The Evil Prince
by : Sakeena [email protected]

**note : this should be divided in chapters, but I'm too lazy anyway so never mind.. ^^;;**

It was on my wedding day that the Vegans attacked. For some reasons, I was almost relieved, evil daughter as I was. I didn't have to go through the wedding. Not that the guy I was to marry was a total bastard. No in fact he was a great figure in our society, well bred good mannered, smart and indeed every inch a gentlemen. Why else, would my father the King pick him among all other young unmarried eligible men, walk his one and only daughter. the princess, walk down the aisle and be her lawfully wedded husband ? No he was definitely the perfect man, son of a famed but retired general who was a notable figure himself. I knew I should be honored, that the man I was to marry was the man every woman in our Empire dreamed of marrying; it was the day every woman in our should be dreaming of. But I was not every woman. I hated it. I hated our society. I hated our traditions. I hated those elders who passed it to us. I hated the people. I hated my mother and father. I hated Leon Simms. And most of all I hated myself. I hated myself for being so weak. For being so much of a coward. For not defying my father. For being a woman. Had I been a man then probably I could rule the kingdom myself and my father need not look for a suitable man fit to be his son in law and eligible to succeed him as the next Cretian ruler. Yes, the priests, and elders, our traditions, would be wronged had I been trusted by my own father to rule his Empire, Crete. Women were just too weak. Too frail. Too pure and innocent. But how could I prove them wrong if the mere chance to do so was deprived of me? As a crowned princess, I had no right. No freedom. No nothing. I could not even decided for myself. I was just a decoration. And that was why I saw the Vegan attack as a blessing in disguise.

My delight vanished as I saw from where I stood in the altar, beside a statue of an angel, in my silk white wedding dress, surrounded by people in chaos, the Vegan king Alfred IV, stab my father and mother to death. Everything was suddenly so dark. My sight was blurry. Everything seemed to happen in a slow motion, yet it was too fast that all I ever did was stare wordlessly. Tearlessly. The whole church was being torn in shreds. There was fire. That walls were collapsing. People killing or being killed all around me. But I did not care anymore.

At the corner of ,y eyes, I saw this angel. this glorious statue, his head cut off on his hands clutched a dagger. A silver dagger. Even he was not spared. I reached for it, the only weapon I had. The very first one to touch my hands.

The building was crumbling. Alfred IV was leaving, his son Olivier urging him out. iv ran behind the old king and stabbed him once. There was no way he was leaving alive. Twice. For my parents. Pulling the bloody dagger from his body, I stabbed him again. Thrice. I was taking him with me. I will take him to hell.

His body fell gradually to my feet. and my sight was welcomed with Olivier, his eyes wide with shock. I just killed his father. He would be king. As I would be queen.

His blue eyes turned from shock to anger. A Vegan soldier came from behind him, calling his name, warning him, telling that the church was collapsing. Without turning around, his he shot the soldier dead, his furious eyes on me. Suddenly, I was horrified, seeing the fallen body at my feet, my hands bloody. I was no longer pure and innocent. I just committed a crime. I killed somebody. I could not walk. I was just frozen there, unable to move as Olivier walked nearer to me. Helpless. Hopeless. He will take me with him to hell.

The building collapsed. I saw an arm right above my head. Then blackness. Total blackness.

There was acute pain on my back. I felt cold. I could not breathe. I turn. The pain was still there. So everything was just a dream. Just a dream. A bad dream.

My eyelids felt heavy but I opened them. All was black at first, but my gaze cleared. Everything. Everything was gray. Probably I was in hell. Another kind of hell.

I was at loss. I could not remember a thing. Who I was. Where I was. What I was.

Gradually, it dawned to me the painful truth. That I was a Cretian princess. I was not in hell, but worse. That there was war. That my parents died. That I was the queen. That everything was no dream. That was everything was all reality. All.

I was in a cell. Both my arms and legs were confined in a metal cuff five inches thick. I had another set around my ankles and on my neck. It was cold on my skin. On a corner I was slumped. On the silky white spaghetti wedding dress.

The Vegan people were cruel. That was what they always say in Crete. Vega and Crete were rival Empires, since the dawn of time. They killed and slaughtered one another. As the heir to the Cretian throne, I expect nothing but the worse, the worst of the worse of the cruelty of Vega. They will, I was most certain, kill me and Crete will come after Vega.

All the while I was alone, I thought of this. I did not fear what would happen to me, but I feared what would happen to Crete. Suddenly, I was so worried of the people I had despised. Of the traditions, and elders, the priests I had loathed, of the Kingdom I once abhorred. All the things my father , the king and my ancestors worked for all their lives, the great kingdom they fought and died for with all their sweat and blood, will vanish just because of the weak daughter of King Julius XI who could not do anything against Vega. The elders and the priests ere right all along. Women were weak. Frail. But then later, a part of me comprehend Crete coming under Vegan rule would be better. At least, there would be no more wars to be fought, no more lives to be lost.

All the time I was alone, the only thing I could think of doing to preserve Crete was to commit suicide. Vega could not use me against Crete and I will give honor to myself as well as make my parents proud. But how? I had nothing. The silver dagger was nowhere. Bang my heads against the wall? The thought horrified me. Before I could gather up the courage to do it as I touched the wall with my fingers, however, the cell door swung open. It was too late. I was indeed a weakling.

I was brought before Olivier, as the new king sat on his throne, a red head woman standing beside him while his sister, Princess Amanda sat on his other side to his left. His eyes had calmed down but I could sense he was still furious. But he was still furious. The guards ushering me forced me to bow down to him, their feet kicking my head down to kiss the floor. I ignored them, did my best to resist them, but in vain. They only stopped when the red head woman shouted at them irritably, "And why not bow to him yourselves, fools?" The guards suddenly went down their knees and I stood up quickly. The guards scrambled away as the same woman ordered. I remained standing, staring straight ahead, trying to erase my fear.

"I guess there is no way I can make the Princess of Crete bow down to me," Olivier mused with a smile, his hair was long and golden, tied behind him neatly in a queue. He wore a roman sandal, a long flowing white toga and a golden headdress I've seen all past Vegan rulers wore. He was indeed a King now. His sister, a blonde like him, with the same long hair flowing smoothly behind her, sat beside him , with the same blue eyes. Only it was compassionate. I said nothing in reply to what he had said, and the king laughed merrily. "Oh. I meant Queen. Queen Catherine XIV."

I remained in silence. The woman beside Olivier, in skimpy clothes, in frustration, used her whip on me. The princess gasped. "Talk woman. "

"Or else what?" I asked in a calm voice, feeling the pain of the whip on my body. The tranquility in my own voice surprised me. I was a pretender. Deep inside, I was scared. "You will kill me?"

I guess I asked the wrong question. Olivier, the Evil Prince, spared me. All because that was exactly what I had in mind. How I want it all to end. I was sent back to my cell as he decided over my fate. Later I found out I was not the only captive. With me were some elders, three of whom were personal advisers of my father, two retired, and one who was a priest. Even they would not yield to Vega; they would rather die. In seeing my, sparks of hope came to their feeble eyes. I despised them before for advising my father to marry me off. But I knew then that , a reasonable person would overlook petty little fights to confront the common enemy.

They were all over me, the daughter of Julius XI. The priest Menandros blessed me. The advisers whose names I had forgotten comforted me, asked me what happened after informing me that my parents were dead. I told them the truth. That I killed Alfred IV, and sooner or later I may die. Nonetheless, they still accepted me, and they looked forward the time when Leon would crush Vega.

The next time the door opened, I was led out, despite the elder's vain attempt to protect me. I told them I will be fine, but they knew the plain truth I myself knew - that I could not really say for myself I will be fine. Olivier as known all over Crete, was fierce, a wicked, evil prince, cold and cruel even among his own people. And now that I had made him King, I had added insult to my own injury.

But that was in Crete. Rumors against Vega as usual. Probably I was known to be a total bitch, a rotten princess, as he was seen in Crete.

The worst came to me. Olivier wanted me to be his personal servant, a maid ,a slave. Honestly, I'd rather die, or probably serve as a prisoner, but not Olivier. But if I did not do , it the elders would die. Though I knew they would rather die than to have Julius XI 's daughter to serve a Vegan prince, I could not bear more bloodshed fir my sake. So without a word, I agreed to do it.

I still had heavy metals around my neck wrists and ankles, but the chains were cut off to allow me movement, more movements for a slave. My silk wedding dress was replaced by that of the traditional maid's clothes - a brown knee length dress. But to annoy me more, O Olivier made sure it was cut similarly to my wedding dress - spaghetti and low back. I ignored it. From then on, I stopped talking . I would say as least words as possible. I knew that the best way to protect myself was not to care about myself. Nothing could hurt me. Because I set all emotions aside.

The only one kind to me was Amanda, Olivier' younger sister. She was as kind to me as Olivier was mean. She was younger than me by several years, but she was ever inch a lady, every inch a princess compared to me. From the way she moved and spoken, the way she carried herself..she was a thing of great beauty. My thoughts always tended to fly to Leon Simms when I would see her - he was a grandeur like her. She was the kind of woman a man like Leon deserved. It was so sad that he was destined to a lesser woman like me.

I had a small sleeping quarters at the basement of the great Vegan Palace. It was not even a fourth of my own room back in Crete. But I was in Vega. Who was I, anyway? Olivier's slave. Every Vegan treated me lower than himself, even the maids. The war between Vega and Crete was not just political war but also a social and personal war among its people. That was why my admiration to Amanda soared high. She hated war as I did.

About the other Cretians, or what happened to my homeland, I had no idea. Leon seemed just a dream now. Crete was probably just a vision. I had begun to adapt to the Vegan civilization. I learned a bit of their language and culture, had gotten used to their fascination over mirrors. But I will never be a Vegan. Though I dressed like them, and served their king, I will always be a Cretian.

Another one who was kind to me was Amanda's old nurse, Jasmin, who was loyal to Amanda since her birth. She had treated Amanda like her own child, and though her mother died, I knew Amanda was happy with her.

The last person who was civilized to me was Rene, a cook, a half Cretian actually, who spoke and moved like a real Vegan. he spoke the two languages well, but when we would talk alone, he would use Cretian with a notable Cretian accent. Those were the three people who I could and would talk to. Aside from them, everybody else in the Palace hated me. One of those was Zandra the red head woman who would happily grab any opportunity to whip me. I paid her no attention. I knew why she hated me. She would do anything to serve Olivier while he was taking a bath, just as I despised doing it. She envied the position I was in, though I saw nothing to be envious of it about. She dreamed of Olivier every moment, too obsessed. Too bad. The King paid me more attention, torturing me with orders. I hated them both. They were both cruel to me. Probably the rumors were right. Olivier was an evil prince. Or he still had not forgiven me for killing Alfred IV.

I served him from dawn till dawn. Sometimes, I would not be able to visit my quarters three days straight. I learned to do the work of an ox, something never taught to me by my teachers in Crete. But as I said, I stopped caring. I worked day and night, not to please him but more to kill myself. It was also a way to atone for my sins of disgracing my people and my family, for being too weak.

