Orbs of water dripped from the numerous stalactites lining the ceiling of the cavern, the steady, constant pitter-patter resonating throughout the chamber. The young mimiga had settled herself on the rocks by the shallow pool of water, holding a small, silver trinket in her paws, staring at it forlornly under the cool, blue light emanating from the bioluminescent fungi.
She briefly recalled how this little token of friendship had returned to her, lingering on what it meant. After the soldier from the surface disappeared into the sand zone and the mimiga were plucked from their villages, the whispers began – whispers telling of the gruesome, untimely deaths of Toroko and King. Whispers that ceased the moment she arrived, a hush falling over those she passed, and glances that carried judgment and disdain.
Not a word was spoken, but it was clear to her: they blamed her.
"Sue? Are you alright?"
Quickly closing her fist around the trinket to conceal it, she turned to face the familiar voice. Jack stood over her, his goggles reflecting the light and obscuring his gaze. The older mimiga was checking on her yet again, for what seemed to be the hundredth time that day, vacillating between her and Mahin, who was too busy stuffing his face to care about much else.
"I'm fine." She replied, lying through her teeth. "I just want to get out of here and see mom and Kazuma again. I'm sick of sitting around in this cell."
"I understand. Hang in there a while longer, there's not much we can do at the moment. This situation is… difficult."
" 'Difficult'? That's a real understatement." Sue replied incredulously, tossing her ears as though they were still her human hair.
He shrugged, raising his paws to his face to remove his goggles, allowing them to fall against his chest. "I guess I just wish that King were still here… I feel like he'd know what to do. I'm not used to handling things without him."
"Aren't you number one now? That's not a very comforting thing for a leader to say, Jack."
He laughed hollowly, conceding to her criticism as he sat down next to her. She was as blunt as always, that girl.
"Now I know how he felt." He continued. "When Arthur died, I mean. When he had to take control and become a leader. Be strong for everyone."
She nodded in acknowledgement, dwelling on his words. Jack had that same tone of awe and reverence when he spoke about King as Toroko did of her older brother, Arthur.
Toroko. She accepted her wholeheartedly. That sweet, unassuming mimiga was Sue's first and only friend on the island. She fought for her, promising that she'd help reunite her with Kazuma. She lost her life in the process.
"I miss Toroko. And King." Sue said finally, after a long, heavy silence.
"I do too, Sue. We all do."
"Is it my fault?"
The girl lowered her head, and he wasn't quite sure what to say. Did she honestly believe she was to blame? Jack's stomach pitted with guilt as he considered whether his suspicion toward her earlier had given her that impression. After all, brash and reckless as she might have been, she was still just a child.
"Of course it's not. I know you've been made to feel that way… and I too owe you an apology for that, but you know that's not true. No one could have anticipated we'd lose them."
She didn't respond.
He slowly wrapped a single arm around the smaller mimiga, drawing her in close to his body. She froze against him momentarily, tense and unyielding, screwing her eyes shut and biting back tears as Jack squeezed her shoulder consolingly. He could feel her frame waver under his grasp.
"…Everything's going to be OK." He said it softly, but with conviction, to disguise the uncertainty in his voice. He wished he believed it, too.