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02.22.2014 , 03:48 AM | #25
Chapter Twelve: Flow (Part Four)

It was a new morning on Tython. The sun was low and the air carried a pleasant chill. In front of the temple, the fields and platforms went unoccupied aside from a single dueling area. Standing within the practice square were three figures. The ever stoic Human, the determined Mirialan, and a slightly groggy Cathar. Absent was the pleasant Miraluka. It fell to the Guardian to teach the day's lesson.

There were no sounds of gently flowing streams or trees wafting in the breeze. The three Jedi stood upon hard, metallic flooring, one of the smooth, man-made surfaces etched unto the temple's lawn, stocked with a battered and beaten training dummy. If there was an understanding to be achieved that day, it would not come at the behest of nature.

The two Padawans stood as upright as their respective energy levels would allow. Under the dim light of the still-rising sun, each student wore their basic, form-fitting robes of earthen tones. New to the ensembles were the training sabers hooked to their belts. The metallic rods inlaid with energy bands jostled with every shift in the teenagers' stances, heavy and waiting.

"Padawans," Dehros began, soft yet direct, engaging yet distant, not a touch of the Consular's warmth gracing his speech. "If you would, please draw your weapons."

The two students complied alongside a pair of dutiful nods. Wrapping their hands around their weapons' hilts, the Mirialan and Cathar gripped them tightly before brandishing them. Unignited, they stood as simple shapes of metal, tips pointed toward the sky. They rose unwaveringly in their wielders' steady hands, each student utterly capable of controlling their apparent heft.

"Good. Now, set them on the ground. You won't be needing them," Dehros continued, dull as ever.

The Padawans puzzled for a moment. They thought maybe they had misheard, but as the Human's eyes wandered toward their feet it became clear they hadn't. Carefully, the two lowered themselves and set their weapons gently upon the edge of the platform. Straightening their postures, the students looked to their instructor, patiently awaiting his next words.

"We will be picking up where you left off yesterday, applying your knowledge to martial training," Dehros explained. "But before we move forward with saber practice, there are some foundations I want to lay."

With a calm hand, the Guardian beckoned to the Padawans to approach. Taking a step himself, the teacher led the students toward the tiny arena's opposite edge. There stood what appeared to be a humanoid droid chassis, only instead of standing upon legs, it was secured to the ground via a pole embedded in the floor. Inflexible arms sprouted from its matte gray torso, and there was not a spark of life in its eyeless dome.

"To what extent did your previous masters instruct you in the martial arts?" Dehros asked.

"I was entering advanced instruction in Shii-Cho, as well as developing more focused dueling skills," said Torzin.

"I… uh… I was still on basic saber instruction," Ryska quietly revealed, scratching the back of her head.

"I see. What about hand-to-hand combat?" Dehros asked.

"Limited," Torzin admitted. "Mostly as a means of physical conditioning rather than fighting."

"Same," Ryska added. "It was less combat, more active meditation."

"That will suffice. Torzin, please approach the practice dummy," said Dehros, waving his hand toward the metallic figure. The Mirialan complied, taking only a few steps before standing face to face with the target's rigid chassis. "Now, I want you to hit it."

"Hit it how, master?" Torzin hesitantly asked.

"However you feel comfortable doing so," Dehros replied. The Mirialan gulped as he stared toward the unmoving practice dummy. It stood ready to receive whatever he planned to dish out, despite him having no plan.

Torzin drew upon his martial knowledge, shifting his feet, placing one ahead of the other. His stance went rigid, intent on keeping himself utterly grounded. With a another heavy gulp, he clenched his right fist. As he wound back, he paused, questioning how exactly to strike the solid surface before him. Rather than dwell any further, the teenager took a deep breath, exhaling a moment later, finding a moment of relaxation. Driving his hand forward, the Mirialan struck the practice dummy directing in its chest with his palm, eliciting a solid thud. The target offered a brief shiver, but ultimately remained unaffected by the blow. His skin still in contact with the metallic surface, Torzin turned to his master, seeking some form of approval or disapproval.

All he received was a soft nod from the Guardian. "Ryska, would you please do the same?"

Torzin retrieved his hand, taking a few soft steps away from the dummy, his position soon replaced by that of the young Cathar. Staring at the practice dummy, Ryska furrowed her brow, gently biting her lower lip.

"Like, do the same as Torzin?" Ryska asked.

"No, you may hit it however you like," Dehros calmly replied.

