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Peace Among the Stones


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5th December, 2012
Roberta Isley Garden

The small Zen garden in the midst of the larger greenery was a favored relaxation spot, even in the middle of December. The snowy day hadn't put a damper on the number of students who seriously wanted a place to find tranquility within.

New to the small square of rocks, Chinese-style lanterns and the small burbling fountain was the stocky form of Subito Sondo, who wandered into the almost perfectly quiet garden, a light green and blue flannel shirt his only concession to the cold he didn't have to worry about, taking off his hat with a nervous glance around at the concentrated or placid faces dotting the place.

Nervously taking a seat on a relatively clear space, he crossed his legs under himself, took a quiet breath, closed his eyes and began to meditate...

...then his eyes snapped open as he muttered, just a little too loudly. "Wait. I don't know how to meditate. Crap."

Edited by Arichamus
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Mali had been sitting there, not too far away, when she heard Subito's sudden admission. She stifled a bit of a giggle. She'd heard about Subito, but really hadn't had a chance to talk to him.. He was a friendly guy from all accounts. Enthusiastic and with a warm personality. She got up and walked over to him, intent on striking up a conversation, specifically about meditation.

"It's okay, meditation isn't hard. Just keep your back straight, make sure you're comfortable, and concentrate on your breathing. Let your thoughts drift away so you can better relax. It helps me invigorate myself. Oh, name's Mali." She said, extending a hand.

Mali was wearing a loose-fitting long sleeve shirt and exercise pants, perfect for comfort and meditation. Like usual, she kept her toned arms hidden out of insecurity.

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Whirling around as the unfamiliar voice rang out, Subito beamed in gratitude and shuffled a little to the side so Mali could have more space. Shaking her hand powerfully and marveling at her grip, he replied "Subito, pleased t'meet ya!" he vaguely remembered her from Tona had arrived, but otherwise they hadn't bumped into each other. 'Cerys told me that she was a badass, and it looks like she wasn't kidding!' he thought admiringly, detecting her strength.

Taking up the position she'd told him, he he went ram-rod straight, maintaining perfect posture. Slowing his breath he asked "So..how will I know I'm doin' this right?"

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"Nice to meet you, too. You'll feel completely relaxed. It helps center you, balance you, and in general is good for relieving stress." She smiled. "Good posture helps with breathing, and it's the breathing that helps most. Also, figure out where your body isn't relaxed, and consciously try to relax those parts. That way, you'll be able to relax your entire body.'

She moved her legs into the lotus position and began breathing in and out. "Don't have to go into the lotus like this or anything. The important part is to be comfortable, but also have good posture."

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Subito laughed at that, momentarily forgetting where he was and getting a few dirty looks from a few disturbed students "Hahahaha! Yeah, I'm not nearly as flexible as Cerys or a lot of the other guys, it'd probably twist my legs to try anythin' like that." It took a couple minutes of slow adjusting and shuffling in place, but at last Subito managed to get his powerfully-built form into a more or less relaxed position.

Carefully easing his arms, legs, chest and head until he felt completely at rest, the stocky Puerto Rican remained still for several seconds, then a hazel eye opened and he whispered "This is real nice. I can see why people do this." he remained quiet for several more seconds, then added "It's kinda boring though. Can I do stuff while I meditate?" he asked, sounding almost hopeful.

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Mali couldn't stifle the giggle this time. It sounded light and clear, almost alien from someone who probably came across as focused and tough. "Well, you could but it wouldn't count as meditation. See, meditation is about relaxation, achieving calmness. It's not about doing stuff. Then again, not everyone wants to meditate, and not everyone benefits from it. It's something I only do occasionally. I'm like you, I don't like to just sit and be bored." She smiled gently, as if trying to cover the fact that she basically laughed at him. He seemed nice, no point in trying to mock him.

