“Again,” Reno’s voice rang from the other side of the training area.
The morning exercises immediately start after the Dawn greeting. A series of slow fluid movements and breathing techniques, the Indariki was designed for practitioners to maintain the optimum balance of the human body, mind, and emotion. The purpose of the art has changed through the years.
In the Clone Age, scientists experimented on any living being on Earth to shape their ideal of a human body. They eventually succeeded but they needed grounding to keep their physical shape from separating from their essence. Indariki was born with that objective in mind and more: to achieve perfection of the human physique. When war broke out, it was adapted for combat and endurance against physical and psychic assault. Later, as peace returned to the land, it reverted to its original purpose; yet, retained the forms for self-defense.
At present, the art form was introduced to children at age three to promote growth and development and continued until adulthood as part of regular school activities and training. Indariki’s original forms were familiar to everyone in Merleina. Slight variations of the original emerged to address the demands of one’s chosen career.
Three days after Arturion’s last visit, Karina met him outside his house. She had been embarrassed for intruding in his home. Arturion, however, had explained that he had not stepped foot in his mother’s home since her death. He believed his mother Cara would be glad to see the house in use by the very people she had spent her life helping in their ascension.
In loose cotton shirt and pants, Arturion taught her the basics of Indariki. The movements, achingly slow and repetitive combined with appropriate breathing methods, had her perspiring after completing two forms. Kala cheerfully participated in the exercises claiming that she needed the practice. By the end of their first session, Karina’s clothes stuck to her like second skin while the two Merleinans didn’t appear to tire from the regimen. Kala even seemed to be glowing and had a spring to her step as she returned to the house. Arturion watched her go, his expression bland.
Seconds had passed before he resumed instructing Karina. He guided her under the shade of a nearby tree. They sat cross-legged across each other. Arturion demonstrated to her how to cycle and exchange male and female energies, the method he had used when she had been bedridden. He claimed it was the safest procedure. There were other ways but more intimate and personal, which Arturion described briefly in a very businesslike manner so as not to make her self-conscious of the idea. After all, it was just another lesson.
On the third week, Karina met the famous Black Guard Commander. He was an imposing figure at six foot three and muscular compared to Arturion’s lean and sinewy form. Her first impression of Reno as intimidating diminished when she was introduced to him. He had drawn her fingers to his lips, which made Kala and Arturion roll their eyes. Reno winked at Karina and flashed a reckless grin. He had watched them practice that morning.
She had been informed beforehand that Arturion had to resume his Keeper duties. The high priestess and her son had been able to appease the Elders’ displeasure for the time being. Gate Keepers were known to be fond of their human charges, checking on them occasionally. Arturion’s regular visits would make the Council suspicious of his motives, friendly as it may seem. But he would continue exchanging energies with her thrice a week inside the house.
“Why are the Elders so interested in me when I’m just like any other human from the third dimension?” Karina asked when she found herself alone with high priestess one day.
“There are a number of reasons, Karina.” Sara hesitated. “Your ascension progresses at an alarming rate and without warning. Most of the time, we are unsure of how to help you. Your extraordinary friendship with the Devatas had not gone unnoticed, nor the bond between you and your Keeper. You realize he is half-human. Merleinans are not entirely impervious to beauty; being half-human, even more so.” Karina had never received such a compliment before and was flustered by it. It was impossible to see Arty falling head-over-heels with her. Merleinan women she had seen so far were generally pleasing to the eye. Moreover, she felt more of a burden to him than anything since coming to Merleina. It wasn’t hard to imagine he felt the same way about her.
“We’re just f-friends,” she stammered.
“I believe you. I have deep faith in my adoptive grandson, as well. Nevertheless, I would advise you to keep him at arms’ length. The consequences can be serious if you tempt fate. Your physical body may suffer a burnout, which can lead to mental instability, illness, or death.
“You hold immense power over Arturion that even he is not aware of. He will do everything to keep you safe. If your life is put at risk because of him, the worst thing the Elders can do is dismiss him from his Order. But the guilt would consume him.”
“I’m sure it won’t come to that.” The words rang hollow to Karina. She could barely convince herself when she could not discredit Sara’s misgivings.