I learned later on, from Amanda's confession that she was presently having a love affair with a Cretian. William March, whom I remember was a grandson of a retired adviser held captive. That best explained why Amanda was kind to me, rather than being hostile or scared to a Cretian. William had made her see that not all Cretians were to be abhorred, that not all were evil brutal killers of their people.

Ha had come a long way for Amanda and his grandfather. A fine young lad with curly light brown hair, happy cinnamon eyes, and always had something honest and nice to say. In the long run, I had become one of the bridges to fill the gap between the two loving hearts who dared defy the laws of laws of the two clashing nations. All in the name of love.

The young William was an amiable good natured man. As I became a bridge to him for Amanda , he became my bridge to the outside world - to Crete. I pleaded him not to tell anybody from Crete that I still alive and breathing in Vega, held as a slave by the new king. Though confused, he kept his promise. However, later he could not bear to see me as Olivier's slave, and told me he had to break his promise and tell Leon about me. I pleaded him not too. I was afraid of how Crete would react to my shameful actions. it would be better if they would see me dead, remembered of the pleasant memories my father and mother would be proud of. But William told me to disregard these thoughts; that Crete would acknowledge me and pardon me for the treason I committed; that I go back home with him. Or else he would be compelled to say of what he knew. I told him of another reason I could not join him - that the Cretian captives, including his father, would be in danger if I go with him.

He looked at me, shocked but sad. "But princess - you didn't know?"

"Don't call me that," I corrected him. "I am Catherine. Catherine only. And what is this that I do not know of?" I inquired.

"That the captives - the elders - my grandfather too! - they are dead!"

I gasped, clutching his hands tightly in my own, my eyes wide. "Why? How? When? Where? Who--?" I had so many questions in mind.

He nodded sadly, meeting Amanda's compassionate eyes. "Menandros and Lucas, Vladmir my granddad - they committed suicide! Leonatto and Heintz - all the three- they were killed!" And he explained to me all. That was why he was persisting to tell Leon of my situation, and insisting that I go with him. Because he found no reason for me to stay and become Olivier's slave - because the six all important people, the six important reasons had passed away. Leonatto and the other two were killed before they could commit suicide. Leonatto in a Cretian attack while Heintz and Arkion both died at the hands of Olivier himself. All for my sake so I need not serve a Vegan. "Nobody told you then?" he asked.

I shook my head and wept. I felt Amanda enclose me in her soft arms, patting my back. She did not hush me to stop. She let me release all my grief. It was then that I realize I had not even mourned for my parents yet. That wound was refreshed, along with new ones. I cried and cried.

Alone with Olivier, I decided to confront him myself. As he sat on his chair before his study table, I stood before him and in a calm voice, stated, "I wish to speak with my people."

He looked from where he was bent over and turned to me. "Your people? You have no people here."

"I mean the captives. The elders."
"Oh them?" he shrugged. "What could you speak with them about that you could not speak with me?"
"That is, my King," I began sternly, fixing him a cold look. "None of your business."
He stood up, laughing. "Well then. I will spare you this time, and will refrain from saying -" he walked nearer to me, menacingly. "that you are mine, my property and everything that concerns my property concerns me."

His words would normally cut my should. But I was immune to his harassments and nothing else could hurt me that the wounds caused by the lives lost. I also stopped myself from saying that he had said what he had just said he would refrain from saying. . "Where are they? Let me speak with them."

"They are dead! A;; dead!" he boomed, walking around with an evil grin. He wanted to hurt me badly.

"Indeed?" I asked, pretending to be innocent and disbelieving.

"Yes. I killed them. I killed them all! With my own hands!" he boasted. It was a lie. He must want me to be hurt really badly he would take all the sins he did not do. Or maybe he was provoking a fight, if not testing me. Either he would like me to be really mad and upset or he was trying my patience and see how long it could to stretch. But I did not react to this. My tears had dried out completely. I could cry no more. My heart. it was too much in pain it could feel no more.

"Why did you not kill me with them?"

"Because killing would be like a walk in the park for you. You deserve nothing but the worst. "

"Why? Why do you say that? You haven't forgiven me?"

"Forgiven you? For what?"

"For killing Alfred IV."

"Oh that? It is war. I understand. We'll all die. Eventually.

"I know."

"So why did you kill my father?"

"He killed my parents."

"It is war."

"But it is painful."

"Of course."

I looked at him. I have gotten what I wanted to know but still found no strength to resist the impulse to say what was on my mind. "You don't feel anything, do you? You don't even look upset or saddened at the mention of your father."

This annoyed him. With his blue eyes narrowed, he circled me, even more menacingly this time." Don't feel anything?" he repeated, glaring at me so coldly I was afraid I'd turn to ice. His pace become faster. I followed him with my head but not leaving the spot where I was standing. "You have no right to judge me," he said angrily. "You don't know me. You don't know a thing about me!"

" I see in your eyes that you are evil. You don't feel anything," I replied, fixing my eyes on the space before me.

He stopped and grabbed my chin, turning my head to meet his eyes. I met his blue eyes, my eyes as furious as his. Though I still had my fears, I won't allow him to see it. And I did not. His face suddenly changed. To my dismay it relaxed to a wicked grin. "I do feel something," he began his voice softening to a libidinous voice. His fingers suddenly ran to my shoulder, his eyes on my body. "Do you know what?" He did not wait for my answer. In a split second, he had slid the shoulder strap of my dress down and had pulled me with his other arm that had snaked quickly around my waist, his lips so close to mine that I felt his breath on my face. "Lust. Lust for you Catherine XIV." Before anything else could happen, I pushed him away. I left his room and headed to my quarters, banging the door behind me.

Finally I had a reason to leave. Leave Vega. Leave the Palace. Leave Olivier. Overnight, I thought about it, as I lied to my small bed, confined within the small room which was the biggest one spared for a Cretian. But in the end, I had decided to stay, despite this Vegan oppression. Nobody awaited me in Crete; my parents, my family were dead. And what more there was Leon Simms waiting for me at the altar. Not that Leon was aggressive. As I said, he was a gentleman and would let a woman take her time. But he was obedient. Also, the pressure would come from the remaining people of my father who observed every rule and will strictly. They could not digest the reality of a young woman ruling a nation- a violation of the customs and traditions of our nation, of the commandments of our faith, of the practices of our society and of our ancestors. Surely, they will insist that I marry as soon as possible, so that Leon could be the formal head of the Cretian army to crush Vega. And what will happen next? More loss, more bloodshed, more deaths. And then William and Amanda..? They will be separated, they will suffer. Either William will be killed or he will realize their love was totally hopeless. No. That should not happen. If lie would be biter with me coming home then I better not. If to prevent the catastrophes from actualizing was to get my hands dirty again the second time around, then I will. Kill Olivier? Maybe. He himself had killed millions of my people. He deserved death more than ever, more than anybody. I decided to try. All my life, I had never been of any use, of anything rather than what most women born of nobility were - a mere decoration in the palace, educated and trained only so that she would look good before her father's guests, soon to marry the man chosen whom she was bound to submit to, be loyal and faithful to, and yes, probably even love later on. No. I can no longer be that woman. I should do something. Even if it was defying my culture, they better understand - and they should- that what I was to do was for their own good. Maybe they will understand. Maybe they won't. But I knew my parents will. For once they will be proud. Proud to know that she could actually stand on her own. Proud to know that she was willing to put her life for Crete. But also saddened. Saddened to realize their daughter was a sinful woman, who could not forgive and forget. Saddened she still craved for revenge. Saddened that her hands would be bloody. To prevent more violent confrontations, I must end Oliver. I will do that. I can do that.

I tried telling William that. But as I had anticipated, he did not understand. He would hear none of it. But he could neither persuade nor force me. I was a pretty stubborn woman. In the end with a violent shake of his head, he apologized he could no longer keep his promise. He could not bear to see Olivier torture me, the princess of Crete. Torture to me, according to him was a torture to Crete, and a torture to Crete was a torture to each one of its people. He will tell Leon Simms all about me and Leon will kill Olivier. Though I begged and pleaded him , he had made up his mind. Leon will know I had become Olivier's slave.

The days that came, I served Olivier more. But the lesser I said anything. There was nothing to say. Especially after what happened, when he attempted to aggress over me. Over the time, he became more violent to me and the incident of his aggression progressed. But I paid him no attention and showed him great resistance. He yielded to me, but I knew Oliver was not the type to let it all go easily. he won't give up. So I won't either.

One incident happened in the privacy of his own room. I stood behind him as I released his long hair from the queue. He was watching me all that time in the mirror, and I knew from the way his eyes looked later that his perverted side was awakened. He stood up suddenly and spun me to him, pulling my shoulders. But I resisted him.

The third time happened at the pool. As I stood at the side, holding his towel in complete silence. He barked orders for the people there in Vegan to leave. At our solitude, he rose up and grabbed my legs, pulling me to the pool. I didn't know whether he tried to drown me or molest me, but it seemed both When he got me cornered, one of the people he had ordered to leave had returned in hearing my shouts to find their king aggressing over their slave. Though he left as Olivier had angrily ordered, I was thankful to him and I vowed to myself sooner or later that I will repay him. The interruption gave me the opportunity to escape his evil attempts.

But I never learned my lesson. Water was just as hot as fire. It could burn me. As he lied in his tub, he ordered for me to get him wine from his bar, and bring it to him at once. I followed his orders. But not all. He asked me to take off my clothes and join him. I reacted to this only as though I did not hear a thing. In his frustration, he rose up, spilled the wine all over me and grabbed the metal brace around my neck, yanking me close to him.

"Did you not hear what I said?" he demanded.

I only glared at him, then stepped back, pulling his hands off my brace. I spun on my heel and turned to leave when he got upset and more violent , and yanked my hair back. After so much trouble, he succeeded in getting me in the tub. I did not take off my clothes, though . He soaked me wet all over as though forcing me to take it all off but I did not. At one point, as I sat opposite him in his big tub, he neared me, caressing my face. He had began to call me "Ceri" which meant "doll" in his own language. I ignored him and spun my head away. But I knew I could no longer just ignore him when his lips touched my neck, his arms playing around my waist. In fury, I pushed him away and slapped him across the face. That was the first one he got from me. But like me he did not learn his lessons well. He let me go with amusement in his eyes. I was beginning to think he was merely trying me.

The next one occurred in the library. Again we were alone. He sat on one of the long tables, ordered me to get the books on the top. The stupid me did everything he ordered. When I had gotten everything, and had walked back and had seen his wicked eyes, that was when I realized he had been watching me again. Quickly, I threw the books on the table and ran to the door to leave, but he got behind me quickly, and spun me to him, pulling me in a kiss. This time he had managed to kiss me full in the lips, but I pushed his away and ran to the door. But he regained his balance quickly, and one of his arms circled around my waist, his other hand on my chin, directing it to his. Our lips met again. This time, he had gone pretty far. His hand on my waist had gone up to touch my breast. I tried resisting him but in vain. Probably he was serious this time. He did not look as though he would let me go again. His hand fixed on one of my breasts and he clutched it hard. I bit his tongue. He yelled. He kissed me again. The library door opened. Amanda saw us, her eyes wide. Olivier released me and I headed to the door in fast strides quietly, refusing to meet the girl's blue eyes. All I heard was her gasp, as I exit the door, then she asked Olivier softly, "How could you, my brother?"

