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Chapter Z: Zero

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Advaita said “My father yearned for Power.” He fell on Shadow’s lap as tears started streaming from his eyes. She held him for some time as he finally got up recomposing himself. Shadow felt that he looked calmer and more focused now. “Me and the Shaka Chief had a very long conversation” said Advaita. “What happened between the two of you?” she asked. Advaita finally decided to reveal what had happened in Shaka after he had knocked on the door of the Chief’s house the day, it was early morning, the very same day when Cully and shadow were planning to go find him.

His Grandmother, Chief’s wife opened the door and they went inside. Grandfather didn’t want to talk to Advaita initially. When Advaita asked him why he had called his father a cheat, he came to know that Advaita didn’t know his father. Advaita told him Rob and Princess Agnes’s journey from Heaven to Bantu and all he knew was that Rob was Karma, his father. He opened the copper sheet and showed it to his grandfather. His Grandfather laughed and said “you have missed the most important part and she is not your mother. I will tell you the Karma we knew initially”. Valguka the Chief of Shaka finally started the story.

“We Shaka people lived in the Zulu kingdom. My brother was the chief then. We were both young at that time. One day due to a devastating earthquake we lost almost everything. We wanted to move north towards the border of Heaven seeking a place to live again. But my brother wanted to go to the City of Zulu. When nobody was ready, he along with his friend abandoned us and left for Zulu the very night. The next day they made me the chief and we moved here with great difficulties and started our life from zero.

I met my brother sometime later when I visited the City of Zulu a couple of times, I invited him to our new home, to come stay with us but he never came. Years passed and we became old. One day a man from Zulu came to talk to me, he informed me that my brother was sick and was on his deathbed. So your grandmother and I went to see him against the wishes of the tribe. By the time we reached he was already dead. We came to know he had a daughter Kiya. She was a young lady and all alone as her mother had passed away during her birth. Since we never had a child we took her as our own. We asked her to come with us and she readily agreed.

We were not sure how to tell this to our tribe as everyone had hated my brother. So we decided to say we met her on the way back and helped her as she was an orphan. But when we were about to reach Shaka we met a guy. He introduced himself as Karma. He looked tired and exhausted. Your Grandmother suggested we take him too. Thus they came to Shaka as two orphans. I took Kiya as my daughter, that very day I named her Akira in front of the Shaka people. Later Karma and Akira fell in love and they were married. You were born and all was good in their life. But one fine day your mother fell sick. She told your grandmother Karma’s story and made her promise not to tell this to anyone before her death.”

“What is this story” asked Advaita to his grandmother. His Grandmother continued from where his grandfather left,

“I kept Karma’s secret for a very long time. You had grown up into a young boy. If you remember Advaita the day before your father was attacked, I was sick. I got scared nobody would know Karma’s truth and your grandfather had decided to make Karma his successor but he had not yet shared his views with anyone. So that night I told him what Akira had told me”

Advaita was curious and nervous to know. He had not heard about Princess Agnes anywhere in the story so far, He wondered what happened to her. Grandmother finally stated what was told her the second time.

Akira and Karma had a baby boy. Karma was very happy on becoming a father. Slowly Karma had started loving his wife and child. He confessed one night to Akira that he had not loved her initially but married her to become the chief of the tribe. But he was a changed man now and he deeply loved her and their son.

Akira was shocked to hear that. He told her about his life before Shaka and that his actual name was Rob. He told her his story in the city. He explained her how lords humiliated and robbed them in every way possible. He wanted to assume power to change that. He said he was zero back then and somehow he had to reach a position where he was someone. He wanted everyone to pay for their harassment. So he had used Princess Agnes to do so. Karma told how he made Agnes fall in love with him and how they had run away. In Bantu they had exchanged the rings they had. Karma showed Akira, Princess Agnes’s ring which he had hidden all this long.

Akira realised that Karma had made her fall in love with him the same way too. But she kept quiet. Karma continued his story after Bantu.

As Rob and Agnes moved south from Bantu, Rob expressed his wish to go back to the city. Agnes said she did not want that life and all she wanted was to be with him. Rob who had hidden his real intentions so far, could not do this any longer. He was angry. He shouted at her, he said “How do you think we can live here. You are already hurt”. Agnes thought he was shouting because of love. She came near him and said “I am sure our love will find a way.” He pushed her away and said” Stop living in a fairy world. I do not love you. I used you so that I could get some status and power.” She fell on the ground feeling shocked and heartbroken. “We have nothing, zero now. I was a zero then, and after all my hard work I am back to zero” he said in anger and frustration turning away from her. She was still lying on the ground.

From nowhere a beast had jumped on Princess Agnes. Rob was shocked but instead of helping her, he saved himself. He climbed a tree and watched as Princess Agnes shouted with pain and breathed her last. Rob had not felt any remorse that moment. He was so blind with hatred towards the rich that he had lost the human inside him.

From there Rob had moved ahead with caution and came across the Shaka Chief and had introduced himself as Karma.

When Akira heard the story she was in shock. Her husband who she thought was such a good person was actually a power hungry emotionless demon. She remained silent. Karma said “I have realised how wrong I was in the past few days. You and our son brought back the lost soul in me. I have been repenting for my mistakes. I am in love with you both; I want us to be happy and nothing else anymore”. Akira nodded, but she was in shock. She came to know the two sides of her husband.

Akira could not cope with the truth she heard from her husband. She suddenly started to feel ill and could not eat anything properly anymore. Her health deteriorated badly, she decided to tell her mother everything about her husband. Akira realised that her father won’t let Karma live if he came to know the truth and her love for Karma made her ask for a promise from her mother.

