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The Emperor's Killer Bride

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revenge
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Blurb

Disclaimer. This is a slow burn, slow paced story packed with political issues, mystery and triller. Ah, romance is a must, don’t worry. So, before you dive in, I just wanted you to know.

Blurb;

"Why?"

"Because," he moved closer, then bent his head a little to be the same height as hers. "You are one interesting woman, My Lady."

"You think?" A flicker in her eyes, and then it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. "I suppose you might be saying that just to taunt me. Everyone knows I'm a simple plain girl with no past."

"That doesn't make you any less of the woman you are." He tipped her head, to look into her eyes. "Forgive me, may I?" He asked.

Regina had no idea what he meant by that, but she nodded nonetheless. It was only after she had felt his hands on her cheeks, and then the swipe of it towards her ears had she understood.

He had asked if it was okay to tuck a lock of her hair.

Somehow, he found that simple act intimate. And so did she.

Just the simple touch of her skin ignited a lot more than he could handle, and with his hand still on her cheeks, he placed his forehead on hers.

"You are so beautiful, My Lady." He closed his eyes, savoring and inhaling her scent, and a calming feeling suddenly filled the pit of his stomach. "And you smell so nice."

His hand cupped her cheeks even more, and only after he heard her suck in a deep breath did he realize what he was doing.

****

Regina Serban Cronox hates only two things.

Failure. And being weak.

She also has two policies; kill, or kill yet again. Failure was one of the things she has no belief in. According to her, nothing is ever impossible.

Including becoming an assassin.

And fighting for her sister's death.

She was a prey in a hunt for the nobles. And then, the Emperor's concubine later on.

Her mission was to marry the Emperor, and find the right moment to kill him without anyone suspecting her.

However, fate has a different game for her when she saw the Emperor and couldn't help controlling her heart from utterly falling.

Perhaps, she was not really after the revenge. Could there be something else Regina was after? Maybe, there was more to what she had allowed to be seen from the start...

