It was half past ten, and a car zoomed past swiftly across the rail crossing at highway 9. A dark Lamborghini Gallardo, one heck of a tuned car with a capacity to touch emblazing velocities that one could imagine, yet with ever the balance and control to maneuver the beast machine. The car moved on the freeway, cutting through the spare traffic that moved at ordinary speeds. Surprisingly, occupying the cockpit of the ground rocket was a thirteen year old boy, smart and tall, whose hazel eyes could be seen glittering from quite some distance. He had his calm, but the girl sitting next to him was not as comfortable as he was. She was nineteen years old and a good friend of the boy.
Catherine was her name. Her last name was not known to many and certainly not me, as she was always called 'Cathy', or formally with her proper first name. Vikranth and Sarshika, another friend of hers, called her Kat. She was a strong girl with pretty features. She had Vikranth's matching hazel eyes and shares some features common to both. She had held a good post at the advertising firm, but from the day she met Vikranth, her job meant very little to her as they both shared common interests and started working upon them. She was seated beside him in this super-speed machine, uneasy with the velocity. She sat with her back pressed against the seat, trying to be calm.
On the other hand, Vikranth was as calm as ever. There wasn't a smear of pleasure or a hint of any fear on his face. For a thirteen year old, he was already five feet eight inches tall. His hefty personality and disciplined actions gave an impression of a full grown person, but underdeveloped facial features were the only point that revealed his age. Once he had his face masked, anyone could mistake him for a man in his mid 20s. His actions were mature and those like a grown man. He was quite a handsome boy whose striking eyes usually demonstrated his confidence and firmness in taking decisions. He had all the necessary leadership qualities which would make him a trusted one. He always spoke wisely, and those who knew his father, Sir Davian Black would assume that the Baronet's soul has impersonated the boy.
Cathy and Vikranth were on their way to the Dubin Orb Stadium, where they were about to take part in a recruitment challenge into the world of combat. This was a point which was going to change their lives forever and Cathy was nervous. But Vikranth was as confident as ever, not allowing his mind to steal the pleasure he got from the driving the car.
They zoomed past the city highway and soon left the city behind. Slowly, the road changed from a wide cemented one to a narrow mud terrain. Vikranth had to lower the speed to make the journey comfortable. They were now passing through a valley, and could see the silhouette of the hills surrounding the place. The cold fog on the hills glowed in the silver moonlight. The weather was getting colder and colder as they moved closer to the forest, and it started to drizzle, but it made no difference to the lone travelers, now ascending the steep hill road.
Vikranth was bored with the silence and preferred some soft rock now. Cathy was irritated with it and turned it off.
"What's the matter?" Vikranth said, with a soft voice which was not used to speaking much. "What's happening to you? Are you nervous?" he startled her with the question. She certainly was nervous.
Anything but nervous, she thought. I'm not nervous. Not at all nervous.
"Repeating the same thing in your mind is not going to help you ward it off" he said. "Why don't you listen to some music?"
"Because I don't want to. Music distracts me." She tried to stay calm.
From what? I don't know what.
"Listen Kat. You don't have to worry about tonight."
"Why not? After all it's an important night to you… and"
"For us, Kat, please," he interrupted, "It's an important night for us. If tonight is going to take the right course, you do not have to worry. And if it is not, your worrying is not going to change it."
Another smart trick. Cathy was already familiar with the smart tricks Vikranth had the potential of playing on anyone. Whatever he said might just seem unreal, yet it injected the feeling of pleasure or threatened the balls off one, whichever way Vikranth wanted it to be. He was one heck of a soother in tense situations.
"Do you think we can do it Vikranth?" She now sounded very concerned, yet could not ward off her nervousness.
"Of course we can. What holds us back?"
"You have an upper hand over every other participant. What about me? I'm just another person who has equal possibility of tossing a head or a tail."
"Stop saying that Kat. You excel in the art of combat. You will surely face some challenge tonight, but it's not what you can't crack. And also, my art is only but an experiment. It can plunge me to the top or bury me into the depths of this earth. Whatever it is, I am not concerned, for I have decided it's going to plunge me towards the sky."
"And your deciding…"
"Yes! My decision never gives way. Trust in what you want. A childlike desire can do miracles."
