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This chapter includes threats and scenes of violence against children, as well as threats of s.e.xual violence towards children, and implications of s.e.xually predatory behavior towards children off-screen.
Though not explicit nor extremely vivid/gore-y, please feel free to skip.
You will be notified before the action and after.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING END ⚠▪▫▪
At first, the young Athanasius was not aware of what was happening at first.
In a sudden daze, after his butler had left and the two children had been left to feed themselves, he found himself staring at his half-eaten slice of strawberry fruit cake for an unknown amount of time. He couldn't recall digging into the cake nor the taste of it.
He wasn't thinking of anything in particular, just... staring into s.p.a.ce. He heard the girl beside him place her utensil down onto the table, but could not find himself to turn and look at the commotion.
His head felt heavy and his bones were rigid. Each pa.s.sing blink, his breathing became deep and unusually steady.
It wasn't until he felt a strong presence from his right... It felt as if they were staring right into his soul.
Chills ran down his back from his neck and his fingers grew cold.
Confused and annoyed, a thought pa.s.sed by, 'She has a lot of guts to stare me down like that...'
But although he had wanted to think maliciously and in a petty matter, he could not gather any means to do so.
Thus, the boy turned to look at the plum haired girl, brows scrunched and lips parted.
There, in his sights, was the very girl he had fought with all day with her dismayed look on her golden face.
An uneasy feeling became to overcome him.
He hadn't noticed the tiny little sun freckles that gracefully danced across her face like little twinkles the first time he had met her. Her small mole that sat prettily near the center of her left side of her chubby cheeks strangely stared back at him, yet for some odd reason, felt like it'd been waving him over for him for a closer and more personal look at it; like a close friend you hadn't seen in a good while.
He tried to ignore the way she drooped her long wispy lashes in a tired but sweet manner as if she was having trouble staying awake.
He immediately recoiled as if he was disgusted at the sight of her.
This was weird. Why does she look like that? Was he looking at her like that too? He couldn't tell... Not that he wanted to know or anything.
It wasn't that she was an ugly child... She was as small and cute as his little brother, Amari, but there was something that felt a little... off.
His crimson orbs searched the dining room for answers. It couldn't just be her, right?
The soft golden glow of the gla.s.s chandelier graced the white table cloth and porcelain plates, their sliver utensils reflecting its rays.
It felt as if someone had changed the lens of his vision... Or maybe it was more sinister as if someone placed an illusion on him.
The thought of sinister intentions... Athanasius felt chills tingle down his spine.
As the crown prince of such a powerful empire, there was no doubt he was born with a target on his back. The attack at the bridge was no accident, that much he had known.
He had gone to the Valentino Estate to check up on Viviana himself (as any other prince would have and expected to do so) but let their petty childish banter evolve into something political and serious like an idiot.
He'd never interacted with such... a feral child that defied his authority as the crown prince with no hesitation, much less any fear. Any other child (besides his little brother), there was no one who dared to push his boundaries as she had.
But word spread very quickly to his father, who decided to add fuel into this wildfire.
Perhaps to teach him a lesson; to let him know that the words of the imperial heir have a G.o.dlike influence and should not be used so lightly. That with great power comes with great responsibility and that a descendant of the great G.o.ds should keep their words true and pure.
Although the young boy lacked the power to shiver, he shrugged his shoulders as if he did.
He internally groaned and gritted his teeth.
It was always a lesson to be taught.
Athanasius just wished he didn't have to involve a child much younger than he, the young lady of the Valentino dukedom.
G.o.ds, how could he be such an absolute idiot?
His ears began to ring like a ship's bell on a fisher's boat, caught in a dark and raging sea storm. His brain began to pound within his skull like a feral animal in a metal cage and his vision began to shake. His stomach felt like it was getting heavier and heavier every second and his limbs stiffened as if he had looked into Medusa's eyes.
The boy could not pin down what was going on.
He should have never done this.
"Hey," A voice called out to him. He turned to look at the duke's daughter. "You... good?"
