Life is full of variables and constraints. A single small decision can change your whole future or you might try to change it for years and nothing will happen. The chances and occurrences are random enough in a normal person’s life. But when you are a part of a community consisting of preternatural beings from vampires and ghosts to gods themselves, a blink of an eye can make your life turn upside down.
I was staring at Vaul and Ronan. Maya was pressed to the window as if afraid of touching Natasha. The effect of her exclamation only just sank in Agnishikha’s mind. She quickly stiffened and her lips went tight with eyes shooting sparks at Vaul. Before I could have said anything, Ronan assessed the environment in the car and hurriedly said. “Please don’t misinterpret it. It is not what you are thinking. We really cannot escort… Natasha in this car.” His eyes were wide with desperation and I knew the reason. If Natasha got angry enough, then no one was safe in her vicinity. Ronan quickly looked at Maya for support and she straightened in effort to have a little dignity. Her eyes were pleading when she said “Please forgive us Devi. We were unaware of your stature. I shall immediately provide an escort worthy for an immortal.”
Agnishikha and I gaped open-mouthed at her from the use of the formal word ‘Devi’ for addressing great women and goddesses. The gods had long since deserted us due to the start of Kaliyuga and such formalities were dwindling with time. There used to be a period when gods walked among humans in the Satayuga. Gods could be met with worshiping and meditation in the Tretayuga. the Dwaparyuga required grand ceremonies and the best priests to even steal a glance of a god. And now in the Kaliyuga, the only way to see a god in person for a common man was to go under tapasya. The preternatural community was still graced with the appearance of a god once or twice in a decade, but for all the others seeing a god was impossible. So hearing a word only used in the ancient times was as much a shock as their proclamation was.
Natasha surely noticed our gaping jaws and took the reins in her hands. She smiled at Maya and said. “Don’t be a fool. I’m more than comfortable in this vehicle. Please don’t waste time in calling out for another one.” Her words were for Ronan as well as for Vaul. Maya glanced uncertainly at Ronan for direction. She nodded when Ronan jerked and slid out of the car. Agnishikha groaned and muttered something about ‘pompous’ and ‘show off’ with some words not meant to be uttered from a lady’s mouth. Natasha rolled her eyes but followed Maya and I went out of the car at the same time Vaul did. Ronan was saying something to Maya who was nodding enthusiastically. Vaul strode towards Natasha and prostrated in a formal sashtang dndawat; the most formal namaste. Natasha looked pleased but hastily helped Vaul up on to his feet. There was a peculiar tugging at my aura as if someone was touching an artifact kept in an air-tight box from the outside. It was a brush of aura being used and I realized that the god part of the aura was being used. I turned to face the SUV and my jaw dropped open from what I saw.
There was a shimmering pool of sparkles surrounding the car like a haze and everything was blurry and wavering inside the cloak of sparkles. both silver and gold sparkles surrounded the vehicle which looked as if it was inside a pool of water. Slowly the hulk of the car was all I could see and by the silence around me, Natasha and Agnishikha were busy ogling it too. Somehow I made it out that the silver sparkles were being led by the gold ones as if the silver provided bulk and the golden guided them. The car was merely a red patch amidst the sparkly haze. I thought I watched the car lengthen; or it was my mind playing tricks? The height was getting less too. Slowly a part of metal separated from the bulk and started elongating and compressing weirdly. It was too hazy to look anything clearly. But the coarse thing I saw was that the SUV was divided into two different parts. One small and one large. The disfiguring went on for a few minutes and now all I could see was two red shapes through the haze.
Suddenly all the sparkles seemed to form an opaque wall and everything was blocked from view. Then with a flash as bright as a 1000 watt lamp, the field bulged outwards and I turned to cover my eyes. I was aware of the aura dissipating behind me and I squinted to get the violet spot off my vision. A few sparkles still fizzled here and there but what I saw in the middle made my jaw drop further if possible. There was a limo in all its glory with an off-road bike at its side. Both vehicles were blood-red and the limousine was equipped with off-road wheels and what appeared to be hydraulics. The bike was a simple one with deeply grooved tires. Ronan and Maya walked towards us, beaming. Maya had a sheen of sweat covering her face and there was a slight swaying when she stood upright. But her eyes told she was proud of her work.
“Devi, please allow us to escort you to your proper vehicle. Maya shall take your companions separately.” Ronan said with another namaste. Natasha glanced at me and Agnishikha and nodded to herself. “Agnishikha here will ride with me if you don’t mind. Akshat shall accompany Maya.” Natasha said with a cold look at me. She was truly being childish. I had taken authority despite of being her shishya and she was now taking a chance to ride in a Limo from me as a punishment. It was also a great loss to not hear the ‘how’ of making such changes to material.
