Chapter Twenty Three: Pains
Jresh and Lorrik opened their eyes to find themselves on the flat of their backs, gazing up toward the Korriban sun with seven shadowed faces staring back down upon them. The acolytes’ fellow students and master circled the fallen duo and hunched over to closely examine the two once unconscious duelists.
“Good. It would seem you are still amongst the living,” Syrosk stated with his usual rasp. “I would have had to punish your spirits had you managed to kill each other. Training is over for the day. You are free to return to your rooms.”
As the other students dispersed and began their trek back toward the Academy, the two fallen acolytes had yet to rise from their prone positions. Laying side by side, the pair realized they had been dragged from their relative positions when they lost consciousness. They tried to raise themselves from the dusty foundation but found their bodies unresponsive, paralyzed yet wracked with pain.
“Well… I suppose you’ll return when you’re ready. Enjoy your time under the sun,” Syrosk said before casually vacating the premises. The two remained. Looking up toward the blinding light and searing rays descending upon them from the Korriban sky.
“Jresh… I don’t think I can move,” Lorrik admitted.
There was an almost silent grunt from the Pureblood beside him. “I hesitate to admit it, but I’m having trouble as well.”
“Heh, didn’t think you were capable of being exhausted,” Lorrik struggled to state. His words tapered off into a slight coughing fit as he tried to chuckle.
“The pain is endurable. I think your lightning may have had a paralyzing effect on my musculature, however,” Jresh calmly stated.
Lorrik released a mixture of coughing and laughter. “I don’t know I’d have called that lightning. More like a spark.”
“You need not overly veil yourself in the shroud of humility. I don’t think any of the other acolytes are capable of conjuring such a power,” Jresh admitted.
“It’s far from a true manifestation of Force lightning,” Lorrik replied. “And I still don’t exactly have a genuine control over it. When I do use it I end up injuring my own hands, though at the moment it is rather hard to distinguish individual injuries and pains. Of course that's when I can get it to actually work. I tried it use it against Arlia at the end of our first duel, but I couldn’t conjure a thing.”
“When have you been able to use it?” Jresh asked.
“The first time it ever manifested was when I produced a weak arc between my fingers before I had even entered training under Syrosk,” Lorrik admitted as looked toward the sky. “I came into the possession of a Sith Sorcerer’s musings in one of the many datacards I would study in my personal time. It detailed the Sith’s upbringing and training techniques, detailing the power needed to conjure lightning. It offered techniques to more easily call upon the power, but at that point, I still had to lock myself into an abysmal place inside my own head for hours just to produce the tiniest spark. The first time I used it in a practical situation was when we were moving into the suite, when I was confronted by Ornell. The second time was when I ambushed by Ornell and his friends and received a proper beating. And I guess this was the third.”
“There is obviously a connection to your emotional state and your ability to use the power,” Jresh explained. “With Ornell, there is an understandable hatred that manifests within you.”
“Yeah, but, what about our duel?” Lorrik asked. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I never felt hatred toward you.”
“Through passion, I gain strength,” Jresh recited. “Hatred is a primal emotion and one fully capable of fueling one’s connection to the dark side, but it is not the only passion worth considering. It is possible you channeled your strength through utter devotion toward achieving victory. Instead of drawing upon hatred for your opponent, you drew upon some positivity that rested within yourself.”
“Is such a thing even possible?” Lorrik asked, speaking to himself more than his partner.
“You are the expert on the Force,” Jresh calmly stated. “Did you not say yourself that you believe the two sides of the Force to be separate, but still capable of being harnessed and utilized alongside one another.”
“There’s a difference between utilizing powers granted through study of both the light and the dark, and fueling one side with the aspects considered to belong to the realm of the other. If such a thing could even be achieved, I don’t think I could ever possess the hubris required to even begin thinking I was capable of achieving such a feat at this point in my training.”
“Then perhaps you were driven solely by the prospect of victory over your partner. Wanting nothing more than to defeat me. Show your superiority. Harness the inherent selfishness of domination.”
“Yeah, that does sound pretty Sith when you think about it,” Lorrik admitted. “So, were you impressed with my capabilities?”
