02. Two Hating Hearts?

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Reuben managed to keep the smirk on his face for about two seconds after she had left. Then it disappeared and he staggered back.

She knew. She finally knew.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Reuben was aware of the fact that he should feel pain. Yes, he definitely should. He was in love with this girl, after all, wasn't he?

He decided that he probably would feel pain—but later. Not now.

Instead, all he felt now was... efficiency. He was in enemy territory again. And he had lived too long as an outlaw under the Emperor's rule not to know that outlaws and robber who didn't watch their backs died a quick and painful death.

“Are we being bombarded?” the old knight on the bed demanded to know again. But Reuben hardly heard him.

With two long strides he was at the door. Ayla hadn't locked it behind her. That could be a good sign. Maybe she still didn't think of him as an enemy and prisoner.

Or maybe she has left it open for her guards to fetch you, said a nasty little voice in the back of his mind. That voice had often kept Reuben alive before. Now he didn't like the sound of it very much.

You should have killed her on the spot, the voice told him. You would have, in earlier days, before you became so soppy. Maybe she hasn't told anyone about your little secret yet. You could have escaped without anybody being suspicious.

Didn't like it? No, he hated that voice right now. Anyway, what it said wasn't quite true. He may have managed to escape the castle. But there was that small matter of an enemy army building siege fortifications all around its walls.

Reuben chuckled darkly to himself. He was in quite a unique situation. Knights like him had to deal with castle sieges often enough. But most of the time, the enemy was either inside and you had to get in, or outside and you had to get rid of them. It wasn't often the case that they were both inside and outside and you didn't know where best to go so as not to lose your precious head.

Carefully, he pulled the door ajar and peered out into the corridor. There were three guards posted at its end. Were they just the normal number of guards posted throughout the castle, or were they placed there for the express purpose of guarding him?

“What in God's name name are you doing?” the old knight demanded, eying him suspiciously.

“I'm not in the habit of doing anything in the name of God,” Reuben replied, absent-mindedly.

From what he knew of Ayla, the latter was probable. She wouldn't let any residual feelings she still had for him interfere with her duty to safeguard her people.

With a bitter smile on his face, Reuben drew back and closed the door.

Residual feelings? Whom was he trying to fool? She probably had more feelings for the ugliest bedbug in the castle than for him, now that she knew the truth. Her words had made that pretty evident.

“Are we being bombarded?” the old knight persisted, glaring at Reuben.

“No,” snapped he. “We're not.”

“Then what was that noise? That slamming noise?”

The image flashed in front of Reuben's inner eye. Ayla slamming the door shut in his face. Forever?

“The sound of my death-sentence, maybe,” he growled.

“I have not the pleasure of understanding you, Sir.”

“Then don't! What do I care?”

Sir Isenbard's mouth dropped slightly open at that. He closed it quickly, collected himself again and continued: “And what were you doing just now, peering out of the door like that?”

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