Her voice was soft and her words were garbled, the complete opposite of how it was this entire time he had spent with her.
Like an old dusty doll with creaky joints, he slowly turned his head.
Viviana's eyes were just as hazy as his (if he had a chance to look at himself in a mirror), red-rimmed but void of any strong emotions.
He watched her as she fought against her heavy eyelids, her body steadily leaning towards the table and pushed herself to balance her head to prevent herself from falling over the dining table.
Was she drunk?
He continued to observe as she struggled to take a deep breath and her face withered in pain. She winced as she exhaled in small breaths.
Alarmed, he leaned forward and his hand reaching for her.
"—Vina... You," he responded. "You're not good."
What was that? His words slurred and his voice relaxed.
His throat no longer vibrated from his voice as he was finished talking, yet he could still feel his flesh echoing his last words.
Viviana gripped his hand, her face still scrunched in pain.
What was wrong? Was it something they ate? Why was she in pain and not him?
Fear and an odd icy-ness flushed from his head to his toes.
He shuddered as his stomach dropped to the floor. He felt the bile rise up from his throat.
There was no other logical explanation.
It must've been enough for him to live but for her to die.
While she felt unbearable and torturous pain, he could only feel nothing but numbness.
Most likely, he'll fall into a deep slumber and awaken hours later; but she'll never get that chance.
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He'd heard from Markus about the reign before his grandfather and how frequent servants died from being poison testers for their family.
His stomach churned at the thought of the horrors explained to him from his tutors about why poison testers were valuable for royalty and other n.o.bility.
He reached out to her in a weak attempt to—
'—To what? To comfort her in her last moments?' A voice scolded him from within.
He inwardly cringed at the thought and a p.r.i.c.king feeling rolled down his spine. His vision began to blur and everything about him felt hot; his nose, his veins, his hands.
He just wanted to hold her hand.
'It's... It's the least I can do for her.'
Warm droplets nearly threatened to fall at the sight of a smaller hand reciprocating the action.
A tight line appeared onto Athanasius's lips, his chest burned as if sandpaper had been roughly rubbed against it. It was hurtful yet the only warmth from within he could feel and focus on.
How much time has pa.s.sed?
When was Markus coming back?
How much longer until the a.s.sailant comes forward and reaps what they have sown?
The boy snapped his head at the cause of the commotion and upon seeing the girl's head on the dining table.
"Vina!" He called out to her.
The younger girl turned her head at facing him, eyelids barely opened and brimmed with tears.
At the sight, the boy couldn't help but feel the tears roll down his cheeks.
She probably knew what was going on; that she was poisoned and dying. That's why she fought so hard to not be Consort Rose.
Athanasius felt ice freeze in his heart and throughout his veins.
If he knew he had a target on his back: why didn't he know that by proxy, so does his Consort Rose?
G.o.ds, he was so dumb.
An absolute disgrace to the Imperial Family and the entire empire.
Why did he force her to be Consort Rose despite what happened at the bridge?
Did he only save her just so he could watch her die days later?
Tears ran downpour from his bloodshot eyes, the icy feeling inside his body only seemed to grow colder and colder. He clutched the only source of warmth he had left: the dying child's hand in his.
He felt sick to his stomach, his head wobbled back and forth, and he was blinded by his tears. Without resistance, his head fell against the white table cloth, a loud thud resonating into the air.
He winced in pain before turning his head to Viviana.
There was nothing he could do to save both of them; his limbs were weakened and uncontrollable, his mind out of focus and empty of any coherent thoughts that could get them out of this.
Then, light reflected in his eyes. He blinked a few times to readjust his vision.
'A silver steak knife?'
But before he could process what was happening before him, Viviana ran the knife directly into her lap, the sound of her cry ringing into his ears.
The boy opened his mouth to say something, but he was speechless and the sound of his heart was pumping too loud for him to hear his own thoughts.
He frantically looked at the crimson blood soaking her lavender dress and the fading light of her eyes.
"Hey!" He shouted.
She failed to respond.
He watched her shut her eyes.
"Stay awake with me!"
