Promise of a Reunion
Ib[Game]: by Kouri
She strained to stretch her hand out, as far as possible, toward the blinding white pouring out of the canvas. Within it, a strong, lean hand reached out; its owner trying with all his might to grasp that tiny, delicate hand.
His fingers curled around hers the moment they made contact, then pulled the body from whence it came close to his chest; enveloping the slight figure into the folds of his tattered faded navy-blue coat. The girl, though shaken, held on steadfast, the strength of her grasp defying its tiny structure.
"Oh!" A Sharp intake of cold recycled air entered her lungs, producing an exclamation barely audible above that of a whisper.
Ib stood bewilderedly in front of the canvas. Vision snapping back to where she was supposed to be looking at: the minuscule title of the colossal masterpiece.
"Fabricated World" echoed through her mind, even though she did not recognize the characters that made up the long, complex word before 'World'.
Perplexed, Ib lifted her head to look at the painting. Eyebrows furrowed, eyes squinting with a strong intensity and lips parted slightly in a questioning stance.
"What...what was I doing?"
She felt a strong, nagging feeling which started to gnaw on her; stronger, with each second that passed the longer she stood there.
She then started abruptly toward the left of the hallway, taking tiny, swift steps, as if being attracted by the pull of a magnet; which grew in it's attractiveness as she flew down the stairs.
Her eyes looked beyond the ancient canvases that hung solemnly on the walls, and the people, searching for something she knows not of.
The giant crimson rose first came into view. However, a splotch of soft stormy purple and, sprouting from the top a stem of obsidian, blemished the flower artifact.
As she neared, she slowed, the paces of her footsteps now calm and even. The uncomfortable feeling from before, ebbing away with each step she took towards the rose.
Eyes fixed on the hand molded petals on the ground of the thorny stemmed art piece, Ib stopped next to the boy-just-turned-man - whose gaze was on the rose - then turned her focus towards him.
"...Hmm?" The lanky man - no, boy? - said when Ib stopped close and looked up at him.
"What is it, little lady?" asked the mildly deep yet smooth and gentle voice.
"He sounds so familiar..."
"What's this statue?" Ib answered – wait, why did I? - with the question, as the title of the art piece of this 'Guertena guy' was again much too difficult for the nine year old to decipher.
"Ah... this? It's called 'Embodiment of the Spirit' , apparently." Still looking back at the tender rose, he continued, "...when I look at this sculpture... I feel somehow sorrowful..." a melancholic smile forms, "...I wonder why?"
"Ah, I'm sorry, if I said anything to trouble you, Ib." He quickly added, bashfully.
"...Wait, what? Who's Ib?" he asks himself, looking down, frowning; realizing that he had addressed the little girl so naturally, even though he had just met her.
Ib's eyes widened, shocked. "Why...how did he know my name?" she thought. Too surprised to say anything, her mouth slightly agape.
"What? That's your name? Your name's really Ib?" his clear eyes too, widened.
"That's the strangest thing...I mean, I don't know you at all..." he then says aloud again, confused and looking away.
Then, smiling a little as he continues to try to explain this awkward situation: "It just kind of came out...How odd."
Ib listened to the soft voice, just as confused as he.
"Have we perhaps met somewhere before...?" he asked, looking back at her.
Her huge brown – wait, red? - eyes stared back at him intently. "Oh...look at me, asking you strange things..." he said, looking away again, as her eyes seemed to bore its way right into him.
"Never mind what I said... Well, bye." He gave a quick smile and stuck his hands into his pockets and began to leave.
Ib watched him walk away, back turned, feeling like she was about to cry. "Why...?"
"Hm?" feeling something other than what he remembered having in his pockets rustles in his hand.
"What's this...a handkerchief? When did I get this...?" he said as he fished it out.
Ib caught his words and spotted the familiar lace handkerchief she had just gotten for her ninth birthday and ran up to him. "How... did he get that?"
"Ah... This is yours?" he turned back to ask the little girl.
"...Ah, it's true. 'Ib'... your name's right on it. But why is it in my pocket?" he said, raising it up to get a better look at it.
