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Because this is a hastily opened thread for I depart tomorrow, I will update the essentials when I return! And please take care of this Thread in my absence. The InnKeeper may need your help in manning this Cave in his Inn. The following chapters need not be read now. Read it when time permits.
Chapter One Hundred Three: The War of Emotions
Numbed to even decide what to do next, Kushi had rushed to the kitchen as soon as she had escaped from the hold of the First Lord in his room. She was rummaging through the storeroom when Rahim Chacha chanced upon her, "Kushibitya! You're back!"
But she didn't look towards him and continued with her searching.
"Bitiya? What is it you're searching for?" He was concerned for she seemed to be frantic and focused only in her objective. She seemed to not be aware of his presence either.
He walked towards her and laid a hand on her shoulder, calling concernedly, "Bitiya?"
Kushi looked up as though she had been struck by lightning and stared at the butler. Her face was pale and dried tears still had their mark on her face.
"What is it, bitiya?" he asked worriedly, not taking his hand of her shoulder, "What are you searching for?"
She didn't speak anything but looked towards the shelves again.
"Are you looking for your cocoa beans?" he asked and she looked at him. She neither nodded nor shook her head.
He assumed it must be the beans, "You finished them all last time, remember? There is no more left."
Her expression changed to one of defeat and she cast a glance over the shelves in remorse. Then she walked around the butler, letting his hand slip from her shoulder and before he could stop her, she was running out through the backdoor of the kitchen and into the sunlit outside, fresh tears flowing down her eyes.
The butler had called out to her but instead of running after her, he ran towards Nani's room to announce to the Lady Mother and Lady Anjali the happy news that Miss Kushi was released from the dungeon (which he had already assumed because he had seen Lord Arnav sneak into the dungeon late at night though he had not waited to see if Lord Arnav left the dungeon with the girl in his arms, not wanting to get caught for being disrespectfully snooping) and the depressing news that she was lost and distraught like the way she had been last time they'd seen her wretchedly create chocolate liquor.
It was after the butler's announcement that Nani ordered the servants to search for her and Lady Lavanya volunteered to join the search. Lady Anjali had wanted to go but she realized it was only right that her condemning brother go find the girl himself for she deserved his humbling after what he had led her to bear. Instead of the servants and the family running out for Kushi, it was only justifiable that the condemner of the girl go and apologize and himself bring her back.
And that was how we saw Lord Arnav, having been told this piece of information, storm out of Nani's room and barge into his room and there he shut his door and began pacing to and fro in frustration. He was angry with his sister for taking the village girl and her feelings seriously and he was angry with himself for hurting his sister and making his sister cry.
He cursed and then decided to get to the bottom of this mess. He was still in his bathrobe so he changed into his morning shirt and pants and then made for the door. Rushing down the stars, he leapt of the last stair and rounded into the guest room, bothering to knock this time but entering without waiting for an answer.
"Lavanya, where is-" The room was empty and there was no sign of either the mistress or her handmaid.
Lord Arnav backed away and made for the kitchen, almost crashing into the butler, "Watch where you're going, Rahim Chacha!!"
"Sorry, sire," bowed the butler, moving away to make way for his Master to pass, but the latter stayed there, "Did you see the village girl?"
"I saw her run out through the backdoor but then we lost sight of her, we are searching but she is nowhere to be found."
Lord Arnav didn't wait to hear the rest and raced for the backdoor. Maybe if he ran the way she ran, he could pick up her trial.
But on emerging out through the backdoor, it seemed he had to search the entire hillside. He was heading for the lake when he heard Om Prakash's voice a long way behind him calling out to someone else, "I've found her! She's in the stable!"
Assuming the "her" to be the "her" he was searching for too, he spun on his feet and raced for the stable. He had almost reached it when he saw a crowd of maids and servants before it. On seeing their Master approach, they all looked appalled and stepped away from the stable door.
"What is this?" he ordered on reaching them.
"Master, the girl is within but she will not come out or see anyone and she will not eat anything," said the main cook, Surabhi.
Lord Arnav took the bowl of bread and cold coffee from the cook's hand which had been intended for Kushi and ordered them to disperse to their situates immediately.
"I want no one loitering around in these areas, understand?" he asserted and after they'd gone, he walked into the stable with the bowl in his hand.
