|An Ancient Lesson Part 2
By Healer Leona
Rising the next morning Qui-Gon had managed to push his anxieties aside, concentrating instead on the new day. At least until his Master informed him he was to meet with Master Sin Tu at ten hour.
"But Master", he reminded "lightsaber class is at . . "
Yoda interrupted. "Spoke with Master Nor I have. Agrees he does."
"Yes, Master." Qui-Gon answered submissively. He would be crossing the line were he to argue with his Master.
One of the two most important oaths a Padawan swore to was the complete obedience of a Master in all things. Even when the Padawan didn't know or understand the reason behind a command.
The other oath was never to lie. Either of these oaths broken was a grave infraction of the Jedi Code and was punishable by expulsion from the Jedi Order.
Like all initiates Qui-Gon believed firmly in the Law and Code of the Jedi. How else had they become the Guardians of Peace for the galaxy had it not been for their strength and honor.
There was a small and growing problem though. Part of their training was the study of Jedi history. He learned that thousands of years before the Jedi High Council and Jedi Temple were ever conceived there was the Jedi Creed. The thoughts and philosophies of the Creed were what everything that now existed was based upon and it seemed to Qui-Gon it was far more flexible in interpretation than the strict Jedi Code allowed.
He was already questioning the conservative way the High Council dispensed its Guardians of Peace and to be under the authority of such a large political body as the Republic Senate was another matter all together.
Nevertheless he did as instructed. After formal meditation in the Temple Gardens with the other Padawans he explained his change of schedule to Mace Windu.
"So you have no idea who this man is or why you're to meet with him?" his friend asked.
"All I know is that he's not a Jedi and I'm to forgo lightsaber class the day after he sees me show total incompetence in the arena." Qui-Gon lamented.
"Don't be so hard on yourself. It's probably just another obscure test." Mace said in solace as they departed company.
"Hey Qui-Gon", his friend called from down the hall, "maybe he's from the Corellian
circus and wants to hire you as a new act. Qui-Gon Jinn Jedi acrobat extraordinaire."
Qui-Gon shook his head in exasperation as he turned and walked away, the sounds of Mace' laughter echoing down the hallway after him.
* * * *
He followed the address he was given through the streets of Coruscant. Secretly he was glad that this meeting wasn't taking place in the temple. There would have been far more questions from his peers. Questions he had no answers to.
Not far from the Jedi Temple he located his destination amid a gleaming market district.
The street was crowded with various beings busy going about their business. Here on Coruscant where Jedi were abundant no one paid mind to the young apprentice that stood in front of the one empty storefront.
Not knowing what to expect Qui-Gon gathered the Force around him to quiet his mind before announcing his presence. Stepping in front of the door it opened automatically, a soft beep accompanying his entrance.
"Good day, Qui-Gon Jinn" Sin Tu greeted him warmly, "How are you on this lovely day?"
"Fine, sir." he answered plainly glancing around the empty room.
Yoda's friend was garbed in long baggy white pants, topped by an unadorned matching jacket held closed by a wide black belt tied at the waist.
Comfortable and casual there was something about this appearance or maybe it was the man himself that made the clothes look like a uniform.
Sir, huh? The man had noted the reluctance of the boy to call him by name or title. The lad had spirit as well as talent.
"Master Yoda had graciously provided us this facility for our training purposes." Sin Tu watched the boy for reaction.
"Training?" Qui-Gon asked trying to mask his surprise.
"Yoda's told you nothing, has he young Jedi?" Sin Tu remarked slightly amused but not completely surprised.
"No sir." the confusion in Qui-Gon was growing rapidly.
"Isn't it just like that little wizard." the older man chuckled aloud. "You'd think he believed knowledge was dangerous the way he held on to it. Well" he collected his composure, "I suppose he has his reasons."
"So" he eyed Qui-Gon, who watched straight faced, not a hint of emotion now visible.
