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||You are on Week 281
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Two Hundred Eighty One Ends July 14
"Slowly now. Find your balance. Patience is a virtue. There can be no focus without patience." The Techo Master walked around, nodding at students as he spoke in his quiet voice, occasionally stopping to help someone adjust their stance. "Flow like water. Just like water breaks effortlessly on that which it touches, so shall you."
Willard gritted his teeth as he teetered precariously on one foot. The Kougra struggled silently for a few more minutes before finally losing the battle and stumbling forward onto all four paws, muttering angrily under his breath.
The Techo Master came over and regarded the Kougra serenely as the student resumed his stance. "He who rushes along the path cannot see the pitfalls before him. You must be patient, Willard."
"I don't want to be patient!" Willard fumed. "I want to be the best now!"
"You have great potential, my son, very great potential. The road to the top of the mountain is very long and difficult, however, and there are no shortcuts along the path. If you stray to search for them, you will only become lost."
* * * * *
"No shortcuts," Willard muttered to himself as he carefully sheathed his sword. "I sure proved him wrong, didn't I? I'm much more advanced now than those stupid children who are still painstakingly making their way through that old fool's classes. What a waste of time that was!" He thought angrily of the Techo Master's last words to him when he had declared he was leaving the Training School once and for all.
"You were my greatest student... and my greatest disappointment," the Techo had said calmly, with just a hint of sadness in his eyes.
"Greatest disappointment," Willard repeated savagely. "He was only half right about that. I am the greatest – the greatest fighter in the world. Now I'm going to return and prove it to him..."
Author: loves kung-fu fighting|
Date: Jun 30th
...As Willard placed one paw against the weatherbeaten door of the training school, a part of him shivered at the wave of memories that came flooding back to him; however, instead of nostalgia, they filled him with a feeling of intense, bitter resentment. How many times had he returned here, day after day, to endure the Techo’s cryptic advice and impossible lessons, in the hopes of becoming the strongest warrior to walk the face of Neopia? He had been so naive then. He had actually believed that those exercises, which seemed to have no purpose whatsoever, had the potential to bring him any power at all.
* * * * *
“Willard, take your time,” the Techo had chided him so many times, a trace of a smile lingering about his face. “Learn to focus on your goal; do not waver. You must become as a lotus resting gently on the surface of a pond--”
“Begging your pardon, master, but what does that have to do with anything?” Willard interrupted, his face twisted in frustration as the bamboo stalk he was perched on wobbled precariously. “I’m not a flower, and this isn’t a pond.”
The Techo Master shook his head, his eyes shining with mirth. “Patience, young one! Indeed, you are not a flower; you are a bud that has yet to open.” As if to prove his point, he tapped the Kougra gently on the shoulder, and at once the young pet toppled to the ground, the bamboo clattering beside him on the smooth stone of the courtyard. “Do not allow yourself to be distracted by any motion around you, whether it be a ripple or a wave. Focus your entire being on the task at hand. Only then will you be able to learn what I have to teach you.”
* * * * *
Snarling to himself, Willard pushed past the heavy doors and stepped forward into the cool, quiet interior of the school. The Techo had been filled with metaphors and supposed “wisdom”, but he had taught him nothing. After the Kougra had left Mystery Island, he had traveled across Neopia, visiting every master of combat he had been able to find; he’d demanded they teach him how to fight, how to win, and nothing more. Once they had passed their useful knowledge on to him, despite their protests, Willard moved on immediately. Never again would he waste his time on frivolous stances and meditation, or any other "art" of battle.
“I’ve learned more on my own than you could ever teach me, ‘Master’,” the Kougra sneered to the stillness around him, digging his claws into the hard-packed earthen floor at his feet. As soon as the Techo showed himself, he would witness that fact first-hand.
“Is that so?” came the calm reply from behind him. “Then I suppose you will have a great deal to teach me.”
Willard gave a startled cry and spun on his heel, his paw grasping the hilt of his sword...
Date: Jul 5th
...Trying to recover quickly from his shock, Willard bared his teeth in a defiant snarl. He ripped his sword from its sheath, light dancing across the blade as he waved in the air in front of him.
"That's right. Long I studied under you getting nowhere. But now, now I will show you the foolishness of your ways. Your cryptic messages taught me nothing, and in my journeys I have learned the true ways of a fighter."
The Techo had been studying Willard, and when the speech was finished, the Master continued regarding him. It infuriated Willard that it was not with the caution or fear that he had expected to see in the old master's eyes, but rather, that same pitiful sadness that had showed when Willard left for his training.
Willard decided that he would have to change this. He raised his sword into the air. Letting out an earsplitting cry, he lunged towards the Techo Master. Blinded by his own anger, the Kougra hardly realized that the Master had employed an evasive maneuver until he toppled to the earth without the expected resistance to meet him.
