Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 9

Asfand watched the interior of Jahangir Shah’s wing in amusement and admiration. Another world resided within these wall. This man brought his home here in every way. A home he hasn’t visited in two decades but never got separated from. What a fearsome man. But in all honestly, Asfand was not expecting Jahangir Shah to live in isolation.

“I hope I am not barging on something” Jahangir was watching Asfand calmly and with something akin to adoration in his eyes. “I was really looking forward to this meeting.” Asfand sat opposite him and Safan. “Beautiful establishment you have.”

“I presume it is first time we are meeting?” Jahangir smiled politely and gripped his cane firmly with both hands.

“I suppose so Mr. Shah.” Asfand’s smile was not friendly while watching the old man. He had many things he wanted answered but for now, he chose only one. He needed to affirm one thing because whatever will happen from hereafter, totally depends on the outcome of this revelation. “I wanted to meet you in person. I have heard a lot about you. Many admirable things. How many years has it been since you last went to Pakistan but people still deem you so highly. For all the great and good things you have done for them.”

“I am honored” Jahangir smiled in a meaningful way. “I just did what was the right thing to do and to the extent my abilities allowed.”

Safan shifted in his seat uncomfortably upon watching them interact. This should not have happened. He underestimated Asfandyar. They underestimated Asfand and the outcome of this will be dreary.

“I am sorry about your son and his wife. An accident it was?” Asfand noticed how his grip tightened on the stick. “It must have been hard for you.”

“Kismet Mr. Sherzai” Jahangir retaliated calmly. “We cannot do anything against what is predestined.” Jahangir was both amazed and amused by Asfandyar Sherzai. He was the same age as Haider and turned out to be a fine man. A bit on the ruthless side but a fearsome, intelligent and powerful man nonetheless. Last he saw Asfandyar, he was only a baby. Jahangir could have never imagined a day like this but he was happy he got to meet him at least once in this life.

Even if the meeting held some bitterness.

“Of course.” Asfand leaned back and crossed one leg over other knee. “But I mean losing your son and then the closest one to being a son at the same time can be quite nightmarish, no?” He smirked upon watching the axis of his expressions shift. “Feroze Rahija, was it? I have heard you were very close. Just like family. What happened to-”

“What brings you here Mr. Sherzai?” Jahangir reprimanded himself for being mindless. Of course, this child wouldn’t have come otherwise. It’s all about getting to the core of the truth. The truth they kept buried in their hearts to save one life.

“I heard they had two daughters. Ammara and-” Asfand stopped and tapped his chin thoughtfully. “What was the name of the youngest one?”

“You should leave” Jahangir stood up abruptly. “I’m sure you have knocked the wrong door young man.” I should have known. Whatever it might be, he will remain their blood in the end. And Jahangir saw that man’s upbringing in him alright. He was remorseful but they could dream on their sordid intentions for their cursed lives. As long as he lived, no one will reach his children.

“Boss” Safan got up abruptly. He knew it will be best to leave. He should have known why Asfand wanted to meet Jahangir Shah so suddenly. Nothing he ever does is without a motive. But Safan knew whatever Asfand intended to do this time was not going to be productive.

“Oh yes” Asfand stood up as well and faced Jahangir squarely. “I remember her name. Dua, was it?”

“Leave this instant Asfandyar-” Jahangir’s words were interrupted with a gunshot.

“Dar-jee” His servant came rushing in his lounge in the next moment. “Please come. It’s Hadi baba and Dee baby.”

“What are you doing?” Safan hissed to Asfand when Jahangir left with his servant in a hurry. “Don’t make an enemy out of Shahs. You know what position he holds and what kind of relationship baba-saeen have with him. Asfand!” Safan’s sweat dropped when he walked out after Jahangir Shah.

Something was telling Asfand his answers lie across those doors. He could hear Safan spit profanities after him but he had no time to retort or shut him up. The moment he stepped out of Jahangir’s wing and landed in their main driveway, he stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes couldn’t believe the scene that was unfolding before him. Or more like the woman standing a few feet away with a gun in hand.

Pointed towards Haider.

“Bacha!” Jahangir called Dee but she didn’t blink, nor moved. “This is not the way to deal with things. Lower the gun.”

“Dar-jee” A pregnant woman whom Asfand presumed was Haider’s wife, wailed. “Please stop her.” She clutched the woman beside her for support. “Haider!”

“Go inside Amber” Haider replied calmly. “Take her inside.” The second woman nodded and took the wailing woman inside against her protests.

“Asfand!” Safan whispered next to him while witnessing the scene. “Leave for now. I can sense it is nothing good.” He watched Asfand tap below his heart. “Fucking listen to me for once you-”

“Dua!” Jahangir Shah roared. “Lower your gun this instance.”

“Dua. That is her name. Make sure you don’t mess this up Asfandyar.”

A wave of shock coursed through Asfand and he watched her stunned.