He certainly has the dispassionate Jedi look well practiced Sin Tu thought, deliberating on what to tell the lad. Even if he didn't agree with the taciturn nature of the Jedi Master/Apprentice relationship it was not his place to question it. Less is best in this case he decided.
"Master Yoda had asked that I..." he chose his words carefully. The boy may be a Jedi apprentice but Sin Tu was well aware of the fragile ego of adolescent males. "That I endeavor to assist you in the refinement of your dexterity."
Qui-Gon weighed the man's words. Seeking the Force he could feel a sense of caution in him. *Was he trying to spare my feelings?*
He couldn't help but wonder what exactly this man was about. There was no sense of falsehood in him yet there was more here than what was presented.
Qui-Gon inwardly shrugged. Both his own feelings and any ulterior motives on Sin Tu's part mattered not. Master Yoda had sent him here. It was his duty to accept the wisdom of his Master unquestioningly.
"Your assistance will be greatly valued." Qui-Gon said soberly, giving a slight nod of acceptance.
Sin Tu smiled appreciatively. It didn't take being a Jedi Master to see the strength of character in this boy nor did it take the use of the Force to gain a sense of the powerful Jedi he would become.
"Then we shall begin." Sin Tu stated. "What I'd like to begin with are simple exercises. They may appear very basic to you but patience will bring understanding. I've seen you in the arena and know your strengths. Your natural grace would come with time but I see nothing wrong with speeding the inevitable."
"Yes, sir." Qui-Gon said.
"Sin Tu will be fine." the man suggested.
"Yes, Sin Tu." Qui-Gon corrected himself.
A realization came to Sin Tu. It was the title Master that the boy was resistant to. Probably had a very set notion on who that particular title should be bestowed upon. He couldn't blame the boy. Being raised in the Jedi Temple would instill a certain amount of predetermined ideas. This small digression he could grant the Jedi, for their purpose was most noble, their ways most honorable.
"Now then, if you'd like to remove your cloak and weapon. It will be far less cumbersome."
Qui-Gon did so, carefully folding his long cloak and placing his lightsaber on top of it.
"We'll start with a series of katas known as Romka-Xun-Tal. These originated as an ancient spiritual dance meant to bring the mind and body into harmony. Over the centuries they've been adapted to many forms."
Dance? Qui-Gon thought questioningly. Master Yoda's sent me for dance lessons. What could dance teach me that the Force cannot?
"Isn't that what the Force is for?" he asked matter-of-factly.
"Yes, but there are billions of beings that don't have the attunement to the Force that a Jedi has...and has it helped you overcome your, uh..., awkwardness?" Sin Tu spoke not unkindly, but his point was clear.
Qui-Gon lowered his eyes, finding the bare floor more appealing.
Sin Tu reached up placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "That wasn't meant to discourage you, son, but you're bound to learn that not all answers may be found in the Force. Sometimes the straight approach is not enough. What are you taught if you come upon an unyielding obstacle?"
"You find a way to go around it." Qui-Gon stated the obvious.
"Right. That's what we're trying to do here. Finding another way around your difficulty. Your use of the Force will be beneficial in these exercises and we will be able to dispense with the preliminary meditation and breathing instruction as your Jedi training has already honed those skills remarkably well. . ."
Sin Tu waited a moment, hoping the compliment would register. Satisfied, he continued.
"To begin we must cleanse our minds. The body cannot respond to a cluttered mind."
Sin Tu closed his eyes. His hands held out in front of him, they slowing traced large circles before him. He inhaled deeply on the upswing and expelled the breath on the downswing. His hands coming together, palms touching.
Doing the same in his own fashion, Qui-Gon reach for the Force in meditation, allowing its pulsing energy to fill his being. Clearing his mind he reached out to Sin Tu with the Force.
Though his instructor was not a Jedi or even Force-sensitive what he felt from the man astonished him.
An incredible wave of serenity flowed from him, merging with the tentative fingers of the Force Qui-Gon had sent out. Not the Force but a power nevertheless washed over him, creating a calmness only felt with his Master.
