Summary: In the middle of the zombie apocalypse, Ochi learns that Sai was...undead? Time to go Sai-hunting! Contains some gore and a lot of silliness.
The Best Zombie Apocalypse Ever
"Ochi," Shindou wheezed, "I have to tell you something."
Ochi did not turn to look at Shindou. Ochi was busy trying not to die—he was jamming a flimsy folding chair under the doorknob in order to keep the horrific zombie hordes out of the room—and anyway Shindou was already dying himself, judging by the gaping hole in his abdomen, so why bother listening to him? It wasn't like Ochi had ever listened to the guy before either.
"Ochi...I have to tell you about Sai."
Behind the door, a zombie moaned. It was a very unsexy sound.
"Seriously, Ochi, I need you to listen."
Ochi swore again. "Shindou, I swear if you are just trying to rile me up one last time—"
"Ochi...you should stop swearing," Shindou groaned.
Ochi stepped away from the door. He stomped over to Shindou's prone form and did his best to loom, which was usually never possible for him except over animals and children. Small children anyway. "What was that about Sai?" he sneered, just for the heck of it. "Are you talking about that NetGo player everyone goes on about?"
Shindou winced, and not just because of the hole in his stomach. "I never thought you'd be the one I told first, Ochi. Or last," he added philosophically.
"You better hurry up and tell me or you'll be telling no one at all," Ochi retorted, but in truth he could not help but be excited. He was finally going to have a chance to hear about Sai. And before that jerk Touya too! This was both the worst and best day of Ochi's short and possibly soon-to-be-over life.
"Come closer," said Shindou.
Warily, Ochi moved forward, kneeling down on the side of Shindou that had less blood all over the place.
"Sai...I couldn't tell anyone about him before," Shindou said forlornly, one hand on his abdomen to keep his intestines from spilling out. "But now, with all this...shit that's happening, people will have to believe me."
Ochi didn't like where this was going. "What do you mean? You mean Sai was also..."
"Yeah. He wasn't...like us. He was a….aaaaaggghh."
Ochi narrowed his already narrow eyes. "An aaaaaggghh?"
"Oh," said Ochi. "Oh."
In a dignified panic, Ochi fell over onto his butt. Then he scuttled backward and scrambled to his feet. He did this so that the lurching thing that had once been Shindou 3-dan could not sink its rotting green incisors into his face.
Curses! Ochi cursed. He'd been so close to knowing the truth! And now Shindou wanted to eat his brains! He wasn't sure which problem was worse.
"Blarrrrrrggghhhh!" Shindou articulated. Ochi quickly decided the brain problem was worse.
Screaming only slightly, he dodged Shindou's latest lunge, ran to the door, threw aside the chair he'd just put there, and flung open the door with all his nerdy might. This was all very difficult for him—he was a go player, not a person who exercised.
In the hallway, he almost tripped over a zombified Ashiwara 4-dan, who was lounging on the floor and moaning noisily, probably due to the stake shoved messily through his heart. Ogata Juudan/Gosei was standing over him, white suit splattered with a long line of blood, manly sweat rolling down his neck. It was not hot at all.
Ochi blurted, "You know that a stake is for vampires, right?"
"Ashiwara always did like steak," Ogata replied in a daze. Maybe he wasn't used to stabbing his friends.
"Graawwrr!" Shindou interrupted their intelligent conversation, until Ochi slammed the door in his goopy grey face, and in the same motion spun around, grabbed Ogata's wrist, grimaced at the slippery feel of blood on his hand, and started making a beeline for somewhere else, anywhere else. Except that Ogata was barely moving his feet, paralyzed with...whatever it was he was paralyzed with. Morals, maybe.
"Come on," Ochi said through gritted teeth. "It's not safe here."
Ogata's glasses were slipping down his face. They glinted luridly under the fluorescent hallway lights. "There's nowhere safe."
Ochi forced down a shudder. "I beg to differ," he retorted. "I know a place where nothing can get us."
- 0 - 0 -
The men's bathroom was, as promised, quite safe, other than the one lethargic zombie hanging around on the floor. Ochi grabbed Ogata's bloodied stake and pushed it without too much trouble through zombie-Mashiba's heart, glad that the guy had been such a lazy lout in life and death both.
