• Published 2nd May 2016
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The Last Impressionist - CrackedInkWell



On the way home one night, Fancy Pants discovers a painting of extraordinary quality being thrown away in the trash in the poorer part of Canterlot. Curious, Fancy discovers a depressed artist who's down on his luck named Acrylic Brush.

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Chapter 22: The First Step towards Enlightenment

By now, it’s been a week since we first arrived in Neighpon. At this point, at least I don’t feel as tired compared to that morning when we’ve sailed in now that I’m getting used to the time change.

So far, Mr. Pose’s daughter had interviewed my coltfriend and me, in which she decided that she wanted to draw up a manga based on us – which I found it rather flattering if I do say so myself. Of course, Ink Stroke did say that she has to make some changes here and there just so that it didn’t resemble us too much. As for Acrylic, he made a deal with her that he’ll give her full permission to use our story for her graphic novel, only on the condition that he can paint the cover for her. In which, she eagerly agreed.

After that day, the three of us, plus Cleo, have been lead around the city of Ichiuma by Haiku. He would explain to us the cultural or historical importance of this or that place while at the same time would give us space to take in the serenity of it all. For Acrylic, it gave him the opportunity to paint new cityscapes in his style, giving the places we’ve been an intense, colorful look to it. Though, at the same time, he’s been having an increasing number of panic attacks that I had to pull him off to the side so that he may calm down.

Not to say that it didn’t take too long for Mr. Pose to catch onto this pattern. So one night after we’ve gotten back from a tour and Acrylic bust to tears out of nowhere, Haiku asked me to remain in the lobby while the others went to their rooms.

“Are you sure that your… friend is alright?” he asked me.

“Just give him some space,” I said, sitting by the stylized fire pit. “You have to excuse Acrylic, he suffers from depression and he sometimes has panic attacks.”

“Mr. Brush has depression,” he raised an eyebrow. “But he seemed rather fine to me when we began our tour today.”

“Depression isn’t just noticeable sadness, Mr. Pose,” I said. “From personal experience, it can be intense anxiety, or have a persistent feeling of hopelessness, even when everything's going right. He may seem fine when you look at him, but you’re never really sure what’s going inside his mind until it manifests itself.”

“So what are you doing to help him exactly?”

“For one, trying to be there for him when he needs me,” I leaned back in my seat. “Something I’ve learned the hard way that almost cost him his life. He needs somepony to be heard and to be there to try to give the best comforting advice you can. Although…” I trailed off, looking at the flames.

“You’re worried if it might not be enough,” Haiku asked and I nodded. My guide too leaned back and seemed to meditate for a moment at the problem he just learned. Finally, after about several minutes of silence between us, he spoke. “If I make a suggestion, sir, I think there is a place here in Ichiuma that might hold the key in stabilizing Mr. Brush’s mental health.”

I raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean by that?”

“There’s a monastery just outside of the city and in the mountains. Whenever anyone is dealing with an inner struggle that they aren’t exactly sure what to do, they turn to the monks over there. Who studies in meditation, and continually study the surroundings of their simplistic lives in order to find enlightenment. These ponies and gryphons alike live side by side to heal the weary minds who seek their help. No matter what sort of problem anyone faces, they could always turn to them because their practices require being completely open-minded to all living things that come to the monastery. Perhaps if you were by Mr. Brush’s side for a whole day with these monks, maybe you two might see the answers that you’re striving for.”

I thought for a moment, this was certainly an interesting idea. Couple’s therapy, ancient Neighponies style in which we would be beside robe monks. “What about Fleur? Could she come along with us?”

“Again, open to anyone who seeks their help. Why you can bring your cat along if you want to.”

“Well that’s fine and good, but why a whole day?”

“You said so yourself that Mr. Brush’s depression had nearly cost his life. Here in Neighpon, it’s considered something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, regardless of how long ago it was. And given that two are in a relationship, it would only make sense to be there for him while the monks help him out.”

Haiku did have a point. So with that, I agreed to take us to the monastery the next day.

_*_

Although we weren’t that far away from the city, we might as well be in a completely different world. Anything that resembled the modern world had ceased as soon as they stepped through the tall red gate and down the path into the woods. On Acrylic’s back, Cleo had her ears perked up as we walked further up the mountainside, probably just as curious, if not a little more cautious, of where we were going.

