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S.T.O.P. for Survival

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He stared at her in disbelief, his head cocked slightly to the left. She stood on the rooftop’s ledge, watching the passing traffic twelve stories below. Her dark purple hair was blowing lightly in the soft spring breeze. She turned to face him and her thin lips tugged downward, marring her regal features. Her small purple eyebrows knitted together as she stared intently at him; her emotionless, cat-like red eyes ] pierced through him like daggers as she glared into his hellfire blue ones.

“What do you want?” she spat.

He shook himself out of his daze. “Who are you?” he asked.

“No one you need to concern yourself with,” she responded harshly as she turned back to the traffic.

“You took out those things as if they were nothing!” he exclaimed. “I know its none of my business but… how?”

The girl huffed, hopped off the ledge, and stood before him. He was a full head taller than her, but they seemed to be the same age. He looked down at her curiously, innocently studying her irritated face. She was pretty, he could tell that much. Her hair was pulled into twin tails, one on each side of her head. Her jeans were torn across the knees and it seemed to be more of an accident than a fashion statement. She had a black shirt on with a pink zip-up sweater on top. She looked like she hadn’t showered in weeks, her face covered in splotches of dirt and clothes battered.

“Why do you care?” she sneered.

“I just want to know how you did it. Simple as that,” he smiled. “I heard a scream when I was passing, so I ran up to help. By the time I had made it to the floor you were at, you had taken care of it.” He paused and rubbed the back of his neck, “I guess I wanted to see if I could get any tips out of you.”

“Tips? What tips could I possibly give you that aren’t ‘aim for the brain’?” She placed her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know,” he sighed as he ran a hand through his messy black hair. “How’d you kill them?”

“You’re stupid,” she snorted.

He grinned sheepishly, “I get that a lot.”

She rolled her eyes and gestured to the knife holster on her thigh, four out of the five pockets occupied. “I killed them with my knives.” She hesitated for a second before continuing mockingly, “I suppose I should walk you through it, huh. First, you grab the handle of the knife. Then, you hold it tight. Once you have a good grip, you thrust it into the walker’s head. To make sure you don’t lose a valuable weapon, you pull out the knife and use it stab another walker. Once you’re done stabbing them all, you put the knife back into the holster.”

“I’m not that dull,” he dead-panned.

“You sure about that? When you came into the room, you were armed with the leg of a chair. You obviously have no real weapons if that’s what you carry around,” she smirked.

“You done demeaning me?” he asked.

“Sure, but I have a question for you. How do you kill them? I know there were three at the entrance and that chair leg came from inside the apartment.”

He jabbed his thumb in the direction of the red sword case on his back. “I sliced their heads in half with my sword.”

“If you have a sword, why did you come into the room with a chair leg?” She asked, her eyes narrowed with suspicion.

His ever-present smile left. “I had already put it back in its case,” he answered, his face screwed up as though the question made him uncomfortable.

She snorted, “You look constipated.” He pouted and he saw her eyes widen slightly before she regained her poker face. Had he not been paying attention, he probably would have missed it. “But why come in with a chair leg,” she continued.

“It was just lying there so I picked it up,” he shrugged, “I didn’t see the need to pull out my only weapon—”

“That’s it? You only have a sword?” she interrupted incredulously.

“No. If you had let me finish, I would have said that my sword is my only weapon that gets the job done quickly. I have a knife for back-up. Who are you to be talking, anyways? You only have knives,” he retorted.

“I don’t only have knives. I have a bow and arrow, but I’m out of arrows. I used my last one shooting a dead one that was making too much noise,” she explained, turning her head to the side and flipping her hair.

“If you have a bow and arrow, then where are it?”

“I left the bow and quiver by the window I used to get in here.”

“And you said you’re out of arrows?”

“I just said that I used the last one to kill a ghoul.”

“I can help you get some more,” he offered.