"This was your grand plan?" Ogata jeered, starting to recover some of his usual charm. "Hole up in the bathroom and wait for either starvation or more zombies to kill us?"
"This is the safest place I could think of," Ochi protested. "It has running water, lockable stalls, and...I like it here," he said, the last part under his breath.
Ogata gave him a fleeting, unimpressed look, the kind that made Ochi want to start tapping out moves on the bathroom wall, so he supposed it was a good thing he was already here, wasn't it.
Mashiba's corpse twitched, letting out a small groan. Ochi kicked it until it shut up, annoyed at the blood soiling his Italian leather shoes.
"The main door doesn't lock," Ogata noticed.
"That's why we have the private stalls," Ochi replied, heading for his usual one.
Unmoved and ummoving, Ogata, pulled out a cigarette and lighter. As Ochi closed the stall door behind him, he glanced back; Ogata was already lighting up, hands shaking around his cigarette, but who cared about him. If the man wanted to stay out here and die, Ochi wouldn't stop him.
Ochi, for his part, was glad to hear the lock click shut behind him. He sat down on the toilet seat heavily, shoulders hunching up around his ears. If he were to be honest with himself, the situation was dire. Sure, his little stall was relatively safe, the door reaching all the way from the floor to the ceiling, but he'd seen the zombies teeming outside; there was no way he could get out of the Institute without being killed or turned. He was going to die in ignominy, here in this little stall, drinks toilet water to survive. And worst of all, the air was starting to stink of tobacco.
Actually, worst of all...Ochi was still really peeved at Shindou.
"Hey, Ogata-sensei," he called out, his voice reverberating against the tiled walls. "What do you know about that internet player Sai?"
"SAI?" There was the sound of a lighter clattering to the floor (Ochi for some reason knew what that sounded like). "WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SAI?"
"Huh," said Ochi. "That's an interesting reaction."
"Ahem," Ogata coughed, trying to regain his cool, as if he'd ever had it, the fool. "I mean, why did you suddenly bring up that old story? Sai hasn't been heard from in years."
"Shindou mentioned him just before he died. Said he wanted to tell me about Sai."
"Do I look like the type to joke around?"
"No." Ogata coughed again, and then a few more times, because smoking is not a healthy habit. "Well, hurry up and tell me. I'd like to know before I die."
"Of lung cancer?"
"Just shut up."
"I thought you wanted me to talk?"
There was the sound of an angry man rapping his knuckles against Ochi's door. (Ochi also knew what that sounded like.) "What did Shindou say?"
Ochi shrugged, not worrying that Ogata couldn't see it. "He implied Sai was a zombie."
That gave Ogata pause. "A zombie," he said flatly, after a moment of hung expectations.
"I think so."
"So...zombies can play go."
"I guess so."
Ogata chuckled. It wasn't a happy chuckle. Actually it sounded a bit unhinged. (Ochi knew what that sounded like too. He'd heard a lot of unhinged laughing today.) Ogata went on like that for a while, sounding creepier and creepier as he went along, and then abruptly stopped.
"Kid, open the door. We're going to go Sai hunting."
Ochi scoffed. "No way in hell."
- 0 - 0 -
In the end, Ogata managed to convince Ochi to leave the bathroom through a combination of wheedling, freaky laughing, a liberal dose of tobacco smoke, and finally an invitation to join the study sessions at Touya Kouyo's house on Monday nights...but only if enough people survived the apocalypse in order for that to be feasible.
"We need allies," Ogata said, mouth set in a grim line around his dwindling cigarette. "People as obsessed with Sai as we are."
"Speak for yourself," said Ochi, and was ignored.
After several minutes of dodging zombies, crying go players, and a few random reporters from Go Weekly who kept asking Ogata how he felt about about the apocalypse (Ochi found it incredibly annoying that no one asked him), they finally found Waya, who was for some reason pushing Fuku down a stairwell.
"Let's see you play speed go now!" Waya yelled from the top of the stairs, hands planted on his hips in satisfaction. Eventually the thumping and screaming faded into forbidding silence. "Ah, I've always wanted to do that."
Ochi couldn't help but feel a little bad for Fuku, who would never pass the pro exam now. "Was he even a zombie, or did you just murder him in cold blood?"
"Ah!" Waya jumped. "Shit, did you see that? I-it was an accident!"
