Another chapter updated...This one is shorter than the others, I guess.


The party soon approached the Mystic Ruins. Sand dusted the bottoms of their shoes, and remnants of the fog remained on the ancient site.

"I don't know what will happen now, so be careful everyone," Ayana warned.

Giddy with excitement, Aniu blurted, "Okay, okay! Now let's go inside!"

They entered the ruins with caution. Debris from fallen statues often crumbled down as the six ventured deep within the ruins' interior. Everyone looked at various hieroglyphs carved into the walls; they were actually paintings. At the long corridor's end, a ledge jutted out for the group to stand on. Two stories above them was a bridge, leading to the other side of the ruins.

"Look down there," Steve shuddered, "I can't see the bottom at all!"

"But…how to we get to the upper level?" Aniu asked.

Ayana caught sight of a vine and pulled it to see if it was sturdy enough. Climbing it, she reached the top of another ledge that led to another corridor. "Hey! Up here!" she called, waving her hands. The others soon followed her up and they all went back inside, proceeding down the path and encountering a lift. The lever pulled, and it descended a level. Exiting the corridor, they finally came across the bridge.

Eyeing it with suspicion, Ayana commented," It looks unsafe."

Aniu took a step and hopped back as the bridge crumbled down the chasm. "Uh oh…there goes our bridge…" she groaned.

Aniu paced back and forth, tapping her chin for an idea. "OH! I've got it!" she exclaimed.

Ayana crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Enlighten us."

The white-haired girl stretched out her hands towards the gaping space with perilous chasm below. Her porcelain hands turned an ice blue as a chilling wind blew past everyone else. Talene and Rosaria loudly shivered, but Ayana could feel goose bumps travel up her arms and legs one by one. Ice crept up the ledge and across the space, over to the other side of the ruins. As it completed taking its shape, everyone could see that Aniu just created an ice bridge for them to cross over.

"Okay, now we can go across. Everyone hold hands so no one falls!" Aniu instructed, leading the way.

After a long, grueling travel of constant climbing and walking down corridors, the group reached a room. As they approached the two doors, Ayana felt a wave of numbing pain in her shoulder, silently confirming that they had met another room of illusions. Talene slowly looked up at her, noticing that she was slightly leaned against one of the enormous doors.

"Ayana," Talene began, "what's wrong?"

Ayana took her hand off of the stone surface of the door and replied," It's nothing. C'mon, let's go in."

Entering the room, Aniu and Rosaria gasped. Hieroglyphics covered the walls, and sand managed to find its way inside, enclosing the real floor. At the room's center, a green orb hovered over a small pillar. Knowing the routine, Niko smiled and told everyone to place their hands inside the orb. Six hands, of various sizes shoved inside the green orb, and the priestess Aleris appeared before their eyes.

"Ayana," Aleris greeted. "You and your companions are blessed by the spirits, coming this far."

"Yeah, we've come closer." Ayana said."Where is Mayne hidden?"

"Go east." She simply instructed. "You still have a long way to go."

"Go east, huh…but that large barrier…isn't that blocking the way? We can't go through that, can we?"

The priestess shook her head." Nothing is impossible to reach. The spirits and the crystals will guide you to where you need to go."

A low grumble escaped from Ayana as she crossed her arms. What did Aleris mean exactly? How will she and five other people cross a barrier that's rumored impossible to travel by foot? Assuming from the permanent fog coating the nearby forest, NO ONE has crossed that barrier!

"I say that we need a plan!" Aniu spoke up, interrupting.

"Yes…we can think this over back at the cottage," Ayana replied. Before leaving, she waved at Aleris, who only nodded her head before vanishing.

It was unknown how many hours had passed while the six were in the ruins. The sun had already begun to set.

Ayana became immersed in deep thought as she traveled with her companions. The barrier that she and the others saw was enormous indeed. In her mind's eye, it looked like a huge, crumbling wall with a deep, but narrow split going through it. The split reminded her of a ravine.

"Hmm…." She hummed for the umpteenth time, rubbing a curly strand of dark hair between her fingertips.

"AYANA!" Talene shouted, causing her to jump slightly from the sudden outburst. "Wait! Someone's collapsed!"

"Huh?" she asked, turning around quickly. Who had collapsed? Was it Niko, or Steve? Or maybe Aniu…or Rosaria?! Ayana hurried over to the group who surrounded the person and sighed at the fact that it wasn't any of them. She caught sight of a collapsed little girl with dark hair and lime green tips.

"Mmmm….nngh…" the child groaned.

Ayana kneeled over to the wounded child and shook her head. "She's bleeding. We need to take her back with us, before her injuries get worse." She picked the child up, cradled in her arms. She and the others hurried off to the vicinity near New Orca, leaving the Mystic Ruins behind.

Meanwhile

A small army of soldiers entered an area, outskirts of the forest. The three sergeants, plus Keito spotted the trail of blood on the ground. The trio of women searched around, even in bushes and up the trees. Keito commanded the search unit to bring out the hounds. Anger and determination burned in his eyes. He would have someone's head tonight.