The strong scent of horse dung and dry hay wafted upon him but his eyes were searching the place for the one reason he had there come for.
His eyes fell to the far corner of the stable where a shelf was attached midway in the wall to stock the saddles and reins. Underneath it, in the little space between it and the ground, he saw the huddled figure of the girl. Her hair had come loose and they enveloped her, keeping her face and form away from prying eyes.
Lord Arnav walked towards her, his boots crunching on the scattered hay on the stable barn. The heat in the room was rising with the afternoon approaching.
He came to stand before her and he called to her, "Kushi!"
She crouched away from him, deeper into the dark shadow of the shelf above her.
His nostrils flared in anger but he bent down and hunkered beside her, "Eat this!"
Her face was away from him and her hair obstructed him from seeing her.
"Kushi! Look at me!" he ordered but she still did not look at him. He placed the bowl down and pulled her towards him by her shoulders, "Kushi, look-"
His breath hitched on seeing her state. Her face was pale and her eyes red from all the crying. Her lips trembled weakly from exhaustion and hunger and yet she preferred to sit lifelessly in the corner.
"Kushi?" he was worried, "What..."
One hand lifted, he gently moved away the strands of hair obstructing her face from his gaze.
She blinked and looked up at him.
He looked away and, after a pause, he reached for the bread.
He dipped it in the cold coffee and lifted it before her. Hovering it near her mouth, he said expressionlessly, "Eat this, Kushi."
Kushi did not open her mouth and he pressed the bread upon her lips. A drop of the cold coffee remained on her lower lip but she made no attempt to lick it away.
"Kushi!" he said firmly, "Eat this. You are weak."
She only stared at the wet bread. He put the bread back into the bowl and lifted the whole bowl instead. He positioned it before her lips and said, "Drink this at least."
Surprisingly, she parted her lips and he tilted the bowl enough for a little coffee to slip through the space and water her throat. One arm pressed on the back of her shoulder as he helped her drink. She closed her eyes and drank the entire bowl of coffee, held there in his arm which was around the back of her shoulder, and being drunk by the man who had caused her this state of misery.
When she had finished drinking the coffee, he placed the bowl back and then looked up at her. Colour revived back in her cheeks but the look in her eyes was still alien to him.
"Kushi, how do you feel now?"
Kushi looked at him, and she spoke in a strained feeble voice, "Is this your way of an apology?"
"I don't apologize to anyone," he said bluntly, "I have no need for it."
"You do not apologize in words," corrected Kushi.
Lord Arnav frowned and then looked away, "If you did feel my apology in this act of letting you drink from my hands, then so be it."
"That is not the answer I seek," said Kushi, looking away too, "Are you truly sorry?"
Lord Arnav grunted, drawing his hand away from supporting her shoulder .
Kushi sighed, "Tell me, sire, have you no regret for what you have done?"
He looked at her, "I never regret anything, Kushi Kumari Gupta. But if you want to feel better, I will tell you that I am disappointed to see you in this state."
"You are the cause," she said, looking straight at him.
"It need not necessarily be," he reasoned.
"It is," she asserted.
"You're not wounded or dead, are you?" he asked, "Only bruised pride is what I see in your face."
"You would have preferred me dead?" asked Kushi, "Would you then have come and apologized?"
"Are you trying to force me to say I'm sorry?"
"I can force nothing from you," said Kushi, "You are the Master and it's up to you to decide what you do and what others around you must do, right?"
Lord Arnav gritted his teeth, anger rising in him, "What do you want?"
"Tell me, do you feel not even guilty?"
"I am numb to guilt," he stated plainly.
"I already knew," she looked away, and then she sighed, "A man like you must have never known what it is like to almost die inside when trapped in a dark and eerie dungeon, never knowing if you will see daylight again alive."
Lord Arnav stood up, his eyes suddenly very cold, "You think I don't know what it is like to die inside?"
Kushi stared at him: his voice, his words...they all sounded so unlike him.
"You will never know," he said, pained somewhere and angry everywhere, "what it is like to be so young when one is only learning to live and then having to lose his parents to Death from which there is no return. You will never know how he lost himself, died that night in the lonely world filed with the echo of his sister's tears. You will never know! You will never know what it is like to bury your parents and to roam the forests looking for food because you cannot go back to the place you once called home because it is now a miserable place that haunts you of lost memories and an empty future."
