For days Aarav struggled on and on , with his hectic training schedule on hand , he had to concentrate hard at any cost . But by the end of a month of the training , he had got a hang of it .
He would easily wake up before 4 in the morning , and before the old man knew , he would already head to give the milk cartons and eggs on every doorstep of the land of the sun village . And though he hadn’t succeeded much , but after hard training of a month running inside the water , he was now capable of staying underwater for almost 4-5 minutes without a break .
Just as he thought that he had gotten better , the old man had made his training intense . He had tied Aarav’s legs to red bricks , one on each leg , and had asked him to do the same , run.
Then , when he had started to get better at it , he handed him a heavy metal sword and had asked him to swing it underwater , and hit a floating target .
Everyday , he would end up falling asleep tired of cleaning the stables as a punishment for every mistake he did .
“Agility , that’s what you should be the best at if you want to be a swordsman of great valor!” The old man constantly said.
Apart from the underwater training , the old man had cut his schedule short , and instead added some more sessions , like blind fold defending , where Aarav was to defend from flying targets that came out of nowhere in the woods . Initially it started without the blindfolds , but as Aarav was a bit good at handling the sword , and also now fast , he had quickly learnt the trick , so the old man had ended up making him blind .
Other sessions included meditation , long concentrated breathing that helped him to maintain control over the body and also helped him stay longer in the water .
Apart from those, tree climbing , helping the farmers to till the lands to sow seeds , and also watering the tank were helping his muscles to grow strong .
Finally after another month of vigorous training , the old man decided that it was high time for Aarav to learn some techniques of sword and combat.
He said ,
“So , boy , though you are slow when compared to all other of my students , but you are doing quite well in the physical training , i should accept that . But , don't get yourself flattered , you’re still no good of a match to anyone .Alright , so from today we will learn the arts of sword fighting . Listen carefully , and from tomorrow , you will be taught the technique physically .”
"Every swordsman has his own elemental style of sword handling. Fire , water , thunder , wind and earth . Initially a person has only one elemental style , but as the generation passed they started having more. Like for example , i have thunder as my element . And as for you , we need to find out..." He said , and pulled a tray filled with sand evenly spread over it. "Keep your hands on the sand." He said , and Aarav did . The moment Master Ashwa asked to pull them out , he did . And right on his palm marks were symbols , one was drop shaped , while the other was depicting a bolt of thunder.
"Oh! That's an interesting combination . Water and thunder styles. Good good."
Whatever the hell he was saying , Aarav understood so much that he was going to have one hell of a training.
For another 3 weeks , from dawn till dusk , he was practicing and practicing . And finally , he had to stop one day and take a rest of two whole days , because his hands were all skinned and bloody holding the sword .
After that , for the rest of his training , leaving the minor sessions aside , the old man taught him about the Chakra system of the body.
He said ,“The human body is made up of several points known as the Chakra points . These help the body to grow immensely strong . There are a total of 7 chakra points . 6 in the body and one, just above the head . Enhancing the chakra points , will make your body do incredible things easily .
The first chakra point , Muladhara , located at the base of your spine , provides stability to your body .
Then, comes the Swadishthana , and this will be your emotion Chakra , your desires and fantasies are controlled by these , located at the lower abdomen....”
He went on about the chakras for hours , and undoubtedly , the chakra training was the worst of all , it was the big daddy of all the training Aarav had ever done under the old man .
Perfecting to enhance each chakra , was no easy task . In fact , each one took him weeks to just learn the basics , each one taking a week or two more than the last one .
So for 5 more months Aarav kept on training under the old man , making himself as strong as possible in the art of sword and combat .
While Aarav was nearing the second month of his training , he was feeling that whenever he left the temple , he was being watched . Especially while he would fill the stable tanks with water in the evening.
So , one day , fed up of being followed , he thought of a plan . After his training in the afternoon , he headed to the well from which he was to bring the water. There , there was a certain tree behind which , he was completely sure that someone would watch him all the time , and the moment he turned , there would be no one.
So he thought , and decided to climb up a tree at a distance where he would get a closer look at the person . So , before his usual time , he did as planned and waited , and the moment he saw the hooded guy , he leaped and held the guy’s neck with one hand , while other on his chest . (His?)
“What the...” The moment he felt that it was a girl following him , he quickly moved back.
“I’m sorry , i ...didnt know , you were a ...girl.”
The girl lifted the hoodie , and Aarav saw that she looked somewhat of his age . She looked embarrassed and she was pretty.
