On the training field, Lucy toys with Arenia like a cat plays with a mouse. She deliberately hits Arenia with only enough force to knock her down—but not so much that she can’t keep standing back up to fight again. Arenia grows exhausted. She’s furious that Lucy effortlessly evades her attacks and laughs at her. It’s like she gets actual joy from this! Look at her eyes! They’re rabid! She just wants to torment me as long as she can!
When Arenia shoots her fist towards Lucy’s face, the blonde smoothly goes with the momentum, grabs her hand, and twists it, forcing Arenia to the ground. She twists it again, making Arenia coil up in the soil and cry out in excruciating pain. Sweat runs down her face. Lucy pulls her up into a chokehold. Arenia thrashes around, trying to kick and punch back at her—in vain. Her face turns scarlet as she fights for oxygen. Her opponent finally lets go of her. Arenia drops to the ground and curls into a ball.
Numen looks on soberly. He walks over to Arenia and says clearly, “You have three choices now. You can stay down and pity yourself, feeling victimized and indulging in your pain. Or, you can let your feelings of anger, humiliation, revenge, and hatred define you and then counterattack until you have used up your last drop of energy—thereby risking your life, were this a real fight. Or, you can get up, learn from the fight, and practice even harder, so that one day you will face her as a worthy opponent. The choice is yours.”
Still on the ground, Arenia is too ashamed and too angry to look Numen in the eye. He offers her his hand. But she stands up by herself and dusts off her clothes.
“I’m ready to go home,” she says, her voice shaking and her eyes fixed on the ground.
“I respect your decision,” Numen answers, and turns to Lucy. “Thank you for your work, Lucy. I will see you tomorrow.”
As Lucy walks off, he faces Arenia again. “Please write the following down in your journal. Today, the only thing I am asking you to do is to contemplate it.”
Journal out, she starts to take his slow dictation: “The moment you decide to live your life’s purpose and set out to achieve greatness, you will begin encountering relentless competitors, cruel haters, harsh critics, two-faced traitors, and the most ruthless bawlers and bashers of your life.”
Exactly! That is how I feel right now!
“They will all come from within you.”
Arenia stops writing and stares at him. From inside of me? What does that even mean?
“Arenia, no one will lay more stones in your way than you will. No one will ever doubt you as much as you will doubt yourself. No one will ever condemn you as much as you will condemn yourself. And no one will ever be as unforgiving as you will be to yourself.”
Her rage and frustration bubbles right below the surface. The last thing she wants to hear is that she is the reason for all of her failure.
Numen calmly continues. “You will face your strongest opponents in your deepest and darkest fears—they have been crippling you for your entire life. They will stand up all at once and fight against you with all their might. The day you begin to step into your greatness is the day you begin fumigating the dark holes where they are hiding, leaving them no other choice but to reveal themselves to you. When they do, it is your choice whether to face them or run from them. It is a life or death situation. And no one can fight this fight for you but yourself.”
Is this supposed to make me feel better? Her chest tightens and her stomach twists. All she wants to do is escape her skin. Suddenly, she has a realization. He’s right. I can’t even stand myself. How am I ever supposed to achieve greatness in anything? I don’t even feel at home in my own skin.
Numen pauses. Arenia stares at him impatiently. She knows she’s being silly and childish, but she can’t help it. She is overcome by defiance.
“Would you mind telling me how you feel right now?” he asks, gently.
Arenia wants to yell, “No! Why do you even care?!”
Instead, she whispers, “I . . . feel lost.” She clears her throat.
“Why do you think you feel lost?” He looks thoughtful.
Arenia has to think before she answers. “I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore…and it makes me angry. I worked so hard to get to the point where I was more or less happy with myself. And now all I’m doing is erasing all of my hard work. I’m nothing right now. And I hate that feeling!”
“Just like the empty glass before it is filled with fresh water,” Numen remarks. “It is a place of uncertainty.” He allows a moment of silence before he says, “Remember the Legend’s words: She will lose her Self to find her Self by lifting the Veil of the Unknown. For her Self was never lost, but merely hidden in the Unknown. Like a Phoenix, she will rise from her ashes.”
“But if I’ve never met the real me, how can I ever find it?! I…I’m everyone and no one! I have multiple personalities…I play the personality each person expects me to play. I become a reflection of what they want to see in me! I am not the Legend, Numen!” she finally shouts. “I am just a no one!”
Numen continues gazing at her, but he does not react. She has no other choice but to burn in her own rage until it slowly fades. Tears roll down her face.
“You cannot know your true being. Knowing yourself would only be a mental concept of who you think you are. It would limit the vastness of the potential you carry within you. You can only live and experience the boundless potential of who you truly are. And I am here to keep helping you access that experience,” Numen says, gently.
“But what if I turn out to be a horrible, unlovable, talentless person?” she sobs.
