It was the knowledge that Abhor was recruiting an army that finally pushed Shades to drop all pretences of being Sarla and once again take up the personality of her alter-ego. Suddenly she had access to not only all her powers but also her anger and the drive to make a difference. As Sarla she didn’t care what the world was going through. But as Shades, she couldn’t help but care…it was in her DNA to care and to do something.
Shades walked out of the house and followed the piles of bodies that stood at the ready to deter her progress. Keeping her walls away but at the ready, she faced everybody and subjected them to the fullness of her powers. The good thing was she didn’t need to worry about depleting her resources. She couldn’t use mirroring with Abhor in any case. So she used it liberally.
The man who was facing her now was a picture of a vicious scowl. She looked at him meditatively and almost immediately found herself mirroring his actions, thoughts, and emotions. She found her face contorting in a similar way and snarled louder. Seeing himself as if in a mirror, but bigger, more grotesque and deadlier the man took pause. Shades waited to see if it would be enough to snap him out of his trance. A minute later, the man dropped on the road, deep in sleep. She went to him, closed his eyes and murmured a prayer. The man’s demeanour immediately relaxed and she knew he would be himself when he woke up.
She looked behind her. Ten she had had to kill because the mirroring had only served to heighten their hatred and cruelty. But this one, she had been able to save this one. One out of eleven was better than one out of twenty – the odds she had faced two centuries ago. Feeling almost optimistic, she continued on her journey.
A part of Shades knew she was perhaps wasting her time, delaying the encounter, by going after the army. The more bodies she would deactivate, the more Abhor could replace. But Gauri had convinced her with cold logic that disarming an army was smarter and it would give her rusty powers a chance to come out and play. It had helped that the logic was wrapped in her acerbic sense of humour.
She hated to admit it but Gauri had been right. Working on the bodies had helped her gain more control over her powers which hadn’t just become rusty but she could feel like the potency had reduced as well because of the years of neglect. Shades continued on, trying not to think about that or the fact that she didn’t have anyone as back up, working hard on keeping the memories of the previous war at bay.
The bodies led her to Abhor’s modern lair, an apartment building where he had registered himself as Tarak Suri. She smiled at the name. She climbed up the stairs, her vision once again flitting between the steel staircase and a rock stair from Helcynth. It made her nauseous and drop her guard so much that when Abhor was upon her, she did not know.
“Well, well look at this. Dear sister! Is this overconfidence in your abilities or under confidence in mine?”
Abhor had her mind in a vice-like grip. It was so strong she felt it as a physical pain around her throat and head. He, then, had not stopped using his powers in the years of sabbatical. Her theory was confirmed when he said, “While you have been growing a family, I have been sharpening my powers. Even when I was trapped in Mount Kailas…”
“Trapped? What do you mean trapped?” she choked out.
“Oh sister. Where do you think I have been all these years? Did you really think you and that gun had defeated me in Helcynth? It wasn’t you but Kailas who saved you. Seeing your dismal efforts in containing me, they decided to step in. They took me away and locked me up, giving you the opportunity to help rebuild the humans.”
Seeing her face going purple, Abhor loosened his grip a little. He didn’t want her dying yet. He wasn’t done playing. The last time, Kailas had stopped his fun a little too soon. This time, he was determined to enjoy his sister’s torment.
“Oh please,” she gasped out, taking in short breaths to ease the pain in her chest. If anything, it only served to amplify it. She tried to reach out for her walls but they felt broken, razed to the ground. Not allowing herself to panic (at the current situation or what she had believed to be true about the battle at Helcynth), she stood up. She wanted to face him while they talked. “You couldn’t handle your own army. If anyone was defeated, it was you and not me. You chose to hide away because your people became something more than you had anticipated. I know Abhor. I was there.”
“Enough! I did not go through everything I did to have you question my victory.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night…brother.”
The grip returned and Shades coughed out a breath. Abhor brought her face close to his and murmured, “What do you think I would find if I searched you?”
Losing her nerve, she thrashed around, kicking, scratching, biting, hoping something would get him to let go of her.
“Everyone, even you, has a dark side sister. Humans may not have seen your anger but I have. What will happen if I used my powers to kindle that spark? Or the murderous spree you just went on, trying to disarm my army? Just because you think you are on the right side doesn’t make you a good person.”
“How many times…” Abhor’s voice was like velvet honey, caressing her, releasing her boundaries, showing her the ecstasy of causing pain, “…how many times have you wanted to punish the humans for their stupidity? Isn’t that why they called you Shades? They never were sure how you would react to a situation. You thought they had stopped revering you.”
Abhor snorted. He took a strand of her hair and tucked it behind her ear. Shades had stopped fighting. She was listening to him, her horror growing, unable to accept but unable to refute the truth of everything he was saying. “But they feared you,” he whispered in her ear, using the poison of his manipulative powers to drive the message home. “They feared you more than they feared me. You were supposed to be good. But you could never live up to their expectation of being the light in their lives. How could you…when you were the goddess of night?”
“Kailas sent someone as dark as me to defeat me. You are not day. You are as black as night.” With that he kindled the spark. He had found several in her mind but the easiest to ignite had been the one of despise for the humans.
He let her go, body and mind, and saw her thrashing on the ground. His face broke into a smile that was more terrible than anything he had ever done before, or would do hence.
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