Arya inhaled the fresh air. Rain ran down her skin and hair, cooling the blazing fire inside her body, washing the anger away. She was already soaking wet all the way through the light clothes she had left on herself when she had stepped out into the balcony at rain, yet deep inside she was still fuming.
It had been two standard hours and she still could not believe she had lost her temper at her Master of all people and fought with him.
In front of the High Council.
In front of the goddamn High Council!
Arya took another, even deeper breath. Her immediate anger had already shifted focus from her Master to herself, but it definitely did not help her at letting go of the negative emotions. All she wanted to do was to go on a rampage at the Padawan dojo, just blow off so much steam that she would faint of dehydration and hope that that would release her from the grip of this infuriating, burning anger.
But that was not the Jedi way. Arya took yet another deep breath and tried to release even a bit of her gnawing frustration into the Force. The ten years of her Jedi training seemed to elude her now, just when she needed something constructive to stop her blood from boiling — especially when she was starting to feel like it might start to boil literally at some point if she could not put an end to it.
A breath as deep as her lungs could take in. Hold it in. Breathe it out slowly, slowly, as slowly as possible.
Arya was not sure if it was her increasing frustration or just incapability of letting go of the seemingly ingrained anger, but conscious deep breathing was not helping. It was only frustrating her beyond her capability to comprehend it.
Concentrate, you idiot. Concentrate on the water.
Repeat the exercise and listen to the rain. Breathe in. Feel the rain. Hold it in. The wet metal railing is cold against the palms. Breathe out. Feel the raindrops run down the bare arms and face.
Breathe in. The rain is telling stories of speeders. Hold it in. The raindrops whisper of starships unlike any the Padawan has seen during her 15 years of life. Breathe out. The water has seen more generations than she can count.
Repeat. Listen. Repeat. Listen.
Arya started to cry. She was so frustrated and so angry, so damn angry that she had lost her temper in front of the people whose opinions and decisions mattered the most in her life. She had been a Jedi for ten years and what for? This? Arya did not remember being so disappointed in herself for months.
It felt like everything was suddenly falling apart again just when she had finally started to have a grip on not just her own future, but also the future of her people, the Veledosians, as whole.
Even behind the shields she had constructed around her mind to isolate herself from everyone else, she sensed that someone was coming. She cleared her throat, swallowed the rest of her tears, let the ones already running fade into the raindrops and just breathed, her eyes closed.
Then she heard heavy footsteps that could only belong to one man. “Padawan? What are you doing here?” The footsteps walked closer to her. “You’re going to catch a cold.”
The sound of him taking off his robe. Knowing the man’s intention, Arya spoke up, “Don’t. I need this, Master.”
“Soaking yourself in the rain?”
You wouldn’t understand. Arya was grateful for the shielding her Master had taught her; he would not have appreciated catching that sentiment. “Yes.”
“You have been here for a while, haven’t you?”
“How are you feeling?”
He did not acknowledge her shielding directly. Arya knew that he was aware of it, though; he was far from blind especially to something he had mastered and taught himself.
At any other time, she would have been straightforward about how she was feeling. Now, however, she did not want to say a thing to the man who still towered over her despite of her growth spurts.
Jedova walked next to her and put his hands on the same railing she leaned against. “You did not answer to my question, Padawan.”
Padawan. Arya could feel the distance in the way he addressed her by her rank rather than name. At any other time, he would have addressed her by her name and with far less distance in his voice and mannerisms.
Arya wanted to retort, take even a bit of her pain out on the man, but she bit it back with whatever little self-control there still was left in her Jedi self. Her words were more serene than she would have wanted. “How do you think I feel?”
“Hurt and insulted,” Jedova answered.
Deep inside, that was true. On the surface, behind the closed eyes, Arya saw red. The calmness that the Jedi Master showed infuriated her deep to the core. Only her shields kept that infuriation from escaping outside, simmering inside her instead.
“You’re angry as well, aren’t you?” Jedova asked.
“Well what do you think?” Arya spat, her eyes still closed.
“You have the right to be angry with me,” Jedova noted. His calmness served as a mere reminder of everything Arya was not; a calm, capable Jedi capable of keeping her emotions in check.
It was a reminder of what she would never be.
“Jaminere, your destination is,” Master Yoda told.
“Jaminere?” Jedova repeated, seemingly caught off-guard. “Why Jaminere?”
“You have been there before, Master Wang, so your knowledge on the planet might prove useful,” Master T’un said, unbothered by the man’s reaction.
“We will not go to Jaminere,” Jedova announced sternly.
Arya looked at him, confused. “Master?”
Jedova looked at her, his eyes lit with barely contained flutter. “Yes, Padawan?”
“What’s wrong with Jaminere? I recall that it’s a relatively quiet planet with not too much going on. The mission is like the one on Bimmisaari three years ago, so surely we could handle it, unless there’s something important that I don’t know about Jaminere,” Arya asked.
“I’ve had more than enough trouble from Jaminere with prolonging missions and other issues,” Jedova told without losing even an iota of his sternness. He turned to look at the councilors, especially his friend Phayeth Chaa, who was the most aware of what had happened to him on his Jaminere missions. “We are not going. That is final.”
“Stubborn, you are, Master Wang. Yet a normal mission this should be,” Master Yoda chided.
