Wisdom of Few Words

“You don’t get it!” I spat out in frustration. I briefly wondered how someone so competent in worldly matters could be so adamantly foolish. I was simply trying to say that one should never force one’s own opinion and methodology on others. Yet, my mother and brother had fallen into an argument with me on the dinner table. This verbal battle had lasted now for over half an hour of constant bombardment. The enemy’s vanguard had no fear and tread recklessly upon my land mines of contradiction and logical fallacies. The sheer force behind their adamance shattered my defenses and attempted to breach into my stronghold of minor and limited wisdom.

“Dad! Why don’t you say something?!” In a fit of desperation, I turned towards my father, a great collection of worldly wisdom, for reinforcements. Being a man of few words, my father rarely ‘argued’, while he fervently ‘debated’. At this point of time within the battlefield, he had declared a policy of no interference. Even so, I turned to him with the last shred of hope I had remaining. He responded with a shrug as he determined the current engagement to be on the scale of an ‘argument’. Then, however, he said words which shocked us to our very core.

“The entire responsibility of making the only person you can – right - is yours alone.” - Dad

My first response was, naturally, ridicule. “Dad! That doesn’t make any grammatical sense!” I retorted. He shrugged again. “Does it have to?” He asked. I narrowed my eyes at the question. He was indeed correct. If these were words within a book, they’d certainly be a reader’s horror or an editor’s nightmare. However, in the form of direct communication, laws of language are but meant to be discarded. Even so, it didn’t make sense for him to make such a confusing statement to placate the situation. He had opened his mouth on countable occasions prior to today. On all of these occasions, he released momentary but significant insights into the workings of the world and the limitations imposed on our thought process by the chains of culture, morality and tradition.

The point was, it didn’t make sense for him to make a nonsensical statement. Was he trying to confuse us in order to placate the heat of battle? I wondered briefly but shook my head. If that really was his intention, he could do so in a variety of ways such that this thought itself wouldn’t occur to me. In that case… I knew. This statement was not a statement of shallow intention or literal meaning. It had a hidden aspect which was meant to be discovered by those who are worthy. It had an insight to share with us, an insight which could not be taught, but had to learned. As a master of puzzles and interpretation, I soon came across the epiphany expected of me.

This profound statement could be broken down into five major parts. First: “The entire responsibility”. This refers to the complete and total responsibility. Which in turn means both, the responsibility to ruin and responsibility to protect. Though it seems frugal and superficial at first, this has a vital role in defining the true and deep meaning behind this statement.

Second: “of making”. Generally, making is used as term with relation to creation. However, in this statement, making refers to creation, maturation and conclusion of the process simultaneously. This profound word is entrusted all stages of existence, instead of just creation, to alter and reinforce the meaning behind the statement.

Third: “The only person you have”. This clause, in itself, is grammatically flawed. It does not exist as one, but instead as several clauses wherever else it is used. However, one must note that these seemingly generic words actually refer to a very specific persona. ‘The only person you have’, refers to the only person who belongs entirely to you. Any person you meet has his or her own will. Whether you’re able to have full control over their actions or not, you will never have the person themselves solely for yourself. The only person who will exist solely for you, is you. And that is what this clause refers to.

Fourth: “Right”. What is right? The word itself is used to signify direction, truth of statement and fundamental divine authority given to every person. This can be explained using these other statements: “Take a right from here.”, “You’re right!”, “We have a right to know!”. The question arises as to which ‘right’ does this word refer to. Answer is: all of them. In a symbolic manner for the first, adjective form for the second and the noun form for the third. Further explanation will follow.

Fifth: “Is you alone”. This is the only part of the statement which cannot truly be analyzed separately. But it is instead used to distinctly identify and restrict the extent to which the other clauses shall act. ‘Is you alone’ restricts all suggestions for actions to a single limitation: to be done on yourself and no one else. You cannot follow the remainder of the sentence on the behalf of anyone else, be it your unreasonable spouse, senile parent or even your own three month old child.

Now, for a cumulative meaning behind this profound fourteen word statement is this: “The complete amount of responsibility to destroy or protect the creation, maturation and culmination of your own entire being; inclusive of the direction of your life, the correctness of your thoughts and the righteousness of your character; lies solely upon your own being, limited to your own being alone.” This means, every choice in your life lies only upon you. At the same time, choices made by others and choices which are given to others cannot be made by you. You have all the responsibility and authority to disrupt your life or to construct it. At the same time, you have no right or responsibility to destroy or protect the life of anyone else.

As soon as I understood those words, after fifteen minutes of silence, I apologized to my saint of a father and, for the first time in my life, admitted that I had met someone wiser than me. My mother and brother, however, only looked at me in confusion, and fell into deeper thought regarding my father’s profound words. Think and grow, young children, for thou hath much yet to unearth from this trove of wisdom and enlightenment! I muttered in my mind. I decided to abide by my father’s teachings. The battle was called off. I admit my momentary defeat. I had no right or responsibility to correct the thoughts and teachings of anyone other than myself. I had to ingrain this thought into myself. To integrate with it and put it into unceasing practice. One’s life is one’s own. You can attempt an explanation, advise or persuasion. However, you could not make a choice on their behalf.

I once again turned to my father in reverence. A truly frightening persona… I thought to myself as I revised his words from before. I shall take your teachings to heart, master! I dedicated myself to ‘Madhukarism’.

Ganesh Chaturthi

“Hey!” I heard as a young girl of thirteen entered the room. She was Shivna, Ayush's younger sister. She was just like a sister to me. “Hey!” I replied, my head throbbing as though some one had dropped a rock on it. “I heard you fell down the stairs...” “Yeah...” I replied. “You were supposed to push Ayush off before falling down yourself, not after.” “Really? I had no idea!” She laughed. I smiled, my head hurting too much to laugh. “How're you?” “Was better in the morning, then I went for a header in football.” “You basically couldn't dodge one of the shots, right?” “That may be true, but don't put it like that...” Shivna gave another bark of laughter. “I'll take my leave now, the next period is about to start...” I gave a brief nod and closed my eyes, trying to get some sleep.

