Arel sighed and deactivated her lightsabre. "I can't WAIT till tomorrow!"
"The Choosing," Obi-Wan agreed, deactivating his as well and rubbing his upper arm, where Arel had landed a hard hit. The sabres were training ones for students to use -- lacking the full, destructive power of those built by Padawans to serve them through their lives as Jedi, they still packed enough of a punch to burn. The severity of the burn depended upon the hardness of the hit.
"Who do you think will Choose you?" Arel asked.
Obi-Wan shrugged. "The Masters have been very closed-mouthed about that."
Arel smiled. "Well, *I* know who'll choose me!"
"Really?" Obi-Wan grinned at her, drying his long hair with a towel.
"Master Jinn," she smiled. "I'm top of my studies, I'm the best with a sabre, I'm the quickest with the answers!" She beamed. "And he's the best, just like me!" She turned and began to walk out, but turned back. "Obi-Wan, no Master wants a Padawan who's as self-conscious and self-deprecating as you. You need to get more confidence before ANY Master will want you!"
With that, she turned and left.
"She's right," Obi-Wan sighed, sinking to the mat and arranging himself in a meditative position. He began to clear the troubled thoughts from his mind.
* * *
"I choose Obi-Wan Kenobi," Master Jinn's rich voice rippled through the Hall.
Arel's jaw dropped wide open. She looked over at Obi-Wan, whose jaw was similarly gaping. "But..." Arel gasped. "But I..."
Yoda pointed his stick at her. "I. Yes, again, I it is. Always I with this one. Arrogant, this one is. Competitive, this one is. Must be always best, must be always right. Immature she be. Mature she must, before Jedi she plays."
"PLAYS?" she cried. "You think this is a game to me?"
Master Jinn's voice rang out again. "Bluntly? Yes we do. A game Arel had to win at any cost. You lost sight of what being a Jedi is about."
"Selfish, arrogant you are," Yoda snorted. "Of the Dark Side this is." There were murmurs of agreement. "Ways she must change before Chosen she be."
The assembly broke up, Master going to new Padawan, leaving the students who had not yet been Chosen standing there.
"You'll pay for this, Obi-Wan,"Arel spat, shielding her bitter thoughts as best she could. "Oh, you'll pay for my humiliation..."
* * *
Obi-Wan fingered his new Padawan braid and smiled ironically as he ran a hand over his newly shortened hair. A small price to pay, he thought.
The knock on his chambre door startled him. He frowned --- he'd not felt anyone coming. He opened the door and smiled. Arel! What a pleasant surprise!"
She laughed. "You're shorn!"
He chuckled and ran a hand over his locks again. "I know. I'm to meet Master Jinn in a few moment --"
"This will only take a moment."
His smile faded slightly. Something seemed --- off --- about her.... "What can I do for you, Arel?"
"You weren't supposed to be Chosen," she said calmly. "I was."
He held up a hand, his smile gone. "Arel, Master Jinn explained his reasons ---"
"Still." She smiled. "I was to have been Chosen." The smile grew. "And I still will be."
Alarmed, he cried through the Force, *MASTER!*
It was all he had time to do. Moving too fast for him to react, she brought the training lightsabre around, activated it ----
And hit him full force across the eyes.
One by one, and then in teams, the Jedi healers entered Obi-Wan's chambres. One by one, and then in teams, they came out shaking their heads.
Qui-Gon was finally permitted into the chambres. A healer shook hear head and began to walk past him. He gently touched her shoulder. "Tell me."
The healer let out a long sigh. "The training sabre made full contact with his eyes. He's been severely burned. We've... healed the burns...but..."
"But?" An icy hand wrapped around Qui-Gon's spine. Healers rarely, if ever, said 'but' after a sentence of healing.
Another tired sigh. "But... we could not restore his vision."
Qui-Gon blinked HARD. "You... you could NOT?"
She looked at him, infinite weariness in her mahogany gaze. "His blindness is no longer physical in nature. It appears to now be from his heart."
The tall Jedi nodded slowly and looked toward the sleeping quarters. "So any further healing..."
"...must come from within HIM. Yes." She sighed once more. "If you will excuse me, Master Jinn..."
"Many thanks." He stepped aside and let her pass. Then he sent a wave through the Force, identifying himself as he stepped through the door.
Obi-Wan was sitting up, propping a pillow behind his shoulders. He looked unharmed, unburned, undamaged in any way ---
Save for the clouded, confused look in his staring eyes that showed he was unseeing.
His head tilted slightly. "M...Master."
Qui-Gon stepped forward. "Here, Padawan."
"What...What's going to happen to me now, Master?"
"Nothing has changed," Qui-Gon said, sitting on the edge of the low bed.
Blind azure eyes widened as his jaw dropped slightly. "Nothing...but....but I can't see!"
"Not with your eyes, that's true," Qui-Gon said calmly. "We will begin to train you to see using the Force. Your training is far from over, young Padawan --- you've barely begun!"
