The Gundam Beauty Pageant|
41. The Search Begins
TDAT skimmed over the tops of the trees, eyes squinting for any sign of life. After a few seconds of scanning, she flapped her wings and rose a little higher, flipping out a cell phone at the same time. “Cybertoy, this is TDAT, haven't seen Captain yet, you?”
The speaker hissed as Cybertoy brought Random to his mouth. “I got nothin'.”
Cybertoy's sidekick, Lakitu, could be heard screaming in the distance. The boy screamed into the PET (quite on accident), “Lakitu, it's just a garter snake, calm down!”
TDAT whipped the phone away from her ear, hoping that wouldn't cause any permanent damage. She pressed a button with her thumb. “Fenn, how about you?”
Fenn pressed a side button on her visor hoping for a lead, but none of the scan settings did anything. She beeped the phone. “Too much rain. I can't see a thing.”
Cybertoy's ring caught TDAT's attention. “I told you bringing Shute was a better idea!”
Finally, they all heard a tone they hadn't heard in a long time: Charon's. “We're not telling Shute a thing,” Charon warned from the compound. She tucked herself deeper into the beanbag chair she was sitting in. “Not only will he get worried, but I'll hear nothing but complaints from his parents AND Captain once we find him.”
TDAT groaned from her end of the cell phone. “Oh, geez louise! Where could he be?”
Charon rolled her eyes. “I don't know.”
Fenn then asked a very good question. “Hey, wait, what about Cobramaru?”
Charon moaned in agony. “Oh, man, don't remind me about Cobramaru… Dangit, Cobra-” Charon gasped.
“What?!” said Fenn, sounding alarmed.
“I just need to make a phone call.” Charon began searching through her phone book. “Any sign of anybody else yet?”
“Other than a rustling tree, no.” TDAT mentioned.
“Same here,” Cybertoy added.
“Follow the rustling,” advised the sabercat. “Charon out.”
She ended the call, realizing that she had just closed her phone book as well and had to search for the number she was looking up all over again. She groaned and began flipping through the phone violently while Mel looked for something to watch on TV. “Hey, Mel, have you seen Zero lately?”
“He went to talk with Aneko,” Melanie answered.
“Good, she needs it.”
Hoshiko was huddled in the farthest corner of her room, surrounded by all of her pictures of Cobramaru. She clutched one particular scroll to her chest. There was nothing too special about it; she didn't even like it that much. But written on the scroll was a note:
I love you, Hoshiko.
The Gundamess pressed her face into her knees, tears falling down her leg. “What have I done…”
She sniffled and started to try to reason with herself, trying to trick herself that she wasn't crying because Cobramaru had run away. She couldn't. And she hated herself for it. This isn't how it was supposed to happen at all! Why couldn't Cobramaru just use her up and throw her out like a normal man? Now she had two deaths on her hands; his, and Baku's…
An unearthly wail hit her ears, making her head shoot straight up. Something about it sounded familiar, but totally alien. The sound muffled itself, but was still loud enough to hear. In fact, it sounded like it was coming from Aneko's room.
Fear gripped her chest! Something was about to take Aneko!
She scrambled to her feet, carefully stepping over her artwork and out the door. She followed the hallway to Aneko's room, got to the open door-
And saw Aneko crying.
Hoshiko immediately froze in place. Her breathing stopped. Her eyes stuck. Even her tears seemed to halt on her face. Aneko. Did NOT. Cry.
But there she was. The oldest sister was sitting on her knees, hands folded sternly in her lap and sobbing into Zero's chest. Zero rubbed her back gently as she cried. He didn't say a word, but simply looked at Aneko warmly and affectionately with a hint of worry. Hoshiko had seen that look before; Cobra had given her that look, and she was sure she had returned it on more than one occasion.
Aneko choked back a sob, prompting Zero to thump her shoulders a little heavier. “He's gonna die, he's gonna die…”
Hoshiko had to hold her mouth to keep from gasping. Aneko was using contractions now!
Still, Zero patted her shoulders and never said a word. Aneko stuttered and half-cried for a few more seconds, hands folding and unfolding nervously.
“What if he does die, Zero?”
“Baku told me himself musha Gundams don't die,” Zero calmly explained.
“Yeah, but…” She stopped, took a deep breath in and out, and continued. “But it won't be him…”
Aneko let her head fall onto Zero's shoulders. “My family's falling apart, Zero… I've already lost Hanako and Hoshiko, and now Baku-kun's about to die…”
“Who says you've lost either of your sisters?” Zero whispered.
“But… but Hanako's about to die, and Hoshiko…”
Aneko grew very silent. Zero gave her arm another pat.
And then he looked at Hoshiko, who jumped and finally squeaked in shock. “They're closer than you think.”
Aneko's eyes rose from Zero's chest before bugging in surprise. She stuttered mindlessly for a few seconds, pointing dumbly at her sister and Zero while trying to form words.
“Aneko-san, I'm sorry.” Hoshiko bowed to her sister.
“S-sorry?” Aneko gulped. “Why?”
Hoshiko fell to her knees in front of Aneko.
“I don't know.”
The two sisters hugged softly and cried on each other's shoulders, Zero weathering it out uncomfortably like anyone would. The siblings held each other, communicating volumes without a single word. They were angry, they were guilty, they were sad, and they were forgiven within a few minutes.
Aneko pulled away from the tiny Gundamess and turned to Zero. “We are not done yet. We need to see Baku.”
No contractions. Aneko was already better. Zero rose to his feet, holding out his hand. “Let's go.”