For the first time since climbing out of both his metaphorical and literal slumps, Cedric found himself craving some Balmorran Bluesky.
The enclave Romi Jade
had built was as impressive as the temples of old, yet it did not bring him much peace. He'd done well to avoid the company of other Jedi during the length of his Barash Vow. He rarely ever found himself agreeing with them anymore, and many of them felt similarly about him. Where he'd imagined there would be a sense of brotherhood and comradery, he felt only coldness and apathy. That was not true of all of them of course, but it was difficult to ignore the sense of constant disapproval he felt when they watched him from behind his back.
Or perhaps he was only imagining it. Perhaps rather than being persecuted by those around him, he was instead judging himself. Both possibilities were equally unpleasant, and Cedric opted to quiet his mind and let the doubts fall off his shoulders. He could do nothing about the opinions of his peers, and everything he had done and espoused had been in the greater service of the Ashla, whether the other Jedi believed it or not.
He was a guest here anyway. Romi had invited him to stay shortly after her liberation from the Brotherhood of the Hidden Maw, and Cedric had hesitantly agreed. His nephew and the pilot could survive without him for a few weeks, and getting a better understanding of the current climate between the individual Jedi groups was a necessity. The enclave, neutral as it was, was the perfect place to gather such perspectives.
He'd mostly lingered in his quarters since arriving. Romi had been busy dealing with some sort of fiasco involving his apprentice, though Cedric was not privy to the details. He'd stayed well away from whatever was going on. His presence would only further dilute the discourse, and he had little desire to say something that might put Ryv
under even more scrutiny. Unfortunately one could only stare at the walls for so long before they found themselves getting bored, and Cedric began to wander the halls.
The exile kept his cowl drawn over his features so as not to draw much attention to himself, and stuck to the less traveled corridors of the enclave. Whatever was happening to his apprentice, he would find out, and if the boy needed his help then he would have it. Moral callings aside, anything beat sitting in the dullness of his room any longer.
Fresh off another convo that largely went south -- she was trailing Jend-Ro Quill
, or at least trying to. And here she was again trying to mend another situation that spiraled from this whole thing. Honestly, being a Headmaster was testing her patience more and more; she was really trying to be tactful even when she wanted to be a karking banshee.
This was part of the reason she hated being in leadership, but if she were going to honor the wishes of her Master....
Accepting that he disappeared, she figured they'd talk about things at a later time -- she could really use the break anyway.
Slowing her pace, she attached the weapon to her belt and in those few seconds of not paying attention she almost ran into Cedric Grayson
Distracted, she could only throw her hands up at the last minute as a last minute ditch to crashing. "H-hey, sorry."
It'd been years now since they spoke, or were in the same space. When he rescued her from the Maw, he only said her name and that was it...it'd been stray glances every since. "Going somewhere?"
One could only ignore reality for so long, and in this case, before it quite literally walked right into you. He’d been paying attention to a side conversation between two padawans at the other end of the corridor when Romi nearly walked right into him. The exile blinked in momentary confusion, “Hey back at you.”
Not the most intelligent thing to say after being away for a year and some change, but then Cedric had never been as eloquent with Romi as he had been with the other Jedi. “Just eavesdropping mostly. Sounds like there’s been a bit of a...” his brow furrowed as he struggled for the right word, “ - bit of a kerfuffle involving my old student and his disciples.”
After a brief moment of consideration, he reached up to draw back his cowl and met his old friend’s gaze. In their early youth they’d been nearly inseparable, and mutually guided by Master Arenais’s teachings. Things had gotten a bit more complex as they’d grown older. She lingered on his mind from time to time, but the pressures of his responsibilities had kept him far and away. Now it seemed all he had was free time, and once again he found himself at her doorstep. Even still, he’d opted to avoid her, whether consciously or without meaning.
“You seem to be in a bit of a hurry,” he added, a slight smile coloring his otherwise harsh features despite his better wishes. She’d had her face scrunched up like an angry kath hound pup when she’d run into him; he could only assume it had something to do with the greater mess he kept hearing about. Whatever apprehension he might have harbored was quickly replaced by a quiet concern. His tone softened as he lowered his voice. “Everything alright Romi?”
"Kerfuffle?" She slowly began to sport a smile, there was definitely laughter somewhere behind that. "No other word huh?" She teased.