“Now I know where I have seen those fucking eyes.” Asfand muttered spitefully while watching the subject of his newfound yet deeply buried hate and anger. “Now I fucking know.” His hand fisted on his chest when a memory came back to him.

The memory that left him with a scar and disgrace that night.

“Look at me.” Her hand fell to her side and the gun dropped to the floor animatedly. “Dua! Bacha, look at me” Jahangir called her in a fatherly manner. She looked as if she was shaken badly from a nightmare.

“Dar-jee! I-” Her eyes flickered behind Jahangir and clashed with livid green ones.

For a moment, time stopped for them as they stared or more like glared at each other. With hatred and recognition.

Dua was shocked to see Asfandyar. Why? Her eyes followed his hand on his chest and she noticed how he was tapping below his heart. She knew what was lying there and his thundering eyes were clear reminder of that gift.

“Dua!” Jahangir yelled after her but she didn’t listen. She pushed past Xian and got in the driver’s seat of her car. Before any of them could react, she revved back angrily and left. “Go after her Xian. Make sure she gets home safe and don’t let her out of your sight. That child is too reckless.” Xian nodded at Jahangir. Giving Asfand and Safan one wary glance, he left with his men.

“And you” Jahangir turned to Haider. “I expected more from you Haider. You have disappointed me.” Their eyes flickered towards their unwanted audience. “Go to Amber. The girl was hysterical. We will talk later.” Haider gave Asfand a warning glare before going inside which did nothing but amuse him. And spite him more for the one they tried to protect.

“These matters have no concern with you Asfandyar. It will be in your best interest to stay away. From the past, my family and my children.” Asfand smirked upon the threat but failed to elicit any reaction out of Jahangir. “A score is yet to settle and a price to be paid. It will be a waste” Jahangir walked past him at steady pace, making sure to convey the warning with a firm hit of his stick on the ground. “If you got caught in all this.”

“Don’t tangle yourself in this mess.” Safan watched the old man walk away from them. “It will be best to leave right now.”

“It’s a long lost game Safan.” Asfand shoved his hands in his pockets and watched Jahangir. “And I have found the missing piece.” He smirked at Safan. “We will leave Safan. We surely will.”

“Asfand!”

“But once I have taken back what was rightfully mine.”

*********

“I told you to give your all.” Dua charged at her opponents while tackling their attacks from every direction. “Hit harder.” She grabbed hold of one by his leg and hooked him back with a roundhouse kick. “Harder” She screamed again, detaining the attack of other with the bamboo cane of her own. She could sense their reluctance which agitated her to no extent. How am I supposed to test my limits if they will hesitate in attacking me?

“Enough!” their men backed away instantly when Xian grabbed Dua’s cane effortlessly amidst their fight. They didn’t see him coming in between even once. Such was the stealth and ability of this man which made him formidable assassin and spy. “Disperse.” They bowed to him with a loud yes and left them alone.

“Why do you have to interfere every time? It’s because of you they hold back.” Dua pulled her cane and threw it angrily after facing away from Xian. She was furious. She was beyond furious at how things turned out and how they could have turned out.

Everything she was working for could go waste in the blink of an eye.

Everything she has worked for.

Her revenge.

Her revenge on those who took everything from her seven years ago. How can she let this happen? What will it concur to if she lost before even getting to the rest of them? The remaining six that were still very much alive and breathing.

“They are worried for you” Dua scoffed loudly. Xian knew how Dua was feeling in the moment. What Haider did was the least thing she could have ever expected. And he was not blaming Haider either. It was that wicked wench who messed them up, who always tried to break them apart.

But this time, an oath was broken. And that in front of an enemy who hold the most power to ruin her if he stepped in this game Dua started.

It was a feat in the past few days to keep track of things. Everything was in vulnerable condition with her identity exposed. He had to keep check of Asfandyar’s activities but the man has shown no interest so far.

It became Xian’s substantial plight.

Asfandyar will attack in the least expected time and from the least expected side. And if his doubts were true and Asfand was loyal to his blood, he could have already informed the covenant about Dua. Which could prove itself to be consequential.

“You know Haider will never hurt you intentionally.” Xian placed the jacket on her shoulders with a tired sigh. Another bitter scoff rose from her throat and she shrugged his hands away with a jerk. Her murderous look showed Xian nothing but red thirst.

“You always sided with him even when we were young. Haider was your favorite, right? I am sure you regret working for me because it is not your choice. You are bound by your duty. The promise you made-” her red eyes reddened further when she choked her words. “I don’t need anyone. Neither you nor Haider or anyone.”

“Dua!”

“Don’t call me that” she screeched and kicked the table hard, watching it skid away from them noisily. “I told you not to call me with that cursed name. I told them not to call me with this name-”

“Enough!” Dua was stunned to silence when Xian raised his voice at her. She has known him for fourteen years but not even once she saw him raise his voice even a notch. He was always the quiet one. She still remember the day he came in their lives. How she, her sister and Hadi sneaked to the guestroom to see the mysterious occupant their dads brought home one night.