“Then I shall help you understand that the real you can never be any of those things,” he assures.
Arenia just cannot deal with Numen’s unwavering belief in her. How?! Why?! She’s too tired to ask him. It just makes her feel worse. Life would be so much easier if he would just stop believing in her. I am not special!
“That is all for today, my dear. Thank you for your good work. Do not forget to think about the quote. Have a restful day.”
Arenia nods abruptly. She rushes home, trapped in the darkness of her mind. Her vision is blurry, unable to reach sunlight. Everything and everyone appears as a threat. She’s barely able to close the door behind her before tears flood down her cheeks. She slumps to the floor. Suddenly, Pium is at the door calling her name. Oh no! He must’ve seen me.
“Arenia! Is everything okay?”
“Arenia, I know you are there. I saw you running in. Please open the door.”
Arenia’s frozen. Please give up and leave me alone!
“Alright. I will leave you alone. But I am here if you need me.”
Arenia strains her ears. Silence. A sob bursts out of her. She quickly covers her mouth. She pushes herself off the floor, pulling off her clothes and slinging them to the side. Then she throws herself onto her bed and buries her head in her pillow. She cannot stop crying. Within moments, the pillowcase is soaked. She’s so sick of her tears. Her pain. Her suffering. She is sick, sick, sick of her weakness.
All my life I’ve felt different than other people. That’s why I’ve tried so hard to adapt. I just wanted to feel loved and accepted—not different. And now I’m supposed to be this woman in the Legend and able to defeat the strongest man in this world—how ironic is that! I’ve been sitting here staring at Numen’s quote for a long time. I hate to admit it, but I know it’s true, even though the voices in my head want to deny it: I am my greatest enemy. I have never allowed myself to truly be me.
But what’s next? What can I do? Is knowing the truth enough? Is practicing awareness really all I can do? Because if that’s all I can do, it’s extremely frustrating, grueling, and torturous to watch myself burn in my own flame of self-sabotage. I hate it!
Lucy humiliated me so badly in our fight today. She totally misused her power and beat me even though I was on the floor. What is her problem?! Worst of all, Numen did nothing! How can he do that?! How can he not say anything? Why am I doing this? I’m so mad at Lucy—and especially at Numen. I feel so betrayed. I can’t do this anymore. It’ll break me, physically and mentally.
Arenia’s eyes are still swollen the next morning. She’s accustomed to the bruises all over her body—she’s had them for the whole week. But today, her skin, her muscles, and her bones are all protesting against her.
Countless nights worrying about the training, about home, about Tartarus, and about disappointing Numen—all have deprived her of sleep and recovery. Now it’s all taken its toll. This is how it feels to be burned out. She struggles to get out of bed. She just wants to escape life and close her eyes and drift into oblivion. She’s too tired to get up, make breakfast, and eat. She closes her eyes and lets sleep take her back.
There’s a knock at her door. It must be either Numen or Pium wondering why she didn’t show up for training. She’s ashamed, but her need to be alone and invisible is greater. And her shame and guilt make her want to hide even more.
I have to answer the door. Come on. Get up. She doesn’t move.
“Arenia? Are you home?” Pium says through the door.
She forces herself up out of bed, shrugs a robe on, smooths her hair, and opens the door.
“Is everything all right? I was worried,” Pium examines her from head to toe, and then glances over her shoulder into the dimness of her house.
“I’m fine. I…I just don’t feel well today,” Arenia says, sheepishly.
Pium gazes deep into her eyes. Arenia instantly looks down. She feels exposed, as if he’s able to read her soul. Without a word, he gently pushes the door open, walks past her to the windows, and opens the curtains. “If you keep the curtains closed, you do not allow the sunlight to come in.”
His comment immediately cracks Arenia’s hard shell. Of course he sees I’m not doing well. She starts to struggle with whether she’s going to open up to him, but then she simply can’t keep it together. She sits down on her bed and bursts into tears.
“I feel so lost, Pium,” she sobs. “I don’t understand what’s going on, who I am, and what I’m doing here. It’s all just so difficult right now. I just can’t handle it anymore.”
Pium pulls up a chair, sits in front of her, and listens to her, a compassionate look on his face.
“And I feel like I’m being so unthankful to you, Numen, and everyone by feeling all of these things, when you’re all being so incredibly nice and helpful to me. I feel so guilty and ashamed. It’s just so unfair that I have to go through all of this, when all I want is to get my normal life back, you know?”
Arenia pauses, sniffling. Pium hands her a handkerchief, which she uses gratefully.
“I understand your feelings and concerns,” Pium says. “I would probably feel the exact same way. It is okay that you feel the way you feel. I do not think you are being unthankful to me, and, without a doubt, I know Numen does not feel that way, either. I am so deeply happy and thankful that you have appeared in our lives—in my life, Arenia. You have brought life and inspiration to us.”