A startled but absolutely delighted smile began to spread across Obi-Wan's face, then it faded. "Master.... what about Arel?"
* * *
"Darksided that one is," Yoda huffed as he leaned on his stick. "In her much jealousy, much hatred, much anger live."
"She is Force-powerful," Mace Windu said, frowning deeply. "Raw, untrained talent --"
"UntrainABLE," a female Jedi spoke up. "She is self-centred. Everything points back to Arel."
"Agreed," another woman put in. "She is power without mercy, ability without compassion."
Yoda snorted. "Perfect Sith Lady she would be."
The rest of the Council looked rather incredulously at the ancient creature. "Master Yoda," Windu said. "The Sith no longer exist."
"Be the first in forever, she would," Yoda growled. "Be allowed access to students she must NOT."
"Agreed," the women chorused.
"Do you realise what you are asking?" a tall blue Jedi asked. "You are asking the Council to.... to...."
"Asking Council to purge Darksided One I am," Yoda said, standing and crossing the room. He leaned on his staff and narrowed his eyes as he looked at the blue dissenter. "Problem have you, hmmm?"
The blue man was easily three times Yoda's size. He looked into the Jedi Master's eyes and started to snarl out a reply, then sighed and dropped his eyes, visibly deflating under the emerald stare.
"Ah, Better you thought of it, I see," Yoda said, nodding his head. "Tested she will be. Tried she will be. If truly Darksided she be ---"
"She will be purged," Windu said softly.
Qui-Gon moved to his bed and for once, did not lay down and pull the covers over himself.
Today he was so exhausted he FLOPPED on his bed and threw an arm over his eyes, letting out a heavy sigh.
At that moment, a tentative knock sounded on his door. He sat up wearily. "Enter."
The door opened and Obi-Wan stood there, looking very nervous. "Uhm...Master...."
Qui-Gon stood up. "Remember what we went over today?"
Obi-Wan moved into the room slowly, using his hands to show him where the sparse furnishings were. "Yes... but that's only for training ---"
"A Jedi's training IS a Jedi's LIFE," Qui-Gon reminded him gently. "Why are you here and not in your quarters?"
The younger man winced as if stricken. "I... I got turned around... confused...." Tears welled upin his sightless blue eyes, then spilled over onto his cheeks. "Master, WHY?" he sobbed, laying his hands over his face. "We... we were FRIENDS! I- I- I trusted her with my-my-my LIFE! WHY would she d-DO this to me? WHY?"
Qui-Gon reached out and gently drew him into an embrace. "I don't know, Padawan," he whispered. "I truly don't know."
After a long few moments, Obi-Wan's arms encircled his Master, returning the embrace. "Thank you," he sniffled.
Qui-Gon squeezed his eyes shut, but the water poured down his cheeks anyway. He tightened the fatherly embrace in answer, as emotion had stolen his voice.
* * *
Yoda leaned on his stick and sighed. One hand raised to rub a tired eye. The trials of Arel were nearly complete, and he was more than a little startled at the results.
He'd done a foolish thing -- he'd judged her prematurely. He had let anger cloud his mind for a moment. "Old enough I am," he growled to himself, shaking his head. "Know better should I by now..."
"Master Yoda?" Straya, one of the students, appeared in the doorway behind him. "The final test is complete."
"Coming, coming," Yoda sighed. He moved to the doorway and could not suppress the grin as her hand reached out, then clenched in a fist and moved back to her side. "Ah, you also."
She gave a slight chuckle as she blushed. "I'm sorry, Master Yoda."
He hmphed and nodded, moving on out. "....old enough I am indeed," he groused as he walked down the hallway. "...used to females wanting to pet me I should be as well...."
Straya couldn't help but chuckle as she followed him.
* * *
Yoda arrived and took his seat in the Council. Mace Windu turned to him and smiled. "The tests are complete, Master Yoda."
"Aware of it I am," he nodded. "Say about her, they do what?"
A female Jedi answered. "She is trainable. She is not as darksided as we ,assumed."
"Mmm," Yoda rumbled. "As much I figured, once calm down I did."
Windu nodded in agreement. "Arel is talented. VERY talented. She needs to learn humility and how to take her focus off herself and how she compares to others."
The blue Jedi agreed. "She must be cured of the idea that she is the best or she is nothing."
Yoda leaned on his stick and regarded the blue Jedi with a critical eye. "Massive undertaking, this is. Do this, shall which Master?"
The blue Jedi smiled. "You, Master Yoda."
The wizened Master's ears twitched in shock. He jerked to his feet, spluttering.
"I agree," Windu said, his face totally impassive. "If any among us can teach humility, it is Master Yoda."
The rest of the Council murmurred in assent. Yoda looked around and scowled. He gave a loud "HMPH!" and walked out of the Chambres.
* * *
Arel looked up as her door was pounded on. "....come...." she called, not bothering to stand up.