“Now you know why I made people attack your father” said the chief.  “I never told the story to anyone here; all I said was that he was planning to take over as chief forcefully. And they attacked your father as I expected them to. But your father had a few supporters as well. It was like a war here when you ran away” he said.

Advaita was in shock. He had never known his father was that kind of a person. There was complete silence in the house. Sourav from the tribe knocked the door but was sent back by the chief.  “Don’t you think my father had changed after mother’s death?” asked Advaita. “He had, my child, but he had to pay for his past life” said his grandfather. Advaita nodded. “He loved my mother. I had seen him cry a lot of times remembering her” Advaita said.

Advaita who had worshipped his father and his teachings all his life was sad and distraught now. His grandmother noticed it. She came and hugged him. “You will always be my grandson” she said. They both cried.

Advaita finally told them his journey after the run. “So, are lords still harassing the poor in the city?” asked his grandfather when he finished his story. Advaita nodded.His Grandfather thought for a very long time. “Apart from us three nobody knows who your mother actually is. Give me your sheet” said the chief. He wrote something on it and put his seal. When Advaita saw this “This is wrong, Grandfather” he said. “You yourself said how lords are still behaving; there should be some people who can change that. I am sure Cully your friend can help you as well with It.” replied Grandfather. “But I may need to face the court to prove this, King himself had said that” said Advaita. His grandfather asked his wife to get that ring “Your mother kept Princess Agnes’ ring and she had given it to your grandmother before her death” he said to Advaita.

They both discussed on how the court session could go, finally as they were about to go out “Remember you need to start from zero again. Never lose your path as your father did. I have belief in you that you will be a better man.” the Chief of Shaka said.

When Advaita finished the story he turned towards Shadow. He could see even she was a little disturbed. He went near her, held her hand. He took Princess Agnes’ ring and said “I know my father was not a good man. He lost his way while he tried to bring a change in poor’s life here. But I promise you as I start from zero, I will be a good man, a good husband and a good father in the future to come. I will always be truthful and take your guidance in every step of our life as I fight for a better society, if you are willing to marry me. Will you marry me Shadow White?” She had tears in her eyes as she said Yes.

She knew how much he loved her. He placed the ring on her finger. They went out of the room for the new beginning that was going to come.


THE END

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Chapter X: ‘X’

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Advaita woke up early. He went straight to the Shaka Chief’s house. He stood in front of the door. He had to face them, he had to know what was unknown to him. As he stood there his thoughts moved back to the days when he had just started learning archery.

Advaita had chosen archery over everything else at a very young age. His father had made him a wooden bow and given him some arrows. His father put an ‘X’ mark on the nearby tree and made him stand a few meters away from it. “You see that cross mark I have created son” he said, Advaita nodded “You need to hit the middle of it, if you want be a great archer” his father said. Advaita learnt the basics from his father and tried to shoot his first arrow. As the arrow left the bow Advaita was excited. The arrow did hit a tree but not the tree where ‘X’ was marked. Advaita was disappointed with himself.

He tried a few more times and failed every single time. He was very disappointed. He said he did not want to learn this anymore. His father came to him and said “Son, everything in life won’t come to you easily. You need to practice. That mark is your target. To aim the arrow and make it reach that target should be your goal. You need to work hard Advaita”. Advaita had replied he would do his best and now he was one of the best.

Now he had aimed to reach back to his grandfather and he was here now. He knocked the door. His grandmother opened the door. “Advaita!” she said. She had recognized him right away. She asked him to come inside as she closed the door behind him.

A Couple of Shaka people had seen the stranger from previous night go to chief’s house. It was almost midday and nobody had come out. They had heard some argument happening inside but could not make out what was happening. Finally Sourav a member of Shaka and successor to the Chief knocked the Chief’s door. Chief sent him back saying all was ok.

Afterwards, sometime later Chief and Advaita came out. Both looked quite sad. All the people were curious to know what had happened. Chief said to everyone that he would address them later in the night and for now all should get back to their work. Advaita asked Chief “Grandfather are you sure, you don’t want to join me?” Chief replied “This is home my child, I want to spend rest of my life here and not somewhere else.” Advaita respected his decision. He folded the copper sheet which he had taken along.

Few recognized Advaita. Chief again controlled the situation as Advaita collected rest of his stuff and bid his final goodbyes to his grandparents. Chief’s wife, his Grandmother gave him some food for his journey. They wanted him to stay for one more night but Advaita suggested he would rather leave because of the tension that was created once due to his father.

Advaita was in deep thoughts as he entered forest. He was not sure how he wanted to take his story forward. It was in his hands. Though he and his grandparents agreed on many things. He was not sure whether he should go by it. Finally he decided what his next target was. Then he decided to concentrate on his way back to Bantu tribe as he wanted to reach there before it was too late in the night.

As he moved ahead, he could hear some suspicious movements. He moved with caution, a bow and arrow in hand, ready to shoot. Advaita was very good at being invisible in forest. He saw a couple of city soldiers which surprised him. Then he saw Shadow and Cully. They were walking the horses along with them as it was very difficult to ride in this thick forest.

He was about to reveal himself when a beast jumped from nowhere to kill a horse. The other horses dispersed because of the attack. Advaita noticed the scar on the back of the beast, it was Fear. Cully covered his sister as he drove the sword. The two soldiers had fallen to the ground. Even they were getting ready to defend their General’s Children. The beast roared and grabbed the throat of horse with its jaws. The horse breathed its last.

