Chapter Seven: The Leap of Faith
I look at myself in the mirror, wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around my waist. A variety of scars, scattered all over my body, remind me that the path I have chosen to walk on is a dangerous one. Never will I know when I might lose blood, a limb, or maybe one day even my life.
Still, I prefer that any day over the new quest I am preparing myself for now. For it may be one of the most difficult ones I ever had to take on.
Making amends with Lusia and Lorena.
I always found it best to relax right before starting a new mission. That is why I let one of our girls set up a hot bath for me. After she had done what I asked, I sent her right out so I could bathe alone. When Lorena does it, I rarely make her leave.
For almost as long as I have been a Master Assassin, Lorena has been the one tending to me. I remember that day clearly when she first walked into my chamber. She was young, scared, a bit fragile even and I took pity on her.
The last thing I wanted to do was upset Lorena by making her do things she was not yet ready for. So in those first few weeks after we met, we mostly just talked and got to know each other. It was then I realized that she was more than just a pretty face. I soon felt comfortable around her and started to consider her as a friend. I even told her that even though it was expected of her, it was her choice whether she’d want to sleep with me or not. But one day she came to me, asking me to show her, as she trusted me the most.
I was still a young boy myself back then with a lack of experience as Lorena was only my third. But for her, I was the first. So I did everything I knew and could to make her feel happy and satisfied. But after that things started changing. Lorena wanted more.
From the beginning, I had told her romantic relationships are something I do not engage in. Simply because I do not wish to have anything to lose. Besides, what kind of life could I offer? No woman could be happy living an uncertain life. Never knowing when and how I will come back from a mission, or even, ‘if’. So I had to make myself clear and told her we could never be anything more than friends. Lorena agreed but still devoted herself to me.
For a few years, our relationship worked out just fine. But then came Lusia, the most mesmerizing woman I have ever met.
Chasing women is not something I normally do, but I am drawn to her in a way I cannot explain. So when she walked away from me this afternoon I went after her. But as soon as I turned the corner of the arena, Lusia was already gone.
I know that I’ve messed up gravely by telling her she was a mistake I had made. What I should have said was that never before I had jeopardized my own life for that of another during a mission. Our instructions are very clear on that; locate, kill, escape. But I regret nothing. I would save her again, and not think twice about it.
After I am dressed in proper attire, I walk out making my way straight towards the Garden.
Upon my arrival, I immediately pass the girls serving the intoxicating drink and walk over to Lusia’s tent which seems to be unoccupied at this time.
Walking in I see no sign of Lusia or any other girl performing acts of pleasure and seduction. The smell of ginger still lingers from the night before, but the steaming heat has changed into a chilling cold. With slight disappointment, I walk back out, hopeful I might find her in the social part of the garden.
As I get there I notice Asad sitting comfortably drinking and talking to a beautiful young woman. I assume her to be his newfound lover, Medina. With them, on the carpet, I see a pale-looking Sef slouched down on top of a bunch of colorful velvet pillows. I decide to join them.
Asad calls out smiling and leans over to the maiden next to him. “This is the guy I have been telling you about.”
The young woman’s face lights up as she smiles at me. “Ever so nice to meet you Diran. I have heard so much about you.”
I nod politely. “I can easily say the same. I admit I was curious to meet the woman, sly enough to tame my brother.”
Medina laughs as Asad puts his arm around her.
“And I do not mind at all,” he says glancing her up and down before pulling her into a deep kiss.
I take a seat next to Sef and pat him on the shoulder. His hood is pulled up, eyes bloodshed, and his face pale as a ghost.
“Are you alright, brother?”
Sef shakes his head slowly.
“I have no idea why I’m here…my bed is calling for me and I think I’m dying…” he mutters, trying to raise his head.
Asad chuckles and puts his arm around Sef’s neck.
“You still have a lot to learn, little brother. But did you enjoy last night or not?”
Sef groans as he tries to get Asad off him. “Last night was like heaven itself…but this morning, I woke up in hell…”
I laugh at his comment as Sef clearly overreacts. His first night as a Master Assassin was definitely a big one. First, the intoxicating drink making him lose his inhibitions, then engaging himself in a little orgy handling four women. And now he’s paying the price. I call on one of the girls nearby us to bring him some water.
“So Lusia…she really did not physically engage during the night?” I curiously ask.
“Nope…I’m sure I would’ve remembered that… I did hear her talk a bit in the background but I was too occupied to listen to it…”
A sudden relief overcomes me and I don’t know why I feel so happy to know this.
Sef groans and lays his head back down onto the pillows. I place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Go to bed Sef. It is true what they say about a well-rested mind in a well-rested body. It is very important.”
Sef nods but has no way of getting up himself so I give him a hand. Asad grabs hold of a girl passing by and asks her to take care of our brother. The girl gently puts an arm around him and takes Sef up to his room.
“Poor kid…such potential but he needs training,” Asad says before he grins at me. “But how are you, brother? I hope things went well after I left you and Lusia alone at the arena?”
I gasp for air as I am lacking words at this time. Asad frowns and shoots me a dubious look.
“You screwed it up didn’t you?”
“There was nothing to screw up, I mean… she discovered that I was the one who brought her here and overwhelmed me with questions. So, I offended her…and she stormed off.”
Asad grabs his drink with both hands and closes his eyes while shaking his head.