Yoda stalked in, slamming his stick on the ground. "Your new Master I am. Meet me in Meditation Gardens at First Light you shall." He turned and moved toward the door, then turned back and jabbed his stick at her. "Or come find you I WILL!"
And he was gone.
Arel sighed and looked out of her window. "It doesn't matter now," she whispered. "I've lost. Nothing matters anymore."
Obi-Wan raised his head and tilted it up, feeing the warmth of the light on his face. He sighed, opening his eyes wide as if looking at the light in his room.
After a moment, he sighed again and lowered his head. "Force, I hate this..." he moaned, rubbing his eyes. "I HATE being blind!"
He moved to his bed and lay down. He reached out and touched his Master mentally. Feeling a wave of reassurance roll over him in return, he curled up and went to sleep.
Obi-Wan had left his light burning -- but the blind young man was unaware of it.
* * *
Qui-Gon stood there, eyes closed, sending waves of reassurance to his Padawan. When he felt the teenager slide to sleep, he reached out with the Force and shut off the room light.
Then, with a sigh, he opened his eyes and raised a hand to the bridge of his nose.
A large hand descended upon his shoulder. "It's time."
"I know," Qui-Gon sighed. He turned to Windu. "I'm ready."
Together, they walked into the Council Chambres and Windu took his seat. When Qui-Gon took his place, Windu nodded. "Report."
"It is... difficult," Qui-Gon said. "The things we're attempting have never been done before. To teach one to see with the Force instead of his eyes.."
"An enormous task have taken you on," Yoda said. "Worth it, is he?"
"He is powerful," Qui-Gon said. "The Force is strong with him. He is, indeed, worth it."
"But on the matter of his sight..." the blue Jedi said.
Qui-Gon sighed. "There is still no reason for him to be blind. But together, we feel -- I feel -- that he can still be Jedi."
"Perhaps," Windu mused, "the techniques you develop can help other Jedis who lose their sight --"
"Or perhaps," a woman piped up, "we can used the techniques to help ourselves learn to tap the Force in other ways."
"Perhaps," Qui-Gon agreed. He then turned to Yoda. "Master Yoda -- what of Arel?"
With a sigh, Yoda closed his eyes, raised his hand, and rubbed the bridge of his wrinkled nose.
"That good?" Qui-Gon couldn't repress the smile.
"Humourous it is not!" Yoda snapped, leaning forward and jabbing his finger at Qui-Gon. "Stubbourn she is! Prideful she is!" He sighed, then seemed to visibly deflate. "Full of pain, she is."
"But you CAN reach her," Qui-Gon said.
Yoda's head jerked up and the staff he carried jabbed toward Qui-Gon. "Ah, but YOUR part consider well!"
"M-MY part?" Qui-Gon took a step backward, genuinely startled. "My teaching skills are good, but I am HARDLY the best that she seems to think I am ---"
Yoda hmph'd. Windu chuckled and shook his head slightly.
Qui-Gon looked from one to the other, confused. "Masters?"
Windu smiled ever so slightly. "Still thinking overmuch. Some things never truly change. Use your heart, Jinn. Don't sense the Force with your mind -- truly FEEL it."
Qui-Gon inhaled deeply, closing his eyes and reaching out with his feelings. A gasp escaped him as his azure eyes flew wide open. "How could I have been so wrong?" he whispered.
Windu nodded. "Yes... what you feel is true. She has -- FEELINGS -- for you."
"I... I assumed she wanted to be my Padawan because she saw me as the best teacher...."
"Always looking for the logic behind the reason," Windu said, leaning forward slightly. "You keep forgetting, Jinn. Some things aren't logical -- they're bound up in feelings."
Qui-Gon felt the Force move slightly, and Yoda nodded. "Yes, Jinn -- Bound by his feelings Kenobi is."
Qui-Gon raised his eyes to meet Yoda's. "As is Arel."
"Yes..." the blue Jedi mused. "Her feelings for you inhibit her growth in the Force."
"As well as her stubbourn pride," Windu sighed. "A separation may be best for all."
"I'll leave Coruscant immediately," Qui-Gon said.
"No," Yoda said. "Choice in this you have not. Familiarity Kenobi must have --"
"And here we can observe your new techniques," a female said.
Qui-Gon nodded slowly. "Then...Arel must leave Coruscant."
Windu sat back and spread his hands. "Now you see our quandry. Where can she go? No matter what civilised world she is trained upon, her pride will remain."
Qui-Gon again closed his eyes and reached out. He opened them and looked at Yoda.
The green master nodded slowly, clearly impressed.
"Yes..." he said just as slowly. "Very good.... an
appropriate choice it is... very good INDEED..."
Arel stoically watched the transport leave. "How long are we here, Master Yoda?"
"Until time to leave, it is," Yoda stated, walking past her.
"But," Arel gasped, jogging to keep up with him. "But how long is THAT?"
"Be a Jedi, you wish?" Yoda gazed steadily at her. "Train HERE you shall. ALONE."
Arel raised her chin defiantly, but she felt the first
stirrings of despair.
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