Advaita came out of his hiding. He shouted “Fear…” The Beast which had just choked the horse with its Jaws, looked towards Advaita. Others turned towards Advaita as well. Another female beast came beside Fear. Fear controlled it. Advaita slowly moved towards Fear. “Do you remember me Kid” He said as he came near it.

It was a tense moment for everyone. Advaita moved his hands around its back as he used to. Fear acknowledged it as it closed its eyes. All put their swords back in their sheath. “Looks like you have got yourself a girl” Advaita said smiling. Everyone laughed. The female beast looked uncomfortably around them. It took the horse that was dead with its jaws and dragged it to the bushes.

“You know this Beast?” asked Cully. “We survived together for years in this forest, his name is Fear.” Advaita replied. “So this is Fear!” said Shadow who knew about Advaita’s life in forest and continued “I have never seen a beast with white and black stripes.”  “Even I was surprised when I had first seen him, they are usually in Yellow with black stripes” replied Advaita.

Advaita asked them why they were here. Shadow said they had come looking for him. Cully said “I heard what happened in court, have you found any proof?” he asked. Advaita took the copper sheet he had and gave it to Cully.

“I Valguka, the chief of Shaka acknowledge that the painting of the people in this are indeed Parents of Advaita. They had come to me by the name Karma and Akira together long time ago. I pledge that whatever is written here is the truth. “

X (Seal of Shaka Chief)

Cully read it out loud. He had a huge smile on his face when he finished it. Shadow noticed that Advaita was not very comfortable when he heard it. Advaita said “we should head back to Bantu now before the night falls.”

He and Fear walked together like old times. Shadow had her doubts but she kept it to herself. She saw a calm Advaita who was walking along with a beast. Cully was very happy with the news.

They almost reached the outskirts of Bantu. Fear stopped its walk. Advaita understood it had to go back. He gave it a last hug as tears rolled down his eyes. It ran back with a huge roar.  “Hope we will meet again, my friend” said Advaita as they moved towards Bantu.

Chapter V: Venture

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Advaita felt that the moonlight would give him enough light to escape from the city. With a bag on one shoulder and a bow on another he reached the outskirts of the city. It was time to venture out into the forest. He decided not to take the path which was meant for the carriages but follow a path parallel to it.

As he went further the forest got thicker and the darkness followed. He decided to climb a tree and rest on a branch for some time. As he waited he ventured into his thoughts.

Advaita was struggling to keep up with his father’s pace. The sword was dripping with blood. He noticed that his father’s left arm was hurt as well. Rajan, his father’s friend came towards them as they reached their house. “Keep guard Rajan,” said Karma, Advaita’s father. As they both went inside Advaita could hear Rajan calling for help from some more people.

The sword from Karma’s hand fell as he locked the door from inside. The house was a mere hut with a single room. Advaita could hear the fight going on outside. He was scared. His father came near him and made Advaita look into his eyes “Listen son, from now on you will be venturing into a new life. I want you to run towards the north and not stop for anyone, especially our people.” Karma said.  

Advaita was struggling to listen. All he could listen was the sounds made by the swords clashing outside and the screams of people. He realized people were dying. Karma took out the hay from the top situated on the opposite end of the door. Advaita saw that his father put his dagger along with some arrows in the bag.  “Advaita concentrate on what i am saying. Take the bow and arrows. Climb the wall and get out, protect yourself, you need to run from here, go north” Karma wanted to say more but time was running out. The sound of fight outside had come to a sudden halt. There was a knock on the door. “Rajan, is that you?” he asked as he turned and walked towards the door.

There was a silence for a few seconds. Suddenly the door was burst open as Karma fell down. He moved for his sword. “Runnn..” he shouted to Advaita. As he climbed the wall Advaita saw that Rajan’s face was covered with blood just outside the door lying on the ground, dead. Couple of people were attacking his father. He dived outside and ran towards the forest. He heard his father’s cry as he ran ahead.  

Advaita woke up from his sleep as he heard a roar from deep inside the forest. He was wide awake now. He wondered whether his father had purposely sent him north with a dagger so that by chance if Thomas or Tip found him they would know he was Rob’s son.

He wanted to trace the steps of Rob and Agnes from where they left. Advaita remembered Bantu tribe people telling him, his face looked familiar, so he decided to go to Bantu first. He walked in the forest cautiously the whole day. Sun was about to set as he reached the Bantu tribe.

Some of the Bantu people were surprised to see Advaita. But it was not new to them as he always used to come in at odd times. They greeted him. He rested for a while and then he went to meet the chief. Advaita greeted the chief of Bantu as he entered the chief’s house. Chief was happy to see him. Advaita found the chief weaker than he had seen him before.

“You know what your specialty is Advaita. You become one of the tribe members when you stay with the tribe and become a vagabond as you venture into the forest until you reach another tribe.” Advaita took that as a compliment from the chief. “What brought you here my friend, I see your eyes and I feel you have questions for this old man” said the chief with a smile.

Advaita without wasting anytime took out the copper sheets and gave it to the chief. “Do you recognize any of them?” Advaita asked. Chief stared at it for a long time. He called his wife and asked her to look at the painting as well. She nodded. Chief said he had seen them as he went on, “Many years ago these two visited us. They were very tired and the lady was hurt. We had made them sit in this very room. It looked like it was their first journey in the forest.” “What happened afterwards?” Advaita asked impatiently.