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1.
Night gathered slowly. It started from the hillside, the darkness rolling slowly across the earth like a great blanket. A chill accompanied it, like a companion who held one's hand as they walked together. Soon the earth was plunged into darkness, and the night came alive with the chitter of a million insects and the sound of restless animals stirring. Somewhere in the woods of Darlan, an ancient carriage rolled to a stop as it reached a small opening amongst the trees, where the moonlight illuminated the earth like a beacon. However, it was not the only carriage as there are several others behind it. Atleast, ten carriages to be precise. "We shall camp here for the night," the man who sat beside the driver's seat of the first carriage called. Behind them was a much smaller carriage, this one smaller and older, with an ancient mule harnessed to it. It also seems to be the case with the other carriages. Each had a smaller one attached. "Get a fire going," the man called as he stepped out. "And keep your eyes open. These woods are not so beautiful at night." As his men emerged from the second carriage and dispersed amongst the trees to gather some wood, the man walked towards the window of his carriage and knocked softly on the door. "Having fun in there?" he called in a tone full of derision. His voice was the only sound anyone heard, for no sound came from within the carriage. That wouldn't do. He swung the doors open, peering into the darkness until his eyes adjusted to it. "There you are," he said, smiling at the silhouette of the woman. "I thought you might have escaped." If Regina Serban Cronox would have things her way, the man would be dead already. The chains fastened around her wrists and ankles rattled softly as she moved, her fingers longing to wrap around his fat old neck. "Comfortable?" the man asked. Regina c****d her head as she stared at him. Perhaps she could get away with it. She'd heard the sound of his men leaving to fetch some wood. Maybe he was alone. If she could just get the chains around his neck, then she could suffocate and kill him before anyone heard a sound. That was a long wish though, for she knew even if his men were not around, there were other carriages with girls like her in them and their guards. The man before her seems to be responsible to all of them, and yet, he chose to keep his eyes fixed only on her. He seemed to guess what she was thinking however. Abruptly, the man yanked at her chains, pulling her roughly off the seat until she fell before him. A beefy hand wrapped around her face as he pulled her close, his breath which stank of fish slapping her across the face. "When I speak to you," he said in a low whisper, "I expect an answer, my dear. We are companions, after all. It's a long way to Dumborton, and it would be best if we behaved civilly with one another instead of this cold silence. You know how much I long to hear your sweet voice." Regina couldn't take it; she raised her chin confidently, then she spat directly in his face. The man fell back, releasing her face abruptly. Then, as expected, his hand slapped across her face, the force of the blow sending her backwards and collapsing on the floor of the carriage. "Perhaps you need a reminder of how the dynamic of our relationship works," the man growled, his brutish figure stepping into the carriage. He grabbed wildly at Regina's ginger hair, lifting her so she faced him directly. "I own you," he growled. "And if you don't know what that signifies, it means that your life is in my hands. I could drag you outside right now and slit your throat open. No one would know. And no one would even care." He smiled a little, then added. "The only problem is, you're already to be used for the hunt, and I bet the Kingdom of Dumborton will be pissed to realize that one of their merchandise was missing." A small gasp came from within the carriage. The man turned to the side, but he soon turned back to face Regina. "You have a choice here, you piece of s**t," he continued. "You can continue to vex me for the remainder, which would lead to you suffering even more. Or, you can behave like the lady you're supposed to be, like the slave you are and we can part ways in Dumborton amicably. Neither one of us will ever have to suffer the presence of the other again. So I ask you again, are you comfortable?" Venom coursed through Regina's veins, and the hatred in her heart was surely penetrating through her skin. He must have felt it. He must know how much she hated him. Reluctantly, she muttered, "Yes." "I didn't hear you," he said, turning so his ear was directly in front of her. "I'm very comfortable, Sir Merian," she muttered. "Thank you for your concern." "There's a good girl," he replied, the smile on his face translating to his words. And then, sickeningly, he brought his face closer to hers. Regina recoiled as his hot, wet tongue landed on her face, making its way up from her jaw all the way to her temples. Sir Merian groaned with desire as he shoved her backwards, laughing aloud. "No touching the merchandise," he reminded himself before stepping out of the carriage. "Get comfortable, slave," he said. "Perhaps this may be the last few days of comfort you might remember." As he shut the door and walked away, Regina remained on the floor, her hands trembling with spite and hatred. "Why do you provoke him?" a small voice called from beside her. Regina slowly looked up to meet her sister's gaze. Valeria had been ever-so obedient since their