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Ryou walked into the hospital wing, dressed in his usual business suit and carrying his briefcase. He looked around until he spotted a nurse he recognized and waved at her, bringing her around the reception desk and right up to the sign stating that visiting hours were over.
"Hello, I believe we met two days ago, I'm Ujiie Yuki's older brother."
"Oh yes, Ujiie-san. Is everything alright? Ujiie-sensei isn't here tonight-"
"I know, he's at our family house for dinner. I'm late myself. But I forgot some important documents in my room the other day. My brother put them on top of his locker near the emergency ward. He was supposed to bring them tonight, but he forgot. Would it be okay if I went in and fetched them?"
Of course it was okay. The nurse knew who Ujiie-sensei was and, by extension, who Ryou was. There was an automatic feeling of deference, of maintaining a polite distance from his affairs. A man of Ryou's circle in society could walk out with a gallon of blood in a barrel and someone would hold the door for him. At least that was true in this hospital. The police would be far less understanding, and Ryou was well aware of that.
What I'm doing is insane, he told himself for the hundredth time, but he still hit the elevator button that would lead him to the Intensive Care unit, the badge the nurse had handed him clipped to his jacket.
So far, nothing Ryou had done could give the police anything to pin on him. Oh, he knew his story was far from above suspicion, but there was nothing there that could lead to even a whiff of an indictment for anything. The Nissan had obviously been in an accident, but just as obviously from the brick dust in the dents, the collision had not been with another vehicle or a pedestrian. The police had shown no signs of doubting Ryou's story of crashing into the debris of a construction site, and he was pretty sure there was no forensic means available to determine the debris was in motion and hostile at the time. The man he'd brought back was certainly in bad shape, but Ryou had been the one to call the ambulance and help him, and the man had in no way accused Ryou of anything. The whole not-speaking-Japanese thing was more of a problem than a bonus, since it'd aroused Kimura's curiosity and his suspicions. It was too bizarre, it didn't go with the rest of the picture. But it was still nothing that could get Ryou into trouble. He might have the police scrutinizing his otherwise efficient and meticulous life, and the president would undoubtedly not be happy about any of this, but there was nothing so far that would not blow over within a few days or weeks.
Getting into the hospital under false pretences to help a paperless foreigner and potential criminal break out...This was something he could probably be arrested and fined for, which wouldn’t look too good on the résumé of a financier.
This was insane, he knew it. It just wasn't as insane as everything that had happened two nights ago. Neither was it as dangerous. Ryou's relationship with his family was a little on the formal side, it went with their position in life, it was natural and expected. But he would never want to see any harm befall them, or Sasaki or any of his office workers who might qualify under the term 'friend'. He'd like to believe the foreigner was lying about the danger Ryou and his entourage was in, but he just did not think he could afford to. Ryou dealt with facts, statistics and risk assessments, not hopes and delusions.
He'd had Yuki show him around the surgical ward and the Intensive Care unit yesterday, before Ryou discharged himself. Yuki had seemed startled and suspicious that Ryou might want to see his little brother's workplace, but he'd complied, and even spent all of his lunch break taking Ryou around and talking about his work here. Ryou had rather wished it'd not been for the reason it was...Ryou had already called Sasaki that morning and asked that his assistant drop off some non-confidential information on Noruma. He'd left it in his room after leaving the hospital, calling Yuki thirty minutes later from his condo to make sure some industrious cleaner did not pitch out Ryou's alibi. If that hadn't worked, Ryou had a fall-back plan ready to explain his presence at the hospital here tonight, involving attacking the sutures on his forehead with a knife if need be. Ryou had this part all organized. What he would say to the police tomorrow morning when they determined he'd been in the hospital when their mysterious foreigner disappeared...was something he was still working on. At present it involved too many variables.
Ryou grabbed the folder from the top of Yuki's locker; it looked like his sutures were safe, which was good, they'd hurt enough last night. They'd have kept him awake if the thought of trash-made monsters attacking his parents hadn't already done the trick. Then he made his way towards the foreigner's room as calmly as if he was visiting the place with his brother at his side. If someone asked, he'd just gotten turned around looking for the elevator. Fortunately the stranger's room was near the locker area. But there was almost certainly going to be a problem when he got there: the policeman guarding the door.
It turned out the policeman wasn't there.
Ryou believed in that amount of blind luck even less than he believed in hopes and delusions. The policeman would have been Ryou's biggest hurdle, but now another one had presented itself in its place. He knew what this meant. It meant the foreigner had been transferred out of Intensive Care and into another less specialized room. Damn it... It'd been a possibility all along, rooms anywhere on this ward were in high demand. Ryou had even tried to think of a way of asking Yuki about it when his brother had phoned him today for an update on Ryou's health, but he could not find a way of doing so that might not arouse his brother's suspicions and get him involved.
The door was open a crack, but the room was dark beyond it. Now what? thought Ryou, staring at the dark crack. Go through the hospital floors above until he found a room with a policeman in front of it? The chances of passing that off with some excuse were minimal. The chances of getting caught before he could actually find the foreigner were non-negligible too. But if he didn't-
The door whisked open. A hand grabbed Ryou by a fistful of jacket and yanked him in.
