Breathing a sigh of relief from her evasion attempt, Annette traversed the hall that was now becoming familiar to her.
As she walked, she could then hear the sound of laughter from the main room. This was enough to put a spring in her step, and move just a bit faster to her destination.
“Okay, Sagebear! Now speak!” After Shark was done giving his request, Sagebear could be heard barking, much to the delight of the others in the group.
Annette was about to turn the corner and see them all again when she was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. She shook it off and saw, to her chagrin, that it was Horse-Face.
“Ugh! Shouldn’t you be dead like the other assistants?” Knowing that now included Ox-Head made Annette want to cry. However, she kept a straight face for appearances.
Horse-Face answered her with a large amount of pain in his voice. “Believe me, I wish I were dead instead of them. But I’m not worried about that now…”
He turned away from her, stepping toward the door she came in. “I take it you’ve encountered The Builder a short time ago?”
“Um…Yes? Not that it’s any of your business, but they were saying something about being ‘evil itself’ or something.” Everything else The Builder had said to her resonated in her mind.
Annette heard another burst of laughing nearby. More than ever, she wanted to leave him there and join the others.
The noise Horse-Face made then sounded as if he were stunned by what she said.
“Was that all? The only thing they told you was that they were evil in itself? Strange. I thought they’d say more.”
“…Eh? Like what?” Annette was now curious as to what Horse-Face was getting at. “Horse-Face, what else were they supposed to tell me?!” But he would say no more.
Instead, Horse-Face shuffled away in the other direction, now ignoring her.
Sagebear was now performing a handshake with Shark when Horse-Face strode by the others. They all took passing glances at him as he went by.
“Don’t mind me,” he said to them. “Just continue on with your dog stuff.” As soon as he was gone, Shark let go of Sagebear’s paw, and looked in the direction he’d gone.
“Am I the only one who feels like something about him seems…sad?”
Sinbad just made a disgruntled sound. “Personally, he creeps me out for some reason.”
Everyone else then noticed the way Sagebear now looked toward where Horse-Face had gone. She went as still as a statue, intently staring as if to see if he’d come back.
“Uh…”Marc waved his remaining hand over Sagebear’s face, in a vain attempt to break her concentration. “You okay, pup?”
“Ten thousand yuan says she’s thinking he’s up to something,” Harwood said after him. “Of course, what do I know?”
After a few more awkward moments of watching, Sagebear then jumped down and ambled in the direction Horse-Face went.
“Um…Ya think she’s going off to investigate?” Blaise asked her husband.
“Beats me,” Dennis answered her. “You know her and that nose of hers-” At that point, he was interrupted by The Twin suddenly collapsing onto the table, presumably in serious pain.
“Whoa, now! What’s gotten into you, friend?” The Twin’s lower lip trembled, pushing away anyone who reached toward them.
When Horse-Face entered the dark empty room, he took notice of his companion huddled in the corner farthest from him.
“Hey… Why aren’t you out with The Builder’s Twin?”
To this, the young man just shrugged and turned back to the wall again. “Let’s just say them and I aren’t on speaking terms right now.”
Were it not for the dire and bleak circumstances they were in, Horse-Face would have laughed at that quip. Instead, he just walked over and bent down next to him.
No sooner had he done this, the sound of paws on stone was heard. The companion turned to look again briefly, before moving his head back.
“The dog’s here,” he said while pointing at Sagebear.
Horse-Face waved it off. “It’s fine. I doubt she’ll tell the others anything we say.” He then sidled up a little closer to the young man.
In response, the companion adjusted himself to lay on Horse-Face’s lap. He then felt a hand on his arm, and sighed.
“Do you still have nightmares of what happened that night?” Horse-Face asked him. The answer to this was a slow nod. “You know I didn’t want to do it, right?” Again, a nod.
“I know…” The young man whispered. “He was too much of a coward to do it himself, so he got you as a scapegoat. He could blame you and get off scot-free.”
Horse-Face was the one who nodded this time. “At least he got what was coming to him in the end.”
Then both of them were silent. Sagebear began whimpering, and trotted over to the companion. She then began licking his face. In response, he began petting her.
Annette was still irritated over the lack of information she was dealing with now. It downright infuriated her even more to know it was Horse-Face holding it from her.
“When I get the chance, I’m turning his face into Swiss cheese…” She muttered to herself as she now came upon the sight in the main room.
Everyone except Sagebear was surrounding The Twin, who looked to be in serious pain. Seeing this just about knocked the wind out of her.
“Hey, what happened?! Are they all right?”
It was Harwood who looked up to answer her. “We’re as in the dark as you are, miss.”
Annette then ran over and shooed them all away, trying to see herself what was wrong. The Twin themself looked as if they were enduring a millennium’s worth of agony.
“Right, I’m just gonna see if you have injuries…” Against The Twin’s silent protests, Annette stepped to the back of them and began ripping their shirt off. “This shirt didn’t look good on you anyway-”
She was stopped when she noticed gauze bandages wrapped around their torso. This got her to start putting together possibilities.
“Uh…” Annette tried to think of the best way to bring it up. “What’s happening to The Builder…Is it happening to you, too?!”
Knowing they couldn’t lie to her, The Twin just nodded slowly. They looked ashamed to even have to acknowledge it.