Han Hito: The Story of Patient Zero
“Sammy!” Murry called, his voice echoing through the empty woods. The two of us had been searching for twenty minutes, and we hadn’t found a trace of Sammy. Murry was starting to panic- I could hear the shakiness in his voice when he called out. We were walking side by side, which made it easier to hear his staggered breath.
I turned my head to him. “You, uh, wanna take a break? You’re not lookin’ so hot,” I offered. He shook his head ‘no’ and I sighed. It seemed we would be here for longer than I had hoped.
We patrolled the forest for a couple minutes more before Murry spoke up again. “Y-you said she would come back soon if she wasn’t dead…” I didn’t have much to say in return, but I tried to think of something that would make him feel better about the situation.
“Well, what if she’s already back at camp? The perimeter of the territory’s pretty big. She might’ve gone ahead of us,” I reasoned. It was possible, though more likely, she was far off in someone else’s territory- she had been very indignant about leaving, after all.
“L-let’s go check the camp, then,” Murry replied. “Which way is it…?”
I looked around at the trees and found one that had a knife gash. I turned my body the same way the gash was facing and pointed forward. “That-a-way. Territory marks come in real handy.” I started leading the way, and he fell back behind me in a two-person line.
We quickly found our way back to the camp. More specifically, we found a certain clothesline with socks on it, which I had to redirect our trajectory around. “What is that? Why are we going around it?” Murry asked me innocently.
“You’re lucky you don’t have to know,” I responded. He gave me a weird look, but we continued on our way. When we approached the fire, we found it abandoned. Sammy had not returned.
Murry sniffled. “What do we do now?”
“We go see whether those invaders got driven off. If yeah, then we can get the others looking for Sammy, too,” I suggested. He was still losing hope, but he obliged, and we walked around the mass of tents and to the other side of camp. I saw Maya still holding her spear, but I couldn’t see any of the others.
“Sumisu, Murry. Where have you been?” she questioned.
“W-we’re looking for Sammy. Have you seen her?” Murry answered, picking at his nails. When I looked closer at them, they were more like claws, but he shoved them in his pockets when he noticed I was watching.
Maya snorted. “Hmph. Why, now, are you trying to locate her? Why can you not let bygones be bygones?”
“Maya, shut up. This- she’s important to him. Have you seen her?” I interrupted before Murry could speak. I couldn’t stand by and watch her drain him more.
She stretched her back and sighed. “Yes. She ran just up ahead into that territory to help drive the battle back.” Murry smiled; I could tell warmth was returning to his face. “Though I reckon she is still… What is the word? Pissed at the both of you. Do be careful when you approach her.”
“Alright, so what’s the status of the battle? What’s it even for, anyway?” I asked.
“Well, we are winning at the moment. There were apparently ‘tensions’ between some of our allies that inspired them to call for help. I do not know what they were talking about, Sumisu, but you might know something about it.” She adjusted her shirt. “They mentioned something of a ‘cat boy’ and an ‘angel girl’ threatening them. I have no clue who they could have been referring to.”
Murry perked up. “H-hey! That was when they tried to capture me!” he remarked. The men we’d contacted had mentioned having allies, but the speed at which they must have called them was truly remarkable. “We only threatened them because they threatened us first!”
“Try telling them that,” Maya replied. “If you need, I will escort the two of you, since I am not currently doing anything.” Murry nodded, and she whipped her spear down to the ground. She began walking ahead in the forest, so quickly in fact that Murry and I had to jog to catch up to her.
Soon enough, we came upon John, who was holding the hunting bow I had stolen from the camping store. “Niko? I thought you were staying with Benji,” he reminded me. I was fairly confident in Benji’s safety, so I felt safe leaving him alone for a little while. Thirty minutes, though, was a bit longer than normal, and I worried perhaps he had run away like Sammy had.
“He’s fine,” I said with more uncertainty than I had meant to show. “Maya told me to come help with the fight.”
“That is not what I-”
“Just go with it,” I hissed at her. John raised an eyebrow, and for a moment I thought I was good as dead. He then nodded his head, and I sighed inaudibly.
He pointed ahead, and I saw Chad holding back a woman with a spear. “Go help Chad, I guess. We’re not exactly outnumbered, so you might just be running around.” I decided that was better than nothing and rushed to Chad’s side. The woman saw me with my hunting knife and backed off. Just my presence alone was enough to scare her.
“What the- Niko! What are you doing?!” Chad yelled. “Go back to the- the tent!”
