Author's note: The events depicted here occur between Chapters 32 and 33 of the manga. Spoilers are minimized so that anime-only watchers can read this without major concern. The ONLY spoiler is that the car is exchanged for an RV.

Chapter 1 - Target Located

From his perch atop a building in Yokohama, the Sniper saw everything.

First came the lights, flashing blue and white and red as first a few, then more, then all of the ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars in the city came to life. He watched them scramble in all directions as calls poured in. Some even made it back to their respective stations or hospitals.

The planes and helicopters came next as elements of the JASDF and USAF raced to target bridges, ferries, highway overpasses...anything to stop or slow the new menace. Within an hour, they had all gone north, to Tokyo, and the sound of engines faded as well.

With both came the fires. The Sniper had grown up in a forest of concrete, and could scarcely believe the way that the city lit up at night, not with LEDs and Neon of an advanced civilization, but reduced to the primitive, dull orange of a time when humans were organized by nothing more than fear, anger, and hunger.

Finally, he saw them. Dozens, then hundreds of forms that shuffled along the roads and through the park, groaning and gasping through whatever illness overtook them and reduced them to little more than animals. Here, a salary man, dragging a busted foot as he stumbled away from a policy meeting that had been indefinitely postponed. There, a disheveled woman with a busted jaw that could never operate well enough to consume anything in the oozing grocery bag, still dangling from her shoulder. Sometimes, he would see the school uniform of a child, and could make out with his rifle scope their blank and rotting eyes.

A week after the end, the Sniper decided that he'd seen enough. Against the orders of the Company, not caring for the limits on his ammunition, he began to target the uniforms. They, at least, should rest, he thought. If the world had truly ended, then the children, he decided, should properly end. Yet, over time, the Sniper's eyes began to develop a kind of blankness of their own. Eventually, he couldn't see… he couldn't see the guts and bits of brain that flew as his shots landed, or the others that tore at the fallen body as they devoured the remains, or the strips of cloth or smears of blood that mercifully vanished after rain. He only saw the uniforms and, when he did, he fired.

By the time that the brown and beige RV entered the intersection by Isezaki-Chjamachi Station, he couldn't see it.

Even if Yuuri Wasaka was sitting in the back of an RV on its way to Saint Isidore University, her mind was back in Megurigaoka High School.

She was in the "bedroom" again. The lights were out, and in the dim light that penetrated the storm clouds outside, she could barely make out the shape of the girl writhing in pain on the couch before her.

If I ever get infected, Kurumi had told her, don't hesitate.

She could feel the plastic handle of the butcher's knife in her right hand, now slick with sweat as she raised the nine-inch blade above her head.

Promise me.

Something tapped her on the nose, and the memory burst like a soap bubble. Yuuri blinked twice, and found her face inches away from an over-excited grin and mess of pink hair.

"Rii-san has such serious daydreams!" Yuki Takeya declared. "That must be from all of those textbooks you read! You should read manga instead!"

From the front passenger seat, Miki Naoki called, "Rii-san reading all of those textbooks is a big part of why we still have water to drink and food to eat… had, actually, before half the snacks vanished."

Yuki scratched the back of her head and gave a nervous laugh. Right, Yuuri reminded herself. We were diverting to this part of Yokohama to replenish our food supplies. All we need is one good mini-market, and we can make it the rest of the way to the University.

The RV ground to a halt at the intersection in front of Isezaki-Chjamachi Station, and Miki got out first, peeking out the side door of the vehicle and saying, "Looks clear. I don't see any of them around. I don't see any in the mini-mart over there either."

"No problem!" Kurumi said, entering the main compartment of the RV. "I'll have that place swept and cleared in five minutes!"

Yuuri looked up at her classmate, and her eyes fixated on the bandages still wound around the girl's right arm. In the back of her mind, she could still hear the shrieking. Promise me.

"No way!" Yuki called. "School Living Club Rule #3, no one goes anywhere alone!"

"Then I'll go with—" Miki started, but Yuuri cut her off.

"No, I'll go."

This bought her a trio of surprised looks. "Yuuri-senpai?" Miki questioned.

"Miki, you've helped out plenty. I should go this time."

Yuuri caught Miki and Kurumi exchanging a look and, ignoring both, went to the back of the RV to grab the metal bat. While never as effective as Kurumi's shovel, this was the most readily accessible secondary weapon from the school. She made a slow, vertical practice swing, but as she did she couldn't help thinking, I haven't actually killed anything yet, have I?