His breathing became unhinged, he could only state at the unconscious girl and the way her wound seemed to continuously bleed.
If he just somehow managed to find the energy to scream, would it be loud enough for someone to hear and come to their aid?
Was... Was anyone even in range to hear it?
Then he felt the heat of Viviana's hand decreasing.
He looked over her wound once more, seeing that the crimson stain only grew larger and larger.
The prince let out a blood-curdling scream.
And then there was a corona splash of an odd cooling cyan light that encompa.s.sed the two children and waved throughout the palace grounds.
The Consort Candidacy party had only begun, but what felt like mere hours was only a few minutes.
This entire day he was being dragged to one end to the other! To the baths, to the dining room, to the wardrobe, to the throne room, and finally to this wretched garden!
The day couldn't get any slower!
"Good day, sire," a young feminine voice called out to him. "I am Dahlia Elise Lieberman, daughter of Marquis Charles Lieberman."
Fiery eyes quickly glanced over at the girl; she looked like she was the minimum age to attend, long silver hair that framed around her chubby cheeks, and piercing indigo eyes that seemed to stare right at his soul.
"It is an honor to meet the daughter of Marquis Lieberman. Stories of how he continuously protects the border against our enemies have not been ignored by this crown prince's ears."
The young prince released an awkward but charming smile and softly thanked for her coming before the next girl came over to him and introduced herself to him.
Goodness gracious, was this line of girls ever going to end?
What was the point of all these introductions? He wasn't planning on getting married anytime soon. He's seven for goodness sake!
d.a.m.n this ancient tradition!
The sunshine haired prince shifted in his seat, the golden rimmed and the white cushioned chair creaked as he did.
The rose bushes behind him couldn't hide the wall of n.o.ble daughters waiting beyond them; he shuddered as he thought about how long the line had to be in order to snake around him like this.
It couldn't be any worse than last year's Consort Candidacy, could it? Regardless of the added young ladies, there was no way it could be any different. Year after year, it will always be the same until he crowns a lady Consort Rose, where only exclusive ladies of n.o.ble blood would be personally chosen by him, Consort Rose, and his parents.
Athanasius silently gritted his teeth as he greeted another n.o.ble child, his inner thoughts and feelings concealed for the better good of the empire.
"Lady Viviana!" A voice worriedly shot out. It was nothing but a soft yell, to be pa.s.sed by and ignored by those of n.o.ble blood, but heeded with urgency to those in servitude.
A male servant hurriedly walked over to Athanasius's personal butler, Markus, with sweat forming on his forehead and his breathing heaving.
Despite Markus's young age, he was an exceptional butler. He stood by his master, tall and dignified, and leaned over the shorter male servant.
"What is it, Tobias?" Markus asked in a hushed voice.
"We've lost the young lady of the Valentino dukedom. Keep any eye out would you?" The servant, Tobias, replied. "She has long tight wavy plum-colored locks, is wearing a pink and white gown, and is about this tall."
Tobias raised his right hand just below his hips, imitating the height of the lost child.
"I see," Markus nodded. The two began to mutter the whereabouts of the girl before Athanasius began to tune them out.
'How odd,' he noted. Despite this being his second Consort Candidacy party, no one had ever gotten lost before. He's even heard stories of the past parties from when his father and grandfather were a boy; not a single n.o.ble daughter had gotten lost.
"Your imperial and royal highness," another n.o.ble daughter's voice greeted him, shutting out his thoughts.
Like a statue, he carved the ever so princely smile on his lips and kindly let this girl introduce herself to him.
The sooner she could, the better. He'll have one less to deal with and another hundred to go.
If it weren't for the fact that he couldn't choose to be born the heir of a large and mighty empire, he would have chosen to be the youngest prince of an entirely much smaller kingdom or a son of a duke. To be born with much lesser power and influence than he had been born with now but still maintaining the status of n.o.bility.
"Sire, as the crown prince of the empire, it would be wise for you to research and practice the Imperial Caninan swordsmanship and etiquette. Not only would it benefit yourself and the empire, but it would also please the emperor and empress."