I did not know how Olivier answered his question, or even if he did bother to. But he was stubborn himself and would not listen to no one, not even his sister. He was after all, the King.

He must want me really badly, though. On another time, as I released his long golden hair from their queue, flowing smoothly behind him, the past repeated itself. He attempted and succeeded in kissing me, but I found a weapon to protect myself : the silver dagger of the angel statue I used on Alfred IV. He kept it in his drawer and it came handy just when I needed it most . But he shook his head with a faint smile as I threatened him with it. Probably he had seen enough of what I could do that he believed me. Or probably not. But he stopped and asked a question that surprised me. "Won't you marry me, Catherine?"

He was serious. Not only he looked solemn, but he also referred to me as Catherine and not "Ceri". I set the dagger aside and glared at him hard. He was back to his senses. "Is you lust so strong that you are willing to sacrifice your empire and yourself to a Cretian?"

He paced around, shaking his head. It was his mannerism. He answered my question with another question. "Must you think so low of us Vegans you'd think I'd marry you for the sake of lust?"

"But you admitted it yourself. Your lust."

"Can't you see? It's no longer just lust, dammit!" he boomed. Just trust Oliver to control his temper. Once more he pace then stopped and turned to me. "It is nothing like that. Not anymore. It's --"

Before he could say it, I cut him off. There was no way I could I could bear to hear a Vegan say that word. Especially to a Cretian. A four letter word that begins with L. It was all just lust. Nothing more. "NO way," I responded aridly. "I'm not like you, Olivier. I won't sacrifice my nation. Never."

"What do you want? I will give you everything. Everything that Vega took away."

"You can't bring back my parents."

Wickedly, he grinned. "So you have not forgiven Alfred at all, have you? Even after you killed him?"

I did not say anything. he had a point. I looked away. Maybe he was right. I was just pretending. But deep down, I still wanted revenge. After all, I wanted to kill Olivier myself. I was no different from him. But then maybe he had forgiven me. There was no trace of anger in his blue eyes. "I don't know," I muttered. It was the truth, for once. I did not know.

"I'll ask you again. Will you marry me?" You will rise from the ashes. You'll be my queen. You can get revenge. You can execute as much people as you please. And Zandra? Doesn't she always torture you? Well, now is your chance to get back at her. You can have her killed."

I weighed what he had said in mind. Not only the part of getting the revenge, but about a chance for peace. Real peace between Vega and Crete, something that never truly happened in history. There need not be more wars. Lives and properties will be spared. And then as queen of both Vega and Crete, I could order Amanda, a Vegan, and William, a Cretian to be married.

But in the other hand, Olivier could not be that stupid. He was clever and would not give me something without strings attached, He knew I could kill him any moment. Could it be that he had plans for Crete? At our union, Crete and Vega would be united as well; he would have power over Crete as I would have over Vega. And what about Leon? I could not just dump him. William had told me of his struggles to crush Vega. And my father. it was his last will for me to marry Leon Simms. I could not just ignore that. He died at my wedding day. And the elders..they would be furious. I could not betray them. All in all, it would be Olivier who will have the most advantage over his own proposal. As the wife submits to her husband, so would Crete to Vega. All the things that the Cretian people had fought for would vanish. On the darker side, the rivalry would stiffen and more battles would be fought. More lives, more properties would be lost. And to me..what will happen to me? The Cretian people would rebuke me. Vega would still despise me. And then.........."And I will be your legal whore?" I asked suddenly.

He was insulted by what I said, but he regained his bearing even before it could reflect on his face. "Fine. If that's how you see it." He headed for the bathroom, adjusting his robe. Before he got in, he looked over his shoulder to me. "A stubborn decision by a stubborn woman. For one thing, I see no reason why you'd rather lower yourself as well as Crete as nothing but a slave of Vega. It was the chance for you to raise Crete once again to the honor of a being given a higher title. A chance to change the world........" He chuckled happily to himself as he got in. I just refused him but he seemed still pretty pleased. There seemed no way to displease him. Me on the other hand was struck by what he had said.

A stubborn decision by a stubborn woman.

A chance to change the world.

In defense to what he said, I replied for no connection at all to his statement. "I believe in Crete, Olivier," I said, walking after him. He left the bathroom door open, reading what was in my mind. "They will come for me."

Another chuckle left him as he took off his robe and settled to the tub. "They won't come for you, Ceri. You're as good as dead to them."

I remembered William and almost blurted it out. Luckily, I was able to stop myself. I finally saw William's point, and I had him to thank for breaking his promise. "Even if I'm dead, Crete will continue to fight."

"Sure they will. But they have no chance against Vega," he replied smugly. Meaningfully, he eyes me. "As you have no chance against me."

My fists clenched. What he said about my was true. I was nothing but a girl. But Crete was not me. At least, not as weak as I was. "They will win," I insisted.

With a sigh, he leaned his head behind him, apparently relaxed at the warm water I prepared for him. "Sure. Do you wanna bet?"

Without thinking, I nodded. "Fine."

"What happens to Crete happens to you. Same goes for me and Vega. Is that good enough?"

"I accept."

His eyes opened and he raised his head to look at me. "Do you know what the means? That means if Vega invades Crete..........."

There was a lump in my throat. Oliver and his lust. But there was no turning back now. Did I really believe I in Crete so badly that I will bet not only my life but also my purity in it? I guess I was pretending. Just pretending. Again. But there was this smug look in his face. It seemed as though there was no way to displease him. To back out would send him laughter, and he would muse knowingly to himself, "As I thought..A coward woman.." But to accept his bet was like to give myself to him. Unless I believed in what I had said that Crete will win. Nonetheless, I wanted to prove something to Oliver. And to myself. That I had meant what I said. That I really truly believe in Crete. "I accept."

"Good. It's on then."


What happened reached William. He always had the biggest hate to spare for Olivier. In learning what Olivier did to me from Amanda's narration, he smacked the wooden table with his tightly clenched fist. "Come with me, princess. I can no longer take any of his atrocities!" he yelled fury in his cinnamon eyes.

I said nothing. I did not tell anybody, not even the Princess Amanda of what happened between me and Olivier,. how he offered me marriage, and all other incidents of his aggressions. Note even about our bet. But I knew that if I run away, he, the King, would have another reason to smugly smile as he say to himself "As I thought..A coward woman.." He will undoubtedly assume I will be running away, escaping in cowardice about the reality. He will think that I did not have as much faith in Crete as he had in Vega. He will see me nothing but a dastard, weak weak woman, who could not even live to face the truth. So despite William's demands and Amanda's pleading, I stayed. The couple tried to question me about Olivier's other assault but I declined to answer. William will report it to Leon, surely, and Leon, even if he would not be bothered, would act furious so as not to disappoint the people around him, expecting him to react that way. He will kill more Vegans. The Vegans will get revenge and kill more Cretians. There will be unnecessary killing just because of me a good for toning woman. I lied. "It was his first. And the last."

Neither of them believed me. As I stood up to leave, William in his wrath called to me. "Why are you covering his evils? Are you afraid? A coward woman! I was mistaken to think of you as something more as my granddad has said. But obviously, I thought wrong. He thought wrong as well! What a pity!"

This got me. In blink of an eye, I had slapped him hard across the face. But I stopped myself before I could say anything more. Why was it that I was always in a place with so many paths to offer but all paths lead me to the same door? Whether I stayed or not, I was a coward. For the Cretians, staying in Vega amidst all kinds of cruelty was still an act of cowardice. And if I go back home to my nation, the King will see me as a hopeless, faithless, helpless woman.

What William told me hurt. Probably because it was true. Well, not completely. He did not know anything. Not a thing about the bet. About my complete faith in Crete. He was only concerned, as a friend and fellow Cretian. I could not blame him.

I apologized and left. He tried apologizing but I just nodded at him as I left the room . I forgave him. I hope. Amanda was crying softly at the corner . Probably, even she saw me as a dastard.

There was another witness to Olivier's attempted violation of me. He still wanted me, after all this time.

Alone with him in the gym as he worked out, he overcame my strength, which was nothing to him and achieved in getting me underneath him. Both his hands pinned my wrists against the rubber flooring, his legs securing mine between them.

He kissed me madly. All I could do was veer my head away. His mouth traveled to my neck and down. IN his desire to get hold more of me, he used only one hand to secure both my hands, while, his other roamed all over my body. He got hold of breasts again. He managed to pull down one shoulder strap . I tried wriggling him off, shouting for him to stop, get off etc etc etc all in vain. His mouth settled at my cleavage when I screamed at the top of my lungs in Cretian curses to him. An alarm suddenly sounded. But he was completely caught over me that he was oblivious to the whole world. All his world was lust.

His mouth darted to mine to keep me from shouting. His other hand, regained its position in my wrist.

"King Oliver --" The door opened. Zandra strode in absently reading something in her hand. What came over her face in catching her beloved King kissing another woman was hard to interpret - shock. Confusion. Anger. Despair. Regret. Envy. Sadness. Jealousy. A bit of pleasure to see me suffering.

Olivier stopped but did not release my wrist. "What Zandra? This should be something reasonable enough for an interruption," sternly he warned.

Clearing her throat, the woman regained her composure. I took the opportunity to wriggle free but Olivier was strong. too strong for me. Or I was just too weak. Crete. It's attacking. Our north and north eastern base were both reported to be destroyed."

Loudly L laughed. Zandra's cold eyes went to me. Hatred. But for once, I saw her not how as Cretian would see a
Vegan, not as a rival for a single bone, not an enemy, but as an ally. There was mutual similarity between us that were both aware of but consciously would never admit. We were both women. And I saw in her eyes that she despised seeing a man take advantage of a woman's weakness. She just saved me. But I would say Crete saved me. She would not admit it either. Crete saved me. That was the way.

"What's so funny, my dear Ceri?" Oliver asked, watching me laugh. It was his first time to see me laugh.

"I'm winning baby. Crete is winning. Now where were we? Were you not just kissing me? Why don't we resume?" I smiled at him sweetly. He grunted. That was the first time I saw him really displeased. But he took my mouth with his. I did not resist him this time. Zandra, who was already fuming as she waited for her King, had just made me happy with her news.

Olivier stood up, releasing me. Gently I touched his face. "Come back , my Fuere," I purred at him. The word mean dummy in Vegan.

Irritably, he smirked, then arranged his clothes, strode to Zandra who waiting by the door. All alone, I laughed heartily. I did not care what happens to me next. My life was Crete. And Crete was winning.

Olivier was really displeased.

