Osaka was a shell of its former glory. The streets that once roared with traffic was now a blank canvas. Several cars had crashed into each other or into the open shops leaving wreckage in the path of Kenta and Aida. They had parked some blocks down when they saw how the Osaka streets became a graveyard for vehicles. Above, the various electronic billboards that once shone with various advertisements were of a sickly, familiar blue. The Raining Room was now being broadcast to the whole of the city.
Aida shuddered upon seeing this. Kenta reacted by unconsciously placing his hand on his holstered gun.
“He’s like a virus.” she said. She was gesturing to the closest billboard where the familiar spidery Hiragana was crossing the vile cobalt. “How many others?”
She did not elaborate but Kenta knew what she meant. However, instead of responding they kept a mutual silence. They walked in solitude, burdened by the silence. Upon reaching the end of the block, a body loomed in the gutter. It was face down in a pool of its own cloying blood. A noxious stench rose from the corpse that the two were afraid to approach.
“There’s nothing that can be done.” said Kenta. Aida was not certain if he was talking to her or himself.
As they turned the corner, their destination was stood tall in all its glory. The Shione Corporation’s Headquarters which, according to many frugal company owners, was mostly used to rent cheap office space. They approached uncertain but with purpose; even as the droplets fell harder around them, they knew he awaited them.
They entered the ruins of the main foyer. Kenta lead with his gun raised; Aida followed unarmed but hewn with determination. Elevator doors opened for them somewhat mockingly; against all instincts they stepped in and watched them close. At once, they were very aware they had stepped into a shaky, claustrophobic tin easily capable of trapping them both. But the awaited trap did not spring; the elevator was as ordinary as any other.
The control system gleamed despite its scratches. However, all but one button had been scratched out. Number forty-four. Kenta let his fingers hover over the button; was it worth following a blind direction? There was no possible way this could be so easily done. Aida, perhaps impatient, slammed his hand onto the button and depressed it. Taking off with a creak of gears, the two exchanged looks of annoyance and solemn regard. But they said nothing, even as the elevator took an age to climb the building.
Ko opened her eyes slowly. She felt a cold, wet mass upon her forehead which she reached for. But her arm would not move as though it were disobeying her. A stabbing pain brought clarity to her vision.
She looked around as the mass of colour and undefined shapes solidified. For a brief moment, she thought she was at Katsu’s house after another session with imported lager. As the broken gurney came into focus, she remembered she was in the ambulance. Struggling against the weight on her immobile arm, she pushed the stretcher with no luck. She was trapped there like a rodent in the jaws of a lion.
Her predicament dawned on her but she did not cry or beg to an unknown deity. Even as she saw blood in her free hand, she remained stoic. In the days when Katsu was in a foul mood, she had learned to retreat to her own happy place. She’d discovered this little trick when her parents would argue.
Great, so I’m trapped, she thought as her body cramped from the tight space. The two paramedics had formed a congealed lump not unlike a sickly raspberry desert she had once enjoyed. Ko wasn’t certain but her gut instinct told her they were dead. It appeared blood had cascaded from their eyes and mouths.
“Toshi?” she called out. Though she could not see him past the gurney, she knew he was there. She wondered if he was just a bloody mass now.
A sickening wave of pain threatened to steal her from consciousness. An acidic sputum stung her throat as she choked back a spatter of bile. With the remaining strength in her free hand, she lifted the gurney. Using her left knee as leverage, she managed to make enough room to free her trapped hand. Just as relief washed over her, the gurney slammed down with a metallic clang. But the problems remained; her left hand was painfully stiff and broken twice. No matter what she tried, she could not get her fingers to move. Her hand was pointed at an odd angle that elicited a strange response.
A shrill laugh escaped her lips in such a frenzy she shocked herself. Imagining herself pointing at an imaginary exhibit, she began to bellow with joy. Tears flooded her eyes but she kept laughing; all the while transfixed with her broken arm. Part of the bone had penetrated the skin like a pale diamond.
“Ko.” muttered a voice. It was as weak as a cobweb yet stunned Ko into silence.
The elevator doors opened with a metallic squeal revealing a dust-sodden hallway. Everything of character was stripped; the walls were sullen grey with traces of paintings that were once there. As they passed each empty room, a strange, sharp sound sliced through the musty air. It glitched to the point of deafening both Kenta and Aida. Their hands clamped around their ears in an attempt to block the sound but it was no use; whatever it was had infected them with its soundwaves.
“Do you think that’s…” asked Kenta whose words were lost to the sound. Aida understood and looked around. Their eardrums, like the skin of drums, were bearing powerful blows that felt no different to knitting needles. I’m going to go deaf and then what? thought Kenta wildly.
They continued on as the sound rose in a crescendo. Aida felt (or imagined) a bead of blood falling from her eye. Kenta gave her a forlorn glance but said nothing; maybe it was just a tear. Their footsteps turned to wet thuds upon the spoiled carpet. Both then understood clearly as they hastened. As moist as the ground, the wall looked like swollen flesh. Water perspired from the remnants but this did not stop Kenta tearing it apart. It fell apart like wet tissue and hit the ground in gooey clumps. Specks of dry paint clung to his fingers with the agonizing stench of staleness.
