Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Birth of a Master

The night was getting dark enough to hide even the darkest secrets of men. Satbir hoped that his secret was also safe in this night. He turned the corner and killed the first guy he saw. Then he moved to kill the second one. He felt lucky tonight that people were wandering alone in the night.

“Maybe it’s just God’s grace on me.” Satbir thought as he slit the throat of a woman with a baby. The baby started to bawl and by the time Satbir was done with the baby, lights begun to show from some of the windows.

“Spoke too soon of God’s grace.” Satbir said laughing and ran towards his shelter. He counted his kills in his head. Thirty-seven killed in which one was a baby and another was a child. This would mean that in all, the count would be 40. A child was counted as two men and a baby as three.

‘It is crueller to kill an infant than a man or a woman.’ He remembered his master’s words. The figure of 40 was respectable score but Satbir had hoped to touch the magical figure of 50. That was one more than what his master had achieved in one night for his initiation ceremony. Forty was decent enough to put him in top 5.

The rules of initiation are simple but following them without falling to temptation is hard. To become a member, one has to kill at least ten people in one night. One can’t be caught, seen or found out doing this. A person can’t go in any building, house or public, to complete the task. Only people walking on the road can be killed. This brought a lot of uncertainty in the system. However, the individual to be initiated was allowed to decide a date himself or herself. This helped counter the luck and many like Satbir even decide on a path and pattern to follow for maximum kills.

“Finally, I will be a member of the most prestigious clan in the world. I’ll be respected and revered by all.” Satbir thought to himself and went to bed still wishing that he had touch fifty. The highest ever was achieved by the founder — 50 in one night. In fact, if his master had touched 50, he would have become the head of the clan that day itself. Now, he was in line and might not even make it.

His master, often called the lenient one had taught him everything he knew. He was like a father to Satbir and he also treated Satbir like a son. Satbir didn’t know why his master was called the lenient. His master’s hard eyes and strong sense of justice both scared him and awed him. If his master thought something right, he would not stop for any emotion or any other reason. He almost bordered on cruel and with Satbir, it was more so.

“I’m not impressed.” Satbir’s master said. Satbir knew as much. His master had hoped that Satbir would surpass him.

“I’m sorry master.” Satbir said meekly.

“Nevertheless, it is a good score. Satbir can now be inducted on the path of the Kray.” Juman said. He was his master’s faithful advisor.

“What is the path of the Kray?” Satbir asked. His master ignored him.

“Do you think he can follow on the footsteps of great Jun-kray?” His master said to Juman.

“Oh yes, O lenient one.” Juman said with a smirk on his face.

Satbir looked at his master who had winced at the Juman’s address. Satbir knew that his master didn’t like being called that. However, it stuck and now nothing could change that. Satbir did wonder why his master was called so. Satbir had never felt any leniency from his master. If anything, he was harder than other teachers.

“Go now Satbir. Your path will be decided tomorrow. If it’s the path of Kray, we have a lot to do.”

“What is the path of Kray?” Satbir asked.

“As you know, there are leaders and masters. Leaders decide the direction that our clan would take and masters decide the kind of people our clan would have. The path of Kray is a unique training that makes you both. Usually, no one takes this path as it is harder than either. Named after the great Jun-Kray, who was both a master and a leader.” Juman explained in his drawling voice.

“Oh! Alright. Is that the path you took master?” Satbir asked.

“No! That wasn’t my path to take.” His master said in a tired voice. “Now go.”

— —

“You should tell him.” Juman said.

“No. I can’t.”

“He should know why you aren’t a leader. Why you chose the path of a master despite wanting to be a leader all your life.” Juman insisted.

“No one needs to know why I made my decisions. They are my decisions.”

“He doesn’t deserve to know why you stopped?” Juman exclaimed.

“What will I tell him Juman? That his parents were my 48th and 49th kill. That he was supposed to be my 50th but I couldn’t. Should I tell him that he’s the reason I stopped killing. I became a master instead of a leader because of him.”

“But he might be inspired by you.”

“Inspired to not kill. I don’t want that. I want him to become a leader. I want him to become the greatest. Besides, if we tell him, either he would be angry and feel betrayed that I killed his parents or he might follow my path and not kill anymore. No, Juman! This is for the best. Let me be.”

“Alright, O lenient one!” Juman said.

“You started this nickname, didn’t you?”

Juman smirked.