For a quick recall of my current situation: After the fight with Ayush, I went to clear things out with his girlfriend. She got angry at me, and I stuck to her, trying to apologize. After some time, she ended up getting agitated, naturally, and a few incidents occurred. The entire episode resulted in a week-long severe migraine. When the migraine faded slightly, and I ended up going to school again, only for today morning's events to occur and to wind up back in the school's medical bay. And now, here I was...

I heard the creaking of the door as it opened. I was turned around to face the wall, so I couldn't see the face of the intruder. “Ayush?” I made a guess. “I need to learn how you do that...” Came the response of the accused. “I'll tell you my secrets some other time.” I said, turning to lie on my back again. I kept my eyes covered with my hand, but left a small gap to see him without him seeing me. “What happened?” “She... Told me, about what really happened...” “Oh... Well, make sure others don't find out otherwise the two of us are screwed.” “Yeah...” A long silence ensued before I spoke up again. “Is there anything else?” “Yeah... Thanks... Man...” “Hmm.” “And... Sorry, I was wrong...” “It's fine...” I responded automatically. “Well, I guess that's it...” I groaned. “Great, then get back to class, I have to borrow your notes tomorrow, better finish them.” “Yeah...” He said and left.

I turned back to the state I was in before Ayush entered. A few minutes later, I heard the bell ring for the recess. “That thing is too damn loud...” I mumbled to myself. The door creaked open. I made another guess without turning around. “What is it this time, Ayush?” “So he's already been here?” A feminine voice replied. I will not decieve you, I jumped, making my head-ache leap to a whole new level. It was Ayush's girlfriend. She was a class topper, and a beauty, to be honest, but the two of us didn't get along too well. “Well,” I started, nursing my head. “Isn't this a pleasant surprise...” I said as pleasantly as I could.

She smiled at me. It was the first time she had ever smiled at me, and not someone else next to me. I realized why Ayush liked her. “You ought to smile more, you look better that way...” I said, unabashedly, lying down again. She gave a short laugh. “You have guts, going after your best friend's girlfriend.” “Well, I did fall for you...” I replied. Another short laugh. “Nice one.” She replied. “So, what is it?” I asked her as gently as I could with my raging head-ache. “Trying to get me while I am down?” She shook her head, a perfectly serious expression on her face. “I came to thank you.” “Don't mention it, I'll break your love-life whenever you ask me to.” I replied. “Do you ever run out of jokes in bad taste?” “Nope, I don't.”

She gave me another smile. “Those were jokes back at the pool, weren't they?” “Of course, they were. I don't have the guts to actually tell on anyone. I am too afraid of the consequences.” “You know, you get more appealing more you tell me about yourself...” “I never thought I would have such a long conversation with you...” I said, getting up on the bed, and looking out of the window adjacent to the door opposite me. “Really?” She asked, taking a seat on the chair next to me. “Yeah.” “Why is that?” The bell rang. “Because I didn't expect you to walk in at the very start of recess.” She gave a good hearty laugh. “I am fine, get back to your boyfriend before he starts thinking you're cheating on him. One head-ache is enough for me.” “Yeah.” She said, getting up and leaving.

Ayush entered just as she left. “What's up, boyfriend?” “How long did you know I was there?” To be honest, only since when I got up again. When I saw his shirt at one edge of the window. “Since you came here, after asking her friend where she was.” “You really are omniscient...” “Only when it comes to certain things.” “Can I expect the two of you to actually get along now?” “Couldn't you make out? I hated every moment of that conversation.” “Why do you think I am asking you?” “Why do you think I am?” “Fine, I get it...” “We'll try our best, but similar poles tend to repel each other.” “Yeah, yeah, I get it.” I looked out the window again. “She knew you were out there since I got up on my bed, by the way.” “What?” “Better rush to her now.” I said, closing my eyes.

Ayush rushed out of the room. “You're a genius.” Shivna said. “I don't want to hear that from the person who was eavesdropping on all the conversations of a sick person.” I replied. “I had to make sure my brother and that-” “Language!” “Person were happy after what you did.” “You really are dedicated.” Shivna shrugged. “Won't your teacher be angry?” “I am supposed to be preparing for the interhouse.” “Great then.” “Now, I'll take your leave, Amritansh bhaiya...” I grunted in approval as Shivna finally made her way back to her class. She reappeared at the window with a smile on her face. “You really are a good friend.” “And you a bothersome sister.” We gave a brief smile each at the internal joke before she left. I sighed as I felt the overwhelming amount of intelligence in that girl. I looked to the table next to me and saw a note. I knew who had left it. Damn you, Shivna... I thought idly.

Janmashtami

“You did well…” I said, barely controlling my laughter. “And I thought you were my friend…” Ayush replied in an irritated tone. I wouldn’t blame him. He had been persuaded by my friend to participate in the Janmashtami competition, and had ended up completely soaked in water. That would all have been fine with him, except he ended up in the same water as two beautiful girls, who landed next to him. That would actually also be fine, except one of them didn’t know how to swim. Ayush did, and he did save her, and all of this would still be fine with him, except his girlfriend saw him and became jealous.

And then, they started fighting and I intervened to make it better. I failed miserably, leaving Ayush feeling betrayed and his girlfriend feeling cheated on. I still fail to understand how his semi-heroic act would have ended up in this situation, but he blamed me for it. Okay, I admit I was partly to blame. I sighed. “You know, Janmashtami is celebrated on the Birthday of Lord Krishna.” “Yes.” I was taken aback by the aggression in his tone. I had seen him angry before, but he had never been as angry as right now. I overtook him in two long, quick paces and stood in front of him. “I’m sorry.” I said, sincerely. “Sorry?” He asked, his eyes rising from the ground to meet mine. “What for?” “For the break-up.” “You really don’t get it…” “Don’t get what?”