"Here's a list of all of the n.o.bles residing in our beloved empire. His imperial greatness would be most pleased to hear that you have them memorized before the Consort Candidacy Party."
"Your imperial father and mother both have expressed great favor in the idea of you studying Professor Hamilton Barringron's Theory of Sociology, Psychology, and Politics... before your next birthday."
"Her imperial highness has suggested for you to read up on Arthur Lamonia's Book of Science and Magic by the end of next month."
"It would greatly please his imperial majesty if you would review the Asor-Canina Book of Laws and Rules."
Of course, these matters made sense due to the fact he was heir to the throne and therefore blessed by the G.o.ds from birth as compared to everyone else. Who else could take the place of the G.o.ds' most beloved descendant and creation to rule over this domain?
But despite his many blessings, the young boy couldn't help but feel this growing ache of tiredness from training to be this and that for the sake of his parents and the empire, never once getting the chance to explore what he wanted. The mere idea of forever being expected to be someone else rather than having the chance to explore and become your own ident.i.ty... sent shivers down his very back.
For what reason why he was born besides being the crown heir?
The young crown prince knew for a fact that he was born to be a hero; to make use of the Ichor flowing in his veins and follow in the great footsteps of his heroic ancestors.
And yet here he was, sitting in a garden surrounded by servants and daughter of n.o.ble blood; with no thrill-seeking adventure set in sight anytime soon.
The young boy sighed.
"If it would not be so rude," Athanasius suddenly spoke, his voice laced with a hint of weariness and humbleness. "I would like to take a quick break. Please use this time to sit down and relax. We'll continue when I return."
The crowd of girls nodded as they were fetched by servants to seat them in open tables and chairs.
"My liege," Markus called to him, appearing behind the small boy. "Where would you like to rest?"
Athanasius rose from his makeshift throne and released a heavy sigh from his lips.
"I'd like to use the restroom, for the time being, Markus." He stated.
The young man nodded before escorting his master to the nearby latrines within the Rose Palace, walking past bushes and hedges filled with beautifully bloomed red roses.
Eventually, they sighted the tall marble pillars, decorated with the th.o.r.n.y vines and signature flower of this location, and entered the gla.s.s doors of the palace.
Markus guided him through the long hallways; floors incapacitated with white marble and red carpet, ceilings painted with cherubs and G.o.ddesses in the clouds, gla.s.s chandeliers, and windows stained with rose-themed pieces.
It was only his second time in this particular palace and garden, for all Consort Candidacy parties were to be held in this estate until he had married. Then, it would continue to be unused until his heir reached the age of 6 and the whole process began again.
Markus opened the dark mahogany door, allowing the prince to enter. With a sly grin, the butler opened his mouth.
"Your royal majesty, do you need me to— "
The young boy banged the door shut behind him, vermilion burning through his cherub cheeks.
Irritated, Athanasius scanned the restroom with his crimson eyes; his feet pa.s.sing by the soft white cushioned sofa and the oak coffee table and coursed through the golden rimmed mirror with its matching sink, and the toilet in the corner. He matched right up to the large rose stained arched window and thankfully, by the will of the G.o.ds, its lock was easy to spot and turn.
Just who did Markus think he is, huh?! He may be just a bit, but isn't a baby!
The window quietly squeaked as he slowly opened it, making sure that his dumb butler couldn't hear him escaping from this wretched place. The prince opened the window just enough for him to for through, and as soon as his feet hit the ground, he made a run for it.
The b.a.l.l.s of his black loafers kicked against the pavement and gra.s.s, as he cut corners of the designated paths. The seven-year-old boy occasionally fitted himself against th.o.r.n.y hedges and pillars to conceal himself from wandering servants or n.o.ble children.
His thrill-seeking adventure begins now! As the heroes before him, stealth was a skill absolutely required!
His destination was unknown as he snaked his way in the rosy arena, but wasn't that for all heroes? As nice as having a place to end up in or a mission to complete was, wasn't the real excitement all from exploring new places and running into challenging situations?
