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Spiritmaster Chapter 10

Chapter 10: This is Good Training


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Book 1 - Chapter 10

Grattan, Massachusetts Junior Year - 2019

<break>

The sacred geometry classroom was crowded. Each student had a drafting table with a large roll of paper attached to the top. Kirin had spent the first lesson learning three ways to draw circles and then practicing drawing them for an hour.

The second was copying basic runes while the master's assistant explained the purpose. Not many students had companions that the limited space accommodated. Kirin was fortunate to have Red Shama watch from his shoulder or the top of the table.

Red Shama peered as Kirin drew the simple rune for direction for the third time. "What does it do?"

"It works with other runes. It's like a single note in a song, by itself it doesn't do much. We're still learning the basics."

Red Shama hopped across the top edge of the table, peering down at the paper. Kirin was using a pencil and a compass to draw the circles. "Is it fun? Do you enjoy drawing the shapes?"

"I'm not thinking about drawing, I'm just letting the compass do what it wants." Kirin said.

The teacher who stood in for Master Schlitz was called Associate Stevens and the students could refer to him as Mr Stevens or sir. He was her assistant and had taken the first year's class each day. He walked behind Kirin to inspect his work.

"Oh dear," he said sounding disappointed. "The circles you drew on Monday were very good Kirin. But this you're supposed to copy the rune with precision. The ratios need to be exact. 1.618 is already a departure from perfection."

"Sir. I cannot force it." Kirin said.

"Listen everyone." He called and most halted their work. "Precision is what's needed for the runes. There's no negotiation with the laws of nature," Mr Stevens said emphatically. A couple of students snickered realising that Kirin was causing trouble again.

Kirin continued to draw in his carefree fashion.

Mr Stevens ripped the offending sheet from the table. "Begin again." He ordered.

The example at the front of the class were three identical circles interlocked in each corner of the rune with five lines of varying length. The length of the shortest line matched the diameter of the circles and they increased in length by the golden ratio. The longest line in the centre was the direction outcome for the rune. It was symmetrical and the length of direction line matched the circle pattern's combined length from end to end.

Kirin began again as instructed. But it was immediately apparent that he didn't replicate the rune with any precision. He drew haphazardly over the paper. While his circles were as close to perfect as a person could achieve with a compass, his drawing did not resemble the example.

Mr Stevens shook his head. "Young man. Are you trying? Or are you trying to be funny? I warn you we take our studies very seriously here at Grattan."

"Sorry sir. But I cannot force." Kirin said.

Mr Stevens thought for a moment before replying and spoke dispassionately. "I'll spend the limited teaching time with the other students. You can discuss your lack of application with Master Schlitz."

"Thank you, sir," Kirin said politely.

His reply didn't bring a reaction from Mr Stevens however the general giggling did. "That's enough." He shouted. And launched into a lecture,

"One day a well-placed, well drawn rune will save your life. This is not some math class with equations that you may or may not use in a profession. These runes can be a matter of life and death. Yours! It's not a game. You all experienced the vault; we keep the evil contained within with runes! Most of you have seen the arena in action, the protection it affords all comes from the study and application of runes.

"All the spiritmasters and the seniors who go on missions use robes with runes on them! Most for protection, but others are for offence. First years, I cannot impress upon you enough how important this class is to your future. Sacred Geometry is the most important discipline." He stressed the last sentence and the room was silent. Except for the scratching of Kirin's pencil as he drew imprecise circles and lines.

When the class was over most of the students shot them looks and laughed as Payan and Aria rushed to his side.

"What happened?" Payan asked.

"We know what happened." Aria said. "Kirin drew circles as he pleased. You know that can't work Kirin. You understand right?"

"I don't care." He said. He sounded matter of fact and not in the least belligerent.

Aria chuckled and then said, "One of you cares too much and the other not in the slightest. Am I goldilocks? The one in the middle?"

"I care too much?" Payan asked.

"Okay. Imagine you did what Kirin just did." She said.

Payan visualized the scenario and threw up in his mouth a little.

"Exactly." She said pointedly.

"Master Catori will let you do as you please but you're going to run into trouble with the other masters Kirin," Aria warned. "It'll be fun to watch. But I worry about you."

Kirin smiled. "Don't worry. It's wasted energy."

"I know!" She said and pushed him playfully. "So, stop making me waste energy."

"I'm not making you do anything," he replied.

"Argh! I can't convince you of anything." She said and threw her hands up in the air.

"We've got fifteen minutes until Spirit Arts," Payan said.

A bell rang in the distance. And then another before a cascade of bells were ringing across the campus.

The three students and their companions looked around.

"What does that signify?" Aria asked.

Both Payan and Kirin shrugged. Other juniors who were spread across the pit in their own cliques were discussing the same topic.

Master Caine left his classroom in a hurry, he walked very quickly across the pit and through the exit.