Agnishikha smirked at me and strode to the Limo with Natasha and Vaul. I was left with Maya as we watched them depart. Vaul’s driving didn’t change a bit despite of the Limo which went straight ahead tramping a bush as high as my waist. I kept staring at the residue sparkles the vehicle left for a little while even after it left.
A cough brought me back to the present and I realized that the bike was the vehicle left for me and Maya. She was looking pointedly at me and I glanced nervously between her and the bike. Remembering her encounter with me in my attempt to make idle talk made me fidget a little. She harrumphed and almost snarled at me. “Are you going to wait here whole day? Don’t you have the decency to not keep a girl waiting for long?” Her voice was as cold as her eyes at me. I again looked at the bike and considered the possibility of her at my back with me having no protection against her. The thought brought an involuntary shudder and I asked her. “Can’t you drive? I don’t even know the way.”
My meek voice had the exact opposite effect of what I had thought. If looks could have killed, I would have been lying dead in uncountable pieces. Her stare decided everything and I strode to the bike. The key was already in there and I dragged it across the bushes to her. I sat and started the bike and the engine growled as a ravaging bear. Maya seemed to be pleased with my obvious amazement at the bike. That look was only momentary as she noticed me sitting waiting for her. “Don’t you dare break hard reaper. Or you shall regret even putting your hands on the lever.” She said in an utterly calm voice. Then she stalked towards the bike and jumped to sit behind me. I slid as far on the tank as I could and let her have all the sitting space. She didn’t even touch any part of my body and grabbed the seat with both hands instead. I shifted to bike into gear and it shot off through the dense bushes.
Maya gave a startled yelp and grabbed my waist as hard as she could. All her frostiness was gone as she clung to me desperately. I didn’t let the bike speed past 30, but the uneven terrain made the ride a roller-coaster. The dirt road was nowhere in sight so I was forced to follow the destruction left by Vaul’s driving. Girls were odd. Very odd. Agnishikha had slapped me when I accidentally locked both of us in a dog crate, and had smothered me with a whole lot of curses appropriate for a street thug. Then she became my friend and behaved like a school kid. Maya was also a little… peculiar. She didn’t even look at me without scowling, and now she was wrapped around my middle like an octopus. I was sure she would point it out as a ‘demand of situation’ later, and would act as nothing ever happened.
“Take the right trough here!” Maya shouted in my ear when we rode down another hill. The trampled grass left by the limo went straight ahead but I took her word for true and turned the bike right. After a few hundred meters, the dirt road came in our view and now I was driving steadily on a smoother, safer road. Maya slackened her grip a little and said in my ear again. “If you are trying to goad me into letting you drive faster, you are certainly being unsuccessful. Try harder.” She shifted a little and now she holding me with her hands on my shoulders. I was doing what? She didn’t make sense at all! Why would I try to go fast when she told me not to break too hard? Couldn’t she have told me exactly what she wanted? Well… Girls never say something straight. they have to make the simplest things complex.
The steady drone of the bike lulled me into my worries. I had been ignoring them for a lot of time. My friends, the veil, and what about the IRC? Had it also gone to Decain? I knew a few reapers who could have died instead of following such a person. But when even gods were allied to him, how much chance a reaper had? I had thought the veil was safe. But bad luck seem to really go with me and spread to the places I went and to the people I met. There was a large number of creatures whose alliances were still unknown. The Weres liked to keep out of the troubles of immortals. But I couldn’t help thinking about the pup I had met at the MP’s place; his son. Did I really left bad luck where I went? I had no idea.
Shaking my head to clear it, I increased the speed a bit and relaxed when Maya didn’t say anything. The road went through mostly low hills and sparse woods. I kept driving and after two or three hours, I met the sign of habitation. A stout stone house sat beside the road. A few men and women were standing guard with strange assortment of weapons. Some had pistols or rifles, and a few had swords and bows. Maya waved at them and they let us pass. She had been quiet for the whole of the journey. I tried to look at her in the rear view mirror, but couldn’t get her face into it.
There was a slight commotion a little ahead of us. A lot of people were gathered and I could hear shouts and cheers. A few were also chanting while others tried to climb over others to get to the center. The crowd thinned for a moment and a bright red limo came into my view. It was still a few hundred meters further, but I could see into the center due to the slight elevated ground on which the bike was. All of them were cheering loudly for someone. Their gestures were full of joy and happiness. And in the center of the crowd, standing on the roof of limo, waving to the people, was Natasha.
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