As Kazuichi reached out for her, Sonia jumped up and took off running toward the pod room. The alarms grew louder and louder with each step, but the blood rushing in Sonia’s ears drowned out every noise. Before she had even rounded the corner into the pod room, she was already coming up with a long-winded apology.
‘I’m so sorry I wasn’t there when you woke up. I am so sorry I left you alone. I am so sorry-‘
But then she was in the pod room, and there was Tanaka’s pod, silent. Not much farther away was Peko’s pod. Shockingly, it wasn’t just Peko in the pod, but Fuyuhiko, too. He had climbed inside and was clutching Peko’s limp body to him.
Her arms, much more feeble than she probably remembered, shook as she reached up to hold him, too. Tears were streaming down his face, and he was bawling uncontrollably, all the while screaming:
“Peko! You stupid girl! Don’t you ever do this to me again!”
Fuyuhiko always had childlike features, which was undoubtedly why he always put on such an angry and aggressive front. Now, though, was no time for performances. That act was long gone, replaced with Fuyuhiko, who looked like a broken child, holding his equally broken doll.
It wasn’t long before the facility workers rushed in, seemingly from nowhere, and did their best to separate Peko from Fuyuhiko. Fuyuhiko, as expected, put up the fight of his life. Peko would have done the same, but her body was too weak and emaciated. All she could do was writhe as the workers carried her off, out of sight.
The alarms fell silent, and all that was left was Fuyuhiko’s sobbing. Sonia, stunned, wandered over to him under no volition of her own. Her body felt wobbly and far away. It didn’t feel like it was her body anymore. Still, it moved and didn’t stop until she was in front of Fuyuhiko.
Fuyuhiko peered up at her. He had never seemed so small. Of course, he was much shorter than the others, but his attitude was always so imposing. He felt like he towered over everyone, even if physically, he didn’t. Now, though, he was no bigger than he physically was. Even in her near-catatonic state, Sonia’s heart leaped at seeing how adorable Fuyuhiko really was. His bottom lip puckered up as if in indignation, but even that attempt crumbled away.
With nothing left, he threw himself forward, gripping Sonia in desperation. He pressed his wet face into her chest, openly weeping. Sonia, on the other, stood blankly, taking in the joy and hope filling the room. As if to punctuate the feelings suffocating the room, Fuyuhiko whimpered:
“You were right. She’s alive. You were right. You were right.”
Weakly, Sonia responded:
Somehow, though, the hope was not penetrating Sonia’s outer shell. Sonia was somewhere else, somewhere far away. What replaced Sonia inside the body was a black fog of despair. It slipped in and stretched out, coating every bone and filling every empty crevice. The new being pressed against its new skin, flexing the fingers and testing the lungs. With a pleased sigh, it wrapped its arms around Fuyuhiko and petted his head like he was a child.
Though Fuyuhiko was nothing but hope, the being could only be thankful for it. Without all that hope, there was no way Sonia would have fallen into such a pit of despair. Though he was filled with immense hope, there was no way Fuyuhiko could allow himself to drop his hard exterior for much longer. As such, he smacked Sonia’s hand away and wrenched himself out of her arms. Now free, he took a moment to scrub his face free of tears, then stuffed his hands in the pocket of his pants before shuffling around Sonia.
“Yeah. It is great.”
Hope trickled from every word as he made his way out of the pod room. Now by itself, the despair being held out Sonia’s hands, studying the pale flesh flex and wrinkle. With a wide grin, the despair being looked back at Tanaka’s pod. With languid steps, the being made its way over until it was leaning over Tanaka’s frozen body.
The being took its time studying Tanaka’s face. He looked peaceful, resting in a seemingly neverending sleep. There was no indication that he would ever open his eyes.
The being hissed. With a chuckle, it brushed a hand against Tanaka’s cheek, reveling in the chillness of his flesh. Silently, it willed him to stay asleep. As long as Tanaka was asleep, despair for Sonia would thrive. Unfortunately, though, the despair being was beginning to fade. Even so, it knew. It was only a matter of time before it would take hold once more.
When Sonia finally made her way back into her body, it was almost like waking up from a deep sleep. Her gaze was bleary, and it took at least a few seconds of blinking to bring everything back into view. Surprisingly, she found herself hovering over Tanaka. Unsurprisingly, her heart thrummed in her chest when she saw her hand cupping his icy cheek.
The thrumming didn’t last as long as Sonia would have liked, though. The cold seeped into her own flesh, calming the rush of euphoria that had only just begun to take hold of her. There was a hollowness in her chest – as if some part of her had disappeared. She pressed her hand against her chest, willing her heart to beat, and while she knew it was impossible… she somehow thought her heart had disappeared.
She couldn’t focus on the emptiness for long as Kazuichi’s voice echoed through the painfully silent pod room.
She peered over her shoulder to find him staring at her. He was smiling – a pinched and pained kind of smile – and there was something in his eyes. It made Sonia feel small and pitiful. She didn’t want him to look at her that way. She didn’t want anyone to look at her that way.
“What are you looking at, Kazuichi?”
“Don’t. Just don’t. I am tired of hearing how sorry everyone else is.”
Only then did his smile fall and his gaze dim. Even so, Sonia still felt small. She sighed and turned back to look at Gundam. All Sonia wanted to do was crawl into the pod with him. She wanted to crawl in, curl up into as small of a ball as she could manage, then just disappear. She desperately wanted to disappear, so no one could look at her like that again.