THE MISSION BEGINS....
It was close to 9, so Aarav headed to the back gate of the palace . He was wearing his black cloak , with grey buttons and his mask asusual . He met people on the way , but nobody barely noticed him , lest speak.
He reached to see that the clan was waiting there with two other people , wearing a black shawl over their head , the queen was speaking to her daughter . While the commander , who was not wearing his armor was speaking to his sister , Megha.
They noticed him at once , and he didn’t find a single warming smile , not that he had expected any. He pulled his sleeve over the newly made bracelet , which was only slightly different from the older one and headed their way .
“It is A , i guess?” The queen asked.
“Y-yes your highness.”
“Alright , its time you leave now .“The commander said to the clanmates. " A will be joining you in a minute...”
They looked at each other then , Reva touched her mother’s feet , and the rest followed too. Megha hugged her brother and started walking ahead with the rest of them .
Aarav waited for them to leave , while the queen said ,
“A , we are relying on you not only for the mission but also for the safety of my daughter and her clan mates. We expect no mistakes...”
“Yes , your grace ...I will protect them at any cost.“Aarav replied.
“Here , take this.” The commander said and handed him a roll of parchment tied with a red thread,
“Once you reach to the kingdom of Phoenix ,our people will identify you , you will have to give them this for proof its really you.”
“Yes, ser.” He took it and carefully placed it in the keep-everything-pouch.
Aarav gave one last bow to the queen , and a smile to the commander under his mask and walked towards the clan. He jogged a bit and started walking ahead of them . Looking at him running , Reva ran and took the lead. She said ,
“Let’s make it quick ,we’ll run and we’ll reach there early.”
“No , we won’t be running.“Aarav said.
“Sorry , did you say something , stranger?“Reva mocked.
“The journey is long , if we run now we’ll get tired and we’ll have to waste time taking longer time for rest breaks , Princess Reva , try and understand.” Aarav said trying to sound as less-Aarav as possible.
“Oh yeah? Well i don't remember anyone telling me that you are the one to make decisions!” Reva argued.
What a pain...,Aarav thought.
“Hey ...we shouldn't hurry.“Pranay said .
“I guess A’s right.” Megha agreed ,
“Stop supporting him will you?” Reva said .
Aarav ignored them and kept walking . After some time , the clan decided that they should run which meant they lost against Reva's stubborness , so suddenly behind Aarav they made a plan and started running without a warning .
And he felt Reva’s shoulder hit him , though he knew he was atleast at an arm’s distance. Without any choice , he started running along with them .
They ran and ran for an hour , while Reva purposefully kicked , shouldered and tried stamping his cloak .
What the hell is her problem?
In not less than two hours , all of them were out of breaths except Megha and ofcourse Aarav . Mayank didn’t look much tired either. Reva was struggling to run , and for a moment she was about to fall on her face , when in a quick movement , Aarav caught her by her hand then remembered he would give up his identity , so he left her while she fell on her butt.
“What the..why did you drop me?” She asked.
“You said you don't take help from strangers.” Aarav said trying hard not to laugh , while Megha and Pranay broke into a laughter.
“I guess...we should rest for a while.“Megha said .
“I told you people not to run.” Aarav said.
Reva sat on the ground with an embarrassed look on her face.
“I guess we can rest here for some time...” Pranay said , about to light up a fire.
“NO!” Megha and Aarav said at once.
“Why? We’re still in friendly territory...“Pranay said.
“And also we’re on a secret mission , dumbass .“Megha said.“What will you say when someone sees us? ‘we’re camping amidst war’? Grow up.”
When did she become bold? , Aarav thought . Usually Megha would be too shy to speak to Pranay.
Aarav wanted to speak to them , ask about his mother , about everybody he left behind . But yet he still didn’t have the courage to do so , so he simply sat there silently watching his ‘family’ .
He was watching Reva , she was lost in thought and was looking at the night sky , which to Aarav was looking just as beautiful as Reva. Slowly he saw her eyes drift close , and the next moment she was fallen asleep in Megha’s lap. Aarav smiled under his mask looking at her.
“So tell us about you , A...” Pranay said.
Aarav wasn’t listening , “Huh?”
“About you , what do you do? Family?” Megha added.
“Me? I’m just a servant , a bodyguard .I have a mother , 2 brothers , a sister , and someone i care about the most...” Aarav said .
“What happened?” Megha asked.
“They just ...forgot about me .” Aarav said .“Leave that aside , what about your fifth clanmate?”
“Oh...well..he just left us.” Megha said.
“Um..is she always like this? Stubborn?” Aarav asked pointing at Reva .
Megha laughed , “Reva? She was stubborn , but after he left she became even more rigid .”
“To say the truth , you’re the only person after Aarav who’s annoyed her so much ...“Pranay said.
“She’s good by heart , you know . She just doesn’t like to show it.” Megha said.
Ofcourse i know that..., Aarav thought. That’s why i like her.
Aarav slept or to say rested on the tree top , while the others were sleeping . He wanted to sleep , but rather didn’t feel like it , he had promised the queen to protect all of them at any cost.
So for two more days they travelled through the dense forests , among weird plants , animals and sometimes even some tribal clans .
After the training with Master Ashwa . Aarav’s sense of hearing , smell and eye sight , all had improved .
So he would quickly recognize movements in the jungle as soon as possible , to warn all of the clan , and there by take cover . Once they had encountered a tribal man and two more of his companions , who were heading their way , holding what looked like the carcass of a deer .
So , they had to hide on tree tops , and that too as high as possible , and doing so , Reva had almost tripped over the branch and was about to fall , when Aarav quickly held her by her waist and so she was hanging in mid-air . After that , her tone had softened , but not that much either .
