Sky in the Stars, Part 2

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Skylar uses her dojo to vent out her problems before receiving a hard-fought lesson by her master.

4 May 2930

Earth, North Americas

Sol System

 

There, in an empty martial arts dojo, Skylar, dressed in sweatpants and a tank top, was practicing her combat training against a reflex dummy. The dummy had several lights on its body which would light up requiring Skylar to hit them with a certain speed and force. She remained focused, her hair tied in a ponytail swayed back and forth as the test became faster. Soon enough, her instructor, Master Shinji passed through the door watching her from the doorway.  The man, dressed in a gi, was middle-aged, but clearly more fit than men half his age. She had been his star pupil, showing a noticeably degree of focus and perseverance. He smirked, stroking his goatee. The reflex test would normally grade the user based on their reaction time and power, and end the test when their successful hits would not qualify for the next round of strikes. But Skylar showed prowess. She lasted longer than most students, setting new records every so often. What struck him most was that she kept going, far longer than usual. He kept quiet so as to not break her focus.

Skylar had a fire in her eyes, sweat dripping down her face as she pounded away at the reflex dummy. She clenched her teeth, glaring forward as she began to growl with each strike.  Still, she kept going but seemed to become angrier the longer she resumed. Finally, she pulled a punch, putting much power behind it but delaying her strike significantly enough to fail the round. Still she struck the head of the dummy with a shout. Skylar was breathless, her fist still pressed against the dummy. She wore no gloves, her hands evidently red from the rapid punches. Master Shinji clapped his hands from the back of the room, startling Skylar. Her master approached, continuing his slow applause. Skylar quickly turned and bowed low to her instructor.

Shinji addressed Skylar in Japanese, one of the many languages that she was fluent in, “Connor-san.”

“Sensei.” Skylar replied in respect. The two conversed in Japanese.

“You know, ever since you signed up for this class, you’ve had that same look in your eyes.” Shinji paused, “The look of a troubled, distressed girl who pushed herself through a fire she clearly knew was burning her alive.” He began to pace around her, his hands folded behind his back. “I have kids of my own… and I know that look on your face. You’re living a lie.” He looked Skylar in the eyes. “A wise man once said, ‘If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.’ You limit yourself, Connor-san. Your martial arts show it. You’re certainly a formidable opponent. You’ve beaten many of your colleagues… but you’re not expressing yourself.” Master Shinji stood into a fighting stance. Skylar assumed her own. “‘Martial arts, like any art, are an unrestricted athletic expression of an individual soul’. And I see a beautiful flower in you, Connor-san. Yet you place it in a glass case. You’re angry. And what you cloud your mind with will eventually become you!” Shinji began his attack, starting with basic movements. The two were well-matched as Skylar paid very close attention to his lessons, but no matter what she did, Shinji always found an opening.

The fight was a mix of Aikido, Karate, and Wing Chun. Punches were fast, kicks were strong. Skylar found herself barely able to defend, let alone counter. “Let the spirit out. Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame, all awareness of one's bodily self. And, finally closing the avenues of sense perception let the spirit out, as it will.” Shinji continued. He grabbed one of Skylar’s arms and threw her further down the training floor. Skylar rebounded to her feet, charging her master with a shout. She quickly let loose a kick to his head, then spun around to deal another in the same motion. Shinji’s eyes widened at her speed, nearly being struck by her powerful attack.

“I don’t know how to let my spirit out!” Skylar said, finding herself in a deadlock with her master. “I don’t know… anything about me. I don’t know who I am, what I’m meant to do…”

Shinji threw a flurry of strikes, his student tried her best to deflect them, “You have not figured out your destiny because you, Connor-san, are trying to live a destiny others have subconsciously forced on you. You’ve convinced yourself that the life you are living is what you were meant to live, but your spirit is telling you different.” Shinji attacked with another flurry, and then sent Skylar to the floor with a kick to the stomach. She grunted as she collided with the ground, giving a pause to the fight. “It is a critical decision, Connor-san. What do you expect out of life?”

“I don’t know.” Skylar muttered.

“You must! I suggest you think about what you want from your life… and why. There are reasons why each of us is born… and it is up to us to find out those reasons. Otherwise we become a gray, bland creature in this vast universe with nothing to show for our individuality. Empty your mind, Connor-san! You’ll never live your life when you fill it with troubles!”

Skylar stood off the ground and charged her master with a growl, striking with finesse and speed. “I don’t want to be me!” The two resumed a constant battle of strikes and counters. “I don’t want this life! I don’t want this career! I’ve spent my entire life looking up to my parents’ success. I never gave myself options. I only strived to follow in their footsteps. I only listened to them, followed their instructions, went to the best schools and became the perfect daughter to take up their legacy! And now I don’t even know who I am anymore! I’m just a splitting image of my parents, with no individuality or sense of purpose. I want to be me, myself, Skylar Connor! A girl who, for once, could decide for herself what she wanted to become! Instead here I am failing everything my parents hoped for me to be.” Skylar found herself on the floor once more, thrown by her teacher. Her voice began to crack, “I don’t want to fail my parents… I really don’t. But I’m tired of this life. I’m tired of trying to live something I’m not. I’m tired of not having fun… and doing what I want to do.”

Shinji looked at his student with sympathy. “To invent your own life’s meaning when one was pre-written for you is not easy. Remember, there only two choices in life. One is to accept the conditions as they exist. The other is to accept the responsibility for changing them. Your parents are good people… but do not let them govern who you are. Your parents had their time, and it is not for them to invade your own life as an extension of their own. Otherwise, what’s the point?” Shinji offered a hand to his student, helping to her feet. “You know what the other students say about you?” Skylar shook her head, wiping her eyes dry. “They say you’re vicious.” Shinji chuckled. “They’re honestly scared of you. Perhaps it’s your temper, or your tenacity. But I believe, if you channel that same energy you put into training, you’ll be unstoppable in life. I know you, Connor-san. No one can dictate your life if you don’t want them to. You just have to realize that you are in control.”

Skylar bowed to her master, sniffling and wiping a tear away. “Thank you, Shinji-sensei.”

“Glad I could help.” Shinji smiled, bowing in return. Skylar took her bag, left the dojo, and made her way back home.

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