“Just like the last two missions I took there,” Jedova remarked.
“Master, we have been through far worse than a planet like Jaminere. We can handle it even if the mission prolongs,” Arya said as her nudges at their bond to get an answer failed to yield any sort of reply. She did not understand her Master’s motives; they had been on prolonged missions before, so surely this should not be an issue. There had to be something she did not know, but what?
“I have had more than enough problems with my Padawans on Jaminere for a full lifetime,” Jedova’s words were cold as ice as he turned to look at this Padawan again. Startled, Arya took a step away from him as if the man had slapped her. In some way, it felt like he had.
Those words were a hard slap on her ego, one she had not seen coming nor could understand.
In the refreshed hurt that she had thought she had forgotten, she forgot her surroundings and lashed out in response like a knee-jerk, “You don’t trust me? Is that it, Master?”
Jedova frowned. His disapproval radiated from his mostly composed appearance. “Mind your tongue, Padawan.”
Arya realized that her hands were now tight fists at her sides. Her insides were burning, trying to reject the feeling she associated with all the times she had been rejected as an Initiate. She was trying to reject what felt like yet another rejection — one that hurt far more than the others. “So am I correct, Master? Is this all because you don’t think I can behave?”
“Your current behavior is most certainly convincing me that that is truly the case.” Jedova’s tone was dangerously sharp and cold, like an icicle sharpened to hurt.
Arya ground her teeth, making the conscious effort to keep her lips together. Her heart was pounding like she was fighting a powerful enemy.
At that moment, it felt like she was.
“Well so much for all my work, then,” she growled. “So much for thinking I could be worthy of a Master. Screw that, huh?” She shook her head lightly and raised her voice in anger. “Screw it all!”
“Padawan, that is far enough!” Now Jedova raised his voice too.
Arya fell silent but kept her back straight. At any other time, her Master raising his voice at her would have frightened her, made her reconsider her actions, but this time she already had too much adrenaline in her veins to back down.
“Leave for this mission, you now will not,” Master Yoda interrupted. “Finish your disagreement outside, you will. Dismissed, you are.”
The two fighting Jedi turned to the Grand Master and bowed to the Council, then left without a word. Arya walked straight to the elevator, Jedova following suit as he had nowhere else to go from there.
“I do not appreciate your tone, young one,” Jedova said as the elevator descended.
“And I do not appreciate your lack of trust in me, old man,” Arya shot back. Jedova started and looked at her, astonished of what he had just heard his apprentice say to him of all people.
The elevator stopped and opened to let more people in. Arya took this as a cue to end the conversation by leaving. Jedova followed her, trying to continue the conversation. Arya merely ignored him, knowing that he could not pursue it for long before attracting unwanted attention.
At some point, the Master gave up and let her wander in the Temple “to think about her actions”.
“I spoke with Master Yoda about what happened, and he made me realize I made the mistake those who see visions are warned about. I tried to prevent the future I predicted but all I did was actually bring it to reality,” Jedova told. He tried to ignore the cold raindrops trickling down his neck.
Well whoopee, kriffing excellent work, Master, Arya thought to herself. The thought bounced back from her shields. She glared at the bleak scenery in front of her with her now-open eyes, only barely pitying those who had to ride speeders in the rain.
Jedova raised his hand, communicating an intention to touch her through their bond. It managed to slip past her shields. “May I?”
“Whatever,” Arya said, still not sparing as much as a glance at the man beside her. She felt the warm, dry and rough fingers come into contact with her bare forearm and the cold water on it.
At any other time, she would have welcomed this touch as comforting. Now, it only served to remind her of the feeling of rejection that had made its way back into her gut — and made its home there again.
And with the feeling of rejection, anger increased. She felt that her trust had been betrayed; nothing else could have felt like a sharp, cold knife in her gut. Aside from a real cold knife into her gut, of course.
Lashing out on the man she had called her Master for the past three years would not make her feel any better, no matter what her anger said. Arya turned, breaking the physical contact and headed back inside.
“Arya,” Jedova called. His voice shook from the effort he made to keep it level.
“Leave me be, Master,” Arya said. Once she was at the doorway, she called upon the power of Water within herself to squeeze as much water from her hair and clothes as she could and left inside. There she put her upper tunic, left there to keep it from getting wet, back on and wandered off to find something else to think about.
Jedova did not go after her. After what had happened between him and Degu on Jaminere eight years ago, he knew that he deserved the rejection Arya was currently projecting at him.
When she was a good distance away from the balcony, Arya stopped. She had no idea where she was going. In fact, had she not had the intimate knowledge of the layout of the Temple all Jedi had, she would not have even known where she was. Where would she even want to go?
The Archives came to her mind first, but they were too obvious for Jedova to come looking for her later; she had taken refuge at the Archives with her personal research and coursework during the times she had been rejected by Masters looking for a Padawan when she had been an Initiate ready to be chosen. Her Master knew that and would definitely go looking for her there first. Any areas for meditation were too open as well.
Any of the dojos? Arya shook her head at herself. She was too upset to be a healthy sparring partner and she did not feel like doing katas. Even though the Padawan dojo was a good hiding place since Masters were not supposed to go there, she knew that her bad influence was the least thing anyone wanted there.