“I’m helping you, dolt. Give me the frickin’ spear,” I lashed back, grabbing his spear. He knew better than to fight with his own family during a scuffle, but I would definitely get what I deserved when it was over. I rushed forward and thrust the spear beside the woman, frightening her. She backed up further before reaching into her pocket and pulling out a dart. I’d never seen anyone use darts in combat before, so I didn’t know how to react.
She pulled her arm back and threw it straight at my chest. Her aim was dead-set, and I thought I was about to die. I hunched down and closed my eyes, which I didn’t expect to do much but bring the dart to my head instead. I waited for the splitting impact, but none came. When I looked up, the woman was clutching her stomach. She had somehow managed to hit herself. I held back a laugh.
“What the- Niko, how’d you- what?!” Chad snarled. “That’s not even- how?” The woman stumbled back and ran away as I watched in confusion.
“How’d I do what?”
“She threw the thing right at you and it hit her in the side!” I lifted my eyebrows in shock. I’d thought she just forgot to let go of the thing and hit herself. I looked around to find some explanation. Maybe someone else had thrown a dart from her side and hers had just missed me? The only people around were me, Chad, and Murry. John wasn’t at an angle where he could have shot the woman in her side, so I wondered if it really was a stray. Either way, I’d gotten lucky.
I handed the spear off to Chad, who must have run off to some other fight. In the end, I’d really only scared off one person, but I didn’t mind. It was still better than sitting in a tent with Benji. Maya pulled me and Murry back from the commotion. “You seriously left Benji alone? Go and check on him, you buffoons! Sumisu, you especially!” she snapped.
“Okay, okay! Jeez!” I turned around and ran with Murry back to camp. When I opened the tent, I saw Benji looming in the corner.
He turned his head, and I saw a dorky smile on his face. “Niko! Look! It’s a spider!” He held out his hands, and I saw a recluse spider crawling along his fingers. Internally, I panicked. This was probably why I should have stayed with him. I scooted closer to get a better look- as I feared, it had a small violin-shaped dark spot on its head.
“Don’t move, Benji. That thing’s super deadly,” I warned him. The look on his face went from joy to contorted fear. I slowly brought my hunting knife out and pressed the flat edge against his palm. In one swift movement, I swiped the knife at the spider and flung it against the wall of the tent. Benji got up and ran for the exit of the tent while I watched it scurry away into one of the holes in the tent floor.
“Why didn’t you kill it, Niko?” Benji asked me, shivering. I sheathed my knife and looked back at him.
“I don’t like killing things,” I replied honestly. “It’s just something about it that bugs me. Like, we’re all alive. So why do they deserve to die when they didn’t even hurt us? Would we want them to come up and kill us for no reason?”
Murry nodded his head. “I-I agree! Killing’s wrong!”
Benji knelt again and pushed down on his palm where the spider had been. “It didn’t bite me. How was it deadly?”
“Well, if you keep messing with them, they will bite. I swear, Ben, someday you’re gonna get eaten by one of those things,” I replied. “I’ll grab the duct tape to seal the hole shut.” I pushed my way out of the tent. I thought for a second about where we had last left the tape, then I jogged to the medical tent to grab it. A few quick movements and I was running back to Benji and Murry with silver tape.
Murry sighed with relief. “Do it quick so the spider d-doesn’t come back,” he suggested. I walked over, bit off a short piece of tape, and stuck it down over the hole.
“That’s that, then,” I said, sitting down. “Maya told us to stay with you, so here we are. If you get bored, that’s not my problem, but we can probably find some way to pass the time.” I got an idea and smirked. “Like, I dunno, ‘press uncomfortably deep into Murry’s past’.”
Murry scowled at me. “No! N-no! Let’s not do that one!” He crossed his legs. “Okay, well, w-what if we went around and played ‘two truths and a lie’? How does that one sound?”
“Okay! I’ll go first!” Benji blurted. “One! I’ve been to Canada! Two! I have three siblings! Three! Um… I love snakes!” I could easily tell which one had been fabricated on the spot. Knowing Benji hated snakes gave me an advantage anyway, but his stuttering beforehand made it obvious to anyone. “Okay! Which one’s the lie?” he asked.
I held up ‘three’ with my fingers, and when I looked over, I saw Murry holding up ‘two’. He seemed to have noticed our discrepancy as well. “Wait, you have three siblings, Niko?”
“Yeah. Benji and Chad’re two of them. I have a sister, too,” I replied.
He seemed hesitant to ask. “Is that Chloe…?”
“Hah! No. Chloe’s my cousin. So’re Maya, Tori, and John. My sister’s not here. Off at boarding school. I don’t know how she’s faring with the whole Han Hito thing,” I explained to him. He nodded along.