Well, she almost had once… but Miki had shown up on time.

Without waiting for any further comment from the other girls, Yuuri made her way over to the RV door and pushed it open.

It was almost midday, which meant that there weren't any shadows for the creatures to hide in. The streets were remarkably empty too, with only a few cars sitting between them and the convenience store. This section of Yokohama was packed with taller buildings, and formed the one thing that Yuuri absolutely despised about traveling. At the school, they had known the safe spaces, and even the mall had been open enough to make it easy to gauge danger. Here, dark windows on floor after floor stared down at her with quiet menace.

"Ah, it's good that we're stopping here," Kurumi said from behind her. "All that driving was making me stiff."

Yuuri turned to see that the other girl had her arms stretched high above her head, the big orange gardening shovel balanced up at the top. With a sigh, she let her arms and the weapon back down, and said, "Right, I'll take the lead."


"That might work on Miki, but it won't work on me," Kurumi said with a smirk. "You do plenty to pull your weight, but you're not a fighter. So please, as the resident samurai, let me go first."

She didn't get time to counter as Kurumi jogged past her towards the store, glanced in through one of the broken windows, then waved her forward. When Yuuri joined her, she said, "No sounds, and I don't see anything… oh," Kurumi held up a flashlight and handed it to her. "You forgot this. Could you be my spotter while we sweep the place?"

"Of course."

They stepped into the building together, Yuuri feeling especially conscious of the glass crunching under her shoes. Before her, Kurumi held the shovel at shoulder height, ready to cut down anything that tried to jump them. As they passed the third aisle, Yuuri said, "Kurumi?"


"What's… what's the secret for doing it so easily… killing them, I mean."

Kurumi shrugged. "I don't think about it that much. Maybe that's the secret. The one time I thought about it too much, Megu-nee… well, you remember that. Why?"

"It's just… I worry sometimes. If something happened to you or Miki, would I be able to defend you?"

The girl in front of her lowered the shovel a moment to turn and give her an honest smile.

"Rii-san, you've already protected me through the worst of it. You're doing just fine."

If Miki hadn't arrived in time…

"We should pick up the pace," Kurumi finished. "If we take too long, Yuki will charge over here to raid the snack aisle before we've finished."

Indeed, it was all Miki could do to keep Yuki from leaving the RV.

"But they've probably gut Nummy Sticks over there," Yuki whined. "Nummy Sticks, Mii-kun!"

"Senpai," Miki said with a huff, "We're supposed to wait until the others give us the signal. Do you see a signal?"

"Hmm…" Yuki leaned out the door to squint over at the store and, perking up, said, "We could surprise them and show up early!"

"That's a terrible idea."

"But Rii-san looked so down! A surprise would probably brighten her whole day."

Yuuri had looked down, Miki reflected. In fact, the club leader had looked upset ever since they'd left the radio station, if not earlier. True, Rii was far more pensive than either of the other girls, but they'd been living together long enough for Miki to know that Yuuri was genuinely troubled. If she'd noticed, and Yuki and noticed, she was sure that Kurumi had noticed too, so why didn't Yuuri say anything to them?

"Rii-san could use cheering up," Miki agreed, "But I don't think a surprise would be a good way to do it."

But Yuki would not be deterred. "In that case, I'm going to get a Nummy Stick for Rii-san too!"

"Implying that your original plan was to hoard all of them for yourself."

"Aww, that would be mean, Mii-kun! You're my junior, so of course I'd share with you…" by this point, she was leaning so far forward that, for a moment, Miki thought that she was about to tumble out of the RV. "Oh!"


"Rii-san's giving us the signal!" Miki was powerless to prevent Yuki from sprinting across the road to the store, and shaking her head, followed Yuki out into the open.

She'd visited this section of Yokohama with Kei once, what felt like an eternity ago. Kei had really liked one particular ramen shop a few blocks east of the train station. The park that ran along the major street from the station was a good place to enjoy the flowers in the spring, or ice cream in the summer, or the seasonal lights in the winter. All of it was gone now… but maybe the flowers would return. Maybe. So much had transpired since the initial infection that Miki wasn't certain of anything anymore.

