The ambulance took an age to reach the school. When it finally passed the gates, Aida felt a wave of relief purer than the driven snow. She watched it pull up with Toshi’s limp body in her grasp. For such a petite woman, she had a firm hold. All those years are carrying heavy books did her will, she had thought humourlessly.
Two paramedics, twenty years of age at a glance, scooped up Toshi and laid him flat on the gurney. As his arms laid splayed, Aida was forcibly reminded of a dead bird she had seen when she was a child. No, she thought. He’s going to live.
The first paramedic spoke tamely. He seemed ashamed to be addressing her.
“I apologize for our lateness. It’s been hectic.”
Aida bowed respectfully. Understood, they bundled the gurney into the yawning ambulance but were stopped before they could close the doors. Ko, soaked to the bone, reached out for Toshi desperately. Even with the rain, Aida could tell she had been crying.
Ko mouthed something but the words never came. The paramedics looked to her and then to Aida. Aida nodded and she climbed in the back of the ambulance. It took off in a watery squeal of tires and soon disappeared beyond into the elements. Looking back at the abandoned shell of her school, for the first time she felt truly alone. She thought of Sakiko and then of Toshi. They were then joined by the faces of her students that would never again step foot on school grounds. But she did not cry; an anger boiled inside her as she wished for PMR to be stood before her. Ten seconds would be all she would need to strangle that monster.
A silver shape swerved into view startling her. Kenta stepped out more dishevelled than she had ever seen him. He made a motion to enter the school but Aida grabbed the passenger handle and let herself in. His car was hardly welcoming but she could not bear to be inside that building again. Understanding this, he slipped behind the wheel and soon, the school had disappeared into the rain.
Kenta spoke of his meeting with Michi Sugai as Aida listened patiently. It was during his abstract clue of ‘find the raining room’ when Aida finally spoke. The radio had hissed and crackled with news but no one was paying attention.
“So that’s it? Just find the Raining Room?” muttered Aida. “He couldn’t just spell it out?”
Kenta laughed humourlessly. “Some people just love to be cryptic. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
Aida looked out of the window and watched the droplets race across the glass. The answer slowly formed in her mind; so simple yet part of her felt a dread threatening to change her mind.
“We could always try the Shione Corporation Building.”
Kenta gave her a speculative glance. She was afraid of him dismissing this but he shrugged.
“What else do we have to go on?” he said. “What made you come to that conclusion, may I ask?”
“When my IT department tried exploring the site-“ she began. Hideo and Akira’s faces flashed through her mind painfully. Repressing a wave of tears, she soldiered on. “A logo for that business appeared. Could be a longshot but what else is there? People are dying, Kenta.”
Hearing her use his forename warmed him. He hit the gas and fired on down the street. The main highway was only around the corner and everywhere was seemingly empty. The skyscrapers of the business district cut an ominous black slate in the distance as they approached.
The two paramedics struggled within the rocking ambulance as Toshi swayed before them. The gurney shook with every swerve as they finished hooking him up to the electronics. Ko watched unable to help and feeling every bit useless as a result.
“Jeez Park, could you stop swerving?” yelled the first paramedic. The heart monitor bleeped into life as he spoke. “Damn this job. Every day there’s a new set of kids dying or_” he looked over at Ko and saw her shocked expression.
“I’m sorry kid. But you’ve been watching the news haven’t you?” asked the second paramedic. A sea of pimples dominated his otherwise youthful face.
Ko nodded numbly. “My boyfriend died this week. It’s because of that….”
She continued her sad glance at Toshi’s still body. Both paramedics busied themselves as to avoid this conversation.
The ambulance rocked again. This time several of the electronic apparatus fell from the shelves with a metallic crash.
“Park, what the Hell?” yelled the second paramedic.
Ko twitched. She felt a deep shadow swallow her whole as everything seemed to slow. A wrinkle of concern crossed Toshi’s forehead; this little movement caught her off guard. She didn’t even see the electronics spit sparks around them.
Both Paramedics began to yell at the driver. They could not tell if it was an obstruction or another person, but Park swerved wildly causing the ambulance to slide across the slippery road. A metallic crash knocked the vehicle into a pirouette before it landed on its side. The first paramedic was crushed under the gurney as the second collapsed on top of him.
Ko felt the bone in her left arm snap as Toshi’s surprising weight thudded into her. As the pain dragged her into unconsciousness, she imagined he finally opened his eyes.