Opening his eyes Qui-Gon saw a knowing smile on the face of Sin Tu.
"Observe, young Jedi and follow my lead." the man instructed.
Eyes still closed; Sin Tu began a series of simple fluid motions. His body moved with delicate grace and purpose. Arms extended then retracted. His hands flowed through the air first slowly pushing then pulling at some unseen obstruction.
His body moved lightly following the direction of his steps, keeping perfect balance. The minutes ticked by as he continued the ritual dance, effortlessly flowing in a rhythmic performance. It ended with a repetition of the breathing exercise of cleansing.
Opening his eyes, his face still a mask of serenity, Sin Tu wordlessly entreated Qui-Gon to emulate him.
Closing his eyes Qui-Gon began, relying on his Force enhanced memory to imitate the moves. Muscles strained in protest at the unnatural slowness of his motions. Tendons creaked and popped at the deliberate pace. He gathered the Force in an effort to increase his concentration on what he had erroneously thought to be simple exercise.
"Not as easy as it looks." Sin Tu stated as the boy finished.
Qui-Gon nodded in agreement using his sleeve to wipe the sweat that had blossomed on his brow.
"I feel like Iíve just been through hours of battle training." he finally said with growing respect.
"The body resists that which it is unaccustomed to, but the strong mind can override instinctual response in any given situation." Sin Tu stated taking a seat on the hard floor.
Qui-Gon followed suit, crossing his long legs. He was well familiar with this idea. The Jedi techniques of pain control was a good example of what Sin Tu referred to.
The Jedi saw pain for what it was, the body's natural alarm to physical damage. Only instead of allowing it to overwhelm the mind they accepted the pain, then redirected that same energy to begin the healing process.
"By practicing these katas you train your body to follow the mind direction rather than acting on reflex. Once learned it becomes innate and you'll find your body responding in sync with the mind under any demand."
Qui-Gon nodded acknowledgement. It was no different than many of the lessons he was taught at the temple, and if it helped it was far less embarrassing then fumbling around in the arena.
Over the next week Qui-Gon met daily with Sin Tu in place of Master Nor's lightsaber classes.
As his skill and control of an exercise increased his instructor added another set. Each more difficult and complicated than the last. Sin Tu had the patience of a Jedi Master as his student at first struggled through each new kata.
"Remember" he had told Qui-Gon, "control should be as water. Muscles should flow only skimming the surface of resistance. Water rarely forces itself. It glides, expending the least amount of energy to circumvent that which lies in its path."
As each set was then mastered the teacher showed little surprise. Though he was freer with his praise then Master Yoda he still gave the distinct impression he expected no less from Qui-Gon.
Yoda also showed little concern with his apprentice's progress. Nor did he give any indication as to when these lessons would end.
Qui-Gon was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to be allowed back in Master Nor's classes. How else was he to prove himself a worthy Jedi Knight.
Granted there were Jedi Master's who were not well versed with weapons, some who didn't even carry a lightsaber. These were Jedi who had chosen the particular path of an Academic or Healer.
His dreams though was to be a warrior, the most renown of the Jedi ranks. Without the training and completion of classes in the Temple he saw little chance of achieving that dream. This was why he was so anxious to return to formal training. At least he was until he spoke with Mace again.
Qui-Gon spent his evenings in his quarters with Master Yoda. There he had numerous projects to occupy his time, it also prevented him from having to answer prying questions of his absence in the Temple.
He was aware that rumors were beginning to circulate. Mace took great pleasure in keeping him abreast of them.
They included proving a failure to his Master, being dismissed due to his general ineptness and the one that Mace had found the most hilarious, his clumsiness had caused the death of a fellow Padawan Learner.
"You're becoming a legend in your own time." his friend teased trying to conceal other information that would concern Qui-Gon.
"What's up?" Qui-Gon asked, feeling the somber mood beneath the joking.
"Padawan Tournament's next week." Mace said quietly.