“I’m going to introduce you to the Sensei that had taught me to speak Equestrian, and the one whom you’re going to be dealing with for today,” our guide said. “His name is Sensei Kuraudofezā or Cloud Feather in Equestrian.”

“What exactly is he going to be teaching us?” Acrylic questioned, “You’ve never really said over what.”

“To put it short Mr. Brush,” he looked over his shoulder, “Enlightenment.”

A couple minutes later, we reached our destination. With white walls and gray roofs, the doors to the monastery were wide open. We saw the monks as we approached, all of them wore simple gray robes, manes and tails were either shaved or cut short for the ponies while the feathers were trimmed back for the gryphons.

Upon entering, the monks and even the visitors in white bowed their necks at us as we did the same for them. We walked through a tranquil garden of rocks, sand, bushes, and trees that lay systematically around. We walked through a few buildings in the complex where some of the monks looked back at us. Finally, Haiku lead us to a building in which we were given slippers to walk on its floors before going inside. Upon entering, we were greeted by an old looking gryphon who, like the others, had his feathers trimmed and had his eyes closed while holding his claws together.

Mr. Pose went up to him and bowed deeply, “おはよう先生クラウドフェザー.”

The gryphon opened his eyes and replied in a deep voice, “おはようございます私の学生. 私はあなたを助けることができる方法?”

Our guide gestured for us to bow as well, “これらの学生は、自分の知恵を必要としています。これらの外国人は、あなたが提供悟りを探しています.”

The teacher looked upon us, “Equestrian?”

“Yes sir,” I responded. We’re hoping that we might learn something from you as we wish to spend the day here.”

Our guide and our new teacher talked a little bit before we were ushered out, “He said that before he starts teaching you, the three of you must be properly dressed. I’ll take you over to where to change into your robes in which you must leave everything behind,” he turned to me, “Including your monical Mr. Pants.”

“But I’m nearly half blind without this,” I protested.

“I’m sorry, but rules are rules. As visitors, you must put all your earthly possessions aside before any of these monks can teach you. It’s considered traditional after all.”

As inconvenient as it was, I gave in, for Acrylic’s sake. We were escorted over to a building in which we undress, set our things aside and put on the pure white robes for the visitors before we returned to Cloud Feather once again. Our guide told us that he’ll return later in the day before dinner time before he left.

Cleo stuck closely by us the whole time, weary of everypony we came across, so when our teacher tried to pet her, it came to no surprise when he asked as she quickly darted away from him, “Shy?”

The cat leaped onto Fleur’s shoulders, “She is actually, my name if Fleur de Lis by the way.”

“Acrylic Brush,” my coltfriend introduced himself before waving a hoof to me, “And this is Fancy Pants.

The old gryphon nodded, “So tell me, why did you come here today? Not that I don’t appreciate visits from complete strangers, but Mr. Pose told me you came here for enlightenment.”

Sighing I told the truth, “To be honest with you, I was advised to come here on his behalf,” I gestured over to my coltfriend. “For you see, Acrylic has been suffering from depression for a while and I wanted to find a way to help him.”

“So that’s why we’re here?” The Impressionist looked at me, “So that we can be dragged in into a Neighponies style of group therapy? Without asking me?”

Our teacher raises a claw, “Mr. Brush, the fact that all of you are here must be out of good intentions at heart. This monastery has been giving comfort to everyone since its founding.”

“Excuse me,” my bodyguard asks, “But what exactly do you do here?”

“Ah, good question,” he says. “Like my fellow brothers and sisters, we seek enlightenment daily and insists others who they have inner turmoil that seeks peace of mind. To do this, we teach you meditation and reflection so that others may find enlightenment themselves. The way we do that is to search our inner thoughts and emotions, to see what is blocking them and to show how to overcome such obstacles to find inner peace.”

Acrylic raised an eyebrow, “And you’re willing to teach us in less than a day?”

“There are seven steps to enlightenment,” Feather told us. “Yet, I cannot show you how if none of you are willing to do so.”

My coltfriend looked at us for a moment, “Well… alright, but only if Fancy and Fleur come along too.”

We agreed to it as well.

Giving a satisfied smile, the gryphon stood up, “Very well. But to begin your journey, we must start at the bottom of the mountain.”

_*_

We hiked downhill away from the monastery, which wasn’t quite easy that I have one good eye to do it with. In fact, every so often Acrylic or Fleur would have to make sure that I didn’t trip or bump into anything since my bad eye could only see nothing but a blur of shapes and colors. Eventually, we’ve reached the bottom of the trail where it was still away from civilization.

