First of all, I want to congratulate you readers. Thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU for your kind reviews! I apologize for keeping this chapter from hitting FanFiction for about... oh... three, four months? Maybe it was six... I dunno. LOL
Anyways, I thank you guys for showing interest in the story and for encouraging me to keep at it. I am currently taking two classes for college credit, and the workload I get from each is ASTOUNDING (I guess that's why they're "college" classes :-D).
Thanks again for all your reading and reviewing! I hope you enjoy. :-D
Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine, not mine, not mine...
Sweat beaded on her forehead. I can do this, Ani thought, keeping her lightsaber steady in a Vaapad defensive position. Her opponent immediately performed several whirls and spins, the lightsaber spiraling into a deadly haze of green. The gap between the two was closing – fast. No wait, scratch that thought.
She stepped back, and then dove underneath Luminara, ignoring the gasps of the audience.
It is not that reckless, she thought. The touch of that green mist gently sizzled her side. Okay, maybe it is. Wincing with pain, she directed the Force towards the growing burn, starting. Satisfied, she put her hands down to do a handstand to propel herself into the air. After performing a double flip and landing on both feet, she whirled around – and gasped at the pain in her side. Does she always keep her lightsaber on high power? I feel like I got partially gutted.
She grasped the lightsaber hilt with both hands, determined not to give in to the pain. Parrying a blow from the Jedi Master, she glanced at the wall chrono. 15:15. If I can last just a little longer… She thought desperately. Fifteen more minutes should pass before the half-hour break comes.
All I have to do is stay alive and in one piece. Oh, and being awake at the same time would be awesome.
"How's the young one doing?" Master Kenobi asked Windu.
"Ani Laminara is holding up remarkably well," Windu said, "considering she just pulled a reckless move when faced with Luminara's Dust Devil III." Obi-Wan whistled.
"You mean she actually survived that move?" he asked. "Even you had trouble deflecting it, and you were her master for crying out loud!"
"Yes, well, it seems that Ani didn't have any trouble with that move," Mace continued serenely. "By now, I would have thought the pain might've overwhelmed her defenses." Obi-Wan nodded his agreement, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, we both knew that she would grow up to become one of the greatest Jedi our age has ever seen – besides my former padawan," he stated. "Between the prophecy and her past, she could be what our Order will most need in the future… a Flavescent."
"Those were only needed when the future of the Jedi was in question," Mace reminded him. "I haven't foreseen anything like that."
"Neither has Master Yoda," Obi-Wan agreed. "Yet still… I just have this feeling." He turned to face the match once again, Mace following him.
The two men continued to watch the sparring in front of them, silent, pondering on what the other had said and what the Force seemed to reveal so far. If the existence of the Jedi was indeed threatened, then certain measures would have to be taken. So far, only Windu and Kenobi had been given a glimpse of the future, as far as they knew, and would keep it to themselves.
Only problem would be the young initiate. Ani seemed to be a magnet for trouble, along with depression, injuries… and visions. Almost everything that had happened to her in the past had been one or two (or all of the above) of those categories. The youngling seemed to be destined for a lot of pain and hurt by the Force who, for some reason, almost seemed to want to punish her.
"I wonder how she managed to offend it," muttered Mace. "I never got that lucky." Kenobi smirked.
"Having a Jedi Knight as her mother might have been it."
Anakin, Ahsoka, Barriss, and Julii were huddled by the sidelines, avidly watching the contest. Casii had joined Dann in the stands, where they were watching with the rest of their age-mates.
"I love being a padawan." Ahsoka grinned. "I finally get to decide where I want to sit!"
"Within reason." Anakin glowered.
"I love being a Knight," Barriss said. "I can choose where I want to go when I want to go. I also get to choose my ride!"
"Lucky!" grumbled Ahsoka.
"I love knowing you guys," Julii said. "And thanks to you, Master Offee and Knight Skywalker, I don't have to sit with the rest of my class."
"That bad, huh?" Ahsoka asked, raising an eyebrow.
"You have no idea." Julii turned to watch. "You know, if I wasn't her friend, I'd say she has a death wish. Because I'm her friend, all I'll say is that she sure knows how to tick off the Jedi Master."
"Ani Laminara does things her own way," Anakin stated. "You should know that by now." Barriss smacked him playfully on the shoulder. "Heyyyyy!"
"As if we don't already know she's a younger, female version of you," she teased. A look of alarm crossed his face.
"I do not know what you're talking about," he said carefully. Ahsoka started sniggering. He glared at her.
"Ahsoka, what have you done this time?"
"Oh, nothing, Skyguy. Nothing that you needed to know, anyways," she mumbled. Anakin either didn't hear her or pretended to ignore her. They continued to watch the duelists. The youngling and Jedi Master seemed to be almost perfectly matched. Luminara had the stamina and grace of one who has practiced long, and Ani had the energy and spunk of a youngling, with a few tricks up her sleeves.
Another gasp echoed through the cavernous space as Ani whirled her lightsaber through the air to land a small burn on Luminara's hand. While the Jedi Master hissed and cursed, the youngling used the Force to yank the lightsaber away and over into the opposite, farthest corner in the training room. She then pointed her blue-green blade at Luminara's neck.
"Yield." Her opponent raised an eyebrow.