"Never mind that," Ogata cut in rudely. "Zelda, we have to find Sai. Shindou said he's a zombie."
"What?" Waya turned toward the older pro with a start. "Shindou is a zombie?"
"Zelda?" said Ochi.
"No, no, Sai is a zombie," Ogata corrected.
"Actually," Ochi noted, "Shindou is a zombie now too."
Waya starting to look really confused now, or at least more than usual. "Sai is here and he turned Shindou into a zombie?"
"No," said Ochi, then thought about it some more. "Actually, maybe you're right." He thought about it even more. "I can't believe I said you were right about something."
"Patient zero," Ogata said without any patience whatsoever. "Sai was probably the first to be infected. I figured that out when we were in the bathroom."
"Okay," said Waya, "I don't want to know what you two were doing in the bathroom together, but if you're looking for Sai in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, I'm in."
"Zelda," said Ochi again, with more sarcasm, "I don't think you have any right to imply anything kinky about me."
Waya turned to Ogata. "How do we find Sai?"
Ogata smirked. "We find Akira-kun."
Waya and Ochi groaned in unison.
- 0 - 0 -
Touya Akira was a zombie.
"Well, I guess that's that," said Ochi.
"Brrraaainnsss?" Touya said politely while trying to grab Waya by the neck, proving that even in death Touya Akira had no taste whatsoever.
"Oh my god, he's still wearing the purple suit," Waya griped as he stumbled backward. Fortunately for him, Touya was slow even for a zombie; he had not exercised at all in life.
"Shall we move on and find someone else?" Ochi suggested acerbically. "Touya senior, perhaps? I don't think there's anyone more obsessed with Sai than him, other than you, Ogata-sensei."
"Touya-sensei is in Korea," said Ogata, ignoring the insult, if he even considered it an insult, "or maybe China or Taiwan, or Thailand. Timbuktu? I honestly don't know anymore." He flicked on his lighter and waved it at zombie-Touya, who visibly blanched, probably due to smoking-related trauma lingering in his psyche. "Akira-kun is still useful though, even like this."
"Are you for real?" Waya gaped. "What are we supposed to use this guy for? Target practice?" He kicked at Touya's shins, smiling a little at the zombie's pitiful moans. "Always wanted to do that too."
"Hey, Touya," said Ochi gleefully, "did you know that Shindou was going to tell me, not you, something important about Sai? So much for being best rivals forever."
"Stop that." Ogata pushed Waya and Ochi aside and used his lighter to start forcing Touya toward the elevators. "We need him. We're going to see if he can still play go. That'll tell us if Sai could have been a zombie already when he played on the Internet."
"Oh my god," said Waya again.
Ogata Juudan/Gosei had a scary smile on his face. But that wasn't surprising; his smiles were always scary. "And if we're lucky, he'll lure out Shindou, or even Sai."
"That sounds like total bullshit.
Ogata kept smiling. "Trust me—it'll at least get us Shindou. Even in undeath, those two brats will find each other no matter what."
Ochi couldn't help but agree.
- 0 - 0 -
With the help of Ogata's terrifying fire and slightly more terrifying grins, the three of them managed to herd zombie-Touya into the elevator and up to the fifth floor. On the way there, Ochi felt distinctly that he and Waya were being herded too, but due to the aforementioned scary grins, he didn't have the guts to complain.
And speaking of guts…
"Man, that is gross," said Waya.
Their motley crew stepped cautiously into the Room of Profound Darkness, which looked like it had been the site of a massacre—and not the normal, metaphorical go kind, which would have been completely normal for this place. No, a more visceral kind of battle had taken place here.
Ochi's eyes took in the mess. Zombie and human corpses alike were scattered across the tatami. It was totally gross, the waste of go talent on display. He spied the mangled corpses of several lower dans he was scheduled to play in the near future—did that mean he would win by forfeit? He would have to ask the scheduler. But, oops, there was the scheduler over there, without any arms to speak of; he wouldn't be fixing anyone's calendars anymore. And was that Yashiro's head in the corner? What was he doing here? Ochi sighed. Now he would never have a chance to beat his sort-of rival.
"Well, at least all the zombies here are dead," said Waya nervously. "I think?"
"There's something twitching over there," Ogata murmured.
