Chapter 18:

Waking the Courage


‘…Yuki…’ Saki stepped forward towards the man unflinching. She hoped some answers would come out of this madness. ‘I have to get Hitomi out of this…’ When the cell door opened and the vines came to grab Saki she stepped forward letting them wrap around her arm and waist. Unlike Hitomi, he didn’t cover her in vines. Saki walked out of the cell on her leash and stood next to him waiting for him to move. She felt like maybe she gained a bit of respect from him.

As they walked, she saw fear and confusion in the other prisoners. ‘…I’ll come back for you…’

Chapter 18 – Waking the Courage

The creaking sound she learned to be a heavy steel door at the far end of the warehouse. The man of vines pulled the door open giving Saki the lead for the moment. He followed behind her bringing the door to a tight close and placing the thick locking mechanism into place.

The room behind the door was bright from an exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling by only the electrical wiring. It was accompanied by several other bulbs attached at the walls of the room dowsing all of the surfaces in a bleached white. The amount of light made it difficult to see details or judge the scale of the room.

At the center of the room, there were two chairs. One of the chairs had straps at the armrest and back of the chair as well as where the legs would lay. The other was a simple metal chair just offset out of the main light.

Heavy metal scrapping snapped her attention back to the door as it locked. She tried to look around the room in the short moments that she had, but it proved to be futile. ‘It looks like an interrogation with all of the lights and the chair. I thought he was a kidnapper.’

The man passed by her, keeping the vines wrapped around her. He went to the chair that would be for Saki. He arranged the straps attached to the chair, getting it prepared for use. Once readied, the vines pulled on Saki forcing her to walk towards the chair.

She didn’t need the nudge to know where she should go. Cooperation brought her so far, no sense stopping. Even so, it gave her a moment of pause. ‘What’s he planning to ask me?’ She sat down in the chair allowing him to tie her down. It felt a little unnecessary for a questioning.

He released the vines from Saki when he was finished with her. Afterwards, the man walked over to the second chair sitting down. The stranger stared through the void of the black gaps in the vines at Saki.

A minute of silence passed before a light shined between them turning into form. Out of the ground came a rectangular box that slowly morphed into a rounded smooth surface that attached itself with a bolted leg to the cement ground. The still changing form soon became a monitor screen and panel with several holes along the back pointing towards Saki. It had a semi-organic appearance in the strange object that was made from plastic and metal.

The man leaned forward placing his hands on the panel. It lit up upon his contact glowing from beneath. In front of him, a static filled screen shined in his face awaiting an image. His fingers tapped across the panel making a series of low noises before a final louder beep. The last signaled confirmation.

Out of the holes came wires with a life of their own flying towards Saki. Staring at the animated wires, she withdrew as much as the chair allowed. The wires expanded at the end into flat circles that attached themselves to Saki’s forehead and face.

‘What’s going on? What’s he going to do to me?’ Saki did not feel any pain from the wires, but the strange sense that something was about to happen. She heard beeping sounds from out of the thick light that surrounded her. The light prevented her from seeing beyond her immediate surroundings. Uncertainty grew to fill her entire body, weighing her down and making her start to sweat. ‘I can handle this…’

The static on the monitor warped for a moment and cycled starting to warm up in preparation. The final commands were input into the machine by the man. The screen sharply snapped to an image of Saki along with data and vitals running across the bottom. A jolt from the machine sparked through into Saki shaking her body. Her eyes widening in shock suddenly as she felt like a needle stabbed in her eye. The stabbing pain pierced through scrapping along her mind. Each twist and tear made her pull and turn in the straps trying to get through the pain. ‘It feels…like…something is…invading me…I can’t…stop it…’

The first wave of pain came to a stop giving Saki a moment to breathe. She leaned against her bindings panting heavily trying to recover herself knowing that it would not be the end. ‘What was that? What is he doing to me?’ Saki could feel the sweat over her body soaking into her clothes. It had only been a few seconds, but it was the most excruciating pain she had ever felt before. ‘I feel it returning…’

Saki grounded her teeth together making them whine under the pressure and drip blood. The next wave was like dozens of needles all stabbing into her from different sides. Each probed deeper into her brain and twisted uncaring through each corner ripping up everything as it passed. She tried to hold back her voice, but the pain was overcoming her threshold to withstand.

