Cross to Bear - Book cover

Cross to Bear

Silver Taurus

Etuicia Empire


A bump had me waking up scared. For a second, I had forgotten where I was. Sighing, I sat up and fixed my dress.

It was my second day on the road. Etuicia Empire was five days away from the Pallatine Empire. The bumpy roads and lifeless views made my days boring.

Opening the carriage window, I looked outside. So far, we were still in the Pallatine territory. One more day and we would finally leave this place. As much as I wanted to get down and rest, I couldn’t.

Good thing I brought some of my books and paper, which had been keeping me entertained. I sighed once again.

I stared up at the blue sky. By the looks of it, it was around the afternoon. Soon we would stop to rest.

The two coachmen who were with me had been kind enough to stop occasionally. They knew I’d been struggling with the ride. After all, it was my first time leaving the palace.

In all my years, I never went out. Not even got on a carriage. It was my first time. It should have been exciting, but that was the least I was feeling right now.

Just remembering the awful and painful days I had was enough to make me shiver. My father never loved me. And my sister never even dared to look at me.

Celine, that’s my sister’s name. Celine was four years older than me. Her golden locks and blue eyes made her one of the most beautiful princesses. She had everything I didn’t have, beauty.

Was I envious of her? Maybe a bit. While her white porcelain skin shined brightly under the sun, and her voluptuous body captivated everyone’s heart, I remained like the ugly duck.

My white scarred skin and face freckles made me look awful. The only thing I was happy about was my eyes. They were icy blue, just like the morning sky after a long night of rain.

Hearing the horses make a minor stir, I peered outside the window. As the carriage stopped, I tried to look at what was ahead.

“Sorry, my lady, we had to stop. It seems they are doing gate checkout,” the coachman explained with an embarrassed smile. Nodding his way, I sat back in.

I hadn’t even realized it, but we were already at the empire’s gates.

Deciding it was best to read a book, I looked for a romance book that would distract me.

I was a bookworm and addicted to those fantasy worlds that pulled me out of my miserable life, especially when my father punished me.

As the carriage ambled on, I patiently waited. By the time I looked out the window, I noticed the tall wooden gates. They were wide open as travelers walked in and out of the enormous empire’s walls.

Sellers offered different things. Curious to see what they had, I leaned on the window and looked outside. Other colorful dresses and food captured my eyes.

The beautiful colors and designs made me wonder how nice it would look if I had one. But I had no money on me.

The only money I had was in the small pouch that Mayah had given me. But I was saving that for emergencies. I missed her right now.

Smiling sadly, I got back in and closed the curtains. I wouldn’t desire something that would never happen.

The setting sun showed that it was past six. My stomach rumbled as I waited for the coachmen to stop. I needed to prepare something to eat.

When I was in the palace, I used to go days without eating. When someone punished me, they would take my food away and give me water.

But Mayah, as a loyal and good friend, brought me leftover pieces just to make sure I had something to eat.

As I heard a slight knocking coming from the front, I unlocked the small latch and looked to see who it was.

“Sorry, my lady, but we won’t be stopping tonight. We have to arrive earlier to the Etuicia Empire,” the coachman said.

Quietly, I smiled and locked the latch. That meant no food for me tonight. Deciding to give up on the idea of eating something, I lay down.

My buttocks hurt from too much bumping up and down. Even though the seats of the carriage had cushions, it still hurt. I felt as if my back would crack at any moment if this continued.

I took a deep breath. I thought about what would happen now that I was to be wed to the Etuicia Empire.

As I grew up, I heard rumors about the king of the Etuicia Empire. The maids in the palace would whisper between them about him. So I got to hear about him by chance.

After I heard them, I asked Mayah. She said the king was someone handsome but feared by everyone. They said he would torture all his women. That was a reason he never got married.

But why now? What changed?

I remembered asking Mayah for his name. I was too curious to know more about him. She mentioned she didn’t remember well, but his name started with an m.

Something about it made me look for it, but there wasn’t a single book about him in the palace.

And because I wasn’t allowed to go to the library, I had no other choice but to look at the old dusty books that they left.

Never did I get to read or see his name. It was something I was always curious to know. The king of the Etuicia Empire. Now that I thought about it, if the rumors were true, I would probably die.

Just thinking of the possibilities made me nervous. Would he torture me? Hate me? Would he punish me for how I looked?

I wasn’t the most beautiful girl, and I also was a virgin. So what did I know? I was just a girl abused at her own home.


Hearing voices, I got up. I fell asleep in the worst position. My neck and arms were stiff. I was groaning as I tried to move my neck.

