Dozens of kilometres below ground.
“Younglings you have all made it far to reach this point. Should you pass you will be considered a Padawan, and will then find a Master to be apprenticed to.
This test will test your sensitiveness to the Force, as well as foundational knowledge that will help you progress along the Jedi Path.
It’s okay to fail.
You will have three attempts. One every year, until capping at the third year.
Some of you…” he says, glancing at Juni and two others, “is their last chance. It’s okay if you don’t do well. The Force has other destinies for you.”
I place a hand on Juni, and say, “Don’t be intimidated. The Force is your only judge.”
At Cloud’s gesture, the Jedi Knight finally realises him standing behind Juni and seems shocked. He tries to keep a calm face, but eventually says, “Who might I owe the pleasure of seeing? You don’t look familiar. My apologies.”
I don’t bother answering with my name, knowing the Jedi will check records and not let me participate. ‘Force what wor- I see….’
“I’m just here to take care of my disciple. Her safety is the utmost of my concern,” I say, feeling inwardly wanting to vomit in disgust at those words. The dark side chuckles.
The Instructor looks away while saying absentmindedly, “That’s fine.”
As he continues talking, I start to wonder. It seems to me, the Jedi Instructor only realised I was standing there when I gestured to Juni.
‘I don’t think I was doing anything specific. I keep concealment up as always. Is it that? Or is it my mental illusions? They are progressing, but it’s no-where near Master’s level…
My thoughts are interrupted with, “Let’s begin.”
“Sit Initiates. Your first task is to suspend five stones, gently around you. No need for any art work, just that you can do something decently enough,” the instructor says.
Juni sits down in the cave with twenty two others. It seems this is a trial for one clan with three additions who failed before. Jedi younglings are usually grouped into twenty and called a clan for training.
Juni meditates while some chant the Jedi code.
Pebbles rise eventually after a few minutes. Some pass quickly and head for the next trial.
Juni struggles. I see her face is calm, trying not to care, but emotions in the force tell me she is nervous and anxious. I don’t know why though? So what if you fail here? Is not the Force your Master?
You could just train like I have done. I randomly feel the light side chuckle at me, but don’t get the meaning. Even the Dark side seems amused.
‘What the hell am I missing?’
My left eye flickers around perceiving the situation, before randomly flicking my hand below. Four pebbles quickly fly up joining Juni’s other one, flying stably in the air. She doesn’t seem to notice, but the Instructor notices. He seems surprised, but waits a little while.
After confirming her strength, he says, “Well done initiate Juni. Come join the others for the next trial.”
She opens her eyes surprised, looking gobsmacked at the five pebbles that are slowly returning to the floor.
I don’t give anything away and she seems to really believe it was her.
They go through some knowledge tests which Juni easily passed having studied in earlier years.
They then go through forms, which Juni given her time frame has mastered. It’s just she was stressed over the test. Now with confidence in the pebble trial, she excels in her chosen form.
Watching them reminds me of the previous girl I taught. She seemed to be fully fledged padawan already though. Juni seems to be somewhere in the middle.
Although Juni has constructed her lightsaber it was the only thing she succeeded at on her first try. All the other tests she failed. It actually confuses me. Constructing a lightsaber, I had done with the lightsabers I had acquired, but it was far later after my training. I went through innumerable tribulations to get accustomed to the force beforehand. I even wasted one lightsaber in learning and yet Juni did in her first go? Is it talent?
Looking at her young innocent face, I have my doubts. I remember my training. ‘Talent huh?’
Old memories surface.
The mystery on how I got initiated into the force. The Midichlorian count people deem they are bound to. Or at least it’s what the Jedi teach. What did the Sith in charge of that base discover?
‘The potential to become a Sith is awakened…’
‘It takes Jedi decades to learn. They think we are limited by our body. They picked those of young age so to get the ones with the best potential. I tell you, it’s not the true way. In fact, we all have the same potential…’
The words of Master and Jaguar filter through my mind and I wonder who told them such things. Do all Sith believe the same thing?
Either way, I know the Force isn’t limited by flesh. I’m living proof.
Another point is... Do we have to start young? Does the Force care for how old we are? If someone is willing to learn, what is to stop them from achieving greatness? Men?
I chuckle at that thought. The Force is like an omnipresent God unwilling to descend to physical world, but still nurtures willing vessels. It’s in harmony with universe, but far above mere time.
I recall some things of people’s history I read in the Library, but the dates don’t add up. Some seemed to have lived for centuries, but I can’t be sure. Was it their race? Or was the Force prolonging their life?
I do not know, and suppose most secrets are locked away. All I did was read the dates on their books after all.
Soon I’m brought out of my thoughts.
“Alright, all of you here will begin your last trial. This will make you padawans,” he says.
Juni seems pleased, as she is doing the last part as formality. She has already passed. The last part is to find your crystal and build it in a certain time frame. It seems all can participate even if your failed earlier ones. Jedi seem to try give their younglings all the chances available.
I feel the Force nudge me and understands this is what it meant.
I follow carefully behind Juni as she enters deeper into the hidden caves. I have no idea why a cave is here under the Jedi Temple, but I suppose it makes sense to build your Temple on top of a dense area of Force energy.
The Instructor only briefly glances over before following some of the other Initiates down.
There will be harder trials for padawans to become Jedi Knights and I know barely any make that hurdle. However, for this trial, it’s not meant to be dangerous at all. I remember that one isn’t meant to face their weaknesses yet here, just simply acquire your crystal. However, for some reason Juni wants to go back and defeat her weakness. A way of tempering herself.
I know I’m meant to be here to help, but I don’t know how.
I wordlessly follows Juni as she travels, letting the force guide her. She seems not as stressed now. Soon she moves back and falls in step beside me.