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Clearly no longer at peace, Subito shuffled in place, switching his crossed legs a few times before suddenly giving a sharp mutter of irritation and opening his eyes, hunching over and looking into the tinkling pool. Staring into the wavering gray mirror for a few moments he asked Mali "What classes you takin' this quarter? I'm in Mystical History 115, the Metahumans in Politics series, 'n that new class with Raquel Launders, about law and supers. You got any interesting ones?" he realized how weird a question that sounded and shrugged apologetically to her. "Sorry, I just wanted to ask somethin' that would take my mind off meditating right." he rolled his eyes and leaned back on his palms "You know how if you think about other stuff than what you're doing it makes stuff easier, or whatever?" he grinned "Seems like meditating is kinda the same way."

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"Eh, my classes aren't all that exciting. I do like superhero history, though. It's really neat finding out what sort of heroes came before, and what legacies are still out there. Ideally, if we were meditating, we wouldn't be talking. I don't mind though, new friends are more interesting anyway." She smiled. "I can always meditate in my room later if I want to. If you'd rather I went quiet and let you meditate, that would be fine, too. We could always chat later." She didn't want to be rude and disrupt Subito's meditation, it wouldn't be fair. Though he seemed more interested in chatting than meditating.

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The stocky boy looked chagrined and quickly shook his head "Yeah, sorry Mali, like I said I've never tried meditating before. Let me try it again." maneuvering one denim-clad leg and battered running shoe under the other for better(or at least more interesting) balance, he got back into the position he had just been coached through and remained quiet and still for a minute or so. Then a soft gold fog curled at the edges of his body and he murmured to the strongly-built martial artist "Hey, this is about relaxing and easing the mind, right? Could I try and focus on something to help with that?" without waiting for the answer he added "Y'mentioned you like learning about legacy heroes, what one's your favorite? Mine's the Ladies of Liberty."

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Mali had to stifle a laugh. She didn't want to mock the poor guy, but it was obvious that he didn't understand meditation. It was fine with her, of course, she was just amused."The Bowman and the Raven. Don't get me wrong, super powers are awesome and all, but I have a lot of respect for people who don't have them. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to become a hero even if you have powers." She said with a smile. "Being a hero means sacrifice, hard work and risk. Anyone who takes it up deserves a lot of honor and respect." She began to breathe deep and let her body relax. Her impression of Subito so far was 'nice guy, sweet tempered, bit awkward', she liked him already.

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"Yeah," Subito agreed, his breathing much more relaxed, his eyes no longer moving "the Bowmen and Ravens are real admirable for all they've done without any powers. But someone who can carry so much power and remain so...good, I look up to that, I want to be that someday" he told Mali with quiet sincerity.

His composure grew straighter, his hair fell away from in front of his eyes and he went on softly "But still, they're amazing people who do so much without powers. You don't have any Mali?" 'Huh, didn't expect someone tough as her to be so thought- No wandering Right, sorry...'

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"Nope, no powers. I just worked really, really hard and trained for most of my life. I was very young when my dad decided that I should learn self defense. And I did, but I loved it more than just for self defense, so I kept pushing myself harder and faster." She shrugged. It was simply the life she had lead, and had no regrets. Sure, sometimes people jeered at her muscles, or boys were intimidated by her physique, but she was being reminded, slowly, that these things weren't bad. Heck, she'd started to realize boys might actually like her, the way she was.

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"From self defence to defending others? That's pretty great! My sister, Galanta, she's kinda like that...really strong and great fighter..." Subito was a lot more quiet now, breathing calm and even, face composed and contemplating.

"...she isn't really a superhero though, how did you get so kickass, Mali?" he asked with a note of admiration "You know Cerys, right? She doesn't have any powers either, but she's been trained in using this magic stuff, like a ninja. Or maybe Link. Like, if Link was a ninja, and also James Bond." he added, sounding a little unsure what he was talking about.

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Mali blushed slightly, unused to being complimented on, well, anything, then she chuckled. Link and James Bond, what? She knew Cerys fairly well, and admired the other girl's strength. Magic or not, Cerys had skill, just like a lot of her friends.

"Well, um, training, lots of training. I mean, nothing worth doing is easy to do. That's what my dad taught me. See...my great grandfather was this really big, important super hero in Thailand. It was during a very difficult time in the country too, and he helped oppose the worst parts of a corrupt government. When I found about that part of my history, I just...decided to follow in his footsteps. I'd already been training, I just turned it up, I guess."