"Plus, there's blood on it..." his eyes slowly widened as he made that examination.
"Crash!" in a twinkling, the glass shattered behind the man and the girl.
"Waugh!" he cried as he put his hands up to shield himself from the flying shards of glass. She did the same, squeezing her eyes shut as the bright fire burned.
Mary screamed: "Ah...! NOOO...!"
The flames licked up the painting, disintegrating it into a pile of ashes on the floor as did the yellow-sunshine haired girl become, but only with a single palette knife amidst the black remains.
"..." the both of them seemingly stared at each other but in actual fact, far beyond, as the memory crashed upon both of them.
"I was..." the man -no, Gar...? - started first, eyes still faraway.
"He was... Garr...?"
"I was...wounded. On the hand...and..." he continued to recall, looking down at the bloodstained handkerchief in his hand.
"Well, anyway... It burned up more violently than I expected." He checked his little companion over: " Are you okay, --? The glass shattered, after all."
"Your hand..." she pointed at the cut on the back of his left hand.
"...Hm? My hand? Oh, you're right, I cut it...I didn't even notice...it must have just happened."
Checking it over, he said: "Well, it's pretty minor."
Feeling insecure about the red that stained his hand, she took out a white handkerchief and handed it out to him.
"Ah, a handkerchief...may I use it?"
"...Isn't this real lace? Well, I don't particularly want to tarnish this..." he said, looking at it more closely.
Drops of blood fell onto the cloth just as he hesitated. "Too late, unfortunately..." he said with a sigh.
"Oh, well. I'll borrow this anyway. Thanks Ib." Garry smiled at her and wrapped it around his injured hand.
"A girl gave me her handkerchief..." he started again, as the memories continued to flood his brain.
"Yes... I was given this handkerchief..."
"Garry!-" The name resounded through her mind like a bell. She sucked in a tiny sliver of air, giving her a jolt, when the memories of their adventure through that twisted world finally pieced themselves together.
"By that girl... by Ib!" Garry exclaimed, eyes wide open in realization.
"Ib...! I remember now..."
"We were together back there..."
"How could I have forgotten? It was so important...!" he looked at her without tension but with familiarity, smiling broadly.
Eyes downcast, she clutched the skirt by her sides, willing herself to slow her breathing.
"We stuck together through that bizarre gallery..."
"Don't! Not in front of Garry! Not when we finally remember!" she berated herself harshly as salty contractions started behind her eyes, warning her of incoming tears.
"Chased by strange statues... And Mary too, right?" Garry rambled on, yet Ib hasn't said a word.
"It's okay now! We're out!" Ib slowly released her vice grip on her skirts and relaxed.
"...Ib? Do you remember?" he then asked her, bending down slightly, trying to discern the answer from her face, smile and eyes fading into concern.
"...I do." Her tiny reply came, sweet on his ears.
"Oh, thank goodness!" he let out a sight of relief.
"It's hard to believe even now... But it must've happened, right?" he told her, rather than asking, smiling again.
Ib looked up at him, no longer with distant eyes.
"Ib... We got back safely! We did it!"
"...Ahaha..." his excitement dwindled as quickly as it came.
"I've got so much more to talk about, but I've got to get going." He glanced down again, unwilling to meet her eyes.
Ib felt the back of her eyes prickle again, this time even stronger as the tears which she had held back for so long threatened to spill.
Pained at seeing her unusually bright eyes, Garry went silent as he tried to think of something to comfort her.
"Ah, uh, Ib..."
Bending down slightly on his knees to best her height, he asked: "Is it alright if I keep this handkerchief a while longer?"
Ib looked directly into his eyes, waiting for him to continue.
"It wouldn't do to return it as it is..." he flipped it around on his palm, disturbed by the bloody states of the once pristine piece of lace.
She too, looked at it. Calming down as she took in the meaning of his words, she nodded.
"I'll have to...make it clean, and then give it back." He looked at her gently, determination clear in his eyes and smiled...
"Because...we will see each other again!"