Gray Jedi Ch. 10

byauguy86©

"And you believe you've succeeded?"

Malik shrugged. "Yoda himself praised my use of it, so take that as you will. And I'm not the first Jedi to use this power without falling to the Dark Side."

"True, there was Master Plo Koon," Jax realized. Leaning against the window, he muttered, "Guess everything I've ever known has been turned on its head."

"That's basically the nature of the galaxy," Malik offered. "Everything changes, whether we like it or not. It comes down to how we respond to those changes."

"Yeah... everything is changing..."

"I know you think she's falling in love with Rex down there, but I don't think that's the case, Jax."

"Why not?"

"First, you underestimate the bond you share with Laranth. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind for her too, so cut her a bit of slack. She's trying to keep up with all the changes, just like you."

"Guess that makes sense. And second?"

"Remember, Rex has his own emotional weight. He's a clone defector, on his own for the first time in his life. He's just trying to find his way in the galaxy, forget any romantic attachments. Clones weren't even allowed such relationships!"

"Hadn't thought of it like that," Jax said.

"Trust me, what you're seeing down there is two individuals bonding over a shared love of marksmanship and weaponry. Still, you owe it to Laranth and yourself to be honest about how you feel. If you aren't, then you have nobody but yourself to blame if she does fall for someone else someday."

"So you think I should do it. That I should break the Jedi Code."

"Jax, you're a big boy. I can't tell you what to do; you're not a Padawan anymore. You've got to make up your own damn mind. Is the Code more important, or are your feelings for Laranth more important?" Malik asked, turning to leave. "You'll know when you figure it out."

Once again, Jax was alone with his thoughts.

*****

"Lord Vader, what are we doing in the Mustafar system?"

"We are here for your training, Grand Inquisitor. This planet is the forge that hardened me into what I am today. So shall it be with you." Turning to face his student, Vader continued, "Your weapon."

"Er... of course," Blutt replied, handing his saberstaff to Vader.

Clutching the weapon, Vader continued, "Though you have raised this weapon in the name of the Empire in the last two days, it is still a symbol of the traitorous Jedi Order. You will use it no more." With that, Vader tossed the saberstaff off the edge of the platform on which they stood and into the river of lava below.

"Am I to hunt Jedi with no means of defense?"

Vader reached behind his back, withdrawing a black object. "Your new weapon."

Taking the object from Vader, Blutt began to inspect the weapon. It was clearly a lightsaber, though in a rather peculiar shape. The cylinder-shaped hilt was conventional enough, but a strip of metal extended from the top, connecting to the bottom of the hilt to form a crescent. Gripping it in his slender hand, Blutt noticed a surprisingly large number of buttons on the control panel.

"This weapon is the result of years of research and development by the emperor," Vader said. "It is the most versatile lightsaber ever created, capable of switching between single and dual blades in an instant with none of the compromises of the traditional saberstaff. In addition, it possesses other... unique attributes not found in any other weapon."

"Fascinating... how do I activate the saberstaff mode? The controls are different than they were on my old lightsaber."

"In due time, Grand Inquisitor. You were a powerful Jedi, but you cannot afford to limit yourself to only a saberstaff if you wish to hunt down the remaining Jedi. You must become adept in many styles of combat, for each Jedi has a technique all their own." Drawing his crimson lightsaber, Vader continued, "If you wish to best the Jedi, you must first contend with me."

Unknown to all but the Emperor, Vader had spent the weeks since his defeat at Obi-Wan's hands in tireless training. He not only desired to best his old master, but also had to become accustomed to his new, cumbersome body. Vader had worked without end, pouring over the recordings of his duel with Obi-Wan and perfecting different lightsaber forms against training drones, only pausing for the strongest urges of food and rest. Such was his dedication that, in a few short weeks, he had managed to incorporate advanced Soresu, Makashi, and Shii-Cho techniques into his preferred Djem So and Shein styles. In spite of his mechanical body, he had become an imposing, intimidating, and deadly warrior.

Gripping his new weapon, Blutt activated a single blade on his new lightsaber, savoring the red light before him. As a Jedi Temple Guard, he was trained in all forms of lightsaber combat except Vaapad, though he still had his strengths and weaknesses. Beginning with his preferred Soresu opening, he stood in a defensive stance and awaited Vader's opening move. Swifter than anticipated, Vader lunged forward and executed the falling avalanche technique common to his Djem So form. The overhead slash was so strong that Blutt was nearly driven to the ground even with a perfect block. Vader's brute strength was such that any head-on assault would result in a great advantage for the Sith Lord.