But Aarav’s main concern was food , he had to eat ,either early or after they had the food , because he had to pull his mask away from his face .
Mayank and Megha were very helpful in the journey . Megha had grown immensely strong and had become an expert at using the rune stones , while Mayank could easily differenciate poisonous fruits from the edible ones .
Pranay was good at camping , though he acted stupid sometimes , and as for Reva , she would always be either arguing with Aarav , or in a reverie .
Finally on the end of the third day , they were almost out of the friendly territory and so they had to plan out their next step.
“We could go as we are going now...” Megha said .
“Not at all...Its the border , there has to be guard posts looking out for trouble on either sides . The area starting after the forest area is open and we haven’t got time to wait till tomorrow night to move on . We have to think of something .“Aarav said .
“Its wise if we wait...” Pranay said rubbing his blind eye .
“No its not...” Reva said,“...I've seen guards taking rounds around these parts, once we cross the border , its a complete risk .We cant fool them in their own territory. There’s only one way...”
“Which is?” Megha asked.
“We split up.” Reva said.
“Its madness! If we split up we’ll be having no back up if even one of us gets spotted.“Pranay said.
“No..its the only choice.” Reva said.
“If we split up , they can locate us through our scent even more easily , than when we are together...” Megha said.“A , what do you say? You’re the expert here...”
“I am the one making decisions here .No need of your advice...stranger!“Reva said.
“This isn't your palace to make decisions ! I'm the one who was given your responsibility , so we .cannot.split.up.” Aarav said.
“We have to split up...“Reva urged.” And Megha , if we split up , our scent won’t be easy to track , because it’ll be weaker when compared to all of us together. And you , stranger! I'm the princess of Mauryas , and I will decide even if we are in the palace or not. You are our bodyguard ! Not the strategizer. Alright , lets take a vote. In favour of split...” Reva said and raised her hand .
Aarav gave up on arguing , and saw that slowly another hand went up , Pranay.
“Dont be stupid , Pranay!” Megha said .
“I agree to Reva , she’s right about the scent getting weaker...” Pranay said .
Slowly another hand went up , Mayank.
“You too?” Megha said angrily,“...you dont even talk while we’re discussing , and finally end up supporting them ? Just great!”
“I just don't want to get on Reva’s bad side.” Mayank said .
“Now , how about we decide who goes with whom, huh?” Reva said , sounding like she won a great debate.
“Whatever...” Megha said . And Aarav had no choice but to agree.
It was decided that , Reva , Megha and Mayank go in one direction , while Aarav was left with Pranay, because Reva said she couldn’t stand being with Aarav. So , before sunrise all of them should be out of the forest , and meet up at a small cave , which was away from the view of the guard posts.
Aarav was walking beside Pranay in the dark forest following the flicker of his lighter , when Pranay spoke,
“So , how about you spill some beans , Aarav?”
“W-what? I’m not...” Aarav was stuttering .
How the hell did he know?
“I guess we have a misunderstanding ..i’m not who you think ...” Aarav tried to say.
In the blink of an eye , Pranay quickly turned and before Aarav knew , his mask had fallen to the ground , and Pranay was holding the sleeve of Aarav’s cloak revealing the bracelet .
The same bracelet , which belonged to Pranay’s family once , that he had given it to Aarav on his birthday.
But he quickly pulled his hand away so that his hand wouldn’t burn by its touch.
“How did you...” Aarav was about to ask when a heavy punch landed straight on his face , knocking him off his balance.
He wasn’t angry on Pranay for punching him so hard.
“I deserved it!“Aarav said.
“You did.“Pranay agreed. “Come now.” He pulled Aarav back to his feet.
“How did you know?” Aarav asked him rubbing his cheek.
“Come on , asshole , i know you for like 12 years now , the way you speak , the way you keep looking at Reva and saving her again and again , and of course that story you said about forgetting you, even a fool would recognize you.“Pranay said. “Why are you even hiding yourself?”
“I...just don't have the courage to face you...“Aarav said,“I mean...how can i? I look at you people , and all i feel is regret . I said i’ll save Shibla on my own , but you guys risked your lives and are helping me out .
I don't know what to say to Reva, to Megha or even Mayank.”
“Dude , forget it now , i’ll help you out. By the way , you’ve bloody grown up now , you look macho ! I miss the old scared Aarav. You’ve changed a lot.“Pranay said .“Damn , any girl would want her for you...”
“Shut up , you’ve grown tall yourself . And with that eye-patch of yours , you look like a pirate. So , you and Megha are dating i guess?“Aarav asked.
“Megha and me? A lot has changed after you’ve gone . She doesn’t care about me at all...bloody hell , i dont know what happened to her . She was all shy and pink when she faced me before , but now...she’s different.“Pranay said.
“How’s my mom?” Aarav asked ,“...is she doing well? ”
“No, she’s not.”
“What do you mean?”
“How the hell do you think can she be good when you’ve not even spoke to her for almost a year now?“Pranay said angrily.
“I know that ...”
“She’s doing fine . She promised to stay at the clan base till you return , she’s still there . We did what we could by making her feel happy .So when do you plan on coming back?”
“After rescuing Shiba . So you’ve done with college then?”
“No , 2 more months . What about you? You haven’t even passed eleventh yet...”
They were walking deeper into the forest , getting closer and closer to the border .
“I’ll restart , that’s all...”
Something came flying over Aarav’s head . He just ducked in time . Before he could see who was shooting arrows at them , he heard bushes rustling.
“Guards! They found us...” Pranay said .“We need to run. NOW!”
“Its a waste of time if we run , we have to face them...“Aarav said.“Come on , lets get to a more open field.”
He ran ahead but three men came out of nowhere. They turned, but before they knew , they were surrounded by men in armor.