The guardsman clumsily dismounted– he was improving, but still terrible at it– and she turned herself to face him.
She slung her rifle and stated, “Extend your right hand.”
He did so, watching her as if expecting an explanation. She was not yet ready to give it.
She took his hand, which he had held out as if for a handshake, and turned it so that it rested palm-down in her hand. The ash which had originally carried the flux pattern had long since penetrated and transformed into something like a tattoo. She studied the active form built by the pattern.
Its effectiveness was uncertain, as the man had overridden it somehow once already, but it would be better to not remove this. Husband had been very clear on that point. She could turn it off, though. She covered it with her left hand and carefully dismissed the flux active within the form. The pattern remained, and she would reactivate it once they were done here.
She let go of his hand and he stared down at it with a scowl. It seemed he could tell it was no longer functional. She could read that in his expression, as well as the fact that it had been giving him a sense of security which she had just removed.
“It would interfere with what I need to do,” she explained.
He nodded. He understood.
She was not uncomfortable about doing this. At best, the form was guarding against accidental activation in his sleep. He was not asleep at the moment.
“So what are we supposed to be doing here?” he asked, looking around.
“It is another lesson. I wish for you to repeat bringing the focus of your mind to the boundary of the Adhen, as we did before.”
It drew a quizzical look, and she understood why, immediately. She clarified, “The exercise that I had you do, to turn off your habitual scanning. Take great care not to lose your consciousness, or you will likely fall off your feet.”
He looked skeptical. “Wouldn’t it be better to sit down, then?”
“Part of the challenge is to not fall. To neither fall off your feet, nor fall into the Adhen. To not lose your awareness. Tell me when you believe you have reached that point that is as far in as you can go without falling into it. Close your eyes and do not open until I say.”
His lip twisted, but he nodded. She held her hand to his forehead and recreated the training form that she used before. Closing his eyes, he concentrated for a long while.
At last, he said, “I think… maybe here.”
Naturally, she could not see it for herself, but he had demonstrated success before.
“You are beginning to learn mastery of the Adhen, the Awareness Gate, Guardsman. It is not the normal place to begin your studies, but it is the one that can help your peculiar situation the most. In nature, it connects to your Sen, your consciousness, but your consciousness is closed to it. Right now, your are in a state of unconsciously using it, rather than consciously opening it. You will not have achieve mastery of it until you can say, with certainty, that your mind’s focus stands exactly at the opening and encompasses it.”
After a bit longer, he shook his head. “I have the feeling I can’t go further, but…”
“Hold your awareness there, and open your eyes.”
He opened his eyes and looked at her. Waiting for an explanation.
There would be no magic epiphany from this, but it had accomplished something whether he knew it or not. If he was indeed holding that state, his mind and flux sense were now as attuned as he could make them at his current level.
“I have noted that you eat with your right hand. Are you indeed naturally a right-handed man?”
He nodded. She raised her left hand. “Place that hand against mine, then draw it away no more than a hairsbreadth.”
As she felt the skin contact disappear, she generated the form again, this time just in front of her Lefthand Gate.
“You just created one of those form things.”
The fact that he immediately sensed it impressed her.
“A training form,” she agreed. “You can sense it, then.”
She hadn’t meant her words as a question, but he nodded.
Leaving the form in place, she backed her hand away and let it drop. He left his hand in place, although it was certain he would have felt with his flux-sense that she had removed hers.
She said, “With your mind still centered upon your Awareness Gate, concentrate entirely upon the training form. Do not consider any other element around you. Fix your mind fully on the form. Nod briefly when you feel you have its position fixed firmly in mind.”
Once he did so, she said, “Now, imagine a flow pouring out of it, away from you. It does not matter what substance you imagine. It could be a burning fluid or a stream of ice water. But it must flow from that point, not from your hand. Remember that.”
No student ever succeeded in channeling flux during this exercise the first time. She had half-expected that this impossible man would do it, and indeed had her passive shield primed to counteract it if needed. She chided herself harshly for feeling disappointment when it did not happen.
“Remain focused, but stop the flow and imagine the point expanding into a ball. It may be a ball of fire or a ball of lighting or anything else energetic that you can imagine.”
After a bit, another nod.
“You will alternate these two exercises. Imagine making them. Imagine unmaking them. The symbol in your mind should be whatever works best for your imagination, but keep it a consistent symbol.”
“If you should find things growing hazy, return to your awareness gate and repeat the lesson from the beginning. The training form will remain active for you.”
“You still see the training form. Open your eyes and take note of its position.”
He did so, and blinked in surprise when he found she had backed the dot of flux away from his hand by several inches while she spoke. She watched him experience a moment of vertigo, as if he had found himself standing farther away from it than he thought. Then, if things had happened as she believed, his mind likely snapped into place and he felt, intimately, the separation in position between the form and the gate of his hand, and possibly the relative position between them and the gate within his skull as well.
It was that sense of location that he must learn. Eventually, he would be able to know a point in space by its position relative to every gate within his being.
“I have affixed the form to your right-hand gate. Do you feel both or just the form?”
“Both,” he answered, a little stunned at the realization.
“The form will remain with you for several hours before it runs out of energy and disappears. As you ride, I want you to practice. Alternate between the two images I told you to imagine, until one of them becomes easier to visualize, then concentrate on doing that exercise. Regularly return to the exercise with your Awareness gate as well.”
“Should I start scanning, as well?”
“I never told you to stop. You’ve been doing it this entire time, Guardsman.”
His eyes showed surprise as he realized she was right. He had been doing it so long that it had become like breathing. For those of higher sensitivity, it became that way by nature.
“Make sure you only use your active scan on under conditions like this, Guardsman, where you are far from crowds. Sensing in a particular direction is not a problem, but it can become an annoyance to other artists when you are in a civilized area and the situation does not call for such an action.”
“Should I stop scanning?” he wondered. Perhaps he thought he was annoying her.
She considered the question, then decided, “Yes. It is not yet our turn on patrol. I shall keep my passive sense in vigilance so you can concentrate on your lesson.”
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