Crete's numerous victory on the most battles infuriated Olivier. He was so much troubled that he will do anything to win even one just battle. Unconsciously he had neglected his army , all because of his lust chasing. On the coming days, he paid me less attention. To make fun of him , I would make an offer to "make his night". A temptation. Unknowingly, I had become a part of the Cretian army, a decoy to the Vegan King. Gone were the days when he would attempt to assault me. He was losing his power. Finally his head had cleared of the lust. His attention was back to his army. He suddenly realized the importance of the things that he had unintentionally ignored.

Olivier's desperate quest for more military resources to strengthen his power angered me when he had gone too far. Felipe Adorada, who had been a lover of mine, was a nobility from an independent state, Capella, which was a strong military power itself. Capella , however, had declared itself neutral and would not meddle in the Vegan-Cretian wars. As Crete and Vega were both busy with quarrelling with each other, Capella was engaged in enriching itself. The nation was physically rich with all the natural resources. And most of all, the Capellans were people of great managerial ability when it came to business. They managed their resources well which yielded them great wealth.

Adorada had proposed to my father to marry me. I knew nothing about him, except that he was a young man with reddish blonde hair..and he had poor taste in women. At least, that was that I though then, when I saw no reason why he should marry me. But he seemed wealthier than we he was a member of the nobility. What was that thing that he saw in me so badly he wanted to marry a pathetic girl like me ? Anyway, his father pleaded mine not to accept his offer. It would be a harm to their business. Vega would be furious and would no longer import oil from them, So , despite the hard fact that my father still had eyes for the Capellan wealth, he declined the young Adorada's offer. I did not know whether or not Adorada was aware of his father's meddling with his business or not, but he was upset. The fairy tales about me must have really struck his heart and he left Capella with despair.

But now, I have heard he had come to Vega to propose his love for Amanda. I did not know Felipe that much, but I knew he was a man with a very sensitive emotion, restless, and would not marry unless he was in love with the girl. What I could not understand was how he could fall in love with a girl he had never met before. But, anyway, how he suddenly emerged in Vega and proposed to Olivier about his marriage was a surprise. He was no only a lover boy but also an impulsive Don Juan.

He had just returned at the nick of time, just when Olivier needed more resources. In his desperation to win a battle, he was willing to marry off Amanda in order to get more military support. I was every inch against this not because I was in any way interested in Adorada , but because of Amanda and William. I knew I must stop Olivier no matter what. I felt I was obliged to.

That night, I confronted him about it. It was confirmed that Felipe Adorada was determined to marry Amanda. I tried talking to him about it, but like I had expected, he would hear none of it. His mind was made up. He would marry his sister off not matter what.

The next day was a formal meeting between them. They would discuss it further. Slaves were not allowed inside that hall, but I insisted to get in. There were soldiers guarding it and they joined forces to resist me. But I could not be stopped. No! First I did was barking orders for them to stop. It did not work. Second was begging, pleading. It did not work either. Then lying. But they won't buy it either. Until I resulted to calling Felipe. Olivier would definitely ignore me. Non stop I shouted, knocked, crying in Cretan. I succeeded. The hall door opened. Olivier's strict eyes were killing me.

There were soldiers all over me, but nothing could stop me. "Felipe --"

The lover boy recognized me. His eyes softened. He stood up. "Catherine?"

The soldiers let me go. Felipe stood up from his seat and watched me. I ran to him but stoped dead short before I could fall into his open arms. His gray eyes..he was ..bewitched again. "It is you, Catherine!" He cried, tears in his eyes.

A sweatdrop. No. he must not think that...What I meant was...."Felipe...It's..... nice to see you..." was all I could say.

He pulled me in his arms. "Oh, Catherine! What happened ? Why are you here? " He rubbed his head against mine. Beyond his shoulder, I saw Olivier in flames. Probably he was very furious that his plans of marrying Felipe and Amanda may fail. Or he was jealous. I knew he could not forgive me for what I did. Before I could say anything, he stood up. "Leave, Catherine! Leave this room now!"

"No, Olivier. Catherine is - Catherine is my-----"

"I'm not talking to you, Adorada!" Oliver exploded, his blue eyes fixed hard on me. his temper...he was forgetting who he was talking to. Hew as blowing everything himself by the way he was talking to one of the richest men alive."Catherine! Get back to my room and wait for me there!"

There was a loud hush all around the room. Felipe looked from me then to Oliver. "What the -- are you --?!?!"

Hastily, I bowed to all people around. One wrong move and people could die. Not just Cretian. Not just Vegans. But now this time, also Capellans. I exited the hall swiftly. The soldiers parted to make way for me. I was confused.

Definitely, Felipe would ask questions. What was my relationship to Olivier. If Oliver told him the truth, from the way Felipe looked, he would be really furious. He will tell the Cretians. He even night join forces with Leon to crush Vega. If Olivier will lie and confirm what Felipe, had in mind, either the latter will condemn Olivier and Vega or he will go, move n, admiring Amanda. All the reason I did what I did to save Amanda from any marriages aside from William will vanish.

The time ticked by so slow. Yet so fast. When he stormed in his room in his room some time later, I still had no solution in mind. If I told him the truth why I did not want Amanda to marry, Amanda and William will both be doomed. But how do I explain Felipe's loving look? Certainly Olivier will be furious.

But he already furious. In my waiting, I had fallen asleep in one corner, my head on my arm. I heard his already calm but austere voice ordering me to stand up. I obeyed his orders. I still could not believe I could sleep at a time like that.

"What has gone over you?" he demanded.

"You're -- you're here...early..."

"I adjourned the meeting."

"Oh," was all I could say , my eyes frantically bouncing everywhere for the right answers.

"Now tell me! I demand it!"

I gulped then looked at him, straight in the eyes. His blue eyes still mirrored no sympathy or compassion. Unlike his lovely sister. "Don't marry off Amanda."

"And why not?"

"Because she's not in love with Felipe."

He looked at me in disbelief like I said the dumbest thing in the world. "And so?"

Annoyed, I threw out my arms at him. "That's reason enough!"

Rolling his eyes, he shook his head. "You women think so ideally of marriage that it can no longer be real!"

"I'm telling you! Amanda does not love Felipe! So just let them both be!"

"Are you, my Ceri, my slave, my property, ordering me?"

I was at loss from of words. The Cretian rumors were right. The Vegan Prince , Olivier was evil. Indeed. I had proven it myself. I had seen enough of his cruelty. He had been cruel to me as well but I could take that as long as I can. But to his sister, he would not even spare her. Maybe it was about the time I defy him. "You have no right to do that! I can not believe you!"

"Of course I do."

"No you don't!"

"I am king. You made me king."

His words sliced my words. Yes. I did made him King. By killing Alfred IV. "He killed my parents," I defended myself.

"And you're queen."

"No. I'm your slave."

"It's war. People die. You did not die, lucky you. You're a prisoner."

It was useless. Hopeless. Whenever we would talk seriously and I was against him, he would always make sure to touch that subject. he would remind me of my trespasses. He would say that same things as I would to defend myself. There was always this tendency to deal with the past. But I was already half way. There was not turning back now. For once, I would fight for the only Vegan royalty who had showed a Cretian sincere compassion. "Why can't you see? Amanda is young. Still young. She can't marry someone just because you want her to."

He turned his back on me and walked to his study. I was about to say something when he asked me. "And you? Do you love that.....that Simms?"

I did not answer.

He continued. "As far as I could remember, it was your wedding day when we attacked. We caught you in your gown."

"Yes," I admitted. "It was my wedding day."

"And you did not look happy."

"My parents died right before my eyes. "

"Before they died. I saw you. You were not even smiling."

My hands clenched to fists. He never mentioned that before. I felt cheated. But why the hell we were talking about my failed wedding? Why was he turning tables to me all so suddenly? "What has this got to do with Amanda's marriage?"

"You did not fight and stand up for yourself. For that so called love of yours," he added sarcastically, then resumed. "What gave you the slightest right to fight and stand up for others when you could not for yourself? I mean, isn't it rather weird. My sister. Who is she to you?"

"She's a friend."

"Please, My Ceri." And his attention was away.

Unwilling to let go, I strode to him and slammed my hands down. "She's a lot kinder to me than you are! She's compassionate and kind and nice and totally a wonderful person! She's loving too..and more than anybody in this whole this room..she deserves happiness."

"I want to believe."

"You must! "

"You are a Cretian, Catherine, and you are as dirty as any other Cretian out there. I know deep within you that you feel that way toward us Vegans. Bloody killers who killed your parents! there is no way you will go that far for the sake of mere friendship. I'm inclined to think there is another reason beyond it all."

He was smart. But I still hated him. Probably because he was right. I was dirty. My hands were dirty. Stained with blood. I despised Vegans. But not Amanda. She was no longer a Vegan enemy to me but just a friend. In the same position as I had been in. Her marriage was being arranged just as mine had been. And if I had been too weak. And if I had been too weak before to fight for my right to pick for the man I fight for the man I love..there was nothing I could do about that now. But there was something I could about her marriage. I could help prevent what almost happened to me if it weren't because of the Vegan attack, to other unfortunate women who, from whatever race they were . I could help them fight the cruel fate. I could not just sit and watch. To let a woman meet her doom in the hands of the man she doesn't love. That I let another woman meet the same fate as I had. I could never ever forgive myself if I let it all go without a fight. In my situation, no one would stand up for me. Not even myself. I was too chicken. Too ignorant of the things around me. A typical, traditional woman. And so I knew how Amanda must feel. As I was fortunate to have the ceremony cut off because of a Vegan attack, Amanda would be fortunate as well, I vowed, and she would have somebody to stand up for her. As Vega saved me from marriage, so would Crete save her.

My fingers slightly trembled. My nails threatened to dig in the surface of the wooden table it was laid on. Olivier watched me with pleasure. I hated it. It was his revenge for displeasing him earlier at the meeting. "So what is it? Why do you want to stop her wedding?"

My mind soared for answers. Answers but the painful truth about myself. The truth about a certain Cretian man named William. Any excuse would do. Anything that would make him believe I was serious. "Felipe.....I'm..I'm in love with him."

He stood up. It was his turn to slam his hands down on the table. "what?" he asked with a face that reflected his strong feeling of jealousy, anger, confusion, disbelief, envy, sadness, displeasure.... and most of all, pain. Pain in his pride.

I shrugged. "you heard me. That's the reason why." It all made sense. Felipe's loving look on me. Why a Cretian would fight for a Vegan. He reached out to clutch my chin. "Do you know why I'm doing this?" He believed it. Everything I said. There was suddenly pain in his eyes...Pain for..what was that? Betrayal?

"This what?" I asked, obviously confused.

"All this!"


I knew I would hate the answer. "All because of you, Catherine XIV," stroking my cheeks with loving look in his eyes. "The bet, remember? I will do anything to get you. But now that someone's taken you away, I'll have no choice but to have him killed."

"No!" I screamed, grasping his hand.

