219/366 – The Master and the Students

Day 77 of 100 Word Prompts: Ink

Haiden walked between the students, watching the progress of their brush strokes with harsh judgments. Though they didn’t speak their opinions on the apprentices’ progress, Adelyn could feel the cold stare of the overseer as her brush curved around in a solid stroke as it created a rough image of the elderly man they called Master.

Adelyn looked upon her completed piece with disgust. The strokes of her brush were crude at best, leaving a vague, human-shaped image upon the paper. If there had been more available to her, she would have crumpled up the first attempt and began again. However, she was not so lucky and put down her brush before she turned to get up, but Haiden caught her shoulder.

“Don’t look away,” Haiden whispered, their eyes locked on Adelyn’s work. “Just like the stroke of a sword, you cannot take back what you’ve done with ink. You owe your work your full attention until it is done.”

“It is done,” Adelyn protested, trying once again to stand up.

“Is it?” Haiden asked, his eyes moving to hers for a second.

“It is,” Adelyn said, clenching her teeth.

“Okay,” Haiden said, releasing their grip and allowing Adelyn free movement from her chair.

As soon as Adelyn had completely left her seat, Haiden snatched up her paper, slamming it against her. The air escaped her lungs completely as she fell to the floor, sliding a few feet from where Haiden stood looking at her disapprovingly.

“W-what was that for?” Adelyn asked, peeling the paper off her shirt. The ink created an odd pattern, and the image on the paper of the Master was ruined.

“You weren’t finished,” Haiden said, clasping their hands behind their back as they turned away, shaking their head. “Clean yourself up, and begin again.”

Adelyn clenched her jaw as she looked up at Haiden’s back. She wanted to charge them. Make them feel the pain and embarrassment that she felt. Make them suffer as she suffered.

“Your anger will get the better of you,” a soft voice said from just behind her.

Adelyn spun quickly, seeing the Master of the monastery standing before her leaning on his cane. She fell to her knees, burying her face in the backs of her hands as her anger vanished. Now only her ears burned in embarrassment.

“Rise, please,” Master Khan said, tapping her arm gently. “There’s no need for that right now. This is a good time for a lesson.”

“I’m sorry, Master,” Adelyn said, getting to her feet but keeping her eyes on the ground.

“What made you so angry, Pupil?” Master Khan asked.

“Haiden assaulted me when I told them that my portrait was finished,” Adelyn said.

“Was it finished?” Master Khan asked.

Adelyn hesitated a moment too long.

“I see,” Master Khan said. “What was the lesson?”

“That I owe my full attention to my work as it is something that cannot be taken back or corrected. Just as a sword strike cannot be undone, so I must witness the results of my actions to fruition,” Adelyn recited from the day’s lesson.

“Very good,” Master Khan said with a nod. “So, what made you look away from your portrait? Is this saggy old face too much for you to bear?”

Master Khan poked Adelyn in the ribs as he chuckled.

“I was impatient,” Adelyn replied, forcing down her amusement.

“Impatience leads to mistakes,” Master Khan said. “Are you injured from Haiden’s assault?”

“I-” Adelyn stopped, realizing that she felt no pain from the strike. It was more the shock and the embarrassment that had triggered her anger. “No, Master.”

“So, what have you learned?” Master Khan asked.

“To be more patient, and take in what has occurred before making decisions,” Adelyn said as she bowed.

“Haiden,” Master Khan said, waving the younger Master over.

“Yes, Master Khan?” Haiden asked, looking to the floor.

“You will find, in the future, that some of the students may not be so receptive to your teaching style. While I appreciate your passion, I would recommend not assaulting the students here to learn my techniques,” Master Khan said.

“Master, I was-” Haiden fell silent as Master Khan raised a hand.

“I don’t need arguments or explanations,” he said, shaking his head. “I need change. While you felt sure in your decision and restrained the attack from injuring my student, you were also incorrect. Any strike that comes from pride, arrogance, or impatience is still a strike that cannot be undone. You have to control yourself better in the future.”

“I’m sorry, Master,” Haiden said. “It was not my intention to disappoint you.”

“You intended to demonstrate your superiority over the apprentices, nothing more,” Master Khan said, shaking his head.

Haiden mouthed silent words as though they were trying to argue with the Master’s observation, but either could not, or would not, lie to him. Deciding it best to remain quiet, they bowed their head and nodded in their shame.

“So, this becomes a lesson for two,” Master Khan said, “There are few things in this world that are better than a teacher able to learn from their student, wouldn’t you agree, Haiden?”

“I don’t know, Master,” Haiden replied.

“You don’t see the lesson the student offered to you?” Master Khan said.

Haiden paused for a moment as though contemplating the order of events and came up short, as evidenced by a quick shake of their head.

“I see,” Master Khan said, clicking his tongue at them. “Well, in that case, I am assigning the pair of you to work together exclusively until either of you can tell me the lesson that you both missed here.”

“Master, please,” Haiden blurted, catching Adelyn off guard. While she had never enjoyed their company, she had thought herself a nice enough person that it was unwarranted.

“I agree,” Adelyn added, “I don’t think it’s right for us to work together. I think it is likely that we will get in each other’s way as we attempt to progress in your teaching.”

“It has already been decided,” Master Khan replied, a broad smile spreading across his face. “Good luck to both of you. Perhaps you’ll receive the lesson sooner rather than later.”

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