"I'm sure you have learned much in the ways of fighting" radiated the raspy voice of the Techo. "But a reed must sway in the water so to avoid being uprooted by the river's great currents, and thusly the river cannot win with all of its strength."
The hated voice of the Techo Master rang in Willard's ears as he used his arms to propel his body upright once more.
Willard snarled, "Why must you speak in riddles? Come at me, or so let your cowardice be exposed!"
The Techo Master remained standing in the place where his sidestep had brought him to.
“I have no reason to fight; it is you who wishes to prove your worth to me. No more than the mountain strives to prove its strength to the winds must I prove my strength to you,” was the Techo Master’s reply as he shifted his weight, expecting another attack.
Willard sprung at him once more, more quickly than he had the first time. Still, the Master was ready for it and sprung into the air, landing behind the Kougra. Willard barely stopped himself from falling over a second time, and spun around so that he was facing the Techo.
The Techo now spoke again, asking “What happiness has come to you as result of your travels?”
“I am a better fighter than if I had stayed in your mockery of a school,” the Kougra, still bitter from his failed attack, retorted with scorn filling his voice.
“Only because you had given up, my son, but the man who tries to gain happiness by doing things only to spite others never succeeds in finding what he wants.” The Techo bowed his head sadly as he spoke. “You left my school looking for shortcuts. What you found was the opposite.”
Willard yelled at the Master, “I have learned more than you would have ever taught me! If you would fight back for once, I would prove it to you! And I’m not your son!”
Willard once again flew towards the Techo with a flurry of attacks...
Date: Jul 6th
...and once again his sword brushed through empty space. He had forgotten how fluid the Techo's motions were.
The young Kougra paused for a moment, gathering his wits about him. His opponent (or so he assured himself) had nothing better than riddles and illusion to fight with. Now that he considered it, he felt certain he knew why he kept missing -- the subtle flow of Master's robes, the misleading movements of his shoulders and hands, these things were leading him astray. He felt certain that if he just concentrated...
"What is in your heart? Will killing me bring you peace amidst bloodshed?"
His concentration broke again, just as he was lunging forward. The Techo's voice seemed to carry the weight of a weapon, distracting and misleading him.
"Shut up! shut up and fight!" Willard screamed, sliding to a halt as he missed his mark once again, using the momentum of his swing to spin him around.
He swore he saw the Techo smile; this only infuriated him more. Yet the rage that built now was colder and more focused. Well, Willard thought to himself, his former master had failed to take one important thing into consideration. He may have been strength training, and he may even have been blinded by his own anger, but once upon a time he had trained here and if he thought about it... yes, indeed, he did know how to deal with this sort of passive resistance.
* * * * *
"Master, if the water always destroys the rock over time, what can the rock do to fight back?" He had not been the one to ask the question. It had been a little Bori, a hardshelled creature without much talent.
"The rock cannot destroy the water, my child, unless it comprehends it. At the moment when the water is entirely confined within the rock -- at the moment it stops moving -- it becomes stagnant. If you cannot be water, then you must at least understand it. The strength of the rock is in its stamina, not its weight. The victory of the rock is in forcing the water to be still until the sun comes out."
* * * * *
It was a riddle that he thought he understood. Willard could not destroy the Techo all at once, perhaps, but he could outlast him. Quietly, his rage coalescing into a bitter determination, Willard moved to stand at the door, his leonine weight blocking the only exit from the school.
"You will fight me," he said coldly, "or you and your students will die."
Sword still held steady in his right paw, with his left he quietly pulled loose a glass vial from his belt. He had picked this trinket up at the small magic shop in the center of Neopia; at the time he had not realized how useful it would be.
"You cannot hurt me by forcing me to stay in my own home," the Techo Master spoke with an ill-timed certainty. "My patience is greater than yours."
Willard laughed, popping the cork of his vial. Flames immediately sprang out, and he thrust it upwards into the straw thatch and dry wood of the Training School.
"Let's see how your little reeds do against fire!" Willard laughed madly. "Come and get me, Riddle Master!"...
Date: Jul 6th
...The Techo seemed to freeze, his features growing softer and his face abruptly falling. There was such sorrow in his eyes, and the fire sparked within them... or could that be anger?
Willard brought his trusty sword up to face the Master. It was entirely horizontal now, flame-lit and seeming as though it was made only of orange light. The sun was setting. Soon it would be dark, and all that could be seen would be what was left of a smoldering school. Willard smiled.
His head and body were focused, but his mind had escaped him. The Techo had driven him over the edge and now he felt he was operating in some kind of mist. But it felt so good against his angry muscles...
The Techo spoke, taking his eyes off of the blaze. "You were my greatest student, Willard," he said, as if he too were in a fog he wasn't used to.