“They rested here for the day and before we woke up they had left. But my wife had seen them leaving” he said as the Chief’s wife added “Yes. They had left very early. I do not know what had happened but I felt they were arguing over something as they went south into the forest. That was the last we had seen of them.” Advaita thanked them for the information. The only tribe in south after this was Shaka.

Advaita wanted to leave immediately. But they suggested him to stay for the night. Advaita reluctantly agreed. As advaita laid down he wondered whether he would ever win an argument with anyone. He thought of Fear, then Shadow, the two he cared and loved the most.

Now he had to venture into an area he had avoided for so long. He had to go back to Shaka.

Chapter U: Unique

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The rest of the night passed away as usual with Advaita deeply immersed in his own thoughts. He again struggled to sleep that night. Glimpses of his father running away with Princess Agnes came in his dreams. His Grandparents getting burnt woke him up. “Every person is unique and so is their story” his father had said. His was getting more unique by the day he thought. He tried to sleep again.

Advaita was walking in forest. Fear the beast was walking next to him. Suddenly a clan of hyenas attacked them. As they fought for survival his eyes opened. It was Cully, he was trying to wake Advaita. As Advaita sat up, Cully asked “What happened?” “Nothing, remembered my days in forest” replied Advaita. “King Aiden has summoned you in the court today. You must get ready and leave if you need to reach there in time” Cully said.

Advaita got ready and left the General’s house. Soldier Grant was again assigned to him. They reached the palace. Advaita was wondering what this could be about. Finally he was in front of the King besides all the ministers of court. Advaita was nervous but he didn’t show it. He felt he was in a yet another unique situation. King Aiden praised Advaita in front of the court. He even said he had not seen a finer archer than him before. Advaita thanked him for his kind words.

When the question of who he was, was raised, one of the ministers said that he had heard that Advaita was the son of Rob and Princess Agnes. King Aiden shocked, stood from the throne. General Thomas who was also present in court said that it might be true. The whole court was murmuring now.

Advaita was now the centre of discussion. Few accepted what General Thomas had briefly explained, fewer demanded proof. The court was divided in discussion. Finally King Aiden asked everyone to be silent. King Aiden was thinking. Finally he spoke “This matter is more regarding my family than the kingdom. I will need to have a talk with Advaita on this and then we will get back on this here.” Everyone acknowledged. Advaita felt relieved. But he now knew that he would need to talk to King on this.

Advaita was asked to wait outside as the session followed. He was called to King’s Chamber later. Advaita greeted the king. After the initial formal talk, King Aiden said “I am busy today. We will have a discussion soon on this matter” “You need to talk to General Thomas on this, your highness” Advaita replied. King Nodded. “I cannot announce to the world that you are my nephew without any proof. Next time when this discussion comes up you better have some proof. Or else even if you are my nephew I won’t accept.” said the King. Advaita thanked the King and left the palace.

“So are you are a Royal?” asked Soldier Grant as they left the Palace. Advaita laughed at that question. ”You will know soon” Advaita said. He said he wanted to visit Tip. Advaita explained Tip what happened in court. Tip thought it would be good to talk to General Thomas on this matter. Tip gave him the copper sheet on which he had painted Rob and Agnes. Advaita saw it and thanked Tip for it.

With the sheets in his hands he reached General’s House. He went to his room. He took his arrows, couple of clothes which were given to him and packed it in the bag which was given to him by Shadow. He kept the bow and the dagger near to the bag. He went down and asked a servant where Shadow was. He left for the city library when he came to know she was there. He felt bad for the people begging on the way. When he went inside the library, he found Shadow reading something. He went and sat beside her. She saw a concern on his face. He explained her the whole situation. He felt it was unique as he didn’t want to be a royal and people were discussing over it whether he was a royal or not. She said “let’s walk back home”.

As they walked she said “If you are a royal, you are one. You just can’t run from it. But I know that the more concerning matter for you is why Shaka chief termed your father a cheat?”  He smiled as he was amazed. “When are you planning to leave?” she asked. He looked at her. She smiled at him. “Maybe tomorrow morning” he said. She nodded. They reached the house. As she went to her room she said “No matter what decision you make or path you take, I will always support you”. Advaita smiled.

Advaita felt bad that he had lied to her. He had decided to leave in the night. He had to get some normalcy in this unique story of his.

Chapter T: Tale

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The wedding ceremony was the talk of the town for the next few days. The Jester’s act after the wedding made people laugh for a long time. Overall the day was one of the best days the Kingdom ever had. The King and People of Benin had left after a few days and everything was getting back to normal in Heaven.

Advaita learnt that wedding in Heaven or in any other Kingdom for that matter happened during the middle of the day when Sun shone at its brightest. It was a belief that Sun would be spreading its light all over the world, most at that moment and light in the newlywed’s life would stay on forever. He had found that belief interesting.

Now that the days had passed. He wanted to talk to General Thomas about the truth of Rob. When he raised this matter with General Thomas, General said they would sit in the evening for the same. Advaita now was eagerly waiting for sun to set.

General Thomas, Tip Roy and Advaita were again seated in General’s study and General continued the tale from where he had left

Rob was in love. Since he was very close to Prince Aiden he could met Princess Agnes. Rob started to impress her with his visions and thoughts. Slowly even Princess Agnes fell in love with him. Even Prince Aiden didn’t know about them. Rob and Agnes had started spending time in secret. They took our help to do so. When they were sure they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, they decided to tell Aiden about it.