Ryou gasped- fingers invaded his mouth, forcing his jaw wide open to the point of pain, while a thumb pressed into his Adam's apple, pinning him back against someone's shoulder. He could barely make more than a choking sound. His briefcase fell to the floor with a clunk.
"It is you, magian." The words were low next to his ear. "I wasn't sure. Silence, there is someone sleeping in here."
Ryou was released. He staggered a few feet, hands at his throat, gasping for air. When he turned around, the stranger was closing the door softly, with a last quick look around outside.
"You're late, the moon was up half a qa ago. Then again, I was late too. They took me up to another room with an elevator. I wasn't sure they'd have hands working the cables at this time of night, so I had to find some stairs to get back here."
"Uh," said Ryou. It was the only thing that came to mind.
There was someone in the bed, a very, very old person - man or woman, he could not tell - hooked up to a respirator, unconscious or sleeping. There was only a faint light above the bed to allow nurses to check for vitals. Ryou righted his glasses and turned back once more towards the foreigner, who was leaning against the door, holding his side with an unthinking gesture. He was still very pale, cheeks and eyes sunken, but that feeling of fierce will was all the greater now, and he seemed pleased to be out of bed and moving about.
"What-" Ryou cleared his throat and rubbed at the ache. "How did you get past the policeman? Was he still there?"
"The guard they had on me? I disposed of him."
Ryou's blood turned to ice. "You-...What did you do?"
"Shhh. He'll be fine as long as your Inlander skulls are no more fragile than the norm. I tied him up in my sheets and put him on my bed. The women here check me once a night, so they'll find him before the moon sets. Considerably before, even, so can we leave now?"
This really is insane, Ryou thought, but once more it seemed his mind was somewhere else, in a place where mundane thoughts stacked up to wait their turn while facts were processed first.
"Yes, let's leave. My car is outside."
"That's the vehicle we were in before?"
"Not the same one," said Ryou, shoving up his glasses and dismissing thoughts of his Nissan, now thoroughly junked.
"Can't you get me across the border here?"
The foreigner seemed to want to add more, but interrupted himself with a sharp gesture. "Never mind. There are sick people in this place. Let's not take a chance we'll bring the Rajin Bher down on their heads. Let's go." He reached for the doorknob, then gave the hand Ryou had put on his hospital shirtsleeve a surprised look.
Ryou held up the piece of paper he'd prepared beforehand. "Here," he said in the voice he used for interns, temps and other people who needed careful instructions to keep them out of trouble. "This is a floor-plan of this ward with the stairs marked with an arrow, here. It sounds like you already know where they are. You're going to go down the stairs one floor and out the door. You'll have to hit a bar-"
The man was scowling at the paper. "We're not leaving together?"
"No. I have my reasons," said Ryou, who wasn't about to explain surveillance cameras to a man who thought elevators were pulled up and down manually.
Their eyes met, a test of wills. The stranger stared at Ryou with the look of a man who shoved swords through things and was used to having his orders obeyed, rather than receiving them. It was formidable, and if Ryou wasn't busy with cold, hard facts right now, he might have been intimidated. As it were, he was now dealing with the fact that this man had assaulted a police officer and had dropped Ryou into so much trouble that even the president's friends in the Diet were going to be helpless to handle this one. It was probably too late, but Ryou was going to do as much damage control as he could, and this person's stubbornness was a fact that Ryou was going to rub right out of the equation if the brute wanted his help at all.
The foreigner looked away first, with a faint twitch to his lips which was either irritation or amusement. "Very well. What do I do to that door you told me about?"
"You'll push the bar to open it. A very loud bell will start up. Don't worry about it, go straight out the door as fast as you can and across the car park - the flat bit outside, and straight to where there are trees. Go through the trees until you see a fence. My car will be on the other side. I'll help you over the fence."
"How high is it?"
"I don't know," said Ryou, rubbing his forehead next to the bandages over his sutures. "I think I can reach the top if I stretch, and you're an inch taller-"
"The day I need help getting over that, you can bury me, magian. Let's go."
Ryou gripped the sleeve even harder. "Don't hurt anybody else," he hissed.
"Fine, fine. The stairs were empty before, I should be able to get out without being seen. If not, it's been years since I've struck a woman and I have no intention of doing so now. As for the men in this place, they're weeds. They'll leave me alone if they know what's good for them."
"You'll leave them alone if you know what's good for you," said Ryou in the same measured intern-reserved voice.
That got him the look again, and the same quirky smile. "Fine. It's your world, Inlander."
Facts could not be dismissed; that was not the way they worked. But they could - had to be - prioritized. So Ryou took the facts - 'your world', and the reiterated evidence that all of this really was truly insane - and dropped them into the stack of things he'd deal with once this evening was over and done with for good.
"I'm leaving now," he said. "Wait ten minutes- wait until that black stick on the round face over there has reached that area there. Then go."
"I know what a clock is," said the stranger with heavy patience touched with acid. "My country trades with Ras Dal Aran regularly."
"So you won't get it wrong, then," said Ryou, picking up his briefcase and stepping out the door.
End part 3
Next chapter, things get hectic and interesting again...