The alluring maiden laid her gentle hands on my right shoulder. As I watch my caretaker vanish into the horizon, she turned to me. As she looked into my eyes, I begin to feel uneasy. Seeing such beauty this close is almost lethal to a man like me.

"Now, shall we go inside?" She says in a calm voice.

"Y-yes... Of course..." I say as I swallow a huge lump in my throat.

I start walking inside the building. With my bare feet, I feel the smooth floor slide againts my bases. I stand in awe as I look at the marvelous inside of the structure. Pillars line up behind each other standing tall and proudly showing off their artistic dsigns. It seems that each of the pillars have a unique design carved by only the most talented artists. The whole floor is patterned with an elaborate design while it's smooth surface reflects a gigantic, extravagant chandelier with countless glass pieces and even precious gems. I feel a bit intimidated by it as it hangs halfway from the ceiling. It looks like it could kill a man if it ever to drops on one.

The door closes gently behind me. I didn't bother to turn around. I was too busy admiring my surroundings. The alluring woman walks up to my side and stares at the interior with me.

"Do you like it?" She asks me.

"Yeah... It's very beautiful..." I reply to her.

"Yes, only the best artists were summoned to work on this magnificent building."

"It certainly looks like it." I say jokingly.

She giggles a little. Even her laugh is enough to send chills down my spine.

"Why of course, the imperial palace only deserves the best, doesn't it?" she says as she walks ahead of me.

"Come, follow me, I need to get you cleaned up."

The imperial palace? What? I'm in the imperial palace? Why in the world am I in here of all places? I thought I was supposed to be sent to a new prison... Questions surfaced to my head one by one. Feeling confused, overwhelmed and clueless altogether, I follow the beautiful maiden like a lost puppy as she walks ahead of me.

"The imperial palace...? This is the imperial palace?" I ask her as I walk to follow her direction.

"Yes. the imperial palace. Well at least the imperial palace for this region. When his majesty visits, he will stay in this palace so we have to make it look as elegant as possible." she replies.

As we take the stairs to the upper floor, a corridor lined with busts of what looks like dragons of some sort greets me. My muck encrusted feet soils the smooth floor with each step I take; And as I gaze down from the staircase, I see female servants clean up after my dirt footprints. The second floor seems to be of emerald color and painted in an ornate fashion. Doors line the walls as we pass them one by one.

"What is your name?" she asks me as she keeps on walking.

"...Raphael..." I answer quietly, still embarassed to be talking to her with my current appearance.

"Raphael? Raphael what?"

"Raphael Clarin..."

I feel my cheeks redden as I tuck my head behind while she treaded ahead of me. Her footprints halt which startled me. We stopped at a huge door with demon paintings on it. Ironic for such a beautiful place to have this kind of satyrical painting on it. I stared a bit at her figure.

The beautiful woman turned to me once more. Gently swaying her hand, she gestures to the door.

"Well, Raphael. Why don't you go inside?"

Not knowing how to properly take to that suggestion I slowly stepped towards the gigantic door. With my feet jittering, the cold floor touching the bottom of my feet. At this point almost everything has been surprising me. I feel no different with this door. I wonder what's next?

slowly opening it, managed to take a peek before I went in. It was no use though, as like my dungeon cell, it is ever as pitch black in there.

"Hehehehe, Don't worry, it's just a bathroom." The woman says from behind me.

Tossing me a matchbox, she looks over me to the crack at the door.

"You might need that in there. It's hard to bathe without light you know."

A fragrance wafts from within the door. somewhat floral, and sweet. A very relaxing combination of fragrances catches my attention.

The beautiful maiden turns to the side.

"I must take my leave now. I have other important matters to attend to. But if you need any assistance, just ask for me from any staff you see in the palace. Of course, you don't really need to. You may ask them any request you want. I'll see to it that they tend to you if needed."