Qui-Gon shrugged, "At least I won't have to suffer through the humiliation of being eliminated in the first round again."
"Well, that's just it" Mace hesitated, "Master Nor told the class that you would be back to participate."
Qui-Gon's mouth nearly dropped open in shock. "How. . that's not. ."
He knew better than to voice his immediate opinion of fair. Fairness didn't play into the training of a Jedi Knight. The galaxy was not a fair place and Jedi training many times reflected this.
"That's not all either" Mace interrupted his thoughts.
Qui-Gon looked over at him feeling a sense of dread.
"Master Nor stated that this year the victor would also duel a Master."
Mace could barely conceal his excitement at this prospect. It was one thing to train with fellow Padawan's or one's own Master. It was another altogether to be given the chance to go up against another Master and in front of an audience. It was a rare opportunity to exhibit one's skills and maybe show off just a little.
"Just great." Qui-Gon exclaimed. This meant more people watching, just what he wanted.
Mace looked at Qui-Gon sympathetically. "You know they'll only remember the winner" he offered, "not the other fifteen contestants."
Mace was right Qui-Gon thought hopefully. It wasn't like he'd be the sole loser.
A sly smile crept across the brown-skinned Padawan. "Unless of course you manage to live up to your newly devised reputation of apprentice exterminator."
By the end of the week Qui-Gon had resigned himself to participate in the Padawan Tournament (as if he had a choice) but wondered why his Master hadn't pulled him from that too.
His classes with Sin Tu were progressing nicely. He found the Romka-Xun-Tal katas pleasantly calming and had learned a graceful proficiency with them.
The day before the tournament he told Sin Tu about it and his being compelled to participate.
"You don't sound very enthusiastic about this, son." Sin Tu said, surprised by the boy's disheartened tone.
Qui-Gon's shoulders slumped and he mumbled under his breath.
Something was eating at the young Jedi.
"Talking about it may help" Sin Tu offered "and it doesn't need to go beyond us"
Qui-Gon looked at the man uncertainly. He was a friend of Master Yoda's yet maybe he might be able to provide some insight into what his Master thought.
"I...uh.. I don't understand pulling me out of Master Nor's classes for three weeks then expecting me to participate in a tournament without proper training" Qui-Gon said quietly.
"You lack confidence in your skills?" Sin Tu questioned.
"It's not what I think that concerns me" Qui-Gon hesitated. It was a private matter, something he had not voiced openly to anyone but Mace.
Sin Tu knitted his eyebrows waiting.
Taking a deep breath Qui-Gon pushed on. "If Master Yoda feels dissatisfied enough in me to pull me out of class why would he force me to compete tomorrow."
"Is that what you believe, that he did this because he saw you inadequate?"
"What else make sense." The Jedi's emotions started to surface. His tongue now sufficiently loosened wagged recklessly.
"I don't want to sound ungrateful but these classes are not exactly warrior material. Not being a Jedi you may not understand the incredible dedication it takes to master the lightsaber or its importance to a Jedi Knight."
"I mean no offense." he added, catching himself, realizing his words may sound harsh and disrespectful.
"None taken." Sin Tu replied, shaking his head. The lad's thoughts on the superiority of the Jedi Order was understandable. What wasn't was the obvious insecurities he had of his own abilities.
Yoda could do a bit more in easing his apprentice through these highly emotional adolescent years, he thought. A few encouraging words were not going to send this young man to the dark side.
"Qui-Gon," Sin Tu made a decision. "You should know that my being here is not due to any failure on your part, quite the opposite in fact. Master Yoda saw in you great potential and came to me. After seeing you in the arena I had to agree and offered my services and you should also know my services are not called upon lightly."
Qui-Gon listened quietly. He could feel the sincerity of the man's words though they added slightly to his own confusion. He still couldn't understand replacing formal lightsaber practice with lessons given by a non-Jedi.
"I suspect this tournament tomorrow will prove highly enlightening." Sin Tu said cryptically as they parted company.