She looked at him with amusement before bursting out laughing. “You’re hilarious!” she laughed, “I’m not going anywhere with you.” She stopped her laughing and narrowed her eyes at the brunette. “I don’t know you. How do I know you won’t lure me into a trap? For all I know, you could be trying to ambush me by leading me to where the rest of your group is waiting.” She then whipped out a knife and pointed it at him. “I could kill you and leave you here to turn. If it’s going to be you or me, I’m the one that’s going to be leaving this place alive. There’s no way I’m dying today.”

He waved his hands in front of him defensively. “I’m not going to lead you into a trap, I swear,” he quickly said, the panic in his voice evident. “Why would I kill you? I just want to help. Have you ever heard of kindness?”

“There is no such thing as kindness anymore,” she snarled, “The only reason people help you nowadays is to get something out of it. What do you want from me?”

“I don’t want anything!” he squeaked as she took a step towards him, weapon still pointing to his chest. “I just want to be nice. What made you lose all hope in humanity?”

She gripped the handle of the knife tighter, knuckles turning white. “I lost all faith in humanity when I lost my sister. People are cruel. They use you then leave you for dead.”

“That’s messed up,” he replied, his laidback tone throwing her off guard.

She took a second to process his words before eloquently saying, “…What?”

“I think it’s messed up; people using each other for personal reasons. I like to believe that there are still good people out there,” he smiled.

“You’re insane. I’m surprised your kindness hasn’t killed you yet,” she replied, a ghost of a smile tugging at her lips. The purplenette then put her knife back in its holster and turned to the ruins of the city.

“You’re the first person I’ve run into since this thing started,” he began after a few moments of silence.

“You’ve been alone?! No wonder you’re not right in the head.”

“I haven’t been traveling alone. I’m with my brother and his friend.”

“Are you guys a kendo club? Do you parade around with swords?” she teased.

“No; only I use a sword. My brother had two pistols.”

“His friend?”

“What about ‘er?”

“Oh, it’s a girl. What weapon does she use?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean?”

“She doesn’t have a weapon. She terrified of those things - whatever they are -, so she lets me and my brother handle it. She usually treats our wounds and gets us edible plants to cook for dinner.”

“You’re saying she just screams and feeds you? If you ask me, she sounds pretty useless.”

“Shiemi’s not useless!” he defended, “She wasn’t meant for this kind of world, her personality goes against what we have to do. She’s shy and kind-hearted, wouldn’t hurt a fly. She was home-schooled and hardly had any friends. The first time I met her was when I went with my brother to see if we could save her.”

“You mean you met her post-apocalypse?”

“Yeah.” He sat down on the concrete floor of the roof before beginning his story. “My brother is a genius, and he would work alongside our dad doing God knows what. Anyways, apparently during their travels, my dad would frequent this herb shop about 10 miles from our monastery.”

“Monastery?” she interrupted.

“Yeah, my brother and I lived in a monastery with our dad; he was a priest.”

“Your dad was a priest? How did he…” she cut in again, trailing off at the end as to not suggest anything that might have been offensive to the brunette.

“He adopted us. Our mother died during childbirth, and our biological father abandoned us.”

“I see…”

“Now, stop interrupting; I need to finish. Where was I—Right! So, Shiemi’s mom owned a herb shop. My brother left once we heard the news of the outbreak and people getting eaten and dead people coming back to life. I followed him, not really caring if he wanted me to come or not. We got there and searched the entire shop and house. That’s when we found her in a broom closet armed with a gardening shovel. It was dark by that time, so we barricaded the shed she was in and slept there. The following morning, we cleared the shop, stocked up, and headed back to the monastery.”

“Why are you here if you had that monastery secure?”
“Um…I don’t wanna talk about that…” he replied, guilt residing in his tone.

“Okay. I won’t push you,” she responded coolly.

“You won’t?” he asked.

“No. There are things I don’t want to talk about either. Let’s end story-time, shall we?”

“Yeah.”

It was silent for a moment before she began speaking. “It’s getting late. I need to get back to my camp.”

“You have a camp? Like a refugee camp, camp? Walls-and-people-and-ammo camp?” he exclaimed, hope bleeding into his tone.

“No. My camp is a blanket on the floor in the forest. It’s a patch of grass surrounded by barbed wire.”