He grinned wickedly. "I don't care that much about his wealth if I will lose you. I don't care anymore if he teams up with Crete. As long as you will be mine..thanks to you I've seen the light!" He laughed, leaning closer, holding my face." I will kill him. All for you!"

My nails dug to his skin. He just smiled. "Please, Olivier! No. Don't kill him!"

"No one can stop me, my Ceri. Not even you." And he let me go, pushing me. Amanda was saved from the marriage. But Felipe was doomed. All because of me.

I could not let it happen. NO. No way. If Oliver will kill Felipe, Capella would be surely furious and they will be dragged to the bloody war of Vega and Crete. More people will die. More and more.

My mind dwelt on it, as I waited for him to bathe, watched him to his study with no more words. My mind was brainstorming for solutions. Then the only one I could think of was to kill Oliver. After all, another reason I stayed was to get my revenge. If Oliver will die, Amanda will be queen, most likely, and I could go home to my homeland to take the throne. We could start a good relationship, a new era of peace. It all seemed so well. So by the time he was on his bed, as I watched him dressed with scorn, I decided it was time for Oliver to die.

He went to his bed, uncaring about the world, acting egoistically as though I was not around. All the world revolved around him. I was left, sitting in a corner where I had fallen asleep, staring in space. After some time that I was certain he was asleep, I went to his drawer and fished for the dagger. As I killed Alfred IV with it, it would have the same honor of ending Olivier.

I kept it behind me, as I neared the sleeping Olivier. How innocent he looked. He was still handsome, good looking as a god. Too bad he must die. And in my hands. I sigh quietly, asking for forgiveness of another sin I was to commit. Then came the time. Could I do it? Actually kill Oliver? Or was I pretending again, making believe I could do something so horrible once more? I shut my eyes and with all my strength on my one hand, I stab Olivier's heart.

It happened so fast. I killed him. I thought I killed him. But I didn't. He knew about it. He knew my plans. He knew what was on my mind. He was awake. He could sense my plot even in his sleep. Swiftly, he had grabbed the dagger from me, pulled me to him in his bed and kept me underneath him in so fast moment that I barely felt anything. When I opened my eyes, I found his eyes, frenzied, his other hand clutching the dagger, threatening to kill me with it.

I was a failure. I hated it. "Do it," I pleaded him with hard eyes. He grunted, then threw the dagger aside. I guess I said the wrong thing again. I never learned my lesson. "Why don't you just kill me?" I asked angrily. He still had not gotten off me, just watching me with his blue eyes. Without saying anything more, he lifted himself from me, standing up to head to the bathroom.

I sighed loudly, cursing myself in Cretian. Then I jump down from his bed to the floor, shaking my head. I wanted to cry. But I was unwilling to let him see any of my tears. My eyes fixed on the dagger. Maybe it was time I kill myself. Slumping down , I grabbed it and inspected it at first, then with no more thoughts, I raise it to struck it to my own chest.

Olivier caught me with it, and I saw him with a glimmer in his eyes, a smug smile written on his handsome face. "Yes. Kill yourself. So I will be rid of you without committing a crime. " He laughed heartily. "Coward coward woman."

This enraged me once more, and standing up, I ran to him and aimed it at him. He caught both my wrists with his strong hands and easily pinned me to the wall. How I wanted to scrape that smug look from his face! He was not as mad as I was, but he was annoyed. "Kill me now!" I ordered him. "I killed your father, remember? I killed him! So go and get your revenge! I dare you!"

"Do you really want me to get even with you?" he asked, beginning to lose his temper. Like me, he was not the type to refuse a challenge.

"Yes. I've been waiting for you to get even with me! Just kill me, will you? I'm sick! So sick of living!"

"Then, I will get even with you!" And he threw the dagger aside, threw me to his bed while opened his robe. I said the wrong thing again. Before I could escape him, he had placed himself atop of me, pinned me down, and kissed me madly. I struggled away, tried to resist him to my full strength. He tried undressing me, but I would do anything, just about anything to lose him. How ironic. There I was, challenging him to take his revenge, and when he was about to do it, I try to stop him and berate myself for being so dumb enough in placing an idea to his head.

I guess he was determined to take his real revenge on me. When I charged against him, he smacked my head, sending me unconscious. It was revenge.

It was all a dream. A bad dream. Everything that happened. I felt my soft bed behind me, large and fluffy, the smell of Crete. I had just fainted in the wedding ceremony that they had to cut it off and call the palace doctor. The doctor said I was just tired, too stressed out, and that the thing had been happening so fast for me. Fatigue. A princess with fatigue? Very funny. I was not married to Leon Simms yet, but I will be. Soon after I recovered.

I let my head sink to my pillow. I didn't know which was more terrible. A nightmare to be Olivier's slave. Or the reality to be married. I almost chose to be Olivier's slave. I would not open my eyes.

It was weird. My dreams were so vivid. It could have been true. I finally decided to open my eyes. I did not recognize the room. No. It was not my room at all. A different ceiling. But definitely my bed. I raised my head slightly, widening my eyes as it cleared of the haze. Mirrors. Mirrors on one side, mirrors on the others, mirors above my head.


It was not my room at all. Not even my bed. I sat up higher. No. It was not a dream. It was reality. That was because I had chosen it over the reality of me getting married. Getting married was the worse for me. I had rather be a slave. So I was a slave.

The blanket fell off. I was naked. Quickly, I pulled it around me tightly. My brown apparel was scattered on the floor with the dagger. I could not remember anything. I was in Olivier's room.

Then I remembered, as he appeared from his bathroom with a happy smile on his face. He was on his bathrobe, the middle of his hard chest showing off, a smug smile on his face. He had done it. He had molested me. But I will kill him. The more I wanted to kill him.

I stood up , wrapping the blankets around my body, got the dagger and ran to him to attempt again. He stopped me easily, threw the dagger again. The blanket fell off. He hugged me close to him, both arms around my waist. "You were great last night."

"You cheated! " I cried at him. I lost all my strength to resist him.

"Why?" he asked. "You wanted me to get even with you. And you're still alive. That was lucky."

"What about the bet?"

"Don't worry. Vega will invade Crete. You're not actually waiting for it, or are you? But there's no reason for to wait for it. It's happened."

Tears fell down my eyes as I stare back at him with more loathing. This time, I will go with William March back to Crete, join the armed forces and head an army to butcher Olivier. He kissed my tears. That bastard.

For five days straight, I did not bother leave my room. He didn't call for me. He must have assumed I had committed suicide.

Nobody knew of what happened. Not even Amanda, or Jasmin or William or Rene or Zandra. I didn't tell anybody. What was the reason to? I found no reason why I should live. I just wanted to die.

Amanda came to visit me on the third day when she noticed of my sudden hibernation. She caught me sitting on the floor, lost in space. Twice she called my name, but I did not turn. I didn't hear her. I was too wrapped up in my own world. I just felt her arms catch me in a tight embrace, feeling her tears against my skin. Maybe she knew.

"What happened to you, Catherine? What happened? Tell me, I pray, oh God!" she sobbed. She didn't know. I did not answer. Sooner or later, I maybe pregnant and she will know. There was no reason why I should tell her. Her soft arms released me, and she searched my eyes. "Thank you."

I looked at her, confused. "Thank you? For what?"

"Olivier didn't marry me off. I've heard what happened from Jasmin who was told by the servants and the guards of how you tried fighting for me. And Mister Adorada...I didn't know you were involved."

"We are not involved," I corrected her icily.

"Oh then, I'm sorry. The rumors must be wrong."

"Is he alive?"

"I do not know."

With worried look in her blue eyes, she touched my face, and cried more. "What happened to you, Catherine? Won't you talk to me anymore? What happened to you? Please. Tell me. Has it something to do with my brother?"

I said nothing in reply to this. I just turned my head away silently.

She gasped. "Oh no. Do you mean to tell me -- he...."

Silence. Mentally I battled to myself whether it was a nice idea to tell Amanda. Telling Amanda was like telling William , and telling William was like telling Leon. But what was I so damn worried about? Those people. So what if they die? I could not care any less. Not anymore. But what will Amanda and William say? "I told you so..." And I hated I-told-you-sos. The silence must have been long enough for her to confirm what was on her mind. "Oh my God..what did..when didn' ---?" There was a terrified look in her eyes. But even that I refused to believe. She pulled in her arms once more, refusing to let go, crying. But I didn't cry. I could no longer. He had kissed them all away.

After much thought , I still chose to live, to remain in Vega and serve Olivier. Yes, call me stubborn, but I just found no courage to go back to Crete. And why did I serve him, still? I just thought it would annoy and displease him to find me alive and standing despite anything that he threw my way. If I go back to my homeland and escape the reality, he must think I was being a coward. In fact, he must have thought I had died, but I could not die, especially after what happened, and the possibility of me carrying the heir to the Cretian and Vegan throne was high. It was just so pleasing to know that I was at the very bottom there was no other way to go but up.

I thought about me carrying his kid. It would ruin his reputation. People would hate him. His credibility would be lost. Until he would be left with no choice but to kill me. Finally.

But there was the kid. What about him? I could not let him die. That was why I lived. I lived for him. I could not just deprive him of the life he deserved. Olivier could have me killed later when I had given birth, but not him. I will never let Olivier harm my child.

A dream suddenly began to visualize. This time, Crete and Vega would have no choice but to be really united. With the royalty of both Vega and Crete combined in his blood, he would be destined to be the ruler who will stop all wars. And this inspired me. My life was revived.

I came back to Olivier's door at the seventh day, after much thought, much anguish, and yes probably much dreams and joy. There was the look of extreme shock in his face when the maid told him it was me. Yes. I was right. He had assumed I was dead. Maybe I had died. But I was back. Smiling at him smugly.

"Hello, my dear King Olivier," I greeted him eagerly.

"What are you doing here?" he asked in his surprise.

"Is that a way to greet a loyal servant?" I asked him.

I resumed my job. I actually had three replacements, but Olivier expelled them all away in learning of my return. His shock had disappeared , or that he was just good at hiding it. But what happened later was just similar to the past. When he would be mad or upset, he would lose his temper, shout at me or the people concerned. He would ask me to do the same things, comb his hair, prepare his bath, arrange everything for him. Everything would have been pretty much the same, when, one day, I heard that William March was caught.

Olivier was furious, once again, and he will stop at nothing to kill the Cretian caught within his vicinity. William said nothing , in fear of dragging Amanda in the trouble he was in and would rather have the Vegan King believe he was a spy, but Amanda admitted it all, in order to save William from any more pain. This inflamed the King, and the more he wanted to kill William to end his sister's "forbidden" affair.

During the declaration of William's presupposed penalty, I stormed in despite the strict orders, protesting. Of course, Oliver probably expected I would do that. William was a Cretian, and so was I. But Oliver's mind was made up. William will be executed at the plaza, before hundreds or even thousands or millions of enraged Vegans.

That night, I came to Oliver. Again, to ask him to consider. That may be a dumb decision, but it was better to do that than just hang around and wait for the execution, then kick myself later.