Prince Aiden was initially not very happy but Princess Agnes talked to him. The views of Rob had always impressed him and he finally agreed to talk to King William on the same. On the Parallel Rob wanted to bring change in the kingdom. He wanted to remove the atrocity shown against the poor by rich lords. Poor girls were getting raped and killed. None of the poor supported him as they thought this would make things even worse.  

Meanwhile the love story of him and Princess Agnes reached the King’s ears before Prince Aiden could talk to him.King William ordered the soldiers to get him Rob. They had a discussion where King threatened him. Rob was not ready to listen to any of it. But he stayed silent as he knew he could get killed if he rebelled. The King gave him a final warning and let him go. Prince Aiden tried talking to the King but it went in vain.

One day Princess Agnes wanted to meet Rob. When she tried to sneak out from the Palace to meet him, few soldiers saw her and informed the king. King disguised himself and followed her; he caught her before she could reach Rob’s place. He threatened her that he would burn Rob’s house in front of her if she saw him again. That very night Princess Agnes went to Prince Aiden and told him what had happened. She had said she would die if she doesn’t get Rob. The next day King Summoned Rob’s father Lian and warned him on this as well.

Lian came to this very house to talk to my father. He explained my father the whole scenario and said that he would be leaving the city with the family and try to live somewhere peacefully. My father said he would try talking to King on this matter. I heard their conversation and immediately went to inform Rob about his father’s idea of leaving the town. Prince Aiden was with him at that time. He suggested that Rob and Agnes should escape from the city or else they could never unite.

Prince Aiden himself devised a plan for their getaway. The very next night he got Agnes with him. As I took Rob to the outskirts of the city. We gave them gold coins, food and asked them to be careful in the forest. That was the last we had seen them. Rob’s Parents were killed the very next day and their house was put on fire by an angry King William.” General Thomas ended the tale.

“I saw the dagger in your hand the morning of wedding day when you were asleep. I had given that dagger to Rob the day they left. When I asked Shadow how you had that, she told me it was your father’s. I am sure that you are their son now” he said. Advaita was silent now. “We do not live in a perfect world where fairy tales come true but in a world where life is a struggle for survival and we need to find happiness within it” he now understood why his father had said that.

Seeing Advaita silent Thomas and Tip realised he needed a break. “You take some time son, we will talk further on this later” Tip said. General Thomas left the room. Tip sat there for sometime. When he was about to leave, Advaita said “I need a favour Tip”. Tip said he would do anything. “Can you paint portraits of Rob and Agnes?” Tip agreed and told he would give it to him by tomorrow. Advaita thanked him.

Advaita sat alone in the room deep in his own thoughts. He had called the chief of Shaka tribe his grandfather. His mother called him father as far as he knew. But people in Shaka had called his parents outsiders. Now grandfather had told his father and he were a cheat. Advaita was totally confused.

He decided he had to get to the end of this tale as soon as possible.

 

Chapter S: Showdown

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Advaita was ready to shoot his first arrow. He could sense that all of the kingdom’s eyes were upon him. He shot the first then the second and on he went. Every shot was hitting the bullseye. When the final shot hit the bullseye there was a huge roar from the crowd. King Aiden finally smiled. Advaita’s opponent Commander Alex of Benin seemed impressed too.

Advaita suggested they have a round 2, with two targets placed one above the other and they needing to hit both of them simultaneously. Commander Alex agreed to that. Finally two such sets were arranged. They both took two arrows each ready to shoot their respective targets. The whole arena was silent. When the signal was given both shot the arrows. All four arrows hit the bullseye. The crowd went crazy over their accuracy. Advaita and Commander Alex decided to go two more times. Both the times they hit bullseye.

The Kings were very impressed with Advaita. The crowd was excited to see what would be the next round. Commander Alex suggested adding a third target on top of the two. Advaita agreed to it. He had never done this before but he was very excited.

Now they had to shoot at three targets simultaneously which were one above the other. Even commander Alex had not done this before successfully. “Are you ready for the showdown?” He asked Advaita. “I never thought I would be a part of one in the first place” Advaita replied with wonder. They both laughed. The crowd had gone silent again. “Son, you may feel in this life that you too need some showdown with beasts to feel its real thrill, but in life all you need is to be happy and at peace” Advaita was in a different kind of showdown and he was happy too as he remembered his father.

Advaita looked at Shadow as he got ready with the three arrows as he placed them on his bow. She smiled at him. Both Advaita and Commander Alex had set their arrows ready to shoot. 6 arrows flew towards the target. 4 had hit the bullseye. Advaita had missed the bullseye with a very small margin on the bottom target. Commander Alex missed the top target. The whole crowd went silent as it was decided that whichever arrow was nearer to the bullseye would be declared as winner. Commander Alex came and hugged Advaita “You are already a winner to me, son” He said. Advaita who never got too emotional about these things had tears in his eyes. He thanked Commander Alex.

Advaita’s arrow was nearer to the bullseye than that of Commander Alex’s arrow and was thus declared the winner. The whole crowd went berserk and cheered for Advaita. They had never seen such close archery competition before. King Edward congratulated Advaita for his talent. He turned to King Aiden and said “We have a tie from the games. Shall we conclude this tournament with a final game of longsword duel?” They both decided the best from both kingdoms would fight. King Edward called for his General Lucius as King Aiden called for General Thomas. They were asked to get their respective longsword with armor and step into the arena for the final showdown.

