“Yeah…you’re right,” Okano murmured to herself.
“It’ll be okay. Don’t worry.” I squeezed her shoulder.
She trembled slightly. I patted her comfortingly. I wondered if Oouchi was her lover. I remembered when I had comforted Maria like this long ago, and my heart ached.
The decoy boat arrived first at the dock, and we stopped behind it. Between here and the hospital was a narrow canal surrounded on both sides by rice paddies. Queerats could be hiding among the plants, or submerged in the mud. Crossing would be dangerous.
“Look there,” Satoru whispered, pointing at the hospital.
The windows of all three floors of the building were dark, and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. There was a black void where the front entrance would have been. The door appeared to have been left open, but looking closer, I saw that some of the wooden planks that made up the wall had been ripped out.
“What is that? Is the door broken?”
“Yeah. It’s just a huge hole.”
“That can’t be…!” Okano said, her voice rising.
Fujita clapped a hand over her mouth.
“…shh. It’s okay. Even if something did happen, they probably managed to escape. Let’s go check it out first.”
The two boats advanced as quietly as possible. Satoru, Fujita, and I scanned the paddies for any signs of an attack. My heart was beating so hard I was sure everyone could hear it. My palms were dripping with sweat and I kept wiping them on my yukata.
We arrived at the front of the hospital. Part of the entrance had been completely destroyed. What was left was a neat circular hole about two meters in diameter.
“If this was the queerats’ doing, how did they manage to create the hole? I don’t smell gunpowder or anything,” Fujita said, sniffing the air.