012 - The greatest warrior, redux
“Tell me,” he said, looking at my aura. He never squinted or strained or looked as if it took much effort when he did, incidentally, nor did his eyes take on any strange gaze; he’d look at it as you or I would scan the sky for weather. I only knew when he was doing it by where he looked. “Tell me about when you knew you didn’t want to be a warrior.”
“Knew I didn’t want to be a warrior? I never knew such a thing.”
I was not lying. I know this must seem amazing to anyone who has read my full memoirs, and imagined that I, having written them, must have read them back at one point or another, but it is true. The time goes in and out of my memory. Or, I should say, it did.
“Mmm,” he said, scanning my aura again. “Changed my mind: on the table.” At least he let me stay dressed, and even laid a light quilt over me. This time when he had me breathe deeply, he commanded me to relax completely and close my eyes too, and I remembered what he’d said in the first session: don’t close your eyes, that puts you in the past.
“You’ve completely forgotten a number of things in your life, other than the first two or three years, which is natural,” he said. “The most significant one, other than your stream-test, is when you were tortured in Arko… something we needn’t delve into for our purposes at the moment. Maybe someday you’ll want to heal it entirely.” I’d given up on that, figuring it wasn’t worth it for such a short time left in my life; I’d have to rethink that now. “Knowing you didn’t want to be a warrior, though, you definitely want to get back.”
“I really didn’t, at some point? You sound so certain… you see it in my aura?” I thought back through my past, right to childhood, and couldn’t find it, though the day I had learned I had weapon-sense, or more exactly, that no one else did, kept poking prominent. I knew better than to deny entirely what he was saying.
He laid his hands on either side of my head. “Close your eyes again, Chevenga. All-Spirit… giving an order with that name… well, I’m just going to have to get used to it.” He actually didn’t seem even in the slightest bit fazed. “Breathe deep, breathe in total laxness… let every muscle, every sinew, every cell go loose.” His fingers touched my temples then, and suddenly I was falling into myself. I’d been in trance before, in particular with Alchaen, but it had always taken some time. Surya somehow had in his fingers the power of bringing it instantly.
“Your family all mourned your blood-father… your first war-training class after that,” he said, very gently, his voice filling my mind as I were on truth-drug. “Go to that time.”
Of course it came back as if it had never been gone. I remembered writing it in the memoir, not a year ago, and speaking of it with Kaninjer sometime during the war. I tried to will away the horror of the fragmentedness of my own mind.
He made me relive it, thoroughly; how I’d watched Esora-e and Urakaila spar, realizing what it really meant and so losing all my joy in it, how I’d been unable to win at wrestling, never wanting to finish my partner, how I’d started to go up onto the mountain worried that I was a coward and meaning to fling myself off a cliff if I realized I was, but Esora-e had stopped me; the conversation with him in the room with the Sword of Saint Mother, and my decision when I did go up the mountain.
I came up out of it long enough to feel that my temples were wet with my tears, but he made me keep going into the next day, the weapon-sense day, when my shadow-father had set my course for me, to become the greatest warrior.
I felt Surya’s fingers on my temples, and his table under my back, and tears in my eyes. I did become that, in Esora-e’s mind, and many others. And now I’m going to go asa kraiya. I couldn’t remember forgetting, of course, but I was fairly sure I’d never wept over it before. Surya said nothing, only changed his hold on my head into a cradling, to let my emotion run its course, and my mind take its time coming back to the present.
“I was Azaila’s student,” I whispered finally. “But Esora-e gave me extra, as my shadow-father. His heart was set on it; from then on, it was his sacred task. Surya… I didn’t think I could forget something that major.”
“You concealed your unwillingness to kill from yourself very thoroughly afterwards. Forgetting this conversation intermittently was part of it. It’s natural. You essentially had to.”
But I had remembered now. I have not forgotten since. I lay silent for a while, feeling laid open and naked as a new bone-deep wound, my head in his hands. I had to lie here in stillness and silence and his caring, I saw, to get to the point of being able to bear it.
“Now I know,” I said, when I could, “I remember feeling echoes of it, across my whole life. When I was telling them in the Mezem that I wouldn’t fight… it was familiar, and I didn’t know why. No meant death; but when I said no, I felt so free.” Tears came again. He changed his grip again, leaving one hand on the back of my head taking its weight, and laying the other across my brow. His touch was almost more gentle than I’d known was possible.
After another wordless time, my emotion washing itself out, he had me take three very deep breaths, and said, “Tell me now, how you feel about going asa kraiya.”
That freedom flashed through me again, blinding, as long as I could bear, which was a bare moment. Then emotion seized me. I had asked Surya earlier why his walls were lined with sponges; to dampen sound, he told me, so that his clients could fully voice their feeling without the entire neighbourhood bearing witness. It washed itself out all over me, right down to my toes, leaving me so spent I slept for half a bead right on his table. When it came time to sling back on all my weapons to leave, my hands did it unthinkingly as always, but neither the weapons, nor the hands that handled them with such easy skill, seemed my own.