“Now that we’ve established the base of our cleansing, let us move on to the next energy center.” Nyssa brusquely moved past her emotional vulnerability, taking out a different incense from her bag and striking it against the nearest rock. A totally different scent washed over Sara, the strong smell of cinnamon overtaking and redirecting the both of them.
“Breathe it in,” Nyssa commanded, her voice a backdrop to the trickling water of the river. “This energy center sits in your sacrum and characterizes your drive for love, your ability to feel pleasure.”
Sara squirmed a bit at Nyssa’s words. “In order to release the toxins in this area, you must focus on ways in which you block love and pleasure in your own life. Concentrate on those memories and dissolve the tension you feel…”
Sara closed her eyes and the experiences came to focus, slowly at first, then as a gathering storm. She felt a massive lump well at the base of her throat as the image of Laurel came to mind. So much guilt surrounded her relationship with her sister. She had always envied Laurel’s ability to be the glowing center of a room, to stand out no matter where she went… Laurel had the uncanny way of attracting all those whom Sara felt affection for, especially Oliver. Her eyebrows drew together as she thought of how many times she had ached for Oliver’s attention at Laurel’s expense.
“I don’t think I will be able to move past this center, Nyssa,” Sara admitted.
Nyssa eyed Sara thoughtfully. “What keeps you here?”
Perhaps it was the openness of the question or Sara felt as if Nyssa would understand. She opened up at the invitation to speak. “It’s my sister, Laurel…”
“The one you dream about often?” Nyssa entreated.
“Yes. She and I have a…” Sara fumbled for the right word. “…strained relationship.”
Nyssa nodded at Sara’s admission. “I certainly understand that. My sister, Talia, and I don’t get on very well to say the least. To be more frank, we despise each other.”
Sara watched as Nyssa’s body coiled with tension at the mention of her sister. “Why do you despise each other?”
“Talia is exceptionally greedy and power hungry. In a variety of ways, I believe that Talia feels insecure about her place in the family. She aspires to empower herself through intimidation, manipulation, flexible morality and… besotting my reputation with father in any manner possible. It was much worse when we were young girls.” Nyssa watched the running water and paused.
“Father was quite clear with us both about the roles we were to inherit when we came of age. I understood perfectly the burden of being the eldest and carried with me the knowledge that one day I would be looking after the League as its leader. I am my father’s heir.”
“Talia always envied that position. She failed to comprehend exactly what weight it was to carry the history and living memory of the League. She didn’t care to look into its traditions and preserve its authenticity of purpose. Talia, in her narrow minded interpretation of her own role, could not see what incredible responsibilities came with the duty of being the oldest… of having an entire culture placed on one’s shoulders. All she cared about what carving her own identity in our family. It tore me apart, when we were girls, learning again and again that it was impossible to trust her. Not even our father, whom Talia reveres, ever knew what her deepest intentions were when she spoke, when she acted. I often see my sister as masked.”
Sara felt the guilt again. The feeling of a muddled, hungry ache in her stomach. She had never stopped to imagine what Laurel’s responsibilities were… she had always just thought her sister acted the way she did in order to make their father proud.
Perhaps, all these years, she had been mistaken and Laurel strove to carry the Lance family name, a name full of pride and diligent work.
Maybe I was more like Talia growing up… willing to go to any length to be independent of my family’s perspective of me. All I wanted was freedom. And all I did was hurt them the more for it…
Sara peered at Nyssa. “I think I understand now,” she said. “I know why I am stuck. Hearing you speak of your sister reminded me of how I treated Laurel growing up. She was the perfect one, and I was lost I think. I wanted to be an individual. I wanted to be wanted by others not because I was a Lance, or Laurel Lance’s younger sister… but because I was me.”
Nyssa moved a bit closer to Sara, a gesture Sara felt was meant to comfort her.
“What I would give, now, to tell her I am sorry…” The weight of the words settled into the river bank around them and Sara placed her palms in the grass, wrapping the soft blades around her fingers. She knew that she had hit upon a huge vulnerability of her own.
This feeling had primarily been holding her back, ever since the Queen’s Gambit capsized. Directing Oliver’s attention away from her sister, seducing him into being with her… that guilt was nothing compared with the guilt she felt at driving her sister away, at continuously being awful to Laurel.