"Yeah, and your greatest disappointment."
The Techo drew himself up to full height. He looked angry and ready now to commit to combat, but still there was an aura of tranquility about him. He pulled his hands from his robe and faced Willard in a martial arts stance.
"I believe, my friend, that you have far surpassed disappointment."
Then the battle began.
Students escaping the fire stopped their panic to watch the actions of the fighters. Willard, precarious but agile, fighting with more stamina than he knew what to do with. The Master, moving effortlessly in his own field, using his own hands to deflect and inflict. They gasped in unison when the Techo turned tail and appeared to run, but instead jumped onto a banister and then soared up to the roof. Fire swirled around him, eating the night sky alive.
"Fire burns with strength unsurpassed, but when there is nothing left to feed off of, it can do nothing but smolder and die," he said, facing his students. Then he turned to Willard. "You are the Fiery One. Fight me amidst your own element."
In one well-trained leap Willard landed among the thatch that was yet to be engulfed. He growled, then roared into the night. The stars seemed to shake at the sound, but the Techo Master remained still, hands out. Smiling.
It was so beautiful. The feeling of a silken robe beneath his paw pads. The solidity of flesh that halted his body's horizontal plunge. The smell of smoke, of one victory...
But then something else happened. There was nothing under him, but sparks and straw and flame and robe around him. Then a crash, then wood, then another crash, more wood... then a thud.
He and the Techo had landed in a stone room deep beneath the school, having fallen through the burning roof and several floors. Darkness creeped along the ground here.
"Where are we?" Willard said angrily, searching the black for any sign of the disappeared Techo.
The Techo took a long breath before answering...
Date: Jul 7th
..."It's what we -- the Masters before me and I -- have called... The Reflection Room," whispered the Techo Master, his voice respectful.
Willard paused slightly. Did he sense a bit of fear in the Techo? He sneered slightly. Old, withered lizard.
As if reading Willard's very mind, the Techo spoke up. "You would do well not to disturb the spirits that lurk here. They will not be as merciful towards you as I."
"Hah!" boomed Willard. He flinched slightly as his voice echoed throughout the stone room, but he refused to show his fear. "Spirits? What spirits can harm me? I have achieved power, greater that you."
The room was dark; Willard could hardly see his paw in front of his face. But he could imagine the disappointment etching the old Techo's face.
"Pride will be your downfall," the master said quietly, regretfully. "Power is not only achieved through brute strength, young one. Even the greatest fire must be stoked."
Before Willard could respond, he froze, feeling something like a cold, sharp nail graze about the length of his spine. He shivered, despite the volcanic heat lingering in the chamber.
I am lost. So lost...
Willard paused, trying to control his breathing. What was that sound? A pitter-pattering of some sort...
He held out his paw. It remained dry in this still, stone room. But... No. How could it be? Willard whipped around, his heart pounding a bit harder than before. “Old Techo, what witchery is this?” he demanded, his voice angry.
The old Techo did not answer. His shadow remained still.
Willard sniffed. He couldn’t smell anything. No rain, no other being in this stone room besides him and his former Master. But... those voices. What were they?
From where do you come?
Willard whimpered slightly, trying to cover his ears with his paws. No. NO. This could NOT be happening.
The room blurred slightly. The voices, once merely echoes of a deeply hidden past, were so much clearer.
I don’t know.
* * * * *
All he remembered was how green the jungles of Mystery Island were. And the thirst. Oh yes, he remembered the thirst -- how everything was so humid but just how parched his throat was. Sweat coated his matted fur like film. Every movement he made took so much effort, as if he were trapped in a heavy cloud.
The rain mixed with the volcanic ash had not let up for three days, but he could not drink it. His body could accept no more of the sulfur.
Willard, then unnamed, had grit his teeth despite everything and continued. He fought against the jungle with every ounce of his strength. He had to keep moving. The pack of wild Kougras he had fought off earlier were regrouping and he had to put some space in between them.
His legs were shaking with hunger. His vision was blurry from the rain.
He could not go any further.
Willard fell to the ground with a splash, drops of rain or tears rolling down his furry cheeks. He watched from the corner of his eye as the fastest of the Kougra pack emerged from the wild underbrush. He was so tired, but he refused to close his eyes. He would meet his demise with courage, without fear.
But he was so afraid.
They pounced, claws glimmering and teeth sharp. Willard held his breath. This was the end.
A green blur, bright and noticeable even against the jungle, flashed before his eyes like a green bolt of lightning.
Willard watched, fascinated. Its fighting style... so elegant, so fluid. Imagine his surprise when he saw that it was an old Techo! But despite its age, the Techo fought like a true Master.
