Home SpiritmasterChapter 12

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Book 1 - Chapter 12

Grattan, Massachusetts Junior Year - 2019

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The handheld drum sat innocently on the desk in his room.

Kirin stared at it.

It glowed with a subtle green and yellow aura. It's leather bindings, wooden frame and animal skin membrane were crafted exquisitely.

"Did you see this aura on my hand drum?" Kirin asked.

The songbird hopped onto his desk from the windowsill. It rubbed its cheek on the side of the drum gently as if scratching itself. "It's always been there."

"Oh? I only noticed today." Kirin said.

"Perhaps you are growing." Red Shama replied. "I wonder when I will grow too."

"How much will you grow?"

The songbird dipped his head before raising it and jumping back onto the windowsill with a single flap of his wings. "It is not for me to know. It will happen or it will not. Some beasts become powerful, while others stay the same."

Kirin picked up the drum and tied the two leather cords at the base of its handle to his wrist. When he gripped it the two pebbles beat the drum with a slight twist of his hand. He was able to set a rhythm to walking, or slow breathing or a very fast rhythm and easily switch between them. The sound had a pleasant bass quality despite its small size. The wood and skin combining to give it a rich tone.

It felt natural for Kirin to play with his left hand. He wrote and drew with his right and used his violin bow with his right, but the drum felt more comfortable in his left. Dressed in his jeans and black shirt he pulled his white school robes over the top. All the first years wore white and most struggled to keep them clean.

He left his room and walked the length of the veranda which overlooked the pit to the staircase. The pit was full of students gathering for their first class and it was easy for Aria and Payan to notice Kirin exiting his room for the long walk from down in the pit.

When Kirin reached the bottom of the stairs he didn't head towards his friends, he took a left and exited the rotunda into the main courtyard.

Aria looked at Payan, "Where's he going? We have spiritual arts in five minutes."

Payan shrugged before whispering to his companion. The hawk took flight and with a few quick beats flew up out of the centre of the rotunda.

A few minutes later the hawk returned and squawked at Payan who in turn informed Aria. "He went inside the library."

Aria frowned and said, "Should I go get him?"

Payan shook his head. "He's knows what he's doing, and you'll be late as well."

"He could at least tell us," Aria complained.

"Why?" Payan said. "We're not responsible for his attendance and grades."

"Yeah. But it's our pod and he knows we'll worry." Aria whined.

Payan chuckled. "Don't you listen? He'll say it's our decision to worry. It's like his actions bear no responsibility for other people's choices. When there's a choice involved. It's messing with my logic."

Aria thought for a moment before saying, "I know. It's so frustrating. I can read most people easily. Based on your mood your aura changes colour, shade and even energy levels. But his is always a very light shade of teal."

"Greenish blue?"

Aria nodded.

"What does that signify?"

Aria shrugged. "It can mean a lot of things. You need context to work it out. With Kirin there is no context because it doesn't fluctuate. And he's not sad, jealous or determined."

Payan thought for a moment, "He is determined. In his own way."

The hour bell rang signalling time for class to begin.

Two hours of ritual practice passed quickly, and Daniel appeared to not notice nor care that Kirin was absent.

Aria and Payan were intercepted by Jerome before they exited the rotunda.

"Where's the third member of your pod?"

Her tone dripping with hostility, Aria replied, "You mean Kirin?"

Jerome nodded. "Yeah."

"What's it to you?"

"I uh. Just asking. I noticed he wasn't in class."

"Just focus on your own stuff. Don't worry about Kirin or our pod. Okay," Aria said harshly.

"Okay, Okay," Jerome said waving his hands in appeasement.

The pair departed and made towards the library.

"That was a bit harsh, wasn't it?" Payan asked Aria lightly.

She shrugged, "Maybe, but I didn't like what I saw in his aura."

Payan laughed.

"What?"

"I was imagining what your aura looked like when you blasted him."

She laughed with him.

After circling the building Payan's hawk returned and squawked at his companion.

"Second floor, to the right, near the tower at the back."

She nodded and commented, "Good eyes."

"We can handle the day and you can manage the night," Payan said.

"True," she replied. Her owl preened at the compliment.

They tracked down Kirin who was reading in one of the many small lounge sections scattered throughout the library.

"Hey," Aria said. "Whatcha reading?"

Payan turned and peered at her.

He held the book up and they read the title. "My Theories on Domain Creation by Cantankerous Curse."

"It's for my oral," Kirin said.

"Who the hell is Cantankerous Curse?" Aria asked.

"The Author," Payan replied.

"Strange name," Aria noted.

"He or she wants to remain anonymous. It's a pen name," Kirin said.

Aria sat opposite and took on a serious tone. "Daniel didn't seem to care that you missed spiritual arts. What's going on? You started so well in the arena."

"This is what I need to do right now."

"Okay," Payan said turning to leave.