She would keep the high priestess’ advice in mind. She didn’t want Arturion to self-destruct if something bad happened to her. Karina resolved to survive the ascension.
“Again.” Reno waited for Karina to rise from her most recent spill on the ground. For all his positive assessment of her being a fast-learner and graceful for a human, she felt out of her depth in self-defense.
In six weeks, she had mastered the Indariki basics. Kala performed the art with her often. The Guard Commander alternately joined his Order’s scheduled routine and theirs. Coming straight from the Black Guards’ practice, Karina could sometimes glimpse an aura of vitality and charisma exuding from him. It was hard for her to picture him sneaking and snooping around in the third dimension when his presence was difficult to miss.
At the moment, Karina faced a tough and relentless taskmaster. He had told her at the very beginning that he would train her in the simplest and most effective forms of self-defense. In turn, she would listen and follow his instructions without complaint. Arturion had convinced his friend to teach her in case there was a one-in-a-million chance Karina found herself lost in the woods again.
Animals still dropped their gifts outside the house at all hours. It was highly impossible there were creatures still hostile to Karina. But, she had heard Kelor-dan speaking to one of his courtiers about trespassers crossing the borders without permission. She didn’t know what became of the humans. The Forest Folk’s fondness for her did not extend to the rest of humanity. She hoped the Devatas did not employ their deadlier pranks to harmless travelers and prayed that the Sentries were in no danger.
“Enjoying the view?” Reno raised a bushy brow at her, his hands on his hips. She was still lying on her back and wanted to stay in that position for a while longer.
Reno’s last attack had sent her landing flat on the ground, the air forced out of her lungs in a whoosh. Grunting, she returned to her feet. He looked at her from head to toe. She could sense his Sight probing her for signs of injury.
“You’re not hurt,” he said satisfactorily. It was an understatement. Hurt meant being critically injured. Karina could feel the aftereffects of their training. She had been sporting more cuts and bruises ever since they started Form 3.
The easiest in self-defense was Form 1, hide your presence by shrinking your aura’s size and running at the first sign of danger; Form 2, counter the attack of a known enemy, then escape; Form 3, counter assault of unknown opponent and flee.
“Playtime’s over. Arturion’s here.” Reno stared at the house. “A word before you run off to your Keeper, Karina.”
“Yes, Guryo,” Karina replied, using the honorific for ‘teacher.’
“Your aura is very fine. Psychic attacks would simply pass through without affecting you, which is why I am teaching you physical defensive movements. The size of your auric field gives you the upper hand in Form 3. Use that advantage to identify who is and who is not your enemy and locate him. I won’t be able to see you in the next two days. I want you to practice that skill while I’m away.” Reno floated a few inches off the ground. “You can start by locating Arturion.”
“He’s in the living room.”
“Guess again.” The Commander grinned. “When I return, we’ll play hide-and-seek. You should be able to pinpoint my exact location by then.”
Teacher and student bowed to each other and parted ways. Reno levitated over treetops towards his headquarters in the south, his mind partially occupied with work ahead of him. Karina was a good student and she was making progress in the Forms. It was astonishing to see her easily catch up in what took years of training and discipline to master the styles of Indariki. He had made the mistake of underestimating the Liyanna in a lot of ways.
In teaching her, he learned more about Karina’s potential. Time is what she really needed to harness her gifts. Time she did not have. The woman was a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode at any moment. If she lives after ascension, he would offer her a place in his Order.
Meanwhile, Karina strode into the house and found the living room empty. Arturion and Reno had telepathically communicated with one another while she lay stunned on the grass.
With eyes closed, she allowed her other senses to take over. Her keen ears picked up mundane sounds from outside and the frequency of plants, insects, animals, inanimate objects. The sounds were jumbled together. It was hard to discern which vibration belonged to which flora and fauna. She had the same difficulty when she tried to feel another presence in her aura. Everyone appeared to be within the range of her auric field. It was easier to search the rooms for Arturion. But, the minute she thought of him, Karina saw a vision of him in the archives. Possibly just my imagination, she thought. Yet, there he was seated at the table, a corner of his mouth curled into a smile.
