with a cloth wick. It was his emergency Molotov. The bottle itself could hold 1, maybe 2 liters at most, but they were only going to the Takagi family home, around 3 to 4 kilometers away. That 1 to 2 liters could take them all the way with a bit left.

"Good thinking." She praised and rubbed his head like a doting elder sister.

"Well, why don't you look for whatever might be useful here? I don't think we'll be coming back any time soon."

The purple haired woman walked to a small room behind the counter; the shop's garage where maintenances and repairs were done. Hoping that there was a working bike with fuel in it. The Molotov should not be used as anything other than a weapon if it could be helped.

Her expectations were surpassed, however when she found an amphibious buggy just inside the garage, along with two jerry cans of gasoline.

"Will this work?" she asked.

"Perfectly."

Xxxx

"So what's the plan now?" Saeko asked. "I thought this was the same river we passed on the way here?"

In front of her was the Arakawa river, and to the side was a bridge she could had sworn they had passed before.

"It's a bypass. We'll use the river to evade Them as much as we can. Did you get anything from the shop?"

"A couple of bags and clothes."

"Tools?"

"Got them too."

"Then hold on tight."

Takashi revved the buggy full throttle and jumped over a flight of stairs, sending most of Them that had followed tumbling down unceremoniously.

"So much for hoping They break Their necks, huh?" he said.

"They couldn't get back up from getting knocked on Their back, but can still get up if They fall on Their bellies. This is worth noting."

"Hang on!" Takashi commanded. He sped up and let the buggy jump into the river with a big splash.

"Saeko, are you oka…"

His words were cut short by a sight he had seen, but could not get enough nor tired of: his girlfriend in a wet white shirt and dark purple bra (lacy too, one might add).

"Takashi?" she asked while waving her hand in front of his face and got no response.

"Takashi, if you're not going to do anything, I will." She waited again for a few moments, still nothing. In fact, she was sure he started drooling.

"Okay then." Saeko shrugged her shoulders and pinched his sides.

"Hey! What the hell?!" he yelled out.

"Eyes on the road… well, river, lover boy. You'll get to see more later."

Xxxx

A sandbank in the middle of Arakawa river

"This takes me back." Takashi said.

"You've been here before?"

"Looked at it from a distance. I was warned against going here and I had no reason to. I think I read an article somewhere that a dog or something got swept by the current after it ended up here."

Being in wet clothes especially during autumn was bad for anyone's health, no matter who they were. Busujima Saeko was no exception as she sneezed after being in a soaking wet shirt for quite some time. She was lucky she had taken a few things from the bike shop and changed into one of the… acquired clothes, a black tanktop. For the second time in a single day, Komuro Takashi was rendered speechless in admiration at the sight of her.

"What? Do I look weird?" She asked meekly.

"No, you look great no matter what you're wearing." He tried all he could to hide the blush on his face, but it seemed impossible with his face red all the way to his ears.

"Hmm, I thought you've become used to seeing this." She said with a grin while slowly moving closer to her younger lover.

"Maybe we should help you be more… shameless?" She held him from the back and whispered to his ear with the sweetest tone imaginable.

"I.. I think we've rested enough. How about we depart now?"

Xxxx

The path from the sandbank to Takagi Saya's house was pretty complicated. From there, they had to cross the river back, gone through a park, exit via the East exit, then walk close to 1 km to get to the mansion. It would be pretty confusing if Takashi had not been a local and a family friend of the Takagi family.

The buggy they rode on was both a blessing and a curse in which it kept them mobile, but attracted Them with the roar of the engines. It also had a very vulnerable weakness: it was too wide for the narrow park stairs.

The park they were currently at, like most normal parks had grassy ground where dog poop was prevalent, trees for shades, bricked walkways for joggers and visitors, benches commonly populated by couples, and a vending machine or two every so often. But this park was built in a residential area and became a compact park; the trees were too close together, the brick walkways were too narrow, there were too many stairs which were surrounded by tall walls, and for some reason there was a huge water fountain with no conceivable use other than to look pretty.

Facing no other conceivable alternatives, Takashi gunned the buggy straight into said fountain, aiming for the slope of stairs added only for cosmetic purposes to it. The multi wheeled vehicle landed with a splash that sent water flying everywhere.

"Do you enjoy getting girls wet or something?" Saeko complained.

"Sorry, but can you get me a roll of duct tape?" He ignored her complaints for the time being and rigged the buggy so it went around in a circle in the fountain. He then fastened one of his machetes to the frame, turning it into an undead slaying carousel.

"Hmm, nice." Saeko commented with a nod.

Attracted by the engine's noise, They approached the fountain with their slow shambling steps and only got close enough to be cut by the steel weapon. It proved to be an effective distraction as most of Them from the area converged to the buggy.

"Come on, let's go."

Seeing more of Them converging on the area they were going to, Saeko readied her sword and struck with lightning fast efficiency. Every single one of Them that got within her range were downed with only a single strike. As she was readying another onslaught, she was stopped in her tracks. Her eyes looking at the horde of Them before her in silent rage.