Puckering her lips to dissolve her smirk, "But yes. There's been a whole thing that turned into more things..." She lingered on him for a bit, "Hey, I wanted to say thanks for saving me from the Maw. It's so good to see you Cedric I-"
"-I was actually looking for Quill. He uh dropped his saber and walked off. This is all a mess." She released the tension in her shoulder. Lowering her head, her hair fell over her chest. "Yeah I...I'm alright. Just been contemplating what all this has been for ya know?" She sauntered past him, silently triggering for him to follow.
"You know i've always hated being the leader...I'd much rather cause ruckus in my own lane, but Veiere Arenais
always wanted me to step up and I did all of this to honor him and push myself to realize his vision. But this crap is hard, I'm constantly in a cycle of giving and being disrespected in return."
She glanced his way, "I'm just like is it all worth it ya know."
Heck she couldn't even have a relationship peacefully, it was under constant scrutiny, despite saving the Hapes Cluster from the Sith several times. She was jealous of Coren Starchaser
and Cotan Sar'andor
in that regard.
“I might’ve been a bit biased. Kerfuffle one of my favorite words.” Were it anyone else, he would have recoiled from the physical contact and offered a harsh rebuke in return. He was not so guarded with his childhood friend - if only because she’d hid behind him more than a few times in their youth. “Honestly I debated on leaving you there for a bit to save my own skin,” there was a doting tone to his words despite the sarcasm, “But my nephew was there and he likes to pretendI’m the hero. Had to play the role for his sake. You know how kids are.”
Just as when he reunited with his kin, it was as if all the anxiety he’d allowed himself to linger on vanished the moment they actually started talking. He supposed that he partly feared she would have changed her opinions on him as so many of their peers had. Her mentioning of Quill momentarily gave life to that private terror, but he quickly snuffed it out. She was happy to see him, and that was more than enough, her current companions be damned.
The exile listened quietly as he kept step with her down the corridor. It sounded like she was suffering the same burdens he’d carried as the leader of the core, only for her things were likely more personal. There was a difference between strangers speaking out against your movement from afar, and people that were supposedly friends causing trouble in your home.
“I’m all too familiar with the feeling,” he mumbled, a brow lifting when she mentioned Veiere. The old man had always seen her as his protege. For Cedric’s part, he had long since let go of the jealousy that he’d harbored toward Romi because of that. The need to be recognized by his master as the successor was something the exile had carried in his youth, but with age came experience, and he understood why Veiere had never held a preference for him now just as much as why he had kept one for Romi.
“That is what it means to be a leader, unfortunately.” He offered quietly, “For every person that calls you teacher, another will call you blasphemer. For every loyal student, there will be another that thinks you a fool and seeks to use you. For every great move you make, there will be legions of strangers to tell you that the progress you’ve made is a source of evil in the galaxy. To stand at the top is to make yourself the vessel for whatever criticism anyone has for what you represent.” He reached out toward her for a moment as they came to the end of the corridor, hesitated, then placed his hand on her shoulder anyway. “It will eat away at you, and if you let it, it will destroy you.”
He knew of that all too well.
The hand withdrew as he continued. “But it is worth it, no matter how many schisms we suffer or old masters call us monsters: as long as we can pull together long enough to destroy the Sith and the other great powers that seek to throw the galaxy out of balance. You’re doing good work here Romi. Don’t allow the passions of youth to discourage you.”
She released a bit to his touch on her shoulder, she was mostly guarded and there were very few in the entire galaxy who could ever touch her and she'd feel comfortable relishing it; Her eyes bounced from the floor and then up, "You know what's funny about all that?" She responded, "It's like you know that--well at least I did, having seen good leaders before. I knew what I was signing up for, and I was prepared to stand on everything. I mean I still am." She smirked at him, "i'm much too stubborn to give it all up now."
She caught his gaze, and kept it for a few seconds of silence. Her thoughts largely her own.
Breaking that trance -- "-But I'm sure all leaders at some point struggle with whatever decision they're making. Moral of the story, you can't please everyone, and I quite frankly don't give a kark to."
Her usual attitude, she cared very little to talk. Maybe it was all this talking and having to hold her tongue that was killing her.
"Ya know?" She started back on her path towards her quarters, "Maybe it's the talking and having to be mature about things that draining..."
She curved the corner and approached her door. Thumbing the switch on the side, it worked through a sequences of quick kinks and opened to her presence. "But anyway..."
She sauntered through, and placed Quill's lightsaber on a stand. "So...where have you been?"