Outside? A walk outside the Temple, a brief change of scenery, could do good to her, actually. It sounded the like the least obvious and stupid option, so Arya decided to head towards the nearest exit.
One turbolift ride and a few turns later she ran into Airka who greeted her with eagerness, “Hey there, Arya! Fancy a spar?”
“Not right now, sorry,” Arya told the Fosh Padawan. “I’m in a mood that’s suited only far away from any and every dojo.”
“What’s happened?” Airka asked. His feathers started to fade from orange to gray as his concern arose.
Arya took a deep breath and uttered the culmination of their competition at the best compression of incidents, “Fan.”
“Ah.” Airka nodded with immediate understanding. “How badly did things hit the fan?”
“I fought with my Master pretty bad…”
“Oh.” Airka had not seen that coming, but he knew what to say. “Don’t worry about it. All Padawans end up having a fight with their Ma-“
“…In front of the High Council.” Arya did not know how she managed to say it aloud.
“The whole High Council?”
“All twelve councilors.”
Airka’s feathers were now all gray. “Ouch. That’s more severe than I expected.”
“I know. I feel like an utter piece of utter crap right now.”
“Do you want to tell me what caused that fight?” Airka knew that it was none of his business, but he hoped that talking about it would ease his friend’s mind at least a little.
“We were going to be sent on an easy-sounding mission, but Master declined because he didn’t feel like I could handle it. He said something about how it could put our relationship at risk. I… I just lost it. It really hurt to hear that he out of all people didn’t think I could control myself enough that we’d stick together.”
“Wow, no wonder you ended up into a fight.” Airka was one of the people who knew the best just how much her Master’s trust mattered to Arya, and he could imagine that he would have been deeply hurt as well, had his own Master said something like that to him. “So… what happens now?”
“I don’t know. We’ll definitely not be going on that mission, that’s for sure.” Arya paused to gather her thoughts on what had happened at the balcony. She found none to gather, only more hurt and anger. “I don’t know anything beyond that.”
“I see. Well, I’ll look for someone else to spar with. Take care of yourself in this mess, okay?” Airka put his hand on his slightly taller friend’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard when you feel real bad but do take care of yourself even if you feel like you don’t deserve it. You can’t deal with what’s happening if you push yourself too far and let your health go down.”
“Okay, I’ll take care of myself,” Arya said, although she did not know if she would keep her word. At that moment, it felt like she was the most unsuitable person in the Order to become a Jedi, much less act like one.
“Good. I’ll check in with you if I run into you later. See you,” Airka said and patted his friend’s shoulder before starting to leave.
“See you. And thank you,” Arya said and walked onward, resuming her path towards the exit.
“You’re welcome,” Airka said before he was out of the earshot.
When he turned the corner, he ran into Jedova.
“Master Wang!” he blurted in surprise.
“Padawan Airka,” Jedova greeted with a serene nod.
Airka looked back at the corridor where he was coming from. Arya turned away at another corner, completely oblivious of the fact that her Master was close by. Then he looked back at the tall Jedi Master. While he wanted to comment on what he had heard from Arya, he decided against it. What happened between his friend and her Master was none of his business. Therefore, he just bowed to the Master and hurried past him, hoping that he would find a sparring partner soon enough. He totally needed something else to think about now.
Jedova looked as the Fosh disappeared behind another corner and sighed. Arya would be hard to reach if she did not stop at some point all the while she shielded her mind the best she could — and this time Jedova was unhappy that he had taught her to do it so well.
The realization that he felt unhappy about it was a punch straight into his gut: he was facing something similar to what had happened with Degu ten years after Lucian’s case, no matter how hard he had tried not to end up to repeating either path. This time he could only hope that without an ongoing mission and an interest in criminals, Arya would not go undercover into some criminal organization without supervision or a notification.
Perhaps this case was a hybrid of both Jaminere missions gone wrong, except it was set in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant instead of some random city on a planet in the Outer Rim. The worst thing about it was that this time it was all his doing with nothing wrong done by the Padawan to provoke him to do what had put their relationship as a Master and a Padawan into jeopardy.
It was for the best to meditate on this whole mess so that he would be fully ready to talk with Arya when the girl would be readier to speak with him, Jedova concluded, and with that thought he set his course for one of the nearby meditation chambers.
The way to the exit was long, so Arya had time to see multiple Master-Padawan pairs that seemed happy to be with each other. No sign of distrust in sight, most likely not in mind either. Each of those pairs made the Veledosian girl feel even more bitter about the distrust she had now seen in her own Master, the man who had trusted her enough to pick her as his apprentice three years ago.
The feeling of all her efforts to be a worthy Jedi going into the drain hurt unlike anything else she had faced before; it hurt so much that she wanted to punch a wall broken. However, she did not indulge that want since she was more likely to break her bones than make even a crack on a single wall in the Temple. In addition to that, indulging in a want of aggression would merely earn her complaints and reprimands, both of which would merely anger her even more.
Arya was just aware enough of her surroundings that when she met Master Yoda at a corridor, she only barely managed to dodge the tripping by the Grand Master’s gimer stick. The ancient Master chuckled at her makeshift dodge. In her hurt, she glared at him before remembering her place and relaxing her face.
“Swallowed up in what happened today, are you, Padawan Deinden?” Master Yoda asked.