"As if." Yet another gasp echoed as, within seconds, Ani was plastered on the opposite wall, wedged tightly in a newly-made crack as Luminara dove for her weapon.
"Cool!" chorused Ahsoka and Julii. Barriss and Anakin grimaced.
"As long as Ani can still walk after this, life will be good." Anakin said. "Also, if she stays awake, that'll definitely make the day better." Barriss chuckled.
"I think Bant would be more than happy to not have to treat Ani for once," she said. "Also, I do believe that this is the first time that my master has shown some irregular behavior in front of us, let alone almost the whole Order."
"Don't you remember?" Anakin asked. "That one time where she went off to go look for Poggle and practically ignored Masters Kenobi and Mundi in order to get him."
"I wasn't there," Barriss reminded him.
"Oh, yes – I forgot!" he said. She glared at him as he continued, pretending to be oblivious. "Anyways, Ani is almost done. All she has to do is make the next five minutes or so and then there'll be the break. Hopefully that'll be it."
"But… she doesn't have to continue the fight, does she?" Ahsoka asked anxiously. "The fight will officially be over when this second round is done, right?"
"Not if Luminara decides to continue it," said Julii gloomily. "If the opponent wants to keep going, then you will follow suit – unless in the case of several extreme emergencies, such as actual severing of limbs, concussions, or other severe injuries. If you choose not to continue even if your opponent wants to and there's no extreme emergency, then you're going to be excluded from all tournaments for the next month."
"That rule wasn't there when we were dueling," Anakin stated, brow furrowed.
"They just changed the rules," Julii explained. "The Council did it, of course."
"Of course," muttered Ahsoka.
"I heard the reason was that they wanted there to be more preparation for what we might face out in the field. They've allowed several more things that were most likely illegal in your day, Master Skywalker."
"I'll give you the list later. Ani will want to hear it too." Barriss raised an eyebrow at Julii.
"Do you mean to tell me, Padawan, that Ani is not sure of all the rules either?"
"Well…" Julii shrugged. "With Ani, it's hard to tell. Sometimes she knows, sometimes she doesn't, but it's not like I can pick up on her emotions or thoughts. She's pretty well shielded. She might know the rules, or she might not. All I know is that she wanted me to tell her the rules after this."
"She probably knows them, then." Anakin Skywalker looked somewhat relieved. "Ani probably just wants Miss C-3PO here to give her the logic – or lack of it – behind the new rules." They all laughed, even Julii – once she figured out that he meant her. Silence resumed.
"Two minutes and counting," Barriss said eventually. "Man, does Luminara really hate her that much?"
"At least Ani's still able to defend herself," Ahsoka countered. The youngling had just managed to free herself from the wall and shield her body with her weapon as Luminara came charging towards her. " 'Sides, we all know Luminara is going to fight accepting our friend to her last breath."
"Is she really that thick-headed?" Anakin asked incredulously.
"You have no idea," Barriss laughed. Suddenly the buzzer went off.
"One minute and ten seconds early," Anakin observed. "I wonder what's going on this time?"
"Good evening," Master Yoda cackled over the intercom. "Masters Unduli, Kenobi, Windu, Knight Skywalker and Padawan Tano, and Initiate Laminara, go to Hangar 17, you must. Immediately, you shall. Postponed, this match is, for the moment. Everyone else, return to what you were doing, you shall."
Ani shut off her lightsaber and returned the weapon to her belt as the last remaining Jedi filed out. Her friends were waiting outside, she knew. All that were left was her and... Luminara. At least we were on the ground when the announcement came, she thought. Last thing I want is to be falling out of the air and garnering more attention. I wonder what Master Yoda wants…this time.
"This isn't finished, Initiate." Ani glanced across at Luminara, who had also deactivated her weapon and now was glaring at her, as though to wish her dead there and now. Pity, Ani thought. She almost was granted that wish. Now she'll have to wait some more. So horrible. "Expect to continue when we get back." She sniffed. "I hope you'll be ready by then."
"I wouldn't expect anything less, Master Unduli," Ani responded, returning the glare as much as she dared. "Don't worry. I'll be prepared. After all, you should have nothing to fear from a mere youngling!" she spat. Turning around to walk away, she pretended to not notice Luminara's pointed look of loathing. I hope she needs to get rescued during the trip. Where would be her self-satisfied smirk then? Heh… Yeah, that would be interesting, to say the least. Ani inwardly smiled, self-satisfied. What would she have to say about my skills then!
The Jedi Master and the youngling walked away in opposite directions. Each was intent on avoiding the other as long as possible, if only until they had to face each other at Hangar 17 for whatever mission awaited them there. They each hoped the Force would be with them long enough to ignore the other, right through the mission too, if they were fortunate.
However, the Force had other ideas. No matter how hard Master Unduli and young Laminara might attempt to avoid the other, it would make sure they would come together. Keeping both agitated about the whole deal definitely kept them alert, albeit ready for any tricks the Force might pull. No matter. It had control over everything, would work out whatever little wrenches the Mirialan and half-blood might throw into its plans, and it would sit back and enjoy the whole ordeal.
The best part?
Not even Master Yoda knew what the Force had up its sleeve for Luminara Unduli and Ani Laminara!
Read and review, please? Constructive criticism, for those of you who positively canNOT stand my stories!