Obi-Wan led Nasriel through the Temple halls, toward his own quarters. “These are one of the few quarters which actually have three bedrooms,” he explained. “I believe Ben has been using the third one to store his collection of random paraphernalia – what most of it might be is anybody’s guess – but I told him to clean it out for you yesterday. I haven’t had the chance to check if he actually did it, but I think he did.”
Obi-Wan palmed open the door. Without warning, a huge Saint Bernard-type txakurra surged out of the room, leaping onto the Jedi Master and carrying him to the ground, covering him with soaking kisses. ”Off, Blaze, off!” Obi-Wan exclaimed, trying to remove the txakurra’s huge bulk. ”Nasriel, get his collar! He weighs almost more than I do!” Nasriel hurriedly grabbed the collar and pulled the animal off. Obi-Wan got up hurriedly, as Blaze attempted to regain his position on top of his Master, dragging Nasriel with him. The txakurra continued to slobber all over Obi-Wan’s hands.
“Bad ‘kurra,” Obi-Wan scolded. Blaze subsided and looked pitifully up at Obi-Wan, who looked back at him severely. ”Don’t give me that look, Blaze. I’m not about to fall for it. Go on with you.” Blaze dropped his eyes dolefully and padded back into the room. Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief. ”Thank you, Nasriel. I suspect that Siri – that’s Master Tachi to you – may have had a hand in the fact that Blaze likes to be on top of me, but never mind. Before I say anything else, don’t let this creature puppy-eye you into anything that you shouldn’t let him do. He rarely acts like he’s been trained, but if you give him a stern look he’ll normally give it up.”
“It doesn’t seem to work when he’s jumping at you,” Nasriel observed.
“Yes, but normally he only jumps me or Ben, so you should be fine. And he’s usually not here anyway. One of the older Padawans keeps borrowing him for something. Padawan Leannen, I think.”
“I know,” Nasriel remarked. “I am reminded of that every time I visit Telcontir Leannen.”
“Ben?” Obi-Wan called. ”Where are you?” Ben appeared in the main area from one of the three rooms. ”And what were you doing in my bedroom?” Obi-Wan asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“Chips got away from Zaina again,” Ben said. ”He’s on the top of your bookshelf and I’ve been trying for the last ten minutes to get him down.” Nasriel giggled. Practically the whole Temple knew of Zaina Daemes and her escapades with her pet chikka, a small squirrel-like rodent from the planet Karor. Obi-Wan gave an annoyed sigh.
“Ah well. He’ll come down when he’s hungry enough. Nasriel, this is Ben Kenobi, my nephew. Ben, Nasriel Threeb. I’m going to be training both of you; Ben because we’re family, Nasriel in fulfillment of a promise I made years ago. I know this is an unusual situation, but there are times when such situations are thrust on us, beyond our control. The Code was intended to be flexible, since the writer did not know what the future might bring.”
“That sounds like something Master Jinn taught you,” Nasriel remarked, noticing Ben’s slight look of surprise. Obi-Wan paused, his eyes softening.
“Yes.” A flicker of grief crossed his face, so brief that Nasriel almost doubted she’d seen anything. ”Yes, it was.” He pushed the distraction aside. ”Since these are unusual circumstances, I want to make something completely clear. You both stand on an equal footing with each other. If I treat you differently, it is because you are different. I will not show any favoritism, and I don’t want either of you to become jealous. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Master,” Ben and Nasriel chorused.
“Thank you.” Obi-Wan shifted a little. ”Now, I think I’d better go make sure that Chips is not causing any more than his usual havoc.” He bowed gracefully, and then exited. Nasriel couldn’t see any sense in being coy. She stared bluntly at Master Kenobi’s nephew. He had the same looks and air of gentility and charm about him; the likeness was stunning, right down to the bright blue-gray hazel-rimmed eyes. However, Ben already promised to be taller than his uncle was. He was a few years younger than Nasriel, but despite his youth she could sense an unexpected maturity. Ben glanced at her, some embarrassment in his face.
“Before you ask. Please, don’t say I’m my uncle’s younger twin or anything like that. It’s what everyone thinks. Everyone’s always thinking of me in terms of Master Obi-Wan.” He looked a little insecure, and Nasriel briefly wondered if this was what Obi-Wan had been like when he was younger.
“Okay.” she said. ”There’s just this one thing. If you decide you don’t like me, you only have to drop a hint to Master Yoreh Deah. She’d love an excuse to stop the ‘experiment’ dead.”