A flash of movement caught her eye and she looked up at the building towering over the convenience store and intersection. There was nothing there now, but she could've sworn that she saw something moving in one of the upper windows. Thinking about it, she decided that it was one of them locked in an upstairs room, unable to figure out the lock and therefore doomed to rot there.

That nearly happened to you, right?

Miki shook the thought from her head, and joined the others in the store.

Unlike the school commissary, which had been mostly preserved during the disaster, this store was a mess. As Miki swept her light over the racks, she could see that much of the food had spoiled and rotted away long ago. Ultimately she picked up a shopping basket and joined Rii, who was squatting next to a collection of canned goods. "Anything worth saving?" Miki asked her.

"A lot of it's still good," Rii said. "Most canned food, if you leave it unopened in a dark place, can last up to three or four years. The instant noodles should be good for a while too, but I'd be really careful with processed foods, even if they do have long expiration dates."

"It's good that all of that reading is paying off for you."

Yuuri gave a sad smile and shook her head. "Not from a book! I just read the expiration date labels!"

That should have been obvious, Miki chided herself, and, looking away, said, "I should still borrow some of your books someday. It would probably do all of us more good than rereading the latest Steppen King novel."

When Yuuri said nothing, Miki looked back to find the oldest girl looking at her. "Miki-chan," she said. "I never asked, but… why do you still read horror stories?"

"Well…" it was a fair question. At this point, they were living a horror story, so why bother with the fake stuff?

She was saved by Yuki who rushed up to them with wide eyes and a big box of breakfast cereal. "Look, look!" She declared, "This one says it has 100% Vitamin A, AND Vitamin D!"

Miki examined the box and the light from her flashlight picked up the holes in the bottom. "That one's no good, senpai."


"You should probably open it up and check first."

Yuki did so, and as she opened the top flaps a cluster of fat, black cockroaches spilled out of the container and onto the floor, and she let lose a loud shriek as she dropped the box.

Kurumi was there instantly, shovel at the ready, but froze as she saw nothing other than the three girls. "Yuki, what's wrong?" She asked.

Yuuri was already next to the roaches, pointing at them with her flashlight. She flashed up a settled smile at the other girls and said, "It's okay. Yuki had a few hitchhikers."

As they gathered to get a closer look at the bugs, Yuki said, "I was hoping to surprise Rii-san with food, but I wound up getting surprised instead."

"You know," Kurumi said, raising a mischievous eyebrow, "I hear that in some countries, bugs are food."


"So," Miki said, "What are we going to do with them?" She noticed Kurumi heft the shovel again, since the implied answer obvious.

Instead, Yuuri said, "let's leave them be. They're probably just as surprised as we are, and were hiding in that box to survive."

Kind of like us, Miki thought. They spent a few more minutes gathering supplies and were about to leave when Yuki noticed the manga magazines being sold at the front of the store. "Rii-san, look!" she cried, "I've gotta see if they have the latest issue of Eyeball Man!"

"Yuki-senpai…" Miki started. They haven't had a new volume in months, and the mangaka probably ate the scenario writer. Rii's question struck her again, why do you still read horror stories? For that matter, why was Yuki so excited over some stupid shounen manga?

Yuuri caught Miki's glance, offered her usual warm smile and baseball bat, and said, "You go on ahead and get everything packed away. I'll spend a few minutes with Yuki."

Miki gave her a curt nod, and hauled the grocery basket and weapon back out onto the street. She could see that Kurumi had already made it back to the RV, and was hidden from view. Kurumi was probably eager to keep moving, and Miki couldn't blame her. Yokohama wasn't a bad city, but ever since the residents had developed a taste for live humans Miki had always felt wary. Setting her basket down on the hood of an abandoned Toyota Prius, Miki looked back at the building they'd just left. It was the perfect example; places like the mall had been full of the infected. Where were they all now? Surely, Yuki's broadcast at the school hadn't sent the entire city home, so where had all the people gone?

She suddenly found herself thinking of the lone infected stumbling around the room near the top of the building, and tried to find it again. To her surprise, one of the windows was open, and she could see the sparkling of something inside reflecting the sunlight. Funny, she thought, it looks kind of like—

At that moment, years of Japanese and Western Horror/Thriller novels came crashing down on her, and she made a split second decision, which simultaneously saved her life and propelled her into an entirely new and unusual kind of hell.

Miki Naoki ducked.