“You think I am angry because I had a fight with my girlfriend and you made it worse.” “Isn’t that so?” “It is, but that doesn’t matter, if I explain things well enough to her, she’ll understand.” “Then… Why are you angry?” “Because you’re happy.” “What?” “Come on, man! We’ve spent the last year and half literally stuck to each other, I can read you like Aesopp’s Fables.” “Wow, that is a good analogy…” “Shut up and listen!” Ayush grabbed my shoulders and shook me slightly. “Okay…”

“Janmashtami is more than just the material birth of a Lord.” I nodded in agreement, not that I had much choice. “It is the symbol representing the basic truths of life in general. You’re Ego.” “What in the world is that supposed to mean?” “I told you to listen, Amritansh!” Okay, now I knew he was angry. He never called me by my full first name unless he was just about ready to kill me. “If you take Krishna to be ‘Joy’, the parents to be the body and soul, and Kansa to be Ego, you’re ‘Ego’.” I felt a chill run down my spine and my heart beat sped up. “You get joy, not by helping others but by seeing others suffer. That is why you tried to ‘help’ me by making my situation worse. Frankly, I don’t even know whether you know it or not, but you’re like that.” His words froze my words of anger in my throat. I was just about to protest I wasn’t like that, but his argument made complete logical sense, and I prided myself as a logical being.

My eyes lowered to the ground as one of my closest friends disappeared behind a wall in the building behind me. You’re wrong… I thought to myself as my legs started a slow walk towards the same building. You’re wrong… I…My mind was a mess; correction: I was a mess. I shook my head to clear it of the emerging chaos and raised my eyes. I turned around, and spotted his ex in the crowd. I took a deep breath and a single thought emerged in my mind. You’re dead wrong, I am not like that…

Story Friendship Day

“I have no idea what to do!” I spoke, controlling with great difficulty my volume. “The deadline's tomorrow, man... You still have a day so, I am sure things will-” “Not!” I cut off my friend in mid sentence. “They will not! You have to do something for things to work out. They don't just turn out fine without you doing anything.” I went on, exasperated. I was in school, staying back to write the script for an upcoming play we had to perform. But, as usual, I was working on other things as well, and it was a pretty hectic time.

I had a deadline for my next piece of work. I had to write a short story based on Friendship Day for the coming Friendship Day, on 7th August. The topic was very interesting and quite nice. The only problem was... I had no idea where to start the story from. “Write a good eulogy for me.” I said after another ten minutes of whining. My friend, Ayush, looked at the clock. “It's about time for us to leave, so get yourself together.” I looked at him with some desperation.

“If you're so confident about it, how about you give me some ideas?” I asked him, in a flat tone. “Just take any time we've spent together.” He replied. I groaned. “Come on, let's go!” He handed me my heavy school bag and we started down the stairs and out the building, towards the parking lot for the buses. “Don't worry too much about it, dude.” Ayush said alongside me “You've had worse pinches before. 'Sides, there are so many choices for you. You can take something from that Airtel ad; 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai!'” “Can't get a story to relate to it.” “Then, friend in need-” “Unrealistic.” “You're such a pessimist.” “Never said I wasn't.” “How about-” “Don't even suggest 'A friend for everyone' thing.” “Why not? A guy wanting to be everyone's friend-” “is so childish.”

We had reached the bus stands by now. “How about...” Ayush started and hesitated. “What?” I asked, feeling a bit of despair as each of his suggestions had already been thought of by me till now. “How about a simple day with a friend?” I raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” He nodded. “Friendship, not about an incident or two, but about everyday you spend with someone, talking, fighting, sharing, living.” “Stop! I don't want another lesson Baba Ayush-dev-ji.” “hahaha!” He broke into a laugh. “You have pretty good skills, so it will work out. I am sure of it!” He said and walked off to his bus, waving goodbye. I waved back. A simple day with a friend, huh?

- By Amritansh Dayal

The Black Mage-Knight:

“I am telling you, he really is real!” Samuel said. Jacob and Hans had absolutely no doubt he was lying. “Sam,” Jacob said earnestly, “There has only been one Mage-Knight in the history of Mage-Knights to have ever survived a fight with a dragon.” “Yeah,” Hans put in “And that Mage-Knight's name is Hadley Shrekker.” “He is a Mage-Knight and he did do that!” Samuel said, persistently. “Anyway!” Jean put in in between. “Sam hasn't lied to me before, or to any of us, so this must be true, or at least he must honestly believe it to be true.” Sam made an irritated face.

“Hey Sammy!” Jessie said, rushing over to where the group of five was seated at the foot of the fountain. They were all sixteen year olds, other than Jessie, who was fourteen, and had enrolled into the King's Academy for Mage-Knights. It was a special academy that trained young Amendors to become future Mage-Knights. They were generally given a four year training in combat, tactics, strategy and basically everything to do with fighting monsters and people, before graduation. Their training started at the age of thirteen, which meant they were all in their last years at the Academy, and Jessie was at her second.

“Hey Jessie!” Samuel said smiling. Jessica was Samuel's real sister and came from the same village as him. “What were you all talking about?” She asked. “No greetings for us, huh?” Jacob said with a sigh. “Sam was talking about that Black Mage Knight again.” “You were?” Sam nodded. “He's pretty cool from the stories though, right?” She said turning to the others. They all nodded. “To good to believe.” Hans said. “Honestly, though, a Mage Knight who dresses in black, with a massive 6 foot long, 6 inches wide serrated sword on his back and a jet black dragon claw gauntlet on his left hand, is more than a bit far fetched.” Samuel's cheeks went red. He hadn't believed it at first either. “True.” Jessie said simply.

“Especially when there are literally no records of him.” Jean added “No records of whom?” A new voice interfered. The students rose. “Good afternoon, Mellie.” They said almost in unison. Mellie was a seventeen year old graduate who had been on a few missions and had returned to learn and teach at the academy. “The Black Mage-Knight. We were talking about him.” “Oh really!” She said. “Well, I guess it's an interesting story...” “Is it true?” Hans asked. “What?” Mellie asked back. “Does the Black Mage-Knight exist?” “No, he can't possibly exist.”

