"R-Run!" He yelled at her and pushed her forward down the narrow pathway. There was a roaring sound in her ear as the statues behind them were rushing towards them. She made a successful grab for his hand as they scrambled down the seemingly endless pathway. "I think there's a clearing up ahead! Let's hurry!" He was right; up ahead lay a large room with unmoving statues and white-headed mannequins that eyed them with malicious glares. Ahead of that room was a large stair case that led to multiple upstairs rooms. "You think we can make it fast enough to get into one of those rooms?" He asked her out of breath, and she nodded.
The things behind them were catching up slowly. Women with their legs trapped in their paintings were clawing at the ground to catch up to them, and metal black statues that lacked head and wore short dresses came at them with outstretched arms.
Mary forced her legs to pick up speed as they stumbled up the stairs together, the hoard not far behind them. Suddenly, she felt Akira's hand jerk backwards. "Akira! We have to go!" She tugged him back up the stairs, but she noticed that his eyes were glued elsewhere. She gasped. On the very bottom of the steps, lying in wait to get trampled on, was a small yellow rose that had slipped out from her pocket. "No...don't!" His hand left hers as he ran down the steps to retrieve the fallen flower, but the statues were already at the entrance of the rooms. "Akira!"
He bent down to snatch it, but the statues were already upon him. In desperation, she sprinted down to him and knocked herself into a metallic hand that was about to grab his shirt. A woman in red from a painting wrapped her hand around his ankle, but he managed to shake it off. He picked up the little blonde by her waist and attempted to carry her up the stairs. The other statues reached out for him and eventually managed to snatch his wrists and ankles. He was pulled back into the crowd, but they weren't hurting him nor were aiming for his rose. He dropped Mary and she scurried to her feet as they surrounded her. "Run Mary, RUN!" Akira screamed at her, held back by the statues's grips.
"I...I can't leave you here!" She cried back, deciding that it was too late for her to run anyways. She tried to reach to him, but then they were upon her too.
The statues encircled her and trapped her like a wild animal. Their arms were jutted outward from their bodies and aimed at her. She grew terrified of the things she used to call 'friends' as they surrounded her and closed in, until she fell back and landed on a step. She heard their whispers: Traitor...traitor...traitor...
Wide-eyed, she shouted at them to go away, but they continued. Suddenly, she felt something cold and hard wrap around her neck and hoist her up towards the ceiling.
A headless statue had its hand, solid and metallic, gripped around her throat, crushing her windpipe. Mary struggled to choke in air and her vision blurred.
"A...Aki...ra..." she begged silently, desperately, with her last gulp of air. The statue squeezed tighter, its cold and feelingless fingers digging into the sides of her nape. Her world started to spin and appear in flashes of white in between blackness. She knew she would lose consciousness soon.
"Mary!" She heard a distant voice scream. Akira pulled and pushed their hands away, thrashing in their grip. "Let GO!" He growled and shook them off his shoulders for a split second, allowing him to launch himself at the monsters who held her. He crashed into the statue that was holding her to the ceiling and it dropped her and let out a low growl.
He scooped her up in her arms and, with all the might he could summon, propelled himself with his legs up the stairs and into a room with large double-sided doors. He slammed it behind him and took a chair and leaned its top against the door right under the handles, preventing the door or the door knobs from being turned or opened. Exhausted, he collapsed with the unconscious girl in his arms.
She awakened to the sound of his gentle breath skimming across the back of her neck. Her neck ached badly. She thought that if she looked in a mirror she would be able to see the bruises, or even hand prints. Mary cocked her head upwards a found that they were in a large white room that looked completely different than the museum itself. Its texture was different in that it looked like a child's coloring books; the walls were completely white and the outline of the walls were drawn in with a pink raggedy crayon, and the bookshelf and table casted no shadows on the ground. It was just plain 2D. It was her world that she created right from her box of crayons.
She tilted her head back and saw Akira's unconscious face leaning down towards her. She shook his shoulders to rouse him. "Wake up...please."
His eyes fluttered open. He looked around in shock. "Where are we? It looks really different than where we were before..."
They rose off the ground slowly and brushed the dirt off their clothes. "We're not supposed to be here...This is not how it was supposed to turn out..." she murmured to herself sadly.
"What are you talking about, Mary?" Akira asked, overhearing her words.
The poor girl was at wit's end with everything, with every doll that tried to come at her, with every statue that was out to kill her. With Akira always trying to put her welfare over his own when he didn't even know what she was. With her rose for being fake. For Guertena for creating her and unknowingly trapping her in a world of her own hell. For everything that held her back. "I...I don't understand..." Tears welled up in her eyes and her nine-year old fists balled up tightly. "Why...? Why is it always like this...?" she choked back a sob.
"Mary...?" He reached for her shoulder but she shoved his warmth away.
"It's not supposed to be like this!" She shouted. "I'm-I'm supposed to leave and be free and make new friends! I'm supposed to escape here with no problem! I..." Her cries died down. "I can't do that to Akira..."
"What are you talking about?" He asked, oblivious to her words.
"You don't know the truth about me, do you? And yet...and yet you still risk your life for me! You don't even know me!" She cried angrily at him.
"Well...of course I do," he answered calmly. "I don't need to know you to know that you need my help."
"NO! That's not what I meant! You...You don't know what I am!" Her shoulders trembled uncontrollably with each word.
"What do you mean?"
She swung around with the rose gripped tightly in her hand, so tight that the thorns punctured her hand skin and red paint dripped from her wounds. "I'm not real!"
Her words echoed throughout her fabricated crayon words. It shook the ground with fury and cracked through its dimensions. For a moment, the ground shook and then halted to a stop. "I'm not real...I'm not human, Akira...my father...Guertena...he created me..."
Akira watched her, his eyes wide with shock, as the little blonde girl fell to her knees. Her cerulean eyes were hid by her bangs. "You mean you're just a painting? In this world?"
She held out her rose to him. "It's fake..." He took it from her bleeding hand and cradled its petals. They were plastic. Wordless, he placed her flower down in front of her. "I lied to you. I...I just wanted to make a friend. I thought, that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to escape with you. But that won't happen unless I take someone else's place..."
She didn't hear a word from him. She assumed that he hated her for lying to him and leading him on like that, or he was terrified of her because she was an equivalent to those statues that threatened them or those half-women-half-painting things that chased them. But instead, she felt a hand caress her chin and bring it upwards.
She met his eyes for the first time. "That can't be true," he said firmly. She struggled to keep his steady gaze.
"How is it not? My skin is paper, my color is from paint...My heart is fabricated..." she said.
"That may be true, but you're a real as any other young girl. How can you say that you're not real? You have emotions. You cry, you laugh, you do everything a normal human does. You saved me. There's no way a painting would do that." He pointed to her heart. "Mary, you may not be real, but you're still my friend."
She stifled a sniffle. "What does that mean?"
"It means I don't give a damn." She looked up at him with renewed hope. "Painting or not, I'm gonna find a way outta here with you. And then...And then we'll got get some ice cream, just like I promised!"
A/N: There you are, my patient readers. Another chapter. Apologies if I spelled the artist's name wrong.
OHH and one more thing: There's been an update on Ib! It's Ib version 1.04, and it features two new endings and a new dungeon play through. Download it. Now.