She clenched her fists and opened her eyes, it was bloodshot. A phone call distracted her. ‘Good morning Miss Evelyn’ came Jubril Lawal’s cheerful voice.
‘Good morning sir’ Tarasha managed to sound calm.
‘How are you?’ Jubril asked.
‘I’m fine sir, how about you?’
‘I’m doing great Miss. I spoke with your father this morning and we had a pleasant conversation. I’ll like for us to meet and conclude the deal terms’
‘Oh! Okay. When can I come to meet with you?’
‘Let’s make it tomorrow morning, 9am prompt’
‘That’s okay sir’
‘Good, we’ll see tomorrow. Take care’
‘You too.’ With that the line went off. Tarasha got up and wiped off the sweat forming on her forehead. She began to take off her ruffled gown slowly. Henry’s calm voice sounded in her head again.
** Flashback** December 20, ~~
‘Tarasha, Tarasha’ A voice sounded in whispers through the window. Tarasha’s eyes popped open, it was Marvin calling her. She rolled down from the hardwood quietly and buckled her bra well. She sniffed and began to tiptoe carefully in a bid not to wake the other occupants of the room. She shivered as the door creaked while she tried to open it. She turned to see if anyone was woken by the noise but no was awake, only a few itchings and turns, she proceeded outside slowly, careful not to make any other sound. Marvin had turned from the window side to the door. ‘Come’ she grabbed Marvin’s hand and they ran behind the lodge to a hidden place.
‘Tara’ Marvin who was bare chested and was covered with a torn towel-like material called her name softly.
‘Yes?’ Tarasha urged him, already getting impatient, staring around from time to time to see if anyone was coming.
‘Tarasha’ he called again. Tarasha stopped to stare into his eyes. He never called her full name except that was something really very serious.
‘I’ve come to say goodbye to you’ Marvin began. ‘I may not have the opportunity to say it anymore’
‘What? Goodbye? Where are you going to?’ Tarasha bombarded him with questions.
‘I’m not going anywhere. I may die tomorrow’ He said in a sad tone. ‘I overheard our Tent Lord saying that there would be a zonal bloodbath tomorrow and they plan to eliminate fifteen weak ones’ Tara stretched out her hand and touched his face.
‘Fifteen weak ones? But that has nothing to do with you, with us’
‘Tarasha’ he removed her hand from his face. ‘Let us be real, don’t let us pretend as if I’m strong’
‘You’re strong Marvin, you can scale through’
‘No, I’m not strong’ Marvin argued. ‘We all know that I only managed to escape death the last time. Now it’s here’ Marvin said as he turned his back on Tarasha.
‘No, you won the battle, you didn’t manage’ Tarasha turned back his body to face her. ‘And you are stronger now’ Marvin stared into the darkness for a moment, tears formed in his eyes.
‘Tara, I’m not scared to die. I’m scared of leaving you. Ain’t we even dead already. I think it’s better we die before these people finally turn us to animals who kill without thinking’
‘Don’t we kill without thinking already?’ Tarasha asked him.
‘I kill on orders and I feel remorse for every time I had to do it’ a tear dropped off his eyes as he spoke. ‘But the Nefary clan is not comfortable with that, they are taking us to the level of killing without feeling any remorse. Imagine, they made you kill your friend, the cook.’ Tarasha sighed and turned away.
‘I had no choice, I had to do that. He was already changed into a beast too’
‘I know but they’re going to make us do more. I heard that they do send some inmates to murder their families’
‘Do we have families?’ Tarasha turned suddenly to ask him. Marvin was about to answer her when they heard a noise coming towards their direction.
‘We have to go now’ Marvin’s eyes shone in panic as he peeped to see who was coming. He quickly grabbed Tarasha’s hand and they hurriedly tiptoed away.
Next day Tarasha could hear the loud chants of male as thirty of them girls were led into the “Hardness hall”. The boys were already been lectured in the hall. The hall was a very large one, it was made of thick brick high walls. It had no widows in it but was unroofed. The floor was made of natural rock, hard, cold during evening and early mornings but hot in the afternoon.
‘Love is a sin committed by weak people and it makes them weaker. Any object of love that is found beside you has to be eliminated’ the voice in the thick Russian accent continued to shout. ‘The day you start to love someone is the day you start to die’ Tarasha could spot Marvin where he stood, blindfolded. He was number two on the line in his group. That meant that he was the second person to battle. Tarasha looked around trying to locate Marvin’s likely contender but before she could, the tent lord had already returned to blindfold her and the other girls. The girls were later arranged on two line but none of them knew their position on the line.