And with that he stormed out of the barn, leaving Kushi gazing into the air, broken inside and silently weeping again, not for her, but for a heart that had been harbouring unhealed wounds behind the guise of his cold face until his heart iced over and froze and he was no more warm...
Chapter One Hundred Four: Orders on the Spur
Lord Arnav walked into the living room of his Castle and found everyone, even Nani, who was sitting on the armchair, all waiting for his arrival. The servants were also standing expectedly at the doorway of the kitchen. When they saw that he had come in alone, they looked behind him, over his shoulder, in the hope of seeing the girl he had gone to get.
"Where is she?" asked Lady Lavanya, coming to stand near him, her eyes on the open central doors through which he had come, "Didn't you get her, ASR?"
His eyes were on Nani, "Came down to speak for the village girl's sake again?"
Nani frowned, "You have something against my coming downs, Chotey?"
Lord Arnav's eyes were as firm as his voice, "I have always wanted you to emerge out of your room, Nani. But if the cause for your appearance is that girl, I would have better preferred you to remain in that dingy chamber."
"Chotey!" said Lady Anjali, walking towards him, "What is wrong with you?"
Lord Arnav looked at his sister, "Nothing is wrong with me, Di. It's the world that is in the wrong. It only gives more reasons to pain."
Lady Anjali stood before her brother, her face softened at his words, sensing the unseen aching. Her hands reached towards him and he let her touch his cheek, "Is my Chotey in pain now?"
"Heartless though I am," murmured Lord Arnav looking away, "My heart is sore."
A shuffling sounded behind them and all turned to look at Kushi standing at the doorway, her gown hay-ridden from its presence in the stable and her hair dishevelled from too much frantic running and brooding.
"Miss Kushi," gasped Lady Anjali in relief and she rushed towards Kushi followed by an elated Lady Lavanya.
Kushi had her eyes on Lord Arnav, however, and he was looking at her too, reading the curiosity in her eyes. He realised her mind was lingering on the last words he had spoken to her before parting from the stable.
He looked away. Kushi turned her gaze to Lady Anjali who had come to stand beside her and was asking her how she was, "My lady, I am well." Her voice was weak but her eyes had a determined light again.
"Why did you go to the stable, Kushi? Did you intend to leave?" Lady Lavanya asked, concernedly, pressing her hand on Kushi's.
Kushi looked from Lady Lavanya's hold on her hand and then smiled up at her mistress' face. She saw that Nani and Lord Akash were waiting for her to walk into the living room instead of standing at the doorway.
She stepped in but Lord Arnav said warningly to all the assembled, "Since it is stated that Lavanya no longer needs Miss Kushi Kumari Gupta as her handmaid, I see no need in keeping her here. She may leave for her home tomorrow."
All eyes looked at him but he stood abashedly.
Lady Anjali spoke up, from beside Kushi, "Chotey, we have a very important occasion forthcoming and I would like Miss Kushi to be present-"
"The occasion you speak of is important to me too, Di," stated Lord Arnav looking at his sister, "For that reason, I do not want anyone who is not servant or family to me in this house."
Lady Lavanya tried to defend, "Miss Kushi is-"
"No one," said Lord Arnav with finality and looked at Kushi, hurt reflected in her eyes. He addressed her directly, "Your service here has expired. Sunrise tomorrow, I expect you to bid Farwell to this Castle forever."
And then he turned on his heels and headed for his room.
And so I turn on my heels and head for my departure. Sunrise tomorrow, I bid farewell to the Inn, the Forum and to IPKKND for TWO WEEKS. I will be back on 25th November but on Saturdays, in my absence, Aura will provide you with a chapter to keep you visiting the Inn in my absence. She will mail me your comments and I will understand if you have understood the updates and admire your reactions to them before giving her the next set of updates. And please, don't spam this thread like what we did on the last one. It was out of sheer necessity that we did it there. Kindly keep our thread and Inn alive but not cluttered with comments that have no link to the FF or to the Writer. Once again, thanking you all for everything and for this New Thread. Yes, this is a farewell gift from You to Me. And I shall press it close to my heart as I wave goodbye. Hoping to return safe and happy on 25th November and missing you all, your dear Lin.
For the Index, scroll to the Top of the Page.
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