Olivier answered it all with a big no despite any way I tried to to make him consider. He may be evil, all right, but I did not lose hope. He could not be that evil to his own sister. But still he hated Cretians. His hate for Cretians surpassed that love for his sister. So I was forced to compromise. I told him I would do anything - even marry him if he spared the young lad.

For a brief moment, he stopped from working on his study, and turned to look at me. "Take off your clothes," he said.

Without thinking, I took it off. The first time I listened to such perverted order of his. "I'm yours," I said with a smug smile. It was so nice I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain.

He could not believe it. He stood up from his study and walked to me, grabbed my breasts and kissed me full on the lips. I didn't resist. He was testing me. When I passed the test, he stopped. "Marry me," he ordered, meeting my eyes.

"Let the boy go."

His eyes hardened. "I can't let him go. But I can spare him."

"That's fine with me."

"Good." He walked back to his study, tossing me my clothes. Probably he was not as perverted as I thought.

So it will happen. My marriage to Olivier. I was suddenly transported from being the lowly slave to the soon Queen of Vega, elegant and wealthy. The King wanted the marriage sooner to take place, and could not give a damn to whatever kind of wedding will be held - it was plain simple - he just wanted to get married. He didn't care where it was going to be held, how many people were invited, who were the priests to lead the ceremony.

We were both given a week to prepare for the wedding by the Vegan elders . Though, like all other Vegans within the Palace who dreaded our union, they could not do anything about Olivier's plans. He was the King, crowned by the Vegan people themselves, old enough to think for himself. Even though the marriage could bring about many intrigues and scandals, they could not do anything after the failure of their attempt to "get Olivier back to himself" by a talk. Of course, I understood everything. Had the situation been reversed, I knew how the Cretian people would revolt to such decision by their Queen. But that was so far off situation. Over my dead body would I take Olivier as slave and molest him just as he did to me.

I was given a room, large one, probably larger one than that of my room back in Crete, given maids, about a dozen, given new set of clothes. From being dirty, I was dressed up once more, just as I had been when I was the Princes of Crete. It was just like the old days. Except that I was in Vega, and the people, even the servants were hostile to me. During mornings when they would comb my hair, they would talk in Vegan, neglecting the fact that , during my long stay in Vega, I had learned to understand Vegan and could understand what they were talking about. They were calling me names - witch, harlot, bitch - all the cruel names they could think of. They were only forced to serve the ones slave they treated lower then themselves, and they hated it. Me on part, just pretended to be ignorant. Such things as that could not bother me anymore. Besides, it was not like marrying Olivier was so much of my will. Like them I was just forced to. In order to save William.

I made Olivier promise to spare the boy, and not to tell him or anybody else, especially Amanda, the reason why he was spared. I didn't like for them to berate themselves for my marriage. I would like them to think that the marriage was out of my own will. I knew what it was like to have been died for - the six elders who died for me- and I felt bad and could not forgive myself for that. I wanted to spare Amanda and William that feeling.

It was Amanda with Jasmin behind her who visited me on the second day or my preparation. William was spared, she told me, and then asked me later how things could have happened that way - why I was suddenly marrying her brother. But it did not struck her that surprised to know Olivier was willing to marry me - she was aware of her brother's interest in me and she had seen it all herself. What bothered her was why I accepted his offer. She was aware how I loathed him. I lied. I just told her I may be pregnant, and marrying my child's father would be best for my child. With a sigh, she hugged me close to her, sobbing once more, apologizing about everything.

"I know you still don't like Vega. I can't blame you," she said , looking deep into my eyes as she held my face. We were both sitting on the edge of our bed. "But if that is your decision , I welcome you, not just as a Vegan, not just as an in law, but as a family. You will be a part of my family, Catherine. And I will always love you, probably even more than I love my brother or father."

Grasping both her hands, I smiled at her warmly. "Thank you, Amanda. I love you too." And we hugged each other. Jasmin came close to us , and she held us both in her bosom.

The next one to come was Rene, and like Amanda and Jasmin, he welcomed me. What amused me was the way he spoke half Vegan and half Cretian. But he blessed me in Cretian.

Three days before the wedding, it was according to the Vegan custom that there would a supper held, between the families of the bride and groom. I had no family, and so Olivier invited none of his except his one and only remaining closest family, Amanda. Some others who would join us were generals of the army, who I was most certain killed numerous of my people, Zandra, and other important people who were nearby. Others who could not attend, including other relatives of Olivier, were just sent information regarding his near wedding.

It was on that night, as I prepared for the dinner, with numerous loathing maids all about me, that Zandra came in the room. She asked everybody else to leave, as she was meaning to talk to me alone. I watched her at the mirror, and met her cold steel eyes.

"So you're marrying Olivier," she began, walking around observantly as if it was her first time to see such things.

"Yes," I replied.

"Is it a part of your sincere plans to marry him ?" she asked me. "Or is it merely -- " she searched for the words. "Some sort of revenge?"

"No. Yes. Maybe. Perhaps. Probably. I don't know. " I watched the lady walk around, then stopped to meet my eyes once more. To her, she must have thought I have won, but to myself, I knew I have lost. I always have this aversion toward marriage. Why must my father pick the man for me? Why could I not just rule the Empire myself?

There was sigh that escaped her, something that told me of her sadness over what was to come. I was sad as well, but I would not show it. Her head hung suddenly, and as she looked up, from the hard strict eyes of a warrior, her eyes softened, almost close to tears. "Please make Oliver happy. For me. Promise me."

I didn't answer. It was the first time that I heard such words from Zandra.

"Please, Catherine. Make him happy. Whatever your motive is, I do not know. Maybe..maybe it is no longer my business, but just look happy for him, even if it is against your will. Because I know he is happy when you're happy. He loves you, more than he has ever loved anybody in this world. But I love him more. More than you can imagine. If there is just anyway I can transfer that love to you so that you will love him....Yes. How I wish I can do that...."

Her words moved me. I watched in the mirror as a tear slid down to her cheek, and she hung her head. It was touching to see Zandra the Warrior suddenly tremble like a leaf. It must be real love. If only we could switch places...."I promise," I said. It surprised me that I held no emotion in my face, just a spaced out look, the same one I have been holding for the past few days.

And she left, after muttering a "thank you" in Vegan. She must mean it from the bottom of her heart. Later, during dinner, she was absent, and a servant of hers reported to Olivier that she could not go due to a headache or something. Olivier disregarded her absence with not one bit of concern. He could be really evil. I was even more concerned, but I didn't show it. I felt awfully sorry for her. From the bottom of my heart.

The dinner was nothing really different from all other Cretian dinners at home. In a long rectangular table, the guests were seated according to their gender and to their power or rank. The higher the power, the closer they sat to the King and "Queen". I was on the other end of the long table, opposite Olivier. To my right were the women, nearest of me was Amanda, as she held the highest rank being the princess of Vega, then a vacant seat, reserved for Zandra, the second highest, then so on so forth. Similarly, the closest one to Olivier to his right was the head of the elders, followed by the Governor-General, etc. so that the male nearest me to my left was the one holding the lowest position among the men.

The dinner continued for more than an hour. Like all the formal noble dinners with important people in Crete, the dinner was full of etiquettes, unnecessary formality and pretenses. Most people there hated me, yet they gave me a toast just so to please Olivier, speeches and gifts. I in turn, pretended to be ignorant of their hatred, and just plainly played along their game. The truth was I wanted to cry. But there was no way these enemies would see my weakness. They should start seeing me equally strong as their King, someone they will respect and fear, not just because of Olivier, but because of me myself alone. I should start accepting the fact that sooner or later, I will be the head of Vega and I need these people to listen to my voice as Queen. And I will command their respect. I will, no matter what. Even though I still hate Vega.

The remaining days and night before my marriage should be, again according to the Vegan custom, spent with Olivier who will soon unite with me. Unlike other tradition wherein the bride and groom should be spending their days together after they were wed, in Vega, they will have to spend the three days before the wedding ceremony together, and after the ceremony, three days apart, then they will formally start to live as a couple right after. I did not know what it was for, but I did not bother question either. In my heart, I will always be a Cretian. Even until my death.

The days coming I was to sleep in Olivier's room. After the ceremony, we will have to move to the former King and Queen's room, Olivier's parents' room, a separate one, right in the heart of the Palace, where no nobility could use unless he was married.

Normally, the three days before the ceremony, the bride and groom should be going some far off place as a vacation together, just the two of them, or in our case, with bodyguards and maids of course. It was like a trial marriage, and if did not work, one could call off the marriage. But since it was war, and going to places was dangerous for both of us, as Crete was nonstop bombing every spot it could, we were just to stay within the Palace. I did not know which was worse. All I wanted was the ceremony to be over so I could have all the time to myself alone, in peace.

Olivier had become gentle to me, and more civilized. I had to spend every minute with him, as dictated in their tradition. It was weird how I remembered to be just a servant in the last time I entered his room room, and now, the next one, I was dressed finely, a complete contrary to what I had just been. It was....saddening.

The promise to I made to Zandra was, I vowed, going to be actualized. Olivier will be happy with me, though inside, I was so sad. It was the end of the world for me, and the harder to pretend. I missed Crete so badly, as I remembered it, especially now that I was dressed once again like I used to as a princess. Everything in Vega was like, all of a sudden, Crete. It was, probably, more than a year since I had been away. But I could not confirm it. Vega used a different calendar.

I spent my nights usually at his balcony, just staring outside to catch a glimpse of the stars. Celestial bodies would make me happy. At least, I knew somehow, same stars could be seen in Crete. Oliver would come to me, hug me close to him, and kiss me and ask how I feel. Certainly, I would lie, and just pretend to be as equally in love with him. But maybe I had learned to love Olivier. Not just the way he loved me.

He told me of their belief regarding the stars. It was pretty much similar to our own Cretian belief , but had its difference. He said that once in some time, a star would glitter brightly. This was a sign that it was picking from among the numerous wishes of the people below it , the best one which it would grant. But it was just a superstitious belief, he said with a smile. I wonder, though, from what happened later on, if it was just a belief.

During those times, I myself would pose affectionate actions to him, to make myself and him and everybody else in the Palace believe that I love him. I did not shed a tear. A promise is a promise.

Out of curiosity, at the second night, I walk close to him, and ask him. "How do I make you happy, Olivier?" I asked him, looking at the stars. How the sky seemed so dark. But the darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

Turning his head, he watched me. "I'll be happy if you're happy."

Zandra was right. I guess she must know Olivier by heart. But I was not happy. Then he could never be happy. And I will just break my promise. There must be something I can do. I should be good at my job. It was , after all, a promise.

In turn, he asked me. "How about you, Catherine? How do I make you happy?"

A sigh escaped from me. It was a sigh of sadness. But I wanted it to sound like a dreamy sigh, a kind which young girls would have. I leaned to him, pulled him to a kiss. "I am happy," I said, looking deep into his blue eyes. It was a lie. All lies. I wonder if he could tell.