Mr Stevens then appeared from their previous classroom. "Remain calm students," he said addressing the first years gathered in the pit. "It's an emergency meeting for the master's council. Nothing to worry about." He scanned the blank faces and then went back inside his classroom.

"Nothing to worry about?" Aria said. "That means it probably is something to worry about."

Kirin began walking to the exit. And his friends quickly followed. "Where we headed?" Aria asked.

"I'm going to fetch my violin," Kirin said.

"Why?" Payan asked.

"Because Daniel is a master."

Payan nodded slowly in realisation then said, "Maybe they'll send an associate to stand in for him."

Kirin headed up the stairs and towards his room. His friends assumed he was headed to the exit forgetting the staircases up to the second floor were nestled in the arched entranceway. They waited for him at the bottom of the staircase.

"Why is he getting his violin?" Payan asked.

Aria shrugged. "Why does he do anything?"

"The flow," Payan said spookily and they laughed.

It wasn't long before he returned instrument in hand and songbird on his shoulder. With a few steps they were at the edge of the pit.

"You can do Tai Chi while I play if you like," Kirin said.

Aria looked at Payan and then back to Kirin. "Okay. But I don't really know how to do it."

"You've seen me do it," Kirin said, and she nodded. "Just go with the "

"I know. I know. The flow!" She said and laughed.

Payan said, "I can. But what do you have in mind?"

Kirin shrugged. "I felt like playing."

"It's been awhile," Red Shama tweeted. It had been almost week since they last made music together because Kirin had spent his first nights reading. It was like an itch that needed scratching.

Kirin began to play with a slow tempo and Red Shama followed with slow warbling whistles. His friends began to move in pace with his playing, turning, placing their feet purposefully and rolling their hands in traditional tai chi movements.

Aria's movements were smooth despite her claims. She looked more natural than Payan who performed a traditional kata. He watched Aria and began to let go in order to follow the music more naturally.

Kirin plucked at the strings in a slow fashion, an unusual sound from a violin while Red Shama followed his lead effortlessly. All the juniors were aware of the music and a few joined Aria and Payan. But the majority either watched quietly or chatted in their own groups.

Kirin's eyes were closed, and he took little notice of his friends' efforts to follow the music. He began to use his bow again and increased the tempo. The students keeping pace were now moving at a speed closer to a combat kata. Both Aria and Payan were more comfortable at this speed from their years of training.

Kirin's ability with the violin was excellent, but together with Red Shama they were unique and entrancing. Even the students who hadn't planned to pay attention when he first began were listening intently and enjoying the music.

Red Shama sung high, his voice cutting through the air like a sharp knife but landing softly when it reached their ears. Human instruments were commonplace, but not many of the students had ever listened to a songbird. Let alone a spirit beast songbird.

They lost track of time. The time for Daniel's class came and went long ago. The students who were performing a kata like dance fell one by one until they were all resting on the ground. After an indefinite amount of time Kirin stopped playing and opened his eyes.

"Ah that's better," he said to Red Shama and turned to walk up the staircase to put his violin away.

Aria, Payan and the students who were entertained by the music went to clap but he disappeared so quickly it turned into a smattering of applause and confused looks.

Aria stood and brushed herself off. Her Gi was covered in sand where she had sat. "I'm going to shower and change," she said and Payan nodded.

"Me too," he said, and they headed to their respective bathrooms.

<break>

The following day had two consecutive periods of Philosophy.

Mr Andreas' philosophy class had eighteen students. It wasn't empty due to some emergency; it was the core subject that the majority of juniors opted out.

"This class is fundamentally about understanding the human spirit. The path men and women before you have walked on their journey of self-discovery and through this a glimpse of how the universe works. But truly the first step on this journey is realising that we have a lot to learn."

Mr Andreas walked between the scattered students. "Each year I learn something new from the first-year students. Isn't it wonderful. I've been teaching this class for ten years now and I know you will teach me things." He sat on a desk and smiled while waiting for his statement to sink it.

"Your reading list, it's long, I know; read what interests you. All marks will hinge on your contribution. Each of you will present for thirty-minutes on your chosen topic. It can be a philosophy, a religion, or a life. It's really quite open, discuss with me if you have an out of the box idea and I will most likely approve. After your presentation you will field questions and the class can discuss.

"Be respectful and listen to each other and you will learn much more than if you read in isolation. Your contribution will not only be assessed on your presentation, but your participation with questions and discussion on others.

"We will begin the presentations in week six to give you all time to prepare. Until then feel free to run your ideas and outline by me. You can study in your room, in this class or relax in the outer grounds and meditate. You're under your own cognisance."

He waited with his usual amiable smile plastered across his face. No one moved until he suddenly said "Go!" And waved his hands in a shooing motion.

