Hawk and Vaiqon conjure air chairs while they wait for the others to join them. Fox and Jtoon are the first to arrive where they control water from the barrels at the edge of the ring and freeze the water into ice chairs. Santhemum and Firose arrive next where Hawk creates air chairs for them to sit. Lastly, Desert, Pork, and Oukton arrive where they make themselves an earthen bench.
Vaiqon smiles widely as he gazes at the Pentad, then Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon. He nods to each individual singularly as he inquires, “Firsoe, Oukton, Jtoon, do you remember when you first entered into the speed podium?”
Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon share a look with one another, chuckle, and glance back at Vaiqon.
“Oh yes,” Oukton says with a loud snort, “Jtoon here nearly stumbled he was moving so fast, and he nearly got Vulcan in the stomach that day as well. Quite embarrassing.”
Jtoon appears insulted, but his light smile betrays the merriment in his aura, “I was excited that I was about to end the duel on my terms for once, that when I jumped into the speed podium for the first time, I had no clue how I was moving so fast! That is when I nearly stumbled, giving Vulcan the widest opening I had ever given him.”
“Well, at least Vulcan did not request of you to race him,” Firose adds.
Oukton and Jtoon laugh loudly at the statement remembering the humiliating and defeated expression Firose had when she lost a foot race to the incredibly quick Vulcan.
Firose turns to the Pentad, “After I first stepped onto the speed podium, Vulcan noticed I was slightly faster than my two classmates here, and so, when I felt I could not have a challenge with them, I complained. As it turns out, I complained on the wrong day at the wrong time. Vulcan overheard me speaking with another Rniti and challenged me to a foot race that same day.”
Vaiqon’s eyes twinkle with the memory, “And what was the result?” he asks.
Firose sighs, “Vulcan defeated me in no less than a second when he jumped even higher in the speed podium. I could not even take a step before he was at the finish line ringing the bell. I was devastated.”
“You never complained again though,” Oukton and Jtoon say simultaneously before chuckling loudly.
Vaiqon chuckles inwardly as he turns to the Pentad, “Now, I have had Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon relate their tales of their first experience with the speed podium to illustrate to you the incredible amount of speed you will be undertaking.
“The speed podium that we divulge into as Rniti is the Meditation Podium. Four levels comprise the Meditation Podium. First, what you all just experienced, is Light Speed. After that, in order, are Hyper Speed, Slip Stream, and what we can only call Legend Spree as only one Rniti has been able to penetrate the last barrier of the Meditation Podium into Legend Spree, and she disappeared ages ago,” he says with a glance to Fox.
Fox observes the slight gesture and raises his hand. When Vaiqon acknowledges him, Fox asks, “And who was able to enter Legend Spree?”
Vaiqon smirks knowingly, “Ah, Fox, that was an incredible Rniti I once knew by the name of Shadow. She could move as silently as the night, but as swift as the quicksilver. She was a marvel to behold.”
Fox’s eyes widen. He glances to Hawk who is already staring at him with encouragement.
Vaiqon continues, “Now, in Light Speed, Pentad, when you learn to sustain the speed as you only had a brief moment of it, you will observe that all of your surroundings seem to be flashing as if light as touched them, been obscured, and touched by light again.
“After you learn to sustain Light Speed, you will then learn how to step into Hyper Speed, a speed that is ten fold faster than Light Speed, and much harder to learn to sustain. I would be confident in saying that most of the Rniti have experienced Hyper Speed at least once, but few have sustained the speed. Am I wrong, Firose?”
Firose glances at Vaiqon knowingly, “No, you are correct, Vaiqon. May I feel so obliged to inform the Pentad that I am one of those few that can sustain Hyper Speed?”
Santhemum gawks at her sister next to her. She stretches to speak into Firose’s ear directly.
Firose chuckles melodiously, “Of course I will, Santhemum, but only after you have learnt Light Speed.”
Santhemum beams highly as she then turns back to Vaiqon.
Vaiqon smiles as he guesses of the inquiry from Santhemum to Firose. He nods to Firose in encouragement and permission when the time occurs for Santhemum to be taught Hyper Speed. Firose nods in acknowledgement, a smile upon her face.
“The third step of the Meditation Podium,” Vaiqon continues, “is Slip Stream, a speed that is ten fold faster than even Hyper Speed. Slip Stream is nearly impossible to breach as we only have a handful of Rniti that have been able to even breach the speed, let alone sustain it. Unfortunately, even I have not sustained the speed, but have breached the barrier to Slip Stream a number of times.”