The battle was to take place in a cage and the enemy was not known until they got into the cage. The first battle began and the first two fighters were sent in. Shouts and groans were what notified the other young assassins that the battle had begun.
After about ten minutes, the first battle ended and a winner with a bruised face emerged. Then the first set of girl fighters were sent into the cage. After another ten minutes, another winner emerged. Then it was Marvin’s turn. Tarasha knew it, she had seen him stand in the second position on the line. But she didn’t know his contender until she felt a hand on her shoulder. She was then dragged and pushed into another section. Her blindfold was taken off and she found herself in the cage with Marvin. Several fighting weapons laid on the floor for their use.
The bell rang for the battle to begin. The lovers stared at each other for a while without making any move. The whole hall became as silent as a graveyard.
‘Come on, attack’ Vladimir, the zone lord shouted angrily. Tarasha just couldn’t move. Just few months ago, she had been made to slaughter a dear friend of hers, Stanley Bob. Now she was being asked to fight Marvin whom she loved. She sniffed and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand.
‘Love is for the weak ones, the stupid ones without a strong heart. Kill him before he kills you’ she could hear a voice say to her.
‘No, don’t kill him. If you do, you’ll be totally losing your good heart’ another voice argued.
‘Who needs a good heart?’ The first voice laughed. ‘It would only make one become a fool who can be manipulated by feelings’
‘There’s nothing wrong in letting good feelings take control over you’ the good voice began but was interrupted.
‘Shut up! Remember who you are, nothing should take control over you. You were made to kill and nothing should stop you from killing. Nothing including love or any feeling you have’ Tarasha was awoken to reality when she heard a clang sound, Marvin had picked up a sword. It seemed he had finally made up his mind on what to do. Tarasha picked up a sword too and positioned herself for the fight.
The duo began to move in a circle, each one trying to set a trap for the other. Marvin was the first to strike, his sword went in direction of Tarasha’s forehead but was stopped by her sword. The battle continued and the murmurings among the other trainees increased as the sound of continued clanging of swords filled the air. After about four minutes of the sword battle. The two warriors spaced themselves. Both of them already had sweat dripping from their body.
Marvin threw his sword away and clenched his fists. Tarasha understood the message and dropped her sword too. It was time for a battle without weapons. They moved close to each other. Marvin sent a blow to her but she ducked down and he missed her face. She stepped aside without returning his attack. They stared into each other’s eyes as they vibrated their bodies from side to side, moving in a circle.
Marvin launched the same attack again and Tarasha ducked again but this time sent a heavy blow into his belly. He winced as he grabbed his belly and staggered forward. He recovered quickly and stood straight again. He stared again into Tarasha’s eyes, she seemed to be less interested in the battle. He remembered saying to her that he wasn’t afraid of death, but he really was. Now, he was desperate to live even if it meant taking her life.
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Marvin was a handsome boy, two year older than Tarasha. He stayed with his parents in Ghana until the day he was kidnapped alongside with four other boys and brought to the clan. The reason for his kidnap was not known to him until he spent two months in the clan. Marvin was a soft person in nature but the four other boys which he walked and played with were bullies. Due to their big stature and strength, they maltreated everyone they could. Marvin was close to them because of one, the leader of the boys happened to be his next- door neighbor. The kidnappers had observed the boys’ cruelty for sometime and concluded that they had the tendency to become great assassins. Marvin was only unlucky to be with the bullies on the fateful day.
Back to the battle. Marvin carefully observed where Tarasha was standing, the weapons were out of her reach. He seized the opportunity and he picked up his sword again. He smiled at her wickedly as she looked at him in surprise. Maybe she thought her love was still in his head, he thought. But this was a matter of death or life, he still wanted to live for some more years and probably get out of the Nefary City alive. He shouted on top of his voice as he raced towards her, targeting her belly.
Tarasha was scared and undecided for a second but the adrenalin rush in her body made her react. She turned back immediately and made a short run to the wall where she took three steps on and projected herself over the attackers head, she landed at his back and he almost fell as a result.
A blow hit Marvin’s face before he turned to her with the sword. Another hit his jaw when he tried to raise up the sword, it fell from his hand. Tarasha continued to deal him more blows on his face until he was bleeding profusely. He was too weak to defend himself. She held his neck and tightened her grip on it until he was out of breath. She was breathing heavily as she let his body fall to the ground. She stared at him on the floor for some seconds, murmuring inaudible words to herself.
‘Bring his head’ someone shouted as she turned, reminding her that her job wasn’t completed until she presented his head as her trophy. She motioned towards where the sword was and picked it up. Then she went back to Marvin and detached his head in few seconds.