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A foolish man

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Barak sat waiting, his arms crossed and his eyes fixed on the passageway through the mountains. This was the only entrance to their hideout, so Calaf would have to come through here.

“You think he’ll come, boss?” Tang asked.

“He’ll come,” Barak assured him, and himself.

Calaf had insisted on challenging Turandot’s three riddles, which he had survived miraculously. Then, instead of taking his victory, having her as his wife and becoming emperor, he proposed a riddle of his own to the princess: to find out his name before sunrise.

The moon had risen high in the sky when Calaf finally returned. Barak rose to his feet and walked up to him. When Calaf spotted him, his eyes lit up.

“Barak, I was hoping I’d find you here! I—”

Barak punched him in the jaw. His underlings gasped.

“You fool!” he yelled. “You son of a bitch! Do you have any idea how many people you put in danger with that ridiculous stunt!?”

Calaf looked at Barak with a straight face, cupping his aching cheek.

“Why did you offer Turandot a riddle of your own?” Barak continued. “Did you think about the possible implications for even one second? If she guesses your name, you will die!”

Calaf opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again, fueling Barak’s rage.

“You’re a fool, Calaf!” Barak swung another fist in Calaf’s direction, but the prince caught his wrist.

“You’re right,” he said calmly. “I am a fool.”

Calaf pulled Barak’s arm down. The gang of thieves held their breath. Calaf looked into Barak’s eyes.

“By posing that riddling, I tried to win some time to find out what I really wanted.”

“Tsk!” Barak pulled his arm free from Calaf’s grip. “And have you finally found out what it is you want then?”

Calaf smiled.

“I have.”

He grabbed Barak by his shoulders and pulled him into a kiss. Barak uttered a sound of surprise, but didn’t withdraw. The gang of thieves cheered.

Finally, Calaf pulled back, lightly blushing in the pale moonlight.

“I gave Turandot my name,” he said, “And she gave me the option to withdraw.”

Barak looked up at him in surprise.

“Princess Turandot doesn’t need a man,” Calaf continued with a shy smile, “But it seems I do. Will you accept this foolish man?”

Barak didn’t answer, but pulled Calaf in for another kiss, which said more than a thousand words.