“You found me,” he said.
“So I have,” Karina replied, disbelievingly. The vision she had of him was accurate, not one jot of difference to the actual.
She nodded, sitting beside him.
“It’s easy to find someone you know with that ability. Focus your other senses on me and tell me what you find,” he encouraged. “I’ll take care of the energy cycle.”
Karina concentrated on the density and frequency of his energy field. It was finer in density and vibration than her human friends. His aura emitted a distinct smell and the same warmth she had felt two years ago.
She described what she had discovered to him.
“I smell like tea leaves?” Arturion’s brows shot up.
“Yes. There’s no tea set up in here. So, the only logical explanation is it’s coming from you.” Karina wrinkled her nose. “I thought you knew.”
“I can’t smell my scent.”
“Everyone tells me you have acute senses.”
“My theory is I’ve grown accustomed to my scent that my nose barely registers it.”
“Would you mind my sleeping here for half an hour?”
“Of course not.” Karina examined her friend. Arturion had grown out his hair again. He looked older. There were stubbles on his chin and shadows under his eyes which she hadn’t noticed before. “Are they piling you with work?”
“The Council? No. My job is not that demanding.”
“Is it someone in my – in the third dimension?” she asked. “No. Don’t answer that.” Karina felt a tinge of loss whenever she thought of home. It was still a sore subject for them both.
“Don’t be. I’m not blaming you. I miss Aly and the others, but that doesn’t mean it’s your fault. The ones to blame here are the Zertans.” Arturion gave her a dubious look. How could she convince him from self-persecution? Karina sighed. “Arty, if you badly want to make it up to me, just follow through with your promise that you’ll always be my friend.”
“Pinkie swear.” She held out her little finger to him.
“You’re like a child.” Arturion smiled. He crooked his finger in hers.
“Now that that’s settled, I’ll leave you to your nap. I’ll make sure Kala doesn’t disturb you.”
Karina practiced identifying objects and animals using her psychic abilities until she heard the knock at the entrance. The door swung open and the scent of lemons reached her nostrils.
Kala stepped in with two baskets. One was overflowing with gifts from Forest Folk and creatures, the other containing their lunch.
“Good morning,” Kala said in her usual happy mood. “How was Form 3?”
“The same.” Karina displayed the purplish color at her hip.
“Nasty.” The girl grimaced. “Fortunately, I have just what you need.” She uncorked a bottle of green creamy salve and generously applied it to Karina’s hip and shoulder. She continued spreading the ointment to wounds and bruises. “I am surprised the Elders have not objected to Reno’s teaching methods,” Kala commented.
“Is it possible for your people to look older overnight?”
“Our real age shows when we are very tired or ill. Why do you ask?” The apprentice stoppered the bottle.
“Arty looks about thirty today. Usually, he looks about my age.”
“It is a side effect.” Kala’s eyes were downcast. “Merkaba take its toll on a human’s physical body. A large amount of energy is consumed during each transport. It is unusual for a person to travel between worlds alternately in a short span of days.”
Karina counted the number of times Arturion used Merkaba ever since Reno replaced him as her instructor six weeks ago. She would have run to the archives and demanded why Arturion had hidden this from her, but Kala’s hand firmly held her arm.
“He is asleep, yes? Let him recover a little of his strength before you confront him. Even so, Arturion is as stubborn as a mule. You will have better luck in praying for the mountain to move from your path than convince him to stop this silliness.”
Kala pulled her into the kitchen and handed her the plates and utensils to be laid out on the table.
“What are you suggesting?”
“First, we eat.” The girl opened the basket and set out two clay pots. Steam drifted up as the covers were lifted. Karina’s stomach grumbled as the smell of food assaulted her. “A full stomach will allow us to think more clearly, do you not agree?” Kala’s eyes twinkled.
Karina was in no mood to protest. She was starving and Arturion was probably fast asleep. He wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.
Wattpad code: 58366003
©MC Babasa 2014
A/N: Feel free to post your feedback as this is the first book. Your comments and suggestions may influence the story as it progresses up to the second book.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.