Then I heard more loud voices coming from outside. Curious to see, I peeked through the curtain. The carriage was moving slowly. Did we arrive somewhere?

Uncertain of what was happening, I unlocked the small latch and called one coachman.

“My lady, we are in the small town of Riverdale. We are missing one more day. We shall stop for a while and have you rest.

“So please sit, and we will let you know once we find a place,” the coachman said as he smiled brightly at me.

Smiling back, I nodded and gave him a quick thanks. This town sounded bustling. Eager to arrive, I bit my lip and looked out the window.

The place was full of townspeople. Food stalls and merchants moved around the small market we were passing. I watched with amazement as the smiling people busied themselves.

“This is different,” I said to myself. My eyes moved curiously around. I couldn’t wait to take at least a small stroll.

After the carriage stopped, the coachman knocked on the small latch. Opening it, I looked up.

“We arrived, my lady,” the coachman said. Smiling, I put my things away and grabbed the small bag I had.

After the carriage door opened, I stepped out. My legs wobbled. It’d been a day since I stood up. Careful not to fall, I held onto the small door rail. Then, excited, I waited for the coachmen to give me orders.

We were supposed to stay for an hour. That was enough time for me to explore a little. As I remembered the spot where we were, I told them I shall be back and headed to the busy market.

Gripping my bag, I strolled around the place. I was dying to buy something, at least food.

My stomach growled as I passed by a small food stall and smelled the delicious fish. My mouth watered as I stared at the cooked fish.

“Would you like to buy some, my dear?” the lady asked as she smiled kindly. Gulping, I nodded and took out some of my coins. Paying her, I grabbed the fish and headed to the rest of the stalls.

My time was about to end. I needed to head back before something happened. Paying for some fruit I bought, I headed back to the carriage.

I was in such a hurry I didn’t notice who made a turn and bumped into me. Falling hard on the ground, feeling a slight sharp pain in my hand, I winced.

“S-sorry,” I stuttered nervously, looking up and seeing a man with a cape.

He loomed over me. I could barely see his face because the dark cloak covered it. I was cringing as his eyes met mine for a split second. I apologized again and stood up.

He didn’t say a word, so I bowed and fled from there. Why was he giving me the creeps? As I walked in a hurry, I could feel his gaze still lingering on me.

Then, looking over my shoulder, I saw him staring at me. Gasping, I fled from there almost running. It wasn’t good. I didn’t know who he was, but all I needed to do right then was get out of his sight.

Finally, I reached the carriage. Both coachmen were eating. Noticing me, one of them stood up and opened the door.

“Oh, here this is for you,” I said as I offered some apples for both of them.

“Thanks, my lady,” the coachman said, bowing. I nodded and got in.

I set the food down on the floor as I fixed my dress and hair. Braiding my hair, I felt a sharp pain again in my left hand. Looking at it, I saw dried blood. Was I bleeding?

The fall made me scrape my hand accidentally. Cleaning it with some water, I recalled the man.

He was a strange one. Just remembering him gave me goosebumps.

“Forget it, Amari,” I said to myself. Then, putting a smile on my face, I turned to grab an apple. But I wasn’t feeling that hungry anymore. So, sighing, I put it back down and grabbed my book.

It’d been a few hours since we started moving. I had read some of my books, drawn, wrote, ate, and slept. It was boring, and I was feeling oppressed. It was frustrating.

Sighing, I ruffled my now messy hair and opened the window. The cool air graced my face. The sun was setting. Were we still far from the Etuicia Empire?

I looked outside. I didn’t notice it before, but now I could see open fields with tall trees afar. The greenery and blue sky looked amazing combined.

Then, looking around the area, I saw a lake. Gasping, I sat up and stared at it.

“Wow,” I mumbled as my eyes stayed on the lake.

“That’s the Myriad lake,” the coachman said as he looked at me. “We are close to the Etuicia Empire. So be prepared.”

Smile gone, I nodded. We were close now, and I was getting closer to my new home.

Nerves started poking at me. I toyed with my hands as I started wondering how everything might be. Would I get killed? Would he punish me? Or would he abuse me?

Just the thoughts had me hyperventilating. Putting my hand over my chest, I tried to calm down.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, Amari…,” I whispered. My mind was jumbling with thoughts of what could happen. I didn’t even know who my so-called husband was.

Sniffing, I closed my eyes. I needed to keep my head high and not show my weakness.

I dried my tears with the back of my hand. I couldn’t keep crying.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled out a small bag the head maid gave me. She explained I had some needs in there, makeup, lotions, and some jewelry.

