Chapter 68

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As I begin to walk, I sense Cupid striding into place behind me

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As I begin to walk, I sense Cupid striding into place behind me. I glance over my shoulder and see an amused expression on his face.

I frown and focus straight ahead, concentrating on the steps in front of me.

"What?" I say "Something amusing you?"

He lets out a light chuckle.

"You're brave for a human" he says "I've never seen someone so eager to descend a dark staircase into a mysterious labyrinth full of unknown perils before..."

The high walls on either side of the stairway seem to get closer together as we make our way downwards and send thick shadows across our path.

"Have you ever seen anyone descend a dark staircase into a mysterious labyrinth before?" I ask.

There's a pause behind me.

"I suppose not" comes Cupid's light response "But it is dangerous you know?"

I don't reply for a moment, concentrating on a particularly high step. I look up at him once I have lowered myself down, my palms still flat on the stone stair above.

"I know that" I say "But I assume we're on a deadline here – what with our actual selves awaiting trial back in the Matchmaking Service..."

The corner of Cupid's mouth quirks upwards into a half smile.

"Don't worry too much about that" he says "Time in the Sim passes differently to time in reality. Hardly any time will have passed at all...which is a good thing too, because I don't know if you've noticed – but this labyrinth is pretty bloody huge..."

He trails off and I resume my journey downwards – supressing a smile despite the grim circumstances.

There must be a thousand steps or more and we move slowly, the stairs so thin and steep that on a number of occasions I stumble. Each time I do, Cupid reaches out and grabs my arm – pulling me back.

When I finally stagger out onto flat ground I feel a small wave of relief. The muscles in my legs are aching, and I feel slightly breathless, even though rationally I know that this is all just a simulation.

Nothing can hurt me in here, right?

But then I think back to what Cupid had said in Venus' dungeons.

If we die in here, then we die in real life.

I push the thought from my mind, and turn around just in time to see Cupid jump down from the last step – his face half hidden by shadow. Looking up over his shoulder I realise with a pang of panic that I can no longer see the entrance to the labyrinth.

Cupid looks at me curiously then follows my gaze up the narrow stairway. He meets my gaze; his ocean eyes a stormy blue in the dim light.

"Only one way out now lovebug" he says, raising an eyebrow.

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