“I wouldn’t say swallowed up,” Arya noted, her voice cold rather than calm. I’ve drowned in it.
“Then why wander around the Temple do you?”
Arya shrugged. “I don’t have anything else to do since my Master declined the mission.”
“Hiding something, you are.” Master Yoda poked her shin with his stick. “Shielded your mind is, much like your Master’s, only more. Feeling hurt by his distrust, are you?”
“Why do you care, Master Yoda?” Arya asked, looking away. She did not like the way this conversation was heading.
“A mistake, your Master did, a notable mistake. Right it is for you to feel hurt, but remember that only a person he is, you should.” He waited for Arya to look back at him. “A person like all of us Jedova Wang is, capable of making mistakes. Think about that you should, before permanently judge him you do.”
Arya’s comlink beeped. Someone tried to reach her. The girl took a deep breath. “Excuse me.” She picked her comlink and answered, “Arya Deinden here.”
“Padawan Deinden, I’m sorry to bother you all of a sudden like this. Are you available at some point today?” Master Koda-Riko asked.
“Actually, I’m available right now,” Arya told. “What do you need me for, Master Koda-Riko?”
“I need someone for some fact-checking regarding the history of your tribe and I believed you would be the first one to be available. Can you come to my quarters now?”
“Of course, Master Koda-Riko. I’ll be there right away,” Arya said. “Arya out.” She ended the call, bowed to Master Yoda and said, “Excuse me. I need to go.” Master Yoda nodded to her and off the Padawan went, relieved of the interruption.
Just a few minutes later she knocked on the Jedi historian’s door, received the permission to come in and entered.
“I hope I didn’t interrupt anything, Padawan Deinden,” Master Koda-Riko said.
“Just a conversation I wanted to get out of, so your interruption was most welcome, Master Koda-Riko,” Arya told, giving a laugh. The fake smile she had plastered on her face, yet another reminder of past rejections, tore raw wounds into her heart. She cast it aside within her shields and walked further in. “What part of my tribe’s history do you need to check?”
“Their exile on Kiros,” Master Koda-Riko told. “I have some conflicting notes and data on some dates, and I hoped that you could shed some light on what might be closest to the truth.”
“I can’t say I’m the most well-versed in dates regarding my tribe’s history, but I’ll try,” Arya admitted, sat down at the table and looked into the notes the historian handed her, relieved. This was most likely the best way to occupy her mind with something else all the while staying out of the way of everyone who might pester her about what had happened, councilors and her Master alike.
Once she and Master Koda-Riko had finished the fact-checking and their subsequent discussion on the history of Veledosians, Arya decided it was time for her to leave. “It’s been good to discuss this with you, Master Koda-Riko, but I should leave now. I need to prepare for my evening lesson.”
“Of course,” Master Koda-Riko said, nodding. “By the way, are you all right? You have seemed… aloof today.”
“Oh.” Arya had not expected the Jedi historian to note it aloud. “It’s… it’s nothing you need to worry about. I’ll sort it out.”
“Very well. May the Force be with you.”
“May the Force be with you too.” Arya bowed and left the quarters, returning to the world she had taken refuge from. A world that bore lots of reasons for her to feel hurt.
Arya took a deep breath, re-centered her shields and headed to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. She needed to clear her mind so that she could listen to the day’s ethics lesson and get something out of it. She wanted to get a good grade on that course just like the rest of her courses, after all.
A while of wandering among the trees led Arya to a grassy area near the pond. The Force said that it would be a good place for her to meditate at. Despite of her suspicions, she decided to trust the Force and settled on the grass. The day had already been rather long and she was feeling weary, so she decided that laying down for a while in meditation would not hurt.
She let the Force in, allowed some of her lighter emotions fade away into it and breathed. She could feel the calmness of the room, the life within the plants and slivers of emotions of the nearest Jedi meditating in the same room.
After hours of blocking her emotions, Arya started to feel serene and alive again. She allowed herself to drift further into the calmness, hoping that the Force would cleanse her negativity away…
“Excuse me? Excuse me, miss?” a foreign, high-pitched voice broke into the serenity. Arya opened her eyes, confused that she had had to open them in the first place, and saw a young Rodian looking down on her. “Miss, are you alright?”
“Delik, you need to address her as Padawan,” an older voice chided the youngling.
“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” Arya said and sat up, rubbing her head. She felt refreshed, but to her shock she realized that her shields had become rather vague. She gathered them closer to herself and took a closer look at the people around her: a group of ten younglings and their caretaker, a Tholothian.
“We saw you lying on the ground and got worried, Padawan,” one of the other younglings — A Zabrak — told.
“I… I guess I must have dozed off while meditating,” Arya said and gave a laugh, trying to put a carefree smile on her face. “It’s been a long day. What time is it?”
“1900,” the Tholothian Master told. Arya’s eyebrows shot up. “I take it you have slept for a long while.”
“Some hours, yeah,” Arya told. “I can’t believe I’m saying this about an evening lesson, but I overslept.”