“Sometimes, all we can do is acknowledge that we’re wrong and learn from the mistakes we made. I hope that one day, you can reconcile with your sister. It seems quite important to you.” Sara listened to Nyssa and glanced at the woman’s face. She read pain behind the onyx eyes, the type of pain that apologies could not begin to erase.
“I am sorry that you don’t feel the same, about you and Talia…” Sara offered as her sincere condolence.
Nyssa shook her head and smiled weakly. “I wish it came down to mere feeling. I’m afraid Talia and I are beyond the point of the resolution of our differences. Nevertheless, I find pleasures in my life elsewhere—and give thanks for those minute but beautiful moments.”
Her voice lingered, and Sara stared at Nyssa, who seemingly had transitioned from solemn to playful in a matter of seconds.
“Yeah,” Sara said, “I certainly get that… I feel a bit better now. I think we can move on.”
The process of cleansing was taxing, as Nyssa had mentioned it would be. After working through the cloudiness of the third center—the seat of personal strength and power—Sara felt exhausted. Sweat poured from her skin and she relaxed for a few minutes, laying back on the river bank and listening to the flowing water.
Her head swam from the ton of information she had been processing, about both herself and Nyssa. It seemed a bit uncanny that they had been able to work through such intense emotions in a short time. We’ve been able to accomplish much together.
Nyssa called it a day, packing up her supplies and signaling to Sara that it was time to head back to the walls of their sequestered city. Sara noticed, as they turned to leave, that Nyssa left the burning incense stick behind and nodded her head courteously to the river bank. How often did the assassin muster prayer?
The way back felt like it took much longer than their journey to the site earlier that day. A lingering wariness hung around them. Perhaps it was the intensity of their exhaustion; perhaps it was something else entirely. Sara couldn’t put her finger on it so she brushed the feeling aside, focusing intently on her footfall.
“We resume training tomorrow,” Nyssa broke the silence.
“Okay,” Sara acknowledged, struggling to keep her eyes open as they approached the dimly lit outer wall of Nanda Parbat.
“As for our sleeping arrangements tonight…” Nyssa’s voice cut through Sara’s deepening haze, snapping her to attention.
“Why don’t you take my bed? I will take the cot.”
Sara was thankful that Nyssa couldn’t see her gaze in the growing starlight. Her expressions betrayed her; she wasn’t sure how to feel. Did this mean Nyssa was awake when their bodies were pressed together last night?
“I won’t argue with you,” Sara laughed somewhat nervously. “I appreciate your sacrifice.”
“I hardly consider this a sacrifice,” Nyssa’s voice had its silky timbre again.
I wish I could figure you out… Sara thought. She turned over Nyssa’s comment as they made their way through the familiar chambers and halls that led to Nyssa’s bedchamber. More than she wanted to admit, she couldn’t be more excited to collapse onto Nyssa’s soft sheets and sleep.
As the weight of her emotional upheaval pressed upon her, Sara sank into bed like an anchor being released from a ship. Within minutes, she was fast asleep and did not dream.
Nyssa got undressed and went over to Sara’s cot, hearing the woman breathe rhythmically as she slumbered. Nyssa sat on the edge of the cot, recalling the day Dawa and the healers had brought Sara to her bedchamber, bloodied and frenzied.
Today taught her much about the nature of her own emotions for Sara… she felt as if someone had strapped her into the car of a roller coaster. It was difficult to separate her loathing of what Sara did to her in the mountain from the affection she felt toward her pupil. She had come to a significant realization that day, when they were working through their fourth energy center—that of the heart. Her channels were completely blocked. Nothing pulsed, nothing moved. That is, nothing until she looked at Sara. Catching each other’s gaze, drinking in the depth of her sapphire eyes, Nyssa realized that for the first time in her life, her heart stirred for another… the woman before her literally had drawn her to the brink of death and, simultaneously, gave off such purity in her light. She was thrilling to be with, yet the feelings maddened Nyssa.
A little distance proves helpful tonight. Nyssa took her clothes off and lay down upon the cot, letting her dissonant thoughts dissolve with the waxing moonlight.