“Master Cloud,” she says.
I cringe at Master, but decides I need to keep up appearances for now.
“What is it?” he asks.
“How did your trials go?” she asks.
Horrors of the Death Cube come back to me. Brutal Acolytes beatings, and sometimes even killing each other up. Blood along the walls. Ruthless Teachers. Sith killing me… beasts killing me…. Jedi killing me….
“Uhh, well. It was……. fruitful?” I say hesitantly.
She doesn’t seem to notice, just happy at being encouraged by my last words.
They both go silent and eventually I feel a pull.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to face this one alone,” I say and quickly escapes into the mist.
“Wha-“ is all I hear behind myself as I move forward.
Force soon powers my legs as I head deeper into the cavern.
My feet travel past wide and narrow passageways following the pull, trying to keep my balance steady.
Soon, sharp stalactites appear which would easily make one feel claustrophobic down here. The ceiling is low and only certain races would make through. Deep drops into the unknown are scattered around as mist removes sight and even interfering with the force itself.
I soon feel a weird interference removing my usual Force sense, but remain unhindered by it.
I barely bat an eye at all the obstacles as it just gives me of a lukewarm impression of the death cube. I nimbly move through the obstacles not scared about the Force interference. It feels like ten or twenty voice are speaking to me at once, but it just makes me chuckle. There is only being that returns with me.
The voices disperse and my insights form a wall to not be distracted again.
Soon I make it to the other side after sometime.
Suddenly I pause and jump back.
The ground crumbles in front of me, falling down below.
Glancing over the edge, all I see is a deep dark abyss. It’s obvious normal Jedi wouldn’t even be able to get past all the obstacles to here. I wonder if anyone has explored this area before?
I soon feel my cells pulse with the Force.
It’s down there.
‘Do you expect me to fly down there?’
All I hear in response is, ‘Climb down.’
I look over the edge for any holds, but see none.
“mmm….” I mumble.
Soon I move my hand into my robe and with a prod of the Force it twists to life.
I stab the Helix blade into the stone and it cuts like tofu. I dubiously look at the blade, thinking it’s doing the job too well. These caves have been processed for perhaps millions of years. Should it be this easy to cut it?
Feeling the pull down I move on and jump down. My blade cuts down the cave slowly in my descent. I take my blade out occasionally and the walls below start to look like a piece of sewing art.
On the way back I will just need to twist my Helix blade horizontal.
As I head down, I find a few caves, but continue heading deeper. My crystal isn’t here.
After what feels like an eternity, but could have only been one hour at most, I reach the place.
A lonely place, where white mist rolls slowly through the caves. It’s cold and oxygen low.
‘It seems I will need to minimise my time here.’
I walk steadily forward as the white mist covers my tracks.
Juni feels sad at Master Cloud’s departure earlier, but it seems he has his own plans.
‘Right, maybe he didn’t leave? Perhaps it’s just his way at teaching?’
With these thoughts she continues to where she went before.
As she gets closer to her destination, a figure appears.
Overtime it becomes clearer. A figure wearing a grey and red mask. All is silent, until the figure asks, “I feel his aura on you. Where is he?”
Soon, another man comes into being.
Dark ancient armour having a rifle resting in his hands. A red visor shines within his dark black helmet. He soon flies up high with his jetpack propelling on an expanding battlefield. Humans and aliens are mercilessly slaughtered, but he cares not.
“Stop,” Juni says horrified.
It does not end.
After massacring all of the people, it shows him slaughtering their women and children, before then causing chaos in some distant city.
“Where Is He?” the figure asks a bit more louder this time.
“I don’t know!? I don’t know who he is!” Juni answers, but inwardly is disturbed at the feeling of familiarity.
The Masked figure goes silent, before snorting. The mist recedes and both figures disappear.
It takes some time for Juni to regain herself.
‘What the hell was that?’ she thinks, while staring ahead unblinking.
“Was that my weakness?” she mumbles.
She decides to continue forward for now, hoping the mystery would be resolved.
“Gotcha,” I say as I take the crystal from the stalactite. I feel dense Force energy hidden within the crystal. Soon, I store it away in a smaller bag on my belt.
After, I turn to leave.
Before I do though, the mist twists and turns, before figures show up.
“You demon! You left us to die!” says many recruits as they hold their decapitated heads and arms.
I frown, but remain unmoved.
Soon, it disappears and more events unfold.
My heart briefly trembles a little at Amelia’s death, but manages to repel the negative emotions.
It’s interesting to watch myself fight Master Leo for the first time from an outsider’s perspective. Although fast and powerful, it only took one move to strike me down. It resolves me to learn Soresu more thoroughly.
Soon, my heart turns sour, as Yuni, Lisa, Elissa, and Hannah show up.
Anger burns high, but is unable to defeat the insights that chain them down, unless I let it.
‘Anger resolves nothing,’ is all I voice internally and it recedes. I still don’t feel all that great and my mood is at an all time low.
The mist eventually calms down, but I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth.
It isn’t some time before he sobers up and heads for the surface.
“Congratulations. You lot can all be considered Padawans and I wish you best on your new training,” the Jedi master says to the new Padawans.
He nods at me, but my heart is in too much misery to care.
“Master,” Juni says.
I barely register her voice as I move upward.
The Light side tries to sooth me, which then the Dark side tries to intervene with.
Eventually the Light side gets it across, ‘You still have Amelia.’
My heart calms down at her words and I stop for a brief moment, which results in Juni catching up.
“Are you alright Master?” she asks concerned.
It’s silent, before I say, “Don’t call me Master.”
I leave the caves behind, heading upward.
It’s time to head to Kaloom.