There was an awkward silence. Ben broke it, grinning mischievously. “I’ve been dying to meet you, ever since I heard about the time you dropped Master Jocasta’s textbook on Master Obi-Wan’s foot when he was teaching the seventh level history class.”
Nasriel smiled shyly. “It did make me popular with of most of the senior class for a full cycle,” she admitted.
“Out of curiosity, did you do it on purpose for that?”
“Nope. I did it because I thought he was going to ask the one question I hadn’t studied for.” Nasriel looked curiously at Ben. ”Did you grow up knowing you had an uncle who was a Jedi Master?”
“I knew that I had an uncle who was a Jedi, but I didn’t know his name. My parents never said; I suppose they kept me out of contact with Master Obi-Wan because they thought it might be seen as me trying to get an advantage over the other younglings.” Nasriel nodded, thinking it over.
“But you ran into him anyway?”
“You could say that. Or you could call it fate. Anyway, do you remember how the Chancellor planted some trick bombs in the Temple last Spring Fools’ Day as a joke?”
Nasriel nodded again. “I didn’t think it was all that funny. It’s altogether too obvious that the Chancellor has never been in a war zone.”
“Well, that’s how I met Master Obi-Wan. The Council had assigned him to investigate, along with Master Skywalker…” Nasriel snorted. Ben took the hint and carried on quickly. ”Anyway, Ahsoka was listening in and told me, and I thought it was a good idea to tell Master Skywalker. I had no idea what it would lead to. It was quite the adventure, and by the time it was over, my uncle had asked me to be his Padawan. I didn’t really want to accept at first, but when a Jedi asks you as a Master and not as family, it’s pretty hard to turn it down. I get the feeling that Ana – um, Master Skywalker…”
“Just call him Anakin, I won’t tell.” Nasriel said. ”Does he really need the extra appellation?”
Ben stopped for a moment, and then smiled again. “He doesn’t even act like a knight, does he? Anyway, I think he was the one that set me up with Master Obi-Wan, on purpose, to get him attached to a new Padawan. I think our Master gets attached pretty easy, to be honest, no offense to you…”
“I heard that, you two,” Obi-Wan said, appearing in the doorway. ”I’m starting to think I get attached too easily.” He said it in a light, careless tone, giving them both the idea that he didn’t really regret it.
“I meant no disrespect, Master Kenobi.” Nasriel said quickly.
“Nasriel, you know what I prefer to be called,” Obi-Wan replied, sitting down lightly on the arm of the couch.
“Respect those wiser than you,” she quoted warily. Ben just sat back, watching the interplay.
“Indeed. But do you know where that respect comes from?” Obi-Wan replied, taking the banter to a serious lesson.
“True respect can only be given to those who deserve it. It is born of humility and thrives with companionate love.”
“Very good,” Obi-Wan commented. ”And why are attachments forbidden for a Jedi?”
Nasriel frowned. ”Because attachment breeds fear of loss.”
“That’s the textbook answer,” Obi-Wan said. ”I’m asking on a more personal level.”
“Because… because… they might be taken from you?”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “Life claims its own, all in good time. Think, Nasriel, think!”
Nasriel pondered the question for a moment. “They might be used against you?”
“Tugging you around by your heartstrings? Yes, but what does it mean?” Obi-Wan paused. ”You haven’t been taught that yet. Here goes. Attachments lead to fear, which leads to the Dark Side. You both know what Master Yoda says about that. However, we can’t go through life without making friends, and perhaps even falling in love. Most species are disposed to form friendships – especially Humans. It’s part of us – it’s how we survive. And how we learn to become better.” He leaned forward. “So much of life is a paradox, and much of it you have to figure out for yourselves. But this much I’ll explain to you. How do attachments make you a better Jedi, while they are forbidden?” Ben shook his head, stumped. Nasriel wondered if she had learned the answer before.
“Nasriel,” Obi-Wan said, looking directly at her, “I think you’ll understand this better than Ben will. It’s not the attachment that is forbidden in itself. It’s the decision to hold onto it that is. Being a good friend teaches you to be self-sacrificing – you want to do what is best for your friend rather than what you want for yourself, even if it is painful or displeasing to them. That is how it makes you into a better person. However, you also must be ready to lose them at any moment. It is selfishness, not friendships, that is forbidden.” Nasriel sighed. She understood only too well what he meant, but it also made sense.
“It doesn’t make it hurt any less,” Obi-Wan continued, “but emotions are just emotions. It’s what you do with them that matters.”