“How can you say that?” Samuel asked, incredulously. “Well, because there is no way one can become a Mage-Knight before he even enrolls into the Academy, right? Even then, it should take a full year at the minimum to complete the course-work and demonstrate enough talent and skill to become a Mage-Knight. A guy who just turned thirteen can't possibly become a Mage Knight.” “Well,” Samuel started, a bit less defiant, “He can if he defeats a Mage-Knight in combat before the age of thirteen.” “Not really.” Mellie said. “It has to be a battle to the death.” She went on.

The others nodded. “But don't let me shake your beliefs Sammy.” She said with a smile. “After all, your beliefs and ideals are what should guide you in your life. Not the other way around.” Then, Mellie made off for her dorm room. Jessie left to attend a class which was starting soon. The fourth year was just to hone personal fighting skills, so the group had pretty much all the time to themselves for the week. “Don't worry Sam, we all have heroes we look up to. At least yours is a respectable one.” Jean said, putting her arms around the lean boy from behind him.

Sam nodded and looked up at the clouds. “Hey, guys” He said. Everyone turned to look at him. “Wanna go into the dungeon?” “What? Why?” Hans asked. Going into the dungeon usually meant a lot of battle practice. It wasn't really a happy time. “Well,” Samuel said “I got a request from the President's official. He asked me to just go and kill a bunch of monsters in there as their numbers had been increasing. He gave a rather large incentive and it won't exactly not be fun.” The others gave a thought to it. “How large?” Samuel held up five fingers. The others gulped. “Five thousand?” Jean asked. Samuel shook his head and mouthed “Fifty Thousand.”

The next hour, the four of them met at the entrance of the dungeon. Each of them was wearing their battle gear. Samuel wore a blue shirt and gray pants, with pieces of plate armor covering his shoulders, his heart, his arm and his shins. He had light-coloured, almost white hair and electric-blue eyes, fair skin and had a height of five foot eight. He was leanly built and used a two and a half foot long sword as his main weapon. He had a dagger attached to his belt, but he doubted he'd need it today. His Soul Mark was a Pure Poseidon's Hurricane and he was considered to be somewhat of a genius in its use.

Hans wore a brown tunic and cream colored pants and had similar gear. But had full chest and back plate armor and brought kite shield along with him. His Soul Mark was a Gemini Twin mixed with Kronos's Timebreaker, which made combat skills very important for him. Hans had blonde hair and blue eyes and was five feet six. He too was leaner than Samuel, but rivaled him in raw strength. He wore spectacles but they never seemed to bother bothered him during fights.

Jacob wore simple leather gear with no metal pieces what so ever. He had a massive three and a half foot long, two-handed long sword strapped to his back, half a dozen knives on his belt to the right and a dagger on the left side of the belt. He had dark brown hair and blackish brown eyes. He was five feet eight, like Samuel and well-built. His Soul Mark was Apollo's Mend Wounds with a mix of Artemis's Hunt. It was an impure mark with a passive and active effect. He could heal those who were injured using a chant, and was essentially a good hunter.

Jean was dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt. On top of it, she had donned a full battle armor. She had a sword strapped to her belt on the left and a dagger on the right. Additionally, she was holding a glaive in her hand. She had fiery red hair and orange eyes, a fair complexion and lean but balanced build. She had no problem turning the heads of her male classmates other than those who were already used to her company. Her Soul Mark was a Pure Hephaestus's Flames. She was known in the Academy for burning up any guy who got too close.

“We have to kill at least thirty orcs for this mission.” Samuel said and took out a small whistle from his pocket. He blew it and immediately, a parrot came and sat on his shoulder. “It's name is Jojun. It will be monitoring us for the mission.” He went on. “We will use the usual strategy: Jacob will help us identify and track the larger groups, when we find one, Jean and I will let loose, and Hans take care of defending us while we're chanting. We'll take turns with the clean-up.” The others nodded. It was a simple, straight-forward, malleable strategy with high chances of working out in every situation. There wasn't anything to object to.

Jacob took lead as they entered the first floor of the dungeon. They expected to run into some orcs from here and there, and return with the mission completed before they hit the seventh floor, where Draconics and other more dangerous monsters lurked. Jacob's tracking was of little use as they kept running into Kobolds and could not get any large orc groups. They still managed to get the required number of kills and were on the way out when Jacob found it.

“Guys, bad news.” He said. The others stopped as they reached him. “What is it?” “Just a conjecture, but I think there is a dragon on the upper floors.” He said, pointing upwards.” “What makes you say that?” “There is no longer any moisture in the soil. Which means heat. Kobolds and Orcs don't use any fire, Draconics don't go up there which leaves only one possibility, right?” Samuel sighed. “Don't let your imagination get the better of you, Jacob. If there was a dragon in the region, we would have been informed of it. The president wouldn't give us a mission either then.” Jacob blushed when he realized the obvious folly. Dragons weren't exactly the kind of monsters you forget to mention.

“Anyway, meeting a dragon here is practically impossible.” Samuel said confidently and walked ahead, turning around a corner and into the passage for the previous floor. The others just started to walk towards him when they saw him walk right back at double pace. “Not good...” He said with a terrified smile. “What happened?” Jean asked. “Look for yourself.” Samuel pointed to the path. Jean walked till she rounded the turn and then she let out a scream and rushed back, crashing into Samuel. “What is it?” Hans asked. “A really terrible joke, is what it is...” Samuel said, maintaining his balance while holding Jean, keeping them from falling.

The four of them rounded the turn together this time, with Jean clinging to Samuel's left arm and absolutely refusing to let go. They walked into the passage room, still not believing their eyes. “What brings you here?” A deep voice boomed. “That's a dragon...” Samuel said, appearing somewhat confident. “That is a dragon...” Hans said, appearing somewhat terrified. “That is a dragon...” Jean said, hugging Samuel's hand even tighter. “I told you there was a dragon.” Jacob said with a smile. The dragon sighed. “If you have no business here, get out.” “Excuse me, sir, but you're kind of blocking the way.” Samuel replied.

