Why is it so high? Esme wondered as she stood inside the dungeon.
The past three days, she went through the selection process and eventually got a job in the castle solely relying on her wits. All the while, she has been looking for the woman with whom Arlan had left but she could not find her at all.
Left with no choice, she started looking for the dungeon in the castle. Although Arlan left with the woman willingly according to what Aunt Mary witnessed, but she wanted to make sure that he was not trapped or tortured here. It was possible that he offended someone which landed him in this situation. And that was not impossible if one considered how stubborn her brother can be.
But finding the dungeon took her two nights and when finally she found it, getting inside with elite guards at the entrance was further challenging. But now that she finally managed to get past every obstacle and enter the cave-like dungeon, she was once again stuck.
Inside the cave-like dungeon was a cliff where she was standing and beneath it remained a deep lava river that was responsible for the temperature rise inside the dungeons. Her skin was burning at this point.
She wondered how would the king visit the prisoners if he wanted to do so? Her gaze wandered off to the vines near her head. By using this?
Esme caressed her arms as she looked at her reddening skin.
The sudden voice made her alert as she quickly turned around. "Ah..."
Her eyes widened and she lost her balance and stumbled backward. A strong gust of heated air hit her body. She closed her eyes instinctively, her arms curling around her body.
But in the next second, the rolling waves of heat disappeared as she found herself being soothed by a cool sensation.
'Am I dead already?' She stuck closer to this source of comfort without opening her eyes.
Heavens, I have never sinned in twenty-one years of life. Must you do this to me?
Esme wanted to cry so bad at this point but she lacked tears.
The deep voice had her open her eyes within an instant. The first thing that came to her view was a pair of ice-blue eyes and that handsome face like that of an immortal.
She glanced behind. They were standing on the other side of the lava river. She still remembered that feeling of being almost engulfed by the fire.
How did she manage to come here? Who is this man? What kind of powers does he possess? The questions flashed in her mind one after another.
"As irresistible as I am, I don't appreciate someone clinging to me like this," The man said, his eyes filled with mirth.
Esme blinked as she glanced at her hands that were indecently tangled up in his clothes. Her fingers trembled, "Neither do I appreciate someone holding me," She softly said, looking at the powerful arm wrapped around her waist.
"The King won't appreciate having someone break inside the dungeons in the middle of the night, either!" Aleister said, taking a step back as he created some distance between them.
Esme glanced at the man dressed in ordinary black clothes, "I am new in the castle. Forgot my way and entered this place. But will the King forgive you?" she looked into his eyes, her mind wandering to a faraway time. She could not put a finger on what she was thinking.
"So, you've got the excuse ready, little thief. We can try," Aleister chuckled, "I think I should take you down."
"Even at the cost of your life?" Esme was confused. This man wanted to expose how she barged inside the dungeon even knowing that, he too, will be executed for doing the same?
She was not his nemesis. Why must he do this to her?
"Nothing will happen to me, you see," He shrugged.
Esme frowned as she lowered her head. Her fingers tapped on the side of her dress, "You...Are you a guard here?" She hesitantly asked. Although his face did not resemble the guards standing outside this cave-like dungeon but his clothes did.
The man did not respond.
Her shoulders slumped for a split second. It seems like her guess is on point. Esme sighed, "I-I am sent here by someone..." The last time she remembered she almost blasted the kitchen, she could not lie to her Aunt properly.
Lying was not her forte but the situation was demanding it.
Aleister feigned shock, "Sent by someone? Who? By the enemies?"
"Ah, No...It is His Royal Highness Prince Aleister who sent me here," Esme thanked the heavens that she managed to say it without stuttering.
In these past days, she has been hearing the mention of this man again and again, about his fearsome reputation, his weird antics, and his ruthlessness. So much so that this Prince seemed to have overshadowed the presence of the King of Visteria and it was stuck in her mind.
"Oh? You know Prince Aleister?" Aleister glanced at her in amusement.
"What has it got to do with you?" One more lie and she will end up exposing everything.
She already spotted a wooden door on the other side that was slightly opened revealing the castle walls. This place was less dungeon and more of a maze. She turned around to leave.
"Prince Aleister is still a Prince. I want to take this matter to the King," He chuckled when she paused in her tracks.
Esme turned around as she inhaled a deep breath, "What do you want?"
Everyone in the castle seemed to be fascinated yet frightened by the mention of the name of the Prince. Then, why was he so calm? As if he did not fear anyone.
But what he said sounded true to her. There is a certain difference between a King and a Prince. What's more...She was already lying about knowing Prince Aleister. If this matter came to light, she will be thrown in this lava river she just escaped from.
Aleister folded his arms in front of his chest as he walked towards her.
"I am poor. I don't have money," She gulped when his gaze trailed past her neck and below.