"Wait." Aria said stopping him.

"I was just going to get a book," Payan said innocently.

"You know we're connected now. We're a pod. What we do affects each other," Aria said.

"We don't have to worry about him," Payan said and Aria shot him a glare. "I mean. He's competent. It's more likely we'll hold him back."

"Maybe now. But what if he starts to fall behind? What if this becomes more and more common?" Aria asked. "I'm thinking ahead."

"They're what ifs," Payan said and turned to retrieve a book. It seemed any book would meet his needs right now.

Aria huffed in annoyance. She glared at Kirin who sat reading in silence. Although she sent waves of emotion in his direction he was not phased.

"A normal person would feel that and look up," she said after calming down.

"This is an interesting book," he replied.

A dry laugh escaped her. "You know, I don't really mind. You know, about the pod. I just worry about you."

"That's your choice," he said and continued to read.

A long sigh escaped her lips as she leaned back in the comfortable reading chair.

Payan sat on a chair nearby. "Going to read?" He asked her.

"Nope," she said closing her eyes and curling her knees up under her on the chair. "I can nap anywhere."

She stirred after almost an hour and both the boys were still reading. She checked her phone. "Sac Geo in thirty minutes."

Payan nodded, "I know. I was going to wake you."

"Kirin?"

"Not today."

"Seriously? Daniel is one thing but messing with Master Schlitz in a subject you're terrible at?"

"Aria," Payan pleaded. "Don't you listen? He doesn't give two hoots."

"I hear him," She said, "But that doesn't mean I give in."

Payan chuckled. "You might be stubborn. But he's got you beat on blind determination."

She pushed Payan. "Yep. You're right. You're wiser than me. But I don't fold as easy as you."

Payan looked hurt. "I don't fold!"

"Oh please." She scoffed. "You're like butter left out on a hot summers day. You melt predictably and quickly."

"Whatever," he said and walked off.

"Yeah, whatever," she said. She looked back at Kirin who was engrossed in his book. He paid their argument no heed. "I'll come get you for dinner. I'm not taking a plate for you again. You can darn well come."

"Sure," he said without looking up.

Kirin made notes in his journal as he read. Not only from what he was reading but ideas that it gave him. He continued to study the book until Aria returned a few hours later. He didn't protest and followed her to dinner.

The dining hall was almost full. They joined the first years in the far section who all wore white robes.

The second years sat in the middle section and wore either red or orange depending on their practical performance ranking. The seniors who sat closest to the door wore yellow, except for a few who wore green robes. All the staff on campus wore colours ranging from blue to black. The robes themselves were worn over regular clothes and varied in type. Most were like wrap around cloaks while others were large ponchos.

The masters and senior teachers who attended dinner sat up on the dais overlooking all the students.

There were no announcements and the students ate in an orderly fashion. Waiting their turn based on year and table. The order itself was random and if a student arrived late, they could just line up for a meal as long as service was still open.

Kirin sat across from Aria and Payan with his back to the rest of the hall. He didn't see Max until she announced herself. "Ah you're here. Don't you check your phone?"

"No." Kirin replied.

She looked at his wrist and there was no watch, "How do you know what time it is?" And then she looked at his friends, "I suppose they baby you."

"Yes." He said. And they heard Max's friends' chuckle. Against normal protocol the three sat down either side of Kirin. There was plenty of room because the other first years gave him a wide birth.

"Aren't you going to introduce us?" A girl with pale skin and black hair said.

"This is Felicity, and this is Tristan," Max said. "My pod." They all wore orange robes indicating they were in the higher ranked tier of second years.

"We wanted to meet you," Felicity said. "But Max has been stubborn, and you didn't come to dinner for several nights. Why is that?"

"I wasn't hungry," Kirin said.

"Speaking of hungry, our table's up." Tristan said and he joined the line for his meal.

"Be right back," Felicity said and followed him.

"Don't embarrass me," Max said quietly to Kirin before following her friends.

"Can they line up with their table and bring their food back here?" Payan asked speculating on the rules.

Aria shrugged. "Apparently. Does it matter?"

"No. I suppose not," Payan said.

The second years sat back down with meals in hand. While the first years waited for their turn.

"So," Tristan said between mouthfuls. "We went on a mission on the weekend and Master Catori couldn't stop asking Max questions about you." He waited expectantly for a response and seemed surprised when Kirin gave none.

Felicity finished her mouthful and said, "Max never mentioned you and ,"

"Fel," Max said interrupting. "Careful."

Felicity giggled and responded to Max. "Me? Of course." She then turned back to Kirin "And that just made us more intrigued. When she didn't want us to talk to you, it made me want to even more." Then she laughed for quite some time.

"You always want what you can't have." Tristan said knowingly.

Aria stood. "Our turn." She walked briskly around the table and pulled Kirin out of his chair.

Max snorted.

"What?" Felicity said.

