Chapter 5: The Clouds Part
The storm had only gotten worse since Yuuya and Naoya left the hospital. The rain was so heavy that it was nearly impossible to see outside their windshields. Fortunately, nearly everyone else in the small town had gone home to wait out the storm, so there was little risk of crashing into other drivers. Gathering the necessary supplies had been harder than anticipated. Not only did tools for breaking in need to be found, but as it turned out, Naoya's gas can wasn't nearly as full as it would need to be. Naoya had to go buy more gas while Yuuya had to buy a variety of wrenches. He had no idea what size the school's gas pipes would be, so he had to buy a wide range to be safe. Overall, their scavenger hunt wasted a good deal of time, time they feared they did not have to lose. Anxiously, the two arrived at Yomiyama North Middle School. They exited their cars, only to be nearly thrown to the ground by the fierce winds. It sounded as though a banshee was screaming through the storm. As Yuuya and Naoya trudged through the rain and winds, struggling with each step, they couldn't help but wonder if some supernatural force was conspiring to stop their mission. Their hooded coats did little to prevent them from feeling the strength of nature, and even Naoya found it difficult to maintain the vice like grip needed to avoid dropping the tools he brought. After walking forward for what felt like an hour, the duo make it from the parking lot to the school entrance.
"Remember, when we brake in an alarm will probably sound immediately! We have to be quick if we want to get out of here before the police come!" Yuuya shouted, his soft voice struggling to overcome the clamor of the storm around them.
Naoya nodded in understanding before tightening his grip on his metal baseball bat. "This is for Kouichi and Mei," he whispered before lifting his bat above his head, preparing to smash the glass door.
Meanwhile at the hospital, Mei was about to give birth. By her side, Kouichi firmly held her hand, hoping that the gods had heard his prayer. "You're almost there, just push," instructed the doctor. Mei cried out in pain as she went through labor. Kouichi winced he thought about how quickly this was all happening. "This isn't right," he thought to himself, "giving birth for the first time usually takes much longer than this." Slowly but surely, the baby came out, as the doctor held up the newborn girl, Mei gasped at what she saw. Her daughter's body was smaller than average, causing the head to look disproportionately larger, if only slightly. The child had slightly less fat than a typical newborn. Her skin, just as pale as her mother's, looked very thin. If one looked carefully, one could faintly see the blood vessels underneath. She also had fine hair, called lanugo, on her back and shoulders. However, none of these physical abnormalities caused Mei's reaction. Mei's surprise was caused by something no one else could see. Something that could only be seen with her glass left eye. While everyone in the room could only see how pale the baby was, Mei saw a different color on her child. A color that was otherworldly, not belonging with colors like red and blue. Mei recognized it as the same color she saw on her sister on her last day in the hospital. It was the color of death.
"Quickly, get the baby to an incubator! Without the usual amount of body fat she can't produce enough heat on her own!" the doctor ordered. As most of the staff left with the child, Mei grabbed her husband's hand. "Kouichi, wait," she said weakly, tired out from the pains of labor.
Kouichi looked at his wife with concern, "What's wrong?"
"I saw our baby, she was the color of death."
Kouichi's eyes widened. "Are you sure? Maybe she looked that way because you just went through. . ."
"Kouichi, she looked just like my sister and your aunt before they died!" Mei interrupted.
Kouichi was silent for a moment, processing what Mei had said. All of a sudden, a calm filled him. He didn't know why, but he had faith that their daughter would survive. His face became firm, and he looked into Mei's eyes. "Mei, I promise you, our baby will not die. She will be healthy, and you and I will raise her together. We'll be a family together."
"Kouichi, my glass eye has never been wrong."
"I'm telling you, Mei, our daughter will not die. In fact, let's pick out a name."
"Our baby will live, so we'll name her. Any ideas?"
Mei racked her brain for girl names. "Misaki. I want to name her after my sister."
"That's good. We could make her middle name Reiko, too."
Mei looked at her husband and smiled. "I'd like that."
The couple embraced as a nurse walked into the room. "We have your daughter connected to several machines to help her breathing and maintain her body temperature. If you're ready, you can name her now." After Kouichi wrote down Sakakibara Reiko Misaki, Mei spoke up. "Take us to our baby."
The nurse turned towards Mei and said, "With respect, you just gave birth, you really should be resting and recovering."
"I don't care. I want to see my daughter. Now."
Seeing that Mei would not be dissuaded, the nurse brought out a wheelchair. Kouichi helped Mei into it, and the nurse brought them to where the child was being cared for.
Back at Yomiyama North Middle School, Yuuya and Naoya were rushing to finish their plan. Just as Yuuya feared, the school's alarm went off the second Naoya's bat broke the glass door. Naoya raced to the school's basement where the gas pipes would be exposed, while Yuuya trailed gasoline behind them. After finding the correct pipe, Yuuya opened up the tool box and began trying the wrenches. As each one failed to fit the pipe, the team became more and more frantic.
"How could you buy a wrench of every size and still not find the right one!" Naoya shouted.
"Dammit, I bought every size I saw at the shop, I don't know what's wrong!"