Both the Generals had immense respect for each other. They both greeted each other and took their stance. General Thomas had his longsword pointing to the ground whereas General Lucius was pointing it straight at General Thomas. As the signal was given Lucius attacked with the very first thrust which was very well deflected by Thomas. Thomas made Lucius come to him for every attack. Suddenly Thomas countered which caught Lucius by surprise but he dived over and escaped as the sword brushed past him. Thomas thought the game was all over when he went for a submissive move, but Lucius got away by kicking Thomas. Both fell to the ground; as both got up they were in an aggressive mode. Each thrust was parried by the other. There were counter attacks for each attack. People watched in awe of this duel. Both were matching each other’s strikes. The duel went on for a long time. Though both were tired, the pace of the duel had come down and their never say die attitude endeared them to their captivated audience.

The Kings, soldiers, lords and people were on their toes expecting the unexpected. They had already seen some amazing techniques which were never witnessed before. Both the Generals had been innovative in deflecting each other’s attack trying to outwit each other.  King Edward saw that it was almost midday and looked at King Aiden.

General Thomas waited for General Lucius to attack, as Lucius waited for a bit to get a breath both Kings signaled for the duel to be stopped. The whole crowd stood, cheered and clapped for both the Generals. They declared that it was a tie. The Generals bowed to the Kings, acknowledged the crowd for their support.

“It’s almost midday, we should get the wedding going.” said a happy King Edward. They all made their way to the Palace Church. Princess Margaret had not attended the tournament. She had stayed inside. A soldier was sent to inform her regarding the ceremony. Prince Rufus left the arena to get ready.

King Edward who until now had only hated the Kingdom of Heaven, started respecting them. The passion and support of the people made him feel happy. He saw Princess Sarah and how happily she was talking to her father King Aiden. He had tears in his eyes. King Aiden noticed it and asked Edward if he was ok. As they reached the church, Edward asked him if he could talk with him in private for a moment. Aiden asked everyone to get everything ready and took Edward to one of the chambers in the church.

“I had my daughters killed. I had so much hatred towards this kingdom.” Edward said tears rolling from his eyes now.  He bowed his face in shame. Aiden just stood there. “When I saw you with your daughter right now, it came back haunt.. Haunting” Edward was struggling to speak. Aiden was shocked to see this face of Edward. He went and hugged Edward and said “Whatever happened in past can’t be changed. But you will soon have a daughter”. Edward looked at Aiden and nodded.

Feeling relieved in no time Edward was back to his regular self. “Shall we attend our daughter’s wedding then?” said a delighted King Aiden. They both left the chambers smiling. It was indeed the conclusion of the showdown between the two Kingdoms.

Chapter R: Rivalry

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As they reached the Great Hall, they saw that the Kings were arguing. They had decided that there would be a tournament between the two kingdoms. Advaita was not able to understand what was happening. He asked Shadow about this. “You do not have a clue about the rivalry among us and Benin do you?” She said.

Cully came to them. “King of Benin just wanted us to get humiliated. Now they want a tournament before the marriage. We are going to the Arena “he said. Cully didn’t explain much why this was happening. Shadow and Advaita left the emptying Great Hall. They saw that The General was asking Cully to get the swords from their house. As they went Advaita asked Shadow about the rivalry. “A rivalry should be within ourselves and not with someone else” his father had told him once.

Shadow said “Before we were born. Benin always tried to humiliate our Kingdom during various tournaments organised by the kingdoms. In one such tournament the ego was so high that Benin declared that there would be war a between the kingdoms. The war went on for days. Our defence was so strong that they could not win over us. We could defend but we couldn’t make the Benin army move back. Many of our men died in the war. Finally Zulu and other Kingdoms intervened and stopped the war. Our Grandfather also died in that war. King William was heavily injured. In the treaty it was decided that a Prince of one kingdom would marry the Princess of another to uphold the peace. Since Princess Agnes was not there and there were no Princess in the Benin kingdom who weren’t married they decided that it would be for next Generation. King William crowned Prince Aiden the king and passed away soon due to injuries.”

”So that is the reason this marriage? Advaita asked. Shadow replied “No. After Prince Brian was born here. A princess was born in Benin kingdom. They had said the baby died during birth. But in reality they had killed the baby as they never wanted a Princess to be married to Heaven.” Advaita was shocked to hear that.

They were in the Arena now. Advaita had seen it from outside when he entered the city for the first time. He could see commoners and lords had different places to sit. Royals and close ones sat in a different place. King Edward gave the first choice of fight to King Aiden. Kingdom of Heaven was famous for their wrestling prowess. So King Aiden chose that. He chose Royston from Heaven’s side. King Edward chose one of his general’s. He had a smile on his face when King Aiden chose Wrestling, he had expected that.   

A Three round wrestling match was decided. The two would battle within a circle and winner would be decided by a throw out of the circle or by submission. Round one started and they wrestled very well. The joint locks were getting countered and so were punches and kicks by both men. People were thoroughly enjoying this contest. First round finally went to Heaven as the Benin soldier was thrown out of the circle. There was a huge roar around the arena.

As the round two was going on Shadow continued with her story, “Heaven got the news that King Edward had killed the second baby as it was a girl too. Benin only had one son and no more after that. Heaven called all the kingdoms and broke the treaty due to this. But couple of years back there was a tournament in Benin kingdom. Princess Margaret had visited and love developed between her and Rufus. King Edward was not very happy about this but he agreed for the marriage” she said.

Second round was won by Benin and third round was going on. Due to a rivalry and war, bodies and two innocent children had died. Advaita felt sad about it. He wished he could change something. The life of poor, cleanliness around the kingdom and unnecessary wars. All needed a change he thought.