The younglings gasped in horror; none of them could imagine being late from their lessons especially because of oversleeping. However, Arya smiled. “That can’t be helped. I’ll need to go to the teacher after the lesson and get the material for making up for missing it.” Her stomach roared, making the younglings giggle. Their caretaker chided them again, but Arya brushed it off by saying, “It’s fine. You should never take yourself too seriously. Your life will be just miserable if you get offended by everything.” The girl stood up and said, “Well, my stomach says I should go to eat, so I shall go to eat. May the Force be with you, young ones, and don’t get yourselves into trouble.”
“May the Force be with you too, Padawan,” the younglings said, each of them bowing at a different time. Arya bowed to their caretaker, who bowed in response, and left.
The cafeteria was optimal; not too full for the girl to be unable to find a table to sit alone at but not too empty for her to stand out. Since most of her peers were on their evening lessons, she was quite certain that she would not run into anyone familiar there. While she munched her dinner, Arya reinstated her shields, hoping that the younglings had not caught much of her hurt during her sleep. The unwitting nap had refreshed her mind, but the pain of what had happened in the morning was starting settle back into her as numb throbbing. Arya shook her head and resumed eating; she would choose what was the best course of action when she was done with her dinner.
Leaving the cafeteria was the easy part. When she found herself at a hallway, she realized that she had no place to go to; she was not in the mood for anything productive anymore and it was already so late that it was no longer such a good idea to go wander around Coruscant’s streets, especially for a teenage girl like her. While her Jedi training from overall physical training to practicing her Master’s lightsaber forms, Shien and Soresu, had built her a decent amount of muscle mass for her age and she was never powerless with the Force on her side, she was still relatively short and frail for a Veledosian — or a human, which every non-Veledosian mistook her for. The only place where she could go to now without looking like she had nothing to do was…
…Her and her Master’s quarters.
That thought dropped the bottom off her stomach. Their quarters were the place where she would find her Master. Even if she managed to sneak into her room without encountering him and lock the door, he could easily wait her out later; after all, she would have to come out eventually.
In other words, she had no place to go to. There was nothing for her other than the potentially dangerous streets of Coruscant where she might not able to reach a safe place to stay the night at if things went wrong. She could not help feeling empty. Empty and hurt — and increasingly angry again.
And among all the emotions, she was starting to feel so, so tired of all this crap again.
Jedova looked at Arya. She had been standing in the hallway for a while, seemingly lost. Her shields still hid her emotions from the others, but as she looked around herself, not picking a direction, it was visible to the naked eye that she was lost, although knowing her not in the sense of not knowing where she was and how she could get to her destination. She looked lost in the sense of not having a destination to get to in the first place.
Feeling more like a predator approaching its prey rather than a Master trying to reach his disconnected apprentice, Jedova walked to the girl’s side and asked, “Arya?”
Arya jumped and looked at him. Anger flashed in her eyes and she looked away, crossing her arms. For a while, it felt like her shields would collapse, but then they settled back as a barrier between her and her Master.
“I take it you don’t want to talk with me yet,” Jedova said. He was met with a silence that screamed yes. “I understand. Nevertheless, I want to talk to you. Would you mind if we went to our quarters together?”
Yes, I would. The message bounced back from the shields, not reaching the other side of the bond. Arya opened her mouth to say it aloud but found herself unable to bring out enough hurt to voice it from her emptiness of being so lost and tired.
She did not know what the end of the world felt like, but this definitely felt like it could be one. She tried to look for options, options that would not include Jedova, but she saw no valid ones. She could only see herself alone, completely lost and without a direction.
She only saw herself in a void.
There was no world for her out there.
Without the man who was the only person she could consider as anything akin to a parent anymore, she saw no path forward.
She closed her mouth. She had no answer to voice.
“Shall we go?” Jedova asked. He was quite certain that the silence meant another yes, but he chose to try his luck. It would be for the best to get the girl away from the hallway. This time Arya nodded. Jedova wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pushed her along as he took a step forward to make sure that the girl followed.
They had walked in the Temple in silence before, but unlike those times, this silence was uncomfortable, filled with tension. With the shields blocking everything about the girl’s emotions, Jedova could not predict what she would do and how she would react to his words and actions — at least not with the usual certainty.
Only once they got to their quarters and the door was closed, Jedova could breathe more freely. He gestured towards the meditation pads. “Let’s sit down, shall we?”
Arya nodded, still unwilling — and partially incapable as well — to speak a word to the Master, and allowed him to take her to the meditation pads. To Jedova’s surprise, she sat down and looked at him briefly, although she turned to look down soon afterwards.
“Arya, like I said, I want to talk to you. You don’t need to say a single word to me if you don’t want to, but I’d like you to listen to me. Do you feel like doing that?” Jedova asked, keeping his voice as soft as he could. Arya sideglanced him and nodded, then looked away again. “Thank you. I know that you’re hurt but I want to try to make things right before we go to sleep. The longer we wait, the more time bitterness has time to settle between us.” He reached out and touched Arya’s forearm, much like he had done at the balcony, only this time there was a layer of fabric creating a barrier between their skins. Arya did not break the contact this time, not within the first moments at least. “I don’t expect you to forgive me for hurting you now, perhaps not ever, but I want to deal with this case so that we can still continue to function as a team when this is over.”
Now Arya broke away from his touch, moving closer to the edge of her pad. She did not look at her Master at all; she did not even know what to think. She could not tell if she could trust her Master ever again after what had happened in front of the High Council — or if she could even trust herself or the Force. Had the Force willed this like it presumably had willed them teaming up? Arya no longer knew what to trust — all she knew was that she was still hurt.