Cathy was moved with what he had just said. It was true that he had faced a lot of hardship in this tender age and had deliberated many difficult and miraculous things. This night, for instance, was what he had planned for over a year. He had managed to enroll himself in the recruitment challenge to the Other World, a secret world that existed within this world about which only the members knew. It was a world of combat, or it was made one, which was inaccessible to any stranger. Vikranth was one such stranger when he had started off the previous year, but he knew the functions of the world very well. His father, Sir Davian had trained him to be introduced in the world and to restore the originality of the world, but he expired. Murdered in the course of introducing him to the Other World.
Vikranth thought of his father with his heart filled with hope. However tough the challenge is going to be, he knew he would excel. Vikranth had been tailoring a new technique of combating, from the very early days of his combat lessons from Sir Davian, which he kept from his master himself. He was so secretive about it, as he was also taught the importance of analyzing the mind of opponents he was facing. He was told once by Sir Davian, "Don't let your opponent read your mind. If he reads it, he understands you, and also your moves." Vikranth was smart enough to device a solution to his problem. From that instant, he never decided moves in advance, and kept his mind blank. In an overall sense, he was the quickest learner the Baronet had ever seen.
"So you've mastered the art of reciprocation?" he remembered his grandfather once say. Vikranth remained silent, wondering whether Sir Davian understood his technique.
"Is that what you call it?" Vikranth had asked. "The Art of Reciprocation?"
"Well, I'm proud that you've devised a new technique of combat. Usually, learners' device techniques which already existed in some corner of history, and when they learn of its presence, try to make changes into it, to fit him appropriately. I've always pointed at what they must be looking at. They then took tips from the art and enhanced their technique. But today, I'm proud that the technique you devised is entirely new to me, in fact new to the combat world. It will be appropriate if you called it Reciprocation. Trust me my son. The day you emerge as the Reciprocator, you shall rule the Other World, for it is a very difficult puzzle to crack. I have been trying to crack it for a week now, and I have no answer to it. I admire the problem."
"I shall be the Reciprocator," Vikranth boasted.
I shall be the Reciprocator. His own voice echoed inside his head as he entered the parking lot of the Stadium. He realized that this was the day he's going to be one. Beside him, Cathy was as nervous as ever, shaking at the thought of facing the night. Soon, Vikranth parked the car, and came close to Cathy.
"Everything's going to be just fine." He said, and embraced Cathy. The warmth filled Cathy with a spark of confidence. They parted, and Vikranth saw that she was still nervous. He understood perfectly well that nervousness was important while facing any challenge. For one last time, Vikranth spoke with her.
"Remember what I have told you Cathy. From this instance, you do not know me, nor do I know you. You have never met me. You are only a contestant for this challenge wishing to enter the combat zone of the Other World. Never again try to contact me. I have never been a part of your life. I'm about to begin a new life and so are you. We shall shape the coming life together, by meeting as complete strangers. This is the time we part. Good Bye."
Cathy had completely forgotten in her nervousness that Vikranth had mentioned this before. They were about to part and meet again after the commencement of the recruitment challenge, but as complete strangers.
"Things will be different then," he had said. "So different, we will have nothing to do with the past."
Cathy remembered burning her personal diary and all her contacts, documents, identities, except her passport, as was told by Vikranth. She was no more the Cathy of the advertising firm. She was Kat Young, an eighteen year old participant of the recruitment challenge to the Other World Combat Zone, and Vikranth preferred to keep his name. That was because the name itself was fake, from the day Cathy brought him home. The same name was on his passport and she had no clue how he managed to get that.
"Bye," she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. Being a strong girl, she had not imagined what it would be like when Vikranth said that once she burnt the documents, it was a 'point of no return'. She had to get qualified into the Other World, else she had no existence. Both of them moved together to the staircase, where there were two stairs going in opposite directions. Vikranth took the one to the left, and Kat took the other one. She turned back to see Vikranth's silhouette against the light coming down from above, but he did not turn back.
Vikranth had always told her not to look back to the past. There's nothing in it except sadness if they did not have an ideal life and having one was not usual. He said that it made one weak. I am weak. She said to herself. But I cannot live without my past, where I find you and Sarshika.
She rubbed her cheeks dry of tears and walked bravely to face the new world she was about to enter. She now had no doubt whether or not she could enter the other world, as she has 'decided' that she is already a part of it.