“Okay. Well, it might actually be dangerous if too many of us go…” Fujita said, making a show of sounding thoroughly disappointed.
No one responded to him.
“I’m going. I have to make sure Oouchi and Kuramochi are unhurt.”
Okano stepped off the boat and followed behind us.
“Alright. I’ll stay and keep a lookout. It’s too risky if we all go. If anything happens, give me a shout.”
It was totally obvious to everyone that he was just scared to come with us, but his reasoning wasn’t entirely wrong. In the end, Fujita stayed in the boat alone and the three of us went to search the hospital.
One by one, Satoru, me and Okano went through the destroyed entrance. As Kuramochi had said, the inside was littered with splintered wooden planks.
We gathered up thin sticks of wood and lit them to make torches. Making ourselves so visible was dangerous, but it was almost impossible to advance further without a source of light.
The first floor was a large lobby with a reception booth on the right side. Directly in front of us was a split staircase that led to the second floor. Normally, we probably would have searched all the rooms on this floor before moving on, but right now we needed to get to the third floor as soon as possible. If someone really was injured up there, we had to help them right away.
Satoru led the way up. Since most patients were moved around with cantus, the stairs were more for show than for function. I kept watch to the left and right, and Okano watched the rear. The creaking of the wooden stairs beneath my clogs kept making me jump.
“Where do you think Kuramochi went?” Okano asked, finally unable to bear the silence.
Neither Satoru nor I could think of anything comforting to say, so we stayed quiet.
As we ascended to the third floor, the tension became almost unbearable. I kept imagining that Kuramochi had vanished completely, but couldn’t stand the thought of not finding anything at all.
Satoru stopped just before the third-floor landing.
“What?” I whispered as quietly as possible.
“The light from before. It’s on the right side of the hall. You can see it reflected in the window,” he answered. “Saki, Okano, float your torches forward slowly.”