Giving ground once more, Blutt worked to keep his wits about him as he parried Vader's strikes. Blutt's concentration was great, but Vader remained relentless, slashing at him from every angle he could. Blutt began to wonder if Vader somehow knew exactly what he was going to do. After a successful block, Blutt moved in for a counterattack, only to have his attack parried before Vader Force Pushed him to the ground.

"Wha?" Blutt gasped.

"All too easy," Vader said, his sword pointing at Blutt. "The last Jedi I faced was Obi-Wan Kenobi. He also uses the defensive Soresu style, but his is far more accomplished than yours. You are not so attuned with the Force that you can maintain such defenses for long periods of time, not like Kenobi can. You must let go of your preconceived notions of the Jedi Order. You must unlearn what you have learned. The Jedi relied too heavily on their defensive techniques, and so you must only do so when absolutely necessary. Only by embracing your aggression and actively seeking to end the duel with a kill will you be able to hunt down the Jedi. Again."

Rising to his feet, Blutt again assumed his Soresu opening stance. This time, he back-flipped over Vader's head after parrying the opening attack. As he landed, Blutt then shifted into a Makashi stance and began to thrust at Vader, attempting to penetrate his defenses.

"Ah, Count Dooku's technique," Vader observed.

Blutt said nothing in reply, continuing his offensive as best as he could. Still, Vader's strength and ability to anticipate incoming strikes made it almost impossible for Blutt to get any solid openings on him. As the duel continued, Blutt began to corner Vader in an outcropping of rocks. Sensing the opportunity he needed, Blutt attempted to Force Push Vader to the ground and end the fight then and there, but Vader simply countered with a Force Push of his own. This attack was so much stronger than Blutt's that it obliterated his attempt and still had power enough to push the Pau'an to the ground once again.

"Better, but still sloppy," Vader remarked. "You are unwise to think you are as good as one of the greatest duelists the Jedi Order has ever produced. I have bested Count Dooku myself; you will not defeat me with his techniques."

"Wait... what did you say? You have bested Dooku?"

"Enough," Vader replied lunging with his lightsaber.

"Not for me," Blutt said, evading Vader's attack. "Count Dooku was one of the greatest duelists the Jedi Order has ever seen. He was undefeated his entire career, and even following his defection to the Separatists. As I recall, he was only beaten once."

"Silence!"

"Yes, he was defeated... by you, Anakin Skywalker," Blutt chuckled.

"YAH!"

Vader charged forward in a fit of rage. His blade locked with Blutt's, who just smiled and laughed the entire time.

"It all makes sense now, Lord Vader. Beneath all the brooding and intimidation... you are still the same cocky brat you have been throughout your entire life. It would be humorous were it not so pathetic!"

Before Blutt could anticipate, Vader broke their blade lock and leapt back a few paces. Stretching out his hand, he grabbed Blutt in a Force Choke, causing him to fly through the air and into Vader's grasp. After delivering a pair of punches to the Pau'an's gut, Vader pinned him to the ground under his boot, lightsaber pointed at his throat.

"You... have done well, Grand Inquisitor."

"My Lord?" Blutt asked in confusion.

"With no instruction, you have tapped into a skill used extensively by the Sith: Dun Möch."

"Dun Möch... the art of distraction?"

"Indeed," Vader replied. "When properly utilized, Dun Möch diverts your opponent's concentration, perhaps giving you the opening you need to at last defeat them. In addition, it is a form of psychological warfare. In battle, it is through the Dark Side that we attempt to dominate our enemies and impose our will upon them. Dun Möch helps accomplish this by breaking their spirit. The greatest user of the technique is the Emperor. He takes this skill to new heights when combined with his intellect and meticulous planning. In fact, the entire Clone War was an extreme exercise in Dun Möch."

"Highly effective," Blutt remarked from the ground. "May I be allowed to rise?"

"No," Vader replied, pressing his foot down harder. "Here, you now learn the disadvantages of Dun Möch when applied improperly. Overuse of the technique can result in your enemy becoming enraged, not distracted. Even the Jedi can be susceptible to what they call 'righteous anger'. With such fury, even the most overwhelmed of opponents could turn the tide. Do you understand, Grand Inquisitor?"

"I do. You were distracted when I discovered your true identity. But in taunting you so fiercely, I was my own undoing..."