Beyond the remains the of dead wall, a wooden door awaited them. It opened smoothly at Kenta’s touch as a cascade of dead water crashed at their feet. Though the room inside was dark, they saw clearly.
It was raining inside. The ceiling was disguised beyond the thundering mass; if there was anything there beyond the rain. In the centre of the room was a lone computer on a simple, black desk. Both recognized the sickly blue that illuminated the screen. It flickered at them as though it were greeting them.
Kenta raised his gun at the machine but Aida strode in confidently. Her path soaked, she did not flinch even the raindrops numbed her flesh. With a swift motion, she picked up the monitor and smashed it off the black desk. A thousand blue shards scattered but she was not done. Her attention was turned to the monitor; it hit the desk with a powerful slam which sent its components everywhere. Perhaps it was pent up anger or she was finally exorcising her demons, but she did not stop smashing the computer until the glass of the broken monitor faded to nothingness. She looked back at Kenta, her eyes swimming in what wasn’t the unknown rain.
He shouted something to her that was swallowed by the noise. With a practised flick of his wrist, he produced his pistol and aimed it at Aida. He pulled the trigger twice.
In a brief moment, Aida could only watch the two pieces of metal zoom at her. Even with her obscured vision, they were pronounced in her mind’s eye. But they passed her and slammed into something she had not seen. A being her eyes could not comprehend; the doors of perception within the human psyche would never expect such an apparition, much less begin to rationalize it. As fear replaced anger, she found the strength to run. A shadow crossed her periphery vision but she did not relent; soon she was at Kenta’s side and they galloped upon the rising water to the elevator ahead.
But the being was close. They heard the crashing footsteps (if that’s what it had) growing in decibels. It was what lurked in the outer reaches of the mind; something that was a bastardization that acted as a cancer for deities. It crept over the duo at an impossible angle; Kenta fired back three more times but the bullets neither impeded nor hurt it.
Light gleamed from inside the elevator with an angelic hue. With the effort of a much stronger man, Kenta grabbed Aida and pushed her into the elevator before bounding in. He slammed the button as he fired at the being. It stumbled (or glitched) and roared with a metallurgic edge. With gratitude they had not ever experienced of that magnitude, the doors shifted shut.
They both breathed a collective sigh. Whatever it was had remained; Kenta had a horrifying vision of it landing on the elevator and severing the cable. Or tearing open the roof like a can of meat and devouring them both.
“Now what?” said Aida. Her voice was leaden with fatigue. She remained seated on the floor, her arms curled around her legs. At once, she lost her authoritarian demeanour.
Kenta shrugged. He leaned back, taking care to sheath his gun.
“I’ve never really dealt with this kind of thing before. So, I guess we wing it?”
“It’s over now, surely?” she asked.
Kenta shrugged once more. Another habit of his.
“I guess. But you saw outside..” he broke off as a testament to his original habit.
Aida nodded. “We need a plan. Anything. We can’t stay in this city. Everything electrical… unnerves me.”
She shuddered as she looked at the light above. It shone innocuously but Kenta knew she had a point. He thought of Michi Sugai and understood. “You’ll remain with me?”
For the first time, a hopeful smile had permeated her lips. As the elevator steadied for the ground floor, he helped her to her feet. The exit loomed as they stepped off onto the ground floor.
A lurch came from within the building. It was an unholy sound that shook the foundations. Debris fell as it reached a swollen pitch. Adrenaline fuelling their tired bodies, Kenta and Aida ran towards the exit as the building ached with an unknown pain. The glitched roar sounded again as they escaped into the city street.
With a great shiver, the building had reached the end of its proud stature. It collapsed within the blink of an eye; not spitting dust and wreckage but as though it were falling into a square void into the earth. The Shione Corporation was nothing more than a memory.
Kenta and Aida were stunned. They looked around as the dust settled and saw the electronic billboards flicker and silence. Osaka had lost its soul.
“Let’s go.” murmured Aida. She and Kenta left behind the grave of where Ren Usami’s prized creation had been plundered.
Many blocks over, but still in sight, an airplane took a strange course over the city. It passed by uncaring of the monstrosities that had occurred below; the sketched city was of no concern. Lazily, it fell to a strange angle; as though it were beckoned.
The aircraft increased in speed. Anyone watching from below would be curious and perhaps a little worried. At thousands of miles an hour, yet memory would replay this in slow motion, the airplane slammed into the tallest skyscraper and erupted into a plume of flame much larger than it should have. It rained flames for ten blocks in each direction; Kenta and Aida were warned only be premonition as a dust cloud that drowned the sky descended upon them. Above, in the emptiness of the empyrean, a suffocating blanket of clouds unleashed a storm only seen in the cruellest of nightmares.