Anna the bard found herself being led through a series of corridors inside some kind of white-walled stone fortress. Compared to the dark and gloomy prison she was previously at, this one was a lot cleaner and brighter. Paintings of scenery decorated its walls along with golden lanterns.
The architecture wasn't enough to determine which part of Aries she was in. The windows that she passed by only showed a sea of clouds that extended all the way to the horizon. Wherever she was, she was probably somewhere very high up.
Christina finally stopped in front of a large wooden door. "This is where I'll be leaving you." She pushed the doors open and led Anna inside.
The room was wide and spacious. Crafting materials and workbenches filled the room. It looked like one of the public crafting stations the major towns had. There was a single person standing in the middle of the room dressed in white robes. When the person turned around, Anna immediately recognized her.
"Miss Yaya!" Anna was relieved to see a familiar face, although she felt a little uneasy about it.
Yaya smiled, but her smile looked a bit melancholic. "Ah. I didn't expect to see you again."
"See you around," Christina said. They weren't sure who she was talking to. The doors closed shut.
"Where are we?" Anna asked Yaya once they were alone.
Yaya gave Anna a pat on the head. "It doesn't matter where we are. In here, we are safe. All you need to do is to create designs and craft armor. Your meals and lodging will be taken care of."
"Why was I brought here?"
Yaya giggled. "My dear, you get to play a role in the reformation of Aries. Your skills in crafting are needed." She handed Anna a few papers. "These are the orders you need to finish by the end of this week. I'll be back later to check on your progress."
"Wait!" Anna wanted to ask a few more questions, but Yaya already left the room. She ran for the door, but found it locked.
Anna stared at the contents of the papers. It was an order for some sort of functional battle uniform. Making armor was her hobby in Aries, but something like this would make her push her abilities to its limits.
What exactly are they planning to use this for?
A few hours later, there was a knock on the door. Yaya entered the room once more to check on Anna's progress. After seeing that the bard decided to cooperate, Yaya led her to her room.
"That will be the end of today's work. We've prepared for you a room to stay in and your dinner," said Yaya as she walked beside Anna.
"Yaya, what are these equipment going to be used for?" Anna almost hesitated asking.
"You will find out once it is finished."
"What's going to happen to Aries?"
"Best to reserve your questions unless you want to face certain consequences."
Anna decided to keep her mouth shut.
"And here is your room. Dinner is on the table. I'll see you tomorrow." Yaya left her alone in the room.
Anna couldn't believe it. The room they gave her was wide and spacious with its own dining area. Dinner was already ready on the table, which looked like a luxurious feast. It was a room fit for a noble.
Still, she missed the girls and their cozy little house. Being alone in a nice room wasn't as fun.
Anna noticed a bird at the window. When she opened the window, the bird flew in and perched on the desk. She had a plate of bread by her nightstand, so she gave the bird a few crumbs.
She stared at the sea of clouds from the window and wondered how the others were doing. She couldn't help but worry about whether they made it safely out.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She quickly searched for a pen and a paper. She jotted down a poem that hopefully gave a hint to where she was located. At least if someone found it and confronted her, she could just brush it off as mere poetry.
Once she was done writing, she rolled up the paper and tied it to the bird's leg using a strip of cloth she ripped from her own clothing.
"Please take this to someone," she pleaded.
The bird flew out the window, taking her message with it. Now, she just had to wait and hope.
Far down below, Sphinx was doing his usual scouting. Ever since they decided on breaking everyone out of Aries, Wen had ordered more scouting missions. Sphinx decided to check on a different area that day, which was a forest near Lamont.
As he was situated on a large tree branch, a bird flew towards him and began pecking at his hair.
"Hey! Stop that!" Sphinx was annoyed.
The bird finally stopped and perched on his arm. Sphinx was about to shoo it away when he noticed a rolled piece of paper tied to its leg.
"What's this?" he said to himself.
He took the roll of paper off from the bird's foot and opened it. It appeared to be a handwritten poem.
In a sea of white clouds like a dream,
Lies a fortress built from stones of cream.
What great land lies far down below?
Pray tell me for I do not know...
Sphinx didn't think of himself as a poet, but he felt that he had to reply through poetry to get a proper response. He did his best to come up with something that rhymes and scribbled it on the back of a ripped piece of paper he had in his pocket.
Down below is a forest of green,
A common place that plenty have seen.
Inhabited by wolves both night and day.
The next town is a short walk away.
He rolled up his poem and tied it the same way around the bird's leg. Immediately, the bird took off. Sphinx lingered in his position for a moment, then looked up at the sky. It was too cloudy to even see a castle or any structure floating high up.
He decided to wait for the poet's reply.
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