When the rest of the pack scampered away, the old Techo turned toward Willard. Willard’s first reaction was to bare his teeth and growl, but he was too hurt to lunge. The old Techno knew this, the sly old thing. Instead, in a voice so tranquil that it made Willard’s ferocious glare soften just a bit, it... HE... asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know,” Willard bit out, stubbornly trying to stand. He failed and fell down onto the muddy ground.
The old Techo wasn’t fazed. “From where do you come?”
The answer was hesitant. “I don’t know.”
The old Techo observed him. His old eyes were so gentle. “It’s raining. If you wish, you may take shelter at the Training School until you find your path.”
Willard wanted to protest, to deny his weakness. But what came out of his mouth was just the contrary. “I am lost. So lost...”
“Rest. I will call my students to take you back.” Then the Techo smiled slightly, his robes soaked by rain. “You are fire, a great, roaring fire. A fire that is so brilliant that it must be stoked before rain or its own destruction quells it...”
* * * * *
Willard breathed heavily. It was... when the Master had first found him. He heard footsteps behind him. He whipped around to find the shadowed face of his former Master staring at him solemnly...
Date: Jul 10th
...It took a long time for Willard to find his voice. Finally he managed between gasps, "Why did you show me this? Do you think that because you rescued me once you should be in command of me for the rest of my life?"
The Techo Master stared at him sadly. "It was not I who set your memories before your eyes; it was those who dwell in this chamber. And as for your other question: I wish not to command, only to teach -- to put my students in touch with the fullness of their abilities, to make them all that they can be. I tried to do that for you."
Despite his fear, and the memory of his rescue by the Techo, Willard felt anger rising in his heart and his lip curling into a sneer. "All you tried to do was drag me down and fill my head with nonsense!"
"I attempted to teach you wisdom, and to give you a foundation on which to build the house of your skill. Without a strong foundation, all that you have achieved will come crashing down at the first touch of the wind. Did you defeat me? Was your power, which you claim is greater than mine, sufficient to break my defense? Or was I able to bring you here, where you will learn what you need to know, and discover that which you seek?"
"All I seek," Willard grated, "is to prove to the world that I am the best!"
"To reach the end of the road, you must first tread the beginning," the Techo told him quietly.
Willard's mind and heart were reeling with conflicting emotions. "I'm leaving," he finally choked. "I'm getting out of this wretched place, and going to... to..."
"No," the Techo said softly, "you may not leave yet. They who dwell in this place will not allow you to go before you have learned what I brought you to learn. And until your foundation is built..." He drew a deep breath, as if resigning himself, then concluded, "Neither of us will be permitted to leave."
"And IF I wanted to follow your road out of here," Willard asked cautiously, "what would I have to do?"...
Date: Jul 10th
..."You must find the proper beginning of your path, not illuminated with bold flames, but edged with wisdom. It is not my road, but yours. Only you can find the truth." The Techo Master seemed less forbidding than before, perhaps because his old pupil had shown some interest, if only the slightest bit.
"Those are no clear directions!" the Kougra protested angrily. "You just want me to be trapped and mill around blindly until the end of time, never to see the world again!"
"Until you have been enlightened, your education will be colored and warped by outside influences. Look at your reflection -- and through it -- and break free. Just as the grasshopper sits by the pond, captivated by his own image, he only needs to dip a leg and shatter that paradigm, to be free."
"More mysticism?" Willard sneered. "I haven't got time for this..." But as he said it, he could feel the stone walls of the chamber closing in on him, keeping him captive as long as it required.
"There is all the time in the world, my son. One who can only see himself, cannot see beyond that." The Techo inhaled deeply and directed a clear gaze at his old student. The slight tapping of his fingers on his worn robe and the tiny wrinkles that appeared around his brow revealed his troubled thoughts. Finally the Master decided upon the technique that would be the most compatible one, in accordance with the Kougra that was standing in front of him, here and now.
But before he could part his lips to reveal the next scrap of wisdom, or ridiculous riddle, as Willard called it, undulating waves washed over them.
At first it was gentle, similar to the fog that the Kougra had been enveloped in recently. With each wave, the tide grew stronger. Growing nervous, Willard gripped tightly on to the stone with his paws, clutching onto that solid foundation like his life depended onto it. His emotions were as turbulent as his surroundings, but they all acknowledged that if he would lose, if he was swept away by that torrent.
Muscles straining, the Kougra found himself growing weaker as the inexorable waves grew higher and higher, suffocating him. The haughty expression he had worn melted away as his face was twisted into a grotesque mask in order to catch a breath.
Having been submerged in total water, Willard thought that he heard a soft echo. Straining his ears, the Kougra caught those floating, bubbly words.
Where will you go?
It was that multitude of voices, asking him yet another question.
* * * * *
"Where will you go?"