“Is this how you want your revenge?” Dua looked away from his inquisitive eyes. “I didn’t agree for you to act this puerile and impetuous.” Xian knew he was being hard on her but she needed to know. He was never in favor of this self-destructive path she chose for herself. But he knew her and her steel resolve. And he had a promise to keep. A promise he made to her father. He couldn’t reach in time to save them all but he will definitely protect this young child with everything he got.

Even from herself.

“You think changing your identity can hide who you really are? You can become D. Sahi or whatever but you can never eradicate who you really are. You know why?” Xian pulled her towards one of the mirror walls and forced her to see herself. “Because you cannot wipe this. You and those who live within you. Your mother, your father and your sister.”

“Xian!”

“You have their essence. In your eyes, your hair and your features. How will you change all this? You want to wipe your identity? You have to kill their essence first.”

“Xian!” Dua pulled free of him angrily. “How dare you?”

“If you do not even hold the courage to face your enemy as who you are, you are not fit to call yourself avenger of their deaths. What’s the point if you are too coward to let them know who is bringing their demise? Are you that afraid-”

“I hear their screams.” Her hazel eyes pooled with hot angry tears. “I see their faces, their painful expressions and their helplessness. I see them laughing at my parents when they were cut, hit and burnt. I see my sister getting gagged and raped by those men. I see her begging for mercy and crying for help. I see them getting punished for something they never committed. I see us getting punished for a sin we never committed.” Dua choked on her sobs when tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Every day, every night, every hour, every minute and every fucking second. I relive those moments with every breath I take Xian and you have no idea” she pointed a finger at him with a low hiss. “You have no fucking idea how that makes me feel. You have no idea how does it feel to be trapped in an everlasting hell. You have no idea.” She shook her head and stepped back. “I do because I have lived in that dark pit. I was never freed. I am still chained to that past. I could never escape. I still live there.”

“Du-”

“I can still feel it. That hot iron rod buried in my skin.” Her trembling hand reached for her left shoulder blade where the broken wings hid the ugly reminder of that pain. “I hear them. I see them very clearly. Laughing at me, sneering at me. Beating me, torturing me and-” She closed her eyes to keep her tears from falling out. “I hear them scream my name and it makes my ears bleed. It makes me want to gouge my eyes out for just witnessing all that. It makes me want to kill myself.”

“You were a victim too-”

“But I survived.” Dua screamed at Xian. “I survived and I lived. I am still living but this life is nothing less than a curse.” She stumbled against the mirror.

“Dua!” Xian tried to reach for her when she fell in the broken shards.

“No” She raised her hand for him to stop. “I will live with it.” Xian was gobsmacked by the look her eyes bore. There was rage in them, not the one he always saw. A newfound rage that burnt million times stronger than before. He was so wrong into thinking he could tackle her over time.

She proved them wrong. There was no stopping her.

“You are hurt.” He was worried for the injuries she sustained with her fall. The floor was turning red with the blood seeping from her legs and arms but she didn’t even seem to feel the pain. “Dua! You need to see the doctor right now. Look how much blood you have lost.”

“They were bleeding more and I was just watching. I was watching those vultures hurt my family. First, they pushed them to leave their country and home. Then, they called them back to get to their motives. They should have let them go but no.” Her eyes fell to the broken pieces around her. “They broke them. They broke me. Now I will break them.”

“One by one. I will pull them out of their holes just like they trapped my father and I will kill them exactly like they killed my family. Without any mercy. It doesn’t matter” she looked at him with a bitter smile, “whether I be Dua or D. Sahi. No one can stop what is coming to each and every one of them.” Xian watched her write seven names on the floor with her blood.

“Nawab Murtaza. Ismael Malik. Behroze Alvi. Azfar Baig. Jalal Sehgal. Yusuf Khan and Afroz Sherzai. They will pay the price for their crimes and it won’t be law who will be claiming it. But me.” Dua looked up at Xian.

“Dua. Feroze. Rahija. Daughter of Feroze Ibrahim Rahija and Safiya Rahija.” She got up and faced him squarely. “Sister of Ammara Feroze Rahija.”

A series of memories unfolded before her eyes when she finally let them free from the confinement of her mind. Some bittersweet and some poisonous. It was time she used them to fuel her anger.

It was necessary. It was mandatory.

For her to push past these hindrances. She needed to burn them herself to feed her pain.

“No one will be spared. Not that Thompson and not even that Asfandyar Sherzai. I will wipe them all. There won’t even remain a trace of them on the face of earth. And only then.” She wiped her tears and faced away from him.

“I will claim my name back.”


To my readers :)

This is last of surprise updates :p. I am going to stick to schedule now. Read and enjoy. Don’t forget to drop your thoughts :)

Until next time <3

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