“Do you still write to Aw, Niko?” Benji asked.
“What are you talking about? No! The post office is closed down, anyway! So no!” I denied, crossing my arms.
He scrunched his face. “I saw Niko writing a letter to her a few days ago. He just don’t wanna admit it.”
Murry chuckled. “H-hey! I get it! Your ‘Aw’ must mean a lot to you. Is she older than you?” he asked. I blushed and looked at the tent wall.
“Her name’s Aubrey. And she’s my twin,” I clarified. He seemed to think of something and snap back to reality. “I’m writing letters in case I ever see her again. So she’ll know I didn’t just forget about her.”
“Hey, hey! Furry kid, it’s your turn! Two truths and a lie, remember?” Benji interrupted. Murry winced at his loud voice and took another moment to think, this time for the game. I recalled he didn’t like being referred to by ‘furry’, but I could forgive Benji for it. “Come on! You’re taking forever!” Benji added.
Murry leaned forward. “A-alright! I, uh…” He took a breath. “One. I-I, uh, I have an older sister. T-two, I did track back in school! Three, I, uh…” He took another moment to think, which made me assume this would be a lie. “I know how to swordfight! Uh, which one’s the lie?”
Me and Benji both put up ‘three’, and he snickered a little. “Wait, you don’t seriously know how to swordfight, do you?” I questioned him. He put his fingers up in a peace sign, and I tilted my head. I then realized it was supposed to be a number ‘two’. “So you know how to swordfight, but you didn’t do track?”
“Y-yeah, haha. I never did track. Sweat makes me smell really bad,” he laughed, scratching the back of his head. “I learned swordfighting from my dad. He’s really good.”
“I wouldn’t’ve guessed,” I replied. I was about to start thinking of truths and lies myself before someone burst through the flaps behind Murry. He shrieked and scurried back, followed by a sigh of relief. It was Sammy, holding her bow.
She looked around. “Wonderful. My two favorite people,” she snarled at me and Murry. “You hurry yourself out of here, lad. I have some talking to do with these two.” Benji hesitantly crawled out of the tent.
“H-how was the fight, Sammy…?” Murry asked. “W-we were looking everywhere for you after you l-left…” She stomped on the ground in front of him and he squealed. I wondered if that was any way to be treating her boyfriend.
“None of it would’ve happened had you two not gone and messed it all up!” she snapped. “Especially you!” She pointed her bow at me, which I noticed had an arrow still in it. “You may as well be trying to kill us!”
It was rash of me to act so cocky at arrow’s point, but I doubted she would fire at me. “I wasn’t trying to kill anyone, you know that. What I don’t get is why you’re still so pissed about something I didn’t have any control over.” She gripped her bow harder.
“I’m- I’m sorry, Sammy, but he’s right…! They weren’t acting hostile until just then, he said! They must’ve seen the meat you caught and decided…” He scooted away further. “Sammy, it’s okay! I’m not mad at you! I just wanna know why you’re so mad at us!”
“Tch! What do you care? Far as I’m concerned, you’re just fawning over mister ‘we’re all gonna die no matter what’!” Sammy spat. Murry backed up even further. “Grraah! I hate this!” She threw her bow on the ground, and it rattled to a halt.
I lowered my eyebrows. “The hell was that for?”
Sammy swallowed. “I just… I…” She wiped her hooded face with her sleeve. “I’m sorry. I just thought I would lose him. And I thought it was your fault,” she admitted.
“What do you think all that bargaining was for? I don’t wanna lose him as much as you don’t. I wouldn’t’ve acted so aggressively if I didn’t care,” I replied. Murry looked up at me, his eyes shining. I found I did care about him- in the single day we’d known each other, I’d grown closer to him than I had anyone else in the family. Sammy, too, though that was more out of reliance than bonding.
Murry sniffled and rubbed his eyes. “Sammy…” He stood up and hugged her. It was nice to see them getting along again- I just hoped it meant I would be treated better, too.
“Muriel, please. If I wanted your embrace, I would have asked,” Sammy whispered. I doubted she disliked it, though, because she was resting her chin on his shoulder.
The moment was interrupted when Chad swiped the flaps open. “Woah, woah. They ain’t gettin’ all Tori an’ John, right, Niko?” They backed away from each other and looked and Chad, confused.
“Nah. They’re just hugging. It’s all good,” I told him. He nodded and began to leave. Just then, though, he turned around and poked his head in again.
“One more question, ‘bout these two. They stayin’? We’re plannin’ rations and we need ta know,” he asked. Murry looked at Sammy, and she nodded. He turned back to Chad.
“We’re gonna stay.”