"He's a mommy's boy. Even here he found someone to mother him." Max said snarkily.

"Oh, I dunno," Felicity said. "He's kinda cute."

Max turned red. "Fel. I swear. Don't. Don't. I'll die."

Felicity giggled. "Oh please."

"He's two years younger than you. It's cradle snatching," Max said sternly.

"Fine," Felicity said in resignation and went back to her food.

Tristan was first to finish his meal and the first years were just getting started. He pushed his plate forward and asked. "Kirin. Why is Master Catori interested in you?"

Kirin shrugged.

Tristan looked disappointed and Max shrugged and made a face in a "I told you so" fashion.

"Because of the vault," Payan said.

"The vault?" Felicity said, "Do tell. What happened?"

Payan looked to Kirin who ate calmly ignoring everyone and then said, "Kirin just walked in like it was nothing."

"Into the vault? Or the foyer?" Max asked.

"In all the way," Payan said dramatically.

Tristan whistled.

"How?" Felicity asked.

"Like the trial," Max said knowingly. "He's so brain dead he doesn't feel a thing."

"Hey!" Aria sounded offended. She half stood in her chair.

Max rolled her eyes at the younger girl.

"It's obviously something," Felicity said attempting to broker a peace. "Master Catori doesn't show interest in a first year like that for nothing."

"He's different. Very different," Aria said, and she sat back down.

"He doesn't speak for himself?" Tristan asked.

Max snorted. "He's different. He'll only answer if he feels its required."

"So, what's your secret Kirin?" Felicity asked moving her chair closer to him.

"It's impossible to explain with words," Kirin said.

"Try," Felicity said sweetly.

Max groaned.

"I wait and I flow," he said.

Felicity looked over Kirin's shoulder at Max quizzically.

"Don't expect me to explain his gibberish," Max said.

"Read a book on Daoism," Payan said helpfully.

"Really?" Felicity asked.

Kirin nodded.

"I thought it was impossible to explain with words?" Felicity said.

"Oh. You're smart," Aria said sarcastically.

"Then how will reading a book help?" Tristan asked.

"A book can make you think," Kirin explained.

"Okay. I get it," Felicity said. "It's like the book will open the door, but we still have to work out the puzzle to go through?"

"More like the book will lead you to the path, which leads to the door, which is locked and you have to work out how to unlock it and then open it and then you can go through," Aria said and laughed.

"You're serious?" Felicity asked.

"No," Aria said. "I have no idea." She then sighed and added. "I just know it's not about knowledge. He lives it."

"True," Kirin said, and Aria smiled.

"I can see why Master Catori is intrigued now," Felicity said. "He can waltz through the vault without a care in the world and his method sounds like a mysterious, slightly out of reach, type of enlightenment."

"Exactly," Payan said.

"And you can't learn it. You have to live it," Tristan said and laughed. "It's sounds all too hard."

"It's easy when you give in to it. But I think the older you get the harder it would be," Kirin said.

"Give in to what?" Max asked in frustration.

"The flow," Kirin said.

"What's ," Felicity began, and Max cut her off.

"Don't. He'll just say it can't be explained with words. Haven't you worked it out? It's a neat circle of logic which supports itself without explaining anything."

Kirin exhaled slowly. "Okay, I'll try." And they all waited with bated breath.

"You wait. You don't act until you feel a tug.

"The tug; it's in your gut. It feels right. It's your spirit telling you do it not your mind. Not your body. Listening for the tug is the hardest part. You don't know if its your mind playing tricks, or your body wanting something.

"You have to pay close attention to know the difference. You cannot worry if the tug is right or what will happen. You put all your faith in it. Trust it. Then when you do it becomes easier. Then when you listen and can feel the tug and know its not false, all you need to do it wait for it. You wait, you flow."

Felicity's eyes were wide open. "It sounds crazy."

"Is he okay?" Tristan asked genuinely.

"It's like a religion," Max said. "He listens to some voice and doesn't really make decisions himself."

"But it works," Aria said.

Max shook her head, "I'm not sure. He has massive natural ability. My father sees it. Maybe it's just his natural ability allowing him to walk unhindered through the vault."

"I don't think so," Aria said. "His aura is incredibly stable."

"Yeah I see that," Felicity said. "Are you an empath?" She asked Aria who nodded. "So, his aura is always this colour? A very light shade of greenish blue?"

Aria nodded again.

"I find it so attractive," Felicity said.

"Fel!" Max exclaimed.

"What? It's true," She said disarmingly.

Kirin stood. "I've got study to do." He said and began to walk away with his plate in hand. Aria and Payan followed him and returned their plates as well.

"Max," Felicity said quietly, "Why are you embarrassed by him? He's not your relative."

She shrugged. "I dunno. He's like a pain in the arse without even trying to be."

Tristan chuckled. "That's an unfortunate skill."


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