“Uh...who are you ?” He asked the her .
“I’m Sneha...i stay in this village.“She said looking at the ground.
“Why exactly were you following me? Are you a spy or something?” Aarav asked, hoping she wasn’t looking forward to have a friend.
“What? No...actually , i saw you at the lake , trying to run in the water . So i thought i’d just see what you were upto...sorry if i caused trouble.” She said with her small voice.
“Bloody hell , and here i was scared as shit , thinking you were a spy from some kingdom...” Aarav forgot that the people of this village rarely ever raised their voice lest swear so openly . So she was staring at his face.
“Sorry , i just ...got carried away...” he said apologizing .
“That’s okay...It was my mistake after all , i shouldn’t have followed you .So who are you?”
“I’m Aarav , and i’m here training under the old man...” He said .
“Oh..sorry , i mean Ashwatthama ...”
So same like this everyday , in the evening , Sneha would come and meet him near the well , and he too wanted someone to talk to . But she would be too shy to speak in the beginning . But as days went on , eventually she started talking .
She told Aarav , that she was born in the village , how she would help the people of the village in their work . But she never spoke of her family , and Aarav thought he should rather not talk about it either .
He would find her waiting at the well everyday , and even Aarav whenever got time would stroll around the village with her . She introduced him to the village folk , who in return greeted him warmly .
He felt weird to see how close the people of this village are , thinking about his home town , where people were too busy to even wish each other good morning , or atleast an hello.
One day while Aarav was having his dinner with the old man , he said,
“Looks like you’ve found yourself a girlfriend ....”
“Sneha ? She’s not my girlfriend . She’s just a friend . By the way , do you know anything about her family?”
“Ofcourse i do , everybody in the village know too . She was just an year old babe when she lost her father while he had been to the neighbouring town . In grief of her father , her mother too was taken away from her . From then , the whole village is her family . She would be welcomed at any house , stay there as long as she wants . She’s been through alot ...take good care of your girlfriend ...”
“I told you she’s not my girlfriend ...”
“Well , seeing you two makes the people of the village think so atleast...”
Finally , after 8 months of training , the old man said that Aarav was ready to go. He said,
“So , Aarav , looks like your quite a fine swordsman now . But before going i need a favour from you...”
“Yes, you see , after a student learns whatever his teacher can teach , the student has to give the gurudakshina ."
“Alright , what should i do?”
The old man smiled , and said ,“You rather make your first move ...”
“Come on , the girl likes you . I meant that...”
“What? That is gurudakshina ?"
“Ofcourse , not , fool. I mean we’re heading out tomorrow . So i want you to say your good byes...”
As planned , that day in the morning , for the last time , he delivered the milk cartons and eggs . He took a last dip in the lake , and headed to the temple . In the afternoon , he knocked at Sneha’s door and she opened the door .
Looking at him she gasped ...
“Um...what’re you doing here?”
“Actually , i’m heading out in the night ...”
“Where ? ”
“I dont know , the old man’s taking me somewhere . So...”
“You’re coming back right?”
“Well, no. My training is over and the old man says i’m quite ready . So this is goodbye....”He said .
Hearing that, Sneha felt sad .
“You know , i thought i’d finally got someone who i cared for ...”
“Hey , you have the whole village , what difference would i make ? I just came yesterday, that’s all . These are your family , no need feel so sad ...”
“You dont understand , anyways. You know what , you better go . Nobody ever stays , my parents, my brother , everyone ...I am just too unlucky..”
Aarav didn’t know what to say . But she hugged him and started crying .
“No you’re not . You know what? Once i save Shiba , i’ll come back .”
“You don't have to...” She said .
“ I’ll tell you something , that i never usually speak of . You know , my grandmother died on my fourth birthday , my dad on my fifteenth and on my seventeenth birthday , i came to know , that the people who i called mother and father , were never my true parents. My only birthday , that went good , was my eighteenth , you and all the villagers made that day special...”
(In the mean time , Aarav had grown 18 .)
Sneha was taken back , she never knew . All these days , all she did was talk about the village and her day . But she never asked Aarav . Then she realised that she never knew him and now it was too late .
She inched closer and kissed him on his cheek . She wanted to go further , but thought what Aarav would think of her .
“What? That’s it?” Aarav asked .
“What do you...” she tried to say , but Aarav kissed her on her lips . He pulled out and looked at her face, “I will never forget this place , the people , and especially you.”