Payan caught Aria and Kirin as they walked across the pit. "He's lazier than Master Caine." He said and they laughed.

"I like it," Aria said. "It's so much different here than I expected."

"I know, right." Payan said and Kirin was quiet.

"I supposed you're going to read about The Way and present on that?" Aria asked Kirin.

He titled his head in thought before shaking it. "I'll read a little from each until one decides for me."

Aria smiled warmly showing her bright white teeth. "Good. I look forward to seeing which philosophy picks itself for you."

Payan let out a small groan, "Should I do mysticism? Is it okay?"

"You mean Ancient Persian Mysticism?" Aria asked.

"I'd like to listen to it," Kirin said.

"Yeah, why not," Aria said.

"Okay. Then I'll do it. But I'll still read the text." Payan nodded in confirmation.

"I guess that leaves me." Aria thought for a minute and then declared brightly. "I know! I'll do Daoism. The Way."

And she laughed until Kirin said, "There are twelve books in the library you can read. I'll write down the names for you."

"No, no." she waved her hand in dismissal. "I'm not reading twelve. Narrow it down to the most important two."

"Three." Kirin said.

"Okay. Okay. But don't judge me if I skim read." Aria said.

Kirin smiled. "Do as you please."

"Seriously. That's the Way? I do as I please?"

Kirin nodded.

"But you said you follow your gut?" She asked sounding confused.

He nodded.

"Which is it?" She asked in frustration.

"Both. And you must not worry." He said.

"What if we're on a mission - our pod - and if you make a bad decision someone could die?" She asked.

"Trust the Dao. Do not worry," he said.

"And if someone dies?" She asked earnestly.

"Then they die." He replied.

"Oof." Payan said. "That's harsh."

Aria looked upset. "I don't like it."

"Will you change your topic?" Payan asked.

"No. It's a topic, I don't have to follow it and it'll make for a good discussion." Aria said.

They kept walking and found themselves on the path to the library. There were still ninety minutes remaining in the schedule for philosophy and both Aria and Payan wanted to check out books on their respective topics.

A group of nine seniors walked in front of them and they were talking excitedly about a mission.

They made their way across the main courtyard to the library and the seniors diverted towards the normally restricted area. The Spirit Gates.

Kirin approached the librarian as his friends searched on a computer. "Excuse me Mam." He said and she raised her head to inspect him.

"May I help you?" She said.

Kirin nodded. "Can you recommend a book on the Fae?"

She pointed to a computer, "Search for the Summer Court. You'll find an enthralling book on Fae politics. It should be in; we have four copies."

Kirin smiled charmingly, "Exactly what I needed. Thank you." He sat down, searched as instructed and found its location. The library was humungous especially given the size of the school. It took him awhile to work out its system. He had to study the library map to find the right floor, section, and isle. There were over two hundred thousand books spread across three stories of the central building and the four towers.

All four copies sat on the shelf and he instinctively chose what appeared to be the oldest, most worn book. The pages were stitched into the binding of the hard cover. And although old, it was still in good repair. The pages were a crme colour and it wasn't unform. They hard darkened with age.

He sat down in the nearest lounge and began to read. Red Shama slept on his shoulder in an upright position. The songbird was able to balance while asleep even if he moved. He was so engrossed he didn't notice the sun set and the lamps ignite. When a hawk spied him and called out in its shrill voice, he realised that it was late, and his friends were looking for him.

"Tell him I'll come back to the rotunda soon," he said to the hawk.

It squawked again and took off, flying out the nearest window. Kirin went back to reading the enthralling book. Within a ten minutes Payan and Aria arrived.

"You're still here?" Payan asked between breaths.

"I found a book." Kirin said holding it the old copy of Summer Court. "It's very good. Did you know the Fae have a queen, queen mother, knights and princesses?"

"Did you know you missed Martial Arts and dinner?" Aria said with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"Everyone was asking us where you were." Payan said. "We had no idea. I never thought you were still here."

"We've been looking for you since dinner." Aria said.

Kirin shrugged.

"Is that it?" She said angrily.

"Do as you please," he said.

"Oh insufferable," she replied and stormed off.

Payan sat. "Ah. She was worried. We didn't know where you were. You should apologise. It'll make her feel better."

"Okay," Kirin said.

Payan looked confused. "Why didn't you just say sorry before when she was angry?"

Kirin put the book away. "You decide what you do. Aria decides what she does. If you worry, it's your decision."

"So, you don't want us to worry about you? Even if you're missing?" Payan asked.

"Do as you please." Kirin said.

Payan sighed and thought before asking. "Did you have friends before?"

Kirin thought back to his days in Greenwich middle school, while he did have a group of students that he sat with - they were acquaintances only. "No."

"It's not easy being friends with you," Payan said.

"I know," Kirin said.