As the young hero wandered, his legs began to tire. Ahead of him was a rose-hedged maze leading to the Rose Lake at its center.
"When I first met your mother, we were just about your age," His father once told him, with his strong and large arms wrapped around his tiny body. "It was love at first sight at that bridge."
The sun was just beginning to reach its highest point that day when he was just a tender toddler and his father had taken time out of his busy schedule to bring him to the Rose Palace.
It had been the first time his father had taken him anywhere out of the Imperial and Anemone Palace.
"When our eyes met and I saw through your mother's exhilarating soft violet eyes," His father's usually thunderous and precise voice began to soften and sweeten at his memories. "I knew that she was the one. My one and only empress."
He remembered the path so well that before he knew it, he was nearing the sacred place of his parents.
The young hero figured that there had to be an origin point for his adventure to begin, so why not a start there?
As the rose decorated walls of hedges began to blur and intermingle, his feet began to slide against the stone path and his breath became heavy.
But he stopped at another dead end.
He had thought he remembered the way to the lake well, but could it be that he was actually lost?
Turning around, he started again. The air circulating in his lungs were ice-cold as he inhaled and sizzling hot as he exhaled.
"Wow!" A young girl's voice called out.
Athanasius stopped in his tracks and twisted his head around to look for the source of the voice.
Just who dared to reach the Rose Lake before he?
"Aw, I wish Vincenzo was here to share this sight with me!" It whined. "I'm sure he would have loved to be here with me!"
Athanasius picked his feet up again, following the voice. It had seemed to be just over the hedge...
He listened as the voice softly grunted as if someone had peered themselves over a ledge and completely leaned their body weight against it.
The boy walked and walked and walked, turning against hedge after hedge, until finally after all the sea of green and red; he spotted an opening.
And there it was, the Rose Lake and its infamous limestone bridge.
And a child hanging herself over the bridge.
Her dark violet "s" waved hair flowed like the sh.o.r.es of a beach from her head and her blush-colored dress's layers gently swayed with the breeze.
The prince's eyes narrowed.
'Ah, this is the child the servants are looking for,' He recalled.
"If you get any closer, you'll fall."
Athanasius gasped for breath as his crimson eyes shot open, his heart nearly beating out of his chest.
It was dark and he could feel the cold stone floor beneath him. The smell was horrid; it stunk like sweat, blood, and urine.
He moved his hand to lift himself from the ground, only to hear a soft rattle of metal following his movements.
Was he chained?
At that very moment, he felt the frigid touch of iron around his right wrist.
He felt the ice from the chains spread to his body.
If he were to make too much movement, would his captors jump into sight and start their malicious mission?
The chills ran wild down his spine. He dared not to shiver them out in fear of making too much noise.
He had no clue where he was, who had drugged and taken him—
— His eyes widen and as if someone had poured freezing water over him, he froze into place.
Where was Viviana?
Where did they take her?
Did they even take her?
The last thing he recalled was the steak knife and—
The boy quickly turned to what seemed to be the corner of this dark s.p.a.ce and the remainder of the lamb steak and potatoes came running up his throat.
Did they leave her body for the guards to find? As if she was just a p.a.w.n in this twisted game of chest, a little "surprise" for the Emperor to weaken the relationship between the Valentino dukedom and the Imperial Family.
The splashing of the bile colliding with the stone floor disgusted him even further and he could do nothing but gag even harder.
What was the reason? Why did she do that? What was it supposed to do for either of them in that situation?
When the boy finished, he spat out the taste of vomit from his mouth and wiped his saliva and tears away.
He hoped that the G.o.ds gave her mercy and that she had survived.
'Please... Please tell me it was just me who was taken,' He pleaded silently.
He was lucky enough that he was still wearing his clothing from before.
He crawled away from the corner and looked around his surroundings. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and it was easier to get a clearer picture of where he was.
There was a small window at the top of the wall to his right that provided nothing but the moonlight. There was no way he could fit through there despite being smaller than the average prisoner.