“Brother, from a semi-professional perspective…if a girl walks away from you, it means you are doing something wrong.”
I glare at him which makes him laugh.
“But do not worry. Women always need time to calm down. Just try talking to her again next time.”
“Honestly, I would not even know where to begin.”
“I think Lusia is mostly in need of answers,” Medina says, joining into the conversation. “As far as I understand, she was left here all alone, after the only person she felt safe with had suddenly abandoned her.
I look up at Medina as she makes a very valid point. Even though I had saved Lusia, I also took her to a foreign place without thinking about it or checking up with her. Because I decided I had done my part.
“You are right. Thank you, Medina, for giving me your perspective. I had never thought about it like that before.”
Medina smiles at Asad who looks at her proudly.
Now thinking about how selfish I have been, I start to look around the Garden, hoping to see Lusia somewhere. Instead, my gaze falls upon Lorena who is sat a few carpets over, talking to an interested newcomer.
A frustrated sigh leaves my mouth.
“Do you think I should’ve ended things with Lorena, once I knew about her feelings?” I ask Asad who raises his shoulders.
“You never forced her into anything. It was mostly she who came looking for you, not the other way around. You just eagerly took advantage of each situation.”
“…well that does not sound like a good thing.”
Setting his cup down, Asad looks straight at me.
“Look, brother, I know you have a soft spot for Lorena, and I understand why. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who happened to gain romantic feelings for you. But I know that you have been nothing but honest with her from the start. So in my opinion, she knew what she was getting herself into.”
I quietly nod while keeping my eyes on Lorena. There is only one way to fix this awkwardness between us, so I rise up bravely and walk towards the cozy corner where Lorena is sitting.
She looks at me, eyes wide and a forced smile pulling on her lips.
“Can I talk to you? Privately.” I say, motioning towards the newcomer sitting by her.
Lorena lays a hand on his thigh and smiles sweetly, to soothe the startled boy.
“Sorry Diran, I am a little busy right now.”
It surprises me to be turned down by her, as she has never done this to me before. It’s a strange feeling, but also gives me all the more reason to want to talk to her.
“It won’t take long.”
Lorena sighs and hesitates, but eventually asks the boy to give us a moment. When he’s gone I sit down beside her wanting to look her in the eyes, which is hard to do as she is dodging mine.
“I have noticed that things between us have changed. But, I have absolutely no idea why…”
Lorena turns her head to face me now, a slight frown on her forehead.
“…does this change bother you?”
“If I am being honest then, yes. I have been thinking about it a lot. But…” I lower my voice and gently take her hand into mine. “…Lorena, I have always been honest with you, have I not?”
She sighs and pulls her hand away from mine.
“Well, if I think about it then, yes you have.”
“Then please tell me what it is I did that has upset you this much.”
I look at her expectantly as she takes a deep breath. Tears start forming in her eyes.
“It is because I see it now… I see now that you have never cared for me, not in the way that I care for you. And it all became more clear when Lusia showed up.”
“I am intrigued by her, nothing more.”
Lorena huffs as she tries to compose herself.
“Maybe, but yet…you have never looked at me, the way you look at her.”
“It does not matter how I look at her, because it does not mean that I do not care for you.”
“I know you care for me…” she says and places her hand on top of mine. “…but no more than you do a friend.”
A glimmer of hope shines through her eyes like she waits for me to finally say what she wants to hear. But I cannot say what is not in my heart.
When she realizes the truth Lorena sighs once more and sits up straight.
“So, because recent events have made me realize that you and I will never be…I have decided that what we have is not good for me anymore. So I think we should…end it.”
I stare at her for a moment, taking in what she just has said then slowly nod.
“If that is what you truly wish…”
Lorena smiles and grabs hold of my other hand as well.
“If I could truly wish…I would have wished for you to feel the same.”
A little shaken Lorena stands up from the ground. She reaches out and strokes my cheek before flashing me a sad-eyed smile.
“Safety and peace be upon you…my love.”
I can only stare at her as she turns around and walks away from me. That is the second woman today.
This is not at all what I expected. I had no idea my actions caused her so much pain. If I had, I would have done a lot of things differently.
As I look up at the moon I realize it is getting late. The Garden is slowly transforming itself from an oasis of peace into a lively orgy, of which I do not wish to be a part. Since there has not been any sign of Lusia this evening, I decide to give up for today and leave to patrol the grounds.
Every night Malik and his men do rounds through the village and around the fort, making sure everything is safe and secure. All this drama made me restless, so I need to do something to help me clear my mind.
Following the road outside the fort, I start walking the grounds down to the village in search of my patrolling brothers. Halfway through, a howling wind pushes sand into the air. I use my arm to shield myself from getting some in my eyes when I suddenly hear sounds of a struggle coming from down the road.
I track down the sound until I find myself standing on a stone-carved platform. on the edge of it, stands a rock formation made from big chunks of stone that are easy to climb. I make my way up and look down over the edge.
A dark figure emerges from the shadow, dragging along a woman seemingly against her will. Somehow she manages to pull herself free. As she turns to run the other way the moonlight hits her face. I am startled when I realize this woman is no stranger to me, but the woman I have been trying to find all night.
Focused, like a panther stalking its prey, I climb on top of the rock formation. A jump from this height will not kill me, yet it can hurt me if I land it wrong. But it’s the fastest way down. I take a deep breath then brace myself, for taking this leap of faith.