1 Seventeenth day

"Die", Karna exclaimed and released the 'Nagastra'.

"I will take your head now"

It went thundering towards Arjuna, shattering the space around it as it went.

Suddenly, Arjuna's chariot sank a few inches.

"Damn !" cursed Karna. He had not expected this sudden change in the battle. He was confident that he could beat this brat, but his charioteer 'Lord Krishna' was proving to be a nuisance. In the last moment he had stamped on the chariot floor causing it to sink by a few inches. The horses were forced to the gound.

Karna had missed his target by a hair's breadth. The arrow had passed the barrier around Arjuna's chariot and had hit his crown and shattered it.

Seeing how Arjuna was saved, the onlookers were showering praises for Krishna.

The entire battlefield was watching them fight it out. The Devas and Asuras and the Sages of the higher realms had come to watch them fight. They watched in amazement as these two cultivators from the middle realm were battling it evenly match even though being just Core formation level cultivators.

These middle realms were restricted to Core formation level and they were even more amazed at Karna's strength. He was simply a genius. His arrows were pushing back Arjuna's chariot every time it struck the barrier surrounding it.

These spectators from the higher realm knew how impossible this feat was, since they knew that the charioteer gave out an aura of an 'Immortal realm' cultivator. Though they could not gauge the accurate cultivation of this 'Lord Krishna' they could feel that his cultivation was profound and deep like a dark ocean. A pity Karna had met Krishna before he could step into the higher realms.

"We need to finish this, now !" , Krishna exclaimed. The previous arrow had given them cold beads of sweat. They could not afford to drag this on. Arjuna was shocked. He knew that his weapon 'Gandiva' was in no was inferior to Karna's 'Vijaya' and he was also a peak 'Core Formation' level cultivator like Karna. But, the last arrow had changed the way he had looked at Karna. He knew Karna was a formidable opponent against whom he could not afford the slightest error.

" I would have lost my head just now" Arjuna replied, his face as pale as a sheet of paper.

"Lets finish this Lord!" shouted Arjuna.

Karna commanded his charioteer King Shalya to charge at Arjuna's chariot. Suddenly the chariot came to a shuddering halt and the horses were struggling to move the chariot even an inch.

'Damn, am I so unfortunate. Did this curse have to kick in now!' , he remembered the curse that he had incurred during his earlier days when he was adventuring. He had been cursed that during a life threatening moment his chariot would get stuck in the muck. He didn't make much of it then, but it seemed that he would be done in today because of that.

Karna had incurred three curses during his path to become a peak Core Formation expert. One had already taken its toll. He was praying that the other two would not activate until he could take that brat's head. He steeled his heart and nocked the 'Brahmastra' on 'Vijaya'. It was a celestial grade arrow that he had spent huge efforts to obtain.

'I can't seem to recall the incantation for the Brahmastra!!! Did the second curse activate? How can I be so unfortunate! ' cried Karna. This was the second curse kicking in. He had been cursed by Parashurama, a sage, for lying to him. That old fogey had cursed him saying that he would forget the incantation for his most powerful weapon when facing his most powerful opponent.

'To think that I was so unlucky to have two curses activating back to back.'

"King Shalya, can we move the chariot ?", Karna asked his charioteer.

"It seems that you need to get down and lift the chariot wheels from the muck. I am unable to do this with my strength." replied Shalya. Cursing under his breath Karna kept 'Vijaya' and his quiver in his chariot and jumped out of his chariot.

He had no other choice. The other arrows he had didn't have the same range as the Brahmastra. The Nagastra was used up.

'I have to get near that brat somehow'

'Would he still respect Dharma, would he repsect the code of warriors? ' With these questions in mind Karna could only hope that the 'Brat' would follow the warrior code and let him get his chariot running.

" Arjuna! " he shouted, " let me get my chariot wheels unstuck. Do not kill me like a coward... I hope that you will not attack an unarmed man."

" Kill him now. Take his head! " shouted Krishna. "They did not see Dharma when your sons and family were killed. Do not have mercy on this Karna. He is like a venomous snake which will come to bite back at you if you let it go now. Slay him with your strongest arrow."

Under the insinuation from the 'Immortal' Krishna, Arjuna nocked the 'Anjalika' arrow. It was another 'Celestial' grade arrow that was making it's appearance today. The Devas and Asuras in the sky were flabberghasted. 'How many 'Celestial' grade arrows were there in this particle world 'Earth' in the middle realm.

Stretching his bow to full length, Arjuna released the arrow witht the sound of a thuderbolt from heaven. The arrow went piercing through the space in between Arjuna and Karna. In an instant it was before Karna and it pierced his valiant chest.

Karna remembered the 'Third curse' that he had accumulated. He had been cursed that he would die weaponless and stuck in muck and mud. He could only smile bitterly. He didn't know if he was cursed to death or was killed by that damned brat, his 'little brother'. He could only blame his bad luck.

In the end he could only die before he won this war for his friend, Duryodhana. 'I am sorry my friend. I will be waiting for you'. Karna sighed as he looked at the battlefield one last time. His sons were killed and the 'Kauravas' whom he was fighting for were loosing the battle. It was a sea of red, but he could see that everyone was now looking at him. He could not tell if they were sad or happy or if it was pity that he saw in their eyes.

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Duryodhana was running towards him crying. Karna was happy that he could find a true friend in this life. He had stood by Karna's side during times of tribulation and humiliation. He gave him riches and territory when people mocked him for his poverty. This friend was the one who stood by him through everything. Karna had grown strong for his friend. He had battled his own brothers for this friend. This friend would truly shed tears for him when Karna died. This made this life worth living for Karna.

"Goodbye dear friend" Karna sighed as he closed his eyes. A golden light immersed his body.

....

" Look he is waking up"

"Thank heavens, he is alright"

" I was so scared that we might lose him".

Karna could hear voices. He opened his eyes and looked around. He could see a middle aged man and a beatiful woman standing in front of him.

"I thought the Tier 4 pill given by Guru Swamy would not work. I need to reward him now." The excited voice of the male said.

Karna was confused. He remembered all the chaos, he was dying from the injury and... and his friend Duryodhana rushing to his side and then... it grew all fuzzy. Then he remebered that he had woken up inside a towering court room. There a richly dressed man had told him that he was one of the judges of Yama.

"We have decided to let you be reborn as Karna Mudaliar, the scion of the Mudaliar family. Your Dharma during your previous life has earned you these gifts. You will have the strengths you had during your previous life. You will be skilled in everything you put effort into learning and you will have the blessing of withstanding 'Three' fatal attacks from higher level cultivators during your lifespan. You will start forgetting your life as Karna. You will be able to remember your previous lives once you reach 'Immortal Realm'. "

"Now off you go", saying this the Judge waved his hands and dismissed him. Suddenly, darkness engulfed him.

Karna was not aware of the amount of time that had passed. When he finally woke up, he had woken up in this cradle and had these two people looking at him with happy excited expressions. His memory as Karna was slowly fading as he could see these two in front of him clearly. They were shouting out to the people outside the room.

"Karna has woken up!"

...