Our teacher instructed us to sit upon one of the boulders of a very rocky field. After brief instructions on how to sit and breathe from Cloud Feather, Cleo jumped onto my rock and rested on my lap. Once we’ve learned the very basics of meditation, our teacher chose to sit on a smaller rock just in front of us.

“As I’ve said, there are seven steps towards enlightenment,” he said. “We shall begin with the first step, in which we call Earth. This deals with survival, and it is blocked by fear. I want you all to take this moment to ponder this question: What do you fear the most?”

Closing my eyes, I let my back straighten up, letting my forehooves go limp by my sides, and breathed in the quiet. I let my mind unlock memories of childhood to now of times in which I’ve been scared, in which there was plenty. There was the fear of the dark; the fear of something waiting in my closet; the fear that my mother would end up in a mental hospital; the fear that I would be disregarded by my parents because of my sexual orientation; the fear of not succeeding in a business that I was new to.

But as an adult, I don’t fear those anymore. So, what do I fear now? Then it came to me because of how obvious it was.

“Well?” our teacher said, “Did you find it?”

Opening my eyes, I nodded, “Do you want us to tell you?”

“It would help me in guiding you,” he said. “I ask again – what do you fear the most?”

My ears folded back, “I’m afraid that I would end up being truly alone.”

This got an immediate reaction from Acrylic, looking up at me in surprise.

“And you sir?” the old gryphon asked.

“I…” he swallowed, “No, it’s stupid.”

“Fear is never a foolish thing,” Feather told him. “No matter what form it takes, fear is still that, fear.”

“Well,” he wiggled uncomfortably in his seat. “The truth is I’m afraid that after I die, I’d be forgotten, no matter what I do.”

Then our teacher turned to Fleur, “And you?”

I confess, for a moment I was rather curious. Of all the time that I’ve gotten to know my bodyguard, I never saw her being afraid of anything since that day she saved me in that alley. What on this plant can she be afraid of?

There was a sigh, “That how much I try to protect, it will never be enough.”

I leaned over, “Fleur, what do you mean?”

Her ears folded back, “As good as I am, what if all that training, all that experience won’t be enough to protect and serve everypony around? That in the end, I end up failing and somepony is going to get hurt because of it.”

“Ms. Lis,” our teacher said, “Realize the fact that you can’t be everywhere to protect those you know and love. If you give all in assisting even just one, those who can save but one life has already saved the world entire - for even we can’t rescue everyone, but we can, as you put it, protect and serve those who need to be protected.”

Then he turned Acrylic, “Believe it or not, I often hear that fear from others a lot. I’ve heard somewhere that there are two ways of killing someone. The first is easy because the physical body is really so fragile that if one wrong move,” he cuts the air with a claw, “it’s all over. However, the second death, in which everyone forgets about you afterward, is actually much more difficult to do.”

“Why?” he asks.

“Because we believe that everything, even inanimate objects, contains the lives of everyone, and everything it touches. A letter contains a soul, a drawing has one too, even the clothing that we wear has a soul that lives and breathes. Even memory too has a life. As long as somepony knows you or has something that had belonged to you, the memory of you will refuse to die. For you can’t be entirely be forgotten if you left something behind because we Neighponies believe that whenever one creates something, they are putting a tiny piece of their soul into it, like a seed in which with time and care will grow. But like all seeds, you need to make sure that they’re planted in the right place.”

Finally, he turned to me, “I do have a question for you, what exactly do you mean by being alone?”

I glanced over at Acrylic before answering, “I’m getting old sir. With all the wealth and credibility I’ve gained, I’m afraid that for having such a success have cost me my chances of being truly happy with my special somepony. Although I’ve found someone that has plenty of promise, I too am worried if in the end, I’ll be alone once more.”

The old gryphon hummed in thought, “While it is natural to have doubts about finding a loving partner in which you may call your better half, one should not let fear be a wall that separates you from the ones that do care for you. The only one that can bring down such a wall is only yourself, once you do this, you’ll find that outside of that said wall, is a world filled with those that will do the impossible to be by your side."

He closes his eyes again, “Concentrate on your fears students, take it into your mind, and let it flow away to realize you have a way to overstep that obstacle.”

The three of us close our eyes, coming to terms with what he said, we took in a deep breath, and that fear go.

Our teacher smiled, “Congratulations, you’ve taken your first step towards Enlightenment.”

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