There was an iron door to his left, there was no k.n.o.b but a small rectangular opening that left room for food.
At the far right corner laid a small tan hide large enough for the average adult to lie in with a matching thin linen "blanket." There was no pillow.
The chain that held him seemed to be connected to the wall near the "bedding," and near the opposite wall from his position was a metal pail.
And most importantly, there was no one else.
He was alone.
He didn't want to be near his vomit any longer and crawled to his "bedding" with a solemn expression on his cherub face.
The chain softly rattled against the stone floor as he made his way across the tiny cell.
He took the thin linen and wrapped it around his small body and laid on his side against the tan hide.
He brought his legs to his chest as if it would make him small enough to slip through the cracks of this h.e.l.lhole.
Soft sniffles filled the silence and darkness and prayers filled his empty mind.
The hide began to soak up his tears that fell.
G.o.ds, if he was the crown prince, how could he be such an idiot? Was it hubris? Ignorance? Pride?
At the sound of an iron door slamming open, Athanasius immediately shot up from his position. He wiped away his tears and sat with his knees up. The linen blanket surrounded him like a cloak if he ducked hid head under it, he might just blend in within the darkness and return home.
The sounds of loud and heavy footsteps quickly followed the sound of panting.
"You little b.i.t.c.h!" A loud and gruff voice aggressively bellowed.
The sounds of chains banging against the floor and itself sung into the air, loud and unhinged; like the prisoner in chains were actively trying to escape from them.
A young child's cries and yelps joined in addition to their struggling.
Athanasius's heart dropped to his stomach and ice began to fill the empty hole in his chest. His fingers shook as he tightly gripped the linen around him.
How many other children here, taken away just as he? That child sounded so scared, so in pain, was that going to happen to him next?
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING (1) ⚠▪▫▪
"You're lucky my lord is desperate for you to live with all of your limbs!" The man shouted. "If it were up to me, I would have torn you apart with my very hands!"
Athananius could hear the man spit, presumably on the poor child.
"I f.u.c.king wish you would!" The child yelled back, their voice just as guttural and hoa.r.s.e as the man's.
A slap and a yelp resonated into the air. The boy flinched.
"You've got a vulgar tongue on ya, despite being a duke's daughter, you cheeky little s.h.i.t!"
Another slap and a yelp.
Despite his efforts, bile ran up his throat once more as his heartbeat increased and his trembling became increasingly more frantic.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING END (1) ⚠▪▫▪
Was... Was that Viviana?
He gulped the contents back down.
His blood ran cold as he shakingly stood. He made large steps across his cell in a weak effort to reach the small opening faster.
His legs could carry him no more as he fell a foot away from the iron door. He desperately crawled to it and crimson eyes peeked through the opening.
The hallway was poorly lit, nearly just as dark as his cell if it were not for the lit torches near every few cells.
"And what about it, s.h.i.tface?"
They were coming from his right but not yet close enough for Athanasius to spot them from the corner of his eye.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING (2) ⚠▪▫▪
The man huffed and the sounds of chains violently collided with the stone ground. The child yelped upon contact.
"You sound awfully a lot like the wh.o.r.es at the rundown brothels," Chains slid across the floor and tinkled.
He could hear the child loudly panting and their tiny little footsteps pounding towards his door, but it wasn't until he heard the child squeal and the chains yank that he had realized what was coming next.
"I won't hesitate to use you like one."
"Why don't you do us girls a favor and go f.u.c.k yourself—"
A clap boomed into the air like thunder and like a flash of lightning, the child in question suddenly appeared in front of Athananius's iron door. The impact of their fall caused the sound of their chains to vibrate through the floor so hard that even the soles of Athananius's shoes felt it.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING (2) END ⚠▪▫▪
The child had landed on their back and groaned in pain.
Knotted wavy plum strands and a red-stained lavender dress.
Athanasius released a small cry from his lips, hot tears trickling down his eyes.
It was most definitely the girl who dined with him.