“Yes.” The dragon said, appearing to be smiling. “Then how do you expect us to leave, sir?” He asked as politely as he could. “I don't.” The dragon replied. Samuel gulped. “I see, sir, does that mean..?” Samuel never finished his question. The dragon laughed as it released a massive firebolt from its mouth. Samuel drew his sword, pushing Jean away with his left hand at the same time. “Join the Skies and Earth! Break the Horizons: Tornado!” He pointed his sword into the oncoming rush of flames, and the sword broke into a massive tornado, parallel to the ground. The tornado absorbed the flames and turned yellow, when Samuel took back his sword, and collapsed to the ground. He heard Jean shout “Sam!” as he fell. She rushed over to him, as did Hans and Jacob.

“You're burning up!” Jean said, worriedly. “I am fine.” Samuel managed. That attack hardly took it any focus, it was just a plaything for the dragon. But it had completely depleted him. “So, this is the power of a dragon, huh?” He muttered to himself, while looking at the cavern roof. He picked himself up. “Run! Go back into the floor.” He said. The others looked at him with horrified eyes. “You're in no condition to run...” Jacob said. Samuel smiled and winked. “Let me look cool as I die at least.” He said idly. I am going to die, huh? Well, still better than us all dying. He thought idly.

“Geez! Why is it so loud in here?!” A voice boomed out in the cavern. It was not the dragon's voice. But hearing, something told Samuel that the dragon felt afraid. A massive light suddenly started shining from the left edge of the cavern, and the light shattered to reveal a boy of sixteen. Samuel looked at him with disbelieving eyes, while the green dragon which had been in front of them, took a step away from him. Yep, it is scared. “You! What're you doing here?” the dragon asked, turning to the boy. “Just out for a walk.” He replied casually. “Impossible...” Jean whispered.

The boy walked towards the group of four and joined them. “Hi!” He said cheerily, with a smile. “May I know what you're doing here?” He asked. “We were on a quest to kill orcs.” “I see,” the boy said simply and turned to face the dragon. “You should be careful when going into a dungeon though, you never know when one is the home for a dragon.” He said casually.

It was only now that Samuel noticed what he was wearing and carrying. He was obviously the same age as them, but was an inch taller. He carried a massive sword on his back, nearly six foot long. He had two other swords on his back, which were only half as long. His right hand was that of a normal kid, but his left hand seemed to have a gauntlet with five dragon-talon like fingers. He was clad in a heavy jet black coat which reached the back of his knees, with black shirt underneath it and black pants. He wore a silver-lined black leather belt at the waist and had two other similar belts running down diagonally from both shoulders. His expression gave a huge sense of relief, despite the circumstances and the group could not help but smile.

His smile grew a little wider. “You guys definitely look better with smiles.” He said and turned to face the dragon again. “I would suggest you let these leave, Grimbald.” He said. “They entered my lair without prior permission. The Draconic Codes...” “Do I look like I care?” He interrupted the dragon. “You do realise that's a dragon, right?” Samuel asked the kid. The kid turned and nodded. “Just one of many.” He said simply, and turned back to the dragon. The dragon had been charging up a firebolt and released it now. It was white in color, maximum density. Samuel readied his sword but knew it was to no avail. He looked at their new friend. The boy simply raised his left arm.

“Accept and Reject. Absorb and Reflect. Show this world its own power: Strike Reflect!” The boy's words rung out in the air. The gauntlet shone brightly, and absorbed the flames. During the whole time, the boy was really hard to look at. It felt as though something was blacking the sight from view. Then, a fiery red glow appeared at the back of his neck, and white hot flames shot out from the gauntlet towards the dragon. At the same time, his black coat became shorter and grew dragon-like wings. He flew, barely four feet from the ground, towards the dragon at supersonic speed and grabbed its jaws, just after the flames impacted onto it's stomach. “Get lost!” The boy said and the dragon started shining brightly. The shine turned white and then shattered into millions of shards, which disappeared. The boy took a deep breath and turned to the group, his wings having turned back into his coat.

“Come on!” He called out to them. “I don't really like the weather inside a dungeon.” The four ran towards him. “Who are you?” Samuel asked as they reached him. He smiled and winked at them. Samuel's vision went black, then a white light appeared, and then his vision cleared and he was staring at the entrance to the dungeon. He wondered if it was all a day dream, but a look at the others confirmed that it wasn't. “I am sure you have heard of me,” The boy's voice said, though he was nowhere to be seen. Samuel smiled. Of course, they had been talking about that boy just in the morning. “See you later,” He said softly, grabbing the attention of the others. “Black Mage-Knight.”


A Walk with the Stars of the Night

Nowadays, I have fallen into an unhealthy habit of forsaking sleep to go on long walks at night. Every night, after my parents have fallen asleep, I put my earphones, let my favorite tunes play and set off on a journey of solitude in company of my thoughts and the stars of the night sky.

During these long walks, I think of music, reflect on my days of past, recollect ideas for articles and essays and introspect on the changes in me in the past few days. I think of perspectives, in different perspectives I know of. I think of stories, of ideas for stories, I think of problems I face, problems my friends' face, and how they all resemble theatrical dramas. And I think of the beautiful stars of the night.

One night, I was reflecting on my days, regretting my mistakes and rejoicing over the more positive memories. That was when I came across a new place, above the late city lights with a clear view of the stars of the night. As I watched them, reveling in the rarely found combination of soothing music and a marvelous view, an amusing thought struck me. “What if everyone in this world was a star in the sky?”

That set my thoughts in a different direction and I started comparing people in my life to stars. Stars, twinkling in the darkness of the night. Each one so similar to the others and yet a unique individual. I closed my eyes, but my vision did not go blank. I turned off the music, but the melodies refused to disappear.