"What?" the young Kougra spluttered, glaring at the Techo Master. The waves crashed upon the beach, hauntingly calling him to depart.
"What path will you choose?" the Techo Master asked.
"I'm fed up with you and those asinine comments of yours. Your students are just weak-minded nilly-willies who believe everything you tell them! All that stupid talk, and no action! And they call you the grandest teacher in Neopia? Humph!" Willard exclaimed furiously. He took a deep breath, his face red with anger, and continued.
"I'm much more advanced than what your elemental methods will allow... There are better teachers out there, not just rambling random clever phrases but actually teaching fighting! And one day I'll come back, and you'll see! I'll be the greatest fighter that the world has ever known! Even you, with your foolish words and 'wisdom' will bow to my prowess!"
"Learning is a life-long process. Just as the water flows forth from a trickle into a pond, to a river, an estuary and into the sea, the education of a mind does likewise. There are no shortcuts to the ultimate goal that you speak of. You've chosen the hard path -- one that requires much effort -- like your character. You..." said the Techo.
"It doesn't matter what you say, I'm leaving!" snapped the Kougra, interrupting the Master.
"If you will not hear me out, at least heed what I have to say," whispered the Techo Master, his voice almost drowned out by the loud crash of seawater exerting their efforts upon the grains of sand that the beach consisted of.
"You were my greatest student... and my greatest disappointment," the Techo said calmly, with just a hint of sadness in his eyes.
Willard had already turned around, but the words reached him as he was troubled by the multitude of trails leading into the jungle. Which one... which path to take?
* * * * *
As if he was standing in the very fabric of that peculiar dream himself, Willard looked at the roads. There were many trails around him, confusing and confounding. But no longer existent was the rage that had induced such rashness within him. He scanned the area, and looked behind him to find that there were equally many paths as it was on the other side.
"Where will you go?" a soft voice inquired...
Date: Jul 11th
...Willard remembered which path he had taken so many years ago... the one straight ahead and to his left, covered in thorns. He looked to it, approached it, but the brambles closed in on the path and he couldn't enter. He couldn't help but wonder... was he going to relive his entire life from this point?
He turned and went the exact opposite of the brambly path. What could it hurt? He could get anywhere he wanted to once he found a town where maps were sold.
Yet as he crossed over onto the rocky new path, he remembered that this wasn't real. There would be no towns... would there? Had he any real clue? No. Just keep walking.
The trail wound around large boulders, rising higher up a mountain Willard had never known to be on Mystery Island before. The trail crumbled or slid away beneath his feet as he climbed. At least, when he reached the top, he could look around to see which way to go.
He found himself climbing for hours. Had he looked back, he would have seen the small red flash of the Techo Master following, watching.
And then he reached the edge. Before him, the trail plunged hundreds of feet down into a river. He felt like turning around and trying again (after an angry rant of course), but something on the air told him that if he didn't focus on this goal he would never achieve escape.
Focus your entire being on the task at hand. Only then will you be able to learn what I have to teach you.
The memory slipped past him on the mountain breeze. He looked out over the gorge.
There were spires rising from the river far below, their bases thick but their tips thin as bamboo poles. He had to cross with that? He'd never survive!
Focus. Be like a lotus on a pond. Balance. It was all about balance. He understood now... he had to undergo the same silly training the Techo had failed to teach him so many years ago. He took a deep breath, and stepped onto the first spire.
Do not allow yourself to be distracted by any motion around you, whether it be a ripple or a wave.
Suddenly a flock of Skrees appeared from nowhere and swarmed around him. He wobbled dangerously as they fluttered and screeched around him. Focus. Focus. Focus. They weren't there. They weren't--
He jumped to another spire, then another. He couldn't see the Skrees any longer... as his mind became more focused on the spires, the Skrees seemed to fade. He was balnacing now, finding peace within him he had never known while doing it. Dare he think it, but he almost felt like... a lotus on a pond.
Be open, said the voices of another memory. Do not waver from your goal, but do not close yourself to everything. Be like the bee who sees the flower; approach the petals, but be wary of the bird who swoops in for a meal...
"What?" Willard said aloud, his inner peace shattered by the misty feel of the memory. He began to teeter, but stared ahead, focusing harder than ever at his destination. He took a step, and...
The next spire was cracked beneath its surface. He had not seen that. As he stepped upon it, the stone broke away, and Willard found himself surging toward the river...
It came quickly, painlessly, softly even, as if in a dream. He swam to the surface and saw a lotus sail by. And then another memory wrapped around his body like seaweed...
The victory of the rock is in forcing the water to be still until the sun comes out...
Date: Jul 11th
...He was in the water now, the current flowing strongly against him. He couldn't move against it, and he knew that if he were to go with it, he wouldn't end up in a pretty possition.