The Cathar nodded, an acknowledgement, rather than true understanding. Cracking her knuckles, the girl looked up and down the rigid figure before her. Clenching and releasing her fingers, the Ryska’s movements were far looser than her fellow Padawan’s, limber and flexible. She planted her feet upon the solid ground, before shifting them forward, before shifting them back, before returning them to their initial state. Trying to balance her training with her beastly instincts, the Padawan pondered whether or not to use her claws. Deciding not, the Cathar quickly wound back her right arm before driving it forward with great force.

Her fist clenched, she delivered a brutal punch to the dummy's chest, her knuckles clashing with the metallic surface. A sharp knock rang out and the chassis briefly shook, but it seemed unaffected as it had been before. The same could not be said for Ryska.

Ryska reeled back, clutching her fist as harsh whimpers slipped past her gritted teeth. As she hopped around in place, the Mirialan rushed to her side.

"Are you okay?" Torzin asked, a sense of urgency in his voice. Quickly, the girl's movements began to cease as she calmed herself, still clutching her hand.

"Gah… y…yeah, I'm fine," said Ryska, almost whispering.

"Are you sure?" Torzin continued, still possessing a touch of concern.

"Yeah yeah yeah," Ryska quickly replied, nary a pause between words.

Letting go of her injured hand, the Cathar began clenching and releasing her fingers, no signs of any real damage present. The girl closed her eyes as she drew in calmed breaths, slowly regaining her composure.

However, that composure was instantly shattered when she felt something touch her fingers, prompting a startled jump. Her eyes shooting open, Ryska saw her hand within Torzin's own. As carefully as he could, the Mirialan examined his fellow Padawan’s injuries, gently caressing the girl's fingers as he rotated her wrist. Ryska watched as Torzin's eyes narrowed, scanning each digit with utter focus.

She was speechless. The Mirialan's green flesh poked and prodded her fur with an almost mechanical precision, but she nonetheless felt an emotional depth to his actions. Even as he looked upon her hand through his stoic eyes, there was a sense of care about him. Finally, the silence was broken by the Mirialan releasing quick sigh of relief.

"You're not big on restraint, are you?" Torzin stated, a slight curl in his lips as he released control back to its owner. Ryska's attention immediately left her hand.

She had heard those same exact words before. From other students. From instructors. But they had always held a bite to them. Always negative, always intending to knock her down a peg. But looking to the her fellow Padawan, she found only warmth in his words, in his countenance. He had spoken from a place of support. rather than condemnation.

In control of her hand once more, Ryska began gently rubbing her sore knuckles, a bashful smile creeping upon her face. "Well… like I said, I'm somethin' fierce."

Torzin wore a smile of his own, his previous concern giving way to relief. The entire exchange had lasted only a few seconds, but for them, it felt far from fleeting.

Meanwhile, the stone-faced Dehros continued to look upon them with his unchanging stare. "Are you okay, Ryska?" The Human offered his inquiry in his usual calm, almost cold manner, lacking the apparent concern his Padawan had expressed.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Ryska dismissed with a wave of her hand, trying her hardest to play it cool.

"Well, your displays did illustrate what I hope to teach you today," Dehros revealed.

"Glad I could lend a hand then," Ryska warmly muttered.

"If you'll remember, the first lesson Master Karrehl and I offered to you was in regards to control," Dehros stated. "Most importantly, control of the self. If you can control yourself, you can control your environment. This is a continuation of that principle, coupled with yesterday's lesson regarding the Force. Can one of you summarize what Master Karrehl taught you the other day?"

"The Force flows," Torzin spoke up.

"Not only that, but pretty much everything does," Ryska added. "Or rather, the Force flows through and around everything."

"Precisely," said Dehros. "Most importantly, the Force flows through us. And it is the union between body and spirit that unblocks that flow."

The Guardian paused before gently urging the students to take a step back. As they did, the Jedi soon took his place in front of the practice dummy. The teenagers watched through eager eyes as their tutor readied himself. His feet slid upon the ground, never breaking contact. His hands moved with both speed and grace. With not even a fraction of the forethought and attention the Padawans had put into their strike, Dehros pulled back his hand before driving his open palm into the dummy's chest. The flesh and metal met, releasing a resounding thud upon contact. The solid chassis shook to its very core, wobbling upon the pole that connected to the ground. As the two teenagers watched in amazement, they could have sworn they felt the very platform they stood upon vibrate beneath their feet.

Dehros removed his hand just as quickly as he had delivered it, no worse for wear. Without an ounce of effort or preparation, the Guardian had demonstrably surpassed the efforts of the students by an exponential margin.

"A Jedi is whole," Dehros declared. "Every part of us works in unison and in harmony. As your training progresses, you will begin to break down the barriers between body, mind, and spirit, until they are no longer exclusive to one another. Then, and only then, can the Force be allowed to truly flow through you."

