“Boy, when’d you get a hold of that?” As everyone was once again walking through the hidden passage, following Ox-Head, Dennis took note of what Shark managed to stick under his arm.
Holding it up, Shark looked over the book, and shrugged. “Oh, this? I don’t know, Sinbad had it with him. I guess it was important.”
Indeed, the book that he had gave off an air of great value. The sun emblem that shone on the cover looked like it was made of pure gold. Shark was certain he had to be careful with it.
On his right arm, Sinbad leaned on him, only really hearing his name being said. At his left side, Marc had his remaining arm wrapped around them both. In front walked Sagebear, helping Ox-Head find the right direction.
Behind all of them walked Harwood, who now leaned in and took the book from Shark.
“Let me take a look at that, thank you.” At once, he opened it and flipped through the pages. He didn’t look like he could understand the languages, but something else intrigued him:
“Whoever had this, they were certainly quite the artist.” He held it open at the double page spread he’d gotten to. Everyone in front of him turned to look at it. Even Ox-Head took a peek at it over everyone else’s heads.
The two pages depicted a figure in the center, with twelve hands of varying descriptions reaching toward it. The figure itself had its arms outstretched, as if trying to embrace the world.
Only Annette was unable to get a good look at it. She tried circling the group so she knew what they saw.
“Hey, come on! Don’t leave a girl hanging-” She was then abruptly shoved to the ground. Turning up to see who was the culprit, she was shocked to see who it was.
“Marc? What’d you do that for?” Marc said nothing, but rather glared coldly at her. His piercing gaze seemed to bore through her, actually intimidating her to an extent.
It was Blaise who was sensing the growing tension in the air. She tapped the shoulder of the person nearest to her to get his attention.
“Uhhh…Think maybe we should keep going? This hallway smells like rancid cow ass. Can we maybe keep the personal issues in check ’till we get outta here?”
No one answered her, but they took her advice and continued onward. This time, however, only Sagebear was leading the way.
Ox-Head had instead ran over and knelt by Annette’s side.
“Horse-Face!” The Builder was hollering at the top of their lungs as they now stomped about the base. “Horse-Face?! I swear, Horse-Face, I am going to rip your tongue out and eat it for dinner if you don’t get out here!”
This threat appeared to bring their desired response; Horse-Face appeared by leaving a nearby room.
“Yes?” He tried to make himself sound as casual as he could. “What do you need, Builder?”
The Builder growled once they turned to face him. “Took you long enough! Help me find Ox-Head and the wife! I think that if we find them, then…”
Here they stopped, like they forgot what they were going to say in mid-sentence. Horse-Face tried to lead them back in.
“Then…what? You stop making a fool of yourself?” His question earned him a hunting knife thrown at his head, which he quickly ducked.
“Of course not, chode-breath! Then I find the assclown who saw fit to destroy all my clones!” Once the Builder yanked their knife out of the wall, they grabbed Horse-Face by the arm and pulled him along with them.
“Why’d he do that to you, Andromeda?” Ox-Head asked Annette once she was back on her feet. “Did you accidentally hurt his feelings?”
Annette just rubbed the back of her head and made a quizzical sound. “I’m as confused as you are, Ox-Head. All I did was say the name of someone, I guess. I mean, that’s probably what he’s reacting at.”
Neither of them even bothered trying to catch up with the others. They did make sure to listen in on Sagebear’s occasional barks, so as to know where they were.
“That wasn’t very nice of him, though.” Ox-Head remained quiet for a little while, before speaking up again. “Did you know I was pushed a lot when I was younger?”
“No, but somehow I can see it happening.” Right now Annette wished Ox-Head still had his bucket with him, so she could indirectly hug him. “Sounds like your life in general sucked. I can relate in some ways.”
More silence for a brief period. Once again, it was Ox-Head who broke it.
“When we get out of here, Andromeda,” he asked with a tone of hope, “will you show me where to buy pears?”
Seeing that he was apparently developing a love for the fruit, Annette nodded and grinned. “Sure thing.”
Shark was still holding on to Sinbad while staying with the others. Marc and Harwood were studying the artwork in the book, and Blaise and Dennis kept an eye on Sagebear.
“Don’t stray too far now, puppy! Most of us can’t go as fast as you!” Dennis found much irony in knowing that a chubby dog had more stamina than he did.
“She knows where she’s headed,” Blaise said after him.
In the very back of the group, Sinbad finally began to make some proper noises. Shark was initially startled a bit, but then watched as Sinbad regained proper lucidity.
“Sinbad? Are you okay?” Sinbad turned to look at him, before scratching at the dried blood still on his chin.
“I’ve been better.” He paused for a moment before addressing his fiance again. “Shark?”
A sound of acknowledgement meant that Shark was listening. He nodded slightly to give Sinbad the go-ahead.
“After all this is over, I…” He let out a weary groan before trying to reword his thoughts. “Shark, I’m tired of killing. Too many are dead because of me. Once this is over, can you…? Can you make sure I never have to take another life?”
Shark was initially stunned a bit by hearing this. He then smiled warmly and stroked Sinbad’s cheek. “Of course. I promise you won’t ever have to kill again. It can just be me and you, and maybe some more dogs if that’s all right.”
He then leaned in and pressed his lips against Sinbad’s forehead. Sinbad then let out a pleased moan, and wrapped his arms around Shark’s chest.
“Thanks man,” he whispered while still hugging Shark.