Her face was dirt-stained and the left side of her cheeks was red and swollen, bruising to a nasty purple quite quickly as seconds pa.s.sed by. There was a minor scratch on her right temple and a minor cut on her right side of her jaw.
Her small tan hands came to caress her injury, the cut on her jaw, as tears rushed out of her eyes.
She could not find any energy to pick herself up from the impacts of the fall yet refused to sob.
An iron door opened again, and the loud footsteps of another person could be heard throughout the hallway.
"You f.u.c.king idiot!" The new voice was more guttural and lower than the man who had been escorting Viviana. "What did you do to the poor girl?!"
"S-Sir, I was just teaching her a less—" the man from before responded in a panic voice, trying to defend himself before he was cut off.
She blinked out her tears as she tried to recollect her mind and care for her injuries with what little time she had left until she was to continue her journey to her cell (or to her death, a dark voice reminded Athananius) with the man.
"— A b.l.o.o.d.y f.u.c.king lesson?!" The other man ended for him. "Do you have any idea what happens if we make her bleed?!"
"Vina!" He shouted in a hushed whisper.
His fingers curled around the opening of his cell and he violently shook the door, as if it would be enough force to open the door and aid the girl.
The girl seemed to recollect herself at the sound of her name and made eye contact with the source of the voice.
Her eyes and mouth opened in shock yet her voice did not dare to escape. She sat up, the gravity forcing blood to trickle down her nose. She quickly crawled to his door, her fingers carefully pinching her nose.
"What do you mean—"
"— Lord Duncan is going to kill you, that's what I mean! You've gone and f.u.c.ked up the poor girl!"
With her free hand, Viviana softly placed it over Athananius's trembling ones, her glistening eyes providing rea.s.surance.
The boy looked at the girl with concern and guilt; how long had she been taking the end of these beatings while he laid here unconscious?
The prince brush in small sobs at her touch, he knew there was no way to help alleviate her pain yet she did not show anger or contempt towards him.
"Whatever, just go get Dr. Willis! I'll put her in her cell. Under no circ.u.mstance are you to be alone with her ever again!"
Footsteps could be heard near their position.
Viviana's eyes widen and she swiftly released her b.l.o.o.d.y nose and marked his door with a b.l.o.o.d.y handprint.
"You there!" The other man called out to her.
The younger girl jumped at the voice and turned to her new "escort."
A large hand grabbed her by her dress's collar and dragged her away from the door. She stopped resisting and let the man take her two doors down and opened a cell door that was thankfully on the opposite side of Athanasius.
The boy was thankful that her cell was in his line of sight.
The man was too tall for Athanasius to see his face but he wore his sleeves up and had a sinister tattoo of a snake on his left forearm.
His skin was deeper skintone but he couldn't tell what undertone in this poor lighting. He was lean but looked like he could pack a mean punch by the look of his calloused hands and muscular legs.
His clothing looked Like any other common clothing: black slacks with a matching vest and a white dress shirt.
If only he could see his face...
Athanasius grit his teeth.
The snake man threw Viviana into her cell and followed her into it.
The sounds of her chain clinking helped Athananius confirm that the man was chaining her to the wall.
Then all of the color on his face disappeared when the man returned to her cell door and turned to him.
"You best to look away and cover your ears, kiddo."
And then the iron door closed shut.
Athananius cried out the younger girl's name; it was the only thing he could do until the doctor arrived.
Viviana laid on her bedding, her hands still dutifully caressing her wound and b.l.o.o.d.y nose. She tried to think straight, tried to figure out her next steps of saving herself and Athanasius.
What was it that she could do; besides shed her own blood, sweat, and tears? The magic her father taught her failed to save them back in the dining room. The blood she bled from newer injuries did nothing but paint markers to help her find Athanasius's cell and the door out of the dungeon— provided that their captors weren't too strict on cleanliness.
She felt nauseous, sleepy, hurt, and empty. Her vision went back and forth: to seeing black spots in the air to eerily clear within a matter of seconds, and her hearing felt m.u.f.fled. She heard yelling, but couldn't catch what the person was saying.