"And how do we break down those barriers?" asked Torzin.

"Practice and persistence," Dehros listed, echoing the words the students had heard from yesterday. "One cannot proceed without achieving understanding, and understanding can only be achieved through study."

Ryska tilted her head. "So, like, reading a holo… or…"

"No," Dehros bluntly offered, taking a step away from the practice dummy. "Please, take your positions on opposite ends of the arena."

Slowly, Torzin and Ryska made their way toward each end of the dueling square, bouncing their gazes between themselves and their instructor. Dehros patiently remained in the center between the two, arms neatly folded behind his back. There was a stillness and calm in the air as the temperate morning surrounding them.

"This lesson is about motion," Dehros declared. "Kinetics are an integral part of Force usage for anyone, even Jedi Masters. The motions of our bodies, our hands, allow us to more freely allow the Force to flow through us. Would you both please take a single step toward each other?"

The Padawans offered a brief nod before extending their legs, each taking a single step forward. The Mirialan's was brief and rigid. The Cathar's was wide, almost upsetting her balance as she tried to overstep her reach.

"Now, take a single step backward."

The students complied, keeping their focus forward, but reaching back with their legs, each taking a step toward their starting point.

"Now, take a single step forward."

The teenagers offered no protests, knowing in their hearts that the meager commands were undoubtedly leading to something. The Mirialan and Cathar each took another step forward, similar to their first ones.

"Now, tell me, are you in the same place you were in after taking your first step?" Dehros asked.

"Yeah," Ryska bluntly answered.

"Are you really?" Dehros countered.

"I mean… pretty much," Ryska softly replied, slightly furrowing her brow. The Cathar's gaze dropped to her feet, surveying the square tiles beneath her feet. Only now did she notice the grid-like design that comprised the platform's surface.

"A Jedi must always be aware of their boundaries and motions," Dehros explained. "Every action you take, must be conscious and replicable. To move without thinking is dangerous to anyone not guided by the Force."

"Are we not guided by the Force?" Torzin humbly offered.

"In a manner of speaking, yes. But as Padawans, your connection is still tenuous," Dehros stated. "Eventually, you will reach a point in which the Force fuels your every action, where you need not consciously call upon it."

"But you just said we always need to be conscious of our actions," Ryska spoke up.

"That is correct," Dehros replied. "We must always be cognizant of ourselves, but we must also achieve a natural symbiosis with the Force. The more we separate ourselves from the Force, the more we consider it some unnatural part of us that must be called upon, the weaker our connection to it becomes. Thus, we must achieve balance between conscious effort and natural conditioning."

"How do we know when we've found that balance?" asked Torzin.

"Most often, we don't," Dehros admitted. "But we strive nonetheless. To attain that balance is to allow the Force to best flow through us."

"How do we work toward that balance?" Ryska asked.

"By understanding the connection between our bodies as the Force," Dehros replied. "Tell me, how do we channel the Force? If you wanted to lift a rock, how do you do so?"

"Through concentration and focus," Torzin answered.

"But what is it that we physically do?" Dehros continued.

"Well, we think really hard," Ryska stated. "We just… like… think about moving something, and if we do it hard enough, it moves."

"And that is all?" Dehros asked. "You just stand there, arms folded, and just will that something be moved?"

"Well, no," Ryska admitted. "We reach out, move our hands…"

"And why do we do that?" Dehros asked.

"It help us visualize our actions," Torzin answered. "It lets us channel the Force by providing a proper channel. With our minds alone, we struggle to maintain focus and lose consistency."

Dehros offered the slight dip of his head. "Very good, my Padawan. What I hope to teach you today, is that this fact extends to martial training. When you swing a weapon, it is not by the merit of just your arms. Your entire body's movements influence that swing. And for a Jedi, it is not just your body. The Force flows around and through us. It affects our senses. It affects our strength and endurance. It protects us through wards and barriers. In countless ways it influences us, and we influence it… and that is why we cannot limit ourselves to conscious interactions. To manually call upon the Force in all of these facets is impossible for even the greatest Jedi. Instead, we seek to embrace the Force in such a way that our connection and understanding deepens, and we allow the Force to guide us rather than seek to control it."

The Padawans offered mutual nods of understanding.

"Now, would you both please take another step forward?" Dehros directed.

The students steadied themselves, observing the grounds in front of them, offering a moment of consideration before lifting their legs. Carefully, the Padawans extended their limbs before setting them down with precision a short distance ahead. A moment later, they received the command to step backward. With the same caution and patience, the students stepped back toward their point of origin. Hearing the call for the next step forward, the teenagers looked upon the paneled flooring in front of them, running the motions through their minds. With another cautious step, the pair put every effort toward planting their feet in the same exact spot as before.

