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Miyuki cried her eyes out and refused to lessen her embrace of Hanako for even a moment. Hanako, for her part, was touched, but also a tad out of breath. And her ribs were feeling compressed.
After the man had fled, Miyuki screamed her lungs out for help, snapping a few bored cashiers out of their stupor. The first to call for an ambulance was an elderly store owner from a modest bakery. He thanked Buddha that his grandson had taught him how to use a smartphone, albeit impatiently. He nearly had a heart attack when he saw the girl lying at the base of the stairs with a knife sticking out of her lower-left side.
Hanako was rushed to the hospital at once where she was roused from her unconsciousness. The nurse applied ointment to the bruises on her back, arms and knees. A different ointment was applied to her cut along with a simple band-aid. Thankfully, her cell phone was just strong enough to stop the knife from getting deep enough to warrant stitching. Of course, she was still going to need to buy a new cell phone, but that was preferable over crossing the Sanzu River a little earlier than expected.
On her hospital bedside table was a box of fruit juice, replacing the one that was skewered along with the phone.
"You're really lucky," said the doctor after checking her over.
That, she was, Hanako had to admit. If the man had stabbed her anywhere else, she would most certainly be watching Miyuki from above instead of at her side. And Miyuki would be doing a different kind of crying.
The silly girl refused to leave Hanako's side, even when the police came to question her, after learning that she was fit for an interview. Hanako was glad for her friend's company. She was nervous about how it would go down, as this would be the first time in her life that she would be questioned by the police.
Thanks to her training, Hanako kept a poker face, and skillfully put out vague half-truths, at least about herself. She was mostly honest about what happened when she said that she didn't understand a thing. The man's face was persistently fresh in her mind and bothered the girl to no end. How could it be that someone who looked exactly like her father, who she saw die in front of her, come to her and try to kill her for no apparent reason? This could not be a coincidence, but the answers that Hanako sought in her thoughts continued to elude her.
They kept asking the girls questions, sometimes repeating questions they already asked. When they were satisfied, though not very much, the two suit-wearing men exited the room and let the doctor carry on with his job.
"Are you sure something shouldn't be done?" the doctor asked, glancing over his clipboard, eyes on Miyuki whose hold just seems to be getting stronger as time went by. "You're turning blue."
"I'm sure," Hanako managed to choke out.
"I'm just so glad you're okay!" Miyuki sobbed.
“So am I, Miyuki," said Hanako, patting her friend's shoulder blade lightly and weakly, mostly because of the lack of oxygen.
"According to this, it doesn't look like you hit your head anywhere, so there's no danger of concussion," the doctor carried on, flipping through the examination results. Of course, he'd find nothing wrong with Hanako's head. One of the many things she mastered under her father's tutelage was how to fall down. "Are you sure there isn't anyone else we should contact? A friend of the family, an aunt, or an uncle?"
"I'm sure," Hanako replied. Her only family was dead, and her only family friend was the one who caused it. She could feel Miyuki tense as she understood that Hanako's family was not something to be discussed lightly.
Thankfully, the doctor did not press any further. From the way he looked at her, it was clear that he got the picture.
Eventually, visiting hours were nearly up and Miyuki had to leave. She was supposed to be at work an hour ago, but the manager had allowed her some time to stay with Hanako, being an understanding person. The others eagerly awaited Miyuki's news, and Hanako thought she heard a collection of relieved sighs from the phone Miyuki talked in.
"Are you sure you'll be okay, alone?" she asked as she slung her bag over her shoulder. Her bamboo sword was taken as evidence as it was used in defense against the attacker. The detectives had looked at her skeptically when she mentioned how she used a thrust against the man's neck.
"I was so sure he was dead," she had told them. "You saw, didn't you Hanako?"
Hanako just shrugged innocently. She was sure that the blow Miyuki dealt was fatal, but it was best to just let it lie for now. There was no way she could explain someone coming back from the dead to two police officers who were obviously curious about her background judging by the funny looks they shot at her behind her back, thinking she wouldn't notice them.
The detectives just nodded, jotted down notes, and asked that the sword be submitted as evidence. Miyuki didn't mind as she was more focused on Hanako.
"Don't worry," Hanako assured her. "I'll be okay."
But Miyuki remained unconvinced.
"You know, I once saw an anime like this," she said. "The guy who attacked the person for no reason came back to finish the job while the person was in the hospital. Actually, there were also some detective dramas where something like that happened, too."
It took a long time for Hanako to finally persuade Miyuki to leave, though that was mostly thanks to the doctor threatening to bring in security.
Hanako went over to the window and peered out to watch Miyuki go. She could just make out her form walking out of the gate, the setting sun turning the concrete ground and walls a deep orange hue.
