“Come on, Elijah! Your punches have to be harder than that!” Solana urged me.
My punches could barely force her back even a little. I jabbed into the punching bag as hard as I could, but it was as exhausting as trying to dig through a brick wall. Solana stood her ground with ease. Her feet were planted in the dirt firmly, and she held the punching bag at her waist. With all of my punching, all that would fly backwards was the dust coming from a popped seam on the side of the bag.
“You need to channel more Essence like I’m doing.”
I continued hitting the bag, trying to force Essence out of my body. Solana was doing it so effortlessly though. Just a mite of her sapphire Essence could lock her feet in place and keep me from doing any damage at all.
We were at it for two hours now, and all of my energy was spent. Solana noticed the pauses between each punch, and decided to use the opportunity to knock me to the ground.
Gasping for air, I begged Solana, “Can we take a break?”
“You need to build up stamina. More importantly, you need to learn to channel that Essence of yours on your own.”
“Pretty tough to do when it’s only my second day.”
“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve done it for. What matters is that you get through it.” Solana sighed, “You have the potential, Elijah. I’m just trying to squeeze it out of you, in ways other than necessity.”
“What do you mean by necessity?” I asked.
“Yesterday, you only perfected the danger reflex after I promised to take you to Timorba. You found where your parents had been when it was your only way of finding them. That rarely happens, and if it does, only under the proper circumstances. Usually we can only locate people in the present. I doubt you could do it again if I asked you to. That’s why you need to train, to make these accidental occurrences into habits.”
I hesitated, taking in all of her words with another gasp of air. “And what happened at the Dianoche—”
“I don’t want to hear about the Dianoche right now. Don’t think I’m not still upset about that, because I am. That’s the other part of this exercise. Not only do you need to channel your Essence, you have to control it. There will be times when you become so overwhelmed that instinct and Essence will dictate the way you act. I will not let you hurt someone because you can’t put restraints on your emotions. Now sit up.”
I nodded, too fatigued to respond.
“I want you to close your eyes and take deep breaths. Focus on moving your Essence from your heart to the rest of your body. The best way to do it is to feel the blood flow through your arteries, and slowly open the gates of your Essence to ebb with it.”
I slowly shut my eyes and began to breathe in rhythm. I took much deeper breaths than I would have, but it relaxed me. I tuned into my heartbeat; the once rapid pumping fell back into a steady cadence. I could feel the blood surge through my body to my head, arms, and feet. I followed the blood back to the heart, where the beating stopped for a moment. It was as if the center of my heart was paralyzed. Passing between the ventricles proved difficult.
The blood seemed to stop entirely, and I could no longer feel my heartbeat. My lungs contracted, and suddenly I began to suffocate. Panic flooded my brain, and my entire body felt as if it would shut down completely.
My eyes opened to Solana squeezing my shoulders, “Elijah!? Are you alright!?”
I took a few quick breaths, “What happened?”
“I don’t know. Listen, I’ll go get Celeste.”
“Are you sure? She didn’t seem like—”
“This could be an emergency and she’s the only Green in the castle. We don’t have much of a choice here! Sit straight up, take deep breaths, and I will be right back. Do not move.”
“Fine,” I obeyed, fearing even the thought of blinking.