This makes Arenia feel even worse about herself.
“How can you all be so nice and understanding to me? I’m not even this nice to myself!” Tears break out again. She’s embarrassed, but she also feels safe with Pium.
“Arenia, the day you arrived here, I knew you were special. Your outer shell might distort the real you, but I can see your true inner being. You are full of life—so beautiful, so delicate and fragile, yet so powerful. You are a beacon of light, unusually graceful and strong… just like a wildflower. You dare to grow against all odds, and even in the face of forceful changes. You offer an example of how to transform your own grief into the relentless and courageous fight to fulfill your life’s purpose. Deeply rooted into the earth, you shoot high into the sky, reaching for the stars. You might think you are a victim of your circumstances, but I know that you came here knowingly, and with a purpose. Your intuition—the true you—is what brought you here. And I can see the true you. I see you, Arenia.”
Arenia stares at Pium, totally dumbfounded. Her mind’s swirling, her heart’s beating fast and loud. Never has anyone told her such beautiful things. She looks down, in search of words, before glancing up to meet his eyes. She realizes everything she would say right now would sound clumsy compared to his eloquence.
“Pium, I…I mean,” is all she can manage before he interrupts her.
“It’s okay. You do not need to say anything.”
Arenia stares at him through teary eyes and a weak smile. She opens her arms. Pium gets up, sits next to her on the bed, wraps his arms around her, and pulls her close. His body feels surprisingly firm and defined beneath his loose shirt. Instantly, she feels safe and protected. As she buries her head in his chest, she hears his heart beating in a soothing rhythm. She closes her eyes. She breathes in his distinct scent—fresh and slightly musky. The world and all of her worries begin to melt away. But when she feels him gently stroking her hair, she quickly pulls back, filled with anxiety.
She attempts a smile and puts her hand on his thigh, before clumsily pulling it away. “Pium, you’re a wonderful friend. I’d never be able to go through all of this without you. Thank you for being there for me.”
He smiles back at her. She isn’t sure, but she thinks she sees disappointment in his eyes. Please don’t! I really like you! She sighs heavily.
“Look, for some reason you landed here in Underworld. You can curse, reject, protest, and resist the situation you are in as much as you want, but know that it will not change the fact that you landed here. On the other hand, you may have the chance to find out why you are here—what it is that brought you here—if you listen to your intuition.”
“I’m not convinced! What could possibly have brought me here? What if there’s no reason? Maybe our minds are just accustomed and addicted to trying to make sense of things.”
“I do not know the answer either,” Pium says. “That, you have to find out for yourself. But I do know one thing. Everything happens so that we can learn about ourselves and about life. It is part of the divine order. Nothing happens by accident. Every experience offers us knowledge and tools that we can use to face the challenges that lie ahead. And it will all eventually lead to a final test to see if we have learned our lessons. If we have not, we will have to go through the same experiences again, just in different packaging—until we finally understand the experiences’ messages.”
“That’s where part of me rebels, though. Why do we need to go through these tests? Why can’t we just be born with all the knowledge we need to know and enjoy life?”
“Do you remember the quote about truth that hangs on my parents’ wall?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Truth should never be imposed on anybody as a doctrine, but should be the result of individual understanding and intuition,” Pium quotes.
“Rooted in knowledge and individual experience—rather than in enforcement—truth is a reward for every individual to seek,” Arenia finishes. “I know.”
“Exactly. You can view life as a prison or as a school. It can be a downward spiral or an upward spiral. It is always your choice whether or not you want to align yourself with life. If you do, not only will life flow more easily, but it will also give you peace and joy. You will start living your life’s true purpose.”
“The thought of some sort of a divine power creating situations in my life for me to learn and grow is frightening and empowering at the same time,” Arenia admits.
“It’s frightening because it suggests I can’t fully control my own life,” she explains. “At the same time, it’s empowering because I can stop worrying and just trust that everything is how it is supposed to be.”
“You forget that the divine power is not something external—it is part of you,” Pium remarks. “It is you. So, the only part of you that is afraid of not being in charge of controlling your life is the part of your mind that feels disconnected from the divine power—and that is the part in you that is busy protesting, resisting, keeping you small, and wanting to relive the same experiences over and over.”
Suddenly, Arenia feels a heavy weight lift from her chest.
“I will let you rest,” Pium says. “I am right next door if you need anything.”
“Thank you, Pium. I feel much better now.”
He stands and heads towards the door. Before he opens it, he stops and turns back to Arenia. “Maybe you are now ready to take on the Golden Key and open the door to the divine power and wisdom you were granted access to.”
When the door closes, Arenia stares into space. The Golden Key. She jumps off the bed and opens her nightstand drawer. There it is—the mesmerizing golden necklace. She stares at it for a while. Then she carefully hangs it back around her neck.
Author: Gizem Mut
Editor: Travis May