She begins walking away, her raven hair shining like the palace floor. The stained glass windows in the palace beams sunlight inside the building. Funny. Yesterday the only light I was able to see was the small ray that greets me when my caretaker brings me my meal. And now, these elegant lights dance before my eyes to entertain me. I still don't understand it, but It seems as though my luck is starting to change.

Before the alluring woman could disappear, I called out to her.

"W-Wait....! Umm... What's.... your name....?" I pathetically ask.

She turns around with grace and replies.

"My name is Lea."

With a mesmerizing smile, she turns around once more and continues on her way; leaving me with mouth wide-open and in awe.

Holding the matchbox that Lea gave me, I proceed to open the bathroom door. As expected it is most definitely pitch-black inside, so I light up a matchstick and illuminate the dark room.

As the light crawls outwards scattering the darkness, it uncovers beautiful arrays of ceramic figurines on top of the sink. Most of them are angels, and there are a few that resemble women around flowers. above the sink, hangs a huge mirror, decorated with ceramic pink roses.

It was pretty girly... I wouldn't put these in my bathroom if it was up to me. Whoever thought of bombarding this room with pink clearly has an obsession with it...

I turn around to see a gigantic tub. It gapes like a whirlpool in the sea. on it's edges seems to lie a line of ceramic containers. I'm assumng that it's for the soaps and such. a slender pink floral rose pattern run down the side of the containers. I cringe a little as the room continues to to be filled with the aroma.

approaching the daunting monster, I notice a Rose shaped candlestick as well as other shorter candles line the edge nearer to the wall. As I lit them up one by one, more of the ugly darkness run for cover. the water in the tub glimmers as the light from the candlestick dances on it. Leaning in, I notice that the water is the source of the aroma. It seems like the water was premade even before I came here. To be honest, it's a bit too much to smell at this distance. I close my eyes a little as I step in it.

As my dirt encrusted feet gets in the tub, the dirt begins to float away. I lie back at the edge of the tub, slightly raising my feet. I close my eyes, trying to detach myself from the physical world...

"Raffy! Raffy! I'm so glad you're alive! I missed you so much...!"

"I missed you too Terell...!"

I pull him by the hand into a tight, loving hug.

" I NEVER want to be away from you again! I love you so much, Raffy...!"

"R-Really, Terell? I... Me too! I love you so much too!"

We laugh. We're so happy, everything's over. and we're together again...

I look down at his pretty face. stroking his beautiful golden hair.
All of the sudden, tears start to well from his eyes.

"Raffy... Raffy it hurts..."

feeling confused, I ask him.

"What? What hurts, Terell?"

To my horror, he pulls away from our embrace, and blood spills out of his stomach. a blade seems to mock me as it pokes out of his body.

"Raffy, why didn't you come for me, I waited for you! It hurts so much! Please save me!"

Distressed, I fall to my knees. sounds of men laughing fill my ears seemingly crowding around us. I shut my eyes tightly and cover my ears....


My eyes peels wide open as I gasp for breath. I shift myself and look around quickly. the water makes sounds as I move my arms and body about.

"It was just a dream.... Thank god...."

I couldn't bear the thought of Terell dying... What was it? was it a message? was it a sign?
No... I can't lose hope... He's not dead... He can't be!

I look over to the rose candlestick. The candle seems to be halfway burned out... How long have I slept? I step out of the tub and pull the plug. I watch as the water slowly drains into the abyss.

As the water drips from my body, I reach for the towel hanging adjacent to the tub. Rubbing myself dry, I make my way to the sink. I see my reflection as it stares blankly at me from a sunset world.

"That's much better..." I say to myself.

Not the best, but definitely better than before.

I glance down at the sink. Inside a floral ceramic container stands a toothbrush, and a blade razor. I reach for the blade with my left hand. Putting it up to my face, I slowly run it down my chin and cheeks.

I smile a little, holding the blade.

That looks more like the me Terell knows.

The End

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