"Tell, me, are you in the same spot as the first step?" Dehros asked.

"Yes," Ryska enthusiastically answered. Across from her, Torzin offered his own confident nod.

"I see, but this time you valued precision above all else," Dehros stated. "You sacrificed speed and stability. One must balance these elements. No action should exist in isolation. Preparation, execution, and follow-up should blend into one cohesive motion."

As the Guardian fell silent, he took a gentle step forward, bending his knee as the sole of his foot made contact with the ground. Leaning forward for but a moment, the Jedi reversed his movement with a continuous flow, falling back upon his heels as he stepped backward. As his feet remained in contact with the solid surface, the Human's hands softly swayed and followed their owner's movements. Taking another step forward, the Jedi ended his motion balanced upon a single foot, his other raised and tucked in whilst his arms folded behind his back. With nary a shake in his entire frame, the Guardian stood tall and enduring upon one leg, maintaining his posture without an ounce of effort.

Upholding his balance, the Jedi's hands emerged from behind his back, his right possessing a silver hilt within its grasp. With a smooth flick of his wrist, the Guardian ignited his weapon, and a blue blade extended from the lightsaber's emitter parallel with his outstretched arm. All the while, Dehros' lower body remained utterly stilled. With a smooth arc, the Jedi brought his saber arm in closer, holding it in front of his chest, pointing the weapon's tip toward the sky. His face basking in the glow of the remarkably close beam of plasma, the Human's expression maintained its relentless stoicism. Lowering his raised leg, the Guardian once more stood upon two feet. Wrapping his other hand around the silver hilt of his saber, Dehros shifted the blade to the right, seamlessly moving into a guarded combat stance.

Sliding his feet upon the solid surface below, the calm Guardian presented himself as a paragon of martial skill in the eyes of the Padawans, who looked upon their instructor with a sense of interest and awe. Their eyes grew wide as they watched Dehros leap backward, soaring gently through the air before landing lightly on his feet toward one of the practice square's edges. Had he overshot by the slightest degree, he would have caught the lip and fell onto the surrounding dirt. But his movements were are as calculated as they were natural.

With a safe distance between himself and his students, Dehros raised his arms before bring bringing them back down with a swift swipe. Before the lightsaber's arc had concluded, it was already on the move again, turning and cutting the air with strength and grace. The Guardian continued, stepping and slashing with an equal showing of flash and substance, wide swings coupled with swift deflections. Watching the Human move, it became evident where Dehros had invested his time and effort. The title of Guardian was well earned.

The Jedi manipulated his weapon as easily he would a part of his own body, its burning length never once out of sync with his own movements. Any errant motion, any miscalculated endeavor, could have spelled disaster. But the Human seemed incapable of such. Even as the figure's gently flowing robes trailed his every movement, not a single fiber lay in danger of being singed. Even as the heated blade swung high and low, the grounds beneath the Jedi went unburdened by scuffs and scorches.

As Torzin and Ryska watched the martial dance unfold, it felt as if the wind was blowing in accordance with Dehros' movements. With careful study, they began to realize the swift breezes they felt following each swipe of the blade were an extension of the Force. As limited the lightsaber was in length, each swing that cut the air sent a current of wind powerful enough to cross the entire arena. All the while, the Guardian continued to move through seamless actions.

When the end finally did come, it was not with a bang or a flourish, but a gentle winding down as Dehros planted his feet. The final swipe of his blade carried no follow through, coming to a swift halt in accordance with the owner's will. And with a gentle flick of his wrist, the lightsaber powered down, its blue blade disappearing back into its hilt. Returning the weapon to his belt, the Guardian left his almost trance-like state, to see his students looking upon him with energized glints in their wide eyes.

"Lightsaber combat is designed around motion," Dehros detailed. "Its weapon lacks the burden of weight. Its wielder lacks the burden of limitation. A lightsaber acts as no other sword can. A Jedi acts as no other swordsperson can. With each motion, there is unity between the Jedi, their lightsaber, and the Force. What others may view as flash is our substance. Our grace, our every flourish, is us deepening the connection between our bodies and our spirits. We do not swing a blade just to swing a blade, we do so to channel the Force. Your reach does not end at the tip of your fist. It does not end at the tip of your blade. Your reach is what you allow it to be. Do you understand?"

Torzin and Ryska offered a pair of enthusiastic, determined nods.

"Good. Then let us continue," Dehros declared.
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