However, at the last night, he caught me with my lies. When he was out of sight, I could not feel anything more but dread..sadness for the coming day when I will be wed. As I stared out at the sky, I suddenly cried, unstoppable tears. Not that I had anybody specific in mind that I would like to wed someday - it was just that weddings brought me so much pain, so much anguish and memories. Will I dishonor Crete with what I was to do? Will my father ever forgive me for disobeying his last will for me to marry Simms? Why did things go this way? Almost every possible subject, my mind touched. I blamed the generals, of both Crete and Vega, the warriors, their followers, the priests, the people, even the victims. And most of all, myself. It was then I realized my father could forgive me. But could I forgive myself? It was a tough answer. I didn't know the answer.

I sank down to the marbled floor, crying on my knees as I held it tightly close to my chest with my arms. Non stop I cursed myself mentally for crying. Olivier may catch me any minute. And he did. But I didn't notice him watch me. I noticed it too late, as he walked away. I just saw the tips of his robe.

He called off the wedding - and - still spared William. I felt bad, but also so happy. It was rather nice that it all came from him, that he dumped me instead, but I could not help feeling a pang of guilt on my chest. For three days, he would not see me. I was back to being a slave. I was so happy. I was so overjoyed. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Right after the wedding was cancelled, I went to visit William in the dungeons. Before, I had not the courage to come up to him and tell him I was getting married to the Vegan King as I knew he would hate me, though in reality, why I was doing that was because of him alone. Like I had known, he did know nothing about what was happening outside the metal bars. But he was happy to see me. When I told him what had happened, he understood everything, even the thing I did not tell him. He knew why he was spared. He understood it all. He was a keen lad, that was for sure. But like I had predicted, he hated himself. He said he'd rather die than see the Cretian princess marry the evil prince of Vega. How he hated Olivier! But I begged him not to tell Amanda the truth, no matter what. I also told him never to do anything as stupid as commit suicide when he had somebody loving him with all her heart. Besides, it was all over. There was no point in rebuking himself.

Everything was back to what it was - Zandra was fine after hearing Olivier cancelled the wedding, and she had more energy to hate me - and actually show it. Gone were the pretenses of the maids and servants who showed fake politeness - they were back to being cruel to me. I was pleased with this. Only Olivier had changed. He would not talk to me, see me or any relation to me. But on the third day, when I came to his door, he accepted me and let me in . I almost hugged him , very much grateful for his decision. But instead, I bowed to him, almost kissed the floor. What I never did in my life. But I bowed to him just as a Cretian nobility, but as a human alone. I hoped I was not dishonoring Crete with my actions.

What followed on - me as Olivier's slave and him as the still unmarried King - and our relationship - it was a lot better than before. For the first time, as his slave, he would treat me in a very civilized manner, not as a Cretian, not as an enemy, but as a human being. He never called - and treated me as his Ceri again, and I didn't call him Fuere. Though, at time, he would get his usual revenge of tormenting me with orders all at the same time, but he never did try to touch me again.

We would talk, and he would tell me of things he never told me before. I enjoyed combing his hair even more, enjoyed doing the things for him I once hated. In fact, I enjoyed serving him. I had never served anybody else in my whole life. Of course, I was a princess, I never did serve anybody else, but what I meant was that I didn't serve him that great, that most, that sincerely.

He would take me with him almost wherever he went - fishing, swimming, hunting - all the games I never knew he played. He loved the sea. He liked playing pool. He enjoyed horses. I guess I never really knew the real Olivier before.

But arguments could not be avoided. We were both stubborn to some points that we could yield to each other. For his part he took delight of challenging me, challenges that I could not refuse. But challenges were his weak points too.

I realized that like me, Olivier was still a real child at heart. I considered his losing temper as that of a child throwing tantrums. And more and more, I began to become more and more fond of this Olivier I discovered. For my part, I get provoked easily, even with a little teasing. Arguments likewise could not be avoided. Whenever he would say his views which were against mine, or do something I would not understand, we would clash. Some violently, mostly not that severe. But like kids, we could forget our anger easily. Usually it was me who would walk back to him, but there were times when I was consistent on my point that he would. He told me stories, like a real child, with that beautiful sparkle in his eyes, and I would listen intently. It was nice to know he didn't consider my talks childish, just as the people back in my kingdom did, and rarely paid me a serious attention. Probably he felt that way too, and I tried to become a good listener for him. One time that we spent almost all night talking was when, because of his stupidity and arrogance, we were lost in the middle of nowhere in hunting. It began to rain, and we were forced to look for a shelter. And there, standing in the middle of the night was an abandoned temple where we spent our night, soaked wet, with nothing but ourselves, so far off from civilization.

When he saw me cold, he threw me his cloak, saying he was not cold enough and that sickly women like me deserve it more. It was an insult, but I was not in a position to argue. Then we began telling each other stories.

He told me of many things, like his youth. He told me about his parents, Alfred IV and Fransesca Anne. According to him, he was really named as Emanuel until he was seven when his name was changed to Olivier. Emanuel, according to him, was the former lover of his mother, and when Alfred found out about it, he ordered his son's name to be changed. He also told me the former Queen resembled Amanda so much. However, she died when he was just nineteen, and Amanda was only twelve to a sickness. Alfred IV married again, a vain woman who squandered their wealth, cruel to both of them.

"And then what happened to her?" I asked, massaging my legs.

"I killed her," he answered, rather proudly.

It surprised me. I guess he had poor control of his temper. He admitted she was the first person he killed. And the last woman he intentionally killed. It was my turn to tell him about my past. It was not as interesting as his. I lived the perfect life of a princess. I was the only child, born about a year after him, and I had two great parents who died at my wedding. Our topic went to Felipe, and I admitted to him the truth. And he told me the truth about Felipe Adorada- that the lad was not dead, and he was just in the dungeons, like William. According to him, he had told Felipe the truth of why I was in Vega in the first place, which enraged the lad madly. But what angered me was that Olivier used me to make Felipe Adorada sign a contract of assistance to the Vegan nation, then placed him in the dungeons so that he could not escape from the agreement. I was enraged, and I demanded that he freed Felipe quickly. He promised he would, now that he knew I was not really in love with guy.

But I could not stay mad at him for long. At our solitude, when he was the only human I could cling to in the middle of the dark nowhere, my anger vanished almost at the instant when he made his promise to let Felipe go and invalidate the contract. Then there was a long silence, that we just stayed there, observed our surrounding. The temple was with marble flooring, must be splendid if not for the cobwebs all around and some inches thick dust making it look creepy. There were those statues with broken parts, even adding to the scary feel. When the rain had somehow subsided, I decided to go and check out outside. At least, there were stars there to light up the surrounding. He came with me, probably thinking I was still upset. But I had lost my anger, and I grinned at him as I sat down at the dirty steps of the temple, holding his cape tightly around me.

It was my turn to tell him about the beliefs about the stars back in Crete. There were as many stars as there were people. Each one born in this world had one star in the sky offered to him the moment of his birth. Or he himself was offered to the sky. In short, we were all a part of that magnificent world, all equal, all stars, all given the chance to shine. So that was how traditional Cretian people would know when they were in the wrong or right path - whether or not they could see their star sparkle. Sometimes, the star patterns were also used in deciding marriages, birth dates, etc . When two stars were found to be parallel, when they would form something, etc.

"So which one is your star?" he asked, looking up, following my gaze.

"I don't know. Why don't you pick one for me?"

And he did. I picked one for him. But later after we talked of other things, he had forgotten the star I picked for him and decided to share with mine. I laughed. He did to. Had the stars been reachable, we would have argued violently of who was to take it.

Sleep came to my eyes not long after. I didn't know whether he slept too, but he was still awake when my lids shut. We slept outside. It was rather hot inside. The next day we were able t o go home, thanks to him. And he kept his promise.

But when I was alone, I would remember the past. And I would wonder, if I was really pregnant. I felt no symptoms, and I did now know whether it was possible that I may not be. But even this, the memory of his cruelty to me, could not overcome the new feeling I felt for Olivier. I realized something, but too late. I had fallen for Olivier. My fondness had grown to appreciation to love. And I loved him the way I never did. The way I never should. It horrified me. I never loved anybody else that way. Not any man. Ever.

Except that, everything was the same in the palace. I would talk to Amanda, visit William, deliver messages and gifts from the Vegan princess, chat with Rene while the whole of the Vegan civilization would spurn me. As William had once become the bridge for me for the outside world, I became the bridge for him, to know about what was happening outside his cell. I told him of what happened between me and Olivier and Olivier's sudden change. I didn't tell him all, however, but like before, he had guessed correct. With suspicious eyes, he asked me. "Are you in love with him?"

I admitted it. There was no point in lying when he could see through my eyes. What keen young lad that he was. He tried to talk sense out of me, but I, irritated, began to defend myself. "I thought you would understand better than anybody!" I said, looking hurt.

He stopped. "You're right," he said, shaking his head. But it was hard for him to like the man who sent him to the dungeons, separating him from the woman he loved. However, unlike before, he did not try to stop me, or talk sense to me. He understood. He was in the same position as I was. We, both Cretians, I a princess, and he, a grandson of former adviser of my father, were both in love with Vegans, our race's sworn enemy. And then I told him about my pregnancy, the pregnancy which didn't occur. It shocked him. Not in knowing that Olivier went that far, but to know that I was in love with the man who abused me. Oh, what an ironic world!

It was some time later that Olivier turned at the age when he had to get married, whether he liked it or not, whether he had found the girl or not. It was a pressure, like mine had been, and I felt sorry he will have to go through it. This made me wonder, again, that if Olivier would offer marriage once more, would I accept it? Marry him now that I was truly happy to be with the man I love, who was no other than him alone? It was all out from the bottom of my heart, and not just because I was being forced to do so. But would I? What about Crete? What about Leon Simms?

But Olivier didn't ask me. He asked no one. Like me, he didn't want to get married. But it was the tradition, and not even the King could break it. He asked for a compromise. He was given a month before he will be married to the girl he wanted, or the elders would find one suitable for him. The deadline came, and Olivier was still unwilling to marry. He was beginning to hate all that tradition crap.

The elders then took the matter within their hands. They must have known what will happen and had a girl almost that same day. A rich elite girl from the southern islands of Vega, daughter of a duchess. She was taken to the palace immediately. Time rolled on so fast. Then he was going to be married.

It was the same practice that happened - a dinner, the three days, etc. Before the three days, however, as I spent my last night with Olivier alone, the last night he would be alone as an unmarried man, a tear slid down my cheeks as I combed his hair. He saw it, all through the mirror.

I haven't told him how I felt.I had no intentions to. Everybody was right- - I was a coward. I could not tell him how I felt. I was afraid it would change the whole world. But since he saw it....I wondered if he understood it all.

I wiped the tears away and stopped myself before he could see more. But one drop probably already told him. But on second thought, he must have thought it was just for friendship, nothing more.

"What is it , Catherine?" he asked me.

I grinned at him, resuming to comb his hair ."It's just're getting married."

"Don't worry. We'll always be friends, right?" he asked me.

I nodded, feeling strong stab in my chest.