When his thoughts came back Benin had won the third round using a submission move. There was silence around the Arena. King Edward had a laugh. First game was won by Benin. He asked “Why don’t we have a competition in archery next?” to King Aiden. Aiden nodded. King Edward chose Commander Alex of Benin. Commander Alex used to lead the archery team for Benin and was considered the best archer among kingdoms. Cully came to Advaita and said “I told father that you are contesting, get ready”. Advaita was surprised. General Thomas went to King Aiden, they had a long discussion. Advaita’s name was announced from Heaven’s side.

Advaita was in one of the seats so far. Now he was in the arena with a Kingdom’s reputation at stake. Shadow wished him luck as he came down. Alex announced that that they would be aiming on ten targets across various places in Arena. 7 targets were set within the arena and 3 were set in the different seating sections. It was decided that they will be provided with longbows and arrows. The arrows should be launched successively without delay. With a New bow in hand and 10 arrows Alex started the game of Archery. Alex did manage to hit all 10 bullseye with no delay in shooting.

Advaita saw that King Aiden looked tensed. He wondered how a rivalry between these two Kingdoms got him in this position.

Chapter N: Need

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Advaita was in shock after seeing the portrait of his father on the wall. He did not know how to respond to this. Shadow who was behind him now sensed something was wrong. She touched his shoulder from behind asking him if he was ok. He did not respond. She turned him towards her and asked “what is it?” A few seconds of silence followed.

“Who made this mural?” he finally asked. “Oh, this? Uncle Tip made it when he was around our age.” she was excited to talk about it.”Isn’t it very good? The person in the right is my father general Thomas White”she laughed as she said that. “The centre one is our king Aiden Rich and last person is…” she stopped trying to remember something. Advaita was waiting to know, he looked at her and asked “who is he?” “His name is Rob as far as I can remember. The four were very close friends.” she said. “Where is he now?” asked Advaita. “Father had said he died even before we were born.”

Rob was not his father’s name. Could this be a person who looked very similar to his father he wondered. He felt the need to tell everything to Shadow. “Son, you always need someone with whom you can share everything you feel” his father had said and he knew that it was Shadow. He thought and decided to wait as he was not very sure on this.

“What is it Advaita?” She asked him. He smiled and said “I just thought I had seen that guy before.Maybe it’s a different person.” she smiled back. Shadow knew he was hiding something but she trusted him. Advaita knew that Shadow knew he had not told her the complete truth and she would understand. Such was their love towards each other.

“Shall we go out then,” she asked wrapping her hand in between his. He nodded. As they came out Advaita praised Tip’s work. A soldier came looking for Shadow as Princess Margaret needed her assistance in the palace. Shadow left saying bye to everyone. There were only two days remaining for the royal wedding.

Cully and Tip decided to get the Mural done in Cully’s room after the wedding. Cully soon left the place as he had some work with his father regarding the security matters of the wedding. Tip assured Cully that he himself would drop Advaita at General’s house. Advaita argued that it was not necessary. As always Advaita lost the argument of words.

Advaita said he would like to walk when Tip said he would arrange for a couple of horses to drop him. As they walked Advaita asked “The Mural on the right wall on that room with three guys, shadow said that third guy is dead. What happened?” Tip was surprised and confused by this sudden question by Advaita. “Oh! That was our friend Rob. We were pretty close back in those days. I don’t want to talk much about it” Tip replied with a weak smile. Advaita could see sadness on Tip’s face.

Advaita had reached the General’s place. He was in his own world wondering the different possibilities. Later he met everyone during dinner. Shadow could see Advaita was not his usual self. After dinner Advaita asked General Thomas “Did the Dacoit we capture say anything?”  “The dacoits have been looting in that area for food and money for some time now. He confirmed the same. At least this incident will make them question their actions” General Thomas replied back with a smile.

Later that night the mystery of his father’s face on the wall kept him awake. He needed to solve this mystery.

Chapter L: Lines

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Cully saw Advaita and Soldier Grant coming towards him. Soldiers who were with him went off the field as they approached. As Advaita reached near Cully he said “My father once told me that sometimes you need to cross the line to show who or what you actually are” “What?” replied Cully. “Read between the lines my friend” said Advaita with a smile. Grant had a laugh. He controlled it as Cullen got pissed.

Advaita turned around asking “Where do you practice archery?” “You see those wooden targets with center in red, there you need to shoot. The red mark is called the bulls-eye”. Advaita had never seen such targets. He liked them. “Grant can you go get the bow and arrows” Cully said. Grant nodded and left to get them.

The Prince Brian came out of the building. He saw Cullen speaking with someone. He came towards them and asked “Is this the guy you were talking about?” “Yes Prince Brian, he is Advaita” replied Cully. Advaita nodded.  “I heard that your archery skills are very good. Would you care to demonstrate?” asked Prince. “Grant has gone to get a bow and arrows” replied Cully.

They waited as Grant came back with a longbow and arrows. As Advaita took the bow from him, he noticed the bow was bigger and heavier than his. As he took an arrow he saw that it was heavier too. Grant had got about 15 arrows in a bag. Advaita studied the bow thoroughly.

The target was simple. There were five such targets set for practice in the field. Advaita took a deep breath. He knew it won’t be easy to get the first one right. “May I” he said. Prince Brian signaled him to go ahead.

Advaita stood behind the line which was set and shot the arrow towards one of the targets. He missed the center red mark by a very small margin. Prince Brian shook his head with a little wicked smile on his face. The next target he tried was the one in the farthest. He took an arrow, shot at the target and missed it as well by very small margin.