It surprised me they even gave me this. But as she mentioned, just to use as I arrived in Etuicia.

“We are at the gates of the Etuicia Empire!” the coachman yelled.

I flinched in surprise.

I hadn’t dared to open the curtains of the carriage. After I got ready, I leaned back in the seat and started preparing mentally. I looked at my hands and saw the scar from earlier.

“You’re a monster,” I mumbled.

Seeing this small scar reminded me of the ones I had on my back. I had been able to clean them a bit during the trip. Some were fresh, and others had healed a bit.

Now that worried me. Because what if the person felt disgusted?

As my mind wandered, I felt a sudden stop. The horses whinnied outside. Gripping the seat, I waited for them to say something.

Hearing a soft knock on the door, I panicked.

“We have arrived, my lady,” the coachman said.

“Thank you,” I mumbled nervously.

I fixed my things.

I made sure I was good before stepping down. As the coachman opened the door, I took a deep breath and smiled.

Eyes wide, I stopped as I looked at the palace before me. The coachman offered me his hand. Taking it, I slowly got down the steps.

I still had my eyes plastered on the palace. Its magnificent pillars and grand entrance made me feel so small. Yet, the whole place was gray and white.

What a gloomy place, I thought.

I was standing at the entrance. As I looked around me, I noticed a beautiful garden decorated the opening of this gloomy place.

There was a white fountain with an angel in the middle. Some rose bushes on the sides as other trees and flowers surrounded it.

Frowning, I noticed that a vast forest surrounded this place. Lines of trees stood in the way.

I heard someone clear their throat. I snapped my head around.

A man with gray eyes and black hair looked down at me. The man was tall and bulky. He was wearing a black uniform, but his imposing aura made me gulp hard. Who was he?

“Welcome, I’m Sasha, the head butler for the king. Please follow me,” the man called Sasha said.

Then, with a serious face, he looked down at me. Feeling uncomfortable, I bowed at him and introduced myself.

Giving a glance at the coachmen, they both nodded.

I didn’t notice it because of my distraction, but three other men were waiting on the side. They had their eyes cast down, and they were wearing the same black uniform but with golden details.

Keeping my head high, I walked in. I needed to get a grip.

As we approached the entrance, two enormous dark wooden doors opened. Some guards stood on the side as they opened them wide for us to walk in. I nodded and looked down at the floor.

I frowned as I saw my reflection on the white marble floor. The floor was so clean that it kind of shocked me. Shaking my head, I raised it and looked ahead.

My mouth hung open as it registered what I was seeing. Rows of paintings and furniture adorned the long hallway we were walking. I looked from side to side.

They decorated the gray walls with different portraits, the dark wooden frames making the colors pop out.

“Wow,” I whispered, sounding stupid.

Shutting my mouth, I saw Sasha looking at me over his shoulder. Then, rolling his eyes, he turned away. Did he also just scoff at me?

I decided to ignore it.

As I kept looking at the palace, I noticed the ceiling. It was terrific. It was high, the shape of a dome. Frowning, I stared up. Were those drawings up there?

There were drawings of small creatures on the top. It was so artistic that it looked like a story. But what captured my attention the most was that there were some dragons.

I furrowed my eyebrows as the thought played on my mind. Of course, dragons didn’t exist, right?

I continued following Sasha. We made a quick turn, and now we were in another hallway. How long were we planning to walk?

As we made another turn, I saw servants walking up and down. Some bowed as they noticed us. Others just stopped and bowed their heads. None of them looked at me, strange.

Too distracted by my surroundings. I bumped into someone. Muttering a groan under my breath, I looked up. Sasha looked down at me with a scowl. Gasping, I backed away nervously.

“S-sorry,” I said as I covered my painful nose.

Sighing, Sasha said something to the two guards.

“This is where the king is. Remember to be respectful and do as he asks. Are we clear?” Sasha said with a sigh.

Nodding, I smiled at him. Sasha turned his back to me and ordered the guards to open the doors. Nervously, I started toying with my hands. Why was I nervous now?

As the two dark wooden doors opened with a creaking sound, I heard an angry yell coming from inside. I cringed as I listened to the man curse. He sounded so mad that my body started shaking in fear.

Biting my lip, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Hearing footsteps, I looked up. Another person dressed like Sasha joined us. Asking Sasha to leave us, he asked me to follow him. Sighing, I followed suit.

I looked to the front. Head high and back straight, I took my first step. I didn’t know what would happen, but now I had no choice. This would be my new test. But was I ready for it?

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