He lunged into Form One, Form Two, Form Three, Form Four—
A fiery blade bit down into his own, shoving it to the floor and causing sparks as the energy fought against the durasteel. He yelped in surprise, glancing up.
His master glared down at him, carefully removing the offending blade and sheathing it. “You’re still too reliant on Form Four. Must I duel you again?”
He swallowed and shook his head, looking down. “No, Master. I’ll- I’ll improve.”
The Pau’an snorted. “I hope so. Again.”
He lunged into his forms again. One, Two, Three, Four—
The blade thrusted against his, shoving it upward and forcing the hilt out of his grasp. The flaming blade slid dangerously close to his throat and he held his breath, freezing as his eyes drifted down to it.
His master flicked away the blade, though it was no mistake when it brushed painfully against his arm. He hissed in pain, biting his lip and swallowing as he glared up at the Pau’an.
A harsh slap sent his gaze back to the floor, leaving his cheek smarting.
“You won’t last one minute in battle, if you even make it out there. Though we should’ve known anyway, with how you let your parents get arrested right before your eyes. You claim to hate our ideals, but you fit them so well,” his master taunted. He swallowed, keeping his gaze down. Finally the Pau’an took a step back, folding his arms. “Again. But this time, I want improvement. We didn’t take you in for nothing, you worthless skug.”
He swallowed and nodded, moving into the forms again. He let them become a thing of mindlessness as his mind drifted.
Two years. Two years since rain had beaten down on his hair, longer in the Lothalian custom, as he huddled in a gutter. Two years since he had been thieving for his very survival. Two years since he had last had freedom, even if it came at the price of uncertain survival.
Two years since he had seen the sun.
The visions he had had Before, as a child, had only grown more intense in the time since he had come here. Here, he saw images of a horned man with red and black tattoos; here, he saw images of flames; here, he saw images of his own master, attacking a nerf-tailed human who hummed with the Force; when Before, he had only seen glimpses of the two moons he had seen almost every night Before, glimpses of the two moons with a wolf and the same dark-haired man who hummed. Before, everything hadn’t terrified him. Only some of it.
Now, however….Now he was fearful to turn his back on anyone.
Though maybe death wasn’t what he should be fearing.
A hiss of his master’s weapon drew his attention back just in time for him to dodge the attack. The Pau’an scoffed, shaking his head. “Pathetic boy. You’re no more than a dreaming child. We should’ve left y—“
He brought his own blade up, teeth clenched as he glared up at the Pau’an.
His master’s lips twitched into a cruel smile, and he missed the clenched fist.
But he didn’t miss the tightening of his windpipe.
He choked, sheathing his blade and dropping it immediately. His eyes flicked up to his master, silently begging as he resisted the urge to claw at the invisible grip on his throat. Through their bond, he barely resisted sending his pain. But he didn’t bother hiding his plea.
Finally the hand unclenched, several long seconds later. He gasped, breathing hard.
Shaking. Stars blinked in his vision, the number only increasing as a slap broke him out of his daze.
“You do not threaten me, boy,” his master growled. He glanced up at the Pau’an, meeting his yellow eyes with a nervous swallow. “Do you understand?”
He nodded hesitantly. “Yes, Master.”
“Now, forms. Again.”
Shakily he picked up his ‘saber, ignited it, and launched himself into the katas.