She gasped for air through her clenched teeth, her furious stare piercing through him. "I always knew you'd be one to treat a girl like this, Morris," she said with a forced yet mocking smile on her face. Beads of sweat trailed their way down from her brow.

"Oh, you figured. My usual targets are the vainglorious, puny, and thoroughly pathetic ones. Everything you're not, Lara." He held her by her chin, their faces mere inches apart. "You see, I've always admired that in you, my dear. Then again, you've always been an exception in my eyes."

"All the more evident that opposites do attract. It's unfortunately one-sided in our case, Robert. Pity you can never shape up to be in my league."

He turned his back on her—"Well then, if it's only by force that I can convince you otherwise, then I'd gladly abide by it!"—and landed a forceful slap on Lara's face. Enraged, Robert roared, "Give it to me, Lara. Give—me—Excalibur!"

There was a metallic taste in Lara's mouth. She tasted blood, but her tied hands kept her from wiping it off her lips. "Demanding, aren't we?"

A dagger in hand, Robert cut off the ropes knotted around Lara's wrists. She screamed in pain as the blade inflicted grazes on her forearm. Freed from the rope that dangled her from the ceiling, Lara fell feeble on the concrete ground…and felt a sting on her scalp.

"You are going to regret ever meeting me, Lara Croft." Robert Morris grabbed Lara by her loose hair and dragged her across the room. "Seems you've lost your touch! Look at yourself, Lara—you're nothing but an über-pathetic drag!"

Her body was stamped with bruises all over, rendering her frail and unable to force her way out of Robert's grip. All she could do was scowl in pain, feeling every inch of the rough floor rubbing against her body. Forming tears started to blur Lara's vision.

Robert pulled her up by her elbow with sheer aggression, and thrust her head into a barrel full of water. He held her there for seconds, and tugged her head up violently.

"You're still not telling me where the sword is, are you, Lara?" Robert vehemently whispered into her ear, his lips touching her face. Lara could only gasp for air in between coughs. "Ah, so you're not?"

Even getting dunked into water felt like hitting the wall. Lara shuddered as she vainly struggled to break out of Robert's hold. He looked at her drowning—dying—almost filled with pity. His anger and despair could not eclipse the feelings he had left for her. Slowly, he let her go, allowing Lara to vacuum in lungful of air. Soon, they lingered calmly where they stood.

Lara felt a tingle in her knees, and fell on them—hard—on the floor. Kneeling, she felt her veins pounding in her head. Her grazes stung, her bruises throbbed. All she could feel was weakness in every fiber of her being.

"Lara," he said almost whispering. "I thought you'd be wiser." Robert walked past her. She closed her eyes, and heard the door close.