"Why don't you go in, Gareas-san?"
I look up to find Tune Youg
at my elbow, looking up at me with her red-rimmed eyes. Her voice is just
above a whisper, hoarse and pained.
Tune, the repairer for Luhma
Klein, Ernest's partner. I can tell she has been crying non-stop. And I
can't blame her. I knew she loved him.
"I-iie." I say softly, smiling
gently at her to soften the negative statement I just made. "I don't want
"It has been two days now,
Gareas-san, if you don't hurry, you won't have the time to pay your last
respects. They will be jettisoning him tomorrow."
"Aa, I have no intention
of going in at all." I tell her, like I told Rioroute, Yu, Phil and Leena
before her. Why can't they just leave me alone?
Her eyes register hurt and
disbelief. She can't believe that I, of all people, would actually say
I shrug. "I just don't want
to." I say by way of explanation, the tone casual. I hide the fear I feel
from her, my expression set in a shuttered unreadable expression as I face
"B…but he is your teammate,
a fellow pilot. Most of all he was your friend, your *best* friend. It
is your duty…"
"It is *not* an Ingrid pilot's
duty at all. And being his friend doesn't oblige me to go." I say sharply.
Her tone has turned damning and it stings my conscience. I am not in any
mood to have it stung.
The sound reverberates in
the air and I stare in absolute surprise.
Tune Youg, one of the gentlest
Repairers I have ever known, slapped me. My left cheek is stinging something
fierce but I ignore it. It is nothing compared to the outraged expression
on her face.
"I can't…believe…" She choked
out as she glared at me through tear-glazed eyes, "I can't believe that
he actually fell in love with a cold monster such as you. How can you defame
his memory this way when he died sacrificing himself! If it wasn't for
you, he'd be alive and with us right now, not in that cold casket."
Surprise, startlement and
confusion run into each other inside me like a runaway ProIng in a meteor
storm. The information she is putting out a little too much than I can
"Tune!" I turn as I hear
the calm sad voice behind me. A girl with long blond hair steps out of
the shadows and I recognize her.
Leena, my repairer, my partner,
"You are distraught, we all
know that, but still…"
Leena goes over to Tune and
puts an arm around her. "Still, you cannot blame him for what happened."
Tune's shoulders sag a little
but they come up again as she struggles out of Leena's arms. She glared
at me then, her body shaking uncontrollably.
"I can because HE is the
reason." Tune tells Leena, never taking her eyes off of me all the while.
Those damning, damning eyes.
"I wish it was you who died
instead of him. I HATE you!" And with those virulent words, she runs away
from us, out of the corridor.
"She didn't mean that, Gareas.
You know she is just upset."
"I know that but still…"
There is a ring of truth to her words that I cannot deny, the thing I have
been trying to avoid facing ever since I saw Luhma Klein's limp form speared
by the Core Victim.
I stare at space and the
twinkling lights of faraway stars, processing what happened. I can feel
Leena's concerned gaze on me.
"But still what?"
"Still she speaks the truth.
Ernest did sacrifice himself for…us."
The feeling of hollow emptiness
inside me is ringing with that one truth. And it aches oh so much, especially
now that the comforting voice that always lulls me to sleep ever since
my stay in GOA is silent.
"Hai, he did. And you are
feeling guilty about it are you not?" Leena hugs me from behind and I stiffen
slightly at the contact before sagging down my weight within the familiar
circle of arms. Her familiar warmth which normally brings pleasure to me
only leaves me yearning for another kind of warmth, another familiar feeling
that will forever be denied me now.
"No." I whisper, sadness
making my voice sound like sandpaper rasping on a rough surface. It is
not that which is bothering me, at least not that much. Guilty feelings
prey on the mind and makes one jumpy. I know what guilt feels like. And
I feel it today but it is not the primary thing I feel right now.
This. This emotion is different.
It claws at my insides like a rabid dog wanting to get out, alternating
with an empty hollow feeling of bone deep ache. I do not know what this
is. But it hurts like hell. The vague feeling that it started just when
Ernest…just when he…I hate Ernest. I am hating Ernest right now for making
me feel like this.
Leena's arms tighten around
me and I know that she knows I am hurting inside. Aa, Leena knows me well
enough by now to gauge the nonverbal signs. Unfortunately her touch isn't
the one that always soothes all my fears away.
Lonely, alone. I am all alone.
The darkness is closing in on me and I am afraid. I have never been alone
in my life before.
::Don't be afraid, Gareas.::
do not know who Ernest is.
A surge of something enters
my mind and a vision of a slender blond boy with a gentle expression on
his face shows itself inside my mind.
Aa, I remember now. The boy
with the telepathic EX. The one everyone seemed afraid to talk to, the
one I had promised to protect.
The sick feeling in my stomach
lessens as the feeling of loneliness does.
::Where are you now, Gareas?
You suddenly disappeared.::
/I am somewhere in GOA
although I don't know where./
/I don't know. They told
me some crap about being the top candidate and being given special training./
I never thought that thoughts
could convey so much emotion but the thought from Ernest almost conveyed
/How did you find me?/
::Your cries led me to
you. Your fear shines out.::
My chin draws up in stubborn
defiance and affronted dignity. As one of the candidates, I am known as
strong and fearless, now this slip of a boy was accusing me of being afraid.
/I am not afraid./
A warm glow, reminiscent
of a trill of laughter, comes to the link and Ernest's next thoughts are
a little amused.