Hidden partially behind a blood-splattered goban, Shindou writhed in undeath, completely uncouth. His intestines were still showing, his eyes rolled back in his head, ichor dripped from his lips. As they watched in horrified fascination, he moaned, "Tooooiiiiyaaaaaaaaaa."
"See?" said Ogata, prodding Touya-zombie one step forward. "He wants to play his rival."
"Shindou may not look dangerous, but watch out," Ochi warned. "He's a lot faster than most zombies."
"Yeah, Shindou actually exercises sometimes," said Waya. "Or he used to."
Ogata lifted his chin triumphantly. "I hope he's just as dangerous on the board." He gave Touya a hard shove, although it was hardly necessary with how eagerly the zombie lurched. "Now let's see what the undead can do."
"Wwwaauuuurrggghhh," Touya agreed, stumbling into something approximating seiza on his side of the goban. "Sssshhhhhiiuuuuinnnnddouuu."
On the other side, Shindou kind of sat up. He even looked somewhat alert. His right hand hovered over the goban.
"No way," breathed Waya.
"Way," said Ogata smugly.
Touya reached for one of the go-ke. Shindou reached for the other one at exactly the same time. They both flipped over the baskets so that the lids fell off and stones spilled everywhere. Shindou tried to grab a black stone, but it slipped from his nerveless fingers and onto the board. It landed on a star point. Touya drooled at him happily. Then he lifted up a white stone and shoved it in his mouth. It fell out from the hole in his jaw and landed on 17-4.
The three humans watched avidly, unwilling even to blink. It was just too mesmerizing.
"This is either the Hand of God," Waya whispered, "or a bunch of truly fucked-up coincidences."
"I think it's the latter," said Ochi, not bothering to keep his voice down. "Their moves are truly stupid. As is our fearless leader, who thought that this might actually be a good idea."
"Ooh, Team Glasses is turning on each other, huh?"
Ogata's expression did not change, but the last dregs of his cigarette fell from his lips, falling limply onto the tatami. He scowled fiercely as Touya played an inane large keima. Shindou responded by placing a stone in his nose. Ogata strode forward on his long legs, white pants a striking line of modernity against the rough tatami floor. He reached at Shindou, dragging the zombie to his feet by his bloodied t-shirt.
"You can't keep hiding him," Ogata snarled. "Tell me where Sai is!"
"FWAARRRGGGHHH!" Shindou snarled back, understandably upset, and sunk his cracked, rotting teeth into the hand of the Juudan/Gosei.
"Oh no," said Ochi, at the same time that Waya said, "Fuuuuuck," at the same time that Ogata screamed, "EEYYYYAAAAGGHHH!" as his hand spurted blood.
Well, this was not good, thought Ochi. They were going to have to kill Ogata before he turned. He looked at Waya. You do it, he tried to say telepathically. No, you do it, Waya's eyes said back at him.
"Damn it!" Ogata yelled, punching ineffectively at Shindou's face. Seeing this, Touya gave an angry groan, wobbled to his feet, and threw himself clumsily at Ogata, mouth gaping. "Double damn it!" Ogata added.
And just when things started looking their most dire, life of course had to throw them even more direness.
The elevator dinged. Ochi twisted toward it, an awful premonition tingling in the reptilian part of his brain (the amygdala, more precisely). Slowly, sinuously, the elevator doors glided open, revealing a horde of especially terrifying zombies, all of them 8-dan and above. Ichiryu-sensei, Zama-sensei, Gokuso-sensei...and at the head of the pack leered Kuwabara Honinbou, looking exactly the same as he always did except that his teeth, all three of them, were greener than usual. He gnashed them in a horrible, no-good rictus grin.
Ochi turned back to Waya in desperation, hoping to see some kind of plan lighting up the other boy's eyes. Waya looked like he wanted to wet his camo pants. So much for that hope.
"Aah," gasped Ogata, still trying to wrestle Shindou's toothy grip off his hand. "We should have stayed in the bathroom after all, kid."
"Always stay in the bathroom," Ochi said gloomily, backing away from the approaching zombie mob. "Always."
Waya was very pale. "I still have no idea what kind of kinky crap you two are talking about," he wailed.
Ogata headbutted Touya and made a pained moany noise, already rather zombie-like. "I can't believe my last conversation as a sentient human being is going to be such a stupid one."