“Why is it so difficult to achieve?” Hawk asks. “Surely, with enough meditation and skill you can break the barrier completely and keep the speed.”
Vaiqon shrugs, “If only it were that easy. You must understand, Hawk, that the Meditation Podium’s level are not merely levels, but also separately dimensions. For instance, when in normal speed, the speed in which we are right now, we cannot see the other levels of the Meditation Podium. But, when we achieve Light Speed, we can see all those moving at the same speed as well as in normal speed, though the ones in normal speed appear to be moving much, much slower.”
“And when we achieve Hyper Speed, we are hard-pressed to see those above us in Slip Stream or Legend Spree, but we can easily see those below us in Light Speed and normal speed, though those in Light Speed and normal speed will appear to be moving slowly,” Hawk concludes.
Vaiqon nods in agreement, “Exactly, Hawk. But, as I was saying, to obtain Slip Stream, you must breach the barrier to it, yes, but to sustain it is another matter entirely for so few have sustained the speed and cannot teach you.”
Hawk glances with suspicion at Vaiqon as if the great Daijok is attempting to dissuade him from even chancing Slip Stream. He shrugs as he asks, “Perhaps Slip Stream is more difficult to achieve more because it requires someone to think differently than he or she did to achieve Light Speed or Hyper Speed, and because of this different mindset, they can never achieve it, rather than because no one will teach them.”
Vaiqon grits his teeth, breathes deeply, then responds, “No, Hawk, the reason Slip Stream is difficult to achieve is because it requires a great amount of strength beyond Hyper Speed for Slip Stream is a thousand fold faster than normal speed. Can you imagine moving at a thousand fold your current speed?”
Hawk ponders the question, but before he can answer, Firose chimes in, “Hawk, Slip Stream is something you do not need to concern yourself with at this point. You still must learn to sustain Light Speed. But if anyone can achieve Slip Stream, I believe you can... when the time occurs, that is,” Firose concludes with a look to Vaiqon.
Vaiqon sends gratitude through an aura connection with Firose. Firose merely nods.
“Now, as I was saying,” Vaiqon continues, “if you should ever venture into Slip Stream, you will know as everything around you will seem to be slipping by, as if streams are extending from everything you pass. Those around you will not be able to see you, but you will be able to see them.”
“I think I have actually achieved Slip Stream once,” Firose suddenly gasps.
When Vaiqon glances at Firose with a questioning expression, Firose explains, “Well, I remember being in a vicious duel with Oukton and Jtoon, and I remember that even Hyper Speed was not aiding my efforts in defeating them.”
Oukton and Jtoon appear in deep thought before the memory crashes through their minds. They groan as they remember the beating Firose was suddenly able to deal upon them within a second.
Firose chuckles, “Obviously, my brothers remember the day as well. Regardless, I remember dueling them and needing more speed. I remember heating the air around me to a boil, rain drops began forming in the air, and suddenly, I remember seeing Oukton and Jtoon slipping by me. I explained it to myself as just a higher form of Hyper Speed, but now I believe it was Slip Stream.”
Vaiqon nods, “Yes, Firose, that was indeed Slip Stream. Now, if only you could remember exactly what you did to achieve it, you could potentially sustain it. Perhaps speaking with your Daijok will aid you greatly?”
Firose nods, “I agree, considering he is one of the Rniti that can sustain the great speed.”
“Who is your Daijok?” Santhemum asks in her silky voice.
Firose smiles at Santhemum, “Vulcan, sweetie. Vulcan is our Daijok,” she says gesturing towards herself, Oukton, and Jtoon. “He discovered us when we all defeated the obstacle course such as you,” Firose finishes.
Santhemum gazes at Firose with her serene green eyes in wonder.
“Er, yes, Desert?” Vaiqon asks, surprised that Desert has actually raised his hand.
Desert smirks behind his scarf but feels that Vaiqon can see the expression. He forces his face to become neutral as he then asks, “Vaiqon, you said speed podium, and Meditation Podium, and said that Rniti learn of the Meditation Podium,” Desert pauses.
Vaiqon swallows believing he knows what Desert will inquire.
“Correct,” Vaiqon says. He glances to Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon who suddenly appear uncomfortable.
“Well,” Desert continues, “you implied that there are more. Are there more?” Desert asks.
Vaiqon grimaces inwardly, but cannot prevent all of his grimace from appearing on his face. He sees Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon stiffen at the question. They turn to him with wide eyes.
Vaiqon swallows after taking a deep breath, “Yes, Desert, in fact, there is one other speed podium, the Intensity Podium.”