Panic was rising up in his chest. What could he do? What could he do?! He struggled to stay up, but his weight was pulling himself down further and further. His sword in its sheath was the reason, but he couldn't rid himself of his weapon! It was his only way to protect himself!
The stick is as strong as the sword, you just need the wisdom to know how to use it. The memory of those words made up Willard's mind for him, and with one sharp claw, he cut the strap that held the sword to himself and it floated away.
He was panting now with the effort of staying afloat, even without the extra weight. He tried to swim to the side of the ever-flowing river, but the current tugged him further and further backwards.
At the moment it stops moving -- it becomes stagnant. If you cannot be water, then you must at least understand it. Once again, the memory washed over Willard as soft as the trickling of rain.
Understand it? thought Willard as he puffed and panted. How am I supposed to UNDERSTAND something that doesn't even have a brain?
There was a swish of fast green movement, and Willard looked to his left to see his master observing his struggles. Cold, hard determination welled up inside him.
I will never set you a test, the words from yet another memory were softly echoing around him, but it was the voice of the Techo that finished them off, "that you cannot complete," and then he threw a bamboo hollow stick into the water. Willard grabbed it before the river carried it away.
He was about to scold the Techo for giving him something that would not help him, but then, as if a bolt of thought had struck him, he nodded, and with one last look at the Techo, he stopped struggling to stay up, and instead, with the hollow pole in his paw, he swam down. To his doom? No, not this time. This time, he had chosen the right path, he just hadn't been able to see it until now...
Date: Jul 12th
...Willard swam down and down to the bottom of the river, where rocks were clustered in jumbled groups. The water was cold and swift, powerful and terrifying when in one position. But now the Kougra knew he did not have to defeat the river, he had to change it. By changing himself...
His paws grasped at the rocks on the bottom as his lungs began to ache. Quickly but steadily, he wedged the stick into the the space between the rocks, and tilted it, ever so carefully, forward.
By facing the source of the power, the place where the resistance was coming from, he would be able to succeed. Just as it was in real life, as the old Techo Master had said all along. The hardest path, the one that is most trying and long, is the only one to take. There are no shortcuts.
The current broke as the stick was forced into it, changing its shape. It split around the tip of the hard bamboo pole, which stuck high above the shimmering surface, making a v-shape of water.
Pounding furiously with his paws, he stopped, gasping, in the protection of that V. The current continued to grab him, but much, much weaker, weak enough to be able to swim easily in.
He pushed with relief into the pole, making it lean forward even more. Making the V shape wider. Bringing him closer to a rock that jutted out of the water only a foot ahead. A little more...
He grasped the rock thankfully and pulled himself onto it, panting heavily. Dripping water was falling from his soaked fur, and his limbs were tired after being so strained against the river. But he felt more alive than ever.
He looked down into the rushing tide, seeing the color of his fur reflected, but the face twisted with running water. It was moving so fast only distorted images could dance upon its powerful surface, completely thrown out of perspective...
There was a movement, a rustle in the bushes on the sandy bank. He looked up, eyes alert but calm with realization...
Date: Jul 12th
...The Techo quietly glided out from behind the protective arms of the bushes, his head tilted to the side, bowed. His arms were folded within the long sleeves of his soft robe, their flabs waving softly in the delicate breeze that wafted off the river. He folded his legs so he sat down next to Willard, his eyes closed so he could take the gentle kisses of the breeze.
Willard just stared at his former trainer, marveling at his ability to have such tranquility. The Kougra’s mind traveled back, trailing each paw step he had taken and wondering why he had never achieved such peace. Certainly it wasn’t because he hadn’t listened to this Techo’s stupid riddles... Willard dug his claws into the rock, making grits of sand roll onto his pads. He reminisced again. Why? He stared out onto the river watching the lashing of her fury and roaring of her voice.
“You were my greatest student,” the Master Techo whispered his head still held high, his wrinkled and leathery face still as relaxed as could be.
Willard’s ears folded back hard against his words. But his lip did not curl up in a snarl at what he worried he would hear next. Instead, his heart curled and twisted crying out to his former trainer. It pounded on his chest in anger. It cried dark tears, tormented from many years of walking a long rode. Tormented for many years, hearing strange riddles that only made sense now. And were they even worth what he made of them?
“That day, my son, the day I found you. I told you something... do you remember it?”
Willard started chuckling, a great and hearty laugh, that joined the roaring of the great river. He looked up to the Techo who had not lost his serene aura or complexion.
“You told me many things my ‘Master’. Which are you wishing me to remember?”
The Techo cast a serious glance into the young Kougra’s eyes.
“You know what I speak of. I saw your eyes my son. I saw the way you looked into the river as she rippled your reflection into a pattern that reflects your soul. Now tell me! What did I say?”