On the monitor were displayed grainy images to the man that poorly lit his eyes hid behind the vines. Each of the images did not last for long, but showed a young Yuki playing as well as Saki’s mother. There were pictures of a classroom filled with elementary students. An annoyed twist in the vines rolled across his face as he began to manipulate the panel. The images began to gray and blurred suddenly rapidly changing.

Striking pain racked through her head pushing deeper fighting against Saki’s weakening resolve. The surge that struck her broke the last efforts she had to hold back in silence. Tears and screams slowly dragged out of her. ‘I can’t…take this…my head is…being pulled apart…’ Saki tried to pull at the chair to get free from the invasion, but it was too strong for her. It was too much for her to endure anymore. It had to stop or she would die.

The images on the screen slowed down once more becoming clearer showing an older Yuki and classroom from her high school. A pleased roll in the vines poured out as the monitor flipped through images into the depths of Saki’s mind reaching closer to the present. The monitor went through pictures quickly. Then everything came to a stop suddenly sitting on an image that had Yuki and Ayumi walking in a school hall together.

All of the pain came to an abrupt end. Saki slumped over with the straps being the only thing keeping her from falling over. ‘Is it over? I can’t feel…anything…’ Saki tried to pull herself together, but nothing was moving for her. She couldn’t even feel the sweat that was thinly coating her entire skin. Every nerve ending on her body was raw and ringing. It was as though static was flowing through her. ‘I-I…Hitomi…’

After a minute in silence, the man stood up from his chair letting the monitor and everything with it retract into the ground. He walked to the chair that held Saki beginning to undo the straps on her. His vines surrounded her waiting until she was free to be taken away.

When the last strap on her leg loosened Saki’s eyes came into focus and summoned her body back together. Her leg ripped through the strap, already nearly freed, striking the man in the chest knocking him back. Saki stood up on the chair using it for height. The chair bolted to the ground gave her a perfect platform to leap into a flying knee. Her knee struck his chest following up through his chin. The stranger fell backwards over his chair to the ground. ‘He’s still awake… got to hurry…’

Saki came to a landing on the floor rolling into the wall. Nothing after the knee was planned. She tumbled around trying to recover. ‘Anything I can use? This light is too bright…’ Saki pulled herself up while she scanned the room trying to get a better view, but still only seeing the bleached walls.

She ran her hands over the walls feeling out for anything that she could find until she discovered glass. Saki ran over to pick up the metal chair that the man had been using and threw it. In the blinding white void, glass shattered to a pleasing tone.

The hole breathed fresh cool air into the humid room and gave her an exit. Saki climbed up without a second thought. She made it halfway through the window before her leg stopped. A vine wrapped around her ankle. ‘No! I gotta get out!’

Saki struggled against the plant. Her waist pressed against the broken glass tearing into her school uniform. She braced her arms against the outside wall putting all of her weight against the leg. The strain felt like it started to stretch slightly like it would pop out on her. She bit through the pain knowing it paled in comparison to what she had already been through.

The leverage and weight pushed her centimeter further. A sliver of hope reinforced her strength to keep going. Through half closed eyes she saw the ground just in reach. The grass and dirt felt like a haven.

Her vision came into focus. A reflective surface bounced light on her face. ‘A broken shard of glass!’ It gave her an idea.

She lowered her arm down fighting against the strain on her. Her fingers rolled over the edge bringing it a little closer to her grasp. A bit more stretching was all Saki needed. A tap and scrap, she snapped up the shard.

Saki bent up to the window. Bracing with her shoulder, she balanced her body. She reached in with the glass shard wielding it like a knife. The outer skin of the vine resisted her slice. A couple more crude tears broke through. Frantically, Saki rubbed the edge ripping through until it snapped.

The sudden release threw her out the window. A swarm of vines burst through the window in search. She rolled over and sprinted up demanding her legs not stop.

The man pulled the vines back from the window looking out from the hole watching her disappear into the street. There seemed to be a satisfied and uncaring noise coming out of him as he turned away and walked to the door of the main interior.

Saki concluded her recounting for the three. “And I ran until I heard the train and got on it, taking it back here. I was trying to get to your house, Yuki. Someone I could trust with such a crazy story.” Saki leaned back against the couch, becoming a little tired from her story. The memories of what happened to her still were fresh and familiar. Her body still stung from the attack by that man.

Hiroshi coughed to himself and stood up stretching his legs out. “Well that was quite the tale. All a little weird, but sounds like a serial kidnapper to me.”

