He remembered smiling as he watched his students soar by him. He remembered believing in them, trusting them to succeed. Expecting them to be satisfied with meeting his requirements. The course was difficult, but as long as they worked together, he was certain that they’d be able to make the ten percent improvement our the previous year’s records. He was certain they would be happy to hear that they’d all passed, regardless of the school’s hopes.
So never did he think that he’d one day have to face down one of them with direction to kill. He had taken the job, out of disbelief. It had to be a rumor, he thought. He had to see the lad for himself. He had to confirm with his own eyes. Most of all, he couldn’t just stand by and let them reassign the task to someone else when it might’ve beem just a mistake. A misunderstanding, somehow. But, seeing the lad before him, he came to a heartbreaking understanding that he was the one who was wrong. They had been right all along.
He had never expected any of his beloved children to build up so much hatred that they would seek out the demonic ways. Tears came to his eyes as he stared at the pure hatred on his former student’s face. His heart wrenched as he stared into the blood red pupils that were once such a beautiful green. Standing on the rooftop, face to face with the lad, he reluctantly lifted his blade, feeling his opponent’s rage grow violent.
“Has it really come to this?” He asked. He had to know. “Is there really no way back?”
His former student grunted in response, before lifting his own blade. A thick claymore that he played no role in teaching the lad. He closed his eyes, fighting back tears. The lad had once been one of his most promising and favored of all his disciples. He still remembered back when the boy would smile as he made tea every morning. He still remembered how the boy would excitedly serve them his newly discovered mixtures. Was that boy really gone?
He clenched his teeth, but the tears still ran down his face. “Can you at least tell me why?” He asked, as his dear student charged at him.
“Do you know how much you’ve made us suffer?” The student answered, slamming his blade down at his former instructor. “Ten years, under your instruction! Ten years of suffering the humiliation and shame of being graded at such minimal standards! It didn’t matter how much we improved! It didn’t matter how much progress we’ve made! We were seen as cheaters, as those that took the easy route! As those that the school was forced to keep because their instructor’s influence in the school! Those that the school couldn’t expel without offending someone they couldn’t afford to offend!”
“I…” He started. He really didn’t know. No one told him these things. No one shared these things to his face. He just wanted his students to be happy. “I’m sorry.” He had no better words.
“You think an apology is enough?” His former student demanded, repeatedly clashing his heavy blade against his instructor’s sword. A sword that still hasn’t been raised in offense. A sword that had only parried, since the match started. “Don’t you realize that with the way you handle things, we, as your students, would forever live under your shadow?”
“I see.” He answered sadly, weakening the hold he had over his sword. His resolve to fight the lad draining with each passing second.
Unfortunately, such a relationship wouldn’t be easy to erase. Normally, it was a badge of honor. Normally, students sought out public association with their instructors. An important first step in building their own reputations, but once linked, it wasn’t something that could simply be stripped.
He could understand his student’s hatred. Being tied to someone that would only drag down his future. There was one way that the teacher-student relationship could fade into history, outside the public eye and discussion. It was rare to see, especially before the instructor was old enough to retire from society. Especially, before a student gains enough prowess and makes enough contributions to the world to stand his own. But there was a way to hasten the process.
“It won’t happen ever again.” He said, dropping his sword and letting the claymore come down to his unprotected neck. A sickening crunch could be heard, as the blade cut through his bones and into his jugular vein. He could feel his life slip away. He had moments left, at most.
“Why?” His student asked, with a look of shock. “What happened to your defensive aura? You used to never go without it? A blade shouldn’t even be able to chip your defense.”
“You’ve openly defeated me… This way, they’ll remember you.” He told his student, cupping the lady face into his hand, before he felt his energy drain away. His breathing grew heavy. His body spasmed beneath him. But he didn’t regret his decision in the least. He smiled, as his consciousness gave way to darkness. It was worth it if it let his students free… Their happiness was all that mattered…
“But I never wanted them to remember me. Not this way.” The former student said, the demonic energy leaving him, purified into true cultivation under his teacher’s final act of guidance. His teacher’s final gift to him, lifting the death warrant over his head. Choking back sobs and sinking to his knees, he pulled his teacher’s corpse into his arms. “All I wanted was that you listen to us for once. I just wanted you to change how you ran things. I just wanted you to hear me for once…”
In contrast to the Beast we have Beauty.
The hopeful idealist. The untamed beauty, the wilderness, wide open and healing. A cauldron of trial and reward.