Willard sighed. He turned away and glanced into the flashing currents hoping to see the reflection once more. He knew exactly what this would come to. Some speech about how he was a failure even though he had just achieved something great. But as not to displease his former trainer he spoke.
“You said to me, ‘You are fire, a great, roaring fire. A fire that is so brilliant that it must be stoked before rain or its own destruction quells it...’”
The Techo smiled a glorious smile and Willard’s eyes expanded. He sat up so that he was no longer crouching on the rock.
“Yes my son. You remember well. And I can tell you... from where I stand the fire of the Kougra before glows like a thousand suns. And the rain has not fallen...”
And gently from out of his sleeves he pulled a small lotus...
Date: Jul 13th
..."This," he said, "will be guidance to you in the trials ahead."
Willard took the flower gingerly, staring at it in perplexity. Finally he gave up on the riddle and lifted his eyes to the Techo Master. "I don't understand," he said quietly. "How can a flower give me guidance? I mean -- I understand now what you told me, about being like a lotus on a pond, but... how can the flower itself direct me?"
The Techo's smile softened. "That, my son, you will learn when the time is right."
"And when will that be?"
The smile widened again. "When the right time has come!"
"You're talking in circles," Willard informed him; but this time instead of a sneer his face bore the hint of a smile, like a pale reflection of the Master's beaming countenance. The Kougra sighed. "I suppose I'll understand when the time comes. But am I nearly done? How much more must I learn here?"
"The path to wisdom cannot be compressed into a few short steps," the Techo told him gravely, "and a house is not built in a day. This is merely your foundation."
"And you're telling me that I need to come back to your school to build the house." The Techo made no move, either to confirm or deny his words, letting Willard come to his own conclusions. Willard sighed again, his smile taking on a look of wry defeat; but underneath that defeat was a peace such as he had not known in many a year. "I... I think I'm ready. I'll have to swallow my pride, but..."
"Better you swallow your pride than the river swallow you." The Techo looked like he was trying not to laugh. "Already you have built a part of your foundation on your own. But it is unstable, and the rock has many pockets of dirt in it which weaken the structure. Before you can seal the holes, the dirt must first be washed out."
He gestured toward a point somewhere upstream, and Willard's gaze followed his hand. Instantly the Kougra's eyes widened and his breath began to come swift and shallow.
"It must be washed away," the Techo said softly, "by the rain..."
Date: Jul 13th
..."But - but - but no!" said Willard in barely a whisper. "They'll kill me!" His golden yellow eyes seemed to widen even more as another two appeared, their numbers seeming even more by the fast flowing reflection of the water.
"Do not be frightened by them. They too are fires, but they are merely sparks compared to your flame. Your past is behind you, do not let it change the course of your future. Time passes quickly in this room." As the Techo said that, the lotus in the Kougra's paw grew itself a fruit in a matter of moments, the tendrils and curls of the plant coming to life in nothing but a few seconds. "The present becomes the past, and the past we cannot change. Just remember that."
"The lotus induces forgetfulness..." said the Kougra as he stared transfixed at the plant which was now aging and dying. "If you forget the past, then you can redo it. I had forgotted my past, but now with it fresh in my memory, I can redo it without making the same mistake twice!"
He stood up, and without a second glance back to the Techo, he was running full pelt towards the three images at the edge of the river. He had nothing, Willard had no weapon, no magical item, nothing. Surely he would die? But no, his determination would pull him through, and his burning fire of new understanding would help him along the way.
He reached the three and stood in front of them, a calm serene look apon his face as the three Kougras turned to look at the new arrival.
"Huh!" said the biggest one to the blue Kougra. "Look what the cat brought in! Haven't seen YOU in a long time, Neil! What you doing here? I thought we told you that you could never be in our presence again!" and without warning, he jumped at Willard with speed and agility that would have seemed impressive, but Willard just stepped aside two steps and continued to look at them with that calm look on his face.
"What the-?!" said the large one as he skidded on the dirt behind Willard. "Why you!" and he jumped at Willard from behind, who, at the last moment, ducked. The large Kougra landed on his face in the dirt.
"I am not called by that name anymore," said Willard as he reached a paw down to the Kougra on the ground to help him up.
"Yeah, you don't deserve a real name!" scowled the blue Kougra. "You're nothing but a PET now! You can't be free! Free to do what you want, to roam where you want, you just can't be FREE!"
"You think that by fighting me, you will become free?" asked Willard calmly.
"It was you and that green Techo that took our freedom from us! If it wasn't for him and you, then we would still be in the jungle right now-" Willard cut him off.
"Yes, in the jungle starving yourselves to death. Is that the freedom that you want?" He looked to the running water and the Techo's words filled his head. It must be washed away by the rain. Overhead, the sky seemed to become grey. Just a little longer, he thought to himself.
