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Ico had been standing there for what seemed like hours now, but it probably wasn't past five minutes. The horned child sighed, clearing a thin coat of sweat from his forehead.

They were lost.

Until this point, the puzzles and investigations had been challenging, but he could always work it out. Now, outside the castle on yet another one of these open areas surrounded by castle walls, grass under his feet and soft frequent chattering of birds, what should be the simplest area to move forward from was the one he was stuck in. A ladder, a hidden pathway, something to pinpoint which way to go in order to escape the huge castle. He couldn't find any. The doorways were all locked, except the one they had come from.

Now, all he seemed to have were the bright green trees somewhere down there in a path he had crossed what seemed like days ago, the soft rumbling of the strong blue sea against the cliffs so very below them, and the endlessly expansive, bright and blinding white castle walls towering above him. All this seemed slightly, oddly, drained of its vivid striking colors under this bright, but foggy, sunlight.

With the shinning pale sun so high, painting the sky in cloudy shades, the green trees and blue sea down below, them standing in this place seemed strange and suspended, like the world would stay like this forever and time would never pass.

Ico sighed rather loudly. All those strange thoughts, just because he was lost!

"Do you know the way?" he asked, looking as if he was talking to himself. And indeed he seemed to be, for the white princess was nowhere to be seen.

The young child gasped, all his previous mental drifting gone in a swift moment. On no! Where was she? Had the shadow creatures come? He had heard no sign of alarm, no ghastly strange rasping of their darkness pits appearing nor any terrified cry, but what if his previous strangeness of mind had distracted him that much?

He called for her, a loud yell he hoped would reach her like so many other times before. To let her know where he was, that he was worried and that he was coming for her. Their short dialogues neither could understand but that both were so accustomed to, and depended of.

She was safe. Calmly, wind softly blowing through her hair, Yorda appeared behind a pillar. She was holding something in her hands. The strange foggy sun didn't drain her from her glow, that ethereal white, and the wind waving her hair didn't make her appear more physical, real - it added to her spirit-like image. Ico sometimes still wondered if she would vanish should he hold out his hand to touch her.

Thankfully, she never did.

She was holding a baby bird. Ico peeked at it, seeing the small creature flap its wings. Good, it hadn't fall from a nest and injured, it could fly. It seemed mesmerized by the princess, who looked tenderly back at it. Yorda showed the bird to Ico.

After the bird screeched and flew hazily in search of its mother, Yorda finally looked at him, waiting for the usual hold that would guide her to safety.

"Do you know the way? Ico tried, soft voice to not scare her. He pointed to their surroundings and after Yorda's eyes had surveyed the castle, he shrugged to make her understand. "Do you know the way?"

She spoke her ethereal language. Ico waited for some other form of communication, but she did only that.

"So you don't know?"

Yorda didn't shake her her head like usual. She stood there, calm, looking at him, at the castle, at the sun. Like he had done before.

He sighed louder.

"So we're lost. Maybe we should rest. Maybe that's the best for now."

Ico turned around, seeing the stone carved seats way back from where they had come from. The boy gestured the princess to follow him, waving his hand. She spoke again, a small phrase of undecipherable words. The sound was very beautiful and pleasant, but as always held no clue to what they meant. If not the basics of signals synchronized with the words, neither could understand each other.

The words were repeated - it was the same sound, at least that he was certain - louder this time as he had moved farther. One word or sound seemed sharper, or as sharp as her voice allowed to.

"Uh? Did you find out?" Ico asked, turning back around, and blinking.

The princess was smiling. She never smiled, always looking so sad and worried. Maybe what she was saying was so obvious even he should understand? Or had he done something funny?

"Do you know where we have to go?"

She spoke and he turned around again in a jump when Yorda looked up, expecting to find the clue that would reveal the path, but found nothing different. Starting to feel a bit defeated in his attempts, Ico sighed again and resumed his walking.

And bomp.

Ico gasped and swallowed in embarrassment, but at least it meant the princess couldn't see him. As she was resting her chin on the top of his head.

She was so tall.

The same short phrase, same emphasized word, was said, more decidedly and playful. And at last she pointed, still resting her chin on his head, making it impossible not to see.

The baby bird had found its mother. The while dove turned like gold as it flew high, dyed by the sunlight that increasingly pierced through the clouds in clear rays. It entered the castle through a higher doorway that seemed inaccessible. The warm and bright sun was now illuminating it as if to show him the way, as the doorway as on top of a stairway, which in turn he could reach after climbing a rusty ladder and jumping; a path that had been obscured by shadows until that point.

There, she had been saying. So that short word, first to be said with that playful tone, was there. A simple, non conversational word, but the first not part of the scared or tired small expressions from their path until that point.

Ico tried to repeat the word as Yorda had said it. His tongue rolled, unused to the ethereal sound. Whichever his success was, when the softness of her chin disappeared from his head and he could turn to her again, she was smiling.

Another beautiful word was said, and he learned it meant yes.

Ico smiled like silly, satisfied yet still embarrassed by his silliness.

"You could have just pointed, you know," he added, rubbing his nose.

She just smiled again and said a whole sentence to which he could only imagine the meaning.

And they continued their journey under their unique languages, pleasant to hear each other even if the barrier could not yet be broken.


the end