After eating to their supreme satisfaction, the Pentad strolls towards the first ring. They each can only imagine what the great Vaiqon can instruct them of sword play and zoltind. They smile and laugh as they walk towards the ring noticing birds singing a rather melodious tune matching perfectly with the sun’s rays that rain down upon them. They notice odd flowers resembling roses but with white coating half of every petal.
They see various Rniti training hard, their sweating foreheads glistening in the sun from their heavy tunics and armor. They observe a duel between Firose and Oukton. They watch as the two Jayyojjeks move faster than they can track, often not realizing Firsoe and Oukton have moved at all until after a forceful ringing echoes into their ears from the Jayyojjeks’ colliding blades.
They watch as Jtoon and other Rniti practice their zoltind with one another, throwing their okit, fuhok, or sigo at one another. They watch as the Rniti begin playing with one another in a game of sorts of who can outlast the other.
The Pentad chuckles as an okit is blindsided by a massive fuhok wave that knocks him flat on his back. The Pentad observes Jtoon who yells his delight as he then approaches his fallen brother to aid him to his feet.
Hawk catches the slight gesture and marks it to memory.
When the Pentad arrives at the first ring, they are surprised to witness quite a crowd has gathered around the first ring to watch them practice and spar with one another.
Vaiqon welcomes, “Ah, Pentad! I trust you all had a delightful lunch. Now, please, Hawk and Fox pair off, Desert and Boar pair together, and Santhemum, you have the honor of sparring with me today.”
The Pentad nod as they break into their pairs. They quickly work through a few warm up exercises guided by Vaiqon, then begin sparring against one another.
The sounds of their swords clanging against shields and swords parrying off other swords begin to fill the air. All the while, Vaiqon observes his class and retains mental notes of all the flaws and weaknesses he perceives.
When Vaiqon has made enough observations of Hawk, Desert, Fox, and Pork, he finally turns his full attention to Santhemum to observe her form. He is shocked to see but only a small defect of her footing.
He speaks, “Santhemum, do try not to cross your feet when sidestepping. For if you do,” just at that moment, Santhemum crosses her feet, and Vaiqon seizes the opportunity to knock Santhemum to her back with a simple push, “you can easily be knocked off-balance,” Vaiqon concludes.
Santhemum glares up at Vaiqon from the ground, her eyes furious with determination. She nods as she rises to face Vaiqon, but the Daijok raises his hand for her to freeze.
“Pentad!” Vaiqon’s voice tears through the air. He gestures for Hawk, Desert, Fox, and Pork to join him and Santhemum.
After the Pentad has reassembled, Vaiqon speaks, “It seems we have quite a crowd observing us today. Firose!” he commands.
Firose smiles as she jumps the fence of the ring to join Vaiqon and the Pentad.
“Ah, if it would not be a bother, would you please spar with Santhemum for the remainder of the day. I must instruct the others individually now. Santhemum had but one flaw, and I am sure she has corrected her mistake.”
Firose nods, “But of course. I would never be bothered to spar with my little sister,” Firose says with a twinkling smile to Santhemum.
Santhemum beams as she and Firose separate from the others.
Vaiqon watches as Santhemum and Firose stroll to a good distance away before he glances at Hawk, Desert, Fox, and Pork individually.
“Ah, I shall instruct Desert and Boar first,” Vaiqon begins. “Hawk and Fox, please continue sparring together.
Hawk and Fox nod and scamper to their initial position where they sparred before Vaiqon summoned them.
Vaiqon gazes between Desert and Pork and smiles, “Please begin.”
Desert does not hesitate as he brings his sword down hard upon Pork who quickly throws up his shield in defense. Desert’s sword clangs off of Pork’s shield, and as he moves to bring another swing of his sword down, Pork bashes at Desert with his shield, forcing Desert to block with his own shield.
“Pause,” Vaiqon says. He approaches Pork. He speaks quietly in Pork’s ear then retreats a safe distance where Pork’s refined technique allows him to nearly overpower Desert.
Pork stands wide-eyed at Vaiqon with gratitude, amazed that tweaking his right foot to point directly at Desert and his left foot ready to pounce and turn has aided him to the point he can nearly tear straight through Desert.
Desert appears angry and nearly pounces on the unsuspecting Pork, but Vaiqon places an air barrier between the two that forces Desert to stop. Desert glares at Vaiqon with malice, but after Vaiqon speaks quietly in his ear, his malice changes to one of determination.
Vaiqon allows Pork to ready himself before lifting the barrier and watching as Desert’s refined sword slash nearly crumples Pork’s ironclad defense. Desert balks as he realizes that merely withdrawing much of the strength he had been using to strike allows him to move smoother, but faster, and nearly catching Pork off-guard multiple times as they continue to spar.
Vaiqon places another air barrier between the two so that the stubborn okits will cease where he then says, “Excellent progress, excellent progress. You two have the makings of becoming quite the swordsmen. However, why do I feel as if you do not take a liking to the sword? Hmm?” Vaiqon asks knowingly.
Desert and Pork shrug as their thoughts turn to the war hammer and the Bo staff.
Vaiqon waves away the boys’ concern, “No matter. Now, continue sparring. I must see to Hawk and Fox now.”