"Heeeeeeeeeeee," hissed Kuwabara through his three green teeth.
Desperately, the humans backed away from the shuffling mob of zombies. Soon enough they could go no farther. Backs to the wall, all they could do was wait for the end...for blissful, brainless oblivion.
- 0 - 0 -
Had it been worth it? Ochi asked himself as Ichiryu-sensei laid his rotting, wrinkled, gangrenous hands on his neck. Would it have been better if he had stayed safe a little longer in his bathroom stall? He didn't even really care about Sai that much, not compared with these morons he'd allied himself with. He'd just been...infected with their mania. Their passion for the truth. Even now it still tickled at the back of Ochi's soon-to-expire consciousness. Yes, maybe that was the real root of the apocalypse: the almost viral nature of Sai. No wonder Ogata thought Sai must have been patient zero. Maybe if they found Sai, they would find the cure as well...
Too bad Ichiryu's gigantic, ghastly maw was closing on Ochi's head.
Whatever. All this philosophizing was pointless. Ochi was going to die in zero-point-five seconds. Or not die, depending on how you defined zombiehood.
"Kwwwarrrrrrrruuuugghhhhqqqqqqaaaaa," Ichiryuu-sensei explicated the meaning of undeath.
Ugh. So undignified.
Ochi closed his eyes and waited for the end.
- 0 - 0 -
The acrid smell of smoke filtered into Ochi's consciousness. Tobacco smoke. Lark brand.
It smelled like hope.
Ochi opened his eyes.
Ichiryu-sensei's hands were gone from his neck.
At the edges of his vision, Ochi saw flame. Really huge, bright red flames. Was he delirious?
Dimly, he became aware that the zombies were starting to groan in a more...screamy way. This was because they were on fire.
"The cigarette!" Ochi wheezed. "You threw it on the tatami!"
"Oops," said Ogata.
And then the sprinkler system came on, and everyone got very wet.
- 0 - 0 -
"So, luckily," said Kosemura, newly promoted to editor-in-chief of Go Weekly, "it turns out that a small amount of water cures zombification completely. Amazingly lucky, right? If only I'd known before accidentally murdering Amano-san and every other person above my position, ha ha." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
Ogata, meanwhile, was crying manfully, tears running down his cheeks beneath his glasses. "Ashiwara...if only I had known."
Morishita 9-dan, one of the few upper dans who still had all his limbs, gave Ogata and his blood-splattered suit a hard look. "I'm sure," he said, "that no one took the zombie apocalypse as a chance to advance his or her own agenda. The Go Institute will begin a full and immediate inquiry into all deaths and injuries—I'll make sure of it."
Nearby, Waya gulped.
Ochi spotted Shindou and Touya staring at each other intensely, although this was made more difficult by how Touya's left eye was hanging out of its socket. Ochi started making his way toward them, figuring they'd all better get their stories straight before the officials started asking questions.
When he was just a few steps behind them, he heard Touya huff loudly. "I can't believe you were going to tell Ochi before me."
Ochi narrowed his eyes.
"I don't know what you're even talking about. I probably said a lot of delirious stuff when I was dying. You think you'd be a little more understanding!" Shindou pointed at his belly, where he was still holding his intestines in. "I'm going to have to do something about this, you know?"
"Stop trying to distract from what's important," Touya said acidly. "How could you tell Ochi of all people?"
"Yes, how could you?" Ochi broke in, smiling evilly as the dynamic duo jumped apart.
"Ochi!" said Shindou. "Hi. Bye!"
He started skedaddling away, but was stopped a few metres into his run by Ogata, who had finally stopped crying, and Waya, who was hiding heroically behind Ogata.
"If anyone asks," said Waya, "I don't know what happened to Fuku."
"Shindou," Ogata said grimly, "since the zombie apocalypse was quite possibly all your fault, you are going to have to give us some answers."
Shindou gave a start of genuine surprise. "My fault?"
"Sai was patient zero, right?" Ogata's eyes were red-veined with guilt and obsession. "He was a zombie, wasn't he?"
"Huh? A zombie? Where did you get that idea?"
Ogata's crazy eyes turned on Ochi. "This friend of yours said so."
Something seemed to click in Shindou's airy blond head. "Oh. Well, um, I think Ochi was just making something up. Yeah?" He gave Ochi a sidelong, pleading look.