"Viviana," a gentle voice called out to her. Calloused hands softly stroked the sides of her face before delicately rubbing their knuckles against her forehead.
The girl's eyes were drooping and failing to look into the man's eyes. They were a soft light jade green when she squinted to get a better look. The lack of light made his deep olive skin seem darker than it would have been if they were under the nice warm sunlight.
"I'm Savino Nerio, a friend of your father's."
She blinked a few times. She reviewed his black curls and thick brows, and thick beard and mustache.
Was she supposed to recognize him from somewhere?
As if he could read her mind, he replied, "I was there when you were born, at you and your brother's birthdays up until you were three. Unfortunately, I've been undercover for the last few years."
And what was she supposed to do? Trust him? Despite his co-worker battering her and threatening to do the worst to her? Just who did he think she was, huh?! The heroine?! h.e.l.l nah! No, sir!
"You have a concussion," She blinked as if she didn't come to that conclusion herself. "Have no fear, the doctor will be here shortly."
She faintly nodded. For now, she'll trust him. She can't do anything right now anyway. But when she's all healed up, it's over for these hoes!
'b.i.t.c.hes...' She bitterly thought. 'Just you wait...'
"Listen," Savino came closer, his mouth neared her ear. "Recover your strength for now. I'm going to contact your father as soon as I can, but you'll have to endure until reinforcements come. I'm sorry, mimma. I'm not in a position to blow my cover and kill these b.a.s.t.a.r.ds yet."
She tiredly nodded once more, taking his words in with a grain of salt.
He let out a sigh of relief and took the thin linen blanket, placing it over her body. He then pushed the fabric under her body, tenderly tucking her in.
The iron door swung open, an old man with a graying hair and circular framed gla.s.ses stood in the doorway. He carried a suitcase.
"Dr. Willis," Savino greeted him. "I'm afraid she's lost more blood and is currently suffering from a concussion, no thanks to Benson."
"Ugh," The doctor groaned. "That brute needs to control his temper. He has absolutely no idea that what Lord Duncan will do to him if this... product worsens."
The older man stomped his way towards the girl and kneeled beside her. He unlocked his briefcase and began to access her wounds.
He then chuckled.
"Thankfully she has a few minor cuts that will leave such scars," the wrinkled fingers of Dr. Willis ran over her jaw. "I can't imagine what would happen to us if she endured any further damage."
Viviana cringed and flinched away from his touch.
At that, Dr. Willis laughed.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING (3) ⚠▪▫▪
"You flinch away from me now, though just a few moments ago I was bandaging your thighs."
She cringed even further and held in a gag. She didn't want to be reminded of that.
▪▫▪⚠ TRIGGER WARNING (3) END ⚠▪▫▪
"It matters little." The doctor turned to Savino. "Since she shows clear disdain towards me, it's up to you now, Lloyd."
Dr. Willis rummaged through his suitcase before handing a few small bandages, a jar of pills, a jar of cotton buds, and a jar of clear liquid to Savino.
"Just disinfect her wounds and cover them. Give her two pills of these painkillers when you're finished."
"Roger that, doc."
And with that, the older man left.
Savino swiftly opened the jar of the clear liquid and took a small whiff of it before nodding and moving onto the jar of cotton.
"It's safe," Savino pointed out.
Viviana failed to find her voice. She could feel herself slipping away by the minute.
She felt a cold liquid cooly smooth over the skin on her face, the burn of the alcohol igniting into the wounds on her face. She winced when Savino went over the cut on her jaw.
it felt like hours until he was done disinfecting. She lazily watched him dig through his pockets and pull out a familiar tiny tin container. Savino's long fingers speedily twisted it open, the sharp smell of nostalgia tingled in her nostrils and bit at the corners of Viviana's eyes.
The man rubbed his finger at the white balm in a rapid manner and began to apply it to her injuries, leaving behind a blistering sensation.
'This...' Tears blinked out of Viviana's eyes. 'This is definitely Tiger Balm...'
And with that last thought, the young girl pa.s.sed out from the overbearing pain.