Vaiqon turns on his heel, observing Santhemum and Firose in the distance sparring with each other in an elegant dance. He smiles as he approaches Hawk and Fox. He observes the boys for a moment before placing an air barrier between them where he speaks into Fox’s ear.
Vaiqon retreats and watches as Fox’s now smooth movements allow him to slip past Hawk’s only opening and catches Hawk in the ribs. Hawk gasps in surprise at the strike and parries Fox’s blade a second too late.
Fox chuckles to himself. He gazes at Vaiqon with a nod of gratitude. He makes a note to always remember that he is a fuhok, and as such, should move as fluid as a river over the earth.
Fox then watches as Vaiqon speaks to Hawk quietly. He gulps as Hawk then turns to face him. Fox readies himself in a defensive stance, his sword held reverse grip, mirroring Hawk’s grip.
Hawk smiles, then circles Fox to the right. Fox moves to his right and watches as suddenly Hawk redirects his circling and attacks Fox from the left. Fox is nearly caught in the side, but parries Hawk’s blade as smooth as water cutting through stone, forcing Hawk to spin where Hawk then brings his sword around behind him, catching Fox directly in the center of his shield. Fox grimaces in pain from the vibrations, but pushes Hawk away where he brings his sword down at Hawk’s back. Hawk twists his sword behind him where he catches Fox’s blade, parries it away, then twists to bring his shield to bash directly into Fox.
Fox sprawls on the ground dazed. He looks up to see Hawk’s hand ready to aid him to his feet. Fox smiles as he takes Hawk’s hand. Hawk chuckles as he claps Fox on the back, enthralled that remembering he is an ire, and as such, should be as swift as the wind cutting through the trees.
Hawk glances to Vaiqon with a nod of appreciation.
Vaiqon smiles, then his voice echoes through the first ring, “Pentad! Cease your sparring for the moment. Join Hawk, Fox, and I.”
After the Pentad has reassembled, Firose embraces with Santhemum before she disappears in a flash of dull blue, her exhaustion evident. Vaiqon feels Firose’s aura appear in the Gallery. He chuckles to himself.
He faces the Pentad, “Pentad, now we shall train our zoltind connections. With the exception of Hawk, as I have seen his prowess already, please, demonstrate what you have learned.”
Individually, the Pentad demonstrate their skills to their zoltind connections. Vaiqon watches as Desert tosses boulder after boulder further and further into the distance, the last boulder disappearing behind the horizon.
Vaiqon observes the fierce determination that falls upon Pork’s face as he conjures not one, but two massive boulders he then sends flying through the air that also disappear behind the horizon.
“Ah,” Vaiqon notes, “an okit competition. Always grand for progress,” he says to Desert and Pork.
Desert and Pork glance at one another, shrug, then smile.
Vaiqon witnesses Fox drawing water from nearby barrels on the edge of the first ring where he coalesces the two water streams into one, separates it again, then separates the two streams into four, where he then whips all of them hard into the air.
Vaiqon nods at the effort and watches as Santhemum swallows, then erupts flames from her fists that fly into the air touching the clouds and evaporating them. Santhemum then controls the flames to coalesce them into a tight, sparking ball hovering just above her knuckles. She finally shoots the sparking ball into the air where it erupts in an explosion.
Vaiqon smiles in pride. The Rniti watching clap and yell their enthusiasm. Santhemum blushes at the attention and turns away to see Hawk smiling widely at her. She blushes again. She turns to see Desert scoffing, Fox clapping, and Pork gaping in amazement.
Vaiqon holds his hand for the Pentad to cease before Desert conjures another boulder, then speaks, “Well, Pentad, though your feats were rather impressive, they are nothing more than basic skills.”
The Pentad slumps.
“It appears that you have only been instructed of how to connect to your zoltind, which is grand yes, but zoltind is much, much more than mere feats of extraordinary ability,” Vaiqon continues.
“Rather, zoltind is a delicate connection of our inner selves that must be honed to a sharpened point. Zoltind is a part of you, and the reasons for this is revealed in your personality.
“The zoltind connections are representative of emotions, and as such, you all should learn to reciprocate these emotions so that you may develop a deeper sense of connection with your zoltind.
“For instance, okit is the zoltind connection for earth, yes, but also of strength, determination, and stubbornness. But, to be able to fully divulge into okit, one must have a strong heart. You must know deep within that nothing will ever falter in your connection to okit. A method of realizing this, is to have an infallible thought firmly implanted in your mind.”
Vaiqon speaks to Desert and Pork directly, “Desert, Boar, before you throw another boulder, think of something you believe is absolutely infallible.”
Desert and Pork glance at one another before closing their eyes.
Desert imagines the endless sands of the desert, his childhood home. He imagines how nothing can withstand the heat, how nothing can conquer the desolate desert. He smiles as he raises his arm.
Pork imagines the boar symbol of his medallion on his neck. He imagines his father informing him, ‘Boar, this medallion will always give you strength. With this medallion, know that you have the strength of a boar within you always.’ Pork smiles as he raises his arm.
