190/366 – Lessons in Training

Day 48 of 100 Word Prompts: Cold

Zhen stood at the top of Skyreach Tower, which jutted from the top of the training hall hundreds of feet further into the air. The cold bit into his skin while the intense winds stung his eyes and threatened to steal the breath from his lungs. He had stood in place for a full day already, with no progress on identifying and channeling the ki in his body.

“How fares your training?” Master Zeed said, casually walking in from the side of the tower.

Zhen’s eyes narrowed on her, unsure of how she had made the ascent so smoothly and looked so relaxed. His muscles felt sluggish and stiff from his long-held stance.

“I’m tired,” Zhen answered without moving more than his mouth.

“That’s good,” Master Zeed replied with a slow nod, “How is your body doing?”

“It’s cold and stiff,” he again replied honestly.

“I see,” Master Zeed replied, a slight frown showing on her otherwise stoic face.

“I can do this,” Zhen said, defending his actions before she had a chance to dissuade him.

“Eventually, yes, I do believe you can,” Master Zeed said, “but you haven’t learned how to channel your ki yet. I don’t recommend attempting this yet.”

“I can do this,” Zhen repeated.

“Zhen, I-”

Zhen shifted his feet and bolted for the edge of the open tower room. He had felt something and knew that with the proper application of the ki in his body, he could push his legs further than he ever had previously. His foot landed on the edge and his leg bent, he pushed with everything he had in him and rather than launching himself, his leg gave out, and he slipped. In a frantic flurry of desperation, his hand managed to catch the edge, and he dangled out in the brutal wind that threatened to rip him from the side of the tower.

Master Zeed stepped over and looked down at him, disapprovingly for a moment before she reached down and grabbed his wrist, lifting him with one hand to his surprise. She turned and set him down on his feet with the same casual speed in which she had stepped over the lip upon her arrival.

“Zhen, I-”

“I’m sorry, Master Zeed,” Zhen said, his gaze falling to her shoes, “I thought I felt-”

“Enough,” Master Zeed sais in a harsh tone that he had never heard her use before. “Listen to your Master and silence your voice.”

Zhen’s mouth snapped shut. Though she had not used magic on him to compel him to silence, she may as well have done so. The cold muscles of his face locked his jaw closed.

“Zhen, I appreciate the dedication you are showing to your training, but you are not ready for the step of the wind. This place, however, is not for training that technique. I had thought that obvious after your first failed attempt. Do not be discouraged,” she said, seeing the pain in Zhen’s eyes at this news, “you’re doing well in your training, but such an advanced technique often requires more than basic training.”

Zhen tried to open his mouth but found the muscles in his jaw unresponsive. He nodded, accepting it as a sign from the Queen of Air that he needed to listen more than speak.

“Come down with me,” Master Zeed said, extending a hand to him. “Perhaps you will understand better in the courtyard.”

Zhen took the Master’s warm hand and followed her to the edge, where she stepped off and landed softly on something unseen. Zhen stopped next to her with his first step, though he felt nothing beneath his feet. As though traveling down a long staircase, she led him to the courtyard in a supreme display of her elemental attunement.

Halfway down the tower, the winds ceased, bringing with the calmness the warmth of the courtyard below. The sudden heat felt like fire against Zhen’s wind-battered skin, but his muscles were thawing quickly, he noticed as his jaw loosened, and he was able to open his mouth.

“I’m sorry, Master,” Zhen said once more.

“You should take this as a lesson,” Master Zeed said, her stoic expression softening into a warm smile. “There are things in life you will come across that you are simply not ready for at that moment. It can be frustrating or disheartening, but you cannot let it dissuade you from your path. Just don’t let it destroy you.”

“I understand,” Zhen said as their feet reached the smooth stone of the courtyard.

“I don’t know that you do,” Master Zeed replied. “You are not like the others here at the monastery, Zhen. I saw you doing breathing exercises at the top of the tower when you and I both know that we can hold our breath effectively until we choose not to do so. Your training is not the same as theirs. Thus you cannot expect to skip the core of your training and attempt the more advanced techniques. I need you to resolve to be more disciplined in both your training and in your adherence to my guidance.”

“I will be better,” Zhen replied, lowering his gaze and feeling ashamed of his efforts.

Master Zeed touched his cheek gently and lifted his eyes to meet hers once more.

“We are Genasi, Zhen,” she said. “We are the Queen of Air’s chosen. I have faith that your heart is in the right place, but you still need the discipline to focus on the current phase of your training before proceeding to the next.”

“I understand, Master,” Zhen replied, giving her a quick nod.

“Go join the others for practice,” she said, nodding toward the group of students arranging to move through their forms.

“Yes, Master,” Zhen said, turning away from her.

“Zhen,” Master Zeed said, grabbing his arm. He turned and saw a bright smile on her face, “Focus on your prayers to the Goddess and ask her for guidance. Much of what I know comes directly from her tutelage.”

“Yes, Master,” Zhen replied as he turned and ran to join the group.

“Hopefully soon, he’ll learn to control his ambition,” Master Zeed said, looking to the statue of Akadi hovering nearby. “Ambition is both an asset to training, but also a temptation down the wrong path, as you taught me so many years ago.”

Master Zeed bowed to the statue and walked back into the training hall to attend to her other duties, leaving Zhen in the capable hands of the Goddess.

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