Waya punched Shindou lightly on the arm; Shindou's arm made a funny crunching sound. "He said that you said that Sai was one of the living dead."
Shindou visibly winced. "No, I didn't say that. I don't know anything about Sai."
"What?" said Touya. "I'm pretty sure you told me that you do."
"You definitely do," Ogata seethed, reaching out to shake Shindou by the shirt again—one of the man's favourite pastimes. "Everything you've ever done says that you do."
"Stop denying it!"
Through slitted eyes, Ochi gave Shindou a once-over. The idiot looked really pathetic, what with his guts hanging out and those wide, deer-in-headlights eyes. Ochi then turned to look at Touya, Waya and Ogata, who were all looking as eager as...as zombies, zombies at a feast of human brains. Their eyes seemed to have taken on an unholy glow. They looked even stupider than Shindou, the way they were slavering after any scrap of information about Sai.
And Ochi, seeing this, could not help but giggle with glee inside his mean, horrible, human heart. Who cared about Sai when he had this chance in front of him? He was going to have fun with this.
"Oh, wait," said Ochi, "did I say Sai was a zombie? That was probably a mistake."
Ogata dropped Shindou like he dropped his girlfriends—too fast, and without a care for how the other person fell. "Oof," said Shindou feebly. "What?" said Ogata icily.
"It was all a misunderstanding," Ochi went on, casual as you please. "In the bathroom, I said 'Shindou implied Sai was a zombie,' correct? So clearly this was all caused by Shindou's idiotic blatherings. Yes, I remember now. Shindou said, 'Sai played so long and so often, he must have been a zombie or something.' Ochi gave a pointed look at Shindou, who nodded dazedly from where he was sitting on the floor. "I never meant for you to take that to mean that Sai was certifiably a zombie. That would be ridiculous! You should really check your sources better before jumping to conclusions—"
Surprisingly, it wasn't the occasionally violent Ogata or Waya who shoved Ochi against the wall.
"You, you—you are a terrible person!" snarled Touya—the ever-polite, coolly passive-aggressive, annoyingly well put-together Meijin's son go prodigy Touya Akira. The one who'd used and humiliated Ochi during the pro exam. Ochi couldn't be more pleased to have someone's hands around his neck (it was certainly better than Ichiryu-sensei). "You little…" Touya trailed off, not having the bad words in his vocabulary to express himself properly. "You are such a...argh!" He let go of both his sentence and Ochi's neck.
"Now now," Ochi choked out, rubbing his jugular, "I thought you stopped making those arghing noises when you stopped being a zombie."
Touya's jaw clenched, grinding his teeth, which was not a good idea because earlier his whole mouth apparatus had been dislocated; now it clunked downward and started drooping eerily from one side. "Youu thhinck thhis is funny?" he tried to say, then wisely stopped talking.
"Ochi, you piece of shit," filled in Waya, who did have the bad words to express his ire. "I can't believe even you would...oh crap, I'll have to kill you later...someone hide me. Shit shit shit. Isumi-saaaaan!"
He scuttled away as Morishita-sensei stalked after him.
"Ochi Kousuke," growled Ogata, and Ochi was perversely pleased that the Juudan/Gosei knew his full name. "I'll make you regret this. I'll..." Ogata paused, clearly not sure what kind of threat to make, since shirt-grabbing and wall-shoving had already been done so much today. "I am going to crush the hell out of you the next time we play."
"Looking forward to it," said Ochi sincerely. He watched in satisfaction as Ogata grabbed Touya by the collar ("Owww my jjaw!"), and stomped away.
Shindou, still seated on the floor, had a funny look in his bright green-grey eyes. He didn't say anything, but Ochi knew what that look meant: Shindou owed him one. Ochi raised his pinky finger and grinned meaningfully, holding eye contact for a long moment, until Shindou got up and practically ran away.
Finally, blissfully alone, Ochi raised his hands above his head and stretched his tired limbs. Ah, what a perfect day. He'd learned one of Shindou Hikaru's deepest secrets, and none the wiser. He'd goaded several of his rivals and a dual title-holder into acting like complete morons. He'd even gotten a little exercise, something he hadn't done in years. All in all, the perfect end to the perfect zombie apocalypse.