I found myself faced with visions from my seemingly long past of just barely seventeen years. I heard the sounds I had heard during those incidents and all my senses immersed themselves into a beautiful dream. I saw the moments of my first meeting with all my friends. I saw the moments I had spent with them in peace and happiness. And, perhaps for the most part, I witnessed again the precious moments when they had shone brighter than ever as human beings, doing what they loved, the way they loved doing it. The moving scenes, in quick succession to each other, brought the proverbial tears to my eyes, as I was reminded of when they, as individuals, had earnt my respect.

I opened my eyes again, after what seemed an eternity, and turned my view back to the stars. I smiled as I compared the stars to the people. Each of them shining bright and luminiscent in its own way. Each one beautiful beyond words in its own right in the midst of the dark and sorrowful night sky. Yet, they glowed brighter than ever and appeared most beautiful only when seen together, driving away the darkness and sorrow of night.

I am right now, but the empty sky, filled with my Days of joy and my Nights of sorrow. All of you are the Stars of the sorrowful Nights of my life. Thank you for being with me so far, and I hope I can be a Star of the Night for you too.

Guys, bad news for you...

I am most likely going to be releasing the rest of the story (alongside all the previous chapters) on a paperback version, i.e, a book. Either way, this is not the only story I'll be writing, and I'll put the first chapter or the intro for quite a few of my other stories, not to mention a few of my articles and essays as well, so the community should be fine.

Also, please +1 the story parts if you liked them, that way I can be sure if I should continue with them or not.

Chapter 4: Hunted and Hunters

Part 2
Richy had had enough with Samuel. Just before we go on, Sam had the perfect attitude when it came to problems. He believed that violence doesn’t solve problems. It prevents them from arising in the first place. That is probably why he is not really a good negotiator. Anyway, currently Richy and Samuel were at the place of Drake. Which is not Richy’s house, but just a local gang’s hideout. The hideout is actually known to almost every gangster anywhere through a secure network which Richy happens to know about. But we’re digressing.

“Come on, man! Do another ex a solid.” Richy said. “You went from being one of us to not one of us, Richy.” Alejandros, the gang’s chief dealer, said. “You know we don’t take kindly to deserters.” “Richy, just let me bash his skull in!” Samuel said out loud. Immediately, six guns pointed at them. “See! Deficiency isn’t a problem this time around!” Samuel went on. “No!” Richy said. “Everytime I take you anywhere, you end up bashing that person’s head in and I end up having to leave without guns!” He looks around “And see what you’ve done! Again!” “I think you and your boyfriend here need to leave.” Alejandros said. “Shut up!” Samuel said, threateningly. Alejandros almost laughed, and then pulled out his Desert Eagle.50 caliber pistol. “Al, put that down before someone gets hurt.” Richy said. “I said,” Alejandros said, ignoring Richy “Leave.” Richy was now angry. Samuel’s attitude had made three previous dealers ask them to walk out. But this attitude, was totally uncalled for. “Sammy,” He said, turning to his team mate. “Let’s cap em.”

Two minutes later, Sam and Richy carried bags full of guns and ammo out of the house. “Next time,” Sam said “You let me beat the guy before negotiation.” Richy turned to him quizzically. “It helps us get what we need,” Sam said “Believe me, I’ve tried it.” Richy stopped dead in his tracks. “Where?” “With Nicholas, when we went out shopping for C4 explosives.” Richy could very well shoot the guy.
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Nicholas and Ralph, on the other hand, were having a really good time, breaking into places that could contain potentially explosive products, and then utilizing and improvising upon them. Naturally, their little endeavour attracted attention of certain unsavoury figures. Not that this attention bothered the duo in the slightest. They knew what their purpose was, and attracting attention to themselves meant that Jane and Arnold, who were also in the area, would not be focussed on much. Oh, and before we forget, Jack and Jake had stolen their ammo and guns, so other than Nicholas’s bombs and his makeshift weapons, they didn’t really have weapons of their own. Of course, they did pick off weapons from the people who attacked them.

As of now, the two were inside a restaurant, with seventeen pieces of highly explosive devices which could be used with a variety of things. Just outside the restaurant, a small squadron of nearly twenty men, stood waiting for them to come out, armed with submachine guns. But, Nicholas was a self-proclaimed inventor, and as such, he could not let the abundant resources around him go to waste. He immediately stripped a knife pad of its knives, and striped many pieces of machinery, and after a lot of strapping and hand-working, he made a makeshift crossbow. “I would say it has a 20-odd meters of range and can pierce non-reinforced kevlar. But be careful with that thing, don’t know when it will break down.” Nicholas said, giving the weapon to Ralph. Ralph took it eagerly and downed three men at the gateway in less than five seconds. “I LOVE IT!!” He shouted out. “You do realise you haven’t killed them, right?” Nicholas asked. Ralph nodded maniacally. “Ralph…” Nicholas said slowly “you’ve got issues.”
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Jane would have shot Nicholas herself had she not realized how little Azifist actually cared about the four of them. Nicholas’s antics were now helping her go about the more dangerous task of collecting information with much lesser difficulty. Arnold was rumoured to have contacts everywhere from the United States to the United States, across the globe. However, the one thing that actually made him and his network of informants better than Jake’s was that Arnold’s informants were most wanted criminals, whom the world didn’t know about.

If a huge game-changer mastermind was behind all of the recent occurrences, or any of them, these players had to have some knowledge about it. The duo was currently proceeding towards one of such criminal hubs. As Arnold led Jane confidently through winding streets and curving staircases, Jane realised that the duo had been underneath the city of Algeciras. “We are about to meet Ricardo Duran.” Arnold told her. “He is one of the regional bosses of a supervising underworld community. Meeting him will be both difficult and ridiculously effective. He probably knows more about Azifist Snake than anyone else.” “How do you suppose so?” “Because he used to work for him, if my source is right.” “What?!” Jane asked “Are you serious? How do you know that?” “Not the ‘work with him’ kind of work,” Arnold replied “One of my sources was contacted by Ricardo to do a task for a ‘Mr. Snake’. I hadn’t paid much attention to it at that time, but this could be our man.” “Wow, doesn’t it seem pretty convenient for Azifist Snake to give away his name, and for him to now be so close within our reach?” Jane asked. “That is precisely what bothers me, Jane.” Arnold replied. “There is not a single man in the underworld with any power that leaves any loose ends after a job. But both Azifist and Ricardo left them. I can’t help wonder why. A man of Azifist’s calibre would not make such a mistake, especially because he knows his calibre.”