encounter with Sir Merian. Where Regina sought to punish the man for what he'd done to them, Valeria seemed to only care about remaining in the man's good books. Naturally, his worst impulses were thus directed at Regina, who couldn't bring herself to tolerate the man even a little. After all, what good is being with him when they've been slaves for three years, working endlessly every day just to earn the one square meal they were given. And now, they are to be taken to Dumborton, used in the hunt they know nothing of precisely. The hunt. Everyone in Candlstone knew about the hunt, but only the noble men knew the details. What the hunt really entails, no one can tell. "How can you stand all this?" she asked Valeria. "How can you sit there and let him have his way? Do you not feel any sense of self-respect?" "Of course I do," Valeria retorted. "But the difference between us is that I would rather remain silent than open my mouth and suffer nothing but pain and humiliation." She looked away, blew on the stray of her threatening to get into her eyes and added. "After all, we are nothing but slaves. And we should be glad the kingdom spared our lives despite what Father had been accused of." The atmosphere in the carriage changed quickly, and neither of the sisters said anything anymore for a longer moment. Regina found her way back to her seat awkwardly, the chains digging into her skin each time she moved. She huffed a breath as she stared out through the small window at the opening between the trees. Beyond the light, the darkness seemed impenetrable, like a cold shield blocking their view of the forest. She couldn't even begin to guess which other creatures lay deep in the woods, ready to attack them should their paths cross. "He's a cruel man," Valeria continued. "But if we only do as he says, then we might escape more humiliation. Dumborton isn't so far away now. Once we get there, we'll never have to see him again. Maybe in the future, if we ever meet him again, we can exact our revenge. But it's silly to provoke him while there's nothing we can do." Regina shook her head. Dumborton wouldn't be their solace. The horrors of Sir Merian would seem like kind gestures once they saw what awaited them in the Kingdom. The hunt, like everyone knew, wasn't something that would provide neither of them any solace. Of anything, it might be their doom. "There is something we can do," she said. Although her sister couldn't see it, there was a small light dancing in her eyes. "Go on," Valeria said. "We wait for him to come to us again," Regina explained. "Once he opens the door, he would want us to reply to whatever questions he might ask. If we don't answer, he'll be forced to enter. Then, while his attention is turned to me, you will jump on his back and wrap your chains around his neck. While he's struggling to break free, I'll stab him with his dagger and he'll fall right here. I'm sure the keys are on him. Once we remove the chains, we spring into the woods and disappear amongst the trees. His men will never find us." Valeria was silent for several moments after Regina had spoken before she said, "Well that could work, except that you'll never get the dagger from him before his men reach us. Plus, there are other carriages and other people as well." "I thought about that," Regina smiled. "Which was why I swiped the dagger from his belt while he was rambling on earlier. And I'm sure the rest are all focused on their captives as well, so we might as well seize the chance and escape." Valeria's eyes widened in shock as Regina presented the blade before her, the metal glimmering in the moonlight. "How...?" "It doesn't matter," Regina said. "Now we wait for him to return." * Meanwhile, high atop the palace walls of Dumborton, through a small window which faced the east towards the Farlan river, a man leaned out with an irritated look in his eyes. His dark, shoulder-length hair billowed in the wind as he stared at the pale moonlight. He wore a cream shirt, with buttons rather than string, and midnight-blue trousers held up by a golden belt. A brown jacket atop his shoulders. Not quite fit for a king, he thought. He groaned for the umpteenth time that night, pushing off the windowsill and began pacing around the room. Soon, a knock came on the door, and he sighed in relief. "Finally," he muttered as the door slowly pushed open and Arman stepped into the room. "My Liege," the man said with a deep bow, "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting." "Are the horses ready?" he hissed. "Just as you wished," Arman replied. "I've taken them out of the palace and secured them near the oakwood tree." "You've kept me waiting long enough," he waved his hand. "Come. We leave at once." They made their way through the winding hallways slowly, careful not to be seen. Not that it mattered if anyone saw them. But Eduardo would have preferred not to deal with any unwanted attention that night. "We'll be back soon enough, right?" Arman asked. "Your absence will be noticed soon enough, My Liege." "Since when have I ever bothered about my absence being noticed?" Eduardo asked, adjusting the lapels of his jacket. "We will return when we wish to return. For now, I couldn't possibly care less whether my absence is noticed or not." Arman shook his head solemnly. Perhaps Eduardo's absence might be forgiven upon their return, but his own fate would be quite different. After all, he was the one who carried out His Leige's bidding without informing anyone. Should something terrible happen to His Liege, then