"Screw this!" Naoya roared as he picked up his bat. After several furious swings, the pipe broke. Gas rushed out, and the foul odor found its way into the nostrils of the duo. Yuuya dumped out the remaining gas in a puddle near the leak and ran with Naoya close behind. After reaching the entrance they had come from, Yuuya dashed straight for his vehicle. Naoya lit a match and dropped it at the start of the liquid trail. As soon as the fire started along its fateful journey, the athlete bolted for his own car. No sooner had the two left the parking lot when a deafening boom sounded from behind them. Naoya turned his head to see the school he once attended collapse in on itself. He hoped it would be enough to permanently end the calamity.
While Yuuya and Naoya were in the school, The Sakakibaras were watching anxiously as the doctors frantically discussed Misaki's health. The couple had to be kept at a distance to avoid getting in the doctors' way, but they could tell from the body language that something was wrong. As a nurse came out of the room to where the couple waited, Mei called out, "Nurse, what's going on in there?"
The nurse bit her lower lip and paused, debating if it would be best to tell them.
"Please, as parents we have to know what's happening to our baby," Kouichi pleaded.
Finally, the nurse said, "The baby's breathing and heartbeat have slowed dramatically. We're not sure why this is happening, but it has gotten dangerously low."
As the nurse left, Kouichi and Mei felt their hearts sink. In spite of this news, Kouichi refused to believe that his daughter would die. "I don't care what the nurse said. Misaki will survive."
"And if she doesn't?" Mei asked quietly.
"She will," was Kouichi's response.
"How can you be so sure?" Mei asked.
Kouichi was quiet for a moment, before turning to his wife. "I'm not sure how I know, but I just know our baby will be okay." He didn't know if it was just hopeful thinking, but Kouichi simply did not believe there was a chance Misaki would die. Still, Kouichi renewed his prayer, just to be safe.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, a doctor slowly walked out of the room. He looked at the young couple uncomfortably before opening his mouth to speak. "Kouichi, Mei, I'm so sorry." Without even hearing the rest, they both felt as though they had been punched in the gut. "Your baby's heart just stopped. Nothing we have tried can start it up again. Your child is dead."
Outside the hospital's parking lot, Yuuya and Naoya existed their vehicles. Yuuya put his hand on his friend's shoulder before he could go inside.
"Hey, Naoya, how about we don't tell Kouichi and Mei what just happened, alright?"
"Why? They won't rat on us. Besides, if we did stop the calamity forever. . ."
"Look, what we did was highly illegal. I don't think saving future generations of 9th graders is going to hold up in court, alright? Besides, we don't need to put this whole mess on their minds. They've got enough on their plate with the new baby and all."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
With that, the two went into the hospital to see their friends.
Outside the emergency room, it had taken no time at all for Mei to burst into tears. For Kouichi, he had just stared for a moment, refusing to accept the information he had just been given. Finally, his mind finished processing, and tears pricked his eyes. Kouichi wrapped his arms around Mei and cried softly next to her.
"Your mom, my eye, my sister, your aunt, now our baby. . . death just keeps taking from us. When will it be enough?" Mei asked through sobs.
The doctor shifted his feet uncomfortably. He hated it when he had to deliver news like this to patients. It never got easier.
Hey! We got a pulse! The heartbeat started up again!" called a voice from inside the room.
Kouichi's and Mei's heads shot up. "What?" they asked in unison.
The doctor rushed back into the room, leaving the Sakakibaras dumbfounded. Their baby was alive again? There was still hope. After a few agonizing minutes, the doctor from before came out with little Misaki. "We can't explain it, but your baby is perfectly healthy. She's beginning to look as healthy as a normal child. I don't know what to say, except someone up there must really like you."
The doctor handed the baby to Mei, who had started crying tears of relief. Meanwhile, Kouichi sent up a thank you to every god he could name. "Now there are a few long term issues to consider with any premature baby," the doctor continued. "For example, we recommend breastfeeding over bottles to ensure preemies get all the necessary nutrients. Also, make sure to treat every infection quickly. I can put together a list of antibiotics that fight the most common diseases responsible for infant mortality. Do either of your families have a history of allergies related to any medicines I should know about?"
"No, nothing like that," Kouichi replied.
Just then, a voice called out from down the hall. "Hey, there you guys are!"
The couple turned and saw Yuuya and Naoya walking towards them. Yuuya shushed the athlete, reminding him of where they were.
"Where did you guys disappear to?" asked Kouichi.
"We didn't want to take up space in the delivery room, and we thought you would have preferred just family present," Yuuya lied, knowing he wasn't very convincing.
"We wouldn't have minded you being here, you're our friends," Mei said, though her eyes were on the baby.
Kouichi felt there was something not being said, but he didn't want to push the matter further. What mattered was that everyone was safe and alive. Then his thoughts turned to the rest of the class. "Hey, did either of you check up on the others? We kinda left them in a hurry."
"On the drive back to the hospital I called the others. They all made it back to their hotels okay after Sayuri's body was removed. They're all shaken up, especially Yukito, but they'll be alright," Yuuya said, this at least being accurate.
Naoya looked at the newborn and smiled. "How cute! What's the baby's name?"
"Misaki. We named her Misaki," Mei said.
"Aw, I guess I won't be getting a boy named after m- Ow! I was just kidding!" Naoya said as Yuuya elbowed him.
The Sakakibaras burst into laughter, not at the joke, but in relief that the whole ordeal was finally over. The other two boys joined in, filling the whole room with laughter. Outside the hospital, the rains ceased, the winds were silenced, and the clouds parted. Peace returned to Yomiyama City.