The water was pleasantly warm, almost hot, when Thrista entered the large bathing pool in which Zani had already taken place, he sat on the edge in front of the temple elder. He closed his eyes and focused on the relaxing feeling that the warmth of the water procured to his sore muscles, it was almost as if his body was melting in the bath. He swore he could feel the pain lessen significantly after only a few seconds.
“Do you want the water a bit warmer?” Suddenly asked Zani as he sat up on the edge of the pool.
Thrista opened his eyes to see the elder slowly stretching his arms and massaging his sides. He thought about the last time he had been through a good exercise like that, it had been before he had left the Simeriah, and he was just realizing how much his body had been aching to fight since then.
“Yes, I’d like that.” He replied with a nod.
“Very well. I find it a bit cold too.” Said Zani with a smile.
The priest of the temple of Sha’ana closed his eyes and whispered a few words before putting his hand under the water. A wave of heat emanated from him and filled the whole room as the temperature of the water slowly rose to a comfortable heat. He opened his eyes again and looked towards Thrista. The young man nodded.
“Thank you, it is much more enjoyable like this!” The teenager exclaimed.
“You are welcome my young friend. As you can see fire magic has its advantages, this is one of them…” Replied the old man with a smile. “So you are preparing for the Tournament?” He then asked.
“Yes I am, I’ve been dreaming of participating in it since I was a small child.” Replied Thrista.
“Well you do have the potential needed, you have great power in you Thrista, I can tell you that.” Started Zani. “But are you sure you are ready? And I don’t only mean your abilities in the noble art of Empirium, many have come back changed from such a challenge, and not always for the best…” He continued, his face was still lit up by his smile but seemed strangely seemed slightly more worn out than before.
“No, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel ready yet.” Repleid Thrista after a few seconds of silence. “My motivation is a great as ever, that I cannot deny, but I feel like I still have ways to go before I can even dream of participating… That said, I plan on training as hard as I can until the time comes, I trust myself to get even better during the next months. Also it’s probably my only chance to participate so I have to be ready, I can’t back down no matter what…”
“Well you seem resolute and I don’t see any reason why I should try to change that. You seem to have what it takes Thrista, you just have to make the best of this potential. I trust you on that!” Exclaimed the elder with a wink as he leaned back and closed his eyes once more.
They kept talking as they enjoyed the warmth of the bath and used that opportunity to wash the sweat and dust off of themselves. Thrista told the old man about his journey on the other side of the central ocean on the continent of Simeriah and that he now planned to journey across Ore itself and the countries of the Alliance. He also told him that he was trying to look for companions but that he had no idea where he would go next so it was a bit complicated. Zani told the teenager his own story, how he had become a priest of Sha’ana around his twentieth birthday and how he had devoted himself to the goddess’s cult since then. During his years in the temple he had learned the way of Sha’ana’s martial arts and emporium based on the forces of nature.
After a few years he had become a master and had been assigned students to whom he had taught what he knew. In his youth he had participated himself in the Sages’ tournament and had been one of the witnesses to one of the bloodiest matches in its history, Grennwick against Almeneister, during which around a hundred of the spectators as well as Grennwick himself lost their lives. That dreadful incident had pushed the elder of the temple to renounce completely to using empirium as it had scarred him as a tool of death. It had taken him a few years to finally accept the events he had witnessed and to use it once again. Since then he had dedicated his life to training young apprentices in the art of empirium and to teach them its dangers as well as its possibilities by showing them the passive ways of the martial arts of Sha’ana. He had still kept training, unable to abandon it but only in the purpose of defending himself and never to attack.
“I am truly impressed that you still have so much energy and power despite your age, no offence.” Commented the teenager as he finally got out of the bath.
“I may be old but I am not completely rusty yet!” Exclaimed Zani with a playful smile. “And I do hope to stay that way for some time…” He added with a melancholic gleam in his eyes as he too got out of the still warm water. As the old man got out and took a towel Thrista caught a glimpse of his still muscular back and felt energy radiating from the elder.
“So, what is your plan for the rest of the day?” Asked Zani as he got dressed. “Will you go and walk around the city and do a bit of sightseeing?” Thrista put on his shirt before answering.
“Perhaps, I plan to go in the market district to buy a new bag, some equipment and some food for my journey. My old one is getting worn out.”
“And you plan to stay until the wedding is that right?” Asked Zani. Thrista nodded in approval. “Well in that case perhaps we shall see each other during the parade on the day after tomorrow. As an elder of the temple of Sha’ana I will be part of the procession.”
“That would be very enjoyable, if we don’t meet then I shall come back here before I leave!” Exclaimed Thrista with a large smile as he finished putting on his cape and his shoulder bag.
The two of them walked out of the baths and took the path towards the garden, leaving behind the rows of large wooden building. They kept talking as they approached two columns, one white and one black, that marked the entry of sacred grounds of the temple. Thrista took a moment to admire the handiwork that it had surely required to build such fine sculptures, indeed he noticed the two pillars had been sculpted from a single piece of rock each. They started walking again and soon reached the gates of the temple grounds, as they stopped to say goodbye the elder took Thrista into a strong embrace.
“I hope we will see each other again at the parade and I shall pray to Sha’ana to give you the strength to reach your goal my boy. Thank you again for this fine duel you granted me, it had been quite a long time…” Said Zani as his eyes got slightly humid. “You have revived in me a flame that had been dimed for quite some time and for this I cannot thank you enough Thrista!”
“That was my pleasure.” Replied Thrista with a smile. “And it was an honor to have been able to meet you Master Zani. I also hope we will meet again one day, when I have progressed even more.”
“I am sure we will.” Nodded the elder as he took out something from one of his pockets. “Until our next duel.” He added as he extended his arm towards Thrista and opened his hand.
“What-” Started the teenager but he was unable to finish his question as the elder raised his hand to silence him.
“This is a gift for you. You will know what it is when the moment comes, until then you will have to search for the answer by yourself. It will prove very useful to you one day, I am sure of it. Also, if you were ever in need of my assistance, I would be more than happy to give it to you.” Explained the old man with a small wink towards his ex-opponent.
“Well, thank you very much master Zani.” Replied Thrista, looking at the strange sphere before putting it away in his bag. “I wish you a good day then, may Sha’ana be with you.”
“Sha’ana o naiga.” Replied Zani in the olden language, slightly bowing to the side with his arm against his torso in a diagonal line from his hip to his shoulder, before repeating the words in their official translation. “May Sha’ana be with you.”
Thrista crossed the wooden arch surrounding the metal gates of the temple and started walking towards the northern parts of the city. The sun was already beginning its descent in the sky as he did so. He looked back and saw the elder’s diminishing silhouette walking back towards the central courtyard of the temple. The teenager then turned around and headed for the market district, crossing the path of dozens of people all around him who were preparing themselves for the celebration to come.
Part II tomorrow!