Arman would be the one to blame. The Queen Dowager was not known to take things lightly. They reached the horses undetected, and soon they were riding away from the palace, the sound of clopping hooves preceding them. The night air smelled sweet and fresh, and Eduardo felt his foul mood lift as they galloped towards the river. His white mare glistened silver from the moonlight, her soft mane billowing in the wind as they rode. Eduardo always rode without a saddle, and the horses swaying underneath him was a familiar feeling he'd grown to love. His crossbow dangled beside him, harnessed to his belt. The quiver remained with Arman, who had never quite understood the joy of riding saddle-less. His filly was neither as fast nor as powerful as Eduardo's, but she kept up with them well enough as they reached the river and wadded through the water. "Any news about the bandits?" Eduardo asked. "They've been sighted moving south, My Liege," Arman inclined his head towards south. "Earlier they were reported to have moved closer to the mountains, but now it seems they've abandoned their previous plans of robbing the valley towns and have pushed further south towards the desert. I can only wonder what led them that way." "They're moving further and further away," Eduardo remarked. "Perhaps they fear when the Royal army will descend upon them." "I fear they might have found an easier target, My Liege," Arman's eyebrows waggled. "Why else would they abandon the valleys?" "Something must be done about them soon enough," Eduardo sighed. "Perhaps when we return I shall deliberate on the matter some more." "The Dowager..." "We will not speak of my grandmother tonight," he seethed. "Tonight, we ride to seek out that elusive temptress called adventure." * Regina sat patiently in the carriage, her eyes growing heavier by the minute. Earlier, when a soft knock came on the door, she'd thought it would be Sir Merian himself, and she'd readied herself for their encounter. But it had only been a servant, who'd brought their dinner. As the boy set it down, he tried to smile weakly at Regina, who returned nothing but a cold glare at him. The boy fled, shaking his head at the shame that such a beautiful woman should have ended up with a man as cruel as his master. They'd eaten silently and reluctantly, with Regina leaving most of her portion for Valeria. She needed to stay alert, in case Sir Merian arrived abruptly and she wasn't prepared for him. But the man never came, and soon Valeria had fallen asleep. But Regina couldn't sleep. Not when the prospect of freedom was just within her reach, so close that she could almost taste it. Once they were rid of Sir Merian, they would find their way to a nearby town and remain hidden for a while. For a fleeting moment, she thought about going back. But the thought was quickly cast aside. They could never go back. Not after what had happened to them. Perhaps they might find a nice family in the town to serve. Regina had never been shy of domestic chores. Valeria would have to learn to cope, but she would soon adjust. As Regina lay half-asleep in her corner of the carriage, dreaming about her life that would soon come to pass, she heard a rustling outside. Her eyes immediately shot open, and she kicked Valeria hard so she would wake up. Thankfully, the latter didn't make a sound as she sat up straight. Perhaps she hadn't even fallen asleep at all. The door to the carriage creaked open slowly, and the brutish figure of Sir Merian could be seen outside, illuminated by the campfire behind him. Regina remained stiff as a stone, her eyes half-shut so the man would think she was asleep. He stepped into the carriage slowly, swaying as he did. A light chuckle came from his lips, and Regina felt his gaze crawling all over her. She waited however, poised and ready to strike. The door shut behind him, and he made his way slowly towards her. Just a little bit closer, and the time would be right. If she jumped him too soon, he would fall just out of her grasp and she would have lost her opportunity. But Sir Merian didn't seem to suspect anything as he stretched his hand out towards Regina. How he wished it were daylight, and he could marvel at the beauty of her ginger locks in the sunlight. His finger moved towards said hair, brushing them lightly from her face. If only she weren't as skittish as a mare. Regina recoiled as his hands touched her, but she tried to remain silent. Slowly, his hands travelled across her body, down towards her thigh. Just as he began to brush the garment away however, he suddenly fell back as Valeria leapt onto his back and threw her chains around his neck. The man grunted, his fat fingers grappling at the metal as he tried to scream. Regina was out of her seat in a flash, her hand wrapping around the man's mouth to prevent any sound from escaping. With the other hand, she reached for the dagger and plunged it into his chest, steeling herself at the sound of squelching flesh. She plunged the dagger again and again into his chest, until his large figure collapsed on the floor. She didn't bother about the other men hearing them. After all, they wouldn't suspect what was actually happening. All they would assume was that their master was having a very pleasant night indeed with the two ladies in the carriage. After Sir Merian had collapsed, Regina and Valeria stood over his figure, breathing heavily. The dagger was still in Regina's hands, blood dripping slowly from the tip. She threw it on the floor, taking a step back to examine their work. Valeria's