“Arny!” Jane exclaimed “Why are you talking in riddles again?” “What do you mean?” Arnold asked. “That’s my line!” Jane said. Arnold sighed and stopped. “In the underworld, there is an unspoken, absolute rule.” Arnold said. “Whenever a person gives a job to another person, neither of them should have any information on the other which is not strictly professional.” “Why?” Jane asked. Arnold lifted a finger to signify silence. “Because, if one does know more about the other than he should, he is a “loose end” and has to be eliminated as well. The fact that both Ricardo and my informant are alive means that whatever information had been exchanged was strictly professional. In other words, my informant and Ricardo, both needed to know Azifist Snake’s name. Which in turn means, he wanted them to know about him. Now, whether that was a simple oversight, a mistake, or whether that was a premeditated act, we find ourselves with access to an amount of information.” Jane nodded. “For a man who is never seen, heard or felt, and is practically capable of fighting the whole world with his intelligence, this is far too ridiculous to be a mistake. Which means, this is a premeditated act.” Jane gulped.

Arnold started moving ahead. “Shouldn’t we reconsider our strategy then?” Jane asked Arnold. “Nope.” Arnold replied. “Why not?” Jane asked. “Because our priority is not Azifist Snake, but the new WMD, and whoever is behind its fabrication.” “Isn’t Azifist behind its fabrication?” “Not according to Commander Jake.” “What?” Jane asked, completely confused. “Is Azifist a suspect? Sure. Is Azifist behind the entire event? Most likely, not. And I think Jake knows this.” “What? How?” “Jake never once said Azifist is behind this with his own mouth.” Arnold replied, a smile forming on his face. Jane’s eyes widened.
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Jake and Jack were interested, but not surprised. “A game?” Jake asked. “Yeah, a game.” Azifist responded. “Just so you know, there is no way I am actually killing you guys right now, so you’re safe.” He went on. “Why should we trust a word you say?” Jack asked. “Do you have a choice?” He asked. “What is this game?” Jake asked. “Nothing special, really.” Azifist said. “I just have a riddle for you to solve, and then a task for you to accomplish.” “Okay…” Jake said. “What’s the riddle?” “Simple, really:” Azifist said “I have a number of people to kill. You have a number of people to protect. The people I want to kill are protected. The people you want to protect are not. The numbers are the same, and the time for the task too.” Jake raised an eye quizzically and pulled over on the side of the road.

“What the hell do you mean?” Jack asked over the phone. “I could tell you, but that would be cheating.” “By the way,” Jake said “You have been on the phone for over five minutes now, aren’t you afraid we’ll triagulate your position?” “Jake, I know about Protocol 2337. And I know that you are on the A 7 road in Spain heading through the coast, avoiding cities. I also know, there is no way for you to track my call, and even if there was, there would be no way for you to figure out my location.” Jake and Jack were both completely disturbed by Azifist’s sudden appearance. “Alright,” Jake said, “You win, you aren’t being traced, and we have no idea what you’re talking about.” “Yes you do, Jake.” Azifist replied. “No, I don’t, and my talk time is running out.” “Jake, I also know you use a post-paid service in your phone.” “You’re really good!” Jack said. “Hey, Snakey, I think I figured out your riddle, though it can’t be called one, really.”

“Ah,” said the scrambled voice “Interesting.”

Chapter 4: Hunters and Hunted

Part 1
General Richard Cobra was astounded by the comments of his peers. The two Russians’ reaction was explicable, but Jonathan and Stevens’ comments, not so much. “At least you could have informed us of your choice beforehand.” Stevens said. “The people need to know that their nation is still safe!” Jonathan said. “Actually,” General Richard had only started when Stefan interjected. “You guys really don’t see the advantage Richard has just given us do you?” he said. Five surprised pairs of eyes turned to him. “The fact that we are here in this bunker with no one else’s permission or information means no one knows we are here. Which in turn means, this is truly a safe place for us.” “Also,” Richard said, taking the lime-light Stefan had provided “I have established a form of contact with my agents. Those that I chose personally on the basis of trust and aptitude.” Stefan nodded, no one in this room could possibly doubt Richard’s fine-tuned sense of judgement.

“The agents I decided to rely on are currently engaged in war with the entity they believe is causing this havoc. Needless to say, the actions they take will have negative repercussions, so I need everyone here to agree to giving them a Carte’ Blanche for the time being.” Richard ended. “Granted.” Stefan said promptly. “Fine!” Stevens spat out. “Alright, your idea does make sense.” Vladimir said. “Well, if everyone agrees to it, so shall I.” Jonathan said. “Alright… I am fine by it.” Sylvia stated at last “But I need to contact my own agents as well.” She said with a smile. Richard frowned, but nodded “Of course,” He said. “You can use the systems I am using myself, Rogers deletes the data after every transmission so there are no records in case anything goes awry.” “Don’t you need records in case things do go awry?” “Not when you’re dealing with apocalypse…” General Stefan interjected darkly.
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Jake and Jack sped off into the A 7 road of Spain, going through cities and moving only on the coastlines, where damage due to tornadoes will be least. They were once again, in a Jeep, but the process of choosing that particular vehicle is worth a mention.

When the duo reach the parking lot outside of the airport, they saw a variety of cars from a Lamborghini Aventador, to the Wrangler jeep. Jake and Jack first went for the Lamborghini. But Jake was forced to call them both to a stop. “We can’t take this, man!” Jack said. “Hey,” Jake replied “If we weren’t doing what we’re doing, this wouldn’t exist in a few months, we’re entitled to ride it, in fact, we’re destined to ride it.” “But dude,” Jack said “This is a Lamborghini, I remember someone say distinctly that he would not ride a Lamborghini till he had a Mclaren in his garage.” “That was you.” “Exactly, and you’re not going anywhere without me.” Jack ended the conversation. They took a look at other Sedans, SUVs and even a couple of Porches but they didn’t really have the endurance they needed, so they finally settled on the Wrangler.