"Precisely."

With a final bit of pressure, Vader released him from beneath his boot, at last allowing Blutt to rise to his feet.

"You are a surprisingly effective teacher, Skywal-"

"That name carries no meaning for me!" Vader rebuked him. "Anakin Skywalker was a Jedi, and thus, a disgrace. I destroyed him, and in so doing became stronger than he could have ever dreamed of. In the same way, you must cast out your identity of Topal Blutt. Topal Blutt is dead. Only the Grand Inquisitor remains. You will do well to remember this."

"I... I understand, Lord Vader."

"Good. And another thing: the only other individual who knows of my past is the Emperor, and it shall remain so. Otherwise, the consequences for you will be most dire indeed."

"Yes, Lord Vader. None shall know."

"Now, engage me again, Grand Inquisitor."

*****

"Hey, Serra."

"Malik, come have a look at this," she replied, beckoning him to the copilot's seat.

"Whatcha got?"

"I've been looking over the holocrons we swiped from the vault. One of 'em had some particularly interesting information. See?"

Inspecting the tiny images in front of him, Malik mused, "Whoa... no wonder this was locked away in the holocron vault. If the Emperor ever got his hands on this..."

"It would ensure no future Jedi could ever exist," Serra finished. "This holocron details the location of the ice caves on Ilum. You know what's there, right?"

"How could I forget? It's where Padawans travel to obtain their kyber crystal and build their lightsabers," Malik replied. "But why is Jedha also on this holocron?"

"Because... oh my god! Jedha is the only place where raw kyber crystals are known to grow!" Serra said, reading the information on the holocron.

"Seriously?!"

"Let's see... here it is. Even though Ilum is the traditional place for a Padawan to obtain their kyber crystal, the crystals do not grow there naturally," Serra continued. "The only known place in the galaxy where raw kyber crystals grow in large quantities is in the Jedha system, specifically on the largest moon of NaJedha. For generations, the Holy City has been a destination for pilgrims who believe in the Force, yet the existence of the kyber mines remains one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the Jedi Order."

"Incredible... I wonder if any surviving Jedi are hiding in one of these locations?"

"Possible. I know for a fact that Ilum's ice caves are outfitted with an array of defenses to keep trespassers away. But with Jedha, I have no clue. I didn't even know there were kyber crystals there until now."

Thinking for a moment, Malik said, "I would imagine that some Jedi might already be on Ilum, not only to hide, but also to protect the crystals there. But with Jedha being such a huge secret, I doubt any Jedi would think to go there. Maybe we ought to check it out, make sure everything is secure, ya know?"

"I agree, just as long as we can make it undetected," Serra replied. "We can't risk leading the Empire to a massive stash of kyber crystals."

"Sounds like we've got our next destination," Malik grinned.

"Yep. How are our new shipmates adjusting?"

"Just fine. Laranth and Rex spent all day in the cargo hold working on target practice," Malik said.

"And what about Jax? Is it as you suspected?" Serra asked.

Malik nodded. "The man is completely in love with Laranth, and I'm certain she feels the same way about him. But he still refuses to make a move; he's hung up on the teachings of the Jedi Order."

"To be fair, so were we for a while," Serra said, placing a hand on Malik's.

"Yeah. Seems Jax had it ground into him even more forcefully than we did. His teacher, Even Piell, saw to that. I've told him my opinion, but he's a big boy; the choice is his alone."

"You think it might help if we intervened more... directly?" Serra wondered.

"I doubt it," Malik replied. "If they do get together, it ought to be because it's what both of them want, not because someone else pushed them to it. We've done what we can; the rest is up to them."

"Yeah, you're probably right." Grabbing the holocrons, Serra continued, "I'm gonna go lock these in the safe in our room. Come to bed soon?"

"Sounds good," Malik smiled, kissing his wife on the cheek.

*****

"I'm turning in. Night, Laranth."

"Sleep well, Rex."

As Rex's door closed, Laranth paced through the hallways of the Middle Way, lost in thought at the events of the day. She was, of course, still troubled by the death of Dex this morning, but the fact that she and Jax had been so readily welcomed by Malik, Serra, and Rex gave her great comfort. Rex had been especially kind to her, and they had quickly bonded over a long session of target practice. As she pondered all this, Laranth failed to notice Jax coming around the corner and ran right into him.

"Oh! Jax, I'm so sorry!" she said, accidentally knocking him into a wall.