“Oh…”

“Don’t get your hopes up. You’ll never find a refugee camp that wasn’t overrun.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s obvious. Too many people in one area? That’s bound to draw them in.” She looked over the edge of the roof once more and nodded. “It’s clear.”

She then walked past him and opened the roof’s door. He watched her retreating back with interest. When she went through the door, he realized she actually was leaving. In an act of desperation, he burst through the door and ran after her.

“Where are you going?” he called.

“Me? I’m going back to my camp. You? You’re going back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you going back to your ‘patch of grass surrounded by barbed wire’?”

“I have no where else to go, stupid.”

“You could come with me!”

She turned to face him, the remaining light of day lighting the staircase through the open roof door. She saw the flicker of hope his eyes, and she could tell he wasn’t lying to her. He looked past her icy glare and saw someone who was just like him, trying to survive. He wanted to help her; she wouldn’t make it far on her own.

“Why would I want to do that?” she spat.

“Because you’re traveling alone and there’s—”

“I’m not alone…” she mumbled quietly.

“You’re not?” he asked. She seemed too untrusting to let anyone travel with her. She also said that her sister was gone, so who else could she have meant.

“No. I’m traveling with a close friend of mine and my two foxes,” she responded as she continued walking down the stairs, him following closely behind.

“Foxes?! How did they survive? How did you get them to follow you around?!”

“My village specialized in fox taming. I raised them and they trust me; they’re like my brothers.”

“Interesting… Anyways, you all could come! I know Shiemi wouldn’t mind the company considering I’m always on runs and my brother is a grumpy old man. There’s strength in numbers, you know.”

“How old is your brother? If he’s over 50, how in the world did he make it!?”

“No~!” he chuckled, “My brother is my age. We’re both 19.”

“Are you guys half-brothers?”

“Nope. We’re twins. The issue is, Yukio acts like he’s 30. I swear he’s going to start sprouting grays soon.” She nodded in understanding.

They arrived on the first floor of the building and heard a groaning on the other side of the white door. They shared a knowing look and she motioned for him to follow her. He trailed behind her, watching her carefully advance down the hallway with a hand resting on the handle of a knife. She must have been used to encountering unwanted foes. She was light on her feet and knocked on the door of the room she wanted to go into to make sure it was clear before entering. Unlike her, he charged into rooms and killed walkers as they came at him. They entered each room on the floor and searched for food or other needed items.

Finally, they made it to the last door on the floor and she walked in without doing any of the other precautions she had taken previously. He followed suit and saw her weave through the apartment until he followed her to the bedroom. There was a bow and quiver resting against the wall next to the bed. She slung the bow over her shoulder and hooked the clip of the quiver to a waist holster he hadn’t noticed before.

The girl poked her head out of the open window and looked over her shoulder to him.
“Is it clear?” he whispered to her as he approached the window. The girl nodded and jumped out. He followed after. He looked around the corner of the building and lifted a finger to his lips in warning. She nodded in understanding and reached into a pocket in her quiver. With skill that must have come for practice, she threw a throwing needle she had equipped and it landed in the walker’s head.

“Nice aim,” he complimented. She snorted and used quick steps to go retrieve her weapon.

“Hey…we’ve been talking all this time and I still don’t know you’re name,” he said, trying to start conversation as they walked down the abandoned road.

“Why would you need to know it?”

“So I know what to call you. You know…I noticed you had the weirdest eyebrows I have ever seen. If you won’t tell me your name, I’ll call you ‘Polkabrows’. What do you think, Polkabrows?” he teased.

Her slim hand flew to the strips of hair on her face. “Po-Polkabrows?!” she shrieked, a blush dusting her pale cheeks as she lightly rubbed said area. “Don’t go giving people you hardly know weird nicknames like that,” she groaned, looking the other way to hide her rose colored cheeks.

“Then tell me your name because ‘Polkabrows’ will stick.”

She sighed, “Kamiki Izumo.”

“It’s great to meet you, Izumo-san,” he grinned stupidly. She turned to face him at his use of her given name. “I’m Okumura Rin.” He stuck a hand out to her.

She hesitantly took it and shook his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Okumura-san.”