And so they were now on the A7 road in Spain speeding off towards Malaga, another town on the coastlines. “When do you expect wave 2 to start?” Jack asked “Wave 2?” Jake asked “Yeah, the first being when we ran into those guys at Ksar El Kebir…” “You think those were Azifist’s men?” “I think so, yeah, don’t you?” “Well, I guess I do... But it seems unlike a criminal mastermind to send a bunch of ill-equipped, ill-trained men to take down one of the world’s finest soldiers…” “Not if he was just fooling around, going for fun…” Jake’s eyes widened. If Azifist had managed to track these two down right to the exact city… What else could he track?

Jack’s cell phone rang, bringing Jake back into the real world. “Hello?” Jake said, answering the call. “Put this on loud-speaker so your partner can hear it.” A scrambled voice said on the other end. Jack knew better than to question the voice. “Can both of you hear me?” the voice said again. “Yes.” The two said in chorus. “Great.” The voice said “Now I need both of you to listen to me very carefully. I am Azifist Snake, and I would like to play a little game with the two of you.”

The Tornado: Chapter 3, The Shadow Dealer

Part 2
Jane and her team were promptly taken to the maximum security cell present in the base. One cell and six people never made a good combination. Especially not when one of the six was an expert at making IEDs. It only took the group seven minutes to blow their way through the prison. Jane was so angry at this point of time, that whenever a military officer, superior or not, tried to get in her way, she drastically reduced his life expectancy.

Another five minutes saw them driving their humvee onto a Lockheed C-5 aircraft. Soon, they were in the air, with a tank facing back at any drone that would dare to approach them. What they didn’t know was that the aircraft had been given a mysterious ‘All Clear’ by the officer-in-charge of securing the region.

Jane and her team had only one thing on their mind. Their mission and its execution, as this had become pivotal to finding out several answers that lay ahead of them.
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Finally, Jake parked the Jeep in the Parking lot of a Hotel overlooking the large Port of Ksar Es Seghir. “So,” Jack asked as they entered the Hotel “Where is this Ashkir Zafer?” “Right there.” Jake replied pointing at the Reception counter. There was a man, about 6 feet 2, middle aged, whose face fell as soon as he saw Jake. Jake grinned at him. Strangely, the woman next to him beamed evermore seeing Jake at the doorway. “JAKE!” she called out across the short hall between the reception and the door. She was about half a foot shorter, making her just a few inches shorter than Jake, and had a rather pretty face and proportioned body.

Jake walked over briskly, with Jack half a step behind him. It was strange seeing two men clad in full military uniform in the middle of seemingly a five-star hotel. “Hi, Reisha! Hi Ashkir!” Jake said “I actually came here on business, Reisha, so I don’t have any spare time.” Reisha, the girl’s (more appropriately) face fell. “Ashkir,” Jake said, turning to the man, who looked as though he was deciding between killing Jake or not. “Since business never really does well in this Hotel, do you mind coming out for a moment?” Without waiting for a reply, Jake walked out of the Hotel. Ashkir got out of the reception and followed Jake without a word. Jack flanked Ashkir by following him.

Finally, they stopped behind the Hotel. “How dare you show your face here again after that night.” Ashkir said. “Well,” Jake replied “It was a great night.” “But,” Jack interjected “That aside, we need your help.” Jake could easily have killed Jack, he had no sense of negotiation. “What he means is, you have a chance to help us.” Jake said. “If I don’t.” Jack went forward to reply, but Jake stopped him “Then I guess I’ll have very little to do here, and I might visit your sister again.” Jake said smiling. Immediately, Ashkir launched a right hook, which Jake easily dodged and countered with a left palm to the jaw. “Seriously?” He asked “You want to go against me in a fight?” Ashkir reeled back, rubbing his chin.

“There are other ways to go about this you know…” He said. “Back to the point.” Jake said “Who is Azifist Snake?” Ashkir’s eyes widened “How do you know that name?” “You’re not my only source.” Jake replied “Now, who is he?” “He is nobody.” Ashkir replied. “Yeah, thanks genius,” Jack said “Let’s go.” “No!” Ashkir said “You don’t understand.” He took out a coin and picked up a stick. “See,” Ashkir said. “Usually, if someone wants a weapon, the dealer goes to the person and hands him the weapon, taking the money.”

Ashkir demonstrated by giving Jake the stick and asking him to make an exchange. “But,” He went on, putting the stick down, “What Azifist does is, he asks his men to hide the weapons at the point of exchange, and keep watch on it. The other side has to leave the money and take the weapons.” “Seems like a risky method.” Jake said “This way, he doesn’t really have a check on the other party and they can easily undercut him.” “Not if you’re Azifist.” He said “He has the best intelligence network in the world.” Jake and Jack exchanged a glance. “How good is his intelligence network?” Jack asked. Ashkir seemed at a loss for words, then something seemed to dawn on him, “Do you know Moussad?” “You mean Mossad?” Jake asked “The Israeli intelligence agency? Yes.” “Well, it is said by people in our groups, ‘By the time Mossad knows about something, Azifist has already known of it for years.’” Jake and Jack exchange another glance. “We should go.” Jake said and grabbed Jack by the collar, nearly dragging him out of the alley. “This was bad...” Jake thought to himself. “We’re up against a God…”

“Well,” Jack asked “Where are we off to now?” “To Algeciras,” Jake said “Your sister will be arriving anytime now.” Jack stopped dead in his tracks as his ex-leader walked on. “Why my sister?” Jack shouted. “We’re up against a guy that conjures up tornadoes and you called my sister?” Jake turned and nodded. “Yep.” “Dude! You can do whatever you want and take me along for the ride, but don’t, do not bring my family into this, man!” “Your dad started this.” Jake retorted. Jack raised his eyebrow, “Point.”
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