"It's, um... it's alright," he replied. "How... how are you?"

"I'm alright, all things considered. I am happy we have found some friends and confidants in the midst of this Empire nonsense. The loss of Dex is still fresh, though."

"Yeah, he was one of the best," Jax agreed.

Opening the door to her bunkroom, Laranth said, "I must admit that I am still running on adrenaline from today, and I doubt I'll be able to sleep for quite some time. Care to sit up with me for a while?"

"I... don't think that would be such a good idea," Jax replied, trying his best to resist his baser instincts. "We could both use a good night's sleep," he continued, turning towards his own bunkroom.

"Jax Pavan," Laranth said forcefully, causing him to stop in his tracks. "A girl can only ask so many times and in so many ways. We both know how we feel about each other. Why do you continue to spurn my affections?"

"Because it's not the Jedi way-"

"Screw the Jedi way!" Laranth spat. "From everything I've learned in the last twenty-four hours, it is clear to me that the old, worn-out ways of the Jedi led in large part to their downfall. They were so stubborn that they refused to adapt to changing times, and so the times changed the Jedi... by driving them to the verge of extinction. I agree that we must hold true to the most important ideals of the Jedi Order, but this is too much! Jax, I want you. I want to find love, and I wish it to be with you. Can you honestly say, in your heart of hearts, that you do not desire the same?"

Jax sighed, grimacing at the internal battle he now fought. "It's not about me, Laranth. I won't take the chance of falling to the Dark Side over this. It's not worth it."

"You truly think a good, honest man such as yourself would be flung into darkness merely by loving another?"

"I don't know," Jax admitted. "I don't pretend to be as strong with the Force as Malik is. If I were to try and walk the narrow path he now walks... I doubt I'd make it through unscathed."

Seeing the pain in his eyes, Laranth took his hand, running her fingers along his knuckles. "You underestimate yourself, Jax."

"Maybe... but I can't take that chance. Not with someone I care so much about. I'm sorry, Laranth. I do love you, so much so that I won't risk tainting you or me because of that love." Opening the door to his bunkroom, he said, "I'll see you in the morning."

Laranth sighed and entered her bunkroom more conflicted than she had ever felt in her life. She loved Jax, and now she was elated to hear him reciprocate in kind, yet he still refused to act on it. A part of her was now falling even harder for him in that he would give up what he wanted to keep her safe. But another part of her resented him for that same reason, hurt that he would take that decision entirely upon himself.

After kicking off her boots, Laranth began to strip nude in preparation for what she knew would be a restless sleep. Still, dropping her pants and peeling off her tank top felt quite liberating. The shared barracks used by the Gray Paladins didn't afford her the chance to sleep nude as much as she would like. Gazing at her reflection in the mirror, Laranth couldn't help but smile at what she saw. Her body, while not quite as curvy as Serra's, was slim and athletic with clear muscle tone from top to bottom. Though most men in the galaxy preferred either red or blue Twi'leks, she had to admit that she loved her lime green skin; it was neither too dark nor too light. Her medium-sized breasts were firm and perky, topped by a pair of dark green nipples about a half-inch in diameter. Her lekku twitched in excitement as she tweaked them a bit, imagining it was Jax's hands. She could almost feel him kissing her and fondling her breasts before moving down her taut stomach to her firm ass.

"Oh, Jax..."

Laranth could feel the growing wetness between her legs and slipped under the covers of her bed to prevent from losing her balance. While her left hand continued to paw at her sensitive breasts, her right worked its way to the folds of her hairless sex. The musky scent of her womanhood began to fill the room, and she soon slipped her middle finger into her pussy, hoping against all hope that Jax would one day be there instead. Faster and faster she stroked, her murmurs of pleasure only heightening her sensitivity further. As she began to feel an orgasm building within her, she moved her soaked fingers further north and began to rub her engorged clit.

Before long, Laranth's muffled whimpers became complete moans of passion, her mind unable to imagine anything other than Jax between her legs. Her back arched, her toes curled, and her fingers furiously stimulated her clit, bringing her ever closer to climax. As her eyes rolled back in her head from sheer ecstasy, she at last felt her pent up stress begin to release as she came long and hard, coating the sheets with her sweet juices. Laranth lay there for quite some time, panting and writhing as she enjoyed a few pleasurable aftershocks. As wonderful as that had felt, she was still thankful that nobody had heard how out of control she must have sounded. Rolling onto her side, she dimmed the lights and drifted off to sleep.

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