Jedova did not know if he should leave the girl be or try to push forward a little. If he pushed too far, he risked his apprentice lashing out in response, perhaps even running away into the Coruscant night. If he left her be, she would either take it as a sign of giving up on her or just drift further away from him. If he let her get too much distance, their bond might break off especially if Arya kept herself shielded — that was a point Jedova did not see a return from.
Arya looked down, tired, waiting for her Master to make his choice on the best course of action. Jedova tried to sense even a splinter of her emotions, but all he could feel were the ever so slightly wavering shields and the fatigue lacing them. Their bond was silent, as if muted. While it had a sturdy foundation, this silence could break it sooner than either of them expected.
Jedova made his choice. He stood up, walked to Arya and knelt in front of her, placing his hands on her forearms, knowing that this way he could get eye contact the easiest as Arya could let her head hang low. He saw how Arya startled and made a movement to break away, and for a short while he could feel shock leaking from behind the shields. Then the girl relaxed, as if understanding that he meant no harm to her.
Arya eyed her Master, suspicious; she had never seen him do anything like this before. Yet no matter how hard she tried, she could not see ill will in him or his actions. She did not know what to do, other than look down on him from her higher position, just stare into his eyes in confusion. A part of her wanted to break away from this touch, but for some reason she could not bring herself to do it. A part of her did not want him to go away. That part was enthralled by those brown, kind eyes and the confusing shift in their physical balance of power.
When the girl did not push him away, Jedova spoke up, “Arya, I want you to know that you matter a great deal to me. I’ve never wanted to hurt you and even though I did so today, I did not do it on purpose. What I did… I did out of fear.” Arya’s confusion deepened visibly. “A mission to Jaminere caused severe conflicts with my two previous apprentices, and even though I don’t expect you to ever do anything that would set me off like at those times, I failed both Degu and Lucian as a Master there. I let my feelings of hurt and fear dictate the degree and type of my actions and even though Degu forgave me for what I did, Lucian and I never recovered from what happened. When I declined our mission to Jaminere, I did not do it out of the fear that you would do something that would place our bond in jeopardy, but out of the fear that I would fail you too. I already lost Lucian to such a failure. I… I don’t think I could stand losing you too. We have grown so close in these three years that I don’t know what I would do if I caused our bond to be destroyed.”
Jedova took a shaky breath. “You are the only one of my apprentices who has gotten this deep into the mess that I am inside, especially this soon into your training. Already on Kiros two years ago, after we’d defeated the slavers on Kashyyyk, you saw far more than I’d allowed anyone to see so soon. And after what has happened ever since, you have gotten only closer to me… and I’m afraid of both having someone who knows me so deeply and losing that someone… losing you, Arya. You have proved me time and time again that I can trust you with myself, no matter what, no matter how broken or afraid I am. I don’t want to lose you, especially not like this, because if I can’t trust myself to be worthy enough to have someone like you close to me, how could I ever trust myself to be worthy of anything at all? I’ve already seen that abyss of unworthiness once and I don’t ever want to return to it. I’m afraid of what it would do to me now. Too afraid.”
Arya just looked at Jedova, trying to comprehend the situation. She was in the very state in which she was at the highest risk of lashing out, and her Master, her Master who held so much turmoil inside of him… he opened his heart to her, told her of his fears even though she could easily use them to hurt him in the anger and hurt she was in.
The part of her that was still hurt wanted to at least push him away but… she did not do it. She understood what had happened in front of the High Council now: it was never about her or her trustworthiness but Jedova’s own, personal fears he tried to hide from everyone, including her. She understood now that it was not her fault at all, that Jedova truly had not meant that he could not trust her to be the Jedi she strove to be. What had happened was not by the will of the Force but merely a mistake of a sentient being capable of making wrong decisions.
Perhaps… perhaps she could forgive him for what had happened, move on and stay by his side.
Before she could say anything, Jedova continued, “When Master Yoda told that our destination was Jaminere, I let my fear cloud my judgment. I was so afraid of losing you that I let it and what had happened before control my actions rather than the Force and my mind, my knowledge of your deep commitment. I forgot that even though the two apprentices before you got caught from breaking rules there, it does not mean that you would ever do anything like that. I did not take into account that if I declined the mission on the basis of what had happened with others, I’d dismiss the fact that you’ve given all you’ve got all this time to be here with me, to be a Padawan worthy of a Master… a Master better than me. In my attempt to keep myself from failing you like I failed Lucian and Degu, I ended up failing you too, only this time completely unprovoked.” Jedova blinked, trying to banish his tears. “I’ve never wanted nor meant to hurt you and I want to promise that I’ll never do it again, but I know myself. I know that I might very well be unable to keep that promise. I know that I might make another mistake, let my fear dictate my course of action again, and unwittingly hurt you again. Therefore, I can only apologize for failing you today and for any future failures.” Jedova took a deep breath and spoke the words he had never thought he would have to say, “I’m so sorry for hurting you, Arya.”