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Subito jolted awake, staring in awe at Mali. "You've got superheroes in your family tree?" he asked, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. Grinning he said excitedly "That is awesome. Are you the only hero your family has this generation, or are there others, or what? Nobody else in my family was a superhero that I know about, though my cousin's got powers and comes here sometimes for counseling. You seen him? Short guy, long curly hair? Anyway! Not important. What's it like, for you being a superhero I mean? Do your parents like that you do it?"

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"My great grandfather went by the name Black Tiger. I think there's another Black Tiger in Thailand around my age or older, but I'm not sure if we're related. Parents aren't really happy about it, but they're not trying to stop me. When they found out I was fighting crime, they insisted I go to Claremont. I guess they figured I was too headstrong to stop just because they asked me to. So they wanted to make sure I was properly trained. It's a strange combination, pride and fear, you know?"

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"The Black Tiger..." Subito rolled the name around for a bit, then grinned at Mali. "That's a badass name! Do you call yourself Tiger too?"

He nodded in understanding when she mentioned her family's attitude to crimefighting. His hadn't wanted him to even go patrolling until he had completed his first year of training, though that was because he was still pretty clumsy with his powers even then.

"Pride 'n fear, yeah. My folks were thrilled that I was El Heraldo, but they knew that I'd break something or someone if I didn't get taught right." he shrugged with a light smile "So far that's been pretty low on the list o' stuff I need t'be worried about."

He relaxed again, closing his eyes, cupping his hands and listening to the water.

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"Actually, yes, I go by Crimson Tiger." She said. "Costume is black and red, I had it before I even joined Claremont." She realized that he was now trying to meditate, so she closed her eyes and tried to do so herself. Not that she minded, she could always meditate in her room later. If they intended to keep talking though, she considered inviting him to go to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat so they could leave the zen garden in peace and not disrupt other people's meditation.

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"Mali," Subito broke the silence without warning, looking at the muscular Thai girl curiously "if your family is all about tigers, does that mean you have some kinda...guiding tiger spirit or somethin'?" 'Do you have a guiding Herald spirit? No. A snippy blue woman does live in my head, though Impertinence! Besides, the point stands. Benjawan's family is no more required to have a ghostly tiger as their household god because they call themselves 'Tigers', than you are to have a similarly gaudy and tactless creatures as yourself for an advisor ...Alright that's true Good youth. Now pay attention to her, and get back to focusing on meditation so I don't have to drive it into your head!'

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Mali giggled, she couldn't stifle that one. "No, but wouldn't that be awesome? I mean, big ol' tiger, popping up like Mufasa in the Lion King. Maybe he'd be voiced by James Earl Jones, too..." She shook her head. "Sorry, that's actually a pretty reasonable question considering where we are. I mean, we have magic and mutants and T-Babies, survivors from alternate Earths, a tiger spirit isn't far fetched in the face of all that, is it?" She said with a nod.

"So what about you, what do you do? What brought you to Claremont?"

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"That's a good point" the sturdy boy agreed thoughtfully, reflecting on how weird a lot of his schoolmates' origins had sounded "one girl I know told me she gets her powers from voodoo, there're two mutants I know, one with power over vibrations called Serge, the other's Kristin, a telekinetic. I dunno any superbiology or whatever, so that makes no sense to me at all. You ever met a guy called Luke Perrin? He's from space!"