The Pureblood paused before giving his answer. “I won’t lie. For a moment, I thought that my initial charge might incapacitate you.”
“Ouch, I’m hurt,” Lorrik joked before succumbing to a brief fit of pain. “Okay, poor choice of words. I actually am hurting pretty badly right now.”
“You carried yourself well, Lorrik. Your stylings are admittedly not suited for straightforward saber combat, but you were able to defend yourself against my attacks and supply your own until we reached a standstill.”
“Technically, neither of us were standing in the end.”
“Well, I was, before I fell on you.”
“We’re you even conscious for that?”
“I honestly can’t say I was fully cognizant of what events were occurring around the end of our duel. But, prior to that haze, your action clearly displayed that you’ve made a great deal of progress in your training. I’m proud of you, Lorrik.”
“You have no idea how much it means for me to hear you say that. To hear anyone say that,” Lorrik replied, a genuine appreciation in his voice. “This Academy… it’s draining. So much conflict. So much strife. So little to show for it. Any beneficial consequences lie years ahead of us. For now, it’s just trial after trial pushing us to the threshold of death. No praise. No trust. No belief. I am not… a negative person. At least, I’ve never thought of myself as such. But this Academy… has tried its hardest to push me to the edge. To shove my failures down my throat and stab me in the back with my own intentions. I cannot honestly say what I would have done if I was forced to endure more time spent in the classrooms, with no master, no goals, no ambitions. You’ve given me your satisfaction, so I’ll give you my thanks, even though you deserve so much more. You’ve remained strong. You’ve provided support to me, and my outlandish ways, and my ridiculous ambitions. I know that you were forced to find a partner if you wanted to train under Syrosk. You could have rejected my pleas that first day we met. But you didn’t. I know there’s a chance that all this is just a circulation of selfish intentions, drawing upon each other’s strength so long as it plays to our advantage and unwilling to continue the second it ceases to do so. But I believe there’s something special about us. Something lasting. Something worth cultivating. Preserving. I’ll never be able to know if you feel the same way, but honestly, you don’t need to. You’ve more than earned my respect. You’ve more than earned my assistance. You’ve more than earned something beyond the miserable grasp of this abysmal Academy.”
Lorrik saw a shadowy figure beginning to hover over him. Slowly, the figure extended his hand downward, offering it to the fallen acolyte. Jresh had finally regained control of his body and was ready to make his way back to the Academy. Accepting his hand, Lorrik lifted himself off the ground, defying the protests of pain that still resonated throughout his body. Jresh’s countenance no longer obscured by the sun’s shadow, Lorrik saw a most peculiar sight. A smile gracing the Pureblood’s lips. It was something unique. Something the acolyte had not seen before in his partner. Before, Jresh would only ever appear on the precipice of showing such an emotional gesture. An intrigued curl of the lips, an errant smirk, but never a smile. But now, seemingly in defiance, the warrior offered such an expression. Genuine is its presentation. Full in its devotion. Subtle in its demonstration. A sign of understanding. Of respect. Of something unprecedented.
Jresh offered his partner a nod of his head as he turned toward the pathway leading back to the Academy. Stepping lightly, the warrior had yet to fully regain uncompromised movement, but was none the less capable of pushing himself forward. Lorrik on the other hand, managed to only take a single step forward before he was forced to crumble to his knee. Folding in on himself, the inquisitor could barely even support his cascading mass by placing his hands against the ground. His arms began to shake as he struggled to remain somewhat upright. The Pureblood saw his companion’s plight, and lent his assistance once more, bypassing an offer at that point. The warrior knelt in front of the inquisitor, imploring him to throw his weight upon his back. Lorrik was hesitant to burden his partner, but the Pureblood would hear no objections. He forced Lorrik’s arms over his shoulders and began carrying him back to their suite.
“Jresh… this isn’t necessary,” Lorrik softly muttered into the ear of his marching companion.
“Quiet,” Jresh curtly replied. “Rest now, and you’ll be able to more adequately heal our wounds once we’ve returned to our room.”
“Heh, selfishly selfless as always…”