“Sara! I love you!”
The shock from those words almost made me lose my grip.
Was he trying to trick me into lowering my guard? Of course! He was my enemy, and we were duelling to the death. Why would he say such a thing except to distract me? Yet knowing that, I hesitated, bow drawn, an arrow still aimed at the pathetic bow. And he didn’t move a muscle.
“You…” I meant to sound contemptuous, but what came out of my mouth sounded nothing like it. “You’re my enemy…” My voice was faltering. Why? He was just another one of their useless spies… He was my enemy, damn it!
“I truly do,” he replied. He stood not five feet from me, arms hanging loosely at his side, feet parted. Relaxed. Vulnerable. That was no stance for combat; he was leaving himself completely at my mercy. “Ever since we first met at the Wuzan base, three years ago,” he continued, “I’ve loved you. Your abilities in espionage and combat are amazing, I admit — look at us now, you’ve surpassed me — and I truly admire you for that. But you’re far more than just a spy. You’re… you’re one of the few who are truly human in this war.”
“Hasim…” I lowered my bow. The rational part of me told me that was a mistake, but my emotions would hear none of it.
“You love me, too,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes.”
It was stupid. It was so stupid. I had to admit, I felt attracted to him. I could see he was strong, steadfast and clever as a spy and commander. He was sure of himself. Yet he wasn’t arrogant or overbearing; I’ve seen how he treats his subordinates, and they all seemed more like a family than a hierarchy essentially of slaves. He seemed nothing like the other Karadhim officers, nor even most of their adherents. But I knew he stood firmly by their goals, their completely absurd and destructive goals. Our beliefs would never allow us to be together. I’d never think of it.
I did think it, once. I was hoping it, maybe. But I was so stupid for thinking that. There was no way. Ever. We’d always be enemies.
“It’s a shame we’re not allies,” he told me. “We wouldn’t need to suppress our love for the sole sake of ideological enmity… and you’d be such a valuable asset to the Karadhim movement.”
“What! You – !” My hands shot up, drawing my bow again. “How dare you suggest that I — that I’d ever think of joining you?” The fool! He was utterly stupid to think I’d join their insane cause. Their vision of the world was completely distorted, their ideology was utterly foolish, and their actions, left unhindered, would bring this country to its knees! Why would I ever support such idiotic ideas?
He sighed, and a weak smile drew itself onto his face.
“You sincerely hate the Karadhim, don’t you? You’re not just carrying out orders, like so many involved in this war.” Hasim slowly brought himself upright, his face contorting slightly. “I was right. You, too, stand by your principles, and I admire that. A lot.”
I knew I should never trust an enemy. If my training hadn’t hammered it into my head enough, my experience had set it in stone. He had just confirmed his allegiance; why should I take his word?
But my resolve was wavering. I lowered my bow again.
This mission was critical, and yet I was letting myself be seduced by my adversary. Was I really so weak? Could I not overcome an adolescent infatuation on the man I was supposed to kill?
I wondered if I might truly be in love. In the deepest recesses of my mind, locked behind the spirit of the spy, did my real self fall in love with him?
“I don’t want us to be enemies,” he said. He took a few limping steps towards me. “I don’t want all this fighting anymore. I just want to be with you.”
No matter how much I tried to tell myself that he was my foe, I believed him. I really believed him. And I was thinking the same thing.
“We don’t need to continue this war,” he said. “We can leave this place, flee to Azaran, and live happily!”
“No, I – I can’t…!” I knew it was impossible. Love wouldn’t transcend our lifelong commitments to the Karadhim and Abdallai. Even in Azaran, we’d be found and killed.
Still he limped forward, until he finally stopped right in front of me. “Sara,” he whispered, “I would leave everything behind for you. My position, my life here, the Karadhim… everything.” I could feel his warm, calm breath on my face. I wanted him. He was here, not a spy, not an enemy, but a man; I had fallen in love with him, and I wouldn’t escape. I closed my eyes, and felt his lips gently touch my own.
I let myself become lost in passion. Maybe we could escape this anarchy. Maybe we could flee to Azaran, or even further to Jihaban or Roisk. Maybe we could escape our warring clans, leave this life of duty and danger behind, and live peacefully for the rest of our days. Maybe—
Suddenly, an arrow pierced my heart and shattered it to pieces.
I was so naïve. I shouldn’t have let myself believe we could live together. I shouldn’t have let myself become so blind as to not notice his subtle movement as we kissed. I should’ve seen that coming.
I stood there, supported by Hasim’s body, my life pouring onto him, and I knew I should have listened to the little voice in my head telling me to pull back.
“I – I’m sorry,” he whispered, sobbing into my ear. “T – there would be no escape… from either of our clans.” I felt him lay me onto the ground. “I love you. That’s why…”
Through the shroud of darkness that was slowly surrounding me, I saw him bring a bloodied dagger to his throat. “… I’ll give up everything for you.” And in the eternity that followed, he floated gently onto me, his lifeblood mingling with mine.
“I love you, too,” I whispered.
I felt myself sinking into the ground, the darkness weighing on me, and reached out for Hasim. I kissed him, caressing his body, and knew that as we fell into the eternal abyss, we would never part.