"Atleast it's a freedom that isn't restrained by a mad-hatter 'Master' like the one that you went to!" The blue Kougra gave a deep chuckle.
"To admit that you need help," said Willard as he looked back to the Kougra, his voice strong, "is your first step to being strong. To admit that you need to be cleansed - that is the true path to freedom."
The heavens gave a boom, and Willard lifted his head up to receive their gift. The sky was shattered by streaks of lightning and the rumbling roar would have terrified many, and it did.
The three Kougras were quickly shivering and shaking, obviously scared out of their wits. With every quick strike of lighting and rumble of thunder they jumped. Willard just stood there, his face up to the sky above him as the rain fell on his face, washing out his dirt, his eyes closed. He heard the three other Kougras run.
Perhaps now they might find the true path that they should take, he thought. Suddenly, instead of a droplet of rain falling on his face, something was burning it. He opened his eyes fast and with his paw, he scratched away the falling ash. The volcano couldn't have erupted again?! he thought with a rising fear inside of him. He looked around him, but all he saw was blackness, then he looked up.
He was in the room. It had gone back to normal. Either it felt that Willard was ready to go, or it was losing its magical power from the fire raging above it.
What could he do?! In the room, he could get rain, but here, now, how was he supposed to do it?
Fear rose in his chest as the thought of a burnt out haven reached his mind, but he pushed it aside. Be calm, he thought, that's all, just be calm. You'll come up with something!
"You might need this," he heard a voice behind him say, and turned fast to see his master there, handing him a stick.
A puzzled expresion was on the Kougra's face, but without asking, he grabbed the pole and ran. He pole-vaulted through the hole in the roof, landing perfectly on the next floor. He pulled the pole up and then did the same to get to the next floor. Once more he went to the next floor to see wide eyes staring at him from all sides.
"We're trapped," said one student.
It was true. The roof had caved in and the heat was swelteringly hot. Willard looked to all sides, but fires were burning at every opening. I've got to do this! he thought. He grabbed his stick and broke it in half so that it was shorter. He started to spin it around with his two paws as fast as he could, deflecting the flames away from the students who were following close behind the Kougra.
Through the one door, into the next room. More students. He couldn't do this, he thought. He had to get RID of the fire, not prevent it! He went through to the next room, where he saw a window. He stopped spinning the stick and once again the fire around him was unberable, but he had found the way out for the others.
He smashed the glass of the window with the stick and then cleared the glass away for the students. One by one they hurried out of the room and onto the green grass outside, coughing and spluttering.
That was the last one, thought Willard to himself. "Go!" he shouted out of the window. "Get help! Get water!" he didn't have time to tell them any more as he hurtled his way back through the room. He needed to wash away the start of the fire. But, by this time, the roof where the Master and he had just had that fight must have caved in so badly! Fire burns with strength unsurpassed, but when there is nothing left to feed off of, it can do nothing but smolder and die...
Great, thought Willard, but how could he get rid of it?
He jumped up high. He needed to get to the source. As he was in the air, a trail of thought seemed to come to him. "Two can become one," he said as the thought struck him. "You are the fiery one... Yes! That's it!"
He landed neatly onto a rail of wood. I have the attribute of fire, thought Willard to himself. If I make my flame bigger than the others, it will join with me! As Willard said this, the flame within Willard seemed to leap to reality. The flames seemed to lick at Willards fur, but he felt no pain. Huh, just you wait, thought Willard to himself. He closed his eyes and focused. He needed to envelope it, to hold it, to keep it. The flame grew as others joined it. Willard started to feel the pain cover his body as the flame that wasn't part of him started to converge around him. He was pulling it in, willing it on to come closer to him, farther from the others, farther from the school's surroundings.
He couldn't stand the heat anymore! He could only see red. It was as if he was an erupting volcano, with all of this hot fire - lava - around him. He had to break it! He couldn't go on anymore! But no - the others were counting on him! Images zoomed into his head of all of the students, of his good times, of his master - if anything, he would do this for him!
The fire seemed to reach its maximim, burning on nothing but Willards flames. Slowly, as Willard's body seemed to take its toll, there was something like a silent explosion, and Willard fell to the ground, covered in ash, with a small thump. The fire was gone, only smoke remained.
He opened his eyes a fracion, to see two yellow eyes looking down at him. "I'm lost...so lost..." he whispered as the Techo bent down to kneel next to Willard. The Master had a look on his face that told him that Willard would be ok, and with that thought, he closed his eyes and fainted.
"No," said the Techo back as he held Willards body close to his own. A healing light seemed to shine from his hands as he held them over Willard's forehead. "I think that now, young one, you have finally been found..."
Date: Jul 14th
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