eyes slowly came up to meet hers, and she dared to smile as they looked at each other. It seemed too good to be true. "The keys," Regina said quickly after her heart somewhat relaxed. Valeria immediately reached for Sir Merian's belt, finding the keys instantly. She unlocked both their chains, and Regina wrung her wrists as the chains fell away. "How do we get out?" Valeria asked, fervently wiggling her hands. "There must be some men right outside our carriage. And there are other carriages as well." Regina looked around frantically, searching for a way out. "The window," she gestured quickly. "It's our only way out." It was a very small window, but thankfully they weren't particularly large. Both Regina and Valeria soon climbed out and were hurtling towards the darkness of the woods, away from the campsite. By the time the men noticed what had happened, they were several yards away from the camp. Even though they could hardly see what was in front of them, they ran nonstop while holding each other's hands. Occasionally, they would trip and fall on some unseen root, or be swatted in the face by a mischievous branch. But these were all little terrors compared to what awaited them if the men should find them again. On and on they ran, never looking back. With every passing moment, Regina could almost swear that she heard the sound of hooves galloping behind them. She didn't turn around to look however. All she could think about was escape, and freedom was no longer an abstract thought, but something real; something she could reach out and touch. Suddenly the ground plummeted before them, and Valeria lost her footing and pulled Regina down with her. They tumbled downwards together, rolling across the grass until they came to stop at the bank of a river. Nearly every part of their body was covered in scratches and bruises, but they slowly found their way back to their feet. "Are you alright?" Regina asked, breathing heavily. "Never better," Valeria squeezed her eyes shut . In the distance, far to the east, the faint glimmer of sunlight was beginning to appear. "Do you think we lost them?" she asked, frantically looking around the forest. "Hard to say. I kept thinking we were followed, but I didn't see any sign of them." But then they heard the pounding of hooves, and before they could even think about running, two men had fallen upon them. "Woah!" the first man yelled, reining his white horse in. A crossbow was in his hand, and it was pointed straight at Regina's heart. "My Liege, they're people," the second man said. Regina breathed a sigh of relief as the first man lowered his crossbow. His eyes narrowed as he stared at them, taking in their disheveled state. "What are you women doing out here at this ungodly hour?" he asked. Regina's eyes swept over his powerful build, his dark hair billowing behind him. His angular features stood out prominently, and she was so stunned by his sudden appearance that she didn't even know what to say. "I..." she finally began, but was cut short by the sound of several people running towards them. The light of their torches danced from behind the trees, and Regina felt something sink deep within her. She turned to the man quickly, raising her hand in the air. "Please help us," she begged, her eyes swam with tears. "Some wicked men have captured us and they're trying to kill us. You must help us. Please." The man stared at her for several seconds, and Regina's heart kept beating wildly against her chest. The man said nothing however. Not even when the men who were chasing them finally caught up to them. Even worse of all was the fact that Sir Merian was the one who was leading the charge. "There you are, you little s**t," he growled murderously. His eyes darted towards the man on the horse, and he frowned. "Who are you?" he asked. "I could ask you the same question," the man said. "What business do you have with these women?" "They are my prisoners," Sir Merian said. "And they tried to escape." "He's lying," Regina shouted, then knelt before the man and clasped her hands. "Please sir, you must help us." The man stared down at her, long and hard. And then, shockingly, he pulled his horse away. "If they are your prisoners, then I have no right to claim them," he gripped the reins of the horse tightly. Something died inside Regina at the man's words. How could he? How could he betray them like that? Did he not know what would happen to them if they were taken? Did he not see the grave danger they were in? It was one thing to hate Sir Merian, but another to hate a complete stranger at first impulse. But it couldn't be helped, because this was the first time she had begged anyone for help ever since they became slaves. And right at her face, it was shoved down to her. A sinister loathing for the man coursed through her veins as the men with Sir Merian rushed at them. She didn't try to run. Her eyes were fixated on him, blazed with something much more than the hate she felt towards their master, and she cursed him in her heart a thousand times over. If the man noticed her hateful look, he said nothing about it. He simply stared at the beautiful woman, his face impassive as he turned his horse away. If only he knew how their destinies would intertwine in the future, Eduardo might have considered saving Regina and her sister. But he didn't. And so the wheels of fate were set in motion as he turned his horse away and both Regina and her sister were dragged away by the men they'd just escaped from.

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