Arya took it all in, understanding. She did know that her Master was not perfect, she had always known that he could make mistakes, but only today his mistake had caused him to hurt her directly. Yet perhaps she could make peace with it, understand and not take it personally. As Jedova waited for her response, Arya realized that she did not have any words to say. She had never been taught how to deal with such conflicts like this. Therefore, she decided to let her actions speak in place of her mouth.
She raised her left hand, gripped Jedova’s left wrist and pulled his hand off her right forearm. Jedova took it as a sign of rejection and started to withdraw, his heart sinking, but stopped as Arya slipped her fingers between his and held onto his hand. Even if the girl still would not talk to him, the gesture was louder than words. Don’t go. Arya took hold of his hand with her right hand as well to make sure that her Master got the message. Jedova nodded and took hold of the girl’s hand, relieved of feeling her smaller, smoother hands against his own. There was hope for restoring their relationship. “You are tired, aren’t you, Arya? You’ve been holding those shields up for hours.”
Arya nodded. The shields draining her energy was probably the reason why she had dozed off in the Room of a Thousand Fountains and why she was feeling so tired now.
“Could you let go of those shields now?” Jedova asked, his voice softer than ever before. He had no idea how he had done it. Arya pondered for a while and shook her head. “Are you afraid of letting them go?”
Arya pondered for another while and managed to voice her answer. “Yes.”
“Is it because you’re afraid of letting me see how hurt you are?”
“I… I don’t know. I’m just scared… of letting it all show.”
“I know.” Jedova’s voice was but a whisper. “Out of everything I’ve faced in my life, letting go of my shields when I’d been blocking my emotions from everyone else has been the most terrifying thing ever. Letting others see what’s inside of your mind, what you have hidden at all costs… I know nothing more frightening than that.”
Arya nodded again. “I just can’t let go… I’m… I’m so scared after what happened earlier today. I… I’ve never been taught how to deal with conflicts like this. They never taught anything past dealing with disagreements at the creche.” She let out a nervous laugh. “All I know well is bottling these emotions up since I never learned any healthier coping methods before you taught me such.”
“It’s okay,” Jedova said. “I understand. But listen to me now. Holding onto such strong shields you are keeping up is draining. I don’t want you to burn out because of my mistake, especially not at such a young age. Negative emotions are a natural part of us whether we want them or not, and we need to live with them, deal with them the best we can. No matter how old you grow, you should never feel ashamed of them or that you shouldn’t feel them because you’re a Jedi. You know that a part of being a Jedi is not being emotionless but being able to act without letting your emotions affect your choices. It’s something all Jedi spend all their lives becoming better at, most never perfecting it. As a Padawan, you’re not supposed to have mastered it but to learn it as you mature and advance in your training instead.” He moved his right hand on top of Arya’s left one. “It’s most likely the most terrifying thing you will ever do especially as a Jedi, but please, trust me on this one and let the shields go. I’m here for you. No matter what happens, no matter what kind of emotions you are hiding, I won’t hurt you here and now, that I can promise.”
Arya touched their bond, trying to affirm that Jedova was truly sincere about that. She felt nothing conflict his words and took a deep breath, realizing that she was shaking. She let the shields slip, trying not to grasp at them as they started to dissipate. She could feel her fear and lingering hurt leak outside.
Even though she wanted to look into her Master’s eyes for reassurance, she found herself squeezing her eyes shut. Tears leaked outside nevertheless, all against her will.
“It’s ok. Everything will be fine,” Jedova told. He reached out through the bond, bypassed the disappearing shields and felt the raw pain coming from what the girl had perceived as yet another rejection. He took a sharp breath upon feeling that pain tear at him and retreated a little. He started to understand Arya’s anger better now; it was less about her being angry with him than her reacting to being hurt with something primitive rather than intellectual.
When the pain had faded a little, Jedova reached out again, this time feeling the fear of being rejected by the person she trusted the most. Completely familiar with that fear, Jedova did not retreat but instead sent a reassuring wave through the Force, hoping that it would assure the girl that he would never abandon or reject her. Arya nodded and sent an affirmative wave back as she reached out to her Master gingerly, trying not to break into a sobbing mess. She still had to fight against grasping for the shields, grasping for anything that could cover the emotions she wanted to hide.
When the shields were completely gone and she felt like she was a sitting duck out in the open, she dared to open her eyes, blurred by the dammed tears. Jedova was still there, still holding onto her hands. She could feel the bond between them clearly again, and it was still warm, still sturdy and still full of trust.
“How are you feeling, Arya?” Jedova asked.
“I don’t know how to describe it… I feel like I’m bare now that I have no shields to hide my feelings anymore,” Arya told, clearing her throat.
“That’s a good word to describe it,” Jedova told softly. “Shields can easily turn into the mental equivalent of clothes if you use them to cover your mind from others in pain. That makes using them to hide negative emotions dangerous.” Arya nodded. “Thank you for trusting me.”
“Thank you for not giving up on me when I was pushing you away,” Arya said. Her voice broke and she had to fight tears again.
“If you feel like crying, that’s still fine, you know,” Jedova told. “I’m here for you.” He stroked the back of Arya’s left hand. “Everything’s going to alright. I’m not leaving you.”
Arya decided to let the tears flow. Jedova moved to her side and wrapped his arms around her as he slipped his left hand from the girl’s grip. They were going to be fine, he reassured the girl that through their bond. They would be fine, would always be, no matter what would happen between them.