Payan stood. "I'm going back to study in my room. Glad you're okay. Oh, and Master Kim said, if you see him send him to me."

"Okay." Kirin said and he stood as well.

"I'll show you how to check your book out." Payan said.

There were only three rotundas on campus, one for each year. Some staff, teachers and masters had their own accommodations on campus in two separate buildings. It didn't take long for Red Shama to scout them and find out which one belonged to the masters. Their black robes were distinctive, and while they didn't always wear them, they all did today for some reason.

Kirin pushed open the main entrance. There was no one in the foyer.

"Can you find Master Kim?" He asked.

The songbird tilted his head to the side and listened, "I'll try." He flew up to the second floor and hopped along the corridor listening at each door.

After a few minutes the songbird returned. "Three argue, two men and one woman. Master Schlitz is the female. Another showers and that is all who are here."

"Showers. Show the way," Kirin said and followed his companion.

He knocked on the door and waited. "Can you still hear it?" He asked.

"No. It is stopped," Red Shama said.

After a minute the door opened and their guess was correct, it was Master Kim. She was dressed in a robe which she pulled tightly around herself upon seeing Kirin. Although she was a full-grown adult, he was taller than her, she was around five foot eight.

She frowned at him, "I thought I would see you before dinner. It is too late now."

Kirin nodded and turned to leave.

"Wait." She called. When he turned, she continued, "Wait in the foyer. I'll be down soon."

Kirin waited patiently. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty and then after thirty minutes she appeared in her black robes and black slip-on shoes.

She sat on the hard floor and motioned for him to sit opposite. He got off the comfortable chair and sat down facing her. Sitting in a similar style with his knees under him and feet behind.

"You skipped my class." She said.

"Yes."

"Why?" She asked.

"I was reading." He replied.

She showed no emotion. She was neither surprised nor upset. "I think I know what you're doing." She said thoughtfully.

He waited.

"Master Catori said you follow The Way. Is this correct?" She asked.

"Yes." He said.

"I expect discipline in my class. Can you apply yourself?"

"No." He said.

"Can you follow commands?" She asked.

"Yes." He said. "Unless "

"Unless what?"

"Unless I'm led elsewhere." He replied. "Like reading a book."

She spoke in a low serious tone. She was not angry, she sounded caring, almost understanding. "This will not work. You're a student Kirin. You must be disciplined. The Way can wait."

"No." He said. "It is harder for an adult to let go."

She sighed. "It will be hard for you. I will not give you special treatment."

"I understand," He said. "It's okay."

"You missed todays class and we will rectify this now," She said standing. "Follow me."

They walked outside to the master's courtyard. It was dimly lit with garden lanterns. There were hedges, flower beds and a large grassed area which she walked to.

"Put your book down on the bench," she ordered. "And take up your stance here. I am your opponent."

Kirin did as she asked and took up his Tai Chi stance facing her.

She moved her fingers indicating he should attack. He did not take her invitation. She skipped towards him and said, "Move." She grabbed his shirt and pushed him back.

He allowed her to pull and push him. He showed no resistance.

"Are you a pacifist as well? This is a spar Kirin. You need to show me what you can do."

"I am," he said.

She jabbed at his face and barely connected pulling her punch before impact. He did not dodge.

"I warn you Kirin. No special treatment. Your peers sparred today. They were bruised, but they learned. They gained experience and I was able to gauge their ability."

Kirin's palms were up facing her, and he was balanced.

She tested him with a feint kick, but he did not react.

"The Way is not pacifist. It is not too far from the Buddhist monks who trained me. Why do you not fight?" She asked.

"I'm waiting," he said.

She jabbed and pulled her punch then grabbed his arm and pulled him to her side and over her outstretched leg, throwing him to the ground.

"Up," she said.

He jumped up quickly and faced her again.

"Defend yourself," she ordered and threw three punches in quick succession to his stomach and face. They all connected and would leave bruises.

"Still waiting?" She asked and he nodded.

She sidestepped, raised her knee, and kicked down on his leg. He stumbled but recovered.

She repeated the exact same move and he took the blow again.

"That hurts! I know it does," She said in frustration. "Dodge!"

She repeated the move a third time and he took the blow again.

"What are you waiting for?" She sounded upset and frustrated.

"I'm waiting for the flow to tug me." He said.

"The Dao?" She asked.

He nodded.

"So, you will let me hit you until you feel moved to act?"

He nodded.

She stood up straight abandoning her fighting stance. "Kirin. This cannot work. How can you learn to fight? It's important you train properly."

"This is good training." He said. She looked at him with bewilderment and pointed to his injured leg.

He nodded and said, "Even when you hit me, and I know it will hurt, I'm waiting for the flow."

She shook her head in disappointment, turned, and walked back to the master's quarters without another word.

Kirin retrieved his book and hobbled back to his room with Red Shama on his shoulder.


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