When Desert and Pork open their eyes, they balk at the fact they have raised a pillar of earth nearly three-stories high. They drop their arms, where the pillars then fall seamlessly back into the ground, and glance at Vaiqon who is smiling proudly.
“Most excellent!” Vaiqon commends. Vaiqon then continues, “The second connection of zoltind, ire, air, is one that mirrors the emotions of clarity, candidness, and resourcefulness. To fully divulge into ire, one most be earnest in his heart. You must know that the world is seen through a clear, dividing wall and that only an ire can perceive through this wall.
“Hawk, before you connect to your zoltind, have a thought of perfect clarity firmly implanted within your mind,” Vaiqon finishes.
Hawk nods as he steps away from the Pentad. He closes his eyes to search through his memories of a thought that represents perfect clarity to him. He smiles as he raises his arm involuntarily as the thought of his second night at the Injhihato occurs to him.
He plays through the memory again as he watches himself gazing at the Lake at sunset. He watches as he remembers looking up to see a cloudless sky, just blue streaked with heavenly oranges, reds, and pinks. He watches as he remembers looking down at the perfectly clear water, where he was able to see straight to the bottom of the Lake.
He opens his eyes to see he has conjured a cyclone wall dancing before him. He drops his hands in astonishment then looks at Vaiqon who waves him back to the Pentad.
“I believe that was the best cyclone wall I have witnessed in an age,” Vaiqon compliments, leaving Hawk beaming.
“The third connection of zoltind, fuhok,” Vaiqon says whilst glancing at Fox, “is representative of fluidity, calm, and relaxation. To fully divulge into fuhok, one most be peaceful in his heart. Nothing can startle a fuhok when he is in a full state of being at peace.
“Fox, this time, when you connect to your fuhok, imagine a thought that has the effect of calming you to such an extent, you feel you do not even need to breathe,” Vaiqon states.
Fox scratches, his head, but then his gaze becomes unfocused as he thinks of seeing his mother’s statue. He remembers feeling entirely broken the day he lost his family to that fire. But then he remembers feeling entirely at peace when he saw his mother’s statue, that she is with him always no matter what occurs.
Fox opens his eyes to see he has conjured a rushing stream of water that has coalesced into a nearly discernible figure, but he glances to Hawk who nods with understanding that the figure is Shadow.
Fox does not drop his hands, but rather allows the rushing water to calm and slowly slip back into the barrels at the edge of the ring.
Vaiqon smiles as he recognized the figure in the water and nods in understanding as well. “And now, for the fourth and final connection of zotlind, sigo,” Vaiqon continues his lecture, gazing at Santhemum, “is, of course, the connection of aggression, ferocity, and spirit. But, the key to remember of sigo, is that sigo is an energy. To fully divulge into sigo, one must be energetic in her heart, always ready to spring forth into action, to observe, to fight, to rescue.
“Santhemum, before connecting with your sigo, imagine a time where your aggression has overcome you. Harness that feeling within you, and throw it away,” Vaiqon says.
Santhemum appears perplexed.
Vaiqon chuckles inwardly, “Yes, throw it away. As fire. Fire is not just a tool of destruction, you know.”
Santhemum smiles widely, her bright joy tearing into Vaiqon’s aura with all the force of a volcanic eruption.
Santhemum imagines the last time she saw her father alive. The night she killed him with scorching burns. She remembers all the time she touched her. All the times he heard her mother scream from his drunken rage. She remembers the utter aggression, the utter feeling of helplessness. She remembers the heat she felt in her fingertips that night. She remembers all the time she wished she could have connected sooner. She feels her aggression. She takes a breath to feel the sun on her back warming her neck from the bite of cold sweat. Her memories then play Hawk’s smiling face in the bed chambers after nights of training. She sees Hawk and Fox sparring with one another, laughing. She sees Desert and Pork’s budding brotherhood. She smiles widely as she lets her aggression go to feel the energy of her brothers’ support coursing through her.
When she opens her eyes, she sees fire expelling itself from her fingertips in a figure of a crouching cheetah about to pounce upon Vaiqon. She imagines her Pentad, and the cheetah transforms into a beautiful rose with blinding white light on the edges of the petals resembling the red and white roses of the pass to the first ring.
Santhemum smiles widely. She allows the flames to dissipate into the air where she wipes away a tear from her right eye before anyone can see. But when she looks up, she sees Hawk gazing at her with newfound respect and awe. He wipes away her tear from her left eye without a word.
Vaiqon claps reverently. “That, Santhemum, was the best control of sigo I have ever witnessed. That was the most beautiful sight of sigo I have ever observed. I am truly humbled by you. You have strength beyond many of us Rniti. A lesser woman would be destroyed by your past.”
Vaiqon takes a moment to collect himself before dismissing the Pentad with a wave. He thinks of his Daijoks, his fellow classmates. He thinks of Teqqc. He thinks of Uxxok, a bubble of guilt eating at his heart. He shakes himself and flashes to the Chamber where he smiles at Vulcan, Rhino, and Shark.
Vaiqon opens an aura connection with them all to relate his feelings. The other three Daijoks merely smile and embrace with their brother, the Love amongst the four radiating out from them in their respective zotlind connections.