Dinner came earlier than Hanako came accustomed to, working at the local big inn. It was okay, though it couldn't possibly compare to the works of the inn's kitchen staff who also took turns with the rest of the inn workers in making the meals for the staff. With no phone to surf the internet on, thanks to it being the object that saved her life, for the rest of the night she flicked through the channels of the television until she found some interesting show.
It was nighttime when a doctor came in. The sky was black, and only the moon illuminated the room. There was a bulge on the bed beneath the sheets. Hanako would be sleeping there, probably curled up.
The doctor was careful to enter the room without making a noise. He slowly opened the sliding door, grateful that maintenance kept it smooth-running. Instead of wearing regular indoor shoes, he was wearing fuzzy slippers to muffle out any possible sounds his feet would make as he tiptoed into the room. With help from the moonlight, he navigated toward his goal with the grim determination of a professional, heart pounding in his ears like they did during his failed attempt. From the pocket of his lab coat, he pulled out a throwing knife.
He wasted no time to plunge the blade into the bulge and watch as the blanket around the blade became wet with dark and red liquid. With a pang in his heart, the corpse of Tohru Yamamoto turned away from his handiwork and made for the door. At least she went without a sound.
The would-be murderer in death froze.
The door was left slightly ajar. He was certain that he closed it completely. A thought crossed his mind and the moment it did, he returned to the bed and threw off the covers. What he saw made his heart leap in joy, although his face remained grave. Beneath the sheets were the extra pillows that Hanako had earlier asked for. On top of them were a couple of fruit juice packs, one of them skewered by the knife like its predecessor.
Miyuki left a bunch of fruit juice packs behind from their friends and classmates to Hanako, wishing her well and expressing their relief learning that she was okay after being attacked. Some accidentally dropped on the table while she was having dinner, and when she pulled out the cleaning cloth to wipe it all up, imprinted across the surface was a message.
Hanako frantically read them over and over again, letting the words sink in. She had suspected that Miyuki was right when she said that the attacker would return to finish the job. Her father pretty much said the same thing in some of his survival lessons. But the message confirmed it.
It read: "He's coming for you."
When it was lights out, Hanako got to work, setting up the dummy with some extra pillows she asked for and some of the fruit juice packs. Hopefully, that would be enough to throw her would-be assassin off for a while, at least until news came out that she was, in fact, alive.
She pressed herself in the corner of the room and hoped that the moonlight that shone in it would not give her away. Her heart beat hard against her chest when, after midnight and she was about to lose the fight with sleep and tired legs, the door slowly, but surely, slid open. Hanako had to cup her hands over her mouth to keep a gasp from getting out.
The man didn't even see her, too busy staring at the bundle beneath the sheets he thought was Hanako. After closing the door behind him, he slowly went over to the bed. As he did that, Hanako, just as slowly, went for the door. She prayed and willed for silence, knowing that the slightest sound would give the game away. There was a slight clatter, which made her twist around to the man in the lab coat.
Miraculously, he didn't hear, and she quietly slipped through the small gap she made for herself, slid the door shut and tiptoed away. After going down three rooms, she broke into a run, anxious to get away, relieved that she was once again escaping death, and wondered who sent her that message via cleaning cloth.
Just as she turned the corner, at the corner of her incredibly sharp eyes, which have become noticeably sharper these past few months, she sensed movement, and that prompted her to run even faster.
When she reached the elevator, she pressed the down button and then made for the stairs. After throwing the door open, she pulled out a rubber ball that she had discovered in her cup of milk. Did the messenger intend for her to use it for her escape? How would he know that she would understand its usefulness?
Whatever the case, she was glad to have it. The elevator's bell sounded upon its approach. Hanako threw the ball down the steps and then went to the elevator. Once she was in, she pressed the L button, and then got out.
With the trick set, Hanako dived behind the receptionist's desk which was left empty for the night. Now, all she could do was wait. She didn't have to wait long.
The night was so quiet that Hanako could hear the rustling of cloth as her would-be killer rushed in. She squeezed her eyes shut, silently begging the man to take the bait. It seemed her prayers were answered.
She heard the door to the stairs click shut. To be sure, she waited for a few more minutes, clutching her knees to her chest beneath the table. After what felt like an eternity, she slowly rose up from her hiding place.
As soon as she leaned over the table to get a look at the elevators, a hand shot out from beneath and caught her by her throat.
Find out whether she lives of dies here:
- Supernatural by Victor Kwok
Sequel to "Paranormal" by the same author, Ben and Co. are back. This time, they must deal with an uprising of the dead, led by a madman who has cracked the secrets of necromancy through science. With allies new and old, can Benjamin save us all?