Sunar did not know how long he sat crying. He let everything wash away in the flood of tears; the pain, the childish ideals, and, finally, the pride. It seemed an eternity before the it stopped. He felt tired, as if he had performed hours and hours of katas, but he also felt a strange relief – and an odd sort of lightness, as if a weight had lifted.
The Master’s hand stopped rubbing his back, “Our ways are not always easy, Sunar, and some of the lessons not what they appear. You thought, as have many other children, that we hold our emotions back or push them away. In your pride, rather than learn the truth, you chose to do what you thought was expected. Yes, Sunar, even this was pride. It is a pride common in our children, though, and each has to be guided differently.
“The truth of it is: we embrace our emotions, feel them fully, submit to them, and in that submission learn to guide them. That we do not often let them show is another matter for another time.”
Sunar listened, and, as with so many teachings, felt like he both understood and did not. He would puzzle it out, though. Maybe he would discuss it with… Pain enveloped him again, threatened to overwhelm him. With his mother. Could he discuss anything with her again without shame?
Tears welled up in his eyes, and he let anguish wash through him. Part of him braced for another long bout of tears, to double over again, but it did not happen. He sobbed for a few moments, then the pressure within him eased, and became something manageable. He straightened and faced his mentor, who nodded before speaking.
“Good, Sunar, good. You begin to understand. This is not an easy road, but you have taken the first step. Now, you have another difficult road to travel, short in steps but, by the look on your face, long in your heart. Go, child, delay will only make your heart heavier.” With that Master Ikthan rose, patted him on the shoulder, and walked away.
Sunar stood a long moment, staring after him, before reluctantly turning his feet toward… home.
‘I have walked these halls my whole life,’ he thought to himself, ‘yet they feel strange. I am going down flights of stairs to get… to go… HOME… and yet it feels like I am climbing upwards. I am better than any my age at self-control and controlling what my body tells me, but now it feels like my feet have been turned to lead. I will at least stand straight! I will stand tall and face this. I will!’
He pushed himself, made himself stand straight and raise his chin, but it lasted only a few steps, ‘It is like I do not have the energy, as if I had not slept for days. It is like a dream, or a nightmare. The one where I try to run, but the air is like water and I can’t speed up.’
‘Look, just look at how I am moving, slow, even pitiful! Such an odd sensation, though. I feel like I am standing outside myself, watching my body move. I know it is not really moving slow, but it feels that way. My head is so bent, it is like…’
‘NO. You will not do this, Sunar. No, *I* will not do this. I will not retreat into self-observation to keep distant from these emotions. From this shame. I deserve what I feel, and I will not shy away!’ He trudged down the hall, mind churning. ‘I will feel this, I will not shy away’ kept looping in his mind, almost like a mantra. Tears began to flow, and he made no move to wipe them away, no attempt to make them stop.
It seemed an eternity before he stood at the apartment door. ‘No, not “the apartment door’, he reminded himself, ‘at MY door. Home. My foolishness did not make this no longer my home, any more than it made Mom any less my Mother.’
Mother looked up from an infant, surprise on her face at someone barging into her home. The look changed to uncertainty when she saw him, and he felt as though he had been stabbed. So many things would have been easier to take: anger, retribution, a smile of acceptance, but… to see uncertainty on his mother’s face for the first time he could remember, and to see that directed at him. He could not bear it.
He rushed across the room, words tumbling from his mouth, ‘I’m so sorry mommy, I was wrong, I was bad, I love youIloveDaddyIlovemySisterIwillneverboudlkjb’ In those few hurried, stumbled steps he gave up on his tongue. He went to hug his mother, but his sister was in her lap. He saw her face and stopped. So beautiful, so fresh, so innocent, such a wonder. He raised a shaky finger to the infant’s cheek; her pale, smooth skin a stark contrast against his purple-black scales.
His vision blurred as tears started again, tears not of shame, but of joy. His mother’s arm had gone around him, and held him to her side. He looked up to see tears, and a smile, on her face. His other hand went to touch his mother’s cheek, “Mommy I am so sorry, I should have known better, I shou…”
She leaned into his touch, and cupped his face in her hand. “Shhhh, it is ok. My son, my Sunar. I know. You had to find your way, and you have. You are my son, you will always be my son.”
He smiled back at her, then turned his eyes to his sister. He silently made a promise, ‘My beautiful sister: I will never desert you again. I will help you grow up, I will show you all the wonder in the world, I will be the best big brother that any sister in all the Empire has ever had!’ He could not take his eyes off of her, but he had to know one thing, “Mother, what is her name?”
A drop of moisture from his mother’s tears fell on his hand as she answered, “Now that you have come home, we will have the ceremony before the temple and announce her name. But, before her name was told to all, we wanted her brother to know. She is our Sierra.”