Sunar sat, trying to concentrate on the feeling of the morning sun on his skin, rather than his sixth birthday party, while matching the breathing of Master Ikthan beside him. His friends had enjoyed the party as much as he had, for which he felt glad. It had not been easy making friends with some of the other children, but he had done it. They made fun of his wings at first, and of how he had would never fly with them.
Master Ikthan had given him the trick to making friends, though. He had said, “Maybe you should treat it like you treat an opponent running at you, use their words to help you.”
In the end, it was the strange sound thing he could do to knock people over and break things which did it. After some of the others had watched him practice, they tried to make fun of how ‘weak’ he had to be to need to use something like that to break things. So, he had suggested they find neat things for him to break. Soon, finding things that he either could, or could not, break (and guessing between each other what would happen with each thing) had become something of a game, and friendship started to happen.
He felt warmth – which had nothing to do with the rising of the sun – spread to his cheeks, felt his heartbeat speed up to something approaching normal. The sound of a small puff of fast breath from Master Ikthan brought him back into his meditation. Sunar felt a moment of shame at the reproof, but kept his eyes closed. He knew that if he peeked he’d just find The Master sitting there, facing the sun, but that his open eyes would, somehow, be detected.
It took only moments to open the veins in his neck and drain the flush from his cheeks, but required a little longer to get his heart to slow and match pace with Master Ikthan’s again. He could do that, though the other kids couldn’t. Some tried to claim that he had special advantage because of his hearing, but none could get their heart rates down so low.
‘Concentrate, Sunar, concentrate. Sun on skin. Warmth. That’s it.’ He chided himself gently. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face, his chest, his wings. The wings which both friends and adults kept telling him would never carry him to the sky.
The wings were too small, and too frail, that he had to admit. Also, they did not appear to be growing with the rest of him. The doctor had a big word for it… ves… ti… goral… or something. It didn’t matter. He would make it work, would fly. He had to make them grow… somehow.
His heartbeat began to increase again, so he looked inward and brought it down. A tiny rustle of silk let him know that Master Ikthan had noticed the lapse, and that he had caught it himself. The Master pushed him, always. No matter that he had gone far ahead of his friends with meditation, the adults were always pushing. How many six-year-olds in the temple could slow their heartbeat?
Then a thought occurred to him, a way to make his wings work. It would take time, and discipline, but it would work. He concentrated on the arteries feeding his wings, looked for control points, opened the blood flow. He then turned his attention to the muscle, the bone-but-not-bone which formed the wings. All of this he held in his mind, and gave a simple command: grow.
His chi produced a warm, glowing sensation as he moved it slowly, ever so slowly, into his wings, adapting his body to his desire. Nothing else happened, though the glow remained, but he had not expected more. It would, after all, take time.
The slow, rhythmic beat of his heart began to change, and it took him a moment to understand why. Master Ikthan’s heartbeat had begun to increase, and his had kept pace. When he opened his eyes, the sun was just hidden behind the top of the gazebo.
Master Ikthan stood, and spoke with tones of approval, “You held the meditation very well today, Sunar. I am impressed. At the beginning, I thought you were going to fall out of it again, but you regained your calm and held it. I must say that I was expecting you to grow restless and rouse us from meditation before now, so I had not been tracking time. You should hurry to morning katas with your friends.”
Sunar bowed, then turned and left. The Master’s tones had implied a question as to how he had become so still, but he feared that telling him would only lead to a reproof. Instead, he let The Master think that the smile he bore was the result of his approval, and made for his morning practice; the glow still radiating within his wings.