Frustrations and anger pounded on his senses. His desire to master Lii’s form fought with the fear that there was something wrong here, something heretical, and both Brant’s senses wrestled with a further inkling that he was scraping the nose of a whale. Like a monster underwater, there was power here, in what Lii did, something altogether unlike what the Sith Academy had taught him.
Lii’s demeanor was very… Jedi-ish, to Brant. Lii spoke of calm and focus, yet he also spoke of reaching that state through emotions, rather than lack thereof like a Jedi might. It stuck in Brant’s mind like a wrench jabbed into the interior of an engine. How was one calm and emotional at the same time?
As Lii bade him, Brant scraped his memories for a time he had been in a similar state. Emotions, Brant knew well. He knew the heart-racing thrill of skimming a starfighter over the surface of an enemy capitol ship, the hit-the-roof terror of a punitive Overseer turning his way with lightning on their hands, the mind-stopping fury of a rival gloating over him as he lay on the dueling ring floor with blood in his mouth.
But these were not the things Lii sought, for they were not also calm. Deeper, Lii said. Go deeper.
Brant dug. He knew… the play of firelight over a friend’s face as they both shot the breeze with their words, the stench of a swamp just outside the circle of the light…
He knew… laughing over the absurdity of unpoisoned Zenji needles sticking out of his chest…
He knew… sun on the face and grass tickling his hands as he listened to her words…
He focused in on that memory, speaking with Kyra that day, and his struggle to verbalize to her what his “peak” looked like. By peak, she had meant what his end goal, his best life, would look like, but at first he had mistaken the question for what he felt when he was at his best — when the Force’s power just seemed to leap from him, easy as breathing. What he described to her then was a perfect focus in the Force, but one born of euphoria and thrill, not calm.
Was that what Lii meant?
The meditation was over too soon for Brant to really grasp it, and then they were in the dueling ring. Lii introduced to him a new kind of fighting, or perhaps better put, a game: they lined their forearms up together, pushing around and around in circles, until one of them tried to trick and punch the other. You were supposed to feel and predict the opponent’s movement by being in such close contact, but Brant didn’t get it, and he got punched more than one time in the face for his trouble.
Then Lii took the game up a notch. Their forearms remained touching, but now they began pacing in a circle, all around the ring. Every so often, Lii would throw in a kick, which Brant was similarly supposed to avoid.
The widening and swiftening movement, the blood now flowing through his entire body, called up… that feeling, whatever it was, into being. Suddenly Brant wasn’t simply circling a ring with Lii; they were moving like gears in a machine, water stirred about a spoon, a starfighter making a tight bank around a central point.
And everything snapped into place. That distant rhythm, that focus, beamed out over the aggressive mental walls Brant had built up around himself. He relaxed, he listened, he foresaw like one foresees the quickening beat of a dance. Lii was suddenly not an opponent, but a moving object, his path entirely predictable, because it sang; Brant could hear it through the Force. When Lii began to kick at him, that was part of the dance too, and he simply… stepped aside. Then back in.
In, out, around and round. Attack, defend, push, pull… play… kill… Brant crept out on the edge of a knife, maintaining the balance between letting the Force guide him, and forcing — leading — it his own way.
“How–?” he exclaimed sometime after. “How do the other Sith not see this as heresy and kill you?”
“My loyalty is to the Empire,” Lii simply said. “They know my methods, and they do not care, so long as I continue to serve them.”
Loyalty, Brant spat later with a huff, as he was walking back to the speeder that had brought him to Lii’s home. Brant had no loyalty to anyone. The Emperor and other Sith he simply avoided the ire of for sake of his own skin — and because the things they could offer him were at times useful and pleasurable.
Or was that true? Brant thought of his master — of his decision, that day at the graveyard, to serve Hu’izei, not out of force and fear, but out of respect.
Would that be enough?
Brant knew that quick as blinking. Not for where he was meant to go. Not to obtain the depth of power that he sensed in one such as Hu’izei. And respect or not, with Hu’izei as his master, the Cathar would not accept anything less than Brant reaching the same level of power one day.
Brant snarled to himself as he kicked his speeder into gear, flying out over the steep vertical drops that was Nar Shaddaa. He stared down at that mind-numbing depth, considering.
Knowledge was knowledge… There was something to this. Perhaps Brant could use it and perhaps he couldn’t.
He closed his eyes, tapping the auto-pilot button, and the speeder swung into line with a bunch of others going the same way. Dig too deep into the Dark Side and you risked corruption, the losing of one’s self to the overwhelming demands of its destruction. If nothing else… perhaps Lii’s technique would keep him from going mad like that.