“O-oh dear…” Ayumi leaned in on Saki with tearing up eyes as though she was able to feel the pain that she was feeling. “You’re so strong, Saki… I-I-I don’t know if I could have been so brave.”

Yuki couldn’t help but be a little impressed with the vivid commitment to her act. She painted a convincingly strong emotion. “You should get some rest, Saki.”

Saki looked away from Ayumi to Yuki. A distant, yet surfacing intensity began to take over the glow in his eyes. ‘He’s going to go…’ Worry, fear, pride, emotions stirred tightly in her heart watching him.

Yuki stood up from the front of the couch looking around the living room for something. He stepped around everyone leaving them a little puzzled as his mind turned. A pad of paper on the shelf on the wall disappeared into his hand and he returned to Saki’s side. “Do you remember where the warehouse is?”

“Yuki?!” Hiroshi reached out for the pad to stop him. “You can’t be thinking that you-“

“No…” The soft features of his face carved away into sharp narrow reliefs. It was enough to stun Hiroshi. He fought against his hand from breaking the pencil that he was holding. A low boiling heat rolled over his body, an old familiar feeling.

A snap of reality, he saw Hiroshi and smoothed out his face looking at Hiroshi with a smile. “You think I’m going to go try to get that guy that kidnapped and hurt Saki, right? I wouldn’t stand a chance against a criminal like that. I’m too weak to do anything directly. But I can still call the police and give them directions. It’s the least that I can do. Right, Saki?” Yuki looked down at her, keeping his gentle smile.

She had seen that smile before and it would have calmed her. However, she could see past it to his eyes. ‘He’s fighting it. He’s going to go.’ Saki smiled back at him nodding in agreement. “Right, Yuki. Hitomi’s still there. She needs to be rescued along with all of those other people.”

Yuki nodded back to her and took down what Saki could remember of the location of the warehouse. It wasn’t exact, but it would be enough. He put the pencil on the table and stood up. “Thanks. I got it. I’ll give the police a call now.” Yuki walked away from the center of the room, but stopped turning back to everyone. “Hiroshi?”


“We don’t have enough in the first aid kit to treat all of the injuries that Saki has. Could you run down to the store and get some more supplies? Ayumi, can you watch Saki?”

Hiroshi stared at Yuki for a moment in silence and then nodded back to him. “Alright. I’ll be back as fast as I can!”

Ayumi agreed to Yuki’s request, allowing Yuki to go into the kitchen. Hiroshi rushed to the front door and left the house running down the store. Once Saki had laid back down, Ayumi walked into the kitchen catching Yuki tearing the paper out of the pad and shoving it in his pocket. “Another one of your countrymen?”

“Correct, based on her description. I don’t know what they’re thinking taking hostages.”

“We’re a step ahead this time. But bringing innocents into this political game...” The warmth poured out of his features. Yuki walked back into the living room staring at Saki resting on the couch. He burned the image into his mind to keep as a reminder. ‘I’ll make him pay for doing this to her!’

Yuki walked to the front door where he was greeted by Jun along with Ken at the top of the stairs. Jun clung on to Yuki’s school uniform with a concerned expression plainly planted on his face. “Don’t worry, Jun. I’m just going out to the store to get things for Saki. Can you keep an eye on her for me?”

Jun narrowed his eyes as though he did not agree with what Yuki was doing. His small hands pulled tighter on Yuki’s clothes, wrinkling them.

Yuki knelt down looking Jun in the eyes directly. “Hey…it’s alright. You don’t need to worry.” He could see that Jun was still not willing to let him go. “Jun, please. I need you to watch Saki for me. This is important to me. You understand? I need you to do this for me, okay?”

Jun fought the conflict that beset his mind and voice. However, Jun let go of Yuki looking down at the floor.

“Thank you, Jun. I’ll be going now. Watch Saki for me.” Jun nodded to Yuki not keeping eye contact with him. Yuki stood up as Ayumi opened the door for them. He waved to his brothers and walked outside, closing the door behind him.

Saki laid on the couch with her eyes closed with a cross frown on her face hearing Yuki leaving. “Yuki you idiot…”

Ayumi waited for Yuki in the street. When he met her she turned looking down to the city that was visible from the hill of the road in the neighborhood. “Ready?”

“Yeah… I’ll make him suffer for hurting Saki! This is supposed to be between him and me. He’s dragging in innocent people that have nothing to do with this. I can’t forgive him for that!”