Prince Brian laughed now “I thought you said he was the best” he said to Cully. Cully was silent. Advaita who had placed the arrow bag on his back shot three arrows back to back aiming towards the remaining three targets and missed the red mark on all occasions. “I think I am wasting my time here. I will be leaving now” Said the Prince. Prince Brian left the field with the remaining soldiers.

Cully was in shock. “How could you miss all five!” he asked Advaita. “How could you lose the sword fight” Advaita asked back with a smile. Cully was silent. Grant who stood beside them was amazed at the events that was unfolding around him.

Advaita turned to Grant “Can you do me a favor and go measure the distance between the arrow and the red mark on each target?” Grant nodded and ran towards the targets. He examined the margins on each targets. As he went from one target to next his smile was getting bigger. To his shock, when he finished checking the 5th target, the margins were same on all.

Even Cully realized with the expression from Grant’s face that Advaita had indeed hit the target, but his targets were not the same as what others thought. “Arrows are all at the same distance from the red mark in each target” said Grant confirming Cully’s thoughts. Advaita was still smiling looking at the expression on Cully’s face. Both Grant and Cully were amazed with his accuracy. “WOW” was all Cully could say. ”Is this what you were talking about when you asked me to read between the lines?” he asked. Advaita laughed.

Advaita looked around. He took two more arrows. There was an ‘O’ shaped window on top floor of the building which was on the end of the field. As he adjusted both arrows on the strings of the bow, he said “Now I will show what I meant by crossing the line. You see that opening on top floor of the building?” he pointed his bow towards it. Advaita checked again the arrow positioning and shot both the arrows at the same time. The arrows hit exactly on top and bottom of the opening and fell on the ground.

Though Cully had seen people shooting multiple arrows simultaneously never had he seen with such accuracy. Grant stood completely shocked. “Shall we go now, I am hungry” said Advaita. Grant and Cully saw each other and joined Advaita. Both walked silently as they were left speechless after such an amazing act by Advaita.

“Your Accuracy is amazing” said Grant finally. Advaita turned to face them with a smile “Friends to be fair, I did miss the first target” he said.

Cullen and Grant laughed as they all left the field.

Chapter G: GOD

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It had been months since Advaita had seen Fear. He had moved ahead as Fear stuck to its area. Advaita thought even Fear, a beast had settled down in life whereas he was still a wanderer. He came back from his thoughts as he heard some movements ahead.

He could see a few people ahead who were covered in masks. These could be the dacoits he had heard of he thought. He quickly, with his bags climbed the nearby tree treading caution. As he climbed atop he saw a road where the masked men were hiding around. He felt as if they were setting a trap.  He decided to wait and watch.

He saw many soldiers in horses and a carriage behind them. So this is an ambush he thought. He kept quiet and continued to watch. He could make out that the masked men outnumbered the soldiers. They were at least 5 to 6 members more. He wondered who was in the carriage.

The Dacoits were easily winning. A young man got down from the carriage as the fight was going on. The sword in his hand was glittering. He looked calm. With a single hit he killed a dacoit. He went on to take one more.

Advaita felt the presence of a lady in the carriage. He saw that a few soldiers were down along with couple of masked men. The young soldier was battling three of them now. He wondered whether this could be the Prince of the kingdom, the Channa tribe people talked about a year back when he had stayed with them. They had heard that the prince was the best when it came to sword fighting and could take on many and defeat them with ease. “He is as good with a sword as you are with a bow and an arrow” they had said.

When he came back from his thoughts, the soldiers were either tied up or killed. The young man was atleast battling 5 at a time. One of the masked man was just watching as two forced inside the carriage and tried forcing the lady out of it.

Advaita took his bow and arrows from the bag. He saw that there were totally nine dacoits remaining. He took nine arrows out; It’s time to be God he said to himself. Channa People called the archers God as they helped their own people from afar and usually decided the fate of small wars that happened between the tribes.

With no hesitation Advaita started shooting arrows one after another in succession. All hit the target. He did not shoot to kill but all the arrows severely injured the nine dacoits.

The young man was startled by the sudden change in scenario. The lady was shocked as the two men holding her fell. She ran back inside the carriage. The young man freed the three tied soldiers who were alive. As soon as they were freed they killed the masked men except one.

Advaita saw some movement on top of a tree from the other side of the road. An arrow passed near him. “How did I forget to check the trees” he told himself. He found the location of the man who was shooting arrows as he took an arrow from the bag. With another arrow Advaita took him down. It would have been my last day if he was good thought Advaita.

The man who was on top of the tree fell down. The soldiers seemed surprised. The young man had gone inside the carriage to check the lady. Advaita thought for few minutes and got down to meet the soldiers. They were already looking in his direction trying to find who he was.

As he met them, soldiers doubted him but the young man and lady were generous on him. They thanked him for saving their lives. The young man introduced themselves as Cullen White and his sister Shadow White. “I am A..Advaita” Advaita replied. Cullen ordered the soldiers to move from there. They tied and kept the dacoit in the back of the carriage.

Advaita sat with them inside the carriage. Cullen said “You came as a God”. Advaita was beaming with pride inside but showed none above. He just replied “I just did what I felt was right, I am no God”. “Anyone who teaches and helps others in anyway is God to them” said Shadow.

Advaita smiled and was surprised to hear that as he had heard similar lines from his father. “We still have a long journey ahead” said Cullen as the carriage moved…