By now leaning on one hand, bent closer to Mali, Subito thought over her question with a slight frown, at last answering "I'm...you know Lady Liberty? She's like empowered by the Spirit of America? Well," he rested on both hands while he got on his knees "I'm like that with the spirit of Puerto Rico. I've got the power to become really strong, able to fly, really tough and this flag I have turns into this awesome Banner if I call upon the Dama Azul or Blue Dame of Puerto Rico." he glanced at her with a faint grin "S'okay, not a lot of people know who that is even back home. As for how I got to be a spirit-bearer..." he rubbed the back of his head and glanced at Mali with a wince "Well, I was workin' at this Fun Time Toys factory when I kinda wasn't old enough to be there, this guy fell off a catwalk 'cause of some old trap Toy Boy set, and I tried to catch him." he sat back on his haunches, the powerfully-built Puerto Rican boy looking very embarrassed as he went on "I missed my footin', and was dragged after him. We were halfway to falling in a paint-adhering vat when the Blue Dame granted me her power to save us both. I..." he reddened "I wasn't supposed to be The Herald of the Blue Dame at all. She was going to empower my sis, who is way bigger n' stronger than me, but she couldn't let me die..." he shrugged awkwardly, loosening a button on his flannel shirt and gazing into the quiet pond.

His hazel eyes flicked back "Mr. Summers found out about that, and came to my parent's place a few days after the Dama visited me to make me the Herald for real. So...here I am." he smiled cheerfully and began settling back into the meditation posture, struggling with a foot that was almost going numb.

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Mali smiled. "Heroism isn't about how big you are, or how strong you are. It's about courage, honor, and a desire to make a difference. You saved a life, you know? You saved a life. That's what matters in the end. Besides, I'm betting you do fine as her herald. I'm sure your family and friends are all proud of you." She tried to encourage the boy, and frankly, she admired him. She'd put herself into all of this on purpose from the very beginning. She had always been strong, fast and tough. She'd always been stronger than her peers, and always had the focus and the desire to make the world a better place.

"That's awesome, Subito. I mean, courage isn't what you do when things are easy, you know? Courage is what you do when your back is against the wall. It's what you do when you could die, but do it anyway. That's what being a hero matters. If I learned nothing else from my great grandfather, it's that."

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"It was pretty awesome Mali, yeah" the Hispanic boy agreed with a grin "A couple times I wonder if I did the right thing by just leaping in there, but then I think of the guy's face as he looked up at me, us both hanging in a cloud of golden smoke a few feet from the vat, and I know I did."

One of the other students seated cross-legged on the snow-covered grass began to raise a little higher into the air as if on a string, her dark brown face turned up at the weak winter sun.

Glancing over at their classmate Subito gave a low murmur of awe. Quickly turning back he said "My folks are pretty happy about this, yeah. My sis Galanta's super-pumped that I'm a superhero, and my cousin Rodrigo...well, we have our differences of opinion, as he puts it" he grimaced "He's better now that he's got powers too, and especially now that this place is getting the counseling. Got some kinda jealousy curse, I think. Friends...I didn't, uh, bring a whole lotta friends with me here. Met some good people though, like Cerys..." he paused to smile dreamily and then shrugged the matter off. Subito abruptly frowned "Hey, this is a huge swerve, but do you want me to go someplace else?" a sheepish grin "I'm not really helping you find inner peace, you know? And I totally get why this is so important."

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Mali smiled. "Nah, it's fine. New friends are way more important than meditation, far less boring, too. I can always meditate later. Though if you want to leave, we can do somewhere else, maybe not interfere with their meditation." Then she laughed. "Aha, so you and Cerys are..." She said, connecting the mental dots. "She and I hang out sometimes, we're good friends." She connected the mental dots, and it kinda made sense.

"I was actually thinking of getting something to eat. If you'd like to join me, I don't mind."

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Jumping to his feet and offering the study girl an unnecessary hand up, Subito quickly fell in step beside Mali "Awesome! Cafeteria's got good stuff today." he said with a note of authority and experience that belied his thoughtless attitude, opening the gate for them both so they could leave the gentle and quiet garden "Yesterday the cook made spaghetti, so today all kinds of stuff's got tomato sauce in it!" he grinned at the young warrior as they strolled past "You like tomatoes, Mali? I love 'em. Always have since I was just a little kid." trudging in silence down the frozen path for a bit he asked her "Hey, you hear about how they're probably canceling that Star Knight show? It's gonna be a frickin' tragedy if the do." he declared glumly.

'What? That's your big conversation starter? Oh come on! She'll know what I'm talking about! ...We shall see'

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