Day 42 of 100 Word Prompts: Boot
“You did good today,” Master Zeed said, giving Zhen one of the rarest things he had seen since he arrived, a smile.
“Thank you, Master,” Zhen replied, bowing his head to her.
“Walk with me, Zhen,” Master Zeed said, motioning for him to follow her.
Zhen rose from the ground, falling two steps behind her as he had learned in Cochigton.
“Zhen?” she said.
“Yes, Master?” Zhen asked, keeping his eyes on her shoes.
“Did I not ask you to walk with me?”
“I am, Master,” Zhen replied, stopping as she stopped.
“No, you’re not. You’re walking behind me-by all that is Akadi’s realm, please look me in the eyes when we are speaking,” Master Zeed said.
Zhen lifted his eyes to meet her stern gaze.
“You’re unhappy with me,” Zhen said, lowering his gaze and dropping to his knees once more.
“Zhen, I know you haven’t been here very long, but there is something that you need to understand about this monastery. It does not work like anywhere you have been before. I expect you to follow my tutelage to the letter, but, here at least, you are your own person. There will be no more of this groveling, staying behind me when I am trying to converse with you, or avoiding eye-contact. Do you understand me?” She finished, lifting him from the ground and putting him on his feet. Zhen looked up just as the stern expression softened, and her hand met his cheek. “Though our skills are at different levels of mastery, there is no reason that you should not walk and speak with me as though we are equals.”
“Sorry, Master,” Zhen said, trying his best not to look away from her eyes.
“You’ll get there,” Master Zeed said, turning on her heel, “Now, walk with me, please.”
Zhen fell into step beside her as they walked out onto the platform that made up the courtyard. On nearly every post, a singing bowl rang out at an eerily human octave with incense floating gently on the breeze. He felt a shiver up his spine as his gaze fell upon the floating statue of Akadi, Queen of the Air. The blue gems that made up her eyes always seemed to follow him.
“Can I ask you a question, Master?” Zhen said.
“Of course,” Master Zeed replied, raising one eyebrow.
“I still don’t understand the purpose of the singing bowls, or how the statue floats,” Zhen said. “Why are they here?”
“Akadi is the queen of air. The statue, as far as I know, is nonmagical. It’s simply stone hewn from this mountaintop in honor of her. One of the early Master’s of this monastery carved her likeness to remind the students whom they served while here,” Master Zeed replied. “Legend says that the statue doesn’t always float, only when she has come to oversee our training.”
“Have you ever seen her sitting on the ground?” Zhen asked.
“Only once,” Master Zeed replied, “Fifteen years ago, give or take, she set down and stayed that way for nearly a span. Many of the students thought she had abandoned us by the time she returned.”
“That’s odd, and no one knows why she stopped floating?” Zhen asked.
“Not a clue, only that it does happen from time to time,” Master Zeed replied with a shrug. “As for the singing bowls, those are very special. They are tuned to sound like a Master’s voice from long ago. Every master has one, and it will remain here, singing forever.”
“Where’s yours?” Zhen asked.
“Mine sits in the left hand of Akadi,” she replied, pointing to the small golden bowl.
“Can I see it?” Zhen asked.
“Please, this is your home, too,” Master Zeed replied, motioning for him to go to it.
Zhen walked across the courtyard, approached the statue, and hesitated to touch it. He looked closely at it and was surprised that the bowl didn’t even touch the hand of the goddess. Instead, the bowl spun slowly, revealing a pattern of Auran characters spelling Aera Zeed. No sound came from the bowl, only incense, drifting up past the goddess’s face.
“Interesting, isn’t it?” Master Zeed asked, stepping up next to him.
“The bowl doesn’t sing,” Zhen said.
“Why would it? My voice is here,” Master Zeed replied, touching her chest. “The bowl will only fall into Akadi’s hands when I die. Until then, I remain a Master of this monastery and keep my voice where I need it. Now, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Master,” Zhen replied.
“Why did you come here?” she asked.
“I heard that you were here,” Zhen replied.
“A frank answer,” she replied nodding. “I like that.”
“Dishonesty only leads to more trouble,” Zhen said, quoting Meng, back in Cochigton.
“Where’d you go just now?” Master Zeed asked. “Your eye drifted.”
“I was thinking of one of the few friends I had in Cochigton,” Zhen answered. “She taught me a lot in a short time.”
“So, you are frequently the student?” Master Zeed asked.
“That’s correct,” Zhen replied.
“I see. That explains some things for me,” Master Zeed said. “Beginning tomorrow, you will have one student beneath you.”
“Wait. What?” Zhen replied, spinning away from the goddess.
“You will be put in charge of one student here at the monastery. If you do well, you’ll gain more responsibility,” Master Zeed said.
“I don’t know how to teach people! I’m not a master like you. I don’t know what to teach them. I should be a student, not a teacher,” Zhen rattled off.
“Calm down, you are still a student,” Master Zeed said. “You are my student, and I think the first thing I need to teach you is confidence. You found it somewhere along your journey to the top of this mountain but lost it again. You will train a student.”
“No excuses,” Master Zeed said, silencing him as she looked up at Akadi, “It is the way of the wind to find the path of least resistance, but the wind also needs to have the wisdom to seek such a path. Be more like the wind, Zhen.”