“I believe I have once heard rumor of that,” Desert says, shocking Vaiqon, Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon.
“I believe you misheard,” Oukton chimes in. “The Intensity Podium has not been practiced by the Rniti, nor any Rniti supporting city in generations.”
“Is the Intensity Podium difficult to unlock?” Desert inquires.
“No one knows, Desert,” Vaiqon answer curtly. “We do not even know the names of the speed levels, nor how many levels there are of the podium.”
“Then why do you all appear uneasy at just mentioning the podium?” Desert asks innocently with a devious smirk behind his scarf.
Vaiqon throw his hands up in exasperation, “Desert,” he commands, “the Intensity Podium is exponentially dangerous. Rumors exist that the Thousand Nightmares itself created the podium. We, as Rniti, wholly opposed to the Thousand Nightmares and everything it stood for, do not practice this podium.”
“I do not see-” Desert begins.
“The Intensity Podium causes you to lose your mind,” Oukton interrupts.
Vaiqon glares at Oukton, but nods nonetheless.
Vaiqon sighs deeply, “Yes, Oukton is correct. There are legends that still exist, that are based in truth, that using the Intensity Podium forces one to lose their minds, become mad, if you will.”
Desert scoffs, “Surely using speed cannot-”
“It can, Desert!” Vaiqon snaps. He takes a breath, “The Intensity Podium requires a sacrifice to use. What that sacrifice is, we assume is to fracture the mind so as to lose one’s humanity.”
Desert shrugs, but remains silent.
Vaiqon finally smirks at the small victory of dissuading another pupil from the Intensity Podium.
“Now, have you all decided as to which weapons class you will specialize?” Vaiqon asks to maintain control of the conversation.
Santhemum smiles at Vaiqon’s ploy, then answers in her silky voice, “I am going to choose the short sword, dual short swords that is,” she says with a glance to Firose’s hips.
Firose beams as she embraces quickly with her sister.
“An excellent, and well-suited choice, Santhemum,” Vaiqon says.
“I am also considering the short sword,” Fox adds.
Vaiqon nods, “I would say that is a most-fitting choice, Fox.”
Vaiqon then turns to Hawk, Desert, and Pork.
Pork answers first, “Er, the Bo staff looked most interesting to me.”
Vaiqon ponders the choice, smiles, then says, “Yes, Pork, I believe you have the attitude for a double-ended weapon.”
Pork cocks his head to the side in confusion.
“The war hammer is my choice. I have the power for it,” Desert suddenly says.
Vaiqon appears uneasy before responding, choosing his word carefully, “Yes, Desert, I am sure you do.”
Vaiqon then turns to Hawk who smirks deviously.
“The sword,” Hawk starts.
Vaiqon smiles, “Excellent-”
“And the war axe,” Hawk finishes.
Vaiqon’s smile disappears. He inquires, “And how do you plan to master two weapon classes?” in an attempt to dissuade Hawk.
Hawk does not hesitate when he answers, “Meditation, practice, and courage,” looking directly into Vaiqon’s intense stare.
Vaiqon breathes deeply, “Very well, Hawk, I believe that you have the ability to master two weapons classes.”
Hawk scoffs inwardly at the poorly conceived compliment.
Losing control of his temper, Vaiqon quickly says, “Pentad, Firose, Oukton, Jtoon, I believe it is time for lunch, would you all agree?”
The eight Rniti nod and then turn on their heels towards the Gallery. Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon disappear in a flash of blue, leaving the Pentad to themselves. Santhemum gazes at the spot where Firose vanished, nods, then turns back to the front.
The Pentad rush away hurriedly with hunger on their minds. The race one another to the Gallery. Hawk rushes ahead as usual, Santhemum maintains a close proximity to him, followed by Desert, Fox, and Pork.
They reach the Gallery and find the massive hall filled with Rniti feasting on delicious food. The smells waft into the Pentad’s noses and immediately they begin to salivate. They rush to an empty bench with space only big enough for three.
Hawk, Santhemum, and Fox occupy these spaces with victorious looks upon their faces. Desert and Pork merely scoff as they then use okit to summon seismic energy and hop over the table to the other side where space for two has just opened up.
The static noise of numerous voices speaking to one another is nearly deafening, but the Pentad hear none of it. They dive into their lunch, grabbing various rolls, chickens, and fruits.
After only ten minutes of their stuffing themselves, they stretch out with contented bellies, and find that the Gallery has emptied to just them and a few other Rniti near the entrance of the Gallery.
“Excellent lunch today,” Fox says heartily.