Once Arya stopped crying and wiped her tears away, she said, “Thank you for everything, Master.”
“Thank you for everything you have done for me, Padawan,” Jedova replied. “You must be tired. How about we both go to sleep and continue from where we left off tomorrow?”
“That’s fine by me, Master,” Arya said. She hugged Jedova briefly, letting his warmth comfort her. Then they let go of each other, said good night and left to their own rooms for a deserved good night’s sleep.
In the next morning, Arya felt strange upon waking up. While she was closer to forgiving her Master for what had happened, she still did not feel like their relationship was what it had been one standard day ago. She shrugged it off, theorizing that it was probably normal after a crisis like the one they had had.
She was actually surprised to find Jedova already making tea. Some pessimistic part of her had not believed she would see her Master again after the previous evening, but there he was in flesh and blood.
“Good morning, Arya. How are you feeling?” Jedova greeted.
“Good morning, Master. I’m fine, I guess. Kinda of strange after yesterday,” Arya replied. “I’m not sure if things just feel different or if what happened yesterday just feels surreal.”
“It might be both,” Jedova told. “I’m glad we could discuss what happened yesterday already.”
Arya nodded. She tried hard to believe in the genuineness of what her Master said, but a part of her wanted to doubt, not trust a thing he said. Since she found nothing else to say, she asked, “I take it we’re still not going to Jaminere?”
“Not if I can help it. I don’t want to set a foot on that planet ever again in my life after all the trouble it’s caused even before we’ve even departed there,” Jedova gave an awkward laugh. “The more I think about it, the more I feel like the Council tried to test me with that mission and I flunked as hard as possible.”
Arya gave a brief, sidewards smirk. It did not feel funny and she was sure that her Master knew it too.
“Please, sit down,” Jedova prompted as he poured tea into two mugs. “Let’s talk more before you have to go to your lessons.”
Arya sat down and accepted the mug the man offered her. Even if she felt like she could not fully trust her Master’s words, she could easily trust that the only thing wrong with the tea could be that it had turned out bitter — a mistake she and Jedova both still made occasionally.
“How do you feel about all that happened yesterday?” Jedova asked.
“I… I don’t know. Kinda mixed, I guess. I want to trust you and your words but a part of me just… doesn’t,” Arya confessed. “It’s confusing.”
“Given how badly I hurt you, it’s perfectly understandable,” Jedova remarked. “I do appreciate that you trust me enough to tell me that.”
“I really do want to trust you, Master,” Arya said, “even if I kinda feel like I shouldn’t or couldn’t. I know that you didn’t mean to hurt me yesterday even if I kinda don’t feel like it for some reason.”
“It’s all right,” Jedova said, noticing that Arya was getting agitated. “I understand. I did give you a reason to feel that you cannot trust me, after all. The fault is mine and mine alone.” As Arya nodded, Jedova continued, “There are times when we feel that we can’t trust someone, perhaps not anyone around us. At the worst of times, it’s not just a feeling but reality. Yet at those times when there is no trustworthy person nearby, there is one thing a Jedi can always trust: the Force. Even if I fail you again, even if I fail you in such a severe manner that it cannot be amended, you can always trust the Force. You know that, don’t you, Arya?”
“I do, Master,” Arya said. “I… I did get completely lost yesterday when I stopped listening to the Force. I… I couldn’t see any place to go to with just my mind.”
Jedova nodded. “Your mind says that you can trust me even if you don’t feel like you should. What does the Force say about us, where we should head from here?”
“I…” Arya paused to reach out to the Force to hear out its will. She could feel its will of setting them up together, all the way from the day Jedova had crash-landed on Kiros ten years ago to them teaming up three years ago to all the missions they had pulled through to where it wanted them to head now. “The Force says that we should deal with this case, put it behind us and continue to stick together. It meant us to become a team and it wants us to stay together no matter what.”
“That’s what it has told me, too,” Jedova said, relieved. “We will have to work on the damage I’ve done to our trust, but our bond and our relationship are no longer in jeopardy, right?”
“Yes,” Arya said, relieved as well. Now that she knew that they were truly meant to be together, it felt easier to trust Jedova. “We’ll stick together.”
Jedova nodded. He would never forgive himself for what he had done yesterday, but now the most important thing was that he had been able to make amends.
The future looked like it was supposed to again, and he was grateful for it.
“Umm… now that we’re fine and all… are we going to discuss my behavior in front of the High Council?” Arya asked. “It just feels off to just sweep it under the rug. A figurative one in this case, of course.”
“Oh.” Jedova was visibly uncomfortable. “I hadn’t thought about it. I’ve concentrated more on fixing my mistake. I’m also quite sure that you know that your behavior, while a completely understandable response to my actions, was not exactly… appropriate in that situation.”
This time Arya smirked with all of her mouth. “Yeah, I guess you could say that, Master. I know it didn’t conform to any protocol or etiquette. I’ll… if any similar situation comes up, I’ll do my best to behave better.”
Jedova chuckled, still uncomfortable. “Force forbid that such a situation comes up again.”
Arya chuckled as well. While they would most likely never be the same again, they were going to be fine now.
They would always be, so the Force told her.
And, as a Jedi and as a Veledosian, Arya trusted in the Force with all her life.