"Look out!" Takashi yelled. He pulled her aside and shoved his shotgun in the mouth of one of Them who had been a young boy who shouldn't be any older than 10. With one arm, he repositioned Them to another angle and pulled the trigger. They being in her blind spot was dangerous as could be.

"We gotta go. Come on!"

She nodded as he pulled her by the arm to another route. It was a roundabout way, but it would be a lot safer than the shorter one. With darkness setting in, the best thing to do would be to seek shelter and rest. Just because They didn't rest, didn't mean they shouldn't too.

'There were too many of Them anyway.' He reasoned.

Xxxx

A nearby temple

In most cases of disaster, places of worship were often targeted as places of refuge, by the simple hope of some divine miracle that would get the refugees out of the mess. This was why hiding in a temple or church would usually be a bad idea. But then again, the temple he was in was not old enough to be considered particularly holy; the patron deity was not considered particularly powerful enough to help anyway. After all, what good would a local god of fertility do during a (technical) zombie apocalypse?

Takashi was willing to bet other famous temples would be overrun by desperate people who suddenly turned devout. Being a realist, however he realized the importance of the building for their survival; not in a religious way, but more of a physical way. The walls were made of brick and the doors out of teak; it should be safe enough to spend the night in. Maybe he could use the door bar to club some of Them?

After taking a spot check, he realized there were some candles for heat and light, and a pair of brocade curtains hanging on the left and right. If nothing else, they could serve as a decent sheet or blanket. On the altar were basic worship items such as a mirror, statues, and thankfully a daisho katana set. With night soon falling in autumn, the temperature fell from mild to cold in minutes. Though he was reluctant, Takashi lit a candle and set one in front of Saeko who was still quiet.

"Hey, are you okay?" he asked the shivering woman before him.

He approached her and hugged her from behind. If she was going to shiver anyway, might as well be in his arms, right? She didn't pull away, but instead leaned back to him. Enjoying the closeness and familiarity that seemed to be one of the few strands of sanity left for her. Her shivering stopped as she sighed, her head leaned to his shoulder and gazed to the temple's roof.

"No. It's… nothing really. It's just…"

She was quiet for a while, trying to gather herself, and put her thoughts into words. She hesitated a little before she asked him a question.

"Hey, Takashi?" she called.

"Yeah?"

"I believe it's time to collect my reward."

The young man had hoped she would forget about their wager, but obliging her was the right thing to do. After all, a man does not go back on his word. With great caution, he asked her. "What would you like to have then?"

"A dance would be nice." She replied casually.

"With no music?"

"That is what cell phones are for. What? Do you use them for calling and texting only?"

"There are other functions?" he asked in mock surprise.

She fiddled with her cell phone to find the perfect song and found it. It was the closing song of a thriller movie her father greatly enjoyed. A short, yet elegant song of adoration from before the World War 2. For some reason, she found it fitting.

"Okay then. You got me. May I have this dance?" Takashi asked as he offered his right hand, which Saeko accepted.

Together they danced in the shrine while soft music played in the background. In that time, they forgot about everything; Them, the apparent global crisis, their friends, and the uncertainty of tomorrow. They were just two people in love, enjoying a brief, yet romantic time together. As the music slowly died down, so did their movements and they ended the dance with a kiss no less exhilarating than their first.

"Hey, Takashi?" she called.

"Yeah?"

He was expecting her to continue her question, not suddenly getting his right arm grabbed by a pair of soft dainty hands and getting thrown to the floor. Even though he was a trained martial artist himself, he could not utilize any hold escaping methods due to surprise and lack of any leverage. He certainly didn't expect to suddenly be mounted by his lover whose eyes suddenly turned very, very scary.

"Ummm…. Saeko…. sama?" he started with a shaky voice.

"Yes, my dear?" she replied as her breath came out in short pants.

"You're starting to scare me…"

"Am I?"

"And your eyes, though beautiful are starting to terrify me."

"Are they?"

"Yes… and…"

Saeko leaned down and kissed him on the lips. Driven by passion, love, and sheer primal lust, she embraced her younger lover and deepened the kiss. The night was still young and it would not end anytime soon.

Xxxx

Next morning

One of the things people in one could ever wish for was when to wake up in the morning and see the face of their lover. For Komuro Takashi, waking up next to his girlfriend, both in the nude on the floor of a temple was something he could never get tired of. Sometime during the night, the brocade curtain was pulled off and turned into a blanket.

"Mornin'." She called out in a sleepy tone. It was probably a godsend that they remembered to take their clothes off first. He really didn't want a repeat of the time he came over to her house and had to borrow her father's clothes due to… a passionate rendezvous. Luckily Busujima-sensei was very understanding and was quite fond of the young man. It didn't stop him from putting his blade to Takashi's neck to get a promise that he would do right by her and take responsibility, not that it was necessary. He had planned on proposing after graduation after all.

"Good morning to you too, love." He smiled at her cute expression and noticed she had a bit of saliva on the side of her mouth. "Ready to go?"

"Sure." She drawled out. The young woman stretched like a cat and unintentionally showed off her butt.

"But I see someone wants another go." Saeko commented at a certain part of his anatomy that was awake and ready for action.

"Not right now… maybe after we reach Saya's house."

"Let's go then."

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