He continued. "You can take care of my child, just as you took care of me."

I felt the greater need to cry. I could not stop it anymore. Quickly, I excused myself and turned to leave, but he stood up and caught my wrist, asking me to wait for him. I didn't. He spun me to him and met my eyes. I loved him, more than I loved anything else. And I was glad to find in his eyes that he still loved me, the same love he had for me before,the one I ignored , the one that Zandra had seen herself.

He pulled me in his arms. My heads rested on his broad shoulders as I cried. "I'm sorry it had to be this way," he whispered in my ears.

"Me too, Olivier," I croaked out softly.

Gently, he pulled me away to look deep into my eyes. "Do you want me to --?"

Before he could ask the question, I placed my finger to his lips, stopping him with a smile as I shook my head. "It is according to the stars."

"Promise me one thing though ," he said as he held me close to him again.

"What ?"

"Please attend my wedding. Be there. I will check to see you."

"Yes. I will be there." Another promise.

That was the first time I held him so close to me in a way that I never seemed to want to let go. But it was also the last. The day after, he will have that woman, Lila, or whatever her name was, to be his wife.

When I left his room for the last time, pulling away myself, I headed to the Mademoiselle's room, where I had been to before when I was to marry Olivier. I suddenly had the inclination to talk to her.

She was before the mirror, with a servant arranging her hair. Many other servants were around, preparing her bed, her bath , etc. Ignoring their questioning looks, I asked them all to leave. They hesitated, but Lila told them to.

She watched me at the mirror, and I met her cold steel eyes. She recognized me as Olivier's slave .

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"You're marrying, Olivier...yes?" I asked, despite the fact that I knew so badly. It was the same room I was once in...during me own wedding day, not so long ago.

"Yes," she replied.

I decided to get on to the point. "Do you love Olivier? Or is it merely -- " I searched for the words. "Because you were forced to?"

"To be honest, no. I don't love him. Not at all." She watched me roam my eyes about the room wildly, as I tried to avoid her eyes. But our eyes met once more. Why, she had won the man I loved. I always had this aversion toward marriage, but then..why all of a sudden I felt that way?

There was sigh that escaped me, something that told her of her sadness over what was to come. She was sad as well, but she would not show it. My head hung suddenly, and as I looked up, from the cold eyes of a slave, my eyes softened, almost close to tears. "Please make Oliver happy. For me. Promise me."

She didn't answer. It was probably the first time that she heard such words from slave like me.

"Please, Lila. Make him happy. However you feel, I do not know. Maybe..maybe it is no longer my business, but just look happy for him, even if it is against your will. Because I want him to have the best marriage of all. I want him to be happy. I love him more. More than you can imagine. If there is just anyway I can transfer that love to you so that you will love him....Yes. How I wish I can do that...."

My words moved her. She watched in the mirror as a tear slid down to my cheek, and my head hung. It was touching to see the poor slave beg for nothing else but for her man to be happy. It was real love. If only we could switch places...."I promise," she said.

And I left, after muttering a "thank you" in Cretian. I meant it from the bottom of her heart.

The wedding day came so fast. Realization came to me that I was not that tough, not strong enough to handle it, to be able to go to the wedding. So I decided to break my promise, as I just sat there in my dark little room at the basement, tearless. I could no longer cry.

Late the night before, I had gone outside all alone, watching the stars, asking it questions. I remembered Olivier's story. Of the brightest star that would pick the best wish among the people below it. And I remembered Zandra's wish. Probably her wish was chosen. That was why I fell in love with the "evil prince". The thought reminded me. What about Zandra? I had not noticed about her lately.

I found her in her room. She was drinking , but still sober enough.

"What do you want?" she asked irritably. Even she was not strong enough to face the truth. Her face brightened. "Maybe you'd like to drink with me?"

I accepted her offer. We had a toast. For Olivier. Then she became really drunk, and began to cry wildly in my arms. But it was not the worse. She wanted to kill Lila and prove herself serious when she got her gun. But I stopped her, before she could do anything wrong.

It was before she fainted, that she began to treat me nicely, not as a Cretian, but just as another human, a woman like her. She told me her fears, her sadness, her joys, and her love. Her love had not changed either. She loved Olivier more than ever. Then she fell on the floor, scattering the wine all over. When I felt her pulse, she was still alive. I dragged her to her bed and covered her with blanket, keeping the gun to myself.

Before I left the room, I felt my heart heavier.

I went to the dungeons where William was. He was , truly, the only one I could talk to. He was the only one strong enough to fight the wheel of fate.

I told him of what had happened - everything happening outside his cell. And from narration, I could not help but cry once more. But maybe I should not have. William, holding me in his arms, I sensed felt bad he could do nothing to help me, when I always did my best to help him in any way I could about his Amanda. Later , however, the cell door opened, and light sneaked in. There were Olivier's servants outside, saying Olivier wanted to me in the ceremony.

A promise.

Even with my heart heavy, I was escorted by the servants to the place of ceremony. But I could not go further inside. Being outside, in one dark corner with , was enough. I was cracking like a glass, and going in further would shatter my whole being.

The ceremony had began. It was in the middle part. I sank down to the floor, relieved that I was behind the people and no one could see me. The more I cried.

It was then that loud bombs were to be heard.


In a split second, the hall had opened up, and Cretian warriors had penetrated inside. I had actually forgotten our bet. The Vegan Palace was breaking up, being bombed by Leon's army into shreds. It must be coincidence, but why on Olivier's wedding day? As Vega attacked during my wedding, Crete attacked on his wedding day as well.

The people were in a turmoil. Everything was in chaos. People killing or being killed. I stood up, ran against the flow toe crowd, trying to find Olivier. Surely, he will be killed. Crete could never ever forgive him for what he was reportedly doing to me. I had to save him.

As the structure was collapsing, many people already died just because of the blocks or broken pieces from the building which were falling. But I was spared. To find Olivier and Leon. In the middle of a fire, amidst the ruined palace. In a battle. To death.

I heard William from behind me, calling me to leave. But I did not. I told him to find Amanda, but he answered that he had and they were escaping together. I asked not to stay and wait for me. I had my own business to settle. In seeing what was before me, he left, but hesitantly.

"NO LEON!" I cried to him.

He looked at me, astounded. Even Olivier looked at me. "Princess Catherine! Stay away! Leave now!"

"No, Leon, I'm not leaving!" I shouted. I walked to them. Olivier looked me, muttering my name, shaking his head. I shook my head at him, disobeying his orders for me to leave. This time, I will stay. I will defy them all, Crete and Vega.

But the battle began. I could not understand who was winning. It was happening so fast. I just heard their swords clashing. At one point, Olivier got the dominion , then Leon would recover, and Oliver would be doomed, but Olivier would recover and get the upper hand. Then Leon wounded him by the waist.

No. I could not just watch them die, just as I watched my parents die. Why could we not have peace? Why? Why all these?

It is war. People die.

Much to my dismay, Leon was winning.

I ran in between of them, when Leon's sword almost stabbed my chest, a strike which would have ended Olivier. Both my arms outstretched with Oliver behind me, began to cry, shaking me head. This confused Leon. As well as many other Cretians and Vegans watching the fight.

"No Leon. Please don't."

It was Olivier who pushed me away, to resume the fight with Leon. It was an honor to die for his country. He would accept no sympathy from anybody. Oh, if only he would control his temper.

The battle resumed. I was set aside. Women should not be in battles. Women were just too weak. Too frail. Too pure and innocent. All I could do was cry.

I felt something in chest.

A gun. Zandra's gun.

With trembling hands, I reached for it, tears in my face.

For a moment, I pointed the gun at nobody in particular. Just in the center. I could not decide. To Leon. But there were Cretians there, who was watching me. I pointed the gun at Olivier. But I could not do it either. I guess they were right about women. Too weak. Too frail. Too pure and innocent. Unable to decide, I pointed the gun to my head, shutting my eyes. I'd rather die first than to be left again with the wounds of war.

"NO PRINCESS! DON'T DO IT!" I heard William shout from to my side.

This stopped them both. Oliver and Leon. For Leon, even though he did not love me, I knew he would feel responsible for my death if I would kill myself. And for Olivier.....he still loved me, didn't he?

But it was a matter of speed. Olivier looked more troubled in seeing me threaten myself. Leon did not seem to be half as bothered. Taking advantage of Olivier's distraction, he threw his sword at his body. And I saw it all.

I cried. "NO!"

Things happened so fast yet so slow. I walked to Olivier's body, but was caught by Leon's arms, as he held me close to him, hushing me. He did not understand anything. Not a thing at all. Then he rushed me away from the collapsing building. I fainted. I didn't know what happened next. I wasn't even able to hold my Olivier again. Even for the last time. I suddenly understood why the Vegans hated the Cretians. And vice versa.

It is war. People die.

We'll all die. Eventually.

When I opened my eyes, I was in Crete.

It must be just a dream.

But it wasn't.

I won the bet.

A month after the catastrophe, I was married to Leon Simms. Leon succeeded my father, but he obviously surpassed him in ruling Crete. My father had made a wise decision of who was to succeed him. As the time passed by, I had learn to love Leon Simms. He was a great man, a noble and faithful and loving husband. But not the way I loved Olivier. I could only greatly love once in my life. And that love was for Olivier only.

I had matured. It was hard to believe it was just less than two years that I was captive. I had learned many things, and I owed it all to Vega. Yes. It must the way of the stars. And at night, I would look up to see the same star me and Olivier had shared. It must the star, their will. Had it not happened, I will not be the way that I had become. Vega. Olivier. He had taught me so many things. And he as well as the days with him will always be remembered, cherished . He had become a part of me. The of the greatest part of me.

The news had said the Vega was in chaos. Since the King had died, and the Princess was presumed to be dead as well, there was no other ruler left. The Vegan elders were troubled. It may pave the way for democracy or new kind of rule for Vega. Good for them.

Later, I learned from Leon that the main reason they won was because Capella had given military aide to them. Without the Adoradas' cooperation, they might not have won.

I did not hear news about William and Amanda. But I knew they were alive. I could sense it. And I was right. Later, I received a latter from William March's family William's own letter to me. It was his handwriting. At the bottom, I saw Amanda's handwriting as well, and she wrote in Vegan. What a happy ending. I admired them, and yes, even envied them that they had successfully passed the trials of their heart. Most of all, they married each other who they loved. I guess those who dared will win.

They were in Capella. Felipe Adorada had helped them in their disguise, and even supported them. Later, they were wed and now Amanda had given birth to healthy baby girl. They named her Catherine.

I had a child of my own. A son. But it was not Olivier's son, it was Leon's. When a test was conducted, they found no trace of Vegan blood. So Oliver lied again. He did not molest me after all. He just wanted to displease me. Or maybe he was testing me.

My son was healthy as well. I loved him more than ever. He will succeed Leon, and he will promote peace with Vega. I named him Emanuel. And I taught him to love Vega just as he loved Crete. After all, I was part Vegan.

2000/02/10-02/20 © Sakeena