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19

The entrance to Anor Londo sheens with a radiant brilliance. Two stone lions guard the drawbridge, with their mouths open, frozen in mid-roar.

"Emilia," Lulu goes, huddling up by her. "You should be careful.. I have a feeling they don't take kindly to strangers."

Emilia nods. She crosses the drawbridge, looking down at the shimmering river below, leading the group's way.

Right in front is a guard sitting by the gate, wearing an (oversized) mascot head with painted-on red blushes and bright blue eyes. He notices their presence, stands up, a whistle dangling from his neck.

"Who are you people?" he goes.

"We're travellers," Emilia says.

"Say 'We're on our way up North,'" Lulu whispers.

"We're-- on our way up North," Emilia repeats, noticing the guard's arousal. "We just wanted to stay by here for a rest, and.. enjoy Anor Londo's hospitality."

"Well well!" the guard goes. "What possible reason is it that Anor Londo isn't your destination! Here, you'll feel right at home! Festivities, amusements, and lots of pavilions to explore. But first.." He takes a quick glance at the party. "Are you harbouring anyone who has illness?"

"We're fine!" someone blurts from the back.

Lulu stifles a sneeze.

"Alright," the guard says. "I'll take your word for it. Come right in!" And he opens the gate.

~

It's a magnificant city. Lampposts line the streets, their glow radiating over the plazas and buildings – it almost looks as if it can pass for daylight.

The group is gazing around, on the verge of being disoriented by their awe of the place. They keep huddled together amidst the teeming traffic of aristocratic people and trotting horses, carrying elegant carriages here and fro.

Emilia is caught by the sight of a pampered kitten taking a pee by the potted tree, before its owner shushes it away from doing its business.

This place sure is vast.

She can only imagine what she might be doing – dressing herself up as exquisitely as the natives of Anor Londo, sampling the sources of the sweet whiff in the air, the bakery shops, or just taking a walk and exploring the labyrinthine city's depths.

The guard is right. Their stay here might be the best moments they could ever have.

But alors, all of that is interrupted by a sense of urgency that paints the lively streets with foreboding. Twisted Fate, Vayne and Shen are out there somewhere, either in the midst of escaping or they're caught and they are again trapped, perhaps in the deeper cells of the dungeons..

First things first.

"Let's find an inn to stay at, Emmy," Lulu goes, clasping hands.

"Okay."

An inn..

Emilia wants to ask someone about the nearest inn, but for some reason most of the people look terribly busy, their strides unwilling to be distracted by anyone asking their way around.

"Erm.." she mumbles. She tries an approaching couple. "Excuse me, do you know where the nearest inn is?"

They pause. The young man in the suit says, "Inn? Let's see, I think I saw one by that corner avenue over there, called the Pillsbury Inn. Give that a gandy."

"Merci."

The patterns of the street tiles dazzle the eye.Emilia's vision traces the whorls and spirals the shapes take on. "Over here, this way!" she would shout for the group to keep up, as if she is their tour guide, leading them on. She tries hard to spot any sign of the Pillsbury Inn, all the while her eyes are captivated by the bright lights of the place.

Almost like the city itself is designed to bombard people's senses with constant candy.

When she spots the inn's sign, she tells the others to come.

~

"This is an unplanned stay," the inn's receptionist says. "There's 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms vacant, which amounts to 350 gold."

The inn's waiting room is filled with potted flora and caligraphic hangings. Emilia is standing by the receptionist desk, tapping her feet while the receptionist is checking records. She wonders if she should've done a head count first. 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms, that should fit 27 people.

"How many people do we have?" Emilia whispers to Lulu.

"46."

"46 – 27 = 19," Emilia mutters.

"Will you accept the offer?" the receptionist asks.

Emilia will have to find another inn for the rest of the people. She looks through her pouch, fumbling between the contents for the moneybag, before paying the fee.

~

A firework streaks across the sky, exploding into a morass of red flares that fizzle into smoke.

Emilia is danubing down the street when a boy huddled by newspapers is shouting, "Latest news! Latest news! There's been a prisoner breakout from the dungeons! They're on the loose! Read all about it!"

This perks Emilia's interest. She reaches for a newspaper when the boy stops her. "That'll be one gold piece, please."

Emilia hands him one.

The boy gives her a newspaper.

BREAKING NEWS: Escaped Undead at Large
Quinton Groat, reporting from Anor Londo

In an unprecendented show of force, three undead individuals have broken free from Anor Londo's deepest dungeons. The individuals are said to be described as wearing recognisable outfits:

Individual #1: Twisted Fate
Has a signature ferrato hat, with a long jacket and boots. Special powers include (but are not limited to) card flinging, illusion creation, and short-range teleportation.

Individual #2: Vayne
Has red goggles, sleek outfit with numerous bolt quivers on belt. Possesses a talent for landing precision shots with her crossbow.

Individual #3: Shen
Has a facemask, black garb, and two cutting-edge swords. Powers include chi (energy) manipulation, invisiblity and shielding.

All three are considered armed and extremely dangerous to public safety. If you encounter them, do not engage. Report them to the nearest authority immediately.

Along which, there are sketchings of them in profile. They're not bad renditions, except that their faces verge on appearing generic.

~

After a fruitless search for another inn, the rest of the party decides to camp just outside of Anor Londo's walls.

"Now then," Emilia goes, cracking her fingers. "How do we even begin to look for those three?"

"Let me put on my thinking cap.." Lulu goes, as she puts a hat on her head.

They walk down a deserted alleyway, where it is more calmer than the streets. Clothes hang across the mildewed buildings above, and you can smell fresh dishes being cooked somewhere.

"They've escaped from the dungeons.." Emilia muses. "If I were them, where would I want to go? I wouldn't want to be caught out in the open where everyone can see me.."

Suddenly, an insight hits her.

"I'd be looking for the artefact in the Duke's Archives," Emilia goes. "Where is that, really? Lulu, do you know?"

"You could always ask someone," Lulu goes.

They emerge onto an open plaza. There are lots of spectators, surrounding the platforms where the fireworks are launched.

Emilia is captivated by the people who adjust the springing of the rockets, before lighting each of them up, exhaust smoke billowing from the platform.

"Excuse me--" Emilia taps someone by the shoulder. "Do you know where the Duke's Archives are?"

"The Duke's Archives?" The man thinks to himself. "Isn't that a rumour?"

Emilia shakes her head, not understanding.

"Well, you've never heard of it?" he says. "Lemme tell you this, it's supposed to be by the foundation of Anor Londo's greatness. Besides tons of riches, like gold, mithril, there's a rumour that an actual library has been found underneath, and what it holds on its shelves could be worth more than the entire city itself. There's powerful magicks and items that could convey abilities bigger than you can ever dream of.. But like I said.. it could only be a rumour.."

~

They journey to Anor Londo's castle.

Emilia faintly recognises the layout – looking down from the walkway, she sees buildings and streets on a lower level, with shimmering pools between the gaps. Up ahead, the castle is covered with red and white banners.

They pass by huge armours who guard both sides of the entranceway, their pikes' head high – subtle movements from them hint at their animation.

Inside, the castle's main hallway is beautiful. Every sound made is magnified and echoed through the vastness of this chamber.

Emilia is feeling a sense of deja vu.

She has been here before, in her past life.

But her memory of this place is too fuzzled for her to compare what is different in this version of the castle.

Here, the castle's opulence briefly gives Emilia vertigo. She twirls around, absorbing the sights, the ceiling's vast trompe l'oeil effect, her feet clacking on the polished floor.

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