“As it is everyday,” Hawk says. “How was your meal today, Desert, Pork?” Hawk shouts to his fellow Pentad members across the expansive table. Desert and Pork look over from their conversation, smile and nod, then return to their conversation.
“Well, it appears they will be our shadows again,” Hawk says.
“No matter. They ruin all of our fun anyway, is that not right Santhemum?” Fox asks with an amused smiled.
Santhemum looks at Fox with surprise and somewhat embarrassment on her face. Hawk and Fox exchange a glance and then laugh heartily. Santhemum’s face then flushes with slight anger.
Santhemum conjures an ember and sets Hawk’s sleeve on fire slightly. Hawk feels the burning sensation and acts as if in panic. He rises from the bench quickly with a shocked face, pleading to no one to aid him.
Hawk smacks at his arm trying to suffocate the rising flame, but to no avail. He dives to the ground and begins rolling. Fox just laughs at the whole spectacle. Even Santhemum giggles, but too low for anyone else but her to hear it.
Desert and Pork observe the commotion with mildly amused faces.
“Hawk always did have a knack for acting,” Pork says with anger.
“Pork, need not let Hawk disturb your peace. You are strong, always remember that,” Desert tells his friend.
Pork looks back to Desert. Pork sees his friend with his omnipresent scarf. Pork observes the scarf dipping slightly revealing a portion of skin. Pork focuses on this as it is the most of Desert’s face he has ever seen.
Suddenly, the light outside grows brighter through the windows. He looks at Desert with a curious expression.
“Go ahead, Pork, ask away,” Desert says seeing the look in Pork’s eyes.
“You were brutally burned by a sigo long ago,” Pork states.
Desert glares, “Did Hawk tell you?”
Pork blinks, “No. Does he know?”
Desert looks down and nods. “I had a moment of weakness when Santhemum discovered she was a sigo. I could not face her for the entire night.”
Pork nods, “Ah, I remember that night. You laid on your bed without saying a word to either of us.”
Desert nods, “Exactly.”
Pork asks, “Why do you fear sigos?”
“Because...” Desert relates his tale to Pork. When he has concluded, Pork stares at his friend in wonder.
“So, you mean to tell me you have an incredible amount of anger welled up inside of you and yet still, here you are, fighting?” Pork asks astonished.
Desert nods. “Well, I could either cry about it for the rest of my life. Or, allow the Rniti to train me and strengthen my mind. I was never one to cry.”
Pork smiles, “No, I suppose you were not.”
“Desert, Pork, time to get going,” Hawk’s voice rings out.
Desert and Pork both register anger for a moment, but then hide it. They rise from their side of table and join Hawk, Santhemum, and Fox. They nod to one another and casually walk out of the Gallery.
As they are walking through the halls of the Injhihato, they are surprised to see the Daijoks together in a room they often pass without much thought. Fox points and the Pentad pauses for a moment.
Each of their minds pulse with many questions, but they know it would be improper to march up to the Daijoks and bid them good day. Especially when the Daijoks are in deep conversation.
Hawk smiles. He motions for the Pentad to go on without him and puts a forefinger to his lips for silence.
The others of the Pentad filter out to the sunlit Injhihato grounds as Hawk stealthily moves to the wall and as close to the door to the room the Daijoks are occupying as he can. He hears muffled voices as if the Daijoks are speaking into pillows. He hears Rhino’s voice above the others, but even then, it is muffled too much to hear clearly.
Hawk dares a peek inside. He is baffled by the numerous air currents that are being driven around the four men. He nods in understanding. He pulls himself back from the doorway. He closes his eyes and tries to focus on the air currents around the Daijoks, preventing their voices from escaping.
He wedges his own air current in between two sliding air currents that he is sure are Vaiqon’s. Suddenly, his ears are filled with clear, distinct voices of the Daijoks in a heated discussion.
Hawk’s eyes widen as he listens to the Daijoks’ every word. His body tenses. His mind numbs. He almost loses control of his own air current. When he realizes the Daijoks have ended their discussion, Hawk withdraws his air current roughly and breaks away to the grounds outside.
Vaiqon stares with sad eyes at the now empty room after Vulcan, Rhino, and Shark have flashed away. His eyes flicker to the spot where he knows Hawk was hiding. Then, as if to confirm his suspicions, Hawk appears in a dead sprint to the door to the grounds outside.
Vaiqon merely sighs heavily, ‘Hopefully that boy has enough sense not to inform the others of his Pentad what he overheard,’ he thinks to himself.
Vaiqon then flashes away to train the Pentad.